Don’t Call it Enslavement To Your Phone! Call it Surrender!

Yes, there are constantly new services offered for your smartphone. Everything from using it to buy things in person to using it to buy things in Australia and China, to using it to sell things in person or to people in Australia and China…to dating services, to marriage counseling apps, to “meditation apps”, to instant discussion with a vague rando guy who claims to be a therapist…

to displaying all your banking information and retail and investment history…

to listening for your baby crying while you’re asleep, to checking your pulse, to interfacing with a device that will check your heartbeat and your hormone levels and the right time for coitus…to checking to see if you’re pregnant…

to apps advising you about your diet and parsing every last thing you eat after you send images of the food…to advising you about your carbon footprint, as you sit in your car, running the engine to keep the air conditioner going because it’s such a very hot day…

to a program that will recommend soothing medications for you and also prescribe them and handily bill them to your phone based credit card…to publicizing your phone-based life-coaching…to texting your life coach about your own life-coaching business…to sending reminder messages to your children in specially formulated texts signed love mom or love dad…

to reminding you to remember, all the things it made you forget…

to hours and hours and hours and days and nights spent on every social media site you have encountered, social media you lunge desperately to, on your phone, in a desperate hunger for connection, the connection you aren’t getting because of your phone, your phone, your phone, your phone….

Internet Hygiene

Vast is the disinformation on the internet. The Russians and Chinese, sure, actively foist a lot of falsehoods online… But so do many Americans. People have forgotten what real journalism is like. They throw aside Pulitzer-prize winning sources of news for “some random guy who is selling alternative medicine he makes in his garage”…The internet is immensely valuable but I’m convinced there needs to be a class required for public school children, something like “Internet Hygiene: How to use the internet without being misled and scammed.” The class would emphasize critical thinking, reputable sources, empirical evidence, and so on.

The Coming Political VIOLENCE

[note: it is totally uncool for me to reprint this section of an interview conducted by Greg Sargent in The Washington Post, as I’m doing it without permission. But I’m doing it because this is an emergency situation. People need to know. The article is behind a paywall.]

“…But hovering over these hearings will be a broader, unanswered question: whether the United States is developing an endemic problem with political violence and, in coming years, how bad it might get.

“For an unflinching look at this larger context, I reached out to Rachel Kleinfeld, a specialist in political conflict who has studied the breakdown of democracy and the rule of law in many countries.

Greg Sargent: You’ve written that the Republican Party has a “militia problem.” Can you describe it?

Rachel Kleinfeld: For the last few years, we’ve seen an uptick in Republican parties at the local level — though occasionally at the state level — using militias for security at party events, having militias vote on party business, in one case in Michigan having militias introduce legislation. You’re seeing a lot of photo-ops with militia members — things that normalize their interaction with the democratic process.

“These militias are being used to threaten other Republicans who aren’t part of this antidemocratic faction.

Sargent: It seems as though some GOP and right-wing politicians are hovering in a gray area. They’re endorsing violent attacks on the opposition without facing serious party discipline, fantasizing about settling political differences via paramilitary combat, vastly minimizing the Jan. 6 insurrectionist violence or erasing it with propaganda, and describing Jan. 6 rioters facing prosecution as ‘political prisoners.‘ “Has this gray area been replicated by other countries that went on to spiral into worse political violence?

Kleinfeld: One of the things we know about other countries that descend into greater political violence is that violence is preceded by a dehumanization phase. America is well along in that phase: things like misogyny, racial epithets, calling Democrats “groomers” and comparing them to pedophiles.

“The next stage is making violence against those dehumanized opponents seem more normal. You’re starting to see GOP candidates posing with rifles — everything from Rep. Thomas Massie’s family Christmas photo to Eric Greitens’s new ads about hunting RINOs.

“Sometimes it’s against Republicans who are not part of the antidemocratic faction. Sometimes it’s against Democrats. But either way, dehumanization normalizes the idea that harming those dehumanized opponents is legitimate.

“We know from other countries that have descended into really serious political violence that this is a trajectory, and we’re on it. We’re actually pretty far advanced on it.

Sargent: What would a further spiraling downward from here look like? One can imagine something like this: Threats of violence toward election administrators get worse. Election outcomes, particularly when Republicans lose, are violently contested with more regularity. Now-routine chatter about Democratic rule being illegitimate gets increasingly endorsed by GOP party actors, leading to violent attacks on politicians.

Some experts in democratic breakdown fear something akin to “the Troubles” in Ireland. What’s your worry? Is it similar to what I just laid out?

Kleinfeld: It’s actually a little worse. The percentages of Americans endorsing violence are approaching Northern Ireland’s Troubles at their height in 1973.

“Right now, the antidemocratic faction of Republicans is targeting three groups: the pro-democratic faction of Republicans; election officials in both parties who are maintaining free and fair elections; and a lot of regular people they’re targeting with dehumanization and violence, to build their own base.

“If the antidemocratic faction wins, then I think the heightened violence we’re seeing now will continue. But if they start losing, then they’ve built up a lot of hatred — a lot of distrust in the system — and then the violence is going to get out of their control. It’ll look more like an insurgency. A disaffected left, not connected to the Democratic Party, is also justifying violence. It could get ugly.”

The Tradition of Fireworks–as opposed to the Industry of Fireworks

2.3 billion dollars will be spent on on fireworks this Fourth of July and mostly by individuals, not by town councils…People point to the tradition of fourth of July fireworks…If you want to talk about the TRADITION OF FIREWORKS–in the majority of places, it was like this, when I was a kid in the NW: There was a fairground or a big park area selected by the local community. You went there, for free, and the community would set off a really wonderful fireworks display–often with patriotic music playing. AND we had our picnics there, before hand, and barbecues. It was a true community event. You shared something with the *whole community*. When I was a kid I loved it. That was before I had PTSD. I could enjoy it now, I think, if it was at such an event–if it disturbed me I could just drive home. But if they had the traditional kind of skyrockets there, and if it was out in some safe area, I would probably enjoy it–it’s the fact that it’s happening now around my home that triggers me. And some of what is sold now is just to create a noise that sounds like a mortar shell striking. Around here, it sounds like a warzone. It isn’t pleasant.

You see, what we have now is the consequence of advertising, pushing home fireworks. It’s all to MAKE AN INDUSTRY RICHER. They don’t live in our communities. They just come here to sell us something that some people seem to confuse with their masculinity. We could still go back to the TRADITIONAL way to share fireworks…away from the neighborhoods and with everyone all together. And I really do seriously say to you: God Bless America.

An Alternative to the Usual July 4 events, from poet John Daniel

Dependence Day By John Daniel
It would be a quieter holiday, no fireworks
or loud parades, no speeches, no salutes to any flag,
a day of staying home instead of crowding away,
a day we celebrate nothing gained in war
but what we’re given—how the sun’s warmth
is democratic, touching everyone,
and the rain is democratic too,
how the strongest branches in the wind
give themselves as they resist, resist
and give themselves, how birds could have no freedom
without the planet’s weight to wing against,
how Earth itself could come to be
only when a whirling cloud of dust
pledged allegiance as a world
circling dependently around a star, and the star
blossomed into fire from the ash of other stars,
and once, at the dark zero of our time,
a blaze of revolutionary light
exploded out of nowhere, out of nothing,
because nothing needed the light,
as the brilliance of the light itself needs nothing.

[thanks to the Poetry Foundation]

“The US supreme court has declared war on the Earth’s future”

Selections from an article by Kate Aronoff for The Guardian

“In a major environmental case, the court has made clear that it would rather represent the interests of corporations and the super-rich than the needs and desires of the vast majority of Americans – or people on Earth.

“In its Thursday ruling on West Virginia v EPA in line with a string of decisions that will make life here more dangerous – the US supreme court all but declared that war, curtailing the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate power plants under a provision of the Clean Air Act and – more worryingly – striking an opening blow to the government’s ability to do its job.

“… Polluters have always been happy to throw small fortunes at the right’s quest for minority rule, keen to protect fossil fuel profits and their ability to dump waste into the air and water from pesky things like democracy. As Nancy MacLean writes in Democracy in Chains, Charles Koch took a special interest in destroying public education, thus maintaining de facto segregation, before leading the charge against climate policy at every level of government. He continues to be a generous funder of the Federalist Society, an instrumental force in building and filling the pipeline of clerks, judges and cases that has created the judicial branch as we know it, and rulings like the one that overturned Roe v Wadelast week. Secretive dark-money outfits like Donors Trust, as well as Chevron and the Scaife Foundation – furnished by old oil and aluminum money – have joined him.

“West Virginia v EPA itself was brought with the help of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a network of state attorneys general whose own funders include the country’s biggest fossil fuel companies and the beleaguered coal barons who had the most to lose from the modest power plant regulations. They also spent $150,000 sponsoring Trump’s rally on 6 January.

“The interests of the country’s wealthiest residents and corporations are at odds with the vast majority of people who live here. Luckily for the right, a political system designed by slaveholders provides an easy on ramp to concretize minority rule, encasing their power within definitionally undemocratic institutions. With a young, ideological rightwing majority on the court, there’s no telling how far they might go. And there’s not much that can stop them.”