1. Harvard is always careful to filter out murderers among its students. We all remember the ghosts of the Puritans who founded Harvard howling with glee as the current establishment made sure Michelle Jones, who served time for murdering her children, was refused entry after she had served 20 years in  jail.  Cause you can’t give a second chance to people, that’s not how God’s right hand operates! However, in the interest of amity, harmony and all things sweet and petrochemical smelling, Harvard was all set to celebrate giving a weeklong class to the former minister of the interior of Saudi Arabia, Prince Turki al Faisal, a close personal friend of the reformer Prince MBS,  when the reformer Prince went a bit too far with the bonesaw. Disappointingly, Prince Turki will not now tell eager Harvardites how to properly flog a dissident blogger, or how to investigate witchcraft and make sure that the chopping block for witches is good and ready. The latter topic was dear to the hearts of Harvard’s puritan founders, so they are probably a bit blue in their heavenly mansions. 
  2. There’s money in helping imprison dissidents, starve children, and meet congresspersons! The New York Times has a long article about the distinguished McKinsey Group, business consultants who are to the working class today what Pinkerton was to the working class in the 1890s – pretty much the sworn enemy. Given the moral lowness of the business, it is no surprise that, caught fingering dissidents for their Saudi clients, they come up with perhaps the worst excuse since, well, since the last Trump tweet: it was all for “internal use”. Of course, it was all coincidence that Saudi critics of the regime that they named have been arrested. They are just so shocked! Although not shocked enough not to attend Prince Bone Saw’s Davos in the Desert thingamajig. Booz Allen Hamilton is simpler: the money in fascism has always been good, and they are there for the money – ie they don’t give a shit if it looks bad.  Irin has a long write up  about a Saudi propaganda ploy in which a billion and a half has been pledged to relieve Yemen, while of course they keep blockading the ports and starving the population. It is the Theresianstadt maneuver – you’ll remember the cute village set up by the Nazis in a concentration camp to trick neutral observers? Well, if you don’t, surely somebody at Boozy Bloody Allen has.From the latter article:“Exact details of how (and if) the plan is intended to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Yemeni civilians – especially in rebel-controlled areas – are not yet clear. However, IRIN can reveal the lengths Riyadh has gone to in preparing and promoting it.The press release journalists received announcing the plan came neither from the coalition itself nor from Saudi aid officials. It came, along with an invitation to visit Yemen, straight from a British PR agency.

    UK- and US-based consultants and PR firms, including US defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, were also involved in helping to write and promote YCHO, which is tagged as “counter-terrorism” on a website funded by the kingdom’s US embassy.

     

    All of this has fed suspicions that rather than a genuine attempt to help the people of Yemen, the plan is really intended more to gloss over the Hodeidah issue and improve Saudi Arabia’s battered image, or at least a bit of both.

    From PowerPoint to press release

    Two high-placed sources in the UN told IRIN they first learned the particulars of YCHO in a PowerPoint presentation – at the time a “work in progress”, according to one of the sources.

    A PDF of the presentation, obtained exclusively by IRIN and marked “confidential for discussion”, lists one “Nahas, Nicholas [USA]” as the author.

    Nahas appears to be an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, which has 35 job listings in Riyadh on its website, including “military planner”, a role that requires the applicant to: “Provide military and planning advice and expertise to support the coordination of Joint counter threat operations executed by coalition member nations and facilitate resourcing to enable operations.”

    IRIN tried emailing and calling Nahas, as well as several Booz Allen Hamilton spokespeople, but none replied. A switchboard operator at the company’s Abu Dhabi office said Nahas was not currently in.

    Following the initial PowerPoint presentation (and, IRIN understands, high-level discussions with UN representatives, donors, and diplomats), press releases – including detailed maps and infographics – were sent to journalists by Pagefield Global Counsel, one of several successors to disgraced UK firm Bell Pottinger (Pagefield employs over 20 former Bell Pottinger staff).

    IRIN tried to contact the Pagefield associate partner who sent the emails and was involved in arranging a recent press trip to Yemen, but again there was no response.

    Metadata in the press release suggests the involvement of another firm as it lists “Madison Clough” as the author. A woman of the same name is a senior account executive at Qorvis MSLGROUP, one of several PR firms and subcontractors retained by Saudi Arabia to represent it in the United States. Clough, again, did not reply to IRIN’s emailed request for comment.”

  3. This is my day not to read the news, since all the forces in play in the election in the U.S. are now immovably set, and there is nothing I can do but stress. I learned my lesson in 2016, when I kept assuring A. that there was no way Donald Trump was winning, since at the last minute vote counts would adjust to what everybody knew. That was a year after, I believe, I grandly predicted that Brexit was a flash in the pan, no way the UK was going to break away from the EU. So my predictor of what the masses – at least the masses of voters – will decide is somewhat out of synch with what they, after being sorted out by racist laws and administrators who go the extra mile to preserve Jim Crow, decide. And as to the Jim Crow, the lack of urgency on this issue by the Democratic party is an astonishment that — I won’t go on about.
     
    Rather, today I am going to read analyses of the Romanian referendum on marriage. I was unaware that rightwing groups – the usual drooling orthodox churches, the evangelicals, the fascists – had worked long and hard, in conjunction with the ruling party, to put the anti-gay legislation to a vote. I was heartened that they lost, since less than 30 percent voted. I was also heartened that the new denigratory term in Romania is Sexo-Marxism – that is, any questioning of the “natural” Christian order. This long report by Oana Mateescu has as much pertinence to today’s elections in the U.S. as it does to the referendum in Romania.  Lately, I’ve been reading Jeff Love’s book about Alexandre Kojeve, The Black Circle, and thinking about Kojeve’s crazy view of History as a sort of real force, which closes on itself at some point (after Jena? After Stalin?) and leaves us all outside of history – in post-history. I’m going to review that book for Willett’s. Though I don’t agree with it, the Viconian idea of historical cycles has always fascinated me. If we are in a cycle now, it is hard not to think that it is a vast cycle of imbecility, in which we – that is, a goodly number of human beings – have deliberately turned against what we know, or have learned, in every field, from the humanities to the hardcore sciences. One of the great beliefs of the liberal era was that once we know something, we can’t go on denying it. The crime against the intellect is a crime against the very self, which is bound to knowledge the way Odysseus was bound by ropes to the mast of his ship so he could withstand the song of the sirens. The liberal era could countenance every perversity, it could even countenance sacrifice – that ultimate act against self-interest – but not the deliberate choosing of ignorance. And then, here we are…

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Roger
I am a translator, author and editor living in Paris. I finished a novel in March, and am busy trying to find an agent. In the meantime, I thought I'd like to start a magazine. Willett's is meant to be a venue for the review of books, personal reflections, and political bitching - and everything else.

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