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Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges discuss #Occupy with Charlie Rose

October 25, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Amy Goodman and Chris Hedges discuss #Occupy with Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose recently discussed the #Occupy movement with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and writer Chris Hedges of Truthdig.com. This was a thought-provoking show in which all of the participants take the #Occupy movement seriously. What follows are some of my notes regarding the interview.

Amy Goodman indicates that we are in the midst of a revolution. Chris Hedges describes this revolt as one that strives to regain democracy and is opposed to the current system of “inverted totalitarianism.” It’s not “classical totalitarianism. It doesn’t find its expression through a demagogue or a charismatic leader, but through the anonymity of the corporate state. . . . [In a system of inverted totalitarianism, “corporate forces purport to pay a fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution, the iconography and language of American patriotism, and yet have so corrupted the levers of power as to render the citizens impotent. We see that in one piece of legislation after another. . . . The formal structures of power are tone deaf. . . [Under the corporate state] there is no way to appeal to the system. It doesn’t matter what the citizens want.”

Amy Goodman points out that while most Americans support the #occupy protests, the protesters are portrayed by many as merely engaging in class warfare. At 14:50, Goodman points out that the #Occupy protesters and the Tea Party have many overlapping concerns. At 21:00 Hedges indicates that there are stark differences with the Tea Party which, he claims, has deep elements he would describe as fascist. Another difference is that the Tea Party targets government because “the corporations want government to become more anemic; it speaks in the language of violence and the gun culture” and they direct their rage toward “vulnerable people such as Muslims, undocumented workers, homosexuals and intellectuals, all sort of the classic rubric that one finds in a fascist movement.”

Goodman also discusses the importance of citizen journalism. “When police tell people to turn off their video camera, that’s exactly when they need to turn their video cameras on. . . . We need media in this country that allows people to speak for themselves. Ultimately, the media can be the biggest force for peace on earth.” Goodman believes that this movement will be sustained through the winter and beyond, and that “the organized parties, the Democrat and Republican parties are running scared.”

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Areas of agreement with the Tea Party

October 19, 2011 | By | 9 Replies More
Areas of agreement with the Tea Party

I was excited to see the new Tea Party’s birth. Watching the corruption of our government become more and more brazen, it was only a matter of time before counter-movements began to spread. Both the Tea Party and the #Occupy movements were born of this impulse. The original patriots of the Tea Party movement formed in opposition to the bank bailouts. I think it became apparent rather quickly, however, that their admirable movement had been co-opted into another arm of the Republican machine. I don’t say this to cast aspersions though, as I do want to keep this post exploring our common ground rather than emphasizing our differences. The #Occupy/99% movement is actively resisting attempts to co-opt its message by the Democratic party and other left-leaning organizations, so let’s keep exploring our similarities.

Here then, is the 15-point “non-negotiable core beliefs” which I found on teaparty.org:

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#Occupy movement sweeping the nation, now including Omaha!

October 19, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More
#Occupy movement sweeping the nation, now including Omaha!

I was at our local #occupy protests on Saturday for what organizers were calling a “Global day of action”. This week marks one month since #occupywallstreet began their occupation in New York City, and have proven to be an inspiration to people around the globe.

Omaha is not exactly known as a hotbed of radical activism or sentiment. Protests here regularly turn out a half-dozen or so committed activists, but rarely much more than that. My wife and I decided that the time had come for us to express our discontent with the existing socio-political environment here, and so we headed out to #OccupyOmaha on Saturday morning. Expecting low numbers, we were surprised when we could see people streaming towards the meeting site from blocks away.

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Is it Spam or is it Poe?

August 29, 2011 | By | Reply More
Is it Spam or is it Poe?

I came back from a weekend getaway, and my inbox had a large number of messages from some group I’d never heard of, the Nation of Change. I was suspicious, especially given my recent unsolicited addition to the Christian Coalition mailing list. Also they were using an email contact that has been dormant for a decade that they could only have found by scanning whois data or buying some old spammer contact lists.

I was curious enough to read one of their messages. It appeared to be some sort of addled parody of a liberal call to action newsletter. I immediately did some Googling to try to confirm my suspicion that it was a conservative group attempting to make liberals seem a) Loonier than thou, and b) Abrasive and annoying by pushing subscriptions on undesiring readers. The clearest description I found was, “Nation of Change”, who are you and why are you spamming me? at the Daily KOS.

In essence, this organization is a fairly new web site with stealthed contact information. They claim to be a legitimate registered not-for-profit, but one cannot look up their bona fides anywhere to confirm it. Although they don’t appear to break any laws in their published documents, they do violate several BBB standards. Read the KOS article for more details.

But I could not actually confirm that this is a conservative group posing as liberal in order to sow dissension and disaffection. As with religion and Poe’s Law, it can be hard to tell sincere political extremism from parody. But this one trips my irony meter.

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Symbols, Fair Use, and Sensitivities

August 29, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

When you have a dream about an argument, maybe it has some weight and should be written about. Recently, I posted a photograph on my Google + page. This one, in fact (click on the photo for high-res version):

My caption for it was “What more is there to say?” Partly this was just to have a caption, but also to prompt potential discussion. As symbol, the photograph serves a number of functions, from melancholy to condemnation.

It did prompt a discussion, between two friends of mine who do not know each other, the core of which centers on the divergent meanings of such symbols for them and a question of sensitivity. I won’t reproduce the exchange here, because as far as I’m concerned the question that it prompted for me was one of the idea of “sacredness” and the appropriate use of symbols.

Which immediately sent me down a rabbit hole about the private versus public use of symbols.

Essentially, we all have proprietary relationships with certain symbols. Since I already posted the image, the sign of the cross is one, and not just for Christians. As a symbol it has achieved that universality advertisers dream of. It is instantly recognizable as the sign for a faith movement just about everywhere. It’s possible some aboriginal tribes in the beclouded valleys of New Zealand don’t know what it is, but on the level of international discourse it carries across all lines.

[More . . . ]

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Bank of America forbids withdrawal-of-money protest

August 13, 2011 | By | 14 Replies More
Bank of America forbids withdrawal-of-money protest

On Friday, August 12, 2011, about 50 members of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (“MORE”) protested the activities of Bank of America at the downtown branch of the bank in St. Louis , Missouri. Many of the protesters have been longtime customers of Bank of America, and they intended to withdraw all of their […]

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Free Speech Above All

July 11, 2011 | By | Reply More
Free Speech Above All

Johann Hari on Religious Censorship

This video is an impassioned declaration on the importance of not allowing “sensitivities” and an unwillingness to offend become a force against free speech.  It is also, underneath, an argument for rejecting the pseuodthink of irrational defenses of absurdity.

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“Retard” and other disability-insults.

May 21, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More
“Retard” and other disability-insults.

The word “retard” possessed dual meanings for a long time. First used as a term for intellectual disability in 1788, the word took on a pejorative sense in the 1970s. For thirty years the two meanings curiously co-existed. Universities had “Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability” Departments and students who drunkenly called one another ‘retards’ for lobbing bad beer-pong balls, and the two existed in tandem.

But once medical and social service experts finally disavowed the word ‘retard’, it vanished from official usage with amazing swiftness. The Special Olympics ceased using the ‘r-word’ in 2004, initiating the trend. In 2006, the (former) American Association of Mental Retardation changed its name to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

By 2008, Special Olympics turned the abolishment of ‘retard’ into a full-time effort and launched R-word.org. The site protested the derogatory use of ‘retard’ (including a protest campaign against the 2008 film Tropic Thunder, which featured a lengthy discussion on ‘retard’ roles in film). Special Olympics and R-word.org also pushed for their fellow disability-service organizations to drop the term.

In 2010, ‘retard’ was legally banished from the professional lexicon. On October 5 of last year, Obama signed “Rosa’s Law”, which banned the use of “retard” in all federal health, education, and labor policy. “Intellectual disability” and “developmental disability” became the approved nomenclature. Non-federal organizations followed hastily: in Ohio, Google directs you to the “Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities“, but the website itself has already been scrubbed of the R-word(even if the url still has the dreaded ‘r’ in it).

It’s official: ‘retard’ has no place in formal usage. Once a medical term for someone with an intellectual disability, it lives now only as an insult. One that means, roughly, unintelligent.

Like moron, which began as medical terminology for one with a mental age of 8 to 12.

Or imbecile, which meant ‘a mental age of 6 to 9‘.

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It is getting better . . .

May 3, 2011 | By | Reply More
It is getting better . . .

I just learned of the site called “It Get’s Better,” dedicated to telling stories to dispel the hate. Here are a few excerpts from the About page:

Growing up isn’t easy. Many young people face daily tormenting and bullying, leading them to feel like they have nowhere to turn. This is especially true for LGBT kids and teens, who often hide their sexuality for fear of bullying. Without other openly gay adults and mentors in their lives, they can’t imagine what their future may hold. In many instances, gay and lesbian adolescents are taunted — even tortured — simply for being themselves . . .

In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.

The website www.itgetsbetter.org is a place where young people who are lesbian, gay, bi, or trans can see how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. It’s a place where our straight allies can visit and support their friends and family members . . .

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