The Wife and I had lunch at a new Indian restaurant in Carmel, then I stopped by BevMo to see out some good vermouth, seduced by this article in Craftsmanship magazine. I’m enjoying a drink by Julia Childs that is mentioned in the article: a reverse Martini (5-1, but the 5 is a good vermouth, the 1 is the gin). And on the stove I’m cooking this classic chicken soup recipe by Julia Moski (who is very reliable). I’m following the recipe except that I added two star anise and the juice of two lemons to the soup water. I’m using the 7-qt pot, but probably an 8-qt would be better. So it goes.
And I’ve done the cutting and chopping to make stir-fried tofu and peppers for dinner tonight, another excellent recipe from Martha Rose Shulman. However, my store carries 1-lb blocks of tofu, so from now on I’m making a double recipe to use the whole block of tofu. Last time I made it, I sprinkled white sesame seeds over it, and that seemed to go well.
Another indicator of the direction the wind now blows: Trial balloons for a crackdown on independent journalism
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
Craig Timberg, a Washington Post reporter with an interesting history (which we’ll get to shortly), doubled down last night with a new article suggesting that Congressional legislation may be coming to further crack down on independent journalists not properly adhering to the dogma of Washington. Timberg has become the deserving piñata of writers like Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Max Blumenthal of AlterNet, Robert Parry at Common Dreams and numerous other writers at alternative media.
Timberg and the Washington Post, which is owned by the billionaire CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, are being stridently called out as McCarthyites for an article published on Thanksgiving Day that cited unnamed “experts” at a shadowy group called PropOrNot to smear 200 alternative media sites as tools of Russia. The blacklist included some of the most informed and courageous voices on the Internet like Naked Capitalism, Truthout, CounterPunch, and Truthdig, where the brilliant Chris Hedges, part of a New York Times team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, regularly asks the uncomfortable questions — like this one: “When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?”
Theories abound as to why Timberg would write such a shoddily sourced article and smear some of the best writing and thinking on the Internet. One line of thought is that corporate media is struggling to survive financially and needs to take out its competition. Others see something far more nefarious. Max Blumenthal sums it up this way at AlterNet:
Fake news and Russian propaganda have become the great post-election moral panic, a creeping Sharia-style conspiracy theory for shell-shocked liberals. Hoping to punish the dark foreign forces they blame for rigging the election, many of these insiders have latched onto a McCarthyite campaign that calls for government investigations of a wide array of alternative media outlets.
The Black Agenda Report’s Executive Editor, Glen Ford, builds on Blumenthal’s theory, writing:
Had Clinton won the election, she would have begun a campaign of repression against the Left along the same national security lines as the Washington Postarticle, with that paper probably leading the propaganda charge.
The Obama administration and Post owner Bezos are quite tight, politically. Back in 2013, when Obama was still trying to reach a ‘grand bargain’ with the Republicans in Congress, he proposed lower corporate tax rates as a way to spur economic growth, and showcased the Amazon distribution center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a model — despite the deplorable working conditions, low pay (less than $12 an hour, to start) and heavy use of part-time and contract workers at the plant. His White House economist, Gene Sperling, told the press, ‘We should be looking for other avenues of progress, other grand bargains that can be for middle class job growth.’ Bezos closed the deal on the Washington Post the same year. His paper is clearly the go-to media for the Democrats’ brand of fascism, which is crazily cloaked as an anti-fascist crusade.
The Black Agenda Report was also listed on . . .
Later in the article:
. . . Many of the articles trashing Timberg refer to him as a “technology reporter” for the Post because that’s currently the description under his articles. His background is far more complicated. For starters, his agent, Gillian MacKenzie, states on her web site that she “was a five year term member of The Council on Foreign Relations.” The Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is Robert Rubin, the Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton who played a major role in the deregulation of Wall Street and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which set in motion the historic financial collapse in 2008. CFR’s Corporate Program includes approximately 200 multi-national corporations.
Timberg’s official bio shows that his earlier tenure at the Washington Post included a stint as Bureau Chief in Johannesburg where he covered political crises in Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. He later became Deputy Editor for National Security and finally moved to his current post as Technology Correspondent. But when we say “technology,” we’re not talking about laptops. In this 2013 C-Span video, Timberg talks about facial recognition technology being used by law enforcement for surveillance. In this 2014 C-Span video, Timberg interviews Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, on the revelations of the NSA’s mass surveillance program. The interview is conducted at the right-wing Cato Institute – a nonprofit that was secretly under the partial ownership of the Koch Brothers for decades.
Timberg’s father, the late Robert Timberg, had been . . .
And also this:
. . . When Wall Street On Parade broke the bombshell story from the WikiLeaks emails showing that an executive from the collapsing, corrupt and massively bailed out Wall Street mega bank, Citigroup, was making key hiring decisions for President Obama’s first term, we expected to see the story quickly move to the front page of the Washington Post. Instead, it has yet to see the light of day there. The same is true for the New York Times. Both the Post and Times editorial boards endorsed the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, for President. An article documenting with actual emails how Wall Street continued to control the reins of power in Washington, even during an epic economic crash it had created, was apparently censored by both papers. . .
Lists of books: Recommendations from Jorge Luis Borges, Patti Smith, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, David Bowie & More
Josh Jones has a good post at Open Culture:
At any given moment many of us can recommend a list of books to read. Books that have imprinted on us, named emotions we didn’t know we had, carved trails through our brains. Books that stand as a testament to a life lived as a reader. We may construct lists to pass on to a curious niece, nephew, son, daughter, student, or apprentice. “Life is perplexing,” we might say, “complex, wondrous, curious, painful, open to unimaginable possibilities. Read these, then go out and find the books that inspire, soothe, guide, challenge, and enlighten you.”
Of course, as you know from reading this site, we frequently bring you many such lists, from famous writers, artists, musicians, scientists, and other titans of their respective fields who have inspired millions of young students and apprentices. Today, we have compiled a master list of recommended reading lists, from writers like Jorge Luis Borges, musician-poets like Patti Smith, scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, futurists like Stewart Brand, and many, many more.
- Jorge Luis Borges
- Jorge Luis Borges (second list)
- David Bowie
- Patti Smith
- Bruce Springsteen
- Stephen King
- Stephen King (second list)
- Gloria Steinem
- Brian Eno
- Ernest Hemingway
- Christopher Hitchens
- Laurie Anderson
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Joan Didion
- Tilda Swinton
- Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson
- Ursula K. Le Guin
- Leo Tolstoy
- Henry Miller
- Michael Stipe
- David Foster Wallace
- Mark Twain
- Lena Dunham and Miranda July
- Stewart Brand
- Erica Jong
- David Brooks
- Bill Gates
In fact, we have two lists from Borges, both predictably lengthy and eccentric. The first contains 33 books that could start a fictional Library of Babel, among which we find Jack London and Herman Melville alongside occult English writer Arthur Machen and Qing Dynasty Chinese writer Pu Songling. Borges’ second list spans 74 titles, and was intended, before his death, to expand to 100. Patti Smith also recommends Melville in her list, as well as Mikhail Bulgakov, Louisa May Alcott, and her hero, Arthur Rimbaud. Tyson’s list is short, only 8 titles, and he suggests these books not only for the avid reader but—in answer to a Redditor’s question—for “every single intelligent person on the planet.” . . .
Later in the post:
And, separately, you should not miss our list of 74 essential books recommended by “a group of international women writers, artists and curators.”
US drug laws need serious reshaping. Tana Ganeva reports in the Washington Post:
Ferrell Scott was sentenced to life in prison for possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a drug that’s now legal in many states and turning a handsome profit for the (primarily white) pot industry. Scott, like many nonviolent drug offenders serving long sentences, is black. Without any chance at parole, despite an exemplary behavior record, he appealed to President Obama for clemency. He found out that his bid for clemency had been denied when he got an email about “bad news” from a friend. Thinking something bad had happened to his 93-year-old mother, he called home. His daughter answered, crying, and told him the news.
“She cried like a baby and she was telling me that she didn’t know what she was supposed to do now. Couldn’t understand it,” Scott tells The Watch in a phone interview.
“Why haven’t I been contacted? I hope this is a mistake. My God I’m f—–!” he wrote to Amy Povah, who runs CAN-DO, an advocacy group for prisoners incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.
It’s not a mistake. His name is on the list of clemency denials published on the Justice Department’s website on Tuesday.
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do, what’s gonna happen,” Scott says. “Well, I kind of know what’s going to happen. I’m going to be here for the rest of my life. I don’t know, man, I’m so depressed and shaken. I honestly thought I would get it.” Scott then brings up a good point: Obama has admitted to using the drug that landed Scott in prison for life.
The list of prisoners denied clemency is headlined “COMMUTATIONS DENIED BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.” But that language, which suggests that the president personally reviewed each prisoner’s petition and decided that it was not deserving of a shorter sentence, isn’t accurate.
Obama doesn’t look at each petition. Rather, he sees (at most) the advice of the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney and then the White House counsel. The pardons office also often seeks input from the prosecutor’s office that led the initial trials. And while criminal-justice advocates have praised Obama for commuting the sentences of a record number of prisoners — more than 1,000 — some advocates say the decision-making process is too arbitrary and slow.
Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor who worked in Detroit in the 1990s and is now a leading advocate for “sentencing and clemency policies rooted in principles of human dignity,” tells The Watch that the problem lies in the process, which he says is long and inefficient. “It’s not like everyone sits down and decides together. It’s a bunch of different people in different offices, they all have different perspectives. Even a minor failure at any of those steps and everything grinds to a halt.”
“The program is embedded in the DOJ, which is a building full of prosecutors,” he says, and as a former prosecutor, Osler can tell you it’s not a profession that encourages self-reflection over past mistakes. The winding process can thwart even the best presidential intentions. “Obama clearly cared about the project of clemency, a fact that was reflected in the letter he sent to each clemency recipient,” Osler wrote in a paper published this year, “Given that interest, one wonders why his administration was so slow to take up a significant number of clemency cases. The answer, very likely, lies in the layers of redundant bureaucracy.”
Craig Cesal is another marijuana lifer who just found out his clemency was denied. “My crime was that my truck repair business in Chicago fixed trucks operated by a Florida long-haul trucking company whose drivers trafficked marijuana in the south,” he writes to The Watch. He was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and after a nightmarish plea process detailed here, the government pulled its offer. So he got life.
Cesal suspects that his clemency was denied because of a bogus motion filed in a Georgia court. Since presidential clemency is supposed to be a last resort, Cesal thinks that at some point in the process, someone saw there were ongoing court proceedings over his case and dismissed his application for clemency.
Other prisoners previously interviewed by The Watch were shocked when they found out they weren’t granted a commutation — as have the people advocating on their behalf.
U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett called the sentence he was forced to give to Lori Kavitz for a nonviolent drug offense “idiotic” at the time, and has written a letter to the Office of the Pardon Attorney begging for her release. Kavitz is still in prison. . .
Mark Danner reviews an interesting book at NY Review of Books:
Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power
by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher
Scribner, 431 pp., $28.00
Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.
Just when the shooting pains in our legs had become near unbearable—we’d been standing, ten thousand of us crushed together elbow to elbow, for well over five hours—the metal hangar door clattered back like a vast white curtain and unveiled The Plane: red, white, and blue with his name emblazoned along its side in the inevitable gold (with all its fixtures gold-plated as well, twenty-four carat, including the seatbelts)—and suddenly as the familiar silhouette materialized in the doorway, arm extended, all that pain from thousands of legs and backs and craning necks seemed to be drawn out of us into one great punishing roar of sound smashing and echoing against the metal walls of the vast building.
Hands that had been free flew instinctively up to cover ears but most clutched phones and cameras and suddenly all that could be seen amid the hundreds of signs (“Trump: Make America Great Again,” “Hispanics for Trump,” “Women for Trump,” and of course “The Silent Majority Stands with Trump”) were thousands and thousands of tiny screens, held aloft and forward in that curiously contemporary attitude of worship, reproducing across the roiling crowd in an array of pointillistic splendor His Face (rock-solid confident, chin outthrust, jaw set), his open-necked white dress shirt and blue Brioni suit beneath an elegant blue top coat, and of course, perched atop it all as he made his way slowly waving down the airstairs, clapping and punching the air and clasping his hands above his head, the red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap pressed down over the defiantly ridiculous coiffure. “In two days,” he began, addressing the working class of Moon Township, in the shadows of Pittsburgh’s old dead steelworks,
we are going to win the great state of Pennsylvania and we are going to win back the White House. [Huge cheers]… When we win, we are bringing steel back, we are going to bring steel back to Pennsylvania, like it used to be. We are putting our steel workers and our miners back to work. We are. We will be bringing back our once-great steel companies.
To this proud vision of a future as past restored the crowd brought huge cheers. By main force the man with the gold-appointed plane would bring back the glory that had been. How would he do it? First, by his very ascension, for he was here to affirm that those steel mills and mines and the good jobs they offered had been lost through treachery. He was here to point out the stab in the back and to vow to avenge it:
We are not going to allow our jobs to be taken from our states anymore…. We are going to bring back the jobs and the wealth that have been stolen from us. The economic policies of Bill and Hillary Clinton have bled Pennsylvania dry. You know it, I know it, we’ve watched it happen.
The rich satisfactions of a politics of villainy! Complicated decades-long tales of technological advance and social change dissolve into the self-satisfied sneer on a hated face. All around me I saw it reproduced, mostly behind bars, on “Crooked Hillary” buttons and “Hillary for Jail!” sweatshirts and much, much worse. “Hillary Clinton murders children!” a middle-aged woman waiting in the two-mile-long line had shouted. “It’s been proved. Hillary Clinton rapes and murders children.”
Not long before I had learned from a small businessman, a produce wholesaler, that the former secretary of state was “a degenerate alcoholic”—a subtext of Trump’s frequent assertion that she “lacked the stamina to be president”—and that FBI director James Comey was on “suicide watch,” the latter words pronounced sarcastically and to a circle of nodding knowing grins, because of course thus far in their careers “the Clintons have killed at least twenty people.”
The words were tossed off calmly, by people with children and cars and jobs, people who watch television and attend PTA meetings and perhaps even read the newspapers. And of course listen to the radio, which had battened on Clinton conspiracy theories for decades. And so we had passed the hours waiting for him in that aircraft hangar by batting around above our heads two red, white, and blue beach balls with the words “Crooked Hillary” inscribed prominently upon them. Hit it! Hit it harder!
The truth is that after decades of attacks and her own prominent missteps—the e-mails that comprised the perfect symbolic scandal since, with its veritable lack of content, there was no way she could ever be vindicated; the speaking fees that recalled to voters a political couple who had left the White House “dead broke” and had since somehow managed to enrich themselves to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars—Hillary Clinton was mistrusted by most of the country and hated and despised by those at Trump rallies rather more intensely and savagely than her supporters hated and despised Trump. They feared her; they swore and truly believed that if she were allowed to win “we wouldn’t”—to use the savior’s typically blunt words—“have a country anymore.” And in the crucial states they turned out to vote against her, as her supporters did not turn out for her.
That she lost this closest of close elections more than he won it has become a truism and some of the numbers bear it out. If part of the rationale behind the withering attacks on “Crooked Hillary” was to depress turnout among her most ambivalent supporters then surely the strategy worked, for there was no “Latino surge,” no “women surge,” nothing to offset Trump’s “working-class white surge,” in which he beat her by nearly forty points among white voters who hadn’t finished college, many of whom had voted for Obama. For Trump, it was barely enough. While winning nearly two million fewer votes than Clinton across the country—only the fifth time in two and a half centuries the losing presidential candidate actually won more votes—Trump won the three critical states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and, yes, Pennsylvania by little more than 100,000 votes in all, or 0.09 percent of all votes cast. The 107,000 voters who made Donald Trump president of the United States could have fit into one large football stadium.1
Donald Trump offers such consummate political theater—his gargantuan narcissism makes him so mesmerizing to watch2—that it is to wake abruptly from an all-enveloping dream to realize that much of what he says has no…content behind it. His assertions, framed in simple, concrete, direct language, are not policy statements so much as attitudes, the tireless ranting of the man on the barstool beside you, some of them, for example, on how America is being “ripped off” on trade, going back decades, some of them, on “the disaster” of Obamacare, notably, acquired only upon his incarnation as presidential candidate. He is a master at sharpening and giving shape to deep-rooted class resentments, an artist at shrugging into attitudes as if they were costumes, at reflecting and embodying anger.
He is a supreme performer—the billionaire builder with the outerborough accent and tough-guy talk—and as he surfs the applause and cheers and shouts nothing could be plainer than that he understands his audience. He has been understanding it for more than three decades, as a cartoon hero of the New York tabloids. “When we would talk particularly to immigrants, recent immigrants who were the readers of the Daily News,” a News columnist, George Rush, tells the authors of Trump Revealed, “they would always want to know about Donald Trump.”
He embodied the American Dream to them. Excessive, conspicuous consumption is not a bad thing in New York to a lot of people. It’s kind of comic what he was doing. I’ve always felt like Donald was in on the jokes. He knows he’s over the top, but that’s where he likes to live.
Many in his huge crowds who have watched him for years, firing people on prime-time television, are in on the jokes, too—but only to a point. As I stood waiting outside the aircraft hangar in Moon Township, a sixtyish man behind me wearing sweatpants and a Trump–Pence sweatshirt stepped outside the line and craned his neck, looking back at the thousands behind us, many of them wearing red-white-and-blue, festooned with Trump–Pence shirts, Trump hats, Trump buttons, and pronounced in a tone of long-awaited satisfaction:
Ah, this is it: the white working class in America. The ones paying for all the others. Finally we’re getting someone who’ll do something for us.
For all the talk of the financial crisis of 2008, that sentiment—“The ones paying for all the others”—comes from a much deeper place. “The others” do not work. They are the free-riders on the system, courtesy of the corrupt elite who put in place and then perpetuate programs to support them, in return for which those “others” supply the votes to keep them in power. And most of those others, it doesn’t need to be said—it can’t be said because of that damn “political correctness” that cloaks and stifles us like a blanket—have darker faces and many of them come from somewhere else.
But Trump isn’t afraid to say it. That he shocks the political class was from the start the heart of his appeal. It says he won’t be intimidated, he won’t back down. With his fancy suits and huge plane and helicopter, he is the cock of the walk, a big swinging dick who doesn’t give a damn, who says what he pleases and won’t sell out to the elite—and this is the elite in the broadest sense: the people who run our government, those who write the news stories and the editorials, those who produce the television programs and the movies.
He knows all those people, of course, has risen to the top among them and remains deeply unimpressed by them. He knows they cheat and lie and he says it plainly; his entire campaign is an affirmation of the fact. I was told repeatedly that the polls—which days before the election showed Clinton up by three or four points, an estimate even Trump reportedly believed—were “just bullshit, just like everything else the media says.” Or again: “Don’t you know they lie? They lie all the time.” . . .
Martin de Candre, for all the simplicity of its ingredients, is a truly excellent soap, at least in my experience, easily loaded and making a great lather. This is one of the early Mühle synthetics—an effort to replicate a badger knot—and it does a fine job. It has a somewhat different feel than the Plissoft synthetics, but still matches them for overall excellence in feel and performance.
The Dorco PL-602 continues to hold its own as one of my best razors: comfortable and efficient, easily producing a BBS result as it did today. This really is a razor you should try. A quick search of eBay finds this listing: two razors, $6.85, free shipping. Since this razor is exceptionally comfortable and efficient, it makes an ideal razor for a novice, so buy the two pack and give one razor to a friend who must shave but currently hates the task. Great stocking stuffer.
Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte Moisturizing Skin Emulsion makes a wonderful aftershave balm. Highly recommended for your own use or as a gift.
Altogether, a great way to start the weekend.
Why the Dakota Access Pipeline is a Big Deal: Bismarck residents got the Dakota Access Pipeline moved without a fight
It’s extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, not to see rank, overt, festering racism and class warfare here. T. J. Rafael reports in PRI:
Snowfall has made its way to North Dakota, adding an element of concern to the ongoing battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Monday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple ordered an emergency evacuation of protesters working to block the construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline, citing safety concerns with the oncoming winter weather.
This announcement comes just days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, stating that the land they manage north of the Cannonball River will be closed on December 5. Anyone found on the land after that date will be considered trespassers and subject to prosecution.
For several months, the local Native American community and other protesters have been arguing that the pipeline could threaten the reservation’s water supply. But this is actually an updated routing — after the original routing was rejected for similar reasons. The original pipeline was to be routed just north of Bismarck, North Dakota, according to Karen Van Fossan, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“I actually read about the original pathway, or an original pathway of the pipeline, in our local newspaper,” she says. “It’s our understanding, and I’ve talked to everybody who I know who would have known about it in advance, that we never even in Bismarck had to make an objection. The pathway was moved away from our drinking supply without our even needing to go to a meeting or write a letter.”
Van Fossan says she believes a decision was independently made to reroute the pipeline to its current location. Bismarck city officials did not respond to a request for comment.
“Nobody I know ever knew anything about the routing north of Bismarck,” Van Fossan says.
Though Bismarck is 92.4 percent white, according to 2015 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Van Fossan says many residents in the city are “aghast” by the events playing out in Standing Rock, and are standing in solidarity with the indigenous protesters and other demonstrators. . .
Support from sidelines is sometimes hard to distinguish from being looky-loos. And the police are so in the pocket of big business that they are just about at open warfare against a protest—that is, the exercise of a constitutional right. It’s very like Orwell’s 1984, which I hope everyone is rereading: “Rights are Wrong. Constitution is Against the Law. Expressing your right is criminal behavior. Force solves most problems. Plus any multimilion dollar setllement will be paid by the taxpayer, so it’s essentially free to us. I feared for my life.”
UPDATE: Trump will support the Dakota Pipeline project: He’s an investor in it. See this post.