Thursday, February 9, 2017

1984 ain’t the book

Hey, I love George Orwell’s 1984. It inspired me to write The Milkman, which is actually the book I wish was surging right now on Amazon. Not because it’s mine – not entirely, anyway – but because I think it gives America a glimpse of what waits down the road. The corporatization of the US, and the rest of the world, has been fomenting for centuries. Now, like a 300-year old toddler, it’s hit a growth spurt and I wish people would use my book as a What to Expect when You’re Expecting a Post-Government Society.

It started with the British East India Company in 1600, one of the first enterprises owned by shareholders and the very first multinational corporation to take over a foreign country and hold it for a quarter of a millennium. Although the company dissolved in 1874 it was more a victim of its success rather than a lack there of. England and India dismantled it before it became “too big to fail.”

Corporations having been following its model ever since. Improving on it. Stretching into multiple countries, so no two can keep up for a take down. Diversifying, so has not to be a hostage to the price of tea. Or oil. Ingratiating themselves into everyday lives – healthcare is about as intimate as it gets. And chipping away, day after day, at their counterweights: press, organized religion, government.

In the US House of Representatives, there are 30 lobbyists per legislator. In the Senate the ratio is 131 to 1. The majority of lobbyists have ties to business interests. Corporations have more representation in Washington than the people. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision, corporations have a right to free speech. Money is speech and they can spend as much as they want and, well, they’ve always got more than you do. I don’t care who you are reading this, there’s company with more money than you.

They have used that power of speech to put more corporate-friendly people in public office, eroding the power and purpose of government. You know, an Exxon CEO in the State Department. Five Goldman Sachs alumni in Cabinet or advisory posts. Pro-business Supreme Court Justices and an Attorney General. That kind of thing.

I'm not saying business is bad. My novel-length thought experiment does suggest checks and balances might not be terrible. In The Milkman no one is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” All rights are granted by corporations as conditions of employment. Not exactly freedom as we know it.

That’s it. That’s where we’re headed. I’m thinking by 2084. Perhaps my book will be a best seller by then.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Milkman comes to the Supreme Court

It was fun writing the Milkman. It has not been all that much fun watching the real world amble towards my fictitious one. Most recently . . .

The nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court seems like a victory to large segments of the US population. None of whom are the real, true beneficiaries. Nope. It’s corporations that get a new seat in the third branch of government.

Gorsuch looks like a conservative Christian, and maybe he is. I’m not the Shadow. I can’t peer into men’s souls. I can see what people do, though. This guy transfers power to corporations. From you. 

As a Tenth Circuit judge rendering a decision in the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch said Hobby Lobby, in denying contraception from its health insurance plans, was “exercising religion.” The corporation had a religious belief.

This was not, as many believe, a win for religious freedom. We all had that going in. Any individual working for Hobby Lobby could choose to act on that freedom and not use contraception. This was a transfer of power from those people, to the company.

Corporations will continue to grab more power in the years to come. With Gorsuch’s confirmation, they’ll have more help.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Otherness Factor, by Arlene Marks. A wonderful view of an even bigger picture

Very Large Telescopes use sets of smaller telescopes to give you a bigger picture of the universe than any of the components could on their own. Arlene Marks’ Sic Terra Transit books work the same way. Lots of points-of-view from a variety of characters let you glimpse through little personal portals, into an intriguing and fully realized world. They let you piece together something you couldn’t otherwise experience. Something big.

Book 2, The Otherness Factor, is deliciously different from The Genius Asylum (Book 1). There are overlaps, family connections and, of course, a shared setting (in the broadest of terms – the galaxy is a big place) but Otherness takes on new characters and new concerns. The complexity is built simply, which makes for a very satisfying read.

As Otherness sits in the Sic Transit series, there are several stories sitting within Otherness. A crystal within a crystal. The first part features Lania, and reads like Little House on an Alien Planet, with a post-modern edge. The second part feels like a traditional Bildungsroman, if they traditionally featured more alien cat-like empaths. Part three brings these two together, and result is exciting, swashbuckling and ultimately quite moving.

Marks brings a sense of realness to this unreal world. It resolves the images into something you could not see any other way. Exactly what I want from a novel.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Coup d'├ętat

People, and the press, are looking the wrong way when it comes to the imminent Trump cabinet. Yeah, there is a bunch of billionaire executives. That was to be expected. Some are not billionaires, though. I’m more interested in that other half.

The junta:

Ryan Zinke, ex- Navy Seal Commander
James Mattis, Ret. Marine Corps General
John Kelly, Ret. Marine Corps General
Michael Flynn, Ret. US Army General
Mike Pompeo, first in his class at West Point. Jeff Session, Capt. Army Reserve
Rick Perry, former Air Force Pilot

That’s about half of the cabinet posts, and we’re not done. Who knows, maybe a quiet, bloodless take-over of the American government by the military is good thing. Or at least on honest thing. If we, as a nation, are spending 57% of discretionary spending on the military - $602 billion dollars a year – we should probably have those numbers represented up-front, at the table.

And we should be thankful there were no beheadings. These ‘strokes against the state’ don’t always go so smoothly.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Milkman comes from McDonalds

I love this article by George Monbiot about McDonalds, globalization and the decline of democracy. It reminds me that I may not, in fact, be a total Chicken McNugget Little for writing The Milkman. Some smart people think the rule of corporations is less far-fetched than aliens, killer robots and self-lacing sneakers. (OK, not so much on that last one.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Connecting a Dot

I’m buying a six-pack of Amazon Echo Dots today. If you are unfamiliar with them, allow me: You plug these hockey puck things into a stereo or a lamp or whatever you like that’s got a plug and then you can tell the Dot to perform that thing's function. Like a Clapper that understands words. You can make your house listen to you. In my case, that means at least something is listening to me.

The wife and kids hear slightly less than a third of what I say, regardless of volume or topic. Which can be very unproductive. I make an announcement like, "I’m going to the store for milk and eggs" and hear back "What the hell is a milk egg? And why do you store them?" Now this could mean I’m terribly boring two out of three times, but that’s no excuse. There could just as easily be a real pearl in there amongst the bivalve, if you get through the goo. I want someone – something, at least – to listen. Always.

So I’m putting a Dot in every room. When I say things like, "Maybe the press is wrong about vampires, too?" or "I'm going to write a short-story about a meatloaf that runs for an open Senate seat" I’ll know, on some level, I’ve been heard.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Milkman comes to the Whitehouse

There has never been a president with no experience outside of the business world. From Washington to Obama, every president served in either public office or the military, a good portion did both. The business world was never considered a solely acceptable preamble for heading the executive branch of the government. Until now.

I’m not making a judgement call here, though I’m tempted. I am saying the corporatization of America has been steady, relentless and increasingly overt. We have taken one more step towards U.S.Inc. The steps are getting close together and hopping much more quickly.

Which is great if you write books about it. As to whether it’s great for anything else? It’s a matter of point-of-view. Like when you’re in a human pyramid. The view is awesome from the top.