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.
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.
Greed obliterates authentic purposes to become an end in and of itself. Perhaps it helps create an ordered society, bureaucratic, impersonal, programmed — but that rather misses the mark as regards human services and well-being.
By way of cold categorization, it might be said that all addicts are criminals, but one may wonder what part are themselves predators and what other part preyed on by dealers and doctors or equivalents in counseling.
From time to time, I catch the boilerplate conservative prescription “personal responsibility!” in relation to the kind of damaged, enslaved, marginalized, and traumatized person that has lost all agency, confidence, efficacy, and esteem and wonder how pernicious and greed-ridden a society we have become. Can we tell the difference between the sad sack hipster and self-serving and profiteering sociopaths? Have we overemphasized the substance — whatever it may be or have been — and under-emphasized disconnection, marginalization, ostracism? And if so, for what?
In business terms, we are each and everyone of us our own “cost centers” — we want to live with means; we wish to pay our way; and for the most part, that’s what we do — but for a portion of America’s 320 millions souls — about a million or so the last time I checked (2019 with figures from 2017 compiled by authorities in 2018)— personalities or problems attach to expensive dependencies, and those persons then become the smallest of “profit centers” — revenue generators — for the money mad among sociopaths, and that from the curb to the corporate suite. Family’s gone and all the connections left are “fiduciary”, i.e., all about money and control bereft of conscience and soul.
As so often happens, a frantic mother called us about her 19-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Jen. A heroin addict, Jen had been shuttled between multiple treatment centers and sober homes by greedy marketers looking to cash in on the teenager’s insurance benefits by keeping her perpetually in recovery, but never sober.
In the American failure lies a paradox: Washington’s massive military juggernaut has been stopped in its steel tracks by a small pink flower – the opium poppy. Throughout its three decades in Afghanistan, Washington’s military operations have succeeded only when they fit reasonably comfortably into central Asia’s illicit traffic in opium – and suffered when they failed to complement it.
The world’s mafia — call them “Transnational Crime Organizations (TCOs)” for this world made smaller by the Internet and jets — sustain themselves through corrupt or intimidated officials who keep the traffic illegal, the profits high, and the goods coursing through the financial bloodstreams of the world as well as, of course, the bodies and minds of the world’s addicts. At the far end of the poppy field and well beyond its horizons, a human refuse washes up on the world’s streets, leaving governments in which the corrupt grow rich while the good drown before a dangerous and endless;u horrifying surge of affliction, crime, bodily damage, and emotional need that repeatedly defies bureaucratic processes and solutions.
Here for about 10 minutes is what the end of the poppy field looks like.
A Brief Comment on Narcotics, Realpolitik, and East-West Rivalry
I don’t want to go too far into Darkness and Light on this post, but it may no longer prove sufficient to “Act Locally, Think Globally” in light of an apparent willingness in states as well as persons to serve not only both sides of a conflict (with visible sales of common enough deliverables) but as well demonstrated in Afghanistan both the Devil and God or the Evil and the Good. Toward the end of America’s long tour in Afghanistan, generals made note of the use of Russian arms and materiel by Taliban forces, a black market trade if ever was — but who has picked up the chips, so to speak, in Asia but Russia, which is now doing a brisk business in defense sales to the neighbors of a soon to be Talibanized Afghanistan.
Whatever the motives of each of its drifted “residents”, McPherson Square’s “Needle Park” and Kensington Avenue’s Junktopia host a portion of the nation’s most damaged and most lost children, “dipping” and homeless as well as short on options into recoveries more reliable than stopovers for intramural billing between service-providing bureaucracies and their subcontractors. Few, if any, have a clue as regards the nefarious “international relations” and “supply chains” that put the poppy seed in the ground and nursed it all the way to a spoon and needle and arm on the streets of Philadelphia (“City of Brotherly Love“) for some in Beijing and Moscow to smile and between them say, “How well America takes care of her people!”
Everything we say and do determines what’s going to happen to us in the future. Whether we act honestly, dishonestly, help or hurt others, it all gets recorded and manifests as a karmic reaction either in this life or a future life. All karmic records are carried with the soul into the next life and body.
Moscow has positioned the Taliban of Afghanistan right where it wants them, i.e., as a block and goad to the west, as a proxy for war by needle, and as another of the most honorable, most pious, and most hypocritical entities of the world, preaching sobriety by the book while taking up its role as the world’s foremost exporter of intoxication and death.
In the age of “Active Measures”, widespread trolling, government-funded disinformation campaigns, a sad bump in east-west rivalry with Beijing and Moscow pitted against democracy, and extraordinary agitation and propaganda, the business of shamelessly lying to the American People should be treated no differently than speech associated with conspiracy to commit crimes, libel and slander, and incitement.
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.