Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, Lessons From The Tea Party, and Niven’s Law

Never throw shit at an armed man

Over the years, I have found that to be excellent advice.

A lot of you have written wondering why I haven’t yet said something about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In fact, this is probably the single largest amount of correspondence on any single subject I’ve yet received – excluding, of course, the steady and reliable trickle of misspelled bitter hate mail generated by the America posts, that’s a gift that just keeps on giving.

Some of you expressed surprise that I haven’t yet commented on this subject. Others wondered if I would ever comment on this subject, and if so, when?  Some writers expressed disappointment that I haven’t either a) enthusiastically embraced power to the people or b) forcefully rejected these torch and pitchfork waving rabble – the former being from folks who only know me online and the later being from folks who know me in real life.  Some of you who don’t know me very well at all expressed extreme disappointment that I haven’t pitched a tent on the Alaskan muskeg and joined the protest.  Some of you sent me polite invites to OWS events, others of you continue to flood my inbox with a continued deluge of missives both for and against the protests and have made sure that I’m aware of every outrage, both pro and con, Australia to Zucotti – and thanks for that because you helped make it easier to research this post.  One person shat all over my Facebook account with fanatical verbal diarrhea, outraged that I dared make a smart Alec remark perceived as critical of certain OWS supporters – and after I blocked her nonsense, she continued to spam my email until she was blocked from that as well.  She was far from the only one to email me in outrage – and the funny thing about that were the emails from people, again both for and against the protesters, who were outraged about the inflammatory articles I’ve posted here on Stonekettle Station regarding OWS (Astute readers will note that I haven’t actually written or posted any such articles, not that that technicality appears to matter. I could have and that’s what counts).

I don’t expect that this post will do much to stem the tide, and in fact I suspect that the volume of “you’re so wrong wrong wrong, you’re wrong” email to increase. I have started this post now every day for a week, and then erased it and started over – in hindsight, given the events in Oakland last night, I’m glad I waited. 

I’ve exchanged correspondence with a number of you over the last few weeks as OWS took form and I know that a lot of Stonekettle Station’s regular readers are enthusiastic supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  As such, this is a difficult post for me to write and I fully expect to lose a number of readers over it.

So be it.

I’m not in the habit of pulling punches or tempering my words and I don’t intend to start now. 

Niven’s Law: Anarchy is the least stable of social structures, it falls apart at a touch

I haven’t commented on the Occupy Wall Street movement for a number of reasons, but mostly because I’ve been waiting to see how things shaped up. I wanted to see what message eventually emerged, if any. 

I had certain expectations and I wanted to see if I was right.

And I was – we’ll come back to that in a minute.

I like to know who I’m getting in bed with, one way or the other.

The first and foremost reason I haven’t written about, or joined, OWS is this: I don’t like mobs.

In point of fact, I have a deep-seated aversion to large groups of angry people waving signs. 

I remember the race and anti-establishment riots in the 60’s.  I’ve personally been in the midst of Cold War anti-NATO riots in Europe, some violent, some just overly enthusiastic. I’ve been on the receiving end of anti-war protests here in the United States because I wore a uniform and have a military haircut. I’ve had shit thrown at me by animal rights protesters because I happened to be wearing leather boots and I received death threats from crazed PETA fanatics after I wrote a couple of articles they found offensive. I get daily hate mail from incensed Tea Party types and the religious loonies (or is that redundant?), mostly as a result of things I’ve written, such as the aforementioned America series. And I spent a lot of time in the Middle East and Africa where violent angry mobs are a daily event, very dangerous violent angry mobs.

I don’t like mobs and so far OWS has done little to convince me that the movement is anything more than just that, a large unruly mob.

I spent almost all of my adult life in the field of Intelligence. I’m a highly experienced expert in Information Warfare, which includes among other things the study of group perception and group think, mob psychology, group dynamics, information evolution in stressed populations, and especially the deliberate and/or unintentional manipulation of perceived reality both in individuals and groups.

Almost inevitably, groups tend to create their own reality, especially those that are driven by strong emotions instead of being led by clearly defined goals and strong clearly visible unified leaders.  This happens with trained personnel who are supposed to be alert to the dangers of group think, such as the decision makers who convinced themselves to declare war based on a false reality that they themselves created.  It happens with trained military personnel, such as those in jail for the things that happened at Abu Garrib and those currently on trial for thrill killing and head hunting in the war zone. And it is almost inevitable in large groups of emotional people without such training or leadership – especially in this age when false, corrupted, fragmentary, and manufactured information can propagate like a blast wave though the mob at the speed of social networks and cellular communications.

In many cases, joining a mob is the same as taking a mind altering drug.

The reality that exists within the mob is an altered state, and too often that state is volatile and highly unstable.  Depending on a number of factors, the likelihood of a bad trip increases exponentially with the size of the mob.  Large groups of emotional people without stable controls can disintegrate into violence and chaos with the slightest of triggers.  Humans in groups operate far differently from individuals.  Like intoxication, group-think often removes social inhibitions – add mob mentality to actual intoxication and all bets are off.

It is far too easy for large groups of angry people waving signs to turn into large groups of angry people waving sticks and throwing rocks and lighting shit on fire – as last night’s riot in Oakland demonstrates.


Oh, yes, that, i.e. the angry people waving sticks and throwing rocks and lighting shit on fire, not to mention vandalizing banks and businesses and barricading public streets and attempting to annex private property, don’t represent OWS. 


Folks,  unfortunately for a large majority of the watching world that violence and mob mentality does represent OWS – and it’s exactly what a lot of people were expecting, including me. Like it or not, that violence is now the public face of the Occupy movement, those are the images on every news channel from Oakland to London to Sydney to Moscow.  And you don’t get to blame the media for publicizing those pictures, you light shit on fire and behave like common hoodlums and you have no right whatsoever to expect the media not to make your jackassery public. OWS is going to have to own those people and the consequences of their actions, just the same as the Tea Party gets to own the beer bellied bigots and the rednecked curbstompers waving AR-15s and misspelled signs at their rallies. If the Tea Party has to own its racists, the Occupiers have to own their anti-Semites.

Niven’s Law: No cause is so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads

I fully expected OWS to devolve into rioting at some point, I think it was inevitable and I think it will likely get worse.

At its core, OWS is about the Haves verses the Have-Nots.

Fundamentally this conflict, the one between the Haves and the Have-Nots, is the very heart of every violent revolution throughout history.  From our own American Revolution to the French Revolution to the Bolshevik and Communist Revolutions to the Arab Spring.  The greater the perceived disparity between the Haves and the Have-Nots, the greater the probability of violence – and that gap, the one between privileged and poor in America, widens further daily.

Now it can be argued that at least some of the Have-Nots are really Haves.  I don’t know if I buy that argument completely and I think the source is certainly questionable, but even if true the conclusion misses the reason why those Haves are down in the street with the Have-Nots.  It’s because they’ve read the writing on the wall and fear that they too will become the disenfranchised.  Revolutions are always full of these people, they often become the leaders. 

This is the fundamental difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.  OWS is opposed to unfettered business, the Tea Party opposes unfettered government.  The Occupiers want business out of government, the Tea Partiers want government out of business. These things may appear similar but they are in reality Yin and Yang.  The only workable way for OWS to achieve its stated goal of reining in capitalism is through more government.  The only way for the Tea Party to achieve its stated goal is less government.  Both groups feel disenfranchised from the so-called American Dream, and both consider themselves the Have-Nots – the difference being that the Tea Partiers still think they’re going to become the Haves someday if somebody doesn’t take the opportunity away from them, the Occupiers believe that opportunity is already gone. 

Ultimately that’s why the Tea Partiers aren’t rioting in the streets, they aren’t part of the power structure but they want to be.  The Occupiers don’t, they want a new system, one that automatically includes them. The Tea Partiers believe that any American can become a Have, if only government would get out of the way. They believe that those who don’t become Haves must be lazy – even if many of them never seem to rise above the level of Have-Not, otherwise they wouldn’t be members of the Tea Party in the first place.  The Occupiers believe that the system is rigged and that the Haves will ensure that they always remain Have-Nots. 

The Tea Party blames other Have-Nots for the state of the country.

The Occupiers blame the Haves.

Same coin, different sides.

What’s that?  Yes, certainly some Occupiers are communists – in the most fundamental sense of “commune.”  They don’t want more government, or more business. They want everybody to live together without such things, making group decisions and cheerfully sharing the chores of civilization.  Heh.  This only works in Science Fiction stories (and usually not even then, otherwise it would be a damned boring story).  People have been trying this since the Garden of Eden. You would have to alter the fundamental nature of human beings beyond recognition. Utopia is not for men. The cracks are already showing in Zuccotti Park, increasingly there are those that take without giving and there are jobs nobody will do.  Note that up above I said that that the only workable way for the Occupiers to achieve their stated core goal of limiting capitalism is more government, whatever form that government takes – even if an unfortunate number of them don’t seem to realize the ultimate consequences of what they are demanding.

When the conflict is about the Haves verses the Have-Nots, violence is very likely and it doesn’t take much to set it off.

The Tea Partiers, for the most part, have been scrupulous about obeying the law. They’ve gotten permits and observed curfews and, usually, cleaned up after themselves.  If they brings guns, it’s in accordance with ordinance and the law – even if they adamantly don’t agree with those restrictions.  Again, likely this is because Tea Partiers see themselves as part of the system, they’re older, they’re conservatives, they see themselves as good law abiding citizens exercising their patriotic rights.   The Occupiers want to kick over the apple cart. They don’t want to obey the laws of what they see as an unfair and unjust system that exists to keep the Haves in power at the expense of the Have-Nots.  Occupiers regard breaking the rules as not only acceptable, but desirable

They regard being arrested as a badge of honor.  

Niven’s Law: Never throw shit at an armed man. Corollary: Never stand next to someone throwing shit at an armed man

The problem with this is that it makes violence and riot inevitable.

When Occupiers refuse to follow the law they put authorities in an untenable position – especially those whose job it is to enforce the law.

People wrote to me outraged when Washington DC police cracked down on Occupiers.  What they failed to mention was that the Occupiers were attempting to enter the National Air And Space Museum. It should be obvious why that is unacceptable.  More, the Occupiers cut off and threatened a security guard who attempted to block their entrance into the building – and that’s where they jumped the shark.

In New York, protesters blocked public roads. One Occupier defecated on the hood of a police car.  A group of veterans in uniform attempted to block access to the New York Stock Exchange.

In Oakland last night, protesters blocked the port in an attempt to shut it down. Shouting protesters broke into the former Travelers Aid building in order to “reclaim the building for the people.”  They blocked off public streets with barricades made of dumpsters and wood and trash – and eventually they lit those barricades on fire.

Now honestly, what did you think was going to happen?

There is no way that the government, any government, can stand by and allow that to happen. Period.  The protesters were asked to cease and desist.  They refused. Tear-gas and rubber bullets are inevitable at that point.  And sooner or later, there are going to be real bullets – because once you start throwing shit at armed men, once you start breaking into buildings and blocking roads and lighting things on fire, you are no longer exercising your right to free speech. At that point you are a riot and you’ve given the authorities no options whatsoever.  Remember, it’s not just your rights they must protect.  When you smash the windows at the Oakland Wells Fargo Bank or block access to it, when you attempt to force your way into national landmarks, or block public roads,  then you put the cops and the military in the position of defending the people you dislike.  And they will, even if they agree in principle with you, because that’s their job – just as they will defend you when you burn the American Flag on the courthouse steps.   They’re already facing the mob, they’re already having to do things they don’t want to do, they’re scared and pissed off, and if you throw burning shit at them they will bust your fucking head, or worse, because you’ve made it about us and them.

Yes, in a number of cases the police did use unreasonable force for no apparent reason – we’ve all seen those pictures of the woman being pepper sprayed in New York. And, if the reports are accurate, the cops were absolutely wrong, but smashing windows and arson are not the correct response – that leads to a cycle of escalating violence that will have only one outcome, see the previous paragraph.

And on that note: many folks wrote to me about Scott Olsen, the veteran who got hit in the head with a gas canister and ended up in the hospital with his brains scrambled.  I might sympathize with his injuries and wish him a speedy recovery, but again, what the hell did you think was going to happen?  You start a riot, people get hurt. That’s how it goes. If you’re worried about people getting hurt, then obey the damned police when they tell you to disperse or reap the whirlwind. I mean, shit, haven’t you been paying attention these last ten years?  And if you don’t want to knuckle under to the cops, then don’t start whining when somebody gets their head busted – even if it is a vet – that’s the cost, you made the bed, lay in it.  Speaking as a veteran of the same war as Scott Olsen, I just don’t see what the hell his military service has to do with anything.  Does it make it more egregious because he was a vet? Shouldn’t you be just as outraged if a limp-wristed peacenik got his skull cracked?  A number of those cops were likely veterans too, do you have any sympathy for them?

Ask Scott Olsen this, as a grunt on patrol in the dangerous streets of Mosul, what would he have done if faced with an unruly mob who refused to obey orders to disperse?  He’d have fired tear-gas, or worse, you goddamned right he would have. So let’s just save the hypocrisy, shall we?

Niven’s Law: No technique works if it isn’t used

So what am I saying?  Occupy Wall Street is stupid and futile and everybody should just go home?

No, not at all.

First and foremost, movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are indicators of the same problem, the same issues, the same malaise.  The movements may be opposite sides of the same coin, but they are the same coin and it’s important to remember that.  Those occupying the gilded seats of power in Washington and Wall Street should be scared shitless right now, the savvy ones. Because what comes next are those people getting dragged from their ivory towers and hanged from the nearest lamppost. 

What’s that? That would never happen here?  Yeah, that’s what Gadhafi said.

The gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots is increasing, dramatically so. 

For many, both here in America and elsewhere, times are tough (of course, tough times are relative, there are many, many, many people in the world who would look upon the most miserable American with unbridled envy. But that’s a different post entirely).

Increasingly our dreams of something better are receding.

People are angry. They feel disenfranchised. They feel that their leaders have let them down. They feel that government is corrupt and doesn’t listen. They feel that Wall Street is stealing their future and growing fat on their sweat. 

Are they wrong?  Are they wrong to want something better? Or to want things the way they used to be (even if things never were really that way)?

No, of course not.

At its core, the basic beliefs of the Occupiers are something I can get behind.  End corruption.  Reform Wall Street.  Remove excessive influence by big business.  Government of the people, by the people, for the people.  Everybody gets the same opportunity for life, liberty, and happiness. Ironically, near as I can figure those are the basic tenets of the Tea Party movement as well.

It’s the methodology that I can’t abide.

I asked several dozen people associated with the Occupy Wall Street protest what is it that they want.  Their answers, and the actions of their comrades last night in Oakland convinced me that I want no part of this movement. Here’s why:

Capitalism: Yesterday the Occupiers in Oakland were waving a banner that said “Down With Capitalism!”  A lot of Occupiers seem to share this view point.  Including those that responded to me.

OWS lost me right there.

I’ve seen dictatorships and communism and socialism up close. I believe strongly in the Free Market.  However, I’ve said here and elsewhere many times that I believe, and I think history is on my side here, that capitalism must be regulated, otherwise a handful of Haves end up owning everything and the Have-Nots get to pay them for the privilege of living on the scraps. Because I’ve seen unbridled capitalism too, and it isn’t pretty.  Without government regulation of capitalism there would be no middle class. Period. Don’t believe me? Go read up on the America of the Rail Tycoons and the Timber and Steel Barons, the Trusts, JP Morgan and the Rockefellers and get back to me.  Take a look at our own history and see what happens to the average Have-Not when government stays out of the way of business.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a full-fledged flaming capitalist at heart.  I believe in an America that can produce a Bill Gates and a Steve Jobs.  I think America works best when there is a balance between government and business and while I think there’s certainly room for improvement in our current system, if you think I’m going to go throw Molotov cocktails in the street with the Marxists, well you don’t know me at all.  You’ll see me at a Tea Party rally before that happens.

End the Fed: I find it ironic as all hell that Occupiers are waving signs that read “End the Fed.”  I initially wondered if they borrowed the signs from their Tea Party neighbors, but then I saw that the signs were all spelled correctly (Heh heh, sorry).  End the Fed? Seriously?  The Federal Reserve exists for a number of very good reasons – not the least of which is the fact without it this recession might very well have become another Great Depression.  But never mind that, if there was no Fed, then the United States would have to keep its money in regular banks, say like Bank of America or Wells Fargo – you know, the same banks the Occupiers are pissed off at.  You think Wall Street is powerful now? Imagine if they really were the actual bank of America and without accountability to the citizens.  Honestly, are you goofy? 

Now, does that mean that I don’t think the system needs closer scrutiny? Better oversight? Tighter regulation? Much greater accountability to the citizens of the United States? I think there’s plenty of room for improvement.  I’ve risked my life in the combat zone and I’ve been known to tilt at windmills, However I’ll tell you what I’m not willing to do, I’m not willing to take a round in the forehead for improved banking laws or Wall Street overhaul. I think there are much better ways to achieve that goal, ways that don’t involve a stay in intensive care or eating pudding through a straw for the rest of my life.

The answers I got from the OWS folks are many and varied:

They (the banks) took bailout money paid for by our tax dollars. We’re hurting, they’re paying their executives million dollar bonuses. We lost our houses, they took our money and now they’re living in the lap of luxury in the Hamptons. We lost our jobs, they took our money and outsourced our jobs to Asia. They get the best healthcare money can buy, we’d better not get sick. They get richer, we get poorer. They gave business the same rights as people, now people have no rights. They took away our right to bargain collectively, then threaten to send our jobs overseas if we don’t give up benefits and pay. They demand tax breaks in order to create jobs, then they create jobs overseas.  They want to increase what we pay for Social Security and Medicare, yet they pay no taxes. They hold students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education but then refuse to hire us so we can pay off those debts. They control the courts, and government is in their pocket. They have sold our privacy as a commodity. They control the media.  They wage war for profit.

There’s more, but those should give you the basic gist.

Maybe I agree with some of those things. Maybe I think OWS has a point when it comes to certain complaints. Maybe I think the Tea Party does too.

But here’s my question: how does lighting shit on fire fix any of that?

How does sleeping in tents on the sidewalk change anything?  How does getting yourself arrested over and over help you find a job?  How does shitting on the hood of a police car increase the accountability of Wall Street bankers? How does shutting down the Port of Oakland in any way whatsoever help the situation – other than to foul up shipping schedules and increase costs for already strapped consumers and deprive port workers of a night’s wages? How?

Here’s the thing: those assholes? The ones that caused this? The John Thanes. The Bernie Madoffs.  The Stan O’Neals. Ken Lewis. Rex Tillerson. The 1%. They don’t care.  You can chant and dance and sing and protest and throw rocks from now until the sun burns out and they will not give a shit. You can burn down Oakland and Detroit and Central Park. They live in gated communities and work fifty stories above the street and they can’t even hear you.  These are people who stole billions.  These are people who took the life savings of widows and orphans and foreclosed on crippled veterans without a shred of remorse. And they did it for decades. These are people who lost trillions of dollars and then held out their hands to the taxpayer for more. These are people who took government subsidies and and cleared $41 Billion in profit in three months, and then charged you $4.50 a gallon at the pump.  These are people who took $25 Billion in taxpayer bailouts, and then tried to charge people $5 dollars a month to use their own money. 

If these people had any shame whatsoever, if they could be influenced in any way by the wailing of the little people, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  

They don’t give a fuck what happens to you.

They don’t care how loud you cry. Or how much you suffer.

So then what? Is there no recourse? Can we do nothing? Why then not riot in the streets? Yes, why the hell not burn it all down?

Because we are Americans, Goddamn it.

We have better ways to change things than rioting in the street like third world rabble.  Your ancestors died to give you that.

You want to change things? Really change things? Then get off your ass and do something that actually matters. 

You’ll turn out to chant and wave signs, you’ll turn out to throw rocks and burn dumpsters full of trash, you’ll spent a month sleeping in a tent in on a sidewalk, you’ll sing folk songs and hold hands – but you won’t turn out to vote.

People keep electing the same assholes over and over – my own state of Alaska is a perfect example.  Biggest vote of the year, our boy Don Young goes fishing.  No worries, he’ll get reelected until he dies and maybe even then. 

Look at the last midterm elections.  You wonder why you have a gridlocked Congress? 

In Wisconsin, people were outraged at the government. Outraged that the governor took away collective bargaining rights.  They were so outraged they demanded a recall election.  They could have changed things, instead far too many folks stayed home, I guess they weren’t that outraged after all.

How many of you have said, well, you know, I probably won’t even vote this time around. I’ve lost faith in Obama. I don’t like the Republicans.  I’m staying home.  Or maybe I’ll write in Bozo The Clown, it’s like getting arrested, it makes a statement. What statement? Nobody give a shit if you get arrested and nobody gives a shit if you write in Bozo the Clown.

Niven’s Law: Not responsible for advice not taken

You want to do something?

Use the Occupy rallies to educate people instead of lighting shit on fire.  Stop getting people arrested and educate them on the issues. Make sure they’re registered to vote. Demand a voter registration card as the price of admission.  Encourage them to vote. Encourage them to encourage their friends to vote. Encourage them to encourage their families to vote. Over and over. 

Clearly define your goals. If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’ll never win.  If you don’t have leaders, if you don’t have goals, then you’ll never be anything more than a mob.

Obey the law and make damned sure everybody else does too. If you don’t like the law then elect people who will change it to be more the way you want. 

It’s not enough to decry the violence. You have to stop it. Now. Period.  You want people like me to join your cause? Not likely, not while you’re lighting shit on fire.  I spent my whole life protecting this country, I’m not going to let you burn it down.

You want to get the banks’ attention, you want to make them notice you? You can withdraw your money, sure, and put it in a credit union. But it won’t make a damned bit of difference.  Banks lose that much money in ten minutes, they don’t care.  You want to make a real dent in Chase’s bottom line? Get business to close their accounts.  Only you won’t win over many businesses if you’re smashing out their fucking windows and blocking their driveways or blockading the port through which they move their products.

You want to make a difference? Then stop trying to tear down the system and use it the way it was designed to be used.

You want to know why the Tea Party won the last election? Because that’s exactly what they did – and it worked.

It worked exactly the way the people who founded this country designed it to work.

You want to make a difference?

Then have some faith in the United States of America.



Update: Follow up post is here: Occupy Stonekettle Station, The Follow Up


Attention: I know some of you are very passionate about this subject.  I know that some of you will strongly disagree with this post.  That’s fine. You are allowed to speak your peace, but remember the commenting rules, disregard them at your own peril.

For folks surfing in who are not familiar with Stonekettle Station, read the commenting rules first. Heed and obey.  I mean it. 


  1. A view that gets to the same place, using very different methods

  2. Point of order on the attempt to crash into the Smithsonian Air & Space Annex: A 'conservative' blogger bragged that he had gone to that demonstration with the intent of being an agent provocateur and that he had led the charge (and got pepper-sprayed for his pains, but I lack sympathy). I can dig out the backup for that if you like.

  3. @Eve, I've seen that story. As I said, it doesn't take much to incite a mob, intentionally or not. Whether or not the charge was led by an agent provocateur (and I'm not entirely sure that's a true story, it's just a little too pat), regardless, the rest of the crowd followed.

  4. Jim I live in Wisconsin and I must say a couple of things about your Wisconsin comments. A) The difference in the results of the recent supreme court recall election was less than one half of one percent with a 60 percent voter turn out.The deciding factor was the mysterious arrival of 7000 votes,2 days later from "forgotten"precincts.When a recount was ordered it was found that a large number of ballot bags had been tampered with and anomalies:such as up to 50 consecutive votes for the eventual winner were noted in a number of bags that were torn ,seals broken and mislabeled and some actually duct taped closed.These votes were cast in a largely Republican district and were the only part of the state in which ballot bags had suffered such "rough" handling.The likelihood of ballot bag stuffing is high and being investigated.Diebold and ESS the manufacturers of voting machines are notorious for their right wing owners and their machines, for their ease of hacking. I offer the election of G.W. Bush and the swing votes of Ohio and Florida up as further questionable manipulation that bears further investigation.When the very real possibility of election fraud is apparent I am not to sure that"voting" is any longer a real solution to these problems.
    Secondly and as important you failed to mention that the Tea Party is funded by a few rather wealthy folks
    who would rather maintain their so very privileged status quo.The OWS is funded by the schlubs from the near bottom who have so very little left to lose...When push comes to shove the line becomes blurred.When you are up to your ass in alligators it is hard to remember that your main objective was to drain the swamp.Unfortunately I don't have any solutions but I do know that if every night you came home and kicked your dog that on any given evening you had better expect to get bitten.

  5. Articulate post as always.

    I believe that everyone (on both sides)who bitches should vote or shut up.

    One point --It's easy to say 'just work within the system," if you fail to acknowledge that the system is fundamentally broken. One could argue that is the ultimate way to preserve the status quo....while risking nothing.

    Okay two, why is it so easy for you to dismiss the possibility of agent provocateurs? I would think that your background includes knowledge and understanding of this time honored technique particularly when used by the government.

  6. "When Occupiers refuse to follow the law they put authorities in an untenable position – especially those whose job it is to enforce the law."

    Change Occupiers to Freedom Riders and you have 1965. It worked then, albeit more peacefully.

    "In Wisconsin, people were outraged at the government. Outraged that the governor took away collective bargaining rights. They were so outraged they demanded a recall election. They could have changed things, instead far too many folks stayed home, I guess they weren’t that outraged after all."

    Can't have a recall election on the gov until Jan. The one they did have replaced two, and had one election decided by a county clerk who runs all results through her personal laptop. And just happened to find enough votes to throw the judgeship to a Republican in a different election.

    You do not get the attention of business by being nice, you get their attention by stopping their income flow.

    The pepper spraying deputy inspector in NYC has been penalized, a light slap on the wrist, but penalized.

    The cities are racking up millions in expenses, good, it will get their attention and perhaps they will put pressure on Washington.

    While I agree that the violence should not be, no I do not agree about blocking streets or ports. The only way to get the attention of these people, the haves, is to stop their business.

    And the American Revolution was the Haves vs the Have Mores, a very different situation that the French. The Founding Fathers, for their time and place, were rich men.

  7. Jim, I agree with many of your points, e.g. OWS' lack of specific goals, mob violence. It's also helpful that you provided suggestions for more effective protests, e.g. voting in an informed manner. And, you rightly pointed out that so many of us have neglected to vote. Unfortunately, these responses to government corruption are reflections of our anger, ignorance and perceived helplessness. However, they are ultimately self defeating- as you so clearly illustrated.
    As I see it, our only recourse is to work to remove money from our electoral process- public campaign finance reform. I had hoped that OWS would lead to actualizing that goal. I'm very afraid that the wrong 'medicine' of violence will now obliterate that possibility.
    Perhaps the majority of OWS, which I believe is peaceful, will now become vocal in its opposition to working for change through violence. And, perhaps they will now formulate specific goals and continue to help focus a national discussion about the economic and political problems we face and the solutions that will provide positive change for us all.

  8. I think I've stated this before somewhere, but when you disenfranchise the top, you get the "bloodless" revolutions of the Oligarchs in Russia, the Velvet Revolution. When it's the middle-class, you get a wide range from the American Revolution to the Arab Spring (or just look at the differences in the Arab Spring from Egypt to Syria/Libya). They range from the somewhat bloodless revolution in Egypt to "Burning down the House" in Syria. When it's the bottom, you get the Khmer Rouge, China, Vietnam, and the French Revolution. Violent, bloody revolution that's followed by waves of purges.

    I think that OWS started out as something "new" (yes, it was based in a dark reflection of the Tea Party's "leaderless" movement), but now we're seeing actions being channeled into "accepted" forms (riots against the system, which isn't the enemy, but will play one on TV if you force it to). Which all means this won't end well.

    If we're lucky, OWS will morph into a 60's like social protest movement. But I don't believe that path is being seen as a real option (or really, as a model to be emulated) by the younger crowds that sort of movement draws.

  9. I truly believe in some of the stated goals of the OWS movement. You reiterated them quite well: a blending of government and business through sound regulation. Gotta say, I started out reading your post NOT liking what you were saying. Then, I kept reading, holding my disagreement in reserve. My diligence paid off. Thank you for putting the movement(s) in perspective for me. I will say that the Tea Party and I are like orange juice and pizza, they will never mix. I don't like someone ruling over me with their thinly veiled theocracy. Nor do I like mobs destroying what so many worked so hard to build in this country. Mob rule, in any form, is a bad thing. I like your balanced approach to a solution. Thank you for putting it down so succinctly, and humorously.

  10. Well, for once I disagree with you strongly. You come across as more in favore of the crazies in the Tea Party and less with the OWS. You say you agree with sopme of their main goals but yet you seem to be ignorant of the fact that the SYTEM IS BROKE so doing things through the stystem will never bring about change! Those in Government will NEVER cut their access to money and power from big buisness etc. And the only way to change the system within the system is if those in power were to limit their own power...NEVER gona happen and you know it!

    I am behind the OWS 100% and the comparison of them to the crazy Teabaggers is an insult!

  11. I expected that Jim's views on OWS were going to pretty much match my own, and I wasn't disappointed. I've felt all along that the biggest problem with OWS was the 'occupy' part. It is a lot easier to maintain a focused message over the course of a 10-hour rally than it is over a 10-day, 10-week, 10-month(?) kettle of Woodstock, Selma Alabama & Kent State all mixed together.

    They even had a great slogan: 'We are the 99 percent.' Talk about a unifying & mobilizing slogan. That was (and is) something you can build on. Problem is, as the 'occupation' part has dragged on, that has turned out to look more like 'We are the 1% here, there's another 1% there, another 1% over there (I could go on, but you get the idea). As the TV crews work their way through the crowds, trying to get a handle on the group's demands, they get 99 different answers, and this rabble is having a harder & harder time presenting itself as 'the 99 percent.'

    Nothing new here. That is an issue that has dogged the left in this country for decades; organizing, by-definition, free-thinkers is a lot like herding cats. That's why this thing has devolved into everything from taking down the banks to legalizing pot to fuck, I like living in a tent amidst a bunch of hippie chicks. I'm getting laid like a rock star. When the television cameras get pointed at these people and they're asked, 'what are your goals?' the answer is increasingly-becoming, 'Yeeaaargggh.'

    And so, the press has whipped themselves into a 24/7 frenzy trying to tell us what these people are so hacked-off about. With the Tea Party it was easy, and Rick Perry put it best: They want government to become as inconsequential in our lives as it can possibly be. Talk about something you can fit on a placard. Funny how they think this until their house is on fire or their street develops potholes or, theoretically, they move to a new town & find that the only school in 100 miles is run out of a mosque. They want government to get pretty damned consequential in a hurry then. It boils down to them wanting government to be consequential in their lives, but they don't want to pay for it to be consequential in yours. But, I digress.

    When OWS became an international news story was the time when everyone needed to have packed up their shit & gone to wherever they call home; hopefully it wasn't the park. Mission objective A accomplished. Then, start organizing rallies & keep hammering on that 99% message. That might have organized & motivated voters next year, might have gotten some real change accomplished. As it is, if there is any single thing more likely to put a guy like Mitt Romney in the White House, I can't think of what it is, at the moment.

  12. I too am thankful that I kept reading and suspended my comments until the end. You make many points, and several that I agree with. However, I wouldn't be comforted by the belief that the reason the Tea Party "won" the last election was because they sat quietly with their guns and misspelled, hate filled signs...I find it MUCH more likely that the money that gave rise to their constant exposure on MSM had quite a bit more to do with this "grassroots" movement carrying a frightening number of midterm elections.

    Our political system is broken, due to the corrupting influence of money in it. Our economy is broken, due to many factors, but not the least being deregulation in an increasingly global economy. One where the large corporation is not nearly as dependent on it's American neighbors to make its living. It has an entire world to turn to now for labor and customers, which is fine.

    However, our government should be looking out for the "general welfare" of THIS country. Our government should be protecting this COUNTRY, which provides the infrastructure for that corporation to exist, and should be protecting our nation’s assets (labor and said infrastructure) from those corporations who would seek to exploit both for profit. And they will, because that is the nature of a corporation. It has no conscience in and of itself.

    Our government, through the efforts of lobbyists who seem to be more powerful than our politicians these days (e.g. Grover Norquist) has been corrupted to the point of being non-functional, as our current 112th Congress has so shamelessly demonstrated. Even more disturbing, the integrity of our voting process can no longer be trusted.

    If one if the tools in your shop was broken, would you repair or replace it? Or would you just continue to use the same broken tool, and wonder why it wasn't doing it’s job?

    In Oakland on Nov 3, after it was discovered that several businesses had windows broken, etc the day of the General strike…members of Occupy went and stood guard to hopefully prevent this type of counter-productive activity from occurring again.

    The Occupy Movement is non-violent by design. The few who are violent, are either a small fraction of the whole, or completely unassociated and seeking only to discredit the movement and it’s vision.

    It is not, and is not intended to be, a mob.

    I am proud to be associated with OCCUPY, and encouraged that people are standing up for something they believe in, namely, our Democracy. I see the OCCUPY Movement as the start of a new awakening of the collective conscience of this country. Perhaps apathy and self-gratification will no longer be national pastimes. Perhaps “civic duty” will no longer be a foreign concept. The Movement is full of all kinds of people, from all walks of life, but it was the students who stood up first. After all, it is the young people who will have the most to lose from our decisions to ignore everything but our own little lives at the cost of the greater good of our nation and it’s future generations.

    Thanks for posting Jim, you always have such tasty food for thought.

  13. "[H]ave some faith in the United States of America" shows more confidence in the system than I have been able to muster for some years now. As Carl Sagan said, "Faith is belief without evidence, and why would you want to believe something if there's no evidence for it?"

    And as long as I'm quoting, John Adams said, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide."

    Something else I've been wondering. Is it a necessary feature of capitalism that its cheaters and con men be coddled and rewarded? Or is facing the wider consequences of your actions something only the lower classes should have to worry about?

  14. BRAVO!!! Execllent post - and the reason I keep coming back.
    (now, if only people would heed your words)

  15. Jim - you're very much on point with this article, which I linked to on my blog.

    Warner - the Freedom Riders, unlike OWS, had *very strong* organization. This organization prevented their protests from becoming riots. OWS needs to find that organization.

    Several people have argued that "the system is broken." Well, no, it isn't. Does it function as well or as fast as I would like? No, and that's partially by design. (Would anybody like to see what mischief Prime Minister Boehner could get up to?) One has to give the system time to function, which requires patience and organization.

  16. Hey Jim

    Excellent post, as always. As much as I've silently cheered the OWS protests, I've felt the same dread that something was going to go horribly wrong at some point. Like you, I believe in capitalism with a conscience - socialized capitalism, if you will. Perhaps that's not what you believe and I just choose to read it into your post - I know how you like people putting words in your mouth.

    And I also agree that the movement has its own fringe element present. OWS's message shouldn't be diluted by people who want pot legalized, LGBTI rights, women's reproductive rights, etc. All of those are legitimate movements in their own right, but not what this protest is about.

    When you ask, "But here’s my question: how does lighting shit on fire fix any of that? How does sleeping in tents on the sidewalk change anything? How does getting yourself arrested over and over help you find a job? How does shitting on the hood of a police car increase the accountability of Wall Street bankers? How does shutting down the Port of Oakland in any way whatsoever help the situation – other than to foul up shipping schedules and increase costs for already strapped consumers and deprive port workers of a night’s wages? How?" This is where I believe OWS, as long as it has remained non-violent and followed the law, has had a purpose: It has resonated with a huge chunk of apathetic voters. It has possibly planted the seed of realization that they need to get off their asses and vote in their own best interests at all levels of government. That will mean different things to different people, some of whom I would just as soon NOT vote, but anything that might increase participation and awareness of issues is a good thing.

    The problem now is to keep awareness of the country's current economic policy on the front burner while at the same time scaling back on any activity that (rightfully) makes the whole protest movement look like a bunch of disenfranchised, violent, un-unified rioters.

  17. You are the man. I support OWS and I agree with your assessment of the situation. Work WITH the system, vote, organize, volunteer, do something!

  18. http://www.csindy.com/colorado/tea-party-vs-occupy-wall-street/Content?oid=2393194

  19. Jim_ The reason we, that is myself and others, are out there with the OWS protests is that we've observed that voting doesn't appear to be changing much anymore. As another commenter pointed out computerized voting systemsraise questions as to whether votes are accurately counted.

    What we do know is that the current system is in deep failure mode and those persons elected and charged with protecting and defending the constitution and people of the United States seem to have inserted "corporate oligarchs" where the phrases "constitution" and "people" should go.

    So we're in the streets asking nicely that they fix things; and yes, this is nice. Mostly what people do at an "Occupy" site (strangled language I'll admit) is discuss, in reasonable tones, what the nations problems are and what possible solutions might be. Well, that and serving as open-air social workers for the homeless that have been ignored by Congress for thirty years.

    So hang out in your welfare-state of Alaska, collect your well-deserved pension and call us a mob. What the fuck do we care; we get called worse every day. Make horrified noises about how a few windows were broken and a few dumpsters set on fire in Oakland. Oakland residents have seen far, far worse riots over the outcomes of ball games or court trials.

    Nobody's going to fix shit if we don't push. The voting handle doesn't seem to be attached to anything; so we're grabbing whatever other levers we can reach and wiggling them. With any luck one of them yanks on some rich bastard's balls.

  20. One of the most well thought-out pieces I've read about the subject. You make a lot of very good points. I appreciate the time you took to put this together.

  21. Rosa Parks and those before her, as those after her Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond after weren't organized either.

    That did come later, but it was later.

    I've college mates in those groups.

  22. and this why i have such respect for you Jim. i absolutely agree with you on all points.
    i live in New York within walking distance of Wall st. i prefer to spend my time educating myself and the young people who stop to pass the time of day with Miz Bubbles. we talk about school, about careers and about what it takes to make a life worth living. i didn't get this old by being stupid. i may not be wealthy but i am rich in friends who love me and that is all the wealth i need. sending you and yours much love. bubs.

  23. Jim, I have to respectfully disagree that you'll lose readers over this post. At least not any of the smart ones. Very well thought out.
    ~~Pat H

  24. One of the reasons I read your blog is the provocative and thought inducing effects it produces. Not the least of which are the various commentors here that add very much to your blog.


    Word verification: hetab, (we tab, you tab, we all tab together)

  25. Somehow! Someway! The greed "has" to be regulated! OWS seems to me, to be a beginning statement from "the people". It speaks volumes more than any pundit on camera or a politician standing on a stump trying to get a single vote. If they can stay together and follow the rules, it will affect the voting booth.

    When you finally take your place as the new supreme world leader (can't wait, please hurry) I have all the faith in the world that you won't be such a greedy bastard as some of these pricks who think their running the world now are.

  26. Sir,

    You have well thought out positions that I usually agree with. Just not today.

    History has far too many instances where, when voting didn't work (or wasn't allowed), a mob was required to do what was right.

    There are those folks who think that the 1% on Wall Street don't care about the law. That's completely false. They WROTE them and paid for the pols to enact them.

    The way the media works is that you only get your message out if you're "newsworthy". The Occupy Oakland story is a great example of this. Two days ago, the NPR program Forum was focussing on the vandalism that occurred after midnight. He relented after a majority of the callers somewhat chastised him for so heavily focussing on that very small piece of the population of the protest. They did not want it ignored entirely, just wanted to put a bit of context to it.

    Regarding voting, I vote early and often. I encourage everyone I know to vote, and will help them make informed decisions :-)

    One huge benefit of the OWS movement is that the public is actually being informed that they are not alone in that their income and upward mobility has been falling since the birth of Reganomics. Now that they know what's been going on, their first reaction is anger, followed quickly by actions to let those in power know that it will not be tolerated.

    There is a Constitutional Amendment proposed in Congress this week (or maybe last) to limit the funds used to campaign. While I'm not sure that it will work right off the bat, it does "repeal" the ruling that $ == speech and it must be unlimited. This alone may solve many of our current problems.

    Thanks for your posts and the generally insightful (or in this case incite-ful :-) ) conversations.

  27. Well said. I'm a vet (Gulf War I) and a verbal supporter of OWS, but I've yet to step foot into a protest for many of the same reasons you so eloquently put here.

    And for the record, had I served under you, I would've stayed my 20.

  28. One thing I keep pointing out is that OWS is a *SYMPTOM*. It can be suppressed, indeed likely *will* be suppressed, but that won't end the underlying complaint -- that studying hard in school and working hard for a living no longer suffices to provide you with a good life in America, where 60% of the population basically has *nothing* (negligible or *negative* net worth) while the top 10% of the population has 2/3rds of *everything*.

    Is OWS a *solution*? No way. I compared OWS to the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and early to mid 60's on my own blog some time back and pretty much came to the same conclusion as you -- that it lacked some fundamental attributes of an effective movement as vs. a bunch of people venting steam. The lack of some sort of leadership and message discipline being a core issue. On the one hand, they have a *reason* for not having a formal organization -- COINTELPRO has become very effective at subverting and compromising the leadership of organizations in order to render them ineffectual or even counterproductive. On the other hand, once you have no formal leadership or organization, you end up with a situation where it's impossible to get anything done, or worse yet, where the worst simply decide to do things and then what the worst do gets attributed to the movement at large.

    Answers? I don't have any. My own thought is that our elites are too inbred, too cloistered, to see that their current situation is untenable long-term. The pressure building from below, currently being expressed by OWS, isn't going to go away just because OWS gets suppressed (which *will* happen). Sooner or later there's going to be an explosion, because in a democracy you can't basically condemn 60% of the population to a life of no hope where they lack all capital needed to make anything better of themselves, where even bootstraps have been yanked away from them, and expect no consequences. Either you end up with a police state -- in which case the secret policemen eventually end up in charge and the elites end up sidelined or worse (cue Europe's richest man -- one Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB), or you end up with a violent revolution where the elites end up with their necks stretched (my gift idea for this holiday season: Marie Antoinette Action Figures, complete with pop-off head) but where lots of OTHER people end up dead too because the inevitable result of violent revolution is national disaster (cue French Revolution, which by the time it played out in 1815 resulted in virtually every male Frenchman between ages 18 and 40 being dead), OR we can vote in politicians who aren't corrupted and who will take us back to the "good old days" of the New Deal regulatory and tax regimen of 1945-1981 which resulted in things getting better for *ALL* Americans, not just for the top 10%... but something's going to happen. I hope the latter -- that somehow non-corrupt politicians can be elected -- but I fear that this is just wishful thinking at this point.

    Comment: Buy stock in rope companies. Just sayin'.

    - Badtux the Pessimist Penguin

  29. As usual, Jim - a brilliant piece. Then I read some of the comments. Werner has REALLY valid points, too. They just disagree with yours a bit. I’m left here not really knowing WHAT to say. (Cath, I personally have no problem with the methods Jim uses to get to his point. He's a brilliant political writer and liberal satirist who also happens to be an American patriot; so I’m never surprised when instead of calling a spade a spade, he prefers to call it an effin’ shovel!)

    It’s relatively easy to get swept up by OWS if one happens to be a liberal in this society. You can be standing there on the sidelines wondering what all the shouting is about when the next thing you know, they’ve marched up and linked arms with you announcing, “WE’VE got your back! You’re with US!” Well, hoorey for us, but exactly WHAT are we protesting again? The fact is that they DON’T have a clear message or leaders who can bring that message to the public with coherence and, you know, an actual PLAN to change anything. I think the bottom line is that everyone is REALLY pissed and no one really knows WHO to blame for it. So they are just lashing out at the SYMPTOMS, not the source of the problems, and violence is NEVER the answer if you want to be taken seriously. (It’s understandable, but still not RIGHT.)

    It truly HAS become an “us against them” scenario in this country – to the point where I’ve been truly concerned that we are facing a second Civil War. Emotions, anger and hatred are so thick out there right now that you could cut them with a knife. Everyone from the Tea Party to the OWS movement seems to be able to accurately identify the problems, but no one is DOING anything about them. We’re just taking it all out on EACH OTHER.

    I agree that voting alone isn’t enough. Been there, done that. (I would like to point out that I ALWAYS vote and encourage everyone I know to do the same. Failure to vote means you take whatever you get and shut the hell up about it.) However, those who would seek to oppress us just find newer and better ways to circumvent our election process, too. They rig everything for an outcome in their own favor and, failing that, they build a wall to obstruct those people and things we HAVE voted for. Before voting would be the best answer, we’d have to COMPLETELY overhaul the election process itself and find a new way to prevent the nay-sayers from crippling our duly-elected leaders from within, thereby rendering them useless. (And of course all that reform costs money and no one who wants things to change actually HAS money, so we’re right back to square one.)

    So, what’s the solution? I have no effin’ idea! I only know that some things got ta CHANGE ‘round here! Without SOME kind of genuine and well-thought-out revolution from the people, everything will remain the same. Those currently holding the power have NO intention of simply handing the keys to the kingdom back over - they have to be TAKEN. If things continue the way they have been, our grandchildren truly WILL inherit a third-world nation.

  30. As a former law enforcement officer, I have been in the unenviable position of facing a hostile mob. It is not a position you EVER want to be in. You are absolutely correct about having a job to do. The actions we took in the situation were necessary, even when I agreed with the mob's focus.

    Your article was extremely well written but I am not convinced that it is even possible to change the system (or worse, change it fast enough to matter) before the "shit hits the fan". The symptoms of general unrest have been around for over a decade now and the fact that things are coming to blows indicates just how bad it is getting. Yes, I agree that getting out to vote is important, but when you only have a choice between one stuffed suit and another stuffed suit because the game is rigged, voting stops mattering.

    I think that a revolution is enevitable at this point. Like you, I expected violence and in fact, I expect the violence to escalate. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess.

    I would like to believe that it is possible for the system to work. I simply see no evidence that it is. Yes, I will vote (though my choices suck at this point). That said, I will also keep my head down, and take care of my family to the best of my ability. It also means that I will NOT be on the street during one of these protests. I do not want to be a target.

  31. Apparently BadTux and I were writing very similar things at roughly the same time! LOL

  32. I think that a revolution is enevitable at this point. Like you, I expected violence and in fact, I expect the violence to escalate. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess.

    In my study of history, I've found zero (no) instances where violent revolution has had a good outcome for the majority of people. Enlighten me if you can, but I just can't find it. And before you start sputtering, "but... but... American Revolution!", that was actually a war of secession fought by one part of the British Empire against the remainder of the British Empire. It was no more a revolution than that spot of unpleasantness that occurred during 1861-1865 here in the USA. There was no revolution involved in the American War of Secession.

    Maybe the political system can be reformed to reflect the interests of the bulk of Americans again rather than of the 1%... but I'm not seeing how.

    Invest in stocks in rope companies. Just sayin'.

    - Badtux the Pessimist Penguin

  33. Jim Wright,

    I can't think of a thing you have written up to this point that did not piss me off. However, in this case, though I disagree with some of your points, I congratulate you on a very honest and well thought out piece of writing .

  34. As usual I agreed with you on some points and disagreed with you on others, but I enjoyed reading the entire piece. And even when I disagree I have too admit that I can see the truth in what you are saying. It’s easier to see the world in black and white, right or wrong, pointing out those shades of grey may not make you many friends but it makes your blog a pleasure to read. Keep up the good work. I’ll be back to get upset at something you wrote, and later grudgingly admit you made a great point.

  35. Moorcat_ The police in many areas have learned to deal with large-scale street celebrations and demonstrations without riot squads. They do this in Times Square every New Years Eve, in New Orleans every Carnival and everywhere else whenever there's a soccer match.

    What they don't do is arrest everybody who jaywalks or drops a cigarette butt. They target and arrest only those who are being violent, persistently aggressive, vandalizing or have caused a complaint where individuals request police assistance.

    The Oakland P.D. brought out a small army in riot gear presumably to enforce laws against littering and public camping. Seriously? W.T.F.? It's not like there aren't enough actual "crimes" in Oakland to keep the police busy. Everybody can imagine their own examples.

    Maybe a little rethink is in order.

  36. Seriously? Go out and vote? For the politicians that are bought and paid for by the very corporations you're protesting against? By the parties that control who gets to be on the ballot , to perpetuate the purchase of their votes by the very corporations you're protesting against? And if change is in the offing it's presented to judges who are bought and paid for through the revolving door by the very corporations you are protesting against? By a system that holds that corporations are persons, like you and me, with the same god-given rights that we have? Seriously.

    Fact - the average House of representative 20 - 25 years ago spent about$60K in getting re-elected. It's now over $1MM. Where does that money come from? Is there no expectation of quid pro quo? Try calling your elected representative or meeting them. Good luck.

    No - the current system is so corrupt it's time to get a new one. I don't think you can change it from within. It's too entrenched. Too self serving.

    As an American, I'd point you to a document that tells us how to behave, and what our OBLIGATION and DUTY is in this situation. It starts "When, in the course of human events ..." and cites "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."

    As an American its your duty to do so. You've been presented with the evidence of this malfeasance, you see the result of it throughout the land. So why complain about a rabble in the streets? They've only just begun what should be an inexorable tide towards change. They've only recognized that there is no valid recourse through the ballot box.

    Democracy is messy. However, like you, I have great faith in the American People to come to a resolution that works for the majority of Americans. We just need to let it run its course. You don't think that Nixon would have left the Vietnam war, or the Civil Rights movement would have been successful without the masses taking to the streets do you? And yes, it's unfortunate that a few anarchist (or agent provocateurs if you have stomach to think about what a likely response from those in power to this movement would be), but to hold that up as the conduct of an entire movement? Please.

    OWS is the tip of the iceberg - it's the masses coming aware of the inequities that have been perpetrated upon them, and beginning to sort out what to do about it. The issues are so massive, so complex, that to ask for sound bite statements from them about what their plan is misses the point.

  37. I've become involved with the local Occupy group here in North Dakota & we're having the exact opposite problem but for some of the same reasons. Up here, the people who formed the group can't understand why some of us want to go out & actually protest something. Which just doesn't make sense to me at all- why form a protest group if you're not going to protest anything? That's like forming a book club & then sitting around debating whether you actually want to read any books or not. What's the point? Their biggest concern seems to be that someone in the group might publicly state an opinion others in the group might not agree with. (I think this is symptomatic of the general Midwestern mindset, which I've found really kinda weird.) As someone who got involved because I believe Occupy does have something to say & believes in it, I've found it a bit frustrating. On the other hand, we aren't planning on actually occupying any place 24/7 because well, this is North Dakota, it's November & a bunch of people freezing to death in Gateway Park is not going to effect any meaningful, positive change in society.

    Aside from that, you've hit on just about everything that I *don't* like in the movement & take issue with. When we say that we are not a violent movement, we need to direct that towards the people being violent & make them stop. (Although I want to point out that the violence needs to be put in perspective. Considering how many people involved& how many actions there's been, there's only been a few major clashes. Cleveland's rally on Wednesday was *huge* & free of violence, as were many others-- but those never made the news.) We do need to express what our actual views are & state them clearly. And we need to focus on the ones that have the broadest support- like being against corruption & money in politics. And we need *gasp* some organization, particularly organization that does not involve twinkly fingers. One question I'm planning on bringing up to the local group at our next GA is "What is our actual goal? What actions can we take to make that goal happen?"

    That said, there are certain things that Occupy *is* doing already, like trying to educate people on issues. There's been a lot of agitating for people moving their money out of big banks & into smaller, local banks & credit unions. Talking about corruption in government, etc. That stuff just never makes the news.

    I seriously disagree about working through the system, though. One of the reasons this whole movement started & the reason it's grown so huge is because that system is broken & it's broken in such a way as to take our voice from us. I not only vote, I regularly write my senators & reps about my opinion on the issues-- but what good does that do when the only people the politicians listen to are the ones with the money? And more & more elections seem to involve some shady dealing? (Aside from the mysterious extra votes in the Wisconsin race, there's the fact that several election workers in Ohio were found guilty of tampering with election results in the 2004 election-- you know,the one where Ohio was the deciding state in re-electing W? The media was too busy wondering who the father of Anna-Nicole's baby was to report much on it) So we need to do something else to get their attention & camping out on their doorsteps & blocking traffic will do that. Setting fires will also do that but I hope that we can fix things before that becomes the default action.

  38. It was not Occupy at the Air & Space Museum. It was Stop the Machine, an allied, but separate group.

  39. You know what - there are some things in this post thru a viewpoint I didn't think of. Some things I agree with and still some I disagree with. But nonetheless, or maybe because, I am going to share it because I think that is also what Americans can/should do: discuss, dissect and not rage and dismiss. Thank you for a well written and very intelligent take on OWS!

  40. Another excellent post. I agree with a lot of you points, but like many of the other commenters, I can't agree with your solution. The system is broken, I don't see how we can really fix it by voting. While the Dems say they are trying to help the middle class by fighting for our safety nets and trying to slightly increase taxes on the wealthy, I don't think they're hearts are really in it. Witness the constant cave ins and capitulations. Both parties are in the pockets of big business.

    Not only that, but you have the GOP actively engaging in voter suppression, likely tampering of the voting systems along with other manipulations of the system that will pretty much ensure the GOP is in power, we're doomed.

    I don't know how to solve all this, any more than the OWS people do. But, I'm glad to see them doing SOMETHING and bringing attention to the issues. It's a start. :-)


  41. I disagree with the "go out and vote" part of your post. I do vote--but it's getting harder and harder when Congress is 100% bought and there's no credible third-party candidate.

    I'm an informed voter. I'm an active constituent--the senior Senator from my state rolls his eyes every time my name comes up in conversation, I've written him so much to express my displeasure with how he's doing things. What recourse do I have but to take to the streets and demand change, when my vote is diluted or negated by corporate money?

    (And I beg to differ about the guy crapping on the cop car--I am 100% convinced that the picture was staged.)

  42. Couldn't agree more. when can I vote for YOU?

  43. Jim, I will say that no matter whether we completely agree,disagree or somewhere in the middle; I always like to examine my position against yours or others. In my humble opinion I believe that a lot of people think that our system of government which is a representative democracy is based on capitalism. But that is wrong. Capitalism is an economic system that at its deepest core only cares about the bottom line/money. Government is supposed to be all about caring for its citizens. When capitalistic interest control and own our representatives; the people have lost and voting doesn't always act as a correction. I view government as the check and balance for capitalism; it needs to be holding corporations accountable for their actions; whether those actions be against people or the environment. I am almost 60 years old and if I wasn't caring for my husband who just had coronary bypass surgery (thanks to the VA because we can no longer afford insurance) I would be out there marching with the occupiers. I wouldn't be lighting your shit of fire like the 1% of the occupiers are doing. I would be like the other 99% of the occupiers. Please don't blame us all for the actions of a few. It's hard to hard to imagine that you can use a system that you feel is contaminated to try and change that system. Having always peacefully protested the Viet Nam War; I view protests from a wide age spectrum. It certainly is different when your energy is half empty from when your energy is half full. However, right is right. If I were to hoard newspapers and/or cats in my home; you would call me crazy. But if I were to hoard cash in my mansion home you would hold me up as a role model. I have tried to always live my life in moderation trying to maintain my deference between need and want. I feel that the 1% are "crazy" hoarders and the "crazy" are controlling the course of our great country. Thank you for allowing me to express myself and thank you for your service to us and our country.

  44. I was very disappointed when the peaceful protesters turned into rioters. They had a good thing going. John Lennon said, "When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system's game. The establishment will irritate you: pull your beard, flick your fact to make you fight. Because once they've got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don't know how to handle is nonviolence and humour." The OWS lost me at that first show of violence. They needed to turn the other cheek but they didn't.

    You are right about voting - why are so many willing to give it up? It doesn't matter? But it DOES and it really does help you to FEEL a part of the system. Good or bad, We the People have created that which we are now living. We must end the greed and corruption at home before we can expect our government and banks to be free of the same things. We the People make up all the cogs and wheels that make this country go. By voting we are taking responsibility for our citizenship. Voting DOES matter. I still have faith in America.

  45. Regarding the sanitation issue, OWS-NYC now has porta-potties. I'll point out that OWS has tried to rent porta-potties to be placed near the park itself, but after two months New York City is *still* refusing to issue the permit needed for the porta-potties to be placed where they're needed. No reason given, just "permit denied". If there are sanitation issues, they are not being caused by OWS, they are being caused by the City of New York refusing to follow its very own event permitting policies.

    In Dallas, OWS has actually sued the city because they wanted to place porta-potties near where needed, but the city refused to issue the permits. The same has happened in a number of other places -- cities deny permits for porta-potties, then blast the protesters for not having porta-potties.

    In other words, any sanitation issues involving OWS are being caused by the cities themselves refusing to issue permits to allow porta-potties to be placed near the protests, not by the protesters themselves, who are quite willing to dig in their own pockets and pay for porta-potties (no public money required). The fact that city governments are then using the lack of porta-potties (a lack that THEY THEMSELVES CAUSED) as an excuse for suppressing the protests is yet another example of the sort of official corruption that the OWS movement was all about.

    Note that I say "was", because I don't know what it's about now. The problem with anarchists is that they're easy to sway because of their delusion that they're *not* easy to sway, meaning that demonstrations organized by anarchist groups are easy to subvert into whatever the powers that be desire. In the case of OWS, it appears that what the powers that be desire is to have the movement dissolve into violence and in-fighting, just another opportunity to discredit liberals and liberalism (despite the fact that the anarchists involved hate liberals and liberalism as much as they hate the FBI, but that's another issue). Now that the Black Bloc is involved and COINTELPRO fully deployed, I think we've seen the beginning of the end for OWS. When the organized barge in on the unorganized, it's the organized who win, even if outnumbered ten to one. OWS thought that being "leaderless" would render them immune to having their leaders subverted by COINTELPRO. Talk about naive...

    - Badtux the Sociology Penguin

  46. As a Wisconsinite active in the recall efforts I have to clarify some of your points.

    You said that "In Wisconsin, people were outraged at the government. Outraged that the governor took away collective bargaining rights. They were so outraged they demanded a recall election. They could have changed things, instead far too many folks stayed home, I guess they weren’t that outraged after all."

    We had some great turnouts but we are battling something so rich and powerful and insidious and immoral that it negates our efforts: the Koch machine. Not only does it control the spin (reflected in your comment that it was about "collective bargaining" when in fact that is only a part of why we are outraged), it manipulates voters with millions of dollars worth of misleading, distorted, and outright false ads. With everything from fraudulent "absentee ballot applications" to lies about the Democratic challengers I am amazed at the success we had.

    When a population is being fed propaganda and don't even know it (thanks to Citizens United) the outcome of elections is artificially altered - and if by some miracle that doesn't do the trick, they have their fall back positions of voter disenfranchisement and election fraud (interestingly the official results in many districts were quite a bit different than the exit polls - go figure). So "getting out the vote" is being reduced to an exercise in futility.

    When your vote is worthless, what do you have left?

  47. Thank you for writing this. I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way. THANK YOU. And keep writing.

  48. Sorry Jim, not with you on this one. I understand the OWS message, and it's grown into an international one for good reason. I am not confused. I've understood the purpose from the get-go.

    I don't agree the demonstrators are a mob; they've been quite orderly given the circumstances. If they do riot it will be because of abuses by authority, and if that happens, they have every moral right to riot.

    They are not trying to tear down the system for a brand new one, they merely want it reformed, back to the one we enjoyed upon entering adulthood.

    The stats on the horrendous transfer of wealth and the monetary power over the White House, legislators, even our courts, makes the argument that people who want change should change it through the system as it is, laughable. What do you think a lot of us have been doing for the last 30 years as we saw this train wreck coming? It's only grown worse because of the imbalance of wealth and power. Therefore that is an old saw with no weight behind it.

    Last week I sat and listened to someone rail about the "liberal, scum, communists who hate our country and want to tear it apart." One more time I listened to someone who didn't even know he or she was talking to me, about me. I'm pretty disgusted with most of the observations and commentary. Not surprised given what a bunch of butt-heads make up much of our citizenry now, but it does sadden me when so many who really should know better miss the point and the history supporting these sort of movements.

    In my book, criticizing, minimizing, dismissing, and stereotyping others who are actually willing to make themselves uncomfortable enough to join a movement like this is just as much a part of the problem. The demonstrators are trying to improve our system for everyone, not only themselves. They want a return to balance and for the government to represent all of the people, as it should. They are the patriots in the real American sense of the word, not us if we don't recognize and honor their efforts as we do for others.

  49. I'm only maybe 2/3 in agreement with you on the politics of the issue, but on the logistics of a protest movement, you expressed it about as well as I've seen anyone do thus far. Well said.

  50. Maybe it wasn't OWS that jumped the shark at the museum: http://my.firedoglake.com/cgrapski/2011/10/09/american-standard-editor-admits-to-being-agent-provacateur-at-d-c-museum/

  51. I've been reading your blog for a bit, but am the shy, retiring sort, so haven't ever commented before.

    At the risk of being labeled as one of your sycophants - I agree. I agree so much, I felt compelled to say so (a rare thing for me, honest).

    I read a lot. Newspapers, magazines, news websites, personal blogs, corporate blogs, links to other blogs, groups, links to articles that a group has posted, I try to read as much as I can, and I try to make sure I am not only reading things that I agree with. In the online world, every article or story or blog that allows comments ends up devolving into a free-for-all, where it isn't okay that we disagree - bad shit should happen to you *because* we disagree. Every comment section (no matter what the original story is about) ends up at that point, and far faster than I could ever have imagined.

    I don't know what is fueling the attitude that a lot of people in this country seem to have - whether it comes from a sense of entitlement, or genuine needs being denied, or simple selfishness, or extraordinary arrogance. "I am right. You are not. And I wish for bad things to happen to you, so that you can see how right I am." I don't understand where that comes from, or how to stop it.

    It all makes me feel terribly thick, some days, because I just can't seem to understand it.

    So thanks for helping me feel not so think (today). And thanks to your commenters as well, for being nice even when they disagree.


  52. Sorry to say, but I think that the Fed really is part of the problem. It's an independent bank that issues money on the US government's behalf.

    This has lead to wild inflationary rates and a pure fiat currency that is downright scary.

    Fiat Currency = Currency based on Nothing.

    A US dollar is backed by absolutely nothing, it's perceived value is because the US gov't agrees to accept it for payment of taxes and because the Federal Reserve says so.

    Never mind all the black magic that occurs with money lending and so forth.

    The housing/mortgage crisis?

    Banks lent out money they didn't really have (basically created out of thin air for the purpose of lending by the Fed and lent to the bank, the bank would then pay this back to the fed, effectively 'erasing' the currency, however this never happens 100%, that's part of where inflation comes from.)

    I digress though, because essentially, the Fed was told by Congress to keep the money flowing; the fed did so, banks got further 'suggestions' from congress to keep lending, and then started lending to people who couldn't really pay them back, especially when interest rates went back up. The banks just saw short term profit though.

    The problem comes when all those unqualified mortgages started defaulting, banks had to write them up as a loss, as the property was worth less than the original mortgage. all the sudden, banks were not able to balance their books by billion dollar amounts.

    Again, remember, this money was created by the fed to be lent out, it didn't come into being for any other purpose.

    So, the US taxpayer gets pegged by Congress to bail the banks out of their debts to the fed.

    The US gov't puts every citizen into debt because of predatory lending practices by big banks.

    Now, after all that, who's left holding all this property? the US government? No, the banks who got bailed out.

    Yeah. the very people who begged the taxpayer for a handout to pay back money that only existed for the purposes of lending it to taxpayers.

    So, the Fed gets their loan to the banks repaid (with interest!), US Congress has their investments protected, the banks get an interest free loan from the taxpayers and the taxpayers get the shaft

  53. Sigh, the anonymous gold bugs strike again.

    For those interested (as vs. those whose minds have already been made up by Ron Paul): *ALL* money is fiat money. EVERY SINGLE CURRENCY THAT HAS EVER EXISTED is fiat money. It exists only because people accept it in payment for goods and services -- i.e., every currency that has ever existed IS BACKED BY THE SUM TOTAL OF GOODS AND SERVICES IN THE ECONOMY. Spain overlooked this little quibble during the 1500's and 1600's and ended up with hyperinflation due to all the gold coming in from the Americas because, like modern-day gold bugs, they ascribed magical properties to stamped disks of yellow metal. Point being that gold is *not* magic, it's just another currency, one that has some attributes that are not promising for use as a currency in a world where population is expanding rapidly while the supply of gold is not.

    Furthermore, someone saying that our economy is facing inflation right now is deranged, deluded, and utterly insane. Every -- *EVERY* -- measure of actual money supply (that is, money supply as the sum total of all money *in circulation*, vs. money that exists only on the Fed's books and essentially does not exist as far as the economy is concerned) shows that the money supply collapsed horrifically in late 2007 and has only fitfully recovered since.

    Frankly, the Federal Reserve's record is pretty darn good *when they're given political cover to do their job*. They didn't do their job in 1929 because the gold standard, by handicapping their ability to print money, kept them from doing their job. The result was a crash of the money supply, meaning debts became unpayable in the now-more-scarce money, meaning that banks collapsed, causing further collapse of the money supply, wash, rinse, repeat, until by late 1933 VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE US ECONOMY WAS ON THE BARTER STANDARD. I.e., *AT A STANDSTILL*, because barter is a horrifically inefficient way of running an economy. My grandmother's county could only get eggs, chicken, corn, and hogs when they went out to tax the farmers, and teachers were thus being paid in eggs, chickens, corn, and salt pork because the money supply had crashed to basically non-existence in most of the country.

    My point: Take away the power of the Federal Reserve to print money when deflation is causing debt inflation, and the result is *disaster*. I'll point out that there has been no -- zero -- disaster of that sort ever since the Fed got the power to freely print money in 1935. Just sayin'.

    In short, folks saying "abolish the Fed" are ignorant of our nation's economic history and of the reason why we have the Fed. Despite all the bizarre conspiracy theories that gold bugs and assorted other kooks throw out, the Fed exists for a *REASON*, and is pretty much the *ONLY* institution that has performed its job correctly during the current economic downturn by printing money whenever it makes sense to print money. Unfortunately once you hit the zero bounds only fiscal policy works (we have both historical data supporting this notion and equations describing that historical data which predicts what various fiscal policies will result in at a given unemployment rate and interest rate), which is why the austerity craze is such an economic disaster, but now we're talking about the failure of Congress and the President, not the failure of the Fed. So it goes.

    - Badtux the Economist Penguin

  54. Sorry, but the Fed and Congress are still the problem; Fiat currencies on the whole are also a problem.

    And don't confuse my thoughts on the matter with those of Ron Paul or any of those nutbars. There's no going back to the gold standard. The currency *does* need to be at least somewhat related to the real GDP and an aggregate of resources to production to service, not "whatever we feel like issuing this month"; again more the problem of congress than the actual fed.

    The problem with the fed is very simple: government interference and malaise. Get some basic regulation, put in a procedure for keeping the currency stable. Most importantly, once the above are in place, keep congress the hell out of it.

    Personally, I don't trust a body of elected officials to make decisions about taxes, bailouts and things that effect their own stock portfolios.

  55. once the above are in place, keep congress the hell out of it.

    I'm curious, Anonymous, without the Fed or something very similar to it, how to you propose to implement this. How do you implement a currency management function that is not beholden to Wall Street and special interest, yet is free of Congressional interference (and therefor beyond even minimal voter control).

    What do you propose? Some kind of warrior-priest-treasurer class?

  56. What do you propose? Some kind of warrior-priest-treasurer class?_ Jim

    I was hoping for eunichs. Perhaps we could get the Ron Paul types and the LaRouchites to volunteer. They seem to have the single-minded dedication required.

  57. Good stuff. Thanks!

  58. How do you implement a currency management function that is not beholden to Wall Street and special interest, yet is free of Congressional interference (and therefor beyond even minimal voter control).

    What do you propose? Some kind of warrior-priest-treasurer class?

    Well, now that the dragon has smashed Gringot's, maybe we could put those goblins to work...

  59. Now, now, communism can work, as long as your civilization has less than 50 people, though once you get enough people that they start not knowing a good chunk of their compatriots, social stratification is inevitable.

    But that's enough snark from me. I'm seeing a bunch of people complain that voting isn't enough. Then work out a platform, and try running!

    As for organization, last summer I participated in a program sponsored by Sierra Club, teaching people how to organize grassroots movements. I think everyone who cares about politics should participate in such a program, but I'll give the Cliff Notes version here: Come up with a goal, determine your campaign's needs for achieving this goal, and develop an outline for addressing these needs.

  60. Well said. Thoughtful, clear-headed. Some really good points forcefully made. The best thing this Aussie has read on the whole Occupy thing yet. Thanks.

  61. RE: "Niven’s Law: No cause is so noble that it won’t attract fuggheads."

    I prefer a quote from a character in Robert Penn Warren's first novel, Night Riders, who noted, "the good Lord never got any thousand or so men together for any purpose without a liberal assortment of sons of bitches thrown in."

  62. Good stuff. Thank God that corporations have free speech or the OWS would be a danger.
    Thankfully, Jim, they're not--the clear and present danger is the OWS, not the corporations. Thanks to the POTUS.

    Actually, I would agree with most of your post were it not for the fact that the corporations' "free speech" have obviously coopted the representative democracy you appeal to. That's a shame. But there we are. It's the '60's all over again. And I'm not particularly fond of OWS, but given a choice between them and POTUS and corporate unlimited donations, well, you need to define exactly what democracy means.
    I would like to go to the Smithsonian Air and Space. And I would like to vote where the banks didn't own our legislators. It's not necessarily a choice between the two, right now, but it sure seems like it.
    Maybe the top .1% will give back, however, and my little pony will shit skittles and open the way to the Smithsonian for all who want to see the space capsule without cashing in their dividends for the last year.
    And is Niven the equivalent to Lord Keynes or is he some dumb ass from Texas like Perry? If he's a sci-fi author can I quote Scientology against him? Because I'm pretty sure Phil Dick would be supporting OWS against Niven--admittedly Niven is a pretty good fascist. I read some of his early fiction until I got tired of it after Ringworld.
    So Lessons from Phil Dick seems a real good follow-up post.
    Actually, your fine unless unemployment stays where it is or increases.
    If it increases, I'm afraid that flustering about access to space museums won't have much credence among the unemployed. But I guess if we cut spending, employment will increase, according to Niven. Right?
    My only point is that you assume here--access to museums being the supreme value--that things will get better. If not, will anyone care about viewing the space capsule without being bothered?
    That's a thought experiment that you might want to consider.
    If business suddenly starts hiring the unemployed 20%, your concern about public access will be quite right. Just saying--correctness is a function of where we will stand in a year or two.
    You may be right; you may be wrong. If you have a son/daughter 22 years old, well, you're probably wrong, unless they won the job lottery. If so, good for him/her (mine won, but I'm concerned about the 80% who did not).


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.