19 October 2011

“There are risks and costs to a program of 
action, but they are far less than the long-range 
risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
   - USA President John F. Kennedy

I hate what's going on in this country, and a dramatic example of the worst aspects of what I hate showed up in today's news digest. Last night, outspoken author, political activist and feminist Naomi Wolf was arrested and led away from a small protest on the sidewalk in front of the HuffingtonPost building in New York City, apparently for no good, legal reason. Watch the video of this disgraceful exchange. After you do, come back.

Wolf has been vocal in her support of the OccupyWallStreet movement (now evolving into OccupyAmerica), and she has repeatedly cautioned protesters to remain calm, to remain peaceful, and to remain commited to their cause, which she and millions of others in their heart of hearts know to be a just one. In the video, it's pretty clear that Wolf is respectful, is peaceful, never raises her voice, and is doing nothing more than standing in a place a white-shirted police officer doesn't want her to be. The whole exchange takes less than two minutes, and in the end, she's led away by a blue-shirted law enforcement officer. Wolf was taken to the 7th precinct lockup, and released not long after being arrested, with the "disorderly conduct" charges being amended to "resisting a lawful order." The order was not lawful, as in the USA I know, citizens may stand on a public sidewalk, and protesters have a right to peacefully assemble to express their grievances.

Since this event, however, I've started wondering about the "white shirts." Who are they? Some news sources report that they're police supervisors, and that the color of the uniform shirt indicates their senior authority and superior judgment. Last week, we saw Officer Anthony Bologna move through a crowd of OWS protesters to pepper spray the eyes of young women who had been "kettled" by police on the sidewalk, and then vanish back into the crowd as the women dropped to their knees, blinded and screaming. This constitutes senior authority and superior judgment?

On Wednesday, Wolf spoke with the Guardian about, among other things, the "white shirts."
"Then, a huge group of men in white shirts, who seem to be affiliated to the New York police department, but who are not self-evidently so – bigger and fitter than the rank-and-file blue-shirted officers – came in droves. About 30 or 40 of these men appeared.
"They got a megaphone – which the protesters are told is illegal – and they started shouting that we were illegally disrupting an event and we should disperse." 
Wolf said she "calmly" disputed the order with one of the officers in white shirts, who are more senior than those in blue shirts. "By this time I was surrounded by them. One of them asked me if I was going to get out of his way. I didn't think consciously that I couldn't step away, but I froze. My conscience froze me."
Wolf has warned the protesters of OWS to be on the lookout for agents provocateur--people who infiltrate groups for the purpose of stirring up trouble. Is it possible that because the hoped-for violence hasn't erupted, the "white shirts" have taken on that role, spoiling for the spark to what will result in pain, bloodshed, and excessive use of force?

If you are part of the Occupy protests, my advice is to instead of waiting until you see the whites of their eyes, pay attention to the color of the shirt. Brown or white, the message and intent of those shirts bodes ill for your liberties and freedom.

I usually end my posts with a snarky "Excuse me, but..." statement that sums everything up. I don't feel so snarky today. I'm distressed by what is going on, and I'm feeling the need to head into Boston.

Or maybe Concord or Lexington, where patriots of the past knew when and how to fight for freedom.
How about you?


08 October 2011

"When you choose the lesser of two evils, 
always remember that it is still an evil."
   - Max Lerner, political commentator

I'm sick to death of hearing and reading comments from people who offer up the "lesser of two evils" as justification for whatever lame, misguided action they've taken or are about to take. Take the TSA apologists (please, take them), for example, who say that although the current agency staffing levels are outrageously high and expensive, that although travelers are being traumatized and brutalized simply because they want to go from point A to point B on commercial air carriers, that the delays and lines are getting worse and longer, and that although time and again, statistical and actual evidence suggests proves that those in charge of the agency know perfectly well everything the TSA does, from its tin-badged, flashy uniforms to the "gate-rape or grope," is pure security theater, the inconveniences are "worth it," because the TSA is the lesser of two evils. The other evil, presumably, is the lurking terrorist who plans to blast every US commercial airliner out of the sky, and most especially, the one with you on it.

How about all the people who are now engaged in spirited, if rancorous, discussions about whether the Democrats or the Republicans should be in charge? I listen to otherwise rational men and women assert that they're going to vote against a candidate, even if the opposing candidate is a known scoundrel and reprobate, because the bad guy is the lesser of two evils. Apparently, it never occurs to anyone that swinging back and forth along a pendulum path still tethers you to the crooked system from which it depends.

This week, Apple visionary Steve Jobs died. His mantra was, "Think different." If you want change, you have to not only think different, but act upon the thinking. Accepting the lesser of two evils results from a belief that we're stuck with a Morton's Fork, in which there is actually no choice at all, as no matter what you choose will yield an equally awful result. While I do agree that voting for a Democrat or a Republican will likely yield equally bad results, I suggest to you that there are indeed alternatives, if you look for them.

If you must choose, never, ever choose evil. You don't "throw away" your vote--you're taking a stand against a bad status quo, and you're encouraging others to do the same. Try it. Talk about it. Own the courage of your own convictions. At the very least, you'll sleep better at night.

Excuse me. I need to go see what positive changes I can make in the world today.


16 May 2011

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe  
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,  
    'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all  
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
       - John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

Independent thinking requires full consciousness and mindfulness of what we choose to accept or refuse. Part of what makes that independent thinking so difficult is that the people who want to control us make it very easy to remain somnambulent. Watching Fox news isn't the problem; it's that there's no effort to watch anything else. The truth in a large society is always arrived at through the process of triangulation -- truth is a convergence of facts, logic and actions that lead to inescapable conclusions.

A. Conan Doyle said it best through the voice of his Sherlock Holmes character: "When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

A close second is a quote by Timothy Leary: "To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself."

Finally, my buddy George Orwell said, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

And that, my friends, is triangulation. The truth is in the above three statements.

Excuse me. I'm off to find my magnifying glass. The truth is waiting.


17 March 2011

Our environmental problems originate in the 
hubris of imagining ourselves as the central 
nervous system or the brain of nature. We're not 
the brain, we are a cancer on nature.
     - Dave Foreman
My spouse is a retired nuclear physicist. We've been watching the tragedy in Japan unfold for a week now, and he's horrified by what's going on. This morning, I heard him typing at his desk, and an hour later, an article by Daniel Holz from the "Cosmic Variance" blog on Discover Magazine's website appeared in my inbox.

The author has presented the information in a way that non-physicists can understand -- nuclear power, and the mechanics of fission and meltdown explained in laymen's terms.

Now that I understand what's really been happening, I'm horrified, too. Misery loves company. As much as I hate sending readers away, I encourage you to read the article, "Don't Lose Your Cool," in its entirety. Here's an excerpt:
This is by far the most dire situation on the planet at the moment. It has the world’s attention. We’ve had almost a week. Why can’t we just fix it? There are a number of serious complications. First, there’s the issue of radiation. People are unable to walk up to most of the buildings and see what’s going on, lest they get immediate and severe radiation poisoning. There are remote sensors and cameras, but fundamentally everyone is guessing as to what’s happening inside. Even if we knew exactly how things looked, it’s still a major engineering feat to get the appropriate amount of water running through these highly complex systems to do the cooling. There have been explosions, there are stuck valves, there are broken pumps, there are ongoing fires. The world’s resources are focused on this problem. Millions of lives potentially depend upon the outcome. And, thus far, progress has been haphazard and halting, despite heroic efforts on the part of the Japanese crew. The engineering challenges may simply be too great.
Excuse me. I'm off to find a Shinto shrine where I can offer up prayers for those who died, and those who will die, due to our human arrogance and stupidity.


22 February 2011

All animals are created equal,
but some animals are more equal 
than others.
   - George Orwell, Animal Farm

Sometimes the story just has to reach you in pictures. Since my page design doesn't allow the full display I've provided you with a link to another page where the image does properly appear.

I promise, it's worthwhile to click the link:

"TSA Gone Wild"

The whole, horrible history of our collective insanity when it comes to the quest for security.

Excuse me. I have to go burn my bras. They don't protect me from the TSA.