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. —GD
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.
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”
A Dystopian Time Machine from 1909: Sunday 1/19/2020
It was in 1909, before he had published any of his novels, that E. M. Forster flung himself into the far future to epitomize the hole he believed humanity was digging itself into—literally—in his novella The Machine Stops. Although he seems to have forgotten or ignored it as most others have done, he lived long enough (passing in 1970) to seen the stirrings of the technological mousetrap he depicted in that tale of an estranged mother and son cocooned in subterranean air-conditioned private vaults designed and maintained by forces beyond their ken. How we have come to dwell is different in detail but not in essence, and the polarities of acceptance and rejection of our fate echo those of Forster’s protagonists.
In a way, The Machine Stops turns H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) on its head. Instead of Wells’s Eloi, innocents dwelling on the earth’s surface who are at the mercy of the subterranean beasts, the Morlocks, Forster’s characters live deep below the surface in warrens fashioned long ago by men driven to escape the environmental catastrophes their own inventions had wrought. But neither book ends well for its protagonists.
None of Forster’s later works entered such territory. In his novels of marriages and mores, he went on to chronicle the intimate travails of bourgeois Brits, expressed as modernist realism rather than science fiction. But by 1940, modern life had burdened him so that he could never find relevance in such period pieces.
What his novella meant for Forster and what it signifies for us today I have tried to puzzle out ina commentary online in The Technoskeptic Magazine, accompanied by a few editorial excerpts from it. The entire novella has been republished online n several places, such as this PDF version. If you have never read it, doing so will make you think twice before logging on anywhere.
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.
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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.
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.”
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.
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?
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.