Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | February 25, 2014

Assorted Links for Tuesday

Just a few links today:

1. Events in Ukraine are fluid and confused of late, and moving swiftly, so that articles and blog posts from last week are already out of date. And, for those of us in the US, it can require some hunting to find information that is not distorted by the biases, blinkers, and preconceived formulae of the American press.

Yuriy Gorodnichenko (Dept. of Economics, UC Berkeley) gave a public lecture (“Ukraine: A Battle for the Future of Europe?”) that provides some good background. The slides are here (pdf, 110 slides). (H/T: Tyler Cowen.)

Clarissa, a native Ukrainian who now lives in Illinois, has a number of posts following events — see, e.g., “Good News From Ukraine” and “The Scholarly Take on Ukraine.” Also (and on this point I am skeptical, but I thought her read worth a link), she believes that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine in order to seize Crimea. An excerpt (emphasis in original):

When Ukraine agreed to relinquish its nuclear arsenal, this was done on one enormously important condition. The condition is that if Ukraine agrees to live by the side of a huge nuclear power without any nuclear weapons of its own, the international community will guarantee that it will protect the sovereignty of Ukraine within its borders such as they were at the time of the signing of Budapest accords.

After the fall of the USSR, Ukraine was the third largest nuclear power in the world. Its nuclear arsenal was bigger than those of China, UK and France combined. And you know what Ukraine did with all those weapons? It send them to Russia. In 1994, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances guaranteed, in exchange, that Ukraine’s 1994 borders would be respected. The United States offered to uphold that guarantee.

Handing over your entire nuclear arsenal to the country that has always been and is now the greatest aggressor against your sovereignty is a pretty big sacrifice, don’t you think? And Ukraine made this sacrifice to ensure global peace and stability. If the guarantors of this deal did not think that the Crimea region legitimately belonged to Ukraine, they should have raised that issue before the country relinquished all means of defending itself from Russia.

Oh, and the New York Times continues the grand tradition of making every story about Obama. (In fairness, here is a slightly better Times story.)

2. Speaking of Ukraine, among the many photos emerging from the combat in the streets are some amazing photos of Ukrainian priests on the front lines, ministering to the living and the dead. See also here and here. (H/T: David at Popehat.)

3. In the course of a rambling and otherwise not terribly insightful or original column about events in Ukraine, George Will makes one surprising statement — calling Louis Fischer “Lenin’s best biographer.”

4. BTW, it seems that things are also happening in Venezuela. See also here for pics and video.

5. Vasundhara Sirnate in The Hindu writes “In defence of the offensive”:

The pulping of Dr. Doniger’s book is the latest in a steady stream of books that have been similarly treated because, it is claimed, such books offend communities. I offer here a slightly different argument in defence of her book. Dr. Doniger’s book does not do Hinduism a disservice. It is a call for action against the historical priestly expurgations that have accompanied the evolution of Hindu epics and history. She re-injects the lost narratives of Dalits, women and other lower castes — narratives that were removed by design by some male Hindu priests who sanitised the books to suit their agendas. In order to dislike a book one first has to read it. Mr. Batra’s petition has encouraged mob behaviour where Hindus, who don’t even know what’s in the book, are now participating in the rising Indian Cult of the Offended.

(H/T: Vikash Yadav, Duck of Minerva. My previous blogging on Doniger’s book is here.)

6. Writing in The Telegraph, Peter Oborne believes that, were Scotland to vote for independence from the united Kingdom in this year’s referendum, Queen Elizabeth would no longer be the Queen of Scotland. More particularly, Oborne believes that England would not allow Scotland to keep Elizabeth as Queen:

Will the Queen be allowed to remain as Scottish monarch? I have no doubt that the Queen herself would strongly prefer that she did. But it is not simply a matter for her. She is constitutionally obliged to take the advice of the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Cameron has already denied Scotland the pound sterling. He is entitled to deny the Scots the House of Windsor, especially since the Scots had their own separate monarch before James the VI and I unified the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603.

OK, I am not an expert on the (largely unwritten) constitution of the United Kingdom. And the discussion is almost certainly academic (the “Yes” side is probably going to lose the upcoming referendum). But my sense is that Oborne’s “constitutional analysis” is all sorts of wrong.

As a number of people point out in the comments on Oborne’s column, Elizabeth II is Queen of something like 15 countries. She is “constitutionally obliged” to take the advice of the British prime minister in Britain. In her capacity as Queen of Canada, she is obliged to take the advice of the Canadian prime minister. In Australia, she must listen to the Australian PM. And so on. When the Irish Free State separated from the UK, Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather remained King of the Irish Free State. (The Irish Free State later dropped the monarchy and became the Republic of Ireland, but that was done by the Irish government, not by the British and certainly not by the British PM.)

If Scotland separates itself from the rest of the UK, then the UK prime minister no longer has authority there. If the parliament of an independent Scotland offered the crown to Elizabeth, I do not see what legal power Cameron would have to stop her from accepting it. (For that matter, they could offer the crown to Prince Harry and set up a cadet branch.)

(H/T: Althouse.)

7. Here in Tennessee, State Representative Joe Carr has a bill (HB 1833) that aims to reduce “crossover voting” in Tennessee’s open primaries. (Carr is a Republican who represents about half of Rutherford County, just east of Murfreesboro and a little southeast of Nashville. He is presently challenging incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander in the GOP primary for one of Tennessee’s US Senate seats.) Carr’s state Senate co-sponsor is none other than my own state senator, Stacey Campfield. Yes, that Stacey Campfield. (See also here. And here. And here. And so on.)

The proposed bill would require each voter in a primary election to check a box on a voter sign-in form, agreeing with the following statement:

The primary election that I am voting in most closely represents my values and beliefs.

I am not sure, and I will have to research the issue a bit more, but I have a gut feeling that this proposed law may run afoul of the First Amendment under Tashjian v. Republican Party, 479 U.S. 208 (1986), or other precedents. More on this later.


  1. ‘George Will makes one surprising statement — calling Louis Fischer “Lenin’s best biographer.’

    That is indeed not what I would have expected, at all. Feeling a little pink, George?

    … Re: Ukraine, I noted that Russia is suddenly conducting military exercises nearby (tho not in the military district bordering Crimea). My problem is that I imagine Putin thinking, “so we invade Ukraine … what is the rest of the world going to do about it?” Not much, I suspect. The real obstacle to replaying 1956 and 1968 would probably be the danger of long-term insurrection like Afghanistan or Iraq.

    • I heard on NPR today about the Russian military exercises, which must mean sleepless nights for many in Ukraine.

      The danger or fact of long-term insurrection did not stop Russia from activities in Chechnya or, in 2008, from going past the borders of South Ossetia and into Georgia proper.

    • Indeed it did not, tho I was thinking in terms of a Russian occupation of Ukraine.

    • So was I. My point (perhaps expressed unclearly) was, If Russia occupies Crimea, there may be a long-term insurrection; but danger of long-term insurrection did not stop the Russians from occupying parts of Georgia, so that danger may not be much of a break when it comes to Ukraine.

  2. “Also (and on this point I am skeptical, but I thought her read worth a link), she believes that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine in order to seize Crimea.”

    I guess I better go see what *else* Clarissa thinks is likely to happen now.

    • She is a better prognosticator in this matter than I. 😛

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