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Archive for November, 2011

Retrieved from the Spam Filter

Friday, November 25th, 2011

On the lighter side of Giving Thanks, and in the holiday spirit of giving, we were moved to share with you our dear readers some of the expressions of gratitude and encouragement we’ve received in recent weeks. Somehow these comments were caught up in the spam filter. How could this happen? We regret that these sincere and thoughtful remarks were caught in the net designed to catch unsolicited junk mail and other wastes of InterWeb bandwidth.

So now, without further ado, and without any alteration, a few words from our fans, without whose support we might not have the courage to persevere in these often dark days . . .

“I desire very much enjoyed this data content.”

You could certainly see your expertise in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart. —M.P.

I think other website proprietors should take this site as an model, very clean and magnificent user friendly style and design, let alone the content. You are an expert in this topic! —R.T.T.

It’s a stress day to be able to read an theorem that is so clearly researching and written. I desire very much enjoyed this data content. Your layout is excellent. I will come back again. —L.

I need your help. I like your blog. Your texts are interesting. I entered here by mistake and I started reading. I became interested in the topic and I am thinking it I could use your words on my paper, of course with the quotation. Please contact with me, thanks very much. —U.B.

Great content! I’m all because of it. The article is basically helpful with me. Reading the article creates me joyful. At the same time frame, I might learn much more knowledge. Thanks a lot. —R.H.

What a funny blog! I genuinely enjoyed watching this comic video with my family as well as along with my colleagues. —D.

Awesome things here. I’m very happy to look your post. Thank you a lot and I am having a look ahead to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail? —S.L.

I have learn several good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you put to make the sort of great informative website. —E.K.

Thank you a lot for giving everyone an exceptionally breathtaking possiblity to read articles and blog posts from this website. It is often so superb and jam-packed with fun for me personally and my office acquaintances to visit your web site minimum thrice a week to study the fresh tips you have . . . —U.F.S.

Okay, I am going to be brave and try these but I wanted to know how you coat them with peanut butter. Do you melt the peanut butter and it just hardens as it cools? Please advise . . .I need help! —U.C.O.

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We’ll keep checking the in-box and spam filter and sharing readers’ comments from time to time. Meanwhile, create you joyful, at all times go after your heart, and coat them with peanut butter.

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“We Cannot Fail to Try”

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

A Break from “Hell No You Can’t”

”We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.” John F. Kennedy, July 15, 1960

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Every year about this time we set aside our JFK assassination conspiracy books and turn to some of the late president’s classic speeches (written in collaboration with Theodore C. Sorenson, his gifted counselor and speechwriter who died about this time last year).

There are many gems to choose from, such as the acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, the beautiful 1961 inaugural address that ranks (as he meant it to) with Lincoln’s and FDR’s, the great call for peace at American University in June 1963, or his televised address to the nation that same month to announce his proposed civil rights bill.

“The New Frontier Is Here”

Last year on the anniversary of his assassination we quoted from the great commencement address at American University in which President Kennedy called for an end to the Cold War and the arms race. This year we present some excerpts from his 1960 nomination acceptance, better known as the “New Frontier speech,” where then Senator Kennedy spoke to an outdoor crowd of 80,000 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

We were pointed to the New Frontier speech by rereading a column by Bob Herbert titled “A Gift from Long Ago” published in the New York Times last November (Herbert is now a distinguished senior fellow at the progressive think tank Demos). After enduring this long and disspiriting year of political impotence, seige warfare, and hostage-taking by well-paid representatives in Congress peddling more tax cuts for the rich and more austerity for everyone else, what appealed to us was Herbert’s argument that “Kennedy’s greatest gift was his capacity to inspire.” So, first, some quotations from “A Gift from Long Ago,” and then selections from the New Frontier speech.

Bob Herbert, “A Gift from Long Ago”
“Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River.”

Kennedy’s great gift was his capacity to inspire. His message as he traveled the country was that Americans could do better, that great things were undeniably possible, that obstacles were challenges to be overcome with hard work and sacrifice.

I don’t think he would have known what to make of the America of today, where the messages coming from the smoldering ruins of public life are not just uninspiring, but demeaning: that we must hack away at the achievements of the past (Social Security, Medicare); that we cannot afford to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure or establish a first-class public school system for all children; that we cannot bring an end to debilitating warfare, or establish a new era of clean energy, or put millions of jobless and underemployed Americans back to work.

Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River.

. . . we’d do well to pay renewed attention to the lofty ideals and broad themes that Kennedy brought to the national stage. We’ve become so used to aiming low that mediocrity is seen as a step up. We need to be reminded of what is possible. . . . 

What Kennedy hoped to foster was a renewed sense of national purpose in which shared values were reinforced in an atmosphere of heightened civic participation and mutual sacrifice. That was the way, he said, “to get this country moving again.” 

His voice was in sync with the spirit of the times. Americans were fired with the idea that they could improve their circumstances, right wrongs and do good. The Interstate Highway System, an Eisenhower initiative, was under way. The civil rights movement was in flower. And soon Kennedy would literally be reaching for the moon. 

Self-interest and the bottom line had not yet become the be-all and end-all. 

. . . While the myriad issues facing the U.S. have changed and changed again since Kennedy’s time, the importance of being guided by the highest principles and ideals has not. We are now in a period in which cynicism is running rampant, and selfishness and greed have virtually smothered all other values.

You can say whatever you’d like about the Kennedy era and the ’60s in general, but there was great energy in the population then, and a willingness to reach beyond one’s self. 

Kennedy spoke in his acceptance speech of a choice “between national greatness and national decline.” That choice was never so stark as right now. There is still time to listen to a voice from half a century ago. 

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John F. Kennedy to the Democratic National Convention, July 15, 1960

[ click here for video ]

“I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision”

I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high—to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future. . . . 

. . . the New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises—it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook—it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security. 

But I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. . . . It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past. . . . 

But I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier. My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age—to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.” 

For courage—not complacency—is our need today—leadership—not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. . . . 

For the harsh facts of the matter are that we stand on this frontier at a turning-point in history. We must prove all over again whether this nation—or any nation so conceived—can long endure. . . . 

Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? . . . . Are we up to the task—are we equal to the challenge? Are we willing to match the Russian sacrifice of the present for the future—or must we sacrifice our future in order to enjoy the present? 

That is the question of the New Frontier. That is the choice our nation must make—a choice that lies not merely between two men or two parties, but between the public interest and private comfort—between national greatness and national decline—between the fresh air of progress and the stale, dank atmosphere of “normalcy”—between determined dedication and creeping mediocrity. 

All mankind waits upon our decision. A whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust, we cannot fail to try.

[ end of speech ]

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JFK and the Unspeakable

“John Kennedy’s story is our story, although a titanic effort has been made to keep it from us. That story, like the struggle it embodies, is as current today as it was in 1963. The theology of redemptive violence still reigns. The Cold War has been followed by its twin, the War on Terror. We are engaged in another apocalyptic struggle against an enemy seen as absolute evil. Terrorism has replaced Communism as the enemy. We are told we can be safe only through the threat of escalating violence. Once again, anything goes in a fight against evil: preemptive attacks, torture, undermining governments, assassinations, whatever it takes to gain the end of victory over an enemy portrayed as irredeemably evil. Yet the redemptive means John Kennedy turned to, in a similar struggle, was dialogue with the enemy. When the enemy is seen as human, everything changes.”

—James W. Douglass, from the Preface to JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters

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For a generous sampling of President Kennedy’s speeches, we recommend the book + CD Let Every Nation Know: John F. Kennedy in His Own Words by Robert Dallek and Terry Golway (2006). Each of 34 speeches is introduced, but transcripts are not provided. For transcripts, see the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, under the tab “JFK.”

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1960 convention photograph by Garry Winogrand (1928–1984): John F. Kennedy, Democratic National Convention, Los Angeles, from the portfolio Big Shots. Museum of Modern Art collection.

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Today. Now.

Thursday, November 17th, 2011



“We Want Something Different”

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Yearning for a New Kind of Society

The ever-sharp Matt Taibbi has written incisively, in sometimes R-rated language, about Goldman Sachs, Citicorp, and other Wall Street investment banks—who can forget his description of Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” (“The Great American Bubble Machine”)? But he admits, “At first, I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street.”

Several weeks ago, after visiting the occupation at Zuccotti Park several times, he wrote in “My Advice to the Occupy Wall Street Protesters”:

“. . . the time is rapidly approaching when the movement is going to have to offer concrete solutions to the problems posed by Wall Street. . . . I’d suggest focusing on five:

(1) Break up the monopolies. (2) Pay for your own bailouts. (3) No public money for private lobbying. (4) Tax hedge-fund gamblers. (5) Change the way bankers get paid.”

The column and the explanations for each point are worth reading in full.

But first, before we head back down to Zuccotti Park for some fresh air, we want to share some excellent pieces from Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone column “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests.” What we find most valuable—besides his ever-vigilant bullshit detector—is his trenchant description of what it is that’s calling tens and hundreds of thousands and more into the streets and encampments around Wall Street and elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world. Note: This was written before the NYPD evicted the Occupiers Monday night.

“People want out of this fiendish system”

“Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one’s own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it’s flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.

“. . . modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire [for a better and more beautiful future]. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. The relentless sameness of the two-party political system is beginning to feel like a Jacob’s Ladder nightmare with no end; we’re entering another turn on the four-year merry-go-round, and the thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.

“. . . There’s no better symbol of the gloom and psychological repression of modern America than the banking system, a huge heartless machine that attaches itself to you at an early age, and from which there is no escape. You fail to receive a few past-due notices about a $19 payment you missed on that TV you bought at Circuit City, and next thing you know a collector has filed a judgment against you for $3,000 in fees and interest. . . . This is why people hate Wall Street. They hate it because the banks have made life for ordinary people a vicious tightrope act; you slip anywhere along the way, it’s 10,000 feet down into a vat of razor blades that you can never climb out of.

“That, to me, is what Occupy Wall Street is addressing. People don’t know exactly what they want, but as one friend of mine put it, they know one thing: FUCK THIS SHIT! We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

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NYPD Occupies Zuccotti Park; OWS Evicted in Night Raid

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

see livestreaming via GlobalRevolution ]         photographs © Levees Not War 2011

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What are their [NYPD’s] demands?” asked social historian Patrick Bruner. “They have not articulated any platform. How do they expect to be taken seriously?” 

“I suppose they have a right to express themselves,” said local resident Han Shan. “But I’d prefer it if instead they occupied the space with the power of their arguments.”          —“NYPD Occupying Liberty Square; Demands Unclear

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This Will Only Strengthen the Movement

After midnight Monday/Tuesday Nov. 15–16 the New York Police Department on orders from Mayor Mike Bloomberg, citing public health and safety concerns, roughly and abruptly cleared Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, where Occupy Wall Street protesters have been encamped since September 17. Starting about midnight hundreds of police surrounded the park, set up bright lights, and, using bullhorns, ordered everyone to take down their tents and evacuate or face arrest. About 100 protesters refused to evacuate, and locked arms around the kitchen area (see map), chanting “We are unstoppable / Another world is possible.” By 1:00 a.m. police and NYC sanitation workers began clearing, uprooting the settlement, arresting holdouts (see map and timeline). About 200 were arrested in the night raid (video of 3:30 a.m. arrests). When the sun rose, Zuccotti Park was occupied only by police.

We went to Zuccotti Park this morning, or as close as we could get: on the other side of steel police barricades where hundreds of NYPD officers formed a “thin blue line” inside a cage of their own. We talked to Robert and Steve, residents of New York City who have been among the Occupiers since the beginning. They have jobs, one of them is married, and apparently they do not sleep overnight in Zuccotti Park all the time, but Steve had his possessions, including a bedroll, wrapped up in several tote bags.

We talked with Robert (right) and Steve for a half hour or so, leaning against a building along Cedar Street on the south side of the park (see map). Robert, a former Wall Streeter (though not a money man), said he wore a suit for the first two weeks of the occupation.

As we talked, helicopters were hovering in locked positions a thousand or so feet overhead. They said that during the raid, the news media’s helicopters were blocked by police from the air space over Lower Manhattan so they could not film the raid. (“Media blackout,” reporters say on Twitter.) The subway system was also shut down (or the entrances to the stations in the area were blocked) and the Brooklyn Bridge was closed to keep people from coming to the occupiers’ defense.

Like the other reporters who’d swarmed to Lower Manhattan to cover the eviction, I’d quickly discovered that the media was not allowed here. The police had created a one-block buffer zone around the park—in some areas two or three blocks—and were refusing to admit even the most credentialed members of the press. A New York Times reporter had already been arrested, a member of the National Lawyers Guild told me. —Josh Harkinson, “Inside Police Lines at the Occupy Wall Street Eviction” (Mother Jones)

We asked if there had been any warning that the eviction was coming. None, though one of the occupiers yesterday noticed the police vans or buses driving by on Trinity or Broadway and sensed that something was up. “I used to be a police officer,” she told her fellow campers. “Something’s coming.” Something indeed. Now the NYPD occupies Zuccotti Park.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing Occupy Wall Street had won a judge’s approval of a restraining order on the city’s eviction, but still the police were there, inside the barricades, and we, representatives of the 99 Percent, were not. Word had gone out that around 8:30 a.m. people would be allowed back in the park, a 24-hour public park that is owned by Brookfield Properties, located across Liberty Street, adjacent to the park. On Tuesday afternoon, New York State Supreme Court Judge Michael D. Stallman ruled in favor of the city’s eviction. (Click here for a PDF of the ruling.)

Steve said that the three main issues that have brought most of the protesters to Occupy Wall Street are (1) that the elected officials in Washington are useless, sold-out properties of the corporations and the super-wealthy and are utterly unresponsive to the public interest; (2) a demand that the investment banksters who wrecked the economy be made to pay for their destructive ways just as the middle class and poor have been made to suffer for their recklessness, and . . . but before we could get to issue #3—

At about 10:45 we heard a sound coming from the west. “That’s the group that’s been at a park over near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, coming back to re-take the park.” We joined in with the big group carrying signs, blowing horns, chanting “Whose park? Our park!” and walking in a large loop around the police- barricaded park. One of the signs said “Obama, Say Something.” Another: “Pres. Obama: If You See Something, Say Something.”

It was a mild, overcast autumn morning with bright yellow leaves on the trees in the park and a dampness in the air. The people, mostly young, but of all ages, really, walked in a steady stream around the park. Steve from time to time said in a loud voice, “Keep moving, please, no civil liberties to be seen here. Move it, people—no freedom here.” Seriously, Steve advised in a lower voice, you’re less likely to draw unwanted attention from the cops if you keep moving.

Around 11:30 there was a sudden rush of camera crews to the south side of the park, on Cedar Street, when one of the protesters planted an American flag in the park soil, on the police side of the barricade. There was a struggle over the barricade as the police tried up uproot the flag, and a group of protesters loudly fought to keep it planted. The police pulled the flag out of the ground and took it over to lean against a tree in the middle of the park. We heard protesters yelling at the police, who stood stone-faced and unresponsive all around the perimeter, clearly instructed not to engage with the civilians, but no further rowdiness ensued. Later, the New York Times City Room blog reported, a protester jumped the railing and ran to grab the flag. He was grabbed and escorted to the exit. The new occupation was reinforced by the judge’s ruling later in the afternoon.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, and other occupations to come . . . (Read our account of the big Oct. 5 march, “Occupying Wall Street with Nurses, Teachers, Transit Workers, and the Rest of America’s Middle Class”).

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In Honor of Veterans

Friday, November 11th, 2011

A Salute to the Living and the Dead

Today—the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year—we pause to honor the veterans of wars, especially Americans in uniform since the Great War, World War I, whose ending on November 11, 1918—the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month—was commemorated one year later with the first Armistice Day (armistice = ‘stopping hostilities’, or, loosely, ‘a farewell to arms’). Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938, and was renamed as Veterans Day in 1954 to honor those who had served in all U.S. wars.

We also call upon the “job creators”—especially those in the uppermost One Percent—to hire veterans and pay them well. Hire them and give generously to their medical and mental care and rehabilitation.

Although Levees Not War opposes the wars of the War on Terror(ism), that does not mean we don’t respect and honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military. We know that this less-than-one-percent of the American population is being called upon—even in a nominally “all-volunteer army”—to undergo harsh, grueling, too often deadly conditions that we civilians can only imagine, if we dare.

Today we have joined Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (civilian membership), and made a contribution to IAVA. We also contributed to Iraq Veterans Against the War in the name of Scott Olsen, the U.S. Marines veteran of the Iraq war who on Oct. 25 was struck in the head by a tear gas canister or smoke canister fired by an Oakland police officer during a crackdown on Occupy Oakland protesters. Suffering a fractured skull, Olsen was hospitalized in critical condition.

See our blogroll, bottom right, under “Anti-War,” for links to IAVA, IVAW, and other organizations that work for veterans and their families. If you can, please make a contribution today.

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