Winter take all: Tuesday 12/12/17
Pendant with succulent seeds
My bird-feeder abides unheeded
but for the odd Cardinal or Finch
or Chickadee chancing by,
barely visited, like my blog.
Shrouding branches, bare ground
and shriveled leaves, the first snow
ups the avian ante; a flurry,
an abrupt racket, a shower of husks.
Sparrows, trolling my site!
My back-porch page-rank improves.
How to Save Congo: Saturday 12/9/17
This past week in Goma, the Congo, 15 Tanzanian UN peacekeepers and 5 Congolese soldiers lost their lives and 53 were wounded in a surprise attack by Ugandan rebels. It was the largest of several such attacks on UN forces in Africa so far. A State Department spokeswoman tweeted that the United States was “appalled” but left it at that.
America should do more. Here’s my modest suggestion to help contain this internecine war to control valuable mineral resources: We have an excess of small arms in this country. Local police, the military, and CIA can draw on their arms caches and team with the NRA to solicit gun donations from citizens. Unmarked CIA aircraft can airlift the weapons to the Congo and drop them on towns and villages at risk to rebel attack, along with ammo of course, to arm their citizens. I’m sure this will help because, as we know, the only thing that can stop a terrorist with a gun is a good guy with a gun. File under Right to Bear Arms.
Getting to the Bottom of It: Thursday 12/7/17
For several weeks now, men have been shuttling in and out of the basement of a house across the way carrying orange buckets, dumping their contents into a their pickup’s utility trailer, and then going back for more of what I assume is just dirt. By now, they must have hauled three or four loads of it away. I’m dying to know what’s going on down there but not knowing those people makes asking awkward. Could be laying drains in the floor I suppose, or maybe the basement has a low ceiling and the workmen are adding headroom. When I visited London I was told that some of its well-off residents excavate their basements to as much as double their living space, so perhaps my neighbors are adding a sub-basement playroom for their two little kids. Could even be a tunnel to the house next door. Who knows what they’re into? A mass grave or a detention cell? People, stop torturing me! File under Morbid Curiosity.
What the War Machine Wants, It Gets: Sunday 12/3/17
In the current government-minded corporate news environment, expressing anti-war sentiments is enough to be branded as a troublemaker, so naturally the media will do its best to ignore you. One cannot hope to gain attention for asserting that US foreign policy seeks to destroy certain uncooperative states and their “enablers,” i.e., people like you. Perhaps you don’t know anything about CounterPunch, and why should you? Not that mainstream news outlets would ever alert you to it, but for over two decades this print and Web publication has been in the vanguard of what Trump-discomfited liberals have since come t0 call “the resistance.” So don’t think you weren’t warned when that knock on the door at 5 AM comes.
Neither liberal politicians nor the liberal media are wont to acknowledge that US foreign policy has consistently promoted a state of war for three generations and counting. The stealth capture of US foreign and domestic policy by warlords has gone virtually unnoticed, save by a few watchdogs like Counterpunch and Afeez Ahmed, who points out a decades-long campaign by the US Military to weaponize news and social media to prime the American people and residents of its self-made “conflict zones” for endless military incursions and black ops in the name of freedom.
You needn’t worry about a trigger-happy Donald Trump. He will only press the button when he’s told to by minders of the war machine, just like Obama. But unlike him, Trump straightaway fessed up that where military aggression is concerned he is over his head. If you think the defense of the homeland requires more than 200K troops and 800 US bases in most of the world’s countries, none of this will alarm you. But why shouldn’t it?
Pie in the Sky and at Mar-a-Lago: Wednesday 11/29/17
The orange grinch stole Thanksgiving from the residents of the Riviera Beach, FL Coast Guard station, first by delivering a holiday meal of takeout sandwiches, chips and soda and then an inchoate address before retiring to Mar-a-Lago for a full-monty feast. Among his many strange utterances was a loony salute to the much-delayed F-35 Lightning II Fighter (which the Coast Guard has no use for):
With the Air Force I can tell you we’re ordering a lot of planes, in particular the F-35 fighter jet, which is like almost like an invisible fighter. I was asking the Air Force guys, I said, how good is this plane? They said, well, sir, you can’t see it. I said, but in a fight. You know, in a fight, like I watch on the movies. The fight, they’re fighting. How good is this? They say, well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it. Even if it’s right next to them, it can’t see it. I said that helps. That’s a good thing. (Find more of his F-35 babble on The Drive)
Trump is just the most recent president to pardon this money gobbler. The F-35, the most expensive ($1.6T projected) military boondoggle ever, was supposed to take off in three modes on land and sea, dogfight, and evade detection, but does none of that very well. Sporting a fancy flawed $400K flight helmet, the F-35 is overstuffed, breakdown-prone, and has a habit of asphyxiating pilots. It is hardly invisible, even on radar, and can be easily targeted by its telltale hot exhaust. BTW, Bernie is all for it too. File under Air Farce.
Facing Up to Facebook: Monday 11/27/17
When the social media monstrosity kicked me out three years ago, I said good riddance. I had given them my nom de guerre, an incorrect birthdate and nothing else because I knew they would slice, dice and peddle my data if I did. All I used it for was to pass on opportunities for political action and partake of a writers’ group. I liked, messaged, posted and replied in the group and was sorry to lose it, but I had other means of connecting to them.
Whenever I hear that Facebook is censoring political expression for whatever reason I shudder, knowing that US intelligence apparatchiks are looking over their shoulder. See the sad story of some Kurdish liberation partisans whose FB group and personal accounts was locked down and then almost inexplicably restored in the recent post Cutting Cords to Kurds if you’re keen on freedom of speech. Here’s an audio teaser from the post:
The next post in this social media series examines an alternative to Facebook and its interesting sociology. File under Big Brothers.
Thoughts on Thanksgiving: Monday 11/20/17
One Thanksgiving when I was cooking for twelve, none of the turkeys I eyeballed at the supermarket looked adequate so I asked the meat department guy if they get any bigger. “No,” he told me, “they’re dead.” So I served turducken instead. Six hours of boning and stuffing and trussing and those ingrates complained I should have wrapped it in bacon.
I don’t want to know how many turkeys have died for the white man’s sins. As I partake of this week’s feast, should I feel thankful for being overfed in an undernourished world and a country in which three people have more wealth than the bottom half, a situation that will take more than thoughts, prayers, and overeating to fix? The turkeys themselves should be held blameless. See, our president has already pardoned one mean one.
So happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Eschew fowl language as you cherish your togetherness and gird yourself for political gridlock and the morrow’s mortal combat. As Dave Barry put it, the Thanksgiving holiday brings Americans of all races and religions together to fight over discounted electronics.
The US Steps in it Again: Thursday 11/16/17
WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – “A White House spokesman acknowledged that Iraqi Shia militias may be using US military equipment, contrary to US laws.”
Isn’t that special. Much less progress would have been made battling ISIS in Iraq without its own Shia Militias, not to mention the Iranian ones who fight alongside them. I love this part:
The head of Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, is a US-designated terrorist. He is also the Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the formal name for the Shia militias under the Iraqi Army.
At the press conference, [Rep. Duncan Hunter (R, California)] stressed the role that Iran had played in the assault on Kirkuk. “Here’s the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] commander,” Hunter said, pointing to another picture, “with the militias that we’re equipping, training and sending into combat.”
Yup. What did you expect, Duncan, after the US set up a Shia-dominated government and then slinked off, hoping for the best? File under psy-ops.
Take Terrorism: Wednesday 11/15/17
Offering advice to essayists, Tracy Kidder writes: “‘Terrorism.’ This big,capacious, amorphous word, big enough for everyone’s hatreds and fears, has been used by so many people for so many ends that writers simply have to know what they mean when they use it, and somehow make that meaning plain to their readers.”
I want to help, so here’s an idea: Suppose, like the Humpty Dumpty, you decide what a word should mean. You are then free to copyright your definition. I suggest licensing under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. Whomever modifies your definition in print is thus obligated to attribute yours and not commercialize it, and all sub-modifications are so bound, etc. Coming up with a non-encyclopedic definition of a blob of a word like “terrorism” isn’t easy, so best to hitch it up to an adjective such as narco-, state-sponsored-, Islamic-, or even Christian-, for God’s sake that will better express what you mean, and then copyright that definition. If you graduate to, say, state-sponsored-cia-narco-terrorism you may be on to something. File under psy-ops.
Writing to Think: Tuesday 11/14/17
After quitting the software factory a couple years back, I removed the Tech from my Tech Writer hat and just wrote whatever the hell I wanted. In fairly short order my practice begat a quite a stack of stories, essays, memoirs and articles about all sorts of stuff. But only recently did it dawn on me that I was writing not just to produce manuscripts that would delight readers but to comprehend—if not discover—their subjects. After all, you can’t express coherent thoughts about something you don’t understand. To express, you need to know what to say before you can decide how to say it, both of which can be hard. Gathering new information can negate what you’ve already written or cast a new light on it, and sometimes even change the subject. By learning by doing, writing has taught me not to form instant opinions when new information impinges. Fitting in new data helps me refine opinions and even change my mind. I become more alert to subtexts and missing pieces in what I process. Surprise! So this is what it’s about! File under self-discovery.
Digging in the Dirt: Sunday 11/12/17
It takes a lot of time and energy to sharply focus on current events even if you only zoom in on a select few. Journalists understand this, but having to cover breaking stories under deadline pressure forces them to do sloppy work. This came home to me when expanding a post about Alabama politician Roy Moore’s sexual escapades as a thirty-something State Prosecutor, now a national scandal. It turned out what I divulged in yesterday’s Daily Eruption is only part of the story. Today’s post fleshes that out. As usual, the salient issue isn’t sex, it’s money in the pursuit of power. But I would never have been able to dig up the pertinent details (and overcome sloppy investigative reporting by the Washington Post) if, having submitted that story, I was instructed to move on to something else. Fortunately, I have nobody telling me what to write about or when. That freedom lets me research topics wider and deeper than most legitimate journalists (not that I am one, but I too have professional standards). So please check out the updated version of that story here and let me know if it was worth my 12-hour effort. File once again under corruption.
If These Allegations Are True… Saturday 11/11/17
As we know, the GOP candidate to replace Alabama’s Jeff Sessions in a December special election is that piece of work ex-ex-Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Fired twice for defying federal court orders to remove religious symbolism from his courthouse, Moore has now been accused by four women of attempted seduction, including a then-14-year-old who says he disrobed her in his bedroom.
And so, Republicans honchos are coyly distancing themselves. Speaking on behalf of the President, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump “believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life … However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.” Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and other GOP bigwigs have said pretty much the same thing.
But here’s the deal: Moore denies everything and claims the women are shills for Democrats and the Liberal Media. Cases like this, especially against prominent personages, take time—years, usually—to work themselves out and the special election is a month away. Expect GOP pols to play the innocent-until-proven-guilty card, meaning that until an Alabama court of law confirms his moral turpitude, Moore should stay in the race. Sadly, media outlets take Trump’s and other GOP leaders’ feigned outrage at face value. If ever they bring up this ploy, it will be too late, as usual.
Moore, of course is a devout Southern Baptist. And in his defense, Alabama State Auditor and Amateur Theologian Jim Zeigler told The Washington Examiner “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.” Unlike Moore and his under-aged pick-up, scriptures indicate that Joseph and Mary were husband and wife. Isn’t that, as SNL’s The Church Lady used to say, special.
Smoke ’em if You Can Afford ’em: Friday 11/3/17
A while back, I decided not to quit smoking and have stuck to it. But to hedge my bets, I switched to an organic and additive-free brand of cigs (to avoid smoking pesticides and the dozens of scary chemicals most brands have) and taught myself not to inhale deeply. But this decision turns out to be costly. My state regulates the minimum price of smokes, which for my brand is currently $10.86 (brand minimums range from $7.09 to $12.39). Add to that a 6.25% sales tax, and my coffin nails come to at least $11.50 per pack. (back in high school they cost a quarter.) My state taxes $3.51 per pack before they go on shelves. In a neighboring state it’s $2.78, 20% less, with no sales tax. There, a pack of my brand generally costs $6.50, a 45% saving. You can guess where I buy my cartons.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, after enjoying six cigs a day over a bunch of decades, my wind is fine and my annual MRI scans show no worrisome blotches. Sorry to disappoint the anti-smoking lobby, but I’m fine. We smokers are pariahs anyway, so instead of continuing to harass us why not focus your addiction anxieties on the clear and present danger that is opioids and the greedy corporations that push them? File under self-abuse.
Kill Jill: Thursday 11/2/17
Who says the Federal Election Commission is toothless? Certainly not when it comes to third parties. Why just about a month ago FEC smacked down Jill Stein (Green Party candidate for President who collected about 1% of the 2016 vote). She and treasurer Steven Welzer got socked $9,162 for filing her campaign’s February 2017 donor report eight days late (filings are due 20 days after the end of the month being reported). Then another $459 when the March report came in a week late. That month she raised $38,253. In January, its receipts were $2,167,032, both on top of her four-year total of $11.24M. That sum includes a loan of $40K she made to her campaign (interest rate unknown) that may or may not have been repaid. The dockets include no responses from her campaign contesting the fine, so presumably Stein paid up.
Turns out that FEC even gets that $40K loan wrong. Instead, their database shows her lending her campaign $10K 75 times on 6/6/16 and 25 times on 6/23/16. A million bucks. Is she being set up?
I wonder how many such library fines were levied on other campaigns in 2016. I haven’t gotten a handle on that yet, but no other fines of that sort have been announced recently. Browsing the FEC site informed me that Jill, like other politicians, continues to collect campaign funds after an election. Her FEC file details 10K contributions that came in November and December 2016. Based on her fines, clearly more are dribbling in this year, hopefully not supporting a lavish lifestyle for the only candidate whose platform and rhetoric made sense to me. File under politics, I guess.
Manufacturing Identities: Monday 10/30/17
Saluting the rainbow flag of identity politics is said to have cost Hillary Clinton the election, and not only because it got in the way of her addressing bread-and-butter issues. The alt-right portrayed her embrace of heathen feministas, LGBQ-ers, black-Livers, latinos, and swarthy refugees as an attack on “traditional” America. Identity politics could only lead, they averred, to decadent miscegenation that will swell the nation with evil miscreant spawn. Mocking the inclusionary political correctness of the Democrats, media, academies, and intersectionalists became great sport for them.
But wait, hasn’t the alt right been circling its wagons ever more tightly around its own flagpole? By enumerating all the identities they are sick of, have they not crystallized their own, the marginalized White Male? To hell with all those half-breed upstarts, they insist, we’re the only real Americans. The occasional exceptional Asian, Jew, or Black proves their point that white males are the pinnacle of creation and deserve to lead. Well, I happen to be one, and am here to say we’ve fucked things up pretty good. I should resign, but that’s a membership card that’s hard to burn. To nullify my privilege, maybe I should switch gender. Take that, Steve Bannon! File under Identity.
Does the Lord Laugh at Fracking? Saturday 10/28/17
Which is worst: Worldwide climate change or its denial? Making that choice was easier when the deniers were outside the circle of policy-making. Now, under Trump, they have the edge. A report on PRI’s Marketplace informs us that a leaked draft the Department of Interior’s five-year plan prioritizes “energy dominance” over conservation and eliminates all mention of climate change. Under Obama’s last plan, it was referred to 43 times. That plan “explicitly stated that the department was committed to improving resilience in those communities most directly affected by global warming.” DOI’s fraudulent Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to open as many federal lands as possible for fossil fuel exploration as soon as possible, and isn’t listening to any objections unless they come from the energy extraction sector. “Fracking,” he said, “is proof that God’s got a good sense of humor and he loves us.” I’m sorry, Lord, but I’m not laughing. Zinke and all of Trump’s appointees are corrupt money-grubbing parasites who prey upon the American people and mock our ideals. Why did not God, or at least the media, not see this coming and warn us?
Don’t laugh. Resist, like DOI whistleblower Joel Clement. Zinke must go. Let’s see to it. File under Sustainability.
Three Heroes of the Syrian Resistance: Wednesday 10/25/17
We Are Syrians is a chilling little book of memoirs and oral histories of three Syrians who have stood up to one Assad or another and paid dearly. Their stories were collected and edited by Adam Braver and Abby DeVeuve and published by the University of New Orleans Press. We hear from: Naila Al-Atrash (theater director, female, 65), Radwan Ziadeh (dentist, male, 42), and Sana Mustafa (student, female, 25). All are now safe and able to tell their stories in part thanks to Scholars at Risk, an extensive network of institutions and individuals devoted to rescuing academics and intellectuals from persecution.
All three have devoted most of their lives as democracy activists under extremely harrowing conditions in a despicable regime that seems to take joy in harassing, torturing, and killing citizens who say they don’t like it. A regime, I might add, that until the Arab Spring of 2011 was a trusted regional partner of the US. So trusted that the CIA rendered suspected terrorists to black sites there for “questioning.”
But I digress. Read the book to be impressed by how courageous these three—who all fled to the US—have been in protesting oppression and working to reconstruct civil society. Both publicly and clandestinely they protested, propagandized. organized, and succored dissidents until, after many interviews with law enforcement, prison or worse seemed inevitable. Knowing what they went through with heads held high makes me ashamed to call myself an activist. File under Resilience.
NPR Agrees with CIA that Only Sickos Leak State Secrets: Tuesday 10/17/17
In her interview with Ursula Wilder, a CIA psychologist whose job is debriefing returning spies, NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly (their alleged National Security Correspondent) failed big-time to probe whether Wilder thought an insider might ever have a patriotic motivation to inform the public of bad behavior on the part of the agency. Based on Wilders’ profile of leakers, the answer would surely have been No, but it would have been nice to ask.
Instead, the official story is simple. Each and every leaker suffers from some DSM psychopathy, such as impulsiveness, narcissism or drug addiction, often compounded by exigencies such as marital discord or gambling debts. It’s all due to character defects, Wilder says—and Kelly doesn’t contradict—not to blowback or some nasty conduct the agency wants to disappear. Hear for yourself.
How many set pieces does NPR owe spy agencies as the price of access? File under Psy-Ops.
Where’s the Beef? Sunday 10/15/17
One September evening, out of the blue, my dear daughter suggested we forego meat. Even though she couldn’t quite say why she wanted to do this, we agreed to veg out and see. But I drew the line at vegan; I respect dairy far too much to banish butter and eggs.
A meatless month later (excepting bacon, a significant source of micronutrients), we’ve sort of stuck to it. We’re doing okay and our grocery bill is lighter. Me too, but it hasn’t been easy.
If you decide to try this at home, let me tell you there are downsides. You’ll spend a lot of time poring over recipes involving exotic ingredients like faro, miatake, adzuki, kombu, and seitan. Our young lady’s aversion to staples like beans and ancient grains challenged my culinary creativity. We consume a lot of salad, mushrooms, and on her recommendation, hot dishes (preferably pizza) smothered with cheese. So much for the meat co-op I was thinking of joining. Pass the pepperoni. File under fiber.
Take This Flagpole and … Friday 10/13/17
NPR tells of how in 2003 our future Chiseler-in-Chief sued the school district of Rancho Palos Verdes, California town for $100M over land it owned in the middle of a golf course he was rehabilitating. They settled and the district got $5M for the land (they had wanted rent), but not before Trump called the town’s lawyer an a-hole to his face. (BTW, Attorney Milan Smith is now a judge on the circuit court that blocked Trump’s immigration restrictions.) Then, when homeowners complained about a 70-foot flagpole he put up on the course without obtaining a permit, the City Council went after him for it. It got ugly. Trump played the patriotism card, saying if you make me take down our flag you hate America. He still has hissy fits about it. Here you go. File under Mendacity.
Trump According to Dilbert’s Dad: Wednesday 10/11/17
On—for whatever reason—Halloween, Scott “Dilbert” Adams will release a book called Win Bigly to comfort his supporters, afflict his critics, make money, and cement his pundit brand. Having been taken to task for trumpeting Trump, he wants everyone to know he endorsed Trump because he has “an appetite for risk, a deep understanding of persuasion, and a personality the media couldn’t ignore,” qualities that gave him “a 98% chance of winning.” Trump’s sleaziness, divisiveness and badmouthing don’t seem to faze Adams—in fact he seems to rather admire those qualities, saying they make him a better negotiator. He wants his readers to be as persuasive as Trump, to the extent he can persuade them. I tried to be persuaded. My take on an advance copy of the book is posted here. In a nutshell, I’ve read Win Bigly so you won’t have to. File under Self-Help.
Guns Are People: Friday 10/06/17
The NRA signaled today it wouldn’t oppose regulating “bump stocks,” those gizmos that make assault weapons fully automatic, of which Stephen Paddock had a dozen of in his complementary 32nd-floor hotel room. Even Gopers are saying that a bit of adult supervision might be needed in this regard. Well, so says the Paranoia Lobby, that there’s the tippity-top of your slippery slope, isn’t it? If the feds can outlaw bump stocks, what will they do next to render the populace impotent to resist the Illuminati’s plans to lock down America?
But surely the NRA can’t be serious. To weather blowback from Vegas, they dissemble, pretending neutrality publicly while pressing gun dealers and owners to do the heavy lifting should Congress ever bring itself to broach the subject. Let’s face it, Americans; guns r us. Don’t expect any new restrictions on firearms unless you live in Massachusetts or DC.
Oh yeah, I forgot. Guns don’t kill people; bullets do.
Spooks in Space: Tuesday 10/03/17
Today, Marketplace asked Should we fund the militarization of space? Hell, no. There is no need to further militarize space or anyplace else, not with 200+ bases around the world, grossly overstuffed DoD and black budgets, offloads of military surplus weapons and gear to local police forces to keep the populace under control, overseas adventurism, and unconstitutional spying on of our Internet and telephone use, aren’t we sufficiently militarized for God’s sake?
Here’s an idea: call it Spooks in Space; send our intelligence officials and military leaders off to conquer and colonize Mars. Then we could get on with what really matters to the American people, as opposed to what the security-industrial complex wants, without the distractions of endless wars and assorted homeland security intensification that only benefit their ranks and vendors. When will more Americans wake up to see their taxes and their real security swirling down the Pentagon’s thousand-dollar toilets?
What Happened in Vegas Should mostly Stay in Vegas: Monday 10/02/17
Great. Another mass shooting, this one from a guy 32 floors up packing ten rifles who took his own life when police entered his hotel room. Sure, it would be nice to know who 64-year-old Stephen Paddock was and why he killed 58 people and injured 500+, but let’s curb our own and the media’s ghoulish disaster mania. This very morning I was at an NPR station taking pledges over the phone, but at 830 they sent us volunteers home and suspended the fund drive so the station could cover Vegas continuously, as if they couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. If you think gun laws are a joke now, wait til you see HR 38 and HR 3668. Sign CREDO’s petition to congress to oppose them now.
What (TF) Happened: Friday 9/29/17
Amazon’s been deleting one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s memoir What Happened. As of right now (9/29), of 1600 reviews 1425 (89%) are 5-stars and 96 (6%) are one star. There are no 2 or 3-star reviews and just 48 4’s. According to Zero Hedge, mid-morning on 9/12 there were 1500 reviews 50% 1’s and 45% 5’s. By closing time, of the 442 remaining reviews, 97% gave the book 5 stars and 1% (4) awarded it one star. Could have been a business decision, but given that Jeff Bezos also owns WaPo and given that WaPo has long had close ties with the Agency (recall that Georgetown Set from yesterday’s post?), perhaps HRC’s spooky friends went trick-or-treating at Jeff’s house. Find it hard to believe? Check out this list of 50 ways the Agency infiltrated mass media, paying close attention to number 21. File under Psy-Ops.
The Commemes Are Coming! Thursday 9/28/17
Columnist Chris Floyd strikes a troubling cultural note in today’s Counterpunch about the sound of tweets coming from the so-called “resistance” to Trump that he labels a counter-revolution. From BLM to kneeling NFL players, establishment anti-Trump forces are laying outrage at American racism at Moscow’s door. Yes, they say, Putin’s people are stirring up the masses on Twitter and elsewhere about ailments America never had before the Russkies manufactured them in a massive psy-ops campaign. Read the article, see the tweets. and be on the lookout for such commemes, #hiddenpersuaders that imply that whatever is wrong with America would be right if it weren’t for Russian meddling. We tried this before. It was called McCarthyism and it didn’t work.
Harvard, the CIA and All That: Wednesday 9/27/17
When Harvard’s Institute of Politics abruptly rescinded its offer to Chelsea Manning of a fellowship, all hell broke loose. After intense pressure from both sides, Harvard chose to back the “intelligence community,” as is its wont. That wont goes back many decades, as documented in my post, Harvard, the CIA, and All That, in which I cast available light on networks of Ivy League cold-war-era establishmentarians, a clique of insiders that Harvard fomented, abetted, and continues to play a key and unapologetic role as empire thought leaders. Its coziness to power is one reason why I don’t donate to my alma mater.
My Almost-Famous Haircut: Saturday 9/23/17
This morning I visited my famous Greek barber George for a haircut. Proudly displayed on the wall in his 120-year-old Harvard Square cuttery are photos of him with his more notable clients, like Michael Dukakis and Yo-Yo Ma (both of whom I’ve encountered there). Among patrons not pictured, he told me, are Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama from their student days, Mike Taibbi (Rolling Stone investigative reporter), and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whom he expects to be the next Prime Minister of Greece. When I hinted that he might also let people know that he does my hair, he suggested adding a photo of the two of us to his collection, saying people will assume I’m somebody famous. Now I’m kicking myself. Why didn’t I insist on a selfie with George right then and there?
Regarding Blowback and Liberation: Tuesday 9/19/17
Literature has an obligation to confront moral issues. One of humankind’s most persistent ones involves “collateral” injustices and suffering visited upon innocent people in the course of acquiring territory and asserting control over it. The unpublished novel Mahmoud’s Jihad focuses on the bubbling cauldron of the greater Middle East through the lens of marginalized opponents of state power who take matters into their own hands. You might find what these self-styled freedom fighters do shocking, but at least you’ll learn what makes them tick and what life underground is like. Politically conscious people don’t rebel just for the hell of it. As one character puts it, “They only call it class warfare when we fight back.” Read the preface to the novel to appreciate some of those reasons and the moral ambiguities of radical action.
Rojava—A Functioning Democracy inside Syria: Saturday 9/16/17
Who knew that part of a province of Syria functions autonomously as a bottom-up secular socialist democracy where women fight ISIS/Daesh and are full partners in all decision-making? It’s a Kurdish enclave called Rojava, and while it’s tiny it’s an inspiration for oppressed people in the Middle East and in fact everywhere. American feminist writer Meredith Tax explains Turkey’s attempt to crush Rojava and all Kurdish aspirations in her blog, and provides an in-depth account of its origins, organization, and prospects in her 2016 book A Road Unforeseen. View her describing what she learned in writing the book in a video from the 2017 Left Forum. File under Resistance.
The Great Purge of the Great War: Friday, 9/15/17
Happy Hundredth, WWI. We love you so much. Now’s a good time to remind all Americans—liberals in particular—how, during and after the Great War, the Wilson Administration, local law enforcement, newspapers, and assorted shitkickers all across the country brutally assaulted German-Americans and suspected Bolsheviks, sweeping up tens of thousands of trade unionists, progressives and freethinkers of all stripes in a grand purge, all patriotically shilled by politicians and newspaper publishers and bought and paid for by industrialists. Suggest taking a few moments to reacquaint yourself with that era by reading Adam Hochschild’s When Dissent Became Treason in NY Review of Books. File under Fascism.
AI Is a Zombie Bent on Eating Your Brain: Thursday, 9/14/17
What does “Artificial Intelligence” bring to mind? Robots? Siri psyching you out? Facebook quantifying your whole life? It’s coming, and fast. Bottom line for you is your intellect atrophies when all your decisions are “augmented,” you are made intellectually redundant, and tech overlords make out like the autonomy bandits they are. Find out more in this post at Linked In. File under technoquences.
Long Gas Lines—Better than No Gas Lines: Wednesday, 9/13/17
Evacuees returning to their homes across Florida are stymied. Few gasholes with petrol and power avail themselves. No nonnuclear terrorist attack would bring so many to a standstill for so long. Yet our nation spends umpteen billions more to safeguard Americans from pinpoint terrorist attacks that may not happen than from catastrophic acts of nature everyone already expects. The combined odds of a hurricane hitting the mainland or a twister rip-roaring through the heartland or a Big One pulverizing the Left Coast outweigh those of terrorism in inverse proportion to funds the Feds allocate to these eventualities. Follow the money. Find out who profits from ramping up the security state versus who profits from rehabilitating devastated lives and properties and then you’ll know. War, it seems, is the answer. File under corruption.
Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irma: Tuesday, 9/12/17
Your 401Ks and IRAs probably aren’t doing much, so cash them in. Be that alligator in the swimming pool; buy Florida real estate and rent it out. You won’t find a better deal until the next tropical storm hits. Flood insurance is optional if the property isn’t in a flood zone, even if it’s a bit damp now. File under avarice.
On Errorism: Monday, 9/11/2017
On this day, we honor the victims of terrorism in New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA 16 years ago. What we dishonor are the provocations that the USA visited on the Middle East that created all that enmity and the sadly apparent fact that Washington has yet to acknowledge that those losses are almost-inevitable consequences of its adventurism. Filed under blowback.