By Peter Fegan
October 23, 2011
As I wrote a while back, grassroots movements are nothing new in American politics. From the Civil Rights movement to the counter-culture movement, all have two things in common: a genuine bone to pick with the established order and a lack of resources with which to sustain the momentum of the cause.
“It is that way with virtually all movements, regardless of ideology. Grand ideas that lead to a rush of enthusiasm that inevitably peter out on their own like a dying dwarf star from a lack of fuel, that is when they’re not being subverted and bought out. Find a cause or movement that hasn’t collapsed of its own weight and you will find a very large stash of Benjamin Franklins bankrolling it.”
The Tea Party movement is an abject lesson in how to subvert a genuinely grassroots cause and turn a nation upside down in the process. Voter angst over how the nation was being run became a national phenomenon, thanks to an awful lot of Benjamin Franklins being thrown around. The efforts – not to mention deep pockets – of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey’s Freedom Works acted like miracle grow to the simmering tensions that existed deep within a restless electorate. The result was a movement that long ago outgrew any semblance of grassroots identity. It has now become, for all intents and purposes, the driving force of the Republican Party and now dominates the political landscape of the nation.
Despite claims to the contrary, the Right knew full well that the Frankenstein monster they had created was as genuine as a Canadian dollar at a flea-market. But after getting their proverbial butts kicked in two consecutive elections, they took advantage of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and capitalized on an inept and disorganized Democratic Party to write the fairytale of all narratives. It was a brilliant and highly successful strategy that now has them twelve months away from taking both the White House and Senate.
But there was one problem with their master scheme. While peddling their drivel to a gullible electorate, they were never quite able to seize upon a genuine populist theme that could thrive without the aid of all those millions of corporate dollars. Without Fox News and most of the A.M. dial to constantly stir up the pot, the fledgling Astroturf movement would’ve faded months ago, and they know that full well.
From Waging Non-Violence:
by Jake Olzen
October 27, 2011
The Occupy movement is under attack. It is facing aggressive police action in cities all over the country while arrests continue over the enforcement of mundane laws that prevent the establishment of permanent encampments. Police attacked Occupy Oakland with rubber bullets and tear gas in the wee hours of Tuesday morning; there were at least a hundred arrests. 130 activists with Occupy Chicago were arrested on Saturday during their second attempt at setting up a camp in Grant Park. Atlanta’s Mayor, Kasim Reed, conducting what appears to have been negotiations in bad faith, ordered Occupy Atlanta cleared of Warren Park last night; 52 were arrested. Occupy Orlando has repeatedly been harassed by changing city policy regarding their camp in Senator Elizabeth Johnson Park, forcing them to vacate the park and their belongings between 11pm and 6am. The Occupy movement may not have it easy right now, but they are being noticed!
The course of social change has often been boiled down to poetic mantras-of-sorts. Utah Phillips and the Wobblies—paraphrasing Joe Hill—were found of saying “Don’t Mourn. Organize!” Margaret Mead made it onto the backs of college service trip t-shirts: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I repeated to a college class last night a quote about nonviolent social change that I remember a teacher telling me: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” The quote, often attributed to Gandhi, most likely originated with the trade unionist Nicholas Klein, of the Amalgamated Clothing Works of America at their Third Biennial Convention in 1918. As is often the case with such misattributions (including the Mead quote), savvy organizers and activists still recognize the grain of truth such folkloric wisdom has had over the decades; Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement are no different.
First, Occupy Wall Street was ignored. The call from Adbusters in July 2011 for 20,000 people to camp out in Wall Street was barely noticed by the mainstream media—if at all. Waging Nonviolence editor Nathan Schneider was one of the few journalists dedicated to reporting on the burgeoning movement, but it wasn’t until well after September 17—the first day of the occupation—that people outside the progressive newswire took notice. Then, Occupy Wall Street was laughed at. The usual suspects dished out the usual slander—including The Daily Show—casting the movement in any number of simplistic, idealistic, and dismissive ways. Whether for entertainment reasons or to discredit its legitimacy, making fun of Occupy Wall Street is good business for the mainstream media.
Now, Occupy Wall Street is being violently resisted. And expect more of it to come, especially if folks keep at it as they try to assert their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble. Before demands come, before protracted struggles and campaigns over specific political, economic or environmental policies begin, before the Occupy movement succeeds in turning the tide of the corporate state back toward communities and the common good, it needs a home. A place to put down roots and grow the movement. A place to reclaim the commons – and not just in theory but in actual, physically-manifested ways that say: “Hey, we are here to stay. No more business and politics as usual. Now it’s our turn to have self-determination and self-governance. Let the General Assembly begin (spirit fingers up in the air)!”
As I wrote in my article #OccupyWallStreet: We Make the Road by Walking, this movement is about a new way of being:
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/25/occupy-movement-tahrir-square-cairo
In many ways we in Egypt are part of the same struggle, and we are watching in solidarity. Keep going, don’t stop, occupy more
Comrades from Cairo
Guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 October 2011
To all those across the world currently occupying parks, squares and other spaces, your comrades in Cairo are watching you in solidarity. Having received so much advice from you about transitioning to democracy, we thought it’s our turn to pass on some advice.
Indeed, we are now in many ways involved in the same struggle. What most pundits call “the Arab spring” has its roots in the demonstrations, riots, strikes and occupations taking place all around the world, its foundations lie in years-long struggles by people and popular movements. The moment that we find ourselves in is nothing new, as we in Egypt and others have been fighting against systems of repression, disenfranchisement and the unchecked ravages of global capitalism (yes, we said it, capitalism): a system that has made a world that is dangerous and cruel to its inhabitants. As the interests of government increasingly cater to the interests and comforts of private, transnational capital, our cities and homes have become progressively more abstract and violent places, subject to the casual ravages of the next economic development or urban renewal scheme.
An entire generation across the globe has grown up realising, rationally and emotionally, that we have no future in the current order of things. Living under structural adjustment policies and the supposed expertise of international organisations like the World Bank and IMF, we watched as our resources, industries and public services were sold off and dismantled as the “free market” pushed an addiction to foreign goods, to foreign food even. The profits and benefits of those freed markets went elsewhere, while Egypt and other countries in the south found their immiseration reinforced by a massive increase in police repression and torture.
The current crisis in America and western Europe has begun to bring this reality home to you as well: that as things stand we will all work ourselves raw, our backs broken by personal debt and public austerity. Not content with carving out the remnants of the public sphere and the welfare state, capitalism and the austerity state now even attack the private realm and people’s right to decent dwelling as thousands of foreclosed-upon homeowners find themselves both homeless and indebted to the banks who have forced them on to the streets.
From The Center for Economic and Policy Research: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/the-military-spending-fairy
Written by Dean Baker
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Faced with the prospect of cuts to the Defense Department’s budget, the defense industry is pushing the story of the military spending fairy on members of Congress. They are telling them that these cuts will lead to the loss of more than 1 million jobs over the next decade.
Believers in the military spending fairy say things like “the government can’t create jobs,” but also think that military spending creates jobs. Under the military spending fairy story, if the government spends $1 billion dollars paying people to do research or to build items related to the civilian economy it is just a drag on the private economy; however if the same spending goes to military related purposes, then it creates jobs.
It’s not clear exactly how the military fairy blesses projects to make them helpful to the economy rather than harmful. For example, the highways were built in the 50s ostensibly in part for defense purposes. They made it easier to move troops and military equipment around the country in the event of an attack. Government subsidized student loans were also originally dubbed as defense loans since they were ostensibly intended in part to produce more graduates in science and engineering who could help us compete with the Soviet Union in defense related technologies.
Using this same logic, perhaps President Obama could get the military spending fairy to bless some of his stimulus spending so that it will be economically useful. He could again call student loans “defense loans.” He could also have the research into clean energy technologies be viewed as providing alternative sources for energy for the military in the event we are cut off from oil imports in a war. (It makes as much sense as the highway story.) Then the military spending fairy can bless the stimulus as creating jobs.
For people who don’t believe in the military spending fairy, the story is simple. During a downturn where there are lots of unemployed workers, any government spending will create jobs, regardless of whether or not it is on the military. In fact, military spending is likely to create fewer jobs than spending in most other areas (e.g. education, health care, conservation) because it is more capital intensive.
Continue reading at: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/the-military-spending-fairy
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/27-7
The question confronting the Occupy Wall Street encampments and their offshoots in scores of cities and towns around the country is quo vadis? Where is it going?
This decentralized, leaderless civic initiative has attracted the persistent attention of the mass media in the past five weeks. Television cameras from all over the world are parked down at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, two blocks from Wall Street.
But the mass media is a hungry beast. It needs to be fed regularly. Apart from the daily pressures of making sure the encampments are clean, that food and shelter are available, that relations with the police are quiet, that provocateurs are identified; the campers must anticipate possible police crackdowns, such as that which has just occurred in Oakland, and find ways to rebound.
There are enough national polls showing broader support for the Occupy people than for the Tea Party people. Additional communities are installing their own Occupy sites right down to small towns like Niles, Michigan (pop. 12,000) and Bethel, Alaska where Diane McEachern is occupying the tundra. But, there is trouble ahead.
First, police departments in other cities will be observing the nature and reaction of mass arrests in places like Denver, Chicago and Atlanta. The plutocrats’ first response is always to push police power against the people. The recidivist violations of the ruling class are rarely pursued, yet the rumbles of the lower class are often stifled. With the onset of colder weather and looming police pressure, the protestors need new venues for their demonstrations
Activists need to vary their tactics. I suggest citizens surround the local offices of their Senators and Representatives. The number of Americans fed up with a gridlocked Congress, beset by craven or cowardly, both marinated in corporate campaign cash, can motivate an endless pool of activists who want their voices to be heard.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/10/27-7
Despite the police’s inept, violent crowd control tactics, a number of protesters said they were steadfast in their goal of reclaiming the space.
By Joshua Holland
October 27, 2011
Editor’s note: after this article was published, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan released a statement in which she promised “a minimal police presence at the plaza for the short term,” and “a community effort to improve communications and dialogue with the demonstrators.” Quan also said the city would investigate certain acts of police violence on October 25. You can read the full statement here.
Occupy Oakland has been the target of a notably vicious smear campaign mounted by the conservative media. They didn’t just offer the usual pabulum about how the occupiers hated America or were closet socialists. They painted them as sub-human: mired in filth and gripped by violent anarchy. One right-wing blogger wrote a post amplifying an un-named police officer’s comparison of the camp to “The Lord of the Flies.” Hundreds of others then ran with the meme. The campaign’s racist and classist undertones were none too subtle.
When I first visited the camp on October 22, I found a very different scene. About 150 tents made up a small, self-sufficient community in Frank Ogawa Plaza, located steps away from City Hall. The kernel of truth behind the smears was that it was located in downtown Oakland, a city with some serious problems and a long history of distrust between the community and a police department tasked with serving and protecting it.
“We don’t exclude the people at the margins,” one occupier told me. “We invite them in and feed them.” That may be doing God’s work, but it’s also provided rich fodder for the Lord of the Flies narrative. In one incident, a homeless man who reportedly had a history of mental illness assaulted several of the protesters. They ejected him from the camp, but didn’t involve local police. In other instances, people at the camp insulted, and in one instance reportedly threatened reporters. All of these incidents were the focus of intense media coverage.
The other kernel of truth is the simple fact that camping outdoors for three weeks is always a somewhat messy business.
By Rick Bell
October 26, 2011
They’re supposed to be going. They aren’t going. The city prays for a cold snap.
Thursday is the day the squatters at Olympic Plaza are scheduled to take a hike.
They will have camped out for two weeks at the plaza this Saturday. The number of tents has grown. They’re staying put.
As of now, all the city can manage to say is they’re “asking politely” for the campers to scram. They won’t.
There is a Muslim group renting the plaza Saturday and it’s said the occupiers without a permit and no chance of ever getting a permit will only move their tents to the northwest section of the plaza grounds.
When the Muslims leave, they will reoccupy the whole piece of ground again.
The squatters are expected to still be at the plaza Oct. 31 on Food Truck Day. Nov. 2 is the Animation Festival’s turn and by then the occupation of the plaza will look like a very bad cartoon.
The city legal brains believe the city is hooped by the law.
If the city is challenged in court under the Charter of Rights they will have to prove irreparable harm is being done by the tenters and they won’t bet a judge will see it their way.
Yesterday Bil Browning, who I generally respect, got down in the gutter and engaged in some seriously offensive transsexual bashing by attacking and smearing a young post-transsexual activist, Ashley Love.
The post: “OWS: Ashley Love Strikes Again” was a snotty gay male hate piece that caused me to wonder what the fuck got into him.
This is especially true as I am friends with two women of transsexual history who are regular contributors to Bilerico Blog.
I have a hard time imagining that either Jillian Weiss or Mercedes Allen would find being spoken of in such an utterly derogatory and misogynistic manner to be acceptable.
I have long thought that Bilerico was accepting of Transgender/Transsexual (who are transgender identified) People only if they let themselves be be used by and were satisfied with being members of the transgender ghetto. A position where gay men and radfem lesbians can objectify them.
As long as transgender folks are willing to be objectified and play the role of gender outlaw/sexual outlaws, the way Toby Meyer did in a recent piece. Or perform in shows where people can be amused with how accurately we can “impersonate” women then we are welcomed and lauded by gay men.
As long as we are willing to be the super freaks while they get to be almost straight with their well paid jobs and secure lives then transgender folks are welcome to be the “T” at the end of the alphabet soup string of initials.
Ashley and I share something with a lot of other post-transsexual people.
We reject to objectification and freakification of being transgender identified.
We don’t want to be the nice little transgenders who accept being insulted by the likes of powerful media gay male voices, who aren’t chastised for saying we are part of the gay male community based on the relationship drag queens have with that community.
Tell me, Bil, why should a post-transsexual woman like Ashley remain silent while some one like Don Lemon insults women of a transsexual history?
Perhaps what Bil Browning sees as offensive interrupting on the part of Ashley grows out of sexism, of the sort that is so prevalent in certain segments of the male gay community, the same sort of sexism that drove lesbians in to separatism during the mid-1970s. Or is offensive that she is contradicting a gay male media star?
Here are two video clips from the encounter at the NAACP.
Could it possibly be that what Bil finds so offensive about Ashley is that she doesn’t stay in her place and mouth the true Transgender Borg/Transgender Inc party line?
As for the Drum Circles:
There are differences of opinion. There always have been. One of the elements of participatory democracy and consensus leadership is that people get their say.
What some people have done to Ashley is try to use her medical history to discredit her. That is as unacceptable as labeling an out spoken black woman a “disruptive mouthy n-word, who doesn’t know her place.” Using her medical history is as unacceptable as racism.
By Josh Harkinson
Fri Oct. 21, 2011
“I was 100 feet from where 4,000 people were killed. Okay? That’s what’s missing here. You are a half a block from Ground Zero. You are not occupying Wall Street—you are occupying Zuccotti Park in my backyard. And you are drumming at all kinds of crazy hours. When is it going to end?”
So said an emotional neighbor of Occupy Wall Street at a contentious, two-hour meeting last night of the Quality of Life Committee of the Manhattan Community Board 1, the city body that deals with neighborhood issues near Wall Street. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer had kicked things off with the admission that “tensions have been growing between protesters and residents.” And as the meeting dragged on, that seemed like an understatement.
“I am an occupier, I am a drummer, and, despite what they say, I am also a human being,” said Ashley Love, a young member of the OWS People of Color Working Group, who’d tried to organize a protest march against the meeting. “It’s primarily a commercial area; not too many people live there,” she went on, to an uproar of boos and hollers. “The majority of the drummers are people of color with low-income or no-income backgrounds, and Wall Street was built by slaves when they brought the Africans over here. The council people back then prohibited drumming because it was a way of protesting. It was a way of communication. And I just think you guys are scapegoating us.”
By Danny Goldberg
October 25, 2011
Progressives and mainstream Democratic pundits disagree with each other about many issues at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street protests, but with few exceptions they are joined in their contempt for drum circles, free hugs, and other behavior in Zuccotti Park that smacks of hippie culture.
In a post for the Daily Beast Michelle Goldberg lamented, “Drum circles and clusters of earnest incense-burning meditators ensure that stereotypes about the hippie left remain alive.” AtEsquire, Charles Pierce worried that few could “see past all the dreadlocks and hear…over the drum circles.” Michael Smerconish asked on the MSNBC show Hardball if middle Americans “in their Barcalounger” could relate to drum circles. The New Republic’s Alex Klein chimed in, “In the course of my Friday afternoon occupation, I saw two drum circles, four dogs, two saxophones, three babies….Wall Street survived.” And the host of MSNBC’s Up, Chris Hayes (editor at large of the Nation), recently reassured his guests Naomi Klein and Van Jones that although he supported the political agenda of the protest he wasn’t going to “beat the drum” or “give you a free hug,” to knowing laughter.
Yet it is precisely the mystical utopian energy that most professional progressives so smugly dismiss that has aroused a salient, mass political consciousness on economic issues—something that had eluded even the most lucid progressives in the Obama era.
Since the mythology of the 1960s hangs over so much of the analysis of the Wall Street protests, it’s worth reviewing what actually happened then. Media legend lumps sixties radicals and hippies together, but from the very beginning most leaders on the left looked at the hippie culture as, at best, a distraction and, at worst, a saboteur of pragmatic progressive politics. Hippies saw most radicals as delusional and often dangerously angry control freaks. Bad vibes.
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/vision/152863/don%27t_diss_the_drum_circles%3A_why_hippie_culture_is_still_important_to_our_protests/
Much of Browning’s attack seems aimed at seeking the approval of the Transgender Borg who have attacked Ashley in the same way that they attack all post-transsexual women who refuse to suck up to their narrow minded set of identity politics and bizarre word games.
It is rather bitchy to use Ashley’s involvement in Occupy Wall Street to attack her. Just as it is wrong to use her medical history.
Would it be more acceptable if she were spending her time at a transgender Conference mouthing the Transgender party line?
From Socialist Worker: http://socialistworker.org/2011/10/26/how-the-1-percent-rules
Lance Selfa, author of The Democrats: A Critical History explains how the 1 percent has rigged the supposedly democratic political system so they’re always the winners.
October 26, 2011
THE OCCUPY movement’s most powerful unifying factor has been its clear and simple identification of the key problem in American society: the divide between the vast majority of the population–the 99 percent–and the richest and most powerful 1 percent.
This 99 percent/1 percent formulation isn’t just a statement about income inequality in the U.S. today. It’s also an acknowledgement that the 1 percent largely controls the government and is therefore able to rig laws, taxes and regulations in its favor.
If you look at opinion polls on questions like taxing the rich, regulating Wall Street, spending money on jobs, prioritizing economic growth over cutting the deficit or preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare, you’ll find popular, often lopsided, majorities opposed to austerity and in favor of “redistributionist” policies.
Yet the dysfunctional government seems incapable–and not even much interested–in doing much of anything to meet these popular demands. By contrast, Congress acted with tremendous speed–and with little regard for the deficit–to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars for the banks and other corporations when the financial crisis struck in 2008.
In theory, we’re all equal at the ballot box, and so popular majorities should be able to force politicians to address their concerns. But the Occupy movement has caught fire because millions of Americans realize that the way Washington works in reality bears no resemblance to the political science textbook explanations.
So how does the 1 percent get away with it?
Continue reading at: http://socialistworker.org/2011/10/26/how-the-1-percent-rules