Gamestop & r/wallstreetbets: fairness just a starting point

Note: In 2021 I’ll publish at least one blog post per week, ideally on Wednesdays. Here’s entry 4 of 52. Barely made it this time, on Saturday night!

Note: The second half of my two posts on Biden will come in February.

Note (added Sunday 31 January ’21): Motivations of the diverse r/wallstreetbets members can be found by searching the subreddit. From my readings of it, the community seems to largely share a disparagement of institutional investors, and a disdain for hedge funds shorting and destroying companies (not to mention their impact on the trade economy at large), though they sometimes admire various top dogs in the Wall Street world. To look further into the subreddit’s motivations and/or vibe, you might start by checking out the post histories of its members u/DeepFuckingValue, u/stonksflyingup, and the subreddit’s Ask Me Anything from Friday. My purpose is not to lionize these users, whose numbers are too large to permit easy generalization anyway, but to explain what’s happening and point to further texts that readers interested in the topic might consider digging into.

This past week, many among the now seven million-plus members of the subreddit r/wallstreetbets pushed a hedge fund, Wall Street financier Gabe Plotkin’s Melvin Capital, to close out its short position in the video game retailer Gamestop. With a few billion dollars, Melvin had bet against the beloved yet beleaguered Texas-based store. The subredditors persuaded each other to buy Gamestop stock en masse, boosting the price dramatically and causing Melvin to hemorrhage financial value. Plotkin’s peers on Wall Street then infused Melvin Capital with massive funds to keep it afloat, but the fund still had to flee the Gamestop battle. By then, Melvin had reportedly lost a stunning third of its assets, at the hands of average (apparently mostly U.S.-based) Internet users.

Following the same rules as the hedge funds, the subredditors won this round of the capitalism board game, thanks to their large numbers. Similar situations happen with unions. Corporations band together in cartels, increasing their number and power, to control markets; paid-workers unite in trade unions to (try to) control markets as well. Each side calls the other criminal cheaters, with the illegalities of the rich far outweighing those of the middle class and poor struggling to survive. Governments attempt to intervene as their donors and blackmailers wish, aiming to keep up the ongoing exchange of goods/services without which civilization would have to change paradigm.

Some of the subredditors are expressing surprise that various Wall Streeters aren’t taking their side. r/wallstreetbets has been stanning Dr Michael Burry of Scion Asset Management for a year-plus, presumably a partial result of the investor’s name recognition from the 2015 hit movie The Big Short. They are now realizing he’s dissing them publicly. That was on Tuesday, when in a tweet he soon deleted, Burry tagged the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement arm and wrote of the market battle: “what is going on now – there should be legal and regulatory repercussions. This is unnatural, insane, and dangerous.” Burry owned 1.7 million GameStop shares last September; assuming he hadn’t changed his position, the subredditors, without aiming to benefit him, just gave him a bonanza of nearly a quarter billion dollars, almost 1400% in four months, on paper anyway, and he still called for legal repercussions against them.

It looks quite like Burry can’t abide rubbing elbows with the several million ordinary people on the subreddit, can’t let his class status slip, despite them praising him for months and months and possibly handing him a gigantic windfall. No, Burry wants the rabble hordes arbitrarily blocked from doing what hedge funds like Melvin Capital or his do.

More big names than Burry are troubled that the public beat a hedge fund at the capitalism competition. Others of the ruling class are calling for an investigation into r/wallstreetbets, treating everyday folks playing capitalism like the game it is as a potential crime. Financial apps such as Interactive Brokers abruptly blocked the users’ ability to buy Gamestop shares (and other stocks also involved) and, it appears, Robinhood Markets sold away shares of users who’d bought Gamestop on margin, something reportedly permitted by their one-sided terms of service but in opposition to userbase trust. Like The Daily Show (corporate television) smearing Occupy Wall Street protesters in 2011, the fourth branch has rushed to describe the redditors condescendingly (the audience for the news media are the politicos and intelligenstia of the status quo, not the public). The Biden administration, which as rent deadlines approach has yet to deliver the promised $2000 stimulus cheques, is “monitoring the situation.” But forces as disparate as Republican senator Ted Cruz and Democratic House member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been lining up behind the subredditors.

The capitalists’ own propaganda paints them as shrewd alpha males who deserve their yachts and affluenza legal defenses as reward for their (or their parents’) trading skill, yet the moment unions or the public, following the rules, or at least the logic, of the money game, manage to exploit a weakness in the ruling class’s position on the game board, the powerful overturn that board and bring out force. Consider the disproportionate targeting that happens in meatspace. Fancy restaurants place tents and tables on nearby public grass by a sidewalk without significant hassle from the authorities, perhaps mere food safety regulation assessments; homeless people pitching a tent in the same spots will face violent sweeps from security forces. Well-to-do civic associations can shut down streets for parades, stopping vehicles, but Black Lives Matter protesters objecting to street executions by cops will be arrested or worse for doing the same thing, while reactionary legislators in multiple states strive to legalize running over traffic-blocking protestors. Thus, it’s not about who has the best knack for surviving and thriving in a trade civilization, because once the public discovers an effective tactic, the ruling class knocks them back down and then sets the board in position again, acting like everything’s back to normal business hours.

The illogic continues to the economic system as a whole. The dangerous effort of creating humanity in the first place by giving birth does not pay, but building tasers or using them to kill people, including those diagnosed with mental health problems, does pay. Less dramatic examples can be found too. Substitute teachers are paid to bone up on their subjects during certain hours of the day (planning periods) but not during other hours (evenings), and the students aren’t paid to learn. Therapists get paid to help clients overcome addictions, but aren’t paid to work to overcome their own addictions. An economic system is just a board game, often with moneytokens (or other tokens such as indulgences to buy from priests to get into heaven). If the board game doesn’t make sense, there is every reason to start playing a different one.

Fairness, but to what end?

To date, much of the conversation around r/wallstreetbets has focused on the lack of fairness in the financial system. Humans have an innate desire for fair treatment, as observed in experiments on primates, and more simply, as observed in children. Debates over whether $10/hour, $15/hour, $20/hour, or some other rate constitutes fair pay are perennial (why not an arbitrary amount like $50,000.000033785/hour?). For instance, James Joyce’s protagonist Mr Duffy tired of such predictable and myopic talk in the author’s short story “A Painful Case” published more than a century ago in 1914. People have taken for granted that a wage system is it, and got hung up on comparing who gets paid how much, for a very long time. But the understandable call for fairness is simply a starting point. Questioning and ultimately replacing the wage/trade system itself is more important.

Just because a game is fair, doesn’t mean it’s good. Bad games, neutral games, or good games can all be either fair or unfair according to whether the rules are followed, or not, by whichever sides. Like fossil fuel companies, Billionaire A and Billionaire B can compete in the capitalism game to see who can drive humanity extinct most profitably. Their capitalism competition can be played fairly, or unfairly, but either way, we all end up dead. In the hundreds of thousands of years of humanity (not just 2500 years back to ancient Greeks), we have organized the production and distribution of goods/services into multiple different economic systems across multiple different civilizations, with a variety of results. Those experiments wait outside the corporate media spotlight, so fixed as the news spotlight is on mesmerizing everyone with the vastly overemphasized war criminal politicians or those seeking to replace them with saleable identity labels. Further, the emphasis on left brain charts describing the production, circulation, and distribution of goods, from Royal Society fellows like Karl Marx (also a racist), merely scratch the surface of what’s going on with humanity. Underneath, we want not to hoard abstract money-tokens; we want to feel good, get to know each other and ourselves, explore, share, grow, and so on. It is possible to organize production and distribution in ways that respect this.

More detail would take too long for a blog post, so here are some suggested readings for people interested in this topic to pursue. As the trade system continues its slow implosion, and the oncoming effects of global warming increasingly throw lives into disarray, it’s a good time to explore alternatives. It’s not unrealistic; every day, people quit their paid-jobs to go shut down pipelines or reunite with nature or try any other number of outside-the-box ideas. Thus to conclude, the short list of texts involving economics (and the personal relationships and emotions below the surface level of existence described by economics) that readers might find helpful.

  • Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels The Dispossessed (1974) and Always Coming Home (1985)
  • Heather Marsh’s Binding Chaos books
  • To know what came before, try Robert L. Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers (1953, seventh edition 1999) and reading canonical economics texts firsthand. Those canonical economics texts can be old and written with archaic language and examples, so check sites such as OpenCulture.com to find secondary sources to help with understanding
  • Marcus Brancaglione’s Universal Basic Income (2016), translated into English by Marcio Rolim and Fabiana Cecin
  • Crimethinc.com, especially To Change Everything
  • Follow @YourAnonCentral for general world news and analysis

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Gamestop & r/wallstreetbets: fairness just a starting point by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/01/29/gamestop-wallstreetbets-fairness-starting-point/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Meet new president Joe Biden, Part 1 of 2

Note: In 2021 I’ll publish at least one blog post per week, ideally on Wednesdays. This week, the ideal day is today! Here’s entry 3 of 52.

Note: Since this two-part post is lengthy, have a Table of Contents. If you want to jump straight to the videos of Biden, you want Part 2, which will be published the last week of January 2021.

Part 1

  • Trump leaves the White House
  • Inauguration of Joe Biden
  • Senator Biden encouraged the Patriot Act
  • Senator Biden sponsored the notorious pro-prison ’94 crime bill
  • Empire on parade and impunity
  • Carefully planted distraction stories (Pizzagate and QAnon)

Part 2

Coming next week (toward the end of January 2021)

Environmentalist Greta Thunberg returning Donald Trump’s mockery of her as he leaves office, the target of multiple investigations, some led by criminal prosecutors, others by independent activists, and facing a possible second impeachment

On Wednesday, the Trump administration vacated the White House. Donald Trump’s wide-ranging connections with organized crime families, the Casablancas and Epstein rape networks, and other wrongdoers (the KGB, cocaine rings, and beyond) are all amply documented with 100+ sources from court documents and investigative journalism reports here at Spooky Connections, an open-source, independent research project I pointed readers to in my post last week. The demagogue’s four years atop the executive branch saw many liberals startled at how others around them — sometimes including family and friends — turned eagerly to both reactionary beliefs and a cult of Trump as some sort of extraordinary savior. This after whistleblower Reality Winner sacrificed her freedom to alert the public to Russia’s hacking efforts against U.S. voting infrastructure just days before the 2016 election. While the regime of the corrupt Russian oligarch Vladimir Putin tortured anarchists, encouraged domestic femicide, and pushed propaganda into the U.S., Trump, with his decades of ties to the Russian mob, left the public wondering who really runs the United States.

View of National Guard from Biden’s motorcade for the militarized inauguration. (Source.)

Now that Joe Biden, a longtime Democrat, has assumed the presidency, the cognitive dissonance his supporters once decried Republicans for engaging in is easily seen on social platforms as members of the media, the intelligentsia, the literati, and academics give Biden a pass for his well documented misdeeds. “He’s a good man,” I see on Facebook, while on Twitter, comfortable careerists fave, retweet, and otherwise celebrate the new administration. Knowing better after #MeToo, they ignore not just Biden’s history as a senator — we’ll quickly review two stand-out troubles from those days: his history with the Patriot Act and mass incarceration — but also they ignore his shocking creeping on children, which Part 2 of this post will show via primary source footage from sources such as C-SPAN.

As a senator, the new president was very encouraging of the Patriot Act when assisting its passage a month after 9/11. The bill expanded government surveillance — for instance, empowered by the Patriot Act, the FBI, without needing a warrant, and after getting a mere rubber stamp from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, could now force medical providers, libraries, bookstores, universities, ISPs, and others to hand over records on their clients or customers. The bill also placed every non-US person under threat of indefinite detention via secret evidence (secret law is tyranny). During the Senate session when the Patriot Act passed, Biden extolled the bill, and said “Some may say it doesn’t go far enough.” He then proceeded to explain how he would prefer the Patriot Act strengthened.

As for mass incarceration, Biden as a senator sponsored The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, also known simply as the 1994 crime bill. Calling for the law’s reversal, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU wrote in 2019 that “this legislation offered money to states that adopted harsher sentencing laws […] While those grants expired in 2001, similar incentives persist today […] Washington [DC] spends billions annually to support state and local justice systems — with many of those dollars allocated under outdated metrics designed to encourage arrest and incarceration.” Designed to encourage arrest and incarceration. The more prisoners, the more money (prisons are a major part of the US trade economy), leaving prison investors no incentive to remedy the underlying structures facilitating narcotics abuse in the first place. In the mid-nineties, tough-on-crime was a popular stance for politicians. Like today, they presented themselves as heroes saving fearful donors from the scary world outside their gated communities. Such images have of course been upturned repeatedly. Journalist Gary Webb, writing his award-winning Dark Alliance series for the San Jose Mercury News, revealed that money fueling the US-backed covert war against Nicaragua came from profits off Los Angeles’ 1980s crack cocaine epidemic. For a long time, drug running has funded off the books govcorp activitiy, or as KRS-One puts it, “You claim I’m selling crack / But you be doing that.” (Webb was ostracized by his media peers for being outspokenly correct, and unable to get work, he committed suicide.) One journalist writing at Harper’s in 2016 found out, when he interviewed top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, how bluntly the powers that be think about and plan such crimes as drug trafficking:

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” I must have looked shocked. Ehrlichman just shrugged. Then he looked at his watch, handed me a signed copy of his steamy spy novel, The Company, and led me to the door.

Ehrlichman’s forthrightness just a few years ago is, I think, an example of what Heather Marsh calls the empire on parade, or the empire’s coming-out in the media. A bit more than a half a century ago, in the era of black and white TV news, such an outright admission of lying and vilification to arrest political opponents, to a random reporter, might have blown up as an astonishing revelation leading perhaps to urgent discussions from the streets all the way up to Congress (see the Church committee in the seventies). Now such admissions/boastings are just a business model, and sociopathy; the authorities do not particularly take pains to hide their cruelties. Indeed, as Trump illustrated, they brag about their vileness openly to applauding audiences. Who could forget Trump bragging on the 2016 campaign trail “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” or outright proposing the continuation of war crimes, the slaughtering of innocents: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families.”

The empire is able to come out on proud parade like this because too many, especially among the influential commentariat, are repeatedly showing that they will tolerate such behavior, often based on partisan selectivity: Those in the correct political party are allowed to prey on others; I won’t say anything. If presidents and others in power are granted impunity for wrongdoing, in other words, if there are no consequences, if everyone just goes along with it, then they will keep it up. I don’t only mean the current question, whether the Biden administration will pull an Obama (“Look forward not back“) and let Trump escape accountability, as Obama helped the Bush II administration escape accountability. I mean Biden himself, his past and presumably, his ongoing behavior.

Part 2 (coming next week) will review primary source footage of Biden, most of it collected together by conservative commentator Richard Armande Mills in 2017 and posted in a 31-tweet thread, where the now-president fondles kids, strokes their faces, smells their hair, and generally behaves as a predator would. I will find bibliographic data for each of the videos, to make the need to investigate Biden even more undeniable. Until then, I will close out this Part 1 by discussing the distraction stories that are attempts to cloak the wrongdoers from justice by making those who talk about the authorities’ jaw-dropping predation seem like “kooky conspiracy theorists” even when their evidence is straight from C-SPAN. Thankfully, the dam is bursting and, as with Jeffrey Epstein becoming a household name recently, more and more are coming to realize what is happening and the calculated silence of careerists is becoming increasingly a liability when they face the public.

Carefully planted distraction stories

In 2014, I spearheaded a campaign to raise money for restitution payments court-ordered for the PayPal 14, young federal defendants singled out because they, like thousands of others, had launched denial of service attacks against payment services (including PayPal) after those international companies blocked donations to Wikileaks following their publication of about a quarter million U.S. State Department cables.

For months and months, activists used the hashtag #PayPal14 to inspire donations and discuss the subject. But then, the very day of the PayPal 14’s sentencing — I reported from the court date in October 2014, the only journalist in attendance — PayPal launched a #PayPal15 [sic] marketing campaign, a ham-fisted effort to deflect attention from the company’s eagerness to have these idealistic young adults prosecuted, which was making their brand look out of touch and vengeful. I bring this example up to show that such duels against activists from the powers that be aren’t “conspiracy theories” or the rantings of unhinged people. It’s pretty common, and it was surreal, like a Philip K. Dick story, seeing, on my phone outside the courthouse, the corporate attempt to drown out news from my allies and me.

In 2015, Heather Marsh initiated #OpDeathEaters, building on earlier work such as #opGabon; combining the two means this campaign for inquiries/tribunals into pedosadism among the powerful has been ongoing on for about a decade. Multiple academics have amplified or written about #opDeathEaters, bringing credibility to the campaign and its named source. (I wrote about it here myself last year when I was given screener files for the Investigation Discovery special about Jeffery Epstein.) #opDeathEaters relies on trustworthy material including primary source footage, court documents, and investigative journalism. In contrast, the wacky stories of Pizzagate and QAnon — more like bricolage than stories, really — do not have an accessible originator using a real name, nor academic support, nor quality evidence. But like the #PayPal15 campaign, the goofy (to outsiders) Pizzagate and QAnon noise are attempts to protect the wrongdoers by taking attention away from the real story and placing it on unimportant garbage.

Next week, the video clips of Biden, many of which can already be found here or here if you’re curious.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Meet new president Joe Biden, Part 1 of 2 by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL:
https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/01/23/meet-new-president-biden-1-of-2/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Check out SpookyConnections.com

Note: In 2021 I’m going to publish at least one blog post per week, ideally on Wednesdays. Today is a day late, but hey. This is entry 2 of 52.

“Name names! Name names!” That’s what an older gentleman, an autodidact and FDR-style liberal, told me from across the table at a Fort Worth coffeeshop a few years ago, before Jeffrey Epstein became known to average households. I’d been talking about vague criminal forces and their slippery control over our world. He wanted specificity, but it can be hard to remember who did what, each precise molecule of data, when drinking daily from the firehoses of books and social media. For me at least, if I’m not in the process of studying something or preparing a presentation, all that information becomes a blur, a mood or zeitgeist rather than the articulated facts of a rap sheet. Thankfully for both the forgetful and everyone else, the new website SpookyConnections.com delivers dossiers of top wrongdoers the planet over, and the site is steadily adding more and more.

This is a screenshot of the front page of SpookyConnections.com. It shows the faces of eight millionaires or billionaires, along with their names, nationalities, income level, and occupations.
Screenshot of SpookyConnections front page

Their About us page says Spooky Connections is a research project and “an independent international open source investigation to probe transnational organized crime. We operate using open source information from established news outlets and primary sourced documents to graph, map, and document a clear understanding of organised criminal networks and activities.” SpookyConnections.com is also currently linked in the bios of three major old school Anonymous twitter accounts: @YourAnonCentral, @OpDeathEaters, and @OpCanary.

The URL derives from the slang term spook meaning a spy or other espionage agent. While a president enters and leaves office in the space of a few short years — maybe a single term or less — the unelected often spend decades, no matter which party is in power, at agencies such as Central Intelligence, implementing war crimes and then implementing their celebration via propaganda, pulse-pounding TV shows and movies, or other seductive coercion manipulating the emotional responses of populations. This unfortunate truth about the architects of our (un)societies is well documented in books such as Russ Baker’s Family of Secrets, James W. Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, and Top Secret America by Dana Priest and William Arkin. See also Heather Marsh’s blog post “The intelligence mafia.” Reading these texts remedies an archaic “how a bill becomes a law” view of our governance.

In the boxing ring’s other corner from the spies, the Spooky Connections website mainly consists of two features or areas. First, the profiles. The front page is illustrated with the faces of eleven (at the time of this writing) repulsive VIPs, much like a deck of cards spread out for inspection. Clicking one of them takes you to a page dedicated to exposing that single individual, using reputable sources including investigative journalism reports and court documents.

Let’s take Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev as an example for what the Spooky Connections drill-down on one person looks like.

The image is a screenshot of the beginnings of the Dmitry Rybolovlev dossier. Subheadings are Introduction, Murder Allegations, The Maison de L'Amitie - Donald Trump deal. That information is on the right. On the left is Ryboloviev's face, an expandable table of contents, and a list of his connections to others, including family.
Screenshot of the beginnings of the Dmitry Rybolovlev dossier

The image above is Spooky Connection’s profile of Russian billionaire and art investor Dmitry Ryboloviev. Below the picture of his displeased face, users can expand the table of contents or a list of his connections to others, family among them. The write-up is straightforward and readable, in the familiar format of an encyclopedia entry. Yet this one is custom-made to focus not on PR fluff but on credible accusations and criminal connections. The text includes subheads for easy reading: Introduction; Murder Allegations; The Maison de L’Amitie – Donald Trump Deal; The My Anna yacht and parties with young girls; Holdings; FC Monaco; Monaco-gate; Citations. This last, Citations, is particularly important so that readers can find the sources for the dossier. The write-ups beneath each subhead reveal plenty of unsavory information on the man. For instance:

Dmitry Rybolovlev remains close to the Kremlin, as evidenced by his friendship with Yuri Troutnev, one of the right arms of Vladimir Putin. [18] Donald Trump Jr., invited in September 2008 to a real estate conference in New York, had explained that “the Russians” now constituted “a rather disproportionate part” of the assets of the Trump family empire. [19]

And also:

during divorce proceedings it was revealed he took a vacation on his yacht off Croatia with “young girls whose passports said they were born in 1988 and 1989 but they looked much younger in photographs that were taken on this occasion,” according to court papers. They partied on his yacht “My Anna,” named after his daughter. [20] According to court proceedings Dmitry Rybolovlev admitted to sleeping with his butler, his assistant, and students which he happily shared with other oligarchs. He said “he appreciated only teenage girls, younger than his own daughter”. 

Learning that this is who your rulers are is much like when some children have to confront the grim facts that their caregivers are actually incapable of nurturing them, or do not love them, or are dangerous to them. Usually in such a horrible situation, those kids’ selfhood/personhood diminishes; rather than acknowledge their caregivers, whom they can’t escape and who rule their lives like gods, are ongoing active hazards, it feels safer to blame themselves as not good enough, and withdraw, too afraid to express themselves fully, take big risks, or put themselves out there, choices that might draw attention in a hostile universe. In adulthood, the child then stays on the recliner, tuning in only to the familiar and predictable pabulum of corporate TV programming or ineffective by-the-book solutions, blaming themselves instead of the system and not willing to look their leaders in the eye to pursue answers based on their true natures. Expecting politico predators to arrest themselves isn’t going to work; to get different results, we have to try strategies that are different, such as strengthening ourselves and launching independent, international, victim-led inquiries/tribunals into the trafficking industry, an option I discuss here.

Spooky Connections’ other big feature is the graph. By clicking the button on the side (which consists of three hexagons resembling biological cells clumped together), users can easily access the graph at https://www.spookyconnections.com/graph.

A graph connecting various very important predators.
Screenshot of graph view at Spooky Connections

The graph, similar to images from crime shows where police detectives combine clues on the wall to track down a suspect, can tell you quite a bit about these individuals’ relationships. For instance, the way I clicked the tool, shown above, suggests Donald Trump does not access the United States Mafia through Allen Weisselberg (CFO of The Trump Organization), but could through lawyer Roy Cohn. Because Spooky Connections is adding more VIPredators regularly, the tool should become more powerful in time. I’m not sure what the “Play” button is supposed to do; perhaps I am using it incorrectly. Clicking “Graph Commons” at the bottom left takes the user to a Spooky Connections page on graphcommons.com, where the “Play” button supplies various visualization features that I need to experiment with more to understand. In a few places, typos or notices such as “Work in Progress” alert the reader to the unfinished nature of the Spooky Connections website. The site also has a “Support Us” button leading to a donate page on donorbox.

One of Spooky Connections’ huge advantages is its global nature. Especially as international news bureaus have shut down due to lack of funds, corporate newspapers teach audiences that they are to be concerned with the news of their own country, not the news of other countries. (This is because countries are primarily segregated economic markets.) But the VIPredators travel all around the world, do business all around the world, commit crime all around the world. Closing your eyes to what they’re doing in the other 190-odd countries is obviously going to present an incomplete picture. Yet Spooky Connections offers a full view, one that will eventually become the status quo as more and more are accustomed to chatting with and befriending strangers abroad thanks to social media, email lists, etc.

Why clique up with and empower your opponents — I’m thinking of authors wanting to “picked” by corporate publishers, or citizenries silently accepting the crimes of the “lesser evil” in exchange for bread and circuses; in short, remaining infantilized rather than achieving greater and greater autonomy — when a handful of independent researchers can accomplish this and point the way forward?

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Check out SpookyConnections.com by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL:
https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/01/14/check-out-spookyconnections/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

Running as exploration and adventure

Note: In 2021 I’m going to publish at least one blog post per week, on Wednesdays. Last year I didn’t quite make it, but this year I will. This is entry 1 of 52.

Note: The off topic photos of salad bowls are here to update readers familiar with the post where I introduced that regular meal of mine. Here’s how the dish is getting made these days. I introduced this salad for my first post of 2020, so I think it’s fitting to bring the bowl back for the beginning of 2021. The images show the salad bowl that was made adjacent to mine a few days ago by someone who really knows what she’s doing; hers was much more visually appealing; my meal, with ingredients strewn together haphazardly, simply disappeared into my happy stomach unphotographed.

A chalkboard at a gym reads: Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.
Great message for an indoor gym; but, time to step outside

I used to go to the gym regularly and run on the treadmill with a portable MP3 player keeping me company. COVID-19 nixed the gym habit, and rain nixed my little music device. Now I’ve learned to pound pavement hearing the various songs of the outdoors, something I’d wanted to try for a long timebut did not have the strength of self to dare do.

Jogging without headphones places me much more in touch with the environment. Every little sound that comes my way reminds me I’m an animal taking part in a very physical world. It’s like camping, but each and every day. Usually, at least in the WEIRD world (Western Educated Individualistic Rich Democratic), the car and the cubicle lock adults into a zombie state; they forget, for instance, that their vehicle is thousands of pounds of metal hurling down the highway thanks to explosions, and treat the ride as a no-thought-required luxury cruise where they can eat and scroll their phone. Humans: from hunters persistently chasing prey to hunching over glowing screens with backaches and, above all else, predictable, safe, risk-free routines that keep them infantilized. It’s easy to understand how the treadmill fits in here: the runner watches another titillating screen, wears isolating headphones, and times the run on the machine’s complicated computer. Its flashing lights replace the jog in nature with something as scientifically managed, rigorous, and efficient as an assembly line. You don’t even go from a Point A to a Point B.

A well-known image which shows an amusing take on human evolutio. At the left, a monkey walking with four limbs on the floor. By the time evolution reaches the midpoint, it's a man standing with a spear and good posture. By the time evolution reaches the far right of the image, the man is hunched over again like the monkey,  two limbs on the floor and two limbs on a computer keyboard.
Makes me think of the Alexander Technique

Since I’ve been running outdoors with no headphones for a month or so, what other differences have I noticed? It’s amazing how much you learn about your surroundings when daily you run around them, any which way, not necessarily sticking to a planned course. Think of all the things that might be going on in your town that you don’t know about. Just today I saw that Seattle, whichever government department it was, placed a sign threatening a shockingly steep $1,500 penalty for anyone dumping waste in a cul-de-sac near me. For years I’ve seen sofas, scrap metal, chairs, and other junk dumped there, and now the story continues with escalating stakes and conflict between the cost-saving polluters and the neatnik authorities. What will happen next? It’s a miniature story right outside my doorstep.

Salad bowl as described in caption.
Incomplete salad bowl, so far with spinach, kale, red cabbage, and cucumber

At that cul-de-sac, there’s a somewhat rickety and certainly steep staircase climbing a hill; by the top, a wood fort stands, like one that might stand in a backyard for kids to play in. Whenever I run past it, I wonder what its function is, who built it, what its story is. Once you’re on the other side of the hill, it’s possible to walk a little bit and then take a trail circling around to, from another direction, the base of the staircase. Bigger infrastructure nearby inspires wonder too. I live by the “Low Bridge,” also known as the Spokane bridge, where the Duwamish River empties into Elliott Bay. (So come at me, bro!) When I was in zombie mode in my car, heavy metal blasting, I’d just assume the Spokane bridge was a drawbridge, even though I’d never seen it raise up to let ships through. It has a sidewalk for pedestrians, so nowadays I run across, a friend of the bridge, so to speak, getting to know it a little bit more each time. One day, before I could progress far across the bridge, a guard rail along its sidewalk came down and stopped me in my tracks. Next to me, vehicles were also stopped by a separate guard rail. Then the bridge very slowly swung in horizontal arcs to let the boat through. Finally it arced back together into one piece. Who controls all this? Does the bridge have a mind of its own? There’s a creepy tower by it that I can see from my apartmentperhaps the bridge boss is therein?

The West Seattle High Rise, the Low Bridge aka the Spokane bridge, and the mysterious guard tower
Scary tower + 2 bridges

My friends and I joke about this tower, because it looks straight out of some paranoiac novel. A different day, I was running across the bridge and happened to see a man come out of the top of the tower, the little room up there, onto the tower’s balcony area to gaze around the cityscape. I don’t know if he was satisfied or dissatisfied with what he saw, but he quickly vanished back into his lair. What’s his story? He some kind of wizard? What’s the tale of this tower? None of that does the driver typically see or think about, too busy zooming past while stressing over traffic. The treadmill gerbil in the gym definitely doesn’t take in all these unusual experiences either. Think of the multitudes of buildings you drive past routinely, the architectures and plants unobserved, the mysteries of who owns them and what they are doing with that ownership unbeknownst to you. Yet running outside, you feel part of the same highly active, physical world as the buildings (as opposed to a cerebral or deadened world), and might be inspired to research a particular structure you encountered next time you come to a computer.

There are plenty of other fascinating surroundings I’ve checked out since switching to jogging outdoors. To get certain places, it behooves me to run alongside train tracks. The gravel beneath my shoes there is so uneven that in spots, I have to really pay attention, which makes the exercise almost like a hike. These days I know that the trains near my neighborhood are usually the BNSF company’s; when did I ever notice and think about things like that before? I didn’t, just a drone on the unchanging treadmill. I’m grateful for my current newfound ability to run, listening, through grassy parks, down dirt paths following the Duwamish River, as close to the Seattle shipping terminals as their defenses will allow (Hi Homeland Security!), on sidewalk trails to their ends and then continuing alongside long streets leading into downtown, scrutinizing as I pass by the shops and other buildings I never knew were there. It’s like being an adventurous kid, exploring on a bicycle.

Salad bowl as the caption states.
Added avocado, sesame seeds, and edamame.

Why didn’t I do this before? Seattle is a gorgeous city with plenty of walkable (and runnable) paths, whereas North Texas, where I’m from, consists of unappealing corporate parks, car dealerships, tract houses, and strip malls. But it’s much more than that. A person has to have a sufficient measure of strength to hurl themselves, panting hard, through the cold pouring rain and dark, down paths that aren’t yet paths. Where no one has planned for someone to run, where the person is creating the trail beneath their sneakers as they go, creating the idea. It requires engagement and participation with the world with all its detailswatch your step on the uneven gravel! look that building up when you get home!instead of withdrawing, giving up, and hiding in bed with unhealthy but comfortable habits, often grandiosely reassuring oneself falsely that one is achieving greatly.

I’d better get to bed. Getting up before dawn to run somewhere that’s just miles from my door, and I’ve never even been there before!

Complete with dressing and quinoa cooked in turmeric, ginger, and coconut milk

p.s. If you like the thoughts in this post, you might enjoy the videos of the vlogger shiey, aka illegal freedom. The artistic videos, a type of travel journal, show off his athletic, even daredevil, exploits exploring urban jungles, particularly restricted areas.

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This blog post, Running as exploration and adventure, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/01/06/exercise-exploration-adventure/. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.