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Sunday, July 09, 2017

Of treason, Russian orphans, and a scary cult

Update: I wrote the bulk of the post below a couple of hours before the NYT published its latest bombshell story about Donald Trump Jr. meeting with the Russians after being promised dirt on Hillary. My original post was inspired by an earlier NYT piece, which revealed the meeting but skipped the Clinton connection. After offering a few snarky comments about Jared Kushner and the Russian lawyer he met, I present some new, original, can't-get-it-anywhere-else research into the "Russian orphans" controversy which underlies much of this strange affair.

Before we get to all of that stuff, I would like to say something about the brand-new NYT piece. Bottom line: We have evidence of collusion. Right here; right now. No further proof needed. Of course, the right will never admit that this proof exists. Those guys remind me of that old '60s movie sketch about a husband who wouldn't admit adultery even when caught in the act.

(What was the name of that film again...? Damn. Tip of my tongue.) (Update: Oh, right -- this one.)

UPDATE 2: Donald Trump Jr. has sent out a new statement revising his original response -- and it's a doozy. Now he admits that a Russian "acquaintance" set up the meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. She arrived on the promise that she would deliver Russia-related dirt on Hillary, but (supposedly) what she said made no sense and Team Trump dismissed her.

Obvious codswallop.

But it's very disturbing codswallop. Drudge is linking to the story, far-right sites like Gateway Pundit have fastened upon it, the NYT learned about this matter from unnamed Trump advisers, and the Trumpers tellingly did not react with their usual cry of "Fake News." All of these things tell me that this particular peice of codswallop was concocted to prepare us for a forthcoming bit of buncombe designed to smear Hillary. That's my prediction.

Even if we take the codswallop at face value, Junior and Kushner lied on their security forms. There's no way they can seriously claim an "Oopsie! I forgot!" defense. Even more importantly, the story confirms that the Trumpers were looking to the Russians for campaign help. In other words: Collusion.

Okay, I hope that's the last of the updates for this day. Now let's take a look at the long and meaty post I originally wrote. It's still relevant, despite all that has occurred during the past few hours.

* * *

Sorry I was away. But I'm also a bit sorry to come back. It was nice to spend a day making what I humorously call art.

The big news, which you probably know by now, is this NYT piece
Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.
The Republicans, of course, are pretending that this business is a nothingburger. Whenever you hear them whistling, you know that a very dark shadow has fallen on them. Even if we stipulate for the sake of argument that the meeting was innocent, we still have the fact that Kushner did not mention this meeting on his security application; the current revelation comes from Kushner's "revised" paperwork. (Martha Stewart should have demanded her right to give the FBI a "revised" interview.)

You know damned well that if any Democrat had lied so flagrantly on those forms, the right would scream to have said Democrat jailed. They would never allow any Dem to get away with this "revised" nonsense.

At any rate, the meeting was not innocent.
The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.
Adoptions of Russian children? Ah! That brings up a fascinating matter -- one which we will discuss in the second half of this post. Stay tuned. Meanwhile...
Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.
A friend tells me that Vladimir Satanovich said not long ago: "We don't have the death penalty in Russia. know..." (Voice trails off; looks at feet.)

Magnitsky was found pummeled and bloody. Everyone knows what happened. Apparently, Jared Kushner doesn't care.

If this story is a nothingburger, then why does it make me want to vomit? The presence of that lawyer clearly indicates that Team Trump and Team Putin were discussing a quid-pro-quo. Kushner did not "forget" -- he was covering up a criminal conspiracy.

Lock him up.

"No evidence" my ass. Personally, I have freakin' had it with the "no evidence of collusion" mantra that we keep hearing, sometimes from non-rightwing sources. The people who spew such nonsense keep moving the evidentiary goalposts: No amount of proof will ever suffice.

This TPM comment has it exactly right:
Honest question: Can anyone think of a more blatant, obvious criminal conspiracy than this one? You've got Russian contacts boiling out of the air vents and swinging from the chandeliers, you've got on-the-record stuff about Russian money, you've got shady deals from Manhattan to Kazakhstan, you've got the motive, means, and opportunity, the quid and the quo, and even the things that are missing like the taxes and the oopsie-forgotten contacts so comprehensively and feloniously missing from the SF 86 docs tend to form a hole that spells out the words "We did it" like a stencil. Boss Tweed was pretty up-front about the corruption, and Al Capone, and the Duvaliers, I guess. But given the scope, consequences, and sheer thumb-suckingly dopey obviousness of it all, I just can't think of a comparison.
Russian adoptions and a creepy cult. If you want more background on Putin's retaliatory action, first go here. That New Yorker piece is terrific, but it leaves out an important matter: The cult connection.

Bear with me, folks: We're going to have to get through a fair amount of backstory before we get to the Russian stuff. But it's interesting backstory.

Last night while making (alleged) art, I kept my ears busy with some goofy podcasts and YouTube videos -- lightweight stuff, nothing too "hurty-brainy" (as we say in this household). I stumbled across this audio piece (embedded below), which recounts the experiences of people who have survived cults.

The first story, taken from an easily-found online source, comes from a victim of a "Christian" cult run by a predatory monster with the delightfully appropos name of Bill Gothard. His main ultra-fundamentalist organization is called Advanced Training Institute, or ATI; he also heads up something called the Institute in Basic Life Principles. You may have learned about him previously due to his links to Mike Huckabee and the Duggars -- not to mention Sonny Perdue, Trump's Agriculture Secretary. For a good introduction to Gothardism, go here, then go here.

Finally, for the political part of the story, go here.
When raised in ATI, political involvement is strongly encouraged as a means to further Gothard's teachings. It was also highly effective. With an army of tens of thousands of homeschooled individuals, indoctrinated to follow Gothard's every command, the potential reach of Gothard's message seems limitless from within. Gothard's annual seminars for the general public, Basic Life Principles, had already amassed millions of attendees, many of whom served and continue to serve in US government in some capacity.

If there's one thing that homeschoolers have, it's a lot of time on their hands. They can devote endless numbers of hours to any given passion: and politics is no exception. In fact, Christian right homeschoolers were directly credited with helping the GOP win 11 senate seats in the the 2016 election. 11 seats. Homeschooling children and adolescents directly contacted over 650,000 prospective voters, working tirelessly to help the GOP win the 2016 election.
Generation Joshua, the organization that trains homeschooling children as young as 11 years old to help influence votes is not directly affiliated with Gothard, but it is known for its extremely conservative views and is considered as part of the same line of beliefs as Gothard's teachings.
Gothard understood the many benefits of making government ties in order to further his mission, and how to use his homeschooling workforce to further the cause. He worked furtively to create connections within government. He did this, in part, by developing a seemingly-harmless program called Character First, which teaches "49 ways to love God and others," promoting character qualities like attentiveness and diligence.
Over the years, this program has been integrated into over 100,000 government and classroom training initiatives, both in the United States and around the globe. (Character First no longer promotes its affiliation with IBLP, and its informational pamphlet directly denies any link to religion and overtly claims that it is not a form of indoctrination.)

The list of Gothard-influenced political leaders is long.
I encourage you to read the rest.

In that sad and horrifying "survivor's story" (as recounted in the video embedded below), one sentence popped out at me: The survivor says that Gothard's cult maintains an institute in Indiana or Illinois where they keep "Russian orphans." I can only presume that these Russian kids are subjected to the same treatment received by other Gothard victims.

Probably much worse. They have no families and no way to escape.

I did more digging. It turns out that Gothard's religious cult had established a surprisingly strong presence in the old USSR not many years before the fall. Call me paranoid if you will, but there is no way -- and I mean NO FUCKING WAY -- Gothard could have done such a thing without coming to the CIA's attention. It's quite likely that he worked closely with CIA; at the very least, Agency personnel would have sought to infiltrate the operation.

(Someone should write a book about spies operating under religious cover. Suggested title: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spook. There's a book which touches on "paramilitary activity" within the Gothard movement. Also see this informative Kos post on Dominionism and its military ties.)

I'd love to know the true story about Bill Gothard's Russian adventures. Undoubtedly, those connected to the cult will tell us that it was all very innocent -- but I'm not sure that I'd feel inclined to believe the blandishments of anyone who comes out of the ATI movement. These guys make the Scientologists seem comparatively groovy.

My questions now: Where in Indiana or Illinois were these Russian orphans kept? (The cult operates a "Verity College" in Indianapolis, but I don't think that those buildings ever saw service as an orphanage.) Under what conditions did those children live? Is the operation ongoing? What happens to these orphans? When Putin laid down his 2009 ban on Russian adoptions, was he specifically targeting Gothard's operation?

Folks -- there's a story here.

I don't yet know what that story might be. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that there's a story here. I can feel it. Can't you?

People should stop being rude about "home schoolers" in general, or home educators as many prefer to be called. They do NOT all have a lot of time on their hands, nor are they all right-wing or religious. I home educated my offspring and I'm neither. It required a huge amount of work over many years. Strikes me as remarkable that many who like to view themselves as anti-indoctrination and anti-Big Brother don't have bigger qualms about sending their children to the indoctrinatory capitalist sausage-machine called "school".

Anyway...a Kazakh connection, right? Felix Sater (Chabadnik) and Viktor Khrapunov.

I wonder whether this guy will turn up in the story: Alexander Mashkevitch.

He's not Kazakh (he's Jewish), and he's not from Kazakhstan (he's from Kyrgyzstan), but he was and quite possibly still is the main money man in Kazakhstan, owning about a quarter of industry IIRC and closely associated with the dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev. The last I heard of Mashkevitch, he was being referred to as a "London-based Israeli".

There are an awful lot of mineral resources in Kazakhstan, including oil and gas.

If anyone knows where to get hold of Nazarbayev's son-in-law's book "Godfather-in-law"...
Thank you for the ties to the homeschooling freaks, wow!
Sonny Perdue is at Agriculture, not Education.

The US and western media have been very shouty about opposing the Dima Yakovlev Act. (Dima was a Russian boy who was caused to die as a result of atrocious parenting by US adopters). Except that they don't call it that. They call it the "Anti-Magnitzky Act". Both the Economist and the New York Times have enthusiastically reported a reference to it as "Herod's Law". (Get it? It's only retaliatory and it's heartless and wicked. No problem here. Move along.) MI6's long-time friends at Amnesty International have also denounced it.

(It's all right for Amnesty to talk about the Kincora Boys' Home in the 1970s, but they seem to be staying away from the Haut de la Garenne case in Jersey - and from where that leads - while as far as I am aware their interest in revealing information about the organ trade seem to be limited to China.)

Partly the western media's angle is dictated by the propaganda need to oppose how the Russian law restricts the actions of the CIA and MI6 using western "NGOs" to destabilise Russia in association with anti-Putin exiled billionaire oligarchs as part of the already-begun psychological warfare side of WW3. Which actions have for the most part been dismally unsuccessful, nationalistic morale in Russia being far higher than it is in the US or Britain.

Needless to say, all of the governments are totally cynical.

So are the exiled mafia oligarchs such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Leonid Nevzlin who for PR reasons have long talked about helping orphans.

One person's "international adoption programme" is another's "trafficking".

How long until the Russian adoption story connects not just with high-level paedophile abuse and murder but also with the organ trade?
Jesus. Did I write Education? I did.

I've been making WAY too many errors like that. Seriously, I ought to be whipped.

Thanks. I've changed that sentence.

B, I don't know where the adoption story is going to go. My Spidey sense is tingling like hell, but right now I can't say that it links up in any way with pedophilia or blackmail or...anything.

But gaw-DAMN, there seems to be something dark and nasty lurking in the shadows here. Why would a religious cult with political links (and likely spook links) be bringing Russian orphans into the US? Wouldn't it have made more sense -- in economic terms, in practical terms, in cultural terms -- to set up an orphanage in Russia?
Here's an investigative story on a Gothard center in Indianapolis involving child abuse.

Dark Secrets, WTHR 13 Indianapolis

Also info from a site run by people who escaped Gothard's cult.

To Russia With Love:

Great post!

Boston Boomer, Skydancing Blog
Thank you so much, Boston.

I don't know where this orphan thing is going to go, but there seems to be something real here. Something odd and disturbing.

We're being told that the Russian lawyer who visited Jared and Junior was trying to restore the right of Americans to adopt Russian children. But why would Putin want that? Such adoptions were incredibly unpopular in Russia. And why on earth would the Trump people care about adoptions one way or the other?

It just doesn't make sense.
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