Saturday, August 25, 2018


Okay, so, obviously, what with my reduced output over the past few months (due to many factors, including burnout, lethargy, paying work and a general sense of hopelessness), there have been a number of stories that I'd hoped to share with y'all via my blogs, but haven't. I keep track of these stories on a scratch-pad, where I list general topics and specific reports, op-ed pieces and essays. That scratch-pad has now grown intolerably long, so I'm going to be performing a purge over the next few blog posts here at the DDD, and also at Kubrick U, The Mediavore, and Useless Eater Blog (links available, page right).

Please forgive the lack of organization as we begin with Brian Beutler's op-ed piece for Cracked Magazine, titled The Crime Is Worse Than The Coverup, from which we get the lovely image above, and which begins...
On multiple occasions in 2016, and perhaps stretching back into the previous year, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign fielded solicitations from Russian spies and cutouts offering up stolen Democratic Party emails and other assistance in the election. 
At no point, so far as we know, did anyone working on the campaign report this pattern of behavior to the FBI. After Trump secured the Republican Party nomination, the FBI warned him and his advisers that Russians would try to penetrate their campaign, and asked them to alert law enforcement officials if and when they noticed anything suspicious. They said nothing. Since winning the election, Trump has gone to great lengths to protect Russia from the American intelligence community’s assessment that Russia subverted the election to help Trump and tried to shut down all efforts to determine his level of complicity in that subversion. 
Christopher Steele, by contrast, didn’t hesitate for a second to alert the FBI when, while working for the political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, he unearthed information that convinced him Trump was compromised, susceptible to Russian government blackmail, and conspiring with Russian spies to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 
For his trouble, Republicans have tried to run down the former head of the MI6 Russia desk as a partisan operative and a criminal, without whom the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation would never have taken hold. Despite the fact that he has never testified before Congress, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently accused him of making false statements (presumably, they allege, to law enforcement officials) and referred him to the FBI for investigation.
It only gets better from that point on, containing a great deal of important information and excellent, eye-opening perspective. I urge you to read it and pass it along to any friends that you think could make good use of it. I've got it clipped and saved.


Next up, we have this important essay, entitled Yes, Polarization is Asymmetric, and Conservatives Are Worse, from The Atlantic, which hasn't exactly been covering itself in glory in recent months... but more about that later. For now, Norm Ornstein's essay about Pew's monumental new study (based upon over 10,000 in depth field interviews) shows how... the mid- to late-1990s, we did not have anywhere near the level of public polarization or ideological or partisan animosity that we have now. In the public, this phenomenon has been much more recent (and is accelerating). But in the Gingrich era in Congress, starting in 1993, where Republicans united in both houses to oppose major Clinton initiatives and moved vigorously from the start of his presidency to delegitimize him, the era of tribalism started much earlier, while the ante was upped dramatically in the Obama years. The fact is that it was not public divisions on issues that drove elite polarization, but the opposite: Cynical politicians and political consultants in the age of the permanent campaign, bolstered by radio talk-show hosts and cable-news producers and amplified by blogs and social media, did a number on the public.
So, basically, "Bothsiderism" is most likely a result of media whoredom, prizing ratings over truth (and morality), and Republicans are really problematic, on a number of levels. Then of course there's always the issue of conservatives "working the ref", or complaining so constantly and at such high volumes about the "liberal bias" of the mainstream media that said media meekly bends over backwards to appease right-wingers and so as NOT to appear "liberal", which pushes the Overton Window ever further to the right, with the right-wingers never letting up, baying louder and louder at this phantom bias that now has ZILCH to do with reality.

And yet, tragically for the USA, it seems to have been a winning strategy for the worst of all possible elements. I suppose there's not much those of us for whom the above is plainly obvious to do, except to make sure people in our own personal circles understand the tactics being deployed against them, and understand the stakes involved. This article is probably a tick or two above "starter" level, but it's an important one for us seasoned news hounds to read and share with those we believe might benefit from reading it.


Seattle's The Stranger has long been one of the premiere big city alternative "free weeklies", and they continue to prove their value with excellent think pieces like Charles Mudede's Mass Shootings Reveal America Is A Civilization That's Reverted To Ritual Sacrifice. It begins:
The complete absence or uselessness of rational action to address the frequency of mass shootings in our society requires that we reexamine them in a completely different light. We cannot continue to see these deaths in the context of a pragmatic, civil debate about gun laws. That will tell us only a little, if anything at all. If you go on Twitter, you will find an endless stream of tweets with links to graphs and research that make it abundantly clear that mass shootings are very preventable. There is no mystery to their cause and persistence. But what if our society is not looking for a solution? What if it's the other way around: It fears the prevention of massacres? These are the kinds of things we now need to seriously consider.

The force that's regularly supplying Americans with bullet-ridden corpses might be much deeper and mostly forgotten, and so cannot be so easily recognized by common sense or the secular left. I propose the context that has greater explanatory power for the persistence of mass shootings in the US is religious superstition. We must stop going on and on about lacking laws that would protect our citizens; we must stop going on and on about how this or that politician has been bought. We are way beyond the point where such considerations are meaningful or productive. We must instead ask: To whom are all of these bodies being sacrificed, and why?
This is not easy reading, and it's bound to spark some intense reactions. But, as with so many of the challenges to which America and the Western World are being subjected, perhaps it requires of us to adopt a new kind of language, so as to more adequately comprehend and address. Where the lexicon of prescriptive social policy falls short, can the advanced linguistic technologies of existential phenomenology carry us closer to an answer? Yer old pal Jerky doesn't know, but he does know that, on a number of fronts, we seem to be running out of options. And as a result, many of us appear to be retreating into the relative safety and comfort of a new dark age.

Which brings us to...


...Bradley Babandir's overview of the Silicon Valley tentacle of the New Fascist International, as best exemplified by libertarian/Utopian billionaire vampire Peter Thiel, as revealed in the scathing new tome The Know-It-Alls; The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Power House and Social Wrecking Ball, by Noam Cohen (buy via this link so yer old pal Jerky gets a couple shekels in his beggin' cup). Even though it doesn't go quite as far as yer old pal Jerky does in identifying this faction as a de facto, knowing cohort of an incredibly dangerous emerging global conspiracy, it does some important dot-connecting... everything from the extremes of the transhumanistic "imagination", to their vision for a post-democratic technocracy, to their ongoing obsession with certain types of testable/computable/replicable IQ, etc. It begins:
THE PIT OF Peter Thiel’s ghoulishness may be bottomless, but scraping the sides for highlights is worthwhile. The vampiric impulses of Silicon Valley’s libertarian overlord combined with his endorsement of Donald Trump during the 2016 election make him look like a supervillain, but the really terrifying thing about Thiel is the reach of his tentacles and the number of people and companies his money and ideology have influenced. 
Noam Cohen, a former columnist for The New York Times, traces that legacy in The Know-it-Alls, a history of Silicon Valley through the people who shaped it, from John McCarthy, a pioneering midcentury AI researcher, to Mark Zuckerberg. Each of the men (they’re all men) in his focus does something essential to change the culture and economics of the technology start-up world, but this book has a long shadow on its pages. It could just as well have been organized “before Thiel” and “after Thiel.” Once he arrives, there is nothing he does not touch. 
... Cohen mostly gives his subjects the benefit of the doubt. ... This is often disappointing, especially when he deals with figures like Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. The former’s awful treatment of workers comes tacked on at the end of his chapter, while the latter’s pervasive anticompetitive behavior is only mentioned later, in a chapter about Marc Andreessen. ... That all ends when he reaches Thiel. Cohen starts swinging and landing blows. Thiel is a hypocrite (fundamentally against government intervention in the business world, unless it’ll help him), an aggrieved figure in search of a grievance (the conservative magazine he started in college would, if no recent controversy was suitable for its purposes, concoct one), and a trolling commentator who believes, as he wrote in 2009, that “the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women […] have rendered the notion of a ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” Cohen’s knockout comes from tying Thiel’s worldview back to those who came before him. He lays it out in the book’s most important paragraph: 
“[C]ut through Thiel’s eccentricities and harsh language and you discover that Thiel is simply articulating the Know-It-All worldview as best he knows how. In Thiel’s ideas one finds Frederick Terman’s insistence that the smartest should lead, as well as his belief in using entrepreneurism and the market to introduce new technologies to the people. There is the hackers’ confidence that technology will improve society, as well as their suspicion of ignorant authorities who would try to rein in or regulate the best and brightest. There is the successful entrepreneur’s belief that the disruption that has made him fabulously wealthy must be good for everyone. The main difference between Thiel and his peers is that he acts forcefully and openly in support of his ideas, while they are inclined to be more cautious and circumspect.” 
This changes the conversation about how Thiel relates to his peers. Like the Republican Party members who more or less vote along the lines of President Donald Trump’s agenda but criticize his demeanor, the problem that his peers have with him is not that his beliefs matched with his power are destructive but that he says aloud what others merely think. Thiel believes that, as Cohen writes, “monopoly businesses like Google, Facebook, and Amazon serve as a welcome replacement for government.”
So, basically, Thiel isn't just the absolute worst, he's the absolute worst, empowered... by access to a bottomless pit full of money, a head full of dangerously wacky notions, and yet-to-be-released communications technology so cutting edge, it's indistinguishable from mind control. In other words... nothing to worry about!


A few more articles of note before I pinch this one off and start brewing up a new info-turd...

  • If you're having trouble coming to terms with the ideological flavors and the swiftly gelling formal contours of Cold War 2.0, then this Observer article by John Schindler -- Russia has an Ideology, and It's As Entrenched as Communism Ever Was -- does a pretty good job of explaining what so many old far lefties are having a difficult time understanding about contemporary Russia and (perhaps most dangerously) Vladimir Putin. Schindler's witty and memorable metaphors do more to help put things in their proper perspective than any half-dozen think tank white papers ever could. The fact that, once again, learned public intellectuals are confirming yet another element of my own still-developing "New Fascist International" conspiracy theory is small comfort, indeed.
  • From what was, up until far too recently, one of the last bastions of "legit" leftist journalism still clinging to the ridiculous notion that "the whole Russia thing" -- whether it be, specifically, their interference in the 2016 election, or Putin's global malfeasance and bad faith dealing, in general -- is somehow overblown, we get a mea culpa of sorts in Robert Mackey's Russian Propaganda Attempts to Sow Doubt Over Chemical Attacks In Syria. He should probably be asking his boss, Gutless Glenn Greenwald, but I'll still take this necessary correction: "Assad, a dictator by any definition, and his ally Putin are both seen as bastions of anti-U.S. resistance [by the left]. The leaps of logic that some on the left are engaging in, in order to vilify Syrian rebels and civilians in favor of these two leaders, are breathtaking." Kind of makes one wonder if Jimmy Dore is even capable of feeling shame at this point.
  • Here's another interesting take asking Why Are Some on the Left Falling for Fake News on Syria?, as published on Truthdig, and written by veteran global activist Sonali Kolhatkar.
  • For an even more in depth and detailed analysis of the situation, check out The Syria Campaign's report, Killing the Truth: How Russia is Fueling a Disinformation Campaign to Cover Up War Crimes in Syria

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