2014-02-27

Russia / Ukraine / Crimea: Latest Developments

Russa / Ukraine / Crimea: Latest developments. Debka calls it a pro-Moscow coup: 'The Russian defense ministry announced Thursday, Feb. 27 that fighter jets stood on combat alert along its western borders with Ukraine. Moscow repeated its commitment to protect Russian-speaking elements in the Crimean Peninsula. Earlier, armed men carried out a pro-Russian coup in the Crimean capital, by seizing government and parliamentary buildings and hoisting Russian flags – in response to the pro-European coup in Kiev. ...' Reuters reports that Ukraine has issued a warning:
"I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet," said Olexander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president.

"Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression," he said, a day after 150,000 Russian troops near Ukraine were put on high alert.
Fox News reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia that "Any kind of military intervention that would violate the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine would be a huge, a grave mistake."

RIA Novosti: 'A senior Russian defense official said Thursday that the country’s Black Sea Fleet poses no threat to Ukraine and its activities are in compliance with standing agreements between the two countries. “Currently all units are engaged in their daily routines, including combat training. These actions do not represent a threat,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters. ...'

RT: '[Former Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovich will hold a news conference in Russia's Rostov-on-Don at 1700 local time (1300 GMT) on Friday, reports Itar-Tass citing sources close to Ukraine's ousted president.'

Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club:
So far this crisis has been characterized by mutual miscalculation. If the West did not anticipate that the previous Ukranian government would renege on the EU deal neither did Putin appear to recognize the power of the opposition. Both sides have blundered into this confrontation. The wild card are the Ukranians who will now be pressed to deal, but who may not deal. Another source of uncertainty is the effect of national pride, which so absent in the West, is yet a potent factor in Russia. The last source of uncertainty is Western leadership. It seems fair to say there are differences between the EU leadership and Washington.

2014-02-26

Erickson, Sullivan, and Gay Discrimination

I don't read Andrew Sullivan very often these days, but here's a worthwhile piece on discrimination laws:
But the wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination. And that’s for an obvious reason. If legislatures were to craft bills specifically allowing discrimination only in the case of services for weddings for gay couples, as Erickson says he wants, it would seem not only bizarre but obviously unconstitutional – clearly targeting a named minority for legal discrimination. So they had to broaden it, and in broadening it, came careening into their own double standards. Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow. I’ve yet to read an argument about these laws that shows they cannot have that broad effect.

But here’s where Erick has a point:

It boggles my mind to think any Christian should want the government to force their [pro-gay] view of Christianity on another believer.

That’s my feeling too. I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding – or anything else for that matter – if it made them in any way uncomfortable. The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.

Moving Forward

I'm now back in Portland, Oregon.

I left San Francisco a month ago, after living there for 2365 days (or 6 years, 5 months, 20 days) and it's good to be back in Portland. I've spent the last couple of weeks unpacking and settling in at my new place.

Next month will mark 10 years of blogging for me, and I'm looking forward to having the time and energy to devote to it.

2014-02-21

Ukraine's priests provide protest inspiration, key link to pre-Soviet era | Fox News

Ukraine's priests provide protest inspiration, key link to pre-Soviet era | Fox News
 But the clergy of Ukraine are more than leaders of the protest that threatens to split the nation's troubled alliance with Russia. They are a link to Ukraine's historical independence, before the Russian Revolution led to the Soviet occupation that lasted until 1991 but still hovers above like a dark cloud. Amid the escalating violence, priests have been seen defying police, leading civilians safely past them and performing last rites on those killed in the clashes. ...

The strife has brought together Ukraine's major denominations, including the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate and Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox and the Vatican-aligned Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches. The churches released a joint statement last month as unrest percolated in the square.

Michael Totten:
I spent a week in Ukraine a few years back when I traveled by car from the Polish border through Lviv to Kiev and down to Odessa and Yalta. I wrote about it at length in my book, Where the West Ends. So I feel obligated to write about it now that the capital is on fire.

Kiev is a magnificent city, and it pains me to see it like this, but I should not be surprised. Almost every country I’ve ever written about is either in hell, has only recently recovered from hell, or is on its way to hell. I hoped when I visited Ukraine that it was on its way out, but I did not have a good feeling about it, as you’ll recall if you read my book.

I’m reluctant to wade in as an analyst, though, because I don’t know the country on an intimate nuts-and-bolts level. Let me instead outsource my analysis to my World Affairs colleague Alexander Motyl who writes about nothing else.

Motyl:
As the criminal Yanukovych regime’s violence, terror, and repression are driving Ukraine to armed conflict and, possibly, fragmentation, it may be worth asking whether Ukraine might not be better off without some of its southeastern provinces.

First let’s consider the bad reasons for a breakup—Ukraine’s diversity in general and the regional, ethnic, confessional, and cultural divisions between its “West” and “East” in particular. A good place to start is a recent article by Orlando Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London, “Is There One Ukraine?” Figes, who should know better coming from the UK, writes about Ukraine’s divisions as if they were unique and as if diversity alone justified or led to breakup. He’s wrong on both counts. Ukraine’s diversity is pretty much the norm for all stable states everywhere. ...

What is unusual about contemporary Ukraine is that it’s exploited by a criminal gangster regime—Yanukovych’s— in cahoots with another criminal gangster regime—Putin’s. Many countries have the misfortune of being misruled by homegrown camarillas. Many countries have the misfortune of being dominated by predator states. Ukraine has the double misfortune of being misruled at home and “mis-dominated” abroad.

That’s why Figes’s suggestion—“Ukraine ought to consider applying a precedent from elsewhere in eastern Europe: deciding the country’s fate by referendum”—wouldn’t work. ...

Although lopping off the Donbas would benefit the rest of Ukraine, Yanukovych’s mafia regime desperately needs Ukraine to be whole. If Luhansk and Donetsk were to split away, their rust-belt economy would collapse without Kyiv’s financial support and the Regionnaires, trapped in their polluted bailiwick, would have nothing to steal. And what would Yanukovych’s multibillionaire pal, Rinat Akhmetov, do without easy access to Ukraine’s resources? A similar logic holds for Putin. What would he do with a rotten slice of Ukraine—a kind of mega Transnistria? Subsidize its dead-end economy? Spend valuable time and resources on jailing the corrupt Regionnaires and the troglodyte Communists? No, a weak Yanukovych regime in a weak Ukraine serves Putin’s interests perfectly. ...

Sudan court convicts Ethiopian woman over ‘gang-rape’

Sudan court convicts Ethiopian woman over ‘gang-rape’
This is unutterably grotesque.
The woman was sentenced to a one-month jail term but this was suspended because she is pregnant, her lawyer, Samia al-Hashmi, told the AFP news agency.
She was also fined 5,000 Sudanese pounds ($880; £530).
She had also faced charges of adultery and prostitution, which could have led to a penalty of death by stoning, but these were dropped after she convinced the court she was divorced, reports SIHA.
More via AllAfrica:

2014-02-20

Nick Cohen: Gay People Not an Aberration

Nick Cohen at CIF:

Yet liberals welcomed the announcement by the American geneticist Dean Hamer in 1993 that genes influenced homosexuality in men, and have cheered on variations on his theme ever since. True, the "discovery" perturbed homophobic clerics. You only have to search for "gay gene" and "Christian" or "Islam" to see their discomfort at the thought that homosexuality has "god-given" causes.

Although it is always worth tormenting small minds, point scoring was and remains a dangerous tactic. ...

Better to say loudly what the Sochi Olympians are too self-obsessed to say at all: gay people are not entitled to human rights because of a gene, but because they are human.
Go read the whole piece at the link.

2014-01-15

Dozens arrested for being gay in north Nigeria - New York News

Dozens arrested for being gay in north Nigeria - New York News
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) - First the police targeted the gay men, then tortured them into naming dozens of others who now are being hunted down, human rights activists said Tuesday, warning that such persecution will rise under a new Nigerian law. The men's alleged crime? Belonging to a gay organization. The punishment? Up to 10 years in jail under the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which has elicited international condemnation for criminalizing gay marriage, gay organizations and anyone working with or promoting them. There were varying accounts of how many arrests were made in Nigeria's Bauchi state ...