Friday, September 04, 2020

A KGB Man to the End

Anyone who enters the room affects it. Leaves an impression upon it even if it is unintentional.”


COLD WAR II: Chinese researcher charged with destroying evidence relating to illegal transfer of US tech.

Eulogy By Steve Keen. Originally published at his website

This is not at all what I thought I’d be writing about tonight, let alone what I wanted to do. I am writing a eulogy for my friend and intellectual companion, David Graeber.


We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying. Umair Haque, Medium. “We survivors of authoritarianism have a terrible, terrible foreboding, because we are experiencing something we should never do: deja vu.”


China censors Thomas Piketty’s book that touches on nation’s growing inequality South China Morning Post.

Crown sent $500,000 to drug dealer who was 'good friend' of junkies 

Redes” Lives! — The Iconic Film of the Mexican Revolution and what it says to us today

In his most important speech about the place of culture in the national experience, delivered at Amherst College mere weeks before his death, President John F. Kennedy said: “ In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not ‘engineers of the soul.’ It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society — in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation.”
Is that necessarily how artists best serve the nation? Truly, it is “different elsewhere.” Outside the US, artists may successfully aspire to become – in Stalin’s phrase – influential “engineers of the soul.” In our hemisphere, the first names to come to mind may be Mexican: Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, powerful and impactful muralists on the left, defining and espousing Mexican identity, agitating with their art for social and economic reform. Read more

“Under Putin, Russia had become a virtual Mafia state in which the government, its spy agencies, and organized crime had merged into a single entity.”

It was december 1989, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and in Dresden, crowds were gathering outside the headquarters of the Stasi, the East German secret police, shouting insults and demanding access. Nearby, frantic KGB officers—the Soviet advisers whom the Stasi had long referred to as “the friends”—were barricaded inside their villa, burning papers. “We destroyed everything,” remembered one of those officers, Vladimir Putin. “All our communications, our lists of contacts and our agents’ networks … We burned so much stuff that the furnace burst.”

Toward evening, a group of protesters broke away from the Stasi building and started marching toward the KGB villa. Panicked, Putin called the Soviet military command in Dresden and asked for reinforcements. None were forthcoming. “I got the feeling then that the country no longer existed. That it had disappeared,” Putin told an interviewer years later. “It was clear the union was ailing. And it had a terminal disease without a cure—a paralysis of power.” The shock was total, and he never forgot it.

For hundreds of millions of people, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a great triumph: The moment marked the end of hated dictatorships and the beginning of a better era. But for the KGB officers stationed in Dresden, the political revolutions of 1989 marked the end of their empire and the beginning of an era of humiliation. In interviews, Putin has returned to that moment—the moment when reinforcements did not come—always describing it as a turning point in his own life. Like Scarlett O’Hara shaking her fist at a blood-red sky, Putin swore, it seems, to dedicate his life to restoring his country’s glory.

A KGB Man to the End

As a tabloid staple for the last decade, Kim Kardashianhas become a master of media spin. The reality star is an expert at changing the pop culture narrative around herself and her family through strategically released storylines and images via her TV show, social media, and photos taken by her personal paparazzo. So it should come as no surprise that after weeks of divorce-rumors and her husband Kanye West’s fraught approach to getting his name on the presidential ballot this fall, the reality star has unleashed her own campaign of mass distraction in the form of an arsenal of bikinis.

Wolkoff’s book is remarkable both for its intimacy and for the sheer volume of receipts it contains. It’s also the first real look at what’s under Melania Trump’s hood—which, in Wolkoff’s telling, is surprisingly callous and ugly.

The era of Donald Trump has been bad for everyone and everything, mostly, apart from the superrich and their tax bills, the real estate developers and their tax breaks, and the white supremacists, who seem to have been granted permission from the top to say the quiet part out loud. And apart from the cottage industry of Trump–themed books—all the fire and fury that’s been fit to print, dominate cable-news coverage, and hover on bestsellers lists. The successful books of this genre have often followed a form: Reporters teasing the juiciest, scariest, most revealing accounts from people who know Trump or worked with him or served under him, the “adults in the room” who whispered anonymously about the horrible things they witnessed, but who did nothing about them beyond said whispering. I say this with both affection for and intimate knowledge of the genre because I myself contributed to it. 

The Former Judge Who Writes Angry Letters To Journalists

A little over a year into my tenure at The Chronicle, I’d been initiated. For journalists, receiving an angry handwritten letter about usage from Quentin Kopp is a rite of passage, badge of honor and battle scar… His second letter to me, from December 2018, protested my use of “spaz” as a verb and any use whatsoever of “grok,” which he called “self-devised.” He concluded with a backhanded compliment: “But, don’t worry: Some quasi-literates may embrace you because you’re creative.” – San Francisco Chronicle

DISPATCHES FROM THE “IT’S DIFFERENT WHEN WE DO IT” PARTY: The MTV Video Music Awards and New York’s COVID hypocrisy. The show must go on:

The last few months have been a painful and consistent example of the way rules shift depending on the whim of our elected officials. Protests were OK for months before the beaches finally opened in NYC. In terms of COVID transmission, the former, with chants, songs and shouting is far more dangerous than the latter. But science ceased to matter long ago.

Lady Gaga gyrated with a bevy of back-up dancers at the VMAs, but even when gyms open, group exercise classes, which would be very similar to a choreographed dance routine, won’t be allowed. Gaga wore a mask, that’s true, but New Yorkers who aren’t multimillionaires haven’t even had that option yet.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, so goes the famous George Orwell line. In New York City during the time of COVID, those in charge are not even trying to hide that fact anymore.

And not just NYC: “Chefs and restaurant owners in Philadelphia are sizzling hot over a photo showing Mayor Jim Kenney [D], who banned indoor dining in Philly due to COVID-19, enjoying an indoor restaurant meal in Maryland.”