The Evolution of Homo Sovieticus to Putin’s Man

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MOSCOW TIMES)

 

The Evolution of Homo Sovieticus to Putin’s Man

The tumultuous decades have left their mark on Russians’ inner life

Evgeny Tonkonogy

Lev Gudkov remembers sitting in his Moscow office as a young sociologist, surrounded by stacks of letters.

It was 1989, and for the first time after decades of hushed conversation around kitchen tables, Russians had been asked for their opinions on a range of economic and social issues.

The response was so overwhelming that the nearby post office was instructed to stop deliveries so that the team would not be barricaded in, says Gudkov, head of the independent Levada Center polling agency.

After almost 30 years of sociological research, The Moscow Times asked Gudkov to describe Russians’ changing attitudes and beliefs from perestroika up to today.

Soviet Man

Sovyetsky chelovek (Soviet man) is the archetype of a person born in and shaped by a totalitarian regime. Life in repressive conditions has made him crafty and skilled at doublethink. He knows how to bypass the authorities’ demands while simultaneously maintaining informal and corrupt relations with them.

They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. They pretend to care for us, we pretend to respect them.

Soviet man demonstrates his loyalty to the authorities through collective symbolism and performance. But his real values and interests are in the private sphere — his home and family.

He has few demands: he knows he has little to no power and deeply mistrusts everyone but those closest to him, expecting nothing good from anyone else.

After living through countless restrictions — the traumas of war, collectivization, modernization, miniscule salaries, residence permits — he just wants one thing: to survive.

Russia and the World

In the 1990s Russia was oriented towards the West and Europe, ready to follow their path. Then, 40 percent of Russians thought their country should join the EU and even NATO. Only 13 percent could name any adversaries: Islamists, the CIA, communists, democrats, and the mafia.

Many more, 47 percent, said: Why are you looking for foes when all our problems are caused by us? This inferiority complex was, in a sense, a condition for reform. People said they’d trade their status as an influential nation in return for calm and stability.

For people accustomed to socialism, the 1990s were pure chaos, with hyperinflation, salaries not being paid on time and job insecurity. People lost their sense of self-respect and dignity.

Then Vladimir Putin arrived on the scene and said: “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has skeletons in their closet. Let’s turn a new page in our history.”

Source: Levada

With that came the conviction that Russia had a right to use force, especially on its borders. Russians’ pride was hurt when former Soviet republics changed alliances. When they had color revolutions or moved to integrate with the West, aggressive feelings spiked, fueled by state propaganda. In November 2013, before the Maidan revolution, around 75 percent of Russians said that Ukraine’s integration into Europe was their own business and that Russia should stay out. Attitudes shifted sharply when media warned against a potential “genocide” of Russians in Donbass and Crimea by Ukrainian “fascists.”

Today in polls, Russians describe the West as coldhearted, lacking in spiritual values, extremely formal and aggressive. Russians no longer believe the Western model is for them — their country has its own “special” path.

Source: Levada

A national inferiority complex and imperial arrogance — these are parts of the same mechanism that allows Russians to come to terms with their lowered status following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But while Putin’s foreign policy enjoys tacit support, it has serious limits. Only around 7 percent of Russians say they’re prepared to make a personal sacrifice to advance the country’s interests abroad. Because people feel they have no decision-making power, they don’t feel responsible for the outcome.

Individual vs. the State

Russians came out of the 1990s with an acquired taste for consumption.

Buffered by the “golden rain” of high oil prices, the market economy finally appeared to be picking up after the 1998 crisis, bringing prosperity.

Under Putin, the state has largely returned to its previous role as a paternalistic caretaker with the redistribution of resources as its main function. “Putin takes care of us” is a frequently-heard response in polls.

Human rights and individual freedoms are just words for the majority of the population. At the same time, attitudes towards repression have softened. Josef Stalin, whose popularity is steadily rising even among those who suffered most under him, is seen as an effective manager who deserves respect. This return to the Soviet concept of governance is most common among the elderly who live in the countryside.

People in cities are more educated, have a broader range of employers other than the state, and have access to several sources of information. But politically active liberal democrats, hardcore conservatives, and communists only make up about 15 percent of the population. The vast majority is completely uninterested in political life. Asked whether they want to be more involved, 85 percent of people say no. Politics, they feel, has nothing to do with them.

Source: Levada

Conservatism

On the one hand, Russians describe their own society as brutish and uncivilized. On the other, they consider themselves to be open and warm, as opposed to the cold, closed, hypocritical people in the West.

Like Snow White’s stepmother, they look in the mirror and ask, “Who is the nicest in the world?” and then answer, “We are!”

After the protests of 2011, religious conservatism was presented as a counterpoint to demand for reform and political opposition. Being Russian has become synonymous with being an Orthodox Christian.

As with most ideologies, this belief is superficial. Orthodox crosses and icons in cars and homes are more elements of superstition than deep religious feeling.

The number of people who describe themselves as religious has increased from 16 percent several decades ago to 77 percent today. But 40 percent out of those “religious people” say they don’t believe in God. Many have never even heard of the pillars of Christian dogma.

Source: Levada

Soviet Man 2017

Sovyetsky chelovek has somewhat changed. He’s been fed, he’s changed his clothes, he’s bought a car and owns a home. But he still feels insecure and vulnerable. And he’s just as aggressive towards his neighbor because there are no institutions that have laid down rules that people follow.

Today the average Russian expects a minimum living standard — work, a home, and some social rights. Private property is valued, but no one expects any guarantees. People know that the government can take away everything they have at any moment and for any reason.

In polls, people say the government represents the interests of the security services, oligarchs and bureaucracy — but not the interests of ordinary people. And they believe this cannot be changed. So, in Soviet fashion, they adapt and make deals with the authorities. Corruption is perceived as both serious and commonplace.

The theory that Russians are somehow not prepared for a liberal democracy is false. Russians today simply reflect and respond to their circumstances. In a different situation they’d behave differently.

Now there is no desire for change. The idealism and romanticism of the perestroika era has evaporated.

The young people who participated in Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption protests are an exception to this rule. But the narrative that a new generation will bring change is a false one. Today, Russia’s Soviet-era institutions stamp out any idealism. It will take more than one generation to change that.

If You Buy Walmart You Are Feeding China’s Communist Leadership And Their Army

 

According to Global Research.Org 95% of the non food products that are on sale in your local Wal-Mart store are made in China. I knew that almost all of the products that I looked at to buy had made in China tags on them, yet I didn’t realize that it was quite that high of a percent. Wal-Mart has apx 11% of all of America’s GDP go through their hands each year. Folks, that is one out of every nine dollars and that in itself is a dangerous thing for any nations economy. I learned many years ago back when old man Walton was still alive when they used to advertise that they only bought made in America products to help American manufacturing jobs stay here in America that this slogan was a blatant fraud and a lie. I was a long haul truck driver for a span of over 30 years and I picked up Wal-Mart loads quite a few times at the shipping docks in Elizabeth New Jersey and at the port in Miami Florida. It was not at all uncommon that when I would get backed up to the dock that the load would be staged there waiting to be put onto the trailer yet I would often have to sit there for at least two more hours so the dock workers could take off all of the tags saying where it was actually made at and to put on made in the USA tags. Wal-Mart itself grew from lying to the American people so to be honest with you when I have seen tags on items in one of their stores that said ‘made in the USA’ I can’t help but doubt that this is also another lie.

 

A couple of years ago Wal-Mart bought three ships ‘made in China’ for the sole purpose of shipping products to the western ports of the U.S.. These three ships was said to cost about 500 million dollars each. These ships are so large that they can not fit through either the Suez or Panama Canals. They are designed for one purpose, to bring cheap Chinese garbage to the American market. In reality if people here in the States want to bring jobs back to America all they have to do is to quit doing any of their shopping at Wal-Mart or Lowe’s (they own 100% of Lowe’s). Wal-Mart nor China are friends to or of the American people. Only two things really matters to these two entities and that is power and money. If the American Federal Government gave a damn about the American people they would never ever allow any company to have such a huge amount of their GDP in the hands of one company. If the Federal Government gave a damn about American jobs they would pass a bill requiring at least 80% of every company’s American sales to be from products made in America, this is how you could keep jobs for the American people. Yet it is obvious to most of the American people that the Politicians only listen to the big money people who grease their personal sleds. Donald Trump and his family and their businesses are a good example of this farce. Only money matters, you and I do not matter.

 

If you are a person that pays any attention to world affairs you already should know that the Communist Leadership behind their ‘President for life’ Xi Jinping have been very active in building up their military throughout Asia, even building islands upon coral formations and constructing military air fields upon them. They pretty much claim all of the South China Sea, all of the mineral deposits below it and the Air Ways above it to be their own. They claim Taiwan as their own property as well as Mongolia, Tibet, Islands that belong to Japan and they are pushing hard against India by claiming that thousands of square miles of northern India actually belong to them. China has been building up its military machine at an unrepresented level during this past five years under President Xi Jinping (whom President Trump calls his good friend). So folks, this is the reason I chose the title that I did for this article this evening. To me, it is very obvious that money and power matters far more to Wal-Mart owners and stock holders and to the Chinese government as well as Americas Federal Politicians than the sovereignty and the safety of the American people matter. The only way that I can see that ‘we the people’ can fight back and to regain our jobs is to totally quit shopping at companies like Wal-Mart. One could also easily say that our national security depends on it.

Is It Possible To Be A Devout Christian If You Are A Devout Republican Or Democrat?

 

I worded the title the way I did in an attempt to get your attention, now I would like for you to honestly think about the question please. I grew up in a home where my Mom and Dad were both Democrats, they never ever voted but they believed in Democratic ideals and thought that the Republican Party was only for rich people because of their theology. As a young boy I got most of my work ethics and my morals from my Mom and from the Church that I attended up until I was 17 (Church of Christ). The first Presidential election that I was old enough to vote in was in 1976. I am a registered Independent voter as I just can’t align myself with either of these two main political parties. This past election in November of 2016 was a very difficult one for me as in my heart I knew that the two main choices we had were both evil self centered asses, talk about voting for the least of the two evils! I just couldn’t get myself to vote for either one of them so I ended up voting for a third party candidate, Gary Johnson. I knew that he was not going to win, but at least I did vote. Just for the purpose of verification my past voting record for the Presidents have been as follows. 1976 Jimmy Carter, 1980 and 1984 Ronald Reagan, 1988 Michael Dakakis, 1992 and 1996 Bill Clinton, 2000 Al Gore, 2004 John Kerry, 2008 John McCain, 2012 Mitt Romney, 2016 Gary Johnson. As you see, not a Democrat nor a Republican. If you will notice, I have never ever voted for a ‘Bush’, I just could not allow myself to vote for one of them, their linage of evil is just to long and to strong. I have in most voting situations voted for what I thought would be the least of the two evils.

 

Now I am going to get into the reasoning why I used the title that I did about each of these two political parties. As most folks here in the States should be aware of each of these Parties are controlled by the fringes of their ideologies. The Republicans are controlled by the far to the right conservatives and the Democrats are controlled by the far to the left liberals. The reason we have all of this political gridlock is because of the Party leaders, they always refuse to meet in the middle to get Country moving forward. Just like the person I personally call a jerk “Senator Ted Cruz” who was trying to get the Republican nomination that Donald Trump won said during the debates and I quote “if I am elected President I will not negotiate with the Democrats.” The whole concept of the word politics is the word ‘compromise’, no compromise, no positive movement, just gridlock.

 

The Republicans with their hard right agenda is far from being a ‘Christian’ agenda. They like to say that they are and they do court the ‘born again Christian’ voting block yet their actions do not conform to their rhetoric. I my opinion the main reason that the Republican politicians tend to get the vast majority of the Christian vote is not because they love the Republican Party, it is because of the Democratic platform which insist on making abortion a ‘right’ of women. This is an issue that I personally as a Christian just cannot justify nor will it allow me to align with the Democrats because of it. The Republican Party and the Platform that they preach from is also very anti Christian in their ideals. The Republican Party Platform is very anti poor and very anti working class poor. The Republican Party has always (at least in my lifetime) aligned with the richest of the rich in America. Mr. Reagan called it “trickle down economics.”

 

I totally believe that one of the worse things that has ever happened to people who are not from wealthy families is the invention of the Stock Market. Think about it for a moment, when a company is able to break a Union, their stock value goes up. When a company moves to a country where they can get child labor and slaves to do the work, their stock value goes up. When two companies merge and they lay off hundreds or thousands of workers, their stock value goes up. One other little issue, think about this, when a company moves away from America to a far less developed country, thus cutting their expenses drastically, do you ever see the price of their products on the shelves go down to reflect their lower operating costs? The answer is no, these moves are only about one thing, more profits for the top end and for those who can afford to purchase large amounts of their stock. Republicans have proven themselves over and over again to be the “Business” Party while the Democrats portray themselves as the working class Party. Personally I do not believe that either Party Leadership cares at all about the lower and middle class except when they are trying to get their vote at election time. It is my belief that both Parties Leaderships only care about the richest of their donors, not the people who actually make these richest of the rich their lifestyles. Starvation is not a Christian virtue, people being homeless even though they are working because they can’t earn a ‘livable wage’, is not a Christian virtue, not being able to afford medical care is not a christian virtue. On the flip side is also the fact that murdering millions of defenseless babies is not a Christian virtue. So, now do you understand why I say that neither of these two Political Parties are worthy of having a Christian aligned with them?

More than half of American adults have tried marijuana, poll finds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

More than half of American adults have tried marijuana, poll finds

 

(ABC NEWS) — A majority of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a new Marist poll that was conducted in partnership with Yahoo.

The poll found that 52 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana at least once and 56 percent of Americans find the drug “socially acceptable.”

While eight out of 10 Americans strongly support legalizing medical marijuana, there is a clear divide over the legalization of recreational marijuana; Forty-nine percent of American adults support legalization while 47 percent oppose it.

Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist at University of California San Francisco who has studied marijuana, said the high percentage of people in favor of medicinal marijuana is not surprising.

Many “have had family members or friends who have benefited from the use medicinally,” Abrams said. “I hear it all the time.”

The poll comes as more states are legalizing both recreational and medicinal marijuana. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and today 29 states have laws providing for medicinal marijuana or cannabis and eight states have passed laws legalizing recreational use of the drug in some form.

Despite more people having access to the drug, just 14 percent of Americans over the age of 18 say they use marijuana regularly or at least once or twice a month. The poll also finds that a stigma is still associated with the drug.

Overall, 70 percent of poll respondents believe their parents would be unhappy to learn they were using marijuana recreationally.

In comparison, the poll found that 58 percent of parents think their children would disapprove if they found out their mother or father enjoyed marijuana recreationally.

Just 39 percent of parents say their children have tried or currently uses marijuana.

 

That number is almost true in reverse, with just 36 percent of Americans saying at least one parent has tried or regularly uses marijuana.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance, which focuses on drug policy reform, said some parents may hide recreational drug use over concerns they will set a bad example.

“You go to someone’s house … you have the parents share a joint and down the hall the teenager will share a joint and neither will know,” he said.

Nadelmann said that changes in how marijuana is ingested may also contribute to how people view the drug.

“As marijuana has been accepted medically, it’s less about the marijuana high,” Nadelmann said, pointing out that people may now increasingly see elderly family members use the drug to help cope with a variety of ailments.

Americans do have concerns about the health risks of marijuana, but those concerns pale in comparison to concerns over cigarettes and alcohol. Fifty-one percent of Americans think consumption of marijuana is a health risk. However, far more Americans say drinking alcohol regularly (72 percent) is a threat to health over regular marijuana use (20 percent.)

More Americans also think that regular tobacco use (76 percent) is far more risky than regular marijuana use (18 percent.)

The poll was done by surveying 1,122 adults between March 1 through March 7 of this year. The Marist Poll was sponsored and funded in partnership with Yahoo. Results are statistically significant within ±2.9 percentage points.

© 2017 ABC News

Syria… What about Israel?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Opinion

Syria… What about Israel?

In response to the US missile attack against al-Shayrat airbase – controlled by Assad regime- the so-called joint command center (Russia-Iran-Assad) besides other armed groups including the terrorist “Hezbollah” announced that the US attack has crossed “red lines” and “from now on, we will respond forcefully to any aggression and any crossing of the red lines.”

The statement added that: “America is fully aware of our ability to respond.”

Alright, what about the Israeli strikes in Syria against Assad-regime and “Hezbollah”, assassinating several leaders thereof there including Samir Qantar who was killed in an Israeli raid that targeted a residential building in Jaramana, a suburb in Damascus?

What about the Israeli defense minister’s threat to Damascus criminal and butcher Bashar Assad on March 19, warning from targeting the Israeli warplanes flying in the Syrian skies? “The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our airplanes, we will destroy all of them without thinking twice.”

Are the Israeli strikes and involvement in the Syrian territory as well as targeting “Hezbollah” and its leaders permissible, while the US attack is considered a red line?

Certainly, the statement of the so-called joint command center is mere talk and an attempt to save the face of criminal Assad regime, Iranians and “Hezbollah”. That was why Russians did not promote the statement in media and no official Russian authority – such as Kremlin- even wrote an article about it.

On the contrary, the statement issued after the phone call between the Russian president and his Iranian counterpart demanded carrying out an objective probe on the usage of chemical weapons in Idlib. These loose statements, including the statement of the so-called joint command force, are propaganda and an attempt to save one’s face.

Israel devastated – previously – “Hezbollah” in Lebanon and Iran did not defend it not even with one bullet. Gaza was set to fire during an Israeli aggression and neither Iran nor “Hezbollah” acted to rescue it – Assad regime did not respond to all these Israeli attacks against Lebanon and Gaza not even when the Israeli warplane flew over the presidential palace years before the Syrian revolution.

Iran, Hezbollah and Assad statements are worthless after the US strike as today we are facing a new reality. Concerning Russians, everyone will know the true stance of Moscow after the anticipated meeting of the US Secretary of State and his Russian counterpart.

Certainly, the US has various tools to harm Iran and Russia in Syria — Russians are aware of that, that’s why they are calm and they have accepted the latest US blow in Syria.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin’s mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor’s degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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This Is How President Trump Is Going To Commit Treason Against The Working Class Who Voted For Him

 

First I would like to say to the readers of this article that I hope that I am wrong on this issue, but I don’t think that I am going to be wrong about President Trump and his agenda. As most of the people here in the States know, it was the white working class male voters who helped a whole lot in getting Mr. Trump elected last November. I just said working class though I almost said ‘middle-class’, the reason for saying working class instead is because as almost all of us know, the middle class has been sinking into the lower middle class arena for several decades now.  Our American financial society used to always be considered to be labeled into mainly three classes, you had the rich folks who tended to own the businesses where the middle class/working class earned their income while hoping to be able to have a decent life style. Then you had the working poor who were busting their behinds each day in menial jobs who were just trying to survive at all. These folks tend to be less educated and could only find minimum wage type jobs.

 

I was born in 1956 in a small  town in southwest Virginia to parents who never had the chance to go to college and were factory workers their whole lives. I learned early on that these factories only paid the minimum wage, what they had to by law. During the early 1960’s this wage was $1.25 per hour and this is what they both made. These factories only paid overtime because they were forced to by law but they did not have to give any benefits to their employees like insurance of any kind, or holiday pay, and they did not. Some politicians, mostly just Republicans, who argue that the people making the minimum wage are only teenagers and kids who are in school working part-time. People who live in the real world know that this argument is total BS. If these politicians lived in the real world they would also know that many millions of Americans work for companies that only pay between 10-50 cents per hour above whatever the minimum wage is at the time. Simply put almost all companies only pay their employees as much as they are forced to pay by law. The reason is simple and this reason is honest and true, the less you as an employer pay out in expenses the higher the profit amount that goes to the CEO’s and to the stockholders. This is just like in politics, the two parties want all of the credit on good bills and they are not willing to share in the glory. With companies the top end wants higher profits so that they can get bigger paychecks, the Stock Market then reinforces this theology of greed. Throughout human history it has been true that the people who are physically making the products receive the lowest income. Any pie is only finite, they are only just so large, their pieces are just capable of being so big, the trouble is when it comes to business everyone is wanting a bigger slice of that pie and the only way to achieve this is to take away from others who are in that pie pan with them.

 

For 14 years I lived in the Morristown Tennessee area so I am going to use Berkline as an example of greed and of not caring anything about the ‘working class’. When I moved there I went to change over my car plates and driver’s license as the law requires. I went there on a Monday morning shortly after they opened for business. When I came into the building there were two rather long lines of young Hispanic folks already there so I just fell into the back of a line. A lady that worked inside noticed me and she came out and got me and took me inside. When I asked her about the two lines of folks she told me that they were only there to get a state I.D. so that they could go to work, they weren’t there to do the same things I was there for. While doing the paperwork for me she told me her story about Berkline. She said she had worked there for 14 years and was only making about 25 cents above the  minimum wage. She said that one Monday morning as she was at her job station waiting for the ‘get to work’ buzzer to sound that her foreman came up to her with a very young Hispanic male who couldn’t even speak English and told her that this was her replacement that she was fired. You see, the company was busing in Mexican folks to take the local folks jobs. Think about it for a moment, you as a company fire your experienced workers who are barely making the minimum wage for people who have no experience, why would you do that? The answer is simple, the new hires were being paid less than the minimum wage and they knew that these folks would work hard and that they were afraid to complain about the work or the working conditions. Berkline was the largest employer in Morristown at that time and they basically fired almost all of the local workers. This situation lasted for a few years then the company decided it was cheaper to quit shipping workers up there from Mexico and just close the Morristown factory and move their operation to Mexico, so they did. The local economy lost hundreds of jobs at it really hurt the local economy. Now this type of issue is a big part of what Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was about, punishing companies who do and or have done this type of thing. By the way, Berkline is the company that makes Lazy Boy furniture.

 

Now to the meat of this article. As we all know Mr. Trump is very pro business and I do not have any problem with this fact. Yet even though he says he will bring the “good” jobs back to America and he is/was talking about manufacturing jobs, as he has often said the “we” here in America don’t make anything any more. This sounds great and I hope he can do it. He also talks about lowering the business income tax down to about 15% and I do not have a problem with that either, as long as all the loopholes are eliminated so that they are actually paying that 15%.  Mr. Trump has a history of bashing Union workers and their Unions because they make too much money. He has recently bashed the Auto Industries and then he bashed the workers and their Union at the Carrier Air Conditioner factory in Indianapolis Indiana for the same thing. He very obviously believes that Union workers are lazy and overpaid. Mr. Trump has also spoken out several times about the minimum wage being to high as he has said ‘companies can’t afford it’. So here is what I believe Mr. Trumps ideology is about ‘bringing the good jobs’ back to this Country. His policies may help to bring jobs here to the States and they may well be industrial manufacturing type of jobs. But, here is my concern, let’s say a new steel mill opens back up in Bethlehem PA and they hire 500 workers to fill those open jobs, at $5.00 per hour with no benefits of any kind. Would this be a ‘good’ job for the employees? If he is able to get rid of the minimum wage and overtime laws (which he has also said he favors because of the expense to the company’s) Americans  will find themselves working ‘menial’ jobs like sales clerks and at burger joints like McDonald’s for two or three dollars per hour.

 

Before you say that this can’t happen, that Mr. Trump would never do something like this I want you to consider two pieces of facts. 1) Think about it , all of Mr. Trump’s businesses  products he has them made in third-world countries. The reason is very simple, higher profits for him personally. He has his products made in countries where there is no EPA laws to worry about, no minimum wage laws so the sweat shops can employ children and women at a dollar per day wages, no overtime pay laws, no benefits, no OSHA laws to protect the workers. He has spent his whole adult life preying on the poorest of the poor for his own personal benefit, do you really think he has all of a sudden changed, really? 2) When a company leaves the States and moves to (for example) Thailand or Malaysia or China they made the move to bring down their costs, if your company is on the Stock Market this is a great move for your stockholders. But who loses when this is done, folks it is the working class people here in the States. Now for the purpose of an illustration let us take cars as an example or shirts or shoes. The company closes their factory in let’s say Michigan and moved their production to Mexico for the purpose of cutting the company’s cost per unit. Have you ever seen the price of that product lowered for the consumer? The company’s aren’t going to move back to the States unless it is financially profitable for them to do so. I honestly believe that Mr. Trump’s intentions are to make himself and his billionaire buddies the recipients of a cash windfall at the expense of the people physically doing the work. You may get a new job because of Mr. Trump’s policies but if it is a $3.00 per hour job but the cost of living doesn’t drop with the wages there are going to be a lot more homeless and starving people right here in the States. Are you really naive enough to believe Mr. Trump gives a damn about you or your family? Like I said at the beginning of this article, I hope that I am wrong about these issues but I seriously doubt  that I am wrong on this.

Kansas Shooter’s Actions Cannot And Do Not Speak For How Vast Majority Of Americans Believe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Kansas shooter’s actions cannot and do not speak for US

WORLD Updated: Feb 26, 2017 07:05 IST

Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington

Kansas

Srinivas Kuchibhotla (right) with his wife Sunayana Dumala in Iowa. Kuchibhotla was shot at a bar in Olathe, Kansas.(AP File)

Sri Srinivasan’s family moved to Kansas when he was only four. He grew up a basketball fanatic, going to the same high school as a future star of the sport. And eventually went on to become the first Indian-American judge of a court of appeals, roughly like India’s high court, and was a top contender for a vacancy that fell open on the US supreme court bench in 2016, which would have been historic in many ways — as the first Indian-American, the first Asian-American and the first Hindu American named justice to the highest court in the country.Judge Srinivasan, as he is called, grew up in Lawrence, a 30-minute drive from Olathe, where an apparently inebriated US navy veteran killed Srinivas Kuchibotla, an IT engineer from Hyderabad, past Wednesday mistaking him for a Middle-Easterner, and telling him to “get out of my country”. Investigators are still trying to determine the exact motives of the shooter, Adam Purinton, but he will not be the first American to feel that way about people from the Middle-East, specially after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But does the shooting make the United States less of a destination for anyone with dreams of making it big as Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO from Hyderabad, Sunder Pichai, Google CEO from further south Chennai, or Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems from Delhi? Less safe? After all, how could a drink at a bar with a colleague after work end so badly?

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Is President Donald Trump’s America any less safe? While condemning the killings, the White House has dismissed any links to the president’s rhetorics as has been suggested by some, but there are worries and concerns arising out of a surge in ethnic, religious and racial tensions in the aftermath of his election.

But Purinton cannot, and does not speak for Kansas or the United States. Judge Srinivasan has never complained about racial slights he or his family might have faced growing up in Kansas and local news publications had covered his elevation to the appeals court and his possible move to the Supreme Court with unrestrained pride.

Adam Purinton of Olathe, Kansas, who shot Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla. (REUTERS)

He was one of them, and they wanted to celebrate his achievements as they would of anyone else. He might have, as all immigrants, faced stereotyping — Indians are mocked, often by Indian comics — for nodding their head excessively as they listen; their accent, and they may have all faced one time or another intended or unintended slights.

Things can get worse, and have gotten worse for some. Balbir Singh Sandhu, an immigrant from Punjab, became the first victim of the backlash after the September 9, 2001, terrorist attack. He was shot dead at his gas station in Arizona by a man who mistook him for a Middle-Easterner. Six men and women were gunned down by a white supremacist an attack on a Wisconsin gurudwara in 2013. But Sandhu’s relatives chose to stay, and so have those of Wisconsin victims.

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And it may not be pointed out to those feeling uncertain, don’t forget Ian Gillort, the Kansas man who was shot by Purinton trying to save Kuchibotla and his colleague Alok Madasani. “No, it’s not like that,” Grillot said in a vide about being hailed as a hero. “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity. We’re all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally right to do.” His sister has said he wishes he could have done more.

It is reasonable to feel unsafe and insecure after every such incident, but, as a young immigrant from India, said Friday, “People back home must realize the US is no less safe today than it was yesterday or the day before, or tomorrow.”

2,000 Jewish Teens On Spiritual Tour De Force In New York City

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHABAD.ORG)

2,000 Jewish Teens on Spiritual Tour de Force in New York City

Students are coming in from all over the world, to then bring the spirit of the Shabbaton back home

Teens from around the world, accompanied by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, will pour into New York to participate in the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton. The official program starts Friday and lasts through Sunday. Pictured from last year is Samuel Tibi from Ra’anana, Israel; this year, his younger brother, Victor Tibi, is attending. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Teens from around the world, accompanied by Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries, will pour into New York to participate in the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton. The official program starts Friday and lasts through Sunday. Pictured from last year is Samuel Tibi from Ra’anana, Israel; this year, his younger brother, Victor Tibi, is attending. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)

“How many people can show up in Times Square and have a mad Jewish party there?” asks Koby Lerner, rhetorically.

The 16-year-old from San Diego will be one of more than 2,000 Jewish teenagers from countries around the world to share in a Havdalah ceremony and spend Saturday night in New York’s iconic neighborhood at Broadway and Seventh Avenue as part of the ninth annual CTeen International Shabbaton, to take place Feb. 24-26. And that’s only a part of a weekend of spirited (and spiritual) celebrations, learning, touring, socializing and more.

Koby recalls the first time he attended the Shabbaton two years ago and his first impression of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, N.Y. “At first, it seemed like we didn’t fit in there because we didn’t have black hats and white shirts,” he says. “But it didn’t matter at all to anybody there: They loved us unconditionally. You could feel the love from these random strangers.”

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These numbers, according to Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302, “are a testament to the dedicated Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries who have worked tirelessly to bring Jewish teens closer to Yiddishkeit.”

In Germany, getting ready for going abroad. This year will see the largest international group to date, including chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil. (CTeen Photo)
In Germany, getting ready for going abroad. This year will see the largest international group to date, including chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil. (CTeen Photo)

Rabbi Mendy Mottal, Chabad emissary of CTeen Paris, is accompanying 207 participants from throughout France to New York. “Each year, the energy and effort that is poured into making this event is incredible,” he says. “Our teens always have an uplifting and inspiring experience, much of which I attribute to the incredible community feeling that Crown Heights offers us.”

This year, for the first time, CTeen will welcome chapters from Moscow, Monaco and Brazil, making this the largest international group ever. And as many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York.

Rabbi Aizik Rosenfeld of the Marina Roscha Synagogue and Jewish Community Center in Moscow will be accompanied by 22 teens to the Shabbaton, none of whom have ever been to the United States before. “They’re really pumped up,” says Rosenfeld. “New York is like a dream come true; it’s what America means to them.”

The students will be hosted by local families and experience a traditional Shabbat, similar to what it was like for many of their great-grandparents and forefathers, adds the rabbi.

Rabbi Zalman Marcus, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Calif., fields questions from participants and parents about what to expect at the three-day event. (CTeen Photo)
Rabbi Zalman Marcus, co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Mission Viejo, Calif., fields questions from participants and parents about what to expect at the three-day event. (CTeen Photo)

“It will be an interesting experience for them, keeping Shabbat from beginning to end,” says Rosenfeld, who moved to Moscow three years ago with his wife, Blumi. He remembers being amazed at “how much liberty there is now, how much openness there is as far as Yiddishkeit in general. Still, the density of Jewish life in Moscow, growing as it is, remains very different from Crown Heights.”

For these young people, he says, every small step—such as putting on tefillinonce a week or observing Shabbat to any extent—is a huge change.

Similar to the Russian students, Rabbi Chai Kohan, head of CTeen Español, adds that “the draw for many arriving from South and Central America is the chance to meet other Jewish teens from around the world. Most of them have never traveled to the United States.”

The worldwide growth of CTeen programs like the Shabbaton is thanks to the Meromim Foundation, spearheaded by Rabbi Bentzi Lipskier. To date, the foundation has sponsored more than 40 CTeen Chabad couples under the “New Shluchim Initiative.”

The Shabbaton comes just days after thousands of women filled Brooklyn as part of the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Women Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchos).

CTeen Côte S. Luc preps in Montreal, Canada (CTeen Photo)
CTeen Côte S. Luc preps in Montreal, Canada (CTeen Photo)

‘Part of Your Journey’

In New York, teens will get to visit some of the city’s major attractions: the Statue of Liberty, the new One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial, Midtown, Uptown, Downtown and more—and will spend Shabbat learning, eating, praying and getting to know one another.

Participants will also get a tour of Lubavitch World Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, and the President Street home and the study of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. And they will visit the Ohel, the Rebbe’s resting place at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, N.Y.

Teens get an update in Ashkelon, Israel, about the Shabbaton. As many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York. (CTeen Photo)
Teens get an update in Ashkelon, Israel, about the Shabbaton. As many as 75 young Israelis are flying to New York. (CTeen Photo)

Victoria Lamport, 17, from Tampa, Fla., sees the recreational parts of the Shabbaton as intrinsically connected to its more religious aspects. “It’s fun to see all your friends, to reconnect and to meet new people,” she says, “but the spiritual side to it is also the fact that you’re around so many people who are as motivated as you are . . . people who want to help, people who want to be a part of your journey, people doing certain mitzvahs for the first time and seeing how it affects them.”

She has seen that transformative energy work in her own family. “What is really awesome,” says the high school senior, “is that as I started to learn more, my family also got more involved. My dad started having the rabbi over every other week to learn. It’s been amazing to see the impact that Chabad has had on our lives.”

She hopes to spend the summer focusing on Jewish studies before starting a pre-med curriculum at college. “When I’m learning is when I really feel; I can almost feel my neshamah [‘soul’]. I don’t really know how to explain it. I just feel it—like I have a purpose in this world.”

Koby relates how exposure to the strong camaraderie that Victoria describes has been “life-changing.” Last summer, the California native went on the “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp out West, staying on afterwards for a yeshivah program. “I liked it so much I decided I didn’t want to go home, so I convinced my parents to let me stay.” Now, Koby lives and learns full-time at Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad in Los Angeles.

Koby Lerner of California will join the Shabbaton for a second time. The 16-year-old was also part of “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp last year, shown here having a blast. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Koby Lerner of California will join the Shabbaton for a second time. The 16-year-old was also part of “CTeen Xtreme” summer travel camp last year, shown here having a blast. (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)

Youths Into Leaders

For many teens, the inspiration continues long after the Shabbaton is over.

“My daughter, Sydney, was always deathly afraid of getting up to speak, even to our own family,” says Craig Winawer of Dix Hills, N.Y. “Recently, I watched her make a 10-minute speech in front of our of whole shul about CTeen and the Shabbaton. This is a kid who you can barely get to say three words at our Passover seder.”

Ever since Sydney became involved four years ago, her father has watched his shy daughter transform into a real leader. Today, she is member of the CTeen International Board.

A little anxiety, however, isn’t just relegated to teenagers. Brochie Levin of Chabad Lubavitch of Alberta in Calgary, Canada, acknowledges that “as a new shlucha to CTeen, I was nervous about bringing in a group for the Shabbaton. But the amount of advice, prep and work that was put into helping us was incredible. Our teens are so excited—and so are we.”

To learn more about CTeen International and the Shabbaton, click here.

The Havdalah ceremony and celebration in Times Square 2014 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
The Havdalah ceremony and celebration in Times Square 2014 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2015 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2015 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2016 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
Times Square 2016 (Photo: Bentzi Sasson)
A group on the way from Kiryat Bialik, Israel, for the 2017 Shabbaton (CTeen Photo)
A group on the way from Kiryat Bialik, Israel, for the 2017 Shabbaton (CTeen Photo)

Democracy Lebanon Style

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-AWSAT NEWS AGENCY)

Opinion

Opinion: When Lebanese Democracy Talks

The controversy surrounding the election of Donald Trump as US president made many outside America have another look at how its electoral system works. However, controversy is surely not limited to America; it extends to Lebanon, a faraway small country that boasts being an ‘institutional democratic’ state built on consensus and entente.

Many pose questions about the logic behind the American political system which values the electoral votes of individual states more than the direct popular votes of the electorate. The fact is that the USA is a federal country, thus its political representation needs to reflect two fundamental principles without which no healthy democracy can survive:
-The first is simple direct democracy whereby the numerical majority has the advantage over the numerical minority; and this is embodied in the House of Representatives where each state is represented by a number of congressmen relative to its population.
-The second is respect for national unity in a diverse society, where an individual in a populous state must enjoy no advantage over another individual from a less populous state before the federal law which must treat all Americans equally. The principle of national unity is enshrined in the Senate where all states, regardless of population, are equally represented by two senators each.

This great vision has helped make the American political system as a whole, one of the fairest and most advanced in the world. It has sustained an ever growing and geographically expanding country since the 16th century, attracting wave after wave of immigration; and through the years each American state based on its topography, natural environment, and economic resources had specific attributes and qualities despite free and smooth inter-state movement.

Of course Lebanon is far too small compared to the USA. Its ‘democratic’ experience is also pretty modest to compare with that of America’s ‘Founding Fathers’ and the legislations and agreements they adopted, even though these legislations and agreements failed to prevent the American Civil war (1861-1865), some vestiges of which remain until today. In fact, Lebanon too had a civil war in 1860 that helped create its almost ‘independent’ status; and as in America’s case, the vestiges of the war remain, while its borders have changed.

Still, size and global influence aside, there is another major difference between the American and Lebanese examples, which is that the Americans have learnt from their experiences, respected their institutions, and stopped bluffing themselves, which is not the case with the Lebanese.

In the USA no less than five presidents trailed their opponents in the popular votes, but abiding by the Constitution, the process led them to the White House. Moreover, despite the huge diversity in a country of 320 million inhabitants, there remains a good deal of healthy co-existence. We don’t hear people calling every day for a new electoral law that enhances the share of his or her ethnicity or religious sect. Nor do we hear of people calling for foreign intervention in their favor in the light of changing international policies.

Lebanon’s case, however, is totally different. Here, even the Lebanese constitution does not deal with its people as citizens but rather as members of sectarian flocks. The constitution which recognizes 17 sects, has “permanently” allocated each sect what has been deemed as its fair share of governmental position although population changes are continuous as are political disagreements.

Another interesting fact is that any Lebanese may spend his/her lifetime within the confines of his/her sect without interacting with other sects, beginning with birth, death, inheritance and marriage registries, and ending with education, health and employment. Thus, religious sects in Lebanon are de facto quasi-independent ‘states’, that have their own leaders, political parties, schools, universities, hospitals, and even sport clubs!

Given this situation and bearing in mind the vestiges of the past, the Lebanese have two living obsessions: the first is the ‘unfairness’ lamented by the Muslims who believe they are the majority that is long prevented from enjoying what it deserved under the French Mandate (1920-1943); and the second is the ‘fear’ felt by the Christians towards the ‘sea of Muslims’ surrounding them. The latter, led at first to separating Mount Lebanon from its surrounding area in 1861 and giving it the status of an ‘autonomous district’, i.e. “Mutassarrifiyya”, under the joint rule of the Ottoman Government and the European Powers, in order to ensure the ‘protection’ of the Christians. Then in 1920, it led to the creation of the current Lebanon (Grand Liban) under a Christian president, and a 6 to 5 parliamentary representation in the Christians’ favour that lasted until the ‘Taif Agreement’ in 1989.

Now, after ending ‘the presidential vacuum’ and forming the new cabinet, all that remains is electing a new parliament to replace the current one. The latter ended its four year term in 2013, but due to ongoing disagreement the scheduled elections were cancelled and its term extended. Still, disagreements continue regarding under what electoral law the forthcoming elections should be conducted, noting that almost all political parties and blocs refuse to carry on under the current multiple seat constituency law, popularly known as ‘The 1960 Law’.

There are many alternatives being put forward by parties and blocs ranging from full ‘proportional representation’ as preferred by Hezbollah and followers – which is understandable given its virtual armed hegemony – to the ‘Greek Orthodox Law’ whereby each sect elects its own members of parliament, including different ‘mixed’ versions combining direct vote and PR.

One alternative, however, that seems to be intentionally and stubbornly dismissed is the one calling for a bi-cameral parliament comprising: A Senate or Upper House elected by each sect, whereby all religious sects are equally represented and enjoy a ‘veto’ on issues adversely affecting their interests; and a House of Deputies or Representative, elected with no sectarian quota, with Lebanon as a single constituency, thus encouraging proper issue-based political parties after ridding the country of the two obsessions, i.e. the Muslims with ‘unfairness’ and the Christians with ‘fear’!

Why the idea of a Senate looks like being rejected out of hand, is not really surprising, if one keeps in mind the Lebanese eternal gamble in external forces and changes of regional and international balance of power. This remains the case despite the fact that the Lebanese Constitution, as adopted in Taif, called clearly for ‘wide decentralization’ and a ‘senate’.

Indeed, it has become a habit of Lebanon’s factions to demand justice and fairness when they are the underdogs, but seek hegemony when they feel they are winning.

Given such a mentality, any authority devised to curtail the ambitions of the powerful and defended the rights of the weak, has no chance of being accepted; as every faction hopes one day to be powerful enough to monopolize the country, and obliterate the others. Even the one who may be weak today would rather hope for an opportune moment to gamble again, and settle old scores.

In short, this is ‘electoral democracy – Lebanese Style’!

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra

Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.

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Iran’s Violations of Arms Embargo to Be Discussed by UN Security Council

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ASHARQ AL-AWSAT NEWS AGENCY)

 

Iran’s Violations of Arms Embargo to Be Discussed by Security Council

United Nations Security Council. Reuters

New York- Few days after former Secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern regarding the fact that Tehran might have violated an arms embargo by supplying weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shi’ite group so-called Hezbollah, the topic is set to be discussed by the council on January 18.

The second bi-annual report, due to be discussed by the 15-member council, also cited an accusation by France that an arms shipment seized in the northern Indian Ocean in March was from Iran and likely bound for Somalia or Yemen.

Regardless that the session was aimed at following the implementation of U.N. resolution 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Reuters confirmed on Monday that the report submitted every six months by U.N. chief included U.N. concern from Iran violating an arms embargo.

According to Reuters, the report was submitted to the Security Council on Dec. 30 by Ban Ki-moon before he was succeeded by Antonio Guterres on Jan. 1.

It came just weeks before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has threatened to either scrap the nuclear agreement or seek a better deal, takes office.

“In a televised speech broadcast by Al Manar TV on 24 June 2016, Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, stated that the budget of Hezbollah, its salaries, expenses, weapons and missiles all came from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ban wrote in the report.

“I am very concerned by this statement, which suggests that transfers of arms and related materiel from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Hezbollah may have been undertaken contrary to a Security Council resolution,” Ban said.

Most U.N. sanctions were lifted a year ago under a deal Iran made with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, the United States and the European Union to curb its nuclear program.

However, Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran Asma Jahangir expressed deep concerns over the continuous detention of human rights defenders in the country, who, she said “have been tried on the basis of vaguely defined offences and heavily sentenced following trials marred with due process violations.”

Raising alarm over the health of several prisoners of conscience in Iran, who have been on a prolonged hunger strike contesting the legality of their detention, the U.N. expert on the human rights situation there urged the authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release all those who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and prosecuted for exercising their rights.

Two of at least eight protesting prisoners of conscience have been on hunger strike since October last year.

One of the two ended his strike last week after his wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, a human rights defender, was granted bail.

Another protester – Mohammed Ali Taheri – started his strike on 28 September.

However, his whereabouts have been unknown since his reported transfer to Baghiatollah Military Hospital in October.

Furthermore, at least one of the protesters – Arash Sadeghi, another human rights defender – is being denied transfer to specialized medical facilities despite his critical health condition and is reportedly kept in his cell.

“I call on the Iranian authorities to ensure that Sadeghi has access, as a matter of utmost priority, to specialized health care in a hospital outside prison, in compliance with international human rights standards and medical ethics in particular the principles of informed consent,” said Jahangir.