Smart Alik! Skating Across the Era of Soviet Absurdities


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6 x 9Polishchuk, Arkady.  Dancing on Thin Ice: Travails of a Russian Dissenter.  Los Angeles: DoppelHouse Press, 2018.

In the news at the time:

At the unusual session, General Shchelokov was said to have told the Jews that he had heard of the alleged beatings on a newscast by the British Broadcasting Corporation. He insisted that he was not in charge of security at the reception office.

“I would never permit beating,” Mr. Shcharansky quoted the minister as having said. “If it were my affair, I would arrest the organizers.”

Four of the Jews were missing tonight. They were Boris Chernobylsky, a radio engineer; Arkady Polishchuk, a former editor of the magazine Asia and Africa Today; Viktor Yelistratov and Mikhail Kremen, both also radio engineers. It was not known whether they had been arrested.

Simpler, David K. “Jews in Moscow Resume Visa Sit-In.” The New York Times, October 22, 1976.

The missing “refuseniks” plus one — Arkady Polishchuk notes in his account of that distant day that he had not applied for a visa but was with a crew that had — knew where they were, and the one doing the remembering through his memoir was in that place called pain.

A doctor in the Sklifosofsky Institute said that I had two cracked ribs and recommended to wind a towel around my trunk.  He refused to give me an x-ray film or a written reference.  An exhausted night nurse of this principal trauma center muttered, “If we give a reference to every hoodlum beaten in a street fight  the country would soon run out of ink and paper.”

They certainly had shortages of x-ray films and painkillers.

p. 211

Having been Jewish but not at the time a refusenik, Polishchuk would similarly take up the cause of Pentacostal Christians persecuted by the Soviet Union for their possession of faith.  With empathy and wry humor, he conveys what it’s like for the criminalized pious:

“The local KGB should pray for you every day,” I said.  “Without you, they would’ve stagnated here, without an increase in rank and salary.”

After this lively exchange of views on the role of light and darkness in the spiritual life of mankind, we all crossed the kitchen garden planted with heavenly potatoes, passed by green onions and fragrant dill, and, through a narrow opening in the fence, began making our way to the house of Vera Shchukin.  One by one or in pairs, we used the most roundabout paths between houses.  The village was asleep.  Almost all windows were now unlit.

I wiped sweat from my forehead and whispered to Goretoi, “Muggy.”

He said nothing.  I couldn’t stop talking.  “For how long have you been aware that this gathering is prohibited by articles 142 and 227 of the Criminal Code?”

“For as long as I’ve believed in my Savior,” he whispered.

p. 244

Near the time of this writing, Polishchuk’s telling of the plight of Pentecostal Christians may take on an eerie resonance as Capo, Colonel, President, Emperor Vladimir Putin’s government goes after the community of Jehova’s Witnesses in today’s  Russia:

“It began about 10 o’clock in the evening and didn’t wind up until 4 a.m.,” Tatyana Petrova said of the raid. “I didn’t see how it started because I was in the kitchen, but I heard my husband go to the door. I heard a woman introduce herself as someone from the electric company. She said she needed to read the meter. My husband opened the door and then a whole crowd of people pushed into the apartment.”

Filimonov, Andrei and Robert Coalson. “‘Extremist’ Faith: Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Report Wave Of Police Raids, Detentions.” Radio Free Europe, June 15, 2018.

In Polishchuk’s day:

Children giggled and jostled each other in the ribs.  The men were pushed up against the walls.  Two old women sat close to the invisible gap between the door and its frame, in hope of catching a breath of fresh air.  On stools sat an old man, white as chalk, and two pregnant women.  One of them, with a hand-copied New Testament, offered me her chair, but I shook my head and clung to the wall.  When nearly forty persons had squeezed into the house, the deacon turned on the light, and ducked outside to check if it escaped to the street.

p. 244

Life’s a long enough journey for most, but in the Soviet Union, the unutterable sadness of situations posed against the boasted heroic strength of the state must have made it seem so much longer.  “Alik”, when referred to with affection, sent to write about a community for the blind discovers instead of a refuge for those so afflicted a familiar metaphor and dismal reality:  “. . . a leper colony.  There was nothing I could write about them.  I was frantically looking for a way to say at least half-truths about their everyday concerns instead of reporting on the contribution of the blind to our common cause of building socialism.”

In the wings always and frequently spotlighted: spooks . . .  KGB — as colleagues (around whom to be cautious) on publications; as agents sent to disconnect his home phone before the refusenik Natan Sharansky could relay a statement by Andrei Sakharov to a listener in Canada; as minders, followers, and thugs.

The games played in Putin’s courts today seem no different then they were then.  Polishchuk covered one of the trials of Dr. Mikhail Stern whose latest crime had been to give his son “a written permission” required in support of the application of the same to emigrate.  The whole becomes an absurd nightmare of examinations of minute evidence to none.

While the phantoms of the Soviet live on in the spiritual descendants of the KGB, perhaps the haunting swirls on in the earlier victims of their omnipresent bureaucracy, observation, manipulation, sabotage, entrapment and framing, capricious “justice”, and punishment.

Additional Reference

Wikipedia. “Soviet Dissidents”.



InfoSnap: Mexico and Economic Migration


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Note the dates on these two references, 2012 on transnational crime associated with Mexico, 2018 on corruption.  The juxtaposition is fortuitous — accidental, simply observed while gathering information — as one lie — the first to the law — leads to another – the law to the state (in greater proportion over time).  The image is chilling.
– Nov. 2012
– 1/1/2018

Here BackChannels will leap out of journalism and . . . IMAGINE* the despair of ordinary Mexicans as this story broke for the world to witness:

“Mexico’s World Cup star is accused of helping a drug lord”
– 6/15/2018

A Mexican election and politics story follows:

“Weary of violence and corruption, Mexican voters gravitate to populist firebrand with shades of Chavez”
– 6/16/2016

Who can solve the world’s problem?  It may be better to ask “Who might refrain from adding to them?”
– 9/23/2017

The simple telling: NAFTA has over time produced the ugly picture in Mexico of lowest wage workers, so mixed on the land with criminals that Mexico has all but lost control of five of its states to “transnational crime”.

It’s not always “us”, however — The North, the world, the affluent — that accounts for misery in developing states.  The more complex telling may be signaled from just one paragraph conveyed by The Atlantic:

The reasons for the situation in Chiapas are various. Chief among them is what political scientist Sarelly Martínez, a native of Chiapas, described as an “auction pyramid” in which political parties selectively distribute aid to resolve local conflicts and social leaders protest violently to secure more funding. In rural parts of the state, the blocking of highways and hijacking of municipal buildings are commonplace. Politically motivated assassinations, often barely reported amid Mexico’s drug-related violence, are increasingly frequent. The murder in 2016 of the mayor of San Juan Chamula, an indigenous municipality popular with tourists, was one of the few cases to draw national headlines. Political changes have failed to break the cycle. In 2006, the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party won Chiapas for the first time; debt increased, as did poverty and social strife. The story has been repeated under current governor Manuel Velasco of the Green Party, who, in 2015, oversaw local elections condemned by opponents as among the most corrupt in Mexican history.

Mexican economic desperation x greed and leverage involving even affluent politicians and sports starts x lawlessness — or the states inability to police itself — drives southern migration into America, some smaller part criminal, most of it just the desperation of men and women, some with children, looking for honest work.

American Left v Right Politics and Immigration Policy

To stem the flow of migrants north, The North needs must consider conditions — corruption, crime, insecurity, poverty — in Mexico and figure out how best to ameliorate the worst, which may be the abyss of “transnational crime” that produces its own economy, grows the gangsters, and leverages the politicians.  Beyond that, dive in to any of the dimensions noted or suggested because people leave spaces made untenable by the “insecurity” associated with warfare waged by criminals anchored both in narcotics or related politics.

As economically powerful neighbors to the north offering that deadly combination of jobs and rule-of-law, the United States and Canada now face greater challenge in addressing and, one may  hope, producing policy toward the repair of dire conditions south of the border.

Related Online
– 6/12/2018
– Current
– Feb. 2016 – “Betraying Family Values: How Immigration Policy at the United States Border is Separating Families.”  PDF.  January 10, 2017.

*Imagination proved wrong!  In the article noted, the subjective reporting tells that at least one — perhaps millions — may be more interested in Mexico’s team winning its games than in the integrity and nobility of its sports heroes.  Then too, philosophically, who is to say the criminal is not noble for bringing money to family and community?  There’s a tough question for the cocktail circuits.

Crossing The Breakwater, Venice Beach (Vicinity), California, 19


Trump, Kim Jong, Putin: One Tile: What it Looks Like


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Is perception reality?

Should The People leave Big Business to Big Daddies?

Should we all just adore our Great Leaders?


Live at Posting: Addressing Disinformation — “RIGA STRATCOM DIALOGUE 2018 | Day 2 Evening session”


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The event may be wrapping up, but it should persist on YouTube and remain here in the BackChannels’ record of witness.


FTAC: A Note on President Trump and the Prospect of a Feudal Modernity


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Trump’s support of Israel is about respect for tribal identification and the narcissism related to it. It matches Putin’s views of a renewed and sustained feudal world — a feudal modernity — featuring absolute authority, fated and unquestionable, placed in the future rather than left to history.

Accompanying that vision: a low-intensity war of re-conquest in Crimea, Ukraine and the tragic obscenity that has been made of Syria.

Most of us carry what we value of our pasts with us through life, but we try also to leave our futures open for good things to come.

These “malignarcs” (malignant narcissists), by comparison, wish to force the future forward into the past. Their personal visions — and behavior — have been dreadful, myopic, selfish as have been the habits, in lesser and greater measures, of caliphs, dictators, emperors, and feudal lords through time: for the mafia-type power and wealth, their methods, willful and thuggish, have been more known to history than those of democracy.  However, our Mr. Trump has a powerful employer and a job defining his position, and whether he personally likes it or not, he is duty-bound to promote democracy — the systems of checked and distributed power — against the political absolutism known to dictators.

As has been my habit with BackChannels, the titles promise greater and lengthier articles while format and inclination keep the verbiage down to a paragraph bloc.

Related on this blog —

With the public focused on the air assault of “9/11” (see the gems placed in reference) and numerous “Allahu Abkar” attacks worldwide across many years, the patriotic reaction has permanently altered the west’s political and security societies — and yet we wish to defend authentic democracies against the potential for the rise of the Orwellian police state and with it, indeed, a “new nobility”, an invisible, unimpeachable, unquestionable (“military-industrial”) aristocracy.

Reference: Related on the Web – 6/10/2014 – 4/2/2018


FTAC: MEC: Addressing the Brutal Preoccupation


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I may have developed a bad rep on FB for having had the audacity, however dull, to connect the dots back to the end of WWII and the coming “framing” and handling of the refugees of 1948 — the Palestinians — as useful for blocking the spread of democracy and liberalism and for making money for political elites in the Soviet manner. How we got to this point:

Some Palestinian cadre — the middle level of anti-Zionist leaders — know the page but have recovered   after the initial shock and picked right up with the broadcasting of the familiar Orwellian catechism — “brutal occupation”, “Zionazis” and all the rest. The language and narratives injected more than 70 years ago into the Soviet influenced portion of Arab culture has amounted to “intellectual poisoning” and is today visible.

All sides need to wrap up WWII, Russia’s historic issues with the Jews, and for the policymakers and scholars allow the truth sink in and live on.

The most basic reminder: Herzl’s launch of Zionism took place before even the start of the 20th Century; Jewish agriculture was capitalized in the region starting with land sales from Arabs to Jews for the development of crops. The effort worked, drew general labor, and enriched the region. Frequently overlooked: the expulsion of more than 800,000 Jews from Arab states after 1948).

Bottom line from long ago: Moscow cooked up programs for Arab dictatorships and for those who were to become the Palestinians. For Moscow, the Soviet Era ended in bankruptcy with an official dissolving on December 25, 1991. Putin’s Russia — often referred to as the “mafia state” — seems a bit surreal in its continuing partnerships with Damascus and Tehran.


Khamenei: Israel – “A Malignant Cancerous Tumor” | Israel: “Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?”


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Tweet Source:

Related Online

Reuters on the “Assets of the Ayatollah”:

From 2016, Gatestone Institute: Colonel Richard Kemp:


“This is Nigeria” | “This is America” | And for Christian Villages and Fulani Land Pirates Alike, “Carrying Capacity” Plus an Interesting Defense Industry Question


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Posted to YouTube May 25, 2018

Posted to YouTube May 5, 2018

Published on May 9, 2018: Infectious in beat, jarring in violence and imagery, Donald Glover’s new music video “This Is America” touches on painful racial history and our contemporary culture of mass entertainment and murder. Jeffrey Brown talks with Rolling Stone contributor Tre Johnson about the video and the ways African-American artists are reflecting the nuanced tensions in how we depict black lives in America.”

What blogger / writer needs to write when compilations are practically ready-made?

Macaulay, Scott.  “Watch: Falz the Bad Guy’s Childish Gambino Riff, This is Nigeria.”  Filmmaker Magazine, June 3, 2018:

Nigerian rapper Falz the Bad Guy, a former lawyer, has released a riff on Childish Gambino’s This is America, in which the song and music video are copied and reworked.

It’s good to know which video arrived first, but I’m not certain that it matters: we’re a wild species often accurately reflected in the poets’ mirrors.  However, seeing ourselves so depicted, we might consider getting ahead of some basic challenges rather than acquiescing to being forever jerked around by them.

Posted to YouTube June 30, 2017

Posted to YouTube January 9, 2018: “Reacting to the incessant killing by Fulani herdsmen across the country, Comrade Mohammed Kudu Abubakar, Deputy National President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari should immediately pronounce herdsmen as a terrorist organization.”


Ultimate hope: expand old pasturage by reversing desertification where possible and producing ranch land with grazing crops, fenced boundaries, and appropriate agricultural cycling or rotations of cattle if, where, and as possible.  Such armchair suggestions are, of course, easier said than done — and BackChannels, as have many others, have heard the “ranching solution” mentioned elsewhere.  The same, however, needs to be done, and most complicating: cultural habits (for that, refer to Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” —Wikipedia entry; article online).

As regards Christian-Muslim enmity based in the uptick in violence and apparent disinterest of the government in responding to the barbarism — it’s really nothing else — BackChannels may note that both Boko Haram and Fulani violence may be associated with Chinese and Russian — and, most recently, American — defense sales to Nigeria.  Perhaps both faith communities should appreciate Mr. Abubakar’s interest in investigating the path backward to getting AK-47s into Fulani hands.

And if AK-47s, why not later — if a civil war can be set up — MANPADS?  RPGs?  “Technicals”?

How much “low intensity conflict” or “small war” does it take to sell to one state or another how many billions of dollars worth of aircraft or other defense equipment and supporting systems?

It’s a cynical question but possibly one of the most interesting as regards civilizational ambitions and “realpolitik”.

Addendum — 6/5/2018.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has described ‘This is Nigeria’ song by Nigerian Singer, Folarin Falana, AKA, Falz the Bahd Guy, as a ‘hate video and an assault on the self-dignity of every Muslim.’

BackChannels has heard that the effort to intimidate the artist has been rebuked; however, this marks the seventh day out from that threat, so the story may be something to watch in relation to Nigeria’s cultural freedom of expression.