It’s high school, and I believe copyright is ridiculous.

My dad has introduced me to Project Gutenberg, an ever-growing library of books in the public domain, and I am spellbound. Contained within its creaky website are thousands of books that are owned by nobody. Or maybe everybody. After all, I could download one and do whatever I wanted with it. I could republish The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, only with the protagonist’s name changed to something patently absurd like “Benedict Cumberbatch”, and I would be utterly free of consequences, because I own those stories now as much as anyone else. They are free to be remixed, reworked. They belong to none of us, and all of us.

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Ian Danskin of Innuendo Studios has this great new video about the right’s fixation on cuckoldry and what “cuck” as an insult means, through the lens of their fixation upon polyamory. In it is also a deeply relatable segment about how being a polyamorous man often gives lots of opportunity to “win” by toxic masculinity’s standards… but that’s not something he (or I) are really interested in.

I can’t do it justice; it’s just real good. Here, watch:

Hiding In Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah KendziorSarah Kendzior (Flatiron Books)

The rise of Donald Trump may have shocked Americans, but it should not have surprised them. His anti-democratic movement is the culmination of a decades-long breakdown of U.S. institutions. The same blindness to U.S. decline – particularly the loss of economic stability for the majority of the population and opportunity-hoarding by the few – is reflected in an unwillingness to accept that authoritarianism can indeed thrive in the so-called “home of the free”.

As Americans struggle to reconcile the gulf between a flagrant aspiring autocrat and the democratic precepts they had been told were sacred and immutable, the inherent fragility of American democracy has been revealed. Hiding in Plain Sight exposes this continual loss of freedom, the rise of consolidated corruption, and the secrets behind a burgeoning autocratic United States that have been hiding in plain sight for decades. In Kendzior’s signature and celebrated style, she expertly outlines Trump’s meteoric rise from the 1980s until today, interlinking key moments of his life with the degradation of the American political system and the continual erosion of our civil liberties by foreign powers.

Kendzior also offers a never-before-seen look at her personal life and her lifelong tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – living in New York through 9/11 and in St. Louis during the Ferguson uprising, and researching media and authoritarianism when Trump emerged using the same tactics as the post-Soviet dictatorships she had long studied.

Hiding in Plain Sight is about confronting injustice – an often agonizing process, but an honest and necessary one – as the only way that offers the possibility of ending it.

I have favorite books. This is not one of them.

I have books I want to suggest to people. This is not one either.

This book is not enjoyable. It is sobering. Reading it is like sinking into ice-cold water. Every fact is laid out crystal-clear, with the piercing pain of a truth you knew but hoped you could ignore. I could only read a couple pages each sitting before I had to walk away.

And yet, it’s possibly the most important book I’ve ever read. With grim steadiness, Kendzior draws on her experience studying autocratic states to establish that we in the US are experiencing an autocratic consolidation of power, hardly different from those seen in former democracies such as the Ukraine or Hungary. She draws careful connections between several Republican operatives, as well as many White House officials and Trump himself, and powerful figures in the shadows who have sought for years to, as she puts it, “strip America down and sell it for parts”.

It is about the decline of America and the rise of Donald Trump. It is an obituary for American exceptionalism. It is a desperate warning.

I can’t just suggest this book. It’s not just good. It’s imperative. It’s necessary. I want to plead with you:

If you never take any other recommendation from me, please read this book.

Please. Read it soon.

Because before long, it may be too late to matter.

What Is Communist Anarchism? (The Anarchist Library/Vanguard Press)

What Is Communist Anarchism? is an introduction to the principles of anarchism and anarchist communism written by Alexander Berkman. First published in 1929 by Vanguard Press, after parts of it had appeared in the Freie Arbeiter Stimme, it has been reprinted several times under several different titles, including Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism and What is Anarchism? Because of its presentation of anarchist philosophy in plain language, What Is Communist Anarchism? has become one of the best-known introductions to anarchism in print. Anarchist Stuart Christie wrote that this text is "among the best introductions to the ideas of anarchism in the English language". Historian Paul Avrich described it as "a classic" and wrote that it was "the clearest exposition of communist anarchism in English or any other language".

An incredibly thorough and accessible primer that still holds up 91 years later. Berkman writes with clarity and charisma.

I’d recommend this to damn near anyone.

COVID-19

This post was originally shared on my Facebook page.

Good morning, friends.

It is likely to get a lot worse this week. That’s the nature of exponential growth. Hopefully, within another week, we’ll start seeing the effects of our mitigation strategies, but given how spottily they’ve been implemented so far… I’m not confident.

This could have been prevented. So much of this could be prevented. But the president, the federal government, business owners, corporate shareholders–so many people who have the power to do something do not. They placate, they shift blame, they try to consolidate power.

Many people have spent the last four years insisting that somehow, the system will correct itself. By now, I hope that’s obviously false. All we have is each other. There’s no automatic safeguard, only people’s intentional choices.

I don’t want to encourage panic here. Panic doesn’t solve anything. But if you’ve got anger baking in your stomach, now is the time to interrogate it. Anger shows you what you value: it says there’s a gulf between where you are and where you think things ought to be. Anger is an activating emotion: it fills us with a surge of energy to try to close that gap.

So if you’re angry–what is the better world you envision? And what do you want to do to get there?

How much longer can this go on? If they give trillions of your money to bail out companies but fail to protect workers? If the federal government continues to withhold aid and refuses to order production of critical supplies? If the president keeps lying about unproven cures, lying about the disease, lying about his response–just plain lying?

How much longer will it go on before it spurs you to act?

A couple days ago, in my video on the threat response cycle, I said we’ve been freezing because neither fight nor flight are viable. But we aren’t helpless. While we still can’t punch coronavirus in the face, there ARE active things we can do. Like organizing. Like getting to know our neighbors. Like joining networks of mutual aid.

You can channel your anger and fear into those activities. Let your hands, shaking with rage, lay bricks for a better tomorrow.

It all starts with recognizing what is so broken and imagining how it could be different.

Dream big and fight hard,
Your buddy Spencer

PS: As much as you can, STAY THE FUCK HOME. ❤️

COVID-19

This post was originally shared to my Facebook page.

As the federal government starts actually talking about some form of a temporary relief payment, let’s talk about means-testing.

Means-testing is the process by which the government decides who is eligible for a social service. Your income must be below X. Your family must look like Y.

How do you verify that someone’s income really is below X? Well, you have to inspect their accounts. You have to monitor them. You have to treat them with suspicion. You’re encouraged to err on the side of false positives–if you think someone might be ineligible, better to cut them off than risk letting someone “cheat the system”.

That requires extra resources.

For whatever reason, there’s a certain subset of liberals that have, this year, decided that the “universal” in “universal healthcare” and “universal basic income” should really mean “universal only for people who need it”. They welcome means-testing so that “the kids of rich billionaires don’t get free college”. And look, I understand the sentiment. It comes from a good place.

But the resources and system it would require to ensure that “only people who need it” get these benefits? They make the process so much more bloated, inefficient, and cruel.

Universal should mean universal. That’s the simplest way forward. If the government cuts you a $1000 emergency relief check and you don’t need it, then donate it to someone who does. Give it to the Americans United to Eat the Rich charity of your choice. You have many options for not keeping it. But let’s not preemptively burden a program for social good with the stipulations, bureaucracy, and inefficiency that means-testing requires.

Mr. Trump--I mean, Toad.

I.

Toad is very rich and a bit of a fop, with a penchant for Harris tweed suits. He owns his own horse, and is able to indulge his impulsive desires, such as punting, house boating and hot air ballooning. Toad is intelligent, creative and resourceful; however, he is also narcissistic, self-centred almost to the point of sociopathy, and completely lacking in even the most basic common sense.

Wikipedia

Let’s call him Mr. Toad. Continue reading

Confederate flag

Throughout the month of August, I'm aiming to write 25 blog posts. This is post #18 of 25. Find them all in the "blogathon 2014" category.

[Content note: Racism, slavery, Nazism]

Why… Why would someone choose to hang a Confederate flag across the rear window of their truck (safety concerns aside)? Aside from total obliviousness or outright racism, do you think there is any sort of justification for displaying one’s pride in the ideals of the South that could possibly outweigh the blatant discomfort caused in others by their (justified?) associations with that display?

Lynyrd

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…

Nooooooo Continue reading