I'm an ex-this-and-that, including software developer, computer graphics researcher, geospatial analyst, market manager, and technical writer, who now writes full-time when not reading, running a household, foraging for edible mushrooms, pushing progressive politics, or volunteering fsomewhere. I live near Boston with my wife, daughter, two cats and two old cars.
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.
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…
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:
Every website needs a way for visitors to send a message to its proprietors. Some sites provide an email address, but typically they have a form on a page that tends to be called Contact. That’s what I did when I set up a website for my publishing imprint, Perfidy Press. Having put together several sites already, I should have known better than to set up a contact page that wasn’t protected against robots, but gave it no thought. Naively, I presumed that only people who cared about my content would bother to contact me. That seems to have been the case for the first six months it was online, when one or two responses a week got dumped into my inbox, but in the last two months it’s been more like one or two a day, and they keep getting more bizarre.
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.
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”
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”
The Next Debate Needs More Mud: Wednesday 10/16/2019
The Democratic presidential debates are getting too predictable and too carefully scripted to slant coverage the way media barons and their CIA minders want. It has come time for presidential aspirants to get down and dirty (Don and dirty?) And so, for the next nationally televised debate (hopefully over the air as well as on cable news), here’s what I’d like to see:
Live mud wrestling onstage, narrated by a Howard Cowell impersonator!!!
Picture, if you will and can, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders facing off in a sea of mud, clad only in Titleist shorts, tripping, poking eyes, and body-slamming their opponent. Picture too Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris in Speedos tearing at each others’ hair (advantage Warren) or slipping through holds (advantage Harris). Let’s pair off all the others and make a ladder of mud until the final encounter, mano a mano, wrestles the top contenders to their inevitable (if the DNC has its way) political death.
Then and only then will we know what these people are made of. My prediction of who will take the final round is…
National Guard reservist and in-shape Iraq veteran Tulsi Gabbard.
Issue with Contact Forms Fixed: Wednesday 6/19/19
There was a problem with our contact form that prevented emails from going out when the Send Message button was pressed that was not apparent to senders. If you sent a message via the Contact form during the past several months, it was not received. The issue has been fixed. Please continue to get in touch. We will get back to you if you state that you wish a reply to your message, or sometimes even if you don’t.
Click Contact on the menu at the top of the page to access the form. Thank you.
I Support Tulsi: Monday 6/10/19
And here’s some good reasons why you should too, win or lose.
If you share only one thing about Tulsi with your friends and family, make it this video. Over six minutes, this raw and emotional exchange encapsulates the reason she is running for president. #Tulsi2020pic.twitter.com/BaB3RxrKIq
Here’s prematurely alopeciated Jeff Bezos, proudly displaying Amazon wares looking part goofball, part nerd, and part used car salesman. The photo of the now-richest human being is undated, but I place it in the late 1990s.
One clue is that book he’s holding, Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought, 1st Edition, by Douglas Hofstadter, published in 1996 and currently selling for $20.17 at Amazon.
Amazon’s blurb for it reads: “Driven to discover whether computers can be made to ‘think’ like humans, Hofstadter and his colleagues created a variety of computer programs that extrapolate sequences, apply pattern-matching strategies, make analogies, and even act ‘creative.’ As always, Hofstadter’s work requires devotion on the part of the reader, but rewards him with fascinating insights into the nature of both human and machine intelligence.”
Well gosh, isn’t that just what young Jeff went on to do? Amazon’s AI inference engines are among the best in the biz. Everything you do on the site is tracked to predict what you will want next and put up for sale to assorted merchants and data brokers. All that shopping and just clicking around made Jeff a media plutocrat by giving people what they were urged to want, but also by selling their souls. We might have gotten the hint then, but who was paying attention to all that profiling or knew AI would come after us with it? My advice: resist one-click shopping.
Childfree Doesn’t mean Carefree: Saturday 3/30/19
WIRED this week features a rather joyless essay, Why Don’t You Want Kids? Because Apocalypse! that makes a case for the Childfree movement, as is evidenced on Reddit and in several recent or forthcoming books and academic articles. I can relate to these young folks who spurn parenthood; newly married in my mid-twenties, I decided I didn’t want to have any kids. Now the childfree folks say its to spare potential offspring from one or more coming collapses. Back then, Vietnam, Nixon, assassinations, and civil disturbances, not to mention overpopulation, made bringing a child into the world seem risky, if not futile. But the real reason I didn’t want to was that I had decided I did not want my wife to be the mother of my children. That was a problem, and after three years together we sensibly broke up.
It took many relationships and 30 years for me to change my mind, and now my only child, my special daughter, is about to enter college. Of course I’m glad we had her, and gratified that she’s plotting a career to fight for environmental quality justice. We—and she—know her path won’t be easy, but we wouldn’t have it otherwise.
Now, many of today’s childfreebies may have staggering loads of student debt, which wasn’t so much of a problem when I graduated from college. No doubt, having a baby when one is under such a financial cloud can feel daunting. But even if they manage to pay off their own college and grad school obligations, they’ll still need to save the money they might have spent to educate their unborn. That’s because, come the time when they grow old and feeble, they’ll need to pay for support that adult children typically provide ageing parents; such services don’t come cheap and may go on for a number of years, if not decades. Are they prepared to put their money where their mouth is, their faith in the kindness of strangers, and their fates in underpaid hands, or have they already decided that the world will soon end and take them with it? If so, good for them. Who needs another generation of nihilists?
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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.