June 05, 2018

Of Monstrous Injustice, and the Bizarre

Once again, I must offer my sincere apologies for being absent from this space. The reason for my absence is, yes, you guessed correctly, disgustingly awful bad health. Having a failing body is exhausting and boring. God, is it boring. There are so many things I want to do -- reading, writing, listening to music -- and I can barely summon the strength and focus to do even a small part of it. So I'm bored out of my mind, left to contemplate how shitty I feel -- which not surprisingly tends to make you feel more shitty.

All right. A couple of small pointers I can provide. First, the NYT published an engrossing two-part report about a man convicted of murdering his wife. (Part I, Part II) Exactly how and why he was convicted is fascinating, and absolutely horrifying. The second part of the story, which focuses on the "science" of bloodstain-pattern analysis, reveals the extent to which you can bamboozle people with "expert" witnesses who claim that "science" is on their side. Recall, as just one other example of the same phenomenon, all the "experts" in international relations and foreign policy who regularly and repeatedly offer advice which leads to still more brutality, death and destruction -- all of which inures to the benefit of the ruling class. Odd, how "experts" minted by the ruling class can be relied upon to provide policy prescriptions designed to offer still more power and wealth to the ruling class. Whoever would have expected such a result...

The two-part article is lengthy, but it is unusually well-written. I commend it to your attention. Joe Bryan's story is so compelling that the NYT offered an editorial strongly supporting Bryan's release from prison (Bryan has been imprisoned for 30 years, he is now 77 and suffering from congestive heart failure -- and he most probably did not commit the crime of which he was convicted). At some point, it's very likely I will tease out some of the implications of the article's arguments.

Second, and this falls into the category of strange and bizarre bits of cultural history I hadn't known about, when I was toodling about Youtube last week, I stumbled upon a film I'd never heard of, Gone to Earth. David Selznick was one of the producers, and the 1950 film stars his wife, Jennifer Jones. And the film is a Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger production! (The Red Shoes! Black Narcissus! 'I Know Where I'm Going!') I wondered how I had never heard of this movie, and sat back to enjoy my discovery.

I was transfixed, not by the glory of what I was seeing -- although the treatment of the English countryside is often very glorious -- but by the transcendently, staggeringly, gut-wrenchingly awful performance of Jennifer Jones. Now, I've seen Jones give very bad performances, but this one is genuinely extraordinary. I can't even begin to describe it, and I really shouldn't until I finish watching the film. I got halfway through it; it was very late, I was tired, and I found it a considerable strain to watch this creation that felt as if it had come from another world.

Selznick didn't much like what Powell and Pressburger had done with this project -- so he went to court. The result was Selznick's re-editing and re-release of the film, with a new title: The Wild Heart. The consensus seems to be that Selznick would have been better advised to leave it alone.

I will finish viewing the film sometime this week, and then I'll offer a few more thoughts about it. The story would certainly allow the filmmakers to present a damning indictment of men's cruelty to women, and how men destroy women of unusual qualities. Part of the reason I didn't finish watching it the first time is that it's entirely clear how the film will end -- and it promised to be more depressing than I wanted to deal with. But I shall forge on ... but if you want to see a film that's fascinating simply because it is so bizarre, Gone to Earth may be for you.

So life goes on. I offer all my gratitude to those who made donations in the last couple of months. Your kindness allows me to trudge on -- and I remain convinced that someday, soon, soon I desperately hope, a surge of writing will pour forth from me. I try to gather my strength to hurry that day along.

Because of readers' generosity, I've been able to pay the June rent. But that has cleaned me out -- I now have $60 left. That's it. I have almost no food in the house, and I have nothing with which to pay the internet bill, or the bill for electricity, or a couple of other obligations. Any and all donations will be received with wild, uncontrollable enthusiasm. (Seriously.)

As always, my deep thanks for your attention and your time, and for your kindness, which I receive with a profoundly grateful heart.

May 03, 2018

A Small Window into the Soul's Corruption

At the end of March, The New York Times published a story with several interesting angles, and one startling insight. The fact that the report had a startling aspect seemed to have escaped notice from the writers and editors who worked on the story, which made it additionally intriguing.

The background is laid out in the story's opening paragraphs:
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook employees were in an uproar on Friday over a leaked 2016 memo from a top executive defending the social network’s growth at any cost — even if it caused deaths from a terrorist attack that was organized on the platform.

In the memo, Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice president, wrote, “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”

Mr. Bosworth and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have since disavowed the memo, which was published on Thursday by BuzzFeed News.
There would certainly appear to be some genuine issues for Facebook employees to be "in an uproar" about. (I understate for effect.) Company well-being and growth (and profits!) at any cost -- even the deaths of innocents in a terrorist attack? Moreover, a terrorist attack that the company itself helped make possible? According to one Facebook vice president, even this scenario is "*de facto* good" from the company's perspective.

It is entirely legitimate -- indeed, it is required, I submit -- to ask if it is permissible, or just simply decent, to work for a company that proudly offers beliefs of this kind. And the NYT story does tell us of one man whose departure from Facebook was precipitated by the Bosworth memo. But that comes at the very end of the report. It's in the middle of the story that the Times buried the startling part.

Immediately after the opening paragraphs set forth above, the NYT offers this:
But the fallout at the Silicon Valley company has been wide. According to two Facebook employees, workers have been calling on internal message boards for a hunt to find those who leak to the media. Some have questioned whether Facebook has been transparent enough with its users and with journalists, said the employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. Many are also concerned over what might leak next and are deleting old comments or messages that might come across as controversial or newsworthy, they said.
Several paragraphs later, we are told more along the same theme:
Facebook employees said on Friday that discussions were raging across the company regarding the merits of the post. Some called for executives to aggressively pursue action against those leaking to the media, said two Facebook employees, as well as for the company to do more to screen for potential whistle-blowers during the hiring process.
"a hunt to find those who leak to the media..." "aggressively pursue action against those leaking to the media..." "do more to screen for potential whistle-blowers during the hiring process..."

Confronted with a highly-placed executive who praises even terrorist attacks as "good" if, in his view, they benefit the company, some Facebook employees don't recoil with horror, and perhaps begin to wonder why they are working in such a hellhole. No, their concern is the company's well-being -- and they grasp at protective measures such as "hunts for leakers," "aggressive" punishment, and better screening to identify potential whistle-blowers. If it is true that all that is required for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing, how much easier it is for evil when it has the avid support of employees like this. In this particular case, such comments are made more notable because Bosworth and Zuckerberg immediately disavowed Bosworth's earlier comments.

Now, it may be that the Facebook employees pimping for witch-hunts, severe punishment, and super-screening view those disavowals as essentially meaningless, a conclusion with which I would agree. Of course, they'll disavow the statements causing all the trouble. Bosworth's disavowal was especially inventive: he time-traveled back to when he wrote the controversial memo, and now maintains that "I didn’t agree with [the memo] even when I wrote it.” He merely wanted to stimulate discussion, doncha know. The broader point is that nothing these executives offer for public consumption can be credited, not when they're in the midst of battles over control, market domination, and massive amounts of wealth. If you were to believe their public statements, you'd have to believe that "user privacy" is, like, the most important and tastiest thing in the world to them, dude! But everyone worships at the shrine of user privacy now (the same is true of "transparency"). When everyone worships at the same shrine, it's because the shrine can signify anything, which means that it signifies nothing.

One other passage from the NYT story is worth noting:
In the aftermath, some Facebook executives have taken to Twitter for a public charm offensive, sending pithy phrases and emoticons to reporters who cover the company. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s head of news feed, in recent days wrote unprompted to a BuzzFeed editor and to its chief executive reminiscing and telling a story about his mother. He also wrote to a reporter from the Verge tech site about the songs played at his wedding reception.
I don't think these people ever left junior high school. I also don't know whether to laugh or cry. These are the people running the world, or a significant part of it. Ponder that. Then maybe laugh and cry. And break a few dishes. A friend of mine used to strongly advise keeping some old, cheap dishes around, just so they might be smashed during tough times. This story might deserve three or four dishes. Maybe five. Well, it couldn't hurt.

In the meantime, don't be a snitch! The company is Life! Everything for the company!

P.S. In rereading this just before publishing, it struck me that Bosworth's explanation of the memo is not entirely implausible. It does have the flavor of, "Now, consider this outlandish perspective just to see where that takes our discussion..." Even if that's true (and I still wouldn't take his word for it), it doesn't alter the numerous additional and odious facts we know about Facebook, and it is entirely irrelevant with regard to the employees advocating witch-hunts for leakers, super-screening for whistle-blowers, etc. So, with this small caveat, I stand by the major arguments offered above.


I'm sorry to have to bring this up, but I've had almost no response to my recent post. Three people have donated a total of $60; thank you! In a couple of days, I will be in serious trouble. I remain about $450 short of what I need for rent and a few other bills, including internet. If I'm not able to raise it in the next few days, eviction won't be my only problem.

Over the last year, I've learned to eat a decent meal only every other day. On "off" days, I eat, but only a big bunch of crackers, or several slices of bread, things like that. I've had to do that, because I've had less and less money to spend on everything, including food. Right now, I have food for perhaps two or three full meals -- and I tend to hoard that food, because I'm not sure when I'll be able to buy more. I've also been out of some things for a while now -- coffee, soda, milk, fresh vegetables. Poverty absolutely stinks.

Donations will be received with tremendous gratitude. I wrote the above post to show myself, and you, that I can still write and manage to put a few coherent points together. I did find that article interesting, and it was a subject I could deal with in a fairly simple manner, without getting into much more complicated issues. But writing even this has completely exhausted me, and I shall now return to bed for several hours.

As I mentioned the other day, Saturday is my birthday. With some badly needed help, it may yet avoid being one of the grimmer birthdays on record. And I'll look through my notes, and through the news, to find some other topics that lend themselves to comparatively short, simple treatments. I'll try to be back with even a couple of brief posts in the early part of next week.

Many, many thanks for any help you may choose to provide. I am always deeply grateful for the kindness showed by the readers here. Thank you!

May 01, 2018

Birthday Blues

My apologies, but I've been much too sick to write. Most days, I'm too sick to get out of bed except for a few minutes here and there. This is far from a happy time, or even a bearable time.

And here it is, the first of the month again. As always, I'm inexpressibly grateful to all those who make donations. Without you, I'd be dead. No theatricality there, no exaggeration: dead, dead, dead. I trust the point has been made. Sadly, I find myself $500 short of what I need for rent and a few other beginning of the month bills (including internet service). Once again, Sasha and I are quickly running out of food. Donations will be received with overwhelming gratitude. I have until Saturday to make the rent payment; after that, it is officially late.

Saturday is also my birthday. Yeah, big whoop. Most years, I don't even mention it. I only hope that this year, I'm not contemplating the serious possibility of eviction on my birthday. I would say that such a prospect would be too cruel even for a God who has proven Himself to be one especially nasty bastard -- but it would be absolutely typical of Him, wouldn't it?

There is still some writing I want to do. I'm trying to figure out some way to get myself just a little bit "better" (all things are relative), so that I can get to it. I work on it every day, but it's simply very, very difficult at the moment.

So I'll keep trying. In the meantime, any spare change you might have would be a huge relief in these parts. Thank you, thank you for your time and attention -- and blessings on you for your kindness.

April 18, 2018

Horribly, Desperately Ill

I'm terribly sorry about my prolonged absence from this space. As many of you have undoubtedly surmised (sadly, correctly), I've been very, very sick. It has been genuinely ghastly, and considerably more than a little scary on several occasions. But! The worst appears to be over for the moment. I don't feel "good" in any physical sense, but I also don't feel as if I've been mauled by a pack of rabid animals and left so weak that I don't care ever to move even a finger again. These days, I measure progress by how many terrible symptoms lessen or even, miraculously, go away.

So I'm very slowly beginning to put myself back together. Very slowly. But I am thinking about pieces I'd like to write again, and I will try to do some writing in the next several days.

I am also almost completely broke. It's a measure of how poor I am that I'm about to run out of cat food for Sasha. In another four or five days, it will all be gone. Oh, I have other cat food -- but Sasha won't eat it. She'll only eat two wet foods, and one dry food. The supply of those three items is almost gone. I've never let this happen in connection with my cats, ever. Not once ever in my lifetime, until now. Yes, things are that bad.

My food is almost gone, too. And there is still one bill to be paid for this month, which won't be paid in current circumstances. Then, in two weeks, it's the first of the month again. Damn. (It reminds me of a terrible old joke. Hysterical Man: "Doctor, do you realize there's a woman having a baby in New York City every two minutes?!?!" Doctor: "Well, for God's sake, find her and STOP HER!!" Ba-da-boom. Somebody needs to find whoever keeps dragging these firsts of the month around, and STOP THE BASTARD!)

Donations in any amount will be received with tremendous gratitude. And we shall make certain that the beauty and splendor of your soul are sung unto the oceans and the mountains -- nay, unto the heavens themselves! -- into the far reaches of time. Too much? Well, I'll put in a lot of good words for you wherever it might count.

Many thanks to those who wrote to me about the Reading Circle idea. I deeply regret that I haven't been able to respond to those emails yet. I'm still mulling over the idea, and I haven't decided how to proceed with it. It's entirely possible that I will simply publish Reading Circle posts as I publish anything else -- but perhaps with a heads-up in advance about what I'm reading, so you can read along with me if you wish. That reminds me. I was thrilled to see recently that a new collection of Hannah Arendt essays has been published. Here's a NYT review. It's the first paragraph of that review that has made me so curious to read the collection:
What is the relationship between thinking, acting and historical consciousness? How do we preserve a spirited intellectual autonomy that yet includes enough sense of the past to contextualize and resist those power-grabbers who would bamboozle the public with their own fun house versions of truth? Hannah Arendt, the philosopher and political theorist, was always acutely concerned with questions of how to make thought and knowledge matter in the struggle against injustice, never more so than in the last two decades of her life, when the rich medley of the material collected in “Thinking Without a Banister” was created. “What really makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other kind of dictatorship to rule is that the people are not informed,” she remarked in a 1973 interview. “If everyone always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but that no one believes anything at all anymore — and rightly so, because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, to be ‘re-lied,’ so to speak.” A lying government pursuing shifting goals has to ceaselessly rewrite its own history, leaving people not only dispossessed of their ability to act, “but also of their capacity to think and to judge,” she declared. “And with such a people you can then do what you please.”
Although I've see passages in Arendt that hint at the ideas in the passage I highlighted, I don't recall seeing Arendt express them this clearly in other contexts. And despite my profound respect for Arendt (as well as gratitude to her, for all I have learned from her), I am compelled to say that I think these particular ideas are completely wrong.

If we assume that this brief excerpt accurately conveys Arendt's view, then it would seem that Arendt conceives of the rise of a dictatorship or totalitarian state as a problem of lack of information: "that the people are not informed." I reject this as an explanation, for at least two reasons. First -- and here, we are the beneficiaries of research into Nazi Germany performed after Arendt's death -- we now know that the inhabitants of the Third Reich were remarkably well-informed about what the Nazis were doing, and why. This was true from the beginning, and continued through all the critical stages of the Nazis' consolidation of power. For many details about this subject, please see this essay of mine from 2012. Gellately's book (Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany) is a treasure trove of information, and it should scare you to death. Second, there is this formulation in the NYT review:
A lying government pursuing shifting goals has to ceaselessly rewrite its own history, leaving people not only dispossessed of their ability to act, “but also of their capacity to think and to judge,” she declared.
I admit that I'm very puzzled that Arendt should say this, which makes me extremely curious to read this new book. (Since I have no funds to buy it myself at the moment, I would suggest that someone might purchase it as a gift. In the past, though, I've sometimes ended up with two or three copies of something when I did that. I only need one! It's safer for me to buy it myself, assuming I have enough from donations once more basic needs are addressed.) When people are confronted with a "lying government pursuing shifting goals" and "ceaselessly rewrit[ing] its own history," they are not dispossessed "of their capacity to think and to judge." One makes a judgment about that fact. We are dispossessed of our capacity to think and to judge only when we are dead (or at least brain dead), and not a moment before. And surely, we are not unfamiliar ourselves in our own time with a "lying government pursuing shifting goals," etc., are we? Indeed, that was one of my central points in that essay from 2012. And despite the incessant lying, and despite the fact that we live in an era when all news (excepting a few genuinely alternative, radical sites) is "fake news," we still have more than sufficient information to make numerous judgments, none of them good.

I have a lot more to say on this, but it should wait until I have the book in hand and can give this thorny subject the time and attention it requires. One of the key issues is, not to sound grandiose about it, how one conceives of evil. It now seems to me that Arendt and I come down in very different places on this question.

For now, thank you, thank you, and thank you once again, for your patience and understanding, and for your immense kindness. Sasha is sleeping at my feet as I write this. She raised her head for a moment, and mewed her thanks as well. This is actually a fact. I would never lie about the divinity that graces my life with her beloved presence.

March 05, 2018

THIS IS SERIOUS, and a Proposal

Deep breath. Okay. It's now the fifth of the month, and I still can't pay the rent. Many thanks to the (few, sadly) people who made donations in response to my last post on this subject. As always, I am deeply grateful.

But I'm $400 short of where I need to be. So my rent will be officially late, and if it's later than Wednesday or Thursday, I will be staring the beginning of the eviction process in the face. I keep reading about people starting GoFundMe campaigns to raise funds to make, as just one example out of many such, a documentary about the heroic and eventful life of their pet eel -- and raking in $15,000 in three days. I could post pictures of my ingrown toenail. What's that worth, do you think?

Seriously, I mean seriously, $400 -- or eviction. As I've said before, and not to be melodramatic but simply to state the truth of the matter, eviction would be the beginning of the end for me. I have nowhere to go, and I could not possibly survive on the street. So I will greet donations in any amount with unbridled glee. And $400 isn't that much in the great scheme of things, even though it's everything to me at this particular moment.

Meanwhile, I have a proposal for the future. (I assume there will be one for these purposes.) I put up a new post yesterday, largely because I felt a desperate need to publish something that didn't concern my dire personal situation. And I did find the two articles that I excerpted to offer several points of interest. I'm still working on a discussion of Steven Pinker, and then I will take up Trump, Russia and related matters.

The proposal: over the past few years, I've toyed with the following idea. I'd like to do a series of "Reading Circle" posts, where a group of us read a book together. My first candidate would be Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. I select that for the reason that it is among the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented books in the canon. Everyone uses the famous comment about the "banality of evil" far too often, and most people have no idea what Arendt herself intended the phrase the communicate. And most people can't tell you anything else about Arendt's analysis, primarily because most people haven't read it.

I was reminded of all this when I came across one of the better articles I've read about Arendt's Eichmann just a few days ago. (I was also astounded to discover a huge wealth of reading and audio material available in the Hannah Arendt Archives. You could happily lose yourself for months in there, at least I certainly could.) This paragraph, which comes toward the end of the commentary, will give you a sense of the perspective:
Perhaps Arendt has been so violently misunderstood because her thinking is both provocative and demanding. Her blessing, and her curse, was a facility for quotable aphorisms that, like Nietzsche’s, require whole books to reveal their unconventional meaning. It is easy to cite the “banality of evil.” It is much more difficult to make sense of what Arendt actually meant.
In recent years, I've reread Eichmann in Jerusalem, but only in bits and pieces. I'd like to reread the entire book again (it's not that long), and it would be nice to have some company. My thought is that we'd read a chapter a week, and then I'd publish my thoughts about that chapter on, say, Friday (obviously, all the details can be worked out later). Those readers who are in the Reading Circle can then offer their thoughts, and we can try to hash out differences in our reactions and answer any questions that might arise. I might even try opening up comments for those posts. My only concern would be the concern that caused me to abandon comments some years ago (my blog did have comments at one time): I had to spend an inordinate amount of time policing the comments, and it was finally too wearying and time-wasting. So I might encourage other readers to write up their own comments (if any), and then I would publish those on the blog as well (with or without the readers' names, as they prefer). As I say, we can work out the details later and, if we proceed, we can make adjustments as seems advisable.

For the moment, I'd like to know if anyone is interested in doing this. If you are, please write me at arthur4801 at yahoodotcom, and put "Reading Circle" in the subject line. If 10 or 15 people are interested, we can start putting it in motion. (And if 100 people are interested, hooray!) I must add that I like this idea for some entirely selfish reasons. I think it would be excellent for me to have a project like this to help structure my time, and even force me to keep reading and writing when my body would prefer to simply collapse into comatose-like sleep. A project like this might be just what the doctor ordered.

The nice thing about the Reading Circle idea is that it could continue as long as there's interest. There are a lot more candidates for reading in the political arena, of course, but we could broaden it to include fiction, too. I'd include "popular" fiction as well, and perhaps I can encourage some folks to read, for example, Ruth Rendell (an unusually skillful and provocative writer, whose work truly gets under your skin).

To do this (and hopefully more!), I need to get past the first of the month bills. I had understood that everyone was promised a pet billionaire. So where's mine? Until I find her or him, $400 would be a godsend. A little bit more, and I can eat for another week.

Many, many thanks. Write to me about the Reading Circle! Oh, and feel free to offer suggestions of your own for books we can read.

March 04, 2018

No More Hoorays for Hollywood

There was a time long ago, when I worked in the theater in the 1970s, when I cared about the Oscars a lot. After I moved to Los Angeles in 1978, I worked in the movie industry for several years. So I still cared about the Oscars a lot. Over the last 30 years, my interest in the Oscars, and in Hollywood in general, has declined dramatically. Hollywood and its associated displays of self-congratulation primarily draw my attention in terms of why and how its product connects to broader cultural trends and issues. (My essays about The Americanization of Emily are perhaps the best examples of articles in this category. In the second half of this essay, I analyze the film with regard to certain issues raised by the Chelsea Manning case. I wrote the essay just before Ms. Manning made her comments about her sexual identity and told us of her name change. I've considered changing her name in my post, but finally decided to leave the post as I originally published it.)

In terms of its presentation in the post-Harvey Weinstein atmosphere, this year's Oscars might provide some intriguing moments. But I suspect those in charge of the Oscars, as well as many of those in the movie business, would strongly prefer that the Oscars imitate the bland gruel of comfort food rather than the stinging tanginess of exotic dishes. There is comparative safety in boredom, or at least so go the calculations in the oh-so-cautious mush brains of Hollywood types.

Yet I suppose some people might genuinely believe that, "Everything is different now!" I'm not entirely certain how a person could sincerely believe that and still have five or six functioning brain cells. I do know that to believe "everything is different now," you would have to be largely ignorant of the dynamics and speed of major cultural change, and of how deeply entrenched institutions manage to cling to accumulated power despite threats to their rule. On that point, Maureen Dowd agrees:
Time’s Up, after all, was born at C.A.A., the agency dominated by white men who, their despoiled clients charge, served as a conveyor belt to the Weinstein hotel suites.

This moment, with women feeling triumphant about finally shaking up the network of old, white men who run Hollywood in a sexist way, is a bit of an illusion, since the entertainment industry has been taken over by an even more impenetrable group of younger, white men from the tech universe, which has an even more virulent bro culture. It’s like gasping with relief as you climb up to the mountain peak, only to discover that it’s actually a much bigger mountain. ...

Yet many women here fear that the reckoning is merely a therapy session, or that “it’s just Kabuki,” as Min said. “When people talk about who will take over for Bob Iger when he eventually retires, no woman is ever in the mix. And so shouldn’t we be questioning why that is and how do you start grooming women for those jobs?” Even when a woman gets to be a studio chief, there’s a man above her helping make the final decisions for the biggest budgets. ...

“All the stuff that allowed these guys to be protected is so subtle and baked into the cake, it’s really hard to unravel it,” one top woman at a major studio told me. “Men are doing a head fake, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, of course we want to fix it,’ while what they’re really thinking is, ‘How do we get out of this looking like we do something without doing anything?’ Men like to say, ‘We choose the best people,’ but the best people are always white men. The only place they think that they need women is as babes in films. As long as men have power over women, they’re going to try to have sex with them.”
Dowd's own conclusion in her final paragraph is odd, and confusing:
But I’m sanguine for this reason: Men only give up their grip on power when an institution is no longer as relevant, like when they finally let women anchor the network evening news. And Hollywood, as we knew it, is over.
So women will be permitted to take power in Hollywood, now that it's "no longer as relevant"? How many people care about the network evening news these days? Not very many. Now that Hollywood "as we knew it" is on life support, women can take over the unpleasant task of caring for it. This is good news? And as Dowd herself points out, the ascendant "even more impenetrable group of younger, white men from the tech universe, which has an even more virulent bro culture," may be worse. None of this would appear to be a cause for celebration.

But we can be certain that at the Oscars, Hollywood will celebrate itself and its inspiring courage in speaking truth to power. As concerns this ludicrously, dishonestly wrong-headed view, Jim Bovard offers a useful corrective: "Hollywood hoopla ignores media's history of servility." Bovard writes:
Spielberg’s movie [The Post] portrays Post editor Ben Bradlee denouncing dishonest government officials to publisher Katharine Graham: “The way they lied — those days have to be over." Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who deluged the media with falsehoods about battlefront progress, did more than anyone else (except perhaps President Lyndon Johnson) to vastly increase the bloodbath for Americans and Vietnamese. McNamara’s disastrous deceits did not deter the Washington Post from appointing him to its Board of Directors. As author Norman Solomon recently observed, “The Washington Post was instrumental in avidly promoting the lies that made the Vietnam War possible in the first place.” ...

Most of the media had embedded themselves for the Iraq war long before that dinner [at which Bush "good-naturedly" made fun of his administration's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq]. The Post buried pre-war articles questioning the Bush team’s shams on Iraq; their award-winning Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks complained, “There was an attitude among editors: ‘Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?’” Instead, before the war started, the Post ran 27 editorials in favor of invasion and 140 front-page articles supporting the Bush administration’s case for attacking Saddam. ...

Despite the Iraq fiasco, the media happily resumed cheerleading when the Obama administration launched assaults in Libya and Syria. Even in the Trump era — when the press is openly clashing with a president — bombing still provides push button presidential redemption. Trump’s finest hour, according to much of the media, occurred last April when he attacked the Assad regime with 59 cruise missiles, raising hopes that the U.S. military would topple the Syrian government.

When Trump announced he was sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the Washington Post editorial page hailed what Trump calls his “principled realism” — regardless of the futility of perpetuating that quagmire. At a time when Trump is saber-rattling against Iran and North Korea, the media should be vigorously challenging official claims before U.S. bombs begin falling. Instead, much of the coverage of rising tensions with foreign regimes could have been written by Pentagon flacks.
Well, the Oscars, a few more wars, untold and usually ignored suffering, destruction and death ... anything for a good show, right?

Everybody loves a good show.

March 02, 2018

Help, Please

The good news: I have been writing this week. I've been reading about Steven Pinker and his latest book. I became so deeply disgusted by Pinker and his disturbingly popular views that I decided I needed to discuss his work. So I'm working on that, in addition to doing some work on a few of the other topics I've mentioned.

The bad news: Because of all my physical ailments, the work is going very, very slowly. I try to speed it up, but there are severe limits on what I can do now. I'm doing the best I can, but I'm afraid it still moves at a glacial pace.

My deep thanks to those who have donated recently. I now have about 2/3 of what I need for the rent; I also have an internet bill and an electric bill that need to be paid next week. The rent must be paid by Monday, if it is not to be considered late. So as of today, I officially have Eviction Anxiety. I can get a few days beyond Monday if I have to, but it would not be pleasant (or advisable, with regard to establishing that kind of payment record). Eviction Anxiety is the reason I'm putting up this post before publishing at least one or two new substantive articles. I'd fervently wanted to offer some new posts before asking for donations again, but it was not to be.

So once again, I would be profoundly grateful for any help readers might be able to provide. I cannot thank you sufficiently or properly -- but I do promise to try to wrestle Pinker to the ground this weekend and dispose of him properly. (I was dumbfounded to see that Pinker had offered still another book on the same theme as his previous book, and I wondered why this loathsome individual will not shut the hell up. I think I know why he won't shut up now. Here's the NY Times review of his new book, if you want to get a headstart.)

Many, many thanks for your time and attention. Bless you for your kindness.

Watch out, Pinker!