Vanity thought #1613. Propitiating news gods

Yesterday I talked about results of the British inquiry into the murder of Litvinenko. It was a work of an activist judge and from there I managed to link it to the famous criterion of Hare Kṛṣṇa popularity – vaiṣṇavism will win when judges will wear tilakas. The way justice is done these days, however, it would probably be an indictment rather than a victory.

I haven’t finished the story and I have no idea how to connect it to Kṛṣṇa today. My mind was quite agitated by report’s revelations and I think I need to put my thoughts into writing so that the gods controlling the news leave me alone. I should’t have stumbled into their territory and now they have a firm grip over my consciousness, demanding a significant share of my mind’s attention.

Anyway, the “inquiry” was more of a trial even if not legally so. The judge not only tried to determine the facts of the case but also find the perpetrators and determine their guilt. Two individuals, Lugovoi and Kovtun, were judged guilty and Russian president Putin “probably guilty”. Since it wasn’t an actual trial the judge could get away with real travesty of justice – there was no defense whatsoever and despite proclaiming the inquiry “open” it relied on classified information never seen by the public and a statement by a code named individual to the police in another country. He simply didn’t want to testify in front of the judge and there was no defense to cross examine him anyway. Also there was no jury so whatever judge liked to hear easily became “facts” and “truth”.

Maybe they are facts, who knows, but with “trials” like this Britain should never ever complain about judicial systems in the rest of the world, which they love to do whenever there’s an occasion.

Despite the guilty verdict the inquiry discovered that a lot of public information about this case was plain wrong but this was never announced and needs to be gleaned from their report itself, which is 300 pages long and therefore beyond the comprehension of an average citizen.

Litvinenko’s deathbed statement, for example, was confirmed to be a hoax, a paper typed up by his friend without any factual basis to it. The polonium that killed him could have come from anywhere and there’s no way to prove that it was from Russia. It could also be bought quite cheaply in the West. The most striking discovery in my view, however, was the background of the alleged murderers. Wikipedia still states that one of them, Kovtun, has worked for KGB. It fits the “everybody knows” theory that he was a brutal KGB trained assassin sent by Moscow. The inquiry found something entirely different.

Kovtun was drafted into Soviet army just like every other man in the country and was sent to serve in Czechoslovakia and then East Germany where he met a local woman and got married. When news came in that his unit was about to be transferred to Chechnya he deserted and fled to West Germany. He lived in Hamburg until 2003, mostly on welfare but he also supplemented his income by collecting trash and bussing tables. Eventually he was picked up by another alleged killer, Lugovoi, who was his childhood friend, and given a place by his side.

Lugovoi did work for KGB but he left in mid-nineties to start a business providing security to VIPs. He was doing very well but then his patron, Russian oligarch Boris Berezovski, fell out of favor when Putin came to power and fled from Russia to London. Lugovoi helped arrange escape of one of Berezovski’s acolytes, got caught, and spent fifteen months in jail. He then continued riding Berezovski’s coattails and that’s how he got to know Litvinenko, the victim. They met numerous times and Litvinenko didn’t suspect him to be his killer at all.

After the murder Lugovoi became a minor celebrity in Russia and appeared on TV. He then used his newly found popularity to get elected as an MP for the opposition party. The end. Does he look like James Bond, a KGB trained assassin? I bet if this biography was presented to the jury they would dismiss him as a potential suspect. Litvinenko himself pointed to a different man, an Italian, of whom I know nothing and don’t want to learn any more.

Litvinenko’s brother told the media last week that Russia had nothing to do with the murder and that KGB/FSB didn’t care about him at all. His work there didn’t involve any classified information, he wasn’t a spy, and no one cared what he had to say.

These days when we talk about defectors and intelligence gathered from various dissidents we point to Iraq and how they all screamed about WMD’s there. It was all lies designed to impress their western handlers and talk up their own value. They probably learned this method from Russians, however, who played this trick over and over again for a decade before Iraqi debacle.

Just last year, when Russian opposition politician was murdered right outside Kremlin the media said that the motive was his explosive investigation into Russian involvement in Ukraine. A couple of months later his paper came out, compiled by his friends from his notes, but no one bothered to report on it because it was a dud.

Same thing was with Litvinenko. Maybe Russian FSB did blow apartment buildings themselves to blame it on Chechens but by 2006 when Litvinenko was murdered Chechens had already committed a long list of despicable acts of terrorism and no one would taken claims that their were innocent seriously. They held a theater hostage, they held a hospital hostage, including a maternity ward, they had a school hostage, though some of these acts might have happened later, I don’t remember.

Anyway, the inquiry was a joke but it was meant to influence public opinion, not seek actual justice, and to satisfy judge’s ego, too. And now I hope gods of news are satisfied and I will never have to revisit this subject again. I don’t know who the real murderer was, just one quick look at the report shows an unmanageable number of details. Maybe Lugovoi and Kovtun did it, I don’t care, I’m just appalled at how justice is done in the UK.

Last offering to gods – I’ve also watched a video compilation of Hillary Clinton’s flip-flops on several issues and I actually came to trust the woman. I know she almost certainly lies when he mouth moves and that every thing she says is meant to brainwash the listeners but she is consistent in that and therefore predictable. She WILL make mistakes and she WILL deny making them. She has her own warped version of reality that she presents everywhere but behind that she is just a woman. Maybe I’m being sexist but I believe that is a fact. I mean it’s a typical female behavior – never admit to anything and always turn everything in your own favor. Even when you approach her in full confidence that now you finally nailed her she’ll still manage to make you feel guilty. At heart, however, women know they are wrong and they know they are vulnerable and they do want to do the right thing, everything else is just fluff.

Finally, the gods of news were favorable to me and directed me to the latest Bernie Sanders’ campaign ad. I don’t want to comment on its content but at 9 second mark there’s a face of a Hare Kṛṣṇa devotee there, so I’ll leave you with that:


Vanity thought #1612. Justice needs to be seen

The full saying is that justice needs to be seen to be done but these days people are quite satisfied with the first part only. Whether it’s actually justice and whether it has been done doesn’t matter. They see it, they feel good about, and that’s all they really want.

Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura famously dreamed about a day when judges would wear vaiṣṇava tilakas and we’ve accepted this as a sort of a prediction that is very desirable. Is it, though? I don’t think in the current atmosphere association with “justice” would do devotees any good, though it’s admittedly better than association with politics. Tulsi Gabbard handles herself very well but she is a first timer with no baggage, politics will eventually get to her – it’s like wrestling with pigs, everybody will get dirty.

Last year I wrote a long analysis of the US Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, mostly it was about dissenting judges opinions and how they made far more sense than the pro same sex majority. Their arguments, however, have been totally forgotten and everyone talks about that decision as if it was some kind of legal achievement. On that note, a couple of months ago a trio in Brazil sued for legal recognition of their relationship, which is an example confirming “slippery slope” argument advanced by the opposition. Their civil union has already been legalized, next step is getting a full marriage status. It’s the second such case in Brazil, too.

Today I want to talk about a new legal precedent that came to public attention about a week ago – the outcome of the British inquiry into the murder of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko. The result was a guilty verdict for his two killers, Lugovoi and Kovtun, and “probably guilty” verdict for the Russian president Putin. The first part was a foregone conclusion and the second part made the news worldwide.

It wasn’t actually a trial but an inquiry, or an inquest by an activist judge that gradually got elevated to the inquiry status, and then the inquiry got promoted to determining the causes of death and the guilt of the accused, which is, in effect, a trial, except no trial would have ever been done under conditions used by this inquiry.

The narrative pushed to the public ever since Litvinenko’s murder in 2006 was that Russia refused to cooperate and refused to extradite the accused so no proper trial could have been held, Britain even imposed sanctions on Russia for this refusal. In public view inquiry was as good as it was gonna get and people are perfectly satisfied with the verdict, not thinking twice that punishment is not going to be served. Justice needs to be seen, as I said, the rest doesn’t matter.

So it was all about spin and appearances. I’ve never paid any attention to this case, it was too complicated and learning all the details was unnecessary, but after the result of the inquiry has been published I read a long article taking it apart. The official inquiry site is here and the article is here. I haven’t checked all the claims in the article but so far they simply follow what is included in inquiry’s report.

The story line pushed to the public for nearly a decade is like this – Litvinenko was an ex-KGB spy who threatened to expose some nefarious KGB dealings and his betrayal of his country was unacceptable. To silence him FSB, which is KGB’s successor, sent out two killers to poison Litvinenko with polonium. They slipped it onto Litvinenko’s tea and after about a month he died of a mysterious illness. Eventually polonium poisoning was discovered and following traces of radiation a trail was found leading around London and then onto Moscow. It’s like 007 mission that got busted. The inquiry’s verdict confirmed what the public knew all along, so justice was definitely seen.

What people didn’t notice is that several crucial pieces of this narrative were dismissed by the judge. One finding was that it’s impossible to trace this polonium to the Russian facility and that it IS possible to buy it on the open market, and it’s not very expensive either. Basically, there’s no proof tying this polonium to Russia. Another myth was about Russian non-cooperation – the judge admitted that extraditing the accused is impossible under Russian law, it’s not a matter of government discretion.

Moreover, Russians did offer cooperation but it was deemed unacceptable. They offered to try the accused in Russian courts with evidence supplied by Brits, and there was even a possibility of holding BRITISH court in Russia. Brits decided that it would inconvenience the witnesses and so the option was refused. Under British law it’s possible to interview witnesses via video link but that wasn’t considered. Perhaps the real reason is that a proper trial would fall flat on its face while the inquiry could get away with some outrageous stuff from legal point of view.

The third myth that was quietly buried is Litvinenko’s death-bed statement accusing FSB of poisoning him. It’s what gave the original impetus to the narrative but turned out to be a hoax, it was composed by other person, not by Litvinenko himself, and the person who compiled it admitted that there was no factual basis for this “statement” whatsoever.

But back to inquiry – it’s got capital p “Public” prefix to it and it was touted as an open investigation, a triumph of justice where justice can’t, unfortunately, be enforced. In real life defendants were not present and were not represented, they didn’t bring their own witnesses, didn’t tell their side of the story, and didn’t cross-examine prosecution witnesses. No trial under such conditions would ever be considered as just, but if it only needs to be seen so then repeating words like “public” and “open” does the trick already.

Speaking of open – crucial evidence linking the accused with Russian government was classified and presented only to the judge. Its source and content are unknown and therefore cannot be questioned. One key prosecution witness also remained anonymous and refused to testify in court even though his identity is well known to the defendants. Still, the judge accepted his statement given to the police in another country as unquestionable truth. That would also not fly in a proper trial, so legally calling it an inquiry was a boon to the judge who, incidentally, made his mind up before the inquiry even started. He was the one who pushed for it to prove that he was right. And there was no jury, of course.

Was justice even remotely done in this case? Who cares, it was shown and seen, and that’s enough.

Note that up to this point the circumstances of the case itself have not been mentioned, so far I talked only about preconditions of this inquiry that looked very much like a trial. I might get to the details tomorrow, there are more myths to be dispelled there.

Bottom line – justice system that allows such travesties and prides itself on being one the most fair in the world is no place for a vaiṣṇava. The world is going to hell, we can’t stop it and can’t take responsibility for it. Our service is to pick selected souls who are eligible for surrendering to Kṛṣṇa and chanting the holy name. We can’t save the rest and they have their own demoniac desired to fulfill anyway. They are not going to live under our varṇāśrama and we should probably leave them alone.