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Guest Post: On ‘Shithole Countries’

Liked this by posted today at CounterPunch. His point’s almost obvious once you get it. Sad.

Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa

When Donald Trump referred to countries like Nigeria and really, all of Africa, and the long-suffering island of Haiti in the Caribbean as “shitholes” to a bunch of stunned members of Congress yesterday, he was not just showing his deeply-rooted ugly racist self, but also his profound ignorance about the world — and his own country.

The truth is that yesterday’s “shithole countries” often become today’s modern success stories. Norway is a case in point. As late as the early 1960s, Norway, as Paul Thornton, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, himself a descendant of Norwegian immigrants to the US, writes,  once was “the shithole of Scandinavia,” its people viewed by more prosperous and modern Swedes and Danes as poor, ignorant farmers, Then the country struck oil in the North Sea, and since then, avoiding going the route of many oil-producing nations, has become one of the richest countries in the world on a per-capita basis, with a standard of living about 25% higher than ours here in the US, and with the wealth much more evenly and fairly distributed, too.

Read the full article at CounterPunch.

More by Dave Lindorff at This Can’t Be Happening!

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Helpful Hashtags 4 Men

Hey guys, it’s getting dangerous to be a man especially if your name is in wide circulation. Look at all those media makhers going down. So what about the rest of us blokes who don’t figure in People Magazine or have six-figure incomes? We might not get national attention for alleged conquests but our reputations could easily be besmirched too. And it’s most likely to happen on that most public of social media, Twitter. It’s time to get proactive, @VulnerableDudes.

Continue reading “Helpful Hashtags 4 Men”

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How Not to Unwind a Clockwork Orange

According to [Michael] Wolff’s book [“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”], various White House staff, advisors and acquaintances referred to Trump as an idiot, dope, moron and dumb as shit. However, another said he could be a halfwit if he applied himself. ~Humorist Ben Alper

Bottom line on top: We might make more traction against the empire if we quit name-baiting Donald Trump. The empire will strike back if we fail to prevail.

Our President may be an easy mark to ridicule but CounterPunch (which this piece was written for) is no joke. It’s a forum for serious and informed discussion of (almost uniformly alarming) current events that mainstream media tiptoe around, not a venue for parody or satire. Its contributors are serious and well grounded in their self-selected domains of reality. Their articles are generally well sourced, high-minded, and come with an attitude. But when it comes to reporting or reflecting on accidental president Donald Trump, vexed authors can lapse into hyperbolic ad hominems that add little meat to the political stew we’re in.

It starts with the name-calling. We find Trump referred to here as the “Insane Clown President,” “jackass,” “Agent Orange,” “Dotard-in-Chief,” and “Hair Furher,” and that’s just from one article. Other pejoratives gracing these pages include “huckster,” “tangerine nightmare,” “buffoonish mountebank,” “idiot,” “miscreant,” “unhinged,” and the frequently found bon mot “fucking moron.” Think back. Has the left ever talked about a president this way? Well sure, we had our Tricky Dick, Ronnie Raygun, and Shrub, but was it ever this personal? Are all our sobriquets and brickbats getting us where we want to go?

Just because he’s a vain ADD sociopath doesn’t require his critics to dwell on the symptoms. And while I’ve hoisted his petard a few times, my sarcasm gave me scant satisfaction. Let’s leave giving Trump virtual wedgies to late-night comedians and folks at the Onion and the above Ben Alper who professionally recirculate Trump memes we have come to love to hate. An article on Trump-as-comedic-fodder by Jesse David Fox at vulture.com dissecting the state of the art opines:

“A lot of the stuff now is … just the first step you think of,” legendary comedy writer Jack Handy told Mike Sacks on the Doin’ It podcast. “That’s what [people making political comedy now] do, rather than going to the second or third step.” The thing is, it is hard to find extra steps to be taken with Trump. To put it mildly, he’s real, you know, surfacey, and so it goes that the art about him would be, too.

“Sure, there are jokes to make: Yeah, he’s orange, ha-ha,” said comedian Jen Kirkman, when I asked her if Trump was good for comedy, “but the answer is no. You’re either going to get the same jokes over and over, or we’re going to be normalizing him by making really silly jokes about him.” The truth is, the premise was exhausted before he was inaugurated.

If there’s anything Trump is good at besides chiseling and rent seeking, it’s grabbing attention. His métier has always been pursuing limelight for himself and his brand. His well-practiced antics in service of celebrity (later augmented by Steve Bannon’s stratagems and voter suppression) proved instrumental in getting him elected. To leaven its obsessive coverage of silly season, the media circus employed him as a clown, apparently regarding the rest of the field as less entertaining, boring by comparison and certainly less useful in attracting advertisers, clicks and page views.

Beyond repeating trite characterizations, too many articles on Trump make the same points, over and over: his egocentrism, thin skin, minuscule attention span, mental instability, factual vacuity, and functional illiteracy. Despite the media’s hammering, yammering, and tweeting and the barely concealed contempt of world leaders and some from his own party, he awkwardly abides, his body language betraying discomfort in his role. And no matter how many of his banalities, gaffes, untruths, and senseless provocations news media pounces upon, look away, look back, and he’s still there.

And so is a good part of his base, I hear, as yet insufficiently disgruntled. Recall that the alt-right was similarly convinced that “the Obamanation” was bent on destroying America. Orange-menace catcalls from “the resistance” are not charming them any more than their drone of racist and puerile epithets slandering #44 rallied liberals to their cause. Maybe we should cut the cuteness and instead focus on hammering home to the GOP base that it isn’t POC, immigrants, and libtards that have been excising their livelihoods—if not their livers—it’s capital, and it should be a capital offense.

Now Michael Wolff is telling the press that his book may be Trump’s final undoing. Speaking with the BBC, he said “I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear emperor-has-no-clothes effect.” And in an NPR interview, Wolff likened this presidency to a train wreck everyone working in the White House now sees coming. Through no fault of their own, Wolff quickly pointed out.

While Fire and Fury has stirred the pot of fear and loathing that’s been bubbling since before the election, getting it to boil over will take a lot more fuel. If Wolff thinks his huffing and puffing will blow the Trump White House down, he’s got delusions of grandeur. For that to happen there needs to be a game plan to unwind Trump, a plan that might involve impeachment, the 25th amendment, or a forced abdication, a plan that a number of power brokers will need to sign off on before it can go down. Petitions and hashtags won’t do it. Republicans can’t bear to do it. Democrats are too chickenshit to do it. His billionaire buddies see no need to do it. A disgruntled Secret Service won’t risk ejecting him from Air Force 1 (at least not without orders). The CIA might do it but wouldn’t unless he gets in its way. But should all this devolve into an international or constitutional crisis, our most powerful and by all accounts respected institution just might do it.

Are you ready for a military coup? Let’s see what the late-night comics do with that.

This article also appears in CounterPunch.

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The Net’s Good Old Boys (1)

Part 1: Hacking the Arpanet

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before the Internet, a time when computers took up more space than the acolytes who tended to their needs. In the 70s I was one such boffin, a postgrad hacking FORTRAN in a university R&D lab. Computers then were still quite dear, and so we made do with terminals that sucked electrons from the teat of a minicomputer several blocks away through fiber cable. Our digital host had recently been hooked up to the Arpanet, the Internet’s predecessor, giving us real-time access to several dozen academic, government, and military computers scattered across the US. We used it to chat and exchange files and email with people we knew here and there, but mostly we wasted time and bandwidth psyching out the robot psychotherapist Eliza and playing text-based games like Adventure and Hunt the Wumpus, just like today’s youth do but more primitively.

Continue reading “The Net’s Good Old Boys (1)”

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The Net’s Good Old Boys (2)

Part 2: If We Only Knew Then

Continued from Hacking the Arpanet

Although it seems like it, the Internet just didn’t assemble itself from a kit. Engineers made it. Engineers just want to design and build cool useful things. Generally they like this much more than repairing things they have sent into the world. And, for the most part, they are not wont to worry how their darlings might be used to destructive ends or what unforeseen consequences their adoption might occasion. Except for the evil ones, inventors steer clear of the dark side of their bright ideas as they push on to their next big thing.

Not that the rest of us can take much pride in foreseeing un-wished-for effects of technologies (or our actions, for that matter); due diligence is not most people’s thing. Somebody should be doing that but unless we engineer something, why should figuring out what could go wrong be our job? Well it is, because elites make rules, build stuff, and write code conducive to their own hegemonic aspirations. We the people are supposed to suck it all up without a peep, occasionally acknowledging that shit sometimes happens.

Continue reading “The Net’s Good Old Boys (2)”

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Guest Post: We the Sheeple

Even if you’re already convinced that the United States of America is a rogue nation under financial-military-industrial overlords, it’s well worth reading Jason Hirthler’s article in this weekend’s edition of CounterPunch, We the Sheeple: the Blind Reading the Blind, if only for the revealing quotation in its opening paragraph:

Shortly after the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, made a candid confession to the Army Times, “I’m running out of demons, I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il Sung.” Amid the general bonhomie of the military interview, Powell nicely encapsulated a central truth of empire: it doesn’t want peace. Never did. Imperialism, the monopoly stage of capitalism, is based on conquest. Peace is little more than an aftermath in the imperialist vision. It is the dusty rubble-strewn silence that descends on Aleppo when the jihadists have been bussed out. It is the silent pollution of the Danube when the NATO jets have flown. It is the quiet that settles on the Libyan square once the slave auction has concluded. Peace is an interlude between the birth of avarice and the advent of aggression. Little else.

Read the rest on CounterPunch.

One must also appreciate his spot-on assessment of the function that corporate media serve in legitimizing suspicions of uncooperative regimes and aggression on them, papering over the devastation created by US aggression, and fear-mongering terrorism while pretending it isn’t blowback. Depressingly few Americans understand how our empire works. It takes a while for it to sink in because we the people have been systematically deceived about America’s role in the world since the founding of the Republic. Hirthler’s superbly written diatribe is a badly needed civics lesson in how that works today. Read and share widely.

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Cutting Cords to Kurds: Facebook’s Foreign Policy

NOTE: This article has been updated to include subsequent events. It is also posted on CounterPunch.

One of my correspondents (let’s call her Jinwar), a supporter of autonomous areas in northwestern Kurdistan, notified me that Facebook had deleted her support group’s page plus her personal page as well those of others, requesting that the above graphic be shared widely on social media. (But before doing so, please read the last four paragraphs.)

Continue reading “Cutting Cords to Kurds: Facebook’s Foreign Policy”

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Judge Roy Moore Bumps and Grinds His Way to Washington

This is an update of the Daily Eruption post If These Allegations Are True. Representative clip from Fox News, 11/9/17.

As we sadly know, the GOP candidate to replace Alabama’s Jeff Sessions in a December special election, ex-ex-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, is a piece of work. Discharged from the bench twice for defying federal court orders to remove religious symbolism from his courthouse and permit legalized gay marriage, Moore has now been accused via the Washington Post by four women of juvenile seduction, including that of a 14-year-old (now 53) named Leigh Corfman who says on their second “date” he disrobed and fondled her in his bedroom.

Continue reading “Judge Roy Moore Bumps and Grinds His Way to Washington”

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The Company We Sadly Keep

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” ~ Upton Sinclair

A triple-threat epidemic is sweeping the land—not just some deadly virus, water-born disease, or auto-immune reactions to toxins, although those too plague us—but of secrecy, unaccountability, and impunity, bypassing checks and balances, impervious to any outside scrutiny or supervision. This cancer on the Republic has metastasized throughout halls of power and workplaces almost everywhere.

Continue reading “The Company We Sadly Keep”

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NPR, the CIA, and Assault of Corporatism

In her five-minute interview with Ursula Wilder, a CIA psychologist whose job there involves counseling returning spies, NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly (their alleged National Security Correspondent) went over what makes someone who reveals state secrets tick. Kelly failed big-time to probe Wilder about whether she ever thought an insider might ever have a patriotic motivation to inform the public of illegal behavior on the part of the agency. Based on Wilders’ profile of leakers, the answer would surely have been No, but it sure would have been nice to ask.

Continue reading “NPR, the CIA, and Assault of Corporatism”

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Trump for Dummies

Just when a consensus—including certain Republican and cabinet officials—is emerging that electing Donald Trump was a big mistake, a new book shows up to tell us how to make more mistakes like it. It’s from the creator of Dilbert and his crew of corporate miscreants and details how one won the 2016 presidential election. But Scott Adams’ Win Bigly is more than that; it’s sort of a Machiavelli for Dummies meets Fortunetelling for Dummies. It purports to demonstrate how readers can forecast outcomes, as he did of the 2016 election (emphasis his):

On August 13,2015, I predicted that Donald Trump had a 98 percent chance of winning the presidency based on his persuasion skills.

He proceeds to explain the way he came to that conclusion, including the number, and—Sad—how he suffered personally for having done that. Although, he asserts, Blogging and tweeting of The Donald’s inevitability cost him street cred, new licensing deals and speaking engagements, and half his friends, he stuck to his guns.

Continue reading “Trump for Dummies”

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Harvard, the CIA, and All That

After Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government rescinded its invitation to Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (whom Obama sprung from the brig by pardoning her), a chorus of protest (led by 19,000 Harvard alumni and 169 professors) ensued. The main issue, according to them and the press, was how the Institute of Politics (IOP) at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) caved to deep-state pressure. Specifically, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo cancelled his talk at the school, and former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell tendered his resignation to Harvard’s Belfer Center, saying “I cannot be a part of an organization…that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” apparently believing that only the best and brightest war criminals deserve such honorifics (horrorifics?). When, after all, has the CIA ever taken Harvard publicly to task for slack on the national security front?

Continue reading “Harvard, the CIA, and All That”

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A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect

Perhaps you haven’t noticed the investor class getting all gung-ho these days over Artificial Intelligence (AI). Only a couple of decades ago, these same people dismissed AI because it wasn’t very useful yet. But that’s all changed due to advances in machine vision and learning, and now VCs, hedge funds, and most of the rest of the usual big-money suspects are salivating over prospects of automating most of the rest of the economy, even including agriculture.

Thanks to its clot of institutions of higher learning, Boston—my fair city—is littered with tech startups and factories that churn them out. They and the Hub’s cloud of serial investors have created a knot of compressed energy, the nexus of which one can find at a suite in Kendall Square—epicenter of Boston’s tech scene, featuring outposts of Google, Oracle, Facebook and Amazon, pharma firms like Merck and Novartis and a host of biotechy startups fed by MIT’s biomedical research complex, augmented by its AI and Media Labs—where every Thursday evening prime movers get together for suds and savvy strategizing at private oasis called Venture Café. Continue reading “A.I. Enablers Gear Up to Assault Intellect”

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Channeling Molly

Newspaper columnist and Texas raconteur Molly Ivins’ mortal coil left this plane on January 31, 2007 (Oh Lord, have we been without her for a decade?), dubious that she was bound for greater glory. Alas, she never got to witness the accidental ascendance of Donald R. Trump, not that it would have surprised her. She surely would have had plenty to say about the state of affairs that allowed yet another buffoon (the last one being “Shrub,” her affectionate moniker for Bush Lite) to leave the middle class behind as he terrorized the planet.

Most of the right-wing pols who had to pull her barbs from their behinds considered her a fifth-columnist, but all she was was a dogged, sharp-tongued reporter of liberal persuasion who took down political bloviation and chicanery with devastating down-home humor. She is sorely missed, and in her absence the self-awareness of the politicking class in the Republic of Texas—if not everywhere—has sunk below irony. As Molly once said, the thing about holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. Oh sure, we have Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Andy Borowitz to deliver unto us outrage over political jackassery, but who remains to make us giggle by exposing political mendacity in regular columns syndicated in hundreds of newspapers? But then, does anyone read newspapers anymore? Continue reading “Channeling Molly”

Turkey Day as My Family Knows It

Most people send holiday letters for Christmas. To avoid the rush last year I got an early start and sent mine in November. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving day, everybody. Whether at the table or in any other room, give no quarter to those reactionary know-nothing relatives. Story syndicated from my pages at cowbird.com.