"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘“Occupy Wall Street” Protest’

Plutonomy & The Precariat: On The History Of The U.S. Economy In Decline

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Oldspeak:”We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.” -Dr. Noam Chomsky
Empires in decline follow the same general pattern. High debt, unsound economic policies, intransigent political corruption, perpetual war and increases in war funding to the detriment of all else , privatized military, environmental degradation, looting of resources from throughout the empire rather than producing  things, systems deplete their resource base beyond levels that are ultimately sustainable. All these conditions exist in the American Empire. Something has to be done about fundamentally changing these conditions before it’s too late.

By Tom Engelhardt & Noam Chomsky @ TomsDispatch:

By Tom Engelhardt:

If you had followed May Day protests in New York City in the mainstream media, you might hardly have noticed that they happened at all.  The stories were generally tucked away, minimalist, focused on a few arrests, and spoke of “hundreds” of protesters in the streets, or maybe, if a reporter was feeling especially generous, a vague “thousands.”  I did my own rough count on the largest of the Occupy protests that day. It left Union Square in the evening heading for the Wall Street area.  I walked through the march front to back, figuring a couple of thousand loosely packed protesters to a block, and came up with a conservative estimate of 15,000 people.  Maybe it wasn’t the biggest protest of all time, but sizeable enough given that Occupy, an organization without strong structures but once strongly located, had been (quite literally) pushed or even beaten out of its camps in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere across the country and toward oblivion.

It’s true that if you were checking out the Nation or Mother Jones, you would have gotten a more accurate sense of what was going on.  Still, didn’t the great protest movement of our American moment (on a planet still in upheaval) deserve better that day? And no matter what you read in the mainstream, here’s what you would have known nothing about: this country is increasingly an armed camp and those marchers, remarkably relaxed and peaceable, were heading out into a concentration of police that was staggering and should have been startling.

Cops on motor scooters patroled the edges of the march, which was hemmed in by the usual moveable metal barricades.  Police helicopters buzzed us at rooftop level.  The police managed to alter the actual path of the marchers partway along and the police turnout — I estimated up to 75 cops, three deep on some street corners doing nothing but collecting overtime — was little short of incomprehensible.

Though Occupy marchers used to chant, “Whose streets, our streets!” it was never so.  The streets belong to the police.  If this is the democracy and freedom to dissent that American officials constantly proclaim to the world as one of our core values, then pinch me.  If most of it is even legal, I’d be surprised.  But when it comes to legality, we’re past all that.  So any march on a sunny day is instantly imprisoned, and the protesters turned into a captive audience.  When young people break out of the barricades and the serried ranks of cops and head in unexpected directions, it has the unmistakable feel of a jailbreak.

The fact is that, in a country whose security forces are up-armored to the teeth from the Mexican border to Union Square, just behind any set of marchers, you can feel the unease of those in power, edging up to fear.  And no wonder.  We remain in a “recovery” that’s spinning on a dime.  Let the Eurozone falter and begin to fall, the Chinese housing bubble pop, or the Persian Gulf go up in flames, and hold onto your signs.  Like Bloomberg in the Big Apple, many mayors sent in their paramilitaries (with a helping hand from the Department of Homeland Security) to get rid of the “troublemakers.”  Only problem: their real problems run so much deeper and when the next “moment” comes, Occupy could look like a march in the park (which, in many inspirational ways, it largely was).  In the meantime, the streets increasingly belong to the weaponized.  Americans who protest blur into the “terrorists” who, since 9/11, have been the obsession of what passes for law enforcement.

If you want some sense of just what’s lurking under the surface of all the police drones and helicopters and tanks and even mini-drone submarines, what underpins our fragile, edgy moment, then check out this talk TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky gave.  It’s excerpted from his new book Occupy, with special thanks to its publisher Zuccotti Park Press. Tom

By Noam Chomsky:

The Occupy movement has been an extremely exciting development. Unprecedented, in fact. There’s never been anything like it that I can think of.  If the bonds and associations it has established can be sustained through a long, dark period ahead — because victory won’t come quickly — it could prove a significant moment in American history.

The fact that the Occupy movement is unprecedented is quite appropriate. After all, it’s an unprecedented era and has been so since the 1970s, which marked a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society, and not always in very pretty ways. That’s another story, but the general progress was toward wealth, industrialization, development, and hope. There was a pretty constant expectation that it was going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.

I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s — although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today — nevertheless, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that “we’re gonna get out of it,” even among unemployed people, including a lot of my relatives, a sense that “it will get better.”

There was militant labor union organizing going on, especially from the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are frightening to the business world — you could see it in the business press at the time — because a sit-down strike is just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. The idea of worker takeovers is something which is, incidentally, very much on the agenda today, and we should keep it in mind. Also New Deal legislation was beginning to come in as a result of popular pressure. Despite the hard times, there was a sense that, somehow, “we’re gonna get out of it.”

It’s quite different now. For many people in the United States, there’s a pervasive sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. I think it’s quite new in American history. And it has an objective basis.

On the Working Class

In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you’re a worker in manufacturing today — the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression — and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren’t going to come back.

The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing. There were other factors. It led to major changes in the economy — a reversal of several hundred years of progress towards industrialization and development that turned into a process of de-industrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued overseas very profitably, but it’s no good for the work force.

Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise — producing things people need or could use — to financial manipulation. The financialization of the economy really took off at that time.

On Banks

Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. That changed dramatically in the 1970s. Until then, there had been no financial crises since the Great Depression. The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.

And it was egalitarian.  The lowest quintile did about as well as the highest quintile. Lots of people moved into reasonable lifestyles — what’s called the “middle class” here, the “working class” in other countries — but it was real.  And the 1960s accelerated it. The activism of those years, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent.

When the 1970s came along, there were sudden and sharp changes: de-industrialization, the off-shoring of production, and the shift to financial institutions, which grew enormously. I should say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was also the development of what several decades later became the high-tech economy: computers, the Internet, the IT Revolution developed substantially in the state sector.

The developments that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to the concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn’t benefit the economy — it probably harms it and society — but it did lead to a tremendous concentration of wealth.

On Politics and Money

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

The parties dissolved in many ways. It used to be that if a person in Congress hoped for a position such as a committee chair, he or she got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, they started having to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead, a topic studied mainly by Tom Ferguson. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector (increasingly the financial sector).

This cycle resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the top tenth of one percent of the population. Meanwhile, it opened a period of stagnation or even decline for the majority of the population. People got by, but by artificial means such as longer working hours, high rates of borrowing and debt, and reliance on asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. Pretty soon those working hours were much higher in the United States than in other industrial countries like Japan and various places in Europe. So there was a period of stagnation and decline for the majority alongside a period of sharp concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve.

There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact.  Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn’t really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There’s a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.

The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.

Plutonomy and the Precariat

For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it’s been pretty harsh — and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less — the .1% — it’s just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they’re concerned, sure, why not?

Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won’t run through the corruption, but it’s pretty astonishing.

In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs — the Plutonomy and the rest.”

Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” — hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) — was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.

So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat — in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.

If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long, hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.

Toward Worker Takeover

I mentioned before that, in the 1930s, one of the most effective actions was the sit-down strike. And the reason is simple: that’s just a step before the takeover of an industry.

Through the 1970s, as the decline was setting in, there were some important events that took place.  In 1977, U.S. Steel decided to close one of its major facilities in Youngstown, Ohio. Instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from the company, hand it over to the work force, and turn it into a worker-run, worker-managed facility. They didn’t win. But with enough popular support, they could have won.  It’s a topic that Gar Alperovitz and Staughton Lynd, the lawyer for the workers and community, have discussed in detail.

It was a partial victory because, even though they lost, it set off other efforts. And now, throughout Ohio, and in other places, there’s a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sometimes not-so-small worker/community-owned industries that could become worker-managed. And that’s the basis for a real revolution. That’s how it takes place.

In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, something similar happened. A multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. Evidently, it just wasn’t profitable enough for them. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don’t think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.

And there are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them are major. Not long ago, President Barack Obama took over the auto industry, which was basically owned by the public. And there were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done: reconstitute it so that it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership, and continue on its traditional path.

The other possibility was to hand it over to the workforce — which owned it anyway — turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that’s a big part of the economy, and have it produce things that people need. And there’s a lot that we need.

We all know or should know that the United States is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation, and it’s very serious. It not only affects people’s lives, but the economy.  In that regard, here’s a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple of months ago and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, the same distance as from Washington, DC, to Boston. It took two hours.  I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the train from Washington to Boston, but it’s operating at about the same speed it was 60 years ago when my wife and I first took it. It’s a scandal.

It could be done here as it’s been done in Europe. They had the capacity to do it, the skilled work force. It would have taken a little popular support, but it could have made a major change in the economy.

Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rail for the United States, which could have been done right in the rust belt, which is being closed down. There are no economic reasons why this can’t happen. These are class reasons, and reflect the lack of popular political mobilization. Things like this continue.

Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

I’ve kept to domestic issues, but there are two dangerous developments in the international arena, which are a kind of shadow that hangs over everything we’ve discussed. There are, for the first time in human history, real threats to the decent survival of the species.

One has been hanging around since 1945. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve escaped it. That’s the threat of nuclear war and nuclear weapons. Though it isn’t being much discussed, that threat is, in fact, being escalated by the policies of this administration and its allies. And something has to be done about that or we’re in real trouble.

The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps towards trying to do something about it. The United States is also taking steps, mainly to accelerate the threat.  It is the only major country that is not only not doing something constructive to protect the environment, it’s not even climbing on the train. In some ways, it’s pulling it backwards.

And this is connected to a huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world, to try to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax. “Why pay attention to these scientists?”

We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.

It’s not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures.  It’s inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.  A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of numerous best-selling political works, most recently, Hopes and Prospects, Making the Future, and Occupy, published by Zuccotti Park Press, from which this speech, given last October, is excerpted and adapted. His web site is www.chomsky.info.

New NYPD Anti-Occupy Wall Street Tactics: Sexual Assaults Of Peaceful Female Protestors

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm


Oldspeak:
“US security apparatus has long “used sexual humiliation as a tool of control.” -Naomi Wolf  “Why target women in particular? No doubt it’s partly simply the logic of the bully, to brutalize those you think are weak, and more easily traumatized. But another reason is, almost certainly, the hope of provoking violent reactions on the part of male protestors… As Gandhi revealed, non-violent protest is effective above all because it reveals how power really operates: it lays bare the violence it is willing to unleash on even the most peaceful citizens when they dare to challenge its moral legitimacy. And by doing so, it reveals the true moral bankruptcy of those who claim authority to rule us. Occupy Wall Street has demonstrated this time and time again.” -David Graeber Behold! The horror of naked, unbridled, unaccountable state-sponsored terroristic violence. Security forces breaking bones, violating civil/human rights, terrorizing peaceably assembled women, elderly, and children. The pattern repeated the world over, where ever there is protest, there is vicious and brutal police/military violence in response. Whether you choose to see it or not, The Transnational Corporate Network’s security forces are active world wide, repressing dissent and consolidating control over conscientious  dissenters. As more of us refuse to assent to the “violence inherent in the system” it will become harder and harder to  ignore it because EVERYONE will be repressed by the corporatocracy in order to perpetuate this obviously broken and unsustainable system (As many of us already are, but don’t know). Even those who think these protests have nothing to do with them or their lives. “Stay Asleep” “Ignorance Is Strength”

Related Story:

The U.S. & The Five Stages Of Collapse

By David Graeber @ Naked Capitalism:

A few weeks ago I was with a few companions from Occupy Wall Street in Union Square when an old friend — I’ll call her Eileen — passed through, her hand in a cast.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“Oh, this?” she held it up. “I was in Liberty Park on the 17th [the Six Month Anniversary of the Occupation]. When the cops were pushing us out the park, one of them yanked at my breast.”

“Again?” someone said.

We had all been hearing stories like this. In fact, there had been continual reports of police officers groping women during the nightly evictions from Union Square itself over the previous two weeks.

“Yeah so I screamed at the guy, I said, ‘you grabbed my boob! what are you, some kind of fucking pervert?’ So they took me behind the lines and broke my wrists.”

Actually, she quickly clarified, only one wrist was literally broken. She proceeded to launch into a careful, well-nigh clinical blow-by-blow description of what had happened. An experienced activist, she knew to go limp when police seized her, and how to do nothing that could possibly be described as resisting arrest. Police dragged her, partly by the hair, behind their lines and threw her to the ground, periodically shouting “stop resisting!” as she shouted back “I’m not resisting!” At one point though, she said, she did tell them her glasses had fallen to the sidewalk next to her, and announced she was going to reach over to retrieve them. That apparently gave them all the excuse they needed. One seized her right arm and bent her wrist backwards in what she said appeared to be some kind of marshal-arts move, leaving it not broken, but seriously damaged. “I don’t know exactly what they did to my left wrist—at that point I was too busy screaming at the top of my lungs in pain. But they broke it. After that they put me in plastic cuffs, as tightly as they possibly could, and wouldn’t loosen them for at least an hour no matter how loud I screamed or how much the other prisoners begged them to help me. For a while everyone in the arrest van was chanting ‘take them off, take them off’ but they just ignored them…”

On March 17, several hundred members of Occupy Wall Street celebrated the six month anniversary of their first camp at Zuccotti Park by a peaceful reoccupation of the park—a reoccupation broken up within hours by police with 32 arrests. Later that evening a break-away group moved north, finally establishing itself on the southern end of Union Square, two miles away, even sleeping in park—though the city government soon after decided to defy a century-old tradition and begin closing the park every night just so they would not be able to establish a camp there. Since then, occupiers have taken advantage of past judicial rulings to continue to sleep on sidewalks outside the park, and more recently, on Wall Street itself.

During this time, peaceful occupiers have been faced with continual harassment arrests, almost invariably on fabricated charges (“disorderly conduct,” “interfering with the conduct of a police officer”—the latter a charge that can be leveled, for instance, against those who try to twist out of the way when an officer is hitting them.) I have seen one protestor at Union Square arrested, by four officers using considerable force, for sitting on the ground to pet a dog; another, for wrapping a blanket around herself (neither were given warnings; but both behaviors were considered too close to “camping”); a third, an ex-Marine, for using obscene language on the Federal steps. Others were reportedly arrested on those same steps for singing a satirical version of the “Officer Krumpke” song from West Side Story. Almost no march goes by without one or two protestors, at least, being hurled against vehicles or have their heads bashed against the ground while being arrested for straying off the sidewalk. The message here is clear. Law has nothing to do with it. Anyone who engages in Occupy Wall Street-related activity should know they can be arrested, for virtually any reason, at any time.

Many of these arrests are carried out in such a way to guarantee physical injury. The tone was set on that first night of March 17, when my friend Eileen’s wrists were broken; others suffered broken fingers, concussions, and broken ribs. Again, this was on a night where OWS actions were confined to sitting in a park, playing music, raising one or two tents, and marching down the street. To give a sense of the level of violence protestors were subjected to, during the march north to Union Square, we saw the first major incident of window-breaking in New York. The window in question was broken not by protestors, but by police—using a protestor’s head. The victim in this case was a street medic named José (owing to the likelihood of physical assault and injuries from police, OWSers in New York as elsewhere have come to carry out even the most peaceful protests accompanied by medics trained in basic first aid.) He offered no resistance.

Here is a video of the incident. The window-breaking begins at 3:45.

Police spokesmen later claimed this incident was a response to a bottle that was hurled at a police vehicle used to transport arrestees. Such claims are made almost automatically when videos appear documenting police assaults on non-violent protestors, yet, despite the presence of cameras everywhere, including those wielded by the police themselves, no actual documentation of any such claims ever seems to appear. This is no exception. In fact numerous witnesses confirmed this simply isn’t true, and even if a bottle had been thrown at an armored vehicle, not even the police have suggested they had any reason to believe the medic whose head was smashed into the window was the one who threw it.

Arbitrary violence is nothing new. The apparently systematic use of sexual assault against women protestors is new. I’m not aware of any reports of police intentionally grabbing women’s breasts before March 17, but on March 17 there were numerous reported cases, and in later nightly evictions from Union Square, the practice became so systematic that at least one woman told me her breasts were grabbed by five different police officers on a single night (in one case, while another one was blowing kisses.) The tactic appeared so abruptly, is so obviously a violation of any sort of police protocol or standard of legality, that it is hard to imagine it is anything but an intentional policy.

For obvious reasons, most of the women who have been victims of such assaults have been hesitant to come forward. Suing the city is a miserable and time-consuming task and if a woman brings any charge involving sexual misconduct, they can expect to have their own history and reputations—no matter how obviously irrelevant—raked over the coals, usually causing immense damage to their personal and professional life. The threat of doing so operates as a very effective form of intimidation. One exception is Cecily McMillan, who was not only groped but suffered a broken rib and seizures during her arrest on March 17, and held incommunicado, denied constant requests to see her lawyer, for over 24 hours thereafter. Shortly after release from the hospital she appeared on Democracy Now! And showed part of a handprint, replete with scratch-marks, that police had left directly over her right breast. (She is currently pursuing civil charges against the police department):

I’d like to emphasize this because when I first mention this, the usual reaction, from reporters or even some ordinary citizens, is incredulity. ‘Surely this must be a matter of a few rogue officers!’ It is difficult to conceive of an American police commander directly telling officers to grope women’s breasts—even through indirect code words. But we know that in other countries, such things definitely happen. In Egypt, for example, there was a sudden spate of sexual assaults by security forces against protestors in November and December 2011, and followed a very similar pattern: while women activists affirmed there had been beatings, but relatively few specifically sexual assaults during the height of the protests, starting in November, there were dozens of reports of women being groped or stripped while they were being beaten. The level of the violence in Egypt may have been more extreme, but the circumstances were identical: an attempt to revive a protest movement through re-occupation is met by a sudden ratcheting up of tactics by the security forces, and in particular, the sudden dramatic appearance of a tactic of sexual attacks on women. It is hard to imagine in either case it was a coincidence. In Egypt, no serious observer is even suggesting that it was.

Of course we cannot how such decisions are made, or conveyed; in fact, most of us find it unpleasant even to contemplate the idea of police officials ordering or encouraging sexual assault against the very citizens they are sworn to protect. But this seems to be precisely what is happening here.
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For many, the thought of police officials ordering or condoning sexual assault—even if just through a nod or a wink—seems so shocking that absolute proof would be required. But is it really so out of character? As Naomi Wolf has recently reminded us, the US security apparatus has long “used sexual humiliation as a tool of control.” Any experienced activist is aware of the delight police officers so often take in explaining just how certainly they will be raped if placed in prison. Strip searches—which the Supreme Court has recently ruled can be deployed against any citizen held for so much as a traffic violation—are often deployed as a tool of humiliation and punishment. And one need hardly remark on well-documented practices at Guantanamo, Bagram, or Abu Ghraib. Why target women in particular? No doubt it’s partly simply the logic of the bully, to brutalize those you think are weak, and more easily traumatized. But another reason is, almost certainly, the hope of provoking violent reactions on the part of male protestors. I myself well remember a police tactic I observed more than once during the World Economic Forum demonstrations in New York in 2002: a plainclothes officer would tackle a young female marcher, without announcing of who they were, and when one or two men would gallantly try to come to her assistance, uniforms would rush in and arrest them for “assaulting an officer.” The logic makes perfect sense to someone with military background. Soldiers who oppose allowing a combat role for women almost invariably say they do so not because they are afraid women would not behave effectively in battle, but because they are afraid men would not behave effectively in battle if women were present—that is, that they would become so obsessed with the possibility of women in their unit being captured and sexually assaulted that they would behave irrationally. If the police were trying to provoke a violent reaction on the part of studiously non-violent protestors, as a way of justifying even greater brutality and felony charges, this would clearly be the most effective means of doing so.

There’s a good deal of anecdotal evidence that would tend to confirm that this is exactly what they are trying to do. One of the most peculiar incidents took place on a recent march in New York where police seem to have simulated such an assault, arresting a young women who most activists later concluded was probably an undercover officer (no one had seen her before or has seen her since), then ostentatiously groping her as she was handcuffed. Reportedly, several male protestors had to physically restrained (by other protestors) from charging in to help her.

Why is all this not a national story? Back in September, when the now famous Tony Bologna arbitrarily maced several young women engaged in peaceful protest, the event became a national news story. In March, even while we were still hearing heated debates over a single incident of window-breaking that may or may not have been by an OWS activist in Oakland four months earlier, no one seems to have paid any significant attention to the first major incident of window-breaking in New York—even though the window was broken, by police, apparently, using a non-violent protestors’ head!

I suspect one reason so many shy away from confronting the obvious is because it raises extremely troubling questions about the role of police in American society. Most middle class Americans see the primary role of police as maintaining public order and safety. Instances when police are clearly trying to foment violence and disorder for political purposes so fly in the face of everything we have been taught that our instinct is to tell ourselves it isn’t happening: there must have been some provocation, or else, it must have just been individual rogue cops. Certainly not something ordered by the highest echelons. But here we have to remember the police are an extremely top-down, centralized organization. Uniformed officers simply cannot behave in ways that flagrantly defy the law, in full public view, on an ongoing basis, without having at least tacit approval from those above.

In this case, we also know precisely who those superiors are. The commander of the First Precinct, successor to the disgraced Tony Bologna, is Captain Edward J. Winski, whose officers patrol the Financial District (that is, when those very same officers are not being paid directly by Wall Street firms to provide security, which they regularly do, replete with badges, uniforms, and weapons). Winski often personally directs groups of police attacking protestors:

Winsky’s superior is Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, former director of global security of the Wall Street firm Bear Stearns:

And Kelly’s superior, in turn, is Mayor Michael Bloomberg – the well-known former investment banker and Wall Street magnate. The 11th richest man in America, he has referred to the New York City Police Department as his own personal army:

One of the great themes of Occupy Wall Street, of course, is the death of US democracy—the near-total capture of our political system by Wall Street firms and the financial power of the 1%. In the beginning the emphasis was on political corruption, the fact that both parties so beholden to the demands of Wall Street and corporate lobbyists that working within the political system to change anything has become simply meaningless. Recent events have demonstrated just how much deeper the power of money really goes. It is not just the political class. It is the very structure of American government, starting with the law and those who are sworn to enforce it—police officers who, as even this brief illustration makes clear, are directly in the pay of and under the orders of Wall Street executives, and who, as a result, are willing to systematically violate their oaths to protect the public when members of that public have the temerity to make a public issue out of exactly these kind of arrangements.

As Gandhi revealed, non-violent protest is effective above all because it reveals how power really operates: it lays bare the violence it is willing to unleash on even the most peaceful citizens when they dare to challenge its moral legitimacy. And by doing so, it reveals the true moral bankruptcy of those who claim authority to rule us. Occupy Wall Street has demonstrated this time and time again. What the current spate of assaults shows is just how low, to what levels of utter moral degradation, such men are really willing to sink.

Update (3:40 PM): In comments, a reader asked why I did not go to the media. My response:

To be honest my first impulse was to call a sympathetic Times reporter. He said he was going to see if he could spin a story out of it. Apparently his editors told him it wasn’t news.

 

Egyptian Military Points To American Police Brutality Toward Occupy Wall Street To Justify Murder Of Tahrir Square Protestors

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2011 at 10:46 am

Oldspeak:”When a totalitarian military regime starts taking its cues from an ostensibly free & democratic regime, it’s not good. “We saw the firm stance the US took against OWS people & the German govt against green protesters to secure the state” Monkey see, monkey do. What’s beginning to become clear is globally, the police state response to resistance, protest and dissent are strikingly similar. Overreaching shows of militarized force. Chemical warfare. Wildly disproportionate use of violence against peaceful and unarmed protestors. What doesn’t seem to be understood by the 1% though is violent responses only engender larger and stronger resistance and protest. Sooner or later the people who are choosing to ignore will be drawn into the fray, and then things will get really interesting. Will the state sponsored terrorism and violence continue to increase, or slowly abate?

By Washington’s Blog:

Egyptian Military Points to American Police Brutality in Justifying Murder of Tahrir Square Protesters

And America’s response towards the peaceful Occupy protesters has been so brutal that now the Egyptian military is justifying its murder of protesters in Tahrir Square by saying they are just following the American example. As Gawker notes:

Two people were killed in Cairo and Alexandria this weekend as Egyptian activists took the streets to protest the military’s attempts to maintain its grip on power. And guess how the state is justifying its deadly crackdown. “We saw the firm stance the US took against OWS people & the German govt against green protesters to secure the state,” an Egyptian state television anchor said yesterday (as translated by the indispensable Sultan Sooud al Qassemi; bold ours).

Note: American protesters are protesting for the same reasons as the Egyptian protesters. Truly, it is the people of the entire world versus the oligarchs and their mercenaries.

The Police State Makes Its Move: Retaining One’s Humanity In The Face of Tyranny

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Oldspeak:”The 1% and their paid operatives–local city officials–are striving to protect an unjust, inherently dishonest status quo. Lacking a moral mandate, they are prone to the use of police state forms of repression. The corporate/national security state, by its very nature is anti-liberty and anti-freedom. Of course, its defenders give lip service to the concept of freedom. If justice is to prevail, it seems, the air of U.S. cities will hold the acrid sting of tear gas, the jails will again be filled, the brave will endure brutality–yet the corrupt system will crumble. Because the system’s protectors themselves will bring it down by revealing its empty nature, and the corrupt structure will collapse from within“-Phil Rockstroh

 

By Phil Rockstroh @ Common Dreams

For days now, we have endured demonstrably false propaganda that the fallen soldiers of U.S. wars sacrificed their lives for “our freedoms.” Yet, as that noxious nonsense still lingers in the air, militarized police have invaded OWS sites in numerous cities, including Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, and, in the boilerplate description of the witless courtesans of the corporate media, with the mission to “evict the occupiers”.

Hundreds of NYC riot police forcibly evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park early on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011.U.S soldiers died protecting what and who again? These actions should make this much clear: The U.S. military and the police exist to protect the 1%. At this point, the ideal of freedom will be carried by those willing to resist cops and soldiers. There have been many who have struggled and often died for freedom–but scant few were clad in uniforms issued by governments.

Freedom rises despite cops and soldiers not because of them. And that is exactly why those who despise freedom propagate military hagiography and fetishize those wearing uniforms–so they can give the idea of liberty lip service as all the while they order it crushed.

When anyone tells you that dead soldiers and veterans died for your freedom, it is your duty to occupy reality and inform them of just how mistaken they are. And if you truly cherish the concepts of freedom and liberty, you just might be called on to face mindless arrays of fascist cops and lose your freedom, for a time, going to jail, so others might, at some point, gain their freedom.

I was born in Birmingham Alabama, at slightly past the mid-point of the decade of the 1950s. Many of my earliest memories involve the struggle for civil rights that was transpiring on the streets of my hometown.

My father was employed at a scrap metal yard but also worked as a freelance photojournalist who hawked his work to media photo syndicates such as Black Star who then sold his wares to the major newsmagazines of the day. A number of the iconic photographs of the era were captured by his Nikon camera e.g., of vicious police dogs unleashed on peaceful demonstrators; of demonstrators cartwheeled down city streets by the force of fire hoses; of Dr. King and other civil rights marchers kneeled in prayer before arrays of Police Chief Bull Connor’s thuggish ranks of racist cops.

In Birmingham, racist laws and racial and economic inequality were the progenitors of acts of official viciousness. The social structure in place was indefensible. Reason and common decency held no dominion in the justifications for the established order that was posited by the system’s apologists and enforcers; therefore, brutality filled the void created by the absence of their humanity.

And the same situation is extant in the growing suppression of the OWS movement in various cities, nationwide, including Liberty Park in Lower Manhattan. The 1% and their paid operatives–local city officials–are striving to protect an unjust, inherently dishonest status quo. Lacking a moral mandate, they are prone to the use of police state forms of repression.

Dr. King et al faced their oppressors on the streets of my hometown. Civil Rights activists knew that they had to hold their ground to retain their dignity…that it was imperative to sit down in those Jim Crow-tyrannized streets when necessary in order to stand up against the forces of oppression.

At present, we have arrived at a similar moment. If justice is to prevail, it seems, the air of U.S. cities will hold the acrid sting of tear gas, the jails will again be filled, the brave will endure brutality–yet the corrupt system will crumble. Because the system’s protectors themselves will bring it down by revealing its empty nature, and the corrupt structure will collapse from within.

Yet, when riot police attack unarmed, peacefully resisting protesters, the mainstream media often describes the events with standard boilerplate such as “police clash with demonstrators.”

This is inaccurate (at best) reportage. It suggest that both parties are equal aggressors in the situation, and the motive of the police is to restore order and maintain the peace, as opposed to, inflicting pain and creating an aura of intimidation.

This is analogous to describing a mugging as simply: two parties engaging in a financial transaction.

Although mainstream media demurred from limning the upwelling of mob violence at Penn. State as involving any criteria deeper than the mindless rage of a few football-besotted students unloosed by the dismissal of beloved sport figure.

Yet there exists an element that the Penn. State belligerents and OWS activists have in common: a sense of alienation.

Penn. State students rioted because life in the corporate state is so devoid of meaning…that identification with a sports team gives an empty existence said meaning…These are young people, coming of age in a time of debt-slavery and diminished job prospects, who were born and raised in, and know of no existence other than, life as lived in U.S. nothingvilles i.e., a public realm devoid of just that–a public realm–an atomizing center-bereft culture of strip malls, office parks, fast food eateries and the electronic ghosts wafting the air of social media.

Contrived sport spectacles provisionally give an empty life meaning…Take that away, and a mindless rampage might ensue…Anything but face the emptiness and acknowledge one’s complicity therein, and then direct one’s fury at the creators of the stultified conditions of this culture.

It is a given, the cameras of corporate media swivel towards reckless actions not mindful commitment…are attuned to verbal contretemps not thoughtful conviction–and then move on. And we will click our TV remotes and scan the Internet…restless, hollowed out…eating empty memes…skimming the surface of the electronic sheen…

These are the areas we are induced to direct our attention–as the oceans of the earth are dying…these massive life-sustaining bodies of water have less then 50 years before they will be dead. This fact alone should knock us to our knees in lamentation…should sent us reeling into the streets in displays of public grief…

Accordingly, we should not only occupy–but inhabit our rage. No more tittering at celebrity/political class contretemps–it is time for focused fury. The machinery of the corporate/police state must be dismantled.

If the corporate boardrooms have to be emptied–for the oceans to be replenished with abundant life–then so be it. If one must go to jail for committing acts of civil disobedience to free one’s heart–then it must be done.

Yet why does the act of challenging the degraded status quo provoke such a high decree of misapprehension, anxiety, and outright hostility from many, both in positions of authority and among so many of the exploited and dispossessed of the corporate/consumer state.

For example, why did the fatal shooting incident in Oakland, California, Nov. 1, that occurred near the Occupy Oakland Encampment–but, apparently, was wholly unrelated to OWS activity cause a firestorm of reckless speculation and false associations.

Because any exercise in freedom makes people in our habitually authoritarian nation damn uneasy…a sense of uncertainty brings on dread–the feeling that something terrible is to come from challenging a prevailing order, even as degraded as it is.

Tyrants always promise safety; their apologist warn of chaos if and when the soul-numbing order is challenged.

Granted, it is a given that there exists a sense of certainty in a prison routine: high walls and guards and gun mounts ensure continuity; an uncertainty-banishing schedule is enforced. Moreover, solitary confinement offers an even more orderly situation…uncertainty is circumscribed as freedom is banished.

The corporate/national security state, by its very nature is anti-liberty and anti-freedom. Of course, its defenders give lip service to the concept of freedom…much in the manner a pick-pocket working a subway train is very much in favor of the virtues of public transportation.

A heavy police presence has ringed Zuccotti Park from the get-go, and whose ranks have now staged a military style raid upon it, a defacto search and destroy mission–because the ruling elite want to suppress the very impulse of freedom. These authoritarian bullies don’t want the concept to escape the collective prison of the mind erected and maintained by the corrupt jailers comprising the 1% who claim they offer us protection as, all the while, they hold our chains…all for our own good, they insist…for our safety and the safety of others.

Although, from studying on these prison walls, the thought occurs to me…that what we might need is protection from all this safety.

 

Why We Occupy: Congress Legally Trades Stock On Wall St. Based On Market Moving Non-Public Information From Capitol Hill

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Oldspeak: ‘This is what Oligarchy looks like. Elected officials, working with and paid campaign contributions by highly paid lobbyists to write laws that benefit themselves and profiting from inside information that if used by anyone one else anywhere else would be illegal and grounds for imprisonment. ‘In the past few years, a whole new totally unregulated 100 million dollar industry has grown up in Washington. It is called “Political intelligence”. It employs former congress members and former staffers who scour the halls of the capital gathering non-public information, then selling it to hedge funds and traders on Wall Street who can trade on it… It’s taken what would be considered a criminal enterprise anywhere else in the country, and turned it into a profitable business model‘ So basically it’s Las Vegas, but on a global industrial scale. Millionaires and Billionaires, placing bets on our industries and businesses and usually profiting handsomely because they know something no one else does. With this knowledge can we reasonably expect there to be any real transparency in government? Any substantive and equalizing change to our financial and economic systems? When the political class is making bets against the people’s interests, with money that we pay them AND the money they’re paid by the people they make the laws for, and enriching themselves many time more than when they 1st walked into congress. When they’re writing laws thinking about how they will impact their portfolios and net worth and not based on what’s best for their constituents the american people? Any wonder why Wall Street mega banks were bailed out for crashing the global economy, but billions were left to deal with the carnage unassisted on their own? Your tax dollars at work. While corporate media works you in to a frenzy about Jerry Sandusky, invites you to marvel at the lunacy of Herman Cain and Rick Perry, and consider potential supreme court decisions about health care that could influence 2012 elections, your wealth, the wealth of your country, the wealth of your world is being taken from you via supercomputer. And nary a shot was fired.  ‘Ignorance is Strength’ ‘Profit is Paramount’

Related Stories:

How To Make $4 Trillion Vanish In A Flash: Why Another Financial Crash Is Certain

Flash Crash — The Machines Are in Control Now. Trading Glitch Suspected in ‘Mayhem’ as Dow Falls Nearly 1,000, Then Bounces

Members of Congress Get Abnormally High Returns From Their Stocks

By CBS News:

Congress: Trading stock on inside information?

International Day Of Action Nov. 17th 2011. Mass Non-Violent Direct Action.

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 11:20 am

International Day Of Action Nov. 17th 2011. Mass Non-Violent Direct Action.
Resist Austerity. Reclaim The Economy. Recreate Our Democracy.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.” -Frederick Douglass

Thursday
November 17th
International Day of Action

 

200 Arrested @ NYPD Crackdown On Occupy Wall Street: Zuccotti Park Raided Under Media Blackout, Pepper Spray, Sound Cannons, Batons Used, Tents Cleared

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 10:30 am
Occupy Wall St activists clash with New York Police after being removed from Zuccotti Park Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Oldspeak: “Denial of freedom of the press. Nighttime raids. Police brutality. Beating peaceful protestors. Restriction of movement. Destruction and confiscation of personal property. Denial of freedom of assembly. Pepper spray. Sound Cannons. Mass arrests. This is what a police state looks like. Meanwhile corporate media is talking about Rex Ryan, Jay-Z, Herman Cain, Jerry Sandusky, and Brad Pitt’s early retirement. Freedom rises despite police and soldiers not because of them. And that is exactly why those who despise freedom propagate military hagiography and fetishize those wearing uniforms–so they can give the idea of liberty lip service as all the while they order it crushed.” -Philip Rockstroh “You can’t evict an idea whose time had come.” #OccupyWallStreet

Related Story:

Occupy Wall Street: police evict protesters – live updates

By Sarah Seltzer @ Alter Net:

“We’re being evicted!” the message went out around 1 am.

“The park has been cleared,” the text message read a few hours later, as bedragged, pepper-sprayed protesters, having lost their home in the park, reconvened for a GA in Foley Square and vowed to keep the occupation going. Over 200 had been arrested, including city council member Ydanis Rodriguez. Blocks away, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference at which he declared that police would be now able to search people entering the park.

There is a planned post-raid gathering at 9 am at Canal and 6th Street for supporters to regroup and rally. Meanwhile, the National Lawyer’s Guild has obtained a temporary restraining order “directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises with their belongings.” Reportedly, this will hold for several hours until a new hearing. However, after some members of the public re-entered the park, they were asked to leave again.

 

Twitter pictures later in the morning showed Zuccotti Park was bare and stripped–ugly and undamaged, as it was before, after cleaning crews move through. Before that, however, police had heaped protesters’ belongings together.

According to Twitter and the Occupy movement’s texts as well as press releases from both the movement and the Mayor’s office, the early morning raid cleared the protests’ two-month-long “model society” of its infrastructure, including spaces and structures like the women’s safe space tent, the medical tent, and thousands of books from the “People’s Library” — which were seen in the back of a dumpster.

Cops reportedly told people these confiscated items would be available at the Department of Sanitation.

 

Almost all of downtown Manhattan was blocked off in various ways, and protesters were beaten for being both on the sidewalk and the street.

Watch this amateur video of the beatings:

 

According to reports on Twitter, an OWS press release, and emails over internal OWS listservs, downtown subways and the Brooklyn Bridge were shut down, airspace was blocked off, and a barricade was erected to prevent supporters who were alerted by text from entering.

Several bystanders who arrived to help were pepper-sprayed or beaten. Read this dispatch from Anna Lekas Miller for one such story. “The police came towards us. I was live tweeting when I realized there was a funny smell and something in my eyes that was making them burn… I was shoved against a wall by a cop with a riot shield telling me to, ‘Keep it moving.’ …Their batons were out. It was violence.”

Below are a series of tweets from AlterNet’s Kristen Gwynne, who arrived on the scene after 1 am:

 

  • Riot police won’t anybody in #ows. Looking for alternate route in..ahh hang in there guys
  • Cops everywhere. At least 1 pepper sprayed cops pushing us
  • Holy shit this us crazy pepper spray, pushing us, beating and arresting peaceful protestors#ows
  • They’re literally pushing us down cortlandt. Violent cops #ows

 

These brutal tactics were used on supporters who were in the park and others who were trying to get in to protect the space, as well as some members of the press. LRADs (sound cannons) were seen and some say used, but as of yet but there have been no confirmed reports of them being used.

Perhaps worst of all, there was a media blackout that specifically disallowed press from entering while the space was cleared. Many newspeople on Twitter have expressed anger and frustration about being prevented from reporting on the scene; some were apparently told by the NYPD, “You’re not press tonight.”

 

At In These Times, Alison Kilkenny had this report from Twitter: “Some protesters chained themselves to trees in Liberty, and some early reports indicate the NYPD cut down the trees in order to remove the demonstrators.”

Around 7 am, the following things were trending on Twitter in New York City:

 

 

Here is a timeline of the raid from OWS. Note that some reports in this timeline are unconfirmed:

 

Timeline of Violent NYPD Raid on Occupy Wall Street 

3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.

3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in

3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police

3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.

3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon

3:08 a.m. heard on livestream: “they’re bringing in the hoses.”

3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square

2:55 a.m. NYC council-member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.

2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen

2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5,000 donated books in dumpster.

2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed

2:38 a.m. 400-500 marching north to Foley Square

2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down

2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.

2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times

2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square

2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square

2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed — reports of at least one reporter sprayed

2:03 a.m. Massive Police Presence at Canal and Broadway

1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.

1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.

1:34 a.m. CBS News Helicopter Livestream

1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.

1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.

1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.

1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting “This is what a police state looks like.”

1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.

1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.

 

At Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte had this to offer on the destruction of the library:

 

Media Bistro is reporting that the NYPD destroyed over 5,000 books that have been amassed in the OWS library over the past two months. The young protesters who were volunteering as librarians tweeted the ordeal of watching what has come to be, historically speaking, the symbol of authoritarian governments oppressing its citizens. 

 

OWSLibrary The People’s Library NYPD destroying american cultural history, they’re destroying the documents, the books, the artwork of an event in our nation’s history. 

 

Right now, the NYPD are throwing over 5,000 books from our library into a dumpster. Will they burn them?

Protesters locked arms and tried to keep the dumpsters full of books and tents from leaving, but obviously to no avail. Personally, I donated about a dozen books to OWS, mostly about feminism in response to requests for more feminist discourse and history. Some of them weren’t exactly books you can just saunter into a local library branch or Barnes & Noble to find, either, such as the radical feminism reader. So this image of the books being tossed into the trash is just adding to the emotional distress of this situation.

So don’t believe the lies. If this was just about a clean park, there would have been no need to go over the fucking top in the assaults on speech and press that included threatening journalists (and arresting one), squelching witnesses, and destroying over 5,000 books that were provided, free of charge, by supporters who want to assist protesters’ desire to educate themselves and, frankly, give them something to do during their downtime.

How the 99% Really Lost Out – In Far Greater Ways Than The Occupy Protesters Imagine

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Oldspeak:Property is theft,” -Pierre-Joseph Proudhon,  French anarchist. When it comes to how the top 1 percent really got so rich, and why the 99 percent lost out. The biggest “theft” by the 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth – knowledge – for its own benefit. When what is created by all of society for many centuries gets turned into wealth, and, somehow, directly or indirectly, shunted away from the 99 percent by the 1 percent, much of that process, in fact, is reasonably described as “theft.” -Gar Alperovitz. One of the fundamental tenets of “civilization” -property. Gives rise directly and indirectly to many of “civilizations’” ills. Poverty, exploitation, inequality, disenfranchisement, greed, corruption. Enclosure of the commons by a monied few more often than not leads to bad outcomes for most.  Yet we lionize billionaires and the obscenely wealthy, hold them up as models to aspire to. While billions of poor and disenfranchised “externalities” suffer in lives of hopelessness and  despair due in large part to decisions of a few hundred white men the words of Ernesto “Che” Guevara come to mind: “The amount of poverty and suffering required for the emergence of a Rockefeller, and the amount of depravity that the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude entails, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible to make the people in general see this.” “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Gar Alperovitz @ Truthout:

“Property is theft,” French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon famously declared in 1840 – a judgment clearly shared by many of those involved in the occupations in the name of the 99 percent around the country, and especially when applied to Wall Street bankers and traders. Elizabeth Warren also angrily points out that there “is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.” Meaning: if the rich don’t pay their fair share of the taxes which educate their workers and provide roads, security and many other things, they are essentially stealing from everyone else.

But this is the least of it: Proudhon may have exaggerated when, for instance, we think of a small farmer working his own land with his own hands. But we now know that he was far closer to the truth than even he might have imagined when it comes to how the top 1 percent really got so rich, and why the 99 percent lost out. The biggest “theft” by the 1 percent has been of the primary source of wealth – knowledge – for its own benefit.

Knowledge? Yes, of course, and increasingly so. The fact is, most of what we call wealth is now known to be overwhelmingly the product of technical, scientific and other knowledge – and most of this innovation derives from socially inherited knowledge, at that. Which means that, except for trivial amounts, it was simply not created by the 1 percent who enjoy the lion’s share of its benefits. Most of it was created, historically, by society – which is to say, minimally, the other 99 percent.

Take a simple example: In our own time, over many decades, the development of the steel plow and the tractor increased one man’s capacity to farm, from a small plot (with a mule and wooden plow) to many hundred acres. What changed over the years to make this possible was a great deal of engineering, steelmaking, chemistry and other knowledge developed by society as a whole.

Another obvious example: Many of the advances that have propelled our high-tech economy in recent decades grew directly out of research programs financed and, often, collaboratively developed, by the federal government and paid for by the taxpayer. The Internet, to take the most well-known example, began as a government defense project, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), in the 1960s. Today’s vast software industry rests on a foundation of computer language and operating hardware developed, in large part, with public support. The Bill Gateses of the world might still be working with vacuum tubes and punch cards were it not for critical research and technology programs created or financed by the federal government after World War II.

The iPhone is another example: Its microchips, cellular communication abilities and global positioning system (GPS) all flowed from developments traceable to significant direct and indirect public support from the military and space programs. The “revolutionary” multi-touch screen was developed by University of Delaware researchers financially supported by the National Science Foundation and the CIA. It is not only electronics: of the 15 modern US-developed “blockbuster” drugs with over $1 billion in sales, 13 received significant public research and development support.

But taxpayer-financed government programs (including, of course, all of public education!) are only the tip of the iceberg. And here we are not talking rhetoric, we are talking the stuff of Nobel prizes. Over the last several decades, economic research has begun to pinpoint much more precisely how much of what we call “wealth” society in general derives from long, steady, century-by-century advances in knowledge – and how much any one individual at any point in time can be said to have earned and “deserved.”

Recent estimates indicate, for instance, that national output per capita has increased more than twentyfold over the 200-plus years since 1800. Output per hour worked has increased an estimated fifteenfold since 1870 alone. Yet the modern person is likely to work each hour with no greater commitment, risk or intelligence than his counterpart from the past. The primary reason for such huge gains is that, on the whole, scientific, technical and cultural knowledge has grown at a scale and pace that far outstrips any other factor in the nation’s economic achievement.

A half-century ago, in 1957, economist Robert Solow showed that nearly 90 percent of productivity growth in the first half of the 20th century alone, from 1909 to 1949, could only be attributed to technical change in the broadest sense. The supply of labor and capital – what workers and employers contribute – appeared almost incidental to this massive technological “residual.” (Solow received the Nobel Prize for this and related work in 1987.) Another leading economist, William Baumol, calculated that “nearly 90 percent … of current GDP [gross domestic product] was contributed by innovation carried out since 1870.”

The truly central and demanding question is obviously this: If most of what we have today is attributable to knowledge advances that we all inherit in common, why, specifically, should this gift of our collective history not more generously benefit all members of society? The top 1 percent of US households now receives far more income than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. The richest 1 percent of households owns nearly half of all investment assets (stocks and mutual funds, financial securities, business equity, trusts, nonhome real estate). A mere 400 individuals at the top have a combined net worth greater than the bottom 60 percent of the nation taken together. If America’s vast wealth is mainly a gift of our common past, how, specifically, can such disparities be justified?

Early in the American republic, Thomas Paine urged that everything “beyond what a man’s own hands produce” was a gift that came to him simply by living in society, and, hence, “he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.” Another American reformer, Henry George, challenged what he called “the unearned increment” that is created when population growth and other societal factors increase land values.

To be sure, someone who genuinely makes a real contribution deserves to be rewarded. But Proudhon is right on target for many, many others: when what is created by all of society for many centuries gets turned into wealth, and, somehow, directly or indirectly, shunted away from the 99 percent by the 1 percent, much of that process, in fact, is reasonably described as “theft.” The demand of the occupations that this theft stop, that it be reversed, is also right on target – both in what we know about how wealth is created, and, above all, in what we know about how a just society ought to organize its affairs.

Goldman Sachs Threatens Legal Action, Withdraws Pledged TARP Funds To Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union; Occupy Wall Street’s Bank

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Oldspeak:”Some of the biggest members of the Transnational Corporate Network’s International Banking Cartel are using their vast resources as a political weapon to attack small low-income community banks that support and do business with Occupy Wall Street. And the resources they’re withholding are taxpayer bailout funds they’re mandated to use for community reinvestment.  So they’re retaliating against the people protesting their practices by withholding money, PUBLIC MONEY (the peoples money they took to remain ‘solvent’), that is owed.  “You’ve had basically Goldman has started a kind of run on low-income banks that will associate with Occupy Wall Street. This is a dangerous use of public money. I’ve got to emphasize this: it’s TARP money, that is bailout money that we gave these banks in 2008. They were required, as part of the deal—in Goldman Sachs’ case, explicit—that they give back some of the money to low-income communities and reinvest there. It’s our money. It’s not a donation. And this is just little bits. And they’re withholding these payments. I haven’t seen Goldman put out—they’ve put out less than half a cent on the dollar we gave them, the lowest of any bank. But they are setting a—they’re basically setting a course that all of the other banks are now following, saying, “Hey, you want our money? You have to clear your political positions with us at the big banks.” This is a very dangerous new business.” -Greg Pallast Corporatocracy in action. Only an organization with no fear of reprisal could conceive of so blatantly disregarding actions its been lawfully ordered to carry out. Predictably, very coverage of this in corporate media, and the little there is distorted and inaccurate. If you’ll notice there is no mention of the fact the Goldman is witholding taxpayer money they’ve been ordered to pay. It’s referred to as their money in the wall st. journal article below.” “Ignorance Is Strength

Related Video:

Greg Palast: ‘Goldman Sachs vs. Occupy Wall Street’

Related Story:

Goldman Sachs Sends Its Regrets to This Awkward Dinner Invitation

By Greg Palast @ Democracy Now:

Guest:

Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC and author of the books Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His next book, out in November, is calledVultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a controversy in the banking community around the Occupy Wall Street movement. Recently, the financial giant Goldman Sachs pulled out of a fundraiser for a small Lower East Side bank that caters to poor people after it learned the event was honoring the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. The investment bank withdrew its name from the fundraiser and also canceled a $5,000 pledge.

But did Goldman Sachs actually use U.S. taxpayer bailout money to attack Occupy Wall Street’s not-for-profit community bank? Investigative reporter Greg Palast filed this report from Wall Street.

GREG PALAST: Downtown New York, near Wall Street, these are the towers of Goldman Sachs, the mega-bank. With over $933 billion in assets, nearly a trillion dollars, Goldman has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York City.

The story begins here at Occupy Wall Street. It all started here, with these buckets. Unexpectedly, the donation buckets were filling up with thousands of dollars in cash, and the anti-bank protesters suddenly needed a bank.

BOBBY “BAILOUT”: We basically started out here just thinking we were going to a protest, and maybe some people would come out. Then, very soon, we were collecting large amounts of donations, and we were in way over our head.

GREG PALAST: Occupy Wall Street chose to bring their bucket of bills to the nearby Latino neighborhood. This is New York’s Lower East Side, and this is the not-for-profit community bank, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union.

Inside, the bank was serving lines of residents from housing projects, bodega owners, other locals, most of whom had been refused service by the big commercial banks. In their cramped back office, the only space to speak with the bank’s leader was inside their vault.

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: So this is our old-fashioned safety deposit boxes that many of our members still use.

GREG PALAST: People’s Credit Union chairwoman, Deyanira Del Rio.

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: So, our membership is 80 percent low income, approximately, and we also have about, I would say, 65 percent or so of our members are Latino.

GREG PALAST: What makes you different—

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: Right.

GREG PALAST: —from Capital One or Goldman Sachs—

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: Yeah.

GREG PALAST: —or any of the other big, giant banks?

DEYANIRA DEL RIO: We started off when the last bank branch in a hundred-block radius of the neighborhood was closing its doors. And community residents came together to initially protest the closure of that bank, and ultimately did something very different, which was start their own institution, an alternative to the mainstream bank.

GREG PALAST: They’re holding a dinner next week, and they’ve announced they’re honoring their new big member owner, Occupy Wall Street, to celebrate Occupy’s call for its supporters to move their money out of big banks to people’s and other community banks.

UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside with everybody else.

CUSTOMER: I’m a customer. I’m a customer.

WITNESS 1: She is a customer.

CUSTOMER: I’m a customer.

UNDERCOVER POLICE OFFICER: You were inside. Yes, but you were inside with the whole—no, no, no.

WITNESS 2: What are you doing?

WITNESS 1: Hey, what the—hey!

WITNESS 3: What are you doing? What are you doing? What are you doing?

GREG PALAST: Twenty-three protesters protesters were arrested at a branch of Citibank following the call to move their money.

WITNESS 3: Oh, my god! This is wrong! This is wrong! This is wrong! What you’re doing is wrong! This is wrong!

GREG PALAST: And Goldman Sachs, which had donated $5,000 to the credit union, threatened legal action over the little bank’s honoring Occupy Wall Street. When the credit union refused to back down, Goldman took back its $5,000. The credit union members we spoke with backed their little bank.

LYLE WALFORD: I mean, it was a courageous thing to do. It’s their saying, that “We have members who are part of us. We are part of the community. We are people-oriented. We are the people’s institution, not the money’s institution.” So, yes, I think it was a great thing for them to do.

GREG PALAST: We waited all day and night for an answer to our calls to Goldman.

Were you trying to threaten the credit union for its support for Occupy Wall Street? We’re waiting outside your building.

Back at the Wall Street occupation, a street performer showed Goldman’s system of the old give-and-grab-back.

STREET PERFORMER: There you go, buddy!

GREG PALAST: Thank you.

STREET PERFORMER: For your boys. All right, all right, take care. Make sure you spend it the right way. Adios. Excuse me, I want my money back, please. Give me back my money!

GREG PALAST: Oh, no!

STREET PERFORMER: Give me back my money!

GREG PALAST: From the Occupied territory, Wall Street, New York, this is Greg Palast for Democracy Now!, news for the 99 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC, author a number of books, including Armed MadhouseThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His new book, out in November, is called Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. We are joined by Greg Palast right now.

Continue to explain what exactly happened.

GREG PALAST: It’s not about $5,000 donation. First of all, it’s not a donation. The issue is about a multi-billion-dollar battle over TARP money and the finance community. Back in 2008, Goldman Sachs, which is an investment bank—that meant that all their losses were there—was turned into a commercial bank, within 24 hours, so they could qualify for $10 billion in bailout funds. But as part of the deal—as part of the deal, Amy—

AMY GOODMAN: And explain commercial bank.

GREG PALAST: OK, commercial bank is the types where you put in your savings, and we, the taxpayers, and the government guarantees the profits, or guarantees the solvency of that bank. So, for Goldman to get into the $10 billion—to get their $10 billion check for bailout, they had to become—go from a gambling house, an investment bank, into a nice commercial bank. But they had to agree that they would then be subject to what’s called the Community Reinvestment Act and return some of that money, a chunk of it—most banks put in a billion dollars—return a chunk of it back into low-income communities. Well, Goldman doesn’t have any branches, so they gave money to the designated low-income bank of New York, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and—but they’ve been giving out the money in eyedroppers, like this $5,000. Now remember, it’s not a donation. It’s a required payment under the law that they got in return for our $10 billion, OK? So it’s not a donation. This is mischaracterized. It’s a payment required by law, with an eyedropper.

But what they are doing is starting off something very dangerous and new, which is to say—there are literally tens of billions of dollars in these funds for community reinvestment, boosted by the bailout funds. They see this as a political weapon, as a hammer to control the political discussion. These community development credit unions have been joining the Occupy Wall Street movement nationwide. It’s about moving your money from the big banks to the small banks. And they’re not worried about losing little deposits. What they are worried about is losing political control of the discussion. Right now, people like Paul Volcker are calling for removing the rights of banks like Goldman, now a commercial bank, to stay in the gambling trading business. Well, Goldman is very much afraid of that. So the Occupy Wall Street movement has put back on the table these issues of bank deregulation, these issues of community reinvestment.

And Goldman, I think they’re actually quite smart. They figured out, “Well, we’ve got—there’s like a hundred billion dollars on the table here. Why don’t we start saying, ’You’re not going to get any of it unless you dance to our tune?’” And I have to tell you, from inside, it wasn’t minor. It wasn’t just, “Oh, take—give us back our donation money.” It was legal threats saying, if you—you cannot—if you’re going to get our money, you may not back Occupy Wall Street and the “move your money” movement, without getting approval from us at Goldman Sachs. That’s a whole new business. So, it’s very dangerous, because it involves billions of dollars in public money. It’s not Goldman’s money. It’s our money. And that’s what they’re doing with it.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain the significance of this credit union.

GREG PALAST: Well, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, and I—listen, my ex is the CEO, and so I hope she’s not mad at me doing this report. But I’ve got to tell you, Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union has been designated by federal charter to be the bank for all New Yorkers of low income, if you own—if you earn less than $38,000 or work or live on the Lower East Side. What’s happened is, is that the big banks give Lower East Side a few dollars and then send all the poor people to that bank. You walk in poor, you say, “I’m in a housing project and on public assistance,” “Oh, go down to Lower East Side.” So they dump the poor there. They can’t even open bank accounts, let alone get loans at these big banks. So it’s a dumping ground so that the—it’s a brilliant bank. It does very well, and it serves all the entire poor community of New York. It’s got branches in Harlem.

But what the banks now want to do is say, as this bank is growing not only as an economic force, but a political force, in the low-income communities in New York, and they are being used as the model nationwide, they are taking a political stance, saying, “We honor Occupy Wall Street, because we are against people putting their money in these commercial banks. It’s time that banking become for the people, not for the money.” And that message is a no-go with the banking community.

So it’s not, by the way, just Goldman Sachs. Capital One said, “Take our name off.” You’ve had basically Goldman has started a kind of run on low-income banks that will associate with Occupy Wall Street. This is a dangerous use of public money. I’ve got to emphasize this: it’s TARP money, that is bailout money that we gave these banks in 2008. They were required, as part of the deal—in Goldman Sachs’ case, explicit—that they give back some of the money to low-income communities and reinvest there. It’s our money. It’s not a donation. And this is just little bits. And they’re withholding these payments. I haven’t seen Goldman put out—they’ve put out less than half a cent on the dollar we gave them, the lowest of any bank. But they are setting a—they’re basically setting a course that all of the other banks are now following, saying, “Hey, you want our money? You have to clear your political positions with us at the big banks.” This is a very dangerous new business. And I hope that with this report here on Democracy Now!, that the regulators are going to step in and say, “No, no. This is not your money. This is our money. This is not a political weapon.” It’s a very dangerous new thing that the banks are doing.

AMY GOODMAN: You tried to speak to Goldman Sachs.

GREG PALAST: Boy, we tried to speak to Goldman. We actually staked them out, if you saw me at night in front of their big office buildings just outside Wall Street on the West Side Highway. So we’ve tried. They won’t speak to us, at all. They certainly won’t speak to Democracy Now! They gave a good spin of a little story that went on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about, “Oh, this little credit union, they were slapping us around by taking our money and then backing Occupy Wall Street.” It’s not about that. It’s about the billions of dollars at stake with community reinvestment funds, out of the bailout money, and who has political control.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re not just a journalist, Greg. You started off in finance. You got your degree in finance.

GREG PALAST: Yeah, believe it or not. I was a protégé of a little guy named Milton Friedman. Pretty strange stuff. Yeah, and I was—

AMY GOODMAN: University of Chicago.

GREG PALAST: And before I was a journalist, as an investigative journalist, I was actually an investigator. And then I said, no one is putting out the news of the real stories, so maybe I’ll do something for U.S. news, and ended up having to leave the country, work for BBC.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think has to happen right now?

GREG PALAST: What has to happen right now is that the regulators in the Obama administration, the Federal Reserve Board, has to step in and tell Goldman, “No, it’s not your money. You may not use the community reinvestment funds as a political hammer to beat up the small community groups, credit unions, community banks, to which you’re giving this money.” It’s a very dangerous thing to be saying, “We’re going to be giving out money based on your political positions and based on whether you are telling people that the banking system has to change,” because community banks like Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union are taking the position that the commercial banking system is rotten and should be replaced by a people’s banking system. So it’s not just—they don’t want to be the little safety valve, “Just send us your poor people.” They want to replace the banking system. And believe me, Goldman, and the other banks following them, don’t want to hear that message.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast, I want to thank you for being with us. We will continue to talk to you. His new book coming out just in a few weeks is called Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores. Thank you very much.

5 a.m. Police Raid Tears Down Occupy Oakland Encampment, Protestors Arrested

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

Oakland Police surround the occupy encampment in the early morning preparing to go in and disband the tent community at Frank Ogden Plazan on Tuesday Oct. 25th 2011. A couple of tear gas bombs were exploded right before the police entered.

Oldspeak:”On the heels of news of a chemical bomb attack on Occupy Maine, the backlash is growing. “Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs and some with shotguns, overturned tents, and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly, leaving what looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp in their wake. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza.”

By Kristen J. Bender @ San Hose Mercury News:

Before dawn Tuesday, at least 200 police, many in riot gear, tore down the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall and arrested dozens of people. A smaller camp near Lake Merritt was also dismantled.

Early reports from police say the raids went smoothly, with all protesters cleared out of the downtown Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in less than 30 minutes.

After police surrounded the plaza about 4:45 a.m., they began moving in and taking down tents and barricades erected by the group, which had been camped there since Oct. 10 in support of the Occupy Wall Street effort.

Many protesters were handcuffed and led away by police from the camp at 14th Street and Broadway. Many others left on their own.

Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs and some with shotguns, overturned tents, and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly, leaving what looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp in their wake. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza.

One police officer said several objects were thrown at police, including bottles, skillets, other kitchen utensils and rocks. They also “threw plates at us like Frisbees,” the officer said.

Protesters also chanted “Police go home, cops go home” and banged sticks on anything they could find. Some chanted “Police were the biggest gang in America.”

At the Snow Park camp, Mindy Stone said as she was led away by police that she was just there to protest and exercise her rights. “We are not camping, we are just demonstrating.”

No injuries were immediately reported. Police did not have an exact count of how many people were arrested.

The Occupy Oakland encampment, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, sprung up on Oct. 10 and over the last two weeks had grown into a “tent city” with an estimated 300 campers, hay bales and stalls for medical aid, food, art, and community meetings. Along with the makeshift city came a host of problems. City officials reported rats in the camp, fights, drug use and violence against the media.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday, Occupy Oakland organizers sent out a text message alert, saying a police raid was imminent, but police didn’t surround camp until almost two hours later. Police used a bullhorn to repeat instructions to leave the plaza immediately or risk arrest. Police threatened to use “chemical agents” to oust the protesters.

Protesters attempted to keep police out by putting at least two metal Dumpsters at the side of the camp near 14th Street and Broadway, but police pushed them aside during the raid.

One man walked around carrying a giant shield he fashioned out of duct tape. After the plaza was cleared of protesters, about 20 to 30 people gathered on a small side street off Broadway between 14th and 15th streets beating drums and chanting “rise up, rise up, rise up, come on people rise up” as police mulled around the plaza and in small groups on the streets. Three helicopters circled above the scene as the night began to turn to day. The city has advised employers to keep employees away from downtown while cleanup crews move in to remove the massive amount of debris.

When the loose-knit group first occupied the plaza, it was to protest widespread unemployment and corporate greed, but the encampment grew to encompass many other causes: support for state prison inmates who are on hunger strikes, housing rights, fair wages and against social oppression.

City officials began stepping up pressure on the protesters last week and on Friday upped the stakes by issuing a letter stating that the encampment on the plaza was “a violation of the law” and threatening violators with immediate arrest.

The “notice of violations and demand to cease violations” came a day after a preliminary letter that urged the residents to vacate the camp because of what the city said were a host of problems, including fighting, vandalism, public urination and other sanitation and public health issues. Officials said an existing rat problem in the area was being made worse by the encampment, which had about 100 tents at one point.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, Karen Boyd, said Friday that the protesters had shown themselves incapable of self-governance. “As a collective, they cannot maintain the plaza in a safe condition,” she said.

Reporters Scott Johnson and Sean Mahercontributed to this story.

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