Category Archives: To Save Democracy

A Quaker Reconsiders His Peace Testimony

My fate was heavily shaped by a small card that came in the mail in late September 1965.

That card, and fate, are back on my mind now, 57 years later.

I was in Selma, Alabama when the card arrived, still working with the civil rights movement. A few weeks earlier the endurance, courage and determination of the Black people of Selma and many other places in the South had been vindicated by passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Bayard Rustin, a gay Black Quaker,and legendary civil rights activist.

Application of the act was just beginning. But after the nine long, tumultuous months of witness leading up to its enactment, full as they had been, my attention was turning elsewhere.

The bright sunlight of voting rights work was rapidly dimming under a deepening shadow that stretched more than 9000 miles, from Vietnam: the shadow of war.

Left to right: Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon Johnson, and defense Secretary Robert MacNamara; the men who took us into the big war in Vietnam.

Back in February 1965. as the Selma movement heating up with marches and mass arrests, fateful decisions were made in Washington that took America’s government away from a “war on poverty” to launch a massive escalation of conventional war in southeast Asia. Continue reading A Quaker Reconsiders His Peace Testimony

Flash: Russian News Protester Released: BBC

BBC: Marina Ovsyannikova: Russian journalist tells of 14-hour interrogation
15 March 2022

A Russian journalist has been fined and released after she protested against the war in Ukraine on a live TV news programme and made an anti-war video.
Marina Ovsyannikova, an editor at state-controlled Channel 1, was detained after she ran on to the set on Monday holding a sign saying “no war”.
She said she had been questioned for 14 hours and not slept for two days, and was not given access to legal help.
The 30,000 rouble (£214; $280) fine relates to her video message.

She had pleaded not guilty to the charge of organising an unauthorised public event.

In the video, she called on the Russian people to protest against the war, saying only they have the power to “stop all this madness”.
“Don’t be afraid of anything. They can’t imprison us all,” she said.
It is not clear if she will face separate charges relating to her protest on live TV, and there had been fears she would be prosecuted under a more serious, new criminal law that bans calling Russia’s military action in Ukraine an “invasion” or spreading “fake news” about the conflict.
After the court hearing Ms Ovsyannikova told reporters that she needed to rest after two days without sleep.
“The interrogation lasted for more than 14 hours, I wasn’t allowed to get in touch with my family or friends, I was denied access to a lawyer,” she said.
She also stressed that she came up with the idea of the protest alone.
“It was my anti-war decision. I made this decision by myself because I don’t like Russia starting this invasion. It was really terrible,” she said in English as she left the courthouse.
Lawyers were unable to locate Ms Ovsyannikova for several hours after she was detained on Monday evening.
Her whereabouts were unknown until an image circulated on Russian media showing Ms Ovsyannikova in court with lawyer Anton Gashinsky.
Marina Ovsyannikova appeared in court on Tuesday with lawyer Anton Gashinsky
‘They are lying to you’
Images of Ms Ovsyannikova’s protest were quickly shared across the world after she ran on to the set of one of Russia’s most-watched news programmes, Vremya, holding a sign reading “No war, stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.”
She could also be heard repeating the words “no war, stop the war”.
The placard was clearly visible for a few seconds before the programme cut away from the live broadcast to a pre-recorded report.
Before the incident she recorded a video in which she said she was ashamed to work for what she called Kremlin propaganda.
“I’m ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the television screen. Ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies,” she explained. “We just silently watched this inhumane regime.”

Ms Ovsyannikova, who said her father was Ukrainian, said the whole world had turned against Russia.

“The next 10 generations won’t be able to clean themselves from the shame of this fratricidal war.”
Ms Ovsyannikova’s colleagues at Channel 1 were reportedly surprised by her actions.
One told the Faridaily blog – run by former BBC Russian Service journalist Farida Rustamova – that Ms Ovsyannikova, who has two children, had never discussed politics, but spoke “mostly about children, dogs and the house”.
From the moment her identity became known, Ms Ovsyannikova received dozens of comments on her Facebook page in Ukrainian, Russian and English, thanking her for her actions.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky also praised her for “telling the truth”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France would launch an effort to offer her protection, either at the embassy or through asylum, and said he would discuss it in his next conversation with President Putin.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called her actions an act of “hooliganism”.
Russian television news has long been controlled by the Kremlin and independent viewpoints are rare on all the major channels.

Big News: Top Money-Launderer Deutsche Bank Ditches Russian Biz; More Oligarch Superyachts Seized

March 11, 2022
Reuters: Deutsche Bank to wind down in Russia, reversing course after backlash
By Tom Sims, John O’Donnell and Frank Siebelt

Deutsche CEO had said exit “would go against our values”

Investors criticised Deutsche’s Russia presence
CEO’s 2021 pay up 20%
FRANKFURT, March 11 (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), which faced stinging criticism from some investors and politicians for its ongoing ties to Russia, said on Friday in a surprise move that it would wind down its business in the country.

Deutsche joins the ranks of Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), which were the first major U.S. banks to exit after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Those moves put pressure on rivals to follow.

Deutsche had resisted pressure to sever ties, arguing that it needed to support multinational firms doing business in Russia.

But on Friday evening in Frankfurt, the bank suddenly reversed course.

“We are in the process of winding down our remaining business in Russia while we help our non-Russian multinational clients in reducing their operations,” the bank said.

“There won’t be any new business in Russia,” Deutsche said.

A day earlier, Deutsche Bank’s Chief Executive Christian Sewing explained to staff why the bank was not withdrawing.

“The answer is that this would go against our values,” he wrote. “We have clients who cannot exit Russia overnight.”

Bill Browder, an investor who has spent years campaigning to expose corruption in Russia, said that Deutsche Bank staying was “completely at odds with the international business community and will create backlash, lost reputation and business in the West.”

“I would be surprised if they are able to maintain this position as the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate,” Browder told Reuters earlier on Friday.

The criticism came as Russian forces bearing down on Kyiv were regrouping northwest of the Ukrainian capital and Britain said that Moscow could now be planning an assault on the city within days. Continue reading Big News: Top Money-Launderer Deutsche Bank Ditches Russian Biz; More Oligarch Superyachts Seized

Hat Trick

Well, I declare & knock me over with a feather: the Determined Retiree Himself, Garrison Keillor, has been jolted into joining the Ukraine Resistance. (At least, a column’s worth, which is a start.)

Garrison Keillor: Reality is a good antidote, America. Take a long hard look.

The Column: 03.09.22

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography,” said Mr. Twain, so now you sit in a New York apartment and try to reassemble your memory of Europe, where Germany and Poland are, and text with friends in Prague whose frightened little girls ask, “What is happening?”

We don’t know. In one week, we’ve been transported back to 1940, and our Europe of chic vacations and intellectual ferment is now the cauldron of wars that our grandparents fled.

My grandpa fled Glasgow, having five children and no wish to see the Great War up close, and my friend Bud Trillin’s people fled Ukraine for the reason Jews have been migrating for centuries. Chic had nothing to do with it, they were quite pleased to become Missourians.

Reality is a shock but it does make things more real. American military strategy goes out the window: how do you strategize against a schizoid dictator with an enormous nuclear arsenal and a compliant elite?

Rationalism is only an observation. The stone-faced Putin has invaded an independent nation, firing rockets at a nuclear reactor, women and children in Kyiv weeping as they board a train for Poland, looking at husbands and fathers they may never see again, thanks to the small man at the end of the forty-foot table who says he is conducting an anti-Nazi mission, a naked lie as naked as the belief that COVID is a hoax or Trump won the election.

The hero of the moment is Volodymyr Zelensky, the Jewish comic who is now the guerilla president of Ukraine, and as long as he keeps dancing and making video speeches to his people, Ukraine survives, and when a Russian kill squad finds him, Ukraine becomes a Soviet republic again.

Our country has no Zelensky, alas. Our clown was Trump, who now is exposed as a Putin stooge who tried to kill off NATO to fulfill Putin’s great wish and enable him to reassemble Stalin’s empire. I know a nice man who asks, “Why do you hate Trump?” and who blames it all on Obama and now Biden.

There are a hundred million nice people like him. Trump sold a bill of goods to the heartland and I pity that convoy of a thousand truckers in Baltimore, furious at the government about vaccine requirements even as the plague recedes, a protest without a purpose, just pure anger on eighteen wheels.

Putin sits in his palace, holding the power to destroy European civilization, and what did civilization ever do for him? Nothing, obviously. His man Trump recedes into his gilded cave, waiting for the next reel. He has a lot riding on the November election and it may not be helpful for Republicans to be seen supporting Putin while tanks roll through Ukrainian cities and rockets destroy apartment buildings and tiny children in ICUs are wrapped in blankets and moved to safety.

This war is in our computers and phones and on TV, if we have eyes and care to look, and it is a reality that makes the Florida Orange and Chinless Mitch and Caribbean Ted Cruz disappear.

I pray for my fellow Democrats to put a damper on their righteous narcissism and rediscover some seriousness about freedom and love of country. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said she liked the part of Biden’s speech about Ukraine but I wish she’d come right out and confess that she loves this country. What’s so hard about that?

Some dreadful political hacks go around with flag pins on their lapels but that’s no excuse for cynicism. It was abysmally stupid of her to pose for fashion pictures in Vanity Fair but I’ve forgiven her. Time for her to shape up now.

My generation was badly affected by the antiwar movement of the Sixties and the purity of the counterculture of dulcimers and organic granola and we got too good for our own good and lost touch with our people.

I am just an old evangelical unable to say obscene words with authority, but I do believe Ukraine can beat the Russian Army. Trump and Putin are from another solar system. One is a madman in Moscow and the other is rearranging his hair. God preserve the heroic comedian. A great deal is riding on this. Joe and I are old men. Who will be our Zelensky?


Cursing the Rainbow: Russian Orthodox Head Patriarch Names Gays as Cause of Ukraine War

Excerpts from “How the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a Putin enabler, spins the war.”
by CATHY YOUNG, at the Bulwark, MARCH 9, 2022
Blaming the Ukraine Invasion on … the Gays?

In the past ten days, plenty of rational-izations have been offered for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine—everything from “Russia needs a buffer state to keep NATO at a distance” (just about every Kremlin apologist) to “Russia is trying to ‘denazify’ Ukraine” (just about no one except Putin and his minions).

But in a Sunday sermon, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, offered a startling new explanation that is sure to resonate with the Sohrab Ahmari wing of the modern American right: It was to save Eastern Ukraine from the gays.

The patriarch—who, it should be noted, began his clerical career in the Soviet era when the church was a loyal handmaiden to the atheistic state and who was reportedly a KGB agent, like the rest of church hierarchy—summed up the situation as follows:

For eight years, there have been efforts to destroy what exists in the Donbas [a region of Ukraine where armed conflict has been ongoing between Russian occupation forces and Ukrainian defenders since 2014.] What exists in the [Russian-occupied parts of] Donbas is a rejection, a principled rejection of the so-called [pro-gay] values that are now being offered by those who lay claim to global domination. Today, there is a certain test for loyalty to that power, a certain pass into that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of illusory freedom.

Patriarch Kirill-Moscow

Do you know what that test is? It’s very simple but also horrific: it’s a gay parade. The demand to hold a gay parade is in fact a test for loyalty to that powerful world, and we know that if people or countries resist this demand, they are excluded from that world and treated as alien.”

Alternatively, one could say that “what exists in the Donbas” is an enclave ruled by armed gangs of separatists controlled by shadowy people with likely ties to the FSB, the Russian state security service. Freedom is nonexistent even by the standards of Putin’s Russia (Freedom House gives Eastern Donbas a “freedom rating” of 4 out of 100, ahead of only North Korea, Syria, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and South Sudan.

Human Rights Watch has reported that the Moscow-backed “armed groups” that rule the region frequently detain people on bogus charges of espionage or treason and that detainees, including pregnant women, have been “held incommunicado, in appalling conditions,” denied medical care, and in some cases tortured. Surely even religious believers who frown on gay pride parades should agree that kidnapping and torturing people is worse.

During his fifteen-minute sermon on the Eastern Orthodox holiday known as Forgiveness Sunday (the last day before Lent), the patriarch did not say a word about fellow Christians under fire in Ukraine outside Eastern Donbas. He did, however, returnmore than once to the evil of gay parades:

[Quote from Kirill’s sermon, by digital translation]:

There is a rejection in [Russian-occupied] Donbass, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power. Today there is such a test of loyalty to this power, a kind of pass to that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of visible “freedom”.

Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible — it’s a gay pride parade. The requirements for many to hold a gay pride parade are a test of loyalty to that
to the most powerful world; and we know that if people or countries reject these demands, they do not enter that world, they become strangers to it.”

The Patriarch recalled that homosexuality is condemned by the teachings of the Orthodox Church, thus it turns out that the special military operation that the Russian Federation has been conducting in Ukraine for the tenth day meets the interests of the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church]. “If humanity recognizes that sin is not a violation according to God’s law, if humanity agrees that sin is [merely] one of the variants of human behavior, then human civilization will end there. And gay pride parades . . . are called to demonstrate that [this gay] sin is [merely] one of the variations of human behavior. That’s why in order to enter the club of those countries, it is necessary to hold a gay parade.

Not to make a political statement “we are with you”, not to sign any agreements, but to hold a gay pride parade. And we know how [when] people resist these demands and how this resistance [is] suppressed by force. It means that we are talking about forcibly imposing a sin condemned by God’s law, which means forcibly imposing on people the denial of God and His truth” – that is, those with weapons in the hands of the opposing forces of the Russian Federation . . . .”

Young: [this sermon] made me think, too, of fairly common claims by pro-Kremlin conservatives in the United States that the real reason the libs hate Putin and Putin’s Russia is the [regime’s] homophobia. . . .

Were some Western progressives more incensed by Russia’s “gay propaganda” law than by the brutal suppression of peaceful protests, the crushing of the independent media, the election-rigging, and the rest of the Putin regime’s systematic assault on civil liberties? No doubt. But the Putin-loving “trads,” in Russia or in America—be it Patriarch Kirill, Pat Buchanan, Steve Bannon (who recently praised Putin on his podcast for not being “woke” and pointed out that “they don’t have the Pride flags” in Russia), . . . are at least as obsessed with the idea of the Putin regime as [their favored]  nemesis of LGBT rights.

The real irony, perhaps, is that [recent] Ukraine was not exactly San Francisco. The country still bans same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, and only about one in five people (similar to the numbers in Russia) believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

However, for all its problems, Ukraine is sufficiently hospitable to free expression that thousands of people have been able to march under rainbow flags year to year—in contrast to Russia, where attempts to hold such events have ended in violence from both police and anti-gay vigilantes.

One can debate whether the American liberals and progressives who have decisively won the culture war on gay rights are too intolerant toward people who still subscribe to traditional sexual morality, such as Christian bakers and florists who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. But the willingness of quite a few traditionalists to see brutal anti-gay repression as the silver lining of an authoritarian regime rather dramatically illustrates the ugliness at the heart of the “trad” mindset.

And Patriarch Kirill’s obscene wartime sermon shows us one place where this path leads: the place where the dreaded “gay parade” is a greater evil than a war of aggression.