Posts tagged ‘Soviet Union’

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

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01/20/2012

Republican Debate: S Carolina (1-19-12)

MILITARY: Paul, who served along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the 1960s when he was in the Air Force, would cut overseas military spending. He asked why we have troops in Korea, 59 years after the Korean War ended; or in Japan and Germany, 67 years since WWII. We subsidize those countries, he said. Why are we in Afghanistan now for 10 years, and fighting so many undeclared wars?  He argued it is making us bankrupt. Romney thinks we have an aging Navy and Air Force, and it is wrong to balance the budget on the back of the military. He wants a military so strong no one would even think of testing it.

VETERANS: Paul receives twice as much support from veterans than all the others combined, he said. Santorum would continue the multitude of veteran’s preferences.

SOVIET UNION: Gingrich harbors the delusional belief he and Reagan were somehow responsible for Gorbachev’s unilateral decision to dissolve the Soviet Union.

TRADE: Romney wants to crack down on China, since he thinks they cheat with unfair trade. Santorum was asked about Apple Computers, an American company with 40,000 employed here, and 500,000 in China. He would cut to zero corporate income taxes for companies who manufacture in the U.S. Paul tried to explain the consumer benefits from cheaper products made in China. He said a $100 computer instead of one $1,000 is a benefit, but the audience reaction fell flat. He mentioned foreign auto companies still make money assembling cars in America.

IMMIGRATION: Gingrich would control the border and if needed, move half of the 23,000 who work for Homeland Security to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. He would: 1) enforce English as an official language; 2) modernize visas; 3) make it easier to deport; 4) allow guest worker programs; 5) impose enormous sanctions against businesses that hire illegals; 6) have local boards review residency permit applications for those here 25 years; and 7) drop federal lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona. Romney said immigration is a simple matter of forcing employers to check a data base. Those illegally here need to go home, and apply for citizenship, like everyone else. No one should gain an advantage by coming here illegally. Santorum said if you want to become an American, the first thing you have to do is respect our laws. Someone who has been here 25 years, he said, has been breaking the law 25 years, and probably stole someone’s Social Security number. Paul does not believe those who hire should be forced to become policemen, as border guards and the federal government have that job. There should be no federal mandate that forces states to provide medical or educational needs, Paul said. Instead of protecting borders in Afghanistan, Paul said, we should use those resources at home.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Santorum wants capitalism that works for everybody, including working men and women. Gingrich argued Romney’s Bain Capital leveraged a company in South Carolina and left it with debt. Romney claimed he created 120,000 jobs at four places, and only 10,000 lost their jobs. He said a lot of people benefitted, as profits went to pension funds, charities, and a wide variety of institutions.

JOBS: Santorum wants a Republican Party that talks about putting back to work the men and women who built this country. Paul said the solution is for the government to get out of the way, by reducing regulations, and dropping taxes to zero. The country has to liquidate their debt, Paul said. Regarding jobs, Gingrich would repeal Dodd-Frank, as he thinks it is killing small banks. He would develop natural gas and overhaul the Corps of Engineers.

LABOR: Romney thinks Obama is stacking the NLRB with labor stooges. Santorum pledged to sign a national right-to-work law.

MANUFACTURING: Romney claimed GM was given to the UAW. Santorum noted manufacturing dropped from 21% to 9%, because it costs our companies, excluding labor, 20% more than our top nine trading partners, to do business in America.

ENERGY: Romney wants to use our resources to become energy secure. He complained the 500 million dollar solar energy loan to Solyndra was a waste, as Obama’s rejected the Keystone Pipeline.

ENTITLEMENTS: Santorum believes all Obama wants to do is give people food stamps and Medicaid. He heard Iowa was being fined, because they didn’t sign up enough people for Medicaid. Romney thinks Obama wants to create a European style social welfare state.

HEALTH CARE: Santorum claimed he consistently favored health savings accounts. He accused Romney of promoting a Mass plan, which was not based on the free market. Over half the new people buying health insurance in Mass, he said, were fully subsidized by the state. He also accused Gingrich of supporting an individual mandate for over 10 years, from the 1990s through 2008. As to Gingrich’s idea to make everyone post a $150,000 bond, if they did not buy insurance, Santorum asked how many in the audience could post $150,000. Romney said he would go for a complete repeal of Obamacare. People should be able to take their own insurance with them as they go from job to job, he said. He denied setting up a government-run health care system, since they bought insurance from private companies. He accused Obama of creating a 2,700 page, tax-increasing, Medicare-cutting, monster. He would return health care to the states, and get the government out of Medicaid. Gingrich said to repeal it, a Republican House and Senate must be elected. He claimed to have led the charge against Hillarycare and help write the Health Savings Accounts law. He admitted he was wrong for supporting a mandate. Paul, who apparently did not practice medicine in poor areas, thinks health care “worked rather well” before the government got involved in the 1960s with Medicare and Medicaid. He remembers a fictional world, where “there was nobody on the streets suffering with no medical care.” He accused Santorum of expanding government with the unfunded Prescription Drug law.

BUDGET: Gingrich erroneously took total credit for the 4 years when President Clinton and a Democratic majority in the Senate balanced the federal budget.

TAXES: Santorum would cut the corporate income tax rate to zero. Gingrich opposed President Bush Sr. when he raised taxes, despite a pledge not to do so.

TAX RETURNS: Gingrich put his 2011 tax returns online, showing he paid 31% of 3 million in income taxes. Romney said, over jeers, he would disclose his tax return for this year, when it is due in April, and probably for other years too. He thinks disclose would only serve the purpose of allowing people to attack his financial success. He lied as he added: “I didn’t inherit money from my parents.” He claimed he pays a lot in taxes. When he was asked if he would follow his father’s lead in 1967 and release 12 years of tax returns, because only one year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show., Mitt said just “maybe” and “I don’t know how many years I’ll release.” As the audience jeered him, he then said he would release “multiple” years. Santorum, whose tax rate is higher than Romney’s 15%, said he keeps his records on his laptop, and would release them when he gets home. Paul said he would be embarrassed to disclose his tax returns, because they show so little, but added Congressional financial statements show everything a person might need to know, and he has no conflicts of interest, since he doesn’t even talk to lobbyists.

FREE SPEECH: A question arose regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act, which pits anti-censorship groups against those who say movies and other property are being pirated. Gingrich said the degree of pre-emptive censorship in the law is unacceptable. He though people could use Copyright and Patent protections to sue infringers. Romney argued we should more narrowly go after offshore pirates. Paul said Republicans have been on the wrong side of this issue, as he joined Democrats to oppose it. Santorum opposed the law, but added the Internet is not a zone where people can trample on the rights of others, as property must be respected.

MARRIAGE: The hypocrite Gingrich, who went after President Clinton with a vengeance when he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, was appalled, as he denounced the media for having the audacity to ask him questions about his affair, while married to his second wife. He described it as a vicious attack of the sort that makes it hard to find descent people to run for public office, and harder still to govern. He then distracted everyone by coming up with the preposterous diversion that he was tired of the media protecting Obama by attacking Republicans.

ABORTION: Romney said he was pro-life, and it was the Mass Supreme Court that made abortion available under his health care law. Planned Parenthood was not mentioned in his law, he said. Gingrich claimed a pro-life voting record of 98.6%. Dr. Paul was taught pregnant women are two patients. Santorum said Paul’s right to life record was only 50%. Paul said abortion should be handled by states, where murder and violent crimes are dealt with.

07/28/2011

Ask Eisenhower Re Budget, Not Reagan

One of those free copies of the right-wing USA Today was laying around the hotel lobby, and since I had a minute, I glanced at the opinion page, where the editor asked “What Would Reagan Do?” regarding the Debt Limit. I kind of chuckled, because the borrow-and-spend policies of the past 30 years started under Reagan, and he would be the last person we should ask for advice.

If Republicans wanted a true fiscal model, they should instead ask: What Would Eisenhower Do?” The General was the last Republican to deal honestly with balanced budgets. He knew enough about military spending from his service to warn the nation, as he left office, against the Military-Industrial-Complex.

President Reagan on the other hand, raised the Debt Ceiling 18 times, and just used his Hollywood credit card to keep borrowing. He cut corporate income taxes, but increased Social Security taxes on ordinary workers. His misguided borrow-and-spend policies predictably increased the National Debt threefold over eight years.

Reagan’s apologists now re-write history, as they defend his borrow-and-spend military programs by suggesting they somehow ended the Cold War. The truth is one man ended the Cold War, and his name was not Reagan, it was Mikhail Gorbachev. After Gorbachev wisely withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, he advocated reform by promoting glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Once Reagan was out of office, and no longer a threat to the Russian people, Gorbachev conducted open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. Gorbachev’s policies allowed for a Soviet dissolution in 1991. Reagan’s out-of-control military spending had nothing to do with it.

The bottom line is for the past 30 years, the U.S. has been in a borrow-and-spend mode. Since major sources of tax revenues were given away by Reagan, Bush, and Bush Jr., the government does not have enough money. In the Eisenhower days of the 1950s, there had to be tax revenues, before any spending took place, and yes, that included military budgets for wars, like the ones Bush Jr. started in Afghanistan and Iraq. Eisenhower would have raised taxes to pay for those wars. The Republicans of today would be wise to use Ike’s approach as their model for governing.