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Noam Chomsky: Occupy The Future

In These Times published an essay adapted from Noam Chomsky’s talk at Occupy Boston on Oct. 22. Chomsky’s speech was part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series sponsored by the encampment. It’s a must read:

Delivering a Howard Zinn lecture is a bittersweet experience for me. I regret that he’s not here to take part in and invigorate a movement that would have been the dream of his life. Indeed, he laid a lot of the groundwork for it.

If the bonds and associations being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead, victories don’t come quickly, the Occupy protests could mark a significant moment in American history.

I’ve never seen anything quite like the Occupy movement in scale and character, here and worldwide. The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.

That the Occupy movement is unprecedented seems appropriate because this is an unprecedented era, not just at this moment but since the 1970s.

The 1970s marked a turning point for the United States. Since the country began, it had been a developing society, not always in very pretty ways, but with general progress toward industrialization and wealth.

Even in dark times, the expectation was that the progress would continue. I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. By the mid-1930s, even though the situation was objectively much harsher than today, the spirit was quite different.

A militant labor movement was organizing, the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and others, and workers were staging sit-down strikes, just one step from taking over the factories and running them themselves.

Under popular pressure, New Deal legislation was passed. The prevailing sense was that we would get out of the hard times.

Now there’s a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. This is quite new in our history. During the 1930s, working people could anticipate that the jobs would come back. Today, if you’re a worker in manufacturing, with unemployment practically at Depression levels, you know that those jobs may be gone forever if current policies persist.

That change in the American outlook has evolved since the 1970s. In a reversal, several centuries of industrialization turned to de-industrialization. Of course manufacturing continued, but overseas, very profitable, though harmful to the workforce.

The economy shifted to financialization. Financial institutions expanded enormously. A vicious cycle between finance and politics accelerated. Increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector. Politicians, faced with the rising cost of campaigns, were driven ever deeper into the pockets of wealthy backers.

And the politicians rewarded them with policies favorable to Wall Street: deregulation, tax changes, relaxation of rules of corporate governance, which intensified the vicious cycle. Collapse was inevitable. In 2008, the government once again came to the rescue of Wall Street firms presumably too big to fail, with leaders too big to jail.

Today, for the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population who benefited most from these decades of greed and deceit, everything is fine.

In 2005, Citigroup, which, by the way, has repeatedly been saved by government bailouts, saw the wealthy as a growth opportunity. The bank released a brochure for investors that urged them to put their money into something called the Plutonomy Index, which identified stocks in companies that cater to the luxury market.

“The world is dividing into two blocs, the plutonomy and the rest,” Citigroup summarized. “The U.S., U.K. and Canada are the key plutonomies, economies powered by the wealthy.”

As for the non-rich, they’re sometimes called the precariat, people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. The “periphery” however, has become a substantial proportion of the population in the U.S. and elsewhere.

So we have the plutonomy and the precariat: the 1 percent and the 99 percent, as Occupy sees it, not literal numbers, but the right picture.

The historic reversal in people’s confidence about the future is a reflection of tendencies that could become irreversible. The Occupy protests are the first major popular reaction that could change the dynamic.

Continue reading Chomsky’s analysis of the international arena at In These Times

Part II and Part III of Noam Chomsky at Occupy Boston

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?

There’s a fascinating article at Michigan Live about the faith community’s efforts to connect to the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement. I must say (and I’m as secular as they come) I did actually describe my three recent visits to Occupy Wall Street to several people as being like “Going to a new church and EVERYONE you meet is friendly and very WELCOMING.” There’s something special going on at Zuccotti Park and if you think otherwise you are… wrong.

It makes sense that a state as hard hit economically as Michigan has been would have clergy so supportive of the anti-capitalist protests. It’s because they know what post-capitalism looks like in Michigan! The clergy truly cater to the poor there, it’s not a joke to them. The support for Occupy Wall Street is even coming directly from the pulpit as the (appropriate) question is asked:

If Jesus were alive today, would he be at Occupy Wall Street movement?

As senior pastor of the nondenominational Fountain Street Church, [Rev. Fred] Wooden delivered a sermon this month which highlighted the similarities between the Occupy movement’s cry for economic equality and the gospel story of Jesus cleansing the temple by casting out the money changers.

But Wooden didn’t stop at words when it came to expressing solidarity with the Occupy movement. The church has allowed the Occupy Grand Rapids protesters to camp in its parking lot at night and is providing other support measures.

It appears the movement has found an ally in the faith community due to their cry for social and economic justice. On Monday, the Vatican’s call for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions was seen immediately as a measure of support for Occupy Wall Street.

“The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” the Vatican’s Justice and Peace document said.


Although some have criticized the movement’s message as muddled and diluted by fringe elements taking rhetorical refuge under the Occupy umbrella, Belief Watch columnist Lisa Miller points out that the Jesus of history would have loved them all.

Jesus gave preferential treatment to society’s outcasts, wrote Miller recently in the Washington Post. “Lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes — all would attain heaven before the ordained elites.” And, she argues, Jesus says in the Gospels that the meek will inherit the Earth.
“There would be no Wall Street if Jesus and Mohammad had their way,” said Ghazala Munir, one of the founders of the Interfaith Dialogue Association in West Michigan, during the Oct. 19 panel discussion at Fountain Street Church.

Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and current chair of the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum, recently wrote a new book called “Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street — A Moral Compass for the New Economy.”
“Don’t expect the Occupy protesters to produce a list of policy demands, Wallis said. That’s not their purpose. Rather, they are creating space for the fundamental questions about social justice that weren’t being asked before this fall.”

Wallis said Washington, D.C., is not a place where change originates, but where change arrives. If nothing else, the movement has been successful in refocusing the media and politicians on the problem of inequality, he said.

“The Bible says you see the truth of a society more clearly from the bottom and the edges than from the top.”

It’s interesting to read this brain-damaged comments thread at NewsBusters for the opposite side of this issue, including who Jesus would hate, using nukes on OWS, etc, etc.

For more of the flipside of things, rightwing radio fuckwit Michael Savage pukes up some bile on the “Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?” question: “Jesus was not a communist, that I can tell you!” sez Savage. What kind of bitter, mean old white guys would listen to a radio show like this every day? A few minutes of Michael Savage is enough to be mildly upsetting. He’s a humorless, witless creep who makes Rush Limbaugh seem like a master showman by comparison. Enjoy!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Angela Davis speaks to Occupy Wall Street

Academic, activist, scholar and revolutionary, Angela Davis addressed the Occupy Wall Street “annex” in Washington Square Park yesterday. She asked the bone-cold crowd:  “How can we be together in a unity that is complex and emancipatory?”

Via AlterNet:

To the question of the language of “occupation,” Davis counseled protesters to be aware that the U.S. is behind military occupations in other countries that are brutal and oppressive, but argued it was also possible to use the word differently. “We turn occupation into something that is beautiful, that brings community together.”

Many in the audience seemed to want advice from Davis, but she encouraged the movement to find its own answers. “We stand behind calls for…the decommodification of education, healthcare,” she said, and noted that the movement’s language carries with it the implicit promise of more work: “If we say we are the 99%, we have to commit ourselves to organizing the 99%”

Repeatedly, Davis stressed the need for inclusion, urging protesters to insist on inclusiveness, to make space for the most marginalized people in society, to hear their voices. To questions about political process, she got a laugh from the crowd when she said, “I agree with you that capitalism sucks,” but she urged the crowd not to let another Republican become president even as she said that the two-party system was broken and called for growing the movement until even conservatives wanted to join it.

“That seems to me what this movement is about: freedom and the redefinition of freedom,” Davis said. She called for support of the November 2 general strike planned in Oakland, CA.

Angela Davis interviewed in a California prison in 1970 by Barry Callahan. This is a fascinating clip.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Power to the Parents: Occupy the Department of Education!

This warms the cockles of my Trotskyite heart: Wednesday night in New York City, schools Chancellor Dennis Wallcott and the members of the Panel for Education Policy (or PEP,  the body which enacts policy for the New York City DOE), got more than they bargained for when annoyed parents took a page from Occupy Wall Street and commandeered the meeting with the “people’s mic.” Unsurprisingly, rather than attempt to engage the parents and find out what they wanted, the panel just fucked off.

Nice work, folks, keep the pressure on these clowns.

There is a revolution going on that will touch every aspect of American life. Anyone who think this genie is going back in the bottle is dreaming.

Thank you Glenn E. Friedman of New York City!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Flash-point: Occupy Oakland, Tuesday October 25, 2011

This is a pretty incredible bit of “you were there” style video. The camera was quite near the epicenter of what was happening at Occupy Oakland on Tuesday.

You can see Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen just moments before, and after, he was felled by a projectile.

Video by Raleigh Latham.


Via Business Insider

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘The greatest demonstration of Americanism we’ve ever had!’

Look familiar? After the horrifying events Tuesday night at Occupy Oakland that saw Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, 24, severely injured in a clash with police, this short documentary clip about 1932’s fabled “March of the Bonus Army” seems like particularly timely viewing.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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A scene from last night’s Elizabeth Warren volunteer meeting

This amazing photo was taken at an Elizabeth Warren volunteer meeting last night in Framingham, Mass. and posted by Daily Kos reader ndrwmls10.

Scott Brown is so fucked. I’m sure he must know it. Although Brown is my #1 favorite Republican—not that this is saying very much, of course, because I hate all Republicans—I won’t be sorry to see him go…

If you are interested in Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign, you can find more information here: Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Slavoj Žižek: ‘What will replace capitalism?’

Slavoj Žižek at Cooper Union in NYC, 2009

Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek poses some interesting questions in a new essay titled “The Violent Silence of a New Beginning,” which was prepared from the remarks he made at Occupy Wall Street on October 10th (video of that below).

This except from the full essay, which you can read at In These Times, discusses answering conservative’s hollow critiques of the OWS movement:

The direct conservative attacks are easy to answer.

Are the protests un-American? When conservative fundamentalists claim that America is a Christian nation, one should remember what Christianity is: the Holy Spirit, the free egalitarian community of believers united by love. It is the protesters who are the Holy Spirit, while on Wall Street pagans worship false idols.

Are the protesters violent? True, their very language may appear violent (occupation, and so on), but they are violent in the sense in which Mahatma Gandhi was violent. They are violent because they want to put a stop to the way things are done — –but what is this violence compared to the violence needed to sustain the smooth functioning of the global capitalist system?

The protesters are called “losers” — but the true losers are on Wall Street, bailed out by hundreds of billions of our money.

They are called socialists. But in the United States, there already is socialism for the rich.

They are accused of not respecting private property — but the Wall Street speculations that led to the crash of 2008 erased more hard-earned private property than if the protesters were to be destroying it night and day. Think of the tens of thousands of homes foreclosed.

They are not communists, if communism means the system that deservedly collapsed in 1990. The communists who are still in power run the world’s most ruthless capitalist system (China). The success of Chinese Communist-run capitalism is a sign that the marriage between capitalism and democracy is approaching a divorce.

The only sense in which the protesters are communists is that they care for the commons—the commons of nature, of knowledge—that are threatened by the system.

The protesters are dismissed as dreamers, but the true dreamers are those who think that things can go on indefinitely the way they are, just with some cosmetic changes.

The protesters are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare. They are not destroying anything. They are reacting to a system that is gradually destroying itself.

We all know the classic scene from cartoons: The cat reaches a precipice, but it goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. What the protesters are doing is reminding those in power to look down.

Read more of “The Violent Silence of a New Beginning” by Slavoj Žižek at In These Times

Part 2 after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Rise up: Nationwide General Strike set for Nov 2?


“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”—Abraham Lincoln

At this point, it’s probably too early to report this without recomemmnding the rhetorical “grain of salt,” but according to several tweets from Mother Jones, Occupy Oakland and elsewhere, last night at Occupy Oakland, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a nationwide general strike on November 2nd, with 1184 votes of approval. I can’t wait to hear what happens in NYC this evening and if Occupy Wall Street will also vote to approve a General Strike in their assembly. Via Washington’s Blog:

Mother Jones tweets:

JackalAnon tweets:

There are also rumors of a global general strike planned for next year. Why plan for just one?

I say bring it the fuck on! It’s about TIME for a general strike in this country!

We’ll be watching this space closely, hoping this isn’t another “Radiohead rumor.” Stay tuned…

A history of the 1946 General Strike in Oakland

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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She’s like the Lorax: ‘It’s very obvious. I speak for the 99%: End the wars and tax the rich’

Fantastic. I still haven’t seen her name posted anywhere, but I salute her efforts to educate these clowns. Bravo!

Via Huffington Post:

A protester brought the message of Occupy Wall Street to the deficit-slashing super committee on Wednesday, even as Democrats on the committee sounded like they want to ring up even bigger cuts than required by law.

With Democrats and Republicans sparring over the underlying issue of whether the committee should hike taxes, and whether various parts of the nation’s spending are out of whack compared to historic trends, a woman dressed in black interrupted to try to make it simple.

“The American people want to tax the rich and end the wars,” said a woman who stepped forward as committee member Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) wound down. “That’s how we fix the deficit. And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP, this is just trying to confuse the issue.”

“We would have enough money for housing and health care and everything that we want if we stopped spending our money [on the] military machine,” she added before Capitol police escorted her away. “It’s very obvious. I speak for the 99 percent: End the wars and tax the rich.”


Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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