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Archive for the ‘Occupy movement’ Category

My response to a Daily Kos rah-rah about how Dems will win in 2014

Posted by Charles II on September 22, 2013

It wasn’t an important thread. It had four comments and five recommendations. It was clearly written by someone with a young, good heart. But it annoyed me enough to respond. Here, edited, is what the post said:

There is a great diary on ACA where the writer shares his/her experience finding out about what “ObamaCare” will really do for his/her family and their friends and neighbours.

I sent a link to the site to my girlfriend, who is self-employed and will be sharing it with my family, and friends, and everybody I know. Once people realize what ObamaCare will actually mean, they are going to either 1) love it, or 2) realize it isn’t the second coming of the evil one.

And they are going to be pissed at the Republicans for blocking it and thankful that the Dems got it passed.

And will vote in the 2014 elections…once people …realize what the ACA means to them and their families, they are going to go Dem

My response:

Talk is nice…

Democrats are in the minority because they have not fielded attractive candidates in enough districts. Do that and you depress Democratic turnout in those districts. The net effect is to lose the statewide races, like for governor and Senator. The governorships have a lot to do with the gerrymander of 2010…which, to complete the circle, is why Democrats are in the minority despite winning more votes in congressional races than did the Republicans.

Howard Dean recognized this and established the 50-state campaign. That was a tremendous advantage, which the Democratic Party regulars renounced as soon as they were able to get Howard Dean off stage.

The ACA is a nice selling point, sort of like 50 mpg. But you need a car to go with it. The Democratic Party seems to be determined not to do that.

True story: After 2010, my state Democratic chair asked for input on how to recover the situation. I responded that the reason the Party loses elections is because it is widely perceived as corrupt. Democrats, of course, are not more corrupt than Republicans. But because they are wishy-washy, not fully committed to their political beliefs, every time that one does something ethically questionable or even illegal, the media message is able to paint that misdeed as a mark of corruption.

I urge every Kossack who can to consider a run for office. Every time a talented, articulate, caring person stands up and says, I’m a Democrat, it does something to dispel the poisonous image created by the Democratic Party regulars, who are concerned with their careers and advancement over healing the suffering and national decay their incompetence has facilitated.

Voters want people who genuinely listen, know what they believe, say what they believe, and are willing to suffer a little to do the right thing. They are much less concerned with ideology than with character.

And if they are offered a Republican and nobody, you can pretty well guess that the Republican is going to win.

I shouldn’t rain on a guy who is inspired to do something good by pointing out how ultimately futile it is. The optimism of the young is the only reason this nation hasn’t reverted to monarchy. But I see the movements of today, notably Occupy, and I see such a lack of realism about how the magnitude of the problem and what genius and energy it is going to take to overcome it. Fixing things is the work of a lifetime, one that will take the courage and the endurance of the civil rights movement. It’s definitely worth doing, no matter how much one suffers or is defeated, because not to engage is to participate in doing wrong.

But change is not going to happen just because of some clever advertising.

Posted in activism, Occupy movement | 7 Comments »

Policemen are your friends

Posted by Charles II on December 28, 2012

This is a story that was buried in the Christmas data dump. It seems that the FBI has overstepped the boundaries of what can be considered apolitical law enforcement. Again.


MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: Well, the documents, as you stated, show that the FBI and American intelligence agencies were monitoring and reporting on Occupy Wall Street before the first tent even went up in Zuccotti Park. The documents that we have been able to obtain show the FBI communicating with the New York Stock Exchange in August of 2011 about the upcoming Occupy demonstrations, about plans for the protests. It shows them meeting with or communicating with private businesses. And throughout the materials, there is repeated evidence of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, American intelligence agencies really working as a private intelligence arm for corporations, for Wall Street, for the banks, for the very entities that people were rising up to protest against.

… even in these heavily redacted documents, you can see the FBI using at least private entities as a proxy force for what appears to be infiltration. There is—there are documents that show the Federal Reserve in Richmond was reporting to the FBI, working with the Capitol Police in Virginia, and reporting and giving updates on planning meetings and discussions within the Occupy movement. That would appear, minimally, that they were sending undercovers, if not infiltrators, into those meetings.

There is another document that shows the FBI meeting with private port security officers in Anchorage, Alaska, in advance of the West Coast port actions. And that document has that private port security person saying that they are going to go attend a planning meeting of the demonstrators, and they’re reporting back to the FBI. They coordinate with the FBI. The FBI says that they will put them in touch with someone from the Anchorage Police Department, that that person should take the police department officer with him, as well.

And so these documents also show the intense coordination both with private businesses, with Wall Street, with the banks, and with state police departments and local police departments around the country.

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: I think that that is very much a measure of box checking by the FBI. I don’t believe—and their documents show that they did not believe—that this was a movement that posed a threat of violence. Now, throughout the documents, they’re using their counterterrorism resources and counterterrorism authorities, they are defining the movement as domestic terrorism and potentially criminal in nature. But the fact is, they also throughout the documents say that they know that this is a peaceful movement, that it is organized on a basis of nonviolence. And by that logic, of course, you can investigate everyone in every activity in the United States on the grounds that someone might do something sometime. And, in fact, think about the tea party rallies. The tea party was having rallies all around the United States where their members come carrying weapons—they’re open carrying—including at events where the president of the United States was speaking. But the FBI is turning its attention to this movement.

And when they reference the locations in Florida, I think that’s actually a political analysis, a recognition that this is a movement whose time has come. And whether it’s in hibernation right now, it is based on an organic reality of the economic situation in the United States. And the FBI is referencing the high level of unemployment, the needs that people have, and it’s a recognition, too, of the dynamism and the dynamic nature of the people of the United States, the people all over the world, when they organize and come together. That’s the threat that we believe the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are truly focused on, not a threat of violence.

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD:…his is just part and parcel of the long history of the FBI. And this is not the first incident, it is not going to be the last, and it’s not the worst, to be honest. We all know that. It’s not—you know, the FBI has a long history — ’50s, ’60s, ’70s — of mass surveillance, of targeting of people based on political ideology, of efforts to disrupt the movements for social justice, for efforts to shut down black liberation movement, the antiwar movement. And in the ’70s, of course, there were these great revelations about the abuses of the FBI, of the CIA, of other security agencies. And there were the Church Committee hearings. There were supposedly protections put in place. But we can see, you know, decade after decade, with each social justice movement, that the FBI conducts itself in the same role over and over again, which is to act really as the secret police of the establishment against the people.(emphasis added)

And, you know, it’s not just a secret police directed against all subversive movements, but specifically against left-wing movements. The FBI took decades to engage against the KKK, was blindsided by Tim McVeigh, and as far as we know are doing nothing to rein in the sorts of people who use threats of violence–or actual violence— against persons/property in an attempt “to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).”

The very definition of law suggests a universally applicable principle. But the Tea Party was treated as a legitimate political movement, while Occupy was treated as a domestic threat. The Tea Party engaged in intimidation against political officials. Occupy (maybe) broke some windows in Oakland (unless it was agents provocateur).

There is nothing recognizable as a “law” in the way these two movements have been treated.

Posted in FBI, Occupy movement, terrorism | 4 Comments »

More good news: Rolling Jubilee

Posted by Charles II on November 13, 2012

Good news! You can now assist an Occupy offshoot, Strike Debt in canceling debt. This is called the Rolling Jubilee. What is a Jubilee?

From the Jewish Encyclopedia:

The septennate or seventh year, during which the land is to lie fallow, and the celebration of the fiftieth year after seven Sabbatical cycles. As regards the latter, the Hebrew term “yobel” refers to the blast of the shofar on the Day of Atonement announcing the jubilee year ….

The fiftieth year, i.e., that following the last year of seven Sabbatical cycles, is the jubilee; during it the land regulations of the Sabbatical year are to be observed, as is also the commandment “ye shall return every man unto his possession” (ib. verse 10), indicating the compulsory restoration of hereditary properties (except houses of laymen located in walled cities) to the original owners or their legal heirs, and the emancipation of all Hebrew servants whose term of six years is unexpired or who refuse to leave their masters when such term of service has expired (Gen. xviii. 6; ‘Ar. 33b; see Josephus, “Ant.” vi. 8, § 28).

The regulations of the Sabbatical year include also the annulment of all monetary obligations between Israelites, the creditor being legally barred from making any attempt to collect his debt (Deut. xv. 1 et seq.). The law for the jubilee year has not this provision. (emphasis added)

The only bad news that I can see is that they’re using Paypal. However, they also offer WePay. Don’t know if that is better.

Posted in mortgage crisis, Occupy movement | 3 Comments »

Some good news

Posted by Charles II on November 12, 2012

From Thom Hartmann, t/o:

The Occupy Movement is tackling the nation’s debt problem. Though the physical occupations have disappeared, the movement is busy helping Americans avoid foreclosure and providing disaster relief post-Hurricane Sandy. Now they’ve unveiled a new initiative they’re calling the “Rolling Jubilee.” The movement is raising money to buy debt from financial firms at pennies on the dollar. Then, rather than hounding struggling homeowners and students whose debt they just acquired, Occupy is completely forgiving it. As one organizer explained it, “OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT.” Since Wall Street got bailed out and Main Street got sold out, average Americans are drowning in enormous debt. Good on Occupy for doing something about it.

This is what community based organizing can do and, for those who have read this blog over the years, it’s essentially [1] what I said the government should do long before the mortgage crisis turned into a financial meltdown. If they had done, there would not have been a financial crisis.

Thank God for Occupy. They seem to be the only people with any sense.
1. My solution was actually to force the borrower to reduce the mortgage to the level that it was payable by having the pain shared equally between the bank, the borrower, and the government. What that amounts to is having the government buy the mortgage at a discount, then re-issue it at a lower rate, thereby canceling a portion of the debt. So what OWS did was even better, though I’m sure that the debt they purchased at 4 cents on the dollar was absolutely unpayable.

Posted in Good Things, mortgage crisis, Occupy movement | 13 Comments »

The Quebec uprising and Occupy sues NYC

Posted by Charles II on May 26, 2012

Elizabeth Leier, truthout:

On May 22, [angered by tuition hikes] nearly half a million people marched in the streets of Montreal in defiance of a recently adopted law denying protester’s civil liberties, namely the right to protest, freedom of association and of expression. A crowd made up of students, professors, children and citizens from every walk of life marched peacefully throughout the city, ignoring provisions prohibiting any deviation from the planned itinerary and disrupting the commercial and banking district. The crowd openly defied articles of Bill 78, which make any gathering of over 50 protesters illegal, and chanted for the resignation of Premier Jean Charest, who has systematically refused to meet with the students personally. Many consider that the government’s refusal to find a solution and, indeed, its increasingly repressive position have given the movement a second wind.

On Wednesday, May 23, more than 3,000 people assembled in Montreal, in Emilie-Gamelin Square for the 30th nightly protest, while throughout the city, citizens spontaneously took to the streets (in some neighborhoods, over 2,000 people) banging on pots and pans and blocking busy roads, in a situation reminiscent of the Argentinian protests of 2001. No longer just a student strike, the Maple Spring is fast becoming a widespread citizens’ revolt.

Melissa Gira Grant, truthout:

the city [of New York] has offered no explanation as to why the tools of the occupation itself were targeted in the raid [of November 15th]. Along with occupiers’ personal belongings, custom-built Wi-Fi transmitters and the thousands of books in the People’s Library were seized and, in some cases, deliberately destroyed, fed into “crusher” trucks that rolled up to the park while, inside, police pepper-sprayed and arrested those who remained. Throughout, police held the media off blocks away, preventing them from entering the scene.

The seizure of their books immediately called to mind, as Siegel described them yesterday morning in the cold and rain, “the conduct of some of the worst regimes imaginable.” As such, though the suit seeks damages in the amount of $47,000 – accounting for $43,000 for the books and $4,000 for other destroyed library equipment – Siegel explained that “it is more important for us to get into the historic record that the city cannot destroy books.”

Next steps in the suit, said attorney Herbert Teitelbaum, include a discovery process that could turn up records of the raid plan. Depositions of Mayor Bloomberg or Commissioner Kelly could also reveal the extent to which the destruction of the occupation was planned or ordered

Honestly, I don’t know why the entire population isn’t in the streets. The elected leaders are behaving with complete impunity, demonstrating complete contempt for citizens and the principles of democracy as they loot the economy. I guess things will have to crash before people wake up.

Posted in Canada, Occupy movement, The American Uprising | 1 Comment »

Dana Frank on Honduras–and the rising crisis in America

Posted by Charles II on May 24, 2012

Adrienne posted an important article by Dana Frank which appeared in The Nation. This tells us the very most important thing to understand not just about Honduras, but much more broadly. The conflict is not between left and right. It is at root a conflict between the forces that make human societies stable and decent places to live and criminals whose only goal is to loot those societies for their personal gain:

Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself—from the cop in the neighborhood all the way up to the very top of the government, according to high-level sources. Prominent critics and even government officials, including Marlon Pascua, the defense minister, talk of “narco-judges” who block prosecutions and “narco-congressmen” who run cartels. Alfredo Landaverde, a former congressman and police commissioner in charge of drug investigations, declared that one out of every ten members of Congress is a drug trafficker and that he had evidence proving “major national and political figures” were involved in drug trafficking. He was assassinated on December 7.

Far more than criminal gangs in the streets and drug traffickers acting independently, it is the Honduran state itself that has made Honduras, according to the Associated Press, “among the most dangerous places on earth.”

And the Honduran state operates only by the grace of the US government.

I do not believe that the US government–from the Pentagon to DoJ to the State Department to the White House–has failed to understand that its policies are enabling the rise of criminal empires. Not when Wikileaked documents show the US embassy knew that Miguel Facusse was engaged in narcotrafficking.
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Posted in Honduras, Occupy movement, War On Some Drugs | Comments Off on Dana Frank on Honduras–and the rising crisis in America

Pinch the boob or, why police officers who engage in sexual assault during arrests should themselves be jailed

Posted by Charles II on May 4, 2012

(an updated version of an old favorite; lyrics)

David Graeber, Truthout:

A few weeks ago I was with a few companions from Occupy Wall Street in Union Square when an old friend — I’ll call her Eileen — passed through, her hand in a cast.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“Oh, this?” she held it up. “I was in Liberty Park on the 17th [the Six Month Anniversary of the Occupation]. When the cops were pushing us out the park, one of them yanked at my breast.”

“Again?” someone said.

We had all been hearing stories like this. In fact, there had been continual reports of police officers groping women during the nightly evictions from Union Square itself over the previous two weeks.

“Yeah so I screamed at the guy, I said, ‘you grabbed my boob! what are you, some kind of fucking pervert?’ So they took me behind the lines and broke [one of] my wrists [and injured a second when I reached to pick up my glasses].

The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new. I’m not aware of any reports of police intentionally grabbing women’s breasts before March 17, but on March 17 there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told me her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night …it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.

…we know that in other countries, such things definitely happen. In Egypt, for example, there was a sudden spate of sexual assaults by security forces against protestors in November and December 2011, and followed a very similar pattern….”

Posted in abuse of power, Occupy movement | 1 Comment »

Follow Occupy May Day protests

Posted by Charles II on May 1, 2012

Greg Mitchell has been doing yeoman’s work (via Meteor Blades, DK)

I remain a little disheartened by some of the ahistorical and vapid rhetoric I hear from Occupy. For example, Marina Sitrin and Amin Hussein are unwilling to say that violent tactics should be excluded. Hussein really should know better. His first protest movement was the First Intifada. While that actually went a lot better than the Second Intifada, this is what a sympathetic account says:

The Palestinians realized that their greatest power lay in mass civil disobedience — boycotting Israeli goods, refusing to pay taxes to Israel, establishing their own mobile medical clinics, providing social services, organizing strikes and demonstrations and unarmed confrontations. The tactics they used took Israel unawares and captured the attention of a hitherto unreceptive Western media. Specifically, the images of Palestinian boys throwing stones at advancing armored tanks totally upended the David and Goliath myth that Israel had propagated so effectively….

This is precisely what Chris Hedges points out in the debate in asserting that the power of protest movements is in their powerlessness. Kids with rocks against tanks is essentially non-violent protest, since there’s no chance of the rocks killing anyone. Any protest movement can only succeed by getting people–especially people inside the power structure–off the sidelines and supporting the movement.

This gets obscured in vapid rhetoric, as illustrated by the DemocracyNow debate, when panelists challenge the meaning of words like “movement” and “we”. It may sound clever to say that this is not a movement, it’s an attempt to stop things. It might even be wise to re-consider words, since they can limit creativity as well as enhance it. But really. Most past movements have been attempts to stop things. What is a factory strike, after all, except an attempt to stop production? Being clever with words doesn’t change the underlying reality.

And I think there’s a certain element of narcissism in refusing to define goals. Sure, getting very specific just leads to conflict. But there should be general agreement that corporations have too much power relative to individuals and wealthy individuals too much power relative to everyone else. So there should be no objection whatsoever that a goal of the movement should be to equalize how much power any individual or entity possesses.

I do believe that Occupy is performing a valuable function in teaching people what real democracy looks like. Maintaining what they call a “horizontal structure” (what the rest of us might call “pure democracy”) not only helps to develop everyone, it helps to make everyone a leader–and therefore immunizes the movement against divide-and-conquer tactics. But I wish that the movement would listen a little more to the old fogies, who were once at exactly the same place that Occupy is, and know what went wrong and why. The old saying goes that if you learn from the past, you get wisdom, and if you don’t, then you get experience.

I suspect Occupy is going to get a lot of experience.
Adding: Now that the Ohio bridge plot can conveniently be connected to Occupy, despite the fact that it almost certainly could not have reached the level of a conspiracy without the generous assistance of the federal government, the usual suspects (FOX) will doubtless smear the entire movement.

Not that that will solve any of the grievances that are behind the Occupy movement.

Posted in history, Occupy movement | 4 Comments »

The lawman above the law

Posted by Charles II on April 20, 2012

Via Ritholtz.

(Image from The Atlantic)

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic:

Lt. [John] Pike reportedly disobeyed a direct order to deploy that day without riot gear. He carried with him a pepper spray disbursement mechanism bigger and more powerful than what UC Davis police are authorized to carry and use.

Apparently untrained in using that disbursement device, he shot pepper spray at a distance far closer than is recommended in its instructions for safe use. While claiming that he was afraid for his safety due to being encircled by students, Lt. Pike failed to perceive the openings in the circle confirmed by video evidence, and apparently did not know that one of his fellow officers was traversing the circle, prisoners in tow, without a problem. In planning and executing the raid, Lt. Pike made other errors that investigators judged partly responsible for the needless escalation. And one graduate student present that day insists Lt. Pike said that no one would be pepper sprayed by police unless they turned violent, information passed to the whole group via the human mic system. Finally, Lt. Pike reportedly failed to follow standard debriefing protocol.

So what happens to Lt. Pike?

Once placed on administrative leave, he was subject to an internal affairs investigation. The law requires that its findings alone can bear on personnel actions…

Their method and findings are secret.

The public never gets to read them.

And he may never get any punishment out of this unless one considers paid vacation to be punishment.

Posted in corruption, crimes, impunity, Occupy movement | 1 Comment »

The Spring of our Discontent

Posted by Charles II on April 14, 2012

An excerpt from a post by an Occupier (Kasama) on a 99%Spring event:

It was largely an older crowd. Many had been to Zucotti but hadn’t found a way to get involved. If you visited Zucotti after the change, it was a difficult place to fit into. In the early days of Zucotti, I knew allot of the people in the park. It was easy to pop in and do something to help out. They were the kindest, most loving people you could have met. It was hard to visit Occupy Wall Street and not fall in love with the place. A good chunk of them disappeared some time around the first threatened eviction in October and when the tents went up. When the tents went up, the park became insular and intimidating. The “real occupiers” frequently showed contempt for people who didn’t sleep in the park. There used to be a guy sitting at the “information” desk on Broadway who was so rude and contemptuous that I saw people who came to visit turn away (I haven’t seen him since the eviction).

Yes. 99%Spring really is an attempt to co-opt Occupy Wall Street. There is a huge hunger right now by people who want to get involved but do not know how.

Instead of enhancing an existing movement with experienced activists who very badly want to be involved, 99%Spring is attempting, very badly, to replace that niche and attempting to formalize something that is organic.

My response:

I would like to dissent.

First, talking and trying to persuade people is not co-opting. If they start offering jobs or cash, then you can call it co-option, but what you describe is no more than a well-organized effort to persuade. If the occupiers want to do what 99%Spring is trying to get them to do, then they should do it. If they don’t, they should refuse.

(click for more)
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Posted in history, Occupy movement | 2 Comments »

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