Monday, October 31, 2011

When Zombies Walk the Earth

Halloween doesn't scare me. It's not supposed to. It's supposed to be a celebration, of the sacredness of life past, of the inevitability and sacredness of death past and future. Without the ancestors whose bones we walk upon, whose dust we breathe, whose water we drink, whose ever-living spirit sustains and inspires us, we wouldn't be here. And when we end, hopefully after long happy lives, our dust, our water, our spirit, returns to the great communal life force which will sustain the future. That is awe-inspiring and mysterious: sure and yet un-knowable, not really.

There's nothing wrong with the popular Halloween masquerade: laughing at things we might not always find funny, or trying out different identities or experimenting with the absurd. Indeed in trying out the Halloween swap of identities aren't we also trying out what the world would feel like without us as we know ourselves to be?

On Halloween I try to remember the ancestors who contributed to who I am; and to the friends and loved ones who have passed over to somewhere else after sharing a moment of space and time with me. I've lit a candle and burned some sage and copal. I've shared some rum and water. I've spoken names I haven't thought much of lately. I've prayed to the spirits who guide my life with perspective and inspiration. I'm not forgetting the tasks before me, but I'm counting my blessings and offering my thanks.

None of this stuff — what an old boyfriend called heebeejeebee stuff — scares me. I like the Mexican tradition of making skulls and headstones of sugar candy, pretty, colored in bright decorations, adding sweet deliciousness to reverence: turning fearful imagery to something else that in levity brings understanding.

But I'll tell you what does scare me: the deadness of living human souls.

Consider our politicians: liars all of them, from Democrat to Republican. Dishonest, manipulative people who will say anything for votes. And how horrible that we 99% — to use this new and relevant language — have to live in a world of illusion and corruption made meaningless and hateful by these zombies filling up the halls of power despite the fact that without us, the 1% would be nothing at all.

Today UNESCO admitted Palestine as a full state member, and within moments the U.S. cancelled its funding of that important United Nations agency: the Democratic Obama administration saying recognition of Palestine was an "obstacle to peace." Consider the walking dead across the political aisle: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum: these are masked monsters without an ounce of human empathy. Consider those who cheer these politicians on: cheering on the death penalty, hooting for the deportation of people away from their homes and families and jobs, jeering people who are gay. How virulent is the zombie infection. Consider the fear that these people instill in the rest of us, clinging to the faintest of hopes that politicians like Obama might hurt us less than the ones we know will hurt us more. Because well, what could possibly be the alternative but something worse?

Perhaps it's fitting that in this painful era, where some people are finally waking up to the way things actually are, that zombie movies and zombie TV shows have so captured the popular imagination. Because that's what we've been too often, zombies feeding on each other, going nowhere fast.

Maybe the alternative to life among the zombies isn't gathering together in a boarded-up shopping mall or circling the wagons, or choosing whether to eat plain shit or shit with broken glass: Maybe the alternative is to choose something better.

Winter is almost here, it's true. This weekend's freak October snowstorm certainly reminded us of that. But winter ends. Spring is coming.

Be gone, zombies, be gone.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Starhawk: #OWS Renews Our Faith in the Human Spirit

The right mix of politics and spirituality is a thorny question. I am utterly devoted to the notion of separation of church and state: it's clear to me that whatever mysterious personal beliefs people have, the law must remain absolutely secular. But at the same time I believe that the desire to fight for a better world, for social justice, comes from a profoundly spiritual place, and thus ultimately the morality informing secular law risks a slippery slope easily confused when the morality of liberation becomes blurred with the controlling dogma of a particular faith. All that said, I know that while my religious beliefs and at this point very occasional religious practices have very little to do with my politics, my spirituality is quite intertwined with a liberationist perspective in politics.

Many left-wing political activists dislike/fear/hate/oppose thinking about politics in a spiritual way, and I understand where they're coming from. But for all the social conservatism of today's evangelical Christians or the right-wing nihilism of fundamentalist political Islam, there is a long history of religious people being in the vanguard of social justice movements: a key example of which is the African-American civil rights movement which had an organic relationship with the spirituality and religious faith of African-Americans.

During my period of spiritual exploration after I withdrew form political activism, one of the most inspiring writers was the Neo-Pagan priestess Starhawk, especially her seminal work "The Spiral Dance." I was excited to read that Starhawk has been visiting a number of the Occupy Together encampments on the west coast. Some of what she's written on the subject of #OWS and this amazing movement that has materialized before our eyes I find quite inspiring:

From an article published in the Washington Post's On Faith column:

"What’s going on? Pundits splutter about the movement’s lack of ‘demands’ and coherent messaging, but sound bites and 10-point programs arise from central committees and top-down hierarchies. The Occupy movement demonstrates a very different model of organizing: emergent, decentralized, without a command and control structure. ...

[The demonstrations] all share a common heart, a revulsion against an economy and a politics that increasingly say, “You don’t count, except as something to exploit. Your voice is drowned out by money, your labor is expendable, your needs must be sacrificed to the gods of profit.”

At its essence, the message of the Occupations is simply this:

'Here in the face of power we will sit and create a new society, in which you do count. Your voice carries weight, your contributions have value, whoever you may be. We care for one another, and we say that love and care are the true foundations for the society we want to live in. We’ll stand with the poor and sleep with the homeless if that’s what it takes to get justice. We’ll build a new world.'....

The Occupy movement renews my faith in the human spirit, in our creativity, our craving for justice, our determination to root our world in love. So come on down! You are important. Your voice counts. You have a unique contribution to make. We are all the 99 percent."

And so taking a stand along with #OWS has a spiritual component: awakening our long-dormant hope and aspirations. Secular political savvy and a presence in the real world with its dangerous state repression is clearly the order of the day. But go ahead, arm yourself with spirit, too.

Starhawk has also been writing at great length in her personal blog on the Occupy movement.

News of Starhawk via The Wildhunt

Friday, October 28, 2011

Scott Olsen Found the Enemy

"Joined the Marines.
Went to Iraq.
Came home.
Found the Enemy.

Is this what democracy looks like?"

The good news is that Scott Olsen's condition has been upgraded from critical. Graphic found on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Brute Force of the AMERICAN State Reveals Itself

'In Oakland, officials initially supported the protests, with Mayor Jean Quan saying that sometimes “democracy is messy.”'AP News release. Mayor Quan is a liberal Democrat.

"An Iraq war veteran has a fractured skull and brain swelling after allegedly being hit by a police projectile. Scott Olsen is in a "critical condition" in Highland hospital in Oakland, a hospital spokesman confirmed...."I'm just absolutely devastated that someone who did two tours of Iraq and came home safely is now lying in a US hospital because of the domestic police force," [his friend Adele] Carpenter said."Guardian UK article reporting on the violent police attack on the peaceful Occupy Oakland encampment ordered by Mayor Quan's administration. The police used teargas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets.

"Scott is one of an increasing number of war veterans who are participating in America’s growing Occupy movement. Said Keith Shannon, who deployed with Scott to Iraq, “Scott was marching with the 99% because he felt corporations and banks had too much control over our government, and that they weren’t being held accountable for their role in the economic downturn, which caused so many people to lose their jobs and their homes.”Iraq Veterans Against the War

'Let's be clear: Occupy Together has ended the whole sensibility of 9/11, the reverence for cop-heros of the two towers, the bullshit of "America stands together," the fog of Tea Party radicalism, the giddy illusion of "Change we can believe in" -- it's all over, and something else has started.'Mike Ely, Kasama

"We Are All Scott Olsen."#OWS

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anti-Americana: Don't You Have Anything in a "Love" Stamp?

The United States Postal Service issued its first "Love" stamp in 1973...almost forty years ago now. I'm imagining it wasn't inspired by this stamp issued — but then withdrawn — the previous year by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. I don't know why the North Korean government issued this stamp and then changed its mind, it's certainly no less viscerally rage-filled and violent than the dozens of other Anti-American postage stamps they'd already released. Not being able to read a word of Korean, I can't translate its clearly shouted slogan, and can't spot an error of symbolism that might have embarrassed the political monitors of the North Korean post office.

The design is boilerplate: a pair of American soldiers and a shattered stars-and-stripes are being smooshed by a giant red fist. The nuclear weapon brandished by one of the soldiers lies broken in two. Man, I hope that thing doesn't go off. Ah, 1972. I imagine it's pretty scary to live in a teeny tiny country, even a repressive one like the DPRK, knowing that a whole lot of nukes are pointed at you from right across a DMZ.

Did North Korean sweethearts use this stamp on their love letters?

(Anti-Americana is an ongoing Cahokian series: click here for almost 200 more propaganda images from around the world.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Cure for Mondays: Al Green

I've been putting in a little overtime at work so my brain is a little fried and incapable of putting together a good juicy rant.... so two days in a row we're taking a little musical breather from the events of the world. I've been rustling through my iTunes and CD collection and this is what I came up with. Here's Al Green's hidden gem "Look What You Done For Me" from his 1972 album I'm Still in Love With You. This could be the dictionary entry for "soul music." What an arrangement!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Night Schmalz: A Taste of Honey

Remember Herb Alpert doing his early-sixties signature song "A Taste of Honey"? It's the hit track from the album showing a model covered in "whipped cream" with a seductive look on her face, and it's a sort of cliche of swinging sixties pre-rock bachelor pad music. Well now forget about that. Here's a version of that song from Andy Bey and the Bey Sisters, the singing group that launched the career of the amazing honey-voiced singer Andy Bey, who is quite still around. Recorded in 1964, this version slows the tempo way down and takes the song from the height of the party to late night at the bar. What is in other hands almost cloyingly perky is transformed into something else altogether. All of a sudden it's introspective melancholia, the perfect accompaniment to a neat glass of booze, some dim lights, and, like tonight, a chilly evening with dark streets that may or may not lead you to where you expect them to.

I didn't know it before looking it up for this entry, but it's originally from a 1960 Broadway show and was also popularized by... The Beatles. When I was younger I didn't get this kind of slow, bittersweetly lush vocal music. But as a middle-aged gay man this stuff seems to get right under my skin.

"I will return...
I'll come back for the honey and you."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Is it finally over?

President Obama announced today that all U.S. forces would be out of Iraq by the end of the year, more or less as planned since President Bush first negotiated a staged withdrawal with the Iraqi government before he left office. Last-minute negotiations to maintain a so-called training force in Iraq came to nothing, thankfully. I'm imagining the huge American embassy and its massive staff, not to mention thousands of armed mercenaries, er, "contractors," will of course remain.

The uncountable tens of thousands of Iraqis killed by the absolutely unprovoked American aggression could not be reached for comment; nor could the equally uncountable thousands more killed by the terrorism and civil conflict unleashed when the U.S. invasion destroyed Iraqi society. The thousands of children who died of hardship in the decade of U.S. blockade between the first and second wars with Iraq will still not be growing up.

George Bush's legacy is intact: no WMD nor links to 9/11 were ever found. But we knew that.

OK, now about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Uganda...?

(The photo shows a portion of President Bush's disgustingly named "shock and awe" bombing of downtown Baghdad)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The End of Qaddafi

Propaganda image of Moammar al-Qaddafi dressed as an admiral among sailors of the Libyan navy, ca. 1980

It's not often one gets to watch the end of an era come to a bloody end on a tiny Youtube screen, but today I watched two videos of the death of the fugitive Libyan dictator Moammar al-Qaddafi at the hands of the NATO-backed former rebel forces. The first shows a bloodied but still alive Qaddafi being dragged off the hood of a car. He looks dazed and semi-conscious as he's manhandled into a crowd. He had apparently just been discovered in a metal culvert, and shot while trying to escape his fate. This was at the end of the merciless siege of the last Qaddafi stronghold of Sirte, a town that apparently proved the old Vietnam-war era military adage about "destroying the village in order to save it." The second video shows Qaddafi's considerably bloodier and less alive body being kicked around in the dust. A gory still photo that followed showed more of Qaddafi's bloodied head and lifeless eye sockets than I cared to ever see.

And so an oppressive dictator died, reportedly about the same time as his two sons Muatassim (definitely dead, more gory pictures) and Saif al-Islam (reportedly so or at least wounded), who had stayed with their father and refused to go into exile with other members of the family as Tripoli fell to the rebels in late summer. It was time for his dictatorship to go, and at least a whole lot of Libyan people seem pretty happy about that. But honestly, watching these gruesome videos I felt a little sad.

All the Libyan civilians and international photojournalists who lost their lives in Libya's short but brutal civil war deserve the real tears that perhaps Qaddafi does not, but it's hard not to reflect on the humanity ending so abruptly before the cameras. Oh I understand the merciless are rarely afforded mercy, but still it doesn't feel exactly like justice when those living by the sword die by it, despite what the Christian Bible says about such inevitabilities. I'm against the death penalty, even for men who have proved their moral bankruptcy many times over. I don't celebrate the brutality I witnessed today.

Stamp design showing the American assassination attempt on Qaddafi in 1986 in which his adopted daughter was killed

It's so easy to accept the media cliche that Qaddafi was a "madman." He was certainly a man of his own tastes and eccentricities, but isn't it funny how America's "enemies" are always demonized as "madmen" as though it's the requisite dehumanization required to objectify them and lust for their deaths: Iraq's Saddam, Iran's Khomeini and Ahmedinejad, Venezuela's Chavez, even Cuba's Castro. Never mind that all these leaders, rogues or heroes depending on one's perspective, all have or had plenty of solid reason to choose the side they were on. I have never believed I was better than anyone else solely because of the accidental location of my birth (which, come to think of it, wasn't the United States anyway, but I digress). That kind of us-against-the-forces-of-darkness patriotism is a sickness. Americans might want to hold our own leaders to higher account before looking to cast stones about the neighborhood. And pity the poor actual madmen among us: I saw several today on the subway. They weren't capable of running countries and I didn't want to kill them even slightly.

And I don't know about you, but somebody sending jets to try and kill me but instead killing one of my children and a few dozen neighboring civilians, well, that would sure make me mad.

Many cite the PanAm airplane explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland and grit one's teeth coldly and say Qaddafi deserved what he got. Well, if you believe that's what actually happened. I'm no scholar of that terrible destruction of innocent life, but the accounts that claim Libya had nothing to do with Lockerbie and place the blame on other rogue terrorists seem as feasible to me as the ones that claim Qaddafi somehow masterminded it. Not being a student of those facts I wouldn't get involved in a heated argument on the subject. But I know the record of spies and lies in the 1970s and 1980s and let's just say if I had lost a loved one over Lockerbie I would resent my loss being used for anyone's political justifications, and certainly wouldn't wish to spread the suffering around.

Cartoonish propaganda stamps showing Qaddafi in civilian and military guise ca. 1982

Certainly Qaddafi had a high opinion of himself, and created a classically visual personality cult around himself. He had his own ideology, contained in the incredibly boring and disingenuous Green Book (I guess my copy is now a collector's item). He had an army of women with guns around him for a while, which you would think would have made him more popular with elements of the American population who like B-movies with that plot, but oh well. He really, really wanted to be loved. He claimed the love of the Libyan people, the African people who he claimed to want to unite, and, at his last speeches to the United Nations in which he pleaded for more powerful representation for the third world, he claimed the love of the peoples of the entire planet. I'm not saying that love was actually redeemed.

There's a lesson there for all of those with money and (regional) power: those who tell you they love you might not really mean it when the money and power go away. And if you want your people to love you for giving them the pleasure of living in a socialist egalitarian paradise like the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya claimed to be (yes, that was the official name of the country), you might want to remember that a reasonable standard of living is not enough if your faux socialist paradise is also secretly a repressive police dictatorship where you can end up in jail or a mass grave for speaking your mind.

In the end Qaddafi and his sons refused an extended Saudi Arabian retirement, unlike certain other falling dictators. They were not apparently thanked for this last display of patriotism. I guess they proved they were committed to their own image. Whatever that's worth. Not much in the end, I guess.

Just a couple of world leaders shaking hands.

In the aftermath of the American toppling of Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi decided to come in from the cold. While occasionally reverting to bouts of his former rhetoric, he made nice with imperialism. He made nice with President Bush and with British Prime Minister Blair and for a while with Bush's successor Obama. He took the virtual bullet for Lockerbie more or less on the same basis as Mark Zuckerberg settled lawsuits over his social network, something you can afford to do when money is being pumped out of the ground. Where once he reviled Italy for its brutal decades of occupation before World War II — the world's first civilian concentration camps were established by Italy to punish rebellious Libyans in the early 20th century — Qaddafi made especially nice with corrupt Italian leader Berlusconi, promising to help him keep unwanted African immigrants from crossing the Mediterranean into Italy.

Hillary Clinton making nice with Qaddafi's son Muatassim, also reported killed today.

Qaddafi's grown children tried to rehabilitate their reputations and that of their father, posing as international businessmen or diplomats. Heck they were international businessmen selling lots of oil to a greedy European market. But all those smiles went south when the season turned to Arab spring.

Memo to self: beware of shaking hands with members of a government that has already tried to kill you even if the last time you met them they seemed happy to see you.

One of the last stamps issued by the Qaddafi regime (in 2010) honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and claimed racism was outlawed in Libya.

Qaddafi was the last of his kind: that generation of late 1960s/early 1970s nationalist leaders who spoke a language that sounded like it was leftist and anti-imperialist but on closer examination proved to be something quite different. It seems like today's authoritarians have mostly dispensed with the language of socialism or social justice. The dictators of Qaddafi's day needed to legitimize themselves by claiming a higher cause. Sadly, in the end they just poisoned the well, ruining the reputation of socialism which became equated with mere statism and repression; reserving the equality of poverty for the masses while a privileged class at the top enjoyed villas and luxury yachts.

And so this last Qaddafi-era stamp is sort of poignant. I mean, even the United States hasn't put MLK on a stamp since the 1980s. Yet it seems extraordinarily unlikely given the rumors of racist atrocities against West African immigrants by the now-victorious Libyan rebels that there was some kind of widespread anti-racist consciousness under Qaddafi's rule.

I hope the Libyan people find justice and freedom from new kinds of oppression. I hope they haven't poisoned that well with the brutality of this civil war and the extra-legal execution of their former ruler. I hope they understand — or learn quickly and not too painfully — what kind of deal with the devil they have made by inviting in NATO and empowering a new spirit of American interventionism. A new spirit of interventionism that is, by the way, already evident in President Obama's dispatch of a small unit of American soldiers and military advisers to Uganda to fight the so-called Lord's Resistance Army. Yes, our so-called "peace" president involves the country in another war.

I hope Arab spring fulfills its promise. As spring turns now toward winter, there are reasons both for hope and for concern. Libya shows how hard the "West" will try to keep control of the situation. Despite the decidedly mixed bag of events in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and Palestine, we also have the worldwide Occupy Together movement birthed by #OWS but spawned by a new popular awakening. As much as NATO bombings and executions in the streets seem like depressing precedents, I remain hopeful. Spring always comes round again.

Stamp images mostly from

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everything You Need to Know About Republicans (2)

At last night's disturbing Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, in which candidates competed to display more heartlessness to the American people, more racism toward immigrants, and more stupidity on international issues:

Anderson Cooper: "Herman Cain, two weeks ago you said 'Don't blame the big banks, don't blame Wall Street, if you don't have a job or you're not rich, blame yourself.'... Do you still say that?" (Cheers from crowd)

Herman Cain: "Yes I do say that." (Wild cheering ovation from crowd)

There's a clip on Huffpo that I won't embed here because it has a commercial.

Monday, October 17, 2011

#OWS Occupies Times Square

Many thousands of people turned out Saturday night to bring the #Occupy Wall Street movement uptown to Times Square. While confused tourists milled about and police laid down a heavy hand with horses, motorcycles, and blocks and blocks of metal pens and barricades, thousands of people came out just before sunset to express their support to the rights of the 99% for economic (and social) justice.

The police response seemed to atomize the protest a bit, isolating a louder, angrier crowd around the military recruiting station from a more playful, music-playing "Occupation Party" crowd up near the TKTS booth. The police prevented feeder marches from joining the protests, and generally amped up an aura of explosive tension. After some abusive arrests earlier in the day at a protest inside a Citibank branch, the cops staged a confrontation with some protesters at the end of the Times Square event, arresting dozens. The protesters were engaged in nonviolent expression, and it's clear that the Mayor has ordered the police to limit that expression as much as they can get away with.

I love the sign above: "Decolonize Wall Street - Wall St. Is On Occupied Algonquin Land - Decolonize the 99%"

The Occupy Times Square Action was part of a global day of actions, with protests held in hundreds of cities in dozens of countries. Here's a sign expressing common sentiment at Occupy Wall Street Protests, and I gather, at protests world wide: "If Voting Could Change Anything, It Would Be Illegal - Join Us. We Are the 99%." If the fruit of all that excitement prior to Obama's election means anything, this is certainly a point up for debate.

And Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara made a welcome return visit to New York City courtesy of this red flag with the iconic Korda silhouette of the martyred hero. Of course my eye gravitates to red flags, but there was plenty of more middle-of-the-road sentiment present also. Considering this is a movement of the 99%, that road is pretty broad; and more power to it.

(Photographs by me; click on them to see them larger)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rick Perry's Plan to F*ck the Cr@p out of the Environment... (USA! USA!)

Rick Perry said it, but this is pretty much the platform of the entire Republican party:

"America has proven but untapped supplies of natural gas, oil and coal. America is the Saudi Arabia of coal with 25 percent of the world’s supply. Our country contains up to 134 billion barrels of oil and nearly 1.2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas....But President Obama and his over-reaching Environmental Protection Agency won’t allow American businesses and American labor to draw on even a fraction of this domestic energy from reserves on government-owned lands....

We will open several American oil and gas fields for exploration that are currently off limits because of political considerations. The current administration has restricted exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the mid-Atlantic....I will work to open up Alaska’s abundant resources to oil and gas exploration, including the ANWR Coastal Plain and the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska. In this one instance, we will need congressional authorization. But it is worth it when you consider we will create 120,000 jobs. We will initiate off-shore exploration in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off the northern and western coasts of Alaska. This will create 55,000 jobs. We will resume pre-Obama levels of exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and create another 230,000 jobs. I will support the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to take Canadian Crude to coastal refineries, which would create 20,000 direct jobs for American workers....And right here in Pennsylvania, and across the state line in West Virginia and Ohio, we will tap the full potential of the Marcellus Shale and create another 250,000 jobs by getting the EPA out of the way...."
—Texas governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry announcing his "energy" plan yesterday in Pittsburgh. Below, what Texas looks like today.

Yes, they actually think the Environmental Protection Agency is a chief cause of the economic crisis.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

#OWS Occupy Wall Street in Danger

From OWS:

Prevent the forcible closure of Occupy Wall Street

Tell Bloomberg: Don't Foreclose the Occupation.

This is an emergency situation. Please take a minute to read this, and please take action and spread the word far and wide.

Occupy Wall Street is gaining momentum, with occupation actions now happening in cities across the world.

But last night Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD notified Occupy Wall Street participants about plans to “clean the park”—the site of the Wall Street protests—tomorrow starting at 7am. "Cleaning" was used as a pretext to shut down “Bloombergville” a few months back, and to shut down peaceful occupations elsewhere.

Bloomberg says that the park will be open for public usage following the cleaning, but with a notable caveat: Occupy Wall Street participants must follow the “rules”.

NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said that they will move in to clear us and we will not be allowed to take sleeping bags, tarps, personal items or gear back into the park.

This is it—this is their attempt to shut down #OWS for good.

1) Call 311 (or +1 (212) NEW-YORK if you're out of town) and tell Bloomberg to support our right to assemble and to not interfere with #OWS.

2) Come to #OWS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT to defend the occupation from eviction.

For those of you who plan to help us hold our ground—which we hope will be all of you—make sure you understand the possible consequences. Be prepared to not get much sleep. Be prepared for possible arrest. Make sure your items are together and ready to go (or already out of the park.) We are pursuing all possible strategies; this is a message of solidarity.

Click here to learn nonviolent tactics for holding ground.

Occupy Wall Street is committed to keeping the park clean and safe—we even have a Sanitation Working Group whose purpose this is. We are organizing major cleaning operations today and will do so regularly.

If Bloomberg truly cares about sanitation here he should support the installation of portopans and dumpsters. #OWS allies have been working to secure these things to support our efforts.

We know where the real dirt is: on Wall Street. Billionaire Bloomberg is beholden to bankers.

We won't allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our occupation. This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic."

This morning on the radio (WNYC no less) the pro-Bloomberg media cheerfully reported that Bloomberg visited the encampment and said they would be allowed to stay if they temporarily vacated the plaza for cleaning. Of course the radio didn't say that the city's intention was to end the encampment by establishing "rules" denying the right of people to lie down in the park after they "cleaned" it. For the record, when I've been to the plaza it was cluttered and full of people but it didn't smell, there was no filth, and no evidence of the lack of sanitation facilities (which for crying out loud, New York should have in its public spaces anyway). Let this be crystal clear: Bloomberg and his media enablers are liars on the side of the 1%.

UPDATE: The overnight protest effort seems to have at least postponed the eviction. Some inspiring details in this Gawker account.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Did You Hear the One About the Iranian Used Car Dealer?

An Iranian used-car dealer in Texas has a relative in the Iranian military and they're actually super spies who tried to hire the Mexican mafia to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. because, well, just because. I mean, everybody knows ALL IRANIANS ARE TERRORISTS!!!11!. And the news just happened to break the same day President Obama's jobs bill was defeated in its first test vote in Congress strangely pushing that event off the headlines. And strangely Secretary Hillary Clinton and various members of Congress are now rattling sabers against Iran again instead of commenting on the U.S.-supported Yemeni dictatorship gunning people down in the streets. And just a couple weeks ago it turned out the U.S. sold bombs to Israel that would be perfect to destroy, say, an underground nuclear facility in Iran.

Suuurrrre. I believe it's all happening just like the government says it is. Don't you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The peasants are revolting...

'Heather Amato, 35, a psychologist who lives near the protest area, said she felt disturbed by some of the conduct of the protesters. She said she had to shield her toddler from the sight of women at the park dancing topless. “It’s been three weeks now,” Ms. Amato said. “Enough is enough.”'New York Times, October 7

As the Occupy Wall Street movement gains momentum, spreading across the country to dozens of local Occupy protests, marches, sit-ins and encampments, the establishment, to use a word spawned by the 1960s protests, has begun to look down on the movement with some consternation and confusion. Besides the hatchet job quoted above about how Occupy Wall Street is nothing but dirty, smelly, rude hippies with no respect for property, there was an extraordinarily condescending OpEd piece by the Times's resident old-line conservative, David Brooks:

"If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent. This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite....The Occupy Wall Street movement may look radical, but its members’ ideas are less radical than those you might hear at your average Rotary Club." Of course, Brooks is a die-hard defender of the 1%.

A two-pronged attack on Occupy Wall Street is unfolding: it's an attack by the class that has the most to lose from these protests that hint at the incredible potential suggested by the awakening of those who have thus far been the victims of class war waged against them. The attack will be a classic good-cop bad-cop act.

The first prong of the attack, the "good cop" is as Kasama warns: "Here is the deal: The smell of sulfur is upon the land. Satan himself is coming now… Of course we don’t believe in Satan. It is a metaphor. What I mean is this: The real and difficult struggle within this movement and for this movement is now starting. The media is turning on the machinery. The unions officials will now come as “supporters” but broker for the liberal establishment. “Advisers” will show up. People (who are pliant and acceptable) will now be declared leaders and spokespeople in the media. Demands will be announced or promoted or demanded that correspond to the program of the Democratic Party…. and much more." This will be the strategy of the liberal establishment to co-opt and blunt the Occupy Wall Street feign sympathy for its ends while trying to channel its energy away from radical potential.

The second prong will be the "bad cop," as those forces who will do anything to defend their privilege and power attempt sway public opinion against the Occupy movement, and then when they believe the movement to be weak, they will unleash whatever forces of repression are necessary to sweep up the remnants.

On the internet front, check out two widely circulated graphics from the teabaggers trying to demean the Occupy movement. The first attempts to paint the movement as idiot hypocrites for being consumers as if to oppose Wall Street we should all walk around in burlap sacks. The second attempts to paint them as anti-patriotic criminals looking for government handouts. For those with strong stomachs, check out the Think Progress video contrasting how the right-wing media coddled the Teaparty and attack the Occupy movement. I could only watch half of it. Link here. And read Gawker's evisceration of the thoroughly tragic attempt by the right-wing to paint the protesters as freeloaders and get suffering working-class Americans to identify with the cause of their suffering, "We are the 53%." To quote Gawker editor Richard Lawson: "these people have been glamoured by vampires, have bared their necks and welcome the pain as a gift. It's so deep and so bedrock in national mentality that the only salve seems, honestly, to be some sort of genuine revolution. I kind of feel like a French person in 1788. I wish these people knew they had allies behind them."

We don't know what will happen. The Occupy movement may grow and bloom, or it may succumb temporarily to winter. I do know that it's impressed the hell out of me personally, and the people involved in it are very, very smart, and becoming very very very wise by their own actions. The time is overripe for this kind of movement. If there's one thing that I hope people in the Occupy Movement understand, and I suspect many of them do, it's that the so-called 1%, whatever that true number is, do not need to understand or be educated, or learn anything: they are doing what they are doing because it is in their self=interest to do so. The rich want to stay rich. The powerful want to keep power. Appealing to the better natures of those with power has its limitations, especially when they understand the logic of the movement even if not everybody in that movement has drawn the same conclusions through to the end.

Those of us who want — who need — change or economic and social justice: it is for us to take. These things are, by virtue of our absolute majority and humanity, our right. No begging is necessary.

(The graphic, of course, is Mel Brooks and Harvey Korman in "The History of the World, Part 1." If you've seen it you'll know why it's here!)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

This Is What Democracy Looks Like!

"Rise Up – We Are the 99%"
Artwork from a one-day guerrilla art exhibit for Occupy Wall Street called "No Comment" held in the now empty former J.P. Morgan building in downtown New York City.

"Another World Is Possible. On a Quiet Morning, I Can Hear Her Breathing"
Sign on the sacred space altar at one corner of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City.

"Power to the People!!" Sign near the drum circle at the Occupy Wall Street encampment today.

"No list of demands. We are speaking to each other, and listening. This occupation is first about participation. - Tens of thousands of New Yorkers streamed into Foley Square on Wednesday — labor unions rolled out, students walked out. The occupation of Wall Street grew to resemble the city we live in. What race, age, religion, occupation did we represent? None of them. All of them...This is our movement. It is our narrative too. The exhausted political machines and their PR slicks are already seeking leaders to elevate, messages to claim talking points to move on. They, more than anyone, will attempt to seize and shape that movement. But how can they run out in front of something that is in front of them? They cannot.... We aren't going anywhere. We just got here." — editorial note from the second edition of Occupy Wall Street's broadsheet "The Occupied Wall Street Journal"

More art from the "No Comment" guerrilla art show:

"Think outside this box - Fuck Nationalism!" graffiti on an American flag.

"Wake Up - Unite - Organize - Rise - Forgive - Evolve"

Wall stencil. Not sure what it means, but a striking image.

"This Is What Democracy Looks Like"
"They Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out"
"All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street"

— chants from the Occupy Wall Street protest

(All photos by me; click on the images to see them larger. All credit to the original artists)

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hater Speaks at Hate Groups' Confab of Hate

There are plenty of other bloggers who enjoy watching every hateful, insane thing uttered by right-wing fundamentalist Christians and their various hate groups, and normally I'm not one for paying too much attention to every bit of hate speech they utter. It's nauseating and tediously repetitious. But here's a brief clip from Brian Fischer of the hate group American Family Association group making the concise point at today's Family Research Council-sponsored Value Voters Summit that the twin dangers of Islam and homosexuality are the worst things facing America today.

To my knowledge not a single Republican politician has explicitly distanced themselves from this single-minded focus on hatred as the unifying principle behind so-called "Values Voters" or social conservatives. It should be presumed that any politician who attended this conference with an aim other than denouncing it completely, including alleged moderate Mitt Romney whose religion has also been denounced by some of these same hate mongers, thinks it's okay to villify gays and Muslims in exchange for votes. What kind of country to they want to live in? Not the one I do. Shame on anyone who does not recognize this conference and every last social conservative it represents as being nothing but a modern-day Klan rally. Indeed while Mitt Romney has generalized about "poisonous language" from Fischer, he certainly didn't boycott the forum provided by people who share Fischer's views, and agrees with Fischer that gay Americans should be denied equal rights. All these groups with "Family" in their name prefer that gay people not be allowed to build loving families equal under the law. "Family" is their codeword for hatred of lesbians and gays.

Incidentally, the hate group FRC, organizers of today's summit, is run by Tony Perkins, who has given money to David Duke of the actual KKK as well as spoken to the white-racist Council of Conservative Citizens.

(Clip from Right Wing Watch via Gawker)

Friday, October 07, 2011

What Is the Steve Jobs Legacy?

"Think different. Steve Jobs didn't make your iPad, Chinese kids did."

Since the products of Steve Job's Apple Corporation are by and large what has made the internet what it is today, it's not surprising that outpourings of grief for Mr. Jobs have been front and center on the internet since he died yesterday, far too young, of the dread pancreatic cancer. By all accounts he was a brilliant man who truly changed the world in ways that define our current era. I currently produce this blog on an iMac, and my professional career is currently based on working on Macs. I love my iPod, and the fact that I have no iPhone to love is a product of my deficient personal economy not aspiration. I post this graphic I found not to disrespect the memory of Mr. Jobs nor to demean his achievements. But I was immediately struck by how direct and important the message of this graphic is, and how superficial and partial are so many of the ubiquitous encomiums to the legacy of Steve Jobs. I certainly don't post this graphic to make anyone feel guilty about their Apple products since I'm guessing nobody but the Amish can claim a life free of the products plucked from the trees of universal corporate exploitation.

To my mind the statement of this graphic is less than a condemnation of Mr. Jobs — though a proprietary relationship with factories employing child or slave labor is highly problematic — but more a condemnation of us as consumers for not remembering that without the workers, children or adults, laboring to produce these miraculous little machines, Steve Jobs was nothing but a man with great ideas. I have my cool iMac and iPod not just because of his imagination, but because flesh and blood people put these things together with craftsmanship and know-how. And the fact that I was able to afford these things is probably thanks to the fact that other people made less money than I to do the hard work of making these things real.

Pondering all of this I did come to another realization: every time in the last twenty-some-odd years I've found myself out of work, I could blame Mr. Jobs and his creations. And here is something not often stated about our current economic condition.

In the 1980s I supported myself as a photo-typesetter. It was a valued craft. The development of desktop publishing via MacIntosh toward the end of that decade killed the typesetting business, and with it my skill-set. I transitioned first to pre-press, and then to the production and creative end of computer-based print graphics. But I wound up working in the music business, and soon iPods and iTunes killed the demand for CDs, and down went the music business starting in the mid-2000s and with it my replacement career and skill-set. Today I am slightly underemployed, working freelance in the print newspaper business at a much lower level than I was before. With the continued internet revolution and the development of the iPad, the grim reaper has his eye fixed firmly on the business model that supports me. I'm not sure at all what I will do when print design finally bites the dust or when the last newspaper goes all digital.

Don't get me wrong, I love the modern technology. I consume it. But talking about the economic crisis, if manufacturing is largely gone from the U.S., and soon fields like mine which once employed millions are obsolete memories, what indeed will we all be doing for work in the future? If computerization and automation combined with outsourcing so sharply reduce the number of people needed to keep the world functioning, it strikes me that all this nonsense the government is play-acting through about "job creation" is so much missing the point. With the one-two punch of technological improvement and the globalization of labor, there really is less and less for Americans to do. Of course, stupid Republicans, the government is going to be bigger, because that's getting to be one of the last places the jobs are. Along with serving bad, robotic food and working for banks or insurance companies to find ways of ripping people off of their money.

It seems inevitable that the much-lauded creative engine of capitalism would contain the seeds of its own obsolescence. Steve Jobs was very very smart: yes, visionary even. But not smart enough to avoid creating a world divided into soon-to-be-unemployed consumers with useless, outdated skills, and exploited, regimented child slaves working their tiny skilled fingers by the piece.

Graphic snagged from Lenin's Tomb.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Spring Is Coming!

I haven't seen a crowd like this at a protest since some of the big anti-war marches in the run-up to President Bush's attack on Iraq. I haven't seen such a big protest with such a broadly anti-capitalist pro-social/economic justice focus, well, ever. Tonight thousands of people came out for a rally and march sponsored by a coalition of labor unions and similar organizations to support the Occupy Wall Street encampment. I missed the beginning of the event at 4:30, but by the time I got down there after work at 6:30, the march was long and spirited and I could see neither ahead to the front of it nor back to the end of it. The march ended up at the Occupy Wall Street base down at Liberty Plaza, where some dispersed, and some, a much smaller group, attempted to continue the march down to the heavily barricaded Wall Street area itself, where a small number of marchers were eventually arrested. The police presence was massive; and dozens of empty buses were parked all over the place should the cops need to fill them up with arrested protesters. I've already seen one video of a short but vicious episode of cop brutality.

"Revolution: Anything Less Is Bullshit."

I continue to be inspired and impressed by the diversity of protesters, by their enthusiasm, and by their many creative ways of expressing a fundamental disagreement with the status quo. There was a wide spectrum of opinion: and I can't but note how significant it is that despite the reputation of the Occupy Wall Street organizers for being "hippies," the organizations of working people have recognized the crucial nature of the moment and the opportunity to change the national discussion opened up by the newly vocal and rebellious left.

"No Bulls, No Bears. Only Pigs"

As a veteran of another time of activism, I'm so excited to think that perhaps the moment has finally arrived when people are waking up to the class war being waged against them, and waking up to the possibilities invited by standing together outside the structures and contexts of systems like elections that are stacked against us. A huge banner I wasn't able to get a good picture of read: "Arab Spring. European Summer. American Fall." (Someone in the crowd yelled, "Global winter!") I so worry that the approach of cold weather will dampen the fighting spirit, and I hope this nascent movement manages to hold itself together to reveal a real American Spring in the new year.

This guy was exhorting the crowd to move on to Wall Street. He was telling people around him that he had been there since the very beginning a few weeks ago, amazed that what started out as a handful of people has taken on such life and become so big. As one sign I loved said, "I Lost My Job But Found An Occupation."

There are many many challenges ahead for this movement. The left is furiously debating how to relate to this new and amorphous radicalization. (I recommend a perceptive and thought-provoking discussion on Kasama, especially this post by Kasama leader Mike Ely). There is all kind of danger of co-optation, not least from the politicians gearing up for next year's election. And there is the very real threat of repression from local police and politicians who are freaked out at the possibility of the militancy and rebelliousness evidenced this year in the U.K., Greece, Spain, and the Middle East.

But there is also so much possibility. Spring will be a beautiful season.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A Trip Down Disco Memory Lane

I'm not sure what kind of nostalgic melancholia influenced me to wallow in this song and ones like it this past weekend, but this I did. Musique was a studio assemblage, the brainchild of Patrick Adams, one of the pioneering geniuses of the disco art form, based out of New York. It's the product of a room full of semi-anonymous studio musicians, including the later-to-become-a-diva Jocelyn Brown among the cooing female singers, most assuredly not the same trio of models seen cavorting on the album's cover. The album "Keep On Jumpin'," released way back in 1978, spawned one huge hit, the precocious ode to, depending on your perspective, pubic hair or public-park sex or perhaps a daringly risqué confusion of the two, "In The Bush" (as in "Push, push, in the bush"). Ironically I first heard the tune as a young gay man at a Chicago gay bar equally precociously named The Bushes. You had to rely on context to know if someone's "I'll meet you later at the Bushes," was a call for a midnight rendezvous in Lincoln Park or merely an invitation to a trendily accoutremented pub on Halsted Street. The ads for this bar in the local gay bar-rag happily evoked the possibilities. I personally didn't experience the joys of night-time park-going until I moved to New York, but that is a different story.

If "In The Bush" is promiscuously propulsive and funky (do track it down if you've not heard it), its album-mate "Summer Love" was the kind of tune reserved for the later hours of the disco near closing time when its sugary-sweet first taste would soon dissolve into bittersweet self examination and a veritable tidal wave of stoically repressed tears on the dancefloor.

Patrick Adams understood how clearly good disco music had to manipulate not only a listener's feet and pelvis, but his emotional inner life as well. Listen to what vocal arranger and singer Christine Wiltshire has done with the vocals here: the playful sexiness of "In The Bush" is abandoned in favor of an almost somber and restrained harmony, wondering whether the Summer Love — past or present dancing partner, presumably — would stick around through thick and thin or wander off into an autumn dawn, never looking back. In 1970s gay disco dancing there was not a lot of conversation: each dancer is alone with the sensory overload of the experience and with the feelings conjured up in the musique, er, music. Here Adams gives us something to think feel about. On the floor, and I remember it well, pain is transformed into catharsis and when the flashing lights and the sound of pounding loud drums are left behind in the night, so much painful emptiness has been healed by hearing hope and worry and love or lack thereof strummed away, as it were, by the dj's fingers. Your body's a little sore, and if you're coming down off some good psychedelic drugs, you're feeling like you may have just fought a battle but you emerged victorious, having traveled to the far realms of the innerverse. At least that was what 1979 was like for me.

The heroes of this music are the strings, giving real definition and substance to the cliché "heartstrings." Even the instrumental "Love Theme" version of this song, also on Youtube, manages to convey the same bittersweetness without the presence of the voices and the modest lyric. Give the funky drummer some, sure, but it's that real old-fashioned analog string orchestra that makes this music so human, and at least to me, maintains a certain emotional impact thirty-plus years later. They don't make disco music like this anymore. But maybe you had to be there.

(Apologies for the unbelievably horrible visual accompanying this video. It was the best-sounding clip of this song I could find on Youtube. This album has stayed in print on CD and download.)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

"Don't Be Afraid to Call It a Revolution"

I spent part of the afternoon at the Occupy Wall Street encampment in downtown Manhattan today. It's a few hundred people gathered in a small paved park roughly midway between Wall Street and the World Trade Center site. I found the gathering truly inspiring. It seems to get its energy from the overwhelming presence of young people, but it's drawn plenty of the not-so-young; while it seemed to be majority white it was by no means exclusively so. Having watched three years of so-called Tea Party protests on the news it was utterly refreshing to see — even on signs challenging President Obama — a complete and total absence of the dogwhistle racism foundational to the teabaggers' modus operandi. Here was real protest about economic issues (as well as social justice ones). Significantly I saw many trade union activists identifying themselves as such.

I've read hype describing Occupy Wall Street as an attempt to bring the spirit of Egypt's Tahrir Square to the United States; and while this movement is much smaller than that, I thought there was a kernel of truth in that. The energy at the encampment is busy and exuberant: some people were playing music together, others grouped together energetically discussing the issues. The encampment seems alive with consciousness and awareness. The signs are clever and inspiring: "Feel It Trickle Down?" "Arise and Seize the Day." Significantly just yesterday 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as the city's repressive forces displayed their no tolerance for disruption of traffic. Despite that act of repression the spirit of the Occupiers seemed completely undaunted.

I suspect the weather will shortly curtail the momentum of the Occupy movement, though a solidarity march this Wednesday is scheduled to bring the encampment the support of unionized workers and groups like the Working Families Party. Hopefully the spirit of this exciting movement can be kindled throughout the winter and bring us a real American Spring next year. It thrills me that young people are proclaiming "Don't Be Afraid to Call it a Revolution." Could people be starting to finally wake up?

I thought this protester dressed as the Hindu goddess Mother Kali was brilliant: Change Is Coming, indeed. I like how she's managed to so succinctly unite spiritual and political consciousness in one playful statement.

Occupy Wall Street has issued a declaration, crafted by a consensus gathering at the encampment. You can read the full text at Dangerous Minds. It was also published in their "The Occupied Wall Street Journal" broadsheet, just printed and being passed out for free at the encampment. In part it begins, "As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right..."

All photos by me. Click on them to see them larger.