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Occupy Congress: How to get there

Update:  Here’s some coverage from TPM on Occupy Iowa Caucuses.  The occupiers are suggesting that Iowans go to their caucuses and declare themselves uncommitted to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the slate of candidates of BOTH parties.  That’s going to have more of an impact on the Democratic slate, IMHO.  And this is not a joke.  It’s not supposed to be humorous.  It’s a genuine statement of disgust and will signal to the parties (especially the party currently in charge) that they cannot serve two masters.  They’re going to have to choose: the masters with the money but not the votes or the masters with the votes and no money.  I’m wondering if Occupy Iowa is going to get an assist of some sort from Occupy Chicago.  The Chicago Occupiers have a knack for clever direct action events.  This should be interesting.

Occupy Congress #J17:

Are you going?

At the Occupy Congress logistics page, you can find several transportation options. There’s no excuse not to go.  Buses are leaving to go to Washington, DC from all over the east coast and even as far west as Texas.  Reservations on an Occupy Bus are cheap.  My reservation from Trenton was a whopping $35.00!  (Thank you very much, contributors).  But if you don’t have the money for even that, consider hitching a ride with someone in your area through Ride Buzz.  And there’s a Mega Bus option that is supposedly giving away 200,000 free rides to DC (Someone generous donor must be footing the bill for this).

The schedule of events for Occupy Congress stretches all the way to January 23, if you feel like winter camping that long.

All you have to do is show up.  That’s it.  Just show up and occupy the space you take up along with the thousands of others who will be joining you.  Let Congress know you’re serious.

Marsha, who is coming in from Tucson to DC, asked what to wear.  So these are all of my suggestions for those of you who are from warmer climates.  This list is based on my experiences skiing and chaperoning a bunch of 8th graders on a overnight field trip to a Y-camp in March right in the middle of a cold snap:

1.) Warm jacket.  I recommend either a warm down parka or a fleece pullover with weatherproof shell.

2.) Thermal underwear.  I can’t stress this enough.  If you are going to be outdoors all day in the winter, these are a must.  You can get them anywhere they sell outdoor sports clothing.  Check LL Bean or EMS if you don’t have a store like this around you.  Some of these items are expensive.  If you’re never likely to use them again, you might want to just opt for a pair of long tights that you can buy at macys.

3.) Socks.  Get lightweight wool hiking socks with liners.

4.) Sweater, fleece or flannel layered over a T-Shirt.  When I go skiing, I wear a performance fabric T-shirt because cotton Ts tend to absorb a lot of moisture when you’re active and it just makes you cold.  Again, outdoor sports stores have good choices here.  They don’t have to be expensive.

5.) Hat, scarf, gloves and mittens.  If you are in the northeast, you’ll notice an irritating habit of retailers to stop selling gloves in the middle of winter.  So, stock up now if you can find them.  The cheap disposable gloves that you don’t mind losing can be found in your grocery store in multiple packs.  Bring them with you so that people from Florida and Arizona don’t get frostbite.  Also, CVS sells little chemical heating pouches for about a dollar a pair.  They last for hours.  Just tuck them into your pockets.

6.) Comfortable shoes.  This is THE most important item you can bring.  I’m planning to wear my lightweight Merrill hiking boots because they are comfortable and you can walk for miles in them without getting tired.

7.) Last but not least, bring a water bottle.  In the other occupy marches I’ve been to in NYC, the event organizers handed out water but then we have to remember to pick up our litter later and find a recycle bin and it’s a bit of a hassle.  So, I recommend this cool collapsible water bottle that you can buy at Eddie Bauer.  Fill it up before your event and stick it in your backpack.  When it’s empty, just roll it up take it back home with you.

8.) One other thing: in Zuccotti park, there weren’t any lights allowed in the evening.  I never camped there but when I do go camping, I take a headlamp with me.  They’re indispensible.

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Monday: Hungary, Occupy Congress and other stuff

This morning, Paul Krugman had a guest poster, Kim Lane Scheppele, to explain what is going on in Hungary.  Remember how excited we were 20 years ago when Hungary escaped the tyrannical clutches of Communism?  Unfortunately, they have fallen into the hands of what looks like fascism:

In a free and fair election last spring in Hungary, the center-right political party, Fidesz, got 53% of the vote. This translated into 68% of the seats in the parliament under Hungary’s current disproportionate election law. With this supermajority, Fidesz won the power to change the constitution. They have used this power in the most extreme way at every turn, amending the constitution ten times in their first year in office and then enacting a wholly new constitution that will take effect on January 1, 2012.

[…]

In the new constitutional system, the legal supervision of elections has also been changed. Before the last election, the norm was for the five-member Election Commission to be politically diverse and for the government of the day to consult the opposition before nominating candidates. But the rules were changed last year so that each new national election is now accompanied by a new choice of election commissioners. As a result, the existing commissioners were removed from their offices without allowing them to finish their terms and now the Election Commission consists of five members of the governing party.

The new election law specifies the precise boundaries of the new electoral districts that will send representatives to the parliament. But the new districts are drawn in such a way that no other party on the political horizon besides Fidesz is likely to win elections. A respected Hungarian think tank ran the numbers from the last three elections using the new district boundaries. Fidesz would have won all three elections, including the two they actually lost.

 Read the whole thing.  These people are like Republicans on Red Bull.  The only reason I can’t say they’re significantly worse than our Republicans is that if Republicans take power in 2012, I wouldn’t put it passed them to start emulating the Hungarians.  Their plan is almost in place as it is, what with The Big Squeeze eroding everyone’s livelihoods and ruining lives and families with crushing debt.  And if I were Republicans in 2013, the first thing I would do after indefinitely detaining the Occupiers is make damn sure that no other party ever won another election or had sufficient representation in Congress to knock them out.  In fact, they’ve pretty much adopted the Hungarian model when it comes to the 60 vote threshhold in the Senate.  Filibusters used to mean something.  Now, no piece of legislation can get past Republicans (and some Democrats) without a supermajority.  The only way to get around the Republicans in the Senate is to reduce their numbers to insignificance and they know it.  Which is why we should expect them to try to reduce ours to insignificance preemptively and forever.
And then there’s this tasty nugget:

The new constitution also accepts conservative Christian social doctrine as state policy, in a country where only 21% of the population attends any religious services at all. The fetus is protected from the moment of conception. Marriage is only legal if between a man and a woman. The constitution “recognize(s) the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood” and holds that “the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence.” While these religious beliefs are hard-wired into the constitution, a new law on the status of religion cut the number of state-recognized churches to only fourteen, deregistering 348 other churches.

 You know, Richard Dawkins might come off as a bit of a belligerent, but he’s absolutely right about the damage that is caused by the sanctity of the religious point of view.  You can’t touch the religious without all Hell breaking loose around you.  It’s about time that the non-religious stood up and fought back.  In Hungary, 79% are secular and they are going to have to live under this regime. (That could happen here, although no one can deprive women of their right to abortion.  The state can only deprive them of a *safe* abortion.)  We need to put religion back in its place.
After I read this piece, it struck me that we don’t have much time.  The forces of authoritarianism are already upon us.  And contrary to the Democratic party’s point of view, Obama is probably the WORST person to run for the presidency next year.  If there is a Hungarian style regime in the works, the people who vote for it are definitely motivated to vote against Obama and there are more and more of them everyday as this sorry state of an economy drags on and on.  Wasn’t the Republican plan always to make life about as bad as it could get for the Democratic president and sit on all of the money until we begged for mercy and blamed the Democratic president?  And didn’t the Democratic party take the bait,  thinking Americans were stupid an proposed an inexperienced schmoozer for president?  It looks like all Republican dreams are about to come true.  What we need is to think out of the box, to pull a surprise move, to introduce a little chaos and metaphorically monkeywrench their plans.  Otherwise, we’re all going to Budapest.
******************
Speaking of going somewhere, Partition Function put up a link to the Occupy Bus for the Occupation of Congress Rally in Washington, DC on January 17, 2012.  I made a reservation for the bus and will leave from Trenton, but I think it would be really cool if we Conflucians could have our own caravan.  And it would be even cooler if Katiebird could go, provided her health holds up.  As you know, she lives in Kansas so it’s a flight for her.  We have a little bit of money in the kitty but to pay all of our expenses, we could probably use a little more.  I’d like to thank everyone for throwing in a bit for my trips to NYC to cover the Occupation of Zuccotti park.  It has taken a load of worry off of my mind.  So, if you would like to help keep us warm and fed, please consider a modest donation of $10.17.  The donate button is to the upper left of this page.
And if you’re planning to attend yourself, check out this page for details about where the Occupy Bus will be departing from a city near you.
*****************

About Occupy: On Saturday, as the Bishop was scaling a fence in his magenta cassock, someone with the system password put up a greeting from Mumia Abu-Jamal on the OccupyWallSt.org page.  At first, I was pretty pissed off.  It seems that no matter how hard ordinary people who are not authoritarian religious nutcases try to defend a different point of view, they are always brought to a screeching halt by naive defenders of Mumia Abu-Jamal.  I have seen it so many times in the past couple of decades that I feel a deep sense of despair when this kind of crap shows up again.  Suddenly, no matter if you are against a stupid war or against indefinite detentions or rigged elections or any other important thing, you are conscripted to defend this convicted murderer.  It’s at that point that the people whose support you need the most decide that your cause is just another crazy radical fling that will go the way of the other fling.

Most of the world thinks Mumia is just where he is supposed to be right now.  There was plenty of evidence to convict him. But whatever.  Just when you think a movement is about to go mainstream, some nitwit has to start emoting over Mumia, as if there weren’t other disadvantaged and poorly represented African-American men and women wrongly imprisoned and innocent.  It’s been thirty years and Mumia, the celebrity prisoner, is still attracting a cadre of followers who cannot see that just because a person was a Black Panther at some point in his life does not mean that the world is out to pin murders on him and put him away for life.  Sometimes, a cold-blooded murder of a police officer is just a cold-blooded murder of a police officer.  We don’t attack the police even if they’re complete thuggish assholes sometimes (no offense).  When you need them, they’re usually there for you.  That doesn’t make them our best friends but it does mean that we need to treat each other with respect even if we have to be civilly disobedient.

So, Mumia represents everything the Occupiers are against and I was really worried that the support for Mumia was going to be the downfall of OWS.  In fact, I wrote emails begging them to take Mumia’s greeting down.

But, you know what?  That was the wrong thing to do.  Because I checked the thread on that greeting yesterday and the vast majority of people thought like I did.  Here’s the top comment on that thread with plenty of mojo:

I have been working at Occupy Wall Street since week 2. I am involved heavily in several working groups. I attend meetings and actions every day of the week. But this? This is bullshit. Here’s the thing y’all. Yes, the criminal justice system is brutally unfair. It is racist. It is classist. It is broken beyond all repair. The prison industrial complex has swallowed any hopes that a poor black man ever had to a right to a fair trial in this country. HOWEVER, Mumia? Mumia is guilty as hell. Guilty, guilty, guilty. He stood over Officer Daniel Faulkner with a gun registered in his own name and shot him point blank in the face in front of multiple witnesses. Because of Mumia’s involvement with The Black Panthers, because of his background as a guerilla journalist, and because of the undoubtedly racist climate of Frank Rizzo’s police department in the 1980’s, Mumia’s conviction became a cause celibre. I do not believe in the death penalty. I think that our justice system is a sham. But slapping Mumia’s face on the front of the OWS website is insulting and offensive to all of us who have worked so hard these past few months. This movement is about socio-economic inequality and corporate corruption. It is not about promoting the latest Free Mumia rally on campus. Please show some respect for the legions of us who have put in so much time, and do not glorify the convicted murderer of a police officer. No matter how many college kids wear his face on their shirts.

They are occupiers and have dedicated time and their presence to the occupation.  They are just average folks and they do not want the occupation to be associated with Mumia.  It’s pretty definitive.  Yes, there are a few vocal and persistent supporters but their obsession is not that of the vast majority of occupiers.  The occupation is to save America, not to give Mumia Abu-Jamal a platform to proclaim his innocence and unfair incarceration due to his political beliefs from 30 years ago.

I’m really rather encouraged.  This is the way the system is supposed to work.  Give everyone a voice and let the conversation and arguments carry the day.  It is regrettable that Mumia was convicted of being in the wrong place at the time when a police officer was gunned down and that Mumia was seen shooting the cop, and that he owned the gun that was used to shoot the cop, and that he was in turn shot by the cop, and that he pretty much confessed to shooting the cop to other cops and medical technicians before he was taken in for surgery, or that he tried to represent himself in court and did such a lousy job of it that he had to be replaced as his own defense attorney before he did real damage to his case.  He’s had his day in court and his appeals and many opportunities to change public opinion and he’s still in jail.  There’s a reason for that.

All these things are regrettable, but they are not our problem. If Mumia was such a good guy, such a saint who shared our concerns for economic and social justice, he would refrain from ruining every attempt to get something off the ground by inserting his “greetings” and attempting to co-opt a movement to work in his defense.  To me, he sounds like a narcissist.

Our problem is finding a place to occupy, to protest and to voice our grievances about economic injustice and the rigging of the rules in favor of the rich and powerful to the detriment of everyone else no matter how hard working. Our task is to invite others to join us.  Our task is to become a force to be reckoned with. Once we have solved our own problems, which affect millions of people in this country, those who are concerned with the plight of Mumia can turn their attention to it.  But leave the rest of us out of it.

The community seems to be pretty much agreed on that.

And here’s a little video of the activities of December 17.  I’m sorry to have missed this one.  Bishop Packard’s attire was lovely.