‘Twas the week before Xmas

And all through the Kremlin

Apparatchiks were busy

Except for the Gremlin –

Czar Putin, by name

He cackled with glee

Hardly believing what he could see.

Lame duck Obama

Rattled his blunt sabre

While awaiting the advent

Of someone more favored –

Trump and Tillerson,

Putin’s sworn buddies.

If they couldn’t, who could

These waters to muddy?

 

George W. Bush said of Vladimir Putin, “I saw in his eyes that he was a man I could work with”. To this, the venerable John McCain – who would probably have made a better President than the Great Deceiver, Obama – remarked, “I saw in his eyes three letters – KGB…’ Unlike Joe Turner, Vlad Putin is a man I do despise. 1917 will be a big year in Russia… maybe – it’s the centennial of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Revolution. Not much – if anything – is left of that, and the Marxist ideals for a communist state never even saw the light of day. But we must never forget that Russians have a deeply poetic soul, and, since Peter the Great, have clutched to their hearts the notion that Russia is destined to be the “Third Rome”, inheritor of a third Roman Empire (the second being the “Holy” one). President Gorbachev – a visionary warrior for peace in western eyes, but not to his own people – left a nation in shambles and without an empire. After some embarrassingly catastrophic presidential replacements, onto the scene strides ex-KGB senior operative and front-man for a plutocratic cabal, Vladimir Putin, a figure easily cast as an eminence grise during the dark days of Rasputin and the monarchic twilight. Now, to his credit, he has turned the economy around and set Russia on a course to regain its former stature as a player in the Great Game – the old struggle with European powers, particularly Britain, to control the reachable world, now transposed to a wrestling match with the US. With the notoriously pro-settlements David Friedman named as Ambassador to Israel, and Exxon chief plutocrat Tillerson as Secretary of State, Donald Trump is putting his cards on the table. Israelis are not in fact happy to have as their channel to Washington a man whose attitudes are ideological and not pragmatic. He wants to move the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a symbolic act that will help nothing at all, but will anger the Arabs in general, and much of the world too. Jerusalem will always be the stumbling block in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the only viable solution for the place is that it becomes an international city, governed by neither side. I have had a wait-and-see attitude to Trump’s presidency until now, when it isn’t necessary to wait in order to see. This administration will be governed by ideology, not practical common sense. The Arabs – and by extension all Muslims – are already feeling singled-out as foes, and I don’t think the Donald realizes that this ostracizes nearly a fifth of the world’s population, not to mention a great deal of its wealth. But the Czar of Russia must be laughing his arse off. Tillerson is already a tight buddy, awarded by Putin Russia’s highest civilian honour (for what, I cannot make out), and Trump an avowed wannabe pal. Now, the Great Deceiver, otherwise known as the Magniloquent Oreo, Obama, is brandishing his wooden sword in the Oval Office, saying Russia should stop cyber-attacks, because “we can do stuff to them” in retribution. One trusts a month is sufficient for him to do that “stuff”. Failing other gambits, the Democrats are now trying to blame the lost election on Russian interference. Republicans are saying this should have been brought up before the voting began. In fact it was. On October the 11th of this year, the National Security Agency, on behalf of the seventeen other national security agencies, announced that there was little doubt Russian techno-terrorists were behind a series of cyber-attacks in the US, most of them aimed at disrupting the electoral process. In fact, Putin’s Russia has a history of interfering with elections in parts of the old Soviet Empire, like Kazakhstan, Baluchistan, and other central Asian states, as well as the Crimea, Georgia and the Ukraine. They do seem to have extended their reach now, though. In a month’s time, the Russo-American Alliance will probably be laughing off the pathetic threats to “do stuff”, but what will the balance of power be in this new alliance? Russia — undisputed victor of World War Two, we must remember — has just made its brutal come-back mark in Syria, bombing all opposition, including the Unislamic State, out of the north-east. But is it now going to leave Bashar al-Assad’s forces to clean up the rest? Unlikely, because his army has been decimated and would be incapable of tackling the last concentration of opposition to the south of Damascus. Sunni soldiers are also sick of killing their co-religionists, which leaves the field clear for Iranian-financed fighters from elsewhere in the Shia world – unless Russia stays to consolidate its military superiority and reap the benefits. For those who think war is an altruistic exercise, this is what Putin will unquestionably do. Which leaves Trump-Tillerson in an embarrassingly awkward situation. In a vacillation that would have made Hamlet seem potently decisive, America has um-ed and ah-ed from West Asia to Afghanistan, leaving nowhere any clear idea of a policy – to the point where no one believes there is a policy. Now, however, Trump has to make America great again by coming up with a game-plan for Syria-Iraq that has to terminate the Unislamic State and also restore peace and prosperity to regions where no one even remembers what that was like. And he has to do it with Putin bestriding western Mesopotamia like a colossus. Hard to see how this cozy friendship will survive the strain, but, soon enough, the next US President will have Unislamic terror to contend with all over the region, into Africa and Indonesia as well. If Obama has a shred of decency in him, he ought to pardon the whistle-blowers, like Edward Snowden and Julian Essanges, before he leaves office, since they performed the only noble, selfless acts of his entire soggy administration. Good riddance, Barry!

 

Illegal Legalties

 

Anyone who imagines the RCMP are mindful of our hard-earned tax-dollars ought to look at the crap-fest going on in Montreal. Today, the six newly-opened stores selling cannabis products were raided, and reefer celebrity-advocate, Mark Amory was taken into custody. We are told by the media and government that marijuana will be legalized this coming spring. Judy Amory, Mark’s wife, who is behind the six stores, claims she opened them today in order to push government notions about how pot should be sold. Understandably, the erstwhile underground merchants fear an incursion by Big Greed when legalization is implemented – and these fears are evidently well-founded when Shoppers Drug Mart can apply for a weed-vending license. It seems fair that the pioneers, who suffered ignominy and arrest, should emerge triumphant when rational laws prevail. These police raids are then not only vindictive and ludicrously petty – they are suspicious. Would Jean Coutu have been raided? Yes, the defense is that it’s still illegal – but in three months it won’t be. Are all these cases and the staff arrested going to appear in court long after legalization? And what kind of reasonable judgment could be passed down then? The blather over what will happen, and who can buy it where, is bad enough without this rank nonsense. It’s not as if people haven’t been easily buying and smoking weed for over fifty years, is it? Pot shops must not be near parks and schools – please! Are the police so annoyed that pot will no longer be illegal – all those wasted years and useless busts! – that they can wreak a vendetta on the presumptuous weed-merchants at tax-payers’ expense? The Quebec police services have already brought down enough shame on themselves with racial profiling and abuse of indigenous women that one wonders why they want more. Evidently fighting crime is outside their mandate, so, presumably, more persecution of the innocent, by whatever means present themselves, is about the only option left. It’s not as if we are legalizing burglary, is it? The legalization of drugs – and I mean all drugs (who asked the government to be a parent?) – would defang organized crime in a serious way, cutting off a major cash-flow. In my book, Smokescreen, I pointed to the relationship between the government and organized crime in Montreal. I had assumed this was over now – but perhaps I’m wrong? Write to the Police Chief and tell him what you think about the way he wastes your money – I certainly have.

 

Paul William Roberts

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