NB: this is a cross post from my Substack newsletter, published in Oct
Born during the baby crash years of the 1970s and coming of age in 1980s America images of the future beckoned and excited the imagination. Notwithstanding the “Day After” nuclear Armageddon fears, our childhood was bookended by the 2001 Space Odyssey-style visions of the future and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Futurists like Alvin Toffler graced magazine covers and the “year 2000” was a calling card for progress. The first 2 decades of the 21st century, rocked by terrorism, wars and climate catastrophes, and too often we seem to have forgotten that the future is what we make it. Who speaks of preparing the future and establishing strong foundations for the 22nd century ? …
NB: originally published on Oct 17, this is a cross post from my Substack newsletter
The AP released a disheartening poll yesterday on the state of US democracy:
Add to it that US media thinks little of the fact there was no debate between the candidates for President this week says a lot about the state of America. In 2004 at the DNC Barack Obama appealed to the better selves of America and asked for a leap of faith to transcend the red/blue divide. His call to action mostly failed, due to entrenched interests and more.
UPDATE from Nov 13 Substack post
NB: this post was originally posted on Nov 13 on my Substack
UPDATE: as expected and forewarned, Xi Jinping is going to make an example out of Ma, who should really think about leaving China, now.
The probe announced Thursday marks the formal start of the Communist Party’s crackdown on the crown jewel of Ma’s sprawling dominion, spanning everything from e-commerce to logistics and social media. [..]
Once hailed as drivers of economic prosperity and symbols of the country’s technological prowess, Alibaba and rivals like Tencent Holdings Ltd. face increasing pressure from regulators after amassing hundreds of millions of users and gaining influence over almost every aspect of daily life in China. …
American media, particularly its DC/NY political media, has many virtues: doggedness like David Fahrentold who uncovered Trump’s grifting, righteousness like Eugene Robinson and Mike Barnicle whose opeds are useful chronicles of our “interesting times”. What it fundamentally lacks is the ability to think outside itself and to call out, forcefully, how we got here, with a Trumpified GOP and Roger Stone calling for Trump to imprison the Clintons, Mark Zuckerberg and even Gen. Mattis.
Murdoch destabilized democracy on 3 continents
Rupert Murdoch will be remembered as the man whose greed and cunning destabilized and upended democracy in the English language world, save for Canada. His vulgar tabloidization of the news in the UK, Australia and the US over 6 decades has contributed to sapping the public good that was the news in the post WWII era. Murdoch’s wily manipulation of naive politicians on 3 continents remains a case study in how a captain of industry can become more powerful than titular heads of government. Since 2017 the leaks of his post-Trump phone calls says everything one needs to know: as recorded by Michael Wolff “I can’t get the asshole off the phone” or “What a fucking idiot”. No President of the United States before Trump has been similarly insulted by the great puppetmaster of right wing media. In the UK Tony Blair’s infamous suckup to Murdoch in 1997 all but guaranteed the Sun newspaper’s endorsement and therefore the keys to Downing Street. The systematic right wing deconstruction, Jacques Derrida-style, of the American center right will also remain a case study in an Oz-like behind the scenes orchestration. This writer has already detailed how Murdoch’s puppetmaster ways have neutered debate on the right, where Congresspeople audition in the US Capitol for a few years before their real “job”: paid commentator on Fox News. …
Future analysts of the first two decades of the 21st century might wonder how 2 of the most powerful countries in the world, China and the US, managed to elevate to the highest office bombastic and flawed sons of privilege, seemingly determined in running their societies into the ground.
Current analysts also wonder how China’s supposed 5,000 year old civilization, having adhered up to now to Deng Xiaoping’s genius political system, is letting a mini Mao concentrate all power in his hands. The last time China lived under a single man dictatorship it cost millions of lives and maintained it as a backwards country. …
It’s historical fact that starting in the 15th century Gutenberg’s press liberated the propagation of ideas vs monk-copied enluminures and directly affected societies’ very structures. The cumulative effects of mass access to broadband, mobile access to the internet and participation in social media such as blogging and tweeting are not yet fully analyzed but the past 5 years are a good indicator.
“Social” media is an oxymoron
So-called social media is an oxymoron: social implies a modicum of interaction rules, sorely lacking on Facebook and Twitter, and media implies a mediation performed by newspapers, radio and broadcast and cable tv networks, which Big Tech has mostly refused to take on. In a recent conversation a good friend of mine reflected on the perils of leaving social media networks to pugilistic extremists from both sides. …
VP Biden’s stirring rhetoric last night put it simply: light and darkness are pitted against each other in November. This choice has been put before America before, and in most instances, its people chose light.
What’s the source of my realistic optimism ? It’s part personal experience, part History. In previous articles I wrote about my American upbringing amid the Reagan revolution where the Great Communicator channeled “the shining city on the hill” and “morning in America”. In the weeks before the 2018 midterms I wrote about the forces that are fundamentally reshaping America and its role in the world.
The dark side has chosen a full-on negative stance and spends its time whining and victimizing itself. …
The US Senate finally published its report on how the 2016 election was in effect polluted and worse by Russian interests, in cahoots with the Trump campaign. Putin will have been revealed as the ultimate asymmetric terrorist, and he’s at it again in 2020.
Webster’s defines terrorism as “ the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion”. Vladimir Putin acceded to the top of Russia’s power structure through outright terrorism in 1999 — the FSB-sponsored attacks on Moscow area residential buildings later blamed on Chechen rebels — and he has kept his power through coercion and corruption.
Bob Lefsetz is worth quoting, again, as he echoes Umair Haque’s daily warnings to Americans who’ve lived too long removed from History. Democrats are not, yet, rising to the moment posed by Trump’s constant knifing of the US Constitution and as ably noted by Lefsetz, their threat of hearings is ridiculous bordering on dangerous. What Americans are too slow to realize is that Pax Americana in its 1945 format is dead and will not be resurrected as it was.
Pax Americana and the 1945 world order (NATO, Bretton Woods et al) had its heart attack in 1968 in Vietnam, its second in 1989 and is clinically dead as of January 2017 and the ascent of Trump-the-isolationist. He has proceeded to methodically kill off all meaningful transatlantic and transpacific alliances that so benefited America for decades. He managed to turn American soft power into global mistrust and actual hatred in pockets of the world. US passports are now basically worthless and Americans are just starting to realize that their way of life is at best disdained, at worst detested. …