Break Out the Wodka

It feels like a remake of Sweet Little Sixteen. Just change the lyrics a little.

He’s got ’em rockin’ in Moscow
In Beijing, Hebei
Deep in the heart of China
In North KO-RE-E-A

Way down in Crimea
Across Manila Bay
All the cats wanna dance with
Sweet little DJ

Yes indeed, they’ll be cracking out the Russian Standard these days in Red Square. And the square of heavenly peace. Glory days like these come once a century.

Everything’s gone a little nuts since Wednesday morning—dollar shot up, so did copper. Pound shot up, as speculation on a UK rate rise became rampant, and the brexit + trexit = succexit camp reveled.

Leonard Cohen preempted the Trump victory in the most appropriate way, and all I did this Monday was dump dollars.

Last night I went through the few Cohen songs I still know how to play: Suzanne; Chelsea Hotel, which he wrote after a one-night stand with Janis Joplin; and The Partisan, a classic about the French resistance in the Second World War. Not forgetting Marianne, and the song Joe Cocker immortalized: Bird On A Wire—both written for his longtime muse, Marianne Ihlen, who died earlier this year.

It helped me to sing those old songs, and to share a few tears with an old friend—he was always there for me on those dark nights in my English boarding school.

Cohen’s final album is called ‘You Want It Darker.’ What could be more appropriate.

Well, good old Donald’s ahead of me on the dollars, but with his plans for US debt, it won’t last. Personally, I think the markets are in headless chicken mode, and as January approaches both the nights and the knives will get longer.

After I went to Las Vegas in the spring, I was convinced this election might well end up giving the US this ‘accidental president’, and after Brexit I was sure. I owe you all an apology for boring you with these scribblings for weeks—but if ever there was a relevant historical topic, this is it.

Meantime, I worked on an early draft of my new book, The Hourglass—and I’m still only a third of the way in, with characters and concepts jockeying for position. Sometime around June, President David Klomp elbowed his way into my pages, right there in chapter 2.

I usually only share text when my book is already in good shape, but as Cohen says in Chelsea Hotel, for you I will make an exception.

President Klomp was late. Don Pletz paced the huge entrance hall, aware that a roomful of extremely busy men and women waited impatiently at the back of the mansion—among them, the British prime minister, the top adviser of the European Commission, and key world leaders in banking, insurance, and oil.

Pletz knew the discussion was super-sensitive, which is why the group was meeting in Maine, not Manhattan. He’d been thinking about this for years, a problem that hamstrung GDP growth, and made politicians act even more stupid than usual—calling referendums they couldn’t win, and making wild promises they had no way of keeping.

At the core, it boiled down to one, simple, four letter word.

The secret service men morphed into animated Action Man puppets, striding, taking positions, and murmuring into microphones. Pletz heard the blades of the Sikorsky VH-3D overhead and followed the presidential detail toward the helipad.

Marine One was given ground clearance by the senior security officer, and a large, ruddy man, running to flab, descended. The new tenant of the White House—POTUS as he was known to the acronym-rich US military—walked toward Pletz, the chopper downwash tangling his perennially messy hair into a stylist’s nightmare.

Klomp was a no-nonsense businessman, the sort of guy who disdained career politicians and had no patience or knowledge of detailed analysis—his approach to government appealed widely to his core voters—he trusted his gut.

Pletz greeted the president, a corporate magnate who he’d known for years. Personally, like many business people, he thought Klomp was a fool—a thin-skinned, self-obsessed, conceited buffoon. The chairman of Goldstein was a New Yorker like Klomp, and he knew a con when he saw one—the president was an empty set, and the campaign rhetoric about fixing Wall Street and main street was just a bag of nothing.

Goldstein Pletz had put a package together for this client, a marvel of easy solutions to complex problems. After all, that’s what an investment bank did best, from sub-prime mortgages to sovereign debt. Now, Pletz thought, as he showed the president into the meeting room, all I have to do is sell the package.

Signor Presidente.” The senior European Commissioner, a stubby Italian career politician with a face like a mole, shook the great man’s hand. There was no need for false smiles and photo-ops here—any reporter found within the perimeter would be dropped into the lake with a lead weight round his neck.

Next came the ‘special relationship’, a woman who guided the destiny of the United Kingdom. Pletz watched the dowdy, non-descript British PM pay homage to POTUS—it was well known that career politicians loathed him, just as he in turn despised them. Well, Brit politicians often referred to their nation as a corporation, UK plc: now she’d find out what it really meant—and agree to it.

“Welcome to the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen.” The president formally opened the meeting. “We were asked to meet here, in beautiful Maine, by our good friends at Goldstein Pletz. As you know, Goldstein is good for business, and business is good for America.” POTUS seemed well pleased with this quip. His hand absently ran his mussed hair forward.

“This great country was made great by deal-makers, and secrecy is the heart of the deal. It’s a pleasure to bring together the key players of the Western world, our friends from Europe, from Britain. I’ll tell ya—“the man in the red tie and the rumpled blue suit used the familiar tones that had won him the election—“Lemme tell ya, what we’re doing here today, I mean, this is the best deal you’ll ever make.”

He’s going off the reservation, Pletz thought. Cut with the bullshit already.

“Now, when I heard about this deal, understood the story here, I knew. I knew, people, that it would work.” People? Pletz could see the faint distaste on the British premier’s face, as if confronted with a particularly pungent plate of haddock.

One thing Tuesday did for me, it gave me a lot more motivation to work on The Hourglass. I’m going to leave you today with a little bit of homework, to help put the new leader of the free world in perspective.

The first gem is an article published in August by Anne Applebaum, a woman who was repeatedly insulted during the campaign by the anti-Jewish lobby of the Trump campaign. News today of how the president-elect plans to involve his family in the running of USA, Inc., very much supports her thesis.

The second piece was published yesterday in the Guardian. Among other things it suggests Sarah Palin might become interior secretary, in charge of emblematic parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone.

Yogi Bear will be turning in his grave.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

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