SFFWorld Archive: The Rim of Space by A. Bertram Chandler – SFFWorld

https://www.sffworld.com/2016/05/sffworld-archive-the-rim-of-space-by-a-bertram-chandler/

A (Arthur) Bertram Chandler is a name that has pretty much disappeared from contemporary SF history, although in the 1950’s and 60’s he was an extremely popular author. Baen Books have recently begun to release his John Grimes novels in omnibus editions, although his most famous stories are those from The Rim World.

The Rim of Space is the first of these. Admittedly rather short, they are great fun, if a little dated.

The stories are very much based on a life at sea, (not too surprisingly, as Chandler’s own background was that of a seaman), and cover the issues caused by long distance travel, the loneliness of the seaman space-traveller, the monotony of the different ports relieved only by the fleeting relationships he (or she) has from port to port.

If all of this sounds a little like ‘the Titanic in space’, to some extent you’d be right: Derek Calver, recently disembarked from the Galactic equivalent of the UK Royal Navy, ups and joins the rather less rigid Rim Runners, a space version of the UK Merchant Navy, looking for adventure. Here, as part of the crew of the Lorn Lady, Calver finds himself one of a ragtag bunch. Captain Engels is an old Spacer, as creaky as his spaceship. There’s also Levine, a Psionic Radio officer; Arlen, the only woman on the ship, a rather remote personality; Bendix the Interstellar Drive Engineer; Renault, the Rocket King; Brentano in charge of Electronic Radio; Maclean the Purser; and Old Doc Malone, the Bones of the operation.

Once the key characters are set up (admittedly rather sketchily on the most part) the book focuses on two of them. It’s not long before we find Calver quickly involved with ‘Calamity Jane’ Arlen and saving her from a hostage situation on the planet Tharn. Calver himself is held as a hostage by spies determined to work against the Federation on Grollor and also involved in a dalliance with espionage operative Sonya Verrill. He then meets lizard-like dinosaur aliens with a liking of tea on Stree to then endure a hurricane whilst having repairs on the marine planet of Mellise. Finally, the Lorn Lady and its crew have a challenge saving the spaceliner Thermopylae off the planet Eblis out on the Rim. It’s all good pulp stuff, and all rather 1950’s British Colonial, in its quaintly old-fashioned manner.

On the not so good front, the reader should be warned that the book has typical 1950’s values towards women, although not as explicit as some books of that time. There are times when the only female of the crew goes off to make coffee and sandwiches for the rest of the crew on the bridge. There’s even a bit of slapping going on – nothing sexual, but some rather unfortunate rough handling of the female natives and the odd slap to and from women. (I‘m not condoning this, btw, but it would be wrong of me not to point it out.) These are rather typical of 1950’s & 60’s SF, but some readers may find such stereotypes rather irritating.

Whilst the general plot is typical pulp, as ever on these things, though, it’s the comments along the way that fill out this tale. There’s death, exciting adventure and a fair degree of contemplation over the result of bringing trinkets to natives, nearly a decade before the evolution of Star Trek’s Prime Directive. Life out on the edge of the galaxy, at the Rim, is quite odd and the crew’s encounter with a ‘Rim Ghost’ is quite memorable, suggesting that life out on the Rim may be subject to alternate variations – a theme Chandler was to return to in later stories.

This was a book that rose above its rather low expectations. Expecting fast-paced, low quality pulp fiction, I was surprised how contemplative and well thought out the book was. It’s a great read, which, although typically 1950’s pulp and thus unlikely to blaze a trail through SF fiction, is entertaining enough to hold interest and make me want me to read more. Surprisingly reminiscent of early Poul Anderson for its literacy and often melancholic mood, this is an old gem that’s worth a read.

On Cambie Street in Vancouver. Spring of 2020.

Cambie Street is a street in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is named for Henry John Cambie, chief surveyor of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s western division (as is Cambie Road, a major thoroughfare in nearby Richmond).

There are two distinct sections of the street. North of False Creek, the street runs on a northeast-southwest alignment (following the rotated street grid within Downtown Vancouver). As such, the street direction is approximately 45 degrees to that of the Cambie Bridge, and there is no seamless connection between the two. Instead, Nelson Street carries southbound traffic onto the bridge, and Smithe Street carries northbound traffic away from the bridge. The downtown section of Cambie Street runs from Water Street in Gastown in the north to Pacific Boulevard in Yaletown in the south and is a two-way street for its length.

South of False Creek, the street is a major six-lane arterial road, and runs as a two-way north-south thoroughfare according to the street grid for the rest of Vancouver. This section of the street was originally named Bridge Street, and was first connected to Cambie Street after the first Cambie Bridge opened in 1891; it was renamed Cambie Street after the second Cambie Bridge opened in 1912.

Between King Edward Avenue West and Southwest Marine Drive, the street has a 10 metre wide boulevard with grass and many well established trees on it; the boulevard was designated as a heritage landscape by the city of Vancouver in 1993.

When proposals to build SkyTrain’s Canada Line (formerly known as the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver or RAV Line) along Cambie Street first emerged, they were heavily protested by residents and business owners who wanted to keep the street as a heritage boulevard. They argued in favour of using the existing Arbutus Street rail corridor instead.

Once the decision was made to use the Cambie alignment for the Canada Line anyway, residents along the corridor successfully persuaded authorities to put the rail line in a tunnel instead of running it as a surface route, and to dig the tunnel using a tunnel boring machine. However, due to cost concerns and time constraints, the winning bidder decided to use a cut-and-cover method to build the tunnel – which required disruption to traffic and business along the corridor during the construction. As such, even though it cost less and was much faster than using a tunnel boring machine, the plan drew heavy criticism from area residents and businesses.

During 2006 to 2009, portions of the street south of False Creek were closed to traffic to allow for construction of the line. The cut-and-cover tunnel runs underneath the east side of the street for most of its route. South of West 63rd Avenue, the line emerges from the tunnel and runs on an elevated structure across the Fraser River.

Gregor Robertson, who later became the mayor of Vancouver, was a strong supporter of Cambie Street merchants and spoke regularly about hardships from the Canada Line construction. He called the handling of the rail line construction an “injustice.”

On March 23, 2009, Robertson testified in a lawsuit brought by Cambie Street merchant Susan Heyes, owner of Hazel & Co., in the B.C. Supreme Court regarding damage to her business from the construction, a lawsuit for which she was awarded $600,000 by the B.C. Supreme Court due in part to the fact that there was insufficient action to mitigate the effects of Canada Line construction on Cambie Street merchants. The award for damages was later reversed at the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which determined that while the project had resulted in a legal nuisance to the claimant, the government had acted within its authority and was therefore not liable for damages. Leave for further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was subsequently denied. On the Canada Line’s opening day of August 17, 2009, Robertson said Greater Vancouver needed more rapid transit but the Canada Line was a “great start” and that he was a “Johnny-come-lately” to the project.

Megaman Zero 2 – The Next Level GameBoy Advance Game Review

http://www.the-nextlevel.com/reviews/handheld/megaman_zero_2/

At about the same time as Capcom decided to release one of the worst Megaman games ever made they also graced us with one of the finest. Megaman Zero 2 stands as more then just an excellent game, it has knocked off Megaman 3 as my all-time favorite game among the Blue Bombers’ series. It takes everything that made the first one great and – get this – actually adds a whole new host of gameplay elements to a series instead of doing nothing but adding new bosses. Might even be a first for the lineage considering how much cool stuff got added and traditional ways got altered.

Weapon absorption through bosses has returned, but now it actually takes memorization and skill to obtain them. Instead of the typical method of merely beating the boss to acquire new weaponry you now have to score an A ranking on the stage in order to gain access, no easy feat by any means. Certainly don’t expect to beat a stage and then come back later to get good at it, as once a stage is done your rank is stuck and the boss doesn’t reappear. Thankfully, the weapons are completely optional and you still get element powers from destroying bosses no matter what, and now you can also earn new suits that boost your attributes in different ways or give you special powers. Finally, the Triple Rod from the first game has been removed in favor of the far cooler Chain Rod, which works as a grappling hook and can yank enemies and blocks around.

These are the tools you’ll need to survive the levels, most of which are fairly straightforward affairs but each is pulled off beautifully in most every way. Every one is distinct and unique from the previous, even if the enemy listing gets recycled a bit too much. From atop a speeding train to leaping amongst flying ships, they certainly give no sense of repetitious locales. For the most part the music keeps up equally striking, as while a few stages have tunes that seem pulled from a library of generic incarnate a number of them have inspired melodies that best any I’ve heard from Megaman games in years. I actually found myself humming along, something I haven’t done since the days of the NES games.

Missions rarely stray from traveling from Point A to boss, but distractions are numerous and welcome. Mid-bosses are now common and mark a restart point and sometimes they’ll give you a new objective for part of the travel like protecting someone (surprisingly fun!) or finding lost soldiers, none of which are too difficult and often requires a bit of poking around. Searching can often turn up much of the hidden items as well, especially if collecting all the Cyber-Elves is a priority as many are placed in locations that can only be accessed with a high risk of death and a keen eye. The Cyber-Elves are still there to provide extra services like automatically providing an A rank for the stage or cutting down a boss’ lifebar, but they can only be used once and then they’re gone. They can definitely be helpful for some of the stages but I often never even equipped them, let alone used any.

The difficulty has been toned down a bit from Megaman Zero, as continues are no longer limited and the level design is much more solid and elegant. I can only think of one level that delivers cheap shots but, like the rest of the game, it can be overcome through planning and memorization. It just happens to be very painful learning how to make it work right. On the flip side the bosses are still tough and relentless, throwing patterns and attacks that will kill Zero in only a couple of hits and yet that creates a damn good sense of accomplishment after beating some of them. I can think of more then once when I began verbally spouting off, “Yeah! What now?!” after toppling some boss that had all but laughed at my attempts to stop it. Granted, now some people think I’m crazy for talking to videogames, but that’s a small price for getting to tell off a robot master.

Really, is there anything this game doesn’t do well? The Chain Rod can be difficult to handle at times, the translation is less then stellar with spelling mistakes here and there (“form” instead of “from,” “devise” instead of “device”), and the game is built on memorization and repetition, but aside from the bad English those aren’t necessarily detractions in my eyes. For something so clean, stylish, and graceful, I can’t help but love it. It may not have a few things Megaman 3 did (most notably Protoman’s theme music) but in pure gameplay it oozes excellence that helps push the entire family of Megaman games in the direction its been needing for years. Go, play this, and pretend Megaman X7 doesn’t exist.

Inspirational retro futuristic living room ideas | Vintage Industrial Style

http://www.vintageindustrialstyle.com/inspirational-retro-futuristic-living-room-ideas/

We really like this retro futuristic style so couldn’t wait to post these nice images with this outstanding way. We can see either how they have the round, circular and organic shapes defining a big part of the futurist style that is replete of this type of lines. Dare to apply this kind of style in your interiors they will be completely renovated by other way to see the world!

Bernie Sanders is Not a Socialist and He is NOT Leading Some Kind of “Revolution” – We Deserve Better

https://nomadiceveryman.blogspot.com/2021/03/bernie-sanders-is-not-socialist-and-he.html

Bernie Sanders has burned himself into the hearts and minds of young, idealistic Americans across the country and as his poll numbers indicate, his message of a more economically balanced nation waiting in the wings just a vote away is resonating with a lot of people.

In order to further his cause, Bernie describes himself as a democratic socialist and many young, naive people who don’t really understand what a socialist is, believe him. But he is not a socialist.

Bernie Sanders is a lie. He’s a fraud. Or, he’s a coward. Or all of the above. But make no mistake about it, he’s no better than Hillary Clinton because he will do and say whatever he has to in order to serve the masters of the universe just like she does. And his “revolution” is as much of a sham as Ron Paul’s used to be.

All you have to do is look back at Libya and research Bernie’s role in the illegal, immoral operation and you will see what Bernie Sanders really is. Then go to the polls and look for “none of the above”

Socialists do not call for the neoliberal regime change of other extremely popular socialist leaders like Muammar Gaddafi was and they certainly don’t call them “a terrible dictator” , “a thug and murderer ” or co-sponsor legislation in the senate to have them removed from power.

“Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer,” Sanders said to Fox News. “We want to see him go, but I think in the midst of two wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan), I’m not quite sure we need a third war, and I hope the president tells us that our troops will be leaving there, that our military action in Libya will be ending very, very shortly.” Politifact

For all the blather coming from Bernie about how we are being taken advantage of by Big Banking and finance, he pales in comparison to a real socialist leader. Even his dreams and his goals fall short of the achievements Gaddafi made real during his lifetime.

  • In Libya a home is considered a natural human right – a home owned by the resident, not a bank.
  • Education and medical treatment were all free
  • Gaddafi carried out the world’s largest irrigation project
  • It was free to start a farming business
  • A bursary was given to mothers with newborn babies
  • Electricity was free
  • Cheap petrol
  • Gaddafi raised the level of education
  • Libya had It’s own state bank – Libya had its own State bank, which provided loans to citizens at zero percent interest by law and they had no external debt
  • The gold dinar

Here is part of the Senate resolution co-written by the ‘socialist’ Bernie Sanders:

(7) urges the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory;
(11) welcomes the outreach that has begun by the United States Government to Libyan opposition figures and supports an orderly, irreversible transition to a legitimate democratic government in Libya.

So not only did Bernie Sanders support the brutal “no fly zone” imposition that ended up killing thousands of Libyan civilians, but he also supported the use of regime change terrorists, the so-called “Libyan opposition”, that Obama and Clinton used to first destabilize the country, then to wreck it.

Repeatedly in this document and in subsequent interviews in the media, Bernie Sanders referred to Gaddafi as a “dictator” and the government in Libya as one that lacked any form of democratic legitimacy. These are both 100% lies.

Gaddafi was not a dictator. He held a largely ceremonial position as leader of the revolution.

The changes in Libyan leadership since 1976 culminated in March 1979, when the GPC declared that the “vesting of power in the masses” and the “separation of the state from the revolution” were complete. Gaddafi relinquished his duties as general secretary of the GPC, being known thereafter as “the leader” or “Leader of the Revolution.” Wiki

The government of Libya under Gaddafi, the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, was a direct democracy and was comprised of three levels of leadership:

  • Basic People’s Congress
  • District Congress
  • General People’s Congress

The People’s Hall where the General People’s Congress met, was burned as a result of Hillary Clinton’s invasion and regime change in 2011.

Muammar Gaddafi enjoyed the support of 90+% of the people in his country and even the MSM here in the states had to reluctantly admit that as Hillary’s bombs were dropping on those people.

And yet, Bernie continued to lie about what he was and the kind of government Libya had. And that behavior hasn’t changed. He recently supported Obama’s terrorist campaign in Syria, said we should support Saudi Arabia militarily (a REAL dictatorship) and even said “the world must stand up to Putin” echoing the Obama administration’s propaganda against Russia. He’s still doing the same thing now that he was back in 2011.

With regards to Libya, Bernie never mentions the fact that so many corporations here in the states and in France wanted what the Libyans had. He never mentions the fact that the masters of the universe wanted that Libyan Central Bank for themselves. He never mentions the fact that Gaddafi was going to use the Gold Dinar to essentially kick our imperialist asses out of the whole of Africa and empower, truly empower, the small nations of the continent to stand united against our influence and that of the World Bank and the IMF.

Our “socialist” hero never mentioned any of that. Instead, he lied about Gaddafi being a “dictator” and a “thug” while he petitioned the UNSC to bomb Libya into submission and patted Obama on the back for sending in our Takfari terrorists, calling them “opposition” members.

Recently, Bernie called out Clinton during a debate about being so willing to force regime change on other countries with military force.

“I think — and I say this with due respect — that I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be… So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after.” Bernie Sanders

I’m sure this went over quite well with Bernie’s uninformed following.I’m sure they squealed in delight when he said it, thinking it means something other what what he said.

If you read it, he’s not saying Hillary illegally forced a regime change on nations in service to the masters of the universe but rather, that she didn’t PROPERLY PLAN the aftermath. Is he saying this to appeal to young people who aren’t really listening and to those same masters Hillary serves suggesting he could do it better? Draw your own conclusions.

Some might say in his defense that he didn’t know all of this when he backed Hillary’s move in Libya. Well, it’s his job to know, especially before co-sponsoring that piece of legislation or calling Gaddafi what he did back in 2011 as Killary was gearing up for a bombing campaign in Libya.

Some might say he was doing what he had to in order to remain in office, since we all know what happens to legitimate leftists and anti-imperialist congress people and senators in this country. Just ask Cynthia McKinney or Paul Wellstone about that.

For that matter, just ask Gaddafi, JFK or Martin Luther King Jr. what happens to left leaning leaders in this world when they go too far. You can toss in Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende for good measure as well if you like.

Or how about Eugene Debs? He ran for president as a real socialist five times. The last time, from his prison cell where he was detained for sedition.

Bernie Sanders will never confront Clinton on the subject matter that she should be confronted on. The email server scandal is proof of that as are his milk-toast attacks on her regime change operations. He wont mention the donations to the Clinton Foundation from a Ukrainian oligarch just prior to her beginning a regime change operation in Ukraine. And he wont mention all that missing money from the Haiti relief fund or the dictatorship she set up in that country since the disaster.

In short…

“I want to thank Bernie for bringing in so many young people to the democratic primaries…” Hillary Clinton, during the last presidential debate.

“On our worst days, (Hillary and I) are better than the republican candidates everyday” Bernie Sanders, during the last presidential debate.

Bernie Sanders is not running a campaign to be president. He is serving as a sheep dog, directing all those young, idealistic, disenfranchised American voters back to the warm embrace of the Democratic Party on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

That’s why he doesn’t attack her on the issues that she is the weakest. That’s why he deliberately avoids going for the jugular.

Just like he did back in 2011 when warmonger Clinton was making ready to regime change a truly socialist and very successful and popular government in Libya, Bernie Sanders is dutifully playing a role in support of our imperialist agenda.

That’s not a socialist. What he is, is shameful. He’s a carnival barker and nothing more. He’s just one more one dimensional character in the freak-show that is the 2016 Presidential Election and when the circus comes to town down here in Florida, I’m voting “none of the above” because in this case, the least worst candidate is as empty and soulless as all the rest. And that’s a fact.

Editorial: Pussy Riot and the Media Bandwagon

https://theredphoenixapl.org/2012/09/18/editorial-pussy-riot-and-the-media-bandwagon/

As an American living in Moscow I have often been a witness to concrete examples of how the Western press, in particular that of the U.S. and U.K., grossly distort the narrative of major events in Russia. One of the most glaring examples occurred during the explosion of opposition protests which followed the rigged Duma elections of last December.

Within Russia, anyone who bothers to pay attention to politics knows that the largest opposition is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), which has been the case for quite some time. The KPRF has been holding anti-Putin and anti-United Russia demonstrations for years, with little attention from the Western press. I had attended several of their sanctioned demonstrations long before the more broad-based opposition rallies of last December, and during the two December demonstrations I attended they made a strong, if less dominant showing. These initial opposition rallies were specifically in response to the obviously suspicious results of the Duma election held on December 4th, 2011, and it is by no means a stretch to say that had these elections been fair, KPRF’s gains would have been far larger, if not enough to secure a majority of seats in the Duma. The claim is of course debatable, but it is far more credible than the narrative the U.S. and U.K. press was telling at the time.

As I compared news coverage in Russia as well as my own personal observations to Western reporting, I noticed a widening gap between reality on the ground and the story that was being told to observers outside of Russia. From outside of Russia, it seemed that the political conflict was one between Putin on one hand, and Western-inspired liberals on the other. I could find very few mentions of KPRF or its presidential candidate, Gennady Zyuganov. Liberal organizations which are still obscure even to Muscovites today were readily quoted or mentioned at length. Worse still, the darker side of the opposition movement, which was in large part the reason why I abandoned the movement, was ignored. Specifically I am referring to the growing presence of nationalists and even neo-Nazis in the opposition’s ranks.

“Anti-corruption” blogger Alexei Navalny, an individual whose nationalist and xenophobic ideology as well as his connection to far-right nationalist groups are well known to anyone in Russia, was presented to the world by the Western press as a leading figure in the “democratic” opposition. While ignoring Gennady Zyuganov, oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who has been publicly quoted as wanting to impose a 60-hour work week in Russia, was portrayed as the most important opposition figure running for president against Vladimir Putin.

Around the time of the presidential election, this enthusiastic but utterly distorted Western coverage played right into the hands of Putin, whose media flacks skillfully homed in on a minority of opposition activists and isolated them from the masses outside Moscow. The opposition movement was labeled as an attempted “Orange Revolution” orchestrated by the United States and other Western nations. It is not clear how many Russians actually believed these claims, but it certainly did not help that a small minority of privileged Moscow hipsters, some of the most insipid and oblivious people in the world, were elevated by both the Russian and Western press to the “leadership” of the opposition movement.

Recently, a new scandal erupted in Russia over the conviction of Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, three members of the so-called “feminist” punk rock group Pussy Riot. They were arrested back in February of this year (2012) for performing their so-called “Punk Prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and were ultimately charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and they have been sentenced to two years each.

As with the opposition rallies last year, the Western press royally distorted many of the facts surrounding the case. What was different this time around, however, was that the Pussy Riot case was turned in to a cause célèbre, or more accurately a liberal bandwagon, on which jumped not only journalists and writers but also major entertainment figures and musicians from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Paul McCartney. Some leftists have been so influenced by this coverage so as to believe that Pussy Riot are in fact revolutionaries of some kind, and that they deserve the utmost moral support of leftist activists around the world. It was at this point that I could no longer remain silent on the matter. Before the real left elevates these heroines to sainthood, a few facts need to be considered.

First of all, a disclaimer is in order. Some writers, many of which may never have visited Russia, have taken the government’s side in this matter for any number of reasons. I have no intention of defending the court’s decision and I can say that assuming my opinion on this even matters, I personally oppose it. While it is important to remember that those who engage in civil disobedience must accept the potential legal consequences of their actions, in this case the legal consequences should have been a fine ( fines for hooliganism run between about 1500-2500RUB, about $50 to just over $80, and at most fifteen days confinement).

I couldn’t care less that their actions were an offense to the Russian Orthodox Church, as I find the Church offensive. Atheistic Bolsheviks brought Russia kicking and screaming into the 20th century, even into space. By contrast, the Russian Orthodox Church is dragging the country back down into the mud from which it arose, poisoning the minds of the youth with hypocrisy, mysticism, superstition, and a false version of Russian history. Pussy Riot craved attention and by interfering in their case, the Russian Orthodox Church and quite possibly Putin himself ensured that they got it.

Despite all of this, however, I have no intention of venerating these “martyrs.” Aside from the fact that Pussy Riot should have known who they were dealing with and performed their actions voluntarily, thus tacitly accepting the consequences come what may, I simply do not see this group as being worthy of leftist solidarity, and many others would agree if they knew the truth surrounding the group. This is largely a distraction from far more important issues at hand, both inside and outside of Russia. Again, just to make this entirely clear, my target is not the band, but rather the bandwagon. Pussy Riot itself doesn’t matter, but the discussion and the questions their case raises do matter a lot.

Distortion of the Facts

We begin with a number of facts which, though seemingly trivial, are essential to forming a realistic opinion on the matter. From the various articles I’ve read, the members of Pussy Riot on trial supposedly charged with “blasphemy,” making statements against Putin, making statements against the church, and the like. In fact there is no such crime as “blasphemy” in the Russia.

The group’s statement was obviously anti-Putin, but they have on several occasions tried to claim that they meant no disrespect to the church, and their own explanation of the “prayer,” which we shall examine in detail later, seems to imply that they claim not to oppose Orthodox Christianity but rather the alleged co-opting of the church by Putin. Most annoying is the media’s constant use of the word “feminist” to describe the band. It is when we examine Pussy Riot’s version of feminism that we first start to see grave problems with the idea that leftists, much less revolutionaries, should support them.

You Call That Feminism?

Drowned out by the cacophony of support for Pussy Riot are the real feminists, some of whom have dared to question the feminist credentials of the punk group. Noting that the mainstream media generally treats feminism as a dirty word, some radical feminists have expressed very justified suspicion at the Western media’s sudden enthusiasm for identifying Pussy Riot as feminists. I cannot say that I have conducted deep investigation into the writings of the group members; I can at the moment only judge their feminist credentials by their past actions.

However, from what I have seen so far, the best evidence for those credentials consists of them apparently calling themselves feminists and occasionally singing lyrics such as “Virgin Mary become a feminist,” a line from their now famous “Punk Prayer.” But as always, actions speak louder than words, and the actions of some of Pussy Riot’s members easily drown out their claims of being feminists.

In 2008, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, her husband, and several other members of the “artist” collective known as “Voina” (War) engaged in group sex in the Timeryazev State museum of biology. Their claim was that this was a work of performance art against Dmitriy Medvedev, who became president of the Russian Federation that year. To those more versed in feminist politics, this orgy appeared more as a group of men using their female partners’ bodies as a prop in a disgusting display of male dominance. The photos of this performance, which are quite widespread throughout the Russian-speaking internet, could have easily been mistaken for run-of-the-mill internet porn. It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine feminists engaged in the manufacture of hardcore pornography. It’s also difficult to imagine that the women came up with this idea on their own; it’s far more likely their male partners had a hand in convincing them that this would be a work of art and a political statement.

Is this the goal of Russian feminism? To get more women to humiliate themselves publicly, after Russian women have already suffered more than twenty years of public humiliation and hyper-sexualization in their own society and abroad? Does this advance the dignity of Russian women or detract from it? Only someone totally disconnected from reality could agree with the former.

In an interview with Spiegel magazine dated 3 September, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova defended her actions in the museum.

SPIEGEL: Some see you as heroes, taking a creative approach to challenging Putin’s rigid political system. Others consider your actions tasteless. While pregnant, you took part completely naked in a group sex event at Moscow’s Biological Museum to mock the Kremlin’s desire to increase Russia’s birth rate.
Tolokonnikova: Everyone has his or her own taste. Our performances are modern art and only experts can assess whether what we do is tasteless. Anything else is simply the expression of subjective opinions.

The attitude of superiority, total disregard for others, and postmodernism is a matter which will be analyzed in depth later, as with many of the claims made in this same interview by Tolokonnikova. What is pertinent here is the total absence of juxtaposition between feminism and the actions of Voina. It should also be noted that this is by no means the only example demeaning, misogynistic “art” from Voina. In an infamous video an unidentified female member of Voina accompanied by her husband and young child shoplifted a frozen chicken from a St. Petersburg market by stuffing it into her own vagina. Outside the shop, Voina supporters cheered the performance. The name of this work of “art?” How To Snatch A Chicken: The Tale Of How One Cunt Fed The Whole Group. Feminism!

As if that weren’t enough, Voina initiated another “work” in 2011 entitled “Kiss Garbage,” garbage being the slang term for cops in Russian. However, this wasn’t directed against all cops, but rather specifically against policewomen. Female members of the group assaulted policewomen in metro stations and trains, kissing them unexpectedly. The incident was largely looked at as an innocent prank, but real life examples are rather disturbing to watch.

Once again, it is important to notice two features of this “protest.” Women were specifically targeted, and women were the ones carrying out the actions, risking arrest. For the men of Voina, women are clearly props to use in their “art” performances. They bear all the risk and consequences while the men brag about their courageous stunts.

All this may be confusing to radical feminists in the West, who may be understandably shocked and outraged at the idea of people promoting humiliation and violence against women calling themselves feminists. As someone living in Russia, it’s disturbing, but not exactly surprising. Since the fall of the U.S.S.R., Russia has experienced a large growth of movements inspired by the outside world, some positive, but many negative. Many of these movements appear somewhat like the cheap knockoff products one finds in the markets of China or many other parts of the world. The label says “feminism,” but the product contains male domination, humiliation of women, and misogynistic violence. In Russia it is common to see people who admire something in the west, appropriate the superficial trappings, and wear a label which doesn’t reflect the contents.

There is another aspect to all the talk of Pussy Riot’s feminism, which despite being overshadowed by the actions of the related Voina movement and their common members, is still worth mentioning. Pussy Riot’s claims about the ‘Punk Prayer’ still largely cast it as an action against Vladimir Putin. Nobody in their right mind would claim that Putin is a figure in the struggle for women’s rights, but on the other hand he and his regime haven’t really shown themselves to be crusaders against feminism. Tolokonnikova claims otherwise, in her interview with Spiegel.

“Russian women are caught somewhere between Western and Slavic stereotypes. Unfortunately, Russia is still dominated by the centuries-old image of the woman as keeper of the hearth, and of women raising children alone and without help from men. That image continues to be cultivated by the Russian Orthodox Church, which turns women into slaves, and Putin’s ideology of “sovereign democracy” aspires in the same direction. Both reject everything Western, including feminism. But Russia, too, had a tradition of a Western-style women’s liberation movement, which Stalin smothered. I hope it rises again — and that we can help that happen.”

Like many of her statements to Spiegel, this needs to be picked apart in detail. First off, while there is a stereotypical image of women in Russia, both inside and outside of the country, most Russian women do not aspire to be housewives. I can’t claim to be an expert on Russian media in the last twenty years, but I highly doubt that Russia has an equivalent to the decades of anti-feminist, pro-housewife propaganda carried out by the American media and well-documented by Susan Faludi in her book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women.

There is no doubt that the traditional image of Russian women that the Russian Orthodox Church promotes is patriarchal and negative, but what is the image that Pussy Riot and Voina give as an alternative? A woman, encouraged by her husband, shoves a chicken into her vagina while he records the whole thing on video? This is no alternative; in fact it is quite similar in every way to the other stereotype about Russian women, one held commonly outside of Russia, that they are amoral nymphomaniacs happy to play the role of a sex doll for any foreign man who comes along. What has Pussy Riot done to fight that image, I wonder?

On the question of Putin making women slaves, there is little evidence that he has “enslaved” women any more than men. The claim that Putin rejects everything “Western,” besides exposing a belief in the supremacy of the West, is patently false, and it is ridiculous to pretend that feminism somehow belongs to the West. Men of the West, bolstered by higher incomes, have provided an insatiable customer base for prostitution, both in their own countries and abroad. Many of these prostituted women come from Russia and the former U.S.S.R., which means prostitution and women trafficking ought to be a number one priority for any Russian citizen claiming to be a feminist or supporter of feminism.

In addition to the “enlightened” Western men who come to Russia and former Soviet countries on sex tours, thousands of these women have been imported to work in the brothels and massage parlors of those progressive Western nations which are so admired by Pussy Riot and their supporters. Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic are three countries which have legalized the sex trade. Many other nations are considering legalization or simply turn a blind eye.

And what of the state of feminism in the enlightened West? If we look to the United States, in particular, we can see over thirty years of repeated salvos against feminism in the media. The various controversies over birth control and abortion in the United States right now tell you how firmly entrenched feminism is in the West. One can go on the most lighthearted English-speaking forums frequented by young males and watch massive eruptions of misogynistic hatred when the word feminism or sexism is mentioned. As if that weren’t enough, a so-called “Men’s Rights” movement has arisen, preposterously portraying men as being oppressed.

Some Russians may be confused, noting that the motivation of many men who come to Russia or Ukraine seeking brides come with idiotic claims of abuse at the hands of American or Western women who are supposedly all feminists. The fact that so many Western men carry these ridiculous ideas ought to disprove the idea that feminism is a dominant idea in the West; if it were, more Western men would be embracing the term feminism, rather than running to Russia claiming that they are trying to escape the crushing dominance of women. In the United States at least, the media and political groups from all over the mainstream spectrum worked tirelessly to keep women subjugated and make them feel ashamed for having ever demanded equal rights. It has largely succeeded.

The claim that Stalin “smothered” Russia’s supposedly “Western-style” women’s movement is simply and ignorant lie, so that leaves us with the comment about the Russian Orthodox Church and its influence on women. While it is common for nearly every Russian one meets to claim the Orthodox faith, for most people it seems this means simply wearing a cross around one’s neck. Go into any Orthodox Church and the women you are most likely to see there (and it is mostly women from my experience) are elderly. This does not mean that the Russian Orthodox Church is harmless. It is certainly responsible for spreading all kinds of myths about Russian history which either apologize for or support the current regime. The Russian Orthodox Church definitely deserves criticism, but there’s just one problem with that. Pussy Riot’s jailed members can’t seem to decide whether or not they are criticizing the church.

Standing up to the Russian Orthodox Church…or Not?

Pussy Riot’s alleged opposition to the Russian Orthodox Church is rather ambiguous, possibly intentionally so. It seems that the group is happy to have some supporters think that they were criticizing the Church, while on the other hand letting other people believe that the “Punk Prayer” wasn’t an attack on the Church but rather a purely political protest against Putin. To examine the question of whether they deserve credit for standing up to this unbelievably corrupt institution, I shall first present some points made by Pussy Riot member and defendant Yekaterina Samutsevich in her closing statement to the court, and then compare them to some of Tolokonnikova’s subsequent statements in her Spiegel interview.

“The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].”

Here we see the clear manifestation of Pussy Riot’s on-again-off-again claim that the “Punk Prayer” wasn’t directed against the Church per se, but rather against the Russian Orthodox Church’s relationship with Putin’s regime. Here we have a bit of a problem, and once again we have to look to Russia political culture not often understood or even known in the West to understand what’s wrong with this statement.

The Russian Orthodox Church did not become corrupt with the rise of Putin, and certainly not with the rise of Patriarch Kirill. It has always been corrupt, since its resurgence in the early 1990’s. The reason for the association with Putin can be explained by a readily observable technique used by Russian liberals and Putin supporters alike. Put briefly so as not to digress to far, this technique involves severing Putin from the legacy of Boris Yeltsin, his predecessor. Putin supporters compare his regime with that of Yeltsin, while anti-Putin liberals frequently pretend as though problems which cropped up on Putin’s watch didn’t exist before 2000. The cozy relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state began with Yeltsin, not Putin.

In any case, Vladimir Putin was chosen by Yeltsin himself to be prime minister and thus succeed him as president, on the advice of gangster turned “Kremlin-opponent” Boris Berezovsky. Both sides in many debates would like to pretend this whole connection doesn’t exist, but the fact is that with no Yeltsin, there is no Putin. In any case, permission to rebuild the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was obtained by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990 from the Soviet government, with much of the construction occurring in the Yeltsin era. Thus the idea of Putin using the cathedral as some kind of symbol to bolster his power, or anything for that matter, is simply ridiculous. Moving on with Samutsevich’s statement:

“Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics?”

Again, one can reasonably infer that Orthodoxy is just the victim of the exploiter, Putin. Now we move on to a few key statements on this topic from Tolokonnikova’s interview:

SPIEGEL: Can you understand that many Russians feel their religious feelings have been hurt, when you perform a wild dance in front of a church altar?
Tolokonnikova: The video clip and the accompanying text, which describes the political motivations behind our performance, were hardly the kind of thing to hurt religious feelings. It’s the distorted picture presented in the state-run media that changed the situation, accusing us of religious hate. I’m sorry it has come to that. Ultimately, both we and our critics have become victims of Putin’s propaganda machine.

Here she clearly denies that this action was aimed against religion, and claims it was a politically motivated performance. In fact, since they were on trial for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” it’s a little difficult for supporters who claims they are not guilty to simultaneously claim that they were actually criticizing the church and religion. Samutsevich also said in her statement:

“In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to unite the visual imagery of Orthodox culture with that of protest culture, thus suggesting that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, and Putin, but that it could also ally itself with civic rebellion and the spirit of protest in Russia.”

So the “Punk Prayer” was aimed at uniting Orthodox believers with the “spirit of protest.” Not only does this call into question the idea that they were criticizing religion in Russia, but it also raises the question of how their actions affected the feelings of Orthodox believers. Lastly, let us turn back to Tolokonnikova’s interview for one more important point on this matter.

SPIEGEL: Do you welcome the fact that people in Russia are now toppling crosses, supposedly in a show of support for you?
Tolokonnikova: Definitely not. That’s not something we’re happy about. Pussy Riot has never acted against religion. It’s Putin’s ideologues who have stuck the label of religious hate on us. Our motivation was purely political.

Well there you have it, folks. They’ve never acted against religion. So please stop telling me how they’re standing up to the Russian Orthodox Church and its interference in the state; at best they’re making it seem as if the real crime is the state interfering in the church. Also, while I’m definitely not a supporter of cutting down crosses, I have to ask why not support it? Remember, as long as you claim something had a subversive political message, it can be revolutionary “art!” If having a public orgy in a museum can be a valid political statement that only “experts” are allowed to judge, what is wrong with chopping down crosses?

Contempt for Workers, Self-Righteousness, and Nihilism – the Antithesis of Capitalist Russian Society, or its Product?

Of the many passengers riding the crowded Pussy Riot bandwagon, many are self-identified leftists, including anarchists and self-proclaimed Marxists. Some express solidarity simply out of opposition to Putin’s regime, a position which is principled and respectable. Self-proclaimed Communists have lauded these three women despite their fawning references to the reactionary Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other anti-communist figures in their court statements. Indeed, the members of Pussy Riot themselves would like us to think they are revolutionaries. Again from the Spiegel interview:

SPIEGEL: What does Pussy Riot hope to achieve?
Tolokonnikova: A revolution in Russia.

What sort of revolution could they possibly hope to accomplish with random publicity stunts? Perhaps we will never know. From a worker’s perspective though, groups like Pussy Riot and Voina are hardly the types to lead a revolution of any sort. Again we must look to the actions of Voina, who on 1 May 2007, showed their solidarity with Russian workers by throwing live cats over the counter of a McDonalds restaurant. Many of my American readers have no doubt done their stint in fast food, if not McDonalds. I did myself, when I was in high school. As a fast food worker you have more than enough hassles without someone throwing live animals at you.

Incidentally, many of Voina’s members either don’t work, or are students. Some of them voluntarily choose to live a vagrant lifestyle, but nobody forced this upon them. Voina’s actions show not only contempt for women, but ordinary workers as well, and it is this same elitist, contemptuous attitude which is palpable in the statements of the members of Pussy Riot.

In reading the statements of the three defendants, one gets a very clear sense of their contempt for ordinary Russians as well as the liberal basis of their beliefs. There is a constant derision of “conformity” just as they are sure they are not conformist. In America we have seen what several decades of trying to escape “conformity” has led to. The struggle against this ill-defined conformity, far from being a subversive threat to the capitalist system, turned out to be a major boon to the market. These days it seems like everyone is a nonconformist, and each and every individual who proclaims themselves thus is sure that everyone else is a conformist sheep. Alyokhina lets her attitude slip in her final statement to the court.

“These people . . . this is yet another confirmation that people in our country have lost the sense that this country belongs to us, its citizens. They no longer have a sense of themselves as citizens. They have a sense of themselves simply as the automated masses. They don’t feel that the forest belongs to them, even the forest located right next to their houses. I doubt they even feel a sense of ownership over their own houses. Because if someone were to drive up to their porch with a bulldozer and tell them that they need to evacuate, that, “Excuse us, we’re going raze your house to make room for a bureaucrat’s residence,” these people would obediently collect their belongings, collect their bags, and go out on the street. And then stay there precisely until the regime tells them what they should do next. They are completely shapeless, it is very sad.”

Of course, it’s all the other Russians who are automatons.

And what of the “nonconformists” who see the actions of people like Pussy Riot or Voina as disgusting and worthless? Well let’s remember what Tolokonnikova had to say about that.

“Everyone has his or her own taste. Our performances are modern art and only experts can assess whether what we do is tasteless. Anything else is simply the expression of subjective opinions.”

Only “experts” get to judge!

Is it true that shocking acts of performance art can be used to grab attention and direct it toward political goals, as some leftists have claimed? Well let’s look to the words of one Voina member. “People watch us and are simply shocked.” Well, that sure gets people to think about politics doesn’t it? The fact is that propaganda is a two way street; there’s the message you are trying to send and the message the audience will infer. The most profound message, conveyed by seemingly irrational and ambiguous means, can turn out utterly worthless as it is lost on the audience.

If I were going to include in this article every quote from the defendants or their comrades in Voina which could serve as evidence that they are elitists, not revolutionary, and in some cases not even “leftist”, this text would go on for pages. To split the difference, I’ve included the sources of their statements to let the reader judge for his or herself. There remains, however, a point which must be made about the activities of these “revolutionaries,” and it is a point which requires the first-hand observation of post-Soviet Russian culture.

There are many different ideologies fighting for attention within modern Russia, but even casual observation of society and particularly young people reveals a very strong sense of nihilism. So many of Russia’s problems on nearly every level stem from a general condition of simply not giving a damn about anyone else. Both Voina and Pussy Riot represent not a form of resistance against that nihilism, but rather nihilism itself. They aren’t subverting the system because they are in fact nothing more than a by-product of that system. What right do such people have then to complain about corruption in Russia? If someone thinks it’s perfectly fine to have public sex in a public museum or throw cats at low-paid workers because they are a nonconformist, why get angry about another individual whose “tastes” and subjective opinions lead him or her to solicit and collect bribes and steal government property? If the “tastes” of Voina include humiliating women in public, who is to complain about the pimp and trafficker who do the same under the guise of a business? Put simply, Pussy Riot, Voina, and their ilk do not expose and condemn the extremely atomized, anti-social attitude that 20 years of post-Soviet kleptocracy have created, but rather they celebrate it. Who’s to say that a new regime run by people with similar thinking would be any better?

Conclusion

I began writing this article when the Pussy Riot verdict was still fresh in the news. It was late because, as a person living in Russia and wanting to give the reader the benefit of my experience, I deliberately held back my opinions until I could sufficiently observe the case. By the time you read this, the bandwagon will have gone over the hill and it is unlikely that Pussy Riot will be heard of anywhere outside of Russia barring some kind of new development in their case. Personally I hope they are freed or at least have their sentences drastically reduced so that life can return to what passes for normal. I hope that the lesson we as leftists take away from this whole episode is that we need to choose our struggles more carefully.

All this energy which was expended on Pussy Riot might have been better put to use for the sake of specialist Bradley Manning, who remains in confinement without having been brought to trial. This holds especially true for American activists. It’s easy to get caught up in the furor when the media starts banging their anti-Putin drum, but the reality is that Putin is and always has been a willing collaborator with capital. Also, we need to be careful with labels like “revolutionary,” “feminist,” and “resistance,” less we apply them to those who don’t deserve them. Next time the media bandwagon crests the hill, take a breath and try to get all the facts before going for a ride.

Putin woos Russia’s dirt poor with a pittance

https://www.newsweek.com/putin-woos-russias-dirt-poor-pittance-810311

The State Duma has unanimously moved to increase Russia’s minimum wage to bring it up to date with the minimum cost of living in Russia as calculated by the country’s statistics bureau.

The bill, long in the making, was spearheaded by President Vladimir Putin, who is seeking reelection to a fourth term in March.

The official subsistence minimum was about 11,000 rubles ($190) per month in 2017, while the minimum wage was 9,500 rubles (less than $140).

This inconspicuous piece of news speaks volumes about the state of Russia’s economy and the country’s politics. The country’s leading politician, who has no real competition, has asked his obedient parliament to increase an embarrassingly low minimum wage by a ridiculously low margin to reach a depressingly low subsistence level—and to speed up the change.

Yet the Kremlin considers the move generous enough to be heralded as politically important and showcased on national television.

Last month the minimum wage was established at the rate of 85 percent of the subsistence level, with a view to equalizing the two figures in January 2019. However, in one of his campaign speeches Putin suggested accelerating the process and making the minimum wage and the subsistence level equal by May 2018.

Since the early 2000s the Russian Labor Code has stipulated that that the minimum wage should not be lower than the subsistence level, a measure recommended by the International Labour Organization, a UN agency.

But even with periodic increases in the minimum wage, these two indicators have never matched. The need to raise the standard of living in Russia is obvious, but what we are seeing now is essentially a populist move that does not address the actual problem at hand.

Officials see Russia’s widespread poverty as a main obstacle to the country’s economic growth. The discrepancy between a minimum wage and the minimum income needed to survive is indicative of the kind of poverty Russia experiences. It is not the poverty of a country with high unemployment. Most Russians have jobs, but getting a job in Russia does not necessarily mean an escape from poverty: they are the “working poor.”

According to Vice Premier Olga Golodets, about five million working Russians are not paid enough to survive. The figure does not tell the full story because, as the officials themselves admit, it is impossible to survive on the survival minimum.

Low wages do not encourage businesses to introduce advanced technologies, which in turn keeps labor productivity stagnant. Why purchase an excavator if one can hire human laborers for less instead?

In 2016, the cost of one hour of labor in Russia was 2.6 euros, whereas in the EU it was 23.1 euros on average, with a maximum of 39 euros per hour in Sweden. Russian officials hope that raising the minimum wage will stimulate innovation and help get rid of low-productivity jobs.

Why raise it in such small increments, then? Why not double or even triple the minimum wage, up to 25,000 rubles per month, as suggested by Alexey Navalny, Russia’s opposition politician, who was not allowed to run in this year’s presidential election? No matter how tight the budget is, money somehow is always found to fulfill the president’s directives.

The reasons are not just economic. The minimum wage is an official measure that is used to monitor and regulate salaries all over Russia. The regional minimum wage by law cannot fall below its federal equivalent. This means that a sharp increase in the federal minimum wage would destroy businesses in economically weak regions. They would not be able to pay high wages to their workers and afford the social taxes that help fund social welfare programs.

Raising the minimum wage would impose an additional burden on regional budgets by increasing the wages of the state sector employees, which weak regions would not be able to meet either. That is why the federal minimum wage is always based on the wage level in the economically weakest regions.

Imperfection and weakness of labor enforcement institutions such as trade unions and courts make practical implementation of the minimum wage law incomplete and selective.

Moreover, the effect of the minimum wage increase will be nullified by the continuing prevalence of the informal economy, which according to various estimates ranges from 25 percent (Rosstat) to 44.8 percent (RANEPA) of the employed population of Russia.

According to experts from the Center for Labor Market Studies, each previous increase in minimum wage resulted in a further swelling of the informal sector; therefore, raising the minimum wage will most probably lead to the displacement of the working poor to the gray zone.

The discrepancy between minimum wage and minimum subsistence level points up the catastrophically low living standards of the working population and the inefficiency of labor market regulation in Russia. It is obvious that simply lifting the minimum wage without changing institutional conditions would not have any profound impact on the labor market or the economy.

A comprehensive reform of regulatory labor institutions is needed that should support a reasonable balance between maintaining the uniform rules of the game and taking into account the economic differences between regions.

The planned increase in the minimum wage will increase the salaries of several million public sector employees, a measure that Putin promised to introduce after he became president in 2012.

This will strengthen his reputation as a politician fulfilling his promises. The obvious paradox of the divergence of the minimum wage and the subsistence minimum makes statistical equalization of these indicators understandable for voters.

This will support the image of the president as a defender of the common people, though the 80 billion rubles that will be spent on the minimum wage increase can hardly be a good investment in the development of the Russian economy.

Instead it will be yet another investment of budgetary funds in Putin’s reelection efforts.