Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, 1883
engraved on the Statue of Liberty
Happy 125th Birthday, Lady Liberty!

Friday, October 28, 2011

What's Really Happening (Maybe)

Applying some educated intuition to stories from here and there, on three topics:

Iowa GOPer Caucus

One of the Iowa conservative leaders says he doesn't feel strongly enough about any candidate to endorse.  Meanwhile a Tea Party leaders calls on Michele Backmann to drop out.  Taken together what they mean: unless Teaevangelists coalesce around one candidate in Iowa very soon, Romney is going to win it.

The U.S. Economy

While the major media narrative remains the same, there have been signs of economic improvement, most recently of a higher than expected--and normally respectable--economic growth rate.  The conventional wisdom is that nothing will lessen the unemployment rate before the election enough to matter.  But a feeling that the economy is growing might--and it might even be Wall Street that gets behind it.  Why?  Because of Occupy Wall Street and all the support and attention it's getting.  That support may generate interest in the efforts of the New York and Delaware Attorneys General to investigate Wall Street and the mega-banks chartered in their states, which so far has drawn the often prescient attention of Rachel Madow.  How do they get the public view turned away from them?  A better economy.  Whether that motivation is enough to sway them from the temptation to try to get a wet dream deregulatin' GOPer in the White House by cooperating in keeping the economy weak, remains to be seen.  But actually promoting a better economy to lower the temperature and get eyes off them is a possibility--especially if Occupy Wall Street and jobs remain a hot focus, and the GOPer presidential field continues to look so weak than their efforts on their behalf wouldn't make a difference anyway.

Climate Crisis Denial

The most recent study once again proving that the planet is getting warmer has gotten a lot of attention, probably because it convinced at least one prominent denying scientist.  But the economically and politically  motivated professional deniers just go to the next of four levels.  First, prove to our satisfaction that the earth is heating.  Second, prove to our satisfaction that this heating is caused by industrially produced gases--i.e. that it's "manmade."  Third, prove that it's going to get so bad that we have to do something preemptive about it.  Fourth, prove that your solutions, like green energy, will work.

It's taken at least 20 years to win the first argument, if it is well and truly won now.  The pros are moving on to the second.  So this is not much of a victory, if we continue to insist that we have to convert deniers before we do what's necessary.

Meanwhile, Cowboy Rick has announced a jobs program which is all about extracting more oil and gas.  If this gets traction, it's very dangerous.  If there's any hint of public acceptance of this premise, it could doom efforts to influence the Obama administration to stop the oil sands pipeline from Canada, an issue which is otherwise gaining strength among the environmentally conscious.  I don't think activists appreciate the political risk in stopping the pipeline, though I support stopping it.  It vivifies an issue for the GOPer candidate--it puts a name on the abstractions of too much environmental regulation, etc.  Just about the only hope is that authentic polls show that voters aren't buying the "drill our way out of this" strategy.  Beyond electoral politics, it's hard to say no to something that will create jobs, especially if "safety" isssues are addressed.  Unless opposition coalesces around the longterm Climate Crisis catastrophe with enough clarity and force to make it real.  Or--even better--unless opposition can show that the promised jobs won't materialize.        

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blowing in the Wind

I never learned to love the smell of tear gas in the morning, but a new generation is finding out how they feel about it.  Copious clouds of tear gas enveloped Occupy protesters in Oakland, CA on Tuesday night, and judging from the footage I saw on TV, things are a little different than during the Vietnam War protests.  I don't recall tear gas hitting with such explosive force, and police now have other "non-lethal" weapons like flash grenades and rubber bullets.  But one protester was critically injured during the police assault--a Marine vet, who survived two tours in Iraq but was felled on the streets of his own country.

This example only sharpens the analogy that Frank Rich makes to the Bonus Army encampments and their destruction at the beginning of the Great Depression, when Hoover was President, and such later military luminaries as MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower got some practice routing unarmed and jobless Great War veterans, some of whom immediately joined the one million men riding the rails.

Rich says that just as military violence against the Bonus Army (in Washington to protest that they were not receiving their promised war bonuses) inflamed public sentiment to the Bonus Army side when these scenes were shown in movie theatre newsreels, so YouTubed police violence against The 99% demonstrators has galvanized public support for them.  Rich pointedly does not make an analogy to Vietnam protests, when the opposite happened, so I'm not as sure as he is that public opinion won't turn against Occupy.  But he seems pretty certain:

    "These efforts to domesticate and contain the protests are unlikely to succeed. It is not frustration that’s roiling America but anger, the anger of a full-fledged class war. Try as polite company keeps trying to ignore it, that war has been building in this country and abroad for much of this decade and has been waged in earnest in America since the fall of 2008."

A Congressional Budget Office study adds more informational fuel to this by calculating just how thoroughly this secret class war has been waged and so far won--by the 1%.  According to the Washington Post summary: "For the 1 percent of the population with the highest incomes, average income grew 275 percent between 1979 and 2007, the report said. Middle-income Americans saw just less than a 40 percent rise during the same period, while the 20 percent of the population on the bottom saw an 18 percent increase."

On Wednesday, congressional GOPers led by Paul Ryan tried to turn up the heat on protesters and make President Obama sound like an outside agitator.  While I am less certain than Rich that public opinion won't turn, there is certainly a lot more public support for the Occupy positions than there ever was during the antiwar era.  Huge majorities favoring taxing the 1% more, say that incomes are too unequal, and that Wall Street is too politically powerful.

Politically all this does seem to be hung around the necks of GOPers.  A hefty majority sees the GOP as primarily looking out for the rich.  And Congress (which in image as well as substance, is GOPer) is polling at an approval rating of 9%.  Not three 9s, just one.  Meanwhile, the Tuesday theme--from an ultraconservative in the New York Post to Morning Joe and the ever-reasonable Pat Robertson--was the disgust of  conservative GOPers for the GOPer presidential field and their Barnum & Bailey politics.  It was orgasmic.

So even though Frank Rich doesn't think that 2012 elections will settle anything--and there's reason to see that in the congressional districts and Senate seats that seem to be in play--there's really no predicting that far into the future at this point.  It's hard to see what happens next with Occupy.  It can't sustain this level of attention for much longer without changing something--either politically or at least in form.

One tipoff for me will be just how many people get to know the name of Scott Olsen, the vet whose skull was fractured in Oakland.  It was just such an event in Tunisia that jumpstarted the entire Arab Spring.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Emerson for the Day

"Sow an action, and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and reap a destiny."

William James

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Did Happen Here

The reading of It Can't Happen Here at Dell'Arte last night went very well, and my intro was well-received.  It was a great experience being part of the reading with such good actors.  I was most impressed however by the attentiveness of the audience.  There was no scenery, no costumes, no music, not even a microphone, and nothing much was happening on the stage--just fifteen people sitting at tables across the stage, reading the play and interacting as much as they could, but sometimes conducting dialogues with people between them.  And people were listening to every word, for 2 and a half hours total, including one 15 minute intermission.  Awesome.

I'm sure my own reading about this Great Depression period will inform future posts, as it has altered my perspective on what's happening now.

Several people involved in the reading remarked on how little they knew about the Federal Theatre Project.  Here again is the link to what I wrote about it on Stage Matters.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It Will Happen Here (Tonight)

Tonight some 23 readings of the play It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis will be held across the United States.  These readings celebrate the 75th anniversary of the play's premiere--with 23 productions in 18 cities--a singular event in American history and American theatre.  These 1936 productions were by the Federal Theatre Project, part of the New Deal efforts to break the cycle of the Great Depression.

One of these readings will be held here on the North Coast, at Dell'Arte in Blue Lake.  I will be one of the readers, and I am introducing the event with a few choice words about Federal Theatre, and the play, which is about how a fascist dictatorship takes over the U.S.

Like a lot of Federal Theatre productions, this one is free.  Though I'm told ours at Dell'Arte is pretty much "sold out" with advance reservations.  For information on these productions, on the play and especially the Federal Theatre Project, please check my postings at Stage Matters.  (These posts are always accessible by clicking on the "Federal Theatre Project" or "Great Depression" labels.)

So I've got to go study my script now, and practice my Vermont farmer accent--sorry, that's fahmah, isn't it?