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Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Ongoing Occupation of America

September 29th, 2011 - 11:25 am

Remember the whole “Day of Rage” thing a couple weeks ago, in which the American populace would rise up and “occupy” Wall Street and various other financial centers around the country until the people’s revolution triumphed?

Well, we made fun of it back then as “Day of FAIL” when the whole thing seemed to fizzle — but now the joke’s on us! Because it turns out the revolution is still in the process of happening, and when the first “occupations” didn’t work out so well, the protesters reserved the right to try and try again until America is properly occupied.

Not only did the revolutionaries not skulk away in humiliation after the first flop, they’ve doubled, tripled and quadrupled down with an ongoing series of new occupations from coast to coast. The new motto of the movement is: “No, we mean it — this time it’s for real!

Occupations have been taking place every day since the original “Day of Rage” on September 17, and more occupations are scheduled practically every day for the foreseeable future. There’s a new one happening in San Francisco later this afternoon; and there’s another one in L.A. planned for two days from now; and probably one in your neighborhood too, whether you realize it or not.


Of the 37 world-changing revolutions that have happened in San Francisco over the last two weeks, I visited only one, last Saturday in Union Square, just to keep tabs on how the future government is shaping up. The first order of business was to display a big map showing some of the “Major City Occupation Movements Across the United States.” In case you haven’t noticed, the following cities have been occupied by the revolutionaries: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago, Phoenix, Cleveland, Atlanta, Kansas City, Dallas, Orlando and Miami.


The revolutionaries seized the symbolic heart of the city, Union Square. Witness history! That’s them in the distance, somewhere. San Francisco: Consider yourself occupied!


Once the territory was successfully seized, everyone gathered in an egalitarian circle and the reluctant not-really-a-leader leader-type guy said we all needed to break up into “committees” to address the many tasks of revolution.


I considered joining this committee, but a different guy was acting all patriarchal and taking charge and stuff, and that pissed me off, so I went in search of something more appropriately leaderless.


I considered joining the more free-form “Supply Division and Personell” committee, but I suddenly started itching all over and thought better of it.


This committee was too intellectual, with people making all sorts of important points and engaging in healthy self-criticism. I get enough criticism from the real world already!


“As you can see by this balloon thing I’m wearing on my head, I’m making a serious point here!”

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The U.C. Berkeley College Republicans struck a national nerve today by holding a bake sale with racially discriminatory pricing: Higher prices for white and Asian students, lower prices for black, Hispanic and female students. Why the intentional discrimination? To protest a pending new statewide law, SB 185, which attempts to re-introduce Affirmative Action into university admission standards, something that was banned years ago with California’s Proposition 209, a popular constitutional amendment requiring race-neutral admissions.

The purposely inflammatory gag was very clever: the goal was to make everyone point out how racist the cupcake prices were, at which point the young Republicans reply, “Exactly! Racial discrimination is unfair. Thanks for making our point for us!”

But the leftists on campus and around the state instead flew into a blind rage: The joke was too effective, so Affirmative Action proponents simply pretended to “not get it.” Accusations of racism flew back and forth and before anyone knew it we had a major FUBAR situation on our hands.


The Berkeley College Republicans set up their table on U.C. Berkeley’s legendary Sproul Plaza, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement and the place where all campus clubs host recruitment tables. By the time I showed up at 10am, there were already hundreds of protesters swarming around the table.


The cupcakes were very “diverse” in their coloration. Will the mockery never cease?

This 7-minute video montage contains several short interviews with various people at the protest, and really contains almost everything you need to know about the event. I alternate back and forth between College Republicans explaining their point, and counter-protesters trying to explain, uh, well, something or other. Almost all of these clips are “piggybacking” on interviews that other reporters did of the various people shown; whenever one camera would come out to record an interview, several additional cameras would usually appear out of nowhere to get a free ride. Some of the clips were taken by me, and some by others who sent their videos to me.

However you slice it — it’s video gold not to be missed!:


The Berkeley College Republicans were not all “white” as most people assumed; they included members of all races.


One of the young Republicans carried a sign with the discriminatory menu. Shocking!


Ward Connerly, the godfather of the anti-Affirmative Action movement, showed up took a seat at the bake sale table, where he was interviewed by various media outlets.

He calmly pointed out to all comers that the pending bill, SB 185, waiting to be signed or vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, was patently unconstitutional, since California voters had already amended the state constitution with Proposition 209, which plainly says “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” He predicted that SB 185, even if signed, would be thrown out by the courts. The only way to undo Prop. 209 would be to re-amend the state constitution to allow discrimination (highly unlikely), or to have the United States Supreme Court declare the whole thing federally unconstitutional, something which they’ve never done, despite having several opportunities to. So it looks like non-discrimination is here to stay, to the great dismay of the Affirmative Action advocates.


Several different counter-protest groups showed up. By Any Means Necessary, the leading radical Affirmative Action advocacy group, had a major presence. “BAMN,” as they are commonly known, take their name from a famous Malcolm X speech.


Someone brought some “Get the fuck/GOP out!” shirts and invited people to personalize them with their own messages; someone upgraded one of the shirts with “Fuck White Supremacy,” and laid it on the ground in front of the bake sale.

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In recent months it has become increasingly common to see men walking around San Francisco’s Castro District completely naked. You might assume this is illegal, but no — there is no law against public nudity in San Francisco, unless that nudity also involves “lewd thoughts or acts.” (In practice, what that means is that unless you have an erection or are masturbating, it is OK to expose yourself in San Francisco.)

But the ever-escalating recent increase in public nudists spurred S.F. supervisor Scott Wiener to propose new legislation requiring naked people to sit on towels when using public facilities, and also to cover their nether regions while eating in restaurants — so that other residents won’t have to come into contact with whatever bodily excretions that might result from sitting down pants-free.

Well, as luck would have it, the more politically-minded of the public nudists had already scheduled a pro-nudity protest just on general principles, but the timing was perfect to make it into a photo op for the newly proposed towel law.

Needless to say, I was at Saturday’s protest, camera in hand.

I had originally intended to make this a lighthearted post, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt the protest merited serious analyis.

So, below, you will find discussions about the purpose of clothing, public hygiene, exhibitionism, community standards and morality — and lots of pictures of naked men. If you don’t want to see the pictures, stop reading now.

(Note: This is the G-rated version of this report, with all photos blurred out where appropriate; if you want to see the X-rated version, in which all the pictures are uncensored, click here.)


The protest was held in a small plaza at the intersection of Castro, 17th, and Market streets in San Francisco. While the Castro District is well-known as a sort of outdoor gay-themed tourist attraction, it is still a “real” part of the urban landscape, just like any other part of the city, with street lights and gas stations and trolley tracks and laws. Traffic streamed by as the nudists (all men) began to assemble, several of whom were carrying protest signs saying things like “Nude is not lewd” and “Get your hate off my body.”


It was cloudy and a bit chilly, but that didn’t stop about 40 or 50 men from standing around naked, and posing for the phalanx of photographers who had assembled across the tracks.


Local alternative newspaper The Bay Guardian saw a chance for a publicity stunt and produced “Butt Guardian” towels so that everyone could be in compliance with the new anti-excretion ordinance.


Bay Guardian employees handed them out to all takers; if you want one of your own they even have an online version you can print out “to soothe the heebie jeebies induced in some shrinking violets about stray hairs and other hysterical anal imaginings covering the seats of our fair city.”


The quote above got me thinking about the very purpose of clothing, something I had never really pondered until now. Humans wear clothing, obviously, to keep us warm in cold climates. But clothing has several other functions as well:

1. To protect the wearer from the elements — cold temperatures, blazing sun, wind, etc.;
2. To cover up various body parts which cultural norms have deemed taboo;
3. To advertise one’s status, role, class or position in society;
4. To prevent the transmission of potentially unsanitary excretions and fluids by enclosing the anal and genital regions.

And this is the source of the conflict: Wiener’s law merely addresses the issue of public hygiene in point 4 above — but the nudists are protesting the cultural norms in point 2. Yet no matter how successful they are in smashing cultural norms, they still can’t escape the general consensus that day-to-day urban nudity has pubic health consequences.

The nudists’ reply is that the “pubic health” argument is merely a smokescreen to justify puritanical repression. The anti-nudity advocates are being dishonest, the protesters argue; opposition to public nakedness is not based on concern about transmissible diseases, but rather on old-fashioned prudery.

While that may be true, I counter with this: The San Francisco public nudists are also being dishonest; there is indeed a sexual component to their behavior, and they are exhibitionists using politics to justify their thrill-seeking.

Want proof? Keep reading.


The naked protest originally had nothing to do with the hubbub over the new towel legislation; it was in fact basically just a launch party for the Folsom Street Fair (advertisements for which were visible all around the intersection, as seen in the photo above):

The event, which had been scheduled before Wiener’s proposal was announced, was part of the unofficial celebrations leading up to the annual Folsom Street Fair, billed as the world’s largest leather and fetish event.


Now, I didn’t cover this year’s Folsom Street Fair (held yesterday — too cold!), but I have covered it in the past, and — trust me on this — it is a free event held on city streets at which people unabashedly have sex in public. (Actually, you don’t have to trust me — you can simply click on my EXTREMELY NSFW report about the 2007 Folsom Street Fair and see the proof for yourself.)

In that report, as part of a caption for a series of photos showing a man masturbating in public, I made the following observation:

The Folsom Street Fair is primarily a festival of sexual fetishes — bondage, sado-machochism, animal fantasies, and so on — yet the pre-eminent sexual fetish at the Folsom event is the one least discussed: exhibitionism. This man, for example, is an exhibitionist, as were a great many others at the fair. Exhibitionists derive sexual pleasure from having people watch them engage in sex. You, the observer, are a participant in their sex act, whether you want to be or not. That’s the point, the source of the “thrill.” If you attend the Folsom Street Fair, to a certain extent you are knowingly agreeing to be “visually raped” and to participate in the exhibitionist sex of others, just by being there to view it. Almost always, when someone at the fair began to masturbate, a crowd would form to watch: and by so doing would voluntarily become second-hand participants in the solo sex act — just as you the viewer are doing right now.

But does the same argument apply when the exhibitionist is not actively masturbating and doesn’t even have an erection? Could he be secretly getting a thrill and involving passersby in his sexual fantasies anyway?

No, according to The Bay Guardian, which has leapt to the defense of the public nudists.

In response to a San Francisco Chronicle columnist who wrote,

If these guys were opening a trench coat and exposing themselves to bystanders in a supermarket parking lot we’d call them creeps. But if they sit on public chairs and expose themselves to bystanders, they’re defenders of free speech. Here’s some free speech – when moms and dads walk their kids to school, they don’t want to see you naked.

The Bay Guardian had this to say in reply:

Actually, I’ve often walked my daughter to school along Castro Street, and I don’t care whether people are naked or not. Neither does she. My kids are San Francisco city kids; it’s all a big Whatever. And the naked guys in the Castro, mostly middle-aged men, aren’t “exposing themselves” in the way of a sex offender who gets off on it; they don’t confront anyone, or jump in front of anyone, or try to force anyone to look at them. They aren’t fucking in the streets. They’re just walking around (and sitting down) without clothes on.

Whatever.


The Bay Guardian‘s argument basically comes down to this: If these guys aren’t parading around naked for the thrills, then they aren’t deriving any sexual pleasure from it, and thus there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing. And that is also exactly what San Francisco’s extremely lax laws about pubic nudity say: unless you are engaging in “lewd thoughts or acts” then you can be naked in public.

But hang one one minute. It’s pretty easy to identify a “lewd act,” but how can we judge whether someone has a “lewd thought” while showing his naked body to you? Presumably, this is a legal euphemism for “getting a hard-on”: If a guy has an erection, the law presumes he is engaging in “lewd thoughts”; and (here’s the key) if he doesn’t have an erection, that’s proof that his thoughts are pure.

But there’s another way we can assess their motivations aside from measuring the engorgement levels of their penises. Look at the sign above and the sign in the first photo; both reveal that the protest was organized on a Web site called nude-in.blogspot.com. If you visit the site (mild NSFW warning), you’ll see that the protest’s Web page — and hence the protest itself — was actually masterminded by Bare Naked in Public, which according to the protest page’s own sidebar “is the most all inclusive male exhibitionist destination on the Internet.”

And if you dare to click on the VERY NSFW Bare Naked in Public home page, you will finally see the truth (and a whole lot more) revealed: San Francisco’s urban nudists are exhibitionists who derive sexual thrills from exposing themselves in public.

There. Someone had to say it.

And if that’s true, then they are indeed breaking the city’s anti-nudity ordinance because they do think “lewd thoughts” while parading around naked.


Common sense tells us the same thing. As this picture shows, the spot chosen for the nude protest is basically on a traffic island in the middle of an extremely busy intersection; trolley cars filled with commuters and tourists run immediately adjacent to the “park,” while a six-lane major traffic artery runs along the other side; and one of the city’s most crowded pedestrian streets leads right to the same intersection. Why choose that particular spot, not just for Saturday’s protest but for daily nudity year-round? The goal quite obviously is to be seen by as many people as possible. The nudists claim they just want to be left alone and be free to go about their daily lives with no clothes on. But if that were the case, they wouldn’t purposely congregate in crowded places.


La de da. Don’t pay any attention to me. I’m just standing here!


Furthermore: San Francisco is not a particularly warm town. To quote Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” No one in their right mind under normal circumstances would want to be naked in San Francisco. You’d have to have a reason — like being an exhibitionist.

If you truly just wanted to be naked, you can be naked at home. Or at San Francisco’s city-sanctioned nude beach (Baker Beach). If if you wanted to be naked amongst other naked people, there are several nudist colonies in the Bay Area and northern California. But no. These protesters and urban nudists don’t simply want to be naked in private or be naked around other naked people; they want to be naked around clothed people. Because that’s where the sexual thrill originates; violating a taboo. Being naked where nakedness is normal doesn’t count; eliciting shock or interest from unwitting strangers is the whole point.


To end on an upbeat note: one of the protesters set up an easel right on the corner of Castro and 17th and began painting.


His masterwork depicted UFOs landing and naked humans running out to meet their alien saviors. On the table next to his easel (directly behind him in this photo) were several books about extra-terrestrials and UFO invasions.

Now, see, this guy might legitimately claim that he is naked in public for a completely non-lewd reason — to welcome our alien brothers when they arrive. But the other protesters have revealed not just their genitals but their real motivations.

One final point: What is the feminist position on all this?


Last month I covered yet another San Francisco protest, this one called Slutwalk, where this photo was taken. And the message at that protest was “Unwanted Exposure to Scrotum Is Never OK!

Why are only feminists allowed to point this out?

September 17 was supposed to be the Day of Rage, the starting point of an anti-capitalist revolution that (in theory) was going to sweep the country coast-to-coast. As I noted yesterday, “The plan is to protest in state capitals and major cities across the nation, but the focus of the revolution will be in New York, where a hoped-for 20,000 anti-capitalists will ‘occupy’ Wall Street.”

I dutifully sent my operatives out to cover what were to be three of the largest Day of Rage protests — in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles — so humanity would have a full record of this pivotal moment in history.

Really, I should have learned my lesson by now: The bigger the build-up to a protest, and the more grandiose the promises, the louder the sound of the bellyflop onto the dustbin of irrelevancy.

In other words: “Day of Rage” was a massive FAIL.

This photo essay includes photos from all three protest sites (NY, SF and LA) integrated together, to give you the feel of the fizzled revolution as a whole.

The photographs in this essay are by:
Urban Infidel (New York);
Ringo (Los Angeles);
and Chicken Kiev, juklux, and zombie (San Francisco).
All credit goes to them.


In New York, a disappointing crowd of only about 1,000 people (a mere 5% of the predicted attendance) gathered around Manhattan’s Wall Street to protest against capitalism. But right off the bat, the protest’s completely mixed message was glaringly apparent. Half the protesters wanted more government (as exemplified by this satirical “capitalist pig” cutting the “social safety net”)…


…while the other half wanted less government, an attitude succinctly summarized here as “FUK DA GOV.”

So — which is it?


Over in San Francisco, where a mere 90 protesters showed up (OK, 100 to be generous), the exact same self-negating mish-mosh of a non-message prevailed; half the protesters, such as these “US Uncut” activists leading the march, wanted more taxes and more of a welfare state; while the other half…


…wanted to “Decentralize everything,” which is the polar opposite of a state-controlled economy.

Basically, the distinction is between communist theory and the anarchist approach.

In American politics there are two strong currents of anti-capitalist thought: Marxism/communism/socialism versus Anarchism/far-left-libertarianism. The problem is that these two ideologies are fundamentally at odds; one advocates hyper-centralization of political and economic power, while the other advocates hyper-decentralization.

In earlier times, the communists and the anarchists hated each other; they are natural enemies. But in recent decades they have formed an uneasy and deeply unstable alliance; since they both hate the status quo of American capitalism, they feel they ought to band together and smash the system as a unified front, and worry about how to pick up the pieces later.

But the Day of Rage revealed that this alliance can never succeed, because it can never offer a consensus philosophy; it’s impossible to draw the sympathy of the great masses when you offer two completely divergent philosophies as your “unified message.” In truth, there is no unified message, and there never can be; that’s why the “Day of Rage” organizers couldn’t even decide on what their one single demand would be at the protest.

I feel this is a turning point in the anti-capitalist movement; the failure of the much-hyped Day of Rage proved that the communists and the anarchists never will be able to smooth over their differences, and the far-left will necessarily fracture in two. The anarchists will break free of their socialist bedmates and drift more toward honest extreme libertarianism and anti-authoritarianism; while Team Marx will no longer feel the need to temper their collectivist message with a bunch of dishonest slogans about freedom and independence.


The Los Angeles Day of Rage crew made the peculiar decision to hold their event in the city’s Olvera Street, the touristy Mexican-themed pedestrian marketplace near the site of the original Spanish settlement. Despite all the promotional hoopla, a completely humiliating 20 people showed up.


But none of the organizers bothered to find out in advance that September 17 was Fiestas Patrias on Olvera Street, “the largest Mexican Independence Day celebration in the State of California at the birthplace of Los Angeles; Placita Olvera. 200,000 attendees expected.” Oooooooooops!


As a result, the tiny protest was completely overwhelmed by the non-political festival-goers. And, irony of ironies, the fiesta was packed with corporate sponsors, who set up glitzy and well-attended promotional tents all along Olvera Street. So much for the anti-corporate message!

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Solyndra for Dummies

September 9th, 2011 - 2:01 pm

Confused by the Solyndra scandal?

This five-panel cartoon explains it in terms everybody can understand:

Solyndra for Dummies


(Credit: Art and lettering by buzzsawmonkey; Concept by zombie)


Here’s the same cartoon laid out old-school newspaper-style; click to enlarge: