November 2011 Archives

Susan Jacoby observes that Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain "talk as if their religious beliefs and their personal hardships somehow make them presidential material." At a recent Republican forum, she writes, Santorum "made the most revealing comment of the evening, linking the candidates' brand of far-right Christianity with their the right-wing position maintaining that government has no responsibility to attempt to alleviate the misery of its citizens:"

"Suffering is a part of life," he mused, "and it's not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life." That suffering is a part of life is indisputable but there is a difference between the suffering that comes to all in the natural course of things -- say, death and illness -- and the suffering that human beings create through inept actions and institutions. [...]

Government can do something (though certainly not everything) about the latter category of man-made suffering but in the Christian universe inhabited by the Republican candidates on the stage in Iowa, neglect of the earthly suffering of others is actually a virtue.

Jacoby uses the example of FDR to great effect:

...being in a wheelchair (metaphorically or literally) tells you nothing about whether a man is an effective leader. It reveals a good deal about the character of a candidates, however, when they think that they deserve votes because they've had cancer or a brain-damaged child. This use of personal faith and personal suffering in politics is nothing less than an obscenity.

Buy Nothing Day

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Adbusters suggests that we celebrate BND this year with an Occupy Xmas movement, proposing that we "use the coming 20th annual Buy Nothing Day to launch an all-out offensive to unseat the corporate kings on the holiday throne:"

Historically, Buy Nothing Day has been about fasting from hyper consumerism - a break from the cash register and reflecting on how dependent we really are on conspicuous consumption. On this 20th anniversary of Buy Nothing Day, we take it to the next level, marrying it with the message of #occupy...

We #OCCUPYXMAS.

Shenanigans begin November 25!

20111124-occupyxmas.jpg

giving thanks

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AlterNet's list of 10 great things to be thankful for includes the global Occupy movement, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, JT Eberhard is thankful for real respect, and Hemant Mehta discusses being an atheist at the Thanksgiving table:

What do you do when you're an atheist and your family is going around the table before Thanksgiving dinner, praising the gods, people and things they are grateful for? Do you stay silent? Do you pretend to thank god? Do you thank yourself?

Of course not. Atheists have plenty to be thankful for -- without the need to include anything supernatural or non-existent on our lists.

Our families. Our children. Our health. Our friends. Our careers. Our communities.

The people who enrich our lives, who challenge us, and who support us no matter what we do or believe.

Amanda Marcotte discusses the religion of an increasingly godless America, pointing out that Republicans' "fealty to a very narrow, fundamentalist view of Christianity" seems to suggest that Americans are "not just more religious, but more drawn to reactionary religion than ever before. [...] That is, until you start to dig into the actual facts:"

The percentage of unaffiliated Americans has grown gradually over the generations, but with the Millennials, we're seeing a new trend emerge. There is now a large group of Americans who have a faith, but separate it from public life, keeping it in the private sphere.

So how to square away declining rates of belief with the perception that America is a land where the Bible is thumped regularly in the public square? What we're seeing with the heightened emphasis on religion in politics is the death throes of the old order.

She concludes:

The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it. The Millennials have the right idea when it comes to dismissing the belief that religion somehow improves politics. Now we just have to wait for the religious right to finish with their temper tantrum over this, and then we can move on to the future.

Tikkun offers suggestions for how an Occupy supporter can "have a civil conversation with family members who may have a different view of things:"

First, DO NOT bring up Obama, Republicans, Democrats, FOX news, or the Super-committee. These are hot button emotional issues that will distract from the issue. Refuse to take the bait if someone else brings them up.

Other tips are more generic ("Rather than lecturing, try doing much more listening." And the like) bit this one is quite specific:

If you have relatives who demonize the Occupy movement, perhaps the most important thing you can do is to help humanize the people involved, and get them to see that they might have some common ground with some of their concerns if not their methods.

OWS

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In explaining http://www.bostonreview.net/BR36.6/alasdair_roberts_occupy_movement_crowd_control.php how police power tames OWS, Boston Review notes that "while the game is difficult for both sides, it is hardly an equal contest. If local authorities want to shut down a protest, they can do so decisively." The piece also stresses that "Police departments in those cities that still tolerate Occupy protests maintain that they are struggling to balance the right of free speech with the need to protect public order. Fair enough, but the question is how the balance is struck:"

A mob, the nineteenth-century sociologists told us, is rootless, anonymous, and disorganized. The Occupy protests hardly qualify as mobs by these standards. How could they, when their members are camped on the same site for weeks? Mobs are also supposed to be fickle and irrational. They don't hold community meetings with complex procedures every evening. They don't set up libraries. They don't adopt policies promising "zero tolerance" of violence, verbal abuse, and alcohol consumption. They don't establish working groups to organize sanitation, maintain Internet infrastructure, and manage community relations. Occupy Wall Street even has a group to "increase the efficiency and effectiveness" of its other groups--a sort of internal management consultancy.

The Occupy movement is the antithesis of a mob.

AlterNet asks, will the Occupy Homes anti-foreclosure movement unleash more violence?

One tactic is to occupy the home of a family facing eviction, in the hopes that media attention will encourage the bank to rethink whether the homeowners have exhausted their options after all. Another, more radical action is to take over a vacant property, co-opting it for use by a family that's already homeless (or by occupiers).

Do cops want to get violent over things like that? I guess we'll find out.

The NYT observes that ebook fans insist on paper books for their kids, because printed books "have a tenacious hold on a particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents are insisting this next generation of readers spend their early years with old-fashioned books:"

This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.

OWS updates

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The Atlantic's James Fallows offers an update on the UC Davis pepper-spray brutality--and asks, "when did we accept the idea that local police forces would always dress up in riot gear that used to be associated with storm troopers and dystopian sci-fi movies?" They're the ones with guns, tasers, batons, tear gas, and pepper spray--while the only weapons wielded by OWS are cameras and consciences.

Another Atlantic piece suggests that these are the cops we deserve. Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza claiming that "There was no way out of that circle, [students] were cutting the officers off from their support. It's a very volatile situation." Coates continues:

Those of who've followed police brutality cases over the years will see the pattern at work. When accused of police brutality cops often claim to be endangered, regardless of the facts of the situation. An abusive [cop] could be driving a tank and facing off with a baby stroller, and yet somehow he/she would be the one outgunned.

"Not to diminish what happened at UC Davis," he adds, "but it's worth considering what happens in poor neighborhoods and prisons, far from the cameras:"

I'm not saying that to diminish this video in anyway. But I'd like people to see this a part of a broad systemic attitude we've adopted as a country toward law enforcement. There's a direct line from this officer invoking his privilege to brutalize these students, and an officer invoking his privilege to detain Henry Louis Gates for sassing him.

BoingBoing provides some eyewitness reports of the UC Davis incident:

22-year-old UC Davis student W. (name withheld by request) was one of the students pepper-sprayed at point-blank range Friday by Lt. John Pike while seated on the ground, arms linked and silent.

"He used military grade pepper spray on us," noted W, "It's supposed to be used at a minimum of 15 feet. But he sprayed us at point blank range." When Chancellor Katehi gave a press conference, a student made it an educational opportunity:

"I went right up to her and introduced myself. "I'm an undergrad here. I'm a victim of police brutality," I told her. "The police sprayed pepper spray down my throat. I do not feel you have done your job protecting me on your campus."

Speaking of co-opting, Salon remarks on Bank of America's shameful spin in their new ad:

It's hard to believe that BofA is bragging about helping poor and working-class people when it's still actively trying to evict them. Or that its business loans have allowed some small companies to hire more people, as I saw in a spot just days after BofA announced it was laying off 30,000 employees.

Clearly, Bank of America hopes that we won't connect what's in the commercial world with the real one.

"To be fair," Salon continues, "Bank of America does some good work with nonprofits:"

But corporate giving in America, whether in the form of sponsorships, cause-related marketing or "partnerships," is minuscule compared to the government aid slashed by the politicians they support.

Joshua Holland lists 10 shockingly violent assaults on OWS protesters, and notes that:

Occupations across the country have born the brunt of some violent police tactics, and in a world where everyone has a camera-phone, a lot of their brutish behavior has been caught in photographs and on video.

Among other things, protesters have been beaten up (one Iraq war veteran, notes Holland, "ended up in intensive care with a ruptured spleen") and assaulted with chemical weapons (such as the UC Davis pepper-spraying incident). "Even in wartime," he reminds us, "it's a violation of international law to fire on unarmed medical personnel tending to the wounded:"

Those aggressive tactics create a dangerous cycle, allowing the minority of protesters who seek confrontation with law enforcement to justify their provocations as acts of "self-defense."

On a less violent note, Glenn Greenwald comments on attempts to co-opt OWS--particularly how Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Mary Kay Henry "exploited the language of the Occupy movement to justify her endorsement" of Obama:

"We need a leader willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent . . . .Our economy and democracy have been taken over by the wealthiest one percent."

Greenwald continues:

If one wants to argue that the GOP is more opposed to progressive economic policies than Democrats, that's certainly reasonable. If one wants to argue that, on balance, voting for Democrats is more likely to bring about marginally more of those policies than abstaining, I think that, too, is reasonable. But to try to cast the Democratic Party and the Obama administration as the vessel for the values and objectives of the Occupy movement is just dishonest in the extreme...

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