Monday, February 27, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #45 - Part 5


I have not talked about Occupy for some time now - I did get in that one quick mention last week, which I will get back to, but I did want to spend a little more time on the subject of the movement.

Because contrary to what you would probably gather from our major media, the Occupy movement is not dead, not by a long shot. It's just no longer concentrated in encampments in big and medium-sized cities. Which means its not as media-friendly, there are fewer convenient shots of a mass of tents or clouds of tear gas, so much of the media lost interest.

Bu there are still encampments out there, and cities and towns continue to look for ways to make them go away and shut up. For example, the city of Boise, Idaho has had an encampment for the past couple of months. It turns out that camping on public grounds was not illegal - so what did the city just do? It passed a new emergency law to ban camping on public grounds in order to shut down that city's encampment. You don't like the encampment? Throw it out. It's not illegal? Change the law.

So yes, it's true there are a lot fewer high-profile encampments. But an important part of the reason is that Occupy has diffused through those cities, it has spread to the suburbs and even to rural areas. The people are still out there, still demonstrating, still on the streets, still sitting-in, still lobbying, still petitioning, still calling legislators, still carrying it on in whatever way they as individuals feel they can.

Firedoglake has a program of which you likely know, called Occupy Supply. People donate money to supply various occupations with needed equipment, which included not only for example electronic gear but even more often things like gloves and boots and insulated tents to deal with the winter. The point here is that they had a big tent that they were going to donate to one Occupy chosen from among those nominated by visitors to the website, that is, from people interested in Occupy Supply. A base requirement was that the Occupy group either had to have an on-going encampment or at least recent activity - that is, it had to be a live group. The initial list of Occupy groups with such on-going activities was posted on January 31 - and it contained over 150 locations.

Just this past week, in what shows the variety of approaches being taken,

- hundreds of occupy folks and prison reform activists joined forces outside the gates of San Quentin State Prison, rallying around a charge that state sentencing laws are too strict and calling for an end to solitary confinement, the death penalty, and to children being tried as adults;

- some Occupy Oakland protesters were arrested for disrupting a foreclosure sale and later tht same day some others forced a branch of a bank to close early in the face of a protest of a different foreclosure, this one of an woman who had been trying without success to get a loan modification;

- and a group calling itself Occupy the SEC sent a 325-page letter with detailed public comments about the proposed Volcker rule regulating certain bank transactions.

More locally, Occupy Providence, which voluntarily shut down after the city met its demand for a homeless day center, has re-emerged as Occupy URI, with a teach-in and a tent on the campus quad planned for later in the month along with plans for actions as part of Occupy Rhode Island Campuses, a new coalition of five colleges and universities in the state. And there has apparently been some discussion among a number of occupy groups about moving physical occupations onto colleges - the idea being, more or less, if you can't settle in the streets, camp on the campus.

Oh, and Occupy Maine now has a TV show. Welcome to Public Access TV, Occupy Maine.

What's more, on Wednesday, February 29, 60 cities across the country will see nonviolent actions with an overall target of at ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing outfit that brings corporations and other right-wing interests together with state legislators to provide model legislation the latter can bring home to push in order to advance the reactionary agenda.

But leave all that aside: If you really want to know about the impact of a movement, don't look at its supporters - look at its enemies.

I mentioned this last week but it bears repeating: On January 30, Just before the Florida primary, Newt Grinch accused Witless Romney of being a tool of Wall Street and said that big banking firms like Goldman Sachs are “rigging the game.” He even claimed that the negative ads run against him were financed by Wall Street outfits, including Goldman Sachs. Just think of what it means for the impact of Occupy when Newt Grinch thinks it's to his benefit to call a fellow GOPper a tool of Wall Street.

Not enough? How about the fact that Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan-Chase who has made a career of late out of hyperbolic, hyperventilating attacks on any attempts to regulate the banks, recently said we absolutely should raise taxes on the rich, adding "I don't think people should be able to pass unlimited amounts on to their kids." So much for the "death tax."

Still not enough? How about the fact that a week ago last Friday, February 17, the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial that the only real way to prevent a repeat of the wild irresponsible financial speculation and wrongful behavior that resulted in the meltdown that produced the particular mess we are currently in is for, quoting here, "a Congressional plan either for allowing large banks to fail or for breaking them up."

You got that right: The Wall Street Journal wants to break up the banks.

But if you're still not convinced, this should be the clincher. Consider a recent column by one Judith Samuelson. She is the Executive Director of the Aspen Institute's Business and Society Program, and this is one example among many from a variety of people. In that column, Samuelson said that Occupy should "help give visibility to ideas that move beyond vilifying 'corporations' and 'capitalism' and begin to focus on the incentives and policies that create sub-optimal results from business and capital markets." In other words, she thinks Occupy should focus on smoothing off a couple of the rough edges of capitalism.

That is a way to measure impact: When you have a movement that has come to the point where so many people from across the political spectrum feel entitled and even obliged to offer their sage advice on what that movement should do now, especially when that advice mostly involves how to "tone down" your message and become "serious," you know you have something with power.


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