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'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Possible New Occupy Oakland Occupation/People Smash Windows at Oakland Obama Campaign Office 

Photograph attributed to David Colburn.

UPDATE (10:40 PM PST): CourtneyOccupy is ustreaming from Oakland. Others will probably soon be doing so as well. Find them through the Twitter hashtags mentioned below.

INITIAL POST: This is breaking news at 10:22 PM PST. People in Oakland have smashed the windows of the Obama 2012 campaign office, unknown as to whether people involved in Occupy Oakland were involved, although Chris Hedges is probably already certain that Black Bloc elements were responsible. Could have been participants in a large Fuck the Police march, could have been people out for the art walk, could have been a spontaneous action by an amorphous group on the scene. We can certain, though, that Obama supporters will be horrified about this after tolerating his wars, his drone strikes, his indefinite detentions, his refusal to help millions of people who have suffered severe economic distress during his first term. For more information as it emerges, follow the hashtags #OO, #OccupyOakland and #FTP, among others, on Twitter. The Oakland Police Department reports an occupation at 19th Street and Telegraph.

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Pam Spaulding Wets Her Pants Over a Kiss In at Chick-fil-A 

Just to show how bad things have gotten at firedoglake, Pam Spaulding had a panic attack over gays and lesbians having a kiss in at Chick-fil-A today. After another instance of firedoglake historical revisionism analogous to Southern Dragon's claim that Marx abandoned his activism and limited himself to the understanding of a capitalist economy after 1850, wherein Spaulding states that the kiss in is incompatible with the past activism of ACT-UP, she is joined by numerous others complaining about the adverse consequences of public displays of gay and lesbian affection. It was left to slobeck to correct the record and bring some rationality to the discussion. Just imagine if Spaulding went to an Occupy event in NYC or Oakland, she'd probably faint and require help from the street medics.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A Brief Remark About the Death of Gore Vidal 

Born into privilege, Gore Vidal lived 5 lives simultaneously. I can barely get to work everyday, raise my son and emotionally participate in my family, while Vidal was a novelist, socialite and periodic politician with an acute sense of American history and culture. Vidal published numerous novels, nearly got punched out by William F. Buckley on national television during the 1968 Democratic convention, got head butted and punched by Norman Mailer after calling him out about his misogyny, ran for office twice and was unapologetic about his promiscuous homosexuality, claiming to have had over 1000 sexual encounters. In this, he was outdone by Wilt Chamberlain, the track star and basketball player, who said that he had 10000 straight ones, but then Wilt wasn't writing all those novels and going to all those parties.

Given all this and more, it is easy to get lost in the dense forestation of Vidal's life and miss some of the obvious things that were important about him. Most importantly, Vidal was a powerful, consistent voice about the violence inherent within American capitalism, popularizing the notion of an American empire long before it became fashionable. He opposed the Vietnam War, spoke out about nuclear proliferation (with, humorously enough, Norman Mailer) and highlighted the cowboy mentality of US covert operations around the world in places like Central and South America. Just as a billboard in Idaho has angered people by stating that President Obama has killed far more people than James Holmes did in Aurora, Vidal blandly observed that Timothy McVeigh was no more of a killer than Eisenhower. In this, Vidal implicitly touched upon our unwillingness to confront the extreme violence of the representatives of the state while condemning the relatively lesser violence of individuals. There was, over the course of his life, an anarchic thread in his thought even if he was no anarchist. As you would have expected, he was an incisive critic of the war on terror in the final years of his life.

Culturally, Vidal was a rebel in the right place at the right time. While refusing to characterize himself in terms of sexual orientation, he was, in the expanding horizons of the immediate post-war era, openly gay, without, oddly enough, drawing a great deal of attention to it. So much so that he polled more votes as a Democratic candidate in a conservative, upstate New York congressional district in 1960 than any other Democratic candidate had done in 50 years. He was matter of fact about his preference for men and his promiscuity, thus demonstrating that it was no longer possible to require people to conform to a public expectation of straight monogamy regardless of how they lived privately, personally foreshadowing the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the gay rights movement of the 1970s.

Of course, Vidal's privileged background provided him with advantages in this regard, but he was still taking risks. He maintained that the New York Times nearly killed his literary career in the 1950s because of a novel that he wrote with an expressly gay protagonist, and Buckley no doubt thought that he was damaging Vidal greatly by calling him queer on national television in 1968. Buckley, perhaps confused by Vidal's evasions about his sexuality, thereafter characterized him as an evangelist for bisexuality and an advocate for the acceptability of homosexuality. Vidal was much better in taking the true measure of Buckley, as he did when asked about how he felt about Buckley's death: I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred. For people like Buckley, Vidal was a provocation in all aspects of his life, public and private. May he rest in peace.

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