February 20, 2018 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 215


Topics: CFPB leadership dispute, Bank of America fees, Wells Fargo fake accounts scandal; Holocaust Denial politics in Europe. People: Bill, Rachel, Nate. Produced: Feb 18th, 2018.

Episode 215 (51 min):
AFD 215

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AFD 215 Links and notes (PDF)


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Music by friend of the show Stunt Bird.

Russian diplomat explains that Soviet invasion of Poland was Poland’s fault

If you were wondering why Poland has been readying itself to go underground as an insurgency again in case of Russian re-invasion, we just saw a pretty strong reason for the Polish people to be at least mildly concerned…

“Russian Ambassador Says Poland Was Partly to Blame for World War II” – The New York Times

Ambassador [to Poland] Sergey Andreev of Russia on Friday described the Soviet Union’s 1939 invasion of Poland as an act of self-defense, not aggression.

Uh. In… in what way? That would require interwar Poland to have had threat capacity.

In an interview broadcast on the private TVN station, Mr. Andreev also said: “Polish policy led to the disaster in September 1939, because during the 1930s Poland repeatedly blocked the formation of a coalition against Hitler’s Germany. Poland was therefore partly responsible for the disaster which then took place.”

But… But the Soviet Union itself was in Hitler’s coalition in September 1939. So…how? What?

The Russian Ambassador to Poland’s version of 1939 history appears to be “Oops, the Soviet Union slipped in the tub and fell into Poland.” Or perhaps, at best, “We just had to invade Poland and all the Baltic states to create a bigger buffer zone between Hitler and the edge of the real Soviet Union.”

You know what? Never mind. This is too much nonsense to figure out.

Flag of Poland's Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow - Wikimedia)

Flag of Poland’s Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow – Wikimedia)

Lithuania reactivates interwar paramilitary

Following Poland’s recent lead with re-mobilizing the Home Army, Lithuania has reinvigorated its interwar paramilitary from club status to a more quasi-official force, in a bid to be prepared if Russia begins a stealth invasion to “protect” ethnically Russian residents as it did in Ukraine:

Lithuania revived its pre-WWII Riflemen’s Union to help deter the threat of both conventional and hybrid warfare. The citizens’ militia boasts over 8,000 members in the nation of three million people, a number almost on par with its 8,000 military personnel and 4,500 reservists.

Technically, at least according to Wikipedia, the latter-day Riflemen’s Union has been around since Lithuania’s departure from Soviet control, but — as with similar forces in Poland — it had been a small, informal organization until its recent elevation.

Not mentioned in the article quoted above, however, is the note from the Wikipedia page that most of the members under the club version were teenagers or “youth” members. That means they would essentially be child soldiers if actually deployed to resist a Russian intervention.

The group has been hoping to recruit more (adult) members since last summer, in light of recent events. Estonia’s paramilitary recruitment reportedly swelled significantly in the aftermath of the Crimea annexation.

The Baltic states, now part of the European Union and NATO, are particularly worried about the prospects of a secret Russian invasion. They were the last to be annexed to the Soviet Union and the first to try to leave it after the Berlin Wall fell, and (like Ukraine) they still retain large Russian minorities. Plus, they have already faced electronic attacks from Russia in the past.

While a full-scale invasion is improbable now, hybrid meddling and destabilisation tactics designed to test NATO’s commitment to collective defence are not.

Putin’s brand of hybrid warfare also relies on “misinformation, bribery, economic pressure”, which are designed to “undermine the nation”, according to Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis.

One has to wonder, though, whether the climate of fear being created — even the semi-regularization of somewhat questionable paramilitary forces — is already undermining these nations without a single shot being fired or paratrooper being landed.

Flag of the Lithuanian Riflemen's Union (via Wikipedia)

Flag of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union (via Wikipedia)


The Questions Posed by the World’s 2015 Elections

15 national elections I’m watching on 2015 and the questions I’m asking about them, organized in chronological order.


Greece: Can modern Greek democracy survive the combined effects of years of extraordinary fiscal mismanagement, a devastating recession, and a sudden day of reckoning (austerity) stage-managed from Berlin? That’s the bigger question the world is asking when Greece heads to the polls this coming weekend, behind narrow questions of what might happen in the next six months. Newcomer “Syriza” – a party with moderate rhetoric, yet still an unknown quantity – has led the polling average since November 2013, more than a year before snap elections were called. Syriza could shake things up — for good or ill — in the country whose ancestors founded much of Western democracy. On the other hand, the ancient Greeks also formalized the concepts of “oligarchy,” “aristocracy,” and “tyranny,” so that’s not a huge comfort. Modern Greek democracy is just 40 years old, and Plato might forecast a turn to a less participatory form of The Kyklos (the cycle of governance between such forms) is about due. The rise of the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” as a potent force in Greek politics offers that grim path.

Nigeria: Should a young democracy re-elect a civilian president from the same party that has won every election since 1998? Should it do so despite his record of extreme incompetence in handling an insurgency that has now seized more territory than ISIS controls in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy? What if the alternative choice is a former military dictator and perennial also-ran? These are the basic questions facing Nigerians in February’s election that will see once-accidental President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party face off against Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the head of an increasingly powerful opposition coalition and amid plunging oil prices. The legislative chambers are also up for election. Even if Jonathan is re-elected, he may face a hostile majority.

Israel: Can the Israeli left make a serious comeback in the country’s politics after Israel voters increasingly veered to the right and after significant party changes shattered the Labor Party for almost a decade? Would it make any difference to Israel’s relations with its neighbors and the world at large? Would it change the economic fortunes of average Israelis?

United Kingdom: Is the Westminster System — as it has traditionally existed in its tripartite form since the arrival of universal male suffrage — finished in Westminster itself? UKIP, the Scottish National Party, and other parties outside the Big Three make another coalition government of some kind almost a certainty – likely with huge effects for the British populace and their place within the European Union.

Mexico: Will the insulated Federal District finally be shaken out of its slumber by a growing protest movement and other reactions to the total capture of Mexican state and local government by the cartels? The Congress is up for election, but without a sea change in the foreign-focused Peña Nieto administration, few expect serious policy shifts at home, whatever the outcome of the midterms. Still, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition any more than they expect a spontaneous mass uprising that forces just such a sea change. Could be too early to tell.
Read more

Poland readies itself to go deep, if necessary

When your country has been arbitrarily partitioned by its rival neighbors and purported allies at least seven times in the last 250 years, it’s hard not to be pessimistic that it might happen again — and to want to prepare for the worst. According to The Economist, that’s exactly what’s happening in Poland again, in light of Russia’s unexpected invasion and partial annexation of Ukraine:

Now Mr Waszczuk wants to draw on Poland’s history of guerrilla warfare to cope with the challenges of an increasingly unpredictable Russia. “We are the continuation of the Home Army,” he says. The goal is to form light infantry units scattered around the country able to continue the fight “if there is an invasion and the Polish military is destroyed”.
In early December, Poland’s defence ministry approved an upgraded national defence plan that includes an effort to co-ordinate better between the regular military and informal paramilitary outfits. Strzelec counts about 5,000 members; several hundred thousand other Polish civilians, including military re-enactment enthusiasts, are thought to be keen on the programme. The military already aids paramilitary groups with surplus uniforms and training sessions.
“We supposedly had a strong alliance in 1939, and no one came to help us,” says Mr Waszczuk. “Now we’re hearing that Germany is in no shape to help us and that NATO is unclear about sending troops here. In the end, the best defence is to rely on yourself.”

From September 1939 to January 1945, Poland’s armed forces demobilized and reconstituted themselves to exist as the underground, insurgent “Home Army” — Europe’s largest resistance force during World War II until the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia — whose primary directive was to maintain the secret authority of the Polish government-in-exile and continue the functions of the Polish state in daily life (including education) under occupation. They eventually surrendered to the Soviets to avoid a civil war with the communists after the ejection of the Germans.

Flag of Poland's Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow - Wikimedia)

Flag of Poland’s Home Army during World War II. (Credit: Bastianow – Wikimedia)

Don’t forget about Poland (and their CIA torture sites)

A reminder this past week from a key European court that Poland helped the CIA torture U.S. detainees outside American jurisdiction after 9/11 (yielding little to no information):

For the first time, a court has ruled on the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prison network in Europe. The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday found “beyond reasonable doubt” that two current prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were transferred from Thailand to Poland by the CIA and tortured there.

The language in the judgment is damning. Evidence of the prisoners’ rendition and treatment is “coherent, clear and categorical.” The facts presented by their legal teams “demonstrate” that the Polish authorities knew at that time that the CIA was using Szymany airport and, as a secret detention site, the Stare Kiejkuty military base. The court judged it “inconceivable” that rendition aircraft landed in and departed from Poland, or that the CIA occupied the premises in the Polish base, without Poland being “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [CIA’s High Value Detainee] Programme.” It concluded that “Poland, for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it from occurring.” In short, through its “acquiescence and connivance,” Poland “must be regarded as responsible” for secret imprisonment, torture and transfer onward to further secret imprisonment.
Numerous tortured suspects, released after the CIA belatedly determined their lack of involvement in terrorist activity, gave firsthand accounts of their treatment to lawyers and NGOs.
It is easy to be lulled into complacency by the bureaucratic language with which the CIA and the U.S. Department of Justice crafted their internal memorandums, but, as the court recognized, what went on in Poland and in other countries that hosted black sites included suffocation by water, confinement in small boxes, beatings, extreme sleep deprivation, exposure to cold and noise and other “enhanced techniques.”



Although Poland did not officially join the European Union until May 1, 2004, Poland did join the Council of Europe on November 26, 1991, making it subject to the European Court of Human Rights well before the start of the U.S. War on Terror.

Post-Cold War Poland has been rapidly sliding toward disappointment with the United States after years of blind support that ultimately led as far as endorsement of secret CIA torture prisons and joining the ill-conceived U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. They expected to get a lot out of such a compliant relationship with the United States and instead got very little. Read more

Further assorted thoughts on gun policy this week

The NRA people act like they’re the most oppressed population in the entire United States, when in fact they control the entire debate and all policy outcomes on anything related to guns — or even tangentially related to guns — at the Federal level. This power continues despite gun-owning households being only about a third of households these days, and probably only a fraction of those being hardliner NRA members who oppose any reform except fewer controls.

Things that are now “tyranny” apparently include

  • locking your gun away from children;
  • selling guns with biometric locks;
  • magazine limits;
  • allowing background checks to try to keep legal guns out of irresponsible hands;
  • keeping track of who owns things intended to be used as a deadly weapon like we do for a person’s car, which is not intended as to be used such;
  • doctors asking if you keep a gun in the house because it’s a known health risk factor;
  • restricting general ownership of military-grade firearms designed solely to kill people in combat; etc. etc. etc.

Here’s another question: If widespread anticipatory gun ownership is the only way to avoid or throw off totalitarianism, how did all of the Eastern Bloc countries and the Soviet Union fall apart without a huge shoot-em-up revolution from 1989-1991?

Even in the middle of World War II and just afterward, the Soviets managed to very effectively suppress a vast array of nationalist/partisan revolts against the USSR in the outlying Soviets and occupied satellites (Ukraine, Poland, etc.) even when those people were quite heavily armed. One of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world as measured by sheer number of successful target assassinations was the Western Ukrainian insurrection against the Soviet government after the Nazi withdrawal. Thirty months and 11,725 assassinated Soviet officers, agents and collaborators later, the heavily armed Ukrainian Insurgent Army was ultimately brought down by infiltration, psychological warfare, and their own alienation of the local population. So much for guns saving the day against a totalitarian occupier.

A half century later, the Soviets were brought down by, essentially, bankruptcy and internal political reform. If you want a realistic fantasy of throwing off totalitarianism, it probably won’t look like “Red Dawn.” No, it probably just involves a lot of spreadsheets, endemic corruption, and ill-conceived defense expenditures.