This story posted today on YouTube turns out as much about OSINT detective work from within Russia as about the internal brutality of the politically criminal and thoroughly kleptocratic regime of Tsar Vladimir the Small.
Tweeted earlier this morning —
While the United States has its own Russian infection with Trump’s own anti-democratic and demagogic and delusional fascist nationalist base, he has yet to turn American national and state military defense and police security services into his own personal goons, Americans on the way to mid-term elections are not waiting for him or his cult to amass that kind of power. Trump represents a diminishing base of corrupt or diminished or greedy Americans who crave his “power” — his appearance of it, in any case — in relation to their own damaged psyches and penchants for absolute and sadistic personal and political control — under cover of Christian zealotry, no less — of all that surrounds themselves.
On January 24, 2020, the Foreign Agents Registration Act unit of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice received from Christopher M. Kise, now the lawyer representing Donald John Trump in his defense in relation to the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s holding documents stamped as Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information (TS/SCI), FARA registration #6787. In the form, Kise had listed as his principle Reinaldo Munoz Pedroza, the Attorney General of Venezuela appointed by the dictator Nicolas Maduro. At that time, Pedrozo had been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for undermining democracy in Venezuela and related election interference.
News of Kise’s registration as a foreign agent broke two days ago, and as interesting as that may be, the development of public and official interest in both the Conflict of Interest implied and the breathtaking scope of potential national security compromises–all those boxes of TS/SCI data!–appears slow. However, this by Ben Meiselas showed up on YouTube this morning:
For Trump’s base, the idea of achieving patriotic honor in association with his support appears belied and eroded by not only the former president’s authoritarian, belligerent, and obstreperous character but his connections–and one step removed is not far enough–to the tools, literally, so it would seem in the case of Mr. Kise, of at least one dictatorship. While it would seem fair for President (for Life) Maduro to have representation in the United States, the same would seem more than heinous for Trump to share with him the same lawyer.
Should the Kise-Trump story take down almost-candidate-(again) Trump, it would make a nice bookend for Trump’s first big yellow caution flag: Paul Manafort.
To make sense of the president’s pardon of Paul Manafort, it helps to understand the man Trump selected to run his 2016 campaign. On one hand, it seems inconceivable that an American presidential candidate would choose as his campaign manager someone whose last job was political strategist to a dictator in Ukraine who had recently been overthrown in a popular revolution. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. Paul Manafort made a fortune helping tyrants and would-be tyrants appear legitimate. He was the ultimate symbol of the corruption of democratic political systems. His evolution from establishment wonderkid to handmaiden to dictators is a story of how corruption perverts democracies.
With his latest hire in lawyers, Trump has only confirmed what all Americans, much including his base, must now see, i.e., the darkest of fallen real princes by contemporary business and class standards, a man who cannot keep himself separate from America’s enemies, Russian criminals, and assorted (other) dictators.
What American and the world witnessed 21 years ago was an Islamic terrorist attack on two breathtaking office buildings symbolic of western business and political order. At the time, as one country-western singer-songwriter noted–Alan Jackson – “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”–an ordinary American couldn’t tell the difference between Iraq and Iran.
Perhaps that absence of American and more generalized global political sophistication has changed.
As flesh swells where stung, BackChannels views the September 11 attack on America’s homeland as the installation of the “New Nationalism” to come to the United States and infect several other EU/NATO states–Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey–with reversions to dalliance and inroads by authoritarian power.
In the United States, it would seem the Federal state has some retrograde constituencies, politicians, and now Supreme Court judges who would rather not have a credible and mighty democratic republic but rather a collection of backward and parochial cesspools operating along callous and ignorant–or ignorant and sadistic–lines of power, and at that the kind of power accustomed to imposing suffering on others in the name of religious righteousness and related malign and narcissistic will, for religion serves often as a cover for hypocrites, their abuses, and the crimes.
In Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, there was no real reason–forget the hair-splitting with the Constitution: the earlier Roe v Wade had been affirmed and reaffirmed across more than 50 years of equally contentious debate–but that involving the political lust for power and magically-thinking Christian zealotry. What I refer to in general as the “American Medieval Christian Front”–there are a lot of organizations that may be included in the nation’s “Far White Right” and “Christian Nationalist Movements”–has proven that America’s extraordinary secular-humanist democracy (start with Thomas Paine‘s writing) may be degraded and perverted in purpose by a medieval mob fully willing to impose its will on less passionate others, i.e., ordinary Americans of many faiths, quite absent of any consistency in reason.
Putin’s Trump naturally played the medieval card and in packing the Supreme Court left an odious present that fairly gutted common faith in the protections of the Constitution. In effect, the former president returned power to the kind of people–and the kind of scoundrels–who didn’t really like it in the first place.
Soviet/Post-Soviet Russia and Attempted “Positive Channeling”
The Cold War Is Over
The cold war of poisonous Soviet-American feelings, of domestic political-hysteria, of events enlarged and distorted by East-West confrontation, of almost perpetual diplomatic deadlock is over.
The we-they world that emerged after 1945 is giving way to the more traditional struggles of great powers. That contest is more manageable. It permits serious negotiations. It creates new possibilities–for cooperation in combating terrorism, the spread of chemical weapons and common threats to the environment, and for shaping a less violent world.
The Cold War may not have ended quite as well as the hope and optimism displayed and promoted in the west had promised and, to a large extent, operationalized. In fact, Western-launched investment and cooperation were set in place with earnest good feeling all the way to the ferocious eruption of civil war in Syria in 2011, after which it appears detente served to defend western stability. Ten years later — and do note the significant years 1991, 2001, 2011, 2021/2 — the invasion of Ukraine transformed any sense of enforced balanced in power that the west had believed in into plain containment and push-back through a western-leaning alley.
Within the Soviet/Post-Soviet sphere, I have used the following references to suggest the Big Picture “narrative arch of history”–i.e., the 30 years of taking revenge for the Soviet Army’s retreat from Afghanistan and the dissolving of the Soviet Union that followed three years later:
No intellectual somersault should be needed to connect 9/11 with the heightening of awareness and focus on Islamic Terrorism worldwide as well as with the concurrent development of western patriotism, nationalism, and xenophobia that would in turn become the “New Nationalism” in EU/NATO, the foundation for the strengthening of politicians on the Right and movements further to the Right in support of authoritarianism, isolationism, cultural chauvanism, racism, revolution, and terrorism.
On Facebook and Twitter, I have now and then posed the rhetorical question, “In which world do you wish to live: Medieval or Modern?
The feudal-medieval realm of absolute and exclusive power often commanded by brutality on one hand and excessive unaccountable reward (but without power) on the other?
Or democracy or constitutional monarchy in which power has been attenuated by balancing the interests of the powerful and wealthy of the state with the views and powers of elected legislatures and courts, including high courts, nominated and confirmed through elected representatives?
If you’re of the 21st Century and cognizant in relation to its other issues, the most clear, reasoned, and responsible answer to “medieval or modern?” would seem that of rejecting the “charms” of the medieval mode.
For the most part, our species leans — and needs must lean — forward into the future.
Alas, some portion develops elaborate fantasies about a yesteryear in which their ancestors were great in battle and at leisure in wealth, perfectly comfortable with the degradation and enslavement of others to keep themselves as if gods deeply admired and always obeyed. These days, those who try to impose that archaic, delusional, and ugly-for-others reality on the space around themselves encounter in the west resistance loaded with derision. Those who may accept it where they have been made to feel they must have only to feel their own souls diminished, enslaved, and rendered meaningless.
In the family . . . it might work, but most people may remove themselves from an oppressive family and have the protections of the state to forestall recapture.
Within and surrounding an entire state: disaster!
Cited Above (Inconsistently) or Also Related Online
“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” Putin said. “As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.
“The epidemic of collapse has spilled over to Russia itself,” he said, referring to separatist movements such as those in Chechnya.
Kraft’s ring now appears on display in the Kremlin’s library, quite a trophy brought home to Moscow by Russia’s Boss of Bosses.
The 4.94-carat ring is in the Kremlin’s library, where all official state gifts are kept, he said. It is worth more than $25,000, according to multiple reports from 2005.
A Kraft spokesman said Sunday the story is a humorous anecdote that Kraft “retells for laughs.”
“He loves that the ring is at the Kremlin and, as he stated back in 2005, he continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin,” said Stacey James, a spokesman for The Kraft Group.
Putin the Pirate has done a few things under the table upside-down and sideways over decades to weaken western political coherence, cohesion, and resolve. Start with the KGB’s handling of Zawahiri over the winter of 1996/7. In connect-the-dots fashion, I believe that stay led to the attack by jet hijacking Islamists on 9/11 that in turn goosed the pride of western states in their Christian and independent political cultures and led to what has been referred to as the “New Nationalism”.
When bees sting and flesh swells, the response has not been called “proud flesh” for nothing.
The popular western response in enmity and fear regarding Islam has not been misplaced in relation to Islamic Extremism and related Islamist Terror, but the same has given rise to blood-and-soil nationalism, authoritarianism, and actual autocracy in some EU/NATO states. Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and the United States (one nation under Trump for a while) have each seen their open democracies challenged by demagoguery or political perversion.
We may also take note of the “01s” in dates: 1991-dissolve of the Soviet Union in bankruptcy following American intercession opposite the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (from which Russia was forced to retreat in 1989); 2001-the September 11 attacks took place on Felix Dzerzhinsky’s birthday, quite a gift for a Moscow bent on revenge for its losses in Afghanistan-and, no, Putin didn’t do it–it was obviously radical Muslims assembled and deployed by Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden; 2011-The Horror taking off in Syria that would send millions of refugees into NATO (Turkey, which today hosts about 3.68 million Syrian refugees), the European Union (0.7 million-Germany), and Scandinavia (0.3 million), another goad for the defense of the rightly ethnolinguistic state cultures settled and enjoying the benefits of, well, being themselves, the only problem being a concomitant drift toward the same feudal-medieval worldviews and fascination with authority held by Bashar al-Assad, Ali Khamenei, and Vladimir Putin; 2021-Russia’s repeated threats by military feint against Ukraine, a young democratic state seeking NATO accession, and, by extension, NATO itself, but not quite as Ukraine remains without accession.
So hey, Bob (Kraft), George and George, Jr. (Bush), where are you today with Putin (the thief)?
Where and when are dictatorships to be stopped?
Is it when one or another has engaged in political repression and breathtaking plunder at home?
Should it be when the security service agents and agent provocateur show up within the borders of one’s democratic state?
Should it be when the tanks roll into a neighboring state struggling for its own sovereignty against barbaric force and the possibility of a return to corrupt, kleptocratic, and tyrannical governance?
Miami Herald journalist Julie Brown noted the presence of countless unanswered questions in association with her research into Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita industry. The full accounting of who, what, where, and why would today seem largely absent and sealed by Epstein’s own hanging, but perhaps there’s one aspect that bears further attention in this most distracted age: Epstein’s Russian interests. The powerful personal brands associated with the Epstein vortex range from Alan Dershowitz to Prince Andrew — so how deep and how wide the damage done?
Whether by way of fear of being found out or found guilty of one crime or another, when have the business and political leaders of a nation been compromised enough to accept bridling by the state’s foremost enemy?
Should you pick up American Kleptocracy by Casey Michel, you will learn (here cribbing direct from the book’s title) “How the U.S. CREATED the WORLD’S GREATEST MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME in HISTORY”. Forget expensive cars and real estate, at least until one has established sufficient anonymous businesses- as-persons courtesy of Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, for a start.
Before Maria Butina, the “illegal”, got caught, American Administrations, including Trump’s, had given the boot to Moscow’s spies-under-diplomatic-cover. The question to which only the state, actually the CIA and FBI, might respond would be “How many more Maria’s might there be?” Doing what? How? And where?
With respect to East-West Rivalry and Moscow-Washington Relations, just how bad might compromise, corruption, and infiltration serving Russia’s defense and promotion of political absolutism and kleptocracy be here in the United States?
Whatever Washington’s true state of affairs might be with Russia — and a kleptocratic Russia unrelenting in its will to confuse and degrade EU/NATO cohesion and coherence — one may hope the open democracies of the west and their allies will renew their vows (for Americans, see “Basic Training” on this blog) and rediscover and reaffirm their commitments to American and modern civility, ethics, principles, rights, and values without compromise and, always, with compassion, humanism, and reason.
While China had been slow to accede to the multilateral Biological Weapons Convention and expressed interest in biological warfare competition, the world has not committed to the Wuhan Level 4 Biological Laboratory narrative regarding Chinese state culpability. There above (viewable on Amazon Prime Video) is the trailer from a counterintelligence thriller directed by the British auteur Michael Apted and released to the viewing public in 2017, about three years before the natural/unnatural dissemination of the COVID-19 strand and its effects.
So we may not know how Covid-19 got started, but we well know what it has done to our species’ natural biological and social existence, and we know who and what the disease has decimated financially or enriched beyond estimation.
Biological Warfare II Narcotics
While narcotics are money makers for burgeoning Transnational Crime Organizations as well as stimulus for police and paramilitary counter-narcotics budgets worldwide, the same represent also a form of biological warfare (snorted, swallowed, poked, and smoked into human frames with myriad rationales) that effectively deflects and degrades the energies and lives of untold millions worldwide while facilitating as well cultural and social chaos, decay, and despair. However made, narcotics money percolates upward — or across if sufficiently funded for the experience (Robin Williams: “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you are making too much money”) — and the $1 billion slurried up from Kensington Avenue becomes one Big Billion Dollar Infusion for spending in and around Philadelphia or anywhere else it may care to go.
One cannot underestimate the propensity for ruthless threat and violence on the part of the world’s smugglers nor ignore the impact of the kind of money involved in smuggling — arms, drugs, humans for labor and for sex — all are money (really, just business) to the cartels, freelancers, and gangs involved in inveigling the world in vice and looting it by force. It has gotten so bad that cocaine and funding for terrorism has become a negotiated commodity between statesmen as well as a major headache for intelligence and law enforcement authorities.
Add, perhaps, what goes on behind the curtains.
So what happens to all that dirty money?
As suggested about Philadelphia’s infamous Kensington Avenue narcotics market, what the dealers scrape off the streets moves around and upward into cars and real estate or onward to other criminal or terrorist enterprises (and backwards: no new products, no sales). With bulk purchases (e.g., cars rounded up for export and sales overseas) or luxurious ones, the very next sale cleans the money and into town it goes.
Corruption II Business Private and Slick
Business and politics in feudal systems structured around Absolute Power, whether of corporation or state, may have features resembling corruption–bribes become incentives, kickbacks rewards, the receiving of less noble hooch and nookie pleasant encouragement for sealing a less private, more notable and admirable business deal. The details may disappear in the vapors of hangovers and lost memories, and that’s the end of the story. Take it a little further, however, and an act of indiscretion, pleasantly offered, may become leverage for blackmail and coercion. Jeffrey Epstein socialized among and with the powerful of the world, and he had his relationship with Putin too: was what he was doing really about an old perv with his own treasury?
Are America’s wealthy in some ways destroying their own national culture for a little bit of business or, perhaps, doing so out of naivete?
You tell me.
What happens in El Norte moves into and may add to the chaos and misery known to Latin America in the sway of local and regional “narconomies”.
I have a Twitter trope that I’ll restate here without counting the letters:
North American arms–>south to Latin American gangs and cartels; LA migrants–>North; NA cash–>south; LA illicit everything–>north.
America’s black market arms (see Gaynor and Grillo in reference) are not the only ones reaching Latin America, but that the system has been large and persistent and with much related activity eating away at the country’s ethical, financial, moral, and social integrity, one wonders if it isn’t time for the “authorities” to get smarter and the “bad guys” — or the desperate — to have better options with perhaps a little less ambition before “what goes around” really does return in karmic fashion.
Kleptocracy, or “rule by thieves,” has for too long been disregarded from mainstream foreign policy discussions. It is often overlooked as a peripheral economic development issue: A problem for tax justice advocates and foreign aid workers. Yet it has been shaping international politics and the global security environment for decades. The Biden-Harris administration will have an unprecedented opportunity—and a unique responsibility—to confront this pervasive threat with decisive action.
This chance comes not come a moment too soon. Since the end of the Cold War, corruption has metastasized beyond national borders into a problem of almost unimaginable scale. The United Nations has estimated that $1 trillion are paid in bribes and a further $2.3 trillion otherwise stolen annually.1 Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based think tank, cites corruption as a key factor in $8.7 trillion that vanished from official records of trade between 135 developing countries and 36 advanced economies from 2008-2017.2
Whoever or whatever it was — or remains — if it was evil, we should collectively appreciate its import, ameliorate its damage, if comparatively recent, and pack it away not to be repeated if the semblance of the same may be prevented or damped.
As lies are told to hide something or to get something, those who counsel the excising of history — erasure of the past, in essence — would seem most of all ashamed of themselves and sensitive to their own hidden predilections for control and conquest. Only the pulling down of the despot’s statue at the time of the revolution proves liberating and signal of liberation. Yanking old generals off their pedestals? That’s something else.