June 22, 2020
[mcsweeneys] Just Because They’ve Turned Against Humanity Doesn’t Mean We Should Defund the Terminator Program
… ‘Meanwhile, members of the Resistance are gathering support for extreme measures like disbanding the entire Terminator program and then restructuring it so that only Terminators that have been re-programmed to protect rather than harm people are brought back online. But what exactly are we supposed to do in the meantime? Who will keep our country safe if not these beefy robotic soldiers trained in killology (Cyberdyne’s patented split-second decision making murder algorithm) who, admittedly, do sometimes turn against civilians and go on unstoppable rampages of human carnage?’
June 18, 2020
[chernobyl] The Age of Forever Crises
… This analysis of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl seems somehow relevant during Covid-19. ‘Chernobyl, in this sense, is a crisis that has never stopped unfolding, or as Brown puts it, it is a calamity “with no perceptible end.” It is just as much an environmental disaster as a crisis of information; Cold War politics prevented the free exchange of scientific knowledge, making a bad situation infinitely worse. Brown explains how, in 1986, Russian scientists asked UN officials for “precise information” about how the “Life Span Study” of Japanese survivors of the nuclear bomb was carried out; they were instead presented with data about a chemical explosion in Italy.’
May 27, 2020
[politics] Rasputin Goes To Barnard Castle
… Comparing Dominic Cummings and Rasputin. ‘Both Cummings and Rasputin are weird finger sniffing outcasts who turned up in the middle of an outdated corrupt regime and made the elite feel better about themselves while completely taking the piss and not giving even the slightest of fucks about the uproar they caused. Rasputin wandered about the palace wearing ill-fitting stinking old rags telling everyone to fuck off, so does Cummings. Rasputin had a massive cock, Cummings is a massive cock.’
March 23, 2020
[trump] Teen models, powerful men and private dinners: when Trump hosted Look of the Year
… Engrossing look at the time Donald Trump judged the world’s biggest modelling competition. ‘Downstairs, a party was in flow. Scores of teenage girls in evening dresses and miniskirts, some as young as 14, danced under disco lights. It could have been a high school prom, were it not for the crowd of older men surrounding them. As the evening wore on, some of the men – many old enough to be the girls’ fathers, or even grandfathers – joined them on the dancefloor, pressing themselves against the girls. One balding man in a suit wrapped his arms around two young models, leering into a film camera that was documenting the evening: “Can you get some beautiful women around me, please?” The party aboard the Spirit of New York was one of several events that Donald Trump, then 45, attended with a group of 58 aspiring young models that September…’
December 10, 2019
[politics] Politics in the time of Web 1.0
… Looking back at early British political party websites from the mid-nineties. ‘Piss taking aside, there’s something endearing about these sites. Most of them look like they were done on Microsoft Word, but they remind us of when the internet was viewed primarily as an information resource and not a weapon.’
December 6, 2019
[politics] Uncovered: reality of how smartphones turned election news into chaos
… Interesting attempt to study how Social Media influences election news. ‘Several participants were observed sharing articles on Facebook without clicking the links, and excitedly diving into comment sections for an argument before looking at the articles. Most showed a tendency to read news that confirmed their existing views. Some behaviours were more surprising, hinting we may be becoming a nation of trolls. One 22-year-old Conservative-voting woman was observed going out of her way to read reputable mainstream news sources so she had a balanced understanding of Labour policies. But she would then seek out provocative far-right blog posts to share on Facebook because their headlines would anger her leftwing friends and create online drama.’
November 8, 2019
[politics] Man who spent all year mocking ‘virtue signallers’ pretty keen for you to notice his massive poppy
… ‘Dave Williams, 48, has spent most of the year telling people that liberal virtue signallers are responsible for most of society’s ills, and that this ‘sickness’ has led to the erosion of societal values such as free speech and being able to blame immigrants for stuff. However, he insists that his massive poppy is not a signal of his virtues, and is, in fact, something very different.’
November 6, 2019
[politics] My life in the ethical wild west: our sketch writer on his three years of Brexit hell
… John Crace on Brexit. ‘Then there was Chris Grayling, the transport secretary under May, who awarded a ferry contract to a company with no ferries and whose time as cabinet minister cost the country £3bn. We could have paid him £1bn to stay at home doing nothing and still had money left over to build two hospitals. There is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the idiot’s idea of a thinking man, and Mark Francois, the exploding molehill. And, of course, Nigel Farage, who has returned to the fray to lead the Brexiters Against Brexit 12-step group. Then there is Boris Johnson himself, a byword for untrustworthiness, duplicity and laziness who is now our prime minister. Some countries have all the luck.’
November 4, 2019
[trump] Follow This Twitter Account… Pres. Supervillain (@PresVillain)
… Red Skull and Trump mashed up.
September 5, 2019
[sealand] A Visit to Sealand, the World’s Tiniest Nation
… The bizarre creation story of the micronation of Sealand
along with more recent history. ‘As we finished one last cup of tea in the kitchen, Michael grinned. He seemed as proud of the convoluted story behind his family’s bizarre creation as he was of Sealand’s resilience. Taking advantage of a gap in international law, Sealand had grown old while other attempts at seasteads never made it far beyond what-if imaginings. The Bates family was certainly daring, but the secret to Sealand’s survival was its limited aspirations. It had no territorial ambitions; it wasn’t seeking to create a grand caliphate. In the view of its powerful neighbors, Sealand was merely a rusty kingdom, easier to ignore than to eradicate.’
August 16, 2019
[blogs] Monster or guru? What Dominic Cummings’ blog tells us about him
… Dominic Cummings has a blog
and he puts collections of links into PDFs?!
😱 ‘He started it five years ago and has used it as a dumping ground for his thoughts. All of his thoughts. Some entries are only a few lines long while others stretch to 10,000 words. The whole thing, including attachments, has a higher word count than Ulysses. Like Ulysses, it is both focused and digressive, obsessive and uncontainable; all emphatic italics and BLOCK CAPS and (1) numbered points leading to (2) apocalyptic conclusions. Cummings studied history at Oxford but writes knowingly about subjects from bio-engineering to space exploration. His style oscillates between the academic and the hard-boiled. He suggests “bunging a few million quid” to someone to liven up the civil service; claims that “great unconventional hookers and a bit of imagination … get you into pretty much anywhere”; and wonders “what is to stop someone sending a drone swarm across the river and bombing parliament during PMQs”.’
August 15, 2019
[ideas] Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in
… A long-read on Accelerationism
. ‘In 1998, Land resigned from Warwick too. He and half a dozen CCRU members withdrew to the room above the Leamington Spa Body Shop. There they drifted from accelerationism into a vortex of more old-fashioned esoteric ideas, drawn from the occult, numerology, the fathomless novels of the American horror writer HP Lovecraft, and the life of the English mystic Aleister Crowley, who had been born in Leamington, in a cavernous terraced house which several CCRU members moved into. “The CCRU became quasi-cultish, quasi-religious,” says Mackay.’
July 11, 2019
[brexit] Why People Want a No Deal Brexit
… ‘Clearly, No Deal presents the opportunity to become part of some uniting national disaster, as if the most alive you’ll ever feel in your country will be when it’s closest to death. What this attitude belies more than anything is not the strength of feeling around Brexit, but a strange predilection for chaos and discomfort at the heart of the nation, a crazed, jingo-masochist complex among the seemingly vanilla. Discourse that might feel most at home in a radical Marxist-Accelerationist seminar has become perfectly ordinary to the Points Of View audience.’
July 9, 2019
[brexit] There Are No Real Winners in the Culture War
… Vice on Culture War and Brexit. ‘At times it feels as if this could all go on forever, that this is just how it is now – an ideological ice age. Yet there is an end of sorts in sight: No Deal – the culture war’s Enola Gay. Such an event would likely be a moment of total defeat for at least one of the sides in the war, an event extreme enough to send an entire generation into either retreat or pure, real rage. Their dreams of intersectional socialism replaced by the strangest version of kamikaze patriotism in the country’s history, while the winners get to live out the Blitz they always wanted. Looking at the real-world potentialities, the culture war already feels fairly quaint. Maybe it’s really just an amateur-dramatics second referendum – a chance to fight our corners and air our grievances before it all becomes very, very real.’
June 19, 2019
[twitter] Cold War Steve: satire is my antidote to a scary world
… Profile of the Twitter artist and satirist
. ‘Over the years, depression and alcoholism took a hold, and in 2016 he had a “complete breakdown” and attempted suicide. After a period in hospital, he began to make collages on his phone and sharing them on Twitter. “It was a coping mechanism. If I was creating things, I could focus my mind on that rather than crashing anxiety attacks.” Cold War Steve – a series of images of Phil Mitchell/Steve McFadden superimposed into cold war scenes – “definitely helped my recovery”. He has not touched alcohol for more than three years.’
May 22, 2019
[people] It’s Still Roy Cohn’s World, And You’re Living in It
… A great comic profile from Levi Hastings and Josh Trujillo.
April 11, 2019
… seems like a good time to repost this – long read from Andrew O’Hagan on what it’s like ghostwriting for Julian Assange. ‘I am sure this is what happens in many of his scrapes: he runs on a high-octane belief in his own rectitude and wisdom, only to find later that other people had their own views – of what is sound journalism or agreeable sex – and the idea that he might be complicit in his own mess baffles him. Fact is, he was not in control of himself and most of what his former colleagues said about him just might be true. He is thin-skinned, conspiratorial, untruthful, narcissistic, and he thinks he owns the material he conduits. It may turn out that Julian is not Daniel Ellsberg or John Wilkes, but Charles Foster Kane, abusive and monstrous in his pursuit of the truth that interests him, and a man who, it turns out, was motivated all the while not by high principles but by a deep sentimental wound. Perhaps we won’t know until the final frames of the movie.’
April 2, 2019
[brxit] How the UK lost the Brexit battle
… A longread on why Brexit is failing. ‘For many around May, that a crash would come had been obvious for months. As far back as July 2018, senior figures inside No. 10 Downing Street had warned that her deal, as it was shaping up, was unsustainable. There was just no way a majority in parliament could be assembled for the Brexit the EU was offering. In truth, the trains had been set in motion far earlier — the collision was the culmination of decisions taken by both sides within the hours, weeks and months that followed the referendum. The EU’s determination not to cut London a special deal; Cameron’s decision to walk away; May’s sweeping promise not to raise a border in Ireland, while at the same time drawing incompatible red lines — something had to give, and it would not be Brussels.’
March 18, 2019
[brexit] The simple guide to Brexit
… Diamond Geezer’s Brexit outlines. ‘Nationwide chaos’
March 14, 2019
[brexit] Theresa May planned to defeat herself, then decided not to defeat herself by defeating herself, then lost. To herself
… Tom Peck’s Political Sketch of what happened last night in Parliment.
Theresa May has spent the last three years saying “no deal is better than a bad deal”. She’s allocated £4bn of public money to preparing for no deal. And then, on Wednesday evening, she was expected to walk through the division lobbies and vote to rule out no deal.
Mad, obviously. Stark raving mad. But it’s at least within the realm of madness that we’re used to. But what happened was a madness to echo down the ages. Not so much another order of magnitude as another dimension.
The House of Commons was a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to infinity.
It was a kind of death-defying, window-shattering, epoch-shaping, never-to-be-surpassed lunacy.
The details are extravagantly complex, and if you can’t face them all, the key bit to remember is that Theresa May planned to defeat herself, then decided not to defeat herself by defeating herself, then lost. To herself.
January 24, 2019
[politics] Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier
… Profiling Christopher Steele and the Trump Dossier. ‘Steele, on that January night, was stunned to learn that U.S. politicians were calling him a criminal. He told Christopher Burrows, with whom he co-founded Orbis, that the sensation was “a feeling like vertigo.” Burrows, in his first public interview on the dossier controversy, recalled Steele telling him, “You have this thudding headache—you can’t think straight, you have no appetite, you feel ill.” Steele compared it to the disorientation that he had felt in 2009, when his first wife, Laura, had died, after a long illness, leaving him to care for their three young children.’
December 10, 2018
[curtis] The antidote to civilisational collapse
… Another long, interesting interview with Adam Curtis. ‘The problem I have with a lot of investigative journalism, is that they always say: “There should be more investigative journalism” and I think, “When you tell me that a lot of rich people aren’t paying tax, I’m shocked but I’m not surprised because I know that. I don’t want to read another article that tells me that”. What I want is an article that tells me why, when I’m told that, nothing happens and nothing changes. And no one has ever explained that to me. I think it has something to do with this technocratic world because it doesn’t have the capacity to respond to that kind of thing. It has the capacity to manage us very well. It’s benign but it doesn’t have the capacity to challenge the rich and the powerful within that system, who use it badly for their own purposes. That’s the downside and we’re beginning to get fed up with it. And that’s allowed those on the margins of society to come in and start kicking, and we have no idea what to do about them.’
November 28, 2018
[books] Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life Digested
… a digested read from John Grace
. ‘9. Assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t – Just shut up, quit moaning and listen to me. I know things you don’t. So don’t expect me to listen to you. That’s not the way things work. I’m here to make you feel Better about Yourself by telling you things you already know in a way that makes you feel clever.’
November 12, 2018
[politics] How to explain Jacob Rees-Mogg?
… An attempt at understanding Jacob Rees-Mogg – reminds me a little of Adam Curtis. ‘Rees-Mogg’s journey also helps explain his increasingly powerful but still quite opaque son, Jacob: not just as a supporter of Brexit, but as an unsentimental and nimble “sovereign individual” of exactly the type his father envisaged. Simultaneously, Rees-Mogg Jr has managed to become a successful player in the modern, borderless financial industries, and a nationalist politician with an instantly recognisable retro image. He has seduced some Labour MPs with his old-fashioned manners; and he has met privately in a Mayfair hotel with the would-be guru of the international far right, Steve Bannon. This lack of squeamishness about how the conservative establishment holds on to political and economic power has been passed down the Rees-Mogg generations.’
November 2, 2018
[trump] The Empty Core of the Trump Mystique
… Donald Trump and Nihilism … ‘A nihilist is someone who dedicates himself to not giving a shit, who thinks all meanings are shit, and who yearns with all his heart for the “aesthetic pleasure” of seeing the shit hit the fan. Arguing with a nihilist is like intimidating a suicide bomber: The usual threats and enticement have no effect. I suspect that is part of the appeal for both: the facile transcendence of placing oneself beyond all powers of persuasion. A nihilist is above you and your persnickety arguments in the same way that Trump fancies himself above the law.’
October 18, 2018
[trump] The Original Donald Trump
… Profile of Roy Cohn
and his influence on Donald Trump. ‘Trump practiced bigotry on a grand scale, was a world-class liar, and ripped off customers, investors, and the city itself. Yet for many among New York’s upper register, there was no horror he could commit that would merit his excommunication. As with Cohn before him, the more outrageously and reprehensibly Trump behaved, the more the top rungs of society were titillated by him. They could cop out of any moral judgments or actions by rationalizing him as an entertaining con man: a cheesy, cynical, dumbed-down Gatsby who fit the city’s tacky 1980s Gilded Age much as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s more romantic prototype had the soigné Jazz Age of the 1920s. And so most of those who might have stopped Trump gawked like the rest of us as he scrambled up the city’s ladder, grabbing anything that wasn’t nailed down.’
October 17, 2018
[brexit] Diamond Geezer’s 100 Brexits
… ‘8) The one with a permanent customs union but called something different.’
September 7, 2018
[politics] BREAKING: Trump Is Under Spiritual Attack From Luciferian ‘Advanced Beings’ Who Control The World
“These unprecedented attacks on Donald Trump are part of the greatest spiritual battle in the history of mankind.”
“The physical battles that we see in our world and nation right now are a direct manifestation of the spiritual battles going on in the invisible realm,” McGuire added. “There are people very high up in what is called the globalist occult or globalist Luciferian rulership system, and this rulership system consists of what used to be called the Pharaoh-God Kings, it’s what Aldous Huxley called ‘The Scientific Dictatorship,’ and these are advanced beings who know how to tap into supernatural multidimensional power and integrate it with science, technology, and economics.”
September 6, 2018
[cthulhu] I Am Part of the Resistance Inside Nyarlathotep’s Death Cult
… An Op-Ed from the “trembling corridors of the West Wing”. ‘The root of this problem, we believe, is in Nyarlathotep’s very essence. It is a being incapable of viewing Its servants as anything other than playground toys or troublesome fleas. Many may argue that we should have known this to be the case for the Stalker Among the Stars. And that might well prove true, to a point. We summoned the God of a Thousand Forms assuming the weight of responsibility would rein It in slightly, remind It to adhere to the Necronomicon’s nightmare prophesies first and foremost. If it was foolish to assume the Outer God would care so little about this dimension that it wouldn’t even acknowledge the Tome’s existence, well, call us fools. We still believe utter ruin can be brought to the land through the proper rituals and unhallowed traditions, not by this fly-by-the-seat-of-your-tentacles kind of governing.’
July 30, 2018
[brexit] That sinking feeling
… Charlie Stross on Brexit. ‘A Hard Brexit, on its own, would be a very dubious but probably long-term survivable scenario, with the UK economy taking a hit not much worse than the 10% downsizing Margaret Thatcher inflicted on it in 1979-80. But a hard Brexit, coinciding with the worst harvest failures in decades, ongoing climate destabilization, a fisheries collapse, and a global trade war being started by the Tangerine Shitgibbon in the White House is … well, I’m not optimistic.’
July 27, 2018
[brexit] From anxiety to Zuckerberg: an A-Z of Brexit
… ‘Hard Brexit – As the Pet Shop Boys presciently asked: which do you choose, the hard or soft option? The metaphor of a “hard Brexit” appealed to soft-fleshed types who dream of being manly and thrusting, while a “soft Brexit” still sounds altogether too submissive. Having newly discovered a concern for hygiene, Tory rebels now say they want a “clean Brexit”, not the filthy, presumably French kind.’
July 11, 2018
[politics] What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987?
… Long, plausible scenario about Trump’s collusion with Russia. ‘Then there is Trump himself. While the president’s character has never been exactly deemed above reproach, some doubts have lingered about whether he would really hire prostitutes to defile a bed merely because Obama had slept there and whether a tape of such a thing would truly shame him. These questions have been answered in the affirmative. Trump’s payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels and other women proves that he holds his sexual privacy dear. And the obsessive hatred of Obama that grew out of Trump’s humiliation at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner has blossomed into a perverse and often self-destructive mania. People both inside and outside the administration report that Trump will ultimately pick whatever option he believes is the negation of Obama’s legacy.’
June 20, 2018
[wiki] Galloway’s war of words with a mystery Wikipedia editor
… A look at George Galloway’s feud with a supposedly bias pseudonymous Wikipedia editor… ‘He’s recently caught the attention of bloggers and has been the subject of stories in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and Russian state-owned outlets Sputnik and RT. There have been allegations on social media – all unproven – that he’s a government agent, employed by rich and powerful media interests, or is a mainstream journalist with an obsessive hobby.’
March 29, 2018
[religion] Easter egg truthers: the annual religious row over chocolate
… an overview of the War on Easter from Martin Belam … ‘Chocolate is halal by default because it does not contain meat products or anything haram. Cadbury’s social media team is kept busy at Easter repeatedly explaining that: “In UK our chocolate is suitable for vegetarians & those following a Muslim diet, however they’re not Halal certified. The only animal related products we use in UK are milk & eggs.” This year, Sainsbury’s bore the brunt of the annual backlash. The retailer’s social media team has been forced to repeatedly correct a tweet that claimed all their Easter eggs were specifically “halal-certified”, rather than simply suitable for a halal diet.’
March 12, 2018
[brexit] What are they after?: How Could the Tories?
… What do the Brexiteer Tories Want From Brexit? ‘For all his idiosyncrasies, Johnson typifies something about contemporary conservatism, which might best be understood biographically. The cultural forces shaping the new conservatism resolve in a particular stereotype: men born between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s, with some constellation of expat backgrounds, famous fathers and first careers in the media. All four things apply to Johnson, but a Venn diagram of these various characteristics would also include Michael Gove, Douglas Carswell, Daniel Hannan and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The result of these disparate characteristics is a comfortable familiarity with the myths and rituals of the British state, but a blasé indifference to the impact of policy.’
February 27, 2018
[politics] Paul Manafort couldn’t convert PDFs to Word documents
… Rule of thumb: Sucessfully executing a criminal conspiracy requires robust IT skills. ‘So here’s the essence of what went wrong for Manafort and Gates, according to Mueller’s investigation: Manafort allegedly wanted to falsify his company’s income, but he couldn’t figure out how to edit the PDF. He therefore had Gates turn it into a Microsoft Word document for him, which led the two to bounce the documents back-and-forth over email. As attorney and blogger Susan Simpson notes on Twitter, Manafort’s inability to complete a basic task on his own seems to have effectively “created an incriminating paper trail.”’
February 19, 2018
[politics] Jacob Rees-Mogg shows just how much the British love a caricature
… The New Statesman attempts to understand Jacob Rees-Mogg. ‘There is a strange internal logic about the rise of Rees-Mogg, connected to both Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s survival and ideological confidence, mad as it sounds, brings new vitality to the Conservative extreme: Labour are doing it, perhaps we should, too. No wonder Rees-Mogg has carefully praised Corbyn’s “integrity”. As Stephen Bush recently explored in these pages, Rees-Mogg is being positioned as the appropriate and symmetrical cure to the Corbyn problem.’
January 11, 2018
[politics] What Putin Really Wants
… Some interesting analysis of Vladimir Putin’s motivations and objectives.
A forgery, a couple of groups of hackers, and a drip of well-timed leaks were all it took to throw American politics into chaos. Whether and to what extent the Trump campaign was complicit in the Russian efforts is the subject of active inquiries today. Regardless, Putin pulled off a spectacular geopolitical heist on a shoestring budget—about $200 million, according to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. This point is lost on many Americans: The subversion of the election was as much a product of improvisation and entropy as it was of long-range vision. What makes Putin effective, what makes him dangerous, is not strategic brilliance but a tactical flexibility and adaptability—a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks.
“They do plan,” said a senior Obama-administration official. “They’re not stupid at all. But the idea that they have this all perfectly planned and that Putin is an amazing chess player—that’s not quite it. He knows where he wants to end up, he plans the first few moves, and then he figures out the rest later. People ask if he plays chess or checkers. It’s neither: He plays blackjack. He has a higher acceptance of risk. Think about it. The election interference—that was pretty risky, what he did. If Hillary Clinton had won, there would’ve been hell to pay.”
December 24, 2017
[tv] The 1978 Radio Times: Christmas TV, before Thatcherism ruined it
… a look back at Christmas TV in the late Seventies … ‘In 1978 we had “special guests”, “stars” and “presenters” but I could find only one mention of the word “celebrity” in the listings, used in relation to David Soul, in a programme on 29 December. “David Soul epitomises the star of today. He is the new-style Hollywood celebrity,” we were informed. We quickly got back down to earth, though: the programme was followed by Citizen Smith, the sitcom starring Robert Lindsay as Wolfie Smith, leader of the revolutionary Tooting Popular Front.’
December 22, 2017
[xmas] The Rees-Mogg Christmas Special
… Jacob Rees-Mogg on Christmas. ‘One thinks often of that little child – born so very long ago in a simple manger in Bethlehem and his loving parents. Not for them the hideous EU enslavements of ‘compulsory inoculations’ or ‘maternity leave.’ Certainly they had to contend with the ‘massacre of the innocents’ but that was as nothing when compared to the enforced ‘EU legislation’ that has brought despotic workers’ rights or ‘the freedom to travel’ to millions of enslaved Britons. As we look back on that first Christmas Day – let us remember the true Conservative legacy of Christ’s Life – that if one is born in a stable, one might still climb to the very top – but only if one is of the ‘right stock.’ Jesus was the ‘son of God’ and not just any old riff-raff.’
December 12, 2017
[tv] Steve Coogan wrestled with including Brexit in Alan Partridge’s return
… Today in Alan Partridge news… ‘It was only after some soul-searching that the comedian opted to include the decision to leave the EU in his alter ego’s return to the BBC. “The world has coalesced into a situation that is sympathetic to Alan, which for me is quite depressing,” Coogan told the Radio Times.’
December 8, 2017
[people] The unlikely life of Norris McWhirter, kids’ TV star and the original Brexiter
… a look at the fascinating life of the co-creator of the Guinness Book of Records and extreme-right winger …
If you wanted to be unstoppably hectored by someone in tie and blazer about how the Edward Heath government had committed treason by taking us into the Common Market in 1972 and then find out the the name of the acrobat who performed a quadruple back-somersault on to a chair at the New York Hippodrome in 1915, and the artiste who caught him, Norris McWhirter was your man.
And you can add to that the fact that Norris, along with his twin brother Ross, created the Guinness Book of Records, which had sold more than 75m copies in 37 languages by the time his involvement ended in 1996.
We will never see his like again, not because the world doesn’t teem with libertarian ideologues, nor with grown men who know too much about the minutiae of stuff; but because combining these two disciplines successfully in public seems beyond our wit in 2017.
December 7, 2017
[politics] No more ‘my dog ate it’ excuses. Where are the Brexit impact reports?
… a political sketch of David Davies from John Crace. ‘David Davis knew he had a choice to make. Either to be in contempt of parliament for deliberately failing to provide full disclosure on his department’s Brexit impact assessments. Or to own up to incompetence and laziness. No contest. Incompetence and laziness won hands down. For one thing, they had the virtue of truth. For another, he was just too lazy and incompetent to do anything else.’
November 20, 2017
[politics] Nixon, Trump, and How a Presidency Ends
… An interesting analysis of why Richard Nixon’s Presidency collapsed and comparisons with Trump. ‘Nixon was genuinely tough, a self-made man who’d climbed out of what may have been the most Dickensian childhood of any American president. He’d served as a Navy officer in the Pacific theater during World War II. He entered the White House at a younger age than Trump — 56, not 70 — hardened by decades of political combat as a savage knife-fighter during the McCarthy witch hunts and the explosive American divisions of the 1960s. Nixon actually knew American history, read books, and, unencumbered by ADD, played the long game in life (his courtship of his wife, Pat) as well as in politics. He was a lawyer who repeatedly (and presciently) advised his staff that the cover-up, not the crime, posed the greater legal threat, a lesson he had learned during his star-making turn on the House Un-American Activities Committee; his prey, the State Department official Alger Hiss, was convicted of perjury, not for being a Soviet spy. Nixon was also a far more strategic liar than Trump, crafting sanctimonious and legalistic falsehoods to paper over wrongdoing rather than spewing self-incriminating lies indiscriminately about everything.’
November 13, 2017
[politics]What Facebook Did to American Democracy
… Alexis Madrigal on Facebook’s impact on the 2016 US election.
A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia. Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.
Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine, Facebook is “like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize.” No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.
“Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year,” Read wrote.
And we haven’t even gotten to the Russians.
September 20, 2017
[people] Why Steve Bannon Wears So Many Shirts
… ‘He’s a layering extremist, if you will, adhering to a disheveled uniform of shirts from Brooks Brothers and Orvis, a brand that makes clothes for fly fishing and other outdoor sports (he does not fly fish). He keeps them both folded and hanging in his closet at the Breitbart headquarters, a townhouse in D.C. known as the “Breitbart Embassy,” as well as in other unspecified closets in unspecified locations. “They’re not all long sleeve,” his spokesperson explained. “There’s some polos that are short sleeve.” They added that when wearing a suit in the White House, perhaps he only wore two shirts beneath his blazer — an undershirt and then a button-down — but wasn’t sure.’