BLANCHE BOYD PEN/FAULKNER FINALIST

The Company of Writers is delighted that Blanche McCrary Boyd, who appeared at our January 2015 workshop in Brooklyn, is a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her novel Tomb of the Unknown Racist. Those lucky enough to have been there were struck by her generous encouragement of other writers less sure and powerful than she—that is, all of us. I was honored to read the first couple of chapters of Tomb when she joined us. She’s the smart-looking person at the head of the table, by the way; I’m the pink-faced guy at the end.

WARREN SHOCKER! DEMANDS TRUMP DNA, ASKS IVANKA "WHO'S YOUR DADDY?"

trump, warren.jpg

IOWA (AP)

Newly-declared Dem White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren doubled down on today’s shocking admissions with a series of even more startling allegations and demands.

Bigly.

This morning an Iowa voter brought up an episode the Bay State progressive probably wished forgotten by asking why Warren had caved to her likely opponent’s demand that she take a DNA test. In response, Warren flabbergasted her audience by conceding that she was not, in fact, a person of color.

She further stunned the still-reeling crowd with a barrage of accusations and demands.

“Look,” she said, “maybe I made a mistake by not telling the fat bastard ‘Sure, I’ll take a DNA test—if you get on a real scale. Two-thirty-nine? You haven’t weighed that since your hair wasn’t fake.’

“But speaking of fake, let’s get hold of your DNA, Donnie. ‘Cause you know what I think? There’s a lot going on there that’s crookeder than your tax returns! I mean, you look at you and those kids of yours, you know someone peed in your gene pool. Brother and sister grandparents? Who knows—but Eric and Donnie Junior look like tapeworms and Tiffany, well, Tiffy should be hanging onto a crack stem behind the WalMart. And talking about the boy, that’s just mean, so I won’t.

“Oh but wait! I forgot one! You line them all up and you say, there’s one that doesn’t look like she belongs! Three-digit IQ! Meets your eyes when she talks to you! Pretty—hell, forget pretty, she has a normal chin!”

Warren shook her head in disbelief. “I dunno, folks, I’m thinking Shroomdick Donnie—” the audience gasped audibly as she deployed a nickname popular in press circles since the publication of Stormy Daniels’ memoir “—-Shroomdick Donnie sure didn’t have a lot to do with getting that bun in the oven. Maybe the tennis pro. Or the doorman. Not him, ‘Course, it explains a lot. In fact—”

Warren stopped and smiled. “Nah. Not now.”

A Trump spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined comment.

TRUMP TO BASE: I'M A FAT IDIOT--JUST LIKE YOU!

The present crisis in American government is rooted not in some structural defect the Founders never imagined, but rather, the Faustian bargain at the heart of the modern-day GOP: government by the stupidest thirty-five per cent of the electorate.

Time was when the Republican Party was the home of pinstriped Ivy League fiscal conservatives and Cold Warrior mandarins in the image of William F. Buckley and George H.W. Bush. Today it harbors gibbering flat-earthers like James “Jimmy the Chimp” Jordan and Trey “Goober” Gowdy. And of course its titular and actual leader, Donald “Shroomdick Donny” Trump—fat, lazy, bankrupt, and unschooled, a squirming sack of appetites and rage.

But wait, you say. If he’s stupid, how did he get to be president?

Easy. Because he says what stupid people think. That’s his base—stupid people.

Oh, I know. We’re not supposed to say that. See, the real beneficiaries of political correctness are not transgendered troops or kneeling athletes. No, it’s the knuckle-dragging cousin spawn who blow spittle all over the phone when they rave about Uranium One over their third PBR of the morning calling in to AM talkshows. Stung by the backlash to Hillary’s too-moderate description of the Trump base as “a basket of deplorables,” the media gently refers to it as “poorly educated older whites.”

Is “dumb fucking hillbillies” so hard to say?

Trump knew his base and knew he’d get their support by saying what they thought. Because he was what poor people think a rich guy looks like—fat, lamptanned, MetArt wife—they felt empowered when he repeated the uninformed nonsense they screamed at the TV. And when he actually got elected, they were not only empowered, but vindicated—we must be right, because the President says it!

If it were just a matter of Presidential electoral politics, that might not be so bad. He’d just ramp up the idiotic rhetoric and racist hatemongering six months before polling day and revert into something like pragmatism in the interval.

But sadly, that’s not enough. As the present crisis proves beyond rebuttal, he can’t just say what stupid people think—he has to do what stupid people think.

That’s how we got to the shutdown. As the President’s newly-minted and likely to be short-lived Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in a now-regretted soundbite, the idea of a border wall is “childish.” But Trump, knowing his supporters, pounded it through their heads that only a cardboard fort would protect them from the brown boogiemen storming across the Rio Grande to steal their jobs and rape their poodles. But when he acted as though he could ignore his own bullshit in the interest of normal governance, Base tribunes Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh grabbed him by his cheap Turkish-made overlong tie and told him nothing doing—you made this monster, now you’re feeding it.

So Trump is stuck. And so are we.

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY

Polish5.jpg

Okay, the title may be slightly misleading. This isn’t a memory about Christmas. But it is a memory, and this is Christmas.

Sadly, because my phone was out of power I cannot document the most bizarre episode of 2014 to date. Hence this picture glommed from the internet. What happened is this:

Mrs H and I were headed to an early Sunday evening dinner at a bistro called Martell in Southport. Just to get you oriented, Jack Welch lives in Southport. To provide further context, I parked my 2009 Prius with the permadent next to a Ferrari. It was not the only one in the lot.

As we were approaching a Tesla Mrs H cried out, "My God, what is in the back of that car?" I approached cautiously. There appeared to be a dozen little white puffy balls bouncing in the air in the back seat. I wondered whether there was some kind of weird airblown toy that had been left on by mistake, or whether there were a bunch of white pawed puppies rolling on their backs.

I got to the window. For a moment, nothing made sense. I couldn't process what I saw. Then my eye lighted on the water bowl and the feed. And then the beaks. "Jesus Christ," I said. "It's birds! It's a dozen fucking giant birds! In the back of a fucking Tesla!" Somehow, it being a Tesla made it all worse.

Did I mention Mrs H hates birds? And that she's just coming back from a flu? That probably explains why she bolted for the restaurant door.

It gets better. We got seated almost immediately. Hey, early bird special. So to speak. But as we're headed to our table I see this other couple. The lady had her back to me. She's wearing a fleece on which is crudely embroidered a representation of the same bird I'd just seen. Mrs H sees where I'm looking and says, "Oh please. No. You can't."

"I have to," I say. She takes her seat and buries her face in her hands as I approach the lady in the bird fleece.

"Excuse me," I say, "do you own a Tesla?"

"Yes," says the man with her. "How did you know it was ours?"

I resist the temptation to tell him that it's because it's full of the same birds your lady is wearing you hopeless whack. Instead I offer the slightly toned down "I happened to see the birds in the back and noticed your shirt. What kind of birds are they, may I ask?"

"Polish crested chickens," she says. "Show birds."

"Oh," I said. "They're lovely."

I get back to the table. "Chickens," I say. "Polish chickens." She is greenish white. She rolls her eyes to the adjoining table. One of our fellow diners is digging into the chicken Reisling. "That's what I was going to have," she says. "But now I think maybe steak. Unless you saw a cow in the parking lot?"

Every. Last. Word. True.

INTRODUCING DANTE'S OLD SOUTH

With poet polymath Charles Clifford Brooks III.  I am the aging roue on the left.

With poet polymath Charles Clifford Brooks III. I am the aging roue on the left.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting down in Atlanta with mutigenre literary entrepreneur Cliff Brooks. A distinguished poet and gentleman of the old school, he is also the founder of the Southern Collective Experience and Blue Mountain Review.

Among his more recent exploits is a public radio show called Dante’s Old South. Comprising literary interviews, poetry, philosophy, and music, it puts you in mind of a hyperliterate Prairie Home Companion. That is, before Keillor got rich, old, and in trouble. Listen to it here.

ORWELL: NOW MORE THAN EVER

“Orwellian” is a word formerly overused just a hair more that “kafkaesque.” I say formerly because neither is adequate to describe the spluttering antics of the fat man with tanning-bed-goggle eyes who now occupies the pinnacle of power in the world. Or more aptly the gyrations of his quisling enablers. For example, Lindsay Graham, who now that a man of principle he claimed as friend is safely dead, pivots to take a load of presidential semen in the face and asks for more.

George Orwell was born to privilege. Educated at Eton, he went on to imperial civil service as a police commissioner in Burma in the 1920’s. Sickened by his experience, he became a passionate socialist and anti-imperialist and, coincidentally, one of the foremost prose stylists of the twentieth century.

But that’s not all. He walked the walk. He sure did. In 1936 he shipped for Barcelona and joined the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. He stayed true to the cause despite the lice and hunger and boredom of the trenches and the sordid political infighting of the high command. He got a great book out of it—Homage to Catalonia. And one night he also got a bullet in the throat, one that just barely missed his carotid. Nevertheless he stayed in Spain to keep up the fight until he learned that not only the fascists wanted him dead, but the Soviets who’d infiltrated the anti-fascist ranks as well.

During World War II he served as a commentator for the BBC. His literary career exploded shortly after war’s end with Animal Farm and 1984. The former book blew up the hypocrisies of Stalinist tyranny; the latter went several steps further with a dystopian future surveillance state in which free thought was eliminated by both totalitarian brutality and the overwhelming gibberish of propaganda.

Strangely, despite an extremely public career that included a stint as a broadcaster, there are neither video nor audio records of Orwell. Thus we are left to imagine how he moved and what he sounded like.

The BBC fixed this, to the extent it can be fixed, with an entirely imaginary documentary about Orwell comprising completely fictitious newsreel and interview footage. Christopher Langham appears to channel the man. Or so I think.

I’ve posted about this before. After a campaign season in which the fat man with the funny hair and his trailerpark magahats dominated the mediasphere with lies and top-of-the-voice nonsense, I thought it was worth conjuring up again the shade of a man who understood the necessity of clear expression to clear thought.

Here’s the link to the video. Watch it.

SANDERS: LEFT-WING ANTIFA ATTACKS ON KAVANAUGH, DeSANTIS YALE SINGSONG "RIDICULOUS AND OUTRAGEOUS"

WASHINGTON (AP)

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders could barely control her anger when describing Halloween’s verbal assault on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.

Her statement came after what she described as “well-organized and musically talented left-wing Francophones” disrupted a restaurant gathering that included the recently confirmed rapist-monarchist as well as the Sunshine State’s pro-slavery Trump acolyte.

Sanders’ celebrated asymmetrical scowl was even more lopsided than usual when she took the podium today. “As you and the American people know,” she began, “Brett Kavanaugh and Ron DeSantis are top graduates of Yale University and like former President George Bush are alumni of its service oriented DKE fraternal organization. When they and some of their fraternity brothers found themselves here in Washington DC when soon to be Governor DeSantis was taking a break from the campaign trail and Justice Kavanaugh needed some time off from undoing the last hundred and fifty years, naturally they decided to meet up with some old frat buddies at a popular Washington watering hole.

“Because it was Halloween,” Sander continued, “they decided to dress up in their old frat uniforms. They got to the restaurant and they had a few beers.” Sanders paused and then added defiantly, “They like beer.”

“What happened next has luckily been captured on cellphone video. As you can see Justice B, as we call him, and Governor Ron are having a good old time swinging the tankards and singing their alma mater, Bright College Years, which through no fault of theirs is a German military drinking song,

“And in a breach of the very same civility the crybaby never-Trump anti-nationalist globalist elite keeps whimpering for, the Democrat Antifa thugs break up a fun private party with a song in a foreign European language that promotes socialist concepts like liberty, equality, and brotherhood.”

Sanders paused a moment to wipe spittle from the microphone. “But see this disgusting, outrageous, ridiculous display for yourselves. Here it is.

UPDATE--RUSSIAN MEDDLING, OLD SCHOOL

KGB Agent and would-be Prime Minister Michael Foot.

KGB Agent and would-be Prime Minister Michael Foot.

(The article below first appeared in November 2017. Since then—in September 2018—British historian Ben McIntyre revealed that KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky has conclusively proven that Labour Party leader Michael Foot was a paid agent of the Russian intelligence services—known, unimaginatively, as “Agent Boot.” Further, he’s shown that British counterintelligence, MI6, was aware of the relationship but, in consultation with the upper reaches of the Civil Service, concluded that publicly disclosing it would be perceived as meddling in domestic politics.

Sound familiar? Then consider this too: Had Labour won the 1982 election, instead of losing it, Foot would have been Prime Minister.

It’s just what the Russians do.)

If the notion of a Russian plant with three passports at the head of a major-party presidential campaign--a Republican presidential campaign, no less--strikes you as a little hard to swallow, buckle up.  Because that's what the Russians do.  And it's nothing  compared to the Cambridge Five.

At least, we think there were at least five.  At first they were just two.  Then a third.  And then a fourth was confirmed, and we're pretty sure about number five.  Some say there were a six and maybe even a seven. 

But whatever their number there's no doubt whatever that in the early 1930's the Russians--then constituted as the Soviet Union--recruited a number of disaffected upper-class undergraduates at Cambridge University to penetrate the highest reaches of British politics and pass its secrets back to Moscow.

And boy, did they.  Despite their known Communist affiliations--in the 1930's, Marxism was an accepted,  rational response to the rise of fascism, one shared by Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the American nuclear arsenal--the boys from Cambridge rose fast.  By the time war broke out they were deeply entrenched in the distinctly English intersecting worlds of journalism, diplomacy, and intelligence.   (Unlike the distinctly American intersecting world of money and everything else.)  Guy Burgess, despite his obvious alcoholism and open homosexuality--then a criminal offense--bounced back and forth between the BBC and the Foreign Office, as did the more discrete Donald MacleanAnthony Blunt, whose background as a preeminent historian of French Rococo art somehow qualified him as a counterintelligence agent, joined the security service, MI5 John Cairncross, who'd started out as private secretary to a member of the Cabinet, managed to get himself  assigned to nothing less than Bletchely Park--the hypercerebral, hypersecret codebreaking operation recently dramatized in "The Imitation Game."

The most prominent was  H.A. R. "Kim" Philby, so nicknamed not because he was cute or something, but because he early reminded his friends of Kipling's fictional boy-spy in the Great Game between Britain and Russia.  He parlayed his role as a correspondent for the Times into a major position with MI6, the UK's legendary Secret Intelligence Service.  Through the course of the war he and his fellow spies--and as I said while we've confirmed five there may have been more---used their incredibly sensitive positions to pass the most highly classified British and American intelligence along to the Soviets--rationalizing away manifest treason with the justification that the Russians were, after all, on our side in the war against fascism.

But then all of a sudden they weren't.  With the war over, our gallant Soviet allies became the Red Menace.  And to be fair, acted like it, seizing any opportunity to evade NATO security, especially atomic.  And though Philby and Co. were by this point no longer on the cutting edge of the penetration operation, they had been careless in the past.  So much so that Burgess and McLean--tipped off by Philby, who unbelievably had survived internal investigations into Russian collusion to rise to be head of the British intelligence station in Washington, and to be mentioned as a possible future director of the service--had to flee Britain in the dead of the night.  And even more unbelievably, after their abrupt departure, Philby was cleared of involvement with the Russians.

But there's more.  Even though the public outcry temporarily derailed Philby's intelligence career, within a few years he was using journalistic cover to act as an agent in the Middle East.  When renewed suspicions grew too hot even for him, he boarded a Soviet freighter and surfaced again in Moscow a few months later--where he died decades later, a colonel in the KGB and a decorated Soviet hero.

Cairncross evaded official attention and found his way into a career in academia in the United States.  His involvement in  the spy ring was only confirmed after his death. 

And the fifth man?  Blunt?  He went on to become the Queen's official art historian--Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures was his official title, I kid you not--in which capacity this former Soviet spy received a knighthood.  Though he confirmed his treason after he was exposed by a Soviet defector, the terms of his confession kept it secret for fifteen years and also allowed him to keep his knighthood, his academic honors, and the royal job.  He wasn't publicly outed until 1978, and is the only member of the ring to have suffered the shame of disclosure in his own lifetime and country.  

So why is any of this important?  In part because of consequences that went far beyond wartime involuntary information-sharing.  Philby was close friends with James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's  chief of counterintelligence.  Angleton was so shaken by his friend's betrayal that he came to see spies everywhere, especially within his own agency.  Periodically our own intelligence apparatus was paralyzed by Philby-inspired, Angleton-ordered "molehunts" during which half our agents wre watching the other half and as a result, no one got much done.  Angleton's paranoia, collateral damage from the Russian penetration operation, crippled the agency until his retirement in the mid-seventies--a gift that just kept on giving.

But even more critically, this episode  demonstrates that the ambition of Russia's intelligence operations is exceeded only by its patience.  The Soviets recruited five young men while still undergraduates and cultivated them over more than a decade so that when the opportunity came, they would occupy sensitive roles in the highest levels of British government.  Whatever facts the Mueller investigation may uncover--and for the sake of the Republic let's all hope that our worst fears are unfounded--history teaches us that when the Russians see a chance, they take it.  And once they've taken it, they stay with it.

And most importantly, we should never forget that before he entered politics in a collapsing Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin was a high-ranking officer in the KGB--the same service that recruited and ran the Cambridge Five for thirty years.  So it is neither fantastic nor paranoid to believe that Russian reach could extend to the highest levels of our politics.  It may, however, be optimistic to believe that it stopped with one party, or with politics. 

As I said, buckle up. 

 

 The article below first appeared in November 2017. Since then—in September 2018—British historian Ben McIntyre revealed that KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky has conclusively proven that Labour Party leader Michael Foot was a paid agent of the Russian intelligence services—known, unimaginatively, as “Agent Boot.” Further, he’s shown that British counterintelligence, MI6, was aware of the relationship but, in consultation with the upper reaches of the Civil Service, concluded that publicly disclosing it would be perceived as meddling in domestic politics.

Sound familiar? Then consider this too: Had Labour won the 1982 election, instead of losing it, Foot would have been Prime Minister.

It’s just what the Russians do.

If the notion of a Russian plant with three passports at the head of a major-party presidential campaign--a Republican presidential campaign, no less--strikes you as a little hard to swallow, buckle up.  Because that's what the Russians do.  And it's nothing  compared to the Cambridge Five.

At least, we think there were at least five.  At first they were just two.  Then a third.  And then a fourth was confirmed, and we're pretty sure about number five.  Some say there were a six and maybe even a seven. 

But whatever their number there's no doubt whatever that in the early 1930's the Russians--then constituted as the Soviet Union--recruited a number of disaffected upper-class undergraduates at Cambridge University to penetrate the highest reaches of British politics and pass its secrets back to Moscow.

And boy, did they.  Despite their known Communist affiliations--in the 1930's, Marxism was an accepted,  rational response to the rise of fascism, one shared by Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the American nuclear arsenal--the boys from Cambridge rose fast.  By the time war broke out they were deeply entrenched in the distinctly English intersecting worlds of journalism, diplomacy, and intelligence.   (Unlike the distinctly American intersecting world of money and everything else.)  Guy Burgess, despite his obvious alcoholism and open homosexuality--then a criminal offense--bounced back and forth between the BBC and the Foreign Office, as did the more discrete Donald MacleanAnthony Blunt, whose background as a preeminent historian of French Rococo art somehow qualified him as a counterintelligence agent, joined the security service, MI5 John Cairncross, who'd started out as private secretary to a member of the Cabinet, managed to get himself  assigned to nothing less than Bletchely Park--the hypercerebral, hypersecret codebreaking operation recently dramatized in "The Imitation Game."

The most prominent was  H.A. R. "Kim" Philby, so nicknamed not because he was cute or something, but because he early reminded his friends of Kipling's fictional boy-spy in the Great Game between Britain and Russia.  He parlayed his role as a correspondent for the Times into a major position with MI6, the UK's legendary Secret Intelligence Service.  Through the course of the war he and his fellow spies--and as I said while we've confirmed five there may have been more---used their incredibly sensitive positions to pass the most highly classified British and American intelligence along to the Soviets--rationalizing away manifest treason with the justification that the Russians were, after all, on our side in the war against fascism.

But then all of a sudden they weren't.  With the war over, our gallant Soviet allies became the Red Menace.  And to be fair, acted like it, seizing any opportunity to evade NATO security, especially atomic.  And though Philby and Co. were by this point no longer on the cutting edge of the penetration operation, they had been careless in the past.  So much so that Burgess and McLean--tipped off by Philby, who unbelievably had survived internal investigations into Russian collusion to rise to be head of the British intelligence station in Washington, and to be mentioned as a possible future director of the service--had to flee Britain in the dead of the night.  And even more unbelievably, after their abrupt departure, Philby was cleared of involvement with the Russians.

But there's more.  Even though the public outcry temporarily derailed Philby's intelligence career, within a few years he was using journalistic cover to act as an agent in the Middle East.  When renewed suspicions grew too hot even for him, he boarded a Soviet freighter and surfaced again in Moscow a few months later--where he died decades later, a colonel in the KGB and a decorated Soviet hero.

Cairncross evaded official attention and found his way into a career in academia in the United States.  His involvement in  the spy ring was only confirmed after his death. 

And the fifth man?  Blunt?  He went on to become the Queen's official art historian--Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures was his official title, I kid you not--in which capacity this former Soviet spy received a knighthood.  Though he confirmed his treason after he was exposed by a Soviet defector, the terms of his confession kept it secret for fifteen years and also allowed him to keep his knighthood, his academic honors, and the royal job.  He wasn't publicly outed until 1978, and is the only member of the ring to have suffered the shame of disclosure in his own lifetime and country.  

So why is any of this important?  In part because of consequences that went far beyond wartime involuntary information-sharing.  Philby was close friends with James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's  chief of counterintelligence.  Angleton was so shaken by his friend's betrayal that he came to see spies everywhere, especially within his own agency.  Periodically our own intelligence apparatus was paralyzed by Philby-inspired, Angleton-ordered "molehunts" during which half our agents wre watching the other half and as a result, no one got much done.  Angleton's paranoia, collateral damage from the Russian penetration operation, crippled the agency until his retirement in the mid-seventies--a gift that just kept on giving.

But even more critically, this episode  demonstrates that the ambition of Russia's intelligence operations is exceeded only by its patience.  The Soviets recruited five young men while still undergraduates and cultivated them over more than a decade so that when the opportunity came, they would occupy sensitive roles in the highest levels of British government.  Whatever facts the Mueller investigation may uncover--and for the sake of the Republic let's all hope that our worst fears are unfounded--history teaches us that when the Russians see a chance, they take it.  And once they've taken it, they stay with it.

And most importantly, we should never forget that before he entered politics in a collapsing Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin was a high-ranking officer in the KGB--the same service that recruited and ran the Cambridge Five for thirty years.  So it is neither fantastic nor paranoid to believe that Russian reach could extend to the highest levels of our politics.  It may, however, be optimistic to believe that it stopped with one party, or with politics. 

As I said, buckle up. 

 

 

WHO SET UP ROD ROSENSTEIN? WHO'S PLAYING THE TIMES?

putinfinger.jpeg

As of this writing, a President accused of rape is pushing hard for the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee accused of rape. Just hours ago, another accuser stepped forward. Presumably Kavanaugh this Sunday night is sitting in the dark, fingers clenched around a tumbler of Jameson’s, trying not to hear the sobbing behind his locked bedroom door. And Trump is throwing furniture at the walls.

But that’s not the point, but background. The accused-rapist President whose every waking moment is consumed by antipathy for Fake News—especially the failing New York Times—is apparently on the verge of firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over a report in the very same failing New York Times to the effect that in the spring of 2017, Rosenstein was so panicked by Trump’s firing of James Comey that he offered to wear a wire in conversations with the President so as to gather evidence for a bid to invoke the 25th Amendment and install Pence as Acting President.

Bullshit.

Several other outlets, including the Washington Post, have already reported that people who were actually in the room—as opposed to the NYT sources who were briefed by people in the room—thought that Rosenstein’s remarks were sarcasm. Which is actually pretty obvious.

The tinfoil-hatted Q-Anon Deep State conspiracy fuckwits in the Trump camp believe that a brand new Deputy AG, on the job a few weeks, a Republican and Trump appointee by the way, would take it on himself to start building a case against a new President whose party controlled both houses of the legislature. To invoke a Constitutional mechanism never before employed and understood poorly, if at all. But not just the true believers at the trailer park—the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times.

What makes the whole story so laughable is the fact that Rod Rosenstein is not only a good lawyer, but a good lawyer with thirty years at Justice under his belt. Thus he has presumably read the Constitution. Specifically the 25th Amendment.

The Amendment was adopted in 1967—surprisingly, in response to the Kennedy assassination. In its aftermath many realized that if Oswald hadn’t been such a good shot Kennedy could have lived on as a vegetable—and President, because hitherto the Constitution had had no mechanism for the removal of an impaired chief executive. And there were recent precedents supporting that concern—Wilson had spent his last years in office completely debilitated by stroke, leaving the country to be run by his wife and a few chums, without Congressional knowledge or consent. Thus the 25th provides that the Vice-President and a majority of the cabinet can advise both houses in writing that the President is out of it, and the Veep assumes his duties as Acting President.

Whew, right? Not so fast. The Amendment also provides a mechanism that allows the President to contest that certification. And if two thirds of both houses don’t agree he’s lost his fastball, he’s back in office. And I must say, woe unto those who signed off on the letter to Congress.

What’s immediately apparent from that brief summary is that the 25th Amendment bar is actually higher than impeachment—only a one-vote majority of the House needed for the latter, but two-thirds for the former. In other words, any idiot could see that it was utterly impossible given the GOP edge in the House, unlessTrump was actually walking around the West Wing naked saying “I am Jesus, drink my blood.” And maybe not even then.

The purpose of that long disquisition was this: No serious person can ever have imagined that Trump was vulnerable to removal under the 25th Amendment. Including Rod Rosenstein.

Yet this is the second piece the Times has run claiming exactly that.

The author of Anonymous was a “senior official;” the sources for the Rosenstein slam were “persons briefed.” If you accept the proposition that deployment of the25th Amendment is the happy-talk fantasy of me and mine on the left, then it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that any story incorporating the assertion that it is being taken seriously in government is palpable fantasy. So both Times stories are bullshit.

So who benefits from the leaks on which the editorial and the story are based?

Well, one theory would be Trump. Though he obviously lacks the maturity to conceive and endure a stratagem in which he briefly looked bad, whatever the benefit, persons acting in his interest could. The Anonymous Op-Ed would plant the seed that Deep State conspirators within the administration were considering the 25th; the Rosenstein bombshell would confirm it, and more importantly, give the President cover to rid himself of this troublesome priest.

Too obvious? Well, maybe the Democrats, then! Six weeks to go before the midterms, the Kavanaugh nomination imploding, Manafort and Cohen singing, Stormy talking about his midget mushroom of a penis—what better time to goad the Fat Man into doing something truly crazy?

Both theories fail. Who truly benefits from both stories is Russia. Our attention daily consumed by the Shriner clown-car pileup of the Trump Administration, our sensibilities hardened by his casual crudities and constant whorehopping, we forget—as we are intended to—that we are under attack my a foreign power. The objective of the continuing Russian cyberwar campaign was not to install a puppet in the White House—that was a sundae cherry they could not have hoped for in their wildest dreams—but rather to sow discord and discredit the institutions of a democracy.

The “25th Amendment” narrative twice reported by the Times—despite its facial absurdity— merely lends credence to deep state conspiracy theories so beloved by hillbillies with internet access. In other words it serves only to energize the base and deepen the cleavage between it and consensus reality. It may benefit Trump; it may benefit the Democrats; it certainly benefits Russia.

The Russian disinformation war against America and the West didn’t end with the 2016 election. It continues to this moment. The Times may have been a tool more powerful than Facebook.

HOW IT ENDED

An impious king bids his children farewell.

An impious king bids his children farewell.

 He is alone in the Oval.  

He hung up on Hizzoner a few minutes ago.  He tried to get out ahead of the story but it was too late.  No way to come back from this one.  Sorry, but he had to think of himself too.  Hey, but it's been a hell of a ride, right?  So he'll be  on Sean tonight.  He just wanted to know how he wanted him to break it.

The blood rushes to his face when he thinks about Vladimir.  Never trust a Russki, they told him.  But he made it sound so easy.  Just go be you and it all stays in the safe.  But now there was armor in East Ukraine and the pot had to be stirred.  Big league.

The phone buzzes.  He's pretty sure he knows who it is.  "Send her in."

She's not alone.  Her husband is with her.  He didn't think he could get angrier but he does.  The blood is singing in his ears.

“Daddy,” she says. “It’s time to go. Before it gets too bad.” She pauses. “For all of us.”

He drops his head and clutches the edge of the desk. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It can’t happen. He is the most important person in the world. He’s always been the most important person in the world.

His son-in-law steps forward. He puts his hand on the President’s shoulder and leans forward and whispers.

Suddenly too much is more than too much. “I told you never to call me that,” he says, his voice at first his normal conversational rasp. But it rises to a hillbilly rally howl. “I fucking told you never to fucking call me that!”

Daughter and son-in-law back up a step, but too late. He is on his feet, a paperweight clutched from the Resolute desk in his hand. His daughter grabs his arm but he shakes her away and she stumbles against the desk and falls onto the carpet, striking her head against the embroidered Great Seal of the United States.

His son-in-law, always slow to react, stands staring at him blankly. The President swings the paperweight three times. “DON’T” thwack “CALL” thwack “ME” thwack “DAD.”

His son-in-law is crumpled near the ornamental bookcase. He whimpers in that whispery way he has always hated. His daughter is trying to get to her feet.

He is breathing very hard and his heart is racing and his chest hurts and for an instant he wonders whether he should have made the doctors say what they said about his perfect health but then he realizes that doesn’t matter any more, that nothing does, that he has always gotten what he wants and now it’s time to do the things he really wanted, that even he knew were bad, before he calls the Army or Navy guy with the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist and takes out the decoder ring or whatever it is and takes everyone in the whole world with him.

But first things first. His son-in-law is still whisper-whimpering against the wall. His cheekbones are shattered and blood is running from his nose. The President pulls a pair of scissors out of the Resolute. He kicks the boy’s legs apart and bends over him. He cups his chin and tilts his head towards him. “See what you get, you little shit?” He yanks down his son in law’s zipper and reaches in. “See what you get for fucking what’s mine?”

The scissors have done half their work when his daughter grabs his arm. “Daddy, what is the matter with you?” Blood sprays over both as he turns to her. She pummels his head and tries to get nails in his eyes.

“Oh you want some, do you?” He cuffs her head. She staggers but remains standing. Another and she sags against the desk. “Don’t worry, I’ll give you some.”

He ignores the pounding on the Oval door and the screeching of the phone to turn her limp body over against the Resolute. He hikes up her dress and pulls down her thong.

At last. At last. What he’s wanted all these years, the only thing ever denied him. He drops his pants.

Yet he’s stubbornly flaccid. He howls like a baboon. The pills! The fucking pills! He left them upstairs!

The pounding on the door has turned from a rattle to a steady rhythmic thump. “You wait, you fucking wait,” he says, baby-walking through his fallen pants towards the door and the pills.

The door bursts open. There are half a dozen men: the Secretary of Defense, the Vice President, and a couple of Secret Service.

The Secretary is in front. That was the plan. He sees the President with his pants around his ankles and his comically overlong tie providentially covering his genitals. Behind him are his daughter restoring her modesty and his son in law weeping in a corner with his hands pressed to his bleeding crotch.

He knew his duty before, and he is sure of it now. The pistol in his hand is not the eurotrash Glock officers get now but the Model 1911 forty-five he’d had since he commanded his first platoon. His arm comes up and the gun barely bucks.

The President falls backwards. The big bullet hit him in the center of his chest. Blood is spilling fast through his back all over the Seal in the carpet.

The Secretary steps forward. The President is still alive. His mouth is moving and his piggish blue eyes are full of terror. Though he knows the President deserves no mercy he ends the suffering with a round to the head.

The room is silent except for the son-in-law’s whimpering and the gurgling of the late President. The daughter stands upright beside the Resolute. Her eyes meet the Secretary’s. They are as hard as bayonet points.

The Secretary grasps his pistol by its warm barrel and offers it, butt-first, to the daughter. He cocks an eyebrow.

At first she hesitates. But not for long. She takes the gun and pulls back the slide with a practiced ease. Her eyes close and she takes a deep breath. They open and she pivots towards her husband.

The Secretary cannot blame her for the quivering arm and the pause that lets her husband know what’s coming so he screams before she lets two go, one in the chest and the other in the head. Soon he’s as much a twitching mess as his late father-in-law.

The daughter turns from her late husband and looks the Secretary in the eye. She brings the big gun to just behind her chin, angled towards the top of her head. With her free hand she grasps her wrist. Her eyes do not leave the Secretary’s as she takes three deep slow breaths. Then they close.

A spray of brains and blood hit the drapes and a bullet flattens itself against bulletproof glass.

The new President, behind him, puts his hand on the Secretary’s shoulder. “You’ve done the Lord’s work today,” he says in his oily midwestern AM radio voice. “And you will be richly rewarded.”

“In Heaven, of course,” the new President adds.

Behind him the Secretary hears rounds being chambered.