Category Archives: Politics

Some Predictions About Books By Way of Some Predictions About Music

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the “future of publishing.” After all, books have never had as much cash to spare as the recording industry, and look at the mess they’re in. Already it is not so difficult for a self-published manuscript to sell itself on What will happen when everything goes digital? The suggestion is that there will be an opening of the gates, and the latest best-seller will stand on the same virtual shelf with thirty self-published manuscripts. The optimists claim that this is where the great unpublished books will be discovered and pessimists point to the unleashed masses of poorly thought-out, half-written tomes filled with spelling errors. But it doesn’t matter if fantastic self-published books are available if they’re drowned out by countless other books vying for the consumer’s attention.
I’m thinking of this issue again because Chuck Wendig just wrote a post on this very subject. I must requote a quote that he included in his piece from a article (“When Anyone Can Be A Published Author“)

Furthermore, as observers like Chris Anderson (in “The Long Tail”) and social scientists like Sheena Iyengar (in her new book “The Art of Choosing”) have pointed out, when confronted with an overwhelming array of choices, most people do not graze more widely. Instead, if they aren’t utterly paralyzed by the prospect, their decisions become even more conservative, zeroing in on what everyone else is buying and grabbing for recognizable brands because making a fully informed decision is just too difficult and time-consuming. As a result, introducing massive amounts of consumer choice leads to situations in which the 10 most popular items command the vast majority of the market share, while thousands of lesser alternatives must divide the leftovers into many tiny portions.

Chuck says in response, ” that doesn’t sound like what will happen when the FUTURE OF PUBLISHING is made manifest. It sounds like what happens right bloody now.”
As it is, there are about 100,000 brand new titles published and printed every year, and it is fair to say that even the most devoted readers may touch 1/100th of that. If you include self-published books, the number of books published is 600,000 to a million. That doesn’t take into account the thousands of reprints of absolute classics that exist. I am pretty sure that if I devoted my entire life to reading I would not get through every book on my imaginary wish list before I breathe my last breath. Now imagine compounding this with an onslaught of unpublished manuscripts, from gorgeous to garbage, that would land on the market place if the result of this revolution were a totally leveled playing field. What would happen?
Continue reading Some Predictions About Books By Way of Some Predictions About Music

Why There Are Riots Tonight in Oakland

I wasn’t surprised that officer Mehserle wasn’t convicted of murder despite all the video footage and witnesses of him shooting an unarmed teenager. I first had my suspicions when Forum reported there wasn’t a single black person on the jury. But then I took heart in thinking that the prosecution would want a whiter jury so it would be harder for the defense to appeal. Besides, the victim, Oscar Grant, was hand-cuffed face down with another police officer’s foot on his neck. So for weeks I held out some hope for a verdict of second-degree murder.

Mehserle claims that he accidentally grabbed his gun when he meant to grab his taser. I asked an ex-cop about this and he doesn’t think such a thing is possible. For one thing, a gun is much heaver than a taser and tasers are designed to have mechanisms that don’t work like firearms to prevent exactly this kind of situation. Moreover, officers’ training drills into their heads over and over the exact location of such things. The location of a cop’s firearm should be second nature.

The defense’s case is based on the very idea that Mehserle was poorly trained. Ironically, the prosecution’s case was based on this too. He probably was, since LEOs receive inadequate training in economies far less strained than California’s. In the last big election there was a measure to give more funding to California’s police force but that didn’t have a hope and a prayer of passing when the budget is taking huge cuts in education and social services. So he probably was under-trained.

When you get down to it though, why the hell should he be reaching for his taser in the first place? It’s not like they were busting an armed robbery. They were responding to a call that a fight had broken out on the BART train. A simple fight, possibly nothing more than kids horsing around—and on New Year’s Eve, the night everyone horses around. If you watch the video it doesn’t appear he’s resisting arrest. So there were lots of reasons to believe that the jury might hand in a murder verdict.

But I gave up hope of that when I heard on the radio that Mehserle cried on the stand.

I don’t think the jury was a pack of outright bigots. Surely they recognized that what happened was a tragedy. But racial identity is a powerful thing. Simply put, they saw Mehserle as one of their own. When they listened to him talk they tried to imagine themselves in his situation. “But it was an accident!” Aw, gee, poor guy, he was scared, the jury thought, I would be too. We can’t put him in prison with those people. Just imagine what they’d do to him! On the contrary, the victim was one of “those people.” They see a boy but they don’t see their own child. They don’t see themselves.

Oscar Grant, 1986-2009

If you don’t believe me, try to imagine it if the situation were reversed. Imagine a black man claiming he “accidentally” shot a white man who was lying on the ground completely defenseless and over-powered. That case would be a joke. It would be a guilty-verdict hands down, case closed. No way it would be a story the media clamor to cover all across the country.

Of course all this is conflated by the fact that Mehserle wasn’t just any white man but a man of the law. One could argue that a black cop who shot a young white man would get just the same sentence. Though I find that very hard to believe, it really doesn’t matter. Because black police officers aren’t shooting white men. Tends to happen the other way.

This sends a very clear message to black folks: the law does not protect you. It is here only to convict you. Protection from crime is for “those people.” They already knew this of course. America doesn’t need another black martyr. Hell, Oakland has enough to last us for the next hundred years, ThankYouVeryMuch.

Maybe that’s why there’s no part of me that cares whether Mehserle deep down and truly meant to reach for that taser. He knows that his behavior was inexcusable and unforgivable. He also knows that his identity as a white police officer is the key to him escaping a life sentence. If he had been a man of honor, he would have settled this case quietly, explaining his side while taking a guilty plea. I’m not saying I would have had the fortitude to do that if I were in his position. But it would have been the right thing to do for Oscar Grant’s family. Sure it would have been a sacrifice, but taser or no taser he took this boy’s life and he shouldn’t have, and he knows it.

So I don’t want to hear a word about how the jury are the only ones who saw all the evidence. Mehserle had a chance to step up and offer himself as America’s white martyr. Because everyone knows we have plenty of slots available.

We Burn Books

Burning the library in slow motion: how copyright extension has banished millions of books to the scrapheap of history Boing Boing.

I came across this nice article by Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing wherein he makes some interesting points on how current copyright laws have censored the majority of books.

the legal changes introduced in the years after Fahrenheit 451 did more than just extend terms. Congress eliminated the benign practice of the renewal requirement (which had guaranteed that 85% of works and 93% of books entered the public domain after 28 years because the authors and publishers simply didn’t want or need a second copyright term.) And copyright, which had been an opt-in system (you had to comply with some very minor formalities to get a copyright) became an opt out system (you got a copyright automatically when you “fixed” the work in material form, whether you wanted it or not.) Suddenly the entire world of informal and non commercial culture — from home movies that provide a wonderful lens into the private life of an era, to essays, posters, locally produced teaching materials — was swept into copyright. And kept there for the life of the author plus 70 years. The effects were culturally catastrophic.

This issue brings to mind the hardest part, for me, of working in publishing—seeing how many books are destroyed and being powerless to stop it. You would think that out-of-print books are worth more, since the moment it is declared out of print it is limited edition, i.e. those that exist now may be the only copies left in the world. The book industry in the only one where retailers are allowed to return the product if it doesn’t sell. But if they hold onto the book after it is out of print, the publisher will refuse the returns. Thus as soon as a book has been declared out-of-print book sellers nationwide box up every last company and return them to the publisher, who, having nowhere to sell them, has them demolished.

Naturally, you are wondering why they don’t just donante the books to libraries or other book-hungry institutions. The problem is again returns: they assume that a certain percentage of these would find their way back to the bookstores,  who will return it for full price. On each of these books the publisher, author and distributor are then paying the bookstore for the book and making zero profit—a risk they’re not willing to take.

So every time a book goes out of print, it is also removed from the shelves and incinerated. Yay, capitalism!

Save the Planet: Buy Stuff!

You know you wish you were here
You wish you were here.

Funny how capitalism ruins things, even when they set out to do something swell. The Treasure Island Music Festival is a fine example. Not that the fest was ruined as a whole, but their efforts at environmentalism left the stale taste of unfiltered Oakland water in my mouth. They made big efforts to make the show green. Instead of trash bins, you had landfill, recycling and compost bins, with tips on what goes where. Kudos for that. But in other respects their need to be profitable got in the way of their stewardship to mama earth.

Firstly, I was irritated by their transit plan. There was no parking on Treasure Island. Instead one was supposed to take a free shuttle from the ATT Center. The problem with that is that the ATT Center is not on BART. Anyone (such as myself) who doesn’t live in San Francisco is expected to take a one hour BART ride to the city, catch a short cab ride to the shuttle and then shuttle back over the bridge I just came from. So I’m expected to commit to a trip that would likely take upwards of two hours for a destination that is twelve minutes drive from my house? No thanks. I suppose the folks planning the event live in the city and don’t think much of us “bridge and tunnel” types. Their site offered no advice as to how to get there if you weren’t coming from the city. We took a taxi there and hopped on the all-nighter bus to get ho me. Apparently some others had the same idea because the taxi stand had more people waiting than you can fit into your average Mission dive bar. The festival bragged about having zero-emissions buses but when someone who BARTs and bikes to get around has to take a cab just to get to your show, you’ve erred on the green master-plan somewhere.

But this is an understandable problem, considering they are dealing with an island in the middle of the Bay. Their plan to get rid of bottled water on the other hand offered far more reason for me to make my indignant face. A big part of their green plan was not selling bottled water at the festival. We were encouraged to bring our own sealed bottles into the site. I suppose this was to keep people from smuggling liquor in and out of the premises, otherwise I can’t imagine why I couldn’t bring an unsealed, empty bottle and refill it there. So instead of using a container I already had at home, I bought water to take into the fest. It defeats the point of not selling bottled water if I have to buy bottled water at CVS. Then when we get inside, we check out the “refilling stations.” Here they are charging three dollars to refill your water bottle or one dollar to refill the metal canisters they are selling at the festival. These little mementos cost fifteen bucks. So folks who didn’t bring their own water are encouraged to shell down a wad of cash to buy a metal water bottle that they probably don’t need and likely won’t keep after the festival so they can

use less plastic for the next two days. What a blow to consumerism!

OK, I’m through kvetching. The Treasure Island Music Festival is still the coolest music fest I’ve ever been to.

More details on the greatness to follow!

Hipster Hunting

Janet said she wanted to go the Missouri Lounge to make fun of all the hipsters. Everyone agreed that The Missouri Lounge was just crawling with the little buggers.

I was surprised. Not about the Missouri Lounge—though I’d always thought the shack looked like more of a redneck dive—but that Janet wasn’t herself a hipster. She had the chunky, short-cropped hair and the thick black plastic glasses. But no. She was a hipster hater. How could I get them confused?

We ordered drinks and Janet picked out the most egregious violators and made fun of their outfits and drink selections. We did not stay long. Janet made a request from the DJ and there was some misunderstanding, or altercation. So we left.

That incident got me thinking. Did those people deserve to be made fun of? What made them worse people than Janet? What the hell was a hipster, anyway?

Since that day many moons ago, if I hear someone use the word I always ask them what it means. Two things quickly became apparent: 1) no two people seem to have the same definition 2) never have I ever heard the word used in a positive context.

For my money, a hipster is a person with an overly-developed sense of irony. But by that definition, the guy I know who is most likely to be a hipster is a 35-year-old Indian metalhead. He’s also the biggest hipster-hater I know. The “H-word” also seems to be associated with indie rock, though no one seems to know what the fuck that is either.

Here is what some of my research has come up with:

  • “Hipsters are trust fund babies who go to expensive private art programs.”
  • “Hipsters are people who wear mismatched, ill-fitting clothes and think they are hot.”
  • “Hipsters are the shallow types who live in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.”
  • “Hipsters drink Pabst Blue Ribbon and ride fixie-bikes and make fun of normal people.”

Oh well then, that’s clear. If I am in Williamsburg and I meet someone in an art program I can assume they are shallow and living off daddy’s money. Additionally, if I meet a girl on a fixed-gear bike in Goodwill frocks I can assume she is a snotty bitch who can’t wait to talk about me behind my back. It would do the world a good deed to run off with her inexpensive union-made brew, taunting and laughing.

Much like the yuppies in The Last Days of Disco, “hipster” seems to describe a group of people whom everyone seems to agree is omnipresent and easily identifiable yet no one can find one among their circle of friends.

In case you can’t tell, this whole thing pisses me off. Being cruel to someone based on the way they dress, the music they listen to, their neighborhood or school of choice is discrimination. It may not be based on a thousand years of oppression like the prejudice we all like to think we’re too good for, but it is certainly the opposite of the moral high-ground the hipster-haters think they have.

The American College Dictionary defines Bohemian as “a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior.”

I see very little to distinguish the hipster-hating of today from those who hated the punks and before that the hippies and before that the beatniks and on and on. No one can deny the fact that the hipster is the new bohemian, except the bohemians themselves, who’ve been tricked into thinking that the hipsters are the fake bohemians.

Cant wait to meet this friendly guy!
Can’t wait to meet this friendly guy!

Thus we have an odd scenario where sews-her-own-clothes girl (e.g. hipster) and shops-at-the-Gap girl (eg the anti-hipster) can both commiserate on how much they hate the shops-at-Urban-Outfitters girl (“fake” hipster). SewsHerOwnClothes thinks she is immune because she is more authentic than those people who shop at Urban Outfitters. But you can bet your best pair of Pumas that Gap girl and the Urban Outfitters “fake” hipster would be just as quick to make fun of the freak girl with the weird clothes she she probably made on her grandma’s sewing machine (as if that’s a bad thing).

The whole anti-bohemian attitude strikes me as a backlash against a group of people who feel slighted by those who have a different set of moral standards. An example would serve better than an explanation…

One of the definitions of hipster from Urban Dictionary:

Someone who thinks that they are being “special” and “unique” for liking some underground bullshit no one else cares about. And they pointlessly look down on people who don’t know anything about indie culture, because that’s the only thing they know anything about. They’re quick to call the rest of the world conformists when in reality, they are the ones conforming by partaking in a “too cool for mainstream so i am going to reject it by looking and acting like a grungy asshole” way of life only to seem uber-fashionable. They just end up looking like idiots.

Hipster: I won’t drink at starbucks, it’s too corporate.

Non-Hipster: I want a Louis Vitton purse because they are cool
Hipster: You’re such a conformist, haveing [sic] a Louis Vitton purse is so unoriginal. I like my purse I found in the gutter for $4 dollars.
Non-hipster: but it’s fugly
Hipster: yah, but no one else has it. It’s completely unique.
Non-hipster: that bum over there has something pretty similar though.
Hipster: You’re ignorant because you can’t see the real beauty in life.
I don’t have time for this, I’m gonna go to my cave of an apartment and listen to some indie rock you’ve probably never heard of….
Non hipster: You need to see a therapist
Hipster: I am my own therapist.

So the sad fashion whore who wrote that definition feels as though she is being judged because she doesn’t care where her clothes are made or how her consumption choices affect the local economy. And she’s right! I think the person who wrote the definition above is shallow and ignorant! I expect to be hated and unkindly labeled by anyone who thinks avoiding Starbucks is an example of “some underground bullshit.” That’s totally fine. Fuck that girl, and the guy who runs, we were never meant to be friends!

But when I see the anarchists, punks, queers, ravers and other manner of adorable bohemians bitching about the “H” word, it’s too much. When someone seeks to say cruel things about a nonconformist, hipster is the first word they turn to, even if the nonconformists themselves think a hipster is something entirely different.

The focus on the hipster’s inauthenticity as an outsider, art appreciator, or moral consumer is a defense mechanism based on the labeler’s own insecurities in those same areas. The Louis Vitton-lover in the example above is an extreme example because s/he can’t even conceive that anyone would care about the journey of their designer purse from sweatshop to landfill. Your average anti-bohemian likes to think they appreciate art and philosophy as much or more than any weirdos with their weird music and their weird hair and their weird clothes. The assumption is that any reasons for being different are not better or coming from any set of values, merely contrivances. In this way, anti-hipsterism becomes another extension of the big-city-elitist versus corn-fed-anti-intellectual debate that is the hallmark of the American class system.

When the freaks, geeks, queers and quacks take aim at hipsters they are supporting conformity, regardless of what they think it means when they are around other bohemian-types.

Let us celebrate the hipster. Let us drink inexpensive beer and wear used clothes. Let’s  listen to obscure music. Let’s have debates about crap surrealist literature and condone veganism. La vie Boheme, under any name: embrace it.

Edit: read the follow up to this post, Hipster Subculture Ripe for Parody [Time Magazine]

Uncle Sam is Reading My Emails

And Probably Yours Too

None of us are taking this seriously enough.

I was talking to a friend of mine online about a month ago.  She is very a very competent law student that does a good job keeping up with current affairs.  We were talking about the warrantless wiretapping.  I was explaining to her what is at issue here, that they didn’t just hand over “suspected terrorists” (whatever those are) but the random correspondence of American citizens.

Her response was, “it is a good thing we are having this conversation online.”

Uh, not quite.  It is a terrible thing we are having this conversation online.  Because AT&T, the very company that is accused of handing this information over to the government, provides the internet where I work, where I was having this conversation.  In fact where I am typing this right now. 

But she still didn’t seem to get what I was saying—that this is not a safe conversation.  And since she is one of the smartest, has-her-shit-together of my friends I think it is likely that many people aren’t getting this.  So I am going to lay it out as simply as possible.

First:  The EFF is suing AT&T, this much everyone has heard.  What exactly do they mean by “warrantless wiretapping”?  It is very simple.  It means that AT&T couldn’t be bothered to keep track of those people who the feds had warrants to search and those who they didn’t.

They took all the content that was traversing their fibre optic cables, every email and text message and phone call, THE WHOLE EFFING PIPE and they split it.  Thus all communication from AT&T is also going to a secret room accessible only to the NSA.


Please note the use of the present tense.  Because this is still happening.  There has been no freeze on what appears to be a very clear violation of the fourth amendment.  You don’t have to have AT&T for this to apply.  Can you say for sure that no one you are emailing or calling has AT&T?  Of course not.  It is more likely that they do.  Ask around.  Know anyone with an Iphone?  Maybe it is time to ask them politely not to call you anymore.  Certainly don’t email me, I have just confessed as an AT&T user.  But even this is ridiculous.  Just because AT&T got caught doesn’t mean the other companies aren’t doing the exact same thing.

Of course none of this has been proven in a court of law, it is only a court case at this point and everyone gets the benefit of being innocent until proven guilty.  But don’t take my word for it.  The engineer that hooked up the data stream put it this way:

“My job was to connect circuits into the splitter device which was hard-wired to the secret room, and effectively, the splitter copied the entire data stream of those internet cables into the secret room–and we’re talking about phone conversations, email web browsing, everything that goes across the internet.”  [This short video is worth watching.]

In my mind, this is bigger than Clinton’s lie under oath, possibly bigger than Water Gate.  You upset about an administration that is lying to the American public?  Try lying to the American public and spying on them too.  It is very important that this case be allowed to continue so that the people understand what is at stake and those responsible are brought to justice.

And there is no reason it shouldn’t continue.  It’s not like the House and Senate will get together and pass a bill giving them a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card. The Congress wouldn’t do that, they don’t get involved in legislative affairs!  That’s unheard of!..Oh, wait, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The Senate is passing a bill today that will give retroactive immunity to AT&T.  It already passed in the House.  “Retroactive immunity” is a fancy phrase that took me a while to wrap my head around.  It means that even if they broke the law, it’s okay, we forgive them.  And it will kill the lawsuit.  Nothing to sue for.

Why on Earth would they do this?  Everyone is shaking hands, saying what a great compromise this is.  Really, I listened to all two hours of it on C-span.  Those opposed were of the tone “This bill scares me to death…”  Those in favor spent their debate time with congratulatory messages, “I’d like to thank Representatives Bob and Jane for making this possible…” I’m not joking, that was really the gist of it.  There was no real argument for why the bill is a great compromise. It is more capitulation than compromise, here’s a great fact sheet from Senator Russ Feingold for the scary details.  But in my mind, as long as retroactive immunity is on the table, this bill is totally unacceptable, unthinkable.


The argument in favor says that they were only following orders so AT&T shouldn’t be held responsible.  Give me a break.  No one pointed a gun at their heads.  They broke the law and now the Democratic Congress that we elected is giving them a free ride, and probably the administration too. You can be sure this is going to impact Kucinich’s Impeachment bill.  How convenient that the court case that will uncountably bring attention to the Bush Administration’s trampling of the Constitution will be swept under the rug, along with the Fourth Amendment.  Wait a second, if the Democrats are rushing to the aid of the Republicans than who is supposed to be representing the people that want the Republicans out of office?

On that note, the latest turn in this sickening display of blatant cronyism is the about-face from Senator Obama.  When he was trying to get the support of lefties he said he would fillibuster the FISA bill.  Today he announced he is backing it.  I thought I would have a few months of bliss before the luster wore off the man who gleams like a trophy on the podium.  I take little consolation in seeing those who support Mr. Obama to the point of worship change their position over night, simply because he has.

What we are looking right now is the death knell of privacy in the United States.  You may think that what you are writing is not interesting to the NSA but please don’t think for a second it is not being read by the NSA.  No digital love note, no treasonous utterance, no meeting agenda, no late-night web-surfing, is safe.  Sure, they still need a warrant to knock on your door and rifle through your file cabinet and your underwear drawer.  But these days most of us keep our tax forms and our lingerie digitally; when this bill passes it will be like passing the keys to every house in America over to the NSA.  Because Big Brother is not only watching, he is recording it all for later.  And thanks to Congress, there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

How a Raging Youth Becomes a Middle-Class Arm-chair Revolutionary

It’s hard when you are nineteen or twenty-year old radical to understand how older lefties “settle down” and get pulled into the system. You swear that will never happen to you. But the system has many ways of wrapping around you, like the vines that suffocated Sleeping Beauties castle.

One of these ways is home-ownership. An absolute radical would never pay rent. They would find an abandoned building and fix it up and make it home. When the supposed “owners” come to kick you out you would wage a battle of wills and ideas. You would point out that as you are actually using and improving the land, it is truly yours, regardless of whatever piece of paper they carry that grants them the right to leave it abandoned. You would refuse to pay rent to any person because as soon as we agree that the land under your feet belongs to someone else you become a slave.

But at some point you have to pick your battles. Most folks by the age of 25 decide that they have goals beyond lengthy arrest-records for squatting. It seems difficult to imagine balancing living in a squat with pursuing your noble dreams of becoming a writer/artist/feminist lawyer/eco-terrorist. No matter how radical, most of us don’t end up living as squatters.

This leaves two options: rent or buy.

Renting is odious. It is ludicrous to pay a third to half our income to some person just to have a place to lay our weary heads. And what does this landlord do for us? They hire someone to mow the lawn, if they are decent they hire someone to fix the stove when it breaks. And otherwise, we never see them. We can at best feel sorry for those people forced to piss and sleep in the alley because they have not paid, as we have, to have access to a toilet or a shower. When a homeless woman lays down her head to sleep she is a thief because every square inch of land in the city is “owned” by a person or a state and she has not paid for her right to sleep there. If every doorway and underpass is someone’s property, it would seem that those who don’t pay have no right to exist at all. Rent is like paying a capitalist tax to let us be part of the system. No other species of animal in the universe can understand why humans would allow themselves to be beholden to other humans for shelter. But we endure it.

For this reason, I would like very much to own my own home. Of course, property has become so expensive that one cannot just outright buy it. You must make an agreement with a bank that they will buy the house for you and you will pay them off for damn near eternity. This is equally absurd. Why should one of the fundamental requirements of life be so expensive that it takes a lifetime to pay for it? If this is ethical, why not a lifetime of debt for every piece of fruit we eat? Why not charge us for the air we breathe? We like to think we would never allow such a miscarriage of justice. Yet somehow we have come to agree that having a place to stack our books and make our bed should involve a lifetime of sacrifice.
But this arrangement with the bank is preferable to renting because at some far-off point you can hypothetically own your own home, which means living in peace without the burden of rent collection hanging at your back til the day you die. Many aging radicals eventually come to this same conclusion. To achieve this coveted relationship with the bank, one must prove themselves a fine and worthy borrower through the concept of “Good Credit.”

It is insufficient to merely pay your bills. To establish Good Credit, you must have several charge cards. I did not have a charge card until I was 26 because they so terrify me. Most radicals don’t want any part of a system that makes its money off of indentured servitude of the young and naive. However, in pursuit of Good Credit, I recently received my second credit card in the mail. It came with a blank check that encouraged me to “Make a purchase I’ve been putting off,” or to “remodel one of the rooms of your home.” Because if I can’t afford that new sewing machine and granite counters in the kitchen today, surely next month I will be able to afford it plus 15% compound interest! Of course I can’t. But everyone knows that the companies make all there money from debt, those who pay are leechers on the credit system (and how strange is it that a business model is set up that holds in highest regard those that lead it to no profit at all and denigrates the group that provides their billions in wealth?).
I have decided I need a second charge card because when my sweetie recently went to apply for a home loan, the bank told him he didn’t have enough credit. He has very good credit—he uses a credit card and has never been late on any bill or payment of any kind, yet this is not enough. So it seems that to buy a home one must have a stamp of approval from not just Visa or Mastercard, but both.
The pursuit of Good Credit is just one way that well-meaning radicals become entrenched in the system. It recently occurred to me that a positive consequence of having a significant amount of money I may have to pay to Uncle Sam in taxes this year will be the opportunity to be a war tax resister. I don’t know a lot about this but it seems like a small way to make a statement. There is no risk of arrest and it is a subtle form of direct action—I don’t want Uncle Sam to spend it so I won’t give it to him. But then I was told that becoming a war tax resister would destroy my Good Credit. When the government is unable to collect the three dollars I withhold for the war tax, they will turn me over to a collection agency who will relentlessly chase me down in pursuit of that three dollars. They will notify Visa and Mastercard that I am not to be trusted. All dreams of picket fences will be dashed.

Pehaps the person who told me this was incorrect. Perhaps the government is efficient enough to ignore a debt of three dollars. To some extent, it doesn’t matter. As long as this argument is widespread, it will influence many people. There are many people who hate the war and hate the idea that they are paying the government to continue the war. But there are few people who would be willing to withhold that money if it means they may never be able to buy a home. So Uncle Sam becomes a troll at the bridge, demanding tribute so that citizens can cross the bridge into the middle-class world they were promised as part of the American Dream. We pay not because we agree but because we must, to get this other thing.

So where does that leave us? Paying our taxes, worrying about the opinion of Visa and Mastercard, buying stocks and bonds in the hope that they will produce enough money that we will somehow, some day, be able to afford something that should go without saying is part of life—shelter. May the youth forgive us.

Hillary Rodhams speech: 1969

Did you know Clinton was the first in her graduating class to deliver the commencement speech for her own graduation? This is amazing. This was in 1969, the height of the tumultuous sixties and not as some rinky-dink college but Wellesley College no less! He was denigrating the Student Movement. If most people were in her position they would keep their mouth shut and just read the speech. Instead she improvises a rebuttal before her speech. This goes to show that she has always been a hard worker and an over achiever and that, just like Obama, she can deliver a kick-ass speech!

If you are curious, the complete speech is below:

Wellesley College
1969 Student Commencement Speech
Hillary D. Rodham
May 31, 1969

Ruth M. Adams, ninth president of Wellesley College, introduced Hillary D. Rodham, ’69, at the 91st commencement exercises, as follows:

In addition to inviting Senator Brooke to speak to them this morning, the Class of ’69 has expressed a desire to speak to them and for them at this morning’s commencement. There was no debate so far as I could ascertain as to who their spokesman was to be — Miss Hillary Rodham. Member of this graduating class, she is a major in political science and a candidate for the degree with honors. In four years she has combined academic ability with active service to the College, her junior year having served as a Vil Junior, and then as a member of Senate and during the past year as President of College Government and presiding officer of College Senate. She is also cheerful, good humored, good company, and a good friend to all of us and it is a great pleasure to present to this audience Miss Hillary Rodham.

Remarks of Hillary D. Rodham, President of the Wellesley College Government Association and member of the Class of 1969, on the occasion of Wellesley’s 91st Commencement, May 31, 1969:

I am very glad that Miss Adams made it clear that what I am speaking for today is all of us — the 400 of us — and I find myself in a familiar position, that of reacting, something that our generation has been doing for quite a while now. We’re not in the positions yet of leadership and power, but we do have that indispensable task of criticizing and constructive protest and I find myself reacting just briefly to some of the things that Senator Brooke said. This has to be brief because I do have a little speech to give. Part of the problem with empathy with professed goals is that empathy doesn’t do us anything. We’ve had lots of empathy; we’ve had lots of sympathy, but we feel that for too long our leaders have used politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible. What does it mean to hear that 13.3% of the people in this country are below the poverty line? That’s a percentage. We’re not interested in social reconstruction; it’s human reconstruction. How can we talk about percentages and trends? The complexities are not lost in our analyses, but perhaps they’re just put into what we consider a more human and eventually a more progressive perspective. The question about possible and impossible was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago. We arrived not yet knowing what was not possible. Consequently, we expected a lot. Our attitudes are easily understood having grown up, having come to consciousness in the first five years of this decade — years dominated by men with dreams, men in the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the space program — so we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn’t a discouraging gap and it didn’t turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18. It just inspired us to do something about that gap. What we did is often difficult for some people to understand. They ask us quite often: “Why, if you’re dissatisfied, do you stay in a place?” Well, if you didn’t care a lot about it you wouldn’t stay. It’s almost as though my mother used to say, “I’ll always love you but there are times when I certainly won’t like you.” Our love for this place, this particular place, Wellesley College, coupled with our freedom from the burden of an inauthentic reality allowed us to question basic assumptions underlying our education. Before the days of the media orchestrated demonstrations, we had our own gathering over in Founder’s parking lot. We protested against the rigid academic distribution requirement. We worked for a pass-fail system. We worked for a say in some of the process of academic decision making. And luckily we were in a place where, when we questioned the meaning of a liberal arts education there were people with enough imagination to respond to that questioning. So we have made progress. We have achieved some of the things that initially saw as lacking in that gap between expectation and reality. Our concerns were not, of course, solely academic as all of us know. We worried about inside Wellesley questions of admissions, the kind of people that should be coming to Wellesley, the process for getting them here. We questioned about what responsibility we should have both for our lives as individuals and for our lives as members of a collective group.

Coupled with our concerns for the Wellesley inside here in the community were our concerns for what happened beyond Hathaway House. We wanted to know what relationship Wellesley was going to have to the outer world. We were lucky in that one of the first things Miss Adams did was to set up a cross-registration with MIT because everyone knows that education just can’t have any parochial bounds any more. One of the other things that we did was the Upward Bound program. There are so many other things that we could talk about; so many attempts, at least the way we saw it, to pull ourselves into the world outside. And I think we’ve succeeded. There will be an Upward Bound program, just for one example, on the campus this summer.

Many of the issues that I’ve mentioned — those of sharing power and responsibility, those of assuming power and responsibility have been general concerns on campuses throughout the world. But underlying those concerns there is a theme, a theme which is so trite and so old because the words are so familiar. It talks about integrity and trust and respect. Words have a funny way of trapping our minds on the way to our tongues but there are necessary means even in this multi-media age for attempting to come to grasps with some of the inarticulate maybe even inarticulable things that we’re feeling. We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us even understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty. But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living. And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue. The questions about those institutions are familiar to all of us. We have seen heralded across the newspapers. Senator Brooke has suggested some of them this morning. But along with using these words — integrity, trust, and respect — in regard to institutions and leaders we’re perhaps harshest with them in regard to ourselves.

Every protest, every dissent, whether it’s an individual academic paper, Founder’s parking lot demonstration, is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity in this particular age. That attempt at forging for many of us over the past four years has meant coming to terms with our humanness. Within the context of a society that we perceive — now we can talk about reality, and I would like to talk about reality sometime, authentic reality, inauthentic reality, and what we have to accept of what we see — but our perception of it is that it hovers often between the possibility of disaster and the potentiality for imaginatively responding to men’s needs. There’s a very strange conservative strain that goes through a lot of New Left, collegiate protests that I find very intriguing because it harkens back to a lot of the old virtues, to the fulfillment of original ideas. And it’s also a very unique American experience. It’s such a great adventure. If the experiment in human living doesn’t work in this country, in this age, it’s not going to work anywhere.

But we also know that to be educated, the goal of it must be human liberation. A liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be free to create within and around ourselves. To be educated to freedom must be evidenced in action, and here again is where we ask ourselves, as we have asked our parents and our teachers, questions about integrity, trust, and respect. Those three words mean different things to all of us. Some of the things they can mean, for instance: Integrity, the courage to be whole, to try to mold an entire person in this particular context, living in relation to one another in the full poetry of existence. If the only tool we have ultimately to use is our lives, so we use it in the way we can by choosing a way to live that will demonstrate the way we feel and the way we know. Integrity — a man like Paul Santmire. Trust. This is one word that when I asked the class at our rehearsal what it was they wanted me to say for them, everyone came up to me and said “Talk about trust, talk about the lack of trust both for us and the way we feel about others. Talk about the trust bust.” What can you say about it? What can you say about a feeling that permeates a generation and that perhaps is not even understood by those who are distrusted? All they can do is keep trying again and again and again. There’s that wonderful line in East Coker by Eliot about there’s only the trying, again and again and again; to win again what we’ve lost before.

And then respect. There’s that mutuality of respect between people where you don’t see people as percentage points. Where you don’t manipulate people. Where you’re not interested in social engineering for people. The struggle for an integrated life existing in an atmosphere of communal trust and respect is one with desperately important political and social consequences. And the word “consequences” of course catapults us into the future. One of the most tragic things that happened yesterday, a beautiful day, was that I was talking to woman who said that she wouldn’t want to be me for anything in the world. She wouldn’t want to live today and look ahead to what it is she sees because she’s afraid. Fear is always with us but we just don’t have time for it. Not now.

There are two people that I would like to thank before concluding. That’s Ellie Acheson, who is the spearhead for this, and also Nancy Scheibner who wrote this poem which is the last thing that I would like to read:

My entrance into the world of so-called “social problems”
Must be with quiet laughter, or not at all.
The hollow men of anger and bitterness
The bountiful ladies of righteous degradation
All must be left to a bygone age.
And the purpose of history is to provide a receptacle
For all those myths and oddments
Which oddly we have acquired
And from which we would become unburdened
To create a newer world
To transform the future into the present.
We have no need of false revolutions
In a world where categories tend to tyrannize our minds
And hang our wills up on narrow pegs.
It is well at every given moment to seek the limits in our lives.
And once those limits are understood
To understand that limitations no longer exist.
Earth could be fair. And you and I must be free
Not to save the world in a glorious crusade
Not to kill ourselves with a nameless gnawing pain
But to practice with all the skill of our being
The art of making possible.

My State Plans Lawsuit Against My Country

My Republican friend says I should just calm down. People all over the world are working hard to stop global climate change. I wonder if he is looking at the same people I am. Scary thing is, he is.

For example, he is probably looking at the new energy bill as a big step forward. The Bush Administration has pledged to a 35-mph fleet-wide fuel economy average by 2020. So in twelve years we are setting a standard for fuel economy that is five miles per gallon higher than the Model A Ford introduced in 1927. Bravo! If you still think this is an accomplishment take a look at SAE International’s Supermileage studies. They run a contest every year to see who can engineer a vehicle with the highest gas mileage. The biggest loser in this competition produced a car that can get 198 miles per gallon. The car made by the 2007 winner could drive 1,541 miles on a single gallon of gas. Now even if we can argue that those cars are expiremental and don’t provide room for groceries or even a CD player, it is still enough to make us ponder the U.S.’s status as technological innovators of environmental stewardship.
To top it all off, the Bush administration is using these paltry standards as an excuse to deny California the right to cap its CO2 emissions. The California law requires new automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes by 30% by 2016.

In the past, the California standards have paved the way for other states to follow behind with stricter standards. But now the EPA is arguing that California was granted those waivers because their state had special circumstances and the U.S. needs to have a singular, federal standard (So much for the Republicans as the party promoting states’ rights). With global warming threatening to drop a world of hurt on the whole planet, the EPA says this hardly applies only to California. No matter that this was a bill passed in 2002, long before the national discussion of such standards. No matter that the EPA has historically granted fifty such waivers to California and never once denied them.

Stephen L. Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, put it this way, “The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution — not a confusing patchwork of state rules.” Or to put it totally the same way, David McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, “Enhancing energy security and improving fuel economy are priorities to all automakers, but a patchwork quilt of inconsistent and competing fuel economy programs at the state level would only have created confusion, inefficiency, and uncertainty for automakers and consumers.” What a remarkable coincidence that couldn’t possibly be explained by the EPA taking their cues from an oil lobbyist’s press release!

In fact, both journalists and politicians are making the claim that the energy lobby allowed the government to proceed on their new emissions standards in exchange for a denial of California’s claim.

According to the L.A. Times:

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the state Air Resources Board, said the California standards, which are scheduled to begin to take effect in 2009, could be met by auto companies with existing technology. So far, she said, 12 states have chosen to adopt California’s standards, pending a waiver approval. Others are in the process of doing so. If all 50 states adopted California’s law, it would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 1.4 gigatons, about twice what the federal standards would achieve by then, Nichols said.

So now Barbera Boxer, (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has subpoenaed the EPA to provide a better reason and they have replied with a box full of censored paperwork. Apparently such top secret info cannot be entrusted to the U.S. Congress. Oh and Governor Schwarzenegger has made it very clear that California is suing the EPA. Who said politics is boring?

So, in summary, our government must get the permission of the auto/oil industry to pass even the most pitiful legislation. And to get such permission, they must stab another hole in the lifeboat on this sinking ship.

Progress indeed.