August 21st, 2011


Personal: Recalling Moscow, August 1991

This AP story had me flashbacking to that August with Dave Nutting. I can't believe it's been twenty years. But there we were, just moved in to Mark and April's place at 611 High Terrace, which we were housesitting for the year, gathered around CNN and watching the revolution play out on CNN. I remember grabbing David, who had just returned from his summer in Moscow as an underground missionary, and forcing him to sit back down on the couch after he thought he'd seen a friend on the streets with the tanks, exclaiming "That's Yuri!," or whatever his friend's name was, and that he had to get a flight back to Moscow right now.

But the strangest or most surreal memory was flying the Soviet flag from the front porch as a sign of solidarity with the government. Passing pickup trucks, being driven up Normal Road by guys who would have torn that flag down in disgust a few years earlier, now had their drivers spotting the red flag with its hammer and sickle and instead honking horns, pumping their fists in the air out of their windows, and cheering in support of democracy in the old U.S.S.R. Who could have predicted it?
How Boris Yeltsin defeated 1991 Communist coup
Aug 18, 10:41 AM (ET)


MOSCOW (AP) - No picture better tells the story of Russia's failed 1991 coup than that of a fist-pumping Boris Yeltsin defying Communist hard-liners from the top of a tank.

Those who were by Yeltsin's side describe his decision 20 years ago Friday to climb onto the tank as a stroke of political brilliance that proved crucial for the defeat of the coup. They also recall numerous other factors, some less known, that combined to give Yeltsin the victory he needed to become the undisputed leader of Russia as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Among those with Yeltsin was his top adviser Gennady Burbulis, who recently spoke to The Associated Press about those August days.

Few Russians today see Yeltsin as a hero, but in the summer of 1991 he had just been elected to the new post of Russian president in the first popular presidential vote. He held out the promise of a free and democratic Russia.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was struggling to keep the Soviet Union from splitting apart, gave his grudging approval to a plan to recognize the sovereignty of Russia and the other 14 Soviet republics in exchange for preserving a central government with limited powers. The new union treaty was to be signed Aug. 20.

Communist hard-liners in Gorbachev's government believed the treaty spelled the end of the Soviet Union and decided to act.

In the early hours of Aug. 19, they announced they were seizing power from Gorbachev, who they said was unable to carry out his duties because of poor health. In fact, he had been placed under house arrest at his summer house the day before.

As hundreds of armored vehicles began to roll toward central Moscow, Yeltsin and his closest advisers, including Burbulis, headed for the seat of his government, an imposing marble building known as the White House, where they found crowds of supporters already beginning to gather. The first tanks rumbled up about an hour later.

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Thomas More

Theological Notebook: Watching the UK Debate About Public Morality

Just wanted to copy a few columns or articles into the journal here. It has been interesting to watch this debate about ethics itself that's been happening in the UK since the riots. The number of writers drawing attention to the idea of public morality itself is interesting, particularly in a world of post-modern assumptions or dogma, where one (increasingly) ought not be allowed to articulate the idea of a binding morality that does not depend upon personal narrative or preference. Modernity was in many respects the attempt to find such an objective and publicly-accessible morality, but without recourse to a specific religious tradition, as a way of reinforcing a multi-religious society. Post-Modernity gave up on – or actively began to deny – that there was such a possibility, and resigned itself to moral relativism, taking the Modern idea of freedom and absolutizing that. So I find it especially interesting to read mainstream public writing in Europe that calls the absolutizing of freedom into question, for that is the sole great heresy and forbidden thought in contemporary/postmodern thinking. Classical liberalism did not so absolutize the idea of liberty. Does not doing so always end in injustice? Or is something like the emerging political theoretical language of "human responsibilities" to balance out the language of "human rights" (Pacem in Terris, The Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities) offering an acceptable way out of this ironic absolutism?
Years of Liberal Dogma Have Spawned a Generation of Amoral, Uneducated, Welfare Dependent, Brutalised Youngsters
By Max Hastings, The Mail Online

The Moral Decay of Our Society is as Bad at the Top as the Bottom
By Peter Oborne, The Telegraph
After Riots, British Leaders Offer Divergent Proposals
By JOHN F. BURNS and ALAN COWELL for The New York Times
Blaming a Moral Decline for the Riots Makes Good Headlines But Bad Policy
By Tony Blair, The Observer

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