NATO’s “New Nobility” – Erdogan, Orban, (Trump?) – and Peonage


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BackChannels acknowledges the book in which it first encountered the term:

Soldatov, Andrei and Irena Borogan. The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB. New York: Public Affairs, 2010.

However, this post is not going to be about powerful and self-enriching KGB/FSB spies and their bureaucracies.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Viktor Orbán,  and Donald J. Trump seem to this blogger more the “New Nobility” that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have had also in mind as he launched his revenge on the western world for the demise of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 — a very good Christmas morning indeed for the United States of America and in the defunct godless realm then represented by the Kremlin a not very special day at all.

In the 26 years that have passed since that morning (for political purpose, it was over at noon), Russia and her leadership have had to think about what it has meant to be “Russian”.

“Old Vikings”?

Formed of conquest, contracting and expanding through the brutality of feudal wars, unable ever to police — mere civil policing — its territorial writs, Russia has been a state that has better known barbarism and the depths of inhumanity through violence (give a nod for the extra special dose brought by the Mongols) than civility through accommodation and trade.  In that regard, the “Vory”, the once brutalized mafia within, may in their inglorious legend represent the pure expression of the heart of the state.

Backing the tyrant in Syria?

Invading a settled Ukraine and baldly lying to the world about its purpose?

Bombing hospitals?

Pursuing feudal absolute power — unquestionable ownership of persons as things — with the Assahola in Tehran?

All of the above: true.

So what good new things has Russia brought to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

Applying the concept of “Reflexive Control” with “Islamic Terrorism” for the convenient stimulus, BackChannels may suggest the four infamous retrogrades:

BREXIT: While Great Britain has been happy to pile on “Asian” labor, it has not been so happy with grooming gangs, suspect neighborhoods, and “Allahu Akbar” explosions, much less the impositions posed by the refugees of war in Syria.  Response: the Newest Nationalism expressed in renewed insularity and refreshed Anglican pride.

While it’s good for a state to recall what it’s about, some among the most zealous should factor in how they have been played by Moscow.

Erdogan: Prime Minister, President, and now, apparently, President for Life has never encountered serious resistance for his taking apart what Mustafa Kemal Atatürk bequeathed in bureaucratic and military legacy.  The empire’s back, baby, and dig the symbolic significance of the leaders new crib.


Dig this cool new statistic on press freedom in Erdogan’s new estate (italics added).

The 2018 index ranking marked Turkey’s 58 point-decrease over the past 13 years, lagging just behind Rwanda, Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo. – 4/25/2018.

Pretty cool, huh?

If Erdogan’s New Old Turkish estate makes it all the way down to the bottom of the list, BackChannels will certainly make note of the prize.

Orban: In addition to other self-aggrandizing and self-enriching schemes, this NATO president has been working on an old home and estate.  Fave header from related online searching: “How Viktor Orban will tap Europe’s taxpayers and bankroll his friends and family: Plans for a lakeside development show how Hungary’s leader enriches those who stand behind him” (Reuters, Martin Dunai, March 15, 2018).

Trump: “You all just got a lot richer,” Trump tells friends, referencing tax overhaul  (CBS News, Kathryn Watson, December 23, 2017).  Who else: “Ivanka Trump’s Fashion Brand Will Not Be Impacted by Donald Trump’s Chinese Trade Tariffs” (Teen Vogue, Amira Rasool, July 9, 2018).  While the “optics” don’t look good in relation to nepotism, let’s be fair: negotiating business is a continuous process for both sides in complex transactions: other variables may apply to setting tariffs in Ivanka’s region of commercial interest: other brands are in the mix too.

Nonetheless, the American President’s behavior, personal as well as political, has left him also, as with the Erdogan and Orban, associated with the terms “autocratic”, “narcissistic”, and “nationalist”.  While it’s good to take pride in one’s nation and defend her interests with tough negotiations, it may not be so good for the head of a modern democratic state to promote the image of himself as a feudal lord, securing prizes for family and friends on the basis of loyalty, and doing out favors (“You all just got a lot richer”) to surrounding nobility.

President George W. Bush also made light of the “have and have mores”, but for Americans struggling with fixed retirements, healthcare premiums, perhaps the full suite of basic and complex costs of survival, and, for the young, jobs that fail to deliver even a modicum of financial  independence and pride, much less security, the implied further reduction to peonage must sting.

Posted to YouTube December 26, 2017.



FTAC: Old Worn Out Arguments About Nothing That Needs to Exist Purely


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As long as the terms are black v white / capitalism v communism-socialism, the conversation seems bound to be boxed in or circular as well as suffocated by events and personalities locked in the past and best left there as well. A better springboard would be to query the character and nature of potential political power as groomed today and whether “power” needs be responsible power.

I’ve tried this framing: “Feudal Political Absolutism v Democratic Checked and Distributed Power”.

It’s too much of a mouthful but fully observable in Syria, east v west “contests”, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the rifts of the Islamic Small Wars. All involve feudal personalities applying martial power to plowing forward into the more dismal regions of their own political pasts.

I’m a little lazy now and this summer believe I should be reading (on deck: Goldman’s Lord of the Flies, Brodie’s Thomas Jefferson), settling down, regathering myself for what beyond my 60+ years looks like a still daunting and frightening future for myself and tens of millions of Americans as well as the middle classes and the surviving and struggling of the nations worldwide.  Time seems to have produced too many drowning in arms and drugs, directly related insecurity against depredation, general economic dissolution and isolation, and general political miasma and upheaval.


“We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident . . . .”


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The desire for human dignity and freedom exacts a price from all who would have both in security perpetually. In the silhouette, an American Civil War cannon faces southwest in the direction of General Robert E. Lee’s then retreating Confederate army (Sept. 17-18, 1862).  In BackChannels’ humble opinion, the one bloody day of battle marked the beginning of the end of absolute power, landed aristocracy, and slavery in the soon to be reunited and reconstructed United States of America. We should wish today not to return — or be returned — to the feudal past, its abuses, criminality, excesses, and inhumanity, however complex, convoluted, and modern the legal, political, and technological means.

Related Online

Related on BackChannels


Homegrown Terror Plot Thwarted: Cleveland, Ohio — FBI Arrest Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts AKA Abdur Raheem Rafiq for “attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.”


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Arrested: Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts AKA Abdur Raheem Rafiq , Cleveland, Ohio for “attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization”.  Pitts appears to have a related record online:  A similar al-Qaeda related story broke in 2003 with the arrest of Ohio-based trucker Lyman Faris, then 34 years old, in New York City for the same thing — and with the same M.O.


Nigeria: Raids: Fulani Land Pirates


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Posted to YouTube June 27, 2018.

The gun men came from the hills, armed with guns and machetes under the cover of an afternoon rain. They split into groups and selected remote areas within walking distances of between 40 and 50 minutes to unleash mayhem on innocent lives.

Before then, they had laid ambush on mourners returning from a funeral service in Kakuruk village and simultaneously raided nearby villages, shooting, stabbing and maiming anyone at sight. Even the youthful and agile were helpless as the scoundrels massacred and soiled the land with tears and blood. Witnesses said the carnage lasted for hours and travellers evacuated their vehicles and fled into the bush. – 6/30/2018

Last weekend 238 Christians were killed in a number of attacks by militia in Plateau State, a region in the heart of the country.

Campaigners are warning it is just the latest example of “pure genocide” in a country ravaged by religious division.

A joint statement issued by the Christian Association of Nigeria said more than 6,000 Christian worshippers – “mostly children, women and the aged” – had already been killed this year. – 6/30/2018.

Fulani brigades appear to arrive in numbers great enough to surround their targets and destroy them with automatic weapons and petrol.  For Christian defense: nothing — not weapons, which are confiscated by the government to discourage “vigilante actions”, not terrain, which is rugged but short on natural barriers to foot and vehicle assault, not military or police, who are either spread thin and easily confused or disinterested — and that last has become a point in political contention about the sincerity of Nigerian Muslim President Buhari in relation to his commitment to secure the Christian community in Nigeria.


The blue frown refers to the 200 Nigerian recently killed by Fulani raiders in Plateau State.

United States Ambassador in Nigeria, Mr W. Stuart Symington has enjoined both the Nigerian leaders and citizens to make concerted efforts to stop the killings currently ravaging the country. The ambassador was speaking at ceremonies marking the 242 years of Independence for the United States of America.

Symington speaking on the situation in Nigeria said every day, people’s hopes are stopped by unnecessary deaths and by those whose acts reflect no good and served no cause. – 7/1/20128


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?