Reading the tea leaves.

Once again, Richard Fernandez finds the essential point.

Russia isn’t governed well. But people don’t rise to power in Russia according to their skill at solving public policy issues. They climb a ladder by how well they can grip the rungs of guns, bribery and deceit. Putin’s “political socialization took place as vice mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s, where … one of his key roles was acting as a liaison between the political and criminal authorities. It was the Wild Wild East, a world where duplicity was the norm, rules are for sissies, and only might makes right. It was a world where informal networks ruled and you controlled people by corrupting them.”

Such jungles tend to evolve very capable predators.

Putin, in my opinion, has done a fairly good job with Russia given the serious problems they have as a nation.

Madison tried to warn us about the risk of corruption, or as he called it, “Faction.”

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

We now are at serious risk of electing the corrupt member of a cabal of self interested manipulators of the public interest for private gain.

The paradox that Putin exemplifies is that while factions breed formidable conspirators, they also create poisonous leaders. They succeed in themselves but cause the society around them to fail. That is because they dispense a favoritism which is ultimately ruinous for the nation. The result is a self-vetoing enterprise. Marian Tupy observed that Chile began to succeed at the moment when its junta began to allow economic freedom while Venezuela started to fail by going the other way. But few ruling elites have the sense to get themselves out of the way. Usually they have to be shoved aside.

What we have is a serious candidate who is incompetent and who is at the same time favored by millions who don’t care.

[T]he American factional system operates in the worst possible way. The Clinton Foundation and private email scandal is a portrait of venality without competence. The peculiar characteristics of American factionalism have bred something singular; a phenomenon at once cunning yet stupid, both corrupt and inept. America is no longer exceptional, just another bum in the ring. Yet while Putin can often outwit Obama (and Hillary when she was in State), the Russian cannot seem to turn anything to lasting advantage. The outcome is a kind of impotence afflicting both sides.

Putin runs a country that has not recovered from a century of communism. Actually, the Soviet system was closer to Fascism in that insider groups ran the country for their own welfare. Fascism usually assumes nationalism and authoritarian rule. The Wiki definition is weak, but gets some of it right. Real Fascism did not arise on “the right” as it alleges. Mussolini was editor of a Socialist newspaper before politics.

This was the name given to political organizations in Italy known as fasci, groups similar to guilds or syndicates and at first applied mainly to organisations on the political Left.

At least they get that right in places. And then there is racial solidarity.

In the midst of a national financial catastrophe, Rep. Maxine Waters used her position as a senior member of Congress and member of the House Financial Services Committee to prevail upon Treasury officials to meet with OneUnited Bank. She never disclosed that her husband held stock in the bank.

Maxine Waters was an important figure in the 2008 financial collapse. If blacks prefer to deal with criminals, I can’t get too excited about it.

Fascism is almost getting trendy these days.

More from Richard Fernandez on what is going on under our noses.

Octavian Manea and Mark Galeotti in the Small Wars Journal (it’s a PDF) say Putin’s “hybrid war” just is another name for corruption in international politics. “In this context, war is a political instrument … of making the other side do what you want it to do.” The main tools of hybrid warfare are bribery, blackmail and disinformation.

Their [the Russians] concept of the West is one where you really can buy politics. If there is a handful of people that you need to convince, how are we going to convince them? It might be by invading a province of that country, or it might simply be by bribing them. … We live in an era of the insurgency of the mind.

Sound familiar ?

In the realm of bribery Beijing and the Kremlin are past masters of the art and it is the West which is amateur. Dispatches from the front of Hybrid Warfare do not consist of divisions moving but of cash being flown in mysterious airplanes in the dead of the night. Thus reports that the administration paid Iran $33.6 billion in cash and gold to settle disputes between 2014 and 2016 are in their way equivalent to reports that Marines have landed on a hostile beach. Something happened, perhaps someone was influencing the Iranians. Why not? After all they are trying to influence us.

Actually, I don’t think we have a chance of “influencing” the Iranians. Remember Obama was the presidential candidate who turned off credit card verification for donations in 2008.

If you are playing high stakes poker and, after a half hour, you have not figured out who the “Mark” is, it is you.

WC Fields once said, “You can’t cheat an honest man.”

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