politics

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.

TRUMPWORLD PREPS FOR COLONOSCOPY

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Trump's inexplicable and highly public confession has provoked a fecal geyser visible from space.  

Seriously.

As you read this, members of his legal team are sprinting down the hallway in a half squat, shoving staffers out of the way and pounding on bathroom doors like Fred bellowing for Wilma in the Flintsone's closing credits.  Trashbags filled with reeking and sodden trousers are lined up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue waiting for collection by guys in hazmat suits. 

See, their boss--for no apparent reason--just admitted, in a tweet, that the purpose behind the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his highest advisors and a bunch of Russians was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.  Which, contrary to what Lord of the Undead Rudy Giuliani gibbers, is a clear violation of federal law.

True, politicians do try to get dirt on one another all the time.  And it's not illegal.  

So long as it's not from Russians.

52 USC Sec. 30121 makes it unlawful For "a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make. . .
 a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election

Trump's defense, so far as it can be divined from the leaking hacks still willing to appear in public in his defense, appears to be threefold: first, that information--dirt--is speech protected by the First Amendment; second, that dirt is not a "thing of value"; third, that Hillary got Russian dirt via the Steele dossier.  

I guess when you're sitting in a cushion of your own stool you have to say something.  Point by point:

Political information is not protected speech.  If it were, so would insider information or intellectual property.  Doesn't warrant further discussion.

Second, of course "dirt" is a thing of value.  Politicians  pay for it.  A lot.

Finally, whoever paid for the Steele Dossier paid for it.  Thus, it is neither a donation nor a contribution--the acts prohibited by the statute.  Accordingly, there is no arguable criminal liability for whoever bought it, because they paid for it.  To be clear, the statute doesn't prohibit any candidate from staying in  a Russian hotel--but it does prohibit staying in a hotel if Putin's paying for it.

So that's why Trump spokespeople look so uncomfortable.  They're covered in shit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUSSIAN SANCTIONS: A MODEST PROPOSAL

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Now that Trump has proven his worth as a statesman by taking a load of Putin's semen in the face, it has become clear that an adequate response to Russian aggression must rest with Congress.  Luckily, its path is clear.

Previous sanctions against the shambling medieval holdover have failed in part because they are aimed against the Russian people and what passes as its economic system.  Thus, they have had a disproportionate impact on ordinary people while having no effect whatsoever on the sleazy-glitzy--sound familiar?--oligarchs who actually call the shots.

So how can you really hit the Russian ruling class where it hurts?

Easy--make them stay in Russia.

Russia--if he were talking about a country full of brown people---is what Trump would call a shithole.  Its economy, despite its enormous geographical size, is smaller than Italy's. And that economy is based exclusively on extraction--oil, gas, minerals--so when those are gone, the kulaks will be down to selling their kidneys on the dark web.  Its life expectancy is declining, in part because among the commonest cause of death in adult males is drowning while drunk. Really.  And while their military does include a formidable nuclear capacity, it is sadly underfunded and undermaintained.  Remember the Kursk?  It was once the pride of the Soviet navy, a cruise-missile-capable nuclear sub.  In 2000,  during maneuvers, two badly manufactured torpedoes blew up onboard, and it sank in shallow water.   Russia, suspicious as always of outsiders, refused offers of British and Norwegian help.  Thus the twenty-three crewmen who survived the initial explosion suffocated in the dark.  

This explains why so many oligarchs spend as much time as possible outside their country.  They like good food, sunshine, and strippers who don't wipe their asses with their fingers.  This, coupled with a desire to hide as much money as possible from the boss, has led them to buy as much luxury real estate in America as they could grab, money being no object.  (And of course one of their preferred sellers was Donald J. Trump, but that's a subject for another day.)  The result of Russian real estate investment here has been to drive up the cost of high-end properties in major US and European cities--and when the high end goes up, so does everything else.  So Russian real estate investment has hurt middle-class American homebuyers.  Thus, keeping Russians out of the US not only hurts them, but helps us.

But wait--what if the Russians retaliate?  What if the Russians won't let us visit Russia?

Uh--so what?  Who cares?

So I call on the Republicans in both houses of Congress to take a page from their fearless leader's playbook: a total Russian travel ban!

 

 

HOUSE GOP UNVEILS HUMAN-CHIMP HYBRID

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives stunned the world today by revealing a major advance in genetic engineering--a humanzee.

A humanzee, as recently explained in the "Stuff to Blow Your Mind" podcast, is a hybrid of a human and a chimpanzee.  However appalling the idea, there is no doubt that it was attempted by a Russian veterinarian in Stalin's early years.  Shockingly, the so-called Red Frankenstein not only inseminated female chimps with human sperm, but in at least one instance, a human female with chimp sperm.  All without viable outcome.

Yet Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan proves that freedom succeeds where socialism fails.  Though unable to wear many forms of human clothing, including a jacket, he nevertheless sports opposable thumbs and is capable of many simple, guttural sentences. 

Sadly, in hearings today with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray, Jordan's simian intolerance for frustration quickly evidenced itself in incoherent howls of rage that culminated in his hurling his own stool around the room.  

He is now in the custody of the DC Humane Society.  

 

FOX SHOCKER: LAURA INGRAHAM PIMPS JESUS

Fox News flack Laura Ingraham has doubled down in her bid to be named Shittiest Human Being Ever.

You may know that in a move shocking even to the liberal--sorry!--standards of the Fox gerontocracy, Ingraham called out  on Twitter seventeen-year-old Parkland survivor David Hogg for not having got into his top pick colleges and then "whining" about it.

There are, of course, a number of problems with this apparent to anyone who has not sold his soul for a TV time slot that enables her to talk to Trump directly while he masturbates.  One is that you shouldn't make fun of a kid in public.  Another is that you shouldn't hurt a kid over a personal disappointment.  A third is that you shouldn't publicly ridicule a kid whose friends were killed in a mass shooting two months ago.  These are things any decent human being knows.  She, obviously, does not.

But what Laura should know is that you shouldn't make fun of anyone who didn't get into his top pick colleges.  Laura went to Dartmouth.  That means she was turned down by Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.  At least.  Probably Columbia too.  Dartmouth is nobody's first choice.  So she should know better.  

But this seventeen year old is no pushover.  Neither is his fourteen year old sister.  They launched a Twitter campaign asking people to boycott the famously made-over right-wing spittle factory's advertisers.

It worked.  So far Nutrish, Johnson & Johnson, Tripadvisor, and Wayfair have pulled their ads.  Companies that will now get my business whenever it's available.

But Safety School alumna Ingraham's response to the Hoggs made things worse.  Much worse.  She proved yet again that the hallmark of a marrow-deep, down in the DNA asshole is the inability to offer a genuine apology.  Here, in pertinent part, is what she said in this afternoon's tweet:

"On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland." [emphasis added]

Leaving aside for a moment the italicized language, her "apology" is not an acknowledgement of her own dreadful behavior.  She doesn't say, "I apologize for hurting you."  She says, "I apologize if you were hurt."  A form of words, mouthed only because they are expected,  completely unfelt, characteristic of high-functioning sociopaths everywhere.  

But most shocking is the italicized language.  The second-tier Ivy grad holds herself out as a believing Catholic.  So she says her apology, such as it is, is offered not in a genuine spirit of contrition but an act of grace in acknowledgement of the season.  Thus invoking the Passion and Resurrection in furtherance of her frantic effort to claw back advertisers and avoid the bully's ultimate humiliation: ruin at the hands of a couple of picked-on kids.  

Holy Week? Go to hell.  

 

THE CLOWN SCARE OF 2016: MASS PSYCHOSIS or PREMONITION?

In Arthur C. Clarke's early--and arguably best--novel Childhood's Endan advanced alien civilization suddenly "appears" in giant, silent spaceships that hover over our cities.  Their intentions, we soon learn, are entirely benign; over a generation, they gently shepherd us to a millennial utopia of universal peace and prosperity.  But there's a catch: "appears" is in quotes because they won't let us see them, just their ships, and they communicate with us exclusively by voice.

For a while.  After that transformational generation has passed, they let themselves be seen.  And the reason for their concealment is immediately clear--they look like the devil.  (That's a seventeenth century woodcut of Baphomet on the far left and a made-up Charles Dance in SyFy's adaptation of the book next to it.)  But because of the decades of unbroken kindness since their arrival, their resemblance to the lords of hell is swiftly chalked up to an amusing coincidence.

But it wasn't.  The paradise they've made for us is just a transition.  They are here as emissaries of an infinitely higher being, overseeing the absorption of the last generation of humans--all the children in the world-- into it as the climax of our species' evolution.  They appeared in our mythology as demons in a racial premonition of the role they would play in humanity's metamophosis and extinction. And not just humanity's; as the children dissolve into the Overmind, Earth itself disintegrates as well.

The novel has haunted me since I read it the first time in junior high.  And somehow it got me thinking about a half-forgotten social phenomenon:  the scary clown hysteria of Fall 2016.  Yes, the Great Clown Scare was a real thing, thousands of sightings of armed and menacing jesters hovering in the woods or lurking in subway entrances and doorways.  Though the craze was worldwide, it centered in the United States and peaked in late October--just before the election.

So let me ask the obvious: Was it mere coincidence that we started to see scary orange haired buffoons everywhere just as it began to seem possible that Donald Trump would win the election?  Or was it a premonition of the future which, now realized, was even worse than we could have then imagined--an aged whorehopper with a scalp like a scalded poodle plunging the stock markets and roiling the world trade system just because he's in a bad mood? 

It's the nature of omens that they are always ignored.  We now live in a world run by an evil clown.

 

 

THE CAMBRIDGE FIVE: RUSSIAN MEDDLING, OLD SCHOOL

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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.