Category Archives: riptides

On A Catapult to Infamy

When we published our interview with a real estate entrepreneur named Donald J. Trump on April 1, 2014, during which he described his plans to transform the entire island of Ireland into the world’s largest golf course, we received many emails expressing horror and dismay that such a man might soon walk the Emerald Isle forever, swinging titanium clubs with those miniature hands.

We responded by gently underlining the date of the post, a day when we celebrate the levity of fools, even should they eventually become President. That was our last April 1 offering; we recognized – through Irish fog – that satire could no longer compete with naked reality.

Exhibit DJT: consider the below montage of excerpts from a recent interview between Time magazine and that same individual, in a different suit yet richly endowed with the same toxic persona. Captioned images of his “signature” scrawl, for the most part delivered into the world through the blunt force trauma of a Sharpie, have been added by DP.

BIG JOBS NEED A BIG P.

CAN YOU SURVIVE THE CYCLONE ROLLERCOASTER OF MY SELF?

I WILL MAKE YOU CRY WITH MY WEIRDNESS!

D IS FOR DERELICTION OF DUTY AND DELIVERY OF DEATH.

LOOK AT MY SIGNATURE AND NOT MY HANDS!

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Though corruption and monomania may be endemic in certain circles of the ruling elite, there are countless courageous individuals who fully comprehend their responsibilities to defend the constitution against the impulsive tantrums of an incompetent executive. Today, we single out the Honorable Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for the state of Washington.

Responding to a question put by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now regarding the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate whether the Trump campaign received any compromising “benefits” from the Russian kleptocracy, Ferguson said:

My goodness. I mean, having the president of the United States fire the FBI director, who was in the middle of an investigation regarding Russian interference related to the president’s key advisers, to take an action like that is, frankly, shocking, from a constitutional sense. And so, what needs to happen is that independent investigation needs to go on. And frankly, a special prosecutor is the path to do it.

I think one key aspect of this that we see from the president is he does these outlandish actions. It’s in an executive order on a Muslim ban or firing the FBIdirector. I think the key to success in taking the president on and restoring the rule of law is put him in a forum that he is, frankly, going to be on the defensive and not as comfortable, and that’s the courtroom. That’s through a special prosecutor. You can’t tweet your way out of an investigation from a special prosecutor. You can’t tweet your way out of a courtroom. What matters there is the Constitution. That’s why I feel so strongly that special independent prosecutor is so badly needed.

Then, later on, regarding the recent executive order to roll back protections of National Monuments:

Donald Trump is the first president since Teddy Roosevelt to take the view that somehow he alone, the president, can roll back these protections for, frankly, some of our most beautiful places that we have in the United States. It’s our view that he’s wrong on the law and is wrong from a policy standpoint, as well. We, of course, are focused on the law. I’ve asked my legal team to go to work on it, because here in Washington state, we have a couple of those national monuments that could fall under the broad interpretation of this executive order that he’s issued. We want to stop that in its tracks.

Once again, to my earlier point, I think, frankly, the way to confront and take on this president is to take him to the courtroom. Right? That is where it’s a level playing field. That’s where the rule of law prevails. And I’m confident that if they go forward with trying to roll back protections for national monuments, they will lose once again in the courts.

From your lips to the ears of many judges, Mr. Ferguson! If, in his shallow twittering and dangerous narcissistic impulses, that existential scrawl identified by the initials DJT refuses to uphold and defend the Constitution that defines the USA as a Republic of Laws and not as a Locker Room of Swinging Ps, then let us build a giant catapult and send him flying towards the infamy that will be his only lasting legacy.

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Lost in Space

As various toxic billionaires continue to fantasize about expanding their contact networks and Twitter feeds into the universe, we turn to a revealing author/reader exchange published in the New York Review of Books. The images, relayed from an exceptional series of paintings by Jeremy Geddes, have been added by DP.

Let’s begin with an excerpt from author/physicist Freeman Dyson, who closes his October, 2016 review essay with the following ecstatic vision of our “escape” from the planetary cage:

When we first read the above, particularly the last paragraph, we thought the former Princeton physicist must be in some sort of perverse competition with Stephen Hawking, the prize being free tickets on the Bezos Express. We filed it away in our ever-expanding Annals of Hubris and Delusion, for future reference.

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Thus were we relieved to see a thoughtful response in the most recent NYRB, jointly submitted by the distinguished mathematician Simon Altmann of Oxford; Sa’id Mosteshar from the London Institute of Space Policy and Law; and Alan Smith, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory:

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We note in particular the astute observation that what earthbound humans think of as “life” may not include whatever other life may exist elsewhere in the cosmos; surface area, starlight and food surely do not exhaust the possible parameters for “life”. While Dyson’s foolish insistence on such narrow requirements are surprising, coming from a scientist of such long and varied experience, his response casts an even dimmer light on the issue of human encroachments elsewhere in the universe:

To construe the issues concisely raised by Altmann, Mosteshar and Smith as “a clash of cultures”, thereby placing himself beyond substantive intellectual engagement, constitutes an astonishing, willful misreading. Yet the dramatic shift in his views regarding human identity at loose in the universe between his original essay and the above response is even more astonishing.

In the original essay, Dyson describes humans as “midwives” and active “creators of a living universe”; highly evolved beings making a conscious science-driven decision to send “Noah’s Arc seeds” into infinity. But in his response to the letter, humans are suddenly reduced to being merely “part of nature”, thus “free to evolve and diversify” — just like a virus or fungus. What’s more, those who voice ethical, environmental or philosophical objections to such a darkly determinist view of human existence clearly do not understand the basic expansionist nature of all life. Fine for gathering taxes and pushing paper, but no room on the Bezos space train for such dolts and ditherers. Oh my….

Finally, while Dyson in all his blustering arrogance hardly warrants analysis of his painfully weak grasp of Shakespeare, he might do well to meditate long and hard upon other words from Twelfth Night, as spoken by the fool, Feste: “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.” 

WHITE COSMONAUT


Beauty and Sustainability

Now comes Sandra Lubarsky, Chair of the Department of Sustainable Development at Appalachian State University, with an essay first published in Tikkun magazine in 2011, and excerpted below. The images are from the studio of Gail Boyajian, whose work unabashedly sustains and celebrates the life-affirming exuberance of beauty.

DAWN REFLECTIONS

DUSK REFLECTIONS

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Professor Lubarsky expands on these ideas in a conference lecture that includes a critique of human supremacist aesthetic relativism that results in mindless celebrations of ugliness, as exemplified by the obscene Sugartop condo development excreted by shameless developers upon a once-beautiful Appalachian ridgeline.

EGO DUMP ON DISTANT RIDGE

Returning once more to the words of Sandra Lubarsky:


Surveillance Capitalism

Now comes Shoshana Zuboff with an important essay in the Frankfurter Allgemeine; apparently she concluded that a German readership is more attentive to the profound issues of personal sovereignty and privacy raised by her analysis, excerpted below. The images are from the artist SpY.

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Deeper into the essay:

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And finally, in her closing paragraphs:

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What can we summon as a properly indigant response to those who wish to impose their coup des gens, a vicious assault on self-determination and on freely-expressed subjectivity?

Resist and disrupt the behavioral algorithm.

Refuse “smart” technology.

Strike the data mine. 

We look forward to Zuboff’s book, Master or Slave? The Fight for the Soul of Our Information Civilization, forthcoming in 2017.


Violence of the Incompetent

Our title descends from Isaac Asimov, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” So it goes with the varied forces of “order” deployed at Standing Rock, and their unhinged use of excessive weapons, better suited to the battlefield. Using such weapons against unarmed, peaceful Water Protectors is both cowardly and criminal.

Consider the violence committed against Sophia Wilansky, a recent college graduate who joined the Water Protectors in expression of her own deeply held conviction that the ongoing exploitation of fossil fuels amounts to wanton ecocide. While exercising her constitutional right to assemble and protect the water supply, Ms. Wilansky was viciously attacked by police with rubber bullets and an explosive concussion grenade, severely injuring her arm.

SOPHIA WILANSKY PRIOR TO HER INJURY AS THE RESULT OF CRIMINAL INCOMPETENCE

SOPHIA WILANSKY PRIOR TO HER INJURY AS THE RESULT OF CRIMINAL INCOMPETENCE

Here is the testimony of volunteer medic Brandi King, who served as an Army medic for eight years, upon witnessing the wounds inflicted upon the young woman:

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The Morton Sheriff Department, compounding the cowardice of using such a weapon against Ms. Wilansky by fabricating a ludicrous explanation from some delusional alternative univese, released the following statement:

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Democracy Now asked Ms. Wilansky’s father, Wayne Wilansky, to respond to such explanations:

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As for the use of water as a weapon deployed in sub-freezing weather conditions, we turn to Angela Bibens, a coordinator with the Water Protector Legal Collective, as quoted in The Los Angeles Times:

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Next comes Jesse Lopez, a surgeon and volunteer medic at Standing Rock, as quoted in The Intercept:

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Such actions constitute a criminal abuse of power; the perpetrators must be held accountable, and brought to justice. Returning to Mr. Wilansky:

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Rage Against the Elites

Among the hundreds of commentaries churning Tuesday’s bitter butter, two stand out for DP consideration, the first from Naomi Klein, with its core argument excerpted below:

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HISTORICAL ROOTS FOR A BLEEDING EDGE PLATFORM COMPANY

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Next we have The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, in an analysis that echoes his previous dissection of the Brexit “surprise”:

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wake-up


Of Genocide and the Pipeline

Today, since we are far away from our vast editorial office complex, we serve as relay for an important message from Kelly Hayes, a founding member of the Chicago Light Brigade and an organizer with We Charge Genocide.

Emphasis on final two sentences added by DP.

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Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right — not simply because “this affects us all.”

So when you talk about Standing Rock, please begin by acknowledging that this pipeline was redirected from an area where it was most likely to impact white people. And please remind people that our people are struggling to survive the violence of colonization on many fronts, and that people shouldn’t simply engage with or retweet such stories when they see a concrete connection to their own issues — or a jumping off point to discuss their own issues. Our friends, allies and accomplices should be fighting alongside us because they value our humanity and right to live, in addition to whatever else they believe in.

Every Native at Standing Rock — every Native on this continent — has survived the genocide of a hundred million of our people. That means that every Indigenous child born is a victory against colonialism, but we are all born into a fight for our very existence. We need that to be named and centered, which is a courtesy we are rarely afforded.

This message is not a condemnation. It’s an ask.

We are asking that you help ensure that dialogue around this issue begins with and centers a discussion of anti-Native violence and policies, no matter what other connections you might ultimately make, because those discussions simply don’t happen in this country. There obviously aren’t enough people talking about climate change, but there are even fewer people — and let’s be real, far fewer people — discussing the various forms of violence we are up against, and acting in solidarity with us. And while such discussions have always been deserved, we are living in a moment when Native Water Protectors and Water Warriors have more than earned both acknowledgement and solidarity.

So if you have been with us in this fight, we appreciate you, but we are reaching out, right now, in these brave days for our people, and asking that you keep the aforementioned truths front and center as you discuss this effort. This moment is, first and foremost, about Native liberation, self determination and Native survival. That needs to be centered and celebrated.

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Deeply Wasted

Recent scientific research confirms the ingestion of synthetic microfibers by deep sea organisms. At a rate and degree of saturation that may soon be irreversible, we are turning global oceans into a toxic plastic soup. The entire study makes for sobering reading; the abstract follows below, together with comments from the lead scientists as reported by phys.org.

ABSTRACT

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A few words from Dr Michelle Taylor of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, lead author of the study:

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Confirming the robust controls places on the assessment of the data, Dr Claire Gwinnett, Associate Professor in Forensic and Crime Science at Staffordshire University, added:

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And finally, a summary assessment from Laura Robinson, Professor of Geochemistry in Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences:

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No wonder the cowardly “elite” wishes to escape to the furthest ends of the universe; nothing left to contaminate here.


No Whisky, No Bacon

In the Annals of Hubris and Delusion, surely the blatherings of Jeff Bezos will receive a special repository. We have an ear for satire here at DP, yet reality defeats our imagination day after day. Below, a few quotes from a recent Bezos interview, with images taken from the Blue Origin “gallery”.

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CEO OF THE SIXTH EXTINCTION AND HIS EXIT STRATEGY

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STROKE THIS MUSCLE GENTLY AND IT WILL SPRAY YOU WITH A THOUSAND EINSTEINS

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THE UNIVERSE AND HUMAN STUPIDITY: THE TWO INFINITIES

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BEAM ME UP SCOTTIE; WE’RE DONE HERE.

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We read these words once, and laugh; read them again, and weep. Not content to commodify everything that moves on planet earth, Jeff Bezos puts his name forward for the title of Ultimate Inverted Utopian.

Memo to all such “builders”: gravity is not the only force in the universe that does not care about you.


Humility and Virtue

We have recently finished a novel that in time will be considered a rare American masterpiece: Barkskins. In graceful prose that expresses what must be expressed and nothing more, Annie Proulx — whose work we have long admired here at DP — chronicles the violent eradication of the  boreal/acadian forest in North America, together with the eradication of the people who lived in harmony within those ancient woods. Through the richly detailed lives of dozens of characters, Proulx conveys the heavy personal and cultural price exacted by that most vicious counterpoint, between ecocide and genocide.

The novel begins with two epigraphs, the second of which is taken from an essay by the historian Lynn White, dated 1967: The Historical Roots of the Ecological Crisis. We were curious about the context for her selected passage (which is highlighted below in bold italics). The fact that the essay reads like it might have been written yesterday prompts us to post two long excerpts, though it is certainly worth close consideration in its entirety. The image (added by DP) is relayed from the studio of Peter Randall-Page.

 

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BLOOD TREE

BLOOD TREE

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For the curious, the first epigraph for Barkskins descends from George Santayana:

Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.