They DO plan, don’t they.

The GOP and its allies. They plan, longterm and short term. Even if they improvise they agree on where they’re going with it.

Randi Rhodes today played an Edward R Murrow interview with Harry Truman, warning that the Republican party had–this was in 1957–become the party of “special interests” and everything they do is for those special interests. So we see this continuity now, with the party of special interest–and that takes planning.

They planned Reagan, his administration and his deregulation, and all that went with it. They planned how they would take down Clinton and Obama–so they hoped–and how they would exploit Trump. They planned their takeover of talk radio, that is well known. They plan their influence on media. Fox News was planned. Sinclair media was planned. OAN was at least supported by the planners. Special Interests and their puppets planned their use of social media. Not long ago, they took over Newsweek Magazine, formerly a liberal mag. They edged the New York Times more to the right somehow. They are doing the same with The Washington Post.

They are planning, probably, to take over all news sources.

Neighborhood Fireworks

“Let’s do this!” Jimmy howls. He sets off the firework and it boomed against the sky, seething red, white and blue stars over Hazel Dell.

“Whoa, nice one, Jimmy!” Trevor said, lighting the roman candle. Balls of fire stacked up over the yard…

The neighborhood thundered with the heavy fireworks, all over town, like an artillery barrage Dogs howled. Someone cursed them. Jimmy and Trevor laughed and passed the Red Bull Jack Daniels mix and set off two more…

“I love it when the dogs howl!” Jimmy chortled. “You know it’s really cutting through!”

“It is,” said Dave, the old guy who lived next door. He came out chewing an unlit cigar. He was wearing a watch cap and a red terrycloth bathrobe and unlaced tennis shoes.

“Excellent look, there, Dave,” Trevor said.

“Woke up kind of suddenly. Got dressed that way too.”

“It’s only one night a year, old man,” Jimmy said.

“It’s on July Fourth too,” Dave said, looking at another firework. “That one’s pretty. I like fireworks, in the right place. There’s a theory that neighborhoods could arrange a park or some place a fair distance away for this stuff…”

“Why?” Jimmy snorted. “We like it here! It’s patriotism!”

“Patriotism?” Dave asked, music over another colorful burst. “You ever serve in the military, Jim? Oh wait, you didn’t, no. But Mr. Grange did, down the street–three terms in Vietnam. He has trouble sleeping. Especially tonight. Slim Gomez, on 78th–he served in Iraq. He has PTSD. He has to leave town otherwise he gets flashbacks on a night like this.”

“Oh boo hoo, has to leave town!”

“Not easy for him. Lost his legs, no family to help him out. Doesn’t drive. Not a lot of traveling money. His dog, too–it can’t deal with this stuff. It was a war dog, see. It got caught in some bad stuff and never got over it. But then my dogs can’t deal with it either. Hours under the bed crying.”

“They’re just dogs, man!”

“Sure. And they’re the only close friends I have. Laurie Pascal–she’s eighty-nine. Sleeping comes hard to her. And she can’t get out easily, trust me. Her and a lot of other elderly people…Dana Kellaway–her grandchildren are terrified by this stuff. She can’t afford to leave town either–she works tomorrow.”

“Lotta children love it!” “And a lot of children don’t, especially small ones.”

“We don’t ****ing care, Dave!” Trevor said, lighting another Big Boy.

“I know you don’t, Trevor. Why should you? It’s not about you, right? So why should you care?” With that, Dave lit his cigar on the fizzling fuse of the firework, and walked to the house, puffing it…

If I Was Rich Enough to Buy Fox News…

I do daydream of someone like Bill Gates buying Fox News, if it can be bought. . . I dream of what I’d do if I was rich enough to buy it myself. I would NOT turn it into a smug, snappish liberal network–I’d make it centrist, or center-left, even though I’m more progressive than that myself. Yet I’d fire Fox News’s famous racist immediately, and 95 percent of their on-air staff and most writing staff. I’d sure bring in diversity in staff and anchors. I would only change the network’s garish on-air look a bit, at first, but gradually make it more grown up. I’d set new rules for reportage: FACT BASED ONLY would be the first one. I’d have a smart staff of fact checkers. I’d make Fox News truly fair and balanced. I’d make the station more news oriented–actual news…I’d get a sane conservative on, with a weekly show, like SE Cupp–I don’t agree with a lot of her ideas, but she despises Trump and Trumpism and dishonesty in media and she’s a strong believer in climate change and vaccines. I would bring in Mitt Romney, a sane and decent conservative, and George Will, as pundits, along with, say, appearances by the likes of Lawrence O’Donnell…I’d have some not-too-liberal liberal with their own network show balancing Cupp….

Yes, I’d make it clear that FN believes Biden was truly elected, that climate change is real, that we should respect science; that vaccines are safe and necessary…I would have some special shows about what honest fact-checking reveals… I’d work toward a cure for the great disease of modern media: conspiracy theories…

Oh yes I’d transform Fox News, but I wouldn’t get all AOC in my changes...

Why, you ask, wouldn’t I make it flat out MSNBC liberal? Because I’d want to keep what I could of the previous audience and simply offer them the facts they’d been denied. I wouldn’t want to alienate every non-Democrat elderly person in the USA. I would want to gradually expose them to enough honest reportage that they’d decide, on the facts, that there was no need to go extremist-right in their thinking. No need to support those who undermine democracy. Yet I would respect their right to a more conservative point of view. And if I didn’t respect the need for a television venue featuring conservative thought (as well as pragmatically progressive, a balance of the two), hysteria on the right would result. Sure, you’d get some hysteria anyway but not suicide-bomber level reactivity…

Ah. A wistful dream.

A lot of people are feeling apocalyptic…Should they?

It’s not exactly apocalypse. The poorly addressed climate-change crisis is coming to a head.The likely collapse of American democracy, yes, is terrifying. The fact that the sea will soon be mostly bereft of fish and sea mammals–it makes me deeply sad and of course it is frightening.

But then the Roman empire fell, the Black Plague happened, the endless wars, The Holocaust happened, and–sadly–humanity is still here. We had to stick around so we could destroy many other forms of life, it seems. But not quite apocalypse.

Do you know what it is? It’s a dumpster fire–and picture someone slowly and steadily, at an ever slightly increasing rate, pouring gasoline into the dumpster…

Things are bad enough that even the New Yorker publishes cartoons like this one:

TRUMP is still in charge of Social Security Administration? So they make it seem…

So I sent a question by email about some confusion I had about a medicare deduction to my social security. I understand what’s going on with it but they’d sent me a letter that was really confusing. This is part of the answer I received by email.

From day one, President Trump has made it a top priority to lower drug prices. Currently, for Part B, the law requires CMS to pay the average sales price for a drug and also pays physicians a percentage of a drug’s sale price. This incentivizes drug companies to set prices higher and for physicians to prescribe more expensive drugs – because that leads to a higher Medicare payment. Through the President’s drug pricing blueprint, the Trump Administration is working to lower drug prices in Medicare Part B drugs.

This arrived TODAY. I suppose they have left over junk auto-responses from the last administration but him putting his name and his campaign claim in the thing…well I heard he did stuff like that…but it’s still there! What the hell! What else from Trump remains in these kinds of responses across government bureaus?

Does it have to be Kamala Harris?

If Biden isn’t able to run for re-election for health reasons, say, or if he is re-elected and Democrats must choose someone to run after him…Or if he’s not re-elected (supposing the GOP succeeds in rigging races through forcing their extremists into secretary of state positions in critical electoral zones) …does Kamala Harris have to be the next Dem nominee for President? I know, we tend to choose the VP of the Democratic President to run… I want a woman President too. I voted for Elizabeth Warren for President during the primary.

But, as per the Washington Post:

Staffers who worked for Harris before she was vice president said one consistent problem was that Harris would refuse to wade into briefing materials prepared by staff members, then berate employees when she appeared unprepared….’It’s clear that you’re not working with somebody who is willing to do the prep and the work,’ one former staffer said. ‘With Kamala you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism and also her own lack of confidence. So you’re constantly sort of propping up a bully and it’s not really clear why.'”

And I remember when a reporter asked her a tough question about her plans for immigration and she got mad, bitterly sarcastic, with him–and she didn’t really answer the question. Harris doesn’t do well with pressure. During the primary debates, she got flustered and wasn’t very focused–unlike Warren–which might be explained partly by Harris over-reacting to pressure, and partly by her problem with prep. Not enough preparation… A political commentator I know said, I wasn’t a fan of hers during the primary. “She kept putting out position papers and then 180 degrees reversing herself when she got pushback. If you’re going to put out a position paper, shouldn’t you anticipate the pushback and have answers for it prepared?”

And she’s notorious for burning through her assistants and aides.

Now imagine what Biden has to put up with as President. Not only Covid and its new variants, not only vast misinformation and flat-out lies, not only the GOP openly preparing to steal elections, not only Trump and his buddies, not only inflation and school massacres, not only a kneejerk-hostile press–but the possibility of WWIII flashpoints in Ukraine and the China Sea.

How would Harris deal with that level of near-perpetual crisis? She wouldn’t. I’d rather have Stacy Abrams, or some other woman run.

My story about Prisons for Profit

The first story in my new collection THE FEVERISH STARS is called A STATE OF IMPRISONMENT. The story about a near-future situation extrapolating today’s privatized prisons. Here’s what I said about it in a recent interview:

Frequently I have something I’ve perceived that I feel needs to be dramatized, and I cast about for the way to do that. I choose the best genre for it, in my view, and work out how to entertainingly express the underlying observation. Other times, I feel my way along, and the story tells me what the theme is; it reveals itself to me.  In “A State of Imprisonment” I started with my own personal anger—I was smoldering over the insane growth and greed in the privatized prison phenomenon. Prisons for profit. When prisons are run by a corporation for profit, rather than as a publicly funded institution, they are inevitably prone to cutting corners on the most basic needs of the human beings incarcerated; food and medical care are minimized for the sake of maximizing profit. Privatized prisons tend to use convicts as unpaid workers in a vastly more exploitative way than prisons did ever before. And there is an incentive to imprison people—accomplishing this through corruption of local justice systems—so to have more people to bill the state for, and to use as forced labor. There’s also an incentive to invent reasons to keep them in prison past their time. This outrage has been foisted on America broadly, in real life, and in places like Arizona it’s now a major industry. It was spreading so much I imagined a future in which an entire state—most of Arizona!—was converted into one big complex of privatized prisons run by a single corporation. Could this happen in real life—a prison that engulfs a whole US state? Probably not; it’s social satire. But I make it believable enough so that the reader can suspend disbelief, and get caught up in the frightening story of a woman, an investigative reporter, trapped in the system—the symbolism, the metaphor, emerges then quite naturally in the narrative…It’s an Orwellian parable based in real contemporary issues.  

And Speaking of Fear…It’s a good time to feel some dread.

Do you have agricultural land you’re not using? Even a quarter-acre, say?

I’ve been hired as a futurist at different times, as a consultant, by Stanford Research Institute for example, and I’m not bad at futurism, my novels bear that out–but more importantly I’m in touch with professional futurists, and scientists. And they’re worried. As you may have some untilled land, can I offer you some unsolicited advice for you and yours…? Study agriculture, to a sufficiency, and set aside some of your land, or more of it—you may well already have a truck garden or small plot —for raising food. You are likely to need to devote even more space to agriculture. This would be mostly for you and your family.

Be very aware of possible wells on your land. If there are streams they may go away. Piped water might diminish a good bit. But the big national problem that people are now beginning to wake up to, like people coming out of a sleep at being awakened by the smoke of their house afire…is going to be food. The supply chain may in large part collapse, due to far worse climate change effects than most people anticipate.

The relative abundance in the supermarket will come to an end in your lifetime. Probably you have an understandable dislike of “the sky is falling” people, and right enough too, but just take those steps for the sake of your family. You need not clear much land to do it. You don’t have to “become a farmer”.

We don’t want to go about frantically chopping down trees for home farming–we should be planting them. But look about you, if you have some land, and set aside a goodish section for growing food. Learn how to do it. There are pleasures in that process…and there is necessity…

If you live in an apartment, grow food on your balcony, or on the roof if they’ll let you–bring soil up there. Or join a community agricultural project.

Also think about storage; dried food, canning. I advise doing this for your children and grandchildren–or simply for your own well-being. That land will feed you if nothing else does. The coming food crisis won’t happen tomorrow—current shortages are relatively minor and evanescent— but it’ll begin within ten to twenty years


Written by a guy who won the Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writer’s Association.

We’re all scared. That’s the truth. A billionaire in good health has no reason to be scared, in most cases. He won’t show fear, overtly. But he’s often protected by armed guards, security cameras and other devices. Because in the back of his mind, he’s scared.

A happily married woman living in a comfortable, well patrolled suburb has fun with her kids, loves her spouse, goes to church or temple or a mosque, gets much comfort at those places. But she’s scared. In the back of her mind, she’s scared.

We go cheerfully about our lives, yet in some part of ourselves we’re multiply scared. We’re socially scared when we encounter even people we trust. We’re scared of failure; we’re scared of home intruders, of cancer, of the depredations of serial killers and child abductors and the outbreak of chaos and war. We’re scared by the inevitability of death–even if it’s decades down the road…Now we’re scared of wildfires…

Some people are unconsciously drawn to discharge these fears, through horror movies and tales. The horror story doesn’t need to be specific to one’s personal fears. Fear builds up as tension; it builds like pressure in a water main. It must be controlled, sometimes discharged. Some find this release to be especially pleasurable. For some it’s even mildly addictive. Being harmlessly scared, via an art form, releases tension so it’s paradoxically relaxing–after the fact. One even feels a (ridiculous) sense of unreasoning triumph, after the book or movie, having come through what was fearful–untouched.

There is more to the psychological mechanism underlying the delight in horror stories. There are neuroses. There is rage acted out, subconsciously, on the screen. But essentially it comes down to this: we’re always scared. And when we say we’re not–we’re lying to ourselves. You see, we’re always more scared than we realize. In order to live with our fears, we buffer them, wall them off, look away from them. But they haven’t gone anywhere. Most people don’t have the self-knowledge to see themselves as they are; they’re unaware, on a conscious level, of the persistent presence of their own fears…


Is optimism possible in a time when democracy seems fragile; seems on the verge of being overthrown by neofascist, overt racist Trump clones? Is it possible in a time when we see legit headlines like, The world needs to cut its emissions seven times as fast to hit climate goals, U.N. report finds and Thousands of dead sea creatures are washing up on English beaches and so on…

Yes it’s possible. It requires far-seeing, and it requires the labor of comprehending complexity. But, admittedly--optimism, now, is hard work.

As for one *realistic* avenue to optimism, try THIS.