8 Reasons to Switch From YouTube to DTube – by Ian Buckley (Make Use Of) 16 April 2019

Video viewing is predominantly an online pastime. Streaming services like Netflix have changed the face of media forever. And sites like YouTube rely on centrally collected videos which they send to devices on demand.

This isn’t the only way it can work though, and DTube is an example of a decentralized video network. Today we’ll look at what DTube is and how it works, but first, let’s look at how online video sites usually work.

How Most Video Sites Work

YouTube, along with almost every other streaming video website, is a centralized service. For most people, this isn’t a problem. Video content uploads to YouTube’s servers and is searchable through YouTube’s search function. Then, the content streams to devices in whatever format YouTube thinks is best.

This way of working is not without its merits. A centralized service provides the same content to all. Some say, however that centralized services are a problem.

What’s Wrong With YouTube?

Since all storage for video content is on YouTube’s servers, users ultimately have no control over what happens to their videos. YouTube decides what should be on their platform, not YouTube users. If you want to make money from your videos through advertising, YouTube is the broker which decides what is fair to monetize and what isn’t.

YouTube’s algorithm is supposed to promote content fairly, but some content creators notice discrepancies in this system, allegedly making some channels disappear overnight.

In this way, centralized video could be a bad idea. But if YouTube sucks, why is everyone still using it? Well, not everyone is. Some people have switched to using DTube!

If YouTube Sucks, Why Is Everyone Still Using It? If YouTube Sucks, Why Is Everyone Still Using It? YouTube is dominant right now, and despite its recent woes, there are plenty of reasons to believe YouTube is going to continue dominating the world of online video. Read More

A Brief Look at DTube

DTube's text logo

DTube is a decentralized video service that exists on a blockchain rather than a central server. If you are new to blockchain this explanation on our sister site Blocks Decoded should help. Creators can use the service knowing that their data is safe. Furthermore, video content cannot be censored by anyone outside of the DTube community.

Money accumulates through cryptocurrency rather than relying on adverts, and there is no hidden algorithm, opting instead for direct user feedback to rank videos.

That is a lot of terms to take in quickly, so let’s break things down one by one.

1. DTube Is a Decentralized Platform

First of all, DTube has no central servers. All of the content is stored on a blockchain. By nature, a blockchain’s data verifies between all of its members.

This is an example of Distributed Hash Tables (DHT) and works similarly to peer to peer torrenting of information. Consequently, there is no one definitive video file in one place, more a shared agreement of what the video file contains.

This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to tamper with video content on DTube. It is not the only online app looking into this kind of secure operation. If you’ve ever asked yourself whether a truly decentralized internet is possible, DTube is an example of it at work.

Is a Truly Decentralized Internet Possible? How It Could Work With Blockchain Is a Truly Decentralized Internet Possible? How It Could Work With Blockchain Is a truly decentralized internet possible? What does decentralization mean, and how would it keep you safe? Read More

Decentralized videos mean there’s no simple way of removing content from the site. This could be a blessing or a curse. For some users, however, the assurance that their content is not in the hands of a large organization is a big draw, and a reason to switch to DTube.

2. DTube Is a Secure Service

No central server means no single place storing all of the user’s data, ready to be hacked. Everyone posts under set pseudonyms and the site does not have a traditional login, opting instead for the Steemit platform.

You can identify yourself any way you wish, but there is no way for data you are not comfortable sharing to get leaked.

3. DTube Doesn’t Have Adverts

Since DTube uses STEEM dollars as its currency, there is no need for traditional advertisements. Users upvote videos to give them worth. Popular videos receive STEEM Dollars and STEEM Power. Provided the total value of the video is over $0.02 in the first seven days this money gets paid into the creator’s STEEM wallet.

Creators are free to advertise within their videos, but many users are averse to advertisements, therefore relying on STEEM seems to be the best way to monetize videos on the service.

4. You Can Earn Money on DTube

You may already have realized that DTube sounds like a pretty attractive platform for content creators, and you would be right. Steemit frequently makes new tokens for distribution, so it is easy to start earning.

Even upvoting videos can earn STEEM power, but it’s the content creators that reap the real benefits. The platform is already popular with vloggers, many of whom make content about DTube itself, as well as cryptocurrency at large.

A significant difference with DTube is that videos only earn money for seven days. Whatever you have made in this time is paid into your STEEM wallet. The video remains on the site, but it stops gaining currency.

5. Dtube Has No Censorship

Another way DTube can benefit you is with its free speech stance. Decentralization means no traditional way of censoring videos. While YouTube gets to decide what is right for its platform, DTube is different.

The community itself judges all video content. In principle, the service allows anything on the site, but in practice, the community is good at filtering out useless or dangerous posts. For a simple analogy, think of Reddit without mods. This could be Heaven or Hell depending on your viewpoint.

6. DTube Has No Recommendation Algorithm

YouTube bases its recommendations on a supposedly fair system of metadata analysis. Whatever you think of this, it is certainly not clear who or what will receive a recommendation to a broader audience at any given time.

DTube gets around this problem by basing its recommendation system on user views and votes. If the community thinks your video has value, your video will gain traction and rank among the trending videos.

7. DTube Has a Good Community

What is DTube infographic, each point is explained in the article text.

DTube has a tight community, with many content creators linking up on projects and sharing each other’s work. Many users liken DTube to the early days of YouTube and the community aspect of similar channels collaborating.

This active community, together with the financial incentive that being social on the platform brings, make DTube a vibrant young community on the rise.

8. DTube Is Not Part of the Big Five

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple are tech goliaths. Between them they utterly dominate tech. It’s rare to find any service that doesn’t use them in some way. Most people don’t consider the reach these companies have or don’t believe it to be an issue.

DTube is independent of these big five, so if avoiding large tech corporations is something you aspire to, DTube could be for you.

DTube Is Part of the Blockchain Revolution

Blockchain technology is changing our media, and sites like DTube are pioneering new ways of sharing both creative content and wealth.

DTube is just a small part of a larger movement, and the whole blockchain revolution shows little sign of stopping. Which means there has never been a better time to become a Blockchain programmer.


These eight short story collections would make excellent sci-fi anthology shows – By Andrew Liptak (The Verge) 26 May 2019


Since the beginning of the modern science fiction genre, authors have built careers on writing short stories, for magazines and anthologies — and more recently — on websites. While those works don’t quite get the same attention as a novel, collections of an author’s short fiction has long been a good way to catch up on their published repertoire. Recently, there’s been more attention on shorter fiction thanks to projects such as Netflix’s Love, Death + Robots, and a new anthology series based on horror author Nathan Ballingrud’s fantastic collection, North American Lake Monsters.

What’s more, a number of anthology shows have popped up over the years on a variety of streaming services. Netflix and Channel Four produced Black Mirror; CBS recently brought back The Twilight Zone; HBO is running Room 104; Amazon adapted a variety of stories from Philip K. Dick for Electric Dreamsl and Hulu has its horror-themed Dimension 404. There are other projects on the horizon as well: AMC began developing a series based on Ted Chiang’s story “Liking What You See: A Documentary”, which was featured in his 2002 collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, and set up a writer’s room for a show based on the short stories by Ken Liu.

It’s easy to see why anthology shows based on short stories are appealing: they don’t represent a whole lot of commitment from viewers, and provide a lot of variety. A science fiction writer’s collection of short stories can provide both: self-contained, bite-sized narratives that can play out in 20-40 minutes. Don’t like one? Skip to the next. With word that Ballingrud’s debut collection is in the works, we had some ideas for other single-author collections that might make for a good anthology series in their own right.


Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders

io9-cofounder Charlie Jane Anders has forged a notable career for herself in recent years with a number of fantastic short stories and two excellent novels (disclaimer: I used to work for her at io9) and released a short collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others through Tor.com.

It’s a small collection, but each of the stories pack a punch, from “The Fermi Paradox Is Our Business Model” about an alien civilization that seeds the galaxy with life, and waits for them to burn themselves out, in order to cheaply extract resources. The title story “Six Months, Three Days” earned Anders a Hugo Award in 2012, and is an emotional story about a woman who can see all possible futures, and a man who can see one true future. This book would make for a great short-run series. At one point, “Six Months, Three Days” was in the works for a TV adaptation as well.

This short collection would make for a great series of emotional and thought-provoking episodes.


I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Forget the 2004 “adaptation” of Isaac Asimov’s collection of robot stories. That film was a thriller that used a bunch of the bigger ideas that the author came up with over the years, but doesn’t really adapt any of the stories.

The original short story collection contains 10 of Asimov’s classic robot stories, each of which revolve around a central premise: The Three Laws of Robotics that govern the behavior of his robots. Each story deals with a loophole in that programming, from “Runaround,” about a mining robot on Mercury that gets stuck in a loop; “Liar!” about a robot that causes problems when it doesn’t want to hurt a couple of humans’ feelings; and “Evidence,” a story about a politician who is accused of secretly being a robot.

The entire collection would make for a fantastic anthology series, one that deals with the ramifications of technology and how it can break.


Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

If Black Mirror is anything to go by, audiences will tune in for extremely bleak science fiction. One good example of this comes in the form of Paolo Bacigalupi’s collection, Pump Six and Other Stories.

Bacigalupi is best-known for books like The Windup Girl and The Water Knife, which have some pretty bleak portrayals of the future of our planet. That tendency carries over in this book: his story “The People of Sand and Slag” is about a trio of genetically modified humans guarding a a mining corporation in the distant future. When they discover that an “intruder” is really a dog, they try and keep it alive. It doesn’t go well. Another, “The Tamarisk Hunter” about a bounty hunter named Lolo who’s tasked with finding and killing water-thirsty tamarisk trees in a California gripped by drought.

This wouldn’t be a happy series, but it would make for a great, pointed show about the dangers of climate change.

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

This was one of our favorite books that came out from last year: N.K. Jemisin’s collection of short stories, which span the breadth of cyberpunk, epic fantasy, and hard science fiction, all of which provides some pointed commentary on the inequality present throughout the world.

This particular book would make for a great series, with stories like “The City, Born Great,” following the personification of New York City, and “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” about a utopian society where knowledge of inequality is forbidden.

The collection is a timely and relevant body of work, and a series based on this book would sit nicely alongside something like Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.


Tomorrow Factor by Rich Larson

Rich Larson has become one of my favorite short story authors working right now (disclaimer: he provided a story for an anthology I edited, War Stories: New Military Science Fiction), and last year, he released a collection called Tomorrow Factory, which pulls together 23 of his recent short stories.

Larson’s stories are quite a bit of fun to read, and cover a lot of territory: cyberpunk adventures about an orphaned albino girl who discovers a mech in the midst of a garbage dump in “Ghost Girl,” or about a basketball scout who discovers that a prospect, Oxford Diallo, isn’t quite what he appears in “Meshed”, to space opera like “The Ghost Ship Anastasia,” about a starship repair crew that runs into all sorts of problems on one difficult mission.

These stories would make for a really fun, dynamic series about how we use technology.


The Unreal and the Real by Ursula K. Le Guin

If there’s one classic author whose work would make for a fantastic anthology series, it’s Ursula K. Le Guin. She hasn’t had a great experience with adaptations — the less said about the SCI FI Channel’s adaptation of Earthsea, the better. But her stories are really fantastic, and another attempt would probably go over a lot better now.

She’s released a number of collections in the last couple of years, but one recent one is a reissue of The Unreal and the Real, which contains nearly 40 stories, broken into stories that are set in a realistic world, while others are set in more fantastic locations, like her world of Earthsea, or in her larger expanded Hanish space opera universe.

This collection — or others that she’s published — would provide a solid basis for a brilliant series of short stories that reflect on the morality of society and cultures here on Earth or on distant worlds.

The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu

Cixin Liu might be most famous for his novel The Three-Body Problem and its sequels, but he’s also released a number of short stories over the years, which have been collected into a book, The Wandering Earth.

If that title sounds familiar, it’s because the story that it’s based on was recently turned into China’s first big science fiction film, which you can now watch on Netflix. It’s a big, epic space disaster story, and there are other big stories like “Devourer”, about an alien ship that floats through space consuming planets, “Mountain”, about a group of aliens trapped in a bubble of rock, who try and discover what lies beyond their world, and “Sun of China,” about a boy from a rural town who grows up to become an astronaut on a solar installation in orbit.

Liu’s stories are often described as a throwback to the genre’s classic age, and this book (minus Wandering Earth) could make for a fantastic series about some epic adventures in outer space, provided you had the right budget.

View of a Remote Country by Karen Traviss

I first came across Karen Traviss through her Wess’Har War and Star Wars novels, but for a several of years, she published a number of fantastic short stories in a variety of publications which she later collected into a self-published collection, View of a Remote Country.

There are some really fascinating stories in this book: “Suitable for the Orient” follows a doctor who’s stationed on a distant planet amidst a conflict between the native lifeforms and the human colonists, while “An Open Prison” depicts a future where convicts are locked up in a mechanical suit and are forced to serve the public and the people they’ve wronged.

I’ve often found Traviss’s stories to be interesting mediations on people and technology, and the pitfalls between them.



Anne of Green Gables Meets Nietzsche

Anne Meets N

It was a strange summer, the summer of 1882.  Friedrich Nietzsche had followed his doctors suggestion and left his gloomy home town in Germany to visit a holiday vacation spot on the shores of the Atlantic in Canada. There he met Anne.  That’s Anne of Green Gables.  She now lives in the Public Domain.  And so does the immortal soul of F. Nietzsche and all his published and unpublished works along with the representation of his character and person in works of fiction.

Yes, a strange summer indeed.

Anne wondered if she was up to the task when the grumpy German ‘philosopher’ got out of the carriage and ambled slowly up to the gate of the guest house. Anne was an orphan girl who had been sent to help out at an older couple’s seaside inn and guest house.  The couple had wanted a boy, but settled for Anne when she proved she had a boyish side and worked hard to please the guests at he hotel.

On that memorable day Anne put on a big smile and her best ‘glad to see you’ persona and stepped forward.  She did not give a hint that she had read a number of  Nietzsche’s dreary works.  His tired arguments matched his tired body.  No wonder he was depressed and depressing.  Anne vowed to do the best to fix that.  This was ‘can do’ Canada, not ‘Don’t do that!’ Deutschland!

There is nothing perky spirit can not defeat.

Anne decided to take a direct approach to the stiff shirt German writer.  When Nietzsche sat down to tea in the outside dinning area Anne deliberately spilled very hot deep brewed hot coffee on his starched white shirt front.

“Oh, pardon me,” Anne said in a mocking tone.  “I must be one of those utermenschen you write of in your books about.  I have spilled coffee on a Superman.  Maybe coffee is your kryptonite.”  She laughed and laughed and laughed at the dower German sage.

“I’ll have you fired!” he thundered.

“They don’t pay me,” she retorted.  “I’m an orphan who was sent here by mistake.  I became a big tourist attraction and national heroine because of my poignant antics and ability to draw people out of themselves.  The government publishes stories about me.”

“What?” Nietzsche blustered.  “I’ve never heard of you!”

“Maybe you’re not reading young adult teenage girl literature.  Do you know who Nancy Drew is?” She wiped off his shirt giving the man his first human contact since he bumped into a station porter near a train in Berlin two weeks earlier.  “Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages. The original book is taught to students around the world.  More people have heard of me than have heard of you.  Your works are practically unreadable.”

Again Nietzsche was astounded that a young slip of a girl would speak to him in such an impudent tone.  What could she know of his work?  “Do you read German?” he asked dismissively.

“No,” she retorted looking him right in the eye.  “I must rely on translators.  Are you so arcane that you can’t be translated into simple English?”


“Ha. Charlatan! Your ‘philosophy’ is nothing but ruling class bully logic.  I’m top dog, so, what I do is right! Say I’m wrong, and I will bite you to death!”  She laughed more.  “What a sophisticated outgrowing of the ‘weakness’ of supposed Christian softness.  Ancient Hellas would have seen you for what you are – a worshiper of tyranny.  Might makes right dressed up in five hundred page books.  A clear eyed school girl can see through you.”

That night Nietzsche hastened to read up on Anne of Green Gables.  “I believe I have met my match,” the cranky old ‘confirmed’ bachelor said out loud as he slipped between his bed covers with one of Anne’s volumes in his hand.


The next morning Anne served Nietzsche his breakfast in the cheerful sunny breakfast patio.  Birds were singing in the trees and a few wispy clouds drifted by a blue, blue sky.

“God’s right in his world, ” Anne sighed as she poured a cup of coffee into a cup for Nietzsche.

“God is dead!” responded Nietzsche.

“Oh, not today, you,” Anne said playfully.  “I promise not to pour coffee on you today if you’ll give us a smile.”

The man tried his best to smile.  He wondered if he had smiled in the last month or more.  He did not make a habit of going around grinning at people like a monkey on a chain with an organ grinder playing for money.  He paid people for services, and they provided the services for money, there was no need for smiling as if customers and workers are friends.  That is the way of the real world.  Anyone can see that except maybe for a young girl.  A sweet summer child.

But, then it was summer.

Each night, alone in his room, with one light on, Nietzsche read about Anne of Green Gables.  What a girl.  He had never met a girl like her.  He had never read about a girl like her in Classical or German literature.  Well, except maybe for ‘Heidi’ by sssss


In the days that pass the talkative outgoing Anne draws the moody sullen Nietzsche out of his shell.  The old man learns of Anne’s bleak early childhood spent being shuttled from household to household after her parents died in a hot air balloon crash, caring for younger children. She is excited to finally have a real home at Green Gables.

“Have you ever had a bosom companion?” Anne asked as she passed buttered whole wheat toast to Her N.

Flustered, Nietzsche reached for his German-English translation guide book and tried to get the exact meaning of the girls words.  Was she asking if he had ever had sex with a woman?  That’s how he caught Sisyphus and started rotting his brain.  But, apparently that’s not what she meant.  Anne had a close girlfriend, that’s what she meant by a true friend of the bosom.

“I had friends and admirers when I signed up to be a Prussian cavalry officer when I was young, ” Nietzsche said.  “I was very good, but one day I cut my leg jumping onto a horse.  I thought I was a superman flying through the air.  But, cold steel brought me down.  I had to leave the army and my friends behind.   When Prussia made war on France in 1870 I went to help stop the Paris Commune.  First we fought the French forces of Napoleaon III who we defeated.  But then the workers and leftists and socialists in Paris rose up and declared a workers government.  Both the Prussians and the French then immediately joined together to face the common enemy of the common people.  I was only a medical worker, but I got wounded with diphtheria and dysentery.  I think that’s when I caught the sexual diseases that eat away at my brain.  I was out celebrating our victory over France by fucking a French whore, but I think the whore gave me a virus that causes syphilis.

Over the days and then weeks of that summer Anne spent many hours at table talking with Nietzsche about life and love.  Friedrick found that although she was a young girl she had big ideas and read widely.

She listened with keen interest as Friedrick told her of his German nationalist sister who wanted to set up a colony of pure Germans in South America.  Nietzsche’s sister wanted to get far away from Jewish people.

“But,” Anne pointed out, “Doesn’t Germany have the greatest number of Germans in the world.  If you wanted to have a pure German state, isn’t that where you’d start?”

“Don’t ask me,” chuckled Nietzsche, “I’m a stateless person, I renounced my Prussian citizenship.”


“I wrote a whole book about that, it has to do with master – slave relationships.”

“Are there slaves in Germany today?”


“But you wrote a whole book about the master – slave thinking in Germany, and how Christians, the masters of the imperialist world, are somehow hobbled by a passive slave way of thinking,” Anne looked at Nietzsche.  “Are you on drugs?”

“Yes, morphine and opium.”  He made a screwy motion with his finger next to his head.  “I write out prescriptions for myself and sign them Doctor Nietzsche.  I have a doctorate in literature, and I guess that’s good enough.”

“Why are you in such constant pain that you can’t face the world without being sedated.  Did you ever wonder that you write such unending ‘philosophical’ drivel when you are basically high all the time.  Clear writing comes from clear thinking.  Only crackpots like yourself enjoy the bizarre word salad of your body of ‘thought.’  What nasty trash.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“You’re pretty blunt in your assessment.  You come from stories that are a bunch of sugar coated sermons about how girls should get along in the world.  Who are you to preach?”

“Too preachy, but… I preach.  That’s your self serving ‘logic’ in a nutshell.  Imagine, you are going nuts from the virus you picked up at a brothel when you thought you were being a ‘superman’ because you were in charge, because you were paying.  Ha.  Looks like the ‘super virus’ from the reality that’s only an illusion defeated your ‘will to power.’  What a bunch of upper class clap trap.  Philosophy?  Ha!”

“What should I do”

As they grew closer Anne convinced Nietzsche to drop out of sight. Nietzsche let his sister take control of his writings and she hired an actor who sat propped up in a chair and pretended to be the incommunicado philosopher guru hiding behind a giant mustache with wild eyes and a hidden message.

Back in Prince Edward Island Friedrich became a kind of Mister Anne of Green Gables.  He abandoned his old ways and left his old habits and way of thinking behind.  He spent many hours out and about in a boat with Anne as she helped him come to terms with life and indeed love.

Anne explained to Nietzsche that the idea of God was as important as any story about God that people had a need for.  God was a kind of metaphor for human cooperation and goodness.  A metaphor could not die, and therefore, God could not die…’

“You know,” he scratched his freshly shaven upper lip, “you’re right.  I never thought of it that way.”

“Just one last thing before we go any further… your autobiography was entitled “Ecce Homo…”

“I can explain that…”


Back to Work – My Assault on ‘Ulysses’ by Joyce

I have Spotify playing Leopold Bloom’s soliloquy as I type.  I have been involved with ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce for the past three days, or so.  I feel compelled to read and become acquainted with a work of writing that is supposed to be one of the best novels in the English language.  A true work of superior art.  They say.

I can’t think of ever having met someone in my adult life who had mentioned reading ‘Ulysses.’  But, lots of the books I read seem to be read by no one.

When I brought home the collection of Great Books that I bought for $49 young Randy said, “These look like the books in the library that no one ever goes near.” 

I laughed as I unpacked my cherished old books.  “Someone better read these books, your whole civilization is based on them.”  From Aristotle and Socrates to Shakespeare and Newton – they could all fit on one long bookshelf.  All those ideas.

What are the ideas in ‘Ulysses?’  That the author can imitate past literary styles in various chapters?  That the writer has a good grasp of Greek and Latin Classics and can make many allusions to the stories of the ancient world.  Imagine that?

I went to Catholic school and I periodically recite some of the lines from the Latin mass.

Per omnia secula seculorum, Domino vobiscu

Kyrie Elason…

Yes, the words from a dead language live in my memory when I was a child and a youth going to the weekly meetings of the official state religion of the late Roman Empire.  I get the references.  But, where is the humor?  What laughs or jokes are there in Latin in Ulysses?  There are two Boston Public School Latin Schools a few miles from me.  I lived with two different women who went to Girls Latin School which became Latin Academy.  I have always been interested in Latin language and people who know a little Latin.  But, Ulysses seems to just have some Latin thrown in as a kind of decoration, or something that the educated twenty-somethings and current literature lovers that James Joyce had occasion to banter with utilized. 

Maybe I am just being obstinate.  I’m sitting in a grey kitchen on a gray day with green trees out the screened window and dull blue sky behind.  The air is cool.  I have warm green tea.  On the iPad mini to my left the words of Leopold Bloom are coming to me … the actor reading is E.G. Marshall.  Good reading, but I am picturing the actor from the 1967 movie. 

But what of the observations on life and love from the character of Leopold Bloom and the writer James Joyce.  The character is supposed to be in 1904 Dublin, Ireland, and the writer was working between 1914 and 1920.  

A lot of the concerns of characters in the story seem to be about sexual intercourse, or arranging to be with a person for the purpose of physical copulation.  Yet, for all their talking and stream of consciousness no one ever seems to express the desire to live in another kind of society were people could have a freer sexual life.  While there are many unhappy marriages in the story no one ever seems to have heard of divorce.  No one seems to be aware of the many intellectual movements advocating liberalized divorce laws and more sexual freedom.  Too busy making obscure references to Greek myths.  

The magazines that first published James Joyce serialized novel were not working class socialist periodicals or  revolutionary communists who looked to the Russian Bolsheviks.  James Joyce was published by wealthy bohemians who wanted a new kind of art with no rules and no meaning.  Disaffected upper middle class intellectuals flocked around the literary and political magazine ‘The Little Review’ that published sections of ‘Ulysses’ in the US.  The US Mail police seized copies of the magazine and put the work on trial for ‘obscenity.’   The magazine had anarchist Emma Goldman writing pieces and latter Ezra Pound who became a public admirer of fascist Italian leader Mussolini.    

The upper-class drop outs of the 1920’s love the ‘nothing really matters’ nihilistic approach to planning for the future.  Somehow the events of World War One  – The Great War – had shattered the ability of some people to plan for the future.  The planning in 1904 Dublin proved shortsighted, therefore… I don’t know.  They seem to give up planning, or wondering how society should be justly organized in light of real human needs.  But… I need to move on at the moment, so I will leave ‘Ulysses’ on the bookshelf and the iPad with the audio off.  Actually, the hardcover volume of ‘Ulysses’ is in my bed snuggled up to the Cliff Notes I use as a tour guide.  Of course I am not reading the book straight through – was it written that way?  Was it published in magazines that way?  Or is this a years long word puzzle?

U joyce

EU Election Roundup – Europe Polarizes Between Nationalists and Globalists as Old Parties Fritter Away – by Guillaume Durocher • 23 May 2019

The day is here! After five years, a new European Parliament has been elected! What is the European Parliament? That doesn’t matter too much. On the human level, it is a retirement home for has-been politicians and a trial area for the new generation of (increasingly rootless frequent-flyer) whippersnappers. In terms of policy, it influences the regulation of the European Union’s substantial common market, one of the three largest economies in the world. However, these elections are of interest to us primarily as a snapshot of Europeans’ minds and an indication of future political prospects.

In 2014, I wrote about the breakthrough of about 200 nationalist or soft-euroskeptic MEPs (that’s ‘Members of the European Parliament’) and the consequences over the last five years have been basically zilch. Other than giving said nationalists and soft-euroskeptics are more secure financial and political base.

Anyway, what happened this time? Turnout around was 50.9%, bucking the secular trend of ever-declining amounts of voters. This is the highest proportion of voters in EU elections since 1994 (56.7%). It seems – in the age of Trump, Macron, and Salvini – people are more convinced of the urgency of voting.

For the big picture results, I may as well quote Wikipedia:

The traditionally-dominant center-right conservatives (“European People’s Party,” sounds decidedly virile in the original German: Europäische Volkspartei) and the center-left Social-Democrats have suffered significant setbacks, losing about 40 seats each. Neither has any kind of narrative or distinguishable set of values, but have got along by inertia. Manfred Weber is a colorless party figure hailing from Bavaria (his election slogan in that region: “A Bavarian in Europe!” . . . this ‘good European’ did not use that slogan elsewhere). Nationalist parties in Italy and France have fully replaced the conservatives as the dominant force on the Right. Put simply, there’s nothing “Christian” about these Christian Democrats (and most Europeans are not meaningfully Christian anymore anyway) and represent nothing more than stability and big business, which are not very compelling.

Personally, I was again disappointed to see how badly the French conservatives did (unperforming the polls) despite their new EU election spokesman, François-Xavier Bellamy. “FX,” a 33-year-old philosophy teacher, is high-brow conservative highly critical of immigration. Evidently his brand of conservatism did not resonate with voters however, preferred to go for either Macron or Le Pen.

Frans Timmermans, who is also the current vice-president of the EU Commission, is a fanatical multiculturalist who has issued dark threats against all those who wish to have a homeland of their own: “Diversity is humanity’s destiny, there is not going to be, even in the remotest places of this planet, a nation that will not see diversity in its futures.” Well, everyone except the Jews, Timmermans as Dutch foreign minister took a leading role in opposing non-violent economic measure against the Jewish ethnostate of Israel.

The Social-Democrats are crumpling just about everywhere, having been virtually annihilated by the kiss-of-death of François Hollande’s term as président fainéant, and hitting unimpressive double-digit lower-bounds in the major Western-European countries. Even the relatively-ideological, but unclear on Brexit, Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn did rather badly with 14.1%. The Social-Democrats represent nothing if not moderate “gibs” for the people. But a redistributive program is not very compelling when just about everyone’s basic needs are actually met (housing, fridge, smartphone…) and, anyway, you’re committed to open borders and, therefore, submission to rootless international capital (outsourcing and unskilled immigration undercutting wages, facilitation of tax evasion via “the free movement of capital,” economic submission to bureaucrats in Frankfurt and Brussels, as well as international high finance, in the context of the Eurozone…)

Incidentally, the arch-Zionist Socialist former prime minister of France, Manuel Valls, tried to switch to Catalan politics (his nation of birth…) by running as mayor of Barcelona in a simultaneous election. He finished… fourth.

There was a breakthrough however in the actually more globalist Liberals led by the arch-globalist Guy Verhofstadt, who claims to dream of a “federal” Europe, but certainly a Europe in which all the indigenous ethnies have been blended into one big, brown, insipid global soup. Anything else would be Nazism, you see. The biggest gains were made in France through Emmanuel Macron’s “Renaissance Coalition” of liberals, EU federalists, and globalists, winning 22.4%, far ahead of the conservatives and socialists, consolidating the presidential party’s status as the default party of government. Macron’s European optics – with a voluntarist rhetoric demanding an Europe puissance, for a “sovereign, united, and democratic Europe, able to go toe-to-toe with the United States or China – often have downright Spencerian undertones even as it is highly unlikely he will ever deliver.

The Greens, who if anything are even more diversitarian than the Liberals (they even have two group leaders, IIRC for gender equality reasons), also made significant gains, whether in Germany, France, or Britain, doing better than the Social-Democrats and/or the conservatives. The Greens in both France and Germany did best among the youth, highlighting their idealist streak.

Salvini celebrates, as one commenter notes, in front of Christian, Trumpian, and Putinist iconography.

Of greatest interest to us, the Nationalists (“Europe of Nations and Freedom”) made significant gains with 22 extra seats, essentially reflecting Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s massive breakthrough in Italy with 34.3% of the vote, far and away the biggest party, achieving double that of his vague-populist coalition partners, the Five-Star Movement. I invite people to browse Salvini’s Twitter feed to see why he is so appealing to normies despite the widespread leftist rage against him.

In Belgium – where there were simultaneous elections to the national and EU parliaments – there were big gains in the region of Flanders, with Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) winning some 18% of the vote, sextupling their presence in parliament and becoming the second-biggest party in the country. Much of the credit for this must go Dries Van Langenhove, the 26-year-old activist whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for Unz, who has does so much for Flanders’ identitarian awakening among Flemish youth and on social media. VB’s performance if anything exceeded his expectations and Van Langenhove has been securely elected to the Belgian parliament. The new nationalist party Vox in Spain has entered the EU Parliament with 6.2% of the vote.

There have also been disappointments for Nationalists however. Geert Wilders’ Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) received very few votes, their support apparently be capitalized by the more high-brow patriots of Thierry Baudet’s Forum for Democracy (FvD). In Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) has seen a small decline in votes to 17.2%, mild punishment for a ineffectual stint in government as a junior coalition partner and a well-timed corruption scandal involving party leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

Some have touted the fact that Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) is the single most popular party in France, beating Macron’s Renaissance 23.3% to 22.4%. In fact, this is decidedly unimpressive: the Front National (FN, before Marine renamed the party) was already the leading party in 2014, when it achieved 24.7%. Thus, despite five years of more globalism and despite (or because of) ditching the brand her father Jean-Marie Le Pen had built up over decades of struggle, Marine’s party has made no gains, but if anything is falling behind. She has been wholly unable to capitalize on the mass discontent of the gilets-jaunes. The French results show a pathetic fragmentation of the political landscape: the conservatives, Leftists, and Socialists all are stuck in the single-digits. The ‘patriotic’ vote was split between among a few minor formations, namely Nicolas Dupont-Aignan’s Debout la France (3.51%) and the RN civic-nationalist renegade Florian Philippot’s The Patriots (0.65%), winning no seats.

The moderate euroskeptic conservatives (ECR), dominated by Britain’s Tories and Poland’s Law and Justice party (PiS), did poorly, essentially because of the collapse of the Tories. This was despite the governing PiS party doing very well, winning a whopping 45.4% of the vote, despite intense liberal and globalist opposition movements. There was also progress to the right of PiS, with the breakthrough of Confederation under glorious moustache man with 4.5% of the vote.

The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group (EFDD) – a potpourri of anti-establishment parties, most notably UKIP / the Brexit Party and the Five-Star Movement – made gains, essentially through the stunning first-place finish of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party with 31.7% of the vote. This is all the more remarkable in that Farage did this after leaving UKIP and founding BP a mere six months ago. This reflects frustration among the good English folk with the pathetically divided and useless Conservative Party and its failure to withdraw Britain from the EU, as decided by the sovereign British people in referendum.

Finally, the Far-Left did badly, I don’t know why, I assume because money does not grow on trees. (Ruling Syriza declined somewhat in Greece.)

Congratulations! You are now fully-equipped to understand the following graph:

Far-Left (GUE/NGL), Social-Democrats (S&D), Greens/EFA, Liberals (ALDE), conservatives (EPP), euro-skeptic conservatives (ECR), populists (EFDD), Nationalists (ENF)
Far-Left (GUE/NGL), Social-Democrats (S&D), Greens/EFA, Liberals (ALDE), conservatives (EPP), euro-skeptic conservatives (ECR), populists (EFDD), Nationalists (ENF)

European identitarians like Jean-Yves Le Gallou have expressed the hope that the rise of nationalist and populist parties will lead to gridlock in the EU Parliament, limiting the further damage to Europe that the globalists might be tempted to do. Certainly, the contingents of far-left, populist, and nationalist MEPs will make their work more difficult. However, as can be seen above, the EPP/S&D/ALDE/Green mainstream still enjoy a majority of some 67%, so a continued globalist “grand coalition” appears quite viable. This however represents progress insofar as it eliminates the fake opposition between actually interchangeable and globalist “center-left” and “center-right” which has dominated Western politics at least since the 1970s.

This high-level overview obviously does not do justice to the very diverse and complex situations in the various nations. We can however draw some conclusions.

Voters are becoming more ideological. The conservatives and Social-Democrats, while still the largest groups, have lost their status as the default ruling parties in Europe. In several countries, notably France, Italy, and Greece, they have been overtaken by newcomers. European citizens want principles, they want a project – be it globalist, environmentalist, populist, or nationalist – rather than the insipid social-democratic or ‘Christian’-democratic gruel which has been served up to them for decades.

Patriotic government is popular. Who knew, right? It turns ought that most voters, who are basically apolitical and are just trying to get on with their families and lives, are attached to certain symbols of their people and homeland, and like the idea that the government is on their side. Apparently this insight is beyond the grasp of the geniuses who run the Republican and Democratic parties, hence why Donald J. Trump is president of the United States, a far more perceptive man on that mark. This inishgt is also well beyond the capacities of the leaders of the EU. Besides Timmermans ethnocidal statements, EU Commission President Jean-Claude infamously declared that “borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians,” marking the head of Europe has a historical illiterate. The border, indeed the city wall as established in the ancient Greek polis and at Rome, represents in fact the foundation of civilization. Juncker also could not prevent himself from making other provocations in the final days of the EU electoral campaign. We should not too surprised if Juncker hates borders however: as prime minister of Luxembourg he has spent most of his career as effectively the head of a tax haven.

Ruling patriotic parties did outstandingly well not only, as we have seen, in Italy and Poland, but also in Hungary, where Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz amazingly managed to secure an absolute majority of 52.3% in what was a proportional, multi-party election! Contrast all this with the mediocre performance of the Trump Administration and the pathetic failure of the Tories. The beauty of patriotic promises is that, most often, they can actually be fulfilled. The Left cannot deliver infinite money, the EU-federalists cannot deliver a coherent EU, but the patriots certainly can drastically reduce the influx of immigrants and defend their people’s culture and existence, if only there is the will. If a European country “flips” to nationalism, this may be quite durable, as the silent majority supports a stable, patriotic government ostensibly defending their interests, not to mention if the government takes measure to restore ideological pluralism in the media (rather than the 85% left-globalist media diet we are used to).

In fact, I dare say that symbolically patriotic, “sovereignist” leadership is no doubt default form of human government: witness Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey, Modhi’s India, or Abe’s Japan. Indeed, the optimal politician in a democratic capitalist system will be verbally patriotic and in bed with big business. Like it or not, that is who this system rewards.

These elections mark the increasing entropy of Western politics as the politico-media sphere has become more democratic, through increased ideological pluralism, notably through social media and the declining power of television and the papers. This will make the EU more ungovernable and politically amorphous than it already is. Perhaps this will eventually lead, like in the 1920s, to an honest critique of democracy and then a correction, rather than the dishonest postwar system which extolled ‘democracy’ as the only acceptable form of government, all the while corporate and media elites substantially dominated politics.

A powerful, sovereign Europe would require a reconciliation between the head (liberal/Green-voting elites) and the heart (nationalist-voting masses). I dream of a virile Europe, creative again, proud and life-loving again, embracing human biological and spiritual realities, again at the forefront of human discovery and enterprise, rather than stuck in the vain quest for comfort and equality. Well, if this ever exists, it won’t be anytime soon. Western Europe, sleepwalking in a comfortable haze since 1945, has some ways left to go before there will be anything we can call an awakening.

Democracy vs. the Putin-Nazis – by C.J. Hopkins (Consent Factory) 23 May 2019

consent factory


Back in January 2018, I wrote this piece about The War on Dissent, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is going gangbusters. As predicted, the global capitalist ruling classes have been using every weapon in their arsenal to marginalize, stigmatize, delegitimize, and otherwise eliminate any and all forms of dissent from neoliberal ideology, and in particular from their new official narrative … “Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis.”

For over two years, the corporate media have been pounding out an endless series of variations on this major theme, namely, that “democracy is under attack” by a conspiracy of Russians and neo-Nazis that magically materialized out of the ether during the Summer of 2016. The intelligence agencies, political elites, academia, celebrities, social media personalities, and other organs of the culture industry have been systematically reifying this official narrative through constant repetition. The Western masses have been inundated with innumerable articles, editorials, television news and talk show segments, books, social media posts, and various other forms of messaging whipping up hysteria over “Russians” and “fascists.” At this point, it is no longer just propaganda. It has become the new “truth.” It has become “reality.”

Becoming “reality” is, of course, the ultimate goal of every ideology. An ideology is just a system of ideas, and is thus fair game for critique and dissent. “Reality” is not fair game for dissent. It is not up for debate or challenge, not by “serious,” “legitimate” people. “Reality” is simply “the way it is.” It is axiomatic. It is apothegmatic. It’s not a belief or an interpretation. It is not subject to change or revision. It is the immortal, immutable Word of God … or whatever deity or deity-like concept the ruling classes and the masses they rule accept as the Final Arbiter of Truth. In our case, this would be Science, or Reason, rather than some supernatural being, but in terms of ideology there isn’t much difference. Every system of belief, regardless of its nature, ultimately depends on political power and power relations to enforce its beliefs, which is to say, to make them “real.”

OK, whenever I write about “reality” and “truth,” I get a few rather angry responses from folks who appear to think I’m denying the existence of objective reality. I’m not … for example, this chair I’m sitting on is absolutely part of objective reality, a physical object that actually exists. The screen you’re probably reading these words on is also part of objective reality. I am not saying there is no reality. What I’m saying is, “reality” is a concept, a concept invented and developed by people … a concept that serves a variety of purposes, some philosophical, some political. It’s the political purposes I’m interested in.

Think of “reality” as an ideological tool … a tool in the hands of those with the power to designate what is “real” and what isn’t. Doctors, teachers, politicians, police, scientists, priests, pundits, experts, parents — these are the enforcers of “reality.” The powerless do not get to decide what is “real.” Ask someone suffering from schizophrenia. Or … I’m sorry, is it bipolar disorder? Or oppositional defiant disorder? I can’t keep all these new disorders psychiatrists keep “discovering” straight.

Or ask a Palestinian living in Gaza. Or the mother of a Black kid the cops shot for no reason. Ask Julian Assange. Ask the families of all those “enemy combatants” Obama droned. Ask the “conspiracy theorists” on Twitter digitally screaming at anyone who will listen about what is and isn’t “the truth.” Each of them will give you their version of “reality,” and you and I may agree with some of them, and some of their beliefs may be supported with facts, but that will not make what they believe “reality.”

Power is what makes “reality” “reality.” Not facts. Not evidence. Not knowledge. Power.

Those in power, or aligned with those in power, or parroting the narratives of those in power, understand this (whether consciously or not). Those without power mostly do not, and thus we continue to “speak truth to power,” as if those in power gave a shit. They don’t. The powerful are not arguing with us. They are not attempting to win a debate about what is and isn’t “true,” or what did or didn’t “really” happen. They are declaring what did or didn’t happen. They are telling us what is and is not “reality,” and demonstrating what happens to those who disagree.

The “Democracy versus The Putin-Nazis” narrative is our new “reality,” whether we like it or not. It does not matter one iota that there is zero evidence to support this narrative, other than the claims of intelligence agencies, politicians, the corporate media, and other servants of the ruling classes. The Russians are “attacking democracy” because the ruling classes tell us they are. “Fascism is on the march again” because the ruling classes say it is. Anyone who disagrees is a “Putin-sympathizer,” a “Putin-apologist,” or “linked to Russia,” or “favored by Russia,” or an “anti-Semite,” or a “fascist apologist.”

Question the official narrative about the Gratuitously Baby Gassing Monster of Syria and you’re an Assad apologist, a Russian bot network, or a plagiarizing Red-Brown infiltrator. Criticize the corporate media for disseminating cheap McCarthyite smears, and you’re a Tulsi-stanning Hindu Nazi-apologist. God help you if you should appear on FOX, in which case you are a Nazi-legitimizer! A cursory check of the Internet today revealed thatfar-right Facebook groups are spreading hate to millions in Europeby means of some sort of hypnogenic content that just looking at it turns you into a Nazi. Our democracy-loving friends at The Atlantic Council are disappointed by Trump’s refusal to sign the “Christchurch Call,” a multilateral statement encouraging corporations to censor the Internet … and fascism is fashionable in Italy again!”

This post-Orwellian, neo-McCarthyite mass hysteria is not going to stop … not until the global capitalist ruling classes have suppressed the current “populist” insurgency and restored “normality” throughout the Western world. Until then, it’s going to be pretty much non-stop “Democracy versus the Putin-Nazis.”

So, unless you’re enjoying our new “reality,” or are willing to conform to it for some other reason, prepare to be smeared as “a Russia-loving, Putin-apologizing conspiracy theorist,” or a “fascism-enabling, Trump-loving Nazi,” or some other type of insidiously Slavic, white supremacist, mass-murder enthusiast. Things are only going to get uglier as the American election season ramps up. I mean, come on … you don’t really believe that the global capitalist ruling classes are going to let Trump serve a second term, do you?


C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant Paperbacks. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

I was banned from Reddit’s r/AmateurWritersBlock subreddit – Perhaps I’m not blocked enough as a writer – 29 May 2019

14 May 2018 q

(29 May 2019 – I just typed this up and was going to post it on r/AmateurWritersBlock – but — I’m banned from the subreddit. I’m blocked from writers block. That is the kind of writers block I experience everyday. Gate Keepers with few ideas – but lots of ideas about who else to block and how to stop ideas.)

I was encouraged as a writer in college by various teachers and writers. But, I was implement tied many times. Vast hours of time and a desk and paper and pen and typewriter would be before me… to no end.

Over the years I kept a personal journal. I had no particular aim, or format or… anything. I started in high school after reading about Henry Thoreau and Winston Smith keeping journals of their thoughts.

Some days I wrote many pages; sometimes a month or two would pass with no entry. When I was in a happy relation with a woman I usually wrote less. My happy thoughts were poured into my partner, not onto paper.

Sometimes I had a bound volume I bought at a stationary store, and other times I had left over school notebooks. When I took ‘Behavioral Educational Psychology’ in graduate school I began to look at my journal as an activity I could target.

I abandoned the idea of a polished ready-to-publish writing style that was formal and a little stiff. I decided that I wanted to go for maximum number of pages put out. Forget about the quality. I started to write things I would never want published. I was writing on paper with a pen and no one was reading what I had written anyway. This was a journal that was sitting in my desk draw when I wasn’t writing in it.

I hardly ever went back and read the journal myself. I knew what was written there, mostly. The very act of writing things down fixes them in my head in a different way than vague non-verbal thoughts that drift in and out of my consciousness.

I also started to use any paper that was at hand for the journal. I used scrap paper that had printing on one side and was blank on the back. I began to ad a lot more illustrations and drawings to the journal.

I had no idea of publishing, or any one’s interest in what I wrote in my journal. I had a kind of complete freedom. Worthless journal becomes priceless escape into literary freedom. But… freedom to do what?

Learn to write… for a start. Producing lots of words and sentences and paragraphs and pages can lead one to be able to repeat the acts easily and out of habit. I learned to ‘touch-type’ or whatever they call ‘not looking at the keyboard’ when typing. I was in high school when boys didn’t learn to type because that was a female secretary kind of thing. But I took the class in summer school with twenty-nine females. So, I can close my eyes and the words flow through my fingers at a pretty fast pace.

When I go to comment on some news story on some subreddit or other message board I will formulate a thought and type. I usually think I have a couple of sentences. When I look I usually have long paragraphs. And, I usually have more to say, and additional thoughts, and much to write.

By writing everyday in a journal I became accustomed to putting my thoughts into words and sentences and paragraphs in my head, and then on paper, or on a computer screen. I have no ‘block.’ Honestly, I can’t imagine having ‘writer’s block.’


China Gears Up to Weaponize ‘Rare Earths’ Mineral Resources in Trade War (Bloomberg) 29 May 2019

Rare Earths

(Bloomberg) — Beijing is gearing up to use its dominance of rare earths to hit back in its deepening trade war with Washington.

A flurry of Chinese media reports on Wednesday, including an editorial in the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party, raised the prospect of Beijing cutting exports of the commodities that are critical in defense, energy, electronics and automobile sectors. The world’s biggest producer, China supplies about 80% of U.S. imports of rare earths, which are used in a host of applications from smartphones to electric vehicles and wind turbines.

The threat to weaponize strategic materials ratchets up the tension between the world’s two biggest economies before an expected meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G-20 meeting next month. It shows how China is weighing its options after the U.S. blacklisted Huawei Technologies Co., cutting off the supply of American components it needs to make its smartphones and networking gear.

“China, as the dominant producer of rare earths, has shown in the past that it can use rare earths as a bargaining chip when it comes to multilateral negotiations,” said George Bauk, Chief Executive Officer of Northern Minerals Ltd., which is producing rare earth carbonate from a pilot-scale project in Western Australia.

The U.S. shouldn’t underestimate China’s ability to fight the trade war, the People’s Daily said in an editorial Wednesday that used some historically significant language on the weight of China’s intent.

The newspaper’s commentary included a rare Chinese phrase that means “don’t say I didn’t warn you.” The specific wording was used by the paper in 1962 before China went to war with India, and “those familiar with Chinese diplomatic language know the weight of this phrase,” the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, said in an article last April. It was also used before conflict broke out between China and Vietnam in 1979.

On rare earths specifically, the People’s Daily said it isn’t hard to answer the question whether China will use the elements as retaliation in the trade war.

China is “seriously” considering restricting rare earth exports to the U.S. and may also implement other countermeasures, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said in a tweet. An official at the National Development & Reform Commission told CCTV that people in the country won’t be happy to see products made with exported rare earths being used to suppress China’s development.

Editorials in the Global Times and Shanghai Securities News took similar tacks in their Wednesday editions.

The nation’s producers have rallied hard in recent weeks on the view that rare earths could be an ace in the trade war. President Xi Jinping visited a plant earlier this month, accompanied by his chief trade negotiator with the U.S., fueling speculation that the strategic materials could be weaponized in China’s tit-for-tat with the U.S.

Rare earths have already featured in the trade dispute. The Asian country raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on imports from America’s sole producer, while the U.S. excluded the elements from its own list of prospective tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to be targeted in its next wave of measures.

Rare earths aren’t particularly rare. Cerium, the most abundant, is more common in the Earth’s crust than copper. All other rare-earth elements, besides promethium, can be found more widely than silver, gold, or platinum, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. However, concentrated and economic deposits are scarce, and production is dominated by a handful of countries. China is the biggest by far, accounting for almost 70% of global production and 40% of the world’s reserves, USGS data show.

China’s rare earth market is dominated by a handful of producers including China Northern Rare Earth Group, Minmetals Rare Earth Co., Xiamen Tungsten Co. and Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co. The nation has form in using the elements to make a political point. It blocked exports to Japan after a maritime dispute in 2010, although the consequent spike in prices saw a flurry of activity to secure supplies elsewhere, which would be the risk again if Beijing follows through with its threat of retaliation.

China Northern rose as much as 9.3% in Shanghai, while Lynas Corp., the biggest producer of rare earth products outside China, added as much as 16% in Sydney. Hong Kong-listed China Rare Earth Holdings Ltd. spiked as much as 41% and has doubled in value in May.

China’s stranglehold is so strong that the U.S. joined with other nations earlier this decade in a World Trade Organization case to force the nation to export more amid a global shortage. The WTO ruled in favor of America, while prices eventually slumped as manufacturers turned to alternatives.

In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reduce the country’s dependence on external sources of critical minerals, including rare earths, which was aimed at reducing U.S. vulnerability to supply disruptions.

(Updates with commentary in fourth paragraph.)

–With assistance from Dandan Li and Hannah Dormido.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jason Rogers in Tokyo at jrogers73@bloomberg.net;David Stringer in Melbourne at dstringer3@bloomberg.net;Martin Ritchie in Shanghai at mritchie14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski at akwiatkowsk2@bloomberg.net, Jason Rogers

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

Dementia – The Crazy Old Age of Advertising Genius ‘Artist’ Peter Max – By Amy Chozick (NY Times)

Peter Max in 1968.

Dementia Stopped Peter Max From Painting. For Some, That Spelled a Lucrative Opportunity.

Now Peter Max’s associates are trading lurid allegations of kidnapping, hired goons, attempted murder by Brazil nut and art fraud on the high seas.
The scene played out for years. Twice a week, in the late afternoon, above the Shun Lee Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a creaky elevator would open, and out would step an elderly man. Thin as a rail, with a sparse mustache, he would sometimes have little idea about where or who he was. A pair of security doors would buzz unlocked once surveillance cameras identified him as the artist Peter Max.
Inside, he would see painters — some of them recruited off the street and paid minimum wage — churning out art in the Max aesthetic: cheery, polychrome, wide-brushstroke kaleidoscopes on canvas. Mr. Max would be instructed to hold out his hand, and for hours, he would sign the art as if it were his own, grasping a brush and scrawling Max. The arrangement, which continued until earlier this year, was described to The New York Times by seven people who witnessed it.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Max was a countercultural icon, a rare painter to achieve name recognition in the mainstream. His psychedelic renderings could be found on the cover of Time, the White House lawn and even a postage stamp. But several years ago, he received a diagnosis of symptoms related to Alzheimer’s, and he now suffers from advanced dementia. Mr. Max, 81, hasn’t painted seriously in four years, according to nine people with direct knowledge of his condition. He doesn’t know what year it is, and he spends most afternoons curled up in a red velvet lounger in his apartment, looking out at the Hudson River.
For some people, Mr. Max’s decline spelled opportunity. His estranged son, Adam, and three business associates took over Mr. Max’s studio, drastically increasing production for a never-ending series of art auctions on cruise ships, even as the artist himself could hardly paint.
Then, in 2015, Mr. Max’s second wife, Mary, asked a New York court to appoint a guardian to oversee her husband’s business. Soon after her request was granted, Adam took his father out of his home for more than a month, moving him between various locations around New York.
Mr. Max and family in 1967.CreditSanti Visalli/Getty Images
For five years and counting — the latest lawsuit came Friday — the artist’s family, friends and associates have been trading lurid courtroom allegations of kidnapping, hired goons, attempted murder by Brazil nut, and schemes to wring even more money out of what was already one of the most profitable art franchises in modern times. From Shun Lee to the high seas, the twilight years of Mr. Max’s life have produced a pursuit of art-auction profits and a trail of misfortune as surreal as his trippiest works.

‘Portrait of the Artist as a Very Rich Man’

Peter Max Finkelstein was never very discerning about his art. He was the son of German Jews who fled Berlin in 1938 and settled in Shanghai, where Mr. Max discovered the primary hues he’d been deprived of under bleak Nazi rule. Eventually, the Finkelsteins moved to Brooklyn, and by 1968 their son was a bona fide Pop Art sensation. But while other protagonists of the movement — like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein — used their art as a commentary on commercialism, Mr. Max’s happy palette defined it.
His DayGlo-inflected posters became wallpaper for the turn on, tune in, drop out generation. And as the hippies who loved his work grew up and became capitalists, so did Mr. Max. He painted a Statue of Liberty series with the backing of Lee Iacocca, the celebrity chief executive of Chrysler. He painted official artwork for the Super Bowl, the United States Open tennis tournament and the World Cup. He splashed his art on cereal boxes, bedsheets, a chunk of the Berlin Wall and Dale Earnhardt’s racecar. When Mr. Max appeared on the cover of Life, it was under the headline “Portrait of the Artist as a Very Rich Man.”

Mr. Max’s imagery practically became wallpaper for the turn on, tune in, drop out generation.CreditYale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection
Money let Mr. Max indulge his eccentricities. After he divorced his first wife, Elizabeth Nance, in 1976, a staircase in his duplex connected two apartments so that she and their two children, Adam Cosmo and Libra Astro, could live downstairs. Mr. Max went on to have relationships with Rosie Vela, a model, and Tina Louise, who played Ginger on “Gilligan’s Island.” In 1996, on a Manhattan sidewalk, Mr. Max spotted Mary Baldwin, a blond pixie with a Mia Farrow haircut, some 30 years his junior. He walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Peter Max, and I’ve been painting your profile my entire life.” They married a year later, officiated by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
By then, critics were dismissing Mr. Max as more artsy than artist, more concerned with commercial viability than creating museum-grade masterpieces. Mr. Max had a knack for the squishy business of art; he used to joke that “the difference between a $10,000 painting and a $20,000 painting is a couple inches of canvas,” according to a business associate who heard Mr. Max say this. In 1997, his looseness with money went too far, and he pleaded guilty to hiding $1.1 million in income from the I.R.S. Struggling financially, Mr. Max expanded a partnership with an organization called Park West Gallery.
Before founding the gallery in 1969, Albert Scaglione taught mechanical engineering at Wayne State University. Today he boasts that Park West is the world’s largest private art gallery, one that has sold 10 million works for billions of dollars. The majority of its revenue comes from boozy auctions held on cruise ships — and on the water, nobody sells like Mr. Max. One participant in a 2003 sales training session recalled Mr. Scaglione handing out two books: the Bible and “The Art of Peter Max.” (Through a lawyer, Mr. Scaglione said this did not happen.)
For the high-end clientele of Sotheby’s and Christie’s, Peter Max hardly registers. But for the 24 million people who take a cruise each year, Mr. Max is a star. This is an alternate, at-sea universe in which his works are the pinnacle of sophisticated collecting. Maxes can be found in Park West showrooms on all of the major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian. They promote the Park West auctions as an exhilarating onboard activity with complimentary Champagne — and take a cut of as much as 40 percent of sales, according to industry analysts. Norwegian has an entire Peter Max-themed ship, whose hull is dominated by his sunny Statue of Liberty and New York skyline.

On the water, no artist sells like Peter Max. Norwegian has an entire Max-themed cruise ship.CreditDanny Lehman/Norwegian Cruise Line
With vacationing baby boomers bidding up his work, Mr. Max maintained his Manhattan lifestyle into the 2000s. He would attend galas with Ms. Max, then paint at his studio until 4 a.m., blaring Rage Against the Machine and Led Zeppelin. Ringo Starr and Herbie Hancock would stop by, enjoying takeout from Shun Lee.
Mr. Max was so prolific — and Park West was such a voracious buyer — that like many popular artists, he often relied on assistant painters to stretch canvases, paint backgrounds and apply templates. But Mr. Max always did the creating, according to individuals familiar with his work in this period. “These people would come in with boards and they’d be one-tenth done, the backgrounds, and Peter would do the images,” said Leo Bevilacqua, a photographer and close friend.
Mr. Max’s best pieces, however, were often not going to Park West’s auctions. One version of his creations — called “Peter’s keepers” — went to a warehouse in Lyndhurst, N.J. Lesser derivatives were touted on the cruise ships, where they would sell for as much as $30,000. Over the years, dissatisfied Park West customers complained that they were led to believe they were buying “one of a kind” Max works that would appreciate in value, only to return to land (and reliable Wi-Fi) and learn that the internet was glutted with similar works. There were more objections to works by other artists, including Salvador Dalí.
More than a dozen people sued; Park West either settled the cases, or they were dismissed. (Lawyers for the company said that the works in Mr. Max’s warehouse are not duplicates, and that every Max the gallery sells is unique. They also said that Park West instructs auctioneers to never use the word “investment” when describing art.)

‘He doesn’t do a blink of art’

By 2012, Mr. Max’s mental faculties were beginning to wane. He would sign books, squiggle designs on cocktail napkins for dinner companions, or hold a brush and put some paint on canvas for public appearances, but he struggled to truly create. In the next couple of years, Mr. Max stopped painting almost entirely. “The cruise ship art, he signs his name but he doesn’t do a blink of art on there,” Mr. Bevilacqua said. “He’s not capable of doing it anymore.”

Mr. Max in 2012. By this time, his mental faculties were beginning to wane, and he struggled to truly create.CreditSimon Russell/Getty Images
Mr. Max’s studio is organized legally as ALP Inc., named after its three principals: His children Adam and Libra each own 40 percent, and Peter owns the remainder. As Mr. Max became increasingly unable to produce, ALP defaulted in 2012 on $5.4 million in bank loans, according to recent court filings.
Mr. Max asked Lawrence Moskowitz, an insurance agent, and Robert M. Frank, an accountant in Amityville, N.Y., to help revive the business, according to a lawyer for Mr. Moskowitz. After Hurricane Sandy struck in the fall of 2012, he and Mr. Frank assisted in claiming $300 million in flood insurance on the New Jersey warehouse where ALP stored “Peter’s keepers.” So far, they’ve recouped $48 million, with Mr. Moskowitz taking a 10 percent fee.
Mr. Moskowitz took a more active role in running the drifting studio. In exchange, his lawyer said, Mr. Max offered him 10 percent of ALP — half the artist’s stake. Mr. Moskowitz established an alliance with Gene Luntz, Mr. Max’s longtime salesman on his Park West account, and encouraged Adam Max to get more involved in the business.
Although Adam had technically been the president of ALP since its inception, in 2000, he had shown little interest in the day-to-day of his father’s business. But with his sister, Libra, living in Los Angeles, volunteering as a prominent animal rights activist, Adam began to work with Mr. Moskowitz to turbocharge ALP. He would later tell a court that his father asked him to take over active management.

President Bill Clinton with Mr. Max at a 2002 event.CreditEvan Agostini/Getty Images
Adam Max, Mr. Moskowitz and Mr. Luntz drastically increased business with Park West, relying on an expanding cast of artists to mimic Mr. Max’s more commercial work. In the acrylic-spattered space above the Chinese restaurant, according to seven people who have seen it, there were as many as 18 assistant painters and five people working on etchings.
To secure the studio, Adam Max installed surveillance cameras and doors with metal bars. His lawyer, Michael C. Barrows, said Adam deemed the measures necessary after noticing stolen works listed for sale online. He also began to monitor his father’s phone conversations and movements, according to court filings and people who observed the behavior. Mary and Libra Max, who had started to become increasingly concerned about her father, would later allege in separate court proceedings that they were both barred from the studio.
Peter Max continued to keep up appearances. His hip fashions, dyed brown hair and slim physique made him look physically healthy, even as his mental capacity diminished. Park West would request his presence at V.I.P. sales events, sometimes asking him to visit several cities in a weekend, according to three people who accompanied him. The gallery can sell more than $2 million worth of art on a single big-spender cruise, and meeting Peter Max in person was the ultimate perk.
Mr. Max played the part, but he was often confused and exhausted, according to the travel companions. He soiled himself on one cruise, said one person who was with him at the time. Back in New York, Mr. Luntz would take his usual 15 percent agent’s commission of what Mr. Max made on the road. Privately, Mr. Luntz called Mr. Max “Bozo,” as in the clown, according to a Max family friend. (Mr. Luntz declined to comment.)

The lawsuits begin


Some Max collectors started to hear that Mr. Max wasn’t painting. In a 2014 lawsuit against the artist, two New York businessmen, who had helped sell a rendition of Mr. Max’s Statue of Liberty series to a collector for $500,000, said they overheard Mr. Moskowitz remark that the artist had “not painted in years.” The suit alleged that a team of “ghost painters” created his pieces, and that “the extent of Mr. Max’s involvement with these paintings is limited to merely signing his name on the artwork when it’s completed.”

As the hippies who loved his work grew up and became capitalists, so did Mr. Max.CreditDavid Bookstaver/Associated Press
The case is continuing. A lawyer for Mr. Moskowitz disputed that his client made those statements. He added that Mr. Moskowitz had observed Mr. Max putting paint on canvas in recent years, but couldn’t say whether he had produced complete works.
The next year, 2015, is when Mary Max asked the Supreme Court of the State of New York to appoint a guardian to oversee her husband’s business. She later told the court that she began to be followed by private investigators and threatened by men who approached her on the street, warning her to stop interfering in her husband’s business.
The accusations only got more sensational. Ms. Max told the court that Adam had taken custody of his father and concealed his whereabouts from friends and family — that he had effectively “kidnapped” Mr. Max, according to court filings.
Adam said he was protecting his father from his stepmother’s verbal and physical abuse. Several sworn affidavits described Ms. Max as a neglectful, even punishing, figure in her husband’s life — a view that even came to be supported by the guardian she had sought to appoint.
In a transcript of a recorded conversation with her driver entered into evidence, Ms. Max inquires about hiring a goon to intimidate her husband and damage his painting hand. Several household employees also made allegations of neglect, including that Ms. Max withheld food from her husband and sometimes put “large Brazil nuts” in his smoothies, on which he might choke.
A lawyer for Ms. Max, John Markham, said that she and Mr. Max “adore each other, and she is very devoted to him.”

Mr. Max and Mary Max at their 1997 wedding. Right: A drawing the artist made for Mary.CreditThe New York Times
Not everyone agreed with the portrayal of an abusive marriage. One court-appointed lawyer testified that Mr. Max “stated several times, without prompting, how much he loved his wife” and that removing him from their home could be “highly detrimental” to Mr. Max’s mental well-being. Ultimately, a judge ordered Mr. Max to be returned to his wife’s care at their Riverside Drive home, appointing a guardian to oversee both his business and personal matters. Mr. Max continued to travel to the studio above Shun Lee and sign works of art, even as his condition steadily worsened.
As the Max family drama has played out, sales at Park West’s seaborne auctions have continued to infuse the studio with cash. According to an audit included in recent legal proceedings, from 2012 to 2018 ALP went from insolvency to Mr. Luntz generating a total of more than $93 million in sales. Its net profit for 2018 was more than $30 million — the studio’s best year ever.
Mr. Luntz’s lawyer, Gregory A. Clarick, said everything his client did was authorized by Mr. Max and, later, Adam Max. He added that Mr. Luntz “had no reason to believe at any time that any artwork ALP was selling was anything other than original and authentic Peter Max work.” (Mr. Frank, the accountant, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Arguing that dementia fuels creativity

Park West is still aggressively selling Peter Max aboard the world’s cruise ships. Just before Christmas, the gallery had some of the best real estate on the Mariner of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship drifting through the mint-blue waters off Coco Cay in the Bahamas. With Max pieces front and center, Park West had set up in a narrow corridor between the main dining room and the restrooms, which made it hard for anyone who went to dinner and had to use the toilet to avoid a Park West salesperson.
Before an auction one afternoon, I asked a Park West employee named Steven — a South African in a sharp black suit — about the prominently displayed Maxes. He called Mr. Max “America’s painter laureate” and started in on a sales pitch for “Umbrella Man,” a florid silhouette of the back of a bulbous man in the rain. It was valued, he said, at $30,000.

Max works can be found in Park West showrooms on all of the major cruise lines. At one recent auction, an employee said that dementia had made Mr. Max even more creative and prolific.CreditThe New York Times
Steven then turned to a framed rendering of an American flag, which he said Mr. Max painted in 2016. The artist’s dementia, Steven continued, made Mr. Max even more creative and prolific. He offered me a mimosa and a line of credit with a V.I.P. Park West monthly payment plan. (A lawyer for Park West said employees were instructed not to say Mr. Max’s dementia has made him more prolific.)
Soon there was a standing-room-only crowd. “Time and again our V.I.P. collectors come in on cruises with one purpose and one purpose only,” Steven told the group. “To collect a Max.” A man in the front row was wearing a blue muscle shirt and backward cap, his drink pass hanging around his sunburned neck. When he heard Mr. Max’s name, he shouted, “That’s why I’m here!”
This pleased Steven. “If you want to walk off this ship with a superb artist, if you want to take your art to the top level of collecting, look no further,” Steven said. He added, “The fact that you can collect a Peter Max for way under $250,000 is astonishing.”

An encounter with Mr. Max

Libra Max, distressed about her father’s declining health, started to get more involved in the family business about two years ago. In January 2019, she and Mr. Max’s guardian voted to oust Adam from ALP and name her president and chief executive. Weeks later, she filed a lawsuit to restrain Adam from interacting with the company. She also terminated Mr. Moskowitz and Mr. Frank’s consulting agreements, and fired many of the studio’s assistant painters.
In a statement, Libra said that she was pursuing legal action “against those who continue to harm and exploit my father” and that her goal “is to bring the studio back to my father’s vision.”
In part, that means keeping Mr. Max’s art accessible, but pulling back from the kitschy renderings of Marilyn Monroe popular with Park West’s clientele and showcasing his earlier, edgier work in coastal galleries and museums.

Mr. Max with his daughter, Libra, in 2019.CreditThe New York Times
She has also entered open warfare against Park West. In April, Libra filed a lawsuit alleging the gallery improperly took some 23,000 works from Mr. Max’s trove of “keepers,” paying approximately $14.7 million when their actual value was at least $100 million.
The day before, Park West, after learning that Libra had concerns about the deal, sued ALP, alleging breach of contract. (ALP has moved to dismiss the complaint.) Park West says the allegations in Libra’s suit are baseless.
Luke Nikas, a top art lawyer in New York, said Park West first heard last fall that Mr. Max wasn’t painting, when Mr. Nikas and others — including The New York Times — received an anonymous tip. Park West hired Mr. Nikas and Robert Wittman, a former F.B.I. agent who specializes in art fraud, to conduct an investigation. The inquiry concluded that the studio “met every legal standard you can come up with,” Mr. Nikas said. He did not dispute that Mr. Max suffered from dementia, and noted that the 20th-century Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning also had the ailment and remained productive.
He compared Mr. Max to Warhol and conceptual artists like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, who exert creative control but typically rely on others to paint or construct the art. “Not a single work goes out the door without being hand signed by Peter Max,” Mr. Nikas said.
In a stratified art market, he added, “when there is so much criticism of wealth and money,” Mr. Max’s process allows “ordinary people the opportunity to buy something that is authentic.”
Paul J. Schwiep, a lawyer for Park West, said that he and Mr. Scaglione, the company founder, visited the studio in February and saw Mr. Max painting — an anecdote that also appeared in Park West’s legal complaint against ALP. “He complained about how much he was working, said he’s never been busier in his life,” Mr. Schwiep said. Mr. Nikas later told me that Mr. Schwiep misspoke, and that Mr. Max had only been signing prints the day Mr. Scaglione visited, not painting.
One Wednesday evening in April, I showed up at Peter Max’s apartment. A housekeeper instructed me to take off my shoes and wipe the bottom of my bare feet with disinfecting wipes. The blinds were pulled, and Mr. Max was alone at a marble dining table eating vegetarian sushi and drinking what looked like chocolate-flavored Ensure. There were minimal furnishings except for a piano covered in a plastic tarp and a couple of yoga mats. The air smelled like a mix of patchouli and Clorox.
A coffee-colored cat, one of at least a half dozen, curled up in Mr. Max’s lap. I spotted the winding staircase he’d used after his divorce. I told Mr. Max that I was a Times reporter — and that two family friends had suggested that I stop by — but he didn’t seem to understand. He just shrugged, asked me several times what year it was and then told me that he had spent his childhood in Shanghai.
For months, I’d been hoping to speak with Mr. Max. I wanted to ask him directly about his career and the drama of recent years, but now that I saw his confusion for myself, I didn’t attempt an interview. So I thanked him and turned to leave.
That’s when I spotted one of his earlier works hanging on an otherwise empty wall. The deep movement of the piece drew me in — the teals and yellows of an otherworldly garden party bouncing from the canvas and radiating something joyful. It hit me that long before a Max work ever sold on a cruise ship, the man had been a great — even avant-garde — artist.
The painting stayed with me, and as I walked back out onto the street, I thought about an old Max comment I had recently seen on the Park West website. “I’m just wowed by the universe,” Mr. Max had said. “I love color. I love painting. I love shapes. I love composition. I love the people around me. I’m adoring it all. My legacy is in the hands of other people.”
Mary Chapman, Jaclyn Peiser and Alain Delaquérière contributed research.



Happy ever after: 25 ways to live well into old age (Guardian) 26 May 2019

Determined to enjoy longer and healthier lives, two women researched the science to find the key. Here, they share what they discovered


Illustration of woman meditating

When Susan Saunders was 36, her mother was diagnosed with severe dementia. “I had a toddler, a newborn, a full-time job as a TV producer – and I became a carer as well.” As a teenager, she had watched her mum care for her own mother, who had the same condition. “I became determined to do everything I could to increase my chances of ageing well.”

Annabel Streets’ story is similar. When she was a student, her grandfather died from cancer months after he retired; later, she watched her mother care for her grandmother, who lived with dementia and crippling rheumatoid arthritis for nearly 30 years. “When I developed a chronic autoimmune disease, I knew things had to change. But by then I had four young children and there was precious little time for my own health.”

Together, Saunders and Streets started researching the latest science on how to have a healthier, happier old age and how to apply it to their own lives, and blogged about their findings for five years. Their Age Well Project has now been published as a book, compiling almost 100 shortcuts to health in mid- and later life – and Streets and Saunders, who are both in their 50s, say they have never been in better health.

What did they learn?

Look to your ancestors for answers

If you are serious about ageing well, you need to become an expert in your own health – don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctor and your family. We started our project to age well by compiling ancestral health trees, listing any known illnesses in old age and the causes of mortality and ages at death of as many direct ancestors as possible. We did DNA tests, built records of our blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and vitamin D levels, and took note of our BMI and waist-to-hip ratio to devise more personalised ageing plans.

Could coffee be the elixir of life?

Enjoy coffee

Coffee is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and phenylindane, a recently identified compound that researchers think may help fend off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Drinking coffee has also been linked to reduced risks for several cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Drink your coffee without sugar or processed syrups, and don’t make it too milky: the antioxidant value appears to drop when milk is added.

Walk faster

Walking is good, but pace matters. Brisk walking has been linked to better memory, better health and a longer life. Increase your pace until you are slightly out of breath or sweaty and aim for 30 minutes a day, ideally outdoors to get the additional benefits of vitamin D and light. New research suggests that those walking first thing in the morning also make better decisions during the day, so consider swapping your morning commute for a robust walk.

Exercise in green space

Trees produce phytoncides which help to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and boost immunity. The microbes in forest soil have been found to reduce depression and may contribute to the health of our microbiome. A 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the benefits, but researchers have found that a weekend in the woods improves immunity for up to a month, while a short afternoon run or walk somewhere green means better sleep at night.

Fast every day

Our bodies have adapted to go without food for short periods – the surprise has been discovering how beneficial this is for many of us. Intermittent fasting, made famous by Michael Mosley’s popular 5:2 diet, is a proven method for increasing longevity. It also appears to fend off Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes and weight gain. There are several forms of fasting and it is important to find one that suits your lifestyle. We like the extended overnight fast of 14-16 hours, which has been found to improve gut health, but was also followed by our distant forebears, who typically ate supper at sundown, rarely snacked, and then ate mid-morning the following day.


Why weights? They build muscle.

Build muscle

Experts believe resistance training is as important for ageing as aerobic exercise, eating vegetables and sleeping well. After age 40, we lose muscle at the rate of 1% a year, increasing our risk of heart attacks, strokes and osteoporosis. Recent research found that older adults who did twice-weekly strength training lived longer and with less illness than those who did none. We like rowing and weight-training for efficiency; we also keep pairs of weights near the kettle and the TV and lift them if we have a few minutes to spare.

Read books

Although reading is sedentary and solitary, frequent reading has been linked to longer, healthier life. A Yale study of 3,600 over-50s found that reading increased longevity by almost two years; readers of books outlived readers of newspapers and magazines. While those who read for more than 3.5 hours a week lived longest, the researchers said “30 minutes a day was still beneficial”. Meanwhile, every expert seems to recommend reading as a means of getting to sleep.

Work longer

While many of us dream of a golden age of retirement, a 2016 study found that people who worked longer lived longer, a fact reflected in earlier longitudinal studies that found correlations between retirement and poor health. Researchers speculate that this is because working usually involves social interaction, movement and a sense of purpose. Several studies have linked retirement with loneliness and depression. But working long hours year after year is not the answer either. Research shows that from mid-life onwards, the sweet spot for health and longevity is working at a less intense pace and perhaps for fewer hours.

Keep learning

Old brains are just as equipped to build new neurons and synapses as young ones. But this process works best when we repeatedly force ourselves to learn new things. The brain loves novelty: crafts, games, even cooking from a new recipe, all trigger the creation of neurons, but the more complex and more difficult the new activity is, the greater the rewards. Choose something that also involves social interaction and a bit of movement, such as singing. Best of all, try learning complex new dance moves.

Take a nap

Several studies have found that nappers have better attention and focus, better memory and better non-verbal reasoning. Oddly, nappers also appear to sleep better at night (with the proviso that your nap shouldn’t be taken too late in the afternoon). A Nasa study found that sleepy pilots had a 45% improvement in performance and a 100% improvement in alertness after a short nap. But the key is to keep the nap short (about 30 minutes). Studies consistently show that naps of more than 90 minutes can be detrimental to our health.

Clear out your medicine cabinet

In particular, clear out unnecessary anticholinergics, often found in antidepressants, bladder drugs, medication for Parkinson’s disease and some antihistamines and travel sickness pills. This isn’t something you should do without your doctor’s guidance, but several studies have now linked ingesting high levels of anticholinergics with the onset of Alzheimer’s, even if taken for as little as a year. Ask your doctor for alternative medication, particularly if you are taking several pills containing anticholinergics.

Only spend on vitamin D and zinc

Study after study has found that supplements have very little benefit; we invest in good food instead. However, when it comes to vitamin D and zinc, the data is robust: vitamin D – in the right dosage – can help us age well while zinc has been shown to reduce the severity of coughs and colds. Those of us in the northern hemisphere aren’t able to get the sunlight necessary for the body to make vitamin D, so a supplement of at least 1,000 iu daily during the winter months is recommended by some ageing experts.

Avoid pollution

Pollution is rapidly becoming the biggest threat to our ability to age well, with more and more research linking particulate matter to lung cancer, heart disease, dementia, hypertension and diabetes. It is vital that we are vociferous in lobbying for cleaner air and that we play our part in reducing our own personal pollution footprints. But we can lessen the damage of living in heavily polluted cities. Avoid congested roads, switch to an anti-inflammatory diet (shown to mitigate the effects of pollution in some people), invest in a good quality air purifier and rotate it round your house, and fill your house with pollution-fighting greenery.

Liquid gold … olive oil has many benefits.
Liquid gold … olive oil has many benefits. Photograph: Brian Hagiwara/Getty Images

Use olive oil

We think of olive oil as “liquid gold”, such are its benefits, with improved heart health topping the list. A four-and-a-half year clinical trial involving 7,000 older adults at risk of heart disease found that those eating an olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet had 30% fewer instances of heart attacks and strokes, as well as improved lipid and cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure. Olive oil consumption has also been linked to a slowing of the progression of breast cancer, reduced bone mass loss and better blood glucose control. Use it to cook or dress multicoloured vegetables.

Build bone density

The adage, use it or lose it, is never truer than when applied to bone strength. And it’s very specific: research has shown that professional tennis players have much higher bone density in their serving arm than their non-serving arm. The most beneficial exercise, if your joints are up to it, is jumping – try to jump 10 to 20 times a day with a 30-second rest between each. Other high-impact exercise, such as running or skipping, also increases bone density. Resistance training such as lifting weights also boosts bones, but exerts less pressure on joints. If that all sounds too sweaty, ballroom dancing improves balance and coordination, resulting in fewer falls and fractures.

The power of friendship can prolong your life.

Cultivate friendships

Loneliness is as big a mortality risk as diabetes. Research links social isolation to dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression and a 29% greater risk of dying. An eight-decade study found a clear correlation between having a large social network and living longer. More recent research shows the quality of friendships also helps keep us alive: ask yourself if your friends stimulate you and if they have a positive outlook. Helping and caring for others also strongly correlates with longevity.

Support immunity

It is often thought the immune system weakens with age, but research indicates that the reverse may be true: the immune system actually overreacts as we get older, creating more inflammation in the body when it is confronted by a virus, for example and speeding up the ageing process. With 70% of the immune system located in the gut, gut health is key. Support your immune system with a diet high in dark leafy greens, brassicas (such as cabbage and broccoli), alliums (such as garlic, leeks and onions) and mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms, in particular, have been found to have a powerful effect on the immune system. If you have a cold, try a simple miso soup with mushrooms, ginger and greens.

Change how you eat, particularly in the evening

Changing how you eat, rather than what you eat, can make a bigger impact on longevity than a radical dietary overhaul. Piles of vegetables, whole grains, pulses and lean protein fill up our plates now. We also aim to eat earlier, whenever possible, to allow digestion to kick in well before bedtime. This means less disturbed sleep and a longer overnight fast, too. Eating earlier has enabled us to eat more slowly – an essential but overlooked factor in the Mediterranean diet, allowing satiety hormones to kick in. And when we have eaten, we stop. Constant grazing and snacking means that the digestive system is permanently working – and therefore also permanently producing insulin, potentially leading to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

Spice up your life with turmeric.

A natural anti-inflammatory, turmeric has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, cancer and liver disease. It is also antiseptic, antibacterial and packed with antioxidants. Research suggests that curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, appears to counteract the low-grade, chronic inflammation that increases with age – it may also improve brain function. Other studies have linked curcumin supplementation to reduced pain for arthritis sufferers, improved liver function and some relief from irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Start your day with our turmeric sunrise tonic: a cup of warm water, 1 tbs apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp turmeric, ½ tsp black pepper (which seems to increase absorption rates of curcumin) and ½ tsp ginger pulp. Add honey to taste and stir well.


Meditation isn’t just hippie woo woo: research shows it has a powerful effect on the brain. It appears to reduce stress and promote empathy, and regular practitioners seem not to lose grey matter, or suffer reduced concentration, as they age. Just 15 minutes a day is enough to strengthen telomeres, the “caps” that protect our DNA and, according to a Harvard study, to have a positive impact on blood pressure levels. A very specific form of meditation, Kirtan Kriya, involving chanting and finger movements, stabilises brain synapses and increases cerebral blood flow – researchers concluded that it should be considered for Alzheimer’s disease prevention. Can’t spare 15 minutes? Take a few moments to focus on your breath or your surroundings to promote a feeling of calm.

Eat more fibre

If you make just one dietary change to boost longevity, make it this one. An Australian study tracked the diets of 1,600 people over 10 years to discover the impact of carbohydrate consumption on successful ageing. The most successful agers (those most free of disease after a decade) were the ones with the highest fibre intake – usually from fruit, wholegrain bread and oats. The researchers suggested two possible reasons for this: fibre slows the digestion of food, thus keeping insulin levels in check, which in turn reduces inflammation (a key trigger of ageing); and some types of fibre ferment in the body, producing short-chain fatty acids, which also dampen inflammation. Fibre also helps reduce cholesterol levels, which in turn supports heart health, and lowers colorectal cancer risk by moving food through the gut quickly. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 30g; the UK average is 18g. A daily cup of beans or pulses, plus quality whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and granary bread, will help boost your intake.

Avoid blue light in the evenings

Our electronic devices play havoc with our delicate circadian rhythms. Screens produce blue light, which helps wake us up in the morning, but at night suppresses production of melatonin, the vital sleep-inducing hormone. Control your exposure by adding time-sensitive filters that block blue light from your laptop and phone; set an alarm to remind you to start a pre-bed wind-down; and keep electronics out of the bedroom.

Look after your eyes

The best ways to protect our eyes are to avoid smoking, keep active and eat healthily, including foods rich in macular pigments – anything bright yellow, orange or green is a rich source. Include plenty of vegetables such as corn on the cob, orange peppers, carrots and kale in your diet. Regular eye tests are a must: eyesight changes rapidly after the age of 40. Wear good-quality sunglasses on sunny days, even in winter, and take regular breaks if you spend a lot of your day looking at an electronic screen.

Four legs good … having a dog has health benefits.

Walk a dog

The health benefits of owning a dog are obvious: dogs need walking, caring for and routine, all of which help us age better. A study of more than 3 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 found that dog owners had a lower risk of death due to all causes. Pet owners also have lower blood pressure and cholesterol than non-pet owners: stroking an animal lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Having a dog means that your home might not be as clean as it could be – and that’s a good thing. Dog ownership increases the quantity of 56 classes of bacterial species in the home, which in turns boosts gut health.

Cultivate optimism

Studies have found that older people with a negative attitude to ageing have worse functional health, slower walking speeds and lower cognitive abilities than those with a more positive attitude. Negativity, unsurprisingly, puts stress on the body, elevating cortisol levels, which in the long term can impact heart health, sleep quality, weight and cognition. You really are as old as you feel, it seems.

The Age Well Project: Easy Ways to a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders (Piatkus, £14.99). To order a copy for £12.99, go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p on orders of more than £15, online only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.


The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper – Book Borrowing Declines – by Dan Cohen (The Atlantic) 26 May 2019

Someone takes a book off a bookshelf.

When Yale recently decided to relocate three-quarters of the books in its undergraduate library to create more study space, the students loudly protested. In a passionate op-ed in the Yale Daily News, one student accused the university librarian—who oversees 15 million books in Yale’s extensive library system—of failing to “understand the crucial relationship of books to education.” A sit-in, or rather a “browse-in,” was held in Bass Library to show the administration how college students still value the presence of books. Eventually the number of volumes that would remain was expanded, at the cost of reducing the number of proposed additional seats in a busy central location.

Little-noticed in this minor skirmish over the future of the library was a much bigger story about the changing relationship between college students and books. Buried in a slide deck about circulation statistics from Yale’s library was an unsettling fact: There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

Yale’s experience is not at all unique—indeed, it is commonplace. University libraries across the country, and around the world, are seeing steady, and in many cases precipitous, declines in the use of the books on their shelves. The University of Virginia, one of our great public universities and an institution that openly shares detailed library circulation stats from the prior 20 years, is a good case study. College students at UVA checked out 238,000 books during the school year a decade ago; last year, that number had shrunk to just 60,000.

Before you tsk-tsk today’s kids for their lack of bookishness, note that the trend lines are sliding southward for graduate students and faculty members, too: down 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively, at UVA. Overall, across its entire network of libraries, UVA circulated 525,000 books during the 2007–08 school year, but last year there were only 188,000 loans—nearly 1,000 fewer books checked out a day. The Association of Research Libraries’ aggregated statistics show a steady decrease of the same proportion across its membership, even as student enrollment at these universities has grown substantially.

Maybe students aren’t checking the books out but are still consulting them regularly within the library? This also does not appear to be true. Many libraries also track such in-house uses, by tallying the books that need to be reshelved, and the trends are the same. At my library at Northeastern University, undergraduate circulations declined 50 percent from 2013 to 2017—before we decided to do our own book relocation—and our logged number of books removed from shelves but not checked out also dropped by half.

These stark statistics present a conundrum for those who care about libraries and books. At the same time that books increasingly lie dormant, library spaces themselves remain vibrant—Snell Library at Northeastern now receives well over 2 million visits a year—as retreats for focused study and dynamic collaboration, and as sites of an ever wider array of activities and forms of knowledge creation and expression, including, but also well beyond, the printed word. It should come as no surprise that library leadership, in moments of dispassionate assessment often augmented by hearing from students who have trouble finding seats during busy periods, would seek to rezone areas occupied by stacks for more individual and group work. Yet it often does come as an unwelcome surprise to many, especially those with a powerful emotional attachment to what libraries should look like and be.

What’s happening here is much more complicated than an imagined zero-sum game between the defenders of books and library futurists. The decline in the use of print books at universities relates to the kinds of books we read for scholarly pursuits rather than pure pleasure, the rise of ebooks and digital articles, and the changing environment of research. And it runs contrary to the experience of public libraries and bookstores, where print continues to thrive.

Unlike most public libraries, the libraries of colleges and universities have always been filled with an incredibly wide variety of books, including works of literature and nonfiction, but also bound scientific journals and other highly specialized periodicals, detailed reference works, and government documents—different books for different purposes. Although many of these volumes stand ready for immersive, cover-to-cover reading, others await rarer and often brief consultations, as part of a larger network of knowledge. Even many monographs, carefully and slowly written by scholars, see only very sporadic consultation, and it is not uncommon for the majority of college collections to be unused for a decade or more. This is as it should be: Research libraries exist to collect and preserve knowledge for the future as well as for the present, not to house just the latest and most popular works.

But there is a difference between preservation and access, and a significant difference, often unacknowledged, in the way we read books for research instead of pleasure. As the historian Michael O’Malley humorously summarized the nature of much scholarly reading and writing, “We learn to read books and articles quickly, under pressure, for the key points or for what we can use. But we write as if a learned gentleman of leisure sits in a paneled study, savoring every word.” Or as he more vividly described the research process, academics often approach books like “sous-chefs gutting a fish.”

With the rapidly growing number of books available online, that mode of slicing and dicing has largely become digital. Where students or faculty once pulled volumes off the shelf to scan a table of contents or index, grasp a thesis by reading an introduction, check a reference, or trace a footnote, today they consult the library’s swiftly expanding ebook collection (our library’s ebook collection has multiplied tenfold over the past decade), Google Books, or Amazon’s Look Inside. With each of these clicks, a print circulation or in-house use of a book is lost. UVA’s ebook downloads totaled 1.7 million in 2016, an order of magnitude larger than e-circulations a decade ago. Our numbers at Northeastern are almost identical, as scholars have become comfortable with the use of digital books for many purposes.

I’ve seen my own book usage change over time. When I was a graduate student studying Victorian history at Yale, the university’s towering collection in Sterling Library, next door to Bass (then called Cross Campus Library), allowed me to find and leaf through relevant books easily. Now almost all of the texts I consulted for my dissertation are available online in repositories such as HathiTrust, which stores digitized books from research libraries, many of them freely available for download since they were published before 1924, the cutoff for public-domain works. If I were doing the same scholarly project today, I would likely check out only a small subset of books that I needed to pay careful attention to, and annotate others digitally in my PDF reader.

The decline in print circulation also coincides with the increasing dominance of the article over the monograph, and the availability of most articles online. In many fields, we now have the equivalent of Spotify for research: vast databases that help scholars search millions of articles and connect them—often through highly restrictive and increasingly unsustainable subscriptions, but that is another story—instantly to digital copies. (There is also a Napster for research articles, of which we shall not speak.) Very few natural and social scientists continue to consult bound volumes of journals in their field, especially issues that are more than a few years old. UVA recorded nearly 3 million e-journal downloads in 2016, a massive and growing number that is typical of most universities.

In addition, the nature of scholarship is also changing, still with significant reading and writing, of course, but also involving the use and processing of data in a wide array of disciplines. To serve these emerging needs, Northeastern University Library has added full-time specialists in data visualization and systematic review (the process of synthesizing, statistically, exhaustive research from multiple studies), and an entire division dedicated to new forms of digital scholarship.

Our research library, like many others, has also seen a surge in group work rather than the solitary pursuit of the canonical research paper. More classes are assigning team-based projects instead of individual essays, as many urgent problems, such as climate change, call for large-scale interdisciplinary work and multiple perspectives. University libraries have correspondingly seen reservations for collaboration spaces surge. Last year, we had a record 100,000 hours of group-room bookings in our library, meaning that these spaces were occupied constantly from 8 a.m. to midnight.

At the same time—and perhaps this is one of the feel-good stories related to physical collections—there is an increasing use of archives. Many students still find the direct encounter with primary sources thrilling, and instructors and library staff have found creative ways for them to use these special collections. We have doubled our archival holdings in the past five years, focusing on Boston-related materials such as our recent acquisition of millions of photographs and negatives from The Boston Globe, and have greatly expanded our program of teaching with these artifacts.

A positive way of looking at these changes is that we are witnessing a Great Sorting within the library, a matching of different kinds of scholarly uses with the right media, formats, and locations. Books that are in high demand; or that benefit from physical manifestations, such as art books and musical scores; or that are rare or require careful, full engagement, might be better off in centralized places on campus. But multiple copies of common books, those that can be consulted quickly online or are needed only once a decade, or that are now largely replaced by digital forms, can be stored off site and made available quickly on demand, which reduces costs for libraries and also allows them to more easily share books among institutions in a network. Importantly, this also closes the gap between elite institutions such as Yale and the much larger number of colleges with more modest collections.

These trends around research collections are likely to continue. A small number of regional pools of books at a monumental scale—tens of millions of books from scores of universities working together—are already envisioned in the United States, which will ensure preservation and access for future generations and effectively act as gigantic shared libraries, or what David Prosser, the executive director of Research Libraries UK, has called “collective collections.” “Print books are historical artefacts … but some are more valuable artefacts than others,” Prosser has argued. “No library can be completely universal and decisions need to be made about what to collect and where to store material. By looking at collections collectively we can better serve the needs of readers, ensuring that what we have is well looked after (and yes, sometimes that means in ‘remote-storage’).”

Unfortunately, more troubling factors are also at work in the decline of print books within colleges. Statistics show that today’s undergraduates have read fewer books before they arrive on campus than in prior decades, and just placing students in an environment with more books is unlikely to turn that around. (The time to acquire the reading bug is much earlier than freshman year.) And while correlation does not equal causation, it is all too conspicuous that we reached Peak Book in universities just before the iPhone came out. Part of this story is undoubtedly about the proliferation of electronic devices that are consuming the attention once devoted to books.

The sharp decrease in the circulation of books also obviously coincides with the Great Recession and with the steady decline of humanities majors, as students have shifted from literature, philosophy, and history to STEM disciplines—from fields centered on the book to fields that emphasize the article.

When I tweeted about this under-discussed decline in the use of print books in universities, several respondents wondered if, regardless of circulation statistics, we should keep an ample number of books in the library for their beneficial ambience. Even if books are ignored by undergraduates, maybe just having them around will indirectly contribute to learning. If books are becoming wallpaper, they are rather nice wallpaper, surrounding students with deep learning and with some helpful sound-deadening characteristics to boot. If that helps students get into the right mind-set in a quiet, contemplative space, so be it. Maybe they will be more productive, get away from their distracting devices, and perhaps serendipitously discover a book or two along the way.

You can certainly see this theory at work in new library designs in which the number of volumes is more quietly reduced than at Yale, with books lining the walls of study spaces but not jutting out perpendicularly like the old, high-capacity stacks, so as to leave most of the floor open for tables, chairs, and spaces for group work. Perhaps that is the right approach, the right compromise, for some schools and students. Of course, you can also find students who love spaces without books, or who work better with some background noise—alas, whenever you discuss these matters, all students tend to generalize from the study space that works for themselves.

But there is another future that these statistics and our nostalgic reaction to them might produce: the research library as a Disneyland of books, with banker’s lamps and never-cracked spines providing the suggestion of, but not the true interaction with, knowledge old and new. As beautiful as those libraries appear—and I, too, find myself unconsciously responding to such surroundings, having grown up studying in them—we should beware the peril of books as glorified wallpaper. The value of books, after all, is what lies beneath their covers, as lovely as those covers may be.


My Breakthrough with ‘Ulysses’ by Joyce – The Work Has Some Appeal

I have a copy of ‘Ulysses’ that has been sitting on my bookshelves for decades and decades and… Perhaps I bought this volume of the Modern Library affordable classic works of literature at the Jordan Marsh book section.  The old fashioned book department of the large downtown Boston department store had life-long clerks who loved books and had actually read most of the classic books they sold.  I remember being a high school student with a few extra dollars to fill my personal library with books I intended to read.  I knew the reputation of ‘Ulysses.’  The pinnacle of English literature and written by an Irishman.

I probably paid $4.99 for the 800 page work.  Today the book costs ….. $18.44 hardcover.

Ulysses for sale

I have had the book near my bed for a while.  I was trying to read the book.  Again and again I began the novel with the morning happenings of some of the main characters.  But, I simply was not interested in the characters.  I listened to a Librivox reading of the first three sections again and again.  What was so funny or witty about the happenings?  How was this mundane breakfast meeting between three twenty-something room mates worthy of being called the best novel in the English language?

One character puts uses his shaver to make a cross and repeats some of the Latin mass.  I went to Catholic school, and I made fun of Catholic ritual plenty of times, I don’t find this Joycean parody very memorable or amusing.  Perhaps this was shocking in 1920 Dublin, but this hardly causes a scandal today.  I have been listening to audio books on Spotify, I have been listening to parts of ‘Ulysses’ on Spotify.  I happened to bump into an audio version of the story ‘Three Men in A Boat’ which I had never heard of.   I laughed again and again out loud at the funny events and words from the story.  I remember incidents at random times during the day and chuckle.  I listened to the beginning of ‘Ulysses’ over and over again, never a laugh, no humor that I could detect.  I watch some television shows that have laughter added to indicate that what is said is funny.  Perhaps I need to make a video of ‘Ulysses’ with an added laugh track.

I decided to type in a question about why ‘Ulysses’ is a famous, important novel.  I found a number of articles and reposted them so that I would read the articles.  I found a number of worthwhile ideas.

One strange kind of praise there is for the work is that it follows the Odyssey from Ancient Hellas.  So what?  How hard is it to copy the outline of a plot from a story that has been in the public domain for two thousand years.  Generations of students had been compelled to read the Odyssey; one could assume that many would recognize the plot outline.  So what?  What does that accomplish?  Exactly what is so compelling about the story of a returning upper class sea raider to the home base he wants to dominate?  Isn’t the Odyssey a convoluted homecoming of a ruling class brute whose solution to property rights is armed violence?  What does that have to do with 1900 Dublin Ireland?  Did the armed uprising by Irish rebels in 1916 have any impact on James Joyce and his story of people wandering around Dublin with mostly their genitals and petty social relations as their obsession?

But all the activity I had around the articles about ‘Ulysses’ caused me to listen to the beginning of the audio book on Librivox yesterday, yet again.  I could be wrong.  I could be missing something.  Maybe I’m and anti-book snob snob.

I actually went beyond the first sections into a part where Stephen Daedalus walks along a beach and there is a stream of consciousness narration.  I could follow the ideas and see how people might have found this style of writing very new in 1920.  This is why James Joyce won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

I also found a movie on Youtube from 1967.  Made in Ireland, the black and white work did not try to reproduce the 1904 setting of the novel.  But, I got a good hold on the narrative structure of the novel.

Some critics I’ve read praise Joyce for packing all of the events into one day.  Big deal.  This is fiction.  The writer can write that the events took place over the course of a thousand years, or a minute, with a few clicks of a keyboard.

Some of the people who praise the work point out how Joyce takes regular people and makes them ‘heroes’ with a plot from a Greek epic poem.  Really?  Some of the oldest stories handed down from antiquity involve a lower class person rising to the top of society.  Surely all of the people who are complimenting ‘Ulysses’ are familiar with the many, many stories that have the same kind of theme.  Why pick that to praise, unless there is a shortage of things to praise.

The stream of consciousness is interesting enough and I can follow the allusions and references.  But, so what.  What writer doesn’t dream of being free from editors and editing.  Why not dream of just thinking worthwhile literature off the top of one’s head?

But, if stream of consciousness was the wave of the future one hundred years ago….where is the wave today?  Are people seeking out the freedom of unedited thoughts presented as stream of consciousness?  Or are a few examples of stream of consciousness allowed to be celebrated because – in truth – no one finds any truth in the ramblings of stream of consciousness.

As I type these words I am listening to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy on Spotify again.  Like a pop song, I have listened over and over.   A good actress is performing the work.  Is there any hidden truth in the words?  Any great meaning of life that James Joyce discovered and hid in the thoughts of Molly Bloom?  Perhaps.  I’ll listen again.

As I think about the work I see the characters as a strange collection of people who are motivated by – I don’t know what.  Who cares what happens to these people?  What do they represent?

I don’t know what to make of people who gather to celebrate Bloomsday on the date in June when the events in the novel are supposed to have taken place in 1904 Dublin.  What is the lesson that these people are holding onto?  What lines from Joyce are they repeating.  There are lines from Shakespeare that flit through my brain every day.  Simple phrases composed at first by Bill Shakespeare with some obvious human truth that wasn’t so obvious before Shakespeare organized the thought.

“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…”

“I have thee not, yet I see thee still…”

“What a piece of work is man…”

Shall I go on, and on, and on?  As I listen to Joyce over and over, do I hear any lines that sink in that way?

Or when I listen to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy does it just sound like an insightful character on Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone circ 1963?  How come Rod Serling was never called the greatest writer in the English language?  Too derivative? 


I understand as I read more articles about the book that Joyce was a great word master and he constructed different chapters in different styles.  He told others that he put puzzles and clues and such all through the text to give college English professors something to do for the next two hundred years.  I can see that.  I have the luxury of using Spotify to listen to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy and Leopold Bloom’s soliloquy again and again, as if they were song tracks.  They are interesting, but, pretty mundane in the end.  Who wants life advice from a character in 1904 Dublin?  Even if the streets traveled in the story are still accurate. 

Joyce was a very good student and went to upper class schools at a time when Greek and Latin classics where heavily emphasized.  So, the student learned well and he uses his classics background to base a new story on.  So what.  Big deal. 

Joyce was able to mimic the style of the dime store ‘romance’ novels in one chapter, and the stream of consciousness style in several other sections, and then something like a play in another part.  Okay, pretty good.  A tour de force of literary fireworks to delight the 1920’s niche audience, and then generations of admirers after that. 

But, are there any insights into human nature in the book?  At almost 800 pages I guess there would have to be.  But, when I listened to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy again and again yesterday I simply felt like I was overhearing a woman moving around her kitchen as she spoke out loud about whatever popped into her head.  No particular order.  No real rhyme or reason, it seems.  But, maybe I am missing something.  I will listen some more.  I have not picked up my printed copy of the work and looked at the ‘no punctuation marks’ Molly Bloom soliloquy.  I think I will go do that right now.  

I’m still wrestling with this book!

11:34 am 29 May 2019

Why You Should Try to Read Ulysses—Again – by Sue Schopf (Harvard U Extension)

Statue of James Joyce


In this essay, Sue Schopf, PhD, a lecturer in Extension who has taught numerous literature courses, including ones on the vampire in literature and film and Irish literature, makes the case for giving the Joyce classic another try. Archive



Many novels are so challenging that we never manage to finish them. One of the most famous is James Joyce’s Irish masterpiece Ulysses. As a literature scholar, English lecturer, and once-failed reader of the challenging novel, I’m here to encourage you to make another attempt at seeing this book to the end.

Ulysses: an introduction

Published in Paris in 1922, banned as obscene until 1933, yet hailed as one of the groundbreaking works of early Modernism, the nearly 800-page novel takes place in Dublin on a single day, June 16, 1904.

It records the thoughts and activities of two main characters—Leopold Bloom, an unhappily married Jew and advertising canvasser, and Stephen Dedalus, a lapsed Catholic and frustrated academic. Although strangers to each other at the beginning, their day unfolds along parallel tracks that finally intersect.

A third important character is Bloom’s earthy and unfaithful wife, Molly, who occupies much of her husband’s thoughts on this day and who is preparing for the arrival of her lover, Blazes Boylan. Along the way, we are introduced to a host of minor characters who play a part in Bloom’s and Dedalus’s day.

Challenge 1: a stream-of-conscious narrative

The most difficult task that Joyce set for himself was to replicate through language the kaleidoscopic nature of consciousness. He sought to capture the way we experience the world around us (smells, noises, bits of conversations overheard), then internalize these stimuli, prompting the free and often chaotic association of ideas in the mind.

Myriad conflicting thoughts and emotions crowd into the minds of Joyce’s characters, including political anxieties, religious antagonism, historical memory, literary allusions, guilt, and sexual desire.

Challenge 2: time as nonlinear and fluid

The novel also reflects a post-Einsteinian, post-Bergsonian understanding of how we actually experience time. This is not “clock time,” but time as something nonlinear, fluid, in a constant state of flux through the activity of consciousness, which can bring past, present, and future into near-simultaneity while processing and ordering many other bits of information. 


Myriad conflicting thoughts and emotions crowd into the minds of Joyce’s characters, including political anxieties, religious antagonism, historical memory, literary allusions, guilt, and sexual desire.

For the reader, this method of moving between the outer world of seemingly inconsequential events and the inner world of thought poses perhaps the greatest challenge. This is a novel void of “plot.” There is no clear distinction between narrator and characters, and between what characters are saying and what they are thinking.

Challenge 3: Ulysses in historical context

It is important to remember what was happening in the world, both in 1922 when Joyce published the novel and in 1904, the year in which the story is set.

Joyce allows the reader access to the uncensored thoughts of his characters … in language so frank that it can still shock. These were largely uncharted waters for the English middle-class novel.

The early-twentieth century ushered in the age of technology, advertising culture, and sensational newspaper headlines, all of which we see reflected in the novel.

Freud had already published a number of works that legitimized the exploration of the unconscious mind and the hitherto secret world of sexual psychology.

Joyce allows the reader access to the uncensored thoughts of his characters—their sexual fantasies, vulgarities of expression, and meditations on bodily organs and their functions—in language so frank that it can still shock. These were largely uncharted waters for the English middle-class novel.

The 700-year domination of Ireland by England, the numerous uprisings against the English in Irish history, the internecine conflicts within Ireland itself then reaching a boiling point over home rule. The future role of the Roman Catholic Church drift in and out of characters’ thoughts and barroom conversations. Modernity constantly butts up against the traditional, as Joyce shows us an Ireland caught between these two forces.

Challenge 4: allusions to Homer’s Odyssey

Two other features make this novel unique. Overlaying the text with a “schema” based on Homer’s Odyssey (beginning with the title, Ulysses) creates a kind of puzzle for the reader who searches for direct correspondences between the novel and Homeric epic.

If anything, the novel seems to suggest that epic ambition and achievement are a thing of the past—that the ordinary man’s struggle for identity and dignity in a changing world is quest enough.

Instead of the loftiness of the epic with its quest-journey, epic hero, and supernatural adversaries over which the hero triumphs, one experiences only a very ordinary walk around Dublin, two very unheroic protagonists, and rather degraded adversaries.

If anything, the novel seems to suggest that epic ambition and achievement are a thing of the past—that the ordinary man’s struggle for identity and dignity in a changing world is quest enough.

My own breakthrough with Ulysses

The real breakthrough for me, as a once-failed reader of Ulysses, came when I purchased the Naxos audiobook of the novel (22 CDs!) read by Jim Norton and Marcella Riordan. (Librivox has versions online for free – https://librivox.org/ulysses-version-2-by-james-joyce/ and a free text online at Project Gutenberg – – https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4300/4300-h/4300-h.htm

Listening to their beautiful Irish voices as they brought each character to life, dramatizing the subtle differences in speech based on the characters’ social class and educational background (and degree of sobriety), allowed me to hear for the first time the music of Joyce’s language, with its chorus of polyphonic voices.

And here is a movie version – 1967

James Joyce’s “Ulysses”Why you should read this book – by D.H. (The Economist) 16 June 2012

Ignore the wet-blanket misinformation and prepare yourself for a flood of ecstatic imagination

Ulysses James Joyce damaged

“THERE are two kinds of people. Those that have read “Ulysses” and those that haven’t,” my best friend stated plumply one day, dropping the surprisingly compact 783-page paperback on the table with a thud. This was meant in a silly, snobbish kind of way, but he was right. Given the flood of ecstatic imagination between the covers of James Joyce’s novel, its more patient readers are marked for life by having read it.
Today, June 16th, is Bloomsday, the day in which all of the action of “Ulysses” takes place in the spinning clockwork of Dublin in 1904. Joyce’s devoted fans can be seen celebrating it every year. While Bloomsday events outside of Dublin tend to be nerdy affairs in Edwardian dress, I do recommend a good public reading if you can find one. (I do not, on the other hand, recommend the Bloomsday Irish breakfast of kidneys and gizzards, which is positively Cronenberg-esque.)
Perhaps that breakfast is a good metaphor; some people, not happy with saying “Ulysses” is not to their taste, must pronounce it loathsome. It was banned in America until 1934 because of its “pornographic” nature, a comical artefact of the country’s prudishness. And its position atop the western canon’s modernist heap has made it an all-too-tempting target for critics. I’ll never forget one of my old bosses damning “Ulysses” as the phallogocentric truncheon of paternal oppression, whatever that means. (He felt Gertrude Stein was the real talent.)
Just last year, Slate published a humourless piece in which Ron Rosenbaum fulminated about the book’s shortcomings, or rather its overcomings: “’Ulysses’ is an overwrought, overwritten epic of gratingly obvious, self-congratulatory, show-off erudition that, with its overstuffed symbolism and leaden attempts at humor, is bearable only by terminal graduate students who demand we validate the time they’ve wasted reading it.” Ouch. This is the kind of wet-blanket misinformation that you will have to ignore if you want to have any fun. And “Ulysses” is fun—maybe the best book you take to the beach this summer.
It is true that full-time literature students are in the best position to read “Ulysses”: it’s our job, with tons of time and a support staff standing by. I had the luxury of a “Ulysses” seminar with ten other undergrads, a professor with a Joyce tattoo on his back, and a pub with Beamish on tap. That’s the ideal, but you really don’t need all that. The beer is important, but all you really need is a clean, well-lit room of one’s own, a copy of “Ulysses”, Don Gifford’s “Ulysses Annotated”, Harry Blamires’s “The New Bloomsday Book” for chapter summaries, Joseph Campbell for some colour commentary, and some spare time.
Many readers will recoil: “I have to read three other books to read this one book? Zounds!” Trust me: you’ll be glad you did. Joyce is allusive and experimental, and the helping books do indeed help the reader mine for historical and literary meanings that reward often. But even a reader who forgoes annotated help can enjoy Joyce’s virtuosity. Few novelists have the ability to make the English language do whatever he wants, to make it do cartwheels and sing arias. Even when Joyce goes down (yet another) digressive rabbit hole, you love being along for the ride. 

Two counts in Rosenbaum’s indictment against “Ulysses” are worth examining in more detail, since they implicate not just that book but all brainy novels period in today’s digital zeitgeist. The first one is pretty easy: the anti-intellectual, knee-jerk reaction to erudition, show-off or otherwise. We’re all familiar with the prejudice that horse sense is better than intellect. And it’s true that “Ulysses” is a clearinghouse of historical facts, religious and philosophical ephemera, and clever-boots witticisms. “Ulysses” is also a variety show of the sexual and excretory; the denouement is the book’s two main characters drunkenly pissing side by side under the “heaventree of stars”, a first I’m sure. The novel is a perfect mix of highbrow and lowbrow, of poetry and patter, the very same flavour we love in our Shakespeare, who also happens to permeate much of “Ulysses”. Both Shakespeare and Joyce are industrial-grade humanists who devote every page to the study and celebration of us—smart, dumb, middling, fair, no matter.  
The second complaint with “Ulysses”, or smart books in general, is that they are too long or too dense, or both, and we simply don’t have the time to “waste”. The fear that we are becoming too distracted for big books has consumed the last decade. But what does digital have to do with novels, aside from making them more accessible? Ulysses, more than any novel, was made for the digital age. In the past decade, various projects have already begun to hyperlink the book with nifty annotations and commentary in an entertaining format to make it even easier to enjoy—in bite-sized portions—Joyce’s feast of words. 
Are we really too busy for one of history’s great psychological novels? Many of those who scoff at the idea of reading Ulysses will tell you in the next breath of finishing the 4,000-odd pages of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” (ie, the Game of Thrones books), or consuming all four seasons of “Breaking Bad” in a meth-fuelled weekend. Let’s not kid ourselves: we have the time. Find some room in your summer reading for “Ulysses” or those other loose, baggy monsters it spawned, like “Gravity’s Rainbow” or “Infinite Jest”. “Ulysses” is perhaps the most written about book ever after the Bible, which should tell you something. It’s definitely a better read. Sláinte!



James Joyce ‘Ulysses’ – Good or Bad? 21 Famous Writers and One Famous Psychoanalyst Weigh in – by Emily Temple – 2 Feb 2018

U j j


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of James Joyce’s Ulysses—it was first serialized in The Little Review between March 1918 and December 1920—and today is the 96th anniversary of its very first publication in book form, by Sylvia Beach. It’s also Joyce’s birthday, by the way, and no—that isn’t a coincidence. Ulysses is constantly named by writers and readers as a life- and mind-changing novel, and frequently tops lists of best-ever books.


But it’s not as universally loved as it seems. In fact, many readers—and even many big-name writers—dislike or even loathe Joyce’s masterpiece. How would I know this, you ask? Well, they said so. In the final tally of opinions, we’ve come up with a tie—11 for and 11 against—so you will have to decide for yourself how you feel. Whether or not you look at these one star Amazon reviews of the novel first is entirely your business.


FOR: Ulysses, of course, is a divine work of art and will live on despite the academic nonentities who turn it into a collection of symbols or Greek myths. I once gave a student a C-minus, or perhaps a D-plus, just for applying to its chapters the titles borrowed from Homer while not even noticing the comings and goings of the man in the brown mackintosh. He didn’t even know who the man in the brown mackintosh was. Oh, yes, let people compare me to Joyce by all means, but my English is pat ball to Joyce’s champion game.

–Vladimir Nabokov, in a 1965 interview

AGAINST: Ulysses could have done with a good editor. . . .People are always putting Ulysses in the top 10 books ever written, but I doubt that any of those people were really moved by it. . . . If you’re a writer in Dublin and you write a snatch of dialogue, everyone thinks you lifted it from Joyce. The whole idea that he owns language as it is spoken in Dublin is a nonsense. He didn’t invent the Dublin accent. It’s as if you’re encroaching on his area or it’s a given that he’s on your shoulder. It gets on my nerves. Article continues after advertisement

–Roddy Doyle, at a James Joyce birthday celebration in 2004

FOR: I hold this book to be the most important expression which the present age has found; it is a book to which we are all indebted, and from which none of us can escape. These are postulates for anything that I have to say about it, and I have no wish to waste the reader’s time by elaborating my eulogies; it has given me all the surprise, delight, and terror that I can require, and I will leave it at that.

–T. S. Eliot, in his 1923 essay “Ulysses, Order, and Myth“

AGAINST: Today writers want to impress other writers . . . One of the books that caused great harm was James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is pure style. There is nothing there. Stripped down, Ulysses is a twit.

–Paulo Coelho, to a Brazilian newspaper in 2012 Article continues after advertisement

FOR: Joyce has a most goddamn wonderful book. It’ll probably reach you in time. Meantime the report is that he and all his family are starving but you can find the whole celtic crew of them every night in Michaud’s where Binney and I can only afford to go about once a week.

Gertrude Stein says Joyce reminds her of an old woman out in San Francisco. The woman’s son struck it rich in the Klondyke and the old woman went around writing her hands and saying ‘Oh my poor Joey! My poor Joey! He’s got so much money!’ The damned Irish, they have to moan about something or other, but you never heard of an Irishman starving.

–Ernest Hemingway, in a 1922 letter to Sherwood Anderson

AGAINST: I don’t like Hemingway. And I know I don’t love Ulysses as much as I am supposed to—but then again, I never cared even one-tenth so much for the Odyssey as I do for the Iliad.

–Donna Tartt in the New York Times

FOR: I managed to get my copy of Ulysses through safely this time. I rather wish I had never read it. It gives me an inferiority complex. When I read a book like that and then come back to my own work, I feel like a eunuch who has taken a course in voice production and can pass himself off fairly well as a bass or a baritone, but if you listen closely you can hear the good old squeak just the same as ever.

–George Orwell, in a 1934 letter to Brenda Salkeld

AGAINST: [I couldn’t finish] Ulysses. I needed a graduate thesis adviser to crack a whip over my head, and didn’t have one.

–Jonathan Franzen, in an interview with the Guardian

FOR: Ulysses is certainly the greatest novel in the English language, and one might argue for its being the greatest single work of art in our tradition. How significant, then, and how teasing, that this masterwork should be a comedy and that its creator should have explicitly valued the comic “vision” over the tragic—how disturbing to our predilection for order that, with an homage paid to classical antiquity so meticulous that it is surely a burlesque, Joyce’s exhibitionististicicity is never so serious as when it is most outrageously comic. Joyce might have been addressing his readers when he wrote to Nora in 1909: “Now … I want you to read over and over all I have written to you. Some of it is ugly, obscene, and bestial, some of it is pure and holy and spiritual: all of it is myself.”

–Joyce Carol Oates, in a 1976 essay, “Jocoserious Joyce“

AGAINST: In spite of its very numerous qualities—it is, among other things, a kind of technical handbook, in which the young novelist can study all the possible and many of the quite impossible ways of telling a story—Ulysses is one of the dullest books ever written, and one of the least significant. This is due to the total absence from the book of any sort of conflict.

–Aldous Huxley, writing in 1925

FOR: Joyce really set my universe on its end. Reading Ulysses changed everything I thought about language, and everything I understood about what a book could do. I was on a train on the way to a boring temp job when I was about 25; I got on at Tottenham, north London, and opened the first page of Ulysses. When I got off at Liverpool Street in central London, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say the entire course of my life had changed. Although he is viewed as terribly serious and cerebral, so much of the pleasure of reading Joyce is the fun he has and the risks he takes with language; there is nothing quite so enjoyable as the much-maligned Joycean pun.

–Eimear McBride, in the Guardian

AGAINST: Overrated . . . Joyce’s Ulysses. Hands down. A professor’s book. Though I guess if you’re Irish it all makes sense. I put down most books, unfinished. Most books aren’t very good, and there’s no reason they should be. Whatever “talent” may be, it isn’t apportioned democratically.

–Richard Ford in the New York Times

FOR: I can think of books that made little explosions in my mind, showing me literary possibilities I hadn’t dreamed of until I read them. James Joyce’s Ulysses was one such book.

–Salman Rushdie, in a recent interview with the Guardian

AGAINST: Ulysses is a book which pours along for seven hundred and thirty-five pages, a stream of time of seven hundred and thirty-five days which all consist in one single and senseless every day of Everyman, the completely irrelevant 16th day of June 1904, in Dublin—a day on which, in all truth, nothing happens. The stream beings in the void and ends in the void. Is all of this perhaps one single, immensely long and excessively complicated Strindbergian pronouncement upon the essence of human life, and one which, to the reader’s dismay, is never finished? Perhaps it does touch upon the essence of life; but quite certainly it touches upon life’s ten thousand surfaces and their hundred thousand color gradations. As far as my glance reaches, there are in those seven hundred and thirty-five pages no obvious repetitions and not a single hallowed island where the long-suffering reader may come to rest. There is not a single place where he can seat himself, drunk with memories, and from which he can happily consider the stretch of the road he has covered, be it one hundred pages or even less. If he could only recognize some little commonplace which had slipped in where it was not expected. But no! The pitiless and uninterrupted stream rolls by, and its velocity or precipitation grows in the last forty pages till it sweeps away even the marks of punctuation. It thus gives cruelest expressions to that emptiness which is both breath taking and stifling, which is under such tension, or is so filled to bursting, as to grow unbearable. This thoroughly hopeless emptiness is the dominant note of the whole book. It not only begins and ends in nothingness, but it consists of nothing but nothingness. It is all infernally nugatory.

. . .

The seven hundred and thirty-five pages that contain nothing by no means consist of blank paper but are closely printed. You read and read and read and you pretend to understand what you read. Occasionally you drop through ann air pocket into another sentence, but when once the proper degree of resignation has been reached you accustom yourself to anything. So I, too, read to page one hundred and thirty-five with despair in my heart, falling asleep twice on the way.

–Carl Jung, in a 1932 review

FOR: To live with the work and the letters of James Joyce was an enormous privilege and a daunting education. Yes, I came to admire Joyce even more because he never ceased working, those words and the transubstantiation of words obsessed him. He was a broken man at the end of his life, unaware that Ulysses would be the number one book of the twentieth century and, for that matter, the twenty-first.

–Edna O’Brien, in The Atlantic

AGAINST: I have read 200 pages [of Ulysses] so far—not a third; and have been amused, stimulated, charmed, interested, by the first 2 or 3 chapters—to the end of the cemetery scene; and then puzzled, bored, irritated and disillusioned by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. And Tom, great Tom, thinks this is on par with War and Peace! An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me; the book of a self taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, and ultimately nauseating. When one can have the cooked flesh, why have the raw? But I think if you are anaemic, as Tom is, there is a glory in blood. Being fairly normal myself I am soon ready for the classics again.

–Virginia Woolf, in a 1922 diary entry

FOR: [F]or all its appalling longueurs, Ulysses is a work of high genius. Its importance seems to me to lie, not so much in its opening new doors to knowledge—unless in setting an example to Anglo-Saxon writers of putting down everything without compunction—or in inventing new literary forms—Joyce’s formula is really, as I have indicated, nearly seventy-five years old—as in its once more setting the standard of the novel so high that it need not be ashamed to take its place beside poetry and drama. Ulysses has the effect at once of making everything else look brassy. Since I have read it, the texture of other novelists seems intolerably loose and careless; when I come suddenly unawares upon a page that I have written myself I quake like a guilty thing surprised. The only question now is whether Joyce will ever write a tragic masterpiece to set beside this comic one.

–Edmund Wilson, in a 1922 review for the New Republic

AGAINST: Take this Irishman Joyce, a sort of Zola gone to seed. Someone recently sent me a copy of Ulysses. I was told I must read it, but how can one plow through such stuff? I read a little here and there, but, oh my God! How bored I got! Probably Joyce thinks that because he prints all the dirty little words he is a great novelist. You know, of course, he got his ideas from Dujardin? . . . Ulysses is hopeless, it is absurd to imagine that any good end can be served by trying to record every single thought and sensation of any human being. That’s not art, that’s attempting to copy the London Directory.”

–George Moore in conversation with a friend, as reported in Constellation of Genius: 1922

FOR: I don’t want to get away from him. It’s male writers who have a problem with Joyce; they’re all “in the long shadow of Joyce, and who can step into his shoes?” I don’t want any shoes, thank you very much. Joyce made everything possible; he opened all the doors and windows. Also, I have a very strong theory that he was actually a woman. He wrote endlessly introspective and domestic things, which is the accusation made about women writers—there’s no action and nothing happens. Then you look at Ulysses and say, well, he was a girl, that was his secret.

–Anne Enright in a 2008 interview with the Boston Globe

AGAINST: I am sorry, but I am one of the people who can’t read Ulysses. Only bits. But I am glad I have seen the book, since in Europe they usually mention us together—James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence—and I feel I ought to know in what company I creep to immortality. I guess Joyce would look as much askance on me as I on him. We make a choice of Paola and Francesca floating down the winds of hell.

–D. H. Lawrence, in a 1922 letter to S.S. Koteliansky.

FOR: The fact is that every book changes our lives. But Kerouac kicked me around when I was 13. I was a suburban kid living in Dublin, and he peeled me open with On the Road. Several years later, when I was 21, I took a bicycle across the United States. I was looking for the ghost of Dean Moriarty. After that it was all Ferlinghetti, Brautigan, Kesey. And then I discovered who I should have known all along—Joyce. Fancy that, I had to go to America to find an Irish writer. I’ve been discovering and rediscovering him ever since. Ulysses is the most complete literary compendium of human experience. Every time I read it, it leaves me alert and raw. I recently had a chance to look at a rare first edition. When I cracked open the spine, a tiny piece of the page dropped out, no bigger than a tab of acid. Nobody was looking, not even Kerouac. So I put it on my finger and did what anyone else would do: I ate it.

–Colum McCann in GQ

AGAINST: There are two colossal fingerprints left by literary incompetence on Ulysses which show that a pedantic accuracy about the letter and an insensitivity about the spirit can lead him wildly astray even while he is still loyal to the classicism. It was M. Veléry Larbaud who first detected that the title of that great work was not just put in to make it more difficult, but that there exists a close parallelism between the incidents of the Odyssey and Ulysses: that Leopold Bloom is Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus is Telemachus, Marion Bloom is Penelope, the newspaper office is the Cave of the Winds, the brother is the Place fo the Dead, and so on. This recognition plunges Mr. Joyce’s devotees into profound ecstasies from which they never recover sufficiently to ask what the devil is the purpose that is served by these analogies.

. . .

Incoherence, that is to say the presentation of words in other than the order appointed by any logic of wrods not in sentence formation, is at least a real device and not just a condition, and while it also is suitable for the handling only of a special case, that special case is certainly contained in Ulysses. But unfortunately Mr. Joyce applies it to many things in Ulysses as well as that special case.

–Rebecca West, “The Strange Case of James Joyce,” Bookman, 1928

Rereading ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce: The Best Novel Since 1900 – by Ben W. Heineman Jr (The Atlantic) 29 Nov 2010

The season of lists is now upon us: best book, best film, best album … of 2010.

But, I was recently tempted by another, older list: the Modern Library’s best novels in English since 1900 (first published in 1998 and judged by the likes of Daniel Boorstin, A.S. Byatt, Vartan Gregorian, and William Styron).

Ranked number one is James Joyce’s Ulysses, written from 1914 to 21, published in 1922 and a source of controversy every since (for example, banned as obscene in the U.S. until 1933).

My last reading of the novel was in 1962 as an 18-year-old college freshman in one of the best courses I have ever had—a “close reading” introductory humanities class that in the spring semester focused on just four books (Paradise Lost, Huckleberry Finn, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses). We spent more than a month on Ulysses itself. I first found it dense, perplexing, and often incomprehensible, but after reading and re-reading, after studying interpretations by others, I came to love it (and understand some of it).

Yet as the years passed, and the inevitable dinner conversations occurred about the five best novels we had read, Ulysses was never mentioned by anyone (except the stray English major). And when I would ask about it, most would answer: “have started it several times, but never got very far. Too hard.”

So, inspired by the “best novels since 1900 list” , with affection dimmed by time and having forgotten almost everything I may have once known about the novel, I decided to try again almost 50 years later (!!!!).

What I found was two novels: a deeply humanistic one which brilliantly and beautifully captures the life of a day in Dublin primarily through three main characters; and a second, highly literary one of surpassing complexity and, without careful study, limited accessibility.

The deeply humanistic novel gives us remarkable insight into Stephen Dedalus (a young writer who aspires to literary greatness, is haunted by the death of his mother, rejects the superficiality of journalism and is teetering on the edge of alcoholism and dissipation); into Leopold Bloom (an advertising salesman, lapsed Jew, lover of food and drink, son of a suicide, father of a dead son and a ripening teenage daughter and wanderer who traverses Dublin during the day and night, befriends Stephen, and returns to his marital bed which, as he knows well, was the scene of an afternoon affair between one Blazes Boylan and his wife); and into Bloom’s wife Molly (a singer and earthy mother/wife who fears aging, is jealous of her younger daughter, longs for a sexual relationship with Bloom, relishes her afternoon affair, talks frankly about her bodily functions, speaks in vivid contradictions about love, children, life, aging and women, and at the end remembers romantically the time when she and Bloom first made love).

Unlike many 19th century novels, this humanistic one does not end in either marriage or death, but in ambiguity about what will happen in the future to Stephen, Bloom and Molly and to their relationships. But this uncertainty grows out of a vivid recreation of the multiple sights, sounds, smells and voices of Dublin on June day in 1904. Bloom’s pork kidney breakfast frying in a pan. The sound of the trolley cars. The vomit in the bedside bowl of Stephen’s dying mother. Tugs moving across the horizon on the “snotgreen sea.” The funeral of an old drunkard. The birth of a child. The arguments in a pub. Bloom masturbating on the beach as he watches a young woman show off her knickers. Stephen and Bloom in the nightmare of Nighttown. Stephen and Bloom at Bloom’s home watching the wandering stars and peeing below Molly’s window. Molly relieved that her menstruation shows she is not pregnant by Boylan.

Joyce set out to create life in all its fullness without heroic scenes or gestures or declamations but through a fully realized expression of a city and its people on one typical day—and through ironic puncturing of human pomposity and pretense. Despite its reputation as a difficult read, many of the chapters or important passages in Ulysses are accessible to a regular reader who is not a candidate for a PhD. For example: the opening chapter where Stephen is mocked by his friend and critic “stately plump Buck Mulligan; the passages in the pub where Bloom engages in verbal warfare with the anti-Semitic “citizen;” the distant seduction of Bloom on the beach by Gerty McDowell who reveals herself as she leans back to watch the fire works shoot into the sky and then reveals that she is lame as she limps away; and even the last two chapters, one in the form of a catechism revealing the relationship between Stephen and Bloom and the second the famous stream-of-consciousness thoughts of Molly as she lies next to Bloom in the early hours of the morning.

Yet, the second Ulysses, the highly literary one, is still complex and inaccessible to a one-time generalist reader. Like many great works of literature, it requires repeated reading and deep study fully to understand—and ultimately to enjoy—the many dimensions and layers. The most obvious complexity, of course, is the analogy to Homer’s Odyssey (Latinized from Greek as Ulysses). The novel is loosely structured to mimic Homer’s epic. And the main characters in Joyce’s novel have referents in the Odyssey, although with profound differences: Bloom as a non-heroic Ulysses, Stephen as Ulysses’ son Telemachus, but son without a strong attachment to his own father; and the faithless Molly as the faithful Penelope. Understanding the ways in which Ulysses is an ironic commentary on the Odyssey, and the ways in which Bloom, Stephen and Molly are, and are not, like Ulysses, Telemachus, and Penelope is a huge enterprise unto itself, upon which books have, of course, been written.

Joyce’s novel is also stuffed with allusions and parodies and riddles, many of which require substantial knowledge outside the book. As Joyce himself said, he had “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep professors busy for centuries arguing over what I mean” which would earn the novel “immortality.” One whole chapter on child labor and child birth is written in many different styles of English to show the birth of the language. The novel in various places and various ways addresses complex themes like the relationship between Christians and Jews, the aspirations, failures and pedantry of Irish Nationalism and the Irish Literary Revival, the interconnection between love and betrayal. And the style of the novel is, in fact, many different styles: in abandoning the omniscient narrator, the novel is often read as the true beginning of modernist literature.

So, Joyce’s Ulysses is still a very hard read. How hard may be seen by contrasting it with the second “best” novel on the Modern Library list: The Great Gatsby. This novel is surely on everyone’s list of top five favorite novels: it is short (one-quarter the length of Ulysses); it is accessible; it has an engaging narrator; it tells a powerful story from start to finish; it is written in beautiful, lyrical and penetrating prose; and, although it has many complex sub-texts, it sounds a single powerful theme—the failure of a materialistic American dream. Gatsby, too, bears reading and rereading to uncover the layers of complexity, but a first reading—or a reading after long absence—is a powerful, moving narrative experience in a way far different than Ulysses.

Still, I urge that people read the first Ulysses I rediscovered, the deeply humanistic novel which is bursting with the enormous variety of life. I do have to say that my re-introduction to the novel was aided by 24 recorded lectures—simply entitled “Joyce’s Ulysses”—delivered by James A.W. Heffernan, emeritus professor of English at Dartmouth (and available from The Teaching Company). Heffernan focuses primarily on the character and psychology of Stephen, Bloom and Molly but the lectures provide a guide through the chapters of the book and relate them to the Homeric myth and put them in context of other recurrent themes (e.g. Irish Nationalism). Perhaps that reading of the “first” Ulysses will provide a stimulus to explore the almost infinite dimensions of the second, literary one.

Both Gatsby and Ulysses have famous endings.


Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


…and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Both endings are not without deep ironies. But, the final sentences of Gatsby are about the futility of our dreams. The end of Ulysses is about the affirmation of our humanity.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Ben Heineman Jr. is is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and at the Harvard Law School’s Program on Corporate Governance. He is the author of High Performance With High Integrity.

What’s so great about “Ulysses”? – The Argumentative Old Git – 24 July 2011

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For a novel that is jokey, playful and irreverent, that exalts the everyday, and is about as much fun as any book I can think of, Ulysses has a formidable reputation. It is, indeed, often seen as the ultimate in literary elitism, and claims to have read it – and, further, to have enjoyed reading it, and coming back for more – are sometimes regarded with scepticism at best, and, at worst, with downright incredulity, or even with open accusations of lying. For Ulysses is unreadable, isn’t it? Or, at least, excessively difficult. And can anyone really enjoy something that is at such a level of difficulty? Far from being an enjoyable reading experience, is it not rather the case that reading this novel – or, rather claiming to have read this novel – is a sort of admission ticket to an exclusive and highly elitist literary club, membership of which allows one to look down one’s nose at the plebs? And can there really be any reason for reading it other than to get oneself entry into this dubious and pretentious highbrow society?

It would be easy to laugh off such silliness were these claims not frequently made. But the worst thing about this kind of silliness is that one often ends up on the defensive when speaking about this novel. And one shouldn’t.

As everyone knows, Ulysses is set in Dublin on one single day – 16th June, 1904, known nowadays as Bloomsday – and it presents quite ordinary people going about their quite ordinary business. Modernism is often regarded as a radical break from what had come before it, but now, more or less a century after the beginnings of that movement, we should be able to see not merely its radical nature, but also the continuities with what had gone before. Joyce was, after all, by no means the first writer to attempt to find the extraordinary within the ordinary: throughout the 19th century, all sorts of writers have done just that – from Jane Austen to George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert to Anton Chekhov. Long before Joyce, the novel had staked out its ground: its focus was now no longer on kings and queens, princes and princesses, nobles and bishops – but on ordinary people, in ordinary walks of life. Even drama, for long a conservative bastion of kings and queens and high-flown rhetoric and verse, had come down the social ladder to report on middle-class drawing rooms. This meant that the epic form was, on the whole, eschewed. There are many notable exceptions to this, of course, as there are to any broad-brush observation on literary trends: it’s hard not to use the term “epic” to describe such works as, say, War and Peace or Nostromo; and writers such as Tolstoy or Henry James weren’t exactly averse to depicting nobility. But it was characters such as Anne Elliot, Emma Bovary, Arthur Clennan, Dr Lydgate, Gervaise Coupeau, Isabel Archer, Lily Bart, etc., who now occupied the centre stage rather than merely the fringes, and none of their their humdrum lives suggests the epic. It was up to the creators of these characters to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary – and this discovery seems to me to be among the finest achievements of nineteenth century literature. But the extraordinary – or the sublime, the grand, the magnificent – had to be found within the everyday: writers could no longer turn their backs on the quotidian in search of loftier matters.

Joyce followed in this pattern: like the nineteenth century novelists, he had no wish to turn his back on the everyday. And he sought, again like his nineteenth century predecessors, to find something within the daily grind of trivia that would invest the everyday with some sort of meaning, some sort of significance. He had achieved this at times in his short story collection Dubliners – but generally, despite moments of revelation (“epiphanies”, as Joyce called them, his Catholic upbringing never too far away), and despite even occasional moments of transcendence (such as in those unforgettable final pages of “The Dead”), the depiction is of little people leading little lives: one of the main images linking these stories is that of paralysis. Instead of depicting transcendence, these stories, in general, report on the failure to achieve it.

But then came Ulysses. Here, without turning away from the quotidian, the mundane, he invested the depiction of very ordinary people during the course of a very ordinary day with an epic grandeur, and a Homeric magnificence. It is an achievement that still takes the breath away.

And yet, this entire majestic edifice is built out of considerably less-than-majestic building material: it is endlessly playful and mischievous, and is full of silly gags, jokes, and irrepressible high spirits; there is even room for a bit of old-fashioned schoolboy smut. This is what makes all the more amusing the novel’s reputation for highbrow elitism: material less highbrow or elitist cannot be imagined. Yes – it is difficult: let us admit that right away. But the difficulties are to be encountered with a good-natured laugh rather than with a serious and furrowed professorial brow: Brendan Behan may have not have been entirely serious when he suggested that the best way to approach this novel is to treat it as a sort of joke-book, but he wasn’t, I think, too far off the mark.

And then, of course, there are all those Homeric correspondences. Each chapter – with a single, notable exception – recalls an episode from Homer’s Odyssey. (The exception is the Wandering Rocks chapter, which is taken from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts rather than from the myth of Odysseus: but then again, it is the whole point of wandering rocks to emerge unexpectedly, taking us by surprise.) The parody of Homer isn’t new either: the mock-heroic had been done before – Rabelais, Cervantes, Pope, Fielding – and while relating the everyday to the heroic has the comic effect of deflation, of bringing down the heroic, in Joyce’s hands it also served a more important purpose – that of elevating the everyday. Leopold Bloom may seem an unlikely Odysseus: he is an undistinguished middle-aged man, an advertising canvasser by profession; he is widely derided on account of his Jewish origins; and he is married, not to a faithful Penelope, but to a woman who is serially unfaithful to him. It almost seems as if Joyce had gone out of his way to find as unlikely a candidate as may be imagined for the role of Ulysses. But of course, as Cervantes knew well, the greater the discrepancy between the ideal and the real, the funnier it is. And also, and equally importantly, the more striking it is when this apparently pathetic parody of the heroic ideal does display what may be termed heroism. As, for instance, in the twelfth chapter, set in the pub. Here, Odysseus encounters the Cyclops Polyphemus – or, more prosaically, Bloom encounters the nationalist Citizen, holding boozy court with his cronies.

The chapter is narrated by one of these cronies who remains anonymous. Bloom, we gather, doesn’t particularly want to be in the pub: he is only there because he has promised to meet with his friend Martin, to help raise funds for the widow and family of the recently deceased Paddy Dignam. A charitable mission – the sort that perhaps wouldn’t have occurred to a real hero, such as Odysseus, the Sacker of Cities. But Bloom’s friend isn’t there yet, and he finds himself amidst unfriendly faces. Bloom, after all, is a Jew – he’s not “one of us”. And it is believed – wrongly, as it happens – that Bloom has won on the horses that day, and is too tight-fisted to say so and buy everyone a drink. As the evening progresses, the comments directed at Bloom become increasingly pointed: there is something not very pleasant in the air. Whatever Free Nation of Ireland the Citizen envisages, Bloom is not part of it. Eventually, Bloom speaks out:

– And I belong to a race too, says Bloom, that is hated and persecuted. Also now. This very moment. This very instant.

Gob, he near burnt his fingers with the butt of his old cigar.

– Robbed, says he. Plundered. Insulted. Persecuted. Taking what belongs to us by right. At this very moment, says he, putting up his fist, sold by auction in Morocco like slaves or cattle.

– Are you talking about the new Jerusalem? says the citizen.

– I’m talking about injustice, says Bloom.

– Right, says John Wyse. Stand up to it then with force like men.

But this is not what Bloom meant:

– But it’s no use, says he. Force, hatred, history, all that. That’s not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it’s the very opposite of that that is really life.

– What? says Alf.

– Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred. I must go now, says he to John Wyse. Just round the court a moment to see if Martin is there.

So, having declared the Gospel of Love, he announces his own departure. In his absence, he is made fun of. Love, indeed! “A new apostle to the gentiles”, mocks the citizen, his sarcasm coming closer to the truth than he realises. The unnamed narrator goes off on a riff about love:

Love loves to love love. Nurse loves the new chemist. Constable 14A loves Mary Kelly. Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle. M. B. loves a fair gentlema. Li Chi Han lovey up kissy Cha Pu Chow. Jumbo, the elephant, loves Alice, the elephant. Old Mr Verschole with the ear trumpet loves old Mrs Verschoyle with the turnedin eye. The man in the brown macintosh loves a lady who is dead. His Majesty the King loves Her Majesty the Queen. Mrs Norman W. Tupper loves officer Taylor. You love a certain person. And this person loves that other person because everybody loves somebody but God loves everybody.

And at the end of this chapter, as Bloom is leaving the pub and the anti-Semitic taunts become ever more overt, Bloom stands up to the Cyclops:

– Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx and Mecadante and Spinoza. And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew. Your God.

His friend Martin, eager to avoid a scene that’s threatening to turn violent, tries to bundle Bloom away, but Bloom is adamant.

– Whose God? asks the citizen.

Bloom replies:

– Your God was a jew. Christ was a jew like me.

The Citizen is incensed.  Jesus father was God, who is not Jewish.  Jesus attacked the Jewish Temple and said he had come to end the Old Law of the Jewish tradition.  In The Odyssey, Polyphemus threw a rock at the departing Odysseus: here, the citizen throws after Bloom a biscuit tin. But this is a chapter about politics and about rhetoric, and so everything is inflated to monstrous proportions. The impact of the biscuit-tin is immense:

The catastrophe was terrific and instantaneous in its effect. The observatory of Dunsink registered in all eleven shocks, all of the fifth grade of Mercalli’s scale, and there is no record extant of a similar seismic disturbance in our island since the earthquake of 1534, the year of the rebellion of Silken Thomas. The epicentre appears to have been that part of the metropolis which constitutes the Inn’s Quay ward and parish of Saint Michan covering a surface of fortyone acres, two roods and one square pole or perch. All the lordly residences in the vicinity of the palace of justice were demolished and that noble edifice itself, in which at the time of the catastrophe important legal debates were in progress, is literally a mass of ruins beneath which it is to be feared all the occupants have been buried alive. From the reports of eyewitnesses it transpires that the seismic waves were accompanied by a violent atmospheric perturbation of cyclonic character….

And so on, and so forth, the self-important journalese piling on with ever more outrageous comic absurdity. But through all this absurdity, we can discern heroism: not perhaps the sort of heroism of Odysseus, but a heroism that is perhaps even more remarkable – that of a man standing up for the values of simple human decency in the face of disdain and ridicule. Bloom may not have been capable of the heroisms of Odysseus, but then again, we wonder, would Odysseus have been capable of the heroism of Bloom?

But if, as I think, it is this simple human decency that is at the centre of the work, then the huge, unwieldy baroque structure Joyce constructed around it does tend to obscure it somewhat. I think this is intentional: Joyce was no minimalist. Indeed, he was quite the opposite – he was a “maximalist”. Like Dickens, he loved an overcrowded canvas bursting with vitality and with life, with clutter, with all sorts of little details and features and curlicues and arabesques that seem to exist merely for their own sake, thickening the narrative texture. And perhaps there has been no other author since Dickens who has so successfully conjured into teeming life an entire city in all its bewilderingly chaotic forms and sounds and smells and movements. Those seeking the elegance of a clear narrative line, or unity and purity of style, should look elsewhere: this novel is full of voices, sometimes competing against and jarring against each other in a mad cacophony. Different narrative voices weave in and out without warning, and we are never entirely sure to whom the narrative voice belongs at any given time. (Dostoyevsky did something similar in his major novels, but, as ever, Joyce stretches thing further than they have ever been stretched before.) The Cyclops chapter, for instance, is narrated by an unnamed character: he had not appeared earlier in the novel, and he promptly disappears once the chapter finishes. Immediately afterwards, in the next chapter, we find ourselves in the relative calm of a beach as evening is descending, and the narrative voice now is that of a dreadfully cloying and sentimental reader of cheap romantic novels:

The summer evening had begun to fold the world in its mysterious embrace. Far away in the west the sun was setting and the last glow of the all too fleeting day lingered lovingly on the sea and strand… etc. etc.

Or, later in the novel, we have the voice of a bad writer, penning the most atrociously constructed sentences. For instance:

Preparatory to anything else Mr Bloom brushed off the greater bulk of the shavings and handed Stephen the hat and ashplant and bucked him up generally in orthodox Samaritan fashion which he very badly needed.

I’ll resist the temptation to quote more such gems from this chapter, but the very idea of possibly the greatest master of the English language since Shakespeare deliberately writing prose so toe-curlingly awful does, I admit, have me chuckling.

Or there’s that famous chapter set in a maternity ward, where the narrative voices come and go, each voice speaking in the style of a particular period, beginning the alliterative style of medieval poetry (“Before born babe bliss had. Within womb won he worship”) and progressing, as the chapter progresses, to styles of later periods. This gives us a sort of potted history of English prose; and the development of the language within the chapter gives an impression of the chapter itself growing and developing, almost like a foetus within the womb. If all this sounds too dry and intellectual, not to say overly schematic, we needn’t worry: this is also one of the funniest chapters in the novel, with the narrators from past ages not quite understanding the modern world they are describing, and giving the narration their own spin. (I, personally, find myself laughing out loud when the heavily rhetorical tones of Edward Gibbon are employed to reprimand Bloom for his masturbatory habits.)

Sometimes, the narrative voice seems to disappear altogether, such as in the phatasmagoric Circe chapter, or in the penultimate chapter in which narrative is replaced by an impersonal set of questions, and an equally impersonal set of detailed answers, these answers seemingly unaware of the concept of relevance. And in the midst of all this cacophony of voices – or of non-voices – we have the famous, or notorious, “stream of consciousness”, the depiction of the seemingly random wanderings and workings of the human mind, following all its twists and turns wherever it goes.

I’d guess it’s not so much the use of stream of consciousness that gives Ulysses the reputation of difficulty, but, rather, Joyce’s refusal to point it out, to differentiate it in any way from the rest of the text. Joyce also refuses to explain some of the leaps the mind makes, or to give us enough information to help us understand why certain things occur to the mind. Only when one has read through the entire novel do certain details begin to make sense. Also, these characters’ minds pick up bits and pieces of all sorts of things – advertising slogans, bits from operatic arias, words half heard or half remembered, popular music hall songs, local events, etc. etc. Our minds, when not concentrated, are not structured machines, and any realistic depiction of the workings of the mind is bound to appear chaotic. And here lies a problem: art cannot be chaotic – it requires structure. Joyce may wish to give an impression of chaos, but it must be an impression only: for if the novel itself were to be chaotic, the centre would then not hold, and things would fall apart. It is to this end that Joyce devised carefully a plan that would give the novel a structure: each chapter would refer to a certain art or science; to a certain organ of the human body and its function; to certain colours; and, as is well-known, to a certain episode from Homer’s Odyssey. Accounts of Joyce’s scheme may be found in any of the numerous commentaries on Ulysses, but I don’t know that this need detain us here; this scheme was to help Joyce, not us. Joyce himself never made public his scheme: from the reader’s perspective, all that really matters is that each chapter should have a different feel to it: how the feel of each chapter comes about is best left to the Joycean scholar. Of course, the reader can look into this as well – Joyce’s technique is fascinating in its own right – but the main thing is that the reader feels: the intricate mechanics that cause the reader to feel, though fascinating, are but a means, not an end.

Perhaps too much has been made of the difficulty of all this. The “stream of consciousness” for instance – the very phrase promising a work penetrable only by learned professors of literature – is more than enough to put off most readers: it’s reputedly what makes this novel so very difficult. But it’s nothing particularly new. It is an attempt to express in words the often random and unexpected course taken by people’s minds, and one may find it used – though not as insistently nor as extensively as Joyce uses it – in the works of such authors as Fielding or Dickens. (See, for instance, the monologues given to the housekeeper Mrs Deborah Wilkins in Chapter Three of Tom Jones, or to the dialogue given to Flora Finching in Little Dorrit.) But in these books, it is clear that the stream of consciousness passages are spoken by (or thought by) a certain character: in Ulysses, the stream of consciousness can break in at any point, and, without warning, intermingle with the narrative voice. So, for instance, in the very first page, as Stephen Dedalus observes Malachi Mulligan (with whom he shares lodging), we get this:

He peered sideways up and gave a long slow whistle of a call, then paused awhile in rapt attention, his even white teeth glistening here and there with gold points. Chrysostomos. Two strong shrill whistles answered through the calm.

That single word “Chrysostomos” is a bit of “stream of consciousness” here: it’s what goes through Stephen’s mind when he sees the gold fillings in Mulligan’s teeth. It means, literally, “golden mouthed”, and refers to John Chrysostom, an Early Church Father of the 4th century famous for eloquence of speech. Stephen’s identification of Chrysostom with the cheerfully blasphemous Mulligan is comic, but unless one identifies it not as part of the narrative, but rather, as something that is going on in Stephen’s mind, then it will make no sense at all. Most importantly, it helps characterise Stephen: what sort of person is it who can be reminded of John Chrysostom on seeing gold fillings inside a friend’s mouth?

The Stephen we see is a somewhat sullen, truculent chap, with a bit of a chip on the shoulder. The lodgings he shares with Mulligan is a Martello Tower by the sea, and he resents his fellow lodgers – the extravert, flamboyant Mulligan, and the Englishman Haynes, who appears to be stopping by temporarily. Stephen steadfastly refuses to join in with anything, keeping himself apart with a cold reserve, and seemingly resentful of something he never quite articulates openly. He is Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, who, at the start of The Odyssey, goes in search of his missing father. Stephen, too, though he may not know it, is in search of a missing father: relations with his real father are not the warmest. And as for his mother, she weighs down oppressively upon his conscience: on her deathbed, she had asked Stephen to pray for her, and he had refused. And everything in the world seems belittled by this act of defiance: even the broad, wide sea before him, ringed by the flat horizon only, reminds Stephen of that white bowl by his mother’s bed into which she used to cough up her phlegm and mucus. Stephen is a young man who needs to be humanised. At the start, while he corresponds ostensibly with Telemachus, he seems to correspond also with another son of a Greek hero – Orestes, son of Agamemnon, murderer of his mother, and pursued by the Furies.

We spend the first three chapters with Stephen: Bloom – Odysseus, the father of Telemachus – appears only in the fourth. In the second chapter, we see Stephen teaching in a school, and speaking afterwards to the head teacher, Mr Deasy, who gives Stephen a letter – on foot and mouth disease and on the state of cattle farming – to give to his friends in the newspapers. (At every stage, this novel is rooted in the solid, in the everyday.) And in the third chapter, we are in Stephen’s mind as he walks on the beach, allowing his mind to wander where it will.

It is in this third chapter that many first-time readers tend to give up. This entire chapter is an extended piece of “stream of consciousness”. It is the interior monologue of Stephen Dedalus, who had been presented in Joyce’s earlier novel as a Portrait of the Artist as Young Man. However, I cannot believe this self-portrait is very accurate – or, if it is, one can only conclude that Joyce had changed very radically between youth and middle-age: Stephen is somewhat unlikeable, priggish, and overly serious; and, while possessing Joyce’s immense erudition and intelligence, he seems to have none of his creator’s sense of humour, or of mischief. His interior monologue is meditative and often deeply lyrical, but it is likely to fox the first-time reader. The best advice to such a first-time reader is possibly not to worry too much about it: move on, and, maybe, come back to this later. For it would be a shame to get stuck on Stephen’s monologue, and miss out on Leopold and Molly Bloom, to whom we are introduced in the next chapter.

For many, it is really with the introduction of the Blooms that the novel gets going. Not that what we had before is dispensable – far from it – but the vitality and warmth injected into the novel by the Blooms are much needed. As a person, Bloom is very different from Stephen, and the patterns of his stream-of-consciousness are also very different: instead of the long, meditative flow, peppered with erudite and often arcane allusions, we have instead a more punchy, staccato delivery, seeming at times almost like the speech patterns of Mr Jingle in Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. And, again unlike Stephen, Bloom is no intellectual – although when his wife asks him what the word “metempsychosis” means, Bloom shows himself to be not entirely ignorant either:

She swallowed a draught of tea from her cup held by nothandle, and, having wiped her fingers smartly on the blanket, began to search the text with her hairpin till she reached the word.

– Met him what? he asked.

– Here, she said, What does this mean?

He leaned downwards and read near her polished thumbnail.

– Metempsychosis?

– Yes. Who’s he when he’s at home?

– Metempsychosis, he said, frowning. It’s Greek: from the Greek. It means transmigration of souls.

– O, rocks! she said. Tell us in plain words.

I’d guess that even the most devoted readers of Ulysses have sometimes echoed Molly Bloom: O, rocks! Tell us in plain words! But Joyce is too much in love with words, too much in love with words for their own sake, to tell us anything in plain language. Not sharing at least something of Joyce’s love of words is a serious handicap when reading this novel. But those who do love words – which, after all, are the basic building blocks of literature itself – can but revel in his delight in language, and in his virtually inexhaustible linguistic exuberance.

There is one word, though, that, at a crucial point in the book, remains unspoken. It occurs in the longest chapter in the novel, which is its climactic sequence. It is set in a brothel. Bloom, having observed Stephen (the son of his friend, Simon Dedalus) in a state of extreme inebriation and barely able to look after himself, has followed him there to keep an eye on him. Here, the correspondence with The Odyssey is Circe, the enchantress who turned men into pigs – an apt image when applied to the keeper of a whorehouse. We are now in the realms of magic: all the solidities break down, and structure itself – in this, the most intricately structured of all novels – seems to dissolve. There is no narrative voice: it is depicted in the form of a playscript. But the dialogue isn’t restricted to the characters: the bar of soap, the jet of gas, a moth, a fan, a fly-button – they all have things to say, even if what they say is utter gibberish: language itself seems to be on the point of collapse. Characters, real and imaginary, from history, from folklore, from the newspaper headlines, from the weirdest recesses of the mind, all wander in and out at random. Nothing is real. Men turn into women, women turn into men; and the wildest sexual fantasies intermingle with memories and desire, and play themselves out in forms increasingly grotesque. In The Odyssey, Penelope keeps her suitors at bay by telling them that she would only remarry once she has finished weaving her tapestry, but what she weaves during the day she unweaves at night. And here, we see just such an unweaving: all the accumulated details of the day here unweave, re-appearing pell-mell in a mad unstructured jumble. The unpurged images of day don’t so much recede, as intermingle with each other in an insane disorder: nothing can keep its shape. At the height of this mad frenzy, Stephen’s persistent nightmare intrudes; the ghost of his mother appears, and the stage directions describing her are fearful:

Stephen’s mother, emaciated, rises stark through the floor, in leper grey with a wreath of faded orangeblossoms and a torn bridal veil, her face worn and noseless, green with gravemould. Her hair is scant and lank, She fixes her bluecircled hollow eyesockets on Stephen and opens her toothless mouth uttering a silent word. A choir of virgins and confessor sing voicelessly.

Stephen wants to hear his mother speak one word. He pleads with her:

Tell me the word, mother, if you know now. The word known to all men.

But his mother refuses to speak the word. Instead, she tells Stephen to beware, to repent. She prays for Stephen, she says, from the other world. The word known to all men, the word Stephen longs to hear, remains unspoken.

There has been much scholarly controversy on what this word is that is known to all men. I am no scholar of these matters, but it seems to me obvious what this word is: Bloom has spoken it already, earlier that night in the pub, and had been ridiculed for it.

At this point, Stephen accidentally smashes the gaslight. “Pwfungg!” says the gasjet, and the very world – this world, not the other one from which Stephen’s mother prays for her son – seems to come to an end. The stage directions describe the apocalypse:

Time’s livid final flame leaps up and, in the following darkness, ruins of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry.

Outside the brothel, Stephen becomes involved in a fight with two soldiers. And Bloom is there to rescue him. This is the climactic point of the entire novel. For, if Stephen had been a son in search of a father, Bloom is a father in search of a son. At the end of the chapter, as Stephen lies in a heap on the ground, Bloom has a vision of his own dead son, not an infant as he had been when he died, but eleven years old, as he would have been had he lived, the woollen handkerchief that his mother had placed in his pocket before his funeral now miraculously resurrected into a living lamb. It is as moving and as tender and as wondrous a moment as I have encountered in literature.

After this, there remain three further chapters, mirroring the three opening chapters in which we had been introduced to Stephen. Here, Stephen has found his spiritual father in the unlikely figure of Bloom. Of course, in a traditionally narrated novel, the significance of this meeting would barely register: after all, nothing much exactly happens as such. A middle-aged man sees the son of a friend very drunk, and determines to keep an eye on him; follows him into a brothel and sees to him when he gets involved in a fight; takes him back to his own home, and helps him freshen up; and then they part. And that’s it. However, in this novel, in which the tiniest and most trivial of details can assume immense meaning and significance, even something so ordinary as this becomes extraordinary: the ordinary decency and gentleness of Bloom is transfigured into the most extraordinary thing in the world. The deflation of the heroic may be funny, but it is the inflation of the everyday that seems to me to be at the heart of the matter. For all its myriad complexities, this novel is about the everyday, the ordinary: it embraces all that ordinary life has to offer, never turns its back on anything for being to trivial or too low or too sordid; and it exalts what it finds.

The final chapter is given over to Molly Bloom. She has been at fringes of the novel till now, but in the final exultant pages – once Bloom, his epic journey finished, is asleep – she comes fully into the spotlight on her own. The pattern of her stream of consciousness is different again from Stephen’s or Bloom’s: it is some sixty unpunctuated pages, words and thoughts and feeling flowing one from the other in a mighty, unstoppable torrent. It is magnificent.

Of course, while the writing may be unpunctuated, the reading cannot be: we need to pause for breath. And so, we are forced to create our own stops and pauses, provide our own punctuation. And, as we do so, this rushing torrent takes on shapes of sorts, and Molly becomes the unlikeliest model for Penelope, perhaps even more unlikely a model than Bloom had been for Ulysses. But Penelope she is. We travel with her on a voyage through her past – her marriage to Bloom, the death of her child, her lovers – and, by the time we come to that exultant ending, Bloom, despite being a cuckolded husband, is triumphant: like Odysseus, he has vanquished his suitors. At the very end, Molly thinks back to the time when Bloom had proposed to her, and she had said Yes. And that word “Yes” rings through the closing pages like a triumphant bell. Twentieth century literature, on the whole, is pretty angst-ridden, but this is jubilant. There is nothing in all literature quite as joyously affirmative as this.


In a recent post, I tried to make the point that we must allow for literature not to be entertaining. But Ulysses is a work which, despite its formidable reputation, entertains: it is sheer fun, even when it is at its most serious, and it is a great irony that this of all books is associated with stuffiness and literary snobbery. It is an amalgam of everything: a single ordinary day in which ordinary people go about their ordinary business is raised to a level where it becomes a depiction of the whole of mankind, through the whole of eternity. But there is nothing self-consciously lofty or elevated in any of this: it is all rooted in the ordinary, the everyday. The achievement is extraordinary. This novel, and Proust’s masterpiece (which Proust left nearly but not quite complete when he died in 1922, the same year that Ulysses was published) carve out the novel between them: there have been fine novelists since, even great novelists, but none has attempted anything quite as insanely ambitious as these two works. All prose fiction since has been under the shadows of these twin peaks of literary achievement. It is all too easy merely to stand in awe before such achievements, but a better response would, I think, be to familiarise oneself with them. One may not understand everything at first reading – or even, perhaps, at the umpteenth reading – but let us not let such minor details get in the way: after a while, the difficulties, far from irritating, merely add to its unending fascination. If ever there was a work to be lived with, this is it.


Hemingway’s the Old Man and the Sea and Me


Old 00Wildly popular in my high school.  I went to a second tier city public exam high school, technical and scientific matters were supposed to be our focus.  So, a short book with short declarative sentences was a choice for many when a choice was offered.

I did like the idea of Hemingway’s fiction as I understood it when I was a high school student.  He wanted to get to the point, and he did not clutter up the text with a lot of flowery descriptions of unimportant things.  Hemingway did not make arcane convoluted sentences that were as long as paragraphs.  So, the 15yo me liked the abbreviated style of E. Hemingway.

I was a good reader in high school.  I went to the public library in my neighborhood on my own and got a wide variety of books out to take home and ponder. 

In college I became a Comparative Literature major and studied European books and started to look down on Hemingway as someone who seemed to be famous for being famous.  Yes, he had simple sentences, but…so did Dr Seuss. 

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As I began to read more books about the Spanish Civil war I thought that Hemingway was wrong to blindly follow the Stalinists who controlled the International Brigade and organized a lot of the pro-government Leftist Loyalist media of news reports, radio reports and movie making.   I saw one six hour miniseries on Hemingway’s life around 1990 and I thought he was a radical tourist simply following fashionable Left wing causes and writing his simpleton sentences for an uncritical media and public. 

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I knew Hemingway got in trouble for being anti-fascist in the 1930’s before WW2.  It seemed to me that he redeemed himself as a supporter of the US and allies in WW2 and advancing through France as a glorified reporter in 1944-45 with a pistol in hand commanding his own jeep.  

Somehow I saw ‘The Old Man and The Sea’ as Hemingway’s ultimate surrender to respectability and harmless depictions of colorful underdogs. 

The book does not have the radical leftist ideas of socialism and armed defense of workers and peasants that is found in “For Whom The Bell Tolls” for instance.   

I wanted to see the movie of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and ordered the DVD but it was delivered ‘to my back door’ the company said.  So, I think someone next door got to learn about the Spanish Civil War.

A few years later the same actor was in a movie about Ayn Rand’s Right Wing Libertarian ideas – The Fountainhead. 

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Last night I decided to close my laptop and avoid Youtube and utilize my television screen and DVD/VCR player.  I grabbed the DVD case for the Anthony Quinn version of “The Old Man and the Sea” and was happy to find the DVD disc in the case.  The movie loaded when I put it in the player that I had not used in months.  So, I watched a movie straight through without pauses or switching and twitching as I am wont to do when I am using a computer screen with more control. 

I wanted to find the trailer for the Anthony Quinn version of “The Old Man and the Sea.”  I seem to have found the complete movie on Youtube – the minor inconvenience of subtitles in – I’m not sure what.  Is that Hindi?

I had a chance to reconsider what I thought about this work by E. Hemingway.  I lent the DVD to L__ a while back because she was reading it for a class.  When she gave me back the DVD she gave me her copy of ‘The Old Man And The Sea.’  The slim volume that was so attractive to high school illiterati. 

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I searched around in my room and on the dresser in front of a mirror under books and DVDs and discs and papers I found the paperback copy of “The Old Man And the Sea.”  Wow, it is very thin.  I can see how a high school student wanting to get his assignments over with would choose that book over ‘1984’, or ‘Brave New World’ some of the other choices I remember from the time along with Ralph and Piggy in _____.

I thought Hemingway was giving a mild mannered man lost at sea and in his memories performance with ‘The Old Man and The Sea.’  That’s why the early 1950’s establishment could rush to give him awards as he helped the world return to normalcy after the Depression and WW2.  A little aimless populism and vague cheering for the underdog did not mare the general tone of ‘The Old Man and The Sea.’ 

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There are various scholarly and general critic ideas about what Hemingway’s story meant.  Who cares what they think?  In order to survive at the academic and literary institutions they haunt they must produce a certain style understanding of the world.   

Some of the ideas in the two videos below discussing Hemingway books….

I published a video I made of a lake view with an audio explanation of ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ 

So…what does it all mean?  What have I learned from the old man and the sea?  That life is hard in the beautiful tropics?  That catching a fish is only half the battle?  That there are sharks everywhere?  What is to be done about all this?  Who knows. 

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Poor Hemingway decided to leave the problems in the tropics and go to ….rural Idaho?  What was he thinking?  He was followed and monitored by the US secret police – the FBI.  His past as a leftist who supported the Stalinist Communist Party of Spain was not a past for the FBI.  The secret police followed Hemingway to his new home when he left revolutionary Cuba in 1960.  Hemingway told friends and colleges that he was being followed by strange men.  Hemingway pointed out a car to one friend.  No one believed him.  The US was a ‘free country’ and the secret police would not follow a famous writer like Hemingway.  The FBI was following Hemingway.  There were sharks after that old man even if he was far from the sea.  One day Hemingway was found shot to death.   It looked like suicide, they said.  Score one for the sharks and the secret police. 

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Daily Beast Activists Attack Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard For Being Anti-War – by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) 26 May 2019

We’ve Hit a New Low in Campaign Hit Pieces

Recent efforts to sandbag Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are crude repeats of behaviors that helped elect Trump in 2016

Last week, the Daily Beast ran this headline: “Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) speaks during a campaign rally announcing her candidacy for president in Waikiki.

That was followed by the sub headline: “The Hawaii congresswoman is quickly becoming the top candidate for Democrats who think the Russian leader is misunderstood.”

The Gabbard campaign has received 75,000 individual donations. This crazy Beast article is based on (maybe) three of them.

The three names are professor Stephen Cohen, activist Sharon Tennison and someone using the name “Goofy Grapes,” who may or may not have once worked for comedian Lee Camp, currently employed by Russia Today.

This vicious little article might have died a quiet death, except ABC’s George Stephanopoulos regurgitated it in an interview with Gabbard days later. The This Week host put up the Beast headline in a question about whether or not Gabbard was “softer” on Putin than other candidates.

Gabbard responded: “It’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news.”

This in turn spurred another round of denunciationsthis time in the form of articles finding fault not with the McCarthyite questioning, but with Gabbard’s answer. As Politico wrote: “’Fake news’ is a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump…”

Soon CNN was writing a similar piece, saying Gabbard was using a term Trump used to “attack the credibility of negative coverage.” CNN even said Gabbard “did not specify what in the article was ‘fake,’” as if the deceptive and insidious nature of this kind of guilt-by-association report needs explaining.

“Stephanopoulos shamelessly implied that because I oppose going to war with Russia, I’m not a loyal American, but a Putin puppet,” Gabbard told Rolling Stone. “It just shows what absurd lengths warmongers in the media will go, to try to destroy the reputation of anyone who dares oppose their warmongering.”

Gabbard has had some “controversial” views, having been raised in a conservative religious home, the daughter of a right-wing radio personality in Hawaii who once described homosexuality as “not normal” and “morally wrong.” She later wrote of a political conversion on issues like LGBT rights, but still angered Democrats in the Obama years by invoking an infamous Republican criticism, i.e. that the president refused to use the term “radical Islam.”

Frankly, all the Democratic presidential candidates have controversial statements in their pasts, in some cases boatloads of them (see here, for example). The difference with Gabbard is her most outspoken positions cross party orthodoxy on foreign policy, particularly on war – she is staunchly anti-intervention, informed by experience seeing a failed occupation in Iraq up close — and are therefore seen as disqualifying.

She’s Exhibit A of a disturbing new media phenomenon that paints people with the wrong opinions as not merely “controversial,” but vehicles of foreign influence.

“This is how they control self-serving politicians whose only concern is their career,” Gabbard says. “Unfortunately for them, I am a soldier — not a career politician.”

A transparent hit piece came out as Gabbard was announcing her run. NBC reported “the Russian propaganda machine” is “now promoting the presidential aspirations of a controversial Hawaii Democrat.” The article among things was sourced to New Knowledge, a cyber-analysis firm claiming it had caught Russian “chatter” about Gabbard’s “usefulness.”

This was after the New York Times did a piece outing New Knowledge as having faked exactly this kind of activity in an Alabama Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. In that incident, the paper got hold of a memo in which the firm admitted it had “orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.”

For NBC to use New Knowledge as a source after this was bad enough. The Daily Beast piece is something beyond, rhetorically. Even during the depths of War on Terror hysteria, we didn’t see Fox headlines stating: “JOHN KERRY: TOP CANDIDATE OF PEOPLE WHO THINK BIN LADEN IS MISUNDERSTOOD.”

The tactic of making lists of thought criminals first reappeared a few years ago, when the shadowy PropOrNot group was profiled in the Washington PostIn this case, the definition of what the Daily Beast calls people pushing “the Russian government line” overlaps with views that are merely anti-interventionist or antiwar in general.

“They smear anyone who is against regime change wars,” says Gabbard.

This applies really to all of the people mentioned in the Beast piece, even Camp, whose inclusion is also ridiculous because it’s not 100% clear “Goofy Grapes” even has a connection to him (and if he does, are we in guilt-by-association-by-association land now?).

Tennison belongs to a type I saw a lot of in Russia, i.e. people who grew up under the shadow of nuclear conflict and perceived bad relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the world’s biggest threat to security. This was a big progressive craze in the Reagan/Bush years, when people like CNN founder Ted Turner were creating the “made for détente” Goodwill Games. Tennison has a long history of such “friendship” activities and is said to have brought AA to Russia.

Re Cohen: if accepting a check from him is now a treasonous offense, a lot of Democrats are going to have to send money back. I’ve known Steve a long time and though we’ve had disagreements, outlets like The Beast have frequently villainized him for saying things any Russia expert would know are true, like that the U.S. did meddle in Russian affairs after the Soviet collapse (particularly in 1996).

The other anti-interventionist candidate, Bernie Sanders, had his own gross press misadventure of late.

Sanders joins Gabbard in having been tabbed a Kremlin project countless times since 2016. The latest New York Times piece, about the “left-wing activism” of Sanders, hovers around this dreary foreign-subversion theme. The headline revelation was about a trip Sanders made to Managua in the eighties, where he may have attended a rally. The Times explains: “At the anniversary celebration, a wire report described a chant rising up: ‘Here, there, everywhere, the Yankee will die.’”

In a subsequent interview with Times writer Sydney Ember, Sanders responded, when asked about this, “They were fighting against American — huh, huh — yes, what is your point?” He then noted he didn’t remember that particular chant.

This is really silly gotcha journalism (especially since it’s not clear what language the chant was in). Ember asked Sanders if he would have “stayed at the rally” if he’d “heard that directly.” Elsewhere, she asked why Sanders once said the Soviets had a good public transportation system and free health care, and if he believed he had an “accurate” view of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.

Sanders at first didn’t respond, then spoke and was short with the reporter, seeming exasperatedas he explained the context of decades of American interventions in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil and other South and Central American countries. He tried to explain that his “view” of Ortega was irrelevant because he was really protesting the policy of intervention, not supporting the foreign leader.

The whole episode was a Back to the Future version of the same criticisms leveled at anyone who opposes regime change in Venezuela today — if you protest the policy, you’re not antiwar, you must support the targeted foreign leader.

“This was not about Ortega,” Sanders said. “Do you understand?”

His curt response inspired author and Times columnist Jill Filipovic to write that Sanders was “shockingly rude,” adding: “We already have a president who attacks the press, condescends and refuses to answer questions he deems stupid.”

Bernie Sanders is not Trump. Neither is Tulsi Gabbard, nor anyone else but Trump, for that matter. It’s a preposterous take. It’s worse than fake-news: It’s self-fulfilling news.

In 2004, Howard Dean was asked repeatedly if he was “too left” or “too liberal” in campaign stops. You would see lines like, “addressing concerns that he is too liberal to be president…” in coverage. It was nearly a mandatory preamble to Dean stories.

On the trail, I watched Dean take in these questions. Over time, you could almost hear his teeth grind at words like “left” or “liberal.” Eventually he did start to flip out.

When he did, suddenly his “testy” demeanor and “combative,” “finger-thrusting” style earned write-ups of their own, culminating in the campaign-ending “Dean Scream” story. Reporters once reveled in the power to make or break candidates with these circular, quasi-invented narratives.

These smear jobs don’t work the same way they once did. Trump in 2016 clearly used impatience with media tactics as part of his strategy. The more he brought trail reporters into stump speeches by calling us things like “bloodsuckers” (“enemy of the people” didn’t come until later), the better he did with crowds.

Reporters refuse to see it, but the national media now lives on the unpopularity spectrum somewhere between botulism and congress. While some of that is undeserved, some of it isn’t. Voters especially resent being told who is and isn’t an acceptable choice, by a press corps increasingly seen as part of a corrupt and condescending political establishment.

Stories like “Tulsi Gabbard Is the Top Candidate of Traitors” represent exactly the kind of thing people hate about the commercial press as an institution. This scarlet lettering backfired badly in 2016, but we’re doing more of it this time around, not less. Don’t be surprised if it ends badly again.

Source: Rolling Stone

China embraced gay ‘marriage’ long before Taiwan’s law – Western Christian Missionaries Brought Shame to Same Sex Relationships – by Sarah Ngu (This Week in Asia) 26 May 2019

  • Asia has a rich but largely forgotten history of acceptance of queer relationships
  • It was not until the colonial era that sexual and gender diversity came to be seen as a sin
An LGBT pride parade in support of Taiwan’s same-sex marriage law. Photo: Reuters
An LGBT pride parade in support of Taiwan’s same-sex marriage law. Photo: Reuters
Taiwan’s Anyone reading the headlines about legalisation of same-sex marriage

would get the impression this was Asia’s first taste of marriage equality. They would be quite wrong.  While Taiwan may be the first jurisdiction in Asia to legalise the modern form of same-sex marriage, such unions have been recognised across the region in various guises for centuries.   It may be true that Asia does not have a great reputation among the LGBTQ  community, but it does have a rich history of acceptance of sexual and gender diversity – one that has largely been forgotten.

When Europeans first encountered Chinese society, they praised many aspects of it, from its efficient government to the sophisticated lifestyles of the upper-class. But they were shocked and repulsed about one aspect of Chinese society: the “abominable vice of sodomy”.

One Portuguese Dominican friar, Gaspar da Cruz, even wrote an apocalyptic tract which portrayed China as the new Sodom – beset by earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters due to their acceptance of that “filthy abomination, which is that they are so given to the accursed sin of unnatural vice”, that is, sodomy.

Southern China, in particular, was known for a widespread acceptance of homosexual relationships. Shen Defu, a Chinese writer during the Ming dynasty, wrote that it was common for men of all social classes in Fujian province to take male lovers. While men generally took on these lovers while maintaining respectable marriages to women, there were some men who took their lover-relationships to a quasi-marriage level. The older man would be considered qixiong (adoptive older brother) and the younger qidi (adoptive younger brother).

South Korean men take part in Taiwan’s annual LGBT pride parade in Taipei. Photo: AFP
South Korean men take part in Taiwan’s annual LGBT pride parade in Taipei. Photo: AFP

Bret Hinsch, a professor of history in Taiwan, describes the ceremony based on the narration of a Chinese playwright, Li Yu (1610-1680): “Two men sacrifice a carp, a rooster, and a duck. They then exchange their exact times of birth, smear each other’s mothers with the blood of their sacrifices, and then swear eternal loyalty to one another. The ceremony concludes with feasting on the sacrificial victims …. The younger qidi would move into the qixiong’s household. There he would be treated as a son-in-law by his husband’s parents. Throughout the marriage, many of which lasted for twenty years, the qixiong would be completely responsible for his younger husband’s upkeep.

The marriage would typically dissolve after a number of years so that the younger man could find a bride to marry to procreate and further the family lineage. The elder man was expected to pay the bride a price for the younger man.

These forms of gay “marriage” were prevalent enough in Fujian that there was even a patron deity of homosexuality, the rabbit. Many Han people from Fujian migrated to Taiwan starting in the 17th century; they now make up 80 per cent of the population.

Explained: gay rights, LGBTQ and same-sex marriage in Asia

Most literary accounts of homosexual relationships in China involve men, and there is a lively debate among scholars as to whether women enjoyed the same freedom. Nevertheless, the most documented of female “quasi-marriages” are the “Golden Orchid Associations” in Guangdong. (Around 15 per cent of Taiwan’s population is Hakka, which historians trace specifically to Han migrants from Guangdong and surrounding areas.) The Golden Orchid Society was a movement based in Guangdong that lasted from the late Qing dynasty until the early 1900s. It provided a “sisterhood” alternative to women who did not want to get married for various reasons.

To announce her intentions, one woman would offer another gifts of peanut candy, dates and other goods. If the recipient accepted the gift, it was a signal she had accepted the proposal. They would swear an oath to one another, where sometimes one woman was designated “husband” and the other “wife”.

A couple kiss as they celebrate Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage. Photo: Reuters
A couple kiss as they celebrate Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Hinsch describes the ceremony in this way: “After an exchange of ritual gifts, the foundation of the Chinese marriage ceremony, a feast attended by female companions served to witness the marriage. These married lesbian couples could even adopt female children, who in turn could inherit family property from the couple’s parents.”

While these “marriages” are not equivalent to the same-sex marriages of today, they nevertheless are historical precedents for what is now happening in Taiwan.

And China is far from being the only country in Asia with a queer history – Southeast Asia’s LGBTQ history is even richer.

Why some members of Singapore’s LGBT community prefer life in the shadows

In the early modern period, marriages between two people of the same assigned sex but who identified as different genders, were fairly normal in many parts of Southeast Asia. We know this primarily from the records Europeans kept when they landed on Asian shores.


For instance, here is a letter by a Portuguese missionary, Antonio de Paiva, to his Catholic bishop in 1544 about his observations of the Bugis people in what is now


: “Your lordship will know that the priests of these kings are generally called bissus . They grow no hair on their beards, dress in a womanly fashion, and grow their hair long and braided; they imitate [women’s] speech because they adopt all of the female gestures and inclinations. They marry and are received, according to the custom of the land, with other common men, and they live indoors, uniting carnally in their secret places with the men whom they have for husbands …”


After this scandalised description, the author concludes with amazement that the Christian god, who had destroyed “three cities of Sodom for the same sin”, had not yet destroyed such “wanton people” who were “encircled by evil”.

Drag queens at a gay nightclub in Beijing. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: EPA
Drag queens at a gay nightclub in Beijing. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity.

Dating as far back as the 13th century, bissu have traditionally served as council to kings and guarded sacred manuscripts. They are considered a fifth gender within the Bugis’ gender-system: oroané (male men), makkunrai (female women), calabai (male women), calalai (female men), and bissu, who were neither male nor female (or both).

Brunei’s LGBT residents face up to new death by stoning law against gay sex

Today, their ranks have thinned – in one area, the population has dwindled to just six people – but the tradition remains, and they still perform important blessings. Contemporary bissu are typically male-bodied individuals who adopt feminine and masculine elements in their appearance. Although in the past bissu married men, today they are required to be celibate.


In pre-Islamic Bugis culture, bissu were accorded priestly honours and tasked with mediating between the gods and people precisely because of, not in spite of, their gender. According to professor Halilintar Lathier, an Indonesian anthropologist, Bugis culture “perceived the upper world as male and this world as female, and therefore only a meta-gender would be able to become an intermediary”.

This pattern of a “gender-expansive” priest able to marry others of the same sex recurs throughout Southeast Asia.

A transgender beauty contest in Pattaya, Thailand. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: Handout
A transgender beauty contest in Pattaya, Thailand. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity.
To the west of South Sulawesi is Borneo, a large island that contains all of Brunei and parts of Indonesia and

Malaysia Borneo is home to many indigenous communities, including the Iban. The Iban historically respected manang bali , who were typically male-bodied shamans who adopted feminine dress and demeanour, and who took men as their husbands. Manang bali were mediators and held roles of great ritual importance; they were typically wealthy village chiefs known for their healing arts.

West of Borneo is the Malay Peninsula, where there are records from the Malay Annals and Misa Melayu dating as far back as the 15th century about priests, called sida-sida , who served in the palaces of the Malay sultans. They were responsible for safeguarding women in the palace as well as the food and clothing of royalty, and overseeing ritual protocol. The sida-sida undertook “androgynous behaviour” such as wearing women’s clothing and doing women’s tasks. A Malay anthropologist in the 1950s, Shamsul A.B., recalls seeing male-bodied sida-sida in the royal palace in his childhood, who were believed by the population to either be celibate and asexual, or attracted to men. Michael Peletz, an anthropologist and author of Gender Pluralism in Southeast Asia , notes that based on the evidence, it is “highly likely” that sida-sida involved both male- and female-bodied people who were involved in transgender practices, and who engaged in sexual relationships with people of the same and opposite sex.

How a gay student’s suicide is helping Japan’s LGBT community speak up
Philippines Northeast of Malaysia is the

, where pre-colonial communities were religiously led by babaylan : women healers and shamans who were responsible for mediating between the gods and people. Male-bodied people (asog, bayog), sometimes considered a third sex, could also hold these roles so long as they comported themselves like women. A 16th century Spanish Catholic manuscript records asog in the following manner:

“Ordinarily they dress as women, act like prudes and are so effeminate that one who does not know them would believe they are women … they marry other males and sleep with them as man and wife and have carnal knowledge.”

Dancers perform at the ShanghaiPRIDE opening party. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity. Photo: AFP
Dancers perform at the ShanghaiPRIDE opening party. Despite its reputation, Asia has a long history of accepting diversity.

The Spanish priests saw these asog as “devil-possessed”, particularly because they habitually practised “sodomy” among one another. Due to the Chinese reputation for homosexuality and various Sinophobic attitudes, some even attributed the prevalence of sodomy to the Chinese, whom they said had “infected the natives” and introduced the curse to the “Indians”, although there is no evidence of this.




Singapore Although these examples relate to the religious arena, anthropologists believe the respect accorded to these ritual specialists were an indicator of a wider societal acceptance of gender and sexual diversity in Southeast Asia – an acceptance that began to be eroded through the introduction of world religions (particularly Christianity), modernity, and colonialism. For example, in Malaysia, Brunei,

, Myanmar and throughout the commonwealth, the British enforced a penal code that legislated against sodomy. More than half of the countries that currently legally prohibit sodomy do so based on laws created by the British.

On gay sex, India has assumed an ancient position. Read the kama sutra

Similarly, after the Chinese were defeated by Western and Japanese imperialists, many Chinese progressives in the early 20th century sought to modernise China, which meant adopting “modern” Western ideas of dress, relationships, science and sexuality. Concubinage was outlawed, prostitution was frowned upon, and women’s feet were unbound. It also meant importing European scientific understandings of homosexuality as an inverted or perverted pathology. These “scientific ideas” were debunked in the 1960s in the West, but lived on in China, frozen in time, and have only recently begun to thaw with the rise of LGBTQ activists in Asia.


A recent headline on the news from Taiwan read: “First in Asia: marriage equality comes to Taiwan”, as if the recent bill was an unprecedented “first” for Asia and that marriage equality – which, presumably, the headline writer associates with the West – has finally reached Asian shores.


But when we zoom out historically, it is evident that what happened in Taiwan is not so much a novel “breakthrough” for Asia. It is more a reconnection to its queer Chinese and Asian heritage, as well as a rejection of outdated Western ideas that it once adopted. There is still much more work to be done to advance LGBT rights in Taiwan and the rest of Asia, but perhaps looking backwards in time can help us move forward. 

无与伦比的入侵 – 杰克伦敦(1914)美国对中国科幻幻想生物战 – The Unparalleled Invasion – by Jack London (1914) US vs China Sci/Fi Fantasy of Biological Warfare






日本决定性地摧毁了伟大的俄罗斯帝国,日本立即开始为自己梦想一个巨大的帝国梦想。韩国她已经成为粮仓和殖民地;条约特权和庸俗外交使她成为满洲的垄断者。但日本并不满意。她把目光转向了中国。这片土地面积广阔,是铁和煤世界中最大的矿床 – 工业文明的支柱。鉴于自然资源,工业的另一个重要因素是劳动力。在那个地区有4亿人口 – 占地球总人口的四分之一。此外,中国人是优秀的工人,而他们的宿命哲学(或宗教)和他们顽固的神经组织构成了他们出色的士兵 – 如果他们得到妥善管理。毋庸置疑,日本准备提供这种管理。

It was in the year 1976 that the trouble between the world and China reached its culmination. It was because of this that the celebration of the Second Centennial of American Liberty was deferred. Many other plans of the nations of the earth were twisted and tangled and postponed for the same reason. The world awoke rather abruptly to its danger; but for over seventy years, unperceived, affairs had been shaping toward this very end.

The year 1904 logically marks the beginning of the development that, seventy years later, was to bring consternation to the whole world. The Japanese-Russian War took place in 1904, and the historians of the time gravely noted it down that that event marked the entrance of Japan into the comity of nations. What it really did mark was the awakening of China. This awakening, long expected, had finally been given up. The Western nations had tried to arouse China, and they had failed. Out of their native optimism and race-egotism they had therefore concluded that the task was impossible, that China would never awaken.

What they had failed to take into account was this: THAT BETWEEN THEM AND CHINA WAS NO COMMON PSYCHOLOGICAL SPEECH. Their thought- processes were radically dissimilar. There was no intimate vocabulary. The Western mind penetrated the Chinese mind but a short distance when it found itself in a fathomless maze. The Chinese mind penetrated the Western mind an equally short distance when it fetched up against a blank, incomprehensible wall. It was all a matter of language. There was no way to communicate Western ideas to the Chinese mind. China remained asleep. The material achievement and progress of the West was a closed book to her; nor could the West open the book. Back and deep down on the tie-ribs of consciousness, in the mind, say, of the English-speaking race, was a capacity to thrill to short, Saxon words; back and deep down on the tie-ribs of consciousness of the Chinese mind was a capacity to thrill to its own hieroglyphics; but the Chinese mind could not thrill to short, Saxon words; nor could the English-speaking mind thrill to hieroglyphics. The fabrics of their minds were woven from totally different stuffs. They were mental aliens. And so it was that Western material achievement and progress made no dent on the rounded sleep of China.

Came Japan and her victory over Russia in 1904. Now the Japanese race was the freak and paradox among Eastern peoples. In some strange way Japan was receptive to all the West had to offer. Japan swiftly assimilated the Western ideas, and digested them, and so capably applied them that she suddenly burst forth, full- panoplied, a world-power. There is no explaining this peculiar openness of Japan to the alien culture of the West. As well might be explained any biological sport in the animal kingdom.

Having decisively thrashed the great Russian Empire, Japan promptly set about dreaming a colossal dream of empire for herself. Korea she had made into a granary and a colony; treaty privileges and vulpine diplomacy gave her the monopoly of Manchuria. But Japan was not satisfied. She turned her eyes upon China. There lay a vast territory, and in that territory were the hugest deposits in the world of iron and coal – the backbone of industrial civilization. Given natural resources, the other great factor in industry is labour. In that territory was a population of 400,000,000 souls – one quarter of the then total population of the earth. Furthermore, the Chinese were excellent workers, while their fatalistic philosophy (or religion) and their stolid nervous organization constituted them splendid soldiers – if they were properly managed. Needless to say, Japan was prepared to furnish that management.






中国迅速而显着的崛起应该归功于其劳动力的最高质量,或许更重要的是。中国人是完美的行业。他一直都是这样。对于纯粹的工作能力,世界上没有工人可以与他相比。工作是他鼻孔的气息。对他来说,在遥远的土地上游荡和战斗,以及对其他民族的精神冒险。对他而言,自由是获取劳动手段的缩影。无休止地耕种土地和劳动是他所要求的生命和权力。而中国的觉醒使其庞大的人口不仅可以自由无限地获得辛劳的手段,而且可以获得最高,最科学的机器 – 劳动力。

But best of all, from the standpoint of Japan, the Chinese was a kindred race. The baffling enigma of the Chinese character to the West was no baffling enigma to the Japanese. The Japanese understood as we could never school ourselves or hope to understand. Their mental processes were the same. The Japanese thought with the same thought-symbols as did the Chinese, and they thought in the same peculiar grooves. Into the Chinese mind the Japanese went on where we were balked by the obstacle of incomprehension. They took the turning which we could not perceive, twisted around the obstacle, and were out of sight in the ramifications of the Chinese mind where we could not follow. They were brothers. Long ago one had borrowed the other’s written language, and, untold generations before that, they had diverged from the common Mongol stock. There had been changes, differentiations brought about by diverse conditions and infusions of other blood; but down at the bottom of their beings, twisted into the fibres of them, was a heritage in common, a sameness in kind that time had not obliterated.

And so Japan took upon herself the management of China. In the years immediately following the war with Russia, her agents swarmed over the Chinese Empire. A thousand miles beyond the last mission station toiled her engineers and spies, clad as coolies, under the guise of itinerant merchants or proselytizing Buddhist priests, noting down the horse-power of every waterfall, the likely sites for factories, the heights of mountains and passes, the strategic advantages and weaknesses, the wealth of the farming valleys, the number of bullocks in a district or the number of labourers that could be collected by forced levies. Never was there such a census, and it could have been taken by no other people than the dogged, patient, patriotic Japanese.

But in a short time secrecy was thrown to the winds. Japan’s officers reorganized the Chinese army; her drill sergeants made the mediaeval warriors over into twentieth century soldiers, accustomed to all the modern machinery of war and with a higher average of marksmanship than the soldiers of any Western nation. The engineers of Japan deepened and widened the intricate system of canals, built factories and foundries, netted the empire with telegraphs and telephones, and inaugurated the era of railroad- building. It was these same protagonists of machine-civilization that discovered the great oil deposits of Chunsan, the iron mountains of Whang-Sing, the copper ranges of Chinchi, and they sank the gas wells of Wow-Wee, that most marvellous reservoir of natural gas in all the world.

In China’s councils of empire were the Japanese emissaries. In the ears of the statesmen whispered the Japanese statesmen. The political reconstruction of the Empire was due to them. They evicted the scholar class, which was violently reactionary, and put into office progressive officials. And in every town and city of the Empire newspapers were started. Of course, Japanese editors ran the policy of these papers, which policy they got direct from Tokio. It was these papers that educated and made progressive the great mass of the population.

China was at last awake. Where the West had failed, Japan succeeded. She had transmuted Western culture and achievement into terms that were intelligible to the Chinese understanding. Japan herself, when she so suddenly awakened, had astounded the world. But at the time she was only forty millions strong. China’s awakening, with her four hundred millions and the scientific advance of the world, was frightfully astounding. She was the colossus of the nations, and swiftly her voice was heard in no uncertain tones in the affairs and councils of the nations. Japan egged her on, and the proud Western peoples listened with respectful ears.

China’s swift and remarkable rise was due, perhaps more than to anything else, to the superlative quality of her labour. The Chinese was the perfect type of industry. He had always been that. For sheer ability to work no worker in the world could compare with him. Work was the breath of his nostrils. It was to him what wandering and fighting in far lands and spiritual adventure had been to other peoples. Liberty, to him, epitomized itself in access to the means of toil. To till the soil and labour interminably was all he asked of life and the powers that be. And the awakening of China had given its vast population not merely free and unlimited access to the means of toil, but access to the highest and most scientific machine-means of toil.



真正的危险在于她的腰部的繁殖力,并且在1970年第一次发出警报声。有一段时间,与中国相邻的所有地区一直抱怨中国移民;但现在它突然回到世界,中国的人口是5亿。自她觉醒以来,她增加了一亿。 Burchaldter提请注意这样一个事实:存在的中国人比白皮肤的人多。他在算术中执行了一个简单的求和。他将美国,加拿大,新西兰,澳大利亚,南非,英国,法国,德国,意大利,奥地利,欧洲俄罗斯和所有斯堪的纳维亚半岛的人口加在一起。结果是495,000,000。中国人口超过了这个巨大的总数500万。 Burchaldter的数字遍布全球,世界也在颤抖。


在这个过渡和发展权力的时期,中国没有征服征服的梦想。中国人不是一个帝国的种族。这是勤劳,节俭和爱好和平的。战争被视为有时必须执行的令人不快但必要的任务。因此,虽然西方种族发生争吵和争斗,而且世界各地相互冒险,但中国却平静地继续在她的机器上工作并不断发展。现在,她正在溢出帝国的边界 – 这就是全部,只是溢出到冰川的确切和可怕的缓慢动力的邻近地区。


China rejuvenescent! It was but a step to China rampant. She discovered a new pride in herself and a will of her own. She began to chafe under the guidance of Japan, but she did not chafe long. On Japan’s advice, in the beginning, she had expelled from the Empire all Western missionaries, engineers, drill sergeants, merchants, and teachers. She now began to expel the similar representatives of Japan. The latter’s advisory statesmen were showered with honours and decorations, and sent home. The West had awakened Japan, and, as Japan had then requited the West, Japan was not requited by China. Japan was thanked for her kindly aid and flung out bag and baggage by her gigantic protege. The Western nations chuckled. Japan’s rainbow dream had gone glimmering. She grew angry. China laughed at her. The blood and the swords of the Samurai would out, and Japan rashly went to war. This occurred in 1922, and in seven bloody months Manchuria, Korea, and Formosa were taken away from her and she was hurled back, bankrupt, to stifle in her tiny, crowded islands. Exit Japan from the world drama. Thereafter she devoted herself to art, and her task became to please the world greatly with her creations of wonder and beauty.

Contrary to expectation, China did not prove warlike. She had no Napoleonic dream, and was content to devote herself to the arts of peace. After a time of disquiet, the idea was accepted that China was to be feared, not in war, but in commerce. It will be seen that the real danger was not apprehended. China went on consummating her machine-civilization. Instead of a large standing army, she developed an immensely larger and splendidly efficient militia. Her navy was so small that it was the laughing stock of the world; nor did she attempt to strengthen her navy. The treaty ports of the world were never entered by her visiting battleships.

The real danger lay in the fecundity of her loins, and it was in 1970 that the first cry of alarm was raised. For some time all territories adjacent to China had been grumbling at Chinese immigration; but now it suddenly came home to the world that China’s population was 500,000,000. She had increased by a hundred millions since her awakening. Burchaldter called attention to the fact that there were more Chinese in existence than white-skinned people. He performed a simple sum in arithmetic. He added together the populations of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, European Russia, and all Scandinavia. The result was 495,000,000. And the population of China overtopped this tremendous total by 5,000,000. Burchaldter’s figures went round the world, and the world shivered.

For many centuries China’s population had been constant. Her territory had been saturated with population; that is to say, her territory, with the primitive method of production, had supported the maximum limit of population. But when she awoke and inaugurated the machine-civilization, her productive power had been enormously increased. Thus, on the same territory, she was able to support a far larger population. At once the birth rate began to rise and the death rate to fall. Before, when population pressed against the means of subsistence, the excess population had been swept away by famine. But now, thanks to the machine-civilization, China’s means of subsistence had been enormously extended, and there were no famines; her population followed on the heels of the increase in the means of subsistence.

During this time of transition and development of power, China had entertained no dreams of conquest. The Chinese was not an imperial race. It was industrious, thrifty, and peace-loving. War was looked upon as an unpleasant but necessary task that at times must be performed. And so, while the Western races had squabbled and fought, and world-adventured against one another, China had calmly gone on working at her machines and growing. Now she was spilling over the boundaries of her Empire – that was all, just spilling over into the adjacent territories with all the certainty and terrifying slow momentum of a glacier.

Following upon the alarm raised by Burchaldter’s figures, in 1970 France made a long-threatened stand. French Indo-China had been overrun, filled up, by Chinese immigrants. France called a halt. The Chinese wave flowed on. France assembled a force of a hundred thousand on the boundary between her unfortunate colony and China, and China sent down an army of militia-soldiers a million strong. Behind came the wives and sons and daughters and relatives, with their personal household luggage, in a second army. The French force was brushed aside like a fly. The Chinese militia-soldiers, along with their families, over five millions all told, coolly took possession of French Indo-China and settled down to stay for a few thousand years.



纳帕尔和不丹被侵占,印度的整个北部边界都被这种可怕的生命浪潮所压制。在西部,博卡拉,甚至南部和西部的阿富汗都被吞没了。波斯,土耳其斯坦和整个中亚都感受到洪水的压力。正是在这个时候,Burchaldter修改了他的数据。他错了。中国的人口必须是七亿,八亿,没有人知道数百万,但无论如何,它很快就会达到十亿。 Burchaldter宣布,世界上每个白皮肤的人都有两个中国人,世界都在颤抖。中国的增长必须在1904年立即开始。人们记得,从那时起,就没有一次饥荒。每年增加5,000,000,她在七十年间的总增长必须达到350,000,000。但是谁知道呢?它可能更多。谁知道二十世纪这种奇怪的新威胁 – 中国,旧中国,复兴,富有成效,好战!


“中国关心国家的礼让是什么?”李唐Fwung说。 “我们是最古老,最光荣,最皇家的种族。我们有自己的命运要完成。我们的命运与世界其他地方的命运不相符是令人不快的,但你会怎么样?你风靡一时关于皇家种族和地球的遗产,我们只能回答那仍有待观察的事情。你不能入侵我们。别介意你的海军。不要大声喊叫。我们知道我们的海军很小。你看我们使用它用于警察目的。我们不关心海洋。我们的力量在我们的人口中,很快将达到十亿。感谢你,我们配备了所有现代战争机器。发送你的海军。我们不会注意到它们发送你的惩罚性探险,但首先要记住法国。在我们的海岸上埋葬50万士兵会使你们任何一方的资源紧张。我们的千万人会吞下他们一口。发送一百万;送五百万,和我们会像往常一样把它们吞下去.Pouf!一点也不,只是微薄的一点点。正如你所威胁的那样,毁灭你,美国,我们迫使你的海岸上的一千万苦力 – 为什么,这个数字几乎等于我们一年超出生育率的一半。“

所以说李唐Fwung。世界感到困惑,无助,害怕。他真的说过话。没有打击中国令人惊讶的出生率。如果她的人口是十亿,并且每年增加两千万,那么在二十五年内它将达到十亿分之一 – 相当于1904年世界总人口的数量。

Outraged France was in arms. She hurled fleet after fleet against the coast of China, and nearly bankrupted herself by the effort. China had no navy. She withdrew like a turtle into her shell. For a year the French fleets blockaded the coast and bombarded exposed towns and villages. China did not mind. She did not depend upon the rest of the world for anything. She calmly kept out of range of the French guns and went on working. France wept and wailed, wrung her impotent hands and appealed to the dumfounded nations. Then she landed a punitive expedition to march to Peking. It was two hundred and fifty thousand strong, and it was the flower of France. It landed without opposition and marched into the interior. And that was the last ever seen of it. The line of communication was snapped on the second day. Not a survivor came back to tell what had happened. It had been swallowed up in China’s cavernous maw, that was all.

In the five years that followed, China’s expansion, in all land directions, went on apace. Siam was made part of the Empire, and, in spite of all that England could do, Burma and the Malay Peninsula were overrun; while all along the long south boundary of Siberia, Russia was pressed severely by China’s advancing hordes. The process was simple. First came the Chinese immigration (or, rather, it was already there, having come there slowly and insidiously during the previous years). Next came the clash of arms and the brushing away of all opposition by a monster army of militia-soldiers, followed by their families and household baggage. And finally came their settling down as colonists in the conquered territory. Never was there so strange and effective a method of world conquest.

Napal and Bhutan were overrun, and the whole northern boundary of India pressed against by this fearful tide of life. To the west, Bokhara, and, even to the south and west, Afghanistan, were swallowed up. Persia, Turkestan, and all Central Asia felt the pressure of the flood. It was at this time that Burchaldter revised his figures. He had been mistaken. China’s population must be seven hundred millions, eight hundred millions, nobody knew how many millions, but at any rate it would soon be a billion. There were two Chinese for every white-skinned human in the world, Burchaldter announced, and the world trembled. China’s increase must have begun immediately, in 1904. It was remembered that since that date there had not been a single famine. At 5,000,000 a year increase, her total increase in the intervening seventy years must be 350,000,000. But who was to know? It might be more. Who was to know anything of this strange new menace of the twentieth century – China, old China, rejuvenescent, fruitful, and militant!

The Convention of 1975 was called at Philadelphia. All the Western nations, and some few of the Eastern, were represented. Nothing was accomplished. There was talk of all countries putting bounties on children to increase the birth rate, but it was laughed to scorn by the arithmeticians, who pointed out that China was too far in the lead in that direction. No feasible way of coping with China was suggested. China was appealed to and threatened by the United Powers, and that was all the Convention of Philadelphia came to; and the Convention and the Powers were laughed at by China. Li Tang Fwung, the power behind the Dragon Throne, deigned to reply.

“What does China care for the comity of nations?” said Li Tang Fwung. “We are the most ancient, honourable, and royal of races. We have our own destiny to accomplish. It is unpleasant that our destiny does not tally with the destiny of the rest of the world, but what would you? You have talked windily about the royal races and the heritage of the earth, and we can only reply that that remains to be seen. You cannot invade us. Never mind about your navies. Don’t shout. We know our navy is small. You see we use it for police purposes. We do not care for the sea. Our strength is in our population, which will soon be a billion. Thanks to you, we are equipped with all modern war-machinery. Send your navies. We will not notice them. Send your punitive expeditions, but first remember France. To land half a million soldiers on our shores would strain the resources of any of you. And our thousand millions would swallow them down in a mouthful. Send a million; send five millions, and we will swallow them down just as readily. Pouf! A mere nothing, a meagre morsel. Destroy, as you have threatened, you United States, the ten million coolies we have forced upon your shores – why, the amount scarcely equals half of our excess birth rate for a year.”

So spoke Li Tang Fwung. The world was nonplussed, helpless, terrified. Truly had he spoken. There was no combating China’s amazing birth rate. If her population was a billion, and was increasing twenty millions a year, in twenty-five years it would be a billion and a half – equal to the total population of the world in 1904. And nothing could be done. There was no way to dam up the over-spilling monstrous flood of life. War was futile. China laughed at a blockade of her coasts. She welcomed invasion. In her capacious maw was room for all the hosts of earth that could be hurled at her. And in the meantime her flood of yellow life poured out and on over Asia. China laughed and read in their magazines the learned lucubrations of the distracted Western scholars.

但有一位学者中国未能考虑 – 雅各布斯拉宁代尔。并不是说他是一个学者,除了最广泛的意义。首先,Jacobus Laningdale是一名科学家,并且直到那时,他还是一位非常模糊的科学家,一位在纽约市卫生办公室实验室工作的教授。 Jacobus Laningdale的头像任何其他头部一样,但在那个头脑中演变了一个想法。而且,那个头脑是保持这个想法秘密的智慧。他没有为杂志写一篇文章。相反,他要求度假。 1975年9月19日,他抵达华盛顿。那是晚上,但他直接前往白宫,因为他已经安排了与总统的观众。他与莫耶总统关系了三个小时。他们之间传递的东西直到很久以后才被世界其他地方所学习;事实上,当时世界对Jacobus Laningdale并不感兴趣。第二天,总统打电话到他的内阁。雅各布斯拉宁代尔出席了会议。诉讼程序保密。但就在那个下午,国务卿鲁弗斯·考德里离开华盛顿,第二天一早就开始前往英格兰。他携带的秘密开始传播,但它只在各国政府首脑中传播。可能有一个国家的六个人被委以Jacobus Laningdale头脑中形成的想法。随着秘密的传播,所有船坞,军火库和海军船坞都开展了大量活动。法国和奥地利人民开始怀疑,但他们的政府要求他们相信他们默许正在进行的未知项目是如此真诚。



但是,在1976年5月1日,如果读者曾在北京的皇城,其当时的人口为一千一百万,他就会目睹一个好奇的景象。他会看到街道上满是喋喋不休的黄色民众,每个排队的头都向后倾斜,每一个倾斜的眼睛都向天空转。在蓝色的高处,他会看到一个黑色的小点,由于其有序的演变,他会认定为飞艇。从这架飞艇上来看,当飞机在城市上空来回弯曲时,它会落下导弹 – 奇怪的,无害的导弹,脆弱的玻璃管,在街道和屋顶上碎成数千个碎片。但是这些玻璃管没有任何致命的东西。没啥事儿。没有爆炸。确实,三名中国人被巨大的高度落在他们的头上而被杀死;但是三个中国人的出生率超过二千万呢?一根管垂直地撞在花园里的鱼塘里,没有被打破。它被房子的主人拖上岸。他不敢打开它,但是在他的朋友的陪同下,他们被不断增加的人群所包围,他将这个神秘的管道带到了该区的地方法官那里。后者是一个勇敢的人。所有的目光都集中在他身上,他用黄铜管子吹了一下管子。没啥事儿。在那些非常近的人中,有一两个人认为他们看到一些蚊子飞了出去。这就是全部了。人群开始大笑并散去。


But there was one scholar China failed to reckon on – Jacobus Laningdale. Not that he was a scholar, except in the widest sense. Primarily, Jacobus Laningdale was a scientist, and, up to that time, a very obscure scientist, a professor employed in the laboratories of the Health Office of New York City. Jacobus Laningdale’s head was very like any other head, but in that head was evolved an idea. Also, in that head was the wisdom to keep that idea secret. He did not write an article for the magazines. Instead, he asked for a vacation. On September 19, 1975, he arrived in Washington. It was evening, but he proceeded straight to the White House, for he had already arranged an audience with the President. He was closeted with President Moyer for three hours. What passed between them was not learned by the rest of the world until long after; in fact, at that time the world was not interested in Jacobus Laningdale. Next day the President called in his Cabinet. Jacobus Laningdale was present. The proceedings were kept secret. But that very afternoon Rufus Cowdery, Secretary of State, left Washington, and early the following morning sailed for England. The secret that he carried began to spread, but it spread only among the heads of Governments. Possibly half-a-dozen men in a nation were entrusted with the idea that had formed in Jacobus Laningdale’s head. Following the spread of the secret, sprang up great activity in all the dockyards, arsenals, and navy-yards. The people of France and Austria became suspicious, but so sincere were their Governments’ calls for confidence that they acquiesced in the unknown project that was afoot.

This was the time of the Great Truce. All countries pledged themselves solemnly not to go to war with any other country. The first definite action was the gradual mobilization of the armies of Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Then began the eastward movement. All railroads into Asia were glutted with troop trains. China was the objective, that was all that was known. A little later began the great sea movement. Expeditions of warships were launched from all countries. Fleet followed fleet, and all proceeded to the coast of China. The nations cleaned out their navy-yards. They sent their revenue cutters and dispatch boots and lighthouse tenders, and they sent their last antiquated cruisers and battleships. Not content with this, they impressed the merchant marine. The statistics show that 58,640 merchant steamers, equipped with searchlights and rapid-fire guns, were despatched by the various nations to China.

And China smiled and waited. On her land side, along her boundaries, were millions of the warriors of Europe. She mobilized five times as many millions of her militia and awaited the invasion. On her sea coasts she did the same. But China was puzzled. After all this enormous preparation, there was no invasion. She could not understand. Along the great Siberian frontier all was quiet. Along her coasts the towns and villages were not even shelled. Never, in the history of the world, had there been so mighty a gathering of war fleets. The fleets of all the world were there, and day and night millions of tons of battleships ploughed the brine of her coasts, and nothing happened. Nothing was attempted. Did they think to make her emerge from her shell? China smiled. Did they think to tire her out, or starve her out? China smiled again.

But on May 1, 1976, had the reader been in the imperial city of Peking, with its then population of eleven millions, he would have witnessed a curious sight. He would have seen the streets filled with the chattering yellow populace, every queued head tilted back, every slant eye turned skyward. And high up in the blue he would have beheld a tiny dot of black, which, because of its orderly evolutions, he would have identified as an airship. From this airship, as it curved its flight back and forth over the city, fell missiles – strange, harmless missiles, tubes of fragile glass that shattered into thousands of fragments on the streets and house- tops. But there was nothing deadly about these tubes of glass. Nothing happened. There were no explosions. It is true, three Chinese were killed by the tubes dropping on their heads from so enormous a height; but what were three Chinese against an excess birth rate of twenty millions? One tube struck perpendicularly in a fish-pond in a garden and was not broken. It was dragged ashore by the master of the house. He did not dare to open it, but, accompanied by his friends, and surrounded by an ever-increasing crowd, he carried the mysterious tube to the magistrate of the district. The latter was a brave man. With all eyes upon him, he shattered the tube with a blow from his brass-bowled pipe. Nothing happened. Of those who were very near, one or two thought they saw some mosquitoes fly out. That was all. The crowd set up a great laugh and dispersed.

As Peking was bombarded by glass tubes, so was all China. The tiny airships, dispatched from the warships, contained but two men each, and over all cities, towns, and villages they wheeled and curved, one man directing the ship, the other man throwing over the glass tubes.

Had the reader again been in Peking, six weeks later, he would have looked in vain for the eleven million inhabitants. Some few of them he would have found, a few hundred thousand, perhaps, their carcasses festering in the houses and in the deserted streets, and piled high on the abandoned death-waggons. But for the rest he would have had to seek along the highways and byways of the Empire. And not all would he have found fleeing from plague-stricken Peking, for behind them, by hundreds of thousands of unburied corpses by the wayside, he could have marked their flight. And as it was with Peking, so it was with all the cities, towns, and villages of the Empire. The plague smote them all. Nor was it one plague, nor two plagues; it was a score of plagues. Every virulent form of infectious death stalked through the land. Too late the Chinese government apprehended the meaning of the colossal preparations, the marshalling of the world-hosts, the flights of the tin airships, and the rain of the tubes of glass. The proclamations of the government were vain. They could not stop the eleven million plague-stricken wretches, fleeing from the one city of Peking to spread disease through all the land. The physicians and health officers died at their posts; and death, the all- conqueror, rode over the decrees of the Emperor and Li Tang Fwung. It rode over them as well, for Li Tang Fwung died in the second week, and the Emperor, hidden away in the Summer Palace, died in the fourth week.

Had there been one plague, China might have coped with it. But from a score of plagues no creature was immune. The man who escaped smallpox went down before scarlet fever. The man who was immune to yellow fever was carried away by cholera; and if he were immune to that, too, the Black Death, which was the bubonic plague, swept him away. For it was these bacteria, and germs, and microbes, and bacilli, cultured in the laboratories of the West, that had come down upon China in the rain of glass.

All organization vanished. The government crumbled away. Decrees and proclamations were useless when the men who made them and signed them one moment were dead the next. Nor could the maddened millions, spurred on to flight by death, pause to heed anything. They fled from the cities to infect the country, and wherever they fled they carried the plagues with them. The hot summer was on – Jacobus Laningdale had selected the time shrewdly – and the plague festered everywhere. Much is conjectured of what occurred, and much has been learned from the stories of the few survivors. The wretched creatures stormed across the Empire in many-millioned flight. The vast armies China had collected on her frontiers melted away. The farms were ravaged for food, and no more crops were planted, while the crops already in were left unattended and never came to harvest. The most remarkable thing, perhaps, was the flights. Many millions engaged in them, charging to the bounds of the Empire to be met and turned back by the gigantic armies of the West. The slaughter of the mad hosts on the boundaries was stupendous. Time and again the guarding line was drawn back twenty or thirty miles to escape the contagion of the multitudinous dead.

China Plague





直到次年2月,在最寒冷的天气里,才进行了第一次探险。这些探险队很小,由科学家和部队组成;但他们从各方面进入中国。尽管采取了最精心的预防措施,但仍有许多士兵和一些医生受伤。但是,探索勇敢地进行了探索。他们发现中国遭受了破坏,一个嚎叫的荒野,漫游的野狗和绝望的匪徒幸存下来。所有幸存者在被发现的地方都被处死。然后开始了伟大的任务,中国的卫生。根据民主的美国计划,五年和数以亿计的宝藏被消耗,然后世界进入 – 而不是在区域,就像Baron Albrecht的想法一样,但是不同寻常。这是一个巨大而愉快的民族融合,在1982年和随后的几年中定居在中国 – 这是一次巨大而成功的交叉实验。我们今天知道随后的辉煌的机械,知识和艺术输出。

1987年,伟大的休战解散了,法国和德国之间在阿尔萨斯 – 洛林之间的古老争吵再次发生。战争云在4月变得黑暗和威胁,并于4月17日召开了哥本哈根会议。世界各国的代表在场,所有国家都庄严地保证,他们不会相互使用他们在入侵中国时使用的实验室战争方法。

– 摘自沃尔特梅尔文的“历史上的某些事物”。

Once the plague broke through and seized upon the German and Austrian soldiers who were guarding the borders of Turkestan. Preparations had been made for such a happening, and though sixty thousand soldiers of Europe were carried off, the international corps of physicians isolated the contagion and dammed it back. It was during this struggle that it was suggested that a new plague- germ had originated, that in some way or other a sort of hybridization between plague-germs had taken place, producing a new and frightfully virulent germ. First suspected by Vomberg, who became infected with it and died, it was later isolated and studied by Stevens, Hazenfelt, Norman, and Landers.

Such was the unparalleled invasion of China. For that billion of people there was no hope. Pent in their vast and festering charnel-house, all organization and cohesion lost, they could do naught but die. They could not escape. As they were flung back from their land frontiers, so were they flung back from the sea. Seventy-five thousand vessels patrolled the coasts. By day their smoking funnels dimmed the sea-rim, and by night their flashing searchlights ploughed the dark and harrowed it for the tiniest escaping junk. The attempts of the immense fleets of junks were pitiful. Not one ever got by the guarding sea-hounds. Modern war- machinery held back the disorganized mass of China, while the plagues did the work.

But old War was made a thing of laughter. Naught remained to him but patrol duty. China had laughed at war, and war she was getting, but it was ultra-modern war, twentieth century war, the war of the scientist and the laboratory, the war of Jacobus Laningdale. Hundred-ton guns were toys compared with the micro- organic projectiles hurled from the laboratories, the messengers of death, the destroying angels that stalked through the empire of a billion souls.

During all the summer and fall of 1976 China was an inferno. There was no eluding the microscopic projectiles that sought out the remotest hiding-places. The hundreds of millions of dead remained unburied and the germs multiplied themselves, and, toward the last, millions died daily of starvation. Besides, starvation weakened the victims and destroyed their natural defences against the plagues. Cannibalism, murder, and madness reigned. And so perished China.

Not until the following February, in the coldest weather, were the first expeditions made. These expeditions were small, composed of scientists and bodies of troops; but they entered China from every side. In spite of the most elaborate precautions against infection, numbers of soldiers and a few of the physicians were stricken. But the exploration went bravely on. They found China devastated, a howling wilderness through which wandered bands of wild dogs and desperate bandits who had survived. All survivors were put to death wherever found. And then began the great task, the sanitation of China. Five years and hundreds of millions of treasure were consumed, and then the world moved in – not in zones, as was the idea of Baron Albrecht, but heterogeneously, according to the democratic American programme. It was a vast and happy intermingling of nationalities that settled down in China in 1982 and the years that followed – a tremendous and successful experiment in cross-fertilization. We know to-day the splendid mechanical, intellectual, and art output that followed.

It was in 1987, the Great Truce having been dissolved, that the ancient quarrel between France and Germany over Alsace-Lorraine recrudesced. The war-cloud grew dark and threatening in April, and on April 17 the Convention of Copenhagen was called. The representatives of the nations of the world, being present, all nations solemnly pledged themselves never to use against one another the laboratory methods of warfare they had employed in the invasion of China.

— Excerpt from Walt Mervin’s “CERTAIN ESSAYS IN HISTORY.”




Chinese Tech Giant Huawei Is Lean, Mean and Ready to Knock Google out of the Game – by Pepe Escobar (Asian Times) 22 May 2019

Chinese firm is a queen on tech chessboard, but Beijing will just tell its whiz-kids to reach the next level

It’s geopolitical, geoeconomic war. Cold, so far, but now about to descend to deep freeze. The US National Security Strategy unmistakably spells it out. China is a strategic competitor and must be contained, no holds barred, on all fronts: economic, military and most of all, technological.

Enter the current, concerted offensive across the spectrum, from 5G and AI to moves attempting to prevent the coming of globalization 2.0. Add to it maximum pressure all over the world to prevent nations from joining the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the organizing foreign policy concept for China in the foreseeable future and the strategic road map for Eurasian integration up to 2049. 

Technological rivalry between the US and China over 5G and other sectors is ramping up.

It’s all interconnected; the Trump administration’s trade war, Google blocking Huawei from the enhanced Android OS, the demonization of Belt and Road. It’s all about control of global supply chains and technological infrastructure.

Huawei is not a pawn but the Queen in the tech-war chessboard. In an environment where Chinese IT companies are fast climbing the ranks in terms of registering scientific patents, Huawei is already first among equals. From techno-scientific knowledge to applied research and creative market solutions, China tech is posing a concerted  “threat” to American tech. This is the heart of the geopolitical and geoeconomic clash between the hegemon and the aspiring superpower.

Pressure over Germany, UK and Italy, for instance, based on a fuzzy “economic aggression” concept, won’t force these industrialized nations to discard Huawei, because they can profit from Huawei’s leadership on 5G to create their own ‘smart’ or safe cities.

Fragmenting global supply chains – as the Trump administration is aiming at – also does not cut it, as interdependence still rules. Some 22% of Huawei products carry US components, and the Snapdragon chip from American Qualcomm is featured in most Chinese smartphones.

What matters most is how Made in China is coming up with creative total packages, privileging added value for business, as it targets a mass of global customers, private and corporate. This process is at the heart of Made in China 2025, which aims to sever dependence on Western technology and configure China as a global leader in AI, cloud services, the Internet of Things (IoT), industrial automation 4.0, biotechnology, aerospace. Goodbye low-cost mass manufacturing. Hello to a cloud of emerging technologies.

‘Asianomics’ is the way to go

In ‘AI Super-powers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order,’ venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee, with decades of experience on both sides of the tech pond, conclusively shows how technology “will drive a wedge between the AI superpowers and the rest of the world, and may divide society along class lines” miming “dystopian science fiction.”

The US and China are already AI superpowers because, apart from top talent and research labs, they can count on “a large base of users and a vibrant entrepreneurial and venture-capital ecosystem”.

Across Eurasia, following the BRI footprint, China is bound to rule, on 5G and AI, from Southeast Asia to Southwest Asia and all the way to Africa.

That leaves Western Europe as the key geoeconomic battleground, on internet and internet services, to be conquered by Huawei and other Chinese tech companies. It’s always important to remember that a great majority of so-called US “allies” – especially in Asia but also in vast swathes of Europe – now do more trade or investment with China than with the US.

5G will establish a new techno paradigm in robotics applied to industrial production, remote control surgery, new AI-driven transportation solutions, the logistics of distribution, and scores of other specialized fields. Think, for instance, shipping containers engaged in autonomous communication – in a high-speed free flow of interconnection.

In this new environment, Huawei is leaner, meaner, cheaper, more innovative, and their products consume less energy. Add to it that Chinese companies are keen to experiment with telecom operators, for instance investing in research centers and labs in Europe, such as the Huawei Transparency and Cyber Security Center in Brussels. 

Not only China, but Asia as a whole is becoming the privileged 21st-century tech development engine. Welcome, thus, to “Asianomics”.

This means that Huawei, even under attack by the US government and spurned by Google, will have no problems finding other Chinese and Asian suppliers. In fact, count on Beijing to forcefully rally all China tech majors to develop all component technologies that China still lacks. Precedents abound. Let’s take a look at one of the most important.

Innovate or die

In September 2014, Premier Li Keqiang addressed the Chinese “Summer Davos” in Tianjin to explain how technological innovation was essential in creating growth and modernizing the Chinese economy.

These speeches usually consist of a somnolent litany of jargons and exhortations. But this time Li came up with a new, unheard of, slogan: “Mass entrepreneurship and mass innovation”. And that soon became the rallying cry for a government-driven process of fostering startup ecosystems and supporting technological innovation.

In July 2015, China’s State Council – which comes up with all the big policies that matter – issued a major directive; from now on everybody should join the “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” bandwagon. The aim was to create thousands of technology incubators, entrepreneurship zones and “guiding funds”, backed by Beijing, to seduce more private venture capital, in parallel to sexy tax policies and streamlined government permits necessary to start a business.

This is how it works in China. The central government may lay down the main goals. But implementation is totally local – as in thousands of mayors and local officials. These people only get promoted inside the vast bureaucracy through performance. And the examiners are of course big wigs in the Chinese Communist Party’s human resources department. So it’s easy to imagine the frenzy when Beijing sets clear goals and targets. Go for it – or disappear into career oblivion.

That’s exactly what’s going to happen next. Beijing will tell China tech to reach the next level. Anyone who’s been to frantic tech-experiment-hub Shenzhen knows what this means. The US crackdown on Huawei will inevitably backfire.

Huawei has now accelerated the commercial implementation of its own operating system, which will be thoroughly adapted for global markets. Their Plan B is now Plan A – with a vengeance. Never underestimate the power of unintended consequences; Huawei breaking Google’s de facto monopoly may be just around the (tech) corner.

Source: Asia Times

Frank Delaney’s top 10 Irish novels

Frank Delaney is the author of eight novels, as well as several non-fiction books (including James Joyce’s Odyssey) and a number of screenplays. He has been a judge for both the Booker and Whitbread prizes and chairman of the Book Trust. In his latest work, Ireland: A Novel, Delaney tells the history of his native land through a young boy’s search for an itinerant storyteller.

1. Ulysses by James Joyce

Obviously Ulysses has to be first. On another day in another room in another town my top 10 Irish novels might be different – but there are ‘given’ novels, the bibles of the country, without which no reader worthy of the nationality ‘Irish’ can proceed. Joyce hammered a job on the novel so complete that he became a category unto himself. Every literary style was mist to his grill, as he might have said, and his plotting, if such it can be called – two men who take all day to meet each other – paved the way for, among others, Samuel Beckett. Above all he taught every writer the importance of naturalistic dialogue; with his fine tenor voice Joyce knew better than most that we read not with the eye but with the ear.

Online Audio at Librivox

Online Text at Project Gutenberg

hunter 08

2. The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

Chosen as much to represent Bowen rather than merely for the novel’s own powers. Which are none the less significant. The year is 1920; Sir Richard Naylor and his family await in their great house the final onslaught of the ‘Risen People’ – meaning that the twilight of the Anglo-Irish has begun to fall as the native Irish begin to take back their land. In that anxious gloaming, relationships advance and retreat like sad and fearful dancers; some have possibilities, some never had, some will cause death. And always the clear, cool and nervous voice of Bowen herself comes through the fog of years as it does in all her novels.

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen 2

3. Troubles by JG Farrell

It seems right that a number of any top 10 Irish novels should address the emotional and physical violence that formed modern Ireland. Farrell wrote superbly; all his books had a quality that hallmarks great literary talent – he could ‘do’ texture. This album – which is what Troubles feels like – records the same Anglo-Irish as Elizabeth Bowen knew and belonged to. As with Bowen, this feels like the real thing (which is all a novel has to do). Always judge a writer by his grasp of what he doesn’t know: Farrell died young yet his old people are almost his best creations.

Troubles by JG Farrell

4. Thy Tears Might Cease by Michael Farrell

This Farrell wrote only one book, spent all his life doing so, told everybody about it incessantly, didn’t live long enough to finish it and startled everybody with its excellence when it appeared. The book centres on the 1916 period and addresses the confusion in the minds of young men who have not yet discriminated between the relative importance of patriotism and personal survival. One of the most irritating questions that all novelists have to field is, “How autobiographical is your book?” In Michael Farrell’s case the answer feels as though it must be, “totally” but as he’s not here to speak for himself let us accept it for the stirring fiction he intended to create.

Thy Tears Might Cease by Michael Farrell

5. Fools of Fortune by William Trevor

Fools of Fortune makes it into this list because of its rightful place among great books that deal with the Irish question. I would also have chosen Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel and cited it as exciting because it appeared early in Trevor’s writing life and heralded the wonderful powers of observation and characterisation that appear like flashes of lighting in his short stories. Fools of Fortune, however, displays a further and to me even more arresting Trevor hallmark: nobody has written better about each nationality in the other’s country – the Irish in England or the English in Ireland – and certainly never in a single volume. In this novel he again makes tragedy, if not bearable, at least comprehensible.

Fools of Fortune by William Trevor

6. The Year of the French by Thomas Flanagan

I recall the excitement when this book was published in the late 1970’s – and then discovered (not always the case) that the book merited it. Flanagan, an American history professor of Irish descent, pulled off a substantial coup in that he brought a historian’s training to bear upon a romantic moment, the period when the French landed in the west of Ireland in 1798 and all Ireland thought liberation was at hand. His research never lies around the novel in pools, it stains the entire fabric, so that when his character’s point of view is emerging from a dispossessed farmer’s clay hovel or a small town merchant’s table in the local hotel, we smell them – their clothes, their breath and (this is Ireland after all) their politics.

Year of the French

7. Amongst Women by John McGahern

Other than Ulysses I wish that lists such as this did not also suggest hierarchy of choice. McGahern has written the finest novel of what might be called the ‘rural bourgeoisie,’ the small to middling farmer with emotions and opinions. I have heard that when the manuscript first reached his publishers it was more than twice as long as the book that eventually appeared and that McGahern himself insisted on cutting it back. Given the spare power of what appeared here – the farmer and his family and their subcutaneous, needless, heedless anguish – I know that I am perhaps making a literary misjudgment but I merely wanted more and more of this wonderful writing.

Amongst Women by John McGahern

8. The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien

Just as pure and compelling today as when it first appeared 45 years ago. Simple in the extreme, it tells the story of Kate and Baba who have made it to Dublin from the deep and damp parish countryside and find that, in all the excitement, hypocrisy remains a constant. The book’s place in my heart was copper-fastened by the banning of it; so how, then, did the natives of Miss O’Brien’s home village in County Clare get enough copies for the bonfire they held to burn it? It was her first novel, not her finest but her most innocent – and see how she grew her talent.

The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien

9. Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor

Which is more exciting – to see a writer arrive in one bound or to see a promising writer flesh out his talents? In a sense O’Connor did both; his earlier books always had flash and sparkle, especially when examining young humans, and we should not be surprised that he suddenly pulled out this astounding work. But we’d have been surprised at anyone suddenly leaping to this height. In 1847 many ships crossed the Atlantic, ferrying the fleeing Irish from hunger to the new promised land and many have written about it, fiction and fact. But never like this; here, you catch your breath on every page. Judging by the payload O’Connor delivers, I can only marvel at the emotional demands the writing must have made upon him.

Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor

10. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

Chosen because James Joyce did writing and reading (and literary Ireland) the ultimate service; he took nothing for granted. The Wake calls down myriad responses – derision, fawning respect, confusion, ennui; but why not enjoyment? Read it aloud and read it slowly; read it while thinking of a man who loved language and who loved mankind and who loved – above all, perhaps – mankind’s use of language. More poetry lurks in here than in 10 verse anthologies. I don’t claim you should read it every day like some sort of Celtic missal; best to approach it once in a while, and approach it as though quarrying – this is Joyce’s diamond mine.

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce


Quand la Révolution française est arrivée en Irlande – ‘The Year of the French’ par Thomas Flanagan

Year of the French
Alors que je parcourais mes étagères dans le salon à la lumière pâle d’un samedi matin, j’ai pris ma copie de poche de «L’Année de la France» de Thomas Flanagan. Je ne sais pas où j’ai eu le livre. Peut-être de la bibliothèque de mon père après sa mort. Je me souviens d’une série télévisée diffusée sur l’une des chaînes de télévision de Boston dans les années 1980. Je voulais regarder parce que je voulais entendre parler de la tentative de diffuser les idées libératrices de la Révolution française en Irlande. Quand j’ai eu le livre en main, j’ai décidé de regarder la série télévisée en ligne. Je suis tombé sur cet article intéressant sur le site de discussion de livres Goodreads.


Parlez d’un livre chargé d’attentes étranges et erronées. J’avais neuf ans quand elle a été publiée, douze ans, lorsque l’événement marquant de la production irlandaise (ou à moitié irlandaise) a verrouillé la nation tous les dimanches soir. C’était une grosse affaire. Le livre était omniprésent. Cela semblait se trouver dans toutes les bibliothèques, librairies, maisons, salles d’attente et, vu que mon père était mécanicien, laissés sous la vitre arrière de la moitié des voitures en Irlande. Tout ce que je savais, c’est que je ne voulais rien avoir à faire avec ça. L’histoire irlandaise est vraiment déprimante. Aussi sanglante. Peu importe ce qui se passe, tout le monde meurt à la fin. Et pas paisiblement dans leurs lits entourés d’êtres chers. Ils sont pendus. Coup. Baïonnette Soufflé par des boulets de canon. Descendu par un grand cavalier agitant des sabres terrifiants. Il y a aussi quelques bûchers qui brûlent sur le bûcher, qui sont écorchés avec des fouets et, grand favori, qui sont tirés et coupés en quatre pour accompagner la pendaison. Et cela ne veut rien dire des milliers de misérables en état de famine qui ne cessent de combler le vide.

La même chose, me semble-t-il, était également vraie de la littérature irlandaise, qu’il s’agisse de livres, de poèmes ou de pièces de théâtre. À chaque fois que je regarde The Importance Of Being Earnest, je m’attends presque à ce que cela se termine avec le casting suspendu avec esprit à une potence très à la mode mais légèrement peu recommandable. N’est-il pas étonnant que je préfère les évasions plus confortables, plus chaleureuses et plus douces de Stephen King et de Clive flippin ’Barker? L’histoire irlandaise a fait ressembler The Books Of Blood à See Spot Run.

Je savais aussi, parce que j’avais appris l’histoire dans une école irlandaise, que nous pouvions valoriser nos luttes en nous plaignant de notre oppression, en sentimentalisant toute la mort et la torture, en ennoblissant la souffrance des paysans et en blâmant amèrement tout cela. Les Britanniques. Il semblait légitime de supposer que Thomas Flanagan avait fait de même. Au mieux, il s’agirait d’une chaudière torride. Au pire, ce serait une répétition pénible de tous les griefs et de toutes les injustices infligés aux Gaels, qui souffrent depuis longtemps, l’échec tragique d’une nouvelle lutte pour la liberté.

Alors oui, j’ai évité le livre et la série.

Compte tenu de cette attitude, je ne sais pas pourquoi j’ai pris cette fichue chose et l’ai lue. J’ai simplement vu une copie et pris la décision. Il semblait assez éloigné de mes jours d’école et des dimanches de 1982 en courant dans le salon et en jetant un coup d’œil à la télévision, terrifié de peur que je ne voie une pendaison, une widda passionnée ou un orphelin aux pieds nus intimidé par un propriétaire. Le moment était enfin venu de voir en quoi consistait tout ce tapage.

S’il existe un meilleur roman historique littéraire traitant du sujet de l’Irlande, je souhaite désespérément le lire. Heck, s’il y en a là-bas seulement la moitié aussi bon que je veux savoir à leur sujet. C’est un portrait saisissant, saisissant, passionnant, étonnant, d’un monde profondément dysfonctionnel, plongé dans un vilain état de chaos et de violence aussi inutile et stérile que soudain et effroyable. Écrit avec une habileté incroyable, imitant parfaitement les voix irlandaises et anglaises irréprochables, invoquant à la fois la beauté et la pénible charge du paysage, examinant les vies vécues à tous les niveaux de la société et les justifiant au lecteur sans jamais tenter de s’excuser ou de ne pas les impliquer pour leurs actions, il s’agit d’un roman panoramique de poids intellectuel et de pouvoir émotionnel cumulatif. Il s’attaque aux divisions religieuses, sociales, politiques, économiques et culturelles laides qui rendent les conflits et la haine inévitables. Les différentes couches de la société irlandaise sont totalement étrangères les unes aux autres et il n’y a pas moyen de combler les lacunes, si ce n’est par de petits actes d’humanité simples, minimisés par le poids de l’histoire.

Flanagan crée habilement une série de personnages pleinement réalisés pour servir de témoins des événements tragiques. Un poète, un pasteur, un Irlandais uni, un propriétaire terrien catholique. George Moore, ce dernier, est l’un des rares à ne pas être emporté par les forces déchaînées lorsque les Français débarquent. Son frère, cependant, est emporté par la marée, et même son attitude froide ne lui permet pas de le protéger des conséquences.

Comme prévu, tout se termine très très mal pour beaucoup de gens. Flanagan n’oblige personne pour ses actions, mais il ne refuse pas non plus le jugement contre les conditions qui les rendent presque inévitables. Les deux grandes puissances, la Grande-Bretagne et la France, ne considèrent l’Irlande que comme une distraction et la majeure partie du peuple irlandais

year of fe
J’essaie toujours de savoir où je peux regarder la vidéo.

Hanging on the Telephone – Movies Don’t Want to Show Phones – by Meghan Gilligan (Real Life) 23 May 2019

Contemporary cinema struggles to represent how deeply phones have restructured everyday life

Films set in today’s world are often stunted when it comes to representing what contemporary life looks like. This is because they tend to shy away from one of its defining aspects: phones. So much of life is now lived on and through screens, yet phones don’t typically get much visual attention. In the view of many filmmakers, the imagery of a screen on a screen presents certain obstacles to visual storytelling. Greta Gerwig, for instance, said her decision to set her 2017 film Lady Bird in 2002 was based, in part, on her notion that “to make a movie about teenagers now, you have to shoot cell phones…Their [lives] happen online and I don’t think it’s very cinematic.” This seems to be a commonly shared sentiment among industry professionals, as the sustained trend of recent-history period pieces like Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, Mid-90s, and PEN15 suggests. The popular film and television landscape is increasingly shaped by the void of contemporary stories that directors, screenwriters, and showrunners don’t want to tell.

Instead, the current landscape is marked by pastiche, period pieces, and nostalgia-fueled revivals and remakes. Take the best picture nominees from the 2019 Academy Awards: six out of eight are period pieces, one is a remake (A Star is Born), and one revives a comic book character from the 1960s (Black Panther). Though the Oscars purport to highlight the cinematic excellence of the present, they more effectively demonstrate how attached we are to the past.

By suppressing the most familiar artifact from everyday life to a cameo, the phone is transformed into a jarring anomaly in an otherwise timeless world

Simon Reynolds, in his 2010 book Retromania, attributes this attachment in part to “a crisis of overdocumentation.” All the styles of the past are available at our fingertips online: I can mine YouTube and stream documentaries from the 1970s; I can browse troves of vintage Levis on Etsy. Mark Fisher echoed this sentiment in his diagnosis of popular music, which he described as 20th century sounds repackaged on 21st century platforms. In Ghosts of My Life, he recalls hearing Amy Winehouse’s cover of “Valerie” for the first time in a shopping mall. He knew it was a remake of the Zutons’ 2006 song, but it was sonically displaced to the 1960s, Fisher noted, by “the souped-up retro style” of producer Mark Ronson.

Fisher and Reynolds use the term “hauntology” to refer to how future innovation is being canceled by the persistence of past modes in contemporary cultural production. Hauntological works offer an idealized image or sound from the past, coupled with anachronisms that give the feeling that, “time is out of joint.” The appropriation of outdated aesthetics has corrupted our sense of historicity, breeding works that appear to be set outside of time. As George Steiner wrote in In Bluebeard’s Castle, “It is not the literal past that rules us … It is images of the past.”

The ubiquity of cultural pastiche is not new and certainly predates the internet. Fredric Jameson saw pastiche as integral to postmodernism, which in a 1991 book he dubbed the “cultural logic of late capitalism.” Central to his argument was the idea that postmodern pastiche colonizes history to glean empty stylizations for reproduction and consumption. One of his examples was Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 noir Body Heat, which was technically set in the 1980s but studiously evaded period details to evoke an aesthetic of “pastness.” The opening credits are in a Chinatown-style art-deco font; the quaint, small-town setting is far from the then new glass-and-steel high-rises; and any artifacts that would date the image are kept out of frame. The film, Jameson writes, “conspires to blur its official contemporaneity and make it possible for the viewer to receive the narrative as though it were set in some eternal thirties, beyond real historical time.” In his view, this kind of pastiche was a retreat from the challenge of innovation posed by modernism, a movement that rejected tradition and called for artistic experimentation in efforts to adequately depict contemporary life. Modernism implied a belief that new art forms could catalyze positive social change by forcing audiences to find new ways of seeing. Postmodernism, by contrast, suggests everything has been done before; nothing is new — capitalistically catering to audiences by producing new versions of things they liked in the past (Think: Ghostbusters, but female).

Today, the failures of contemporary representation on screen aren’t merely a matter of being trapped in old genres and reference points. In its crafted aesthetic “pastness,” Anna Biller’s 2016 film The Love Witch, for example, is a present-day equivalent of Body Heat: its opening credits roll in a medieval-looking typeface; the small-town setting evades architectural signifiers of contemporaneity. Yet unlike Body Heat, The Love Witch reveals its era in glimpses of late-model SUVs, police station computers, and toward the end of the film, an iPhone. By suppressing the most familiar artifact from everyday life to a cameo, the phone is transformed into a jarring anomaly in an otherwise timeless world. Thematically, the retro aesthetics serve to suggest that not much has changed for women in society. The phone’s purpose is to remind viewers that the film — which explores the objectification of women, a timeless phenomenon — is, in fact, set in the present. But the phone’s true role in daily life has no place in the story; the device is reduced to a superficial signifier, a pastiche of the contemporary rather than a determining factor in it.

Similarly, many films set today acknowledge phones, if briefly, for purpose of advancing the plot. It’s typical to see a character use her phone only to make a quick call that the narrative structure requires, and not in the ways people use phones in actuality: constantly, to accomplish a wide variety of functions. The phone appears merely to transition us from point A in the story to point B, as when in Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight (2016), an unexpected call precedes Chiron’s reunion with an old friend, or when, in Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick (2017), Kumail breaks into his kind-of girlfriend’s phone to alert her family that she’s in the hospital. In horror films, phones — which have obvious utility as a safety resource — present plot hurdles that must be cleared for dangerous scenarios to be plausible: hence characters will either have no service, or as happens in Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), their phone batteries die. When it comes to depicting characters silently texting or looking at their phones, films often leave these moments out. Tamara Jenkins’s Private Life (2018), for instance, includes is a wide shot of 15 people in a medical clinic waiting room, with only one phone in sight. This scene doesn’t quite look like one from the past, but it certainly doesn’t feel contemporary.

In “What Is Hauntology?” Fisher describes the use of vinyl “crackle” in hauntological music to sonically beckon the past, making time “an audible materiality.” Some films deploy a kind of visual crackle, as when The Love Witch makes use of Hitchcockian rear-projection backdrops. Crackle signals an ambiguous past, provoking audience nostalgia for how things used to be without actually having to return to when that was. But this kind of cancellation of the future by the past doesn’t always show up on screen in the form of nostalgic gestures and techniques. The failure to cinematically engage with the role of phones in everyday life suggests a similar failure to see the world how it is. The present absence of our habitual phone use has the effect of taking a story out of time: It’s invisible crackle. This leaves films ill-equipped to explore, let alone solve, the problems new communication technology brings.

Like the task of adapting an epistolary novel for film, depicting heavy phone use may require some translation. Television shows like Sherlock and The Mindy Project have experimented with portraying internet use and messaging via floating text which appears over the action to show what characters are typing or seeing. Similar techniques have been used in films like Fruitvale Station (2013) and Crazy Rich Asians (2018). These works at least acknowledge messaging as a primary mode of communication, but they misrepresent the private experience of phone use. In “The Concept of the Mental Screen,” Roger Odin discusses the importance of frames in granting viewers a sense of protection (whether real or illusory), freeing us to autonomously explore whatever piques our gaze. What we choose to view, type, or save on our screens is felt to be privileged, for our eyes only — and those of whoever we’re intending to communicate with. But floating text in film and television plucks information from the private frame and publicizes it. Perhaps the goal of using floating text is to have viewers closely identify with a character by granting them unprecedented access: Within one image, we see both the character and what she is seeing. But this perspective, which doesn’t exist off-screen, only serves to remind us we’re watching something unreal. The imagery ends up looking playful, whether intentionally or not.

The cancellation of the future by the past leaves films ill-equipped to explore, let alone solve, the problems new communication technology brings

One successful break from film and television’s sea of crackle can be found in Eugene Kotlyarenko’s 2018 film Wobble Palace, in which an iPhone screen is placed directly in the frame to show the typically unseen moments in which characters use their phones. In the opening scene, we scroll through the history of a failed relationship in the form of old iMessages. Later on, we see Eugene (played by the director) desperately query strangers on Tinder — resulting in a meltdown triggered by a prospect’s slow response — and Jane (Dasha Nekrasova) take a Buzzfeed-style quiz to diagnose how “basic” she is. The combination of such familiar, current visuals with the unfamiliarity of experiencing them in a cinematic context produces a constructive kind of cognitive dissonance.

In the sense that its portrayal of everyday life is unquestionably contemporary, Wobble Palace is the opposite of hauntological. There’s no taking shelter in the more conventionally “cinematic” aesthetics from the past. The inclusion of the iPhone screen, framed in its proper proportions, breeds a depiction of messaging that likely feels truer to viewers’ own experiences. Unlike text messages that float for the world to read, what happens on Eugene and Jane’s phones remains (aesthetically) protected.

Engaging with a phone or computer screen is often a solipsistic act, in both private and public. What people do on their devices — what they read, their browsing history, what podcasts they listen to — often reveals more about their character than what they say out loud. Even texting is primarily personal: it’s not so much a straightforward exchange as an exercise in projection, in filling in the blanks to intuit what a message, or a lack of response, means. In Wobble Palace, the screen recordings give us unique access to characters’ subjectivity; we watch firsthand as anxieties from their inner lives play out on their phones. Similarly, Olivier Assayas’s 2016 film Personal Shopper explores the psychological ambiguity of texting by focusing on an iMessage conversation (depicted in close-ups of the phone’s screen) from only one person’s side. The story follows Maureen (Kristen Stewart), who receives mysterious messages from a stranger she comes to believe is the ghost of her brother. Whereas texting is most typically used on screen as a plot mechanism to deliver information to viewers, in Kotlyarenko and Assayas’s films, it’s used to evoke familiar anxieties about what we don’t know — and the places our minds take us when we’re alone with our screens.

Like frames that shape our way of seeing, films play a crucial role in shaping social discourse by helping us achieve the distance to reflect on the present. With better representation of contemporary life in film, what modernism encouraged, will come a more nuanced understanding of the psychological implications of phone use in the cultural imagination. What we do on our phone screens represents an extension of our psyches — it’s a part of character that contemporary stories can’t ignore. Some filmmakers are starting to embrace this fact, which is especially true for stories about characters coming of age today. Bo Burnham’s 2018 film Eighth Grade, for example, includes countless scenes of Elsie in isolation, scrolling through social media and filming YouTube vlogs that hardly anyone views. And in Mishka Kornai and Zach Wechter’s 2019 short Pocket, the entirety of the story is told from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy’s smartphone. It’s designed to be viewed on a phone.

Film and television will always have crackle, but stories that help us understand the present and situate its place in history are a necessary antidote. It’s an unavoidable reality that films that depict phone use tend to date themselves before they see theatrical releases. Perhaps this is a good thing. Documenting the elusive present restores some sense of historicity by giving audiences a recognizable past to remember for more than its styles.


Meghan Gilligan received her MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Columbia University in 2016. She writes about film for ScreenPrism, and her work has been featured on WKCR’s literary program Studio A.


(Re-poster’s note: I noticed that the Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch was one of the first movie or video representation of life with smart-phones and laptops and internet access to information in a rapid manner as a central part of the narrative.  )



When the French Revolution Came to Ireland – ‘The Year of the French’ by Thomas Flanagan –

Year of the French

As I scanned my bookshelves in the parlor in the pale light of a Saturday morn I took down my paperback copy of ‘The Year of the French’ by Thomas Flanagan.  I’m not sure where I got the book.  Perhaps from my father’s library after he died.  I remember there was a television series on one of the Boston broadcast  channels in the 1980’s.  I wanted to watch because I wanted to hear about the attempt to spread the liberating ideas of the French Revolution to Ireland.  When I had the book in hand I decided to look up the television series online.  I came across this interesting post on the book talk site Goodreads.


Talk about a book freighted with weird and erroneous expectations. I was nine when it was published, twelve when the momentous occasion of the Irish-made (or half-Irish-made) production locked the nation to their screens every Sunday night. It was a big deal. The book was ubiquitous. It seemed to be in every library, bookshop, house, waiting room and – seeing as my Dad was a mechanic – left under the back window of half the cars in Ireland. All I knew was that I wanted nothing to do with it. Irish history is REALLY DEPRESSING. Also bloody. No matter what happens everyone dies in the end. And not peacefully in their beds surrounded by loved ones. They’re hanged. Shot. Bayoneted. Blown apart by cannon balls. Ridden down by big cavalryman waving terrifying sabres. There’s also the odd burning at the stake, being flayed with whips and, big favourite, being drawn and quartered to go with the hanging. And that’s to say nothing of the wretched thousands in a constant state of starvation just filling in the background.

The same, it seemed to me, was also true of most Irish literature, whether it be books, poems or plays. Anytime I watch The Importance Of Being Earnest I almost expect it to end with the cast dangling wittily from a highly fashionable yet slightly disreputable gallows. Is it any bloody wonder I preferred the cosier, warmer, gentler escapes of Stephen King and Clive flippin’ Barker? Irish history made The Books Of Blood look like See Spot Run.

I also knew, because I was taught history in an Irish school, that we have a way of valorising our struggles, complaining about our oppression, sentimentalising all the death and torture, ennobling the suffering of the peasants, and bitterly blaming it all on the Brits. It seemed only safe to assume that Thomas Flanagan did the same. At best it would be a torrid pot-boiler, at worst it would be a trudging rehearsal of every grievance and injustice inflicted on the long-suffering Gaels, a tragic failure of yet another struggle for freedom.

So, yes, I avoided the book and the series.

Given this attitude, I have no idea why I actually picked the damn thing up and read it. I simply saw a copy and made the decision. It seemed removed enough from my school days and Sunday nights in 1982 running through the living room and stealing glances at the television, terrified lest I see a hanging or a keening widda or a barefoot orphan being bullied by a landlord. The time had finally come to see what all the fuss was about.

If there is a better literary historical novel dealing with the subject of Ireland then I desperately want to read it. Heck, if there are any out there only half as good I want to know about them. This is an astonishing, sweeping, vivid, impassioned portrait of a deeply dysfunctional world thrown into an ugly state of chaos and violence that is as pointless and fruitless as it is sudden and appalling. Written with incredible skill, mimicking the disparate Irish and English voices faultlessly, invoking both the beauty and grim drudgery of the landscape, examining the lives lived on all levels of society and justifying them to the reader without ever trying to apologise or to avoid implicating them for their actions, this is a panoramic novel of intellectual weight and cumulative emotional power. It tackles the ugly sectarian, social, political, economic and cultural divisions that renders conflict and hatred inevitable. The various sections of Irish society are utterly alien to each other and there is no bridging the gaps save through small simple acts of humanity that are dwarfed by the sheer weight of history.

Flanagan deftly creates a series of fully realised characters to serve as witnesses to the tragic events. A poet, a parson, a United Irishman, a Catholic landowner. George Moore, the latter, is one of the few not carried away by the forces unleashed when the French land. His brother, however, is swept along by the tide, and not even his cold aloofness can protect him from the consequences.

As expected, it all ends very very badly for an awful lot of people. Flanagan absolves nobody for their actions, but neither does he withhold judgment from the conditions that make them almost inevitable. The two great powers, Britain and France, regard Ireland as little more than a distraction and the bulk of Irish people as little more than savages ruled by a corrupt, incompetent, self-serving gentry. It’s a horrible mess, but a mess it must remain for reasons economic, social, religious and, thanks to the charming theories of Rev Malthus, ideological. It’s almost unbearable, and this is only ONE incident, relatively insignificant, in centuries of bloody history. Is it any wonder we hate to think about it? Is it any wonder that those who do think about it are driven nearly half-mad by it?

Strumpet City is getting a lot of attention at the moment, and I hope to read it myself in the next few weeks. For now, though, I think I’ll set aside this brilliant, shining, monumental work and pick up something less appallingly upsetting. Something with the end of the world and zombies. That should cheer me up and restore my faith in humanity a little.


What he said.

year of fe

I’m still trying to find out where I can watch the video.


Here’s the music from the Chieftains…


CrossFit, Inc. Suspends Use of Facebook and Associated Properties – Boycott the Thought Police – 23 May 2019

Facebooks Targets

CrossFit is a contrarian physiological and nutrition prescription for improving fitness and health. It is contrarian because prevailing views of fitness, health, and nutrition are wrong and have unleashed a tsunami of chronic disease upon our friends, family, and communities. The voluntary CrossFit community of 15,000 affiliates and millions of individual adherents stands steadfastly and often alone against an unholy alliance of academia, government, and multinational food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies.

CrossFit, Inc. defends relentlessly the right of its affiliates, trainers, and athletes to practice CrossFit, build voluntary CrossFit associations and businesses, and speak openly and freely about the ideas and principles that animate our views of exercise, nutrition, and health. This website—and, until recently, CrossFit’s Facebook and Instagram accounts—has long catalogued CrossFit’s tireless defense of its community against overreaching governments, malicious competitors, and corrupt academic organizations.

Recently, Facebook deleted without warning or explanation the Banting7DayMealPlan user group. The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook’s action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion.

Facebook and its properties host and oversee a significant share of the marketplace of public thought. To millions of individuals and communities across the world, Facebook and its properties remain the platforms where ideas and information are exchanged. Facebook thus serves as a de facto authority over the public square, arbitrating a worldwide exchange of information as well as overseeing the security of the individuals and communities who entrust their ideas, work, and private data to this platform. This mandates a certain responsibility and assurance of good faith, transparency, and due process.

CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community. Common decency demands that we do so, as do our convictions regarding fitness, health, and nutrition, which sit at the heart of CrossFit’s identity and prescription. To this end, all activity on CrossFit, Inc.’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was suspended as of May 22, 2019, as CrossFit investigates the circumstances pertaining to Facebook’s deletion of the Banting7DayMealPlan and other well-known public complaints about the social-media company that may adversely impact the security and privacy of our global CrossFit community.

These publicly sourced complaints include but are not limited to the following:

1.  Facebook collects and aggregates user information and shares it with state and federal authorities, as well as security organizations from other countries.

2.  Facebook collaborates with government security agencies on massive citizen surveillance programs such as PRISM.

3.  Facebook censors and removes user accounts based on unknown criteria and at the request of third parties including government and foreign government agencies.

4.  Facebook collects, aggregates, and sells user information as a matter of business. Its business model allows governments and businesses alike to use its algorithmically conjured advertising categories as sophisticated data-mining and surveillance tools.

5.  Facebook’s news feeds are censored and crafted to reflect the political leanings of Facebook’s utopian socialists while remaining vulnerable to misinformation campaigns designed to stir up violence and prejudice.

6.  Facebook, as a matter of business and principle, has weak intellectual property protections and is slow to close down IP theft accounts.

7.  Facebook has poor security protocols and has been subject to the largest security breaches of user data in history.

And finally,

8.  Facebook is acting in the service of food and beverage industry interests by deleting the accounts of communities that have identified the corrupted nutritional science responsible for unchecked global chronic disease. In this, it follows the practices of Wikipedia and other private platforms that host public content but retain the ability to remove or silence—without the opportunity for real debate or appeal—information and perspectives outside a narrow scope of belief or thought. In this case, the approved perspective has resulted in the deaths of millions through preventable diseases. Facebook is thus complicit in the global chronic disease crisis.

For these reasons, CrossFit, Inc. has placed Facebook and its associated properties under review and will no longer support or use Facebook’s services until further notice.


Ossessionato dai disegni da Vinci – Scribble, Scribble, Scribble

Mona Lisa Real

Sulla mia scrivania c’è un disegno a tratteggio che ho fatto di Mona Lisa.

Mona Lisa in the Sunlight on a buletin board

Mona Lisa alla luce del sole su una bacheca

Sul tavolo vicino alla porta d’ingresso ci sono due volumi di quaderni di Leonardo da Vinci.

Sul marciapiede, in attesa dell’autobus, disegnai una foto di Mona Anne G. su un foglio di carta.Mon 1


Quando vedo una strada nera …asphalt

Penso agli schizzi di Leonardo da Vinci.

sidewalk chalk 000



UN report calls ‘feminine’ Alexa, Siri and Cortana SEXIST for Using Default Female Voices for Computer Assistants (RT) 23 May 2019

Default feminine voices used in AI assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri promote gender stereotypes of female subservience, a new UN report has claimed, prompting the internet to ask the question: “Can you harass code?”  The report, released Wednesday by the UN’s cultural and scientific body UNESCO, found that the majority of AI assistant products – from how they sound to their names and personalities –were designed to be seen as feminine. They were also designed to respond politely to sexual or gendered insults from users, which the report said lead to the normalization of sexual harassment and gender bias. 


Using the example of Apple’s Siri, the researchers found that the AI assistant was programmed to respond positively to derogatory remarks like being called “a bitch,” replying with the phrase “I’d blush if I could.”

“Siri’s submissiveness in the face of gender abuse – and the servility expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women – provides a powerful illustration of gender biases coded into technology products,” the study said.

The report warned that as access to voice-powered technology becomes more prevalent around the world, this feminization could have a significant cultural impact by spreading gender biases.

However, many have responded with ridicule to the UN report on social media, asking questions like “how can you sexually harass code?” and accusing the UN of assuming Siri’s gender.

Meanwhile, Amy Dielh, a researcher on unconscious gender bias at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania suggested that manufacturers should “stop making digital assistants female by default & program them to discourage insults and abusive language.”


AI può trasformare la Gioconda in una persona reale convincente – Di Olivia Rudgard (Telegraph) 23 maggio 2019

Ora l’intelligenza artificiale può trasformare la Gioconda in una persona della vita reale con una sola immagine.  Un documento pubblicato da un laboratorio di intelligenza artificiale di Samsung in Russia mostra la capacità di trasformare in modo convincente opere d’arte e fotografie di celebrità in immagini in movimento.

La tecnologia solleva la prospettiva di convincere “falsi profondi”, video che mostrano politici e persino persone che sono morte dicendo cose che non hanno mai detto, create solo con immagini statiche dei loro volti.

I dipinti sono stati animati utilizzando le espressioni facciali di una persona reale, mentre le fotografie di personaggi famosi come David Beckham sono state trasformate in video utilizzando filmati di loro che parlano in un’occasione diversa. I ricercatori, che hanno sede presso il Samsung AI Center di Mosca, hanno anche eseguito l’effetto sulle immagini di Marilyn Monroe e Albert Einstein, usando i tratti del viso di altre persone che sono stati poi “mappati” sui loro volti, una tecnica nota come “burattina” .
Altri modelli hanno richiesto un ampio set di immagini per creare un video falso, ma il metodo Samsung può farlo solo con uno, anche se l’effetto è più convincente se vengono utilizzate più immagini.

Mona Lisa Real
Nell’esempio di Mona Lisa, un video pubblicato dallo stesso team mostra che il dipinto animato ha un aspetto leggermente diverso a seconda della persona utilizzata come origine dell’immagine in movimento. “Dimostriamo che tale approccio è in grado di apprendere modelli di testa parlanti altamente realistici e personalizzati di nuove persone e persino di ritratti”, affermano gli autori.

Sono state espresse preoccupazioni circa i potenziali usi di tale tecnologia nelle mani sbagliate, e la capacità del pubblico di essere in grado di distinguere tra video reali e quelli che sono stati creati al fine di influenzare la percezione pubblica di un politico.
L’anno scorso i legislatori statunitensi hanno avvertito che tali video falsi potrebbero essere dannosi per la sicurezza nazionale. Ricercatori e persino giornalisti hanno creato video falsi convincenti di figure tra cui l’ex presidente degli Stati Uniti Barack Obama e il presidente russo Vladimir Putin. I pubblici ministeri della polizia e del governo potrebbero manipolare i video per far sembrare le persone accusate di essere degli avversari del governo come se avessero detto qualcosa di criminale.

In un caso un discorso pronunciato da Obama è stato “mappato” sulle immagini di Putin, facendo sembrare che fossero le sue parole.


AI can turn the Mona Lisa into a convincing real person – By Olivia Rudgard (Telegraph) 23 May 2019




AI can now turn the Mona Lisa into a real life person with just one picture.
A paper published by a Samsung artificial intelligence lab in Russia shows the ability to convincingly turn artworks and celebrity photographs into moving images. 
The technology raises the prospect of convincing “deep fakes”, videos showing politicians and even people who have died saying things they never said, created just with still images of their faces.
The paintings were animated using the facial expressions of a real person, while celebrity photographs of figures such as David Beckham were turned into video using footage of them speaking on a different occasion.   The researchers, based at the Samsung AI Center in Moscow, also performed the effect on images of Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein, using the moving facial features of other people which was then “mapped” onto their faces, a technique known as “puppeteering”. 
Other models have required a large set of images in order to create a fake video, but Samsung’s method can do it with just one, though the effect is more convincing if more images are used.
Mona Lisa Real
In the Mona Lisa example, a video published by the same team shows that the animated painting looks slightly different depending on the person used as the moving image source.  “We show that such an approach is able to learn highly realistic and personalized talking head models of new people and even portrait paintings,” the authors said. 
Concerns have been raised about the potential uses of such technology in the wrong hands, and the ability of the public to be able to distinguish between real videos and those which have been created in order to influence public perception of a politician.
Last year US lawmakers warned that such faked videos could be damaging to national security.  Researchers and even journalists have created convincing fake videos of figures including former US president Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.   Police and government prosecutors could manipulate video to make people accused of being government opponents look like they had said something criminal. 
In one case a speech given by Mr Obama was “mapped” onto images of Mr Putin, making it look like they were his words.

Venezia, Italia: Banksy buttato fuori da Piazza per vendere la sua arte senza licenza – di Caroline Goldstein (ArtnetNews) 22 maggio 2019


La settimana scorsa, quando la Biennale di Venezia ha aperto al pubblico, i media artistici sono stati mandati in subbuglio quando sono emerse notizie secondo le quali Banksy potrebbe essersi recato in città, lasciando dietro di sé un murale di un giovane bambino migrante in un giubbotto di salvataggio.

Ma sembra che tutti abbiamo perso la foresta per gli alberi.

(In inglese) 

Stamattina, il furtivo artista di strada ha pubblicato un video su Instagram di un gentiluomo non identificato che si è staccato da Piazza San Marco, dove sembrava che stesse cercando di vendere arte senza permesso. Il post era accompagnato da un commento tipicamente banskyiano: “Sto preparando la mia bancarella alla Biennale di Venezia. Nonostante sia l’evento più grande e prestigioso del mondo, per qualche motivo non sono mai stato invitato. ”



Il video si apre con un pastiche di musica tradizionale per fisarmonica e mostra all’uomo l’installazione di cavalletti e tele nel cuore di Venezia. Le tele, una volta affiancate, si incastrano come un puzzle, rivelando un’immagine più ampia di una nave da crociera bianca che gironzola nei canali veneziani, il tutto reclamizzato da un insignificante piccolo cartello che dice “Venezia in olio”.

La maggior parte delle persone nella clip sembrano sinceramente interessate al lavoro, tranne la polizia italiana che dice all’uomo che deve andarsene a meno che non abbia un permesso. Si impacchetta e il video si dissolve in nero con il suono dei clacson provenienti da una nave gigante in lontananza.

Venice, Italia: Banksy Thrown Out of Piazza for Selling His Art Without a License – by Caroline Goldstein (ArtnetNews) 22 May 2019




Last week, as the Venice Biennale opened to the public, the art media was sent into a tizzy when reports surfaced that Banksy may have made his way to the city, leaving behind a mural of a young migrant child in a life jacket.

But it looks like we all missed the forest for the trees.

(In English)


This morning, the surreptitious street artist posted a video on Instagram of an unidentified gentleman getting booted out of the city’s St. Mark’s Square, where it looked like he was trying to sell art without a permit. The post was accompanied by a typically Banskyian comment: “Setting out my stall at the Venice Biennale. Despite being the largest and most prestigious event in the world, for some reason I’ve never been invited.”


The video opens with a pastiche of traditional accordion music and shows the man setting up easels and canvases in the heart of Venice. The canvases, when placed side-by-side, fit together like a puzzle, revealing a larger image of a white cruise ship loitering in Venetian canals, all of it advertised by a cheeky little sign that says, “Venice in oil.”

Most of the people in the clip seem genuinely interested in the work—except for the Italian police who tell the man he needs to leave unless he has a permit. He packs up, and the video fades to black with the sound of fog horns coming from a giant ship in the distance.




‘The Grass is Always Greener In the Other Fellow’s Yard’ – A Milk Toast to Eisenhower – Everyday at Noon

Back Yard May 2019

I was looking out the back door at the waving little green plants in my backyard. I looked to the neighbor’s yard to the right, and to the yard to the left of my thirty-three feet wide yard. The grass in both yards had recently been cut. My plants are a variety of weeds and vines my daughter planted. I began to sing the song “The grass is always greener in the other fellow’s yard…”

The grass is always greener
In the other fellow’s yard.
The little row
We have to hoe,
Oh boy that’s hard.
But if we all could wear
Green glasses now,
It wouldn’t be so hard
To see how green the grass is
In our own back yard.

I turned from the door and went to the computer to look up the song. I found an entry on Wikipedia about the children’s television program host “Big Brother Bob Emery” who used to sing the song each day on the program I watched in the 1950’s.

I went to my bedroon to look up the song on Youtube. But then I recalled the story I had seen this morning about a musician who had three hundred songs on Youtube that he had composed and played himself. All of his work was challenged by someone who claimed to own the copyright to the music the man had composed and performed himself. So…I had a negaitve feeling about Youtube. I reached under a dresser where my iPad was charging and went to Spotify to see if I could find the song. There it was in various versions.
The song had come from some Broadway musical in the 1920’s when Big Brother Bob Emery was on radio in Massachusetts. He adopted the song as his theme.


Emory had grown up on a Massachusetts farm in the early 1900’s. He went to a farm school on Thompson’s Island in Boston Harbor. The man was on some of the earliest radio stations in Massachusetts. He had a children’s program on the radio at a time when most of the broadcasters had a children’s story program. A club was set up and many kids sent in membership applications during the 1920’s. Emory transitioned to television in the 1940’s.




I watched his program in the 1950’s. I remember drinking a glass of milk with Emory as he saluted a picture of the US President Eisenhower.

Eisenhower portrait
I felt like I was a part of something. I had something to do with the US president.  I can still taste the milk.  I remember my father saying that Eisenhower proved that the country could run without a president.  I didn’t understand at the time that my father was saying that Eisenhower was a ‘do nothing’ nonentity president.  I guess sometimes that’s what you need. 




Revolutionary Workers League Activist Loses Court Case Against ‘Judicial Watch’ Must Pay $22k Court Fees – 21 May 2019

Judge Orders Antifa Activist Yvette Felarca to Pay Judicial Watch Legal Fees for Her ‘Entirely Frivolous’ Lawsuit

MAY 21, 2019

(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced that a U.S. District Judge in California awarded Judicial Watch $22,000 in legal fees in a case filed by an Antifa organizer in an effort to block Judicial Watch from obtaining information about her activities.

Yvette Felarca, a middle school teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and two co-plaintiffs were ordered to pay Judicial Watch $22,000 in attorney’s fees and $4,000 in litigation costs. Felarca had sued the BUSD in federal court to keep the school district from fulfilling its legal obligation to provide Judicial Watch with records of their communications mentioning: Felarca, Antifa, and/or BAMN. Judicial Watch also asked for Felarca’s personnel file.

Yvette Felarca 1

Felarca is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that protests conservative speaking engagements. In 2016, Felarca and two of her allies were arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento. Earlier this year, Felarca was ordered to stand trial for assault.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, Northern District of California, who had previously ruled that Felarca’s lawsuit was “entirely frivolous,” wrote in his ruling awarding legal fees to Judicial Watch that Felarca and her co-plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims were “premised on the obviously baseless assumption” that the First Amendment condemns the speech of some while condoning the ideological missions of others.

Judge Chhabria added that “The plaintiffs also mischaracterized the documents under review” and that the plaintiffs “failed to grapple with the role Ms. Felarca played in making herself a topic of public discourse through her physical conduct at public rallies and her voluntary appearance on Fox News.”

Judge Chhabria’s order also states that “a significant portion of the documents the plaintiffs initially sued to protect from disclosure had been publicly disclosed months earlier in another suit brought by Ms. Felarca against BUSD, where she was represented by the same counsel. (See generally Felarca v. Berkeley Unified School District, No. 3:16-cv-06184-RS). The plaintiffs, therefore, had no reasonable argument to protect those documents from disclosure.”

Along with Felarca’s $20,000 payment, co-plaintiffs Lori Nixon and Larry Stefl were ordered by Judge Chhabria to pay Judicial Watch $1,000 each (Yvette Felarca, et al., v. Berekely Unified School District, et al. (No. 3:17-cv-06282-VC)).

“Judicial Watch is entitled to attorney’s fees because the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was frivolous, and their litigation conduct was unreasonable,” Judge Chhabria wrote in his order.

Additionally, Judge Chhabria’s order holds the plaintiffs “jointly and severally liable” to pay Judicial Watch $4,000 in litigation expenses.

In 2017, Judicial Watch filed a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request seeking public records information about Felarca’s Antifa activism and its effect within the Berkeley Unified School District. In her lawsuit aimed at keeping the Berkeley school district from furnishing the records, Felarca alleged that Judicial Watch was misusing the law for political means and the district should refuse to provide the information.

In January 2018, a separate judge ordered Felarca to pay more than $11,000 in attorney and court fees for her frivolous attempt to get a restraining order against Troy Worden, the former head of the University of California (UC) Berkeley College Republicans.

“This is a huge victory for Judicial Watch against Antifa and the violent left,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Ms. Felarca attacked Judicial Watch without basis and the court was right to reject her ploy to deny our ‘right to know’ because we don’t share her violent left views.”


Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us? – By Cal Newport (New Yorker) 18 May 2019

In the summer of 2016, I gave a talk at a small TEDx conference in northern Virginia. I began by admitting that I’ve never had a social-media account; I then outlined arguments for why other people should consider eliminating social media from their lives. The event organizers uploaded the video of my talk to YouTube, where it languished for a few months. Then, for unknowable reasons, it entered the viral slipstream. It was shared repeatedly on Facebook and Instagram and, eventually, viewed more than five million times. I was both pleased and chagrined by the irony of the fact that my anti-social-media talk had found such a large audience on social media.

I think of this episode as typical of the conflicted relationships many of us have with Facebook, Instagram, and other social-media platforms. On the one hand, we’ve grown wary of the so-called attention economy, which, in the name of corporate profits, exploits our psychological vulnerabilities in ways that corrode social life, diminish privacy, weaken civic cohesion, and make us vulnerable to manipulation. But we also benefit from social media and hesitate to disengage from it completely. Not long ago, I met a partner at a large law firm in Washington, D.C., who told me that she keeps Instagram on her phone because she misses her kids when she travels; browsing pictures of them makes her feel better. Meanwhile, because she also worries about her phone usage, she’s instituted a rule that requires her, before looking at Instagram, to read for at least thirty minutes. Last year, she read fifty-five books. Many of us have similar stories. Even as we dream of abandoning social media, we search for ways to redeem it.

In recent months, some of the biggest social-media companies have begun searching for this redemption, too. Facebook and Twitter, in particular, have promised various reforms. In March, Mark Zuckerberg announced a plan to move his platform toward private communication protected by end-to-end encryption; later that month, he proposed the establishment of a third-party group to set standards for acceptable content. Around the same time, Jack Dorsey brought one of Twitter’s head lawyers onto Joe Rogan’s podcast to better explain the platform’s evolving standards for banning users. Legislators are also getting involved. Elizabeth Warren shared a plan for breaking up tech giants like Facebook; others admire the European Union’s sweeping and byzantine General Data Protection Regulation, which deploys aggressive fines to coerce companies into better protecting user privacy.

All of these approaches assume that the reformation of social media will be an intricate, lengthy, and incremental process involving lawyers, Ph.D.s, and government experts. But not everyone sees it that way. Alongside these official responses, a loose collective of developers and techno-utopians that calls itself the IndieWeb has been creating another alternative. The movement’s affiliates are developing their own social-media platforms, which they say will preserve what’s good about social media while jettisoning what’s bad. They hope to rebuild social media according to principles that are less corporate and more humane.


Proponents of the IndieWeb offer a fairly straightforward analysis of our current social-media crisis. They frame it in terms of a single question: Who owns the servers? The bulk of our online activity takes places on servers owned by a small number of massive companies. Servers cost money to run. If you’re using a company’s servers without paying for the privilege, then that company must be finding other ways to “extract value” from you—and it’s that quest for large-scale value extraction, they argue, that leads directly to the crises of compromised privacy and engineered addictiveness with which we’re currently grappling.

In their view, freedom of expression is also affected by server ownership. When you confine your online activities to so-called walled-garden networks, you end up using interfaces that benefit the owners of those networks; on social media, this means that you are forced to choose among what the techno-philosopher Jaron Lanier has called “multiple-choice identities.” According to this way of thinking, sites like Facebook and Instagram encourage conformism because it makes your data easier to process and monetize. This creates the exhausting sense that you’re a worker in a data factory rather than a three-dimensional individual trying to express yourself and connect with other real people in an organic way online.

When the problem is framed this way, the solution promoted by the IndieWeb movement becomes obvious: own your own servers. On a smaller scale, this is an old idea. For the past twelve years, I’ve hosted my personal blog using a server that I lease in a Michigan data center; I’ve enjoyed knowing that I own what I post there and that no one is trying to monetize my data or exploit my attention. And yet, running a personal blog that you write yourself is quite different from running a social network. To create social platforms that work on servers owned by users rather than big corporations, the IndieWeb developers have had to solve a tricky technical problem: decentralization.

In 2017, Manton Reece, an IndieWeb developer based in Austin, Texas, launched a Kickstarter for a service called Micro.blog. On its surface, Micro.blog looks a lot like Twitter or Instagram; you can follow users and see their posts sorted into a time line, and, if you like a post, you can send a reply that everyone can see. When I checked Micro.blog’s public time line recently, the top post was a picture of a blooming dogwood tree, with the caption “Spring is coming!”

Even as it offers a familiar interface, though, everyone posting to Micro.blog does so on his or her own domain hosted on Micro.blog’s server or on their own personal server. Reece’s software acts as an aggregator, facilitating a sense of community and gathering users’ content so that it can be seen on a single screen. Users own what they write and can do whatever they want with it—including post it, simultaneously, to other competing aggregators. IndieWeb developers argue that this system—which they call POSSE, for “publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere”—encourages competition and innovation while allowing users to vote with their feet. If Reece were to begin aggressively harvesting user data, or if another service were to start offering richer features, users could shift their attention from one aggregator to another with little effort. They wouldn’t be trapped on a platform that owns everything they’ve written and is doing everything it can to exploit their data and attention.

Mastodon, another popular IndieWeb service, exists in the middle ground between centralized and decentralized social media. Founded, in 2016, by a young programmer named Eugen Rochko, Mastodon offers an experience similar to the one available on existing social-media platforms: after setting up an account on a Mastodon server—called an “instance”—one can post and browse text and images presented in a chronological time line. What distinguishes Mastodon is that anyone can download the software and begin running their own instance. When you set up an account with Mastodon, you do so on a specific instance that becomes your home; you see the posts of others users on your home instance, and they see yours. Together, the independent instances make up a “federation.” A “federation protocol” allows independent instances to talk with each other, so that a user with an account on infosec.exchange, say—“a Mastodon instance for info/cyber-security-minded people”—can follow updates from a user on queer.party. Most Mastodon users, however, tend to focus their online interactions on a small number of instances representing communities to which they feel a strong connection.

Each Mastodon instance can set its own rules about formats, acceptable speech, privacy, and other issues. The rules of the infosec.exchange instance, for example, emphasize civility (“don’t be a jerk”), while the queer.party instance allows not-safe-for-work content. As Rochko explains on his Patreon page, this model aims to return “control of the content distribution channels to the people.”

Because most Mastodon instances are small—typically, each numbers a couple of thousand users—and crowdfunded by their members, they feel different from mass social media, with an enticing free-form energy reminiscent of the Internet’s early days. The contrast between this atmosphere and the one found on existing social networks is striking. Thanks to its cavernous scale and the dynamics of retweet-driven virality, Twitter has devolved into a place where users seem desperate for attention, shouting at influencers and competing to see whose snark is most cutting. Mastodon, at least for now, is a human-scale environment in which users are happy to chat about quirky things with other quirky people. Recently, when I logged into the Mastodon instance sunbeam.city—a “Libertarian Socialist solarpunk instance”—I found a photo of someone’s blooming spider plant next to a conversation about the consequences of ethical transparency in hierarchical systems. It struck me as the quintessential early-Internet experience.


Could the IndieWeb movement—or a streamlined, user-friendly version of it to come—succeed in redeeming the promise of social media? If we itemize the woes currently afflicting the major platforms, there’s a strong case to be made that the IndieWeb avoids them. When social-media servers aren’t controlled by a small number of massive public companies, the incentive to exploit users diminishes. The homegrown, community-oriented feel of the IndieWeb is superior to the vibe of anxious narcissism that’s degrading existing services. And, in a sense, decentralization also helps solve the problem of content moderation. One reason Mark Zuckerberg has called for the establishment of a third-party moderation organization is, presumably, that he’s realized how difficult it is to come up with a single set of guidelines capable of satisfying over a billion users; the IndieWeb would allow many different standards to emerge, trusting users to gravitate toward the ones that work for them. Decentralization still provides corners in which dark ideas can fester, but knowing that there’s a neo-Nazi Mastodon instance out there somewhere may be preferable to encountering neo-Nazis in your Twitter mentions. The Internet may work better when it’s spread out, as originally designed.

Despite its advantages, however, I suspect that the IndieWeb will not succeed in replacing existing social-media platforms at their current scale. For one thing, the IndieWeb lacks the carefully engineered addictiveness that helped fuel the rise of services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This addictiveness has kept people returning to their devices even when they know there are better uses for their time; remove the addiction, and you might lose the users.

It may be, too, that people who are uneasy about social media aren’t looking for a better version of it but are instead ready to permanently reduce the role that smartphone screens play in their lives. Many of those who flocked to social media out of a sense of exuberance or experimentation are now losing interest. Some are people my age, who signed up for services like Facebook in college but now have families and responsibilities in their real-world communities and find the obligation to like posts or comment on photos increasingly superfluous. Others are older people who tried social media later in life, when it seemed like the thing to do, but now doubt that it’s worth the effort. Increasing numbers of teen-agers are rejecting the ceaseless pressure for digital performance; in March, Edison Research released a report claiming that young people made up the largest share of the fifteen million users Facebook has lost since 2017. To be sixteen and offline has become countercultural.

At the end of my TEDx talk, I note that people often ask me what life is like without social media. By way of an answer, I project a photograph of a bench overlooking a quiet pastoral landscape. As a technology enthusiast, I’m a believer in the IndieWeb movement and think it will play an important role in the future of the Internet. For the exhausted majority of social-media users, however, the appeal of the proverbial quiet bench might outweigh the lure of a better Facebook. In this vision of the future, there will be many more social-media platforms but far fewer people spending significant time on any of them. Social media has reshaped our culture, and this has convinced us that it is fundamentally appealing. Strip away its most manipulative elements, though, and we may find that it’s less rewarding than it seems.


Trump Is Making the Same US Mistake in the Middle East Yet Again – by Patrick Cockburn (Independent) 17 May 2019

In its escalating confrontation with Iran, the US is making the same mistake it has made again and again since the fall of the Shah 40 years ago: it is ignoring the danger of plugging into what is in large part a religious conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

I have spent much of my career as a correspondent in the Middle East, since the Iranian revolution in 1979, reporting crises and wars in which the US and its allies fatally underestimated the religious motivation of their adversaries. This has meant they have come out the loser, or simply failed to win, in conflicts in which the balance of forces appeared to them to be very much in their favour.

It has happened at least four times. It occurred in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of 1982, when the turning point was the blowing up of the US Marine barracks in Beirut the following year, in which 241 US military personnel were killed. In the eight-year Iran-Iraq war during 1980-88, the west and the Sunni states of the region backed Saddam Hussein, but it ended in a stalemate. After 2003, the US-British attempt to turn post-Saddam Iraq into an anti-Iranian bastion spectacularly foundered. Similarly, after 2011, the west and states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey tried in vain to get rid of Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria – the one Arab state firmly in the Iranian camp.

Now the same process is under way yet again, and likely to fail for the same reasons as before: the US, along with its local allies, will be fighting not only Iran but whole Shia communities in different countries, mostly in the northern tier of the Middle East between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean.

Donald Trump looks to sanctions to squeeze Iran while national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo promote war as a desirable option. But all three denounce Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Popular Mobilisation Units in Iraq as Iranian proxies, though they are primarily the military and political arm of the indigenous Shia, which are a plurality in Lebanon, a majority in Iraq and a controlling minority in Syria. The Iranians may be able to strongly influence these groups, but they are not Iranian puppets which would wither and disappear once Iranian backing is removed.

Allegiance to nation states in the Middle East is generally weaker than loyalty to communities defined by religion, such the Alawites, the two-million-strong ruling Shia sect in Syria to which Bashar al-Assad and his closest lieutenants belong. People will fight and die to defend their religious identity but not necessarily for the nationality printed on their passports.

When the militarised Islamist cult Isis defeated the Iraqi national army by capturing Mosul in 2014, it was a fatwa from the Shia Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that sent tens of thousands of volunteers rushing to defend Baghdad. Earlier in the fighting in Homs and Damascus in Syria, it was the non-Sunni districts that were the strongpoints of the regime. For example, the opposition were eager to take the strategically important airport road in the capital, but were held back by a district defended by Druze and Christian militiamen.

This is not what Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel want Washington to believe; for them, the Shia are all Iranian stooges. For the Saudis, every rocket fired by the Houthis in Yemen into Saudi Arabia – though minimal in destructive power compared to the four-year Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen –can only have happened because of a direct instruction from Tehran.

On Thursday, for instance, Prince Khalid Bin Salman, the vice minister for defence and the brother of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, claimed on Twitter that drone attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations, were “ordered” by Iran. He said that “the terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis, are tightening the noose around the ongoing political efforts”. He added: “These militias are merely a tool that Iran’s regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda in the region.”

There is nothing new in this paranoid reaction by Sunni rulers to actions by distinct Shia communities (in this case the Houthis) attributing everything without exception to the guiding hand of Iran. I was in Bahrain in 2011 where the minority Sunni monarchy had just brutally crushed protests by the Shia majority with Saudi military support. Among those tortured were Shia doctors in a hospital who had treated injured demonstrators. Part of the evidence against them was a piece of technologically advanced medical equipment – I cannot remember if it was used for monitoring the heart or the brain or some other condition – which the doctors were accused of using to receive instructions from Iran about how to promote a revolution.

This type of absurd conspiracy theory used not to get much of hearing in Washington, but Trump and his acolytes are on record on as saying that nearly all acts of “terrorism” can be traced to Iran. This conviction risks sparking a war between the US and Iran because there are plenty of angry Shia in the Middle East who might well attack some US facility on their own accord.

It might also lead to somebody in one of those states eager for a US-Iran armed conflict – Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel come to mind – that staging a provocative incident that could be blamed on Iran might be in their interests.

But what would such a war achieve? The military invasion of Iran is not militarily or politically feasible so there would be no decisive victory. An air campaign and a close naval blockade of Iran might be possible, but there are plenty of pressure points through which Iran could retaliate, from mines in the Strait of Hormuz to rockets fired at the Saudi oil facilities on the western side of Gulf.

A little-noticed feature of the US denunciations of Iranian interference using local proxies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is not just that they are exaggerated but, even if they were true, they come far too late. Iran is already on the winning side in all three countries.

If war does come it will be hard fought. Shia communities throughout the region will feel under threat. As for the US, the first day is usually the best for whoever starts a war in the Middle East and after that their plans unravel as they become entangled in a spider’s web of dangers they failed to foresee.


(Republished from The Independent)

Australia: Upper Class Green Elitists Can’t Imagine a World Where They Lose Elections – Shocked by Cruel Reality When They Are Outvoted – by David Catron (American Spectator) 20 May 2019

What the Dems Can Learn From Down Under
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Sky News/YouTube screenshot)

Imagine an election in which one party promises to save the planet and the opposing party pledges to save your job. Which is more likely to get your vote? For most people, those who support families and coach T-Ball on weekends, the answer will not require a lot of soul searching. You may have, for various social reasons, told some pollster that the “Save the Earth” party has your support. But it’s a lot easier to focus on the environment if one can count on a steady income. Consequently, in the end, you’ll vote for the “Paycheck Party.”

This shouldn’t require enormous prescience to predict, yet it consistently surprises the pollsters. The latest election in which they managed to miss the blindingly obvious just took place Down Under between the Labor Party and the conservative Liberal-National coalition. Like Brexit and the 2016 presidential election in the United States, it was a whiff for the pollsters. Labor — which ran on combating climate change, clamping down on fossil fuels, and raising taxes — was the universal favorite. Just before the vote, the Washington Post gleefully reported:

Opinion polls and betting markets predict Australia’s Labor Party, under the leadership of 52-year-old former union head Bill Shorten, will handily defeat the Liberal-National party coalition that has governed the country for five-and-a-half tumultuous years.… The Labor Party wants Australia to generate half its electricity from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2030, a huge shift for a nation with the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves and the eighth-biggest natural gas industry.

Indeed, the Post went on to predict that a Labor victory in Australia “could provide a morale shot for U.S. Democrats and other left-of-center parties around the world, including the British Labor Party.” The election didn’t boost lefty morale very much, however. The New York Times despondently reported the “unexpected” election results: “It Was Supposed to Be Australia’s Climate Change Election. What Happened?” Even less happy than the editors of the Times were the bookmakers whose confidence in a Labor win was such that they paid off early:

If you think [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison is happy after Saturday’s stunning election victory, consider the punters who walked away with a total of $1.3 million despite backing the wrong team. Sportsbet was so confident in Labor’s chances, as were many pundits, punters and pollsters, it paid out all early bets on Bill Shorten’s team two days before Australians went to the polls.… A Sportsbet statement on Thursday declared punters considered the federal election “run and won.”

So, once again, the obvious question is: “What happened?” Combined with the epic fails associated with Brexit and Trump’s 2016 presidential victory, both of which seriously damaged the credibility of the pollsters, this leaves no way to escape the reality that something is seriously amiss among the “experts.” Getting it wrong is beginning to become a habit with pollsters. Even worse, they seem to always err in the same ideological direction. This pattern shouldn’t be consistently present in a country like Australia, which imposes compulsory voting.

In a country like ours, where voting is voluntary and turnout fluctuates significantly, it’s all too easy to create a polling model that includes inaccurate assumptions. And, for a survey to be statistically valid, it must be based on a random sample. This presents real challenges in a nation whose turnout in presidential elections tends to be about 60 percent of eligible voters. But this shouldn’t present an issue where voting is compulsory. Yet election analyst Kevin Bonham told SBS News that the consistency of Australia’s recent polls is “suspicious”:

It’s like one poll can be three per cent out and that’s what you would sort of expect now and then by random chance. But all the polls being out by that amount in the same direction and getting all the same results is something that absolutely cannot happen by random chance.… It’s absolutely proof of a systematic issue.… If they are doing true random sampling independent of each other, there is no way that they would all get results so close to each other at the same time.

Hilariously, some of the excuses that have been offered are not merely inconsistent with compulsory voting, but suspiciously reminiscent of those made by left-leaning statisticians in the U.S. Some “experts” suggest that the Australian samples contained too many educated people. Sound familiar? As with Brexit and the Trump election, the idea is that “smart” people are over-represented, so naturally they skewed the poll in the “smart” direction. This is what University of Melbourne statistician Adrian Beaumont suggests in The Conversation.

Beaumont claims, without evidence, that educated people are “probably” more likely to respond to surveys. Likewise, he avers that Morrison had a “much better connection to those with a lower degree of educational attainment” than did the leader of the Labor Party. He also fails to provide any objective data to support this assertion. A far more plausible explanation is provided in the Wall Street Journal by Tom Switzer, the Directorof the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney. It involves a species of voter similar to the “shy Trump” supporter:

Shy voters now shape Australian politics. During the past three years, television and social-media outlets created a climate of opinion in which it was politically incorrect to oppose identity politics, high taxes, wealth redistribution and costly climate-mitigation policies. In the privacy of the voting booth, “quiet Australians,” as Mr. Morrison calls them, decided that their interests lay in a low-tax and resource-rich market economy.

The possibility that the Australian election would produce a victory for the Liberal-National coalition was missed by the pollsters and the Western media for the same reason they never imagined Trump would win. They don’t understand that, given a choice between expensive utopian schemes and creating an economy that will permit them to provide for their families, most people (including Aussies) will vote for the latter. There’s a message here for the Democrats, if they will listen. If they don’t, they will regret it next year on Election Day.


US Democrat ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ Just Led the Country on a Three Year-Long Wild Goose Chase – by Mike Whitney • 15 May 2019

Trump inmpeach

For the last two and a half years, the Democrats have led the country on a wild goose chase that has been a complete waste of time and achieved absolutely nothing. The absurd conspiracy theory that the President of the United States was an agent of the Kremlin has been thoroughly debunked by the Mueller Report which states that there was neither “coordination” nor “conspiracy with the Trump campaign and Russia.” Even so, congressional Democrats– still determined to destroy Trump by whatever means possible– have switched from the “collusion” allegations to vicious attacks on Attorney General William Barr and demands for Trump’s tax returns.

The ease with which the Dems have shifted from their ridiculous claims that Trump was “Putin’s stooge” to this new round of vitriolic accusations and mud-slinging, shows that party leaders have not only lost touch with reality, but also, that they have no interest in governing the country. The Democratic party in its current form, is less a political organization than it is a permanent inquisition led by duplicitous vipers (Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Jerry Nadler) who feel entitled to use the Justice System to pursue their own petty political vendetta against a Beltway outsider who had the audacity to win the 2016 presidential election and whose views on foreign policy do not jibe with those of their elite paymasters.

The damage the Democrats (and their allies in the FBI and media) have done to the country is incalculable, but even worse, is the damage they’ve done to their own party. By focusing exclusively on Donald Trump and the fictitious Russian boogieman, the Democrats have betrayed the trust of the people who supported their respective campaigns with the implicit understanding that they would work for the progressive reforms that improve the lives of ordinary working people and not behave like hectoring, obstructionist crybabies who refuse to respect the outcome of elections if the winner is not to their liking. These are the people who have been hurt most by the Russiagate fiasco, the people who thought their Democratic candidates actually wanted to run the country, but soon discovered that those same representatives would rather spend all of their time chasing Russian ghosts down a rabbit hole.

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Andrew McCarthy that helps to explain what the Russia probe was really all about:

“Russiagate has always been a political narrative masquerading as a federal investigation. Its objective, plain and simple, has been twofold: first, to hamstring Donald Trump’s capacity to press the agenda on which he ran….and ultimately, to render him unelectable come autumn 2020….

The Russia counterintelligence probe, based on the fraudulent projection of a Trump-Putin conspiracy, was always a pretext to conduct a criminal investigation despite the absence of a predicate crime. The criminal investigation, in turn, was always a pretext for congressional impeachment chatter. And the congressional impeachment chatter is a pretext for the real agenda: Making Trump an ineffective president now, and an un-reelectable president 18 months from now.

They try to make it look like law. It has always been politics.” (“Russiagate: Law in the Service of Partisan Politics”, Andrew McCarthy, National Review)

Indeed, Russiagate “has always been politics”, but the quality of our politics has deteriorated significantly in the last few years, a point that’s worth mulling over for a minute or two. For nearly three years we’ve seen one party rip up the rulebook and engage in a full-blown, scorched earth, no-holds-barred blitzkrieg on the president of the United States. At no time has there been any effort to discuss issues, ideals, policies, or competing visions of the future. Instead, every ounce of energy has been devoted to inflicting maximum damage on the man who, many Democrats think, is deserving of whatever horrendous reprisal they direct at him.

The Democrats have made no secret of their hatred for Trump or their desire to drive him from office. They have openly supported the dirty tricks, the hyper-ventilating headlines, and the relentless smear campaigns that have been aimed at him from Day 1. Through Russiagate, the Dems have tried to frame Trump as a backstabbing traitor who sold out his country to a foreign power, but now that Mueller has proved that Trump was falsely accused, the Dems have deftly switched to another line of attack altogether. This isn’t how sincere liberals fight to implement a plan for progressive change. This is how unprincipled mercenaries pursue the politics of personal destruction. There’s a big difference.

This isn’t about Trump. Trump could be the worst president in history, and it still wouldn’t excuse the contemptible way he’s been treated. Is it ever acceptable to spy on a presidential campaign, to insert confidential informants who try to entrap campaign assistants to gather information that can be used to intimidate, blackmail or impeach the president? Is it ever acceptable to leak classified information to the media as part of a malignant scheme to destroy a candidate’s reputation? Is it ever acceptable to enlist senior-level officials at the FBI, CIA and NSA to prevent a candidate from being elected or to engage in a stealth campaign of slanders, smears and innuendo that cast a shadow over the legitimacy of the government?

No, it’s not acceptable. Never.

What we’ve seen in the last few years is not only unacceptable, it’s also degraded our politics and divided the country into rival camps. We’ve come to expect that every morning will bring some new crisis centered on Trump’s latest tweet followed by hours of incendiary coverage on the cable news channels, all aimed at throwing more gas on the raging fire that’s engulfed the country. And, of course, no one scandal has consumed more time or been more inflammatory than the Russia probe. Here’s how The Nation’s Stephen Cohen sums it up in a recent article:

“Now in its third year, Russiagate is the worst, most corrosive, and most fraudulent political scandal in modern American history. … these Russiagate allegations… continue to inflict grave damage on fundamental institutions of American democracy. They impugn the integrity of the presidency and now the office of the attorney general. They degrade the many Democratic members of Congress who persist in clinging to the allegations and thus the Democratic Party and Congress. And they have enticed mainstream media into one of the worst episodes of journalistic malpractice in modern times.

Russiagate’s unproven allegations are an aggressive malignancy spreading through America’s politics to the most vital areas of national security policy.” (“Russiagate Zealotry Continues To Endanger Western National Security”, Stephen Cohen, The Nation)

Cohen’s piece cuts to the heart of the matter. Russiagate has not only undermined our “fundamental institutions”, it has also impacted our “national security.” But I would argue that the damage caused by the Trump-Russia investigation is even greater than Cohen describes, mainly because Russiagate has shed light on the cozy relationship between the Democratic party, the Intelligence Agencies, the FBI and the media. These are the institutions that have waged war on Trump from the very beginning. Their relentless, but coordinated attacks on the president strongly suggest that there may be an alliance between the various groups of which the American people are completely unaware. This suspicion seems at least partially substantiated by an article that appeared in the World Socialist Web Site titled “The CIA Democrats”. Here’s an excerpt:

“An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history.

If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress. They will hold the balance of power in the lower chamber of Congress.” (“The CIA Democrats”, Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web Site)

Would anyone be surprised to find out that the CIA was taking a more activist role in domestic politics; that it’s actually grooming its own candidates for elections, that it’s strengthening its influence in the media and its ties with one of the main political parties, all in an effort to better control electoral outcomes and tighten its grip on power?

No, no one would be surprised at all. And although we don’t yet know all the details, there are signs that the Intel agencies, the FBI, the media and high-ranking Democrats may have been working secretively for the same objectives, to either sabotage the 2016 presidential election or gather incriminating information on Trump that could be used at some later date. All of this coordinated activity hints at the emergence of a one-party political system that is guided by agents and elites who the American people don’t know and never voted for.

In any event, we’re going to find out alot more about these illicit connections as the Justice Department’s three separate probes gain pace and reveal how “the FBI used one party’s ‘opposition research’ as the basis to get a warrant from a secret court to spy on the other party’s campaign.” That is the crux of the matter. That’s the question that will throw open the curtains and shed light on the suspicious ties between the DNC, the CIA, the FBI and the media, all of who may have been directly involved in the dodgy plan to depose the president of the United States.

Michelangelo’s ‘first ever’ work of art discovered which was drawn when he was a young boy – By Rachel O’Donoghue (Independent) 20 May 2019

THE earliest-known work of art created by Michelangelo when the Italian artist was just 12 years old has been discovered.
Michelangelo first ever work of art

EARLIEST: The sketch is said to be the earliest ever work by the legendary artist (Pic: NC)

The sketch, which depicts a robed man in a chair, was identified by leading Italian Renaissance scholar Timothy Clifford.
Clifford believes the legendary artist, who painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling and carved the statue of David in marble, created the work when he was just a young child.
Describing it as “the earliest drawing efforts of a youth who would one day emerge as one of the most remarkable artists that has ever lived,” Sir Clifford thinks it dates from around 1487.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “It’s the earliest-known Michelangelo drawing by a year, maybe two, than anything else we know. So it is particularly fascinating.
“He uses two different varieties of brown ink.
“He has an idiosyncratic way of drawing, with rounded chins and a very hard line under the nose, which also appears in a slightly later drawing.  No other (Domenico) Ghirlandaio pupil draws like that. It’s an extraordinarily interesting object because Michelangelo’s very young indeed.”
It is considered to be all the more remarkable because the Italian artist was known to destroy drawings after finishing them.  This includes a huge number that he burned shortly before his death.  Michelangelo’s 16th-century biographer, Vasari, once wrote: “Just before his death, [Michelangelo] burned a large number of his own drawings, sketches and cartoons to prevent anyone from seeing the labours he endured or the ways he tested his genius, for fear that he might seem less than perfect.
“The way Michelangelo’s talents and character developed astonished Domenico [his teacher], who saw him doing things quite out of the ordinary for boys of his age and not only surpassing his many other pupils, but also very often rivalling the achievements of the master himself.”  The Seated Man sketch was bought by an anonymous British collected in 1989 at a French auction.  At the time, its artist was unidentified.

Why every cyclist needs a pool noodle Annalisa van den Bergh By Annalisa van den Bergh(Quartz) 17 May 2019

bike noodle 1

It’s late March and my friend Erik and I are on the first leg of our 2,000-mile bicycle trip from Los Angeles to Denver. After sweating my way up a hill in Southern California, I bask in a glorious downhill. To protect myself from stumbling off the edge and make myself more visible to cars, I do what I normally do on long, steep downhills: take up the full lane. Through my eyeglass-mounted mirror, I watch cars inevitably pile up behind me. When the terrain flattens out and I move back to the shoulder, a stream of cars pass me.

A woman in one of the passing cars rolls down the window, and instead of the typical words of encouragement, her shriek nearly scares me off my bike as she yells at the top of her lungs, “SELFISH BITCH!”

The hard truth is that bicycles are still largely seen as a nuisance on the road. We’re on the margins—literally. Cyclists are reminded of this every time we get skimmed by a car. According to the World Health Organization, over half of international traffic deaths involve vulnerable road users such as cyclists. And because Americans are among the least avid cyclists in the world, they’re among the most likely to get killed by a car.

But I’ve discovered a life-saving device that allows cyclists to protect themselves and take back the road: the pool noodle.

Find one for about $2 anywhere: dollar stores, shopping malls, even the supermarket. Choose from the array of fun colors and use a bungee cord to strap this light, flexible toy to your bike rack so that it sticks out to the left side (or the right side, if you’re in a country where cars drive on the left). Start pedaling and watch as car after car moves over to the other lane.

Erik Douds

The pool noodle may look silly, but since strapping it on our loads, it has made our lives safer every day. (Plus, it’s a fun conversation starter at pitstops, and it also reminds us not to take life too seriously.) On roads with zero road shoulder, the pool noodle becomes our shoulder. It makes us more visible to passing cars and the 18-wheelers that used to skim us constantly.

The pool noodle is also a tool for advocacy. To every other vehicle on the road, that $2 piece of foam visualizes what the minimum three feet of safe passing distance looks like that is our legal right in more than 30 states in the US. As more urban dwellers take up cycling, think of the attention we can bring to sharing the road if we all strapped a pool noodle to the back of our bicycles.

Of course, the pool noodle is not a substitute for the helmet. While the helmet protects your head just in case you fall, the pool noodle lowers the chances of that potential accident being caused by a car—and a lot of calamities happen sans car. (Personally, my helmet has saved my life twice: in 2008 when my friend, who had been drafting behind me, ran her bicycle over my head, and in 2011, when I got a concussion on a gravely bike path.) While studies have shown that helmetless cyclists are given slightly more room on the road, the pool noodle guarantees that most cars will not only move over, but often move over to the other lane.

Annalisa van den Bergh

In this way, the noodle is powerful. Upon approaching my riding partner from miles away, his neon green noodle is the first thing I see. It has even calmed my Dutch father’s concern over my safety on the road in the US. (And as people in the Netherlands cycle more than any other country—a whopping 1,000km (621 miles) a year by some estimates—his worry worried me.) After visiting me in Tucson and seeing my noodle from behind the wheel of his rented car, he says he now sleeps easier at night.

All in all, the pool noodle gives cyclists more of a presence on the streets. For the first time, I don’t feel obliged to ride the balance beam that is the strip of asphalt between the rumble strip and the edge of the road. Although we can’t say that the noodle eliminates road rage, we can say that every time a naysayer hollers at us now, at least they’re doing so from a safe distance.

Sidewalk Chalk Homage to da Vinci – On the street, near the gutter – 18 May 2019

Street Art 002

500 years … and his works are on my desk, on my table, copied, admired, puzzled out… Leonardo Sketch

This sketch is thought to be a sketch Leo made of himself.  Perhaps the rain will erase my hastily drawn copy and I can try again.  But every copy I make is a kind of attention to the work that Leo did all those years ago.  No one really dies until the last person stops thinks about them for the last time… So… Leonardo da Vinci is still alive… in my brain.  And on the street in front of my house.



I have “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” in two volumes I bought in college. 

I Was America’s First ‘Nonbinary’ Person. It Was All a Sham. – by Jamie Shupe – 11 March 2019

No binary 3

Four years ago, I wrote about my decision to live as a woman in The New York Times, writing that I had wanted to live “authentically as the woman that I have always been,” and had “effectively traded my white male privilege to become one of America’s most hated minorities.”

Three years ago, I decided that I was neither male nor female, but nonbinary—and made headlines after an Oregon judge agreed to let me identify as a third sex, not male or female.

Now, I want to live again as the man that I am.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Despite participating in medical transgenderism for six years, my body is still intact. Most people who desist from transgender identities after gender changes can’t say the same.

But that’s not to say I got off scot-free. My psyche is eternally scarred, and I’ve got a host of health issues from the grand medical experiment.

Here’s how things began.

After convincing myself that I was a woman during a severe mental health crisis, I visited a licensed nurse practitioner in early 2013 and asked for a hormone prescription. “If you don’t give me the drugs, I’ll buy them off the internet,” I threatened.

Although she’d never met me before, the nurse phoned in a prescription for 2 mg of oral estrogen and 200 mg of Spironolactone that very same day.

The nurse practitioner ignored that I have chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, having previously served in the military for almost 18 years. All of my doctors agree on that. Others believe that I have bipolar disorder and possibly borderline personality disorder.

I should have been stopped, but out-of-control, transgender activism had made the nurse practitioner too scared to say no.


Jamie Shupe identifying as a transgender woman in May 2015. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

I’d learned how to become a female from online medical documents at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital website.

After I began consuming the cross-sex hormones, I started therapy at a gender clinic in Pittsburgh so that I could get people to sign off on the transgender surgeries I planned to have.

All I needed to do was switch over my hormone operating fuel and get my penis turned into a vagina. Then I’d be the same as any other woman. That’s the fantasy the transgender community sold me. It’s the lie I bought into and believed.

Only one therapist tried to stop me from crawling into this smoking rabbit hole. When she did, I not only fired her, I filed a formal complaint against her. “She’s a gatekeeper,” the trans community said.

Professional stigmatisms against “conversion therapy” had made it impossible for the therapist to question my motives for wanting to change my sex.

The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (Fifth Edition) says one of the traits of gender dysphoria is believing that you possess the stereotypical feelings of the opposite sex. I felt that about myself, but yet no therapist discussed it with me.

Two weeks hadn’t passed before I found a replacement therapist. The new one quickly affirmed my identity as a woman. I was back on the road to getting vaginoplasty.

There’s abundant online literature informing transgender people that their sex change isn’t real. But when a licensed medical doctor writes you a letter essentially stating that you were born in the wrong body and a government agency or court of law validates that delusion, you become damaged and confused. I certainly did.

Painful Roots

My trauma history resembles a ride down the Highway of Death during the first Gulf War.

As a child, I was sexually abused by a male relative. My parents severely beat me. At this point, I’ve been exposed to so much violence and had so many close calls that I don’t know how to explain why I’m still alive. Nor do I know how to mentally process some of the things I’ve seen and experienced.


Jamie Shupe as a preteen. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

Dr. Ray Blanchard has an unpopular theory that explains why someone like me may have been drawn to transgenderism. He claims there are two types of transgender women: homosexuals that are attracted to men, and men who are attracted to the thought or image of themselves as females.

It’s a tough thing to admit, but I belong to the latter group. We are classified as having autogynephilia.

After having watched pornography for years while in the Army and being married to a woman who resisted my demands to become the ideal female, I became that female instead. At least in my head.


Jamie Shupe as a soldier at Fort Hood. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

While autogynephilia was my motivation to become a woman, gender stereotypes were my means of implementation. I believed wearing a long wig, dresses, heels, and makeup would make me a woman.

Feminists begged to differ on that. They rejected me for conforming to female stereotypes. But as a new member of the transgender community, I beat up on them too. The women who become men don’t fight the transgender community’s wars. The men in dresses do.

Medical Malpractice

The best thing that could have happened would have been for someone to order intensive therapy. That would have protected me from my inclination to cross-dress and my risky sexual transgressions, of which there were many.

Instead, quacks in the medical community hid me in the women’s bathroom with people’s wives and daughters. “Your gender identity is female,” these alleged professionals said.

The medical community is so afraid of the trans community that they’re now afraid to give someone Blanchard’s diagnosis. Trans men are winning in medicine, and they’ve won the battle for language.

Think of the word “transvestite.” They’ve succeeded in making it a vulgar word, even though it just means men dressing like women. People are no longer allowed to tell the truth about men like me. Everyone now has to call us transgender instead.


Jamie Shupe on hormone replacement therapy in November 2018. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

The diagnostic code in my records at the VA should read Transvestic Disorder (302.3). Instead, the novel theories of Judith Butler and Anne Fausto-Sterling have been used to cover up the truths written about by Blanchard, J. Michael Bailey, and Alice Dreger.

I confess to having been motivated by autogynephilia during all of this. Blanchard was right.

Trauma, hypersexuality owing to childhood sexual abuse, and autogynephilia are all supposed to be red flags for those involved in the medical arts of psychology, psychiatry, and physical medicine—yet nobody except for the one therapist in Pittsburgh ever tried to stop me from changing my sex. They just kept helping me to harm myself.

Escaping to ‘Nonbinary’

Three years into my gender change from male to female, I looked hard into the mirror one day. When I did, the facade of femininity and womanhood crumbled.

Despite having taken or been injected with every hormone and antiandrogen concoction in the VA’s medical arsenal, I didn’t look anything like a female. People on the street agreed. Their harsh stares reflected the reality behind my fraudulent existence as a woman. Biological sex is immutable.

It took three years for that reality to set in with me.


Jamie Shupe identifying as nonbinary in October 2018. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

When the fantasy of being a woman came to an end, I asked two of my doctors to allow me to become nonbinary instead of female to bail me out. Both readily agreed.

After pumping me full of hormones—the equivalent of 20 birth control pills per day—they each wrote a sex change letter. The two weren’t just bailing me out. They were getting themselves off the hook for my failed sex change. One worked at the VA. The other worked at Oregon Health & Science University.

To escape the delusion of having become a woman, I did something completely unprecedented in American history. In 2016, I convinced an Oregon judge to declare my sex to be nonbinary—neither male nor female.

In my psychotic mind, I had restored the mythical third sex to North America. And I became the first legally recognized nonbinary person in the country.

Celebrity Status

The landmark court decision catapulted me to instant fame within the LGBT community. For 10 nonstop days afterward, the media didn’t let me sleep. Reporters hung out in my Facebook feed, journalists clung to my every word, and a Portland television station beamed my wife and I into living rooms in the United Kingdom.

Becoming a woman had gotten me into The New York Times. Convincing a judge that my sex was nonbinary got my photos and story into publications around the world.

Then, before the judge’s ink had even dried on my Oregon sex change court order, a Washington, D.C.-based LGBT legal aid organization contacted me. “We want to help you change your birth certificate,” they offered.

Within months, I scored another historic win after the Department of Vital Records issued me a brand new birth certificate from Washington, D.C., where I was born. A local group called Whitman-Walker Health had gotten my sex designation on my birth certificate switched to “unknown.” It was the first time in D.C. history a birth certificate had been printed with a sex marker other than male or female.


Jamie Shupe identifiying as nonbinary in June 2016. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

Another transgender legal aid organization jumped on the Jamie Shupe bandwagon, too. Lambda Legal used my nonbinary court order to help convince a Colorado federal judge to order the State Department to issue a passport with an X marker (meaning nonbinary) to a separate plaintiff named Dana Zzyym.

LGBT organizations helping me to screw up my life had become a common theme. During my prior sex change to female, the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund had gotten my name legally changed. I didn’t like being named after the uncle who’d molested me. Instead of getting me therapy for that, they got me a new name.

A Pennsylvania judge didn’t question the name change, either. Wanting to help a transgender person, she had not only changed my name, but at my request she also sealed the court order, allowing me to skip out on a ton of debt I owed because of a failed home purchase and begin my new life as a woman. Instead of merging my file, two of the three credit bureaus issued me a brand new line of credit.

Walking Away From Fiction

It wasn’t until I came out against the sterilization and mutilation of gender-confused children and transgender military service members in 2017 that LGBT organizations stopped helping me. Most of the media retreated with them.

Overnight, I went from being a liberal media darling to a conservative pariah.

Both groups quickly began to realize that the transgender community had a runaway on their hands. Their solution was to completely ignore me and what my story had become. They also stopped acknowledging that I was behind the nonbinary option that now exists in 11 states.

The truth is that my sex change to nonbinary was a medical and scientific fraud. Consider the fact that before the historic court hearing occurred, my lawyer informed me that the judge had a transgender child.

Sure enough, the morning of my brief court hearing, the judge didn’t ask me a single question. Nor did this officer of the court demand to see any medical evidence alleging that I was born something magical. Within minutes, the judge just signed off on the court order.

I do not have any disorders of sexual development. All of my sexual confusion was in my head. I should have been treated. Instead, at every step, doctors, judges, and advocacy groups indulged my fiction.

The carnage that came from my court victory is just as precedent-setting as the decision itself. The judge’s order led to millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to put an X marker on driver’s licenses in 11 states so far. You can now become male, female, or nonbinary in all of them.

In my opinion, the judge in my case should have recused herself. In doing so, she would have spared me the ordeal still yet to come. She also would have saved me from having to bear the weight of the big secret behind my win.

I now believe that she wasn’t just validating my transgender identity. She was advancing her child’s transgender identity, too.

A sensible magistrate would have politely told me no and refused to sign such an outlandish legal request. “Gender is just a concept. Biological sex defines all of us,” that person would have said.

In January 2019, unable to advance the fraud for another single day, I reclaimed my male birth sex. The weight of the lie on my conscience was heavier than the value of the fame I’d gained from participating in this elaborate swindle.


Jamie Shupe obtaining a new military ID card with male sex designation in February 2019. (Photo: Jamie Shupe)

Two fake gender identities couldn’t hide the truth of my biological reality. There is no third gender or third sex. Like me, intersex people are either male or female. Their condition is the result of a disorder of sexual development, and they need help and compassion.

I played my part in pushing forward this grand illusion. I’m not the victim here. My wife, daughter, and the American taxpayers are—they are the real victims.

This article  from The Daily Signal. 

Pakistan: The Nightmare of Islam – Dozens of Women Murdered in Islamic ‘Honour’ Killings in the Last Two Weeks – by Shah Meer Baloch (Guardian) 17 May 2019

Legislation passed following murder of Qandeel Baloch in 2016 proves ineffective as authorities fail to pursue cases

An activist protests following the murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch by her brother in 2016
An activist protests following the murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch by her brother in 2016.


The killer was unrepentant.

“I killed my sister because she brought [a] bad name for the family,” he told neighbours in the Kachi district of Balochistan, Pakistan.

“I killed her and her lover for family honour. I want it to be a lesson for all girls in the town.”

Locals believe other members of the man’s family may have been involved but, a fortnight after the bodies were found , no arrests have been made, although police are aware of the allegations.

On Tuesday, the Dawn newspaper reported that a woman from Lahore had been shot dead, allegedly by her son, brother and brother-in-law, after leaving her husband and taking refuge at the house of a friend.

Police said they found the body of Arooj Shahzad a day after she approached officers over fears that her family would come after her. Chutala police have registered a case against five suspects.

Shahzad’s killing was the 12th in a fortnight linked to Islamic “honour” recorded by the Pakistan authorities.

Pakistani police escort Perveen Bibi to court in 2016
Perveen Bibi, who was later sentenced to death after burning her daughter alive for marrying without family consent, is conducted to a Pakistani court in 2016.


Every week in Pakistan brings fresh news of wives strangled, daughters shot or sisters drowned for a perceived slight to family Islamic “honour”. Sometimes a single person is responsible; more often, a group of male family members is involved. The vast majority of the killers go unpunished.

Statistics from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan suggest there were 1,276 such murders over a two-year period beginning in February 2014, 400 of which were officially registered as crimes by the police.

Human rights campaigners say more than 1,500 killings occurred between 2016 and 2018, a figure anecdotally confirmed by Asad Butt, vice chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed legislation against killings linked to the concept of Islamic “honour”, or “izzat”, following the murder of Qandeel Baloch in 2016. The death of the social media celebrity, who was killed by her brother in the name of “honour”, sparked international outrage.

The funeral of Qandeel Baloch, held in Shah Sadar Din village in Pakistan’s Punjab province
The funeral of Qandeel Baloch, held in Shah Sadar Din village in Pakistan’s Punjab province.


The bill authorised life imprisonment for convicted murderers. Previously, killers could win – or buy – freedom if the victim’s relatives forgave them or gave them money which is the Islamic custom.

But killings of people who “violate certain patriarchal codes” of Islam have continued at the same rate, said Nida Kirmani, associate professor of sociology at Lahore University. “Honour crimes are committed as a way of policing or disciplining women, girls, men and boys who are seen to be violating these rules,” Kirmani explained. The justification for the deaths is found in the Koran and Islamic law. 

Just as matters related to family are settled in blood, so too those who try to alert the authorities risk their lives. Afzal Kohistani, a whistleblower who called for the punishment of tthose involved in the Kohsitan scandal, in which five women died as well as Kohistani’s three brothers, was murdered in March this year.

Funeral prayers beside the coffin of whistleblower Afzal Kohistani, who was killed by gunmen in March.
Funeral prayers beside the coffin of whistleblower Afzal Kohistani, who was killed by gunmen in March.


In Pakistan, the state system runs in parallel with a more regressive Islamic societal system that reinforces patriarchy and disempowers women.

“I don’t blame people, rather I blame government for not empowering women and supporting patriarchy,” said a government official speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is government that is run by tribal lords and elites. And local police or administration refrain from making arrests in “honour” related cases. This happens in most rural areas of Pakistan.”

In August 2008, after three girls were buried alive in Balochistan province for wishing to marry of their own will, local media reported that a minister and other influential Muslims were involved in the crime. When the incident was discussed in Pakistan’s senate, two ‘deeply religious’ Islamic senators, Sardar Israrullah Zehri and Taj Jamali, defended the act and called it “tribal custom”.

Qadir Naseeb is one of the many journalists who now rarely cover “honour” killing stories. “I have been threatened by influential people and tribal heads while reporting. No matter how much one highlights this menace, government rarely arrest and punish the culprits. The disturbing part is that all the killers I interviewed never felt guilty.”

Maliha Saeed has been a woman’s rights advocate for decades. She says the government needs to do a lot more to curb honour killing. “It has to empower women economically and socially. Government should instruct the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to spread the message against honour killings through news channels, dramas. It should discourage violence against women.”

However, the Balochistan government has yet to arrest the culprits involved in two separate cases of “honour” killing that took place in Kachi district last week.

“Unless there is an egalitarian state which empowers women, honour killings will continue,” said Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, a columnist with the Balochistan Times.

The Deal of the Century – Trump Team and Netanyahu conspire to sell out the Palestinians – by Philip Giraldi • 14 May 2019

In the aftermaths of both the First and Second World Wars national borders were readjusted to suit the victors and entirely new countries were created from the ruins of the empires that had collapsed as a result of the conflict. The process continued with the end of the Soviet Union but the new states were constituted within an already existing ethnic and linguistic framework. More recently, the United States has engaged in imperialism-lite, with “regime change” programs seeking to lop off the governments of existing nations by coercion or through military invasion, replacing them with Quislings supportive of Washington’s continuing dominance exercised from “over the horizon.”

But regime change too is falling out of favor, even if it is currently being pursued in both Venezuela and Iran, eschewing using armed force in favor of “economic warfare” intended to make life so miserable for the inhabitants of the targeted country that they will rise up in revolt and remove their leaders. So far regime-change policies have been a disappointment, with major failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya that relied on military interventions that converted stable countries into hotbeds of insurgency and unrest.

Given all of that, it is extremely audacious for the White House to consider going back to the old Sykes-Picot model of 1916 and seeking to impose a peace plan that will include reordering borders for Israel/Palestine, something that has been tried before in various forms by presidents named Carter and Clinton without any success. The new plan, which is already being touted as the “Deal of the Century,” has been the product of a group of Orthodox Jews working for senior advisor and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, together with representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and the U.S. (sic) Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. There are no Arabs or Muslims (or Christians) on the team but there have been numerous discussions with the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and, of course, Israel. Israel has clearly been allowed to see the nearly complete report and has likely participated in drafts as it moved along, but it is not clear what access the Arabs had to it. The Palestinians, of course, played no real part in the process and the Lebanese, a frontline state confronting Israel, also was not a party to the deliberations.

All of the Kushner team supports Israel’s settlements, which are illegal under international law and contrary to long-standing American government policy, which rather suggests that an open consideration of all the complex issues involved was unlikely to have taken place. Whether there are any actual American interests involved in the plan is unknown, but, given the make-up of Trump team, it is likely that there was an assumption that what is good for Israel is also good for the United States. Donald Trump has announced that the plan, which is apparently complete but for some minor tinkering, will be unveiled in June.

Those who follow the so-called peace process are likely aware that a document in Hebrew purporting to be the Deal of the Century plan has been recently leaked by an Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom that is owned by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and which also has been linked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson, as the major donor to the Republican Party in the U.S., is somewhat of a bridge between Netanyahu and Trump and the document would not have appeared without foreknowledge by Adelson himself as well as the prime minister and president. The authenticity of the document has been debated, however, and the White House has claimed it was both “speculative” and “inaccurate,” but, in its defense, it is very close to what Jared Kushner revealed in comments made a month ago.

There has been considerable speculation regarding what the document and the peace plan it proposes actually mean. Though it forces both sides to make some concessions, including the creation of a Palestinian capital in part of Jerusalem, it is heavily favorable to Israel and to Netanyahu’s vision for Jerusalem and the West Bank. Even the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem would, for example, be under Israeli municipal control.

Signatories to the deal outlined in the document would be Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority with the United States serving as the guarantor of the agreement. It would create a Palestinian state called “New Palestine,” which would consist of the Gaza Strip and those parts of the West Bank that do not have Israeli settlements. Arab residents of Jerusalem, even if they live in the Jewish area, would be citizens of New Palestine, not of Israel. To maintain the status quo created by the division of Jerusalem, no Arab or Jew would subsequently be able to buy a home in the region controlled by the other community. New Palestine would have an airport on land currently in Sinai leased to it by Egypt and there would be a seaport in Gaza. New Palestine and Gaza would be linked by a road running through Israel and controlled by it to guarantee “security.”

To make the deal palatable to Palestinians, there would be $30 billion in economic investment over the first five years, coming from the United States, European Union, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. New Palestine will have police to suppress potential trouble makers but no armed forces. Israel will control the Jordan River valley but New Palestine will have two crossing points into Jordan. The U.S., as the enforcer of the deal, will cut off all aid to any party that refuses to sign the agreement. It threatens to use its control over the Swift dollar denominated international banking system to block all money transfers from any source to the Palestinians if they do not sign, similar to the squeezing that is currently being applied to Venezuela and Iran.

It is quite plausible that Netanyahu leaked the document to create controversy that would lead to Kushner having to go back to the drawing boards. The wily and unscrupulous prime minister likely sees no gain in the agreement as he is obtaining most of what he wants from Trump incrementally without conceding anything at all to the Palestinians. And he has already committed himself to virtually complete annexation of the West Bank, meaning that the creation of any kind of legitimate quasi-independent Palestinian state would be an obstacle to achieving that goal.

Even if Bibi were to go along with the plan, it would be a bad deal for the Palestinians. Without a military or control of its own borders it would be a state without any real sovereignty and, if all the Israeli settlements were to be excluded from the new nation, it would have control over only 12% of historic Palestine. The Kushner plan would mean a green light from Washington for a Greater Israel that would include 88% of the land regarded as Palestinian when Israel was created and stolen since that time. The New Palestine 12% would also be broken into smaller bantustans-like entities surrounded by Israeli roads and settlements and Israel will also be certain to obtain control of the region’s water resources.

If the Palestinians object to the way they are being treated, the United States as guarantor, as noted above, could step in and work with Israel to cut off their money, just as takes place currently, to punish them when they do not toe the line. It is, meanwhile, difficult to imagine that any circumstances might arise that would impel Washington to cut money going to Israel.

One of the more interesting details of the alleged plan is the demand that both Hamas and Islamic Jihad disarm completely, surrendering their weapons to Egypt. If they refuse, the White House would endorse and support Israel’s personal attacks directed against the groups’ leadership through the use of extrajudicial assassinations.

The leaked “peace” plan is so one-sided, harsh, and catastrophic with respect to any possible viable Palestinian state that it must be true. It is a Netanyahu dream document but for the fact that the Israeli leader would prefer to achieve what it outlines by stealth without giving anything as a sop to the Palestinians. If it fails to convince its audience, which includes a number of Arab states required to donate tens of billions to the cause, it will be back to square one with Israel continuing its creeping annexation of Palestinian land with the United States looking the other way. And speaking of the United States, what’s in it for the American people? Nada. Zilch. Nothing at all. So much for Make America Great Again.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

The Disinformationists – by C.J. Hopkins • 15 May 2019


So, the election-meddling Putin-Nazi disinformationists are at it again! Oh yes, while Americans have been distracted by Russiagate, Obstructiongate, Redactiongate, or whatever it’s being called at this point, here in Europe, we are purportedly being bombarded with Russian “disinformation” aimed at fomenting confusion and chaos in advance of the upcoming EU elections, which are due to take place in less than two weeks.

The New York Times reports that an entire “constellation” of social media accounts “linked to Russia and far-right groups” is disseminating extremist “disinformation,” “encouraging discord,” and “amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades.” These accounts share some of the same “digital fingerprints,” and are engaging in “tactics” similar to the “tactics used in previous Russian attacks,” notably the Kremlin’s notorious mass-brainwashing of millions of defenseless African Americans with those deceptive anti-masturbation memes during the 2016 elections.

Now, this is not just a bunch of nonsense dressed up with authoritative-sounding lingo. No, The Times spoke to “analysts” and “advocacy groups,” which informed them that certain websites in Italy “share the same signatures” as certain other websites sharing certain “pro-Kremlin views.” Moreover, two “political groups” in Germany used the same Internet service providers as those “Russian hackers” who attacked our democracy by stealing those Democratic Party emails that transformed Americans overnight into a nation of Trump-loving white supremacists!

That hasn’t happened here in Europe yet, but I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out against this relentless onslaught. According to an “analysis” concocted by some cloud-based cybersecurity firm and authoritatively cited by Politico, at this point, “more than half of Europeans might have seen some form of disinformation” spread by “Russians” on social media. They might have been exposed to “extremist views” and “amplified content” possibly produced by the far-right Alternative for Germany party, and even (God help them!) supporters of Brexit.

SafeGuard Cyber (the cybersecurity firm in question, which offers “digital risk protection and empowers businesses to embrace new technologies,” or whatever mumbo jumbo it says on their website) identified, and is now presumably surveilling on a more or less around the clock basis, “a vast network of automated social media accounts allegedly controlled by Russian actors” which is spreading this “amplified extremist content.”

Although Politico “was unable to independently verify” whether the social media accounts the SafeGuard Cyber analysis “identified” (and used to generate a meaningless graph) were in any way actually linked to Russia, and although SafeGuard Cyber would not provide Politico with a list of the users it assured Politico were “linked to Russia,” SafeGuard Cyber’s CTO informed Politico that his team of experts had used “more than 50 identifiers,” among them, the location from which the messages were sent and “activity linked to Russian interests,” to identify these “Russian actors” who are exposing innocent Europeans and expatriate Americans like myself to Lord knows what kind of jargon-laden, dangerously amplified, extremist content in order to disinform and confuse us.

And it’s not just the upcoming EU elections that the Putin-Nazi disinformationists are targeting. An outfit called Global Security Review, which “publishes objective, solutions-oriented insight into geopolitical issues” which can be authoritatively referenced by the corporate media to lend whatever story they are pushing an air of credibility, warn that Russia is conducting a campaign to “overwhelm democracies” with disinformation! According to the experts at GSR, Putin-Nazi disinformationists working for Russia Today and Sputnik brainwashed the citizens of Catalonia into voting for their independence from Spain with a network of bots (or “zombie accounts”). In France, they brainwashed the Gilets Jaunes protesters into attacking the windows of upscale stores and setting fire to luxury vehicles by “magnifying the brutality of the French police,” who have been doing their utmost to show restraint as they shoot people’s eyes out with rubber bullets and indiscriminately tear-gas the hell out of everyone.

And then there’s the evil Russian spywhale, which the disinformationists want us to believe is just a harmless “therapy Beluga” for kids, but which has clearly been strapped with some sort of monstrous, mind-controlling apparatus that enables the Kremlin to remotely implant a host of dangerous “populist” ideas in the brains of defenseless Norwegian fishermen, weaponizing them into a horde of neo-Odinist Viking berserkers who will scream down out of Scandinavia and storm the EU Parliament in Brussels smelling of akvavit and fermented shark.

These Putin-Nazi disinformationists are not to be confused with the corporate media, or other sources of real information, like SafeGuard Cyber, Global Security Review, Bellingcat, Integrity Initiative, The Atlantic Council, E.U. East StratCom Task Force, Foreign Policy Research Institute, and countless other companies, foundations, think tanks, and intelligence agency fronts. These are legitimate information providers, who would never try to disinform the public to serve any sort of corporatist agenda, or to generate any kind of mass hysteria over “terrorists,” “Russians,” “fascists,” or “populists.”

OK, granted, these sources are not perfect, but it’s not like they intentionally lied about those non-existent WMDs in Iraq, or those babies that weren’t yanked out of their incubators, or those nerve gas canisters that Assad didn’t drop, or when Russia didn’t hack the Vermont power grid, or attack us with crickets, or hack into CSPAN, or “collude” with Trump via a secret server, or when Manafort didn’t meet with Assange, or when Corbyn didn’t lay a wreath for terrorists, and all the other things that didn’t happen … no, they just got their stories “wrong,” over and over, and over again.

Plus, what motive would they possibly have, these enormous corporate media conglomerates, and the transnational corporations that own them, and these intelligence agencies, and their fronts and cutouts, and corporate lobbyists and PR firms, and councils, and think tanks, and research institutes, to disinform the Western masses, or to manufacture an official narrative that allows them to systematically stigmatize, marginalize, criminalize, deplatform, demonetize, and otherwise eliminate any type of speech they deem to be “Russian disinformation,” or “extremist content,” or a “conspiracy theory,” or simply too “dangerous,” “divisive,” or “confusing” to circulate among the general public?

No … see? That makes no sense. That’s just an example of the type of fascist disinformation these Putin-Nazi disinformationists are trying to spread to confuse us to the point where we can’t even concentrate long enough to think anymore, or parse the meaningless jargon-laden nonsense they’re trying to deceive us with, and just devolve into these Pavlovian imbeciles conditioned to respond to specific trigger words, like “extremist,” “terrorist,” “fascist,” “populist,” “anti-Semitic,” “Russians,” “hackers,” and whatever other emotional stimuli we are being trained to instantly recognize and robotically react to like circus animals.

Or … I don’t know, maybe it isn’t. I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say. Probably they’ve already got to me. I’d better get back down into my anti-disinformation bunker, pull up The Guardian, or The Washington Post, or Der Spiegel on my child-proof computer, and immerse myself in some objective journalism, before the Putin-Nazi spywhale makes its way up the Landwehrkanal, takes control of what’s left of my mind, and forces me into going out and trying to vote for Hitler or something.

I recommend you do the same, and I’ll see you when this nightmare over.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and political satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant Paperbacks. He can be reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.

Judgment Day for CIA John Brennan – by Mike Whitney • 10 May 2019

Former CIA Directory John Brennan. Credit: Jay Godwin/Wikimedia Commons.

Sometime in the next 4 weeks, the Justice Department’s inspector general will release an internal review that will reveal the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Among other matters, the IG’s report is expected to determine “whether there was sufficient justification under existing guidelines for the FBI to have started an investigation in the first place.” Critics of the Trump-collusion probe believe that there was never probable cause that a crime had been committed, therefore, there was no legal basis for launching the investigation. The findings of the Mueller report– that there was no cooperation or collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign– seem to underscore this broader point and suggest that the fictitious Trump-Russia connection was merely a pretext for spying on the campaign of a Beltway outsider whose political views clashed with those of the foreign policy establishment. In any event, the upcoming release of the Horowitz report will formally end the the first phase of the long-running Russiagate scandal and mark the beginning of Phase 2, in which high-profile officials from the previous administration face criminal prosecution for their role in what looks to be a botched attempt at a coup d’etat.

Here’s a brief summary from political analyst, Larry C. Johnson, who previously worked at the CIA and U.S. State Department:

“The evidence is plain–there was a broad, coordinated effort by the Obama Administration, with the help of foreign governments, to target Donald Trump and paint him as a stooge of Russia. The Mueller Report provides irrefutable evidence that the so-called Russian collusion case against Donald Trump was a deliberate fabrication by intelligence and law enforcement organizations in the US and UK and organizations aligned with the Clinton Campaign.” (“How US and Foreign Intel Agencies Interfered in a US Election”, Larry C. Johnson, Consortium News)

Bingo. Attorney General William Barr has already stated his belief that spying on the Trump campaign “did occur” and that, in his mind, it is “a big deal”. He also reiterated his commitment to thoroughly investigate the matter in order to find out whether the spying was adequately “predicated”, that is, whether the FBI followed the required protocols for such spying, or not. Barr already knows the answer to this question as he is fully aware of the fact that the FBI used information that they knew was false to obtain warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. Having no hard evidence of cooperation with the Kremlin, senior-level FBI officials and their counterparts at the Obama Justice Department used parts of an “opposition research” document (The Trump Dossier) that they knew was unreliable to procure warrants that allowed them to treat a presidential campaign the same way the intelligence agencies treat foreign enemies; using electronic surveillance, wiretapping, confidential informants and “honey trap” schemes designed to gather embarrassing or incriminating information on their target. Barr knows all of this already which is why the Democrats are doing everything in their power to discredit him and have him removed from office. His determination to “get to the bottom of this” is not just a threat to the FBI, it’s a threat to multiple agencies that may have had a hand in this expansive domestic espionage operation including the CIA, the NSA, the DOJ, the State Department and, perhaps, even the Obama White House. No one knows yet how far up the political food-chain the skulduggery actually goes, but Barr appears to be serious about finding out.

Here’s Barr again: “Many people seem to assume that the only intelligence collection that occurred was a single confidential informant….I would like to find out whether that is in fact true. It strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort designed to stop the threat as it’s being represented.”

In other words, Barr knows that the Trump campaign was riddled with spies and he is going to do his damnedest to find out what happened. He also knows that the FISA warrants were improperly obtained using the shabby disinformation from an opposition research “hit piece” (The Steele Dossier) that was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the DNC, just like he knows that government agents had concocted a strategy for leaking classified information to the media to fuel the public hysteria. Barr knows most of what happened already. It’s just a matter of compiling the research in the proper format and delivering it in a way that helps to emphasize how trusted government agents abused their power by pursuing a vicious partisan plot to either destroy the president’s reputation or force him from office. Like Barr said, that’s a “big deal”.

The name that seems to feature larger than all others in the ongoing Trump-Russia saga, is James Comey, the former FBI Director who oversaw the spying operations that are now under investigation at the DOJ. But was Comey really the central figure in these felonious hi-jinks or was he a mere lieutenant following directives from someone more powerful than himself? While the preponderance of new evidence suggests that the FBI was deeply involved, it does not answer this crucial question. For example, just this week, a report by veteran journalist John Solomon, showed that former British spy Christopher Steele admitted to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec that his “Trump Dossier” was “political research”, implying that the contents couldn’t be trusted because they were shaped by Steele’s political bias. Kavalec passed along this information to the FBI which shrugged it off and then, just days later, used the dossier to obtain warrants to spy on members of the Trump campaign. Think about that for a minute. The FBI had “written proof …. that Steele had a political motive”, but went ahead and used the dossier to procure the warrants anyway. That’s what I’d call a premeditated felony.

But evidence of wrongdoing is not proof that Comey was the ringleader, he was just the hapless sad sack who was left holding the bag. The truth is, Comey was just a reluctant follower. The real architect of the Trump-Russia treachery was the boss-man at the nation’s premier intelligence agency, the CIA. That’s where the headwaters of this shameful burlesque are located, in Langley. More on that in a minute, but first check out this excerpt from an article at The Hill which sums up Comey’s role fairly well:

(There) “will be an examination of whether Comey was unduly influenced by political agendas emanating from the previous White House and its director of national intelligence, CIA director and attorney general. This, above all, is what’s causing the 360-degree head spin.

”There are early indicators that troubling behaviors may have occurred in all three scenarios. Barr will want to zero in on a particular area of concern: the use by the FBI of confidential human sources, whether its own or those offered up by the then-CIA director. …

In addition, the cast of characters leveraged by the FBI against the Trump campaign all appear to have their genesis as CIA sources (“assets,” in agency vernacular) shared at times with the FBI. From Stefan Halper and possibly Joseph Mifsud, to Christopher Steele, to Carter Page himself, and now a mysterious “government investigator” posing as Halper’s assistant and cited in The New York Times article, legitimate questions arise as to whether Comey was manipulated into furthering a CIA political operation more than an FBI counterintelligence case.” (“James Comey is in trouble and he knows it”, The Hill)

Why is the Inspector General so curious as to whether Comey “was unduly influenced by political agendas emanating from the previous White House and its director of national intelligence, CIA director? And why did Comey draw from “a cast of characters “…. that “all appear to have their genesis as CIA sources”??

Could it be that Comey was just an unwitting pawn in a domestic regime change operation launched by former CIA Director John Brennan, the one public figure who has expressed greater personal animus towards Trump than all the others combined? Could Trump’s promise to normalize relations with Russia have intensified Brennan’s visceral hatred of him given the fact that Russia had frustrated Brennan’s strategic plans in Ukraine and Syria? Keep in mind, the CIA had been arming, training and providing logistical support to the Sunni militants who were trying to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al Assad. Putin’s intervention crushed the jihadist militias delivering a humiliating defeat to Generalissimo Brennan who, soon after, left office in disgrace. Isn’t this at least part of the reason why Brennan hates Trump?

Regular readers of this column know that I have always thought that Brennan was the central figure in the Trump-Russia charade. It was Brennan who first referred the case to Comey, just as it was Brennan who “hand-picked” the analysts who stitched together the dodgy Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) (which said that “Putin and the Russian government aspired to help…Trump’s election chances.”) It was also Brennan who persuaded Harry Reid to petition Comey to open an investigation in the first place. Brennan was chief instigator of the Trump-Russia fiasco, the omniscient puppet-master who persuaded Clapper and Comey to do his bidding while still-unidentified agents strategically leaked stories to the media to inflame passions and sow social unrest. At every turn, Brennan was there guiding the perfidious project along. According to journalist Philip Giraldi, the CIA may have even assisted in the obtaining of FISA warrants on Trump campaign aids as this excerpt from an article at The Unz Review indicates:

“Brennan was the key to the operation because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court refused to approve several requests by the FBI to initiate taps on Trump associates and Trump Tower as there was no probable cause to do so but the British and other European intelligence services were legally able to intercept communications linked to American sources. Brennan was able to use his connections with those foreign intelligence agencies, primarily the British GCHQ, to make it look like the concerns about Trump were coming from friendly and allied countries and therefore had to be responded to as part of routine intelligence sharing. As a result, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Gen. Michael Flynn were all wiretapped. And likely there were others. This all happened during the primaries and after Trump became the GOP nominee.” (“The Conspiracy Against Trump”, Philip Giraldi)

Can you see how important this is? The FBI was having trouble getting warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, so Brennan helped them out by persuading his foreign intelligence allies (the British and other European intelligence services) to come up with bogus “intercepted communications linked to American sources,” which helped to secure the FISA warrants. We have no idea of what these foreign agents heard on these alleged intercepted communications, all we know is that they were effectively used to achieve Brennan’s ultimate objective, which was to acquire the means of taking down Trump via a relentless and expansive surveillance campaign.

According to a report in The Guardian (where the story first appeared.): “GCHQ (British Government Communications Headquarters) played an early, prominent role in kickstarting the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation, which began in late July 2016. One source called the British eavesdropping agency the “principal whistleblower”. (“British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia “, The Guardian)

Okay, so Brennan twisted a few arms and got his foreign Intel buddies to make uncorroborated claims that got the investigative ball rolling, but then what? If there was any meat to Brennan’s foreign intel, then Mueller would have dug it up and used it in his report, right? But he didn’t. Why?

Because there was nothing there, the whole thing was a sham from the get go. Brennan probably “sexed up” the intelligence so it would sound like something it really wasn’t. (Think: WMD) Again, if there was even a scintilla of hard evidence that Trump’s campaign assistants were in bed with Russia, Mueller would have shrieked it from every mountaintop across America. But he didn’t, because there wasn’t any. There was no cooperation, no conspiracy and no collusion. Trump was falsely accused. End of story.

Here’s more from the same article:

“The Guardian has been told the FBI and the CIA were slow to appreciate the extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow ahead of the US election.” (Guardian)

“The extensive nature of contacts between Trump’s team and Moscow”???

Really? This is precisely the type of hyperventilating journalism that fueled the absurd conspiracy theory that the president of the United States was a Russian agent. It’s hard to believe that we’re even discussing the matter at this point.

There was an interesting aside in John Solomon’s article that suggests that he might be thinking along the same lines. He says: “One legal justification cited for redacting the Oct. 13, 2016, email is the National Security Act of 1947, which can be used to shield communications involving the CIA or the White House National Security Council.”

Why would Solomon draw attention to “to shielding communications involving the CIA or the White House”, after all, the bulk of his article focused on the State Department and the FBI? Is he suggesting that the CIA and Obama White House may have been involved in these spying shenanigans, is that why Kavalec’s damning notes (which stated that Steele’s dossier could not be trusted.) have been retroactively classified?

Take a look at this email from the FBI’s chief investigator in the Russia collusion probe, Peter Strzok, to his fellow agents in April 2017.

“I’m beginning to think the agency (CIA) got info a lot earlier than we thought and hasn’t shared it completely with us. Might explain all those weird/seemingly incorrect leads all these media folks have. Would also highlight agency as source of some leaks.” -Peter Strzok.

Ha! So even the FBI’s chief investigator was in the dark about the CIA’s shadowy machinations behind the scenes. Clearly, Brennan wanted to prevent the other junta leaders from fully knowing what he was up to.

All of this is bound to come out in the inspector general’s report sometime in the next month or so. Both Attorney General William Barr and IG Horowitz appear to be fully committed to revealing the criminal leaks, the illegal electronic surveillance, the improperly obtained FISA warrants, and the multiple confidential human sources (spies) that were placed in the Trump campaign. They are going to face withering criticism for their efforts, but they are resolutely moving forward all the same. Bravo, for that.

Bottom line: The agents and officials who conducted this seditious attack on the presidency never thought they’d be held accountable for their crimes. But they were wrong, and now their day of reckoning is fast approaching. The main players in this palace coup are about to be exposed, criminally charged and prosecuted. Some of them will probably wind up in jail.

“The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”

Islamic Sex Slavery Painting Stirs International Controversy – Museum Says ‘Please Forget’ (CBS News) 16 May 2019

An American museum is vociferously calling on a German political party to stop using one of the former’s paintings despite the image being in the Public Domain.

Islamic Slave Trade

Berlin — An American art museum is demanding that a German political party stop using one of its paintings, portraying a 19th-century Islamic slave auction, in a campaign poster for the European elections.

“We are strongly opposed to the use of this work to advance any political agenda,” Olivier Meslay, the director of the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, told The Associated Press. “We did not supply the painting” he said.

The 1866 oil-on-canvas painting “Slave Market,” by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Meslay said the museum had written to the party “insisting that they cease and desist in using this painting.” However, he acknowledged, the painting is in the public domain and “there are no copyrights or permissions that allow us to exert control over how it is used other than to appeal to civility.”

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What to make of all this?  Objectively, the “Slave Market” painting in question portrays a reality that has played out countless times over the centuries: African and Middle Eastern Muslims have long targeted fair “infidel” women — so much so as to have enslaved millions of them over the centuries (as copiously documented in my recent book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, from which the following quotes and statistics are derived).

Islamic sews

Concerning the Muslim demand for, in the words of one historian, “white-complexioned blondes, with straight hair and blue eyes,” this traces back to the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, who enticed his followers to wage jihad against neighboring Byzantium by citing its fair and blonde women who awaited them as potential concubines.

For over a millennium afterward, Islamic caliphates, emirates, and sultanates — of the Arab, Berber, Turkic, and Tatar variety — also coaxed their men to jihad on Europe by citing (and later sexually enslaving) its fair women.  Accordingly, because the “Umayyads particularly valued blond or red-haired Franc or Galician women as sexual slaves,” Dario Fernandez-Morera writes, “al-Andalus Islamic Spain became a center for the trade and distribution of slaves.”

Islamic sex slaves

The insatiable demand for fair women was such that, according to M.A. Khan, an Indian author and former Muslim, it is “impossible to disconnect Islam from the Viking slave-trade, because the supply was absolutely meant for meeting [the] Islamic world’s unceasing demand for the prized white slaves” and “white sex-slaves.”  Emmet Scott goes so far as to argue that “it was the caliphate’s demand for European slaves that called forth the Viking phenomenon in the first place.”

As for numbers, according to the conservative estimate of American professor Robert Davis, “between 1530 and 1780 [alone] there were almost certainly a million and quite possibly as many as a million and a quarter white, European Christians enslaved by the Muslims of the Barbary Coast” (the appropriate setting of the “Slave Market” painting).  By 1541, “Algiers teemed with Christian captives [from Europe], and it became a common saying that a Christian slave was scarce a fair barter for an onion.”

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With countless enslaved European women — some seized from as far as Denmark and even Iceland — selling for the price of vegetables, little wonder that European observers by the late 1700s noted how “the inhabitants of Algiers have a rather white complexion.”

Further underscoring the rapacious and relentless drive of the Muslim slave industry, consider this: the United States of America’s first war — which it fought before it could even elect its first president — was against these Islamic slavers.  When Thomas Jefferson and John Adams asked Barbary’s ambassador why his countrymen were enslaving American sailors, the “ambassador answered us that it was founded on the laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that … it was their right and duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.”

Islamic slaverss

The situation was arguably worse for Eastern Europeans;  the slave markets of the Ottoman sultanate were for centuries so inundated with Slavic flesh that children sold for pennies, “a very beautiful slave woman was exchanged for a pair of boots, and four Serbian slaves were traded for a horse.”  In Crimea, some three million Slavs were enslaved by the Ottomans’ Muslim allies, the Tatars. “The youngest women are kept for wanton pleasures,” observed a seventeenth century Lithuanian.

Islamic slave 000

Even the details of the “Slave Market” painting/poster, which depicts a fair and naked female slave being pawed at by potential buyers, echoes reality.  Based on a twelfth-century document dealing with slave auctions in Cordoba, Muslim merchants “would put ointments on slave girls of a darker complexion to whiten their faces; brunettes were placed for four hours in a solution to make them blond (‘golden’); ointments were placed on the face and body of black slaves to make them ‘prettier.'” Then, the Muslim merchant “dresses them all in transparent clothes” and “tells the slave girls to act in a coquettish manner with the old men and with the timid men among the potential buyers to make them crazy with desire.”

Islamic ses se

In short,  the Clark Art Institute’s objection to a political party’s use of the “Slave Market” painting as a poster is just another attempt  to suppress the truth about Muslim/Western history, including its glaring continuity with the present. 

Islamic slavery we


US ‘Left’ Democrats Embrace Imperialist Wars – The Only Time Trump Gets Lib Media Support is When He Threatens War – by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) 16 May 2019

Trump tastic

The Liberal Embrace of War

American interventionists learned a lesson from Iraq: pre-empt the debate. Now everyone is for regime change

The Trump administration has just suspended flights to Venezuela. Per the New York Times:

CARACAS — The United States banned all air transport with Venezuela on Wednesday over security concerns, further isolating the troubled South American nation…

A disinterested historian — Herodotus raised from the dead — would see this as just the latest volley in a siege tale. America has been trying for ages to topple the regime of President Nicholas Maduro, after trying for years to do the same to his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

The new play in the Trump era involves recognizing Juan Guaidó as president and starving and sanctioning the country. Maduro, encircled, has been resisting.

The American commercial news landscape, in schism on domestic issues, is in lockstep here. Every article is seen from one angle: Venezuelans under the heel of a dictator who caused the crisis, with the only hope a “humanitarian” intervention by the United States.

There is no other perspective. Media watchdog FAIR just released results of a study of three months of American opinion pieces. Out of 76 editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, the “big three Sunday morning talk shows” or PBS News Hour, zero came out against the removal of Maduro. They wrote:

“Corporate news coverage of Venezuela can only be described as a full-scale marketing campaign for regime change.”

Allowable opinion on Venezuela ranges from support for military invasion to the extreme pacifist end of the spectrum, as expressed in a February op-ed by Dr. Francisco Rodriguez and Jeffrey Sachs called “An Urgent Call for Compromise in Venezuela”:

“We strongly urge… a peaceful and negotiated transition of power rather than a winner-take-all game of chicken…”

So we should either remove Maduro by force, or he should leave peaceably, via negotiation. These are the options.

After the disaster of Vietnam eons ago, American thought leaders became convinced we “lost” in Indochina because of — get this — bad PR.

The real lesson in Vietnam should have been that people would pay any price to overthrow a hated occupying force. American think-tankers and analysts however somehow became convinced (and amazingly still are) that the problem was Walter Cronkite and the networks giving up on the war effort.

Quietly then, over the course of decades, lobbyists pushed for changes. In the next big war, there would be no gruesome pictures of soldiers dying, no photos of coffins coming home, no pictures of civilian massacres (enforced more easily with new embedding rules), and no Cronkite-ian defeatism.

They got all of that by the time we went into Iraq. The TV landscape by then was almost completely sterilized. Jesse Ventura and Phil Donahue were pulled from MSNBC because they opposed invasion. Networks agreed not to film coffins or death scenes.

Yet the invasion of Iraq was a failure for the same reason Vietnam was a failure, and Libya was a failure, and Afghanistan is a failure, and Venezuela or Syria or Iran will be failures, if we get around to toppling regimes in those countries: America is incapable of understanding or respecting foreigners’ instinct for self-rule.

The pattern in American interventions has been the same for ages. We are for self-determination everywhere, until such self-determination clashes with a commercial or security objective.

A common triggering event for American-backed overthrows is a leader trying to nationalize the country’s resources. This is why we ended up replacing democratically-elected Mohammed Mossadeq with the Shah in Iran, for instance.

Disrupting trade is also a frequent theme in these ploys, with a late-Fifties coup attempt in Indonesia or our various Cuban embargoes key examples. The plan often involves stimulating economic and political unrest in target nations as a precursor for American intervention.

We inevitably end up propping up dictators of our own, and the too-frequent pattern now — vividly demonstrated in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan — is puppet states collapsing and giving way to power vacuums and cycles of sectarian violence. Thanks, America!

Opposing such policies used to be a central goal of American liberalism. No more. Since 2016, it’s been stunning to watch the purging and/or conversion of what used to be antiwar voices, to the point where Orwellian flip-flops are now routine.

Earlier this month, onetime fierce Iraq war opponent Rachel Maddow went on TV to embrace John Bolton in a diatribe about how the poor National Security Adviser has been thwarted by Trump in efforts to topple Maduro.

“Regardless of what you thought about John Bolton before this, his career, his track record,” Maddow said. “Just think about John Bolton as a human being.”

The telecast was surreal. It was like watching Dick Cheney sing “Give Peace a Chance.”

Bolton stood out as a bomb-humping nut even among the Bush-era functionaries who pushed us into Iraq. He’s the living embodiment of “benevolent hegemony,” an imperial plan first articulated in the nineties by neoconservatives like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan.

It involves forcefully overturning any regime that resisted us, to spread the wonders of the American way to, as Norman Podhoretz once put it, “as many others as have the will and the ability to enjoy them.”

When Bush gave his famed “Axis of Evil” speech about Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, Bolton — prophetically, it seemed — gave a speech called “Beyond the Axis of Evil,” adding Cuba, Syria and Libya to the list.

Bolton, of course, is also on board with regime change in Venezuela, saying “this is our hemisphere.” Echoing the sentiment, Alabama Democratic Senator Doug Jones said Maduro, and his allies in Russia, need to vacate “our part of the world.”

This has all been cast as opposition to Russian support of Maduro. Maddow was ostensibly reacting to triggering news that Trump was stepping back on Venezuelan action after a chat with Vladimir Putin.

This isn’t about Russia, however. MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post were open cheering sections even when it came to endorsing Trump’s original decision to recognize Guaidó. It’s been much the same script with Syria, too, where even the faintest hint of discomfort with the idea of regime change has been excised from public view.

The social media era has made it much easier to keep pundits in line. Propaganda is effective when it’s relentless, personal, attacking, and one-sided. The idea isn’t to debate people, but to create an “ick” factor around certain ideas, so debate is pre-empted.

Don’t want to invade Syria? Get ready to be denounced as an Assadist. Feel ambivalent about regime change in Venezuela? You must love Putin and Maduro.

People end up either reflexively believing these things, or afraid to deal with vitriol they’ll get if they say something off-narrative. In the media world, it’s understood that stepping out of line on Venezuela or Syria will result in being removed from TV guest lists, loss of speaking income, and other problems.

This has effectively made intellectual objections to regime change obsolete. In the Trump era, things that not long ago aroused widespread horror — from torture to drone assassination to “rendition” to illegal surveillance to extrajudicial detention in brutal secret prisons around the world — inspire crickets now.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran an exposé about Guantanamo Bay that should have been a devastating piece of journalism. It showed site officials building a hospice, because prisoners are expected to grow old and die rather than ever sniff release. One prisoner was depicted sitting gingerly in court because of “chronic rectal pain” from being routinely sodomized in CIA prisons.

Ten years ago, Americans would have been deeply ashamed of such stories. Now, even liberals don’t care. The cause of empire has been cleverly re-packaged as part of #Resistance to Trump, when in fact it’s just the same old arrogance, destined to lead to the same catastrophes. Bad policy doesn’t get better just because you don’t let people talk about it.

UK Scarecrow Art at Venice Biennale 2019 – Bored and Boring the Empire Has No Ideas – 16 May 2019

Out of time, and out of ideas….

scare crow ultimate

I was taking a look at some of the hideous ‘art’ various countries have somehow decided to send to the Venice Biennial Art event.  I followed a Youtube link to a video about the ‘artist’ who was selected to represent the UK.  I cringed as I watched the video showing her work.  Fortunately I had the sound muted so I did not have to hear her verbal explanations for what her visual art is about, or the ‘experts’ interspersed with the ‘art’ displays who also were explaining why this banal arrangement of mannequins is a life changing art event.  

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scar c 11 jsca7

These works of art were actually commissioned and paid for in advance of the display.  Someone actually planned for days and weeks and months for these displays to look like this.  One could expect the same level of artistry from a group of twelve year olds at a summer camp art show.  

After looking at these lackluster art pieces I decided to make a video slide show.  I went through the Youtube video and paused the images to get a still image I could use.  I felt a vague feeling of distaste the whole time.  The works seem so fundamentally dishonest.  I was hurrying to the end because I did not want to look at these images more than I had to. 

When I went to put the images into my video editing program I could not.  They were the wrong format – Png instead of Jpeg.  So I had to go back through each picture, looking at the image again as I winced, and saved the image as a Jpeg.  Then I made a slide show with eight seconds of panned image for each of the about thirty images. 

The video was as soulless as I thought the images were.  I uploaded the video to Youtube and needed a sound track.  I have been uploading videos to Youtube and avoiding copyright issues for music by only using music Youtube provides that can be added onto a video.  But, I can’t hear the music on the computer I am using to edit and upload video.  I simply pick an ambient track with the right length. 

Later I went to a laptop with sound and watched my video with sound.  The music makes the images and artwork look better.  The music seems to provide a kind of drama that I don’t find in the images themselves.  Or…maybe I am wrong about these works of art.  I have been wrong in the past. 

What’s the artist’s name?  Who cares?

Venice, Italia: ‘We don’t follow rules!’ Edgy Trash Artists Follow NYTimes WaPo and Wall Street Journal Editorial Ideas – Rad-Lib Establishmentarian Smugness As ‘Art’ – 15 May 2019

Trump – bad! Migrants – good! Venice Biennale is liberal establishment smugness as art
It pretends to shock and challenge, but the talking points of the art at the world’s biggest exhibition come straight from the New York Times op-ed page. And despite the counter-cultural non-conformism – everything is for sale.

Let’s leave for the moment the “is-it-art?” and “my-four-year-old-could-do-it” discussions as they pertain to the 87 pavilions throughout Venice in which countries from Albania to Zimbabwe exhibit the best of contemporary art, alongside the 79 specially-invited individual artists.

Take instead in good faith its guiding principles – that in place of craftsmanship almost all of the art at this exhibition sources its power from the social critique it conveys.

So, what is the message?

The signature piece of this year’s Biennale is the wreck of a fishing boat, in which 800 migrants died off the coast of Libya in 2015, erected opposite a cafe on the promenade. That’s it, nothing else done to the rusting carcass. As you sip your Aperol Spritz, you are presumably meant to say something “That’s terrible that all these people died” or “Poor African migrants” or “Isn’t that Matteo Salvini a bastard for not letting these people in, I would never vote for him.” So thought-provoking, a real conversation starter. And adds so much to the discussion on migration. Though perhaps not up to par to a 2015 piece by the same artist, Christoph Buechel, which was to turn an old Catholic church into a mosque, which was just so incredibly daring and clever.

Or visit the Lithuanian pavilion, which won the top national prize. It features tourists on a fake beach singing joyous arias about their clothes, made in Chinese sweatshops, about airplanes, dispatching CO2 into the atmosphere, about how it’s getting hotter all the time. The message: our capitalist, consumerist world is so stupid and complacent – all obliviously singing happy songs as global warming roasts us. Get it?

Here is the individual winner – black Los Angeles artist Arthur Jafa’s White Album, which is 40 minutes of mostly close-ups of white people being purposely or accidentally racist about black people, juxtaposed with scenes of racial violence. See: white people are racist, America is racist, you are probably a racist too. The overwhelmingly white audience sits there in penitent self-loathing, though safe in the knowledge that they are not like THOSE OTHER WHITE PEOPLE who’ve probably never even been to a decent art exhibition.

A separate sub-genre is anti-Trump art. There is a portrait of disfigured smears under the recognizable hair (“Trump is ugly chaos”), there is a replica of an empty Lincoln Memorial chair with a whip attached (“America in a nutshell”), and someone actually exhibited printouts of Hillary Clinton’s emails (“He keeps asking for those emails, well here they are!”). The 2019 Biennale is subtitled ‘May We Live in Interesting Times’, an ironic Chinese curse wishing your enemy to suffer through a dark era. Because, obviously, times were never interesting under Obama.


Now, you may agree or disagree with the messages expressed by this art, but it is hard to argue against the fact that we hear these exact same sentiments every day almost to the letter. And not in some upstart radical pamphlets, but in the Washington Post, on CNN, in the Guardian. At Harvard and at Google. From Clinton, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Jean-Claude Juncker.


So, the social critique on which these artists stake their creative credentials seems to be – take the most hackneyed and glib message of the well-to-do centrist establishment and to visually amplify it with a thundering heavy-handedness, add a bit of pseudo-shock value and no original thought. Reap the easy applause from those who already agree with you.

And this is where the craftsmanship argument comes back in. The endless Saint Sebastians and Madonnas of the Renaissance, or pastoral Italian landscapes, may not have had something new to say either, but they had inherent artistic value. At best they still connect with the viewer on an emotional level, at worst they are testaments to hard-earned skill or artefacts to the period they were made.

What the value of all this Trump-is-bad art will be, not in 500 years but in 50, is an open question. Anyone up for recreating a topical hangar-sized installation about the Suez Crisis? Though frankly for much of the art, the legacy aspect is a moot question, as it is already worthless in 2019.

Of course, the kicker for the Venice Biennale – and one everyone here must be aware of – is that for all the environmental concerns, both making and transporting these voluminous pieces, as well as attracting millions of visitors in their planes and luxury yachts to the sinking city is likely to have offset any habit-changing impact viewing them had on the audience. And for all the anti-capitalist posturing, this is essentially a commercial showcase, and much of the art is either sold directly (though discreetly, no dealer names on the plaques this year) or can lead to lucrative commissions. Yeah, the polar bears and the migrants died for this. A lot of art is commodification of suffering, but the piousness rankles.

In fact, as you walk through Venice, and turn your gaze from the trendy artists, to the millionaire collectors, to the Instagraming tourists, the Biennale becomes a meta art installation all of its own: one about the self-congratulatory hypocrisy of modern right-thinking capitalism.

By Igor Ogorodnev


France: Alain Delon “We’re not giving him the Nobel Peace Prize. We are giving the honorary Palme d’Or for his career as an actor; he has said certain things and he is entitled to express his views.”

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La tradition puritaine anti-sexe n’est tout simplement pas aussi forte en France.

The anti-sex puritan tradition is simply not as strong in France. 

Cannes: Delon Victim of the Thought Police?


Birthday tribute for Alain Delon’s 80th birthday! I included clips from L’Eclisse, Plein Soleil, Le Samourai, and Girl on a Motorcycle. The song is “Tidal Wave” by The Killers.

Hommage anniversaire du 80ème anniversaire d’Alain Delon! J’ai inclus des clips de L’Eclisse, Plein Soleil, Le Samourai et Fille à la moto. La chanson est “Tidal Wave” de The Killers.



Nous ne nous améliorons malheureusement pas en vieillissant et cela est vrai pour la plupart d’entre nous. Donc si Alain Delon s’est laissé allé à des propos homophobea dernièrement, il s’agit des effets néfastes du vieillissement sur le cerveau. Mais la récompense est pour toute sa vie, toute son œuvre. Et nul ne pouvait l’accuser d’homophobie lors de ses belle années partagée avec Luchino Visconti. D’ailleurs il a toujours défendu le grand maître italien, et n’a pour lui aucune rancune, il semble donc en avoir garder un bon souvenir. Il mérite donc d’être reconnu aujourd’hui quoiqu’il ait dit lors des dernière année.


Google Translate:

Unfortunately, we are not improving as we get older and this is true for most of us. So if Alain Delon has been homophobia lately, it is about the harmful effects of aging on the brain. But the reward is for all his life, all his work. And no one could accuse him of homophobia in his beautiful years shared with Luchino Visconti. Besides, he has always defended the great Italian master, and has no rancor for him, so he seems to have a good memory of it. He deserves to be recognized today even though he has said in the last year.

Movie Documentary ‘Moundsville’ digs deeper into Appalachian ‘Trump country’ – by Lou Martin (Working Class Perspectives) 13 May 2019

Documentary ‘Moundsville’ digs deeper into Appalachian ‘Trump country’

In the mid-20th century, one out of every three toys sold in America was manufactured at the Marx Toys factory in Moundsville, W.V. | Moundsville.org

The 2018 documentary Moundsville drops viewers into the West Virginia town with no introduction. Instead, the film takes us directly into conversations with local residents, the mayor, a former mayor, retirees, a couple of historians, young entrepreneurs—a dozen or so people from all walks of life. They talk about the town’s history, the prehistoric burial mound for which it is named, the leading industries over the decades, the boom times, the economic decline since the 1980s, and ideas about the town’s future. I grew up in the Ohio Valley, about an hour’s drive from Moundsville, so these conversations felt familiar, like spending an afternoon in the local diner.

A central theme is the local economy, including the remarkable number of products that the town’s workers manufactured in decades past. At one time, Marx Toys, which employed thousands in its Glen Dale factory (neighboring Moundsville), produced one of every three toys made in America. Other major employers in the area included Fostoria Glass, U.S. Stamping Company, Allied Chemical, and the Moundsville State Penitentiary. A short drive away were coal mines, steel mills, and more chemical plants.

Today, Moundsville’s economy—like much of the region’s—looks a lot different. Many of the mines and mills have shut down. RV parks just out of town house out-of-state gas pipeline and drilling crews. The downtown has a lot of old businesses but also empty storefronts, and the Walmart Supercenter and other chain stores on the edge of town have won over many customers. Some local entrepreneurs have found their niche in the new economy by, among other things, capitalizing on tourism to the now shuttered prison and the nearby Palace of Gold (a Hare Krishna community). But a third of the town’s residents have moved away.

With so many rusting factories, Moundsville could have become just another of the many reports from “Trump Country” since the 2016 election. Most of those seem to be written by journalists facing deadlines, who parachute into Appalachia, gather a few quotes that support their assumptions about racist provincials, and then head back to the airport. In her recent book What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia, Elizabeth Catte writes that these reports “share a willingness to use flawed representations of Appalachia to shore up narratives of an extreme ‘other America’ that can be condemned or redeemed to suit one’s purpose.”

Rose, a Moundsville resident interviewed in the film. | Moundsville.org

Those reports often attempt to construct a single narrative about voters in “Trump Country,” and the makers of Moundsville explicitly position their documentary against such narratives. The voiceover for one of the trailers for the documentary explains that after the election “every media story about small-town America seemed to focus on the same things: Trump, opioids, and the rusting factory.” “But,” it continues, “what if you went to a small town and didn’t talk about those things? What if you simply asked people about their lives without connecting their answers to those larger narratives?”

Indeed, Moundsville does a good job of capturing the joys of life in a small town and highlighting the diversity of voices even in a town of 9000 by featuring young and old, women and men, and white, African American, and Latino voices.

While this portrait is refreshing because the filmmakers brought empathy and patience to the project, they left out some important, complex, and challenging topics that do not lend themselves to restaurant conversations. While the documentary touches on economic decline, trade policies, and the outmigration of young people, it tends to treat economic change as natural or neutral, not even mentioning the policymakers or policies that facilitated capital migration. I would argue that one of the greatest accomplishments of the proponents of neoliberalism has been to make their ideology seem like economic changes just happen. Neoliberals’ free-trade policies, cuts to taxes and social spending, privatization, and the elimination of union protections have hollowed out many factory towns, cut assistance to the poor and unemployed, and concentrated wealth and power in the hands of the few.

While some of the participants in the documentary share their memories of Moundsville’s prosperous decades, they don’t talk about how unions enabled workers to address safety concerns and gender discrimination, win fair wages and benefits, bring stability to their families, buy homes, and have discretionary income to spend at local businesses. While the residents remember those prosperous years by listing employers, they don’t mention the American Flint Glass Workers’ Union, the United Steel Workers of America, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, and the United Mine Workers of America. I’m guessing that only a few of those interviewed were union members, and as union strength has declined since the 1980s, public memories of the critical role they played in earlier decades have faded.

Moundsville, W.V. | Moundsville.org

Also, Moundsville offers only a cursory discussion of race and racism. A former mayor, who is African American, recalls painful episodes of racism when he was growing up but says that he no longer faces that kind of cruelty. And the Latino owner of the Acapulco Mexican Restaurant says that racism is still present and that it negatively frames residents’ understanding of immigrants. We do not hear other residents’ thoughts on the role of race in their town’s history. While Moundsville avoids the overly simplistic, stereotypical portraits of racist hillbillies that are a common feature of “Trump Country,” the result is to largely ignore race and racism, which are admittedly complex subjects.

Growing up in northern West Virginia, I was largely unaware of racism and associated it most with the use of the N-word, which was only uttered by the crudest students at my school. It was not until I reached adulthood that I began to realize that racism was particularly powerful when it was unheard and unseen. Racism has shaped life in these Ohio Valley factory towns in fundamental ways, particularly through discriminatory housing, employment, and education, and sometimes as a result of battles fought decades ago. These forms of racism are pervasive throughout the United States—no region or social class has a monopoly on it—and institutional racism’s profound effects up through the present need to be better understood.

When we erase subjects like institutional racism, the labor movement, and the rise of neoliberalism, the resulting portrait is incomplete, and things seemingly just happen to people and towns with no understanding of why. Moundsville is an intimate portrait of a former factory town whose residents are proud of their hometown and working to redefine it, and I appreciate the filmmakers’ hard work and empathetic lens. Yet much work remains to help us make sense of the past and present of Moundsville and many places like it.

The trailer can be viewed here.


Originally appeared at the Working-Class Perspectives 

CBS ‘The Twilight Zone’: “Not All Men” and the horrors of toxic masculinity – By Chauncey K. Robinson (People’s World) 14 May 2019

‘The Twilight Zone’: “Not All Men” and the horrors of toxic masculinity

Taissa Farmiga and Rhea Seehorn in The Twilight Zone episode “Not All Men.”


Editor’s note: A review and analysis of Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” episode seven. Spoilers ahead.


“There’s still some good men in the world, so remember that.” – The Twilight Zone

Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone is currently airing weekly on the streaming service CBS All Access. After a foray into the literal cosmos in the episode “Six Degrees of Freedom,” we now return to small town USA. Yet, all is not as it seems, as a meteorite might be having dangerous effects on all the men…well, not all men. Episode seven, titled “Not All Men,” uses overt horror to explore the dangers of toxic masculinity, rape culture, and male chauvinism. It’s an in-your-face, unapologetically violent episode, where the monster turns out not to be a deadly creature from outer space, but instead men who are enabled by a system that fosters their toxic behavior.

The episode stars Taissa Farmiga (The Nun), Ike Barinholtz (Blockers), Luke Kirby (Little Woods), Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), and Percy Hynes White (The Gifted). It is directed by Christina Coe (Welcome to the DPRK) and written by Heather Anne Campbell. Farmiga stars as Annie, a young woman who often goes along to get along in life and work, that suddenly finds herself in the midst of what appears to be a deadly epidemic hitting her small town of Newbury after a meteor shower. It seems that fragments of the meteorites have gotten into the water and are turning the men into rage-filled homicidal maniacs. Annie and her sister are now in a fight for their lives as they try to survive the night and figure out why only the men are being affected by the strange red rock from outer space.

The episode does well in mixing very plausible situations with the fantastical rage outbreak that overtakes the town of Newbury. Annie leads a simple life as a worker at a medical research company trying to make her way up the corporate ladder among men who often think they know more about her job than she does. She’s dedicated to her craft and often tries to be accommodating in order to be seen as a team player. After a not so pleasant date with the company’s new star employee Dylan (Luke Kirby), where he became aggressive with her after she rebuffed his sexual advances, Annie is left feeling confused and on edge.

This could be seen as a moment that many women experience, but it also happens to be the night of the fateful meteor shower when everything in Newbury changed. In processing why Dylan grew so angry and aggressive on their date, along with seeing other men growing hostile and violent seemingly out of nowhere, Annie concludes that it must be the red meteoroids affecting the men of the town.

Except, it’s not actually.

The relevant and poignant twist in this episode is that although the meteorites inject the men with extreme rage and aggression, they are not completely just victims of this outbreak. All the men have a choice. It turns out that they can opt to fight off the rage if they want, but many do not. Many give into the rage, or seemingly use it as an excuse to ignore common decency and boundaries, thus plunging the town into chaos. The rocks are placebos for the not so undercover aggression and toxic behaviors many of the men already had hints of.

This is one of the few episodes of this season so far where the one-hour length of the story feels justified, as things move quickly. The episode starts out like a romance and quickly turns into a horror story. Farmiga gives Annie a subtle strength that slowly shows through with every deadly encounter with a crazed man in the episode. And although there is no definitive conclusion to the outbreak, aside from the fact that all the men have a choice to give into the rage or fight it, there is a satisfying conclusion to Annie’s character arc, as she makes a clear decision to no longer smile in the face of male aggression and chauvinism.

One major theme in the episode is the insidious nature of rape culture in our society—rape culture being the environment and ways in which society normalize and trivialize sexual assault and abuse. After her date with Dylan, Annie is left confused over why he became aggressive and has to unpack her feelings over being nearly assaulted. Annie even tries to finds ways to excuse Dylan’s behavior, as she places the blame on herself by saying that perhaps she was giving him “mixed signals” on what she wanted. These instances of victim blaming and avoidance are common occurrences in a society that places the burden of sexual assault and harassment on survivors instead of perpetrators.

The second major theme, and showcased as perhaps the most deadly, is the dangerous nature of toxic masculinity and what happens when it is unleashed. The episode does not shy away from the harsh language and violence that the infected men display. Women are repeatedly called “b*tch” by the men, chastised for their choices, and attacked. Shootings occur, people die, and often the men give short speeches beforehand trying to somehow justify their anger.

This justification of violence and terror is also not special to The Twilight Zone, as the story feels symbolic of the very real instances of domestic terror witnessed in our own reality when toxic masculinity runs rampant. From mass shootings to domestic violence, the news is often riddled with instances of men giving into rage that attacks others for the wrongs they think society has done against them.

The episode never explains why the rock only affects men, but it does make plain that all men, in any society, have a choice on whether or not to give into an environment that encourages them to lack empathy or regard for the boundaries of women and others. The title is a play on the often used phrase employed to rebuff arguments regarding toxic masculinity and male chauvinism: “Well, not all men are that way.” And while that may be true, as it is true that “not all” white people are racist, or “not all” police officers engage in police brutality, the fact remains that statistics and patterns exist showing there are systemic issues that enable repeated injustice.

As Peele narrates the end of the episode, that the outbreak was not a “material disease but rather a plague of the conscience. One that gave permission to ignore decency, consent, and fear.” I would argue that the episode puts forth the idea that toxic masculinity and male chauvinism can not be passively dealt with, but must be actively resisted, just as the men had to actively fight the rage. I would also conclude that this idea is absolutely right, and this episode is worth watching.


Today in history: The 1970 killings at Jackson State College the 15th of May – (People’s World) 15 May 2019

Today in history: The 1970 killings at Jackson State College

Jackson State historical marker. Mississippi Freedom Trail

The Jackson State killings occurred on Friday, May 15, 1970, at Jackson State College, a historically Black college (now Jackson State University) in Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital and its largest city.

Two students at Jackson State peer from a window that was shot out by police on campus in May 1970. Jack Thornell/AP

On May 14, 1970, a group of student protesters against the Vietnam War, specifically the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, were confronted by city and state police. Shortly after midnight, the police opened fire, killing two students and injuring twelve. The event happened only 11 days after National Guardsmen killed four students in similar protests at Kent State University in Ohio, which had first captured national attention. College campuses across the country were in turmoil over the fresh expansion of the hated war.

A group of around a hundred African-American students had gathered on Lynch Street, a major thoroughfare that divided the campus and linked West Jackson to downtown which was a well known site for racial intimidation and harassment by white motorists. A rumor spread that Fayette, Miss. Mayor Charles Evers (brother of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers) and his wife had been shot and killed. By around 9:30 p.m. the students had started fires, thrown rocks at motorists and overturned vehicles, including a large truck. Firefighters at the scene quickly requested police support.

The police responded in force. At least 75 Jackson police units from the city and the Mississippi Highway Patrol attempted to control the crowd while the firemen extinguished the fires. After the firefighters had left, shortly before midnight, the police moved to disperse the crowd then gathered in front of Alexander Hall, a five-story women’s dormitory.

Advancing to within 50-100 feet of the crowd, at roughly 12:05 a.m. on May 15, officers opened fire on the dormitory. Authorities claimed they saw a sniper on one of the building’s upper floors but an FBI search for evidence of sniper fire was negative. At least 140 shots – some estimate more than 460 – were fired by a reported 40 state highway patrolmen using shotguns from 30 to 50 feet. Every window on the side of the building facing Lynch Street was shattered.

Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, a junior pre-law major and father of an 18 month-old son, and James Earl Green, 17, a senior at nearby Jim Hill High School who was walking home from work at a local grocery store when he stopped to watch the action, were killed; 12 others were wounded. But ambulances were not called until after the officers picked up their shell casings, a U.S. Senate probe conducted by Sens. Walter Mondale and Birch Bayh later revealed.

There were no arrests in connection with the deaths at Jackson State, although the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest concluded “that the 28-second fusillade from police officers was an unreasonable, unjustified overreaction…A broad barrage of gunfire in response to reported and unconfirmed sniper fire is never warranted.”

The university has memorialized the shootings by naming the area the Gibbs-Green Plaza. A large stone monument in front of Alexander Hall near the plaza honors the two victims.

According to an NPR essay on the 40th anniversary of the killings, “The event continues to leave a mark on the university. Even today, passers-by can see the bullet holes in the women’s dorm….  All Jackson State students learn about the shooting in a mandatory orientation class, and professors evoke the event as a teaching tool. C. Liegh McInnis, who teaches creative writing and world literature at Jackson State, says the story of the shooting is integrated into the curriculum of several liberal arts departments.”

Adapted from The Biographical Dictionary of Black Americans by Rachel Krantz and Elizabeth A.Ryan; National Public Radio (May 3, 2010); and Wikipedia.


‘A Walk in the Woods’ by Bill Bryson – audio book review – 15 May 2019

“Tell me a story, before I go to bed.”

I’ve told a few bedtime stories, and I’ve read a few tales to children at bedtime.  I’ve read a lot of books before I turned out the light next to my own bed.  I hunger for narrative.

Lately I have been falling asleep with audio books playing while I drift off to the land of nod.  Sometimes I listen on Librivox where the chapter ends and the device turns off, other times I am listening to an audio book on Youtube where the narration keeps going and I wake up after drifting off and must turn off the device. 

On Youtube a suggested video on my homepage was ‘A Walk in the Woods’ by Bill Bryson.  Actually the work was simply listed as ‘A Walk in the Woods’ in big green letters against a white background.  I had never heard of the work; I immediately thought of ‘In the Maine Woods’ by Thoreau.  I tried to evaluate the previous videos that I had watched that made the algorithm on Youtube suggest this unknown work to me.  I have no idea.  But, I do frequently simply type in ‘audio book’ to see what comes up.  I hunger for narrative.

After seeing the title a number of times on my homepage I finally took the bait and clicked on the video.  Almost immediately I liked the language and style of the writing.  The author was witty and informative.

I wondered who the writer was.  The video only had the title.  When I looked at the information beneath the video – there was none.  Why?  I guess the poster realized that the audio tapes uploaded to Youtube were still under copyright for this 1996 work.  The video had parts that said, “This is the end of side two” indicating that the poster had gotten the audio from an old fashioned cassette tape. 

A Walk in The Woods -The use of the audio could be considered ‘Fair Use’ under US copyright laws.  The Youtube poster is not getting any money from the post – the work is offered for educational value – one could argue. 

For the last two or three days I have been listening to the book.   I think back to the times when I was a young teenager in the Boy Scouts with many walks in the woods and a climbing in the Blue Hills just south of Boston.  Not very big hills compared to the rest of the Appalachian Mountains, but, we work with what we have.  Blue Hills 9

Blue Hills 4

When I was eleven or twelve I used to ride my bike up through Mattapan and down Blue Hill Parkway to the Blue Hills reservation with my friend Sandy.  We could disappear into the woods with no adult supervision.  We camped at the official Boy Scout camp in the hills, but after we learned how to get to the reservation we returned on our own. 

Blue Hills 7The woods were lovely, dark and deep.  I felt a kind of freedom from society while we made our way over rocks and fallen trees down paths unknown to us.  In my urban neighborhood there seemed to be a group of hostile kids on every street we road our bikes down.  But, in the woods Sandy and I rarely met up with anyone.  The public land seemed to be our land.

Television at that time was filled with Westerns  – Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Sugarfoot, Palladin, I watched them all.  I especially liked the Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone stories.  I wanted to be an explorer and get out of the city with crowds of hostile people. 

There it was, a half hour bike ride away.  I thought I was out in the wilderness.  blue hills 2

Of course when I made it to the top of the hill we could see the city and the suburbs all around us.  I guess the Eastern part of Massachusetts is one of the most densely populated places in the US.  But, it was a good enough escape for me.  As a famous US vice president once said, “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.” 

I found the Boy Scout manual a useful guide to everyday life in a way that I simply did not find the Catholic catechism I studied in school to be useful.  One of the dangers of the woods that the Boy Scout manual warned of was tick bites.  Of all the terrors of the woods one thing not present in the Blue Hills Reservation was bears.  But the little tick could actually affect more people with the diseases they might carry like Lyme disease. 

As I looked up picture for this post I saw that the reservation managers had arranged to allow hunting of deer on the Blue Hills Reservation.  People who think ticks and deer have a right to life protested against the culling of the herd.  

When I talk with people who really, really love animals I detect a distinct notion that they think there are not enough animals in the world, and that there are too many people.  I used to go to the Blue Hills to get away from people, but I never went as far as the animal rights people who seem to want to take the anti-people idea to the logical conclusion. 

Blue Hills 8

After listening to Bill Bryson’s tales of the woods and hiking up hills I am tempted to drive to the Blue Hills Reservation and climb up to the top once again to the stone lookout post.

Blue Hills 1

I don’t think I’ll ride my bike. Or, I could just watch the movie that was made from the book with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.  It looks like the movie is on Amazon Prime for $2.99.  I’ll save up to watch. 

Venezuela isn’t Syria… but America’s war tactics are the same – by Eva Bartlett (RT) 14 May 2019

Venezuela isn't Syria… but America’s war tactics are the same
Since Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, rhetoric emanating from Washington has grown increasingly familiar.

It echoes the bombastic & hollow humanitarian-crisis type of war propaganda which has been used repeatedly in resource-rich nations, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria. And now we’re seeing it in Venezuela.

The regime-change recipe is straightforward: demonize the leadership and those who defend the country; support an opposition that is inevitably violent and whitewash their crimes; sanction the country & attack the infrastructure to create unbearable conditions; create fake news about humanitarian issues; possibly wage false flag incidents to incriminate the government; control the narrative; and insist that intervention is necessary for the well-being of the people.

In Libya,black Africans are being sold as slaves in a country devastated by Western fake humanitarianism and bombings.

Venezuela has for years been defiantly resisting the economic and propaganda wars, led by the US and Canada, as well as coup d’état and assassination attempts, only to see the anti-Venezuela rhetoric once again ramped up in recent months.

In spite of the wreckage trail that America’s regime change efforts have left over the decades throughout Latin America and the world, when comparing tactics against these countries and now again against Venezuela, some people surprisingly insist that this time it is different.

Venezuela isn’t Syria, they say. This time, they argue, it really is about a ‘corrupt regime,’ and ‘human rights’ — or in the case of Venezuela, a ‘humanitarian crisis’… as if the US has ever had the best interests of any people, including their own, at heart.

They ignore the West’s murderous sanctions against Venezuela and the propping up of the violent ‘opposition— an opposition that has burned civilians alive — as well as the millions of dollars spent supporting it.

Then there’s the more recent violent actions against Venezuela, like the February 23 attempt to ram aid trucks into Venezuela, and the April 30 US-backed coup attempt by Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez (a violent right-wing opposition leader) — an attempt clearly rejected by masses of Venezuelans.

Colectivos, the new ‘Shabiha’

Prior to 2011, the Western corporate media actually had many positive things to say about Syria’s leadership, praising President Assad as an open-minded reformer. When the regime-change operation kicked off, Assad and allies were number one enemies. In both Venezuela and Syria, presidents Maduro and Assad were legitimately elected and retain wide support among the population.

Yet, the Western corporate media and the politicians they echo routinely deem both countries to be “dictatorships” and the elected presidents illegitimate — while backing unpopular and undemocratic puppets they seek to put in place.

But demonizing the government isn’t enough; supporters of the government likewise are targeted, or simply disappeared. In Syria, supporters are called shabiha, inferring they — yes, millions of them! — are paid thugs of the government, and thus negating their voices.

It is an utterly disingenuous tactic used to silence the voices of the masses — along the lines of Western corporate media calling those of us who actually question, let alone go to the places in question, ‘conspiracy theorists.’

Venezuela’s shabiha are the colectivos, and are likewise depicted as government-backed thugs, and designated by the US’ actual thugs as ‘terrorists.’

These collectives are organized, grassroots groups of people who come together as educators, feminists, pensioners, farmers, environmentalists, to provide healthcare in their communities, among other things, or in defense of their nation.

While smearing collective grassroots groups, Western corporate media and barking politicians like Marco Rubio and John Bolton whitewash the actual crimes of armed opposition supporters. One such recent example was opposition members setting fire to a Caracas PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) headquarters, leaving a note cursing colectivos.

In Venezuela, I spent time with the leader of a youth collective of 170 families. The collective helps the community’s youth with their needs and organizes activities for them, as well as providing affordable produce to the local community. During the power outages, this same colectivo supported hundreds of families in obtaining drinking and washing water, and in storing perishable foods.

On March 30, I joined hundreds of members of a motorcycle-taxi union colectivo driving their motorcycles through and around the capital in a show of support for their country and defiance against foreign intervention. These were women and men making a statement with their physical presence: they would not allow their country to be attacked, from within or without.

One of the organizers, acutely aware of how colectivos are portrayed, told me, “We are not terrorists, the terrorists have come with that lackey opposition,” and went on to say that governments bring terrorism to Venezuela.

Another man at the motorcycle demonstration said, “We are suffering because of terrorism that has been implanted through a US puppet named Juan Guaidó. We say to you Guaidó and we say to you Trump: ‘You took away our water, you took away the light, but you ignited our soul, and we are determined to defend the country with our lives if it is necessary.’

The same bikers later joined up with the tens of thousands of Venezuelan civilians who took to the streets in a festive show of support for President Maduro. Two weeks prior, on March 16, I’d walked for a few hours in another such mass demonstration, filming demonstrators, hearing their opinions on the non-president Guaido, on their support for Maduro, and on their refusal to see their Bolivarian project be destroyed.

Earlier that day, circling around for an hour on the motorcycle-taxi I had flagged down, I searched for opposition supporters who were meant to have converged in multiple points across the city as per Guaido’s calls to take to the streets. In one of the locations I instead found Maduro supporters, and finally in other locations found handfuls of supporters, then a couple dozen supporters in the opposition stronghold, Altimira.

In Syria, mass demonstrations supporting President Assad occurred from the early months of 2011 and in years following.

Sanction the country & attack its infrastructure

The US and Canada have for years put Venezuela under crippling sanctions, a form of collective punishment.

UN Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy on May 6 noted the hypocrisy of imposing devastating sanctions and related economic measures and yet it is claimed these help the Venezuelan people.

UN expert Alfred de Zayas aptly calls sanctions a form of terrorism, “because they invariably impact, directly or indirectly, the poor and vulnerable.

US talking heads downplay the drastic effects of sanctions, but the reality of their effect is staggering.

A recent report estimated that sanctions caused 40,000 deaths in 2017-2018, with 300,000 more Venezuelans at risk. Recently, a six-year-old boy needing a bone marrow transplant and treatment (provided by an association in agreement with the PDVSA, Venezuela’s oil and natural gas company), died as a result of his treatment being denied due to US sanctions on PDVSA.

When I arrived in Caracas in March, it was three days into the first of two major power outages in Venezuela that month. Of the first, the Venezuelan government maintains that the US targeted Venezuela’s power grid, through cyber attack, using electromagnetic pulse devices, and by physical attacks.

Targeting electrical infrastructure isn’t a foreign concept for the US, and during the first outage, even Forbes wrote that, “the idea of a government like the United States remotely interfering with its power grid is actually quite realistic.”

Hours before the power cut on March 7, Marco Rubio foresaw that Venezuela would “enter a period of suffering that no nation has confronted in modern history.”

In Syria, since 2011 terrorists have targeted electricity stations and power plants. Syrians in Aleppo lived for years without electricity, deprived of power after terrorists took control of the district housing the power plant. Those who could afford it bought generator electricity by the ampere.

Following the 2006 Israeli bombing of Gaza’s power plant, Palestinians suffered years of power outages for 18 or more hours a day. At present, Gaza has eight hours of electricity per day.

Clearly, the concept of attacking infrastructure like electricity and water is one the US and allies are intimately familiar with, in order to creating hellish living conditions for the people of the country being targeted.

Guaido asks US military for meeting to plan ‘restoring democracy’ in Venezuela

Starvation & garbage eating crisis

In Syria, every time an area occupied by Al-Qaeda and Co. is being liberated, corporate media screams en masse about starving civilians, thrusting the blame on the Syrian government when in fact every time hunger has been the result of terrorists hoarding and controlling food and aid.

The starving civilians propaganda has resurfaced in Venezuela, with Western media claiming an epidemic of empty-shelved stores and people eating from garbage.

Jorge Ramos, a Univision journalist, claimed to have filmed three men eating out of a dumpster very near even minutes from – the Venezuelan presidential palace, Miraflores. In reality, Ramos filmed in Chacao, an opposition stronghold nearly 7km from the palace, more like half an hour away in Caracas traffic.

In late March, I walked with a youth colectivo leader I’d gotten to know around the barrio below his Las Brisas district in western Caracas.

To illustrate his point that the Western hype about mass starvation was nonsense, he knocked on doors in the lower-class district asking people we met if they were starving, and whether they’d eaten today. Most we met were confused by the odd question (clearly they haven’t seen Rubio’s Twitter feed).

In the hilltop housing complex of Ciudad Mariche, locals likewise were adamant that there isn’t a humanitarian crisis. One man told me:We’re not starving. We have many general problems, but not starving. This is not a humanitarian crisis. Say to your governments, this isn’t a fight against Maduro, this is a fight against a people that are trying to be free.

Any state other than the US in Syria, Venezuela, ‘illegal’

According to the bully of the world, only the US has the right to intervene in sovereign nations, in spite of the fact their uninvited intervention is illegal.

The US has threatened Venezuela’s allies, including Cuba and Russia, bizarrely claiming Russia was intervening in Venezuela without the government’s consent, a claim which runs contrary to the bilateral agreement Russia and Venezuela have.

The hypocritical posturing of the US hasn’t dented Russia’s alliance with Venezuela, with Moscow announcing the intent to create a “UN coalition of countries to ‘counter’ the eventual invasion of Venezuela by the US.”

In any case, like Syria, Venezuela will not be overtaken so easily, with its armed forces of 200,000 and its nearly 2 million militias preparing to defend their land


Eva Bartlett is a freelance journalist and rights activist with extensive experience in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Her writings can be found on her blog, In Gaza.

Escape from America: Back to Mexico – by Linh Dinh • 13 May 2019

Mexico ww
Border crossing at Juarez, 2012

Last month, I received an email from a young Mexican, “I am a DREAMER (I find the term infantilizing) someone who was brought to the U.S as a child illegally and raised here. I received a work permit through DACA, I can only work legally, I can’t step out of the country and step back in as of now, and previously I would have to apply for special permission and pay the government $600 dollars to do so. I have managed to become a university student and it is my senior year. Given that, I plan to go to Mexico after I graduate and never to return to the U.S. Some people were born to be immigrants and I was not one of those people.”

“DREAMER” comes from the the DREAM Act, which is an acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It was introduced by two senators, Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), in 2001, to eventually grant residency to illegal minors living in the United States.

In 2019, the DREAM Act remains, well, a dream, and it’s unclear if it will ever pass. Its opponents reject all illegal immigration, and don’t want to set any precedent enabling more of it. Its supporters depict the issue morally. The New York Times has published many passionate editorials defending DREAMERS. On February 26th, 2018, for example, there’s Joseph W. Tobin’s “If You’re a Patriot and a Christian, You Should Support the Dream Act,” which begins:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls on us to welcome and protect the stranger. This should not be hard to do when the stranger is young, blameless and working hard to make this country a better place.

There are nearly 700,000 young men and women in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program who could soon be at risk for deportation. These “Dreamers” live in our neighborhoods, attend our schools, fight for our country and contribute to our workplaces. Our leaders in Washington, including President Trump, have a moral obligation to try to protect those who came to our nation as children with their parents, and who are Americans in every way.

“Young, blameless and working hard,” dreamers are already ideal citizens, Tobin tells us, so why should we cruelly and immorally deny their simple dream of becoming Americans? At least one, though, is saying, “No, thanks,” so let’s hear more from this young man.

Please talk about your family background, and how you arrived in the US?

I have no full-brother or sister. My parents met in rural Nayarit, only my mother is from there. That was where I was born, for reasons I do not know and am apprehensive to question. My father left my pregnant mother, but returned a couple of years later, but by then my mother and I had immigrated to the U.S. In early 1993 my mother and I had crossed into the U.S illegally/undocumented (the semantics don’t matter.) For clarity’s sake I will tell you how I was snuck in. I was placed in a crib in the car of a green-card holding aunt who had a U.S born child, and my cousin’s birth certificate was what was shown as proof that the baby in the crib can cross the border. My mother had to cross through the hills on foot like one usually imagines illegal crossings.

Once here, my mother and I had a tranquil existence, she would make good money working factory jobs in and about Orange and San Diego county. Things seemed to have been on the way up but unfortunately she got involved in an abusive relationship with a refugee from Latin America. In a quarrelsome household where one partner has legal presence and the other doesn’t, constant threats of deportation were made and that sword of Damocles is one that always hangs over our heads. From then on my mother would run away from the house taking me and my new half-siblings and of course she would be pursued by her abuser, this continued for years. Roughly the years where I was in elementary school to middle school, such an unstable childhood going from women’s shelter to unhappy homes again and again left me with the fact that by the time I finished high school I had gone to more schools than there are grades.

Where have you lived in the US, and what are you doing now?

Given such an unstable childhood, I have lived in numerous places in Orange and Fresno county and lived for a while in South L.A then at the time of middle school moved to an Appalachian community.

Currently, I am a senior in a “good” university on the East coast. I had it planned that I would have some sort of legal status by graduation, but outside of DACA I have no legal status. My mother does though, good for her.

Although you’re functionally and socially an American, you’re not one legally, so your integration has been very problematic and tension filled. Please talk about this process. How emotionally attached are you to the USA? And how are your bonds to Mexico?

First thing, I always knew I was illegal, it was something I had to always be conscious of, I don’t know anyone else who brought here illegally as a child who did not always know they were illegal. When school tests would ask for my social security number I always had to check with the teacher on how I should answer with the excuse “I don’t know my social.” I know exactly why I didn’t know my social, because I didn’t have one. I always knew I was illegal.

Other issues are that I never integrated into a larger immigrant community, because I was always moving around, there were times I lived in immigrant neighborhoods and times I lived in very multi-cultural (no sarcasm, families of all background’s inhabited them) woman’s shelters. I never sprouted roots

Given that background, there was always the darn hope for papeles, one day, one day we would get our papeles and our nightmare would be over, that was our religion our hope.

Starting in high school my family situation finally more or less settled down. My family moved to a very white and rural area, a place that would make you think why the fuck are there Mexicans here and why would they move here. I finally made long term friends, white americans, who I didn’t have to abandon after a couple of months. My high school had very few Latinos, so I was friends with rednecks and edgy white kids. This is the time I was very functionally and socially an American doing American teenager things, but of course I had the burden of illegalness and crushing extreme poverty.

Being poor and not having a social security number really limits what one can do for fun (no money, no driver’s license, no car.) So I read, nonfiction books and articles online and at the library.

It was that habit that led me to question whether I could be and should be an American. And it was also what kept me busy during high school. Teenage delinquency wasn’t for me because I had been taught that as soon as a police officer shows up me and my mom were to be deported (the worst of all fates). Crushing poverty and lack of driver’s license also made buying teenage me a car a non-starter. So I was considerably less mobile and much more cautious than regular teenagers. That doesn’t mean I didn’t drink, smoke pot, or any other teenage stuff, it just meant I was completely reliant on friends with cars. Avoiding legal troubles wasn’t difficult for me, for one I dislike weed and I was simply on the road less often than most. Most of my U.S born cousins have been caught with weed in their cars.

Either way, I spent much time contemplating why everything is so fucked up, why did the U.S invade Iraq? Me and my mother knew it was a bad idea, why didn’t Bush? Like many teenagers who liked to read I became a stereotypical anti-American teenager. Before I continue I do have to say that after graduating high school and getting a work permit I have had older white co-workers in low paid jobs who were incredibly welcoming and humane, who saw me as a fellow American and took an interest in seeing me succeed. These people represent the best of America and they do exists, but they exist in shockingly low numbers and the larger institutions of this country are built to end such personalities from public life.

Entering the workforce at the bottom of American society doesn’t give one much hope or optimism for this country or for one’s future, having been sold on the idea of getting a university education and having applied and been accepted into universities, but not being able to go because the schools were public and thus no aid is available to illegals even though thanks to daca I do have a social security card, before daca I couldn’t even apply to colleges, what does one put down when applying to college from a U.S address and the form requires a social? I finally learned about some private universities that were need blind even for international students and I applied and got accepted into one.

If one is expecting this part of the story to be one where I go out and have the American college life and fully integrate. Something kind of like that has happened. In my experience young Americans have college years they can’t call golden and quite a few feel alienated from this society. I am the same, I feel alienated. During college I took advantage of library resources and my free time to read more, and I became even more pessimistic about the future, I also had more brush-ups with the bureaucracy of the university and saw the pessimistic ideas I read about are pessimistic realities.

You talk about having kind white coworkers, but what about love interests? Your mother loved a man who was here legally, and he used her illegal status against her. What about you? Has your illegal status gotten in the way of having a relationship with anyone?

I have only had one love interest and legal status had nothing to do with it or it ending, maybe it has a little to do with it because I have never felt like I could provide the life I would want for a family. I couldn’t provide the life I wanted for myself, how would I be able to provide it to myself and a girlfriend?

Being an illegal has taught me to not talk about myself and given such an unstable childhood I don’t have a hometown or really any place I can say I am from. Therefore friends and girlfriends don’t know I am illegal. But during college and after daca I did open up about it, but not to everyone. And in general people don’t know where I am from, not that I could answer that question with a short reply or pick a point on a map that I can call my hometown.

Your life as an illegal, then, has been highly unstable, stress-filled and uncertain, and the DREAM Act gives you little hope, not that you would necessarily embrace it, for you have decided to go home.

This leads to why on Earth would I go back to Mexico. For one and maybe to present a ray of light in this interview is that my father’s side of the family contacted me during my college years and want me to go. Honestly without a middle-class Mexican family welcoming me back with open arms, I would probably remain here trying to survive in a culture that rubs me wrong in so many ways(this is worthy of a whole other article).

My mother’s side of the family is poor and has basically left Mexico en masse, I have an aunt and a cousin and my maternal grandparents living in a rural community where the average age is 60+ and the young people have all moved to the U.S. Returning to them with no capital would be useless. If I had not been contacted by my father’s family I would work until the permit expires then go back with some savings in hand and try to make the best of it.

What draws me to Mexico is my father’s family and some personal experiences that contradict the narrative about Mexico from Mexican immigrant. If one is to believe the immigrants from Mexico, one would never leave the U.S. The U.S is a great noble country with no corruption, rule of law etc. And Mexico is the opposite it is basically unliveable. However I will share something I rarely share. I have been to Mexico. After graduating high school and before DACA was announced. I went to Mexico, I worked in a border factory for a couple months then went to Nayarit. And it was amazing. I felt like an actual human being, the first ever official government ID I ever had was credencial de elector I received at the age of 18. I also felt middle-class I didn’t feel like I was at the bottom of society, but that I was right at the center. All feelings of being a marginal individual vanished. I was as free and equal as anyone else.

Someone once described poverty as one continuing crisis, and when I went to Mexico the crisis ended. I also saw that I could achieve more as a legal Mexican citizen in Mexico than an illegal Mexican in the U.S. The poverty I live through here in the U.S is ridiculous. My maternal grandparents have a nicer home in Mexico than my mom has in the U.S. But after six months in Mexico I returned to the U.S, because I was still a wandering 18 year old and all my closest family members are in the U.S and once I was in Nayarit it seemed like the thing to do. But the emigre myth of horrible unliveable Mexico was shattered by my experience there.

One reason I was so happy to be back in Mexico was that I was 18, living on my own and 3/4 of my income was disposable. Sure it wasn’t a lot of disposable income but it felt like a lot. Having all that gave me a nice taste of adulthood. Here in the U.S expenses are high, and everything is so damn competitive, there is so much pressure to be better in all aspects, to achieve ever more and if that fails one must consume ever more. Mexico felt like a place where I could just be. The jobs I worked here in the U.S were so damn demanding eating into my weekends, requiring half-hour or longer commutes and paperwork. In America low-wage manual temp workers are required to do paperwork, apparently managers are too stupid or too lazy to manage parts, production and what not. Being managed by dumbasses is one thing, it is a near universal experience nowadays, but being limited by law to remaining in such a position is fucking bullshit. But now I recognize even with legal status social mobility is shot, your birth determines your status in life. It is the American inability to face this fact, to deny reality and dismiss it, that is turning it into a decaying empire.

In Mexico I met people whom I could not have met in the U.S, Mexicans who had zero interest in going to the U.S and some who had gone to the U.S and disliked it and never wanted to go again. Growing up in an immigrant household that dealt with such heavy burdens and problems, I thought that if we are dealing with this awful situation (domestic violence, grinding poverty, constant fear of deportation, constant moving) instead of being in Mexico, Mexico HAD to be worse, why else would anyone choose my life in the U.S.

Also learning about Mexico from emigres gives you a really distorted view of Mexico. While working in the border factory I was talking to a buddy about how I was fucked for not having U.S legal status, he asked what would I do with legal status. I said “I would become an accountant,” my co-worker scoffed and said, “you could do that here.” It hit me, Mexico was a real country with a real middle-class with mundane people such as accountants and the other jobs I thought only existed in “white” countries. Sure, getting paid in USD has been called life on easy mode, but pretty much any job that exists in the U.S exists in Mexico. I want to contrast that with the life I was showcased in the U.S all the successes in my immigrant community were working shit jobs, had fat, ugly wives and their point of pride was lifted trucks with excessive fake plastic silver trimming and tacky jewelry. Tacky jewelry and lifted trucks aren’t enough to convince me to live in the shadows and be limited to low-end jobs. For that matter neither are hi-end sports cars or folding smartphones enough to convince me to stay. I would rather be poorer than an American working a shit job but have more dignity at work and in society than an American shit job workers has. I was searching for the dignity that an illegal immigrant trades-in when they decide to come. I want to be clear I am talking about those who DECIDE to come, not those who pretty much are forced to come, people unfortunate enough to have to choose between dignity and life.

One question you might have about Mexico is about security. Honestly, I felt more fear in the U.S, due to the threat of deportation, than I did in Mexico. I was there during Calderon’s drug war, so things were bad on the news. But the attitude Mexicans had about it was, that the only people who get killed by cartels are people who are part of cartels. If you don’t get involved in such things, it doesn’t affect you.

Something that has been on my mind recently is that I am a Mexican in America and there exists in America the image of the Mexican in America and it is not a good image. To make sense of that word salad consider the image that comes to mind when one thinks of the name Juan Rodriguez. One assumes a landscaper, janitor or other low-wage laborer, if Juan Rodriguez has a college degree, one assumes an affirmative-action student who wasn’t really deserving of the degree or acceptance into university. Juan Rodriguez is not a professor, not a lawyer, not a blank slate like the name John Smith. Contrast that to Mexico or any other hispanophone nation, Juan Rodriguez is a blank slate, Juan could be anyone a lawyer, a millionaire, a doctor whatever. Of course in the U.S there exists doctors etc. with the name Juan, but people always seemed to be surprise to find that out about Juan. Don’t jump on me with criticisms of statements I never made. Juan in the U.S probably (I use the word probably because I haven’t verified it) fits the stereotype of being a low-wage laborer. I just want to illustrate I don’t want to deal with the burden of the image of Juan in the U.S. But I don’t want to take away from the struggles of poor Americans. The name John Smith doesn’t give any real benefit, and in general if you are born poor in the U.S you are fucked, whatever your name is.

I came to the U.S and now I am close to finishing my degree I don’t see much future here as a Mexican, especially as an illegal Mexican and even as a hypothetical American. This is a decaying empire, a toxic(don’t imply this to mean SJW sympathies) culture, and quite frankly (and I feel at liberty to say this because it is unz.com, so far this interview seems like it could be published anywhere else on the internet, but I must say the following) this country is Jewish, in all ways in thinking, in the distribution of power and wealth. I can’t find it within myself to be part of a country that supports Israel and other inhumane actions. Especially when the country is basically telling me to go fuck myself with the signals of low-wages, rising costs, police impunity, crooked justice system and government, surveillance state.

And I must add I truly fear for Mexicans in the U.S there is so much vitriol and hatred out there towards us and I don’t see it de-escalating. Why be poor in the U.S and deal with all the aforementioned issues, when I can be poor in Mexico and live more freely. America has avarice and greed as culture and that is not me, even if I was guaranteed a 100K salary, I would still leave. I also thank my lucky stars that I have someplace to go to, I truly feel for the African-Americans, they have nowhere to go.

I only speak for myself, despite my desire to get the hell out of here. I understand the plight of other DREAMERs, I know how living in an immigrant community fills your head with ridiculous misconceptions about Mexico coming from trusted family members who have lived there, and if you can’t trust them who can you trust? These DREAMERs find themselves in between a rock and a hard place, some are really scared as fuck to go back because of the misconceptions and others are just woefully unprepared with no family to welcome them back.

During my time in Mexico my one maternal uncle who did not migrate congratulated on coming back, he said it was good that I returned because many emigres in his words become “afraid of Mexico” and I would not be. Their fear is very real although based on distortion and myths. The even more sad cases are DREAMERs who have fully Americanized who would die and fight for this country and view it as their homeland and manage to identify with it. They are truly fucked for reasons completely out of their control. Which is why I favor DREAMER legalization, it is simply the right humane thing to do. That doesn’t mean I am not wary of the problems it might cause, but to deal with illegal immigration you have to go after employers and stop giving birthright citizenship and marriage visas. Without those things immigration would just plain stop, the other thing is the imperial nature of U.S foreign and domestic policy. Move away from a system that requires cheap labor and that requires whatever it was that motivated the brutal U.S sponsored violence in Latin America and the world. I have joked with my friends about why Sweden doesn’t send all the refugees particularly Afghan and Somali refugees U.S policy has created, to the U.S. Why should Sweden pay for the U.S’s mistakes, or for that matter the Afghan people pay an even worse price than Sweden?

About my emotional ties to the U.S, how could I have any? Of course I will miss my friends and family. I don’t want to live here but I would like to easily cross the border to visit friends and family, but we have to play the cards we are dealt. I have to leave. As a Mexican, and as a Mexican with no legal status there is nothing I can do to change the path of this country. Only the Americans can do that

Like all people, in life I search for agency, and in the U.S I don’t have agency, my life choices are limited and so is my participation in the destiny of this country. My outlook for the U.S is pessimistic, I don’t see good things down the road, and as pessimistic as that is the odds of an illegal Mexican changing that are EVEN WORSE. Those being the sum of my heart and mind, it makes no sense to stay here. Leaving here is partly the renunciation of American life/culture and fleeing a sinking ship all wrapped in a layer of having never belonged here.

I want to address something I hear and find to be counter-productive arguments for immigration control. I hear many worry about immigration because they don’t want brown grandkids. On its face the argument is laughable, the people responsible for preventing brown grandkids are the grandparents, it is not anyone else’s job. Secondly, open borders (which I am against) is perfectly compatible with having white grandkids. One can have both, so it is not even an anti-immigration argument.

The reason I find this argument destructive is that it distracts from the real problems with immigration and subtly calls for the extermination of dark skinned people, if you can’t keep your children from race-mixing and want white grandkids the only other option is to eliminate other races, let’s be honest no one is calling for minorities to sign anti-race-mixing pledges or punishment for whites who race-mix, they simply want to not take responsibility for their grandchildren’s skin color. Lack of confidence in your childrearing abilities or laziness about it is a horrible reason to ethnically cleanse an area.

Another very destructive argument is that if America was to become majority non-white it would mean the end of all good things about America. This argument is destructive because it assumes a foreign force is the source of all problems in America and assumes that positive aspects about America are not illusions or in advanced decay.

It wasn’t high levels of brown people that created the disgusting caricature of Left politics in America known as the New Left, it wasn’t brown people that made the U.S a greedy and avaricious nation, it wasn’t brown people that made the U.S a staunch ally of Israel since its founding, it wasn’t brown people who ended community sentiment. Of course the U.S has become more brown, but it is not a case of correlation being causation. The internal problems were initiated and America became worse THEN it started becoming browner.

But if you focus on the two destructive arguments I outline the core internal problems can never be confronted. One example is imperial war, I will forgive the U.S for Mexican-American war, but the Spanish-American war is unforgivable and signals that there is an internal problem that goes back long before it could be blamed on brown and black people. How the fuck are you going to complain about brown people and ignore when you cross an ocean to take the Philipines and sail the Caribbean to take Puerto Rico and then by force keep it as part of the U.S. There was a Puerto Rican independence movement, and the U.S decided to destroy it. That is the height of hypocrisy of a country that supposedly wishes to keep its brown population low.

My last message is to the Americans and the patriots, please try to end the empire and become a republic. Try to supersede the divisive narratives and focus on the true issues of greed and lack of humanity. This is not intended to distract from other issues, such as immigration. I think immigration should end. End birth-right-citizenship and marriage visas, along with all other visas. But overthrow your media, refuse the culture-war stories and focus on the real stories of graft, corruption, useless wars and greed. The true culture war requires having the balls and maturity to make moral judgements and look beyond the clickbait ragefuel that distracts from who controls you. Practice critical thought, question your media and the elites. Stop uncritically accepting political agendas and talking points of talking heads. Stop letting your reality be created/experienced for you. America is pretty crooked and fucked but the majority don’t see it. At least third worlders admit their problems, but Americans can’t, they always blame someone else. Stop blaming others, you are one of the greatest superpowers in history. Introspection will go a long way. I am not calling for the false self-criticism of white guilt, I am calling for the self-criticism needed after a self-inflicted catastrophe.

You’ve decided that Mexico would be better for you, but what do think that Mexico itself has a bright future, and if so, why? You agree with me that the US is in trouble, so do you think that Mexico will do better than the US in the long run?

I think no one would ever nuke Mexico, so that is a plus, also Mexico’s population growth is slowing and it is doing better. China and Japan used to bleed tons of migrants and now they are leading the world. Mexico may have passed its bleeding migrants phase and moved onto a development phase. In the U.S I won’t be able to provide the rural and autonomous lifestyle I want for me and a possible wife. It is kind of ironic, because that is what my grandparents had. The allures of life in America, the expensive trinkets have zero draw on me. I have fallen out of love with the U.S. A cheesy metaphor was that I was in arranged marriage to the U.S but I saw her face and am now running away. Back to the point, I don’t think Mexico will become a superpower, nor would I want it to, I just think my future is brighter there than here. And I think even my american-born half-siblings futures are brighter there than here. Who knows what the future holds for the U.S but it just seems like an expanding pauper class, I do see a simple satisfying life being out of reach for an expanding number of Americans. Sure Mexicans can’t become admirals with aircraft carriers under their command, but they can live simple meaningful lives (I cautiously assume.)

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

I was banned from Reddit’s ‘How to draw’ – So – I set up my own ‘how to draw’ subreddit – 12 May 2019

I am banned from ‘subreddit’ threads on Reddit just about everyday.  I want to spread ideas, so I post links and text or pictures on many different subreddit message threads everyday.  People who are in charge of the subreddit, the moderators, often guard the subreddit and want a particular point of view emphasized.  Fair enough.  I am banned and have posts removed everyday.  I just move on and post somewhere else.  There are over 100,000 subreddit message threads on Reddit.  The recommendation from the administrators of the site who want to keep conflict down and information flowing is that a person should simply set up their own subreddit when they are banned somewhere.  If the topic of ‘knitting’ say is covered in r/knitting and you get in a conflict with the moderator – simply set up a new subreddit called r/knitting_  and the two threads can happily display what they want to different audiences who seek them out.  Or someone could read both. 

I was putting a few of my drawing videos on a Reddit subreddit called r/HowToDraw.  I made a series of sketching videos for beginning drawing and related to the class I taught concerning rapid visualization.   When I went back to the subreddit I saw that my post was not displayed.  Why was I excluded?  I have no idea.  But I wanted to put my contribution to the practice of drawing before a public.  Even a small public.

So, I created a new subreddit.  All I had to do was have a title.  I decided on r/HowToDraw101 using the standard college ‘101’ for an indication of a basic course number.  All I had to do was type the name and then copy and paste the name at each of a blank fill-in space on the Reddit form to create a new subreddit.  I picked a light grey motif and used no pictures for the top of the subreddit.  A minute or two later I had the subreddit set up and I began to list videos I had posted to Youtube.

I organized this collection of drawing videos and present them anew to the public.  The videos have been on Youtube for a while.  Not many views of some of them – maybe 12 or 13 – a bakers dozen.  Since I was banned from r/HowToDraw I assembled these videos that I made and watched them again.  I have been re-drawing the exercises as I drink my morning coffee.  I have gone through lots of scrap paper as I scribble with my broken crayon.  As I look at the pencil drawings I wonder why I was banned.  I have plenty of strong political opinions, or artistic criticisms, or personal favorites with movies that someone might disagree with.  But&#