“Occupy:” Say What?

We all dimly remember when some targets of the Occupy movement’s scorn struck some resonant chord with most of us. The popular spotlight on the vast 99%-1% gap was launched by Occupy. Public resentment against the unholy bank/investment bank consortiums who brought the economy to its knees in 2008 was brought into sharp focus by Occupy.

The cities of Oakland and Washington, D.C. are current newsworthy Occupy targets (among many others), further straining the resources of already financially beleaguered cities and their residents. And why Oakland, indeed? We don’t just have cities to house large law enforcement repositories. Believe it or not, ordinary citizens also try to live in cities, raise kids, and, if possible, earn a living.

Besides discovering that some police departments have learned nothing at all about police brutality vs. effective and humane crowd control in half a century, we don’t hear as much about Occupy these days because the question “how’s your poison oak” is only interesting to most of us for about the first week of the infection.

But they’re still here. What the hell do they really want?

To inspect the horse’s mouth – that part of the equine anatomy presented to those inspecting its teeth – I checked out an actual Occupy web site, OccupyWallStreet.

That site issues a disclaimer on the posted list of demands, “This content is user submitted and not an official statement,” but alas, I could not locate an “official” list. Here’s a smattering of the wackier zany demands I did find:

  • Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act. Unionize ALL workers immediately. [Return of the 1923 “Wobblies?”]
  • Open the borders to all immigrants, legal or illegal. Offer immediate, unconditional amnesty, to all undocumented residents of the US. [Oh, sure]
  • Lower the retirement age to 55. Increase Social Security benefits. [Pie in the sky, a chicken in every pot]
  • Ban the private ownership of land [Nyet, komrade]
  • Make homeschooling illegal. Religious fanatics use it to feed their children propaganda. [Regular parents use it to give their kids real educations, too. Even Hippie parents couldn’t have sanctioned this proposal.]

So much for the notion “Occupy” is for increased freedom.

Looking up “Wobblie” in Wikipedia, I find the following wording in their preamble to the “current IWW Constitution:”

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

Sound familiar? Occupy needs to re-focus or disband. I believe union and popular social movements that address social problems by hurling walls of human bodies into the maw are short-selling the potential of the 99% to conceptualize and debate real issues. “Let’s protest police brutality by seeing if we can provoke it” is not a solution. It’s a shopworn, coldly calculated gambit to manufacture martyrs for a cause that often doesn’t bear up well under closer scrutiny. Rather than performing public-service educational functions, why do these movements invariably send their supporters into the failed strategic equivalent of World War I trench warfare?

Occupy can jolly well get out of the cities and try a 21st-century communications solution, like the Internet.

Occupying Oakland makes about as much sense as picketing “Elmo & Oscar’s Kiddie Daycare Center” to force Assad to democratize Syria, or to induce North Korea to enthusiastically embrace free speech and elected government.

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Three Off-Focus News Items

It’s not that we’d like to see these news headlines go away entirely. We’d just like to see them addressed appropriately.

PERRY: Rick Perry’s brain-freeze debate debacle even went viral on YouTube. In truth everybody has “senior moments” like forgetting a word we know we should know, or walking into a room and forgetting why we went there. Fortunately most of us don’t have an opportunity to forget one of our three pet political platforms in front of millions of TV viewers. Even Perry’s admission that “he stepped in it” is symptomatic of the problem here. I’m not a Perry fan and never will be, but Perry inarticulateness isn’t the reason.  If the GOP didn’t like the self-mortification of promoting embarrassing public speakers, it wouldn’t have backed Bush Jr. for two full terms. But if you want confirmation of how common this sort of brain freeze is, check out the interesting New York Times article on Rick Perry’s Brain Freeze.

CAIN: Charges of sexual harassment look bad for Herman Cain, but it’s far from clear whether Cain, his accusers or both sides have the credibility gap. I’ll wait until the facts are aired and sorted out. On a recent road trip I heard most of an LA talk show on this topic. All callers had already arm-chaired the scandal without benefit of the facts, which are still not known, and their “opinions” seemed to depend on whether or not they liked Cain. I don’t like Cain either, but whatever happened to due process and an impartial hearing?

PATERNO: Sacked Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 84, was accused of failing to act on molestation testimony against a formerly respected and long-serving coaching assistant, Jerry Sandusky. University President Graham Spanier was also just fired. Penn State students rioted against the loss of their coach, and presumably out of loyalty to their team. This misplaced at-any-cost “loyalty” is exactly what compounded the scandal in 2002 when college officials suppressed it. I think most of us would prefer to see a serious national inquiry into prevention of institutional child abuse and subsequent cover-up. As for Paterno and Spanier, it happened on their watch and they sandbagged it. The sackings were appropriate. Treating trusted college officials as the victims instead of the kids they betrayed is what’s offensively inappropriate.

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Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize 1989

I read a fascinating story about the Beijing-Lhasa Tibet Railway, a monumental engineering feat by any accounting.

The article by correspondent Pankaj Mishra, The Train to Tibet, appears in the April 16 New Yorker. (The text of the article is not available online).

Tibet Railway

As an armchair railway buff, I was struck by the engineering difficulty of constructing track on the fast-melting permafrost (global warming), the systems to deliver oxygen-rich air to passengers at 16,400 feet, and the political side of the railway that we do not hear so much about. The railway serves as a delivery system for trainloads of Han Chinese, who already dominate the Tibetans, now a minority, living in their own capital of Lhasa. Many also view the railway as a British-style colonial device for plundering rich mineral resources and diverting them to Beijing.
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“Scooter” Libby?

As almost anyone with a functioning television set knows by now, Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been found guilty of four out of five counts of lying to a grand jury, lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice.

Would a top aide in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney lie about who leaked the identity of a CIA agent to the media? I’m not going there. Hasn’t anybody asked: why is it that we still don’t know who leaked the name? It doesn’t take too many spy movies to figure out that having your name leaked as a CIA agent can be fatal – self-evidently, a most serious offense.

So the FBI and the government prosecutors didn’t get their man
. What they did get is some sap who didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. So should he have just taken the Fifth?
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Rosa Parks 1913 – 2005

If an updated “Profiles in Courage” (John F. Kennedy, 1956) could somehow be published 50 years later, I believe my heroine Rosa Parks would be in it.

Mrs. Parks was a seamstress in Montgomery Alabama. She had no grand plan for starting a watershed civil rights movement. Waiting for the municipal bus after a hard day’s work, on December 1, 1955, she had planned some community work in the evening; it was not a day to plan to be arrested. But Rosa Parks just got tired of Alabama’s “Jim Crow” system of mistreatment , discrimination and segregation.
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Walt Kelly and Homeland Security

What would Walt Kelly have thought? Who would have thunk it?

We’re going to be posting a few “Pogo” political cartoon panels that Walt Kelly copyrighted in 1952 and 1953. We certainly have no intention of ripping off Kelly’s estate, or whomsoever may legally be trying to eke out a living reprinting his books.

click this image to view the scanned 1952 Pogo cartoon sequence. Our point is to assert that if Kelly were still alive, he would feel right at home in our brave new world of investigations, security screening, legalized snooping, and suspension of constitutional rights. Even his cartoon characters could be the same, and might not need facelifts to symbolize contemporary 21st century players. The bad guys even look the same!
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Trent Lott

Two down. Dozens to go. Should we not celebrate his fall from power; should we not pass out the party favors and dance in the streets? Some will say he did a lot for their region. Yes, he did; he combined the civilized veneer of Washingtonian doubletalk with the charm of the Old South, ably representing a lot of folks who would like to see us all the way back in time to before the Mason Dixon line.

Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms … they represented the strange new mix of New South and Old Confederacy. They learned not to say “lynchings” and “nigrah”. They adopted instead the cracker codeword rhetoric, the superficial parlance of “freedom”, setting the respectability of laissez-faire and Jefferson’s Rights of Man back a hundred years or more. Poor old Dick Armey; didn’t that boy have SUCH a hard time learning not to say “fag”?

It was as if throwbacks to an earlier time realized that, by adopting the dress and mannerisms of post-World-War-II cultures, they could “pass” … many who weren’t impacted personally by the votes and polemics of men like Lott will say that they weren’t so bad, that they did a lot to advance the cause of business and gun rights, and their power and influence brought factories and the railroad into town.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said it best. The racism and sentiment of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist world of 1948 was just as wrong and reprehensible then as it is now. Saying that these men really “weren’t so bad” is much like prating that Hitler made the trains run on time.

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Quickly Noted

Arafat: A lot of pro-westerners don’t like him because of his guerilla past and shadowy terrorist connections. He weasels on any peace compromise based on the geopolitical status quo. He’s the only prominent leader the Palestinians have got. Even if he were Attila the Hun, helping him set up shop as the democratically elected leader of a free Palestinian State might be a smart move for all sides. The Palestinian civilian infrastructure is shattered and devastated. Whoever is elected to organize the political alliances required to restore the basic necessities of life for the whole Palestinian people will have more than one man can handle. Even Attila would be out on his ear in a year if he can’t adapt to the desparate needs of a peacetime Palestine.

Ward Connelly: this distinguished African-American California arch-conservative is rallying an initiative to ban the collection of racial and ethnic information on individual citizens by state and law enforcement officials everywhere. Ward says, “we don’t want our government profiling individuals”. Of course we don’t. Every Californian knows, on the other hand, that this is a patently obvious end run around “Driving While Black” arrest monitoring. The Highway Patrol can’t collect the data the courts and citizenry need to monitor racial profiling stops, because this would be immoral, so we have to advise every individual citizen “you’re on your own to fight city hall, buddy” when an actual incident occurs. This is moral? Mr. Connelly, time to wake up from the pipe dream of an Ayn Rand society so perfect that the government can’t monitor broad, pervasive patterns of injustice, and so unimpeachable that we can’t monitor the government. If rights are truly a property of individuals, not governments, pal, when will it be time to stick up for individuals instead?

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Quote Of The Month

– “Compare us to other liberation movements around the world. We are very mature. We don’t engage in terror. We don’t condone extremist nationalist notions that can only burden our people. Please compare what we have achieved in the Kurdistan national-authority areas to the Palestinian national authority of Mr. Arafat. We have spent the last ten years building a secular, democratic society. What has he built?”

– Dr. Barham Salih, Prime Minister of Kurdistan’s Regional government, interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg, March 25 New Yorker (see previous Quick Note).

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One Hand Washing The Other

if dirt doesn’t beget dirt, what good is it, anyway?

Sunday, August 23, 1998, San Francisco Examiner

Vashon Island, Washington
GOP picnics at home of campaign scofflaw.

Newt Gingrich attended a GOP fundraiser at the private estate of Thomas Stewart, CEO of Food Services of America. Critics noted that Stewart has recently admitted to violating federal election laws, paying a $5 million fine. Gingrich himself is paying a $300,000 penalty for House ethics violations.

Gingrich shook hands with 3,609 people Saturday, hoping to qualify for some kind of attention from the Guinness Book of World Records people.

Questions were asked about whether dirt begets dirt, and who is worse in this context, the Republicans or the Democrats.

If you think about it, there may still be an item here for the greatest number of people who had to wash their own hands — after shaking hands with a partisan dignitary.

©Alex Forbes, August 25, 1998

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