Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"They're Not The Counter-Culture. They're The Culture"

With those words, Bill Maher makes more sense of the Occupy movements, and what has motivated them, than most of what passes for our news:

But then, he is our answer to Mark Twain.

UPDATE: I guess we're doing videos today. Here's Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks explaining how the latest news about the bank bailouts by the Federal Reserve help explain the Occupy movements:

Long-time readers will recall that I mentioned this some time ago. What the documents have confirmed is the magnitude of that bailout. I wasn't one of those shocked or surprised by this announcement. The only thing that I find surprising so far is that Bloomberg, who also broke this latest story, had run articles back then saying there was anything from $15 to $23 trillion in financial support to banks. So far, the number appears to be more like $8 trillion, according to documents in the latest FOIA release. If you add that to the GAO audit's figure of $16 trillion, it just about adds up to $23 trillion.

That may just be coincidence, though. It's just as possible that most or all of the same money is being referred to in both reports.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Rebecca Solnit's op-ed at Al Jazeera:
When civil society sleeps, we're just a bunch of individuals absorbed in our private lives. When we awaken, on campgrounds or elsewhere, when we come together in public and find our power, the authorities are terrified. They often reveal their ugly side, their penchant for violence and for hypocrisy.

Consider the liberal mayor of Oakland, who speaks with outrage of people camping without a permit but has nothing to say about the police she dispatched to tear-gas a woman in a wheelchair, shoot a young Iraq war veteran in the head, and assault people while they slept. Consider the billionaire mayor of New York who dispatched the NYPD on a similar middle-of-the-night raid on November 15. Recall this item included in a bald list of events that night: "Tear-gassing the kitchen tent." Ask yourself when did kitchens really need to be attacked with chemical weapons?

Ms Civil Society vs Mr Unaccountable
I think the long process of waking America up is just beginning. The next few years are going to be troubled. How troubled they are depends largely on the limited smarts and extremely limited humanity of the upper classes, both in America and Europe. How soon they wake up to the fact that their world is changing, too, depends upon those rare and little-valued traits.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Yves Smith, who publishes the website Naked Capitalism, on the latest events in Europe:
Perhaps I’m too far from the carnage to have an accurate reading, but the news reports seem more anesthetized than shellshocked. It seems almost as if the European leadership has successfully faked its way through so many past crunches that they are unable to perceive that the same old tricks are no longer working. And it is increasingly looking as if their dulled reaction times are so out of line with market events that even if they were to snap our of their stupor now, it would be too late.

Eurocarnage Continues
I think she's right, if only because it looks rather like the anesthetized response to our economic woes on this side of the Atlantic. The debate in DC, from what I can tell from my remote position, is still about how much austerity we need to right things. The answer is that there is no amount of austerity that will right things, as enough sensible economists have explained. Only getting people back to work, at better pay and benefits, is going to right what's wrong with our economy, and sucking the government dry isn't going to do that any more than sucking the rest of us dry did.

Not coincidentally, this has been going on in Europe, too.

Yet the things that seem to occupy most peoples' minds about politics have nothing to do with our predicament. The general political debate continues to be how much of a foreign-born Islam-loving socialist President Obama must be on one side, and how much of a racist and metaphorical arsonist you must be to criticize him on the other. Actually understanding and dealing with what's wrong with the American economy, or the rest of the world's, seems to be the last thing on anyone's mind.

Which is one of the reasons next year's election isn't going to change jack, regardless of who wins, as I explained months ago:
All the people who tell me that things will be worse if the Republicans are back in power are smoking a substance I wish I could still partake in. Neither party gives a crap about the poor or the middle class right now, because progressives don't want to make them. Until they do, until they decide to break one of the parties and either reform or replace it, nothing will change for the better.

An Interesting Rant By Dylan Ratigan
I guess I must have been in a particularly racist and metaphorically arsonist mood when I wrote that...

So, Europe is going down, thanks to the complete lack of responsible leadership over there, and we'll be going down with it for basically the same reason.

Afterword: Yes, all but the first two of those links are from past Slobber And Spittle articles. Anyone who is surprised or shocked by what is about to happen simply hasn't been paying attention.

Saturday Entertainment: Twisted Christmas

It's a couple of days after Thanksgiving, and Christmas is already in the air. If you get as fed up with it as I do, you might want to try one of my favorite forms of relief:

I'm a fan of the old Animals songs, so this is one of my favorites.

There are about a half dozen Twisted Tunes albums now, and I suspect that round about December 15 most of you will have at least a few in your MP3 players.

You're welcome.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Caption: An artist's vision of a terraformed Mars.

Image credit: edawan/Celestia Motherlode

Attaturk, discussing the latest shenanigans of Moody's, other credit rating agencies, and Masters Of The Universe generally:
I do believe the world’s credit agencies are readying their escape pods and are preparing to escape the gravity of the Earth they’ve helped create.

Investing In Mars
They'd better start terraforming the place right now, or it's going to be awfully hard to breathe when they get there in a couple of decades.

What TIme Magazine Shows The World, and Us

No sooner do I get on Twitter this morning when I see this message from Glenn Greenwald:
So revealing: here's what Time Magazine thinks of its American readership http://is.gd/vQyCwg (via @IRANALLIANCE)

Twitter Message from Glenn Greenwald
I follow the link, and the first thing I see is a paragraph that says that Time content is available to online subscribers only. OK, this is a bit greedier than most online magazines, but still not what I'd call a slap on its readership. Then I scrolled to the bottom, and there was the answer:

Image credit: Screenshot of Time online magazine by Cujo359

Yes, if you live in the U.S. they charge you for more trivial content than they show the rest of the world.

I doubt that I will ever be a subscriber, even if I become fabulously rich and just can't think what else to do with the money.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Another Thanksgiving

Imagine a big inflatable turkey Caption: The inflatable turkey who guards Redondo from evil doers on Thanksgiving Day. Or something...

Image credit: Photo by Cujo359

It's Thanksgiving once again. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, because there's not much involved besides making a dish of something I know how to make and going to visit people I like.

If there's anything to be thankful for, it's that I can still do that.

Happy Thanksgiving, or happy Thursday, whichever applies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'Borrowed' Photo Of The Day

This one's copyrighted, but I couldn't resist:
Image credit: Stephane Guisard/APOD. Reduced by Cujo359

Here's the caption from Astronomy Picture Of The Day:
From an altitude of over 5,000 meters, the night sky view from Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes is breathtaking in more ways than one. The dark site's rarefied atmosphere, at about 50 percent sea level pressure, is also extremely dry. That makes it ideal for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) designed to explore the universe at wavelengths over 1,000 times longer than visible light. Near the center of the the panoramic scene, ALMA's 7 and 12 meter wide dish antennas are illuminated by a young Moon nestled in the arc of the Milky Way. ALMA's antenna configurations are intended to achieve a resolution comparable to space telescopes by operating as an interferometer. At left, a meteor's streak and the Milky Way's satellite galaxies, the Large (bottom) and Small Magellanic Clouds grace the night.

Astronomy Picture Of The Day: November 23, 2011
Go to the link for explanatory links and the full size image.

I'm amazed at the quality of this panorama. As regular readers are probably aware, I quite often make panoramas for the Sunday Photo articles here, using Hugin software. The quality of those panos can be anywhere from good to great, but such a detailed star field would be at least a little muddled the way I do them.

In short, I'm impressed.

Of course, the view is lovely, too. I'm envious. I suppose if I were living there I'd be obsessing about the cold, heat, and isolation, but it sure is lovely.

Stephane Guisard has much more photography of astronomy on display at his site, including this photograph.

UPDATE/Afterword: As with a previous APOD I published here, I've asked permission to leave this photo up here. My schedule being what it is, this will probably be up until tomorrow in any event, and maybe Friday.

UPDATE 2 (Nov. 24): I have received permission from Stephane to publish the photo, as long as I added links to his photography page. Done, and thanks.

Quote Of The Day

Robert Reich does a good job saying something that I said the other day:
If there’s a single core message to the Occupier movement it’s that the increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top endangers our democracy. With money comes political power.

Yet when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with all this, they’re told the First Amendment doesn’t apply. Instead, they’re treated as public nuisances – clubbed, pepper-sprayed, thrown out of public parks and evicted from public spaces.

Across America, public officials are saying Occupiers have to go. Even in universities – where free speech is supposed to be sacrosanct – peaceful assembly is being met with clubs and pepper spray.

The First Amendment is being stood on its head. Money speaks, and an unlimited amount of it can now be spent bribing and cajoling politicians. Yet peaceful assembly is viewed as a public nuisance and removed by force.

The First Amendment Upside Down. Why We Must Occupy Democracy
It's sobering to read this coming from folks like Reich and Bill Black, because they're establishment people you wouldn't expect to be talking about how messed up things are. Read Reich's rant through to the end, and you'll see what I mean. That people like them see this should be one more reason to be concerned that the next few years may be very perilous.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Image credit: Congressional Budget Office (via Beat The Press)

In yet another example of how wonderfully government is working for us lately, Reuters explains how the congressional Supercommittee has solved all of our economic problems:
Lawmakers abandoned their high-profile effort to rein in the country's ballooning debt on Monday in a sign that Washington likely will not be able to resolve a dispute over taxes and spending until 2013.

Lawmakers abandon deficit-cutting effort
First, let me take a side trip here while I get all Dean Baker on Reuters' ass and point out how loaded the words "ballooning debt" are. Ballooning, are you serious? The debt is still less than our GDP, which is about the only valid way of measuring this kind of thing.That's a lot, but it would have been a hell of a lot less had we not been running deficits all through the Bush Administration, who gladly told us that we could both lower taxes for the rich and finance a couple of wars, and the Obama Administration who told us the same thing. The only difference is that the Obama Administration told us this in such a way that they made career "progressives" all warm and sticky inside, whereas the Bush Administration were just a bunch of feckless warmongers.

As that Dean Baker link points out, interest on that debt is a small fraction of GDP, easily affordable. I wish I could have gotten a mortgage for my house that only consumed three percent of my income.

But anyway...

I suppose that if I'd bothered to put down at the time what my expectations were when this committee was announced, it would be that they would debate endlessly how hard to screw the 99% of us who aren't financing their campaigns. Then, I probably would have predicted, they'd have settled on not screwing us quite as hard as they could have. In that latter part of the prediction, I appear to be in error. Even when the parameters of the solution were restricted as I suspected they would be, the collection of assembled legislative geniuses couldn't agree.

Image credit: Mark M./Occupy Together

I feel so silly now.

They could have agreed to repeal the Bush tax cuts, and then get our armies out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and could have completely eliminated the deficit. That, however, would have taken disappointing the people they work for. So we knew that wasn't going to happen. Left with no viable way of reducing the deficit without either committing political suicide or making themselves ineligible for lobbying gigs after their days in Congress were over, they decided to do nothing.

Go figure.

In the end, they behaved the same way as the larger, but still remarkably shallow gene pool they came from had. While it wasn't what I would have predicted, it's an outcome that shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

History, Blah, Blah

Caption: A "duck and cover" drill during the Cold War. Weren't those just the best times ever? Nothing worried our little heads back then.

Glenn Greenwald makes a number of interesting points in yesterday's column, but this one stands out for me, in the context of what I've been writing recently:
The second exacerbating development is more subtle but more important: the authoritarian mentality that has been nourished in the name of Terrorism. It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. It’s an even smaller step to go from supporting the power of the President to imprison or kill anyone he wants (including one’s fellow citizens and even their teenaged children) with no transparency, checks or due process to supporting the power of the police and the authorities who command them to punish with force anyone who commits the “crime” of non-compliance. At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.

The roots of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying
Here I have to differ. Having grown up during the Cold War, and having seen much of the early propaganda that our government and other "concerned" organizations of the time produced, I can tell you that there's nothing new about this impulse. What's new is that it has been so successful this time.

Caption: According to Wikipedia, this is the Trinity explosion 0.016 seconds after ignition.

Image credit Los Alamos National Laboratory (via Wikipedia).

During the Cold War, we actually had a real threat to our existence, which was the threat of all out nuclear war. This is something that I think people under thirty-five have a hard time understanding - we lived with the threat of annihilation every day. I remember vividly the first time I was really confronted with this reality as a seventh grader - that the place I lived in was near enough to military targets that it could be destroyed by the huge weapons of the day, or, worse yet, that we could all be killed by the radioactive byproducts of those weapons.

Caption: In between drinks, Senator Joseph McCarthy [left] hunts for terroristscommunists.

Image credit: Library Of Congress/Wikipedia

Facing a threat like that, it should not be surprising that there were repeated calls for just the sort of things we're seeing now. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and all the foreign and domestic hijinks that followed, was an example of the paranoia and ruthlessness of those times. The Army spied on anti-war protests during the 1960s, and the CIA, with the help of the National Security Agency (NSA), felt free to spy on Americans in the name of finding out who the traitors and communists were among us. The McCarthy hearings were just another symptom of the paranoia, as good people were "black listed", prevented from finding work in their professions, because they were suspected of having communist leanings, and thus, sympathies toward the USSR. We were told that communists were everywhere, that they could be any of us.

Some of us were fool enough to believe it, too.

There were folks like the John Birch Society and Young Americans for Freedom to remind us how suspicious we should be. I remember being shown a John Birch Society film that smeared Alger Hiss as a traitor. Nowadays, we seem to remember the JBS as the nuts who were afraid of fluoride in water, but in reality they and their compatriots were a paranoid reaction to the dangers posed by the Soviet Union. Some of the dangers were real, of course, like the Red Army and the thousands of nuclear weapons the USSR possessed, but much of it was the paranoid ravings of these folks. Their message was "be afraid", and many of us never missed a chance to be.

Thankfully, calmer heads prevailed back then. The Church Committee ended domestic surveillance by the defense establishment, establishing that this was the province of the FBI. One of the results of this was the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which basically decreed that any spying done by the defense establishment on Americans had better be related to foreign intelligence operations. Eventually, the USSR was shown to be the hollowed-out, corrupt empire that quickly fell apart in the late 1980s. For a little while, at least, we could rest easy, knowing that there were no real threats to our existence.

Which, near as I can tell, is the difference between then and now. Oh, that, and that we aren't facing anywhere near the danger of nuclear armageddon now.

What's changed since then, you ask? I'm not really sure. I think one answer, though, is that back in the 1950s through the 1980s, we were still led by people who remembered fighting despotism in two world wars. By that I mean, they literally remembered it. President Harry S Truman was a WWI veteran. Presidents John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush were both WWII veterans, and both were nearly killed in combat missions. Joseph Kennedy, Jr., JFK's brother, was killed when his bomber was destroyed testing a new munition. Contrast that with Vietnam, where it was rare for the sons of America's leading families to be involved. John Kerry is one of the few exceptions I can think of. Vietnam-era scions President George W. Bush and Vice President Dan "Potatoe Head" Quayle avoided serving in Vietnam. The elder Bush and the two Kennedys volunteered for service, where Little Bush and Quayle voluntarily stayed away. In contrast to the elites of our parents' and grandparents' generations, the elites of the baby boomer and younger generations have learned that they can do whatever they want, and leave all the sacrificing to the rest of us.

Caption: One of the Harolds discovers a flaw in his defense policy.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Based on Internet traffic and the like, it appears that the collective reaction to the things I've written about history and its meaning for our own political problems has produced nothing but a big yawn. History is just so darned boring, isn't it? Yet not understanding those lessons has continually led us to do the wrong things. Endless waiting for President Obama to do the right thing, for instance, could have been avoided if those people had paid attention to the lessons I wrote about in the first of these essays. What history ought to be telling us right now, in big, bold, bright letters is that the elites of our country no longer feel the need to care about what happens to us. They only cared about freedom back in the day was because they risked their own lives for it, which they now realize they don't need to do. They can and will take care of themselves.

The only way they'll care about us is if we make them.

So, I suppose I'll just keep writing about this until people get the idea, or until there is so much material that I can print it out, roll it up into a nice, solid club, and whack people over the head with it the next time they try to tell me that all this is, like, completely unprecedented and all.

I think I'd better do some weight training so I can heft it, because I think it's going to be one huge club before we're done.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Photo(s)

Fall is happening rather late in the Pacific Northwest this year. It was a mild, rainy summer, so the trees didn't dry out. These photos are from the last couple of weeks.

Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

Click on the photos to enlarge, and have a good Sunday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Two Days In October, Two Days In November

Sorry, no real Saturday Entertainment today. It's the weekend, so I've got another 14 hour day ahead of me.

I'll try to embed some Buffalo Springfield, though, since they seem to be as relevant to things that are happening now as back in 1967:

The song was written, of course, about the protests and the turbulence of those times, of a war that no one with any sense should have wanted to fight, segregation and prejudice directed with no compunctions at African Americans, and the general feeling that we had lost something of ourselves as a people.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Big, Gigantic Thought For The Day

Image credit: Mark M./Occupy Together

They probably don't realize it, but there's a big difference between folks like Newt Gingrich:
Gingrich is refusing to elaborate on his work at Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage giant that hired the former House speaker as a consultant months after he left Congress, and paid him more than $1.6 million over eight years.
Gingrich has yet to make a convincing argument about his eight-year long relationship with the once-beleaguered organization. His comment that he was hired as a “historian” has, in fact, put his credibility into question even more.

Freddie Mac Ties Threaten to Hurt Newt Gingrich’s Credibility
and the rest of us. That is this:

If I had earned $1.6 million from someone, I'd have remembered what I did for them. I would have remembered, because it would have taken decades to earn that money, and they'd be the only people I was earning anywhere near that kind of money from.

I suspect that at least 99% of Americans could say the same thing...

(h/t Jon Walker)

Quote Of The Day

Keith Olbermann once again displays his grasp of events and irony:
For the entirety of the life of our nation, democracy has been protected - not merely by the strenuous efforts of those who cherish it, but mostly, and most profoundly, by the limitless stupidity of those who would ration it, keep it for themselves and themselves alone, or destroy it.
American freedom has not flourished in spite of these morons of history, it has flourished because of them - because they overreacted, because they under-thought, overreached, and under-understood.

Keith’s Special Comment: Why Occupy Wall Street needs Michael Bloomberg
In the remainder of this video, Olbermann makes his case that it has, quite often, been those in power who have inspired the cause of freedom by foolishly and brutally trying to limit it to those particular uses of it they agree with.

He makes the point that, far from helping his own cause, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's expensive and sometimes brutal overreactions to the Occupy Wall Street movement have made it stronger. I can't argue with that point at all. It's a lesson that Ghandi made famous long ago with his litany:
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
It only took two months for Occupy to reach the fighting stage.

The Limits Of Force

Sadly, I can't actually show you this photo, because it's an AP photo and the rules that apply to everyone else in America don't apply to them. But go here and look at that photo. Now that you have the context, pretend it was that photo here in place of this paragraph.

Wow. Portland’s Finest must be so proud of themselves right now. That's some good aim – got her right in the face. She looks like a serious threat to all those cops, too. What is she, 115 pounds (that's like, 52 kilograms for you foreigners)? Maybe they should put a couple of beanbag rounds into her before she hulks out on them.

I'm sure it was just purely awful down there for those police. They must have had their hands full with those protesters, what with them being all suited up in body armor and helmets. Oh, wait, that's the police.

I'll bet she was saying something really mean to those guys, too, something like "You're twice my size, covered in armor, and heavily armed. How much of a pussy do you have to be to be waving a can of pepper spray in my face?" You, know, something really uncalled for like that.

Like that granny and pregnant lady in Seattle, or those female protesters trapped in that pen in New York City, I'm sure she had it coming.

Yes, here's what Seattle's Finest had to say about their little moment in the Sun:
SPD spokesperson Jeff Kappel wrote on the department’s blog that “Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers.”

Elderly woman, pregnant woman hit with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle
Yeah, Granny had it coming.

Perhaps it's just another unfortunate byproduct of my upbringing, but somehow I got the notion before I left my teenage years behind that when you're strong you don't use that strength to hurt people who are weaker than you are. You take crap from them and, if it's necessary, you only use what force is necessary to keep them from hurting you. Do otherwise, and you become a bully at best, and a monster at worst.

Police are supposed to behave that way, too. We need them to show restraint, because we give them weapons and the right to tell us to do things we don't want to do. Most police, in most situations, undoubtedly do this, but some don't. When they don't, they're as much of a problem for the rest of us as the criminals they're supposedly protecting us from.

When it's done right, police work is a tough job. It requires far more forbearance than I can manage on my best day. You have to watch and listen patiently as the people you encounter use the same evasions and lies to get out of things they probably shouldn't be doing. You have to keep your temper in check when they don't do the things you are allowed, and in many cases required, to tell them to do. You have to maintain the perspective that if it were you in those situations, you'd probably be doing the same things. You have to do all that without loathing either them or yourself, so you don't become a crazy person or a monster. As study (PDF) after study has shown, many don't manage.

You won't see me jumping up and volunteering to do police work anytime soon.

Caption: Detroit police keeping an eye on all those Negroes who had it coming, back in 1967.

Image credit: Dunno source. Found it here

Still, incidents like the ones I've pointed out never seem to result in any punishment for the people involved. Cops who repeatedly use too much force, like Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, never seem to get more than a slap on the wrist. These guys are a danger to their society, because every time they show up at a potentially hazardous situation, they are just the guys who can turn that hazard into a reality. It happened in Detroit back in 1967, in Brixton last summer, and in countless other places.

Sometimes, force is necessary. Sometimes, it's essential. Using it indiscriminately, however, can lead to far worse consequences. Force applied to people will often engender fear, loathing, anger, and mistrust. What it has never engendered, in my experience, is understanding or respect. Police need to have the wisdom and the patience to use force wisely. When they don't, what we're left with as ordinary citizens is to try to shame other cops and the politicians who supposedly are their bosses into keeping these guys in control, or getting them out of police work altogether.

I think you can expect to see more of these articles in the days ahead.

UPDATE: As Teddy Partridge explains, when force doesn't work there's always lying...

Chris Hedges On The Inevitable

Image credit: Occupy Together

Chris Hedges, from an editorial at Truthout a couple of days ago, discusses the folks who run our country, and what they no doubt think of the rest of us:
Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the lies, absurdities, trivia and celebrity gossip we feed you in 24-hour cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thankful for the scraps we toss. Chant back to us our phrases about democracy, greatness and freedom. Vote in our rigged political theater. Send your young men and women to fight and die in useless, unwinnable wars that provide corporations with huge profits. Stand by mutely as our bipartisan congressional supercommittee, either through consensus or cynical dysfunction, plunges you into a society without basic social services including unemployment benefits. Pay for the crimes of Wall Street.

The rogues’ gallery of Wall Street crooks, such as Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs, Howard Milstein at New York Private Bank & Trust, the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers and Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase & Co., no doubt think it’s over. They think it is back to the business of harvesting what is left of America to swell their personal and corporate fortunes. But they no longer have any concept of what is happening around them. They are as mystified and clueless about these uprisings as the courtiers at Versailles or in the Forbidden City who never understood until the very end that their world was collapsing. The billionaire mayor of New York, enriched by a deregulated Wall Street, is unable to grasp why people would spend two months sleeping in an open park and marching on banks. He says he understands that the Occupy protests are “cathartic” and “entertaining,” as if demonstrating against the pain of being homeless and unemployed is a form of therapy or diversion, but that it is time to let the adults handle the affairs of state. Democratic and Republican mayors, along with their parties, have sold us out. But for them this is the beginning of the end.

This Is What Revolution Looks Like
There are any number of thoughts that have come to mind reading this article, and these words in particular. One is that after I Don't Believe In Atheists, I've learned not to trust Chris Hedges when he tells me what's on someone else's mind. He certainly doesn't understand atheists. Still, this quote describes my own predispositions concerning the rich, so I suppose I take them more seriously on that account. These folks, the MOTUs if you will, certainly have been feeding us a combination of meaningless pap and outright lies via their news and entertainment empires. They are not ashamed to laugh at all the little people as we're fighting for our futures here. If they don't think the way Hedges describes, then I doubt their thoughts differ in any way besides some trivial detail.

But the more important thing is this - these so-called Masters Of The Universe can't even run their own businesses properly. Europe is about to collapse into a depression, not because it doesn't produce things of economic worth, but because its financiers and politicians (and ours) won't take a temporary loss. They need virtually all of Europe's citizens to lose their pensions, their livelihoods, and their health care in exchange for keeping their fat asses afloat. That's what this has boiled down to, not some unsolvable economic problem.

That's why they will ultimately lose. They have become too soft and weak-minded to even handle their own affairs properly. They have lived so high and so foolishly that they need us to bail them out. All they have left is force, which they have used so early in this campaign that you have to wonder if they have any courage at all. We, on the other hand, learn to live without more every day. Our lives get harder as they get softer. One day, all that wonderful pap on the TV won't be enough.

Hedge's column uses the word "revolution", which means a change so sudden and large that the established authority can't keep up with it. What that amounts to, even if the revolution is a peaceful one, is chaos and uncertainty. They might be interesting times, but they are by not good times. That's what the ancient curse "May you live in interesting times" means to me.

As I've written before, what's coming is something that no sane person should want, but there's a sad inevitability to all this. I don't see the greedy fatheads who run things, or their pet politicians, making any better choices yet, so it looks like things will get a lot uglier before they get better.

If I were you, I'd be getting ready for some chaos about now.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Angry Tent Is Angry

Apparently, Occupy Oakland haven't lost either their drive nor their sense of humor:

(h/t Affinis at Corrente

Afterword: If you're wondering about the meaning of the title of this article, go here, and check the page title.

Sign The Petition: Make Free Speech For Real People Only

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-03) has posted an online petition at his candidate's website:
"It's time for a constitutional amendment that makes it clear Free Speech is for people, not corporations. It's time for a constitutional amendment that lifts up the promise of American self-government: of, for, and by the people."

Corporations Aren't people
Just like the last time I encouraged readers to sign an online petition, I'm not sure what good it will really do. I view these things as more publicity stunt than serious legislative effort. We need to have this conversation, though, and we need to keep this issue in front of Congress until it does something useful.

Occupy Dallas Cleared Out

In the latest in a wave of operations designed to clear Occupy movements out of the areas they had been occupying, the Dallas police tonight cleared Occupy Dallas from a city park. The Occupy Dallas people had received warnings this was happening, including this one:
The "Occupy Dallas" movement moves in to day 40 today and into court, but will protesters be able to keep their camp behind Dallas City Hall?

Last week, the city demanded they clean up their act or lose their designated place on city property.

Day 40 of Occupy Dallas

Tonight, a final warning was spread via Twitter. One such message came from a reporter for local television station WFAA:
BREAKING: Dallas Police Asst Chief saying #Occupy campers will have chance to get property and leave before sweep in next few mins.

Twitter message from Jason Whitely
That was followed soon by a report from someone identifying himself as @OccupyIntel:
-ALERT DALLAS- Confirmed presence of 10+ mounted patrols, 15+ SWAT, and 75+ in riot gear in parking lot.

Twitter message from OccupyIntel
Soon after, the police moved in. This Twitter message arrived about 11:30 PM PST:
BREAKING: Dallas Police with flashlights going tent to tent at #Occupy camp looking for people. They will be arrested for trespassing.

Twitter message from Jason Whitely
Finally, at about 11:50 PM PST:
And just like that, our City Hall occupation seems to be over. Of course, this is very, very far from over.

Twitter message from OccupyDallasCOS
My guess is that this will avail the Dallas authorities about what it has everywhere else, which is to say that people will simply reorganize and return.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Good News For One State

I figured that someday someone would take on the robo-signers, but if you'd asked me if I thought action would come from this quarter, I'd have said no:
A Nevada grand jury has handed up criminal indictments against two title officers employed by Lender Processing Services Inc. for allegedly directing and supervising a robo-signing scheme, in which documents filed in foreclosure cases were signed without proper legal review, Nevada...

Nevada Grand Jury Indicts Two in Alleged Robo-Signing Scheme
That's all I can read for free.

As you can see, it wasn't the Obama Administration that brought these indictments. No surprise there, I'm afraid. I think every state in the union will bring indictments before Obama and Holder will do anything to piss off the people they work for.

Check Naked Capitalism tomorrow for more details, as Matt Stoller just announced this via Twitter. I suspect either he or someone else who writes there will be yakking about this shortly.

Mario Savio And The Gears Of The Machine

Image credit: Occupy Together/McMillan/Furlow

The more I discuss and watch the Occupy movements, the more I'm reminded of the last turbulent time in our history, the 1960s. For those who weren't around back then, this was the time when many of the things people take for granted today started. The war in Vietnam was perhaps the biggest concern, but the Civil Rights movement, which was aimed at achieving equality of opportunity for African Americans and other minorities, was also in full swing.

As I wrote after Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential race, when I was a boy there were still many places in America where they would have been debating whether someone like President Obama, a child of a white mother and black father, could use a "whites only" water fountain or not. In most of those same states, his parents' marriage would have been illegal, merely because they were from different "races".

It would have seemed incredible back then that a black man would one day be President.

That change didn't happen because people sat back and waited. It's one of the sad ironies of modern America that our President, the first black man to hold that office, should think so little of the people today who are trying to make their own futures better.

Which brings us to the title of this post. I had not heard of Mario Savio before tonight, but as Rachel Maddow observes, what he said in December, 1964 is timeless. It is as much about today as the 1960s. Back in 2009, Battlestar Galactica used the phrases that Savio made famous almost verbatim in the episode "Occupation". It has become a part of our culture, much as Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech did:
There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

Wikipedia: Mario Savio
That reference is in the first few minutes of this clip, but I think it's worth watching the whole thing if you have the time:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

(See NOTE 1)

That's what the Occupy movements are, and will have to be in order to succeed - the bodies that are flung on the gears. Until the people who run things realize that they will not profit from things as they are now, they will not let things change.

Whether we know it or not, that's what people like Mario Savio have taught us.

In the early part of that clip, you'll notice that Savio refers to "a well-meaning liberal", meaning someone who, while he might wish for a more progressive society, wasn't willing to rock the boat to get one. You can see those same types of liberals today, talking about how we can't go too fast, that the Occupy movements are the wrong way to express our ideas, etc. They seem unable to grasp that we've already tried the approved way of changing things, and it didn't work.

What we got was Barack Obama.

Obama was the candidate the rich and powerful approved of. He was a hit with just about every news organization of sufficient size to include television stations. It happened overnight, as I remember now. That was the first sign that things weren't what they appeared. With the Obama Administration coordinating the beatdowns of Occupy movements throughout the country, we can now see things coming full circle - the man who benefited from the changes of the 1960s enough to become President has fully repudiated any notion that what people did back then was of any value.

The wonderful thing about history is how it keeps happening over and over again.

NOTE 1: Since MSNBC provides the video for free, I leave the links here that they provided with the embedded clip code. No endorsement is expressed or implied.

This Land Ain't Your Land

Don't you just love the sense of entitlement here?
"Karl Rove is the architect of Occupy Iraq, the architect of Occupy Afghanistan!” yelled the demonstrators. Occupy Baltimore had infiltrated the crowd and began chanting against Rove. “Who gave you the right to occupy America?” asked Rove to the protesters, apparently unaware of the Bill of Rights.

Karl Rove Flips Out At Protesters: ‘Who Gave You The Right To Occupy America?’
For my part, I'd love to hear Mr. Rove explain why we don't have the right to occupy the land we were born in. Odds are, most of the protesters were.

Quote Of The Day

Image credit: Occupy Together

Robert Reich hit it on the head yesterday:
A funny thing happened to the First Amendment on its way to the public forum. According to the Supreme Court, money is now speech and corporations are now people. But when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with the political consequences of this, they’re treated as public nuisances and evicted.

Occupiers Occupied: The Hijacking of the First Amendment
What does that mean? Note this bit from this article yesterday at examiner.com about Homeland Security's conference call regarding the police actions against the Occupy movements:
According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules.

'Occupy' crackdowns coordinated with federal law enforcement officials
So, owning all the sources of information, and blanketing us with nonsense is free speech, but making one's voice heard over that din is not.

As many people suspected yesterday, the raids in several cities were coordinated. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan let the cat out of the bag yesterday in an interview with BBC. It was confirmed by the report I quoted above, among other places.

This is how both our local and federal governments have decided to handle the Occupy movements - as a disturbance and a nuisance. As long as they actually are small enough to be a nuisance, that will work.

In the long run, though, I think the situation will make their numbers grow.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting UnTwittered Just Got Easier

Think of it as the Internet's way of saying you need to get a life:

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359

In my case this is mildly annoying, because I need to embed a Twitter feed URL in a post I'm writing for someone. Hopefully, this long international nightmare will be over soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday Entertainment: Guess The Movie

This photo was inspired by a movie. Can you guess which one?

Image credit: StudioArthur

Answer here.

To quote Dr. McCoy: Don't lose yourself in the part.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Profiles In Fierce Advocacy: Sometimes You Have To Make A Decision...

Image credit: Cosmic Beaver

You know, being a Fierce Advocate can be trying sometimes. People expect you to decide things. In fact, if they're liberals, they always seem to expect you to decide things in a way that isn't terribly easy. Take this for instance:
More than 10,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., last Sunday with a simple goal: Encircle the White House. They succeeded, just weeks after 1,253 people were arrested in a series of protests at the same spot. These thousands, as well as those arrested, were unified in their opposition to the planned Keystone XL pipeline, intended to run from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas. A broad, international coalition against the pipeline has formed since President Barack Obama took office, and now the deadline for its approval or rejection is at hand.

Keystone XL: Ring Around the Rose Garden
Liberals are always on about the environment this, the ecology that, "global warming", blah, blah. You'd think they never had to run a political campaign. If you were a Republican, of course, you could just ignore them. Unfortunately, Fierce Advocates can't be Republicans. It's a rule or something. Anyway, if you're a Democrat, you can insult liberals sometimes, but after a while even the really dumb ones will catch on. So you can't do that too often.

And, you know, they really, really go on about that environment thing.

What's a Fierce Advocate to do?

Well, hey, that's easy! You procrastinate:
Obama said in a statement that he supports delaying a decision.

“Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood,” Obama said. “The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people. At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy."

Obama punts Keystone XL pipeline
Put it off until after the election. Genius!

Because, you see, it's a really, really complicated thing. Either we let some foreign company build a leaky pipeline through the Midwest so that a few people can have some low paying jobs for a while, or we don't. Doesn't that sound really, really complicated?

Of course, it plays better when you can say that in your really serious voice, but if you can't manage that, there's always the option of a press release.

Once the election is over, then you can let those nice Canadians build that pipeline with Indian steel using their Japanese heavy equipment, pick up your speaking fee, and move on. After all, there's no rule that says you have to live in the Midwest, right?

I know what you're thinking, there's a catch. What about all those liberals? I mean, you need the silly buggers to vote for you, but they they complain about everything we do!

Now, that's easy.

You see, there are liberals who are smart enough to figure out what's going on. But some of them can be persuaded to go along to get along. Isn't it just great that the economy is so bad? Others, as we've mentioned already, aren't all that bright. So that leaves just a few troublemakers who aren't quite smart enough to be bought, and not quite stupid enough to believe what they're told by those who are. But there aren't that many, really. Just call them mean, old racist poopyheads who want to burn everything down, and no one will listen to them.

After all, even arsonists don't want to be called racists, and I suspect racists don't want to be called arsonists, either. No one likes being called a poopyhead. It's a sure-fire winner of a rhetorical strategy.

So, there you have it. Anything else we can help you with, Mr. President?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No Sooner Do I Slap Down The Republicans...

Image credit: Mark M./Occupy Together

Just in case you didn't catch on to this the first few times they did it, the Democratic Party's leading lights once again offered to screw the rest of the country so that they wouldn't have to disappoint the people they actually work for. As Jon Walker reports:
The Democrats on the Super Committee, in their efforts to reach an deal with Republicans, have offered a new deficit reduction package and just like their last offer this one also contains cuts to Medicare benefits. From Politico:
There was the opportunity for Democrats to go into the 2012 election with a clear and important distinction between themselves and the Republicans. The Republicans have already come out for cutting Medicare benefits so the Democrats could have taken a firm and very popular stance against cutting Americans’ Medicare benefits.

Super Committee Dems Again Offer to Cut Medicare Benefits
Distinction? But, the Republicans are so much scarier. They're going to take away our Social Security and Medicare, and ...

Wait, I'll get back to you.

Afterword/UPDATE: It didn't fit in well with the preceding narrative, but here's yet another reason to go out and boost Democrats in their fight against The Other Guys (tm), courtesy of masaccio at FireDogLake:
Suzi Khimm of the Washington Post asked a “senior administration official” why the White House opposes a financial transactions tax of .03%, and got this absurd response:
We share the goal of wanting a more stable financial system. We share the goal of wanting a more progressive tax system. The only real questions are — what’s the best way to do that?”
What evidence is there for this nonsense? This is the crowd that didn’t have the stomach to stand up for a crystal-clear campaign promise to raise taxes on the rich, which is how we get a “more progressive tax system”. This is the crowd that couldn’t stand up to the Derivatives Emperor, Jamie Dimon, whose balance sheet is now festooned with a notional value of $77 trillion in various types of derivatives.

Obama Won’t Support a Tax on Rich Traders
[links from original]

It boggles the mind that anyone could seriously assert that the Democrats are any less feckless or useless on the issue of the economy these days than Republicans are. They have stood by and let all this happen, even though they clearly had the power to fix it at one time. They chose not to. After their defeat in 2010, they chose to keep the congressional leaders who brought them that defeat.

Could anything be more damning then their refusal to change course, after what happened in 2010, in Ohio and Mississippi yesterday, and in the face of continuing protests all across the country?

I can't imagine that there is, but I think it's quite possible the Democrats will provide an example before 2012 is done. And in the wake of it, many progressives will continue to provide examples of the pathetic rationalizations that have enabled this foolishness up until now.

Quote Of The Day

It's nice to know that not everyone is obsessed with style over substance. At Policy Shop, David Callahan makes clear that what's wrong the Texas Governor Rick Perry's debate performance last night wasn't a bit of forgetfulness:
Forget the fact that Governor Rick Perry had a "brain freeze" last night when asked at a GOP debate to name the three government departments he wants to ax. We all sometimes forget what we were going to say and one of the worst things about politics today is that people get ridiculed and attacked for being perfectly human.

What actually deserves attention here is the ideological extremism and intellectual laziness of Perry's proposal to kill off the U.S. Departments of Education, Commerce, and Energy. For Perry, the principle of just generally downsizing government is clearly more important than the details, and even if he were faster on his feet last night, you can bet that he would be pressed to explain why these departments should cease to exist and who, exactly, would take over their vital functions.

Point of Perry's Stumble: Hating Government is a Reflex, Not a Plan
Callahan goes on to point out the things that those government departments do, and what we would have to find some other way to do them if they were replaced. My guess is that if someone like Perry were elected, most of the function of those departments would merely be moved into other departments. The Department of Defense would take over at least part of the Department of Energy's function, since there's no way anyone in our government is going to say we can do without nuclear weapons. He might just end up giving them Commerce's job, too. Why not? I can see our new export support policy right now: "Nice trade policy you have there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it."

Anyone who thinks that our government couldn't do with a little reorganization hasn't worked with it, I suspect. But simply saying that you're going to eliminate entire departments isn't a way of impressing me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In Which I Get Punked, Sort Of

Caption: OK, first you say there's a bone down there, and then ...

Image credit: Screenshot of this heartwarming story of a man and his dog by monty of Dead Air, reformatted by Cujo359.

Yesterday, a commenter named John Myste left a comment at Left Wing Nut Job article "If corporations are people, why aren’t the bastards paying their taxes like the rest of us?":
I am about as liberal as a person can be, but I have a real problem with corporate taxes. It is a justice thing. My opinion is logical, not partisan.

It would be really nice if we could get rid of corporate taxes altogether. I have always thought that, really. However, that would create a tax sheltering problem; but corporate taxation is tyranny.

Corporations are not people, so they should not have to pay taxes. Only people should have to pay taxes. Only people realize earnings. Corporate taxes complicate the paperwork for hard-working business men who are just trying to make it buck, if you know what I mean. If it were not for the generosity of these businessmen, the homeless would not be able to find a job, instead of just choosing not to, and then they would starve instead of eating my corporate taxes.

If corporations are people, why aren’t the bastards paying their taxes like the rest of us? comment by John Myste
It goes on at some length, which might be instructive to read for reasons I'll get to in a moment. Having read it through, I left this comment in reply:
Well, let’s see, divide the universe into two classes of objects, persons and non-persons, the latter class of which all are alike in some mysterious way, and then extend the 14th Amendment to cover taxing people at different rates, then, gosh, we just have to agree that corporations are people, too. Add in a little dash of “the poor don’t pay taxes”, plus a “you’re just really, really stupid if you don’t see things this way”, and you have some real crank comedic gold here.

If corporations are people, why aren’t the bastards paying their taxes like the rest of us? comment by Cujo359
To which came this reply:
You make me feel rebutted. I recant my entire corporate argument.

If corporations are people, why aren’t the bastards paying their taxes like the rest of us? comment by John Myste
When it comes to social interaction, I'm one of the dimmest bulbs who can still manage to have acquaintances who are living human beings. Even so, it was pretty clear I was being mocked, I just wasn't sure how.

Go read the rest of that comment thread to find out why.

It seems to be tougher than ever discern the difference between parody and real political discourse these days. If there's a moral to this story, pointing out the flaws in an argument, rather than just calling names and being done with it, can be instructive either way.

Oh, and watch out if a commenter named "John Myste" leaves something in your comment thread.

Afterword: Also noted in the thread that Dusty had to take one of her feline friends on one last trip to the vet today. My condolences. I've taken that trip twice now, and I don't think it will get any easier no matter how many more times I do it.

Maybe this will cheer you up a little. Mike Tyson playing Herman Cain - is that typecasting?

El Hierro Volcano Live (More Or Less)

Updated Nov. 12. See UPDATE 2. Expat was kind enough to send along a new webcam link in comments.

Updated Nov. 10. See UPDATE at the bottom of the page. It turns out that this really is a still image, not a live webcam. Maybe "tomorrow".

Another little wonder of the modern age, the La Restinga webcam on El Hierro Island near the volcanic disturbance there, demonstrates what's possible with an Internet connection and a little technology. Here's a vista of the village, with the boundary between the volcanic debris and the more-or-less clear ocean waters clearly visible:

Image credit: Screenshots of La Restinga webcam by Cujo359

There is a Google Maps insert that shows where the camera is pointed at any time:

I'm not sure how live this image is. It's about 2PM here in the Pacific time zone as I'm capturing these images. Presumably, it should be dark in the Canary Islands right now.

Still, in view of the Internet connectivity issues the webcam was having earlier, I'd suggest that if you don't have a good reason to monitor the situation you ought to just have a look, and then close the page. That way, someone else gets to enjoy the view.

(h/t Dana Hunter for pointing this out.)

UPDATE (Nov. 10): I grew even more suspicious that this was a stored image when I went to the webcam site this morning and saw the same image, right down to the same clouds being in the same places. Expat provides a quote from Earthquake Report's live blog of the volcano:
"Update 10/11 – 13:49 UTC:

- Some of our readers have just asked us to make it clear that the HD-Webcam @ La Restinga (http://www.ilovesantacruz.es/newweb/camara-web-situada-en-la-restinga/2011/11/) shows only a still panorama picture. Like we said already in our 13:42 update, El Hierro authorities are missing a great chance to promote the island. The webcam was promised to be functioning today, but … it remains a promise only. J… did her best to get it done, but she is more used to the “tomorrow” promise on this otherwise so peaceful island."

El Hierro Volcano (Canary Islands)
The link at the bottom of the quote is probably the best place to go for up to the minute news on the volcano. Since there are two people on site, there won't always be reports at any given time, but they seem to be as current as it gets, given that this is a small island with small population.

If you watch the static picture at that webcam site, though, you'll notice that the webcam has its own little solar power supply. It's clearly equipped to power itself. I suspect that what they need to do is set up communications between the camera and the nearest Internet service point, which may not be the nearby village.

The ideal setup would be a direct link from the camera to a computer that's in a safe location. The computer would store the images, and make sure that they were mirrored in enough places to handle the traffic.

Setting all that up would take a bit of time, but other than the onsite requirements of communications and possibly a computer, it's all in place already.

This would explain the delay in getting things operational. I'm sure it's not the only possible explanation, but it's one of them.

UPDATE 2 (Nov. 12): That webcam link still has a static image on it that is now at least three days old.

Expant sent along a comment with a new webcam link. That one appeared to be live yesterday. I haven't checked it yet this morning. I won't be able to update anymore, but since people are still arriving here looking for a webcam link, I thought I'd at least try to be helpful.

UPDATE 3: Just checked - the new webcam link still looks to be live. It's night right now in the Canary Islands, so it's hard to tell how good the images are.

At least this webcam page is getting that right. If you want to see what that area looks like on a nice sunny day, check the original webcam