Monday, December 12, 2011

The end of the fossil fuel economy...a cartoon

This cartoon/ 5 minute documentary captures the challenges we face. The Post Carbon Institute was kind enough (and creative enough) to produce and share this youtube gem: "The Ultimate Roller Coaster Ride: An abbreviated history of fossil fuels."

So many of our economic problems are rooted in environmental problems. Bottom line: we consume faster than nature can replenish. We have an unsustainable economy. The next step?
1) Switch to the habit of just having and using less stuff. 2) Use bicycles instead of cars for short distance commutes. 3) Learn about our choices. We do have choices.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

If Fox News had a chance to rename Disney movies...

In its push to impose a neoconservative ideology on the United States, Fox News often interprets facts in a very colorful way. A study published this year showed that Fox viewers are the least informed of all viewers. Our neighbors to the north are more skeptical of the verbal pyrotechnics at Fox News.

Tabatha Southey, a columnist for Canada's second largest newspaper, the Globe and Mail, has conjured up a list of children's movies as they might be described by Fox News after a Fox News commentator denounced the new Muppet film for being anti-capitalist and ergo anti-American. [The film plot revolves around a greedy developer whose plans threaten the environment] I found the Foxification of Disney list brilliant. Please enjoy and feel free to share (but make sure to credit Ms. Southey).

The List

1. Charlotte's Web of Lies: A rat persuades a pig to take his place in the food chain, after an elitist spider who has far more children than she can reasonably afford tries to talk him into pursuing a liberal education instead.

2. Where the Wild Things Are Hunted to Extinction but Free-Market Capitalism Ensures that Housing is Built.

3. Mrs. Frisby Rats Out the Welfare Queens of Nim.

4. Cars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5. Monsters Inc. Busts a Union.

6. Snow White and the Seven – No, Six – Excellent Republican Nominee Hopefuls.

7. 101 Dalmatians Help Employ a Large Number of Furriers.

8. Night at the Creationist Museum: Although exhibits come to life, a man spends a restful night in the museum, because dinosaurs and humans existed together quite peacefully.

9. The Land Before All the Illegal Immigrants Ruined It.

10. Finding Nemo's Birth


11. Harry Potter and the Invisible Hand.

12. The Black Stallion Who Would Not Be There If Not for Affirmative Action.

13. The War on Christmas Story.

14. Robin Hood and His Entitled Men: The brave Prince John promotes stability by fighting unconstitutional wealth-distribution schemes.

15. Kung Fu. Panda Hardly Needs To Be On The Protected Species List, He Knows Kung Fu."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Needs to Tweak the Soundtrack: The Revolution Needs a Bass Line

Every revolution needs a soundtrack.

Cultural movements often have songs that reflect their tone and spirit, that embody their message and rouse their members. The Civil Rights movement drew music from out of the southern gospel tradition and lifted hearts with its anthem: "We shall overcome". It was sung offkey by the protesters as they marched in front of angry crowds and police dogs, and luminaries such as Mahalia Jackson, Joan Baez and Louis Armstrong all gave that beautiful song their unique imprint.

Does anyone know of Occupy Wall Street songs? Artists seem to be playing it extremely safe with little ditties like Stephan Jenkin's "Meet me at Zuccotti Park." There's a pretty decent rap song "I Occupy Wall Street" but it's more of a monologue set to piano with a drum beat. The lyrics drive home anger at the price of food, unemployment, low wages, foreclosures and government patronage of big business.

Music that embodies a movement or captures the zeitgeist flows out of the anguish of its creators and their vision for the future. The music of change, the music of an era, taps deep into how people feel at their core.
The Tea Party had no such music.
Neither does Occupy Wall Street. But the latter has the potential. Occupy Wall Street's very purpose is to confront the complacency that gave rise to the financial corruption of government. Millions have lost their homes in foreclosures, usury by credit cards impoverishes average Americans, hundreds of billions of dollars have been diverted to the one percent (See Free Lunch and The Wrecking Crew for details), and protests have been met at times with brute force by government. These conditions warrant powerful music.

Music is one of the most potent tools of any social movement, but to have effect, it has to well up from the depths and cut into the hearts of listeners. Most attempts at Occupy Wall Street music borrow music from hippies and Woodstock. The hippies of the 1960s did their part. They gave us Bob Marley and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, EPA, Head Start and the National Endowment for the Arts. They wanted civil rights, environmental protection, and respect for individual dignity - themes that continue today.
The music that truly taps into spiritual discontent has been put out there - by groups like Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails in the 1990s. Here are a few songs to get people started (although none of these are really singalong songs). These are weatherbeaten songs, but they have melody, lyric imagery, power, and flow.

Now it's time for the millenial generation to throw down. I don't know what they will come up with -- but every revolution needs a soundstrack. Here's my playlist for #OWS.

1. Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine. RATM = soundtrack of the revolution. The songs may be old but they sound fresh, vivid, right and ripe for today. Their song titles alone (Calm Like a Bomb, Sleep Now in the Fire, Guerilla Radio, Born of a Broken Man, Take the Power Back) must make fascists nervous. RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha has recently dedicated a poem to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
2. [Bite] The Hand that Feeds by NIN (for the insiders who want out).
3. America by Nas (for a lesson in American history).
4. Don't Give Up by Peter Gabriel (a kinder, gentler anthem - a good song after your peaceful protest gets pepper-sprayed, or when you learn a credit card's law firm has just garnished 25 percent of your disposable income, or while packing up the house after the bank forecloses, or when there is no food left in the fridge.)
5. Your Time Has Come by Audioslave.
6. Talkin bout a Revolution by Tracy Chapman (for the romantics).

7.The Fire by the Roots (for everyone who believes).

Honorable Mention:
Promenade by the Street Sweeper Social Club - because of the bass line. Thank you Tom Morello, the sound genius behind RATM, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman, and The Street Sweepers Social Club. He's also been very active in supporting #OWS.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

What I'm listening to now...Gold

Dark Star

Is Occupy Wall Street Over: No, it's just begun

The violent eviction of campers in public parks around the country had many conservative pundits gloating that Occupy Wall Street has been effectively vanquished.

They want you to believe that Occupy Wall Street, and the many encampments nationwide,

have been ignored by average Americans as if they were stepping over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are fighting greed and seeking legal and financial reforms that stop 1 percenters (and their trolls) from rigging the system.
They are working on:
1) Ousting corrupt politicians by getting money out of politics
2) Reforming laws that need change
3) Bringing the finance sector back under control

They are organizing marches against the military industrial complex, war profiteers, and irresponsible mass foreclosures by banks. Instead of camping out in public parks, they are occupying government buildings in Washington and Indiana and university offices and even a vacant bank in Santa Cruz, Calif. I call that an upgrade.

But it all started with the movement to reform big finance: Wall Street.

Many financial systems, of all different kinds, can work if operated with transparency and honesty. That stopped happening in the United States. Without rigorous and frequent public examination of financial institutions, they can easily subvert the democratic societies they intended to help prosper.

When people around the country began protesting against abuses by the largest actors in the financial sector, which they call "Wall Street," the street retaliated. The finance sectors pushed the politicians it owns to use the police to dismantle the protests. The police did what they were told: they donned ridiculous riot gear that made them look like space invaders and some tore into protesters with batons and pepper spray. The police officers who used brute violence may be unhinged individuals, but what was more troubling was that government had deployed police to fight against people who were protesting. Protest is at the heart of what makes democracy a democracy. Protest is self-expression and self-determination for the people of a nation. So when the politicians directed the police to violently suppress protest, they called attention to themselves. (Forbes tech blogger E.D. Kain writes that is more likely that the police themselves are responsible for the sheer brutality of the crackdown, not corporate overlords or political hacks.It's possible)

For clear evidence of how brutal the police repression has been, just watch the two minute video of police pepperspraying students at the University of California - Davis Campus. John Pike sprayed students quietly sitting on the ground three times point blank with military grade pepper spray (classified as a chemical weapon - something US soldiers don't use on the battle field).

Here's another video of an Oakland police officer beating up a protester who served in the US Marines. The soldier, who never retaliated, suffered a ruptured spleen.

But the politicians' willingness to use the domestic police force to quash dissent attracted enormous attention to the fact that politicians are willing and able to use force to suppress protest. That complicates US foreign relationships. How can we be a shining beacon of freedom when it is not permissible to protest in our own country. Police brutality toward protesters underscored the message the protesters had been trying to send. And this message is evident to everyone, including many who have never set foot in the Occupy protests or seen them firsthand.

The disbanded camps are now forced to reorganize around more specific goals. The violent evictions did not merely attract attention to Occupy Wall Street, but forced the protesters to organize and articulate more specific goals.

In a survey of photographs by major media, I see a lot more signs calling for the full reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, for the revocation of corporate personhood (a legal fiction created by the courts for convenience, not by legislation or the constitution), and a call for the revocation of Citizens United, a landmark Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns. There are further rumblings about increases to the capital gains tax (a move that would have a tremendous impact on the 1 percent).

Violence by police at the direction of politicians following the orders of their corporate leaders has added to the Occupy Wall Street agenda. (This is just my observation from reading OWS postings online). Now there is greater concern about addressing the militarization of the police, worry about standing armies in the United States used to subjugate the US citizens, and growing trepidation over the privatization of prisons. After all, if corporations can make money by sending people to jail, might they not lobby for more arrestable laws.

The American population is learning about the limits of its rights and freedom - and many do not like what they are learning. For that reason - this is not over.

I hope this post does not ruin anyone's day. These are real concerns, but we have to remember that life still consists of love, laughter, friendship, hopes and kindness. These are our foundation and based on them we can rest secure today while working toward a better future.