Monday, October 31, 2011

The Occupy Movement and UC Berkeley's Free Speech Monument

I've long wanted to rant publicly about the Free Speech Monument on UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza. The Occupy movement -- from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Oakland, to acts of solidarity as far afield as Cairo -- provides a fine excuse.

If you haven't been to Berkeley lo these past twenty years you may not know about the monument. Here's a capsule summary from KALW radio piece earlier this year, by Roman Mars, titled 99% invisible: Berkeley’s invisible monument to free speech.

In 1989, a group called the Berkeley Art Project decided to hold a national public art competition to create a monument that would commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, which began on the University of California, Berkeley campus in 1964. The winning design, created by Mark Brest van Kempen (who was then a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute), is an invisible sculpture that creates a small space completely free from laws or jurisdiction. The six-inch circle of soil, and the "free" column of airspace above it, is framed by a six-foot granite circle. The inscription on the granite reads, "This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction." The six-inch free space acts as a beacon for speakers and political events. [...]

Public space

That last bit is some serious poetic excess, no?

Look, no offense to the artist, but it's not his monument with it's "six-inch free space" that "acts as a beacon for speakers and political events." It's the long and storied struggles for free expression, for civil rights (the precipitating issue of the Free Speech Movement), against the Vietnam War, against nuclear weapons proliferation, against apartheid, for equal access to higher education, and dozens of other issues, that has drawn and continues to draw dozens or hundreds or thousands who long to make the world a better place to this epicenter of student-led activism.

It's something else too. Consider the space itself.

Public space is where the public gathers: Union Square and Central Park in New York, Haymarket Square and Grant Park in Chicago, Civic Center Plaza and The Embarcadero in San Francisco, Parliament Square in London, Tahir Square in Cairo, Tiananmen Square in Beijing. These are public spaces well known for their activist histories.

In London now, even as I type, an Occupy encampment has installed itself in the churchyard at St. Paul's Cathedral, after police prevented them from entering the adjacent Paternoster Square where the London Stock Exchange is located. In Tahir Square a few days ago, Egyptian democracy activists marched in solidarity with Occupy Oakland in the wake of a police attack that left a Marine veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq hospitalized with a fractured skull. Twenty-four year old Scott Olsen escaped injury in Iraq, but last week police in Oakland launched a tear gas cannister into his head as they attempted to clear the public from Frank Ogawa Plaza, a public space.

The rant

Much of the controversy around installing the Free Speech Monument (called by its creator, Mark Brest Van Kempen, "Column of Earth and Air") had to do with the university's demand that nothing in the monument itself, the donation documents to the university, or the joint press release announcing the monument's installation, mention the Free Speech Movement that inspired it. The late Michael Rossman, a principal organizer of 1964's Free Speech Movement, wrote an excellent overview of this irony, which I recommend to those who want to follow that thread.

But what raises my blood pressure every time I pass this nearly-invisible monument is its subtext.

For decades, students and community members have struggled with campus officials for the right to use Sproul Plaza as a theater from which to advocate for change. Time and again activists found themselves fenced in by ever-morphing, ever-narrowing "Time, Place, and Manner" regulations on the use of Sproul Plaza and other campus venues. That there need to be some regulations seems reasonable to me, in theory. We (and I do work on the campus, so it's only right that I use the first-person plural) are trying to run an institution of higher education at Berkeley, and a fine one at that.

What is far less straightforward is the ongoing use of these regulations by campus officials to muzzle political movements they find unsympathetic or inconvenient. In my thirty-some years as a member of the campus community the Time, Place, and Manner rules have been modified repeatedly to narrow the terms of on-campus protest. I've been writing about the phenomenon since before there were intertubes, and I'm hardly the only one to do so.

But back to the Free Speech Monument. I say the implication of the monument, which UCB officials only reluctantly permitted to grace the campus, is not that free speech is welcome. Rather, the implication is that free expression is constrained to a six-inch circle of soil, and the "free" column of airspace above it.

What I remember most vividly about the selection process for the monument is that one of the rejected designs was for a permanently installed soapbox, made out of concrete if my memory is reliable. But that, I thought and think still, never mind the question of artistic merits, would have sent a message that the campus couldn't bring itself to endorse: that Sproul Plaza is a working, living, usable and well-exercised forum for the practice of participatory democracy.


But a six-inch circle, into which the skinniest living activist could not possibly squeeze? That was acceptable. Barely.

What they said in Cairo

On Friday, as reported on boing boing, activists in Egypt marched from Tahir Square in Cairo to support Occupy Oakland, an encampment that has grown, been violently dismantled, and is growing once again, just a few miles south of the UC Berkeley campus.

As they vowed earlier this week to do, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir square to the U.S. Embassy today to march in support of Occupy Oakland -- and against police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Tuesday night, and commonly experienced in Egypt.

I took BART to Occupy Oakland late that afternoon, just a few stops from where I live. At the opening of the nightly General Assembly, a facilitator announced that a letter had been sent from activists in Egypt several days before, but that it was long so she would read only parts of it. No way. The crowd of five hundred or more shouted out that they wanted to hear the whole thing. The people were right on this one, it's a beautifully crafted piece and well worth a read.

I won't reproduce the full missive here (you can find it on the occupyca blog, in the post Letter from Cairo). But here's what the Cairo activists had to say about public space and the Occupy movement, excerpted from the longer letter:

We are not protesting. Who is there to protest to? What could we ask them for that they could grant? We are occupying. We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatized and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy, real estate portfolios, and police 'protection'. Hold on to these spaces, nurture them, and let the boundaries of your occupations grow. After all, who built these parks, these plazas, these buildings? Whose labor made them real and livable? Why should it seem so natural that they should be withheld from us, policed and disciplined? Reclaiming these spaces and managing them justly and collectively is proof enough of our legitimacy.

In our own occupations of Tahrir, we encountered people entering the Square every day in tears because it was the first time they had walked through those streets and spaces without being harassed by police; it is not just the ideas that are important, these spaces are fundamental to the possibility of a new world. These are public spaces. Spaces for gathering, leisure, meeting, and interacting -- these spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just. We have and must continue to open them to anyone that wants to build a better world, particularly for the marginalized, excluded and for those groups who have suffered the worst.

When I heard those words read into the rapt hush at Oscar Grant plaza, I wept.

Public space and winter

An early and fierce snow storm hit the East Coast this past weekend. Rain is predicted for the Bay Area later this week. In yesterday's SF Chronicle, when Joe Garofoli wrote about Big challenges ahead for Occupy movement, he was taking about the weather.

The weather?

I have three things to say to the punditocracy and other hand-wringers that have been desperately predicting the demise of the Occupy movement since the day it began.

First, while physical public spaces offer qualities that cannot be replaced by remote interactions, discourse is also a form of public space and winter won't drive it out of public sight or consciousness.

Second, galvanizing protests over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting state budget proposal early this year occurred in February and March, a period during which temperatures averaged in the twenties and thirties in Madison; during some weeks temperatures dropped into the 'teens.


This is the obvious truth, one that has played a role in every movement and organizing effort in which I've participated over the course of decades: winter is followed by spring. Political activism, like life and seasons, has cycles. When (not if) tents are folded in Zuccotti Park, it will not mean that activity has stopped and it doesn't mean that this movement is done with occupations.

Time will tell. But I'll wager this movement is not ready to be relegated to six-inch circle of soil, and the "free" column of airspace above it. Not by a long shot.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Microblogging on Tumblr

The other day, extrapolating from a comment-exchange with Steven Long about Facebook usernames, author pages, and staking out intertube domains, I got myself a Tumblr account. I'm thinking I'll use it to post photos, mostly images I snap around town, maybe a bit of captioning and tagging. After all, the platform is all about microblogging.

I'm calling my Tumblr "One Finger Clicking." Too clever by half, no? A third, maybe? The URL is

I'm a word-person, not so much an image-person, so tilting at Tumblr is partly about challenging my usual habits and patterns of expression. I don't imagine for a moment that I'm setting up for a switch, I expect One Finger Typing, this blog, to be active for a good long while. If I keep at it, Tumblr will probably turn out to be a sideshow.

To date, I've never gotten serious about posting images to services like Flickr or Picassa, and while I'm inspired by my friend & colleague Quinn's picture-a-day on the Flickr platform I'm certain I'll never be that consistent ... and I'll never, ever catch up to her full body of work -- nearly 60,000 images to-date.

Will Tumblr be worth the bother? Will anybody care? Is Tumblr redundant if I already use Twitter? Is a secondary blog, albeit micro and image-focused, a silly diversion? What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bioneers and Occupy Wall Street

These past few days I've been reading Nature's Operating Instructions: The True Biotechnologies, a series of essays edited by Kenny Ausubel. The essays have their origins in presentations given in the 1990s and early 'oughts at the Bioneers Conference. It was published in 2004, and intrigued me when I found it in the catalog of my local public library last week. I was looking for a way to learn about bioremediation and similar approaches to fixing ecological messes.

I'm excited about this book for a number of reasons. One is the clarity and practicality of the ideas presented in it, which resonate with deep wisdom I've learned from great teachers of our time like Gary Snyder (about whom I blogged in Books everyone should read), Robert Laughlin, Robert Bly, and Annie Dillard. Not to mention Lao Tzu. Another is the fabulous fit of this book -- and its bibliography -- to my immediate purpose, which has to do with the new fiction project I've been conceiving and reconceiving this year.

I won't summarize Nature's Operating Instructions..., I'll cherry-pick.

The reason that the book seems blogworthy today has to do with weather forecasts. Not as in rain or snow, but as in "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," the classic Dylan line from Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Thing is, my scalp went all prickly when I read what one of the most prominent bioneers, Paul Hawken, had to say about Occupy Wall Street many years before the kickoff to last month's dramatic occupations in New York and across the United States. According to his own on-line records, Hawken began speaking about Natural Capitalism in about 1995. In Nature's Operating Instructions... he wrote about it in an essay titled Natural Capitalism: Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm?, and dates his coining of the term to 1997.

Word to the wise? Hawken is not talking about the capitalism you already know and love or loathe. As he puts it, "When I coined the term 'natural capitalism in 1997, the modifier was 'ism' not 'natural.'" That is to say, the noun is compound: "natural capital." Natural capital, as Hawken describes it, is characterized by four cornerstone principals: radical resource productivity, biomimicry, conceiving industry as provision of a flow of services rather than as episodic manufacture of goods; and restoration of natural capital. I don't suppose that'll make a lot of sense if you're not familiar with Hawken's ideas already, but perhaps that's all the more reason to read his essay and the book in which it appears. Alternately, you can find a PDF of his 1997 article on Natural Captialism for Mother Jones on Hawken's website.

In any case, I'm going to quote at some length from his essay in Nature's Operating Instructions... and let the connections show themselves:

In other words, the intelligent manufacturing systems of the future -- those that sharply reduce our impact on the environment -- also will create a resurgence of meaningful employment around the world. This shift is of critical importance, because not only are one-third of the world's workers unemployed or unable to support their families, but within the next twenty years there will be another two billion people coming into the workplace.

In the United states, more than thirty thousand nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), foundations, and citizens' groups are addressing the issue of social and ecological sustainability in the most complete sense of the word. Worldwide, the number of organizations exceeds one hundred thousand. Together they address a broad range of issues [...]. These groups follow Mahatma Gandhi's imperatives: some resist, while others create new structures, patterns, and means. The groups tend to be local, marginal, poorly funded, and overworked. It's hard for most not to feel palpable anxiety that they could perish in a twinkling. At the same time, a deeper pattern is emerging that is extraordinary.

If you ask all of these groups for their principles, frameworks, conventions, models, or declarations, you will find that they do not conflict. This has never happened before. [...]

These groups believe that self-sufficiency is a human right. They imagine a future where producing the means to kill people is not a business but a crime, where families do not starve, where parents can work, where children are never sold, and where women cannot be impoverished because they choose to be mothers. These groups believe that water and air belong to us all, not to the rich. They believe seeds and life itself cannot be owned or patented by corporations. [...]

[...] No one started this world view, no one is in charge of it, and no orthodoxy is restraining it. It is the fastest and most powerful movement in the world today, unrecognizable to most American media outlets because it is not centralized, based on power, or led by white, male, charismatic vertebrates. [...]


Our children will look back fifty years from now and wonder at what they accomplished. They are avidly reading Harry Potter books, and what they know from these books is that today's world is run by Muggles. Muggles represent a hyperrational, mechanical, and authoritarian world devoid of magic. Muggles worship things, money, economic motives, and hypergrowth at all costs. What these children reflect is the reemergence of a celebratory resistance to what visionary activist Caroline Casey calls the "reality police," the angry columnists, vacant politicians, incensed economists, and others who cannot see that what is emerging now is the possibility of being fully human.

Employment as a paramount concern. Who owns (and patents) the world as a core issue. Nobody in charge. Some resist, others organize. No orthodoxy. The mainstream media doesn't get it.

Does that sound anything like the emergence of power and possibility that has people streaming out of the woodwork in support of OWS? Does to me.

Speaking of which, did you see the poll numbers reported late last week? The Washington Post's headline on the AP article says it all: AP-GfK Poll: 37 percent support ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters; politics angers most people (media watchers will want to consider the difference between the headline and the WP's URL to this article).

From nothing to 37% in about a month.

Can that be so unless, like the "fruiting bodies" Paul Stamets writes about in Nature's Operating Instructions..., mushrooms that poke their heads up every so often from "overlapping mosaics of mycelial mats" that "permeate all the landmasses on the planet", this movement was coming to a boil long before anybody thought to pitch a tent in Zuccotti Park?

The essay that follows Hawken's is titled Natural Capitalism: Where the Rubber Meets the Road. In it, Amory and Hunter Lovins provide a laundry list of examples in which industrial behemoths like Dow Chemical, British Petroleum, Ciba-Geigy, and DuPont have applied principals of natural capitalism and made considerable profit doing so. Is this good? Is it bad? I'd say the examples net out to 'complicated' -- but you can decide for yourself after reading at the Lovins' essay, in which they write:

Implementing the elements of natural capitalism tends to create an extraordinary outpouring of energy, initiative, and enthusiasm at all levels of an enterprise because it removes the actual and perceived contradictions between what people do on the job and what they want for their kids when they go home.
Now that can't be a bad thing.

Nature's Operating Instructions... is easy to read and worth anyone's while, whether you check it out from a public library, order it from the bioneers website, or pick it up from a local independent or used bookstore. It's a different and far more illuminating lens than the one through which television media are covering Occupy Wall Street and its siblings across the nation and the world. Is there a perfect 1:1 mapping? I don't think there ever is between one thing and another. I mean, in a world where you can't even step into the same river twice....


I've already started to read it a second time.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Birth of a movement?
Katinsf says: Ordinary People Can Change the World
Things fall apart

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Transferring Facebook usernames

I had a problem this month that appeared to run into Facebook's strict limits on username creation and transfer, and had a bumpy time figuring out whether I could do what I wanted to: transfer a Facebook username from a profile to a Facebook Page owned by the same account. My account, as it happens.

Here's a quick primer, in the hope it'll help someone, somewhere, sometime...

Word of warning: if you're trying to learn how to transfer a Facebook username between Facebook accounts, I can't help. Facebook's docs say quite clearly that it can't be done.

The Problem: transfer a FB username within an account

I've had a personal account (profile) on Facebook for some time now. Along with 800,000,000 others as of this post's timestamp. When Facebook first permitted folks to set a "username" in June 2009 -- a personalized URL to point to my presence on Facebook -- I jumped to claim stevemasover as soon as I could. I figured it beats numeric gibberish hands down.

Then I decided to create a Facebook Page. I'm preparing to have a Facebook presence as an author, for that golden moment when my novel mss. Consequence is published ... or perhaps sooner -- e.g., should I decide to self-publish short fiction in e-book formats, including those of my stories that have appeared in small literary magazines that are now difficult or impossible for readers to find.

It's pretty clear that stevemasover is the best personalized URL for my author page ... it's the name under which I publish, and if a reader were looking for me that's the name she'd seek. It doesn't matter so much what I use for a personal Facebook username: if you're a friend in analog life, it's not hard to find me.

The thing is, I couldn't assign stevemasover to my new Author page because the username was already taken. By me, yes, but username juggling turns out to be more complicated than I hoped.

The Background

Facebook usernames are 'personalized' URLs for your presence on Facebook -- either your personal account, or for Facebook Pages you own/administer. General information in FAQ form can be found in the Facebook Help Center.

There are a number of strict limits on picking usernames, mostly to avoid "username squatting" -- a term that refers to creating a username as a form of digital land grab. Facebook is also careful to preclude development of a secondary market in usernames similar to the market in domain names made possible by "cybersquatting" (domain squatting). Fair enough. Mark Zuckerberg and crew are encouraging good behavior here.

Here are some of the rules:

  • If you don't like your username for your main (personal) account/profile, you can change it ... but only once.
  • You can't ever transfer a username from one account to another.
  • A username is meant to clearly and honestly identify the person or page with which it is associated. If Facebook thinks you're squatting on a username, or using it deceptively, or doing any other bad thing with it, they reserve the right to remove or reclaim it.

I wanted to transfer my username, stevemasover, within my account: the author page I created is owned by the same account I use for my personal profile. I was not able to find explicit statements in the Facebook Help Center that one is permitted to do this, perhaps because the company doesn't want to encourage username juggling.


The solution that didn't seem to work ... until it did

I did find a thread on a Facebook Page run by Custom Fanpage Templates (a business external to Facebook) that described a number of users' experience doing just what I wanted: to transfer a username from a profile to a page within the same account. There was a caveat. Many experienced delays, not all for the same duration; and sometimes, some reported, the transfer doesn't work at all. In general, the users on this thread reported, on attempting to effect the change Facebook initially responds with a message that the username in question is not available for assignment to the page. But after some number of days the transfer is allowed. Usually.

I gave it a shot, and my experience mirrored those of other users. I didn't do a good job of counting, I'm afraid, but it was something on the order of nine to twelve days that I had to wait.

Here's the recipe, using my own username as an example. The assumption here is that you already have a personal account with a username assigned, and want to reassign the username to a Page owned by the same account.

  1. Release the username that you want to transfer by changing it to something else. In my case, I changed my personal profile's username from stevemasover to another variant of my name. Remember, you only get one chance, so be sure you're going to like the 'something else' forever, or until you quit using Facebook -- whichever comes first.
  2. Try to assign the 'released' username to the Page to which you want the username to point. In my case, I tried to assign stevemasover to my newly-created Facebook Page Steve Masover (Author).
  3. Check the availability of the username you want to transfer/assign (there's a button to click). You're going to get a very dissapointing message, something like this: Username stevemasover is not available.
  4. Don't despair. Try again in a couple of days. Then again in a week. Then again a few days later. Etc. As I mentioned, it took 9-12 days after I performed step #1, above, for stevemasover to become available.
  5. When the joyous day comes that your desired username is available to assign to your page, STOP. Make really, really SURE you spelled it right. Once you assign a username to a page, you're stuck with it. If you make a mistake, you're out of luck.
  6. Confirm that you want to assign the username to your page.
  7. Voilà!

Why the delay?

I don't know for sure, and neither (it seems to me) does the fellow answering questions on the thread I referenced earlier. His theory is that a periodic purge of old files is performed every 14 days on Facebook's servers.

I suspect something slightly different, but only slightly: Facebook supports a lot of users, and therefore uses a lot of distributed, redundant servers to store and serve data. When a change is made to a large array of servers of this sort, it takes time for the change to replicate across the entire system. In order to avoid problems that arise from storing conflicting data on different parts of its vast array of servers, Facebook may enforce a delay. The delay might be for a fixed period of time, giving changes time to propagate throughout the network before a username is released for reassignment; or there may be a process that tests or tracks completion of propagation throughout the network. Same net result, in either case: if my theory is correct, once all the servers have recorded that the 'old' username is no longer used to point to an account profile, its owner is permitted to reassign the username to a Page.

There's nothing much to see yet on my Facebook author page. But stay tuned ... and feel free to "Like" Steve Masover (Author) in the meantime!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Epic acts or the decline of empire?

What's wrong with this story? Paraphrased from the article Tiger Woods' hot-dog tosser inspired by movie in the SF Chronicle on Thursday of last week: guy throws a hot dog at golfer Tiger Woods during a tournament sponsored by electronics retailer Fry's, and explains himself by claiming "he wanted to do something 'courageous and epic.'"

The guy in question, Brandon Kelly, was quoted directly in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
"I threw the hot dog toward Tiger Woods because I was inspired by the movie 'Drive,' " Kelly said. "As soon as the movie ended, I thought to myself, 'I have to do something courageous and epic. I have to throw a hot dog on the green in front of Tiger.'"

Here's how Brandon Kelly's thought translated into 'action,' captured on video like so much else in Our Modern World, and posted to YouTube:

I didn't see the movie Drive, and don't find the trailer inspiring. I read Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker a couple weeks ago, and it didn't inspire me either. Drive is a thriller about a guy who does stunt driving for movies and moonlights as a getaway driver. Fast cars, violence, you know, you've seen something like it a dozen times or more.

But ... a guy from Petaluma throwing a hot dog at a philandering, past-his-prime golfer? And confusing that -- can we even call it a 'gesture'? -- with a 'courageous and epic' act?

Not that I've got anything against guys from Petaluma, mind you. I know and respect people from Petaluma. Gary Snyder's sister, Thea Lowry, wrote about egg farming in Petaluma, Empty Shells: The Story of Petaluma, America's Chicken City. Petaluma is not a city to be sneered at.

I won't dwell on the fact that an epic is, according to Merriam-Webster:

  1. a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero
  2. a work of art (as a novel or drama) that resembles or suggests an epic
  3. a series of events or body of legend or tradition thought to form the proper subject of an epic

To dwell on these definitions would be pedantic, if for no other reason than because Brandon Kelly used the word "epic" as an adjective, and the definitions given above are for the word used as a noun. As an adjective, we have, again from Merriam-Webster:
a : extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope
b : heroic

Take just a moment. Sit with the concept of epic as an adjective. Grok it if you can.

So if Brandon Kelly really needed to do something extending beyond the usual or ordinary -- or even something heroic -- what do we learn from the apparent and disappointing fact that he couldn't find anything to do of actual epic proportion that was also within his range of abilities (for lack of a better word) ... and so settled for throwing a hot dog at a philandering, past-his-prime golfer? Do we learn anything?

Did Brandon Kelly make the best possible choice, given that other unusual, extraordinary, or heroic actions he might have attempted instead could have included, oh, I don't know ... setting himself on fire in Zuccotti Park, or pledging to cut off one of his own testicles for each new illegal settlement Israelis build in the occupied West Bank, or breaking open his piggy bank and donating the proceeds to relieve the Eurozone crisis? These might have been ridiculous performances, had Brandon Kelly set out to perform them, but at least they would have occurred on a consequential stage.

Does Brandon Kelly's lack of imagination imply something about the impoverishment of the American mind, and the decline of American empire? Or is his ridiculousness singular?

Does Brandon Kelly's conflation of "epic" with "earning a guffaw on the evening news" point to the decay of American sense and sensibility? Does it suggest that life is now interchangable with so-called 'reality TV'?

Enquiring minds are at a loss to explain ...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mental floss

I had great, inchoate ambitions for the three weeks I'm taking off from work this fall. About half the time, as I'd planned it, I would be traveling; about half would be staycation. Most of all, I had in mind that I could take up the threads of my newest novel project during these weeks away from professional responsibilities (a.k.a. the distraction of having to make a living).

Whatever 'take up the threads' might turn out to mean.

With four days left before I commence a slog through some thousand or so accreted e-mail messages back at the office, and jump back aboard the meeting merry-go-round, I'm ... tentatively satisfied, let's say, with how these weeks have turned out in their 'take up the threads' aspect.

Just last night I returned from a few days in the Sierras, where I stayed at a primitive cabin by the south fork of the American River. The cabin belongs to my friend Bill, and has since the early 1990s. The weather reports promised balmy skies the night before we set out, but in the actual event Northern California was drenched with rain as we crossed the state. By nightfall on Monday rain was still falling, and the river was higher than I've ever seen it before, a fierce torrent. There was no question of jumping in to wash up (Bill's cabin has no running water, the choice was to jump in or ... not). At its storm-fed height, the river would have smashed us to watery bits (see the embedded video, below). Instead we made a fire in the wood-burning stove and had a cozy night in.

The rain petered out sometime in the early hours of morning, and the sky began to clear. The river still ran high at nine o'clock or so, too high to contemplate jumping into the nearest swimming hole just downhill from the cabin. We walked instead to a shallow pool upriver, generally a better site for the day's first plunge in any case, as it gets sun earlier than the local, much deeper pool. We made our chilly ablutions, quick dips in and out of the river, then watched the whitewater rush over broken stone (see still photo, above and compare it with the same stretch of river last year, shown in last year's post, City vs country, sans runoff). After a while we headed back to the cabin for pancakes. Bill makes terrific pancakes.

The strongest memory I have of the upriver swimming hole was of an afternoon I didn't swim there, in July 1999.

It was an afternoon I hiked up to sit beside the water cascading down from Desolation Wilderness, uphill and north of Bill's cabin. I sat for a long while, meditation-still, letting the sound of the river wash through me, scouring me clean of city cares and workaday worries.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement across the river. A small, skinny, dark-colored snake, a Sierra garter snake as best I can make out in retrospect, was slithering down the far bank. It came to a small, still pool sheltered by tree roots jutting into the water, just a couple feet of riverbank protected from the current. So the snake slithered down the sheared-earth bank, came to the pool, and flicked her tongue at the water, as if having a taste. Then, to my surprise, she slithered into the water and disappeared. Sierra garter snakes spend a lot of time in the water, apparently, but I didn't know this at the time.

I stared hard at the little pool across the river, wondering whether the snake knew of some shelter that could be entered from underneath the surface, or whether she'd swum into the current to ride downriver. After not too long, there she came slithering out of the water and up the dark bank and back into the grasses from which she had emerged.

A man came by just then and asked how much further to Echo Lake. While I was answering him the snake reappeared and started down the bank again. I turned my full attention back to the river just as the snake submerged herself for a second time. As before, she again came out from the pool, and curled and pushed her way sinuously back up the bank. Then a third time: she returned to the water, to the narrow, downstream end of the pool, and disappeared. I waited a long time. Many minutes.

When I was about to give up and head back to the cabin, a white flash at the upstream end of the pool caught my attention. This time the little snake carried a prize. The point of her exertions was obvious now. A silvery three-inch fish, perhaps rainbow trout fry or steelhead smolt, dangled at right angles to the snake, clasped in her mouth by the narrow place before the bloom of tail-fins.

The snake climbed slowly up the bank again, pausing each time the little fish twitched, assuring her grip. She gained the top of the slope and disappeared with her piscine prey, presumably to lunch privately in the grass and scrub of the far bank.

The river, as I wrote to conclude my account in the cabin-journal, teems with secret lives.

All day and all night long the sound of the river outside Bill's cabin blurs the hours, one into another, an unceasing flow, wearing away knotty preoccupations, worries both consequential and not so much, opening up space for new and surprising ideas to emerge.

One of my pre-vacation fantasies was that I might draft a new short-story 'prequel' to the novel that's slowly emerging into this slow-paced novelist's consciousness. For me, composing scenes and short stories that take place prior to the action of a longer work of fiction are a common path into story and character.

But prequel-writing isn't how things worked out this time around. It turns out I was dragging a lot of work-related plaque that needed mental flossing in the course of these weeks away from the office. As far as fiction-development was concerned, I needed to take several long steps back from the project as I conceived it last year, then reconceived it in late Spring. I needed to consider its broadest contours anew. A rain-soaked watershed's drainage was just the medicine for me. I'm rounding the final stretch of my time away from work with a fistful of new ideas to play with. One of these days I'll blog about them, but they're not ripe enough just now.

River rush, the rhythm of waves breaking onto a beach ... there's nothing like great, long-running movements of water to clear one's view of the bigger picture.

Here's a video of the river at its height on Tuesday:

... and a still photo from a day later, when the river calmed enough for jumping in:

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Pacific coast watersheds
Drafting vs. editing
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Monday, October 10, 2011

Birth of a movement?

About a month ago I took a flier from a young man standing on the corner of Telegraph Ave. and Bancroft Way in Berkeley, California, where I've lived for a good, long time. Having lived in Berkeley for a good, long time I've seen (and, yes, participated in) my share of left-leaning political activism, some of it pretty outre by electoral-centric standards. People have been shoving fliers into my hands on and near Sproul Plaza since I showed up as a freshman in the late 1970s. Full disclosure: I've shoved my share too.

So I took the flier from the young man on the corner, and looked at it as I walked away. And then I slowed. And then I stopped.


The flyer wasn't advertising anything unusual. Market Street Belongs to Us, was the lede ("Wall Street" was printed-over, as you can see in the image at right). The wishful thinking in this statement wasn't anything new. Let the U.S. Days of Rage Begin it continued. Ditto. A social-realist graphic, depicting an archetypal working man, all muscular planes, forging a sword: okay, that's a little bit ridiculous in the 21st century, but in a town where Maoists still run a bookstore this kind of thing is no rarity.

The flyer was calling a protest at the SF Federal Reserve Bank on Market St. in San Francisco. The protest was called for Saturday 17 Sept.

Who called the protest?

That's what made me stop.

There was no group name, no website address, no e-mail or phone number or hashtag, nothing nothing nothing to suggest this protest would be associated with anyone or anything that was going to last past Saturday Sept 17th, assuming anybody even showed up. We know better than that now, but it wasn't now yet. So I went back and asked who was calling this protest.

"Anonymous," said the genial young man who'd handed me the flyer. His friend, standing on the other side of the sidewalk crossed over to join our discussion. He told me that there were protests planned all over on that day, from New York to Austin to Milan.

The US Day of Rage site wasn't referenced on the green half-sheet I'd been handed on Telegraph Avenue. Neither was the AnonOps Communications blog or @AnonOps on Twitter. The Occupy Wall Street group at Daily Kos hadn't been formed yet ... that came on 22 Sept, and its first diary (post) was by Jesse La Greca: YES! Olbermann SLAMS media blackout of #OccupyWallStreet & the teabagger double standard.

You might have heard of Jesse La Greca, last week if not before. A video posted to YouTube, in which he makes rhetorical mincemeat of a FoxNews producer in an interview Fox declined to air, has been making the rounds. This guy is a vorpal interviewee, check it out:

Man, I wish I could do that....

Anyway, back to the green half-sheet I was handed on Telegraph Avenue.

The guys distributing the flyers weren't the types I'd been led to expect from media coverage of other Anonymous-fueled events. I'm talking about hacker attacks on Visa and MasterCard in support of WikiLeaks and on sites related to BART, the Bay Area's commuter rail system. This summer's unsympathetic mainstream press coverage of Anonymous-led protests that mucked up commuter rail in the Bay Area -- and even sympathetic blogs like katinsf's on Democracy Sometimes -- added to the impression I formed that Anyonymous is peopled mainly by hackers, neopunks, and anarchists -- good folk, often enough -- who are typically (but certainly not always) white and/or scruffy. Both of the leafleters on Telegraph were African American, and looked pretty clean-cut, certainly by comparison to the avenue's typical flyer-distributing denizens.

So I put the half-sheet in my pocket, and went on my merry way. I was skeptical. Neither Market nor Wall Street, I thought, were going to belong to any "us" to which I have a membership card if the mode of redistributing its wealth lacked sufficient organization, interest, will, or longevity to put contact information on a flyer. I had something going on the 17th -- I don't even remember what now -- so I didn't go to the protest in San Francisco's downtown.

The rest is still-unfolding history.

Vivian Ho's article on the San Francisco branch of the Occupy movement, reported in Thursday morning's SF Chronicle, was titled Occupy SF protest march draws 800. She encapsulated the evolution of Occupy SF this way:

The Occupy SF movement began on Sept. 17 with six people gathering outside the former Bank of America center on California Street in solidarity with protesters in New York who set up camp in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street that day. In the two weeks since, support for the movement - both nationally and locally - has swelled. Participants of Occupy SF demonstrate in solidarity with the core values of Occupy Wall Street in New York, as do many of the other "Occupy" movements that have sprung up across the country.

Like most of the mainstream press lately, the Chron's reporter plays a little dumb about what "the core values" of those demonstrations are about; if you're looking for a capsule summary on a commercial news site you're likely to be misled. If you'd prefer to take your own look instead of squinting through some media professional's flak, you can start by watching Jesse La Greca's video, embedded above; and reading Charles M. Young's terrific piece, 13 Ways To Look at the Occupation of Wall Street.

By the time Vivian Ho's article was printed and tossed onto my doorstep on Thursday morning, the subject of her Thursday evening article had already wrapped: S.F. police break up Occupy SF camp. Not to worry. It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that Occupy SF isn't done yet.

On a national stage? Jennifer Preston wrote Wall Street Protest Spurs Online Conversation for the NY Times on Saturday (published in the Sunday print edition), describing the diverse and geographically distributed presence of Occupy Wall Street (and elsewhere) on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Other than references to Tumblr, she didn't mention the blogosphere, but did cite The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a broadsheet published by the New York protesters. 900 events set up on and activity in eleven states were described in this article of fewer than 1000 words.

Naturally, I feel more than a little bit sheepish to have been dismissive of that month-ago announcement on that green half-sheet.

Katinsf, as long as I'm linking to her blog today, wrote a post in May of last year: Is Failure the Chicken and Success the Egg?. She was meditating on Budrus (the movie), described on its own web site as "an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier." Kate participated in events chronicled by the documentary, and even has a bit of her own video footage included in the film.

But what I mean to point out here is what she wrote about the fact that one just can't know which particular protest actions are going to catch fire and blossom into movements:

I’ve said this before, but people have a tendency to read social movements through their outcomes. Working backwards, we make a coherent narrative out of their strategies and tactics, their power struggles and organizational styles, leading inevitably to their successes or failures. We subject both our own and other people’s movements to this torturous dissection, and we pretend that we are deciding what to participate in based on our clairvoyant ability to determine which movements are going to succeed. All of us would have stood with Mario Savio on Sproul Plaza, but none of us would have been killed at Haymarket; all of us would have joined the French Resistance and none of us would have joined the Judenrat (the Jewish Councils in Nazi-occupied Europe, which cooperated with the Nazis in the belief that they would be able to help their people survive). A few years ago, I asked my friend’s son, who was 9 at the time, if when they taught him about Martin Luther King, Jr. in school they made it clear that the government, and many of its citizens, did not approve of what King was doing at the time. He said no, they teach that everyone always loved King. Okay, I said, then do they tell you that they put him in jail? Yes, he said, but I’ve never understood why.

The movements that succeed are not only a result of their forebears which succeeded. When we credit Gandhi’s march to the sea with helping to win India’s independence from Britain, we should also remember that he opposed the creation of Pakistan and that his hunger strike failed to prevent a bloody civil war.

I already mentioned Charles M. Young's 13 Ways To Look at the Occupation of Wall Street, which gives a window onto what's actually happening in Zuccotti Park down at the south end of Manhattan ... and I have to tell you that the picture he paints reads a lot like the ~6 week sit-in on Sproul Plaza during the 1985 blooming of the anti-apartheid movement on the Berkeley campus: lots of long, looping, tangent-happy discussion running into the wee hours. I was there, and I'm here to tell you we won that one (eventually). Not that utopia has hatched in South Africa, mind you. That's not how the world works. And it would be irresponsible to ignore the obvious: Young's 13 Ways... also sounds like a lot of other nascent movements, including many that didn't gain traction.

One last shout-out to Kate, who wrote last weekend about the Occupy... movement in San Francisco, the one that was just beginning to stir when I was handed that green half-sheet on Telegraph Avenue a month or so ago. She wrote:

I've always been a big believer that the way you build a movement is by doing something consistently and growing little by little. So often in this country, all the focus is on "How many people did you get?" We think anything that isn't huge is nothing, and it's more important to get 50,000 views on YouTube than to get 50 people to come to an action. Last week, some friends were talking about the Direct Action to Stop the War shutdown of San Francisco on March 20-23, 2003, and I suggested that one reason the antiwar movement fizzled out in this area was that we had 20,000 people those first few days and very shortly after that we had trouble getting 100 or 200 people at a demonstration. If you start really small, you have nowhere to go but up.

Will grassroots fury at the swindlers on Wall Street turn into real redistribution of wealth and power?

Here's hoping...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pacific coast watersheds

It's been an unfortunate year for water-related news in the U.S. There were floods up and down the Missouri River this summer. Hurricane Irene swamped the Eastern Seaboard. Tropical Storm Lee may have been less ferocious and covered less territory than Irene, but she wasn't much kinder. Associated Press reported last month that "The Army Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost more than $2 billion to repair the damage to the nation's levees, dams and riverbanks caused by this year's excessive flooding, a sum that dwarfs $150 million it currently has to make such repairs and that doesn't account for damage from Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee."

My road trip last week into Northern California and Oregon -- to Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with detours -- provided a welcome reset to the hustle and hassle of workaday life, as road trips tend to do. I'm not usually the blogger playing Polyanna, but a lot of the places we visited featured water in its less destructive -- if no less powerful -- and stirringly beautiful aspects.

So I thought I'd share some pictures.

A neighbor recommended we stop in Redding to take a look at Santiago Calatrava's Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River (thanks D--!). None of our photos are as comprehensive as the one included here, shared by Chad K via Flickr and used by Wikipedia, but the bridge was breathtakingly beautiful from any and all angles. The Sacramento River ran fast and strong the day we visited, giving a sense even in our (usually) summer-dry state's late September how wet a year it was even on the relatively unscathed west coast of the country.

From Redding we headed west up 299 toward MacArthur Burney Falls State Park. This recommendation came from a colleague (thanks P--!), and while we could have made it to Ashland on that first day, taking our time to make this detour was well worth it. Beyond the sheer loveliness of the falls, its mechanics render the site both a wonder and an education. Here's the thing: the watershed that feeds the falls seeps into a series of subterranean river channels beneath the forests at the foot of Burney mountain, some fifteen miles upstream. The water flows through underground layers of fragmented volcanic rock, and some of it rises to the surface less than a mile upstream of the falls. The rest of the water continues to flow underground. What you see at the falls, and in my photo at the right, are the main cataracts at the center, by which the resurfaced water cascades into the pool; and water sheeting from the cliff face on either side of the cataracts, where water that has filtered downhill through the underground basalt emerges and reunites with the surfaced stream. It's better than magic...

On our way to Crater Lake, a day-trip between 2 Henry IV and Julius Caesar, we stopped at Ashland's Noble Coffee on E. Main St. just off the plaza (looking for great coffee in Ashland? this is the place for a quickie, and their cafe & roastary on 4th St. @ A is even better if you're a lingerer). When she heard where we were headed, the barista recommended we stop on our way up at a place called Natural Bridge, along the Rogue River. The suggestion turned out to be as excellent as the espresso that fueled our day trip. Natural Bridge is a lava tube along the Rogue River, into which the river takes a dive, travels underground for about 200 feet, then emerges again to the surface. The photo at left is the lava tube outlet, which spews 335,000 gallons of water per minute at its peak according to Forest Service signage. Fast. And cold.

Crater Lake is another wonder of water and earth. The deepest lake in the United States (1,949 feet at its maximum depth), this five-miles-across body of water was formed by the accretion of rainfall and snowmelt over the course of some seven hundred years, following a spectacular volcanic eruption about 7,700 years ago. There are no streams running in or out of the crater, the caldera in volcanic-sciences-speak. In geological time, of course,7,700 years a heartbeat ago ... which leads a visitor to muse on the fact that this titanic event, in which a vertical mile of Mt. Mazama vanished into ash and a vacated magma chamber, occurred not in some distant Precambrian eon, but while human beings looked on. From a distance, one hopes... At 150 times the quantity of ash produced by the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980, some 5,000 square miles were covered six-inches deep by the Mt. Mazama eruption. The adjacent Pumice Desert was buried in fifty feet of ash. Big 'splosion. The lake is spectacularly blue ... photos can't do it justice. That's me, silhouetted in the foreground.

There was lots more water in the course of our six days away: a stroll along Ashland Creek, a drive along the Klamath River, a stop to hang with the pelicans at the Crescent City marina, a loop along the coast through Ft. Bragg and Mendocino, a drive up Rte. 128 through the Navarro River watershed and the Anderson Valley's rolling wine country, then the stretch that got us home, across the bay on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge.

A far cry from Vermont in the wake of Hurricane Irene. We may worry about 'The Big One' here on the Left Coast, but in the meantime we're living in a spectacularly lovely part of the world...

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Henry IV and Berkeley G.O.P.'s 'diversity bake sale'

I was out of town last week when the student group Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) hosted their so-called "Diversity Bake Sale." You might have heard about it via Reuters, the NY Times, FoxNews, the LA Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the U.K.'s Telegraph, or NPR ... or just about any other media vehicle you might track. If you missed the story, the gist is this:

To protest California's SB 185, currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature or veto now that it has passed both the state Assembly's and Senate's scrutiny, the BCR sold cupcakes and cookies priced on a sliding scale. As the NY Times reported the Facebook announcement of the event, "the group listed the price for a pastry at $2 for white students, $1.50 for Asian students, $1 for Latinos, 75 cents for African-Americans and 25 cents for Native Americans. Women of all races were promised a 25-cent discount."

The intention, say campus Republicans, was to satirize differential treatment (cupcake prices, university admission criteria) based on race. Get it?

As one student put it in an Associated Press video posted to YouTube, "I think they're kind of missing the point."

SB 185 amends Section 66205 of California's Education Code such that "the University of California may, and the California State University may, consider race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, geographic origin, and household income, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, so long as no preference is given." The purpose, as the bill states, is to "enroll a student body that meets high academic standards and reflects the cultural, racial, geographic, economic, and social diversity of California."

For more, follow the links given above ... there's little need to repeat last week's news blitz.

I'd heard rumor of BCR's planned event before I headed north to Ashland, Oregon, where I'd reserved tickets for an adaptation of Molière's The Imaginary Invalid, followed by Shakespeare's 2 Henry IV and Julius Caesar. (I blogged about the two Shakespeare plays in advance of seeing them, in Shakespeare, power, theme in literature a couple weeks ago.)

The news went national on my way up Interstate 5, and caught up to me at the breakfast table at the McCloud River Inn, a sweet B&B at the foot of Mt. Shasta. I mentioned to other guests at the inn that I hail from Berkeley, and conversation turned to that morning's NY Times article on the bake sale brouhaha. (It's the 21st century. There's no such thing as "getting away," am I right? The fellow who'd read the article was an alum, and lives in Marin. He and his father were up north to fish for trout.)

I caught up with a fraction of the story's coverage after returning home, and am a little amazed at the extent to which, as that unnamed student on Sproul Plaza said, "they're kind of missing the point."

Yammerers who rail against consideration of factors aimed at balancing "high academic standards" with selection of a student body that "reflects the cultural, racial, geographic, economic, and social diversity of California" ignore fundamental truths that have a great deal to do with university admissions, including these two:
(1) there's no such thing as an objective assessment of merit; and,
(2) the present is the leading edge of what's gone before, a.k.a. "history"
Does the first need explaining? Does anybody out there really believe that high school GPAs and standardized tests are anything but a crude measure of a narrow subset of the constellation of skills, strengths, and motivations that qualify a person to engage in a course of post-secondary study, or that predict success in the endeavor?

Limits inherent in these quantitative measures is the reason that selective institutions of higher ed consider other factors than the numbers on a transcript or a College Board scorecard. By way of example, let's take a look at Harvard University, a selective institution of higher ed if ever there was one. On Harvard's admissions site, as many ambitious high school students and their parents already know, are a few paragraphs describing "What We Seek." Here it is, as it appeared on Harvard's web site yesterday afternoon:
Applicants can distinguish themselves for admission in a number of ways. Some show unusual academic promise through experience or achievements in study or research. Many are "well rounded" and have contributed in various ways to the lives of their schools or communities. Others are "well lopsided" with demonstrated excellence in a particular endeavor—academic, extracurricular or otherwise. Still others bring perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances or experiences.

Academic accomplishment in high school is important, but we also seek people with enthusiasm, creativity and strength of character.

Most admitted students rank in the top 10–15 percent of their graduating classes, having taken the most rigorous secondary school curriculum available to them.

A lot of wiggle room there, eh? And why is that? Because the folks at Harvard University know better than to rely on narrow, fantastical conceits like objective measures of merit. In the real world it's complicated, as a wealthy and well-known Harvard alum put it on his social networking platform once upon a time.

As for the second fundamental truth? History?

Here's a passage from one of Shakespeare's history plays, 2 Henry IV, one of the works I happened to see performed last week. In the Elizabethan theatre at Ashland this passage struck me as a dead-on description of why it's ridiculous to pretend that an applicant for college admission exists in a social and historical vacuum. From, this is Henry IV speaking on his deathbed to the soon-to-be-crowned Henry V, his son. Apologies to the Bard for paring his poetry in order to make a point:
God knows, my son,
By what by-paths and indirect crook'd ways
I met this crown; and I myself know well
How troublesome it sat upon my head.
To thee it shall descend with bitter quiet,
Better opinion, better confirmation;
For all the soil of the achievement goes
With me into the earth.
[...] and now my death
Changes the mode; for what in me was purchased,
Falls upon thee in a more fairer sort;
So thou the garland wear'st successively.
Nobody succeeds solely on individual merit. Not Prince Harry, nor any of the 142,235 Fall 2011 applicants to the University of California. We exist -- and are nourished, or not -- in a social milieu. In the quoted passage, Henry IV, who deposed his predecessor in order to ascend to the throne of England, explains to Hank, Jr. that possession of the crown for which Henry IV cast aside, imprisoned, and (it is thought) starved Richard II, will appear to be the new normal when it passes in peaceful lineal succession to his son.

The prince replies to his father:
My gracious liege,
You won it, wore it, kept it, gave it me;
Then plain and right must my possession be [...]
Um. Really? Daddy stole the crown, passes it to his son, and now Junior owns it 'honestly'? Sure, Harry.....

It's a messier and less precise business to weigh the lives of young commoners than it is to study and cite the much-told histories of monarchs. But that's the messy, imprecise task of university admissions officers. And those admissions officers would be making less-informed decisions if they were not allowed to consider applicants' origins in a culture that has accrued centuries of advantage to individual members of social groups based on factors that have nothing to do with intrinsic, individual merit but everything to do with social milieu -- "race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, geographic origin, and household income" would be some of these factors.

"Indeed," says Harvard's admissions web site, "the Admissions Committee may respond favorably to evidence that a candidate has overcome significant obstacles, financial or otherwise."

It's complicated.

Whatever the intentions of the yammerers, reductive demands to narrow university admissions criteria boil down to maintaining historical advantages conferred on or seized by groups, not earned by individual merit.

Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the U.S. Senate in the state of Massachusetts, spoke brilliantly on the absurdity of G.O.P. 'gimme, it's mine, I earned it' politics -- of which this diversity bake sale kerfuffle is but a sad and pathetic variant -- a couple of weeks ago. Here's the quote, or watch the video below:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody! You built a factory out there -- good for you! But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory [...] because of work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific [...] God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Whether it's wealth or it's great grades in high school, the BCR and the party with which they are affiliated are missing the point in a big, big way. Sorry, Republikidz: you can't sell your cupcake and eat it too.

Thanks to Lobsterthermidor via WikiMedia Commons, for the contemporary image of Henry of Bolingbroke (Henry IV) as he claims the throne of England in 1399.