I woke up to a country I didn’t recognize

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I am stunned.  Although I spent the last week cautioning people from assuming a Clinton victory, although I told myself it’s never over until the ballots are cast, I realize now that I never actually entertained the possibility of a Trump victory.  I had too much faith in the basic decency of the American people, in the strength of our institutions, in the essential goodness of the American experiment.  I understand now that I was naïve.

It is possibly the only thing I understand.

I haven’t seen exit polls or autopsies.  I have not read commentary or watched spin.  Right now I am working from the barest electoral facts, which is a majority in the electoral college and a majority of the popular vote.  I have no intellectual escape route: For this result to be announced, something has gone terribly wrong somewhere among something I thought I understood.  I don’t believe that widespread electoral fraud is feasible.  I don’t believe that polling so consistent can be consistently wrong together.  And I don’t believe that the American people would elect to the highest office a buffoon who is open about his racism, misogyny, and narcissism.  But at least one of those things has happened.

Very soon – already, I suspect – there will begin the quadrennial nodding of heads and reading of bones to discern the “true America”.  We’ll hear the lessons people should learn from this – what Clinton did wrong, what Trump got right.  It will take only a day or so for this to crystallize into paeans about the wisdom of the American voter, where the consensus is that Democrats moved too far too fast for a country not ready for the change.  This victory will become, in hindsight, inevitable.  And the cycle of bullshit will begin again.

But it will be a darker time.  We just held an election that, more than ever before in my lifetime, offered two stark choices:  The America of the future, or the America of the past.  We had a chance to move past our history, to begin a new covenant that recognizes how our country is changing and celebrates that change, that preserves core American values while accepting new circumstances, that would fashion itself into a beacon for the 21st century.  And we had the opportunity to plug our fingers in our ears, scream loudly, and stamp our feet demanding that we somehow travel back to a mythical time that never existed, an America of the past – a time where vast swaths of the population suffered routine indignities and oppression for the crime of being different, when people knew their place and were slapped down for thinking about leaving it, when the accidents of your birth mattered more than the content of your character.

We were engaged in a battle for the soul of America.  And the good guys lost.

I don’t know what’s coming next.  I have one foot over the abyss and am trying right now just to regain my balance.  This election has taught me that I do not really understand my nation or its people the way I thought I did, and the way ahead is shrouded.  But I do know history.  I know that it never ends well when a people chooses an erratic self-absorbed, willfully ignorant, and simply hate-filled leader.  I know that it never ends well when a nation decides to scapegoat a fraction of its population to avoid demographic fact.  I know that it never ends well when an aging power becomes aware of the fragility of its status and turns inward to root out the supposed enemies sapping its vitality.  We’ve seen this play before.

And perhaps that’s the core of my anger and disappointment.  Our grand experiment to transcend history, to do better, to be better than what came for … that lies broken on the floor.  We are just as scared, as easily manipulated, as damaged as anyone else.  We can be swayed by empty slogans and schoolyard bullying and adolescent appeals.  Despite falling in line with fevered calls to recognize American exceptionalism, the electorate has rendered America ordinary.  I wasn’t prepared for that.

I hope I will never accept it.

 

Three thoughts on the FBI’s bite at the Apple






I had three thoughts after reading about the brewing conflict between Apple and the FBI.











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I read a primer in Vox on the developing fight between Apple Computer and the FBI, and it spurred three distinct thoughts in me.

The basic contention is whether Apple should be forced to disable a security feature on the phone of the San Bernadino shooter, so that the FBI can brute-force the phone without fear of it nuking itself after some number of bad guesses (10, I think, but I’m not sure).

Firstly, the author includes the line

The concern is that the government is trying to take advantage of a particularly odious defendant to set a precedent that could have much broader implications.

Well, duh.  The defendants in all important civil liberties cases look like terrible people, because those are the people the state most egregiously assaults.

Secondly, there’s a thing I don’t understand, and would love to hear from someone who knows:  To change the behavior, it seems to me, Apple would have to craft a special iOS update.  But after that, the crippled update would have to be installed.  Won’t it require knowing the passcode for that to happen?  Can Apple force an update down the pipe even to phones that are locked?  It seems to me that the request of the FBI is not only odious and an offense to the safety of citizens.  It might also be technically impossible.

Thirdly, I am a little disappointed — assuming what I’m about to say is actually true — that the NSA or other competent agency doesn’t have the capacity to read out the non-volatile memory non-destructively somehow.  They could then run an iPhone simulator with the copied data and brute-force it.  Every time it froze or self-erased, the agency could just reboot the simulator and try again.  This would take time but then you wouldn’t need any sort of help from Apple.

Or maybe the NSA doesn’t want to admit to having such a capacity.  🙂

 

Versailles on the Potomac

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{Originally penned 2015 Apr 26 and recently rescued from the Drafts folder}

So there have been police confrontations (and possibly even riots) in Baltimore over the past 12 hours, but apparently CNN didn’t feel compelled to cover them.  Instead they kept with covering the White House Correspondents’ Dinner where various people, including the President, got to make jokes.  Justification for ignoring the major story a mere hour’s drive north included:

“You can find a live feed if you actually want to watch what’s going on”

though apparently not on CNN, a 24-hour news network to which people (supposedly) turn for exactly that — live coverage of significant events.

Also offered was this gem:

“People will be informed….They’ll find out all of what happened in the streets of Baltimore by this time tomorrow”

I sort of thought that informing people was exactly the role of — and I repeat myself — a twenty-four hour news network.  But hey, maybe I’m old fashioned.  And this could easily be spun into a “death of old media” story about how traditional news renders itself irrelevant by ceding the breaking stuff to the Internet., and get off my lawn, and all that.  But I want to go a different direction.

This is not just CNN old-media cluelessness.  This is a symptom of rot at the core of our democracy.  The opinion-shapers and policy-makers of the Republic gathered in that room, and it was shown for all to goggle over.  They entertained themselves and rubbed shoulders and celebrated just how accomplished and how connected they are.  And they are!   All the big names in politics come out and make nice with the so-called journalists tasked with covering them.  A big messy live situation?  That would ruin the ambience.

The WHCD has become a festering boil, a signal of the decline of American reporting and the rise of what might be called the journalism-industrial complex.   All that matters to the powers that be is a navel-gazing exercise of petty partisan politics and vast egoism.  While real people march and protest and die, the influence-peddlers of our day can’t be bothered to even note it in passing.

On riots, protests, and the legitimacy of violence (short)

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For everyone who has counseled the citizens of Baltimore (and Ferguson and…) that “violence is not the answer” and that it would be better if everyone just protested peacefully:

1) As has now been documented extensively, the protests were by and large peaceful — and even more by and large, ignored by the national media.

2) Violence certainly is an  answer — and one which history shows can be quite effective in prompting change.  See for proof the French Revolution, or the American Revolution, for that matter.  Of course violence is a random and uncontrolled beast, and the odds are that the reaction it prompts will not be the outcome desired… but usually, something will change.  For people who’ve spent their whole lives trapped in a system crushing them without end, any change might be welcome, at least at first.

Would you prefer peaceful protest to violent outbursts?  Would you see people advocate for the redress of grievances without resorting to threats or damage to property or even lives?  Then address the systemic evils, the in-built hardships and unspoken oppressions, the things done not through active racist thought but through the far worse passive racist without-thought.  You want people to respect the police?  Then demand that the police behave respectably.  You want your cities to be bastions of peace?  Then save them from being cauldrons of hopelessness.

Above all, if you want this problem to “just go away”, pay attention to it — and for love of all that is true, pay attention even when the fires have gone out and the windows have been repaired and the next big distraction comes down the tube.  This problem has been centuries in the making and we’ve squandered five decades or more in addressing it — it won’t ever go away until we finally put it away.

Happy Victory over the Confederacy Day

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Lee Surrenders

On this day one hundred fifty years ago, a scruffy, scrappy, but determined general accepted the surrender of his well-born, well-dressed, and traitorous counterpart, effectively ending a vast sedition launched in the name of slavery, orchestrated by cowardly politicians, and fought — like most wars are — by poor men dying at the behest of rich men. There was no nobility in the losing side; there was no honor; there was only the proposition that one man might justly hold another as property, and that in support of that one twisted principle, oaths may be broken, loyalty suborned, and a great democracy threatened with sectarian dissolution.

Stragglers of the Confederate army fought on for a few more weeks. Their descendants, stragglers of history, fight on today. Their cause is equally dishonorable, equally seditious, and, thankfully, equally ultimately futile.

 

Pat Buchanan is an idiot

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Sorry for being so obvious.  But I’ve read his latest ill-informed anti-immigrant screed and couldn’t stay quiet.

Buchanan’s thesis is that we were once a unified country but now since 1960, we’ve been in decline.  First off, it’s a little suspicious that the magic time was exactly when Pat Buchanan (born in 1938) had just reached majority age.  Nearly everyone looks back on their twenties as the halcyon days.  It’s the moment you first achieve independence from your parents, when you come into your own agency, and when you (most likely) start paying attention to the world around you as if you were a part of you.  That is, how the world is becomes your frame of reference for how the world should be.  But really that’s just the drug of nostalgia, and it’s no different than Homer Simpson declaring that “rock attained perfection in 1974 — it’s a scientific fact”

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Buchanan then pivots to alerting us to the existential threat to America poised by unaccompanied children fleeing violence.  He of course invokes sainted Ronald Reagan of blessed memory: “For, as Ronald Reagan said, a nation that cannot control its borders isn’t really a nation anymore.”  I’m not exactly sure how he squares that with the open borders of the Roman Empire, or the British one, or indeed, most of US history.  But whatever.

Buchanan also invokes the Federalist papers and John Jay’s comment that “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people – a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs. … ”  This might have made good propaganda, but I’m fairly sure that Jay’s words would have irked the already-numerous German, Scottish, Irish, Danish immigrants who had fought in the Revolutionary War to help establish this nation.

Buchanan asserts “We were not a nation of immigrants in 1789″, which is just laughable.  Heck, Andrew Hamilton — another of the authors of the Federalist Papers — was an immigrant to these shores.  While many of the colonists were born in America, many had travelled here.  And above all of that, you might want to ask a Native American, who might remind you that all the White guys were immigrants or recent descendants of immigrants.

Buchanan also says “The republic of the founders for whom Jay spoke did not give a fig for diversity. They cherished our unity, commonality and sameness of ancestry, culture, faith and traditions.”  This certainly makes one wonder about the long, drawn-out, sometimes-vicious fights in the Continental Congress between (usually) the New England and the Deep South contingents.   Oh, also all that time and effort spent trying to square the circle on the South’s “peculiar institution”.

This brings up the largest hole in Buchanan’s argument.  We used to be all one happy, unified, uniform family?  What drugs is he on?  Look at the treatment of any minority population in the US (and, hey, we do actually have some and always had): the Native Americans, the Blacks, the Chinese.  Heck, look at how the Irish were treated.  It’s a little hard to swallow that we were a unified culture.  Instead, we had the in-power culture (more or less the WASPs), who then simply declared that other cultures were backward, uncivilized, and plain old irrelevant.  Buchanan’s reasoning boils down to “There was only one culture — as long as you ignore all the other ones.”

It is nice that Buchanan admits, obliquely, that maybe not everything was rainbows and unicorns:  “And though the civil rights movement had just begun, nowhere did black peoples enjoy the freedom and prosperity of African-Americans.”  That’s right, in the magic year of 1960, White culture finally started to grudgingly offer some semblance of fairness to the Black population, a mere century after the bloodiest war in American history and the abolition of outright slavery.

Quibbling with Attorney General Eric Holder’s assertion that America is “a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago,” Buchanan laments that nonetheless “We are no longer one unique people ‘descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion’.”  But the fact of the matter is, we never were.  You can only pretend that we were by ignoring the reality, twisting the history, and unlearning the lessons.  You can only pretend we were when you define “real America” as “exactly and only the small patch of ground I grew up on”.

As evidence of how far we’ve fallen, Buchanan lists a bunch of things:

We are from every continent and country. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural society in a world where countless countries are being torn apart over race, religion and roots.

We no longer speak the same language, worship the same God, honor the same heroes or share the same holidays.

But he says these like they’re bad things, whereas I think they speak to the enduring strength of this nation, to adapt, persevere, and improve itself — to strive always to become a “more perfect Union”.  For someone who sings of “American exceptionalism”, Buchanan misses what makes us exceptional:  Not the fortuitous vast natural resources, or the particular spot of earth on which we stand, or the world’s oldest free trade zone or the world’s oldest constitutional republic, not a fictitious single language or single culture.  We are a nation of peoples, a weird and wonderful dream bringing together cultures, and languages, and experiences, and hopes and aspirations from all that humanity has to offer.  America the nation is an idea, not a place or a people.  And that is largely unprecedented and ambitious.

 

A final comment:  One of the things that so disturbs Buchanan is that “Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon”.  And I say, Yea! to this, and good riddance.  The triumph of the American spirit is that we can finally reject these traitorous and seditious, fundamentally dishonorable men who abandoned the United States and its Constitution, not to mention their own sworn oaths, in a parochial construction of duty to defend a heinous state founded on the noxious principle that some humans have, as a divine right, the right and even obligation to own other human beings.  (If you’re one of the revisionists who want to argue that “the Civil War wasn’t about slavery”, I suggest you read the ordinances of secession, or indeed, the Constitution of the Confederate States.   See also an analysis of slavery in the Confederate constitution, or a similar analysis.)

Happy Tax Day!

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And I mean that non-ironically.  I don’t like paying taxes, but I am proud to do it.  Taxes are not only necessary to maintain the way of life we value.  They are a direct investment in the very concept of civilization.   Taxes are the explicit statement that we are a community and we have a communal responsibility to each other.  They are also the explicit recognition that no one is in this alone, that no one is solely responsible for his or her own success, and that we are, to some measure, dependent on each other.

Yes, I inveigle against waste and fraud, just like everyone else.  Perhaps even more so, because they are a violation of this trust, that the communal burden be fairly borne and communally valuable — that no individual benefit unduly.  But the current fetish on minimizing taxes (even at the cost of undermining society) boggles my mind.  It reeks of hubris and solipsism.

Taxes are a burden but  not all burdens are bad.  Jingoists like to lecture us “Freedom isn’t free” — and indeed, it isn’t.  Part of the cost — not the lion’s share, but not a negligible one — is directly an economic one: The taxes we pay.  You cannot defend a nation, or provide speedy justice, or protect the innocent, for free.  You cannot offer hope and opportunity, or discover new cures, or build a better future, for free.  The American project, whatever that turns out to be, is bigger than any one person or any one group.  Taxes are part of the sinew that binds us into one nation.

Taxes help make clear: We are all in this together.

So again, I say, Happy Tax Day!

(For your amusement, here’s a link to the original income tax forms.)

The defining feature of modern Republicanism

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It’s not small-government. It’s not anti-tax screeds or culture war crusades. It’s not being pro-big business or pro-gun. It’s not being anti-choice or anti-gay. It’s not suport of “traditional marriages” or of non-traditional “special interrogation”. It’s not being pro-Gitmo or anti-drone or pro-Keystone or anti-FEMA. It’s not even being sexist or being racist.

It’s a complete and utter lack of empathy, and an unhealthy disdain for the same in others.

How else do you explain the sudden 180=degree shifts in philosophy once the consequence of the party line hits home? Dick Cheney supports gay rights, because his daughter is a lesbian. Bob Portman now supports same-sex marriage, because his son has come out of the closet. Mark Kirk suddenly understands the value of government health care, once he has a brush with death. It’s how Republican governors can decry federal spending on disaster relief… right up until their state needs it.

Republicans like to claim that they’re the party of grown-ups, reining in those rascally irresponsible Democrats. But a hallmark of maturity is the development of empathy — the ability to think beyond the confines of your personal experiences and to imagine, however imperfectly, the life lived by people who are not you. On that measure, the Republican Party is a haven for toddlers and crybabies. I applaud Senator Portman for revisiting his philosophy in light of new evidence, but if we have to wait for a singular personal experience for each and every Republican, it’s going to be a long long slog.

De-tuned

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I wrote this nearly five years ago.  I was mad then; now I’m more or less just resigned.  The intellectual commons is being fenced off, now more than ever.  I think we’re losing more than outlets for creativity or profit; we’re losing the shared language to remember who we were, who we are.

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De-Tuned

Recently I’ve come to feel under assault.  Not in my person but in my past.

One of the guilty pleasures of my childhood was a TV show called The Greatest American Hero, which I adored when I was twelve.  For those not fully up on their Reagan-era television trivia, the show involved an ordinary guy — a school teacher, in fact — who was given a “supersuit” by friendly aliens in a Close Encounters-type flying saucer.  The suit, a ridiculous set of red long underwear, empowered Ralph the teacher with powers reminiscent of Superman: flying, strength, immunity to bullets.  But unlike cool and collected Clark Kent, Ralph Hinckley has all the usual foibles of humanity: he can be frightened, angered, made jealous.  Moreover, he loses the instruction book and has to figure out the suit on his own.

In my memory there has always stuck out one particular episode, called “Operation: Spoilsport“.  (I have since learned the title; at the time, I was not the type who appreciated the importance of titles to works.)  It marks the return of the “little green guys“, who warn Ralph and his FBI partner Bill about the impending destruction of the Earth.  Probably to make the aliens seem mysterious and transcendent, the writers decided that they could speak to Ralph only by adjusting the car radio so as to catch little snippets of regular broadcasts that, put together, made up the message.  Even at the time this struck me as a clever trick to make the aliens sound, well, alien.

Here’s where the assault comes in.  To bring home their point — to underscore the stakes — the aliens keep sending Ralph the same song over and over.  From 1982 until recently, I had thought that the song was “Eve of Destruction“, a song by P.F. Sloan that Barry McGuire took to a place on the Billboard charts in 1965.  I was 12.  I hadn’t ever paid attention to 1960s music.  The Viet Nam War was, at best, the source for action movies like First Blood.  I knew about Red China but I almost certainly didn’t know why Sloan would compare it to Selma, Alabama.  In short, the song should have been, to me, a jumble of confused rage directed at outdated cultural references that had no meaning for me.

I was only 12.  But it was 1982, two years into the Reagan presidency.  Six months earlier the President had nakedly called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and made undiluted opposition the cornerstone of his foreign policy.  The New York Daily News had published its periodic map of the city, showing the hypothetical effect of the latest Soviet warhead if it were to be detonated above the Empire State Building — cryptic squiggles and broadly-drawn circles whose radii indicated just how far away you had to be to escape each of the various killing zones: the immediate blast region and the flash-immolation zone and the merely concussive damage area.  Everyone simply knew that World War III was on its way, that it would start with a Soviet invasion of West Germany, and that it would end with, well, The End, capital “T”, capital “E”.

Small wonder, then, that I found myself morbidly drawn to this song with its rough-hewn, unworkable, unrelenting refrain: “Tell me, over and over and over again, my friend, how you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction”.  Small wonder, perhaps, that I found comfort in the thought that maybe, out there somewhere, was an ordinary high school teacher in a ridiculous suit of red long underwear who could step in and save the world.

Time passed.  The Soviets never came over the North Pole, or from Cuba, or even from East Germany.  Reagan went to Reykjavik and then to Berlin (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!“).  I went to high school and then to college and then to grad school.  The Greatest American Hero went to reruns and then to syndication hell and then to oblivion.  Everybody forgot that at one time everybody had known that World War III was imminent.  There was peace, for a time, and there was prosperity, for a time, and there was security … for a time.

Then they were gone, and everyone — whether they knew it or not — was humming the refrain from Barry McGuire.  I found myself doing it consciously from time to time.  I took some obscure hope in remembering how eerily prophetic it had seemed in 1982 and in how its prophecy had utterly failed to come to pass.  From my more nuanced vantage I knew now that McGuire was singing more of the raging undercurrents of hate and mistrust that spawned the violence of the Sixties, and I even recognized that that river still ran strong and deep in human affairs.  But it was a piece of my youth, one of those signposts along the way toward maturity.  “Eve of Destruction” had been, through the medium of The Greatest American Hero, part of the soundtrack of my growth from the simplicity of childhood toward the complexity and shades of adulthood.

Or so I had thought, for two decades and more.

 

Eventually, Anchor Bay Entertainment released, after many delays, the DVD set of the second season of The Greatest American Hero.  Episode #2 was “Operation: Spoilsport”.  I opened the box and jumped to that episode immediately.  I reveled in the guilty pleasure of being a twelve-year-old proto-geek again.  It was everything I remembered — until the end of the second act.  The little green guys returned, they futzed with Ralph’s radio, and out came… some random manufactured pop hit.  Where was Barry McGuire’s gravelly rage?  I rationalized that I had misremembered.  After all, there were several instances in this episode when they sent Ralph a song.  Probably the writers had built up to “Eve of Destruction” and then I, struck by its power, had expanded it to fill the episode in retrospect.

Three more acts came and went.  Three more quasi-pop songs too upbeat for their faux angst.  No Barry McGuire.  No “Eve of Destruction”.  It was the final act and there was only one more opportunity for the green guys, and now it wouldn’t even make sense — the crisis was past.  Suddenly, the end credits rolled.  I wondered if I was crazy.  Before playing the disc, I would have sworn in a court of law on a stack of Bibles that the key song from “Operation: Spoilsport” was “Eve of Destruction”.  Had I gotten my wires crossed?  Perhaps somewhere in the past twenty years I had come across “Eve of Destruction” and subconsciously recognized its appropriateness, then pasted it retroactively into my memory of “Operation: Spoilsport”.  If the human mind was so malleable, if I could unknowingly alter my memories so thoroughly — well, the world was suddenly a much scarier place, and not just because of Soviet nukes.

Before checking myself into a mental hospital, I did a little bit of research.  Only a few minutes online brought me some confirmation of my sanity.  If I had invented the insertion of “Eve of Destruction”, at least I was not alone in my delusion, because several different message boards were aflame with people indignant over its removal.  The true story was simple and, a propos for the times, more base:  money.

The Greatest American Hero, it turns out, was ahead of its time a little in that it incorporated “regular” music deeply into the storylines — a tactic used to more lasting impact on Miami Vice a few years later.  Because it was a pioneer, the show’s creators never thought to secure reproduction rights for home collections.  In 1982, nobody could buy an entire season of a TV show and certainly nobody thought anybody would if offered the chance.  Everybody “knew” that when a series ended, its appeal vanished and its money-making chances went as well.  Just like everybody “knew” that World War III was just around the corner.  Today of course the home market represents the lion’s share of revenue for a project and no one would forget to purchase those rights.

Anchor Bay faced two options:  Pay for all the songs again and raise the price (and cut their profit margin).  Or splice in generic songs to which they had the rights, and hope nobody would notice.  Judging from the vitriol flowing online, they made the wrong call.  And I have to admit, I share the anger.  Quite some time has past since I discovered the substitution, and it still rankles me.  I’ve been trying to figure out why.  After all, it’s just a TV show and — I have to admit — not really the best one, either.  It’s campy and goofy; the situations ludicrous and the characters cardboard.  While I’ve always had a soft spot for The Greatest American Hero, I’ve never considered it my favorite show nor even among the best.  Why would it inspire a slow-burning anger at its modification?

But of course it’s not the modification of the show that inspires the anger.  It’s the mutilation of my memory.  Precisely because the writers had woven the music into their story, it couldn’t be simply spliced out.  A purpose of art is to evoke change and response, and clearly, that episode had attained that purpose, at least for me.  “Eve of Destruction”, learned by me in that particular context, had played a part in the formation of the adult me, of who I became, of who I am.  Now it had been callously and carelessly removed, edited out in a creepily Soviet fashion.  My memories, my past, were not out of bounds, it would seem.

The whole affair has given me a better insight into a different work of literature.  Without any intention by Anchor Bay, they gave me just a taste of Winston’s life in 1984.  Big Brother wasn’t out to rule the world, here, but Big Brother Incorporated didn’t mind trashing the past to make a quick buck.  What’s more, there seems to be a growing use of and a growing acceptance of this sort of media revisionism.  We are losing any idea of a shared cultural base.  The cultural commons are being carved up and fenced in.  But a person’s identity is myriad and shared, and cutting up the commons means carving up ourselves.  Soon we could just be atomistic stubs bouncing off the walls we erect between us.

Think on that and then tell me again, my friend, if you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Newshound explains: The Curious Case of the Silent Filibuster

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http://newsbound.com/the-silent-filibuster/

This is a really good, really clear, and (mostly) nonpartisan explanation of the rise of the silent filibuster in the US Senate — where it came from, the damage it does, how it might be fixed.