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Putin in a Good Word

Russia has its defenders. Plus: Illiterates and Democrats. Federalist populism. Dribblers.

11.30.04

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THE VIEW FROM MUSCOVY
Re: Jed Babbin's The Pravda About Putin:

I've read your paper "Pravda about Putin" in your periodical and was surprised by your excellent knowledge about situation in Russia and Ukraine. But I've known many facts that diverge from what I read in your article. You see, I live in Moscow and sometimes I go to Donetsk. Please, be more careful while acquiring information.

But in the past few years they, and other Russian military industries, have been funded well enough to produce new classes of nuclear submarines that are better and -- thanks to the Walker spy ring -- as quiet as ours. New types of Russian fighter aircraft are as good and maybe a bit better than anything we have other than the unaffordable expensive F-22.

Thank you for the advertisement of the Russian weapon. I work in a Russian military plant and I have some friends that work in other military plants. I know, that our weapons are worse and are produced in much less quantities than American ones (comparing classes of weapons of the same generation), except maybe tanks, ballistic missiles and the anti-missile system.

In the east, economic conditions are bad enough that fears of Russia may be subordinated to the phony promise of economic revival by Russian alignment.

I don't think so. As you know, general industry is situated in the Eastern Ukraine. For example, in Donetsk accessibility for government-paid education and amateur sports is even higher than in Moscow (while Ukraine is not as rich as Russia). I've seen that myself while visiting Donetsk Technical University. Authorities of Donetsk are more social-oriented than in Moscow, I think. That's why more than 90% of Donetsk citizens have voted for Yanukovich.

Putin, through Yanukovych, is making his first open attempt to revive Russian control over its neighbors.

Not the first. Earlier attempts were failed.

Russia's economy, though vastly better than it was under the Soviets, is in danger of stagnating because Putin is raising taxes and dealing with industry as if the government controls it, as well it may.

It's lie. Now we only just coming to the level of gross national product per a person that we had in 1989. Taxes are decreasing. Since 1 January 2004 the 5% sale-tax has been canceled, the tax for the added cost (NDS) has been decreased from 20% down to 18%. Since 1 January 2005 the united social tax (YeSN) will be decreased from 35% down to 26%. Only the export oil taxes are increasing synchronously with the oil cost in the world.

These were only the most significant errors and inaccuracies in your paper. Please, be careful in future.
-- A citizen from Moscow

"...typical of the anti-democratic processes set in motion by a rampant and militant Washington, crushed in the grip on a monetarist, neo-conservative crypto-fascist clique of elitists, whose corporate greed speaks louder than the mores of international diplomacy and whose thirst to dominate the world's resources in the lifetimes of Rumsfeld and Cheney throws any moral concept into the trash bin."

Jed, you sure that wasn't from MoveOn.org instead of Pravda?

Could'a fooled me.
-- Doc Watson

The administration should be commended for its firm stand on the recent Ukrainian elections. We should do everything possible to ensure that the elections there are fair and that the real winner is recognized. We also have an interest in preventing Russia from threatening its neighbors. On both fronts we can do a lot. What we can't do is prevent eastern and southern Ukraine from re-joining Russia if that is what a majority of the people in those parts of the Ukraine really want. Western Ukraine has a distinct language and culture and is very much a pro-Western state. Eastern Ukraine has a Russian-speaking population, a Russian culture and some areas (e.g. the Crimea) have never been anything but Russian. People there favor closer ties with Russia and every post-1991 election in the Ukraine has seen the same sort of east-west split evident in the current election. In my opinion, those demographic factors are going to prove a lot stronger than anything we or the Europeans can bring to bear. Ukrainian nationalists, after all, can hardly object to keeping ethnic Russians within their state against their will when the entire basis for Ukrainian statehood was that ethnic Russians had no business keeping Ukrainians within Russia against their will.

I think that one of the lessons of the last 10-15 years is that it is better to let states divide along ethnic/national lines and thus become viable, defusing tensions and creating the potential for proper government than to force them to remain together. Czechoslovakia spit up peacefully when this was realized. Western Ukraine, with 28 million people would rapidly reform its political and economic system and would quickly be eligible for membership in NATO and the EU. Eastern Ukraine, with its outdated and inefficient Soviet-era industries can join Russia. Russia will improve its strategic position (which it will continue to do anyway) but it won't gain as much as Mr. Babbin seems to think from such a move, nor will this magically transform it back into the USSR. Yes, Putin will get a "win". He will undoubtedly be encouraged to continue his efforts to incorporate the remaining "core" states (Belarus and Kazakhstan) of the USSR back into Russia. And, then what? His country's economy and political system will still be those of a 3rd world nation.

I don't see Russia immediately threatening us anytime soon. If I were Mr. Babbin, I'd worry more about the EU under Franco-German leadership, which does have ambitions of being a counterweight to us, or about China's rising economic and military power, than I would about Russia, at least for the time being. In fact, a case can be made that Russia should be allowed to get a bit more powerful simply as a counterweight to Chinese and European power. At this point in time, with our military heavily committed to the war on terror and with threats imminent from Iran and North Korea's nuclear program, we have no reason to overreact to Russia. Keep an eye on them, yes. Make sure that they don't swallow any state that doesn't want to be part of Russia, yes. Promote democracy and encourage economic reform, yes. Re-start containment as it was understood during the Cold War, no.
-- Anthony Mirvish

One of the questions which has haunted the mind of this inquisitive conservative for years is the following: What is it about Russia that transforms straight-laced, rational, morally upstanding conservative intellectuals into, well, sluts, ready to hop into bed with the likes of the EU, George Soros and Islamists for some action descriptions of which would be inappropriate for a family magazine?

Point out that the Chechen jihad is financed by Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, that OBL and al Qaeda are involved, and that the Chechen butchers pioneered the decapitation video as a tool and technique of propaganda and recruiting, and mainstream conservatives, from the Weekly Standard to NR to AEI, will treat you to the sort of "root-causes" discourse that they rightly denounce as appeasement-minded whenever the subject happens to be, say, the Palestinians. No, no. The cause of the Chechens is just; they have legitimate grievances, unlike all of those other jihadist butchers. Sure.

Any stick to beat a Russian dog?

Point out that Yushchenko presided over the National Bank of Ukraine for an accounting scandal that allowed oligarchs like Ms. Tymoshenko to swindle the IMF and gain control of enormous swathes of the Ukrainian economy, including the natural gas sector; that, Ukrainian politics being what it is, there are no clean hands and that electoral fraud assuredly occurred on the Yushchenko side as well, in districts where control of balloting and local media are as absolute as anything managed by Kuchma or Yanukovych's crew in Donetsk; that a curious array of interests, including Mr. Soros, who has backed the Tymoshenko clan since at least the time of the Gongadze affair, arrayed themselves behind Yushchenko -- and should any conservative NOT be given pause to find himself on the same page as George "Bush is Hitler" Soros?; and that the only thing which seems to influence Western opinion in favor of one group of bandits is that they claim the mantle of the democratic West, despite being anything but, and you will be treated to a treacly discourse on Russian imperialism, Ukrainian nationalism, democracy, and the virtues of Ukraine being absorbed by the bureaucratic despotism of the EU and the open, amoral society claptrap of Soros. No, no. These bandits and oligarchs and thieves are good, apparently because they dislike Russia. Sure.

Any stick to beat a Russkaya sobaka, eh?

Oh, sure, Putin has his problems. That cannot be denied. Iran, Venezuela, the list goes on. But the notion that Russia needs more of the Western-counseled policies which enabled the creation of the Mafia economy of the '90s, and that it would be possible to roll back the corruption without violating the "rights" of media outlets controlled by the oligarchs or clamping down on political parties which exist solely to promote the interests of the same is risible. As is the notion that U.S. support for the Central Asian republics has not legitimized their despotisms, which the US will do less than nothing to mitigate so long as they provide some assistance in the War on Terror, and that this stance sits easily with all of the rhetoric over the Ukraine. No, no. Some strategic, "imperial" ambitions are good, just as some terrorists and thieves are good - those that do our bidding, or at least injure Russia.

Spare us the "morality" play, the rhetoric alternately treacly and incendiary, and the fulsome hypocrisy. If democracy is good, it's good for Central Asia, too. If oligarchs and Mafia clans are bad, they're bad when the like us, like Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, and bad when they like Russia, like Yanukovych. And if Islamism is bad, it's bad in Chechnya and when it kills Russians, too.

Any stick to beat a Russian dog? Indeed.
-- Jeff Martin

YOUTH IS SERVED
Re: George Neumayr's Illiterates and Intellectuals:

Well said, Sir.
-- Timothy Kling, MD
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

I have to disagree with George Neumayr. Young people DID turn out in large numbers to vote in the last election. It's just that hundreds of thousands of them were wearing uniforms and/or NASCAR caps and probably didn't vote the way the "youth vote" organizers hoped. Therefore, just as Miguel Estrada is "not really" an Hispanic to true Democrats and Condi Rice is "not really" African-American, all those voters were "not really" young...
-- Richard McEnroe

The leftist student radicals of the '60s have become the entrenched and ideologically lockstep university administrators and professors that they railed against in their youth. Ironically, it is the campus conservative and Republican organizations that represent the rebellious counter-culture movement on today's campus.
-- Jim Rose
Sachse, Texas

The reason that more people with a B.S./B.A. vote Republican while illiterates and the professoriate vote Democratic is that those B.S./M.S. are capable of getting real jobs and contributing to society through their work and taxes. Those who cannot read or are ensconced in academia are those who simply cannot get a real job in the real world.
-- Donald A. Holloway
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Mr. Neumayr's commentary on this Democratic paradox is accurate as far as it goes. One step further would take us into the realm of Classical Romanticism. Democrats like the romantics of old celebrate the triumph of feeling over reason. If anyone doesn't believe this, let him engage a Democrat in a factual discussion about the relative merits of candidate John Kerry. The slogan "For a Stronger America" as the mantra of the Kerry-Edwards ticket was either unabashedly cynical, or ridiculously romantic. Imagine: A candidate who, in his 20 years in the Senate, voted over 130 times for tax increases, voted against funding the CIA, and cast more than 40 votes AGAINST weapons systems that make our military more effective. Despite this information being eminently available all during the campaign, John Kerry still drew almost 48 million votes, many of which came from these highly educated elites and their spiritual brethren, the illiterate. All we can say for sure is: Oscar, meet Felix.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

I greatly appreciate your analysis of the reasons why intelligentsia and ignoramuses share a common love of the Democratic party and a hatred of Bush. However, I believe there is one dominant reason for intelligentsia (so called) being so deeply involved in liberalism.

Teachers and professors tend to be over-impressed with their knowledge and smarts. They then fall prey to the greatest of all sin, PRIDE. Pride then manifests itself in a discrediting of the existence of a Creator/God ... and their responsibility to Him. They then swallow the utter foolishness of evolution, faithfully endorsed and promoted by the Democratic Party. They belong to the anti-God family and are primarily responsible for the virulent battle to remove God and everything associated with Him from every possible aspect of life.

Their seething hatred of Bush is based on his out-and-out stand for God, the Bible, and what the Lord decrees ... but they don't dare admit it! If he were to publicly change and become an evolutionist/non-believer, they would embrace him in an unbelievable switcheroo.
-- Jean Valjean Vandruff
Westminster, California

There is a clear reason why both the illiterate and the over literate (if there is such a word) are both in the same poke. Both feed from the public trough. The illiterate, due to their lack of skills, are at the bottom rung of the economic ladder and consequently availing themselves of public assistance.

The parishioners at the Universities are also at the public trough just indirectly. The professorial class may not be getting food stamps. But their employer is getting grants, state and federal funds, and gifts that place the institution at the public teat for which they work. And the difference is? -- None.

But it certainly explains the symbiotic relationship of these groups with the Democratic Party. Being the party of largess, the parties involved are feeding off each other. I believe that pretty much explains it.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS
Re: William J. Watkins Jr.'s Judicial Supremacy Exposed:

This is in regards to Mr. Watkins book review of Larry Kramer's book.

Two things about me that people should know.

1) I am deeply conservative and as such very upset with liberal activist judges who legislate from the bench contrary to the American Constitution.

2) I am a third-year law student who isn't nearly as well studied as the Dean of the Stanford Law School (which I considered trying to transfer to -- this letter will put an end to that ambition)

I haven't read the book, so my comments are based on what Mr. Watkins wrote.

Mr. Kramer disagrees with the judicial supremacy of the U.S. Supreme Court and cites an alternative viewing of Marbury vs. Madison as well an analysis of the British system. I consider both arguments to be flawed. First of all, you cannot draw conclusions about the American system from the British system. If you leave out the obvious flaws -- America does not have a monarch and America does not have a divided head-of-state/head-of-government, you are left with the fact that Britain does not have a written constitution and does not have explicitly granted rights. Yes, in Britain Parliament is sovereign, but that is based on the absence of a document that says otherwise. While it is true that the American judiciary draws from English tradition and common law, the similarities between the two systems ends there. And is this not to be applauded? Imagine Brown v. Board of Education decided by a British Court: "We may not like segregated school districts, but until Congress (or in this case State Legislature) changes it, this Court has no power to overturn it."

Now. while there probably was a certain mistrust of popularism among the founders, it appears to me that the most fundamental mistrust was aimed towards a federal government. The Electoral College and the Bill of Rights (aka Amendments 1-10) have the sole purpose of protecting the people from the federal government. Remember, the First Amendment starts with: "Congress shall make no law..." In fact, the Bill of Rights was adopted so that there would be specific rights that Congress could not violate.

In comes Marbury vs. Madison. I have read this case time and time again, mainly to figure out what it was about. Then I got it. Marbury vs. Madison stands for the simple, common-sense doctrine that if we have a supreme law of the land established by the people, a law that violates said supreme law cannot be valid. Somebody has to be able to review those laws and declare them unconstitutional. And since Congress passed the law in the first place, it cannot be Congress to say: "oopsie, we were wrong, sorry." The Supreme Court, established to be the final arbiter on the law, is best equipped to judge the law.

By the way, a lot of people keep getting upset over the fact that judges are unelected and answerable to no one. Keep in mind that this was done on purpose to shield the judges from making popular decisions instead of sound decisions.

So, what happens if the Supreme Court rules in a way that upsets a majority of Americans? Well, the Constitution may be the supreme law of the land, but there is an amendment process.

However, after all is said and done, I agree that there is a problem with liberal, activist judges in our courts. The real problem is not the judicial system, but rather the liberal view on judicial activism and past Presidents/Senates nominating/confirming activist judges. The way to fix the system is to nominate and confirm judges who, for one, have read the Constitution and are willing to apply it, rather than legislate from the bench.

In his analysis, however, Mr. Kramer is mistaken.
-- Charles B. Garman
Omaha, Nebraska

THE BASKETBRAWL
Re: Shawn Macomber's Sporting Chance:

I would argue that the media obsession with the NBA brawl actually reinforces the idea Macomber brought forth, that the behavior of Americans in much more genteel, much more considerate than the typical European. If the basketbrawl were not a hot news item, then we should be more worried, culturally speaking. The fact that this incident is so shocking, and therefore "newsworthy," is a good thing.

That being said, the news items referenced are indeed much more newsworthy than the basketball fight. I just contend that the fight was also newsworthy, for reasons noted above.
-- John Price

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