Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Cartoon by Mr. Fish

Here’s the latest cartoon from our favorite cartoonist, Mr. Fish (Duane Booth), from Truthdig, one of our two favorite news and analysis sites. (The other is The Intercept.)

Our apologies to Duane and Truthdig for reproducing this, but we’re not making any money from this and it’s too good (and true) not to share.


(Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow. Macmillan, 2017, 379 pp., $26.99)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

In Walkaway, Cory Doctorow takes on one of the most vexing matters of our time: Automation (more broadly, technological advances) is, at an accelerating rate, making human labor ever less necessary.

But what will it lead to?

A post-scarcity, egalitarian, “to each according to their wants” economy of abundance in which working is a matter of choice? Or to a version of the present artificial-scarcity economy in which there are an army of the poor and oppressed, and a few super-rich individuals who will resort to anything to retain their positions of power and privilege?

In Walkaway, the answer is both. In Doctorow’s medium-near future, there’s both a drastically more repressive version of current society — to alter the famous quotation from Lincoln Steffens, “I have seen the future, and it’s worse” — and a (small “l”) libertarian and egalitarian alternative built by those who “walk away” from the dominant “default” society, a “post-scarcity” alternative made possible by sweeping technological/productivity advances.

Therein lies the main virtue of Walkaway: Doctorow’s convincing, detailed, and attractive portrayal of that post-scarcity society and its workings.

To get a bit politically wonkish, what Doctorow describes, though he never uses the term, is an anarcho-communist society (in contrast to the other flavors of anarchism: individualist, mutualist, and syndicalist).

Other virtues include Doctorow’s insightful treatment of technological advances, notably in the liberatory and repressive possibilities they entail, and in the book’s humor, which mostly appears in its first 150 pages.

One of the main points Doctorow makes in support of a post-scarcity, egalitarian societal set-up is that meritocracy, in both authoritarian capitalist society and in libertarian alternatives, is a very bad idea, as the following dialogue between two of Doctorow’s characters, Gretyl and Iceweasel, illustrates:

“Your people are all fighting self-serving bullshit, the root of all evil. There’s no bullshit more self-serving than the idea that you’re a precious snowflake, irreplaceable and deserving . . .”

“I’ve heard all this. My dad used it to explain paying his workers as little as he could get away with, while taking as much pay as he could get away with. . . .”

“You’re assuming that because [the rich] talk about meritocracy, and because they’re full of shit, merit must be full of shit. It’s like astrology and astronomy: astrology talks about orbital mechanics and so does astronomy. But astronomers talk about orbital mechanics because they’ve systematically observed the sky, built falsifiable hypotheses from observations, and proceeded from there. Astrologers talk about orbital mechanics because it sounds sciencey and helps them kid the suckers.”

“You’re calling my dad an astrologer then?”

“That would be an insult to astrologers.”

Two other notable aspects of Walkaway are the full-spectrum sexual diversity of the characters, and that Doctorow includes two explicit, well written sex scenes. (This is in stark contrast to the usual, annoying avoidance of such scenes in the vast majority of science fiction novels, where disgustingly graphic depiction of violence is perfectly acceptable, but — horrors! — not graphic depiction of sex; the only other sci-fi authors I can think of who include explicit, fitting sex scenes in their work are Richard K. Morgan and Walter Mosley.)

As for the plot, it would give away too much to say more than that it revolves around the brutal repression of the walkaways, and their use of nonviolent resistance in response, after they develop a technology that the ultra-rich of “default” society find threatening.

The description of this conflict takes up more than two-thirds of the book, which is likely too much of it. In too many places, the latter portions of Walkaway drag. After reading the first 225 or so pages, I found myself wondering when it would ever end; I kept reading only because I wanted to see how Doctorow would resolve the conflict between the walkaways and “default.”

Anther problem with the book is that it seems disjointed at times. This is in part due to Doctorow’s using five p.o.v. characters. This isn’t necessarily a problem (see George Turner’s effective use of multiple [five] p.o.v.s in Drowning Towers), but it is here. Doctorow switches from one to another purely to advance the story, with the amount of time devoted to the different p.o.v.s varying considerably; and, as Walkaway progresses, it all but abandons the p.o.v. of what I originally thought was the primary p.o.v. character.

It doesn’t help that there’s little if any overlap — no differing views of the same things, a la Rashomon — in the events described from the different p.o.v.s, which aggravates the disjointedness problem.

Still, Walkaway‘s virtues — especially it’s detailed, attractive portrayal of a libertarian post-scarcity society — outweigh its faults.

Walkaway is quite probably the best fictional description of a post-scarcity society ever written.

Recommended.

* * *

Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel, and on an unrelated sci-fi novel, in his copious free time.

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


It’s official. Donald Trump is now, undeniably, in bed with radical Islamists: the Saudi government. That government is essentially ISIS with oil. (Not incidentally, rich Saudis, including members of the Saudi royal family, provided essential funding to ISIS during its initial years.)

Following his love fest with Turkish president and Islamo-fascist thug Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Donald Trump just approved one of the biggest arms deals in history with the Saudi Islamo-fascists. He just approved a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudi regime.

So, what will the arms be used for, what purposes? Exactly what kind of policies does our “ally”pursue?

Under Saudi Sharia law, Human Rights Watch reports that “adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian—usually a husband, father, brother, or son—to travel, marry, or exit prison.” Under the Saudi regime, women can’t even drive.

Of course, given the regime’s radical Islamist (Wahabi) orientation, there is no freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia; mere criticism of the theo-fascist regime can, and does, land people in prison for more than a decade.

Nor is there freedom of conscience in Saudi Arabia. Merely being an atheist is grounds for execution, though the more usual punishments are imprisonment and/or torture (flogging) that can result in permanent physical damage.

And, yes, Saudi Arabia judicially murders a large number of people; it has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Saudi crimes extend beyond Saudi Arabia’s borders. In addition to helping to finance ISIS and providing 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers, the Saudis currently commit war crimes in Yemen, including bombing funerals, hospitals, and other civilian targets, and “double tap” bombing, in which the Saudis bomb the same target shortly after first hitting it, in order to kill and maim rescue workers.

These are the Islamist monsters Trump just armed to the teeth.

Actions speak louder than words, and despite Trump’s anti-Islamist rhetoric, his actions betray him. He’ll stir up hatred against powerless refugees, but he kisses the cheeks (both kinds) of oil-rich Islamists.

If you oppose radical Islam, you oppose it. And you support those Islamists oppress. You don’t sell $110 billion in arms to one of the worst Islamist human rights violators on earth.

Donald Trump is an utter hypocrite.

(Of course, all recent U.S. presidents and their administrations have been equally hypocritical. Here’s a rogues gallery of some of the guilty.)

Barack Obama, who sold the Saudis $60 billion worth of arms.

 George W. Bush, who allowed approximately 50 members of the Bin Laden family to leave the U.S. immediately after 9/11, without allowing the FBI to question them.

Bill Clinton, whose foundation received more than $10 million of Saudi money.


My pal Al Perry has just put up a much improved version — in terms of both audio mix and background visuals — of “Jukebox Jihad” on Youtube.  If you’re up for some high energy rockabilly and guilty laughs, click on that link right now.

(In accord with our strict adherence to the FCC Fairness Doctrine, we’d urge you to also check out Chuck Maultsby’s “Ballad of the USS Liberty.”)

USS Liberty after Israeli attack

Finally, the track that comes on Youtube after “Jukebox Jihad” is Al’s cover of the old folk rock tune, “The Snake,” which is also worth a listen.

Check it out.



–from Steve Adire’s Twitter feed @sadire


by Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time, but last week a grotesque piece of political performance art jolted me into putting fingers to keyboard: Hillary Clinton declared herself part of the “resistance,” and announced the she was creating a PAC (!) to fund “resistance” groups she approves of (and that, presumably, approve of her).

Why is this grotesque? She’s the one-woman embodiment of the status quo, not “the resistance.”

Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger

Hillary Clinton with war criminal Henry Kissinger

She voted in favor of Bush’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq. She was the architect of the disastrous intervention in Libya (with no plan about what would follow Qaddafi’s overthrow). During the presidential debates, she even bragged about being friends with mass murderer Henry Kissinger.

And she takes money — lots of it — from the banks and corporations, including “pay” for three speeches to Goldman Sachs between 2013 and 2015 at $225,000 each, and another eight speeches to banks in the same period garnering her another $1.8 million.

Bill Clinton is no saint in this regard, either. In February 2016 CNN documented Bill and Hillary Clinton’s receiving, to that point, $153,000,000 in speaking fees. (Yes, $153 million.)

And like those of her husband, her campaigns (and PACs and SuperPACs supporting her) have been funded predominantly by the corporations, banks, and those who own them. One strongly suspects that the ultra-rich who fund Clinton aren’t doing so out of the goodness of their hearts.

It would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to prove that her (and her husband’s) positions are payback for that funding, but consider this: During her career in politics, she, like her husband, never even proposed any measures that would threaten her backers financially.

To cite the most prominent example of that, she has consistently opposed a “Medicare for all” single-payer system (supported by approximately 60% of the public), and instead has opted for plans which leave our healthcare in the hands of the big pharma and insurance industry vampires, whose goal is to deliver the minimum amount of healthcare for the maximum amount of dollars.

Which brings us to her predecessor. Barack Obama ran on a platform of “hope and change.” And then he systematically betrayed those who voted for him. He continued, and in some ways intensified (drone assassinations of U.S. citizens), George W. Bush’s disastrous, interventionist, neo-con foreign policy. He kept the wars going, and kept up American support for authoritarian Islamist (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey) and military (Egypt) regimes.

He also promised the most open administration in history, and then delivered the most secretive, with mass surveillance of all of us, and the persecution of whistle blowers — at the same time that he completely let the banking criminals responsible for the financial crash completely off the hook.

Domestically, he proposed a stimulus big enough to keep the economy from collapsing (thus saving the banks) during the recession, but nowhere near big enough to put the 8.7 million who lost their jobs back to work. Nor did he do anything to help the 7 million who lost their homes.

What did he deliver? A singularly inadequate piece of healthcare legislation that protected big pharma and the insurance industry, and left tens of millions uninsured and tens of millions more underinsured. Obama also delivered, to some extent, on social issues that did not threaten his ultra-rich and corporate backers: gay rights and reproductive rights.

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson's yacht

Richard Branson and Barack Obama on Branson’s yacht

Now that he’s left office, he’s been cashing in on his celebrity and connections — including being paid a $400,000 speaking fee by a Wall Street firm — and hanging out with his natural constituency, billionaires (Richard Branson and David Geffen).

Which brings us to the present, the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” is currently trying to wrest control of it from the corporate lackeys personified by Obama and the Clintons (and Diane Feinstein, John Podesta, Chuck Schumer, Donna Brazile, Nancy Pelosi, et al.).

The corporatists recently won the first major battle, electing Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee over Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison.

(This on the heels of the DNC’s rigging the presidential primaries against Bernie Sanders and for Hillary Clinton — by among other things drastically restricting the number of debates and by scheduling them at times almost guaranteed to deliver low viewership, thus throwing away tens of millions of dollars of free air time.)

This does not portend well. It portends more of the same: no real attempt to address the gross economic inequality in this country, no attempt to institute universal healthcare, and instead a continued focus on social issues (that are no threat to the rich), all under the stirring battle cry, “We’re not as bad as the Republicans!”

It’s time for people to wake up and realize that the Democrats (at least the Clintons, Obama, and the rest of the corporatists) are not their friends.

Instead, they’re the “good cop” in America’s perennial good-cop / bad-cop political extortion routine.

The “good cop” is not your friend.

* * *

(Chaz Bufe is the author, co-author, or translator of 12 books. His latest work is The American Heretic’s Dictionary, which is the 21st century’s equivalent of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.)


American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover