Election Notes: Romney’s Toast

Update, September 30th: Ryan Refuses To Explain Tax Math

Below is the current state of the race with swing states in grey.

If the election were held today, Romney doesn’t win a single swing state.

Not even NC or Virginia according to the latest polls from RealClearPolitics.

Update, September 30th: The above map still holds true. Romney doesn’t win a single swing state.

Update, October 3rd: North Carolina goes in the Romney column. The FiveThirtyEight blog puts Obama’s chances of winning to 84.7% come Nov. 6, but if the election were held today, Romney only has a 2.7% chance of winning. (In science, a probability of 1 in 100 is considered a virtual impossibility.)

Updates, October 10th: Florida and Colorado go for Romney. It usually takes a week for the polls to come in, so these polls are truly in touch with Romney’s debate performance. For the first time, Obama’s electoral victory drops under 300 votes. Romney’s chance of victory goes up from 2% to 33% on FiveThirtyEight — Don’t worry. this is Romney’s peak unless the President botches the other debates and says something unexcusable.

Update, October 17th: The above map still holds true. Romney keeps his gains a week after the VP debate. 294-244

Update, October 19th: Virginia goes squarely in the Romney column. 281-257

Update, October 20th: NH is now polling for Romney. 277-261 This is the wrong trajectory for the Obama campaign.

Update, October 22nd: NH is back for Obama. 281-257

Update, October 27th: Nevada and Iowa and Colorado are back for Obama. 290-248

Update, November 3rd. The above map still holds true, though Colorado is a tie. Obama wins 290-248

Update, November 3rd. The Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog boldly predicts Virginia will go to Romney, something the RealClearPolitics average does not agree with. Obama breaking 300 EV would be almost a landslide. We’ll find out Tuesday.


An Occupier Responds to the NYT

“It will be asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.”

This is how a NYT piece, titled The Frenzy that Fizzled by Andrew Ross Sorkin, starts on Occupy Wall Street. Some culture writer thinks he can rip our movement.

“While the movement’s first days did not receive much news coverage, it soon turned into a media frenzy. Images of the Wall Street protesters getting arrested were looped on news channels and featured on the covers of newspapers. […] By the end of the year, Time magazine had named the protester its Person of the Year, perhaps rightly given the revolutions taking place around the world, but the magazine also lumped Occupy Wall Street in among the many meaningful movements taking place.”

The sarcasm is present throughout. Occupy is wrongfully categorized with “meaningful” events. He gets directly to the point next.

“But now, 12 months later, it can and should be said that Occupy Wall Street was — perhaps this is going to sound indelicate — a fad.

Listen here, you bourgeois writer trying to keep your hack privilege by being a stiff critic and poo-poo’ing whatever is too poor for your refined taste.

I slept for five weeks in that park, and I met people from all over the country who are perplexed by the control corporations have on our country. We fed people, 3000 a day, we clothed and sheltered people, 300 a night, we had free blankets, and jackets, and cigarettes, and did I mention free food? And we never asked a penny from anyone. We had donations from all over the country, and we would have continued our experiment in direct democracy indefinitely had the mayor and police not shattered our society in which we did not even turn away the homeless and the poor.

That is not to say that Occupy Wall Street had no impact. It created an important national conversation. […] Its message has subtly been woven in the Democrats’ position on everything from taxes to student debt. Have any new regulations for banks or businesses been enacted as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. Has there been any new meaningful push to put Wall Street executives behind bars as a result of Occupy Wall Street? No. And has the movement changed the debate over executive compensation or education reform? It is not even a close call.

Doesn’t the fact that despite our national spotlight, corporations continue to evade any serious oversight, weaken existing regulations, and that there has been no criminal accountability for the massive fraud that led to the 2008 economic collapse only emphasize the virtue of our movement? Doesn’t it speak to what we’ve been crying out about all along, that these companies have too much control and too little accountability to society? Doesn’t it show how badly our movement has been needed?

You can debate our redistributionist principles, or anti-corporate zeal, I would welcome (and we did when the park was fully Occupied) Tea Partiers or Ron Paul types to challenge us on our ideas or economics. But what I cannot stand is some hack writer diss us so he thinks he can demonstrate he has a career.

I am very sorry you will never sleep in a park with strangers and share food and blankets with them under the stars. You probably visited for a couple of hours, but I can guarantee you your yuppie ass did not sleep there, because if you had, you would have found dozens, no, hundreds of young intellectuals ready to confirm your ideas about justice, equality, and a better world. Not a harsh or angry tone would have touched your ears that night, because our movement was never built on hate for the few, but love for humanity.

That love for humanity is still pervasive at the weekly General Assembly’s at Liberty Park around 7pm on Fridays, and there are twenty to thirty people still making time for direct action or whatever they do at General Assemblies. I’m not really an organizational, institutional personal, so I usually skip formal meetings. I believe activism is in talking to people and sharing ideas and building commonality. Building community. We’re still doing that.

I’m really sorry you as a privileged NYT writer desperate to keep your spot, maintain that aura of exclusivity cannot see the immense power we accomplished as a movement, even on the macro-scale of how many thousands of tourists and counterculture types we collected into one spot and built a new society where money was not an issue anymore? We showed humanity there was a better way, we proved it and that’s what was so dangerous. We’ll have to do some things better next time, larger tents and more people for safekeeping — but we transcended the society we lived in, and built a better one. That’s why they had to shut us down.

Every time you see a homeless person on the subway, that’s when our society has failed. We have food, clothing, and housing for this person, but it hasn’t gotten to them. Do you understand that, Mr. Liberal NYT Writer? Can you understand that, having had three meals a day every day of your life? You clearly side with a society that is failing its citizens, a land which is failing its denizens.

Do you think corporate control is a joke, considering that you work for one of the top 500? Do you think anyone thought the corporate voice needed to be more represented in the system before the Supreme Court ruled that they can funnel unlimited and anonymous amounts into political campaigns? Do you think your food and your environment and your country is safe left at the discretion of another man’s profit? Can you even trust your dog’s food?

You probably live in a nice house, have a beautiful wife, in a charming neighborhood. You must have a lovely commute to work. You should know there are 40 or so people, mostly kids under 30, who sleep nearby at Trinity Church every night. On the sidewalk, in the summer heat exposed to the mosquitoes. They’ve slept there for a longer period now than the movement managed to stay at Liberty Park.

You have more money than these kids, but there is something they have that you don’t, Mr. Liberal NYT Writer: ideals. These people have not a dime to their name, but they have ideals. They continue the fight and sleep on church property every night, and deep in every one of their hearts is the Mexican who washes dishes in every restaurant in town, the Polish waitress, the scientist driving a cab, the housekeeper who chooses that over prostitution, the girl who chooses to be an escort, the Filipino nurse who sends money to feed her extended family back home.

At the other side of this, is the employer who’s exploiting five illegal immigrants, the medallion owner doing the same to legal immigrants, the sex traffickers and moneyed men who will pay for abused girls, and the Philippines government for taking a cut of every remittance sent back home from women working abroad in the advanced industrial countries. Most of the time, these immigrants are paying for the care of sick relatives back home if not their entire family.

There are exploiters in this world, and there are exploited — and it is very clear, Mr. Liberal NYT writer who you side with in this world. There is a middle class instinct to look down on those who have less than you, because the middle class is so busy fleeing from poverty — but this is a very ugly instinct in human nature.

We may be scum to you. Our grime and unwashed appearance may cause you to take us less seriously. But I would rather have the grim from my buddies at Occupy than live in the the septic and whitewashed mentality you live in.

In the fall of 2011, questioning anything about the movement was not too popular. Doing so was an invitation for withering ridicule. 

This is not true, besides the Fox types (O’Reilly ran a hit piece every night), mainstream liberal outfits claimed Occupy was just an infantile protest that wasn’t going to accomplish anything and there was no point of going. Liberals like you were hating on us.

I only went to Occupy three weeks in, at the behest of a friend, and I fell in love my first day. Night, rather. I saw two lovers huddled in the rain, lying on some cardboard and tarp. And when one commented it was raining, the other said, “It’s not gonna get any drier” and they pulled the tarp over themselves and went to sleep. These people had a love, I realized that first night, that other people would never experience in their entire lifetimes. You, I am certain, Mr. Liberal Writer, fall in that latter category.

This is the shocking part, you’re liberal and write for the intelligentsia, but you have so much hate for our movement. We did so much good, and you claim to be blind to it. We changed the national conversation, we got two GOP candidates (Gingrich and Perry) to question “vulture capitalism” as practiced during Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. Obama has stolen our rhetoric and continued his neocon wars. The Democratic platform now calls for raises taxes on the top 2%, something which we can claim was our idea as well. We just handed the Democrats an election, they plagiarized our party platform, and you say we accomplished nothing.

I will admit, Occupy’s message of economic inequality is hardly original. People have been raving about that for years, from Progressive-era farmers, women’s suffragists, striking workers throughout the 20th century, Michael Moore’s numerous films, Jack, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy, Rage Against the Machine, homeless activists, etc.

We didn’t invent the idea of taking public space either. Cesar Chavez and the chicano movement, the takeover of Alcatraz Island by the American Indian Movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committees in the segregated South, Bloombergville in 2010, and Egyptians and others in the Middle East uprisings all preceded us in this.

You can even be a Tea Party-type and challenge us on our ideas directly. But what I cannot accept is some bourgeois liberal writer (and hack) tell us that we did nothing in that park, and deny the effort and sacrifice of tens of thousands of activists nationwide who brought their souls to a park to fight for social justice, their bodies and bank balances be damned.

In ten years, when we have 100,000 people at the Brooklyn Bridge, it will be *you history does not remember, Mr. Hack Writer. I am very sorry you projected your own sorry future onto our movement. Your thoughts have no bearing outside the social circle and accompanying reality you inhabit.

The problem with the movement, as many other columnists have pointed out before, was that its mission was always intentionally vague. It never sought to become a political party or even a label like the Tea Party.

It wasn’t vague, and if you talked to anyone in our movement for more than a few passing hours before you went out to eat at a pricey restaurant with your significant other, you would have seen every single person in that park was intent on removing corporate money from government, corporate influence from politics, and ensuring economic growth helps the entire spectrum of the population, especially the bottom 20%. Perhaps few would articulate it as well, but none would disagree.

Here is our difference, and why I throw epithets at you like “bourgeois” and “liberal”. I don’t believe in the system anymore. I don’t believe you can vote for a guy and he’ll promise to represent you, because he’ll only represent the people who pay for his campaign. I used to believe in judges, but a funny thing happened November 15, 2011, the day we were evicted. A judge had ruled that we were to be let back into the park with our tent and belongings, but several hours later, a superior judge agreed but ruled we could not bring tents and belongings back inside. How hard is it for the mayor to phone a judge and promise to take care of him in the future if he ruled a certain way? Not difficult at all. So even judges are not sacrosanct for me anymore.

So you want me to participate in a political system that gives corporations more power over me? Indeed, you want me to believe in it. Do people look stupid to you? (Apparently they do, because you wrote that stupid piece with its self-circular logic.)

By the second or third time I went down to Zuccotti Park, it became clear to me that Occupy Wall Street, which began with a small band of passionate intellectuals, had been hijacked by misfits and vagabonds looking for food and shelter.

You only went down there two or three times, didn’t you? That was the beauty of our movement. Unlike your bullshit society, we didn’t turn anyone away on account of money. As cities spent tens of millions cracking down on Occupy movements, they shuttered dozens of homeless shelters at the same time just before the coming winter. With less than $600,000 we fed everyone who showed up. Imagine what our movement could have done with the $17 million in security costs to NYC alone.

You deride our taking in of vagabonds, by which you mean homeless people. Ironic, we take flak for taking in the refugees of bourgeois capitalism. From the likes of bourgeois writers for the bourgeois NYT.

I vividly remember watching one protester with a sign that read “Google = Jewish Billionaires.” Another protester ran over and ripped up the poster. The messages had become decidedly too mixed.

Look at the Tea Party sign below.

There are hundreds more such idiotic statements on the Internet. I look forward to your hit-piece on the Tea Party next week. It should contain something about the message becoming decidedly too mixed.

While I immediately reject the anti-Semitic sentiment of the sign you claimed you saw about Jewish billionaires, this was both a strength and a weakness of our movement. We never claimed a monopoly on truth, and hence even had 9/11 Truthers and Ron Paul-types attend the park. I remember during the Occupation, a man read the Bible aloud every morning at 7am. There was no fascist control of speech at our park. I’m very sorry you can’t understand that. You’re almost like the Egyptians who don’t understand that Obama can’t arrest the guy who made the anti-Islam videos on YouTube. But how is that, considering you write for the NYT? Oh yeah, you’re a bourgeois liberal hack, I forgot.

We have not only “rebalanced” the debate, as ruling-class types like Eliot Spitzer must admit — we have touched an immense chord with the public on the way money works in this country, and I guarantee you, we won’t stop until we have some justice on that front. This is what you’re scared of, Mr. Writer, that everyone will have their chance in this country, and you won’t have your priveleged spot. You are very right, Mr. Liberal Writer, far better peoples’ newspapers and media will be built and you will not have a spot higher than others any more, and you should be scared for that.

But even Mr. Spitzer questioned, “We do have to ask, ‘Now what?’ ”

It’s so funny, you published this piece on November 17th, the day of our one year anniversary party. It means you didn’t even wait to see how our big reunion turned out, you and your liberal hit piece crew pulled out the obituary file on our movement and ran it the day of, without waiting to see if our movement was dead or alive. For your information, and more importantly, for your readers, we had several thousand people pack the park that day, and myself and 30 other activists stayed up the whole night in the park waiting for a second police eviction that never came. We took back our park, if only for a night. If you published your piece the next day, after the attendance of thousands of activists and a briefly revived Occupation, your it-will-be-an-asterisk-in-history rhetoric would have looked foolish.

So when you ask “now what?”, Mr Liberal Writer, I suggest you ask yourself that in ten years, if your hack ass is still employed by the NYT, which I doubt it.

Knowledge, Mastery and the Call to Sainthood

Marx, according to Lenin, argues that society only establishes the State to resolve class conflict– the state organs like the police, bureaucracy, and judiciary are inflicted on the population by the ruling class. A Marxist revolution replaces the “special force” (army and police) of the bourgeois state with a “general force” of an armed people (rather than an armed coercive government). The alternative to the coercive power of the State and its institutions was a tribal or clan system of informal power and respect. Poverty and homelessness are almost non-existent along informal chains of power.

The criminal justice system of the police and public prosecutor is a bourgeois system to track down criminals according to a bourgeois legal code. Our rights are beholden to agreement by a police officer or judge. Should they not agree to our rights, we go to jail. (Foucault discusses the identical function of a psychiatrist and judge colluding to imprison a citizen in a mental asylum.) What gives them that power? Where exactly does the coercive power derive from?

Religious experience is about dropping the formal channels of power and making them informal. At first, memorizing a prayer is learned from an institution (or book, published or transmitted by an authority or institution) but as we achieve mastery, the prayer becomes familiar and knowledge becomes part of us.

This is how all knowledge functions. Like learning how to play chess, first we learn the pieces, then how they move, then how the pieces interact with each other. The holistic understanding of mastery on the other hand:

Not many chess players come close. “The amateur sees pieces and movement,” writes [neoconservative columnist and serious chess player Charles] Krauthammer. “The expert, additionally, sees sixty-four squares with holes and lines and spheres of influence. The genius apprehends a unified field within which space and force and mass are interacting valences — a bishop tears the board in half, and a pawn bends the space around it in the way mass can reshape space in the Einsteinian universe.”

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess, by David Shenk

Learning the alphabet works the same way, first letters, then interactions between letters, then words then sentences.

Krauthammer alludes to the nature of mastery in 20th century science overturning 18th and 19th century understanding. With the Greeks, Pythagoras and Euclid explained for us two-dimensional space (trigonometry and geometry), Newton expanded it to our understanding of three-dimensional space (physics, gravity and calculus), and finally Einstein and Plank explained the subatomic and faster-than-light extremes of the universe (quantum physics and relativity). [1]

To understand the implications of quantum theory, this video is illuminating (from the film What the Bleep Do We Know?Double-Slit Experiment), as is the film.

For most people, however, the intermediate levels are fine. To move your refrigerator, you have to use Newton’s Law of Momentum (p=mv), not Einstein’s faster-than-light theories. Even though they both are true, they apply in different situations. Most people will never be chess masters, or kung fu masters, or master swordsmiths or Nobel Prize winners in chemistry. A Euclidean-Newtonian-Cartesian understanding of most things will suffice. A master has a quantum-relativisitic grasp on the subject.

What constitutes a Master? In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he proposes 10,000 hours of practice as a rule to achieve mastery of a subject. What is the definition of mastery? A novice has to strive to, say, chop through a pile of bricks, he has to work towards competence. A master has to try if he wants to *not break the bricks, he can’t not be competent. Which brings me to Lenin’s theory. A master has a grasp of the subject in his informal understanding, his personal possession. A novice learns it from institutions and is dependent on it.

Religion seems to be making to same point. I always thought Hinduism was alone among world religions for saying this:

Just as a small reservoir of water is of little use when water is flooding on every side, this is the value of the Vedas and other scriptures to a wise man.

(Bhagvad Gita 2:46)

This is an astonishing thing for a religious text to say: throw out all religious texts! I can think of no other religion which says this, but wait! Buddha said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”. There is no source of religious authority, it seems, for the self-realized person. The prophet Buddha (peace be upon him) is saying kill the religious authority. I am told by an Orthodox friend that Judaism recognizes the concept of knowledge and spiritual understanding of God which few men attain but is greater than words or books. Even in Islam, the noble Ali (رضي الله عنه) said he could write 70 volumes on the Fatiha alone (7 verses of the introduction of the Qur’an). So much commentary and exegesis is possible by enlightened men. This speaks to religion and God being deeper than normally understood, even by priests and clerics. The Gita goes further:

Out of thousands among men,
Scarcely one may endeavor for perfection;
And of those who have achieved perfection,
Scarcely one knows Me in truth.

(Bhagvad Gita 7:3)

Lenin speaks of purifying the revolutionary soul, and restoring his vision of proper Marxist ideology “just as the Christians, after their religion had been given the status of a state religion, ‘forgot’ the ‘naivete’ of primitive Christianity with its democratic revolutionary spirit.” The call to sainthood is to abolish formal, institutional understanding of God, and to make it personal again.

The reason my thesis will never end

The reason my thesis will never end, on dharmic man and his implications:

“As Enneagram personality type Fives speculate and theorize, turning their ideas around in their minds, examining them from every angle, endlessly producing new interpretations, they lose the forest for the trees. With every new conjecture, they have no sense of certitude that their speculations are final: everything remains hanging in the air, in a cloud of possibilities. For example, the more they write the more complex the exposition becomes, until it is virtually incomprehensible. As brilliant as they may be, average Fives do not easily publish their ideas because they cannot bring them to a conclusion.” 

— Personality Types, by Riso & Hudson, p. 193 (Second Edition, 1996)

I’m working on a thesis how Marxism is connected to cosmic man.

Occupy story

The most exhilarating moment of my life was November 15, 2011, shortly before 6PM, when the police kicked us out of the park at 3AM, and we had been waiting since noon for the police to let us back in. A drum circle had opened up by the entrance on Liberty Street, and we were all dancing with our signs as the park was closed. We were on the perimeter of the sidewalk around the park. I held a sign which read “You cannot evict an idea”, attached to a copy of that day’s New York Times. Its front page was that of the eviction of Occupy Oakland, as our dispossession at Zuccotti Park happened late enough that night not to make the next day’s paper.

But here we were, adamant and assured we would be given our park back by the courts and the First Amendment. A police commander got on the megaphone and announced: “Attention, everyone. I’m going to let you back in the park.” We felt there was a “but” attached to that sentence, so we waited before we interrupted.

But the speaker curiously held the pause, insisting we could have our moment.

The crowd roared. I have never cheered so hard in my life. The mayor and police commissoner said we couldn’t have our park, but before dusk, we proved we could.

The speaker went on to say no sleeping bags or tents, and that put an end to our sleepover occupation and our movement hasn’t been the same since; but that moment of joy is unrivalled in my life and few people will ever know anything like it.

Guidance from a Master on Ablution

Upon opening the Irshad for the first time, I ran into this excerpt on purification of the Self before prayer.

“External ablution is purification from physical defilement. It is good order and rectitude. Inner cleanliness, however, means purifying the heart of vanity, arrogance, hypocrisy, envy, irascibility, worldly ambition, greed and lust, as well as unlawful appetites, thoughts and words. It means not letting into the heart anything other than love of God and the Messenger. If you possess this fine character, you need fear no punishment from Allah.”

— p. 172, Sheikh Efendi (رحمت الله عليه), Irshad

The Doctrine of Pre-Creation

The doctrine of pre-Creation is not discussed in mainstream religion, but I believe it is something found in all religions (which further speaks to a universal religion founded in mysticism, or perhaps mysticism is founded in a universal humanism, who knows). One of my favorite traditions on it comes from a Sufi Master:

Four thousand years before God created these bodies, he created the souls and kept them beside Himself and shed a light upon them. He knew what quantity each soul received and he showed favor to each in proportion to its illumination. The souls remain all that time in light until they became fully nourished. Those who in this world live in joy and agreement with one another must have been akin to one another in that place. Here they are called the friends of God and they are brothers who love one another for God’s sake. These souls know one another by smell, like horses.

(Abu Sa’id Ibn Abi-l-Khayr رحمت الله عليه)

Orthodox Judaism maintains that we chose our parents in heaven before we came here. Christianity holds that Jesus (عليه السلام‎) was the First Creation, Islamic mysticism ascribes the identical honor to Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم). None of this is taught in Sunday school, or your respective equivalent.

I pointed out to my orthodox Jewish friends (projecting my insecurity that pre-Creation is incompatible with monotheism) that pre-Creation is not discussed in the Torah, and hence its validity is questionable. They replied that many legitimate doctrines are not found in Torah.

Islam maintains the Platonic theory of forms– which pre-Creation is obviously a parallel of– mystics cite the following  Qur’an verse to tout Platonism, “abundant treasures” here refers to “idealized forms”:

The doctrine of Plato (عليه السلام‎) is the beginning and end of all mysticism. He was the original Master, Socrates (عليه السلام‎) rather. The world was form, ideal before it became concrete, matter. (Most people do not even know the difference between a concrete and a form, that is how lost popular culture is.)

The doctrine of pre-Creation supposes all our souls know intimacy with God before this life. Our essence comes to formation.

I was in the Sufi mosque last night, and we read aloud the Irshad, the voluminous guidance of the founder of our order, the noble Sheikh Muzzafer Ashki Efendi (عليه السلام‎). Inside was a doctrine of pre-Creation that I felt blessed to hear.

The first creation was the light of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and God moulded it into the shape of a peacock. The light was created from God’s own light. God then pours the light into a lamp, which converts it and houses the bodily form of the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم). All souls are made to look upon the prophetic form (his body), and from where they first look, their destinies are written.

Those who looked at his brow became the saints, those who soles became the wanderers. (I fell in love with a wanderer once, his station was greater than any landed or learned saint, he is my hidden and faraway friend.) Those who sight first fell upon his nose became doctors. Those who first looked at his right hand became bankers (!), those his left became butlers. My memory fails me beyond this point, but the point about the wanderers really spoke to me.

At the level of reality that is mysticism, life is more dramatic than any theatrical play or opera. Talking to a woman becomes an inspiring experience, life-changing even. After the dhikr ceremony, I left early only to run into the woman who had read aloud the preceding passage on pre-Creation by Sheikh Muzaffer Efendi (رحمت الله عليه). I told her I loved her reading, it was so clear and illuminating. I didn’t want to tell her for fear she’d think I was exaggerating, but it sounded like a Master giving a sermon or exposition. She told me my intuition was correct, she was a dervish (initiate) of Sheikh Muzaffer Efendi (رحمت الله عليه), and she was channeling him during the reading, mimicking his voice and style of delivery. She had her Master’s fire in her eyes, she was in her 70’s pushing 80 years, but in the cloak and fine embroidery of a spiritual tradition that predates the 1950s. She spoke of her Master as a man who *was love, and when he was with you in the room, despite the presence of all the other people in room, she felt as if she were the only one. (I told her Krishna accomplished the same feat with his cowherd girls — He is said to have danced with a thousand of them and they all felt as though his attention was exclusively on them.)

I was beholden to see a woman entranced by her Master. I told her men like that never die.