Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More artwork by my son

(Non-parents are advised to skip this post.)

On Sept. 3, 2007 I posted some drawing by my elder son on his doodle. Let me now show some more, though fairly old - from last November when he was 4. These works were prompted by my husband, because my son doesn't like drawing very much (except on walls and furniture).

A bird.

A helicopter.

A steamship.

A house flanked by two trees, with sun and grass.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some light on Russian aggression against Georgia

Only the title of this post is mine. Below, I am copying Shlemazl's post Who won the Georgian War, with permission. (Shlemazl is a Canadean Jew of Russian origin. So, unlike most people writing on the conflict, he speaks Russian fluently and has the background information necessary to interpret the current events. Also, as a blogger he is free of the political correctness bondage that prevents Western commentators from calling a spade a spade.)

First, a few little known facts:
- South Ossetia and Abhazia became de-facto Russian dependencies following Georgian civil wars in 1990s. Atrocities were committed on all sides.
- In the 90s Shamil Basayev, a notorious Chechen warlord fought on the side of Russia, Abhazia and Ossetiya against Georgia. Later he carried out a large number of terrorist attacks against Russia, including the one in Beslan which resulted in the death of hundreds of children. (This information was published also in the Bulgarian weekly paper Pro & Anti - M.M.)
- It is believed that Putin's personal hatred of Saakashvili started when Saakashvili referred to the diminutive Russian leader as "Liliputin".
- South Ossetian "separatist" leader Eduard Kokoity is a former Soviet communist with major interests in smuggling and criminal underworld and very recent involvement in the Russian parliament.
- Other prominent "Ossetian" separatists include head of South Ossetian KGB Anatoly Baranov, South Ossetian Minister of Defense Vasilii Lunev, Secretary of Security Council of South Ossetia Anatoly Barankevich and Prime Minster Yuri Morosov. All happen to be ethnic Russian immigrants to the region of South Ossetia.
- Georgia is the only Former Soviet Union country outside the Baltic states where police does not take bribes.
- South Ossetian economy is 50% funded by Russia directly with the balance split between large scale counterfeit/smuggling operations and charging a semi-legal levy on cross-boder trade between Russia and Georgia.
- Until now Russia claimed to have accepted Georgian sovereignty over Abhazia and South Ossetia, but gave Russian citizenship to population of both regions. Others, even ethnic Russians from the former USSR are finding it very hard to get a Russian citizenship.
In the lead up to the conflict
- Putin and Medvedev openly threatened Georgia and its government on a number of occasions, including in early August.
- Russian planes carried out multiple overflight and occasional bombing operations in Georgia.
- "South Ossetian" forces carried out recent terrorist operations in Georgia, including a lethal attack on police station in Gori.
- Russia has carried recent military exercises in the region and brought large numbers of troops and equipment into the region in general and specifically into Abhazia.
What might have happened.
Saakashvili's decision to attack the bankrupt source of terrorism in South Ossetia can be explained in only two ways:
1. Georgia was aware of an imminent Russian attack to take over Georgia and change "regime" and decided to preempt it. If true, the objective was met at the price of losing some territory and thousands of ethnically cleansed + few hundred dead and wounded Georgians. The way the events unfolded, world opinion and leaders were mobilized by the time Russia was in a position to attack Tbilisi. Wouldn't have been the case had Russia initiated a two-pronged attack.
2. Georgia miscalculated and assumed that Russia would not engage in her first direct attack on a sovereign nation since Afghanistan.
The biggest lie.
Russian casus belli. Claims of 2000 dead Ossetian civilians and genocide committed by the Georgian troops suck three cocks. For one thing you wouldn't have been able to walk in Tshinvalli without a gas mask. The actual independently reported number of Ossetian civilians that were killed in the conflict is 44. Clearly the Russians have learned their PR campaign technique from Palestinians.
Incidentally, the figure of 180 dead and thousands ethnically cleansed Georgians appears to be accurate.
Did Russia win?
Not exactly. Honestly, I cannot see a pro-Russian leader coming to power in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldavia or any other currently independent Eastern European country in the next 20 years. Poland quickly agreed to bring in anti-missile defense shield.
Price for a few square kilometres here and there (like Russia needs the land so badly...), includes comprehensive international isolation. Too stark were the similarity with Sudetenland Czechoslovakia and 1938.
Russia lost almost the same number in dead and wounded military as Georgia + planes and other military equipment.
Oh, and by the way... Russian stock market (and pension funds) has lost a quarter of its value.
Last but not least... Strongly anti-Putin candidate for the White House has improved his chances of success.
Don't you think it is such a nice touch that UK's Muslim Public Affairs Committee makes direct use of neo-Nazi website rense.com to answer the question "Who started it?" Can you guess?Oh, and I can't help but wonder where are the good old lefty anti-war "anti-Imperialists" on all this.
Source 1, source 2.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Iran, female student sued for being sexually abused by teacher

Supporters of various totalitarian ideologies labelled as religions often admit that freedom is positioned low in their societies but this is compensated by putting high other values, such as virtue. In these discussions, "virtue" is usually used in a very narrow sense, related only to the sexual lifestiles of women.
We freedom-loving people of course will claim that freedom is higher than virtue. Moreover, we can argue that their societies cannot achieve (or assess) true virtue, only appearance of virtue, because any whore will emulate a virtuous woman if threatened by the appropriate punishments. After all, the whole concept of virtue implies that you acquire it by free choice.
However, the worst feature of these societies isn't their hypocrisy and even their oppression but the fact that oppression is unevenly distributed. The strong, the powerful, the rich can satisfy their urges even better than members of hedonistic Western societies, and the whole burden and blame for their sins is laid on the weak, the oppressed, the victims.
Last month I wrote a post titled This is too much even for the Mullahs, based on Azarmehr's April 13 post Temporary marriage online. In it, Azarmehr described how the institution of temporary bride (sigheh) invented by the Iranian theocracy serves as a cover for prostitution and even for rape, victimizing vulnerable women and allowing powerful men to get away with everything.
In his Aug. 9 post Only in the Islamic Republic! Azarmehr brings another example of how this institution is used:

"... Vice chancellor of Zanjan University, Hassan Madadi, was caught on camera, by students of Zanjan university, while abusing his position and trying to sexually assault a student girl who was due to appear before the university disciplinary committee.
A brave female student went against all the threats and intimidations of the so-called disciplinary committee and university authorities and refused to give in to their demands and instead helped gather evidence to prove the corruption and abusive action of the university vice-chancellor Hassan Madadi. The vice chancellor's demands for sex was caught on mobile cameras by the students who had been alerted by the female student and who burst into Madadi's office to save her. Tens of thousands of people saw the mobile phone video posted on YouTube showing students seizing him, turning him over to the authorities and demanding that he be charged. (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=01NPJ5McQW4)
The news outraged Zanjan university students and 3,000 took part in protests...
Any where else in the world, the vice chancellor would have faced the most dire punishments and would have probably lost his job and his university career would have ended for good, but not in the Islamic Republic, which presents itself as the flagship of morality to the unaware admirers of itself.
Any where else in the world, the female student and the other students who stood up to the abuses of the vice chancellor, would have been commended...
After the demonstrations ended and the university closed for the summer holidays, the Zanjan prosecutor announced that 'exposing a sin is worse than the sin itself!' and the woman student who dared expose this abusive official was herself arrested and accused of having an unlawful affair. The university Vice Chancellor has now been promoted and there is talk of whether the Sigheh, Shiite temporary marriage where a man can marry a woman for as short as an hour, prayer verses were read or not before the sexual demands were made by the chancellor.
Four of the students who took part in videoing the abuse and rescuing the girl, Payam Shakiba, Hassan Joneydi, Arash Rayeji and now Bahram Vahedi have also been arrested.
Similar events in other Islamic Republic universities of Sahand and Kermanshah have also resulted in the arrest of the students instead of the authorities who were abusing their position..."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Advocating for institutionalized disabled Bulgarian children

Last year, when I posted about Bulgaria's abandoned children, a commenter wrote, "I am the mother of 2 Roma children that I adopted from Bulgarian orphanages 10 years ago. My daughter was 7 years old. When we were in Bulgaria visiting our daughter we found out that she had a twin. Further investigation let us to find out that the twin was still alive but was "severely affected." We asked for a medical evaluation and we were denied our request. We asked to visit her and we were told we would not be permitted to visit... Every time I look at my daughter I wonder, what happened to this girl named Sofka. She would be 17 now... Maybe someday we will find out what happened to her." I reposted the comment last November under the title Does anybody know what happened to Sofka.
Happily, a regional child protection agency finally did its job and informed the adoptive parents of Sofka's sister (named Penka) about Sofka's whereabouts. She was in the Care home for children and adolescents with mental retardation in the village of Krushari, North-East Bulgaria. My Apr. 21 post where I thought about the future of institutionalized disabled children as they reach adulthood was also inspired by Sofka's fate (though didn't mention her name).
In July, the US family that had adopted Penka visited Sofka in Krushari. Then the mother sent a new comment which I am reposting here, with her permission.

"Our journey to find Sofka and be united with her is over. We just returned from Bulgaria yesterday. It was a life changing experience and I want to share with all of you that Sophie is doing much better than we anticipated. In fact Sofka now WALKS!!! We got to spend a few hours with her and she appeared to be in pretty good health though very small. We observed that she seems to have the capability to learn and may not be as cognitively impaired as we had feared. So doesn't speak BUT she definately understands her surroundings and given that she has just recently learned to walk I feel that she may be capable of much more.
The director of this institution has only been in his position for 6 months and I will tell you that he appeared to be a very sincere man who wants to help these kids. We specifically asked him what his needs are since it is our intention to provide as much support as we can. He cited that his most urgent need was a physical therapist. He said that it is hard to attract that kind of skill set to this village. The pay is not too great. We promised to do what we could to help him find someone and if we need to we would suppliment what they could pay. (A therapist has just been appointed - M.M.) We are also going to provide Sofka with a walker to aid in her progress with walking. When she is done with it they will give it to another child. He indicated to me that a Dutch group has provided their caregivers with so training and the woman who works with Sofka works one-on-one with her. She was very attached to this woman. It was obvious that this method was working since she has just recently started to walk.
We were able to interact with many of the other kids there. They were very friendly and they all appeared to be healthy. My 13 yo son was with us and they LOVED hanging with him! He loved meeting them to and wants to come back next year and spend more time with them (I suggested he do Karaoki with them). The care givers I met were all very nice and they all wanted to see pictures of Penka, Sofka's sister.
In what I felt was a real show of trust the director asked us if we were interested in seeing the area where the really severe, bedridden kids were. We did, even my son went in to the newer building. It was not easy but there was no foul smell and the areas were clean. The kids were thin and he said that he had added another meal (4 meals) to see if that would help them gain weight. He also cited that he only has 3 caregivers in this area for 40 kids but he is looking to triple that in the very near future.
We are now setting up a means to send financial support to Krushari. My son is taking on fund raising as his Bar Mitzvah project.
Next summer we will return with Penka. She is very excited to meet her sister and when she saw the pictures of her she said "Mom we are so cute arent we?"
As I said, it was life changing for me to go there. I feel that they are doing what they can to help these kids. Anyone who can go there and offer the skill sets that they need should contact me at mbaeck@verizondotnet."

I have stated before that I am for deinstitutionalization of disabled children and adults (and also of non-disabled abandoned children). However, institutions are still the reality for Sofka and many others and I would wish to express my admiration of those employees who try their best to make this reality as good as it, and of devoted community members such as the author of the above message.
Bulgarian readers can also read here about two girls from the Krushari care home who are integrated in 6th grade of the local school.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Concept for unity of life, kindergarten-level

At the beach, I collected a handful of seaweed and showed them to my son.
"Do you know what this is?" I asked.
"Fish," was the answer.

Russian aggression, again

There is an old saying that Russia feels secure only when expanding. After 1990, what was going around came around and the states forcibly included in the Soviet Union gained or regained independence. However, Russian government never lost the desire to mess with their affairs and, when possible, to swallow parts of them.
Last week, "Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili had gambled on a surprise attack late Thursday to regain control over his country's pro-Russian breakaway province of South Ossetia. Instead, Georgia suffered a punishing beating from Russian tanks and aircraft that has left the country with even less control over territory than it had before... Thousands streamed into the capital. Those left behind in devastated regions of Georgia cowered in rat-infested cellars or wandered nearly deserted cities. Georgia, which is pushing for NATO membership, borders the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia and was ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries preceding the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. South Ossetia and Abkhazia have run their own affairs without international recognition since fighting to split from Georgia in the early 1990s. Both separatist provinces are backed by Russia, which appears open to absorbing them. Medvedev said Georgia must allow the provinces to decide whether they want to remain part of Georgia. He said Russian peacekeepers would stay in both provinces, even as Saakashvili said his government will officially designate them as occupying forces" (source: AP via Yahoo! News).
For the record, I believe in self-determination and think that if people (people, not the mafia) of the regions in question truly want to separate from Georgia and join Russia, this insane wish must be granted. I don't think sending Georgian troops there was a good idea. Pointing guns at people is unlikely to convince them that they are better off under your rule.
However, while agreeing with Pres. Medvedev that "Georgia must allow the provinces to decide whether they want to remain part of Georgia", I'd ask him, what about Chechnya? Why are other states oblived to give their breakaway regions self-determination but Russia may wage genocide until the last person wishing independence is dead?
And don't the above described developments remind anybody of Nazi Germany that went on a "peacekeeping" mission to defend the allegedly mistreated ethnic Germans in Sudetenland and quickly ended up occupying the entire Chechoslovakia?
Let me end this post with two more quotes, this time from Brusselsjournal:
"Russians launched offensive operations beyond the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, marking a dramatic expansion in their war aims — well beyond the putative casus bellum of protecting Russian citizens. (It should be recalled that these “citizens” are Abkhaz and Ossetian locals who were issued Russian passports without, for the most part, ever setting foot in Russia)" (source).
"I wonder is there... chance to see millions of exalted young people passionately marching for peace in Georgia… It shouldn't be too much of an effort. All they have to do is brush the dust off from the "not in our name", "no blood for oil", "war is not the answer", etc placards, paste Vladimir Putin’s and Dmitri Medvedev’s faces over Bush’s or Blair’s on the "worst ever", "mass murderer" and "real terrorist" placards... I am also wondering, will we hear of passionate peace activists, who are determined to go and chain themselves to Georgian government buildings and other such sites to offer human shield against malicious and deliberate bombing by Russian planes on civilian targets. Anyone? Also, it would be refreshing to see similar sense of outrage and hysteria on the part of western media that we witness when American planes hit a "wedding party", armed to their teeth, when reporting bombings of apartment buildings and markets by Russian air forces in Georgia... Plus, has anyone warned already that the Russian military invasion of its tiny neighbor is bound to stir up anti-Russian sentiment and create a groundswell for Georgians to recruit young people to their cause?... Ah, who am I kidding? It is one thing to march against the country that liberated half of Europe and kept it that way for the following 50 years. It is quite another to march against a nation that enslaved half of Europe and kept it under a bloody slavery for 50 years" (source).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blogs on hiatus

I am creating this post for the URLs of blogs that haven't been updated for a long time. I don't want to delete them entirely, but don't want inactive links in the blogroll, either. I'll check them periodically, hoping that somebody will eventually resume blogging.

Big Pharaoh
Freedom for Egyptians
Or does it explode?
Shlemazl (this one actually is still active, but open only to invited readers, so it's no use keeping the link on blogroll. Jew haters made Shlemazl hide his blog.

Pointless Spring