At Least That’s One Danger Less

I refer, of course, to the rash of highjackings and terroristic attacks which have been, in the dark years since September 11, 2001, perpetrated with . . . crab salad.  Mozzarella cheese also, and stuffed herring.

Back in 2013, a ticketed passenger was denied clearance in Berlin because he had 272 grams of mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk, 155 grams of North Sea crab salad, and 140 grams of a stuffed herring product identified as “Flensburger Fördetopf” (never heard tell of that last, apparently it’s a stuffed product).  So he sued.  Isn’t it heart-warming, by the way, how the Germans have taken so readily to the habits of their American conquerors?

The top German administrative court has now ruled that he loses.  Yep.  Because such food products are “made with” liquids — you know: dangerous stuff like sour cream and milk — they are subject to the same regulations governing your shampoo or other substances that you really can’t tell what they are.  But hey:  It’s just hard to tell, sometimes, whether that’s really crab meat there of very artfully concealed C4.  You can’t hand the would be passenger a forkful of it and tell him to eat it and show you it can be done.  For that matter, you can’t take a damned toothpick and shove it to the bottom of the container to show that there’s not a miniature land-mine stowed under the

Germany is no longer a serious country.

Weekly Spam Winners: 17 March 17

Trying to adhere to the plan, I have identified this week’s Contenders for the spam sweepstakes.  By odd circumstance, none of them this time is sexual in nature.  On second thought, perhaps that’s not so odd.  Just as there are only X jokes about sex that are funny before they begin to repeat and eventually degenerate into something like Seinfeld, perhaps there are only Y e-mail subject line hooks that you can fashion about making your willie bigger, stronger, harder etc.

[N.b.  As I may have mentioned on this blog from time to time, I do not watch television (in the sense of a television program; obviously I’ll watch one of my DVDs on a screen), or at least I never choose to watch it.  If I am at someone’s house where one is on, or if at a public place, I more or less have no way to escape it.  But in terms of electing to plop myself down in front of an operational television, I haven’t really done that except upon the rarest of occasions since about 1987.  So my references to television pop culture tend to be both dated and based upon very, very limited sample sizes.  I once watched most of an episode of Seinfeld.  It was a series of New York City references you likely wouldn’t get unless you lived there, and one-liners about sex.  I found it profoundly tedious.]

Several of this week’s crop of spam subject lines seem to go together, in the sense of one explaining the other, or one in response to the other.  “Calories are awkward creations.  Xenical knows how to destroy them”.  Oh dear, where to start?  A calorie is a unit of energy.  Like a Joule.  Except upon the sub-atomic level perhaps, I am unaware of any process for the destruction of energy.  “Awkward creations”?  Well, I suppose in a nuclear reaction, in which energy is released from fission/fusion, things can get jolly awkward pretty quickly.  What our spammer is of course referring to is the energy content specifically of food.  Food is how animals take on, among other things, the energy we require to sustain vital life processes.  Like, for humans and other mammals (and birds), being warm-blooded.  No calories, no metabolism, no cuddling under the blanket to warm up.

Maybe if you take enough Xenical you can “Eat without consequences. Xenical”.  Consequences like surviving.

“Go Here Now To Clear Any And All Mental Fog Forever!”  Is that really what we want, though, given that “Infections are not worth remembering!”  Maybe, however, once cleared of any and all of our mental fog (forever!), we can find our way to “The area without infections”.  Wouldn’t that be a nice place to retire?  On a slightly different tack, if one were to “Enjoy life forget without diets! Purchase now,” wouldn’t I be rather better set to continue on with at least some of my mental fog?  Have to question whether we’d not be working at cross-purposes.

It must be a very good thing that there are places like “The area without infections,” for folks who click through and learn how to “Overnight remove every mole and skin”.  I’ve labored under the impression that our skin is our No. 1 defense against infections.  Once upon a time, being flayed alive was a punishment doled out to those of whom one wished to make a particularly grisly example.  Like St. Bartholomew, to name one.  Or the poor old boy who, if memory serves, was commander of the garrison at Nicosia in 1570.  After the Ottomans finally stormed the city to end the siege, they cut off his ears, nose (and I think lips as well), and then he was flayed alive and his skin stuffed with straw.  Several centuries later a casket containing what was left of the skin was returned to some of his descendants.  The whole unsavory story is told in a history of the Mediterranean Sea the title and author of which I cannot at the moment recall.

Let’s just say that I’m not in any hurry to pay money to remove “every” of my “mole and skin”.

There is a species of mindset out there which responds to the notion of being able to Put One Over.  People who indulge this mindset are the origin of the saying that you can’t cheat an honest man.  It is apparently a standard tool in the grifter’s box to offer the mark Something for Nothing, or — and this really must be tied into some dark fabric of human nature, as susceptible as people tend to be to it — a specifically illicit advantage over one’s fellows.  If Gentle Reader will observe closely, what really gets people’s attention is not the offer of I’ll show you how to play by the rules more effectively, or better understand the rules, or even how to make the rules work more in your favor.  No:  What really get them [Or as Twain put it: “If that don’t fetch ’em, I don’t know Arkansaw.”] is the offer of I’ll show you how to cheat the rules while the other guy still has to play by them.

The people who fall for the grifter’s blandishments are the target audience for e-mails containing the word “trick” and its variants, frequently in combination with words like “secret,” “weird,” or “simple.”  A weird trick will enable you to out-smart all those guys on Wall Street who have been doing this stuff for years and have millions of dollars of computing power to analyze the market and its movements.  But for just $250, paid by wire transfer of course, I’ll show you a weird trick that will earn you however-many-thousand dollars a day trading penny stocks.  Or something.

The other target audience for “trick” are the desperate.  This secret trick will have the girls fighting to jump into your bed.  This ancient trick will get you into a size 2 dress by next month!  And so forth.  There must be a special place in hell for people who prey on the desperate like that.  Don’t get me wrong:  I fully understand that for desperate people, desperate measures are sometimes the only ones that work.  Years ago The New York Times ran an article on the payday advance and title loan business. It was focused principally on Nashville, Tennessee which at the time was apparently a locus of the industry.  Most of the article was predictable claptrap about how sky-high the interest rates charged were, how destitute the borrowers were, and so forth.  But bless their pea-pickin’ hearts, the article actually did share the comments of another fellow who pointed out that the patrons of these places simply do not have access to any financing anywhere else other than outright loan sharks.  For whatever reasons exist in their particular lives, they’re horrible credit risks and banks and other “standard” lenders cannot lend money to them.  Full stop.  For those folks it’s either the title loan/payday advance operations or else some guy in an alleyway wearing sunglasses at night whose middle name is “The”. What I’m talking about here is the sort of personal desperation that is scarred into a person’s bones by knowing that you’re physically unprepossessing; or that you simply have no social skills; or that you’re painfully shy; or that you’re not likely ever to lose all that weight; or that you’re on the autism spectrum, that’s just how you’re wired, and you’ll never understand how to interact with your fellow humans; or that you have few marketable skills, no realistic prospect of acquiring any, and no prospect of ever not being able to live quite from one paycheck to the next, so that you are forever sinking, one week at a time, ever deeper.  Those people are the targets of the “this weird trick” spammers.

“Simple ‘Trick’ reverses Baldness”.  I know of at least one fellow who lost most of his hair to male pattern baldness at a comparatively early age and so wigged out that he attempted suicide about it. Apparently as a teenager he’d had longish, flowing, blond hair and was very vain on the subject.  Of course, I also know something about his family background and dynamics, and I’m pretty comfortable that his hair falling out was merely the culmination of several other poisonous systems at play.  In contrast, I know quite several guys who’ve lost their hair or most of it and just shave the balance.  None of them appears to have experienced any difficulty — at least not outside of cold weather — by reason of it.  I’m pleased that my hair is unusually thick (my barber has commented on any number of occasions that I don’t need to worry about going bald any time soon).

The top two contenders, this week, must be the following:

“We [random non-Roman characters] the best friend of suffering from pain.  Try it, you like it!”

“Even after 6 p.m. now! Food is no longer gangrenous for ideal forms”.

Of the two, I think I’m going to declare the latter to be this week’s winner.  There’s just so much going on in this one, from the translating dictionary aspect, to the humor of taking the text literally, to its tie-in with the Xenical spam above, to the mysterious time reference (why 1800, after all? why not 1915 or 1730?), to the quasi-philosophical construct of “ideal forms”.  I mean, is this somehow Kantian speculative spam?  Is this perhaps a result of being able to “Eat without consequences”?  Certainly avoiding gangrene from my evening hamburger — quite apart from “destroying calories” — would be a delightful outcome yes?

And so we now have our first weekly sole champion.

Weekly Spam Winners: 10 March 2017

OK, I knew if I’d study on it long enough, I’d figure out a way to institutionalize my hilarity on reviewing my spam filter.

For those who believe, incidentally, that humor must be spontaneous and unplanned, I refer them to the example of P. G. Wodehouse, who — this was in the days before word processing, recall — would take plot sheets for his books and pin them to the walls of his studio, re-arranging them time and again until he got it Just Right.  He was also a playwright as well as a prose author, and when you read his stories (most of which initially appeared in serialization in any event) you get a strong sense of the story lines moving like a play.  Perhaps that’s what makes his books so entertaining.  Just like you can’t have dead time on a stage without killing your play, Wodehouse never allows awkward pauses in the flow of his stories.

In any event, what I decided on was a weekly spam championship.  I can jot down over the course of the week the most outrageous, or puzzling, or howlingly funny spam subject lines, and each week announce the finalists.  Perhaps even an outright winner.  So, without further ado, the below are the contenders from Week 1:

“Night or day Glucophage is your way!”  Have to love the poetry of that.  Almost disappointed they didn’t shove a “Burma Shave” at the end of it.  Sugar-eater, though (which is what I assume “Glucophage” translates to in plain Saxon yes)?  Not entirely sure what this medicament is intended to accomplish.  Diabetes, perhaps?  I’ve seen it crop up for a couple of months now, but never in any connection that would allow the spam target (me) to divine what it was all about without opening the e-mail.  That is, I have to suppose, the entire purpose of the subject line.

“Over the edge of the format.  Cialis Daily”  This one’s got a strong claim to Brain Teaser of the Week.  Years ago, when I was first learning to speak German as an exchange student, I invested in Langenscheidt’s German-English and English-German school dictionaries.  I’m sure there’s a technical expression in the industry for that sort of thing; I just think of them as “translating” dictionaries, because that’s really what they do, instead of defining words.  You locate the word you want to translate from your source language and then follows a list of words in the target language.  Well enough.  Except none of the target language words comes with any sort of context, so that you can tell which word is the correct one for your specific usage.  It’s pretty obvious the author here is non-Anglophone, and I’m reasonably comfortable he’s got hold of a translating dictionary and just pulled up the first word he came to when he went to translate whatever the hell he wrote in his native language.  And he came up with “over the edge of the format”.  If anyone can figure out what, precisely, that’s supposed to mean — other than that you’re supposed to get your willie permanently hard or something, either in order to or in consequence of having gone “over the edge” of the “format” — I’d like to hear it.

“The pleasure is where Viagra Soft takes place.  Buy here.”  Respectfully, but isn’t that exactly backward?  If I’ve already got me some pleasure, why would I want to produce Viagra Soft (itself a product name of questionable utility) with it?

“Your spell against infections.”  Medical spam meets the Middle Ages here.  Bag of wolfsbane, anyone?  Or are they advertising little voodoo dolls?  Perhaps this is a book of exactly that, spells to ward off or cure infections.  Like burying a live cat under a rotten oak stump at full moon or something.  Is the spammer here a Druid, perhaps?  The target audience here must be the same sorts of people who respond enthusiastically to the One Weird Trick That Will Triple Your Gas Mileage!

“Your world of safety.”  That’s it.  I like this one because it has a bit of a 1950s vibe to it.  If you ever have looked through a popular magazine from back then (I still recall finding in a book rack beside a bed in one of my grandparents’ guest bedrooms a copy of Life . . . from December, 1942; as God is my witness I think that thing had sat there in that rack from then until I stumbled across it in what would have been the late 1970s), you’ll recall the way they did print advertising back then.  Lots of slogans in quotations, frequently in decorative typefaces and to be associated with either drawn or photographed pitch-men (or women) with improbably white and even teeth, invariably in a coat and tie if male or a buttoned-to-the-neck dress if female.  [N.b. The book to read is Paul Fussell’s Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War.  He goes on at some length about the social commentary implicit in wartime advertising.]  “It’s a sure thing!”  “Now featuring <insert proprietary ingredient name>!”  “Can’t go wrong with a Pontiac!”  “It’s anhydrous, dear!”  Years ago a buddy of mine, who has  the sort of mind and talent and capacity for insight which I genuinely wish I had, took to whiling away the time in class by drawing tiny little sketches in lieu of class notes.  I hope he still has some of them, because his drawing of Public Policy must rate as classic American art, to say nothing of political commentary.  One of our crypto-Marxist classmates was gassing on once, and my buddy whipped up a drawing of the kind of Brave Proletarian Facing Manfully Towards Communist Future that would have had Comrade Koba (better known to history as Stalin) with tears in his eyes.  In any event, he came up with a slogan that exactly captures the kind of thing I’m trying to get at:  “Now featuring Moxie!”  I now use that expression — mentally at least, no one of my current circle of acquaintance having any reason to know what the hell I would be talking about — whenever I run across something in life that just reeks of advertising blather.  When I saw this spam subject line, I could almost conjure up the picture in my head of some slightly-overweight, white, gently balding or perhaps graying, man (but of course) in a shopkeeper’s apron, proudly standing in front of a wall shelf of vaguely non-discernible hardware-sorts-of-items, and above his head the quoted slogan: “Your world of safety”.

So do we have a winner?  I’m declaring a tie between “Your world of safety” and “Over the edge of the format”.  Very different, but strongly evocative each in its own way.

Dredged From the Spam Filter; or: Adventures in Syntax and Logic

Every morning I come into the office, and then several times a day afterwards, I check my spam filter.  It’s a pretty good system that our IT people set us up with, and between that service and Outlook’s junk e-mail capture, there are maybe two or three junk e-mails that make it into my inbox each week.  On the other hand, out of every 1,000 e-mails caught by that spam filter, maybe two or four will be genuine e-mails that I need to see.  The curious thing is that my history of e-mailing, even with file attachments, hyperlinks, and so forth, back and forth with the specific addresses in question seems to have no bearing on whether a particular e-mail from a particular sender will get caught.  There are some senders with whom I’ve been bandying ‘trons back and forth for years that still — only once in a while, and with no discernible pattern — get caught.  Hence my repeated daily checks.

Does Gentle Reader remember that wonderful early 1980s drinking game, Chug Boat?  How it worked was you assembled a group of like-minded tipplers to watch an episode of The Love Boat.  You laid in an adequate supply of beer.  Before it started, you wrote down the characters’ names on slips of paper and tossed them in a hat.  Everyone drew one.  Each time “your” character appeared on screen, you had to take a slug of your beer.  Every time the entire ship appeared on-screen (as it invariably would a couple of times during the episode) you had to finish whatever you had left of the beer you had in your hand.  And if you’d just cracked one open . . . well, let’s just say that around every silver lining there is a cloud.  The beauty of Chug Boat was it was a game with no losers (sort of like Jeffrey Shurtleff said at Woodstock about the draft resistance movement: “the beautiful thing about it is we have no enemies, and to show our hearts are in the right place, we’ll sing a song for the governor of California, Ronald Ray-gunzzz”)

A number of years ago I had an idea for updating the concept of Chug Boat and adapting it to the world of e-mail.  Spam e-mail, to be more precise.  I refer Gentle Reader, of course, to the hilarious subject lines of spam e-mail.  From what I can tell a large amount of it originates from non-English-speaking countries, and of that part that is domestic, its purveyors seem to be in large measure innocent of spelling, syntax, or grammar.

Here’s how the game would work:  You choose, blindly, one person’s spam filter to use as the “race course.”  You would need one person to act as the course steward.  You would assemble your tipplers and beer as above described.  Then everyone would write down words or phrases — think things like “gargantuan erection” or “miracle” or “immense wealth” — which you think likely to occur in the subject lines.  Every player can write down eight or ten on separate pieces of paper.  Some you could designate for the “kill your beer” contingency; you could designate others for the “everybody drink” prize.  You then toss into the hat and draw.  Then the course steward logs into the race course and pulls up the resulting catch, say ten messages at a time.  If you have a word or expression that occurs in any of those subject lines, you drink.  If you drew a “kill your beer” and it hits, then you have to kill your beer.  If an “everybody drink” comes up, well then, everybody drinks.

But that’s not the point of this post.  Gentle Reader will have observed once more a gratuitously lengthy introduction to a post.  I’m bad to do that.  But then again, it’s my blog.

This post is about the subject lines of my spam e-mail.  I expressly mention the subject lines because that’s all I ever see of those e-mails.  You dare not click through to see the text of them.  Yes, I know that theoretically the spam filter should be disabling any links, embeds, or other internal functionality of the messages themselves . . . but that’s theory and the only way I know to be relatively sure is just Don’t Go  There.  Simple enough to understand.

Over the years the subject lines of my spam has slowly shifted.  At first the overwhelming majority was sexual in nature, and concerned itself principally with the dimensions and functionality of My Old Man.  In the latter connection, what we might describe as “endurance” and “re-load time” seemed to be the particular areas of focus.  Interestingly, I don’t recall ever seeing a message offering me the chance to enlarge my breasts.  I would wager that, given the difficulty of a spam-mill’s determining the likely sex of the 150,000,000 target addressees of any particular message, the discrepancy was less likely due to my being male than to the fact that breast augmentation surgery is and has for years been a legitimate, well-established medical procedure, and in fact other than braces on teeth, it’s the single most popular elective medical procedure out there.  So the kind of shady outfits that flog purely natural methods of giving you an erection that will — and it’s difficult sometimes to tell what exactly they’re promising — either scare the women into your bed or have them lining up on the porch to be “pleasure all night long for sure,” are not going to be selling a legitimate service.  I mean, back in the 19th Century would you expect a snake-oil salesman to sell anything other than snake-oil?

As the years have gone by the non-sexual subject lines have picked up, and the sexual ones have changed.  Now a huge chunk of my spam is continuing education spam and what one might call case-lead spam.  The senders are pretty much legitimate operators (Lorman Education, for example, which specializes in construction and engineering subjects, or National Business Institute out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which puts out a host of perfectly useful seminars on an enormous range of helpful subjects), but for whatever reason the filter catches them.  The case-lead spam is typically some outfit that either promises to send you case leads (usually by virtue of your having “bought” a range of ZIP Codes, and they then refer all call-ins from those codes to you), or promises to evaluate specific cases that you’re actually contemplating using.  Some of it’s legal news spam; there’s apparently an operation out there under the name of J.D. Journal; I’ve never linked through to their site so I have no information to share with Gentle Reader as to what sort of operation they might be.

A further goodly chunk of non-sexual spam are e-mails relating to the decrepitude of aging and its avoidance.  [N.b.  All of the subject lines I quote from this point onward are actual subject lines from this morning’s catch.  Bear that in mind.  Today only.]  A few years ago I ended up spending the night in an emergency room near here, having come home on a Saturday afternoon and sat down on my couch, only to have my pulse go through the roof and the sweat begin pouring off my face in sheets.  They kept me overnight for observation and the next day poked and prodded and stuck and jerked and ran my country ass off, all to confirm that — and don’t get me wrong, now; I’m emphatically not complaining about this part of it — there was nothing wrong with my heart.  In a disturbing change, within days my spam filter was full of stuff about how to stop, or ward off, or survive my “next heart attack”.  Really?  That suddenly I start getting that stuff out of the blue?  Nowadays it’s stuff relating to my pancreas, or diabetes (as many Americans as are lard-butts, that’s understandable), or stroke, or otherwise-unspecified “infection”.   “Turn out the lights on infection,” I am assured.  A great deal of the medical spam contains the words “natural” or “proven” in the subject line, which of course is a dead give-away that they’re flogging some sort of dried root that if you’re lucky will only throw your metabolism out of balance.  Come to think of it, “metabolism” is another frequent flyer in the ether of spam.  “Breakthrough” is a very popular word, as is “trick,” especially “weird tricks”.  “Natural remedies for pain relieving on the pulse of your health,” to which the only response can be, “Huh?”

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell precisely what sort of snake oil is being sold.  “Good health state!  It is quite another matter!”  If you say so.  You can tell when you’ve got non-Anglophone spammers on the line because they so frequently just shove words in here and there irrespective of what they might suggest in the context used:  “Need perfect medication? Make profitable move!”  Terrific!!  Get well and line my pockets all at once, and perfectly at that.  “Your confidence in future here”.  I mean, just wow; imagine that.  Confidence in future, all under one roof and discretely wrapped in brown paper, delivered to your door.

“Fat” spam is always popular.  “Feel no shame of weight digit”.  I suppose not.

There’s a family of spam which I have to think originates from the same generator, since no matter whether helping me to pop wood, or get rich, or not die of an exploded aorta, the subject lines all contain the injunction to me “Do not hecitate!”  I will make this claim: Whatever other sins you may properly tax me with, I assure you that hecitation is not on the list.  Promise.

The sexual spam has lost its focus on dimensionality.  I am no longer, it seems, a potential customer for an 11-inch willie.  Now I am awash in offers to get and keep what I do have rock-hard and ready to perform all night long, and repeatedly.  But it’s the actual subject lines which bring me endless innocent fun.

Here’s one:  “Reverse premature ejaculation”.  Warning klaxons of non-English-speaker on this one, folks.  I can understand “curing” that issue, or even “stopping” it.  But “reversing” ejaculation of any sort?  I have to say . . . well, not  that I’d like to see it done, but I’d like to meet a guy who claims to have done it.

Two common phrases which intrigue me by the very concept(s) suggested are “Viagra Professional” and “Cialis Professional”.  Other than woodsmen in the porn industry, precisely whose use of those products could possibly be considered “professional”?  And what does it say of our language’s debasement of the concept of a “profession” that anyone could think of putting those words right next to each other?  I mean, if you want something of an insider’s look at that “profession,” you could do worse than Susannah Breslin’s look at how the Great Crash of 2007, arriving on the heels of the massive disruption in the sex industry wrought by the internet generally (I refer Gentle Reader to The Economist’s special section, done in the late 1990s, on the international sex industry generally; times were already getting bad for the old-line operators), affected the skin trades(short version: devastation and cheapening, if that’s possible, of an already sordid scene), “They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?”  Whatever else you might describe it as, a “profession” it ain’t.

At least those subject lines don’t catch the eye for being possibly internally contradictory.  I regularly see subject lines advertising “Viagra soft”.  Well, no guys; that is exactly not why I’d be interested in your product.  If I were.

Once upon a time there was this fellow living in my town.  If you got a couple of beers in him, he would, as sure as tomorrow’s sunrise, begin telling you in exhausting and entirely unnecessary — to say nothing of unwelcome — detail about his Viagra use.  Just on and on he’d go.  He was so famously tiresome that whenever he walked into the bar, those of us <ahem!> regulars would immediately and in whispers begin to place side bets on how long it would take him to start gassing on about Gettin’ It Up.  He made the mistake of doing this with my father once.  My father is a good fifteen-plus years older than this guy.  So my father asked him how old he was.  He ‘fessed up, whereupon my father allowed, “You know, if I was a man your age I don’t know as I’d admit to needing that stuff.”

The guy mentioned above is surely the target audience for “Don’t know how?  Viagra Super Active will work it for you!”  Work it, baby, work it for me.  Recurring to an expression already mentioned above, we offer: “Need perfect medication? Cialis daily.  Make profitable move”.  And just in case one is worried about plonking down the hard-earned with some internet huckster, you may ease your mind:  “Get Cialis daile of highest quality here”.  You’ve got me; I’ll go there for all my “daile” needs for “perfect medication”.

What kind of sad sacks must the spammers think we all are?  Gentle Reader will recall back in 2004, when John Kerry thought he could get by lying about his military service, and Dan Rather thought he could throw a presidential election by doing a 60 Minutes segment on transparently, and almost comically incompetently crafted, fraudulent documents.  And then the internet got hold of them, and notwithstanding Rather tried to dismiss them as a “bunch of guys sitting in their parents’ basement wearing pajamas” (or some expression like that), both of them got quickly revealed for the liars they are.  I bring this memory up because that must be very close to how their targets are imagined by the authors of these subject lines:

“Need confidence?  Now you can have it.  Order Levitra”.  Have to love that product name: Levitra.  Clever, isn’t it, all reminiscent of “levitation” and “levitate”; you can almost see the results as you’re handing them your credit card information.

“It is joy time! Be a real man.  We’ll help”.  Of course you will, ol’ friend; of course you will.

“Healthy body and strong erection! Choose Cialis Daily”.  At least they spelled “daile” correctly in that one.  But the “healthy body” part?  Do they picture their customer, all dropsical and motoring around his parents’ basement in one of those “personal mobility scooters,” incontinent perhaps and wheezing from the mass of blubber suffocating his every heartbeat, excitedly licking his lips as he signs up for weekly shipments of enough Cialis to take the stuff every day?

Along the same lines:  “Don’t be afraid of your fantasies!  Use Kamagra Brand Oral Jelly”.  Oral jelly?  To me that would seem to indicate something taken . . . well, by mouth, rather than larded onto the . . . errrmmm . . . relevant anatomical features.  But why a jelly if you’re going to be taking the stuff by the spoonful?  And how does the application of jelly transmit itself to . . . well, you know?

That last one is one product the exact functioning of which I can’t say is really apparent, at all, from its subject lines, as see immediately above.  For that matter, it’s not even really apparent that the spammers themselves quite know what they’re touting:  “Buy effective tabs only here!  Choose Kamagra Brand Oral Jelly”.  About the only “jelly” I’ve ever bought came from the Smucker’s company and was grape flavored.  [Apropos of nothing: I don’t like jelly; the stuff won’t spread evenly and what you end up with, if you’re not willing to tear your child’s PBJ into shreds with the knife, is great gobs of flavored sugar separated by thin smears of ditto.  Give me jam or preserves every time.]  But I don’t ever recall Smucker’s grape coming in a tablet, or even a capsule.

Some subject lines might seem to hint at the drafter’s age.  Key words like “fantasy” don’t do it; I mean, from a popular language-usage perspective there’s not much of a temporal element in the word.  But “Feel the love energy! Buy at our shop”?  Or “Cialis Daily – your main equipment for love adventures”?  I’m getting a major 1970s vibe out of those.

Referring back to my observation above about my hunch that the spammers can’t really target their spam by sex-target, several times a week I’ll get something like “Female Viagra will never let you down. Best price here!”  I understand there is stuff that you can sift into your girl’s drink to render her sufficiently insensible, but also still functional, that you end up like those scuzzy football players from Vanderbilt University, at least one of whom went from a full-ride scholarship at a Division I program to looking at spending several decades behind bars.  I’ve never done that myself; I’ve never seen it done; and in fact I’ve never heard anyone even advert in my presence to having done it or seen it done or knowing someone who had.  But every depiction I’ve seen of it (invariably on some show like Law & Order) involves a powdered substance.  I mean, if the entire point is to slip her a mickey so she doesn’t know it, she’s going to see a tablet or capsule at the bottom of the glass or bottle before it has a chance to dissolve, right?  And there goes not only your game, but you probably just made it into the next round of “attempted sexual assault” indictments.  So I have to assume that “female Viagra” is something that She would take with knowledge of the purpose yes?  How then, as a male, would I think of female Viagra “letting me down”; would it not make more sense to think in those terms if I were the female?  I dunno; maybe I’m just parsing things too closely.

In any event, for a few minutes’ harmless diversion each day, I can highly recommend to Gentle Reader a scan of the actual subject lines from the daily harvest of e-mail spam (remember: never, ever, ever click through to see any those messages, not even in the spam filter’s preview pane).

Don’t hecitate, now!

[Update: 04 Mar 17]:  For a brief moment the other day I’d toyed with the notion of having a daily spam subject-line winner, posting ditto on this ‘umble blog.  Then I realized that the candidate pool is just too deep and wide, by several orders of magnitude.  I’d be spending my entire day cackling and typing out idiotic quotations from my spam filter.  I guess I’ll just have to toss stuff up here on a random, ad hoc basis.  So be it.

Today, however, we have what I think may have a strong claim to classic status:  “Impotence come on the heels? Don’t hecitate! Buy Cialis Daily”.  No.  Just no.  Observe:  There’s that injunction against hecitation, again.

We also have this stumper:  “Discover the safe stripe of life”.  I’ve heard of the jaws of life.  If you listen to bluegrass you’ll know all about the Sunny Side of Life.  But the “stripe” of life, and the “safe” one at that?  What might be the hazardous stripe of life?  Deeply puzzling.

[Update: 07 Mar 17]:  Oh boy, it just keeps getting better.  From this afternoon, we have:  “Excite your communication thirst”.  Really.  I have to wonder whether the (obviously non-Anglophone) composer of that has a list of most-frequently-searched words from wherever, and just shoves in a selection of the Top 50 in random order.  This morning, by the way, I was once again assured of a “Strong erection for sure!”  Now that will restore my confidence in future.

From the Department of Can I Call Them or What

I don’t generally get to enjoy many instances in which I’ve gone out on a limb and either said so-and-such will happen, or thus-and-so is what’s really going on behind the scenes, and then have subsequent events or revelations confirm my suppositions.

One such was when the whole “Ebonics” fraud first came to national prominence.  I remember saying to someone at the time that just sit back and wait, the next step will be a requirement that captive customers, such as school systems and government agencies interacting with the public, will be mandated to provide “services” related to “Ebonics,” or to be “certified” or at least “trained” in “Ebonics.”  Then would follow in short order shoals of the politically-connected setting up “consulting” firms or providers of “Ebonics”-related claptrap, all to line up at the government-contract trough.  Sure enough, about three or so years later (forgive my inexactitude in dates; I’ve slept since then), out of California — but of course — came news of pretty much precisely what I’d predicted.

But again, I don’t get to enjoy many of those moments.  My vision seems to have lost its ability to penetrate, and I don’t see what is on the other side of the hill (to borrow an expression from His Grace F.M. the Duke of Wellington).

At the moment, however, I may be enjoying such a moment.  Gentle Reader will recall, perhaps, my statements about what I thought to be Russian motivations and objectives in that country’s penetrating the Democrat National Committee, Her Herness’ illegal e-mail system, and the e-mail systems of their various collaborators (I won’t say “co-conspirators,” although certainly some of Her communications while secretary of state reveal deeply criminal designs and actions).  I wrote about it, here.  Short version of my suggestion:

“Which is why I am convinced that Wikileaks has not come anywhere close to releasing the most damaging materials in its possession, and will very carefully not do so before the election.  It is in Vladimir Putin’s interest to have in office a crippled president.  It is in his interest to have a president across the table from whom one of his operatives can sit and read from materials so incriminating that not even the American “news” media will be able to avoid the compulsion to publish.  Material so damning in its lay-it-out-in-black-and-white-on-Her-own-keyboard terms that only the Al Frankens, Nancy Pelosis, Alcee Hastingses, and Chuck Shumers of the House or Senate will be unwilling to vote for her removal from office.”

We now have a brief report, consisting mostly of conclusions, without it seems much in the way of evidence, that Putin’s thinking may well have been running on precisely that line.  Byron York over at The Washington Examiner asks “Six questions about the Russian hacking report.”  Here’s his Question No. 2, in full:

“2) Was the Russian campaign intended more to help candidate Donald Trump or to undermine President Hillary Clinton? The report says Putin ordered the 2016 campaign ‘to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.’ The report goes on to say that at some point Putin ‘developed a clear preference’ for Trump. But it also says that, ‘Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.’ That suggests some sort of shift in the Russian campaign. But when? What does it mean when the report says, ‘When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win…’? Because if the Russians were following U.S. coverage and commentary, it always appeared that Clinton was likely to win — from the primaries through the Democratic convention through the general election. In other words, during the entire campaign, the consensus of the American commentariat was that Clinton was likely to win. Did the Russians disagree, or did they have a degree of insight into the polls, or simple clairvoyance, that Nate Silver didn’t? Or was the Russian campaign overwhelmingly devoted to ‘undermining [Clinton’s] expected presidency’?”

Allow me to point out something that all too often gets overlooked when thinking about Soviet incursions into American society and politics.  Low-level functionaries were — and likely remain — fundamentally unable to comprehend basic elements in the psychological landscape of ordinary Americans.  I think of the scene in Alexander Dolgun’s book when his interrogator is drilling down on Alex’s habit of “borrowing” U.S. embassy cars to go joy-riding (not infrequently with a girlfriend).  The interrogator is absolutely, genuinely convinced that Alex is not essentially boosting cars but rather is among the very few higher officials (at 20 years old, no less!!) who is entitled to use embassy vehicles, and that this is therefore evidence that his protestations of being nothing more than a lowly file clerk are bogus.  Alex tries to explain to him that sneaking Dad’s car is just what American kids do.  The interrogator just cannot understand it; growing up in Russian and then Soviet society he didn’t have the wiring to process that idea.

That inability to tune in to the workings of the individual American’s mind is not at all to suggest that the Soviets either do not understand how Americans (or Westerners in general) behave in the mass, or that they did not and do not understand precisely the legal and political structures around which Western societies are built.  When you think about it, that makes perfect sense.  Russia always was a class-based society, even more so than in Western Europe — whether you were serf, free peasant, boyar, provincial noble, military officer, streltsy, oprichnik, or townsman — who you were was socially and legally very much a function of what you were.  Self-definition and mold-breaking are things you seldom find mentioned in descriptions of the Russia that was.  Marxism and its Soviet practitioners of course whole-heartedly embraced that notion.  “Hereditary class enemies” was a categorization that condemned hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to death by shooting, starvation, or labor.  So it should come as no surprise that Soviet contemplation of masses of Westerners was always much more in touch with actuality than their ability to grasp — beyond the usual motivations of money and sex — what made individual Westerners tick.

For the American intelligence communities to come up with the statement that Soviet operations ever for a moment thought anything other than that She was going to cruise to victory is to confess to a glaring blind spot about the people you’re trying to analyze.  Either our people are fools (which I doubt) or alternatively they are desperately trying to preserve the narrative that Putin was trying to put Trump over the top.  Barring the ol’ boy getting on FoxNews and stating as much in plain English I will never accept that as being true.  Accepting that as true requires me to believe either (i) Putin had insights into the election which were shared by exactly no one at all in all of American (or for that matter, Western: no one outside America thought Trump had a snowball’s chance either) professional political life, or (ii) Putin was pissing up a rope on purpose, spending a great deal of effort on something he believed to be a fool’s errand.

Wikipedia sums up Occam’s razor thus:  “The principle can be interpreted as stating Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.”   I will suggest what I humbly call Countrylawyer’s Corollary to Occam’s Razor:  Among competing hypotheses, the one which requires assumptions demonstrably false is not the correct selection.  Whatever else Vladimir Putin does, he has never been known to piss up a rope on purpose; any hypothesis which asks me to assume that Putin has done or is doing so I therefore discount.

A possible competing explanation for Putin’s motivation is suggested by the same (leaked) report.  NBC News reports:  “But the intelligence analysts who prepared the report also concluded that the hacks were payback for the Obama administration’s questioning of Vladimir Putin’s legitimacy as president.”

<sound of buzzer>

Bullshit.  In just what manner would Soviet leaking of e-mails, very few if any of which could be traced back to Dear Leader, have been “payback” as to him?  He’s leaving office.  He’s sown so much chaos and discord that it’s highly unlikely the damage can be reparable in our lifetimes (the article to read, by the way, is Cloward and Piven, “The Weight of the Poor,” from 1966).  Based upon his personal and political up-bringing as well as his known affiliations (Ayers and Dorhn, Jeremiah Wright, the Alinskyites in Chicago) there is every reason to entertain very strong suspicion that it’s just that chaos and division that has been a principal objective of his eight years in office.  Remember that for the committed revolutionary (which Dear Leader is) the present is nothing more than a waystation on the path to the Revolution.  Dissolution and destruction must necessarily precede the achievement of the socialist fantasy.  Lenin captured the notion exactly in his comment on late-Tsarist Russia:  The worse, the better.  [The book to read is Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith.]  Casting the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election into doubt would fit perfectly into Dear Leader’s portfolio.  Talk about Brer Rabbit and the briarpatch.  For Putin to believe that by further subverting Americans’ dwindling confidence in their electoral process, he was frustrating, rather than furthering, a personal political objective of Dear Leader is to suppose Putin was unable to recognize in Dear Leader a fellow Soviet Person (as they used to be called).  I refer you to Countrylawyer’s Corollary.

Bolstering me in my doubt of the “payback” thesis is that, beyond Dear Leader’s party loyalty and some in all honesty fairly perfunctory mouthing of platitudes, he did as little as possible to assist Her to victory.  Maybe that was because he thought, just as everyone else did, that Her victory was inevitable (but wait: wasn’t She “inevitable” back in 2008? how’d that work out, again?).  But that also ignores the pretty widely known and very deeply nourished personal animosity between the Clintons and Dear Leader.  If Dear Leader has time and again demonstrated one trait as a specifically party politician, it’s that he’s entirely comfortable letting the Democrat Party in general and specific Democrat politicians in particular sink or swim as best they can.  I suggest that if Putin was thinking to get “payback” against Dear Leader by beating Her up, then that would demonstrate a fairly comprehensive failure by Putin to understand the dynamics of the most significant single political relationship in the United States . . . or at least, what was that, until November 8, 2016.

Finally, Putin was — and from all report, still considers himself to be — KGB.  To this day they refer to themselves, among themselves, as “chekisty,” by the way, in homage to the original Soviet secret political police, the Cheka of “Iron Feliks” Dzerzhinsky.  Whatever its other moral failings as an organization, and however abhorrent their agents’ practices may be, I have never read, heard, or otherwise come into any information that would suggest that chekisty get petulant or plan their acts in petulance. To attempt to personalize this operation and tie it back to Dear Leader, as a parting shot by Putin, would require assuming that Putin really gives a damn one way or another about someone who’s going to be irrelevant in just over two weeks from today.

You know how your own thoughts or statements about Person X or Circumstance Y often say more about you than about X or Y?  I’m picking up the same vibe off this so-called intelligence “analysis.”  More specifically, his entire life long Dear Leader has made his entire world about him, personally.  Hired to write a book about — I forget what it was, now — he instead come up with an autobiography.  Every utterance of his and his acolytes (including his wife) has emphasized the messianic theme of his life.  Don’t want to destroy the private healthcare provision system in the U.S?  You’re racist.  Suggest that perhaps the tax enforcement system in America should not be weaponized to persecute specific political beliefs and movements?  It’s because you hate the First Black President.  And so forth.

Dear Leader works in petulance like other artists work in oils, or watercolor, or clay.  In fact, if petulism is not a word, then it needs to be.  By it I mean the conscious practice of personal affront and personal vengeance as an organizing principle of one’s life.  Petulism, like messianism, has been a constant theme in Dear Leader’s public life.  In this he is a direct contrast to the chekisty, who have deeply internalized the old Sicilian maxim that revenge is a dish best served cold, and even better yet, by hands which cannot be traced back to you.

I of course have no direct knowledge to back up my hunch.  I will however refer Gentle Reader to the dozens of intelligence analysts who formally and in writing protested that they were being commanded to write much more rosy analyses, reports, and projections about the Middle East in general, and the status and progress of the struggle against al Qaeda and ISIS and their affiliates in particular, than was warranted by the facts or consistent with their actual opinions.  This report was prepared at the same levels that produced those directives, and one may in good faith ask whether the same officials were involved.

So in my supposition, from before the election, that Putin was not so much trying to get Trump elected as to cripple Her as president, I think I’m entitled to some portion of a quiet victory lap.

[Update: 28 Feb 17]:  Looks as though I’m not the only one who has been thinking along the above lines.  The editor of The New Yorker?  Scarcely a Trump stooge, he.

Pardon Her

That post title is not a misprint.

Nor is it an indication that I’ve finally gone off my meds (consisting of beer; on those few occasions when I see someone in a doctor’s office and I’m asked if I’m taking any medications, my invariable response is, “Does beer count?”).

Nor have I suddenly become unable to read, and thus discovered an element of intent in a statute which plainly contains no such element.  18 U.S.C. § 793(f) reads, in full —

(f)Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer–

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

The FBI director allowed that he was recommending She not be prosecuted for violating that statute because they couldn’t find any solid indication of intent on Her part to commit the acts described in it.  No Virginia, the word intent does not appear in that statute, nor does any variant of it.  Nor, for that matter, does reckless.  But the mens rea for both components of it is in fact expressed, so that you cannot even say that you must infer the standard of intent. The affirmative act proscribed requires only “gross negligence” (which was, as I recall, more or less exactly how Comey characterized Her actions), and the omission (failure to report) requires only “knowledge”.  She certainly had knowledge of the events itemized in the statute.

She is, in round numbers, Guilty as Hell, as are many of Her underlings and associates.  She is subject to imprisonment for up to ten years.  Full stop.

I have expatiated, both here and elsewhere, on why Her actions in respect of this country’s most sensitive information (barring, perhaps, the actual nuclear launch codes) made it impossible for me to support Her candidacy, no matter how revolting Her opponent may be, and no matter what Her actual policy actions might have turned out to be (in contrast to Her objectives as stated for public consumption).  Her blithely compromising our national security would alone have done that.  That, added to Her sale of the fourth-highest public office in our gift (the secretary of state is fourth in line for the presidency, behind only the actual president, the vice president, and the Speaker of the House), and you could have run a yellow dog against Her and I’d have voted for the dog.

Before proceeding, I want Gentle Reader to understand how it pains me to have to write that last sentence.  I grew up among Yellow Dog Democrats, people who proudly proclaimed they’d vote for a yellow dog if you ran him as a Democrat.  And they meant it, too.  I once attended a talk given by the author of a book about a very tumultuous time in my Southern state’s history.  It was neither more nor less than a full-blown constitutional crisis, and several key players came together to salvage the integrity (to the extent we enjoy any around here) of the Rule of Law.  Come to think of it now, those several weeks early that winter marked the point at which the Democrat Party in this state went into a decline from which it has not recovered to this day, forty-odd years later.  What I remember most about the author’s presentation was the praise heaped on the then-chief justice of our state supreme court, because he chose to uphold his oath of office, rather than do what he dearly wanted to do, namely not do anything that might benefit a Republican.  Apparently he actually did struggle with his decision, on exactly that basis.  Pause and think about that for a moment:  The highest judge in the state finds it even a close question as to whether to put party loyalty before his “so help me God” oath to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of our state and of the United States.  I want to go find his grave, that I may shit on his headstone and otherwise desecrate it and those of his ancestors.

All of the above notwithstanding, I would like nothing more than to see Dear Leader pardon Her on his way out the door.  Certainly pardon Her for Her compromise of national security and all the crimes She committed in connection with the cover-up (destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and God only knows what else), and — here I confess I waffle a bit — probably for the corruption-related crimes as well.

However much She richly deserves to spend the bulk of the balance of Her life in an orange jumpsuit (She’s on the wrong side of 70 and not in good health; there’s a decent chance She wouldn’t do the full term even if sentenced), if She is prosecuted by the Trump administration, it will later be explicitly used by a Democrat administration as a precedent to bring witch-hunt criminal charges against defeated opponents.  Capture office and you not only sideline your opponent politically, but you use the physical coercive power of the United States government to destroy the individuals on the other side.  I still remember — I think it was the very first day of class — my 1L criminal law class, and the professor pointing out that criminal law is concerned with the application of the physical coercive power of millions upon millions of people and all the wealth they command to the body, the corporeal being, of a single human.  Or as Stalin phrased it, “How much do you suppose the Soviet Union weighs?”

Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and the other totalitarians are of course only the best-known practitioners of that principle.  A goodly bit of The GuLAG Archipelago covers Stalin’s use of the Soviet criminal law system (I refuse to use the expression “justice” in connection with anything appertaining to the Soviet Union) to wreak the physical destruction of vanquished political foes.  And by “physical destruction” I don’t mean that they had to eek out a marginal existence as third assistant bottle-washer in some dreary provincial town.  I mean they were sent to the execution chambers, just as they had, by the way, joyfully sent thousands of others before them.  So my sympathy for them is muted.

What is less known, because the perpetrator is something of a secular saint around here, is that Stalin and Hitler were far from the only ones doing that.  I refer Gentle Reader to the story of one Andrew Mellon (yes, of that family).  He had been Coolidge’s and Hoover’s Secretary of the Treasury.  After Hoover’s blow-out defeat by FDR, the new president instructed the chief prosecutor for the IRS, one Robert H. Jackson, to bring criminal charges against Mellon.  Not, you understand, for any misdeed taken in any official capacity, but rather for allegedly fiddling on his personal income taxes.  The specific offense charged (because Jackson did FDR’s bidding; his reward later was appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court) was Mellon’s having claimed deductions against his income.  The problem was that the deductions were specifically legal to claim, and Mellon was well within his rights to claim them.  No matter; Roosevelt commanded that he be charged and prosecuted as a criminal, and Jackson the toady in fact tried to do it, although the grand jury returned a no true bill.  The whole sordid story is well-told in Amity Schlaes’s The Forgotten Man.  Not having been able to get the grand jury to do his master’s bidding, Jackson then went after Mellon for civil penalties; eventually Mellon was fully exonerated.  Jackson went on to become the chief Allied prosecutor at Nuremberg’s IMT trials of the chief Nazi defendants.

So Gentle Reader may not think it can’t happen here, because it can and it has.  In fact it continues.  What’s left of the Democrats in Texas have made several — thus far unsuccessful — runs at their opponents.  In Alaska they succeeded in a witch hunt trial of Sen. Ted Stevens.  They convicted him of corruption and he lost his re-election bid to a Democrat, with the vote of whom the “Affordable” Care Act became law.  There was only one problem:  The Department of Justice rigged the whole thing, up to and including manufacturing of evidence and suborning perjury.  Don’t take my word for it.  Let’s hear from the Special Counsel’s report (completed and released too late to avoid the disastrous consequences of his loss to the Senate):  “The investigation and prosecution of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens were permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness.”

The fact that She is in fact guilty, that there is no reasonable dispute as to Her guilt, the fact that the damage She did to national security interests, all in an effort to cover up . . . well, we don’t know quite why she went to such lengths . . . will endure for decades:  None of that changes my thinking.  Trump’s prosecution of a consummately guilty person will, no matter the outcome, later be used by his Democrat successors as an excuse to destroy the innocent.  And then it will be only a question of time before a successful Republican does it.  And then it will become part of our political DNA.  Lose office and they’ll hound you into jail or the grave, whichever comes first.

When you raise the stakes of political challenge-and-defense to that level, candidates and incumbents alike will stop at nothing in their effort to win.  And by “nothing” I am not speaking metaphorically.  At that point anything and everything will be viewed as being on the table, up to and including outright assassination.  Grabbing the scalp of a senator is one thing; when the stakes are the Oval Office on the one hand or federal incarceration on the other, things become imaginable which otherwise never ever would.  When we reach that point we will be indistinguishable from some banana republic, from Mexico, from Putin’s Russia, from Cambodia, from North Korea.

So I heartily endorse the notion that Dear Leader will pardon Her for Her criminal actions in regard of The E-Mail Server and its cover-up.  The sale of office offenses I have a little more hesitation about, but if pushed would probably swallow that as well.  My hesitation in that respect arises from the unfortunate fact that sale of public office is so easily accomplished and so difficult to prove, and it may be practiced at all levels of government, and its unabashed practice — which would, by the way, be the inevitable outcome of Her getting away with it — has the independent ability to destroy the republic.

And the pardon must come from Dear Leader.  Everyone expects him to, anyway, for starts.  Secondly, such a pardon from a President Trump would in an instant destroy his credibility with everyone who — as I did — pulled the lever for him by reason of Her guilt.  If you want to destroy Trump’s presidency once and for all, have him grant Her clemency.

I would note that, because the FBI has an independent counter-intelligence function, pardoning Her will not end its jurisdiction fully to investigate and evaluate all those e-mails.  This is important, because the American people do deserve to know the full details of what She did while in office.

I would not, however, support clemency for Her raft of co-conspirators and enablers.  Exactly how many hundreds of people had to be in the loop on that illegal server, seeing what any fourth-grader could recognize as classified information flit to and fro?  How many bag men for the Clinton Foundation were there who made the arrangements with the foreign donors?  All of Her scheming could never have got off the ground were it not for the underlings.

Let us run a thought experiment:  I am some senior staff member to a senior government official.  I am given instructions by my chief that I know from the moment the words leave his mouth are flagrantly not just illegal, but constitute major felonies.  Thinking that my chief and I sink or swim together gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling, because I’m thinking he has the political pull to save himself, and by doing so will necessarily save me as well.  What if, on the other hand, I can look back and find ample precedent for the outcome that my chief, for whose benefit I am asked to commit multiple crimes, is going to skate and enjoy a long and remunerative retirement, while I go to prison?  Will I be more likely or less likely to go along with it?  How likely is it that my chief will organize a John Q. Zimmelfritz Legal Defense Fund to keep my country ass out of chokey?

What if senior staff at the State Department had refused to communicate with Her except across a properly authorized, secure government e-mail account?  What if She Herself had had to do all her negotiating favors for the King of Morocco, or the Russian uranium interests, or Ericsson for cash (like the $750,000 speech Bill gave to Ericsson’s board of directors, or the $500,000 speech he gave to the Moscow bankers financing Putin’s acquisition of 20% of U.S. uranium production capacity, or the $23 million that the king kicked into Her foundation), instead of having shoals of willing errand-boys and -girls?  I will tell you one very likely outcome of my alt-history:  We would be getting ready for our second President Clinton right now, because millions of voters — voters such as yore ‘umble correspondent here — would very likely have opted for Her, instead of Trump.

I don’t want to live in Central America, or Russia, or China, or North Korea.  I damned sure don’t want those places brought here.  Pardon Her, and be done with it.  To borrow from Cromwell:  In the name of God, go!

Ambivalent Insight

What does it say about oneself that one can see into the mind of a scoundrel?  There’s little question that it’s a useful ability, but is it something to be proud of that you can do it?  “I can think like an utterly depraved wretch.”  Yeah, write that home in a letter to mom.

It appears that the general consensus is that Wikileaks is a Kremlin front-operation.  This is not something difficult to figure out, in all truth.  Just ask yourself what damaging information has been leaked as to Putin’s Russia, or to Red China, or North Korea, or Iran, or to any other communist or former-communist client state.  And how much ought there have been released, given how those countries and their rulers operate, both at home and abroad?  This is Sherlock Holmes’s dog not barking in the night, writ large and in blood.  It therefore inevitably follows that the leaks of e-mails hacked from the Democrat National Committee, from Her campaign guru John Podesta, from Her private shady operator Sidney Blumenthal, and from others near and dear to Her are in fact an attempt to influence the American presidential election.  I just don’t see there being room for intellectual good-faith disagreement on the subject.

The question is thus suggested:  Influence it in favor of whom?  The self-evident answer is “in favor of Vladimir Putin,” but that’s only the ultimate answer.  The question is which candidate is Putin trying to put into the Oval Office.

The hand-wringing class has proclaimed that the answer is Donald Trump of course, because he said “pussy” on camera.  Or something like that.

I have always thought the Conventional Wisdom on this subject betrays an extremely shallow understanding of Putin, Trump, and Her.  It looks only at the surface ripple, the splash of the moment, and ignores the deep currents and subsurface eddies of what’s actually going on.  “These e-mails are horribly embarrassing to Her; of course he’s trying to put Trump over the top.”  And why?  Well, Trump has spoken disparagingly of NATO, and implied that America’s commitment to it isn’t absolute.  Ergo:  Putin likes Trump.  And besides, Putin’s evil and Donald Trump is the Very Incarnation of Evil (or will be until four years from now, when the then-current Republican nominee will be Satan’s Mentor and Donald Trump will be an august senior statesman the passing of whom the stage is a lamentable — lamentable! I tell you — indication of Our Republic’s degradation . . . just like Bush was to Reagan and Dole, like McCain was to Bush, Romney was to McCain, and not Trump is to Romney), and because they’re both So Evil, they must like and desire each that each other prosper.

I think the above is superficial.  In asking whom Putin wants in that office, the question to ask is which candidate might Putin think it easier for him (i) to predict, and (ii) to control.  Because that’s how Putin has to operate in a world in which he does not, directly or otherwise, control overwhelming physical force.  Yes, they’ve got some nifty toys, but he understands, as he must, that in a head-to-head match-up with the American arsenal, at least for the time being, his best hardware would be left a pile of smoking wreckage.  He’s a gambler, but he’s not reckless.  So without a Real Safe Bet on physical force, what is left to him but political control?  He doesn’t have to invade the spaces around Russia if he can so direct their actions, and so constrain the ranges of their options, that they have little choice left but to do his will.  It should go without saying that if he can largely control the person at 1600 Pennsylvania, he is 90% of the way to accomplishing that.

I will observe that it must be taken as axiomatic that you cannot control what you cannot predict.  That fact alone must incline Putin away from a Trump presidency.  There’s just about nothing bad, either personally or politically, that you can say about Donald Trump that I wouldn’t freely agree to be at least plausible, if not likely, and very possibly damned near a certainty.  And among the many bad things said is that the guy’s imbalanced; that he’s a narcissist; that he’s a pathological liar who doesn’t even mind it that you falsify every single one of his factual claims.  All of those have to produce billowing clouds of warning smoke for Putin.  How in the world can Putin predict what a Trump is going to do in Situation X?  You can’t ask what will allow him to cash in on his public service after he leaves office.  Trump doesn’t need the money.  You can’t ask what will burnish his reputation.  Trump’s been squandering his reputation for over 30 years now; in fact, his Bad Reputation is precisely the reputation he’s proudest of.  You can’t ask what will offend his base of support.  Trump was only slightly exaggerating when he allowed that he could shoot a man dead in broad daylight and his people would still vote for him.  You can’t ask what will help him to perpetuate his machine.  Trump doesn’t have a machine; hell, he’s just barely got a campaign organization.  Who out there is riding Donald Trump’s coat tails?  About whom does Donald Trump give enough of a damn that they could go to him and say, “Listen, chief; you gotta stop this business or you’re going to wreck us come next November.”  You can’t examine his record in public office because he’s never held any such office.  You can’t examine his public statements because he’s completely comfortable boxing the compass on just about any issue you can name, and you can’t embarrass him by pointing out that he’s done it once more.

I submit that to Vladimir Putin, Trump must appear to be an unguided rocket with at least two of five motor nozzles that are partially plugged, and a short circuit in the launching system.

But would She be so much easier to predict and therefore control?  I suggest She would.  And why?  For starts, we know for a fact that She will joyfully sell the highest public offices in the land for cash to hostile foreign actors, including foreign state actors.  I will remind Gentle Reader that the U.S. Secretary of State is fourth in line for the presidency, after the president, the vice president, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  There can be no honest argument, after the recent releases of e-mails, that She was not perfectly willing to sell access to Herself, and to take official action (or refrain from it, just ask Ericsson) in exchange for cash donations to Her foundation and/or direct payments to Her husband.

But more to the point:  She has a passion, verging on a mania, for secrecy.  She could have run all of Her pay-to-play scams on that private server, and still run all of the State Department’s legitimate business across an official, secure government server.  She chose to do otherwise.  When discovered, She chose to destroy all the evidence She could.  She chose to have her underlings commit perjury for Her protection (Huma swore under oath that she had accounted for all e-mails in her possession or control . . . and now they find while investigating her husband a further 650,000 e-mails on a shared laptop).  She chose to lie, and lie, and lie about the entire episode, when She must have known that eventually it would all come out.  If there is a depth to which She will not sink in Her efforts to shield what She does in public office from the scrutiny of the public, no one has ever identified it.

As has been pointed out, the Clintons — He and She — make nothing.  They provide no intrinsically valuable service.  They have no valuable skills to sell.  All they have to peddle is influence in government.  And my o! my have they done well at it.  Millions upon millions upon millions of dollars in personal net worth, between two people who, as of January 20, 2001, had not held a real job in the better part of twenty years or more, but rather had worked a series of very modestly-paying government jobs.  So if you destroy Her, and Her network of supporters within and without government, you destroy Her livelihood, a livelihood to make which She has, as mentioned, joyfully sold the highest offices of the land.

Which is why I am convinced that Wikileaks has not come anywhere close to releasing the most damaging materials in its possession, and will very carefully not do so before the election.  It is in Vladimir Putin’s interest to have in office a crippled president.  It is in his interest to have a president across the table from whom one of his operatives can sit and read from materials so incriminating that not even the American “news” media will be able to avoid the compulsion to publish.  Material so damning in its lay-it-out-in-black-and-white-on-Her-own-keyboard terms that only the Al Frankens, Nancy Pelosis, Alcee Hastingses, and Chuck Shumers of the House or Senate will be unwilling to vote for her removal from office.

What are the exact odds that, should She be elected, within a few weeks at most, a very quiet meeting will not occur, quite off the record you understand.

“Congratulations on your election, Mrs. President.  You’ve worked your whole adult life for this and now you’ve accomplished what no woman before you has.  You are to be commended.  Now let’s talk about this e-mail.  <reads aloud>  Or perhaps this one.  <reads aloud>  Or, gosh darn it, perhaps this one.  <reads aloud>  Now Mrs. President, you and I both know those aren’t even anywhere close to as bad as they get, don’t we?  And you and I both know that there are many, many news outlets in this great wide world which would gladly take these stories and run with them.  Aren’t there?  And you can’t stop any of them, can you?  So let’s talk about how you’re going to run your office, is that OK with you?”

And so forth.  At that point we have a U.S. President who is owned, from the top of her noggin to the soles of her sensible shoes, by any of several hostile foreign intelligence agencies.

I have to say I’m proud to see that at least one other person seems to be thinking along lines similar to the above.  There is almost no level on which it is in Vladimir Putin’s self-interest to see a President Donald Trump sitting in that office, squinting at him with those porcine eyes of his.  Her?  Putin can work with Her, can work on Her, can . . . and will . . . own Her.

In Which I Go Full Tin-Hat

So yesterday the FBI re-opens an investigation, according to a letter which the director, James Comey, sent to Congress.

The Donald Trump campaign, and of course all the outfits which have been watching that campaign self-destruct, again and again making unforced errors, only to recover, somehow, as well as all the outfits that are more hoping that expecting that Hillary Clinton’s decades of malfeasance — including outright criminal behavior in the form of sale of public office and intentional mishandling of classified information, just to name a few — would finally catch up with her, are exulting.  They present the letter as news that the FBI is re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton.

The Letter to Congress (that expression puts me in mind of Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to His Son, one of my favorite expressions of which is the good earl’s characterizing his (bastard; is nothing immune from irony?) son, Phillip Stanhope, as an “abandoned whoremonger”) says no such thing, of course.  All it says is that certain e-mails have come to light in connection with an “unrelated investigation”; that those e-mails “may be relevant” to the earlier investigation of Her “personal e-mail server”; and, that in light of his previous testimony that the Feeb had completed its investigation of Her e-mail server, Comey feels obliged to inform Congress that is no longer the case.  The FBI will “assess whether or not this material may be significant,” and will get back with them.

All of which is to say, ho-hum.

Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, has this to allow:  “We don’t know what this means yet except that it’s a real bombshell. And it is unthinkable that the Director of the FBI would take this action lightly, that he would put this letter forth to the Congress of the United States saying there is more information out there about classified e-mails and call it to the attention of congress unless it was something requiring serious investigation.”  Full transcript at that link, by the way.

But that’s not the only word.  As it turns out, Comey — who’s never been an FBI agent, and whose actions in blatantly torpedoing the actual investigation of Her have, it seems, produced vehement outrage in the agency itself — felt called upon to explain himself to his underlings, whose integrity he sold out before all the world, in a letter which has now (will people never learn it’s 2016 already?) been leaked.  The Washington Post has a transcription, here.  Comey emphasizes his “repeated” statements in recent months that the investigation was complete, and how they discover additional materials.  And so to “correct the record,” the FBI is now going to take “appropriate steps to obtain and review” the e-mails.

And just where were these e-mails found?  Well, they were found in an e-mail account shared by Her Muslim Brotherhood operative closest aide, Huma Abedin, with her soon-to-be-former husband, Anthony “Carlos Danger” Weiner.  The physical discovery was on Huma’s laptop.  The “unrelated investigation” referred to by the FBI is their investigation of Weiner’s sexting relationship with a 15-year-old girl.  If Comey is unsuccessful at sweeping this stuff under the rug as well — and allow me to put down the marker that I firmly believe that’s exactly what he has in mind — and if the American public is not so covered in civic scar tissue from the repeated and prolonged revelations at just how corrupt the Clinton empire actually is, and consequently fails to give Her the office which She has always believed belonged to Her by right, then Weiner will truly have earned the nickname I saw him tagged with yesterday, viz. “the Fredo Corleone of the Democrat Party.”

So what does it all mean, then?

Comey certainly cannot be protecting either his reputation or that of the FBI.  He has ruined those for all time.  Don’t think the acquittal across the board of the Bundy crew out in Oregon this week was anything other than outright jury nullification?  Don’t think it might have been a reaction to seeing how the High and Mighty flout the laws to the peril of the country, and have the very police power itself collaborate in the cover-up?  What color is the sun on Gentle Reader’s planet, then?

<paste cri de coeur>

[How’s this for a civil disobedience program:  No More Convictions.  If every federal criminal jury were to return a “not guilty” verdict in every single trial, if every jury in a tax case were to find against the IRS, if every jury in every suit brought by an administrative agency were to find for the citizen, then maybe perhaps the political class might get the message that the rest of us have had about all we’re fucking going to take of them.  The boycott would continue until both She and Comey had (i) resigned all federal offices, (ii) made a full and public confession of exactly what they have done, (iii) executed an agreement in enforceable form never to seek or accept public office from any federal, state, or local entity, and (iv) surrendered their law licenses with an enforceable undertaking never to seek reinstatement.  I make that modest proposal fully aware of the horrible implications it would have, if implemented.  I am not unmindful of the innocent victims of horrific crimes who would see their perpetrators walk away unpunished.  I am certainly aware that, as Things Work Out at the cosmic level, I would in all likelihood be one of those victims.  But if we allow a system to continue in which the law simply does not apply to specific individuals from a specific political class, then Benjamin Franklin will have the answer to the question implicit in his response when questioned what the Constitutional Convention had wrought: “A republic, if you can keep it.”  Weimar Germany didn’t collapse under the weight of reparations; it was never invaded; it was not cast into outer darkness by any constellation of hostile powers.  It collapsed because ordinary Germans gave up on it.]

<end of  cri de coeur>

My guess is that the FBI special agents running the Weiner investigation went to Comey and told him something along the lines of, “Listen, coach:  You’re not going to do to us what you did to those bastards who served you up Hillary Clinton on a tray with the apple in her mouth, ready to be shoved into the oven and baked.  We’re not signing any bullshit non-disclosure agreements.  You either shine a light on this or we will.”  [Update: 01 Nov 16:  It looks as though my hunch may match up pretty well with what actually played out in the FBI.]

So what can Comey do?  Well, my guess is that in the FBI there are very specific, and very specifically enforced, rules about disclosures in respect of an on-going investigation.  By officially designating this material to be part of an on-going investigation, Comey seals it off from the light of day.  Unless I really misunderstand things, there is no deadline at all for how long the FBI has to take to make a decision to refer something for prosecution or not.  I would be amazed if Comey ever makes that “assessment” he’s promising Congress.  His “assessment,” if any, is likely to take the form that he assesses his job to depend on seeing to it that the contents of those e-mails and how they came to be on the laptop used by a pedophile to sext his victims never, ever, ever see the light of day.

And they won’t.

This is not, in other words, the “bombshell” that Carl Bernstein thinks it is.  It is, rather, precisely the opposite.  John Podesta, as corrupt a political operator as has ever run a pay-to-play scheme for a politician, has demanded that Comey immediately disclose what’s in those e-mails.  I guarantee you that She knows precisely what’s in them.  But this demand permits Comey to play — publicly, at least — all coy about the “on-going investigation” thing.  I will also promise you, however, that Her operatives will be permitted to participate in the “investigation”.  [Historical note:  In July, 1914, the only demand from Austria-Hungary which Serbia turned down was the demand that Austro-Hungarian officials be allowed to participate in the Serbian investigation into the antecedents, planning, and execution of the assassination plot against the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  They were wiling to agree to a laundry list of humiliation by the Austro-Hungarians.  But not that:  They were willing to accept what they had to have known would be the nearly-certain destruction of their country rather than agree to that one demand.  And so it came to pass.  Let us watch what Comey does, very carefully this time.]

I will hazard a small prediction:  Within hours, if it has not already commenced, we will see public statements from Her campaign and its surrogates which, by reason of their confidence and substance, indicate that they in fact do not fear the supposed “investigation” and “assessment” of this additional “material” by the FBI.  When someone is acting as if what would otherwise be a known and grave threat does not exist, Innocent Bystander is entitled to question why.  Again, from July, 1914, the question was asked why, in its dealings with Serbia, did Austria-Hungary behave as if Russia — which was known to view itself as the protector of all Balkan Slav countries — did not exist.  And the answer was of course that Austria-Hungary had taken out an insurance policy in Berlin, in the form of the famous “blank check” given by Imperial Germany, that whatever their ally did Germany would march beside them.  My hunch is that Her campaign has already received the desired assurances from Comey.  Without fear of actual disclosure, they can pivot to media spin, confident that whatever bullshit they get their operatives in the “news” media to put out there will not be contradicted by leaks from within the FBI.

Is all this tin-foil-hat territory?  It may well be.  But given how intentionally Comey blew up his own “investigation” of Her, I’m afraid the burden of proof must be viewed as having shifted to Comey.

On the Kaiser and the Administrative State

A couple of weeks ago a buddy forwarded to me a photo that a friend of his had taken, of House Doorn in the Netherlands.  This is it:


As Gentle Reader might surmise from the bust in the foreground, this was the house in which Kaiser Wilhelm II spent the last two decades or thereabouts of his life.  He is buried on the grounds there, and is likely to remain there forever.  His express wish was not to be returned to Germany until it became a monarchy again, and the likelihood of that occurring is somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.0.

Being the considerate, courteous feller that I am I thanked my buddy.  I passed along that I have the two-volume biography of Wilhelm by Lamar Cecil, which I found to be very well done, and remarkably fair given the subject.  Cecil doesn’t pull punches, but refrains from gratuitous character-blackening.  But it’s his final comment on Wilhelm that sticks in the mind.  Of the last kaiser it could equally be said, so Cecil, what Wellington pronounced upon George IV:  He lived and died without being able to assert so much as a single claim upon the gratitude of posterity.

My buddy then e-mailed me back to allow that Cecil’s judgment echoed what he had read about ol’ Kaiser Bill in both Paris 1919 and The War That Ended Peace, both by Margaret MacMillan.  I have both and recommend them both, but the exchange with my buddy got me to thinking back to the war’s beginnings.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, the Great War has been a fetish of mine for right at 30 years.  I can’t say I have any friends I know to give a tinker’s damn about it, but for me it is a source of endless fascination and continuing reflection.  [N.b.  By an odd coincidence, a very dear friend of mine had one grandfather who was a machine-gunner for the kaiser; the other grandfather had been a machine-gunner in the A.E.F.]

I have on loan from a mutual friend the BBC mini-series 37 Days, the story of the interval between the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination on June 28 and the August 3, 1914, British declaration of war.  As you might expect from the Beeb, the story is told primarily from the viewpoint of the Anglo-German dyad.  There are two brief scenes each of Franz Joseph and Nicholas II; the balance of the action takes place in London and Berlin.  The central character around whom the narrative is framed is Sir Edward Grey, the British foreign minister.  Ian McDiarmid plays Grey marvelously.

There are a couple of historical inaccuracies in the plot.

Franz Joseph is implied to be the motive force behind the famous ultimatum to Serbia, when in fact it was his cabinet, and above all his military Chief of the General Staff, Field Marshal Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, who seized upon the assassination (which Franz Joseph greeted with, above all, a sense of relief, remarking as much in so many words) to crush Serbia once and for all, both to remove a source of agitation for the empire’s Serb minority and to re-assert Austria-Hungary’s place as a Great Power in Europe.

In Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm’s initial reaction is presented as being bellicose, when it was nothing of the kind.  At least at first.  For obvious reasons the Austrians wanted to know whether they had Germany’s backing in doing anything to Serbia as such in response to the assassination.  So they sent Alexander, Count von Hoyos a foreign service official, with a memorandum in hand to see the Austrian ambassador to Germany, who was then to meet with Kaiser Wilhelm and the German Reichskanzler, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg.  Bethmann-Hollweg’s initial reaction during that meeting — and more importantly, the kaiser’s as well — was cautionary.  But during the Austrian ambassador’s meeting with kaiser and chancellor, Hoyos was meeting with his own German counterpart to “explain” the memorandum’s actual meaning.  Hoyos had long been, it seems, a proponent of violent reckoning with Serbia, and the gloss he put on the memorandum was that Austria wanted a short, victorious war against Serbia and it expected Germany to live up to its alliance obligations.  That “interpretation” was then communicated up to Wilhelm, and by the time dinner came around that evening, Wilhelm was wearing his war paint and declared that whatever Austria wanted to do, Germany would back it to the hilt.  Thus was the famous “blank check” given.

The final point of inaccuracy in the BBC miniseries is that it presents Bethmann-Hollweg as being much more belligerent, and much more energetic about provoking warlike measures by the Austrians, than he actually was.  He’d never served in the army and had no illusions about its out-sized role in Germany policy-making.  He had long been an unsuccessful opponent of Admiral Tirpitz’s quixotic naval construction programs.

But that’s not what this post is about.  The BBC miniseries very accurately presents the role played by the German General Staff, the Generalstab.  The generals very very much wanted a war, but not a war between Austria and Serbia.  They were looking for war with Russia, a preventive war.

What follows below is the (slightly edited) e-mail I sent to my buddy:

If you back up a half-step from the historical narrative and look at the meta-story of it, what you realize is that what was going on was that the responsible organs of government – the kaiser and the reichskanzler — abdicated a central decision-making function – how to address the continent-wide instabilities created by two decrepit, ancient political systems (Austria-Hungary and Russia) as they desperately fought for continued relevance in a notoriously volatile part of Europe — to supposed “experts” viz. the Army Generalstab. 

Everyone and his cousin knew the issue – What to Do About the Balkans, Dear – to be fiendishly complicated. 

But hist! the Generalstab more or less hijacked the decisional process.  For them the issue wasn’t the Balkans as such, it was the supposed settling of accounts (“Which accounts, exactly?” the innocent bystander might have asked) with Russia.  For decades – ever since Caprivi had let the Secret Reinsurance Treaty with Russia lapse in 1890 (I think it was), the Generalstab had assumed a war with Russia as part of Germany’s treaty obligations to Austria-Hungary.  To be true, they’d at first discounted the possibility that despotic Russia and republican France could ever find their way to the same bed, but in 1894 it had happened.  But they were “experts,” after all, and what good is an “expert” if he can’t “solve” any problem you set him, right? 

In 1914, the “experts” of the Generalstab offered several assurances to the responsible decision-makers:  (i)  There was a rapidly approaching, apocalyptic event – the overtaking of Germany by Russia in military and economic power – the result of which, if not stopped, was the utter destruction of Germany as a flourishing polity and puissant European power.  (ii)  Only the Army had the power to stop it.  (iii)  The only method of addressing this on-coming apocalypse was to cede authority and command over events to the experts, who were to be given free hand in crafting a salvation from it, and that salvation was a specifically military solution.  (v)  There were no unknown developments to fearfrom the experts’ be-all-and-end-all solution of provoking a general war against Russia in the east (oh, for example, the American industrial economy being effectively thrown into the scales on the other side, or Italy getting bought by the Allies with promises of Austrian territory).  (vi) Any known risks of side-effects had been fully accounted for and contained (the Schlieffen Plan and knocking France out of the war in six weeks, thereby reducing the British and more critically the Royal Navy to impotence . . . assuming Britain even bothered to come in at all). 

You will readily recognize in the above the fundamental paradigm of the modern state.  The organs pursue their own agendas, which they form internally and without reference, by and large, to the determinations of the responsible political organs.  Those agendas grow from the agencies’ own objectives, the ultimate outcomes of which, whatever other attributes they might enjoy, invariably display one common feature: the increase in the control exerted by that agency, and the protection of its insiders.  The agencies invariably present their programs never as a trade-off among competing priorities, but rather as the sole chance of staving off catastrophe.  The agencies explicitly take the position that no one from outside them can possibly understand their pet issue(s) or be morally entitled to take a position on them which must be respected and is entitled to be accounted for in any ultimate resolution.  The agencies strenuously maintain, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that they possess full knowledge of every possible consequence of their actions, have accounted for those consequences, and have so arranged everything – Everything, I tell you!! – that no meaningful harm can come from just turning the keys over to them, and if we’ll all just shut up and do as they say, the lion will lie down with the lamb and all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. 

Hold that template up to nearly every single agency of modern government, and you will see it fits like pigskin on a pig.  The legal system?  Check.  The EPA?  Check.  The Fed?  Spot-on.  The educational industry?  Oh boy yes; try making a suggestion about how classroom education might be improved to someone carrying an NEA card in her purse and see how much an Outsider gets listened to.  Pretty much any of the alphabet-soup agencies?  Like it was tailor-fit to them.  The military?  Pretty much yes, although the cultural memory of Vietnam has done a great deal to pop a lot of seams in the cloth (kind of ironic that the one aspect of modern America which doesn’t fit perfectly the paradigm of summer, 1914 is precisely the American military in its relationship with the responsible organs of government). 

And now remind me how the Kaiser’s decision to put the generals in the saddle in July, 1914 worked out.

We are glibly informed by our president that, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone,” and so he’ll jolly well do as he pleases and Congress be damned.

We have the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which actually isn’t a “board” at all, but rather a non-firable single administrator whose budget comes from the Fed’s surplus income and who answers to no one (mercifully, that structure was just the other day ruled to be unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit).

We have the EPA just more or less deciding to destroy the American power system through regulating carbon dioxide as a “pollutant”.  The courts, indulging the lunacy, agreed that what comes out of your chest as you exhale is subject to regulation by the EPA.  Think about that one, Gentle Reader.  The product of one of your basic life processes is subject to regulation in Washington, D.C.  You are a discharge point.  The EPA runs the National Point Discharge Elimination System (at least for wastewater; I can’t say off the top of my head whether it applies to airborne pollutants — like your breath — as well).  Can you say “residency permit” and “internal passport,” Gentle Reader?  Don’t think it can’t happen; the Army Corps of Engineers famously tried to regulate wet-weather pools on private land as being “navigable waters”.

It is an unfortunate fact of Life that it is far, far easier to do harm than good.  It took the better part of 600 years to build the cathedral at Cologne (or Köln, as we Germanophones would say it); one truck bomb lit off by an ISIS sleeper cell (and the German security services have admitted that such are already there) could bring it down with a few hours’ work.  The German Generalstab managed, with a few weeks manipulation of processes and personalities, to provoke a war which just about destroyed European civilization; in fact, it did destroy it.  If in 1895 you’d asked anyone but a raving lunatic whether it was OK to shoot and gas 6,000,000 people because of where — not just they, but their ancestors going back six generations — went to church, they’d have tried to calm you down while they quietly fetched the gentlemen bearing the straitjackets.  If you’d suggested that it was OK to kick hundreds of thousands of people off land they and their ancestors had inhabited for centuries (as happened in Poland, and eastern Germany, and the Sudetenland), they’d have very carefully put a table between you and them.  If you’d proposed that it would be a very good thing to starve to death your entire independent agricultural class, they’d have run for the hills shouting there was a madman on their tails.  And yet by mid-century all this and much, much more had happened, and had been blessed not just by the perpetrators but by “serious” third-party observers, such as The New York Times whitewashing the Holodomor.

What might an uncontrolled administrative state work by way of mischief?  I am afraid that I will live long enough to find out.  I am terrified that my sons almost certainly will.

The Economist Gets It Wrong

This is almost becoming an evergreen post title.  Once upon a time, The Economist was a serious magazine (it describes itself as a newspaper, by the way), to be taken seriously.  It was not at all unusual to open an issue and see letters to the editor from senior sitting cabinet ministers of serious countries.

Not, as Inspector Clouseau would say, any more.  I let my subscription lapse quite a few years ago, and nowadays I mostly read it on the throne in the gents’, here at the office.  I forget just when they went to being a shill for the usual drearily predictable far-left wing causes.  I’ve commented on the style manual apparently in effect at the place, under which every article on no matter what topic has to be tied somehow back into How Awful Global Climate Change is and why it would be real swell if we all just blew up the entire world economy on the off-chance that we might influence the “average global temperature” by two degree . . . 125 years from now.  Or something.

This year they’ve gone all-in to elect Her Herness.  Every week’s edition is full of how horrible it would be if Donald Trump is elected because he says such Mean Things and he’s so tacky and “thuggish” and so on and so forth.

If The Economist has done any extensive reporting on Her signing off on 20% of U.S. uranium production to the Russians, at a time when Her husband was being paid several hundred thousand dollars to give a twenty-minute speech to a Russian bank in Moscow (I mean, for God’s sake, even The New York Times reported on it, it was so egregious), I’ve not seen it.

If they’ve seriously analyzed the detailed report of the FBI director, in which he very meticulously went down each and every element of multiple federal felonies, showing that She checks every single box . . . and then recommended no prosecution, the week after Her husband and the U.S. Attorney General just happened to have a lengthy pow-wow in a private jet (of course! “global climate change” is only a problem when one of the unwashed masses wants to let off a little carbon), it’s got by me.

If they’ve mentioned the time gaps in Her e-mails that she (falsely) represented as being Her complete work-related e-mails — gaps when She was documented as being overseas, and there are days when there’s not one single stinkin’ e-mail in the pile she produced (fancy that: the U.S. Secretary of State is overseas on official business, and not one solitary work-related e-mail is sent to Her or by Her for multiple days, when over Her tenure She averaged 21 per day) . . . I haven’t seen a word of it in their pages.

Just another example: At the same time that Her department is squeezing the government of Sweden on its joyfully doing business with countries which are among the strongest, most active sponsors of world-wide terrorism — including specifically Iran — Her husband sets up a fund-raising arm in Sweden that collects a cool $26 million, and Bill Himself pockets $750,000 from Ericsson, which had been selling communications equipment to Iran for use in that country’s security services.  Almost immediately after Bill pockets his three-quarters of a million dollars for a few minutes’ speech, the U.S. State Department backs off Ericsson, allowing it to “police” itself.

Look:  The Economist is perfectly entitled to pick a side and to toss away its 170-plus years’ reputation for the sake of the ideology of the moment.  I’d wager I’m not the only person who has watched what they’ve made of themselves over the past 20 years, and has decided their subscription just wasn’t worth it (it isn’t cheap and never has been).  They can do without me, and seem to be doing fine.

But I do get fatigued by their relentless propaganda.

The cover story of the July 30, 2016, edition is “The New Political Divide,” in which, in the editorial leader (for those unfamiliar with the magazine’s layout, they lead off each week with a series of editorials, the lead of which is the cover story; then there are the letters and news blurbs; then comes a longer article on specifically the cover story) for which we are informed:  “The conventions [Republican and Democrat] highlighted a new political faultline; not between left and right, but between open and closed.”  By “open” they mean specifically open borders and free trade.  They identify Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as being the hucksters for “closed” and  Her as at best “equivocating.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with the proposition that, all else being equal, the free movement of people and goods across what are, after all, only man-made lines is a Good Thing.  I don’t even disagree with this statement:  “The multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances, led by America, has under-pinned global prosperity for seven decades.”

Where The Economist goes off the rails is in the bait-and-switch of its analysis.  The key word here is “global,” but not in the sense that they wish us to take it — that is, “world-wide”.  Yes, the post-World War II prosperity has become world-wide, and even over just my own adult life has accelerated beyond any measure that could reasonably have been hoped for it at my birth.  It’s just amazing.  But:  The mood that has fueled the rise of Donald Trump is not an antipathy for “open” but a resentment that the benefits of “open” have become, over recent years, anything but “global,” at least not in the sense of “commonly shared by everyone”.

You see, there is a wide perception — and one backed by reality, unfortunately — that the population has become separated into two groups.  One the one side are those groups who bear the chief burdens of “open,” and on the other those who enjoy the bulk of the advantages.  The floods of illegal immigrants from Mexico and points south, and who are supposed now to receive work permits, driver’s licenses, welfare benefits, public housing rights, and so forth, are not competing for jobs, housing, and economic stability with those who most strenuously advocate their continued tide.  It’s pretty safe to say that not a single staffer at MSNBC is going to lose out on a job or promotion to an illegal immigrant.  Nor will a single government functionary.  Nor will a professor at a college.  Or a lawyer.  Or a doctor.  Or an accountant.  Or . . . well, you get the picture.  But the guy who drives a truck delivering auto parts to dealers around Little Rock, for example?  His livelihood is at stake when someone able (because living with three generations of four separate families, all wedged into a three-bedroom house) and willing to work for 40% less than he’s been making now has a work permit and doesn’t have to fear deportation when he gets his commercial driver’s license.

By like token, it doesn’t take much persuading to convince our out-of-work former factory worker that the rules by which China is allowed to play “international trade” are so stacked that he’s just plain screwed, now and for all time.  The guy who used to work making machine components has watched his company shut down the factory because of over-regulation, higher taxes, increased labor costs (only a small portion of which our hypothetical worker can trace into his own pocket, by the way), or whatever, and then move production overseas.  Company’s now doing fine; our Worker, not so much.

And then, of course, he sees the wealthy and prominent scofflaws doing as they damn well please, while his kid gets ground up in the juvenile justice system over a playground fight.  He sees Her getting caught red-handed compromising our national security, and likewise getting away with it.  He hears stories of enormous banks pushing loans to people they know can’t afford them, and then when the borrowers go belly-up, the banks thoroughly gun-deck the foreclosure process . . . and nothing seems ever to happen to them.  They remain as big as ever, and he hears the sums of money — tax money, his tax money — shoveled out to them to keep them afloat.  He hears a presidential candidate dismiss his concerns as “clinging to his guns and religion.”  He hears his home, his family, the world he grew up in and would like to pass down, to some degree at least, to his own children dismissed as “fly-over country”.  He is told that he is a bigot if he dares to question the wisdom of the Elites.  He is — at least if he is white — constantly accused of something called “white privilege” and for the life of him he can’t understand what’s “privileged” about having gone to work at age 16 and paid for every damned thing he owns out of his own pocket.  He notices that the people pasting these labels on him seem to be doing conspicuously better than he and his family are.

Precisely how reasonable is it not to expect a population so treated to embrace someone who promises to Change It All?

What The Economist seems to forget is that once upon a time most of a country was pretty easy to convince of the benefits of free trade.  In 1906 the Liberals in Britain blew up the Unionist Party in a general election.  The Unionists had pinned their flag to protectionism.  The Liberals wrapped them in the issue and rode to a landslide victory.  People can understand the benefits of free trade . . . when those benefits can be shown to benefit themselves in ways they can see.  It’s when “free trade” is used as a cover for the Insiders to get fat while the rest of the joint goes without that people turn away from it.  It’s the perception — and especially when that perception increasingly tracks reality — that the world is rigged against them that will turn people against that system, time after time.

I suggest it’s not just generic “inequality” that has got Americans up in arms this year.  America has never really done envy very well.  For decades the socialists would complain about how they just couldn’t get much traction here, setting class against class.  In America, they found, even the poor were determined one day not to be poor, were pretty OK with a system that would let them one day not be poor any more, and in fact even become well-off, and expected one day not to be poor. And they expected their children would not remain forever poor, forever shut out from opportunity to better themselves.  But what Americans can’t stand is a scam, a fraud, a rigged game of heads-She-wins-tails-you’re-a-bigot-and-lose-your-job-to-someone-whose-very-presence-here-is-a-crime.

But then again, no one at The Economist is going to lose his job to some government-backed factory in China, or to some guy who gave the finger to the country’s immigration laws and now has a work permit and lives in public housing.  No child of a staffer there is going to be rejected by a college because X% of the class entering places are now reserved for children of a certain color, or from special places, or whose parents speak very specific languages, or who engage in peculiar — very peculiar — behavior.  They know how to work the system and its rules; their children will do just fine.  Our truck driver from Arkansas?  His 17-year-old daughter is trying to navigate a house of mirrors and he can’t help her and he knows it.  You really want to piss a man off?  Set his child up to lose out and then keep him from pitching in to help.  And then rub salt in the wound by lecturing him on how contemptible he is while you’re doing it.

Yes, there’s a political divide out there, but it’s got bugger all to do with the one The Economist preaches to us.