A nice manic history of the Soviet Union and post Soviet Union a la the game Tetris. Studying the history of Russia has explained to me why it is no mystery that so many Russians are so fond of vodka.
Lenin statues are being toppled all over the Ukraine. As Iowahawk tweeted, if you are wondering who the good guys are in the Ukraine popular uprising, they are the ones toppling the Lenin statutes.
Of course the question is whether Putin now will intervene to support his deposed puppet:
Putin put his money on Yanukovich. He awarded him a $15 billion loan (a third of which has already been transferred to the Ukrainian treasury) to prop the failing economy and allow him to pull back from signing an agreement with the European Union last year. He gave him diplomatic backing and directed the Russian media to describe the protestors in Kiev as “terrorists” and “Nazis.”
But the Ukraine president wasn’t enough of a Putin. He wasted time negotiating with the opposition and the EU’s foreign ministers; he failed in threatening the oligarchs not to abandon him. He lost control of army and police units, who refused orders to violently suppress the protests. Worst of all, he allowed them to run riot through the center of Kiev and take dozens of police hostage.
Putin wasn’t surprised. He had already prepared a fallback plan, and now is presenting Ukrainians with a stark choice: Accept their status of citizen-subjects of a vassal state, or see entire regions of their country break away. Continue reading
A new film, Under the Roman Sky, starring James Cromwell as Pius XII, details the heroic efforts of Pius XII to save the Jews of Rome from the Nazis, after Rome came under Nazi occupation subsequent to the fall of Mussolini following the Allied invasion of southern Italy in 1943.
Rabbi David G. Dalin, in his review of a Moral Reckoning, a tome by Daniel Goldhagen which sought to blame Catholicism for the Holocaust, details the efforts of the Pope to save the Jews of Rome:
Goldhagen’s centerpiece is the outrageous allegation that Pius XII “did not lift a finger to forfend the deportations of the Jews of Rome” or of other parts of Italy “by instructing his priests and nuns to give the hunted Jewish men, women and children sanctuary.” Much of this is lifted straight from anti-Pius books like Susan Zuccotti’s Under His Very Windows–and thus Goldhagen repeats the errors of those books and adds extras, all his own, in his determined attempt to extend their thesis into over-the-top railings against the sheer existence of Catholicism.
It was September of 1966, and gas was gushing uncontrollably from the wells in the Bukhara province of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. But the Reds, at the height of their industrial might, had a novel solution. They drilled nearly four miles into the sand and rock of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, and lowered a 30-kiloton nuclear warhead — more than half-again as large as “Little Boy,” the crude uranium bomb dropped over Hiroshima — to the depths beneath the wellhead. With the pull of a lever, a fistful of plutonium was introduced to itself under enormous pressure, setting off the chain reaction that starts with E = MC2 and ends in Kaboom! The ensuing blast collapsed the drill channel in on itself, sealing off the well.
The Soviets repeated the trick four times between 1966 and 1979, using payloads as large as 60 kilotons to choke hydrocarbon leaks. Now, as the Obama administration stares into the abyss of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and a slicker of sweet, medium crude blankets the Gulf of Mexico, slouching its way toward American beaches and wetlands, Russia’s newspaper of record is calling on the president to consider this literal “nuclear option.”
As well he should. It’s a little less crazy than it sounds. The simple fact is that the leak has confounded all conventional efforts to quell it, forcing British Petroleum and its federal overseers to resort to a series of untested, increasingly unwieldy, and heretofore unsuccessful backup plans as the American people’s impatience and rage grow at geometric rates. In the madness that is Deepwater Horizon, The Bomb may be the sanest choice.
Is it possible to make a case against abortion, and more importantly, for the importance of valuing human life in all stages of development, that does not rely upon theological assumptions?
This is a question that has undoubtedly bothered many pro-lifers since the abortion debate became one of the political fault lines of the United States. I am not concerned here with objections to pro-life policies and legislation that rest upon a fallacious interpretation of the First Amendment, and which falsely conflate a separation of church and state with a separation of religion and politics – which, if taken literally, would disenfranchise religious people.
Rather I am concerned with an objection to the pro-life philosophical position, namely that which asserts that this position is either partially or wholly dependent upon theology. Or, as the less precise like to say, “religion” – though I believe secular religions such as humanism, feminism, and even versions of Christianity that have virtually been stripped of their theological content are often employed to justify abortion.
Of course there are many individual secular points against abortion, and attempts have been made to construct full secular arguments. Many of these points and attempts, however, focus upon the life in the womb of a mother, and whether or not it deserves the same protection under the law as born persons. While these arguments are foundational and necessary, they may not be sufficient. A more robust secular case against abortion will help the pro-life cause.
Thus, I propose adding to the secular case against abortion by focusing on what I call the subversiveness of abortion, and to recast the pro-life position as the pro-society position. What is subversion? It is an effort to undermine institutions from within, to uproot and overturn them. Abortion was peddled to a society in turmoil on the grounds that its illegality was causing greater harm than would its legality. But its effect has been to drastically undermine a set of social relationships that I call organic social bonds, and to justify their replacement with what I call artificial social bonds, both to be explained below.
This is not the place to address whether or not the forces that are responsible for legalizing abortion in the United States were conscious or not of the subversiveness of abortion. Briefly I will say that I think it is reasonable to assume that some of them were, and that this is why they pursued it. Others had intentions entirely unrelated to subversion, and were sincere enough in their approach, their rhetoric and their actions. For the time being, the subversiveness of abortion refers mostly to the act of abortion itself, and not to the men and women who promote it.
A secular argument can be difficult to make against abortion because it is tantamount to reducing the Ten Commandments to the Seven Commandments by eliminating the three that govern man’s relationship with God. Indeed, I do not believe – nor did the American founders believe – that a stable society can long exist if man cannot acknowledge a being higher than himself. The 20th century confirms that acknowledgment of God has always lead to more freedom, happiness, and prosperity than has resulted from the replacement of God with a dictator, or theology with ideology, or a balance of spiritual and temporal authority with totalitarianism.
That being said, however, society might plod along at a functional level even without acknowledging God, though it may not last much longer than did the Soviet Union. And it is unfortunate, but true, that many people in our society simply do not believe in God, or if they do, they erroneously believe that he has no place in politics. And yet as pro-lifers, we wish to bring abortion to an end now, rather than some future date when the First Amendment is properly interpreted and a subversive minority of secular radicals does not hold sway over the court system. This means, ultimately, that we must construct secular arguments against abortion.
In the closing days of December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree of “heroic virtues” of Pope Pius XII, which places him on the path to sainthood. This decision has caused a worldwide uproar among Jews, dissident Catholics, and others who believe that Pius was silent, or worse yet, complicit, in the Holocaust.
In the first two decades following World War II, there was certainly no public perception, among Jews, Catholics, or anyone else that Pius had been silent to a fault during the Holocaust, much less that he was “Hitler’s Pope.” Prominent Jewish leaders such as the first Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, as well as Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Palestine praised Pius. TIME Magazine reported in 1953 that Pius was “to Romans and to much of the world, something of a living and familiar saint.” It was widely known that Pius XII, to a greater extent than many secular heads of state, opposed the designs of the Third Reich. When Pius was able to speak to the world, as he did on Christmas in 1942, there was no question as to where he stood on the tragedies unfolding worldwide.
Something for the weekend. The Arise Ye Russian People sequence from the film Alexander Nevsky. A true work of genius by Sergei Eisenstein who somehow pulled off the feat of making a film about an Orthodox Saint, an aristocratic Prince and pillar of the Church, and ladling it with Communist and anti-religious propaganda, and yet having the final result not be laughably absurd. The film was among the first efforts of Stalin to rally traditional Russian patriotism against the looming threat of Nazi Germany. Poor Eisenstein found himself in the doghouse soon after the release of the film due to the Nazi-Soviet pact. After the onset of Operation Barbarossa, the film was once again released and played to packed houses throughout the war. The song was composed by Sergei Prokofiev. The lyrics roughly translated are :
Arise, ye Russian people,
to glorious battle, to a battle to the death:
arise, ye free people,
to defend our beloved country!
All honour to the warriors who live,
and eternal glory to those slain!
For our native home, our Russian land,
arise, ye Russian people!
Today is the 70th anniversary of the beginning of World War II as Germany bombarded Westerplatte with canon fire. Eventually Germany made peace with their neighbors by recognizing the role they played in the devastation of Europe. Since then Europe has experienced only one conflict since the end of World War II.
But Russia remains another matter.
Russia continues to be belligerent in their interpretation of the war. Denying much culpability in their conflict with Poland and even insinuating of Polish-German designs on the Soviet Union.
In the days leading up to anniversary, Russian media has aired a string of accusations against Poland, claiming that Warsaw intended to collaborate with Hitler in an invasion of the Soviet Union, and that Jozef Beck, Poland’s foreign minister in 1939, was a German agent. Moscow broadcasters have also claimed that there was a “German hand” in the 1940 Katyn massacre of thousands of Polish PoWs, an atrocity generally held to have been the exclusive work of Stalin’s secret police.
In fairness, the de facto ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin, did offer a conciliatory tone relating to Russia’s aggression towards Poland:
“Our duty is to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past in Polish-Russian relations,” wrote Mr Putin, who went on to describe the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as “immoral”, and also thanked Poland “from the bottom of my heart” for the 600,000 Poles who fought on the Eastern Front under Red Army command.
Adolph Hitler’s evil twin in terror, Joseph Stalin, once remarked “How many divisions has the Pope?”. This was done in response to the future saint Pope Pius XII’s disapproval of his policies.
Well it wasn’t a mocking tone nor was it a sarcastic remark in reference to the Vatican. It was a serious concern to the ‘meddling’ of the Catholic Church in thwarting Communism’s attempt at world domination. Stalin was well aware of the tremendous moral power that the Vatican wielded and Vladimir Lenin implemented the full power of the KGB and the eastern bloc spy agencies to monitor and undermine the mission of the Catholic Church.
A new non-fiction book by John Koehler titled, Spies in the Vatican, has recently come out that documents the final twenty years of the Cold War and how it played out as the Soviet Union and their allies infiltrated the Vatican.