The God’s Eye View by Barry Eisler

How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars

What I liked: It was a thrill ride, a thinkers thrill ride, but a thriller nonetheless. It’s a bit creepy to contemplate the reach of the government in the post-9/11 world. Even creepier, I submit, when a skilled author brings characters to life who have to grapple with the issues in real time, on the run. 

Plot Summary: A clean up by the NSA leads to a cover up, and cover ups lead to more cover ups. The body count and loose ends lead an analyst inside the agency to start to ask questions, questions that she knows she isn’t ready to answer, questions that peel back the curtain on the NSA’s power and god-like reach.

“Something about all that power seemed to make the assholes who wielded it believe they were invulnerable.”

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There is, after all, something revolutionary in Christianity — a tendency to upend, reverse, and radically transform. In Mary’s magnificat, the song of praise, she offers at her meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, she proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant . . . He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” This list of upsets issues from the mouth of a peasant girl who has been promoted to an almost unimaginable status. That the radical reversals of Christmas are enumerated to us by a young woman of no particular social standing is itself an incredible bit of turnabout.

The revolutionary character of Christianity is usually washed out and mostly confined to specific political moments when it’s useful to refer to it. But this selectivity, too, should be upended. Christianity is at all times concerned with the poorest, the most vulnerable, the most oppressed; it is permanently interested in reversing this order, in aiming at and accomplishing the unexpected.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/12/meaning-christmas-revolution-oppressed-kierkegaard/

Keith Scott shooting: no charges to be filed against Charlotte police officer 

Scott, 43, never raised or pointed the gun, according to the prosecutor, but Vinson felt he posed an imminent threat because he ignored orders to drop it and stared at them in a “trance-like state”.

Is this really the kind of nation we want to live in? Where officers have a license to kill with no accountability or repercussions?
Source: The Guardian 

Keeping It Real on Election Day

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So, I think I’ve fully come to grips with the fact that Bernie won’t be elected President today, even though I did my part and voted for him as a write-in candidate. You can do that in a few select states, like California.

A wasted vote, you say? Perhaps, although Clinton has a lock on California.

A risky vote, you say? Again, you may have a point, but show me a vote that is not risky.

And furthermore, which vote doesn’t feel wasted?

Right now, on the morning of the election, I am uninterested in judging anyone’s vote. I’m not so much concerned with who you vote for as much as I am concerned that you recognize the possible consequences of your vote. In other words, let’s keep it real today.  Read more

Loaded Words: On writing and revolution

An article, Loaded Words, from a writer and activist who has been very influential to me, Derrick Jensen. One of Derrick’s most quoted and most controversial lines: “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write, or blow up a dam.” (see Actions Speak Lounder than Words, 1998, and/or Derrick’s book, A Language Older than Words, a book very influential to me, personally) Read more

Review – Searching for Sugar Man (Film, 2012)

What if Bob Dylan had never sold a record? Imagine that.

Imagine that none of us have ever listened to one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters. What if one our most icononic musicians had cut two albums – just two – but we’ve never heard the songs, we’ve never heard ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ or ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Watchtower’ or ‘Tangled Up in Blue’? Try to picture an America where no one in 60s counter-culture had ever heard ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’, because maybe Dylan had to hang it up early because his albums just didn’t sell, so he had to be realistic and work a construction job to provide for his family. And maybe way back in the day you actually worked with Dylan – think of that – but instead of being an icon, he was just “Bob” to you, one of the guys, and that was a long time ago. He used to play music, you recall, he mentioned that, but you actually never heard Bob play, come to think about it. Then one day you discover that those two albums he cut all those decades back are super sensations overseas and that they’ve have helped to inspire a resistance to totalitarian rule in a land far away….See the rest of my review at Cinema Faith.

Creating the Conditions for Chaos

There was something about seeing Donald Trump on the stage at the Republican convention that brought it home for me, seeing Trump in the bright lights, alone and bereft of opponents — alternatively barking or basking in the glow of his victory. It all made it feel legit, legit in a very creepy, skin-crawling sort of way, but more than feeling disgust was my heightened sense of urgency, an urgency felt by most people in the face of fascism or other forms or totalitarianism. With Trump on stage, we can see ourselves going down that road, and it’s all too real now. The most obvious political course of action: do anything to stop Trump. Read more

The Disaster of Richard Nixon | The New York Review of Books

I was reading just yesterday about how Nixon prolonged the Vietnam war for no other reason than political calculations: he was looking for a way to get out with honor so that he wouldn’t suffer the political fall out. Perhaps something to consider before casting a vote this fall for a pro-war President like Clinton or Trump. Read more

Berners, this isn’t the end

Bernie Sanders just passed the torch to Dr. Jill Stein, and this political revolution continues stronger than ever…The Green Party’s Stein is now the liberal establishment’s worst nightmare: a trustworthy and inspiring progressive candidate who stands for ideals and principle. No more of Clinton’s prison lobbyist donors or FBI criminal investigations, just an honest woman named Jill Stein who states “Berners, I repeat: this isn’t the end…Not by a long shot.”

Dr. Stein also correctly states “If you don’t want to vote for a warmonger or racist billionaire, there are more options.” It might come as a surprise to Hillary voters, but most Americans are tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. Ultimately, when Bush administration officials are voting for Hillary Clinton, progressive politics needs a savior.

This excerpt from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-just-made-jill-stein-the-most-powerful_us_57860e7ce4b0cbf01e9eddc6

All Violence Is Not Created Equal

All violence is not created equal. One day we hear of yet another black person killed by a cop and the next we read of a black man ambushing police officers. Many of us feel comfortable denouncing both as equally tragic: at the end of the day innocent people died and we mourn all loss of life. It’s a travesty that a black man was killed and an equally terrible thing that officers were killed. To me, though, this can’t be the final word. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. Read more

A grand, ungodly, god-like man

As inspiration for my own novel, I’m looking to Melville, specifically to his infamous Captain Ahab, “a grand, ungodly, god-like man.” Ahab is obsessive to the point of insanity, seeking to extract vengeance from the epic white whale. It’s Ahab’s intensity and energy that pushes the narrative forward, farther into the deep oceans of the high seas. In the story, Ahab is Shakespearean in scope, making for a rich metaphorical discussion, but from a writer’s perspective, there’s something about Ahab that is also a little more difficult to put a finger on. He doesn’t quite fit the bill as a traditional antagonist. He’s ungodly, yes, but ultimately, Captain Ahab’s fight is with himself. Read more

A Yuge Difference: Is America ready for Bernie?

Bernie was on Saturday Night Live recently, and there’s a skit I love, featuring Larry David (of Seinfeld fame and Curb Your Enthusiasm). The scene is of a sinking ship. “Women and children first!” yells the captain. “Really?” Larry David says, incredulous. There’s a good bit of back-and-forth between Larry and the Captain, as women and children are loaded onto the life raft. Larry can’t seem to convince them to take him on the raft before the women and children, and he worries that he’ll not make it on the raft, so he finally plays his trump card: I’m really wealthy, he says. “I’m worth more than all the rest of you put together.” That’s when Bernie steps in, dressed as a commoner. Read more

It’s a Wonderful Life

By way of a holiday reflection, I wrote a review of It’s a Wonderful Life for Cinema Faith. Cinema Faith is a new film website with thoughtful articles and a reviews written by insightful young Christians.

Here’s a quote from Frank Capra, creator of It’s a Wonderful Life, a quote I discuss in my short review:

Forgotten among the hue-and criers were the hard-working stiffs that came home too tired to shout or demonstrate in streets … and prayed they’d have enough left over to keep their kids in college, despite their knowing that some were pot-smoking, parasitic parent-haters. Who would make films about, and for, these uncomplaining, unsqueaky wheels that greased the squeaky? Not me. My “one man, one film” Hollywood had ceased to exist. Actors had sliced it up into capital gains. And yet – mankind needed dramatizations of the truth that man is essentially good, a living atom of divinity; that compassion for others, friend or foe, is the noblest of all virtues. Films must be made to say these things, to counteract the violence and the meanness, to buy time to demobilize the hatreds…

http://cinemafaith.com/reviews/its-a-wonderful-life/

Keep an eye on that high phone bill you’ve got there..and the cable bill if you’ve got cable

If you were to be inexplicably transformed into a European, perhaps suddenly struck with the strange ability to speak German while munching a sausage in the beautiful city of Munich, or if you lost consciousness and awoke to find yourself sipping wine at a cafe in Paris like it’s nobody’s business, or if one moment you were fighting traffic on your commute home through one of any number of American cities, log-jammed during rush hour, and the next you were standing on a plain in Spain enjoying the rain, then you’d of course notice that the situation regarding your healthcare coverage was much improved; but once the shock of being morphed from an American to a European wore off, once you got used to the idea of better healthcare, and if you were a man and needed time to adjust to snug, form-fitting clothes, at that point you would likely notice something very significant about your cable bill or cell phone charges — they’d be lower. Read more

Being grateful, maybe just for the hell of it

Understanding what it means to be thankful has proved a more difficult task than I would have thought, and I’ve thought a good bit about it over the years. I mean really, I have, I’ve thought about it a good deal more than you might think I might have thought. Being thankful is a pesky problem, actually. Read more