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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.

The Backstory

No doubt you recall the the international refugee crisis in the summer of 2015, when Afghani,  Syrian, Iraqi, and African war refugees—Muslims mostly—fled their homelands to hoof it toward Mediterranean coasts and float in rickety crafts to Europe. Many gave up their life savings to smugglers or sold themselves into slavery to escape depredations by government forces, armed militias, and salafist warlords.

They came by the tens of thousands. Several thousand perished at sea. Others got stuck in limbo, interned in sprawling squalid compounds where they could not reunite with relatives or earn livings. Those that made the crossing carried on, pressing northward by foot, bus, train, and bicycle traversing arteries leading into the heart of Europe.

How quickly politicians battened down borders and pundits brayed that allowing entry to refugees (meaning Muslims) would entail grave risks of terrorist infiltration. A resurgent right ratcheted up fear that the migrants would mongrelize national identities and even lead to imposition of Sharia Law. Such fears were as rampant in America as in Europe, even though few Middle Eastern refugees ever made it that far. A year and a half hence, we have a Chief Executive who gleefully stirs up and legitimizes xenophobic sentiments. Fear and loathing of Muslims and other asylum seekers has become official American policy. Just this week, in fact, the US State Department dropped its quota for refugees to 30,000, the lowest it has been since the program began in the 1980s.

Although the exodus of refugees from Middle Eastern war zones has ebbed, those making their way today are more likely to be refused or penned up indefinitely. And thanks to the propagandizing of emboldened reactionary forces, even more citizens on both sides of the Atlantic now fret that towel-heads are bent on raping their daughters, destroying their institutions, and mowing down innocents with bombs, trucks, or automatic weapons.

My bubbling ire at know-nothings who condemned victims of brutal, senseless conflicts, many of which my country had instigated or stirred up, exploded. I vowed: I will give you your “Islamic extremist” who you say hates democracy and wants to destroy your way of life, and make you weep for him and began writing my rejoinder to hate and fear. I gave it my best shot. Now, it’s up to my book’s readers to decide if I am good for my word.

The Struggle

Some novelists sketch out the plot, inventory characters, and make an outline before starting to write. Some, I’m told, write the last chapter first, but that was also out of the question for me. My creative process has always been to plunge in with a nebulous vision of what I intend to produce and then wing it. At least I had a title; I would call the novel Mahmoud’s Jihad, after the title character, whose identity quickly emerged. As much as I liked that title, I eventually abandoned it after suspecting it might be a little intimidating and maybe not so marketable.

As I drafted chapters, I serialized them on an online writers community I was active in. Eventually responses dwindled, until by my 45th post only three or four hardy souls were still paying attention. Rather than leave first drafts twisting in the wind for all to see, I put them to sleep. By then I was with an editor, a friend who was a published author. As I fed her chapters, she gently alerted me to  their deficiencies, and when she got a look at the last chapter she sternly informed me that the ending sucked. Someone needs to die, she insisted, suggesting several candidates, mercifully not including me.

I reluctantly agreed that the ending was an anticlimactic cop-out, but almost quit the project rather than kill off any of my darlings. Not yet willing to twist a knife in, I went back to the beginning and started revising. The  second pass brought a new ending that transformed the story from farce to tragedy. After several more revisions, naïvely believing I had a viable manuscript, I started sending out synopses and chapters to literary agents and publishers, something that turned out to be a waste of everybody’s time.

My more intrepid friends volunteered to read the damned thing. Most of what they told me concerned little thing like quirks of characters, phrasing, plot inconsistencies and typos, not the arc of the plot or the manner of its telling. One gave the opinion that perhaps there were too many adjectives. What I garnered from them was helpful, but did not stop my inner critic from fretting that the story was hard to follow or swallow, or worse, boring. But after prolonged wrestling, I pinned my critic to the mat, croaking Whatever you say. Let the reading public decide.

The Shivers

Easy for him to say. He wouldn’t have to face consequences should my novel be circulated in certain quarters beyond the lapis waters of the Mediterranean Sea. You see, in an effort not to spoil things for you, I withheld critical plot points such as who was the target of my evildoers’ jerry-rigged operation. He’s characterized as someone who has ascended to the pinnacle of state power, belayed by dutiful minions who define sedition rather broadly. Should my obscure thriller come to their attention, it wouldn’t surprise me if I and possibly people close to me were declared persona non grata over there.

Hoping to duck trouble, I made the timorous decision to publish under a pen name and made up a good one. Yes, that would keep my name out of the news and my loved ones out of trouble. But reality dope-slapped me when a publisher wrote back with regrets, saying that while the work had merit, using a nom de plume would make the book impossible to publicize. Visions of appearing in bookstores and on TV sweating under a balaclava were enough to convince me he was right. The perp had to be me.

The Windup and Pitch

Spring was fainting into the sultry arms of summer when I buckled to reality. Conceding that not even a small press would take on publication—and, believe me, I had pestered the lot of them—I resigned myself to the ignominies and expenses of self-publishing. Having read all sorts of tips to budding novelists, I was aware that many of the outfits that print books for hire seldom delivered all they promised. Typesetting and production might be inferior, editorial and design services overpriced, distribution channels wanting, and worst of all, I could end up with a huge stack of books that would end up either shredded, remaindered, or molding in my basement.

But then I heard about co-publishing. Unlike the get-rich-quick schemes of vanity presses or casually indifferent DIY publishing facilitators, a smattering of publishers exist that truly partner with authors, who of course, still must pay. They are not your Amazon CreateSpace / Kindle or Ingram Spark type of operations to which authors upload finished manuscripts and cover art for books to be printed on demand or ground to bits for eBooks. No, they partner with authors at any and all stages of publication to put out books under their or an author’s imprint, and then inject them into distribution channels.

I spoke with representatives of two co-publishers whose reputations I had vetted and chose the one that cost less, had a better distribution network, and left me with all rights and royalties. After a frantic week of tweaking and proofreading, I turned my manuscript over to them in late July. Seven weeks hence, after dozens of emails to correct copy and vet cover designs, my book was a tangible thing. (Sort of; as copies are churned out only upon order, it only becomes a thing when someone decides to buy it.)

The rapidity of all this astounded me. Had I bagged a traditional publisher, that process would have taken one or two years from submission. Their editorial oversight would be punctuated by months of benign neglect. And had I landed a literary agent, it would take even longer. The agency would surely demand revisions and offer no guarantee that a publisher would accept my manuscript. As it was, it took three years from inspiration to publication. Short enough, according to some authors, but not by my lights; I’d had enough of the publishing industry’s insouciance and wanted my life to move on.

The Hard Sell

Now that I had product, all the marketing was on my shoulders, not that it wouldn’t have been under a Penguin or a Macmillan ten-page contract. There’s a difference, you know, between publishers and publicists. Publishers only go to bat for big-name authors. More obscure ones pay publicists hoping that once they make them famous royalties will accrue, but search their fine print in vain for any such promise.

So I gleaned marketing advice from self-publishing gurus on podcasts and blogs, and boiled it down to a modest set of tasks I could undertake to pitch the book:

  • Develop a website for it (I had three sites, but none seemed right.)
  • Cull my from my personal contacts a list for a marketing campaign (yielding about 100 names of people I hoped would forgive the spam)
  • Impale that list on TinyLetter.com and draft a series of email blasts
  • Set up author and book pages on Amazon (Did you know that 70% of all books sold come from amazon.com?)
  • Join a trade group for independent publishers (I chose the Independent Book Publishers Association.)
  • Generate collateral in the form of press releases, flyers, and “Rack cards”
  • Line up appearances at book festivals, bookstores, and radio and TV shows
  • Place ads in book catalogs and magazines (for the holidays, especially)

Conspicuous by its absence from this list is social media. All the book marketing gurus say you need a Facebook presence, plus Twitter and Instagram to “connect” with readers. I suppose so,  but beyond the fact that I deplore Facebook and have vowed never to submit to its algorithms, I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice half of every week updating social media feeds. Let other people talk up my book on their networks; I’ve got better things to do than to engineer one, only to be trolled but otherwise ignored.

But before tackling any of that, I needed to set up a business entity to receive royalties and disburse (tax-deductible) payments for goods and services related to publishing. A few days, 80 dollars, and a bit of paperwork got me a DBA (doing business as) certificate and a bank account for a publishing imprint I had decided to call Perfidy Press. (Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?)

Name in hand, I swiftly purchased a Web domain aptly named perfidy.press for the grand sum of $0.88 plus tax per year, and set up a hosting account for a few dollars more. It took less than a week to get a WordPress site up and running, partly populated by content I cribbed from my blog.

Two weeks before the book’s release (perversely chosen as September 11th) I gave an interview on a cable TV show at my local public access TV station. It went fairly well, despite suffering a bout of intestinal flu and a somewhat lugubrious host who had at least read my novel. After a spot of editing, I hoisted the video on YouTube and perfidy.press. Then, just ahead of release, with freshly printed copies in hand, I read from the book at our public library to a bemused audience of a dozen of my closest friends and relations and signed copies. Now I was an author at last.

Any day now, my publishers association will blast a pitch from me to some 3000 “media influencers” it keeps track of, at no small cost to me. They say to expect fewer than ten requests for copies from that barrage, but suppose one of them is from the NY Times? (But at least I can write it off as a business expense.) Then, in mid October, I’ll be at a booth at the Boston Book Festival (which draws over 10,000 visitors), pitching, reading and signing copies that attendees will presumably purchase.

The Personal Toll

All this frenetic activity over the course of a couple of months has, as you might expect, depleted my resources. It cost me about $3K out-of-pocket and a measure of vitality. And an intestinal parasite I had picked up subjected me to intense discomfort and subtracted 10 pounds of body mass and left me enervated for nearly a month during the end game.

I’m happy to say my body is on the mend now, but the respite I had hoped for that would allow me to entertain other pursuits has yet to materialize. I still feel driven to do everything in my power to get the word out about a book that I feel is a rare if not unique addition to the hyperactive and so often trite international political thriller genre.

So, if you are still reading, please let your friends know how special it is. Direct them to its website, where there’s a video interview to watch, a chapter to read, a downloadable flyer and a press release to pass on, and where they (and you) can sign up to receive a free eBook (while supplies last). Don’t just do it just for me; do it for truth, justice, ecumenical understanding, and liberation from oppression.

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The Spy Looking over My Shoulder

Learning from John Le Carré

John Le Carré (David Cornwell)
John le Carré at the “Zeit Forum Kultur” in Hamburg on November 10th 2008. CC 3 Attribution: KrimidoedliKr

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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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?

Continue reading “America 💖s Islamic Terrorists (abroad)”

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Watching Watchbirds: On Surveillance, Watch Lists, Disinformation, and Secrecy

 

Watchbird, spotted at FishDucky

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”

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The Net’s Good Old Boys (3)

Part 3: Dr. (Don’t Be) Evil Meets Dr. Strangelove

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)”

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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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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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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”

Guest Post: “RussiaGate” Is Fake News. Are you ready for that?

When, after Hillary went down in defeat to The Don, you might have been one of the majority of Americans who accepted the omnipresent narrative that Russia or Putin in particular was responsible for the deterioration of how Americans choose their leaders. The conventional wisdom underlying this proposition is not just wrong, it was orchestrated by minions of the security state who seek an armed confrontation with Russia. How comfortable re you with that idea?

If you suspect that you have been duped into believing Russia is the enemy and Putin is the big bad wolf, I advise you to read Alan MacCleod’s distillation of doublethink as published by FAIR on Friday, July 27, 2018. Author Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group. His latest book, Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting, was published by Routledge in April. Continue reading “Guest Post: “RussiaGate” Is Fake News. Are you ready for that?”

The Curse of Klaatu

(Flash fiction)

My breakfast bagel and I squeeze from the elevator past a guy on a gurney when the fluorescent lights flicker and go dark. Wondering when the emergency generator will kick in, I consult my watch. It’s now 0817. Code Green Time.

Part way down the corridor, Mrs. Sewall from 511 hails me to empty her bedpan, complaining her TV is on the fritz as I rearrange her emaciated limbs. At the nurses’ station, Rachel informs a knot of powder-blue caregivers that her PC and phone are down, so check your mobiles. My screen swims with abstract expressionist art and, in fact, all our devices are dysfunctional in some special way. Harry the oncology resident, woozily roused from his power nap, holds up his old flip phone. Still works, he reports, but no bars.

Alicia has fetched a clock radio from a patient’s room that miraculously had a working backup battery. We stand by as she twirls the dial for sounds of intelligent life. There is but one, some guy saying “… Repeat: The blackout covers a broad swath across the Eastern half of the country. We have no indication of foul play or enemy attack. Technicians are working to restore services as quickly as possible. Stay tuned to this station for updates.

Our Chief Resident barks marching orders. I am to round up portable respirators and haul them to the ICU. On my way I stop by the solarium, half full of patients variously staring at magazines, blank screens or air molecules. From my elevated vantage, the cityscape looks normal but for odd knots of pedestrians on State Street. Across the way, people queued up at Krogers aren’t being let in. Street traffic is at a standstill. Drivers are loitering by their vehicles. What could have halted them all in their tracks?

Then comes a motorist slaloming a 60s-vintage Ford pickup around disabled cars, stopping to let people clamber on, third-world style. How come that clunker still works? Aha! methinks. No Intel inside to conk out. What brought on this standstill was likely a solar flare, a ginormous magnetic pulse that clobbered cars, phones, computers and power plants. Perhaps even airplanes. Oh the humanity!

What will we do without electrons? At least we still have books. If we’re not constantly fighting and foraging we’ll have time to read them. Klaatu barada nikto, I mumble as I trudge back to work.

 

This story also is posted on The Story Hall, a publication at medium.com.