Friday, August 03, 2018

Cold War River: 'The Vory'

Almanac: Somerset Maugham on making mistakes
“I daresay one profits more by the mistakes one makes off one’s own bat than by doing the right thing on somebody’s else advice.” W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage ... read more

SLAIN: Three journalists who were investigating a Russian private security company in the uranium-rich Central African Republic. Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko and Alexander Rastorguyev had been financed by a wealthy Russian exile to probe the Wagner security firm, which operates mercenaries in Syria, Ukraine and now the Central African Republic. The firm is owned by Vladimir Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been indicted in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. officials say Prigozhin also finances a Russian “troll factory” that sent out disinformation during the 2016 presidential race

Why the 
Why the super-rich are taking their mega-boats into uncharted waters Guardian (JT McPhee). JT McPhee: “So they can enjoy the last bits of beauty and wildness before their business models burn them…” Yeah, plus there’s not enough water on Mars for yachts.-rich are taking their mega-boats into uncharted waters Guardian (JT McPhee). JT McPhee: “So they can enjoy the last bits of beauty and wildness before their business models burn them…” Yeah, plus there’s not enough water on Mars for yachts.

Writing a book that someone else wants to read is running your fastest marathon. No one does it right out of the gate, and few writers can expect to have the stamina without rigorous training.

Have people said that you should write a book? Hate to break it to you, but they're almost certainly wrong... No, you probably don’t have a book in you 

Back Roads

A series of black guitars and single black and white electric guitar are hung as bold wall decorations. A wooden table is paired with a shiny black desk lamp, horse sculpture, and candles.

Slovak President Andrej Kiska speaks during a press conference in Bratislava in March. Slovak President Andrej Kiska says a recently established local base for a Russian motorcycle club known for its allegiance to the Kremlin presents a security risk for the EU and NATO country 

 The president of the Night Wolves' Slovak chapter, Jozef Hambalek, told Radio Free Europe that he ...

 President calls Kremlin-backed Night Wolves a security risk and restates stance on
 Slovakia concerned over pro-Kremlin biker gang base. The government considers 'Night   

 Pro- Kremlin Night Wolves Motorcycle Club Running Paramilitary Base In Slovakia.

17 Jul. 2018 · The pro- Kremlin Night Wolves bikers have set up a "European branch" just northeast of ...

The primeval, the sublime, are much better words here — for they indicate realms remote from the moral or the human, realms which force us to gaze into immense vistas of space and time, where the beginnings and originations of all things lie hidden. Now, as I wandered in the cycad forest on Rota, it seemed as if my senses were actually enlarging, as if a new sense, a time sense, was opening within me, something which might allow me to appreciate 

Oliver Sacks on Nature’s Beauty as a Gateway into Deep Time and a Lens on the Interconnectedness of the Universe – Brain Pickings

In the post-Soviet Russia, they blended in with the new elite. The tattoos disappeared, or were hidden beneath the crisp white shirts of a rapacious new breed of gangster-businessman, the avtoritet (authority).” Mr. Galeotti writes. “In the 1990s, everything was up for grabs, and the new vory reached out with both hands. State assets were privatized for kopeks on the ruble, businesses forced to pay for protection that they might not need, and, as the Iron Curtain fell, the Russian gangsters crashed out into the rest of the world.”
BOOK REVIEW: 'The Vory' by Mark Galeotti - Washington Times 

Are there more spies than you think?
We tend to focus on the cloak and dagger side of the KGB and successor institutions, but they’re also just government agencies trying to boost their budgets and achieve higher status in their home country. In other words, spy agencies play the typical bureaucratic games.
To maintain their status and privileged perch, spy agencies may try to take credit for as many activities as possible. This emphasis of quantity over quality is a typical bureaucratic response to a political system based on imperfect information. It is hard for national leaders to judge how effective their spy agencies are, so the spy agencies want to pass along good numbers, much as a corporation might try to slant its quarterly earnings report.
John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence, admitted in 2006 that the U.S. was deploying about 100,000 spies around the world. Given that the U.S. is the world’s technology and military leader, and yet has a relatively small share of global population, is it so crazy to think the number of people spying on us is larger than that?

Good Art, Bad Person – The Moral/Aesthetic Judgments Are Complicated

When we turn on a movie or when we pick up a book, are we hoping that the movie or the book is good or are we hoping that the artist who made it is good? Run through your list of favorite movies or novels or paintings, then ask yourself what initially drew you to them. Was it the quality of the art or the quality of the artist’s character? Most people, if they are honest with themselves, will probably acknowledge that it’s the former, but that doesn’t mean that an artist’s character has no effect on how we see their art. … 

WILL THERE BE BLOOD: Watching the expletive-shouting, middle-finger-waving, media-hating mob at President Donald Trump's rally in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan thought about the B-word.

Trump must, Sullivan wrote Wednesday, calm his most rabid supporters — and the suddenly public QAnon movement, a gun- and conspiracy-loving cult — “before his hands are splashed with blood.”

Sullivan's image resonated with journalists challenged to find facts in an era where they are resented by America's leader. She wasn't the only one with such a dire prediction.

CNN's Jim Acosta, a particular target of the mob, tweeted Tuesday night: "I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt." Acosta's dad fled mob violence and the Stalinist rule of Fidel Castro's Cuba in the early '60s.

The Miami New Times points out that the man in the center of the Tampa mob was a former member of Miami's murderous Nation of Yahweh cult who once faced charges of conspiring in the group's murders. The White House refused to condemn the mob Wednesday afternoon, with press secretary Sarah Sanders defending the action as freedom of speech.

Trump followed the rally with a fresh call to end the probe into Russian election interference. 

Wednesday morning, The Post updated its tally of Trump's recorded false and misleading claims since taking office. The number: 4,229. The documented fabrications and distortions have multiplied over the past two months, with fact-checkers citing 79 false or misleading claims on July 5 alone.

In a Poynter interview in June, Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler said that, at this pace, Trump could make 10,000 misstatements by the end of his term.