politics

more Tea Party lunacy: bike-friendly cities are a U.N. plot

As i have said before, I miss having a sane conservative movement in this country. While social conservatism has pretty much always been an intellectually bankrupt attempt to institutionalize a system of prejudice and privilege, I'd like to have some good fiscal conservatives around, some button-down bean-counters making sure we get the best deal for our dollar. As unabashedly leftist as I am, there are a few things where you'll find me in agreement with a stereotypical GOPer -- I'm opposed to excessive regulation on small business, for example (since I run two of them), and to overly strong gun control laws. I'd like to have some Eisenhower-style Republicans (updated with the past 50 years of social progress) around.

But instead, we get Republican politicians like Colorodo gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, who believes that efforts by Mayor John Hickenlooper to make Denver more bike-friendly are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."

Says Maes, "This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms...These aren't just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to." He is apparently talking about the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an international sustainable-development association with 1,200 member communities, including 600 in the U.S.

Polls show that Maes, a Tea Party favorite, has pulled ahead of former Congressman Scott McInnis, the early frontrunner in the Aug. 10 primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Maes acknowledged that some might find his theories "kooky," but he said there are valid reasons to be worried.

"At first, I thought, 'Gosh, public transportation, what's wrong with that, and what's wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what's wrong with incentives for green cars?' But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty," Maes said.

...

"Some would argue this document that mayors have signed is contradictory to our own Constitution," Maes said.

Wikileaks lets the truth be known: Afghan war a total clusterfuck

The Guardian reports on Wikileaks' release of secret US military files, revealing a war that's even more of a failure than we realized. (If you hadn't yet realized that the war was a failure, may I respectfully suggest that you wake the fuck up already?)

The files were released by Wikileaks to the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel. Most of the material was classified "secret" but is no longer militarily sensitive; the Guardian has withheld some from publication, and Wikileaks says it will redact harmful material before posting on its own servers.

Some of the details now available:

Maybe the god(ess)(s/es) smile upon Wikileaks. This machine kills fascists.

RIP Marty Baum: "one bad daddy"

Even in these days of Facebook, it can take news, good or bad, months to find us.

Marty Baum was part of my original poetical family, one of the regulars at World Famous Poetry Night at the Planet X coffeehouse in College Park, Maryland, back in the mid 1990s. Though we were all equal poets there, he was a mentor to me in the full-on, balls-to-the-wall style with which he read and performed his stuff.

He was one of the nutcases who kept coming even after the place burned down, meeting on the "grassy knoll" right across the street on the campus of the University of Maryland, or under the awning of a sub shop a few doors up. I remember a bunch of us meeting under that awning one night with a tornado warning in effect -- I can't remember for sure if Marty was there that night or not, but I think he was. We were a bunch of crazy young poets, so what the hell and why not?

It was Marty, as I recall, who introduced me to the work of Charles Bukowski; Bukowski's been a favorite of mine ever since.

I had lost touch with Marty over the years, but back in February we met up on Facebook, and for about two months after that we would occasionally swap comments. I hadn't heard from him in a while, but that happens; I wasn't checking on his page or anything. So I missed the news.

I just learned that Marty left us back on April 4th, a victim of lack of health insurance. According to notes left on his Facebook page, he had lost his health insurance when he lost his job last year. And so a minor infection was left untreated and ran rampant, costing this fine young poet his life. Another needless death brought to you by our ridiculous, laughable, tragic, profit-oriented healthcare system.

So if I should happen to punch out the lights of the next goddamn teabagger who parrots the bullshit about the U.S. having the best healthcare system in the world, you'll know why. But I'll try to refrain, in honor of Marty's general good nature.

Instead I'll try to take this as a reminder to let the people who've touched my life, know what they mean to me. So all my fellow poets, those I've shared the stage at readings with, those I've struggled with crazy writing exercises with: you are my brothers and sisters in arms, and I love you.

right-wing wacoks fall for three-year-old Onion spoof video

So a few years ago, The Onion did a news spoof that featured a fake "Congressman" discussing a bill to provide funding for emergency response against zombie attacks or other supernatural disasters. It's worth a chuckle.

But now, somehow, it has resurfaced and, despite the ridiculousness and despite the "Onion-Span" logo, is being accepted as genuine news by the right-wing "Obama is a secret Muslim racist terrorist born in Kenya and scheming to destroy us all!" crowd.

Just further proof that for any way-out, wild, irrational, outlandish theory, you can find believers on the web.

Tom Swiss for FSA President

As I previously mentioned, I'm running for President of the Free Spirit Alliance. My complete candidate's statement is now available at http://www.infamous.net/FSAPresStatement.php.

Here's an abbreviated version; the version linked above goes into more detail about my experience in FSA.

    When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists...When his work is done, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!" -- Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu (trans. S. Mitchell)

Hi. I'm Tom Swiss, and I'm currently serving as vice-president, and running for the presidency, of the Free Spirit Alliance. You might not know my name, but odds are that you know my face. You've been to the concerts that I've MCed, or to the Bardic Circles I've hosted, or you've been to one of my workshops on shiatsu or Zen or self-defense, or you've heard one of my Discordian fire circle rants. After the past year or two, you might know me as "that guy in the purple top hat".

From my involvement in our events and in our political process, I've come to believe that 1) we have a lot of smart, determined, hard-working, and productive people in our community -- and 2) we need to do a better job of making it easier for them to participate in this organization.

One of the obstacles I saw was the use of Robert's Rules of Order in our meetings. Last year I began a campaign to replace them with an alternative called "Martha's Rules", a more consensus-oriented approach that encourages dialog and discussion, but still allows for majority rule when deadlocks occur. I'm very pleased that at the most recent business meeting, the membership decided to adopt this alternative on a trial basis.

I also think that we can do a better job in using the Internet to enable communication. As a professional computer geek, I've been involved in on-line discussion groups since the late 1980s, from FidoNet and USENET through mailing lists to web forums and social networking sites. I've recently started working with Eve, our webmaster, to set up a wiki site for FSG staff to record and document procedures and information, and I think we can also expand it as a general community resource.

The past few years I've been trying to promote FSA events within the Baltimore area arts community. As part of that, I've been hanging out with "Burners" -- attendees of Burning Man and of the local Burns, Playa Del Fuego and Wicker Man. This is a community that already overlaps with us -- I've seen many familiar faces at PDF and Wicker Man -- and I think that many other people in it are looking for a spiritual connection in a way that is right in line with what we do.

And I think that we can learn from the radically participatory way that Burns are organized. The Burners have a wonderful term, "do-ocracy": those who do stuff, make the decisions. I would like to bring that idea of radical participation into FSA.

I want to make it so easy for the people of our community to participate and get stuff done, that there ends up not being much for the officers and trustees to do but sign checks and schedule meetings. I want to work hard to make it easy for members to get stuff done so that I can be a supremely lazy President. It's paradoxical, but you should expect that from me by now.

For that to happen, the President must be a highly visible presence. The President acts as the official spokesperson for FSA; as a writer, a performing poet and musician, and with my experience as MC, I believe I have the skills to represent us in any medium or circumstance, from presiding at our scholarships awards to composing press releases to being interviewed by the media. I would like to raise FSA's visibility in the community, and I think I am well suited to act as our representative.

On a more practical note, after this election the first thing the new FSA officers must address is ensuring that our financial records and paperwork are up to date. We recently learned that we may not be in full compliance with tax law changes from 2006, and we have to get right on that. This is why I recruited Alison Chicosky to run for Treasurer.

As of the June meeting, we've got a powerful line-up of candidates for President. (The line-up may have changed by the time you read this; so it goes.) Duckie and Kal have proven their ability in the position; Fred has held the VP slot and worked hard for us in his role as quartermaster. I'd be happy to continue to serve as Vice President with any of them.

But I think I can offer fresh energy and a new direction for this organization.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to comment here, or to e-mail me at tms@infamous.net.

from "I" to "we" in tough times

If you haven't read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, you oughta. Not just because it's a great book, but because it might be the best way to understand the current political climate, where the investment classes use astroturf movements, big lies, and media manipulation to prey on the fears of working people and actually get them to argue against their own interests, to set the ordinary citizens fighting each other so that they will be too busy to throw off the aristocrats and parasites. The one-percenters read Steinbeck's warning and took it to heart:

Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate -- "We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It's wool. It was my mother's blanket --take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb.This is the beginning -- from "I" to "we."

advertising on licence plates coming to CA?

Continuing the process of selling bits of America to the highest bidder, California is considering the use of electronic license plates that would turn vehicles into ad space available for sale:

The device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

...

Interested advertisers would contract directly with the DMV, thus opening a new revenue stream for the state, Price said.

"We're just trying to find creative ways of generating additional revenues," he said. "It's an exciting marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep California in the forefront."

It is remarkable the lengths that politicians will go to avoid discussing the mature solutions to our budget shortfalls: undoing the tax cuts that the richest Americans have received over the past few decades, real health care reform that busts up Big Pharma and Big Insurance, criminal justice reform that ends the "War on Drugs" and stops the prison-industrial complex, and ending the wars and cutting back the military-industrial complex. But in the conservative mainstream media, those are dismissed as "tax and spend", "socialized medicine" (or the new nonsense word, "Obamacare"), "soft on crime", and "unpatriotic".

if not BP, where should you get your gas? Sierra Club says Sunoco

Just a few years ago, when BP was pushing their "Beyond Petroleum" campaign and was running a solar panel factory here in Maryland (which closed earlier this year), it seemed to many -- including me, and the Sierra Club -- that if you had to buy gasoline, BP was probably one of the least of the evils.

Well, that's clearly not true anymore. So as we head into summer road-trip season, where am I to fuel up my Subaru (the machine affectionately known as "Scooty-Puff, Sr.") now?

The Sierra Club takes an updated look at the options, and puts Sunoco at the "top of the barrel". ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips are at the bottom, with a special Dishonorable Mention for BP.

corruption in H1N1 pandemic declaration

I've previously reported on the bad science around flu vaccine recommendations, and how the flu in general and H1N1 specifically have apparently been overblown as health threats.

(Please note that my considerations here are limited to the flu. This is not an "anti-vaccine" rant; I got a Tdap shot a few months ago -- and felt like crap for a day or two, but given the seriousness of diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus and the effectiveness of those vaccines, it was worth it.)

Now, the BMJ reports on the conflicts of interest and lack of transparency around the World Health Organization's declaration of the H1N1 pandemic and its recommendations for responses.

Most shockingly, the WHO actually changed the definition of a pandemic in May 2009 so that H1N1 would qualify, removing the qualification that an outbreak must cause "enormous numbers of deaths and illness". And it estimated that 2 billion H1N1 cases were likely -- 1 out of 3 human beings on the whole planet -- even after the winter season in Australia and New Zealand showed that only about one to two out of 1000 people were infected.

It did this while taking advice from people with financial and research ties with Big Pharma companies that produced antivirals and vaccines; one researcher who wrote key guidelines had been paid by Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

Portland anarchist cafe bans cops

Portland's Red and Black Cafe is a worker-owned collective -- basically, the place sounds like an Oregonian version of Red Emma's, without the books but with beer and wine.

As part of their "Safer Space" policy, they recently starting refusing service to cops.

Note that Portland cops have already killed three people this year; one of these shootings, that of Aaron Campbell, was even criticized by the city's mayor, who said "...Aaron Campbell did not need to die that January night. The events and on-the-scene communication breakdown that occurred cost the Campbell family a son, a brother, a cousin. The Campbell family's pain, anger and outrage are real, they are justified and they deserve serious attention." Another fatal shooting was of a mentally ill man "armed" with an X-acto knife. And there have been several other questionable shootings over the past few years.

So concern that people displaying the "gang colors" of this organization may be a danger to others, are certainly justified.

Given the sort of people who make it on to the Baltimore City PD, if I owned a place in Baltimore I'd have to consider a similar policy.

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