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Boris and Natasha are back in official remake of spy fantasy

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Talk about a mixed blessing: a week's vacation in New York City combined with an Internet connection too spotty to post blogs and, for news, only Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, kindly provided by the hotel.

Well, the penultimate performance of Hair was brilliant and the restaurants were great, but the odious Post turned out to be almost as entertaining. There was this spy scandal, see, in case you missed it. You know, the one with the "femme fatale," the "red-hot beauty" with a "Victoria’s Secret body."

I'm not making this up. Really, you can't make up stuff like this.

The Post is the U.S. ruling class's bulletin board for the American hoi polloi, plus the instructional manual for Murdoch's broadcast enterprises. As such, it sets the ideological tone for news coverage in the United States, and Canada too. It devoted acres of editorial real estate to this so-called spy scandal -- most of which, alas, doesn't seem to be available on its Website. Never mind, all you really need to know, dear readers, is that even though Communism may be dead and the KGB is a thing of the past, these guys were rotten Commies through and through who "flitted from high-profile parties to top-secret meetings around Manhattan."

They were moles, for heaven's sake, sleepers deeply entrenched in American society, with good American names like Cynthia Murphy and Anna Chapman, who, talk about perfidious, turned out not even to be a natural redhead. (How does the Post figure out stuff like this?) Like the Manchurian Candidate, they were just waiting to be awoken and….

And what? What were these guys actually going to do, you ask? Well, you’d have to dig pretty deep in the Post or most anywhere else to find out. But here's an explanation from a June 29 story in the grey and respectable New York Times: "The assignments, described in secret instructions intercepted by the FBI, were to collect routine political gossip and policy talk that might have been more efficiently gathered by surfing the Web. And none of the 11 people accused in the case face charges of espionage, because in all those years they were never caught sending classified information back to Moscow, American officials said." The FBI charged them all "with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government."

Say what? They were acting as unregistered agents? They were sending back press clippings? Don’t certain other countries also do this kind of thing routinely? You know, countries like Israel, and, in the case of Canada, the United States?

And speaking of Canada, back here in the True North, we learned (although not from the relentlessly parochial Post) that our very own spymaster, our domestic answer to James Jesus Angleton (I told you you couldn't make up stuff like this), one Richard Fadden, came in from the cold just long enough to warn us that some Canadian governments actually have cabinet ministers who have "developed quite an attachment to foreign countries."

Well, holy cow! Agents of influence! This is news? Oh, wait. It is news. You see, it turns out he wasn't speaking about the two foreign governments most beloved by members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet. (Which figures, actually, seeing as he would have had to file a Message Event Proposal with the Prime Minister's Office before he could say anything.) He was speaking about the Chinese! You know, the formerly Communist Chinese!

It's almost like we were back into the good old, I mean the bad old, days of the Cold War.

Whatever can it mean? Well, usually in such cases the best advice is to follow the money. Could it be that after a decade of terrifying official baloney, terrorism is growing just a little thin as an excuse for illegally suspended civil rights, illegal domestic spying, illegal police beatings of passers-by who make the wrong fashion choices and the astronomical budgets this nonsense requires?

After all, plenty of taxpayers may instinctively back the police when they've just heard the news that 1,000 people had to be arrested for wearing dark T-shirts. But lots of them will think twice about it when they realize how many of the troublemakers were officers in anarchist drag and that the terrorist the cops violated the constitution to beat up turned out to be the retired schoolteacher next door.

But even more will reconsider when they think about how much this is going to cost them. Citizens can do the math, and the terror industry is about to go the way of the "war on drugs" as a credible source of money for the organs of state security and their best pals in government.

And so, voila, spies are back in vogue. Mata Hari is hanging out at parties in New York and espionage is all the rage again. The Cold War is suddenly as hot as a Russian spy mistress in a New York Post photo spread.

What's next? Igor Gouzenko climbing out of his grave, a moldering bag on his head and an unconstitutional libel writ clutched in his paw, to warn us that this time it's even worse: Boris and Natasha aren't just planning to steal the plans to our atom bombs. This time they want our routine political gossip and policy talk too!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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