No TV, so I was listening to a bit of the coverage of the James Comey hearing on KPCC just now and it’s not exactly a murderers’ row of famous journalists and analysts. Competition must be fierce and KPCC is down to the D listers. Anybody who is nobody is on TV or the radio or online somewhere experting away. What an exciting time to be a reporter. The press has never been this famous. I mean, all these journalists are rock stars now. They tweet like mad and write long pieces we all read the first paragraph of. They show up on TV daily. They have unnamed sources to die for. They pal around with movie stars and directors. Imagine the perks and the swag and the people who want to meet them, to touch them, to take a selfie with them. Living the reporter’s dream. A Pulitzer. A bestseller. George Clooney playing you in the movie. I confess I always wanted to be a political reporter. Alas I was born too late for Watergate and too early for Trump. It’s all in the timing. People loathed the press only a year ago, mistrusted them, assumed everything it said was a lie. That was then. Now it’s Beatlemania for reporters. I watch these guys on those giant CNN panels and I think to myself man, I bet they’re getting laid like crazy. Maybe not a second time but still, they’re getting laid like crazy.
The reporting in the Washington Post makes clear that both Trump AND Pence have been aware that Flynn had been compromised by Russian intelligence, and have been aware for some time. We are not sure now how all the investigating into this will go. The press will be focusing on this with extraordinary intensity and with a White House that leaks like no other….and will now begin gushing like the Oroville Dam. Congressional investigations are inevitable. A special prosecutor seems at some point to be likely. And the FBI and CIA and several other agencies have been investigating as well, indeed, Flynn’s resignation seems to be the result of those investigations. And should both Trump and Pence be found to have been party to a conspiracy to hide the fact that Flynn had been potentially turned by Putin, then both Trump and Pence could be forced to resign. None of this is likely, but it is well within the realm of the possible without resorting to paranoid conspiracy thinking. In which case, unless Pence were to go first and a replacement chosen by Trump before Trump resigned, Paul Ryan, as Speaker of the House, will be president. People are no doubt talking to Ryan about this right now, telling him he has to be ready because there is an outside chance that he will constitutionally required to take the path of president. And that is how weird this is getting, and getting there so fast. Because we simply do not know. How much did the president know, I have heard asked several times on television tonight, and when did he know it. If you are old enough to remember the Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker’s double question to John Dean will send chills down your spine. It seems so impossibly unlikely that any of this could happen, but then Watergate began as an odd little burglary, and this seems to be so much more.
Backing Trump has a geopolitical advantage for Russia that Americans–divided as we are between those who refuse to believe the Arctic ice is melting and those who refuse to accept the fact that it cannot be unmelted–will continue to pretend that the Arctic Ocean is not a few years away from being blue water. Putin has invested heavily in making the Arctic a Russian lake–massive infrastructural investment, a huge state of the art fleet of ice breakers, the establishment of shipping routes, laying legal claim to most of the waters as being part of the landmass of Siberia, etc, etc–and the US has done nothing. NOTHING. We would not even replace the worn out ice breakers we had. A Trump presidency just ensures Russia that now, on the cusp of their most successful geopolitical coup since conquering all of eastern Europe in the Second World War, that the US will continue to pretend that there is nothing of interest north of Canada. But what Putin knows and that we don’t is that once the Arctic is open water, then the world will no longer be on an east-west horizontal axis. It will be on an up and over the top axis, and whoever is master of the Arctic is master of the world. The Arctic is about to become as central to everything as the Mediterranean was in classical times, and stupidly, beyond stupidly even, Americans have rendered it politically incorrect to even think about that. For conservatives the Arctic is not melting. In fact, it’s getting colder. For the Left, we can return it to its stark frozen beauty if we try hard enough. Neither side can be further from reality–the Arctic is melting at a phenomenal rate, and nothing will ever freeze it again, not for thousands of years. It’s a done deal. Not that it matters politically what we do, anyway. There was one and only one nation with the naval and scientific capital to keep the Arctic an international ocean, and it was the United States. Otherwise we’ve left it to Canada, Iceland, Denmark and Norway. Feeble compared to Russia, sure, but each of those four has more capacity in the Arctic than we do. We have nuclear powered carriers in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea and Mediterranean and not even an icebreaker in the Arctic, where the future of the world lies. You have no idea how stupid we Americans will look in a generation standing on the shore as the summer sun never sets on the gleaming blue Arctic Ocean. We won’t even be able to read the road signs. They’ll be in Cyrillic.
(December 27, 2016)
Russians No Longer Dispute Olympic Doping Operation said the New York Times.
Russia is for the first time conceding that its officials carried out one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history: a far-reaching doping operation that implicated scores of Russian athletes, tainting not just the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but also the entire Olympic movement.
Over several days of interviews here with The New York Times, Russian officials said they no longer disputed a damning set of facts that detailed a doping program with few, if any, historical precedents.
“It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national antidoping agency, said of years’ worth of cheating schemes, while emphasizing that the government’s top officials were not involved.
A lab director tampered with urine samples at the Olympics and provided cocktails of performance-enhancing drugs, corrupting some of the world’s most prestigious competitions. Members of the Federal Security Service, a successor to the K.G.B., broke into sample bottles holding urine. And a deputy sports minister for years ordered cover-ups of top athletes’ use of banned substances.
The article goes on and on, the details just as seamy, the sweep of it just as inexplicably corrupt. The Russian officials admit to an “institutional conspiracy”, but deny the government–that is, Putin–was involved. Considering just how involved he is in the Russian Olympics program, that seems a little disingenuous.
While the Olympics are is only a game, and not a war, nor a presidential election, I’ve always thought that this massive doping scheme is a perfect symbol of the Russian KGB-state kleptocracy’s complete contempt for the concept of fair play. Putin’s regime believes everything should be fixed so the Russian kleptocratic leadership wins. There is no ideology there anymore, Russian socialism is dead, it’s all about greed and power and stealing. And by the time Putin is gone and his regime runs its course, the country will be an empty husk.
But apparently Vladimir Putin is terrified of revolution. Of a repeat of Kiev in Moscow. In some ways he is more like the Shah of Iran than anybody else, robbing his nation blind while forces as yet unknown, unseen and unrealized might be stirring up, ready to suddenly explode and destroy him. Russia is a state that really could implode suddenly and without warning, as it has done twice already in the last 99 years (in 1917 and 1991). Revolutions can take centuries, far longer than a single life span, and Russia may only be halfway through what began in 1917 (twice in one year in fact, with the democratic revolution in February and the Bolshevik in October). Or the revolution of 1905, which followed the catastrophic loss to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War and brought forth the Constitution of 1906 and the beginnings of their experiment with democracy. Or maybe even when Czar Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, or when an anarchist blew him sky high 20 years later. Wherever we set the opening, Russia’s revolution is nowhere near the final curtain. The last four have begun with mobs in the street. We can only imagine what Putin imagined when he saw the crowds in the street in 2012. The elections had been crooked as hell and hundreds of thousands of people were very angry. He set the army and police and nationalist thugs on them. That worked in 1905. It didn’t in 1917 and 1991. And it worked again in 2012. But Putin knows the pattern of Russian history this past 110 years. For every successful repression there is an unsuccessful repression. It is only a matter of time. Russian dramas have a certain inevitability, the characters trapped in events they have no control of. Sometimes it’s the plot of a story. And sometimes it’s the sweep of history.