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Russia in terms of land mass is the largest country on the the planet. Its size spans ten different time zones, and overlaps two continents (Europe and Asia). This country introduced to the rest of the world the concept of a Czar, and President Obama has moved with lightening speed on this concept. The appeal of the czar rests on the belief that if we could just figure out the right smart, competent, well-intentioned person to put in charge, everything would go more smoothly. The big problem with this belief is that the very thing that defines the Russian czars is total control over the lives of their subjects.
In 19th century America it was considered a political insult to be called a Czar. When Andrew Jackson referred to bank president Biddle as Czar Nicholas he was not complimenting him. When in 1890 the Speaker of the House, Thomas Reed, was referred to as Czar Reed he was not being complimented. It was only years after the last Russian Czar was killed by the Bolsheviks that some Americans had a more fuzzy acceptance of the term. The Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was considered the Czar of baseball in a good way.
It’s too bad IMO that the word Czar became an acceptable word in the American lexicon because it really is just an odious four-letter word.
Mark Twain had initially favored the Russian Czar, Alexander II, because he had issued an emancipation Manifesto in 1861 that abolished Russian serfdom. Alexander II’s reforms which began with the 1861 emancipation of the serfs were not satisfactorily fulfilled. Peasants thought that they would be freed together with the plot of land they worked. Such was not the case. Although they were free, peasants were often denied an opportunity to purchase fertile land on which they had lived a lifetime. Instead many were offered poorer quality land that could not be farmed. Demands for a more democratic form of government and basic freedoms continued to be denied. When Alexander II was assassinated by a bomber in 1881 his son Alexander III succeeded him as Czar of Russia. Alexander III proved to be a more repressive monarch than his father.
Mark Twain changed his attitude about Russian Czars. A reading he delivered at the Hartford Monday Evening Club on March 22, 1886 indicates his opinion of the Russian aristocracy changed:
Power, when lodged in the hands of man, means oppression — insures oppression: it means oppression always: … give it to the high priest of the Christian Church in Russia, the Emperor, and with a wave of his hand he will brush a multitude of young men, nursing mothers, gray headed patriarchs, gently young girls, like so many unconsidered flies, into the unimaginable hells of his Siberia, and go blandly to his breakfast, unconscious that he has committed a barbarity …
His autobiographical dictation on December 5, 1906 shows he was still very much an anti-Czarist:
Cruel and pitiful as was life throughout Christendom in the Middle Ages, it was not as cruel, not as pitiful, as is life in Russia today. In Russia, for three centuries, the vast population has been ground under the heels, and for the sole and sordid advantage, of a procession of crowned assassins and robbers who have all deserved the gallows. Russia’s hundred and thirty millions of miserable subjects are much worse off today than were the poor of the Middle Ages whom we so pity. We are accustomed now to speak of Russia as medieval and as standing still in the Middle Ages but that is flattery. Russia is way back of the Middle Ages; the Middle Ages are a long way in front of her and she is not likely to catch up with them so long as the Czardom continues to exist.
Mark Twain died in 1910, and never knew that the 1917 Revolution ended Czar rule in Russia without ending ending the practice of a ruthless tyranny grinding the vast population under their heels.
Eighty years to the day after the last Czar of Russia was killed, July 18, 1998, Nicholas II and his family were reburied in St. Petersburg. Boris Yeltsin’s speech at the funeral was a plea for nonviolent methods of change:
We must end the century, which has been an age of blood and violence in Russia, with repentance and peace, regardless of political views, ethnic or religious belonging.
This is our historic chance. On the eve of the third millennium, we must do it for the sake of our generation and those to come.
More than ten years after that speech I see no evidence of a Russia of repentance and peace. The USA seems more likely to me to unravel the tyranny of living under Czars than Russia. I wish the unraveling of Czarist tyranny in the US could begin now, but it will not end until Obama is out of office.
The 18 Czars installed in the USA by Obama include the following:
Carol Browner – energy czar
Cass Sunstein – regulatory czar
Daniel Fried – Guantanamo closure czar
Adolfo Carrion, Jr. – urban czar
Joshua DuBois – faith-based czar
Gary Samore – non-proliferation czar
John Brennan – terrorism czar
John Holdren – weather czar
Van Jones – green czar
Nancy Ann DeParle – health czar
Alan Bersin – border czar
Vivek Kundra – tech czar
?- cyber security czar
Herb Allison – TARP czar
Earl Devaney – stimulus czar
Steve Rattner – car czar
Gil Kerlikowske- drug czar
Kenneth Feinberg- pay czar
None of these eighteen czars need confirmation by the US Senate. The House and Senate do not have any oversight role for any of these czars. There is no Supreme Court judicial review process created for these czars compared to the judicial review process for Congress.
We were told by candidate Obama that he promised to bring change if he were elected President. I do not think this is the kind of change his voters had in their mind when they voted for him.
Cross-posted at The Minority Report