ukraine, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul

Sometimes fiction and reality collide in unexpected and horrifying ways. A couple of days ago, the war in Ukraine crashed into a fantasy novel written in 1990.

Years ago I had a friend who kept encouraging me to read fantasy fiction. I’d read Tolkien, of course, but I was generally uninterested in the genre. She gave me a novel by a writer with the unlikely name of Guy Gavriel Kay. If a friend gives you something to read, the laws of friendship require you to at least try to read it. So I dutifully read the prologue (I’m also generally suspicious of prologues), then put the novel on a shelf with other novels I’d probably never finish.

The prologue was beautifully written, although the prose was more elegant than the fiction I was accustomed to reading. The characters were engaging and the situation they were facing was powerful. It was largely a nighttime conversation between two men–a prince leading an army facing certain destruction in the morning and a sculptor/friend who was a volunteer in that army. They both acknowledged they were probably going to die in a few hours and wondered if the war was a cause worth dying. This is part of their conversation.

“Oh, our pride. Our terrible pride. Will they remember that most about us, do you think, after we are gone?”
“Perhaps. But they will remember. The one thing we know with certainty is that they will remember us…. We will leave a name.”

Very powerful, emotional, dramatic stuff, right there. My problem was the heroic speech. I’ve done my time in military harness. So did both of my brothers. So did my father and most of my uncles. I’ve been around military men all my life. That’s not how they talk, especially when it comes to really important stuff, like killing and dying. Combined with my basic dislike of the genre, it was enough for me to stop reading.

Now, you may be saying, “But Greg, old sock, it’s fiction…and fantasy fiction at that. Give the writer some slack.” And you’d be right (also, stop calling me ‘old sock’). I’d made a mistake by putting that novel on the shelf. A few years later, another friend–also a fan of fantasy fiction–handed me another novel, also by Guy Gavriel Kay (it’s not a name you’re likely to forget). Again, the laws of friendship required me to try it. The Lions of Al-Rassan. It was amazing and has become one of my favorite novels. I was so taken by it that I went back to the shelves and pulled out the novel I’d abandoned before.

Tigana. That’s the title. It’s also the name of the independent province in which the two men in the prologue lived. The story takes place after the battle referred to in the prologue. Here’s a thing Kay does extraordinarily well–he doesn’t just inform the reader, “Yeah, these guys? They live in Tigana.” Instead he quietly, slowly, subtly adds layers of history, art, tradition, music, cuisine–layers of a unique, believable culture–so that Tigana isn’t just a place on a map. It becomes an indelible aspect of a character’s identity.

This is critically important to the story, because the battle referred to in the prologue destroys all that. The invading sorcerer/king was so enraged by the Tiganan resistance against his army and so grief-stricken by the death of his son (killed in the war) that he wasn’t content with merely conquering and ruling Tigana. He had his army kill women and children, he burned their fields and razed their villages, he flattened their cities. Not content with the physical destruction of Tigana, he eradicated their culture–tore down their statues, destroyed their art. He re-named the capitol city after his dead son. He renamed the province Lower Corte (Corte being the province’s traditional enemy; he wanted to insure the survivors understood they were lesser than their enemies). He killed almost an entire generation of people, and then (because this is the sort of thing sorcerer/kings do) he cast a magic spell that stripped the true name Tigana from the memory of every person NOT born in the province. Nobody else could even hear the name if it was spoken. This meant the few remaining Tiganans couldn’t even discuss with others what had happened to their land and culture. It was as if the kingdom of Tigana had never existed.

This is essentially what Putin and Russia planned for Ukraine.

A few days ago the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti published an article called What Should Russia Do With Ukraine? (You can read a translation of the article here.) It’s grounded on the premise that most of the population of Ukraine are Banderite Nazis or Nazi sympathizers. Banderite refers to Stephan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist, Nazi collaborator, and anti-Communist leader who was assassinated by Soviet agents in 1959. The article suggests that Ukrainians have so internalized Nazism that they’re not even aware they’re Nazis. It’s part of their culture, their identity.

That’s complete bullshit, of course, but for Russia/Putin it’s necessary bullshit to justify the plan for Ukraine. When the author of this article says ‘Nazi’ he means ‘Ukrainian’. The article says Nazis must be killed.

Those Nazis who took up arms must be destroyed on the battlefield, as many of them as possible. No significant distinction should be made between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the so-called “nationalist battalions,”

This also applies to ordinary citizens who support the government of Ukraine. Whatever happens to them during the ‘military special operation by the Russian Federation’ is a just punishment for that support.

They supported the Nazi authorities and pandered to them. A just punishment for this part of the population can only be possible through bearing the inevitable hardships of a just war against the Nazi system…. The Banderite elites must be eliminated; their re-education is impossible.

The survivors of the ‘war against the Nazi system’ will be re-educated and forced to engage in the manual labor of rebuilding the territory.

The further denazification of this bulk of the population will take the form of re-education through ideological repressions (suppression) of Nazi paradigms and a harsh censorship not only in the political sphere but also in the spheres of culture and education…. making the names of accomplices of the Nazi regime public, involving them in forced labor to restore the destroyed infrastructure as punishment for Nazi activities

The article acknowledges that wiping out Ukrainian culture would be a generation-long process.

The period of denazification can take no less than one generation that has to be born, brought up and mature under the conditions of denazification.

Obviously, this includes eliminating the very name of Ukraine.

[T]he name “Ukraine” cannot be kept as a title of any fully denazified state entity on the territory liberated from the Nazi regime…. Denazification will inevitably include de-ukrainization…. history has proved it impossible for Ukraine to exist as a nation-state, and any attempts to “build” such a nation-state naturally lead to Nazism. Ukrainism is an artificial anti-Russian construct that has no civilizational substance of its own.

In the novel, a group of rebel Tiganan conspirators disguise themselves as traveling musicians and merchants and plot to assassinate the sorcerer/king and restore the ability of the people to remember the province of Tigana. One of the characters repeats a sort of prayer: Tigana, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul. The memory of lost beauty is painful, but pain keeps the memory of that beauty alive.

In the novel, the erasure of Tigana is done through brute force reinforced by magic. Putin doesn’t have any real magic; all he has is brutality and the weak magic of propaganda, like this article. It’s difficult to say how effective the propaganda is with the Russian populace. There are reports that around 70% of Russian people support Putin’s war. Those reports may also be propaganda. Or they may accurately reflect the opinions of people whose only source of information is purposely biased. (Yes, I’m looking at FOX News.)

In the novel, only those born in what was once Tigana can hear the name spoken. Only they can keep the idea of Tigana alive. In real life, all of us can speak about Ukraine, can retain the memory of Ukraine’s once-beautiful cities, can honor the ordinary people of Ukraine who’ve resisted Russia, can weep for those who’ve been tortured and killed, can celebrate the Ukrainian identity and keep it alive.

Ukraine, let my memory of you be like a blade in my soul.

a conversational history of vlad and the boys

PUTIN: Lawdy, I surely do miss the days when the Soviet Union was kicking ass and taking names. I remember when Grozny was part of Mother Russia, not just some town in the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
CHECHNYA: Yeah, sorry, not sorry. Here’s your hat, there’s the door.
PUTIN: I think I’ll take Chechnya.
BILL CLINTON: Don’t do it. Don’t you do it.
PUTIN: I think I’ll do it.
CHECHNYA: Over my dead body.
PUTIN: Okay. Haha smiley face. [Takes Chechnya]
BILL CLINTON: Damn it, Vlad.
PUTIN: Well, it was unfortunate that a whole bunch of people died, but Chechnya looks really good on my trophy wall. Can’t make an omelet, and all that.
PUTIN: You know, I’m thinking there are parts of Georgia that would look real sweet on my mantle.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Georgia? What?
PUTIN: Not that Georgia. We got us a Georgia of our own.
NOT THAT GEORGIA: Hey! We’re standing right here.
PUTIN: Not for long. Haha smiley face.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Don’t you do it, Vlad. Just don’t.
PUTIN: Hell, son, I won’t take it all. Just bits of it. Won’t nobody even notice.
PUTIN: [Takes Abkhazia and South Ossetia]
GEORGE W. BUSH: Damn it, Vlad.
PUTIN: I mean, I really like Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but there’s something missing. You know what would be cool? Crimea. I’ve always wanted a warm water port. Sevastopol is cute as a button.
UKRAINE: Dude, Crimea is part of Ukraine.
PUTIN: Oh. Well, bless your little heart.
OBAMA: Don’t do it, Vlad. Don’t you dare do it.
PUTIN: My Uke homey Viktor Yanukovych is okay with it.
UKRAINE: We already kicked Viktor Yanukovych’s whole ass out of the country!
PUTIN: I think I’ll take Crimea.
OBAMA: Vlad…I’m serious here. Vlad…
PUTIN: [Takes Crimea]
OBAMA: Damn it, Vlad.
PUTIN: It was just Crimea. I left the rest of Ukraine, didn’t I? And Sevastopol is, like, the best warm water port ever. I think I’m going to keep it.
TRUMP: It’s okay with me, buddy.
UKRAINE: Hey, whose side are you on, Trump?
PUTIN: Trump is SO TOUGH on me. Haha smiley face.
TRUMP: They speak Russian in Crabeum, don’t they? I mean, they must be Russian, then. What do I care? What’s in it for me?
UKRAINE: Crabeum? What the fuck? And where are those weapons you promised us?
TRUMP: You’ll get the weapons. But first, I need a favor.
UKRAINE: Motherfucker.
CONGRESS: Uhhh, you know, we authorized those weapons. You can’t use them as blackmail.
TRUMP: Jeeze, okay, okay. I was just joking.
PUTIN: I really really like my new Crimea, but if I had me a Donetsk and Luhansk, then I’d almost have a complete set.
UKRAINE: No you don’t. Donetsk and Luhansk are totally part of Ukraine, you prick.
BIDEN: Vlad, I wouldn’t. It would be a mistake.
PUTIN: Would it? Would it really? Haha smiley face.
BIDEN: Don’t be stupid, Vlad.
PUTIN: [Takes Donetsk and…wait, what?]
UKRAINE: We’ll hit you so hard your kids will be bruised. If we had a stick, we’d jam it so far up your ass it would tickle your tonsils.
BIDEN: We’ll give you a stick, Ukraine.
PUTIN: What the fuck?
UKRAINE: Putin, go fuck yourself. With this stick. And, oh yeah, this Javelin missile.
PUTIN: What’s going on here?
BIDEN: Told you. Should’ve listened.
PUTIN: Okay, okay, listen, here are my conditions for a cease fire.
UKRAINE: Putin, you feculent fuck, if you have anything worth saying, we’ll read it in your entrails.

some semi-related thoughts on Ukraine

First off, this is just fucking nuts. I think we can all agree on that. I mean Russia (and when I say ‘Russia’ I mean that motherfucker Vlad Putin) is conducting what is essentially a war of conquest–the type of war that pretty much disappeared by the beginning of the 20th century. Russia is basically saying “Ukraine has shit we want, they’re not going to give it to us, so we’re going to take it.” It’s a large scale gangster war.

Nations (and gangsters and racist police officers) could get by with that shit back in the day before ubiquitous online real-time videography. Not anymore. Now there’s always somebody with a camera and an internet connection to record and distribute the violence. And not just the violence, but the ugly result of the violence. And not just the violence and the ugly result, but also the failures–those times when the violence rebounds against the violent.

A dead Russian soldier smells as bad as a dead Ukrainian civilian

Ukrainians are using tech to undermine Russia’s superiority of numbers. They’re using Google Maps traffic reports to identify streets where Russian military convoys are disrupting traffic–and a convoy that’s moving slowly is a target. Ordinary people are using cell phones to send and receive military intelligence in real time, to coordinate not just attack plans but also places for non-combatants to shelter. They’re using social media to support and encourage each other, to gain international support, and to undermine the morale of Russian troops and the Russian population.

They’re making videos of ordinary Ukrainians confronting and threatening Russian troops. The woman who offered Russians sunflower seeds to carry in their pockets so flowers will grow from their dead bodies. The guy who said they’d play football with the heads of Russian soldiers. They’re making videos of Russian troops surrendering, of Russians being ambushed and killed–videos of dead Russians. It’s brutal and ugly, to be sure. But Russian soldiers will see it on social media. The parents of Russian soldiers will see it back home. They’ll see the bodies of their sons, mangled and burnt. And some of those parents will take to the streets to protest the war. Anything that discourages the aggressor is probably worth it.

Another weird and awful benefit of modern tech. All those combat video games have taught young Ukrainian how to fight an urban war. They know how to create and use choke points, they know the benefits of sniping (an ounce of sniper is worth a pound of suppressing fire), they know the difference between cover and concealment and how to use them, they know not to stay in one place, they know the vulnerable points of tanks and armored vehicles. They’ve used those skills in games, and while there’s a massive difference between knowing stuff in a game and implementing it in real life, the knowledge is there and it’s useful. It’s horrible that young Ukrainians need that knowledge, but it’s good that they have it. This is an urban war in which Playstation and Xbox have been training tools.

Nobody really wins when civilians have to take up arms

The thing is, in video games death is just a delay. In video games, you’ve always got a fair chance of winning. Russian troops may not be very well trained, they may be poorly equipped, they may have serious logistical issues regarding supplies (like food, fuel, ammunition), they may have morale issues, they may not be a very effective fighting force, but there’s a lot of them. Numbers matter. And no matter how dedicated and clever and determined the people of Ukraine are, the odds are against them.

There’s a great deal of bold talk about how Putin has already lost–and there’s a lot of truth there. Putin has fucked Russia’s economy for years, he’s fucked the reputation of Russia. But Russia still has the power to seize Ukraine. They have the power to install a puppet regime. What they don’t have is the power to peacefully occupy Ukraine. So yeah, in that sense, Putin and Russia have already lost. But that doesn’t mean Ukraine will win. Or even survive as anything other than an underground resistance movement.

I do think, though, that this could be one of those inflection points people keep talking about. I think this invasion could teach the democratic world that we can no longer sing the praises of democracy and claim to value human rights AND continue to conduct business as usual with dictators and tyrants. Tolerating authoritarian regimes because there’s something in it for us–that’s just encouraging those regimes to flourish. We can’t continue to treat economics and human rights as separate, unrelated issues.

Democracy may be an unwieldy and awkward and inefficient system of governance, but it’s infinitely preferable to an efficient dictatorship. The people of Ukraine understand that.

this ukraine business

Okay, Ukraine and this invasion business. From what I can tell, it’s a result of three things: 1) Putin’s ego, 2) fear of democracy, and 3) water. I know a little bit about the region and its history, but I’m not by any stretch of the imagination even remotely expert on the affairs of Russia and Ukraine.

That said, I’ve been mostly skeptical about the notion of Russia invading Ukraine–not because I think Putin/Russia (and at this point in time, those two are basically conjoined twins) respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity. I’ve been skeptical because I couldn’t figure out what Russia would get out of an invasion that would be worth the price.

Putin’s not stupid. Sure, he’s got a massive ego, and he may long for the days when Russia was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics–when Russia was feared as a super power. But I can’t see him trying to reconquer all the former Soviet Republics just to recreate those days. I sorta kinda figured threatening an invasion would get him the global attention he thinks Russia deserves. I thought Putin would feel the threat would be enough to show the world that Russia is still a major player on the stage of world affairs. I thought a few weeks of saber-rattling would do the trick.

Who got spanked?

Apparently not. So back to the original question: what’s in it for Russia? I suspect Putin, like all tyrants, has a genuine fear of representational democracy. That’s one reason Russia helped Comrade Trump in the 2016 election. I mean, yeah, having an ignorant, egocentric, mendacious, greed-head president like Trump would be a boon to Russia, but the horrible genius of their election interference was that just making him a viable candidate was enough to weaken the entire electoral process. Helping Trump was the equivalent of injecting poison into a healthy body. It didn’t kill us (yet), but it’s compromised our immune system.

For Putin, having former Soviet Republics like Ukraine thrive under democracy is a threat. Don’t forget, Putin earlier tried to gank Ukraine’s democracy through political interference. Back in 2004 Russia supported Viktor Yanukovych when he ran for president of Ukraine. Like Trump, Yanukovish won. However, the election interference was so blatant that the Ukraine Supreme Court ordered a run-off election, which Yanukovych lost. But they tried again in 2010, when Yanukovich ran against Yulia Tymoshenko. That time, Yanukovich won.

Paul Manafort (the guy wearing handcuffs)

How did he win? He hired an American political operative as his campaign manager. Paul Manafort. In 2018, as part of a plea agreement (on charges of eight counts of tax and bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and witness tampering) Manafort admitted he’d conducted a media campaign against Tymoshenko, accusing her of anti-Semitism and corruption in order to undermine her support. Tymoshenko was eventually imprisoned. (This is where I note that Manafort was originally Comrade Trump’s campaign manager, and the Trump campaign is probably best remembered for this slogan related to Hilary Clinton: Lock her up. This is also where I note that Trump, after he lost the 2020 election, gave Manafort a full pardon for his crimes–which also dismissed the criminal forfeiture proceedings involving Manafort’s 10-bedroom, 6-bath US$11 million home at Bridgehampton, Long Island, his apartment in New York’s Chinatown, and his townhouse in Brooklyn. Who says crime doesn’t pay?)

After his election, Yanukovich implemented a number of Russia-friendly policies that were so unpopular the Ukrainian people rose up against him. Yanukovich fled to Russia, where he now lives. Ukraine now has a fairly and democratically elected president. And that has to both piss off and terrify Putin. So yeah, good reason to invade, right there.

But there’s also the water issue. Until a couple of days ago, I was unaware that Crimea (a part of Ukraine which Russia invaded and seized in 2014) was dependent on the North Crimean canal for irrigation and feedstock water. (Hell, I wasn’t even aware that the North Crimean canal even existed.) Not long after Russia seized Crimea, the government of Ukraine began to reduce and limit the flow of water to Crimea. Between that and a long period of drought, crops on which Russia relies have begun to fail.

North Crimean Canal

So this is what we’ve got. Russia needs water, Ukraine has control of that water. Russia fears democracy, Ukraine is pro-democracy. Putin is an egomaniac wanting to restore the legacy of Mother Russia, Ukraine was part of that legacy. So yeah, an invasion isn’t all that surprising.

But here’s the problem: what do we do about it?

I have no idea. Sanctions against Russia and Russian oligarchs, obviously. Really harsh sanctions. Military and intelligence support for Ukraine, also obviously. Troops? I’d hate to see us in a shooting war with Russia; their military is second rate at best, but if you’re killed by a second rate military, you’re still dead.

I’m just glad we have President Uncle Joe running this show. If Comrade Trump were in charge, there’d be massive gobs of extra shit in this shitshow.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yeah, NATO. I wasn’t ignoring the whole NATO thing. I just think Putin’s issue with NATO is a subset of his fear of democracy.

did putin just burn trump?

There’s an unoffical mantra in the investigation biz. It applies to everybody who does detective work; it doesn’t matter who you work for, it doesn’t matter if you’re a police detective or a private investigator. Call it the ABC of investigation.

Assume nothing.
Believe nothing.
Check everything.

This mantra especially applies when it comes to information you WANT to believe. And that brings me to this article in The Guardian:

Kremlin papers appear to show Putin’s plot to put Trump in White House

Essentially, the article states The Guardian has come into possession of a reputed Kremlin report of a meeting between Vlad Putin, his spy chiefs, and his senior ministers in January of 2016. At that meeting, they decided to initiate an intelligence operation to help Comrade Trump become POTUS. According to the article, they felt the election ofTrump (who is described in the report as an “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex”) would “definitely lead to the destabilisation of the US’s sociopolitical system.” And basically, that’s what’s happened.

Trump after his private two-hour meeting with Putin

The Guardian article also indicates the leaked Kremlin report suggests Russia has some form of kompromat on Trump. I’ve written about all this stuff before, so I won’t repeat it here. I mention it primarily because The Guardian’s article has resurrected the debate of the so-called Steele Dossier.

It’s important to understand that the Steele Dossier is actually a collection of seventeen memoranda containing raw human intelligence prepared by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 expert on Russian security and counterintelligence issues. Steele had been hired by a research firm called GPS Fusion, which had originally been contracted by the Jeb Bush presidential campaign to do opposition research on Trump. After Bush left the presidential primary race, the Hillary Clinton campaign continued the GPS Fusion investigation. Steele’s assignment was to explore Trump’s business concerns in Russia and the former Soviet republics, some of which involved former Russian intelligence agents and/or members of Russian organized crime.

Essentially, the document reported in The Guardian substantiates the main allegations in the Steele dossier: 1) that there was a concerted, coordinated Russian intelligence operation to promote the Trump campaign and damage the Clinton campaign, 2) that members of the Trump campaign were eager (though probable unwitting) conspirators with the Russians, and 3) Russian intelligence services likely has kompromat on Trump.

Somebody’s happy; somebody isn’t.

I believe that to be true. This is where that ABC of investigation comes into it. Because I want it to be true, I have to be doubly skeptical about it. I have to ask how and why this document came into the hands of the Guardian. I mean, Russian intelligence services just don’t leak documents by accident. IF the document is genuine (and apparently both UK and US intelligence agencies have known about it for months), why would Russia ‘leak’ it now?

Assuming it’s true (remember, assume nothing), it would be leaked to serve Russian state interests–which includes increasing US political and social instability while protecting her own international political priorities. I believe (believe nothing) it’s POSSIBLE that Russia MIGHT be deliberately burning Trump as an intelligence asset. His legal vulnerability and age put him near the ‘sell-by’ date as a useful asset. Burning him COULD be a warning to other still useful assets in the Republican party–MAYBE to cut Trump loose and bury themselves deeper into the body politic where they could still help shape US policy toward Russia. Burning him COULD also make Trump valuable as a flashpoint for insurrection and ongoing social instability. The more precarious Trump’s legal situation becomes, the more desperate he is, the more likely he is to actively encourage his supporters to resort to greater political violence. Even as a burned asset, Trump could prove useful to Russian interests.

This serves Russian interests.

Assume nothing. Believe nothing. Check everything. There’s relatively little we can check about this. The checking will have to be done by others–reporters, investigators, agencies, authorities. We’ll have to assess the value of their checking based on their credibility.

This is how investigation is done. Always mistrust what you want to believe.

not even a dog

Yesterday on Facebook I responded to a post by one of my senators (Charles Grassley, who at one time was a principled conservative but has devolved into a hypocritical party hack) who chastized “Democrats & liberals in the press” for not giving enough attention to the Hunter Biden Laptop Lunatic Conspiracy Theory. I said this in response:

Generally, advancing a Russian disinformation operation is considered unAmerican. Sad to see you taking such a position.

Several Trump/Grassley supporters took me to task for suggesting the laptop fuss followed the pattern of a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme (which it totally does).

— “Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on Monday said that Hunter Biden’s laptop “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign”.”
— our TDS Delusion is blinding you!! Hunter’s ATTORNEY contacted the computer shop, wanting to retrieve his client’s laptop!!! If this laptop has been in FBI custody since Nov. or Dec., 2019, HOW DID RUSSIA GET AHOLD OF IT, OR HAVE ACCESS TO IT??
— YOUR TDS IS IN THE WAY!! THIS LAPTOP, NOW CORROBORATED BY HUNTER’S ATTORNEY, IS LEGIT AND HUNTER HAS A PEDO PROBLEM AS WELL AS LOTS OF MONEY THAT HE AND “POP” HAVEN’T PAID ANY TAXES ON!!
— oh here we go again, everytime a Democrat gets caught dirty the ” Russians” did it, learn a new tune numbskull
— So you think just because the MSM isn’t covering this that it doesn’t exist?? WOW – and you call me stupid and gullible?? It is NOT a LIE, and when Joe-Joe and Hunter go to prison, maybe you’ll believe it then!! The laptop was corroboated by Hunter’s own attorney, plus Hunter’s buddies, Bevan Cooney and Devin Archer, who are both facing prison time for all of these crazy financial deals; they have now turned over 26,000+ e-mails which are also on Hunter’s laptop!! They were in on this; flipped on their buddy as they go to prison, and Hunter gets to be free FOR NOW!! Since Joe-Joe got half of all of the money, just think of all the taxes that Joe-Joe did NOT PAY on all those millions!! Hope the IRS pays him a visit!!
— has nothing to do with the Russians. It is left wing bias by Twitter and Facebook.
— FOX Tucker Carlson verified it today.

Where to start? Maybe with the claim that Hunter Biden’s attorney ‘corroboated’ the idea that the laptop belong to his client. George Mesires, the attorney in question, told the Washington Post, “We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided to the NY Post.” So no, that dog don’t hunt.

What about the suggestion that since the laptop has been in FBI custody since late 2019, there was no way for Russia to “GET AHOLD OF IT“? It would indeed be difficult for Russians (or anybody else) to get access to a hard drive stored in an FBI evidence facility. It would, though, be relatively easy for Russians (or anybody else) to load disinformation onto the drives of three laptops and deliver them to a strip mall computer repair shop in Delaware run by a legally blind Trump supporter and claim they were the property of Hunter Biden (who, by the way, lived in California at the time, which makes it improbable that he’d fly to his daddy’s home state to get his computers repaired). So no, that dog don’t hunt either.

Well, how about the claim that Hunter Biden “HAS A PEDO PROBLEM“? This nasty bit of bullshit was launched by a photo printed in the NY Post article. It shows the front of a subpoena form that doesn’t list a recipient or identify anything the recipient is required to produce. However, there appears to be writing on the back of the form which has bled through to the front (in reverse, of course), and includes a signature that could be that of FBI Special Agent Joshua Wilson, who has worked on child pornography cases. There’s literally nothing on the form to indicate the subpoena was for Hunter Biden, or that it involved a laptop, or that child porn is involved. So no, that dog don’t hunt and is probably asleep on the porch.

One of many dogs that just don’t hunt.

So what about the fact that Tucker Carlson “verified it”? Let’s just remind folks that a federal judge just dismissed a slander lawsuit against Carlson after agreeing with Carlson’s own lawyers that “given Mr. Carlson’s reputation, any reasonable viewer ‘arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism’ about the statement he makes.” In other words, Carlson’s employer, FOX News, admits that he is full of shit and can’t be relied on as a fact witness. In fact, the Biden laptop ‘scandal’ was so thin that FOX News refused to report it as news. That didn’t stop FOX commentators (like Tucker Carlson) from talking about it incessantly, of course. But it’s worth noting that even Breitbart, a normally reliable engine for lunatic right-wing conspiracy theories, was skeptical about the story. So no, that dog don’t hunt and it may not even be a dog.

DNI John Ratcliffe momentarily not kissing Trump’s pale plump ass.

But hey, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe…what about his claim that the laptop in question “is not part of some Russian disinformation campaign“? If you can’t trust the DNI, then who can you trust? Sadly, you really can’t trust the DNI IF the DNI is John Ratcliffe.

Let’s first acknowledge that Ratcliffe, a notorious Trump ass-kisser, is Trump’s fourth DNI in just under four years. Let’s also acknowledge that the first time Trump nominated Ratcliffe to be DNI (after Trump forced DNI Dan Coats to resign after Coats agreed that Russia implemented a disinformation op to help elect Donald Trump in 2016), the nomination had to be withdrawn because even Trump supporters in the Senate felt Ratcliffe wasn’t qualified and couldn’t be trusted not to politicize intelligence issues. In the interim, there were two other DNIs; Joseph Maguire, who was fired for briefing the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump and was planning on doing it again in 2020, and Richard Grenell, a Trump supporter without any intelligence experience who also couldn’t be confirmed by the Senate. After Grenell, the Senate confirmed Ratcliffe as DNI on a party line vote (because at that point the GOP had basically given up any hope of checking Trump). Although he’s only been DNI for five months, Ratcliffe has routinely violated norms by mining and declassifying material (mostly dealing with Hunter Biden and Ukraine) that might help Trump’s re-election campaign.

The CIA’s assessment of the laptop ‘scandal’ is that it’s likely a dezinformatsiya operation “probably directed” by Putin and his top aides, implemented by Russian asset Andrii Derkach in Ukraine, with the presumably unwitting assistance of Rudy Giuliani (is Rudy really that stupid? Maybe.). More than fifty former senior intelligence officials–including former Trump administration officials–have signed a letter stating the laptop ‘scandal’ “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.” The FBI, which has custody of the laptop hard drive, has reportedly opened an investigation to determine if this is a Russian disinformation operation.

So no, the Ratcliffe dog don’t hunt, and isn’t a dog, or even a mammal. It’s more of a slime mold–a eukaryotic organism not known for hunting.

But I’ve got a shiny new nickle that says during tomorrow night’s debate, Comrade Trump will repeatedly accuse Joe Biden’s son of being corrupt and possibly a pedophile on national television. That in itself is reason enough to vote him out of office.

dezinformatsiya

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m inclined to think that when US intelligence agencies warn the president that one of his closest associates is being used as a conduit for a disinformation operation directed by a hostile foreign nation and aimed at a national election, the president probably ought to be concerned. Maybe even consider doing something about it. And by ‘doing something about it’ I mean stopping it.

But we’re talking about President Comrade Trump and Russia. We’re talking about Rudy Giuliani and the 2020 presidential election. So ‘doing something about it’ isn’t going to involve stopping the Russian disinformation operation. ‘Doing something about it’ involves spreading it. ‘Doing something about it’ involves embracing it.

I wrote about this a couple of days ago, calling it ‘the most embarrassingly bad disinformation op imaginable.’ Don’t get me wrong — the underlying concept of the op is a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme. It’s a variation of the old negligent-spy-accidentally-leaves- briefcase-with-compromising-information-on-the-subway routine. Somebody finds the briefcase, looks inside, discovers the manufactured compromising information, reports it, and the disinformation gets spread organically. As a scheme, it’s very sound.

But Jeebus Microdot, Rudy Giuliani really fucked this up. And Trump was warned about it. According to news reports, Trump’s fourth National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien (and right there you already have a serious problem — four national security advisers in three years is a disgrace) met in person with Trump to caution him that “any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia.”

Rudy Giuliani and Andrii Derkach

For well over a year, Rudy had been dealing with Andrii Leonidovych Derkach, a former Ukrainian security officer who is considered to be a Russian intelligence asset. I’m being polite and conservative when I say he’s ‘considered’ to be an asset. This guy actually graduated from the FSB Academy back when it was still called the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB. It’s basically Spy School. Derkach’s thesis topic…and I am NOT making this up…was “Organization and Conduct of Meetings with Secret Agents”. Derkach should be walking around with a lapel badge saying, “Hi, my name is Andrii, I’m a fucking spy!” Back in 2020, a lot of folks thought Derkach would be the Ukrainian Putin. although that hasn’t quite worked out for him. Last month the US Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach for running an “influence campaign” against Joe Biden (and by ‘sanctioned’ I mean they froze all of his property interests in the US and prohibited Americans from engaging in transactions with him or entities owned by him). THIS is the guy Rudy was meeting with to gather ‘information’ about Joe Biden’s son Hunter. This is precisely why the National Security Adviser told Comrade Trump to distance himself from any Biden-related crap Rudy might drop on his desk.

Did Trump follow that advice?

Yeah. Exactly.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not claiming Derkach and Rudy were behind the three wet laptops allegedly containing compromising material on the Bidens that were accidentally left on the subway forgotten at the computer store. I’m just saying that it resembles a classic Russian dezinformatsiya scheme. And I’m just saying Andrii Derkach has been working in Russia’s interest for some time. And I’m just saying Rudy Giuliani is no longer the clever New York lawyer he once was. And I’m just saying Trump has no ethics at all and will use any tactic he thinks might give him a momentary advantage over an opponent.

Really, is anybody even remotely surprised that Comrade Trump would ignore the warning of his fourth National Security Adviser? Is anybody even remotely surprised that Trump might promote an illegal Russian disinformation operation if he thought it could help him win an election?

We have seventeen (17) days to the election. It’s time to return Comrade Trump to the shelf. Go vote.

october surprise

Originally, a ‘surprise’ was an unexpected attack. It comes from the Latin sur meaning ‘over’ or ‘above’ and prendre meaning ‘to grasp or seize’. A surprise party, originally, was a stealth military detachment that ambushed the enemy.

The political phrase ‘October Surprise’ has a vaguely weird history. It grew out of the 1980 election between President Jimmy Carter and his challenger, Ronald Reagan. It appears to have been coined by William Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager (and a former OSS officer who, after Reagan was elected, became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency). Casey was concerned that Carter was secretly arranging the release of 52 American hostages held by Iranian revolutionaries, and would announce the deal just before the November election. ‘October Surprise’ has also been used to describe an alleged secret deal between Iran and Reagan operatives to prevent the release of those hostages until after Reagan won the election and was inaugurated (and, in fact, Iran announced the release of the hostages literally minutes after Reagan’s inaugural speech).

Almost every election since 1980 has included some sort of October Surprise —  an event designed to irreparably damage one candidate’s chances and boost the other’s. Few of them work; fewer still are actual surprises. That includes yesterday’s ham-fisted absurdist political theater. We’ve all been expecting a ‘surprise’, of course. But even given Team Trump’s reputation for bungling political schemes, this ‘surprise’ was badly managed. Comically bad.

Here’s the basic accusation as reported by the New York Post. Somebody (Hunter Biden) brought three damaged laptop computers to a Delaware computer store for repair in April of 2019. The owner of the store (unidentified in the original report) claimed to have found an email on one computer’s hard drive — an email from Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, thanking Hunter for the opportunity to meet Joe Biden, who was then Vice President. Scandal! Hunter Biden and his daddy are corrupt! Biden must be defeated in the coming election! Scandal!

John Paul Mac Isaac (This should not be taken as an indictment of men wearing kilts).

Right. Now let’s ask a few questions — the sort of questions a 14-year-old fan of cop shows on television would ask.

Who is this unidentified store owner?
— He turns out to be kilt-wearing Trump supporter John Paul Mac Isaac.

Who brought the three laptops to Mac Isaac’s shop?
— Uh…we don’t know. Mac Isaac says he has a ‘medical’ condition that prevented him from recognizing the person who brought in the laptops. Also, nobody signed any sort of repair authorization form or receipt for them. But the person allegedly said his name was Hunter Biden.

What evidence does he have to prove the laptops were brought in by Hunter Biden?
— At least one laptop had a ‘Beau Biden Foundation’ sticker on it, plus there was an email addressed to Hunter Biden on that laptop, plus there were sexually explicit images featuring Hunter Biden.

Did Hunter or anybody return to the shop to retrieve the laptops? Or called to inquire about them?
— Uh…no. After ninety days Mac Isaac said he made repeated attempts to contact Hunter Biden without success.

What did Mac Isaac do when he discovered the email?
— He contacted the FBI. No, wait…first he made a copy of the email (and apparently the sexual images) which he gave to Rudy Giuliani. No, wait…he gave the copy of the material to Rudy’s attorney, then he turned it over to the FBI. No, wait…the FBI got in touch with him about the material, then he gave it to them. Or maybe he gave it to the FBI, who later sought his help in accessing the material.

Is this the same Rudy Giuliani who has been working for a couple of years with known Russian intelligence operatives to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden to hurt Joe Biden’s election chances?
— Uh…yes, it is.

Why did Mac Isaac give the material to Rudy’s attorney before giving it to the FBI?
— Because he doesn’t trust the FBI. He seems to think maybe the FBI (possibly in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee) murdered Seth Rich (who worked for the DNC) because Rich knew ‘the truth’ about the DNC emails stolen by Russian intelligence operatives sources and provided to Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and the Trump campaign. He also thought maybe the FBI might kill him too. So he made a copy of the material and gave it to Rudy’s attorney as insurance. He said he didn’t tell the FBI he’d made an ‘insurance’ copy, but that they would have assumed he would make such a copy to protect himself.

Why would Mac Isaac give the material to the FBI if he thought they might kill him if they knew he had the material?
— Uh…because of reasons?

What meta-data could we obtain from the email?
— Uh…none. The New York Post only had a pdf file of the email, not that actual email. So there’s no header information, no metadata. Just a picture of the alleged email.

How did the New York Post get this material?
— It was provided to the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor, Emma-Jo Morris, by Rudy’s attorney. Ms. Morris apparently became the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor yesterday, when she wrote the story. She has written three other political stories for the Post. All three were written yesterday. All three are about Hunter Biden.

What did Emma-Jo Morris do before becoming the Post’s Deputy Politics Editor yesterday?
— She booked guests for Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

Is this the ‘smoking gun’ October Surprise Republicans claim it to be?
— Nope. It’s not smoking. It’s not even a gun. It’s not a surprise. But it IS October.

This is perhaps the stupidest, worst prepared, least convincing, most desperate October Surprise ever. It’s the most embarrassingly bad disinformation op imaginable. It’s like Laurel and Hardy teamed up with the Keystone Kops to create a conspiracy theory. If the person responsible for this is in Russian intelligence, I’m going to guess he’s looking at a long drop from a high window, an acute case of cement poisoning following an incident of deceleration trauma.