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.