Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Day in Exquisite Insults of Objectivists

Fat Cat goes Galt

On February 11th of last year, Paul Krugman quoted Jonathon Chait, on the revelation that Paul Ryan is an Ayn Randite:
Ryan clearly has a passion for ideas and isn’t just interested in short-term positioning. It would be nice if the party had people like that who didn’t also happen to be loons.
The rest of Chait's post read as follows:
Last week, I called Republican budget sorta-kinda point man Paul Ryan "crazy but honest." Today, some of the intellectual influences behind the first half of that description are coming out. TPM reports that Ryan is a big fan of Ayn Rand and "Atlas Shrugged." The Daily Beast, interviewing Ryan, reports that he was influenced by Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism."

What do those works have in common? They're written by people who don't understand liberalism and the left at all, and are thus unable to present liberal ideas in terms remotely recognizable to liberals themselves. The specific lack of understanding lies in an inability to grasp the enormous differences between American liberalism and socialism or communism, seeing them as variants on the same basic theme. The historical reality is that the architects of American liberalism saw it as a bulwark against communism, and communists and socialists in turn viewed the liberals as in implacable enemy. (Yes, you can cherry pick a few data points of commonality, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.) The result is a tendency to see even modest efforts to sand off the roughest edges of capitalism in order to make free markets work for all Americans as the opening salvo of a vast and endless assault upon the market system.
One of the commenters on Chait's piece posted the following about the comparison between Rand and Goldberg:
Jonah Goldberg is no Ayn Rand. Indeed, they are opposites. Ayn Rand's books are appealing (forget the politics), but her personality was nothing less than looney. Jonah Goldberg's personality is appealing (forget the politics), but his books are nothing less than looney.
Krugman also quoted the late Paul Samuelson on Alan Greenspan:
You can take the boy out of the cult but you can’t take the cult out of the boy.
We've seen this quote before. We've also seen the complete version of it in context.
And this brings us to Alan Greenspan, whom I've known for over 50 years and who I regarded as one of the best young business economists. Townsend-Greenspan was his company. But the trouble is that he had been an Ayn Rander. You can take the boy out of the cult but you can't take the cult out of the boy. He actually had instruction, probably pinned on the wall: 'Nothing from this office should go forth which discredits the capitalist system. Greed is good.'
While Krugman was done, his commenters weren't:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Travel is broadening, especially the food

In Travel is broadening, even the reading, I described the serendipitous periodicals I stumbled across. Now, I describe an experience that was just as expanding, but in a more deliberate way. When I was in Oaxaca, Mexico, I ate two insects that are considered to be local delicacies--grasshopper (chapulin) and mezcal worm (gusano). The grasshopper I ate because the superstition is that if one eats the grasshoppers, one will return to Oaxaca. The mezcal worm I ate because I was curious and wanted to show off. Both were actually quite tasty.

It seems that others think that eating insects might be a good idea, too, as this article from Discovery News via MSNBC indicates.

Another scoop of grasshopper? A push for us to eat more bugs
Company trying to remove 'icky, crunchy' parts to make insects more palatable in US
November 23, 2011
If you want to try something new for Thanksgiving, Matthew Krisiloff has a suggestion: add some insects to the meal.

Many Americans would respond to such a suggestion with a definite "Ew, no thanks," but not Krisiloff. The University of Chicago freshman is the president of Entom Foods, a startup encouraging people to seriously consider insects as a food source. He and four other students started the company last year.

Entom Foods aims to make Americans feel more comfortable eating bugs by removing elements that turn many people off — eyes, wings, legs and crunchy exoskeletons. Eventually, the company hopes to produce processed bug-based foods, such as insect cutlets. Krisiloff hopes marketing the insects in a familiar form will remove the "ick" factor and encourage more people to add insects to their diets.

The company plans to market insects such as crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers, which are already farmed commercially for use as animal feed.
As I wrote, the grasshoppers tasted delicious, and I didn't mind their crunchiness. I wouldn't mind eating them again--in Oaxaca. I'm not sure I'd eat the local ones here in the U.S., but I could be persuaded if someone knew how to cook them.

As for the mezcal worm, I was so taken with it and the drink associated with it that I bought a liter of Monte Alban mezcal on Thanksgiving, complete with worm. As it turns out, this might not be such a sustainable thing to do. From AlJazeera on YouTube.

Across Mexico, and in many world capitals, people are increasingly raisingly a glass of mezcal, a traditional Mexican liquor.

Connoisseurs of the strong drink say it tastes best when served the traditional way-- with a worm in it.

But the worm population is being pushed into decline, due to the drink's growing popularity.

Franc Contreras reports from Oaxaca state in southern Mexico.
The mezcal distillery shown in the clip just happens to be where I ate the mezcal worms. Small world.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ayn Rand on love and sex

There is one part of Atlas Chugged I find worth revisiting.
15.Rand's descriptions of love making are truly screwed up; vicious acts of near-sadism. Reardon essentially masturbates using Dagny's body as a tissue and she likes it. Even when Dagny experiences the perfect physical bliss of sex with John Galt (and yes, that's in there too), it's pretty creepy.

Every time you throw up a little during a sex scene, drink. Or at least rinse your mouth out.
TV Tropes has noticed this. Under Author Appeal, there is this little gem.
Ayn Rand had a thing for The Red Sonja and "bodice-ripper" style ravishment sex, which her sex scenes usually involved. The rather violent sex scenes she wrote (especially the rather infamous Howard Roark/Dominique Francon sex scene in The Fountainhead) can plausibly be read as Rape Is Love, although this is debated by many (including anarchist-feminist Wendy McElroy).
  • Additionally, Rand practiced consensual polyamory during the time she was writing Atlas Shrugged. The heroine of Atlas, Dagny Taggart, has multiple relationships over the course of the novel's plot.
  • Rand's belief in Brains and Bondage female sexual submission shows in a passage of Atlas Shrugged that describes the diamond bracelet worn by Dagny as giving her "the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained." This belief was also expressed in an infamous essay condemning the idea that a woman might want to be President, on the grounds that life without a man to look up to would make a woman "unfeminine, sexless, metaphysically inappropriate, and rationally revolting."
There's more under the Red Sonja entry.
Ayn Rand is well known for this trope, as it falls in line with her personal fetishes. Rand liked strong, take-charge men and bodice-ripping, ravishment-type sex. Her works are sometimes accused of containing Rape Is Love, though it is a debatable matter.
  • Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged is a modernized version of this.
  • Dominique from The Fountainhead.
  • Parodied in The Illuminatus! Trilogy's Rand parody Telemachus Sneezed.
  • Rand also wrote an essay arguing that no rational woman would ever want to be president because "the essence of femininity is hero worship — the desire to look up to man." A woman president, being the supreme authority of the land, would have no superior man to admire.
There's more under Rape Is Love, but in the spirit of a picture being worth 1000 words, I'll post the following instead.

Ayn Rand Flow Chart

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fox News viewers less informed than people who watch no news at all

In Pepper spray as a vegetable product: fat-free or fact-free?, I quoted David Frum in New York Magazine. Not only was he quoted by Paul Krugman at the New York Times, but also by Karoli at Crooks and Liars. Here's the quote again.
Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.
Right after I posted the above, I read Fox News Viewers Know Less Than People Who Don't Watch Any News: Study in the Huffington Post. I'd quote it, but both HuffPo and a commenter on Karoli's article linked to the original study, which is a press release and therefore can be quoted at much more length. Here are the highlights of "Some News Leaves People Knowing Less" from Farleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey.
According to the latest results from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll, some news sources make us less likely to know what’s going on in the world. In the most recent study, the poll asked New Jerseyans about current events at home and abroad, and from what sources – if any – they get their information. The conclusion: Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all.
But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."
That's bad, but it gets worse. Fox News can't even inform people about news that they should be good at.
Only 55% of New Jerseyans are able to name correctly either Mitt Romney or Herman Cain as the Republican candidates most recently leading in the polls, with 37 % saying that Romney is ahead, and 18% saying that Cain is. Watching Fox News didn't help or hurt respondents on this question. MSNBC, however, helped: Watching MSNBC was associated with a 10-point increase in identifying Romney as the leader, and a 5-point drop in the likelihood of identifying Cain compared to those who got no exposure to news at all.

"Given the amount of time and effort the media spent covering these candidates, the fact that only about half of the public can name one of the front-runners is embarrassing," said Cassino. "The fact that Fox News, the preferred media outlet for many of the candidates, doesn't do better in informing viewers is very surprising."
Viewers of MSNBC, who are less likely to vote in the Republican primary than Fox News viewers, are better informed about the Republican field than Fox News viewers. That's pathetic.

Freedom from Facts, indeed.

Original at Hysterical Raisins.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Business Saturday Linkspam

As I wrote in This is why yesterday was Buy Nothing Day for me, "Small Business Saturday should be the subject of the next post." Here it is, next post, where I explore a story at the intersection of economy and society in the sustainability diagram below--Small Business Saturday.


Mother Nature Network: Shop small: Small Business Saturday
Support local small businesses in your area on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Melissa Hincha-Ownby
November 18, 2011

If you have pledged to participate in Buy Nothing Day on Friday, Nov. 25, but don’t think you can go for the Buy Nothing Christmas, then I have another pledge for you to take: participate in Small Business Saturday. When you head out to do your holiday shopping on Nov. 26, avoid the big box national chain stores and shop at your local small businesses instead.

Although this is only the second year for the event, it is already popular among the Facebook crowd. The official Small Business Saturday Facebook page has more than 2.2 million Likes. People don’t just like the site, they are also discussing it. At this time more than 260,000 people are actively talking about the day.
Here it is a full year later and the economy is still struggling. The nation’s small business owners are the key to the recovery and the more that we can do to help boost our local economies, the better the national economy becomes.

International Business Times: Small Business Saturday: American Express Hosts 2nd Annual Shopping Holiday
By Nadine DeNinno
November 26, 2011

First there was Black Friday. As e-commerce reached popularity in 2005, Cyber Monday was created. Now there is a new shopping holiday: a grassroots movement known as "Small Business Saturday" to help flailing local merchants and businesses.
Small Business Saturday aims to attract shoppers to local businesses for discounts the same way Black Friday, celebrated in shopping malls and megastores across the country, does.
However, the Saturday shopping event was not created to discourage shoppers from large retailers, but rather to include small businesses in the equation as a counterpart in the holiday shopping madness. As reported by ABC News, a 2004 study from Economic Impact shows that for every $100 consumers spend at local business, $68 remains in the local economy while on $43 remains when the same amount is spent at a chain store.

The Washington Post: With Facebook, Google involved, Small Business Saturday gets bigger
By Olga Khazan
November 22, 2011

When you hear the words “small business,” Facebook, YouTube, FedEx and American Express aren’t typically companies that come to mind. But this year all four of them are promoting shopping at small retailers for “Small Business Saturday,” the mom-and-pop counterpart to Black Friday.
A number of other big businesses have also pitched in. YouTube is providing a geo-coded hosting platform on which small business owners can create videos about their shops. FedEx gave $25 American Express gift cards to the first 30,000 customers who liked their Facebook page on November 1. Facebook serves as the hub for the initiative, offering a trove of marketing tips for merchants and ways to “get involved” for customers at Facebook and AmEx gave away free $100 Facebook ads to 10,000 businesses, and the number of people who “liked” the page doubled since last year, to 2.4 million.

“Facebook presents a great opportunity for businesses to create an ongoing two-way relationship with consumers,” said David Fischer, Facebook’s vice president of advertising and global operations. “Businesses have the ability to leverage those connections every day, not just on Small Business Saturday.

Huffington Post: Small Business Saturday: Small Retailers Fight Back With Deals After Black Friday
November 25, 2011

[Small Business Saturday shopping expert for American Express Patricia] Norins has talked to small-business owners who are planning everything from balloons and banners to Santas and tree lightings. Many are joining forces to produce shopping maps of participating local businesses or offering cross promotions such as handing out different free cookies at neighboring stores. Norins believes this type of momentum can translate beyond the day to connect customers with local businesses year-round. "Consumers have a huge opportunity to find unique products and personalized customer service," she says. "It instills a sense of community, which is important on a local and national level -- more money stays in the community and more jobs are created."

We talked to eight small retailers nationwide to find out how and why they're going above and beyond to attract shoppers this Small Business Saturday.

Detroit Free Press: Detroit among Small Business Saturday participants
November 26, 2011

Some of Detroit's key activities to support the day will be held in Midtown, New Center, the downtown business district and Eastern Market.

Free shuttles will be available to transport shoppers to different Detroit neighborhoods from the Inside Detroit Welcome Center. Discounted parking will be available in some areas.
Shop local, not only this holiday season, but throughout the year!

This is why yesterday was Buy Nothing Day for me

My Facebook status yesterday was "As far as I'm concerned, today is Buy Nothing Day." It was the most popular status update I can ever remember posting, with 21 likes and three additional people commenting. Based on how American shoppers behaved, I'm glad I didn't venture off my property to buy anything yesterday!

From ITN on YouTube.

Black Friday sales turned into a shopping frenzy in the US. 20 people were left injured after a woman sprayed pepper spray in a bid to get a bargain. Report by Melanie Hill.
ITN wasn't the only British news source that reported yesterday's appalling behavior. BBC chimed in with US Black Friday marred by shootings, pepper-sprayings, which is currently the most popular news item of the week for North America on the site. In addition to the incidents described in the ITN video above, BBC listed the following.
  • A man was reportedly detained for resisting arrest after a fight at the jewellery counter in the early hours at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Florida
  • Police are looking for two suspects after gunfire erupted early on Friday at a shopping centre in Fayetteville, North Carolina; there were no reports of injuries
  • Security workers reportedly used pepper spray on shoppers who began grabbing at goods before they were unloaded from pallets at a Walmart in Kinston, North Carolina
  • A woman was shot in the foot by a robber as she loaded her purchases into her car in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; the gunman fled as one of the victim's companions brandished a revolver and fired warning shots
PolitcusUSA weighed in on the Black Friday mayhem with two articles: Not Even Pepper Spray Can Stop The Walking Dead Of Wal-Mart Black Friday and Wal-Mart Black Friday Shoppers Prove Themselves More Dangerous Than OWS. In the latter piece, Sarah Jones connects the dots between yesterday's violence and police mistreatment of Occupy Movement protesters.
Obviously, there’s a difference between police using pepper spray against dangerous elements in a crowd and a citizen using it to gain the upper hand at a Black Friday Sale, but just where do they think she got the idea?

Just like the constant drum beat for “second amendment remedies” by conservatives in the press leaks into the subconscious of the unstable, so too do the constant stories of police using pepper spray on citizens leak into the national consciousness.

And let’s not forget that too many times, police have used pepper spray on Occupy protesters who were not dangerous, were sitting still, were already kettled, and/or were not escalating violence.

Customers using pepper spray on other customers, robberies, and shootings are not things that have been seen at Occupy Wall Street protests. Republicans told us that it was patriotic to shop after 9/11, and these same people have demonized OWS, but what we have seen is that the corporate giants like Walmart and the shoppers who get whipped into a frenzy by their charms are more dangerous than Occupy Wall Street.
Thanks, Occupy Police. You just ratcheted up the level of general insanity another notch.
Speaking of the juxtaposition of the Occupy Movement and Black Friday, what did they do yesterday? Huffington Post has the story.

Black Friday: Occupy Protests Discourage Shopping On One Of Retail's Biggest Days

It's an Associated Press story, which means I don't quote it on general principles, but it does describe how the Occupiers in San Francisco and Sacramento told shoppers to not shop yesterday, especially at the large corporate-owned chain store, but instead shop at the locally owned stores today (Saturday).*

Occupy Detroit also urged a boycott of Black Friday, as detailed in this story from Huffington Post's new Detroit Edition: Occupy Detroit Plans Thanksgiving, Black Friday Actions
More Occupy activism can be expected on the day following Thanksgiving. The Detroit chapter of Occupy the Hood, a wing of the Occupy Movement focused on people of color, is calling for a boycott on Black Friday, the biggest retal sales day of the year that traditionally launches the Christmas shopping season.

"Black Friday is one of the busiest, biggest days for corporations," said Ife Johari Uhuru, a founder of Occupy the Hood who lives in Detroit.

Occupy the Hood's request to refrain from shopping joins a long tradition of post-Thanksgiving activism. Adbusters, the magazine that originally called for the Occupy Wall Street protests, has been organizing Black Friday boycotts and pranks for 20 years. They are celebrating this year's anniversary of the effort, which they call "Buy Nothing Day," with a new campaign called "Occupy Christmas."
Occupy Detroit also plans to support the Black Friday boycott.

"We are coordinating with Occupy the Hood. We will be working together to carry out [actions on Friday]," Teed said. "We want a lot of people at multiple shopping venues to hear our message."

Teed echoed Uhuru's focus on education, saying that Occupiers hope to contrast predicted sales figures with statistics about Detroit's debt and wages of Walmart executives with those of employees.

She hopes the call to boycott will inspire people to stay at home, or to spend their money with local businesses.

"Hopefully with more energy and involvement around Occupy, we can build that into a bigger thing next year," Teed said.
I did something in solidarity with Occupy Detroit, and I didn't even have to leave the house!

As for what else I think of Black Friday, may a picture truly be worth 1000 words.

Black Friday Golden Calf

*Small Business Saturday should be the subject of the next post.

If the GOP primary were a CEO search

Original here.

In response to In the Land of the Salamanders, the Newt is King by Nate Silver in the New York Times, commenter Steve High of San Jose posted this satirical view of how Human Resources at a major corporation would have handled the current crop of GOP candidates, which Nate called Newt and the seven salamanders.* As someone who has been involved in four search committees in the past four years, including two for an executive (chief officer, but not the chief executive), I can relate.
Here's how I think the evaluation of the salamanders would proceed within a corporation looking for a CEO:

HR Recommendations for First Round.

#1. Perry. More than 20 years very strong statewide work experience. Currently a CEO. No black marks. Interview.
#2. Gingrich. More than 20 years very strong work experience at the highest national level. Not directly employed for the past 14 years, but worked as a successful consultant in same field. Interview.
#3. Bachmann. Six years in federal employment; six in state legislature. No legislative achievements in either body, but meets job description. Interview.
#4 Romney. Four years in state government. Inadequate direct job experience, but success in other fields may compensate. Interviewed for this position four years ago and was a finalist. Interview.


#5 Cain. No directly relevant job experience. Don't interview, but keep resume for VP opening.
#6 Paul. Twenty-two non-consecutive years in congress. Switched parties twice. Did not endorse GOP nominee in 2008. Erratic job and party record--don't interview.
#7 Santorum. Fourteen years in congress, twelve in U.S. Senate. No significant legislation. Fired by voters for cause. Don't interview.

Final round of interviews

#1 Romney. Performed exceptionally well in all interviews. Finalist.
#2. Gingrich. Impressed the executive staff. Finalist.

#3 Bachmann. Interviewers objected to inaccurate statements, falsehoods and questionable judgment. Eliminate.
#4 Perry. Very poor interviewing skills. Interviewers questioned mental capacity. Eliminate.

Note: The Board was not satisfied with only two candidates and asked, over HR's objection, to see Herman Cain as well.
Poor Jon Huntsman gets no love, even in a satire like this.

*Another commenter called the current field "Big Chameleon and the Seven Salamanders." The Big Chameleon, of course, is Mitt Romney.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pepper spray as a vegetable product: fat-free or fact-free?

Time for a silly to serious rant.

First, from NMATV on YouTube comes this video on the modest proposition in the title.

Pepper spray is a yummy and delicious form of crowd control. Just ask Lt. John Pike or Anthony (Tony) Bologna! Old women (like Dorli Rainey) and pregnant ladies (like Jennifer Fox) LOVE pepper spray.

That's because pepper spray is essentially a food product. Megyn Kelly eats it every day. In China, pepper spray is used in Sichuan hot pot.

Therefore, it's not very effective as a form of crowd control and more traditional means are required.

But if pepper spray is a food product, how does it stand up to Tapatio? ... Tapatio is the bomb!
Speaking of Megyn Kelly, here's what the International Business Times has to say about her claim.
Kelly came on "The O'Reilly Factor" late Monday to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protest that broke out this weekend at UC Davis. Police Lt. John Pike sprayed pepper spray on non-violent protestors sitting on the ground in an act that has been called into question as "excessive force." Kelly has a slightly different opinion.

"First of all, pepper spray," O'Reilly said to Kelly. "That just burns your eyes, right?"

"Right," Kelly replied. "I mean it's like a derivative of actual pepper. It's a food product, essentially."

Kelly's comment that pepper spray is little more than "a food product" has sparked outrage from protestors and commentators online.
There is a Funny or Die video on the subject embedded at the IBT page, but you can also watch it here.

My friend nonnie9999 at Hysterical Raisins had her own take on Kelly's remarks.

About that "Freedom from Facts" line, David Frum had his own take on that at New York Magazine, one that was quoted by Paul Krugman at the New York Times.
Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.
I told you this was a silly-to-serious rant. I've done that before, although I'm just as likely to do the reverse. In either event, enjoy the remainder of Buy Nothing Day, and be sure to read Frum's article in New York Magazine. It's well worth it.

Watch evolution in action on Black Friday

In honor of Black Friday, I am reposting my favorite article I wrote as Detroit Science News Examiner from 2009 in its entirety.  It is just as timely today as it was when I first posted it on Christmas Eve two years ago.  In addition to being my favorite from that year, this article was the first one of mine to be ranked as the most popular on the Detroit Edition of, something I was so proud of that I took a screenshot of it.

Most popular Detroit Examiner 122409

And now, the article.

Watch evolution in action among last-minute Christmas shoppers

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Michigan marching band Thanksgiving from New York

From WXYZ's YouTube Channel.

The Plymouth-Canton marching band has been picked to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
That's the studio interview from yesterday. To see the band performing, watch the video from StateChampsTV below.

I saw the above videos and had a flashback to my past as a marching band judge. Fortunately, it was a good one. The Plymouth Centennial Educational Park Marching Band was consistently the best marching band in the state when I was judging and I had the pleasure of being on the field evaluating its visual performance once during my last year with the Michigan Competing Band Association. It was an honor.

To the Plymouth Band, have a great time in New York City. The world will be watching you.

To the rest of you, happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Travel is broadening, even the reading


I've just finished being on the road for two-and-a-half weeks out of the past four, so I have more travel-related sustainability stories than I could tell in a single blog post. In fact, it would probably take a month's worth of posts scattered over the next year to recount all the notable incidents and information.

That written, each of the two trips yielded fascinating discoveries of articles about sustainability in unexpected places.

My first discovery was in a bookstore in Mexico City's International Airport, where I ran into Monacle, a very high-end magazine that I'd never heard of before. The cover story of the issue on the stands was about the global future of food. Here's the blurb from the issue page.
Opener: The Future of Food - Global
Can "big food" companies help chart a fresh future for food retail? Or are supermarkets always bad?
I loved the article and thought seriously about buying the magazine, but found out that I would have had to pay the peso equivalent of more than $20 instead of the cover price of $10, so I passed. Even so, a great find.

I saw the second while waiting in a hair salon in Plainsboro, New Jersey. Instead of settling for the sports magazines in the waiting room, I searched for something a little more challenging. I found it in an issue of Entrepreneur, which featured a series of articles on local food becoming a major economic sector. Here's the conclusion of Editor's Note: The New Food Chain by Amy Cosper.
Sometimes entire economies need reinventing, which is increasingly apparent as we watch ours take a global pounding. Housing and jobs reports sound as gloomy as a Pink Floyd album. It's time to step back and reimagine the possibilities of what we can be--to stop trying to re-create what we were. It's time to take a decidedly more entrepreneurial approach to how we view our economy.

That means we must avert our gaze from the political proscenium and refocus on possibilities--specifically, possibilities in local economies. This month we look at a sector doing just that. With a solid nod to dirt, soil and manure, we explore local farming, farm-to-table, locavores--trends that are helping define a new local economy.
If you've been reading Crazy Eddie's Motie News for a while, you'll see this is right up my alley, so of course I read the featured articles. Here are the links to them.

How the Farm-to-Table Movement Is Helping Grow the Economy

Two Urban Farmers Test the 'Eat Local' Business

I highly recommend reading both of them.

I was so taken by the articles that I asked the shop owner if I could take the issue home with me. To my pleasant surprise, she said yes. Free magazine! That certainly made up for the overpriced copy of Monocle that I passed up in Mexico City.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Next Media Animation on Thanksgiving food inflation

From NMATV on YouTube.

The cost of Thanksgiving dinner is rising. The American Farm Bureau Federation says a Thanksgiving meal for 10 people will increase $5.73 to $49.20. That is a 13 percent rise over last year.

The American Farm Bureau Federation says the the increase is the largest in 26 years of price tracking. Much of the increase comes from the cost of the turkey. A 16-pound turkey costs $21.57, up 22 percent from last year. This is due higher turkey demand and feed costs.

Other items included in the survey are bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk.
As the cost of turkey climbs, will substitution effect kick in and alter the composition of the traditional Thanksgiving meal?
Today is a travel day for my wife and me, but tomorrow will be a food shopping day. After being away from home for two and a half weeks out of four, I'm looking forward to eating a home-cooked meal and sleeping in my own bed.

As for the rest of you, happy food shopping and don't let food inflation keep you from having a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011


PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is known for their very public, sometimes controversial, crusades against all forms of animal cruelty. Now they have trained their sights on a video game, Nintendo's Super Mario 3D Land.

In the game, the popular character Mario is able to wear a "tanooki suit," resembling a Japanese tanuki raccoon dog. PETA claims the suit encourages the wearing of fur products and has created a website in protest. The site features a parody game where players assume the role of a skinned "tanooki" who tries to wrestle his pelt back from an evil Mario lookalike.

People in the gaming press have been quick to point out that Mario is never seen harming a tanuki in the course of the game. One website called PETA's outrage "absurd and unresearched."
More at NMATV's YouTube page.

PETA has made two prior appearances here, the first in a Silly Sustainability Saturday during September and the second in a stand alone post in October. Now, they've made the silly sustainability news three months in a row. So, should we expect a story about them before Christmas?

In other news, my part in the hornet swatting ends today.  It's now up to other people.  I'll have details when it's done.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Next Media Animation on the Keystone XL pipeline

Americans are dying for oil overseas. So why not buy more oil from a friendly supplier like Canada?

The Keystone pipeline transports oil from Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma. An extension pipeline, Keystone XL, would extend the system to refineries in Texas.

But green groups have formed an unlikely alliance with conservative Nebraska ranchers and state politicians to oppose the pipeline on environmental grounds, and the Obama administration has given in to their demands. Obama has delayed a decision on the Keystone pipeline until 2013, well after next year's presidential elections.

What will Obama's labor supporters say about the loss of 20,000 shovel-ready jobs? If the US won't buy Alberta's oil, Canada can always sell to the energy-hungry Chinese. In the meantime, American soldiers will have to live with a little less energy security.
I really don't like tar sands as an energy source, but I don't despise it as much as oil shale.* However, I've decided that protesting the concept of the Keystone XL pipeline is futile to the point of being less than useless, as the Canadians would just sell the oil to the Chinese, something the video points out. Therefore, opposing the pipeline as a way of slowing down the exploitation of one of the most carbon dioxide emitting ways of getting oil out of the ground is a waste of time. It's going to be extracted one way or another and opposing the pipeline means that China will benefit from it instead of the U.S. Meanwhile, the global commons will still suffer.

On the other hand, opposing the specific route so that the pipeline will run through less environmentally sensitive areas (building through the Sand Hills of Nebraska was not a good idea) is something that I support, and as you can see, it worked.

*I have a standard rant about oil shale that I promised to post more than a month ago. I'll get around to it after I get home. I'm still on the road. It's just that today is a day off, so I could actually post something.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Atlas Chugged

Fat Cat goes Galt

Yesteday I promised, "Enough seriousness. Time for some fun tomorrow." Time to follow through.

For your Saturday amusement, I give you Atlas Chugged: The Ayn Rand Drinking Game, which was originally posted (not by me) on Daily Kos.
There are certain habits in Rand’s writing; repeated phrases, archetypical characters and recurring situations. Habits which beg to be immortalized in their very own drinking game.

A game I call Atlas Chugged.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Collapse is all there in the Objectivist manual

Fat Cat goes Galt

I concluded yesterday's post with the following.
Objectivism is a philosophy that is contributing to our problems. Worse yet, it is becoming a response to our problems, making them even worse.

What, you say, Objectivism causes collapse? Yes. It's all there in the manual. But that's the subject of Part II.

Stay tuned.
More quotes tomorrow.
Time to follow through.

Brad Hicks on LiveJournal had the following to say about "Atlas Shrugged."
Atlas Shrugged, for those of you who never read it, can be summarized entirely fairly as follows. Unknown to our viewpoint characters at first, an inventor named John Galt has invented a "free energy" machine, a motor that runs on ambient static electricity and the Earth's own inertia and puts out enough electricity in a fairly small unit to power almost anything, including vehicles, force field generators, energy weapons, even an invisibility cloak if you use a big enough unit. He invented this while working at a company where his contract gave them rights to stuff he invented on the clock, like most professional engineers and inventors, but he assumed that as the inventor, he was entitled to all of the profits from this fabulous new invention. The company's management and other employees, though, saw just how much resentment would happen if one company owned the monopoly on an invention this valuable, and started making plans for how to invest some of the profits into charitable ventures, so they wouldn't get the whole thing taken away from them via eminent domain. John Galt, outraged that anybody would even suggest that he or the company he worked for owed anything to the nation that provided his education, protected him from infectious disease outbreaks, protected him from Communist invasion, built the roads that got him to work each day, provided the police that kept him safe, and provided the court system that protected his property rights at all, sabotaged the Galt Engine, so nobody could have it.

Then he went further and, in a fit of offended pique, promised to "stop the motor of the world," to kill 90% or so of Earth's population by intentionally wrecking the economy. Which he then did. How? By finding every other competent engineer or manager in the US and persuading them to be just as selfish as him, just as unwilling to pay back or protect their country; he declared a covert "strike of the mind," as he called it. He hid them all in a secretive compound in the Rocky Mountains, protected by force field and invisibility cloak, and waited for the US economy to collapse, which, obligingly, it did -- because John Galt had carefully sabotaged the bridges and railroads that made it possible for fuel and seeds to make it from the coastal cities to inland farms, and make it possible for food grown on inland farms to make it to the coastal cities. And as chaos was breaking out, he and his fellow inventors hijacked every radio transmitter in the US to broadcast his manifesto: You all deserve to die, for asking us to pay you back even one nickel, because we are all so selfish we don't consider any of the things you all paid for out of your taxes and that you did with your labor to have been at all helpful to us as entirely self-sufficient brilliant inventors and managers. So die.
I told you. Deliberately engineered collapse in the service of Objectivist goals is all there in the manual. Furthermore, John Galt, the mastermind behind this plan, is someone that Objectivists think is a hero. Lovely.

Furthermore, George Monbiot noted that efforts to prevent collapse, especially environmental collapse, absolutely enrage Objectivists.
A new movement, most visible in North America and Australia, but now apparent everywhere, demands to trample on the lives of others as if this were a human right. It will not be constrained by taxes, gun laws, regulations, health and safety, especially environmental restraints. It knows that fossil fuels have granted the universal ape amplification beyond its Palaeolithic dreams. For a moment, a marvellous, frontier moment, they allowed us to live in blissful mindlessness.

The angry men know that this golden age has gone; but they cannot find the words for the constraints they hate. Clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged, they flail around, accusing those who would impede them of communism, fascism, religiosity, misanthropy, but knowing at heart that these restrictions are driven by something far more repulsive to the unrestrained man: the decencies we owe to other human beings.
Furthermore, they have elite help as Stranded Wind stated on Daily Kos.
How did we get here? You’ll find the Friedmanite free market ideology, lacking in merit for many of the situations to which it has been applied, yet its followers continuing howling that we ought to let the market decide, marketwide credit constipation be damned. The handmaiden of this foolishness, Rand’s objectivism, provides the ideological zombie virus that created many of the Freidmanite ideology’s true believers.
I'm in the middle of reading Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine," in which Milton Friedman's free market ideology plays a starring, albeit villainous, role, so I found the juxtaposition of Friedman and Rand particularly striking. When I finish the book, I promise to blog about it. I just hope it doesn't take seven months.

Of course, what comes around goes around. One of the quotes collected on Mike Huben's site comes from Bob Black, "Smokestack Lightning" and is most apt.
As it happens there is light to be shed on the libertarian position on breathing. Ayn Rand is always inspirational and often oracular for libertarians. A strident atheist and vehement rationalist -- she felt in fact that she and three or four of her disciples were the only really rational people there were -- Rand remarked that she worshipped smokestacks. For her, as for Lyndon LaRouche, they not only stood for, they were the epitome of human accomplishment. She must have meant it since she was something of a human smokestack herself; she was a chain smoker, as were the other rationals in her entourage. In the end she abolished her own breathing: she died of lung cancer.
Enough seriousness. Time for some fun tomorrow.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quotes about Objectivism from the snarky to the serious

Fat Cat goes Galt

Yesterday, I remarked about my tardiness in following up.
Back in April, I started a series about Atlas Shrugged and how Objectivism is contributing to collapse.  It's been seven months, so I'm way behind.  In fact, I'm so behind and so many new people have started reading this blog that I'm going to review what I rewrote back then.  That it helps explain the nature of the hornet I'm swatting is a bonus.
Time for the next section of relevant quotes from that entry.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Objectivism and Scientology: a sublime to the ridiculous comparison

Fat Cat goes Galt

Back in April, I started a series about Atlas Shrugged and how Objectivism is contributing to collapse.  It's been seven months, so I'm way behind.  In fact, I'm so behind and so many new people have started reading this blog that I'm going to review what I rewrote back then.  That it helps explain the nature of the hornet I'm swatting is a bonus.  That written, here is the first of the relevant sections of last April's post.
Atlas Shrugged: A movie this demented ought to be against the law

Charlie Jane Anders — Every cult needs its own wacky trainwreck of a movie. Scientology got Battlefield Earth, and now the cult of Ayn Rand gets Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. But how does Atlas stand up to Battlefield Earth?
I have an entire canned list of quotes on the similarities between Objectivism and Scientology, but this isn't the post for me to regurgitate all of them. I'll just post this one.
Wasn't Ayn Rand a pseudonym of L. Ron Hubbard?~Mike Huben
I think this is the post for me to regurgitate my canned quotes about he similarities between Scientology and Objectivism. Here goes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The hornet swatting begins today

In last Saturday's entry, I mentioned that my wife and I were off to swat a hornet. Here are my observations about the contrast between flies and hornets.
My years of living in the country and dealing with insects taught me the following.

A biting fly hurts when it bites, but it doesn't have any worse weapons, so it will fly away from the least sign of a swat. Unlike the fly, a hornet will sit there when someone approaches it with a flyswatter, because it will sting instead of fleeing. Consequently, a well-aimed swat will always catch the hornet, while a fly might still escape.

This lesson can be applied to people as well. If you encounter an opponent that's like a fly, you'll have to be quiet, swift, and lucky to hit them, as they're primed to evade. On the other hand, if you run into an opponent who is like a hornet, you all it takes is a solid swat, preferably with a large foreign object, such as a book, to find its target, as the hornet won't budge.
The hornet swatting begins today. It should be done by the end of the week. I'll tell you about it then.

Until then, if you want a hint about the nature of the hornet, look at the kitty.

Fat Cat goes Galt

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy Comics

While my wife and I are traveling, click on the link in the image below to see a video about a new front in the Occupy Movement--Occupy Comics.

The explanation is here. Personally, I think this is geeky as Hell, and I love it.

Hat/tip to Chris Bowers on Daily Kos.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Occupy Detroit may have to move Monday

From Occupy Detroit's YouTube channel.

John Royal, President of the National Lawyers Guild addressed an emergency General Assembly of the Detroit Occupation to discuss the legal status of the camp. While we had obtained a permit, that permit would expire on Monday, November 14.

The assembly discussed their options and reactions to the announcement and resolved to meet again at their Saturday GA to decide what will happen when the permit expires.
For more details, including quotes from Sarah Coffeey and Jessica Dawl, read the Free Press article.

The good news is that Occupy Detroit got a permit. The bad news is that it expires at Midnight at the end of Monday. There will be a General Assembly tonight to decide what to do next. I'll have to miss it. My wife and I will be leaving town tomorrow to swat a hornet. Good thing I can program entries in advance to post in my absence. I would hate to not be able to participate in NaBloPoMo.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Video clips from last night's Republican debate

My two posts about the Republican debate at Oakland University, which was broadcast by CNBC, ended up being very popular, with more than 60 hits each, enough for nearly 200 page views yesterday and more than 100 so far today (and it's only 1:30 AM as I type this). Since the debate ended up being so popular, I'll continue to oblige my readers with a follow-up.

To begin with, here's what is probably the defining moment of the debate, Rick Perry completely forgetting the third cabinet department after Education and Commerce he'd eliminate if elected.

It took 15 minutes, but he finally remembered that the third cabinet department would be Energy. That didn't help his case. He'd probably have been better off accepting the suggestion that he'd eliminate the EPA, at least in terms of not dragging out the story.

As for his eliminating the Department of Commerce, I think that's really unwise. For starters, there is an interstate commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution, which justifies the department. It also makes it a convenient bureaucratic destination for agencies that don't fit anywhere else. However, I'm probably biased, as I've worked for the federal government three times, and each time I either worked directly for the Department of Commerce or for another agency where Commerce provided the funding.

Herman Cain got his moments, too. Here he is defending himself.

Associated Press on YouTube: The debate marked the first time the Republican rivals had gathered since complaints emerged from several women accusing Cain of sexual harassment, allegations that the unlikely front-runner in the polls has strongly denied. (Nov. 9)
Of course, as soon as Cain defends himself, he turns around and calls Nancy Pelosi "Princess Nancy." The GOP audience cheered, which is par for the course so far.

Tonight's debate had an economic focus, but included a foreign policy component. Here are what the candidates had to say about Europe's debt crisis and what it means for the U.S.

Associated Press on YouTube: Republican presidential rivals agreed Wednesday that Europe's countries should rise or fall on their own and warned that failing to cut budget deficits at home would doom the U.S. to the same sort of crisis that now plagues Greece and Italy. (Nov. 9)
Of course, Michigan counts as one of Romney's three home states, along with Utah and Massachusetts, so other than his remarks in the clip above, what was his highlight? Using his marriage and religion as evidence that he's not a complete flip flopper. Lame.

As for the rest of the debate, WOOD-TV has a good summary clip.

There wasn't much of a specific Michigan focus, though the economy dominated the debate.
With that, every candidate on the stage got their moment.

And that's it for this event. Good night!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Last night's election results

Time for a follow-up to yesterday's entry about austerity being on the ballot. Take it away WXYZ!

2011 Election results

In general, the electorate voted against austerity measures last night. That makes me happy.

There are more election results in the scroll across the bottom of this next video, which is a repackaged version of the second one I featured in Republican debate at Oakland University tonight. I didn't include in my follow-up about the debate because it added very little that was new to that particular subject.

GOP Debate at Oakland University

Most of the results displayed are for candidates, not issues, but they're still revealing. Most would be considered votes for the status quo and against austerity, but two stand out. Marian Meisner McClellan beat out Naftaly for Mayor of Oak Park. She came out in support of Julie Bass and her garden. For all I know, that might have been a deciding factor. That was a vote that was both against the status quo and for sustainability. On the other hand, Daniels won the mayor's race in Troy. That's a vote for austerity, as she's a founder of the Troy Tea Party.

More videos about tonight's Republican debate

After I posted about the Republican debate at Oakland University tonight, I went back to bed. I just woke up and looked at my YouTube subscriptions to find videos to follow up on yesterday's entry about austerity being on the ballot and found more videos about the debate. First up, a news report from WOOD in Grand Rapids. Yes, this debate is big news all over the state, including the mostly Republican western half.

Political reporter Rick Albin is live at Oakland University.

This video serves as an even better summary of the issues than the WXYZ videos, which are more about reaction from the sponsors and audience. It reminds me that I'm glad to be subscribed to a variety of news sources in the state.

Speaking of a variety of information sources, both host Oakland University and co-sponsor and broadcaster CNBC are using this event as a promotional opportunity. First up, the host.

Oakland University is the site for the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Debate, November 9th at 8pm. Hosted by CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party. Be sure to watch it! And check out more information at
As someone who has watched a lot of university promotional videos, I think this one is pretty good.

Now, CNBC.

Today's economy is at the forefront of the 2012 Presidential election.
As the worldwide leader in Business and Financial news, CNBC provides the ultimate forum for GOP presidential candidates share their perspectives.

Join CNBC's exclusive coverage of the Debate:
- LIVE: November 9, 2011
- Lead-Up, Live and Post-Debate coverage
- Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan

To learn more about how your brand can leverage CNBC's extensive political coverage to engage an affluent and influential audience, go to
They're not going for the soft sell, are they?

Republican debate at Oakland University tonight

From 2012 Election Central.
November 9, 2011 8pm ET on CNBC
Location: Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan
Sponsor: CNBC, the Michigan Republican Party and Oakland University
Participants: Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Perry, Romney, Santorum
From the link inside the blockquote.
CNBC will present the "Your Money, Your Vote" Republican Presidential debate on November 9th, live from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. The debate will focus exclusively on the nation's economic challenges including the national debt, jobs and taxes.
WXYZ is on the case.

The chair of Michigan's GOP speaks to Action News

GOP Debate preview

I won't be watching this, as I'll be teaching, although I'll most likely be reading the liveblogs of the debate on Daily Kos when I get home.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Austerity is on the ballot today

From WXYZ on YouTube.

People living in Dearborn will be going to the polls tomorrow to vote on a new millage.
Actually two millages, including one to support the city's libraries. As for that "report on the 6 PM news about Dearborn Heights," here it is, with bonus coverage of other communities' millage proposals.

Tomorrow [Today] is election day. Here is a look at a number of the issues some communities are facing.
Note that the major questions are millage proposals to maintain services in the face of declining home values. The voters can choose austerity for their communities, or keep their property taxes down. The choice is as simple as that.

The Detroit Free Press has a list of millage proposals being voted on today here. The town where I live has a millage renewal of a 1 mill tax for five years to fund trash, recycling and leaf pickup. Of course I'm voting for it. I'm pro-environment and anti-austerity.

There are also candidates on the ballot today for municipal offices, including the one in this final clip.

candidate convicted of a misdemeanor

I'm glad I won't see his name on the ballot I'll be casting today.

Finally, Detroit is voting on a change to the city's charter to change the city council from at-large representation to district representation. I hope doing so creates more local accountability for the residents.

And that's today's election report. See you all at the polls!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Miles driven adjusted for driving age population

From peristaltor on LiveJournal.

Adjusting for population, the drop in miles driven looks even more drastic than the one I presented in Return: Driving, an updated version of which I present below, and mimics the classic peak oil graph.

Peak driving, anyone?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Next Media Animation on seven billion people

While I was out of the country, the event forecast in World population hits seven billion happened. Time to show Next Media Animation's more humorous take on the occasion.

A newborn Filipino girl named Danica is being championed as the world's symbolic 7 billionth baby.

It's impossible to know Earth's population in real-time, but the UN estimates the 7 billionth person was born at some point on October 31.

This has led to other countries claiming their own 7 billionth babies, amid pomp and circumstance.

The milestone isn't all fun and games. It highlights the growing problem of overpopulation.

Should the parents of these babies be looking for alternative places to raise their families?
Establishing space colonies and exploiting off-planet resources, along with decreasing population on Earth, what commenter nebris calls industry up, population down, would definitely be a long-term science-fiction solution to many of our problems. The issue is what can we do in the short to medium term. That's what this blog is really about. Everything else I write about is just the details.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

An open letter to Occupy Detroit

Here is an open letter to Occupy Detroit published in People of Color Organize! From Occupy Detroit: Moving Beyond Capitalism
To the first General Assembly of Occupy Detroit,

We are inspired by the actions of Occupy Wall Street and the opportunity it has given so many people to stand up and get involved in shaping the fate of this country.

We are inspired by the protocol of consensus decision-making and inclusivity being used on Wall Street, where anyone who shows up is asked: “what can you contribute to this movement?” In return, participants are supported to bring their best selves to the work of creating a new world. We propose that Detroit embrace that same protocol.

In the spirit of bringing our best selves to this process, we offer this background knowledge, which anyone attempting to organize in Detroit must first understand before taking any action that aims to speak for Detroit. We all have a lot to learn from each other. Nothing said here should be taken as a claim to “know more” or “better” than anyone else. As just mentioned it’s about all of us bringing our best selves to this historic uprising, and doing it creatively, nonviolently and together.

Detroit is a Movement City. Detroiters have been organizing resistance to corporate greed and violence for nearly a century, from the birth of the labor movement here in the 1920s to the radical black workers movements of the ’60s to the current poor people campaigns against utility shutoffs that allow dozens of people to die each year. We have organized resistance to racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism, and the criminalization of youth, to the systematic destruction of the environment in poor communities of color, to the dehumanization of people with disabilities, and so many other injustices — as they manifest in our daily lives and are reflected in practices that dictate access and distribution of resources, as well as policies at the local, state and national levels.

Detroit is moving beyond just protest. Because we have survived the most thorough disinvestment of capital than any major U.S. city has ever seen; because we have survived “white flight” and “middle class flight,” state-takeovers, corruption and the dismantling of our public institutions; because the people who remained in Detroit are resilient and ingenious, Detroiters have redefined what “revolution” looks like.

Detroit is modeling life AFTER capitalism. In Detroit, “revolution” means “putting the neighbor back in the hood” through direct actions that restore community. It means maintaining public welfare programs for residents who are without income which protect said low income families from facing utility shut offs and homelessness. It means outlawing poverty in any form since the resources to prevent such a condition remain abundantly available to this State. It means Peace Zones for Life that help us solve conflict in our neighborhoods without the use of police, reducing opportunities for police violence. It means food justice and digital justice networks across the city supporting self-determination and community empowerment. It means youth leadership programs and paradigm-shifting education models that transform the stale debate between charter schools and public schools. It means “eviction reversals” that put people back in their homes and community safety networks that prevent people being snatched up by border patrol. It means artists who facilitate processes of community visioning and transformation, and organizers who approach social change as a work of art. In Detroit, the meaning of “revolution” continues to evolve and grow.

Detroit will not be “occupied” in the same sense as Wall Street: The language of “occupation” makes sense for the occupation of the privately-owned Zuccotti Park on Wall Street. But this language of “occupation” will not inspire participation in Detroit and does not make sense for Detroit. From the original theft of Detroit’s land by French settlers from Indigenous nations, to the connotations of “occupation” for Detroit’s Arab communities, to the current gentrification of Detroit neighborhoods and its related violence — “Occupation” is not what we need more of. We will however participate in creating anew out of what remains in Detroit today.

Detroit’s participation in the “Occupy Together” actions must grow out of Detroit’s own rich soil. It cannot be transplanted from another city’s context. We recognize that “Occupy Detroit” has attracted the participation of people from across the state of Michigan. This is a good thing, IF people take the time to understand the unique history and current work of Detroit’s social movements, this letter aims to be a starting point in that process. The reimagined work of activists is to confront and take down systems of oppressive power, on the one hand, while building a new and just world on the other. Let’s do it. Together. Now.
The two paragraphs I italicized are the ones most germane to the theme of this blog. When I say great things are going to happen here, I mean that they will be the results of those particular struggles.

Hat/tip to Unusualmusic on Dreamwidth.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Time for some newspaper humor


In the response to Political Newspaper Endorsements: History and Outcome by Micah Cohen on Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Blog at the New York Times, I decided to be a bit silly.
@14 Paul in Minneapolis: "newspapers correlate to the politics of their readership." Looks like it's time to post the U.S. version of "who reads the papers" from "Yes, Prime Minister."

The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who own the country.

The Washington Post is read by the people who run the country.

The New York Times is read by the people who think they ought to run the country.

USA Today is also read by people who think they ought to run the country, but like their information in colorful charts and can't do the New York Times crossword puzzles.

The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the real country, but they're too busy running the fantasy version of it and wouldn't want to leave Los Angeles anyway.

The Miami Herald is read by people who run another country, but want to live in the U.S.

The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who are opposed to whoever is running the country.

The National Enquirer is read by people stuck in line at the supermarket. They don't care who's running the country, as long as they do something scandalous.
That comment got 6 recommends. Maybe I actually am funny sometimes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tasteless and callous costumes at foreclosure mill's Halloween party

Original here

Continuing the Halloween theme, here's the following article from the New York Times: What the Costumes Reveal
On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.

That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation.
For a description of the photos, as well as a slideshow, click on the link in the headline. They speak for themselves.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Paul Krugman in The Onion

Dr. Krugman was suitably amused by a parody of him in The Onion.

This Sure Is A Spooky Time For The Economy
Greetings…it's your favorite dead-itorial writer, Paul "Bearer" Krugman, here to talk to you again about some rather, shall we say, chilling developments in the national economy. Ah, yes, it is a very dark and stormy night indeed for our financial system, dear readers, the kind of night that sends shivers up one's spine and sends the national unemployment rate soaring to nearly 10 percent. So curl up under your covers, and keep the candlelight close, because I will now tell a tale of economic woe so terrifying it may just make your hair stand on end.

Remember when the economy was BOO-ming? When predatory lenders were sucking the blood of homeowners and confidence in the market was ghoulishly high? Little did we know about the creeping, malevolent spirit of fiduciary calamity that lurked in the dark shadows, ready to pop out and gut the $230 billion federal surplus reported by the Congressional Budget Office for fiscal year 2000. What poor, damned fools we were over the next decade to let our national balance sheet slip so far into the deep, bloody red! Now it seems our economy has been buried alive, and the day may never come when it will once again rise from the dead.

Or should I say rise from the debt?
I didn't leave any comments at The Onion, but I did leave the following in the comments to Krugman's post.
Someone already mentioned that you are more of a zombie killer than a vampire, so I'll take another tack. If The Onion really wanted to satirize you, they'd have portrayed you as Adrian Veidt AKA Ozymandius from Watchmen for your "Wag the Dalek" idea of preparing for a fake alien invasion to stimulate the economy. I guess that's too geeky for The Onion. We'll have to wait for Cracked to do it.
Time to post the image from Adrian Veidt on Occupy Wall Street.

Also, in response to someone suggesting that Dr. Krugman looks like "The Most Interesting Man in the World, I plugged this blog.
No the most interesting man in the world is Vladimir Putin. He may not look the part, but he sure acts it.

Vladimir Putin, the Most Interesting Man in the World
That comment actually made it through moderation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nablopomo for November: No theme!


November is the only month that doesn't have a separate theme. Instead, the theme for November is blogging for blogging's sake. As we always do in November, there will be prizes for participants who are writing daily. We have prompts lined up from writers and bloggers. And we'll be posting writing advice to cheer you on (sort of like water tables at a marathon) throughout the month.
This is actually a very bad month for me to participate, as I'll be AFK for up to half the month. Thanks to Blogger's ability to schedule posts in advance, though, I can do it. It will be my third November participating since I started in 2009. I'd hate to miss it.