As Facebook responses — this one appeared on the Bukovsky Center page — and blog presentations differ, I have opted to let the blogging system work by adding URLs to the original text and allowing importation as commercial interests (Amazon’s) have made possible.
While Lloyd Billingsley has got right the description of Communist Totalitarianism, it just does not follow that the American Left and main portion of the Liberal Community has some Stalinist bent. Even the fashionable “far left” — short of the armed-up separatists who do fit Billingsley’s description from the “Far Out Left” and “Far White Right” (my terms) — places some premium on frank discussion and reporting with integrity. Some, unfortunately, have made alliance with the Soviet / post-Soviet remains of Communist Group Think and will swallow old Kool-Aid like the Boycott Divestitures and Sanctions (BDS) malarkey, but on the whole will report with integrity.
I have found enough in Patrice Cullors (“Marxist Trained” is part of her self-promotion) to both validate a number of race-related and systemic American issues.
The truths may be uncomfortable, but raising points in an open society undermines efforts to install a more deeply pernicious totalitarianism in America’s own open society — and by extension the still open (or remaining) democratic societies of EU/NATO. IF we in the West should wish to live in authentic (as opposed to Potemkin) democracies, we bear the burden of listening to earnest complaint and testimony and finding appropriate and best ways of responding to it and associated public and private realpolitik.
“Accusation in a Mirror”, a term derived from Kenneth L. Marcus’s eponymous essay (PDF) befits the hothouse atmospheres of both strident conservatives and edgy liberals as each accuses the other of attempting to established a communist or fascism totalitarian state in their areas of influence and operations.
Aside: I have long ago picked up on the idea that both communism and capitalism over-emphasize material well-being in their otherwise opposite philosophies, and if it’s true that such bipolar conflicts comes down to “owning the pie v sharing the pie”, the nation has other spiritual challenges. Personally, I would endorse the development of carefully constructed public-private compact with basic environmental and human interests and related principles and values foremost.
I would suggest to Lloyd Billingsley that he take in a less divisive and more magnanimous and realistic approach to an adjusted 21st Century politics; to Patrisse Cullors and others, black or white or other: let’s hear stories told with integrity while querying systemic shortcomings. Color — brown eyes or blue? — may be a “discriminator”, but what is one to do with hazel or flecked or green — or with skin cafe au lait, caramel, ochre, bronzed, freckled, eggplant, milky, peachy or with body types and facial features innumerable?
In my experience, nature more appreciates or favors variety than it does mono-cultures too isolated and too rigid to respond to the natural proliferation of antagonists (for the political portal associated with related science, see the Convention on Biological Diversity and its List of Parties).
For the time being, we’re having issues with perceived political power and empowerment and related injuries, injustices, jealousies, and resentments. While not everything may be repaired, we might choose to look ahead toward what needs may be diminished (starting with our own rancor) and what may be improved, better integrated, more loved, more appreciated.
I don’t want to spend too much time — or too much of your time — reinforcing what has become thematic on this blog: “Medieval v Modern”. However, there’s no evading forces backed by powerful wills intent on producing feudal power with extraordinary modern defense and intelligence technologies that lend themselves to the nightmares of totalitarian control.
Here’s the note.
From the Awesome Conversation
Both China and Russia practice and promote political absolutism in governance. More than convenience has been involved in their relationship — and in China’s stepping in to keep Tehran in the oil money it uses to fund its promotion of aggression by IRGC and proxies and further creation of chaos in the middle east. Regarding China’s threats to western power in this “hybrid warfare” age — so underhanded! — the smorgasbord is wide but not yet too strong.
In the process of blogging, I’ve found a convenient axis in “Medieval Absolutism v Modern Democratic Distribution of Power” (Medieval v Modern, essentially) and believe the New Nationalism and bents toward autocracy and authoritarianism (and corruption) run together. In that way, Xi, Putin, and Trump had been on similar pages in a rule book that doesn’t exist. The west for several hundred years has repeatedly turned away from Absolutism and the related admiration of singular and unquestionable authority. While I am much less familiar with China’s civilization than with Russia’s (and I may not get beyond tenderfoot with that), I would see the continued binding of Sino-Russo interests as inimical to the western path, its energies, and the greater spirituality that has made much of the bloc wondrously productive before the backsliding of some toward the feudal mode.
Feudal societies are never democratic, just, or humane. In Russia, the absolute power of the sovereign has covered the ownership — what else would you call it? — of persons and property as alike. When Russian air forces have bombed hospitals in Syria (and White Helmets who arrive to rescue the injured and retrieve the dead), it has been without regard to the humanity of the persons, helpless patients, caring visitors, the doctors, caught in that hell. The dismal character of that brand of leadership now paints its own horrifying portrait for viewing around the world daily.
China has sent is final message to the world with its own production of a panopticonic society that can view all of the people all the time through their phones (conversations, locations, purchases) without challenge or question. Great Britain with is public monitoring cameras and Snowden with his revelations regarding how far technology has come may suggest some worrisome potentials — and all gets hashed in freedom in the west through the open press — but China has gone the distance with its inherently paternal and degrading assessment of its human complement — and don’t let the Communist banner fool you: the state has become wealthy with global trade — and the western portion a large part of it — and it has been minting billionaires like no other state on earth while engaged in questionable international development and lending practices (see the above noted “contemporary political sins” post).
The “superpowers”, once defined by their nuclear capability, have on this one life-producing planet no choice but to compete or wrestle with one another over money, political philosophy, and both the character of power and the nature of our humanity. As an American, I promote an earnest freedom of conscience and moral agency and leave to pursue individual interests in what should be a competitive and meritocratic society even though it has its “feudalism” in the private sector in which family and social interests combine. Also as an American, one needs must endorse and support integrity and transparency in governance and protest, question, and resist efforts to install family interests and “great leaders” who may then (as Viktor Orban has done in Hungary, as Donald Trump appears to have attempted in the United States) choose to bend and twist their “democratic” states into private fiefs.
Jamal Khashoggi, almost royal family given his access, provided as a journalist intelligence for Mohammed Bin Salman. When he departed from the royal line by being positive about the Muslim Brotherhood and progressive about human right in the The Kingdom, the King chose to retrieve him a manner probably impressive even to Putin who forgives no KGB turncoat.
Witnessed: “Political Absolutism”. Unquestionable authority. Capricious, unyielding, sadistic, tyrannical. Add for some: black and white in judgment; inflexible in execution.
At the time of my brief discussions with him, Khashoggi happened to work for a man at the heart of some of the issues I had been investigating: he was a media aide to Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi ambassador to London, and later Washington, and previously Saudi intelligence chief for 25 years before he abruptly left the post just prior to the 9/11 attacks.
It was Prince Turki as former head of intelligence who brokered the Saudis’ fateful deal with al-Qaida, according to documents and testimony from Taliban insiders cited by Vanity Fair journalists Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. In their book Eleventh Day (2012), they report that under al-Faisal’s deal, as early as 1995 the Saudi royal family paid ‘protection money’ to Osama bin Laden on condition that he avoided targeting the kingdom.
The NSA was closely monitoring the operation, which saw hundreds of millions of dollars channelled to bin Laden through philanthropic activity.
That Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s right-hand man and the leader of the global jihad movement since bin Laden’s death in May 2011, spent almost a half-year in the mid-1990s in the custody of Russian intelligence is admitted by both sides and is a matter of public record.
Just as significant, Zawahiri’s Russian sojourn occurred at a pivotal point in the development of al-Qaeda; the shift in strategy, resulting in attacks on the “far enemy” (i.e. the United States), the road leading to 9/11, occurred after Zawahiri’s imprisonment by the Russians.
Spies, of course, both uncover and keep secrets, and there seems no question regarding Khashoggi’s service to the Kingdom as a journalist with extraordinary access to power as well as, apparently (as suggested by Nafeez Ahmed’s coverage) admiration for it. As “dead men tell no tales”, the public may never know the full extent of motivations for Khashoggi’s torture, death, and dismemberment.
In the shadows: every intelligence agency on the planet with eyes keenly fixed on the course of international affairs and hands on levers responding to immense political power in the figures of dictators, kings, and presidents. So The Kingdom may have paid protection for al-Qaeda’s promotion of Islamic inflexibility and viciously anomic inhumanity elsewhere in the world — and Russia may have “handled” Zawahiri as an anti-western force with which to be reckoned as so well demonstrated on 9/11.
So ensues the west’s global war on Islamic terrorism.
Has it been “The West’s” war only?
For the Ancestors For the Martyrs Keep Fighting!
With poppy With Russian arms and materiel Keep fighting!
For war crippled children For war-killed dead Keep fighting!
For Allah For Prophet Muhammad For dogma For whatever authority says Keep fighting!
For Russia For America For God’s sake Keep fighting!
I didn’t know how to treat “Le Monde diplomatique” whose typeset name featured a reversed italic for “diplomatique”, so I bolded the publication’s name — and then what papa does for one . . . . 🙂 No more games. I won’t do it again. I believe italics just fine for book and other whole publication titles.
As the world has waited for further answers about Khashoggi’s death, more details about his background are coming to light. They paint an interesting picture of a man known today in the U.S. as a Washington Post columnist but whose family has deep ties to the Saudi monarchy that go back generations.
“They were a rich family, educated,” said Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi dissident who runs the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C. He knew Jamal Khashoggi for many years and saw him until recently as more a loyalist than a critic of the royal family.
With a one-term Trump Presidency, we have dodged a powerful bullet, and we should keep in mind that it took crossover Republicans to do it.
Biden’s now relying on outdated postures and needs to be shaken out of the still near past with Obama.
I’ll go a little further here with the note that our own decadence drives large foreign affairs, financial, and social issues. We’ve overdone it with the coke, dope, and sex (for starters), and the same have launched mass migrations toward us as well as funded our enemies through their control of Transnational Crime Organizations (TCOs). As “Children of the ’60s”, we should own up to some of the less immediately visible consequences of our own appetites.
In the western hemisphere, insecurity related to black market operations — cartels, gangs — literally drives people out of their homes; the same, of course, sends the “entrepreneurs” toward The North for business — or deliveries.
Orbán’s political takeover – buttressed by a German industrial lobby that relies on cheap labour in Hungarian plants – has largely been bankrolled by cash plundered from the European Union that he rails so fervently against. A 2019 New York Times investigation found that Orbán uses billions of euros in EU subsidies as a patronage fund that enriches his allies, protects his political interests and punishes his rivals. “The ideology is a ruse. The money is where the action is,” said Lane Scheppele.
Reasoning: America cannot deny her changed posture with Russia since the December 25, 1991 end of the Cold War. The now 26-year term opened handily with cooperation in security and trade, but it appears Moscow’s old habits for authoritarian and central control die hard — or die or fade not at all. Most recent in evidence: Russia’s extraordinary hacking of data rich and powerful Federal institutions.
BackChannels may consider the Nashville Explosion a “follow on”.
As with the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and the targeting of America’s Cowboy Class from the exotically eastern-named Mandalay Bay Hotel (it seems major attacks against the Homeland involve such poetics), one might consider the range both of American Cowboy cities and symbols and otherwise centers of American commercial and defense might and vitality.
The tempo of aggression would seem within Moscow’s control while Americans read of discoveries and events in the news.
The Soviet Union collapsed in bankruptcy 26 years ago on December 25, 1991. Those who believed in the failed stated, believed also in absolute power with themselves as chiefs of state otherwise known as the Party Nomenklatura. On our side, we believed, however briefly, that the tension between the Capitalist West and an expanding and thieving Communist Russia, the most central sponsor of dictatorships worldwide, including Khomeini’s to come as the Islamic Revolution in Iran, had collapsed as well and that democracy and prosperity would be Moscow’s new fate with the western world.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
President Trump’s own disingenuous remonstrance involving Russia and his undeniable involvement with the Russian Federation tells the direction the Post-Soviet Era has taken, to wit, Russia has become an authoritarian and combined mafia and police state whose elite cook up and swallow money before breakfast while those less connected with Putin and Moscow mumble along without potent representation (even Alexei Navalny in the shadow of his latest poisoning has been forced to serve his Russian constituency from beyond Russia’s borders).
Here is Mikhail Gorbachev in 2016 speaking about the dissolving of his former state —
Accusation in a Mirror in One Statement
“That which I intend for you I will claim as your intention for me.”
In its secret life, Putin’s Russian Federation has mounted a challenge to the open democracies of the modern west. In Crimea, for example, it has produced the “Little Green Men” of “Hybrid Warfare” fame (it has also launched audacious cyber attacks against Ukrainian assets). Previously in the United States, it has sought to troll the nation into confusion (read up on “Cozy Bear” or the “Internet Research Agency”). Around the world and still in the domain of a perverse modern warfare, it has managed to sustain “Frozen Conflicts” that serve to inflict continuous insecurity in target states while providing comparatively safe harbors and transit zones for Transnational Crime Organizations (TCOs). Here’s a wrap by international energy consultant Agnia Grigas (2016) —
The Nashville Explosion that took place Christmas morning involved procuring and producing an RV Bomb, arming it in addition with a powerful sound system and patiently programmed tape, possibly including attention-getting gunfire, and it went off in a sufficiently symbolic (there’s that cowboy thing!) location but one also deeply sensitive with AT&T communications infrastructure. Given the day and hour, there was little interest in carnage or sustained drama and attention — there was, when it was over, direct damage to a major American communications hub.
Imagine the same form of attack repeated in one city after another.
Sufficient threat shifts state positions in small and unseen ways, but an attack appropriately interpreted serves as a wake-up that in a democracy calls for “clear, accurate, and complete” public analysis as well as some necessarily immediate, opaque, and sophisticated countermeasures.
Simple Criminal Act — or Act of Terror or Act of War
Perhaps the “Nashville Christmas Morning Explosion” will turn out to be about lone nut case motivated by personal grievance and armed with money and know-how.
You know I’m in real estate, don’t you?
(Not a chance).
Addendum – In Which the Editor Considers Going Into Real Estate
The confirmation of Anthony Quinn Warner as the perpetrator has stalled where it had for Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, i.e., the “why?”.
The story will shift to the mystery woman on the other side of Warner’s “Quit Claim” in L.A., and, as with Paddock, there may still be no official explanation.
Troublesome here: “East-West Rivalry”; the “Whole Russian Thing”; The Location — Nashville, 2nd Street, hard by a critical AT&T communications center; the Christmas morning timing; the planning involved, the mockery (“Downtown”), the labor intensive execution, which had to include the gathering together and assembling of components, including the production of the tape and the creation or recording of the female voice on it.
Well, gosh golly — watch plumes of dust rising into the air over the neighboring state’s military exercises, report it, and make a decision about the enemies true near intentions.
Can’t do that?
Not enough to go on?
Intelligence people use terms like “estimate” and “mosaic” to describe both the uncertainty of perception and the many pieces needed to venture a guess — a good one, so one hopes — about what’s happening in the world as they see it displayed before their own eyes.
From the Awesome Conversation
This editor’s response to the continuing partisan presentation of political history and present states of affairs –>
Our politicians need to be working issues rather than demonizing one another.
The Brietbart piece makes clear that the conveyance of “intelligence” is often ambiguous and subject to broader analysis. Biden was apparently not happy with what he saw, and the Egyptian effort at deception would have in those years been taken as par for the Arab course in its enmity with Israel.
Times have changed. Moscow backing Tehran (and Damascus) has helped pushed the Sunni Arab world westward for modernization as well as security.
Americans and Israelis should know who their enemies are as well as persons or states neither positioned for nor temperamentally fit for enmity. Overall, Israel has some complicated trade relationships, including with China who purchases oil from Tehran in support of both its belligerence and existence (China has been notoriously insensitive to the character of many of its trading partners). Here’s a part of the deal going between China and Iran — https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/05/chinas-great-game-in-iran/ (9/5/2020).
President Trump, now in his lame duck phase, has most definitely lost his bid for a second term. More or less, he lost his race on character, essentially driving voters out of the Republican ranks to ensure his losing.
In the United States, we have experienced a period of brutal polarization driven by the absence of critical research and reasoning skills in much of the population, disinformation from foreign interlopers (look up “Internet Research Agency” as an example), and plain old hyped up Party-invented agitation and propaganda. With Trump’s now unquestionable loss of a second term, it may be time to pack away the kit of passionate but largely errant assumptions and beliefs about American and, in general, western conservatives and liberals and have a fresh look instead (and again together) at real issues stemming from the illiberal character and greed of the enemies of the west.
With the authoritarian President Trump in the White House, it may be difficult to argue that the three “superpowers” have turned out other than feudal polities plundered by politically connected and wealthy elites. Nonetheless, and in the most simplified fashion, the following now comes to mind in relation to the quick assessment of China’s political character and culture.
China’s overseas lending, which was virtually zero before the turn of the century — well, about $500 billion in 2000 — stands today, ostensibly, at around $5 trillion. Indeed, they are now the world’s largest creditor, being twice as large as both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, combined.
Colagrossi, Mike. “New study uncovers China’s massive hidden lending to poor countries.” Big Think, July 18, 2019.
The low-hanging fruit may be plucked with the search string, “China, predatory lending” and, I’m sure, “China, debt trap” will do as well.
Difficult to beat for audacity, Chinese business, engineering acumen, and ethics have caused the more advanced and liberal world some concerns. The projects I have in mind are these: Three Gorges Dam; Coca Codo Sinclair Dam (Ecuador); oil extraction, South Sudan — while Sudan appears to be coming on to track with the west, the Sudanese of what is now South Sudan will have memories of a callous Chinese presence through the Darfur Genocide. The worst business and related ethical decisions and policies — or absence thereof — become always diminished the shoulder shrug accompanied by the dull observation, “it’s only business”.
Here is but one example of what has come out in the news in relation to the Thousand Talents espionage program:
Dr. Qing Wang, a professor of molecular genetics at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western University, was arrested Wednesday on charges of lying to investigators and wire fraud related to more than $3.6 million in funding that he and his research group at the Cleveland Clinic received from the National Institutes of Health under false pretenses. At the same time that he was receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government grants, court documents reveal he concealed how he was also the Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China. He was also receiving grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and hid his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a Chinese Communist Party effort to recruit academics to gain access to foreign technology and intellectual property.
It should go without saying that the recipients of large research grants may not care to think too much about their financial good luck when it comes to keeping their laboratories, themselves, other faculty, and students flush in research missions and means.
A modern question comes to mind: Are the world’s leaders obligated to reproducing the worst of the world’s potential for feudal, medieval, and tribal warfare — or may the same be obliged to accept a deeply interconnected modern (and democratic) variegated world capable of cooperative strong integration without supposed “exclusive” genetic, racial, or religious “winners”?
The world’s refusal of Islamic supremacist tenets has produced some medieval resurgence through parochial versions of “New Nationalism”, and the Chinese have been no less susceptible to that than White Europeans and North Americans expecting to wake up and see a world that looks (and thinks) just as they do.
Whatever the answers, add a classic “house of mirrors” complication:
January 1, 1979
The United States normalizes diplomatic relations with China. Three years later there are 10,000 Chinese students in the US, and the FBI begins directing field offices to recruit students for counterintelligence operations.
As long as machines, materials, and processes produce exchange, people (and states) will steal proprietary information to either remain at parity with competitors and threats or get an edge up on them.
What has changed throughout the world: online proximity x time.
Here, for example, is a 2020 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) unclassified statement involving China’s commitment to suppressing illicit trade related to fentanyl:
Effective May 1, 2019, China officially controlled all forms of fentanyl as a class of drugs. This fulfilled the commitment that President Xi made during the G-20 Summit. The implementation of the new measure includes investigations of known fentanyl manufacturing areas, stricter control of internet sites advertising fentanyl, stricter enforcement of shipping regulations, and the creation of special teams to investigate leads on fentanyl trafficking. These new restrictions have the potential to severely limit fentanyl production and trafficking from China. This could alter China’s position as a supplier to both the United States and Mexico.
Truth to tell: as regards the transnational narcotics business, China may not stand out as more or less problematic or troublesome than other states saddled with similar issues. Aided by corruption, suppressed by shifting tides in law, politics, mercenary and military relationships, and the value of facets of reputations, the operations known to TCOs (Transnational Crime Organizations) shift always to the paths of least resistance and highest profit. As example: https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/10259-unodc-warns-of-rising-role-of-organized-crime-in-southeast-asia (July 19, 2019).
Giant China, however, appears able to field labor sufficient for cultural incursions and producing huge financial obligations via huge critical infrastructure projects in client states. It’s when it comes to cooperation involving funding or manning investigations into smuggling the trail goes — and perhaps appropriately — dim. The chemicals get through and course through the illicit manufacturing economies of Central and South America, and while the products move north — and the money moves south — political instability driven by practical insecurity help create the chaos that also drives migration north.
As a dimension for thought, none can help but notice the North American pull that draws the business from the south. One may excoriate suppliers only so much.
Mass Surveillance State
The above header needs little support here, which bothers me, lol, but China has produced an extraordinary reputation for mass surveillance and the development of related methods of social control. Here’s a lead from a Human Rights Watch report on the matter —
Classical totalitarianism, in which the state controls all institutions and most aspects of public life, largely died with the Soviet Union, apart from a few holdouts such as North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party retained a state monopoly in the political realm but allowed a significant private economy to flourish. Yet today, in Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest, a new totalitarianism is emerging—one built not on state ownership of enterprises or property but on the state’s intrusive collection and analysis of information about the people there. Xinjiang shows us what a surveillance state looks like under a government that brooks no dissent and seeks to preclude the ability to fight back. And it demonstrates the power of personal information as a tool of social control.
This society may seem dystopian, but it isn’t farfetched: It may be China in a few years. The country is racing to become the first to implement a pervasive system of algorithmic surveillance. Harnessing advances in artificial intelligence and data mining and storage to construct detailed profiles on all citizens, China’s communist party-state is developing a “citizen score” to incentivize “good” behavior. A vast accompanying network of surveillance cameras will constantly monitor citizens’ movements, purportedly to reduce crime and terrorism. While the expanding Orwellian eye may improve “public safety,” it poses a chilling new threat to civil liberties in a country that already has one of the most oppressive and controlling governments in the world.
In Xiqiao, a city of roughly 300,000 in southern China, for example, officials have installed more than 1,400 video cameras and over 300 facial recognition cameras since 2006, ChinaFile found. The report said officials have blanketed most of the city’s public spaces with the cameras to address “the difficult problem of how to control people,” according to a government document obtained by ChinaFile.
Mass surveillance in lower-profile cities and territories reflects the 2018 launch of China’s Project Sharp Eyes, an ambitious attempt to equip 100% of Chinese public spaces—street corners, parks, train stations—with video-monitoring capabilities and amass the data into one central platform. China’s government says the project is aimed at improving public safety and security, but it’s seen outside China as a means for more state control.