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 Myanmar, so I have read, there’s today a booming market in little blue meth/meth-caffeine pills much enabled by China’s determination to maintain stability along the route of the Belt and Road Initiative. It seems (to BackChannels, at least) these days that everyone with a cause and a Kalashnikov (whatever) comes up with cash in exchange for ‘wokefulness’ of the cartoonish kind — and the fighting and funding and the building and the struggle for better and more and more and more of the same rages on . . . .
Governments may strengthen their resolve, take the profit out of the business, “medicalize” the results, suffer the loss of some portion of the income of their secondary economies (narcotics represent primary import-export $$$), and move on, or they may play “ostrich” on limited time while their cultures plus political and spiritual missions hollow out and destroy their sense of purpose.
Was Great Britain shutting down its opium trade when the Chinese were paying for its existence?
I’ve grown old(er) having a look into this region in the vicinity of how things work — and with the comparative roles of what gets us high, low, or back to in-between — far inside the human condition and experience, and it’s all a little bit ugly and sad.
More on Myanmar’s ‘Dependence’ Issue
SULLIVAN: But there are a number of factors working against an end to Myanmar’s long-running civil war, understanding is just one of them. The government’s refusal to budge on the ethnic groups’ demands for greater autonomy is another. And then there’s money.
JEREMY DOUGLAS: The biggest source of finance for conflict is clearly drugs.
SULLIVAN: Jeremy Douglas is regional director for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Bangkok. He says the trade is much bigger now than it was decades ago, when the area was better known for its opium and heroin production. Now it’s mostly synthetics like crystal methamphetamine, or ice, destined for markets in Australia, Japan, South Korea and beyond, a business the UNODC reckons is worth a staggering $60 billion a year.
This story reveals more than just the failure of Canadian controls against money laundering. It highlights the current global problem of money laundering, in North America, Europe and the Middle East. Based on recent accounts, the criminals are winning.
The breadth and depth of crime fighting agencies and institutions would seem greater as a global community than the global scourge, but it equally clear that criminal operating capacities in manufacturing and distribution have been an “overmatch” for that effort. The money and violence involved in addressing this aspect of our humanity would seem also to have proven more than equal to the task. Here, nonetheless, may be two starting points for those far on the outside looking into how someone else’s condition — nations included — has become the condition into which the whole world appears to be growing.
Inspiration for the post: a tirade against the specter of Democratic Socialist America in the fashion of the Soviet Communist sphere of influence and the detritus of the irresponsible authoritarian mafia states left behind for western conscience and vision to address.
” . . . who despite enjoying the benefits and protections of a free society . . . ” (would vote the Democratic ticket).
Life has its hooks, ladders, and chutes, of course, and will never be perfect for everyone, but the numbers represent some systematic decimation of a modern — not 1950s white bread — culture. Are those of the middle class and of the privileged supposed to completely turn away from the social epidemiology swirling around the apparently Lost of America?
We should know who is in the mix — and why — and get that unholy street stew separated and channeled in some helpful way.
If Americans hadn’t “social conscience”, there would be no laws involving environment, health, labor, housing, or much else that has brought and held the nation together as a unified polity. Politicians on the Left / Far Left have walked down their own streets and asked about the same questions for the same reasons. Now it would seem up to radically responsible moderates to steal that flame to produce an overall healthier state, not an environment fit to elite, rapacious, and ruthless personalities.
Some Red-Green elements that have flowed down from the Soviet Era machinery have infected America’s Democratic Party with the familiar Far Left cocktail of anti-capitalist, radical, and anti-Semitic (anti-Zionist) cant that in effect poisons their own projects before they can progress. The social conscience of the Democratic Party as stamped by Presidents Roosevelt in the 1930s and Johnson in the 1960s appears well under attack by the vanguard of a bullying old White Right political culture that really doesn’t care to address the misery it has learned to overlook.
Far be it, however, for BackChannels to overlook Hollywood’s role in the glamorizing and promoting of the very scourges that have both enriched the world’s mafia and — with dollars cleaned and spiffy — spilled back into working communities — here: read about Vancouver’s pleasant (not really) influx of wealth — as to make economic retreat and the decoupling from evil virtually impossible.
Instead of abetting or encouraging the survival of President Nicolas Maduro’s now brutal regime in Venezuela, Representative Ilhan Omar may do better to review how starvation came to visit the South American state — wondrously rich with resources — in the first place.
Venezuela as petrostate had a fine run on high and rising oil prices, but as crude pricing fell, the state discovered discovered itself as yet . . . undeveloped — and foremost in its oil sector. From the above cited Foreign Policy piece:
The problem for Chávez was that many of the PDVSA’s then-managers wanted to increaseproduction, by continuing the development of Venezuela’s technically challenging heavy oil fields. To do so, they needed to reinvest more of the company’s earnings rather than hand them all over to the government. So the managers had to go.
It was only the beginning of the mismanagement of Venezuela’s oil reserves.
What about other sectors of the economy?
On agriculture, here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post (Mariana Zunig and Nick Miroff, “Venezuela’s paradox: People are hungry, but farmers can’t feed them”, May 22, 2017):
“Last year I had 200,000 hens,” said Saulo Escobar, who runs a poultry and hog farm here in the state of Aragua, an hour outside Caracas. “Now I have 70,000.”
Several of his cavernous hen houses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable, and armed gangs have been squeezing him for extortion payments and stealing his eggs.
As well known to other communist and socialist bureaucracies, the government owns all, but to play the role of an enlightened hub for all that the state needs and needs to share equally, it has to have something to distribute. As the oil economy collapsed, much around it appears to have caved as well.
Add desperation to insolvency: what the government hasn’t discouraged, ordinary thieves — not to blame them too much for their response to starvation — have apparently stepped in to pick up the slack.
Alas, also, Venezuela’s program had some items it distributes all too well for cash:
The network used a string of heavily guarded nightclubs to generate profits from the forced prostitution, which where then laundered through at least eight companies the group owned.
Thirteen victims were rescued and more than 2 million euros (almost $2.4 million) worth of properties, cash, jewelry and vehicles, as well as weapons, were seized as part of the operation.
Basically, Maduro’s dictatorship and its military (and the state’s mafia) have had between narcotics — noted at the top of this blog — and sundry other criminal undertakings — some nefarious ways of raising cash for themselves.
The state of war has become a constant between Beijing, Moscow, and Washington, but the issues are worked either “by other means”i.e., “diplomacy” or through punitive measures that would be violent swipes — and they are that — without the gun play. What works and how far it goes may be indicated by Venezuela’s continuing decline into chaos, darkness, and despair.
In the Party I was beginning to see many people of a different stripe. During the war period I saw how opportunism and selfishness engulfed many comrades. They wore expensive clothes, lived in fine apartments, took long vacations at places provided by men of wealth. There was, for one, William Wiener, former treasurer of the Party, manipulator for a score of business enterprises, who wore Brooks Brothers suits, smoked expensive cigars, and lunched only at the best places. There were the trade union Communists who rubbed elbows with underworld characters at communist-financed night clubs, and labor lawyers who were given patronage by the Party by assignment to communist-led trade unions and now were well established and comfortable.
Communist Party USA leader Bell Dodd’s 1954 remark as relayed by Wikipedia may have special resonance today in the socialist’s disaster continuing to unfold — or perhaps preparing to fold — in Venezuela.
While it had been one thing to share Venezuela’s good fortune and wealth with the public, perhaps especially with massive revenues pumped out of the ground, it has been another for the socialist government to suppress the private ownership of productive ideas and resources while utterly failing to diversify a national economy with the intent to forestall a one-market boom-or-bust (it busted) disaster.
For BackChannels, the cite-quote-cite-quote method has grown tiresome, so the reader may take this post as a reference page but with the suggestion that Maduro’s now patently criminal junta — access the OCCRP and InSight Crime reports cited in reference — may choose to loot and flee the country having proven themselves unable to judiciously and responsibly govern the same — or, in the manner demonstrated by Assad in Syria, they may enjoy being carved up by similarly predatory trade partners.
BackChannels’ humanism in relation to economic development would counsel the damping of dogma in the search for a good mix of private incentives for economic diversification x public policies and programs fit to constituent needs for “basics” plus psychological enthusiasm, fitness, and growth. From the same stance, the messianic self-aggrandizement associated with dictatorships would be viewed as damaging and limiting the greater public experience and potential for good things, starting with community-wide and personal security.
(For related exploration or some meditation on dictatorship, this blog offers portals for “Malignant Narcissism” and its own proposed concept, “Facsimile Bipolar Political Sociopathy“. Neither would differentiate between Far Left and Far Right authoritarianism or kleptocracy — and it would place both as more appropriate in the operating environments of the feudal world and fit to related medieval worldviews associated with “political absolutism” and sovereignty. Wherever placed x space x time, the absence of conscience looms large with dictatorships and the related criminality associated with power becomes glaring and, eventually, beyond bearing).
Bella Dodd, by the way, would renounce Communism toward the end of her journey and again embrace the Catholicism with which she had been born.
What is clear from our investigations is that the following institutions are staffed at the higher echelons by individuals we believe are, or have been, engaged in criminal activity: The Vice Presidency, the Ministries of Interior (Ministerio del Poder Popular del Despacho de la Presidencia y Seguimiento de la Gestión de Gobierno), Defense (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Defensa), Agriculture (Ministerio del Poder Popular de Agricultura Urbana), Education (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Educación), Prison Service (Ministerio del Poder Popular para el Servicio Penitenciario), Foreign Trade and Investment (Ministerio de Estado para el Comercio Exterior e Inversión Internacional), Electricity (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Energía Eléctrica), the National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana), the Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Bolivarianas), the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional – SEBIN) and PdVSA.
The penetration of so many key institutions, and the fact that they constitute the state’s main organs in the fight against organized crime, means that Venezuela cannot even contain organized crime, let alone effectively fight it. With so many state actors with interests in criminal activity, be it fuel smuggling, the black market sale of food and medicines or the trafficking of cocaine, this factor alone suggests that Venezuela qualifies as a mafia state.
” . . . they are making a show to other countries . . . “
True. The action taken to forestall additional Chemical Weapons (CW) attacks was conducted as a deliberate and open demonstration of capability (imho) and not as one blow among others launched without warning in the chaos and fury of combat.
Russo-American cooperation in “optics” has been a theme in the Syrian Tragedy from the beginning and in current form dates back at least to the end of the Cold War in which Moscow and Washington in a presumptive peace were to work on terrorism and transnational crime together.
It is uncertain that that is not taking place!
How would one know?
In that Moscow sustains numerous “frozen conflicts”, operates its war machinery against noncombatants in Syria and Ukraine, and that it has long cherished (by not reforming itself much) the title, “Mafia State”, I may suggest the west had been snookered by old political criminals or a mentality in Moscow befitting the same.
In the too-fast press associated with blogging, there may be a little bit of post-first-read-later taking place here. Even if so, the main point is to look into what happened between Moscow and Washington in their respective thematic characters — paternal authoritarian for one; liberal democratic for the other — in the nearest shadows of the Cold War.
PDFs cited go straight to the BackChannels Kindle and may be read on that platform soon afterward.
Where did all the money come from? Most of the new robber barons — an estimated 61 percent of Russia’s richest people, according to one study — simply turned the socialist empires they managed into their own private companies. Others built their fortunes on the roots of criminal trading they were doing secretly during Soviet times. The result is a pervasive sense of unfairness — particularly since Russia still has no real middle class. But Russian society for centuries has been driven by envy.
“In Western Europe and the United States . . . organized crime controls only criminal activities such as prostitution, drug trafficking and gambling,” wrote Pyotr Filippov, a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, in a report to the president last year. “In our country, it controls all types of activities.”
In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, an alleged criminal leader with a long prison record and a private militia loyal to him is the right-hand man to the country’s leader, former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze. In Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, an ex-convict named Vladimir “The Poodle” Podiatev, who spent 17 years in prison, is said by police to be the city’s foremost power broker, allegedly controlling his own television station and much commerce in the city.
Russia’s attempt to subvert Ukraine cannot, however, be seen in isolation.Russia’s attempt to subvert Ukraine cannot, however, be seen in isolation. Its tactics are part of a wider pattern in which the Kremlin uses separatist conflicts as engines for corruption and criminality, and as Trojan horses to block progress in reform-minded countries on Russia’s periphery.
Organized crime has penetrated most of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union at all governmental levels, and is assuming an important role in the political , economic and social evolution of these states, with consequences already being felt in Europe , the United States and parts of Asia . The collapse of communism may not lead to democratization and the transition to a competitive capitalist economy. Instead, the pervasiveness of organized crime may lead to an alternative form of development — political clientelism and controlled markets. Domination by the Communist Party may be replaced b y the controls of organized crime.
The medieval worldview and its marriage to financial and political power may be archaic in the modern world. Faith in God and religion may be good things, but as demonstrated by the Islamists, by the Saudi Royals and their spreading of Wahhabi madrasas, and by related clerical wealth dependent on subscription plus political repression, too much of that kind of “religion” suffocates creativity, freedom, and economic exchange.
I believe the modern world wishes not to be dragged back into the “medieval mode” — or your nation should have a new King with his legitimacy validated by Bishops and the Pope.
Yours has also a different kind of contest going with archaic systems: the tribal systems (with chiefs) are absolute and often worlds unto themselves, and they may well be discomfited by seeing their children yanked into mines and (perhaps) abused.
The Third World War seems to me quite healthy and under way as regards barbarism and the most cynical and evil worship of money by those encouraging horrific acts worldwide.
Thank Putin who has been most visible in relation to the barbaric horrors of Syria, the creeping warfare ongoing in Ukraine, numerous “frozen conflicts”, which become transfer points for smuggling, potentially on a nearly unimaginable scale, and today the support of al-Qaeda-like Taliban in Afghanistan.
When, and since we woke up sixteen years ago this day, has the modern world — the civilization of open democracies — not been at war with barbarism?
My South American correspondent counseled the various forms of “sword” against the evils wrought by bankers who sought deregulation that invited the 2007/8 financial meltdown, by the godless forces of still nominal and virulent communist and socialist politics, and by indigenous either living in older worlds or lost in this one.
Since 9/11, a curtain in time has come up on the world that surrounds all of us as we have come to casually and commonly access cultural activities and political news around the world via Internet. Perhaps the community of foreign affairs and international relations enthusiasts as well as professionals has been grown as a consequence of access to . . . the online universe of media, political institutions, and, of course, fellow travelers — and, perhaps, we have become or started on the path toward greater cognizance and sophistication about the world’s myriad conflicts and their true underlying drivers.
For brevity, BackChannels will leave this post “airy” — short on specifics — but note that we — “the west”, “EU / NATO”, “the open democracies of the world” — may be more at war today with feudal despots and medieval illusion and “The Terrorists” — the global network of clerical power bound to media production and incitement and transnational crime (arms, diamonds, drugs, for a start) and related and active cells than was the case before this day sixteen years ago.