"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Playing Both Ends

against the middle. And it starts to be more and more likely that the player is Putin.

A lot of people are taking it as a given that Trump is a Russian puppet; I don't know that I'd go that far, as to figure he's being actively manipulated from Moscow, but he's sensitive to where the money comes from, and a lot of it is coming from Russia. From Reuters, via Joe.My.God.:

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump downplayed his business ties with Russia. And since taking office as president, he has been even more emphatic. “I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” President Trump said at a news conference last month. “I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

But in the United States, members of the Russian elite have invested in Trump buildings. A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records.

The buyers include politically connected businessmen, such as a former executive in a Moscow-based state-run construction firm that works on military and intelligence facilities, the founder of a St. Petersburg investment bank and the co-founder of a conglomerate with interests in banking, property and electronics.

As far as Trump having no deals in Russia, no loans in Russia -- let's see the tax returns, Hairpiece.

I'm not the only one to have noted that one of Putin's goals is to destabilize the West, hence Trump's jabs at NATO and the EU. (An aside: I think it might prove very interesting to investigate possible ties between Russian interests and Nigel Farage -- and maybe Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, among others.)

But now it seems that Putin may be playing both ends:

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — This provincial Russian city, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow, is about as unlikely a place as any to find the leader of one of the more unlikely political causes to arise in opposition to President Trump. But Louis J. Marinelli, the 30-year-old English teacher who is the president of the Yes California movement, which seeks independence for the state, has decided to call it home.

Word of “Calexit,” a quixotic idea that has floated around California for years, spread on social media after the election of Mr. Trump in November. Even though it has virtually no chance of succeeding — it would require an amendment to the Constitution — it has gained some traction in the state. Several technology industry leaders have voiced their support, and a ballot measure is in the works for the 2018 election.

Now with renewed attention on the movement, Mr. Marinelli is under scrutiny for living in a country that many in the United States see as an adversarial power.

Russians who meet Mr. Marinelli sometimes mistake him for a political refugee from the United States, assuming he would be repressed for his antigovernment positions at home.

And back in California, he is on the defensive for accepting travel expenses and office space from a Kremlin-linked nationalist group. That acceptance has raised the prospect that Russia, after meddling in the election to try to tip the vote to Mr. Trump, as United States intelligence agencies have said, is now gleefully stoking divisions in America by backing a radical liberal movement.

I think it would be a mistake to credit Putin - or Trump, for that matter -- with any particular ideology, aside from personal gain. (Yes, I think that can be an ideology -- just look at Wall Street and the banking industry. We call them "right wing", but that's really beside the point.) They're spouting nationalism in public, and Trump is on record as trashing globalism in the political sphere, and then sending Trump, Jr. off to cut deals around the world.

We live in interesting times.

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