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October 1, 2011

Return of the repressed

The NYPD creeps seem to have entrapped some hundreds of Occupy Wall Street participants on the Brooklyn Bridge, and are now arresting them and shipping them off in buses ordered up from Rikers Island -- New York City's local portion of the American gulag archipelago -- well before the contrived emergency occurred. Clearly a premeditated move.

One wonders whether Czar Michael(*) himself was down with this. I had the strong feeling, last night, that the cops were restraining themselves with great difficulty from their usual amusements with pepper spray, BDSM gear, and toilet plungers; and I figured that this reflected an ukase right from the Kremlin, to the effect that we don't want any more pepper-spray embarrassments. Leave 'em alone, they'll get bored and go away.

Did the rather impressive numbers last night change the Czar's mind? Or have the cops taken the initiative here, and created, as our Israeli friends say, "facts on the ground"?

Either way, the OWS comrades should feel very pleased. Clearly they are being taken seriously by people in positions of authority -- if not by crabby old Marx queens on mailing lists.


PS -- Serendipity department: Literally a second after I posted this, the following plopped into my inbox:

New York City Police Foundation — New York

JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation. The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD's main data center.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly sent CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon a note expressing "profound gratitude" for the company's donation.

"These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe," Dimon said. "We're incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work."

Accent on the "us", hey Jamie?

Really, as they say, you can't make this stuff up.


(*) Bloomberg, that is; our God-anointed absolutist mayor.


Comrade Doug Henwood has disappointed me badly. In connection with the Battle Of The Brooklyn Bridge today, he writes -- on Facebook! --

Can someone explain the thinking behind the Brooklyn Bridge action? I'm hearing "disrupt business as usual," but I don't see how messing up regular folks on a Saturday afternoon does that in a good way. What am I missing?

October 8, 2011

De mortuis nil nisi bonum...

From what is maybe my favorite book ever, Pale Fire:

This index card, this slender rubber band 
Which always forms, when dropped, an ampersand, 
Are found in Heaven by the newly dead 
Stored in its strongholds through the years....

I loathed Steve Jobs while he was alive. Now that he's newly dead, I have to stop. There's only a short list of people you're allowed to keep hating after they're dead; monsters on the level of Henry Kissinger and Woodrow Wilson. So my wish for Jobs -- as it is for all of us -- is that he find in heaven whatever he lost while he blundered his way -- as we all do -- more or less damagingly through the world.

That said...

I'm amazed, and rather dismayed, at the outpouring of sentimental hagiography his going hence has evoked. Apple is a very totalitarian outfit, specializing in a kind of hipster Fascism. It's a Pinkertonian enforcer of intellectual property, and a monopolizer of the distribution chain (think buyTunes, errm, iTunes). It runs brutal sweatshops in China. This is not a benign outfit; nor is it a friend to human liberty.

And yet NPR dribbled on all day yesterday -- I was on the boat, so a captive audience -- about Jobs as if he were Rousseau and William Blake and Mahatma Gandhi rolled into one.

Bill Gates must be so furious. He's just gotta know he's never going to get this treatment when his inodes get deallocated and re-linked to the free list. Five minutes of Jobs dead is cooler than a whole lifetime of grubby ill-barbered Gates alive. There's justice for you.

I remember, years ago, Jobs making a slighting reference to Microsoft, saying 'they have no taste'. This struck me funny at the time, because I had just spent a couple of years working at a company (not Microsoft, I hasten to add) which paid me to take Apple computers apart and figure out how they worked under the hood. The hardware design was a joke; and the system software was as much a dog's breakfast as Microsoft's stuff was. Which is saying a lot. The difference was in the styling; even then, Apple products managed to look cooler, somehow. That slick laid-back suburban-California minimalist thing.

Perhaps the most over-the-top encomium Jobs got yesterday came from a somewhat unlikely source, Mike Bloomberg, who compared him to Einstein. This made me spit out a mouthful of cheap boat wine. Coco Chanel would have been a more appropriate point of reference.

October 9, 2011

Dynamite the Nobels

So the Nobel Peace Prize, that old whore, has given herself this year to an alumna of Harvard, the World Bank, Citibank, and HSBC: namely Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom NPR calls the "first democratically elected female president of an African country". This highly-qualified endorsement needs some unpacking, of course. I glossed it for an old friend of mine as follows: The first female president of an African country of whom 'the West' approves.

Sirleaf's bio is a Harvard B-school case study in opportunism. One really has to admire anything done well.

I may have mentioned earlier that I was a prisoner of NPR the last few days, and one of the credentials NPR offered for Sirleaf was a clip of her addressing a joint session of the US Congress. Now of course simply the fact of having been invited to stand before that pullulating snakepit of hardened criminals is discreditable enough; but what's worse is that they loved her. Baying and howling and applauding and leaping to their feet every time she paused for breath -- you'd have thought she was an Israeli prime minister.

In other, related news, the Nobel lit prize went to a Swede named Transformer, or something like that. The Transformers; less than meets the eye.

NPR solemnly recited several lengthy excerpts from the laureat's work. Perhaps they weren't really all that lengthy, but they certainly seemed lengthy -- I had to tack twice during one of them. True story. Or as true a story as you're ever going to hear from a sailor, anyway.

Apparently Transformer is a great friend of Robert Bly; and less salubrious company would be hard to find. Apart from the US Congress, of course.

This sort of thing is so easy to parody, but why bother? An example of the real thing:

A lamasery
with hanging gardens.
Battle pictures.

Thoughts stand unmoving
like the mosaic tiles
in the palace yard.

Up along the slopes
under the sun – the goats
were grazing on fire.

On the balcony
standing in a cage of sunbeams –
like a rainbow.

Humming in the mist.
There, a fishing-boat out far –
trophy on the waters.

And colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Goats grazing on fire? I pity the goatherd tonight. Thoughts... stand? Unmoving? Oh what twaddle. Give me Colley Cibber any day.

Well, maybe it's better in Swedish.

October 13, 2011

I never drink... wine

Comrade Mike Flugennock, on target again.

Sweeping up the filth

So Bloomie's patience, never very long, is finally at an end, and he's moving to roll up the Occupy Wall Street presence in Zucotti Park at police gunpoint. The hammer is supposed to descend at 7 AM tomorrow (Friday the 14th), and the occupiers are calling for people to show up beforehand. I plan to head down there.

The pretext, rather humorously, is that the park needs to be 'cleaned'. It's interesting to contemplate the link between cleanliness and repression -- in both the political and psychological senses of the latter term.

Bloomberg's justification for rounding up the occupiers in the name of 'cleanliness' is only a pretext, of course, but it isn't randomly chosen. He might just as well have said he needed to dig up water pipes or electric cables or replace the pavement, but he didn't. The imagery of 'cleaning up' no doubt appeals to Bloomie himself on a psychic level, but it also appeals to his constituency.

The accumulation of wealth is notoriously connected, in the economy of libido, with the retention of feces. Gainers and retainers of wealth, on a deep level, hug their own filth to themselves -- even wallow in it, as Scrooge McDuck so evocatively did in his Money Bin, like a dog rolling in his own excrement. Do we not describe people as "filthy rich"? These old phrases contain much wisdom, hidden in plain sight. But the filth of the rich must be regarded as clean; pecunia non olet, as Vespasian remarked in connection with another public-sanitation initiative. Therefore something else must become filthy -- and what more suitable, more poetic, than people who don't have any money?

"Treating people like dirt" is another phrase that contains more wisdom than we realize. (Was it Levi-Strauss who said that from the anthropological perspective 'dirt' can be defined as 'matter out of place'?) One must view people as dirt before one can sweep them up. The occupiers astutely note that the "real dirt" is not to be found among them, but among their enemies. And for this very reason, they're the ones who have to be cleaned up.


Even the Times is laughing at the Mexican-Iranian car salesman terror plot. Even my colleagues in the sweatshop are laughing at it. There's a video monitor there, in the bullpen, playing CNN 24/7, and this relentless bombardment of coarse propaganda has lowered their resistance to obvious nonsense. But even so, they can't swallow this one. They just laugh.

Who does Eric Holder remind me of?

This face is very evocative. Oddly enough, there's a touch of Ralph Nader in it, and a touch of Yogi Bear, and a bit of Charlie Chaplin, but I'm still off target. There's something about the disposition of eyebrows and mustache that tugs at my mental sleeve, and I feel so tremulously close to recovering it -- and yet it hasn't surfaced. I think it's a cartoon character. Is it Shenzi, from the Lion King? --

-- though Shenzi, to do him justice, didn't have a vile caterpillarish coplike mustache.

October 14, 2011

The old war horse canters again

He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

My daughter and I got up at the crack of dawn -- before it, actually -- and went downtown to join the Wall Street occupiers in anticipation of Bloomberg's 7 AM cleanup, announced yesterday. We arrived about 5:30.

I had been quite apprehensive about it. I used to be a bold fellow about this sort of thing, but age has made me timorous; and though the NYPD were always brutes, they're a lot worse now -- too numerous, too heavily equipped with expensive lethal toys, and too eager to use them: and the human material of the force seems much more twisted, degraded, and malevolent than it was twenty years ago.

Still: somebody once said that 90% of life is just showing up, and I felt that if I didn't show up for this show-down it would be even harder than usual to look at myself in the mirror. And my daughter, who's been hanging out with the occupiers for the last few days, was also eager (though also apprehensive). So there was no choice, really.

I felt a lot better as soon as I turned the corner and saw the crowd. There were lots of people there, and more streaming in along with us. I'm no good at estimating crowd size, but the square, which is not small, was chockfull and shoulder-to-shoulder, and spilling out onto the sidewalks and streets nearby.

As always, a very young crowd, though there were a few grizzled old stagers like myself. The crowd was very revved-up and full of beans, and at the same time calm and resolute. They were clearly determined to stand their ground as best they could, but one felt none of the crazy chaotic energy of a mob.

There was a look on so many of these young faces that was really beyond praise. How my old heart went out to them. It's been a while since I've felt this pleased to be a member of our peculiar species.

Some union contingents arrived while we were there and they were lustily cheered.

There was some tension in the air as the 7 AM deadline approached. A speaker was trying to circulate information about legal aid and sort out those willing to be arrested from those not; the willing were to stay in the park, the others to retire to the sidewalks adjacent and lend moral support and bear witness. I was trying to figure out whether I was among the willing or not.

I'll never know; Bloomberg blinked. The speaker broke off and then read a communique from City Hall: the "cleanup" had been "postponed" -- if I understood correctly -- "because there are too many people in the park".

Well, that last clause, at least, was truthful -- probably the first truthful thing City Hall has said in quite some time. It was a fine moment; people cheering, hugging each other and so on.

Okay, so it wasn't Stalingrad. I expect we'll see a lot of dubious Eeyorish head-wagging about the long road ahead, about the difficulty of 'building' -- what? Whatever.

An acquaintance of mine recently reminded me of a trenchant passage in the Moor's Civil War in France, speaking of the Communards of Paris:

They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In the full consciousness of their historic mission, and with the heroic resolve to act up to it, the working class can afford to smile at the coarse invective of the gentlemen’s gentlemen with pen and inkhorn, and at the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility.
Old Charlie was no dope.

Not Stalingrad, okay. But it's been a long time since the Ringwraiths of Mordor-on-Hudson even had to rein in their nightmare steeds momentarily. And I don't think anybody who was in the square today will soon forget how they stared down the iron juggernaut just by being there.

There are more of us than there are of them. It's a priceless insight, and the foundation of everything else.

October 17, 2011

Poor Dr King

Man, this is ugly. May even be the second ugliest thing in Washington -- which is saying something; that is one ugly town. (The very ugliest thing, of course, is and always will be the US Capitol, with its spindly colonnades pretending to support a dome that looks like the swollen cranium of a hydrocephalic stillborn.)

Is it something in the air, in Washington, that turns everything to shit? Martin Luther King, undoubtedly a great man, in a very American way, and a good-looking guy too, with deep eloquent eyes and gentle features and a characteristic expression of intelligent understanding; and we go off, at great expense and trouble, to find a Chinese sculptor and a massive block of Chinese granite -- just what's wrong with Vermont granite, I'd like to know? -- and create a typically Washingtonian bullying overbearing looming horror that makes the man look like a cross between Benito Mussolini and The Pissed Off Buddha.

October 18, 2011

CEO Size Queens

Every pushback against the finance parasites brings a horde of mini-CEOs out to comment on blogs. By a strange coincidence, they all work 80 hours a week, uphill through the snow, on their way to distributing equity to their workers—who they personally trained because the school system has failed American businesses. They also took great personal risk to create jobs, in their 20 to 30 person firms, and they still have time to coach their children's sports teams.

Was there ever a country so blessed?

Retention Specialists

I find that job description hilariously appropriate, in its sphincter-snapping way. I was diverted to a "retention specialist", a few years ago, when I closed a credit card account. I don't argue with retentives. There's no point. When asked why I was closing my account, I thanked the specialist fulsomely, extravagantly, and said I was closing my account because I was closing my account. I gave the same answer to every subsequent retention sally. It took very little time to make things clear: the account was closed, because it was closed. I followed it up with certified mail anyway, return receipt requested, as an acknowledgment of the sphincter's insatiable appetite.

Can you imagine the self-loathing that must go into life as a retention specialist? It's got to take a serious toll. It also takes desensitization; a practiced routine or, more aptly, operant conditioning.

Elite-think is boxed in, as noted by MJS, between Giuliani head-bashing and Bloomberg's rational-instrumental sensibility. The latest management fashion craze tips towards Bloomberg. I put Obama-Romney in the same camp. The dichotomy seems as limiting as any retention specialist's scripted nagging. Such is the price of a good education. The entire point of which seems to be a race to the bottom, with each scripted reaction intended to foreclose on competing reaction options faster than they foreclose on themselves. I'll give the last word to Steven Pinker, a retention specialist of the first water:

Evolutionary psychologists are not ignorant of this hypothesis. They have considered it and found it to be unhelpful.

A general h/t to Corrente

Oh shit, here we go again

It was bound to happen: turns out the Occupy Wall Street kids are really, well, brownshirts:

Occupy Wall Street: Does anyone care about the anti-Semitism?
By Jennifer Rubin

In the millions of pixels devoted to the radical Occupy Wall Streeters, virtually nothing has been said about its anti-Semitic elements.

Turns out the anti-Semitic elements are pretty thin on the ground, judging by the evidence Ms Rubin cites: mostly a little quickie video from something called The Emergency Committee For Israel (funny, isn't it, how Israel has just been one long emergency, and no end in sight?).

What we seem to have here is one encounter between a couple of uncharacteristically splenetic occupiers(*) and an obvious provocateur (with a cameraman hovering providentially over his shoulder).

But of course, for this sort of thing evidence is superfluous. A friend of mine -- who I had not actually realized was quite so reactionary, but who will remain a friend as far as I'm concerned, because I can't afford to lose any -- fulminated on facebook that OWS was anti-Semitic merely on the strength of the slogan 'we are the 99%'. He feared that this slogan was covertly anti-Semitic and an invitation to "ritual violence".

I had to laugh at this one. The only ritual violence I can foresee in connection with OWS will emanate from the NYPD, for whom ritual violence is a way of life.

People who really want to find out what these kids are all about should just go visit. Don't take my word for it, or Rubin's. The Fulton Street and Wall Street subway stops are really close by -- a five minute walk.

And if you don't live in New York -- well, visit your local. The thing is all over the place now, or so I hear. Who knew there were so many anti-Semites and ritual-violents in the world?


(*) If they really are occupiers rather than out-of-work actors or Red Squad cops, both of which abound in New York,

October 25, 2011


I wish I could take credit for the eloquent image above, but alas, I just found it on the Web.

My daughter and I went down today to spend a couple of hours with the Wall Street occupiers, and she took a lot of quite nice cell phone pictures, but we couldn't figure out a way to get them off her phone. We'll keep trying.

She's been there more recently that I have; it's been a week for me. I was very struck by a couple of things.

The whole place is a tent city now. Tents were supposed to be strengst-verboten when the occupation started, but after the mayor backed down, week before last, it seems that the occupiers have taken the bit between their teeth. There are nice North Face tents and ratty Coleman tents and tents that aren't tents at all -- just thin cheap blue plastic tarps draped over nylon clothesline stretched between the spindly trees of the park.

The ratty and improvised greatly outnumber the spiffy and nice. There are beach umbrellas with tarps draped over them, and wild fantastical constructions supported on bungee cords and broomsticks and PVC tubing. There are areas of twenty by thirty feet or so entirely covered by such interlinked ingenuities, and although I didn't trespass, one has the feeling that the spaces so created are not sealed off from each other -- that there's a labyrinth of passages and portals and interconnections among the dozens of little cells under each integument. It made me think, oddly, of the notorious Viet Cong tunnel network back in the day.

Along with the residential development I felt a slight difference in the composition of the crowd. Much of today's group seemed like residents -- not just droppers-in, like me, or brave and praiseworthy fellow-travellers like a lot of the kids who came two weeks ago to face down Bloomberg's cleanup. A slightly sterner-faced, more committed crowd today: people who looked like they had been there for a while and might even be starting to think of it as home.

The natterers have been working overtime the last few days. First we were told that the drummers were going to spoil it for everybody else. Then there was a flap with something called the "Demands Working Group", vel sim, which seems to have come into conflict with other activist elements. The twists and turns of this latter story are a lot too complicated for my brain -- I can't even remember who's who in King Lear. But in this case too, the conflict seems to have fizzled.

On the subway, coming home, I mentioned to my daughter that people were saying the occupiers were a largely white and largely male group. She looked at me as if I had suddenly begun to practice glossolalia. "That's... crazy!" she said. "That's not true at all."

She's right. It's not. It's probably even less true than it was a week ago.

October 27, 2011

KInd of a big deal, right?

That's Angela Merkel above, looking like Winnie-the-Pooh receiving the Stigmata. After a very bad night.

This just in:

Leaders Reach Deal for Banks to Take Loss on Greek Debt

BRUSSELS — European leaders made significant progress in resolving the euro zone financial crisis in meetings here that stretched into Thursday morning, obtaining an agreement from banks to take a 50 percent loss on the face value of their Greek debt.

See? Getting wild in the streets pays off. Fifty percent isn't nearly enough, of course -- the banks should take a bath, not just a haircut -- but then again, I don't expect all the people in the street will now head quietly home, either.

Don't make Mommy lose her patience

The fortunately inimitable NY Times:

Cities Begin Cracking Down on ‘Occupy’ Protests

OAKLAND, Calif. — After weeks of cautiously accepting the teeming round-the-clock protests spawned by Occupy Wall Street, several cities have come to the end of their patience and others appear to be not far behind.

"Patience"! One can only marvel at the puerile banality of this tutelary/parental view of the relationship between the state and its subjects.

Trust a Pwog

That's Jean "Nightstick Nellie" Quan, Mayor of Oakland, above. I dunno what's with the hat, but hey, it's California.

I know very little about this person, but a correspondent on one of my mailing lists sent along the following:

She was elected by ranked choice voting. Long time Alameda pol Don Perata (a former majority leader in the State Senate) beat her with first choice votes but she prevailed when the second and third choice votes were tallied. (She was the second and third choice of the majority.) Quan is to the left of Perata and is generally classifiable by the label "progressive," as are nearly all Oakland city pols. She had a long history on the Oakland City School Board.
As we used to say back in the 60s, scratch a liberal and find a Fascist. The school board background is really perfect, isn't it? (That's where some of the biggest monsters in NYC politics got their start.) Clearly the idea of teaching a lesson has taken firm root in Tiger-Mom Quan's mind.

As it happens, however, she is the one who has been taught a lesson. She's had to back down in a very big way:

Occupy Oakland: Mayor Quan Issues Contrite Statement after Police Crackdown

Late last night, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan issued a statement about the police crackdown against Occupied Oakland protesters. In it, she expressed concern for those injured and a commitment to minimize police presence in Frank Ogawa plaza, at least for now.

Gotta love the phrase 'at least for now,' don't you? Mommie Dearest has been brushed back once; but wire hangers are still an abomination, and if Quan has her way, a day of reckoning will someday come.

October 30, 2011

Bottom of the barrel...

... You know you're scraping it when you stoop to making fun of Tom Friedman, a guy whose mustache alone ought to have made him a figure of fun in every corner of the globe, even if he had never written a word. Of course the littera-scripta are pretty funny too, though the joke does get old.

Tom came to my attention today because a Facebook friend -- a well-meaning guy; Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do -- posted a link to this mighty lucubration from Moral Tom:

Did You Hear the One About the Bankers?

[A] lethal article involving Citigroup ... deserved more attention because it helps to explain why many average Americans have expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. ... Citigroup had to pay a $285 million fine to settle a case in which, with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust.

It doesn’t get any more immoral than this. ... According to The Wall Street Journal, "about 15 hedge funds, investment managers and other firms that invested in the deal lost hundreds of millions of dollars, while Citigroup made $160 million in fees and trading profits.”

Well, no, Tom, you congenital idiot. Stories like this don't explain anything about Occupy Wall Street. The Occupiers couldn't care less that one group of financial hyenas fucked another. What they're worked up about is that the financial hyenas have collectively fucked the rest of us -- and not in a good way.

Indeed, fleecing a bunch of hedge funds may have been the best thing Citibank ever did. They deserve praise, not blame-- like Bernie Madoff, a great hero of mine, who ought to be as beloved as Santa Claus. If there was ever a group of people who deserved skinning alive, it was precisely the group that fell for Madoff's smarmy charm.

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