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Monday, February 11, 2008

MSM Finally Waking up to the Horror of Putin's Russia

Another mainstream media voice has been raised against Russia, this time Trudy Rubin, a high-ranking figure on the editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the leading newspaper in one of America's largest cities (encouragingly, the article is taken here from a reprint in the Salt Lake Tribune; even more encouragingly, she quotes Robert Amsterdam):

Another presidential campaign is under way this week - this one in Russia. On March 2, Russians will vote in a pro-forma election for a successor to KGB man Vladimir V. Putin. The Kremlin has handpicked a former law professor, Dmitry Medvedev, though Putin may try to remain the power behind the scenes. Medvedev, however, is trying to present a softer face than his mentor; he pledged in his first campaign speech last week to make everyone accountable before the law. Putin, by contrast, has used the law as a club to bludgeon opponents. If Medvedev means what he says, he ought to condemn a travesty of justice going on now in Moscow that makes Russia look as if it has reverted to the Stalin era.

Moscow courts are refusing medical treatment to a former Russian oil executive, Vasily Aleksanian, who is on trial for money laundering, and has late-stage AIDS. The aim is to force him to testify against imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Without the treatment, Aleksanian will die. It is almost impossible to believe this case is going on in the 21st century, in a country whose president hobnobs with European leaders and President Bush. Khodorkovsky - once one of Russia's richest men - had been chief executive of Russia's largest oil producer, Yukos. He was sentenced to eight years in a Siberian prison colony, supposedly for tax evasion and fraud.

Russia's natural resources on the cheap during the turbulent post-communist years - have not been bothered, as long as they offered Putin no challenge. Meantime, the Kremlin has broken up Yukos; most of its assets were purchased at fire-sale prices by state-owned corporations. This blatant manipulation of courts and laws seems to have been insufficient for Kremlin bosses. Now they are willing to tolerate the effective murder of Aleksanian because he won't give a false confession. A Moscow court says he can't be moved to an AIDS clinic because the defense didn't prove he was suffering from a lethal disease, but the court refused to admit his test results as evidence. The European Court of Human Rights, whose decisions are supposed to be binding on Russia, has ruled three times that Aleksanian should be moved to a civilian medical facility. Russia's Supreme Court rejected the rulings. Khodorkovsky has launched a prison hunger strike to protest the refusal to give Aleksanian medical treatment. The ex-tycoon says he has been given an ''impossible moral choice'': to confess to crimes he didn't commit and implicate others or to ''become the cause of possible death'' of Aleksanian.

Robert Amsterdam, one of Khodorkovsky's lawyers, got it just right when he said in a statement that use of the legal system in such a way evokes ''a different chapter of Russian history.'' If Aleksanian dies, this will be only the latest in a string of political murders that many believe were engineered by the Kremlin or Russia's intelligence services. The most internationally explosive was the murder of former Russian spy turned British citizen Alexander Litvinenko, who was an irritant to the Kremlin. He was killed by a rare radioactive isotope, polonium-210, that was put in his tea. The British believe it was administered by former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi. Such an act, and access to polonium-210, would require authorization at highest Russian levels. Russian officialdom not only refuses to extradite Lugovoi, but has elevated him to membership in parliament. This case has also poisoned British-Russian relations. And then there is the unsolved attempted murder of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. He won Philadelphia's prestigious Liberty Medal in 2005, and was the hero of the Orange Revolution, when crowds came to the streets to protest the rigging of the 2004 election in Ukraine. Putin openly supported his opponent.

In 2004, a poison attempt on Yushchenko's life nearly killed him and left his face scarred. Last month, at the Davos World Economic Forum, Yushchenko told me the trail led to Moscow, where three waiters who he believes served him the poison have fled for refuge. He will ask Putin to extradite the three - all Ukrainian citizens - at a meeting on Tuesday. I asked whether his case resembled that of Litvinenko and Lugovoi. His answer: ''Yes, like Lugovoi.'' Though the trail in both cases leads to Moscow, they will probably never be solved. But the trial of Aleksanian is going on in public. If he dies, responsibility will rest squarely with official Russia. President-to-be Medvedev says he wants everyone held accountable to the law. If he means it, he will have to change Kremlin behavior that uses laws as a club to bludgeon opponents.

1 comment:

Artfldgr said...

This is called death by bureaucracy. In the west it’s the reason the pragmatic, and socialist left want to put socialized medicine in place in America.

It’s a point of SOFT TOTALITARIANISM, that the responsibilities, are pushed off onto nothings that don’t really exist. This is a boon of groupism. That one cant blame a whole state for the actions of those following the orders, and if the state is of the people (a full democracy, not a republic), then the state executing people IS doing the work of the people, and conveniently has grown deaf to their orders, but NOT THE MANDATE.

Death by bureaucracy, red tape, dragging your feet, following the rules, etc.

What we see as a return to the old days, is actually a return to the NEW DAYS where control is done through fascist means, and SOFT TOTALITARIANISM or rather COMMUNITARIANISM (communist totalitarianism), is the new order of the day.

The Soviet Union was more Orwellian, the neo soviet order is more Huxley. (And he should know, his family members were part of the groups doing the work towards that!)

Which totalitarianism is winning–the hard or soft?
Margaret Atwood muses on the two visionary tales, namely, George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, each of which predicated the totalitarian regimes of the future–the hard and soft versions, respectively:

During the cold war, Nineteen Eighty-Four seemed to have the edge. But when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, pundits proclaimed the end of history, shopping reigned triumphant, and there was already lots of quasi-soma percolating through society. True, promiscuity had taken a hit from Aids, but on balance we seemed to be in for a trivial, giggly, drug-enhanced spend-o-rama: Brave New World was winning the race.
That picture changed, too, with the attack on New York’s twin towers in 2001. Thought crime and the boot grinding into the human face could not be got rid of so easily, after all. The Ministry of Love is back with us, it appears, though it’s no longer limited to the lands behind the former iron curtain: the west has its own versions now.
On the other hand, Brave New World hasn’t gone away. Shopping malls stretch as far as the bulldozer can see.
On the wilder fringes of the genetic engineering community, there are true believers prattling of the gene-rich and the gene-poor - Huxley’s alphas and epsilons - and busily engaging in schemes for genetic enhancement and - to go one better than Brave New World - for immortality.
Would it be possible for both of these futures - the hard and the soft - to exist at the same time, in the same place? And what would that be like?

The piece itself concentrates on Huxley’s classic, and, more importantly, on what makes it a classic:

It was Huxley’s genius to present us to ourselves in all our ambiguity. Alone among the animals, we suffer from the future perfect tense. Rover the Dog cannot imagine a future world of dogs in which all fleas will have been eliminated and doghood will finally have achieved its full glorious potential. But thanks to our uniquely structured languages, human beings can imagine such enhanced states for themselves, though they can also question their own grandiose constructions. It’s these double-sided imaginative abilities that produce masterpieces of speculation such as Brave New World

To quote The Tempest, source of Huxley’s title: “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on.” He might well have added: “and nightmares”.
'Everybody is happy now',,2212230,00.html

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), which proposed a different and softer form of totalitarianism - one of conformity achieved through engineered, bottle-grown babies and hypnotic persuasion rather than through brutality, of boundless consumption that keeps the wheels of production turning and of officially enforced promiscuity that does away with sexual frustration, of a pre-ordained caste system ranging from a highly intelligent managerial class to a subgroup of dim-witted serfs programmed to love their menial work, and of soma, a drug that confers instant bliss with no side effects.

Now guess which one the drug hazed baby boomers aer going for?

Guess which one the neo soviets are going for?

The new war will be a war between which type of totalitarianism, not whether we will be free or not.