Top 10 Ways to Avoid Watching the Royal Wedding

Warning: Contains herring

I know you don’t want to watch the Royal Wedding. But you might be tempted, cajoled or bullied into it. You need excuses. I be providing…

1. Spend the day in quiet contemplation of your navel (unless your navel comes equipped with a 24-hour news channel).

2. Move to Windsor, and hope that (as with other sporting events) the Royal Wedding is subject to local blackout.

3. Arrange a different type of blackout by hanging out with your local wino, making a detailed examination of his Thunderbird collection.

4. Hijack a plane to Lithuania, and spend the day touring local facilities:

(Lithuania! White, smiling, and composed in 7/4 time. No speed limits on bicycles, and 25 litas buys you a loft the size of Pittsburgh. Pizza with assorted prewar car parts is the local delicacy.)

5. Smother yourself in cream sauce and pretend to be a herring!

(Hiding in the jar ensures that no one can find you and spritz you with Royal Wedding pics.)

Ways 5 to 10

To be filled in by reader. Be creative, but non-violent! Anything excessively kinky will be forwarded to the proper authorities.

This post brought to you by Invest Lithuania, coming soon to a pup tent near you. Mr. Hiatus Lemon-Elderflower, fund advisor.

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Kim Jong-un Funny #1

Prepping hard for summit

According to reports emerging from the hermit kingdom, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is hard at work preparing for his June summit with President Trump. Just as we in the West find it difficult to comprehend the politics and culture of a land so foreign, our Eastern counterparts evidently have a reciprocal problem. It’s hard for even Americans to make sense of our present government; but with the aid of a jerry-built gizmo, the North Korean leader hopes to become inured to its subtleties.

The Kim Jong-un Funnies – Collect them all!

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Will The Real Mr. Magoo Please Stand Up?

Mr. Magoo, the animation world’s tribute to blind capitalism

The president’s spinners are (metaphorically) exercising their diaphragms. As a counterpoint, let’s take a mystery tour through film, TV and literature, sampling everything from Rocky and Bullwinkle to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

According to Washington scuttlebutt, Donald Trump has a pet name for Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Mr. Magoo. But implicit in Rudy Giuliani’s recent statements to the press is the claim that Trump paid attorney Michael D. Cohen approximately $460,000 blindly, without knowing the reason. This rather absurd claim is being made by Trump loyalists in an effort to thread the needle. Trump supposedly knew enough about the things Cohen was “fixing” to pay him $460,000, yet had no specific knowledge of the Stormy Daniels payment.

If Sarah Sanders has lost all credibility as press secretary, perhaps she could be retrained to function as a seeing eye dog — that is, if Trump is really blind and not just faking. No slush fund would be needed to meet with her expenses. An occasional crumb of truth should square things with The Sarah, if not too much of a shock to her system.

On the other hand, when it comes to spinning tales about Trump’s dalliances, Kellyanne Conway may deserve the nod as top service dog. Capping a week of not-to-be-believed moments, Conway appeared on State of the Union last Sunday, claiming that when Trump stated point blank aboard Air Force One on April 5 that he had no knowledge of the payment to Stormy Daniels, he was referring to his knowledge back in 2016, not his present day knowledge. Jake Tapper soldiered on with grim determination:

Conway’s phrase “democratization of information” (referring specifically to the president’s tweets) is a novel way of saying “oppression of the masses through short, targeted nuggets of propaganda aimed at a fifth grade reading level.”

Her implication that the end justifies the means, and that a 3.9% unemployment rate excuses Trump for being a walking embarrassment in most respects, is infuriating to people who know that the present downward trend in unemployment began during the Obama era, and that in addition to (ideally) forming sound policies, a president must also be truthful and well-spoken.

It pains me to think that if you manage to (temporarily) stuff an extra $10 a week in the pocket of the average worker, he or she might not care about the stench of corruption wafting from this White House. Is that what America has come to? Maybe it’s time sell off the Statue of Liberty, or turn it into a Trump-style combination casino and knocking shop.

At one point in the interview, Conway mistakenly cites T. S. Eliot, giving me an excuse to chime in:

As we measure out our lives with coffee spoons,
Do we dare to say impeach?

She also references “the sheer volume and velocity” of what Trump puts out in “just one breakneck week.” I shudder to think, volume and velocity of what? I’ll wager he ensures full employment for that little mustachioed man who cleans up after the parade:

Yes friends, a parade of corruption the volume and velocity of Trump’s will require a huge (or bigly) cleanup effort — and not everything left sitting in piles on the street will be rose petals.

I’ve remarked in the past that this administration has bad energy and attracts sharklike folk who lie shamefacedly. What more can one say? I’m reminded of an offhand comment by Chris Matthews that Nixon had a sense of shame which Trump lacks. While Nixon agreed to resign in the end, Trump may have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the White House, surrounded by flunkies claiming that he hasn’t really been indicted or impeached. It’s all Fake News. “Ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel spin!”

Our march of memes to describe a clumsily corrupt administration rolls on. We know things will end badly, but how many light bulbs will get broken at the end of the day? In this regard, it’s well to remember that in the annals of the unsighted, before Mr. Magoo there was Mr. Muckle:

And lesser-known than either is the “help me” guy from Rocket Attack U.S.A.:

Now if that isn’t an apt meme for the Trump administration, I don’t know what is! Except possibly “Hodge Podge Lodge,” a locale found in the original Mr. Magoo cartoon from 1949:

One imagines the main dish served at Hodge Podge Lodge is word salad — a concoction Trump’s PR flacks routinely fling chimplike at reporters, as does Trump himself. In “100 Days of Gibberish,” Guardian contributor Lindy West quotes this passage from an April 2017 AP interview with The Donald:

Well he said, you’ll be the greatest president in the history of, but you know what, I’ll take that also, but that you could be. But he said, will be the greatest president but I would also accept the other. In other words, if you do your job, but I accept that. Then I watched him interviewed and it was like he never even was here. It’s incredible. I watched him interviewed a week later and it’s like he was never in my office. And you can even say that.

— Donald Trump (full transcript here)

West describes Trump’s rhetorical style as “untethered from both meaning and reality.” Imagine trying to translate him into French or Japanese! Quoted in the Japan Times, Chikako Tsuruta says: “He is so overconfident and yet so logically unconvincing that my interpreter friends and I often joke that if we translated his words as they are, we would end up making ourselves sound stupid.”

The Japanese prefer polite speech, so translating Trump’s off-color remarks laced with epithets attacking his enemies points to “a long-standing dilemma dogging the profession — whether to sanitize the words of a controversial speaker.” Still, if you eliminated everything that’s crude, illogical, or untethered from reality, you’d be left performing John Cage’s famous 4’33” of silence:

Between Trump and the chattering class responding to him, silence is needed now more than ever — that and peaceful morning meditation music.

Other than flinging word salad, distracting attention is another technique favoured by Trump flacks: Don’t look at Russian collusion, look over here at this banjo-playing bear!

Getting the public gradually accustomed to shocking news also seems to be a thing. It’s no secret that the endless scandals plaguing this administration can lead to outrage fatigue. Some suggest that this is being cynically milked. Take Rudy Giuliani’s series of inane TV appearances, such as his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos:

Like Conway, little by little Giuliani is trying to normalize the phenomenon of Trump having a slush fund to pay off porn stars. Of course that’s what all celebrities and “people of worth” do. And taking the Fifth? Well natch the president wouldn’t want to answer questions from a special counsel engaged in a WITCH HUNT!!! Trump taking the Fifth is as American as motherhood and apple pie.

Watching the interview and harkening back to the Japanese issue of genteel speech, I wonder: At what point does “the president’s top attorney” become “a slippery bastard who can’t be nailed down on even the simplest of facts”? (Gomenasai.)

As Stephen Colbert points out, a recent Trump tweet included the phrase “There is no O…”

For those familiar with James Thurber’s brilliant book The Wonderful O, this sounds an ominous gong of totalitarianism. For as Thurber noted, if the letter “O” were outlawed, we should have to throw out everything from cellos and mandolins to calico and clocks — even the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act so prized by pork-lovers in Congress — which itself would have to be outlawed, except that we should need a different word, since even the word “outlawed” would be outlawed, along with Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump.

Come to think of it, I could probably give up calico and clocks in exchange for losing Stormy and Donald. But playing the mandolin… Ah, now that would be a true sacrifice.

The Sleeping Gypsy, by Henri Rousseau (1897)

Sidebar: Break it to me gently

The 90s TV show Northern Exposure was a treasure trove of practical philosophical wisdom, including tips on breaking bad news gently. It was set in the mythical town of Cicely, Alaska, where events took on an air of magical realism, such as a man fusing with a satellite which re-enters earth’s atmosphere piping hot.

The unfortunate victim is Rick (Maggie O’Connell’s boyfiend), and it falls to Dr. Joel Fleischman to break the news. Feeling awkward and tongue-tied, he resorts to telling a joke:

Joel (uncomfortable): Hi Maggie, how are things?

Maggie: Rick didn’t come home last night, okay? If he wants to behave like a child, then let him! I mean, if I have to be the bad guy, okay! But I am not going to have another death on my hands! I mean, alright, I admit it, I do — I’m sensitive. I’ve lost four boyfriends. Four! Do you know how that feels? And of course I ask myself, is that me? Is it something I do? What is it, Fleischman? You want to tell me something, I can tell by your face.

Joel (uneasy): Yes. Yes… I do. I want to tell you something. A joke!

Maggie: A joke?

Joel: Yeah! You see, this guy goes on a trip and he leaves his cat with his friend. Well, he calls his friend and asks how the cat is. His friend says, “The cat is dead.” The guy says, “Geez! God! Couldn’t you break the news to me a little more gently? You know, lead into it: Your cat crawled up on the roof, there was a loose tile and it took a little fall… like that?” Next month, the guy goes on another trip, calls his friend, and asks how his mom is. The guy says, “Well, she crawled up on the roof and there was a loose tile…”

Maggie (laughs): Not bad!

Joel (leans forward earnestly): Rick crawled up on the roof…

Taking their cue from this vignette, spinners for the president shouldn’t immediately let fly the news that Trump and Cohen conspired to establish a secret slush fund for paying off porn stars. Let them begin with a more genteel admission. Not “The cat crawled up on the roof,” but rather “Stormy Daniels went down on…” Oh, never mind!

(You see, you made it to the end, and there really was a Stormy Daniels joke.)

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

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The Trump-Cohen Reptile Fund

Have you heard enough confusing statements from Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, and Sarah Sanders about the Stormy Daniels payoff?

Oh, you want more? Well, here’s Jimmy Kimmel’s wrap-up of last week’s events:

These multiple versions of reality begin to feel like slow torture. But the insanity doesn’t end there. Here’s a paragraph from Rudy Giulani’s walkback statement of May 4:

My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the President’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.

Now, if I didn’t know better I’d swear these guys are taking a page from the old Monty Python Confuse-A-Cat playbook, making an organized effort to produce inane results. (“I hope to God it works!”)

I’m also reminded of Schrödinger’s cat. It’s like in one version of reality, you open the box and Stormy Daniels is dead, traces of catnip trailing down her blouse; in another version of reality you open the box and she’s live and well, strutting her stuff.

In one version of reality, Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about a payment to Stormy Daniels; in another version of reality he and Michael Cohen have gamed it all out as early as February 2016, with Cohen taking out loans against his property to start a reptile fund that couldn’t be traced back to Trump, and Trump later reimbursing him via structured payments disguised as a “retainer.” Welcome to the Reptile of the Month Club! Only one in fifty reptiles makes it through our exclusive screening process…

As consumers of information, we are like readers of Philip K. Dick’s novel Martian Time-Slip, in which a character experiences a schizophrenic break with reality, and keeps reliving the same event multiple times — each time with a different outcome. (An aside: Someone uploaded the audiobook of Martian Time-Slip to a media site, and end users complained that there seemed to be something wrong with the audio — some parts repeat. They didn’t get it that the character is reliving the same event over and over again…)

In political dictatorships — whether left-wing or right-wing — reality is determined arbitrarily by the dictator.

In the spiritual realm, if we voluntarily seek the counsel of a teacher who embodies truth, then it can be very beneficial to see the truth through his or her eyes.

But in the realm of politics, when we are saddled with an uncouth and ignorant leader who keeps changing reality under our feet day after day, this is meant to wear us down and break our spirit as a people. It’s similar to interrogation techniques where a captive is subjected to psychological manipulation such that he must parrot the views of the interrogator (even knowing they are wrong), or else face torture. Take this Orwellian tableau:

O’Brien stands beside the bed, and Winston feels that O’Brien, who is the torturer, is also somehow a friend. The aim of O’Brien is to teach Winston the technique of doublethink, and he does this by inflicting pain of ever-increasing intensity. He reminds Winston that he wrote the sentence: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four.” O’Brien holds up four fingers of his left hand, and he asks Winston how many there are. Winston answers four a couple of times, and each time the pain increases (this is not done to make Winston lie, but to make him really see five fingers instead of four). At the end of the session, under heavy influence of drugs and agony, Winston really sees five fingers. Now Winston is ready to enter the second stage of his integration…

— from “Work: Summaries & Interpretations: Nineteen Eighty-Four”

This concept was borrowed for a very disturbing two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Chain of Command.” There, Captain Picard is tortured by his Cardassian captor in order to get him to say he sees five lights when there are only four. At this stage, the purpose is not to extract any particular information, but simply to enforce a relationship in which the interrogator controls the reality experienced by the target.

In a similar vein, Trump’s tweets and Sarah Sanders’s press briefings are meant to drive home the message that Reality is whatever we say it is. Facts don’t matter. What we said yesterday doesn’t matter. If we say the opposite today, that’s not changing our story.

It’s also like the Donovan song that toys with Zen Buddhism: “First there is a payment, then there is no payment, then there is.”

The president spoke to the NRA on Friday, and I saw no indication that he would keep his promises to families affected by the rash of school shootings:

(See also Trump’s America: Teachers With Guns.) So, we know that Trump doesn’t just lie about personal matters, but about substantive policy matters as well. We’re used to politicians lying, but sometimes a difference in degree amounts to a difference in kind.

This brings me back to a point I made in Trump’s Mental Fitness: An Expert Opinion. Impeachment is a political process. A political leader who lies constantly, who saps the strength of the nation, who cheapens truth, and who uses the mammoth megaphone of the presidency to say, in effect, that I alone determine the nature of reality, is not a fit leader. Whether or not he’s been found guilty of a crime is beside the point. In a democratic nation which values truth, he must be removed from office by constitutional means, because truth matters.

Sidebar: A Chinese mystery

In a post about Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant and other views of the immigrant experience, I mentioned Wayne Wang’s outstanding film Chan Is Missing. There, the main protagonist laments: “This mystery is appropriately Chinese. What’s not there seems to have just as much meaning as what is there.”

The same is true of Trump’s infamous Air Force One comments of April 5 to AP reporter Catherine Lucey. The video is usually truncated, omitting Lucey’s final question and what Trump does not say in response. Transcript:

Catherine Lucey: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

President Trump: No. No. What else?

Catherine Lucey: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?

President Trump: Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.

Catherine Lucey: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

President Trump: No, I don’t know. No.

Catherine Lucey: Did you ever set up a fund of money that he could draw from?

President Trump: [Silence — no response — ignores the question]

Trump seems extremely eager to issue vocal denials about the Stormy Daniels payoff; but when Lucey asks a question designed to get at whether there was a slush fund Cohen could have used to make the payment, Trump suddenly falls silent. We now know why.

While the details are still emerging (and the spinners are still spinning), today’s version of reality is that circa February 2016 (just after Trump had significant primary wins and began to look like a serious candidate), Michael D. Cohen may have begun setting up a campaign-related slush fund. He may have used personal funds from home-equity lines of credit as discussed in this Wall Street Journal article.

Later, as stated by Trump’s new personal attorney Rudolf Giuliani, President Trump reimbursed Cohen by means of monthly payments of $35,000, which Giuliani alleges were a “retainer” for Cohen’s services, even though (according to Giuliani) Cohen did “no work” for Trump during this later period in which the “retainer” (or repayment) was being serviced.

The possible implication is that in February 2016, Cohen (and/or Trump) recognized that one or more people would need to be paid off to get Trump through the election, and that the funds should not be directly traceable to Trump. Cohen therefore set up a slush fund using his personal finances, expecting to be reimbursed covertly by Trump later on, which appears to have been done.

While both Trump and Giuliani claim that the so-called “retainer” was legitimate and represented common practice, investigators might view it as a “structured payment” intended to hide financial irregularities, or even crimes.

Common sense suggests that the payoff to Daniels a few days before the election was campaign-related, and is therefore subject to campaign finance laws. Such laws often treat innocent oversights with no more than a fine; but where there appears to be a willful conspiracy involving multiple persons, multiple payments, intentional concealment, and possible bank fraud, criminal prosecution does not seem so farfetched, at least to this non-lawyer.

What tomorrow’s version of reality will bring, who can say? One hopes, the truth — but with this administration, one learns to expect the lie du Jour.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

Links

Trump Is Said to Have Known of Payment to Stormy Daniels Months Before He Denied It (The New York Times)
Trump and His Aides Have No Idea What They’re Talking About (The Atlantic)

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On Fox News, Giuliani Confirms Slush Fund, Plausible Deniability

slush-trump-cohen-giulianiSquaring the facts, and calling b.s. on Trump’s ghosted tweet…

In Drain the Swamp or Pad the Reptile Fund? (April 9), I offered what I thought to be the most likely explanation for Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels a few days before the 2016 presidential election.

I suggested that Cohen had standing orders from Trump to pay off women who might blackmail Trump or write “true confession” stories for the media, and that Cohen had access to a general purpose fund — sometimes called a “slush fund” or “reptile fund” — from which to make such payments. If the fund ran dry, Cohen knew it would be refilled or “padded” later. He fully expected reimbursement.

A key point in my theory was that Cohen’s witting role was to be the cutout man, so that Trump himself would not know the details of such settlement(s) involving payment, and could therefore maintain plausible deniability when grilled by reporters.

I included video and analysis of Trump’s answers (and non-answers) to reporter Catherine Lucey aboard Air Force One on April 5. There, Trump seems eager to issue vocal denials that he knew anything about the payment to Daniels, but suddenly clams up when Lucey asks if he ever set up a fund which Cohen could draw from. (That last bit is important, but is usually not played.)

Appearing on Fox News on May 2 and May 3, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani has now largely confirmed this theory. Like most spinners for Trump, Giuliani is discursive. He nevertheless claimed or implied:

– That Trump only learned the specifics of the payment to Daniels quite recently.

– That the payment to Daniels was “funneled” by Trump to Cohen through Cohen’s law firm.

– That Trump paid Cohen a “retainer” of approximately $35,000 a month to take care of matters like “some Stormy Daniels woman” and not bother him about the details, just as Giuliani would do for his clients (who are “busy people”).

– That the $130,000 payment to Daniels was covered by this monthly “retainer.”

– That the payment had nothing to do with politics or the election, but was rather a personal payment by Trump to Daniels to help save his marriage.

– That Trump paid Daniels this large sum despite her claim of a sexual affair being false and extortionate.

– That no campaign funds were expended, and no campaign finance laws were criminally violated.

– That at worst reading, Donald Trump simply failed to report this contribution made from his own pocket, funneled through Cohen as part of a standing arrangement.

– That Trump spent $100 million of his own money on the campaign, compared to which the $130,000 payment to Daniels is insignificant.

– That such a failure to report is not usually treated as a criminal matter, and should not have resulted in “storm troopers” “breaking down” Cohen’s door.

Overall, Giuliani’s statements conform to the general theory of a slush fund from which Cohen could draw, giving Trump plausible deniability about payments made. Quite a few of Giuliani’s claims nevertheless remain suspect. For example:

– A general retainer doesn’t usually cover specific large settlements.

– In aboveboard operations, the client isn’t intentionally kept in the dark about settlements reached and large payments made by his attorney.

– Giuliani is invoking the “John Edwards defense”: that Trump paid off Daniels a few days before the election for personal (rather than political) reasons. This defense worked for Edwards, but may not work for Trump.

A rather pressing question is: Why did Trump and Giuliani decide that at this juncture in time it’s better for Trump to be seen as an outright liar than to continue to deny making the payment to Daniels? The volte-face is, after all, one of the most difficult public relations maneuvers to pull off. (Fox News tastefully avoided showing Giuliani’s feet. Was he wearing flip-flops? Regardless, this stinks to high heaven.)

The most likely explanation is that the court-authorized raid by the FBI on Cohen’s various premises turned up hard evidence that Trump was funneling money to Cohen to facilitate the Daniels payoff, so the previous claim that Cohen had “gone rogue” was no longer even vaguely tenable.

This is only speculation on the part of this lowly blogger, based on reading news accounts and listening to statements made by the various protagonists. But if you read my post of April 9, you’ll see I pretty much nailed it.


Sidebar: Trump tweet seems to have been ghosted

If you know Trump’s bombastic, emotional (not to say illogical) style, you may seriously question whether this 3-part tweet dated May 3 was really written by Trump, or by one of his attorneys:

The complex sentence structure, legalese, lack of typos (bar one), and correct use of capitalization all point to a ghost writer with experience drafting legal briefs. (Maybe we should call him “Little Docket Man.”)

I suppose some bright young thing could write a Twitter app that would mangle an otherwise cogent statement, turning it into a Trump tweet, adding elements of mania and illiteracy, and pasting NO COLLUSION! NO COLLUSION! NO COLLUSION! in appropriate (or inappropriate) places. Ain’t science wonnerful?

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

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Top 5 Retro Snow Videos from UK

Enjoy this ultra cool retrospective, plus discussion of The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and The Bobbsey Twins. More Storm Emma too.
“Snowmen of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your carrot noses!”

Snowman figure with carrot nose at Mount Selwyn snowfields, New South Wales. Courtesy http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-15/snowman-with-carrot-nose-at-mt-selwyn-nsw/2840274

UPDATED! It’s no secret that I love snow. As we close out winter once and for all (a freak May Day snowstorm notwithstanding), I wanted to post these Top 5 Retro Snow Videos from the UK. I’d already stumbled on them when doing my earlier top snow videos post, themed on Storm Emma and Beast from the East. I hope you saw it, because in addition to some really beautiful snow scenes shot by everyday people, it also included a laugh-out-loud clip of Piers Morgan doing his Yorkshire and Hampshire accents, bringing ITV’s Good Morning Britain to a grinding (but hilarious) halt.

These retro clips have a different character, putting us in touch with snows that fell long ago on a different world. Why should we care about a snow that fell in 1947 or 1963?

Writing in an American populist vein, W.P. Kinsella — author of Shoeless Joe (later made into the film Field of Dreams) — suggested that “the one constant through all the years has been baseball.” A romantic notion that works fantastically well in the film, but may have less than worldwide appeal. Snow is another great constant, and as I wrote in Storm Emma and the Meaning of Snow:

There is an individual occurrence of snow, and then there is the archetype of snow. What we want to do is move from the individual to the archetype. Everything has its essential nature, and the nature of snow is that it is holy. Believe in this, and contemplate the falling snow as it blankets even one lone tree.

Viewing snow that fell long ago — before there were things like smartphones, Internet, Brexit, and Trumpkins — may link us with the past and invoke that universal archetype. (In modern parlance, Trumpkins are Donald Trump die-hard supporters; but of course, there was a dwarf named Trumpkin in The Chronicles of Narnia.)

Here then, are my Top 5 Retro Snow Videos from the UK:

The Midnight Sun – Before Global Warming Was a Thing

Science fiction is often good at predicting coming trends and reacting to them emotionally, politically, and sociologically. We are just entering the era of robots as a widespread form of replacement workers, but Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 novel Player Piano is one of many SF works which dealt with the consequences of automation long before the reality was upon us. Even earlier were Isaac Asimov’s robot stories, nine of which were collected and reframed for the 1950 book I, Robot.

So it is with global warming, which wasn’t a thing in 1961 when Rod Serling penned “The Midnight Sun” for an episode of The Twilight Zone:

Here, the cause of global warming is not environmental abuse and neglect (nod to Scott Pruit), but rather a one-off event: a sudden change in the Earth’s orbit bringing it ever closer to the sun. Through this device, Serling mostly avoided the politics but dealt with the emotional and sociological effects of a superheating planet.

Scary Snow in Doctor Who

New Who famously takes things we think of as pleasing or comforting, and makes them scary — snowmen and angels being two examples. The Doctor Who 2012 Christmas Special (called, appropriately enough, “The Snowmen”) serves up this chilling view:

Richard E. Grant is only slightly less scary in Posh Nosh:

And not at all scary in Agatha Christie’s Marple:

MST3K and Space Technology

The idea of retro clips naturally calls forth its opposite: modern inventions which are offshoots of the Space Race. This riotous clip from Mystery Science Theater 3000 #401 (where the movie riffed on is Space Travelers a.k.a. Marooned) lists a bewildering variety of inventions supposedly spurred by the Space Race. “Swirled yogurt: essential for space flight!”

LibriVox vs. the Bobbsey Twins

No, it’s not a Japanese sci-fi title. LibriVox is a wonderful project that makes public domain audio recordings of classic literature readily available on the Internet. The Bobbsey Twins are characters from a long-running series of children’s books written under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope.

As a child, I inherited a good many hand-me-downs from my aunt on my father’s side, whose cellar piled up with books and toys that her own children had outgrown. So I got an Erector set (an original A.C. Gilbert one), which the British and French would know better as Meccano. I also inherited an ever-burgeoning collection of Bobbsey Twins books, such as The Bobbsey Twins in Tulip Land — a title which promised amazing adventures to my young mind.

Much like myself, the Bobbsey Twins exist in a kind of chronological stasis, with the older pair of twins (Nan and Bert) frozen at 12, and the younger pair (Freddie and Flossie) perpetually 6 years old. I, of course, am perpetually 5, so still look up to my elder literary siblings. 😉

I don’t recall ever owning The Bobbsey Twins at Snow Lodge (1913), but it’s a title that does turn up on LibriVox. So here’s an audio-only retro snow clip read by Rachel and SuperCoconut:

Cute, but definitely riffable MST3K style! In her “7 Bits About the Amazing Bobbsey Twins,” Ann Silverthorn notes:

The Bobbsey family was in the 1%. The Bobbsey’s were blessed with the services of an elderly “colored” couple, Dinah and Sam, that had been with them for many years. Dinah did all the cooking for the family, including some tasty fried chicken, and Sam drove a truck for Mr. Bobbsey’s lumber business. If the family lived today, they’d never use the term “colored,” and they’d never remark that the couple had the “whitest teeth the children had ever seen.”

We’re not quite finished with Storm Emma…

I observed no palpable cheering up after my last batch of Storm Emma videos, so here’s a couple more I really like. I’m a city boy, and am moved to see how rural folk (including farmers) cope with massive snow. I also love seeing the seas grown all wild, breaching the borders which men have set for them:

If YouTube often appears to be a vast wasteland, yet it remains a medium for people to share homespun images which can move us by their honesty, and which present an unmediated view of nature.

As the weather heats up, I hope the snow-themed media clips will help you keep cool. I pity NYC carriage horses working when the temperature climbs to 99 in midtown; but they also have to work in snow, as my short film Salvation illustrates.

Michael Howard

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Donald Trump vs. Ferris Fremont

Comparing Donald Trump with the fictional president of an authoritarian state conjured up by SF writer Philip K. Dick. Listen to a short audiobook clip and see what resonates with you.

Radio Free Albemuth is a novel by P.K. Dick written in 1976, published posthumously in 1985. It’s not a final draft, and so has an improvisatory air that’s sometimes enjoyable, sometimes not.

Despite its flaws, there’s a lot to like; but I’m not reviewing the book here, or dealing with the totality of its plot and vision of America in the mid-70s, nor with Dick’s unique brand of gnosticism. My narrow purpose today is to compare a Philip K. Dick character — Ferris F. Fremont — with a Republican Party character — Donald J. Trump.

To lay the groundwork, I should nevertheless give a few minimal plot details. Radio Free Albemuth takes place in an alternate history where America has become an authoritarian state under the bootheel of president Ferris F. Fremont — sometimes described as a composite of Joseph R. McCarthy and Richard M. Nixon.

This is a dark period for America, but help has come in the form of VALIS — who in P.K. Dick’s iconography might be God, or might be an AI entity from a distant star. (But that doesn’t concern us here).

Groups supporting Fremont include FAP, or “Friends of the American People,” a right-wing populist group which spies and informs on citizens. Members of this group are called FAPers.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory, and the fun lies in tallying up the ways in which Trump resembles Fremont (and the ways he doesn’t).

Dick’s alternate history is dark, dystopian, paranoid, and conspiratorial. I’m not for a moment suggesting we live in that world, or that Donald Trump = Ferris Fremont. But as with books like Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, asking tough questions about how our present day world compares with those fictional worlds is a great jumping off point for discussions among English and PolySci majors, or anybody else who gives a fig. 😉

So what’s the verdict? How close is Donald Trump to Ferris Fremont? And in what ways does our present world resemble the fictional world of Radio Free Albemuth?

For people who don’t actually listen to the excerpt, I should mention that P.K. Dick has an interesting answer to a perennial question:

Why should such disparate groups as the Soviet Union and the US intelligence community back the same man? I am no political theoretician, but Nicholas one time said, “They both like figureheads who are corrupt. So they can govern from behind. The Soviets and the fuzz, they’re all for shadow governments. They always will be, because basically each of them is the man with the gun. The pistol to the head.”

No one had put a pistol to Ferris Fremont’s head. He was the pistol itself, pointed at our head. Pointed at the people who had elected him. Behind him stood all the cops in the world, the left-wing cops in Russia, the right-wing cops in the United States. Cops are cops. There are only divisions of rank, into greater and lesser. The top cop is probably never seen.

Again, I’m not endorsing this ultra-paranoid (and somewhat simplistic) view, but it does suggest that authoritarianism is authoritarianism, whether left-wing or right-wing.

From another SF writer, Robert Heinlein, I learned the important distinction between bad and worse. The political situation in the US is bad at the moment, but things are far worse elsewhere. We are not yet living in a dictatorship. Still, it remains to be seen whether American democracy can survive the onslaught of billionaires funding covert psyops to shoe in their handpicked candidates, as with Cambridge Analytica.

Note: The excerpt is read by Tom Weiner. I’ve searched for working commercial links to the full audiobook produced by Blackstone Audio, but it appears to be out-of-stock, possibly discontinued.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

Links

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
Auspicious Good Fortune (free audiobook!)
Blackstone Audio

Quote of the Day

“The Constitution? We can dismember it for you wholesale…”

* * *

The Immigrant with Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance

Although a comedy, this classic film from the silent era provides an iconic view of those arriving at Ellis Island and beholding the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Plus, Josh White sings “One Meat Ball,” and we also discuss Wayne Wang’s film Chan Is Missing.

With all the talk of Donald Trump and immigration, as well as the visit of French president Emmanuel Macron, I thought readers would enjoy seeing The Immigrant, that wonderful Charlie Chaplin short from 1917. A fine restored print with tasteful classical music and beautiful typography!

There’s a lot to admire here, including Chaplin’s incredible dexterity and comic genius (watch him do a full pitcher’s windup throwing dice!), as well as the expressive countenance of Edna Purviance. But amidst the laughs, the moment when the Statue of Liberty comes into view is still solemn and moving over a hundred years later. What a wonderful gift from the French people!

You might think a film made so long ago would be hopelessly archaic. But I like to pretend the film was made only yesterday by an ambitious film student trying to ape the silent era. Then I notice what a good job he or she did. The dining hall scene is fresh and hilarious, and there’s something about the way that people are herded at Ellis Island, with number tags pinned to their lapels, that comments on the assembly line quality of the newly minted twentieth century.

I’m thinking of another choice film about the immigrant experience: Wayne Wang’s Chan Is Missing (1982). His first critically acclaimed film, it’s a mystery wrapped in a cinéma vérité portrait of San Francisco’s Chinatown and its diverse people and politics. The lead character is a taxi driver named Jo, played by the eminently likable Wood Moy (1918-2017).

Wood Moy plays Jo in Wayne Wang’s “Chan Is Missing”

Moy was very active in the Asian American Theatre Company, and also had a small part in Class Action. In Chan he doubles as narrator and jokes about the F.O.B’s — fresh off the boat — who in the modern era come off jumbo jets.

Jo is trying to solve the mystery of his friend Chan Hung, who disappeared amidst conflict between pro-Taiwan and pro-PRC factions over a flag-waving incident. Now, whether it’s Jane Marple, Sam Spade, Columbo, or George Smiley doing the digging, the detective genre has always been a perfect means to explore a multitude of characters, each of whom has an angle they’re working. The detective must sift through not just their stories, but their different cultural takes on reality.

The missing Chan Hung turns out to be a many-faceted character who’s described differently by each person Jo interviews; but in the course of the film we see the Chinese immigrant experience in all its richness and complexity, with rollicking humor, and a poignant look at the contrast between elderly Chinese and the “ultra-tasty dish” described in the song “Grant Avenue” (from Flower Drum Song). SPOILER CLIP:

If you live in the NYC area, you can see a film screening of Chan Is Missing at the New York Public Library at Chatham Square on May 5th. Further details here.

Coming back to The Immigrant, one can hardly watch Charlie Chaplin’s performance as a financially strapped diner without recalling Josh White’s performance of “One Meat Ball”:

In our present era, which seems dominated by the rich, powerful, bold and brassy, I take to heart the waiter’s hollered dictum that “You gets no bread with one meat ball!” Probably not a cry heard much at Mar-a-Lago, though there’s a Stormy Daniels joke lurking somewhere in the vicinity. It all seems quite remote from the Statue of Liberty (though Melania Trump is rumoured to own a designer babushka).

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

Of Further Interest

The Great Storm
Salvation – a short film exploring NYC snowscapes
Chyi Yu: Voice of Innocence Part 2

* * *

No More Stormenatti!

Please, my fellow liberals, stop treating Stormy Daniels like a civil rights hero, and stop booking Michael Avenatti on every show in the MSNBC lineup…

I get it. Daniels and Avenatti are going up against Donald Trump, so it’s tempting to welcome them as fellow travelers, or at least “enemies of mine enemy.” But if Republicans have become roundly unprincipled, liberals should stand up squarely for something better than the crass opportunism represented by Stormenatti.

I’m a liberal, but not a knee-jerk liberal. I tend to embrace causes of social compassion and human rights. I also try and see through all forms of propaganda and b.s. I just can’t take any more #Stormenatti on MSNBC, particularly on Lawrence O’Donnell, where Avenatti is given nothing but softballs to hit. It’s like a Bizarro World version of Fox News, but with liberal propaganda. It’s transparently bad journalism, and drives away principled people who might otherwise be allies.

Politics can be a mixed bag; it sometimes brings us insight, but other times asks us to put on blinders. Yea to the former but nay to the latter.

If you’re not just playing politics, but take a principled stand against Donald Trump due to his unbridled hucksterism, then you should also take a stand against Daniels and Avenatti — for the same reason. Not that I want their legal bid to fail; I just don’t want to see them dominate the news or be held up as role models.

Metaphorically speaking, Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels both inhabit the same grindhouse exploitation film — and the person they’re exploiting is you the viewer. They’re both in show business, both insatiable publicity hounds, and perhaps neither has much to offer beyond the brassy, artificially inflated personas they flash for the cameras.

I’m not suggesting a ban on coverage of #Stormenatti, but please don’t make it/them nightly attractions, and please practice basic journalism, like asking tough, skeptical questions about their means and motives.

What is the great civil rights cause championed by Stormy Daniels and her lawyer? That she ought to get paid more than $130,000 for having sex with Donald Trump and keeping quiet about it?

What are the underlying circumstances? Why were she and other porn stars hanging around the golf resort where Trump was staying? Because they were on the lookout for millionaires, hoping that an initial hookup might be bartered into a hefty wad of cash — which Daniels eventually got. Later, she made a self-interested business decision that if she could overturn the contract that netted her $130,000 for one night’s work, she could make millions as a celebrity in her own right. Gandhi, MLK, and Susan B. Anthony move over!

I’m not a lawyer, and don’t pretend to understand the legal distinction between “blackmail” and “hush money.” But if there is a legal distinction (and it may be a fine one), I see very little moral and ethical distinction. So, notwithstanding that I’m a liberal, it makes me want to throw up when I see the shrewd and rapacious Michael Avenatti blathering away on Lawrence O’Donnell as if his client were a cross between Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman.

One can cover newsmakers from a liberal point of view while still retaining an iota of skepticism. The New York Times covers #Stormenatti, but with a tad of snarkiness that helps restore perspective. This they do by interspersing factual narrative with titles of films in which Daniels actually starred. My favourite (make-believe) ones are Bring Me Some Head for Alfredo Garcia and Three Days of the Condom (links are Roger Ebert reviews).

I’m always trying to refine my understanding, and to avoid saying what’s already been said better. So when researching this post, coming across “Stormy Daniels is a feminist heroine,” I assumed it must be meant sarcastically. I was gobsmacked to find it was a credulous (if rhetorical) claim by none other than Krystal Ball, who often appears on MSNBC.

My mind works in a discursive manner, so I can only say that I’m reminded of a scene from a DVD extra called “Dr. Forever! – The Celestial Toyroom.” It’s about the toys that Doctor Who fans had when they were kids. Some toys came in boxes of Weetabix wholegrain cereal — which was a terrific marketing coup, and had the side benefit of keeping millions of young Britons extremely regular. Sadly, Krystal Ball was not among them.

By all means, let’s treat all people everywhere decently, and let’s not be overly judgmental. The conservative right tends to apply hateful stereotypes to women who make certain less-than-ideal career choices, but the fallacy in Ms. Ball’s thinking is that she applies a syrupy inverted stereotype to the same women. In truth, Ms. Daniels is neither an untouchable sinner, nor a feminist heroine taking back power from the patriarchy one spank at a time. Like her lawyer, Daniels is just another huckster, not easily distinguishable from millions of other hucksters who dot American life, from telemarketers to folk selling quack baldness remedies on late night TV. May they one day find better wisdom.

As human beings, we are all of us more than we appear to be. In characterizing where some people presently are, I don’t mean to restrict, confine, or belittle them. We all have the potential to bring out deeper aspects of our selves — aspects which are in some sense truer. But that acquisitive instinct or spirit of hucksterism tends to be a stumbling block, making it hard for us to be our best selves.

If we recognize this greediness to be a stumbling block in human nature, then we would ideally choose as role models those who epitomize unselfishness and charity.

There’s a sense in which real estate magnates and porn stars go together. They are both found at golf resorts plying their respective trades or proclivities. But the world is so much bigger than that! America is a great and good nation, and the national attention should be focused on better things.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

Peaceful Morning Meditation Music April 13th

Celebrate the dawn with the music of thirteen different artists…

I hope you enjoy this peaceful morning meditation music:

The styles and instruments may differ, but these thirteen artists are all performing variations on the same song: “Usha Bala Elo” by Sri Chinmoy. Judging by the number of recordings, it’s one of the most popular songs among his students.

Lyrics:

Usha bala elo
Dhire aji dhire
Hridaya gabhire

Translation:

Slowly, very slowly,
The virgin dawn appears
In the very depths of my aspiration-heart.

Source: SriChinmoySongs.com

This beautiful song with its simple melody is very enjoyable to sing. Usha means “dawn,” and can also refer to the Goddess Usha, who is celebrated in the ancient Rig Veda, where she is identified with the dawn and described as a bringer of light.

In poetry and song, we need not choose a single meaning. We can enjoy the superimposition of the outer and inner meanings. In the outer world, we can imagine the first rays of the dawn softly illuminating the sky, and in the inner world we can feel a new dawn, new light, new consciousness appearing in the depths of our heart.

April 13th is a special day for those who admire Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007). On April 13th, 1964 he arrived in the West and began a remarkable decades-long career as a teacher, composer, musician, poet, artist, athlete, and humanitarian.

He composed thousands of songs, but “Usha Bala Elo” is certainly one of his most beloved.

Of the versions performed here, two merit special attention because they are medleys. Master sitarist Adesh Widmer begins with “Usha Bala Elo,” but also works in other tunes by Sri Chinmoy. And arranger Paree Atkins creates a rich tapestry for large ensemble, beginning with another of Sri Chinmoy’s dawn songs: “Andhakarer Bakka Chiri”:

Lyrics:

Andhakarer bakka chiri
Khulche ushar toran oi
Jaya dhwani kare sabe
Khoka khuki achhish koi
Arun ranga charan phele
Usha rani ese
Khelar chale anlo tene
Ajana ei deshe

Translation:

Behold, tearing the heart of darkness,
the door of dawn opens.
O children, where are you?
Sing, sing the divine glory.
The queen of dawn descends
with her morning rays.
She has dragged me down
into this world unknown.

Source: SriChinmoyLibrary.com

Paree incorporates both the original Bengali and the English translation into her choral fantasia, adding a welcome dynamic element to the mix!

Artists and Links

These are the artists performing “Usha Bala Elo”:

1. Silence-Hearts
2. Phulendu
3. Hiya Bhasha
4. Akasha
5. Utsava and Friends
6. Purnakama
7. Song-Waves
8. Adesh
9. Adarsha
10. Paree’s Group
11. Ananda
12. Sri Chinmoy
13. Satja

Many, many thanks to Sri Chinmoy, to the artists performing his music, and to Radio Sri Chinmoy, where much of this music is freely available. (It is truly a treasure trove.)

This year, April 13th happens to fall on a Friday. But after a peaceful morning meditation, we need not surrender to bad luck or Fright Night. The light of the dawn can carry us through to the evening, and at day’s end we can enjoy sweet, peaceful dreams.

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

* * *

“Drain the Swamp” or “Pad the Reptile Fund”?

Did President Trump’s lawyer Michael D. Cohen use some form of slush fund to pay off Stormy Daniels? Tying together themes from Stormygate, Watergate, and Smiley’s People.

From emerging investigations, we know that “Drain the Swamp” was a political slogan devised by the Trump campaign which tested well and could be used to manipulate voter sentiment, even though it had nothing to do with Donald Trump’s policies, agenda, or history as a real estate developer, beauty contest impresario, and legendary gropemeister.

The recent slew of corruption scandals involving members of the Trump administration (including Scott Pruitt), suggests a polar opposite slogan: “Pad the Reptile Fund!”

What exactly is a reptile fund? The term has been attributed to Otto von Bismarck in the late nineteenth century, but seems to have fallen into disuse. It was majorly revived by British spy novelist John le Carré in his series of cold war thrillers adapted for film and TV. These include:

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Smiley’s People

In that context, a reptile fund is a fund maintained for the explicit purpose of paying off lowlifes like scalphunters, blackmailers, or women hired to take part in “honey traps” like those referenced in the Channel Four undercover exposé of Cambridge Analytica. This was the political consulting firm used by the Trump campaign for their digital operations in 2016 — a firm in which Trump ally Steve Bannon played a major role between 2013 and 2016.

In the undercover video captured by Channel Four, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix (now suspended) is seen telling a man posing as a prospective client that one way they can damage a political opponent is to bring over some Ukrainian girls to Sri Lanka and have them go to the candidate’s house. The fruit of that operation can then be put up on the Internet without anyone knowing where the video came from.

I would venture to guess that while Trump and associates have never had much to do with draining swamps, padding the reptile fund is quite their style! This issue heated up on April 5 when, aboard Air Force One, President Trump was asked a series of probing questions about the Stormy Daniels matter by AP reporter Catherine Lucey. At first, Trump seemed willing to answer; but when Lucey asked if Trump had ever set up a fund of money that his attorney could draw from, Trump suddenly became tongue-tied.

The notion of a slush fund is popular among some people trying to make sense of the scanty facts available in the Daniels matter. Maybe Trump’s attorney Cohen — who is known as a 24/7 “fixer” for Trump — had standing orders to pay off any women who might make trouble just before the 2016 election, with the understanding that Cohen would be reimbursed later — perhaps when Trump was no longer in office, and perhaps through some byzantine series of LLCs covertly funded by billionaires, either in the U.S. or much farther East. (One hopes the Special Counsel is looking into such possibilities.)

The “standing orders” theory would explain how Cohen could be doing what Trump wanted done without Trump knowing the specifics. It’s an arrangement which would give Trump plausible deniability, while also to some extent shielding Cohen from the charge that he was acting without consulting his client. If Cohen’s client Trump had issued standing orders to pay hush money to blackmailers or potential writers of “true confession” stories, this might shield both men from some (but not all) potential charges.

Under the standing orders theory, Cohen’s agreed-upon role would be to be the fixer and take the hit for anything that might be deemed unlawful. For example, if the money paid to Stormy Daniels is eventually construed to be an illegal campaign contribution, then Cohen would be the one to take the rap (if any). But Cohen would expect that Trump would eventually see him right. After all, Cohen supposedly knows where “all the bodies are buried” in the metaphorical Trump haunted house. Trump may stiff people right and left, but Cohen probably assumes that Trump wouldn’t permanently stiff him.

The “standing orders” plus “plausible deniability” theory manages to explain something which other theories don’t: Namely, how could Donald Trump possibly not know about the Stormy Daniels payoff? Under this theory, it’s Michael Cohen’s job to handle it himself and make sure Trump has no specific knowledge of it, keep it away from him, shield him from it.

Cohen might have access to an official, unofficial, or even improvised reptile fund to pay off women like Daniels. He might even use funds from his own home equity line to make the $130,000 payment (if that claim made to CNN is true), fully expecting to be made whole by Trump in the distant future.

A New York Times article describes Cohen as Trump’s “aggressive spokesman and lieutenant who would take on the real estate mogul’s antagonists,” likening Cohen’s role to that played by Roy Cohn for Trump decades earlier.

Cohen’s role as fixer and cutout man is not a traditional lawyer-client relationship to be sure; but it is a relationship that might be worked out between two longtime business partners who are veterans of many shady deals or operations where things need fixing, and who both understand the role which each man needs to play, and the type of public denials which each man needs to issue. Imagine a brief, hypothetical conversation between Cohen and Trump which goes something like this:

Cohen: Someone came to the candy store.
Trump: Really? Did you give them candy?
Cohen: I had to. It was a Stormy night.
Trump: Thanks, I owe you one.

Slush funds and cutout men are hardly unknown in the world of Washington politics. During the Nixon administration, Nixon’s personal lawyer Herbert W. Kalmbach hired private detective Tony Ulasewicz to be the “bagman” who delivered cash to Watergate burglars in order to buy their silence.

In our topsy-turvy world, those who have studied the law or worked in law enforcement are sometimes used to find creative ways to skirt the law. Bagman Ulasewicz was a retired NYC police detective. According to the above-linked Times article, “The [Watergate] hearings turned more sober when Mr. Ulasewicz acknowledged that his bagman role was part of a criminal enterprise.”

Claims that Trump “threw Cohen under the bus” in his Air Force One comments to Catherine Lucey are not consistent with the theory propounded here. Rather, it would be Cohen’s role in this kabuki drama to accept the blame for paying off Daniels, thus shielding Trump — willingly participating in Trump’s implied defense that Cohen had gone rogue.

MSNBC’s Katy Tur reports that Cohen told her he would “take a bullet” for Donald Trump, while The New York Times claims Cohen has been known to carry a licensed pistol in an ankle holster. Washington Post reporter Ashley Parker describes Cohen as Trump’s “consigliere” and “enforcer” — someone who “makes stuff go away.”

These characterizations suggest that what investigators armed with a boatload of evidence are finding is not just isolated acts of wrongdoing, but a pattern of organized corruption — corruption which would be undesirable in the world of real estate, casinos, and beauty pageants; but is wholly unacceptable in and around the White House.

More about Smiley’s People

In the larger context of current events, Smiley’s People turns out to be especially relevant. In 1982 it was made into a six-part miniseries by the BBC. An early plot point involves an ex-Soviet general who defected to the West being shot dead in Hampstead Heath by Russian agents. Now, over 35 years later, we immediately think of the Sergei Skripal poisoning incident in Salisbury.

George Smiley, who was a senior official in “The Circus” (Carré’s thinly disguised version of MI6) is called out of retirement to pick up the pieces — or sweep them under the rug. The general’s assassination is viewed by most bureaucrats as a scandal to be hushed up, except by Smiley (played by the late Sir Alec Guinness), who’s determined to get to the bottom of it.

Smiley placates the bureaucrats, aping the role of cutout man and fixer assigned to him, but secretly persevering — looking up his old hunting buddies from The Circus, many of whom (like Smiley) are now somewhat disaffected. “Welcome to Siberia!” exclaims Connie Sachs, the deposed former head of research, who now runs an animal boarding establishment, and is nearly defunct through old age and alcoholism. Sachs is played by Beryl Reid, a veteran of The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954) and No Sex Please, We’re British (1973). For her role in Smiley’s People, she won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress.

SPOILERS In the course of his investigation, Smiley learns that General Vladimir was using his “lieutenant” Otto Leipzig to blackmail Russian agent Oleg Kirov, whom he had caught in a honey trap. The trail leads back to Karla, a cover name for a man who (as KGB head) “controls the whole of Russia.” Karla is Smiley’s old nemesis from past deep-frozen battles, his “black Grail.”

Like General Vladimir, Otto Leipzig is killed by Russian agents, but never divulges the location where the kompromat material is stashed. Smiley finds that it includes a video of Kirov cavorting with prostitutes. Smiley eventually puts together all the puzzle pieces, and is able to wage a successful counter-campaign against Karla.

It turns out the tough-as-nails Karla has a daughter named Tatiana whom he loves, but who suffers from schizophrenia. Karla has embezzled public monies to covertly install her in a private clinic in Switzerland. He’s also gone to great lengths to provide a “legend” (or cover story) for her, falsely claiming that she is Alexandra Ostrakova, the daughter of a Russian emigre now living in Paris, not the daughter of the KGB’s Übermensch.

This was the trail General Vladimir and Otto Leipzig were barking down when they were killed. Once Smiley firms up the details, he’s able to effectively checkmate Karla and force him to defect to the West, in order to safeguard his daughter’s future and his own.

As in the Stormy Daniels saga, aliases abound in Smiley’s People. George Smiley himself is also known as Max, the Vicar, Mr. Sampson, Mr. Standfast, Mr. Barraclough, and Alan Angel (but never David Dennison).

Among fans of Carré’s so-called Karla Trilogy, Smiley is a beloved anti-hero: no dashing James Bond figure, but gray, elderly, deliberate, and having the sort of persistent intelligence which can see through a brick wall in time. (And with that observation, I’m through trying to tie Smiley’s People to the Mueller probe.)

The direct televisual predecessor of Smiley’s People is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, in which Karla has succeeded in planting a Russian mole inside The Circus, very near the top. And while no one has suggested that Donald Trump is a Russian mole, people have suggested that he’s been compromised by Russian influence, Russian money, and possible kompromat material, so that by and large he’s not an honest broker on Russia-related issues, and can’t always be relied upon to stand up to Russia where Russia is clearly in the wrong or a bad actor.

Trump’s own autocratic tendencies and seeming love of dictators do little to soften this impression.


Sidebar 1: Duty of Counsel

Much is being made of the duty of Michael D. Cohen to keep his client Donald Trump apprised of developments, and get his informed consent for any legal settlements reached. As a non-attorney, my understanding is that these things must be done to the satisfaction of the client. In the real world, the State Bar is not likely to go after Michael Cohen unless his client Donald Trump complains that he’s unhappy with Cohen’s performance. But under the “standing orders” plus “plausible deniability” theory, Trump would be perfectly happy with Cohen’s performance, and would have no reason to complain to the Bar.

Under this theory, Donald Trump basically says to Michael Cohen: “I give you standing authorization to handle any bimbo eruptions, make payments, and reach settlements on my behalf without further instructions, and without troubling me about the details.” If that’s what Cohen indeed did, and was acting in keeping with Trump’s broad instructions, it’s unclear that Cohen would be in any danger of disbarment.

Of course, if the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels is later ruled an illegal campaign contribution, that could be more problematic for Cohen, but would not necessarily result in criminal charges leading to disbarment. According to one Huffington Post article, when contributions exceeding legal limits are unearthed, this sometimes results in refunds rather than indictments.

The way the Stormy Daniels matter is currently shaking out, the NDA may be invalidated, Daniels may refund the $130,000 she took to remain silent, and sell her story to the tabloids for lots more money. One pictures a heavily ghosted book on the horizon, a lifetime invite to The View — maybe even her impression in concrete at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, next to Uggie the terrier, who also has a book deal. (“Standing on stage at the Golden Globes, I knew I was a star. Never had I imagined there was anything better than a piece of sausage, but the applause! The acclaim!”)

If Daniels returns the money to Cohen, and Cohen claims he only paid her out of personal loyalty to Trump, or to spare Trump’s family (but not for political reasons), then Cohen might get off scot-free, at least with respect to the Daniels matter. But he could potentially face other charges stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Cohen and Trump’s business dealings in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia. There are persistent rumors (unverified by this lowly blogger) that there’s a whole “rat’s nest” of financial wrongdoing in that neck of the woods. BREAKING NEWS: The Washington Post is now reporting that “Trump attorney Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud…”


Sidebar 2 – All The President’s Men (excerpt)

Woodward called the GAO investigator every day to learn how the audit was progressing.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unaccounted cash,” the GAO man said one day. “A slush fund of cash,” he said the next. “A rat’s nest behind the surface efficiency of computerized financial reporting,” the third. With each day that Woodward did not write a story, the investigator felt freer to talk to him. Fitting these remarks together with another investigator’s, Woodward was becoming convinced that the cash “slush fund” was the same “convention security money” Bernstein had heard about early in July. The fund, which totaled at least $100,000, included the money from Barker’s bank account obtained from cashing Dahlberg’s check, according to the investigator.

Bernstein made one of his regular calls to the former administration official and was told: “There was a large fund over which Gordon Liddy had supervision. . . . Yeah, it’s the same one. The present plan is for Liddy to take the fall for everyone. The story that the re-election committee will put out has nothing to do with the truth. They’ll say they were deeply concerned for the security of their convention and that they had a big fund to be sure they were secure from interference. That’s the word that will trickle out. Mitchell said to get the story out. Too many guys knew about the fund.”

The reporters waited. Several days later, on August 16, Clark MacGregor met with a select group of White House reporters and made the first public attempt to shift the responsibility to Liddy. While serving as CRP’s finance counsel, MacGregor said, Liddy had spent campaign funds on his own initiative “for the purpose of determining what to do if the crazies made an attack on the President” at the Republican convention.

Later that afternoon on the telephone, MacGregor was angered by Woodward’s attempt to get a fuller explanation. “I have no idea why the departed Gordon Liddy wanted cash,” MacGregor shouted. “It’s impossible for me to tell. . . . I never met Liddy. . . . I don’t know what’s going on.” Woodward suggested that MacGregor was implying that he was out of touch with the campaign he was supposed to be running.

“If you print that, our relationship is terminated,” MacGregor said, and added: “I’m not threatening you. I’m just telling you what will happen.” MacGregor was one of the few Nixon administration officials who had a reputation for being friendly with the press.

• • •

On August 22, the second day of the Republican convention in Miami, the Post’s front page reported the preliminary findings of the GAO’s audit. Based primarily on Woodward’s conversations with the investigators, the story said the GAO had determined that CRP had mishandled more than $500,000 in campaign funds—including at least $100,000 maintained in an apparently illegal “security fund.”

Paul E. Barrick, Hugh Sloan’s successor as treasurer, responded on behalf of CRP: “Washington Post stories of allegations to the effect that the . . . committee has incorrectly reported or failed to report contributions and expenditures in accordance with law are entirely wrong.”

The rawest nerve touched by the GAO’s preliminary findings, however, was not that at least half a million dollars had been mishandled but the revelation of a “security fund” at the committee. For more than five weeks, Van Shumway, a former wire-service reporter who had come to the committee from the White House staff, had been insisting that no such fund existed. He had told Bernstein in July, “One thing I will never do is knowingly tell you something that is untrue.” Now Shumway said he had since learned that there was such a fund. “I’m afraid some people here aren’t telling me the truth,” he added.

— excerpt from All The President’s Men, Chapter 3, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Simon & Schuster, 1974

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

BREAKING: “F.B.I. Raids Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen” (The New York Times)

Links – Smiley’s People on YouTube

Smiley’s People Part 1
Smiley’s People Part 2
Smiley’s People Part 3
Smiley’s People Part 4
Smiley’s People Part 5
Smiley’s People Part 6

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Scott Pruitt Jokes

View Scott Pruitt’s day planner and explore euphemisms used to describe his performance.

I’ve already ribbed the EPA chief in “Scott Pruitt Fires His Food-Taster” (part of Political Potpourri here). But the target is just too rich…

Amidst scandals like approving a pesticide that causes brain damage and taking perks from lobbyists, Pruitt is defended by the Dept. of Euphemism Dept. (an EPA sub-agency). According to them, one of Pruitt’s achievements has been “regulatory certainty.” Yes friends, if you’re an industrial polluter you can rest easy knowing for certain that Scott Pruitt doesn’t give two sh-ts.

Under Trump, our government works in euphemism as a potter works in clay. What other gems might they come up with? Well, “proactive” is a good word. “Scott Pruitt has been proactive in doing sod all to help the environment.”

“High standards” is also a winner. “During his tenure, Pruitt has meticulously maintained high standards when it comes to rolling back Obama-era regulations designed to curb pollution.”

Why does Pruitt need a 20-man security detail? Is he starting a men’s glee club? Actually, it’s because among environmentalists it’s commonly known that Pruitt doesn’t give a flying fig about the environment. He’d stick pins in it if he could. There shouldn’t be an environment. Bah! Humbug!

Recently there was an incident where his security detail couldn’t rouse him, so fearing the worst (that he’d disappeared up his own backside), they broke down the door to his lobbyist-supplied-at-a-discount condo. No such luck!

Let me clue you in, guys. Sitting there doing nothing, being totally unresponsive, is Scott Pruitt’s default position as EPA head. No need to trouble him during one of his long snoozes. He’s doing exactly what Donald Trump appointed him to do.

Scott Pruitt’s Day Planner

scott-pruitt-day-planner-EPA

A tribute in song to the Trump-Pruitt relationship:

Scott Pruitt’s Day Planner (text version)

MY MOTIVATION THIS WEEK:
Keep the Trumpster happy. Bring at least 10 lbs. strawberry Starbursts in tribute. No stripper this time. Melania watching.

MUST DO TODAY:
Monday: DO NOTHING
Tuesday: DO NOTHING
Wednesday: DO NOTHING
Thursday: DO NOTHING  MEET WITH LOBBYISTS
Friday: Organize baseball game with security detail. N.B.: Choose only BEST 18 men. Others may be dispatched to fetch my lunch, shine my shoes, or repair the Cone of Silence.

HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH:
As discussed in meeting of Mar 06, do nothing about environmental issues. Roll back wherever possible. Deny climate change. Lower emissions standards.

SOMETIME THIS WEEK:
– Attend Easter Egg roll. Explain to kiddies that industrial pollutants are our friends.
– Get Sarah H. to clean my condo. Tell her not to spit Milk Duds on carpet this time.

NOTE TO SELF:
Hire another chef. List as food-taster on expense report. Louie almost worked out, but used too little cream in my Quenelles de Brochet. SAD!

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.

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Easter Laugh

A clip from the Vicar of Dibley Easter Bunny episode to make you smile

I hope everyone’s having a wonderful Easter. I wanted to post something more profound for Easter, but am feeling a bit run down. Too much posting about politics, I expect. 😉

Anyway, here’s a fun clip from the Vicar of Dibley Easter special made in 1996:

It was the last episode with Letitia Cropley, played by a wonderful old British character actress named Liz Smith, who I also noticed in Britannia Hospital (alongside Leonard Rossiter a.k.a. Reggie Perrin). Both alas gone now. Liz Smith passed away on Christmas Eve of 2016 at the age of 95.

Still, the sight of Dawn French in a bunny costume has got to be worth a laugh. Happy Easter!

Michael

Past Easter Posts

Easter Thoughts on Mercy
Bach’s St. John Passion: Crucifixion

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Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels, Kellyanne Conway & Bad Energy

With a sidebar discussing revelations concerning Cambridge Analytica and AggregateIQ

Did you hear the latest joke about Stormy Daniels? She’s starting a new site called sex-with-a-porn-star-dot-com. Terms are flexible. You can pay now, or you can — ahem… pay later.

The good and wise know that most things in life come with a price tag. Sex with a porn star isn’t free. If you don’t pay now, you’ll end up having to pay later. (Perhaps that’s a reason to avoid such liaisons.)

In his sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein suggested that an honest politician is one who “stays bought.” Stormy Daniels is one of The Donald’s cronies from his bad boy days, his days as a chronic philanderer. And though she got paid $130,000 (which is a lot), she didn’t stay bought.

These people are sharks, the lot of them. I don’t mean to be unkind or judgmental, I’m just saying… This within the larger context that Donald Trump needs to be removed from office by constitutional means, because he’s a massive embarrassment to this great and good nation.

Yes, our democratic institutions are strong(ish), but we shouldn’t whistle past the graveyard and assume that they can withstand anything we might throw at them. Four (or more) years of Donald Trump may be one shock too many.

Yes, we are a rich nation, but that doesn’t mean we have the luxury of keeping an incompetent buffoon in office just because he provides daily excitement and good entertainment value. Government needs to work. When it doesn’t, people die — from needless wars, or because in this nation of plenty, no one could be bothered getting them the health care they needed to survive for one more day; no one could be bothered fixing the roads and bridges they needed to drive over in order to make it to work, and home again safely.

One way of looking at the problem of Donald Trump as president is that it’s a problem of bad energy. I want to be careful how I frame this. I believe in science in scientific matters, and in mathematics in matters mathematical. Based on my study and experience, I also believe there are deeper spiritual causes for many phenomena we encounter in life. For more about how scientific rationalism and spiritual idealism can coexist happily together, see this discussion of freedom of mind and freedom of heart.

The concept of “bad energy” is somewhat amorphous, but not entirely unfathomable. On a personal level, when you meet some people you get a certain feeling about them, that they are not quite right. This feeling is then borne out by experience: they lie, they cheat, they’re always getting into trouble; and while they may have a certain charm, personal magnetism, or vital energy which propels them forward, they are not good people. They appeal to the lowest drives in human nature, to greed, lust, and hatred. Their success (if any) has a cheap and gaudy quality. Measured against the long arc of history, their works are short-lived and shoddy. They do not do good works or build upon a solid foundation; rather, they do works which bring temporary notoriety but are apt to crumble and fall. That is Donald Trump to a T.

The concept of bad energy also applies to particular ventures. You don’t plan a picnic for a day when it’s supposed to rain buckets. The universe has subtle inner forces which are roughly akin to weather. In some cultures, an important undertaking is planned with the help of astrologers and priests, and a blessing is sought to invoke the higher forces of light, compassion, and wisdom.

The truly wise human being knows that he or she cannot do great and good things merely by dint of personal ambition. The wise try to act in concert with the higher forces and to receive their blessing before beginning any important undertaking.

The first day of a new venture — how it is launched — can tell you much about the energy behind it and how it will fare in the future. Donald Trump’s campaign for president began with a hateful attack on Mexican-Americans. (He called them rapists.) The PR event was launched with an “audience” consisting of paid actors meant to look like political supporters. As the venture began, so it continues. This is the type of president we now have — one whose presidency consists largely of stagecraft, and poor stagecraft at that.

When you get involved with people with bad energy who launch inauspicious ventures based solely on personal ambition, you find that things are constantly going wrong and you’re being forced to lower your standard just to accommodate them. A leader with bad energy attracts hirelings with bad energy: wife-beaters, compulsive gamblers, foreign agents committing treason and socking millions away in secret bank accounts; technophiles who steal people’s personal data and create psychographic profiles used to tailor propaganda to manipulate election results; crackpot militarists who want to bomb first and ask questions later; or PR people with legal training who lie as casually as a kitten scratches.

As I write, Kellyanne Conway is being considered for the position of Trump’s new Communications Director. Comparing one show business personality with another: In 2009, Stormy Daniels launched a mock campaign for U.S. Senate with the slogan “Screwing people honestly.” Kellyanne Conway’s slogan should be “Screwing people dishonestly” (with alternative facts). Both women are apparently for hire if the price is right, and the functions they perform are not substantially different. Both are gold diggers; they simply employ different digging apparatus. (Daniels ended her Senate bid around the same time she was booked by Tampa police on a domestic violence charge. She was held overnight, then released on $1,000 bail. The charge was later dropped.)

Kellyanne Conway appears on CNN in 2016, touting then candidate Donald Trump.

Like Trump himself, these Trump hangers-on are sharks. I say this not to demean them, but because when you have this type of sharklike behaviour connected with high office, you have to recognize it and root it out. Otherwise, the fish rots from the head, and our nation rots with it. The distasteful Madison Avenue concept of being “noseblind” finds its proper application here. With the daily stench coming from the White House, Americans are gradually becoming noseblind, but our allies not inured to this level of corruption are reeling from the stench. The solution is not to spray PR Febreze over the mess, but to do some genuine housecleaning.

To the extent that I’m at all political, I’m a liberal but not a knee-jerk liberal. I don’t automatically assume that anyone who goes up against Trump is an ally. This is a mistake some liberals are making about lawyer Michael Avenatti and his client Stormy Daniels. The latter are further specimens of carcharodon carcharias — opportunists nosing their way onto the media stage in order to grub for money and fame. Both Avenatti and Daniels already enjoy considerable money and fame, but what they share with Donald Trump is that they are insatiable and lack basic ethics. It’s all about the almighty dollar.

The fact that Trump and Daniels/Avenatti are of the same species doesn’t mean they won’t cannibalize each other. An unappetitlich fact about sharks is that even in the womb, the stronger embryos eat the weaker ones. Our nation is presently being dragged underwater, pulled down by the bad energy and sharklike behaviour of Trump and his cohort.

A short (transmogrified) clip from the Beatles film Yellow Submarine. Perhaps a metaphor for Washington politics, where strange creatures sometimes reach accommodations — or else gobble each other up.

Despite these harsh criticisms, I mean no ill-will to anyone. But our nation is presently in danger from an administration which is incompetent and corrupt, was brought into power by corrupt means, and is sustained by corrupt means, including the Fox News propaganda machine. We face the danger of totalitarianism. People with this type of bad energy often turn to totalitarianism as the most efficient means of ensuring their perpetual power, notoriety, and riches. In this respect, craziness for wealth and fame is turning us into a Bananas republic:

I come from an arts and spirituality background, and am not happy about devoting so much of my time to writing about politics. But as in the Vietnam era, people may need to speak up in order to encourage positive change. The present level of corruption in government is unacceptable, and leads to the general breakdown of society. We need to recognize that America is, at its core, a good nation and can do much good for its own people and for the world at large. But to be good and do good, America must resist the bad energy which has descended wholesale upon our capital, and is fed in secret by billions in dark money.

In his testimony before a British House of Commons committee, whistleblower Chris Wylie explained that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica (of which he is former research director) doesn’t have to turn a profit like a normal company because it’s subsidized by New York billionaire Robert Mercer. It can therefore act as a covert means of funneling huge contributions to political causes handpicked by Mercer, regardless of supposed limits set by law. This is a concrete example of dark money being used to rig elections, employing hi-tech means as well as the latest psychological theories about how to manipulate voters by getting inside their heads and playing to their fears, using personal data scraped from Facebook.

This is the brave new world in which we presently live, where thinking people are held hostage to a populist majority which reacts slavishly to psychological stimuli supplied by political operatives obsessed with kingmaking. It is an ugly world, and just as we have a duty to leave our children a clean environment, we also have a duty to apply an emissions test to our politicians, rejecting and removing those who cast an odiferous pall over our nation, or pollute the seas of discourse with the toxic sludge of “alternative facts.”

Stormy Daniels is not an opponent of Donald Trump in any meaningful sense; just another distasteful aspect of the Trump reality TV show. While the general public is crying out for photos, videos, and detailed descriptions of genitalia, the nation’s public institutions are being methodically ransacked, gutted, and primed for privatization. That is the main spectacle to which Stormy Daniels is only a sideshow.

I apologize for being so hard on those in power, but their energy is not good, and there is every indication that they will continue to stumble “from frustration-window to destruction-door.”

Michael Howard

The views expressed are my own, and do not represent any other person or organization.


Sidebar: The Turing Test, the Voight-Kampff Test, and Brexit

Just this morning I got another phone call from a bot programmed to address me by my first name and try and strike up an initial conversation for telemarketing purposes. These bots are incredibly annoying, and my initial (un-Christian) impulse was that I’d like to kill it. But there’s probably a law against killing telemarketing bots, passed by lawmakers paid off by the telecom industry. 😉 It sounds like the plot for a story Asimov would have written. (Asimov’s Fifth Law of Robotics: No robot shall pretend to be from Microsoft Tech Support in order to scam innocent old people living on cat food.)

Another sci-fi writer, Philip K. Dick, dealt extensively with the question of what constitutes genuine emotion. See his novel Do Andoids Dream of Electric Sheep?, later made into the film Blade Runner by Ridley Scott.

What does all this have to do with Brexit and the main topic of this post? The connecting link is Cambridge Analytica, the firm apparently used to unfairly target voters with psychological manipulation during both the 2016 Brexit campaign in Britain, and the 2016 presidential campaign in the U.S. The investigations are ongoing and some of the facts remain murky, including the role of a Canadian company called AggregateIQ with supposed ties to Cambridge Analytica:

The larger question is: Suppose voters hadn’t been subjected to psychological manipulation, but had simply been given neutral facts. Would they still have voted to leave the European Union, or to make Donald Trump their president? Perhaps not.

At what point does political science become the science of psychologically manipulating the masses using lies, propaganda, fear, hatred, high technology, and stolen data?

When people have been subjected to extensive psychological manipulation, including a large quantity of false and hateful depictions (such as graphics which Cambridge Analytica takes credit for, showing Hillary Clinton in handcuffs), how genuine are the resulting emotions?

These are difficult questions since at the populist level, people are taught to treat their emotions as sacrosanct. If the motto of the intellectual was once “I think, therefore I am” the motto of the Facebook consumer may be “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” Yet, emotions can be manipulated. How can we judge their genuineness?

Democracy works best in an environment of openness and honesty. Too much money (especially dark money) is one universal surd in the political mathematic. The use of covert psychological manipulation employing hi-tech means is another significant threat. It remains to be seen whether democracy can survive the dual onslaught of billionaires funding covert psyops to shoe in their handpicked candidates.

It may be that the 2016 presidential election was the most corrupt in U.S. history. Payoffs and ballot-box stuffing are bad enough and perhaps common enough; but what seems most troubling here in retrospect is the hi-tech precision with which people’s emotions were targeted for psychological manipulation, using fake news spread via Facebook, Twitter bots, and the like.

It got so bad that after a fake news story claiming Hillary Clinton was behind a child pornography ring operating out of a pizzeria, one guy showed up there ready to shoot the place up. See the New York Times story “In Washington Pizzeria Attack, Fake News Brought Real Guns.” Also the Los Angeles Times: “Son of Trump’s incoming national security advisor pushes conspiracy theory targeting pizza parlor.”

It’s fairly common to find that politicians are shameless demagogues, but most of their demagoguery is usually out in the open, on display. The wise can see through it, and can perhaps guide the more foolish. But in 2016, so much was done covertly to influence voter sentiment, both by the Trump campaign and by Russian agents. It remains to be seen whether these two camps working toward similar ends using similar techniques engaged in a degree of cooperation which rises to the level of conspiracy.

If anyone needs a food-taster these days, it’s Bob Mueller! Bob, please stay away from doorknobs and park benches. Don’t follow leaders, and watch your parking meters!

Note: If you’d like to know more about the Turing Test and the Voight-Kampff test, try “Of Tortoises and Turing: Creating a Test for Humanity.”

I’ll close with this video from the UK’s Channel Four, as it may tie together some loose ends:

Links

“Cambridge Analytica and the Secret Agenda of a Facebook Quiz” (2016)
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/cambridge-analytica-facebook-quiz.html

“The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked” (2017)
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy

“Cambridge Analytica execs boast of role in getting Donald Trump elected” (2018)
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/20/cambridge-analytica-execs-boast-of-role-in-getting-trump-elected

“A Cambridge Analytica Whistle-blower Claims That ‘Cheating’ Swung the Brexit Vote” (2018)
https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/a-cambridge-analytica-whistleblower-claims-that-cheating-swung-the-brexit-vote

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