RUSSIAN REALPOLITIK

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Red NoticeRed Notice

Written by: Bill Browder

Narration by:  Adam Grupper

WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)
WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)

If only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true, the realpolitik of Vladimir Putin shocks the senses.  “Red Notice” reflects on the diplomacy of Russian power.

In his book, “Red Notice”, Browder tells a story that implies Putin is a thug.   Browder infers that Putin will lie, steal, and murder with the brutality of Joseph Stalin, the cunning of Machiavelli, and the tenacity of Genghis Kahn.  Browder believes Putin uses his position as President to acquire wealth as second only to his desire for power.

Acquiring wealth is something Browder knows quite a lot about.  William Browder is an investment fund manager/partner who ventures into Russia at the beginning of glasnost.  Russian businesses and industries became private rather than state-owned enterprises at the end of the 20th century.

Beginning in 1996, Browder and his investors assemble a capital investment fund worth billions of dollars in 2005.  Browder began the fund with other people’s money.   The fund becomes known as Hermitage Capital Management.  As a result of his analysis, Browder’s investment group buys Russian assets at steeply undervalued prices.  He earns over two hundred million dollars per year for himself in 2006 and 2007.

BROWDER’S STORY OF HERMITAGE CAPITAL: 

In 2005, Browder is deported by the Russian government.  In 2006, Browder is black listed by the Russian government as a “threat to national security”.  In March of 2013, the bank that serves as trustee and manager of Hermitage Capital Management announces it will cease funding operations in Russia.  Browder gleefully points out in “Red Notice” that all of Hermitage Capital Management assets had been surreptitiously withdrawn in 2007.  Browder is presently being sued in absentia by the Russian Government for tax evasion.  Therein lays a tale of suspicious deaths, human greed, and conspiracy.

Browder assembles a great deal of evidence that suggests two people are murdered; that murder’ accomplices are paid a great deal of money, and that President Putin either sets the example for thuggish behavior or is complicit in a scheme that defrauds the Russian people.

DUTCH JOURNALISM’S INVESTIGATION OF THE RISE OF PUTIN:

SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA--WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)
SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA–WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)

The two alleged murders are Sergie Magnitsky and Alexander Perepilichnyy.  Magnitsky dies in the custody of the Russian government.  He is identified as an attorney in Browder’s book but research suggests he is not licensed as an attorney in Russia.  Magnitsky discovers a scheme by Russian government employees to recover taxes paid by Browder’s companies in Russia.  The scheme is based on charges that the companies that paid the taxes were illegally pilfered by Browder’s investment company.  The companies were transferred, without Browder’s knowledge or authorization, to shell company Russian owners.  These owners are found to be two officers in the Russian secret police.  The new owners suggest the companies they own have been pilfered and that they should be reimbursed for taxes that were paid to the government because of Browder’s fraudulent transfer of worthless assets.

Magnitsky and two Russian lawyers present evidence to the Russian government about the fraud being perpetrated by the two Russian officers.   The two Russian lawyers decide to flee their country when they believe they are going to be arrested.  Magnitsky believes facts speak for themselves; that he is safe, and the government will recognize and arrest the real criminals.  Magnitsky is arrested, beaten, and dies in prison.  The two officers, Artem Kuznetxov, and Pavel Karpov remain free.

MAJOR KARPOV EXPOSE:

ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)
ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)

Alexander Perepilichny was a Russian business man who defected from Russia in 2009.  Perepilichny dies at the front door of his residence in the UK.  Magnitsky was a forensic accountant in Russia.  Living in England in 2012, he contacts Browder to say he has evidence of how the Moscow tax office rebated taxes to the two government officials.  Browder contacts the chief constable of Surrey in England to tell them of Perepilichny’s evidence.  Browder accuses Russian officers of fraud, costing the Russian state $230 million dollars.

Three videos of the alleged fraudsters are created as evidence of the Russian officers’ fraud.  The evidence relies on their life style versus the income they receive from the Russian government.  In Browder’s book, this evidence is overlaid with the prosecution of Russian oligarchs by Putin with the inference that those oligarchs that do not offer money to Putin are at risk of being jailed.

SYNOPSIS OF THE MAGNITSKY CASE:

“Red Notice” is a powerful statement about one man’s view of Vladimir Putin.  As noted at the beginning of this review, “if only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true…” Putin’s reputation, if not his power and wealth, are diminished.  At the same time, Browder’s ludicrously large capitalist windfall at the expense of the Russian economy, and two Russian’ deaths, does little for his reputation.

A MISOGYNIST SEA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

A Room of One’s Own

Written by: Virginia Woolf

Narration by:  Juliet Stevenson

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)

Virginia Woolf is a woman outside of time.   As Woolf implies in the early twentieth century, women are drowning in a misogynist sea.  Woolf is born when female inequality breaches the existential threat with a first wave; i.e. Women’s Suffrage in 1920.  The preeminent feminist, Betty Friedan, is just born (actually, 1921).  (Friedan later writes “The Feminine Mystique”–published in 1963.)

“A Room of One’s Own” is a contemplation on why women are underrepresented as great poets or fiction writers.  With the exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Woolf suggests there are no 19th century women renowned for fiction.  Apocryphally, the unlikely story of Lincoln saying “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War” is an apt coda for the insignificance of the public’s view of women writers.

EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HANDBOUND VOLUMES)

(As one listens to her complaint, one thinks about Emily Dickinson.  However, Dickenson did have a room of her own.)

Woolf wittily skewers male paragons of the pen and their misogynist comments about women.  She sets the table for an explanation of why there is no female Shakespeare’, erudite Johnson’, or Longfellow word smiths. 

Woolf’s point is that women had no money because they were dependent on men or family inheritance.  Often, young ladies are discouraged from college by their families who feel marriage and bearing of children are their primary duties.  Without educational support and few opportunities for gainful employment, women only had money if they inherited it or married a wealthy husband.  Without money, there is little opportunity for independence; without money, there is little chance of having “A Room of One’s Own”.

MeToo

There are many examples to support Woolf’s observation about money and the luxury of contemplation, having a room of your own.  Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life.  He had a room of his own.  In Woolf’s lifetime there were few women who had such luxury.  Have things changed?  Maybe, but #MeToo suggests women’s independence and wealth still involves misogyny.

In the last section of her lecture Woolf notes women write fiction with a mixture of public disdain and admiration.  Disdain from implied colorlessness in writing but admiration for a twist in a story that suggests a first-time female author has potential.

MISOGYNY

Misogyny still roils the sea but more women writers have a room of their own.  The second wave is forty years in the future but Friedan steadies the helm-bearing toward equality.  At $.79 cents to the dollar in the 21st century, there is still a long way to go.

The frightening prospect of a Taliban government in Afghanistan is more threatening than wage differences in the U.S. The only concession they have recently made is to ban forced marriage of women. This is not to diminish America’s misogynist history but to show how backward and unfair the world can be to women.

However, for realization of potential, Woolf suggests the author needs to have a room of her own to have time to think and reflect.  To prove Woolf’s bona fides, she ends “A Room of Her Own” with short stories.  They are beautifully written and worthy of the theme of which she writes. 

As Aristotle once said, contemplation is the highest form of activity for the soul.  Woolf implies great literature; great fiction, and poetry come from authors who have time and a room of their own.

CREATIVE ADULT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Words without Music: A MemoirWords without Music

Written by: Philip Glass

Narration by:  Lloyd James

PHILIP GLASS (AMERICAN COMPOSER)
PHILIP GLASS (AMERICAN COMPOSER)

“Words without Music” is a memoir of Philip Glass’s transformation to creative adult.  This is a journey taken by every child–with greater and lesser degrees of actualized creativity.  Glass explains how love by others transforms his life and why self-actualization is the fountain of creativity.  This is certainly not a new revelation.  Socrates, through the words of Plato, characterizes self-actualization in the dictum of “know thy self”.   Self-actualization is explained as the penultimate goal of life by Abraham Maslow.

Glass recounts his childhood with a description of his ex-Marine father, and school teacher mother.  Glass’s father is a small business man who raises his children in a rough New York neighborhood.  Strength, determination, and adventurousness come from Glass’s father.

PHILIP GLASS (WITH HIS FATHER, A RECORD STORE OWNER, WHO SENT HIS SON TO HIGH-END MUSIC SCHOOLS)
PHILIP GLASS (WITH HIS FATHER, A RECORD STORE OWNER, WHO SENT HIS SON TO HIGH-END MUSIC SCHOOLS)

The soul of Glass’s family is his mother.  She is the conservator, the method-of-living key to Glass’s growth as an artist.  Glass explains how his father feared little in a neighborhood of gangs; while managing his record business with an iron hand.

Glass learns how to overcome fear in working in his father’s record shop and taking the proceeds of the day to the bank at the end of the day.  Glass sees himself, as though in a mirror, when he chooses not to tell his father of a customer’s theft of a record.  Glass knows his father will act reflexively by overzealously punishing the thief.

women are the sun
WOMEN ARE THE SUN, THE SOURCE OF ENERGY AROUND WHICH MEN REVOLVE.    (In Glass’s  pursuits, he notes that his mother is his rock, his supporter and adviser.)

Glass strives to be a good student and is accepted by the University of Chicago based on academic tests rather than high school graduation.  Glass chooses to become a musician based on early experience as a flutist, and later as a pianist.  He finds from counseling, from a Julliard alumnus, that composing music rather than playing music is more conducive to his innate ability.  In these pursuits, Glass’s mother is his rock, his supporter and adviser.

After graduating, Glass chooses to travel to Paris in pursuit of a composer’s education.  He is mentored by an older woman who provides the technical skill and stern loving support he needs to continue his journey toward actualization.  Glass chooses to leave his mentor with a woman of his own age and travel to India.  Glass sees himself in a way that requires reinforcement from others.  “Others” are teachers of the ancient practice of yoga.

PHILIP GLASS AND HIS FAMILY IN 1973
PHILIP GLASS AND HIS FAMILY IN 1973

Glass returns to America with a wife, with whom he has two children.  He lives in New York and works as a furniture mover and taxi driver while pursuing his education as a composer.  Glass is approaching thirty.  He begins to have serendipitous success.  The first big break is an opera called “Einstein on the Beach”.

JEAN COCTEAU (1889-1963, NOVELIST, POET, ARTIST, FILM MAKER)
JEAN COCTEAU (1889-1963, NOVELIST, POET, ARTIST, FILM MAKER)

Glass’s journey is symbolized by his dissection of the works of Jean Cocteau; i.e. particularly La_Belle_et_la_Bête (Beauty and the Beast).  Glass argues that Cocteau’s works are about human creativity and transformation.  The symbolism in La_Belle_et_la_Bête is the story of Glass’s life.  The rose in Cocteau’s movie symbolizes beauty (Glass’s body of work). The key is the method (Glass’s mother). The horse is strength, determination, and speed (Glass’s father). The glove is nobility (Glass’s renown as a composer). The castle is a prison that can only be escaped with love from another (Glass’s three wives, his children, his mentors, and friends). The Mirror symbolizes who you truly are (this memoir of Glass’s life).

This is a nicely written and narrated memoir of Philip Glass; considered by many as the most influential composer of the late twentieth century.

ARE YOU BLACK ENOUGH

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Negroland: A Memoir

Written by: Margo Jefferson

Narration by:  Robin Miles

MARGO JEFFERSON (AUTHOR, FORMER THEATRE CRITIC FOR NYT, PULIZER PRIZE WINNER FOR CRITICISM, PROFESSOR @ EUGENE LANG COLLEGE)

Margo Jefferson’s memoir is a perspective on growing up in America.  Jefferson is born in 1947.  She is raised in Chicago by two professional middle class parents; i.e. one is a doctor; the other a teacher.  What makes Jefferson’s memoir interesting is her middle class upbringing.  It sharply defines answers to many questions never asked by Americans.

Are you black enough?  Are you white enough?  Are you female enough?  Are you male enough?  Are you American enough? 

MARGO JEFFERSON (CLASS OF '71 COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY GRADUATE)
MARGO JEFFERSON (CLASS OF ’71 COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY GRADUATE)

Jefferson wrestles with many of the same baby to teenage insecurities all Americans face in their generation.  However, there is an extra layer of complexity for Jefferson because of her color.  Jefferson lightly touches on the history of slavery and its societal consequence but she personalizes that history in explaining how she became Margo Jefferson, an accomplished theatre critic and professor.

Chicago is a microcosm of America.  Discrimination, crime, poverty, and failure in equality of opportunity are the same in Chicago neighborhoods as anywhere in America. 

MARGO JEFFERSON AS CHEERLEADER IN THE 60'S (CENTER, TOP ROW)

What Jefferson does in “Negroland” is explain how American society makes her life different because of her color.

Like most girls and boys in high school, Jefferson wants to be popular.  She tries to become a cheerleader.  With success in her senior year, she wonders about the reasons for it taking so long.  Is it because she is not pretty enough?  Is it because she is nearsighted and has astigmatism?  Or, is it because she is not white enough?

RACISM

Jefferson recalls her family’s trip to Atlantic City for a doctor’s conference.  Reservations were made but when they arrive, the hotel gives the family a poorly appointed room and suggests the restaurant would be off-limits for dining.  They checked out of the hotel the next morning.

Jefferson notes concerns of her mother about how other people of color talk and act while warning her daughter not to emulate their speech or style.  Jefferson becomes aware of the potential stigma of not being black enough among people who are proud to be black.

Jefferson explains how she becomes best friends with a handsome gay white man and revels in the looks black men give that seem to question her interest in being with a white man when she is black.  At the same time, she notes how beautiful women hit on her friend without understanding that he has no interest in them.

LARRY WILMORE (COMEDIAN AND SOCIAL CRITIC)

In listening to Jefferson’s memoir the day after Larry Wilmore’s routine about Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, one gains better insight to Wilmore’s send-up of President Obama.  Wilmore is unfairly criticized for his tart-tongued stand-up when thought of in light of Jefferson’s memoir.

The last part of Wilmore’s presentation seriously praises Obama’s accomplishment and then uses a pejorative word for black Americans to categorize Obama.  Wilmore’s comment is badly interpreted by some.  Wilmore is saying Obama is great enough to be both the President of the United States (in the sense of acceptance by all Americans) and black enough (in the sense of being accepted by blacks).

Jefferson’s memoir, and Wilmore’s routine shows that being American enough, black enough, white enough, male or female enough, is just being a part of the human race.

SYMBOL OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

I Am Malala

Written by: Malala Yousafzai

Narrated by: Archie Panjabi

Malala Yousafzai may be narrowly identified as a symbol of women’s rights. That categorization is certainly earned but one is left wondering what will become of this young woman.

Malala lives the life of an old soul–advocating for equal rights at eleven years old and being nearly murdered at 15.   Malala will be 23 years old this July, 2020.

SWAT VALLEY IN PAKISTAN

As most know, Malala is shot in the head by two young Taliban who attacked her school bus in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.  We know they were Taliban because they acknowledged responsibility soon after the attack.

Miraculously, the bullet did not penetrate Malala’s brain but bone fragments from the shock of impact severed a facial nerve and temporarily paralyzed most of her motor functions.

BRAIN RULES

Dr. John J. Medina explains how unbelievably versatile the human brain is by recounting experiences of people who have been severely injured. 

Some recover many of the functions formally managed by parts of the brain that have been damaged.  John Medina notes that eyes do not see; i.e. the brain is the functional source of sight.  He explains the miraculous feats of the brain that manipulate the scenes of life.

Malala is rushed to a hospital in Pakistan and is saved from immediate danger by a competent Pakistani neurosurgeon.  The world is apprised of the attempted assassination and sends messages of support for Malala’s recovery.  In “I Am Malala”, a listener finds that after-care in Pakistan nearly ends Malala’s chance for survival.

MALALA (SHOT AND HOSPITALIZED)

MALALA (SHOT AND HOSPITALIZED)

Somewhat ironically, Great Britain comes to Malala’s aid.  The irony is in the long history of Great Britain’s colonization of Malala’s homeland.  There is historical justification for India/Pakistani’ ambivalence toward the West.  “I Am Malala” touches on that ambivalence.  However, Malala recognizes how important Great Britain’s assistance was in saving her life.

DRONE ATTACK

Malala reminds listeners of the lost lives of her countryman from American drone strikes and the invasion of Pakistani air space; including military action to kill Osama bin Laden. 

On the one hand, Malala shows embarrassment over bin Laden’s successful sanctuary in Pakistan; on the other, she implies America should have worked with the Pakistani government to capture the world’s most notorious terrorist.  There is a whiff of resentment in Malala’s depiction of the West’s treatment of her country but it is ameliorated by her principled stand for education, equal opportunity, and Pakistan’ sovereignty.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI (NOBEL PRIZE, SAKHAROVE PRIZE, SIMONE de BEAUVOIR PRIZE, NATIONAL YOUTH PRIZE WINNER)

MALALA YOUSAFZAI (NOBEL PRIZE, SAKHAROVE PRIZE, SIMONE de BEAUVOIR PRIZE, NATIONAL YOUTH PRIZE WINNER)

“I Am Malala” shows a young girl with great resilience and ambition.  One is left with the impression that Malala will return to Pakistan.  She will attempt to become a leader in her home country.

The message one gets from her book is that Pakistan is a great and beautiful country that can be a partner with the West as an independent and Islamic nation.  Malala is a politician in waiting.  One hopes for her success.