Perhaps all that separates Presidents Putin and Trump are America’s still-intact Constitutional checks and balances and related authentic cultural precepts, tenets, and values having to do with equality, freedom, and justice bound to a modern and spacious appreciation of universal human character and potential.
The tapped popular perception of both of these heavy handed and extraordinarily wealthy politicians is that each exists to protect his image, his power, and his cronies and may be otherwise concerned with the needs of their respective nations overall to only a minimal extent.
The democracy of the United States of America requires — as do others — a soundly educated population on one hand and (it is this one on the other that’s tough) highly experienced and well educated statesmen on the other. The Republican vote coming for Biden, an “old school” politician with a manner familiar from far better days, will represent a mass of voting against the incumbent Donald Trump, but that will not hack it for American democracy except to forestall its dissolving into another shitty pseudo-democratic dictatorship.
Whoever wins 2020, it will be America’s 2024 election that will spell whether Americans will be governed by a fully responsive and responsible leadership or one bent by measures of dogma, excessive narcissism, and greed.
Donald Trump falsely accused Democrats of trying to “steal” Tuesday’s special election in California amid the Covid-19 pandemic by adding a polling place in one of the most diverse sections of a district.
But the county actually added the polling location at the request of the area’s Republican mayor.
The announcement that Russian President Vladimir Putin won last week’s national vote to rewrite the country’s constitution and allow himself to run twice more for president was not exactly a surprise. Putin has a long track record of winning elections through a mix of genuine popularity, electoral skullduggery, and—most important of all—ensuring that no real alternatives are allowed on the ballot. This most recent plebiscite took Putin-era elections to new depths of meaningless.
If HE hadn’t stepped off blasting away at America’s mainstream media and stable Federal agencies involved with all matters from environment to national security, HE and we might be fine, for BC believes he’s telling some truth these days. However, he has also had his indelible “Helsinki Moment” (above) and his regime (is that too strong a word?) may mirror known authoritarian governments integrated with their own state financial and political elites. The spectacle made by black clad troops herding nonviolent protesters from Lafayette Park (adjacent to the White House) may become a part of the memory of a liberal American generation for whom that kind of White House implemented thuggery — and show and tell with the Bible and Church photo-op — would seem to have been out of step with modern American political norms and values.
For the United States with an Administration somewhat mirroring the authoritarianism and white nationalism associated with Moscow, one may wonder if collusion may not be found in aspects of convergence: how different does Trump’s Washington look from Putin’s Moscow?
By any sociological or financial measure, it’s good to be us. It’s even better to be our kids. In our health, family life, friendship networks, and level of education, not to mention money, we are crushing the competition below. But we do have a blind spot, and it is located right in the center of the mirror: We seem to be the last to notice just how rapidly we’ve morphed, or what we’ve morphed into. Related Story
The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children. We are not innocent bystanders to the growing concentration of wealth in our time. We are the principal accomplices in a process that is slowly strangling the economy, destabilizing American politics, and eroding democracy. Our delusions of merit now prevent us from recognizing the nature of the problem that our emergence as a class represents. We tend to think that the victims of our success are just the people excluded from the club. But history shows quite clearly that, in the kind of game we’re playing, everybody loses badly in the end.
Has the bottom layer of the upper crust, which may be quite Up There in fluff and light, the need for institutionalized nobility even if without title?
For the purposes of cultural and political stability, such a need may be functional, good, and open to entry across America’s colorful quilt, but one may question whether it needs chicanery in the process.
Several EU/NATO states have slid into anti-democratic authoritarian political management, albeit in different ways for different reasons. Hungary, Italy, Poland, and the United States have created cause for doubting the authenticity of democratic processes in their respective domains. While I’ve cherry picked the above links, one may evaluate each independently. With regard to the United States, Evan Osnos, writing for The New Yorker, notes the following:
The latest edition was published last week, and, as you might expect, it recorded the fourteenth straight year of deteriorating freedom around the world; sixty-four countries have lost liberties in the past year, while only thirty-seven registered improvements. (India, the world’s largest democracy, has seen some of the most alarming declines.) Its assessment of the United States is also disturbing. In 2009, the U.S. had a score of ninety-four, out of a hundred, which ranked it near the top, just behind Germany, Switzerland, and Estonia. In the decade since, it has slipped eight points; it now ranks behind Greece, Slovakia, and Mauritius. Looking at the United States, Freedom House analysts note the types of trends that they more customarily assign to fragile corners of the globe: “pressure on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption. Fierce rhetorical attacks on the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy coming from American leaders, including the president himself.”
Osnos goes on to more broadly explain the decline of democracy in select states worldwide. For the United States, the broader view takes in Administrations prior to Trump’s.
Nonetheless, the political picture looks grim for Americans facing up to what increasingly looks like the necessity of casting a negative vote in the coming 2020 elections, i.e., voting for a so-so candidate in order to deny the incumbent a longer stay.
Threats posed by Beijing and Moscow to America’s governing principles and way of life should not be dismissed as somehow attached to Mr. Trump who has taken appropriate measures to deal with each, even if ineffectually. The sanctioning of some of Putin’s inner circle, for example, may not have the leveraging effects wanted given the ability to move money and persons around despite the reach of American power, but the status is visible worldwide and unflattering. With Beijing and jousting over trade, there may come the reminder that in a mutually pugnacious negotiation, one’s own side might lose — but that doesn’t make the other side’s position (in this context, Beijing’s) right. In addition to the large maneuvers the public cannot avoid, there are equally large issues involving communication signals and satellites that are more known to specialists than to the public at large.
Such issues will not go away with a Biden win in the coming election and may be exacerbated by it. What may recede are the authoritarian and malign narcissistic bullying, chaos, flailing, and lying — now imagined or real — associated with the incumbent President’s previous actions and current presence, reputation, and style.
What are China’s authorities hiding or trying to hide?
It’s remarkable watching the hiding of shame (or guilt) play out on the global stage.
There are people who believe — and when they’re leaders, they may be the worst of people — that any show of damage, fear, or sentiment weakens them in relation to public perception when, in fact, it is their own “inner eye” (the way the may be forced to view themselves) that cannot stand being seen as weak. In that may be the soul of “malignant narcissism” and related “civilizational narcissism”.
Such types embarrass and shame themselves, for what seems right to them looks wrong to everyone else.
Dogma may no longer serve to cover or excuse less savory designs.
Our species evolves not only physically but psychologically, and we have reached an age with sufficient global and open communications in which authoritarians, criminals, and dictators may no longer brush aside or suppress essentially truthful criticism and data. The same may not stop “black programs” and conversations “behind the curtains” — that kind of feudal and medieval egotism and power may be always with us — but by and large BackChannels believes the world evolves toward greater complexity, interdependence, and freedom. The global public may still be misled, but not for long provided the journalists have integrity and do their work.
Perspective: Related Online and With the Truth About COVID-19 in the United States
This first preliminary description of outcomes among patients with COVID-19 in the United States indicates that fatality was highest in persons aged =85, ranging from 10% to 27%, followed by 3% to 11% among persons aged 65–84 years, 1% to 3% among persons aged 55-64 years, <1% among persons aged 20–54 years, and no fatalities among persons aged =19 years.
Between the people of the United States and the nation’s most prominent authority on infectious disease and pandemic, the Centers of Disease Control, hide nothing, sugarcoat nothing but report accurately, plainly, clearly, empirically, completely–and that may be the best cure this editor might know for panic and state-driven perceptual control of “the masses”.
In America, at least, democracy has just become more directly responsive and responsible to the People.
Active Measures — The collection of Russian Agitation, Disinformation, and Propaganda Methods made evident through covert or subtle Influence Campaigns applied to wrecking the political coherence and cohesion of EU/NATO for the purpose of reestablishing Political Absolutism in the same and then using the most thuggish of feudal and medieval methods to leverage loyalty and wealth from them for contribution to the Greater Imperial Glory of Moscow, the Russian “mafia state” it has come to represent, and the immense enrichment of its oligarchy.
Indeed the west, the melange of classically liberal democratic open societies built and structured around fair dealing, freedom, and integrity and related humanist and liberal ethics, principles, and values has been unprepared for covert agent provocateur, e.g., covert agitators Far Right and Far Left, disingenuous publications, false front organizations, trolls, etc.
I’ve chosen to demur from producing “long copy” and a lengthy reference section for this post. Awareness of “Active Measures” — the kernel of Russia’s covert campaign to degrade and ruin the democracies of the west — should suffice for both the interested and the unwittingly vulnerable.
Through the Cold War Era and now with Putin leading the Russian Federation, the purpose of Soviet / post-Soviet “Active Measures” has been to fragment EU/NATO for the purpose of Russian expansion and its feudal practices. A video like this one — the same as above on this page — will help a little bit with understanding the greater east-west politics and the tension between the worlds of “Absolute Power” and the open democracies of the west.
Active Measures” represents an international (RF v EU/NATO) dispute over the future, not only an American one.
If we are at one the other’s throat, Moscow will have succeeded in exploiting our natural political arguments and issues by heightening them and undermining our national political cohesion and coherence, thereby weakening our state and degrading our democracy.
Regarding “Far Out Left” and equally distant Far Right tendencies, the related foreign and disingenuous domestic manipulations of political perception targets us all.
Who in support of our Democracy can afford to be neutral about a President who appears to be operating on an authoritarian basis using rules of his own? It has been one thing to “let the horse run”, see how he works, and watch what he does. It’s another to turn our back on a hard-won — fought for, died for, paid for — nation devoted to fair play and integrity right beside the principles and spirit that produced our foundational documents.
Admiral McRaven knew his business and his country and what he represented every day as a four-star admiral. That’s not an Obama thing or, particularly a Democratic or Republican thing. It’s an American thing unless the Nation has forgotten why it exists as a unique and now long-lived democracy.
This President shrugs off resignations by the most competitive and experienced professionals in their fields: diplomats, investigators, intelligence executives, military executives, prosecutors. He believes everything we do happens by way of political chicanery and force — or “clevers” — and not much has to do with anything worth believing in, much less dying for.
These pieces by Harbough and McRaven tell of a different America, one more admirable, more noble, more deserving of extraordinary leadership and sacrifice.
How much more should any authentically patriotic American need to here or see?
If America’s yawing Ship of State — still fresh on the Internet Ocean — needs a bit of swing away from the Far (White) Right, it may be getting it as so many Republicans consistently display themselves as bullying, disingenuous, and altogether untrustworthy talkers.
“She understood that corruption was the ‘Achilles heel,’ so to speak, of Ukraine,” a former State Department official who knows Yovanovitch told CNN Thursday prior to the release of the complaint. “And so Masha, by doubling down on corruption and making it kind of her leitmotif of her tenure as ambassador, was doing exactly what she should have been doing and what US policy has been in Ukraine for quite some time.”
Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch had been doing her job as prescribed by law, and yet President Trump chose to have her removed and out of his way.
Sworn in as ambassador to Kyiv in August 2016, Yovanovitch has been at the forefront of U.S. efforts to help stabilize Ukraine’s shaky economy and push reforms to root out endemic corruption.
She’s also been at the forefront of U.S. backing for Ukraine in its ongoing fight with Moscow over Russia-backed fighters battling Ukrainian government forces in eastern regions since 2014.
Yovanovitch drew attention in early March when, weeks before Ukraine’s March 31 presidential election, she called on Kyiv to fire the country’s special anti-corruption prosecutor. The speech was notable not only for its timing but also its bluntness.
Lutsenko alleged that she made a “do-not-prosecute” list and disseminated it in Ukraine, an accusation that she strenuously rejected and which Lutsenko himself retracted.
Lutsenko is himself deeply implicated in the Ukraine scandal and has been accused of colluding with Giuliani to launch investigations in Ukraine into Trump’s political enemies, specifically Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
The Washington Post has a December 2018 piece on those who have been fired or positioned to resign from their posts in relation to President Trump’s decision-making or handling. Causes cited range from attempts to damage the Mueller Investigation to dismissal for abuse of Department funds for personal security and travel. Be that as it may, disruptions involving America’s Justice and Security systems may be most disturbing, from the firing of James Comey at the FBI to the resignation of General Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
Perhaps President Trump listens to his inner voices and no one else’s — and now he has few educated, experienced, and powerful others of the first rank to whom to listen.
Over time and with energies dispersed by curiosity and a great range of interests — the editor cannot “track” the whole world and every dimension of it 🙂 — BackChannels has kept folders for others now absent from the Trump Administration: John Bolton, Dan Coats, Nikki Haley, and Sue Gordon (“the highest-ranking career intelligence official in the country” according to CNN’s Samantha Vinograd in her analysis, “Sue Gordon’s departure is bad news for Trump and country” [CNN, August 12, 2019]). Conclusion: Trump has been either abandoned by or removed quite a few of America’s best and brightest in the assessment of threats domestic and foreign.
With the dismissal for Marie Yovanovitch, President Trump has notably removed a most dedicated, experienced, patriotic, and well prepared and talented diplomat of note and, above and beyond those attributes, one possessed of great integrity and spine.
Listen to the high notes: Arms Deals, Trade Deals, Expanding Markets.
Mentioned: Turkey’s participation in the building of the F-35 air frame. While that mention may score points with the less informed public, Turkey’s participation in NATO defense manufacturing in relation to the American fighter jet program has created heat and a now discomfiting defense relationship. The following description of the depth of Turkey’s participation in the F-35 Program tells why:
Eight Turkish companies make parts for the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays of the aircraft, according to Lockheed Martin. Some of them have been producing F-35 parts since 2004. For example, Fokker Elmo manufactures 40 percent of the F-35’s electrical wiring and interconnection system.
These companies are set to do $12 billion in work on the F-35 program over the life of the jet, according to USNI News.
The move — which in early 2020 would end contracts with major Turkish defense contractors such as Turkish Aerospace Industries, Roketsan and Tusas Engine Industries, among many others — is just one of many steps the U.S. Defense Department intends to take to strip Turkey from the F-35 program, according to a June 6 letter from acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
On the F-35 matter, the White House noted in July, ” Unfortunately, Turkey’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 air defense systems renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible. The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities.”
Freedom House metrics involving civil liberties and political rights rates Erdogan’s Turkey as “Not Free”. On the matter of Freedom of Speech, a matter that President Trump has baldly attacked with the accusation “Fake News!” aimed at America’s responsible mainstream media, Erdogan’s state has made itself notorious for the inhibition and jailing of Turkey’s journalists. Wikipedia’s “Censorship in Turkey” tells that story.
Erdogan has a card to play against Europe, as he confirmed in a speech on October 10. That card is a refugee card, the threat of a flood. There are 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. “Come to your senses,” he told the EU in that speech, given to his party in Ankara. “I will say this once again: If you try to label our current operation an occupation, our job becomes easier: We will open the gates and send the 3.6 million refugees to you.”
Despite this threat, several EU nations have responded to Operation Peace Spring, imposing arms embargoes on Turkey. These nations include Germany, France, Sweden, and Finland.
BackChannels has long maintained a quick reference list for copy-paste relay of Moscow’s post-Soviet play in the narrative around Islamic Terrorism. It begins with David Satter’s account of the “Moscow Apartment Bombings”, back-fills with Anna Politkovskaya’s observations on the Russian Army’s brutalizing of Chechen villages, moves through Ayman al-Zawahiri’s whistle-stop in Russia (published in Business Insider), and ends near the U.S. military observation of Russia’s supplying the Taliban (today) with arms and materiel. Here it is*:
Moscow’s persistent Orwellian (and paternally authoritarian) character may come through as it dawns on the reader that the state appears to manipulate its public with something like “KGB Theater” (again, read David Satter on the “Moscow Apartment Bombings”).
The production of “The Syrian Tragedy” well displays the form as Bashar “The Butcher” Assad chose to barrel bomb Syrian noncombatants while al-Qaeda types gathered in his space and eventually distilled into “ISIL” or, today “Islamic State” — see https://conflict-backchannels.com/2016/12/09/syria-assad-isil-background/ for related argument and the basis for it in references.
Basically, BackChannels believes Assad — as flanked by Putin and Khamanei — chose his enemy, i.e., an “enemy preferred” or a dumb foil he knew he would beat (with Russian assistance), and which victory would redound to his glorious (malign and narcissistic) appearance.
By choosing amity with President Erdogan, President Trump has stepped into the Great Neo-KGB Theater of History, but with one immense issue: a spirited American public and system in part armored against the dawning of totalitarian control and related debasements and indignities. In lieu of the Soviet Communist project that gave up the ghost on December 25, 1991, the (E)State Capitalism — the making and hoarding of money by any means no matter what the costs to humanity — associated with Vladimir Putin appears to be working — and Americans (and the North American and European presses) seem slow to catch on.
*Mixed formatting has to do with the editor’s interest, purpose, and time–for the blog: okey dokey; for a monograph some time in the future, Chicago rules.