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A Man in a High Castle

Season two of the alternate history series, The Man in The High Castle, has hit Amazon, and I will be watching.

The show, which debuted in 2016, posits a divided United States which lost World War II — following such events, it appears, as a nuclear attack on the homeland and invasions from East and West. America is then divided and shared uneasily by Imperial Japan — capital in a grey, subservient version of San Francisco — and The Reich, with its headquarters in New York, patrolled by the SS and spiffy American brownshirts. The two sides have established a buffer zone between them, a Wild West territory filled with conspirators, rebels and spies somewhere in the vicinity of Denver and the Rocky Mountains.

Nazi flags fly on Broadway and are festooned over the Statue of Liberty. In this version of reality, the High Castle is not a skyscraper on Fifth Avenue. Jews are in hiding if they are alive, people judged substandard, along with the Jews, are rounded up and killed.

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Alexa Davalos in “The Man in the High Castle” (Credit: Liane Hentscher/Amazon Prime Video)

 

A review in the New York Times draws some unavoidable parallels with life these days:

“…it would be hyperbole to treat the series like a documentary, it would be denial to say it plays no differently now than it did before. …

The series producers say they did not intended to make a political statement.

“But you can’t wish the reminders away. A new “High Castle” story line involves a Japanese-American woman who survived the wartime internment camp at Manzanar, in California — one constant, it turns out, between its fictional timeline and ours. On Fox News shortly after the election, a supporter of Mr. Trump defended a proposal to register immigrants from Muslim countries by citing the actual camps as precedent.”

You get the idea. Last year, I asked myself, how easy is it for a country to fall passively into fascism?

This year, I look for clues in Season Two. Will the people of this nightmarish version of America fight for democracy and seek to oust the insanity?

Yep, I’ll be watching.

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Electors: Listen to Alexander Hamilton

The Electoral College has been a formality these 230 years,  though the College has a specific role handed down by the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Alexander Hamilton warned and described the Electoral College as a body of last resort. He wrote this in the Federalist Papers 68 on March 14, 1788.hamilton

The Electoral College, said Hamilton, is intended to protect the nation:

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications…..

And that the electors should be wary of foreign influence….

… should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

And that they should consider the merits of the chosen leader….

Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union…

And that the person elected president ..

Should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves. He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence.

Here is hoping that the electors recognize their duty, outlined by Alexander Hamilton long ago.

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Handling the Truth (about Russian hacking)

Can we handle whatever the truth might be about Russia and the elections?

The chain of events since the election is this (at least what we know):

November 17: Admiral Michael Rogers:

“There shouldn’t be any doubts in anybody’s mind: This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily…This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

November 29: All Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee senate-letterto President Obama.

“We believe there is additional information concerning the Russian Government and the U.S. Election.”

December 6: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), after repeatedly warning about Russian interference, says he will lead a Senate probe.

December 7: Time Magazine reports interview with Trump, including question about the Russian hacking charges. He repeats denial and says he thinks the intelligence information is politically motivated. “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered.”

December 9: President Obama orders intelligence services to produce “a full review” before he leaves office.

The question is: how serious was this and the old question about who knew what….when…..

Can we handle the truth? We must know…regardless the consequences.

What comes next?

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Pizza and Sanity

Sanity in society, even our perception of reality, depends on mutual agreement. Sky is up, world is round, men walked on the moon. So we say.

      But what if the majority is insane? Or a controlling minority?

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” Akira Kirosawa.

      The ascension of an unstable man to the presidency surrounded by zanies could be the tipping point.
     This long, but chilling story about a pizza parlor not far from my house is one of the signposts on the road to the Twilight Zone. (Checkout the  comments beneath it.) Welcome to the fun house!

Pizzagate: From rumor, to hashtag, to gunfire in D.C.

What was finally real was Edgar Welch, driving from North Carolina to Washington to rescue sexually abused children he believed were hidden in mysterious tunnels beneath a neighborhood pizza joint.

What was real was Welch — a father, former firefighter and sometime movie actor who was drawn to dark mysteries he found on the Internet — terrifying customers and workers with his assault rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States, or by her campaign chief, or by the owner of the pizza place.

What was false were the rumors he had read, stories that crisscrossed the globe about a charming little pizza place that features ping-pong tables in its back room.

The story of Pizzagate is about what is fake and what is real. It’s a tale of a scandal that never was, and of a fear that has spread through channels that did not even exist until recently. READ THE STORY

 

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Doublespeak, double back propaganda

Echoes of a strategy coming out of Moscow  catch attention in Washington.

The Russian government has accused the Ukraine government of undermining the candidacy of Donald Trump during the election.

Ken Vogel and Julia Ioffe reported on Politico:

A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday contended that the Ukrainian government over the summer damaged Trump’s campaign by implicating his then-campaign chief Paul Manafort in a corruption scandal involving a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party funded by oligarchs.

Besides the chutzpah of it all,. the charge is very much part of the MO of Trump and the people around him. He tends to blame his enemies for qualities and deeds he himself can be accused of.

His attacks on his Republican primary opponents, on Hillary Clinton, on media are often on the schoolyard level. But when you have the Kremlin pulling the same thing, it graduates from school bullying to agitprop right out of the book.

  • Say that Hillary is sickly and not up to the job, but Hillary is the one who has released her medical history. How healthy is he himself?
  • Charges that Clinton Foundation is corrupt, but slides by when his foundation is charged with malfeasance.
  • Charge that the system is rigged before the fact, and then tries to suppress any chance of checking the system after he has won.

You can make your own list and add to it daily.

Cynthia Boaz, an associate professor of political science at Sonoma State University, called it “projection and flipping”. She listed this method among 14 propaganda techniques often used on Fox News

It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

Interesting that Trump and Putin allies appear to work from the same handbook.

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Morning — Peter Eisner

This morning…We will wake up, stand up for the values we share, look to our friends for support.

via Morning — Peter Eisner

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“If not for you” Praise for Bob Dylan (Nobel Prize for Literature, October, 13, 2016)

 

Peter Eisner

Word of Bob Dylan’s selection as winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature takes me back to a small apartment in West Berlin in October 1966, almost exactly fifty years ago.

Along with my dear friend and host brother, Reinhard, I had taken a double decker bus that skirted the Berlin Wall and then turned down Bundesallee, near where President Kennedy, then dead for three years, had declared “Ich Bin Ein Berliner.” Heading toward Reinhard’s apartment, we walked past the bombed out building next door, untouched in the two decades since the final days of World War Two.

We were sixteen years old and I was bleary-eyed. There was no drinking age in Berlin as far as I could tell and we had downed a beer or two. Reinhard spoke non-stop, though, more used to alcohol than I was.

We snuck past his parents’ and sister’s bedrooms and huddled in the penumbra of  streetlights and curtains along the French windows. He pulled out his worn copy of a vinyl record album, The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, released in 1963.

“I don’t understand the letter,” Reinhard said. “Help me with the letter.” He meant the lyrics.

So there, before dawn, we listened to Blowin’ in the Wind, and I stopped to listen to and think about the words of all of Bob Dylan’s songs for the first time. I realized then and forever after that one could make the mistake of listening to a song as a song without truly hearing:

With Reinhard’s encouragement, I realized that Dylan was demanding that we go further.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Reinhard, whose fine English needed help in understanding nuance, asked me to confirm what he heard in the lyrics. Me with my very imperfect German, I was happy to stick with English and work on it with him.

What does it mean, or what do you think it means? Reinhard asked me:  “The answer is blowing in the wind.” Then and now, the feeling of the words, the juxtaposition of the words became clear: life is sublime and deeply serious. I was almost a man, and a man now, but let’s substitute man with the word “human” or “person.” We have a responsibility to live lives of honor and compassion for others and to seek peace (the white dove).

We were living through the days of the Vietnam War, and we could hear the protest in that song, ever so subtly, appealing to humanity, to our role in the world. And the words so fleeting, in flight, in the air.

Reinhard is long gone from this life, but I owe him that time in the shadow and light. Since then, I can always return to that place of my youth, and go back to a dream about the world and how it could be and center in on my feelings about love and morality.

Dylan’s words have inspired thoughts of peace for the half a century since then. The Nobel committee has a sublime way of linking its choices to the moment in which we live. Did the committee consider this time and place across the water in America, where Bob Dylan sent out that anthem to the world among his many other songs, many others, reminding us of decency and justice? I think it took the opportunity to do just that.

So thanks to them at the Nobel Committee for pointing us back to Bob Dylan, and many thanks to you, Bob.

 

 

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