mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
BigBirdLives.sniffyesyoudoIt would be nice to think that liberals scored a decisive victory last night, but I don't think the nation's future is that rose-tinted.

The progressive voice made impressive gains last night. Voters in Minnesota rejected efforts to alter the state constitution, voters in Wisconsin elected the nation's first openly gay senator, voters everywhere ousted many virulent anti-women candidates, voters in three states approved same-sex marriage, voters in two states and one city decriminalized marijuana, voters in Massachusetts elected Elizabeth Warren (my Occupy Wall Street sweetheart) to national senate, and not since the Great Depression have American voters RE-elected any president during such tough economic times.

But... none of those achievements really matter because the core problems facing the country remain unchanged.
  • We still deplete our fossil fuel deposits while God stubbornly refuses to put any more of it into the ground to replenish the forever-lost resource. (Conservatives conserve what exactly?)
  • We still impotently watch wealth stagnate rather than circulate.
  • We still employ exponential currency and so face the mathematical certainty of debt growth.
  • We still do nothing while the planet warms and ecosystems shift.
  • We still helplessly watch people choose to reject observation and science.
poll.Ohio.binladenThe Big Bird fiasco was a perfect example of that last point. Democrats mocked Mitt Romney for metaphorically threatening to execute Big Bird by defunding public television. Republicans, in turn, mocked Democrats for fixating on a muppet when there were real issues to discuss. Yet when pollsters asked voters in Ohio who "deserves more credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden", Republicans were overwhelmingly unable to engage reality.

How can any democracy thrive when one of its major political parties abandons reality in favor of partisanship? Mitt Romney couldn't keep his positions straight because he didn't actually have a position. It was all a tangle of self-contradicting bluster. The Republican frenzy got so bad that they abandoned their own nomination processes, so some Romney electors are threatening to withhold their vote thereby figuratively slapping Republicans back to their senses. Even Fox News seemed briefly contrite last night, like an alcoholic promising that he can stop drinking any time he wants to.  As with the decision between Obama and McCain ("The fundamentals of our economy are strong."), America is better off with a president who can rationally discuss issues.  I preferred Jill Stein, but I'll settle for "Bronco Bamma".

Voters haven't done Obama any favors. Obama now has to govern during a continuing (and I expect worsening) crisis of economy, ecology, and rationality.
mellowtigger: (Daria)
The famous American intellectual Noam Chomsky has endorsed Jill Stein, my chosen candidate. I'm happy to see someone of his caliber agree that great progress is still possible within our current political system.  It gives me hope.  I'm also pleased that he chose the same opportunity that I did.  I'm looking forward to casting my vote for her tomorrow.

I admit that I'm doing less research for all of my other decisions this year than I have in previous elections. I may let party affiliation of the candidates (rather than their history and their published platform) determine my choice more than usual this year. I've been tired, as usual. And distracted. I've been much more worried this year with the integrity of the election process than the integrity of the candidates themselves.  I've been directing my attention to that problem.  More on that topic in later weeks, I hope.

Prognosticators are trending toward an Obama victory tomorrow.  The recently famous Nate Silver is forecasting an Obama second term.  He predicts only a 50.9% chance of Obama winning the popular vote, but a 92.2% chance of Obama winning the electoral vote.  InTrade contracts are forecasting an Obama victory by 67.4%.  Not to be left out of the fortunetelling, the GayGamer forum predicts an Obama win by 72.9%.  I don't understand why gay people vote Republican, but there are gay sexists and dark-skinned racists, so I guess anything is possible.


I'm still worried that the electoral wins may be too close tomorrow to depend upon, so we won't really know who is president until the Electoral college votes on December 17th.  How is anyone supposed to celebrate when the apocalypse is just 4 days later?  ;)
mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
Minnesota government has changed its attitude to free online education. After public condemnation of its policy, the director of the Minnesota Office Of Higher Education said to Slate:

"When the legislature convenes in January, my intent is to work with the Governor and Legislature to appropriately update the statute to meet modern-day circumstances. Until that time, I see no reason for our office to require registration of free, not-for-credit offerings."

Coursera has not changed its terms of service to reflect this new policy.  I doubt they will do anything until the law itself changes. This swift change by government gives me hope that Minnesota can still value people more than profits.  We'll see if the state legislature is able to fulfill its obligation in this matter.  I've removed Governor Dayton from my automatic veto list.  In the next election, he'll just have to prove to me that he is superior to whichever 3rd-party candidates challenge him.  :)

It's still worrisome, though, that the proverbial stage is set in this matter.  Ars Technica spoke with another Minnesota official who claimed "that many other states have similar laws on their books".  When laws have the potential to convert free services into fees, then they eventually will.  That's what greed does.  It bullies people into perpetuating the system, like gangsters threatening people for protection money.  That's why government should always serve people rather than profits.

"9. Opportunity plus instinct equals profit.
10. Greed is eternal.
144. There's nothing wrong with long as it winds up in your pocket.

On most days, capitalism looks like a Ferengi invention.

I have an idea for a short video that would explain the danger of great imbalance of wealth among a population. I signed up for the Udacity free online course in HTML5 graphics so I could learn the skills necessary to produce it.  Coincidentally, shortly afterward, the news arrived about this Minnesota policy that seems to favor paid classes over free classes.
mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
Minnesota residents are losing access to free online education courses.  Coursera (which includes classes from Stanford) is already prohibited by official notice from the state government.  Next may be Udacity (where I've already signed up for 2 classes next spring), Khan Academy, MITx, MIT's OpenCourseware, edX, and so many more.  We have a Democratic governor, yet the state's Office Of Higher Education has decided to enforce a decades-old law that makes any education illegal in Minnesota without the state's explicit approval.  Coursera has already updated its terms of service:

"Notice for Minnesota Users

Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota."

This absurdity has been published in the news by the Chronicle Of Higher Education, Forbes, and Slate.  I'm so glad that I'm not beholden to Democratic politicians.  I chose a 3rd-party candidate for governor during the last election, and I'm definitely not voting for Mark Dayton (D) next time.

Plutocrats protecting their monied interests are exactly what's wrong with USA government at every level, and I'm very very annoyed.  Education is big business, and Minnesota has just forged new legal ground in protecting that business from free alternatives.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
ColumbusDayA newcomer is either an immigrant (legal) or a trespasser (illegal); there is no such thing as an illegal immigrant.  I can't imagine why politicians fail to make this distinction.  It would help the discussion, I think, to avoid nonsensical language when discussing an issue.  If national borders are so porous that trespassers are automatically citizens, then why even have borders at all?

Columbus Day is observed in the USA on the second Monday of October, which is today.  It's meant to commemorate the day on 1492 October 12 when Columbus set foot on the Americas.  We actually have a holiday to celebrate the arrival of the first trespassers here.

For myself, I favor very lenient immigration laws.  I also favor unrelenting use of those laws.  I think that it should be easy to become an immigrant, and I think that trespassers should be deported.  I think that nationality should be inherited from parents rather than determined by where you were happened to pop out of your mother's belly.  I think it's time to end the pointless anchor baby fears by changing the citizenship clause of our constitution to something new.

My opinions don't fit easily into the left-versus-right politics in the USA at the moment.  I hope that's a good thing.
mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
You can view tonight's presidential debate at... apparently... only a single url.  It will feature presidential candidates Jill Stein (Green) and Rocky Anderson (Justice) as they answer the same questions posed to Barack Obama (Democratic) and Mitt Romney (Republican).  The viewer count is bouncing up and down, but it's currently at 12,468 people for this first-of-its-kind presidential debate.  Too bad the livestream is not cutting from Jim Lehrer after he poses a question.  The video feed is almost all Obama/Romney instead of Stein/Anderson.
I apologize for misunderstanding the many links described in earlier write-ups about the plan for the debate.

An interesting panel of people are assembled to discuss the official broadcast debate between Obama and Romney.  I thought these were the people who would be posing questions to the 3rd-party presidential candidates.  I was wrong, sorry.  It's actually an unrelated 3rd simultaneous event on this night.
Prior to the debate, some people marched in Denver to protest the 2-party lock-in by the corporate Commission For Presidential Debates.  I thought it would be staged outside the location of the official debate, but I can't tell where it happened.
Color me disappointed.  Apparently I won't get my opportunity to hear presidential candidates discuss meaty issues.



NOTE: This post was edited repeatedly as new information became available.  Last edit at 8:29pm.
mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
Conspicuously absent from the U.S.A. political debates beginning on Wednesday are the many other candidates for president. The whole thing is framed as Obama-vs-Romney, and my opinion of the American political process sinks a little lower. I doubt that it helps at all, but I found it satisfying anyway, to sign the petition to have the Commission On Presidential Debates include other candidates.

politicalcompass.election2012I encourage everyone to consider third-party candidates. While the Republocrats broadcast their entertainment on Wednesday night, Democracy Now will simultaneously broadcast a debate between two other candidates. That's the only one that I will be hearing. Political Compass published their opinion of the 2012 election which matches my own. Basically, the U.S.A. has become a plutocracy, and meaningful democratic process has nearly ended.

I had intended to write a long blog post detailing why I will not be voting for Obama or Romney in this election, but the Miami Herald (on Obama) and Fareed Zakaria (on Romney) point out why some of my biggest complaints about these candidates are more complicated than I want them to be. The political parties themselves are organized to perpetuate their own existence, and democratic principles be damned.  For the record, I think that Republicans are much, much worse than Democrats in this problem.  The important point, though, is that I simply don't want the lesser of two evils.  I want a good option.

I want a new Constitutional Convention. Failing to get that level of change, I want renewed emphasis on actual political choices.

I'm nearly certain that I will vote for Jill Stein for president on November 6th. I hope that you will consider a third-party candidate too.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Our postal service borders on insolvency, even though they are sitting on a proverbial gold mine.  I keep telling people that data is valuable, but the postal service seems not to listen to me.  They have two services that they could sell cheaply and still earn great quantities of money.
  1. Address verification
  2. Address geocoding
Plenty of third-party companies charge a lot of money for these services.  Technically, there are also free services available (like Google, Yahoo, and others), but their free access is encumbered by usage restrictions in their license.  I've investigated several of them for the non-profit organization where I work, and we were prohibited from using all of these services either by their licensing or their fees.

The USPS would need to invest in a programming interface to their valuable database.  Afterwards, though, if they charged only a small fee, they could still rake in lots of cash.  They could compete with all of the 3rd-party offerings, and they could outperform on both cost and legal restrictions.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
... but not for the reason you might think.

The conservative Republican party is pushing voter identification law in jurisdictions throughout the USA. The fear-based argument for the change is that our democracy is imminently endangered by voter fraud. This claim is absurd. During the last decade, there are only 10 documented cases of in-person voter fraud in the whole country. These laws are clearly NOT about fraud.

These laws are about voter disenfranchisement. People who tend to lack identification (poor, immigrants, racial minorities, and women who change name after marriage) also tend to vote for the liberal Democrat party, so disenfranchisement on this factor will favor the Republican party. And they know it. Republicans are pursuing voter barriers so enthusiastically that they are removing Democrat members of an election board and submitting fraudulent signatures on a ballot petition, themselves providing a more immediate threat to democratic process than the voter fraud they claim to abhor.

I favor voter identification laws anyway, because they offer a conveniently slippery slope to national id cards, which circumvents the traditional Republic opposition to big government. As a computer programmer, I have wished for 20 years that the U.S.A. had a national id number for each citizen. It would simplify and improve so many business processes! Instead, we rely on less secure and less reliable means of identifying people. Unfortunately, religion prevents us from getting one. It's the familiar old conspiracy theory that "number of the beast" assignments by the "big brother" government will spawn the antichrist and bring the apocalypse.  Pay no attention to the evidence that many countries use national id without self-destructing in hellfire. It amuses me that Republicans can't see how their own fears manipulate them. They worry so much about voter fraud today that they'll implement identification processes that would normally trigger their fear of government-antichrist-takeover tomorrow.

Oh well. I'll take the improvements as I can get them. Voter id laws require documentation to participate in a democratic process that every citizen should join. Technically, voting is an optional activity and not a requirement, but it's just not the same kind of voluntary process as driving a vehicle or purchasing alcohol (both of which require identification). Mandating voter id for acting as a democratic citizen is just one short step away from issuing government id to all democratic citizens just for living.

Bring on the voter id laws! We can temporarily mitigate their flaws while pursuing this great bipartisan opportunity for national id.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
How will the U.S. government punish me for being too poor to afford healthcare?

The U.S. Supreme Court has broadly upheld our new health care law (generally called "Obamacare" among those who disapprove).  The most controversial provision of the law was its individual mandate.  All Americans must pay for healthcare insurance.

I don't care about the politics of anything else.  I only want to know how this mandate will be enforced.  As I understood it last year, there was a multi-thousand-dollar penalty charged to anyone who failed to purchase healthcare.  I, like a great many Americans, cannot afford that much money.  So, again, I ask the only question that really matters.

How will the U.S. government punish me for being too poor to afford healthcare?
mellowtigger: (coprolite)
I am without medical insurance again. I was on taxpayer-funded Minnesota Care until recently. They stopped allowing recurring automated payments. I think they stopped mailing monthly bills too, because I can only find my cancellation notice. They keep requiring a full re-application each year. All 3 disincentives were enough to keep me from resubscribing. Apparently it's more cost effective for Minnesota taxpayers to just wait and let me go to a hospital emergency room like all of the other uninsured in America. *ignorant shrug*

The rest of the news is all much nicer.

I'm glad to report that my gut is still quite healthy. After getting lucky in January and "accidentally" curing a decade-long amoebic infection, I've been doing quite well. My weight shot up quickly during the next 3 months. It was probably a good sign that I was gaining much more nutrition from the food I that I eat.

I'm not effective at remembering to take pills, but I continued with B12 and multivitamins anyway. Wonder of wonders, I actually finished a large bottle of pills this week before it expired. I think the supplements might be improving my condition. I haven't had a single muscle cramp (although I've come close a few times in my left foot while bicycling) in several months!  I'm going to buy some more vitamin pills and continue for a few more months to see if the condition improves any more. Might my neurons be regenerating their myelin sheath with my improved B12 digestion? I'm hopeful.

Marijuana.ArrestGodI still get persistent muscle twitches, my energy level is still uncomfortably low, and I still get periods of strong tingling/numbness in my fingers and toes. If a few more months of vitamins don't offer additional improvements, then I've already selected my next experiment. A thorough study has recently confirmed previous evidence that smoking marijuana can reduce muscle problems associated with multiple sclerosis. My state of Minnesota does not recognize legal use of medical marijuana. Since I don't have effective medical care, though, I'll be sure to pursue my health care wherever I can find useful and affordable treatment. I don't have a supply of marijuana available, but this is America so it should be easier to find some here than in most countries.

Commuting by bicycle this year is also working out well for me. I've lost almost all of the 20 pounds that I gained after January. I'm looking forward to losing about 20 more pounds before the end of the year. I would consider 160# to be "healthy" for my body. I approached that goal after last year's bicycle commute, but I'll try harder to reach it this year.

My mood is still needing improvement, but I'm certain that it helped to stay home from Pride festival this weekend, Bear Coffee in recent weeks, and the Bear Campout this weekend. Isolation from humanity almost always improves my outlook on life. *laugh*

I need to pay more attention to my very limited finances, but I'll write more on that topic in a later post.
mellowtigger: (people not profits)
The good news is that economic equality improves many societal problems. The bad news is that America is not on any path to recovery.

Richard Wilkinson gave a great lecture at TED last year. He showed some amazing correlations that he found between income inequality and a wide range of measures for societal health: lifespan, mental illness, homicide, literacy, trust, social mobility, and more. The same trends held true across nations of different backgrounds and also across the states within the USA. This 17-minute video is well worth your time.

"So what we're looking at is general social dysfunction related to inequality. It's not just one or two things that go wrong; it's most things. ... Sweden has huge differences in earnings, and it narrows the gap through taxation, general welfare state, generous benefits, and so on. Japan is rather different, though. It starts off with much smaller differences in earnings before tax. It has lower taxes; it has a smaller welfare state. In our analysis of the American states, we find rather the same contrast. There are some states that do well through wealth redistribution, and some states that do well because they have smaller income differences before tax. So we conclude that it doesn't much matter how you get your greater equality, as long as you get there somehow. I'm not talking about perfect equality, I'm talking about what exists in rich, developed, market democracies."

murdered catOur politicians will not take the steps necessary to improve wealth equality in America. Everything "liberal" has become so thoroughly demonized that it's impossible to have bipartisan discussions on real issues any more. For example, somebody murdered a political leader's cat and scrawled "Liberal" on its corpse. That's the level of discourse that we have nowadays because evidence-based reasoning is ridiculed.

Meanwhile, the economic hard times continue. Daily life is not getting better, regardless of what the pundits are claiming about the economy. I go to the gas station convenience store, and I see an old man digging in the trash can for food. I talk to college students (and recent graduates) who are barely holding things together. I talk to people my age who cancel annual vacation plans because they can't afford it. I know my former boss is still unemployed after job hunting for an entire year, and I know others who are also unemployed.

Outsiders are finally beginning to see past the published lies and the political rhetoric. This recent BBC presentation documented the kind of America that I'm seeing.

adult: Leslie is 6. She was more withdrawn than the others.
child: My mom eat rats.
adult: Eating rats? Is that something that you eat a lot, or it just happened once?
child: Once.
adult: It just happened once? Was that because she ran out of food?
child: *nod*
adult: Yeah? How did that make you feel?
child: Sad.

One woman in that documentary tells her husband who needs surgery, "What are they going to do if we can't pay the bill? They can't come eat us. They can't kill us and eat us." And that's how far America has fallen. The rich seem to know it too, since they arm themselves in case the peasants finally decide to eat the rich. The politicians seem to know it, since they have already assembled the obvious data. Instead of addressing the issues, however, they divert us with the reliable distractions of birth control, union organizers, gay marriage, military deployments, and oil development.

Go back to that TED video, and tell me what evidence-based reasoning would suggest that we follow as a useful legislative agenda for solving our social problems? If we can't do those things, then we'll continue killing cats and eating rats.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Obamacare was touted as either being a government takeover of the healthcare system (by Republicans) or a new standard in minimum care for all Americans (by Democrats).  I think that either fantasy would be a welcome improvement over the truth.

I can't tell that anything at all has improved for me as different provisions of the new health care law become enforced. In fact, my Minnesota-subsidized health insurance is steadily getting worse. First, I discovered as I tried to fill a prescription at Walgreen's last month that they no longer accept my MN Care coverage. Now, I discover in a new notice that "Auto withdrawal of payments for all health care programs is ending". I'll have to manually make a payment each month. The odds of my doing so on time in perpetuity are extremely low. I'm sure they're counting on it, so they can dump me and a lot of other people off of their public assistance.  Plus, I keep getting notices of "payment denied" for various lab tests and procedures that have been done in recent months, although I've yet to receive a bill for whatever it is that was denied.

The only good news here is that my biopsies came back with no problems.  They found no evidence of infection, inflammation, or cancer. I've been regularly taking B12 and multivitamin pills since my procedures. I've noticed no improvement so far, however, in the neuron damage. I still have the neuropathy and muscle twitches. I'll give it a few more months before dropping my hopes that my problem was B12 absorption rather than multiple sclerosis.
mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
candle lighting candleTechnology gives us the global telepathy that biology failed to provide. Copyright showcases our failure to adapt. The problem is easy to express. In fact, the Buddha stated it plainly over 2,500 years ago.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
- Siddhārtha Gautama,

People try to lay claim to the immaterial rather than the material. The effort to "own" the insubstantial is what leads to a multitude of problems. Technological telepathy will require you to make a decision about whether there can be such a concept as "intellectual property" when somebody else claims ownership over your own memories. Personal liberty and freedom of expression are concepts that will run directly into the wall of corporatism, profiteering, and ownership.

We should sidestep the distraction of the various recording technologies (cameras, tape recorders, page scanners) by acknowledging immediately that humans themselves have always functioned as recording devices. Recording cannot be prevented reasonably, so who owns these human records now?  Sounds reach my ears, sights reach my eyes, and experiences in total are stored in my memories. The technology is already in development that will allow me to directly share my experience. My auditory experience can be shared. My visual experience can be shared. My memories can eventually be stored outside of my body and shared with others. Are my memories "mine", in total, or are they not? Why should anyone have authority to prevent me from sharing the history of my life experience, even when a moment of it incorporates somebody's copyrighted work?

I see only three beneficial solutions: we end intellectual property, we recognize benefaction rather than ownership, or we seize intellectual property for the commons. In all three cases, plagiarism is still possible (as a false claim of original authorship) but not theft.

Keeping our existing laws is ghastly; it will soon mean that someone else owns your memories.

Solution #1: Eliminate Intellectual Property

It would be foolish to share something then demand that every recipient is now bound by a code of silence forever, but that's exactly how copyright works today. You are not allowed to share your experience of a concert or movie except at the lowest fidelity by transcribing your audiovisual experience into mere words that describe your recollection. If the original experience was already in the realm of words alone (reading a story, for example), then additional restrictions apply.

The easiest solution is to eliminate copyright altogether. End intellectual property. I prefer this method for its simplicity. Immaterial ideas could be owned as private property only if they remain private. Taking ideas or experiences from the mind of the sole individual who harbors them would indeed be theft.

Solution #2: Eliminate Ownership

An alternative is to end "ownership" of ideas but instead recognize "benefactors" of creative works. If there is ever any benefit (money or services granted) for a creative development, then the original author may lay claim to that benefit. So someone can freely use any image, video, audio, or text on their website, but if they earn any money from the publication, then the original author(s) can claim a portion of those collected fees.

I already endorse this approach. If you look at the source code for my personal webpages, you see this notice in the meta tags. It is the closest version of benefaction that I can easily achieve on my own with current laws.

<META NAME="COPYRIGHT" CONTENT="Copyright (c) 2005 by Terry Walker, you may use this content in any way that is not for profit">

I think this approach is encouraged by the efforts of the Pirate Party. I notice that scientists also seem to favor this approach, as they abandon strict journal ownership of articles in favor of peer review through easily shared sources.  Authorship is important, but ownership is not.

Solution #3: Seize Public Property

I mention this idea only to be thorough in my examination of possibilities. It relies on government actively working to benefit people, which no government should be trusted to do continuously. Government could counterbalance the intellectual property problem by asserting the community's ownership of its ideas. Government could place a movie or book in national archives where everybody could use it. Government could take a patent and make it publicly owned.

When was the last time you heard of a government claiming "imminent domain" rights over intellectual property? Yeah, me neither. Government is so beholden to corporations that it is actively stealing from the public commons to benefit the private corporations. It does so already with limited physical resources. The U.S. government now also has permission from the Supreme Court to take items out of public domain and return them to copyright protection.

The easiest solution is still to end copyright.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Here are a few images, in honor of today's internet protest against American legislation (proposed, so far) gone amok.  SopaStrike has compiled a list of who's participating in today's blackout by big name internet companies.  You might recognize some of the names on the list: Google, Wikipedia, Tucows, Good Old Games (my favorite), Internet Archives, Imgur, Flickr, Reddit, Mozilla, O'Reilly Media, WordPress, and more.

SOPA image 1SOPA image 3SOPA image 2

If you've never heard of them before, there are plenty of good reviews from reputable sources about these pieces of law that the U.S. Congress is trying to pass.  The best introduction that I've found is a video published at Vimeo.
Additionally, there's a strong disapproval from Adam Savage of the Mythbuster's show, and Wired magazine offers a good justification for their protest, and the Guardian has a 2-minute video explaining the legislation and a decent review of what's at stake in this battle.  The Oatmeal is well known for its parody, and they've got a long animated gif explaining their view on this legislation too (slightly offensive, as is their wont).

If you want to help protest #SOPA and #PIPA legislation, you can sign the petition hosted by Google itself.
Wikipedia encourages you to contact your congress critter.  (You must have javascript enabled to see their blackout message.)  You can use this webpage from Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Your contact might be even more effective if your particular congress critter happens to support these two pieces of legislation.  (Hint: It's not a Democrat vs. Republican thing.  It's a corporation vs. consumer thing.  PIPA is co-sponsored by Minnesota's own Democrat, Al Franken.)

SOPA image 4
mellowtigger: (liberal frustration)
Government figures claim one thing but act differently. Is this what it will be like during the next year until the election on November 2nd in 2012?

Minneapolis city claims to support its Occupation, but it prohibits tents.

Hennepin county commissioner Mike Opat claims to care for the poor and disabled and to help the chronically homeless, but he works to prohibit sleeping or placing posters at the Occupation outside his office.

Will it be a whirlwind of hypocritical claims of solidarity with the Occupation movement while secretly (or not so secretly) working to inhibit the protest?
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Thieves stole a church bell, funeral plaques and vases, copper wiring from a police radio tower, copper wiring at baseball parks, and even an entire bridge during the last month in America. I keep warning my readers that infrastructure cannibalization precedes economic collapse. Do you see the same trends that I do?

When you look at the right indicators, you never make the mistake of thinking that we exited the Great Recession. Two weeks ago, a local thrift store held a one-day sale. I went and bought some more clothes for myself, and the aisles were PACKED with shoppers. The recession is still here, and it's getting worse. Consider the 9-year-old boy who murders for hire. It's already that bad for some people.

It doesn't help that some people are determined to make it worse. We already had companies manipulating the market of securities trading, which is blamed as the main cause of the 2008 economic woes. We also have companies manipulating the market of substantive goods like aluminum by artificially creating shortages simply by warehousing the product away from buyers. While corporate misbehavior continues, Republicans keep insisting that deregulation is needed. Bruce Bartlett (who served in the administrations of Reagan and Bush) writes a denial of this agenda.

Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no stimulative effect during the George W. Bush administration and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today. And the Republicans’ oft-stated concern for the deficit makes tax cuts a hard sell.

Republocrat no more!These constraints have led Republicans to embrace the idea that government regulation is the principal factor holding back employment. They assert that Barack Obama has unleashed a tidal wave of new regulations, which has created uncertainty among businesses and prevents them from investing and hiring.

No hard evidence is offered for this claim; it is simply asserted as self-evident and repeated endlessly throughout the conservative echo chamber.


It seems that other people are reaching the same conclusion. Even 24% of Republicans questioned in Florida agree that the GOP is intent upon destroying the economy just to make Obama look bad.

We are one year away from the next election.  Please don't vote Republocrat!  Vote for a 3rd-party candidate that you can support.  Write in your own name for every position which offers only Republocrat options.  Just don't participate in the mental trickery that drives people to support the same old government that we've had.

It's a national emergency.  It's time for change.
mellowtigger: (people not profits)
I advocate that "information is always free". I don't fully understand people who claim privacy or copyright to information, events, or depictions (written recollections or photo recordings) that should rightfully belong either to someone else, to no one, or to everyone at large. Paranoia about keeping some kinds of truths hidden or controlled is a strange twist of human psychology.

Here in Minneapolis I've heard paranoid objections from people regarding the recording of discussions. Yes, we livestream our activities. Why would it matter if someone records? Yes, the local Sheriff's office has tried to characterize this group as dirty vandals who cost taxpayers money. At first, local media tended to "take the bait" and accept the Sheriff's authority on the topic. I think they might be growing wise to the Sheriff's lack of impartiality. Indeed, local media performed much better during an incident this week with a box of riot gear. Someone left a box at our kitchen table. The box included bricks and a sign that read:

-- bricks
-- large but throwable stones
-- gasoline

Gee, is there anything obvious about that obvious obviousness?

Justified:  Occupiers notified officers on site about the man. An officer questioned the man at the light rail station then let him go. Yes, they let him just ride away. Later, the Sheriff's office released a statement about the box that led to full-blown hyperbole from the local NBC station that seems merely to reproduce their statement for them. The Independent and even FOX were much more thoughtful in their evaluation. Previously, (or so I'm told) officers gave someone a $700 ticket for smoking a cigarette on the plaza, and they gave him a notice of trespassing to make sure he doesn't visit the plaza again. A man drops off a box of "riot gear", though, and they let him go. Do I detect something incongruent in these responses?  Fertile ground for paranoid theories.

Just sad:  Similarly, Bob Carney Jr., a local Republican advocate, attends our nightly general assemblies and then publishes statements about this Occupation such as, "Communists, "hooligans on the left" seek to shape Occupy agenda. Carney has observed extensive involvement in the on-going Minneapolis event by leftist, socialist, and Marx/Lenin Communists." Sure, there are Socialists involved. I've told you so myself, but I also point out the presence of a wide variety of opinions. I try to avoid relying on tired old dichotomies just for their scare value.

Just a WTF:  Considering these experiences with journalists, maybe some healthy amount of paranoia is justified? But the Oakland group had gone so far as to actively chase away (sic a dog on someone) their local media! So we shouldn't be totally surprised when television stations then turned their backs on the protesters as the police launched their militarized assault. Sure the stations can be rightfully offended, but their dislike should never have led them to abandon their 4th branch role in government. Media is necessary to ensure public accountability from government, if media is functioning properly. The Washington Post, however, had the gall to stage a "pet the dog" defense of the assault in Oakland with their "pet the kitten" front page photograph.

Anyway... I try to resist the paranoia machine. I record, I write, I collect online, and I share what I encounter. This event-in-the-making belongs to everyone. I make no money from my efforts. My interest in blogging is entirely for bringing issues to light for proper discussion.

No problem can be solved if it remains ignored. I disapprove of secrets. Information wants to be free. :)
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
That bridge is officially unsafe. I discovered yesterday that metro transit buses are now detoured because they are forbidden from driving across the first bridge that I photographed last month.

bridge 1bridge 1

There are not yet signs up preventing any traffic.  I spent the night at the Minneapolis #occupy site.  On the way back this morning, I asked the transit bus driver about the detour.  She said she saw trucks and a school bus still driving over the bridge, but metro was warned against it until it is repaired.

I do not know of any repairs scheduled for that bridge.  It'll be next year (after winter) before any work can start on it.  The collapse of this bridge over the multiple train railroads would be less dramatic than the I-35 collapse over the Mississippi River four years ago, but it's better to avoid the danger altogether.  It's good that somebody is paying attention and trying to divert at least some of the heaviest traffic.

Any local readers should also find alternate routes of travel since the bridge is clearly unsafe.
mellowtigger: (people not profits)
republocrats are the plutocracyRepublocrats serve the plutocracy, not the electorate.  Doubt any commentary from pundits of the left or the right who try to frame the Occupation using the terms of traditional political parties.  I personally think that it's time to end both major parties so that true democratic representation can begin again.

Whatever it was that motivated the beginning of the Tea Party protest, their effort was quickly co-opted as just a new "brand name" of the Republican party similar to the Moral Majority of the 1980s.  I fervently hope that we can keep the Occupation movement from becoming a similar tool for the Democratic party.

Consider the following commentary from a leftist website:

The False Divide

A joke making the rounds on the Internet goes like this:

There's a plate of 12 cookies sittng on a table. The rich take 11 cookies leaving only 1 cookie left on the plate. They then turn to the Tea Party and say ‘Those unions are trying to take your cookie.'

This works about equally well with Republicans vs. Democrats.

It's why Republicans versus Democrats is largely a false divide. The monied interests would rather have us arguing Republican vs. Democrat (50/50 split) than Rich vs. Everyone Else (1/99 split).


So please consider, when reading any commentary, how an opinion could serve the interests of corporations to keep the electorate divided into their current and ineffective Republocrat camps.  The 99% are larger than either political party, and it's time we worked together to solve the problems that undermine our democratic process.

Republocrats do not serve the electorateHere's a sign from #occupyMN that belongs to a small political party in Minnesota.  As it happens, I was one of only a few thousand Minnesotans who voted for them during the last election.  If this ongoing Occupation fails to deliver any change at all except the formation of many, many new political parties, then it still will have served an important role in changing the course of American history and improving our existing political process.

Regardless of your political stripes, please try to find those issues being discussed by Occupiers that you also support.  Add your voice to the chorus asking for change on those issues.  Leaving America to the whims of its politicians (bought by lobbyist money) is what got us into this mess.  Help us demand something new.


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