Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
-- Steve Jobs, Commencement address at Stanford University, June 12, 2005.

Instant Koalition

In some ways it's coming together very fast into an Instant Koalition.  In other ways, it's been a long time coming.  Just as these protests are being organized in very new ways with new technologies, while they also seem in some ways very familiar.

The Occupy Wall Street protests are spreading incredibly fast across the country.  In New York, they are getting larger, and not only because of the instant participation of labor unions--which is remarkable in itself.  It took awhile for Labor to align itself with the Civil Rights movement, although it was there in force in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  It never did join the antiwar movement--it was more often on the other side with the "hardhats."  But Labor has changed a great deal since the 1970s.  There are a lot of members employed by government at some level.  Industrial unions have become advocates for green technologies and green jobs, as well as smarter workplaces--along with greater worker participation in decision-making.  But the antipathy to today's equivalents of the industrial barons is deep in their DNA.

Now quickly joining this Instant Koalition along with the Van Jones group are the heirs to the Civil Rights movement, about to March on Washington for Jobs and Justice on October 15.  Through his TV show, the Rev. Al Sharpton is making common cause with Occupy Wall Street.

And now through Bill McKibben and a coalition of groups, the environmental activists have joined up--they were marching with Occupy Wall Street on Wednesday: For too long, Wall Street has been occupying the offices of our government, and the cloakrooms of our legislatures,” wrote Bill McKibben, co-founder of, in an email urging supporters to join the march, “They’ve been a constant presence, rewarded not with pepper spray in the face but with yet more loopholes and tax breaks and subsidies and contracts. You could even say Wall Street’s been occupying our atmosphere, since any attempt to do anything about climate change always run afoul of the biggest corporations on the planet. So it’s a damned good thing the tables have turned.”

This is a particularly natural move for McKibben after his blistering New York Times oped claiming corporate influence and cronyism between an oil lobbyist and the State Department to get the tar sands oil pipeline approved. 

The Instant Koalition includes such natural allies and also some strange bedfellows, as well as the just strange, but that's all part of the energy at this stage.  This is still building. Like previous movements, it can claim roots and common cause to very American ideals and American history, as in this brilliant piece in Think Progress which shows these protests are much more in the spirit of the Boston Tea Party than the TPers ever were.

But unlike previous movements, it can claim to be representing the direct and obvious interests and (in the main) the views of the majority--of the 99%.  There's plenty of time for it to fracture and falter and make fatal blunders, or to be infiltrated and subverted--all the kinds of things that have happened to movements in the past.  But a movement for the 99% has potential that can't be measured or predicted.

And so far it is getting some of the same reaction against it, that keeps it in the news and probably helps to build it: the ongoing police violence in New York, for example, which continued Wednesday.  That news is still coming through so there's no point in linking to anything now, it will likely change hour by hour. (But the Fox station news crew that reportedly got pepper sprayed by police is again a predictable development, just not so soon.)

 There's also the scorn from established (or Corporate) media, like CNN and (of course) the Wall Street Journal.  That alternately discourages but mostly energizes participants.  But only energy comes from predictable scorn from the likes of Herman Cain.  With descriptions that will remind demo vets of back in the day,  Ezra Klein wonders what it will become.  So do we all.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Money Doesn't Talk, Part 2: The Pope of North Carolina

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." --Justice Louis Brandeis

"While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."--Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissenting opinion to Citizens United

"Money doesn't talk, it swears."--Bob Dylan

 Kudos to Rachel and her gang for talking about this New Yorker article by Jane Mayer that documents in chilling detail how one Rabid Right Richy took over the state government of North Carolina in 2010, and is busy making it very difficult for people to vote who are in categories that normally vote Democratic, and therefore trying to make it impossible for President Obama to win the state again in 2012.  It's happening elsewhere as well, but here we have a compelling narrative of exactly how.

The specific story is about how Art Pope spent a lot of money, sometimes openly as contributions to candidates but more often secretly through various dummy groups, to buy the state legislature.   He succeeded. 

Art Pope is the Koch Brothers writ small, including those deadly ironies.  Like the Kochheads who make their money by destroying the climate conditions for human civilization and life as we know it on planet Earth,  Art Pope makes his bucks with discount stores that in various ways exploit the lower middle class he is out to further betray.

The contextual story is the instant exploitation of a Supreme Court decision to subvert democracy in multiple ways, and to institute corruption that leads only to virtual totalitarian rule.   Mayer quotes Bob Phillips, head of North Carolina Common Cause:

Phillips argues that the Court’s decision, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has been a “game changer,” especially in the realm of state politics. In swing states like North Carolina—which the Democrats consider so important that they have scheduled their 2012 National Convention there—an individual donor, particularly one with access to corporate funds, can play a significant, and sometimes decisive, role. “We didn’t have that before 2010,” Phillips says. “Citizens United opened up the door. Now a candidate can literally be outspent by independent groups. We saw it in North Carolina, and a lot of the money was traced back to Art Pope.”

The article describes how much of the money was spent--on  tabloid TV lurid lies and other sensationalistic misrepresentations of candidates Pope opposed.  He and his minions didn't just oppose them, they assassinated them politically and in personal character.  Here's more of the supposed Christian approach to politics.  In this, the Pope of North Carolina is also not unique.  This unholy alliance of major money and the dominationist Rabid Right and their cynical strategies and self-righteous unethical tactics is becoming characteristic.  It is being used not just in high profile national or state or congressional races, but in every possible state legislature election, at least in particular states for the moment.  Millions of dollars spent for state legislatures.  Nobody should be blindsided by this in 2012.  It's here now. 

Money Doesn't Talk, Part 1

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." --Justice Louis Brandeis

"Money doesn't talk, it swears."--Bob Dylan

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz probably made history when he went down to the Occupy Wall Street demonstration to speak in support.  In addition to documented police brutality, New York is making it as hard as possible for demonstrators to exercise their First Amendment rights, for example by banning any electric amplification, including bullhorns.  The demonstrators' solution is a chorus of people who repeat the words of the speaker.  They try to do it in unison, but at times it gets harmonic, and is all the more effective for being beautiful.

Stiglitz published this article in Vanity Fair a few months ago about an economy and a politics that is " Of the 1% by the 1% for the 1%"-- the richest 1/100th part of the American population.  He describes what is happening, how and why it is happening, in a succinct if all too familiar recitation of suffering and middle class collapse.  But here's an intriguing bit of historical context in human terms:

"None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes."

This suggests that the destruction of the American middle class, explainable in terms of American-based corporations and uber-rich Americans who exploit near-slave labor in other countries rather than pay American workers or taxes, is by now feeding on itself.  The question is whether a tipping point has been reached.  History suggests it often is, Stiglitz concludes:

"The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late."

The question is whether the United States is going to let this happen.  That history is being written right now.

Incidentally (maybe), I was struck by Wall Street demonstrators like those pictured above. With money stuffed in their mouths, they seemed to be intending to portray the rich as zombies or vampires of greed. The rich as blood-sucking vampires makes particular sense.  But it reminded me of a theory proposed for why zombies are so popular with the young at the moment: recall Michael Moore quoted in a previous post about these demonstrations, saying that the young are reclaiming their futures, because their futures have been stolen.  People without a future are symbolically the living dead.  

Monday, October 03, 2011

Marching Shoes, Part 2

The Occupy Wall Street protests over the weekend are opening some media eyes.  Michael Sherer at TIME evaluates the potential for a "Tea Party for the Left."  E.J. Dionne does the same in the Washington Post, although he broadens it out to the Washington conference: "This week, progressives will highlight a new effort to pursue the road not taken at a conference convened by the Campaign for America’s Future that opens Monday. It is a cooperative venture with a large number of other organizations, notably the American Dream Movement led by Van Jones..."
Dionne notes this: "A quiet left has also been very bad for political moderates. The entire political agenda has shifted far to the right because the Tea Party and extremely conservative ideas have earned so much attention. The political center doesn’t stand a chance unless there is a fair fight between the right and the left."

I've pretty much said all of this on my previous post, but two more things: first, I just heard someone on TV from the Occupy Wall Street demos who used the word "revolutionaries" which I haven't heard in more than 30 years in this kind of context.  These are not single-issue protests, but a coalition of outrage. Michael Moore said, "They're here to reclaim their future.  Their future has been stolen." 

 Also, candidate Obama's hope clearly was that his election campaign was building a mass movement that would hold together after his election, and help propel change.  You can argue why that mostly didn't happen---that the Obama White House had more than enough to fill its day with governing, that nobody knows how this could work since it has never happened, etc.  Now even though the President himself called for the marching shoes, he's going to have to deal with the excesses--including the excessive expectations--of a movement outside his or anyone's control.     

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"The absurdity of a life that may well end before one understands it does not relieve one of live through it as bravely and as generously as possible."

Peter Matthiessen