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Stories Ending in Tragedy

A church I drive by in Somerville, Maine frequently amuses me with its messages of dire religiosity. Here’s the latest:

Everyone's Got a Story.  If it doesn't include Christ it ends in Tragedy

That got me to thinking…

Now go to sleep! said Miss Clavel.  And she turned out the light.  And closed the door.  And that's all there is.  There isn't any more.

Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.

Could be true.

Detroit Institute Of Arts Orchestrating Depopulation Program

Lisa Haven of Pakalert Press has published revelations that blow the cover off the Great Lakes arts community. It’s a genuine conspiracy that stands out among the long record of failed predictions and weird paranoia that typically characterizes Pakalert publications.

detroit institute of artsHaven’s research has uncovered evidence of a secret plan by the leadership of a museum to use the power of art to lower the human population in the Detroit area, in the Great Lakes region, and perhaps even within the United States in general.

It’s been widespread knowledge that the population of Detroit has gone down dramatically over the last five years. That population reduction has coincided with a struggle over the Detroit Institute of Arts, with local politicians seeking to keep the museum under city ownership and fully stocked with its artifacts and paintings. What had not been imagined until now is that the debate over DIA funding may in fact be a proxy battle between those who seek to accelerate depopulation, and those who believe that our nation’s strength is derived from its ability to cram large numbers of human beings into small areas of land.

Lisa Haven’s headline warns us of “Huge News! DIA Video Admits Agenda to Depopulate Now in Effect!” According to her sources, the Detroit Institute of Arts is the epicenter of a conspiracy to reduce human population levels.

But how, you may ask, can an art museum cause depopulation?

It’s simple, really. Just think of the typical teenage art student… morose… bored with the banality of ordinary existence… looking deeper for something more inspiring than the old cliches of family life… wearing unattractive, baggy clothing… unclean. They skulk around, feeling like misunderstood geniuses. Ennui, existential crisis and clove cigarettes aren’t correlated with a high rate of breeding are they?

It all begins to make sense when you consider that… hold on… Oh.

It turns out that Lisa Haven was actually writing about how the Defense Intelligence Agency, not the Detroit Institute of Arts, has been engaging in a depopulation program. Well, that’s hardly plausible, is it?

The Scripps Institution Of

It is a wise scholar who allows the natural rhythms of the subject being studied to inform the way in which research is conducted. So it is with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which, as the ocean has apparently decided, should from now on simply be referred to as the Scripps Institution of.


I’m wondering, though, exactly who at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography thought that it would be a good idea to post a sign for the organization precisely where oceanography predicts that forces of deposition may occur.

Nick Troiano, Running on his Anonymous Big Money Political Experience, Crusades against the Same

What do we make of congressional candidate Nick Troiano?

On the one hand, Nick Troiano justifies his run for Congress by boasting of his experience working for Super PACs, 527s and 501(c)(4) corporations as the young face speaking on behalf of the interests of old money. Listen to Nick Troiano describe how he built his resume working on behalf of big money financier Peter G. Peterson and private capital investor Peter Ackerman:

Innovative Leader on Fiscal and Political Reform

Nick is a co-founder and was, until December 2013, the Communications Director for The Can Kicks Back, a non-partisan and millennial-led campaign that advocates for a more fiscally sustainable and generationally equitable federal budget. TCKB’s Advisory Board includes the nation’s top leaders for fiscal reform, including Erskine Bowles (D), former Senator Alan Simpson (R) and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.

Nick was instrumental in drafting the INFORM Act –– a bipartisan piece of budget reform legislation that has been endorsed by over 1,000 economists and introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. Nick also traveled to 22 states in the fall of 2013 to speak to college and young professional audiences about the national debt along a cross-country “Generational Equity Tour.”

Prior to The Can Kicks Back, Nick served as former Communications Manager and, later, National Campus Director for Americans Elect, which sought to field a bipartisan ticket for president and vice-president in 2012 through the first-ever online nominating convention. Among other things, Nick led a 23-city East Coast bus tour during the Republican primaries.

Now, Nick Troiano doesn’t use the words “Super PAC”, “527″ or “501(c)(4) corporation” to describe his work for The Can Kicks Back (encompassing the INFORM Act and ‘Generational Equity Tour’ featuring keynote speeches by old rich people) and Americans Elect, but that’s what The Can Kicks Back and Americans Elect are. Troiano doesn’t mention that these corporations took funds of unlimited size from often-anonymous sources, but that’s what they did. Indeed, as The Can Kicks Back struggled after billionaire Pete Peterson withheld funds, Nick Troiano personally sought other big-money donors to keep the operation afloat. Troiano doesn’t mention his work for the Concord Coalition and Unity08, the big-money political creations of billionaires and hedge fund wealth managers, but they are also the basis of the experience Nick Troiano depends on to justify his run for Congress.

If on the one hand Nick Troiano’s career is based in Super PACs, 527s and 501c4 corporations, on the other hand Nick Troiano’s campaign seems to be based on running against Super PACs, 527s and 501c4 corporations. On February 28, Troiano posted the following to his campaign Facebook account:

Today, I’m taking a bit of inspiration from the rising “Common Man Party” in India.

“Harping on the rottenness of Indian politics, it has the two big parties running scared,” the Economist reports. In just 16 months, the new party won 28 of 70 seats in a state assembly and enrolled its first 10 million members. “It has momentum behind it, and the political agenda is now dominated by the issue that defines it: corruption.”

In America, we don’t have the same kind of illicit corruption and bribery; ours has been legalized through unlimited corporate spending in elections, anonymous contributions to political groups and am amalgam of PACs, Super PACs, 527s, 501(c)(4) groups and so on.

Maybe it’s time for a Common Man Party in our country to reform our corrupt system of campaign finance.

So which Nick Troiano is running for Congress: the Nick Troiano who brags of his experience with big money unlimited anonymous Super PACs, 527s, and 501c4 corporations? The Nick Troiano who declares that the entire problem is big money unlimited anonymous Super PACs, 527s, and 501c4 corporations? Or, disturbingly, is Nick Troiano both?

Sometimes people turn away from bad experiences and influences to make new, productive starts. Maybe Nick Troiano’s doing this in his run for Congress. Maybe not. The contradictions in his very young campaign are already glaring. If I were Nick Troiano’s advisor, I’d tell him to take a few lines from that old Pete Seeger song:

They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Sooner or later, you’re going to have to address that question, Nick. If I were you, I’d address it sooner.

The True Spirit Of The Desert Bighorn

Today in Phoenix, Arizona, I ran across a statue by Pat Mathiesen, claiming to represent the “Spirit of the Desert Bighorn”. A plaque on the statue explained how bighorn sheep that used to live in the desert where the city has grown required a very particular habitat…


… like a habitat without valet parking…


… or a habitat without laser spas and shopping malls surrounded by concrete…


… oh, those picky, picky bighorn sheep.

Sometimes, the strongest statement made by a piece of art comes from the context in which it has been placed.

Why Are The 1 Percent Powering The Other 98%?

Perusing the FEC records of recent independent expenditures for political campaigns in congressional elections, I came across a curious note about a pair of expenditures in opposition to David Jolly, a Republican seeking to replace the deceased Congressman Bill Young down in Florida. The group that made the expenditures, for radio advertisements, was called Friends Of Democracy.

Friends of Democracy?

I asked myself, what would real friends of democracy do, if they had to spend a big bunch of money? Would friends of democracy take that money and spend it to try to change the course of a congressional election? Wouldn’t Friends Of Democracy just let people vote, without trying to come in and use their big money resources, if they really were friends of democracy? Isn’t democracy simply about letting people vote as they wish to vote, rather than creating a system in which the people with the most money exert the most influence?

I decided to look into Friends of Democracy, and see what kind of organization they are. What I found led me into a deeper uncertainty of how democratic Friends of Democracy really is.

There’s no doubt that Friends of Democracy is a pro-Democratic organization, in the sense that it supports political candidates from the Democratic Party. When it comes to actual democracy, the kind that isn’t owned by any particular political party, the Friends of Democracy organization seems to be less loyal. Friends of Democracy talks a good talk about democracy, to be sure, but in action, it behaves as Friends of Oligarchy.

the other 98

Friends of Democracy gets its money from wealthy contributors. FEC records show that contributions to Friends of Democracy don’t come in increments of twenty dollars here and there, but in increments of thousands of dollars. They come from people like Robert Nathan of North Mohawk Capital, who wrote a check to Friends of Democracy for thousands of dollars. Thousands more came from the wealthy Soros clan, led by the rich and powerful George Soros.

These funders of the Friends of Democracy are members of the 1 Percent, the richest of the rich. They’re using their money, however, to pretend to speak for the rest of us – the 99 Percent. To be more accurate, they’re claiming to speak for the 98 percent – as Friends of Democracy sends large amounts of money to an organization called The Other 98%.

The Other 98% looks like a fantastic organization. I agree with the political ideals it promotes. The way that The Other 98% promotes those ideals, however, seems to undermine them.

The Other 98% claims to be “a grassroots network of concerned people that shines a light on economic injustice, undue corporate influence and threats to democracy.”

I don’t see how The Other 98% is a grassroots network. A grassroots network is built from the ground up, not from the top down. A grassroots network gathers its strength from the involvement of its rank and file members, not from big checks written by wealthy donors.

Is it economically just for The Other 98% to claim to speak for the 98 percent least wealthy of Americans, when in fact it is powered by the 1 percent most wealthy Americans? It’s nice for the wealthy to give some money to promote the interests of those of us who don’t have as much money, but it isn’t honest for them to suggest that the organization is sustained by someone other than the “corporate asses” it claims to oppose.

There’s something disempowering about the way that The Other 98% relies on fat cat money, suggesting that the actual members of the 99 Percent aren’t powerful enough or smart enough to sustain a genuine grassroots effort on their own. While The Other 98 Percent speaks out against corporate influence as a threat to democracy, it is embracing that same corporate influence behind the scenes.

At Irregular Times, we have harshly criticized corporate power brokers for setting up fake grassroots organizations that are dedicated to impoverishing working Americans. The goals of The Other 98% seem to be more genuinely helpful than those of groups like Americans Elect, but good intentions aren’t enough.

When genuine activists get duped into supporting astroturf organizations like The Other 98 Percent, their trust in authentic grassroots organizations is damaged, and they grow cynical and jaded. If they really believe in the worth of the 99 Percent, and in the effectiveness of grassroots politics, the leaders of The Other 98 Percent ought to stop taking donations from people made wealthy by corporate power, and let real grassroots activists take center stage.

We don’t need more Friends of Democracy. We need more democracy.

What The Ukraine?

This weekend’s big story has been the escalating conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. (What’s up with the muted reaction to the Optic Nerve story?)

It’s a complex situation, but I find that I just can’t move beyond the dread that the United States and Russia could be moving toward a new Cold War.

I want to hear other people’s perspectives on this issue. What is your understanding of what’s happened with Russia and the Ukraine? How much should it matter to those of us who don’t live in either Russia or the Ukraine? What do you think is likely to happen next? What should the United States do, or not do, next?

Green Party Alert: I can’t find a single note on this story from anyone in the Green Party. The Green Party itself, the Green Shadow Cabinet, and even Green Party Watch have been silent on this issue (and Optic Nerve too!) for days. How come?

Are the Greens just as stunned and bewildered by the story as I am? Are they just tired? Is there no one left over at Green Party headquarters to turn out the lights?

How can anyone expect the Green Party to offer an actual alternative political vision if the Greens don’t speak to the most important issues of the day?

What Does It Mean To Eat Like Your Ancestors?

While I was trying to read an article from an online news magazine this morning, an advertisement popped up for Harvestland chicken breasts.

harvestland chicken

“Eat Like Your Ancestors”, the commercial banner urged me.

To tell the truth, I don’t know much about how my ancestors ate. I know that my German grandparents liked to eat spaetzel, but that dish is made from potatoes, I think, not chicken breasts.

So, how could I eat chicken breasts like my ancestors? I can only look to the advertisement for clues.

Perhaps you can help me by telling me about how your ancestors ate.

Did your ancestors eat chicken breasts nestled in styrofoam and wrapped in plastic?

Did your ancestors eat chicken that was 99 percent fat free?

Did your ancestors eat chicken that was approved by the USDA?

Did your ancestors cook chicken recipes they obtained from Harvestland food company?

Did your ancestors use coupons to get special deals when they bought chicken from the store?

Did your ancestors eat chicken that was raised on an all vegetarian diet?

Did your ancestors eat chicken that had a tenderness guarantee?

Did your ancestors decide what to eat after looking at advertisements on the Internet?

In the 1950s, my ancestors made dishes for dinner using Jello. Does Harvestland think I ought to have more dinners like that?

More on The Can Kicks Back Failure: “Youth Tour” by the Numbers

Thanks to an accidental e-mail dump, we know that once billionaire privatizer Peter G. Peterson pulled his funding, the kick-the-old-and-poor front group called “The Can Kicks Back” quickly went bankrupt.

We also know that the plan for The Can Kicks Back to have 300 active campus chapters by the end of Spring 2013 was a big fizzle. Young people just weren’t attracted to the message of hurting vulnerable people to help the interests of big old money. The Can Kicks Back only reached a sixth of its goal by the end of Spring 2013, and by the end of Summer 2013 every one of its chapters went on hiatus, never to show another sign of activity on TCKB’s campus chapter system.

Until I visited tour.thecankicksback.org this morning, however, I had no idea that in the Fall of 2013 The Can Kicks Back went on a five week tour of megacampuses across America, including places like these …:

Appalachian State University (enrollment: 17,344)
Augustana College (enrollment: 2,524)
Bradley University (enrollment: 5,700)
Cleveland State University (17,278)
Drake University (enrollment: 5,221)
Georgetown University (enrollment: 17,357)
Kennesaw State University (enrollment: 24,600)
University of Alabama (enrollment: 34,852)
University of California, Berkeley (enrollment: 35,899)
University of Central Florida (enrollment: 59,740)
University of Denver (enrollment: 11,483)
University of Michigan (enrollment: 43,710)
University of Nebraska-Omaha (enrollment: 14,712)
University of Nevada-Las Vegas (enrollment: 27,364)
University of North Florida (enrollment: 16,357)
University of South Carolina (enrollment: 31,288)
University of Southern California (enrollment: 40,000)
University of Utah (enrollment: 32,077)
University of Virginia (enrollment: 21,095)
University of Wisconsin-Madison (enrollment: 42,820)
University of Wyoming (enrollment: 13,476)
Vanderbilt University (enrollment: 12,757)

… in a last effort to stimulate actual student interest in the old-billionaire political program. These campuses have over half a million students in attendance. As as its website details, The Can Kicks Back propped up colorful tents on the main quads, screened films, and in special meetings “helped students work through the ‘Debt Busters’ activity developed by the Concord Coalition” (another front organization propped up by billionaire Peter G. Peterson). The Can Kicks Back tried to convince students to write and send kick-old-and-poor-people-for-corporations messages to Washington DC, stuck as labels on cans (get it — cans, kicking?). As the following tally by The Can Kicks Back shows, about 40 students signed cans at each of the visits to these big campuses … a response rate of about 00.15%.

The Can Kicks Back Failure Tally

As we mentioned above, not one campus chapter was originated or brought back to life as a consequence of these visits.

Perhaps it didn’t help that this “Youth Tour” appeared to consist of youngish Nick Troiano introducing an array of old rich people to deliver their lectures:

Does Wealthy Old People interviewed by Young Nick Troiano equal a Youth Tour?

Or perhaps it wasn’t the appearance of well-dressed whitehairs. Perhaps it was simply the message itself that failed.

Big Money Nick Troiano Runs for Congress Against Big Money

Who was College Coordinator for Unity08, the political corporation that that sued for the right to take secret cash donations of unlimited size?

Nick Troiano.

Who was National Campus Director for Americans Elect, the political corporation that actually did take secret cash donations of unlimited size?

Nick Troiano.

Who sat on the Youth Advisory Board of Concord Coalition, a political corporation funded by billionaire Peter G. Peterson to act as his mouthpiece promoting the privatization of social security and cuts to programs that help underprivileged Americans get on their feet?

Nick Troiano.

Who is the co-founder of The Can Kicks Back, a political corporation funded by billionaire Peter G. Peterson to advocate for taxing poor people more, taxing corporations less, and slashing social security for old people?

Nick Troiano.

Who is now running for Congress with a campaign plank of “campaign finance reform?”:

“I believe America deserves better than the partisan gridlock and special interest corruption in Washington, DC. Read more about me. I believe people should be the driving force of our democracy, not well-funded special interests.”

Nick Troiano.

Constitution Party Presidential Candidate Says Obama Has Begun Zombie Apocalypse

Independent Political Report provides us with the following statement from Laurie Roth, the 2012 presidential candidate of the Constitution Party:

“Obama and the progressives have shredded our national flesh and skin down to the exposed bone. We now look like a staggering Zombie with chunks of tendons hanging everywhere, dripping and splattering blood as we roll down the street. People run to get out of the way as Obama jeers and laughs at us in between golf games… Frankenstein has found a playmate now… Those who intend to hide under the bed and give up get out of my way because I will stand until my last breath and scream… FREEDOM!!!”

I have many issues with this statement, but my central concern is that shows extremely poor understanding of zombie fighting tactics. If the USA encounters a zombie apocalypse, we need a President who understands that standing and screaming will not defeat the undead.