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Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Thomas à Becket, Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels ]
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Okay, let’s start with the movie version of “Who will rid me..?” Here’s the set up, the breaking of the long and deep friendship between King Henry II, his will driven by the power of the State, and his Archbishop, Thomas à Becket, driven to opposition by the honor of Mother Church

When the King determines at last to have his Archbishop removed, he utters those words which ring down the centuries — “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” — shown here in Anouilh‘s version of Becket at 3.32 in this clip or thereabouts:

Sigh.

Becket meanwhile offers his resignation unto death in surrender to the will of his God:

In Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral, a passage with which one must wrestle lays out the conflict and its resolution:

They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
In an eternal action, an eternal patience
To which all must consent that it may be willed
And which all must suffer that they may will it,
That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
Be forever still.

Becket was killed in his cathedral on 29 December 1170, by four knights acting on the spur of the moment utterance of their king, and their own certainty as to the wish their king intended to express.

Becket was canonized — named a saint and martyr — in 1173. And the King? Wiki summarizes:

The king performed a public act of penance on 12 July 1174 at Canterbury, when he publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present, including Foliot, to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral gave the king three blows. The king then offered gifts to Becket’s shrine and spent a vigil at Becket’s tomb.

**

So much for Becket.

President Trump, who had somewhat reluctantly fired Flynn, suggests to Jim Comey, head of the FBI, that he might want to close down the further investigation of the Russia business:

I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

Comey was later questioned by Sen. Angus King in an intelligence committee hearing:

KING: In terms of his comments to you — I think in response to Mr. Risch — to Senator Risch, you said he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” or — or “would you,” do you take that as a — as a — as a directive?

COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and then, the next day, he was killed — Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. You’re — we’re thinking along the same lines.
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**

That’s the direct use of the Becket theme turned to a contemporary purpose. But there’s more..

Julia Ioffe on All In with Chris Hayes, speaking of Putin‘s plausible deniability using the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin as a cut-out:

IOFFE:It`s a very, very close relationship. In Russia, he`s known as Putin`s chef. And this is very much in keeping with how the Russians do things, right? There`s never going to be or probably not going to be any finger – any of Putin`s fingerprints on this, right? Probably what it looked like was Putin essentially saying, you know, who will rid me of this you know troublesome Hillary and everybody else kind of gets what that means and swings into action.

**

You might think the Becket story was enough. You might take delight in its contemporary echo by Comey and King. Julia Ioffe using the same example of Vladimir Putin was an unexpected bonus — but there’s (sadly) more..

Consider this:

Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Stormy? The Michael Cohen Story:

Doing conspicuous favors and fixing things is in the nature of this bizarrely public toady-chieftain relationship. Read through Cohen’s interviews. You’ll find it’s replete with mixes of mafia tough guy talk and zany levels of conspicuous self-abnegation. It’s all theater at some level. But I think to a great degree it’s genuine. It’s the guy’s identity, like the way a top captain thinks about the mob boss he serves. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Stormy? Did I mention that Cohen and Trump’s mafia business partner Felix Sater were childhood friends long before they both ended up as top Trump business partners right around the same time? Well, that’s true too. In the scale of money both Trump and Cohen operate at, covering the $130,000 payment himself seems entirely plausible as something Cohen would do as part of the larger relationship. He probably did get paid back some way or another. But I think it’s totally plausible he didn’t. He’d love to be that guy who made the problem go away. Doing Trump a solid like that would be something he’d happily do. It’s the basis of their relationship. He’d get paid back in other ways.”

When Donald Trump, in one of his furies, makes an offhand comment about Mueller, does that then become an order in the ears of one of his loyal subordinates?

The Becket story has much to teach us.

And all the chairs are musical

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — two cases of unreal real estate, Moscow & Washington ]
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Putin:

Clinton:

Political influence on the movies

Friday, July 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Canada, Hollywood cave? ]
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Sources:

  • Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, Did the CBC get spooked?
  • Hollywood Reporter, Vladimir Putin Cut From Two Upcoming Hollywood Movies
  • **

    The Chinese don’t want the Dalai Lama to speak with heads of state; they throw their weight around, and some heads of state capitulate.

    Here’s the equivalent in terms of the arts. I suppose it’s inevitable, considering the state of the world, but I don’t like it one little bit.

    Clinton-Trump parallelisms via Daniel Nexon — whassay?

    Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — more on the digging dirt / foreign sources story ]
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    It’s all too easy to lose sight of the intriguing parallelism here — but symmetries are worth watching, often revelatory. Good catch by Daniel Nexon:

    **

    From January: Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire:

    Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country.

    Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

    A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

    The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.

    Russia’s effort was personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, involved the country’s military and foreign intelligence services, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

    [ .. more .. ]

    **

    Your thoughts? — valuable since they’ll no doubt differ from mine..

    Brilliant “life imitates art” DoubleQuote

    Saturday, July 8th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — a superb find & capture ]
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    In an earlier tweet, Turner identified “Underwood and Petrov in ‘House of Cards’ season 3 vs. Trump and Putin IRL by #timoreilly“. That’s them.

    I got this via Thomas Hegghammer, who has a keen European eye — something I suspect may be invaluable in analytic work.

    **

    Likewise noteworthy, a neat title to an Atlantic piece on the same meeting of the minds — which also exhibits double vision:

    Here’s the relevant detail-work from the text of that piece:

    Attendance at the meeting was sharply limited, reportedly in order to avoid leaks: There were just six people in the room, including each president’s foreign-policy chief and an interpreter for each side. That means that anyone curious to know what was discussed is forced to rely on the accounts of the two governments involved—neither of which has a sterling reputation for honesty.

    Adding to the confusion, the two initial accounts of the meeting differ sharply. Russian and American officials, together with Jordan, announced a cease-fire in southwest Syria, the one major material accomplishment, though one that based on Jordan’s involvement was clearly in the works long before the two presidents met. The two sides also agreed to set up a working group on cybersecurity. From there, accounts diverge, creating a Rashomon-like situation in which it’s likely impossible to piece together what actually happened.

    Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, briefed reporters in Hamburg on the discussion. Tillerson said Trump had begun the meeting by pressing Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    “The president opened the meeting by raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in 2016 election. Putin denied such involvement, as he has done in the past,” Tillerson said. He said that Trump had returned to the topic more than once during the meeting. (As the meeting ran over, first lady Melania Trump was reportedly sent inside in an unsuccessful attempt to get the men to wrap up.)

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also briefing reporters in Hamburg, agreed that Trump had brought up the accusations, but that Trump had accepted Putin’s version of the events, which is that Russia is innocent of any involvement. U.S. officials denied that. He also claimed Trump had dismissed the allegations: “Trump mentioned that in U.S. certain circles still inflate subject of Russian meddling in elections, even though they have no proof.”

    It’s hard to know what to believe. Lavrov and Russia have obvious motivation to lie about what happened. But Trump has repeatedly shown that despite his bluster about being a tough negotiator, he can be easily persuaded by foreign leaders during face-to-face meetings, abandoning long-held positions when effectively debated by a counterpart. (This is one reason that Putin, like other foreign leaders, was so eager to meet in person.)

    Moreover, Trump’s own view on the interference in the election remains opaque. He has never fully accepted the judgment of U.S. intelligence agencies and most of his own aides that Russia was behind hacking of email accounts and other feints. Most recently, on Thursday in Warsaw, Trump suggested that Russia might have been involved but might not have been alone, and concluded, “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.”

    Rashomon indeed! — but maybe that’s the play here: obfuscate.


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