On the Trail of Long Lost Relatives

After the fall of the Soviet Union, slowly centuries old archives have opened in nearly all of the eastern lands, composed of personal data, which for a time ceased to exist to anyone interested in them within or outside of the Iron Curtain’s secrecy. Once upon a time there might have been little reason to seek out these long dormant birth records, census surveys, property listings, tax payer rolls and the like, were it not for the great void of death and disappearance left behind after the Second World War.

In the last decade, millions of these records (with millions more to come) have been indexed, translated, collated, and photographed; most of it digitized, much of it making its way online, accessible by most anyone from anywhere in the world. I have taken many journeys through these records back in time and carried forward to the present day by the information found.

In one instance, there was a brother of a grand relative, who shortly after the Stalin–Hitler pact of 1939 found his country transferred to the domains of the Soviet Union. By 1940 the Sovietization of the country was underway. One night, in July 1941, he and his wife were summoned to a central meeting point where they were then separated, he placed on a train to the Ussolag work camps in the Perm region of the Ural mountains near Siberia, and she to exile in Siberia proper.

 

perm-36,admin

Administrative building of the Siberian Gulag camp Perm-36, reportedly the only one that has been preserved.

Photo credit: stephenadutton.blogspot.com

 

He had been a small city merchant fabricating untailored clothing goods (known as white goods), socks, undergarments, and lab coats for science students, doctors, professors. At the age of 73, after 53 years in business (the firm was founded in 1888), all the rules suddenly changed for him and many other thousands of businessmen, small and large, the educated, political leaders from small town mayors to governors and legislators. In the eastern lands these classes of citizens were simply replaced entirely by the Soviet algorithmic and centralized plan.

His death certificate, issued by the NKVD, documents his death less than 90 days after his deportation. In his case, he was deported for exploitation of workers, though he has been “rehabilitated” in the years following the end of the USSR in 1991. Ironically perhaps, long before the world war, one of his daughters went to study medicine in Paris, and became a pathologist. While working at the Institute Pasteur, she became attracted and then committed to some of the ideas running wild across 1920s Europe (and the USA): unionism, socialism, social democracy.

 

1024px-Canal_Mer_BlancheForced laborers from the Soviet Gulag working on the infamous Baltic-White Sea Canal project.

Photo credit: Scherl / SZ

 

Very inspired, she joined the Communist Party. She left Paris behind and went to Moscow. In 1938, after an affair with a patient she had met while working in a TB sanatorium, her only son was born, the grandchild of her soon to be deported father and exiled mother. By the time war began, she was disillusioned with the communist ideal she had known in Paris and the realities she encountered in Moscow. Too late, however, to change her mind. She continued to return home during vacations.

She last saw her parents together just days prior to the night of their deportations, which coincidentally was followed almost immediately by the German invasion dissolving the pact formed in 1939. Her return to Moscow took weeks instead of the usual overnight journey. So began the war in the East, and at war’s end, the Iron Curtain. Hearing of her mother’s exile, she and her son joined her in Siberia, where they spent the remainder of the war.

 

gulag-1Siberian prison camp viewed from afar

Photo credit: picture-alliance / akg-images

 

Visiting Alexander

Only a few weeks ago, I visited my Moscow cousin, the one born in 1938, and his wife, who incidentally works as a pathologist, her mother having trained under his mother while in the then Soviet Union. Quite a good cook, and both superb hosts, during one of our evenings conversing over plates of Russian herring, borscht, Russian-style cold cuts and meat patties, and of course vodka, I wanted to know their views:

Did they have a sense of an encroaching loss of freedoms and privacies since coming to the USA? Did they feel a difference or change in the regimen of the country in regard to constitutionally established rights, property rights, rights to privacy, the presumption of innocence before guilt? Did they perceive a danger or threat or potential indictment of their reputations or their freedoms by virtue of the corporate and government capture of their every data point; of a walk down the street, of a drive in the car, every single purchase, every bill paid, every cash withdrawal?

Did they believe how they viewed themselves and their places in the world might be distorted or perverted by the algorithms used at Google/ Facebook/USAINC/NSA/FBI/CIA/DOJ/DEA/DOH/GOP/BLS/NBC/ABC/CBS/NETFLIX/FOX/GHCQ ad infinitum? Did any of their neighbors remind them of the intrusiveness they experienced before leaving the Soviet Union?

 

intrusiveIf you have nothing to hide …

Cartoon by: Lee Judge

 

These concepts must have, I assumed, stood out to them after their arrival in the United States in 1975. She asked me if I thought it a good idea to open a bank account in Switzerland to safeguard some of their retirement funds. I said you can’t. No bank anywhere in Europe will open an account for an American citizen.

They were both very surprised. But you could, I suggested, make an application for the return of your citizenship from Latvia, your mother’s original nationality, and if you are successful, also apply for citizenship and passports for your children too. Then, maybe you can open a bank account anywhere in the world like any other citizen of the world, except citizens of the USA.

Of course you will still be subject to arrest and asset forfeiture unless you have renounced your USA citizenship, a process now relatively expensive and time consuming before you are licensed to renounce it. And all of your assets will be subject to a final exit tax.

Is that because we are naturalized, they wondered? No. Citizenship has become a kind of commodity along with the passports one carries, the passport and right to free movement easily denied to you whether by accident of birth or naturalization. The onus is entirely upon the individual to prove their access to rights that were otherwise, once upon a time, taken for granted as being sacred and inviolate.

 

bill-of-rights (1)

Outdated document, listing so-called “rights”. Superseded by ubiquitous surveillance, rubber-stamped by secret court, indefinite detention, military tribunals, asset forfeiture, enhanced interrogation, assassination by presidential fiat, etc., all for your security, natch.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Perhaps, after nearly 40 years of living an American life in place of a Russian life, the differences you might have once appreciated fade into the background of daily routines; earning a living, paying the mortgage, shoveling snow and watching Rupert Murdoch’s version of the news promptly every evening at 6 p.m., news that rarely questions and nearly always supports the nominal status quo.

Like his description of his grandfather, when asked, why did his grandparents not leave, the storm clouds were clearly forming all over Europe before 1941, my cousin answered: Grandfather was 73, comfortable in his home. What to do? Start over with relatives in the USA? How? How do you reject what you’ve known all of your life? But you did, I said, at least once.

 

hehe
How to keep the sheep docile.

Cartoon by: M. Wuerker

 

A Sense of Nihilism

A few weeks ago I was very surprised to read some of the comments made by the leader of today’s Russia, a former Lt. Colonel in the Soviet KGB (a 16-year career). He was based in the East German town of Dresden during the last days of the KGB’s sister organization, the Stasi (Ministry for State Security), shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In part he said:

 

“…International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism.

…Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms.

…It is not for nothing that “big brother” is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies [and citizens — ed. note] under surveillance.

…Maybe, we have no real reasons to worry, argue and ask awkward questions? … and we should maybe just relax and enjoy it all? Let me say that this is not the case, absolutely not the case.”

 

— Excerpts from a speech by Vladimir Putin, October 24, 2014, at the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sochi RU

 

 

I for one share his sense of Nihilism and his sense the common order of the world since the ending of the Cold War has become essentially perverted. It is not per se, we cannot recognize the order itself. Nominally speaking, the parts of the world that are not yet in a state of utter chaos look pretty recognizable from one year to the next, or in time, from one decade to the next per the map of the modern or contemporary world.

 

Russia_Putin-07eddListen up, dudes …

Photo credit: Misha Japaridze / AP

 

He complains the USA and all of its partners have decided on their own accord there are equals and then there are the less equal. The measures used are conveniently arbitrary, imposed upon any country or its leadership who would disagree, or then threaten it, if escalating, either subversively or openly via economic sanctions or military action, using the status quo to their advantage, meaning the IMF, World Bank, SWIFT, the WTO, among others, now become organs of political and economic control.

He has a point, and he should know, but then again, if you are a post Soviet Union oligarch, might one conclude one of these three things: you are on good terms with and supportive of the Russian administration, you are in a Russian jail, or you live in London?

He believes long-accepted norms/laws regarding privacy and property, though they superficially are not much changed, in reality are interpreted arbitrarily and/or with an intended bias to an unfair advantage, by the loudest (and most armed) voice in the room, the United States, its partners and their 5 eyes invasions of what has become essentially a fully digital world in the last two decades.

 

5-eyesOld 5-eyes

Illustration by: Jennifer Ilett.

 

A Statist Bubble

Under the relatively new leadership of the People’s Republic of China, there is an enormous program underway to eradicate corrupt tigers and little flies. The tigers and the flies have been on the move, taking their wealth to perceived havens, following in the steps of honest Chinese business men who from their market positions at street level implemented their own five year plans in light of the slowing debt burdened economy they had foreseen.

In the real estate markets from Vancouver to Brisbane, how can one tell if your neighbor is a fly, a tiger, or an honest soul trying to hold onto hard earned wealth? Australia, whose economy is 25% dependent upon trade with China, recently announced cooperation agreements for the seizing of Chinese sourced assets and extradition of flies and tigers. As surely as the sun rises every morning, similar agreements will take place between China and others.

On September 11th of this year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation warned the citizens of Canada to be extra cautious when traveling to the USA. Indeed, any citizen traveling in the United States including U.S. citizens, when stopped by local law enforcement, and carrying a large sum of cash, may well find themselves watching the law enforcement officer confiscate it. The officer has his choice of interpretations under civil forfeiture laws to take the money into custody

if you cannot prove, on the spot with documentation, the money is actually and truly yours. To retrieve it, you will have to fight for it via expensive attorneys against a jurisdiction which has essentially unlimited legal resources to keep you from your property. In this case, possession, as they used to say, is 9/10ths plus another 10th of the law.

To what purpose does that money go? The limitations of this publisher preclude another 1000 words to tell you. But it has been documented, the equivalent of the annual police department’s family and friends picnic have gone from fried chicken (BYOFC, bring your own fried chicken) to steak (catered) on the order and scale of the department’s “surplus” funding.

 

shortModern police special project funding methods

Cartoon via freedomworks.org

 

Most citizens of the world cannot afford to change from one economic jurisdiction to another, nor their citizenship. They cannot vote with their feet against unfriendly regimes or regimens. Though they may indeed vote, and though it may

appear there is a process by which desired change may occur, it is in this regard an exercise in futility. In the case of the United States, going back to those 1920s, and the creation of the Federal Reserve (1913), the social programs (borrowed from Socialists), and brought into existence by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, are no longer affordable, no more affordable than in France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Venezuela today or, from a central planning point of view, the 70 or so years of the USSR’s existence.

And yet, the alternatives offered each and every year on ballots across the world do not address the unbridled wasteful unproductive spending which now, more than ever before, suffocates positive commerce while eating away slowly or fast (name your nation) at the financial well being of citizens at home and in the so called global economy, everywhere else (transference). The choice given is simply not a choice. The effective choice on offer is merely a variation of the status quo and the bankruptcy math which refuses to go away and remains utterly unaddressed.

There has been a disconnect between Regime and Regimen. You think you are living in a construct that equals Regime, but then you encounter the Regimen. That of course is where the product of the existing, the existential, and the actual state of affairs is laid so bare. The truth itself is so simple when exposed and naked. Every vested interest in the status quo has reason to deny it, be it the math or the net effect upon free will, free commerce, property rights, and upon every element, particularly digitized, of a single human life.

Recently, the leader of Hong Kong, Mr. Leung Chun-ying, supposedly said giving full, equal, and direct voting rights to all citizens of Hong Kong would create the dangerous possibility of turning the free market city into a welfare state. He implied, if given the vote, the majority and less wealthy citizens would force the state to become the primary caretaker of citizens, the guarantor of a certain level of income, and the master arbitrator of some basic limit to the costs of life’s rents

such as housing, food, education, health care, or whatever the voting majority might imagine it deserves, or ultimately whatever an elected master offers them in exchange for voting him or her into office. The free efficient market with its many actors would be converted into a state-run utility of political bosses overseeing a system of patronage.

 

leung-chun-yingLeung Chun-ying: democracy is for Old Greeks

Photo credit: Jerome Favre / Keystone / EPA

 

To keep their power, they might even borrow from the future, so much so, that one day a wealthy, well-built and functioning city like Hong Kong, a society net free of debt, would find it had sold itself into unaffordability and the tyranny of unpayable obligations. Free market capital would slowly be sucked dry of its power to produce real products and real innovations, overwhelmed and taken over, replaced by taxation and regulation and service of what has always become, in these situations, overwhelming bankrupting debt.

That is when the last pockets of free capital, in whatever amounts they may be, become marginalized by central banking efforts to keep the welfare state afloat, eliminating, as we have seen today, a natural return on capital to a negative return, while the state statistically denies a concurrent reduction in purchasing power vis a vis its corrupted currency.

The very state of affairs implied by Mr. Leung Chun-ying can certainly be found in France, whose citizens, when able, have been fleeing the country. I’ve been told many hundreds have in fact moved to Hong Kong as evidenced by the surging numbers of French restaurants and bakeries. Lucky Hong Kong, then, for the unintended consequences coming out of France.

History tells us there is a law of numbers which cannot be reconciled by the state or a statist system to their will. There is a long tradition of Nihilism in Russian culture from Tsarist times, the central planning experiment, and in the recent thoughts expressed by Mr. Putin. The USSR’s numbers reckoning arrived after approximately 70 years, a kind of K-wave ending of that grandiose experiment.

Japan’s run is now coming to a closing balance, also after 70 years or so, if you consider 1945 as the starting date, their last reset date. If we use the creation of the central bank and the New Deal as the start date for the statist bubble that is the United States, the USA is well past its sell by number. When the numbers robbed from Peter to pay Paul come due, a long, long bear market should unfold, a kind of extenuated healing where natural prices are once again found, and actors can once again act with sound cause and efficient effect and, for a time, without the nasty unwanted affections and affectations of an overburdening government.

That Jeff Koons’ balloon dog should then fetch far, far less than USD 58.4 million when its bubbles are popped. My cousin Alexander, at age 75, might not need to worry for himself too much, but then again, as I explained, the Federal Reserve and the free-spending U.S. Government cannot in any way guarantee or summon a happy ending anymore than did the USSR.

Thank you for your reading and consideration.

 

balloon dog

Jeff Koons’ excellent balloon dog might actually become cheaper one of these days (it last changed hands at $58.4 million)

Photo credit: Ian Young

 

This article appeared originally in Dr. Marc Faber’s The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, December 2014, and is republished at Acting Man with permission. Image captions by PT

 

 

 

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