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.’
September 1, 2017
[mogg] Dennis the Menace takes Jacob Rees-Mogg’s dinner money
… ‘Mogg, whose mother gave him a ten-shilling note to purchase tuck and snacks at big Parliament this morning, was accosted by the notorious bully on the way and forced to hand over the money after being threatened with having his ankles viciously bitten by Gnasher. Mogg only recovered after being allowed to spend the remainder of the morning picking daisies in Parliament Square by Nurse instead of going to votes like the rest of class. Jacob and his cohorts Algernon Perkins and Dudley Nightshirt are understood to be front-runners to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, and being relieved of his dinner money by an anarchic prepubescent may damage his claims to economic credibility.’
August 24, 2017
[trump] The President of Blank Sucking Nullity
… more Trump analysis … ‘Trump will never get better as a president or a person: it will always and only be about him. History matters only insofar as it brought him to this moment; the roaring and endless present in which he lives matters because it is where he is now; the future is the place in which he will do it all again. Trump’s world ends with him, and a discourse or a politics that is locked into scrutinizing or obsessively #resisting or otherwise chasing him will invariably end up as arid and abstracted and curdled as he is.’
August 11, 2017
[war] Winners and Losers of the Recent Nuclear Holocaust
… ‘Sure, the verdict may not be in just yet. But when the radioactive dust settles, we could be looking at a game-changing moment for a young presidency…’
August 10, 2017
[funny] “I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives…”
August 9, 2017
[moore] Alan Moore Interviewed by Greg Wilson & Kermit Leveridge
… a wide-ranging discussion on counterculture … ‘Back in 1976, something like that, I was down visiting my late friend and mentor Steve Moore on the top of Shooter’s Hill and Steve, who was much more connected with the London fantasy and comics scene than I was, he’d got this new trilogy of books that he’d come across that I might be interested in, which was ‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’ by Wilson and Shea. I devoured them and I was absolutely blown away; I thought, “This is great!” All of these frankly ridiculous, paranoid conspiracy stories that are so popular amongst the right and the left wing – that it’s making it all, instead of being a debilitating illness, which is the way people like David Icke have tended to make this field of inquiry – they made it into this brilliant intellectual game and made it really enlightening. It was almost like an Anarchist primer – an Occult/Anarchist primer!’
July 27, 2017
[trump] Steve Bannon Is Back in Trump’s Good Graces
… More on the rise, fall and rise again of Steve Bannon
… ‘Bannon became a vital figure in Trump’s orbit during the early days of his political rise. The two met late in 2010, when David Bossie, the veteran conservative activist, brought Bannon along on a trip to Trump Tower to offer advice about how Trump might prepare for a presidential run. Like Trump, Bannon was a businessman and born deal-maker. With experience on Wall Street and in Hollywood, he was nothing if not high energy, a mile-a-minute talker with a volcanic temper who rarely slept and possessed a media metabolism to rival Trump’s own. And Bannon, too, had a healthy self-regard. On his office wall hung an oil painting of Bannon dressed as Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries, done in the style of Jacques-Louis David’s famous neoclassical painting — a gift from Nigel Farage.’
July 26, 2017
[moore] “I did it thirty-five minutes ago.”
July 19, 2017
[politics] Dominic Cummings: the ‘career psychopath’ who thinks David Davis is ‘as thick as mince’
… Pass Notes on Dominic Cummings
… ‘Appearance: A hard-boiled egg with the haunted eyes of a man who has seen Michael Gove without his mask.’
June 13, 2017
[brexit] Britain: The End of a Fantasy
… some strong analysis on Brexit and the current mess the United Kingdon is in …
Theresa May is a classic phony Brexiter. She didn’t support it in last year’s referendum and there is no reason to think that, in private, she has ever changed her mind. But she saw that the path to power led toward the cliff edge, from which Britain will take its leap into an unknown future entirely outside the European Union. Her strategy was one of appeasement—of the nationalist zealots in her own party, of the voters who had backed the hard-right UK Independence Party (UKIP), and of the hysterically jingoistic Tory press, especially The Daily Mail.
The actual result of the referendum last year was narrow and ambiguous. Fifty-two percent of voters backed Brexit but we know that many of them did so because they were reassured by Boris Johnson’s promise that, when it came to Europe, Britain could “have its cake and eat it.” It could both leave the EU and continue to enjoy all the benefits of membership. Britons could still trade freely with the EU and would be free to live, work, and study in any EU country just as before. This is, of course, a childish fantasy, and it is unlikely that Johnson himself really believed a word of it. It was just part of the game, a smart line that might win a debate at the Oxford Union.
But what do you do when your crowd-pleasing applause lines have to become public policy? The twenty-seven remaining member states of the EU have to try to extract a rational outcome from an essentially irrational process. They have to ask the simple question: What do you Brits actually want?
May 30, 2017
[politics] 60 things the Conservative Party manifesto (genuinely) promises
… interesting summary from Diamond Geezer
… ‘The government’s agenda will not be allowed to drift to the right.’
May 19, 2017
[politics] Conservative election manifesto actually the Necronomicon
… Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! … ‘An eldritch tome of unholy secrets written by an insane medieval prophet has been launched to sweep the Conservatives into government this morning. The grimoire, attractively bound in a bright blue leather of unknown provenance, was launched at a press conference by the Prime Minister and several capering imps.’
May 18, 2017
[curtis] Adam Curtis on the Dangers of Self-Expression
… Curtis discusses a variety of subjects … ‘I sometimes wonder whether conspiracy theories are an attempt to re-enchant the world in a distorted way. It’s like religion knocking on the door and trying to come back in a strange and distorted form. A sense of mystery beyond our own understanding of the world. If you ever talk to conspiracy theorists, that’s the sense you get from them. A sort of almost romantic sense of awe that there is this dark mysterious thing that a rational thing could never penetrate. That’s sort of religious. Maybe what’s trying to get back into our world is enchantment, and the only way it can come back in is in these strange distorted ways. The downfall of capitalism is that it’s become appropriated by rational technocratic disenchantment. It’s become an iron cage. It’s trapped us. Some new form of enchanted myth is going to have to come back in.’
May 16, 2017
[press] Is the editor of the Daily Mail the most dangerous man in Britain?
… The Guardian on on Paul Dacre
and Brexit… ‘His own success at the Mail has bought him schooling for his two sons at Eton, membership of the Garrick, a chauffeur, a house in the country, flat in town and a shooting estate in Scotland (generously subsidised by the EU). He rarely rubs up against the people he believes he represents. “It always amused me that his shoe leather never wore out,” one reporter told Addison, “because every day he was on a carpet in the office; he strode out the door and was in a car which deposited him either at home or a restaurant. He would be horrified at what modern Britain had become – but he was never part of it.” Despite this insulation, Dacre has always presented himself as having a unique “feel for the emotions of ordinary people”. He still apparently locates this feeling in the 1950s London suburb of Arnos Grove in which he grew up, and which persists as the model of the Mail’s middle England.’
May 5, 2017
[politics] Why the Phrase ‘Late Capitalism’ Is Suddenly Everywhere
… ‘Finally, “late capitalism” gestures to the potential for revolution, whether because the robots end up taking all the jobs or because the proletariat finally rejects all this nonsense. A “late” period always comes at the end of something, after all. “It has the constant referent to revolution,” Roberts said. “‘Late capitalism’ necessarily says, ‘This is a stage we’re going to come out of at some point, whereas ‘neoliberalism’ doesn’t say that, ‘Shit is fucked up and bullshit’ doesn’t say that. It hints at a sort of optimism amongst a post-Bernie left, the young left online. Something of the revolutionary horizon of classical Marxism.” It does all this with a certain concision, erudition, even beauty. It’s ominous and knowing, brainy and pissed-off. “Now is a crazy political time,” Yeselson said…’
April 24, 2017
[trump] Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump
… What Melania Trump’s stream of Twitter photos tells us about her life … ‘Melania posted her last photo to Twitter on Thursday, June 11, 2015, five days before her husband announced his candidacy for president. It is an old photograph, of a then six-year-old Barron, taken on the beach. He is looking down at the ground ahead and waving goodbye to a professionally built sandcastle in the background. That day Melania knew, of course, that the campaign was coming. In retrospect her choice of a Throwback Thursday post reads as prophecy: a goodbye to her golden towers, to the home destined to crumble. To this day she’s still up there, in the golden Tower, holding onto it for as long as she can.’
April 3, 2017
[politics] Stephen King on Donald Trump: ‘How do such men rise? First as a joke’
… King analyses Trump with fictional characters …
These stories were written years ago, but Stillson and Rennie bear enough of a resemblance to the current resident of the White House for me to flatter myself I have a country-fair understanding of how such men rise: first as a joke, then as a viable alternative to the status quo, and finally as elected officials who are headstrong, self-centered and inexperienced. Such men do not succeed to high office often, but when they do, the times are always troubled, the candidates in question charismatic, their proposed solutions to complex problems simple, straightforward and impractical. The baggage that should weigh these hucksters down becomes magically light, lifting them over the competition like Carl Fredricksen in the Pixar film Up. Trump’s negatives didn’t drag him down; on the contrary, they helped get him elected.
March 31, 2017
[web] This Is Almost Certainly James Comey’s Twitter Account
… Impressive web-Stalking – finding the the Director of the FBI’s Twitter and Instagram accounts … ‘Of course, none of this is definitive proof @projectexile7 is FBI Director James Comey, but it would take a nearly impossible confluence of coincidences for it to be anyone else. Take what you will from the fact that the director of the FBI appears to have liked a tweet from the New York Times about Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner meeting a Russian envoy in December.’
March 23, 2017
[brexit] EU chiefs mock May’s Brexit plan with Tintin cartoon
… ‘While we’re on metaphors for Brexit, we can think of a few more fitting Tintin comic titles: The(resa May’s) Broken Ear, Prisoners of the Sun, and Black Island. As Captain Haddock would say, it’s Blistering Brexit Balderdash!’
March 21, 2017
[crime] Steve Bannon’s Sad, Desperate Crusade
… a nicely written analysis of Steve Bannon … ‘Even pieces of ostensible criticism reach, almost unfailingly, a passage of barely hidden astonishment, writers gazing at his references to the ancient Roman working class or Thomas Cromwell like they just peeked inside the Matrix. He is, in a way, a journalist’s dream prompt: His mysterious biography invites investigation; his mongrel-like appearance a paradise for vivid similes; his appetite for literature just like theirs. So what should be an attack on an irredeemable charlatan instead becomes something closer to fascination. Writing about Bannon tends to be studiously impartial, analytical, even as his worldview is dismissed as an absurdity. This is wrong. Bannon can be a disheveled maniac and only that—there doesn’t need to be a revelation or nuance or anything beyond a bloodshot sack of demented ambition, no matter how high he ascends. He is not a Svengali, he’s a shipwrecked banker who washed ashore and wound up the president’s ventriloquist. Hate is still just hate, no matter how intricately ornamented it is with Ronald Reagan idolatry.’
March 14, 2017
[politics] I am The Crap Thatcher, confirms Theresa May
… ‘Thatcher could push through a radical agenda because she won overwhelming majorities in three general elections. I only even became leader because everyone else quit. “I am a pale imitation of the Iron Lady, an authoritarian despot who isn’t even any good at it, which ironically means I’ll end up doing much more damage.”‘
March 3, 2017
[politics] Big Brother adds fourth line to manifesto
… ‘In a series of tweets this morning, the beloved leader reiterated that War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, and Freedom is Slavery, but added that News is Fake – an admonishment immediately seized on by the faithful as always having been true. The expansion to the party message is designed to help loyal citizens better bellyfeel Party messages without bothering themselves with difficult and worrying contradictory reports. “Failing news media is enemy of the people! Doubleplus Sad!”, he announced at 2:37am this morning.’
March 1, 2017
[comics] Bill Sienkiewicz sketches Steve Bannon
… ‘Monday Morning Cirrhosis. I felt like was drawing a tumor.’
February 21, 2017
[politics] Paul Nuttall’s autobiography to be a Choose Your Own Adventure book
… ‘If you want to be leader of UKIP, turn to page 23, if you want to battle a goblin for ten gold coins, turn to page 144. UKIP leader Paul Nuttall is to tell of his many adventures in a new autobiography called The Kipper of Firetop Mountain, he has revealed this morning….’
February 20, 2017
[politics] Dear President Bannon: Congratulations On Your Upgrade to Malebolge, the Eighth Circle of the Abyss!
… ‘We thank you for your use of our offerings, including Graft, Pandering, Deceit, and the Promotion of Discord. You earned your Fraud points through a surprising variety of purchases, ranging from tax evasion to promoting white supremacy. The bulk of your Fraud points were earned, of course, through your war against Islam, a religion you slandered in Breitbart News and in your “documentaries.” Once you became a Presidential advisor, you started earning triple points with your Muslim-targeted immigration ban. (We apologize that the product broke immediately upon delivery.)’
February 16, 2017
[Politics] Is Theresa May up to the job of prime minister? Here’s how to tell
… ‘There is a Shakespearean dimension to the way British prime ministers meet their tragic destinies. The seeds of their downfall are sown as they rise to the top. Thatcher glittered in the October 1974 election when as shadow environment secretary she pledged to abolish rates, the unpopular property tax. A few months later she was leader. Yet when she finally abolished the rates as prime minister, replacing them with the poll tax, the policy destroyed her. Cameron appeased Eurosceptics in his leadership contest by pledging that Conservatives would leave the centre-right grouping in the European parliament. He won, and then appeased them again as leader by holding the referendum that killed off his political career. Blair was propelled to power by his belief in third way politics, an attachment that led him to the hell of Iraq as he sought to back the US and yet persuade it to work with the UN – his fatal third way.’
February 8, 2017
[fascism] “Dude! Let me in!”
February 2, 2017
[politics] The man who could make Marine Le Pen president of France
… a profile of Marine Le Pen’s right hand man… ‘The night Britain voted on whether to leave the European Union, before the polls had even closed, Philippot hosted a Front National Brexit celebration dinner at a Parisian bistro. Marine Le Pen was there, smiling and laughing, eating fish and chips and waving French and British flags. Philippot later said that there were two key moments in his life when he cried – when his mother died in 2009 and his tears of joy when Britain voted to leave the EU.’
February 1, 2017
[trump] Screaming About Trump Into a Well: A Text Adventure
>scream into the well about Trump moving forward with building a wall between Mexico
You scream. The well echoes back that Mexico will never reimburse the cost and wonders why Republicans are so willing to pay for an ineffectual wall but not a social safety net.
Yes, this is the best you’ve felt since election night! The well is your friend.
Unfortunately all this screaming is making your head flush and hot. If you want to continue screaming, you’ll have to find a way to cool off.
The air inside the well feels nice.
>lean further into the well
January 20, 2017
[comics] The Unquotable Trump
… Who could have guessed that Donald Trump works well as a comic book villian? …
January 12, 2017
[politics] BBC’s Adam Curtis: How Propaganda Turned Russian Politics Into Theater
… This, from Adam Curtis seems pertinent somehow …
So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing, and above all, confusing. To which the only response is to say, “oh dear.” What this film is going to suggest is that that defeatist response has become a central part of a new system of political control. And to understand how this is happening, you have to look to Russia, to a man called Vladislav Surkov, who is a hero of our time.
Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisers, and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.
He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career, say that what Surkov has done, is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.
His aim is to undermine peoples’ perceptions of the world, so they never know what is really happening.
Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin.
But the key thing was, that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake. As one journalist put it: “It is a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused.”
December 22, 2016
 Which Philosophy Can Best Explain 2016?
… Vice attempts to understand 2016 … ‘We’re thrust into the world described in Machiavelli’s The Prince, where what really matters is the geopolitical power-plays of great men and the polities they lead. Certainly this would help explain the disparity, in the context of both Brexit and Trump’s victory, between what the polls claimed and the actual results. Perhaps we’re not just awful racists after all: perhaps this is merely part of some grand plot by Russia to undermine NATO and the EU so that they can annex the Baltics. In the now-immortal words of a mind far deeper and greater than I: “Guys. It’s time for some game theory…”’
December 9, 2016
[trump] Donald Trump named NewsThump’s “Resource of the Year”
… … ‘We’re looking forward to writing even more wonderful bits of copying and pasting of whatever lunacy he’ll come up with when he’s actually President, assuming he doesn’t get shot, imprisoned or simply become bored of the idea of being president in the meantime. I really hope he doesn’t get shot. He’s essentially paying to do up my conservatory at this point. I have a conservatory, you know. All of us liberal elites do.’
December 6, 2016
[politics] What Theresa May’s Christmas plans tell us about her faith
… brief examination of Theresa May’s religious faith from The Guardian … ‘There are two times a year when politicians talk about faith – Christmas and Easter. No one would listen at any other time.”’
November 30, 2016
[trump] The unholy power of that Farage-Trump buddy photo
… Jonathan Jones on the meaning of the Donald and Nigel lift photo … ‘The sheer freakishness of the image enhances its grip on us, for we can’t stop staring at this monstrously matey exchange of bonhomie in a lift lined with gold. Trump’s almost beatific post-electoral grin is matched by The Nigel’s starstruck guffaw. They’re high rollers headed for the penthouse, where the casino has provided them with entertainment for the night – or whatever other cinematic image comes to mind. To me, this is somewhere between a Martin Scorsese film and a scene from the heyday of the Third Reich. Hermann Goring would have loved that gold elevator. But if this year has taught us anything, it is that you can’t assume your revulsion is universally shared. Maybe to many this is a gleeful, and even joyous, picture of two buddies having a well-earned celebration.’
November 28, 2016
[trump] It can happen here: But has it? The 1933 scenario is no longer hypothetical
… Salon on President Trump and What Happens Next … ‘The whole scenario remains deeply ludicrous, although it long ago stopped being funny. It more closely resembles a plot twist in an Alan Moore graphic novel than anything any of us expected to see in the real world: A reality TV star and real estate salesman with the demeanor and intellect of a petulant child has been elected president with a minority of the vote, thanks to a flukey electoral system, a severely divided and demoralized electorate, a beleaguered and overconfident opponent and a concatenation of other circumstances too strange for fiction.’
November 25, 2016
[fascism] Umberto Eco’s List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism
… ‘The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”’
November 21, 2016
[politics] Bruce Sterling’s Notes on the 2016 US Election
… ‘This is the Pandora’s Box of twenty-first-century politics, these rumor politics of modern power players organized for disruption, wherein the lines of play are drawn far outside the twentieth century’s staid political parties and its Fourth Estate of journalism. And, since it helps campaigners to seize power fast and cheap, it’s bound to get more like this, rather than less. Silicon Valley would call this a disruptive hack, since it undercuts debates, ground games, TV ads, and other expensive, tedious camp.’
November 18, 2016
[cthulhu] Look, All I’m Saying Is Let’s At Least Give Nyarlathotep A Chance
… ‘But the die has been cast, and we’ve gotta roll with what we’ve been given. Like it or not, Nyarlathotep — God of a Thousand Forms, Stalker Among the Stars — is our Commander-in-Chief now. And you know what, Jerry? Color me curious. I know a lot of really heated rhetoric and seemingly reckless policy proposals have been bandied about over the past few months — that bit about “delighting in this dust speck you call Earth’s senseless suffering” still bugs me — but hey, the least we can do is see how He adjusts to His new responsibilities.’
November 17, 2016
[memes] The Origin of the Internet’s Most Famous Dumpster Fire
… the orgins of a popular meme during the US election … ‘The world’s most famous dumpster fire came from this YouTube video, which identifies the fire as being located behind the official home of The Oscars: the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. “Engine 27 makes quick work of a large dumpster fire,” the video caption says. So what exactly happened on this fateful day in 2012?’
October 28, 2016
[books] In ‘Hitler,’ an Ascent From ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue
… Nicely done book review on the rise of
Adolf Hitler … ‘Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”’
October 21, 2016
[trump] ‘I think he’s a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks’
… An “emergency meeting” of Trumpologists discuss Trump’s final weeks in the US Election … ‘The parallels between the period of time leading up to his downfall in 1990 and the campaign now are striking. And what he did last night in standing up in this moment of crisis and being a victim — he thought of himself as a victim in the downfall of 1990 and playing the victim card and being as angry at others as he was in the ’90s in the way in which he dealt with the bankers. It was very strikingly similar to that period of time. But when you’ve dealt with the bankers in 1990, you could figure out a way where both of you came out with something and lost something. But in this case, there’s going to be a winner and a loser. And so there’s some similarities, but ultimately, he’s going to be a loser. He managed to survive in almost an unbelievable way when his empire collapsed, but managed to survive with the aid of the bankers. But this time, it’s going to be a straight-out loss on the biggest stage he’s ever been on, and how he handles that — I don’t think we’ve got any precedent for that.’