February 24, 2018
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

" A Nation of Immigrants"

Immigration just removed these words from its mission statement. I have heard these words all my life, amd believed them; my grandparents were all classic ragged steerage passengers from the Ukraine and Poland. The change in the American climate, driven by Donald Trump and his supremacist base, reminds me there are two meanings of citizenship; it is both a legal and a cultural term. If we are now officially pronouncing people like my grandparents unwelcome, I do not look, dress or act much differently than them, so it is a minor matter, as the fires of hate burn out of control, to revoke my legal citizenship as well. But the even more interesting cultural impact is that, by attempting to conserve something precious, the supremacists are actually destroying it, because if American citizenship stands for hate instead of tolerance, very few will desire it in the future. In the end, the most effective way to end immigration is to make it clear there is no reason for anyone to want to come here--morally, culturally, politically, economically. We seem well on our way to that outcome.


ICE under Donald Trump is an unrestrained secret police worthy of a Third World dictatorship, usiang force and fraud and then bragging about the fear it instills. The arrest of a man last week at his political asylum hearing screams, "There is no process due you".

I hate Verizon

Described almost without comment: I went in to the Verizon store nearest my home in Amagansett, and said the following: "I have come really to hate Verizon, as a company exercising monopoly power....One of my reasons is that the phone you make me pay six or eight hundred dollars for doesn't really seem to contain any more technology than a $100 tablet. Couldn't I get out of the cell phone world entirely, with a tablet running Signal or Skype, if I was willing to deal with the rough edges?" The sales guy did not really answer that. I said: "What can you recommend to me that will serve some of my goals while staying in your world? What is the least expensive phone I can buy outright, so I don't have to finance an overpriced phone for years on end?" He said I could pay $167 for the cheapest Droid smartphone. "So I can just buy it outright?" "No", he said, "they don't do that, everything must be leased. But you could pay $166 and finance the dollar".

Government shutdowns

Government shutdowns are wrong. They hurt people, particularly government workers who don't get their salaries. Using a shutdown as a tool of blocking or attaining legislation is like taking a hostage, sacrificing someone else's well-being to achieve a goal. Therefore shutdowns should not even be used for things about which we feel passionate, like (in my case) a solution for protected visa status and then citizenship for Dreamers.


I can almost feel a little sorry for Mark Zuckerberg and his team: they created something that was kind of cool but just couldn't scale, and maybe they should have seen that coming, but they didn't. You can't have a social media service with three billion members and just a few thousand human eyes scanning content. We have spent a lot of energy thinking about Russian interference in our elections, without really fully focusing on the fact that the poisoning of democracy and free speech would not have been possible without the perversely open architecture which is the current Internet. A huge network could have been built with much better security, really knowing who everyone is and what permissions they have; we do that every day at smaller levels. Let's face it, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Microsoft wanted to build networks in which everyone could play, be tracked, be monetized. It wasn't rocket science that this would result in Russians having the ability to buy political ads, organize demonstrations, and deploy Twitterbots to make lies (like the Pope endorsing Donald Trump) go viral. None of this could have happened without Capitalism warping the Internet out of shape. What are we going to do about it?

Bannon and Milo

I can't tell you how much comfort I feel that both these men have flamed out. It couldn't have happened to two more deserving guys, based on their arrogance, their groundless belief in themselves as a higher life form. Bannon supposedly said he was Lenin, but he was really just a bit player, like Bukharin.

Two Gun Moments

Wayne LaPierre, a long time NRA spokesman, gave a speech this week in which he told a largely gun-toting audience that specific Democrats, whom he named, are Socialists trying to seize all reins of power in the United States, including the IRS, the FBI, etc. At what point do we hear this for what it is, a call for violence and murder, and beyond that, for civil war? The NRA and its collaborators on the right have tread this border for twenty or thirty years, with rhetoric which is virtually a call to murder while always disclaiming that that is what they mean. If you are armed to resist tyranny, if you believe guns are the reset switch of the American Revolution, and Wayne Pierre is telling you named Democrats are tyrants....why would you not shoot them?

Back in the world of people being hit by bullets, it was just reported this morning that an officer outside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school remained there with his weapon for four minutes while the gunman murdered people inside. NRA's doctrine, being echoed by the President, that schools should be "hardened" with armed teachers carrying concealed weapons, is a complete crock and rather depraved: we support a world, LaPierre is saying, in which those kids armed with AR15's will just keep coming, and its your job now to shoot them first. Forgetting issues of whether teachers should have a duty to carry weapons, personal comfort level and training, and the inescapable fact that those concealable weapons will be much less powerful than an AR15, several things are inevitable in the future: some teachers will run or not draw their weapon; others will get themselves killed; and some will be mistaken for perps and shot by the police. A minority will shoot the killer and save lives. The NRA seems to want the world to be the OK Corral, and in that world there is never a guarantee that the good-hearted sodbuster with the small weapon he doesn't really know how to use is going to live to the end of the first scene of the movie.

A further thought: there is a terrible imbalance in politicians trying to make a deal with the police that WE, your elected officials, will make sure teenagers can own military grade semi-automatic weapons, but it is YOUR duty, the police officer, to risk your own death if one of those teenagers uses one in public. That's not a very good deal on a cop's salary.

Back to the Middle Ages

Some years ago, I wrote an essay I am proud of about the return of the medieval mind. I was right about many things, but did not anticipate the insensate speed at which our nation would actually careen towards the middle ages. One of a thousand symptoms I could name, and the one which has me thinking about this right now: we are back to people in America being jailed for debt. Our blind loyalty to barons--exactly what Trump receives from his base--is also medieval. To break out of this spiral, we would have to educate several new generations in exactly those Enlightenment values we have abandoned. That possibility seems mildly utopian.