Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pussy Riot anathema

After the performance of the punk rock group Pussy Riot in Moscow's rebuilt cathedral of Christ the Savior, three of nine band members were arrested: Maria Alekhina and Nadejda Tolokonnikova on March 4th, and Catherine Samutzevich - on March 15th. They have been charged with "hooliganism". The Pussy Riot band performed in masks, but the uncertainty will not stop the authorities from making an example. The women - two of whom have small children at home face up to seven years in prison.
Russian protester in front of the Ministry of Justice.
After the arrest of three of the performers, I wrote about the political nature of this performance and its persecution: Putin is Puttin' an end to the Pussy Riot. Amnesty International has called them prisoners of conscience and demanded their release:
Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of three young women arrested by the Russian authorities as members of the punk group ‘Pussy Riot’ who staged a protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February.
The phrase "immediate and unconditional" to the Russian ear evokes the calls for surrender of German armed forces at the end of WWII. In other words, Amnesty International (AI) is provocatively calling for Russian capitulation. Sadly, this call does not improve the chances of the jailed women.

The band members of Pussy Riot explained that the goal of "punk service" was not desecration of a church, but a protest against the position of Patriarch Kirill, who allowed the "Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to become a tool in the dirty electoral intrigues".

Not surprisingly, Patriarch Kirill recently condemned calls for leniency for the "punk service" in Moscow's main cathedral. The Russian punk band was doing devil's work, said the saintly leader of the ROC.

In its call for release of jailed Pussy Riot members, AI noted that the band has left the church peacefully shortly after being asked, and caused no damage. Furthermore, the charges against the women mention the anti-Putin message of their performance.

Patriarch Kirill's calls for harshness in prosecution of Pussy Riot may appear justified by the anti-religious message of the "punk service". The band's message was actually anti-clerical. I was stunned to find that Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the ROC, has openly supported Putin's candidacy for the reelection! Apparently the only separation of church and state he has heard about happened during the Soviet times, and loss of state patronage was a real challenge for the Church. It's much better to be helping the rulers to control the masses, than to oppose the powerful, even if they are ex-KGB.

Patriarch Kirill has become embroiled in a series of scandals. At the end of the March a story broke in mass media in Russia around an apartment belonging to the Patriarch, where a relative of his lives. The charge is that this lady attempted to steal her neighbor's apartment through a lawsuit alleging damage to the Patriarch's library from the renovations in the neighbor's flat. The Patriarch faced such a firestorm that he could only promise, as he did to donate the money to charity. He has recently received 20 million rubles, from his neighbor whose son was forced to sell the apartment to pay these damages.

A number of members of Russian parliament have spoken about organized "hounding" of the Patriarch, which has "general-European character". Some called criticism of the Patriarch a part of Russo-phobic, and anti-christian campaign by the opposition and the "so-called libertarians".

It seems that the Patriarch is not hurting for money. Recently, another row was caused by a touch-up of a online photo, which showed Patriarch Kirill wearing a Breguet watch valued at 28-36 thousand dollars. The bloggers noticed the undoctored the reflection of this very expensive watch. The ROC has apologized for doctoring the photo

Watch this.
The reflection of the watch (green outline) from Patriarch's left hand
revealed when the pricey watch (red outline) was doctored away. 
Do you know what time it is Patriarch Kirill? Check your 30-grand watch, and remember Judah's 30 pieces of silver. Did you get some earthy benefits for siding with the latest czar - Putin - and insisting on jail time for a few young women, some some with small children for opposing your intervention in politics?

The wheel has come full circle. The Church which Communists despised and looted is back in favor with the government. The ironies are many, but the most cynical one is that the main Moscow cathedral  where the Pussy Riot performed its sacrilegious service is a rebuilt replica - the original was blown up by the Bolsheviks in 1931 - some ROC officials had the audacity to compare the Bolsheviks favorably with the unsanctioned show, which protested Patriarch's endorsement of reelection of ex-KGB colonel.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Obama's reelection magic

Obama's reelection chances rest on creating some straw men to deny responsibility for the status of the economy and the increased divisions in society his "post-racial" election was supposed to cure. Obama is using Houdini method of creating grand illusions with misdirection, but it's hard to deny responsibility on that scale.
Obama in wonderland (teleprompters included).
Myth: Congress is a "Do Nothing" Congress, because of the intransigence of the Republicans.
Reality: Congressman Paul Ryan's budget includes some common sense ideas for slowing the growth of government. These proposals are far from the caricature of it painted by the Obama administration, which is "so far to the right," said Obama , "that it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal."

Under Ryan's plan, the federal government would be 46% bigger in real terms than it was in 2000, which was President Clinton's last year in office, according to analysis of budget data by Investors Business Daily.

Ryan's plan would  simplify the tax code and widen the base by replacing the current behemoth code with just two marginal tax brackets — 10% and 25%, while eliminating loopholes. Democrats' objections to Ryan's tax reform plan is that it "showers money on the rich" by lowering the top rate to 25%.

Myth The Supreme Justices nominated by Republicans are judicial activists who're going to overturn the wondrous Obamacare.
Reality: Obama administration lawyers failed to provide a constitutional basis for the law, in particular to show any limitation for the intended interpretation of the Commerce Clause -- that economic activity (or even inactivity) affects interstate commerce, and is therefore subject to Federal regulation. In fact, after Obama fired the preemptive strike at the justices of the Supreme Court, calling them "unelected" in a blatant effort to delegitimize their likely rule against his signature domestic reform.

What was Obama thinking? Surely he knew the blatant assault on judicial purview could now go unanswered. Joseph Curl of Washington Times is probably correct: Obama knows the consequence of picking a fight - he is betting that his key to victory is to get his base on engage in a confrontation. The fact that it is ultimately a lost cause does not trouble Obama or his minions. It reminds me of Napoleon's famous dictum: "The important thing is to engage the enemy -- the proper strategy will present itself".

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit directly responded to the president's comments about the Supreme Court's review of the health care law by asking the DOJ lawyer, Dana Lydia Kaersvang, about the judicial review. She said, of course, DOJ recognizes it's legitimacy and mentioned Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that firmly established the principle of judicial review more than 200 years ago.

One of the tree appellate judges then demanded a "three page single spaced letter" directly from Eric Holder on this subject. Holder admitted his acceptance of judicial review the next day, and sent the letter to the appellate court on Thursday

Why would Obama administration want the embarrassment of being taken to task like this? The only logical answers is a calculation to engage on an emotionally charged subject. We will hear a lot about the poor and the uninsured who are driven to desperation by Republican defence of the rich men's greed.

Mr. Obama all but threw down the gauntlet with the justices, saying he was "confident" the Court would not "take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

Myth: Economic difficulties are due to external factors according to Joe Biden, like the financial crisis in the Eurozone, or oil price increase due to the "Arab spring" and the tsunami in Japan.
Reality: The Obama administration has created more onerous regulations than any other. They have created a certainty of increased costs to hiring with Obamacare, and manufacture with cap-and-trade. They have shut down a lot of oil exploration in the Mexican gulf, and rejected the Keystone pipeline from Canada.    They invested recklessly in companies like Solyndra, while neglecting traditional resources. Increasing regulation, cost of hiring and cost of energy has lead to a slow economic recovery. If the Obama administration doesn't understand this basic reality they are either lying or utterly incompetent.

Myth: Republicans plan to poison the waters, and the kids. That's the essence much what Obama said.
Reality: The EPA regulations, which Obama administration recently enacted, are a way of enforcing tax-and-trade without Congressional approval. Rejection of such expensive, holier-than-thou hyper-environmentalism does not imply a desire to poison the environment or the kids. 

Myth: The economy is getting better. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.2% in March.
Reality: The rate dropped for one simple reason: the number of people not in the labor force is back to all time high: 87,897,000.
The economy added a mere 120,000 jobs according to one survey, well below the expectations of up to 200,000. So, why did the unemployment drop? Washington Post reveals the real numbers: in March, the number of unemployed dropped by 133,000, but so did the number of people employed — by 31,000. That indicates that those people didn’t necessarily find new jobs, since the overall labor force declined by 164,000. So, the economy is still bleeding jobs, and they cite meaningless and, therefore, bogus statistics about reduction in the unemployment!

Obama can only run on distortions and rhetoric, and you can't underestimate how low he is willing to go to create an illusion of competence that lasts long enough to get him reelected. The man has no shame. Rush Limbaugh correctly called him a thug.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Obama disses the Judicial branch

The U.S. Supreme Court has completed its hearings on Obamacare last week. "We the people" will find out about the results in June, but the judges already know which side is in the majority.

The hearing exposed Obamacare as an example of unlimited and unconstitutional power-grab by the executive branch of government. The swing vote --  justice Kennedy -- appears to have swung against that law, when the government lawyer failed to provide a limit to this interpretation of the Commerce clause in the Constitution. The clause, which allows the Fed to control trade between states and with other countries, has been used by the administration to justify this intrusion. Your heathcare impacts interstate commerce, get it? By that measure any human activity impacts interstate commerce, so where's the limit? The administration failed to provide one.

We the people are so over this ... Constitution.
Obama charged that the "unelected"Supreme Court could not and should not take the "extraordinary" and "unprecedented" step of overturning his landmark health reform law, saying:
Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.
Obama has taken an unprecedented step of warning the U.S. Supreme Court not to overturn his law. Not only that, he's charging the Justices with ... not being elected. That is the precisely the means for ensuring impartiality of justices chosen by the Founding Fathers and enshrined in the Constitution. Surely a constitutional lawyer like Obama is aware of this fact. Obama's bemoaning the Constitution as a potential impediment to his designs is understandable. It's one thing to think it, and another to actually say this foolishness.

My liberal friends used to tell me that "Obama is the smartest person in the room", regardless of other occupants. Really? He seems really obtuse to me. Does he not realize how consistent the narrative of the overreach of his administration has been?

Given Obama's ridiculous outburst, some believe that Obama has been tipped off on the decision by the Supreme Court on health law. It should not matter. It appears that some of Obama's advisers think that running against the U.S. Supreme Court is a winning strategy for reelection. After all he's already running against the unpopular Congress. What a great narrative for Obama's reelection: "Although last three and a half years have stunk, you should vote t o reelect me, because the problems were the fault of the other two branches of government."

According to Obama's revisionist history his signature healthcare law was passed by a strong majority in Congress?! This is news. I thought it was the reluctance of congress that required the Cornhusker kickback and the Alabama purchase for the passage of Obamacare. The same type of sweetener was required for other items on Obama's ideological agenda.
Obama's agenda required some incentives.
Obama also noted that for years, conservatives had been arguing that the "unelected" Supreme Court should not adopt an activist approach by making rather than interpreting law, and held up the health legislation as an example. Determination of Constitutionality is a form of "judicial activism". According to Obama's logic the Court should be a mere rubber stamp since its function of verifying the constitutionality of laws is merely perfunctory.

Obama desperately wants his presidency to be historically consequential. It is - as an example of everything that is wrong with liberal ideology, and the threat its autocratic approach poses to our Constitution.