PNW heat dome, climate change media, and optimistic fiction, plus Myanmar and Brazil news blasts

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, typically on weekends. This entry is number 27 of 52. I took the two Rosario Beach photographs on 3 July 2021.

Note: I added a note to my post two weeks ago that mentioned the media noise around “critical race theory.” In short, the note provides this link to readers: https://pastebin.com/Ex3AmsEz. It’s a collection of a hundred or so thought-provoking questions on the topic of race, for instance: “How many races do you think there are? What are they?For my post three weeks ago regarding compounding pharmacies, I added a quick note making my argument in the last paragraph more explicit.

Idyllic color photo shows beach and ocean washing in below a clear blue sky. In the distance are hills, trees, etc.
Rosario Beach predicted to disappear underwater within nine years

The recent Pacific Northwest heat dome broke regional records for hottest recorded temperatures ever — Seattle hit 108° F / 42.2° C; Washington state capital Olympia 110° F / 42.2° C; Portland Oregon 116° F / 46.6 °C; Chelan county in eastern Washington 119° F / 48.3° C; Lytton in southern British Columbia 121.3° F / 49.6° C before getting largely destroyed by wildfire — reminding Cascadia residents, who typically don’t have home air conditioning, that climate change has their area, too, in its crosshairs. Hundreds of people died, and along Canada’s coast, more than a billion marine animals were cooked to death due to the mass casualty event (as Multnomah county declared it). Depending on which experts you trust, the catastrophic heat wave was either worsened by, or outright couldn’t have happened without, human-caused global warming. Humans as in me, you, and the world’s most powerful predators, their names named and biographies analyzed by Spooky Connections in an effort to end impunity.

More disaster is on the way. The nonprofit news organization Climate Central, which as of summer 2019 listed rather mainstream funding — Goldman Sachs Charitable, several universities, the National Science Foundation, and so on — runs a Surging Seas project online. That undertaking includes an interactive map where you can pick a decade (2030, 2040, 2050, and so on), configure various other settings, and view sea level rise projections for any place you pick. The sea level rises will happen for chiefly two reasons: first, soaring temperatures heat water up, enlarging it, and second, ice that’s land-based (i.e., not currently part of the ocean), will melt, thus entering the ocean for the first time and swelling it. Given moderate scenarios, the neighborhood where I currently live, part of the West Seattle peninsula, is expected to be underwater within just 29 years.

Map of West Seattle (left), with red showing sea level rise, for 2050, given settings for medium luck, medium effort against pollution, etc.
85-second video showing predicted Vancouver BC sea level rise a hundred-plus years from now given different temperature endpoints

Information about global warming dangers streams in constantly from all sectors of life. The Pentagon has long considered climate change a threat to its abilities to threaten others. The Union of Concerned Scientists, in June 2018, produced a short report on the real estate implications of global warming-driven sea level rise in the contiguous United States; their analysis places hundreds of thousands of residential and commercial properties at risk of inundation across the next 30 years. The Seattle-based nonprofit news organization Grist offers regular reporting about climate change, including a Solutions Lab with articles amplifying positive ideas and efforts. Just the other day I watched someone draw #GreenNewDeal on the chalkboard of a pizza joint.

Don’t hate the media, become the media.” — Jello Biafra

Like the temperature, the propaganda war (“the debate”) looks set to intensify. This past week, the New York Times published an article about Fox Weather, Rupert Murdoch’s 24/7 channel to debut later this year as a competitor to The Weather Channel. Fox Weather will be both cable television and digitally offered, “part of a digital push by the Murdoch family,” as the NYT piece puts it. Fox Weather will be “overseen by Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and Sharri Berg, a longtime Fox executive who helped launch Fox News at its inception in 1996.” As my personal experience with television types showed me, and as the excellent 1976 dark comedy film Network shows viewers, or heck, as even Alfred Bester’s schlocky 1950s novel The Rat Race shows readers, the employees in that industry are amoral careerists, interested in ratings and dollars, not prosocial behavior and truth.

Screenshot of a Facebook post. Bryant Pitcher wrote: "So, so ready for all these Occupy Wall Street people to be turned to mulch!" Others replied with predictable reactionary sentiments, such as "get a job" and "Time to squirt some dawn on the street and start those firehoses"
Facebook post by Bryant Pitcher, in 2011 a TV producer for the North Texas affiliate of CBS News. Wow, corporate newsfolk really do drink the wage-cage kool-aid, don’t they!

Back to the New York Times article:

“All the networks are ramping up for this,” said Jay Sures, a co-president of United Talent Agency who oversees its TV division. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that climate change and the environment will be the story of the next decade.”

It’s well-documented that FOX News has been teaching climate change denialism, and converting conservatives from their initial pro-GreenNewDeal positions to their current anti-GreenNewDeal positions, but I think there’s something more to the picture. A pharmacologically sedated population entrained by glowing screens, their minds filled with red political messiahs versus blue political messiahs, is easy to divide and rule. If that sounds kooky, consider that a few years time was all it took to turn red Romneycare into blue Obamacare, and Joe “I’m a proud capitalist” Biden’s infrastructure plan might end up merely a GOP plan, despite Dems controlling both Congressional houses and the White House. In other words, the duopoly is one party if you have enough functioning memory to not be fooled by the passage of a few years and the costume changes from red to blue or back again. Besides that point — which is a bit remedial and applies more to Boomer television-watchers; younger generations in the United States seem more politically astute, though not always — when global warming becomes undeniable, and displacing or eliminating populations becomes an even more overtly acknowledged strategy, FOX Weather will be there to explain why it’s necessary and good, like we saw in the pandemic context when in March 2020, Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick on FOX News bluntly said that grandparents should be sacrificed to coronavirus in order to protect trade.

Indie media is far superior to either the FOX insanity or the blue weaksauce of polite sites such as CBS News affiliates or, despite its useful sea level rise interactive map, Climate Central. Or, going further than weaksauce, consider Carl Bernstein’s reporting for Rolling Stone in 1977, showing the US media, with its globally powerful megaphone, working hand-in-glove with the Central Intelligence Agency; that’s something that’s no longer anything an investigator like Bernstein has to labor to uncover, since CIA agents openly run for federal office as Democrats nowadays (part one, part two), and despite reading my WhoWhatWhy article about him, people I know are still really into former CIA chief John Brennan, Obama’s assassination and torture czar, like an idol.

Compared with the above folks, DIY individuals or small squads, perhaps with barely used paypal buttons (ahem), constantly put out better material — tracking corporate destruction of the environment, including climate change, @OpCanary on Twitter supplies and amplifies the best knowledge nowadays — though investigative budgets would be really nice to have: lawsuits over stalled open records requests, travel funds to interview people, etc., are all expensive. Rather than fund journos like me to take a train somewhere and ask private spies trick questions (which of course you can do if you want!), it’d be far more reasonable to overhaul the decentralized data movement so everyone can participate.

How to remove the pacifier and address problems optimistically

The idyllic color photo shows mostly ocean water below cloudless blue sky, but there are several rocks jutting up from the water. In the distance are hills. Part of the water is sparkling from sun; it looks magical. There are also a few standing kayakers paddling their way through the water.
From the sun-sparkly Rosario Beach area; I think it’s a tide pool

A few months ago, someone asked me several times how I manage to read/skim so much unpleasant news daily and think about it daily. It’s a legitimate question that deserves a solid answer — it’s definitely true that in some ways, so much unhappy information can make a person feel down in the dumps and disempowered. I’ve yet to produce a concise reply to the question, so I’ve been working on an analogy to explain it, based on (an oversimplification of) the social roles analyzed in this book released in 2020. It’s an off-the-top-of-my-head cheesy fiction story. Here goes, more in summary format than scene.

Imagine a walled town, the grassy outskirts of which are filled with dangerous robotic monsters. (I think I just mixed up fantasy and science fiction tropes, like Ursula K. Le Guin’s fun 1966 novel Rocannon’s World or the beloved early Might and Magic computer games from the eighties, creating what’s sometimes called science fantasy.) In the comfy but anhedonic town are forgettable citizens. These reflectors, reflecting the ideal of the town itself, constantly tell each other slogans such as you shouldn’t care too much, and don’t think too hard, and if it’s not paying your bills, don’t worry about it. The temperature is rising, due to the robotic monsters, but the townspeople agree not to talk about it. They all remember what happened to Neftali, after all. Neftali wouldn’t shut up about the rising heat and the robots’ weird sonar-like instruments generated the heatwaves, and the townspeople made fun of Neftali so bad for it that she stopped going to their boardgame nights and even exited the town walls altogether.

Outside the walls, on the grassy fields, Neftali came across a huddled, quivering group of other outcasts: several individuals who’d also left, or who’d been ejected, from the walled town. They were pretty strange outcasts. Because they kept saying things like, Why don’t the boardgame people like me? or I was fucked up from the start, nothing will go right for me. Sometimes they even ran back into the town, trying to befriend the townspeople, but the townspeople simply made fun of them yet again, and then the outcasts had to slink back to their huddle on the grassy fields, commiserating and mumbling despair. They ate shitty food to make themselves feel better temporarily, they told each other they were too mental to exercise — one of the town’s psychiatrists, sans evidence, had diagnosed them with innate unabilityism — and they stayed up all night drinking caffeine and watching gory horror movies. Regularly, townspeople would go to the edges of the walls and angrily hurl insults down at the outcasts, who’d then, quivering, repeat the insults to themselves.

“Look,” Neftali said to these negative images, “enough with this internalized oppression; it’s no fun. I just read this strange thing called an investigative journalism report” — (I’d have to improve my cheesy analogy somehow; this is where genre fiction would usually throw in something like magic to give Neftali the ability to figure out plot-point data) — “that says several of the robotic monsters behind the heatwaves have broken down and are strewn across some rocks by that tide pool. If we could go over there …” She wanted to conclude, we could study their heatwave-generating instruments for helpful clues, but she was pretty lonely herself, and was pushing the tolerance of the huddled outcasts. Even that sugary shitty food was starting to look pretty tasty to her.

“No!” a huddled outcast screeched. “If you mention the robots and the heatwaves, you’re putting really bad energy out there; you’re hyping things that are bad. Stop forcing unpleasant things on other people. It makes everyone upset.” The outcast turned up the volume on a gory movie. “Someday a wonderful politician will arrive and save the day for us, but until then, the realistic thing to do is realize nobody can do anything about anything.”

Grr, Neftali thought, these outcasts are just as bad as the townspeople. She did notice, when the townspeople went to the walls to expectorate angry insults, and the huddled outcasts responded by quivering and flinching, the two sets of people had a creepy anger-fear symbiosis thing going on. The townspeople didn’t want to think or feel, trying to dodge the fate of the huddled outcasts, and not seeing any alternatives to this either-or; the huddled outcasts were just wrecks, often receiving guilt and shame the townspeople transfered to them, and the huddled outcasts similary didn’t see any alternatives to this whole symbiosis. Neftali didn’t want to get trapped in those roles, so she decided to go to the rocky tide pool herself. Except, with all the mysterious robots around, it was pretty dangerous to do that singlehandedly.

The image shows the conventional Freytag inverted checkmark plot formula. The rising action complications are circled with words added: You are here.
Let’s speed this part up.

Now we skip 200 pages in this hypothetical bestseller of rising action in which Neftali intelligently solves her problems, winning over two allies from the flinching outcast group (since no one can save the day alone), and learning about the hidden lair of the monstrous robots, plus their sonar-y, computer-y, very highly technological mainframe, with, I don’t know, an evil extraterrestrial origin, or rather, maybe they’re actaully controlled by certain secretive townspeople oligarchs. Anyway, Neftali’s sensible efforts have simultaneously irritated the monstrous robots, who’re not just gunning for her, but also cranking up the temperature to heat-dome proportions, meaning now the ordinary townspeople and the rest of the outcasts are after Neftali and her pair of comrades as well, blaming them. It’s really just the final image in the next paragraph that I want to leave people with, that ties into why I don’t find reading investigative journalism reports merely upsetting, but rather, strengthening, too.

As the unfeeling townspeople mute their buried rage or occasionally scream it, and the flinching outcasts quiver and whimper in the corner, Neftali and her allies face staggering odds, it’s true. But though Neftali did eat some of the crappy food and commiserate with the huddled outcasts from time to time, for the most part, she and her comrades feel healthy, strong, alive. They delight in their capability to smash monstrous robots; they know how to skillfully use their weapons and their bodies. They enjoy assessing the journalism reports of where the robots’ weaknesses might be. Even when one of the monstrous robots badly injured Neftali, in fact briefly imprisoning and torturing her before her comrades came to her rescue, that was much worse than, but also a little like, being physically sick: no one enjoys having, say, food poisoning: you want the vomiting and diarreah to stop asap, but once it’s over, you’re a little proud of your ability to get through it, trauma aside, and that you stuck it out successfully. You recover as best you can and it’s back to battle another day, the water in a jug tasting good and your mind clear from not eating the sugary food, from not accepting unabilityism.

Very incomplete list of steps to take against global warming

  • Consider divesting your energy from conventional politics, which already has millions of people and trillions of dollars — that sector doesn’t need new recruits — and investing it instead in radical politics, which, lacking enough genuine and hardworking individuals, does need new recruits
  • Read better (political) philosophy texts: Ursula K. Le Guin, Heather Marsh, to change everything, etc. This article “Installing new governance” might be of particular interest as something quick yet profound to read.
  • Better news sources: YAC.news, sub.media, @OpCanary, @OpDeathEaters, etc.
  • Resources for direct action, etc., like Beautiful Trouble, or sabotage.
  • Learn to travel slowly, and especially avoid cruise ships.
  • Go vegan or close to it.
  • Public libraries sometimes have really amazing free classes – I took a series of classes about how to file civil lawsuits in Washington state. People do things like this, they figure out ways to sue resources corporations over climate change.
  • People quit their jobs every single to day to defend the environment against resource corporations, for instance as water-protectors. Because it’s real that people are doing this, doing so is in fact realistic, just underreported and underdiscussed.
  • Learn about efforts in other countries, network with activists there, get to know them and share knowledge across borders.
  • Talk about injustices, and improve skill at such conversations so you’re not cowed when interlocuters try to enforce the norm of don’t-talk-about-it by various means (such as making fun of you or saying there are too many words or whatever). You can see how effective talking about controversial subjects actually is when you look at stories of people coming out of the closet or open dialogue methods.

News blasts: Myanmar and Brazil

Myanmar. I previously wrote news blasts about Myanmar (in chronological order from earliest to most recent) here, here, and here. The very short version of the overall situation is that in February 2021, the military in Myanmar, also known as the Tatmadaw, seized power in a coup d’état, and the public has been joining ethnic armed militias or a civil disobedience movement to resist. In the months before the coup (note: authoritarians plan, prepare, and execute their programs across months, years, or even decades or centuries, given institutional memory), as Reuters reported in mid-May, officials tied to the Tatmadaw ordered telecomm and internet companies in the country to install intercept spyware to monitor the public. This includes tracing SIM cards, intercepting calls, blocking websites, and more. (Note: circa 2010-2015, I don’t remember the time frame more specifically, when I called defense lawyers regarding political hacktivism cases, the connections would at times suffer from odd clicks and disconnects; separately, a defense lawyer working ‘national security’ cases, including for clients accused of terrorism, once told me many similar things that happened at their office that they assumed were tell-tale signs of surveillance.) Last week, Reuters further reported, that the junta has told domestic and foreign telecomm and internet company executives that they’re banned from leaving Myanmar without permission and that they must finish fully installing spyware systems to allow the authorities to spy on the public’s calls, messages, and web traffic. The same day as last week’s Reuters article, Frontier Myanmar published a report explaining how the country’s police, shortly before the coup, set up a special cybersecurity team to track the public’s web usage, particularly (but not limited to) Facebook, and to surveil phone calls, using artificial intelligence to mine calls by the public and notify cops to review those in which words like “protest” or “revolution” were used.

https://twitter.com/JusticeMyanmar/status/1413772297295392773

Below, a 3.5-minute video by YAC.news is embedded. It covers the junta banning telecomm executives from leaving the country.

Also embedded below, a video by YAC.news a little longer than four minutes, titled “Between The Fascist Junta And COVID19 Myanmar Faces A Catastrophic Healthcare Collapse.” Here’s the transcript. To excerpt key points of that information about the Myanmar healthcare collapse:

At least 1.5 million people have been vaccinated according to regime media but the actual number is difficult to verify. Medical experts on ground say the number could be far less than announced. […] Since the coup d’etat, the junta has mismanaged the country’s health care system, nearly collapsing it by saturating it with injured protestors. The former head of Myanmar’s COVID-19 immunisation programme, Htar Htar Lin, was arrested and faces charges of high treason for promoting democracy. She and 11 other doctors were arrested for supporting democracy and allegedly organizing with the ousted and legitimate government of Myanmar, they may face long term imprisonment or death. […] The number of people being tested for COVID19 has also dropped due to fears of being arrested by the junta at testing spots. Oxygen is also running low across several townships and people have been reported to be dying due to a lack of it. The elderly are especially being affected by the virus and are reportedly the majority of the dead so far. […] All and all the junta has been an unmitigated disaster to the healthcare system and the handling of the pandemic. […] According to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS), as of last month mutated strains of the virus, including the Delta variant, have been tearing through the country. At least 165,405 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Myanmar since the virus was first detected at the end of March 2020. At least 3,419 deaths have been attributed to the virus nationwide although medical experts on the ground have show skepticism and believe the some of the deaths attributed COVID-19 deaths may have been people murdered by the junta. As of Saturday, Bago, Sagaing and Yangon regions have reported the most coronavirus cases. […] While the regime has continued to administer some vaccines, it is now desperate to restart the economy it collapsed through its illegal take over. It is currently attempting to force people to return to school and work despite the specter of COVID19 creeping faster and faster across the nation.

This app can help people in Myanmar find oxygen needed due to coronavirus.

In the past week, a history writer in the Pacific Northwest, Edith Mirante, wrote a 20-tweet thread about the history of the relationship between Myanmar and Russia, which currently consists mainly of Russian arms deals and diplomatic enabling for the Myanmar junta.

Finally, a video from today or today-ish, and a little longer than a minute, is embedded below, showing courageous protestors defying the junta to rally for democracy, chanting in Burmese “Annihilate the Fascist Army!”

Brazil. A member of the BRICS trading group — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa — and one of the strongest trade economies in South America (Argentina is another), Brazil is one of the places in the world hardest hit by COVID-19. More than half a million have been killed there by the disease, but Brazil’s fascist president Jair Bolsonaro downplayed coronavirus, comparing it to the flu. Bolsonaro is hated for this. He’s a big fan of Donald Trump and his administration is accused of corruption in international vaccine negotiations. An Al Jazeera article from this week reported that the majority of Brazilians surveyed support impeaching Bolsonaro. Last month, when the Brazilian leader attempted to board a commercial plane, he was run out by the passengers, who heckled him and called him a genocidaire; a video of this, some 40 seconds in duration, is embedded below.

Brazilian Universal Basic Income activist Fabiana Cecin tweeted the following context for Brazil on July 3: “Brazil is under a thinly-veiled QAnon-grade far-right military dictatorship. The bulk of high-level federal employees have been fired and replaced with military brass. Even some of the absolute top-level political cabinets were stuffed with generals.” That tweet was in response to an article by Brasil Wire, an independent news organization hosted and published in Europe, about CIA director William J. Burns arriving in late June to meet with Bolsonaro. Brasil Wire says all polls show Bolsonaro would lose in the upcoming 2022 election against popular former president Lula da Silva, so now, a week after meeting with Burns, Bolsonaro is making threats that the 2022 presidential elections in Brazil may not happen at all. The CIA of course has a long history of sponsoring coups in South America to ensure authoritarian regimes are in power. See also Operation Condor.

Reporting on another incident, this YAC.news article from July 9 explains that in late June, the Brazilian authorities, in a pre-dawn raid, evicted hundreds of people from the “May 1st Refugee Camp” on behalf of state-owned oil giant Petrobras. About 64,500 Brazilian families are internally displaced and living in “unauthorized” settlements.

Below are embedded two videos from YAC.news, followed by the airplane video. The first from YAC is this one from July 4, just under three minutes, about the Bolsonaro administration’s corrupt vaccine deals and thousands of Brazilian protestors gathering in 40-something cities in response. Here’s the transcript. The second from YAC is this one from May 30, about 2.5 minutes, that looks at why Brazilians are demanding Bolsonaro step down. Here’s that transcript.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, PNW heat dome, climate change media, and optimistic fiction, plus Myanmar and Brazil news blasts, 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 the work at this URL: https://douglaslucas.com/blog/2021/07/10/heatdome-climatechange-media-optimistic-fiction-myanmar-brazil/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading 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 one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

FOIAs and the rest of life, now with executive function

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, typically on Saturdays. This is entry 23 of 52. I’m a day late, so we’ll pretend this entry came out on the 12th and is thus part of Week 23 (which by my count technically ended Saturday).

Note: I edited a bit of last week’s post, correcting something in the news blast about twitter censorship in Nigeria. Readers of last week’s post might consider looking at that fix.

The image shows an excerpt of the FBI's reply to my Freedom of Information Act request seeking anything they have about Philip K. Dick. To summarize, the excerpt looks a little like a typewritten document, and says Dear Mr. Lucas, we were unable to identify main file records ... pertaining to your request, yadda yadda.
In an interview, the late science fiction author Philip K. Dick says he obtained his FBI file via a Freedom of Information Act request. But I’ve never been able to get anything about PKD by sending FOIA requests to the FBI. I did ask the bureau to search far more than just their main files. To no avail.

This past week I’ve been catching up on my open records requests. At MuckRock, a service for filing such inquiries online, I have 169 requests in various phases: some completed, others ongoing, and still more with different statuses. Adding the requests I’ve lodged over the years without using MuckRock, for instance by emailing agencies directly, I estimate I’ve filed something like 200 open records requests in my life. That’s a lot to keep track of!

Open records requests encompass many moving parts and nitpicky details. For instance, on the federal level in the United States, there’s the Freedom Of Information Act legislation (initially enacted into law in 1966), which has resulted in any and all open records requests being called “FOIAs” as shorthand, even though if you’re lodging such an inquiry with, say, the Fort Worth Police Department, on the local level within the state of Texas, it’s not a FOIA but rather, in the lingo of those particular local cops, a public records request, or a public information request, or an open records request. But what to call these formal inquiries the public can make is just the first confusion individuals typically run into. Other complexities involve how to actually word the requests, which specific documents to seek, the multiple ways agencies will deny fulfillment of requests or outright lie and hide things, how to go to court over denials, and so on. Some people turn assisting others with open records requests into entire professional careers, which I suppose makes sense, since sorting through the deets involves deciphering time-consuming prolix tangles, not to mention authoritarian deceptions.

From the dark comedy movie Brazil, a 1.5-minute scene where bureaucrats physically battle paperwork

A specific trouble I’ve run into with my requests is undertaking the appeals process. If an agency denies a request, or claims they don’t have any responsive records for it (i.e., you requested x, but the agency says they don’t have any documents regarding x, and you don’t believe them), then if you want to pursue the matter, your next step, especially on the federal level in the United States, is to file a appeal — not a lawsuit, yet. Not all laws, not all jurisdictions allow for an appeals process. But if they do, it’s recommended you appeal the request for which the agency’s response has left you dissatisfied. An agency’s response you don’t like is called an “adverse determination.” For instance, if the Bureau of Prisons’ replies to your request constitute an adverse determination (and delaying fulfillment of a request for years, a frequent tactic of federal agencies, can constitute an adverse determination), then you’re supposed to appeal first to the Office of Information Policy, prior to suing anybody. Both the Office of Information Policy and the Bureau of Prisons are components of the federal Department of Justice, so your appeal to other foxes guarding the same general henhouse may be unlikely to succeed, but appealing makes your later lawsuit look better. It shows you “went up the chain of command,” to make an analogy to what the system usually asks whistleblowers to do. Once the appeals process fails, you then file a lawsuit, asking the judicial branch (basic separation-of-powers theory) to step in and overrule the executive branch or legislative branch agency you’re contending with. Because this process can take years and be expensive if lawyers are required, it prevents a lot of important information from being released and entering the news cycle. Plus, from the perspective of an individual member of the public (journalist or not) pursuing this process, it’s akin to fighting a battle. Even if it’s conducted on paper, it can be emotionally trying.

Executive function to the rescue

In the first half of the last decade, when I was more known for third parties publishing my journalism (as opposed to my self-publishing it), especially my writing for WhoWhatWhy, I filed most of the open records inquiries that exist on my 169-Muckrock-requests spreadsheet — but in my whole life, I’ve yet to appeal a single one. That was the obvious next step I should have taken with filings that resulted in adverse determinations (most of them). Now I’m confronting the confusing question of whether I can appeal them at all, since some laws/policies require appeals to be filed within, say, 90 days of the adverse determination. I’ve missed many of those deadlines, and I’m currently trying to figure out if I have to start completely over with brand new filings on the same subject matters. But then, can’t the agency just say the new filing is denied because it’s identical to the past filing that was denied? Yet would that still open up a new 90-day window for an appeal? In any case, I don’t want to end up waiting years and years again between my new request and the new adverse determination. I’ll ask the MuckRock experts for help on appealing.

Music video for the awesome 1988 song “Trip at the Brain” by crossover metal band Suicidal Tendencies shows the musicians playing atop a stage that’s a huge brain

I didn’t file a single appeal back then because I was going through mental health struggles that undercut my moxie to pursue such stressful battles and to organize my work as needed. I didn’t see the connections sufficiently in those days, because the grandiosity of mania made it difficult for me to perceive that I lacked skills and that I needed to formulate humble, mundane step-by-step plans to reach goals. “Executive function” is a concept in psychology and the mental health industry that refers to a suite of abilities such as managing time, formulating step-by-step plans, multitasking, streamlining procedures, and so on. If you’re cooking, and you realize that while one hand holds the saucepan under the flowing filtered water faucet, you can use the other hand to sprinkle herbs as the water slowly fills the saucepan, thus saving time by performing two tasks at once, you’re using executive function to optimize a routine task in your life (cooking). If you just unthinkingly follow a list of instructions someone else gives you, acting mechanically, without inventing little ways to improve the procedure, or questioning if it’s worth doing in the first place, you’re using little to no executive function. When people’s mental health deteriorates, they get stuck, the thought of venturing out beyond their comfort zones provokes overwhelming anxiety (sometimes they can’t even identify that they’re anxious), and they just doomscroll twitter all day (or engage in similar addictive behavior), losing the executive function to formulate battle plans to improve their situation. One of the nice things about my recent schoolteaching experiences has been that in teaching there’s such an onslaught of workload — lesson planning, grading papers, assessing where students are and adapting lesson plans accordingly, taking attendance, sitting through largely useless staff meetings, etc. — that if teachers don’t learn how to streamline things, they’re quickly in deep shit, so the schoolteaching experiences forced me to get more comfortable with applying executive function to, like, everything. I imagine new parents must have similar experiences, when the arrival of an infant decreases their sleep and free time, yet they still must get many things done (chores, employment tasks if no parental leave, etc.) just as they did before the child showed up. It can be tough when an adult is unemployed/underemployed, or trying to create structure for themselves in self-employment, to self-impose the same sort of ruthlessly efficient executive function that an outside job like schoolteaching can impose. It’s the difference between externally imposed instructions/structures, and internally imposing them, which requires a strong and healthy mind.

In my years in Seattle so far, with some exceptions, I’ve detoured from journalism to focus primarily on mental health (including by volunteering), a topic too broad to cover in this post (but see here, here, here, here, and here for starters); what’s relevant to open records requests is the idea of creating efficient processes for staying up to date with them. If you have 200 requests, then every single day, you, or MuckRock on your behalf, and/or the agencies are sending detail-crammed messages back and forth with status updates or notifications of adverse determinations or whatever. These notifications pile up in the requester’s email inbox (and the agencies’ inboxes, sometimes resulting in grumpy public information officers sending back sternly worded replies). The requester has to keep track of all this bureaucratic, checkbox-y data, or opportunities will be missed, deadlines will pass, and so on. It can feel overwhelming.

1.5-minute scene from Brazil shows the character Tuttle, a bureaucrat turned suspected terrorist, being physically killed by so much paperwork sticking to him that he’s completely enveloped by the papers to the point they disappear him

Now my mental health is much stronger, so it’s been time to return to the nagging stacks of open records requests, and this past week I spent a lot of time figuring out how to streamline my process with spreadsheets such that each weekend, or every other weekend, I can spend just 30 to 90 minutes updating my spreadsheets tracking how my requests are going and making/executing decisions about particular requests. For instance, this week I learned how to create logical styles in Libre Calc (a free software equivalent to Microsoft’s Excel) and how to use other non-beginner features. Also, MuckRock has a helpful option, I think one they introduced pretty recently, that allows users to export all their requests in .csv format to create a spreadsheet automagically. In sum, the efficiency prevents me from falling behind, prevents unattended requests from piling up to the point it takes a whole week to catch up. If someone is going in and out of psychiatric hospitals every few months, they don’t really have the time or energy to optimize procedures in their lives and then maintain those optimized procedures regularly. Or to change the example, imagine a person with low to zero income, who’s bouncing from one problematic partner’s apartment to another problematic partner’s apartment every few months, arguments and break-ups right and left, no stability they can rely on to support them while they organize/optimize/streamline their lives. And yet, having the opportunity to use executive function well is just damn required to advance toward huge goals successfully.

Executive function, meet Alan Turing and computer programming

The image shows the yellowed first page of Turing's Computable Numbers paper, with a handwritten addition mentioning that some corrections have been made
Title page of an early copy of Turing’s “Computable Numbers” paper, the sale of which is discussed here where I found the image

This idea of executive function is not just, “Oh, somebody has a project, and they simply sketched out some ideas on a piece of paper to make their project more efficient, what’s the big deal?” — it’s actually a very powerful concept that’s core to many things, including computer science. For instance, the idea of leaving notes for yourself about where to start next time you resume a project is an important component of late mathematician Alan Turing’s 1936 paper On Computable Numbers, With An Application To The Entscheidungsproblem, in which Turing invents the very concept of computer software, and what’s now the job of programming (such as coding HTML), before computers even existed. Leaving notes for myself was something I was doing with the FOIA spreadsheets: when I was calling it quits for a day, I’d leave myself a note, such that the next morning, I could read the note saying something like “Start on row 121 of the main spreadsheet next time I work on this.” How leaving notes applies to Turing’s invention of computer software is too complicated to go into here in depth, but I can present a quotation from his paper for flavor and say that in short, Turing uses a note left as an analogy for a software code instruction, and iterations of such notes left as an analogy for a series of software code instructions linked together. Recall when reading the excerpt that in 1936, the word “computer” meant a human being who performed mathematical calculations at a desk with paper and pencil as their job, for example for the accounting department of a large business. Turing:

It is always possible for the computer to break off from his work, to go away and forget all about it, and later to come back and go on with it. If he does this he must leave a note of instructions (written in some standard form) explaining how the work is to be continued. […] We will suppose that the computer works in such a desultory manner that he never does more than one step at a sitting. The note of instructions must enable him to carry out one step and write the next note. Thus the state of progress of the computation at any stage is completely determined by the note of instructions […] the state of the system may be described […] we can construct a machine to write down the successive state formulae, and hence to compute

The black-and-white image shows Alan Turing sitting in a chair, a frontal photo
Alan Turing, circa late 1930s

The software program is the set of instructions, what Turing called an “instruction table,” and he’d even argue that to some extent, you are the sets of instructions you generate for yourself. Or rather your mind is, not so much your social selves and physical body. Well, if you have good executive function, anyway, if you’re actually generating and streamlining procedures. If you have poor executive function, you’re reduced to obeying the instructions of others, mindlessly. Look at it this way. Another example of a helpful executive function action is, if you’re about to read a book, flip ahead to see where the next section break or chapter break is, and determine if you have enough time to read to that point, before plunging in. Sounds blindingly obvious, but might not be if you’ve grown up in a narcissistic country where to admit not having a skill, to admit not knowing something, to admit weakness, is too often putting your survival (employability, relationships, etc) in jeopardy. Further, psychiatry and identitarianism incorrectly teach people that inability is usually innate, part of some invisible, unprovable identity that must never be questioned, only honored, and that such gaps of knowledge usually aren’t fixable through learning. Then people get diagnosed as being intrinsically unable to perform executive function skills, and celebrate their diagnosis anniversaries and so on, explaining to each other without providing solid evidence — the symptom of distress, even strange distress as in psychosis, isn’t proof the problem’s cause is genetic — why they’re supposedly banned from improving their executive function. Like maybe because some mental health provider said so. When instead, individuals can support one another in improving their executive function abilities and ideas.

Executive function/programming versus the spies

A world sans executive function leaves individuals adrift, easy targets for what’s called soft power/active measures/seductive coercion/etc: TLAs (Three Letter Agencies) flooding our lives with sockpuppet propaganda to such a degree that the spy agencies are writing the highest level instruction tables influencing what humanity does. See for instance the testimony of defectors from spy agencies, like KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov in the early eighties saying 85% of that agency’s emphasis was on the “slow process” of “psychological warfare”; or, see the obsession with which the US State Department surveils literary figures, revealed in the 2010-2011 massive leak of diplomatic cables; or, read about the CIA funding creative writing programs. A person shopping for a bookcase might evaluate their options at a store with a fair amount of impartiality, perhaps using a tape measure to ascertain the geometric facts. But people do not typically evaluate their options regarding systems of governance similarly, because beyond the bare minimum, the various choices aren’t much discussed in formal education or popular culture. That’s a result of the spy agencies programming what individuals are interested in, for instance, by ensuring celebrities dominate the front pages of newspapers, tabloids, televisions, social media apps, and so on. The executive function ability to change and refine how you spend your time can protect you from getting swept up in default assumptions (e.g., such as the default assumption that focusing on what entertainers have to say on podcasts is the method to be selected for evaluating current events and ideas).

But improving executive function skills enables people to steer their lives better even in a propagandized environment. It’s so helpful to create and optimize little software-like programs to direct yourself, or recipes for your own life (to put a folksy domestic spin on it), about how to manage whatever tasks, such as requesting FOIAs, so that staying on top of everything becomes realistic, practical. Time and chance happenth to us all, regardless of how good our to-do lists are, but impressive executive function betters our odds of achieving at least some of our aims, even across generations. This is attested in many quotations; I’ll present three below, the last bringing this post back to Philip K. Dick.

Your mind is programmable — if you’re not programming your mind, someone else will program it for you.

Hacktivist Jeremy Hammond

Humans are the most programmable systems on earth. We were all programmed and we can all be reprogrammed. Our programming is our governance.

Philosopher Heather Marsh

 today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups — and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener […] The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. George Orwell made this clear in his novel 1984. But another way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. If you can get them to see the world as you do, they will think as you do. […] The power of spurious realities battering at us today — these deliberately manufactured fakes never penetrate to the heart of true human beings. 

Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick

I’ll say more about FOIAs in future posts. But it’s worth quickly noting a limitation to them: unlike government agencies, private firms and corporations can simply ignore records requests, though documents from within them sometimes come out thanks to hacktivists, or whistleblowers, or other leaks, or lawsuits. Open records legislation does not apply to the “private property” of files within business firms. Since corporations are typically more fundamentally responsible for the state of the world than governments (to put it in a bit of an oversimplified manner), the media’s focus on FOIAs can simply distract us from corporate crimes. The astute reader might notice an apparent contradiction: above, I say spy TLAs write the highest level instruction tables manipulating humanity, but in this paragraph I say corporations are more responsible for what humanity does and doesn’t do. The resolution to the seeming contradiction is that most of the spy TLAs’ budget nowadays goes to private contractors, i.e., private spies. So to whatever extent the CIA is currently funding creative writing programs, the picture is more accurately painted like this: private spies contracting with the CIA put together everything required for the funding/creation of creative writing programs. The spies shifted from working directly as government agency staff (which they still do to a degree) to working in private businesses contracting with the TLAs, to escape accountability (including open records requests). Still, many times, government documents obtained through open records requests can be important puzzle pieces for understanding the world around us.

The colorful image is a fantasy/surreal computer-generated drawing of a beautiful landscape. Part of the grass and hillside is a book, open to the middle. Upon the watery pages grow bushes.
Artist unknown to me. A book of the world…

News blasts

I wanted to include Belarus and Ethiopia, but ran out of time. I’ll include them in my next post.

Nigeria. In October 2020, mass protests occurred throughout Nigeria’s major cities following revelations of abuses by the Nigerian police’s notorious SARS unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. These decentralized protests, which spread across Nigerian communities worldwide, were called the #EndSARS movement, at first opposing the brutality of the SARS police, and then expanding to include demands for good, accountable governance in general. It’s important to note that authorities worldwide, including special police units, cooperate across borders, so to match that strength, it’s necessary for activists to cooperate across borders as well, which activists increasingly do, not staying mentally siloed within the invisible borders of the country they were born in. See this interesting Al Jazeera article from June 2020 on that topic. Back to Nigeria. The energy and organizations spawned by the #EndSARS movement did not appreciate when, earlier this month — as discussed in my previous post’s news blasts — the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari (a general who ruled the country in the ’80s via a military coup) started trying to shut down Twitter in Nigeria once the social media company deleted one of his tweets for terms of service violation, since his tweet threatened violence against pro-Biafra separatists. Sparked by Buhari’s twitter censorship, Nigerians planned a massive protest for June 12. In Nigeria, June 12 is Democracy Day, a public holiday marking the event in 1999 when Nigeria transitioned from military rule to an elected civilian government. The protesters’ fire has been heated by many injustices, not just the twitter censorship. Among the injustices are extreme poverty and lack of public education, and horrifyingly widespread femicide and rape of women, all hardships worsened by COVID-19. Also, the Nigerian government has failed thousands of institutionalized individuals diagnosed with mental illness and confined in the country’s state hospitals, rehabilitation centers, traditional healing centers, and both Christian and Islamic faith-based facilities. These individuals can find themselves locked up in chains or otherwise abused. There’s a nonprofit called MANI (Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative) that is led by Nigerian users of mental health services (as opposed to led by mental health providers like therapists and psychiatrists); MANI has an interesting website, and they seem at my cursory glance mostly focused on the various support services they offer, but they did tweet a few times regarding the protests (some of their tweets about Buhari’s twitter ban embedded below). I’d like to learn more about the mental health situation in Nigeria, if there’s a psychiatric survivor movement there, and so on. Back to the June 12 protests. Activists in Nigeria criticized the large numbers of kidnappings in the country by terrorists seeking ransom, the many deaths in cult clashes and communal crises, the civil rights violations, the displacement of more than 10 million Nigerians, the high unemployment rate and the rising prices of essentials, the Internet shutdowns, and more. The Nigerian protestors have been issuing three demands to the Nigerian government: 1. End the killings and insecurity; 2. End the social media shutdown immediately; 3. Convene an emergency inter-regional dialogue committee for all regions in Nigeria within a month. During the June 12 protests, cops in the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Abuja fired teargas, detained protestors, and smashed cellphones, which of course activists use to spread information online. On short notice, I was unable to find much of anything about any Nigeria-related protests in Seattle or Texas. The situation in Nigeria will likely continue to develop. For more, read this YAC.news article, the source for much of this news blast item, or watch the YAC.news 7.5-minute video on the subject embedded below (the article is the script for the video’s voice-over), and/or watch the 3-minute Al Jazeera video about the protests embedded below.

The colorful image shows protestors marching during the day in Nigeria, including one woman with a bullhorn, and many holding their hands in the air
Source: 12 Jun ’21 tweet by Emeka Akpa, a Ph.D. economics student in Nigeria who says in his tweet: “Let me tell you what the government of Nigeria is afraid of: An educated, restless, enlightened and upwardly mobile southern young person.” (My understanding is that much of the instability and secessionism in Nigeria is in the southern states.)

Uplifting items in Dallas and Bangladesh/Australia. First, the Dallas chapter of Food Not Bombs has been sharing food in the southern part of that city at #CampRhonda, a community of individuals denied housing by their wider (un)society. Camp Rhonda is named in memory of Rhonda Fenwick, who lived there for a month before dying of organ failure, according to an interesting February 2021 article by The Dallas Morning News. In mutual aid, Food Not Bombs Dallas shared meals at Camp Rhonda today despite the 100° Fahrenheit temperature, and the activists have been working on a community garden at the camp, too. The garden and today’s sharing are pictured below. For my readers in North Texas (where I’m originally from), contact information to volunteer with or donate to the chapter might be: 972-955-0849 or dallasfnb@riseup.net or frankenstein@riseup.net. That’s according to the Google Map linked by the foodnotbombs.net website. I can’t link to that portion of the Google Map directly, so I typed the contact information directly into this paragraph. I don’t know if the contact info is up to date; if it isn’t, try contacting the chapter via Twitter: @FNBDallas. And c’mon Fort Worth, get your own chapter going! Now for Bangladesh/Australia. In the past month, there have been a handful of articles about 25-year-old Rohingya Noor Kabir, who was born inside a refugee camp due to the genocide against the Rohingya. Noor Kabir grew up on strict food rations, but migrated to Australia alone at age 16, where he recently won a Brisbane bodybuilding competition called the ICN Classic. He’s currently studying to be a nutritionist, and he aims to inspire refugees, even those in bad situations as he was, to exercise and eat as healthy as possible. This article about him is really good, this one too, and he’s pictured below. Upon arrival in Australia, he spent two years in community detention (I think something Australia has been imposing on immigrants/refugees generally, not just Noor Kabir), but then was given a bridging visa and worked as a forklift driver prior to meeting a mentor who encouraged him to become a personal trainer. The bodybuilding developed from there. In the article, Noor Kabir says, “When I lived in the camps, I struggled with food — not enough food, not enough carbs, not enough drink” and continues “We lived […] seven people in a room that’d be […] 5 square metres [roughly 53 square feet]” and concludes “I lived like this for 15 years – it wasn’t a good life, so I wanted a new beginning.” Noor Kabir is believed to be the first Rohingya man to win a bodybuilding competition.

The image shows a folding table set up at a park. On the folding table is a blue water cooler with Food Not Bombs painted on it. Next to the cooler are various food items such as pickles and watermelon. In the background stand what I believe are four Food Not Bombs participants, one with camo pants, another with a Nirvana T-shirt.
Source: @FNBDallas tweet from 13 June 2021. Sharing food at #CampRhonda
The image shows folding tables in a park with food items set atop. In the background stand what I believe are two members of Food Not Bombs Dallas.
Source: @FNBDallas, same tweet and sharing as the above pic.
The colorful picture shows a community garden built on the grass of Camp Rhonda. There are food plants growing within the garden.
Source: @FNBDallas tweet from 12 May 2021. Community garden at #CampRhonda
The high contrast picture shows the upper body a man standing with his hands on his hips. A dark red curtain is in the background. The high contrast style of the picture, as well as the stark expression of the very muscular, very symmetrical man, looks almost computer-generated, but it is real.
Source: 6 June 2021 article in the Rohingya Post. Noor Kabir, first Rohingya man to win a bodybuilding competition

Creative Commons License

This blog post, FOIAs and the rest of life, now with executive function, 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/2021/06/13/foias-executive-function/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading 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 one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

Benefits of making a timeline, both personal and anti-corporate … plus global resistance news

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, on Saturdays. This is entry 22 of 52.

Note: Toward the end of this post, news blasts start. They include: US, Myanmar, Nigeria, and China. Skip down if you just want those.

Note (added 6 June ’21): I edited part of the Nigeria section (most of the editing shown with strikethrough), and explained the change in the comments

The artwork, in the fantasy surreal genre, shows hands holding the planet Earth in front of the face of an old-fashioned analog clock.
Source of artwork

In the past few months as part of journaling and mental health recovery, I’ve been slowly creating a timeline of my life and the lives of those relevant to me. It starts with birth dates for some of my great-grandparents and continues to the present. It looks like the below excerpt (but here I’m adding redactions and obfuscating some specifics, for privacy):

Aug 24, 1998 (age 1█.█): Private therapist Dr Barry Norman refers me to private psychiatrist Dr Tom Murphy
██ ██, 1999 (age 1█.█): A sibling of mine [name] and [name] marry in █████, Texas
██ ██, 2000 (age 1█.█) A nephew of mine [name] is born in ████, Texas

I hope to add many, many more entries into the timeline as the years go on; it’s still pretty sparse.

The black-and-white footage clip shows Neil Armstrong walking down the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar module.
Apollo 11 moonwalk image, 11 July 1969. Source

All the same, I’ve learned quite a lot from building the timeline .txt document brick by brick to the degree I have. For instance, I never realized the Apollo 11 landing — when humans first walked on the moon — was less than a decade and a half away past-ward from my birth. Previously, I’d pictured families watching astronaut Neil Armstrong utter his famous line from the lunar surface on televisions in homes that must have looked like Revolutionary Road 1950s stage sets. But instead, Neil & Buzz & Michael Collins did their celestial thing quite close to when I showed up on this particular planet (in my current bodily form, anyhow).

I also hadn’t ever deeply thought about some pretty key forces beyond my control that explain my life to a powerful extent, such as the event/date when my biological parents married (those youthful Southern marriages, those multigenerational Southern novels!). I also hadn’t ever seen the important temporal proximity some dates have to one another. For example, imagine a big medical event (e.g., a surgery) happening soon after another event (e.g., a breakup with a romantic partner). That temporal connection can hold clues explaining what exactly was going on for a person in a certain time frame. Unfortunately, life dates are typically siloed by category, with medical events stored in one file, and breakups as entries punctuating a separate social media profile, the two categories never to meet. Yet we live through our various events at once, holistically, so to understand ourselves, our world, each other, we gotta bring together into one timeline the disparate dates … Or, it helps provide a sense of multigenerational continuity to discuss with parents, while they’re still alive, what their wedding was like, and how their marriage played out (sadly, it seems people typically discuss weddings far more than marriages). Instead, a crucial event like a wedding too often remains something that never even enters the offspring’s consciousness. You get the point.

Or maybe people don’t get the point: often, when I ask others if they remember whether a certain event happened on this date or that date, they frequently don’t remember, not just the topic I’m inquiring about, but their entire lives: “it’s all a blur,” they say. That doesn’t help a person steer! Here’s an analogy. If you’re trying to cook a meal, taking food from unprepared to prepared, and you don’t even know what kind of food it is that you’re planning to cook — steak? broccoli? quinoa? bread? — then you don’t know if you need a grill, a steamer, an oven, or what. So if you are, to yourself, “all a blur,” and you’re having mental health problems that you’re trying to improve, be it alcoholism or manic psychosis or procrastination or anything else, then how are you going to select what to do to take a blur from troubled to firing on all cylinders?

I understand, though. The notion of putting together something like a personal/family timeline — which a mentor once suggested to me over a decade ago, couching it in terms of writing a memoir — used to feel too threatening/overwhelming. So I rejected such advice fairly quickly, not even knowing that I was feeling threatened and overwhelmed (no such thing as “social emotional learning” in Fort Worth private schools, unlike Seattle Public Schools, not to say that public education SEL is fantastic necessarily). Although, when I resisted helpful suggestions, or resist them even nowadays, I still had/have awareness of what’s good for me. When encountering a great idea that at first was too threatening/overwhelming (such as going vegan, which I initially learned about in philosophy undergrad), I usually did have the sense (and even would tell the other person aloud), as I was pushing the concept away, that I did aspire to eventually implement it (I did go vegan years later: here have a beet root smoothie). The lesson is, if someone recommends a beneficial possibility, but it feels overwhelming, yet you know there’s merit to it, say so, and return to it later once stronger.

The image, a clip from a youtube video, shows on the right the Kenyan inventor, Nzambi Matee, holding bricks. On the left the image says: "Nzambi Matee is a Kenyan inventor who has turned 20 tons of plastic trash into paving bricks." The bottom right gives the videos source as the website yac.news
Some tackle pollution. Source

What people are really talking about when they say their lives are “all a blur” is dissociation. That was an impossible-to-understand vocab word for me, for a long time. I think dissociation can be defined in two ways: how it appears from a first-person, psychological perspective, and how it operates, analyzed from a systemic, sociological point of view. In the daily first-person navigating through life, dissociation means tuning out, especially in the face of overwhelming emotion or distress (unless emotion/experience has been dulled by any combo of causes ranging from garbage quasi-food, to psychopharmaceuticals praised upon their introduction by the medical industry as chemical lobotomies, to exhausting paid-jobs, to widespread poisonous pollution). In the social-structures sociological perspective, dissociation means being severed from companionship, allies, society, or being torn apart from our internal selves that are composed of interactions with the world/others (that might seem contradictory, how can a self be made of interactions?, but what exists that’s not interactive? I’ll wait). Torn apart from those internal interactive selves, forced to serve corporations and their ancillaries. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans in small tribes chilled and gathered berries and did horrible things too, but this whole deal of staring almost every waking hour into glowing screens answering nonstop Microsoft Teams notifications about stupid comments that don’t even relate to the reader in order to obtain imaginary numbers in an abstract bank account to hand over the fictitious digits to a typed-up rental corporation that exists merely on a piece of paper, or else… yeah, I mean, next to the enjoyable experience of climbing across rocks on a beachside in the summer sun (leave out this Seattle pollen tho plz), how dissociated, torn apart from our relationships with Nature and our interests, is remote paid-work, resulting in such distress that we mentally tune out from our own lives, reducing them to “all a blur”?

Creating the timeline has made me feel much more connected with both my own life and the generations of lives around me, past and future — and the helpful connection is in large part because the timeline is factual. Before the timeline, I knew my father was a general practitioner doctor. What I should make of his occupation, though, became the commodified/co-opted province of a stream of (conventional) psychiatrists, therapists, caseworkers, well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) friends trying to help as I flailed about, asking for advice (what Dr Terry Lynch calls ‘other-referral’), not knowing what to do next since the material from which I was working, namely myself, was “all a blur.” I had to listen to these myriad other people’s ever-changing, vague, inconsistent opinions on what I should think of my father and his profession. Now, however, I have the factual bullet-point on the timeline: on such-and-such date, my father at age such-and-such graduated with honors from such-and-such medical school in such-and-such city, etc. It might not seem like much, but it actually is quite a lot. In our supposedly post-fact world, it’s a solid fact of the universe that nobody owns and nobody can run their mouth telling me what it means and by the way, cough up hundreds of dollars per session and swallow corporate tranquilizers that shrink brains, or else. Given a beneficial timeline listing facts, I can see why it is sometimes said that hard news should clearly be separated from opinion, or why inquiries, tribunals, and other investigations often strive to focus strictly on the facts alone. Facts can speak for themselves.

The artwork, in the fantasy surreal genre, mostly shows outer space. In the center is the face of an old-fashioned analog clock. An old man wearing a suit and using a cane is walking through outer space toward the clock.
Source of artwork

I hope that I, and others, will add corporate wrongdoing to the timelines we make, since corporate crimes are extremely impactful on our lives and preventing us from changing in the ways we want to change, developing in the ways we want to develop. I’m curious what corporations poisoned environments familiar to me and those close to me, and when, and how. It’s interesting to me that many years ago, when I was researching the Stratfor emails and that Austin-based spy firm’s clients who were operating in Mexico, I created a lengthy timeline about Mexican history to help me understand that country — timelines are a typical tool journalists and researchers use to understand the world — but I didn’t have the wherewithal to make a timeline to understand myself, or how corporations in my own city were impacting me and those I cared about. Thankfully, it’s becoming much more acceptable to talk loudly about corporate crimes, and even to talk about avenging them. I remember a decade ago, in the Occupy Wall Street era, acquaintances (whether online or in person) would jump on me for just talking about (let alone talking positively about) sit-ins or take-the-highway protests or writing prisoners, etc. Nowadays, while quite a significant degree of ostracism still results from praising resistance fiercely, the Trump experience has made even the comformists/cowards/careerists hesitant to publicly diss activists. It’s not just Texas vs. Seattle, either, judging from what I see Texan friends/acquaintances saying online. There’s still much more improvement to be had, whether a lot at once or baby steps. Don’t care too much, don’t think too hard, get a job any job, you know there really is a lot of good television lately that transforms lives into unperceivable blurs just won’t cut it. Because military dictatorship may well be coming to this country next, or USians might learn to engage consciously with other countries, not just in the ways they unknowingly already do. And finally, sensible action feels better than anxiety.

News blasts

United States. On August 31 in Dallas, a Marine asked military general & Trump advisor Michael Flynn “why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here” i.e. the Tatmadaw military overthrew and arrested the democratically elected civilian government in that country last February. The crowd cheered. Flynn answered, “It should happen here.” The crowd cheered again. 30-second video of this embedded below. Be prepared to stop these oligarchs (naming names).

Short video shows Michael Flynn saying the military should establish a dictatorship in the United States

Also regarding Texas-based Elon Musk, a four-minute Anonymous youtube video, uploaded yesterday by original source anonews.co and amplified today by YAC, drags the shit out of the techbros’ favorite billionaire and his inflated reputation. Optional subtitles included.

Myanmar. The News Blasts in my last two posts included Myanmar. If you’re unfamiliar with what’s happening in that country, you might want to review those posts before continuing with this bullet point. Back on May 26, US resource corporation Chevron and French resource corporation Total suspended cash dividend payments that would have gone to the junta, but that’s only 10% of the revenues from the country’s Yadana natural gas pipeline project that Total, Chevron, Thailand’s publicly owned PTT, and Myanmar’s publicly owned MOGE (Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise) are partners in, so the suspension is merely a step in the right direction. On June 1, Myanmar’s military re-opened schools by force, even though much of the public is far more interested in toppling the junta to restore democracy and/or the National Unity Government (declared terrorist and treasonous by the junta). But the presence of tanks and other regime forces during the re-opening did not stop students from protesting the “military slave education system.” Youth, many Generation Z, engaged in flash protests instead of going to school, criticizing the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) and expressing sympathy with the country’s oppressed Rohingya people, against whom a genocide has been waged. Youthful protestors also showed their disapproval of the junta holding students captive, one sign reading “Are you reopening schools for dogs to attend after you have been jailing students?” Propaganda photos emerged of soldiers replacing teachers as kids supposedly learned happily, but in many cities, schools were actually largely empty. Since June 1, strikes, protests, and boycotts have continued. Meanwhile, due to transportation costs, cash shortages, and general instability, food prices in Myanmar are skyrocketing, plaguing people with worry. And the junta keeps restricting Internet access. However, passionate people in Myanmar still find ways around the censorship, spreading information online. Hopefully those with corporate media platforms in the U.S., such as the commentariat and literati, will admit they should assist in amplifying those brave voices. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — member states are Brunel, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — has been looked to for months by the United Nations, western countries, and China as a potential mediator between the Tatmadaw and the National Unity Government, but on June 4, because ASEAN was meeting with the junta rather than the ousted government, the National Unity Government’s foreign minister Moe Zaw Oo, said “We have little confidence in ASEAN’s efforts. All of our hopes are gone.” Moe Zaw Oo’s streamed press conference was disrupted by the junta’s censorship of the Internet. That same day, deposed Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been under house arrest in the capital city of Naypyitaw, was moved by the junta to an unknown location, according to her legal team. The National Unity Government’s defence minister, Khin Ma Ma Myo, did say, referring to ethnic armed militias, “The NUG government will call for a war at some point. When that time comes, we must work together to defeat the junta.” Many urban protestors are moving to rebel-held jungle to train for that possible war. A two-minute AFP News Agency video is embedded immediately below.

AFP video of urban protestors now training in rebel-held jungle
The photo shows a bare schoolroom. Elementary age children sit at tables unmasked, looking a workbooks or the soliders standing around, who are armed and taking the place of teachers
Junta propaganda picture of soldiers replacing teachers. Source
The photo, apparently from the same schoolroom as the above image, shows unmasked schoolkids at a desk in a bare classroom. A soldier, replacing a teacher, is showing one of the smiling schoolkids his gun.
Junta propaganda picture of soldier showing schoolkid a gun. Source
The image show a narrow roadway with a parked motorcycle, bordered by trees and walls. Standing on the roadway are young masked protesters making the three-finger democracy salute and holding signs with Burmese written on them.
Students in Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay, protesting the “military slave education system” on June 1 Source
The image shows protestors marching through a market street in Yangon
June 1 protest in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, with three-finger democracy salute. Source
The image shows protesters in a market street of Yangon, some standing, some kneeling, all masked. They are holding signs, upon which is writing mostly in Burmese, else in English
More June 1 protestors in Yangon. Note “Gen Z” on sign. Source
The image shows a masked young girl, perhaps early teens, with her face blurred. She's standing in front of a door and making the three-finger democracy salute. Her other hand holds a sign, upon which is writing in Burmese.
Youth in Yangon’s Insein Township on May 31 protesting the re-opening of school when students remain jailed for opposing the junta. Source

Nigeria. On June 1, the Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, a general who ruled the country in the early ’80s through a military coup, tweeted multiple times in reference to pro-Biafra separatists. Buhari’s Trump-like, bombastic tweets accused the separatists of “evil objectives” and seeking the “destruction of the system” and attacking electoral offices along with critical infrastructure. Buhari tweeted “Whoever wants the destruction of the system will soon have the shock of their lives.” One tweet in particular, pictured below, read “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.” On June 3, Twitter, citing its terms of service against abusive behavior, removed that particular Buhari tweet. On June 4, Buhari, again like Trump, retaliated by throwing a fit and trying to shut down Twitter, attempting to prevent Nigeria’s 200 million inhabitants from accessing the microblogging service that’s t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ an important forum humanity has t̶o̶ ̶a̶ ̶g̶l̶o̶b̶a̶l̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶m̶o̶n̶s̶ for public discussion (̶r̶e̶d̶d̶i̶t̶,̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶t̶u̶b̶e̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶l̶o̶g̶o̶s̶p̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶b̶e̶h̶i̶n̶d̶)̶. Ironically, the Nigerian Ministry of Information and Culture announced the Twitter black-out … on Twitter. The ministry’s head, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, complained that Twitter was inciting violence and spreading “fake news.” Some Nigerians using VPNs have been able to circumvent the Twitter shutdown, and continue to do so, defying Abubakar Malami, the country’s Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, who ordered the “immediate prosecution” of any Nigerian members of the public accessing Twitter. Buhari’s efforts at shutting down Twitter have drawn widespread international condemnation. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, a leader of pro-Biafra separatists, also had his June 2 tweet firing back at Buhari, pictured below, removed by Twitter today, for terms of service violation. Articles for more info and context include two at Reuters and one at the New York Times. However, you can also search Nigeria’s plentiful newspapers (written in English) by going to https://news.google.com and typing in a search term, e.g. “twitter”, followed by site:.ng to restrict the search to news sites with the top level domain for Nigeria.

The image is a screenshot of a June 1 tweet from the Nigerian president. It reads as described in the blog post.
The tweet by the Nigerian president that Twitter deleted
The image is a screenshot of a June 2 tweet of pro-Biafra separatist leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. It reads: "It's not for the living to respond to the dead but given the lack of reasoning prevalent in the #Zoo Nigeria, I wish to assure @GarShehu, the Jihadi midget @elrufai & that Fulani lapdog Femi Adesina that any army they send to #Biafraland will die there. None will return alive. even if it require sacrificing my people I will do it , freedom doesn't come easy. any Igbos that die will be Remembered"
“His” people? Anyway, this is the tweet by the pro-Biafra separatist leader that Twitter deleted today

China. 32 years ago today, the unidentified protestor since nicknamed “Tank Man” blocked Chinese tanks leaving Tiananmen Square where pro-democracy activists were massacred, a subject the Chinese Communist Party still censors with the ongoing help of Microsoft and other big tech companies. CCP atrocities continue, including the current genocide of the Uyghurs. An estimated million Uyghur people are being held by the Chinese government in concentration camps. Embedded below, just under three minutes of footage of Tank Man, the iconic photo of him, and a more zoomed-out image showing just how many tanks he stood in front of.

Tank Man footage
The image shows a man standing defiantly in front of a line of Chinese tanks
Iconic Tank Man photo
The image shows a man standing defiantly in front of a very long line of Chinese tanks
Zoomed-out Tank Man photo

Creative Commons License

This blog post, Benefits of making a timeline, both personal and anti-corporate … plus global resistance news, 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/2021/06/05/benefits-making-timeline-personal-anticorporate-global-news/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading 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 one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

More features for commenters; Colombia news blast

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, usually on Saturday. This is entry 21 of 52.

Note (added 3 June 2021): The optional “Your comment is approved!” emails described in this post have in their subject line [DouglasLucas.com Blog] (without italics of course) for those commenters who might want to set up filters in their email systems

The black-and-white image shows a frontal view of a mailman. Both his hands are full carrying suitcases, and he has suitcases under his arms as well. He's smiling and he has a uniform hat on. In the background is his mail vehicle. Words at the bottom say in white, "How would you like to be the Postman?"
Urban mailman circa 1923. United States Postal Service.

Continuing last week’s spiffing up of this blog’s leave-a-comment area, this week I’ve added another feature. Now, if readers input their email address along with their comment, they receive a one-time notification email letting them know if/when their comment is approved (comments are initially held for moderation). Please let me know if anyone has any trouble or concerns with this.

Unfortunately, a malevolent third party could comment entering someone else’s email address, thus spamming them if I unknowingly approve the comment — perhaps the bad actor would be trying to get my blog’s email address put on spam lists — but since I moderate each comment myself, I think I’ll catch most such attempts, if any happen. Also, the notification emails instruct recipients to email my personal address for help if they didn’t actually leave a comment themselves. Furthermore, while moderating, if I’m unsure about a comment’s legitimacy, I can personally email the address to ask, sort of a manual version of double opt-in subscription. I’m curious to know if anyone who’s moderated a high-traffic blog has ever had significant trouble with commenters typing in bogus email addresses sans double opt-in.

As of 29 May 2021, this graphic shows the same thing as the leave-a-comment section below.
The new leave-a-comment area. Verbose mode ON!

This week I clarified the instructions for the various leave-a-comment fields, too. So if you’re considering leaving a comment, and you’re wondering if, say, typing in your email address will or will not result in your email address being displayed publicly (it will not), then the leave-a-comment section now tells you such things up front. Readers don’t have to guess anymore.

I still need to fix a few more things, some of them invisible from the reader’s point of view, around this blog. First and foremost, there’s an odd problem with the website field in the leave-a-comment section. If you’re submitting your comment, and you include a URL in the website field, then the blog post webpage might reload without showing you a preview of your submitted comment, and I might or might not receive the comment. I’ll try to fix the problem next week.

My blog has needed these improvements for quite a while, but it’s a significant amount of work to get them in place. (For me, maturity has involved better scheduling of my time, acknowledging how very long some work can take, and rather than living in a puffed-up, grandiose headspace that pretends Rome can be built in a day, instead focusing on simply adding brick by brick across months or years.) So lately I’ve been dedicating my weekly post-writing time to just taking care of these improvements. Sorry if that’s made things a bit dull around here! There has been, however, some recent news in the world I think more people should know about:

News blasts

Myanmar (aka Burma). My post last week explains in more detail, with lots of links, the basic situation happening in Myanmar: The military, also known as the Tatmadaw, seized power in a coup d’état back in February. The Tatmadaw, which since the coup has killed more than 815 pro-democracy protestors, has lost most public support. Instead of acquiescing to the coup, the Myanmar public is joining ethnic armed militias and a civil disobedience movement to resist. On June 1, compulsory formal education is expected to resume, an upcoming deadline that perhaps will spark even more resistance. Something people can do is contact government officials locally and worldwide — or protest them publicly — demanding they support the proposed arms embargo against the Tatmadaw, i.e., reducing or eliminating the Myanmar military’s access to imported weaponry. Two videos embedded below provide additional information/context. First, a nine-minute video titled “What’s Happening in Myanmar?” from Al Jazeera’s “Start Here” program. Second, an even better video just under five minutes titled “What’s Happening in Myanmar Explained” by YourAnonCentral aka YAC.

Colombia. Colombian president Iván Duque’s mishandling of the pandemic, the country’s trade economy troubles, and his proposed tax hike that would raise prices of essentials — despite the government’s recent overspending on military and police equipment along with underspending on healthcare — has sparked more than a month of protests, which have seen Duque’s government kill at least 43 people and injure hundreds more with needlessly violent crackdowns. The public is also angered at hoarding by the narco-elite, including billionaire and former Colombia president Alvaro Uribe. SpookyConnections.com, a growing website I blogged about back in January, has a lengthy page documenting Iván Duque’s wrongdoing and organized crime links. That Spooky Connections page also includes a section about Alvaro Uribe. The video embedded below, under five minutes and titled “What’s happening in Colombia Explained” by YourAnonCentral aka YAC, gives a helpful overview of the current situation in the country. The second video, under four minutes, by the same source, and titled “Protests in Support of Colombia Sweep the Globe,” shows those worldwide protests. Among the many things people can do are contacting or protesting local and worldwide politicians demanding statements disapproving of the Colombian authorities’ violence against protestors, and in the United States, asking themselves and each other why such huge protests happen in other countries regularly, yet not domestically even when such as mass shootings are frequent occurences.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, More features for commenters; Colombia news blast, 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/2021/05/29/more-commenters-features-colombia-news/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading 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 one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.

New, optional notifications for commenters … and Myanmar news blast

Note: In 2021, I’m blogging once a week, usually on Saturday. This is entry 20 of 52.

Note: Adding a little to last week’s post on math empowerment, here’s a list of online resources for learning math free of charge, the helpful r/math subreddit FAQ, and mathematician Paul Lockhart’s well-known 25-page essay, sometimes called Lockhart’s Lament, decrying how math is typically taught in schools and providing suggestions for how to teach the subject as discovery and art. He later developed his essay into a book (which I haven’t read), titled A Mathematician’s Lament. I’ll stick this note atop last week’s post as well.

The black-and-white photo shows a uniformed man atop an old-timey automobile. A woman stands behind him. They're in some sort of rural farm setting.
United States Postal Service – Rural Free Delivery vehicle in South Dakota, 1905 – from Popular Mechanics

This evening I added a feature to my blog that hopefully will improve discussions. If readers choose to leave a comment on an entry, they now have the option to receive an email whenever a new comment is added to the post by anyone. Such emails include an unsubscribe link.

My hope is that receiving notifications of new comments will encourage previous commenters to return and converse with other readers. If you subscribe in this manner, and the post to which you subscribed were suddenly to go viral and draw zillions of comments, flooding your inbox, you can just unsubscribe. Further, all notification emails include [DouglasLucas.com Blog] in the subject line, so you can set up filters in your email system if you like.

I tested the feature a few times; it’s working fine, at least for me. However, if anyone has troubles or concerns with it, please let me know. Besides fixing a few additional things under the hood of this blog (invisible from the reader point of view), I also tried tonight to add a feature for my blog to notify commenters by email once their comments are approved (after being held for moderation), but none of the plug-ins I experimented with worked, at least not via a few hours of tinkering. I’ll try again next week.

To close off this week’s post, I’d like to inaugurate the news blast(s) write-ups I’ll include with each entry from this point forward. Many readers of my blog aren’t on twitter, where such information initially hits international awareness, so I’m hoping these news blasts will be a good way to spread topics that too often stay off the everyday radar, particularly here in the United States. I also will try to summarize the information in such a way as to provide an overview for audiences who may be unfamiliar with the material and who might need an accessible entry point into it.

News blast

Myanmar (aka Burma). Since the February coup d’état this year in Myanmar, in which the military murdered hundreds and arrested the democratically elected civilian government to replace it with its own junta (claiming a fraudulent election), hundreds of thousands of protesters have continued to take the streets and demand an end to military rule, sometimes in favor of the actual National Unity Government (NUG) declared illegal by the usurpers. However, U.S. officials in the first week of May said they won’t support the NUG unless it adopts representation for the displaced and persecuted Rohingya people and/or adopts a decisive anti-genocide position. Some individuals online are also pressuring the NUG to improve. Meanwhile, poverty in Myanmar is increasing to starvation levels amid a collapsing trade economy, Internet access is repeatedly shut down, journalists and poets are murdered for voicing anti-junta opinions, and dissidents are tortured with their organs harvested. Yet resistance continues, including hacks against the junta, and huge portions of the Burmese public joining militias / ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) or a civil disobedience movement to oppose the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military). The rank-and-file military is brainwashed to believe the resistance is chiefly foreign funded; the junta attempts to cut its troops off from outside information; one military doctor told the New York Times: “I want to quit, but I can’t. If I do, they will send me to prison. If I run away, they will torture my family members.” Arrests and rapes by military forces continue. Earlier this month, the junta declared martial law in Mindat, a town in Myanmar’s northwestern state of Chin, where residents told Reuters “We are running for our lives” and “We are living in a nightmare. Mindat is literally a war zone.” Clashes between insurgents and junta forces are ongoing as of yesterday in the Demoso township. Resistance movements in different countries, including Myanmar, are supporting one another, sometimes under the banner of the Milk Tea Alliance. Currently, because China, Russia, India, Turkey, Israel, and other countries supply weapons to the Tatmadaw, 200+ NGOs, as well as Anons, are calling for an arms embargo against it. Here in Seattle, protests took place outside corporate ABC affiliate Komo News. Save Myanmar Seattle information is available at this linktree page. The junta has suspended nearly a thousand educators in the Gangaw Magway area from their posts because teachers and students are learning real lessons by resisting them. A significant show-down may be coming since the junta expects compulsory education to resume on the looming date of June 1.

Creative Commons License

This blog post, New, optional notifications for commenters … and Myanmar news blast, 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/2021/05/22/new-optional-notifications-commenters-also-burma/ You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest reading 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 one on one? Email me: dal@riseup.net.