Category Archives: Misc.

Dr. Gonzo (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Unplugged)

A principle familiar to propagandists is that the doctrines to be instilled in the target audience should NOT be articulated: that would only expose them to reflection, inquiry, and, very likely, ridicule. The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them, so that they become the very condition for discourse.” – Noam Chomsky, “Third World, First Threat” 1993.

I was hired by the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper to be a writer in 1993, and I worked in the sports section and also in the entertainment section. I saw a wave coming early on when our chief competition, the San Jose Mercury, launched the Mercury Center via AOL. It was the beginning of the end of the print news business, even if most of us, even the most forward thinking of us, didn’t really know it.

In those days, we got a lot of our stories off of the AP or UPI newswires, which were kind of like telegram cables. The quality of the content of the news had to be high. There were professional standards that must be adhered to. And, as my editors were quick to point out, the people who are in positions of power are our adversary, pure and simple. The media acted as a check in the grand scheme of governmental checks and balances: the executive and the legislative and the judicial branches ALL must be held to account by the media. My favorite practitioner of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, threw in his own style of literary flair to hit on truths bigger than What, Where, When, How and Why. For example, is it not right, or true, or in keeping with the duty of media, to call Ronald Reagan a stinking swine when he blabbed to People Magazine in 1986 that “This generation will likely have to face Armageddon,” or to say, quite simply, that Nixon was a bad drunk?

Yes, Hunter was a lot of things. But, I have to say, Hunter was authentic.

Few writers could boil down the essence of a campaign, a candidate, like Hunter S. Thompson

Few writers capture the essence of a campaign or candidate like Hunter S. Thompson

We were duty-bound and truths like the ones he’d write were important and informative.

Unfortunately, we were doomed. Time and technological advances made the public fall victim to rapidly accelerating media saturation…  and as such, the media’s relevance faded, and it’s duty was no longer to serve people with unbiased and direct information regarding our elected and unelected government officials.

Rather, media became propaganda for whoever paid the best. As such, media became a bad salesman, pitching a broken down lemon of a healthy, thriving, functioning society. And yet, the pitch is effective and accepted as truth.

Here's Donald being contrite for inferring this woman was on her period when she asked him a question he didn't like. Then she, like so many in the media, dutifully played her part in the fake ass show.

Here’s the Donald being contrite for inferring that this woman was on her period when she asked him a question he didn’t like. Then she, like so many in the media, dutifully played her part in the propagandist, fake ass show.

The media do not say things like: “The US always supports democracy, never aggresses against other nations, and always ALWAYS opposes terrorists.” Nor do advertisers explicitly say that the key to happiness and the good life is the unceasing and ever-expanding consumption of purchasable products.

But the message still comes through, loud and clear.

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning. Contemporary society is dominated by computers and algorithms. There’s hardly a second that we’re not plugged in, in this “civilized” world. As mankind races toward achieving seamless virtual realities and artificial intelligence, it stands to make me wonder whether or not a simulation of reality is actually our new normal, now, and far beyond anyone’s control.

Most of us spend almost all of our time in highly artificial environments, far removed from nature. We move about, from one building to another. We travel in little bubbles: cars, trains, airplanes. Even while we’re in route we’re buried in our mobile, wireless phones, connecting to all of the information out there. Ours is a world of steel, brick, cement and glass, not that of mountain, meadow, tree, and stream.

The last Presidential primaries/general election have concluded, and what struck me most about that crazy show was that Dr. Gonzo is dead. So dead.

The evidence was in the unprecedented dominance of public relations and advertising in media, resulting in disinformation and propaganda, and, most importantly, increasingly brazen strong-arm tactics to make sure, absolutely sure, no matter what, that Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton would face Donald Jackass Trump. It didn’t matter who won. Not to the rich people who determine these things. Neither of them were a threat to current of the $currency$, the status quo would be preserved.

People scream that Russia “influenced” our election via hacks on the DNC (the contents from those hacks was never disputed, only who actually hacked & leaked that info.) People freak out because Russia propagandized and misinformed voters via trolls on Twitter? IS America truly any better?

What about America propagandizing via social, alternative AND mainstream media? Not only in MANY other countries, but even our own?

I could go through a million examples to show this was all pre-decided, pre-destined, but I refuse to list more than a few, because if you haven’t been paying attention, it’s your own damn fault. The most glaring example, to me, was the June 7, 2016, AP story and photo, written and photographed by, you guessed it, the Hillary Clinton campaign several days beforehand and then submitted to… the AP editorial team!… for publication.

Team Hillary, created the image and words that the AP dutifully reported / sold to the public on their behalf.

Team Hillary, created the image and wrote the story that the AP dutifully regurgitated / sold to the public on their behalf, 3 days prior to publication… and when did publication happen? One day before the California Primary.

Or how about this one, from the Hillary email vault:

“I just received confirmation from 60 Minutes that a piece on Julian Assange will air Sunday night,” Philip Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, wrote to Clinton in 2011. “He will be the only person featured. We had made a number of suggestions for outside experts and former diplomats to interview to ‘balance’ the piece. 60 Minutes assures me that they raised a number of questions and concerns we planted with them during the course of the interview. We will be prepared to respond to the narrative Assange presents during the program.” 

Her reply: “Too bad they’re showcasing him. See you tomorrow when we try making lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons!”

I’m left with three questions:

Do interviews even matter? Does the media matter? Is all the world but a stage?

Every time I unplug, I realize, more and more, that the entire world’s perception of what’s truly important and meaningful is getting more and more skewed by what all this media are selling.

I thank God for my nieces and nephew, for reminding me that the future is worth fighting for, as I don’t want them to inhabit a poisoned world with a shallow artifice. I’ll never give up on that.

My niece is at Camp Hammer in Big Basin Redwoods State Park right now, experiencing things that I hope are truly meaningful.

My niece is at Camp Hammer in Big Basin Redwoods State Park right now, experiencing things that I hope are truly meaningful.

Every time I unplug, I realize, more and more, that I’m a storyteller, and if I’m going to keep telling good stories, I have to be authentic. In order to be authentic, I have to detach, more and more, from the real truth (that people are the victims of deception and exploitation on a massive scale) AND the artificial reality construct of the media, used to control and enslave people.

I have to be free.

And how will I be that which I am?

I think I’ve got to leave the big city, walk amongst the free creatures and plants of this Earth, and remember to self-program, to decide for myself what sort of things I want, and what sort of person I will become.

 

 

My Letter To The Electoral College

Dear Elector,

My name is Jeff, I’m 43 years old and I live in Los Angeles, CA.

I would like to ask you to fulfill your role as an Elector, and dutifully not elect Donald J. Trump for the Presidency, for the reasons outlined below.

First and foremost, Mr. Trump, personally, has billions of dollars in debt to foreign interests, such as state-run Russian and Chinese banks.

Additionally, Mr. Trump has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to divest from his international businesses.

So, if chosen by the Electors, Mr. Trump’s Presidency will be under immediate constitutional challenge due to the Emolument Clause of the Constitution.

This will cause great stress, expense and undue harm to the American people, as lawsuits (due to the precedent of Clinton vs. Jones) will undoubtedly be filed against Mr. Trump.

I reiterate that you please keep in mind that Mr. Trump’s substantial indebtedness to foreign powers makes it reasonable to expect that Mr. Trump’s decisions will be effected due to these foreign debt overhangs. It is reasonable to suspect that his judgment could be effected due to these debts, and this would be detrimental to the interests of the United States of America.

As Electors, you are within your rights to call for Mr. Trump to clear his foreign debts and for him to divest from his international businesses.

And, if Mr. Trump complies with those caveats, then absolutely, as Electors, you should elect Mr. Trump as the 45th President of the United States as he has been awarded the most Electors within the Electoral College.

However, if Mr. Trump chooses to stay indebted to foreign powers and he chooses to keep his international business holdings, then I contend it is clear that he is more concerned with his personal interests than serving those of the American people in the Executive Branch. He would then be, henceforward, unelectable, due to provisions set forth in the Constitution of the United States.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I appreciate and respect the role you serve in our electoral process.

Sincerely,
JR

Presidential Horserace Update: “Have You Ever Heard Such Innnocent Prattle?”

With roughly two weeks to go until the 45th President of the United States is voted for and Decision 2016 mercifully (hopefully) concludes on November 8, I would like to commit something to the record, for all posterity.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. Scratch that. I voted early for Hillary Clinton.

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This election has gone completely sideways, but I voted, and I voted the only way my conscience could allow.

And the only reason I voted for her was because I felt a moral imperative to vote against Donald Trump.

Due to collusion by the Democratic National Committee, the Team Clinton campaign, and the mainstream media, I have left the Democratic Party and I will not rejoin it unless it is massively reformed.

Why? Because the ends do not always justify the means.

Even when a party and a candidacy must do battle with such societal symptoms as a cranky septuagenarian socialist or a would-be fascist narcissist chauvinist abuser looking to settle some scores, it does not give that party or candidacy free reign to do whatever it takes to cure those symptoms. Especially when the disease that brought about such symptoms was the loss of the public trust. Unfortunately, the DNC, HFA and the MSM exacerbated the spread of this disease. And the demonstrated lack of contrition about the wikileaks release of such documents showing this collusion, and then doubling down by blaming the Russians without documenting the proof, speaks to these people’s complete lack of responsibility, lack of self-respect, and lack of respect for voters.

As for the horserace, I’m concerned. With the revelation that Donald Trump (aka Plantar Fascist) may not recognize the election results as legitimate, regardless of the outcome, he may very well have ensured that there will be physical conflicts at polling stations around the nation on election day.

Worse, I think the media is vastly underselling Trump’s chances of victory, and the Clinton landslide narrative may keep potential anti-Trump voters away from the polls.

I fear for the future.

Perhaps, after 240 years as a nation, we are going to be forced to acknowledge that all of the inside baseball, the backroom deals, the legalized bribery, and the utter contempt for much of the citizenry has a downside.

Perhaps, after several decades, the corporatists war on the American people will finally bring us what they’ve always wanted: a “self-funded” dictator, something I’ve worried about becoming a reality since 1992.

Perhaps people are so divided due to technological buffers and constant bombardment of messaging that we can no longer communicate ideas effectively. I learned this firsthand when, after the first general election debate, I was critical of both candidates, only to be labeled as a sexist by facebook friends for speaking ill of Bill and Hill.

If you think Team Clinton hasn’t been warned that the general electorate isn’t on their side, the brand strategists say otherwise:

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I know that’s fuzzy and difficult to read document. Email me if you want to see it more clearly. In a nutshell, this document says that this election is going to be close.

According to Hillary Clinton’s brand manager Benenson Strategy Group, she is favorably viewed by “12% of non-partisan voters”. That’s horrendous.

Even more chilling are the last two sentences:

“On a disturbing note, some 70% of Republican-leaning voters are aware of bussed-in voting, false-face operations, and dead-man’s party registration drives. This may necessitate severe strategy changes for November.”

  • Above Photo/Quotation are from a Benenson Strategy Group “Salvage Program” communication that was published over Twitter, re: telephone polling that BSG conducted on October 10-13, 2016.

The media narrative is that a Clinton victory is a near certainty.

My narrative is this: Trump can win if he takes all the usual Republican strongholds and then runs the table of:

Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Colorado.

Is that so far fetched? We shall see.

Trump campaigned in Pennsylvania and Virginia today. Clinton campaigned in Pennsylvania today.

This is not what should be happening if Clinton is on the way to a landslide.

In Hans Christian Anderson’s folktale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” what is always remembered is that a child points out, contrary to an agreed upon “reality,” that the Emperor, in fact, has nothing on.

What is often forgotten is that immediately after that, the boy’s father states, “Have you ever heard such innocent prattle?” and while the crowd ultimately feels emboldened enough to agree with the child, the Emperor shivers, suspects that the people are right about his apparel, but continues with the procession, more proudly than before, and noblemen hold his fake train higher than before.

This election, like this story, is the ultimate expose on the illusion of nobility and it has shined a light on the lunacy of groupthink.

That said, any modern version of the story would now absolutely need to include the part where the Emperor returns to his castle, and he has a strategy meeting with his noblemen, who immediately go about smearing the boy as delusional and label the boy’s family as perverted.

CHAOS MONKEYS – Review

I just finished CHAOS MONKEYS by Antonio Garcia Martinez, and though I don’t usually make book recommendations, this is one that I think deserves a review for one reason.

And that reason is…

This is the best nonfiction book of 2016.

And yet, it’s more than that. I wish I could say exactly why.

Right from the get go, Martinez’s kill-or-be-killed / fly by the seat of your pants / play fast and loose / and then play faster and even looser tale of a startup’s CEO in this day and age is riveting stuff… but what struck me most about this book was how much things have changed in San Francisco and the Valley since the dotcom boom of the mid-90’s.

There are more differences than similarities. The book made me nostalgic for things like the Zeitgeist bar, the X dance club, the Paradise Lounge, and so much more… And, it was the utter feeling of impending doom Martinez captures so well that brought me back to those places, that time, and set apart his experience as something unique.

Martinez’ tech world is the Silicon Valley of Death. But things weren’t always like this.

From 1995-2000 I lived in San Francisco’s Mission District. I constantly hung out in South of Market (SOMA). It was an amazingly fun time to be living there. Down at 11th and Folsom Street, you had Boz Scaggs’ bar Slim’s, or the Transmission Theater up the street. There were so many great live music venues for the up-and-comers in the Bay Area scene. Just a few blocks up in South Park and the neighboring warehouses down where the Giants beautiful baseball park now resides, companies were popping up like crazy. Literally, everyday a new startup was being birthed. You could get invited to their launch party, and, if you had ANY sort of original sounding ideas, you could get a job (with stock options of course, kegs and ping pong tables and cubicle-less workspaces being mandatory.)

Open source was a way of life for the first dotcommers. If you said you were trying to make money with your idea you were a sell out. No one cared about that. They’d be offended to even be asked to state a business plan; they were “pre-revenue” and it was all about partnership, the rising of all boats, making the user experience “sticky” — the money would come later, for all of them. They just knew it. The theory was, all the best ideas could be used by all of them, and through symbiosis, they’d all eventually get ludicrously rich.

AOL was dogshit. They were going to come with something a million times better.

Then, the ruthless players started solidifying each other’s niches, secretly… and then the hammer came down on all those poor little commie companies that gave their code and their market share away to the Amazons of the world.

Suddenly, they had no idea how / if people would buy anything they could sell (if they were even selling anything beyond an abstraction.)

They were slaughtered as fast as they were birthed.

I wasn’t a tech guy. I was both working full-time in the hospitality/service industry and going to film school at San Francisco State. And I’ve got to tell you, living, breathing, watching the 2nd gold rush hit San Francisco during my lifetime was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The writer in me had to participate tacitly – I’d party with these people, I’d listen to and live some outrageous stories – but I’d never work with these people. I just didn’t care about getting rich. Additionally, computers were the enemy of art, as far as I was concerned back then. I felt like these people were all living on borrowed time.

I think they could feel it too, and yet the optimism was boundless.

Ask anyone who was living there at the time, and the dotcom bubble was clearly already bursting in 1998. There were just way too many kooky companies supposedly trying to fill “needs” for a cyber-marketplace that hadn’t even begun to monetize yet. Consumers outside of Silicon Valley simply didn’t trust their credit cards to the internet quite yet. PayPal was still a novelty and unproven…

and so it was RIP to webvan dotcom, pets dotcom, and literally thousands of other dotcoms who’d never survive “the first wave.”

To VC companies credit, they licked their wounds, waited until they got rich off of Yahoo, Apple, eBay, Google or Amazon, and, after a few years, it was time for round two. They’d be more disciplined the second time through. And we’re still in the midst of it, though it’s getting long in the tooth. I think Martinez agrees with the assertion that we’ve got another bubble a-brewing. Too much dumb money is getting in too early.

Still, what’s different this time is that there are far more fundamentals that must be adhered to before a company can even get to Series A funding, let alone ascend to vaunted “unicorn” status.

And most of these companies are STILL too scared to go public, remembering the abattoir that was the dotcom bubble burst. Even Uber seems scared shitless, and they’re completely changing the world economy, making it bend to their ends!

Perhaps the polemic is, why go public if you can limit the amount of people you’re beholden to, and limit the risks associated with “blurring the lines?” I really am not sure, but there are too many companies that feel like they’ve been private for too long to me.

Please excuse my digression.

I think CHAOS MONKEYS provides a great window into the insanity of what it is to be a small private tech company now. And I think it was interesting to read just how perfectly Martinez’ quant background made him uniquely suited to survive the gauntlet, albeit barely. The whole time reading, I couldn’t help but think that if Martinez had just come onto the scene some 15 years sooner, he’d have been a dominant player, in the Bezos mold.

Timing is everything. And the timing for this book is perfect. Martinez has given us a visceral, unflinching look behind the Silicon Curtain. Far from being a victory lap, this story is filled with urgency, and is chock full of insight into the truly terrifying journey of making something of oneself.

This book is real.

More importantly, this book is as valuable to a businessman as it is to an artist.

If I have one criticism, it’s that Martinez might show a little too much deference to the Michael Lewis’ of the literary world. But he’s a rookie.

If I have two criticisms, criticism number two would be that Martinez comes off as kind of an egotistical, cynical prick. This makes it tough to root for him.

BUT… he’s just being ruthlessly honest, with himself VERY included, so… how can I criticize a guy for being who he is and being honest about it? I gotta give him credit even if I’m not sure I’d like the guy.

I hope Martinez writes more books, perhaps even ventures into fiction.  I think he’s got the chops, and I think he’s still got more to say.

I’m not sure if we’ll see a film/tv adaptation to this book, due to it’s second half. Part 2 of the book, or “the Facebook section,” though kind of laborious, was nonetheless interesting for me. Many people I’ve spoken to who’ve read the book have a problem with this section, they say it’s like another book. I disagree, I think part one provides necessary context, and I loved his Facebook war stories.

(Full disclosure: I’ve been an investor in Facebook for awhile, and, though seeing how the sausage gets made is a little brutal, I’m happy I know, for the most part, what the culture is really like in hoodie-land.)

I know that I’ll continue to bet on Zuck. He’s half- Terminator – a fierce, inexorable force, and half-General Patton, with an army willing to run through walls on his behalf. Who wouldn’t want to be invested in such a company?

Reading this book, I was left with the feeling that Zuck would just as soon die before acquiescence to a competitor. I was also left with the feeling that Facebook will defy the naysayers for decades. The FB will oppose those idiotic analysts who assert that the company offers nothing of tangible value. And, when Facebook is threatened, I’m convinced that each “lockdown” will bring another innovation that the public has a hard time comprehending at first, until they look at Facebook’s revenue, and then marvel at how this generation’s William Randolph Hearst continues to beat everyone’s expectations.

Indeed, this book, it’s convinced me that Zuck is another Hearst, reincarnated.

I think CHAOS MONKEYS should be at the top of most business school’s reading lists, a kind of LIARS POKER for those thinking of embarking on the startup CEO’s path, the artist’s path, the quant’s path, the businessman’s path, even the politician’s path.

Read this book!