Monday, November 21, 2011

Stupidity Brutality in the Police Departments

Over the past weekend, and indeed over the past few weeks, we've seen quite a few acts of police brutality via YouTube. Yes, these clips don't show the whole story, but let's not kid ourselves - the police have committed acts of stupid brutality.  And I don't mean tearing down tents, or throwing out books, but rather, spraying kids with pepper spray because they refuse to move.

Notice the casualness of the police officer as he douses these students with pepper spray. On tape.  With other students telling the police officer that they're taping him.  Now, this isn't, unfortunately, an isolated incident.  Last week, the chancellor of UC Berkeley, demonstrating that he didn't attend the university he purports to run, notified students that linking arms was a form of violence against the police.  Additionally, cities like Oakland and New York have seen clashes with the police and the Occupy crowd, and have had more than their fair share of rough behavior from the police. 

And simply put, all this rough treatment is the result of sheer stupidity by those police departments.  At UC Davis, did the police really think that the students would camp over the Thanksgiving holiday?  Or does the NYPD really think that the Occupy Wall Street protesters were going to stay in Zuccotti park all winter long? The police, if they were thinking, could simply wait out the protesters.  Post a car or two at the protest, make sure that everyone is safe, and treat the protest as "nothing to see here."

Instead, by using violence, the police are playing into the hands of protesters.  The whole point of civil disobedience is to incite a violent reaction from the authorities.  If the officer in the video above hadn't pepper sprayed those kids, I wouldn't even know that there was a protest at UC Davis. Hell, I only have a vaguest notion of where UC Davis is (by Sacramento, in a cow pasture).  But guess what, now not only do I know who the Chancellor is, I know why the kids are protesting (tuition costs doubling in the past eight years), and I know of a certain police officer who's about to get canned.

And that's the stupidity of the whole affair.  Look, college kids will protest.  First, its in their nature, and second, there's a lot to protest out there.  These kids are paying a lot more for a college education than I did, and their returns, post college, are much worse than mine.  I'd be pissed too.  But, eventually, these kids have lives to get back to, and they stop protesting.  Better to hear them out, make sure they're safe, and then go on from there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit"

The rallying cry of the 99%, or Occupy Wall Street, or Occupy San Diego, or whatever, is "Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit," or, at least, it was the sign from one protester.  But if there was ever a time where such a statement was true, it is now. And if there ever was a blog where such a statement would be applauded, its this one.

So, why haven't I written about the Occupy movement sooner?  Because I'm not a big protest guy.  During the Iraq War, I saw hundreds of thousands of people protest against war in Iraq, and we got war in Iraq.  I've seen protests against Obama, protests for Obama, etc.  People march, feel good about themselves, and go home.  Nothing gets done.  And when I heard about Occupy Wall Street, I thought that was what was going to happen.  Another useless march.

What I didn't expect, and I think this goes for everyone, that the protest was going to be a 24/7 occupation.  Even in my relatively tame burgh of San Diego, the Occupy San Diego movement has lasted for well over a month now.  Wow.  And this occupation is important because it actively pisses off the establishment to the point where the establishment does something stupid.  That's the whole point of nonviolent protest - you are trying to get a violent response from the authorities, and then shame them into submission.  Now, if the authorities have any brains, they'd ignore this provocation and sit on the protesters.  That appears to be the tactic of the SDPD (to some extent) at least.  But elsewhere, such as in New York City and Oakland, the Occupy movement has sparked violent reactions from the police, even when its been relatively unjustified.   Hell, 18 city mayors have coordinated their attacks.

All this has done is stoke the fires of anger that lead to the occupy movement in the first place.  New people get involved, and more attention is paid to their causes.  Of course, the Occupy movement has no leaders, and its goals are murky.  But its in that murkiness that the Occupy movement has become a Rorschach test for the body politic.  Whatever angers us about banks, about the corruption of our government, about the failure of our leaders to do anything about the economy when investors will literally PAY the Federal government to borrow money from them - all of those things are part of the Occupy movement, and none of them are.  That's the whole point of the 99% - we're all pissed about something.

And I cannot say enough about what this movement has done - it literally changed the debate from budget austerity to income inequality.  It gives Obama room to maneuver as the community organizer leading from the back, and it shows that Americans aren't pissed about paying taxes - they're pissed their government is owned by the financial sector.  And they should be - whenever the financial system screws up, we all end up hit with shrapnel - we bailout the wrongdoers and end up with a cycle of boom and bust.

So, where does it all end?  I honestly have no idea.  But congrats to the people who are part of the Occupy movement.  You've convinced me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Quick Thoughts - Newt Gingrich's Rise, NBA Lockout, and Other Observations

I'm brief-writing today, and as is my habit, I need to mix in a post in an effort to get the writing juices flowing (seriously, this works for me for some reason).  Anyway, here are a few posts to confirm what I've said on this blog in the past:

Newt Gingrich's Rise Proves Everyone Hates Mitt Romney:

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the 2012 GOP Primary is all about Romney v. the anti-Romney.  Fundamentally, GOP primary voters do not like Romney.  Here's how I know: people who answer survey questions say they won't vote for someone because they either a) Don't know the candidate; b) Like the candidate, but like another candidate more; and 3) they hate the candidate.

Since he's been running for President since 2007 (or earlier), everyone knows Mitt Romney.  And given that Bachmann, Trump, Perry, Cain, and now Newt Gingrich, have all been the frontrunner at some point in this race, its pretty clear that the voters are consistently picking anyone over Romney.  The exceptions to this rule are Jon Huntsman (who is a poor man's Romney to Republican voters, and a rich man's Romney to Democratic voters), Ron Paul (who's off in a world of his own), and Rick Santorum.  To be honest, I have no idea why the voters haven't gone with Santorum yet - my best guess is that he gives off a "loser" vibe.

In any event, if Romney gets the nomination, he won't be beloved by his base, and that will make for an interesting general election.

NBA Lockout

So, it looks like the NBA season will be locked out due to the labor issues between the owners and the players.  As I said before, the only way the players will get any leverage in this potential lockout is for the players themselves to form their own league - thus threatening the investments of the owners (who would own essentially useless assets if the players' league does well).

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran?

I have to admit I didn't see the last GOP debate - but the whole issue of bombing Iran to prevent it from getting nukes is a bad one because the Iranian regime is learning that when you favor loyalty over competency, you end up with an incompetent government.  The people are pissed, and want change now.  As a result, even if Iran gets the bomb, its more likely to use it on itself than on the U.S. or Israel.  Plus, in the battle of the Middle Eastern hegemonies, Turkey is winning - no one wants to be Iran anymore, everyone wants to be like Turkey.  Bombing Iran will only strengthen a hastily weakening regime.

The 2011 Chargers

Two words for you: Norv sucks.  Seriously, how often do we have to see the same story over and over again for everyone to remember that Norv Turner is not a good head coach?  That AJ Smith either won't see this, or can't see this, lends credence to the idea that the "Lord of No Rings" has to go as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sex Abuse Scandals and Panic

Like other members of the Democratic Machine, I spent the last few weeks digging up various women to claim they were harassed by Herman Cain, a fringe candidate for President, who by process of elimination, is now the anti-Romney, aka frontrunner.  Um. . .no. 

But seriously, I have been struck by the recent scandal at Penn State where it appears Joe Paterno's former protege (who retired under strange circumstances in 1998), Jerry Sandusky, has been raping young boys for years.  In fact, in 2002, a graduate assistant witnessed Sandusky raping a 10 year old boy (the boy and Sandusky fled), and he told Paterno what happened immediately.  Paterno, in turn, informed the Athletic Director at Penn State, who, in turn, did absolutely nothing.  Unfortunately for the Athletic Director, he was required by law to report the whole thing to the police.  Its not clear if Paterno and his graduate assistant were as well.  Oh, and for those of you who don't know, Joe Paterno is the legendary head football coach at Penn State, and actually has tenure.  In the past, he has been held up as a paragon of moral behavior in collegiate athletics.

Now, there are more than a few people who condemn Joe Paterno for failing to do anything but inform his "boss" (given that Paterno has tenure, the athletic director can't actually fire Paterno, so he's really more of Paterno's department head).  And certainly, if the allegations are true (and they probably are), Paterno doesn't look good.

But, many of the commentators have missed the opportunity to point out something key - Paterno, and most of the rest of the Penn State Athletic Department were acting completely and totally out of their depth.  Penn State, of course, is a university, and the personnel deal with young adults.  Pedophilia is simply out of their range of experience.

When faced with this situation, all of them panicked, and tried to pass the buck (or, in the case of the Athletic Director, apparently, bury the information).  This reaction, as we've seen with the Catholic Church, and with other organizations is so common that most states have passed laws that require that organizations like Penn State go to the police immediately when confronted with information that a child has been abused.

Ultimately, these laws are a good thing, not because they punish but because they tell people what they're supposed to do.  In the heat of battle, or in moments of panic, you need to have a set of procedures to follow precisely because these are moments happen so rarely.  We'd like to think that people would act with common sense, and individually they do.  But in an organizational context, like Penn State, there is no such thing as common sense, just groupthink.  And that's what I think happened with Penn State.


When I wrote the above post, I didn't fully consider that Sandusky retired in 1999 at 55 (a young age for coaches) while being investigated for molesting a young boy.  That Sandusky retired to devote more of his time to young boys (seriously), and that Paterno allowed Sandusky to use Penn State's facilities for his "nonprofit" for young boys, while knowing why Sandusky retired, looks really, really bad.  Its no wonder that the Board of Trustees felt they had to fire Paterno.

The above post is not meant, in any way, to defend Paterno, but rather to point out that when people are part of an organization, they act really stupidly, and Paterno acted really stupidly in order to "protect the program."

Friday, November 4, 2011

On Alternative Theories About. . .

One of the things that pisses me off consistently in history is the conjecture that so-and-so couldn't have done this, or couldn't have written that.  So the pyramids had to have been built by the Egyptians (total bullshit), or that the Nazca lines couldn't have been made by the peoples there - again, total bullshit.  To a large extent, a lot of this conjecture is based on racist or classist beliefs.  The fact is, if you give a person enough time, regardless of what time period we're talking about, they can figure out all kinds of shit.  The best example is Leonardo da Vinci, who's sketches we have.  If da Vinci can figure out flying machines and helicopters in the 1400's, then the Egyptians sure as hell could've figured out how to build ramps.

I bring this up because of the recent movie "Anonymous" which puts forth the idea that another man, not William Shakespeare, wrote all of his plays.  The guiding principle of this theory is pure class-ism: no one from Shakespeare's social standing (middle class) could've written such magnificent plays and poetry, and so the writer has to be from the upper classes.  Now, there are a couple of problems with this.  First, if you look at the history of English literature, virtually every single poet of note is decidedly middle class in origin.  Which makes sense, of course, because a writer from the middle/merchant classes of England would: a) have access to education; and, b) actually depend on his writing to eat on a somewhat regular basis.  Desperation is often the best tutor.

Second, if the people they put up as the true writers of Shakespeare - Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Christopher Marlowe (actually the coolest theory) - don't really hold up to timelines.  Francis Bacon, for instance, dies in 1626, three years after Shakespeare's first folio was published supposedly posthumously.  Edward de Vere dies in 1604 - years before Shakespeare stops writing (1611-ish), and years before Shakespeare's buddies publish the first folio (1623). And Marlowe is dead by 1593 - although, I have to admit the idea that Marlowe faked his death pretty cool.

The other thing about these theories is that they often lack common sense.  If, for instance, Edward de Vere was the true author of Shakespeare's plays but was hiding his authorship for some reason, he would've made sure the "author" wrote for HIS theatre company, and not the competition (who Shakespeare wrote for).  After all, its not as if actors are known for their honesty (and they were worse in Shakespeare's day), and their willingness to not engage in blackmail.  So, if I'm going to be convinced that Shakespeare is not the writer of his plays, I'm going to need a better theory, based on the following principles:

1) The writer has to have been alive from 1593 (when Shakespeare first works appear) and dies prior to 1623.  None of this crap about publishing plays slowly after the writer dies (as in de Vere).  Actors then and now live hand to mouth - if there's money to be made by producing a kickass play, they're going to do it.  Also, the first folio was published in 1623 - which makes some sense for Shakespeare, who dies in 1616, and bequeaths money to for the purchase of mourning rings to the two eventual publishers of the folio (as it would take some time to gather up the plays, find a publisher, etc.,) - but doesn't for de Vere, who kicks it in 21 years prior - why would anyone wait that long.  Also, Bacon doesn't work because he dies three years after the first folio.  Why publish a posthumous folio three years before his death.

2) The writer had to be directly connected to Shakespeare's company.  To think that someone from nobility would risk going to a strange company of actors, have them produce his plays, and not have some degree of control over said actors is crazy.  People in power only deal with people close to them as a rule.  Here, if the writer wanted to hide his identity, he'd want the control or support over the whole company of actors in case something slipped out.

3) The writer would have to be well-regarded in the London literary community - in the years after Shakespeare died, there were close to 18 poems written in his eulogy.  Now sure, some of these eulogies were written in the way that I would write a eulogy for a celebrity I didn't know, but more than a few were written by Shakespeare's friends.  In fact, with the exception of Ben Jonson, no other playwright from the era was better eulogized.  Oh, and all these eulogies start in 1616.

4) The reason to not publish the works under his/her own name better be good. Yeah, playwrights weren't considered respectable writers in their day, but that was because most playwrights sucked.  But, if you were a noble and wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare, wouldn't you at least consider revealing yourself?  The plays sucked up to Queen Elizabeth, sucked up to King James, and were wildly popular. Now, unless the writer of the works had a damn good reason to keep quiet - and I mean a better reason than "it would look bad" - I'm not buying the theory.  The Marlowe theory works because he was about to be arrested for heresy when he died.

So, that said, outside of the Marlowe theory (which works because Marlowe was a spook, and Shakespeare copied the shit out of him early on), I'm not buying it.  To pull it off, a lot of people would have to be involved in a needlessly complicated plot for not a lot of money and then kept their mouths shut - which simply never happens.  In history, whenever such a conspiracy takes place, someone, after everything is said and done, talks, because its human nature to blab about the cool shit you pulled off.  That's why we know every dirty trick the British pulled on the Germans during World War II.  No one even mentioned the potential for other writers until the 1800's.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I've Said It Before: Everyone Hates Mitt Romney

Over the past several months of the 2012 Presidential campaign (Iowa caucuses are two months away people!), we have seen a consistent trend - the GOP base is looking for someone, anyone, somewhere, to step up and become the nominee.  Well, okay, anyone but Mitt Romney.  Poor Mittens has been a solid second place next to rising stars Michelle Bachmann (who everyone realized was too crazy), Rick Perry (who regularly got his butt kicked in the debates), and Donald Trump. 

Now Romney is second to Herman Cain, who has been sued for sexual harassment on multiple occasions, doesn't know that China has nuclear weapons, and proposes a tax plan that raises the taxes of 90% of the American people.  Seriously?  Now, Cain might produce some match-up problems with Obama, but even he didn't believe that his candidacy was going anywhere.  Case in point, Cain doesn't have a campaign staff in the early primary states.  Seriously.

Apparently, there is evidence showing that if Cain falls (and the odds are good), Newt Gingrich will get his time to shine, which is completely bizarre unless you have a situation where there is one candidate who the majority of the GOP despises, that being Mitt Romney.  And where I once thought that Bachmann's rise was about Michelle Bachmann, I now see that its about Romney.  At this point, anyone who isn't a total fuck-up is preferable to Romney.  Actually, that's not true - anyone who isn't a complete fuck-up or Tim Pawlenty is preferable to Romney (sorry T-Paw). 

Now, I can understand the primary voters' lament somewhat - Romney has flip-flopped about virtually everything.  His health care plan in Massachusetts was just like Obama's, except that Romneycare covered abortions.  Oops.  And for such a smooth performer, Romney is phenomenally awkward in everyday situations.  The man cannot ad-lib to save his life.  But still, if you want someone to take on Obama, Romney is your guy (or was, until the Occupy movement started).

And ultimately, I've reached my blindspot in this primary.  I am not a Republican, and definitely not a conservative.  As such, I have no idea what the average or even the not-so average GOP primary voter is thinking.  So, to my regular readers and internet stalkers, what do you think?