On Israel and Gaza

On November 14 2012 Israel began their offensive on Gaza known as Operation: Pillar of Defense or Pillar of Cloud. As I learned from watching Harry Fear on ustream, the name “Pillar of Cloud” is a biblical reference to something which protected the Jewish People.

Later on November 20 (I think) Egypt brokered a cease fire between Israel and Hamas. At least they tried to. Hamas fired a few more rockets…

Pretty much as soon as the Israeli offensive began (prior to the cease fire) the entire internet and all of the social networks started buzzing about war crimes, murder, dead babies, and one-sided propaganda saying “hate the other side, hate the other side, hate the other side.” Now I’m not justifying what is currently going on for a second. It sickens me to be honest. However, I can’t help but think it’s more complicated than the basic memes I keep seeing. Meaning it’s more complicated than just “Israel blows the shit out of Gaza.” True that is essentially what’s happening (they have a larger military) but I’d like to ask why it’s happening? I also think it’s worth asking just how many Israelis support the aggression?

To address that last point I’m going to post this article as complementary material:
Israel is as Netanyahu does.

Coupled with the previous article is this video which describes the pro-Palestinian anti-war movement in Israel itself:
Inside Israel’s anti-war movement.

This video as well can elaborate even further on the group presented in the first video:
Israelis Soldiers refuse to serve in Gaza.

I can’t really comment much further from this perspective because even that seems to address the situation from a near-sighted point of view.

Before continuing any further I want to state my unfortunate declaration of neutrality on this. My reasons follow, but none of them are from a pretense of “Journalistic Objectivity.”

I do want to post this video though as it is a very good history of the Middle Eastern conflict:
Origins of Israel Palestinian Conflict

Now that I’ve posed that for discussion I need to examine this from the only perspective that really looks at the full situation and everything that might be overlooked.

TheFreeDictionary.com defines Genocide as “The systematic and widespread extermination or attempted extermination of an entire national, racial, religious, or ethnic group.”

Whether it is realized or wanted by Israeli citizens, this is what they are doing: A larger power exists in an area populated by many smaller powers. The smaller powers never wanted the influx of immigration which the larger power brought because many of the people who were originally there ended up as refugees, but the immigration happened nevertheless. It was at this point that the original people living there were faced with a decision. They could either assimilate into the new culture, or they could continue to resist. Obviously, they have continued to resist and I can’t really fault them for this response. However, in the age of bombs, guns, and rockets, the armed resistance of original settlers will inevitably provoke a defensive-offensive reaction from the larger power. A larger power armed with the same age of weaponry, only stronger, and a better funded artillery with more supplies to back it.

It must be acknowledged how people who are pro-Israel will say “we want peace, but how can we achieve this if they wont even recognize us as a state.” This is a legitimate point. At the same time, do we really think the Native Americans would have jumped at the opportunity to recognize the American colonies, and European culture, as their own. You can’t just tell the Gazans to do this either with Israel.

Now we need to address one particular of the conflict which is overlooked. A possible explanation for the higher casualty rates in Gaza as opposed to Israel. No, it’s not just excessive bombing. Unless I have been misinformed, Hamas puts their weapons facilities in the middle of civilian areas (which I believe is actually a war crime). Israel does not do this. The unfortunate consequence of this is when Israel bombs a weapons facility, civilians end up dead.

Nevertheless the conflict continues and as Israel is the stronger nation Gazans die in larger numbers. As time passes, we are essentially looking at a genocide by Israel as Gazan numbers decline gradually and Israel is still strong.

Now to bring in another aspect of the conflict to view it from a different perspective. When the European settlers came to the Americas and took land the same exact genocide happened as the colonies were created; and later in the name of Manifest Destiny. I think about 15 million Native Americans were killed. The rest assimilated, were allowed to stay on reservations, and opened casinos. The only real difference between the founding of the United States and what we are watching in Israel now is we have only read about the European settlers and Manifest Destiny in history books. To add insult to injury, history is always written by the winner. As a result most of us don’t think of the creation of the United States in such a negative light (thanksgiving?). In the case of Israel and the Middle East conflict, over the past 50 or so years we have watched the events unfold in the news, and in real time. With the spread of the internet over the past decade our exposure to the conflict has been that much more easily accessible. As there is no clear winner yet, and people have obvious loyalties to and connections with one side or the other, we end up in heated discussions where there is no common ground to be found.

History is written by the winner and the kinks have been worked out. The present is improvised and there are often a lot of mistakes to be made.

George Orwell said:
“Who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.”

Rage Against the Machine expanded with:
“Who controls the present now?”

All this said. Why do I declare neutrality? I declare neutrality because if I don’t declare neutrality I’ll have to be ashamed of the fact that I grew up in America for the sake of consistency. I can’t be ashamed of having grown up in America because I have had a very good life thus far. I’m very grateful to have grown up in this country and to have had whatever I did. Unfortunately, the greatest drawback to my having everything I do comes at the price of a genocide of the indigenous population that first lived on this continent. This same price is one which every developed nation in the world, including those which have protested Israel’s aggression, can claim for their origins as well.

Every developed nation in the world exists as a result of imperialism. European nations developed over time through pillaging, genocides, and expansion. The Roman Empire for example expanded by killing those indigenous tribes which did not wish to abandon their ethnicities and contribute to the “glory of Rome.” A vast roads network for communication was created from this expansion. This roads network ironically facilitated the spread of Christianity (a contributing factor in the fall of the Roman Empire). The next main empire was the British Empire. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the historic saying “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” That saying is no exaggeration. It’s ironic when the human rights we fight for, in the Middle East and around the world, couldn’t have been conceived of without the communication and educational systems established by those same empires which viciously violated those righteous values…

All things considered my resulting stance on the conflict in the Middle East is neutrality. Another position I will take is one which I think everyone can find some respect for:

I want there to be peace, freedom and coexistence in the Middle East. So long as there is peace it makes no difference to me what the region decides to call itself.

We all have to realize one other thing though. According to the video I posted earlier, which describes the history of the Gaza-Israel conflict, even with Israel gone there still wouldn’t be peace in the Middle East. Due to this fact, I need to pose a hypothetical question involving no personal bias:

Hypothetically, if Israel were not there, and the region was still in constant conflict…

Would you care?

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Papa John’s and healthcare

I’ve been seeing a lot of social media content about Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter and his threat of cutting back employee hours, and/or laying off employees as a result of new healthcare requirements under Obamacare. Obviously, these memes are not supposed to put him into a positive light but there’s another aspect of them which baffles me even more.

One of the memes had a picture of Mr. Schnatter’s home. A mansion which had, among other things, a drawbridge. The point of the meme is to show how wealthy the man is. The point is conveyed. The next part though explains how if he just raised the price of his pizza by 15 cents he’d have no trouble covering the expense of employee healthcare.

Okay sure, he’d have no trouble covering the expense, but why should the consumer face a price increase? No, I’m not complaining about 15 cents. I just don’t get why, after showing a photo of a mansion with a drawbridge the suggestion of the meme isn’t “Mr. Schnatter based on look of your home you’re loaded. You can afford to pay for your employees’ healthcare.”

I personally have no problem chipping in for other people’s healthcare but I’d only want to do that through progressive taxation. I don’t want to pay for people’s healthcare because a rich CEO decides that, as opposed to living in less luxury, he’d rather cut down on his workforce and their hours. The consumer shouldn’t have to pay more money on a product so that the owner can avoid losing his extreme wealth to give his employees what they deserve as a human right in the first place.

This entire thing is also indicative of a bigger issue. It seems people still believe that Schnatter and other wealthy businessman actually “earned” their wealth and should not be asked to give any of it back. Yeah, they’ve probably worked hard to get what they have. Every business begins small. There’s a lot of risk and many mistakes are made as well. However, just because you go through this doesn’t mean you get to keep every last dime you’ve acquired and get to leave only the bare minimum for everyone else.

I’m a proponent of Universal Healthcare, or Medicare-for-all, or Single-payer insurance. This would mean that everyone chips in to help everyone else and everyone would be much healthier in the end. Is this system perfect? No. It makes a lot more sense though than a system where only the consumers pay for each others’ well-being and those at the top aren’t forced to contribute.

The idea of charging consumers an extra 15 cents is essentially seeking to compromise where you don’t need to. It’s also a way of backing down because we’re too afraid to step up and demand what we should be demanding for our neighbors, from a wealthy individual who can probably afford it.

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My three trips to Staten Island, Day 3

(You can read about my previous two trips to Staten Island at:
www.stopmotionsolo.net/my-three-trips-to-staten-island-day-1
and www.stopmotionsolo.net/my-three-trips-to-staten-island-day-2)

My third trip to Staten Island was on November 12. This time I had much more time to learn about the areas most directly effected and had a definite game plan in mind. Nothing though could have prepared me for what I saw.

A military helicopter lands in the barracks in the field next to New Dorp Ln.

A yard effected by Sandy.

Pipe work being done near residences by New Dorp Ln.

A tattered American flag.

Discarded property outside a home by New Dorp Ln.

A photograph inside a home where relief efforts were underway.

The dirt left from the hurricane before cleaning.

The floor of a home after relief efforts to clean it have completed. See previous photo for an idea of what it looked like before.

Damaged property outside a home.

Tracks in the dirt outside homes.

A look down the street.

A muddied windshield.

Another muddied window on the same car.

A long shot of the car from the previous two photos.

Workers doing repairs.

Here is some footage I took while walking around the residences and construction taking photos.

As I was walking around I found myself in a conversation with some of the locals. At first they were curious why I was filming. After a quick explanation though they were more than happy to
chat for a minute. At the 0:41 minute mark the locals come into the camera (out of respect I usually don’t film people unless they are comfortable).

Here is footage I took of workers doing repairs.

Following this I was taken to a location where the worst destruction could still be seen. It was not a pleasant sight.

The first thing I was shown was this:

A house which collapsed.

Just across the street was this…

The rubble which is left of a house. This could also be a place where debris from several houses was put. I honestly could not tell.

A very muddy street and damaged houses which still stand.

Looking down the street in front of the houses from the last photo.

A boat on the side of the road

A close-up of the sign in the last photo which reads a warning passersby to “Please Keep Out”

On the window and the roof is written “Keep Out”

A panoramic of the past few photos.

As I walked around taking the last group of photos my stream was alive and well. Watch it here.

A truck cleaning up damaged property in front of a damaged house.

The truck from the previous photo dropping collected garbage into a dumpster.

The activity of the previous truck was something I found particularly moving. As such it felt appropriate to document it via livestream.

At this point I had the footage which I had ventured into Staten Island to gather. I needed to head home at this point and start organizing the footage of my three trips. I was certain it would be an arduous task.

As I walked back to the bus to get to the ferry I took a panoramic of the barracks by New Dorp Ln.

A wide shot of the FEMA barracks by New Dorp Ln.

Have I collected all of the footage I needed to gather before saying my work in Staten Island is done. No. I do plan to venture out there again but for now my main interest is in getting to the Rockaways and Coney Island. If I can I will make my way to New Jersey as well.

I need to send appreciation to Occupy Sandy and all of their hard work in providing relief for hurricane victims. I also need to send appreciation to FEMA for their help and resources. I also need to thank all those volunteers and donors who have contributed to the cause of disaster relief, in any way they could. I intend to write a piece on this as well.

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My three trips to Staten Island, Day 2

(You can read about my first trip to Staten Island at:
www.stopmotionsolo.net/my-three-trips-to-staten-island-day-1)

My first trip to Staten Island was really something of a spur-of-the-moment trip. I had no idea where to go or what I would see. During my second trip, I still didn’t know what I would see but I least had more of an idea of how to get around.

On November 6th, election day I did make sure to go and vote before anything else, but afterward I wanted to go and document more of the scene on Staten Island. I wanted to get more from New Dorp Ln. This time, I ended up filming a lot of what was left on the beach. There was not too much activity in the area that day so I wasn’t really sure where to go afterward. Also note, my livestream had a terrible signal here so I couldn’t do any filming here. Nevertheless, here are some photos.

A blanket/covering on the beach.

Removed debris on New Dorp Lane.

FEMA barracks

A tree at the beach.

A building (whose purpose I don’t know) next to the beach.

Note the bricks on the right of the photo.

A stuffed animal left behind.

A piece of a fence.

A close-up of the ironing board in the last photo. Written on the board are the words “God Bless You”

A kiddie pool used to transport supplies.

Netting around a tree.

A chair on the beach.

The damaged trees by the beach at New Dorp Lane.

After taking these photos I needed to head off Staten Island as it was getting dark. However, I returned on November 12 for more documentation. November 12 was when I documented the devastation to actual homes and the cleanup efforts. My next blog will feature these efforts.

Please donate to Sandy relief! I appreciate all donations but victims need it more.
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My three trips to Staten Island, Day 1

How does one get information out from a location which is unfamiliar to them? How does one choose what to document in this location? What obstacles might one face should said location be been struck with a disaster which, until recently, was unprecedented? How does one get to this unfamiliar location in the first place? Once there, how does one know where to go to find appropriate footage over a landmass of 102.5 Square Miles (265.5 km²)?

These are just some of the questions I was faced with after Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island. I’d been there briefly, maybe 3 years before the hurricane struck, and even then I mainly stayed in one neighborhood. Now, I had to figure out which locations on Staten Island had been most affected by the Category 1 Hurricane, figure out how to get to them, think about how I would go about filming the devastation, and then figure out how I’d get home. Normally mass transit would be an option but as the entire subway and bus system was shut down (and flooded) for a day, I was faced with a need to map out a trip to a foreign location? Most importantly though, I was faced with a responsibility to document a devastated area as soon as I could.

My first trip out ended up being much simpler than I’d expected; I got a lift with OccupySandy over the Verrazano Bridge on November 4.

I can’t even begin to describe how much easier this made my life, and my ability start to coverage of the devastated area.

Crossing the Verrazano Bridge by car to Staten Island.

Approaching the toll booth to enter Staten Island.

Everyone in the car found humor in going to Staten Island for volunteer work but still needing to pay a toll.

Cell phone service was spotty all over Staten Island, so as the group I was with made their way to the relief hub I took some pictures…

(Mind you these are all from within the car as we drove through the area near Midland and Baden)

Damaged housing.

Traffic maneuvering through damaged housing.

Damaged Housing.

Construction and cleanup by damaged housing.

Taped windows.

Hurricane-damaged property and people working to help with the clean-up effort.

Construction in Sandy’s aftermath and people bringing supplies to and from locations in need.

A house with garbage from Sandy in front.

The car I was in reached its destination by a relief hub near Rustic Place and Locust Place. I was pointed towards the harbor and headed off to gather footage…

I found boats and boardwalk. What made this all so unique was all the boats were on land. They were not on the beach though. They were on the grassy area past the beach.

A close-up of the bottom of the boat in the previous picture.

Another close-up.

The last boat and its surroundings.

Before walking through the grassy area I took a panoramic of the area.

Some boats and some boardwalk.

A close-up of the bottom of the boat in the last photo.

A boat called the “Deacon” with the words “In Memory Of Dad” on it’s side.

To give a better perspective of the scene I took a few panoramic shots as well so as to give an idea of what it was like to be in the middle of the stock pile of boats.

A panoramic from atop the boardwalk which was on top of the grass.

A panoramic from the remaining portion of boardwalk which was still on land but at least in its proper place to lead one out to the water.

As I was walking around taking photos my stream was turned on. For a more real time feeling watch this clip.

At about the 3:54 mark I walk into the area most densely packed with boats. At about the 4:49 mark I feature a motor in the grass. At about the 6:03 mark the boardwalk on the grass comes into the frame. Finally at the 8:46 mark I jump onto the boardwalk. The video continues after this for 7 minutes.

After filming the boats I headed back to the relief hub I started at. On the way there I filmed property which had been discarded from homes after being damaged by the storm.

Here is some of the property. At about 0:19 in the video you see following picture.

A mattress cut in half.

Here is more property.

Once I returned to the relief hub I was told of another location which had been hit even worse by the hurricane and where there was also a FEMA outpost; New Dorp Ln. I hopped a bus and headed down Hylan Blvd. Upon reaching New Dorp lane the first thing I saw was a line of people waiting at the Hess Station to get gas.

Military Personnel assist in the distribution of gas.

People standing in line waiting for gas.

The line extends farther back as people wait for gas.

The line extends even farther back as people wait for gas.

Cars line up waiting for gas in back of the people.

The line of cars extends farther backwards on the line for gas.

In the sky a helicopter monitored the area.

A helicopter flies overhead monitoring the gas line and the FEMA aide station behind New Dorp High School.

The parking lot in back of New Dorp High School where the FEMA aide and Red Cross station is set up.

Allstate disaster team has insurance tents set up by the FEMA aide and Red Cross area in back of New Dorp High School.

The FEMA aide tent in the distance

Healthplus vans by the FEMA aide and Red Cross area.

Bottles of unopened water collected to be given to Hurricane victims.

A sign for “Distributed Baby Supplies” on the FEMA aide tent.

People gathering to help in the relief efforts and to receive aide from FEMA or the Red Cross.

Boxes waiting to be filled by volunteers for Hurricane relief.

A tent with relief supplies.

Military personnel.

Information tables.

A panoramic of the scene by the FEMA outpost.

As I walked around and took photos of the area I was streaming as well. However, I was in a bad signal area and the chatters on my feed were telling me the video was choppy. To remedy this situation I took a short video as I walked around the relief station.

Following this I had to head back home as it would be getting dark soon and I was in an unfamiliar location. On the bus ride back to the ferry I saw a few marathon runners who had made the decision to help with the relief efforts.

A marathon runner I met on the way back to the Ferry.

Keep updated as I will be posting about the second and third days I spent in Staten Island soon!

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What you didn’t see the night Obama was re-elected.

On November 6, 2012 forward motion brought hope and change once again as Barack Obama was re-elected to the presidency of the United States of America. Congrats Mr. President!

Every major news station covered the events in real time and gave detailed analysis and breakdowns of everything happening as the votes were tallied. The better question to ask ourselves is, “what wasn’t covered on this night?”

Taking a cue form 2008, when people were gathered in public spaces around the world to watch the election coverage (and to get on camera), the Occupy Wall Street Puppet Guild gathered in Bryant Park then marched to the Red Stairs in Times Square. They figured they could have some fun with a theatrical demonstration to help raise awareness to the truth behind the spectacle which everyone was present for. The Public Relations fiasco also known as the Presidential Election.

The OWS Puppet Guild prepares their Monopoly Man, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney puppets for spectacle at the CNN broadcast of the Election from Times Square. This photo was taken in Bryant Park.

A demonstrator with a Money-head mask, with a necktie, accompanies the other puppets. This photo taken en route to Times Square.

Bain Capital walks forward, escorted by secret service agent, en route to Times Square.

Puppets of the Monopoly Man, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney reach Times Square.

The Monopoly Man, Obama, and Romney puppets arrive at the location of the CNN live election broadcast.

CNN background with Obama and Monopoly Man puppets to the right.

The CNN backdrop for their live election coverage.

The CNN backdrop, TV screen setup, and the sound system setup

Obama, Romney, and Monopoly Man puppets with Money-head masks.

As if there weren’t enough spectacle already at the event. A countdown clock was periodically shown so as to give all those present an idea of when the next time zone’s poll results would be presented.

The main issue the Puppet Guild wanted to address was that of money in politics. To give background with the recent Supreme Court case of Citizens United vs. The FEC, money was declared “free political speech” because the majority opinion of the Supreme Court came was that no matter how much money was put into the government, corruption would not arise.

As the OWS Puppet Guild thought otherwise they periodically mic-checked the their thoughts.

In response to their bringing attention to issues which were not terribly marketable at the time a security guard asked us to leave.

In response to this request the Puppet Guild mic-checked this. Mind you, though CNN may have rented the property for the time they did not have the right to kick people out for demonstrating. Should there have been unruly behavior there may have been grounds for asking us to leave. This was not something the demonstrators were guilty of. Furthermore, CNN renting property does not give them the right to dictate how others use a public space as this becomes an issue of infringing upon peaceful Free Speech. Peaceful demonstrations are allowed in public spaces. CNN overstepped their boundaries in this instance.

Another point to think on is how CNN’s asking us to leave the area can be seen as a betrayal of what should be objective journalistic integrity. By asking a group of demonstrators to leave the news agency chose to focus only on their surface breakdown of how votes were being cast. They did not seek other perspectives on just how fair the election was or even just on others’ viewpoints of the night in general. No CNN chose to focus exclusively on their coverage being the focal point of the night with no deviation to enter the broadcast.

The group did ultimately proceed to walk around Times Square so as to reach more people on this very important night in our nation’s history. However, they did some chanting first.

As we walked around Times Square the mic-check about corporate America maintaining 100% of the electoral vote was repeated.

Overall this action was much more brief than others. Far simpler in scope as well. The point was just as important though. Corporations control the government and, no matter if you voted for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, either way you were voting for the candidates’ financiers. If you disagree about President Obama’s influence by corporations. Please watch this video from DemocracyNow! on a trade agreement known as the TPP. If passed this will be the first trade agreement Barack Obama has taken part in. Mind you President Obama is now in his second term of office. With this often comes a dangerous misconception, where the President is not worried about re-election so he doesn’t have to worry about who he caters to. This is wrong. If a candidate’s campaign is financed by a wealthy individual you can bet said wealthy individual will request a return on their investment should the candidate win.

After walking through Times Square the group proceeded back to Bryant Park. Live election coverage was still going on and there was more to document.

The greatest irony of the location of the election coverage were some of the displays which, though legal, were very humorous statements.

The CNN broadcast of the Election from Times Square took place below this. The Xinhua News Channel screen.

As the election coverage continued on various screens of Times Square this could be seen:

The tally of Electoral votes won.

To have the words “Your Voice. Your Vote.” On the same screen as the electoral vote is just as laughable as the Fox News slogan “Fair and Balanced.” Yes, it is the public casting ballots but it is the Electoral College which decides the election. Furthermore, as the choices of candidates the public has are limited to only two and the only way to have a significant chance at winning is to have very wealthy donors supporting your candidadte (namely banks and other corporate entities), it’s barely “our voice. our vote.”

What was a nice addition to the night though was this:

A screen by the CNN broadcast of the election shows the Empire State Building which has its antenna colored to mimic the electoral tally of the presidential race.

Now I want to talk about who I voted for. I did not vote for Barack Obama, nor did I vote for Mitt Romney. I did note vote for a third-party candidate either. I chose to cast a write-in vote. The greatest irony, my write-in vote was for the certain winners of the election.

I chose not to vote for third-party because they had no chance at winning and I saw no point in casting a useless vote. True if enough people vote for a particular party, that party gains more legitimacy in the eyes of the FEC and therefore could receive more funding in the future when they campaign again. I did not care to take this action this year.

As I said before I voted for the winners. Who are these winners I cast a write-in vote for? I wrote the following:
“The 1%,
SuperPACs,
Corporations (technically a group of people due to Corporate Personhood),
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)”

My feeling was, they were going to win anyway, so I may as well just cut out the middle-man of voting for either Romney or Obama and go with the sure-fire winners. I may not like the entities I voted for. I may have preferred Jill Stein. However, these days, I don’t want to beat around the bush. Furthermore, as every American voter wants their candidate to win, I wanted to place a sure bet. Without a second’s hesitation, I can say my candidate was elected to office.

Anyone who sees this as being a strange vote or ineffective vote I don’t care. Anyone who says “you’re vote is not the time for political statements it is a choice of candidates to lead the country.” My response is “What greater political statement is there than the choice you make for who you would prefer to lead your country?”

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Obama’s second term

Okay so Obama got re-elected and the Tea Party congress was scaled back a bit. Open the champagne bottles it’s time to relax. There can be no doubt of the significant gains for the left on November 6th. Even if you are unsatisfied with the current political system these are certain things which must be acknowledged. FOX News has been retreating and finding every excuse under the sun for what happened. Jon Stewart did his own 8 minute segment on the FOX News coverage of election night. A segment where Megyn Kelly actually said to Karl Rove “Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” All video clips since election night of Karl Rove have been hilarious as well. One clip featured him discussing how the Democrats suppressed voter turnout. Yeah, the Democrats may be slick and sleazy but voter suppression is just not in their playbooks. So we won and everything is now right in the universe. Go back to work, watch from the sidelines and let the politicians do their job.

Or how about not? How about going back to work but continuing the discussion. All that happened was a few candidates of a particular political persuasion got re-elected. Basically, this means they ran good campaigns. Congrats! It doesn’t mean much else though. Some candidates may campaign on great platforms with brilliant rhetoric to rally the crowds they address. Wait a second, I seem to remember another elected official who did this really well too. It happened back in 2008 and his name was Barack Obama. Yeah, he sounded great didn’t he? Then he went ahead and appointed Timothy Geithner, former Chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, as his Secretary of the Treasury. Timothy Geithner by the way is a man who, in the movie Inside Job, is said to have claimed that his position as Chairman of the New York Fed was NOT to regulate. Interviewees from Inside Job reflected on this claim by explaining if Geithner really did claim this then he really didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing as Chairman…

Obama also never made any of the banks change management. He forced the auto industry to do so though… He probably treated the banks differently for political reasons under the assumption that he’d be asking them for money in the next election. The banks ended up giving more money to Romney. By the way, the banks care more about profit than they do politics. In the recent election Goldman Sachs gave $10 million to Romney and $1 million to Obama. This may be a smaller amount but it still is something. This is also not including any of the unrecorded “speech money” Obama received this time around.

Seriously though, lets move past the campaign finance issue. Money in politics is still a serious problem but Obama’s second term is the focal point here.

What can he accomplish? What will he accomplish? What means does his position grant him to accomplish these things?

Without congressional bills his powers are limited. All The President can really do is sign Congressional Bills, issue Executive Orders, and give Presidential pardons.

Ignoring the fact that Executive Orders are severely abused in general, since (I believe) they were created as a way to get emergency things done if congress was not in session, how many will The President issue? As a point of comparison, how many did George W. Bush issue?

If you want to say (with regards to his first term) “President Obama wanted to play the politics game to get re-elected” it’s a flimsy argument as far as his duties as a “statesman” are concerned, but it’s a legitimate argument on The Hill. Now however President Obama is in his second (and last) term. He doesn’t have to worry about re-election. The common perception is, when it’s your last term, you have more freedom in what you do. The question is, who is the re-elected President serving?

Will he make cuts to Medicare and Social Security as he refused to take said programs off the potential spending cuts chopping block over the past year? Will he sign Executive Orders to expand on Obamacare? Will he declare a jobs emergency? Will he bring the troops home? What will he do for the environment? Will he work to end the Bush-era tax cuts? In the last debate he had with Governor Romney he discussed how the military has changed and how certain weaponry and technology is no longer required. Does this mean he’ll cut down on defensive spending? America does have the largest defensive spending budget in the world where we outspend the next 26 countries combined.

What’s he going to do? It’s a serious question which everyone should consider. He’s not obligated right, or is he? He obviously had some financiers. Microsoft and Google were two of his largest donors. Aren’t both of those companies monopolies or close to it? Microsoft technically got out of being called a monopoly by giving Apple money so they could avoid bankruptcy. That money ended up going towards Apple’s creation of those iPods with the touch sensitive scroll circles. Google is a huge privacy invader and activity tracker.

What is the re-elected President Obama going to do now. It’d be nice if he really comes through for the people but I have my doubts. He’s just a politician with limited abilities unless there is public support for things.

In general all politicians should be viewed as mere conduits for legislation and lawmaking. They should never be viewed as the ones with power. They can sign bills and create legislation. Impressive. The public can shut down an ENTIRE ECONOMY by striking for a day though. By the way, in protest of austerity measures on November 14th I believe France, Greece, Spain, Germany, and a few others will be holding general strikes. Yeah, that’s almost all of Europe… The power lies in the hands of the politicians though, sure…

Now is the time to work together and organize in America. The Democrats in congress (who are ideologically just Republicans from the 70′s) did very well on November 6. The question we now need to ask ourselves is do we want to move forward with hope, and change things ourselves; or do we want to trust a bunch of slick politicians to do it on their own?

I know which one I want. What is your stance?

By the way, I don’t mean to say for a second that any development of organization around issues is easy. It never is. However, in the words of Zach de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine: “It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?”

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Economic Inequality in a city bathed and put to sleep.

Hurricane Sandy devastated many parts of New York, shut down mass transit, and left its mark by devastating homes. After three days of being marooned where I sought shelter during the storm, I figured out the emergency transit network that had been set up and made my way to cover the blacked-out Manhattan Island.

The first thing on my to-do list was to go by the Con Edison power plant on the Lower East Side and document.

The night of Hurricane Sandy this video surfaced of a Con Edison power plant exploding. Aside from this video there had not been much reporting on the explosion or any affected areas so I had the intention of breaking the media silencing. The only real discussion on the news was in reference to the resulting power grid shutdown below 34th Street.

A map of the trains still operating after Governor Cuomo authorized a Transit Emergency.

Needless to say, in order to get into Manhattan Island, there would be a few hassles involved. A shuttle bus was one of them…

The line for the shuttle bus to Manhattan at Barclay’s Center.

I got off the bus on Bowery and E 8 Street and made my way towards Avenue C. The power plant was located on Avenue C between 13 and 14 Streets. On my way I took a few photographs…

A TD bank notifies customers it is closed for business due to an emergency.

Closed Shops on the Lower East Side.

An intersection in the Lower East Side. Three pedestrian cross lights are in the picture. None of them are operational due to the power outage.

Garbage is put out in front of houses on the Lower East Side.

Lower East Side residents gather to charge their electronics.

Electronics along a table where a neighborly shop owner is using a generator to help charge community members’ electronics.

When I finally arrived at the Con Edison facility I found work being done all around the premises to repair the damages and restore power. Here was some of the work being done by the Con Ed plant.

I walked around a bit and took some pictures as well…

The intersection to note the location of the Con Edison power plant.

Con Edison power plant.

A Con Edison truck outside the Lower East Side power plant.

Fallen trees outside the Con Ed power plant.

A lopsided sign which ironically discusses a pumping station and the Department of Environmental Protection.

The sign from the previous picture photographed for easier reading.

Construction equipment outside the Con Ed facility.

Workers having a discussion outside the Con Ed facility.

Construction equipment set up by the Con Ed facility.

A church across the street from the Con Ed power plant.

Fallen trees outside the Con Edison facility.

Workers doing repairs and maintenance outside the power plant.

Wires going into the Con Edison facility.

Wires going into the Con Edison facility.

Vehicle congestion outside the Con Edison power plant.

A vehicle leaves the Con Edison parking lot.

Con Edison workers going into a manhole for repair work.

A Con Edison trailer parked outside the Lower East Side power plant.

A Con Edison truck driving next to the power plant.

To give life to some of the above photos, watch a stream highlight from the site…

By the time I was finished at the Con Edison plant the sun had almost gone down. Now I had the unique opportunity to experience a Manhattan with no power. Mind you I don’t know if Manhattan has ever gone dark at night since streetlights were installed, be they gas-powered lights or otherwise.

Not more than 10 minutes into my walk I happened by a residence where people were gathered for support amidst the outage. One woman was nice enough to explain to me how things had been the past few nights.

Watch here.

For the sake of quick comparison to see how those more affluent managed through it. Watch the video I mentioned to the Lower East Side resident in the last video here!

For the sake of objectivity Hilaria Baldwin also posted this.

Following my interview with the Lower East Side resident I took a quick walk around the darkened neighborhood.

Watch the first video here.

Watch the second video here.

At the end of the second video you see this closed subway station:

A closed off subway entrance at 14 St and 1st Avenue.

I continued walking until I got to Union Square and ran into a few friends. My original intent was to save a trip to the financial district for another night, but as my friends wanted to go for a walk, I was certainly in the mood for a journey.

The first noteworthy thing I saw as we trekked down Broadway was a chase bank…

A closed Chase bank.

As we walked from Union Square to the financial district I did not stream but I did capture these two photographs for a sense of the darkness from the black-out:

This is was behind us as we walked forward:

Walking down a blacked-out Broadway.

This was in front of us…

Another shot of blacked-out Broadway.

To give some life to the previous two photos watch a stream highlight!

On one of the street corners we found a flare being used to illuminate the sidewalk for any cars which might make a turn.

A flare on the side of the road showing cars where the sidewalk is.

Once we reached Zuccotti Park we saw Christmas Lights…

Christmas lights on the trees in Zuccotti Park.

When we finally reached Wall Street we ran into the Occupy Trinity folks. One of whom was nice enough to give an account of their experience in the hurricane shelter and of how things were managed.
Watch here.

Following this we continued on our trip and headed into the financial district. To comment quickly on this video, right when we are about to be in front of the Stock Exchange the video seems to freeze (it does resume so either skip ahead or wait). In the meantime, as the stream does not show what The New York Stock Exchange looked like by the columns, I will post a picture of the scene.

The New York Stock Exchange.

At the 4:18 mark of the above video we begin to approach the 60 Wall Street Deutch Bank Atrium. It is fully lit…

At the 7:51 mark of the above video we find food which was left out for trash as is commonly done in this area.

Following this celebration of finding perfectly good food (amidst a blackout) which has been left out as trash we headed to the East River. On our way we found water being drained from locations which were flooded.

Water being drained by the East River.

Upon reaching the East River we took a quick break and enjoyed the scenery.

The Brooklyn Bridge. Note how the lights on the suspensions stop after the pillar on the left. This pillar is on the Manhattan side of the bridge.

Now it was time for the main spectacle. What did Goldman Sachs look like? There had been viral photos on the internet showing their headquarters having never lost power amidst the entire hurricane…

On our way there we saw this silly bike rack:

A bicycle rack shaped like a dollar sign in the financial district.

Here is some footage of our walk over…

At the 0:40 mark is when we first see light from workers doing maintenance and repair work in the area.

At the 1:30 mark you can see some stacked sand bags (I assume there’s sand in them) which were used to prevent water from entering the premises beyond. These barrier bags were used in many different places to prevent flooding.

At the 1:44 mark you begin to see a the fully lit first floor of the Goldman Sachs building.

At the 2:17 mark I pan up on their headquarters…

The next and last video highlight is from right in front of Goldman Sachs HQ.
Watch it and wonder where they are getting the electricity from. Note to the reader/viewer, until the 0:38 mark my camera is facing the concrete part of the first floor of the building. Skip to 1:06 to see Goldman Sachs in all its glory when I pan up.

Following our time spent at Goldman Sachs we headed back uptown. I had heard there was a military presence at Park Avenue South and East 23rd Street and I wanted some footage of it.

A military vehicle by Park Avenue South and E 23 street.

Another military vehicle by Park Avenue South and E 23 street.

Another military vehicle by Park Avenue South and E 23 St.

Another military vehicle by Park Avenue South and E 23 St.

Military Personnel by Park Avenue South and E 23 St.

When asked the military personnel explained their presence was simply to help keep the peace. I can understand the need to keep the peace amidst fears of looting, what confuses me though is why at Park Avenue South and East 23rd Street. It’s kind of a ritzy area. The people who live around there are not usually the types to do much of anything. Furthermore, with transit shut down it seems unlikely anyone would actually want to walk there. Also, this isn’t the 80′s New York may have been a crime-filled cesspool then, but it has since improved considerably. Lastly, isn’t the NYPD large enough to keep the peace on their own? The military could have been sent to Staten Island or the Rockaways to help with cleanup and efforts out there, no?

A resident in the area who was outside of his apartment commented on how the military personnel were using power generators but the residents of the area were helpless in that regard.

It’s entirely possible I’m missing certain things in my assessment of the military presence but I still think it’s excessive.

Following this I called it a night and headed back to the shuttle bus. As I waiting on line to get back home I couldn’t help noticing the Chrysler Building in the distance.

The Chrysler Building in the distance as I waited to board the shuttle back to Brooklyn.

No matter what this was an extremely long day and certain aspects were very telling of just where the money in this city is.

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The election, voting, and afterwards

Tomorrow November 6th, everyone should go out and vote. Yes, I am a staunch supporter of voting. Whether that vote is for a preference of Obama, Romney, a third party, or a write-in vote for Vermin Supreme is not an issue I care to discuss here in detail. All I will say is, if someone votes for anyone other than Obama or Romney (i.e. a third party) and expects there is a chance they will win. This person is completely and utterly delusional. The chances of everyone in the planet getting struck by lightning simultaneously is a more likely occurrence than a third-party candidate winning.

Even though the only two candidates who can win are Obama and Romney this does not mean there is anything wrong with voting otherwise. Strategically, if you live in a Red or Blue state, I’d say you can vote with your heart. If you live in a swing state, just like in 2001, any vote for third party will be a vote for the candidate you favor least of the two major parties. A vote for Jill Stein in Ohio is a vote or Mitt Romney. There, I said it. Another strategy for voting will be with regards to the kind of majority you want in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, while we may not agree with all of their decisions, is the least influenced by money of the three branches of government.

However, something I have never seen any use in is not voting at all. This is provided you are not in a position where you are incapable of voting in which case it’s understandable.

The only statement not voting really makes to the politicians running is that you don’t care at all. If you don’t care about the outcome, why should a politician give a damn what you think at all.

If you go out and vote for either of the major parties you are making the statement that you support them (which is fine) or that you saw one as being the lesser of two evils. If you go out and vote for a third party, or cast a write-in this will immediately send a message of a different sort to their strategists. It will send a message of “Yeah, I’m willing to get off my ass and vote. I’m willing to make the walk to the polls, and voice my political preference of who I want to lead the country. I don’t want that leader to be you though.”

Now you’ve given the strategists and politicians cotton candy. They see your interest. They see your participation. They also see that you voted but not for them. Now, they want to figure out how to get your vote and believe me, they do want your vote. If for no other reason it feeds their egos.

If you want to make an action out of voting with a write-in vote that is fine too. This because it will drive the poll analyzers crazy. Now, they have to categorize your write-in vote. Furthermore, if enough people do go out and cast write-ins or third party ballots it will make international headlines. The headline will be one indicative of how unhappy the American people are with the current system. This headline would send a message to the world that Americans are so pissed off that they went to the polls just to voice discontent. This is HORRIFIC press for American politics in general. For the American people though it is positive press because it sends another message to the world. “We are coming out of our national lethargy.”

There another issue though. It directly relates to the issue of lethargy. Even if the voter turnout is just the same as it has been in previous years there is one thing which must change to give any semblance of hope for this country. Activism must continue, and it must grow. For too long now the ethos of this country has largely been “we’ll vote during the elections and then we’ll take a backseat and just let you do your job hoping you do as you said in your campaigns.” This can be summed up in an even shorter phrase “Here, I voted for you, don’t fuck up.”

This mentality is destructive in any healthy society. The true mark of a healthy society which is run by the people is consistent demonstration. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound? Similarly, if people often bitch and complain but never do anything publicly about it, do they really care?

To me voting should just be the end result of a long public campaign of dissent on issues which raise concerns. It’s the icing on the cake. It’s supposed to be the point in a democracy when you elect someone to an office who has given you their word that they will deliver on the issues which you have been demonstrating for. Then if after voting them in that person does not come through on their end… Recall them.

Many have said that Occupy Wall Street changed the conversation. They did, but now the public discourse is controlled by the Mainstream Media and the politicians just pander to what is the new trend which there is obvious support for.

So after this coming election (be it Occupy or not) if activism subsides, and people get back to their everyday routine, I hate to say it but NOTHING WILL HAVE CHANGED AT ALL. History will have been made, but after a few decades the schools will probably teach the “short change in political discourse” less and less as it is no longer inline with the status-quo ideals. So who cares if you influenced the public discourse briefly. Talking is nice but in the end talk is cheap and nothing more than a good starting point. It’s far better to walk the walk and get things accomplished. If you can’t build on the talk and get others motivated in what you’re discussing, you’ve accomplished next to nothing, helped barely anyone and your efforts are rendered essentially, irrelevant.

Below is the text of the George Carlin video which it links to:
“But there’s a reason. There’s a reason. There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed.

It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you’ve got.

Because the owners, the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.

Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying, to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want:

They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. Thats against their interests.

Thats right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!

You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this fucking place! Its a big club, and you ain’t in it! You, and I, are not in the big club.

By the way, its the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue, these are people of modest means, continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you.

They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Thats what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick thats being jammed up their assholes everyday, because the owners of this country know the truth.

Its called the American Dream,because you have to be asleep to believe it.”

There was also an interview Carlin once did just before he died where he was asked something to the effect of “do you want to make people think?” His response was “Oh, no. That would be the kiss of death. What I want to do is show people that I was thinking.”

Somehow, I have feeling deep down he did want people to think. The problem is when people think… it’s bad for ratings and it doesn’t sell…

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