Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jack Riepe Comments

Jack Riepe and I were talking on the phone about the meaning of the Occupy protests popping up cross the country. Jack toed the opponents' line arguing there is a lack of coherence in their protests, while I said peaceful protest is not only legitimate and constitutionally sanctioned, but is also a pressure release valve that keeps illegal and anarchic violent protest at bay. Besides I don't know how a protest that is a truly spontaneous uprising and response to fraud could be anything other that disorganized. When I read that a Tea Party spokesman is concerned about preserving the reputation of the "Tea Party Brand" I know that they are nothing if not corporate puppets. The Occupy "brand" has not yet been marketed... To me that is a strength to others it is a sign of inherent decrepitude. In the end though, as he says people need and want jobs and I see none on the horizon. That and the lack of forthright honesty from our economic and political leadership has me more worried than the direction of the Occupy USA protesters.

On The True Significance Of The “Occupy Wall Street” Protests Sweeping The US, and The Indictment of “Corporate America...”

I was distressed to read that the comments section of Key West Diary had been disabled Conchscooter in response to extremely negative statements, that, in his opinion, fell far short of the mark in assessing the true significance of the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations that have been sprouting up across the country.

CS, a passionate humanist and a great champion of the underdog, reacted strongly and swiftly to those he believes belittled the rights of others to speak out, and to utilize the most basic forum of protest that constitutes the foundation of political expression in the United States. His natural reflex was to disparage these “Occupy Anything” antagonists by denying them the forum that they would have so willingly denied the hundreds of thousands of protesters currently camped out in parks and thoroughfares across the country.

I have advised him to take a different approach.

Rather than dismissing these opinions as short-sighted, defensive, one-sided, myopic, vapid, self-righteous, and largely conservative Republican crap, I suggested that he might take the higher, middle ground, by defining the unusual nature of these protests, and their significance on the threshold of an election year. Conchscooter invited me to do this in an essay that he would run as a the effort of a guest author. This is that essay.

The “Occupy Wall Street”- type demonstrations currently sweeping the United States are socially significant for a number of reasons that should cause current elected and corporate leaders to take note. Chief among these are:

Participants largely constitute white, middle-class protesters (of various ages, though predominantly in their 20’s), who normally don’t get off their collective asses for anything other than the release of the newest iPhone or the latest release of a Harry Potter movie.

While some will march to save the whales, and others will sign a petition to safeguard their rights to terminate a pregnancy, these folks are the vanguard of the FaceBook and social network generation, who have come to let their fingers do the talking in a 144-character forum that has challenged newspapers and broadcast media. The fact that they are turning out for something in person speaks volumes.

The protests are growing spontaneously, fueled by a sense of middle class discontent that would have been unthinkable and unrecognizable five years ago. And the greatest source of this discontent is the lingering doubt that there is any kind of a future for the middle class in America. It is hard to go through the motions of making progress day-to-day, when you are confronted with the possibility that you will be on the street with less than five minutes notice.

The level of discontent spans a myriad of issues. Right now, a disturbing number of protesters see the focus of these demonstrations as the framework of their individual challenges. One demonstrator allegedly hefted a sign that read, “$96,000 in student loans for a Masters Degree in Hispanic Gay and Lesbian Studies, and No Job!” Another — the cause célébre for the conservative opposition — was alleged to have majored in “underwater basket-weaving,” and was lamenting the lack of employment opportunities. Still a third was televised for criticizing a successful businessman for making $150 million (USD) in a year, when he could have made $50 million, and used the rest to create new jobs. (The businessmen argued that he employed 150 people and added new jobs as demand increased.) And it cannot be denied that there is a new, unsettling, unreasonable focus against the 1% of the nation’s wealthiest citizens, as the epicenter of corporate greed, which is being interpreted as “Give me my share.”

It is very difficult for rational Americans, who are fighting for every last nickel at jobs that are underpaid, undervalued, and fearfully held, to credit the “Give me my share” school of thought. Yet this is the least significant aspect of these protests.

While hundreds of US universities and colleges have created degrees in courses with questionable futures, they are also graduating millions of students with degrees in communications, journalism, public relations, English, fine arts, foreign languages, and teaching — who stand no chance in finding a job in these fields anytime soon. In fact, if they wanted to go to work on an assembly line manufacturing light bulbs that meet US energy standards for 2013, they’d have to move to China, and accept a salary of $320 (USD) a month, working in a factory under a US corporate logo — run by a CEO who has a revolving door to the White House.

If this sounds like a great promise of the future to you, I’d say you are either this CEO or an elected official getting a substantial campaign donation from this corporation.

The “Occupy Anywhere” protests have grown so swiftly that they have outpaced the typical planning process that normally precedes a national movement. There are no spokespersons, no programs, no agendas, and no organized approach to systematically generate these prior to the gathering of protesters. This shortcoming works against the movement when the media attempts to interview the average person on the street, and gets someone who can only see the really small picture. But this will change...

A substantial number of these demonstrators are former supporters of the failed Obama Administration. As an election year looms, these people are really screwed in their search for a candidate. It has become sadly apparent that both political parties are hoping the cyclic nature of past economic tragedies will take over and turn things around before the next votes are cast. The solution of the Obama Administration is to turn the US government into the largest employer in the world, and send the bill to China, guaranteeing that several future generations of Americans will have lawns to mow in Beijing. Yet it is the solution of the Republicans — carpetbaggers with leather luggage — to allow “Corporate America” free reign in screwing everyone with the promise of jobs they routinely send overseas.

Water finds its own level all the time... There are a lot of smart, unemployed, middle class people of all ethnic backgrounds caught up in these “Occupy Wall Street Protests.” These are people who have lost their retirement savings, their stock investments, the value of their homes, and their faith in the future as a result of CEOs making stupid and short-sighted decisions. These are the same CEOs who get $6,000,000 (or more) in golden parachutes for running corporate stock values to their lowest rates in history. Banks are laying off thousands of employees, while a handful of executives will get bonuses up to $1 million (USD) for creating highly ambiguous marketing schemes and hidden fees that do not pass the smell test. These are the issues that are driving normal middle-class US families crazy.

The greatest lie ever told by the devil or a corporate public relations rat is that “Industry is best equipped to police itself.” This is pure horse shit straight from the tap. It is based on the fairy tale notion that industry is profit-driven, and as such, is committed to provide the US consumer with the finest quality availability at the most competitive price. The truth is that Corporate America would sell rat’s assholes to blind people if it would boost a brief but reportable return to grateful stockholders, who would show their appreciation to the CEO and board of directors by allowing them to move the entire operation to the Third World, paying local help in moldy grain, while increasing political action committee budgets by 300 percent.

History does not support the notion that corporations act from the highest level of motivation.

In the past ten years, there was movement by a number of airlines to get their aircraft serviced offshore, by non-English speaking mechanics, who had to rely on service manuals written only in English, to save money. The starting salary for pilots of commuter aircraft is so low that many second officers cannot afford to live in the communities, or states, where the carrier is based. (The reason is to keep fares competitive.) The pilots union repeatedly argues against dwindling rest periods for pilots, and the time spent sitting in the cockpit or the airport that is regarded as “rest.”

Some of the largest meat recalls in US history have occurred in the last 5 years, as the result of problems in huge meat processing plants. Many of these plants inspect themselves and report to the appropriate federal agency. The central processing of meat is alleged to cut costs on the supermarket/retail level.

The banking and investment community of Wall Street prides itself on generating vast market returns in 2006 and 2007. They claim that no one complained then. Yet these returns were based on artificially inflated housing markets, and highly suspect securities resale practices that brought banks and investment houses around the world to their knees. These same entities are arguing against tighter regulations and against more invasive regulators to prevent this sort of behavior in the first place.
• One of the best known companies in the United States routinely dumped toxic PCBs straight into the Hudson River as late as 1970. Did they stop because they finally realized that this poison would kill everything in the water for the next 200 years, or because they got caught?

These are but four examples of why a nation needs strong checks and balances, including government, business, labor unions, and investors who aren’t afraid to be vocal and loud about it. (If I were an investor who had a substantial portion of my earnings tied up in a company with disappointing results, and whose board ousted the CEO with a $6,000,000 bonus, I would conclude the board of directors and the entire company incapable of making a lucid decision, and put what cash I had left elsewhere.)

This country was founded on protest, and it ignores it at its peril.

Finally, no one reads history anymore. During the US Revolution, only about a third of the population was committed to independence. Another third was loyal to Britain. And the great remaining 33% only wanted to make a buck and be left alone. Not all who fought under the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag had the highest motives. The squeaky wheel got the grease, and everybody got independence, whether they all wanted it or not. And it started by people yelling in the street. The British shot a few and started arresting the rest. How do you think that turned out?

The fastest way to end the “Occupy Wall Street” protests is to put people to work. The fastest way to put people to work is to correct the problems that hamstring the economy. The fastest way to unhamstring the economy is to see whose hands are in somebody else’s pockets... And to bring them out into the light of day.

Jack Riepe

Key Pix XV

Why did the chicken cross the road? It wasn't simply to reach the other side. This damned bird had me stopping in the middle of White Street! I could do no less as it had even chosen to cross in the cross walk.

The National Weather Service Office on White Street is only a couple of years old and it bulges with modern equipment and amenity but I like to see them doing things the traditional way. Before the advent of modern communications weather stations used flags to communicate and the red pennant seen here forecasts strong winds and warns of breezes sufficient to require a small craft advisory.

On the subject of flags this reminder of a colonial past was flying in a yard...

...while this was out front providing another splash of color:

On which subject artist Rick Worth has been busy making this Mazda look camouflaged.

It was parked near The Studios of Key West which will no doubtless be busy this winter. The garden meanwhile is closed.

The official vehicle of the artists' colony is also a Worth disguised van.

And here is an orchid looking just like the real thing painted on the van, more or less.

This AA badge looks like the real thing. In the days before bumper stickers the British Automobile Association issued metal badges like this one to it's members. The story goes that after court challenges discouraged AA staff from warning members of impending speed traps AA workers would not salute passing members when there was an ambush ahead waiting to ticket speeding motorists.

With an E Type like this some warning would be helpful to avoid getting caught speeding.

With a Honda Rebel 250 cruiser lime this speeding is less of an issue. I studied this little bike for a while as Cheyenne rested in the shade. The seat is too low, the foot pegs are too far forward, the fuel tank is too small but it is all well proportioned.

Perhaps it is still true, as the advertising of yore had it, that you meet the nicest people on a Honda. Which must be another reason why I ride a Triumph.

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Keys Workers

If you don't believe me check it on snopes: cell phones don't blow up gas stations. Urban myths notwithstanding when I pulled into my friendly neighborhood gas station the wildly angry tanker truck driver yelled at me to put my cell phone away and not show any open flames. Huh? Anyone who knows me knows I hate using my cell phone and I'd rather call back later when it is convenient to me. I was fueling my car, not phoning as I pointed out to the angry Eagle tanker driver.

He really thought the gas station might disappear in a white hot sheet of flame were I to whip out my Nokia and actually turn it on. When I pointed out gas stations can't be set on fire by phones he yelled at me that he had seen an old lady set her hair on fire with one (!). Some cell phone! Some hair! He went on about stupid people needing to be educated. I finished gassing my car and drove away wondering how stupid can stupid people get? And this one hadn't even called me on 9-1-1 at work!

After a refreshing drive into Key West I took Cheyenne for a walk. Was it any coincidence I found a strong smell of marijuana in the air near this graffito on White Street? I am actually quite fond of the cops I dispatch, though having sexual congress with them might not be on my immediate agenda.

I made the mistake recently of grumbling about our Internet service especially in light of the imminent arrival of the snowbirds this winter who will gum up the airwaves and make connections slower even than in summer. My wife called AT&T who said we had the best DSL connection they offer and now she wants to bring cable into our house as Wayne said he thought our internet service is primitive. I should keep my mouth shut. I hate broadcast TV which is an instrument of the devil with all it's advertising, but my wife is thinking she might soon not be limited to watching the Food Channel at the gym. All is lost.

For $36 a month I like our mixture of discs and streaming from advertising-free Netflix. My television-free life is about to come to an end after fifteen years. Sigh: I really need to learn to keep quiet.

Here are three mosquito control district workers paying homage to the insect fighting bat tower of Sugarloaf Key from the 1920s.

They have a tough job in a society that professes to despise government workers and all their efforts to make the world a better place. Besides, when one grump gets bitten by one mosquito all the good work they do is negated. However If you have read descriptions of pioneer life in Florida, you know mosquitoes were intolerable before organized resistance by people such as these.

I have noticed a great deal of construction going on around Key West. I find it quite encouraging that homes are being cared for and renovated and cleaned up.

It seems like hard labor one way and another even on a relatively cool and breezy afternoon with temperatures just below eighty degrees.

Foreclosures, repos and bank owned homes abound but so do people with money in this town that daily struggles to stay funky.

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What a surprising headline in today's Key West Citizen. Key West The News is gone and most likely for good. Almost two decades of journalism as a contact sport and finally Dennis Reeves Cooper is too tired to carry on publishing, he says and there is no more money to print paper. I liked Key West The News because it forced public honesty despite the publisher's aggravating personal foibles, his latest a drunk driving conviction and his constant reference to victories past to cover for a lack of news in the present. Key West is a small town and perhaps it is too small to sustain a scandal rag like KWTN a paper that came out weekly but did not have a weekly scandal to feed it's need to titillate. The Citizen in reporting the death of the free weekly described it rather prissily as not meeting normal standards of journalism by not using normal attribution guidelines. No doubt he was a pain in the ass but Cooper never was sued for telling a lie or claiming a falsehood as truth. In the end the money ran out just as it is running out for mainstream newspapers with less commitment to telling their stories and a greater commitment to feeding their corporate overlords. That the Key West Police Department failed most recently to provide scandal for the paper is just one more irony in this story after years of sniping by Cooper of a department in a modern incarnation that has not deserved the criticism he had piled upon it in the past. Our current chief signally managed to do that which previous chiefs never managed- to run a clean capable department that also gained public respect even from types like Cooper who never professed any love for it.
Sic transit Gloria Mundi . RIP.

A Perky Tower

Oddly enough I found myself following a convoy of pick up trucks to the bat tower on Sugarloaf Key.

They belonged to the modern Mosquito Control District and when I talked to them I discovered that in fact they were boning up on their own history.

They had been in Key West for a meeting and were driving back to their offices in Key Largo. Their boss wanted them to see this fascinating piece of Keys history.

The bat tower is one of three left in the world from a design sold in the earlry 20th century as a tool to fight mosquitoes. Charles Perky wanted to develop these mangroves and realize his fortune and he heard that bats eat mosquitoes, so he ordered a tower to be erected here in what was to have been the village of Perky, Florida.

The bats left town, Perky went bust and followed suit and the tower was left behind to rot slowly in the sun and salt air.

Still, some animals find it useful, for shade if nothing else.

As you can see Perky remains nothing more than a name on a chart to this day.

The tower is still intact but slowly disintegrating.

An osprey nest!

The mosquito people left Cheyenne and myself to our lonely vigil at the tower until some visitors rolled up...

...drove around, posing for a second and then drove away. What else can they do? There are no signs, no useful informational billboards, nothing... It's amazing these people managed to find the place at all, up a hidden turn off next to the Sugarloaf Motel.

As they drove away the photographer twisted round for a last look at this lost piece of old Florida.

The Bat Tower of Sugarloaf Key.

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