– Sir John Harington, 1618
I almost reactivated my Facebook account this week, after Mark Zuckerberg finally admitted that his company was actually in the business of eavesdropping. After the beautiful London Observer piece highlighting Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix caught on video selling his company’s wares (blackmail, ratfucking, extortion, racketeering and money laundering), the same employer of ‘Sloppy’ Steve Bannon (then running the American branch) I really wanted to write that I’d actually reactivated my account after Zuck went on CNN and finally admitted that his company took blood money. This week’s announcement that Facebook was cutting ties with data mining companies is a sign that I might just come back. Zuckerberg said that he wants to be proud of his company going forward because he has two daughters now, as opposed to before when he was an asshole Harvard hacker who cared about nothing except making lots of money.
When I first became aware of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, one fact stood out for me above all others: Zuckerberg was a hacker. Hacker culture is what the internet was all about back in the early days, and tech titans Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were no exception. In screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network (2010), Zuckerberg, Saverin and the Winklevoss brothers were portrayed as savvy hackers without much going on in the way of morals. I suspect the dark score and lighting in the film lends a hint that it was much worse than that. Born as ‘Facesmash’ as a prank by the merry Zuck against his fellow students at Harvard – stealing their identities (or head shots) from the easily hackable Harvard Yearbook Publications computer, a student-run server hosting the earliest editions of the ubiquitous Freshman Register, known by everyone in the first year as ‘The Facebook.’ I’ve always cast a jaundiced eye at those who would just as soon steal your data as look at you. These hacker dweebs, many with tape firmly affixed on glasses, proudly displaying gleaming breast pocket organizers and bad skin are now worth millions. Many of those weenies from the old high school computer club could buy and sell their high schools many times over and some even contribute millions to alumni organizations and philanthropic endeavors, yet most are still just like Martin Shkreli, only nerdier.
Last year’s bombshell New York Times article by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey may have initiated the #MeToo movement, but the momentum really gained steam after Ronan Farrow’s excellent back-to-back, in-depth reports in the New Yorker detailing Harvey Weinstein’s use of private detectives to harass and discredit his accusers. Farrow’s investigations add valuable accounts of the Miramax mogul’s scumbag ways, where it seems every day of his professional life, Mr. Weinstein committed some form of sexual harassment. Looking at the cut of Mr. Weinstein, we can guess that this ugly, fat asshole used his power as a Hollywood producer to get laid. In Casablanca, Claude Rains is ‘Shocked, shocked!’ Perhaps the original push behind the #MeToo movement was Donald Trump’s (well recorded) conversation about bush – with Bush – which sparked the up-and-running Pink Parades, either way, sexually abused and harassed victims have finally been given voice. Farrow’s latest article in the New Yorker, Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity reveals the next woman in the can-can line of Trump mistresses. Here, Farrow outlines how Trump’s friend David J. Pecker, CEO of American Media and publisher of parody newspapers the National Enquirer and the hilarious Weekly World News among others, protected him from damaging allegations during the election. Trump said during his campaign that the supermarket tabloid ‘Does have credibility and should be very respected’ after the Enquirer linked Ted Cruz’ father to the Kennedy Assassination. Inquiring minds want to know! Pecker (middle name Johnson) ‘captured and killed’ this particular Playboy model’s story about her affair with The Donald for $150,000 (about the same time that Stormy Daniels was spanking him with Malcolm Forbes’ masthead), with Pecker explaining recently that it ‘wasn’t believable enough’ – choosing not to publish the accusation back in October, 2016. I guess the Playboy model story should have included a bit about her bat-child, then Pecker may have thought it believable enough to bury somewhere in his mindless rags. This is the same National Enquirer which once ran full-color, front-page headlines complete with images of an innocent young woman named Vera Baker titled ‘Obama Caught in Hotel With This Beauty’ – which Pecker had to pay dearly for in an all-cash settlement. My favorite Weekly World News headline of all time is ‘Famed Psychic’s Head Explodes.’
One year into Donald Trump’s presidency and one thing is clear, we know Donald John Trump a lot better now. As a nation, we didn’t quite understand how much of a ‘winner’ Donald Trump really could be. Now we know that the President of the United States is a habitual liar about all that ‘winning,’ but of course that’s just more liberal Fake News according to The Donald. We knew that the president wanted to improve relations with Russia, we just didn’t fully understand that he wanted better relations with Russia because Vladimir Putin has video of him with hookers at the Ritz Moscow. Melania Trump may be a very interesting story line in the ongoing American Apprentice reality show, and at tonight’s State of the Union speech, the President may invite up to 24 guests to attend with the First Lady, so let’s see who shows up! Instead of wasting my time watching Trump lie for another hour, I’ll be watching the Jimmy Kimmel show tonight instead. I should’ve figured The Donald would be sunk by something as trivial as a tryst with a porn star, “who are ya goin’ to believe, me or the lyin’ eyes of the Wall Street Journal?” Donald begs Melania on her (separate) bedroom phone in the White House before she hangs up on him. BDSM with a porn star – while your wife is recovering from childbirth – is just modern presidential, Melania. Get used to it, there’s a LOT more where that came from. As Stormy put it, “Ugh. Here We Go…”
Whatever the ring of spies that entrapped the Trump Organization ends up being called, this so-called ‘Russian meddling’ plot will have some damned difficult names to pronounce when all is said and done. As former President George W. Bush used to like to do, I suggest a few nicknames to keep track of all these characters, and we’ll start with ‘The Professor,’ Joe Mifsud. He dangled Olga Polonskaya to the Trump dupes, calling her ‘Putin’s niece’ to entice the star fuckers in the Trump ‘brain trust.’ Olga was actually a dupe herself, apparently only Facebook friends with ‘The Professor’ Mifsud – who flew (on a whim!) to New York with Olga to attend a shady meeting at Trump Tower with a bunch of guys in shiny suits. In what the Papadopoulos Complaint described as a ‘Female Russian National’ attending the infamous June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, The 31-year-old lives in St. Petersburg and apparently graduated from St. Petersburg Polytechnic University. Her Russian Facebook page says she works for a wine import company, but there’s no picture of her, so we can’t see if she looks anything like old Uncle Putin. Also apparently, Olga Vinogradova was her maiden name, and the New York Times has reports that her name is now Polonskaya, so I don’t know what the fuck to think. Let’s call her ‘Olga.’
We’ve been here for five years, publishing the first edition of the Newes From America on October 17, 2012. Beginning as a traditional news site, rehashing top stories and writing up celebrity and gossip ‘snacks’ that most web surfers like to read, the work was tedious and boring. When a 20-year old kid confused reality with one of his violent video games, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012 was the first, big news story that we tried to tackle as an editorial story. We wanted to try and make sense of that insane tragedy, and that led directly to the screed that you see here before you. It was impossible to look at the huge problem of gun violence while being overwhelmed with the many, pressing news stories that crop up every day. The still unexplained horror of Sandy Hook, similar in some ways to the tragedy recently unveiled in Las Vegas, reveals deeper, more fundamental issues that go far beyond the Second Amendment or whether the N.R.A. supports the banning of ‘bump stocks.’ Our society has been manipulated by corporate interests that have made a lot of money tapping into our minds, changing our behavior and attitudes through advertising that fill our most important psychological needs – and define our very personal identity.
With the pages of flattery on this website for our President, Donald Trump, the reader may have the impression that I’m obsessed with him. Since his nomination, little else has concerned me as dozens of non-Trump related stories have gone unwritten. I’m also certain that Trump supporters who read these pages know that I am an asshole liberal who just likes to hear the sound of my own voice. Beyond the fact that my voice is silky smooth, (and I have a face for radio), I have to admit to acute bouts of Lapham’s Disease, even though Harper’s magazine wouldn’t print my (awful) writing with a ten foot pole. That said, the Trump MAGA phenomenon, feeding on violent and salacious stories such as Sandy Hook and Orlando, channeled popular fear and anger to gain power, now it’s Trump who must confront the results of our broken system. Who better, he argued during the election, to ‘drain the swamp’ than one who knows how the (broken) system works. Pushing the Reagan-era mantra of ‘small government,’ with Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan selling ‘A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats’ to the working class, aspiring to rise to a higher class, was (and is) the deal from Republicans, make it easy to stay rich – and when you get there, you’ll be happy you did! The problem is that 99% of us never get there. As the long odds that most working adults rely on – their weekly state lottery outlay – the hope for a better future is offered at a 1% return on investment, and we voters keep coming back for more.
Trump’s policy agenda, other than his insane Tweets and obsession with the Russia Investigation, looks to me like a typical, Republican administration. Nominated by the Republican Party, elected president as a Republican, Donald Trump has effectively governed as a tax-cutting, small government conservative – eventually becoming a wartime president. As George W. Bush wanted to go after Saddam, (he tried to kill my daddy!) Trump has chosen the war he wants – North Korea versus Iraq for W. Only then, fashion a rationale for bringing the nation to the carnage. This wasn’t an entirely successful approach for Bush, who famously said at the time that it would be for historians to decide if his Iraq policy was just and sound (spoiler: it wasn’t). The Hussein dynasty was removed from a (then) unified Iraq, and the remaining failed state is obviously less a threat to U.S. interests than before 2004, yet the chaos and disorder following a war usually produces this effect, for a while, and then popular resentment always seems to morph into something else more powerful and deadly. Where Al Queda was defeated in Iraq, ISIS has risen from the blackened ashes.
Donald Trump has played so fast and loose with so many hot button topics in his brief political career, none so hot as playing footsie with the Nazis. That’s strange considering that Trump is our oldest president. The son of Tom Brokaw’s ‘Greatest Generation,’ especially as a German, Trump should be extra touchy whenever the N-word is thrown around, in my humble opinion, and not so much with the ‘good people on both sides.’ From what I can see, the only group marching in the ‘Unite The Right’ protest in Charlottesville that had any claim to legitimacy were the weird ‘Promise Keepers.’ The rest were a bunch of asshole quasi-Nazis, spouting hateful, anti-Semitic nonsense.
After 20 people had been brutally put to death in 1692 (one pressed!) for the crime of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, merchant Thomas Brattle, Jr. wrote a letter to a cleric associate that was widely circulated among the citizens of a fearful and angry Salem. His thoughtful, reasonable answers to the religious and legal questions at hand were a carefully worded argument against the ghastly trials. His letter could be considered a founding document of the United States, a forceful rebuff to the judges and accusers in the ‘oyer and terminer‘ court of the time. The ultimate proof of power was that the trials ended less than a month after it’s circulation and opinion shifted virtually overnight. No one has ever been convicted of witchcraft in America since. That, of course, until the sad case of United States v. Donald Trump – as he has continuously tweeted, the Russia investigation is nothing but a ‘WITCHHUNT.’
Brattle attended Harvard College in 1676, after graduating from the Boston Latin School, where classmate Cotton Mather (son of Harvard President Increase Mather) would go on to become one of the leading prosecutors of the Salem Witch Trials. Donald Trump is such a blithering moron that his cries of ‘WITCHHUNT’ have little meaning when Twittered to his 30 million Celebrity Apprentice fans. The red hats will probably confuse the reference with Frankenstein anyway and carry torches to Congress in some midnight, Roger Stone-led ‘protest’ when he finally gets impeached.
The 1692 trials have spawned eternal clichés about witch hunts since the servant and sassy slave got devilish in the forest. Their acts and words have had reverberations throughout American history, lately verbed by our President, Donald J. Trump. He claims he’s the worst treated president ever! The Russia investigation is fake news cooked up by the Democrats! The case against him for obstruction of justice (real or not) is a WITCHHUNT! What’s lost in much of the discussion, as per usual with Don John, is what actually happened. Playwright Arthur Miller struck back in the same way Thomas Brattle struck back at the original time of the trials, only in his medium, drama. The Crucible stands as a powerful indictment of lying and manipulation, highlighted by the powerlessness, fear and humiliation associated with an aggressive and unjust prosecution. Cotton Mather, stung the most by Thomas Brattle’s even-handed indictment, never recovered his reputation and was denied the presidency of Harvard College. He is remembered today as the personification of pompous and brutal judgement.
With reported leaks of ‘back channels’ and secret negotiations with Russia in the news recently (as well as the ongoing furor over the firing of F.B.I. Director James Comey), I thumbed through Richard Reeves’ excellent bio, President Nixon: Alone in the White House to bring myself up to speed on the master secret negotiator and power broker himself.
After World War II, the transition from war and conflict to peace and stability was the main problem in which most U.S. presidents grappled. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts and also U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam from 1963-1964 during the Kennedy Administration, which viewed South Vietnam’s President Ngo Dinh Diem as an ineffective leader, tacitly supported the coup d’etat that overthrew his presidency. In reviewing the conditions that led to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Lodge said in an interview in 1979:
Well, there was a big to do in the Eisenhower administration. Vice President Nixon took part and Admiral Radford took part, about uh sending US forces into…into Vietnam. And Eisenhower let them all talk and the upshot was he was against it and we didn’t do it. It was just as simple as that.
The interviewer pressed:
Interviewer: Do you think perhaps the attack on the pagodas was calculated to impress you as you were on your way out to Saigon? In other words, do you think the attack was staged to coincide with your appointment and your imminent arrival in Saigon?
Lodge: That might have been. I’ve often thought of that but you can’t tell. You don’t know.
Interviewer: Now, just the day, about the day after your arrival, two South Vietnamese generals, Le Van Kim and Tran Van Don, made contact with two CIA representatives in Saigon, Rufus Phillips and Lucien Conein and the generals wanted to know whether the United States would support the army in a coup against Diem.
Lodge: I [had] discussed it with uh, um, with Tran Van Don.
Recognizing that this was not going to be a relaxing, nostalgic interview about the good ‘ol Kennedy years, Lodge quickly lost interest in answering any further questions. As Ken Burns and Lynn Novick revisit the Vietnam War this summer with their new PBS documentary, I recommend also the seminal Vietnam: A Television History as well.