It is a time of fear in the face of freedom, a time of an emptying country and swelling cities, a time for the widening of previous roads and the opening of new paths, yet a time when these paths are mined by knowing algorithms of the all-seeing eye. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection. These are the times when maps fade, old landmarks crumble and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread. Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.
Is this wave of protests in Europe worth a blurb in the newspaper?
How about these November 5 protests planned across the United States?
These protests are being planned as part of the November 5 Million Mask March, the marquee event of which is occurring in Washington DC at the Washington Monument but parallel events of which are happening around the globe. Visit this page to find a Million Mask March near you: unless you live in a very, very remote area, there’s a Million Mask March near you. There’s one in Montana. There’s one in Wyoming. There’s even one in the depopulated South Dakota.
The topics to be discussed at the protests range from international issues such as the NSA’s spying program, genetically modified foods, and a general overreach of government to local issues that are pressing in the individual March areas.
John Fairhurst, organizer of the Washington D.C. March said recently in an interview “The main purpose of the event is to draw attention to the causes being represented. But it also serves to put the governments of the world on notice that we are watching, and that we expect them to address those causes. With the government’s lack of response to the people’s needs, they should have expected us.”
… and that’s a problem. But I do believe you have the right to know that these protests exist. Now you do. If you believe others in your life have the right to know about these protests, you have the power to make that happen.
If you were to create a grassroots activist organization to confront the growing sense of political disassociation described by our own writer Jim yesterday, Up To Us would be a pretty good name for the group, wouldn’t it? The whole idea would be that yes, times may be tough, and yes, the political challenges we face may be daunting, but darn it, if we the people of the United States of America don’t stand up and start acting like the citizens our forefathers wanted us to be, well, who will? It’s up to us to fix this mess, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work! I can hear the trumpet call in the distance even as I write this.
As luck would have it, some senior political operators have had this very idea, and they have created an organization called Up To Us – to be seen at UpToUs.com
So, what are they up to at Up To Us? They’re working hard to organize college students to get them active on an issue that should be close to their hearts: Debt.
Most college students are deep, deep in debt. They’ve been told that, if they will go to college, and invest their time, effort, and a lot of money in getting a degree, their lifetime income will increase. The investment will be worth it.
The truth is that even people with advanced degrees are struggling to get jobs, because corporations and wealthy individuals are hoarding their money, rather than recirculating it through the economy. So, students rack up big debts while they’re in college, and then they’re unable to pay them off – and under the latest bankruptcy law, there’s nothing students can do to free themselves of the burden of their student loans. It’s an issue that college students care about passionately.
Strangely, the issue of student loan debt is one that the organization Up To Us does not talk about at all.
Oh, yes, Up To Us is very much concerned with the issue of debt, just not as the issue affects students. That’s because, although Up To Us claims to be “a nationwide campus competition that empowers students”, it actually isn’t a campus organization at all. It’s a shell organization set up by billionaire Peter G. Peterson.
Peter G. Peterson is not what most people would describe as college age. He’s gray and wrinkled. His children are all grown up, and have gone through the university system themselves – saved by their father’s substantial fortune from any obligation to pay off student loans. One of his sons, Michael, was given a job as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which created the Up To Us organization.
The wealthy take care of their own, you so. When they say it’s Up To Us, what they mean is that it’s up to the wealthy to give directions, and it’s up to everyone else to follow orders. That’s what Up To Us is all about. It’s an astroturf organization dedicated to creating the false impression that college students favor big cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
Up To Us runs annual competitions in which teams of college students battle against each other for the right to run officialy-endorsed Up To Us public relations campaigns, talking about the danger of the national debt. Up To Us competitions award two thousand dollars to specially selected groups of students. Those student groups use the money to run two-week PR campaigns, about the threats caused by national debt, on campus, through social media, and in the larger community. Up To Us then judges the effectiveness of the PR campaigns, and then, the winning groups get a free meal as a prize. The losing groups get nothing.
The two thousand dollars granted by Up To Us doesn’t go to pay student salaries. Even if they did, the grants would be paying a rate far below the legal minimum wage. No, a single meal is the only payment that students are given for their substantial PR work to promote the economic agenda of billionaires. The message couldn’t be more clear: It’s up to billionaires to decide if poor students deserve to eat – and Peterson’s young shills should be happy to receive one order of pizzas in return for the privilege of serving his noble political vision.
If you know a college student who has been suckered into participating in the Up To Us astroturf campaign, it’s up to you to stage an intervention. Yes, students may be struggling to look for work, but the cruel economics of the Up To Us campaign show that nobody in the working classes will receive any just reward for kissing up to Peter G. Peterson and his billionaire friends.
You may notice that over the last few days, I haven’t been really been posting substantively. Big changes are afoot in the worlds of surveillance and campaign finance. American hunger is set to grow as food stamp cuts kick in without an expansion of jobs for the hungry to fill. Faced with these changes, I’m experiencing a new emotion: I’m stymied. I can’t bear to write about these subjects any longer. I’m retreating to articles about bowling bag spam and paid placement and inconsistencies in web hosting terms of service. This is meaningless. I’m retreating into meaninglessness. I’m taking refuge in meaninglessness.
I came back home on Sunday from a national march in Washington, DC against massive surveillance. I was not buoyed by the experience. I was cowed. It’s not polite to mention, but I’ll mention it because someone has to say it: the turnout to the march was absolutely dismal. At its peak, the march had attracted somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 participants. It wasn’t hard to count the crowd; it wasn’t that kind of an overwhelming march. I stood on the monument to Christopher Columbus outside Union Station and could see everyone within my field of vision. My daughter and I alone were able to add one tenth of 1% to the crowd. This does not make the march or its subject matter insignificant — but it does make the amount of inaction in this country in the face of bold-face bad news very depressing. Consider that supposedly, over 100 national organizations were behind this march. If that is really true, then each organization only attracted 10-20 participants at a maximum. That’s national staff plus a boyfriend or two. The alternative is that the march never had that kind of organizational support, not really, and that individual Americans’ desire to spread the news of the march on their own wasn’t sufficient to make a difference.
Headed home on Sunday, I passed a footrace sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps. Participants clogged the DC Metro to the gills, and the side of the road was clotted with supporters, bringing signs declaring how much they cared about those running the course. The contrast was glaring.
Usually, this kind of silence gears me up. Usually I’m motivated by others’ quiescence. This week, I’m struck dumb. In the face of others’ silence I can’t speak any more, and I can’t seem to find my way out.
Yesterday, Barry C. Black, the man appointed and paid by the U.S. federal government to be the high priest of the United States Senate, stood on the floor of the Senate and called upon his god to seize control of the legislative body. “Today, equip our Senators to do Your will, helping them to grasp the wonder of Your purposes. Lord, give them the ability, power, and resources to complete Your mission on Earth, thereby achieving the destiny You have for their lives,” he said at the height of his ritual of supernatural intervention.
So now, to discover the divine will of the god of Barry C. Black, all we have to do is look at what happened in the Senate yesterday after Black’s god took control.
According to the god’s purposes, Maria Cantwell introduced S. 1633: “A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on certain footwear, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.”
Then, Mitch McConnell and Daniel Coats submitted S.J. Res. 27: “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Internal Revenue Service of the Department of the Treasury relating to liability under section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for the shared responsibility payment for not maintaining minimum essential coverage; to the Committee on Finance.”
Finally, Rand Paul introduced S. Res. 281, a resolution alleging that the National Security Agency used its electronic surveillance powers to spy on the conclave that selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next Pope, and demanding, “President Obama should directly address the serious allegation whether his administration monitored the calls of Pope Francis or the conclave selecting the Pope.”
It doesn’t take a Masters of Divinity degree to see that the god of Barry C. Black is a god of shoes and tax efficiencies who wants to know more about the NSA spying scandal.
This god also made it the destiny of Senator Harry Reid to rise to the floor of the Senate yesterday to wish his little brother Larry a happy birthday. Imagine all of the centuries of divine intervention that had to take place just to lead to that moment.
In the latest news from the NSA, Deputy Director Chris Inglis has reiterated the core values of the organization. “I’d like to spend a moment talking about NSA’s core values – core values that are important to us because, as federal servants, we know that at the end of the day, it’s not simply important that we deliver something of value to the nation, but it’s also very, very important that we’ve done it exactly the right way. Our core values, I hope you wouldn’t be surprised, are respect for the law, honesty, integrity, and transparency.”
Certainly, no one is surprised that the NSA values honesty, integrity, and transparency. Respect for the law is a no-brainer too. Thank you, NSA, for respecting our constitutional rights day after day!
In other NSA news, the following three universities have been awarded grants for participation in the NSA’s Cyber Initiative: Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Mississippi State University. I’m sure the adminitrations of those universities will be fully and transparently, with integrity, honesty and respect for the law, informing students about all NSA activities on campus. Bravo, schools!
The NSA also wants everybody to know that it is not investigating 4,000 cases of breached security at in its own data centers. Rather, the National Security Agency is merely investigating over 4,000 cases of potential breached security in its data centers. Rest assured! The data the NSA stole from you is perfectly secure!
By the way, did you know that the Center for Cryptologic History keeps history alive by enhancing the knowledge and decision-making abilities of the intelligence community (IC)? Oh, yes. “A critical asset, the Center for Cryptologic History provides a historical and objective account of cryptologic history.” So, whenever you have cryptologic history needs, you know where to go! Without this NSA Center, history would be dead – just you remember that.
The NSA is in your schools, too, says Chris Inglis: “We’re Americans too – we come from the same communities, we go to the same schools, we raise our families in the same communities that you live in.” Yes, Peoria, the NSA is shopping right next to you at the grocery store. They’re everywhere!
Speaking of everywhere, did you know that the National Cryptological Museum is now on Facebook? Well, let’s not be humble… Facebook is the National Cryptological Museum. Google and Yahoo, of course, serve as their own adjunct facilities.
Now, about that transparency thing: Chris Inglis clearly explains, “(I’m) often asked the question about, “How is NSA transparent?” Some might read that question to be, “Does NSA put all of its secrets in the public domain?” Of course we don’t.” Keeping secrets from the American people, of course, is what transparency is all about. Chris Inglis is willing to stake (his) personal reputation on the integrity of the NSA. Isn’t that transparent enough for you?
By the way, young people, the NSA is looking for new staff members all the time. Among the benefits of working at the NSA is paid time off, away from the office. “Life is too short to spend it all at work,” we say. Besides, your supervisor will be able to keep track of you no matter where you are. Capiche?
Finally, don’t forget: Today is the last day of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. If you’re not aware of cybersecurity yet, get cracking! You only have a few hours left to get up to speed.
We get many requests every week to promote some product or another, with promises of cash or gifts attached. We don’t take the bait; it only rewards the desperate hucksters who would turn the Internet into some base arena for self-promotion at the expense of honest ideas. What? What did you say? Oh, all right: it only rewards the desperate hucksters who would turn the entire Internet into some base arena for self-promotion at the expense of honest ideas.
On occasion, I see a blog spam solicitation that’s so outrageous, or just so plain cute, that I’ve got to share it. Here’s one:
Is that really what the Elite looks like these days? No wonder Occupy couldn’t catch ‘em at their game; they were down at the bowling alley in t-shirts and Gothic wear.
How would you go about integrating a review of bowling shoes into Irregular Times? I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, but the task would require some creativity.
By the way, if you don’t think that this kind of appeal happens in “professional” publishing, just crack open a magazine. It’s everywhere. No one paid me to say that, though.
This has got to be the most existentially perplexing link spam offer we’ve received at Irregular Times in some time:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am emailing you regarding the formation of a partnership with my client.
My name is Catherine Byrne and I work for Linkforce Ltd based here in UK. I would like to place an article on your website containing a link straight to my client’s desired URL, from a keyword of their choice on a certain topic. It would be a small text link contained within the article. In return, we would like to pay you for this.
I would like to match your website with a relevant client. However, if we do not have a relevant client, I would still like to keep your website on a database to match with future clients.
Obviously I am keen to agree a partnership as soon as possible for this project, so I look forward to hearing from you shortly.
They’d like to pay Irregular Times to include a URL desired by a client that might not exist, and they want to form an agreement on behalf of that possibly non-existent client as soon as possible.
Ooh, ooh. Maybe they’re from the movie Looper. How exciting.
We never agree to do this kind of junk, in case you’re wondering. Someone must fall for it, though. I looked up this outfit — the “partnerships executive” listed above charges 375 British Pounds to set up four html pages and a single logo. Apparently, there’s a steady supply of suckers on both ends.
Here’s the surreal kicker. Right under the signature that attributes the entire offer to “Linkforce Ltd” comes a statement declaring that none of that statement may be attributed to “Linkforce Ltd,” and that it “may be” illegal for me to share the message publicly with you:
This e-mail communication & any attachments are confidential & for the sole use of the intended recipient(s). Any review, reliance, dissemination, distribution, copying or other use is strictly prohibited & may be illegal.
Any opinions expressed in this communication are personal & are not attributable to Linkforce or any of its associate companies.
It only “may be” illegal for me to share this ludicrous invitation with you in the sense that it “may be” true that I am Papa Smurf. In reality-land, I’m not legally bound to keep this unethical link farming request confidential, unless I explicitly agree to do so — which I don’t. Why would I want to keep this quiet? Absurdist love poems from corporate pimps are things of beauty, and beauty should be shared.
An outfit calling itself “WebNetHosting” promotes the following web hosting plans on its website:
But when I contacted a representative to sign up for service, I was told that “Ubuntu is not available in shared hosting plans. Ubuntu is only available on a dedicated server.”
Thirty years ago, my dad went to get a TV advertised in the paper for the low, low price of $99. Oh, we don’t have that TV in stock, the friendly clerk advised, but we do have this model right over here….
Technology changes, but the human element remains.
Oopsie. President Barack Obama approved a massive electronic spying program that could seize and search the content and metadata of people’s telephone calls, emails, movements, purchases and Internet activity without any search warrant. It’s now clear that the National Security Agency surveillance program was targeting prime ministers and presidents of many allied nations in Europe and Latin America, reading through their private emails and listening to their telephone calls. President Obama, however, says that he had no idea this spying was taking place.
How does someone lose track of secret information like that?
Security isn’t what it used to be. Our most private records are now open to scrutiny by government spies, and encryption only means that your grandmother can’t read your messages without jumping through a couple of hoops first.
The corporate world, too, is getting a bit sloppy with its security protocols. Recently, a major corporation sent out the following message out to anonymous individuals, over the Internet, in the hopes that people would take part in a market research survey:
“You will be shown confidential information that is the property of a major manufacturer. This information may include, but is not limited to, experimental new product ideas and concepts. In exchange for participating in this survey and for the confidential information which will be shown, we ask that you agree that you will neither use nor disclose to any person, including friends and family, or any entity, any of the information provided to you.”
Ask away, corporate researchers, but don’t expect cooperation with your pleas for confidentiality. This is the age of your business being everybody’s business, and the minute you type a piece of information into a computer that’s connected to an electronic communication network, you might as well just post a snapshot of it on the Wikimedia Commons.
10. Halloween as we know it was invented by John Vining, U.S. Senator from Delaware in the 3rd U.S. Congress, a supporter of George Washington. In 1795, Vining attended a meeting with Chesapeake-area brewers, who were concerned that the growing popularity of coffee might diminish sales of beer. Vining came up with the idea of the Halloween holiday as a kind of pub crawl, to get beer back in the hands of the younger generation.
9. The origin of the word “witch” is from the Proto-Germanic word wankjan, which meant to wince – and is also the origin the word “wink”. It was believed by Germanic peoples that sorcerers could not encounter an honest person without squeezing their eyes shut in painful reaction.
8. President William Taft was the first President to welcome trick or treaters to the White House. He was poisoned as a result. A veteran presidential chef, who believed that Taft had degraded the dignity of the White House, added powdered holly berries to a pudding the day after Halloween. Taft was kept in seclusion, vomiting for over 48 hours, but recovered. The chef died in prison two years later, refusing to apologize to the end.
7. Pirate costumes are outlawed in Massachusetts, because of a colonial law that remains on the books. Authorities were concerned that, if people dressed in imitation of pirate fashions, they would be unable to distinguish between real pirates and pirate poseurs.
6. The most commonly distributed candy on Halloween are Now-N-Laters, followed closely by Bit O Honeys.
5. Through the early 1900s in New England, it was custom for families to leave out what was called a “dumb supper”, which was a dish holding the family’s least favorite meal – typically the food refused by fussy young children. It was believed that the richness contained in the wasted food would return to the fields, ensuring a good harvest the next year.
4. The phrase “trick or treat” actually comes from 14th century mercenaries in the Low Countries, who used a version of the phrase to call a temporary truce in order to discuss terms of surrender.
3. Our association of orange with Halloween began, not with pumpkins, but marigolds. The petals of the flowers, native to Mexico, produce such a vivid dye that the Catholic Church, not long after the discovery of the New World, was concerned that the bright cloth produced with marigolds could lead to licentious behavior. Clothing dyed with marigold petals was therefore allowed only during harvest time, when it was hoped that exhaustion from the harvest would dampen natural sexual appetites. Pumpkins were cultivated by Europeans and North Americans only later, and were carved into jack o’lanterns, with lewd faces, in commemoration of the bright orange marigold clothing traditionally worn during the autumn season.
2. During the 1800s, homeowners would hand out nails to trick or treaters, who would gratefully collect enough of the metal objects so that their parents could take them to a blacksmith, who would melt them down to create valuable household implements.
1. Halloween was once the time for rituals of divination – predictions of the future. One of these rituals was called the “wedding pebble”. Unmarried youths would find small pebbles, and insert them into their left nostrils at the beginning of Halloween dinner. Whomever could hold their pebble in their nostril during the entire dinner would be married before the next Halloween, it was said. The popular use of masks during Halloween came about as a method for keeping the wedding pebble from falling out, and not, originally, as a disguise.
You say land of the free? I say my data belongs to me!
When our democracy is under attack — what do we do? Stand up fight back!
All of our privacy is under attack — what do we do? Stand up fight back!
What do we want? The 4th Amendment! When do we want it? Now!
What do we want? Privacy! When do we want it? Always!
We can be / Safe and Free
Hey hey, ho ho, Mass surveillance? We say no
We can’t be free without our privacy
No secret laws. No secret courts. No secret surveillance
The two most common chants were #1 and a modification of #8 (Hey hey, ho ho, mass surveillance has got to go). I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about any of these.
Only a small part of the problem is me — maybe I’m getting old, but I’ve hey heyed and ho hoed enough in my life already. Can we start a chant just for once with “Bong bong, boop boop?” or “Zap zap, zip zip” or “Fred Fred, Frieda Frieda”? Many of the other chants led to confusion because they didn’t have a clear rhythm (#2, #5, #8, #9, #10); when large numbers of people are trying to coordinate their chants so as to be heard, you’ve got to have a clear rhythm. Other chants (#1, #3, #4) had a lot of “fight” in them. Call me a pacifist, but I think a big part of the problem with the expanded surveillance powers of the U.S. Government is that it’s been exploiting the sense that we’re fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting and need every possible powerdevice of exploitation tool in order to win the fight. In order to escape the Homeland Security trap, I think we have to stop casting ourselves as participants in “fights” and find other language.
I don’t think I was the only one who was dissatisfied. The chants on the chant list just kept trailing off during the march to Capitol Hill. I found myself in the middle of the march improvising a little, with “NSA? Uh uh! No way!” and “Privacy’s a civil right / civil right / civil right / Privacy’s a civil right / not a privilege” (sung to the tune of London Bridge). They worked for a bit, but there’s got to be some better ideas out there for chants in an anti-surveillance protest. Have you got any ideas? Share ‘em in the comments!
How liberal is Washington, DC really? Check our ratings of the 535 members of the U.S. Congress and find out for yourself:
** House scorecard
** Senate scorecard
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