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      As many have heard, John Tory, the mainstream right wing candidate, won convincingly in Toronto and Olivia Chow came in third place, even doing worse than Doug Ford (brother of the famous crack-smoking Rob Ford.)  Much hand wringing has ensued that progressive just can’t win elections in Toronto. While it’s true that Toronto is hard [...]
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My Voting Strategy: Rocky Anderson for President

Why do we need a voting strategy?  What does it mean to have a voting strategy?  Doesn’t a voting strategy imply that we are trying to protect ourselves against something?  Is that the right attitude that a citizen should have towards her elected officials?  I’ll get back to this question in a minute.

The other day, Governor Christie announced mandatory gas rationing.  Brooke asked me what did that mean and how did it work as we were driving to Philadelphia.  I explained how the license plate scheme worked and told her about the time in the early 70’s when I was younger than she is now when we did gas rationing on a national basis.  I couldn’t remember why we had to do it.  Was it a Saudi oil embargo?  That was the year Detroit invented locking gas caps to prevent your neighbor from siphoning gas from your tank in the middle of the night.  It was the year that we had extended daylight savings time well into the winter and we trudged to school in the dark and watched the sun come up during second period.

Back then, the so-called experts and scientists told us that there would only be enough oil to maintain our modern lifestyle for another 50 years or so.  We had about 200 years of coal in the ground but it was dirty fuel.  There was a real sense of urgency for a few years to make cars smaller, and resentment from the driving public about having to give up the big American highway boats for tiny Japanese death traps.

Then Ronald Reagan chased the malaise away and suddenly there was an oil glut in the 80s and people forgot.  And the CAFE standards got stuck and the cars got big again until the 2000’s when you could write your Hummer off your taxes as a business expense and fuel efficiency was measured in gallons per mile.

But some things make an impression on young minds and gas rationing made an impression on mine, as did Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.  I never trusted Ronald Reagan or George Bush Sr.  How could a country forget so quickly?  Or maybe it was just one party.

But 2007-2008 dispelled the notion that the forgetfulness was confined to just one party.  By that time, I had taken my passion for politics to the next level, writing for DailyKos about various and sundry things, including the differences between American and European infrastructure.  I was making trips to Europe on a more frequent basis and noticing how much easier it was to get around without a car.  The trains were fast and plentiful, the urban transit systems state of the art, especially in France.  And even though I resolved to take public transit in any American city I visited, I found it hard.  Americans do not know how hard we have made our own lives.

In Chicago 2007, I got to ask Hillary Clinton a question at her break out session at YearlyKos and my number one question was about public transit and infrastructure.  And she had an answer with multiple paragraphs and sub-headings and funding mechanisms.  And her emphasis was going to be on better broadband.  Last week, I tried to imagine what life would have been like post Sandy if we had had better broadband and how we tend to see our internet connection as a commodity instead of a public utility and a part of our infrastructure.

I’ve tried to reason my way through my voting strategy in the past couple of days and I think I am just burned out from playing this game of strategy.  The last week has shown me how badly this country has suffered under the people who we trust with our safety, infrastructure and future.  While Europe and other developed countries like South Korea learned from the oil embargo of the 70s to reconfigure the way they lived in such a way as to be less dependent on foreign oil, we ignored all that and trapped ourselves in a mid 20th century infrastructure.  It’s no longer modern.  It’s decaying- rapidly.  We may still see the USA in our Chevrolet but the landscape is starting to look like the rural south in 1965 with broken powerlines, poor telecommunication, bad roads and a clear separation between the rich and the poor.  And there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable strategy behind our public utilities investments of the past several years.  In 2009, PSEG spent millions and millions of dollars affixing solar panels to the overhead power line poles.  How much chaos and disruption last week might have been avoided if the power companies had used that money to bury the power lines and concentrate the solar panels on unused public land, like the acres of unused property in my own township that used to be an old Army depot?  Where was the thought and strategy behind the design?

In the last couple of days, I have read the consternation of the left as they see the evangelicals and other right wing followers get behind their Mormon.  It’s as if the left has forgotten all of the studies by Bob Altemeyer and lessons learned from John Dean about the nature of the authoritarian follower.  But it’s even weirder than that because although the right has made it a badge of honor to decouple cause from effect, ignore evidence and discourage reasoned thinking in its followers so that the world looks to them like a violent, chaotic place, I never thought I would see the same sort of behavior rising in the left.  The left indulges in its own form of wishful thinking.  It started five years ago.  It suspended its disbelief and trusted its most dearly held beliefs to the candidate who stubbornly refused to materialize for it until after the election.  They refused to understand his nature even as he ignored them.  They don’t seem to get that he is the agent of the people they blame for the destruction of the past four years.  They have decoupled evidence from reality.  Somehow, it’s all going to work out even when all of the signs say that it will not.  They ignore the pleadings from their natural allies to wake up and fight back.  How are they different from the people in Kansas they are always holding up as examples of voting against their own best interests?

There’s a peculiar strand of selfishness embedded in American culture.  It’s not enough to succeed.  The success must come at the expense of other people.  We love the rascals who exploit us.  And religion is of a harsh Calvinist variety. The work ethic is praised above all else to the point where we don’t feel worthy of decent wages and dignity even if we work until we drop or snap.

The other day, JerseyJeffersonian said something that caught my attention in the comment section of my rant on the gouging of the telecomms in the Sandy impacted area.  I had called ourselves consumers and said how unfair it was that consumers were always being exploited, as if we were crops whose disposable income must be harvested instead of human beings.  (S)He said:

Ah, you said the magic word…”consumer”. I, for one, knew that the Republic was in dire straits when Our Exalted Leaders found the term, “consumer”, to be an adequate substitute for “citizen”. This was a tell, as they say at the poker table. When in the past you were referred to as a “citizen”, you were somebody who had reason to expect that your interests might be respected and addressed by THEM in their capacity as our representatives. But when they began preferentially to denominate us as “consumers”? Well, we had been identified as mere clients of their true masters.

In its own right, this should be seen as indicative that Our Exalted Leaders have decided that civil society is a archaism – “quaint” They might call it – and that servicing the needs of the Free Market is now the imperative for them. In that light, our appeals to our representatives for help and redress have become the moral equivalent of praying to a saint for intercession with the Almighty. Hmm.

This Weltanschauung is quite appropriate in a world where government, far from answering to the “citizenry”, is there to deliver us all up to the tender mercies of the Corporatocracy through the craven assistance of a captured government. Elected officials, legislative or executive, financed in their electoral campaigns by the rich and powerful; civil servants in regulatory agencies cowed or corrupted through the power of the so-called regulated to call the shots with the active connivance of their agencies’ politically-appointed leaders; judges selected by legislators and executives who are made men of the Corporatocracy, and therefore pre-disposed to pick Federalist Society hacks for positions on the bench to avoid the inconvenience of having their cabal brought up short by people who take their oath to defend the Constitution seriously.

I’ve never liked the term corporatacracy because I think it ignores the proper role of the corporation and how it can benefit stakeholders as well as shareholders but otherwise, JerseyJeffersonian’s point is very good.  Americans have been “delivered up” to the forces who exploit.  Those forces do it without any strategy of their own and without much thought to the industries or segments of society that they are destroying. They do it because they can. Inevitably, they are sowing the seeds of their own destruction because amassing great fortunes does not equal innovation or creativity.  It merely impoverishes the very people who need to buy their stuff and makes it harder for people with life saving technology and good ideas to be funded and their work respected.

But it’s worse than that.  I missed the visual impact of the news last week, mostly because I was living part of it, but what I heard on the radio disturbed me greatly.  I heard Mike Bloomberg give a couple of “everything is under control” press conferences and then leave the people of Lower Manhattan to their own devices as he planned a marathon and fretted over how to get the bankers back to Wall Street.  There was something of a Scrooge-esque “they had better die and decrease the surplus population” attitude about his ability to tolerate so much misery in much of his city.  If Jonathan Swift were alive today, he’d feel right at home.

Wasn’t it Mike Bloomberg who sicced the police on Occupy Wall Street?  Wasn’t it Bloomberg who rolled his eyes at those protestors and tolerated them as if they were minor irritants?  And didn’t he and Barack Obama brutally suppress them?

Is the whole of Manhattan one big private space now?  And if that’s true, doesn’t that reduce the “citizen” to a “vassal” who has no rights on private property?  Who owns the city now?  Does ownership give the wealthy and well connected the right to do what they like to suit themselves and the privilege to ignore the plight of other people?

Anyway, I’m rambling.  At the present time, the “very serious people” seem to be bogarting the microphone about denying us the benefits we pre-paid.  There may be a crisis on the horizon regarding Medicare but it’s solvable, just like other countries have solved their health care problems.  The answer is to force cost cutting measures on the providers.  But the providers belong to the class who believe there are no limits to what they should be able to harvest from their consumers and government has abandoned any efforts to see that citizens are protected from injustice and exploitation.

But the government is not some abstract entity.  It’s not the faceless bureaucratic borg that tells us “resistance is useless”.  The government is *us*, or it should be.  It’s trite to go on about the founders and the constitution and all that patriotic crap and I’m not going to indulge in it now.  But at the core of that exercise in self-government is the idea of self-government.  If you’re going to do it, you have to put away the notions of strategy and protecting yourself from your elected officials’ bad ideas and kowtowing to the rich and well connected.

If you want to govern yourself, you need to stop accepting bad government.  It really is that simple.  You need to say, “enough”.  Enough of the excuses and the pandering and the enormous amounts of money wasted in elections.  You need to say, “I believe in certain unalienable rights” and that those rights belong to all citizens.  You need to say that it doesn’t benefit any of us for one group of people to be above the law and unaccountable to the rest of us.  You need to say that it is unjust to throw people into prison without trial indefinitely and to use that threat to suppress political speech.  You need to say that you are not afraid to defy the party structures.  You need to be able to take their power away when they refuse to work for you and the common good.  You need to say that the abandonment of any citizen to their fate after a catastrophic natural disaster is unacceptable.  You need to say that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.  We can not permit unaccountability.

Well, at least I can’t.

I don’t have a strategy this year.  All I have is a vote.  And I refuse to give my vote to either party candidate, especially the one that masqueraded as a Democrat four years but who now has been unmasqued as the hand of the 1%.  I am not afraid of what will happen if he loses.  Indeed, we have more to fear for what might happen if he wins.  But I have to put fear aside and vote for my values, not strategy.  So, this year, I am voting for Rocky Anderson.  In less than a year, the Justice party has formed out of the void.  I want justice for all citizens and that is what I am going to work for from now on.  I’ll vote for the people who I think can advance that goal. This year, that means down ticket Democrats. But as new emergent parties start fielding downticket candidates in the future, the Democrats won’t be able to count on my vote.

I’m through with chiding the people who got us into this mess of 8 years of bad government on top of the 8 preceding years.  I’m not really interested in hearing their condescending lectures on climate change in the wake of Sandy even if I agree with them.  It’s a bit like blaming the victims and not terribly helpful when their houses are a wreck and it’s freezing outside. And based on my limited term in public politics I am less likely to pay attention to people who sermonize than those who recognize the problem and have a list of practical, visionary and possible solutions.  Besides, it sounds like Democratic operatives are trying to tap into the zeitgeist of a younger generation who is keenly aware of climate change, using the misery of Hurricane Sandy to nudge them to the polls to vote for Obama.  It’s political opportunism by exploiting the devastating visual imagery and it’s sick.  They offer us no solutions. We knew 40 years ago that this day would come and we failed to prepare.  The time for playing Stratego is over.

One more thing: The Democratic party loyalists who are getting on Matt Stoller’s case because he refuses to compromise his values for the party that betrayed him should be ashamed of themselves.  They’re sacrificing their principles to a party that can’t or won’t deliver and they’re cowards.  There are many areas where Matt and I disagree but I’m glad that we’re finally working for the same goals.  I don’t know what the heck the rest of you are working for.

Geeks marching for their jobs

More on the  protests from Les Sanofi, the researchers in France who took to the streets when their jobs were threatened.  They’ve bought themselves some time.

In many ways, this march doesn’t look that different from an Occupy event.  But I am reminded of something Naomi Klein said about what it’s like to protest in the US, like there’s no oxygen here compared to Europe or the Middle East.  As soon as people start to agitate, the flame gets put out because there’s no place to go with your grievances.  No one will allow you any space, the propaganda machine cranks up to make you look like dirty subversives and if that doesn’t work, the DHS moves in to crack you skull and the Justice department subpoenas your tweets.

But in France, the only time the police step in is when the marchers want to march on a road.  There are other actions in France by Les Sanofi that are recorded in Montpellier where the marchers occupy a city square and lay down in it and no one moves in to arrest them.  I think that’s because as annoying as striking is to the French, there is still a critical mass that is in solidarity with them.  Check out what happens starting at minute mark 5:20.  It would be impossible to script something like that but quite easy to understand when citizens support each other.

What blows my mind is that these are employees protesting their management, something that is increasingly unheard of since Reagan fired the PATCO union.  Most employees know that to protest against your management here in the US means instant career death unless you belong to a union. It occurs to me that the reason we have had so many layoffs here in the US and why management in big pharma gets away with lying about researchers is that there *is* no oxygen for a protest and therefore no other side of the story.  We are invisible to the policy makers and press.

This country will pay for that.  If you don’t have free speech to protest what is important to you, like losing your job or losing your civil liberties, or your vote or your life from being put on a “kill list”, you haven’t got free speech or anything else of value.  Obama can go to the UN and give a speech on the concept but it means nothing if a cop in full body armor can randomly grab you out of a crowd, throw you to the ground, cuff you and cart you off to a holding facility just for trying to exercise your rights.

You whip kissers from the Crawdad Hole should take a good look at that video.  They’re just average people, with good jobs, nice families, neat little houses, there are a lot of PhDs in that crowd.  These are not deadbeats or bad employees or lazy workers. If these people had malicious intentions towards their company, they wouldn’t need to protest to bring Sanofi down. These are not stupid people. There are countless ingenious ways to bring the company to its knees.  But that’s not what this protest is about. As you can see from the banners, the protestors include Sanofi employee representatives from all over France.  And yet, they’re doing everything that you look down on.  They’re noisy, disrespectful, persistent.  And they are saving their jobs because they are organized and their government is aware of them.

You can’t argue with success.  Nothing in the US is going to turn around until a critical mass of ordinary people stand up for themselves.  You can’t expect young people and the extraordinarily brave to do it for you all the time.  The next time there’s an Occupy event, grab your labcoat and go.

Why Christians should Occupy

Here is my post from November 2011 about Occupy.  I’m not religious and I don’t want to suggest to Christians that they should run down to an Occupy site to hand out tracts and convert people.  What I am saying is that Christianity started as an Occupy movement.

Here it is: Two Thousand Year Old Mystery Solved

Jesus delivers the Beatitudes via the Peoples’ Mic

I’m not religious, as anyone who has ever read my blog knows.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not astonished by the power of Christianity.  And by power I mean that after 2000 years, a poor peasant from Gallilee was able to transform the world.  How the heck did he do it?

The historians have looked at the archaeology and the limited historical records and the culture of the time and proposed some interesting facts about Jesus.  They fill in a lot of the missing gaps that the religious leave out, like the details of the social class that Jesus was from and the Israel he lived in and the reign of Herod.  But the facts were missing something intangible.  They were missing a narrative that would explain why the movement became so popular.  It had to be more than the Roman roads.

The religious have the Niceaen Creed, that was put together several centuries after Jesus’ death.  It emerged after a battle between the various sects of Christianity over the divinity of the Christ and how many pieces of God there actually were and other esoterica.  But they came to a consensus eventually, after they threw out all of the Gnostics and other heretics.  They adopted four gospels and some other books.  Why on earth they decided to throw in Revelations we will never really understand.  Maybe they thought fear would make Christians behave.  But their spin on Christianity never made a lot of sense to me either and I’ve seen even the most dedicated and eloquent pastors twist themselves into knots over the transubstantiation.  And the sacrifice to redeem us for our sins?  Ummmm, what?  I know a lot of people believe it and if it makes them feel safe, then who am I to argue.  I’m not saying the resurrection never happened because anything is possible.  But the symbolism just never made much sense to me.

It’s not eschatology.  Eschatology predated Jesus and existed in other Jewish sects after his death.  It wasn’t the treatment of the poor.  The Buddha understood suffering and ignorance long before Jesus came along.  And it wasn’t gnosis because the Greeks had that nailed down.  So, what was it that made this carpenter so powerful?

It wasn’t until this week that I finally got it.  When the pieces came together, I had a “oh, Wow!” moment.  Suddenly, I saw Christianity in a whole new way, one that even most Christians wouldn’t recognize, but would be completely familiar to the original apostles.

Let’s start with an empire.

The Romans were wealthy, militaristic and oppressive.  They bought up client kings in the provinces they conquered or intended to conquer. Their rule was law.  Peasants of client states paid their taxes.  They had a limited number of rights because they weren’t really citizens.  Most people were poor.  The fact that John the Baptist, prophet and eschatologist, had such a thriving ministry is a testament to the feeling of hopelessness among the poor.  Life in Judea could be nasty, brutish and short if you were born into the wrong class and people were generally unsympathetic to their plight.  The lower class, because there was no middle class, put its hopes in divine purification of the evils of the world. The average Jew lived in a country that was not his own and was barely tolerated by the Roman aristocracy and its army. This is the world that Jesus came from.

The story we have is that:

He preached to the poor.  He counselled them.  He was a great teacher.  He told parables and made his listeners think in new ways.  He fed them.  He celebrated with them.  He gave a sermon to end all sermons about peace, mercy, mourning, fulfillment, hunger and persecution.  He condemned the rich and arrogant.  He pissed a lot of people off.  The Pharisees got tired of him making Pharisees out of them.  His teachings made him famous.  He went to Jerusalem with a following planning an act of civil disobedience.  He and his closest friends pooled their money and had one last dinner where he told his friends that the day after next, they probably wouldn’t see each other again.   He goes to the Temple during a religious holiday where people from all over the country are using the place as a giant bank and he throws out the money changers who are collaborating with the Romans.  The Temple priests already overworked on a Jewish holiday and with Rome keeping an eye on them, are worried about this troublemaker his apostles making a ruckus and a mess and disturbing the peace.  So, they reported him into the local police.  He and his followers made camp in a garden and tried to stay up all night.  They were all scared, especially the head troublemaker because he knew he had broken one rule too many.  The Romans came in the middle of the night to break up the camp and arrest him. He tells his followers not to resist because they’re supposed to be all about peace.  His followers scattered.  He is thrown into jail, humiliated and beaten.

There’s some debate in the accounts of what happens next.  Did the Temple priest want him dead or just out of his hair?  Well, whoever turned him in probably knew what was going to happen next but if the Temple hadn’t turned him in, the money changers would have and business would be satisfied.  Better get ahead of the problem. The Roman governor condemned him  and nailed him up to be a lesson to all other future troublemakers.  He was killed.  His followers were disorganized and confused.  But got themselves together after some miracles and spread the word.

How strange.

Here we are in the 21st century and what do we see?

An empire, wealthy, militaristic and brutal.  It has no problem taking what it wants.  The wealthy buy the people they want to do their bidding.  The citizens live in a downwardly mobile world.  They pay their taxes but are at risk of losing everything in a poor economy.  Their votes are meaningless.  People who are poor or become poor through no fault of their own are shown no sympathy.  Eschatology thrives.

A bunch of people see that what has happened to less fortunate countries at the hands of that empire is starting to happen to them.  They decide to take matters into their own hands.  They don’t have a leader but they have a Jewish prophetess who preaches a Sermon in the Park.  But really, anyone could do this.  She just happens to be particularly memorable and moderately well known and she’s good at it.

Naomi Klein gives a Sermon in the Park

They feed the poor, counsel the troubled, comfort the persecuted.  They come to the great city and set up their camp near the money changers.  They try to turn the money changers out.  The money changers appeal to the police.  The authorities decide that their behavior is setting a bad example of non-compliance and is disturbing to business people.  The police raid their park and arrest them.

They must have seen that coming.

They continue to sacrifice themselves.  The number of their followers starts to swell when the people see how much they are willing to give of themselves to uphold a moral movement.

Now there are a probably a lot of people out there who are rolling their eyes and thinking this is a metaphor stretched too far.  But for me, the pieces of this puzzle finally fit.  The reason why Christianity succeeded was not because Jesus was so important.  In fact, he was just there for the beginning of what was a very long struggle.  It was so successful because it started off as a moral response to an oligarchical rule and the way it went about its actions affected so many people that by the time Jesus was made a sacrifice and an example by the Romans, his followers had reached a critical mass to keep the movement going.  He had laid out a framework of actions and behaviors that anyone could follow.  The apostles didn’t need a leader anymore because they *were* the leaders.  Of course, a miracle story is a good ice breaker but if you are a Christian because of the Christmas story and the Resurrection, you may be missing the point of the movement. It is what the early Christians did in their own communities that made the movement resiliant.  For centuries, they practiced civil disobedience, took care of one another, expanded their membership to include the gentiles and Samaritans (the other 99%), travelled from place to place, gave up what they had to minister to the poor, stayed with wealthy widows like Priscilla, and more modest followers like Mary and Martha, and sacrificed themselves over and over again until they were so popular in the empire that the Emperor himself gave in. By that time, the Christians already didn’t resemble what they started out as.  And that is a danger that a look back through history can help us avoid.

The Jesus movement is the one to emulate, not that it was the original intention of Occupy Wall Street.  It may be that successful grassroot movements have the same things in common.  Conditions for success have to be present, there has to be a tipping point and some of the other factors may not be easy to copy.   Many have tried.  But it takes more than a good communication route.  It isn’t enough to get people together at conferences to discuss politics.  It can’t be directed by a small group of people with money working behind the scenes.  The reason why MoveOn and Netroots Nation and the Tea Party have failed to move the public where Occupy Wall Street has succeeded is that the latter is a moral movement with a simple message and the people in it are willing to make personal sacrifices because they have nothing left to lose.  And the recent brutal crackdown by the authorities is a demonstration of the power of that morality.

Today, we have the benefit of hindsight.  We also know from our own personal experiences that a moral movement does not need a religion in order to succeed even if the religious decide to join it.  A moral movement also knows that it doesn’t need to have a political flavor.  It’s purpose is to lead people to a new way of thinking, new values and set of behaviors, new rules of acceptance and condemnation. When you change the way you think and behave, you become a new person, isn’t that right, Christians?  And a country full of new people becomes a new country.  The closest we have had in this country to such a movement was the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s, lead by Martin Luther King Jr. who also made a personal sacrifice.

The tactics that this movement uses is a mix of the highly technical and the primitive.  Anyone with an iphone can record the events, and anyone with a voice can become a leader.  Anyone with a clever and amusing idea can capture the attention of thousands.  The message and tactics combined make this movement accessible to everyone while the images of sacrifice broadcast on the new Roman road can both anger and inspire.

This week, the current movement made its most significant sacrifice to date.  But there will be others.  As the prophetess said, we need to show each other kindness and take care of each other because we have chosen to challenge the most powerful forces on the planet.  And it will be hard.  It will be much easier to conquer each other.  Wise words. But in our lifetime, we may see a new generation of that movement from 2000 years ago.  That rebirth has happened before.  This time, the scale is global and echoes the economic and cultural atmosphere of the originators.  But with perseverance, it shouldn’t take 400 years to gain the upper hand.

Hold hands, look both ways before you cross the street and watch out for each other.

Look around.  You are part of a global uprising.  Don’t be afraid.  Love.  We are winning.

#S17- I Occupy

Good Morning!  Today is the anniversary celebration for Occupy Wall Street.  I am still at home this morning for various reasons.  I have things that urgently need to be finished here.  But my afternoon looks free so I might scoot up to NYC later.  In the meantime, I’ll be finishing putting down a new floor in my basement and watching the events live.  Anyone who wants to help let me know in the comments.  Yeah, didn’t think so.  {{sigh}}

You can watch all the #S17 events streaming live here and at several Ustream channels.

And for anyone who doubts whether I still believe in Occupy, listen up: I still believe.  Not only do I believe but every day I see and hear evidence that the message, “We are the 99%” has grown and spread beyond the numbers of the bold individuals who risked arrest to protest in Zuccotti park and other places.

Movements go through phases and have to figure things out.  How to organize, who to trust, what they say and how to say it.  This is what happened to the Jesus Movement, the most successful Occupy movement up until this point.  This Occupy has the benefit of knowing what lays ahead for movements that are co-opted like the early Christians were, but it doesn’t know the future.  None of us do.  Occupy is a moral movement and it is a catalyst for many other movements.

Here’s what we do know.  That all people and all work have dignity and worth.  That there is more to life than screwing your neighbors out of their fortunes in order to hoard obscene gobs of cash for yourself.  That there is nothing wrong with people who refuse to use their talents to exploit others.  They are not losers. And that there’s nothing worse than insisting,unquestioningly and unwisely, that others kiss the whip of those who would exercise their power and authority over them.  You are not a mindless automaton who takes orders and whatever your master throws at you.  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

So, to those of you who are wondering whether I’ve abandoned Occupy Wall Street, think again.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and some of us need to finish other things that can’t wait. But if you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve written for most of my career here, you will know that I’ve *always* belonged to Occupy, long before it even came into being.  And there are many others who are just beginning to understand the message, many of them formerly middle class professionals who have through no fault of their own have fallen into economic despair.  Their careers and fortunes have disappeared.  Every day that this little Depression goes on, new Occupy sympathizers are created. Yes, even among people who only a couple of years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of questioning their authority figures are striving to understand where it is the 1% is trying to take us and are realizing that they need to resist it in their own way.  In that sense, Occupy has succeeded and will continue to succeed.

You don’t need to go to Zuccotti Park to Occupy, although, I highly recommend it because it’s exhilarating.  Just soap your car windows today, chalk a sidewalk, bang a pot.  Let the 1% know you’re still here, everywhere, and you aren’t going away.  Ever.

I do not believe this darkness will endure.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Here’s what an Occupy event is like.  This is my poor excuse of a video on the events from #N17 last year.

Bold Occupiers come in many flavors.  This group of wheelchair Occupiers blocked Liberty and Broadway in Lower Manhattan and are being rolled off to jail.

So, you know, if you can run, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, roll.  Occupy does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, disability, lifestyle, age, religion or national origin.

 

Hmmm, the financiers seem to be undermining business

It takes the Brits to put the pieces together and spell-it-out for the terminally slow Americans.  This piece on Business Secretary Vince Cable’s revelation is from the Guardian this morning:

Britain’s banks are “throttling” the economic recovery because of an anti-business culture which focuses on short-term profits, the business secretary, Vince Cable, has said.

As Ed Balls warned of widespread outrage if the ousted Barclays chief executive, Bob Diamond, receives a £16m pay-off, Cable accused banks of undermining multibillion-pound measures to help businesses.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday, the business secretary said: “The real problem at the moment is that the banks – because of their existing culture, which is frankly anti-business, obsession with short-term trading profits, not focusing on the long term – are throttling the recovery of British industry.”

Tell me more:

He said: “There has been a breakdown in the mechanism, in the transmission. It just doesn’t get through to companies. We are going to ensure that the new money that the chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England talked about at the Mansion House does actually directly reach the companies.

“Given that our leading banks are, frankly, throttling recovery by not making business lending available, particularly to small-scale companies, we now have to focus single mindedly on that task. How to make sure that the additional money gets through to business.”

The business secretary indicated impatience with some of his Conservative colleagues, who were wary of state intervention, as he praised the scheme by his predecessor, Lord Mandelson, to revive the car industry.

Aaaand?:

Highlighting the importance of working in collaboration with business, he said: “Laissez-faire just doesn’t work. When you are making big long-term investments you have to have the government and the private sector working together. It has been a great success story in the car industry, similarly in aerospace and life sciences and others.”

Well, it *used* to be a great success in the life sciences business but no longer.  Mr. Cable might want to check in with the people who live and work around Sandwich, if there are any left.  A lot more government intervention will be required if Britain and the US ever expect to be on top in that area again.

In conclusion:

The shadow chancellor had earlier warned Diamond against accepting a £16m pay-off from Barclays. Balls said: “People will look at that and think that is totally outrageous. It is outrageous that somebody should stand aside because the board decides there is a problem and then get a payout which is off the scale for anything normal people will receive in their life times.

“The shareholders are going to think really hard about this. The government will need to look at this and talk to the shareholders. They clearly talked to the shareholders about Mr Diamond.”

Indeed, the shareholders should think long and hard about a lot of things.  For instance, do we need so many people to be trading their defined benefit pensions for 401Ks that will be used by the banks as a constant, monthly replenishing source of money with which they can gamble?  Do the hard working people of America need to also be the same shareholders who cheer at a bump in their portfolios at the same time they fear for their jobs (so other 401K shareholders can get a bump in their portfolios)?  By the financiers’ logic, the 401K will achieve its maximum value as the number of workers approach zero.  How did we get talked into this scam in the first place anyway? It sounds so stupid and self-defeating that we should all have our heads examined.  Oh, sure, there’s nothing wrong with investing if you have the money to do it but to use Wall Street as your primary source of retirement income?  Let’s face it, we are morons.

The politician that proposes a mechanism that allows us to convert our 401Ks to pensions gets my vote.

Anyway, it’s good that someone in government, well, someone else’s government, has finally made the connection between incentives for short term profits and an anti-business atmosphere.  Perhaps the Brits are finally waking up to the idea that all of the deficit reducing austerity measures are meant to do only one thing: increase the wealth of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, including Main Street businesses.  I don’t expect Republicans will acknowledge that this is what is leading to so many layoffs and dragging the economy down.  For that matter, I don’t expect Democrats to acknowledge it either.  And from what I can see on the frontpage of the NYTimes, this is something that the city elites don’t want to talk about.

By the way, why do I have to go all the way to London to get any new information on the LIBOR scandal?  Why exactly is there so little coverage of the LIBOR scandal in American newspapers? Who are they trying to protect with this “nothing to see here, move along” attitude?  Anyone want to take a guess at this?  And did you know that the CFTC started investigating the LIBOR manipulations back in March of 2011?  That means they must have been aware of it before that time.  THAT means that when Occupy Wall Street was righteously indignant at Zuccotti Park and was getting beaten up by the DHS and smeared by our elected officials, the Obama administration was well aware that there had been fraudulent interest rate manipulation on an enormous scale.  Those same students who can’t pay their huge student loans with their high interest rates are the same people who were potentially harmed by these manipulators.  Why was it so necessary to kick people when they were already down on Wall Street’s behalf?  And knowing this, do we have any reasonable expectation that Barack Obama will hold Wall Street accountable for what it has done to our economy and our futures?

Why so much silence from our elected officials?  And what did Tim Geithner know and when did he know it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Oh, and I ran across this bloke on twitter.  Is he representative of the British public?  Because he is asking a very good question about why the scandal is being handled like an internal governmental investigation instead of a judicial inquiry.  It’s similar to what we are doing here.  That indicates that they are trying to prevent too much public outrage and real reform.  But if the general public gets the gist of the scandal as well as this guy does, then how long will this stay contained?  And what effect will it have on an election year?

Convergence: Negative Capability

How can a poor consumptive Romantic change the world?

What do John Keats, Roberto Unger, Steve Jobs, JRR Tolkien and Occupy Wall Street have in common?  Heck if I know but I’m going to guess it is something close to a concept that Keats came up with called “negative capability”.  Here is how he describes the concept with respect to the works of Shakespeare:

‘The concept of Negative Capability is the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems.’
[...]
‘At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously- I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

I don’t think he meant to throw away reason because that would make the world incomprehensible.  We have too many instances of the religious right in this country dispensing with any kind of rational thought to the point where they believe anything they’re told.

What I think Keats meant is that negative capability exists beyond the structures and institutions we live in.  Maybe Robert Kennedy had a good sense of it when he said:

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Negative capability is linked to creativity.  It is an openness to experience without conventional limitations.  It has also been linked to conflict because it relies on uncertainty.  I wouldn’t call it conflict so much as a high energy state.  When we are confined by rules, convention, expectations, we are in a low energy state.  Our world is constructed for us and we merely live in it.  Don’t push the envelope, don’t rock the boat.

Roberto Unger made a glancing reference to negative capability in that short video I posted yesterday.  His idea is that by defeating Obama, we push ourselves into a high energy state and force ourselves into uncertainty where we must confront conflict and resolve it by looking for opportunities that exist beyond our current framework.  I think this is very exciting as well as scary as all hell.  It’s a bit like doing a hard reset on your computer when it goes all wonky on you.  You’re pretty sure it will work after it comes up again but you don’t know how much stuff will be erased in the meantime.

The others that I mentioned also show the power of negative capability.  Steve Jobs had a couple of outstanding quotes that demonstrate this:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” and “People who are serious about software should make their own hardware.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Of course, Steve was all about execution as well.  Make sure the insides are as beautiful as the outsides.

I think JRR Tolkien was onto negative capability as well.  He gives his characters goals but he also gives them advice about being open to the people you might meet along the way and to not to allow others to shape your future but to be receptive to opportunities.  He invented the concept called the “eucatastrophe”.  That is the idea that germs of something good can be found in what initially looks like a fiasco.  Openness and receptivity are essential for making your way out of a catastrophe.

And then there is Occupy Wall Street which has a freer form.  It is coming into existence without much of a framework.  And while it is going to hit a lot more bumps in the road, it has already made a significant impact on our national dialogue by being able to shift, change, evolve and take advantage of opportunities.  A year ago, we didn’t even know what the 99% were and now we are one.

Anyway, I just thought I’d leave you all with that at the beginning of the week.  “Not all those who wander are lost.”  The world isn’t going to end no matter how bad things get.

And it is OK to not go along with the program in 2012.

*************************

Some scenes from the 2009 movie Bright Star about John Keats’ short life and relationship with Fanny Brawne. Highly recommended.

It looks like the White House unleashed DHS on Occupy

Lambert at Corrente has the goods that were discovered thru a Freedom of Information Act request from Michael Moore:

A new trove of heavily redacted documents provided by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild makes it increasingly evident that there was and is a nationally coordinated campaign to disrupt and crush the Occupy Movement.

Nonetheless, blacked-out and limited though they are, [PCJF National Director Mara Verheyden-Hilliard] says they offer clues to the extent of the government’s concern about and focus on the wave of occupations that spread across the country beginning with last September’s Occupy Wall Street action in New York City.

The latest documents, reveal “intense involvement” by the DHS’s so-called National Operations Center (NOC). In its own literature, the DHS describes the NOC as “the primary national-level hub for domestic situational awareness, common operational picture, information fusion, information sharing, communications, and coordination pertaining to the prevention of terrorist attacks and domestic incident management.”

The DHS says that the NOC is “the primary conduit for the White House Situation Room
” and that it also “facilitates information sharing and operational coordination with other federal, state, local, tribal, non-governmental operation centers and the private sector.”

So, the Occupy Movement was considered a “domestic incident” that needed to be “managed”, probably at the request of Wall Street.

If the White House knew and requested help to smash Occupy, there are two disturbing thoughts that come immediately to mind.

1.) It’s too stupid to realize that letting Occupy stand and gather strength would have given it some popular anger to fling at Mitt Romney and the Republicans, even if Occupy stayed politically neutral.
2.) it doesn’t matter to the White House that people are unhappy enough to Occupy. Business as usual is more important than the right to protest.

You pick. Either one should keep you up tonight.

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