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.
[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.’
[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!’
[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.’
[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.”‘
[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.’
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[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….’
[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.)’
[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.’
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[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.’
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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.”
 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…”’
[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.’
[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.’
[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.’
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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.’
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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.’
[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?’
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[books] In ‘Hitler,’ an Ascent From ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue … Nicely done book review on the rise of Donald Trump 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.”’
[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.’
[trump] Psychiatric hospitals filling up with time travellers sent back to kill Donald Trump … ‘They all say the same thing, they come from a future of riots, war, famine, the collapse of civilised society, and then being sent back to ‘make it all right’. I mean, it’s almost like they’re telling the truth and for some unknown reason the future is getting increasingly desperate to stop the rise of Donald Trump and the end of the world he will inevitably bring about. He can’t be that bad, can he?’
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August 17, 2016
[comics] Cartoonist Garry Trudeau on the GOP’s “Natural Born Toon” … Garry Trudeau on Donald Trump … ‘I just put him in the strip. And it was an early transfer—easy transfer. He wasn’t a parody exactly; he was really more like a natural born toon. I just took him out of the box, removed the tags and put him right into the strip. And I think he’s—you know, he’s like a version of Daffy Duck, I mean, in terms of his appearance, the silly way in which he talks, the over-the-top self-regard. All these things just made him a perfect cartoon character. And so, I just had him interact with the other characters as a peer, and they interact with him as just a, you know, comic strip colleague. And I didn’t have to make any adjustments. I would take the things he said and reframe them in a way, you know, to maximize the satiric purpose of it, but I didn’t have to do much in terms of exaggerating, the way you normally do in a parody.’
[politics] Prime Minister Theresa May Makes First Policy Announcement… ‘It’s Simple…’
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July 11, 2016
[brexit] Brexit: a coup by one set of public schoolboys against another … Brexit – it’s all about the Oxford Union apparently … ‘The moment Brexit was achieved, Johnson and Hannan airily informed Britons that immigration would continue after all. No wonder, because the public schoolboys don’t care about immigration. Whether Poles and Bangladeshis live in unfashionable English provincial towns is a matter of supreme indifference to them. The public schoolboys turned out to have no plan for executing Brexit. I’m guessing they considered this a boring governance issue best left to swotty civil servants. Johnson actually spent the Sunday after Brexit playing cricket. In the great public-school tradition, he was a dilettante “winging it”.’
[euref] Boris’s career undone by a Poundland Lord and Lady MacGove… John Crace’s political sketch on Johnson and Gove … ‘Boris couldn’t resist a bit of drama, delaying the announcement that he wouldn’t after all be standing for the Conservative party leadership right till the end, but that was just about the only sign of life he gave. The deflation was near total. Boris had only ever come out for leave to get the top job and now his ambition was dust. Nadine Dorries was in tears by the end; so it wasn’t all bad.’
[politics] I worked for Zac Goldsmith’s failed campaign – and this is what it looked like from the inside … ‘It doesn’t really matter that Zac Goldsmith can’t hold a pint, knows bugger all about Bollywood or football, and was, for a bizarre five minutes, jokingly rumoured to be the “Croydon Cat Killer”. These were unfortunate but forgivable blips. Running a campaign that draws ready (and ideologically coherent) support from the likes of Katie Hopkins is harder to excuse.’
[politics] Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well? … ‘The first time I wondered at something being not quite right with Trump’s brain was during the first debate in August 2015 when Trump said “We need brain in this country to turn it around.” Even my 10-year-old son noted that Trump had suggested we need intelligence in government in a really stupid way. But it was more than stupid; it was ungrammatical. It wasn’t simply a basic use of language; it lacked the grammar structure that even a third grader has readily available. And for all of the ease with which we Trump bash, it’s worth remembering that he did, in fact, graduate from Wharton as an undergraduate in economics. He might have been full of bluster back then, but I’m guessing he still could speak in a complete sentence.’
[politics] Has Jeremy Corbyn’s spin doctor Seumas Milne gone rogue? … an interesing profile (but written by Alex Wickham so YMMV) … ‘A recurring theme is Milne’s disconcertingly endearing comic character. Dressing in a communist-chic black rollneck jumper and white chinos, Milne offers great value as a self-deprecating self-parody. “He’s like Swallows And Amazons meets Spetsnaz,” says one journalist who has worked with him.’ [thanks Phil]
[politics] Inside the Unorthodox Donald Trump Campaign … ‘A confluence of factors created the conditions for this election and Trump’s surprising success in it: the turbulence of economic change, anxiety about terrorism, the rise of social media, Obama-inspired racism, Hillary-inspired misogyny, resistance to all manner of social change; the list can go on and on. But one factor that’s been particularly crucial to Trump’s rise may be the way that reality television, cable news, and talk radio have shaped the culture’s sense of “reality” — in other words, its relationship to truth. If Ronald Reagan showed us that Hollywood was good training for politics, Trump is proving that the performance skills one learns in the more modern entertainment arenas are even more useful. Talk and reality shows are improvised operations, mastered by larger-than-life personalities expert at distorting and provoking, shifting and commandeering attention.’
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February 19, 2016
[trump] The Art Of The Trump Videodrome Deal … Warren Ellis on Donald Trump … ‘It’s all a bit weird for me. It feels just that bit too much like the news out of the US is being generated by a computer that ate books by me and about thirty of my comrades and is spitting out algorithmic stories.’
[books] Promised You a Miracle: UK 80-82 by Andy Beckett review – how today’s Britain was born in the early 80s … some interesting thoughts on how lucky Margaret Thatcher was in the early 1980s … ‘The readying and departure of the taskforce became in Beckett’s words “an epic, brilliantly manipulative piece of public theatre … that would run, to credulous rave reviews in most of the British media, for the rest of the Falklands conflict, and indeed [for more than a year] right up to the next general election”. Those scenes and the victory that followed did wonders for a prime minister who only a few months before had registered lower approval ratings than any of her predecessors; who, according to John Hoskyns, the head of her policy unit, could be found in the summer of 1981 sitting on a seat at the end of her garden thinking: “It’s all gone wrong. I don’t think it will ever come right. I’m the most unpopular prime minister ever. I will go down as a total disaster.” A year later, even as the taskforce was still heaving and wallowing its way homeward, the Tories were suddenly leading Labour by 20% in the polls and Thatcher was chastising “the waverers and the faint hearts … who thought we could no longer do the great things which we once did”, and announcing that Britain had “found herself again in the South Atlantic and will not look back”. In the election the following year, the Tories won their biggest victory since Harold Macmillan’s in 1959.’
He was like one of those characters in an 18th-century comedy meant to embody a particular flavor of human folly. Trump struck me as adolescent, hilariously ostentatious, arbitrary, unkind, profane, dishonest, loudly opinionated, and consistently wrong. He remains the most vain man I have ever met. And he was trying to make a good impression. Who could have predicted that those very traits, now on prominent daily display, would turn him into the leading G.O.P. candidate for president of the United States?
His latest outrageous edict on banning all Muslims from entering the country comes as no surprise to me based on the man I met nearly 20 years ago. He has no coherent political philosophy, so comparisons with Fascist leaders miss the mark. He just reacts. Trump lives in a fantasy of perfection, with himself as its animating force.
[hell] £26 charge to pick up fallen pensioners ‘is proof mankind now living in hell’ … ‘Tendring local council in Essex have decided to charge pensioners who are already paying for care an extra £26 if they fall over, and this is the clearest sign anyone could want that humans are now living a miserable cursed existence in the pits of hades. A spokesperson for Tendring council confirmed that this was indeed the case, saying: “We have a responsibility to balance funding for all non-essential projects, and exist only to serve our Lord Satan, the great evil master.” Most people were of the opinion that the Hell thing was no excuse for Tendring council’s behaviour.’
[politics] Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In! … ‘For mental-health professionals, Donald Trump is at once easily diagnosed but slightly confounding. “Remarkably narcissistic,” said developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” echoed clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis. “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” said clinical psychologist George Simon, who conducts lectures and seminars on manipulative behavior. “Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.”’