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Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

In the past couple of months, I have done book reviews and reminders on this book here and here.  The book largely tells the story of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer of the British investor Bill Browder, who was tortured and eventually killed by the Russian authorities in what looks like a case of political punishment and retribution instigated by Putin himself.

We have recently seen several stories of Russian dissidents and opponents of Putin getting killed, poisoned, and splashed with die – all to keep Putin in power.

Today I heard a remark in the Rachel Maddow show about the lawyer of the Magnitsky family. Supposedly he fell from the fourth floor of his apartment building one day before he was supposed to appear for a court hearing on the Magnitsky case.

Who falls from a building? The government says he was moving a Jacuzzi and fell. How convenient! He couldn’t appear in court the next day.

Does any of this make you want to start business ties with Russia?

 

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red-notice

Bill Browder started his career on Wall Street and was drawn first to Eastern Europe and then to Russia shortly after the Soviet Union broke apart. He started an investment fund and eventually became the largest foreign investor in Russia. In the process of privatizing, Russia ended up with twenty-two oligarchs owning 39 percent of the economy, while everyone else lives in poverty. In that environment, by investing in Russian businesses, Browder made a fortune for himself and his clients.

Then he noticed some anomalies within the companies he had invested in. Big chunks of the companies were stolen, leaving the investors diluted. As he drilled down into the complex schemes underway, he discovered massive fraud involving investors, regulatory agencies, law enforcement, the judicial system, and government in general, up to the highest level. He found that Russia was basically a criminal enterprise designed to suck the resources out of the country into the pockets of a few dozen people, legitimized by the status of Russia as a powerful nation.

As Browder keep digging into the corruption, he met with more and more resistance, and soon people started getting killed. The book tells the story of Sergei Magnitsky, one of Browder’s lawyers, who was tortured and eventually killed by the Russian authorities. When Browder starting fighting back, Putin himself came after Browder and his life was never the same again.

Browder lives in London, and at one time in 2012 he came to San Diego for a vacation:

Things quieted down during the recess, and I enjoyed a properly relaxing vacation with my kids for the first time in years. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been able to just let go and unwind. In the middle of our trip, my kids begged me to take them camping. We borrowed a tent and some sleeping bags, and I drove the family to Palomar Mountain State Park, an hour and half drive north of San Diego, where we got a campsite for the night. We brought wood from the ranger station and made a campfire and explored the forest. David cooked and we ate a dinner of spaghetti, tomato sauce, and hot dogs off plastic plates. As night fell, owls hooted and other birds cooed in the treetops, and the smell of burning wood filled the air. It was one of the best evenings I’d had in a long time. When I returned to London, I was recharged and ready for the final push.

— Browder, Bill. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice (p. 344). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

I have been to that campground many times, and it brought the story into my emotional neighborhood.

Today, when Russia and Putin is so prevalent in the news, and when the Trump administration seems to be cozy with Putin and Russia, this book is an absolute must read for everyone in the world. Russia is not what it seems. Whatever it may be, it’s also an organized crime machine. Putin is arguably one of the richest men in the world. How does that happen on a government salary?

If you have ever thought of doing business of any type in Russia, just read Red Notice, and you will never, ever have that inkling again. Even travel to Russia becomes as risky and unpleasant proposition. If you have wanted to travel to Russia, just read Red Notice and get it out of your system.

Enter Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon and buddy of Putin. After reading Red Notice, I cannot imagine how Tillerson and Exxon got into their position with Putin without having participated in some massive, illegal scheme. Of course, I don’t know what that is. I am sure we’ll find out about it in the years and decades to come. But I would not trust Rex Tillerson paying for a round of beers with my credit card if he were a bartender. Having him become Secretary of State after having read Red Notice is an absolutely frightening thought.

Having our government with Trump and Tillerson in the lead be cozy with Russia is the most dangerous and ominous prospect imaginable. Is our own government now starting to drift toward Russian-type corruption? It certainly looks that way, and Trumps actions with regard to anything Russian sure make me very suspicious.

I love the Russian culture, its history, its people and its art. I have read Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Their novels are some of my favorite in the world. The Russian people are smart, educated, and hard-working. But their government is miserable. And the country is hopelessly corrupt. 75 years of communism have destroyed their ability to show initiative and create honest businesses and governing structures. 25 years of post-communism have raided the country of its resources and put all the wealth into the hands of – well – twenty-two oligarchs. Read about them on the Forbes list. After reading Red Notice, it’s obvious that you have to be a thug to be that rich in Russia.

In the world of Trump and Putin – every American, and every world citizen, must read Red Notice. It will open your eyes unlike any book you have read in a long time.

Rating - Four Stars

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Here is a comment from one of my readers about my musings on radial Islam. I made only minor edits for grammar and typing.

So disappointed. I look forward to your blog entries. I like your relatively clear thinking. Most of the time critical thinking. However, your head seems to be firmly under ground regarding radical Islam. Whether it’s a national cult or a religious one, when the perpetrators are saying they want to kill you, then kill you, then continue to kill you…kinda clear to me. Your metaphor about a squealing bunch of kids is nice, but oh so naïve. When bullies in your neighborhood start shooting at you with guns they stole from you, do you call them crazy zealots and wish them away?. Do you admit you made a mistake leaving them out in the yard, then, bow your head out of guilt or shame and let them hack away? Probably not.

Dudes that are Islamic, Japanese, German, American of whatever religious, nationalistic, or other death cults that creates victims then kills them, and promises to continue the butchery both within and outside their “neighborhood”
are probably not groovy. If the nihilistic ideologies of the last 100 years aren’t clear, well gee.

I’m sure a number of private corporations during WWII made big bucks. You know what, critical thinking tells me that survival under Obama-Halliburton is superior thank you to Hitler-whomever or Russia-whomever or even al-qaeda-whomever.

War was declared by radical Islam well before 9-11. History is very clear to illustrate when countries and their leaders make mistakes. The U.S. is well chronicled in this area. However, history is also very clear that when a war cult says they will kill you, then enters your country and terminates how ever many thousands of people died in those towers and might have died in D.C.only apathy, weariness, or blind ideology says oops we made some mistakes, please your just crazy religious zealots, go back home, wreak havoc in your own country and don’t come back.

Now, the psychologist in me notices that CNN appears to be a brain bashing despot. packaging and repackaging various horrors over and over. Turn CNN off, do the difficult work of resourcing the best info and commentators out there and live your life. And be thankful that for the moment most of us are spared the insults of tribal savagery most of the time.

By the way, self-serving ideologies abound in the middle east, Russia, Europe and the U.S. that are profoundly fail the tenets of critical thinking. In my opinion. Please be cautious when referencing commentators that support your political narrative. Some of them, Alastair Stephens comes to mine, have singular narratives that seldom deviate from their core ideology. In Stephens case, he is an untiring “worker” for one or more socialist parties both inside and outside Russia. Here is an example:

“The following statement of the Russian Socialist Movement is an example of how socialists oppose the imperial ambitions of their own ruling class – one the Left in Britain should emulate”-Alastair Stephens -March 4, 2014-Counterfire.org.

-Imperialism Today

“The present conflict brewing in the Ukraine is a product of inter-imperialist rivalries.
The US and the European powers have been pushing expansion of the Nato and EU into the former Eastern Bloc, and increasingly up to borders of Russia.
This is neither in the interests of the peoples of those countries, or ordinary people anywhere else. The consequences of previous “colour revolutions” have not been happy.
Furthermore successful imperialist intervention in Eastern Europe will only act to encourage such action elsewhere in the world, with the Middle East the top of that target list.”

I am quoting at length because this is the same language, the same logic, the same themes that were peddled on the streets of Berkeley in the early 70’s. I was as counterculture as they come, still I could recognize ideology not rational analysis. Apparently, not much has changed.

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Russia is preparing to invade the Ukraine – which is a dangerous move and has the world worried, no doubt. Nobody wants to see Russia invade another country, regardless of whether that country was part of the Soviet Union or not. There are strong historical ties between Russia and the Ukraine, and much of the Russian culture and identity is rooted in the Ukraine. It is therefore not hard to understand how these sentiments arise in Russia.

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry made this measured statement on the CBS program “Face the Nation:”

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.

Hmm. Isn’t this exactly what the United States did in 2003, only 11 years ago (the 21st century), when it invaded Iraq?

Our pretext was two-fold:

  1. There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which we could not allow to remain in the hands of Hussein.
  2. Iraq and Hussein were part of the 9/11 attacks and there were Al Qaeda ties with Iraq.

Both pretexts have long been debunked as concoctions by the Bush Administration and propagated by its minions and the military industrial complex.

Whatever we went to Iraq for, it was for fabricated realities, lies, perhaps oil, likely vengeance (Bush’s daddy didn’t finish the job), but it was an invasion of another country on the other side of the globe that had no real connection with the United States.

Unlike Russia, that has deep cultural roots in the Ukraine. Unlike Russia, that is being called by a significant Russian-leaning Ukrainian population on the east of the country. Unlike Russia, a land-locked country with its only southern seaport in the Ukraine.

Let me be clear: I am not supporting Russia’s action at all, but I can see their rationale.

Kerry is unbelievably hypocritical when he claims “trumped up pretexts.”

He’d better think of a another reason, because the entire world must be laughing about this one right now.

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One of my readers of a food stamp article posted this comment anonymously:

Very interesting! I am from third world country (Russia). We have not such food stamp program. If you have no money to buy some food – just die. Our country don’t care about own citizens whose are handicapped or retired.

It’s Thanksgiving evening, my favorite holiday. I think about what I am grateful for. This post of only 49 words puts things into perspective for me tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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