Fearless Revolution was a blog dedicated to consumer rights and social and environmental responsibility, created by ex-advertising man Alex Bogusky circa 2010. Its positive message—calling for new relationships among businesses and consumers characterized by transparency, sustainability, democracy and collaboration—attracted a number of idealistic types from all over, including yours truly. Alex and wife Ana ran their revolution out of a small A-frame house in Boulder, Colorado they dubbed Fearless Cottage.
How not to Fix the Post Office or Government in General
Yesterday my postbox disgorged ten letters, all from organizations seeking donations. Among them was an envelope with “Do you care if you no longer receive your mail at home?” next to my name. Its backside disclosed the sender was DLCC, the Democratic Leadership Campaign Committee, a 527 PAC (enabled by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling) that funds candidates in down-ticket and off-year election races, striving to bankroll primary winners the Democratic establishment can live with.
I threw the other nine letters away but decided to check out what DLCC was up to. When I tore it open, something like a bumper sticker fell out bearing seven decals, including SAVE USPS, THANK YOU POSTAL WORKERS, and DUMP DEJOY. Thanks for that, DLCC. I’ll stick a couple on my mailbox to express solidarity with my letter carrier. Continue reading “How not to Fix the Post Office or Government in General”
Noir Haiku Grunge
An ode to a vanished New York City, when Squeegee men roamed the streets and homeless folks camped out on the tracks under Riverside Park, and when you could still live on the cheap and have some dignity.
by Daniel Gover
The Daily (or whenever) Eruption
Unwrapping a Novel in Progress: Friday 2/4/2021
It’s been hard to pick a genre for my new novel Her Own Devices. Call it Literary Fiction cloaked as Contemporary Women’s Crime. After sweating over it for close to 20 months, I feel it’s almost a wrap and so am starting to unwrap it online to get some reactions.
Set in Athens and Piraeus, Greece not long ago, Devices carries on where Turkey Shoot left off, but in a different key and genre. To enjoy this one you don’t need to have read the first one, but you might want to once you’re done. Find more about both at Perfidy Press.
You can read a new excerpt of Devices in the February issue of the literary journal The Write Launch. I am most grateful to editor Sandra Fluck for her support by publishing this and previous excerpts. The new one is Chapter 8 (of 31), and begins Part Two (of four). Find it here, and go to my author page at The Write Launch to find the other two excerpted chapters.
Lastly, be the first on your block to receive my eclectic quasi-monthly newsletter Perfidy Press Pronouncements. Please sign up here to partake. It’s even easier to unsubscribe if it fails to satisfy. Continue reading “The Daily (or whenever) Eruption”
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
“No problem can be so complicated that it can’t be run away from”
~ Linus, from Charles Schultz’s comic strip Peanuts
One now sees people walking along streets masked, gloved, and occasionally gowned, as if on their way to a Halloween party. The unluckiest of them are zombies who don’t yet know that they are the living dead. The situation is unprecedented and, sadly, un-presidented. Because we are human, we search for a metaphor that encapsulates the situation.
Coronovirus, bless its creepy little heart (speaking of metaphors), is the proximal cause of the disease with the unfortunate bureaucratic appellation COVID-19 (as if it were a defense program or a government dossier) that has quickly come to symbolize extreme measures presented as its palliatives. And while “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1970), many public health experts have expected a pandemic to emerge for which they warned society and its masters will be ill-prepared. And now that one has presented itself and we do find ourselves unprepared, how are we to think of that? What does that teach us about our civilization?
Continue reading “Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts”
Business as Unusual: Notes on a pandemic
Even if no one you know catches it, you’ll start to worry if you’re not already flushed with paranoia. At first, everything seemed normal. It was hard to understand all the attention given to it when it was half way around the globe. We’ll be ready for it when it comes, you thought. Wasn’t Trump telling us it was less concerning than the Flu. So confidant was he that he barred the WHO test for the virus that is used all over the world. Why didn’t he just put a tariff on it, like everything else? Instead, he encouraged pharma friends to develop tests and vaccines (based on publicly-funded research, as usual) that they could make dear and make a killing (literally). It’s the economy, stupid, not the citizens. All the smart people are investing in drug companies, medical suppliers, and collaborative web platforms. Continue reading “Business as Unusual: Notes on a pandemic”
by Daniel Gover
Thanks to the War in Vietnam, I became a high school teacher in Botswana, in southern Africa. It’s funny how some of the worst things in the world can lead to detours that turn out well. New York City was the only place in America that I ever heard of that deferred college students and teachers from the military draft. Bless their hearts. With over two million people, my hometown of Brooklyn may have been the largest Draft Board in the country. Several guys who went to college with me became public school teachers in the city. When I was burning out in graduate school, I almost joined the Peace Corps and went to India, but didn’t. Fortunately, the next year I learned of a volunteer teachers’ program in Africa. A guy I knew had taught at a high school in Botswana—Swaneng Hill School. It was started by a South African exile named Patrick van Rensburg who was prohibited from returning to his old country just across the border. His school had become a mecca for anti-apartheid activists, just my kind of place. I had learned of Apartheid, or racial separation in South Africa, as far back as when we read Cry, the Beloved Country in high school. I wrote a letter, got a job, sent the letter to my draft board and basically dared them to call me back from Botswana. Luckily, they didn’t.
Literary Agent Querying 101
Allison K. Williams of Brevity Blog on how to manage querying literary agents
You’ve written—or almost written—a book. Time to find a literary agent. Except you should have started the process much sooner, because you might end up querying 100 agents. Read Allison K Williams advice on managing all that in her Brevity Blog post. Look at the resources she lists, and once you’re ready to start querying, go visit querytracker.net.
Where Was Rudy Giuliani When Democrats Needed Him?
Help me get this straight. Rudolph Giuliani is the President’s private attorney, or at least he still seems to be. According to CNN on 10/11/19:
“Rudy Giuliani is still President Trump’s personal attorney but will not be dealing with matters involving Ukraine, a source close to Trump’s legal team told CNN.
Earlier today, Trump wouldn’t say whether Giuliani was still his personal attorney.
‘Well I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to Rudy. I spoke to him yesterday briefly. He’s a very good attorney and he has been my attorney, yeah, sure,’ he told CNN.
Asked later by CNN if he was still Trump’s attorney, Giuliani responded, ‘Yes.’”
As CNN went on to note:
“However, Ukraine is at the center of the current impeachment investigation being conducted by the House of Representatives into Trump. Also, the criminal indictment against two of Giuliani’s associates who were arrested Wednesday night trying to leave the US, describe an elaborate, months-long scheme to funnel foreign money into federal and state elections around the US to curry favor with politicians on behalf of at least one Ukrainian government official and a Russian businessman.”
Wasn’t Giuliani the bagman for Trump’s sordid campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens under pain of losing US military assistance—to fight the Russians, whom for Democrats seem to be the source of most of the world’s evils? Aren’t these two shady guys (Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman) his erstwhile if not indicted partners in crime? Why aren’t Rudy and his pals fodder for impeachment proceedings? This does not compute. Continue reading “Where Was Rudy Giuliani When Democrats Needed Him?”
The Cost of Never-Ending War
Blogging from a weekly newsletter from Open Source Radio at WBUR in Boston, assuming they won’t mind. It’s hard to get your head around the enormity of this, but thankfully some have. Words and images are all theirs. Find original article here.
A conversation with Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, Linda Bilmes, Tulsi Gabbard, Shamiran Mako, and Neta Crawford about the costs of U.S. wars since 2001. Listen today at 2 pm EST or anytime at our site.
As talk of war with Iran escalated in recent weeks, we were reminded of the thinking, or lack of thinking, around other post-2001 military conflicts of almost unimaginable cost. Then we tried to make sense of that cost. Here’s just a summary of the wars since 2001, from Brown University’s Costs of War project: Continue reading “The Cost of Never-Ending War”
Deval Patrick for President?
Note: It was almost one year ago (11/21/18, to be precise) that I wrote this post about Massachusetts ex-governor Deval Patrick considering the Democratic race for President on 2020. Well, it took him another year to hem and haw over it before throwing his black hat into the ring, but what made him wait until now to decide? Methinks he didn’t want Michael Bloomberg, another financier with much deeper pockets, to outflank him. But now the gang of twenty or whatever candidates have a long head start with a few debates under their belts. How is Patrick going to snuggle up?
There’s a sound bite in this BBC story about his announcement in which he says “I don’t think wealth is the problem. Greed is the problem…” All right then. Let’s outlaw greed.
Anyway, here’s my article. I don’t think much has changed.
Praising Trump for Betraying Kurds?
This week, a humanitarian crisis erupted in northern Syria, thanks to America’s autocrat Donald Trump and Turkey’s Regip Tayip Erdoğan, a tragedy which opponents to US interventions in sovereign affairs should take notice and register harsh opinions. Trump relinquished US interest in the region and Erdoğan swiftly capitalized on that decision.
Dave Lindorff is a principled progressive voice who has for years taken on the injustice, duplicity, and corruption of America’s duopolistic political system. He’s one of five fire-in-the-belly proprietors of the blog This Can’t Be Happening! that calls itself “a major destabilizing influence.” There he covers economics, politics, healthcare and environment. See his articles here.
His most recent, from October 8th, however, leaves much to be desired.
Headlined Sure Trump is ‘Betraying the Kurds!’ but What’s New about That? and subtitled “The US has a sordid history of betraying minority groups that do its fighting,” it praises Trump for pulling the US military forces from northern Syria, also known as Rojava, and not inserting them into any new wars (hmm, not even Yemen?). The article also appeared in CounterPunch this weekend, and so a lot of people have read it.
It’s true, we came close to the brink of peace with North Korea and haven’t (yet) attacked Venezuela, thanks, perhaps to The Donald, but pulling troops out of Syria has produced a nightmare there overnight, something that many predicted and Lindorff seems blind to.
Motoring Becomes Electric, Redux
We tend to think of electric cars as futuristic but for our great-great grandparents, they were a thing. Who knew so many of the private automobiles sold up until the 1920s were electric-powered or that they and their styles ranged so far and wide? They were easier to start and maintain than cars propelled by internal combustion engines and had no gears to shift through, noise to suffer through, or smoke to choke through. Motor Magazine’s 218-page catalog of all cars marketed in the US in 1907 featured something like 800 models, including 75 electric vehicles (EVs) from dozens of manufacturers offering buggies for under $1000 to limousines at $4000 or more. Pretty expensive for back then, but gas and steam cars cost a lot too until after 1910 and the Ford Model T. But before that…
Where the Wild Things Once Were
Life is already too short to waste on speed.
So, what does footloose communing with nature mean for you?
Harper’s Magazine published this bucolic scene of camping in New York’s Adirondacks by up-and-coming artist Winslow Homer in 1874. It’s one of many illustrations he turned out in competition with Currier & Ives in the mid-to-late 19th century for magazines and newspapers, most depicting Americans comporting themselves out-of-doors in cities, towns, villages, and beyond, in an age unmarred by automobiles, aircraft, telephones, and digitalia.
But even by then, the accelerating pace of progress had decimated the vast Adirondack region in its voracious demand for lumber, paper, and charcoal. In the mid-1880s, after much environmentalist agitation and corporate opposition, New York’s legislature designated the area as a forest preserve. Ten years hence, after the preserve’s stewards were exposed as corrupt, the state constitution was amended to protect the 6.3M-acre region “forever.” The amendment was all of two sentences, but it did the trick:
Guest Post: Bernie and the Jets
This post by Jeffrey St Clair, Editor of CounterPunch and author of books on politics and the environment comes from late 2015, when it looked as though Bernie Sanders might win the Democratic nomination. Jeffrey has a way with words, and does not mince any in this takedown of the socialist candidate from the Green Mountain State.
And now, as the silly season for the 2020 vote ramps up, we have 20 or so Democratic candidates, surely with more to come. Trump, however, has but one, ex-Massachusetts Guv’ner Bill Weld, a Republican who in 2016 ran in the Veep slot with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. He’s gonna be pretty lonely.
Speaking of lost causes, though, Bernie’s back and has been the lead contender until… Continue reading “Guest Post: Bernie and the Jets”
Douglas Rushkoff Wants Us to Rewind
Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff (W.W. Norton, 2019, 256 p. hardbound), ISBN 987-0-393-65169-0, $23.95. Also available in eBook and audiobook formats.
The entities called computers were originally human beings, people like the accounts clerk Bob Cratchit in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. In the mid-20th century, computers were (mostly) women who worked calculators and slide rules, tasked with tabulating data and solving numerical problems. Nowadays, says Douglas Rushkoff, computers run us as extensions of applications that abuse us for fun and profit. Rushkoff has had it with the soul-sucking “innovation economy”; to retrieve the human agency and dignity that technocracy has usurped, he proposes not a revolution but a renaissance of pre-industrial, even pre-enlightenment, societal values. Rushkoff emerged as an early member of the digerati, but has since been a longstanding critic of those who control digital media and manipulate its users, not to mention capitalism itself. Now a professor of media studies (CUNY Queens), public intellectual, and podcast host, he’s quietly assembling an army of change agents. Their mission is to “challenge the operating system that drives our society” by organizing the (better-educated) masses to throw off their (block) chains by imagining and building human-scale alternatives to giant financial institutions, public corporations, and their enablers. Given how overarching and well-wired global capitalism is, that’s a tall order, but Rushkoff asserts that the battle can be won if we stick together. Continue reading “Undoing Dystopia”
Book Marketing Tips for Radicals
What a debut author can expect
Let’s say you have had your fill of the New World Order and instead of taking up arms you decide to write a book. The book is your first, a novel about political strife from the perspective of left-wing radicals who decide to take matters into their own hands. Your radicals encompass conflicting left-wing ideologies and disagree on which political system is best. But they wholeheartedly agree that the current one must go and decide to take direct action that will inspire revolution. You rub it in by making your main protagonist a Muslim jihadi. Continue reading “Book Marketing Tips for Radicals”
Guest Post: How One of America’s Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape
Through his purchase of influence over the daily flow of information to American media consumers, a dizzying array of connections to the national security state, and a media empire that shields him from critical scrutiny, Pierre Omidyar has become one of the world’s most politically sophisticated data monarchs.
Continue reading “Guest Post: How One of America’s Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape”
Last Year, my town switched vendors to boost garbage collection to new heights of automation. Within a month, its new contractor had distributed two massive two-wheeled receptacles to every household: a black one for non-recyclables, capacity 64 gallons, and a bigger blue-and-green one—96 gallons, large enough to stuff a couple of non-dismembered bodies into — for recyclables. The town instructed residents to wheel out their bins and line them up at the curb on pickup day, front facing the street, with lids closed. As you can see, we dutifully obey, each creating his or her no-parking zone. Continue reading “Talking Trash”
Guest Post: Turkey’s war on Kurdistan’s forests
Guest Post: Lessons from Rojava
For hundreds if not thousands of years, Kurdistan, home to Kurdish minorities in present-day Iraq, Syria and Turkey, has been a pawn in regional and imperial power plays. And now, the Trump administration is about to sacrifice it yet again on the alter of hegemonic aspirations.
We’ve posted several times on the Syrian democratic anarcho-syndicalist revolution that over the past 3-4 years has birthed autonomous democratic and egalitarian cantons in northern Syria. Formerly calling their polity Rojava but now the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, they rely on US forces to protect them from Assad, ISIS, and Turkey. But not, it appears, for long. I urge you to read Comrade Hermit’s analysis and to protest the impending betrayal of Rojava’s hard-won self-determination. Continue reading “Guest Post: Lessons from Rojava”
Guest Post: The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
Today’s guest post, again lifted from CounterPunch, is full of astute political analysis by rising rhetorician Nick Pemberton as he recaps the fate of progressives in the midterm elections, which, Nick says,
“…are mostly decided before they get started. We all know this. The issue is not so much that the progressives are losing, for the deck is stacked against them. The more troubling issue is that the sheepdog effect is working. Progressives may get a few (well-deserved!) crumbs from establishment Democrats as a result of Sanders and co., but by no means are progressives being given a shot in 2018.”
Find the read embedded below or click here to enjoy it at counterpunch.org.
Continue reading “Guest Post: The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh”
Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword Is So Hard to Swallow
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble…We are going to continue to support the DOD and I think we should.”
~ Amazon founder and DoD contractor Jeff Bezos at the WIRED25 summit
The world’s wealthiest individual went on to acknowledge, “Technologies always are two-sided. There are ways they can be misused.” Convinced that they are being misused, Google employees mounted a protest that caused Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to step back from a contract to develop AI pattern recognition technology for targeting military drones, worrying the Pentagon. Continue reading “Why High Technology’s Double-Edged Sword Is So Hard to Swallow”
Donald Trump Goes to Heaven
After suffering a cheeseburger infarction, Donald Trump finds himself queuing toward eternity. He shuffles up to the Pearly Gates in a foul mood for not being accorded élite status. Not relishing taking a deposition from the addled gentleman, St Peter sloughs him off to Paul, his Deputy Secretary for Lost Souls, who asks Donald to name three things that qualify him to enter the realm of eternal peace, harmony, and brotherly love.
“Well, I gave Ivanka a kitten for her seventh or eleventh birthday, something like that. She said she loved the kitten but I could tell she loved me more because she stopped biting my ankles.”
Paul asked where he had gotten the kitten.
“How the hell would I know? My secretary took care of it.” Continue reading “Donald Trump Goes to Heaven”
Guest Post: The Pieties of the Liberal Class
In this weekend’s CounterPunch, Jason Hirtler masterfully dissects the bankruptcy of the (neo)liberal world order, in which Trump’s policies are bad, bad, bad even when they hardly differ substantively from those of Obama or any other president.
That America’s policies foreign and domestic scarcely vary from one administration to the next seems beyond the mass media’s myopic ken, but doesn’t escape the clear-eyed Mr. Hirtler. His well-chosen words both sting and entertain.
Read his analysis of the Democrat’s duplicity and overreaching and let us know if you think he’s off the mark or not. And while you’re over there, please chip in, because CounterPunch is entirely a reader-supported enterprise, and one of the few fearless publications willing to speak truth to power. A world without such blowback would be unthinkable, and perhaps uninhabitable.
So give. A better world will thank you.
Yes, Virginia, there are conspiracies—I think
You know those little green-and-white USDA Organic labels you find on organic produce? What if someone told you that their adhesive transmits a powerful drug into the edible that over time can render humans sterile? It’s true, they say; they’ve seen the lab reports, and go on to assert that this is a plot by USDA and agribusiness interests to decimate nutritionally savvy people as a way boost sales of poison-laden GM food products.
Insidious beyond belief, you think. You’re pretty sure it’s a crock, but your doubt gene says “What if…?” and you decide to check it out. You email people to ask if they’ve heard it and some of them do the same. Someone finds a truther blog with a long discussion thread about it and lets you know. Alleging scientific credentials, certain discussants proceed to hypothesize about the chemistry and physiology of the attack vector and argue about that. Others point to connections between certain USDA political appointees and Big Food. The rumor has become a thing, and even if you post refutations that get shot down, you’re now part of it. Continue reading “Yes, Virginia, there are conspiracies—I think”
Unsafe Sex with Your Webcam
It’s only the second week of the month, but I feel we already have a winner for October’s spam contest. Not only is it semi-literate, its author kindly apologizes for the broken English, but then goes on to kindly request 850 euro be deposited in his or her bitcoin account. Even if I had euros I wouldn’t know how to do that. Should I go to my bank with cash, ask for it in euros and tell them to change them into bitcoins? I’ve never had any bitcoins; have no idea what they even look like.
The message ostensibly came from a user named Janine at a tax consultancy, but Janine’s address may have been spoofed. To preserve my privacy, I’ve changed my address to “whomever,” but the actual address my extortionist sent this to is a mailbox I dedicate to receiving mailings from adobe.com that has only been used by them, up until now. See, way back in 2013 hackers purloined data for some 8 million credit card and 30 million email addresses from Adobe. The info was most likely put up for auction on the Dark Web. It took five years for that s!*t to hit the fan, but that’s not unusual. Yet another reason not to do business with those price-gouging bloodsuckers, but I digress. Continue reading “Unsafe Sex with Your Webcam”
Publishing Made Tedious: The Birthing of a Politically Incorrect Novel
The 2400 words that follow encapsulate three years of struggle to produce and publish a book into a somewhat coherent memoir. Should your interest start to flag as you skim through, don’t abandon ship; simply scroll to the end for a summation and a special offer.
~ Geoff Dutton
Once upon a time, when my life was in upheaval, in an urgent act of therapy I channeled my angst into a novel. It seemed necessary at the time, but as my situation improved my motivation ebbed and I abandoned it halfway through. Twenty years later, I began another one. It too was an act of therapy, but for society rather than myself. And because its topic—the threat of radical Islamic terrorism—was all over the news, I wanted it to be reality-driven, socially relevant, politically provocative, and an antidote to Islamophobia.
My unaccountable passion to tell that story and my determination to finish it drove me to write 120,000 words over 18 months and badger dozens of literary agents and publishers. After nine revisions, it weighed in at 105K words and just under 400 pages, a bit obese for a first novel as some literary types informed me. But it is what it is, I decided, and started peddling it again. Six months later—just a few days ago—it was published, but not as I had envisioned.
Let me tell you how all that went. Continue reading “Publishing Made Tedious: The Birthing of a Politically Incorrect Novel”
The Spy Looking over My Shoulder
Learning from John Le Carré
I owe David Cornwell, a.k.a. John Le Carré, big time. He has led me from the literary wilderness to the promised land of Almost Fit to Print. Without his unbeknownst tutelage, I would never have gotten even this far. This is my humble homage to his humbling genius.
When, nearly three years ago I set out to write a novel about a multi-ethnic leftist international conspiracy from the perps’ point of view, I had urgent motivations but knew nothing about genre. As I spend much more time writing than reading for pleasure, there are a lot of books that might inform mine I’ve managed to miss. Truth be told, my literary tastes gravitate to non-fiction, mostly research material for articles. Over six decades, I doubt I’ve read more than 100 novels that weren’t assigned in some long-ago class. A year could pass before picking up a new one, rarely a thriller. I had but the vaguest idea of how to proceed after conjuring up quirky characters and a wisp of a plot in a land I had never visited. It would have to be a thriller, that much I knew. Having read few but seen a lot of spy movies, I figured I knew enough to do this. Continue reading “The Spy Looking over My Shoulder”
Deep State 102: The Weaponization of the Democratic Party
In a penetrating essay that could cause you to lose sleep, stage, screen, and cultural critic and radical playwright John Steppling peels away the all-inclusive veneer of the Democratic Party to reveal its rotten core, eaten out by slick financiers and world supremacists. He begins by politically disrobing current Dem darling Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, upset winner of a well-publicized primary battle in the Bronx, likening her to Bernie Sanders but not in a good way. They are both “sheepdogs,” he says, political animals whose task is to nudge left-leaning voters back into the fold. We saw how well that worked in 2016, right?
Naming names, he follows up by itemizing disgraceful legislation congressional Dems have promoted and putrid GOP bills they took passes on, such as the obese $700B defense budget they collaborated on that overshot what was requested by a healthy margin. And lest you think that’s as bad as it gets, he unmasks a depressingly extensive host of Democratic primary candidates as ex-military, State Department, and CIA operatives, set to infiltrate Congress on a mission to fully weaponize all federal activities. Having long ago swallowed the White House, civil service, and mass media, the Secret Team has decided it’s time to ingest Congress.
Below the fold, fellow travelers, I give you John Steppling.
Continue reading “Deep State 102: The Weaponization of the Democratic Party”
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the Times
Democratic Socialism is awful as a slogan and catastrophic as a policy. And “social democracy”—a term that better fits the beliefs of ordinary liberals who want, say, Medicare for all—is a politically dying force. Democrats who aren’t yet sick of all their losing should feel free to embrace them both.
~ Bret Stephens, “Democratic Socialism is Dem Doom,” New York Times op-ed, 7/7/19, p. A19.
So much for my false hopes for a progressive renaissance. Bret Stephens, the Great Gray Lady’s newest white male conservative columnist hath spoken. He came on board a little over a year ago, straightaway from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. When he was hired, NYT’s Editorial Page Editor James Bennet gushed “Bret, who won the 2013 Pulitzer prize for commentary, brings to the job profound intellectual depth, honesty and bravery – the qualities our audience expects from a Times columnist. He’s a beautiful writer who ranges across politics, international affairs, culture and business, and, for The Times, he will bring a new perspective to bear on the news.”
So now, out of a dozen regular Times columnists there are three white male Republican opinionators who don’t like Trump. I guess it’s up to Bret Stephens, Ross Douhat, and David Brooks to change the hearts and minds of the 7 out of 10 Republicans who do like him. Be my guest. Continue reading “Fair and Balanced Opinion at the Times”
When Momma Ain’t Happy
Downsides of Innovation Mania
(Revised and expanded July 4th, 2018. Happy Independence from Consumerism Day!)
You probably sense as I do that normality isn’t what it used to be, even a few years ago. I’m talking not about Trump or politics but of the magnificent panoply of digital technologies we are immersed if not drowning in. The speed at which technologists are shoving stuff at us has bugged me for quite some time. Understanding innovation mania has caused me to spend years puzzling out what’s driving the complexification of nearly everything and how the new ways we are obliged to adopt might transform concepts of what human nature is.
Why, I wonder, is everything possible being digitized as quickly as possible? I hate to use the phrase, but might there be some “intelligent design” that drives humans to churn out technology, faster and faster? More importantly, whom or what are we serving with our clever innovations, especially those that render what once was tangible into bits? Continue reading “When Momma Ain’t Happy”
Pity the Immigrant Warrior
How NPR Elides Facts to Further Hegemony
It’s universal. We all gripe about how news media—TV and radio network news, newspapers, and Internet news sites—intentionally distort and selectively oversimplify reality, and we like to say so in letters to the editor and online comments. Complaints about media bias are as old as the town crier, and today are institutionalized online. A bunch of watchdog groups, such as FAIR and Media Matters on the left (progressive foes of corporate media) and Media Research Center to the right (whose “sole mission is to expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the Left: the national news media”), specialize in skewering the press. They’re all worth considering if a balanced view is what you aspire to.
Both sides regularly take aim at the same targets for different reasons. One of them is NPR (National Pubic Radio), criticized by the right as a card-carrying member of the “liberal media” conspiracy and by the left as a corporatist sell-out. While it tends to steer left of and does more investigative reporting than our TV networks, its political liberalism stops just to the left of David Brooks. (Speaking of whom, should it appeal and you can spare $15, you can buy a roll of toilet paper printed with his visage and quotations. Monies fund The Baffler magazine’s crankiness.) Continue reading “Pity the Immigrant Warrior”
Franking Privileges: Barney and the Jet Set
Remember good old Barney Frank, the loudmouth former legislator from Massachusetts’ 4th District? (Even after 50 years in the Bay State, he still talks Joisey.) He’s gay and proud (having first outed himself privately in the late 70s and then publicly in 1987), and still sports a progressive patina that over time has become a tad tarnished.
He first showed up on my radar as a twenty-something grad student at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute of Politics who ditched his dissertation to work for the Mayor of Boston. He soon entered politics as a state rep, taking a law degree from Harvard while he served his west-of-Boston suburban constituency. By 1980 he was a Congress-critter, and by the time he bowed out in 2013 he had risen to Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (demoted by the 2010 mid-terms to Ranking Member). Unless it happened in High School, he never lost an election. Continue reading “Franking Privileges: Barney and the Jet Set”
Deep State 101: A primer and prescription
Every nation worth its salt has a deep state, a loose network of rich and powerful players who ratify, veto or formulate state social, economic and military policies. Whether monarchy, dictatorship, or constitutional republic, no government worthy of the name lacks for a shadowy unelected élite with hands on the tiller and in the till, influential persons with inherited or recent wealth, upper crust social connections, and old school ties, often found sitting on boards of directors and golf carts in isolated settings.
Like Sand Hill Cranes, they are rare and difficult to spot in their habitats, seamlessly blending as they do with their inaccessible surroundings. Amongst themselves, however, they are highly convivial. Partial to receptions, they bibulate and circulate as they joust over canapés. Not to worry they are but degenerates just killing time, important things get done under the buzz. Small talk can have big consequences and decadent environs make deal-making a sport. Continue reading “Deep State 101: A primer and prescription”
Steal This Book: The Publishing Misadventures of a CIA Whistleblower
The decorated cold-warrior Air Force Colonel Leroy Fletcher Prouty would have turned 100 last June. Today few remember him, but those who do may recall him as an arch military intelligence insider who alerted the nation to the capture of reins of government by the intelligence establishment, from the Korean Conflict forward to this day. He served his country under five presidents, first as an Army Air officer who saw service in Africa, South Asia, and Japan in WWII, ending up an Air Force Major assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[i] As Chief of Special Operations there, he coordinated CIA and military activities between JCS, directorates of the CIA, the National Security Council, and teams in the field. A key player, Prouty was privy to top-secret planning and policy documents and lists of CIA plants in civilian and military organizations, including CIA front companies. There was little he didn’t know about how the agency operated its clandestine operations and little anyone around him knew more about. His Rolodex must have been amazing. Continue reading “Steal This Book: The Publishing Misadventures of a CIA Whistleblower”
America’s Slow-Motion Coup d’état Advances
I wonder how Rex Tillerson feels about being the first high-level federal official to be fired publicly and online, in one brutal tweet. I’m sure he expected the hammer to come down on him, but not like that. And I wonder if he will come forward to describe what led up to it. Unlikely, as he’s an extremely wealthy and still influential corporate player who would have but book royalties and speaker fees to gain from breaking his NDA to tell all. Still, some intrepid journalist should take Rex to lunch and encourage him to cry in his beer. Continue reading “America’s Slow-Motion Coup d’état Advances”
Notes from Inside a Glass Prison
Liberation from drudgery isn’t what it used to be. It’s now mostly become a matter of upgrading our masters. Continue reading “Notes from Inside a Glass Prison”
From Russia with Trepidation
The Rocky Ride of Eddy Robinson
Every one of us bears within him the possibility of all passions, all destinies of life in all its manifold forms. Nothing human is foreign to us. ~ Edward G. Robinson
In the darkest days of World War II, Hollywood went to bat for Russia—our ally then—by adapting Soviet propaganda films for the American audience and making some of its own on their behalf. This amazing documentary, a paean to the heroism of the Russian people and the Red Army, was shot before, during, and after Hitler’s siege of Moscow. Filmed between October 1941 and January 1942 during a time of invasion, privation, agony and death in the depths of the Russian winter, Moscow Strikes Back (Russian version here) may be a little hard to take in spots, but is well worth an hour of your time. Should the following video start in the middle, rewind by dragging the red button all the way to the left. Makes me think: wouldn’t it be nice to be able to rewind America away from the right? Continue reading “From Russia with Trepidation”
One Regime to Rule them All
It is considered bad form for journalists to refer to the US government as a “regime.” Apparently, that moniker is reserved for our country’s enemies, of late Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Maybe Myanmar too; that’s still being sorted out. But what is a regime, really, and is it really true that we don’t have one here? Continue reading “One Regime to Rule them All”
America 💖s Islamic Terrorists (abroad)
ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
By all accounts, wherever the Islamic State has gained and held territory, its residents suffer terrible oppression and deprivation. Unless you are on their wavelength, you most likely agree that ISIS rule has been calamitous for its subjects. Both Obama and Trump have pointed out their badass nature on numerous occasions, not so much in sympathy for those they oppress but to raise fear levels of ISIS-inspired badassery here at home. And yet, both regimes have actively, secretly, and materially supported the advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, fully aware of who they were and what they were up to. Say what? Isn’t “material support of terrorism” a Federal crime?
Watching Watchbirds: On Surveillance, Watch Lists, Disinformation, and Secrecy
Watchbirds were those annoying little stick-figure birds who perched in some Munro Leaf children’s stories, always ready to instruct kids in proper protocols when they were misbehaving. Our current flock of watchbirds rarely have to instruct us because we mostly maintain civil decorum knowing they’re there. Talk about the nanny state.
Continue reading “Watching Watchbirds: On Surveillance, Watch Lists, Disinformation, and Secrecy”
The Net’s Good Old Boys (3)
Part 3: Dr. (Don’t Be) Evil Meets Dr. Strangelove
Continued from If We Only Knew Then
Former Google EC Dr. Eric Schmidt has called for intelligence agencies to stop illegally prying into personal information and has been doing his best to convince the government to pay Google to do it legally instead. That said, in 2009 he was widely rebuked for telling CNBC:
If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it’s important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities. ~ Dr. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, 2009
Schmidt didn’t add that Google is obliged to turn over email content under court order and not tell users it did so. He didn’t have to. We all know about FISA and PATRIOT. Same goes for Hotmail, AOL, or any US email provider, only Google has much more to give. Continue reading “The Net’s Good Old Boys (3)”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Open Letter to Judge Amy Coney Barrett
CC: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Dear Judge Barrett,
Congratulations on your nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States! You must be ecstatic! What greater plum could an ambitious jurist wish for, unless it’s Chief Justice? You’ll just have to wait your turn, if that is on your agenda.
So be a good sport and chill for the time being. Ask Donald Trump to give you a rain check. For the sake of the Republic. You see, you and those who vote to confirm you will be judged by present and future Americans according to how well your ascension to the highest court in the land serves the tattered remnants of our so-called republic, so please listen up.
We don’t care what an accomplished legal scholar or nice person you are; all we know is that you are being used in the most high-handed way and that this ought to disturb anyone who believes in fair play and the rule of law.
It will, after all, be up to you and your colleagues on the high court to adjudicate whether governmental authority has been overreached, either by the Executive, Congress, or the judiciary, including your very own precious Supreme Court. This, as you may know, has happened, and more so recently.
This is supremely important. For decades, our presidents have inexorably extended the reach of their decision-making authority until almost any executive order is generally deemed legitimate. President Trump has hollowed out the constitution time and time again by abrogating to himself the authority to, for example, terminate the DACA program, grab portions of federal agency budgets to build a wall at the Mexican Border using funds Congress did not appropriate for such a purpose, and send federal law enforcement agents to arrest legitimate protestors over the objection of local authorities.
Are you okay with unlimited executive prerogatives? Is the pliant acquiescence of the Republican-controlled senate to whatever the President may demand (such as ramming through your appointment scant weeks before a presidential election) prima facie an exercise in legitimate constitutional as well as moral authority?
Most people’s moral political compass would point toward declining this nomination and tell the President to try again once he is re-elected. That would be the honorable thing to do. That would comfort the nation. You must clearly understand that quick confirmation of your nomination is expeditious for the administration and its allies. Do you want to be a pawn in their game? What self-respecting person would stand to be used in such a manner?
Your deeply held beliefs may have real and possibly adverse consequence for our loved ones and descendants, but that’s not our real problem. What’s truly upsetting is that you would allow yourself to be used to further an authoritarian agenda on behalf of a president who is loyal only to himself, his pocketbook, and his overreaching ambitions. You know who Donald Trump is, that he has failed the Americans he claims to represent, and has no respect for the rule of any law he takes exception to, so why would you stand for his and Mitch McConnell’s end run around tradition and due process, even if it advances your career?
End this charade. Find a way to bow out. We suggest going through the confirmation process and then withdrawing before being sworn in. No need to explain; simply cite personal reasons. If you don’t and go on to take your seat on the bench you will have contributed to hastening the end of democracy in our republic and history will not judge you kindly.
One Hundred Million Americans
September 27, 2020; updated October 7, 2020
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