Friday, December 7, 2012

Roosevelt responds

Roosevelt's President issued a response to the recent sexual assault that happened on campus.
From President Middleton:

December 7, 2012

Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault

I am writing today about sexual assault, a crime that tragically occurs frequently on college campuses across our country. At Roosevelt a number of students and others have been speaking up about this deplorable act. I commend them for calling attention to this serious issue. In the true spirit of our University, they are advocating for people who have been victimized by other members of our society.


During my 40 years in higher education as a professor, dean, provost and president, I have always enforced a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and all forms of violence. College campuses should be free from the violence of the outside world. Yet, nationally one in four women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career. Roosevelt is not immune from that reality, so we have a special obligation, with a record number of students living on campus, to be vigilant and caring.

Roosevelt complies with the federal Clery Act. Once a crime is reported to the University, if the perpetrator is unknown and there may be a risk to the campus community, we issue timely notifications. These alerts contain as much information about the suspect as possible and include information that would promote safety and aid in the prevention of similar crimes. We hold training sessions on sexual assault protocols for employees, including resident assistants and campus safety personnel, and provide information to students during new student orientation and through ongoing education and workshops offered by the Counseling Center, Campus Safety and Residence Life. Next fall, attendance at the session on safety and sexual violence will be mandatory for new students.

Students also need to support one another and make it clear that unacceptable behavior will not be tolerated. If they know of someone who has been assaulted, they should encourage the student to seek immediate help from Residence Life or Campus Safety at any time of the day or night. The University has experienced and trained counselors and safety officers who will provide a caring response to the victims of a crime and offer referrals and services to meet all of their physical and emotional needs. And we always enforce strict codes of conduct and cooperate with the local police in their investigation.

Please do not be silent about sexual assault. It is not a crime of passion and lust, it is a crime of violence. As many as 80% of all assaults involve acquaintances. An assailant might be someone you know quite well and may even be a friend or a coworker.

I know this is a difficult subject, but it is a serious issue that commands the attention of all of us, and so I urge you to discuss this issue at home, at work and in the classroom and to be an advocate against sexual violence here at Roosevelt and everywhere else. In order for our students and employees to be safe, we need everyone to be vigilant and to provide support when they know of someone who needs help. Thank you for taking a stand against sexual violence.



Sincerely,



Chuck Middleton
President
cmiddleton@roosevelt.edu

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Roosevelt University- No Social Justice for Sexual Assault Victim

Sexual assaults on college campuses are nothing new. This is the worst sentence to have to type out. Not just because it speaks to the horrific history that student life has, but also because sentences like that are never followed by anything positive. Sexual assaults on college campuses are nothing new, and they continue at far too high of a rate (the ideal being 0). One in four women will be assaulted by the end of their time at school and only 81% of them will report it. 60% of rapes occur in the dorms.

So when an on campus sexual assault happens and is reported, it is the university's responsibility to both try and ensure student safety on campus better than they previously had, and speak out condemning the act. Ideally it would be, but time after time, the universities ignore the issue.

My girlfriend is a recent graduate from Roosevelt. She received an e-mail alert from the school after a sexual assault was committed on the 17th floor of the new dorm building on Wabash. The assault was reported on a Wednesday, having taken place two weeks prior, but no notice was given to the students for a few days. This is fine; it takes time to get the facts straight. But when notice did go out, it was a cut and dry form letter. [crime] happened on this date, in this location. The description of the assailant was a Caucasian male over 5’5”. And then, the dominating rape culture took over. Suggested precautions included being aware of what was around you, using the buddy system, and calling the police. In other words, big flashing lights that read “DON’T GET RAPED.”

This is a story that doesn’t mean anything without context.

Roosevelt University is a self-proclaimed “catalyst for social change.” Their mission statement:

Our view of social justice is based in a belief that fairness, honesty, integrity and impartiality should resonate throughout every institution within a civil society. Over the years, Roosevelt University has fortified this singular dedication to civic and social responsibility, human rights, community partnerships, and public outreach – the kind of learning that transcends the classroom. By reinforcing the importance of social consciousness to our students and greater community, the University plays a significant role in shaping the world’s next generation of progressive, ethical leaders.

So why, then, would its administration not openly condemn the assault? No statement from President Charles Middleton? Is this the social change that the university promotes?

Or is it the Student Government Association who eschews social justice? Recently, the SGA voted against asking the president to condemn sexual violence and speak against rape culture. Or is it just that sexual violence on university campuses is so engrained as part of the college experience that they feel they need not say anything about it?

The victim blaming, the intrinsic shaming of those who come forward has got to stop. It’s time for Roosevelt University to set an example for the rest of the country and be the catalyst for change they want to be. I hope President Middleton comes out against rape culture and speaks out against assault on his campus.

If you would like to do so, you can email him at cmiddleton@roosevelt.edu





Friday, November 16, 2012

The Crunchy Manifesto


Lately, it seems, there has been a move to shut down the voices of the dissenters.  The ruling class has seen to it that those without power are kept hidden away in the dark, forced to keep their beliefs to themselves.  An uprising is brewing, and soon it will boil over into the daylight and change the world as we know it.

That’s right. There’s a crunchy peanut butter revolution in the making.

The bourgeoisie, creamy/smooth peanut butter lovers have oppressed those of us who savor the beloved nut itself.  They demand destruction.  Total obliteration of the legume, mashing the life out of it until it slides down their weak pallets.  Their oppression of the crunchy brothers and sisters is made clearest in grocery stores—the selection of creamy vastly outnumbers the selection of the true peanut butter, the rightful peanut butter.

And it’s not just in the spreads aisle, either.  Find the pre-made “Uncrustables.”  They too have fallen to their Creamy masters.  They’ve become slaves to the smooth demagogues, falling victim to their destructive ways.  The Creamy/Smooth movement that has choked this country for too long continues with its claws in the backs of the working crunchy lovers, jackboots and goosesteps, more sugar and less nut.  This shall not stand!

The Crunchy movement is sweeping through lunches (and sometimes dinners and breakfasts and even snacks!) throughout the country.  People have grown tired of the Creamy abuse of power.  Crunchy is the true peanut butter.  Crunchy maintains ties to it’s creator, the peanut, by keeping the wholesome power of the nut intact. It believes in realness, never letting go of its namesake.  Crunchy is the more versatile spread, going beyond its basic duties and fulfilling cookie recipes and more, helping its fellow man and leaving no one behind, like the short sighted Creamy.


We cannot stand aside while Creamy continues to take over the world.  We must rise up.  We must fight.  FOR CRUNCHY!  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Obama's America 2016- The worst documentary ever? Pretty much.


Jesus.  So, in actual, for real existence, there is a movie called "Obama's America 2016."  This is a "documentary" about Obama's search for personal identity and how it shaped his foreign and domestic policy. Using quotes from Dreams From My Father, "Obama's America" makes some heavy claims about the president's "third world, anti-American ideology," and how it is tied to his father's socialist beliefs from the 60s.  Dinesh D'Souza builds his argument that Obama is an unfit leader because of his idolization of his father's anti-colonialism stance and fight for independence of Kenya through interviews and subtext from Obama's memoir.  All of that is a nice way of saying that this movie is full of shit and half of the time makes no goddamn sense.

Before watching "Obama's America," I had watched a Koch brothers documentary (because I am a leftist/old man and this is how I spend my Halloween weekend.  Party time!) which Emily and I found both interesting and easy to criticize.  Sure, I agreed with most of the things they were talking about, but there were some reaches and misquotes, suppositions and straw men, you know, typical documentary stuff.  The problem with entertaining documentaries is that they have to abide by their narrative, otherwise you just have a visual research paper and those don't sell ITunes downloads.  Anyway, I was all fired up about money in politics and jonesing for the next hit of sweet, sweet political diatribes.  At the behest of a friend of mine (whose opinion I will now forever disregard) I sat down with a bowl of vegetable medley and turned on my free copy of "Obama's America 2016" (how was it free, you ask? Good question).

First off, you have to sit through about 45 minutes of Dinesh just fucking talking about nothing.  That, mixed in with a healthy dose of copyright-infringing audio from Dreams From My Father and I started to wonder if the complete backstory of Obama was necessary.  Of COURSE it's is, says the filmmaker! Because Obama is an anti-colonialist from birth! Because his dad was an anti-colonialist! Because his friends were anti-colonialist! Because there are some people in Hawaii who are anti-colonialists! Because Dinesh D'Souza is an anti-colonialist because he's from India (I'm fairly certain he made that point.  But at the same time I  think he wants us to start colonizing the world again…)! Obama didn't know his dad while growing up, only meeting him once, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why he was obsessed with his father.

Yeah, the first half of the movie is just a lot of "Obama had daddy issues." I started wishing this was a movie based off of The Audacity of Hope because I feel like that is probably a better book.  Dreams From My Father has a lot of terrible imagery in it, like when Obama finds out his dad beat his wives and that his sister wasn't too keen on him, and he says "it was like my world was upside down, like I walked outside and the sun was blue in a yellow sky." Yawn.  Alright. So Obama is a weak writer.  I will jump on this train and say that he is unfit as a president because his book was bad.  Roll credits.

But no! It goes on, finally getting to the point after we meet Obama's half-brother that he met once.  "Don't you think Obama should help you?" asks Dinesh.  Completely disinterested, George Obama takes a fairly straight forward position on the matter, saying "I think he has a family… I can take care of myself." and "Yeah, he’s taking care of the world. So he’s taking care of me. I’m part of the world." Yawn-a-thon 2012 is here.

53 Minutes into the film, and we learn about Obama Sr.'s socialist political stance.  At that point, I turned, bored by the political views of someone that Obama had only met once, to look at the cats that were playing on my floor.  They may have been fighting, I'm never really sure; they're not my cats.  Suddenly, a direct quote:

"He's embracing his father's failed, third world, collectivism... How does a guy who possesses a third world, anti-American view, and an ideology as remote and unrecognizable as the capital of Kenya or Indonesia manage to get himself elected?"

So this is what it's about.  Now, leaving behind the rest of the documentary (which is really something.  "The United States of Islam," "Why is Obama strangely sympathetic to jihadi terrorists?," and "Obama's support for Occupy Wall Street," all happen.  And of course, cameos from Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright) the theme that comes through the whole thing is Obama's otherness.

This isn't a new tactic of those begrudging the president.  It's the same as the birtherism, the socialist red scare, and the overt racism that the president has dealt with over the past few years.  It's ignoring any real criticism that can be placed on the president (not following through with promises like Guantanamo, bending to an uncompromising republican party, particularly on health care, a secret kill list and an increase in drone strikes that have killed hundreds of innocent people, empty rhetoric on the "reigning in of Wall Street," being the first billion dollar presidential candidate, NDAA, etc.) to use the fact that he is Kenyan and lived in Indonesia as a sign that he wants to shrink America's global footprint.  This is a documentary on Obama being an anti-colonialist, which, in modern times, isn't a bad thing.  But instead, we focus on the fact that Obama allegedly wants to level the playing field with the rest of the world, and stop being the only super power.  It follows suppositions and hypotheticals to even draw these conclusions and presents false evidence to support them.  It is a lie built on a lie built on a myth.  It is playing to the rights basic fears and instincts that because this guy isn't like us, because he lived in weird places, because he was a big city type in Chicago, because he's black (they actually spend a total of about five minutes talking about the fact that white guilt is what elected Obama. Seriously.) then he's not like us and he won't represent us.

Which isn't the way to go about it.  He's not like us or them, he's like the other politicians.  He's no more radical than any politician, no more subversive of the American dream, no more socialist.  People confuse the word socialism for being at a point that we were at before we were all hypnotized by Milton Freedman.  And we're not even getting there with Obama.  A free market capitalist who wants to lower corporate tax rates isn't a socialist.

This otherness, this idea that Obama's anti-colonialism will actually do damage to the United States is a farce.  It's misleading, has nothing to do with anything, and is somehow how these claims are made:

No serious actions have been taken against Iran for trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The president has stopped supporting Israel and instead supports Palestine.
Obama was vocal about overthrowing Mubarak, a great ally.
Obama went into Libya, but refused to go into Syria because nothing he does makes sense.
Obama vocally supports giving Las Malvinas/Falklands back to Argentina.
Obama wants the United States to have 0 nuclear weapons while the rest of the world keeps theirs.

Half-truths and whole lies.  D'Souza's movie is based on misleading information, anecdotal information, no information, or saying things that he doesn't back up with any quotes or evidence. This is being presented as fact to audiences around the country, audiences who are now going to go and vote while being totally misinformed.  These kinds of documentaries (and I lump "Fahrenheit 9/11" in this category because seriously, fuck Michael Moore) are harmful to our democracy.  It's telling people that they can just decide that things are true, that they can vote with their fears instead of information.  It chokes the life from any sort of civil discourse and leaves us fighting and bickering over fallacies instead of over substance.

In conclusion: Everybody is wrong.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Case dismissed: Why the charges against Occupy Chicago being dropped is just the beginning.


It'd be really easy to go on a celebratory rant about how fighting the law and winning (which I've already done all over the social medias), but after my (and 90 of my closest friends) got our cases dismissed for exercising our right to public assembly and free speech, after I submitted a petition to the mayor the night before we were arrested asking him to respect the protesters' first amendment rights, after the chanting and cheering and collective nights in jail, after the nearly year between the arrest and the decision, I'm still pretty pissed off.  And everyone else should be too.

Just looking at what happened on its face should be enough to get our blood boiling.  It was a fairly cut and dry case- people assembled peacefully, and a law that is selectively enforced was used to stop that assembly.  A constitutional right was denied, and people went to jail because of it.  For all of the freedom loving and constitution praising that goes on with people of all political stripes, this is pretty fucked up.  It's not just an example of how Chicago in particular, but the country as a whole, tried to stop a protest because they didn't like it, it's an example of how while people were going to jail illegally, the nation as a whole debated whether or not to take the protests seriously.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if it was Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party.  If it was GLAAD or the KKK.  We aren't a country founded on a common idea of what is right or a shared belief of how we can solve our problems.  We're a country that is founded on civil debate and balancing of beliefs in order to reach a national stability.  This is undermined every time we look the other way as basic, constitutionally guaranteed rights are taken, even for just one day, away from people trying to be active in civil discourse. 

We have a problem looking at politics as a thing we can actively participate in.  It's a side show that relies on gaffs and pandering to keep us entertained as we pick and choose between one part or the other, where the only states that voting really counts or means anything are swing states.  If you vote republican in Illinois, for example, you're throwing your vote at a giant blue monster and hoping that the numbers will increase the GOPs spending in two years for conservative voters in the near north suburbs.  You're hoping to send a senator or representative, so you elect Joe Walsh because, hey, he's basically on your team.  We do the bare minimum and think that we're taking part. 

Because the deck is stacked against the ordinary citizens.  The closest we get to having an active voice is when we go to town hall meetings and ask a question that gets a politically safe answer.  We don't have the money to smear the candidates' faces all over the sides of billboards or on prime time TV, so the politicians play to the ones who can shovel out the cash.  This is why people protest.  This is why angry citizens take to the street, blocking traffic and risking arrest.  Because it's the only way to actually make one's voice heard.  You make enough noise, and they have to look at you.

But the rest of the electorate sits back and wonders about why the protesters can't just work inside the system.  Form a political party and have their needs met.  Why they have to camp out overnight or bring a loaded gun to a rally (mind you: if you bring a loaded gun to a political rally, you're being a huge douche. Though, the same can be said for a lot of the anarchists I met in jail.). Schedules and apathy, laziness or being ill-informed, un-decidedness or a conflict with the means or message stop participation and start to churn the populous' stomachs, starts to make people believe that they shouldn't even be out there.  And then, when three hundred people in Chicago go to jail, and a year later there arrests are proved unconstitutional, no one really gives a shit because they've either forgotten why they were there, or didn't care if they got arrested in the first place.

Are there limits to exercising your first amendment rights?  Did the director of Innocence of the Muslims go too far?  Is there a time or place where assembly shouldn't be held?  Should the New York Times or Wikileaks be allowed to publish classified information?  Is there a way to balance out doing something for the public good while still looking out for the private citizen?  What am I even talking about at this point? 

What I'm trying to get at here is that this isn't a moment to be celebrating that Rahm was wrong and we are free.  This is a time to be pissed off that we were ever prevented from using our basic rights.  This is a time to remember why each of us, individually, was in that park those nights.  It's a time to not be blinded by the current back and forth political blather and remember that there are solutions out there that aren't determined by who's red and who's blue.  It's a time to remember that a mayor who can't honor the constitution shouldn't have a second term. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Little bicycle people -or- Not every dollar is spent on you, Kasshole.

I'm falling into that blogger trap.  The one where you don't offer any new ideas and instead just insult published authors for a sense of empowerment.  Consider that a warning...

The tribune isn't hosting a racist, just a douchebag.

John Kass, in his op ed for the Trib, has decided that Chicago improving their bike lanes is a big fucking fiasco.  Which, of course, it is- if you make the same assumptions that John Kass does. 

Necessary assumptions:
1. That bicyclists are only rich hipsters
2. That this is Rahm trying to appease a national audience for presidential run
3. That the bike lanes are useless
4. That the money would honestly go to a place where it was really needed

Kass lays out his ideas to make millions of dollars off of bicycle commuters because he presumably gets mad at them while out in traffic.  He doesn't like when they blow through stop signs, which I get and share his sentiment.  He doesn't like that he has to pay to park, to register his vehicle, and to do all the other expensive things that make having a car in the city really unattractive.  You know, all of the things that make biking worth it. 

Sure, let's make bikes pay for parking.  Because we make so much money off of parking revenue-- oh, that's right.  We sold our parking already!

The argument is basically, "We [cars] pay, why don't they [bikes] pay?" Or, better phrased, "it's hard to be well off."

The problem with trying to tax bikes like car, to make people register, to do all of the things that John Kass presents in his tongue-in-cheek, "I like the grunge look" article, is that bikes are not cars.  Did I blow your mind?  No?

Bikers already have to deal with the same shitty roads that drivers have to navigate, but with less suspension and speeding cars to their left and assholes throwing their doors open on the right.  Bikes tend to lose battles when they meet their far larger counterparts in collisions and doorings.  More bikes lanes is a nice way to save lives, not to mention health care dollars. 

Speaking of saving dollars, we tend to, as a nation, offer monetary incentives to those who do things like limit their emissions, take care of their health, etc.  Putting a financial burden onto people who are doing something that benefits the rest of the city is a little ass-backwards (despite being a cherished American value by some of the more well-off).  Less cars in the traffic jam, more places to park-- things that even Kass could appreciate. 

But, still, boiled down to its core, Kass' argument is that the free ride should be over for bikers.  No matter what their reason, no matter what their biking is doing for anyone else; if bikers want more support for the government, more handouts, then it's time for them to pitch in.  Bikes need to stop being "the One Percenters of the commuter class."

It's the same tired bullshit that conservatives say about welfare programs.  Remove the bike lanes part and:
                "But if you have a brain, you must also realize that when politicians start handing out government perks —  like special bike lanes costing millions — it's only a matter of time until people become addicted to them."
becomes the exact same argument.  It's blind complaining that the city is spending money on something that doesn't directly benefit the one complaining.  As if Chicago needs to only spend millions of dollars jerking off privileged, car-driving, tribune writers. 

There are a lot of problems with how the city is spending its money.  There are a lot of things that the city does in the name of saving money that are fairly fucked up (shutting down the red line on the south side to save, incidentally, the same amount of money they are spending on the bike lane project).  But that doesn't mean that we should turn a blind eye to the big picture and start blindly regulating and taxing things that will actually help in the long run (now I sound like a conservative…).  If anything, we should be encouraging people to ride their bikes more frequently.  If not for environmental impact, or to get our fat asses back in shape, to remind people how to do it for when the CTA inevitably crumbles and we have no other options. 

Bikers aren't the One Percenters because they don't have to pay for a city sticker- only a complete tool would think that.   Bikers are people who find the exorbitant CTA fares to be unreasonable and think that spending nearly five dollars a gallon on gasoline is a stupid idea.  Biking is free.  Biking is the tool of the proletariat! Sure, there are assholes cruising around old town on their $3,000 bikes.  But there are tons more oiling the chain on their 70's Schwinn that they've had for ten years, keeping it running so they can get to work. 

Really, in essence, John Kass is probably just jealous that he can't ride a bike more than ten feet without getting winded.  Put down the Venti latte, John, and come out with the rest of us. 

Dick. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Racist old guy uses Twitter, CBS to be racist.


Fuck Scott Paulson. 

I wanted to say that so hard in my Examiner article, but I refrained. 

Scott Paulson recently wrote an article for CBS Chicago about how the media isn't brave enough to say that the "flash mob" attacks that have happened (with alarming lack of frequency for how much they have been covered in the first place) are really "race riots."  Youths who seek out a certain race by going to a certain location.  Aka, black kids from the south side who go downtown to rob people of their cellphones.  Race riot.

Now, I take an issue with his conclusion based on, you know, facts.  These are kids who are going after phones (in one of the "flash mob" cases, a woman dropped her phone and some kids stole it.  Her boyfriend tried to get it back, and got beat up.  This is bad, yes, but not a race riot.) or go into stores in Wicker Park and steal jeans.  They go to places where there are nice things or people have nice things, which happens to be the northern parts of the city which happen to be whiter parts of the city, and that means race riot. 

Instead of looking at the precipitate of why the white folks are the ones with the nice things, the nice phones, the nice stores, Paulson jumps to the "black folk are targeting the whites and I am the only one who is brave enough to talk about it!"  which, by the way, is bullshit.  Not only is his argument ass-backwards and racist, but his need to call it race related crimes because no one else is means that he can't use Google.


etc. etc. etc. I'm just on page 2…

The difference between those articles and Paulson's is that those exist on some pretty low key sites.  Sites that are still gross, but minor.  Paulson's article appears on CBS Chicago, a reputable news source and one that is supposed to have some sort of journalistic integrity.  CBS allows an article to go up on their site that then sparks comments that casually throw around the idea of horse whippings all "coloreds" and the word "nigger."  I'm surprised that they would even allow an op-ed like that.  A misrepresentation of your organization is a terrible thing that most outlets try to avoid.  But CBS harbors a racist who writes under the guise of exposing the truth. 

Now, I'm all for Paulson's right to be a raving racist who yells epithets into the void if he so chooses.  There are places for that.  His blog, for instance.  Like I'm doing.  But stirring the already strained racial tensions in a city like Chicago with a major news source should be criminal.  Openly calling for the media to start a race baiting witch hunt against black youth is ridiculous.  But then again, Scott Paulson enjoys the ridiculous.  

I tweet a lot.  Typically in reactions to news stories, much like when CBS tweeted Paulson's.  I may have said  the article was pathetic or something like that.  Unsatisfied with my 140 characters, I tweeted again.  A few weeks later, I got a response.  


He deleted that, and tried again. 


Deleted a second time.  But not before twitter had sent me a screen grab.

First and foremost, I want to say that I have a job.  A couple of them, actually.  But that's beside the point.  This is about someone who is willfully portraying an entire race of people as thugs, then responding to criticism like a four-year-old.  This is about a columnist for CBS (possibly drunkenly) eschewing the issues I had with his article and attacking with tired conservative insults like "get a job."  It's old, it's uninteresting, and it shows what a lack luster mind the original [racist] article came from. 

So what do I want? I want Scott Paulson to apologize for his article.  I want him to issue a formal apology to the City of Chicago for attempting to demonize a third of the city's population, for egging on violent racists, and for being a sleazy creep.   Oh, I also want CBS to never run one of his articles again.  That's really what I want.

If CBS wants to not paint themselves as a new source that actively runs hate speech, plays on racial tensions, and allows crackpots like Scott Paulson to use their name as a pulpit, they will swiftly fire him.  This isn't about censorship.  It's about appropriate places for (wrong, hateful) opinions.  CBS shouldn't be promoting old white men who are afraid of black people, no matter how old their target audience is. 

Feel free to tell me I'm wrong in the comments section, or tell CBS I'm right here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Lesser of Two Evils: Jill Stein and the Need for Third Parties


This is a topic that feels like it needs as many clichés worked into it as possible, since it's a discussion that perpetually needs to be had.  To begin:  the true definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  My dad was a big fan of that saying, but I always thought it was a bit lack luster. Or at least I did until recently, when politics started to become a whirlwind of tired rhetoric and almost-solutions to major problems.  Both sides of the aisle want to do the same things that they always have done, and yet neither sides' solutions seem to work.  Whether we're looking at the left's "tax mildly and spend a little bit on populist ideas, while continuing the status quo of giving big business a break and turning a blind eye to endless wars" or the right's "slash everything except tax cuts for corporations and rich folks, and continue waiting for the trickle to come down," those of us not at the top are left fending for ourselves, watching wages fall, the minimum wage raise by infinitesimal amounts,  and that only matters if you are lucky enough to get a job. 

Meanwhile, we have an industry that would create jobs, cut down on energy costs, reduce the need to maintain a presence in the Middle East, and reduce emissions, but we pass on it because of one bad bet on Solyndra.  Because, as we know, if a corporation fails, we should let it fail-- certainly not bail it out with billions of tax payer funds.  We waste money on wars abroad and at home that have no end (ask the Russians how they fared in Afghanistan.  Or how stable it was after they left.) We reward failure, but only when that failure bring the entire country to the brink of a Depression, and fall in line when those who ruin the economy give themselves bonuses for all the hard work they did.  We demonize unions and turn a blind eye to them until even those who organize start to turn corrupt while union members drop out in droves.

And we go back and forth, picking between austerity and short sighted spending.

Is there even a difference between the two major parties anymore?  Social issues?  While there are more Democrats supporting gay marriage, social safety nets, and immigration reform that would allow easier paths to citizenship, few are passionate about them enough to gamble the chance of re-election on them.  Economic issues, then?  Besides spending, there isn't too much of a difference either, no matter how many debt ceiling debates we have.  Give the corporations money and tax breaks and they will create jobs, even though they don't and instead stockpile trillions of dollars 'just in case.' War?  Dems are a lot of talk, but even the troop draw down is slow and incomplete.  We look at military solutions as the best solution.

So, it's time to be depressed, right? It's time to give up and vote for the 'lesser of two evils' come November, right?

It's that dichotomy, that permeating idea that there are only two choices, that we can't go outside the norm without wasting our vote that is driving this country into the ground faster than either of the two major parties.  We look at our red vs. blue and we say "ok.  This is ok."  It paints everything black and white, it forces all issues to be yes or no questions and doesn't allow for nuance or grace.  You're with us or against us.  You're pro-life or pro-choice.  You support the troops or you hate America. You hate drugs or you're a hippy.  Bail-outs are good or strangling America.

The only problem is that issues aren't quite like that.  We need to have politicians who understand that, which we aren't getting from the hard line parties.  We need to start taking so called "third party" candidates more seriously.  Third party, fourth party, fifth party… we need to stop hiding behind party lines and start voting for people based on their stance, not their affiliation.

For the last month or so I had decided that I had no intentions of voting.  Neither main candidate represented my views.  I couldn't in good faith vote for Obama just because he was better than Romney.  The only other choice I saw was Gary Johnson, who is just a less obnoxious Ron Paul.  I thought that voting for him would at least show that I supported more choices, but had the moral dilemma of making a symbolic gesture using a politician who would stand aside and allow state sanctioned intolerance. Then, like a ray of sunshine breaking through the storm came Jill Stein.

The Green Party, which is still a thing apparently, is pushing Jill for president against seemingly insurmountable odds.  A woman who eschews corporate support, wants those insane, neo-liberal things like clean energy, economic bill of rights, and to stop "illegal wars," going up against titans with seemingly endless cash.  It's hard for her to even be heard, nevertheless have an impact in the election.  She's still petitioning to get on the ballot in several states.  Her campaign is small, humble, and unabashedly honest, her videos lo-fi and simple, and she lays her platform bare in the most open way possible.  She is earnestly running for president with big ideas and a big heart.  It's like watching your cool aunt try to dance at a night club.

But more than that, she offers us a choice.  A choice to vote with our conscience and not have to pick between two parties that are so barely different that it doesn't really matter.  She's not bringing insane new ideas- as she says herself, her Green New Deal is a platform that dates back to the first new deal and ran through Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. She's not an extremist in any way, unless you look at breaking the status quo of letting money run our country as extreme.  Jill Stein is just an American who wants to make America a better place, rather than keeping it where it is.

One of the points that got me as interested in Jill as I am was when she put forward her plan to fund and implement a green economy.  Not only does she mention creating jobs and protecting the environment- typical hippy talk- but she mentions that with enough resources, we could lead the world and watch other countries try to catch up.  This was the America of the past, the America that became the strongest nation in the world.  The reason we were the shining shore that people flocked to from all corners of the world.  We were a leader of industry, and over the last few decades we watched as our businesses ran to other shores, as our R&D departments found better funding and more open minds, as we became complacent just thinking that we were the best as we stopped growing and everyone else kept going.  Obama and Romney are trying to bring businesses back, businesses that have found cheaper labor, Stein wants to start a new industry, to cut our losses with the others and show that their outdated practices aren't needed here, that America is resilient and will rebuild, not crawl on our knees to those who wronged us.

That's why I plan on voting for Jill Stein.



Thursday, June 28, 2012

[UPDATED] Obamacare isn't socialism nor is it a victory for the one percent -or- Your hyperbole isn't cute.


Twitter is all abuzz with the news of the individual mandate being upheld in the Supreme Court.  Of course, being Americans on twitter, this means one of three things:

                AMERICA HAS DIED TODAY.  WE ARE THE UNITED STATES OF RUSSIAN SOCIALIST FASCIST EVIL, NOW.  OBUMMER WILL KILL US ALL WITH HIS JACK BOOT OF INSURANCE MANDATES!

or

                WOO!! WE DID IT! WE HAVE WON THE WAR AGAISNT THE REPUBLICAN PROPAGANDA MACHINE THAT IS TRYING TO TIE OUR UTERUSES UP WITH BARBED WIRE AND FILL OUR LUNGS WITH SMOG FROM BIG BUISNESS! LONG LIVE OBAMA! FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!

or

                OBAMACARE HAS PAVED THE WAY FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES TO MILK THE LIFE OUT OF THE POOR AND WORKING CLASS, AND IS ANOTHER TAX INCREASE THAT GOES TO FUND ONE PERCENTERS' VACATION HOMES!

                The thing is, elephants, jackasses, and occupiers: you're all wrong.  Fucking wrong.  So fucking wrong that it hurts my eyes to read through tweet after tweet of hyperbolic belly aching.  It's possible that you're all right, that you're all correct in your own little way and that Obamacare is really just a multifaceted killer of the American dream.  Or, more likely, we've devolved rapidly over the two centuries of American politics and now just scream the most extreme possible statements in an effort to draw attention to something that most people don't even fully understand.  Instead of having some level headed discussion of the pros and cons, or trying to find common ground, or trying to find a new point where all sides can agree, we start hurling rhetoric at each other, talking points fueled by the internet and the news media and douchebag bloggers like me until anyone who has any idea of what is going on is drowned out by the constant screaming orgy of angry -ists.
                This brings up a second point that I noticed while watching Jon Stewart and Marco Rubio chat:  everyone is wrong.  The important word in that sentence is EVERYONE. The constant vomiting of talking points and incoherent babble isn’t limited to one side of the aisle.  The only answer to the insanity of one is an equal insanity of the other.  When liberals start crying out about how unfair the right's rhetoric is when it comes to their politicians, they are throwing a block up around everything that they had been yelling about the right's politicians a few years back.  For every Obama is a socialist, there was a Bush is stupid.  For every Obama is a Nazi, there was a Bush is a Nazi or terrorist or etc.  Full disclosure: I had a George Bush is a Nazi patch during the 2004 elections.  I was young, punk rock(ish), and represented everything that is wrong with the twittersphere today.
                I'm as guilty as everyone when it comes to wanting to hyper-inflate the importance of every political decision.  That's not saying that the Obamacare court ruling isn’t important.  However, framing everything in the context of what will destroy or save America is getting old.  The Rush Limbaugh/Keith Olbermann* spew-a-thon is only bogging us down and making us believe that there are empirically right and wrong beliefs.  Surprisingly (it's not) this has lead us to a divided and deadlocked nation where our politicians focus on undoing or blocking the work of their rivals.  Like we're sports teams.  It's time to stop worrying about which side can beat the other, and start realizing that we're really all on the same side.  Maybe we can stop calling each other socialist hippies and racist obstructionists long enough to find out that we're all fucked unless we work together.



[UPDATE: A Response from Joe Hirsch]

THE POWER OF THREE
By Joe Hirsch
June 29, 2012



This is a response to yesterday’s post by Wyl Villacres following the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – and the overall stupidity of the public debate surrounding the bill. His piece quietly touches upon a rarely made point about the way politics “gets done” today. I was compelled to take a minute to expand on this, as well as offer a sort of “friendly critique” of his piece.

Honestly, I’m not all that interested in talking about about who is right or wrong in the health care debate, I’ll leave the unfortunate task of shaping this debate in the hands of the folks working in the public policy and health care administration fields. What I am interested in, and what Wyl so subtly (and unintentionally?) alluded to in his posting, is highlighting the immense possibility for change found in the number three.

What is so utterly profound about Wyl’s piece is that he manages to break away from the discursive binary – the framing of a public conversation or debate under the faulty precipice that the outcome is limited to one of two options – that the corporate media and politicians, and consequently most of the American public, have yet to rid themselves of. In its broadest terms, the binary I’m alluding to is the classic one that’s haunted U.S. politics for a long, long time: the idea that all things are to be decided with the framework of “right versus left;” “Democrats versus Republicans;” “free market capitalist versus socialist;” or “environmentalist versus Exxon Mobil executive (the list could go on forever).

Apply this binary to the circus of a debate over Obamacare, and the “choice” that’s been presented to us will appear as either (a) the weak, private sector-centric reformist bill offered by the Obama and the Democrats – a far cry from the “universal coverage” most of us expected/wanted back in 2008 – or (b) supporting the Republican/Koch brother-backed repeal effort and thus avoiding the “imminent ‘socialist/Marxist-feuled downfall’ Obamacare is surely going to bring about.”

Wyl gets away from this faulty binary – a reductive set of two – and made it look easy. I don’t even know if he was trying to get at this!

So how did he do it? By paraphrasing what seemed to be the three primary views being expressed on Twitter after the ruling.

Three.

Along with the lackluster views of the “Jackasses” and “Elephants” the “occupier’s” perspective was given a rare mention, albeit in a similarly negative light to the others. Summing up the “Twitter perspective,” the third “occupy”[1] factor goes like this (in his words):

OBAMACARE HAS PAVED THE WAY FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES TO MILK THE LIFE OUT OF THE POOR AND WORKING CLASS, AND IS ANOTHER TAX INCREASE THAT GOES TO FUND ONE PERCENTERS' VACATION HOMES!

It’s certainly true that this type of bombastic, confrontational, and unapologetic tone is no better than the type of crap being spewed by everyone else, no matter what their views are, and I’m definitely guilty of dipping down to this level. However, it’s critical not to be fooled into thinking that this particular stance – one that’s addressing a far-more troubling, systemic, and dare I say cancerous flaw in our political system – can be looked at on the same plane as the establishment’s (not-so-different) “opposing” views.

The Right has brilliantly framed Obama’s stance as “radical” or bordering on “socialist.” In reality, this bill, as well as the broader and disappointingly regressive policy stance of the administration, is not even remotely close to warranting the label of “progressive,” let alone “socialist.” While people will certainly benefit in small ways from this decision, it must be made clear that this bill’s most profound and long-lasting impact will come in its blatant reinforcement of the private sector. The bill mandates everyone buy insurance – private insurance – or risk a tax penalty.

To be clear, this 2000+ page piece of legislation – branded as a “landmark” moment for progressives – is not a promise from government to populous affirming that they can rest easy in knowing they will be taken care of if they fall ill, something that the governments of every other industrialized nation have assured their citizens of. Rather, this is a government promising a group of large, for-profit corporations – who function under guiding premise that a human life can be assigned a monetary value – that the masses are now required to guarantee and pay into their already-monstrous revenue streams. Obamacare is nothing more than another corporate welfare measure, fundamentally rooted in the free market neoliberal ideology. Littered throughout this legislation are “perks” (i.e. raising the maximum age that kids can stay on their parents’ insurance to 26. Helpful, but not a game-changer), which function as a way to mask it as a big “step in the right direction,” all without bringing about the meaningful and decisive type of change that’s needed to fix this long-broken and corrupt industry.   This is the same ideology that continues to inform and allow bail outs for big banks, failing economies, and other floundering industries, all in the name of saving the face of a system (capitalism) that is undeniably in the midst of its global decline and collapse.

This distinction is the only major point of contention I have with Wyl’s argument. Opinion number three, essentially what I’ve just framed into more boring economic terms, can’t be thrown into the same category as the views of the “Jackasses” and “Elephants.” Three has a way of proposing an entirely alternative way of thinking and acting on political issues. Instead of negotiating with corporations and other moneyed interests, it provides an opportunity to build an entirely new bargaining table, sans the seats once exclusively reserved for and occupied by corporations and various other “non-human” interests. Interests that now have far more sway than, well, human beings – a curious and hilariously simple fact to reiterate, given that politics and systems of governance exist to serve humans, not profit-generating, non-breathing corportations.

If we can begin to work from a more honest and caring political framework that places human life above all else, we’ll have a much better chance of becoming far less “fucked.” The dominant discourse of health care in America is perhaps one of the most backwards in the entire political spectrum, but it does serve to blatantly illustrate the great need to separate people from profits, assuming the goal of reform is to spurn true and positive social change. Today, we aren’t working together to meet these challenges. It’s not a widespread “personality flaw” or “differing ideologies;” the present cash-soaked system simply does not allow for this type of discussion to even occur.

I have to agree with Wyl that on the hole, people are “so fucking wrong” about most of this stuff. No matter how much of a “Nazi” Bush may have been, or how many times Obama gets labeled a “Socialist,” the name calling and endless shouting doesn’t anything more than “hurt my eyes” and piss more and more of us off. Moreover, the vomiting-up of this sort of hyperbole is, to again quote Wyl, most certainly “not cute.” I’d bet that we’d learn a lot as a people if we began to think up and support more and more option threes. Then, perhaps one day, our leaders might finally have an incentive to sit down and have some honest discussions where people are the first and only priority.

After all, “we’re all fucked unless we work together,” right?

________________________________________________________________________________
[1] I’m wary to use Occupy’s name to represent this stance, as it certainly hasn’t been limited to within the movement. Many others feel this way about Obamacare.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not so OK, cupid.

     It was going to be a solid article, had anyone bought it.  But that's the problem with freelancing; you spend your time stuck in front of a glowing computer screen, hacking at the keys, sending email after email after email, and then waiting and hoping for someone to respond, and half of the time (more most of the time) no one bites or even responds.  It was going to be my opus, my take down of the online dating world, my proof that women were desperate and online is where standards dropped to nil.  I had set up two profiles on OKcupid.com, one with the cliché idea of what the ideal man is (going off of rom-com archetypes): a decent salary, a love for chick flicks, able to cook, interested in vanilla music they would play at the Gap, ambitious, etc.  Then there was the second one, a few pictures with dead animals, heavy handed serial killer overtones, the use of cliché stalker clues, and a general disdain for most people. I had hypothesized that women would flock to the creep, leaving the nice guy alone.  It was a success in that regard.




 The problem arose with the fact that I had all of this data, this whole article, but no one to take it.  Rejection after rejection after no response, it was going nowhere.  I'm not sure which came first, the idea that if I went on a date as each of the guys, brought them into real life, played the part, that I would be able to land a home for my story, or if I was asked out to tea, but somehow I ended up making plans and heading down to the Belmont redline stop to meet "K######" ("Laura Goldstein.")  I may have been playing the creep, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to look nice while I did it.  I tossed on a nice sweater and some slacks, and wandered down.
     I don't know what I expected from a girl who A. was going on a date with someone she "met" online and B. was going on a date with some objectively creepy guy she "met" on the internet.  But when Laura showed up, she was wearing a worn down long sleeve t-shirt, "Las Vegas" printed across the front.  She was shorter than I imagined, looked nothing like her pictures, and had a nasally voice akin to Sarah Silverman on helium.  She was also younger than she said she was.  Freshly twenty, not twenty-two like her profile had said.  There's still something in the back of my mind that says I should have carder her to make sure she was eighteen.  "It's just tea, it'll be fine."  It will be fine indeed.
     During the walk to Argo Tea, we had to make awkward small talk.
     "My parents are paying for me to study abroad in China."
     "That's very nice of them."
     "Yeah, they're, you know, Jewish- Goldstein- Jewish."
     "Man, I wish I was Jewish.  My parents are Latino, so, you know, we're poor. Obviously." 
     "Oh. So you're a spic eh?  My parents won't like that."
     "I mean, we're also Catholic, so I can't bring home a Jewish Princess either.  Not that this would even come to that…"
     We weren't trying to be funny.
     It was one thing to ignore or try to make jokes about the racial slur.  But when we got our drinks and sat down to talk, she pulled out her invisible braces, setting them on a napkin, long lines of spit like telephone wires coming from her teeth.  She leaned in while she told me about… China?  DePaul?  The weather?  I don’t really know.  I was spending more time tearing at my croissant, rolling my tea along its bottom edge, and faking phone calls to step outside and not deal with her.  Things weren't going well.
     "Can we go back to your house for a bit?  I think we should drink something."
     "Well, alright.  You want to throw down on a jug of wine or something?"
     "Oh, I thought you could just get it.  Steal it like a good latino."
     "Ah. I see.  So this is how the Jews keep all their gold.  Stingy bastards."
     We walked to the store, grabbing the cheapest, largest bottle of wine I could, since I needed a drink to make myself comfortable with the idea that I was ignoring all of the annoyance, all of the racism, all of the grating voices, in an effort to maybe, hopefully, fuck some stupid girl I met on the internet.  I hadn’t been the best of people in return, and I had heard online dating stories, so I assumed that everyone is really only in it for the casual sex.  The random meet up.  That the coffee or tea or drinks in a bar, or any of the pretense, was just that, that the main goal was to get to someone's house and slam up against each other, sweating in the dark, all with the glow of the computer screen in the background. 
     At my apartment, we sat awkwardly in the two chairs, a La-Z-Boy and an overstuffed armchair, the only two pieces of furniture in the house, me caught between roommates.  The chairs were positioned in front of the TV, making conversation difficult.  It drifted, from cats to things we had seen on the internet, briefly hitting the "so why are you internet dating?" category, before we awkwardly got quiet, neither of us wanting to confront those particular demons.  I had brought my laptop out, setting it far back against the wall on a milk crate, putting on some Black Flag in an effort to drive her away.  By this time, I was drunk and just wanted to go to sleep.  After Henry Rollins declared that there would be a TV party tonight, alright, Laura turned to me and asked
     "Can I put on some porn?"
     "What?"
     "There's this Czech guy, and- he's so smooth.  He goes around giving women money to show him their tits, then he keeps giving them money until the suck his dick, and eventually he gives them more to fuck them, and occasionally gives enough to get anal."
     "What?"
     "Here."  And with that, she started surfing the internet, finding her preferred porn site, scrolling through videos giving a "this one is good" or a "this sucks" or a "this girl is so hot" and the whole time I just kept thinking "so this is it.  I guess I should grab a condom."
     The Czech guy had a shaky, crappy video camera, handing some mildly attractive, dark haired, overly painted like a trollop, girl a fist full of koruna.  The captions read "here, here! 100 koruna to see your breasts!" before she was quickly convinced.  (100 koruna is five American dollars. I knew this from friends who had gone to Prague that summer.) It escalated quickly, and I started wondering what was especially hot about seeing some poor girl sell herself as a prostitute, desperate to get the money, or maybe it was the camera, but lose her dignity no matter what.  I felt awkward, as if I was being shown what I was trying to do.  Sure, I wasn’t offering her money, but I only had one goal in mind, one mission and I started to feel sick.  Not sick enough to be totally distracted when she got behind me and started massaging my shoulders as the porn played in front of us.  "Fuck it," I thought, as the man gave the girl another two hundred koruna to fuck her in a bathroom, "I'm getting laid."
     She moved from the La-Z-Boy to the armchair, behind me, pressed herself into my back, massaging my chest, breathing heavily on my neck, grinding her hips into my back.  Soon she stopped, spinning out and looking at me, saying "lift up your shirt, I need to check your nipples."  It was the first time someone had asked that.
     "What?"
     "I need to make sure you don't have weird nipples.  Let me see them."
     "What?"
     "Here." And she pulled up my shirt, inspecting my nipples like a jeweler inspecting a diamond, searching for the smallest flaw.  Satisfied, she let my t-shirt fall back, nodding approvingly.  I felt my chances of sex growing. 
     "Well, since you saw mine, I feel like it's only fair that I see yours."  I was a sly sonofabitch.
     "Alright," she said, pulling her shirt up, then off, taking the bra with it.  She stood there, confident, straight, and proud of her breasts.  They weren't much, two halved peaches, somehow sagging despite their size and her age, with more or less symmetrical nipples, two short black hairs sticking out of the right one.  Under sober circumstances, this would have been the final straw, the work that I had put in (what a disgusting sentence, the work put into trying to have sex.) not worth the pay out, but with half a jug of wine swirling like brandy in my stomach, it seemed like a good time to try and kiss her.  I went in slowly, trying to be smooth, but drunk enough that I'm sure I looked terrible.  She stopped me, holding a hand between us, offering only "I think I've been giving you mixed signals," before putting on her shirt, and standing up.  I stayed in my half seated position, puckered lips sliding back into place slowly, head still cocked to one side.  She asked  "Well, now what?" And suddenly I felt my testicles resting in their sack.  Suddenly I felt all the machismo I had been fronting.  Suddenly, the wine gave way to a drunkenness typically fueled by whiskey and I felt sure of myself and not at all misled. 
     "Maybe you should go." 


     A few days later and she texted me, asking to meet up for a second date at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I said I would meet her out front, never planning on leaving my house.  Had I managed to get any more information, anything useful to use in an article on internet dating?  Did women really get desperate enough to ignore red flags?  A girl, far too young to be on okcupid.com anyway, wanted to meet for a second time with someone who shared no similar interests, freely used racial slurs, and spent the entire time trying to sleep with her instead of getting to know her.  Did any of it really matter anyway?
     Online dating seems to be the wave of the future, and for good reason.  Instead of heading to bars or clubs, places where at face value there is only one shared interest, or even worse, approaching someone based solely on looks alone, commonalities are displayed right there on the screen, percentages spelled out for seeing before a word is spoken how good of a match you might be.  Casual sexual exploits thrive in the bar scene, and sites like Grindr and apps like Break the Ice have the hook up game cornered, leaving sites like ok cupid to flourish in legitimate match making.  Typically.
     That driving urge to stick it in, or have it stuck in by a pretty face will always exist, and humans, particularly with the anonymity of the internet have no reason not to try, striking out being no more taxing than not being retweeted by a celebrity.  It means nothing, with no face lost at all.  Will men and women still be creeps, still ignore how crazy a person is while trying to sleep with them?  Absolutely.  Is it expected? Sure.  Should it be? Fuck off, I'm no sociologist or philosopher.




While "researching" this article, I ended up having a message exchange with someone on the "nice guy" profile.  Before we met, I told her about the article, the other profiles, etc.  We are happily dating.  So, you know, there's that. 
      

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Death of the Protest


            It was a terrible plan, trying to push through the police line.  At the end of the march, while everyone was told to leave, told to walk west down Cermak, away from McCormick Place, away from the line of riot cops in their straight-out-of-68 blue helmets who stood in front of a line of white shirt officers, who stood in front of a line of officers on horseback, who stood in front of a giant metal fence which loomed under the visible sniper, under the trying to be hidden spotter on the building opposite, the Black Bloc anarchists and other dissidents decided that they would march east, into the fray, in an attempt to shut down the NATO summit.  I pulled out my camera, like everyone did, journalists, citizens, trying to document the moment where things would “get interesting.”  This was the moment we had all been warned about.  This was where those pesky anarchists would start rioting.  The pepper spray, the rubber bullets, the arrests and broken windows, the anarchy signs and burning dumpsters.  This was it.
            


            This is what the protest had boiled down to.  It was a long day filled with passionate speakers, with nearly ten thousand people marching with an amalgamated message that said no to war and no to austerity, with veterans pulling their medals from their chests and throwing them back to the NATO generals inside the summit.  A peaceful day that meant so much to so many people, that showed, as Kundera called it, “the euphoria of solidarity,” meant nothing to the media, corporate or independent.  Everyone wanted the visceral.  Everyone wanted to see rocks and blood and the shiny new weapons the CPD got, and to see a charge by the police and running street battles.  And this, this attraction to violence, this collection of cameramen and women, of onlookers putting themselves in harm’s way just to see something “exciting” happen is exactly why the protest, the marching, sign carrying protest is dead.
            This isn’t directed at any one particular movement, although it can be more or less directed towards the left.  Still, headline whores in the corporate media, directing their attacks towards OWS, only see the small picture.  Occupy groups themselves only see it too.  The left in general seems to think that marches and demonstrations are effective or useful or interesting or pertinent, and that is where they are wrong. The Tea Party had their moment in the sun, and that was the tipping point. 
            The Tea Party faced public scorn for being racist, rightwing extremist bigots.  However, even while showing up to rallies with loaded weapons, not a single one was beaten by the police, pepper sprayed, or told to get a job. They just made their noise, and got politicians to back them.  They made people think that even the everyman could actually have a stake in their government, or that with enough noise, change would be brought about.  In some ways, their extremism is what made Occupy such a strong voice for the left.  But that is where the differences lie. 
            The Tea Party played the game.  They wanted their political party to be even more like their political party used to be.  They were sick of people deviating away from their trenches and coming closer to a centrist compromise, and wanted it to be business as usual back in congress.  They didn’t have a problem with the system; they had a problem with other people using their system.  They didn’t care about lobbyists or corruption.  They cared about someone they disagreed with having too much power and passing laws that didn’t agree with their implicit or explicit racism and bigotry.  They were able to get what they wanted, because they didn’t really want anything.  They didn’t ask for change.  They asked for things not to change. 
            Leftist groups, forever, have been trying to fight against the system.  This is why there are always arrests; this is why there are always violent flare ups between extreme leftists and police.  The anarchists and the anti-police protesters fight unfair fights, suffer injuries, persecution, and prosecution, trying to demonstrate the sheer force of the police state, but without having real victories.  The more moderate protesters celebrate perceived victories, thinking that changing the national dialogue, getting their cause mentioned on the media that they despise.  But it’s all for naught.  The dialogue changes as soon as the next celebrity is caught in public without underwear, or a sports star goes down for the season. 
            It’s not that the populous should simply roll over.  It’s that we as a people need to understand what is going through the minds of those with power.  A source from inside the summit heard Georgian President Saakashvili belittling the NATO protesters, particularly the occupy movement.  When offered a chance to ask him a question, she asked if his current economic status had changed his mind on popular movements, seeing as he came to power after the Rose Revolution.  He elected not to answer her question.  This is how the powers that be behave behind closed doors.  President Obama was elected through a popular, albeit tame, uprising in America where people were tired of the way things were going.  Now, it’s back to business as usual (even though the Tea Party still isn’t happy). 
           
            When the anarchists tried to break through the police line, and things started getting hectic, one of the main points that a WGN newscaster was making is that it was “no longer a peaceful protest.”  This was true.  Peace was no longer at the forefront.  People had started throwing bottles, the anchor pointed out, as well as sticks and debris.  Everything erupted because of the anarchists. 
            This is both true and a blatant lie.  The anarchists did provoke the police, very intentionally and with no plan.  However, their form of action was walking in a line.  They tried to walk through the police. They didn’t draw first blood, they didn’t start throwing things, they just tried to walk west.  It was the police, thick wooden batons at the ready, that started swinging.  The passive direct action sparked a police blowback that was greater than necessary and opened many protesters heads.  The bloody were dragged away from the front line, disoriented, onlookers calling for medics.  The police then got reinforcements, and surged forwards, pushing the crowd into metal barricades, the only way for them to go since more riot cops lined the streets to the north and south.  The barricades collapsed, and down went part of the crowd.  I had turned around just in time to watch the crowd fall on top of me, spending the next few minutes as a human bridge while scared and bloody protesters climbed over me.  According to a friend at the protest, the surge stopped when all of the anarchists gave a hand signal, then sat down on the ground peacefully, the cops still swinging, then stopping confused, finally seeing the collateral damage and letting those who didn’t want to be there escape the fray. 
            This was seen as “great restraint” on behalf of the police, and a great success by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  The protesters called it police brutality.  I call it the sign that the end has come.
            Today, the end of protest riots are expected, planned, and even wished for (secretly).  The “news” was choked with fear of looting, destruction, and spray painted symbols of an ideology for months.  This is more important to the collection populous than what those anarchists were there for.  The rally as a whole gave people little to latch onto viscerally.  The march was a sharing of ideas and a show of strength in numbers, like all protests are.  But America doesn’t care about that.  They care about finding the next explosion.  They care about seeing the next fractured skull.  They care about following people who terrify them because they dress in all black, even on a 90 degree day, then sensationalize anything they do.  Occupy as a whole was a mundane attempt at getting a popular movement to change things.  The municipal governments managed to suppress them long enough, managed to avoid them long enough that the steam was lost.  There people aren’t there to keep it rolling, because they are waiting in line to see Battleship in 3D while eating McDonald’s and listening to their iPods. 
            Protesting is useless.  But then what is to be done?  The corporate whore media suggests leftists try to work inside the system.  Very close, dear people to me agree and are trying to do just that.  Everyone seems to agree that some change is needed, but no one seems to know how to bring it about.  The anarchists want to smash the state, and let people govern themselves, and honestly, I think they might be half right.  If the state continues to suppress protesters, continues to devalue the first amendment and try to spark outrage or violence in order to justify further crackdowns, then how else do the people defend themselves but by getting rid of the state?  Not in a violent overthrow of the government, no.  That would never work and only cause the government to be able to come back twice as hard against its citizens. What would be needed are peaceful protests, people standing united in the streets, rallying around a cause. 

Too bad that never works.  The cycle starts again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Whose Hearts?

     The drum circle pounded out the rhythm that blasted from my chest as I stared at her through the police line. There, bundled against the autumn chill, scarf, knit cap, pea coat, stood a vision of beauty that this ugly world hadn’t managed to pillage just yet. Her oversized glasses slid down her nose as she held a gloved fist in the air, chanting, yelling, until her face turned red. “The whole world is watching!” Little did she know that I was watching her.
     We sat, arms linked, trying to hold a public space, trying to give a permanence to the movement that has grown from a perpetual disgust in where we were and where we were going. But all the hatred, the anger, the looming police officers with plastic zip-ties, ready to cart us off to jail, all of it melted away as I stared, catching her eye once, for one fleeting moment, as she pressed up against the metal barricade on the sidewalk. Through her indignation, her rage at what she yelled was a “police state,” she flashed me a corner of a smile, warming my heart, igniting my blood, not with a passion for a protest, but for her.  Her copper red hair was whipped by the wind, and the police spot lights caught it just right, illuminating her halo, saintly in appearance as she demanded justice.
     An hour passed and it was my turn to be stood up and arrested. My hands were gently placed behind my back as the police officer told me I was in violation of a city ordinance. His voice was tired, and he walked me slowly, casually, to the awaiting bus.
     “Why did you choose to be arrested?” He asked, having given me the option to walk away.            Why does a young man do anything? I looked over to the barricades at her once more, her hands pressed together and held against her chest. Her eyes got wide when they met mine, her tears welling up as if she had expected all of us to be let go, to stay and fight against the system that had wronged her. She looked at me like I was her lover leaving for war, as if she knew better than I did that she would never see me again. The officer looked over at her.
     “Is that your girlfriend?” he asked, a smile in his voice. We had reached the door of the bus.
     “No…” I said, stealing one last look as her first tear fell.
     “Too bad.” He said, “She’s gorgeous.”
     “You have no idea.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Art School Student Politics as a Microcosm: Maintaining Power Through Lap-Dog Ethics.

"Through civility and compromise, we were able to get everything that we asked for." This was Cassandra Norris' idea of the democratic process, her idea of change and improvement, involvement, and action. Which, to a point, is wonderful. The Student Government Association president has learned to set obtainable goals, to align herself with the Administration, and to ensure that she reports back with victories. It's how left-leaning political institutions have ran for decades, it's how the current national government deals with disputes, and it works, right?

The notion that a civil, calm discourse is the way (note: not a way, but the way) to a successful campaign is the mainstream normative ideal. In her pre-address speech, her introduction for president Carter, she mentioned the struggles that SGA had maintaining membership, the cost of tuition rising for a student organization. She used that as the bond she had with those who were dissatisfied in the audience, with the newly formed coalition of students and faculty and staff, all being (whether rightly or wrongly) headlined as the independent group Occupy Columbia College. She mentioned that she wanted her concerns met as much as they did, and those concerns were enough for her to occupy Columbia, Chicago, and any other place that needed occupying. She did this , trying to connect, to form a bond, to attempt to co-op the student anger and movement while simultaneously leading the audience to her next point, the previously stated civil and compromising efforts the SGA made while dealing with the Board of Trustees and the President.

That civility and compromise, that idea that marches are wonderful and raising one's voice is great in a public square, but accomplish little in the ways of policy change is a sentiment that had been echoed, nearly verbatim, by the Columbia Chronicle to a certain degree. The headlining articles typically offered a more empathetic position to the students, Heather Shoring working with a directed passion for getting the story, however, the rest of the paper's reporters seemed to see things a different way.

In an editorial that was published several weeks before the State of the College Address, published following a large student action where Occupy Columbia delivered a petition after holding a rally, it was mentioned that the noise being generated was doing little more than scaring students and delivering erroneous information. Ms. Norris warned of rumors and misinformation during her speech. A lesser pass was made at the college for their previous refusal of transparency in the prioritization process. Instead, a victory was touted, with the first round of documents from the prioritization process, the original blueprint, finally being made available to put online and disseminated to students. A victory, made through civility and compromise.

A second victory was the inclusion of the yet undetermined way of getting a student prioritization recommendation list made. This would be open and available to anyone who wanted to make their voice heard, and the president promised to read it, a promise he was sure to keep as he was told by the student board that it would be embarrassing for him if he didn't. The small victories touted as triumphant progress made toward the student goals (decided by who it is unknown) of being a part of the prioritization process did little to quell the onslaught of student questions asked at the open Q&A, angry, visceral questions that led to a student being removed by the all too large security presence for calling President Carter "a fucking liar" and for the president to tell one student upset by his very large, six-figure salary to "shut up." These exchanges showed exactly how civil and open to compromise both sides planned on being.

Cassandra Norris acted her part. That part was a student liaison to the administration, a talking head, an imaginary crusader for the student voice. Cassandra effectively filled her role as Carter's lapdog, constantly scanning the crowd and signaling to the head of security (or vice head, or the other made-up positions that spend far too much time being wary of students who are unhappy with their college) whenever she believed there was going to be an uprising. If any member of the Occupy Columbia College contingency shifted in their seat, she would make eye contact with one of the suits, nodding in the direction of the comfortable-position-seeker (it should be noted that campus security was prepared for a riot. While the bald vice president of campus security waited for the first interruption, even after preventing the public meeting from being public, college IDs suddenly and inexplicably needed, he was texting the office about what property could be damaged [two speakers and two TVs.])

While the SGA president was working directly with the administration, the rest of the SGA presence (save for a few senators) were busy playing their parts as members of the student body. Carter knew where his go-to section was, those who would show that he had support, that he had students who wanted to go along with his plan. In regards to the multi-million dollar mansion and the lack of the alleged public space that was to go along with it (information from a Chronicle article from 2001) he asked those who had been there to raise their hands. The SGA kids in front, all in business casual, many in a shade of light blue, but all bunched together in three rows, raised their hands. Later, when told that the students as a whole did not want prioritization to happen at all, Carter asked who thought that prioritization was a good idea to raise their hands. The exact same group in front, raised their hands, casting a sour glare at the student at the microphone, daring them to say how the students felt again. Through their orchestrated gesture, they attempted to castrate the anti-prioritization movement, showing that this was a fringe group who didn’t speak on behalf of who they claimed to represent, but instead were simply a minority. While it was known (or at least assumed) to the student coalition that this was a gross misrepresentation of the student body, the bodies were there to be counted, in a strong showing by the pro-prioritization lapdogs. They turned back to the president, him smiling down to them, them soaking up the possibility of a letter of recommendation from him [speculated and debatable.] Through civility and compromise, they managed to skew the feelings in the room, making the whole State of the College feel like even more of a sham than it already felt.