Monthly Archive for November, 2011

A minor conflagration

in the condiment wars: assertions that pepper spray is a food product will doubtless be mocked by wiser bloggers than your humble (and occasionally posting) Ombuds, but we may as well set the bar low.

Between Ms. Kelly’s cluelessness and the recent decision defining tomato paste as a vegetable, we can only conclude a conspiracy to discredit Herman Cain and his known association with DorD-worthy pizza companies, as if he needed the help.

That, or viral marketing for an upcoming episode of Chopped.

Other business:

1. We welcome back our esteemed avian colleague plover, and eagerly await the inevitable returning salvos from Fishy McBiaspants.

2. Having not personally seen the new secret header (and being too lazy to refresh the page ad nauseam), we can only assume the presence of giant stone heads, and preemptively approve.

3. We make no apologies for our absence, accountability was specifically omitted from our contract. We have very good attorneys.

4. And they have suggested that this statement be redacted.

Any other business?

??? ??????? (What is to be done?)

(via and also)

Before getting to the main part of my post, I’d like to note the following description of the aftermath of the pepper spraying at UC Davis (the author also provides a take on Lt. Pike’s body language I’m not sure I agree with):

the students announce to the officers that they are offering them “a moment of peace,” that is, the option of leaving without further escalating a truly horrible situation. They cry (in one of the most moving instances of the human mic I’ve ever seen) “You can go! You can go!”

It’s transcendently brilliant, this tactic–the students offer an alternative in a high-pressure situation, a situation that no one wants, but which seems inevitable in the heat of the moment. It’s an act of mercy which, like all acts of mercy, is entirely undeserved. Watch the other officers’ surprise at this turn in the students’ rhetoric, after they had (rightfully) been chanting “Shame on you!” Watch the officers seriously consider (and eventually accept) the students’ offer.

The following tweets are by Zeynep Tufekci, and were in response to a link to a video of the UC Davis protesters being pepper sprayed. 1)Having formed no particularly useful relationship with Twitter, I am unsure what to do with these other than cut and paste. I figured out how to link to a single tweet (which I do on the first one), but not to a point in a sequence.

  • Most everywhere else in the world, the crowd wouldn’t just watch the police pepper spray a row of kids sitting down.
  • American protestors are the most compliant & obedient of the police I’ve seen anywhere. Surprised me when I first came to US.
  • Bystanders just watching … chanting shame. Most places in the world, skirmishes would break out. People wld join, intervene.
  • In the first big protest I witnessed in grad school –fresh-off-the-boat– people said we’re going to do civil disobedience.
  • Protestors sat somewhere, police said we’ve arrested you, everyone got up & lined up, paperwork processed, minor fine, voila.
  • Semed so funny. In most places, if protestors aren’t obeying the police (civil disobedience, unlawful order, etc.) they disobey.
  • I mean, no wonder police feel empowered to brazenly spray a line of kids sitting down. Nobody joins, jumps in, intervenes.
  • Somehow civil disobedience has been reduced to full & polite cooperation w/ all orders. Ppl need to watch civil rights videos.

They are worth reading alongside this post on the ambiguity of non-violence.

There are two points I want to make about these. One is also effectively summarized by the statement of the spokespod from planet Orwell UC Berkeley chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau 2)BTW, the post at the link is rather good, I highly recommend it, if you haven’t come across it before. that “It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience.” That is, the operative notion among many authorities that civil dis-obedience is only acceptable (even, for the chancellor, worthy of “honor”) if, well, protesters obey everything the authorities say — a fairly good measure of the degree neo-liberalism abandons democratic principles for (at best) paternalistic ones. Non-elect human beings are a management problem, passive, infantile things, best managed at arms length, entirely through statistics if at all possible. 3)In constructing this conceit, I am no doubt guilty of conflating the statement of the chancellor with those of neo-liberal defenders of the current role of Wall Street, but I suspect the connection is not unfair. Protest should not do even conceptual violence since the values civil manager/rulers are supposed to uphold in the name of the will of the people pre-exist the will of any actual people. 4)As my brain’s pedantic lobe insists on making clear: it is this disconnect between the will of an actual demos and the rather less dynamic categories used by the manager/rulers to understand that will that provokes my dig about statistics. (If anyone comes across the howling revenant of Thoreau, perhaps he could be given directions to the chancellor’s office.)

This post has some useful history showing the likely difference between the particular protest situation described by Tufekci and what OWS protesters encounter. (And this post is a useful corrective to some non-historical aspects of the previous link.)

I have been puzzling over the connection between the chancellor’s demand for passivity on the part of protesters, and the congressional Democratic leadership’s usual passivity in the face of Republican demands, e.g. the farcical “filibuster-by-gentlemen’s-agreement” they’ve allowed to overshadow Senate business. The suggestion of a connection seems quite strong, but so far I haven’t found a way to make it explicit that doesn’t fall apart.

The second concern derives from the initial tweet: “Most everywhere else in the world, the crowd wouldn’t just watch the police pepper spray a row of kids sitting down.” I suspect there is a real point here regarding the difference between US crowds (at least in some metropolitan contexts) and crowds in many other countries — though I think in this unqualified form it is hard to pin down. The most obvious objections are that the “bystander effect” is not an aberration of Americans, and that, historically and currently, situations where a populace fears the effects of interfering with authorities are not uncommon.

But I think there is a more interesting question here: what is the role of the crowd in non-violent protest? Or rather “roles”, as the crowd is unlikely to be homogeneous. For example, in the crowd at UC Davis a rather large percentage are wielding cameras of one sort or other. Who among them considers themself a “journalist” — a role that traditionally calls for “reporting the story” rather than “being the story”? On the other hand, who considers themself to have the somewhat more ambiguous role of “witness”? Are those who show up at a protest with the intent of documenting what happens in order to ensure that the protesters side of the story gets told, effectively part of the protest, that is, are they too expected to exemplify non-violence?

If bullying authorities are interfered with, does that not effectively constitute a secondary protest, one specifically against the treatment of the original protesters? In what cases and what forms is this secondary protest justified in abandoning strict non-violence? And (if the answer is not the same), in what cases is it advisable? The answer to that last would seem to depend a great deal on the effective audience for the protest.

There is a long history of discussion on the left of when violence might be justified and against whom. Of course, many of the landmarks in that discussion are a century or more old at this point, and when I read current discussions of these issues, I can end up feeling that not enough care has been taken to update the older ideas for current conditions, or to acknowledge what non-violence has or can accomplish. So many of the culturally widespread images of revolution remain 18th and 19th century ones.

While he uses a more explicitly Marxist vocabulary than I would, and I haven’t entirely decided what I do and don’t endorse about his conclusions, this guy provides a much richer discussion than I can of these issues.

Perhaps, the missing element in Tufekci’s tweets is the notion of what is expected from the police on the part of the people. While protesters in America may have no illusions about the current tactics that police may be expected to employ, many of them likely share the ideal that the purpose of the police is to “protect and serve” — with the insistence however that the implied direct object of those verbs includes the rights and persons of the whole populace, not just the interests and property of the rich. 5)Of course, the whole issue of expectations has a different cast when viewed through the lens of the history of policing in, say, African-American neighborhoods, rather than at protests. The initial reaction of the crowd after the police pepper spray the UC Davis protesters is to chant “shame on you”. Whether or not anyone expects the police to actually feel that shame, the chant most certainly expresses the ideal of policing the protesters see as implied by a democratic and egalitarian society.

In other words, the position on the protesters side is the police ought to be ashamed for using the power granted to them to effect an arbitrary authoritarianism that serves only one narrow class of citizens and not the populace as a whole, that serves to curtail and manage, rather than facilitate, the exercise of the rights that make “democracy” something more than a euphemism for elites to hide behind. The history of protest policing linked above shows that, for a time at least, something much closer to this ideal of policing was achieved. And that more ideal approach can still be found in places (IIRC — I hope I have this memory attached to the correct incident — the Milwaukee police chief, at the time of the initial Scott Walker protests, issued quite good statements to the effect that the goal of the police would be to protect everyone’s — both protesters and counter-protesters — right to speak, and the policing was actually carried out in a way consistent with that). This Rachel Maddow interview with a former police captain who participated in the OWS protests provides more context.

Anyway, I’m afraid this post is a bit fragmentary — hopefully not to the point of incomprehensibility — but I’ve already delayed too long in getting a topical post like this out. All the incoherence that remains is my own and does not express the incoherence of the management. So there it is. Caveat bloggor, carpe emu, etc.

References   [ + ]

1. Having formed no particularly useful relationship with Twitter, I am unsure what to do with these other than cut and paste. I figured out how to link to a single tweet (which I do on the first one), but not to a point in a sequence.
2. BTW, the post at the link is rather good, I highly recommend it, if you haven’t come across it before.
3. In constructing this conceit, I am no doubt guilty of conflating the statement of the chancellor with those of neo-liberal defenders of the current role of Wall Street, but I suspect the connection is not unfair.
4. As my brain’s pedantic lobe insists on making clear: it is this disconnect between the will of an actual demos and the rather less dynamic categories used by the manager/rulers to understand that will that provokes my dig about statistics.
5. Of course, the whole issue of expectations has a different cast when viewed through the lens of the history of policing in, say, African-American neighborhoods, rather than at protests.

EVERYONE

I don’t want you to be alarmed but SeanS of shootaliberal.com’s URL is being squatted on by Japanese spammers.

Who will encamp within our rotting electronic shell when we finally forget to pay the hosting bills? Will we be raptured to Slate? Will we merely existing in the Twits of doddering elder punsters? Are we all going to die? Will we still have 3B radio? Who will win the header contest? Will anyone notice?

Entering Sekret Header

We have had the submission of a Sekret Header. A header submitted IN SEKRET by someone with no previous header skills. This header is SEKRET and is now in rotation. 3B uses a header bundling model, where we offer our non-readers over 100 header choices. We denounce any movement toward an a la carte header ecosystem where headers are tailored to users. As has been noted: BIAS DETECTED

You say you want a dumb question?

I had what, in the scheme of things, may be a pointless question (or perhaps one that’s already been done to death, and I just missed it): why are we “occupying” things?

I’m not asking what the point of the Occupy movement is, or why they’re using the tactics they are, but rather, why is it called “occupying” and is that a good idea? Isn’t the metaphorical point more to remove an occupation than to engage in one?

The original “Occupy Wall Street” actually makes sense: a parody of US foreign policy being visited upon on a tiny “foreign” nation whose inhabitants have probably caused more damage to this country than any terrorists are ever likely to.

But “Occupy Oakland”? “Occupy Boston”? If “we are the 99%”, then we are Oakland, we are Boston. Isn’t the real point that the 1% are occupying us? That we are, in effect, living under their puppet regime?

Wouldn’t it make sense to use language that implies we are actually defending our homes from an abusive force rather attempting to invade something? The message to our elected leaders rulers is not necessarily “we will overthrow you”, but perhaps more like “you’re killing us, and we aren’t going to take it anymore”. That at least has the potential to be turned into an invitation to return to being the government they were, in theory, democratically elected to be — that is if they truly can, in fact, figure out how not to be elitist, authoritarian, collaborationist “rulers” (an “if” which, in most cases, is probably more about moral high ground than realistic expectation).

The “occupy” message also has the potential to make those who don’t identify with the movement feel like their land is being invaded. It risks breaking the 99% into two groups, each of which thinks they are defending their homes and families from each other. The 1% always likes that.

This is probably all moot as the “Occupy” brand has already sailed, so to speak. Perhaps, the “we are the 99%” message is enough to counteract the metaphorical problems of “occupying”. Though I still wonder what different tactics and rhetoric might be considered if the underlying message was one of defense from, well, “colonization” might be the best word for it.

Shorter Matthew Yglesias

Shorter Matthew Yglesias:

Conservatives think people should be punished for making the wrong choices. Since the current economic climate makes such punishment operationally* true, let’s make lemonade.

Matt suggests that these punishments are meted out for things like picking the wrong major, [maybe also glue sniffing???]. No evidence that these punishments are a universal feature of the economy, though term “vast majority” is bandied.

Bonus made up shorter:

Since the economy demands petroleum engineers, the right choice would be to become a petroleum engineer. The wrong choice would be to not accept a world in which you couldn’t be happy. My choices involved attending the most prestigious schools in the country and have the means and opportunities to do so, yet my success is defined by my hard work and valuable skills. Have I mentioned that my career is blogger, invite me to your panel. We’ll always have the Olive Garden.

Mirror universe Yglesias- TWO count ’em TWO neckbeards, plus goatee:

Credit where credit is due file, the trains do run on time

Or:

Standard of living in Ethiopia/Eritrea certainly would benefit from being brought to an Italian standard of living. It would be wise for progressives to concede this point to Mussolini.

Or:

Things shorebird was probably not meant to know

It’s like that part of the movie where the shorebird finds an ATV on the beach, but doesn’t know it’s the possessed ATV — the one that used to be owned by a guy who, after his girlfriend dies of bird flu, summons a demon to take revenge on feathered things everywhere, but, when he changes his mind at the last second, doesn’t succeed in banishing the demon, but only confining it in the ATV, which goes on to kill him while he’s carrying all the down pillows out of his house to dispose of them — and so, even though everyone in the audience shouts “Don’t touch the ATV!”, the helpless shorebird has it’s little bird feet frozen to the steering wheel as the ATV careens through the town knocking over fruit carts until it crashes into a guy on a buffalo and catapults the bird into a dumpster full of chocolate skittles.

Or, at least, that’s what it was supposed to be. In the end, it turned out to be more like the guy’s girlfriend was allergic to down pillows and he tried to cure her with crystals, the shorebird was playing with the starter on the ATV while a ferret was asleep on the accelerator, there aren’t any fruit carts out this time of year, no buffalo have been sighted in the area since the end of the gold standard (don’t ask), and the dumpster was actually filled with some kind of biodegradable packing material. Other than a few ruffled feathers and a slightly punch-drunk ferret there was nothing to see.

Well, nothing, that is, which would require unlocking the cabinet of Lovecraftian adjectives in order to describe the dangers awaiting whatever tender sensibilities are still possessed by 3B readers after the past decade. There is, however, a Swedish women’s choir performing an a cappella version of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” in a video that simultaneously evokes an aerobics class, Esther Williams, and Castle Anthrax.

Announcepantaloons

This blog dressed up for Halloween by updating ALL associated blogs. And no candy was received.

BACK IN THE BOX, other half of ass, we’re going home. HARRUMPH.