Welcome to the occupation

>> Friday, November 04, 2011

But here’s my question: how does lighting shit on fire fix any of that?

How does sleeping in tents on the sidewalk change anything? How does getting yourself arrested over and over help you find a job? How does shitting on the hood of a police car increase the accountability of Wall Street bankers? How does shutting down the Port of Oakland in any way whatsoever help the situation--other than to foul up shipping schedules and increase costs for already strapped consumers and deprive port workers of a night’s wages? How?
-Jim Wright, "Occupy Wall Street, Lessons From
The Tea Party, and Niven’s Law"
, Stonekettle Station
November 3rd, 2011


The thing is--and this is why I feel so apprehensive and helpless about the state of my nation--Jim's dead wrong in that section.

I believe in the Constitution and I believe in democracy, and I believe in representative government. And I believe in pacifism and collective action. I believe that this country has, at least on paper, a system whereby grievances are resolved at the ballot box and the courtroom, and a culture where they assemble peaceably and can petition their government for the redress of their grievances.

And some people believe in Bigfoot, and some people believe in psychic powers and others in ghosts and some people believe in alien abductions. The terrifying difference is that it's very, very possible that those people have better evidence for their faith than I have for mine.

Because where Jim is wrong is that I'm no longer entirely sure the ballot box and the courtroom and peaceful dissent have ever made one damn bit of difference in the course of this nation's history, whereas camping out and setting things on fire and breaking windows has changed the course of our politics. This is a nation that was founded in violent treason against the lawful authority of the British crown. A nation that only ended slavery after more than half a million people died baptized in their own blood and gore. We got the progressive reforms of the 1890s through the New Deal only because anarchists, labor unions and unpaid veterans set things on fire, rioted, and occupied public spaces (and got themselves shot by the lawful authorities; arrested in some cases and often tried, many going to prison and a few even executed). We got the Civil Rights Act of '64 at least partly because a lot of people felt bad about a Democratic President getting his brains blown out in the heart of Dixie in 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of '68 at least in part because a lot of a small war that broke out between Los Angelenos and their police department in 1965.

Sometimes, all the violence effected change by direct force: the Colonists drove the British out at gunpoint, the United States Army occupied the Rebel states and burned them to the ground where necessary. And sometimes all the violence effected change because the powers-that-be (the same sorts or people Jim says don't care about the Occupy movement safe and high in their crystal towers) became so terrified of what was being unleashed that they threw compromise after compromise out until the least-dedicated revolutionaries were placated and went back to being good little proles (not an unreasonable decision, mind you: why risk getting shot by the chief of police if a forty-hour-workweek and regular safety inspections of the mill floor are enough change for you?).

This isn't what I want. I want the system to work. Hell, I'm personally invested in that system. Of course I want courts to work, I'm a lawyer. Of course I want government and big business to come around gently and give the people I represent enough money to eat--when they get caught stealing, I have to represent them in court and it becomes a blister that's rubbed raw and won't heal, a constantly dispiriting thing to see the same people for the same things day-after-day-after-day-after--because they can't catch an honest break anywhere. And, unlike Jim, I'm not someone who has or will bear arms: Jim quoted Niven, I'll quote Asimov (and mean no disrespect to Jim's competence when I do)--"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Certainly not to imply Jim's incompetent, but that his services were only necessary where virtues like reason and compassion failed on one side or the other (or were never there to start with in the case of certain awful people in the world). Regardless of who initiates violence and at what scale, I do believe it represents a breakdown, a failure, a renunciation of our species' better qualities--reason, compassion, empathy, imagination; violence would never be necessary if every human was as good as every human has the potential to be, and the fact none of us is probably ever as good as we have the capacity for being can always be sliced as tragedy. (Maybe the tragedy is a person you have no choice but to defend yourself against has failed to be fully human: well QED.)

Maybe I am in a terrible, blinded spot, but I have no specifiable reason for thinking my faith will be rewarded. If anything, I dread either outcome: that the kids in the public parks will fail and go home with trinkets, that they will win by washing the streets with someone's blood (their own, a policeman's, the proverbial innocent bystander). I am afraid for them and the people they face.

And I'm afraid for myself. Not physically afraid, not in the least. It's worse than that, actually. I'm afraid that my basic principles are a bunch of horseshit. That I've invested myself in a system that has never worked, that I have put my faith in ideals that are worth less than the pieces of paper I could put them on. That democracy is doomed to turn into a corrupt, self-cycling system incapable of governing, incapable of doing anything except parasitically maintaining itself on the blood of the civilization that it's meant to serve, and that the only recourse to this is to do the exact opposite of what I'd like to do to fix it: that reason and imagination are ineffectual and the only motive force for change is blood in the streets and/or the threat of buildings on fire.

Because maybe those are the only things that have ever worked in our entire miserable history up to this point.

And I think to myself that the rebuttal to my despair is Dr. King, but my heart sinks to my gut. He was a good man, you know, notwithstanding his affairs or whatever other personal failings you want to put on him, and he said we could effect change without violence. But the first thing is that they beat him and they jailed him and then one evening they murdered him right there in plain view on a balcony. And the second thing is that, when you think about it, he was the good cop; there was Dr. King, saying we could do this together, hand-in hand, and there was Malcolm on the other side, and the Panthers and the other radicals who said the only thing that would get white America's attention was a gun in their face. And I can't help thinking that when the whites went and tried to finally make whatever small amends for the awful things that had been done to black people in America for hundreds of years, when they finally tried to mollify and placate them and invest them in the system, well they talked about Dr. King but what if all they were thinking about was Malcolm? There's this little voice in my gut that says that that's exactly what happened, and I am not being rhetorical when it says it makes me want to cry.




I feel like I should go ahead and say that I agree with a lot of what Jim says otherwise. I haven't gotten on board with the Occupy movement and still won't for the time being for a lot of the same reasons, though not entirely identical ones. Like Jim, I don't like mobs. Like Jim, I'd like to see stronger goals and leadership; in my case, because I don't know that it's enough to be against something, I'd like to know what you're for, too; I'm against a lot of the same stuff the Occupiers are against, and so I've been quietly cheering a lot of what they've been doing, but without knowing how they want to amend things or what they want to replace them with, I'm not willing to commit myself. Unlike Jim, I'm not a "full-fledged flaming capitalist": I'm a mixed-economy socialist, but sometimes, maybe, the emphasis needs to be on the first part of that--I may believe in public ownership of utilities and government regulation of certain sectors of the economy, but capitalism does do some things rather well and I'm absolutely not about to throw it out in the name of some unspecified-but-well-intentioned-yet-to-be-determined whatever. Along those lines, we need a central banking authority like the Federal Reserve, and people advocating the abolition of the Fed aren't people who can be taken especially seriously, whether they're liberals or libertarians. And I'm skeptical that the ad hoc, leaderless style of the Occupy movement is sustainable; if it doesn't get hijacked by someone of dubious virtue, I worry about groupthink and mob inflammability. Maybe that merely reflects my prejudices, but (then again) I don't think history has been kind to these kinds of movements: they dissolve, or they're subverted or co-opted, or hijacked, or they spiral out of control and the whole neighborhood gets burned down.

And obviously I'd love it if Jim were right about much of the rest of his post. Because I'd be right, too, though not necessarily for the same reasons (possibly for the same; maybe, maybe not).

Though what I would really like, more than anything, is for things to be the way they're supposed to be, and not the way I'm afraid they are.



22 comments:

Jim Wright Friday, November 4, 2011 at 5:34:00 PM EDT  

Well hell, you're in a foul mood.

Ironic, don't you think? Me, the warrior, advocating for non-violence and you, the pacifist, talking about the virtues of lighting shit on fire. Strange days indeed.

Buck up, Eric, things have been far worse.


(more later, when I'm not typing on glass)

Eric Friday, November 4, 2011 at 6:12:00 PM EDT  

To be clear, I'm not talking about the virtues of lighting shit on fire. Good has come of lighting shit on fire, but it's a terrible price to be paying to get to places I wish we could get to by using the brains evolution has produced for us.

Strange days, indeed. That's what scares me, along with the possibility that things could still get worse.

There's a bridge near my office that's dedicated to Chief Orville Aderholt, who was killed during the Loray Mill Strike in 1929. I'm not a fan: he was killed trying to break the strike, a flunky of capital who was ill-advisedly and illegally raiding the union headquarters. But he shouldn't have died. Neither should any of the union activists who were killed in the aftermath. Nobody should have been injured. There's a big sign next to the bridge, hard to miss; it has a picture of him and his name, but I don't think it says why he died or how or whose side he was on or who was on the other side. Those are things nobody wants to talk about, I guess. He's just a dead police chief killed in the line of duty, this is the bridge someone wanted to name for him, the light has changed to green now mosey along.

No, not so virtuous.

Pangolin Friday, November 4, 2011 at 6:17:00 PM EDT  

Nice post. It's also good to see another OWS activist reading Jim's work; he keeps us thinking.

I personally feel the biggest challenge is for people to realize that NOTHING gets fixed if they sit on their butts in front of a screen.

We've tried that; don't work.

Not writing e-mails to congresspeople. Not writing letters or showing up at Town Hall meetings. (that coward Wally Herger(R) doesn't actually "meet" with constituents any more) Yelling at the puppets gets us nothing.

The puppeteers are on Wall Street playing mysterious money games to which we are not privy but yield them massive incomes while their employers go bankrupt. Then they get massive incomes AFTER the U.S. gov't bails them out; supposedly so they don't lose "talent."

It's kind of like the fire department paying an arsonist to make sure they have work. It's got to stop.

IllanoyGal Friday, November 4, 2011 at 6:34:00 PM EDT  

As I agree with Jim, I also agree with you. I'm conflicted with the whole thing. It's hard to settle on a definite decision on this whole OWS situation.

It's hard to work up enthusiasm for any cause when I look back on my 74 years and my belief that we had taken care of so many of these problems years ago. Now I'm finding that we have to fight them all over - again.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to give up - it'll just take a little longer to get moving in the morning.

Thanks for your post. I'll be back. :-)

Melanee Masters,  Friday, November 4, 2011 at 8:32:00 PM EDT  

Absolutely brilliant, Eric! As a long time "minion" of Jim's, I can see that you are the "opposite side of the same coin" with Jim's post on the subject; and yet, your post was equally well-thought-out and rewarding to read. You ARE also so right in many things. I can sit here and tell you from an intellectual perspective that I would never, ever deliberately harm another human being and I abhor violence; that violence solves nothing. But if that human being happened to be carrying off my grandchild, I’m quite certain I’d shoot ‘em TWICE! It’s not a question of whether or not people OUGHT to resort to violence, but rather a question of WHEN it has reached a level where they simply have no other choice. I fear that you may be right. We may have reached that point once again in this country where a revolution is the only answer. I’m very saddened to even admit it because I genuinely thought that America and Americans were better than this by now. It’s clear that I was wrong. Why is it that we Americans (and indeed PEOPLE all over the world) must continually repeat history while simultaneously learning absolutely nothing from it?

westtexas8 Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 5:28:00 PM EDT  

Brilliant sir! I followed a link from StoneKettle Station. You voiced my thoughts. Thank you for stating clearly the sadness of OWS.I support OWS,if not all of the provisions or any of the violence. ( I have always been difficult; I refused to demonstrate against the was in SE Asia even though I felt it immoral and often illegal but those serving were my people, you know?). I am not a pacifist yet I do not understand why we must insist as a society than someone bleed to provoke change. Yet here we are at that point again I fear.

LorenaMarie,  Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 9:56:00 AM EST  

I'm a fan of Jim's, and because of him now I'm a fan of yours. I've read both sides from each of you and I feel I need to clarify some things. Both you and Jim called OWS a "mob". I believe it is detrimental to the movement to consider it that, especially since the banksters and politicians on the right have labeled it a "mob" as well. It is not a "mob". This is a movement like no other.

They have General Assemblies every day to determine what their agenda for the day is. They self-police. They clean up after themselves. They provide food, a library, a medical station, child-care for the little ones, etc. There is a heirarchy that changes routinely so that nobody is "in charge". It is not a movement directed by one person or a small group, like the Civil Rights Movement was, it is a movement directed by a collective consciousness.

They even have a "General Assembly" website where each Occupy movement can communicate with other Occupy movements, and those of us who can't march in the streets can still contribute to determine a course of action. One very interesting heading is "Politics and Electoral Reform". Perhaps Jim and Eric can read up on it.

Those who claim that they don't know what the OWS movement is about simply haven't been paying close enough attention. Those who claim the OWS movement is violent also haven't been paying close enough attention.

For example, during the occupation of Times Square, the occupiers continually held up the peace sign to remind each other (and police) that violence is not the answer. Women who were standing on a street corner peaceably holding signs were kettle netted and pepper sprayed, for what??

An attorney was run over by a police scooter. The officer backed up over him a second time, left his scooter on top of the mans leg and walked away. They arrested and beat the man when he kicked the scooter off of him. WHY??

In Oakland, the police fired rubber bullets, smoke bombs, etc., into a crowd of PEACEFUL protesters, resulting in the cracked skull of one of our Iraq War veterans. WHY?

It seems to me that the only people resorting to violence is the police officers who swore an oath to serve and protect. They pushed that oath aside at the first sign of a multi-million dollar donation from one of the most influential Wall Street banks in the world. So much for Democracy.

Oh, and the other violence. The Air and Space Museum. A Right Wing blogger admitted to planning and causing that fiasco. I know, others followed along ... but it doesn't take much to cause chaos when the pepper spray start flowing.

James O'Keefe has been seen and documented trying to stir up trouble in the movement. Police officers were encouraged to "infiltrate" the movement to stir up trouble. Did you see the video of the woman who was standing outside of Citi Bank being grabbed and forced to go inside the bank to be arrested? The man who grabbed her was an undercover police officer who was stirring up trouble prior to everyone being locked in the bank.

Occupy Protesters have taken pictures and videotape of undercover police officers who infiltrated the movement, as well as pictures of them in uniform.

In Oakland, a few people broke windows, spray painted graffiti, and lit a bunch of shit on fire. If you've seen the video, they are all dressed in black with their faces covered. The same people who broke the windows also set the bonfire. Prior to that incident, the protesters in Oakland have been peaceful. In fact, when authentic protesters noticed the damage, they posted "guards" outside of the businesses to prevent further damage.

Continued

LorenaMarie,  Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 9:57:00 AM EST  

(Continued from previous post)

Why are we now calling it a "violent" movement? How do we know these cowards with their faces covered were a part of the movement? Their actions were out of character for anyone truly involved in the movement. Most likely, they were planted there. The Right Wing has been trying to label them as "violent anarchists", but they had nothing to back up their claims. Conveniently, now they do.

You may or may not agree with the movement for whatever reason. But honestly, from what I've read of both of your posts, I don't believe either of you have paid close enough attention to the movement.

Just my two-cents.

Leanright,  Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 10:56:00 AM EST  

You both have valid points, but in this age of technology, and broadcasting people shitting on things, breaking windows, and setting stuff on fire, the general public is able to see these actions within moments. The protestors just make themselves look like lunatics and anarchists to the ACTUAL 99%.

Until their argument looks cohesive and organized, they are simply going to look like a rogue mob of opportunists. I don't agree with much of what they believe (surprised?) , but I DO love the fact that we are in a country that those feelings can be expressed. Such dissent wouldn't be tolerated under other regimes, like communism (which incidentally had reared its head at these protests.)

To add, I don't see how ANY of this will create jobs. Please enlighten this Finance and Economics major as to how it will?

BTW I like the bank transfer day idea. Vote with your feet. THAT is as American as it gets.

Eric Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 2:54:00 PM EST  

LorenaMarie, thanks for the comments. I agree, actually, that OWS has been fairly restrained up to the mess in Oakland. I also am more inclined, I think, than Jim is to blame the Air And Space Museum fracas on a provocateur.

However, I also think there's a fine line between any group of people and a mob, and the idea that OWS is governed by a "collective consciousness" doesn't assuage that; it heightens my concerns, in fact. There is a long and unfortunate history of people doing things in groups that they wouldn't do individually.

I'm not convinced that every self-governing group with distributed leadership is doomed to become a mob at some point or lose cohesion. But that may be an optimistic article of faith on my part. I don't know that I want to go into the whole history of group dynamics from, oh, say, the Salem witch trials through the Stanford Prison Experiment; I hope that this doesn't seem like I'm dodging an issue out of some kind of cowardice or reluctance to engage--it's that the whole subject is really very complicated and extensive and I really don't think I could do it justice right now. Suffice it to say, while I'm probably (apparently) more optimistic than Jim about collective action, I think some of his concerns are very justified and I share them.

I also have to say that I agree with Jim that OWS protesters have been sending something of a cornucopia of messages with unclear goals. I get that they're concerned about the disparity of wealth and power in this country, I get that they're concerned about the lack of employment opportunities, etc. And since these things concern me, too, I actually sympathize with the movement in general and have applauded some of their messages. But without knowing what they want to do about some of these issues, I really can't get on board with supporting the Occupy movement. Similarly, I'm inclined to think that some things the OWSers and Tea Partiers have both opposed--specifically, the bank bailouts--were possibly the lesser of possible evils. I.e., I'm not happy about the bailouts at all, but I don't see that there was much choice in the matter and the alternative would have been much worse.

Leanright: you know, it always annoys me when people conflate an economic system (communism) with the political system ostensibly associated with it in the Twentieth Century (totalitarianism). I can certainly understand your problems with the communist USSR (or ostensibly communist USSR, as there are certainly people who would quibble over whether the planned-market totalitarian oligarchic state was technically "communistic"--a debate I'm not sure even matters), but I have no idea what your problem with actually communistic Israeli kibbutzim is (as far as I know, though I could be mistaken, they tolerate dissent as much as any small town does.

I would assume any communists with signs at OWS are thinking "kibbutz" and not "Kremlin", though I might be wrong. Whether that's the least bit realistic of them in either case is, naturally, a completely separate matter.

LorenaMarie,  Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 5:04:00 PM EST  

Thank you Eric, for your response. It doesn't take much to figure out what OWS wants. They want to reform our current system so that it works for EVERYONE. They are not against capitalism, however they want a return to a fair democratic process in government, and regulations on capitalism to protect the people, and restore democracy. With very little effort, I found this:

OCCUPY WALL STREET OFFICIAL DEMANDS PASSED, AS OF OCT. 21, 2011

1. Repeal of the Patriot Act

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." -- Fourth Amendment to the Constitution

Forty-five days after 9/11, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act without reading it. This new law was supposed to protect you from terrorism, but it has really left you unprotected against lawless federal agents. The Patriot Act contains numerous violations of the Fourth Amendment. It gives federal agents vast new powers that have been abused to investigate innocent Americans.

2. ELIMINATE "PERSONHOOD" LEGAL STATUS FOR CORPORATIONS

3. Forced Acquisition of the Federal Reserve for $1Billion

No Congress, no President has been strong enough to stand up to the foreign-controlled Federal Reserve Bank. Yet there is a catch - one that President Kennedy recognized before he was slain - the original deal in 1913 creating the Federal Reserve Bank had a simple backout clause. The investors loaned the United States Government $1 billion. And the backout clause allows the United States to buy out the system for that $1 billion. If the Federal Reserve Bank were demolished and the Congress of the United States took control of the currency, as required in the Constitution, the National Debt would virtually end overnight, and the need for more taxes and even the income tax, itself. Thomas Jefferson was concise in his early warning to the American nation, "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

Article I, Section 8, Clause 5, of the United States Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof and of any foreign coins. But that is not the case. The United States government has no power to issue money, control the flow of money, or to even distribute it - that belongs to a private corporation registered in the State of Delaware - the Federal Reserve Bank.

4. Re Investigate the Attacks of 9-11-2001

More and more evidence is being released to the public surrounding the suspicious circumstances surrounding 911. This measure would be included in the list of demands to show that the original investigation was significantly flawed.

LorenaMarie,  Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 5:05:00 PM EST  

5. What to name the Occupy Wall Street "Demands"

6. CONGRESS ENACT LEGISLATION TO PROTECT OUR DEMOCRACY BY REVERSING THE EFFECTS OF THE CITIZENS UNITED SUPREME COURT DECISION

which essentially said corporations can spend as much as they want on elections. The result is that corporations can pretty much buy elections. Corporations should be highly limited in ability to contribute to political campaigns no matter what the election and no matter what the form of media. This legislation should also RE-ESTABLISH THE PUBLIC AIRWAVES IN THE U.S. SO THAT POLITICAL CANDIDATES ARE GIVEN EQUAL TIME FOR FREE AT REASONABLE INTERVALS IN DAILY PROGRAMMING DURING CAMPAIGN SEASON. The same should extend to other media.

7. End the War On Drugs

The war on drugs has been going on for more than three decades. Today, nearly 500,000 Americans are imprisoned on drug charges. In 1980 the number was 50,000. Last year $40 billion in taxpayer dollars were spent in fighting the war on drugs. As a result of the incarceration obsession, the United States operates the largest prison system on the planet, and the U.S. nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska. 21 Sep 2011 - 15:17 21 Oct 2011 - 17:17 6570
8. Require all Corporations to have Labour Representatives on Company Boards


9. National Repeal of Capital Punishment

10. Nationalize Health Care (ALSO SEE "REAL HEALTH CARE REFORM" BELOW, VOTE STILL OPEN)

11. Free education Kindergarten through college

Redraft education financing legislation. Lower educational expenses for students instead of raising tuition costs. Pull money form the "WAR" system to refund education and continuing education. Forgive Student Loan Dept or restructure the Student Loan System so that students are not punished for self improvement and made into corporate slaves upon educating themselves. Standardized testing does not account for stereotype effect or cultural differences in learning styles in elementry schools. Reform education to make it either free or affordable to all. Reappropriation of tax to focus on educations subsidies.


12. CONGRESS PASS HR 1489 ("RETURN TO PRUDENT BANKING ACT)

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-1489 ). THIS REINSTATES MANY PROVISIONS OF THE GLASS-STEAGALL ACT. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass--Steagall_Act --- Wiki entry summary: The repeal of provisions of the Glass--Steagall Act of 1933 by the Gramm--Leach--Bliley Act in 1999 effectively removed the separation that previously existed between investment banking which issued securities and commercial banks which accepted deposits. The deregulation also removed conflict of interest prohibitions between investment bankers serving as officers of commercial banks. Most economists believe this repeal directly contributed to the severity of the Financial crisis of 2007--2011 by allowing Wall Street investment banking firms to gamble with their depositors' money that was held in commercial banks owned or created by the investment firms. Here's detail on repeal in 1999 and how it happened: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass--Steagall_Act#Repeal .


13. Outlaw flash trading

14. End Gender Discrimination - Equal Pay for Women

15. Office of the Citizen

16. The United States must sign and ratify all human rights agreements with all other countries

17. USE CONGRESSIONAL AUTHORITY AND OVERSIGHT TO ENSURE APPROPRIATE FEDERAL AGENCIES FULLY INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THE WALL STREET CRIMINALS

Eric Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 11:37:00 PM EST  

Oh dear.

Well, LorenaMarie, if that's what OWS is demanding, I can't support them.

1) Repeal Of The Patriot Act: I agree.

2) Eliminate Personhood Status For Corporations: this is actually a complicated subject. I have problems with corporate personhood as a concept and think we've created a problem for ourselves with the legal fiction. But the solution probably isn't to eliminate corporate personhood, the solution is probably for states to revisit their chartering statutes and make personhood conditional for corporations, granting them some rights in a limited fashion.

Corporate personhood probably wouldn't be such a popular target right now if it weren't for Citizens United, but part of the problem with Citizens United is the SCOTUS' treatment of cash as being directly and functionally equivalent to speech, which is problematic.

3) Forced Acquisition Of The Federal Reserve: the Fed is an independent agency whose heads are appointed by the President and whose powers are delegated by Congress. I have no idea where this claim of foreign "control" is coming from or how this proposal, assuming there's anything to it, is supposed to eliminate the national debt. It frankly sounds like a conspiranoid proposal.

4) Re-investigate 9/11: Speaking of conspiranoid. Aside from being a waste of money, this is harmless. But it seems unlikely another investigation would turn up anything fundamentally different from the investigations that have already been done. This is rather reminiscent of the generally idiotic claims that because there are mistakes in discrepancies in the Warren Commission's investigation of the JFK assassination, the Warren Commission's basic conclusions are somehow incorrect, the twenty-something volumes of the Report aren't comprehensive or weren't thoroughly researched, etc. I don't have any particular reason to be opposed to yet another 9/11 investigation, but I have even less reason to be for such a project. There's better uses of people's time and money than trying to satisfy cranks who will never be satisfied.

5) What to name the demands: don't we need to decide what the shape of the table should be, first?

6) Reverse Citizens United: Well, I agree, sort of, but it's easier said than done. Corporations are defined as persons by the state legislation that allows them to be chartered. Persons have rights that Congress can't legislate away. Those rights include freedom of speech. The SCOTUS says spending money is a form of speech. The only part of that chain that can be reversed is a modification of chartering legislation, which currently would have to be done at the state level unless Congress were able to successfully yoik that away from the states, presumably under the commerce clause, which would be risky as the SCOTUS might consider it overreaching and it might endanger quite a lot of other commerce clause legislation.

7) End The War On Drugs: I agree, but what does this have to do with anything else on this list. This is the lack of focus that's irritating some people who might otherwise offer full-throated support for the Occupy movement.

8) Require All Corporations To Have Labor Representatives On Company Boards: I have no problem with this.

Eric Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 11:37:00 PM EST  

9) National Repeal Of Capital Punishment: I am staunchly opposed to capital punishment, as regular readers know, but I have no idea what this plank is saying or why it's included. The Federal government has no authority to set state punishments (this is generally a good thing). The only Federal power over capital punishment at all would be a finding by the SCOTUS that it's a violation of the Eighth Amendment and Constitutionally barred; a position I happen to endorse, but one that will not be adopted by the present SCOTUS. This and several other Constitutional items on the list could be summarized and replaced by, "Convince Antonin Scalia to retire and the Senate to ratify a really liberal nomination from Obama" with just as much efficacy and chance of success, sorry.

10. Nationalize Health Care: I agree.

11. Free Education: I agree.

12. Reinstate Glass-Steagall: I agree.

13. Outlaw flash trading: sounds reasonable.

14. End Gender Discrimination: I agree, but have to point out that this is an ongoing project that we've been working at for decades. I'd also like to end racial discrimination, thanks, but ditto. And religious discrimination, but that's one civilization has been tackling for centuries.

15. Office Of The Citizen: huh?

16. The United States Must Sign And Ratify All Human Rights Agreements With Other Countries: believe it or not, I'm saying "no" on this one. That's a blanket statement, and invites the kinds of abuses that occur when some countries try to institute global censorship demands and other forms of tyranny in civil rights dress. I don't want the Congress being forced to ratify a "human rights" agreement that China intends to use as a back door to stomp Tibet or a "religious freedom" agreement that fundamentalist Islamic states propose to keep people from offending them by drawing silly pictures of Mohammad. This provision sounds nice, but in fact is dangerously naive and stupid and displays a shocking ignorance of some of the more underhanded ways in which anti-human-rights regimes have tried to co-opt human rights rhetoric for various Trojan horses over the past several decades.

17. Prosecute Wall Street criminals: no objection, so long as we're not talking about a witch hunt.

As you see, there are quite a few of these positions I agree with. Unfortunately, they're mixed in with a number of goals that I think are hopelessly naive, ignorant, misguided, out-of-place, pathetically quixotic, etc. There are one or two items on the list, frankly speaking, that I would not be seen in public with and would not want to be associated with in any way, shape or form lest I lose whatever credibility I have left.

Sorry.

Jo,  Monday, November 7, 2011 at 1:33:00 PM EST  

Eric & LorenaMarie--thank you both for your incredibly interesting and insightful comments. Eric, I am new to your blog, (came over from Stonekettle) but I really admire and appreciate the clarity of your writing. Thank you for putting yourself 'out there'.

the Wareham Forge Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 10:22:00 AM EST  

Eric (et all)
I too came here via Stonekettle. Jim and I share a more similar past. I also have to warn all reading that as a Canadian, many of the items driving the Occupy movement in the USA just do NOT apply to Canada. (See my recent comment on Jim's about that).

Is the point *effect* ?

Take another lesson from the Civil Rights movement, and just all sit down in the street. Go limp (and stick to it) and make 'them' carry you off.

I was involved in a very few street protests in the late 70's I frankly acted as a self appointed warden on to those so obviously attempting to inflame simple protest into violence. Amazing how those same individuals suddenly quit trying to get others into violent action stopped dead - when they were personally informed that they would be the first ones to hit the pavement (by someone obviously with intent and ability to ensure this).

If there is an attempt in the movement to police itself, BRAVO!

I'm afraid I've personally seen the 'permanent floating riot club' overcome rational behaviour just way too many times to believe things will never degrade to pointless lawlessness.

beemodern Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 6:12:00 PM EST  

Eric, I followed Jim's link to this because you always write such thoughtful, articulate, interesting comments.

This is beautifully written. Tugs at my heart, though, because I understand what grieves you.

beemodern Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 8:40:00 PM EST  

I, too, question the use of "mob" and "violent" to characterize this movement. When did protestors/demonstrators become a "mob" in this country? Authorities have been more violent. The few who did eventually engage in tossing things and setting some fires are a tiny minority, and they haven't pepper sprayed, arrested without cause, or beaten people.

Members of large demonstrations cannot control every person or entirely different groups. Masked anarchists showing up at such events are always a tiny minority, but make enough commotion to get most of the attention. They are stopped in their tracks, but then the discourse becomes about them as though they represent all the others. That's propaganda and ratings-seeking picked up by the rest of us.

As long as signs are not inciting violence or hate against a specific group of citizens, they do not have the right to tell others what signs they may hold up. "Down with the federal reserve system" signs do not represent most of the participants. Those signs do represent some Tea Party members though and some are participating in OWS.

Not everyone is angry about the bail-outs either, but are angry that those receiving them did not do what they were supposed to do with them like grant loans, stop foreclosures, and create jobs. Instead the recipients hoarded the money to make more only for themselves, with no consequences.

This movement wasn't planned and funded by experienced political minds. It was young people reaching such a point of frustration that they took to the streets and others joined them. If they received enough support, voices of experience could work with them to formulate cohesive demands while respectfully educating them about why some of their conclusions are misguided. Regardless, it isn't the responsibility of demonstrators to have all of the answers. The purpose of mass demonstrations is to send a message to the people's government that it must use the instruments of government to fix the problems.

Eric hasn't done so here, but elsewhere it really bothers me to see impassioned, idealistic, caring young people ridiculed and discussed disrespectfully merely because they do not have the same level of experience as their elders. Abandon the young to be the only ones who care what happens to them, and only the young will be leading their charge. Why then blame them for their youth and lack of experience?

The Occupiers have accomplished one thing at least, which is to catch the attention of the country and the world, and in doing so, provided some hope and boosted a few more to action.

It isn't a coincidence banks abandoned BoA over new fees, followed by the call to withdraw accounts from banks. For over ten years various industries including banks have been implementing the same policies so consumers would have no choice but to accept their thievery. Nothing happens in a vacuum though. The other banks figured they'd better back-off as, inspired by OWS, the mood toward them grew uglier and they broke rank, leaving BoA in the lurch.

Probably the movement will peter-out, torpedoed by propaganda and over-analysis. If it does, though, I hope there is another one right behind it because working the system has failed.

Eric Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 5:32:00 PM EST  

Beemodern, I don't think I would generally describe OWS as "violent". "Mob", on the other hand, is a matter of degrees; yeah, it's generally a pejorative word, but mistrust of the wisdom of crowds is something that has a deep history in this country, going at least as far back as the Founders' concerns about mobs and factions.

It's unfortunately very possible for a group of people to be a "peaceful assembly" one moment, and then "violent mob" the next, and entropy only seems to flow one way: that is, a peaceful group may be driven to chaos when the influence of a small trigger radiates, but very unlikely that, once excited, the group will return to order without being dispersed.

That said, I hope there are a lot of Wareham Forges in those crowds, protecting the peace.

Because I Said So Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 6:20:00 PM EST  

I am new to this thread. I find myself elated to see such intelligent, thoughtful, lucid discourse. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I have had many similar thoughts rolling around in my mind for weeks -- I appreciate the writing by initiators and responders.

These are not simple topics, and it is refreshing to see adult dialogue with multiple points of view.

And I find myself nodding, shaking my head, shrugging my shoulders, and with no additional commentary that would further the thoughts presented here because every point made is so well stated. So I will add none. Other than to say -- excellent job. You have a new subscriber.

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