Posts Tagged ‘OWS. Occupy Wall Street’
The Year 2011: Populist Revolts, Troop Withdrawal, Economic Woes, and Human Rights
by Ralph Scharnau
The year 2011 will be remembered as one of popular uprisings. Time magazine, in fact, made the protester its person of the year.
Millions of people took to the streets, protesting against dictatorial leaders, widespread corruption, and economic elitism. The mass demonstrations began in Tunisia in January and spread through North Africa and the Middle East, Europe, and other parts of the world.
In Egypt, an 18-day revolt of youthful protestors drove Hosni Mubarak from power, prevailing despite heavily armed riot police, a ruling party militia, and the state’s powerful propaganda machine. Mubarak resigned in February after 30 years of iron fisted rule, and Egyptians now face the task of building a new political order.
President Obama signed a secret order authorizing the U.S. to join a coalition of NATO members and some Arab states in conducting air strikes in support of rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan strongman, Muammar Gaddafi. After nine months of warfare, the rebels gained more and more territory and on October 20 captured and killed Gaddafi, ending his repressive 42-year-old regime.
On May 1 news arrived that a U.S. Navy Seal Team penetrated Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and killed him. After ten years of detective work, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11 and the international face of terrorism, was finally tracked down.
Less than a month ago, the U.S. formally ended its misguided military mission in Iraq. The war costs totaled about $825 billion, lasted nearly nine years, and resulted in nearly 4,500 American deaths and tens of thousands Iraqi deaths.
Protest burst upon the American scene in the September uprising that began in New York City and took the name Occupy Wall Street. The movement spread across the country, focusing attention on economic inequality, corporate greed, and political corruption.
The OWS movement plays out against the background of a nation in the throes of economic doldrums. While there has been a little uptick in economic activity and the official unemployment rate fell from 9.1% to 8.6%, millions of Americans remain battered by joblessness, housing foreclosures, and benefit reductions.
The political division in Washington complicates recovery efforts. Republican politicians demand cuts in domestic programs, regulations, and taxes for the rich. Democrats try to increase employment, protect entitlement programs, and eliminate tax subsidies for oil companies. The partisan divide more than once reached the point where fiscal issue differences nearly shut down the federal government.
In the spring, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and a Republican-controlled legislature pushed through a law stripping public unions of their bargaining rights. Two of the state senators who backed the law lost their seats to Democrats in early August recall elections. Now a petition drive is underway that seems certain to secure enough signatures to force a recall election of Governor Walker.
In March, Ohio Governor John R. Kasich and his fellow Republican state legislators passed a Wisconsin-like bill to curb collective bargaining rights of public employees. In November, however, Ohio voters struck down the law by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.
Finally, two historic events advanced the nation’s commitment to human rights. Repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” became official in September. This allows military service members to publicly reveal their sexual orientation without fear of reprisal. And in early December President Obama issued a memorandum directing all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect human rights of LGBT persons.
Fueled by gloomy economic times in many parts of the world, popular activism reached global dimensions in 2011. The protesters may well have garnered enough public support to begin the process of creating real freedom and true democracy.
December 20, 2011
It was a rainy afternoon for the first Occupy Iowa regional General Assembly. Around 100 occupiers gathered from various places across Iowa primarily to attend the action planned by Occupy Cedar Rapids protesting Air Cover Integrated Solutions possibly moving into the Cherry Building in Cedar Rapids, IA. The buildings owner welcomed us and our debate initially but seemed concerned with our presence. The confusing thing for everyone seemed to be that we just didn’t think that a building, currently the home to many small artist and craft shops, would be a good place to kick off the militarization of our domestic skies here in Iowa.
While we were speaking with the buildings owner, he mentioned that people couldn’t get through so we parted for the patrons which were coming and going as one might expect, it being an open house after all. We conversed for about 20 minutes with the owner and asked him to please not allow the drone facility to become part of his building.
After the mic check on Air Cover and our brief debate the police announced that we needed to move to the north side of the street which we did. While we were there for the next 35 minutes or so we saw the bus come by and drop some patrons off, some of the people riding the bus gave us the thumbs up.
You might argue with us about OWS methods, the confusion of protesting a building full of artists, or the edginess of the direct action in a normally fairly quiet Iowa town. But what you can’t ague with is that people are now talking about this in Cedar Rapids. In that, I would say the action was wildly successful.
Afterward I spoke with a young couple, occupiers that had come from Cedar Valley. Since they’d travelled far and also love small local businesses and are dedicated to shopping with small mom and pop shops at home, they naturally went over to the Cherry Building once things had settled down. Unfortunately they were not well received and ended up leaving because of the rudeness of one of the shop owners.
Another local business supporter who posted on Facebook said that they had in fact purchased something from the very shop owner who was telling us that we were hurting her business. and that she really liked the item, a hand painted and reclaimed piece of furniture.
My take on it is this:
It might be that the owner of the Cherry Building sees more money in the militarization of our domestic skies than in arts and crafts. I get that. Really. But I just wonder how long before the art shops fail in this jobless recovery and the spaces are taken over one by one by the drone factory until the Cherry Building becomes entirely a facility beholden to the military industrial complex?
Certainly there are benign uses for this technology and for that it could be argued that it should be made available. But before we unleash this potentially total violation of privacy upon ourselves, shouldn’t we at least be asking these harder questions instead of talking only about what good they could do?
I believe that it is a lie that these drones represent good jobs. We should discuss how many emergency responder jobs will be displaced and the centralization of police power this represents and what that might look like going forward. Many of us suspect that it will actually reduce the number of emergency responder jobs (a common effect of centralization) and even reduce a community’s ability to properly scale up to respond to natural disasters and other catastrophic events such as a nuclear facility losing electricity. Drones aren’t going to do the real work. These drones are likely to have a high potential for abuse.
Or maybe we could talk about how hackable these eventually armed domestic spy drones will likely be? Or maybe we could talk about the broader implication of this military technology in the hands of police and whether or not the fear based political model is really what we want in our skies (or anyone else’s for that matter)?
Bottom line? Democracy is a messy process. But we should be happy that it is happening at all rather than wondering what was accomplished. What other way forward is there other than together? On our own? That is a the propaganda of the oligarchs.
Occupy Wall Street uses a decentralized methodology that is similar in pattern to open source development on the Internet and in software. We are as a group able to gain the benefit of the wisdom of people like Frank Cordaro, a Catholic Worker, who is certainly a leader but even he knows he’s just one among many as this is more accurately described as leaderful movement rather than leaderless. This is by far the smartest movement in that regards in human history. It’s radical in the sense that it really is of the roots. We are leaderless because anyone who has ever gotten in high office and was really serious about making lasting and positive change in our world on behalf of most of humanity has been killed. But you can’t arrest an idea as occupiers like to say.
While we were talking after the action, a single police officer stopped by to thank Occupiers for a very civil action on our part.
The perception in the mainstream media that Occupy doesn’t know what it wants or that we’re nothing more than the radical left reconstituted are all narratives of the 1% and of an entrenched neo-liberal approach to “change”. Unfortunately it is obvious to all of us within the Occupy movement that the system (whether it be from the “liberal” or “conservative” perspective) is broken so badly that we can’t continue pretending that acting within its constraints will get anything truly meaningful done. However, how this anti corporatism that resides at the core of the Occupy philosophy gets turned into action is to directly support small businesses rather than spending money at a corporate franchise which extracts wealth from our communities and returns the usual low paying jobs and substandard products.
70% of occupiers are employed. Many of us went over to the Cherry Building and patronized the artists after the action. Some of us even bought some things.
Crossposted at qcmississippimud.com/
Also see Paul Deaton’s Dec. 3rd post Occupy Iowa Statewide General Assembly
During a Saturday afternoon discussion with my mother and sister we ran the stack, using the Occupy Wall Street technique for managing the order of speakers. We each agreed tacitly to the process as reflected by the civil tone and lower than usual quantity of interruptions among family members. Now that we know about the technique, the novelty may have worn off, but in that moment, it worked.
We did not use the other hand signs, and my sister, who works at a branch of Wells Fargo in a financially stressed neighborhood, said her company was feeling no pain from the bank withdrawals. Part of her job is opening and closing accounts. When I told her of my plan to pay off our Wells Fargo mortgage after the first of the year, she indicated my action wouldn’t be a blip on their radar screen either. I understood the veracity of what she said.
During a soap box session at Occupy Iowa City, one speaker addressed us as to how he valued the service Wells Fargo provided by being a nationwide bank where he could have his payments direct deposited and then draw on them wherever he was in the country. In the end, people who don’t have much money can find value with the services of large banking institutions, and the Occupy Wall Street movement has failed to gain enough anti-bank support to have the Wall Street gang concerned about the drain of deposits. A telling story from my sister was that her first client to close an account to move money to a credit union, after Occupy Quad Cities began, ended with the question, “If I close my account, can I come back in two weeks?” People in the 99 percent need to keep their options open.
Friday night, I attended a meeting with Occupy Cedar Rapids that included a potluck dinner, a general assembly and a teach-in. I was there to listen and learn about Occupy Cedar Rapids, and to conduct a session on nuclear non-proliferation and how the current discussion about rebuilding our electricity generation and distribution system is an opportunity for a wealth transfer to the one percent. By this I mean that should Berkshire Hathaway choose to invest in a nuclear reactor in Iowa, because it is a regulated utility, return on investment would be set by the Iowa Utilities Board. There is a bill in the Iowa legislature today that would remove legal impediments to collecting a “full rate of return” for investors like Berkshire Hathaway. The deal could be worth billions in interest payments from people who use electricity and Warren Buffet, a member of the one percent, heads up Berkshire Hathaway. Hence, it would be a transfer of wealth from the 99 percent to the one percent through our utility bills.
What I observed during the general assembly was a long discussion about obtaining a “special event” permit for the occupation on a residential lot owned by the City of Cedar Rapids. An official from the city presented a letter to the general assembly that requested an application for the permit by the following Tuesday. Some members of the general assembly felt any decision on a permit application needed to be more inclusive than the members present Friday night, so the idea was “tabled.” The general assembly members apparently didn’t understand what tabling something means. Since people wanted to talk about it, and in a leaderless movement, there is no real authority to stop the discussion, it continued, and from my perspective, it was all good even if no action came from it.
Here is my point. The Occupy Wall Street movement seems more occupied with process than with substance in its early days. There have been demonstrations with substance, like shutting down the Port of Oakland, but not enough of them. It remains an open question whether Occupy Wall Street will create social change, or do much beyond becoming a fungible idea for media fodder and the derision of people Iowa City resident Paul Street recently called “vicious white upper middle-class Republico-fascists.” While many of us have hope for this movement, we are watching with interest to see if it survives the sub-zero temperatures of winter, and whether it can broaden support among a 99 percent who are more engaged in the struggle of living their lives.
~ Paul Deaton is a native Iowan who lives in rural Iowa.
I’ve always found the word co-opt confusing. And it turns out there’s a reason for that.
1 a : to choose or elect as a member b : to appoint as a colleague or assistant
2 a : to take into a group (as a faction, movement, or culture) : absorb, assimilate <the students are co–opted by a system they serve even in their struggle against it — A. C. Danto> b : take over, appropriate <co–opted by advertisers>
— co–op·ta·tion noun
— co–op·ta·tive adjective
— co–op·tion noun
— co–op·tive adjective
Origin of CO-OPT
Latin cooptare, from co- + optare to choose
First Known Use: 1651
Synonyms: absorb, assimilate, co-opt, incorporate, integrate
There is a conversation going on now about whether or not certain progressive activist groups and others, Democrats, unions, are attempting to co-opt the OWS movement. Some fear this in the sense of “co-opt” meaning “take over.” In conversations I’ve had, Moveon.org and Democracy for America have been mentioned. Unions and the Democratic party have been mentioned as well.
I’m not that cynical on this particular topic. If it seemed like these groups were co-opting the OWS movement, in the sense of taking it over, I would be opposed to that. And it makes sense for the movement to guard against it. But I think that what is happening now among the liberal, Democratic, and progressive groups and yes, some say even tea partiers, is an integration rather than a co-optation. We all see this movement as hope, and want to help it grow.
Moveon.org has more than paid its dues in keeping hope alive by being the first to go after George W. Bush and creating a resurgent progressive movement during those very dark years. Moveon sprang up out of nowhere, a small group of like-minded individuals online that was the start of a grassroots movement. I credit Moveon for making grassroots politics local through their house parties organizing tool. We held three house parties through Moveon who helped us connect to local progressives. We could not believe the people in our neighborhood who showed up. One party was to show a video about the truth about the war in Iraq, one was around Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit 911, and one was exposing the truth behind Fox News. We had a house full of people each time. I do not believe Moveon.org is attempting to co-opt the OWS movement now. They’ve always been about progressive change, and it makes sense that they want to support this movement.
About the same time as Moveon appeared on the scene, Howard Dean, founder of Democracy for America, came along and based his presidential campaign on speaking out against the war in Iraq, successfully organizing a progressive resurgence and giving Democrats a chance to become more progressive. He spoke out against the corporate media and said his first act as president would be to break up the media conglomerates. He urged every progressive and every young person to show up, get involved, take back their party, their communities, and their country. The Democratic establishment in Washington never liked Dean for his independent ways. They participated in his demise. They seem to have ostracized him now. But Democrats at the state level loved him and fought for him to be party chair because he knew as they did that change needs to happen at the grassroots and local level.
Liberals and progressives who have been trying for years, decades in their own way, to affect the system, are gratefully signing onto this movement. I do not believe this means they are trying to take it over. On the contrary, I think they are trying to nurture and support it. I think it is possible for everyone to own this movement and work together, from tea party activists to unions to soldiers to elected officials to students and retirees, Democrats, liberals, everyone – well almost everyone – that’s why it’s called the 99%.
If the Occupy Wall Street movement belongs to any one group, I feel it belongs to the young. This peaceful, democratic youthful movement is rightfully rebelling against a system that needs a complete remodel, because whatever we have been doing hasn’t been working. They are rejecting cynicism as they envision and demand a better country, a better world, a better system of justice.
They are attempting to take their country back and we should all do whatever we can to support them. And we should not ask this movement to compromise or be less than what it is.
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As the Iowa component of “Occupy Wall Street” grows, people ask me, “What’s the point of physically occupying a public park, and how long will Occupy Iowa protesters actually camp out?”
As I see it (and this is my view, not an official position), millions of Americans nationwide have chosen to occupy our public spaces because a handful of big corporations now occupy our government. How long will we stay? One sign I’ve seen nails it: “We’ll Occupy Wall Street Until Wall Street No Longer Occupies Congress.”
Our physical, round-the-clock presence is essential to the strength and identify of this movement. Camping is more than symbolic. It builds resolve. Detractors need to know we’re serious. Others need to be inspired to join us. The tents, the signs, the constant flow of people from all walks of life, even the porta-potties remind people that we are present, determined and not going away anytime soon.
Sleeping in a cold tent beside two noisy roads under bright street lights isn’t camping for fun. It’s camping that requires commitment, endurance and sacrifice. It’s camping to change the heart, mind and behavior of America’s power elite. It’s camping to further mobilize the 99% of Americans who are being sold-out, even as the wealthiest 1% pocket billions from bailouts.
Come join the occupation. Activities are happening across Iowa. In Des Moines, attend the daily General Assembly at 6:00 pm in Stewart Square, E. 14th and Grand. This Wednesday, come to the Polk County Courthouse at 11:00 am to support those of us arrested on October 9th. A large crowd of supporters would mean a lot to me, personally, and to the others appearing in court that day at 1:00.
This week on the Fallon Forum, Monday we’ll talk with Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institue about efforts to stop corporate ag interests from building mega farms in Africa. We’ll also talk with Andrew Rasmussen about Governor Branstad’s recently released education proposal.
Tuesday, Admiral Dennis McGinn talks about the confluence of clean energy and the US military.
Wednesday, Bob Mionske, an Oregon attorney, discusses Idaho’s bike law allowing cyclists to regard stop signs as yield signs. Also, Ying Sa with Community CPA talks about the upcoming Immigrant Entrepreneur Summit.
Thursday, we get the pro side of the nuclear power issue from Chuck Conlen, director of strategy, mergers and acquisitions for DTE Energy.
As long as you’re out there, OWS, why not throw corporate media into the mix? As soon as you’re done with Wells Fargo and Bank of America, why not head over to General Electric, Walt Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom, CBS, or Sinclair Broadcasting?
Occupy DSM, why not spend a day at WHO Radio, owned by Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations in the United States (894) and offering everyone in central Iowa an all-day-every-day schedule of corporate right-wing-speak whether anyone likes it or not.
Occupy Iowa City, KXIC is also owned by Clear Channel, and still broadcasts Sean Hannity against the wishes of the largely liberal local audience in the people’s republic of Johnson County.
Occupy Cedar Rapids, KGAN is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, largest owner of local TV stations, with an aim to turn elections for Republicans in swing states. They buy up the station, lay off as many staff as possible to maximize profits and then it’s in effect, good-bye to local investigative reporting.
Well, I may just have to get down to an Occupy group and get my name on the stack to speak.
The corporate media is just as responsible for the fix we’re in now as the banks (coincidence? NOT…). They are the ones who cover up the dastardly deeds with lies and American Idol. They’re the ones who play along with the political candidates’ games. They are the ones that demolished news divisions by putting them under the umbrella of the entertainment divisions. The News is gone and in its place is “reality” TV. The irony is painful.
Did you know that political ads are broadcasters’ largest source of income and the #1 lobby that opposes campaign finance reform in the U.S. is the National Association of Broadcasters?
But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Ronald Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine. Control over the mass media has been part of the GOP strategy since the 1970′s.
Did you know that our own Senator Grassley actively fought against the return of the “Fairness Doctrine” after Obama took office, that would re-set a standard of fairness in news reporting of controversial issues? Yes, Grassley even wrote a letter to the new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying that in addition to the idea that there should be no Fairness Doctrine, the FCC should not consider any policy that would “accomplish the same goals.” See, President Obama wanted an increased emphasis on localism in media. Makes perfect sense. But this would also not be tolerated by Republicans because that would in effect lead to more diverse, local news and therefore, fairness would have an increased chance of occurring. Read Grassley’s letter here.
The corporate media has a lot to do with why politicians can never really say anything of substance. Because any time they say anything meaningful or true or even just candid, their words are either twisted, distorted, taken out of context, presented without nuance or background – OR that person is permanently ostracized or targeted to be removed from office. Examples: Alan Grayson, Russ Feingold, Dan Rather, Keith Olbermann, Al Gore. Where are they today? Struggling to be heard from internetland or obscure cable TV channels, that’s where. Because they told the truth with a bit too much clarity.
You think you know what really happened with Dan Rather when he was fired from CBS after reporting the story about George W. Bush’s National Guard service during the Bush White House years? Most people still believe Dan Rather knowingly used falsified documents to beef up his story. But the fact is, the story about W’s National Guard service was true. CBS execs. knew it was true. Their own report reached no conclusion as to whether or not the documents were authentic. Not being able to prove they were authentic is a long way from “they were proven to be false.” The point is, the story was true.
But Dan Rather was asked to take one for the team by CBS which he did, by reading an apology on the air written by corporate bosses, apologizing for his “mistake” even though everyone knew it was not a mistake, and then they fired him and the rest of the media did their best to thoroughly destroy his reputation. LINK LINK LINK
Here is a link to Dan Rather’s remarks at the MLK Memorial Dedication yesterday. Rather is someone who has been inside the corporate machinery and knows what he’s talking about. Also here are some excerpts from a speech he gave in 2007, and the video is below, still relevant today. There is also a clip from an interview Rather did with Larry King where he talks about what happened at CBS. This is not exactly news to those of us who have been media critics for a while, but it’s still good and well said.
So all of you brave, patriotic occupiers, it would be great if you could just add corporate media to the list of things that need fixed. Here’s Dan:
“What has changed most is the character of news ownership…. Now the motto is the news stops with making bucks rather than the buck stops here… News has fallen prey to merger after merger and acquisition after acquisition – now they are large corporate entities whose priorities have nothing to do with news… Precious time is wasted on so-called human interest stories and sensational fluff…the one thing that is sure not to happen is genuine debates and the questions the public really care about seldom get answered… In the current model, the incentive to produce good and valuable news is simply not there….News needs a spine transplant.” Watch:
These are heady days for those who are invested in any way in Occupy Wall Street. This action seems to be growing at its original site on Wall Street and there are sympathy actions happening around the country. Right now it feels like things are starting to fall into place for an actual movement to gel and gain some traction.
As with many new loves, there is an exhilaration and lots and lots of hope. I am extremely hopeful that even focusing a light on Wall Street practices will help expose many of the excesses as they have not been exposed before. Because so much of our media is corporate owned or sponsored by the very group that is being exposed, news of the excesses of Wall Street has been pretty much hushed up in the United States.
The early days of Occupy Wall Street have been ignored by the corporate media in one of their patented moves – if they do not report on a subject, it will go away. This has been practiced in the past against such things as the march against the invasion of Iraq and Howard Dean’s campaign. Often they use a measure such as showing a counter demonstration in a highly favorable light. This is the reason why poorly attended tea-party rallies get such phenomenal coverage. But in this case, it may be hard for the media to find more than just a few people who want to rally in favor of Wall Street excesses.
Added together with other recent actions this year in the United States, this is beginning to look like a movement. From the outpouring in Madison by and for the citizens who got the royal shaft from the newly elected legislature and governor, to the uprising in Ohio against the very onerous SB5 that limits collective bargaining by public employees and now to the Occupy Wall Street it looks like public awareness is honing in on not only the excesses of Wall Street, but the excesses of those doing their bidding.
I always say that behind every silver lining is a cloud. We need to investigate that cloud and figure out how to conquer it. The cloud is that sustaining a movement such as this will be hard. There have been movements like this before that have arisen to confront one form of excess or another. But people can’t live on protesting – food and shelter cost money. And protesting does not put people in places where they can change the laws that allow, even encourage these excesses. Nor does protesting help create a media more favorable to exposing the dark side of our system.
Even while we are feeling heady and hopeful, those on the corporate side are readying yet another assault on real democracy in the various state legislatures. Many states have already passed ALEC prepared bills that suppress voting in ways reminiscent of the old Jim Crow laws aimed almost specifically at Democratic voters. Several more states will push hard to pass these bills also. Here in Iowa, the election to replace the recently retired Swati Dandekar could give the Republicans the opening they needed to blunt the vote of students in college towns.
While Occupy Wall Street has a moment in the sunshine, corporate powers are working hard behind the scene to take over control of internet – the one bastion of free speech really left. They are also working hard to greatly curtail the power of unions. Also in the target are wages and benefits and any social safety net. Job security is pretty much a thing of the past as there is little to stop jobs from being shipped overseas on a moment’s notice.
Most of the readers of this blog are quite aware of the current situation. We all need to be aware that we can’t let this moment pass. We must continue to build on these recent successes and turn it into what will be a real movement. The energy and hope of Occupy Wall Street must be turned into good candidates and votes next November and well beyond, just as they were in Wisconsin last August.
Let me leave you with a very fitting quote for these times from Justice Louis Brandeis:
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”