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Letters for Sunday, April 10, 2022

Here’s much more on the war in Ukraine

After Russia, the largest country in Europe is Ukraine. It is about the size of Texas, and is the breadbasket of Europe.

Its black soil is famous for its productivity, with wheat, corn and barley exports ranking third in the world, and sunflower oil production first in the world.

Ukraine’s mineral wealth is huge: large deposits of iron ore, manganese, titanium and uranium, the nucleus of atomic power. Its coal deposits are second only to China. It has crude oil, shale oil and natural gas. Untapped is the wealth of the Black Sea. It is a jewel. If Russia can pluck it, she would become a superpower.

On independence from the Soviet Bloc in December 1991, Ukraine claimed to be a republic. But instead of moving in the direction of democracy, it became a corrupt, oligarch-controlled state.

When Putin came to power in Russia, he sought to woo Ukraine into the Russian orbit. The Ukraine see-sawed between the East, Russia and the West, NATO. It sought admittance into NATO in 2008, but entry was delayed since Ukraine was ruled by oligarchs, had not adopted the rule of law, and had a corrupt judiciary.

Putin kept interfering with the non-aligned status of Ukraine until the Euromaidan Revolution of February 2014. The pro-Putin president was forced to flee to Russia. Independence, Ukraine sovereignty, caused the revolt, a recurring theme of nationalism since the days of the tsar. Putin responded by invading the Crimea and Donbas.

War in Donbas resulted in an uneasy cease fire, Minsk Two, in 2015. A wavy no-contact line was drawn across Donbas like the DMZ in Korea. Ukraine tried to move away from its Russian roots, emphasizing Ukraine culture, language and rejection of the Moscow-controlled orthodox faith.

Corruption is endemic in Ukraine. In the 2019 election one candidate espoused: Army, faith, language as his platform. Pitted against him was an actor comedian who called himself “servant of the people” after his popular comedy show. Zelenskyy promised to “clean up government and end corruption.” He won by 70% of the vote.

A political analyst after Zelenskyy’s election said: “If he fails to rein in the oligarchs, end rampant judicial corruption and solve the Donbas war, Zelenskyy will lose the best chance Ukraine has to escape Russian influence and emerge as a European democracy.”

Unfortunately, Ukraine failed to be a dependable nation. It missed numerous opportunities to work with the West economically and in attempts to reform its government. During his time in office Zelenskyy made negligible progress in reducing oligarch power, corruption nor solving the Donbas problem.

Recently, Anthony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state, said, “Zelenskyy has made little headway over the oligarchs’ grip of his country. (That) grip must end.”

In November 2021, Zelenskyy’s popularity fell to 25% when it was revealed that he and his cohorts had millions of dollars in offshore accounts in Belize, the Virgin Islands and Cyprus. It appeared that Zelenskyy was like other oligarchs taking advantage of his power.

Meanwhile, on the northern and eastern borders of Ukraine, Russian armed forces were massing. The apparent overwhelming power of the buildup caused one Ukraine general to cry for help from NATO. He claimed the small Ukraine army of 250,000 men could not hold off the Russians. They would be in Kyiv within two or three days. “We must open the arsenals to our citizens to fight the aggressors.”

William J. Fernandez is a retired judge and Kapa‘a resident.

Listening and learning makes sense

Watching a bit of the hearings on Katanji Brown Jackson — the part where the Supreme Court nominee is accused of being soft on child pornographers — I was struck by several of the senators ridiculing Jackson for attempting to explain that there were different degrees of culpability for that heinous crime. “They should all go to prison for 50 years,” one said, and another immediately said, “I agree.” Nowadays, many consider thinking an unacceptable weakness.

I’ll use the Arizona statute (the federal statute requires use of interstate commence, satisfied, by the way, by selfies). Arizona criminalizes possession of “any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexual conduct or exploitive exhibition.”

In Roman mythology, Zeus, while in the form of a swan, impregnated Leda. Leda’s age is difficult to pin down; she was “of age” (and married). Twelve years old was the marriage age in Rome, so it is likely she was well under 18. An “erotic mosaic” of the impregnation is one of the finds in Pompeii, the city near Rome buried in the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 c.e. There were many paintings of the myth in the Italian Renaissance, including a famous (but lost) one by Michelangelo. So, any scholar of the myths, or archeologist or collector or student of fine art can violate the statute. Fifty years?

In the 1996 “Romeo + Juliet” movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, the couple consummates their marriage. Juliet was 13 and Romeo 16. Assuming a director uses proper aged actors (even while making sure no actual sex occurs), anyone knowingly in possession of the film or an outtake is guilty, since a “depiction” doesn’t require actual sex. Did you think Romeo and Juliet was child pornography?

In much of Muslim world, the age of consent to marriage is 9 (I don’t approve, but that doesn’t change the fact). So a loving wife of eight years, now 17, sexting to her observant husband, violates the statute, and so does her husband in keeping the image on his iphone. Fifty years?

In fact, sexting is a craze among high school students, virtually all of whom are under 18. Fifty years?

Mother Mary. Most biblical scholars place Mary’s age upon conception at 12 to 14 years old. So a depiction of that scene is child pornography. Even a painting of Mary suckling the infant Jesus might qualify. Fifty years.

Thinking is not a crime, not even a sin. Unlike a knife blade, a mind does not get sharper when it gets narrower. When someone wants to explain something that runs counter to your initial reaction, perhaps listening and learning makes sense.

Jed Somit, Kapa‘a
Source: The Garden Island

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