29 December 2011

Gandhi and the Politics of Non-Violence

From a teach-in at Occupy Austin. An interesting, well-thought-out, provocative take on Gandhi, nonviolent protest, and the current politics of Occupy; also a pretty wonderful example of the way we think about and relate to history. Worth watching.

Pretty Thing of the Day 26

23 December 2011

Red Mars and the Philosophy of History

Have we ever been so free of choices?
The past is wiped out, all that matters is now.
The present and the future.
And the future is this field of stones, and here we are.

And, you know, you never really summon all of your strength
until you know that there's no way back,
no way to go but onward.

Social Democracy thought fit
to assign to the working class
the role of the redeemer of future generations,
in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength.

This training made the working class
forget both its hatred
and its spirit of sacrifice,
for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors
rather than that of liberated grandchildren.

Pretty Thing of the Day 22

21 December 2011

SPD Mocks Tim Nelson

If you don't feel like watching the video: The Seattle DOT asked people not to drive to work because a major arterial (the Alaskan Way Viaduct) was closed. Tim Nelson, who lives in West Seattle, chose to jog. He got hit by a semi, broke his back, six ribs, and his skull.

And, after he was loaded into an ambulance, the cops who'd arrived at the scene called him a "dumb fuck" for jogging and said "That's why you drive a car." They then made fun of the truck driver's accent.

Link to KOMO's article (from which I got the video).

Link to article from Fox News.
- The Fox article adds that at least one of the cops involved was named Doug Jorgensen, and that Nelson had not one but two skull fractures.

Link to article from KIRO.
- The KIRO article adds a statement from Deputy police chief Clark Kimerer: "We expect 100 percent professionalism from our officers," he said. "We also, with them, have to recognize that they are often in stressful situations and also that there is sometimes more than meets the eyes."

If I were starting a community...

...what would I want it to look like?

A glorious failure, a universal myth, a song, a prayer, a dive from a cliff into cool water on a hot summer’s day.

A refueling station, a library, a discussion hall, a sweat lodge.

The largest living thing in the world is a mycelium which lives under and in a forest in Oregon. Its unity is a matter of discussion; some believe it is actually a collection of affiliated organisms which share DNA.

I’ve considered, for some time, after I finish school and save up some money, attempting to find a group of 40-50 other like-minded (politically, socially, educationally) folks and buy some land out in the woods somewhere, farm it, raise kids together, share ideas, food, resources; there’s something beautiful in a barn-raising. Turning away from the world, though, isn’t really an option, nor would it be inviting if it were; the ideal community must be like a spring, gathering energy to expand outwards (with words, with action) in an impactful manner.

Pretty Thing of the Day 21

19 December 2011

Clem Snide covers Journey - "Faithfully"

I do love this cover. Truly delightful stuff. One of my favorite love songs, and Mr. Barzelay here has stripped away all the power-ballad-ness of it and turned it into an amazing, sweet, beautiful little ballad that gets at the quiet center of the song's lyrics.

The repartee at the beginning, before he starts singing, is also quite nice.

MTV: "Choose or Lose" is too hopeful

"Choose or Lose" is too hopeful...

- because "while young people turned out in unusually high numbers to support Barack Obama in 2008, MTV's research into "Choose or Lose" found that many felt that they had lost anyway."

- because "we cannot tell young people that you lose if you don't vote and only if you don't vote, because it turns out that many of them now feel that even though they voted, they still lost, and not because their guy didn't win."

- because "the whole experience [of voting] has made them [young people] cynical enough that companies marketing to them had to take notice of that."

- because "it wasn't just the economy"

- because "there's a broader awareness, by people who share a notion of social justice, that the commons belong to the people."

- because "it's not enough to vote for somebody and then go to sleep."

Telling the Occupy Wall Street protesters to "occupy the ballot box" is missing the point. They're protesting, in part at least, because, no matter who they vote for, they're not going to be represented. And they know that.

We know that. We're all disenfranchised, we're all disenchanted. Or were we ever enchanted? I don't remember ever having had that particular feeling.

Pretty Thing of the Day 19

17 December 2011

Nikolas Rose - Powers of Freedom

These studies have shown, in their different ways, that the activity of government is inextricably bound up with the activity of thought. It is thus both made possible by and constrained by what can be thought and what cannot be thought at any particular moment in our history

[…] in our own time, ideas of freedom have come to define the ground of our ethical systems, our practice of politics and our habits of criticism. Hence it seems relevant to try to analyse the conditions under which these ideas of freedom and these practices in the name of freedom have come into existence, and to try to clarify the lines of power, truth and ethics that are in play within them.

In particular, I think we can distinguish freedom as a formula of resistance from freedom as a formula of power. Or rather, to be more circumspect, between freedom as it is deployed in contestation and freedom as it is instantiated in government.

Strategies and techniques of authority have been regulated by ideals of freedom – of societies, of markets, of individuals – or have sought to produce freedom. Those who administer life, in prisons, asylums, factories and the like, have tried to reconcile the obligation to manage individuals with the requirement that those individuals are not slaves, but free. We have acted upon ourselves, or been acted upon by others, in the wish to be free.

To be free, in this modern sense, is to be attached to a polity where certain civilized modes of conducting one’s existence are identified as normal, and simultaneously to be bound to those ‘engineers of the human soul’ who will define the norm and tutor individuals as to the ways of living that will accomplish normality.

In different ways, the problem of freedom now comes to be understood in terms of the capacity of an autonomous individual to establish an identity through shaping a meaningful everyday life. Freedom is seen as autonomy, the capacity to realize one’s desires in one’s secular life, to fulfil one’s potential through one’s own endeavours, to determine the course of one’s own existence through acts of choice.

Work has become a zone that is as much psychological as economic. We are no longer merely productive or unproductive bodies or even normal or maladjusted workers. We are ‘people at work’ and we bring to work all our fears, emotions and desires, our sexuality and our pathology. The activity of labor transformed into a matter of self-actualization, in which the cash return is less important than the identity conferred upon the employee.

As far as the [1930s] working class was concerned, however, it was now, within this social field, that the family came to be recoded as a living unity – in terms of its biology, its bodies, its sexuality, its reproduction – and hence subjected to medico-hygienic scrutiny focused upon the contribution which it could make to the fitness of the population.

It is, of course, not a question of the replacement of ‘the social’ by ‘the community’. But the hold of ‘the social’ over our political imagination is weakening. While social government has been failing since its inception, the solution proposed for these failures is no longer the re-invention of the social. As ‘society’ dissociates into a variety of ethical and cultural communities with incompatible allegiances and incommensurable obligations, a new set of political rationalities, governmental technologies and opportunities for contestation begin to take shape.

It appears that, while national governments still have to manage the affairs of a country, the economic well-being of the nation and of its population can no longer be so easily mapped upon one another.

The social and the economic are now seen as antagonistic: economic government is to be desocialized in the name of maximizing the entrepreneurial comportment of the individual. This is not a politics of economic abstentionism: on the contrary, it is a politics of economic activism. Politics must actively intervene in order to create the organization and subjective conditions for entrepreneurship.

Freedom, here, is redefined: it is no longer freedom from want, which might be provided by a cosseted life on benefits: it is the capacity for self-realization which can be obtained only through individual activity. Hence an economic politics which enjoins work on all citizens is one which provides mutual benefit for the individual and the collective: it enhances national economic health at the same time as it generates individual freedom.

Pretty Thing of the Day 17

16 December 2011

'Pattern of Excessive Force' from SPD

Maybe you've been reading my blog for a while and you think I'm a liar.

Maybe when you read this account, or this account, or this account, or this account (and those are just from the last couple of months!) of the corruption, stupidity, cruelty, and brutality of the Seattle Police Department, you think that I'm making things up, blowing incidents out of proportion, or that the things I'm talking about aren't indicative of the attitude of the department at large.

You don't believe me?

Will you believe the Department of Justice?

Read that article.


- 20% of use of force incidents were ruled unconstitutional.

- 57% of baton use was "either unnecessary or excessive."

- "among the approximately 1,230 use of force reports from January 2009 to April 2011, only five were referred for “further review” at any level within SPD"

And what was the response from the cops?

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Rich O’Neill said Friday he hopes the DOJ will allow the department to study the data used in the investigation. He also cited a 1989 Supreme Court decision that a particular use of force must be judged “from the perspective of the reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

...yeah. Unsurprising. To paraphrase: "Your data is stupid. You're stupid. You weren't there, man! You don't know what it's like!"

Pretty Thing of the Day 16

15 December 2011

'Clerical Error' means cop doesn't get punished

Link, from Seattle Weekly.


Kathryn Olson, the director of SPD's Office of Professional Accountability has said that an unnamed officer who punched a jaywalking man, and was ruled by the OPA to have violated police code in doing so, won't be punished because the department lost his file and then found it again after the deadline for filing it.

Riiiight... you "lost" his "file."

I'm not going to say that this is a clear-cut case of corruption within the department. I'm not sure if that'd get me sued (or beat up) or not.

In a completely unrelated note... remember Terrell Owens? What the heck is that guy up to lately? I remember he always used to say ridiculous things. Didn't he beef with Jeff Garcia a little while ago? Something about - oh, yeah, that's right. He got asked if he thought Garcia was gay. What was his response?

"Like my boy tells me: If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it is a rat."

Pretty Thing of the Day 15

14 December 2011

NDAA Passes House of Representatives

Remember my post from a few days ago? The one where I mentioned that the Senate's new National Defense Authorization Act, which passed 93-7, authorizes indefinite military detention (without charge) of American citizens on American soil?

Remember how I said that it would easily pass the House?

It just did. Less easily than I'd anticipated - 283-136 - but it passed.

And Obama has said he's not going to veto it.

Politico has the breakdown:

The measure split Democrats right down the middle, with 93 voting in favor and 93 against legislation that President Barack Obama tactily endorsed earlier in the day by retreating from a veto threat. Though the bill passed handily just before 7:00 PM, there was a surprising amount of opposition from Tea Party faithful and other conservative GOP members, 43 of whom opposed the legislation. (A full roll call is posted here.)

I know the voting breakdown is hard to find on that page - go to the "Votes" tab and click on "Roll No. 932."

There's a storm coming, folks. Get ready.

Minister says Seattle police assaulted him at Occupy

Raw video: Minister says Seattle police assaulted him at Occupy...

Yeah. I was standing about 15 feet from this guy when the cops grabbed him. He didn't attack anybody. He was trying to keep everybody calm. I didn't see the punches - the flashbangs going off and the pepper spray being used after he was taken down effectively diverted my attention - but the things he says here are worth hearing. The bruises on his face are worth seeing.

The video's about 20 minutes long, but, if you consider yourself interested at all in the relationship between Christianity and current politics, you should watch it. This guy (John Helmiere) is an ordained Methodist minister with a MA from Yale Divinity. He's articulate, he's intelligent, and he's somebody you should listen to.

Pretty Thing of the Day 14

12 December 2011

Notes on Autarchy

It is a truism that when one is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The glory of art is that it can show this proverbial hammer how everything looks to a screwdriver - and to a plowshare, and to an earthenware pot. If reality is the sum of our perceptions, to acquire more varying points of view is to acquire, literally, more reality.

He does have power. One power: the power to devote himself absolutely to a single goal, to be ruthless with himself and all else in its pursuit. It is the only power he needs - because, unlike the great mass of men, he is aware of this power, and he is willing, even happy, to use it.

Will without action is mere daydreaming; it is as useless as the blind, spastic twitching that is action without will.

When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep. When you fight, fight.

We can each sit and wait to die, from the very day of our births. Those of us who do not do so, choose to ask - and to answer - the two questions that define every conscious creature: What do I want? and What will I do to get it? Which are, finally, only one question: What is my will? The answer is always found within our own experience; our lives provide the structure of the question, and a properly phrased question contains its own answer.

We do not advocate, we merely describe. Autarchy is simple fact. Every day, every thinking creature decides which rules to follow, and which to break. Our reasons for following or breaking these rules may be wildly different, but the fact of choice is identical.

The consequence of even the simplest action cannot be reliably predicted over any long term. One cannot control how events unfold, and whether any action is 'good' or 'evil' can only be judged in terms of its consequence - and even that judgment will alter, over time. An action initially judged to be 'good' may later be found to have 'evil' effects - which eventually may be seen, in fact, to be 'good.' Good and evil are, after all, only code words for outcomes we either favor, or of which we disapprove. We all must accept that anything we do, however 'good' it seems at the time, might have consequences that will be too horrible to contemplate.

The truly free man chooses his own goals and seeks his own ends, purely for the joy of the choice and the seeking.

What anything means depends on how you tell the story.

What is a house, then? It's how you fight the seasons. What's a campfire? It's how you fight the night. What's medicine? It's how you fight death. That's what love is, too. Just because you're not going to win is no reason to give up.

Perhaps it does take two to fight - but it takes only one to attack.

Destiny is bullshit. Your life only looks like fate when you see it in reverse.

Mortality is a gift: It's never a question of whether you'll die. It's just a question of how.

Pretty Thing of the Day 13

11 December 2011

Violent Moscow protests

Any of y'all watching Fox's coverage of the violent post-election protests in Russia? Just be aware that, uh, the video they're showing of those Russian protests is actually from Greece. Here's RT's (snarky) video of it, and here's a link to their article that breaks down the evidence:

- The phonebooths in the video are yellow, rather than grey.

- There are people in Fox's video running around in blue jeans and long-sleeved tee shirts. Right. In Russia. In December.

- There's a sign in the background of one shot that says (in Greek) "National Bank of Greece"

Anyways. Have a great day.

Pretty Thing of the Day 12

09 December 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin

I finished up Dhalgren today, so I figured I'd take a little time out between portfolios to watch a movie. This was the one I picked. It was... delightful.

That's half-serious. Tilda Swinton is, as always, excellent, and this is one of the only films in which I've ever been able to tolerate John C. Reilly.

Of course, everything goes horribly wrong - as you can probably tell from the trailer.

Really, though, nothing was ever right.

We know this from the first scenes of the film. A celebration is difficult to tell from a riot. Is there a difference? Everything is and must be overturned. The sudden rush of joy and terror is the same; we believe in order, we are unwilling to transform ourselves or our surroundings, because we have lived only within order.

Order is death. Without change, there can be no life. Would Eva have continued without the catastrophe?

Perhaps. I think not.

Pretty Thing of the Day 10

08 December 2011

Slow Death

The phrase slow death refers to the physical wearing out of a population in a way that points to its deterioration as a defining condition of its experience and historical existence.

Self-continuity and self-extension are different things.

But the other point is that in the scene of slow death - where mental and physical health might actually be conflicting aims, even internally conflicting - the activity of riding a different wave of spreading out or shifting in the everyday also reveals confusions about what it means to have a life. Is it to have health? To love, to have been loved? To have felt sovereign? To achieve a state or a sense of worked-toward enjoyment? Is "having a life" now the process to which one gets resigned, after dreaming of the good life, or not even dreaming? Is "life" as the scene of reliable pleasures located largely in those experiences of coasting, with all that's implied in that phrase, the shifting, diffuse, sensual space between pleasure and numbness?

I am focusing here on the way the attrition of the subject of capital articulates survival with slow death. Impassivity and other politically depressed relations of alienation, coolness, detachment, or distraction, especially in subordinated populations, can be read as affective forms of engagement with the environment of slow death, much as the violence of battered women has had to be reunderstood as a kind of destruction towards survival.

But what I am offering here is also slightly different. In this scene, activity toward reproducing life is neither identical to making it or oneself better nor a mimetic response to the structural conditions of a collective failure to thrive, nor just a mini-vacation from being responsible - such activity is also directed toward making a less-bad experience.

It's a relief, a reprieve, not a repair.

[...] for most, potentiality within the overwhelming present is less well symbolized by energizing images of sustainable life and less guaranteed by the glorious promise of bodily longevity and social security than it is expressed in regimes of exhausted practical sovereignty, lateral agency, and, sometimes, counterabsorption in episodic refreshment, for example in sex, or spacing out, or food that is not for thought.

Pretty Thing of the Day 9

04 December 2011

Damien Rice & Lisa Hannigan - Volcano

The Killing Joke

See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum...and one night, one night they decide they don't like living in an asylum any more.

They decide they're going to escape! So, like, they get up onto the roof and there, just across this narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in the moonlight...stretching away to freedom.

Now, the first guy, he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend daredn't make the leap. Y'see...y'see, he's afraid of falling.

So then, the first guy has an idea...He says 'Hey! I have my flashlight with me! I'll shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk along the beam and join me!'

B-but the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says... he says 'What do you think I am? Crazy? You'd turn it off when I was half way across!'

01 December 2011

Indefinite Detention - of US Citizens, on US Soil?

Read this. Now.

Brief summary: the Senate just passed, as part of a larger defense bill, language that (1) requires the government to put any suspected member of Al Qaeda into military custody, and (2) creates "a federal statute saying the government has the legal authority to keep people suspected of terrorism in military custody, indefinitely and without trial. It contains no exception for American citizens."

That's a big deal.

A few brief takes:

- A friend of mine, yesterday, pointed out that, if this passes, there are going to be a heck of a lot of angry vets floating around. Do you think that the 21.8 million veterans currently living in this country are going to be pleased by this? No veteran I've talked to in the last few days (I've talked to 8) has been; they've been unanimously angered, and unanimously predicting trouble if this actually goes through.

- I don't usually agree with Rand Paul; I often find him reprehensible. But, here, as one of only two Republicans to vote for an amendment to strip this provision from the bill, I've got at least a little respect for him. I also think his quote of Jefferson is quite apropos: “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.”

- Also noted in the Slate article: "The landmark anti-terror legislation known as the Patriot Act has, in the 10 years since its passage, been used in 1,618 drug cases and 15 terrorism cases."

- This is going to pass through the House of Representatives. Easily. I'll post when it does. Obama's said he's going to veto it; I have no faith in him right now, but if he does, I'll smile. If he doesn't, this could turn into a flashpoint. Gradual chipping away of civil liberties is one thing, but allowing the military to operate on US soil, to arrest citizens without charge and hold them indefinitely, is (and should be) an enormous step.

Pretty Thing of the Day 4

28 November 2011

Pretty Thing of the Day

So I've been detecting a tendency in myself lately to alternate between rage and apathy, often to the detriment of actually getting anything done. I'm spending too much time either hacked off and trying to talk myself down or way too deeply invested in "everything's screwed up anyways, I can't do anything about it, why should I even try?"

Anyways, I'm going to start out every day for a little bit by posting something random and pretty here, so that if I get full of rage I can look at it and calm down, and if I start getting depressed, I can look at it and cheer up a little. I'll try to avoid posting political things in these posts - because I'm too invested in politics. Just random pretties.

Work for y'all? Good. Pretty thing for today, then, and all y'all have a good day:

27 November 2011

Occupy and the Homeless

So I was reading this Huffington Post article on the way that Occupy has been perceived as having a "homeless problem" or as being a problem because the most disadvantaged members of our society are flocking to it. First two paragraphs:

As cities around the country have swept Occupy Wall Street camps from their plazas and parks in recent weeks, a number of mayors and city officials have argued that by providing shelter to the homeless, the camps are endangering the public and even the homeless themselves.

Yet in many of those cities, services for the homeless are severely underfunded. The cities have spent millions of dollars to police and evict the protesters, but they've been shutting down shelters and enacting laws to prohibit homeless from sleeping overnight in public.

...and a friend (thanks, CB) posted the following on Facebook:

If you don't "like" your local occupy encampment, because you think it's dirty, or you're worried it's unsafe, what you don't really realize about yourself is that you just don't like SEEING it. All those people who are attracted to the camps because they are homeless, would still be homeless if the camps weren't there. These are the people you see sleeping under bridges (yes, in tents) or in door...ways. People are dying of drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, preventable illness, and exposure, all over the country, every single day, because there is some faux ethic that homeless people don't deserve our help because they are "willingly" homeless, or should just "get a job". By putting everyone together in a camp, homeless kids, hippy college kids, old men, and homeless vets, your local occupation is just drawing your eye to what is already going on around you, but just out of your ordinary vision. If it disgusts you, or worries you, or scares you, GOOD. Now instead of breaking up the camps, or shutting down yet another homeless shelter (Seattle lost 15 shelters on the 1st of October, that's 300 beds; the same day #OS started), come up with a way to fix the problem instead.

I think there's a lot of truth to that.

26 November 2011

Glenn Beck: Unions are the Devil! ...and also Hitler.

Incomprehensible. Truly incomprehensible.

...it's worth noting that one of the "Satanic books" Beck is talking about here is "The Werewolf's Guide to Life". It's a comedy book - kind of like a zombie survival guide (which I own! Oh, no, I'm clearly into the Satanic stuff...) or, I don't know, Harry Potter.

I know that bringing Harry Potter up here isn't going to win me any fans (if you're watching Glenn Beck, you probably still believe that those books are Satanic, too). I was just too flabbergasted to come up with a better example.

Key part of Beck's screed starts about 1:57.
Beck: "Where did this happen? Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I think this is, and, and, and, I mean, if you look at where things are centered in this country right now, where bad stuff is centered, it is Wisconsin, it is Oakland, uh, it is Washington D.C., it is New York, there is, and, and, and, it's, and the stuff that's going on in our world is so dark and evil, I just think that there is this black hole opening up."

Co-host: "This is, you're basing this on the Occupy protests, the union stuff that had gone on earlier in, uh, Wisconsin, correct?"

Beck: "Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. And the fact that, just this week we did a monologue on GBTV, and we showed this, this video from last time. And this was just tied to the Communists. But you, you, you... look at what happened in the 1940s, the 1930s, uh, in the early 1900s, in the 'teens', and you look at where those things were centered, they were centered in Wisconsin, New York, Oakland. Every time. Every time. There is something, and, uh, I hate to go all, uh, uh, freaky on you, but we are talking about Satanic rituals here. Every time I am reading the, uh, every time I'm reading the, uh, 'Holy Bible,' um, I see the name B-A-A-L, and every time I see that, that's an ancient god. That is the ancient god of the environment, the ancient god of war, the ancient god of, uh, gosh, there was like three of them. Money. And you look at what's happening on this planet, it's like people are worshiping the ancient god of, uh, is it Baal or Ball? Baal. Every time! Every time!"

Okay, so that was actually a little bit over two minutes of his speech - I started transcribing and I didn't want to stop, because it just kept getting crazier. It gets worse after that - I cut it off right before he starts talking about how Hitler wasn't a Christian, which is somehow (though Beck never makes the connection) tied into the unions in Wisconsin and a couple of confused Goth kids who don't know about safe words.

Because, as best as I can tell, that's basically what's going on. Guy takes a bus, has sex with two girls. As part of it, they engage in what seems to be some edgeplay. It goes overboard, he ends up in the hospital - and, by the way, doesn't press charges.

That sucks. It's horrible for everybody involved.

It's also got nothing whatsoever to do with the unions, nothing to do with Hitler, and, really, little or nothing to do with Satanism.

Isn't it funny how quickly we buy into the boogeymen we're raised to fear?

Best Pun Blog Post Title of the Day

Sweet emulsion: why the (near) death of film matters.

From the AV Club.

22 November 2011

21 November 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Like, seriously, baby. It was in the 20s the other night. There was ice falling out of the sky.

Why oh why must winter come so soon?

My daughter's heavier. Light leaves are flying.
Everywhere in enormous numbers turkeys will be dying
and other birds, all their wings.
They never greatly flew. Did they wish to?

I should know. Off away somewhere once I knew
such things.

Or good Ralph Hodgson back then did, or does.
The man is dead whom Eliot praised. My praise
follows and flows too late.
Fall is grievy, brisk. Tears behind the eyes

almost fall. Fall comes to us as a prize
to rouse us toward our fate.

My house is made of wood and it's made well,
unlike us. My house is older than Henry;
that's fairly old.
If there were a middle ground between things and the soul

or if the sky resembled more the sea,
I wouldn't have to scold.
my heavy daughter.

May you all have a warm and safe evening.

20 November 2011

History of Rap (part whichever one this is)

Because, you know, you can't be serious all the time, and there's not much that's funnier than this.

19 November 2011

Health and safety of our campus community

Watching the video from UC Davis makes me want to break things. Makes me want to hurt things. Fills me with rage. Leaves my hands shaking. My jaw tight.

I'm a fairly considered kind of guy. I try to think before I act. I try to think before I speak.

Here's a hint to all you university administrators out there: if you want to protect the health and safety of your campus community (as the chancellor of UC Davis said she was trying to do), don't fucking call the cops. Why?

Because the cops will walk up to students sitting peacefully on the ground, lift their heads up, hold their mouths open, and shoot pepper spray down their throats.

You tell me, chancellor. Which is worse? A couple of tents in the quad? Or students in the hospital, students coughing up blood, and calls for your resignation from students, faculty, and national media?

Link to a letter from a faculty member.

17 November 2011

Am I a Good Kisser?

...annnnd, to break the tension a little bit (because, hey, we're heading into the weekend, and I know I've been posting a lot of serious stuff lately (sorry)) -

All together now....


Seattle Police Pepper-Spray Methodist Reverend

His full account is available at this link, but I'm also going to copy and paste it. Here goes.

By the Rev. Rich Lang

You could feel the tension and raw energy crinkling throughout the air as the marchers once again began their journey into downtown Seattle.

The Occupy Movement is the prophetic voice of God calling out to the nation to “repent” and turn from its ways of corruption. Those who camp are a rag-tag, motley crew made up of mostly young adults, mostly unemployed, almost all of whom are alienated and cast out of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all.

They are … the first fruits being devoured by the Beast of Empire.

The police were once conceived to be a citizen force created to serve and protect the public. Today however, the police have been militarized and view the populace as enemy combatants, as threats to their well being. The police, like our Armed Forces, are well-trained, disciplined and exceptionally talented. They follow a chain of command and are increasingly apprenticed into a culture of institutional conformity.

Because America has always affirmed the right of dissent, the role of the police is to keep the peace. They are trained to enter the protesting arena as unfeeling protectors of property and people.

What has changed in our time is that the police are entering the arena of protest as agents of provocation. They push and shove at will, they ride their bicycles up the backs of protesters, they engage in verbal abuse. Their commanders allow this breach of discipline. Their comrades silently condone the bullying.

The police become the agitators encouraging violence. It is as if they are spoiling for a fight – a fight, mind you, against the citizenry, against the youth, the unemployed, and those who are trying to return America back to its promise, and dare I say it, return America to its covenant with God, “we hold these truths to be self evident …”

On Tuesday night, a small group of the rag-tag campers of Seattle’s Occupy Movement left their camp to protest the destruction inflicted upon the Wall Street Occupy site.

Throughout the march, I — as a Pastor in full clergy alb, stole and cross – acted as a peacekeeper placing myself between the police line and the Occupy Movement. On four occasions I stepped between verbal battles between the police and the protesters. The point being that it was evident to all who I was and what my role was in this non-violent march of the few escorted by the many.

The incident was minor in nature. A girl, dressed in Anarchist black waving the Anarchist black flag, was plastered side by side with an officer on the bike. They were jawboning each other. At one point her flag was thrust in his direction – a provocation yes – threatening? – no.

The officer grabbed the flag and in the pulling, pulled down the girl. Her friends reacted jumping in to pull her away from the officer. It was at this point that the first wave of pepper spray went off.

Point: One might think the officer acted within reason, that the officer was suddenly threatened. But with what? By whom? The friends of the offender were grabbing for the girl, they were not grabbing at the police. Basically the officer and his comrades were trigger-happy as if they couldn’t wait for just this moment. And so the spray went forth.

I leapt to the front and tried to place myself between the parties – with spray in the air the protesters were also fleeing. Separation between the police line and the protesters was clearly visible … there was certainly no threat of the “mob” suddenly rampaging into the well-armed police.

The separation had occurred (as can be clearly seen on the video captured by King 5 News). But the spray continued. I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was – with the protesters fleeing and the police line holding – with my back to the police and my hands waving the protesters to get back.

I was alone in full alb, stole and cross when six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.

I praise the courage and compassion, the discipline and the decency of the Occupy Movement. Out of the rag-tag mob came help, grabbing my hands, leading me (I was blind by then) to the wall and administering care and concern for my well-being.

The protesters were assembled around all the wounded, and maintained the discipline of nonviolence (granted the nonviolence was in behavior but not language). And they were not afraid.

The spraying had been a baptism sealing them into the security of knowing that their prophecy of repentance was indeed the Spirit-Word through them – it is as if they did not prophecy their very bones would melt within them. Against the wall in increasing pain and burning I realized I was in the midst of church.

The police, on the other hand, were afraid. Their quick use of chemical warfare reveals how cowardly they are. The unwillingness of their commanders to maintain discipline reveals how incompetent they are becoming.

The only tool in their bag is brutality and like a drunken-raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves. Step by step, they are being shaped into the front face of fascism, the emerging police state that protects the property interests of the Marie Antoinette’s who have seized control of our government, commerce, media, military and increasingly the Church itself.

My question to my clergy colleagues is this: “Where are you? How much longer can you preach without practice? How dare you remain protected in your sanctuary while your people (the rag-tag mob of the least, last and lost whom Jesus loved) are slaughtered doing that which God has commissioned you to do (prophecy!).

“Where are you? Who have you become in this age of baptism by pepper spray? Do you not know how much power you have to stop our national descent into chaos? Don’t you realize that the world is your parish and right before your eyes the Spirit of God is doing a new thing?

“Can’t you hear that God’s judgment is upon the land? God is against the thieves that bankrupted our nation. God is against the armies of the Beast who pillage other lands in our name, and turn and destroy our people on our own soil.

“Are you blind? – Perhaps you need a baptism of pepper spray in your eyes to restore your vision.”

And to the police I say this: “There are always the brutal ones in our midst. As colleagues you have the moral responsibility to police your own. If your commanders order you to brutalize your people you have a Higher Command that says, ‘disarm yourself, turn away from your sin, renounce the orders of unrighteousness.’

“And in doing so, cross the line, come over and join us because we are the winning side of history. And we welcome your repentance and heal you of your shame.”

And to the church, beloved church, I say: “You cannot sing the hymns of faith if you are too afraid to live that faith. In Amos it says to silence your sacred assemblies and let JUSTICE burst forth. Our nation, with the nations of the world, are under an assault of tyranny and treason of the 1 percent against Creation itself.

“You may not worship God until and unless you care for the image of God living in those tents and prophesying on your behalf. Once the Powers sweep the Tents away, if you dare to lift your voice even a peep, you too will be swept away.”

But the destiny of the church, the Body of Christ, is not one of quiet passivity and fear, our destiny is to bear witness having no fear of the Cross because even now we have crossed over into resurrection.


America, America, my country ‘tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty

Of thee I sing

America, oh America

America the Beautiful has fallen.

15 November 2011

Loss of Faith: Penn State Column

Well-written, well-considered, heartbreaking post from Thomas L. Day, a veteran, a Catholic, a graduate student, and a former Second Mile Foundation participant.

Here's the link.

Day breaks down, precisely and carefully, why he's lost faith in his parents' generation. I find that, despite my different story, I agree almost completely. I'll excerpt some (nonconsecutive) key passages, but the essence of this article is in the way it builds grievance upon grievance. Read the whole thing. Please.

I have decided to continue to respect my elders, but to politely tell them, “Out of my way.”

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.

We looked to Washington to lead us after September 11th. I remember telling my college roommates, in a spate of emotion, that I was thinking of enlisting in the military in the days after the attacks. I expected legions of us -- at the orders of our leader -- to do the same. But nobody asked us. Instead we were told to go shopping.

We looked for leadership from our churches, and were told to fight not poverty or injustice, but gay marriage. In the Catholic Church, we were told to blame the media, not the abusive priests, not the bishops, not the Vatican, for making us feel that our church has failed us in its sex abuse scandal and cover-up.

This week the world found the very worst of human nature in my idyllic Central Pennsylvania home. I found that a man my community had anointed a teacher and nurturer of children, instead reportedly had them hiding in his basement. The anger and humiliation were more than I could bear. I can’t wait for my parents’ generation’s Joshua any longer. They’ve lost my faith.


Well, this is familiar.

The NYPD cleared out Occupy Wall Street last night "for their own health and safety," arresting 200+ of them (for their own health and safety), including a city councilman (for his own health and safety). Protesters were told that they could return, but could not bring tarps, tents, or sleeping bags. Meanwhile, police threw the 5500+ book camp library into a dumpster.

This morning, a judge issued a restraining order saying that the police were not allowed to bar protesters or their belongings from the park. When protesters, holding copies of the restraining order, tried to return to the park, police wouldn't let them in.

On Tuesday morning a judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the owners of Zuccotti Park from enforcing rules about occupying its public space, or from preventing protesters from re-entering the park with tents.

Mayor Bloomberg said this morning, in response to the restraining order, that the park would not be re-opened until the city had an opportunity to address the restraining order.

In other words - we won't respect your restraining order until we've had a chance to appeal it. Never mind that it's legally binding, and refusing to honor it is technically criminal contempt of court.

Meh. None of that is surprising. There's another story.

I'm gonna cut and paste a couple of paragraphs from this Guardian story on the eviction.

As police swooped on the park in the early hours of Tuesday, the city closed airspace in lower Manhattan to prevent news helicopters taking aerial shots of the scene. Vans were used to obscure views of the park and a police cordon effectively blocked accredited media from reaching the site. Some of those members of the press who were in the park or were able to get there say they were arrested, pepper sprayed or treated aggressively.

One of the few reporters on the scene when the police moved in was Josh Harkinson, a writer for Mother Jones magazine. As police used tear gas to remove the last protesters from the park Harkinson identified himself as a member of the media and was physically dragged out of the park. He was told that reporters had to stay in a "press pen".

Reporters tweeted their frustration using the hashtag #mediablackout and said police were ignoring and even confiscating press passes.

A New York Post reporter was "roughed up" according to the New York Times' Brian Stelter. Lindsey Christ, of local cable-news channel NY1, said on-air this morning that "the police took over, they kept everybody out and they wouldn't let media in. It was very planned."

At a press conference after the raid, mayor Mike Bloomberg defended the decision to raid Zuccotti Park as "mine and mine alone." He said the decision to clamp down on media coverage was made to "protect the members of the press. We have to provide protection and we have done exactly that." He said the move was made "to prevent a situation from getting worse".

...right. To prevent the situation getting worse for whom, exactly?

He said the decision to clamp down on media coverage was made to "protect the members of the press. We have to provide protection and we have done exactly that."

You don't protect people by pepper spraying them.

Some of those members of the press who were in the park or were able to get there say they were arrested, pepper sprayed or treated aggressively.

Let me say that again, for those of you who might have missed it the first time: You Don't Protect People By Pepper Spraying Them. You protect yourself by pepper spraying them. In this case, you protect yourself by pepper spraying them and physically dragging them out of the park and into a "press pen" so that they can't report on what you're doing.

Good job, NYPD. I'd say I expected better of you, but, you know, I actually follow the news.

13 November 2011

Some thoughts on Taxation (article link)

In an excellent blogpost titled "How to Lose Readers (Without Even Trying)", author Sam Harris talks about reader reactions to a previous post he wrote advocating raising taxes on the very wealthy.

Even - perhaps especially - if you're one of those who is outraged by such a prospect, I'd suggest reading through this article. Harris is reasonable, intelligent, and well-spoken, and he responds with patient moral logic to the most common moral objection to taxation:

Many readers were enraged that I could support taxation in any form. It was as if I had proposed this mad scheme of confiscation for the first time in history. Several cited my framing of the question—“how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep?”—as especially sinister, as though I had asked, “how many of his internal organs can one person be allowed to keep?”

For what it’s worth—and it won’t be worth much to many of you—I understand the ethical and economic concerns about taxation. I agree that everyone should be entitled to the fruits of his or her labors and that taxation, in the State of Nature, is a form of theft. But it appears to be a form of theft that we require, given how selfish and shortsighted most of us are.

Many of my critics imagine that they have no stake in the well-being of others. How could they possibly benefit from other people getting first-rate educations? How could they be harmed if the next generation is hurled into poverty and despair? Why should anyone care about other people’s children? It amazes me that such questions require answers.

Would Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, rather have $10 billion in a country where the maximum number of people are prepared to do creative work? Or would he rather have $20 billion in a country with the wealth inequality of an African dictatorship and commensurate levels of crime?[1] I’d wager he would pick door number #1. But if he wouldn’t, I maintain that it is only rational and decent for Uncle Sam to pick it for him.

If you've got a few minutes (the article is meaty, but not overly long), give it a read.

On the Poverty of Student Life (excerpts)

The pathetic bitterness of so many nostalgic professors stems from the fact that they have lost their former role as guard-dogs serving the future masters and have been reassigned to the considerably less noble function of sheep-dogs in charge of herding white-collar flocks to their respective factories and offices in accordance with the needs of the planned economy.

These professors hold up their archaisms as an alternative to the technocratization of the university and imperturbably continue to purvey scraps of “general” culture to audiences of future specialists who will not know how to make any use of them.

The colleges that once supplied “general culture” to the ruling class, though still retaining some of their anachronistic prestige, are being transformed into force-feeding factories for rearing lower and middle functionaries.

Taking advantage of the contradiction that, for the moment at least, obliges the system to maintain a small, relatively independent sector of academic “research,” they are going to calmly carry the germs of sedition to the highest level.

Their open contempt for the system goes hand in hand with the lucidity that enables them to outdo the system’s own lackeys, especially intellectually. They are already among the theorists of the coming revolutionary movement, and take pride in beginning to be feared as such.

They make no secret of the fact that what they extract so easily from the “academic system” is used for its destruction.

For the student cannot revolt against anything without revolting against his studies, though the necessity of this revolt is felt less naturally by him than by the worker, who spontaneously revolts against his condition as worker.

It is not enough for theory to seek its realization in practice; practice must seek its theory.

In reality, if there is a “youth problem” in modern society, it simply consists in the fact that young people feel the profound crisis of this society most acutely — and try to express it. The young generation is a product par excellence of modern society, whether it chooses integration into it or the most radical rejection of it. What is surprising is not that youth is in revolt, but that “adults” are so resigned.

The delinquents are produced by every aspect of the present social order: the urbanism of the housing projects, the breakdown of values, the extension of an increasingly boring consumer leisure, the growing police-humanist control over every aspect of daily life, and the economic survival of a family unit that has lost all significance.

They despise work, but they accept commodities. They want everything the spectacle offers them and they want it now, but they can’t afford to pay for it. This fundamental contradiction dominates their entire existence

When an antiunion workers’ riot inspired the Provo base to join in with the direct violence, their bewildered leaders were left completely behind and could find nothing better to do than denounce “excesses” and appeal for nonviolence. These leaders, whose program had advocated provoking the authorities so as to reveal their repressiveness, ended up by complaining that they had been provoked by the police.

In their search for a revolutionary program the American students make the same mistake as the Provos and proclaim themselves “the most exploited class in society”; they must henceforth understand that they have no interests distinct from all those who are subject to commodity slavery and generalized oppression.

The Third International, ostensibly created by the Bolsheviks to counteract the degenerate social-democratic reformism of the Second International and to unite the vanguard of the proletariat in “revolutionary communist parties,” was too closely linked to the interests of its founders to ever bring about a genuine socialist revolution anywhere.

The labor unions and political parties forged by the working class as tools for its own emancipation have become mere safety valves, regulating mechanisms of the system, the private property of leaders seeking their own particular emancipation by using them as stepping stones to roles within the ruling class of a society they never dream of calling into question.

The party program or union statute may contain vestiges of “revolutionary” phraseology, but their practice is everywhere reformist.

As for student unionism, it is nothing but a parody of a farce, a pointless and ridiculous imitation of a long degenerated labor unionism.

This revolution must once and for all break with its own prehistory and derive all its poetry from the future. Little groups of “militants” claiming to represent the “authentic Bolshevik heritage” are voices from beyond the grave; in no way do they herald the future.

The proletariat can play the game of revolution only if the stakes are the whole world; otherwise it is nothing. The sole form of its power, generalized self-management, cannot be shared with any other power.

Because it represents the actual dissolution of all powers, it can tolerate no limitation (geographical or otherwise); any compromises it accepts are immediately transformed into concessions, into surrender.

To tolerate the existence of an oppressive system in some particular region (because it presents itself as “revolutionary,” for example) amounts to recognizing the legitimacy of oppression. To tolerate alienation in any one domain of social life amounts to admitting an inevitability of all forms of reification.

10 November 2011

The idea of What (whose idea, chaos) (the line-breaks are my own)

If I were to kiss you here
they'd call it an act of terrorism--so
let's take our pistols to bed
& wake up the city at midnight
like drunken bandits celebrating with a fusillade,
the message of the taste of chaos.

Too young for Harley choppers--flunk-outs,
break-dancers, scarcely pubescent poets
of flat lost railroad towns--a million sparks
falling from the skyrockets of Rimbaud & Mowgli--slender
terrorists whose gaudy bombs are compacted of polymorphous
love & the precious shards of popular culture--punk
gunslingers dreaming of piercing their ears, animist
bicyclists gliding in the pewter dusk through Welfare
streets of accidental flowers--out-of-season gypsy
skinny-dippers, smiling sideways-glancing
thieves of power- totems, small change & panther-bladed
knives--we sense them everywhere--we publish
this offer to trade the corruption of our own lux et gaudium
for their perfect gentle filth.

Don't picket--vandalize.
Don't protest--deface.
When ugliness, poor design & stupid waste are forced upon you,
turn Luddite,
throw your shoe in the works,
retaliate. Smash the symbols of the Empire
in the name of nothing but the heart's longing for grace.

If rulers refuse to consider poems as crimes,
then someone must commit crimes that serve the function of poetry,
or texts that possess the resonance of terrorism.
At any cost
re-connect poetry to the body.
Not crimes against bodies, but against Ideas (& Ideas-in-things)
which are deadly & suffocating.
Not stupid libertinage but exemplary crimes,
aesthetic crimes,
crimes for love.
In England some pornographic books are still banned.
Pornography has a measurable physical effect on its readers.
Like propaganda it sometimes changes lives
because it uncovers true desires.

Let's Examine Some Rhetoric!

Yay! I know it's everyone's favorite thing to do on a Thursday morning. Anyways. UC-Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau sent a letter to the students, faculty, staff, etc. of the school on (I believe) November 8, the day before a planned walkout and rally.

The full text of that letter:


Many of you may be aware of the upcoming events on November 9 which call for a walkout and noontime rally on Sproul Plaza in support of the national Occupy Wall Street, OWS, movement.

UC Berkeley as an institution shares many of the highest principles associated with the OWS movement. It is here at Berkeley, and at many other campuses across the country, where so many young people acquire the knowledge and skills that enable them to live fulfilling lives without unreasonable economic stress. In fact, more than one-third of our undergraduate students come from families who earn less than $45K a year; it is through their Berkeley education that these students and, often, their entire families are able to move into the American mainstream.

As the birthplace of the free speech movement, we hold an important place in history and are looked to as a model and beacon for others in this regard. We stand ready to support our campus community in leading the collegiate movement in a way that is productive, dignified and consequential. Our students are the future of this country, and it will be your voices and your actions that have the potential to transform this nation to fulfill its highest aspirations.

With that said, and as a model of the right to free speech, assembly and activism, we encourage our entire community to act responsibly and show the world what we are known for - a place where the best and brightest youth, staff and faculty from all socioeconomic backgrounds work collectively to solve world problems.

We understand and share your passion about the important topics that are at stake in these debates, and want to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to exercise their rights - whether that is to protest, teach, or go to class. With that goal, it is important to remind our community of some of the basic expectations for our campus.

*Encampments or occupations of buildings are not allowed on our campus. This means that members of our community are free to meet, discuss, debate, and protest, but will not be allowed to set up tents or encampment structures.

*Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities - go to class, study, carry out their research etc, -- will not be tolerated and will be subject to the campus Code of Student Conduct: http://students.berkeley.edu/uga/conduct.pdf

*As always, our normal operating hours on this campus will be adhered to; this means that most buildings will be closed by 10 PM.

In these challenging times, we simply cannot afford to spend our precious resources and, in particular, student tuition on costly and avoidable expenses associated with violence or vandalism. Rather, these funds should be spent on urgent needs such as financial aid for low income students including those who are undocumented, increased numbers of GSI's, increased library hours etc..

We have met with our student leaders and Deans and are encouraged by their passion and commitment to the important issues that we face in higher education and support their efforts to protest safely within the constraints of our campus guidelines.

We know that the OWS movement and the issues facing this country are filled with passion. We hope that our community will come together to express that passion constructively and safely as we carry on this generation's Berkeley tradition of free speech and activism as outlined in our Principles of Community. http://www.berkeley.edu/about/principles.shtml

Robert J. Birgeneau

George Breslauer
Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost

Harry Le Grande
Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs

It sounds utterly reasonable, right? Birgeneau et al are just trying to make sure that the campus stays a peaceful place, trying to preserve access for everyone, trying to live up to the Democratic Ideals That Underlie All Our Educational Systems.

Except - when you look at what he wrote - that's not what the letter's doing at all. Let's look at a couple of major issues in just one dazzling paragraph:

*Any activities such as pulling fire alarms, occupying buildings, setting up encampments, graffiti, or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities - go to class, study, carry out their research etc, -- will not be tolerated and will be subject to the campus Code of Student Conduct

Did you catch that?

First, "occupying buildings" and "setting up encampments" are labeled "destructive actions". I'd love to know how that is the case.

Second, we have circular logic set up via "or other destructive actions that disrupt or interfere with anyone's ability to conduct regular activities". "Graffiti" is the example that throws this into relief: sure, there's a case to be made that it is destructive, but it's not going to interfere with anyone's ability to do anything. What Birgeneau's doing here - and managing to sound reasonable doing it - is conflating disruption and destruction. Anything that causes any kind of break from the everyday is now categorized as a "destructive action".

Third, "regular activities" are narrowly defined to be only those most normative academic pursuits - "go to class, study, carry out their research, etc." Coming after Birgeneau has spent several paragraphs hearkening back to Berkeley's tradition of activism and free speech, this is a stunning inversion.

Good times, right? Funny what happens when you actually look at what people say.

All y'all have a good Thursday morning.

08 November 2011

Things I've done today (so far)

7:00 AM
Wake up, pack sleeping bag and tarp, bus home.

7:45 AM
Shower, shave. Breakfast while listening to Heidegger podcast.

8:30 AM
School. Reading Chandan Reddy's new book "Freedom With Violence".

11:00 AM
Blog. Come up with clever sex pun for xkcd comic.

11:05 AM
Reading Chandan Reddy's new book "Freedom With Violence."

12:00 PM
"I'd squee, but I don't do that."

12:30 PM
Eat double handful of pecans. Blog.

You're Welcome, Doc Johnson!

07 November 2011

Pester the Rich!

Two quotes, from the same author, in the same book, that I found interesting today:

The masses who are led have a very vague and extremely simple idea of the means by which their lot can be improved; the demagogues easily get them to believe that the best way is to utilize the State to pester the rich; we thus pass from jealousy to vengeance, and it is well known that vengeance is a sentiment of power, especially with the weak.

If the capitalist class is energetic, it is constantly affirming its determination to defend itself; its frank and consistently reactionary attitude contributes at least as greatly as proletarian violence towards keeping distinct that cleavage between the classes which is the basis of all socialism.

05 November 2011

Notes on Surprise

This, we say -

This, we say, was unexpected. The question becomes: why?

We use "why" here in a double sense. It defines both the sentiment and the sentimental.

Why are we surprised? (generally)
Why did this surprise us? (specifically)

The answer to both questions, we find, is the same.

The familiar has become strange.
The traditional has become radical.

If a thing is completely outside of our experience, and we know that, it cannot surprise us. It cannot shock us. We must have an expectation for that expectation to be violated.

The unexpected requires the transformation of the expected into an unfamiliar form, and it requires that transformation to happen off-stage: either at a literal distance, or at a distance of inattention. Sentiment serves as the boundary between stage and wings: it preserves the expected within the darkness of memory until the spotlight of reconsideration lays bare the evolution (as revolution) that has taken place.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

04 November 2011


Rejoice! God’s ears are stitches
His eyes are big X’s
His arms are burning witches
His hands perform hexes

Despite the fact this world will hurt you
The fact this world will kill you
The fact this world will tear you to shreds
Rejoice because you’re trying your best

Rejoice! The bed you sleep in is burning
The sky’s fucking falling
The world we know is turning
Your father’s been calling

Rejoice! Although this world will devastate you
Although this world will penetrate you
Although you will not survive
You’ll never make it out alive

Rejoice! Your hair it smells like burning hair
Your nails all got chewed off
Holy fuck, you’re bleeding there
You burned your whole beard off

Despite the fact this world will hurt you
The fact this world will kill you
The fact this world will tear you to shreds
Rejoice because you’re trying your best


Remember when William Shatner was cool? I do.

31 October 2011

A Confession

There is an Eastern fable, told long ago, of a traveller overtaken on a plain by an enraged beast.

Escaping from the beast he gets into a dry well, but sees at the bottom of the well a dragon that has opened its jaws to swallow him.

And the unfortunate man, not daring to climb out lest he should be destroyed by the enraged beast, and not daring to leap to the bottom of the well lest he should be eaten by the dragon, seizes a twig growing in a crack in the well and clings to it.

His hands are growing weaker and he feels he will soon have to resign himself to the destruction that awaits him above or below, but still he clings on. Then he sees that two mice, a black one and a white one, go regularly round and round the stem of the twig to which he is clinging and gnaw at it.

And soon the twig itself will snap and he will fall into the dragon's jaws. The traveller sees this and knows that he will inevitably perish; but while still hanging he looks around, sees some drops of honey on the leaves of the twig, reaches them with his tongue and licks them.

So I too clung to the twig of life, knowing that the dragon of death was inevitably awaiting me, ready to tear me to pieces; and I could not understand why I had fallen into such torment. I tried to lick the honey which formerly consoled me, but the honey no longer gave me pleasure, and the white and black mice of day and night gnawed at the branch by which I hung.

I saw the dragon clearly and the honey no longer tasted sweet. I only saw the unescapable dragon and the mice, and I could not tear my gaze from them.

And this is not a fable but the real unanswerable truth intelligible to all.


It's true.

In other (probably nsfw) news, this.

29 October 2011

da, da, da


For the flesh, because the flesh desires possessions, da means datta - that is, to give. To be charitable. Not only with one's material goods, but with one's emotions, with one's time. With one's feelings. To have no more than you need. Datta is charity, and this is its meaning for the flesh, because this is the opposite of the flesh.


For the flesh, because the flesh desires to have power and to use power, da means dayadhvam - that is, to be merciful. Do not be cruel. Control your anger with mercy. Do not be hard-hearted. Dayadhvam is mercy, and this is its meaning for the flesh, because this is the opposite of the flesh.


For the flesh, because the flesh desires pleasure, da means damyata - that is, to control one's desires - that is, to be restrained. To live moderately. Do not become addicted to pleasure, do not seek it out. Damyata is self-control, and this is its meaning for the flesh, because this is the opposite of the flesh.


28 October 2011

Dead Flag Blues

The car's on fire
and there's no driver at the wheel
and the sewers are all muddied
with a thousand lonely suicides
and a dark wind blows.

The government is corrupt
and we're all on so many drugs
with the radio on and the curtains drawn
we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
and the machine is bleeding to death.

The sun has fallen down
and the billboards are all leering
and the flags are all dead
at the top of their poles.

It went like this:
the buildings toppled in on themselves
mothers clutching babies
picked through the rubble
and pulled out their hair.

The skyline was beautiful on fire
all twisted metal stretching upwards
everything washed in a thin orange haze
I said, "kiss me, you're beautiful
these are truly the last days."

You grabbed my hand
and we fell into it
like a daydream
or a fever.

We woke up one morning
and fell a little further down.

For sure it's the valley of death.

I open up my wallet
and it's full of blood.

26 October 2011

Wall Street Isn't Winning - It's Cheating

Here's an excellent article from Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi that absolutely demolishes the main conservative critiques of the Occupy movement, while laying out some of the reasons that the protesters feel things are unfair. A few of the highlights:

And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners. But that's just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they're cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.

In this country, we cheer for people who hit their own home runs – not shortcut-chasing juicers like Bonds and McGwire, Blankfein and Dimon.


When Joe Homeowner bought too much house, essentially betting that home prices would go up, and losing his bet when they dropped, he was an irresponsible putz who shouldn’t whine about being put on the street.

But when banks bet billions on a firm like AIG that was heavily invested in mortgages, they were making the same bet that Joe Homeowner made, leaving themselves hugely exposed to a sudden drop in home prices. But instead of being asked to "suck it in and cope" when that bet failed, the banks instead went straight to Washington for a bailout -- and got it.


Millions of people have been foreclosed upon in the last three years. In most all of those foreclosures, a regional law enforcement office -- typically a sheriff's office -- was awarded fees by the court as part of the foreclosure settlement, settlements which of course were often rubber-stamped by a judge despite mountains of perjurious robosigned evidence.

That means that every single time a bank kicked someone out of his home, a local police department got a cut. Local sheriff's offices also get cuts of almost all credit card judgments, and other bank settlements. If you're wondering how it is that so many regional police departments have the money for fancy new vehicles and SWAT teams and other accoutrements, this is one of your answers.

25 October 2011

I am free

Top Five Halloween Costumes for the Antisocial

For some people, Halloween is a joyous occasion in which they get to act out a little bit, or a lot, loosing their metaphorical inhibition girdles (like that image?) in a Bakhtinian celebration of inverted social norms, tight and/or revealing clothes, and alcohol.

I hate you fuckers.

For normal people, Halloween is a treacherous, unfamiliar social terrain, to be navigated with the utmost care. Is that a cop, or a stripper, or a person pretending to be a cop, or a person pretending to be a stripper? Will I get pepper sprayed if I tuck a dollar bill into that cop's waistband? Is there a way out of this evening that doesn't end with me crying in a corner, abandoned and alone and OH MY GOD GET IT TOGETHER MAN. Or possibly woman. Or possibly something else - I can't be sure, because I've consumed way too many substances, and the makeup involved in my Sexy Vampire costume has defamiliarized me from my own features. Plus, I'm pretty sure I don't show up in mirrors now. Or is that ghosts? I can never remember.

You get the point.

I've put some thought into it, though, and decided that there's no reason that this so-called holiday has to be terrible. There's no reason that we have to suffer through the indignities of awkward encounters, too-small (or too-large) department-store monstrosities, and Attempting To Dance. Here are five easy do-it-yourself costumes that are guaranteed to keep you from getting maced, or rejected, this Halloween.

1. Waldo

Wear a striped shirt, a striped hat, a scarf, and blue jeans.
Stay at home. They'll never find you! Best Waldo ever!

2. Emily Dickinson

Wear a white dress. Part your hair down the middle. If you feel like being very authentic, write a long series of dashes on a pad of paper.
Stay at home. Stand in front of windows and scare the neighborhood children.

3. The Dread Pirate Roberts

No, not that Dread Pirate Roberts. The one before him. The one who retired, and who never appears in the film. You will be talked about, but mostly irrelevant. Hey, what do you know - it's just like every other day of your life!

4. Zombie

Paint your face, and maybe your hands, to look like decaying skin. Rip some of your clothes, and put fake blood on them. Bonus points if you have the makeup acumen to create realistic bite wounds. Feel the hunger for BRAAAAAIIIINNNNSSS building within you.
Realize your zombie self doesn't know how to open doors. Stay at home all night bumping into walls.

5. Willy Wonka

You have your choice of portrayals here, but the essence is the same. Wear a top hat, crazy hair, and a funky waistcoat. Fill your every motion and word with delightfully eccentric, uh, eccentricities. Invite a group of strangers to your home. Give them chocolate. Torture them until only one remains. Make your escape. Find yourself beloved by generations of adults who have forgotten the nights you haunted their dreams, and who cheerfully bring their children to you for further trauma.

There are, of course, innumerable other options open to you. You are limited only by your imagination.

And the secret horrors which lurk within your soul.

Happy Halloween!

24 October 2011

The War of 1812

Yes, yes, I know, two YouTube videos in a row. Whatever. The last one was awesome in an intense kind of way, this one's pretty hilarious.

19 October 2011

We Are the 53%

Okay, so actually, I'm not, since I make, you know, about $100/month more than the poverty line. Still. If you've been following the "We Are the 53%" rhetoric, you're familiar: it's a bunch of people holding up cards talking about how they're tired of subsidizing the lifestyles of poor people, and how said poor people should get over themselves and start contributing to the tax base like everyone else.

"Suck it up you whiners" is a pretty decent summary of the argument from most of these. Also, "Nobody helped me, I did it myself, so should you."

The International Business Times has put out a really nice little article talking about why that rhetoric is ridiculous. Some of the choice quotes:

The creators of the blog either do not understand taxation, or they simply do not care. Even the 47 percent of Americans who did not pay federal income taxes in 2009 still paid state, local and payroll taxes -- so, saying that only 53 percent of people paid taxes that year is a lie. Even the poorest Americans, those who make an average of $12,500 a year, still pay about 16 percent of their small earnings in taxes, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Moreover, data from the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy indicates that in every state except for Vermont, the poor pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy. In Alabama, families making less than $13,000 a year pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with less than 4 percent for those who make $229,000 or more.


The contributors often boast about how they have worked themselves to the bone, often without vacations or benefits, but still have never turned to government social programs, implying that the kind of people who support the 99 percent movement simply want a free ride.

It would be interesting to see how many of those people have received unemployment insurance, Pell Grants, home-mortgage-interest deductions or any of the other government programs that many people have relied on as stepping stones to get to the state of financial independence the "53 percent" celebrate.

What they don't seem to understand is that the 99 percent movement is demanding those same things -- namely, the ability to receive an affordable education, affordable health care and a livable wage -- in short, all of the things that allow Americans to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" (whether all of the protesters' demands are actually possible right now is another story).