Columbus discovered America, just as Bruno de Heceta discovered the mouth of the Columbia in 1775. Unfortunately, de Heceta didn't realize the river was called the Columbia because Captain Robert Gray hadn't named it yet (as an homage to his ship the Columbia which was named in honor of Columbus). No wonder indigenous Americans figured Europeans were nuts.
Immigration policy is now a lightning rod for the European descendants of past discoverers, now Americans, who fear the tired and poor with Spanish surnames (sorry, de Heceta). In California on Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Dream Act which will permit illegal-immigrant students to receive state financial aid to attend public colleges such as Berkeley and UCLA. As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, "About 100 undocumented students are enrolled at Berkeley, and about 800 across the UC system, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said, adding that many such students are brought to this country as children 'and didn't do anything illegal themselves.'" In addition, the effort promotes a process of legal assimilation. "Despite their lack of legal paperwork, the students won't be hiding in the shadows. Already, such students are required to sign an affidavit saying they are in the process of requesting legal status if they want to pay the lower in-state tuition rate at public universities."
Do the "Occupy Wall Street" masses have a Thomas Paine? Yes, in fact, his name is Kalle Lasn, the founder and editor of Vancouver's Adbusters magazine. As Sam Eifling of The Tyee writes, "When Vancouver-based Adbusters presented the idea to the world, it did so in the form of a poster that featured a dancer posed on the shoulders of the Wall Street bull statue, a foggy clamour of demonstrators behind her. The poster asked the question, 'What is our one demand?' Activist groups seized on it, as did the hacktivist group Anonymous, and a collective began to form. The arrests of 700 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 1 pushed the event to the fore of media coverage."
What is fascinating is the intersection of the promise of the Arab Spring and Lasn's unconventional "culture jammer" MO. The confluence, coupled with the malaise of the Great Recession, ignited a protest movement that has spread from Wall Street to Seattle and Portland. The Tyee's interview with Lasn is definitely worth a gander.
Chances are protesters at Westlake are not discussing the impetus of Lasn and the Arab Spring. So, what are they talking about? The locavore movement and the political ascendance of bike riders? The Seattle Times Danny Westneat imagines a series of exchanges: "PROTESTER 1: End the unholy government-corporate alliance! PROTESTER 2: Tax the Man! PROTESTER 1 (weary, sitting on a curb): You know, I gotta confess something. This protest is getting kind of confusing." Inspired satire stings while transmitting a broader political message. As Crosscut's Knute Berger writes, these catchall protests risk becoming pointless noise. Think Tom Wolfe's radical chic (and consider Howard Schultz's tacit support).
Progressives once rallied in support of (temporarily) winning campaigns such as Prohibition. As Jordan Schrader of the Tacoma News Tribune writes, the latest liquor privatization effort stands on the shoulders of the state's post-Prohibition monolith. Schrader notes that, "aside from privatization, Initiative 1183 puts under the microscope the byzantine regulations that govern alcohol sales across the country. Rules that replaced Prohibition set up a three-tier system, separating manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and retailers." One vexing problem is that the initiative pits Costco against business groups such as the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. It's the big guys versus the big guys. Which way will "Occupy Seattle" protesters vote if they end up siding with the Man either way?
Lastly, another trenchant read on the legacy of Steve Jobs, this time by Ross Douthat of the New York Times (hat tip to Knute Berger). In many ways, Jobs was a counterpoint to America's "experiment in ugliness" that began in the early 1960s. Douthat writes, "When we think about what Jobs meant to turn-of-the-millennium America, this is the place to start: not just with the technical wizardry behind Macs and iPhones and iPads, but with the Apple founder’s eye for grace and style, and his recognition of the deep connection between beauty and civilization." Amen.
San Francisco Chronicle, "Jerry Brown signs Dream Act for illegal immigrants"
Seattle Times,"Trying hard to protest the Man"
Tacoma News Tribune, "State's liquor-privatization showdown pits big business vis. big business"
New York Times, "Up from ugliness"