Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The next four years

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  • WH,

    The RMS Titanic has been in the news again this week, this time linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory (which you should generally ignore).

    The Titanic sank in April 1912 upon hitting an iceberg during its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic. 1500 of her 2200 passengers and crew were lost; a sense of safety created by the compartment design of the hull contributed to the fateful decision to carry lifeboats for only a fraction of those on board.

    There was considerable interest in those passengers who had premonitions of the danger. You can read some of the 1912 reports about those people here.

    A fictional account of the sinking of a passenger liner that eerily prefigured the fate of the Titanic was written in 1898. The Wreck of the Titan, or Futility was similar enough to the 1912 disaster that many commentators credited its author, Morgan Robertson, with clairvoyance. Robertson himself said the similarities were explained by his extensive knowledge of shipbuilding and maritime trends.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • WH,


    A US jury has convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. Manafort faces a possible retrial of the ten charges on which the jury could not reach a verdict and a further trial on separate charges of money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements to federal agents and conspiring to defraud the Treasury Department.

    In addition, Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney, has pleaded guilty to eight violations of tax, banking and campaign finance laws.

    As Alexandra Petri tried to explain yesterday, it's an unusual situation, but not everything that's important about it is in the public domain.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to WH,

    Are these convictions of the sort that Trump can't pardon?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7743 posts Report Reply

  • WH, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Vox has summarised some US legal opinion here and here.

    The discussion is around whether the granting of a pardon can constitute obstruction of justice, whether a pardon prevents the recipient from invoking the privilege against self-incrimination and whether a Presidential pardon can protect the recipient from prosecution at the state level.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • WH,


    Above: the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    During the last meeting of his cabinet on 14 April 1865 – the day of his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth – President Abraham Lincoln spoke of a recurring dream that had preceded nearly every great and important event of the US Civil War.

    Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, recorded the President’s remarks in his diary (see p.282). Lincoln’s Assistant Secretary of State, Frederick Seward, noted them in his memoirs (p.255):

    The conversation turning upon the subject of sleep, Mr. Lincoln remarked that a peculiar dream of the previous night was one that had occurred several times in his life, – a vague sense of floating – floating away on some vast and indistinct expanse, toward an unknown shore. The dream itself was not so strange as the coincidence that each of its previous recurrences had been followed by some important event or disaster, which he mentioned.

    The usual comments were made by his auditors. One thought it was merely a matter of coincidences. Another laughingly remarked, “at any rate it cannot presage a victory nor a defeat at this time, for the war is over”.

    I suggested, “perhaps at each of these periods there were possibilities of great change or disaster, and the vague feeling of uncertainty may have led to the dim vision in sleep”.

    “Perhaps,” said Mr. Lincoln, thoughtfully, "perhaps that is the explanation”.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the richest men in history. A member of the First Triumvirate, Crassus is known for the brutal means by which he put down the rebellion led by Spartacus – re-introducing the decimation and crucifying 6,000 prisoners along the Appian Way. Crassus is also remembered for employing a team of fire-fighters and negotiating the terms on which it would provide assistance while the owners’ buildings were on fire.

    In 55 B.C., Crassus made preparations to leave Rome at the head of an army comprised of more than seven legions to begin an invasion of Parthia (modern day Turkey, Iraq and Iran). The Parthians had a peace agreement with the Romans, and the effort was widely considered an unjustifiable instrument of Crassus’ greed and lust for glory.

    Following the ritual taking of the auspices, a tribune, Gaius Ateius Capito, made a report of dirae – the sighting of omens of the most disastrous kind – as Crassus swore his oaths of service on Capitoline Hill. A variety of ancient sources, such as Plutarch, Cicero and Cassius Dio, record the devout Romans’ rising concern at the ominous signs that accompanied the campaign.

    Crassus nevertheless proceeded to Syria, and, following a season of minor successes, crossed the Euphrates in 53 B.C.. Crassus made a series of truly awful decisions – including refusing the help of a large force suited to engaging the Parthian cavalry – and the battle that followed at Carrhae was one of the greatest calamities in the history of the Empire: 20,000 legionaries were killed, a further 10,000 were sold into slavery; Crassus’ son died in an ill-advised cavalry charge, Crassus himself was killed during abortive peace negotiations.

    Divination and witchcraft are more dangerous and more common than you think they are. Don’t get involved in the occult.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to WH,

    But surely the more direct moral of that story is: don’t get involved in greed, narcissism, and megalomania. The occult is irrelevant, and was treated as such by that ruler, however Crass he was.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1810 posts Report Reply

  • WH, in reply to linger,

    Roman generals were not permitted to begin a military campaign without a taking of the auspices and a receipt of positive signs.

    Crassus doesn’t seem to have been unduly burdened by piety – he had ransacked the Jewish temple in Jerusalem the year before the disaster at Carrhae. You can get a sense of the old accounts from Cassius Dio, you can also have a look at The Departure of Crassus for Parthia on Jstor.

    don’t get involved in greed, narcissism, and megalomania

    There’s a lot of truth in that, I think.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Bear this in mind the next time you see an apparently inexplicable outburst or politically important faux pas.

    How seriously should you take this? Well, Elon Musk is one of the most important figures in technology today. He almost single-handedly revived the electric car and runs a company that launches rockets for NASA at a fraction of the old market price.

    Enter Claire Boucher, Azealia Banks and the SEC.

    The problem is real.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to WH,

    for anyone who missed 2018 I assume.

    To be honest I’ve been wondering about the message you’re trying to convey with that John Malkovich clip since you sent it to me here some weeks back as part of that series of gaslighty "There’s a subtext to Mark’s comments that you may not be aware of." insinuations that I was promoting terrorism or something as part of your rigorous defence of the human rights of ex-leaders of the National Party.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2194 posts Report Reply

  • WH, in reply to mark taslov,

    While I don't mean to be unpleasant, I don’t want to continue our conversation about Hone Harawira and Don Brash.

    Since Nov 2006 • 766 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to WH,

    I’m sure no one wants that – as I said, I’m wondering what the intended meaning of the video is given you previously directed it at me – specifically – without comment when you came at me in that thread – and then reposted it today.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2194 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    Odious ex-Nat wages vendetta against Nats. Not a bad career move but job currently taken.

    Since Nov 2016 • 215 posts Report Reply

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