16 January 2018

False alarm on Hawaii and the people of Sderot


Even several days after the advent of the false alarm, issued on Hawaii by a hapless employee, the noise and the excitement caused by the alarm have not abated. The number of search results on the subject,  returned by Google, is staggering - above 5 million hits:


This CNN article reports on the level of anxiety and panic caused by the event, and it is quite helpful to watch the included clip to learn about the terror in the people's minds.
"You're thinking, 'Oh my gosh, are we going to die? Is it really a missile (headed) our way, or is it just a test?'" the 24-year-old told CNN. "We really didn't know."
Etc...

The Hawaiian incident started a wave of introspection in other places, interestingly. Such as this, fairly ridiculous BBC piece:

Hawaii false alarm: How would UK handle missile threat?

The conclusion is, as expected - poorly. Why wold anyone today aim a ballistic missile at London isn't the subject of the article. And the insignificant question of where was all that expected readiness years ago, during the Cold War, when such an outcome was more realistic, remains unanswered, of course.

After looking at all this for a while, I couldn't avoid comparing this affair with the almost weekly (and real) terror experienced by the citizens of Sderot* in their provincial and mundane routine. Such as shown in this clip:



Almost weekly, I said... yeah, and during a conflagration it happens many times a day. But panic, heartbreak and PTSD of Israeli kids and adults, happening in reality, are of much lesser interest, of course:
Nope, I don't really envy the popularity of that missile "incident", nor do I try to diminish the possible implications of Kim the Fatso madness, it is just that... what, really?

I don't know. You tell me.

(*) Apologies to the good people of many other towns and villages around the Gaza strip, not mentioned above. Me too, you know...

10 January 2018

Exhumation of Stalin's fetid carcass: step by step

People carry a portrait of Soviet leader Josef Stalin during a march to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in Sevastopol in Russian occupied Crimea on May 9, 2017,
The slow motion Russian zombocalypse - returning to unlife the Bolshevik murderers and tyrants - is nothing new. It started in a relatively hushed manner, with Stalin and his sidekicks favorably mentioned on different state occasions. With Stalin's portraits appearing in private dwellings. With Stalin's statues reappearing in various cities, joined by Lenin, Dzerzhinsky etc.

Today nobody stirs while reading that "Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the "excessive demonization" of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin "is one means of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia.""

This roundabout expression of support for the smelly stiff pales, though, compared to the following clip. The recording comes from Omsk, not from a central Russian media outfit. Boonies by Russian standards, but the level of adoration heaped on the premier mass murderer is staggering. So I decided to translate the speech for those in the West who might be interested.



***

On December 25th 135 years passed from the birthday of Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin. During the time of his rule [sic!] Stalin succeeded to return to the State all historically Russian lands, lost as a result of wars and political intrigues. Under his direct guidance a really socially-oriented economy was created. It excluded parasitism and exploitation. In addition a powerful industrial-technological breakthrough occurred. The national economy progressed without crises and credits and without foreign manpower. The Soviet state succeeded on its own, without borrowing foreign capital, to perform a grandiose program of socialist endeavor. And this on the background of devastating international economic depression. A two-dimensional (?) system of pricing, the most effective in the history of humanity, was created.

Profit was derived not like it is done now - from a components of the end product - but from the end product itself. Thus the whole system was aimed at reduction of costs and reduction of the consumer prices. This is what allowed reduction of prices and increase of wages.

Iosif Vissarionovich was ahead of the whole world in the development of democracy. USSR already had direct elections system since 1936. Moreover, he insisted that the elections be equal and the ballot - secret. For comparison we'll remind that the least democratic elections system is the American one, where it is not direct and the right to elect was given to Americans only in the sixties [XX century]. It will be prudent to mention that the "exemplary democracy" in Switzerland allowed women to participate in election only in 1972.

From the point of view of a regular worker, unskilled in politics and economics, evaluation of Stalin's achievements could be expressed in simple words:
  • A worker could be paid more than director.
  • Everyone was guaranteed free healthcare.
  • Pensions were higher than a minimal cost of life.
  • Everyone could achieve free high education.
  • A peasant boy, having the ability, could grow to become a minister.
  • The referees in Olympic games were literally afraid to judge our athletes unfair.
  • Not a single shred of Russian land could be sold to a foreign speculator.
The people loved Stalin and our enemies feared him. Our enemies fear Stalin even today, and, as long as the power of his spirit is alive in every one of us, as long as we feel pride in our past and believe in our strength, we are invincible.

***

So there. I am not commenting on this at all.

One remark only: after reading the list of Stalin's achievements, I realised that I want to live in USSR.

Then...

08 January 2018

CNN on NK Fatso or how to produce a tasty nothing burger


Just a bit of the usual grumbling about the media. Probably my stomach problems and all... anyway, here it is.

The headline was way too alluring to skip:

Who is Kim Jong Un? Separating myth from fact

There are two key sentences, one at the beginning of the piece and one a bit down the screen:
The little that is known about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is, for the most part, questionable.
and
All conclusions over Kim Jong Un's motives are speculative at best, and preposterously hysterical at worst.
Saying this, the author succeeded to produce a very long screed, full of information that could be easily collected by a most unprofessional internet surfer. Freely available to all. And no separation of crap from fact, as promised...

And Jamie Tarabay, the author of the piece, has a formidable record, according to this.

So why?

06 January 2018

Arseny Aleksandrovich Tarkovsky and quandaries of translation


Arseny Aleksandrovich Tarkovsky, one of very few in the Russian poetry of XX century, was a man of tragic times and his life was tragic as well. A poet who, while he escaped the fate of his peers (like Osip Mandelshtam) in the bloody thirties, had his first book published at the age of 55. This alone should tell you most of his life story. Still, he was one of very few to have that elusive deity of poetry guide his pen.

But this post is about translation. One of the most known in the West poems by A.T. is Первые Свидания, a poem dedicated to a woman he loved till his last breath, over several marriages and over life full of pain. And here starts the saga of translation.

In fact, the closest (and most fitting) translation of the title Первые Свидания would have been First Trysts. The multiple attempts of translation ended up with: First Meetings, First Dates, First Times Together, ...

And from this point it all went downhill. The poem itself is a perfect example of a poet at the peak of his power, using the rhythm and the rhyme to the utmost, in their most difficult implementation. With absolute success, at least for a layman like I. So it isn't easy to translate, a towering challenge for anyone. And the last, say, 6 lines, present an even more insurmountable goal:
Сама ложилась мята нам под ноги,
И птицам с нами было по дороге,
И рыбы подымались по реке,
И небо развернулось пред глазами…

Когда судьба по следу шла за нами,
Как сумасшедший с бритвою в руке.
Try your Google Translate and see what kind of challenge these lines provide, even without knowing the original language. Especially the two last lines, justly characterized by Philip Metres here:
The final two lines, a brutal couplet, suddenly brings the lovers into the cold, where fate will have its say—like a madman with a razor. The scales of the poem tip from romance to tragedy.
Yep. He got it. However, the translation he and his Russian colleague provided, didn't get it:
And mint bowed down beneath our feet,
And birds hovered above our heads.
And fish nosed against the river’s flow,
And the sky unfurled above the land…

While behind us, fate followed
Like a madman with a razor in his hand.
In addition to the above translation I have checked another four: First Meetings, First Dates, First Meetings and again First Dates. Only the last one, by Rupert Moreton, somewhat rises to the challenge:
And underfoot was minty sward’s foundation,
And birds along the way flew in formation,
Against the flow the fish were swimming free,
Before our eyes the heavens were unfolding…

Behind us still our fate was grimly holding,
A razor-handed madman, seeking fee.
Playing a bit loose with the text, but doing his best with rhyme and rhythm. Still not there, but more in the spirit of the poem than the others, to my taste.

Oh well, the challenge isn't going away anytime soon.

In the following clip, from the movie The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky (the famous son of A.T.), A.T. himself reads the poem.

Even if you don't know the language, the music is there. Enjoy.

03 January 2018

About an alleged article in National Post

Alleged: 1. Declared but not proved; 2. Doubtful or suspect

The above mentioned article in National Post doesn't fit the meaning #1. Being a perennial student of this wonderful language, I can't be totally sure, but I would call the article doubtful. Or suspect. As in "suspect in being skewed to favor one of the parties involved", for instance.

But let's not make an issue of the notorious Tamimi family, it is already overblown as it is. This time it is about reporting, and here is an outstanding example for all lovers of English:


The caption of that picture (which I have chosen to take a snapshot of for posterity) introduced a novel tweak in the use of the word "alleged". Namely: "...after a viral video showing them allegedly assaulting two Israeli soldiers...". Such an artful conjunction of "video showing" and "allegedly" should be studied by all aspiring journalists, I suggest.

That will be all. Oh, and here, allegedly, is the alleged video of the alleged lady allegedly attacking the alleged soldiers.

02 January 2018

The proper progressive response to Iranian people

People are dying on the streets of Iranian cities. Not people with rifles or stones in their hands: just people who are unhappy with the extremist regime of Ayatollahs. Regime that prefers to spend their people's money on fomenting terror over the globe and producing more and more weaponry to become a regional superpower.

Accidentally, that same regime that the last POTUS, Barack Hussein Obama II, decided to befriend from the start of his first presidency. We all know how it ended: with a nuclear agreement hardly worth the paper it was written upon and with "Death to America" demos continuing and even increasing in frequency on the streets of Tehran.

And how do the Western progressive liberals respond to the unrest in Iran? My first jaw-dropping experience with that response was via an article in NYT:

How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters? Be Quiet.

The headline is quite sufficient to understand the trend, but here is what is probably the main passage of that (frankly revolting) opus:

One reason to worry that Mr. Trump may try to seize the moment by championing the protesters is that it has become an article of faith among President Barack Obama’s critics than in 2009 he missed a golden opportunity to do just that, when many Iranians took to the streets after a disputed election result. But it was never clear what difference American rhetorical support would have made then, other than allowing the Iranian government to depict the protesters as American lackeys, giving the security services more of a pretext to crack down violently.
Of course, this bit of circular logic (or poisonous wisdom, you name it) is applicable to any tyranny in this here world. And, if you learn a bit about the author of this dreck, one Philip Gordon, who appears to be "a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an assistant secretary of state and White House coordinator for the Middle East during the Obama administration", you shall understand better the roots. You shall also understand better what kind of "assistants" the last POTUS has chosen - to sing hosannas to his international politicking...

But this is not about the POTUS, it is about people dying in the streets, to remind you. Something that should be protested and fought against. And I guess it will be vociferously protested if it were to happen on the streets of, say, San Francisco or London or Buda... no, it is too Eastern for the true progressives, let's say Berlin instead , OK?

Tehran is where all these brown people live, after all. They have their own customs and their own culture, they have that Religion of Peace thing that we are obliged to respect, so it is not our business to stick our noses where our noses definitely don't belong, right?

And speaking about the right: Mr Gordon here is a living proof, among many others, of how the modern progressive left has made the successful voyage to the place where the ultra-conservative paleocons with their non-involvement motto lay in wait for their victory. Now these two, ostensibly mutually exclusive gangs, could lay down together in the same bed.

Of course, Mr Gordon is only a single example. Here are more, from different (oh well...) media giants (headlines only, you can imagine the contents):

Iran: By supporting protests, Donald Trump may inadvertently be helping the government's cause

Trump's backing of Iranian protesters could backfire as Tehran cracks down

The progressive echo chamber at its full glory. And bless the fact that you can't smell the said glory as well...

And here is a slightly different source, one Iranian-British citizen, Aaron Bastani, a Labor activist:
Imploring y'all to desist with your wishes for a change (Remember, the CHANGE?), because the results will be frightful, not to mention the usual suspects fomenting unrest... sweet, ain't it?

Oh well, so what can we all learn from this progressive thing? Only this, I am afraid:

26 December 2017

Anshel Pfeffer‏, RT and Ukrainian corruption...


A list of terms used in the headline first:
  1. Anshel Pfeffer: a nice guy of Haaretz (picture above), prone to bloopers and not always at home, but nice.
  2. RT: a Russian version of Alex Jones' Infowars, but with much more money.
  3. Ukraine: an ex-republic of the late Soviet Union, now an independent country. Mostly, because parts of it are being either "restored" to Mother Russia or are in the process of restoration.
Oh, did I mention that our Anshel is a dork? Yes, I see I did in a way, but no matter: it bears repeating. So here is a new blooper from our poor mixed up Anshelke:

And what do we learn from this Twitter post?
  • That ISIS downed an Egyptian helicopter using a Russian missile.
  • That US sells similar missiles to Ukraine.
  • That Ukraine is corrupt. It is kinda rich, coming from Moscow, but let it go for now.
  • That the missiles sold by US to Ukraine might end up in the grubby hands of Middle East terrorists. Which hands are already full of Russian missiles. Hmm... creates a conflict of marketing interests, it seems.
Er... did I mention that our Anshel is a dork? My memory is not what it was back then.

24 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

To all our friends!


19 December 2017

Uncle Vova - we are with you! Or: Americans, mind Alaska!



I guess there is no need to tell a non-Russian viewer that this is a patriotic song. The performance is staged on a location of historic significance for the Russian people: Mamayev Kurgan.

Here are a few lines starting the song:

The twenty-first century has come, the Earth is tired of wars
The hegemony rides over people of the Earth
In the European Union there is no opinion, the Middle East groans from troubles
Over the ocean, the president is deprived of power

And to us from the northern seas to the southern borders
From the Kuril Islands, to the Baltic coasts
And on this earth there would have been peace, but if the chief commander
Will call for the last fight, Uncle Vova*, we are with you
Of course the patriotic zeal of the children is touching. Not that the words of the song make any special sense so far, but the readiness of a kid to die for Uncle Vova and the Motherland is a sign of uber-patriotic society, ain't it?

And now to a quote of this song that should be of real significance to Americans:
Our Sevastopol and Crimea we will save for our descendants,
We'll return Alaska to the harbor of the Motherland.
As we all (well, most of us, anyway) know, Crimea was already "saved" for the descendants.
Alaska, though, is a new wrinkle in the patriotic fervor, so there is something to think about.

The author of the song is one Vyacheslav Antonov, who, judging by his site, does a brisk business in similar patriotic songs, with hardly intelligible texts but drenched in patriotism.

But the author is much less important in this case. What is amazing is the initiator of (and participant in) the recording, as it is presented in the above YouTube clip. No other than a member of the Russian Duma (parliament), Anna Kuvychko.


So, dear Americans, you have to weigh all the pros and cons of keeping that piece of property. According to Wiki, the price was roughly $1.8 billion in 2016 dollar. Seeing as how the winds are blowing, call Anna and start negotiating. Taking into account all the amenities, infrastructure and all you have built since that purchase, you might get a cool offer... and better hurry before the little green men of Crimea decide it is time to relocate...

More on the subject.

(*) Vova is a endearment for Vladimir (Putin, of course, in this case).

30 November 2017

Social justice advocates' hourly rate

This is really phenomenal: the goddess of Political Correctness in overdrive.

The blow-up involves the university seeking $10-an-hour students who would be responsible to focus on “the mosaic of diversity, multiculturalism and inclusivity,” including creating and maintaining bulletin boards in residence halls.
But the bigger concern is that the successful applicants would be reporting bias, a description that led to comments that students are going to be spying on each other.
Denial level is about 99 in the university:
“The position has been mischaracterized,” Scott told Capitol Media Services. She said the aim is to provide support to students, especially in dormitories.
“It’s an opportunity for students to come to student peers, share their experience, and for that student peer to either counsel them on how to report that bias incident through the Dean of Students’ website, or that the student peer may report the bias incident directly,” she said.
Snitching for $10 per hour, in other words.
What is the minimum wage in Arizona, by the way?
Just asking.

And - wouldn't it be better to pay per each reported microaggression?
We don't want paid underperformers, do we?

29 November 2017

Russia, where blood libel never slept


This here blog rarely deals with the ugly and ancient virus of anti-Semitism. There are several reasons why, but to name the chief one - it will most probably be the uselessness. A/S is usually a part of the person's bloodstream, acquired with mother's milk and not susceptible to persuasion, logic or even a liberal application of 2x4. Hopefully this post will continue to be a rare exception.

Russia, the motherland of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has been one of the countries richly permeated with the virus. Benevolently looked upon by most Tzars, the virus spread quite widely in all walks of life and, like the ubiquitous Protocols, coming up at many occasions, caused murderous conflagrations during the history. Including the history of the USSR, with only death stopping the homicidal dictator from carrying out his plan of removing the Soviet Jews to Siberia in the beginning of the fifties.

Recent years brought another wave of the epidemic, this time coming from an old and temporary made dormant ROC - Russian Orthodox Church. Being suppressed for the 70 years of the great socialist experiment, ROC flourishes and gains popularity, power and lots and lots of its growing flock's money. It has to be said that the A/S virus has by no means infected all of the ROC priests, but a sizable part of them appeared to be ready to return to the old habit of this church.

A Russian liberal site Grani posted an article The Beilis* case lives and wins
The investigation committee plans to appoint a psychological/historical examination to find out whether the execution of the royal family** was not a ritual murder, said ... Marina Molodtsova, senior investigator for especially important cases of the Russian Federation, at the conference "The Case of the Murder of the Royal Family: New Expertise and Materials ... ".
...
According to her, a council of experts is now being formed to include scientists from the Academy of Sciences, Moscow and St. Petersburg universities, historians, archivists and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church. This research will become possible after the receipt of the conclusions from the historical-archival examination, which is currently being performed by experts.
Other sources name the origin of the libel.
Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, who is heading a Russian Orthodox Church commission investigating the execution of the Romanov family by firing squad in Yekaterinburg, said at a conference on Monday that many members of the commission believe it was a ritual murder that held special significance for Bolshevik commander Yakov Yurovsky and his men.

“Ritual murder” has in the past referred to a theory that the last emperor was the victim of a Jewish conspiracy, as Mr Yurovsky was of Jewish heritage.
Grani, quoted above, continue with this:
If you delve into the taste of the ritual accusation, you get a very heavy feeling .... Each of us, speaking to a non-believer, must, therefore, remember that, perhaps, at this very moment the non-believer shivers and thinks: "And who knows whether you ever got a sip from a ritual glass?"

There are quite sincere people among the rightwingers. These people quite sincerely believe that Jews consume the blood of Christian babies; at least that among Jews there is such a sect ... In general, this whole thing is much more complicated. It is especially difficult because the belief in ritual murders is common not only among the right. In a neutral, non-partisan mass, even an intelligent one, too, this suspicion is far from eradicated ... Of course, nice people express this doubt not in more elegant form. They usually say: "Of course, we do not doubt that you and your family don't know about it, but... maybe your rabbis know?"
Well, what can I add to that? Only that, as part of a ritual, I am sometimes raising my ritual glass. Its contents are usually red and, on the occasions when fresh blood of gentile children is available, especially tasty. And I drink to the demise of Jew haters, among other wishes.

(*) Beilis case
Menahem Mendel Beilis (sometimes spelled Beiliss; Russian: Менахем Мендель Бейлис, Yiddish: מנחם מענדל בייליס‎; 1874 – 7 July 1934) was a Russian Jew accused of ritual murder in Kiev in the Russian Empire in a notorious 1913 trial, known as the "Beilis trial" or "Beilis affair". The process sparked international criticism of the antisemitic policies of the Russian Empire.
And an important footnote:
Around six months before his death, Beilis was interviewed by the English-language Jewish Daily Bulletin. Asked for “one outstanding impression” of the trial in Kiev, he paid a final tribute to the Russian Gentiles who had helped him to escape the blood libel, such as the detective Krasovsky and the journalist Brazul-Brushkovsky: “There was real heroism, real sacrifice. They knew that by defending me their careers would be ruined, even their very lives would not be safe. But they persisted because they knew I was innocent.”
Yes, it is crucial not to paint all Russians by the same color - the color of hate.

(**) Execution of the royal family
The last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family were shot in the summer of 1918 in Yekaterinburg. In 2000, the Russian Church canonized Nicholas II and his family members as saints, after the discovery of the burial site near Yekaterinburg, the remains of the members of the imperial family were buried in the tomb of Peter and Paul Cathedral of St. Petersburg. In the fall of 2015, investigators resumed the investigation into the case of the deaths of the Romanovs. Currently, there are also examinations related to the establishment of the authenticity of the remains found in 2007, possibly the prince Alexis and the Grand Duchess Maria.

25 November 2017

Comrade Court - a bit of history

Comrade Court: in the USSR an elected public body called upon to actively promote the education of citizens in the spirit of a communist attitude to work, to socialist property, the observance of the rules of socialist community life, respect for the honor and dignity of citizens. The main direction of the work of CC - prevention of offenses and misdemeanors, that harm society, by education, persuasion and social influence.
...
CC can be created at enterprises, institutions, organizations, educational institutions (by decision of the general meeting of the collective of workers, students), in collective farms, houses served by house management or united by street committees, and in rural settlements (by decision of the general meeting of collective farmers , residents of the house, villagers, with the consent of the respective executive committees of the Soviets of Workers' Deputies).
Warning: A long post.

The term, which in Russian is "Товарищеский Суд", gives one a bit of a headache when trying to translate it. To explain it by an inversion: every offense that wasn't of a clearly criminal nature or wasn't of sufficient interest to the omnipresent KGB, but still required some measure of response, was shipped off to the Comrade Court. Some examples of situations that caused a person to be summoned CC:
  • Underperformance at work, being frequently late for work etc.
  • Adultery
  • Pilfering of small items not warranting police involvement
  • Rudeness to other comrades
  • Alcoholism
  • Violence in the family
  • Political incorrectness: telling "anti-Soviet", jokes, dissing the Leaders, writing "subversive" statements in articles or books etc...
  • Lodging a request to leave USSR permanently for some foreign location, worse of all - a capitalist state or, deity forbid, the Zionist entity.
Of course, the list of people "elected" to serve as members of the CC was approved by the management of the organization or the local party committee, but is wasn't necessarily a permanent appointment, usually an ad hoc selection.

Since most (but by no means all) sessions of the CC must have been carefully orchestrated, the session was usually preceded by a hearing. This meant that the guilty subject was summoned to a meeting with one or several senior employees of his organization, in some delicate (meaning political) cases joined by an outside (party or KGB, depending on importance) representative. It was very important to the powers that be to establish not only the guilt of the subject, but also his/her potential for disruptive and provocative behavior during the public session of CC. Potential troublemakers are not only bad for the organization's image, they are dangerous for the public moral. The mere possibility of such characters gaining even smallest public expression of support among their comrades, present at the CC session, was mightily feared by the organizers.

The "hearing" by itself was designed as a kind of preliminary punishment. Taking hours sometimes, it consisted mainly of a long and exhausting variety of probing questions, many having nothing to do with the specific offense, caused (or allegedly caused) by the subject. If behavior of the subject during the hearing wasn't satisfactory, the big cheeses present were peppering the questioning by direct or indirect threats - such as sacking, transfer to a low paying job, jail time etc. If the case was political and the subject was being stubborn and/or provocative, the case could have been transferred to the "higher authority", with the blessing of that KGB/party member present in the meeting.

But of course, alcoholics, thieves, wife beaters and similar were dealt with quickly in most cases. Eventually, if a person was deemed by the powers that be fit to stand a public CC trial, the employees were summoned to the public meeting, where the members of the CC and the defendant took the places of honor (see the picture). Of course, one of the prerequisites for this gathering was careful selection and preparation of volunteers (yep, don't be surprised by that oxymoron) that were schooled and assigned to raise their arms and come up with some short text fitting the occasion.

Apolitical cases were, in most cases, of little interest (well, possibly aside of the adultery-related ones). A member of the CC read the description of the offense in question, somebody (or the same member) gave a short speech relating the position of the State regarding the offense. Then one or two "volunteers" stood up and spoke briefly about their (negative, of course) feelings about this or another offense and the behavior of the offender. It was not unheard of that one or two of the people's present offered a positive personal characteristic of the offender, to go towards softening of the CC conclusions regarding the potential punishment. After all, adulterers, thieves and alcoholics are part and parcel...

The defendant was given an opportunity to speak, the expectation was for a sincere (depending on the subject's acting ability) repentance. The subject, in most cases an inarticulate victim of the circumstances, mumbled a few expected sentences and benignly allowed to stand down. Then the sentence of the CC - a petition to the management actually - for a fine, a temporary demotion, a record in the personal file etc, was proposed and duly voted "yes" by 100% of the public present (not that anyone counted usually).

Not infrequently, apolitical cases were enlivened by some unintended hilarity, when the questions addressed to the defendant got an unexpected funny result (what can I do, she slipped on the wet floor several times and these bruises, you know how it is...). A warm and fuzzy feeling was enveloping all present at the end of the session, and the accused was not infrequently patted on the shoulder: just don't do it anymore, buddy, although we all understand and know how it goes.

Not so with the "political" offenses. The atmosphere in the room was tense. People were usually quiet, the wooden expressions on the faces of CC members stressing the seriousness of the situation. In many cases the proceedings started with a senior member of CC giving a speech about the "international situation", about the latest capitalists' nefarious anti-Soviet intrigues, about the Zionists' latest aggression, about Soviet Union being the shining lighthouse and beacon to the progressive elements elsewhere in... etc. Then the litany of imperialist cowardly misdeeds seamlessly entered the current case - the obvious rudiment of the bourgeois (feudal... etc.) past that sits here before you, comrades, his/her misdeeds begging for punishment. How could our healthy body have caught this inexplicable disease, comrades? What have we hitherto missed?

After the speech, the "volunteers" were "asked" to present to the public their wrath and indignation. In most cases, the wrath and the indignation were inspired by the prepared in advance text, pre-approved by the CC. In most cases the relatively short speeches of this kind went down smoothly, a few clearly forgivable mistakes with some overly long or foreign words notwithstanding. However, overzealousness sometimes caused unintended hilarity too. When some of the ultra-patriots, present in the session and especially incensed by the gravity of the anti-Soviet offenses committed by the defendant, jumped up and offered their assistance with execution of the offender. Or, at least, offered a rich menu of punishments deserved by the anti-Soviet vermin. Unlike the apolitical cases, though, no one laughed during such outbursts. Just in case, you know...

The critical moment usually came when the CC master of ceremonies called for the offender to speak. Even after the vetting by the previously described "hearing" committee, politically correct behavior of the defendant was not totally guaranteed, of course. There was a certain element of risk. A cautious defendant, minding his future, usually got over this part with a few mumbled sentences of repentance and apologies of some non-binding nature. As expected by all present. If, however, in spite of all the precautions and threats, the offender went into a defiant counterattack, the situation quickly deteriorated. Such behavior endangered not just the defendant, it stained the lily white record of the people that prepared that meeting and (especially) the people who have been present at the hearing. One of the hearing's goal was to make sure that such eventuality was prevented, after all.

The crowd present, of course, might have started booing and protesting the "anti-Soviet" outburst, but if a friend or two of the defendant, of more fearless nature, were present, expressions of support weren't totally unknown to happen. Havoc sometimes ensued, and the only remaining way for the august committee was to quickly declare the session aborted and done with. Usually in such case the punishment of the miscreant was stiffened. In one specific case of my buddy who was accused of anti-socialist behavior and views, his uppity behavior during the CC session caused a criminal charge being concocted against him later, ending in a criminal court* hearing and subsequent punishment.

Still, on the average, with all the travesty of the public "trial" with a predicted result, with no defense lawyer and no law at all, the absurd ritual no one really believed in and no one really was excited about, was much better than falling into the hands of the criminal court or the KGB. Besides, as mentioned, these CC proceedings sometimes provided some much required hilarity. Thanks for the small favors in the continuous grey reality of permanent lie.


(*) To remind you, there were no "political" cases or political prisoners, everything in USSR was filed under the Criminal Codex.

21 November 2017

When the Holy Inquisition of Political Correctness stutters

Robert Barchi, the president of Rutgers University

Gee how the time flies. The ink on the post The Holy Inquisition of Political Correctness and toxicity has barely dried out, and we are up to a new twist on the subject of Political Correctness and freedom of speech in academia.

That post referred above was about a teacher in university almost crucified for showing her students a clip with an opinion on gender-neutral pronouns that goes against a prevailing PC line. Thus, according to the faculty, creating a toxic environment.

Now some people, as some people's habit, have painted a swastika on the wall of a Rutgers university building. You would expect that the toxicity, introduced in such quantity into the peaceful environment of the august institution, would cause the anti-toxicity mechanisms going at full tilt.

And you would be wrong in your expectations: apparently this is fine in the framework of that elusive and hard to define freedom of speech thingy:
The president of Rutgers University has argued that the recent rash of anti-Semitism on campus is protected by the First Amendment.
Speaking during a student government town hall last week, Robert Barchi said: 'If I'm a Ku Klux Klan member, and I'm going to burn a cross on a vacant lot, that's a constitutionally protected right.'
'You put that cross on my front yard, and you light it, that is not constitutionally protected, that's harassment,' Barchi said, according to Tap Into New Brunswick. 'It's an exception to the First Amendment.​'​
Well, I really don't know what to say about it. Not without introducing some unneeded toxicity into the argument.

One should conclude that the consistent and correct use of gender-neutral pronouns beats a swastika any time.

Or is it the other way around?

P.S. There is more to the good dean than this post shows. Read the article.

20 November 2017

The Holy Inquisition of Political Correctness and toxicity


Watching the goings-on in the modern academia is a hazardous occupation. From the point of view of many actors on that scene, all they are doing is cleaning the scene of "toxicity" - real or imaginary. The viewer, though, gets the full dose of the toxicity directly in his/her face... but it is rather a personal complaint.

Here is a really heart-wrenching example of the juggernaut of Political Correctness squashing under its wheels an innocent and well meaning young person. Because of some overly sensitive human embryo, whose pea brain and overwhelming sensitivity and entitlement don't bear a shadow of debate.
Lindsay Shepherd, a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, said she ran afoul of school authorities after she aired a clip in two tutorials of a debate on gender-neutral pronouns featuring polarizing University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson.
At this point I feel the need to stop for a moment and to explain. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His ascent to notoriety came with his opposition to the use of genderless pronouns and his attacks on political correctness. Here he explains some of his views.

Now, does Lindsay Shepherd share the views of the illustrious professor? Not at all, rather the opposite:
Shepherd said she was trying to demonstrate that the structure of a language can affect the society in which it is spoken in ways people might not anticipate. To illustrate her point, she said she mentioned that long-standing views on gender had probably been shaped by the gender-specific pronouns that are part of English’s fundamental grammatical structure. The clip of Peterson debating sexual diversity scholar Nicholas Matte, she said, was meant to demonstrate ways in which the existence of gender-specific pronouns has caused controversy.
So, her crime was not in expressing support for the professor's views - just in showing a clip where his views are explained to the pupils. That's all, but this was sufficient for the faculty Inquisition** to open a so called "investigation", when one of the students complained.

And here are the results:
She said she was permitted to keep her position so long as she agreed to file copies of her lesson plans in advance and allow faculty members to sit in on her sessions whenever they wished, constraints she said are not standard practice for Laurier.
Mind-boggling, isn't it? And here is what the proud institution says about itself:
“Laurier is committed to fostering a learning environment that is open and challenging, protects academic freedom and freedom of expression, as well as being welcoming, supportive and respectful of human rights,” the school said in a statement.
Here goes* your "open and challenging" and here go your "academic freedom" and "freedom of expression"...

In this article you can listen to a partial recording (made in secret, I understand) of the meeting between Ms Shepherd and faculty. It was quite painful to me for personal reasons, having being present at several Soviet meetings of this kind. The chief interlocutor (the male voice in the recording), with his incessant probing and incessant attempts to detect the crime in Ms Shepherd's words, is chilling. Here is a really toxic character.

I was thinking about historical parallels. It will be a gross exaggeration to compare the treatment of Ms Shepherd to the Stalin's trials. After all, the results were almost immediate execution of the "enemies of the people". But two other similar cases come to mind: McCarthyism and its frequently baseless punishment of innocents. And the Soviet times public (lead by Communist party) denouncements of everyone who crossed the imaginary line, which could be just telling a joke considered "anti-Soviet", or writing a politically incorrect article, or...

In short, McCarthyism that is coming back under a new guise and is promoted by another breed of PC priests.

Too bad.

(*) At least there is a voice of protest from Wilfrid Laurier. Good for you, professor Haskell!

(**) And let's listen a bit to one of the Inquisitors, part of the above mentioned "investigation" committee.
Dr. Pimlott is currently working on an anthology of Karl Marx's journalism as well as developing research on strategic communications and social justice movements in Canada.
Any questions?

Update: Nathan Rambukkana, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies is the chief speaker in the clip, and here is the transcript for your convenience. Shocking.

Update 2: Happy End:
Laurier president and vice-chancellor Deborah MacLatchy apologized to Shepherd on Tuesday after media outlets carried the full audio of a conversation between her, her supervising professor Dr. Nathan Rambukkana as well as another professor, Herbert Pimlott, and the manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support, Adria Joel. Shepherd recorded the conversation in secret.
Update 3: Full recording of the meeting.

Update 4: Prof Nathan Rambukkana apologizes in an open letter. Which letter reeks insincerity from the first sentence. Or the second...

Update 5: I sincerely hope that this will be the last update on the subject (unless Mr Rambukkana and Mr Pimlott are fired, then I will be happy to amend this post again).
The lawyer engaged by Wilfrid Laurier University to prepare a fact-finding report into a controversial reprimand of graduate student Lindsay Shepherd has confirmed there was never a formal complaint about her tutorial.

In a letter dated Dec. 4, and sent to Shepherd's lawyer Howard Levitt, from the Laurier-hired lawyer Robert Centa, it reads: "You asked for a copy of the complaint or complaints filed against your client. At this point in my investigation, I do not believe there is a document that contains a 'complaint' made about Ms. Shepherd nor is there anything I would describe as a formal complaint under any WLU policy," wrote Centa.
How do you like them chickens?

Update 6: A fitting summary by Terry Glavin:

In the Shepherd affair, the left has sided with the bosses

Hat tip: M.R.

15 November 2017

The snapshot of our times