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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Passports, Ballots, Money: This Week's Paper

In response to "Passports Are the Root of All Evil," a column by Peter Ekman, Nov. 3.

Editor,

I agree with Ekmans assessment of internal passports in Russia. I spent two years in the city of Kemerovo working with two universities and local businessmen. Because I was a foreigner with a visa, I was not affected by the bureaucracy as much as Russian citizens are. But the problems my Russian wife went through when she and her former husband sold their flat, where she was registered, are absolutely unbelievable. It is even more unbelievable when I look at the additional problems she encountered when purchasing a new flat.

The Russian people are without doubt some of the most decent and caring people on the face of the earth, but they are victims of a government that specializes in people control and doing so under the pretext of protecting them from outside intruders.

An example of the control and the rudeness of bureaucracy was the registry office, or ZAGS. When the sale of my wifes flat had been completed, she had to have a place of passport registration for her and her two children; consequently, she was practically forced to purchase a new flat, despite the fact that we were renting one. She went to the ZAGS office for a document, and of course, she had to show her internal passport. The ZAGS official told her that she needed a certain document to start the process, but first she had to go to the bank to pay 8 rubles for the document. She took a bus (3 rubles), went to the bank and paid the 8 rubles after standing in line for about 30 minutes. She then waited another 15 minutes while her internal passport was scrutinized by bank officials. She took the proof of payment back to ZAGS after paying 3 more rubles for the bus. Upon arrival at ZAGS, her passport was again scrutinized, and the payment was accepted. She then became eligible for another document that required going back to the bank and paying 3 rubles (consuming another 30 to 45 minutes repeating the previous process), plus the 6 rubles for return bus fare.

What next? She was then eligible to receive a third document that again required repeating the process. This story repeated itself with the telephone company, the gas company, the water company and the electric company, OVIR and several other nuisance stops, each requiring an analysis of her passport.

In addition to the purchase of the new flat, she had to make several trips to various offices with the people who purchased the old flat as they went through the same processes. Everything was done by hand and by generally rude people working in these offices.

After the flat issues were finally settled a process that took some six weeks in all she had to go through another process, similar but on a smaller scale, changing schools for her children.

It is easy to see why things get totally bogged down in job protection, people control and inefficiency, and why so much time is wasted. Relatively speaking, investment in Russia by a small businessman from abroad simply is not worth it.

John Jones
Los Angeles, California


Editor,

Carrying identification cards represents the main difference between the American and British forms of government. Many British citizens dont have any form of official identification. All Americans have birth certificates, drivers licenses and even certificates of death.

The American government would not know how to govern without identification cards. The U.S. government is all about filling in multitudinous forms, all of which are based on other documents and, eventually, based on some sort of identification document. After all the documents are filled out, if a bureaucrat is sufficiently motivated, he may give you another document, like a green card for example. In Britain, immigrants live just fine without such documents.

In the United States, if you have enough documents, the government may leave you in peace for a while, but when you die, a certificate of death is a must.

When all is said and done, all these documents mean that American bureaucrats can do whatever they damn well please, which sounds a lot like the situation in Russia. And it all starts with any form of identification.

This love of documents leads to many of Americas most pressing problems: the mafia, racism, anti-communism, poorly defined rights of people to drink beer where they like, serial killers and terrorism, excessively high investment in the economy and overly high labor mobility.

British citizens would never put up with any form of required identification. If one of the major parties were to suggest that the British should have a photograph in their drivers licenses, there would be a record voter turnout with 100 percent of the votes being cast for the other party. The essence of British political thought is that government is a necessary evil that should be given just enough power to accomplish a few well-defined tasks. Let them give you a birth certificate, and the next minute theyll be telling you where to live, work, go to school or even where to drink beer.

Americans dont really believe that the British can survive without some form of identification. Many suspect that the drivers license is really a substitute. This is not so. British drivers licenses dont have photos or addresses. If any person anywhere asks me for any form of identification, I tell him to mind his own business. If he wants to know whether Im married or not, let him go to Somerset House and check it out himself.

Americans are often asked to show their identification when writing checks or when asking for a drink at the bar. Americans simply dont trust their citizens, and thats the root of all evil.

The worst abuse of identification documents in America is the photograph and address on the drivers license. Why should anyone have his or her address shown to anyone? Only police totalitarian states like Russia or America have such evil practices.

Americans usually state their political goals in one simple sentence, "I just want to live in a normal country." Unfortunately, although America has been free from Britain for more than 200 years, it still has not reached the level of democracy and freedom that we have here.

Get rid of identification documents and America will have taken a huge step in the direction of becoming a normal country.

If Ekman would be a bit less haughty and patronizing, he would be surprised to find that some countries can be OK even if they differ from the United States.

Konstantin Dlutskii
London, England


Editor,

Ekman has conveniently "forgotten" to mention that a permanent address must be shown on ones drivers license in the United States. To me, this is the same as a registration or propiska. You might actually live somewhere else, but then you are violating the law, since you are required to update your drivers license information when you move even within the state.

In addition, they take your fingerprints when they issue a drivers license. This does not mean that I support everything that Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov does, and I dont believe that an internal passport is a must, but please be objective describing the rules in the United States. A drivers license provides a lot of information about its holder a photo, height, weight, eye color, home address, even voting status. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this, but please be accurate describing the facts to your Russian readers.

Dmitri Oganessiants
Denver, Colorado


If It Aint Broke

In response to "U.S. Waits for Florida to Rule," Nov. 9.

Editor,

The American voting process is a simple one. Walk in, fill out the card, and walk out. Each person in the United States has done this without coercion.

As the owner of a business in Moscow, and as a longtime Florida resident, I have really no answer to the questions Russians ask me when it comes to voter rights in Florida. Clearly, the appropriate time to address any confusion concerning the voting process ends as individual voters leave the voting office on their own volition. It seems that while most countries in the world struggle against infringements on personal rights, we suffer from a propensity to blame others for self-determined actions.

Tate Ulsaker
Moscow


Elections Fraud-Free

In response to "Observers Needed in U.S.," a letter to the editor by Andrew Martin, Oct. 28.

Editor,

I must vigorously oppose the letter from my fellow American from Oklahoma. Voter fraud has not been an issue in the United States during the past 50 years, and even before that, most fraud was committed in local elections by corrupt local political bosses.

If such fraud exists, or was even anticipated in the present presidential election, you can rest assured that hundreds of legitimate groups would be vocal about it in the U.S. press, and we wouldnt have to be told by a single individual from Oklahoma writing to a Russian newspaper! Mr. Martins fears are as unfounded as his supporting facts.

Richard Klein
Seattle, Washington


Candy From a Baby

In response to "Bank Card Bandits Hit Again At ATMs," Oct. 31.

Editor,

I experienced an overcharge of $2,000 at a local bank using Visa Electron. I think you guys are missing the most likely culprits. These thefts are most likely bank-employee theft, not other people somehow forging cards. I have heard from persons who worked for banks that this is the most common form of theft among bank employees.

I believe the general public is unaware that these things occur. I think what you are missing in your article is that the whole system for reporting these things is designed by Visa and the banks to minimize the scandal. They give you absolutely no information when you report it, they just give you your money back, and they do absolutely nothing to indicate that any form of investigation is being conducted. My bank wont even talk to me.

I would encourage you to pursue a story about whether Visa covers these things, and I would be happy to cooperate with your reporters in officially demanding explanations as a defrauded party if that would help them to investigate. Maybe we can all do a little bit to help get these guys.

Hans Reiser
St. Petersburg


A Cure for Bottlenecks?

In response to "Slower Rush Hour," Oct. 25.

Editor,

I am late in commenting on your brief with no other excuse than being held in traffic jams all over the city that prevented me from writing earlier. Your report says that "300 kilometers of new roads" are urgently needed, but this is a tall order that cannot solve such an immediate problem.

How about the following?

1) No parking allowed all along the Garden Ring and Boulevard Ring during weekdays. Restriction lifted over weekends.

2) No heavy-duty vehicles allowed on either ring during rush hours, say 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. It would of course be better if trucks and delivery vans were banned altogether from these roads, but since there are no viable alternative routes, we should at least restrict their slow travel during peak hours.

In the hope that Nikolai Nazarov, the city governments chief transport expert, is open to practical solutions and manages to get Mayor Yury Luzhkovs ear, I urge other drivers to send in as many practical suggestions as possible for the benefit of us all.

Estela Ponce de Leon
Moscow

Blame vs. Cooperation

In response to "Lessons of the Kursk," Nov. 2.

Editor,

As an American navy veteran, I followed the story of the Kursk with much attention and concern. I am deeply sympathetic to the families of the lost Kursk crew members and lament the fact that such a terrible tragedy occurred. From what Ive read in American newspapers, a collision with a Western submarine is an unlikely cause for the tragedy.

The reason for this belief is that the Kursk was of a class of Russian submarines that has a thick double-hull steel structure that Western submarines lack. All classes of American submarines have a thin single-hull structure that if a collision did in fact occur would have resulted in more catastrophic damage to the American submarine than what the Kursk suffered.

Nonetheless and without any evidence to the contrary, blame should not be inferred by mere speculation. Rather, our two great nations should work to employ an international plan of mutual cooperation that might be able to react to undersea accidents in the swiftest manner possible.

The United States and Russia comprise the two greatest naval presences in the world. My hope is that our militaries continue to strive for cooperative relations so that we both might be able to facilitate freedom and security to the remainder of the world.

Matt Haws
Chicago, Illinois