The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Greece and the financial world

by fpman

An interesting interview with the current Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, an academic turned practitioner who is now playing a game of chicken with the financial world and with EUrope, in the eye of some observers.

Where the interview becomes of special interest for this blog is where Varoufakis discusses the reasons why he moved with his family to Texas (to teach at the University of Texas), in 2011. Quote:

“At the time I was helping some journalists with their investigations into various banking scandals. One night, I received a phone call and a stranger asked me whether my son had already come home. The caller then described the route my son had taken and said: if you want him to come home safely in the future, then stop investigating the banking business. That was another reason why we moved to Texas.”

If the game-of-chicken framework of interpretation is correct, Varoufakis apparently has some extra motivation to stare down the approaching opponent, resolute and firm.

Of course, in a game of chicken that is not necessarily a good thing in the end.

Tampa, the center of the universe

by fpman

At the time of elections in the US it is easy to see that Tampa and its environs are at the center of the universe. Candidates come and go. Florida is a crucial swing state, with a demographic profile that makes it an interesting testing ground of political messages even regardless of this.

And then there is CENTCOM, too. The US military’s Central Command.

CENTCOM

That may be just too much to keep cool about as the case of Jill Kelley, the prominent Tampa “socialite” (at the same time a medical researcher, too) may show.

I have been following her case related to the Petraeus affair which, as you may remember, led to the firing of the Director of the CIA in 2012. General Petraeus’ lover-biographer Paula Broadwell sent some angry messages (“broadsides,” sigh) to Kelley, out of jealousy, from an email account jointly run by her and Petraeus, and this led to the scandal that eventually cost the general his job.

I thought this was pretty embarrassing. One just didn’t expect Petraeus to end his career in this way. When I learned that many others from the top brass at CENTCOM similarly sought the favours of Kelley by actively socializing with her, I thought that was a new level of embarrassing.

But then…

I am not sure what to make of it now that I know that cheap email flattery such as

“I wish that we could clone a couple thousand of you, but the land is likely not ready for that big an impact”

can get people to make you “Honorary Ambassador of Central Command.”

I need to re-adjust to the reality of this somehow.

That’s it for today, I have to go compose some emails.

A bunch of girls in Russia

by fpman

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, president of Russia and formerly a counter-intelligence officer, prefers to keep his daughters’ identity a secret.

So now, even with the suspicions there are, we cannot be entirely sure if one of his daughters is an acrobat-dancer-slash-scientist. A pity.

Another interesting consequence of this policy of secrecy, in the country that was once, for a brief while, ruled by a false Dimitriy, is a bunch of false Putinas:

“So far, a bunch of girls have come forth as Vladimir Putin’s daughters,” says Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Putin.

It is certainly a conceivable stratagem in an environment similar to Russia’s. For it to succeed in the (somewhat) longer run, accomplices are a must. Speaking strictly in the abstract, false VIPs of this kind may come in four different varieties: decoys, entrepreneurs, crazies, and momentary opportunists. It is only in crazies’ case that the person concerned would not be part of a group involved in the impostorship. Accomplices are needed to get street cred: to spread rumours around as to who you “really” are, to give confidential references etc. In the case of the entrepreneur it would be a group seeking economic opportunities in this way, mostly. In the case of a decoy, it could be a state-run operation, with the aim to divert attention away from “those we don’t speak of” (I hope you like obscure movie references). Even some of the seemingly crazies may be sent out there to leave a legacy of uncertainty as to who the real VIPs happen to be.

A momentary opportunist is a person who uses reference to oneself as someone special’s special someone to get out of a specific situation, only as a tactic. If you’re looking for an example of this, well, here is an imperfect one, given that it is more that of a wannabe momentary opportunist whose aspirations stemmed largely from the consumption of alcohol on the occasion: a man claiming to be Vladimir Putin’s cousin after he was caught drunk-driving by Surrey police in the UK.

The absence of nepotism

by fpman

Not so long ago the sibling gap was discussed here. One obviously interesting factor that went undiscussed in the process is how siblings can of course help each other using the various resources they have. That is a very real possibility in politics and one of the central subjects of this blog in fact. Nepotism, that is.

Thus it is always interesting to find examples of the opposite, when nepotism is completely absent.

The link goes to an article in The Mirror about Darren Offord, the homeless brother of Tory MP Matthew Offord.

The sibling gap really couldn’t have grown much greater than here.

Darren used to be an HGV (heavy goods vehicle) driver, had an accident, alleges that he became infected with HIV and Hepatitis through a blood transfusion upon that accident (although he was also a user of heroin for a while), and as a result of his joblessness and a bad break-up is now homeless. He receives some support from his sister. He also has two grown-up children, from different relationships. It is unclear how much help he may receive from his children or his former partners.

Brother Matthew meanwhile earned a PhD at King’s and is now in the House of Commons. Among other things, he is reportedly the owner of a £785,000 cottage, even as he spends much of his time in his constituency home.

Via the media, Darren is now telling Matthew:

“Matthew get your ­flipping a*** here and put your arm out and lift me up… lift me up. Give me a hand up and help me get off the streets.”

Brother Matthew does not appear eager to respond to the call. Apparently they don’t share the same political views with Darren and they had some bad quarrels over this in the distant past. It seems like they won’t start sharing that £785,000 cottage any time soon, and both may take a share of the blame for that.

The Wine, Whisky and Song Society

by fpman

Pakistan is one of those countries where there is a limited set of dominant political families as such — a subject which we will surely return to one day.

For now, let this brief look at Sidi Mohammad Muzzafar Mustafa Khan suffice. Mr. Khan is a relatively non-political member of a pretty significant political family (the Bhutto family). He is a nephew of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and a cousin of the late Benazir Bhutto, both former Prime Ministers of Pakistan, both eventually killed in Pakistan’s internal political struggles — one hanged by the Army, the other assassinated.

Mr. Khan is already contemplating a legacy-building great undertaking to leave his mark on this world in a different way. A significant member of the United Kingdom’s Pakistani diaspora, he is also the owner of nightclubs and hotels in the UK (and had a son grow up beside Benazir for the latter thought his managerial duties and the nature thereof would not permit him to be the best father). He has lived a playboy life or did a very good job of creating the semblance of that and is now interested in passing on the torch to 252 single men carefully selected through a methodical vetting process; young males whom he hopes to socialize into gentlemanhood. This would be his Wine, Whisky and Song Society. Mr. Khan is taking steps to provide for adequate female company, too, of course. And his plan is to throw some great parties in the near future on his luxury yacht and in other convenient venues.

His summary of his personal reasons for all his noble efforts just begs to be quoted here:

“The main reason I’m doing this is I’ll have 250 pallbearers at my funeral and they’ll say ‘this man taught us how to live’. My dear cousin Benazir had a million people at hers so I’ll still be some way behind.”

Cognitive dissonance in Nazi Germany

by fpman

In the last few days I have not had the time to cover a new subject in depth. I’m back now. But first here’s some light posting to see if I’m still able to push the Publish button.

And with that, if you ever wondered: here is the story of the man who refused to do the Nazi salute on a famous 1936 photo you surely have already seen on social media at some point.

Here’s the crucial part:

“(August) Landmesser joined the Nazi Party in 1931. Little did he know that his heart would soon ruin any progress that his superficial political affiliation might have made. In 1934, Landmesser met Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and the two fell deeply in love.”

It seems probable indeed that Landmesser may have joined the Nazi Party like many other people at the time, without a real commitment to their ideology. Once he met the love of his life, he was bound to have to think over a thing or two. Predictably,

“Their engagement a year later got him expelled from the party.”

So one more year later he was there, pictured, not enthusiastic at all about the celebratory launch of a German naval vessel, even though it was attended by Adolf Hitler.

It is usually personal reasons such as Landmesser’s that may cause people the strongest dissonance with only superficially considered political ideas. And a weak engagement with ideology may be thus easily broken up by an engagement of different sorts. Especially when the representatives of the former (the ideology) tell you that the latter (your love) is not approved. Likely this determined Landmesser’s path.

Where he and his wife went on from here is why the above link is worth following. It’s not the story of an action hero and his lady. It’s mostly a sad story of ordinary people — but it’s also uplifting in a way, given how their daughters, Ingrid and Irene carried on their parents’ legacy, in their own peculiar way.

“Was Nick Clegg’s aunt a Soviet spy?”

by fpman

Betteridge’s law of headlines says “Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”

An important qualification to this clever adage could be: “except when it comes to espionage.”

So when Guy Walters for the Daily Mail is asking the question in the title above, it cannot be answered with a definitive no.

Moura Budberg (born as Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya-Benckendorff-Budberg) surely had a long and interesting life (along with the equally long and interesting name) and it’s summed up well in the above article. Maura/Maria was very actively socializing throughout her life and this brought her into the company of mostly very interesting people. Or, as Walters puts it, we find her in “compromising” company with some “regularity” as we follow her story. From sci-fi writer H.G. Wells to actual Soviet spy Guy Burgess she was close to a lot of noteworthy members of the chattering (and gin-drinking) classes.

This probably doesn’t have too much significance as far as her “great-great-nephew,” Nick Clegg (UK Deputy PM and leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats) is concerned — unless it suddenly makes his person more interesting to you through a kind of positive halo effect.

Moura_bookNick Clegg may not be the best reason to get this book on Moura Budberg, by Nina Berberova

The Cocaine International

by fpman

Interesting news from Albania.

Former Albanian Communist leader Enver Hoxha’s nephew, Ermal Hoxha, was arrested yesterday during a police raid on a cocaine laboratory in the village of Xibrake, south of the Albanian capital Tirana. Over a 100 kg of cocaine and four tons of additive materials were seized, and two Colombian citizens were also netted in the operation, preceded by a joint investigation of German and Albanian police.

The cocaine originates “from Cuba,” it is reported, although given the presence of Colombians one would think otherwise. Cuba may certainly have served as a transit point along the substance’s route to Europe, on its way towards Germany, though.

Drug cartels began making airdrops of cocaine along Cuba’s shores, for pickup by speedboats headed to Florida, a very long time ago. These drops have also proved sufficient to serve a good part of what domestic market there is for the substance in Cuba. It is small wonder if eventually some Cuban officials got involved and if participation in long-distance trade is a result in what is thus a more permissive environment for related transactions (with officials closing their eyes or actively joining).

If there truly is a link to Cuba in this particular case, a Hoxha’s involvement may possibly be further sign of this trend.

Even though both were Communist countries, Albania and Cuba did not have an entirely convenient link between each other during Communist times. Cuba was backed by the Soviets whom Albanians turned away from (in the post-Stalin period, for a mix of ideological and geopolitical reasons). Cuba and Albania did maintain ties, however, and people from one side may have known people from the other in the past in their case. Which means there may be some ideologically grounded fraternity (or at least the memory thereof) between them. And it also means that some of the people that these people knew in their own respective countries may now know each other, too — and may conspire, although this is purely speculation of course.

Hoxha_StalinRemember Stalin? The late Enver Hoxha at his desk, Stalin’s portrait hanging above his head

Quotes of the day, from Zimbabwe

by fpman

Grace Mugabe (Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s wife, 41 years the leader’s junior, formerly his typist, currently head of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s Women’s League, and a target of sanctions by the US and the EU) could easily blame some of the reputation she has on her name. It is just too tempting for critics to call her “Disgrace.” Names like “First Shopper,” however, are not necessarily a result of her otherwise nice first name.

Most recently a series of evictions have been giving her a bad name. She owns farmland in the vicinity of where the latter have been taking place and is thus suspected by some of having something to do with this. A government official’s explanation that the evictions are to make room for a national monument site, for a 19th century anti-colonial hero, sounds not much better from the point of view of those evicted. For now, Zimbabwe’s High Court has ordered a halt to the evictions and so the issue is not “settled” yet.

Our first quote comes from one of the farmers facing eviction:

“The police compared us to ants saying, ‘There’s no way an ant can fight an elephant because Amai (Mrs) Mugabe is a high profile person and you’re ordinary citizens,'”

The police are wrong, of course, and this brings us our second quote of the day. Ants can actually protect trees from elephants who tend to keep away from them. Apparently:

“Whereas giraffes can swipe ants away with their tongues, elephants are more vulnerable because their nostrils are located far from their mouths.”

The Stuart-Houstons, from Long Island

by fpman

This is a fascinating story and does not require much commentary.

The Stuart-Houstons of Long Island were Bridget Dowling Hitler and Patrick William Hitler, originally. Patrick was Bridget’s son, from Adolf Hitler’s brother, Alois Hitler, Jr. Bridget was Irish and met Alois in Dublin. They went on to live together for some time in London, before they separated. In 1939, Bridget took Patrick over to the US, to escape unwanted attention given the Hitler connection. And she changed her name.

Patrick himself outlined the reasons for the decision in these terms:

“The British are an insular people and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.”

Eloquently put. Patrick didn’t make a secret out of his origins and went on a lecture tour around the country telling people of how wicked his uncle really was (he did meet Adolf Hitler on a visit to Germany once). In the wake of his lobby efforts against Germany he even joined the U.S. Navy’s Medical Corps.

Bridget_and_Patrick“To hell with Hitler,” a message to brother-in-law/uncle, from Bridget and Patrick (source)

Like I said, some story…