Wednesday, November 30, 2011

People Camping in Parks

According to the reality-denial right wing, the Occupy folks are the ones who shut down the Supercommittee.

Yes, the same Occupy folks who are getting the crap kicked out of them by local law enforcement are somehow able to leverage a secret deficit committee in the US Capitol.

I guess you can just add this to the massive credibility deficit being run up by the American right. At least we can give them credit for consistency - it takes some real dedication to go this far down the rabbit hole.

But this represents the run of the mill right-wing defense of their bankrupt ideology: find an "enemy," prove that it has halted some progress, and blame it on the left. That's the right's only political idea anymore. I mean, watch how it works:

Huge majorities of Americans are coming to the realization that the entire US economic system is anything but a "free-market" and more resembles feudalism where the already wealthy get to take advantage of tax breaks, subsidies, and loopholes to pay far less than their share of taxes while the middle class gets stuck with the bill. Not only that, but these same "job creators" take that meme to all levels of government are are able to score even more subsidies or government contracts, further enriching themselves. Now that large numbers of Americans are figuring this out, they want to end that system, and work towards a system that includes more tax justice.

Folks like Norquist and his cronies on the right don't want that to happen, and have proven that with the economically crippling Bush tax rates, the behavior of sponsored GOP allies in the states, and their engagement in class warfare over any conversation involving increasing taxes. Now that they realize most Americans would sacrifice the top marginal tax rates before government services like schools and roads, they've got to come up with some boogeymen to confuse the issue.

(And let's not get crazy, we're simply talking about a return to Clinton era tax rates. Last time I checked, the wealthy did pretty well for themselves back in the 90's.)

That's how we get to the part about Occupy Wall Street having some sort of influence on the right-wing led failure of the Supercommittee. It simply doesn't matter how ridiculous that idea is on its face.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Downtown Wal-Mart

Athens, Georgia has literally spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars over the decades making material improvements to and marketing its Downtown. This has been maybe the one consensus item in Athens decision making. Hell, they spent hundreds of thousands building a Greenway along the banks of the Oconee River through Downtown.

Now, the new mayor has thrown away any idea to positively develop those investments, and repeated denials earlier in the year, there are now plans to build a giant WalMart in Downtown Athens. It would back up to the river and greenway, and heaven knows what it will do to traffic on Hwy 78 (which was a constant state of gridlock when I was in undergrad 10 stinking years ago).

I know the space they're talking about. I used to play music right across the street. I know that land is currently underutilized, and could use some redevelopment.

But the kind of development needed there needs to match the scale of the university and the Downtown, as close as it is. This is an area where high-density and dynamic economy is needed, not another outlet to sell cheap plastic crap from China.

If you feel the same way I do, be sure to go and sign the petition. Even if, like me, you don't live there any more.

After all...

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What Democracy Looks Like

OccupyStuff gets a taste of what "democracy" looks like beyond the protesting, shouting, and chanting. Guess what they found out?

Democracy is hard. It requires endless meetings and taking minutes and sitting through speeches from people who don't just disagree with you, but disagree with the fundamental concept about which you are having a conversation. It requires building consensus among competing and diverse interests. Much of the time, nothing of substance gets done, and you just have to make a call about how best to maintain or replicate the seemingly useless process itself so you can do it all over again.

That's the whole "problem" with "democracy." Or even the representative republic in which we live. This type of thing is a feature, not a bug, and there really isn't an easier way to go about it.

What I do find interesting is that, in their rejection of participation in the already established structures of governing - school boards, city councils, city council subcommittees, state representative elections, etc. - the OccupyStuff crew has effectively established its own subcommittees in which you get all the frustration of participation in democracy with none of the direct affect on policy that participation in "the system" would provide.

Well, at least they got on TV.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not-For-Profit Power Companies

Wouldn't that be amazing? We could also go one step further and make them member-owned corporations. That would really revolutionize the game, wouldn't it?

Think this is some pie-in-the-sky idea? Well, Georgia, that reddest of red states, already has 42 of them, and has had many of them since the Great Depression. Hell, the lowest power bills I've ever paid in my life were to Walton EMC when I was living in Oconee County. Some newer ones have even made a committment to clean energy.

You don't even have to go all the way to Georgia to find a model for replication. There are some right here in Louisiana, too.

This is just more evidence that, if you despise the greedy, evil corporations and banks and industries, there are always options available to you in a functioning free enterprise economy.

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Ideas vs Tents

Hell, even the demonstrators themselves were having problems with maintaining a tent city.

"It's not about the park, it never was," he added. "It's Occupy Wall Street, it was never 'Sleep at Wall Street.' The message got confused in the camping, the expansion."


That makes a lot of sense. The OccupyStuff had a powerful, consensus building narrative it was working from with massive demonstrations against Wall Street and the financial industry. The 99% campaign, while oversimplified, put a face on the problems with the unsustainable American economy; a face that too many in the media and the political castes have labeled "the moocher class." Those factors combined to change the entire national conversation for the first time since I've been alive.

And then it became about people camping in parks, as if that was ever going to affect positive political change for any reason. All that did was open the conversation to stories about human pathology that comes from close quarters.

I guess we'll see if they can turn the corner.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Your Aristocracy At Work

A new report from Republican Senator Coburn indicates that American taxpayers subsidized American millionaires to the tune of $30 billion.

Subsidizing the wealthy. Picking winners and losers. Oligarchy instead of free markets. Class warfare from the top down.

Now where have we heard that before?

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Admissions Policies

It is about time some folks started turning the "affirmative action" debate on its head and pointing out that the real advantages in college admissions are reserved for folks born to alumni.

The alumni - in a country where many non-whites were not allowed to attend colleges until the 50's or 60's, where the public education system has never been truly integrated on terms of educational quality and justice for minorities, and where financial mechanisms of aid were siphoned away from minority candidates - who are overwhelmingly white.

But we've been told for years that we have to remove race consideration from the admissions process because it might give some unfair advantage to someone based merely on their circumstances of birth.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Collapse

It sure didn't take long for the OccupyStuff movement to start crumbling at the foundations, did it?

I guess that's what happens when your primary goal for affecting global change is "camp in a park." It doesn't help when your secondary goals all include ideas that you simply do not have the political clout or influence to affect.

Time for a changeup, folks. Time to build a more sustainable model of affecting political change. These short bursts of "revolution" every five or six years only serve to distract.

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The Torture & War Party

It looks like most of the Republican candidates for President, including frontrunning talk radio personality Herman Cain, would support both more torture and more war as the building blocks for their foreign policy.

There are, of course, two notable exceptions.

Of course, neither of those exceptions has enough support right now to sniff one primary win.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tea Party Tactics

It looks like OccupyMichelleBachmann'sCampaignEvents has taken a few pages from the Tea Party's 2009 playbook.

The stunned look on Bachmann's face tells me all I need to know about how that shoe fits on the other foot.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

War on Christmas Comes Early

Like most obnoxious marketing and advertising campaigns, the right wing patented WAR ON CHRISTMAS(tm) rollout doesn't wait until after Thanksgiving, either.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

So Much for the Occupation

And just like so many before it, the OccupyStuff campaign starts to fizzle out, fray around the edges, and fall prey to the same pathologies that have taken down every similar populist movement in my lifetime.

There will still be witty signs and poigniant Facebook status updates, but those who prefer tantrums and spectacle to lasting change will now begin to steal the show, and wreck this next failed iteration of "the revolution" as they have wrecked all the others.

Which means Occupy is about to have another similarity to the Tea Party: very low approval ratings from the population at large while they start squabbling amongst each other and throwing their tantrums in front of the cameras.

At least they were able to change the conversation for a minute. People will remember that, even after this week's round of scandals have been moved off the rotation in the media. Maybe someone will be inspired to start figuring out what they can do, beyond sitting in a park, to change things. Until then, this is the same old story - all Wall Street ever has to do is wait, because this kind of thing just isn't sustainable.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Derailed?

Costs for the high-speed rail corridor in Califorina are swelling well beyond what people want to invest. Of course, anti-progress Republicans and right wingers were ready to pounce, expressing a willingness to stop investing in American infrastructure before we really begin.

I'm not going to lie, the cost of the California project are high enough to derail the idea of rail infrastructure nationwide. The folks in charge of that project need a swift kick in the ass to get things under control. Because this kind of thing is important and needs to be done right.

Some other thoughts:

1. I wonder how many private contractors with political connections are involved in this projects runaway costs. Again, the private-public partnership is corrupted at taxpayer's expense.

2. It is a double expense as well, because such partnerships are what allow this country to do big things. If there is no credibility for such big projects, we will never have any big projects again.

3. THIS IS HOW STATE-LEVEL DECISION MAKING AFFECTS NATIONAL POLICY AND POLITICAL NARRATIVE. Occupy Sacramento. The Feds have done just about all they can do to make this happen, and it is dying once it gets to the state level.

4. If placed under the same microscopes of scrutiny, the United States would never have build the Panama Canal, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Transcontinental Railroad, or made the Louisiana Purchase. End of story.

That's the kind of big project that is at risk here, and we would do well to keep that in mind.

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Friday, November 04, 2011

If a Policy Succeeds and Nobody Hears About It...

Andrew Sullivan points out that health care reform is doing what it was supposed to do.

Thing is, this year I got hit with some increases in health care costs. I know quite a few folks who also did. Some of them are blaming health care reform, but as I look at the results of more young people participating in health care, and the health insurance profits skyrocketing, I don't think any of the new laws are to blame for the increases.

Hell, I remember similar increases back in 2004 and 2005.

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Downhill from Here

Now that the pathologies that affect any human endeavor are starting to crop up, support is going to start trending downhill for the #Occupy folks. Will "changing the national conversation" take a back seat to "defending the movement?" Or will demonstrators redouble their efforts to mitigate these pathologies and crimes and keep their message positive? Can they respond effectively when policing themselves?

If they can't, the widespread support they now enjoy may evaporate quickly.

Just a few years ago, the Tea Party responded to a similar moment by doubling-down on the crazy: taking the extreme path of xenophobia, cultural and economic panic, religious bigotry, and racism. Though they had enough momentum and structural support to win a lot of elections in 2010, enough of their pathologies ended up on display long enough so people turned away from them. They chose thin skins and a defensive, combative, paranoid posture that highlighted the worst features. What started out as populist empowerment became a support structure for the demagoguery of the Fire-Eaters. That ended up changing the whole narrative the Tea Party was promoting, and effectively ended any larger public appeal it had a chance of making.

The timeframe is different because the tactics are different, and Occupy started off with more disadvantages than the made-for-Fox News Tea Party. But what will the #Occupy folks do, now that pathologies are becoming the story?

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Here's Something

You want to #OccupyNOLA? The budget for Orleans Parish Prison is one issue a lot of folks can get behind, and their local involvement can make a needed, positive, and progress-prone change in the short term.

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There Were No Good Ole Days

In response to the Occupy folks sticking around for another month, actually changing the national conversation, and looking for more, Beverly Gage at Slate points to the history of American labor to show where such movements have faced violent opposition while bringing progress to the nation.

Not to disparage any of that, but I still say it would be easier for folks to organize and start going after local and state political governance. You can change an awful lot from a school board or a city council meeting, and you may not face the same violent reprisals you'd get on the streets.

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Of Bonfires and Remedies

If you only looked at the pictures, you'd think they were rioting in Oakland instead of just waving flags while standing near bonfires. Do I think bonfires are any kind of a good idea? Not at all. Any success the #Occupy folks are going to get come from their dedication to peaceful demonstration. The moment that turns violent, all the national support will evaporate. That's why these groups have to be so careful about provocateurs and agents looking to incite violence in their midst.

Hell, who knows, just the idea of a riot, coupled with already documented police overreaction, may become the self-fulfilling prophecy the news and the right wing have so desperately wanted to see. And if you think the news organizations and the right wing aren't giddily anticipating this #Occupy thing turning violent, you must not live in the same country I do. See, I remember the last two years:

If folks are flipping out this hard over bonfires, can you imagine what the reaction would be if these folks took a page from the Tea Party playbook, and started talking about "second amendment remedies?" Or if they brought signs with targets over the names of people they didn't like? Or if there were organizers encouraging folks to show up at the #Occupy events carrying guns?

So far, none of that has happened. But that defined the Tea Party movement in general. That's something to keep in mind.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Priorities

I sure hope the national security infrastructure is busier looking for homegrown terrorists than they appear, because most of the things I'm seeing show security personnel going after camera holders, peaceful protesters, "unlawful assemblies," and homeless people.

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Rearranging Deck Chairs

Glad to know that while the nation's people are facing a tremendous personal debt and unemployment crisis, The US House of Representatives is busy with weighty matters of state.

I guess the culture war, defining President Obama as "the other," and attempting to portray Democratic members of Congress as "anti-God" are simply the most important things to Republicans than the actual crises our nation faces.

What's the over/under that we'll see another round of "War on Christmas" bull start getting shopped around by talk show hosts and right wing book shills after Thanksgiving?

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

No Treats on Bourbon Street

That's all I saw on the streets last night. There were some older kids and a few adults trying to hustle some candy, too. Next year, I might get a cooler of cold beer treats for the moms and dads.

Unfortunately, the same kind of wholesome fun was not a city-wide event, as 15 people were shot overnight in New Orleans, mostly in the French Quarter. Two were killed. One exchange of gunfire killed one, wounded seven and shut Bourbon Street down for hours.

That's Devil's Night type numbers right there.

Still a lot of work yet to be done.

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The Con Continues

This is what Sarah Palin has done to our politics. The Herman Cain "scandal" continues, with Cain gaining support, and the media following the right wing in decrying the "liberals" that just aren't involved. Evidence is starting to suggest to me that this "scandal" is completely manufactured. I'd wager this was either launched on him by the Perry campaign (that has since backfired), or is wholly a construction of the Cain campaign to lock down his support in the final month before the primaries begin.

Why do I think this? Oftentimes a right wing argument is not just free from reality, but it is absolutely diametrically opposed to reality. Take for example the narrative in the Herman Cain "Scandal" that liberals are scared of Herman Cain's ideas, so they attack him personally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only would a general election put Cain on the same debate stage as Obama, they would put some of the right wing's most sacred ideas in front of an electorate primed to see them for the garbage that they are.

So who is really frightened of Herman Cain's "ideas?" The right. The Republican Party. Other Republican candidates who have less ideas than he has. Any of those people, but (and here's where the Sarah Palin playbook comes in) maybe the Cain campaign itself is tired of talking about "ideas." Maybe they feel they just have to make something up, cast Cain as the victim of some bull___ "liberal witch hunt" in order to increase his electoral chances. That's probably closer to the truth than a lot of people realize.

Of course, this could have been the plan all along.

And for the record, it is the utter nonsense like this that has finally turned me into the raging partisan you're reading. I'm tired of hearing about a liberal media that does not exist, I'm tired of hearing everything blamed on "liberal" straw men, I'm tired of folks letting the right wing get away with lie after lie after lie repeating it as if it were the truth, I'm exhausted with the bold faced fabrication of false equivalence - that "both sides do this," I'm tired of people ascribing evil intentions towards a President that is actually attempting to do his job, and I'm really, really tired of the lack of seriousness evident in this modern day Republican Party. This is not a political philosophy, it is a marketing strategy with a substandard product.

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