CitizenFour

I’ve just returned from watching CitizenFour,  Laura Poitras’ new film about Edward Snowden. Poitras was invited, along with Glenn Greenwald (then of the Guardian), to meet Snowden in Hong Kong to share the information he wanted released about American government surveillance programs.

Edward_Snowden-2The thing feels like a Bourne movie, even though it’s almost entirely people sitting around rooms talking (and several shots of emails on black screens). The gathering sense of dread is similar except, of course, in this case, it’s real.

One of the more eye-opening scenes in the film is a meeting of lawyers working pro bono on Snowden’s defense.

The conversation is about the fact that he’s been charged under The Espionage Act, an 1840’s-era law that assumes a spy working for a foreign power. Any argument that Snowden could make to justify his acts – that the information was unreasonably classified, that it should not have been collected in the first place, that he was acting in the public interest – would have been inadmissable in court under this charge.

So much for a fair trial.

The film shows other whistleblowers who’ve come forward and been ignored. The difference with Snowden was the scope of what he revealed and the Powerpoint presentations he made public that not only detailed what the programs did but their intent – the dispassionate narrator talking blandly about collecting everyone’s information all the time, worldwide, without bothering about charges or due cause or any of that old-fashioned rule-of-law stuff.

By contrast, you see Snowden in a t-shirt on a hotel bed sending emails back and forth to his girlfriend, explaining that he’s gone and likely not coming back. You see him flinch when the fire alarm goes off in the hall outside. You see him trying to get his hair to behave when the lawyer comes to smuggle him off to the local UN office and then underground. He’s tetchy, uncomfortable – very human – and uncertain about almost everything except his determination that these programs must be revealed to the American public.

I’ve paid attention to the story so I can’t say there was anything in the film that took me totally by surprise. I walked home feeling like I had a better sense of Edward Snowden. I was much less certain, however, about the United States of America. I recognize the place less and less lately.

Go. Disagree with me violently but go anyway. See the film for yourself. Whatever you think you know, go and see how you feel after.

This subject can’t just pass into oblivion without public debate. If we let all this happen without a major stink, we deserve whatever we’re about to get. Because the bottom line is, this is our lives, not a movie.

Addendum: Here’s a link to an interview with William Binney, the former high NSA official and the other whistleblower shown in the film.

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The March

streetview-sm

I wanted to go. I felt I needed to go.

 

 

banner-smThis isn’t a problem that just snuck up on us. It’s something that’s been building for decades right out in the open, because everyone in power keeps shrugging their shoulders and pointing at the other guy and then pointing at us and saying “Well, they’re not willing to sacrifice.”

 

 

 

So today, we’re saying “Try us.” It’s not the middle class or the poor who are unwilling to make this a priority. It’s the few who are making incredible profits from the current system and are not going to give them up until they have used up everything there is to take from this planet.

 

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I’ve listened to friends of mine tell me this is trumped up. It’s natural cycles, they say. It’s just hype, as though climate scientists just love jumping up and down and scaring the hell out of everyone (my small-sample experience indicates they generally have no interest in leaving the lab).

 

A friend whom I generally consider sane and non-suicidal once said out loud, “Well, it won’t be the end of the planet, just the human race.” I have a son – that was the point at which I stopped trying to reason with her.

 

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So today, those of us who aren’t willing to lie down and be run over by unregulated global capitalism (Profit Until You Die! or acts to that effect) were out in the streets making our point.

Hopefully, the kids that were out there aplenty (along with a huge number of new moms and grandparents, Native Americans, people from Harlem, New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, Pakistan and the Philippines) will realize that we’ll have to keep showing up repeatedly in ever-greater numbers for several years before we finally scare a few politicians enough to turn down some of those very attractive bribes.

 

Those of us my age remember what it took – but we also know it can be done.

 

 

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In the meantime, for the first time in a long time, looking up and down Central Park West, I had hope. I heard a chant that said everything I’ve wanted to scream for years:

 

Tell Me What Democracy Looks Like – THIS Is What Democracy Looks Like!

 

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It was 45 Years Ago Today…

I went to Woodstock. The first one – the good one. 45 years ago today.

all pictures by Ted Krever

all pictures by Ted Krever

It was my first concert. It certainly set a high bar for the rest, though I’ve seen a few good ones over the years.

It wasn’t as dramatic as it was made to sound at the time. My experience (your mileage may vary, as they say on this newfangled Internet thingie) was that you could get food if you were willing to pay for it (I wasn’t enough of a hippie to expect anything for free) and if you walked past the first few Porta-Sans, there were open ones available at the back of the line pretty much anytime.

I was a Buffalo Springfield fan, so I went to see Stills and Young play together with their new partners Crosby and Nash. That worked out pretty well and I got to see the Band ( my other favorites), Santana, Creedence, The Who, Sly, Richie Havens, Hendrix (heard him through the trees as I was leaving) and so forth. Fell asleep on the Dead, woke up to Jefferson Airplane.

Slept in the back seat of my father’s car on the really rainy night so I wasn’t quite as drenched as I could have been. Stayed a good distance from those swaying light/speaker towers, because they looked positively scary to me. And wasn’t interested in the blue acid or the brown acid or any kind of acid and that instinct served me well most of my life.  I certainly inhaled, but I was cautious about what and from who and how much, which is why I can still string a few sentences together.

csnThe best story I have from the festival is this: I drove up with a buddy, his sixteen-year-old sister and a friend of hers. We came up from Lake Hopatcong NJ through a back road behind Stroudsburg PA and met up with NY Route 17 about five miles from Bethel, where the festival was held. The girls jumped out at the intersection, saying they’d see us Sunday night for the trip back.

When we got back there Monday morning, they were just arriving. They wanted to know how the concert was. You didn’t go? No, we stayed in Monticello, they said. Monticello was where the bands stayed. They smiled like the cat who…never mind. Let’s just say they smiled and wouldn’t tell us a thing.

 

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Mindbenders 1 is on Wattpad!

Starting today (minutes ago, for that matter), Mindbenders (1) went up -free – on Wattpad! mindbenders 8-3-150 copy

Wattpad, for those of you not in the know (like me a few months ago), is the largest collection of readers on the Internet. The site is designed for reading serialized fiction, most likely on your phone or tablet.

So, with Mindbenders 2 nearing publication, I’m going to put Mindbenders up bit by bit and give those of you who haven’t read it a substantial chunk of it to read for free and decide if you want to pay me (answer: yes, you do) to buy the whole thing at a really attractive reduced price. It’s even good for those of you who’ve read the story already and want to refresh your memories before digging into Part Two.

Go over, sign in or log in, give me a thumbs-up (it helps my work become more visible) and dig in!

Revision, 11:25am: I’ve had requests for clarifications, so here’s how you vote: Log in to http://www.wattpad.com/ , search for ‘Ted Krever’ or ‘Mindbenders’, read or page through to the end of each of the 3 sections I’ve put up and a ‘Vote’ button will appear in the right sidebar (it has a star on it). Click it and you’re done! Those votes will raise my visibility on the site, which is VERY important to my marketing plan.

Many thanks for all your help and support.

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Mindbenders 2 is finally done (almost)!!

Yes, but I MEAN  it this time! didnt die6-2 200 copy

The manuscript is finally finished (for the moment) and being sent to beta readers today. So I have to wait for their feedback – and inevitably, I’ll do another run-through for cuts and timing and voice before publishing. But the content is complete (phew!) and it shouldn’t be long – I’d say September at the latest.

So, much more to be said in the coming weeks as we ramp up for the book’s launch. I will definitely be posting excerpts here in the near future and running giveaways of the first ‘Mindbenders’ (which you still should read first, if you haven’t already – and if you have, now might be a good time to read it again and refresh your memory!)

But if you enjoyed the first, the second is just about here! Start the countdown!

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Net Neutrality (Again)

I received an email today from an action group, saying they’d had an interview with Chairman Wheeler of the FCC and that he said that letters from individuals speaking about their personal situations would be given the most weight in their upcoming decision (to turn the Web into cable TV or not). So I put another comment up on their site and urge you to do the same (soon–deadline approaching fast).

Here’s mine:

Dear members of the FCC:

You hold my future in your hands.

I am a writer of novels. I publish and market my own books on the Internet through various sellers. I compete with huge conglomerates in the ebook market and was fortunate enough to have a book in the Top Forty in category in the US and Number One in category in the UK a few years ago. I did this on a shoestring budget with my own small business, something I never even contemplated in the past.

I am working feverishly on a new book which I hope will earn me a living wage as a writer. That would revolutionize my life. My marketing plans include video trailers and multimedia donated by talented friends. They’re crucial for attracting attention from an audience that has so many options.

But my hopes are only possible because the Internet is (for the moment) a level playing field.

The links on my homepage load at approximately the speed of any other website. My videos run as fast as those on Amazon, Simon & Schuster, Apple or the Defense Department. As soon as you allow a two-tier speed system, I become a second-tier player – not because of the quality of my content but because of the speed of its delivery.

There are hundreds of thousands out there like me, artists who’ve recently been given the opportunity to reach an audience on their own merit, without having to rely on the groupthink of Big Six Publishers, Big Three Music Companies, Hollywood studios, etc. There are countless entrepreneurs starting small businesses that might revolutionize our world. The Internet revolution is in its infancy but in forty years, it has already become the default for commerce, research, communications and entertainment. It’s even changed the English language – ‘default’ had a totally different meaning before.

The Internet is demonstrably and obviously a utility, a necessity of our way of life. Internet service must be declared a common carrier service. Any and all competitors who can pay a fair price must be allowed to use the existing wire to provide true competition in this marketplace.

This may not be the desire of the Verizon’s and the Comcast’s of this world (that merger must also be turned down–the fact that they don’t compete against each other is the strongest argument AGAINST the merger, not for it) – but it is crucial to the creation and development of a million new entrepreneurs like me around the world. And we, not them, are the future.

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Net Neutrality!

I am working hard these days in the fight for Net Neutrality. Here is the note I enclosed with the petition below and why you should sign it (and all the others like it):

The FCC’s proposed policy is a worst-case example of money trumping good policy.

Internet access in this country is already lower in quality and higher in price than every other First World nation, simply because our Web providers have a monopolistic position. Not satisfied with that, they want to be able to extort more from any business that wants to function properly.

This is not offering better service to those who pay; this is threatening everyone who doesn’t with subpar service.

The Internet has in record time become the dominant engine for opportunity and real competition in the world’s economy, which is probably the reason these monopolies are trying so hard to destroy it.

I am demanding you to drop the proposed “pay-to-play” rule, which shreds the principles of Net neutrality just to fatten the wallets of people who already have way too much power and money.

Please uphold Net neutrality and classify broadband as a telecommunications service, the way it should have been from the beginning.

Sincerely, Ted Krever, citizen with no money or influence (just a vote)

Here’s where you can sign the petition yourself:
http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=878

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The Old Trouper

I worked with Mickey Rooney once, on a thirty-second cheap-as-paper spot for some product, God MickeyHeadshotcolorknows what. We set up camera and lights in some tiny hotel room off Times Square, it was probably in the early Eighties.

We set up at 10, scheduled to shoot at 11. I worked with several stars of the old days in that era; even the nice ones were prone to leave you waiting a while while they primped, trying to recapture long-lost glory. They were, after all, survivors of the ultimate vanity profession. And Mickey had been out of the spotlight for awhile, so I expected someone a bit down in the dumps. I wouldn’t have been surprised by bitter and spiteful, either – I’d seen that from people who’d fallen from much less lofty heights.

Knock on the door at 11, here’s Mick. Tiny man, hair like old roots get hair, smile bigger than his face and enough energy to power the city. Neatly dressed and presentable but looking his age and who cares?

“Hey, nice to meet ya, where do you want me?”

 

We showed him the setup, pinned the mike to his lapel, did he want a run-through? Nope.

 

Turned on the lights, rolled camera, Mickey said his lines without cue cards word-perfect. I think we did three takes but we could have used any of them interchangeably, they were all virtually identical. The spot was 30 seconds, his read was 28 on the money.

 

“Anything else ya need? Another angle, maybe?”

 

Nope. He’s got his coat on and gone. If he was there fifteen minutes, it was a lot.

 

There was no pretension, no thoughts of art or posterity. It was a job. But ever since then, when I think of professionalism, that memory creeps in.

 

He knew his work and clearly held himself to a standard. It didn’t matter what we were doing, that wasn’t his job. The product wasn’t his job. He wasn’t trying to control everything. He knew his part in the process, plugged in and did it thoroughly, cooperatively, collaboratively and with a quality control that was absolutely rigid inside himself.

 

I have my doubts, with what little I know of his life, that he was always so easy to work with. I’m sure he had his edges – seven marriages (is that right?) (Editor’s Note: It’s eight! Talk about diminishing return!) has to be an indication of some big hole inside – but by the time I met him, the guy was a pro in the best sense.

 

One of the things I like about writing books is that I don’t have to answer to anybody along the way. I set the standards at my own level, such as it is. But not everything in life is that self-contained and when it comes to working with others, you could do worse for a role model than Mickey Rooney at 60.

 

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Tales of the City #3,643

If New Yorkers are different (and they’ll tell you they are), it’s because they’re Masters of Incongruity. If there’s anything New York excels at, Incongruity is it. Other cities have the best rivers flowing through the middle of town or the biggest mansions or the most cafes with waiters who are too good to talk to you. We compete for those honors but we don’t necessarily win. But when it comes to Incongruity, we’ve got it by the bucketful (truckful/transport aircraft full, choose your metaphor).

y fire 3Here’s just a little local slice:

See the building on the left? That’s the 14th Street Y, where I had hoped to use the elliptical machine for my workout.

See the building on the right, the red one? Yes, it’s a firehouse, one of the remaining old slice-of-New-York ones.

So naturally, who had a fire just when I needed my workout? The gym right next door to the firehouse. And of course, they had to send four engines, not just the two housed one foot away.

So all the firemen were standing around outside while a whole other group went through the building double-checking everything.  From what I heard, the fire was in the shower attached to the locker room attached to the pool and the exercise room where my elliptical machine – my intended – was waiting for me faithfully (or maybe not – I think she’s promiscuous when I’m not around).

y fire2How do you have a fire in a shower, that’s what I want to know?

Anyway, a motley group of gymrats was standing on the sidewalk outside in their shorts and T-shirts.

“Where’s your clothes?” (It’s ten degrees in Manhattan today, folks)

“They hustled us out. They’re inside.” He shivered. “I’ll never complain about the cold again as long as I got my coat on, never!”

I consoled myself with a slice of pizza from Artichoke’s next door (eat your heart out, Smitty). Slice of life, though, that’s the New York way.

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Truth Over Law

I’ve been quiet for a while because I’m WRITING (almost finished with Mindbenders 2: Under the Radar)! And I rarely deal with politics here because I think it’s mature of me to pick my battles and I try to be mature as often as it comes natural.

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But the NY Times today published an editorial (well worth reading -link here) recommending clemency or a plea bargain for Edward Snowden, who exposed a long list of NSA abuses in a stream of articles published in the Guardian and the Times and the editorial unleashed a shitstorm of responses characterizing Snowden as either an evil traitor or God’s gift. I just added this comment to the Times page and thought I’d reprint it here for the twenty of you that read this page. Sometimes you just have to stand up for something:

 

 

To the Times:

The President’s own commission scorched his program (when’s the last time that happened?).

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle agreed that the NSA wildly overstepped its boundaries (by having none at all) and all but the one toadie judge agreed.
So how can anyone say these revelations haven’t been a service to the nation and the world?
Does anyone believe any of this would have become public if someone like Snowden hadn’t come forward?
No, none of you do, even the ones who are going to write to flame this comment.
Snowden did break the law, but there is a long-standing history of light or suspended sentences when a higher truth was served and this is certainly one of those examples.
I suggest Snowden be sentenced to time served in exile in Russia – after that first vodka party at the airport, I doubt it’s been a whole lot of fun for him.

 

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