It could happen.

          Is democracy a process or a purpose?  As a process, democracy is simply a set of rules by which decisions are made.  A traffic code of sorts which places no value on the outcome of its code: of where the traffic winds up. If the majority votes to ban flag-burning or gay marriage, so be it. Unless, of course, banning those activities proves to be unconstitutional (which has been the case so far, by the way).  As a purpose, democracy is a different animal. It assumes that there is moral capital on which it relies, and to ignore the essential rightness or wrongness of an issue – say, freedom of speech –  is to submit to the Tyranny of the Majority. The majority can vote that saying “poo-poo head” is to be prohibited, except that we’ve already established that saying whatever you want, even if it’s stupid or offensive is a moral imperative. So even if the majority wants it, we’ve already decided that they don’t know what’s good for them.

          Jeffersonian democracy had two advantages over the kind of “democracy” (I mean “plutocracy”, but I’m too polite to point that Continue reading

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Spinning!

          Ping pong, anyone? First it was the story of Pipelineistan and Nabucco, which bounced merrily into the whole Georgian fracas, which pinged attention to the a resurgent Russia and all of that, and now its ponged back to Nabucco, with the Hungarian Ambassador in charge of Nabucco dashing off to Turkey to do what he can to get his Nabucco co-conspirators to speed things up. They’re understandably anxious, since Nabucco depends at this point on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan line, which transverses Georgia. Should the Russians get antsy again, they could disrupt the flow, and then Europe would once again have its gas controlled by Russia. Fine, you say, but when did Hungary get into the act?

          The primary recipients of Nabucco gas haven’t been definitively enumerated yet, but at this point Hungary, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany and Turkey each hold a little over 16% each of the stake in the project, and Budapest is to host the January Continue reading

Hubris

 

 

          The volume of chest-thumping moxie pouring out of the Kremlin these days, swift and ebullient as a mountain stream, could choke a horse. President Medvedev, proud and provoked, labeled Georgia’s actions in South Ossetia a genocide – even though the death toll appears to be about 200 Ossetians – and declared independence for his Caucasian brethren.  As if he could.  His moral rectitude has metastasized to hubris. Until someone, anyone else agrees that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are sovereign nations, the Russians are occupiers.  Konstatin Zatulin, who is the Duma official in charge of former republics explained the Russian position thus: “The time when we needed Western applause is over.”  Prime Minister Putin said -perhaps presciently, perhaps prophetically- that Kosovo’s independence from Serbia was a precedent. Go figure.

          But when it comes to partitioning states, Moscow should be careful what it asks for, for it just might get it, and get it good and hard. Chechnya, after all, is right next door to Georgia, wants out of Continue reading

Whew.

           Whew. What a lot of hubbub in the Caucasus!  And the whirlwind amongst the geopolitical blowhards who are trying to figure it all out is such that it’s disturbing local weather patterns.  You know the scene:  a butterfly flaps its wings in the Caucasus, and spawns a tornado a half a world away.  What is becoming clear is that Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili (Misha to his friends) acted recklessly in the 7 August shelling of the South Ossetian capitol, Tskhinvali, theoretically in response to Russian troops moving through the Roki tunnel from North to South Ossetia and otherwise raising a ruckus.  He was reckless, but his recklessness was not a function of excess aggressiveness, it was because he fell into a Russian trap.  Russia had been conducting flyovers of the region, staged massive military maneuvers on the border and otherwise rattled sabers. That they could switch from “peacekeeping” to “ousting the aggressor” at the drop of a shapka ushanka (hat) is just too convenient for anyone to not be at least tempted to cry wolf (mixed metaphors, anyone?). Just like in Chechnya, only this time the Russians said they were doing just what Georgia said it was doing this time: restoring order within a sovereign state. Continue reading

sound bites

          “The aggressor has been punished” said Russian President Dimitri Medvedev of his decision to stop bombing Georgia.  It’s a statement which could have been uttered by any number of leaders, and once in a while it’s even true, though in this world it is aggression which is usually rewarded, while no good deed goes unpunished.  The veracity of the statement in any case, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.  But if the reports are true that Russian forces were deliberately trying to terrorize the civilian population inside and outside the breakaway regions of South Continue reading