The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin
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 Alexey Navalny is now grand-standing against the Russian government, as he often does, announcing he plans to sue Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin Spokesman for suggesting he worked with US intelligence. Navalny proclaimed: “You know, I very rarely take propagandists to court, even though they lie about me all day long. I simply don’t want to waste time. However, this is a direct statement from a government official. Therefore, firstly, I’m filing a lawsuit against Peskov… I demand the publication of evidence and facts that point to ‘work with CIA specialists.’ Show it on television directly, during prime time. I’m giving you permission.”

There’s a reason Navalny has decided to theatrically throw up his arms. To those who are unfamiliar with the late cold war, and how geopolitical games are played by superpowers, Navalny seems correct. He clearly is not James Bond 007. He’s not wearing fake mustaches, engaging in assassinations and saving beautiful blonde supermodels.

However, outside of Hollywood, the kind or work that Navalny has engaged in as western capitalism’s favorite Russian dissident, is vitally important to intelligence agencies. Navalny has stated that he has no real intention of working within Russia’s established legal and constitutional mechanisms to bring about reform. Instead he is engaging in what he calls “street and network activism” and “direct action.” He’s also received quite a hefty sum of anonymous and crypto-currency contributions in order to do it.

indiana

Its very clear that various competing interests and factions within the US political establishment are pushing different agendas and strategies. These differences often play out on a regional basis.

Mike Pence, the Vice President of the United States, was relatively unknown on the national stage as Governor of Indiana, until Donald Trump selected him to be his running mate in 2016. In the following years, Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, a small college town in Northern Indiana, ran for President and became a major figure in the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Now, Donald Trump has selected Amy Coney Barrett, a Federal Judge who is also a resident of South Bend, Indiana as his appointee to the US Supreme Court, with Democrats loudly crying foul.

Indiana is not a wealthy state. Indiana’s residents, nicknamed “Hoosiers” have been pretty badly hit by the overall economic decline of country. Many Indiana communities have been devastated by Opioids. In the 20th Century, the city of Gary was a major center of industry with steel production and other manufacturing, but this is just history.

However, Indiana is clearly rising in political influence. In 2016, both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump campaigned at events in Indiana, blasting the factory closings and blaming trade deals such as NAFTA. While Indiana may not have huge amounts of commerce, or even very many votes in the electoral college, it seems to be a hub for a certain faction of the US political establishment that is fighting for its life, seeing its influence and power challenged.

South Bend: A College Town

South Bend, where both Buttigieg and Barrett are residents is one of the most prosperous parts of the state. The city has a population of just over 300,000 people. It is home to the University of Notre Dame, a leading Roman Catholic academic institution that not only provides education but also engages in large amounts of research.

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On Thursday April 30th, protesters, some carrying firearms, marched into the Michigan state capitol building. The demonstration was just the latest of a stream of protests demanding  an end to the lockdown and social distancing.

Despite giving daily briefings to the country amidst the pandemic, and urging social distancing, US President Donald Trump has tweeted in support of these protests, which are taking place across the country. Trump has also singled out Michigan’s democratic governor for criticism. It seems there is a widespread mobilization opposing necessary health measures throughout the United States.

It is unclear what the protesters want. Some echo the sentiments of Glenn Beck and Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, that the lives of elderly and vulnerable people should be sacrificed for the sake of revving up America’s economy. Others echo claims circulating on social media, alleging that the pandemic is a hoax conducted by enemies of Donald Trump. Signs follow the ideological brand of the 2008-2010 Tea Party protests that opposed Obama’s healthcare plan. Slogans include “Social Distancing is Communism” and there are placards containing references to Hitler, the US Constitution, Liberty, and Tyranny.

Meanwhile, there are also mobilizations of the organized political left. Examples of these include: car caravans calling for a rent freeze, strikes and organizing among essential workers. Unrest is brewing in US society as the economy is the worst it has been in decades. Unemployment numbers have reached level not seen since the Great Depression. The chasm between two factions in the US economic ruling class, divisions which expanded under Obama and became even more intense following the 2016 elections, are sharper than ever.

Who is Behind The Anti-Lock Down Protests?

The people responsible for the right wing mobilizations are a coalition of millionaires and billionaires who feel like they are locked out by the ultra-rich. This is the coalition that took Trump to the White House in 2016. Amidst the pandemic, these lower levels of American capital are watching the blood gush from their financial wounds.

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“Healthcare is not a right.” This has been a favored talking point of American conservatives, Libertarians, and advocates of the free market.Roger Stark, of the Washington Times, articulated this concern saying: “If medical treatment is a right, then what exactly does that mean? Does it mean that your neighbors, through the government, are obligated to provide all health care for you? Does it mean that anyone can demand the government to pay for hospitalization, for prescription drugs, and for specialty treatments such as organ transplants? Does it mean that every American has a right to the skill and knowledge of all physicians and providers?”

Leonard Peikoff, of the Ayn Rand Institute, explained it this way: “Observe that all legitimate rights have one thing in common: they are rights to action, not to rewards from other people. The American rights impose no obligations on other people, merely the negative obligation to leave you alone. The system guarantees you the chance to work for what you want — not to be given it without effort by somebody else.”

Richard M. Salsman, writing in Forbes Magazine, put it this way: “Doctors, nurses, hospitals, drug-makers, and health insurers are no more “servants” of the masses, or even of those in need of health care, than are businessmen, bankers, teachers, journalists, or truck drivers servants of those who need their services. If you want to pay for the services of health care providers, simply do so; if you can’t afford it, try to negotiate a discount, or pay by installments, or seek access to private charity; but you have no “right” to take from health care providers what they’re not willing to supply.”

“…where my nose begins”

The number of op-eds, articles, TV news segments, social media posts and videos, memes, etc. making this point is not small. It is a central ideological talking point of those who believe in the economic theories of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.

Essentially, “rights” are only negative. Rights only exist to protect individuals from state coercion. They do not entitle anyone to anything. Positive “rights” like education, healthcare, and employment are in fact a violation because they involve an imposition on those required to fulfill them.

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At the Feb 25th Democratic Presidential Debate, Bernie Sanders responded  to his critics saying: “Occasionally it might be good to be honest about American foreign policy, and that includes acknowledging the fact that America has overthrown governments in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran, and when dictators, whether it’s the Cubans or the Chinese do something good, you acknowledge that.”

For a few days preceding the debate, Sanders had been subject to harsh criticism in the media for his history of praising the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments, and his defense of those words, saying in regards to the Cuban revolution “it’s unfair to say that everything was bad.”

Sanders’ many detractors considered these words to be treasonous because they praised a longtime opponent of the United States in the international arena. Anti-Castro Cubans residing in Miami, Republicans, and Sanders Democratic opponents all argued that a politician who would make such statements was unfit for office.

However, this did not hurt Bernie Sanders, and polls continue to show him as a favored candidate among Democratic voters. While the media seems to view Sanders with contempt, this makes him more attractive to the public.

This seems to exactly parallel the Republican Primary Election of 2016. During a Presidential Debate with other Republican Candidates, Donald J. Trump turned to Jeb Bush and said: “Obviously the war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake,George Bush made a mistake…Obviously we can make mistakes, but that one was a beauty…We should have never been in Iraq, they lied, they said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none and they knew that there were none.”

Of course, Trump was widely criticized by Republicans for these words, among other statements. As Trump was widely condemned by both the establishment of the Republican Party and the mainstream media, he became more popular.


Who was Leo Strauss?

The two figures often named as the ideological fathers of Neoconservativism are Irving Kristol and Leo Strauss. Irving Kristol was a New York City Trotskyist who became disillusioned by socialism during the Second World War, later headed up the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom Program in the 1950s, and eventually became a Republican strategist.

Leo Strauss, however, was a very different figure. Strauss was a Jewish philosophy professor who fled to the United States during the rise of the Nazis during the 1930s. He taught at Columbia University, the New School, and eventually the University of Chicago. Prior to leaving Germany, Strauss had a significant philosophical dialogue with the Nazi jurist and legal theorist, Carl Schmitt.

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The words they use to describe her are nasty, cliché, but all too familiar. They call her “Princess,” “Oligarch,” and accuse her of “embezzlement” “peddling influence” etc. The truth is that Isabel Dos Santos, the richest woman in Africa, has for decades been on the hit list of the most powerful people in the world.  In the first month of 2020, the international media has doubled down, taken aim, and decided to go for the kill.

And who are the hitmen? The same folks who brought you the Panama Papers, the shady International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The outlet with ties to the Democracy Fund of the United Nations, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation is repeating their same old mantra. They accuse independent leaders around the world, from Russia, China, Latin America, and Africa of being “corrupt.” They display in rather convenient “leaks,” as if it is somehow shocking, that the leaders of countries with massive populations and resources in-fact possess lots of wealth. The international audience is led to the conclusion that the targeted leader should be removed.