Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Don't Misattribute to Evil What Can Properly be Attributed to Laziness

Over the course of the Occupy protests, pepper spray and tear gas have become part of standard operating procedure. In some cases, police have assaulted protestors in other ways as well, apparently hoping to provoke a response.

It's easy, in the wake of this, to evoke memories of Kent State and claim that the police are evil. It's easier still to invoke memories of Nazi brownshirts and claim that we are devolving into a Nazi state.

It's easy, yes, but is it honest?

While I don't doubt that there are some officers who act with malice, I believe the majority of them act because pepper spray and tear gas are easier than direct confrontation. And I believe this has been happening for a long time in our police departments, but it took protests of scale to actually bring this to our attention.

I remember an incident years ago where an individual died after being shot with over 100 "less lethal" rounds. The story was this: the individual was mentally ill and off his meds. The officers knew this coming in, and yet they descended into the basement where the suspect was located. The suspect took a defensive position under the stairs and threatened police with a knife. Rather than wait the situation out, they loaded the less lethal ammunition and punped enough at the suspect to recreate the closing scene of "Bonnie and Clyde".

Unfortunately, we have culturally descended to the point where we believe that every action of the government is "for our own good", and in the intervening years, we ave not policed the police well enough. We let assaults by police go unchecked under the misguided mantra that somehow the suspects "deserved it". We ignore reports of brutality by pretending that they were a reasonable, measured response to the actions of individuals. And we allow officers unmonitored use of potentially lethal tools because we believe they will be used properly and with discretion.

What happened at UC-Davis was a wakeup call. Nothing in that scene was provoked, and the officer acted with sheer malice. But were it not for the shocking contrast between the passive resistance and is use of pepper spray as if he were using a can of RAID on some insects, we would not realize the cavalier attitude the police have towards the use of these instruments.

Of course, it may be that my analysis is wrong. Maybe malice is the sole driving force behind the actions of these officers. If so, they need to be arrested and tried. But if, perhaps, the actions are laziness, we need to make sure to let them know we will not allow them to continue to use these weapons without stringent oversight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The UC-Davis Incident shows our complacency

This weekend, as I was travelling to march with Occupy Dallas, I was a bit behind the curve in seeing the outrageous actions of the police on the UC Davis campus, and further behind in posting a response. What grabbed me about the video were multiple items:

First, the smugness and arrogance of the officer in showing the pepper spray canister to his fellow officers before using it.

Second, that not one...NOT ONE of the protestors presented any kind of threat to the officers or to people around them. I have always been told that these kinds of weapons were used in response to FORCE, not to passive resistance.

Third, the complacency of the other officers. They stood by, they were as guilty as the officer who pulled the trigger.

Fourth, the AMAZING restraint of the protestors. They did nothing to encourage an escalation activity, then they peacefully but firmly moved the officers off campus.

Fifth and last, the arrogance of the chancellor. These people really DO believe they are another class of citizen!

But I was grateful for it for one thing. For many years, stories have been coming out of the ghettos about the abuses of police officers. And while the occasional "Rodney King" video surfaces, more often the officers are believed over the people. In fact, I have fallen victim to that thinking myself.

Te truth is, police in Oakland, at UC Davis, and in New York have showed their ugly side while the world truly is watching. In light of this, perhaps it is time we begin reviewing the complaints coming from the ghettos. Maybe a lot of the crime and atred emanates from the powerlessness felt by someone attacked by the system who has simply lacked the means to fight back.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Dallas II: Revenge of the fallen

We had planned the trip to Dallas long before this past weekend. I was making a recycling run and it was a natural opportunity. "Opportunity" became a call to action when the Occupy Dallas camp was evicted this past weekend.

One thing did change about our plans, however: instead of driving to Dallas Friday night, we stayed at the Occupy Amarillo encampment before rolling out. We were treated to Avenue 10's enthusiastic performance of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". For the sake of the innocent (AND the guilty) of the Occupy Amarillo movement, I will leave out the sordid details. Besides, I now have images burned into my brain that will never, ever leave!

We rolled out at 5AM. Somehow, 5AM comes earlier on the weekends than the weekdays, and we actually hit the road at about 5:30 in a caffeine fueled rush down highway 287. In anticipation of the holiday weekend, the reyclers were exceptionally busy, but we still arrived in time to eat a quick meal before embarking on the march.

By our best guess, about 200 people showed up. See what happens when you try to crush a movement, Mr. President?

Here are pictures from the march:

And, lest there was any doubt about te source of doggy doo:

aaaahh, yes...the reason for the march:

Before leaving, I left some words from Woody Guthrie on the tent:

Thank you, Occupy Dallas. It was an honor and a privilege to march in solidarity with you again. We spent the night in Dallas and returned home Sunday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Dallas Eviction: Update

I will blog updates on the Occupy Dallas eviction as I get them.

Here is a piece from the Dallas Observer blogs. It is a firsthand account, and the information is consistent with what I have been hearing. The most disturbing element to me is the fact that police are removing the media, "to keep them safe".

From WHOM, precisely? It seems to me in a conflict that the armed elements are more likely to pose a danger than the unarmed elements. And who were the armed elements, the guys with pickets, markers, and signboards, or the guys with riot gear, guns, and pepper spray?

We allow media in a war zone, but not in a raid on a peaceful protest? Sounds fishy to me, folks. And if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and smells like a duck, it's probably a DPD officer in an overreach of their Constitutional authority!

People, it's time to wake up! You may disagree with me, you may disagree with the movement, but if you stand for free speech, if you stand for democracy, you should agree with our right to be heard. We WILL NOT be silenced!

As with my earlier post, I will ask again, where is President Obama as this is going on? To answer that question, I checked his schedule. As of 8:55PM ET last night, he was en route from Canberra to Darwin, Australia. (source). That's right; as the country is in domestic turmoil, our President is conveniently out of pocket. Given the fact that mayors coordinated these raids, can this be coincidental?

For the truly curious, here is the source of my information:

Activists stood the line in demanding accountability for Bush and Cheney. It's time to do the same for President Obama.

Occupy Dallas Raided: Opinion

Occupy Dallas was raided last night in a move that echoes the evictions of other Occupy camps nationwide. There has been much evidence that this has been a part of a coordinated effort between the mayors and the feds. Time will tell how strong the proof is, but if this is true, then people in the Occupy movement should make sure to hold Eric Holder and President Obama accountable, just as they would have done with the previous administration. Even if not true, one has to wonder where Obama has been as these raids have been undertaken. In one of the most widespread examples of unrest since the days of Vietnam, our President has been conspicuously absent. Is this the domestic policy that his supporters have long championed him for?

Whether you agree or disagree with the objectives of the Occupy movement, anyone who is even slightly inclined towards support of civil liberties should shudder at what is going on. The movement, with a few notable exceptions, has been peaceful. Yes, there have been incidents of illegal actions, but the cities should address those illegal actions (which compose a VERY small minority of protestors), and not the movement as a whole.

A search of YouTube has so far failed to turn up any video of the eviction, but I will post it when I find it. If anyone has video, please feel free to add it in the comments section. Meanwhile, here is a recent video from the Occupy Dallas movement:

Occupy Amarillo is still proceeding with plans to make a "road trip" to support Occupy Dallas. We will be leaving from the Occupy Amarillo encampment at 7th & Harrison between 6:30PM and 7:00PM. We will be returning on Sunday morning. Anyone interested in going bring shelter and warm clothing. If you want to bring food, water or gas money, you may, but that is not required.

Also, in light of recent events, we will be exchanging cell phone numbers. If anyone plans on exercising civil disobedience, we need to know where you are and who you are so that we can help you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why NOT Green? The REAL Inconvenient Truth

In the 1970's I was in elementary school. As we sat in the class with our books, in rooms with heroes like Mary Lou Retton and Muhammed Ali hanging on the walls, we were educated about the environment. These were the early days of the environmental movement, when catalytic converters were still a "new" item, and when you could still buy leaded fuel at the pump.

We discussed the future of a petroleum based energy system. At the time, worst case scenarios pegged us as having a 20 to 30 year supply of fossil fuels left. While the interceding years have proven that hypothesis wrong, the threat of a looking energy shortage did drive us to discussion of alternatives. We envisioned a world of wind and solar, and, yes, nuclear power (this was before disasters like Three Mile Island). But we did believe we would see a day when the world no longer depended on pulling petroleum out of the ground.

More years than I would like to count later, we're really no closer to realizing that goal than we were then. Yes, we are running windmills, and there are solar farms, but as a percentage of our energy production they are rather small. While we may be impressed by the energy output of a 2.5 megawatt wind turbine (among the larger turbines operating at scale), it would take 1.6 million wind turbines operating at full performance to equal the annual output of the Hoover Dam; 8 million to equal the output of the Grand Coulee Dam.

To put it simply, even in open areas with Class 4 or higher winds, such as the Texas Panhandle, there is not enough land to house them all. To say nothing of the transmission lines that are still under construction to move the energy to populated areas.

The painful truth of a green movement is that it will not only take personal sacrifice, but personal involvement. And that means less consumption. Which means less cash for America's largest companies.

It's hard for corporate America to own backyard gardens (although Monsanto is certainly trying their hardest), which can assist families in reducing consumption, putting less strain on the grid. It's hard for them to profit off of aquaculture, so they regulate it out of existence where they are able. They also regulate raising small food animals in most communities (although I was raised in a household that offered a telling example of WHY chickens, for instance, aren't the best thing to raise in the city, I advocate for addressing the nuisance itself, not the presence of the animal. Let those with the means to raise them properly do so). It's also hard for them to profit off of reduced carbon emissions, which is why they suggest pollution caps to address the problem.

And let's not even address the idea of using the secondhand market for anything you need that's not a consumable. Using the secondhand market also has the added benefit of keeping your money in your local community.

A comedian in the late 80's or early 90's (I believe it was Eddie Murphy, although Google nor YouTube has been especially helpful in assisting me to find it)addressed the money issue in his act. You want nuclear energy? They control the uranium. Want geothermal energy? They control the geothermal vents. Want solar energy? ...there's no such THING as solar energy!! (I'm sure my paraphrase was way off, but it was the best I could come up with relying strictly on recall). The truth is, if you can't commoditize it and sell it on Wall Street, corporate America has no interest in solutions. And neither do politicians who are effectively owned by corporate America.

The truth is that if we want to see a greener future, we're going to have to set about doing it ourselves. Waiting on someone to act against their own economic self interest is a fool's errand, and one we are best left NOT pursuing. We can quite easily engineer our homes to maximize sunlight. We can learn to garden in ways that maximize even small spaces (I recommend Mel Bartholomew's "Square Foot Gardening" for help on this one). We can pursue optioons like aquaculture or raising small animals (although there are a lot of local regulations to research).

In short, there are as many different possible solutions as there are people. And I have no doubt that the innovative minds to effect change are out there.

But if we wait on Washington, it's never going to happen. There's simply no market for TRUE green solutions.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to Run as an Independent in the state of Texas

As the Occupy movement grows, some have asked if we will run candidates for office. While the movement will not push a candidate to avoid being coopted, I believe it is important to make the information on running for office available to those who are interested.

You do not need to run as an Independent; in Texas, the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties all have ballot access. A county chair within each of these parties will tell you what filing fees, if any apply, and they will likely be a good resource to find volunteers to help with your campaign. The Libertarian party usually does not charge filing fees, and is always looking for good candidates; contact the state office if there is no county chair.

But if you do not wish to identify withany of these parties, here's what you want to do.

First, if you plan on soliciting ANY campaign donations, you will need to file with the Texas Ethics Commission. You can do this before you file for office, and I personally would advise it as you can get a headstart on fundraising. You will find their website at: . This is the site for candidates and officeholders. The shedule for deadlines for the 2012 election cycle is located HERE. Know it. Learn it. Live it. The single biggest error many candidates make is not paying attention to filing windows.

The next step is to pay attention to candidate filing windows. This information can be found at the Secretary of State's office. There is a guideline for independent candidates filing for public office here: . Please note that the filing deadline has changed and will officially open November 28th as there is still ongoing discussion about redistricting within the state of Texas. The Secretary of State's office can keep you up to date on this information if you contact them.

The next step is to advise friends and family NOT to vote in the primaries. Voting in the primaries in Texas negates their right to sign your petition, and you will need those signatures. Make sure your friends are registered to vote, though, so that they can sign.

You can then begin collecting signatures. You have 75 days after the primaries to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot. You can do this by standing in public places, or attending meetings of likeminded groups.

The rules above apply only to the state of Texas. If you have any questions about how to run in your state, or if you need any further information on running in Texas, please contact me. I would be happy to help you find what you need.

People As Commodities

Some years back, in the place where I lived (which will stay anonymous out of deference to the innocent), a homeless shelter was being built. This homeless shelter was being constructed for $50,000,000 for a community of about 70,000. In addition, the organization building the center received just over $1 million in donations annually.

At the time, the city's poverty rate was below 10%, meaning 7,000 people below the poverty line. Assuming that a generous half of those 7,000 needed the facility's services, that's just over $14,000 per person. Considering the facility had about 200 beds, however, and that 3500 people were unlikely to need shelter, this means thwy were spending $250,000 per bed. Good money if you can get it.

That's about the time I realized why poverty remains in a nation of affluence such as ours: because poor people have been commoditized, and it is big business.

If you have a birth certificate and a social security number, there are dollar signs attached to you (if you don't, in the United States, you ironically do not have personhood rights. As a school administrator told children once in my hearing, "all you are is who you are on paper"). This is the reason for mandatory vaccines ($). This is the reason for early intervention services ($$), public education ($$$$), the school lunch program ($$$$$$), and the SNAP (formerly food stamp) program ($$$$$$$$$$!), as well as just about any other social program in America that you can think of.

It is also the reason for the often abused CPS system. While CPS was started with good intentions, you know what they say about "the road to Hell". Along the way, a system rightfully established to protect children from abuse and neglect began treating those children as commodities, using them for medical experiments (not a conspiracy theory, but proven through various sources...for reference, see here. I could mention other sources, but this thread is not about that). In some areas, they became "adoption mills", and as late as the 1960's, they adopted Indian children to white families so that they could teach them our culture and our heritage and to ditch their Indian culture.

I was asked about solutions to the homeless "problem" in America, with its myriad of causes, and I realized through mulling over the questions that all practical solutions required a fundamental change in how we see people. Homeless organizations have no vested interest in reducing homelessness; in essence, they would be planning for their own obsolescence. And if we became a drug and tobacco free society, think of the money we could no longer raise in taxes (for tobacco), and prison/treatment centers (for drugs). Think of the police we would have to fire if the financial incentive was removed from many criminal activities.

It's the same reason, in essence, that the health care industry has grown out of control. I don't think doctors fail to tell Type 2 diabetics that most cases can be completely cured through diet and exercise because they fear liability; it doesn't stop doctors from telling smokers to stop smoking, does it? No, the reason they relay this information to Type 2 diabetics is because they are bought and sold by big pharma. A "cured" Type 2 diabetic doesn't bring the bucks.

When we took our youngest child to a routine checkup, despite the fact that he was well above average weight and height, we were told by the resident pediatrician that "a child cannot get adequate nutrition from breast milk; they need supplemental formula and vitamins". This is not some older doctor that was doing the talking, this was a resident who was taking classes, so this was CURRENT information being taught! And this information could only have come from big pharma.

The more I examine the problems relating to homelessness and the poor, the more I realize that the system IS the problem. Not capitalism; there's nothing wrong with capitalism, but there IS something wrong with the system we have in place. It's closer to economic feudalism than it is capitalism.

It's amazingly simple to tell people to "get a job", or, "heal thyself", essentially. It's much, much harder to examine the root causes of WHY people are where they are, roll up your sleeves and get busy fixing it. But if we're going to find a SOLUTION rather than a quick fix, that is exactly what we need to be doing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Elephant in the Tent for the Occupy Movement.

As the Occupy movement gathers steam, there's been one side that I have been reluctant to cover. Reluctant because of the concern that it might break solidarity and that it might be misconstrued. It is, as i see it, the elephant in the roomtent for the Occupy movement, and it's something we're going to have to at least acknowledge. If we don't, we stand the risk of crumbling from within.

That elephant stems from the fact that we don't know many within our movement. While we can't be guided by fear and distrust, we must acknowledge that there will be elements among us that are just as corrupt, just as suspect in their motives, and just as greedy as the people we are protesting. It has long been my observation that often socialist activists are quite confident that they will be part of the power structure in the socialist government they are trying to create. And I have little doubt there are similar motives to subscribers of other "isms", which is precisely why we cannot allow that talk to coopt the movement. It's not that their positions are necessarily wrong, just that their own hearts can be coopted, and they have a tendency to carry that unknowingly into the discussion.

Those who accuse us of being socialists do so because they see socialist signs in the pictures and videos released of the protest. Those who accuse us of being violent to so because they have trusted the word of those who say we were acting violently, even absent video proof (to my knowledge, there has not been credible video evidence of widespread violence, although I will acknowledge there may be a few acting on their own who have participated in violence). Similarly, other criticisms stem from people seeing what they want to see an being unwilling to discard evidence to the contrary.

So, there's the crux of the problem, how do we combat it? I have personally been trying to encourage opponents to dialog, to discuss, to understand our points of commonality and points of disagreement. I have found, for instance, that when Citizens United is explained/discussed, we get a strong majority who agree with that one point. Corporate greed is a little more divisive, but I'd still say it's a strong selling point.

We must not confuse solidarity with subservience. Trading one master for another just makes us continue to be slaves, albeit with fancier chains. We are growing to the point where legitimate criticisms need to be discussed, or they will become the very fissures that ensure our on defeat. I still support the Occupy movement 100%, but that does not mean I support the individual actions undertaken by all of its members, even if those members happen to be organizers.