Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 30, 2019

Steven Mnuchin, Russian oligarchs, and wildlife preservation

Filed under: Africa,conservatism,Ecology — louisproyect @ 5:27 pm

Who will save the elephants? Them?

Today’s NY Times has an article titled “Steven Mnuchin Draws Claims of Conflict of Interest in Decision on Russian Oligarch” that deals with his ties to a Russian oligarch named Len Blavatnik. Despite “divesting” from a film company he owned, Mnuchin was anxious to get Blavatnik to invest in Dune Entertainment. Dune was now owned by Louise Linton as if that qualifies as divestment. This is the Trump regime, after all, Mnuchin’s idiotic wife was infamous for posting a photo on Instagram of herself and Trump’s yes-man in 2017 during a field trip to Fort Knox. She used hashtags to highlight the designer clothing and accessories she wore. When she got lambasted for her ostentatious display, she called her critic “adorably out of touch”, adding that she contributed more to the US economy and paid more in taxes than the woman criticizing her. Nice.

You’d think that Dune Entertainment would make films glorifying the rich, wouldn’t you? As it happens, they were behind “Avatar”, the 3D movie hailed by many critics, including me, as containing an anti-imperialist message. They were also behind “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, another ostensibly leftist film. I should have italicized ostensibly since Oliver Stone’s film was about as leftist as his series of interviews with Vladimir Putin on Showtime.

What caught my eye was a report on Louise Linton’s attendance at a charity dinner in England. Mentioned below, Deripaska is an oligarch close to Blavatnik who got American polling data from Konstantin Kilimnik, who got it in turn from Paul Manafort. None of this was collusion, of course. Just ask Max Blumenthal.

In mid-January 2018, Ms. Linton attended an exclusive 50-person charity dinner in London that was also attended by Mr. Deripaska.

At the time of the dinner, which was for the anti-poaching organization Space for Giants, the Treasury Department had been directed to put together a report on oligarchs on which it might place sanctions, which would come to include Mr. Deripaska.

A spokesman for Space for Giants said that the guests — including Prince William, the former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the Russian-British newspaper owner Evgeny Lebedev and a member of the Saudi royal family — were not provided one another’s names before or after the event.

Mr. Sayegh said that Ms. Linton, who donated $50,000 to Space for Giants in 2017, according to its annual report, “was unaware” that Mr. Deripaska was at the dinner that she “never interacted with” the oligarch.

“She recalls sitting next to Prince William at the dinner,” Mr. Sayegh said.

Evgeny Lebedev is the publisher of The Independent, a newspaper that gives a platform to Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn. Their eight-year reporting on Syria tends not to undermine Russian interests there, needless to say.

As for Bill Richardson, he was on the board of Valero Energy and Diamond Offshore Drilling before he became Governor of New Mexico. Valero was heavily involved in refining oil drilled in the Amazon rainforest, while Diamond used asbestos-laden equipment that made its employees terminally ill. Taken to court, Diamond sought indemnification from liability. Richardson resigned from these boards but in keeping with old habits, he now sits on the board of Genie Oil and Gas alongside Dick Cheney, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Summers, and James Woolsey. Genie is heavily invested in Israel Energy Initiatives, a company formed to exploit fracking in Israel. While I remain opposed to the Zionist state, I am just as opposed to fracking there if for no other reason that it degrades the land and water that someday might be returned to the Palestinian people.

Richardson is also on the USA board of Space for Giants, a natural complement to his work with Genie.

As for the Saudi royal family, they might be for saving the lives of elephants but that hardly compensates for the assassination of Khashoggi or the tens of thousands of Yemenis who have died from Saudi bombs and missiles.

Meanwhile, Prince William is a big-game hunter who argues that controlled killing is just what is needed to preserve elephants and other creatures in danger of extinction. I have heard this argument before but would prefer to see Africa protected from imperialist penetration, the main threat to the habitat in which the “Giants” dwell.

Going to the Space for Giants website will give you a good idea of the sort of people who are behind it. The chairman of the UK board is one Peter Bacchus whose accomplishments are trumpeted there:

Peter Bacchus is a senior adviser to the global mining industry, having run Natural Resource Sector investment banking teams at Jefferies, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup. He pioneered China’s engagements with the global mining community, advising the state-owned China MinMetals on its takeover offer for Noranda in Canada, and listed China Steel, CITIC Resources, and China National Coal on global stock exchanges. Peter has a 20-year track record of advising and raising capital for companies in Africa, having executed deals in a dozen different countries on the continent, including South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and Angola.

Just the kind of background you’d expect from someone protecting biodiversity in Africa.

Finally, there is the question of what Mnuchin’s wife is doing at a charity dinner to protect wildlife when his boss is doing everything in his power to destroy it in the name of corporate greed. Last July, Trump’s Secretary of the Interior proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that would allow economic development to go full steam ahead even if the only animals left in the USA were pigeons and rats.

That’s the state of the world today. A charity dinner to raise funds for a wildlife preservation group that depends on the deep pockets of rich people who could care less if elephants went the way of the brontosaurus. Where these large animals go, we are soon to follow unless everything changes.

1 Comment »

  1. A couple of related news items:

    1) As Sanctions Lift, Russian Oligarch’s Company Adds Trump Transition Member To Its Board
    (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-insider-board-member-deripaska_us_5c4f81a4e4b0d9f9be683192)
    The report has this opening paragraph:

    “A member of President Donald Trump’s transition team was named as a board member of a company owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska the day after the Trump administration lifted sanctions against Deripaska’s companies.”

    2) Democrats target Mnuchin after Treasury eases sanctions on Russian oligarch
    (https://abcnews.go.com/beta-story-container/Politics/democrats-target-mnuchin-treasury-eases-sanctions-russian-oligarch/story?id=60715257)
    Maybe useless Dems can actually be useful in this instance?

    Comment by Reza — January 30, 2019 @ 6:08 pm


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