Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Smart and Dumb Explanations

The Democrats have been putting pressure on the Trump administration, alleging that the Trump campaign in some way colluded with the Russians. Recently this has started to pay off as embarrassing revelations about cabinet members have come out. Trump then made a crazy allegation that Obama had his campaign wiretapped.

If the Trump administration were smart, here is how that move would make sense. Trump's people were smart enough not to email about their collusion with the Russians. But they did talk about it on the phone. Trump's allegation serves the following purposes:

1. It tests whether the Obama FBI actually was listening in while Trump's campaign staff discussed their collusion with Russia. A strong, immediate denial is a sign that the Trump campaign has pulled it off and people won't be indicted. A non-denial denial means they have to keep worrying.

2. Regardless of whether the FBI was listening, it might lock the FBI in to one version of events or the other. If the FBI denies that it was listening, then it will look ridiculous if it later tries to introduce evidence that it obtained from a wiretap. On the other hand, if the FBI admits that it was wiretapping Trump's campaign, then it can be cited to support his ridiculous claims about the legitimacy of the popular vote etc. The point is to force the FBI to commit to one or another. Whichever way it goes, there are advantages for Trump.

Remember, I'm just pointing out how the move would make sense if the Trump people were smart. I'm not saying they are smart. For instance, here is an explanation assuming they are as stupid as they seem:

1. Trump knows that his campaign colluded with the Russians, but he thinks they were smart enough not to get caught.

2. But the Democrats and the media are pushing the question as if they know they will find something. (This is debatable, I'm just saying this might be how it appears to Trump.) It's like in The Wire, when the cops know exactly which car to pull over or which house to raid—something isn't right, the cops don't just get that lucky on accident.

3. Therefore the Democrats must have some unexpected source of intelligence. Trump's mind immediately leaps to a wire, and he impulsively tweets it out. "I've got you!" he thinks to himself. "You would never know this shit if you hadn't tapped my phones!" He is in full-on Avon Barksdale mode, if Barksdale were a moron.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Super Bowl

Oh, and I should mention. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil." Isaiah 5:20.

The Great Patriotic War

Everyone is disgusted that the team that consciously cast itself as the champion of racial hatred won the Super Bowl.

What this reminds me of more than anything is the novel Envy by Yuri Olesha. The protagonist/antihero of the novel is Nikolai Kavalerov, who envies the "new men" who epitomize Soviet virtue. His benefactor/patron Andrei Babichev is such a man—part of the ruling class of Soviet Russia, I seem to remember that Babichev runs a Soviet sausage factory. By contrast, Kavalerov is a man out of his time. Much the same can be said of Nikolay Krymov in Life and Fate. And in a sense, the same designation applies to Otto and Elise Hampel, whose hapless efforts against Nazism were fictionalized in the great novel Every Man Dies Alone. Or the White Rose.

I hope you're sensing a theme. For a brief time, fascism (or totalitarian Communism, which amounts to much the same thing) can seem like an irresistible wave, a force of history. When Hitler swept through France in a matter of months, it was an embarrassment, and also a symbol of fascism's superiority over decadent liberalism. Similarly, when Nazis came within view of Moscow, it seemed that Bolshevism had been defeated.

The Battle of Britain and Stalingrad. These are what I want you to remember. The RAF soundly defeating the Luftwaffe, and then hundreds of thousands of Nazis slowly starving to death, wracked with disease, easy prey for Soviet snipers. Even the ones who survived to be taken prisoner... well, let's just say very few of them ever set foot on German soil again. It's easy to be dismissive of the Hampels, or the White Rose, since they were rounded up and executed by the Third Reich without achieving their goals. But history is not over in a day, and retaining your conscience is not an empty victory. Soon enough, the Russians were on the offensive. It wasn't just their stunning victory at Stalingrad. They essentially never lost a battle after that. Kursk was a bloody stalemate, but in the middle of it the Allies landed on Sicily, and the Germans pulled back to try to preserve their homeland. That dream did not survive very long. Operation Bagration soon followed, and before long  the boom of artillery could be heard from within Berlin. And then Hitler committed suicide, and the triumph of fascism became a distant memory. Bolshevism held on longer, but its writing was on the wall.

The Patriots will forever be known as the team of racial animus. A Super Bowl is not worth that. They won today, a victory for Trumpism and all of the hatred that he stands for. And Trump won yesterday. But tomorrow does not belong to them, any more than it belonged to the blonde paragon of Nazism in Stalingrad, or to the new Soviet man. The Team of Trump has chalked up another victory, and the racists will be insufferable for the next few weeks. Just remember that there was plenty of celebration in the high ranks of the Nazi Party in the years from 1939 to 1942. It stopped abruptly in 1943. Our task is to make 2020 another 1943. And of course, we will never cheer for the Patriots (the "Team of Trump") for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I "Wrote" Another Poem

"All Apologies"

Come live with me and be my love,
The years to come seem waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ashes

I have become obsessed with Norwegian farmhouse brewing, as documented by Lars "not remotely an arsehole" Garshol on his blog.  I'll write about it another time, but for now I just want to observe an overlap with another obsession of mine, World War II.  The Germans invaded Norway during WWII for strategic reasons.  The Norwegians had built a hidden torpedo station at an old naval base on the Oslofjord, allowing them to sink a large German battleship and delay the invasion.  The Norwegian government was therefore able to escape with its gold to England.  During the war, the Norwegian resistance was courageous and effective.

Anyway WWII comes up a couple of times on Lars's blog.  Here's a remarkable passage, in which Lars is talking to a Norwegian man who brews traditional farmhouse beer, and who is describing his experiences during WWII:

"We brewed from the light grain [lettekonnjet]," Rasmus says. I guess this needs some explanation. In the old days, before the time of purebred genetically identical seed grain, people sorted the grain, setting aside the heaviest grain for seed grain, and for brewing. The lighter grain would be used for bread, and, if there was enough, for animal fodder. But Rasmus is saying they used the light grain for beer.
"Why," I ask. He shrugs and says, "we couldn't afford anything else." Which figures. 1941 was not exactly a year of plenty in wartime Norway. I remember my grandmother saying my father as a baby, in 1945, ate ashes in the fireplace because he was so hungry, and the ashes contained fat. So brewing from the heavy grain would have been too extravagant, I guess. But people still brewed.
It's amazing to me that Europe managed to move on after the war.  Of course, eating ashes from a fireplace is relatively benign, as far as memories of the Nazis goes.  But it still seems like something that would stay with you.  And so many people had vastly worse memories—Londoners could remember the blitz, and of course pretty much all of continental Europe could remember the Third Reich's atrocities.  Meanwhile if my father had been so hungry he had to eat ashes, I think I would harbor resentment for my whole life.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Good Officer

Another passage from A Writer At War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941-1945, by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.  At this point the Red Army is on German soil and the rape and pillage are terrible.  Again the book quotes Grossman's notes:

Women's screams are heard from open windows. A Jewish [Soviet] officer, whose family was killed by the Germans, is billeted in the apartment of a Gestapo man who has escaped. The women and girls [left behind] are safe while he is there. When he leaves, they all cry and plead with him to stay.
This might sound too good to be true, but in fact Grossman recorded (but did not publish, I think it goes without saying) a lot of stuff that reflects extremely poorly on the Soviet troops.  That lends credibility to examples like this one, even though they seem contrived.  (Also, this passage doesn't reflect that well on the Soviet troops in general, obviously, just on this one officer in particular.)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hey, Khren!

I want to share a passage from A Writer At War:  Vasily Grossman with the Red Army, 1941-1945, by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.  The book contains passages from Vasily Grossman's wartime writings, with copious explanatory text.  I'll share some other passages that are horrifying, but this one is fun.

By way of background, the Germans at this point have pushed the Soviet defenders of Stalingrad to a narrow strip of land along the Volga River.  The other bank of the river is under control of the Soviets, and they resupply the defenders with barges, but the crossing is very dangerous.  To supplement the supplies, and to harass the Germans, Soviet pilots using training planes (apparently called U-2s), which are unsuitable for combat, fly over the city at night, cutting their engines so that they fly silently.  For the Soviet soldiers, they bring food and ammunition.  For the Germans, bombs tumbling out of the sky with no warning (remember the planes were running silent), haunting their sleep.  By the way, most of these pilots are women, and I like to imagine the pilot in the following anecdote is a woman.

Here's Grossman:

During the night, U-2s drop food for our troops. We mark the front line with oil lamps (flat dishes), which the soldiers light on the bottom of trenches. Company Commander Khrennikov once forgot to do this, and suddenly he heard a hoarse voice coming from the dark sky above: 'Hey, Khren! Are you going to light those lamps or not?' That was the pilot. The engine had been switched off. Khrennikov says this made a terrifying impression on him: a voice from the sky calling his name.
Fun story, right?  It gets better.  Here is the editors' note on the passage:

'Khren' in Russian means horseradish, but it is also a euphemism for an insult similar to 'motherfucker'. So when the pilot shouted, 'Hey, motherfucker!' Khrennikov was astonished at hearing what he thought was his own name.
There are a million stories like this in the book.  However dire things got for the Soviets, they don't seem to have lost their sense of humor.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It's Basic Physics

This weekend it is forecast to reach -17°F in Duluth, Minnesota, and 4°F in Detroit.  Meanwhile the surface water temperatures on the Great Lakes are quite high right now.  So to those of you saying that Great Lakes water temperatures aren't going to drop this weekend, all I can say is:  I think you're fucking insane.