Ooobie on Everything

McCain Wins. Trump Succumbs to Terminal Stupidity, Taunts Russia to Strike Back

This is the straw that broke this camel’s back. Trump will never get my vote again. I won’t be voting for his communist opposition, but that won’t help Trump.

I voted for him because he said he was sick of seeing the US fight phony wars for phony reasons. We needed to bring the troops home, secure our border. He has done none of any of it. He isn’t a pragmatist, a realist, a thinker, he is a deal-maker, and boy, is that ever what we are getting. Lots and lots of deals with Democrats, a supine GOP-controlled (hah!) Congress and a fool for a president. Frankly, he deserves what is coming for him, because he proved an utter loser as a leader.

We are on the brink of war. Putin has said that Russia will blow the missiles and the carriers that launch them out of the air and sea. Trump says, oh, yeah? We have lots of missiles and can blow you and Syria to smithereens! Go home, Russia! Or else! And behind him stand small the UK and France, co-conspirators in this farce, and all those other countries like Germany who wouldn’t mind heading by tank to Moscow, again. In the end, what they all want is the stupid Americans to settle their centuries-old quarrels. Forget that Russia has been invaded by Poland, Sweden, France, and Germany multiple times. Russia should shut up and enjoy it. A moan of pleasure would be appreciated.

So in the end, Trump actually swallowed the Russian conspiracy theory. Think about it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel truly sanguine about this. Here is an illegal military bloc (our guys, of course) banding together  on a cooked up cw incident (their favorite kind, always impossible to prove!) to wage war and risk nuclear war. The latest pronouncements from the US are so inflammatory and provocative (as they have been now for two years) that any nation would be forced to respond forcefully. As in the bogus Skripal cw poisoning in the UK, Russia is asked to confess, this time that the US is right about long-term ally Assad and accede to another US illegal war. Absent any form of evidence that there even was a cw attack, other than a spurious video of suffering children. Trump told Putin to get his guys out of the area or get destroyed by the US. And what do you think Putin is going to do?

I read that Theresa May is hesitant to go to war against Russia based on cw claims. Understandably, having been snookered by UK and US intelligence in the faux cw attack on England, she might want to see something more than a video made by a personal phone. Especially when the Russians have been to the site and assert there is no cw trace, no victims, no reported respiratory emergencies that were cw-related. Especially since the OPCW that is supposed to stop the use of cw, even by US proxies, has agreed to Russian and Syrian demands for an urgent investigation at the site allegedly hit with who knows what. Chlorine, or even maybe it could be chlorine and a nerve agent, also unknown. There’s the bottom line: unknown. We know squat other than that somebody brought a heart-rending video and spread it around among the Agit-Prop corps on CNN and MSNBC. This made Americans so sad, used as they are to Hollywood tripe, that they supposedly now are ready for war with Russia. The Russian Government alleges that the rush to military action is intended to strike the area at issue and leave nothing behind with which to conduct an OPCW investigation. It makes me sick to know that I think they’re right.

I have a big announcement for the war-makers of America: the era is over when the US can decide who is bad, what he can and cannot do, when he has to leave government and who can govern in other countries — when we ginned up false flag operations to pave the way for a long-anticipated war. As the Russian UN ambassador said, who named the US world policeman, jury, executioner? I’ll tell you who. The military-industrial complex and all the US officials in all branches whom they have put in place with their war booty. Why do you think Arlington and Fairfax Counties, snuggled up and sucking at the Federal teat in Virginia, are the richest places in America? Coincidence?

I’m getting this out before they shut down the internet for security reasons, which would be to stop the outpouring of anger at Trump’s stupidity in capitulating to the McCains of America. The internet it hopping with the outrage of people who were led down the garden path by the bungling Trump, led to believe his wishes for a better US-Russia relationship and an end to regime change. As Trump has demonstrated with China as well, he’s pretty contemptuous of the other guy unless the other guy goes along with Donald. This kind of relationship may hold for a moment, while the other guys recalculate and rearm massively, but eventually it ends in conflict.

If there were an anti-war movement in America, I would be part of it. Instead I hear only rabid jingoism from our media, barring OAN and Tucker Carlson. Americans are frothing at the mouth in a mindless hysteria, wanting to wreak havoc on Russia. Our Russophobia, so helpful to the arms industry and its many tentacles, is destroying international stability. But if that’s what it takes to open up some new arms sales, and to launch the bombs, so be it. The Agit-Prop agents won’t talk about the likelihood that the cw attack was false or the reality that we Americans go to war when the Generals tell us to. And the Generals’ armorers.

This is really the twilight of the American Empire, the glory of which once shone out to Americans as a reason for optimism. We squandered the greatest power any empire ever knew, gifted to us for our persistence in simple defensive military and political/diplomatic policy that allowed the natural demise of the grotesque Soviet system to occur. But we took it as some Iwo Jima moment, look, we won! we won! We were arrogant and pushy and greedy and totally oblivious to the damage we were leaving in our wake, as we decided who could rule and who could not and used our military to make it happen. Now we have decided it is time to cage Russia in and punish it “very bad,” as our ignorant president says. But our Congress has decided it is not a big enough issue to open to debate and a vote for war. Trump has limited war-making powers, and they say this with a straight face knowing the potential that it is not only limited, but full out war. Let us see what happens.

Fifty ways to smear your rival

I’ve been cowering in anxiety over these many weeks, watching the madness unfold. Even as we in the US speak of using tactical nukes when needed and train our European allies how to operate the mechanics using real nukes, we narrow inexorably our diplomatic contacts with Russia. Like, why do you need contacts when you, like, really really hate the other guy? Of all the loonies, the US and UK are the absolute worst, although they have a cause (war with Russia), while so many EU and NATO member countries merely have interests, none of which actually include war with Russia.

Let’s start with the case of the Skripals, who were living peacefully under the aegis of the UK Government, which had years ago traded some Russian spy cooling his heels in a UK prison for Father Skripal, a man who gave the UK/NATO secrets for money, but who was never a KGB/FSB agent. Just a greedy Russian, well-placed. Oddly enough, the daughter has been allowed to wander to and fro freely between Russia and the UK, never having been raped or even given a secondary examination at any Russian entry point. (A totally inadvertant pun.) I can’t vouch for the British.

Dang, every time NATO or its members need a boost for some cock-eyed idea or adventure, the Russians pony up the needed boost. Look at all those brilliantly timed cw attacks in Syria, which allowed the US to bomb some derelict Syrian aircraft and give Nikki Haley her “Die Hard” lines. From the moment this story emerged I said (I really did), “let us await the miraculous recovery of said duo.” And bingo. Yulia, daughter, told her cousin by phone (and I’ll get to that) that she and Dad were just hunky-dory and no problems. Do not worry! And yes, now the Brits tell us, both the Skripals and the inadvertent cop who ran to their assistance are all well and recovering at meteoric rates. It’s a miracle. Not to mention the miracle that this hyper-deadly substance snagged only three people! But then…

Then there is the bizarre case of the dead pets. Supposedly when the animal-loving Brits swarmed over the Skripal home, discovering the cw-smeared front door knob, they never noticed two cats and a guinea pig — no doubt in a big cage! Squealing! Now those beloved family members are dead after gruesome weeks of what? Was it cw that killed them, after untold suffering? Or was it starvation and dehydration, leaving the victims so far gone a vet had to put them down? This also raises the question of whether, in fact, the Skripal home was really “searched,” as they surely knew where the cw was — on that front door knob that nobody but the two Skripals apparently touched. But they missed the squealing guinea pig! It had better be cw or I’m writing to PETA. And SPCA. And if those animals died of cw contamination — egads. The Russians came up with a deadly agent that allows humans miraculous recovery one hundred percent of the time, but murders household pets without exception.

Do you remember the neutron bomb? People hated the very idea, because it killed people but left property values unchanged. Well, at least it left property undamaged. This is called “precision targeting.”

If the Skripals ever doubted who owned them, now they really know.

Okay, back to the phone call. How was this woman, still under intense security, and in a hospital, manage to call Moscow, a call monitored of course by the loathsome FSB? Doesn’t that ring a little odd to you? Did the Brits not know she had a mobile phone? Did she borrow a phone from another patient and call home to Moscow? And how embarrassing that Moscow immediately made it known that the two Skripals were fine, straight from the victim’s mouth.

Okay, so I don’t believe a word of what either the UK or the NATO chorus tells us is so. I am awaiting the evidence, which nobody except NATO and close friends are allowed to see. Guilty until proven innocent prevails, and those dropping bombs for democracy see no conflict.

In any case, the scientists at the UK’s Porton Down, located only a few miles from where the Skripals allegedly fell into comas on a park bench, seemingly decided to save their consciences and screw the government. They made public what they had previously leaked: there is no way to trace back the substance used to who made it. Amazingly, trace cw doesn’t usually have fingerprints or DNA. Now Boris Johnson, the UK Foreign Minister, and everybody else declare they never said it came from Russia. I have to wonder, do they really think us so stupid that we can’t remember what they were screaming at us a few days ago?

So the UK has had to very slightly amend their statement that the stuff “no doubts about it, slam dunk,” came out of Russia, to “it is beyond any reasonable doubt that…”. I really appreciate that droll irony the Brits unfurl when needed, now citing due process to explain why due process was unnecessary.

As for that useless Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), it has thrown its reputation to the winds by violating its own rules and denying Russia access to any information being used as the basis for such a grave allegation.  Instead OPCW cites the need for UK “good will” in allowing the rules to be followed. Fat chance. What a bunch of weenies, and to think, our lives are in their hands.

One last word on the whole farce. Just in the past couple of days, the OPCW showed up for a surprise inspection of cw-free (as declared under international inspection) Russia. Recall that the US is still drawing out the process of destroying its own significant cw stockpiles, which probably contain Novichok-type cw. So not only is Russia unfairly charged, tried and convicted absent any pretense of due process, but now it is singled out for “special inspection” by the very organization denying Russia access to information. Stinkeroo.

Next. Syria. This is why Trump’s governance makes you dizzy. He is panting to get out of Syria, but the Generals, his besties, are not. Some generals are talking about that glorious day when Assad is deposed and democracy rules in Damascus. Hello. ISIS is a goner and if we cooperated with Assad, would be gone. Only five percent of the country is in terrorist hands and Assad has reasserted control (to great popular relief) over most of the country. But still we want to set up illegal bases and act as lightning rods for malcontents? Puh-leeze. Trump, follow your instincts. Pull our guys out and set them up on the US southern border.

And the Mexican invasion. I have to say, I was impressed at the rapidity with which Peña Nieto stopped the looming caravan of unwanted’s that threatened our border. Once Trump pulled out his wallet and saw no money for Mexico and a lot fewer jobs for all those pent-up Mexicans after a NAFTA rewrite or death, the path forward was clear. And I know how venal our friends in Latin America are from close experience. Still, overnight is impressive. I favor the use of the national guards on the border and the wall, physical and technical. Once again, I urge that a country needing lots of manual labor develop a migrant program based on existing ones, where families remain back home, and worker spends no more than half a year working and the other half back home. Then we all are satisfied except those who just want slave-wage labor.

Finally, Mueller. Does this guy know that Ukraine and Russia are no longer, after thousands of years, the same thing? The Russians sometimes get similarly confused. So far, he has zip except on financial shenanigans in Kiev (gasp) that are not supposed to be his bailiwick at all. I figure the worst crime by Manafort was representing the guy who liked Russia, rather than the guy we were about to put into power via a putsch. Rosenstein, another presumed member of the Secret Society mentioned by Romeo and Juliet, told him to go ahead. Dive in! Find out anything on anybody in the entire Cosmos as long as it isn’t Hillary Clinton!

Another hint to Trump: get a new FBI director, assistant director and top bureau officials. Start laying down the law of “Strict Neutrality” and acting against those who still want to wage political warfare using our civil service. Take another look at the Justice Department. And be prepared to go outside the system to get a house-cleaning long, long overdue.




The Age of Hysteria

These days the world is filled with the clamor of hysteria over events that range from 50 people killed in Orlando to Donald Trump wanting Mexico to pay for that wall to the latest events across the pond. What starts as just another outburst of indigation over an ideological dispute or a tragedy or a major turn of events is picked up by what are jestingly called mainstream media, which quickly fan the indignation into a conflagration. Let no good crisis go to waste is presumably the motivation. Social media takes it farther yet, condensing the story down to a couple of lines or a catchy phrase (no fly, no gun being a good example) that is then passed around endlessly in what poses as education for the younger generations. Thus in the wake of any politically useful crisis we see waves of mindless reaction so shrill it sets your teeth on edge. Take, for example, Brexit.

Whether or not the UK leaves the EU is of no importance to 99.9 percent of Americans or almost anybody outside the UK. Trade is not going to cease; cultural ties will not evaporate; UK citizens will not be set adrift in the Arctic and forbidden ever to visit the continent. The hysteria we are seeing was deliberately cultivated by the “stay” crowd, who think scare tactics are a good way to win votes. But now all that fear-mongering is bearing unanticipated fruit. Instead of handing the “stays” a victory, it is sending shock waves through an unprepared and worked-up financial sphere. The market has plunged, but I’m pretty sure this is only temporary. The ultra-rich who control the markets have temporarily pulled their money out, spooking everybody else; but as soon as the big boys pocket their profits they will be back in at reduced prices.

The one thing the EU can rightfully worry about is the great impulse this victory will have on the other “exit” parties in Europe, particularly in France and Germany. This will cause great angst for all the faceless bureaucrats drawing huge salaries from the EU machine, but I personally don’t think the EU is going to fall apart at the seams, and I don’t even think the ruling elites will learn anything from this. I think those who run the EU will continue to suck up every crumb of national sovereignty and taxpayer money in Europe until there is only One Europe (Except Russia) and The State is the People becomes the European motto.

In the meantime, however, the market turmoil feeds the narrative that leaving the EU will kill the UK and everybody else in the world. Now we have a “movement” of the losers in the Brexit vote who are bursting with anger that other people don’t share their views. As a result, they are forced to threaten violent protests until they get their way. Their way, by the way, is a “re-vote” with brand new rules that will make it impossible for the UK to leave the EU, just wait and see. They are going to try to make the rule that 3/4 of the voters have to agree to leave, or a majority of voters in all the UK countries have to agree, or some such unachievable goal. Just enough to defeat Brexit, which already won, but never mind that minor point.

Today’s Wall Street Journal ran a blurb on its front page that reads, “Pressure abated on the U.K. to serve swift notice of its intention to leave the EU after last week’s referendum, as senior European policy makers suggested Britain should be allowed time to rethink the decision.This is the height of arrogance — the EU is essentially telling the UK that it doesn’t recognize the vote as valid or binding and now it will grant the ignorant UK time to “rethink.” Meanwhile, Cameron — humiliated by the exit vote — has kept the pot boiling by postponing his departure from office until October, and refusing “on principle” to invoke Article 50, which he graciously leaves to his successor. This is a pretty big time gap for notifying of intent to leave, and it makes one wonder what’s up. Seems as if what Cameron is doing is buying time to let the losing side organize a counter-attack. If all the obvious scheming and conniving going on doesn’t tell you which way the winding is blowing, you’re not paying attention. We may be about to witness a world-class heist of democracy in the UK, home of modern democracy. Stay tuned.

Then we have the sorry GOP, which gives us high-profile members of the elite spouting their high principles and their aversion to Donald Trump and in some cases their allegiance to Hillary Clinton. George Will, a prim snob with a bad rug, said that we just have to hold our noses and vote for someone else to insure Trump’s defeat. Will shared his optimism that in four years it will be a new ballgame and then we can all come together. What an idiot. If people such as he conspire to bring down Trump and give the Clintons access once more to the US purse, I will never ever again vote at any level for a Republican. And I’m one of many  millions who will take the same approach. There will be no GOP that could compete at a national level, and probably not at the local level either. Hello One Party State. But let’s face it — the GOP elite is way more comfortable with the corrupt, corporatist, quasi-socialist left than it is with the people they think support them. I am almost tempted to give the GOP some money so I can go to the Convention, where there will be violence I am sure, and not just by paid and organized left-wing mobs. There could be violence on the Convention floor if the Bush and Romney branch of the party tries to wrest the nomination from Trump. In this respect, there certainly are similarities with the UK, where the effort to undo the results of the referendum could well provoke violence from the right.

Syria again! The US and its pals have stepped forward boldly in favor of launching a real war against Assad’s government. No more fake peace talks and putzing around with hapless proxy armies. No, now we’ll send in our best to die there or leave maimed and we’ll say it is to make the world safe. I don’t get it. Did nobody in Washington, London, Berlin or Paris notice that Russia’s Air Force is already in place in Syria providing military support to the government by treaty and legally? If they decide they will play chicken with Russia in this case, they should stop and really “re-think.” This assault on Assad tears away the fiction that the USG and other NATO states are focused on the threat from ISIS in Syria. They are not. They want to overthrow another government while the world looks the other way. But this time Russia is not going to look the other way.

This is not a subject being avidly discussed in the US, but in Europe there is growing concern about a war with Russia, their focus being the build up of NATO armament and troops on Russia’s border rather than the lunge towards head-on collision in Syria. Germany even refused to send a German battalion to the huge NATO military exercises going on in eastern Europe (exercises that are now occurring almost constantly). German Foreign Miniser Steinmeier shared his view that a tank parade on Russia’s border was not going to make anybody safer and opined that Germany’s history of two wars against Russia precludes involvement in NATO war exercises clearly aimed at Russia. He also spoke out against NATO war-mongering (his words). If even the arch-conservatives in Germany recognize the growing threat of conflict and NATO’s role in stoking those tensions, surely the wise Americans will soon come to the same realization. Right?






Some Thoughts on the Syrian Madness

As I write this article, our president is addressing our Congress trying to  convince them that we have incontrovertible evidence that Syria’s Assad regime  has used chemical weapons against its own population. The only problem is that  the evidence is not incontrovertible about who used the chemical weapons.

Foreign Policy and Human Rights

chemBack again to Syria, which seems to be acting as a detonator in the Moslem world. I was scanning the WSJ Russia page and saw that the Russian government has submitted a “confidential” report to the UN Secretary General on the alleged use of chemical weapons in March at Khan al-Assal, outside Aleppo. (I’m afraid that henceforward “confidential” must be set off in quotes, as there is no longer a right to privacy). The Russians were given access to the site and the results of their analysis is this: the opposition was responsible for the attack. The debris indicated the delivery system was a rocket not typically used for chemical weapons and of a type one faction of the opposition fighters began making earlier in the year. The investigators also found that the sarin was not industrially-produced, but home-cooked.

The White House, of course, was quick to scoff at the Russian report, despite not having an actual report based on their own actual investigation of the site. Tipped off by supposedly disinterested parties France and the UK, the UN wanted to investigate all the places of alleged chemical weapons use. Syria only wanted them to investigate one of them, the one outside Aleppo. The UN didn’t agree, apparently, so Syria asked Russia to investigate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told the pliant Fourth Estate that the Russians support Assad, so what can you expect? To which nobody, I believe, pointed out that the US supports the opposition (or the more romantic rebels, as the propaganda machine has dubbed them) and it insists the Assad regime used the weapons. In fact, the charge served as the basis to begin arming and (openly) training the jihadist-dominated opposition. I mean, if we’re talking about motives, each side is equally motivated to defend its narrative. The Russian claims are as believable, or not, as the American view.

I wonder why the UN didn’t jump at the offer to investigate first-hand one of the sites of alleged CW use. Wouldn’t that be one step toward knowing what happened? It would be easier to worm your way to the other sites if you got your investigative foot in the door. Is there something that certain influential UN members don’t want proven — perhaps that the opposition, too, has the capacity and will to use banned weapons that they can make themselves? Just judging by what the press has reported, it is certainly possible that the opposition used CW at Khan al-Assal, at least, and the government used them elsewhere. But so far all we have are questions with no known answers. Well, why should we expect answers from foreigners when we can’t even get them from our own government?

More foreign policy muddle. The US Congress is considering legislation to suspend aid to the Republic of Georgia over alleged human rights abuses against officials of the former government headed by Mikhael Saakashvili. The current government has arrested a number of people who are definitely political opponents, but who may also be big crooks. There was rampant corruption under Saakashvili (not to mention human rights abuses against political opponents), but the westernized Georgian president was a US favorite and our government turned a blind eye to charges against his government and him personally.

The Georgian government under current president Bidzina Ivanishvili, a wealthy man with many interests in Russia, is more even-handed in guiding relations with the Northern Behemoth than was Saakashvili without stooping to anti-Americanism. This may annoy some in the US Congress who still think US-Russia relations is a zero sum game. The WSJ has an article today on the Georgian lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill in which it reports that “some American lawmakers are voicing fears that Mr. Ivanishvili, a billionaire business mogul with strong ties to Moscow, is purging the president’s political supporters, in part, to reorient Georgia back into a strategic alliance with Russia.

russia and georgiaWhy do we insist on creating bogeymen where they don’t exist? Russia always has been and always will be a massive factor in Georgian affairs, just as the US impacts Latin America. If the US cuts off aid to this reformist, market-oriented government it isn’t going to change a thing except make enemies where they don’t exist. We can end up driving Georgia more into the Russian orbit. Georgia relies on aid (it still has a large internally displaced population from the Abkhazia war) and it needs US good will to help it maintain its independence. But it also needs the Russian market for its goods and Russian good will for its well-being. I’m not going to place any bets on what the US Congress will do. They love to look holier-than-thou and cutting off aid to naughty governments is always popular and easy to do without immediate negative consequences. I hope we don’t do it.

On that subject, I understand why the USG hesitates to cut off assistance to the Egyptian military, who broke the law when they moved to oust Morsi. The absolutist position is, cut off aid immediately. The practical position is, what do we gain if we cut off aid and what do we lose? If we suspend aid to the military, chaos will ensue. You can’t pull the rug out from under one of the key pillars of stability in the country and expect that there will be no serious consequences. The aid we give allows us some influence over the course of events without requiring us to send out the bombers. (Let’s hope we don’t try the bomber strategy.) We also have to consider our long-term interests — we’d much rather have a rational and self-interested military in charge of this linchpin of the Moslem world than a rabble of religious fanatics. What happens in Egypt, just like what happens in Syria, reverberates across the region and across the world. We need to think long and hard before getting involved in these quarrels beyond using our diplomatic and military channels for all they are worth. And we should stop thinking that the only alternative around the globe is our model of government. If there is no stability in a country, it doesn’t matter what form of government it has. It may be too late no matter what we do.

eucourtAnd now for something truly new — really — to close with: the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that England and Wales cannot impose life sentences — “whole-life tariffs” — without giving the prisoner a chance for review and parole along the way. To deny the prisoners that supposed right is inhuman and degrading. That of course doesn’t sound like a life sentence at all. It’s more like “Life Sentence Maybe and Probably Not.” The way the European human rights weenies are going, it won’t be long before a tariff — a monetary one — will be the worst sentence a child killer can get. The Court decision came as a result of suits brought by two prisoners, one a serial killer and one a double murderer. Doesn’t it break your heart that both of them get to live nice long lives with every need met, but are denied any chance at all to go on killing?

The concerned national authorities are outraged at the Court’s overreach, but really, what did they expect? I have always said that I would support abolition of the death penalty on the day its opponents prove that a life sentence will be absolutely unchangeable forever. Obviously they can’t speak to what future officials will decide, so I will continue to call for the rapid execution of society’s most heinous offenders. To see more on the Court ruling, go to link at right for Ministers Angry at European Whole-life Tariffs Ruling.




Keeping the Kettle on the Boil

Just a word on Syria, the US, and NATO.  A video has appeared on You-Tube showing Syrian opponents of the Assad regime using a weapon that looks very much like one used by US Navy Seals, the British- made AS-50. According to one report, the instrument of war was being wielded by rebels aligned with the Al Qaeda school of government. According to Zee

The Free Syrian Army has been receiving weapons from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – all close allies of the US…But the US has repeatedly stated that it has sent no weapons to the opposition forces. 

The Financial Times also reports stepped up weapons shipments to the rebels from a number of “foreign backers” that include both Middle Eastern and Western governments, although France seems to be getting the willies over unintended consequences and is most recently a bit less keen than the Brits to jump in with both feet.

As far as the US goes, it does indeed say, don’t look at us. This is what I refer to as proxy arming; put in the word to your so-called friends (as we like to say, the US has no friends, only interests), keep your hands apparently clean and your plausible deniability intact, and still get what you want.

Keep tuned to this channel. The blood flow is about to increase dramatically in Syria, which will continue to provide wonderful sound and video bites for our 24-hour news services. We haven’t quite made up our minds to go whole hog against Assad, witness our decision that chemical weapons weren’t used in Syria despite Israel’s claim that they were (it doesn’t matter by whom) and Russia’s claim that they were (by the Syrian opposition). It’s a little dicey when you set a hard and fast red line and then somebody crosses it before you’re ready to make good on your threats. Never fear. If the big guns are making their way to Assad’s opponents, it is only a question of time before our brave president agrees to provide a little NATO air support to stop the bloodshed, but only after we increase it.

Meanwhile, North Korea plays at increasingly mad nuclear weapons-rattling and Iran works feverishly to get its own nukes, while to our south the madmen of Venezuela and their allied communist regimes throughout Latin America flatten any remaining civil rights. But by all means, spend your time and treasure making war throughout the Middle East, destabilizing countries, upping the body count, swelling the ranks of the jihadists and proclaiming your virtue. I’m sure history will be kind to you. Or maybe not.

Death of an Oligarch

boris berezovskiyUK authorities are going into hyper-drive to discover if Boris Berezovskiy, one of the greatest thieves in history, was done in by the evil forces of Russia. They think he might have been because a) he was one of the greatest thieves in history; b) he was a pal of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko who undoubtedly was done in by Russians of one kind or another; and c) he talked endlessly about bringing down Putin. In fact, his fights over money made him a lot of enemies beyond the Russian Government and he was in no condition to ever make good on his threats against the Russian President, or Prime Minister, depending on the month. When you live your life on a high-wire, Putin isn’t the only man you don’t want to cross, and I imagine Berezovskiy crossed as many people as he had to in pursuit of fabulous wealth. After an incredibly long run with other people’s stolen wealth, Berezovsky had fallen on hard times. He was past his prime, had lived fabulously well but had counted his chickens before they hatched. Of late, or so they say, he was – gasp – worried about money. His lawyer said that “”[a]ll he had was debts…he was practically destroyed. He was  selling his paintings and other things.” Berezovskiy’s money woes were linked in part to a suit brought in the UK against fellow Russian super-thief Roman Abramovich over Sibneft Oil.  (Sibneft is a Russian acronym that stands for Siberian Oil, hence the name Siberian Oil Oil). Berezovskiy claimed he was intimidated into selling his shares to Abramovich cheap, getting only 650 million dollars when it was worth twice as much. Unfortunately for Berezovskiy, the UK court was convinced only that Berezovskiy was a shameless liar and the ruling went against him. Here is what the judge had to say when the trial came to a close:

On my analysis of the entirety of the evidence, I found Mr Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes…At times the evidence which he gave was deliberately dishonest; sometimes he was clearly making his evidence up as he went along in response to the perceived difficulty in answering the questions.

So much for the champion of truth and justice.

Fox News online described Berezovskiy as mathematician-turned-Mercedes dealer.  Ha ha. That’s like calling George Soros a poor Hungarian Jewish boy turned real estate agent and coin collector. (Capitalist vulture Soros, by the way, also had a falling out with Berezovskiy, whom he described as a robber baron. No comment.)

I grabbed from Wikipedia the following bits I know to be true about Berezovskiy’s life and his incredible journey from shabby mathemetician (all Soviets were perforce shabby, as nothing but shabby was available to them in stores) to billionaire.

Berezovsky made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s when the country went through privatisation of state property and “robber capitalism”. He profited from gaining control over various assets, including the country’s main television channel, Channel One. In 1997 Forbes magazine estimated Berezovsky’s wealth at US$3 billion. He was at the height of his power in the later Yeltsin years, when he was deputy secretary of Russia’s security council, a friend of Boris Yeltsin‘s influential daughter Tatyana, and a member of the Yeltsin “family” (inner circle). In a 2000 article in the Washington Post Berezovskiy proclaimed the right of “oligarchs” to meddle in the nation’s politics, arguing that in the absence of civil society “it is acceptable — indeed, necessary (for the rich) to interfere directly in the political process” in order to “protect democracy.”

I bet even my readers who know nothing about Russia can smell the ripeness of that last bit of high-minded baloney from Berezovskiy, who had as deep an attachment to democracy as Josef Stalin. Democracy was useful to him because it allowed him to carry on his shady dealings without being hauled off to the hoosegow without due process. Ask yourself, how does a mere mathematician, even one who was a member of the prestigious Soviet Academy of Sciences, become a billionaire practically overnight? It seems to have been pretty easy to do for a whole slew of vultures who were able to fatten themselves up magnificently on the carcass of the Soviet Union. Illustrious Americans from Harvard helped Russian officials set up the infamous “voucher system” whereby everybody in Russia got a bit of paper in exchange for everything they had endured under communism; with these pieces of paper, they could claim anything from a room in a communal apartment to a factory– but believe me,  most got the room in the communal apartment. The problem was that many people looked at the piece of paper they  held in their hands as just more paper, or perhaps more accurately, just more promises. Having lived under communism they were not willing to trust that the paper was actually worth anything. Many sold their rights for immediate cash, at a much-discounted sale that allowed them to survive by eating with what they got in exchange. But the smart guys, the number guys, the mathematicians and friends of Tatiana Yel’tsin, for example, managed to accumulate millions of such pieces of paper and to take over whole industries. Berezovskiy started out pillaging the Russian automobile industry, airlines, media, and then moved on to the really big time, oil. The last venture proved to be a big bust, because the one thing the Russian powers would not tolerate was the loss of their biggest asset, their hard-currency earner, the sine qua non for Russia’s survival.

As I believe I mentioned in an earlier post, the so-called oligarchs, a euphemism for thieves as the Russian public well understood, later fell afoul of the Russian Government when the befuddled and alcohol-ruined Boris Yel’tsin — who had his own quarrels with Berezovskiy, by the way — ceded supreme power to the tough ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin. Putin was willing to tolerate the oligarchs, they had their uses, but not their political meddling — especially when the meddling was done through stolen State media assets. It may be a long time if ever before we know exactly what propositions were put to these billionaires, but I would guess it went something like this: there will be no more stealing; there will be no using of the stolen wealth to buy power; and if you don’t like it — there are other avenues of action. Some of the men, like Roman Abramovich, seem to have made peace with the new regime and he continues to live high. Others, like Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and Boris Berezovskiy, refused. Khodorkovskiy is still in prison (he was also involved in the Sibneft shenanigans) and Berezovskiy fled to the sanctuary of England, where he made headlines selling himself as a champion of liberty in Russia who was being persecuted as a Jew and a reformer. And now he is gone, perhaps by another’s hand or perhaps by his own. It doesn’t matter in the long run.

Who knows what the Brits will turn up under all those rocks during their investigation. Maybe they will find that the same shady guys who bumped off Litvinenko with polonium also took care of Berezovskiy, but it doesn’t make that much sense. The reality is, Berezovskiy vastly over-extended himself, counting on the great democratic nation of England to save his bacon with the Sibneft suit. It failed, and Berezovskiy was in over his head. He may have been under threat from people he owed money to. Whatever the case, Berezovskiy has gone to meet his Maker. I think he won’t be telling any fibs this time.