By Nicki Kenyon

When I was a kid, my dream was to be an astronaut and be the first woman on the moon. It didn’t matter to me that I was a Jew in the Soviet Union, and Jews in the Soviet Union just didn’t achieve such heights. I didn’t care that my birth certificate duly noted my Jewishness, and every potential employer would see that both my parents were Jews, thereby limiting my career options. I wanted to go to the moon.

Inspired by one of the books I’d read by Soviet children’s author Nikolay Nosov entitled “Neznayka na Lune” or “KnowNothing on the Moon,” I had decided that this was an adventure I wanted for myself! After all, the novel explored friendship, devotion to one’s mates, the benefits of living together in harmony in communes, and sharing everything you have with your closest comrades. Everyone was equal, despite their abilities – or lack thereof. What’s not to love, right?

It’s only now, when I look back on the story, I realize that it and others like it, were part of a pretty elaborate brainwashing campaign that for most Soviet kids began in kindergarten and continued through adulthood.

Neznayka is a tiny little person who lives in a commune of tiny little people (I now see them almost like the Smurfs) in a “city” amongst regular-sized plants, fruits, and vegetables. If you imagine the Smurfs living in mushroom houses, that’s pretty comparable. Each member of the commune has his or her own function. Neznayka or KnowNothing is basically the village idiot, Znayka (from the Russian znat’ or to know) is the town brain and leader, and Vintik (small bolt) is the town mechanic. There’s a doctor, a builder, an artist, and the town grouch (think: Grouchy Smurf), among others. Everyone in their city has a function. Everyone is equal. Everyone has their function in this happy society. Take note, social justice warriors: IT’S A FAIRY TALE!

Neznayka became an iconic figure in the USSR, and Nosov was one of those didactic children’s authors, who pushed the communist ideology into kids’ malleable minds from a very young age by making the concepts fun and appealing. I was one of those kids. Thanks, in part, to Nosov’s story about Neznayka accidentally launching a rocket to the moon, stranding him and his buddy Ponchik (little fat dude, whose name literally means “donut”), in an evil capitalist society that existed in the moon’s core.

And by evil, I mean EVIL!

The moon society is a corrupt capitalistic state, controlled by millionaires, who own and control all means of production, while squandering their earnings on frivolities. Everyday little guys struggle to survive, while being exploited by the evil factory owners and the corrupt, violent police.

Neznayka meets a couple of street thugs, along with a naive, innocent gentle, worker type named Kozlik (little goat, which is generally reserved for someone stupid… I see what you did there!) He tries to start his own business of growing giant (normal sized for earth) fruits and vegetables, like his commune enjoyed on earth, and his enterprise starts to enjoy some success. But the evil capitalist businessmen cannot allow his business to succeed, because it might cut into their profits, and pay off the thuglings to steal all the money from the business.

BOOM! Done!

Nezkayka and Kozlik are poor again – so poor, that they have nowhere to live. They get nabbed by the corrupt police for being indigent and sent to an island that feeds, clothes, and cares for its inhabitants at first, allowing them to get fat, dumb, and happy, but then gradually turns them into sheep for this evil capitalist society to sheer!

Get it?

This and other Nosov stories promoted the ideals of communism in a fun, innocent childlike sort of way, while condemning the evils and excesses of the West at a time when information was heavily censored, and the Iron Curtain prevented even a glimpse into the world outside the grey, heavy, destitute existence in the Soviet Union. We all thought we were happy and patriotic, because we didn’t know any better.

My parents somewhere have old black and white photos of me, reciting a patriotic poem at a kindergarten ceremony with a huge portrait of Lenin, covered in flowers, behind me. The only acceptable game outdoors was “Reds versus Whites” – a tribute to the great Communist (red) defeat over the Germans in World War II (the whites) – and violent war games were the norm. Even though, I was never allowed to play with the other kids, because I was a Jew, I watched them as they chased each other around the playground, built forts, and beat the snot out of the enemy whites.

Today, I often wonder if they realized that by intentionally excluding the Jew and beating and abusing her on a daily basis, they were imitating the hated World War II German “whites.” I wonder if they remember those days. I know I do.

In first grade, one of the first questions the teacher asked the class was, “What is the greatest country in the world?” The correct answer, and the only one that was acceptable, was, “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”

Embedded in my math book were pearls of drooling adulation about the glory of all the bales of hay an agricultural commune could gather for the fall harvest, and how the hardworking, well-managed Soviet states could produce X more tractors than the capitalist one.

We were taught on a daily basis that becoming part of the Communist party was the greatest honor you could hope to achieve. When we were issued little red star pins with depictions of Lenin in the middle, I wore mine proudly on my school uniform – a splash of red on an otherwise all black or all brown field of drab, scratchy fabric. We were Oktyabryata – “little Octobrists” in honor of the October Revolution. We were so proud to wear those stars, that when one boy – a Jew, incidentally – dropped his star on the floor, he was beaten bloody by several of our classmates. We looked forward to getting our red neckerchiefs in a couple of years and becoming Pioneers – the precursor to the Komsomol (Communist Youth Union).

All this was normal.

After years of indoctrination with no access to outside information, everything was normal.

Wiping with pieces of newspaper, because there was no toilet paper? Normal.

Taking a bath in dirty water that your parents brought in buckets from the machine factory across the street, heated, and poured into a bathtub, after all other members of the family “bathed” in it? Normal.

Sharing your one-bedroom apartment with another three-four person family, sleeping on the floor, or on a makeshift bed in what used to be a living room? Normal.

Getting your tonsils removed without anesthesia while you were tied to a chair with a sheet, gagging on bloody chunks of flesh as the doctor cut them out of your throat with scissors, and hearing them plop juicily into a kidney dish she held under your chin? Normal. Too bad the anesthesia didn’t take. You got your share.

Getting beaten up by your classmates on a regular basis for being a Jew? Normal.

Eating rancid soup, throwing it up, because your stomach couldn’t take it, and then hurriedly slurping up the vomit for fear that your mom would scold you for wasting food? Yeah… you guessed it. Normal.

We never thought to question it. We never considered that there was a brighter future somewhere out there. We never imagined that there were shoes that didn’t fall apart after a month, dresses that weren’t a drab brown or grey, or store shelves full of food somewhere out there. We never knew. We lived our normal, and we were brainwashed into believing it was glorious and honorable, because we all lived that normal together.

Even when my parents and I escaped the Soviets and wound up in Ladispoli, Italy for a while…

Even when I saw that a store had food, that we could live in an apartment that had running water and electricity, and that we could wipe with toilet paper…

I still went outside to play one sunny day, and upon finding crude swastika graffiti scrawled on a stone wall, I grabbed some chalk, coal, or something similar from the ground (can’t remember what it was now), and assiduously worked to cross out the swastikas and draw big Soviet stars in their place!

When I grew up a bit, I realized that I was merely replacing one symbol of tyranny with another, but back then, it didn’t occur to me.

Now, I wasn’t a dumb kid. I thought things through. I started reading books when I was three years old, and newspapers by the time I was five. But I got sucked in – by Soviet literature, by Soviet culture, by Soviet media, Soviet books, Soviet newspapers, and Soviet school pressure. One of the first novels I’d ever read was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in Russian. It sure painted America as a scary place, where people were bought, sold, and beaten. I’d read Bradbury’s short story, “The Other Foot” in Russian, and I was terrified of the discrimination it described, as it reminded me of my own experiences. I didn’t consider that those experiences reflected badly on my “great” nation, and that it was there – in the USSR – that I was abused, discriminated against, and lacking in basic necessities.

That’s how you create a nation of zombies, who abide by every assertion of said nation’s greatness despite all the evidence to the contrary.

That’s how you build a compliant hive of senseless automatons, who mindlessly repeat declarations of Soviet greatness, even as they observe empty store shelves and a lack of basic staples of life.

That’s how you produce a country of unquestioning, loyal patriots to whom living without joy, without access to information, and without the ability to challenge authority is a normal way of life.

You develop patriotic, nationalist pride in the citizenry from a young age. You condition people to accept privations for the sake of their great nation. You convince them that suffering is virtue – especially suffering for the great ideal that is communism. You tell them that alone they are nothing, and that collectively, they are part of a great whole, and you develop, nurture, and encourage those tendencies, without allowing any shred of light to penetrate that cocoon of shared misery you’ve created. You persuade them that shared wretchedness brings you closer together, and the closer together you are, the stronger you are – for the glory of the nation.

Why do you think that Vladimir Putin enjoys such high approval ratings, even as he has tanked Russia’s economy, burned food imports in front of the starving people, and stole state assets to make himself one of the richest men alive?

Why do you think he and his closest oligarch buddies live like royalty, while regular Russians starve and sing his praises?

Putin has awakened a sense of national pride in the people. They once again believe that the more you suffer, the stronger you are, and that Putin is bringing back the glory of Russia.

Russia is once again a nation of drones, and I’m so glad I escaped!

396 thoughts on “A NATION OF DRONES By Nicki Kenyon

  1. Wow. I’d love this post to be a school reading assignment. Well done. It should not be forgotten, and yes, there are those trying to do the same now in other countries. Drones who believe… And drone-masters who plan to use that belief (or would-be drone-masters – who believe, wrongly, they’ll be on top)

    1. “Wow. I’d love this post to be a school reading assignment.”

      What, and risk countering the glorious future of socialism? You dirty badthinker!

      (Apply sarcasm where appropriate. 😛 )

      1. shortly after the fall of the USSR my younger nephew was playing on my younger son’s at the time GROSSLY overpowered computer. (Dan worked for a tech company that had “upgraded” after six months or so and instead of paying the recycling fees offered the computers to employees for like $50 a piece. My computer was falling apart and was effectively the “house computer.” So we bought four and each of the kids got one. He was talking about how ridiculously overpowered the computer was for a three year old and I said “Yep, scientists in Russia right now would kill for this” My nephew looks scathing and informs me that the USSR always had access to the same tech at the same price as the US. I told him he was a f*cking moron, because I’m that kind of sympathetic aunt. BUT this was what they learned IN PORTUGAL.

        1. I worked with a Russian jew who bailed out of the USSR in 1981. He told me he was in awe of the tools western engineers, especially Americans, had for personal use. He worked for the state enterprise as a steam turbine engineer and they still used slide rules. Computer time was strictly limited and had to be approved by the political officer in addition to his boss. The slide rule calculators in common use back in the stone age were completely unknown in the USSR. He moved to West Germany and went to work for Kraftwerk Union, and they gave him a TI-59 the first day. Then when he learned about all the options available for him to buy for it, he was even more amazed.

            1. One of the very interesting things about the Soviet Navy was jobs routinely done by enlisted men in the US (and most western) Navy such as maintenance were done by officers. I’d never given it much thought figuring it was an education issue but under that education issue is probably the same control issue that banned copiers and required political approval for computer time. Too many enlisted men (given they were a conscript military) with real skills would create too many possible opponents of the state.

              1. Soviet Navy conscripts served 3 year hitches, and I’m not finding anything definitive on whether they actually got any formal basic training at all before reporting to their duty station*, so a major chunk of that time was OJT for clueless untrained 18 year olds, combined with violent hazing by the more-senior cohorts of conscripts. By the third year they were finally becoming not useless, so naturally at that point they all went home.

                In that environment, if you were the CO, who would you have turning wrenches on anything important?

                * Red Army conscripts with 2 year service commitments did not get any basic training outside of the pre-service training all males received in school – on conscription they were transported directly in to their service unit, where they stayed for 2 years

                1. Well, with all due respect to the Red Army how much training does it take to catch a bullet while using mass numbers to reach an objective?

                  1. Well, ask the Soviets how those “we don’t need no stinking basic training” conscripts worked out in Afghanistan when they were sent in. Or Chechnya the first time.

                    And I remember the whole “The Red Army is Nine Feet Tall, their Military Hardware is Incredible, and Their Numbers and Superior Fighting Spirit Will Bury Our Puny Undertrained Military! Might As Well Give Up Now!!” crap that came across in the 70s and 80s, right up until it all collapsed.

                    First a defector came across with the uber-plane Mig-25, and it turned out that, while clever in some aspects, it was really not so good after all. Then the wall fell and the USSR collapsed, and you could buy front line T-72 tanks from the stranded garrisons in the eastern block for a few cases of booze, and the wholesale disaster of the mess the Soviets had left everywhere they ran things became obvious. Once the west got a good look at things (I read a story about one of the disarmament observers observing the “deactivation” of a Soviet ICBM silo in Russia – they rolled back the launch hatch ad the thing was flooded up to the top, right over the missile inside; It never could have been launched. The Russian escort officer just smirked.) we realized what a snow job the Soviet propaganda arms had put over on the west, with the cooperation of western media.

                    So I take anything from that part of the world (or anywhere else under similar totalitarian systems) with gigantic grains of salt.

                    And also note the current Russian Federation service term for Army conscripts is one year. Talk about cannon fodder.

                2. “Red Army conscripts with 2 year service commitments did not get any basic training outside of the pre-service training all males received in school”

                  Not true. For more technically-intensive MOS-es – like drivers, maintenance personnel, radio operators, – there was a 6-months long course done by specialized training units, which then sent their graduates to the line units to serve out the remaining 1.5 years. The less technical MOS-es were often trained by the line units themselves – but even there were segregated for training for the first several months.

                  The same, of course, goes for the Navy: nobody in USSR got drafted and sent immediately to serve on a ship, with zero preliminary training.

              2. Tom Clancy mentioned that in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. The captain and his exec were mildly shocked to learn the Dallas’ sonar operators were enlisted.

                Captain Ramius had tried to push for extended terms for enlisted men so they could learn their jobs. It was one of the few black marks the political officers had had against him–before he absconded with their most advanced submarine. (He’d gotten VERY good at hiding his feelings…)

            2. Well, part of that was that it was too difficult to replace them. Many entreprises in the USSR made their own tools because it was too difficult to get them, and at the quality required.

        2. During our “friendship” phase of cooperation with Russia just prior to ISS going operational we had a US astronaut and some experiments on Mir. Main payload ground control in Moscow, secondary at JSC. After the folks at Johnson finally admitted they didn’t have the expertise to do payload ops Marshall was brought in as support. We got an oversized broom closet and mostly commercial Mac computers. Spent all our time planning and replanning operations that never actually happened for a lack of either power, crew time, or both as that was after the oops that vented one of the modules. Our COTS hardware was faster and less vulnerable to virii than either the Russians or our JSC counterparts. One of the reasons I’m still a devoted Mac user.
          When the Russian control center migrated to participation on ISS after Mir was deorbited NASA provided all new computer tech for them at our expense. Once operational the Russian Space Agency regularly billed us for the technicians to run that equipment. Funny how quickly hard core communists will embrace rampant capitalism.

    2. Truly, it should be required reading in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and before you’re allowed to vote in a general election.

    3. Admittedly, there is a great comfort in the life of a drone, never having to think an independent thought, resting in the ooze of the swamp of human existence:

      Sing out for the swamp and sing out for the ooze
      the life of the drone is the life you should choose
      sing out for the mud and sing out for the bone
      it’s ever so jolly just being a drone

      drone drone drone
      drone drone drone

      We love the old mud hole, we sit and we soak,
      The feeling’s so good that we’ve just gotta croak,
      The muck and the mire, the slush and the slime,
      The life of a drone is a wonderful time

      Time, time, time
      Time, time, time

      it’s ever so jolly just being a drone

      drone drone drone
      drone drone drone

      it’s ever so jolly just being a drone

      Oh, what can compare
      with a day in the swamp?
      the snakes and the spiders
      the cold and the damp (the damp)

      we’re fond of the pond
      be it eptide or flood
      I love the old swamp
      cause there’s mud in my blood

      mud mud mud
      mud mud mud

      [repeat first verse, end with]
      it’s ever so jolly
      it’s ever so jolly
      it’s ever so jolly
      just being a droooooooooooooone!

  2. Communisms biggest supporters are people who’ve never had to live under it.

    Thanks for sharing this, Nicki.

    1. Worse still – they live in considerable comfort and riches in the West … and still sing the praises of Communism … for other people, of course.


    2. There’s always Scalzi and Phildo saying that if you think communism is the worst possible thing to live under you’re stupid. I guess we have to bow to their massive genius.

          1. Yeah, it wouldn’t be right for them to seize the joys of Communism for themselves while the rest of us are denied the opportunity!

      1. Actually, I can prove their statement:

        1. Any communist revolution would liquidate people like Scalzi first thing (useful idiots go first) and thus live under communism is not live under the rule of Scalzi.

        2. Scalzi would make the commissars look competent.

        3. Life under Scalzi is worse than communism.

        Ergo, communism is not the worst possible thing to live under.

        1. I dispute your proof. Scalzi, if incompetent, will fail to make the people as miserable as possible. So, just as the Tzars were preferable to Stalin (who was more efficient), Scalzi would be (marginally) preferable to Communism.

          Never forget: An efficient government is an authentic menace.

          1. I dispute your assertion of Scalzi’s failure to make people in miserable.

            In Scalzia you are only allowed to read Redshirts fanfic. What could make you more miserable than that?

            1. My point being that Scalzi would be unable to prevent anyone from reading what they goddamn please. It wouldn’t even be as risky as Samizdat under the USSR. Oh, if he could effectively enforce his edicts, people would be more miserable.

              1. Scalzi’s regime would be so incompetent as to produce complete economic collapse and the disappearance of all things to read and all means of acquiring them.

                Our antediluvian ancestors had precious little opportunity for reading, and Scalzi policies would likely deliver us there in a generation. Gross incompetence has a quality of its own.

                    1. Heh. What you don’t realize is that you have explained why Scalzi’s originally promising stories have gotten worse and worse over time: He made the decision to make Soviet art.

          2. Irregardless of the salience of the argumentum ad Scalzi, it is certainly possible to imagine worse polities than Communism under which to live.

            Not much worse, perhaps, but there were the satraps of ancient Persia and their modern equivalents), the tyrants of medieval Europe, the Pharaohs of Egypt and various others of the Ancien Régime preceding free market capitalism.

            In fact, pretty much all of the alternatives to modern republican democracies based on free exchange are sufficiently adverse in comparison as to vitiate any distinctions between them.

            1. How much of that can be blamed on the government? A republican democracy in the absence of modern plumbing, agriculture, and various other things would be a pretty miserable place.

              1. A great deal, actually. in October/November 1917, both the US and Soviet Union were not unalike technology-wise. In that year my grandfathers hitched up mules to plow the field and my grandmothers drew water for the house and cooked on a wood stove. In 1957, my grandfather and parents plowed with a tractor; one grandmother had indoor plumbing; and my parents had both a tractor and indoor plumbing. Care to guess what life was like in the “Worker’s Paradise” once you got out of the cities?

                The huge difference is that in the United States there was the potential to have indoor plumbing and every farmer a tractor while state controlled systems limited potential as seen fit by central planning. Curiously enough, dachas had a higher priority.

                The ironic thing is that for a long time Stalin had US advocates hoodwinked on the tractor thing. All but one in a delegation from the US was impressed that the Soviet collectives had a tractor. Only one realized they were being kept on a rigid tour and asked himself why. The US delegation was well aware that the average US farmer used animal power to plow the fields because he could not afford a tractor. If you pick up some of the “progressive” writings of the day, you can find it bemoaned that the US didn’t have similar farming collectives, because to the writers it looked like a real solution to the mechanization issue. The spoken idea was that a collective could afford shared equipment; the unspoken assumption was that the government would give these collectives what they needed.

                That worked so well in the Soviet Union that they bought wheat from the US. One problem with this model is one that the Pilgrims encountered with the Common House: If you receive a set amount regardless of your effort, most are only going to put forth the minimum required effort. The US during the FDR years would try some farming collectives, which the farmers enjoyed so much that they did their utmost to buy their own land and get off it. One of them was my wife’s mother’s parents.

                Another problem is that is all your equipment is provided by a central authority, you can only have what central authority thinks is necessary to do what they want. And if the central authority isn’t farmers and has no real interest in the outcome, what you get to work with is going to reflect this.

                The end result was Soviet cooperatives where the tractors might work or they might not. Meanwhile, in the US, thanks to uncapped potential, a farmer was restricted to what he could afford, By the post-war years farmers found they could now own those tractors, And now the average farm tractor is larger than what we used on our farm.

                1. “Care to guess what life was like in the “Worker’s Paradise” once you got out of the cities?”

                  Not just “was”. Still is, for that matter. In a late-1980’s USSR places with ‘plumbing’ consisting of an outhouse in the backyard and a communal water pump in the street, serving several houses, could be found right on the outskirts of Moscow. And right in the ‘downtowns’ (for values of the term) of some fairly large cities – like Tula, where I saw them with my own eyes.

                  If you traveled more – finding places where people still lived in houses with ‘floors’ of packed dirt wasn’t all that difficult, either.

                  To this day, more than half of Russian population lives in places that don’t even have _gas_. That – in a country that is one of the largest natural gas exporters in the world. And indoor plumbing is nearly as rare today (outside of the large cities) as it used to be 30 years ago.

                2. Err, does this have something to do with the ” satraps of ancient Persia and their modern equivalents), the tyrants of medieval Europe, the Pharaohs of Egypt and various others of the Ancien Régime preceding free market capitalism.” that were being presented as worse than the USSR?

      2. Communism probably isn’t the *worst* possible thing to live under… Living under a rock comes to mind. At first, I was considering anarchy; however, it would probably be a little better than communism as the abuse would be more random and chaotic.

              1. Some of the Fascists were at least snazzier dressers. Beyond that… err, having trouble of thinking of much difference. How our Left reacts to each label, I suppose.

            1. Well, under communism you ALSO have to learn to march in the goose step (and in post-communism as well):

                1. Prussian military tradition, imparted by Prussian trainers who hired out to train foreign militaries all over the world. The Russians adopted the goose step marching style before the revolution when the Tsars hired in some Prussians, and the Chinese picked it up in the 1920s, again from German military trainers who contracted there after WWI. The Russian tradition was retained by the Soviets, who then trained all their clients to use it through 1991, which is why you get it in the weirdest places as a parade step.

              1. Goosestepping with a Mosin-Nagant. You know I just realized, most communist technology sucks, but communism does manage to produce remarkably reliable firearms*. Since everything is approved by the government, which generally distrusts odds/innovators, this really says something about where said governments priorities lay. As in which innovators they will make an exception to and tolerate, possibly even treat as a favored pet.

                *Yes, I know the Nagant was introduced prior to communism, but it brought to mind the many Kalashnikov variants, which were introduced under communist rule.

        1. Actually, when Somalia’s socialist government collapsed, leaving it stateless, life improved by many measures.

          1. Depends where you are in Somalia – up north they have a couple rump states up and running, and things are very much less bad than they were under the previous idiots, Down south, not so much.

      3. Depends on which form of Communism we’re talking about. If we’re talking about the modern ChiComs or Hungary during the Kadar era, it’s probably not the WORST thing you could live under. It’s not good by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some opportunities, and if you don’t do anything to attract attention from the higher-ups, you probably won’t be randomly dragged out of your home in the night and murdered. It would probably be an improvement on being a slave in the antebellum South or a Jew in Nazi Germany, at any rate.

        If we’re talking about something like North Korea or Cultural Revolution-era China, however, then yeah, I think we’re pretty close to the worst humanity has to offer. I’m not sure there’s a great deal of difference between being a slave and being a “citizen” of North Korea, except that the slave was probably fed better.

        1. IMO you are a slave in any Communist State, you may be a “well-treated” slave but you are still a slave.

          1. Sometimes the collar is more comfortable. It’s shiny. It has little red stars on it. All the cool kids have one. Don’t you want a collar, too? It’s the patriotic thing to do. If you don’t wear your collar, the bigger kids will beat you. If you don’t wear your collar, you’re a racist/Nazi/baby killer.

            But if you do, people will respect you. They will like you. Oh, what a wise man he is, how forward thinking, how noble! To wear the collar with pride, comrade, is a far better thing. You wouldn’t want to be like those evil capitalist pig-dogs, comrade. It’s a nasty, brutal existence. Constantly striving for a crust of bread against desperate men who’d kill you for your shoe leather. Wear the collar. Slavery is freedom, comrade.

            *shakes head*

      4. Well, to be honest, I don’t think I’d care for one of those societies where they had the burning brass idol that they burnt babies in it and the whole aztec thing is right out.

        But for modern societies (I don’t count ISIS as a modern society) Communism is right at the bottom.

    3. When I made the second run at my baccalaureate degree at UofA the only professors I had which didn’t spout left wing drivel occasionally where my professors for Soviet and Post Soviet Russian History and Modern Chinese history. Both men had spent time in Russia and the PRC.

      On the other hand my professor for History of the Roman Republic found time to take shots at Bush; and the professor for Planetary Science talked up Anthroprogenic Global Warming even as he noted that we’d measured “global warming” on Mars, Jupiter, and even Pluto.

      1. When I realized that my first choice of major at college was a mistake, I considered jumping to history, but came to the conclusion that I would last until the first meeting with my faculty advisor, whereupon I would defenestrate the little pinko.

        1. History was my second choice major too.

          Pro tip: never take Classical Physics at the same time you’re taking the Calculus to be able to do Classical Physics. Also studying collisions makes your brain hurt.

                1. I believe the desk was deformed as a result of the collision.

                  Also if I remember correctly how elastic and inelastic collisions are defined is a little counter intuitive.

              1. If we’re talking bones vs wood, mostly inelastic. There is some slight deformation depending on the amount of force applied, up to the point where you break a hundred year old desk with your head…

                But before that point, KE and momentum are mostly conserved. The complexity comes when you start measuring complex objects that have different composition and density. Skin and muscle deform far more than the frontal plate, then you have brain wobble for lack of a better term, where the brain squishes to the front a bit due to impact.

                The dents in the desk and the bruises on your forehead are testament to inelastic collisions. The fact that your head ain’t broke and the desk isn’t split is the elastic collision part of the equation.

                When I was back in college, someone actually had a running formula for this that folks added to and argued about tacked to the back of one of the upper level library desks. I couldn’t follow all of it, but it was a pretty good laugh at the time. *grin*

      1. I have a cousin that actually met him when he was still a rather junior KGB officer. Said that he was a rather scary individual even back then. My cousin was a track coach for the Olympic team and they passed out their visas about 20 minutes before landing in Moscow. His and one of the athletes visas contained errors, so they were detained for 3 or 4 days while things were worked out. Putin was one of the agents that watched over them during that time. Said it was the scariest experience in his life, and he firmly believes that the only reason they made it out of there alive was that the left him alone with a secretary who dialed the embassy and handed him the phone while she watched at the door for them to come back to get him. No one at the embassy had known where they’d been taken until he called.

        1. There was another factor. Offing olympic athletes and coaches on the way to the olympics is usually counter productive. Too many eyes. I’m not saying it was their sole saving grace, but it likely helped.

          But yeah, Putin is one of the most evil men of whom I am aware. Not the most insane. NEVER make the mistake of assuming he’s insane. He’d be less dangerous and less evil if he were insane.

          The single most evil man it has ever been my misfortune to encounter or hear of I hope has been hung. At least twice, just to be sure.

          1. Are you familiar with the Russian legendary figure Koshchei bez Smertnie? (Roughly: Boney the Deathless?) Yeah. I’ve wondered, and I’ve got a world where I just flat out had Rasputin BE him in one of his zillion disguises. But I do wonder if that sort of crazy is common enough in Russia to have generated Koshchei as a myth. (He usually fills the role that in European tales tends to be taken by the ‘the Devil’. The Russian myths I’ve found tend not to screw directly with the devil.)

              1. Not in English, alas. Though I have a few in Russian. Alexander Pushkin collected a bunch in the 1800s, abut I haven’t found a translation or parallel text. I’ve found references to a collection ordered by Ivan the Terrible of both stories and folk songs, but I haven’t found it yet, much less a translation. (The Russians are slowly starting to put stuff out there.)

                For Koschei? Take Putin and Rasputin mush them together and give them magical powers, then make them unkillable without ending the world.

                1. It has been a while since I read the Grimnoir Chronicles but it strikes me that Larry’s portrayal of Rasputin is pretty much an embodiment of Koschei.

                  Might be interesting to explore in a novel. Rasputin died in 1916, Joseph Stalin Jughashvili was born in 1878 but was “reborn” as Stalin sometime between 1910 and 1912; Stalin died in 1953 and Putin was born in 1952. Enough there to allow Koschei to transfer to an already living body upon “death” of an expiring one? The ability to occupy and activate an alternate body would constitute a form of deathlessness, nyet?

                  1. It would fit with some of the things he could do. Though more likely than possession, since he’s a shape shifter, he would off the original and simply assume their form.

              2. Sergey A. Zenkovsky, ‘Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles and Tales’ is the only one I see on my shelves. Haven’t read it yet so I can’t say whether it’s good or not.

                    1. This is a good one (I own it) there’s apparently also an English version.


                      kniga.com (trying to avoid the two link moderation thing) is usually decent, they’ve got a fair collection of faerie tales (Skazki). If you can type in Russian the site is MUCH easier to navigate than their English translated site. They also offer some ebooks. Though not of the Skazki. There was another one that I’ve been looking for that’s actually based out of New York but I can’t seem to find it any more.

                      Some of them are also on http://lukoshko.net/storyList/russkie-narodnye-skazki.htm

                      There are a few others I’m going to have to dig the relevent information out of boxes (yay having moved).

                    2. And I gave up on the links in my previous reply to you and put three in there, so it’ll be a bit before it works its way through moderation. I had some good links from my DLI days but I can’t find them any more, alas. 😦

              3. Russian myths? Wellllll (that being a deep subject) . . . The English-language all-in-one-place source for the stories themselves is probably Aleksander Afanasev (Guterman translation is the version I have.) There are some neo-Pagan interpretations of Slavic myth by Dmitry Kushnir that I found useful but a little odd. They are in the Slavic Way series. Jan Machal’s “Slavic Mythology” is a reprint of an old monograph but it helped with origins and deities outside of folktales. The single most useful book, aside from the tales themselves, for me was “Russian Fairy tales: A Choice Collection of Muscovite Folk Lore” by William H. S. Ralston. It has lots of material, and great footnotes that lead to other older works. All are on Kindle, although I have had the hard copy of Afanasev’s book for several decades.

              4. There’s a very short opera by Rimsky-Korsakov – sometimes translated as “Kaschey the Immortal” (or something similar). I recommend the Kirov Opera recording if you’re into that sort of thing.

          2. From the reading I’ve done about the Russian Revolution, Rasputin didn’t really crave power. He wanted to be left alone to have as much sex with everyone and everything in St. Petersberg as he wanted. When he exercised his influence over the Empress, it was primarily to further that goal and get rid of people who were objecting to his debauchery. And by “get rid of,” he meant “drove them from power and made sure they had no further way of going against him”; he never had his enemies killed.

            Rasputin wasn’t a good guy by any measure, but I’ve got to think the world would be better off if Putin actually WAS his reincarnation. I’m thinking someone like Ivan or Peter or any of the other Tsars who murdered their way to greatness is actually a more likely previous position for Putin’s soul.

          3. Welll, according to some myths, Rasputin didn’t die, he was an evil sorcerer. Maybe Putin is Rasputin. Check the similarity in names, I’m just sayin’ 😉

              1. Okay, I’ve got to ask, is that referencing something or are you just making shit up? 🙂 Personally I think I hit on a great idea for a story with the Rasputin is Putin thing.

          1. Oh and:

            3. How does he decend from the Czars…my understanding is Russia does have monarchists (Solzenestian among them).

            A better bet than him being Czar is his son (if he has one) finding out he is decended from the Czars via his mother. Then, Putin’s son, as heir to both the monarchy and the communists, could unite two major Russian factions getting those yearning for the USSR and the monarchists onboard.

              1. I don’t know enough about Putin to know the details of who…I’m just thinking him making himself Czar de jure might be too much even if he is de facto. However, he could probably make sure a son founds a new dynasty of Czars but having connection to the prior regime in some respect would help.

                Personally, I wouldn’t make the branching too recent. I’d target faked records showing his son’s mother was descended from Alexander II “the Liberator”. Show that Putin is embracing the reformers both 19th century and 20th century to unite fighting champions of the people to finally bring Russia to her rightful place as the New Rome (embracing the Orthodox Church more fully could help here as well).

                1. Or take a simpler route: declare himself commissar of all Russia. Gradually shorten commissar to c’sar or czar and Bob’s your uncle!

                2. It’s been a while, but several years ago I read an article explaining why there are no pretenders or claimants to the throne of Russia. There are four qualifications any candidate for tsar has to meet, and the last Romanoffs only had three. Putin’s divorce would eliminate him, by tradition, as would his lineage (although I’m sure a cooperative geneaologist could be located to fix that problem.)

                  1. I would point out that there really is only one hard and fast qualification, that being the ability to say (and make stick) “anyone who questions my claim is dead.”

        1. Because he doesn’t need to, honestly. He’s savvy enough in the ways of the world to know if he declares himself Tsar he’ll loose what little face he has with the world and all ability to pretend he is legitimately elected.

          1. Besides, “prince” is merely the mutation of “first citizen”. It’s not the title; it’s the power. (Heck, “king” merely means “offspring of a family.”)

    1. In The God That Failed, one writer recounts what a trip to the USSR taught him: that it was a company town.

      1. In a sense, every town in USSR was a company town. All of them owned by the same ‘company’. 🙂

        1. Those imagining a Utopian workers’ state would do well to read Miklós Haraszti’s book Piece Rates (Published in the USA as A worker in a worker’s state) in which the Hungarian poet relates his experiences working in one of The People’s factories.


          Haraszti is also author of The Velvet Prison: Artists Under State Socialism, whose thesis seems self evident.

          1. I have enough personal memories of working in The People’s factories to last me till the end of my days. Had a chance to compare notes with immigrants from other countries of the Communist block, too – including Hungarians, Romanians, Poles…

            The problem, unfortunately, is that people tend to discount others’ experience and only learn from their own. And even then – not that well.

            So the Commie sympathizers will most likely not be swayed by mine, Haraszti’s, or any number of other people’s experiences. We are obviously either lying, every single one of us – or we’ve lived in places where ‘Communism wasn’t tried correctly’. Getting into arguments with proponents of Communism might be entertaining, might be useful for those spectators who haven’t yet made up their minds, but as far as convincing your opponent? Not. A. Chance.

        2. The essence of a company town is that the company owns the town. It not only runs the major employer, it owns the lodgings, it owns the only store — where it provides credit, it owns the only movie theater. . . .

          the USSR was a BIG company town.

  3. I recommend “Red China Blues” by Jan Wong. The author is a Canadian of Chinese descent, who went to China as a true believer during Cultural Revolution. She kept a dairy, and it is amazing not only what went on, but how she thought at the time. She now realizes that many times she was the only one who actually believe what everyone said, and there are other points where even she cannot understand why she thought what she did. Wonderful book!

  4. I wonder if he deliberately based “KnowNothing” off of Ivan Durachok? Deliberately subtracting all the bits where Ivan left you wondering if he really was an idiot or quite possibly the sneakiest man alive.

    1. Actually, I remember people in the 80s claiming the Smurfs were communist propaganda. Back then, despite hating the little blue things, I thought that wwas over the top.

      These days, I’m not so sure.

      1. Clearly the Smurfs were sexist; almost all male characters. And I bet they paid Smurfette only 75% of what they paid the other actors.
        The Smurfs were created in Belgum, so the claim of communist propaganda is probably legitimate.

        1. Communist propaganda or not, the real crime opt the surfs is that they are tacky, unimaginative, trite, and dull. I first read about them during the late 1970’s, in various “histories of comics” that were published at the time. The authors made them sound as clever and finny as Tin Tin or Asterix. What a letdown!

  5. I have a Jewish friend that was born in Czechoslovakia. One night the Soviets came and rounded them up. My friend, his uncle, sister, and father were standing at the back of the group and managed to slip over the wall and hide in a culvert under the road without being seen. Seconds later the machine guns opened fire and killed everyone else that had been standing there. It took them a month to walk to the Hungarian border. Sometime later they made it to Israel and met up with his mother, whom his father had sent ahead to Israel in the weeks before the invasion.

    Thank you, Nicki, for reminding us. For reminding us of what evil truly is.

    1. I have been treated by a Lithuanian doctor who fled the Communists. Our family knew a Cuban who fled Castro. I’ve met a missionary who fled the Chicoms and went to Taiwan. Later, we have more than a few Vietnamese become locals after they fled the Viet Cong. Interesting pattern here.

      1. Same here – plenty of casual acquaintances whose parents had fled Eastern Europe, Russia, Cuba, (not so much Mainland China) and Vietnam. It was a fascinating pattern, as at that time I knew personally no one who had upped sticks and fled the US for … Eastern Europe, Russia, Vietnam and Cuba.

      2. Growing up one of my best friends mother came from Canada, but was originally from Lithuania. Her, some of her siblings and a couple other kids were off playing in the woods, and skipping church on a Sunday morning. The Russians came in, rounded up those in the village not in church, locked everybody in the church and burnt it down. The kids playing in the woods were the only survivors of the village. They eventually snuck out of the country and emigrated to Canada.
        My mothers best friend in high school was from North Korea. Her dad was a doctor or scientist or something (I forget what exactly) he got his wife and kids out, and sent them to America, where they couldn’t be used as hostages against him. But then the government held him there and made him work for them for years (his expertise was in high demand by the government, I just don’t remember what it was, now, but that was why he was kept, and kept alive) until he finally managed to escape/drop off the radar and get himself smuggled to America to join them.
        While I’ve never lived under communism, I come by my hatred for it fairly honestly.

        1. My family name is Czech, and I have worked with, known, or met several times and heard stories from, various escapees from the Soviet, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Even without distant relative suffering behind the Curtain, I’d hate communism/socialism with a passion.

  6. Text available here: http://lib.ru/NOSOW/

    I’ll have to give it a go; I did make it all the way through Что Я Видел by Борис Житков, but it took me almost a year. Great fun.

    I see that someone’s done a film treatment. I’m not good enough at spoken Russian to get anything out of it, though.

  7. First of all, thanks, folks for the kind comments. And thank you for finding this cartoon! I’d forgotten all about it! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, and since I do still speak fluent Russian, it’s an awesome treat, in which there are such incredible subtle messages about communism to suck kids in! It’s crazy and so obvious to me now that I’m an adult!

    1. You’re welcome!

      You might also enjoy Лунтик, a series of delightful little 5-minute cartoons on a variety of subjects. The title character was born on the moon and fell to Earth, where he finds new friends and has adventures. My spoken Russian isn’t very good, so I get a lot from some and not much from others.

      There’s a Лунтик channel on Youtube, but I’m at work now, so no more Youtube for me this morning; just punch Лунтик into the search box and you should find them. There are three or four seasons with about 80 five-minute episodes per season.

      1. The Alisa sf adventure stories by Kir Bulychev have their moments, but yeah, they have similar propaganda. One gets a hint of Heinlein juvenile, though.

        The movie adaptation Mystery of the Third Planet shoves in tons more propaganda than what was in the book, though the combination of hallucinatory Seventies animation and a Heroic Soviet Space Pilot is possibly satirical.

        1. Weirdly, there is a new cgi sf kids show of the Alisa character, which has international distribution this fall. The English title is Alisa Knows What to Do. It is made by Timur Bekmambetov’s company.

          This could turn out badly or well. The one previous Russian production I have seen that got US syndication was actually conservative in outlook, but….

          1. Even weirder, there are a couple of two-part eps of the new Alisa that are in English on YouTube from the syndication company, and the first one is based on the same book that was adapted into Mystery of the Third Planet. Boy, it’s like a study in how different adaptations can be.

            New Alisa sample eps in English, with links to the version in Russian

            Mystery of the Third Planet, 1981, English dub from 1995. You can also watch it in Russian with subtitles.

            1. The 1995 English dub release is cut for time (and probably to get rid of some of the boring propaganda). But the charming opening sequence is entirely missing, which is a shame.

  8. _Putin’s Kleptocracy_, by Karen Dawisha. Dawisha is a Brit academic. The book couldn’t be published in Britain due to its libel laws.
    Dawisha says that there was a narrow window, in the early 1990s, when the KGB men who looked after the CP’s foreign investments had unfettered access to them. They looted. KGB translators with no banking experience suddenly founded banks with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.
    Putin was the middleman who could connect the newly wealthy KGB guys and Russian mobsters who knew how to launder money.

      1. But at least it has been ‘soft’. I think each ‘education reform’ has been closer to the communist model, and if they could get all those darn *indy* writers and home schoolers to go away, I think they have reached the destination.

      2. I wasn’t going to say that, but it doesn’t mean I disagree. The absolute scary thing is I see some of the same thing here, the key word being “some.”

        BTW, on Common Core: Found an analysis some months ago of Common Core vs the old Georgia curriculum. It was by a woman campaigning for Georgia School Superintendent. It turned out that the Common Core standards are less stringent than Georgia’s old standards. The significant thing here is that, under the old standards, Georgia wasn’t near the top academically. And common core standards aren’t as stringent as what they replaced.

          1. Still looking for the documents I saw. While you wait:

            Click to access Georgia-.Comparison.of_.English.Language.Arts_.Standards.pdf

            Click to access Georgia.-.Math_.Standards.Comparison.Report.pdf

            Okay: The last is authored by Mary Kay Bacallao, who was in the 2014 Republican Primary for Georgia School Superintendent.

            Here’s the analysis I remember, from her old campaign web site. Since the election’s over, this is not shilling for a candidate, assuming there’s any Georgians here, anyway.


        1. Piling in … I worked for a year in a local high school. The heads of the math and science department said directly to me, in related conversation, that Common Core as it is being implemented here is “dumbing down our curriculum” That is a proper direct quote. These are well-regarded math and science teachers saying this.

          1. A feature, not a bug. Progressives want low information voters, ignorant of facts like ‘Lincoln was Republican’, bewildered by Science, so they will accept whatever is the doomsday crisis of the moment.

          2. I went to school in Southern Piedmont North Carolina in the 60s, and I still don’t understand why I got old fashioned phonics and grammar all the way through, but suddenly got hit with New Math around ’65, which pretty much destroyed my understanding of the subject.

            1. Our teachers were somewhat subversive. When the approved readers proved to be watered-down pablum, they broke out the old ones for that grade level. When our geography book, The Ways of Man, sugar coated the Soviet Union, our teacher found old films on communism and introduced us to the book Tortured for Christ.

          3. I would love for the next President to issue an executive order to modify the Common Core curriculum to include things like basic age-appropriate gun handling and basic economics. In no small part because I want to see Progs argue against gun safety and teaching kids how supply and demand work.

    1. “Pravda means ‘Truth’ ”
      One of my favorite short works of his.
      I’ve tried to explain to people the difference between lefties pravda and actual truth, but I guess I’m not as good as a grandmaster icon.

  9. Wow. Thank you so much for writing & publishing that.

    Honestly, I found your words pretty terrifying, because what you describe is the political dream or end-goal of almost everyone I’ve ever known. Granted, I was born & raised in an east coast enclave of Social-Progressive Soccer Moms, and didn’t escape until a few months ago. I’m still getting used to the fact that the majority of Americans are not huge fans of either socialism or communism.

    One thing I noticed over the years is that whenever someone started on about how awesome everything would be once we ditched Capitalism and embraced Socialism/Communism (though they never actually called it that) was that they talked as though they would be the one(s) in charge. The idea that they weren’t going to at least be part of the ruling establishment, that they’d be living in State-issued apartments in over-crowded cities, barely surviving on State-mandated rations (if they were lucky) rather than luxuriating in their gosdachas out in the countryside was inconceivable to them. Useful idiots indeed.

    It’s not very Christian of me, but I do take admittedly-perverse satisfaction in the knowledge that if their dream ever comes to pass, then assuming I survive the Revolution, I’ll almost certainly outlive them because they’ll be the first ones put up against the wall.

  10. A young girl from our church went on a school-sponsored trip to Moscow back in the 80’s. She came back and reported to our men’s group about her trip. The thing I recall most vividly about her story was that she had taken 5 pairs of Levi jeans with her and wound up selling all of them to Russians before coming home.

    1. In one of those “spirit of cooperation” things the Russians sent a heavy lift aircraft with a Soyuz rocket engine to Marshall for testing. Air crew had a layover and were allowed limited access to town for a shopping trip. Huntsville being home to the Army Missile Command is normally a restricted zone for Russian nationals, so they were kept under close supervision. I was told that the two top items on their list of things to buy were blue jeans and hypodermic needles.

      1. At one point, Moscow University’s math department became a division of Sun Microsystems (for all practical purposes). They were *really* good at some esoteric maths that we used for various things.

        Interesting folk, who would occasionally find a compelling reason to send a contingent to Mountain View for a few days.

        Once the office-hour meetings were finished, they invariably wanted to go out shopping, in part for blue jeans. That, and mandatory shopping runs to Fry’s Electronics.

        The head of the team got our attention early on by noting that our paperwork load (Sarbanes-Oxley ring a bell?) was worse than what they had to deal with during the late Soviet era.

  11. I regard the current Russian “government” as mafia. With resources and access to nuclear weapons. Have meet some émigrés that have told me some horrific tales. Also was informed they have extensive networks in the US. All part of the status quo.

    According to my European friends, much of the US public is seen as drones. It’s observable in real life when you notice people parroting various viewpoints without any questioning or skepticism. And you realize those same people vote or arrest kids for building clocks. And US government isn’t more than a bad generation or two from being the equal of the Russians.

    1. Yes, but the government isn’t the people, and the people aren’t the government. What your European friends see is carefully curated CRAP worse than we get here. I know. I have friends in Europe.

    2. The vast majority of governments throughout history have basically been criminal conspiracies against the people, and the recent governments of China and Russia are no exceptions.

      1. Most governments are all about doing things to their people. That’s why a goverment “…of, by, and for the people…” was a thing that required noting in speeches..

    3. Right, arrested for building and bringing to school something that any normal person might think was a bomb. This was a fraud and it worked.

      1. The real crime here was imputed violation of zero tolerance policies in schools. Had any “normal” boy brought such a device it is likely he, too, would have been arrested — without the hashtag uproar or White House invite.

      2. The problem is that they didn’t act as it was a bomb. The school wasn’t evacuated, the bomb squad wasn’t called, etc. This was the school administrators using the police to humiliate a kid who violated their mindless zero-tolerance policy. Whoever made the call to detain Ahmed after it was decided that this wasn’t a bomb needs to be fired and barred from any contact with children.

        If they had treated it like a bomb, that would be one thing. The initial headlines would probably have been less than flattering (“School Evacuated Over Clock”) but once pictures of the device went public most people would have understood.

        Even better, if a teacher had pulled Ahmed aside and pointed out that something like that could be seen as a bomb and he needed to be very careful about how he carried and presented his devices.

        1. The engineering teacher did, according to Britebart, and told Ahmed not to carry the thing around. Then, once the trouble started, he acted passive-aggressive and irritated the adults, which didn’t help. yeah, there was plenty of dumb in the air, but why didn’t the kid say, “Hey, I cleared it with Mr. So-and-so and he said its OK”? Besides being a teenaged male, I mean.

        2. The engineering teacher he showed it to first did tell him not to let anyone else see it.

          The alarm on the clock went off in a later class, (English?) which caused that teacher to see it and go into full “zero-tolerance” panic mode.

        3. “The problem is that they didn’t act as it was a bomb.”

          Actually I find it entirely too likely that they acted EXACTLY the same as they would have if they found an actual bomb.

            1. Oh that’s a given, I’ve not seen anybody here claim they weren’t.

              What people are claiming is either that Ahmed was either a teenaged brat who needed a razor strop taken to him, an idiot, or it was a premeditated set up, and the only response that wouldn’t produce the desired result was the one of the science teacher, which of course simply provided the opportunity to try again. IF it was a setup (which is what I think, but I admittedly am going off a gut feeling, without having done enough research/investigating to prove or disprove that feeling) then the confiscation that you are advocating would have been a suboptimal, but expected and acceptable reaction. They still could have claimed discrimination against Ahmed because he was Muslim. Evacuating the school, while holding Ahmed until the “bomb” was either investigated and proven to be a fake, or blown in place would have meant the teachers and administration wouldn’t have stepped on their sword quite so publicly and spectacularly; it still would have provided an excellent opportunity (possibly even better than the actual scenario) for claims of racial profiling and discrimination.

              1. Let me rephrase that, I’ve not seen anybody here EXCEPT YOU say they weren’t criminally negligent with the safety of their charges, and indeed you only offer it as one of two options.

                1. anybody here EXCEPT YOU

                  If they really thought it was a bomb, then they handled it wrong.

                  Only if they didn’t think it was a bomb would it be otherwise. But in that case involving police and federal authorities was unjustified. I included that hypothetical not because I believed it to be plausible but simply for completeness, to show that there is no justification for the school’s actions as actually taken.

                  Whether they believed it was a bomb or not, their actions were wrong.

                  You had a non-bomb, so identified as such by the first teacher that examined it. If it was a “set up” they couldn’t have asked for a better result.

                  I could grant everything claimed about the kid and his parents. For that matter, I figure it’s probably likely (although I’m less certain than some seem to be). I just consider the reaction of the school and the authorities a more serious problem. Part of the reason is that the reaction of the school and the authorities is something we, as a society, actually have some control over. We can’t control what the “outlier” individuals are going to do. We can control what those to whom we give power and authority can do with said power and authority.

                  Was it a set up? Maybe. Probably. I simply consider the school’s reaction a far worse problem than the “set up” itself.

                  Had the first teacher confiscated it he would have had “a chance to try again”? What do you think he has now after all this publicity so much of it against the school?

                  Confiscation could have led to claims against the school? Considering how normal teachers confiscating problematic or potentially “disruptive” items is (the example I gave uptopic is my daughter’s cell phone which she forgot to turn off) and has been since roughly forever, I doubt that would get much traction.

                  Treating what they think is a potential bomb as a potential bomb and follow standard procedure–evacuate the school and call the bomb squad–would lead to claims of profiling and “islamophobia”? Well, considering they already have that, I fail to see how that would be worse and they would at least have had the defense that they were following standard procedure–something folk in authority have used very successfully quite often to justify all kinds of things.

                  1. Things my kids have had confiscated: books, a radio, a fish finger puppet (that last one was beyond annoying. The kid had finished assignment, was playing quietly without anyone else seeing) erasers (apparently amusing erasers like car shaped are anathema) and Portuguese handball-club uniforms (sent by my brother for the kids.) Some of these were never returned. One of them kid broke into room it was in and rescued it (signed Pratchett book) and one (the uniform) I had to go to school and give them h*ll for deciding (on clear nothing) it was gang wear. (Because shirt and shorts were black, at a guess, and had a symbol on the chest? Of course the symbol was a ball, but never mind.)

                  2. The school’s reaction was standard for Zero Tolerance offenses (see James Taranto WSJ essay linked elsewhere this page.)

                    THAT is the problem with Zero Tolerance policies! They are not based upon reality of threat but upon enforced behavioural conformity. Nobody credibly believed a kid biting his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun constituted a threat, nor that aiming chicken fingers while going “ka-pow, ka-pow, pow) represented a threat to anything other than a school administration’s ability to impose arbitrary and excessive punishment.

                    Just as nobody seriously believes that a white man who smacks a police officer in the head and tries to take away his gun will get off with naught more than a stern admonishment to try to be better in future.

                    What this incidence demonstrated was that in the competition between arbitrarily imposed conformity and some minority preferences, the bending over backward to avoid appearing to require consistent behavioural standards deny favourable treatment [fill-in-the-blank]phobic wins. It doesn’t matter that the boy was Muslim; had he been Gay, or trans or several other of the mascots of modern we’re-not-like-those-a-holes enlightened intellectualism the result would likely have been similar.

              2. Every time people start injecting race into this — whether by saying that the school’s response was racist or by saying the child and/or his parents were intentionally trying to elicit a racist response — you’re allowing for the continuation of a system where teachers and school administrators are allowed to check their brains at the door and are expected to treat chewed pop-tarts, stories about shooting dinosaurs, or electronic parts reassembled in a pencil box as legitimate threats to security.

    4. The ideological diversity of Europeans being, of course, beyond reproach.

      As far as government as criminal enterprise, I recommend Kornbluth’s The Syndic.

    5. . And you realize those same people vote or arrest kids for building clocks.

      From the few pictures I’ve seen, he didn’t build a clock– he took a clock apart and used it to wire up a small case to look like a movie bomb.

      Look up some pictures of the cellphone triggers for IEDs, sometime, and it’s a bit scarier.

      14 year old boy being a twerp got a bigger reaction than he expected. Hopefully.

      1. The problem isn’t the kid’s race/ethnicity/religion, it’s the zero tolerance policies and the fact that the adults can’t think for themselves.

        As someone who made an actual bomb in class, however unintentionally, let me assure you that the most dangerous people in the building are the adults who won’t/can’t think and reason for themselves, the ones who are phoning it in instead of paying attention.

        Schools should be there to teach kids HOW to think, HOW to problem solve. Instead we have them teaching WHAT to think, and then DEMONSTRATING how not evaluate what’s going on but to blindly go with what they feel.

        Did the thing look like something from a movie/TV show? Yeah, somewhat. Of course the point of movies/TV shows is typically to entertain rather than to educate. What’s presented before the camera is there to evoke an emotional response from the audience. For all those concerned that it _looked_ scary, or that it _could_ conceal an IED, step back an think about how you can make a rule around that. What you are left with is everyone showing up naked with the students sitting on the floor and memorizing whatever the instructor says or writes on the board. You would need to get rid of backpacks, coats, clothes, shoes, pencil boxes, books, stacks of paper, computers, etc. because you can make IED out of pretty much anything. You would never have another science lab because all those chemicals can be used to build bombs and burn things.

        Somewhere in the chain of student-teacher-administrator-police officer someone needs to actually evaluate what is going on and decide if there is a threat there or not. I’m not expecting the 14 year old to do. I’m extremely disappointed that none of the police officers were able to.

        1. I’d agree that it’s the zero tolerance policy is that worst problem: if it turns out that neither of these two things is true (1) the family gets a huge payout from a lawsuit or (2) the boys father uncle or grandfather parlays it into some kind of political victory.

          Otherwise the problem is either the need for reform or four the ability of people to use hypersensitive SJW nonsense to gain political clout.

          Because making a clock that looks like a suitcase bomb is suspect even if you do not belong to a religious/poliical demographic that blows up schoolchildren for fun on a regular basis.

        2. It is already a known tactic of to hide things via being outrageously obvious. That’s not any sort of obscure military interest knowledge, that’s even a strong strain among gamers, short of the hyper-realistic combat games.

          Please notice, not a thing did I say about the police or adults involved– other than possibly his parents, who are supposed to exercise judgement for him until he grows some of his own.

      2. Or he got exactly the reaction his parents expected, since CAIR and Barack are presenting it as Islamophobia. Which Barack has set up a photo op at the White House, being spun by people like Tom Smith as just doubleawesome with awsomesauce.

        1. I’ve heard that you can purchase a clock that looks like the one he “made”. If true, he may not have even made it, he (or his father) purchased it.

        2. Like “teenage boy” isn’t the thing more likely to set off warnings, especially if he’s already got a history of being a jerk…..

          For heaven’s sake, “the kind of guys who shoot up schools will use a bomb” has been a worry since *I* was in high school!

        3. The vileprogs have to treat this as a case of racism/islamaphobia, otherwise they have to examine the disaster the “Zero-Tolerance” policies they’ve foisted on the school are.

        1. If a portion of the US system is not tuned to handle taqiya in 2015 then that portion is defective and those responsible for that portion are negligent.

          The system objectively didn’t handle it well.

        2. and expected the response they got.

          If so, the problems still isn’t that they expected the response they got. The problem is that they got the response they expected.

          The insane “zero tolerance” policies that led to the response are still at fault. Their little bit of theater only worked (if that’s what it was) because of them, because they are so very predictable.

          1. Punishing people who bring fake things into a place where you’re not allowed to have the thing isn’t “zero tolerance,” and it’s not zero tolerance if at least one teacher saw the clock and told him not to flash it around, then he did.

            It’s an extension of why I’m not charged with murder if I shoot someone who is waving around what turns out to be a fake or unloaded gun.

            If he didn’t get a response from it, beyond the science teacher, then we’d have a large flashing hole in the defenses– “make your bomb look goofy and you can plant it anywhere!”

            1. at least one teacher saw the clock and told him not to flash it around,

              So one teacher expected the other teachers to be stupid? If it was so problematic why didn’t that teacher confiscate it? My daughter forgot to turn her phone off before class and had it confiscated.

              The teacher who inspected it clearly didn’t think it was that big a deal going forward. The other teachers and the administration clearly didn’t think it was a bomb because they didn’t do any of the things one would expect from a real bomb scare. Evacuate the building? Nope. Isolate the device? Nope. Call the bomb squad? Nope. None of that. As for the “hoax bomb” claims, well, for it to be a hoax bomb wouldn’t it have to be either claimed to be a bomb or left somewhere unattended for folk to find? None of those things were done. It was a clock in a pencil case, not presented as anything else, not left in the bathroom for someone to find, or anything else.

              One might argue that, metaphorically speaking, it was stupid to go stomping around in a minefield, but that misses the mixed metaphorical elephant in the room that. the. minefield. is. there.

              Taking something apart and reassembling it in a different way–even if it’s only intalling it in a different case–is exactly the kind of thing I did as a kid growing up and learning about and developing an interest in science and technology. And had I a teacher who was the least sympathetic, I might have brought such projects in to show. I can see myself following every step along the way except perhaps getting sullen and unresponsive when questioned about the device–but on that point I have been teaching my own daughter not to answer questions not directly related to her school work unless I’m present to give the okay (I figure if I’m there I can decide if we need to lawyer up or if it really is simply routines stuff). So even that…

              The English teacher and school administration were stupid. All this “but, but, hoax bomb” stuff merely masks the larger problem of how stupid things have gotten in the schools. The only “disruption” was caused by the administration overreacting to what they clearly knew was not a bomb. Or perhaps they did think it was a bomb and were utterly irresponsible with the safety of the kids in their charge–which is still a larger problem than the guts of a clock installed into a pencil box.

              1. So one teacher expected the other teachers to be stupid?

                Shifting goalposts! Assuming the conclusion!

                The teacher exercised judgement, and checked that it wasn’t a real bomb disguised as a fake bomb, and the kid chose AGAIN to do something stupid– even after being told it was stupid, specifically.

                You may not LIKE the judgement, or the conclusion, but that’s entirely different.

                It is NOT stupid to be aware enough of current events to consider the possibility of an IED that looks like a movie prop, especially when we don’t know if the kid has other things that might raise flags.
                Even if it was utterly obvious to even the most untrained person who inspected it that it was a fake bomb, it’s still not something you should be bringing to school, and he apparently was told as much. And showed it around again, anyways.

                How about the next time, when it is actually dangerous, and it seriously harms the teacher that’s checking it out? Will they be stupid, too, for touching it?

                When, exactly, is the teenager expected to bear any responsibility for his actions?

                1. It is NOT stupid to be aware enough of current events to consider the possibility of an IED that looks like a movie prop

                  If it was really a problem, why didn’t the first teacher just confiscate it? It was the admonition to keep it out of sight that I characterized as expecting other teachers to be stupid. And they descended to the occasion admirably.

                  You’ve got two choices: either they didn’t think it was a bomb, in which case they are responsible for their own actions which entirely caused the disruption, or they did think it was a bomb, in which case they were criminally negligent in their response.

                  In this particular case that particular “hole in the defenses” has already sailed. They didn’t evacuate the school. They didn’t even clear the area around it. If it had been a bomb all it had to do was go off.

                  There is no justification which makes the administration reaction appropriate.

                  As for “it might have been a bomb” (despite, being the size of a pencil box, having no explosive materials, nor anything resembling detonators, the only “wire” coming out is a power cord or maybe the battery backup connection if that was hanging out when it was closed) and therefore justifying treating it like such (or not, as shown above) I give you Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Shall we ban shoes and underwear? You could certainly put as much explosives into those as you could into that pencil case. I think we can take it as self-evident that we shouldn’t ban shoes and underwear despite their being an actual past history of people using them to conceal explosives. The question, then, becomes where to draw the line. Why for a clock, that was never presented as anything but a clock, that was examined and determined not to be a bomb but a clock?

                  1. If it was really a problem, why didn’t the first teacher just confiscate it?

                    Oh, so now you’re upset that the teacher didn’t take the kid’s property away?
                    That the teacher DIDN’T apply zero tolerance, and confiscate something that would only be a problem if the 14 year old chose, after being told not to flash it around, to flash it around?

                    I’m out. Booger that for a lark.

                    1. Oh, so now you’re upset that the teacher didn’t take the kid’s property away?

                      Already covered that. Gave the example of my daughter’s cell phone when she forgot to turn it off before school. And see my “what should have happened” comment elsewhere in the comments.

                      I don’t have any problem with teachers taking contraband from students so long as it is returned to the parents, who can decide whether the students can still have it outside of school property and time. Never have had. Conflating that with “zero tolerance” (such as getting law enforcement involved because of a picture of a gun, for example) is disingenuous.

                      The elephant in the room remains:
                      If they didn’t think it was a bomb, they criminally overreacted by getting state and federal officials involved on on a “bomb” that they knew did not nexist. (Knowingly making false reports is a crime.)
                      If they did think it was a bomb, they were criminally negligent in failing to do any of the most basic actions to protect the students.

                      Either way, they screwed up big time.

              2. … perhaps getting sullen and unresponsive when questioned about the device

                A society which continually tells the boy he is targeted because of his Faith, or Race or any reason other than his actions exacerbates the tendency to go sullen and unresponsive, and conveys the wrong message about the problems of his actions.

                This is a situation where everybody acted (reacted) badly and simple sense should appreciate that fact. Excesses on one side of an equation do not justify excesses on the other side.

                Were I Muslim I would expect — and welcome — (some level of) heightened scrutiny following the 9/11 attacks, and see the inconveniences as a way of reassuring the public that not all my faith-fellows were inimical. Demanding the same treatment as folk with no characteristics common to the perpetrators of such heinous acts would offend me.

                There is a balance, a grey area, between two competing assumptions; just as women learn that while not all men are rapists, some have that capacity, so must we accept similar grey areas in other walks of life. Even jesse Jackson has acknowledged to feeling safer upon realizing the approaching footsteps he heard were not those of young black men (given his public positions, you would think he’d have greater fear of approaching white men, eh?)

                1. This is a situation where everybody acted (reacted) badly and simple sense should appreciate that fact.


                  I do, however, consider the school’s reaction a bigger problem. In many ways it’s the “worst of both worlds”–neither liberty nor security.

                  1. What should have happened with the “clock that some folk thinks looks like a bomb” thing:

                    Student (to science teacher): “Look at the clock I made.”
                    Science teacher on examining it: “That’s nice, Ahmed, but some of the other teachers might get the wrong idea, so I’ll just hold onto this. You can have your parents come pick it up.”

                    End of story.

                    After all, if the teacher can confiscate my daughter’s cell phone for forgetting to turn it off (and I consider her not having use of said phone until I can collect it and return it to her a reasonable consequence to encourage her to remember next time), then can confiscate something that others might think a bomb.

                    1. There’s more going on here than “confiscating your daughter’s cell phone”
                      The kid dragged the largish box around from class after class until the alarm went off and the English teacher freaked out. The kids father is a zealot the family wears hijab and the town apparently has a big muslim population, so much so they tried to have sharia law imposed. He was not profiled, and the box probably was not immediately confiscated because of his protected minority status. The school and teachers were in a lose lose situation.
                      This was an planned taqiya attack, and it succeeded. Read the Popular Mechanics article praising his genius and then read the comments – a lot of people figured it out pretty quickly.

                    2. The kid dragged the largish box

                      What “largish box”? It was basically a pencil box. Yes, I know there’s that meme going around comparing it to a “suitcase bomb” (with the added irony that the “suitcase bomb” isn’t a bomb either). Amazing how that thing keeps mutating with every retelling.

                      And note, if the science teacher, with the expectation that other teachers would freak out (otherwise why the admonition not to show it around) had confiscated it to be collected by the parents–exactly what happened with my daughter’s cell phone and which I have no problem with which was the whole point of bringing that up–then none of the rest would have happened.

                      Which was the point I was making.

                    3. WIB – Take a look at the box in the article linked- it’s pretty substantial and could easily contain a couple of pounds of C-4. The whole story is fishy, and sorry, it’s not a big zero tolerance bad example, though Z.T. is really stupid. Doing ANYTHING to a muslim is grounds for a lawsuit and this was a setup. Failure to recognize this lowers your situational awareness and raises the likelihood of winning a Darwin Award.


                    4. Interesting discussion of the history of Zero Tolerance experiences from the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto (who has been tracking them since before 9/11:

                      Our Zero-Tolerance Watch feature mostly fell into disuse in subsequent years, but that was because our interests changed, not because the problem diminished. As Vox’s Libby Nelson noted this past February, “zero-tolerance policies have been widely criticized when schools have interpreted ‘weapon’ very broadly, expelling students for making guns with their fingers or chewing a Pop-Tart into a gun shape or bringing a camping fork for Cub Scouts to class.”

                      But there was Vox on Wednesday peddling the Islamophobia narrative. Zach Beauchamp: “It’s hard to see this as anything but blatant, naked Islamophobia: Police surely would not have hauled off a white kid because of a clock.” (Talk about ignorant stereotypes: Beauchamp thinks no Muslims are white.)


                      Slate’s Laura Moser managed to find a similar story involving a non-Muslim student, Kiera Wilmot, who was 16 when she was arrested two years ago over a science project in which “she mixed toilet-bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a water bottle” to make smoke. She was suspended for 10 days, threatened with expulsion, and charged with two felonies—though the charges were dropped “after great public outcry.”

                      In the course of reporting the story, Moser managed to convince Wilmot that she was the victim of racism:

                      I spoke with Wilmot—now 19 and a sophomore at Florida Polytechnic University majoring in mechanical engineering—this morning about Mohamed’s predicament. She said that her first reaction was anger: “I honestly thought, ‘How could this happen to somebody else?’ ”

                      Islamophobia has been cited as a (or the) factor in Mohamed’s arrest; did race play a role in Wilmot’s? When asked if she thought she would’ve received the same treatment if she’d been white, Wilmot said, “I’m not sure.” And then, after a judicious pause, “No, probably not.”

                      You can see bias at work here—Moser’s bias. If she were reporting on a case in which the victim of such administrative tyranny was white, would it even occur to her to ask if it was racially motivated? It didn’t occur to us when we interviewed Jason Anagnos and his father.

                      RTWT for especially delicious tale of PC grievance mongering based on the history of Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

                    5. could easily

                      “Could” is irrelevant when it didn’t and they knew it didn’t.

                      I’ve seen the box. It’s a pencil box, not a “largish box” except maybe compared to a pill box. My daughter has such a pencil box. Should she be arrested?

                      The simple fact remains that if they actually thought it was a bomb, then they were criminally negligent in not doing any of the standard activities in a bomb scare: they didn’t evacuate the kids. They didn’t call the bomb squad. They didn’t isolate the bomb. They did none of that.

                      If they didn’t think it was a bomb, then they literally made it “a federal case” (involving federal authorities) over something they knew was nothing.

                      If they didn’t think it was a bomb but thought the kid was trying to “create a disruption” well, congratulations. They gave him one. The disruption was in their actions, not in the presence of a clock’s innards transplanted into a pencil case.

                      There is no combination of beliefs on the school’s part that makes their actions justifiable. No matter what their beliefs were regarding the boy and the box, their actions were wrong for it. The big one, since the spin coming out of this is “bomb”, is that there are certain things you do when you think you have a bomb. They didn’t do any of them.

                      If it was some cunning plan of the boy’s father, it required the careful cooperation of the school faculty, administration, and law enforcement all acting like morons. So, kudos for a brilliant “batman gambit.”

                      Had the first teacher simply confiscated the clock to be handed over to the boy’s parents later, the boy or his parents might have complained but I doubt the story would have had “legs” considering that confiscation of contraband from students is well established and long predates any BS about “zero tolerance”. My teachers often had a drawer full of stuff–knives, cigarettes, porn, sometimes alcohol–confiscated from students. Or, had they actually treated it like a bomb, taking the normal precautions against a bomb threat, they would at least have had a defensible position.

                      They did neither of those things. They had a boy interrogated and arrested for something they apparently knew was not a bomb, and the only “disruption” was caused by their actions.

                      I’m not saying the boy and his father are guiltless. I’m saying that what they intended matters far less than the behavior of the school and law enforcement in this case. And the school and law enforcement screwed up by the numbers.

                2. Yeah, but I challenge you to find places where the machismo rape ’em good ‘cos they deserve it trope is celebrated rather tgan roundly condemned.

                  The elephant in the room is that (1) Muslims don’t roundly condemn co-religionists who shoot girls in the head for getting an education, bombing marathoners for Teh Glory of the Caloliphate and routinely use @4 year old boys as bomb mules (2) True believers also have Taquiya [sp?]

                  God knows how an egalitarian, constitutional republic is going to justly deal with citizens (like this kid) who are offspring of immigrants who MIGHT have values (1) and (2) but I guarantee that going la-la-la-la I can’t hear you isn’t it.

                  I am not looking forward to the day when I have to hide suspected gays and muslims in my home from the angry mobs because folks thought that denial was a viable option.

      3. Might it be worth entertaining the possibility that kid knew exactly what he was doing and was testing our response?

        Not that I think it is the case, but we ought at least consider the possibility that the wolf has operatives here to cry his name and desensitize our response.

        The problem with “Zero Tolerance” policies is they leave no space for independent judgement and intelligent thought. A probable consequence of this incident is that the policies will be amended, and not in a productive way.

        1. According to comments on… I believe it’s Old Surfer’s link… that identifies which clock the kid took apart, the science teacher did exercise judgement. And the brat did the opposite of what he was told, which fits with my “he’s probably not THAT stupid…technically” theory that he was being a twerp.

          Teenage boys (of all ages) do things like lurch their vehicles at people to make them jump, and act like being punished for it is an outrage– even if you can point to people who were hurt or killed because they’re not that good. Hey, nobody was hurt THIS time, right?

          The feeding frenzy from the media is probably all whoever was picking responses could hope for.

          1. Foxfier,You nailed it, but I’ll bet the kid didn’t figure it out the whole operation on his own. Any reaction at all by the authorities would be called islamophobia. He dummied up on purpose and possibly on instruction from dear old dad, not just because he’s a twerp.

            1. Breitbart is reporting that it seems to be set up to target the town’s mayor, who didn’t let them set up one of those parallel Sharia things in town because of concerns it would end up being an injustice generator, rather than an alternate resolution route.

              1. Apparently there have already been “honor killings” in that community. Sure, give ’em sharia, what could go wrong? Personally, I’ve got “zero tolerance” for islam at this point and don’t care who knows it!

    6. Kid’s Dad is an Islamist Rabble Rouser, and I’d not be shocked to find Junior bids fair to join him in this. This was a set up and exactly what should they have done differently if it was some kid who’s dad was a kkk white supremacist or what ever?

      1. At least one writer at Chaos Manor agrees:

        ” Ahmed’s clock.

        It was very obvious from the disgustingly fawning nature of the initial press stories that this was a planned propaganda stunt. In the first article which appeared on the topic, in the Dallas Daily News (?), it was mentioned that the father was a perennial presidential candidate in Sudan.

        It was clear that the boy had been coached to give uncooperative, passive-aggressive responses to the school administration and the police, staying just this side of the line of something actionable, in order to provoke as heavy-handed a response as possible.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more White House staffers had been forewarned to expect a ‘racism’ event in Texas, so that they could be primed to invite the boy and his family to the White House, if things went as expected. Ditto for Caltech.


        Roland Dobbins”

  12. I remember many years ago, when I was in high school, we were shown a Soviet propaganda film. One of those “look how great the Soviet Union is” things.

    After the film, the teacher asked for thoughts on the film. I raised my hand.
    “Yes, David?” The teacher asked.
    “I noticed that no one, not one person in the entire film, ever smiled. Not one.”
    Dead silence in the room.

    Some time later, in the Air Force, I was taking the Defense Language Institute Russian Language Course (during the brief interlude where it was taught for AF at Lackland AFB rather than Monterey). Most of the teachers were Soviet ex-pats.

    The stories they would tell….


    1. “I noticed that no one, not one person in the entire film, ever smiled. Not one.”

      That statement says it all. I wonder how many realized the even deeper more disturbing implications that film displayed by there being no one who smiling in it? Obviously there is the fact that every on was miserable, but the fact that it was a propaganda film means that fact reveals even more info. Any novice advertiser/propagandist would know that when trying to sell a place you should have smiling people in the advertisement/propaganda. The fact that they did not purposely put smiling people in the film, tells you that those people are so use to being miserable, that it is considered unquestionably normal. So normal that people who purposely created that propaganda film to make the Soviet Union look great, did not even consider to even fake happy people in the video.

      1. What is that old story about the Russians showing their people The Grapes of Wrath, only to have the watchers come out marveling that “in America, the poor have cars!”

        1. Don’t know about that story. But Victor Belenko, the pilot who defected with the MiG-25, watched a newsreel or the equivalent of some of the race riots (with his fellow pilots). “Look how they treat their poor!” he was told. Like in the story you referenced, what *he* saw was the cars lining the curbs.

          1. I knew a Cuban who had a relative escape (forgot to add that to my list elsewhere) and the relative related they were shown something about the poor in the USA being done wrong, and all they could think was “Look at how many are FAT!” They get more food there!”

      2. OTOH, there was a NOVA episode of a type of cancer the Chinese traced to mold or fungi growing on steamed dough. Those in the government had greasy politician fake smile down pat, along with poor acting that screamed “phony.” Honestly, they put me in mind small time politicians worldwide.

        BTW, I met a couple of Chicoms once. Someone got the bright idea that it would be the thing to do to take the Red Chinese on tours of US electric utilities. Don’t recall either one smiling, OTOH, I don’t know if either one was really an engineer, either …

    2. Interesting note how they point out we drive disproportionate number of cars and other material wealth. Here is it celebrated as proof of our greatness. These days most of the “elite” would argue it is a sign of our moral failing (while giving up none of their own even more disproportionate wealth).

      1. It is the modern inversion of Marxism: Imagine Marx if you told him that true success meant forgoing physical and material improvement in the people’s lives and pursuing emotional and spiritual improvement instead as a goal.

        He’d ask you if you were paying attention.

  13. Reblogged this on amiecus curiae and commented:
    This isn’t exaggeration. It isn’t deionizing the “other side.” This was real life for millions in the USSR. My bf had his tonsils out without annythesia, he was picked on for being a Jew, and he learned to run fucking fast to avoid worse. This isn’t fiction. This is history, and if you don’t realize how it got there and you think communism just hasn’t been done the right way, you’re domed to repeat that history.

      1. Haha, no. Oleg’s the cat in the man’s body and Gremlin is the man in the cat’s body 🙂 Though if there is a such thing as soul mates, that cat is his other half.

          1. I’m guessing that’s your cat? 🙂 Gremlin tries to write too… by laying on the keyboard.

  14. Very interesting backstory… And jives closely with what I’ve been told/learned from other sources. Truly sorry you had to experience that, but I can only admire you for what you’ve accomplished since.

  15. Thank you for writing down your testimony. I knew these things 40 years ago, but I was one in 1,000, even in this country where a substantial effort was made to spread the word about the East Bloc realities.

    The US is in some danger because of the ignorance of the voting population. Several generations of public schooling and progressive academic training of journalists — and the revolving door to top Washington DC jobs — have left a majority with no understanding of the past failures of socialism. We still have freedom of speech and press, but little diversity, and our tax money is used to propagandize us to accept more bureaucratic control in daily life. The socialist complains because commercial speech influences people to want things they don’t need (according to socialists), but given the chance the progressive socialist controls the schools and the media to influence people to accept less, and to accept an impoverished security over freedom with accountability.

      1. Maybe the knowledgeable few, but most people attracted to socialism have no such evil in mind — they think of it as like a warm family where everyone has a role and everyone is taken care of. It can certainly be like a family – inescapable, with abusive alcoholic parents, beatings, and abuse served up daily. If you assume socialists are evil plotters, you are missing the opportunity to enlighten them — they are just ignorant. The power-hungry who use socialist feelings to gain privilege for themselves are different.

          1. On that point, the movie “Before Night Falls” about a gay writer in Castro’s Cuba is pretty good, despite the stunt casting of Johnny Depp as both a sadistic warden and a transvestite prisoner. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinaldo_Arenas — his suicide note after exile: “Due to my delicate state of health and to the terrible depression that causes me not to be able to continue writing and struggling for the freedom of Cuba, I am ending my life. . . . I want to encourage the Cuban people abroad as well as on the Island to continue fighting for freedom. . . Cuba will be free. I already am.”

        1. Intention goes to the question of degree of culpability. It doesn’t address guilt. How many times does a babysitter get to accidentally scald a baby before you just never let them babysit anyone ever again?

          The deep structures like polylogism that allow communism to continue to intellectually survive as a meme simply never get addressed and every new variation ushers in a new period of “back to square one”.

        2. Of the people that I know of that like communism/socialism, exactly NONE have a problem with the use of force up to and including lethal force to get people to “share” what they have. They are NOT innocent in thought and are at most too morally cowardly to commit the atrocities they support themselves.

  16. Having one’s teeth drilled and/or removed without Novocain wasn’t fun, either.

    One nit to pick: The Reds vs. Whites game had nothing to do with WWII.
    It was about the Civil War, 1917-1923. The Reds were obviously the communists, and the Whites were the “White Guard.”
    Interestingly, in my childhood a more popular game was “Russians vs. Germans”. That one was about WWII. Nobody wanted to be a German, though.

    1. Meh. Portugal. technically first world. Okay, second. I had a molar pulled without anesthesia at 13.
      Actually what amused/horrified me most is that my tonsil removal was almost exactly like Nicki’s. they were doing them so fast there was no time for the anesthesia to take effect.

      1. I don’t know why, but drilling teeth is much more painful to me than pulling them.

        An interesting story:
        Soon after we arrived here from the USSR, we were brought to a dentist. He was also a Russian immigrant, so that’s probably why or relatives picked him for us.
        Anyway, he did a few fillings. Without novocaine.
        Well, we didn’t know any better then, but a couple of years later I went to an American dentist…

        The scumbag must have sold the stuff or something, and he used our ignorance and general Soviet-bred compliance.

        1. Yeah. In this case the pulling was excruciating. The other molar came out in the US and because of the hooked shape of the roots, I had to have general anesthesia and they had to break the tooth to pull it. In that first molar, the dentist kept yelling at me to stop screaming, it couldn’t hurt that badly. Until he saw the shape. BTW the reason for that is that he wasn’t a REAL dentist. He was the guy who did braces. Doctors are government employees. It was august. All of the dentists were on vacation and I threw an abscess.

          1. Aaand this is why I fight gummint “health care” tooth and nail. Because my sisters and I have experienced similar phenomena at the hands of government appointed medc that we got with the “free” government healthcare as military dependents.

            1. Funny you should mention that. While I was in the Air Force I had my impacted wisdom teeth removed (all of them). Big, hooked roots they had to break the teeth and take out in pieces. All done under an IV sedation.

              I warned the dentist that I had a high tolerance for drugs. They generally affect me a bit less than average. He dismissed that concern with a “once it gets into the bloodstream it’s all the same.” (!!!)

              Well, partway through the third tooth I came out of it. I hurt too much to even scream. I could just lay there and whimper. He finished the third and got started on the fourth before noticing that I was awake and injected novacaine to finish on the last one.

              So, yeah, I’m a bit skeptical of government medicine.

              1. My wife just had another root canal. This one was a ‘hot tooth’ that they gave her 4 shots of novacaine and it _still_ didn’t deaden the nerve even though she couldn’t feel anything else on that side of her face.

              2. Yep. When I was going for an emergency C-section, I had the same issue. Since this was a free-market doc I got a double spinal. (Yeah. That was fun better than the alternative.)

                I shudder to imagine what I would’ve faced had I been stuck with no-chbice gummint docs.

                “Choice” = you can kill your offspring in utero, but good luck picking your doctor, your school, or your plumbing.

                At least it tells you what prog priorities are.

                1. I had THREE epidurals and finally a spinal block. I ALSO have issues reacting to anesthesia…
                  THOUGH last surgery I told them I had this problem, and I went under like a log.

                  1. Did you get the fun bit where only your eyeballs and the tip of your nose can move, so you kinda wonder whether or not you’re still breathing? For values of fun = hugely terrifying?

                    1. I got the bit where I couldn’t move and could only see through a tiny slit because my eyelids didn’t close completely. I was terrified I’d be locked in like that forever.

          2. Oh the joys of government medicine!
            Don’t get me started. As a kid who was sick most of the time, I am well versed in the subject. And that was in Moscow. Everybody else had it MUCH worse.

            Anyway, my wife and I visited her native city in Ukraine a few short years ago.
            Her favorite teacher happened to be in a hospital with a broken hip.
            Her grown up students arranged for her to be in the best hospital in what is one of the most industrialized hence advanced cities in the country.
            We visited her there.

            Well, let me tell you. Any nostalgic feelings my wife might have still harboured were gone by the end of that visit.
            You see, the fact that her teacher kept her roll of toilet paper, as well as her medications, hidden between the bed and the wall, so they wouldn’t get stolen by the nurses or other patients, was the least of it.

    2. If you can believe what Vladimar Nabakov has written about the period just after the 1917 revolution, the Russian liberals had a real chance to transform Czarist Russia in to a parliamentary democracy, and the Reds had little support outside of the army.
      But of course Nabakov would have been the first to admit that he wasn’t an objective observer. The Reds sent his wealthy, liberal family into exile and poverty.
      From what I can remember about what I was taught about the period in an American public high school, the liberals couldn’t tame the reactionary Whites, so the Reds were forced to take control in the October Revolution.

    1. “Casual Marxist?” Does that mean that he/she/it casually puts people in camps? Casually lines them up to be shot?

    2. What a boring mental world to live in. And what a horrible surprise reality is going to be. I suppose plastering her site with excerpts from _The Black Book of Communism_ would be considered triggering? *wink and eeeeevil little grin*

    3. This must be a satire troll. If s/he/it is serious, a cary-carrying member of Bong Hits For Barack.
      The more I think about it, the more it seems that denial of objective reality in favor of verbal doctrinaire pablum is the root cause of what is driving the West into the ground.

      1. I was skimming twitter while having coffee this morning. Saw one claiming to have a degree in psych, history and government studies and yelling that ‘America joining WWII because of Pearl Harbour is revisionist history.’

        People need to find out what paper mill printed her degrees and avoid it as if they were personally implanting maggots in the brain, because by the sanctums of the Gods of Knowledge across all pantheons, that made my brain screech to a halt and had me go “What. The. FSCK. did I just read?”

        1. Likely some idiot who thinks since FDR wanted war against Germany, then Pearl Harbor “didn’t matter”. Some idiots think a President is a King who can make things happen even when Congress (and the American people) are against it.

  17. So as I think I’ve related elsewhere, I had the opportunity in the late 1980s to entertain some students from Moscow University in the UK. The things we thought would impress them like getting a tour of the Houses of Parliament were greeted by a “meh”. But the stop on the way back at 11pm at a kebab shop blew them away
    1) It’s open at late night
    2) You have a choice of Beef, lamb, ….
    3) You can have N different soft drinks
    4) Why are your mad Englishpeople apologizing for the lack of options, no fish and chip shop open etc.? Oh you mean normally they are? what? more than one type of food available all night?

    And then the next day we took them to a supermarket.

    It wasn’t a particularly big one but big enough that every sort of thing they asked for we could show them the aisle where there was a choice a at least 2 types of it – from sugar (brown, white, granulated, lumps etc.) to flour to meat to… Not to mention fresh fruit like bananananananas (this was early December)

    And then there was the booze aisle. Wine from half a dozen countries and multiple varieties from each, more varieties of beer than breweries in Russia, more varieties of Vodka than in Russia (also from 3 or 4 countries (including the famous British vodka cooked up in Warrington)) etc.

    And they saw people complaining to staff about the selection: “What do you mean you don’t have any plain chocolate hobnobs?” and the staff being apologetic.

    1. Confirm. My first visit to US was in 1989. And the exact same things were a HUGE cultural shock. Nor was I comparing to some no-name provincial town – I lived in Moscow then. The variety of goods available, the hours the stores were open, and the continuous attempts of sales people to actually be helpful instead of rudely blowing one off – were nothing short of amazing.

      1. Though I have heard of Russians who visited grocery stores just before a storm hit and say that the shelves remind them of the USSR.

        1. We have a common point of reference, then: East Berlin. I visited it several times in the late 1980’s.

          Comparing your impression to mine: where to you East Berlin’s bread was crap compared to the West Berlin variety – to me, visiting from Moscow, that same East Berlin bread was an example of how to make REAL BREAD, as compared to crap available in Moscow’s stores.

          As a matter of fact, the popular thing to say among Russian people who got to visit East Germany, was an envious: “These damned Germans with their Ordnung have made even Socialism work for them!”

          Tells you all you need to know about the Soviet standard of living, doesn’t it? 🙂

          1. Yes, indeed! I’ll admit though I miss the schwartzbrot from then. That, I could eat (and my mother figured out that if she wrapped up the loaf in plastic shrinkwrap, the bread would still be edible in the evening.)

            I went visiting with a friend’s extended family outside of Berlin, in the farm areas. They were quite proud of the fact that they got their milk fresh. Compared to the pyramid shaped drink packs of milk that I was used to from the Berlin groceries/school canteen, the milk tasted sweet and thick to me. I think I might have had, as they call it these days, ‘raw milk.’

            I lived in East Berlin for a couple of years before the Wall fell, and for some of that time, we were just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie, and the North Korean Embassy was right across from us. Interesting times.

            1. I think I might have had, as they call it these days, ‘raw milk.’

              “Raw milk” is generally only applied to if you’re buying it, precisely because of the difference in danger between drinking fresh milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to some degree, and drinking milk that isn’t still very fresh and hasn’t gotten any treatment to stop the itsy bitsy bugsies. (Less dangerous these days because of refrigeration, but there’s also a lot more people who can get seriously or even fatally ill from it, precisely because they haven’t been killed off by anything else.)

              Did that ever get added to the nuclear topic list, or were we all polite enough last time?

            2. I miss European bread, period. When I first moved to US in 1992, I hated that sliced foam that needed toasting before it began to feel and taste like bread, which US supermarkets sold as ‘bread’. These days, with every self-respecting supermarket having a bakery on the premises and baking a large variety of ‘designer’ breads, it has become much less of a problem, though. But even now, out of 6 or 7 supermarkets within easy reach, I go to only one for good bread.

              Not surprisingly, once USSR was no more, the new private bakeries started making pretty good bread in Russia and, especially, in the Baltic republics. Including various kinds of ‘black’ bread. Once in awhile, I actually go to a ‘Russian’ ethnic grocery store to buy – among other things – dark or black bread imported from there.

              1. American bread suffered for years from health codes which required the freshly baked loaves be stuffed into plastic bags for “hygiene” — a process which rendered the product abysmal. Both relaxation of such codes (in recognition that the bread does require a period to “cure” shedding excess moisture) and development of bags which “breathe” to allow moisture to escape from the bag have vastly improved the quality of bread in the United States.

              2. *smiles in fond memory* I grew to like schwartzbrot sandwiches because of the mothering of my classmates’ mothers. Since we all would go to the bus stop in a crowd of kiddies, I would drop into the apartment of the friend who lived at the same building I did. Their mother was surprised that I didn’t have a sandwich to take with me. She made me one, saying everyone should have one. It was simply a slice of black bread, with butter and one of those hams with the clown face on it, and was meant to be eaten on the way to school. After breakfast. The closest thing I can get in terms of flavor is pumpernickel, but it’s not the same thing.

    2. Tom Clancey used that in Hunt for Red October–the grocery stores are what would get people from behind the iron curtain.

      1. I have a friend who is a left-libertarian. One day I sent him a pic I had found. It was just a shot of a crowded grocery store taken in the early 60s, this one, I think, https://goo.gl/GWMZRq
        Along with a short message that this is what had won the cold war. In response I got a diatribe about the world-destroying American consumerist culture.
        Way out of line, I thought. Here were very common people spending their wages to enjoy luxury and plenty beyond the dreams of their ancestors.

      2. And he got it from Victor Belenko. A very common thing with defectors, apparently, which is why Ryan knew to tell Ramius about it.

        1. *chuckle* My father used to be able to hire babysitters for us whenever he and my mother had to go to some diplomatic function, no matter how short-notice it was. The East Berlin girls didn’t want to be paid in money, oh no. They wanted teenage magazines so they could swoon over David Hasselhoff.

    3. Visitors often have odd views. I’ve heard of a Frenchman visiting Great Britain at the end of the nineteenth century and, being asked what impressed him most, said it was the hospital with the sign saying that it had been built with voluntary donations.

  18. “The only acceptable game outdoors was “Reds versus Whites” – a tribute to the great Communist (red) defeat over the Germans in World War II (the whites)”

    Puh-lease. ‘Reds vs Whites’ had nothing to do with WWII: this was in reference to the Civil War, where the Reds fought the ‘White Movement’ – i.e., the (mostly monarchist) opposition to Bolshies.

    Nor was it the ‘only acceptable game outdoors’, at least nowhere I’ve been as a Soviet kid in the 1960’s – 1970’s. Popular – yes. The only acceptable – not by a long shot. There were literately dozens of activities we did as kids that had nothing at all to do with war and violence.

    Being rejected by everybody and beaten for being a Jew? Yes, it happened, although not in my circle of friends. And not in my school. And not in my college. It wasn’t nearly as universal as you seem to imply.

    The rest… Yeah, I’ve seen all of that. I myself was lucky to live in Moscow, where the average standard of living was head and shoulders above most of the rest of the country – but it only took one to get a few miles outside the borders of Moscow proper to see the life you are describing. And worse.

    1. Yes, “the only acceptable game” part irked me, too. And it wasn’t like adults were forcing us into it. “Playing war” in general was just the most fun, and those were the two wars that were constantly drilled into us, through books, cartoons and movies, in addition to direct school propaganda.

      As far as getting beaten up or rejected for being Jewish, I guess I was less lucky than you. It happened to me all the time, from kindergarten through high school. Some other Jewish kids around me had it a bit easier, though.

      As far as being Jewish preventing one from getting into a college of choice or getting a job, boy, do I have stories to tell!

      For the record I also lived in Moscow, but yeah, I’ve spent some summers in a village outside of Ryazan.

      1. Kids – especially boys – will play war games in every society I am aware of. That’s normal, actually. I suspect that the American ‘Cowboys vs Indians’ variant is not much closer to reality than our ‘Reds vs Whites’ or the pre-revolutionary Russian ‘Cossacks vs bandits’. That’s not the problem. The state using this (in addition to just about everything else) for brainwashing purposes – which USSR certainly did – is.

        As to being a Jew in USSR… I have a rather unique perspective. I am an ethnic Russian, with some Don Cossack blood. But the man who became my true father, and whose name was in my passport as my отчество (‘patronymic’ for those who don’t know Russian) – was a Jew. So I’ve been able to see it from both sides.

        I have to tell you, expressions on the faces of some of my classmates and teachers when they found out that the kid who left the previous grade as Александр Николаевич (Alexander son of Nicholas) came back after summer break as Александр Абрамович (Alexander son of Abram) were truly priceless. 🙂

        1. Since you’re both muskovites with a dim appreciation of how much worse it was out in the villiages, perhaps you might cut Ms Kenyon some slack? After all, none of you had cossacks coming ’round to confiscate your food until your family starved to death, but I can assure you that really happened in some places – even if it didn’t happen in Moscow proper.

          With that caveat in mind, if you seriously doubt that the village teachers didn’t enforce which games the children were allowed to play I’d be interested in knowing why you believe that to have been the case in Ms. Kenyon’s neighbourhood.

          1. I can assure you that if the Cossacks were coming around to confiscate food, it wasn’t done by the commies. The Cossacks were czarist troops (of one particular ethnicity) who were largely eradicated as such during the Civil War. They were active in the pogroms earlier in the century, but not the collectivization that you seem to be referring to.
            The collectivization of farmland followed by продразверстка, mandatory confiscation of food, happened in the 1930s and was done by regular troops or those of the Interior. That horror was indeed perpetrated by the bolsheviks and resulted in starvation of millions, especially in the Ukraine. A different era, a different event.

            As far as games were concerned, at least in the 1970s, in the summers, there were no teachers to be found in those villages you are talking about. No adults, really. They were all working in the fields. And we kids, both the visiting “city folk” and the local “villagers”, played any way we wanted. Of course, I am talking about my own anecdotal experience of several summers over the Brezhnev years, that of my parents and greater family who grew up in the Pale or elsewhere (mostly in Ukraine) and of my friends from all over the place, and I will readily admit that I have not seen every single village in the country. YMMV.

            However, even in supervised settings, such as school recess or our organized Pioneer campus in the country, kids were not forced into playing war and only war. Things were more structured, but we still played everything from hide-and-seek to “pioneerball” and everything else.

            As for the “you spoiled moskovites” bit, you have it somewhat backwards, or rather sideways.
            We undeniably had it much better in terms of food and other things, because the rest of the country was basically robbed of everything to supply Moscow and Leningrad. My Ukrainian in-laws never tire of reminding me of that as if it was somehow my fault.
            However, for the same reason that was done (it was the capital, the bureaucracy was there, so were the foreigners, and appearances had to be kept up), Moscow was much stricter ideologically.
            All of my friends from “the republics” agree that they had it much more relaxed in terms of propaganda and other types of ideological pressure. Local authorities had less people to impress, they were more isolated from the Party higher ups, and they were more concerned with their personal graft than what children of peasants were playing.

            So my guess would be that if there were paranoia about what kids played, it would have been manifested more in Moscow and Leningrad than anywhere else.

            I’m not saying what Nicky described didn’t happen. It could very well be that her local or regional Party Leadership was ambitious enough or earnest enough to enforce more purity than was done by the Center, even going as far as regulating what children could play in the streets. Hell, anything can happen if you have a system when a local petty tyrant has life and death power over everybody. Some Muslim republics’ leadership even had harems, for crying out loud.

            But it simply wasn’t widespread.

            1. Thanks. That’s exactly what I wanted to find out.

              I’d also read that the Cossacks did double duty for the autocracy AND the Bolsheviks. I’m not questioning your report, mind: just hoping to expand my knowledge base. The disinformation campaign in the US would make the Soviets proud.

              On a related note have you read Ruta Sepetys book? I shared it with about 800 local teens last year. Ca ira.

              1. My thinking was that “cossack” had become a generic term for the government’s shock troops, just as has storm troopers.

                1. “My thinking was that “cossack” had become a generic term for the government’s shock troops”

                  Not in Russia, no. In Imperial Russia in peace time they were used as a paramilitary force in support of police. For that they were generally hated and feared by regular peasants – yes. In war time Cossack units were used as light cavalry: reconnaissance, raiding behind enemy lines, skirmishing. Neither of the uses makes them ‘shock troops’, exactly.

              2. “I’d also read that the Cossacks did double duty for the autocracy AND the Bolsheviks.”

                That is correct. Cossack cavalry units fought on both sides of the Civil War. Nothing unique to the Cossacks, BTW: a large number of Imperial Army officers, from junior to field grade to flag officers, supported Bolsheviks and fought on the Red side of the Civil War, as well. And they were mostly Russian noblemen. Go figure.

                However, when Bolsheviks began consolidating their power in the 1920’s, and especially when they began to herd all peasants into ‘collective farms’ in late 1920’s – early 1930’s, Cossacks became a target, as well.

                They lived in their own communities, and outside of military service were quite prosperous farmers. Worse: where regular Russian peasants held most of the land they cultivated in commons, Cossack communities largely consisted of individual small (and not so small) landowners. They proved very resistant to the pressure to ‘unite into a farming collective’. At which point the state’s hammer was brought down on them: autonomy and privileges they enjoyed under the Tsars were taken away, and those of them who were not exterminated or deported to ‘settlements’ in Siberia and Far East, were turned into regular peasants working on regular collective farms.

              3. I can only second what Alex has written.
                One thing I would like to add is something that I think is important to understanding the Cossacks.
                They were essentially a tribal society. Not unlike the hamulas of the Arabs, with similar consequences.
                They were a society onto itself, with primary loyalty towards family, clan and land.
                Historically, they would ally with or rather adhere to a strong neighbour against another strong neighbour (Russia vs. Poland comes to mind), but they never really integrated, being fiercely proud, etc.
                The result being that while they were certainly susceptible to class warfare of the Reds, and the initial Bolshevik promises of “Land for peasants” must have held great sway over the poorer Cossacks (hence the Red Cossacks of the Civil War), their way of life and “tribal” viewpoint were completely incompatible with the communist goal of no private property on means of production. Eventually that meant collectivization, which was pretty much anathema to them.

                Once the Civil War was over, and the Cossacks’ utility ended, the commies basically had to destroy them as a people.

          2. Sam has pretty much said everything I wanted to say in reply.

            To reiterate:

            1. NOBODY born after WWII in USSR has any experience with ‘cossacks coming to confiscate’ anything whatsoever. Those confiscations of food happened in 1920’s – 1930’s, and did not repeat after WWII. Plus, they weren’t – for the most part – done by ‘cossacks’. As a matter of fact, they were often done TO cossacks – one of the reasons there aren’t many left today.

            2. In the 1960’s – 1970’s – the period when I myself was a kid – and later, no, I cannot imagine teachers enforcing what kind of games kids played. Doesn’t mean it didn’t ever happen – like Sam said, there’s no limits to what some officious prick will come up with, given the authority – but it certainly was not common.

            Teachers were grossly overworked, just as grossly underpaid, and did not have any time to ‘enforce’ anything after school. Not and do their actual _job_ – which after school consisted of grading students’ home assignments from the previous day. Trust me, with the amount of home assignments we got, and an average class size well over 30 pupils, any moderately conscientious teacher was barely done with checking and grading all of them by bedtime.

        1. I thought Through Fire is being published by Baen? There are no explosions or ray blasts on that cover … it looks positively serene.

          1. They sometimes skip those, even in a David Weber or John Ringo novel with lots of explosions in the text, so Sarah is in good company. 🙂

  19. … back then, it didn’t occur to me.

    The ability to define normalcy, to set the parameters of what can occur to a person is a fundamental power. Orwell delineated it, and totalitarians abuse it, but it is present even in our own society.

    Just look at the questions asked in a presidential (or, often, other) election. Democrats and Liberals (is there a difference?) are accorded the benefit of credulity, allowed to make claims without challenge, such as “war on womyn” and “womyn make 77% of what men do for the same work.)

    Republicans (and conservatives, who are not entirely the same thing) are required to support their claims in spite of all evidence in their favour (e.g., Fiorina’s claims about those planned Parenthood videos.)

    The MSM have narratives and woe betide any who swim against their currents.

    It is not necessary to tell people <I<what to think when you can, by limiting their menu of conceivable ideas, dictate what thoughts may be entertained and which are just crazy talk.

    BTW – we now recognize the underlying truth of “Neznayka na Lune” as the Guardian relates in its recent “expose”:

    An idea so insane it must be trrue!

    1. Er, did anyone happen to notice whether i clicked the box to receive notifications of new comments via email?

      Tracking down evidence of that nonsense from the Guardian completely distracted me.

      BTW – much of the argument over the Hugos was in part a battle over who gets the privilege of defining “good” writing. That was why Puppy Kickers kept insisting the Puppy preferences simply were not “good” works, as if there were some objective standard.

      It is similar to the aphorism about the Scots convincing buyers the ruined taste of their liquor but it was a feature, not a bug.

      1. You know, this fits with an observation I made a while back, that the Left has drifted from being pro-space to anti-space over the past generation. Not surprising to find that their pseudo-religion of Environmentalism is the cause.

    2. That sounds fisk-worthy. But I don’t know if anyone wants to risk the braincells necessary to do it.

      1. Someone posted a fisk of it on Larry Correia’s FB page, but I can’t find it at the moment. I thought it was in Larry’s post regarding unfriending people posting Sanders or Occupy Democrat memes, but I just finished browsing through… um, several hundred posts with no luck.

        (The uncertainty because the post count doesn’t apparently count the people using the “reply” button on any given comment.)

    3. Other examples of defining what is thinkable:

      Normalizing same-sex marriage.

      Attempting the same process with “assisted suicide.”

      Legitimizing Antisemitism so long as it is relabeled Antizionism.

      The return of the fainting couch safe space.

      Making many a statement of obvious fact a social faux pas, e.g. diversity is not strength; strength is strength.
      (see: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/424269/marine-corps-against-political-correctnes-leaders-are-set-challenge-obama )

      Redefining the Christian beliefs of over half the nation as “extremist” views.

      1. Bernie Sanders at Liberty University:

        “In my view there is no justice in our country when youth unemployment exists at tragically high levels,” he said. A fifth of children live in poverty, he noted, and the United States jails more people than any other country. We have “a rigged economy, designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everybody else.”

        That’s why we need to raise the Minimum Wage!?


    4. Yeah, compare and contrast the environmental condition of the former Soviet Union and every known superfund site in the US, and then tell me who is more likely to need to escape in rockets that which they have wrought, the Central Commitee of the CPSU or Elon Musk?

      1. If you are going to engage an argument using facts, history and context there is no point bothering with the Guardian. Those are antithetical to their editorial policy and alien to their readership.

  20. The only acceptable game outdoors was “Reds versus Whites” – a tribute to the great Communist (red) defeat over the Germans in World War II (the whites)

    Weren’t the “white Russians” the ones that actually fought the war against the Tsars, then got their revolution hijacked and stabbed in the back by the “red Russians” near the end?

    1. No. There was no ‘war against the Tsars’ in Russia. The first revolution of 1917, which led to the last Russian emperor abdicating, was just about bloodless.

      Nearly a year later, the Commies, who had very limited support anywhere in the country, used their strong position with several Army units stationed in St Petersburg to throw a coup, and depose the transitional government.

      They mostly did it a s a measure of last resort – they LOST the general elections to more moderate social democrats and socialists, and realized that their only chance to govern was to seize power by force.

      The so-called ‘White Movement’ was an attempt to resist this coup, which ended in a Civil War. The military part of ‘White Movement’ consisted mostly of the old Imperial Army officers, primarily Monarchists in their political views. On the civilian side – yes, there were some people who worked in the transitional government before the coup.

  21. Some very interesting reading here. I want to thank all of you for your informed and serious (well, mostly!) input. I don’t pretend to be anywhere near as well informed as most of you, but this does remind me about a conversation I once had with a friend, a college professor. A good person, he did a lot to help others; but I was somewhat surprised at a statement he made one of the last times I saw him. He said that Communism was the best kind of government, because everybody was equal. I said perhaps–in theory, to which he looked startled and repeated, “In theory?” I told him that he was an intelligent person (which he was) and as he began to smile at the compliment, I added, “THINK!” I pointed out a few of what I thought were obvious facts, such as a wall being erected to keep the people IN; individuals being shot if they tried to escape, etc. I mentioned that in some parts of the world, people live in mud huts–and would he be willing to tear down his comfortable home and live in a mud hut in order to be equal? (He really looked startled at that). Also that he was a capitalist–he owned several rental houses (at very reasonable rents–he was very fair in all his dealings). I mentioned that we can’t help people from a position of weakness, only from a position of strength; and that instead of tearing our society down, why not try to do something to help others build theirs up?

    Enough! What grabbed my attention here was simply the word “drones” and then, a few lines in, something about little people in a city of regular sized plants, fruits, and vegetables. These two things together reminded me of something I considered posting several days ago–with pictures–but decided it was too silly (I’m not suggesting that this thread is silly–it’s far from it).

    I have a broad-leaf house plant that I decided was a “Battlescar Galactica,” and that it was a giant plant. The scars (and it does have some) are a result of a battle with a helicopter. Well, the truth of it is, it’s a regular sized plant that was attacked by a very small practice drone. The damage is real.

    Good night.

    1. THere’s a certain type of intellectual that becomes so enamored with theoretical constructs that they will ignore or twist all data not fitting their theory. (I see this regularly in completely apolitical contexts.) For them, “engineer” is a term of abuse, while for “engineers” (empirically driven scientists) like myself, calling somebody a “French intellectual” is somewhere between used car salesman and male prostitute (or MSM journalist, but I repeat myself) 😉

    2. I often say that Communism has been the only theory of political science for which we have systematic data. In the 20th century, various societies tried communism dozens of times. (Well, ‘tried’ here means have forced upon you…) Formerly rich countries tried it. Formerly poor countries tried it. Just about every cultural group was represented from North Asia to South Asia to South America, and Europe. We had double blind studies going where countries were cut in half.

      In *every single freaking case*, the communist half turned into a nightmarish police state that plumbed the depths of evil. The capitalist half did alright.

      If your theory says that doing X results in paradise on Earth, and you reliably get our best depiction of hell yet instead, then something is very wrong with your theoretical assumptions, or the reasoning you used in arriving at your theory!

      (Something I wonder about: Why the vast majority of my peers (I am in graduate school) are socialist/(genuinely) communist is something that baffles me. They aren’t stupid. Some of them are genuinely brilliant people. They aren’t evil (interpersonally). But they can’t seem to get over their idea of the rest of America as some sort of mindless livestock that need to be put back under control. Capitalism is something that “those low-grade low-intelligence people” agitate for “and our mistake (as Americans) has been to let them have any voice in national politics as if their position is equally valid.” (yes, I’ve been told that.) )

      1. If your theory says that doing X results in paradise on Earth, and you reliably get our best depiction of hell yet instead, then something is very wrong with your theoretical assumptions, or the reasoning you used in arriving at your theory!

        Oh, and as for the “reasons” offered for why Communism doesn’t work: They’re shallow “it’s your fault” rationalizations. I’m tired of hearing about why Communism doesn’t work because men are evil, when this argument is being made from societies where men have achieved things that our primitive ideas of gods would envy. We are capable of so much more than that, the idea that the hellish police states that result from Communism is the best we can do because men are flawed just … grates.

        1. Men are flawed but those idiots want to give “certain people” absolute power over other people.

          IE If Men Were Angels, We’d Need No Government. If Angels Were To Govern US, Government Would Need No Limits.

          Those people believe that They Are Angels.

        2. Wait … what? So they admit that every time Communism has been tried it created variations of hell on earth because men are flawed. And then they expect it to work this time — why? What has been done to perfect man in the meantime?

      2. I don’t think that it is a matter of theory of them. It is a matter of history. Communism is inevitable. It is the state towards which mankind is “evolving.” If it fails, it is never the fault of the communists themselves — how could it be? It can only be the fault of the reactionaries who are trying to hold back history.
        To be so faithful to a future, the present must be made out to be terrible. The world is full of bad reactionaries who, motivated by religious faith or capitalist greed (or both), are oppressing humanity in an unnatural manner.
        “As long as I breathe I hope. As long as I breathe I shall fight for the future, that radiant future, in which man, strong and beautiful, will become master of the drifting stream of his history and will direct it towards the boundless horizons of beauty, joy and happiness!”
        -Leon Trtsky

        1. Too bad that Stalin, in pursuit of that self-same bright and shining future, ended Trotsky’s breathing….

      3. Something I wonder about: Why the vast majority of my peers (I am in graduate school) are socialist/(genuinely) communist is something that baffles me.

        Grad students, as a general class, suffer from an excess of theory and deficit of experience. This means that while highly knowledgeable they have yet to discover the extent to which much of their knowledge lacks any practical purpose if not actually contrary to facts.

        They have excelled in a system of theory — academia — divorced from reality and by that success become overly committed to that theory. They have invested their lives in a promise of standards which bear little resemblance to reality and they hold reality responsible, at fault, for its failure to conform to their theories.

        This is why some of our most successful presidents have come from backgrounds of failed business — they learned that following a process perfectly (according to laboratory instructions) does not always achieve predicted results, and that achieving positive results does not always require following prescribed procedures.

        Some of them even learn that unpleasant people can nonetheless produce greater results than the properly mannered member of “our type” of person. [Insert anecdote of Lincoln’s response to complaints about Grant’s excessive drinking.]

        1. Addendum: this is also why Soviet Art (Nazi Art, Progressive Art, Adjective Art] so often fails: it is more concerned with proper process/politics/content than with proper effect. A badly drawn sketch which conveys emotion to its audience is far superior art than a mechanically perfectly executed painting which the viewer merely gazes upon, unmoved.

        2. “[Insert anecdote of Lincoln’s response to complaints about Grant’s excessive drinking.]”

          Minor nit, Lincoln heard about the story about “his response concerning Grant’s excessive drinking” (ie Lincoln wanted his other generals to be drinking what Grant did.)

          However, Lincoln said that it never happened and there was an earlier story about people complaining that the Duke of Wellington was “Mad” with the response being “Hope the Duke bits the other Generals”. [Very Big Grin]

  22. Well done Nicki.

    When I read experiences like yours, or Sarah’s, from when you were growing up I’m always reminded of the stories my parents and grand parents told of growing up. Back in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s when they were still struggling on the farm they also reused bath water, baked without eggs (because they could sell those), meals were lard on bread, and they canned everything they could and stored it in root cellars or sometimes dry wells. Clothes got handed down from parents to kids, from one kid to another, and when they couldn’t be patched anymore they became parts for quilts. I remember going camping and we’d all grab an empty ice cream pail to go collect berries in so we’d have jelly/jam. Sometimes grandpa would take the berries and make wine instead.
    We would sometimes take trips to Canada, and the stores there always seemed about a decade behind what I was used to in ND. Your stories of the great socialist countries make me think they were a good half century behind in terms of living conditions and amenities. I’m glad you got out.

  23. Nicki, your story jibes with what I hear of the many ex-FSU immigrants around me. The only two good things they generally remember are Russian “high culture” (almost all of it pre-Communist in origin — like classical music and Russian literature) and (among the sci/tech types) rigorous schooling in math. In fact, they got so exasperated about the level of math and science teaching in Israeli schools that they started their own network of high schools. FWIW, the latter are (for those motivated enough) still great compared to what I’ve seen of US public high schools 😉
    Shana tova ugmar chatima tova

  24. Ummm….

    Not that I think a “worse than communism” contest is a GOOD thing, I still have an entry:

    Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.

    ACTIVELY DESTROYING your culture and killing two and a half generations of the educated.

    We often talk about fascists and socialists and communists driving a country back to the peasantry stage, but the SPECIFIC OBJECT of Campuchia was exactly that.

    When Henry Kissinger says “Thank God the communist Vietnamese are moving in.”, you know the situation is bad.

      1. Nit-nit: they were rat bastards first and foremost, with the communism merely a veneer. Idi Amin would have been no more terrible for being communist.

        Admittedly, in this modern world the label on the packaging being “communism” seems to excuse much corruption within its contents, but we should not mistake the label for those contents. It is merely the fact that such a label seems to protect the contents from closer examination by our “intelligentsia.” Casrto’s Cuba is more rotten than Batista’s mainly because the label protects it from accurate examination and evaluation.

        The flaw thus is in the reporting, not the subject. Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer which the NYT has yet to repudiate.

        1. How can you tell the difference between a ghastly Communist and a ghastly person whose Communism is only a veneer?

          1. It is largely the same technique for distinguishing a zebra that is white with black stripes from one which is black with white stripes. In the case of ghastly people the important thing is not that communism grants license to allow their ghastliness full play so much as it offers no restraints against such license.

  25. On an interesting sidelight, some years ago, the War College conducted an experiment using photo analysis experts. They showed satellite photos of a city (unidentified) and asked the participants to estimate the population. Since there is a MINIMUM number of miles of roads, canals and railways necessary to provide the basic food and fiber to support a given population, the experts examined the photo carefully, did their calculations and their estimates ranged from 750K to 900K for the city in question. Then it was revealed that the photo was of MOSCOW, the population of which was being touted by the Soviets as 8 MILLION–making it one of the largest cities on the planet at that time.

    1. IIRC Heinlein observed in an essay (something that got included in Expanded Universe) after his visit to the USSR that this problem was rampant thoughout the USSR, with supposed large cities not actually being so large.

      1. Related thought: I wonder how much of the decline in the reported population of Russia since the fall of the USSR is as much from emigration and decline in birth rate and such, and how much is from slightly less BS in their population figures.

        1. Sort of the opposite – the Chicoms have empty cities with lots of empty housing in them. The Soviets had (often overcrowded) cities they claimed were much larger than they actually were.

      2. Yes, and he had three independent sources:
        The arial photos that a friend of his had seen.
        His wife’s conversations about family (number of children) with the locals.
        His own “feel” for the cities.

    2. May I suggest that the experts in question were calculating based on the ‘basic needs’ of a population in a normal American city – and had no idea of what was considered ‘basic’ in the USSR of the time.

      Moscow of 1970’s – 1980’s – the city I grew up in, went to college in, and worked in – did, indeed, have a problem with its population not matching the official numbers. But the problem was actually direct opposite to what you are suggesting: the official numbers UNDERcounted the real population of Moscow by at least a million, more likely – 1.5-2 million people.

      1. Yet those same “experts” were able to ACCURATELY guess the populations of Bangkok, Hong Kong, Sydney, Calcutta and Johannesburg using the SAME techniques.

        1. Having not read their work, I can’t say for sure where in their calculations did they go wrong with Moscow, but go wrong they did.

          Many Soviet ‘statistics’ were proven false after the USSR’s collapse, in the brief period in 1990’s when there wasn’t any state censorship to speak of and many of the Russian archives were open to the Western researchers. The 1970’s – 1980’s population data – including Moscow’s population data – never was.

          There’s a reason for that: when every citizen is obligated by law to register their address with police, and have it reflected in their internal passport; when not having a job is a crime punishable by labor camps and just about all jobs available are government-owned – it is easy for the authorities to have reasonably accurate population data. They can (and did) lie about such internal data to the West – but having it for themselves is essential.

          Guess what? Not a trace of such ‘double bookkeeping’ was ever found in regards to Moscow population. Moreover, the amount of residential housing the city possessed at the time is fully compatible with the official population numbers. And let me tell you: there were NO empty houses in the Soviet Moscow. NONE. Quite the opposite: people were crammed into the housing available like f**ing sardines. A family of 5 living in a 1-bedroom apartment totaling ~300 square feet was considered to have EXCESS floorspace. I should know: mine was one of such families, and most of my classmates actually had it _worse_.

    3. Based on what I could find I would Moscow has a population of 2 million based on what the transit ridership looks like. This from long experience with NY Subway and having seen what Tokyo looks like. Along with London, Paris and Berlin, though I have never been to any of those cities. But more riders than NY, no way. A NY car is never as empty as some of the videos I’ve seen on the Moscow Metro in Manhattan.

      1. Nit, you are assuming that Muscovites would have equal means, desire, and necessity to use public transit, as New Yorkers have. I have no idea how use of Moscow public transit was handled, but if it was on a pay per use model, a population that was much poorer would have much fewer transit riders, walking is free after all. Alternatively, in a government controlled society, the government could dictate who was ALLOWED to use public transport. Either possibility could seriously skew the number of occupants of a transit car.

        1. No, that’s not it. People did use Moscow public transportation a lot, and its cost was never a serious burden. In late 1970’s – early 1980’s a trip in Moscow subway cost 5 kopecks (.05 ruble). Same for a bus trip. IIRC, trolley was even cheaper. And the price was regardless of the trip’s distance. Moreover, 3 rubles bought you a card allowing unlimited use of any single type of public transportation for a month, and 6 rubles (again, IIRC – hard to remember exact prices after 40 years) – use of ALL means of public transportation available in Moscow, for a month. Unlimited number of trips, unlimited trip distance. Given that average salary in Moscow at that time was a bit above 100 rubles a month, public transportation was eminently affordable.

          During rush hour, a typical interval between Moscow subway trains was less than 2 minutes. On several lines it was even shorter than that. Basically, by the time one train cleared the station and its tail lights were no longer visible in the exit tunnel, you could turn your head and already see the headlights of the next train in the entrance tunnel.

          I do not recall having to wait for a Moscow subway train for more than 5-7 minutes. EVER. Even around 1:00am, when just about NOBODY was traveling anywhere in Moscow, and the trains were empty.

          This was a major letdown when I first visited NY subway. While the trains were air conditioned (unheard of luxury in Moscow of the time) and a lot more modern, the intervals between them were a lot longer than I was used to, and the stations themselves a lot less comfortable.

        2. Bearcat, all that would apply if Moscow Metro wasn’t declaring Larger ridership numbers than NYC. But they are. I’ve ridden the NYC Subway during rush and the Tokyo subway and the traffic just doesn’t look like what I should be seeing in the videos on Youtube.

          1. 1. A Moscow subway car takes more people than the NY one, because a) it is ~5′ longer, and b) it has fewer seats, so standing room is larger.

            2. Some of the trains on NY subway are 4-car trains (granted, the normal length is 8-11). The minimum train length in Moscow subway is 6 cars, and 8-car trains are standard for peak hours.

            3. Interval between trains on NY subway is 2-5 minutes during peak hours, and 10-20 minutes off-peak. Moscow subway ALWAYS has intervals less than 2 minutes (actually, they get down to as little as 90 seconds) during peak hours, and when I still lived there, the interval NEVER got longer than ~10 minutes even off-peak.

            4. Moscow subway’s average speed is claimed to be ~25 mph to NY subway’s 17 mph average. Can’t say anything about how true that is – other than from my personal experience Moscow subway DOES feel noticeably faster than NY one.

            1. The best information I can find is that Moscow Metro has cars that are 19.6 m long and operates eight car trains. On the NY side it’s more complicated. The NY Subway is actually two, the A Division, the old IRT and the B division, which derives from the old Private BMT and the city constructed IND . Now the IRT is one of the oldest subways out there and when they chose car dimensions the car size was derived from electic car practice from the early part of the last century, with cars that are 51 ft long. The B division cars on the other hand was built by the BMT to more or less railroad standards and the cars are 60ft or 75 ft, if the cars were built in the 1970’s when the city built bigger cars for the then unconstructed 2nd Ave subway and continued the practice for subsequent orders. The length returned to 60 ft for the new cars starting in the 1990’s. What it comes down to is that the typical B division car is the same dimensions as the Moscow car give or take. Which isn’t a surprise because when the Moscow Metro was built the IND was the system to beat and a lot of engineers copied what the IND did in terms of car sizes and door spacing.

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