Is The Occupy Movement Dead?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 26, 2012 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Not likely. But it probably needs to get itself off the ropes. And though it’s no longer in tents, it might still get intense. Remember: it’s the banks, stupid.

Is the Occupy Movement dead?Perhaps the only thing more tedious than a roomful of liberal intellectuals endlessly debating the world’s problems is a roomful of moderate Republicans, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, socialists, anarchists AND liberal intellectuals doing the same thing. And if you attend an Occupy-related meeting or assembly anywhere across the country, there’s a good chance that you will run into this phenomena. It’s equally likely that you will encounter a similar mix of people having a surprisingly productive and efficient meeting, using methods that will seem strange to most people. And no, I’m not talking about twinkle fingers; as one of the folks involved in some re-organization of Occupy Ann Arbor, I attend a lot of meetings and events, and haven’t seen many twinkle fingers since December. No, I’m talking about consensual decision making that may borrow both from the most ancient of methods – like the Greek Forum – to cutting edge ideas like Open Space, which also is used by organizations that range from AT&T and Rockport to Israeli/Palestinian peace organizers.

What I DO still see a lot of though is opinionating. And personal irresponsibility. And confusion. Last fall a former Ann Arborite – writing for the National Review – said that¬† “an Occupy Ann Arbor is like a special ballet company, set aside for thin people.” Nothing could really be farther from the truth; this town is so conservative that the real problem has been getting enough people present to actually occupy anything in a noticeable fashion. And when they¬†do get together in any notable numbers – amongst the self-identified Occupy groups in the area, there is a strange mix of factionalism and solidarity – there will often be a strange result. They will suddenly realize once again that they agree on a bunch of things, but then get mired in debate about what to do and how to do it. This perplexed me for months, and then I finally came to understand a few things. Read the rest of this entry »

Seven BEGINNING Of The World Ideas For 2012

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 3, 2012 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

If we’re all expecting the end of the world as we know it, we might as well plan the new one.

Is 2012 the end of the world?Okay, we’ve all had our fun pondering the end of life as we know it this year. I even took a humorous stab at it just the other day. I guess we needed to get it out of our systems again. I mean, it’s been over ten long years since the last time we got all nutty about the impending apocalypse. Personally, I’m of the opinion that this yearning for a dramatic end of the world scenario is driven largely by the collective unconscious guilt of the human race. On the one hand, the guilt that wealthy elites unconsciously feel, knowing that the tablet device their ten year old is watching Disney movies on as they fly to a tropical retreat was made by the cracked and bleeding fingers of ANOTHER ten year old, half a world away. A ten year old that gets paid a dollar a day so that the company that made the tablet can “retain the talent” of the overpaid CEO that was largely responsible for taking that dollar-a-day kid’s crappy job away from some former middle class American because they got paid 20 times more for it. And on the OTHER hand, the collective guilt fueled by the laziness and apathy of that same former middle-class American, who didn’t vote, didn’t pay attention while their country got gutted by robber barons, and instead sat around ordering out for pizza and watching “reality TV” and cable news while their home got repossessed and the cost of education skyrocketed so high that their kids will be doomed to the same second-rate first-world life that they are. Do I sound cynical? I’m not. In fact, I figure if we DO finally have to face the end of the world this year, that just means we have opportunities to create a new one. And the ball is already in motion. From the recent massive protests in Russia, to the Occupy, Tea Party, and “think local” movements in America, to the “Arab Spring”, regular people all over the world are demanding a better world. I think we can make one. How about you? Below is my starter wish list. Feel free to chime in or tell me what an idiotic Utopian I am. Read the rest of this entry »

Confused By All The Google/Verizon Network Neutrality Talk?

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on August 10, 2010 by admin in Technology

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Don’t be. It’s simple. What Google and Verizon are trying to do is comparable to Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone supporting free and open competition of horseless carriages while guaranteeing themselves protected monopolies to make cars.

Confused by all the talk from Google and Verizon about their plans for protecting net neutrality? Don’t be. All the jargon, press releases, and proposals thrown around by both companies are classic strategies. Confuse the public with a flurry of conflicting hints, public statements and denials while doing your best to control the actions of the agency that might regulate you. The nutshell version of what these two companies are trying to do with the internet and wireless broadband access could be likened to Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone supporting free and open competition of horseless carriages while giving themselves protected monopolies of the yet-to-be defined automobile market. It’s dirty. But would you expect anything else from either company during economic times like this? And don’t get me going on the Google “don’t be evil” thing. We joked back in 2008 that Google’s got you covered top to bottom . And the irony of the words you’re about to read being surrounded by Google ads is not lost on me. But here’s the scary truth: if Facebook’s deceiptful privacy practices and attitude have caused you to be angry or concerned, Google’s attitude should trouble you exponentially more. Most recently, Google’s Eric Schmidt was quoted in this article as saying (in reference to the massive amounts of data compiled about you) that “The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a verified name service for people. Governments will demand it ” (emphasis mine). This is in line with his December 2009 remark that “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Which may be true. But do you want a company like Google or Verizon to be the ones making these decisions? If this cavalier attitude doesn’t trouble you, and if – like many people – you have a Gmail account and use any of Google’s many free tools, try the following, if you haven’t already. Go to your Google Dashboard and see what they’ve been tracking. If you’re a light user of Gmail who just logs in and out to check mail, you’ll see little of interest here. But if you stay logged into your Google accounts all the time, you might be a little disturbed by how much information about you is compiled in one place. And now Google not only wants to know what you HAVE done, they think they can predict what you WILL do. By the way, if they’re so good at predicting the future, this begs the question: how did they not know that Facebook would kick their ass so bad on social networking? Read the rest of this entry »

Film Industry Is Only FCCing Itself With New Regulations

[ Comments Off ]Posted on May 10, 2010 by admin in Popular Media

Monday, May 10th, 2010

How the film industry’s latest victory in its battle to control how you watch your movies may actually contribute to its demise.

It is with mixed feelings that I bid adieu to the MPAA and the major motion picture companies of America, because although some of the epic films that came out of….oh hell. Who am I kidding. I’m already planning a party. The desperate land grab for your hard-earned CD’s and song files that the RIAA and the established music industry attempted with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and DRM has spawned one of the most creative decades in pop music, and put more money in more artists’ pockets than ever before. Although smart pop media influencers like Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing are in a tizzy about the admittedly insane new “Selectable Output Control” power that the FCC is handing the film industry, the development should come as no surprise; I can only guess that the reason Cory is so upset is that he must be a cable subscriber. As an avid film lover, this will have little impact for me personally. As just one of the more glaring examples of why this should come as no surprise, one of the people who more recently spun through DC’s revolving doors was Catherine Bohigian, chief of the office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis at the FCC, who left in 2008 to take a job with the cable giant Cablevision. To me the most shocking thing about this recent round of nuttiness being promulgated by the in-some-ways shadowy MPAA is that it’s taking so darn long for the movie industry to undermine itself the way the music industry did. It shouldn’t take too long though; although the studios haven’t been aggressively suing their customers on a regular basis like the record companies, they do have a pretty batshit-insane shopping list for how to protect their market. And after witnessing the indy music industry explosion of the last decade, I personally don’t see any reason why this couldn’t happen with film. The film industry is doing exactly the same thing the record companies did; they’re routinely annoying their best customers, and sticking it to a key distribution channel in their maniacal grab for control of intellectual property. The RIAA did it with radio, the MPAA is doing it to theaters. And they’re doing this at a time when professional-quality production and distibution tools are within the reach of just about anyone. In my opinion there would be nothing cooler than a massive movement comprised of small-house indy film venues showing nothing but indy film in intimate settings using HD technology. I say go ahead and FCC yourself, MPAA.

Washington’s Revolving Doors Make My Head Spin

[ 3 Comments ]Posted on March 9, 2010 by admin in Politics

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

The corporate takeover of the US Government is not tin-foil hat stuff, it’s well documented. We just don’t pay any attention. But will we ever DO anything about it?

This attractive revolving door is made
by the Crane Door company. We didn’t
research them for influence peddling.

I like to think of myself as a little more informed than the “average” citizen – whoever they are – yet I regularly find myself to be disturbingly naive (okay, just plain stupid) regarding how things really work in our government. It has bothered me for some time that our government seems to have been taken over by the finance industry, and that it operates in creepy collusion with a telecom monopoly, but until taking a closer look recently, I had no idea how active that revolving door in Washington really was. Considered “business as usual” by most Washington insiders, it even has a polite euphemism. Instead of calling it a corporate coup of our government, it’s called Agency Capture or Regulatory Capture. I believe in the old school Republican idea that government can be bad for business, but I can hardly accept the reverse, i.e.: that business is good for government. I think the recent banking catastrophes and USDA food safety failures speak for themselves; with the former you have the revolving banking industry/treasury department door, with the latter, the USDA/Monsanto door. I would be astounded if the current administration’s plans to make changes in revolving door policies were successful; the practice is simply far too pervasive. The amount of information on government agencies that are staffed with former corporate influence peddlers is overwhelming. Eisenhower warned of us the Military Industrial Complex back in 1961, and Monsanto has been a target of this scrutiny for some time; see lists like this one or this one. But these are just high-profile, extremely well-funded examples. This form of governing reaches across every industry, and at all levels of government. I’ve compiled a table of examples below, but for a really amazing resource, check out Open Secrets’ Revolving Door database. You can use it to do things like starting with a list of over 300 former public servants to track their connections, or look at revolving door employees by agency. The White House has nearly 500 on staff itself. In spite of the overwhelming number of federal employees that are infecting the way our government runs, there is a bright side. Rather than feeling paranoid and powerless against cold, inhuman, and faceless corporations, we COULD start targeting the actual people responsible with civic action. They only get away with it because we don’t pay attention. The tables and images below begin to give it all a face. Read the rest of this entry »