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OWS: What’s it all about??

I had a comment in a previous thread from Kay who doesn’t like the OWS crowd because she thinks they’ve taken away from their message by trying to stay in their tents.  She thinks they’ve put too much emphasis on maintaining an encampment and that this has taken the power out of their message.

This is my response:

Wow, you have completely missed the point of OWS. Completely and utterly.
Here’s the point:
1.) The people in charge gave gobs and gobs of YOUR money to the jerks who got us into this mess.
2.) Time and time again, those gobs and gobs of YOUR money have been used to buy lawmakers.
3.) No matter who you elect, they seem not to be beholden to YOU. So, you get mad and you try voting for a new crew. They don’t listen to you either.
4.) You have legitimate grievances and the government continues to ignore you.
5.) The First Amendment does give you the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government about your grievances.
6.) You’re not allowed to peaceably assemble anywhere. The writers of the constitution surely knew that for a protest to be effective, it had to be visible and irritable, otherwise, it’s not a protest. it’s just a bunch of bloggers that no one reads.
For a protest to be successful and for your petitioning of grievances to be annoying enough to be taken seriously, it has to have a *place* to happen, ie, a place where you can assemble and get the attention of the authorities and of other like minded people.  When the authorities have unaccountable influence on other forms of media, your body in a public place becomes the assembly point for a protest.  If you can’t stand anywhere and protest because the police don’t like it when you try to keep the elements off of yourself while you stand or sit or recline in a public space to protest, what does that mean, Kay?
Where is that place, Kay? In city after city, the mayors have said that YOU don’t have a place to protest. I guess you’re supposed to confine your protests to signing pointless online petitions.
Let’s say you have a grievance that you consider important enough that you think the government should do something about it. Let’s say you think women should keep their legs together and if they get pregnant, they should be miserable for the rest of their lives caring for children they don’t love or want because that’s the way God wants it. So, you and your posse of obnoxious and fanatical crazy religious “christians” get together and decide to occupy the place where abortions happen. And time after time, the court gives you the right to get up to a woman’s face and scream at her and tell her she’s going to hell and be a general nuisance and invade the privacy of citizens whose business is none of yours. That’s a protest and the government apparently has no problem with it.
BUT, if you want to occupy a public space and stay there until your grievances about economic injustice are at least recognized, never mind addressed, you can’t do it. The guys on Wall Street have no problem with you harrassing abortion clinics and blowing them up and shooting doctors. You’re still allowed to do it. But if you challenge their authority to take whatever they want from the public treasury and screw you and take your house without a good faith attempt at mortgage modification, well, then they will call up their army that they let you the taxpayer pay for and they will suppress you in as brutal a fashion as they can get away with. And they will have their paid mouthpieces go on TV and manipulate the minds of people who watch cable news and make them believe that these average Americans are somehow the most filthy miscreants on the face of the earth. Those miscreants are YOU. You don’t have to be there. This is just a message to YOU about what will happen to YOU if you get mad enough to get in their grill. The police and the mayors and homeland security will come down on you. And these protestors are non-violent. They will do nothing to stop you from carting them away to jail, over and over and over again. All they want is for their grievances to be heard.
I’ve been there, Kay and I am not a dirty, lice-ridden anarchist. I’m a capitalist and I have worked for corporations. In fact, I rather like working for corporations because of the nature of my work. All I want is for capitalism to work for ALL of us and for corporations to play fair so that we return to some semblence of economic justice and prosperity for everyone.
It’s hard to see how that message is so threatening that it must be brutally suppressed.
This is the way Jesus did it, Kay. He lead an unpermitted march in Jerusalem and committed an act of civil disobedience in the Temple to protest economic injustice and collaboration between the Jewish aristocracy and the Romans.  He expressed his grievances in a way that was a direct threat to the Romans and the state. The authorities arrested him when he and his followers were camping out in a public space.  And the results were roughly the same as what happened to OWS except that it has taken a lesson from history and doesn’t have a leader.  Do you get it, Kay?  This is the same damn movement, 2000 years later.
And let’s make this clear, there have been no riots. Oakland was an exception but Oakland has home grown problems that are independent of the occupation. In fact, the city of Oakland should be grateful to the occupy movement since the people who have been impoverished for decades had a place to go where the protestors were very insistent on non-violent methods. They didn’t like violent protestors any more than Oakland’s mayor did. There’s a good chance that really nasty riots will follow once the occupiers are gone.
So, Kay, I don’t agree with you at all. Not one little bit. I’m a middle class person previously employed in a high tech field who joined the ranks of the unemployed in my industry through no fault of my own. And I *will* petition the government over our grievances. That is my right. And your right. And if someone tries to force us into obscurity so that we can’t effectively assemble and protest, it is those persons who are violating the constitution and not us.
That is the point, Kay. We are on the verge of losing our rights and all you think about is how those meddling kids won’t get off of your public lawn. When you start thinking like that, the bad guys have won. The next time they do something that pisses YOU off enough that you would be willing to take to the street in protest, you won’t be able to. You should be grateful the occupiers are out there.

The lack of a place to assemble and petition IS the point, Kay.  Because if you have no right to complain, the bad guys can do whatever they want and you can’t stop them.

Wake up and smell the Starbucks.

Speaking of Starbucks, I’m going to go workout and then come back for coffee.  Later taters.


And here’s something I picked up from Suburban Guerilla (nice interface update, btw).  It looks like Anonymous has decided to protest the imprisonment of Julian Assange.  It’s attacking sites of the major credit card companies.

And I have to say, it’s about time, as long as they aren’t costing average Joe the Plumber types any money or preventing them from charging their emergency room visits to their Visas.  There has been a report that anonymous has leaked the Mastercard account numbers of 10,000 individuals.  Now, that presents more of a moral dilema for me.  If it’s 10,000 average people, that’s bad.  But if it’s the mastercard number of someone like Jamie Dimon or some Wall Street asshole who sold a faulty financial “instrument” to the pension fund of a bunch of innocent carpenters?  I’m suprisingly OK with that.  I guess you could blame Stieg Larsson for developing an appreciation in me for the use of the internet to wreck financial vengeance on evil people who always seem to be escaping legal justice.

So, if you happen to come across one of those mastercard numbers, remember, Stealing is WRONG.  It should be punished.

What’s wrong with young people everybody now

I’ve been thinking about the failures of government recently (1, 2), and it turns out (h/t dakinikat) I’m in good company. Sachs points out that “Not only are Americans deeply divided on what to do about [everything], but government is also failing to execute settled policies effectively. Management systems linking government, business and civil society need urgent repair.”

He goes on to list examples. Failure to prevent 9/11, to prevent the human toll post-Katrina, to prevent or stop corruption in Iraq, in the US’ own military, the financial crisis, the dilapidated “health” care system, and the literally dilapidated infrastructure.

However, despite a clear view of the scope and details of the problem, he doesn’t make the obvious connections about its source. He identifies the factors as insufficiently regulated privatization, collapse of planning functions, underfunding, and the inability of separate agencies to fit their priorities into intelligent overall planning. These factors are all real and they’re all huge problems, but they don’t spring into being on their own.

The technical experts who electrified the rural US, ramped up a vast industrial juggernaut to help win the Second World War, built the interstate road system, got to the Moon, and invented Medicare did not belong to some strange species whose methods are inconceivable to us. They were, by and large (we’re talking about whole populations, so by and large is what matters) the same people as the ones now incapable of running a hamster in a cage without a kickback scheme to pay for its kibble.

So what is different?
Continue reading

Good Government is not Inevitable

Yesterday, Governor Corzine announced that New Jersey has a budget deficit. It’s the third largest behind NY and CA. We are in hock up to $3 Billion. And, to be honest, I’m just scratching my head, trying to wrap my brain around how this could possibly be.NJ is a wealthy state. We make some of the highest salaries in the country. But we also have a very high cost of living. And most non-NJ Kossacks would have coronaries at the sight of our property tax bills.In spite of all of that, the state is pretty well run. Budgets are super tight but we’re managing. The roads are in decent shape, bridges get built, the schools in the suburbs have very good teachers and curriculum (except for the gifted kids, but don’t get me started).But if you are the child of a recently laid off engineer with a hefty mortgage payment and you need treatment for some chronic health problem, well, you’re SOL.

It’s a crazy, topsy-turvy world we’re living in. Every year, NJ sends billions of tax dollars to the Feds and it gets distributed to places like Wyoming and Mississippi and Iraq. We pay more into the system than we can ever expect to get back. Our schools don’t get built, teacher’s pensions get dumped onto seniors on fixed incomes who can least afford to pay them and until a couple of weeks ago, thousands more NJ taxpayers were going to get stuck with a tax increase if the AMT had not been fixed.And now our three most prosperous states, all blue, are running massive deficits.This was no accident. It was engineered.The Republicans set out to drain blue states and saddle them with the tax burden that their disastrous policies have generated. We aren’t eligible for most of the programs that the working class is entitled to in other states. That tends to breed resentment. Our wealthier districts are represented by Republicans in whose interests it is to never move away from a burdensome property tax system that funds our state.And yet, our tax money is held hostage to an endless war. We derive no benefit from it and our cultural landmarks and industries are at risk from attacks by inflamed extremists.This is what George Bush did to my state and my country. He trashed it. His merry band of cavalier and careless cohorts saw wealth sitting around and decided they should have it. The money that could have been used to build infrastructure and fund research and improve education and healthcare was simply siphoned away. In it’s wake, we have underfunded and antiquated federal regulatory systems, an interior that is auctioned off the highest bidder and ruined cities. Our civil liberties are in name only, our privacy violated, our security compromised. And my state is $3 billion in debt. Without the additional funding from the SCHIP expansion, a lot of NJ children and their family’s finances are at risk. We can’t afford to fund our own.

We will not know the extent of the damage until January 2009. And all of the hard work that went into the creation of a prosperous middle class from the 1930’s to the 1990’s, all the work of FDR and Truman and Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Clinton, all that has been reduced to the barest minimum as Wall Street investors, including you and me, demand higher profits from the corporations we work for and love to trash.

I don’t think I have to tell you how serious this situation is but some of you need to think about what it’s going to take to put it right. Because once the Bushies are gone, the $$%^’s going to hit the fan. The money from China will last only so long, the mortgaging of our economy has undermined our viability and the oil crisis is going to accelerate our downward slide.

The tendency of the universe is towards disorder and energy is needed to keep it in check. To reverse it, we need to make bonds and introduce order.

Disorder and chaos prevent progress and can’t be wished away. And order can’t be beaten into our friends and enemies until morale improves. To suggest that good government is an inevitable result of hope or flagellation ignores nature. The only way to restore order and put things on the proper footing for going forward is to work very hard and create coalitions.

There never was an inevitable nominee. You have always had a choice.

Choose wisely.