Neoliberalism Follies, Part IV: Credit Scores

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)Banking394443_738618131769_580483637_n

My knowledge of the history of credit is rather limited, which is something I discover at a greater scope and in more dimensions daily. I have read a number of business and finance books and yet examining the personalized ramifications of it all never did appeal to me because I have always been consumed by wishing to not have any debt.

I financed my bachelor’s degree in the US and master’s degree in Canada, as well as advancement or continuing education certificates by saving from earnings and then paying by cash or check VISA card from my financial institution. When I overheard current colleagues in Kansas speaking about point reward systems with their American Express and Wells Fargo VISA cards, I began applying for these cards and was systematically declined for all cards that I applied for. Another friend and colleague advised me to visit (a resource that has proved to be indispensable – and as luck would have it, free) and it was there that I learned that my score was 636. In the United States, the credit score system ranges from 300 to 850. An industry standard I have found indicates that under the score of 640, one will have great difficulty getting an unsecured card (one which does not have some kind of deposit for collateral). In my case, I have no demerits or negative remarks in the factors leading to my final score – it is a matter of not having utilities or loans in my name. In effect, I do not exist in the credit system.

I did believe that I would be able to get an unsecured (no collateral down) credit card through my bank. What they offered me after 15 years of having significant deposits in two accounts was to place $2,000 in a 2-year Certificate of Deposit (Term Deposit) at 0.3% interest, a form of security, and then I could graduate to an unsecured card. I felt very slighted by this proposal, so I instead went with a CapitalOne MasterCard, which allowed for me to place a $99 refundable deposit for a time until my credit score may build up. This card is noted for reporting to major credit agencies in the US, and after several months to a year of paying down each payment monthly, many users report their credit score surging up by 100 to 150 points.

I have always said that the only thing good credit does is enable you to go into more debt. However, gaming the system is crucial to survival in an era where virtual money will continue to play a larger role in our lives. It takes reading 19th century novels to fully understand how creditors operate – the severity of the situation has been downplayed in our modern language. Wealthy individuals and organizations flush with cash can get financing for free or even get the subsidy of governments and then as you work down to those with less clout and information at their disposal, the costs multiply. The best way of looking at these figures is like this. If you have an individual who makes $2,000 a month and is able to save $200 a month, but then they experience an increase in fees from a service or utility they use by $50, their rate of savings has plunged by 25%. An individual who makes $2,500 and who saves $700 on the other hand would have a savings rate dip of 7% under these circumstances, and may also have more resources to offset this other loss.

What I have learned from is that a person with a small income should consider using credit on a very small, manageable scale in order to have a war chest at their disposal in an emergency. My scoring situation is still ongoing, but I have learned that be utilizing (using) between 1 and 30% of my available credit and paying off the balance, the score should increase more quickly. I have borrowed $2,000 from another bank I have worked with for a six month term and set up automatic payments so that the score can be boosted further.

It seems like a Kafkaesque situation that there are punitive structures in place for individuals that pay cash or do not have debt. Any loan or credit card application does not question your higher education background or have any way of measuring outright cash purchases, so it is my belief that the scoring system is not designed to truly reflect one’s ability to pay a debt, but rather 1) to see how strong of a consumer you are and show your attractiveness as a big spender, and 2) create a situation whereby one is rewarded for moving away from cash. We will continue to see a war on cash, portraying it as a vehicle for tax evasion, money laundering, and a danger to carry around for fear of being robbed – all of which is true, but bear in mind that it does not come with the same administrative costs and fees that credit cards do for the merchants.

My personal aim is to get the rewards bearing cards, returning 1 to 6% on my purchases, but only to use the cards with large players and chains, while sticking to cash with local and small businesses, giving them a much needed advantage in the neoliberal economic model.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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Neoliberalism Follies, Part III: Fascism by Way of Cappuccinos and Lattes

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

I do feel guilty. Earlier this year I purchased a hand pump frother with solid investment CAM00769returns in mind.

All through undergraduate university years I never was a coffee drinker, but suddenly in South Korea in 2008 I found that I needed to take caffeine to the next level in order to not literally fall asleep while teaching English pre-school in the morning. Cafes are quite ubiquitous in the Seoul area, and I soon moved from high fat, high sugar, high calorie frappuccino drinks to cappuccinos and lattes. Standard drip coffee is quite rare in South Korea, so I wound up spending about $4.50 per day most days on these elaborate drinks. This habit continued for a few years while traveling and relocating to Canada and later the United States. When my income contracted, I did make it a less frequent habit. Over the years, however, I probably sunk $6000 in cafe spending, though this offered sanctuary, social outings, and complimentary WiFi.

Flash forward to 2015 and I decided I wanted to decentralize this process a bit and make my own frothy espresso-based drinks. The frother, a pump that I insert milk into and push about 20 times, and then stick into the microwave for about 20 seconds, set me back $21 including tax. Faced with savings interest rates less than 1% per year, I calculated that I would save about $300 a year working with raw materials, which would be like a 3% return on $10,000 locked into a certificate of deposit (term deposit) – a figure unmatched in today’s safe investments environment.

The thing about low interest rates and economies of scale is that they do induce a type of corporate fascism in that there are no stable returns and thus the people with a bit of foresight and discretionary income have to sit on their money. Money that does not CAM00767circulate brings the economy down, particularly in a consumer-based economy. Therefore, on one hand I am being “forced” to austerity that hurts small, local business in order to get myself ahead, but on the other, that does not really take the responsibility away from me to make sure that I support local business or labor at large.

The compromise has been to go to cafes just as frequently as before, but save the more elaborate drinks for home, but order the most basic filter coffee at cafes when going out and still tip the barista/institution the same amount – typically $1.

How are you handling these daily, seemingly trivial, consumer Faustian choices?

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

See Neoliberalism Follies, Part II: No Newspapers in Montreal

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Global Economic Calamity and Rising Above

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)028

There is a major global economic correction on the way to hit sometime between now and the US presidential election in late 2016. For most people, but probably most of all the self-employed, there has not been a full return to normalcy after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis onset, but there has been considerable relief for many. As was revealed to me in a regression last year, however, I do feel that retail space in North America will experience serious suffering in the next five years. Speaking on pure empirical terms, the signs leading up to 2007-2009’s onset of problems are all present once again: much higher stock market reads, a strong real estate market, lower official unemployment rates, and yet many mergers and business closures going on. What will make this next round particularly catastrophic however is that there is not much more ammunition to deploy in regards to stimulus money printing, lowering interest rates that are either at or near zero, and with debt figures that are higher (both personally and at the sovereign debt or federal level). The memories of the last crash are so fresh that people will be much more prone to panic and despair this time.

Greece will publicly begin its withdrawal from the eurozone this week (right now the banks and stock market are expected to be closed) and the country will likely shift more of its orientation toward China and Russia, though the former may have too many problems at home to help out. Australia, New Zealand, China, and South Korea, all up until recent times locations with high interest rates (a sign of financial health) have all slashed their interest rates drastically in the last 18 months for a variety of reasons (mainly to counter flagging exports or keep their real estate bubbles going) – and so in others words, there are no safe havens showing up this time with the emerging economies and BRICS being in worse straits than the US, Japan, and UK. Currency war techniques are also much more ubiquitous now than in 2008, further complicating how to move and plan financially (I expect a repeat of the US dollar, Swiss franc, and Norwegian krone exploding in value; but this time it may put the US dollar under too much pressure and finally end USD hegemony). I do believe Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Germany this past week is some kind of gesture to try to keep affiliation with this country a priority while it may be tempted form stronger alliances with Russia and China and BRICS going forward.

With all that said, hard times can bring out the best in people and some progressive initiatives could potentially come about in this phase. I ask that everyone in these last months or year of general economic prosperity use this time to build up their cash reserves, and if you are particularly well-positioned, think in advance of what kind of deals you might want to snap up when misfortune potentially takes hold. We must not lose our moral compass, but at the same time, we all need to be nimble, swift, and adaptable when another shift takes place – the main key now will be to somehow get on the winning side of automation. Above all, as I have personally learned, we have to not let sentiment guide too much of our decision-making in a business and investment context.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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Neoliberalism Follies, Part II: No Newspapers in Montreal

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)001

With this series, I define a “neoliberalism folly” as a situation where a more efficient method or practice comes into play that has some liberating aspects to it for the end user, but the price to society and the economy at large also outweighs the benefits.

I visited Montreal for a little under a week to revisit my past of living and working part-time in the city in 2012, and found not so many structural changes, but a world transforming as a consequence of the smartphone. In 2012, there were at least 10 places I can recall physical, printed newspapers available for sale (primarily at dépanneurs, a pedestrian community type of convenience store) in the neighborhood I lived in near Concordia University en route to Westmount, the primarily English-speaking well-heeled neighborhood toward the West Island. However, with visiting in May 2015, I was only able to find one location offering newspapers for sale, the Pharmaprix (known as Shoppers Drug Mart throughout anglo Canada, similar to a Walgreens or CVS Pharmacy in the US) on Saint Catherine Street, the main drag or High Street. Canada has a number of high quality newspapers, The Globe and Mail, National Post, and Montreal Gazette is another local English newspaper from the city that I follow from their Facebook page. While Canadian newspapers, at least in English, follow a less sensationalized pattern than US ones usually do, I do feel like they retain a quality of journalism perhaps higher than what you find Stateside.

When inquiring with the dépanneur owners, mostly Asian or from North Africa, they said they could not bear the risk of having the newspapers on site because they no longer sell in their stores because “everyone” is now getting their news from their smartphones. That said, I have heard from a variety of sources from varying professions and perspectives that print ads in newspapers are still perhaps the most effective campaigns a company or retailer can invest in. Perhaps home subscribers fiscally see the newspapers through and have predictable enough consumer habits to be reliable investments for the advertisers. But for young, urban, scholarly types, what will be the most influential methods of pushing forward breakthrough products?

The question at hand is a cost-benefits analysis of perhaps greener practices involved with not printing so much newspaper that will be thrown away or recycled in a matter of days versus the quality interactions purchasing a newspaper can create, as well as the reliable segment of income this product used to offer newsstands and dépanneurs. This may save consumers a dollar or two a day but what other groups or products will capture this money in a low-interest and soft retail environment?

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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Remembering Lisa Falour

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

Taken from Bossa Nova Beatniks' Facebook page.

Taken from Bossa Nova Beatniks’ Facebook page.

Many of you will fondly remember the participation and remarks of Lisa Baumgardner Falour on this website and from YouTube. I had a strong premonition as January 2015 wore on that she had passed, and sadly, to the best of my knowledge, it appears she did die in her home in early January according to fineillstartagoddamnblog, kitwenclas, Club 57 The Book, and Bossa Nova Beatniks. She died at the age of 57.

An artist and philosopher, among many other credentials and talents, her Bikini Girl zines have been shooting up in price, now showing in the $125.00 range and showing up in higher positions on Google. Her two primary places of living were in New York City in both the Lower East Side and Brooklyn and later what she referred to as a Paris suburban ghetto, the city of St. Denis, France. She was a very strong influence on my own activities and assisted many who frequent this website in one way or another, building vast social media networks, particularly on her YouTube channels slobomotion and cutecatfaith, and a lisafalour Daily Motion account, all of which I recommend that you visit for highly useful insights and guilty pleasure, non-politically correct humor. Chemtrails, abductions, financial wizardry and crimes, spousal relations and tribulations, and more than anything, her experiences as an expatriate in France are the main subjects. Lisa Falour released well over 2,000 videos on her channels from 2010 to 2014. There are so many that are useful to watch, but I have selected several here that may be particularly poignant, amusing, or informative for you. Rest in Peace our friend, and to those reading, spread the good word of an amazing artist who needs to be researched and remembered.

“Bondage Model in a Haunted Apartment”


“Lisa Falour’s Bizarre Expat Exploits – France”





“Immigration is Traumatic!”



“Losing Everything … (Bus Ride, France)”

“ — Part 1”

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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2015: Debts, Miracles, and Good Conscience

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

This is the third year I have done something like a tarot State of the Union address or summary and the fourth I have assigned a theme. 2012 was The Year of the Opiates, a series of media sensations and euphoria to see the US through a presidential election with faith the in the system in tact. 2013 was The Year of Deconstruction, a period where institutions were upended and structures were questioned. 2014 was, to my estimation through last year’s reading, The Year of Self-Assuredness. The previous year was fairly robust in economic performance and the mood was more optimistic than in recent years. For 2015 I really had to focus on the experience of people in North America and do my best to accommodate Europe and Australia at the same time, because our experiences are more divergent this year than they have been in the last decade with the US prospering more than the rest of the pack for the first time in many years.

Once again, the sentiment in the media now is divisiveness, terror, danger! But the tone has changed as the commodities of oil and gas are more readily available.

The prayer I prefaced this tarot reading with proceeded as follows once I had earlier done a brief reading to determine that our theme this year is Debts, Miracles, and Good Conscience (determined by III: The Empress and Five of Pentacles):

Basel, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

Dear God: With the theme of “Debts, Miracles, and Good Conscience” going forward for most people in Western countries reading this summary, what is the most helpful thing for them to know in 2015? Please bless us with useful, constructive information from truthful, benevolent sources.

PAST, PRESENT: Nine of Wands, Two of Cups

This tells me that the fundamentals of developed countries are actually sound. We are equipped with everything we need generally. The long-term picture has always shown improvements and the standards of living are still good when looking at conditions one decade at a time. The Two of Cups points to more actual unity and agreement on the ground than we acknowledge. This also alludes to, on a more negative outlook, the prevalence of mergers and standardization. There is a blandness in the uniformity of some of our thought processes and mundane, bourgeois dealings.

FUTURE/APPLICATIONS: Queen of Swords, rev.; Six of Cups

The West must not throw its weight around. We are becoming less liked, and spreading a version of darkness. There is a bit of a loss of the “illuminated” quality coming from the West. People are having a more difficult time communicating effectively. Also, there is a bit too much nostalgia taking place while people seek stability in rapid change. This will be reflected with a very strong interest in the 1960s and 1970s in terms of fashion and outlook (some of the political upheaval of the day).

Six of Cups also speaks to a bit of indulgence and naivete. I take this to mean that the Western bubble of relative security and material comfort is not going to be upset for most people this year. We have been granted an extension.

Are there any major epidemics we need to worry about?

FUTURE: Five of Cups, rev.; Page of Wands

This pairing refers what has already been suffered in regards to the ebola scare. We are not really living up to our health potential, in fact, a general quiet crisis is cresting right now. We are turning a corner slightly as the worst figures are peaking at the moment since many people are taking positive steps and the availability of better food has improved in most urban areas where the majority of people live. The Page of Wands refers to hype and light on facts. There may be many announcements or promises of cures this year, but they do not have efficacy or real results for the most part. I do not see biological attacks as a big threat this year, which surprised me a bit.

Will a war with Russia kick off this year?

FUTURE: XIX: The Sun; The Emperor, rev.

I believe The Sun this time represents how western countries see themselves, as the Allies or the superior virtue in the world. I see the term “Union” being used more frequently, starting this year, but not to represent the EU or trade unions necessarily. I believe this term is being reassigned as those two institutions, or institution types, are partially dismantled. This card also refers to, again, the masses not really being affected by geopolitics, or getting benefits from them, such as the cheap gasoline while Russia is subjected to various degrees of economic warfare.

The appearance of the Emperor in reverse tells a lot. Default, stubborn leadership on all sides, and it could represent the declining popularity in Russia of Vladimir Putin. He will have to make other members of the government more visible to take the attention off of himself. The view of Putin as overly rigid and obsessed with power will take hold more. While the population will quiet down in Russia to some degree (at least in the capital), people will get along with their business and not engage politically for the most part… however, this is something of a lame duck or ineffective term for Putin and a lot of his peripheral support will lose interest.

I do not see a war, which also surprised me to some extent.

What is going to happen to Australia this year?

I asked this question because I see this country as one that successfully held onto high wages, high interest rates and returns on investment, and one with the most rapid dismantling of these foundations. The terror events, and even more the reactions to these events and engagement with Russia have been uncharacteristically aggressive. Also, I have reason from past life regressions to believe that Australia will not remain a sovereign nation this century.

FUTURE: Seven of Wands, Ace of Wands, rev.

The struggling and sputtering of the ideals and magic of “The Lucky Country.” This is an earnest, productive nation at a hard turning point, but it is not a hopeless situation. However, many federal goals and aspirations will fall far short this year. There is not any real leadership or genuine steward to see things through. Through very strenuous organization and sticking to values of strong work ethics and tolerance, this hurdle can be overcome but I think there is a sentiment of not reaching full potential that will likely plague the year in Australia. Once again, a new government will be formed – I think December 2015 or January 2016.

Are there any interesting trends or is any excitement afoot?

FUTURE: XVIII The Moon, rev.; King of Wands, rev.

Lots of questioning of values and ethical shifts. “Why do we always do it this way?” I also think lack of loyalty or permanency is a feature of how things are going. In this case, it makes people vulnerable to intolerance and all kinds of negative bias. There will be some spectacular scary media stories this year that keep people in the highly suspicious and paranoid modes we have lived through for the last 14-15 years. There can be a thrill and amusement to it, but the Moon reversed suggests to take control and be your own moral compass. Self-control and an approach of social inclusion will be rewarded and appreciated in the long run and in the afterlife.

Will any countries break away from the EU?

FUTURE: XIII: Death, Three of Wands, rev.

Yes. I would not have suspected that anything could break this now forced union but yes. Death symbolizes renewal, break from past patterns, and an inevitable turn. The EU itself is not breaking up now, but I think a provisional break off will happen for Greece based on what I see here and it seems like perhaps one other country to the East – though movement of goods will remain in tact and less traumatic calculations of debt repayment will be decided upon (for once). All kinds of avoidance of core dysfunction and disagreement in the European will be employed because I feel like at the highest levels, it is known that the future of Europe is quite different from the rest of the developed world – in the distant future I see a very localized type of many cultures, eschewing of some aspects of globalization, and much more administration at the municipal or “county” level. There will be many rather high-profile blow ups exposing abuse of expenses and I think France and Italy will have some unrest against the centralization of power, while Spain may be quieter this year with a noteworthy start to economic recovery.

Will the economic boom in the US continue?

FUTURE: Ten of Wands, Eight of Cups

We are coming near the apex of the bubble which will start popping in places this year. The Ten of Wands is associated with a tremendous amount of pressure building. This year will see the investment side of things start experiencing distress due to overvaluation and too much idealism, but it will not affect the population so much this year. Much like 2007-2008, unemployment will continue to go down for the better part of a year.

The perceived abundance in non-renewable energy and the political makeup will, for a time, delay better investments for the long-term interest of the environment and even equity or value of assets as people do not think far ahead. Eight of Cups speaks of environmental problems, particularly with water. Good opportunities are missed and some visible irreversible environmental damage will occur this year in the US.

Taken at the site of a scene of THE SOUND OF MUSIC in Salzburg, Austria. You never know what great things are in store once you’re out of the ornamental tunnel.

There is far more to be said and to be analyzed but far too much material to cover this year. With the tumult of automation and the speed of life picking up, there will be a strong element of nostalgia. When many of you come home in the evening, you pause at the front door and lean against the door in relief that your sanctuary is in tact and a constant in your life. We are spared any catastrophic upheaval yet another year, and several major crises are averted, which many will attribute to the supernatural or their own resolve. There is so much to be grateful for and your resources are both numerous and near, within and external. The greatest combined task is to set your own agenda and to be resourceful, open, and yet retain more than a modicum of loyalty – more for your own sense of worth and self-assessment than anything.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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All Eyes on Putin and Russia: Encounters on the Ground

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

It was a great discovery to have my eyes land upon the relatively new book by Marc Bennetts Kicking the Kremlin: Russia’s New Dissidents and the Battle to Topple Putin at my local public library. While I do not follow the news religiously with a discerning eye for legislative procedure, I do my best to keep a good read on a situation in a country of interest. I suspect that in 2015 Russia will be a still more enlarged topic everywhere from between friends to academic circles. Ever since the banks in Cyprus were forced to tax their general savings accounts in May 2013, I have been watching for cues for other western countries to start putting pressure on Putin, Russia, and Russians, and this has come to two boiling points in 2014 with Ukraine and now pushing the prices of oil down to six-year lows. I will return to this subject more with the 2015 tarot analysis next week.


St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

I do not want to give the impression at all that I think Vladimir Putin is a benevolent figure or to give the so-called oligarchs unfettered access to resources and markets. I also had a rather dark experience myself when visiting in 2005. However, it seems most reasonable to take these two items into consideration: when it comes to corruption and above all deceiving the public, we could probably benefit from looking at every leader and administration as a series of line items rather than a total package. If Putin or Barack Obama takes a negative action, call them on it, but strictly stick to the fact and do not try to discredit everything they do or the entire administration. Likewise, if something negative happens, it is not necessarily the fault of the team in power. There are forces in trends that are extremely difficult to overcome. The second important factor is that even if there is a nasty coup, to some extent we get the leader that reflects our true nature as a collective, or the leader that fills a particular need that we think we have. Once the administration or regime has taken over, it’s often hard to undo, and there is the acerbic juxtaposition of most leadership situations then not representing the majority at all, but at the same time, they will get re-elected again and again because the electorate is scared of worse to come or the establishment controls the narrative to the extent that nothing else can be imagined.


The vehicles for Putin, cabinet, and higher level support staff at the Kremlin.

I have not finished reading Kicking the Kremlin, but the means by which Putin seized power, as told in the book anyway, are far more systematic and vicious than I fully understood – environmental activists opposing some of the rapid development having their children seized by child protective services, liberal use of batons to be cracked on protestors’ heads, busing in skinheads from the provinces to intimidate and threaten dissenting Muscovites, arresting and sometimes possibly ordering the assassinations of journalists not loyal to the Kremlin… it goes on and on. However, Bennetts still writes that Putin may be the most lenient leader in the history of the USSR and Russia. Particularly in Putin’s first term in the early 2000s, the rising economic prospects of the nation were greatly appreciated by the population and most were willing to look the other way from any kind of opposition.

Upon arrival in Moscow at the train station, nearly everyone was wearing black.

It was right around this time, right after the beginning of his second term, that I visited St. Petersburg and Moscow with a study group in 2005. It is very difficult to encapsulate the spirit of a time and culture in a short passage, but the New New Russia in its two principal cities was a bit like the Wild West from my limited visitor’s perspective. The first impressions largely revealed a surly way about a lot of transactions (visa stamps, ordering food, checking into a hotel, and so forth) that cannot fully be discomfort or resentment with differences in language if one is not able to speak Russian, however, this is coupled with a frankness that Americans in particular are not used to (see The Evil Eye is Not the Stink Eye). Relations between the US and Russia were particularly good at the time, at least as far as the public was concerned, and Putin had given the impression of his approval for George W. Bush in a recent visit, so there was not an anti-American or anti-English sentiment at the time (I would fully expect that as of this writing in late 2014). There was a certain climate of “hustling” that could be seen everywhere with vendors on foot rushing to our tour bus with each stop, prostitutes camped in the lobby of both of our hotels (many who studied with me that year will remember their stupefied reaction when I bought each of them a flower in an attempt to break the cynical atmosphere). Our guide indicated that the previous year that he had come to St. Petersburg to that same hotel, one of the former students from our school was working as a call girl in the hotel because she had secured two regular clients she met twice a week and charged 150 for each interaction, thus bringing in $40,000USD per year in those days, much more than she could earn in any other profession. The income disparities were quite obvious with this backdrop, not to mention an intense paranoia with any type of loitering especially in the capital, as they were still reeling from the Beslan Massacre that left 334 dead the previous fall, Russia’s own traumatic 9/11 event.

Most dramatically, a few of my peers were held up at gunpoint by the police or people posing as police when they had hailed a taxi. Three of them capitulated out of fear and handed over approximately $200 each, while the fourth insisted that he be taken to the police station to report them, a threat that worked, incredibly. This fourth person left the group in disgust and ventured into the Moscow night alone. My memory may be distorted but his father was in the CIA or some kind of Special Branch and his outlook was such that he had a bit more knowledge of the rules of engagement with brutish transactions at the street level. We later learned that police officers made the equivalent of $300 a month (corroborated in Kicking the Kremlin, unchanged several years later) and this kind of tactic was sometimes a necessary supplementary income. We were all, even at 21- and CAM0070322-years-old, familiar with the business culture of the Putin era, joking about oligarchs and such, but the extremes of propaganda versus the actual human condition can only be understood when facing them yourself: a vigorous campaign to bring the Olympics in 2012 to Moscow was everywhere, but the public was very much against it due to the expenses, and though this city had the most expensive commercial real estate in the world, most people were getting by on less than $1,000 a month, with long commutes to the suburban highrises.

Though I expect the middle class has gotten a bit more prosperous in these ten years, that particular combination of rising prospects coupled with downturns being easily attributed to the activities of foreign powers (in their case, with the commodities trade, particularly with oil) makes a population vulnerable to nasty nationalist propaganda and strong support for a dictator. Again and again we hear that Russians want a strong leader, and when Putin makes aggressive remarks in response to actions by the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Israel in particular, his popularity figures increase. My unsolicited advise is no matter what the long-term goals of Western private interests are, it is better for the safety of the world if there is more delicate rhetorical kowtowing practiced in order to negotiate the most amicable situations, even if a fair bit of corruption persists. All of the tactics and conditions described here from Russia are actively in use in the US, but to a lesser and more subtle, perhaps covert, extent. My hopes are that a nice balance can be struck whereby the intellectual capital of a great nation can coexist with the big-scale business interests that also bring the nation prestige.

John Lett (About) (Sessions) (tarotworldtour YouTube)

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