Links to Remember

“There are two ideas of government,” William Jennings Bryan declared in his 1896 “Cross of Gold” speech. “There are those who believe that if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.” Robert S. McElvaine https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/11/30/im-a-depression-historian-the-gop-tax-bill-is-straight-out-of-1929/?utm_term=.a7c11f7614bd



HyperNormalisation is a 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex "real world" and built a simple "fake world" that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians. The film was released on 16 October 2016 on the BBC iPlayer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HyperNormalisation

Really fascinating historical tidbits:
That when New York City had money problems in the 1970’s the Banks refused to pony up the dough for the usual bond packages until the politicians withdrew any restrictions and basically gave up their power to the financial world

Khomeini starting suicide bombers which Syria encouraged with Hezbollah in Lebanon. And finally Sunni’s took up the idea.

Vladislav Surkov managing Putin’s success by purposefully promoting not knowing what is real or fake and getting people to not care.

The manipulation of Qaddafi form villain to savior and back to villain by western interests. But of course Qaddafi purposely lied and played along for in own insane purposes. And the same with Saddam Hussein.

So yeah, this thing matches my worldview, or more generally my feeling that what somehow how the world is arranged is fundamentally wrong. I have my own reasons for thinking that and this Curtis fellow starts from a different point but ends up at a similar conclusion.

BUT, as much as I enjoy his trunk full of stories, sometimes he comes across like the Oliver Stone approach to JFK, where EVERYTHING including the kitchen sink ominously points to conspiracy and evil.

Some of it he backs up, but for large chunks of the movie he says something and then flashes up some images that implying a connection. And this dude has an obsession with 80’s workout videos which I guess he uses as a symbol of self centered superficiality as civilization is given way to the financiers. Or maybe I have bee bamboozled by the MAN to think we live a too sedentary life

Plus he makes some confident claims that are not filled out and seem flimsy to me. Like Cyberspace was prepared by LSD and that the predictions of Timothy Leary are implied to be quite wise (Leary’s prophecies stated in the movie seem woefully inaccurate, so what am I to make of that?)

Then there is other stuff that bothers me, like the absolute connection he makes with the Reagan administration deliberately promoting UFO conspiracies. I need more that some random guy saying it was all planned.

As he works his way into implying something bad about workout videos he makes some comment about socialist activists giving up and selling out. Then he has the Jane Fonda video clip. But for me the anomaly isn’t that an activist became a celebrity, but that a celebrity was ever involved with the anti war movement.

Oh there are other tiny bits that tic me off like talking about future needs while showing a download of Netscape. That is just lazy video work.

BUT, I stil think the gist is accurate, that politicians gave away their power to the financial system.


Art Critic and Living and Thinking

I watched The Mona Lisa Curse today about contemporary art collecting by Robert Hughes.

Fantastic stuff. Heavy stuff. Makes you think stuff.

Damn that guy had a way with words, and thinking.

From in The New Republic, 1987:

The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living. The memoirs of Julian Schnabel, such as they are, remind one that the converse is also true. The unlived life is not worth examining.


Unfortunately it confirms my now generally dismal view of civilization. When Art is pointless...where does that leave humankind?

Found it one line for free



The Consequences of Lies...

Under things to remember...

Or as Arendt told a French interviewer in 1974:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.



We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us

The Fire Next TimeThe Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is this book? I cannot describe it. Of course he writes about race and about white America, and about freedom, injustice, and pain. But how could I comment or add to that? It is a challenge for a slow witted middle aged white man to say anything much less come to any conclusions from this book by James Baldwin. But don’t worry, I have no conclusion, no pronouncements…but I am human and I will, with trepidation, offer some observations.

First off the obvious, almost too obvious, when I went to copy out parts I wanted to quote I could have just kept typing and retyped the whole book. And there is some flat out “heavy” thinking going on in here, really “deep” stuff. A

Behind what we think of the Russian menace lies what we do not wish to face, and what white Americans do face when they regard a Negro: reality - the fact that life is tragic. Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide - indeed, to earn ones death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. Pg. 91

Like I said this is some deep stuff. His analysis from 1962 is sadly still pretty spot on.

It is so simple a fact and one that is so hard, apparently, to grasp: Whoever debases others is debasing himself. That is not a mystical statement but a most realistic one, which is proved by eyes of any Alabama sheriff...Pg. 83

...In any event, the sloppy and fatuous nature of American good will can never be relied upon to deal with hard problems. These have been dealt with, when they have been dealt with at all, out of necessity- and in political terms anyway, necessity means concessions made in order to stay on top Pg. 87

Baldwin shakes you up, or at least he should, by not always ending up where you that he was leading you. Even if this short book I got worn out by the reminders of white oppression, but right when you feel like throwing in the towel on all of society he pulls out something close to optimism and says things like...

[talking about people overthrowing one dictator for another]...Perhaps this will always happen...But at the bottom of my heart I do not believe this. I think that people can be better than that, I know that people can be better than they are. We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover the burden is reality and arrive where reality is. Pg. 91

And to see something even more relevant to our nation today.

Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. Pg. 88

That pretty much describes our political state now. What we have really does reflect the “spiritual sate of the the nation”. It is in our faces, it is real and it is us, as a nation.


Degrees from Anarchy

A popular saying is that “every nation is about three/six/seven/nine meals away from anarchy/revolution.” That is, hungry people are desperate people who will topple any government. “It is well for us to recollect that even in our own law-abiding, not to say virtuous cases, the only barrier between us and anarchy is the last nine meals we’ve had” was cited in print in 1896.

“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy” was said by writer Alfred Henry Lewis (1855-1914) in a March 1906 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. “It’s only nine meals between men and revolution” was cited in print in 1943.

Wikipedia: Alfred Henry Lewis: Alfred Henry Lewis (January 20, 1855 – December 23, 1914) was an American investigative journalist, lawyer, novelist, editor, and short story writer.


Life is only painted lines
And there is no paint.

OK, this may take a while to flesh out…

Take 1:

Imagine a large parking lot with the spaces painted in the usual manner. Then on a day when nobody else is parked, do you drive from one end the other making sure not to cross any lines? Or to you drive directly from one side to the other by ignoring all the painted lines?

First off, this is just a metaphor for something else I am driving at so in a sense, what one might actually do is irrelevant. But to finish the thought, I assume most of us would drive across since the whole point of the painted spaces is to provide order when cars are everywhere. It is practical to observe the lines when other cars are around and practical to ignore the lines when the lot is empty.

And as I type the above my pragmatic solution seems to also point to my bigger point. The point of this blog...how should you live on this earth in your remaining days?

Pragmatic, yes, but I propose that for most, if not all, of our conscious life the lines we are following societal lines painted for pragmatic purpose. BUT the lines are there only because we believe in them so in fact there is no metaphorical paint in the metaphorical painted lines. The upshot is we all, everyone, is mentally free and unconstrained. Not only are the chains off...there never were any chains at all.

(here it comes)...BUT, we live in a physical world with other people so our freedom of action is severely restrained by other people, the physics of existence and maybe even something one could call Karma.

Take 2:

An example of belief’s bullying power… 1. Money: Look at paper money, why do people value one more than the other? They are the same size with just a different number of one versus another. Why does one get you more stuff than another? It is the same as the painted lines on a parking lot. Everybody voluntarily agrees the $20 bill will get you more that a $1 bill. And even it was Gold (for those gold standard blockheads), why should a light box of useless metal be exchanged for less than a heavy box?

It is only our beliefs that make any sort of money valuable and that allows this fantasy of commerce. If a counterfeit bill pass through your hand and gets in circulation, what is the harm? If it is never caught then nobody loses. And if you bring up inflation...where the folly of needing wheelbarrows of cash to pay for a loaf of bread, well that is just a lack of faith.

From here I want to move to slightly different territory. But the direction of my earlier proposal led to the notion that the only reason so much of living causes stress and strain is because we internalize the structures of the society around us and treat them with an authority they don’t deserve. When someone pisses you off on the highway or in a store, we follow the line and get angry.

Advertising is built on showing us the lines and making us believe we should follow them.

I don’t want to rebel, or tear down, or rage against the system. No, I want to simply take a breath and recognize there never were any rules or lines to rage against.

To reassure anybody, I am basing this cornerstone of my life on a phrase from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

Buckaroo Banzai: Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don't be mean; we don't have to be mean, ‘cuause, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

So my first step is much like the Hippocratic oath of “First do no harm”, even though the Internet tells me that is not an accurate translation. But regardless, it works well as a basis for how to finish out your life. I could go into how I arrived at this as my foundations, but just because I know that answer to something doesn’t mean I know the precise question. Maybe I’ll get to that at a later date.

But the gist is, when all is said in done in this world, you don't have to be mean.


10 Years of Beginning

10 years of blogging. 10 years of thinking of what to do in the remaining years I have.

So is it a failure if all the time spent in your later living is just "thinking about" how to spend your later life?

My current reasoning is that no, but not because thinking about what to do is just as ok as doing. But rather the whole concept of "failure" and "success" are arbitrary, decided either by cultural norms or individual opinions. There is no database of usefulness to consult in assaying the success or failure of a person or a life. In fact doing nothing is more pure than doing something dictated by some outside conception. So it is honestly I value more than results.

Granted, nobody else may agree that what I see as honest is actually true, especially since I doubt the very idea of certainty, even thought this notion implies I am certain about it. Nonetheless I trudge on one absurd step after another.

Will there be more posts?


A Rant About Something Stupid...then a video

This post is mainly to make note of how to mange time-lapse moving making with a Raspberry Pi and Magix Edit Pro...Mainly. Here is the video, and I know it is crude, but I think that adds to its charm.

Soooo...in years past I have noticed that at the first of spring in most years the bamboo in our back yard can grow at an astounding rate! Thinking about it this year I remembered the Raspberry Pi I played with a year or two ago but put aside because it kind of got hacked.BUT, this time I decided to be less cavalier about permission and worked through installing an OS, webcam software for my really old webcam, and for fun installed a web server (Apache) and a wiki (Dokuwiki current hosted on said RaspberryPi sitting in the second bedroom with  a USB cable snaked out the back window to the old usb webcam).

With the help of the Internet I quickly setup the webcam software and started a linux job to take a picture every 30 minutes for the duration of this project.

Then after I had to reinstall everything because I used too small of an SD Card...I was set and you can see the video above.

Unfortunately this year seems to be a particularly UN-spectacular growth-wise. So it mainly became a project for time-lapse digital photography.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Now for my curmudgeonly take on video editing...I appreciate Adobe premiere but God damn it you have to by a monthly subscription?!? Sorry that is bullshit.

Yeah I know it is good, and in the late 2000’s I used a then old version and was pleased with it. But I  got a slightly old version for free from a sales rep who had one laying around,  and to buy it would have been may hundreds of dollars, it is was cool and I got to use it for a fee years. And now I see you can only get it with monthly subscriptions? I repeat myself..that’s Bullshit!

Anyway after using my Adobe Premier version 6.5 for a few years I discovered my version couldn’t handle HD video, and since I couldn’t actually afford Adobe Premiere, I bought Magix Edit Pro Plus for around $40 and have been using it ever since. Amazon now has it at $70 and compared to Adobe it is well worth it. I suppose if you made professional video there might be reason to use Adobe, but maybe not. I guess this is partially a gripe about following the software herd. Of course sometime there is reason to go where everybody else is going, but if you happen to be a grumpy contrarian you might look elsewhere. Not that corporate Magix could be as bad as corporate Adobe.

Another anyway..this is how you import a bunch of still pictures into Magix Movie Edit Pro and make a time lapse movie.

First, get a bunch of images

then import them all into Magix Movie Edit Pro
go to Effects

Video Effects


for this I settled on .07 second frame time


Book Review - Just to show the blog is still breathing

A Colony in a NationA Colony in a Nation by Christopher L. Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good stuff. But I have to admit is seems a little rambling at times. HOWEVER, I really like the paths he takes when he rambles. The ironic observations he tosses out are well received by me, but I do wonder if more academic types might quibble with some of the comparisons, especially the Rebellious American colonists apparently quite similar to the poor and oppressed of today (See below)

Hayes takes the title from a Nixon speech and he provides some context how that administration used the idea of white fear to play with political power. But the core idea of the book transcends historical timelines, especially given his philosophical closing argument.

But officially the idea is of viewing some people, usually poor and black as part of a separate Colony and this Colony is administered by the Nation (various local and nation forces) as a colonial occupation with military style actions. The resulting oppression is justified by need to keep Order for the nation, even at the expense of Justice (the Law) for the people in the colony.

He may be more organized than I see but is seems he offers a number of explanations at random as to what motivates this oppression.

Partial explanations-

Primarily it is white fear as the force that drives this oppression. The fear of loss or order in society. Basically taking outsized offence to anything to might disrupt the classic white suburban ultra-quiet neighborhood. He does offer examples of whites (with his own examples) committing non-violent crimes who are ignored or let off easy, against the shocking prison rate for blacks doing the same things

He makes some attempt to describe where this fear comes from but basically says it is obvious. And I guess it is.

Like a magnet tugging countless tiny filings into the bands of force around its poles, a profoundly political force was at work acting on the thousands of individual systems, actors and institutions, bringing them into tyrannical alignment.

That force was white fear
Pg. 115

The fear is mostly racially bound but it also breaks those boundaries to go beyond race. White fear can expand its horizons.

Part of the fear come from a Desire for Order over law (both items are actually perceptions rather than objective facts). So even if someone's rights are not considered it is OK. After all you don’t want to feel stressed out by people arguing outside your house.

American Culture its sense of Justice and Punishment

“…to say Black people wanted this too (more prisons and arrests) belies [the] fact that Blacks in the U.S. are AMERICANS. Americans LOVE punishment." Pg. 125

Related but somewhat sidebar observations

Irony of American Colonial reactions compared to the current oppressed Colony

John Hancock...was one of the most famous smugglers of his day. He was a criminal, basically-and he and his fellow smugglers kept the colonies running. Without the smuggled goods there would have been little local economy to speak of.
Pg. 52

“...the British crackdown (getting taxes) essentially inaugurated America’s first tough-on-crime era. It was a classic crackdown: more customs officials were granted more expansive powers. While courts were streamlined to produce swift punishment...(officials) began operating in ways that looked a lot like what we now call ‘stop and frisk’ ” Pg. 54

And the creepy way cities and towns across the country target the poor in order to fund the city (probably because it is apparently illogical to raise taxes anywhere)

[Ferguson – the colony] “...the purpose of policing and courts isn’t the maintenance of safety and provision of justice but rather some other aim. In north St. Louis County that aim is to produce revenue, the same aim of the British Empire’s customs regime in the American colonies.” Pg. 76

Guns and Iraq
[guns as protection against a tyrant] despite the fact that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had one of the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Pg. 104

How language is used to confirm the threatening nature of The Colony

Racecraft: the Soul of Inequality in American Life, Karen and Barbara Fields trace the semantic trick of racial vocabulary, which invents categories for the purpose of oppression while appearing to describe things that already exist out in the world.

His and my conclusion

But in the end I think the most important point he makes is a Philosophical appeal to compassion. It is the not explicitly stated, but I think it is a central theme of his book and goes beyond this particular, but huge, injustice...How do we view our fellow humans?

Imagine a person commits a crime, perhaps even a violent crime, against you. Is that person even a human being? A neighbor, a fellow citizen? What do we as a society owe that person? Could he be someone you know and love in the throes of addiction? Or is he a member of a group you’ll never encounter again? What dignity is due the perpetrator? Do you and the perpetrator belong to the same country? This is the question before us. The question we’ve answered wrongly for too long. Pg. 210

You see the philosophy student peek through sometimes, his passionate outrage is obvious but like the quote above he also has the occasional dispassionate appeal to logic, which in this case it is used to encourage compassion, even for the criminal. But, I bet some people can't get past that. Once you commit a crime you are basically a damned soul.

One more thing, just to be clear. If you are a comfortable white guy, like me, you should be upset by the truth of this book

View all my reviews


An Aikdo School Droput Says More Than He Should...

1. There is this...

The koppo side of Aikido studies destruction, and knowledge of how to destroy an attacker in order to save your life and the lives of others.  

My purpose is to guide Aikido students away from the “dancing mindset’, from training in a comfortable way mentally and physically.  I want to make them think about the real meaning, the real application of “harmony” – it comes from the moment of being in front of an enemy who can destroy you, who is not going to participate in your harmony. This is the essence of O Sensei’s Aikido meaning, and without this understanding Aikido is missing something important.  I often ask my students, “can you defend your life?” Because if your answer is “no”, then your Aikido has no real meaning and you have no real understanding of Aikido principle.  If Aikido is just dancing for you, then your Aikido is shallow, and it has no ability to either defend or heal.

Yeah, I get it...if you don‘t want to kill someone you are a woosey, a pansy, a wimp… a LOSER! If you come away from the practice with a sense of harmony and that the uke is not really the enemy and that Aikdio is the art of peace, then you are an idiot.Plus he was the coolest uchideshi of all and the others were pretty lame.

Ultimately that is what it means. Nothing matters unless you can kill somebody. THAT is what koppo really means. 

 Of course since I never advanced to level of being able to survive a cage match I never really had an understanding of Aikdo, so you can safely ignore me. Of course a boat load of other practitioners are no better off, so why even try? Just give it up and buy a gun, THEN you can defend your self and it take no practice at all.

How can I say this since I am not an Aikido master? Screw that, I am an Aikido school drop out, an Aikido loser. BUT I am also a human, and I realize that for a lot of people martial arts is about being a badass. And I know people and what they want, and they want to WIN and even more so make the other guy LOSE. And what could prove it more than if you can destroy the other guy.

If you check out Aikdo on the Internet there are tons of Aikido guys who have chip on their shoulder when Karate or MMA people say Aikido is crap. Basically they want to prove their “kung fu” is way better than the other guy’s. Some macho Aikido people want to be considered bad ass, And by bad ass I meant destructive, hurtful and able to kill.

And the real take away from the article is unless you want to destroy (kill) the other guy you are not practicing real Aikido. Plus I am sure the the thing about it NOT BEING DANCING is a denigration for another O’ Sensei uchideshi (Just like Saotome) Terry Dobson who wrote a book about Aikido called It’s A Lot Like Dancing  

Dobson was a fascinating guy, we was a typical aggressive American who ended up in post war Japan and studied closely with O’ Sensei. His most famous Aikido Story is here 

And the point being, the art of harmony starts with seeing that your attacker is not your enemy. And using Aikido to deal with conflict comes NOT from a desire to destroy but from a desire to love.

Consider O’ Sensei’s enlightment story…

O-Sensei’s Enlightenment
(The following is taken from John Steven’s Abundant Peace and Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s Aikido):

In the spring of 1925, 42-year old Morihei was transformed by a divine vision. One day, a naval officer visiting Ayabe decided to challenge Morihei to a kendo match.  Morihei consented but remained unarmed.  The officer, a high-ranking swordsman, was naturally offended at this affront to his ability and lashed out at Morihei furiously. Morihei easily escaped the officer’s repeated blows and thrusts.  When the exhausted officer finally conceded defeat, he asked Morihei his secret.
Just prior to your attacks, a beam of light flashed before my eyes, revealing the intended direction.” 
Following the contest, Morihei went out to his garden to draw water from the well and to wash the sweat from his face and hands.  This is what he later said about what happened:
I set my mind on budo when I was about 15 and visited teachers of swordsmanship and jujutsu in various provinces.  I mastered the secrets of the old traditions, each within a few months.  But there was no one to instruct me in the essence of budo: the only that that could satisfy my mind.  So I knocked on the gates of various religions but I couldn’t get any concrete answers. 
Then in the spring of 1925, when I was taking a walk in the garden by myself, I felt that the universe suddenly quaked, and that a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body and changed my body into a golden one.  At the same time my mind and body became light.  I was able to understand the whispering of the birds and was clearly aware of the mind of God, the Creator of this universe. At that moment I was enlightened: the source of budo is God’s love – the spirit of loving protection for all beings.  

Endless tears of joy streamed down my cheeks.  …  I understood, ‘Budo is not felling the opponent by our force; nor is it a tool to lead the world into destructions with arms.  True budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in Nature.  The training of budo is to take God’s love, which correctly produces, protects and cultivates all things in Nature, and assimilate and utilize it in our own mind and body.’” 

So is Aikdio like this... “True budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in Nature.” or is it to destroy the opponent? Like I said, I am an Aikdo School dropout, and absolutely no authority in the matter, except maybe the authority of reading about O’ Sensei. And it is painful to admit, but when I was practicing I was never very good at it, but I still think about it every day. While I am sure O’ Sensei was a crazy,, complicated, confusing old school master...I see the wisdom of dealing with conflict, not by “destroying” but by seeking redirection and harmony.


doomed colleagues in the American media

I've never heard of this guy but I wanted to remember this post...



A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media

Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader — so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang my bells. Not just mine, in fact — read this excellent round-up in The Moscow Times.

Vladimir Putin’s annual pressers are supposed to be the media event of the year. They are normally held in late December, around Western Christmas time (we Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas two weeks later and it’s not a big deal, unlike New Year’s Eve). Which probably explains why Putin’s pressers don’t get much coverage outside of Russia, except in a relatively narrow niche of Russia-watchers. Putin’s pressers are televised live across all Russian TV channels, attended by all kinds of media — federal news agencies, small local publications and foreign reporters based in Moscow — and are supposed to overshadow every other event in Russia or abroad.

These things are carefully choreographed, typically last no less than four hours, and Putin always comes off as an omniscient and benevolent leader tending to a flock of unruly but adoring children. Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook. I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.
  • Welcome to the era of bullshit.
Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it.

Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other. Others will use this opportunity to go on a long, rambling statement vaguely disguised as a question, but that’s also bad tactics. Non-questions invite non-answers. He’ll mock you for your nervous stuttering and if you’re raising a serious issue, respond with a vague, non-committal statement (“Mr President, what about these horrible human rights abuses in our country?” “Thank you, Miss. This is indeed a very serious issue. Everybody must respect the law. And by the way, don’t human rights abuses happen in other countries as well? Next question please”).
But your colleagues are there to help you, right? After all, you’re all in this together?

  • Don’t expect any camaraderie
These people are not your partners or brothers in arms. They are your rivals in a fiercely competitive, crashing market and right now the only currency in this market is whatever that man on the stage says. Whoever is lucky to ask a question and be the first to transmit the answer to the outside world wins. Don’t expect any solidarity or support from them. If your question is stonewalled/mocked down/ignored, don’t expect a rival publication to pick up the banner and follow up on your behalf. It’s in this man’s best interests to pit you against each other, fighting over artificial scarcities like room space, mic time or, of course, his attention. It’s getting especially absurd because some — increasingly many — reporters will now come with large, bright placards aimed at attracting the president’s attention to names of their regions or specific issues. This is what it looks like:

Also, some people in the room aren’t really there to ask questions.
  • Expect a lot of sycophancy and soft balls from your “colleagues”
A mainstay of Putin’s press conferences is, of course, softball questions. Which also happen to be Putin’s favorites. Mr President, is there love in your heart? Who you will be celebrating New Year’s Eve with? What’s your favorite food? “Questions” of this sort, sure to melt Putin’s heart, typically come from women working for small regional publications. A subtype of this is also statements-as-questions, but from people who really love the man on the stage and will bob their head and look at the stage adoringly and say something to the tune of “Mr President, do you agree that a lot of media are treating you unfairly?”

Another type of softball questions is hyperlocal issues that a president isn’t even supposed to be dealing with. Mr President, our road is full of potholes and local authorities aren’t doing anything about it. Mr President, our tap is leaking. Mr President, how about a chess club in our village. This is a real opportunity for him to shine. He will scold the local authorities and order to have a new road built. All of this, of course, has been choreographed well in advance.

Also, some of these people really love him and will meet his every answer with enthusiastic applause. There will be people from publications that exist for no other reason than heaping fawning praise on him and attacking his enemies. But there will also be one token critic who will be allowed to ask a “sharp” question, only to be drowned in a copious amount of bullshit, and the man on the stage will always be the winner (“See? I respect the media and free speech”).
  • You’re always losing
This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t — in Putin’s case — campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
I could go on and on, but I think at this point you see where this is heading. See if any of this rings any bells if you covered Trump’s presser or watched it online.

P.S. You’re welcome to repost/reblog/republish this if you like.

My name is Alexey Kovalev, I’m a Russian journalist and I’m writing about propaganda, fake news and Russian state media on noodleremover.news. It’s all in Russian, but here’s an example of what I’m doing in English. You can contact me at kovalever@gmail.com. I tweet as @Alexey__Kovalev.



Accidents will happen...

I just wanted to save this quote from a book by Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made it: