Category Archives: conspiring against the conspirators

April 10, 2014, 3:34 am

I, the Gentry

Harvey Milk

A year ago, Rebecca Solnit wrote a “Diary” item for the London Review of Books titled “Google Invades”, complaining of the influx of moneyed Silicon Valley types, from Google, Apple, Facebook, Genentech, etc., into San Francisco. I sent in a short response, and the LRB published it (it’s appended to the piece online). Since then, the argument has grown livelier, and I’ve even heard from a couple of journalists. (See “The dawn of the ‘start-up douchebag’”, in the Independent. I’m not the douchebag — I almost wish I could boast I was.)  But I don’t think I’ve managed to get across what needs to change.

First, I should say that the problems Solnit and others are protesting are very real. Living is expensive, and getting worse. People without plush incomes have to weigh income against…

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September 26, 2012, 3:37 pm

Your Electoral Update For the Day

To get a sense of the race today, and using the invaluable tool at 270 to win, I awarded all the swing states in which either candidate is polling on average more than 5 points or more ahead of their opponent (actually, Romney is not ahead by five points or more in any of the swing states, so it was just Obama). The result was this map:


Doing it that way, the electoral college tally as of today is Obama 265, Romney 191, five short of an Obama victory.

(The latest Republican meme, by the way is that the polls are desperately skewed in Obama’s favor, owing to a large-scale conspiracy of the MSM. This conspiracy apparently includes Fox, which is apparently rejecting its role as part of the vast rightwing conspiracy. There is now a site to unskew the polls, which, not shockingly, has Romney substantially ahead. I am reminded of the fall of 2004, when Democrats religiously insisted…

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May 14, 2012, 1:07 pm

Are there any drachmas?

As everyone knows, money is a medium of exchange as well as a store of value. Suppose Greece leaves the Euro: are there any drachmas around to serve as a medium of exchange? As of January, apparently, no. (Though rumors say otherwise.) Have some been printed or minted meanwhile? Probably not; it would create a panic.

“I don’t think you could do it much faster than four months,” says Mark Crickett, one of De La Rue’s consultants.

But a government could not commission and take delivery of a new currency without word leaking out and panic spreading.

It is much more likely that a withdrawal for the euro would be announced suddenly, and then there would be an interim period – those four months, say – during which a temporary national currency would be used.

Euro notes previously in circulation in a withdrawing country might be overprinted, or have special stickers added.


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December 22, 2011, 10:35 am

This history blog has its own history.

November 23, 2011, 2:10 pm

The umbrella man and the interpretive process.

Errol Morris writes, “For years, I’ve wanted to make a movie about the John F. Kennedy assassination. Not because I thought I could prove that it was a conspiracy, or that I could prove it was a lone gunman, but because I believe that by looking at the assassination, we can learn a lot about the nature of investigation and evidence.” He comes up with an “op-doc.”

December 2, 2010, 9:35 am

A leak a Dutch boy might have liked.

Sometime commenter and we hope still friend of this blog zunguzungu has an extended analysis of Julian Assange’s stated motives for building WikiLeaks (and on twitter) (which Joe Lieberman may have got kicked off Amazon’s servers). It was well worth my time to read the whole thing, but in brief Assange sees the US government, or large parts of it, as a conspiracy that depends on the secrecy and integrity of its communications to function. Leaking therefore need not disclose any particularly valuable piece of information to render the conspiracy vulnerable.

You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire….

zunguzungu points out that Theodore Roosevelt might have approved. Of WikiLeaks, that is; not of Lieberman.

July 24, 2010, 10:43 am

'We owe it to history to publish it.'

Daniel Schorr, who died yesterday, is being remembered for his remarkable, decades-long career as a print, radio, and television journalist.  I’m familiar with one small slice of this story: I did an intensive study of his coverage of the intelligence beat for CBS News from 1974 to 1976 – coverage that ultimately cost him his job.  I came away from my research and from my interview with Schorr profoundly impressed by his commitment to disclosure and democracy.  Schorr was true believer in the public’s right to know, and the historical record is richer for it.

It was not easy to get Schorr to talk with me about the most painful incident in his career.  (more…)

May 28, 2010, 8:07 pm

On the mission of the public university. And the Unabomber.

I was extremely pleased to find today that the 1939 LaFollette committee hearings on free speech and the rights of labor, all seventy-something volumes, were printed, bound, and on the shelf in my library, and I could check out every single volume and take it home until June 2011.  Which got me thinking about public universities, public libraries, and their accessibility to the public, even the Unabomber.

Everyone in Davis knows the Unabomber allegedly used our university library to, um, write his 1995 manifesto.*  The manifesto liberally borrowed from a book by a San Francisco stevedore-cum-philosopher named Eric Hoffer – and I mean “borrowed” in the sense of “if a student did this, she would be referred to Student Judicial Affairs.”   When newspapers published the Unabomber’s manifesto, a UC Davis student noticed that several sections matched underlined passages in the…

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May 28, 2010, 4:55 pm

Using an exploding cigar.

The CIA wanted to discredit Saddam, the known genocidal tyrant, by distributing a video putatively showing him having sex with boys. Did the Church committee hearings teach us absolutely nothing?

May 27, 2010, 10:16 am

Still kicking.

It’s nice that when one’s book is seven years old, it’s still on the top of some people’s minds (and lists). I’d like for there to be a tenth anniversary edition, come to that. Come on, stay in print!

May 16, 2010, 3:52 pm

You know, I’ll skip the Band-Aid, thanks.

The principal problem of the sometimes entertaining The Men Who Stare at Goats was, I thought, that it couldn’t quite decide to be outright funny.1 In this sympathetic account, the movie had three goals:

1) Look at the creativity employed by the military and make fun of it. 2) Show the “shadow side” of how things can go wrong with the inappropriate application of military research. 3) Ask the viewer to think about our involvement in Iraq and how that might have been different had our leaders been more conscious.

And 2) and 3) just aren’t that funny, are they?

It’s hard not to feel similarly about this recently released Pentagon memorandum (pdf), described on Wired here, about the Department of Defense’s relation to CIA mind-control experiments, including MKULTRA and a host of lesser-known MK’s including MKDELTA, MKNAOMI, MKSEARCH, MKOFTEN, and MKCHICKWIT.

Which is to say it’s…

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May 14, 2010, 10:22 am


Public reports are starting to say what a bunch of fairly knowledgeable people have been quietly saying: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a Very Bad Thing because nobody knows how bad it is: nobody knows how much oil is down there or how fast it’s flowing, and therefore nobody knows how long this will go on. What we do seem to know is we don’t know how to stop it:

“We don’t have any idea how to stop this,” Simmons said of the Gulf leak. Some of the proposed strategies—such as temporarily plugging the leaking pipe with a jet of golf balls and other material—are a “joke,” he added.

“We really are in unprecedented waters.”…

If the oil can’t be stopped, the underground reservoir may continue bleeding until it’s dry, Simmons suggested.

The most recent estimates are that the leaking wellhead has been spewing 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons, or 795,000 liters) of oil a day.

And the …

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March 13, 2010, 2:46 pm

Great moments with Mr. Nixon.

My colleagues and I were discussing the craziest Nixonian moments the other day, and we decided to come up with a top ten list.  Here it is.  Add your own favorites in the comments.  (Alternatively, you could do the things the Disney folks did to Lincoln, and pick quotes from a variety of different moments to create a special Nixonian pastiche.)  Some questions to ponder:

– was Nixon really our craziest president, or would they all sound crazy if they’d installed voice-activated taping systems?

– who did Nixon admit to having a crush on (see the 14-second beep in item 10)?

1.  On thinking big (April 25, 1972)

Nixon: I still think we ought to take the North Vietnamese dikes out now. Will that drown people?

Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.

Nixon: No, no, no, I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?

Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much….

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February 15, 2010, 5:58 pm

There they go again.

The CIA has released documents confirming that it used an alleged deep-sea mining vessel called the Glomar Explorer to raise part of a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean in 1974.  This is a step forward for the agency, which in the past has refused to confirm or deny its connection to the Glomar Explorer, but agency officials are still declining to say how much the project cost, how much of the sub they recovered, and what, if any, intelligence they gleaned from the project.

The Soviet submarine sank for unknown reasons about 1,500 miles from Hawaii in March 1968, taking its crew and three nuclear missiles to the bottom of the Pacific.  A year and a half later, the CIA established a task force to study the feasibility of harvesting the 1,750-ton vessel from the ocean floor, some 16,500 feet down.  The task force concluded that it needed to build a huge,…

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December 8, 2009, 10:12 am

Emergency powers?

Aaron Bady, aka zunguzungu, has a long post up about the crisis facing the UC.

He argues that:

One of the myths about the UC system crisis is the idea that “Sacramento” is the real villain, and that protesting the UC administration is a waste of time. The legislature is the actual problem, people say, because they‘re the ones who have allocated less money to the University system. Instead of occupying the Office of the President of the UC system, such people argue, students should really be protesting politicians in Sacramento.

This seems to me to be both wrongheaded and misinformed. The president (and the regents who appoint him) are Sacramento, while the university community itself has not only had very little role in the massive top-down restructuring of the university that got under way in July, but they have been quite actively shut out of it, by the Regents and by…

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