THE STREET CORNER – Once again we are out here patrolling Texas to keep it safe from the Ruskies. Obviously no one else is doing it, so the job falls to us, and suddenly it is a much more important job. If you just got back from building your part of the wall on the Rio, I will quickly bring you up to speed. Everyone — except our President — knows the Russians tried to influence the 2016 President elections in favor of Donald Trump. What we didn’t know is how they operated in Texas. Top Kremlin spies, Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova and Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, came to Texas and, using phony names, PayPal and fake emails, got Texans to fight one another, demonstrate, and counter demonstrate to help Trump. It was an easy success. The Kremlin even hatched opposition to the annual military exercise, Jade Helm 15, getting the more gullible among us, a majority, to fear Obama was going to confiscate our howitzers and militarily seize the state.
End of the story, right? Wrong. For now we must deal with the polezni durak. Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and an expert on all things sneaky and Russian, flatly says the Russians got Trump elected President. Gen. Hayden also may solve a mystery: “The most benign explanation as to why Trump seems to not criticize Putin is a phase from the Soviet Union: polezni durak, ‘the useful idiot,’ the sort of person the Kremlin secretly held in contempt but went all out to exploit.” That’s a chilling thought. We’re being governed by a useful idiot? That does explain a lot, although many Americans’ contempt for the President is not so secret. We also have a new fly in the borsht. It’s a virtual currency called Bitcoin, which sounds like a dime with teeth marks. Bitcoins leave no fingerprints, no paper trail. It didn’t take long for Russian military intelligence officials to spot this new tool and use it. So if you suddenly start getting funds from an anonymous source, do the patriotic thing: call me and we’ll split it.
What about Texas? Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged that the Internet Research Agency – the Kremlin’s disinformation operation — is “engaged in political and electoral interference operations” across the United States, especially in swing states like Florida. But a Texas organization was mentioned several times. We must assume that agents Krylova and Burchik are making their plans to infiltrate Texas again, if they haven’t already landed and are putting their disasters in place. (Have you checked out the Astros’ bullpen lately?) A major part of the Internet Research Agency’s M/O is the distraction. Notice how Trump keeps trying to turn Americans’ attention to something other than Russian collusion? NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem, fake news, an FBI agent’s notes to his lover, porn stars. Oh, wait, forget the last one.
Putin (“Pootie” to our President) knows his targets: someone so egomaniacal as to really believe all the flattery, promises and photo ops. Art of the deal? This is the Great Negotiator who moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, where it had been alongside every other nation’s embassy, to Jerusalem and got zero in return. This is the same savvy deal maker who agreed to cancel the joint U.S.-South Korean military which had been held for decades and he received in return? Nothing. We got taken, snookered, conned. His next book should be called “The Art of the Steal.” Also, your useful idiot needs an enemy — someone or some group to attack and, when doing so, receives cheers from a fawning crowd. In this case, the press, immigrants, then immigrants and the press. This the Age of the Demagogue. Find a leader who appeals to our worst instincts, and don’t forget fear. All we have to fear are fear mongers themselves. “They are storming across our borders! Build a wall! They are breaking into our houses. Grab a gun! Global warming and dirty air are hoaxes. Build an ark and get a gasmask!”
Let’s put ourselves in the place of Krylova and Burchik. Which Texas leader is the Official State Demagogue? Who keeps pandering to our fears, paranoia and cynicism? The usual suspects are numerous. We have a state attorney general who keeps us occupied with local ordinances on plastic bags, constantly suing Washington to leave Texas alone, free to pollute and turn away selected voters, all the while neatly obscuring the fact that he is facing criminal hard time for fraud. Our land commissioner doled out $400,000 in bonuses to agency employees and billed taxpayers for personal out-of-state trips that included receiving a “Jesus shot” in Oklahoma. Gov. Greg Abbott is a Trump lapdog.
The Texas Legislative Study Group reported the state ranks 50th among states in percentage of high school graduates, first in amount of carbon emissions, first in hazardous waste produced, last in voter turnout, first in percentage of people without health insurance, and second in percentage of uninsured kids. Texas ranks fourth highest for teenage birth rate, the lowest in the nation for women with health insurance, and is the second lowest in the nation for percent of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester. Texas also ranks the fourth highest for percentage of women living in poverty. We are 44th in high school graduation rates and 47th in SAT scores. In higher education, in Texas, only 51 percent of students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, meaning that only 17 percent of Texans will earn a bachelor’s degree.
So what did the Texas Legislature spend its time and our money on during this last session? Transgender school bathrooms, the good ol’ distraction. And who spearheaded this entire slight-of-hand? Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He fits all the criteria – demagoguing, egomaniacal, pandering to our fears, etc. Could it be that Dan Patrick is our own polezni durak?
Ashby is suspicious at email@example.com