Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Was absolutely mesmerized last night watching the viral video of the UC-Davis pepper-spraying. It was totally amazing, simultaneously one of depressing and inspiring things I’ve seen in many years.
To recap for those who haven’t seen it: police in paramilitary gear line up in front of a group of Occupy protesters peacefully blocking a road. Completely unprovoked, they decide to douse the whole group of sitting protesters with pepper spray. There is crying and chaos and panic, but the wheezing protesters sit resolutely in place and refuse to move despite the assault.
Finally, in what to me was the most amazing part, the protesters gather together and move forward shouting “Shame On You! Shame On You!” over and over again, and you can literally see the painful truth of those words cutting the resolve of the policemen and forcing them backwards.
Glenn Greenwald’s post at Salon says this far better than I can, but I think there are undeniable conclusions one can draw from this incident. The main thing is that the frenzied dissolution of due process and individual rights that took place under George Bush’s watch, and continued uncorrected even when supposed liberal constitutional lawyer Barack Obama took office, has now come full circle and become an important element to the newer political controversy involving domestic corruption and economic injustice.
As Glenn points out, when we militarized our society in response to the global terrorist threat, we created a new psychological atmosphere in which the use of force and military technology became a favored method for dealing with dissent of any kind. As Glenn writes:
The U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil… It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.
SKIP TO THE BOTTOM, ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE:
It was bad enough when we made police defend the use of torture and extrajudicial detention; now they’re being asked to defend mass theft, Lloyd Blankfein’s bailout-paid bonus, the principle of Angelo Mozilo not doing jail time.
How strong can anyone defending those causes be? These people are weak and pathetic, and they’re getting weaker. And boy, are they showing it. Way to gear up with combat helmets and the submachine guns, fellas, to take on a bunch of co-eds sitting Indian-style. Maybe after work you can go break up a game of Duck-Duck-Goose at the local Chuck E Cheese. I’d bring the APC for that one.
Bravo to those kids who hung in there and took it. And bravo for standing up and showing everyone what real strength is. There is no strength without principle. You have it. They lost it. It’s as simple as that.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
This is unverified. From Salon:
Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies. [...] According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Well look at this nifty little website #OccupyLexKY has. Turns out you can sign a petition to pull the Commonwealth's money out of Chase bank and instead have it put into a Kentucky bank, what a neat idea! Keep Kentucky's money in Kentucky!
Anyhow, here's the awesome crowd we drew in:
And here's the statement:
Q and A:
Anyhow, here's the awesome crowd we drew in:
And here's the statement:
Q and A:
Oligarchy, American StyleInequality is back in the news, largely thanks to Occupy Wall Street, but with an assist from the Congressional Budget Office. And you know what that means: It’s time to roll out the obfuscators!
Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.
So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.
The budget office laid out some of that stark reality in a recent report, which documented a sharp decline in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income Americans. We still like to think of ourselves as a middle-class country. But with the bottom 80 percent of households now receiving less than half of total income, that’s a vision increasingly at odds with reality.
In response, the usual suspects have rolled out some familiar arguments: the data are flawed (they aren’t); the rich are an ever-changing group (not so); and so on. The most popular argument right now seems, however, to be the claim that we may not be a middle-class society, but we’re still an upper-middle-class society, in which a broad class of highly educated workers, who have the skills to compete in the modern world, is doing very well.
It’s a nice story, and a lot less disturbing than the picture of a nation in which a much smaller group of rich people is becoming increasingly dominant. But it’s not true.
Workers with college degrees have indeed, on average, done better than workers without, and the gap has generally widened over time. But highly educated Americans have by no means been immune to income stagnation and growing economic insecurity. Wage gains for most college-educated workers have been unimpressive (and nonexistent since 2000), while even the well-educated can no longer count on getting jobs with good benefits. In particular, these days workers with a college degree but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979.
So who is getting the big gains? A very small, wealthy minority.
The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.
If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent — the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.
Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance, i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.
But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.
The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?
Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.
Occupy Lexington 10/26/11:
Occupy Lexington 10/27/11:
Occupy Lexington 10/27/11:
Occupy Louisville 10/29/11:
Occupy Lexington 10/31/11:
Occupy Lexington 11/01/11:
Occupy Lexington 11/02/11:
MORE VIDEO UPDATE:
Occupy Lexington 11/03/11:
Occupy Lexington 11/04/11:
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Open letter to their citizens:
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CITIZENS OF OAKLAND FROM THE OAKLAND POLICE OFFICERS’ ASSOCIATION
1 November 2011 – Oakland, Ca.
We represent the 645 police officers who work hard every day to protect the citizens of Oakland. We, too, are the 99% fighting for better working conditions, fair treatment and the ability to provide a living for our children and families. We are severely understaffed with many City beats remaining unprotected by police during the day and evening hours.
As your police officers, we are confused.
On Tuesday, October 25th, we were ordered by Mayor Quan to clear out the encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and to keep protesters out of the Plaza. We performed the job that the Mayor’s Administration asked us to do, being fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property.
Then, on Wednesday, October 26th, the Mayor allowed protesters back in – to camp out at the very place they were evacuated from the day before.
To add to the confusion, the Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the “Stop Work” strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.
That’s hundreds of City workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against “the establishment.” But aren’t the Mayor and her Administration part of the establishment they are paying City employees to protest? Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?
It is all very confusing to us.
Meanwhile, a message has been sent to all police officers: Everyone, including those who have the day off, must show up for work on Wednesday. This is also being paid for by Oakland taxpayers. Last week’s events alone cost Oakland taxpayers over $1 million.
The Mayor and her Administration are beefing up police presence for Wednesday’s work strike they are encouraging and even “staffing,” spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for additional police presence – at a time when the Mayor is also asking Oakland residents to vote on an $80 parcel tax to bail out the City’s failing finances.
All of these mixed messages are confusing.
We love Oakland and just want to do our jobs to protect Oakland residents. We respectfully ask the citizens of Oakland to join us in demanding that our City officials, including Mayor Quan, make sound decisions and take responsibility for these decisions. Oakland is struggling – we need real leaders NOW who will step up and lead – not send mixed messages. Thank you for listening.
“This thing has got more heart and energy than anything I’ve witnessed in my life,” said Stephen Shepard, the Occupy Lexington spitfire who accompanied me to its Louisville counterpart on two sunny, breezy afternoons last weekend.
“It came out of nowhere, and it’s caught on like wildfire. It’s gonna force change — it’s got to — it already has,” he added, citing President Barack Obama’s plan to relieve federal student loan debt, which is fast approaching $1 trillion.
After a month downtown, Occupy Louisville, the local collective of an unprecedented global, grassroots, nonviolent revolution, is thriving. Despite a recent cold snap, the close-knit group of citizens remains committed to its around-the-clock vigil in Jefferson Square Park, a small venue at Sixth and Jefferson between the PNC Bank skyscraper and the Hall of Justice.
The serenity belies a mighty sense of excitement among folks from all walks of life — college students, single mothers, middle-aged men — mostly unemployed or underemployed — struggling and raging against the machine of corporate greed that has dismantled the American Dream.
Their passion was palpable as we strolled past jack-o-lanterns bearing 999 — shorthand for the discredited tax reform policy of GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, no favorite of the occupiers after his infamous quote: “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”
Beyond the pumpkins and signs, indignation rang: “If you went into medicine to make money, you should not be allowed to fucking touch human beings” … “Access to health care is an issue of human dignity” … “Education is a basic human right.”
The movement is a smorgasbord of issues devoured, like sliders, among a citizenry as diverse as a White Castle. The magic is that there’s no hierarchy — everyone is equal, regardless of socioeconomic status — all opinions are welcome, and consensus is built through painstaking, daily meetings among all who wish to participate.
Karl Zollner, 42, a Bellarmine University graduate who describes himself as unemployable, wants “people to experience what it means to really participate in the decision-making that affects them and to get horribly pissed off when they go back into the real world where they don’t have that voice.”
Absent the tech revolution, it wouldn’t be possible. “What’s happening here is face-to-face — and that’s where it counts,” he said. “But without the Internet — Twitter and Facebook — none of this would have ever happened.”
The web interconnects movements, allowing occupiers nationwide to cooperate, share ideas, resources and collectively experience the history they’re making. Crises such as overzealous police actions in Oakland, Denver or Nashville — where former LEO staff writer Jonathan Meador was arrested while reporting for the Nashville Scene — invigorate and unify occupiers.
Local demonstrators feel solidarity with law enforcers, to whom they report suspicious activity. “The police out here have been great; they’ve beenawesome,” said John Crabtree, 24, who works with an outreach sub-group.
A strict policy against violence and illicit substances reflects a top priority: a safe, sober space. “This a public place, and the courthouse is right there,” said 23-year-old Jax Rhapsody, who works on security. “You don’t wanna see somebody walkin’ around with a 40-ounce in a bag.”
The melting pot continues to provide a roiling course in social work for everyone immersed. Prominent among the lessons: foreclosures and layoffs have given homelessness a more middle-class complexion — and earned its veterans a holy reverence among newcomers.
Occupy is focusing unprecedented national attention on the plight of the homeless and, according to Zollner, “exposing the insane and inane ordinances that have been passed … that criminalize every aspect of being homeless.”
It’s one of the collateral benefits of a movement that originally sought merely to start a conversation.
History has taught us not to underestimate the power of the smart, hopeful, engaged and enraged. History will prove this movement ironically similar to the banks that inspired it: too big to fail.
Meanwhile, Crabtree, a U of L junior who works full time and sleeps too seldom, is energized: “I’m so much more passionate about living — to be a part of something that has such meaning and purpose.”