Friday, October 6, 2017

The Demise of AOL's Instant Messenger

AOL has announced that AIM, its Instant Messenger platform, will cease to exist in December 2017. Despite the disappearance of AOL chatrooms and the imminent demise of AOL’s Instant Messenger or IM platform, I still find that those 1990s means of communication held their own to today’s Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or the like (and I have them all).
People rushed home from work beginning in the mid-1990s to dial up AOL and then try to squeeze into a chatroom limited to 23 people. Gaining entry was a challenge and sometimes took up to an hour with so many others competing to get in! And, for several years, AOL was very expensive and many people jeopardized their savings as a result of an almost obsessive need to be online.
Many of us developed friendships during those years in AOL chatrooms that endure to this day. Instant Messaging or IMing came later (and AIM as a separate application came even later still) and, once it emerged, people often found themselves trying to keep up with the scrolling chatroom dialogue while simultaneously engrossed in one, two or more IMs! For women the challenge of balancing chatrooms and IMs was even greater than that encountered by men.
RIP, AOL Instant Messenger.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

My heart is with ...

Senator Cory Booker posted today (Sept 6, 2017) a statement on Facebook <> that began “My heart is with the people of the Caribbean who are enduring the destructive force of Hurricane Irma right now, and with the people of Florida … .”
When I started reading his opening words I wasn’t sure to which group(s) he might be referring. It got me thinking how many others might be included in a statement beginning “My heart is with.”
  • The victims of Hurricane Harvey
  • The Dreamers under DACA
  • The Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar
  • The victims of flooding in Bangladesh
  • The victims of civil war and terrorism in Syria and Yemen
and surely many others.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


I was in Tunisia in May 1968 when Paris exploded with demonstrations and the like led by radical student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit. I followed developments by reading the daily Le Monde newspaper available in Tunis. The students claimed that their spiritual leader was none other than Marxist-Freudian philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who was a Brandeis University faculty member when I was there. But, I was shocked to read in a subsequent interview of Cohn-Bendit that he had NEVER read any of Marcuse's writings!
Well, these days everyone is throwing around the term "fascism". Fascist this, anti-fascist that. "Here's a fascist, there's an anti-fascist, everywhere a fascist or anti-fascist." But I am convinced that the overwhelming number of folks using the terms have never read anything by or about fascist political thought. Don't misunderstand me - denouncing Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists makes perfect sense. Denouncing fascism also, in my book, makes perfect sense. But it might be helpful if people knew more about the origins of that term and the political principles it comprises.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Do We Really Need Comey to Testify?

I don't know why we need former FBI Director James Comey to testify. I mean (to borrow Anderson Cooper's favorite phrase), I have been watching CNN and MsNBC much of today (June 6, 2017) and I think I already know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g there is to know about what Comey feels, thinks, and recalls about his interactions with President Trump, and I’m not even including what I have learned from the Washington Post and The New York Times! 

Maybe we could just write down on a sheet of paper or on an iPad all of these assertions and simply ask Comey to scroll down the list and check a box next to each one that is correct . That should do it, no? 🙄 😉 

Ads on Webpages: Going Too Far

I appreciate that, in a real sense, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone somewhere must cover the costs. So, too, I appreciate when I am surfing the net reading this and that without paying, that the costs must be covered in some manner. That's one reason I began subscribing to The New York Times and the Washington Post.

So I accept the need for advertising on the Internet. But some of it has gone too far, IMHO. When a pop-up ad suddenly appears to completely cover the screen and the article I'm reading, not when I first open the webpage but a minute into my reading the article, that is outrageous, even more so when the ad's close button is difficult to locate. And even more outrageous is when, while I'm reading an article on a webpage, a video somewhere obscurely located on that page starts to play, without my having initiated it. Not only must I stop reading to find the video to shut it off, but often it will restart, necessitating that I shut it off again. And, if I have multiple webpages open, sometimes I have no idea on which webpage the video is playing.

It appears that Apple, on its Safari browser, may take some steps to limit these practices. I sure hope so!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Media, Careful about "Breaking News"

I appreciate the quality reporting of the New York Times and the Washington Post and others, including CNN and NBC/MsNBC, regarding Russian involvement in our 2016 elections and possible collusion by the Trump team. But their competition has bred, at times, overkill. Many have already mocked the abuse of the term "breaking news".
Days ago it was reported that the FBI was considering someone high up in the Trump Administration a "person of interest". That it was likely Jared Kushner seemed obvious. Who else? Bannon? Priebus? Spicer? No, no and no. And not Melania. Even Ivanka would have been a stretch. So tonight's (May 25, 2017) "blockbuster" news that it is Kushner is a non-blockbuster.
As well, Rachel Maddow, on MsNBC, did her usual repetitive storytelling by reiterating that financial entanglements may be as much a key aspect to a Trump-Russian relationship as collusion with respect to email hacking. That too is not breaking news. Trump's financial ties with Russians, and possibly Kushner's, are not a new topic. And again tonight Maddow reiterated that obstruction of justice is an important part of the story. Really? Obviously.
So, media, please be careful about bombarding us with repetitive news stories. You'll overwhelm us and cause us to withdraw, to your and our own detriment.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Madoff and Trump

I just watched HBO's Wizard of Lies last night about Bernie Madoff. It was depressing. At the conclusion, he asks the NYT reporter interviewing him in prison whether she thinks he's a sociopath. The movie ends on that note. Like there's any question of it?

And this morning I thought of Donald Trump and his patterns of lies, hypocrisy and deceit, and I use the plural for his patterns as well as his lies. By this point, after he flew to Mexico during the campaign and wimped out on confronting the Mexican President about paying for Trump's Wall, did anyone expect Trump to actually use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in addressing the Saudis, which he frequently invoked previously and dissed Obama for refusing to use? And what about his condemnations of Obama for golfing? Or his criticism of Michelle Obama respecting her not wearing a headscarf when she visited Saudi Arabia? The list goes on and on, and these aren't necessarily Trump's most egregious lies, hypocrisy or deceit. The list is, indeed, endless, but that hardly lessens my ongoing feelings of disgust for Trump.

And, of course, I'm not even talking about Trump's promise to drain the swamp by hiring his Goldman Sachs crew, or his support of a Trumpcare bill that eviscerates medical care for those Trump promised to protect, that include many of his misguided supporters, or Trump's proposed tax "reform" that, together with his Trumpcare, constitutes incredible tax breaks for the richest Americans.

I'm even leaving aside questions of Trump's and/or his team's collusion with Russians or possible money laundering, as well as his firing of Comey to thwart the Russian investigation. We'll leave those issues, for the moment, to the Special Counsel and Congressional investigating committees.

In the HBO movie, Madoff tries to somewhat excuse his guilt and culpability by claiming that the investors whose money he stole had been greedy; that they bore some responsibility for investing with him. I don't believe any failures on the part of Madoff's investors lessen his guilt and culpability. But I do think they bore some responsibility for their actions or, more accurately, inactions in doing any due diligence in most instances. I draw a parallel to Trump's supporters here. I don't think their blindness, selfishness or ignorance excuses in the slightest Trump's culpability for his lies, hypocrisy and deceit. But I do think his supporters bear responsibility for their own behavior.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sharing a Perspective with My Parents Now that I'm Old

When I was young, either a sophomore or junior in college and about 18 years old, I read Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd. I loved it and during my next visit home I told my parents about some of the things Goodman had written. Both of them, college professors, responded, each in his/her own way, by saying something like "what he is saying is really nothing new". At the time, I really could not accept their responses, thinking they were closing their eyes to new realities. But now that I am much older than they were at the time, I believe I better understand their perspective. For as I read so many commentaries about today's world, I think, this is not necessarily something entirely new. Those who think they are providing incredible insights may be quite mistaken. I am not saying plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. But I am saying that there are a lot of similarities with the past as time passes. What did Freud say? The return of the repressed?

Friday, April 7, 2017

On Trump's Missile Attack on Assad's Syria

I don't have the answers on how to address the Syrian catastrophe. But I remain singularly unimpressed by the comments and observations of most political (and military) commentators. It's as if they just want airtime and to hear themselves talk. And that includes Fareed Zakaria, whom I usually appreciate, and 18-star former general Barry McCaffrey (no, he doesn't have 18 stars but he talks as if he thinks he does).

Do I approve of President Trump's limited response to the Assad regime's use of sarin gas. Yes. Do I know why Syria used that banned weapon? No. As Ian Bremmer noted tonight, we can't even be positive that Assad himself ordered the attack although I don't care since he was to have eliminated such weapons previously and his regime has used them before.

Do I know with certainty why Trump changed his mind and attacked, given his strong statements in 2013 demanding that Obama not militarily retaliate then for Assad's gas attacks and Trump Administration statements just in the last ten days indicating that Assad's position in power was not our concern. Was this a wag the dog situation in which Trump is trying to distract from investigations of possible coordination or collusion between Putin and Trump to rig the 2016 elections in Trump's favor? Is this an attempt to give a message to North Korea and China that this president will take a more aggressive military and non-military posture in foreign affairs than Obama did? I don't know the answers to these questions and they are germane, as is the matter of whether Trump's decision, absent a clear Congressional vote in support ahead of time, was unconstitutional.

Despite my not yet having answers to these issues, I support Trump's decision. Obviously my view could change if more information emerges regarding these and other issues. While I supported Barack Obama and understood his difficult choices regarding Syria, I did not appreciate his handling of the red line he drew. Perhaps he should never have drawn it. But having done so, I thought he undercut his own and America's credibility by not militarily attacking Assad in 2013. I also believe that he could and should have done more to pressure Turkey, the Sunni Arab states and the Kurds to work more effectively together and with us against an emerging ISIS, instead of merely describing it as a JV squad who couldn't shoot straight and then doing little against ISIS or to force Assad's removal as part of a political settlement. I do believe that Obama's low key approach contributed to the refugee crisis that has threatened Europe and even played a part, albeit not central, to Trump's own political success. But I did not and do not favor significant American military involvement in Syria. One Iraq War was more than enough and we've already had two. Our history of regime change has been dismal.

I am not a Trump fan and remain opposed to most actions he has thus far taken. It will be interesting to see how things develop, not only vis-a-vis Syria, Russia, China and elsewhere in the world, but also domestically as divisions and fissures between major Trump factions flair up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

President Trump and Torture

President Trump claims that torture is effective. Then let him prove it. He should subject himself to waterboarding. 

If torture works, Trump will confess that he's been lying about a host of issues including that his was the largest Inauguration crowd; that 5 million illegal aliens voted illegally in this past election; that a crowd of Muslims celebrated 9/11 in New Jersey; that Obama wasn't born in Hawaii; that he hadn't just lambasted the intelligence community before professing his love for it; and more. 

But if, after waterboarding, Trump continues to assert these provable lies, then we'll have proof to show him and the American people that torture isn't effective. 

Bring it on, Donald.

Friday, January 20, 2017

His Inaugural Address: Trump continues to disappoint

I watched the Inauguration today of America's 45th President and was disappointed.

Who can doubt that Donald J. Trump wrote his own Inaugural Address? It was just as dark and uninspiring as his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

We hoped he'd pivot after winning the Republican Presidential nomination. We were wrong. Some still hoped he'd pivot after winning the Presidential election and becoming President-Elect. They were wrong. A few remained hopeful he would pivot in his Acceptance Speech today after having been sworn in as President. Not a chance. Still the same harsh, bleak, dystopian rhetoric from Donald J. Trump, who apparently is able to see all that he describes so negatively from his suite in Trump Tower and his mansion at Mar-a-Lago.■