Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I'm having issues with the Occupy Wall Street Movement that is everywhere right now (including the spinoffs OccupySF and OccupyOakland). My issues are not related to the common critiques of "what the hell do they want?" and "how the hell are they going to get them?" since I think there are a *lot* of valid demands, some of which are nicely summed up here. Nor am I particularly concerned with the lack of leadership in the "movement" (can a movement lack a leader and structure?) since this seems to be how a lot of the Arab Spring went down, with some/limited success, and honestly, may be the future of networked organizing and revolution.

My issues are slightly different, and partly brought on the other day when I saw a middle aged white woman on CNN speaking as a Tea Party representative. She was asked if she felt there were any similarities between the Tea Party movement and the OccupyWallSt movement. She looked straight at the camera and said something to the effect of "No! Well, we all hate big companies taking our money. Who the heck [sic] doesn't? But other than that? I mean, what do they want??" But I think there are more similarities than the Tea Party representative was willing to own, and surely more than the Occupiers are willing to own. What leftie or liberal out protesting is going to be willing to take that comparison in stride?

Caveat: my only hands-on experience with the Occupy movement was when I went down to 101 Market on Saturday for the Global Day of Action in San Francisco. I got there a little bit after the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence did their thing and arrived right about the time when mass chaos ensued and before protesters started their march, which, it turns out, ended up at City Hall. I left before the end- it had been a long day. Apparently, I missed a very cool thing. The other part of my experience comes from the ever handy twitter which serves as live word of mouth from friends you don't even have. I have been avidly following a couple of acquaintances who are trustworthy sources, and sometims follow the #OccupySF and #OccupyOakland tags. While I wouldn't claim any kind of expertise on the subject, I do feel entitled to a few opinions on the subject.

So here are some of my concerns:

1. Target audience: Per Adbusters Magazine, who, per my understanding, is one of the impetuses behind the movement, one of the stated goals is "to end the monied corruption of our democracy." This is a noble goal, and one I stand behind. The statement includes that OccupyWallSt is "inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising and the Spanish acampadas" both of which, also to my understanding, were demands for more democratic governments. So, if the goal is more democratic governments, and transparency, then I suppose I understand camping out in front of City Hall, like the Oakland protesters are doing. However, if the goal is a less corporatized government, than I'm not sure I understand targeting local governments at all. Today the OccupyOakland movement targeted banks (and even got a little disruptive in a Chase branch), which feels more authentically anti-corporate, and the OccupySanFrancisco events often start at 101 Market St, the home of the Federal Reserve, which makes sense: the symbolic home of the nation's money. But local city governments are not responsible for the lack of separation between business and government that I think most of the 99% would agree has caused a lot of the mess we're in both financially and morally.  Sure, there's corruption out there, and some local policies sure seemed tied to corporate ones (the San Francisco Twitter Tax Break comes to mind).  But to me, the target is the state and more, federal government and the corporations who are holding hands, or maybe even being a little more intimate than that.  Local protests on big issues are important, but the Occupy movements seem to have missed their targets, which are perhaps more aptly the folks in DC, corporate headquarters, and locally, state senators/congresspeople, governors, and senators/congresspeople who are more likely to have any real ability to change anything. Right now, I imagine corporations don't really care at all about OccupyEverything: people are out in their tents using internet service, talking on cell phones, driving, and carrying on normal business. This benefits, not hurts the people the Occupy movement are fighting.

2. Misuse of resources: In the same vein, local governments are the ones picking up the tab for these protests.  I discussed this with a friend, who rightly pointed out that this doesn't mean that we shouldn't protest. Every protest involves the use of resources: police come out whether we like it or not, public works cleans up afterwards, etc. But these protests are going on for weeks, taxing the small resources that are available.  Again, this is not an argument against the movements, or protests in general.  However, because of the lack of organization, OccupyOakland, at least, will not talk to the police or the city. (Don't take my word for it: Mother Jones on the ground just quoted this story.) So, when things like the day of action come up, police send out Every Officer for the "just in case" scenario. This does no one any good. Police officers are part of the 99%, and are under orders to be out there: although the public voices won't say it, the officers are people too, who have families and mortgages and payments. A large officer presence alone escalates the situation and creates a cycle where protesters get resentful/violent and officers get resentful/violent, and the whole situation gets out of whack.  Then the brass feel they "need" to send officers en masse to each event, and the protests remain contentious. And each time this happens, more money is drained from the cities' budget. If the movement cooperated, in the form of dialogue, with officials, much of this could be avoided.  I am not suggesting cooptation, or caving, or anything of the like: just another place the movements seem to be missing the mark. I have been to many permitted and unpermitted marches and actions where police are allocated appropriately and inappropriately (most recently the complete overreaction to OpBart).  The difference here is the scale: weeks have passed that could lead to months without dialogue.

3. 99% of who? There is the potential for collaboration and discussion and growth through OccupyWallSt. 

Occupy Oakland, courtesy of S dP, All Rights Reserved
occupysf October 15 Occupy Wall Street solidarity march O15 67
OccupySF, courtesy Steve Rhodes, Creative Commons

But what I've seen, and I think is visible in these two pictures is something that I wouldn't call representative of 99% of the United States, or even the Bay Area.  Perhaps it's different elsewhere, or at different times, but this is what I saw, and what I've seen over and over again in pictures.  White people, dressed in comfortable clothes, mostly young-ish, some families, and some older people.  Some have signs to the effect that they have advanced degrees and can't find work.  Many have fancy cameras, and almost all are armed with smart phones.  Homeless people sleep in the park where OccupyOakland is camped out, but are not, per a reliable source, part of the tent city. They don't have tents (they may have been given tents since I last heard).  These are some onlookers at the march pictured above in SF. Note distinct differences:
Occupy SF, courtesy Steve Rhodes, Creative Commons

Based on the Good article I linked to above, the top 5 demands of the OccupyWallSt'ers are:
1. Affordable Health Care
2. Jobs
3. Home Stability
4. Affordable Education
5. Credit Card Relief
They established these demands/goals by combining a list of posts into these 5 categories.  Taking for granted, for a moment, that these are the most demanded 5 demands of OccupiersOfEverything, it begs the following two questions for me, which I hope are being asked.  1. Are these the demands representative of People of Color? Of people of all economic standings in the 99%? Of which parts of the 99%? 2. What can this movement do to be more inclusive, inviting, and accurately representative of the needs of the 99%? Of people of color? Of the truly poor? Of the entire 99%?   Like the feminist movement claims to be for all women, this movement has the very real potential of claiming to speak for a huge portion of the population while speaking to and for a select, privileged few. I had a small insight into this when I went to the inspiring and inclusive Life is Living event in West Oakland a couple of weeks ago. A couple of young white kids were handing out OccupyOakland fliers there. But they were doing little more than handing out fliers to a bunch of blank faces who were too polite to say no.  For this movement to be anything more than more preaching to the choir, all of the above issues will need to be addressed.

I am part of the 99%.  But I will not be in a tent at City Hall.

Edit to include this awesome piece with Rachel Maddow and pretty awesome intellectual Tim Wise calling it like it is.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Your Dog Is Fat

No, really, it is.

I've always had an issue with fat dogs. Maybe it's because I have my own body image issues, but it's so much easier (unless there's a medical issue) to control your pet's weight. Maybe it's because I Just Care. Maybe it's coming to a head now because I'm not an animal control officer anymore, so I am dealing mostly with the pets of well-off people, who a) can afford to keep their dog in all kinds of food and b) generally have the education to know what a healthy dog looks like. And maybe it's because of my 52 Weeks for Dogs project, where every week, I see these dogs, and while adorable, there are a few that are morbidly obese. While most of them are normal, there are maybe only one or two or lean/fit dogs. Most are OK, and a few are very round. And really, some are so fat that I'm shocked each time I see a body shot. These are people who are doting on their dogs, which shows. But they're hurting their dogs. Out of discretion and sense of community, I've been unable to gird my loins and post a discussion there, and won't post any examples from the group here.

I have, however, posted a picture of an Irish Wolfhound up above that was tied up outside of Gordo's a couple of weeks ago that is Really Fat. The dog took up the whole sidewalks, as Irish Wolfhounds are bound to do, but the owner was also really proud of her weight. Irish Wolfhounds, he said, run 150-200lbs. But this girl is one of the biggest females in the Bay Area, he also said. Well, yes, she is. You can't see her waist at all. She was also an older girl (I can't remember if he said 6 or 8) which is old for a wolfhound. And fat. And probably extremely uncomfortable. Fat causes extra weight on the joints, especially for giant breeds. And older dogs already have extra pain in the joints. Why do this to our pets?

I've conveniently uploaded a weight chart here. Peruse it, and if your dog looks anything like the one above or the ones below, use it. Sometimes it's hard to see because we live witdh our dogs every day- changes can be gradual or we get used to the way our dogs look. It's not like we're putting them in jeans every day and one day realize we need to buy them a pair of fat pants. Maybe have someone who hasn't seen your dog come look at him and force her to give you an honest opinion. If you need tips for doggy weightloss, I can provide those, too. But love your dog, don't overfeed him.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Mac McClelland: For Us Surrender Is Out Of The Question

Mac McClelland is an amazing writer, in the trickster genre. I kind of want to be her. "For Us Surrender Is Out Of The Question" would be completely unreadable if McClelland wasn't so witty, gritty, and down to earth, because Burma and the Karen refugees living on the border of Burma are possibly the most depressing subject I've read about recently, which is saying something. I folded down a page in my library book (!) to remember to include just a tiny portion of the depressing statistics McClelland throws into the real life picture she paints. McClelland briefly crosses into Burma (she actually stays in Thailand with Karen refugees) and describes the situation there:
Myawaddy looked like Thailand might if Thailand experienced twelve times the infant mortality and fifteen times the child mortality- the second-highest child mortality rate in Asia, after Afghanistan's- if the life expectancy were nearly a decade lower, and if its GNI were a fifteenth of what it was despite its having abundant natural resources. It looked like Thailand might if Thailand, which is just a little bit smaller and a little more populous than Burma, spent 40cents per capita on health care rather than $63, or provided 0 percent of childhood vaccinations instead of 100 percent, or were one of only five countries in the world that forbade Boy Scouts, or were the poorest country on the continent and one of the seven poorest countries in the world but had still managed to double the size of its military troops and buy billions' worth of weapons over two decades despite not being at war with anybody but its own run-down people.
Are you shocked and awed yet? ZERO percent childhood vaccinations? Doubled military size? McClelland details just how the illegitimate Burmese government went about doing this- conscription of young boys, forced portering, etc- in other parts of the book. And 40 cents per capita on health care? I felt guilty that I couldn't put this book down, because it was so well written. On the other hand, McLelland is a genius: the Karen refugee human rights workers she stayed with asked her to tell their story to the world, and she has done so with success.

So what's going on in Burma? Well, it's hard to know, because free press is illegal and a Burman education is hard to come by, but in a nutshell, Burma's been at war for a long time. A really long time. Partly ethnic strife, partly religious, partly over resources, partly over borders, and later, anti-colonial- the wars in Burma have been going on for thousands of years. The British were particularly good at playing factions of Burmese (the Karen and the Burmese, for example,) off of each other, which led to internecine warfare that continues today. Aung San Suu Kyi, probably the most famous Burmese person around, called for a democratic government in the late '80s, and that was probably the first and last time that Burma almost made it. She was quickly placed under house arrest, won the popular election, and the junta cracked down. Aung San Suu Kyi has won the Nobel Prize: she's still under house arrest. As McLelland writes, "verboten is the distribution, in any medium, of any information that is unfriendly to the state, the state ideology, members of state government, the state of state government, the state socialism program, the state of the economy... etc" So all the stuff that goes down with no way for the international community to really know about it. And if they knew about it, they wouldn't really do much, it turns out, because Burma is resource-rich. Under both Clinton and Bush, lip service was paid to the "tyranny" (Condoleezza Rice's term) that exists in Burma. There are sanctions in place, and some public outcry from famous people. But Burma's oil and gas make real solutions unlikely. The Junta makes bajillions from countries like China, France, Thailand, and yes, the United States, who have business interests in Burma. The people of Burma don't see the money, but why would the government change, when the international community keeps the money rolling in? Worse, many countries are still selling military equipment to the Burmese government.

Burma is dying, and the international community is facilitating the blistering, bleeding death. Read "For Us Surrender Is Out Out Of The Question" for a much less melodramatic, much more informative, fascinating, eye-opening picture of the worst global situation you've never heard of.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Week 40: A Dual Post on the Changing of the Seasons


I usually leave Mac's 52 Weeks shots as stand-alones, but I can't leave yesterday (the Phil's elimination from the Post-Season) without saying something, and I'm in the process of writing two other posts, and I am too much of a perfectionist/symmetrist (I just made that one up) to have two separate posts on one day. And Mac's wistful longing to get out of the fucking rain is the gentle version of the morose inertia that has settled over me. April, are you here yet?!

Game 162 came and went without the usual extreme sorrow and trips to the depths of despair, becuase since the discovery that baseball is not JUST about one (shoddy) team, and the newfound discovery of a (super) backup team, my baseball pleasure has expanded immensely. I now get 324 games a year, and miraculously, a postseason. With the Phillies, you're almost guaranteed a World Series, which means an extra three weeks/month of baseball! What's not to like? Well, what's not to like is the extra adrenaline rush that sustains the season an extra five to ten games and then sends you crashing down even further into the inevitable reaches of hell that comes from worshiping at the altar of baseball, and liking Only One Sport. Wait- there *is* only one sport.

Well, last night, my (backup) team was eliminated. The season is over. I honestly don't care if the Brewers go all the way, though it would be pretty sweet to see the Brewers and the Tigers in the World Series, just for a kind old time, American dream kind of thing. I'm feeling this deep anxiety: what will I listen to at night? How will I stay up past 8pm every night? Does it matter? What did I do last year? And the year before that? WHY IS BASEBALL SUCH A CRUEL LOVER? Oh, Mac... get me a coat, and let's go inside. It's going to be a long winter.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Week 39: Sad. So Sad.

Mac officially is counting the weeks to the end of this project.

Week 39: Sad. Real Sad.