Putting The Dead On Trial. (Not the Grateful Dead. The Really Dead.)

From March 11th, 2013

Will the defendant please rise (from the dead)…My friend, the psychic…Repetition and Incontinence….Repetition and Incontinence….”

If you think you can escape the Russian justice system once you are dead, well you may want to reconsider your assumptions. This week Sergei Magnitsky, a former Russian lawyer, a formerly living former Russian lawyer and auditor went on trial to face charges of corruption in Moscow. Tricky thing about it is poor Sergei has been dead since 2009, which may explain the sizable delivery of pine tree air fresheners to the Moscow courthouse. When it comes down to it, nobody wants to be exhumed. It is, after all, undignified. But to be pulled out of the eternal slumber for a court appearance must be just about as low as it goes, although at least you’re already dressed for the occasion. There is no doubt the defendant may go down in history as one of the most well-behaved in Russia’s justice system, but even so, something is rotten a few hundred miles east of Denmark. What seems to amount to a serious smear tactic to the Magnitsky name by the Russian government has actually posthumously made the man a symbol of heroism in a system of corruption so severe that factory workers apparently have to bribe their punch clock to record the correct time.

As much as I can piece together Mr. Magnitsky was hired by a corporation to disentangle a tax issue and found that the reason the corporation’s taxes couldn’t be found was because some low level government types had simply kept the payments for themselves. To be fair it had been cold that year, in Russia, and what with the heating bills and the new Marussia B-2 sports car that had recently premiered, well, it’s almost understandable. A combination of sleek engineering, speed, luxury and top of the line suspension, it is the elite Russian roadster. Power, Style, Sophistication. Marussia!

Magnitsky reported the theft to the authorities, or in other words, the thieves’ friends and coincidentally wound up in jail. That, apparently, is a pretty big no-no. Big no-no. Actually we’ll tack an extra ‘no’ to that. No-no-no. Magnitsky died in jail of…the official government report is…he died of “guilt and shame,” and, three years later, now that he finally has his day in court, maybe the truth will come out. But then again, probably not.

Life’s too valuable and short to wind up in some gulag shoveling the warden’s driveway with a soup spoon simply because you were doing what you were supposed to be doing. (I don’t know the Russian word for warden. It’s probably something like ‘Drago’. That sounds good. Drago it is.)  If you are smart enough to figure out a complicated tax fraud scheme but fall short when it comes to realizing that the criminals are in charge of the law, well, that’s when a non-violent tax attorney gets hit with a variety of vindictive charges and ends up being run down in the snow by a Drago’s 200 pound Caucasian Mountain Shepherd.

I guess when a government is openly referred to as a ‘kleptocracy’ you know there are some thieving bastards in charge. (Not my word, if any Russian government officials happen to be reading this.) Even western ‘plutocrats’ stateside breathe a sigh of relief at not being labeled ‘a system of government by which people just grab the shit that isn’t nailed down’. At least  plutocrats have the decency to bribe the lawmakers to legalize the theft before they start filling their pockets.  Let’s hope Mr. Magnitsky is found not guilty. I’m not superstitious but if any restless ghost was going to return from the dead to lay waste to everything in its wake, Mr. Magnitsky would be the leading candidate.  Requiescat In Pace.

I value my seclusion. But every once in awhile staring at walls and reading abstruse Viennese postmodernism gets a little boring. So I was happy when an old friend of mine stopped by unannounced. He told me that he had recently got a new job.

“I’m a psychic,” he said.

“Whoa, how many people have you killed?”

“Not a psychotic. A psychic.”

“Aha.”

I asked him about my immediate future and he commented that it seemed a bit murky, so I pulled out a bottle of Tullamore Dew and poured up two glasses. He apologized, saying he was still new at the gig but the murk he had seen in my future did look a little like Irish whiskey, now that he thought about it. He’s got a bit of a “lonely wanderer” style to him, my friend, and while he would be a fine character straight out of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road”, I suppose hanging out and answering the phone to predict people’s futures is just as reasonable. Particularly, as he explained, that he just lets the calls come to him. No travel necessary. I wondered whether he had been given this psychic gift through some mishap, like getting struck by lightning or drinking water near a fracking well. He elaborated that it was more like being a therapist that every once in awhile throws in something about star alignment or mentions a particular card in a tarot deck and voila, you’ve got your prescience.

“Most of the stuff is pretty standard,” he said. “Like if someone says they found an apple that day, and then found two more the following day and were promised three more by the  end of the week…”

“You just tell him or her that they’ll probably have six apples soon, but to be mindful of the six apples because Regulus is in retrograde?” I said.

I’m a natural.

I was in a bar the other day waiting for Godot to show up (he never did) but it didn’t matter because there were upwards of fifty televisions mounted everywhere and so who cares if some God-like providential figure fails to arrive. Screw him. Instead I was bombarded by news. Lots of news. The same news. Over and over and over. With that type of repetition either the media outlets are trying to capture the valuable goldfish demographic or just cater to people who watch television as they are strolling past one.

My goldfish theory began to gain credibility as there was suddenly a commercial for the Georgia Aquarium, but this was overshadowed by the next commercial. Some semi-old woman was dancing because she had a diaper that didn’t leak. Except they didn’t call it a diaper. It was called something else. Maybe it wasn’t a dance. The movements were hard to describe. Capering? A gambol, of sorts. A lively jump-about? Whatever it was, she was moving, shaking her rump back and forth, showing off her old woman pee-pee catchers. Although they weren’t called that. They were called something else. Incontinence is an onerous thing. I’m glad there are products to effectively combat it. I may need some myself someday. But the commercial ran twenty or so times in an hour. After awhile I felt that the main event was a woman tempting her bladder to unleash, interspersed by three bits of news. It was the repetition that was shocking, and then the shock was my own acceptance of this woman dancing across the television screen every five minutes or so, with a look of elation either because she was dancing or filling her draws with urine in a consequence-free situation because of these hermetic, super-absorbent wee-wee pads. Although they weren’t called wee-wee pads. They were called something else.

Back to the actual news channels. The 24-hour kind. These people are exhausting. Repetition is a necessary condition for any indoctrination, and to have the same story on every fifteen minutes is no longer news, it’s a form of manipulation. Ask anyone from Jim Jones’s PeoplesTown about repetition. Well, you probably can’t because they all drank cyanide and died. That alone proves the point. Jim Jones put the fear of God in his followers through his 24/7 pre-taped public address broadcasts and the result is 900 people laying in a big pile with blue lips and glazed eyes. Too much spinning in place causes the brain to shut off, the mouth to drool, the tongue to cluck and people to start scratching the ground in a rasorial fashion, like chickens looking for food. I may have to start an on-line petition for these news channels to go squid-ink black for a week, just to see if anyone is the worse for it. Of course, normal program interruption for a serious issue may still occur, but the constant chirp of unruly human parrots would be, albeit temporarily, silenced. I fear my request for no 24-hour televised media will go unheeded, though. Too much money to be made. So for now, the next time I am stuck at a bar with some polished puppet ranting at me I will just pretend the ‘newsperson’ is speaking in the same gross dialect as that talking stain from that Tide Stain Remover Superbowl ad from about five years ago. I have included the link, because it is that funny.

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