Look at President Donald J. Trump playing “Baby Pinochet”

As of this writing, secret police are cruising the streets of at least one American city, hustling citizens engaged in First Amendment-protected acts of protest off the streets in unmarked cars, where they are detained without charges in federal buildings.

Stated so plainly, is it really alarmist to accuse our president of playing at Pinochet?

It is tempting to use the rhetoric of fairness. After all, President Donald J. Trump, unlike Gen. Augusto Pinochet, is not disappearing his political opponents by the tens of thousands.

And this is, after all, America, where there’s a long, illuminating tradition of civil society, habeas corpus, checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights, all specifically designed to prevent such abuses of power.

Yet there is an equally long shadow cast by the American capacity and instinct for brutality and impunity — from Jim Crow to lynch mobs; from the Red Scares to McCarthyism; from the murder of Fred Hampton to the M.O.V.E. bombing in Philadelphia; and so on, and so on.

In that regard, our president has proven himself far too willing to ape the rhetoric of the fascistic authoritarian and the fear-baiting, outrage-stirring demagogue — and to use the powers of his office in a manner that incrementally ups the fascistic ante.

President Donald J. Trump’s secret police are apparently from Customs and Border Protection, or maybe the Federal Protective Service, or both.

President Donald J. Trump says he wants to send these paramilitary forces to Chicago, Oakland, and elsewhere, against the wishes of local authorities, and most certainly to the building alarm and anger of everyday citizens still fresh from massive, coast-to-coast protests against another long American tradition — that of murderous institutional and societal racism.

The potential for deeper abuse increases with each such deployment; President Donald J. Trump’s willingness to harness such dark historical forces for his political advantage is contemptible and criminal.

And, given any confusion or contested results in the forthcoming November election, we will most certainly see widespread civil unrest and further deployments of President Donald J. Trump’s secret police.

Yet with this comes an escalation of grassroots demands for accountability and redress, and the empowerment of countervailing civil-society forces and actors through an energized political process.

This fills me with hope — that we are in fact witnessing the death throes of American authoritarianism, and the demagoguery, race-baiting, and fascistic impulses that enable it.

What I fear is the terrible toll in life, love and all good hopes that the dying serpent will take — and has already taken — as it lashes about on the floor, spewing venom in its hideous convulsions.

I don’t think, given the strength of civil society, our civil institutions, and the burgeoning power of protest and civil disobedience, that President Donald J. Trump is ultimately capable of becoming an actual Pinochet.

But goddamn, it seems he is all too willing to play the part.

Press Club panel on ‘Big Tech’ and journalism

Someone put me on a panel about Big Tech — Google and Facebook, mostly — and then someone else wrote an article about it.

The event was at City College, and was staged by the Press Club of San Francisco.

Check out the article here.

It was a fun panel. Also starring the extremely astute Ryan Singel (late of Wired and currently running the Context.ly recommendation engine), plus two Danish journalists — Peter Keldorff, a foreign correspondent at government owned subscription television station TV2, and Johanne Hesseldahl Larsen, the digital editor at Denmark’s national public-service broadcaster.

Kim Shattuck of The Muffs was awesome and died too young

I don’t know where my old Muffs cassette is these days, but that band carved out a little space in my music-loving heart, and I was so sad to learn that their frontwoman, Kim Shattuck, has died way too young — age 56, of ALS.

It’s not just their catchy little snarky/world-weary/get-over-it ditties. It’s the delivery, the embodying of those tunes, that expression of attitude through Kim’s huge, raw, roaring, gloriously fed-up and totally whole-hearted singing, shouting and screaming.

Gods, what a voice!

Though she wore her cutesy-L.A. punkette style with panache and flavor, Kim Shattuck’s voice was physically huge. Louder than just about any other rock’n’roll shouter that I can think of except, maybe, I dunno, Robert Plant? Paul McCartney belting it out in “Oh! Darling”? I mean, there’s no shortage of big voices in rock’n’roll, and I don’t intend here to diminish them. Specific to genre and gender, for example, Courtney Love, certainly, can bring it as viscerally as Shattuck did.

Yet they are different singers and different musicians. And Love’s songs have a depth of despair and anger that The Muffs never really plumbed.

But then again, The Muffs didn’t really need to plumb those depths; that wasn’t what they were about. Not knowing details of their personal lives, The Muffs did not come across as a band about life as a train wreck. Their songs were about moving on, about rising above, about living it and getting over it through sheer gumption, gusto and a game face. The mundane indignities of life’s stupid imbroglios, the scorn-worthy behavior of one’s self-absorbed, oblivious or just-plain-petty peers — you can deal with it all, and grab hold of some beautiful rock’n’roll catharsis along the way, by singing it all out as loud and as hard as you can.

And on any Muffs album, Shattuck’s voice is all the way on, all the time.

She was by any reckoning a top-notch guitarist and bandleader, and wrote great little tunes, but she took herself to another level by putting her whole being into every note she sang.

R.I.P. and thanks for such tremendous sound and feeling, Ms. Shattuck.