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#S17- I Occupy

Good Morning!  Today is the anniversary celebration for Occupy Wall Street.  I am still at home this morning for various reasons.  I have things that urgently need to be finished here.  But my afternoon looks free so I might scoot up to NYC later.  In the meantime, I’ll be finishing putting down a new floor in my basement and watching the events live.  Anyone who wants to help let me know in the comments.  Yeah, didn’t think so.  {{sigh}}

You can watch all the #S17 events streaming live here and at several Ustream channels.

And for anyone who doubts whether I still believe in Occupy, listen up: I still believe.  Not only do I believe but every day I see and hear evidence that the message, “We are the 99%” has grown and spread beyond the numbers of the bold individuals who risked arrest to protest in Zuccotti park and other places.

Movements go through phases and have to figure things out.  How to organize, who to trust, what they say and how to say it.  This is what happened to the Jesus Movement, the most successful Occupy movement up until this point.  This Occupy has the benefit of knowing what lays ahead for movements that are co-opted like the early Christians were, but it doesn’t know the future.  None of us do.  Occupy is a moral movement and it is a catalyst for many other movements.

Here’s what we do know.  That all people and all work have dignity and worth.  That there is more to life than screwing your neighbors out of their fortunes in order to hoard obscene gobs of cash for yourself.  That there is nothing wrong with people who refuse to use their talents to exploit others.  They are not losers. And that there’s nothing worse than insisting,unquestioningly and unwisely, that others kiss the whip of those who would exercise their power and authority over them.  You are not a mindless automaton who takes orders and whatever your master throws at you.  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

So, to those of you who are wondering whether I’ve abandoned Occupy Wall Street, think again.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and some of us need to finish other things that can’t wait. But if you’ve been paying attention to what I’ve written for most of my career here, you will know that I’ve *always* belonged to Occupy, long before it even came into being.  And there are many others who are just beginning to understand the message, many of them formerly middle class professionals who have through no fault of their own have fallen into economic despair.  Their careers and fortunes have disappeared.  Every day that this little Depression goes on, new Occupy sympathizers are created. Yes, even among people who only a couple of years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of questioning their authority figures are striving to understand where it is the 1% is trying to take us and are realizing that they need to resist it in their own way.  In that sense, Occupy has succeeded and will continue to succeed.

You don’t need to go to Zuccotti Park to Occupy, although, I highly recommend it because it’s exhilarating.  Just soap your car windows today, chalk a sidewalk, bang a pot.  Let the 1% know you’re still here, everywhere, and you aren’t going away.  Ever.

I do not believe this darkness will endure.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Here’s what an Occupy event is like.  This is my poor excuse of a video on the events from #N17 last year.

Bold Occupiers come in many flavors.  This group of wheelchair Occupiers blocked Liberty and Broadway in Lower Manhattan and are being rolled off to jail.

So, you know, if you can run, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, roll.  Occupy does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, disability, lifestyle, age, religion or national origin.

 

You’ve been love bombed

Love bombing- It’s not just for religions anymore.  It’s a very powerful propaganda technique.  Feel like you’ve lost one too many elections lately?  Unloved?  Ignored?

Be very, very careful:

Does OWS love bomb?  From what I can tell, no.  OWS is completely passive about who joins them.  They do not recruit and they won’t flatter you or make you feel loved.  If you ever feel that way at a OWS rally, leave.  The only exception was the batsignal.  But note that the batsignal was directed outwards to the world.  It said “Occupy Earth” because the point is not to exclude anyone.  The point of love bombing is to exclude everyone who does not belong to the group.  You derive your self-worth and self-esteem from the group and seeing the world as your enemy, not potential friends.

Here’s another, more detailed explanation of love bombing from a former JW.  CSTapostate takes you step by step through the process.

Note that the initial love bombing is not the thing that keeps people in the group.  Love bombing becomes an effective cult retention technique when a new recruit begins to have doubts.  Once you have identified with the group and have taken on the new personality because you have been praised and loved, the last thing you want is to lose that shiny new you and all of the love and acceptance that comes with it.  You don’t want to become like the less special people, the less spiritual, less intelligent, less enlightened, less beautiful.

The point is not that you are or are not any of those things.  The point is that if you feel that someone can deprive you of your self -worth because that someone gave you that personality in the first place, if you feel like that someone could deprive you of that specialness by deciding to exclude you from the group when you raise questions or express doubts, then you have been manipulated through love bombing.

If you have doubts about the movement or group you are in, one of the ways to discover whether you have been love bombed is to ask yourself if you are allowed to dissent or question and still remain in the group.  If you can answer yes, then the group is low control and you’re safe.  If your doubts are followed by accusations that you are no longer quite as shiny, creative and intelligent as they thought and that maybe you are secretly a bigot or something equally reprehensible, then you are in a high control group and you should do research about the group before you get in any further.

For example, if you are in the left wing media or blogosphere, do you feel obligated to bash Bill Clinton whenever you’re writing a column or doing an interview thinking that if you *don’t* immediately distance yourself from any sympathies to the Clinton administration you might not be invited back? Did you ever ask yourself why you feel that way?  Go on, ask yourself.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions and exercising independent thought.  If you feel uncomfortable making independent decisions in a group because you fear you will lose the love, get out.

Postscript: I watched that CSTapostate video again and something hit me that I hadn’t noticed before.  He used the example of holidays.  JWs separate new JWs from their families by forbidding holidays.  CST goes on to describe the messiness of holidays.  Families gather in one house and they end up sleeping on floors and everything is kind of messy but that’s Ok because the whole experience is bonding.  It brings everyone together.  One of the first things JWs tell new recruits is that there can be no family holidays anymore.  If you as the new JW recruit can’t give up holiday gatherings, then maybe you weren’t the beautiful, highly spiritual, good association they thought you were.  Maybe younger, more vulnerable members of the congregation should limit their contact with you until you’re ready to fulfill your obligations.  The WBTS breaks up families and bonding experiences when they love bomb because the WBTS is a high control group.

If you don’t see the similarity to the violent evictions of OWS occupation sites, you haven’t been paying attention.  The last thing a high control group wants is for us to get together in one big holiday sleepover where we can find common ground and bond.  That’s why Occupiers are made to look dirty, crazy-radical, lazy, disgruntled, sexually promiscuous and indiscreet, and indiscriminate about where they poop.  If you start to sympathize with the Occupiers, you will take on those characteristics and you will no longer be part of the group of clean, upstanding American citizens.  The most important task that the media had to do during the fall was to make the occupiers as reprehensible as possible in order to discourage the average American who has doubts about the direction that the country is going in to actually go down to an occupation site and meet some occupiers.  The high control elements in our society  did not want any of us bonding over a campfire song.

If anything, OWS is underlining  the seriousness of the situation we are in.  The country is in the grip of a high control authoritarian cult.

Zuccotti Park cleared of Occupiers

Update: People around the world are sending the displaced occupiers food. If you are in the Foley Square area, you can get breakfast there. To order breakfast for the occupiers, you can call Pete at Cortez Cafe at (212)7663200. There is a minimum $5 donation. A local church as opened its doors for sanctuary. There is an impromptu process going on right now. There will be a GA at 7am. It sounds like occupiers are going to Foley Square. They are having a brief moment of silence to appreciate the morning and sticking together through the night. Wahoo-Dorus!

You can follow the action at www.globalrevolution.tv

If you want to register your protest, you can call the NYPD and tell them to stop. Here’s the number: (212)334-0611

Um, I *might* have to head up to Foley Square today to do on the spot reporting. Does anyone want to put up bail for me in the unlikely event that I am arrested? I have papers to read. I can do that as easily in Foley Square as anywhere else.

By the way, to get to Foley Square, see this handy google map.

Update2: There will be a group meeting at 6th Ave and Canal Street at 9:00am.

There are Occupy the Highway marchers headed for DC. Their goal is to arrive in DC on Nov. 23, the day the supercommittee is supposed to present their deficit reduction cuts to Congress. They were in Philadelphia yesterday. If you’re interested, you can catch up with them between Philly and Wilmington, Delaware today. See this page for further details. Occupy the Highway also has a wordpress site here. Dear Paul Krugman, there’s a student named Whitney Blodgett who is giving Princeton a bad name. Could you please administer a strong dope-slap to the back of the head? It’s embarrassing.

Update3: Mike Bloomberg’s statement says something to the effect that protestors were preventing the general public from enjoying the use of the park.  {{rolling eyes}}  Is that the best he can come up with?  Because I never saw anyone prevented from entering or using the park when I was there.  Of course, there were those creepy looking dudes that Karl Rove and Fox News probably hired to scare the tourists away but other than that, no one was prevented from enjoying the park.  In fact, the NYPD was sending the homeless, mentally ill and aggressive indigent down to Zuccotti Park even though some of them were disruptive and potentially dangerous to the people in the park.  Earth to Mike Bloomberg, no one is going to believe that crap.

Update4: Bloomberg is having a press conference at City Hall but the occupiers are not allowed to get into the City Hall.  So the occupiers are going to try to prevent any of the media or press from getting into the building to attend the conference.   Soooo, let’s get this straight, the people who are the subject of the press conference are prevented from attending the public press conference to hear the reason why their protest was silenced.  Ok, occupiers have been alerted by a member of the press that there is an alternative entrance.  They are linking arms to prevent the press from getting in the building.

Occupiers barring the entrance to City Hall

Meanwhile, the younguns have gotten the distinct impression that they were used by Obama in 2008 and aren’t in the mood to help him next year.

Occupiers are now marching to meet with union and religious leaders.

Update5:  Someone just announced that a judge ruled that Bloomberg can’t evict protestors from Zuccotti Park.  Looking for confirmation…

Here is the ruling from Judge Lucy Giddings.  A temporary restraining order was issued at 6:30am.  The injunction is in effect until 11:30am.  Another hearing is scheduled today in an attempt to make the injunction permanent.

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now was on the scene when the eviction happened.  Her report is on http://www.globalrevolution.tv now.

Ok, I can hear Bloomberg in the background.  He calls the arrests, beatings, pepperspraying and the destruction of personal property as “cleaning”.  I’m going to take a guess that the word “clean” was focus group tested. Bloomberg knows what gets to the conservative viewer.  There’s nothing they like more than cleanness and orderliness. Occupiers’ personal belongings were loaded into dump trucks and carted away.  It sounds like the Mayor is going to ignore the judge’s injunction and that Zucotti Park will remain closed until the situation is clarified.

Occupiers can pick up their personal belongings at the sanitation department parking lot tomorrow.  They must provide proper identification. But as Amy Goodman panned across the area where sanitation workers were loading the destroyed remnants of Zuccotti park protestors stuff, it’s hard to believe that anyone is going to find something worth recovering much less identifying as their own.

*************************

Maybe we should have known something was up yesterday when the legal council for Mayor Jean Quan in Oakland quit in disgust and threw his support behind Occupy Oakland. The deputy mayor soon followed.

Or maybe it was the fact that Oakland, Portland and Denver were evicted all at once.

Or maybe it was Mayer Nutter in Philadelphia, newly reelected, who was making noises about OccupyPhilly overstaying its welcome.

Whatever it was, we should have seen it coming.

Details are sketchy because the police aren’t letting journalists near the scene but it looks like the bastards moved in at 2:00am to clear Zuccotti Park. The livestream at GlobalRevolution says that “The police are destroying Zuccotti Park, many arrests, many injured, the police are pushing the press away from the scene. Police are tearing apart library. Broadway and Liberty- arrest teams headed there (Police Scanner)”

You can watch the sanitation workers cleaning the park at globalrevolution.tv.  (They’ve moved on to other things by now)

And here’s a picture that says it all.  NYPD’s finest.

Basically, the police moved in to the park in the dead of night when they thought no one would be looking and destroyed everything, used batons and pepperspray against occupiers and did the bidding of the 1%.

It’s not going to work. They will be back. The genie is out of the bottle. The 1% will never be able to rest easily again because the 99% are all around them. There will be more infiltrations. In fact, the infiltrators are already in place. You can fire the ones you have but a new set of infiltrators will take their place. How are you going to know the difference?

The occupiers in Zuccotti Park were only the ones you could see.

You better be nice because the Zuccotti Park occupiers were models of non-violent resistance. They have no control over what desperate people will do when they’re pushed too far.

OccupyWallStreet: Nucleation and crystallization

Update:  Here is a photoessay from The Atlantic of last weekend’s OccupyTogether rallies held throughout the world.

In one of the more recent comment threads, r u reddy pointed me to a guest post that David Graeber wrote for NakedCapitalism about the origins of OccupyWallStreet and asked me if I cared to comment.  Why, yes, yes I do.

But first, I would like to point out one line that caught my attention in Graeber’s piece.  It’s about Obama and young people:

How, then, do you expect a young American voter to feel, after casting a vote for a fundamental change to our political and economic system, on discovering that in fact, they have elected a man who twenty years ago would have been considered a moderate conservative?

And that right there gives you an indication about where Graeber is coming from.  To him, it is Obama’s betrayal of “young people” that he appears to be most concerned about.  In his post, he uses the words “young”, “youth” or “student” 2o times.  Granted, it’s a long post but by the time you’re finished reading it, you get the distinct impression that young people with student loans are the ones suffering the most in this economy. How does Graeber think the unemployed middle aged professional feels about the election of a man who she knew would be a moderate conservative during a period of economic crisis?  It just goes to show that Graeber doesn’t understand his movement.  So, what is David missing, because this thing is still solidifying and we’re not certain what it’s going to look like when it’s finished.  Here’s my comment response with editing:

I think David Graeber gives himself and his friends too much credit. Remember, the PUMAs were in Denver with much the same grievances. We were the working class (of all ages, genders, educations and professions) that got thrown under the bus in 2008. And there were hundreds of people who showed up in Denver at the PUMA headquarters.  During the convention, this blog’s readership spiked to 52,000 unique page hits in a 24 hour period.  There were many people who were deeply concerned with the direction the 2008 election had taken.  From what I can tell, this movement might have started sooner if the left itself hadn’t sat on it.

The problem is that there was no way in hell anyone other than Obama was going to get the nomination no matter how valid the challenger and justified the cause. So, we had to wait through a couple of years of Obama trying to parley with the repulsive Republicans, knowing that he was going to be a disaster. It wasn’t that difficult to figure out what Obama really stood for after his scorched earth policy in the primaries, the way he accepted the treatment of voters in Florida and Michigan, his thin voting record, his vote for telecomm immunity, his campaign’s tolerance of overt misogyny against Hillary and Palin, his courtship of evangelicals coupled with the disappearance of reproductive rights issues from Democratic congressional candidate’s websites in 2008, and his acceptance of millions in campaign funds from the financial services industry.  If young people had unreasonable hope about what Change!™ Obama was going to bring, it’s because Graeber and his buddies at DailyKos whipped them into a frenzy.  We regular people who saw Obama for the passive, opportunistic, investment class wannabe that he was had to live in the wilderness while people in Graeber’s cohort fell madly in love and then out of love with Barry. It was DailyKos that lead the jeers and taunts against us by scornfully calling us a “shrieking band of paranoid holdouts”. Jane Hamsher called us a “certain kind of woman” and to this day, most of the left blogosphere can’t get over the conditioning that associates PUMA with racism and bitter menopausal women who don’t have college degrees.  But now that the Graebers of the country are over their infatuation, the revolution can return to it’s regular program already in progress.

Secondly, I see this from a chemistry perspective. In supersaturated solutions, you can frequently get crystallization to occur by scratching the inside of the beaker with the sharp end of a glass rod. The scratch provides something called a nucleation site onto which a crystal can build. At a certain point, crystallization becomes a concerted process and the crystals fall out of solution. But it won’t happen unless conditions are right for crystallization. The concentration of the solution has to be high enough, the temperature has to be just so, it has to be scratched or seeded.

This is what we have with OWS. The conditions were right for crystallization and the movement fell out because they picked the right spot to scratch.
I see a lot of blather about anarchism and anti-capitalism and blahdeblahdeblah. I’m not sure those things are as relevant as Graeber makes them sound. That’s because the 99% consist of more than the friends he has with the crushing student loans and you will find people of all ages, genders and backgrounds at an occupation site. That right there should tell Graeber something. This was a movement waiting to happen that goes way beyond his little circle of progressive activists. This is a movement for former PUMAs as well.

And the movement is going to be what it’s going to be. It is an open source concept. That means that the users determine the way the end product works by collaboration, iterations, feedback and adjustments. Anarchism means absolutely nothing to me. (well, I know what it means, I just don’t think it’s a particularly good working model) Neither does tearing down a capitalist system. I don’t think the vast majority of regular people want to tear down the system. I think they want out from under its grasp.  They want an economy that works for them.   That may mean reviving and reinforcing the rules or setting up a parallel economic system without Wall Street’s dirty mitts on everything but whatever that means, the open source model demands that it is responsive to the users and can’t be determined beforehand by people like Graeber.

So, I think what Graeber and his friends did is scratch the glass. The public was ready for this. And now, he and his friends need to lose their egos and join with the rest of us so we can get things done.

By they way, Graeber is overlooking the strength of this movement if he thinks it is centered on young people. The reason it has become so incredibly successful is that when there is a big march, it is the regular working stiffs who show up to them. If it were just students, the media would have an easier time writing them off. But it’s not just students. It’s union people and unemployed people and teachers and actresses, and chemists and older people and families with kids. The 99% percent really means just about everyone.  It doesn’t mean “all 99%-ers are equal but some 99%-ers who are young with student loans are more equal than others”.  Some of us have mortgages and no jobs.  We count.

When I was at the march on October 5, I saw why the thing was taking off. The marchers looked like everyday people, not like a college pep rally. Graeber is already out of touch with his own constituency. Not only that but as wonderful as young people are, I’m surprised that OWS hasn’t taken advantage of the technical expertise of some of their sympathizers who are NOT 25 years old. We might be middle aged but most of us cut our teeth in the internet age. We wrote the first web pages, configured the first apache servers and played with the tools that brought us smartphones and social media. We learn quickly. It’s stupid to leave all that knowledge and experience on the table in order to celebrate youth to the exclusion of all else.

For example, there are a lot of unemployed scientific researchers right now.  To pass on all that talent, experience and insider knowledge while the OWS young people go on at length (and quite foolishly sometimes, IMHO) about the dangers of modern pharmaceuticals would be to miss out on an opportunity to make pharma work for the public at large and not just the big corporations.  Instead of going off on uninformed tantrums about how evil pharma is, they could be spending their time figuring out how to set one up that would be responsive to them.  Like having the 99% own the patents and decide what therapeutic areas to explore. I am willing to help take on this kind of working group on if there isn’t one already formed.  Preserving our scientific infrastructure is extremely important and there is all that talent and knowledge out there. This is something that “young people” and social scientists are unlikely to get a grasp of without our help.

If Graeber wants to keep this movement going, it would be much better to make middle age sexy and invite as many working class people in to share what they know that they have learned after years of experience. Youth is wasted on the young.

******************************

When I think of OWS, this is what I see – here’s another video of protestors singing Do You Hear The People Sing in the rotunda of the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.  Yes, there are young people.  But they are not by any means the majority or the only ones with a grievance.

OccupyWallStreet: The people in the park

These are pictures of OccupyWallStreet in Zuccotti Park taken on Monday, Oct. 17, 2011.  The freaky people can be found on the perimeter of the park facing outwards, which is one of the reasons I suspect some of them were hired by Fox News.  On the interior of the park, all ages and ethnicities can be found.  As you can see, the vast majority of people in the middle of the park are perfectly normal looking and acting.  It’s just that you have to pass through a phalanx of some pretty strange looking people to get to the middle.  This is a shame because, even though the passersby could see that there were a lot of typical, average people in the park, the media audience won’t know that because that’s too mundane.  What’s so fascinating about potentially meeting your neighbor at an occupation?  Let’s be voyeurs and take a picture of the scary looking guy with the tattooed face!

The park is full.  There are people sleeping it off in sleeping bags in unexpected places.  It’s hard to see how they manage to sleep with all of the activity going on around them, especially when there’s a good possibility that they could get trampled.  There’s really nowhere to sit so the plantar boxes and stairs are where people congregate to rest, if you can find a bum sized space.

This guy was brave or trying to demonstrate his arithmetic skills.  Most people stopped to talk to him  and he seemed to be having some good interactions.

This is where you can leave your ideas for the OWS think tank.  Keep in mind that the occupation is prohibited from erecting structures in the park so makeshift tables and recycling/sanitation bins made of cardboard pop up here and there.   If you have an idea and you want to develop it into a policy with other 99%-ers, you can contact the think tank at OWSthinktank@gmail.com.

It’s impossible to keep all religion out of the park.  The Hassidim are celebrating Sukkot this week and are looking for Jews in the park to perform a blessing.  I thought it was kind of nice.  It’s a “green” holiday.  Partition Function was singled out by a boy of about 11 who made him bless the four directions with the palm fronds.  Then he turned to me and asked, “Are you Jewish?”  “1/8th”, I replied.  “Mother or father?”, he said, hopeful that he might have snagged another one.  “Father”, I said.  “Nope”, he said, and moved on.  For a brief second, I was crushed.  But I got over it.

The scene below is more representative of the occupiers of Zuccotti Park.  I include day trippers such as myself.  Many people came and stayed for awhile.  There seems to be more men than women, although at the General Assembly, the genders seem more evenly split and the directing facilitator that night was female, with a big voice.  About the GA, there is a reason why they use the People’s Mic and hand signals.  There is no voice amplification allowed in the park.  To get a permit for a megaphone would cost more money than they have.  So, the people’s mic is necessary to make sure everyone can hear what the speaker says, while the hand signals cut down on clapping and other noise that tend to interrupt these kinds of meetings and drown out the speaker.  It’s very effective, you can hear the speaker pretty well and it forces you to listen closely.  I think it’s brilliant.

This picture is rather big and may be partially cutoff in your browser.  In mine, I can only see the left half of the picture.  Open it in a separate window to get a better view of the 99% in Zuccotti Park.  Note that the smoothie stand on the right makes a nice bubble tea, if you’re into black tapioca balls in your drinks.

OccupyWallStreet: To the naysayers

"Find a space and occupy it, even if it's only your own mind"

You know who you are.  You’re the ones who are trying to convince us that there’s something fishy about OWS.  That it sounds too much like OFA.  And as I have said already, if it turns out that OWS is a sneaky move by Obama to create the pressure he needs to do what he was supposed to be doing for the last three years, I will be the first one to denounce OWS, and the country in general will look very disfavorably on his political campaign. Any candidate that uses this kind of deception to win some campaign battle while allowing such misery to happen on so grand a scale does not deserve my vote or your vote.  People do not like to be pushed out of the middle class through unemployment and crushing debt just so the political class can out psych each other in some high stakes game.  As Naomi Klein said, “You are not the cannon fodder for Washington policy wonks”.

I happen to think the movement is genuine.  It’s getting people from all over the country involved and it’s giving them a sense of control, which has been lacking since the Democrats f%^&*ed us over and installed a cypher presidential candidate instead of a Democrat.  It’s also very interesting to watch it grow and develop.  Fascinating, which is why I like to cover it.  It’s unpredictable.  And if it takes them some time to figure out what they want, it still will be a blip on the historical timescale.  This movement has spread like wildfire, it appeals to many diverse demographic groups and the internet will help facilitate the way it gets things done.  I also don’t see a lot of tedious wordsmithing which tends to kill a movement quicker than spit.

But OK, some of you will still be nagging doubters.  If I didn’t know better, I would almost say you were trolls trying to disuade liberals and progressives from actually getting the band back together and doing a gig. And that would seem to suit the parties very well, wouldn’t you think?  Neither one of them has any interest in making working people look good and united and determined to get respect and their money back.   It suits both very well that OWS is made to look as bad as possible.  Scare away more conservative types by making them look like degenerates; scare the liberals away by telling them it’s just a smokescreen covering for another nasty Obama fanbase operation.

I don’t have to give you reasons why you should or shouldn’t support OccupyWallStreet.  I don’t speak for the movement but it’s not particularly difficult to figure out what it is they stand for and what they hope to accomplish.  When they figure out the best way of getting that something, then you’ll get your answer.  Until then, take and old cold tater and wait.  If you want to stand up with OWS, OK then; if you don’t, well, that just means that there will be one less person representing your point of view.  And if you’re determined to believe that it’s an offshoot of OFA, then you owe it to yourself, and to the rest of us who are sick of your persistent, belligerent grumpiness, to go to an occupation site and check it out for yourself.  There’s even an occupation in the tundra so don’t complain that there aren’t any around you.

Then you’ll know for sure what’s real and what’s not real because you will have been able to collect and analyze your own data.  Until then, go complain and distract on someone else’s blog.  I’m not interested in arguing with people who aren’t willing to do the work.  It makes me suspicious that they are up to no good.

OccupyWallStreet: We are not cannon fodder for Washington policy wonks

 

My Favorite Sign

Glenn Greenwald gets OccupyWallStreet in a way that many doubters do not.  In his latest post at Salon, Can OWS be turned into a Democratic party movement, he writes:

Given these facts, does the Center for American Progress really believe that the protest movement named OccupyWallStreet was begun — and that people are being arrested and pepper-sprayed and ready to endure harsh winters andmarching to Jamie Dimon’s house — in order to devote themselves to ensuring that these people remain in power? Does CAP and the DCCC really believe that most of the protesters are motivated — or can be motivated — to turn themselves into a get-out-the-vote machine for Obama’s re-election and the empowerment of Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Party? Obviously, if when the GOP nominates some crony capitalist like Rick Perry or eager Wall Street servant like Mitt Romney, few if any of the protesters will or should support them, nor can it be denied that the GOP in its current incarnation is steadfastly devoted to a pro-Wall-Street, corporatist agenda. But it also seems to me quite delusional to think that you’re going to exploit this protest as a way “to mobilize protesters in get-out-the-vote drives for 2012″ on behalf of the Democratic Party that I just documented.

Presumably, people who are out protesting and getting arrested are politically astute enough to be aware of some, probably most, of these facts. A rejuvenated outburst of “populist rhetoric” from Obama — a re-reading of the 2008 Change script — just as election season is heating up and Obama again needs progressive enthusiasm to remain in power seems quite unlikely to make people forget all of this.

As Robert Reich recently pointed out, OWS and the Democratic Party are not exactly natural allies given that “Obama has been extraordinarily solicitous of Wall Street and big business” and that “a big share of both parties’ campaign funds comes from the Street and corporate board rooms.” As Naomi Klein explained after speaking to the protesters, the reason they are out on the street rather than working for the DNC or OFA is precisely because they concluded that electoral politics or working for either party will not address the issues motivating them; part of what they’re protesting is the Democratic Party. For an FDL Book Salon discussion this weekend, I reviewed Lawrence Lessig’s excellent new book on our corrupted political system, Republic: Lost, and he documents exactly why he transformed from an enthusiastic supporter of his long-time friend and colleague Barack Obama in 2008 into a harsh critic of both parties: because the political system itself has been subverted by oligarchical control. As he put it in his book: : “Democracy on this account seems a show or a rule; power rests elsewhere. . . . the charade is a signal: spend your time elsewhere, because this game is not for real.”

So best of luck to CAP and the DCCC in their efforts to exploit these protests into some re-branded Obama 2012 crusade and to convince the protesters to engage in civil disobedience and get arrested all to make themselves the 2012 street version of OFA. I think they’re going to need it.

My spidey sense tells me that the occupiers know that the Democratic party is an enabler of Wall Street behavior.  Where I disagree with Glenn is that *anybody* who takes financial industry money is going to do its bidding.  I don’t believe that.  The crisis of 2008 was so severe that getting away with murder could only be pulled off by making sure the weakest presidential candidate won.  Obama was weak in character as well as experience.  But I digress.

While OWS is still working through the process of what it can do with all of its newly found power, let’s talk about business in America.  What drives me nutz about some activists is the inability to separate the finance industry from corporations in general.  There are some forms of industry that are best carried out by corporations because they provide an economy of scale and physical set up that make working together ideal and logistically possible.  Some industries that come to mind are car and aircraft manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.  Go ahead, try to build a new plane or discover a new drug without a corporation.  It’s bloody hard.  Many unemployed chemists right now are faced with this dilemma.  I have a sneaky suspicion that the clueless MBA class thought cutting a huge number of pharma workers was going to pay off for them because these people would just turn into entrepreneurs and when their  projects got to the development stage, the big pharmas would swoop down and buy them out.  But this is a business school grad’s fantasy.  With very few exceptions, this will never happen.  It’s just too expensive and physically exhausting for a few people to get together and create a whole pharma company out of their garages.  The start up costs alone will bankrupt you before you even get started and there are years, decades even, before a drug hits the marketplace, if it ever does.  The risk is too high for small entrepreneurs who still have to eat.

I hope someone is paying attention to what I just wrote about garage startup pharmas.  Stop hoping for this to happen.  Getting a new drug this way is about as likely as an immaculate conception.  At best, small companies can only do a piece of the puzzle.  The rest has to be farmed out and even when the idea is a good one, what these entrepreneurs really want is for someone with deep pockets to buy them, which most venture capitalists these days are increasingly unlikely to do without a guarantee of a payoff.  Since you can’t get close to guaranteeing a payoff without significant start up funds… well, you can see this is a vicious cycle.  The pharmas would have been better off keeping us and leaving us alone in our labs for about 5 years.

Now that there are a lot of people struggling to make a living by starting their own companies, vulture capitalists can make them offers they can’t refuse.  That will discourage new entrepreneurs from trying it and pretty soon, chemists and biologists will turn in their labcoats and go work for Wall Street where bonuses of only $500,000 will make a spoiled 27 year old Ivy League graduate cry but not your average lab rat.

Anyway, the problem with corporations is that at some point in the last 20 years, their upper management was taken over by people who wanted to play by the finance industry rules.  Many of them, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, have no idea how their businesses work.  They are raised in a business culture that puts making money ahead of everything else.  An executive reading that sentence would laugh derisively and say of course they’re there to make money.  And who would disagree?  That’s what for profit businesses do.  More power to them.  Make gobs of cash.  BUT the way you make that gob of cash *does* matter.  If you do it by reinvesting some of your profit into your business and innovate and grow, your business is going to do pretty well but it might take longer for that gob of cash to grow.  If you do it by slashing your labor and compensation costs, raising prices astronomically and then skim the profits off the top and share the profit, that’s like eating your seed corn and your company will start to show diminishing returns over time.  This is already happening to pharma with many of them going over the “patent cliff” starting this year.

Corporations have decided to go with option number 2 because the finance industry puts pressure on them to deliver more and more money to the shareholder.  And that money gets managed by Wall Street and is used to invest in foreign markets and the people who are left in those corporations are encouraged to put money into their 401Ks and they are compensated with stock options, which are supposed to incentivize you but tend to make you feel like your future is not in your hands whenever the shares plummet.

And then there is the deregulation and non-transparent derivatives, which are also not regulated, and the credit default swaps and the over-leveraged banks and on and on.  The whole system has been changed over the past 30 years to reward speculation by the wealthy.  None of this is news to anyone.

But it just may be occurring to some that the horror stories about what Brookseley Born, Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren have come up against in Washington DC is the result not of the bankers but the politicians who have been compromised by the financial industry.  And this problem affects *both* parties.  The Republicans are more up front about it but the Democrats haven’t been much better.  I won’t leave Bill Clinton off the hook here but in his case, there were mitigating factors in addition to Larry Summers and Robert Rubin acting like total assholes.  But we have to remember who rehired Larry Summers after his reputation preceded him.  It was Barack Obama.

We can debate whether Obama was a knowing tool of Wall Street or just aspired to be like the class that reigns there.  But there is no doubt in anyone’s minds by now that under Obama, the finance industry will suffer no shocks to its system at the hands of government regulators.  By the way, Greenwald includes a graph of the politicians that have received the most campaign cash from Wall Street and Chris Dodd’s name was on that list. It should come as no surprise that Dodd was one of the people who obstructed Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to the CFPB.  This article from Vanity Fair gives all of the gruesome details.

So, what does this have to do with OWS?  Well, the naysayers who have never been to an occupation site (hello myiq!) seem to think that the occupiers are or can be co-opted to become another Obama for America organization.  My sense, having actually, you know, *been* there, is that that’s not true.  The occupiers like me who already know that the politicians are standing between the Wall Street and regulation are very suspicious of any activity that pushes them to support Obama.  The other’s are still working through this process.  And the fact that they are working through this process slowly and methodically indicates to me that they will soon reach the same conclusion that we early birds did: if the finance industry plays by its own set of rules, the way to make them behave is to change the rulemakers.  And you can’t re-elect the same rulemakers who answer only to Wall Street and not to you the citizen and taxpayer.  And if the faulty rulemakers are in both parties, then even if some of those more sympathetic rulemakers are on your side, you need to force them to become accountable to you.  And to become more accountable to you, you need to threaten them with electoral losses until they get the picture that the power is at the ballot box and not on Wall Street.

So, will OWS become a tool of the Democratic party?  I don’t know but I doubt it.  That’s because what OWS wants is to make life more fair for the 99% and right now that’s not possible with the current set of rulemakers.  OWS has to apply pressure from the outside of the system.  Becoming a part of that system will never work.  The Democrats will try.  They’ll use fear, uncertainty and dread.  But the power that OWS has is in staying separate from any political party and gathering bodies and momentum behind it.

My best guess as to where OWS is headed is as a voting bloc first and then as a new political party.  What they are doing right now is laying down the foundation for what that party represents and what it values.  I know, I know, they’ll tell you they are still working on what they want and party building is not on their agenda.  But the process they are pursuing has a new party as a very logical endpoint, among other things.  And if the platform focuses on economic issues primarily, it could be extremely appealing to millions of Americans who have had enough of both parties.

The Democrats have more to fear from OWS because so many occupiers have given it a chance, over and over again, to do something to rein in the investment class and have seen nothing come of those efforts.  They know they’ll never make any headway with the Republicans, who are busily invoking images of murderous radical marxists with tattooed faces who poop on cars (well, now we know how to spot the radical marxists).  The occupiers have had it with Democrats but they also have more to gain by taking Democrats on.  They are just now feeling their power.  They’re not about to turn it over to a bunch of Wall Street lackeys

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