A Russian feminist punk-rock band that calls itself Pussy Riot evidently hopes to shock. Three of the girls, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich — more simply Nadia, Masha, and Katya — caught the public eye some months ago by rushing up to the altar in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and briefly performing the can-can and a “punk prayer” with the words, “Mother of God, drive out Putin!” They were objecting, they said, to the mutually supportive relationship of President Putin, lately of the KGB, and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, lately an institution collaborating with the KGB. Arrested, the three Rioters were accused of hooliganism and blasphemy. Putin is on record saying that the punishment should be light. In Russian trials, the verdict is still reached before the case is heard. Playing her part, Judge Maria Syrova sentenced the three Rioters to two years in a penal colony; she had presided previously over 179 cases and found just one defendant not guilty. Protests erupted in some 40 cities around the world, and in Moscow several leading anti-Putin activists were arrested — one of them Garry Kasparov, on a charge of biting a policeman. These girls go the way of Madonna or Lady Gaga; Putin prefers to have Stalin as his model.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent his recent years undermining the intelligence and diplomatic efforts of the West while masquerading as a freedom fighter, has found a friend: the dictatorship in Ecuador. In order to escape extradition to Sweden, in which country he is wanted on suspicion of rape, Assange has been hiding inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June. In August, Ecuadorian authorities granted him asylum. A furious British Foreign Office insisted that Britain has a “legal obligation” to extradite Assange to Sweden and established a police presence to monitor the exits, even threatening to enter the embassy if need be. There could be no more perfect illustration that Assange’s ostensible commitment to free speech and government transparency is a fraud than that he is palling around with strongman Rafael Correa’s repressive, anti-American regime.
This won’t be hard to believe: Another United Nations program has backfired. In 2005, the U.N. began giving credits to developing-world firms that reduced emissions of greenhouse gases or destroyed the chemicals themselves. The value of the credits, which could then be sold on existing climate exchanges like the EU’s, was determined by a chemical’s greenhouse-gas potency. Carbon dioxide was rated 1, methane 21, etc. One number caught the eye of some savvy Indian and Chinese manufacturers: 11,700, the value of destroying one ton of HFC-23, a waste gas created in the production of HFC-22, a common coolant. They decided to increase HFC-22 production solely in order to churn out HFC-23, one of the world’s worst greenhouse gases (and an ozone depleter, too), and then destroy it, with the U.N. and environmentally conscious countries’ carbon markets paying the way. Nineteen factories across the developing world got into the game; several of them would actually stop producing the coolant when they’d maxed out their HFC-23 credits for the year. Regulations can turn out to be green in more than one sense.
In August, RedState co-founder and former George W. Bush speechwriter Joshua Treviño was hired as a columnist by the Guardian. In response, a group of left-wing and pro-Palestinian actors, politicians, and academics expressed their “shock and dismay.” The signatories, who included British peer Baroness Jenny Tonge, who was expelled from the Liberal Democrats in early 2012 for fantasizing in public that Israelis would “reap what they have sown,” described Treviño as an “extremist” who would damage the Guardian’s reputation as a “serious newspaper.” Treviño’s crime? Serving on the board of advocacy group Act for Israel, being “a staunch digital advocate of Israel,” and holding “one-sided political views.” The critics’ views, on the other hand, are nicely two-sided: They inveigh against “the suppression of debate” when people choose not to pay attention to them, and demand that their opponents be silenced.
In stonemasonry as in government, Barack Obama does not think small. While running for president, he delivered speeches in Berlin and Denver before towering, monumental columns, and now, in a Chicago shopping center, the site of his and Michelle’s first kiss is marked with “a 3,000-pound granite boulder [at] the corner of Dorchester and 53rd Street . . . bearing a quote about the couple’s first date.” The date took place in 1989 at Baskin-Robbins (with its 31 flavors, a model of diversity), where Barack bought Michelle a chocolate cone, and we can only wish that every two dollars he has spent could yield such splendid results.