I-1125: More Eyman Garbage

I was actually for a moment inclined to vote for the thing, because it bans red-light cameras, which are one of the many tentacles of the emerging total surveillance society. Alas, it is cluttered up with two other unrelated provisions related to tolls and gas taxes. So forget it.

And this is not just my personal pet peeve here. Article II Section 19 of the Washington State Constitution says that all bills (and an initiative to the people counts as a bill) must address only a single subject. So the initiative is yet another piece of legal garbage from Tim Eyman which will end up in court if it passes.

Report from Occupy Seattle

I got down to Westlake Park last evening to see what was going on at Occupy Seattle. Not terribly much, initially (there were several dozens of people around, many with signs, but not much was happening), so I went to find something for dinner.

When I got back from my meal, the evening “General Assembly” was in full swing. In general, it was pretty impressive. From what I could tell, anyone was free to join in and participate in its decisions, and there seemed to be a pretty strong effort to prevent a leadership and power hierarchy from arising. A fair amount of the meeting seemed to be focused on dealing with the problem of people autonomously going off and trying to speak for the Occupy Seattle movement in general, even though no Assembly had ever agreed to give them such power.

Some of the discussion related to the thing the Establishment media keeps talking about, the demands of occupiers. It’s clear from visiting the Occupy Seattle web site (link: http://occupyseattle.org/demands) that no such firm list of demands has yet been decided and agreed upon.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The most powerful thing that is happening right now is that a bunch of people, many of whom don’t really have any background in activism, are acquiring one. And they’re using techniques which are decidedly non-authoritarian to organize themselves.

Those techniques are somewhat different from what many of the current crop of self-identified anarchists use. This has caused a measure of dismissiveness amongst some of my comrades about it. Which is not to say they never have a point — there is a measure of bourgeois naïveté to be found, as well as (particularly amongst some older folk there) plain old pro-Establishment bias.

However, that’s no reason to write the whole movement off. Expecting people to become committed anarchists within moments of their first exposure to anarchist propaganda is itself a naïve attitude, as well as an authoritarian one that devalues the other’s own judgement and experiences. It typically takes time to make a significant shift in one’s weltanschauung; wanting people to quickly agree with you is tantamount to a desire for them to outwardly cave to your reasoning (probably because you have brow-beaten them) while still doubting it inside. I’m optimistic that the Occupy movement is going to end up being a enlightening (and therefore, radicalizing) process for many if not most of its participants.

For one, whether its participants realize it or not, it is already a fundamentally radical movement, since it is denying the Establishment’s legitimacy to pronounce rules about camping and traffic. In the eyes of the law, the cops are actually in the right when they have used force against Occupy movements, since such events at the least are camping in parks the law says are for day use only, and often embark on unpermitted marches in the streets in violation of the traffic code.

(Digression: Yes, that means the Egyptian government was in fact legally entitled to try and forcibly break up the occupation of Tarhir Square. The landscaped area around the Square was a park, not a campground, so erecting tents and staying there overnight was in fact illegal, as was blocking traffic in what is a major Cairo intersection. That latter act was making Cairo’s already legendarily bad traffic even worse. Which in turn shows how much the domestic right-wing “law and order” crowd shares with unsavory thugs like Mubarak.)

In that, it’s rather a brilliant strategy, since it is leading the Establishment to act like jack-booted thugs when faced with a bunch of nonviolent people assembling and trying to hash out what to do as a result of the growing economic and social inequality in society. If they don’t do that, then the Establishment ends up caving to those who are directly challenging its authority, and Establishments absolutely hate to do that.

And when the Establishment acts like jack-booted thugs when faced with a nonviolent group of concerned young people, many of those concerned young people will end up being lessoned by the School of Hard Knocks that the stuff us radicals keep saying about the Establishment actually has validity.

Military Stupidity

The warning message at the bottom of this page has got to be one of the stupidest things I have read on the web in a very long time.

Really, now: it’s on a publicly-accessible web server. One that hasn’t even bothered to use robots.txt to exclude itself from search engines (I found it via a Google search, while looking for information on shortwave frequencies).

If the Ninth Signal Command is putting sensitive information on that server, they are seriously derelict in their duty to protect such information against unauthorized access. I wasn’t even trying to find sensitive military information. If I could find some without even trying (in the comfort of my own home!), then what about all the spies in the world, who are continually trying to find it, because it’s their job to do that?

If they’re not putting sensitive information there, then why put that warning on their pages?

Oh No, Not That

It is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. That would normally be some bit of obscure trivia that really doesn’t affect me, but it is also Pledge Fortnight (I only wish it lasted a mere week) for all Seattle public radio stations, so I’ve been listening to the CBC more than usual as a way to get my public radio fix without being subject to endless begging for money.

That has allowed me to notice that a persistent theme on the CBC this weekend is about the obesity epidemic (which affects more than just the USA, although it does affect the USA worst). More specifically, it’s about pinning the blame on the epidemic by blaming some obscure aspect of the Canadian diet (typically related to carbohydrates).

Anything but overall lifestyle seems to be to blame. While it’s certainly plausible that some of the other changes might have some aspect (particularly given how much the modern diet deviates from the one we evolved to eat as hunter-gatherers), to ignore the increasingly sedentary lifestyle people live (which is equally alien to the conditions we evolved under) is to ignore the elephant in the living room.

However, if you ignore the elephant, then you don’t have to ask people to take responsibility for themselves and make new and possibly difficult life choices on a daily basis, and you can make a radio program that is light weekend matter instead of something more challenging. And sadly, that (and not uncovering true root causes, no matter how unpleasant they may be) seems to be the first priority this weekend.

Ah, Schadenfreude

Actually, in this case it’s more like “karma”, since the misfortune is a direct result of the sufferer’s ineptitude.

The job whose phone interview prompted this post of mine is apparently still unfilled. I’ve been noticing the precise same ad whose e-mail in response prompted that ill-fated phone screen ever since that day, and that was back in May.

I wonder if they’re one of those managers whining to the business press about a “shortage of qualified applicants.” Wouldn’t surprise me.

That said, perhaps I should apply again. It’s been six months; perhaps the manager whose stupid interviewing technique caused me to be rejected has been dismissed or demoted.

In fact, I think I will: It’s a no loss situation so far as I am concerned. If the incompetent manager is still there, my résumé will be immediately circular filed (which is fine by me; I wouldn’t want to work for her). If not, I’ll have a second chance, one that might involve working for someone with at least half a clue.

Update: Well, that was a waste of time. Never have I seen a more incompetently designed Web interface than the one for that company’s job board. First, they use both their own site and one of those third-party sites (not Taleo, thankfully) to handle their applications. Their own site refers you to the third-party one, which in turn says to use their own site. If you try and get your application through by using the third-party site, you find that two of the web forms are broken, and the program that scans your résumé is also broken (and thanks to one of the broken web forms, you can’t work around the broken résumé scanner). To heck with them; incompetence obviously pervades their organization. More than likely, they’re still in business mainly because of this principle.

The Fragrances of Home

One thing my recent trip to New Mexico allowed me to appreciate anew is how the air is scented with the fragrance of conifers in the Pacific Northwest. Some, like the western red cedar, are fragrant enough and distinctive enough that they can be olfactorily appreciated from several hundred feet downwind.

It’s one thing I enjoyed when first moving to this ecoregion from a desert climate. Like most such phenomena, one fairly quickly loses the ability to perceive it if one continuously lives amongst the sensation. Spending a week in a dry, dusty place was enough to “reset” my nose so that I can perceive it anew, at least for a brief time.

Even when it rains in the desert, much of the odor I can perceive in the moist air is one of wet dust. Even amongst the delightful fragrance of sage, it is there, reminding me that this respite from the dryness and dustiness is but a brief departure from the normal scheme of things. It is an underlying veiled threat that removes much of the pleasure I would otherwise receive from such weather.

There is no such threat in the moist air of the beginning rainy season here. The pervading fragrance, even in many quite urban areas, is the woodsy and coniferous one of a lush land that nourishes my senses instead of assaulting them.

It’s good to be home.

Note to Travelers: Getting Zapped Won’t Let You Avoid Getting Groped

Not always. If they see something they believe suspicious while zapping you with X-rays, the TSA will grope you anyhow. It happened to my sister a few days ago.

I opted for the groping on my recent trip, because I don’t believe them when they say the waves emitted from the machines are harmless. Powerful organizations like governments and corporations have persistently claimed such about various kinds of radiation, only to be definitively proven wrong later.

It happened to those downwind of the Nevada Test Site, and it’s starting to happen with cell phones.

A Perfect Ideological Storm

Apropos this entry, there is a reason that the ruling elite has lost the ideological flexibility needed to prevent their rule from being jeopardized by a crisis of their own creating: it’s all a matter of timing.

Those old enough to remember the Great Depression are now also old enough and few enough to be mostly irrelevant in the halls of power. Contrarily, those old enough to remember the fall of the USSR and its satellites (which the elite spun as a vindication of capitalist orthodoxy and a repudiation of anything critical of it) are numerous and at about their apex of power in those same halls.

So it’s a tremendous opportunity for those of us who are opposed to the current order. The only question is: can and will we take advantage of it?