Friday, September 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

For those who haven't heard yet, there is an ongoing protest in New York. Wall Street has been over run by what was originally a strange amalgamation of angry citizens, anarchists, techies and political activists has now become a massive nation-wide movement including various professional unions, artists, prominent thinkers, patriots and various established organizations. This has been going on for 14 days with amazing coverage on the ground from bloggers and the movers and shakers.

From the Occupy Wall Street Website;
Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.
What is truly interesting to me is what the meanings are behind these movements. This current movement seems to be a reaction, in some way, not only to the inequalities in representation that we in the 99% feel in Congress compared to those who have lobbying firms and monetary influence. The reasons for individuals taking to the streets also seem to be a reaction to the anger we are all feeling at the bailouts that Wall Street have received while still down grading the status of our economy and trust. They are pissed off about bank foreclosures, high unemployment and the state of the Nation.

In my mind, while this movement has definitely been inspired by the Arab Spring, this is also a reaction to the Tea Party movement. Back in June the Washington Post ran an article called; "Can Liberals Start Their Own Tea Party?" - In it it described Van Jones' "The American Dream Movement"
Organizers are hoping to emulate the the success of the tea party, which became a significant force in the 2010 midterms, uniting like-minded people across the country who were previously uninvolved in politics or participating locally but not at the national level.
While the occupy Wall Street movement is not solely a liberal push, it is a movement wanting change, change from the old norms of economic ideals and the concept of "too big to fail." When Republicans are admonishing President Obama for his tax plans being "class warfare" they should look at what is happening in New York; that is the true starts of class warfare. This is the Network moment. The people are mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore.

There are many voices in this movement. Some who are outraged by the current failings in Congress and our economy and some who are just tired of our floundering and insane economic system of investment and monetary tricks. What we also have to keep in mind is that for the first few days of this movement, it was silent.

Most are upset during the first week of this movement that there was very minimal press coverage. Either the media didn't want to address this "protest movement" or they didn't really know how. It got to the point where the story of the lack of coverage got more coverage than what was actually taking place and what it meant.

Then the protests got violent, not on the side of those who were angry and expressing that angst through their constitutional right of peaceable assembly, but from those "keeping the peace." Many had been arrested and tensions rose.

One instance that shocked me was a group of young women, in a fenced off area, standing peaceably being non-nonchalantly pepper sprayed by an officer of the law. Different organizations have picked it up, even more than instances of brutality or [updated] protesters marching on the police themselves.

So many people have been showing up to this movement; musicians, politicians, and other leaders. One of my personal heroes, Dr. Colonel West, was in attendance and held one of my favorite signs;

This sign resonates with not only myself but on a subject that Paul Krugman brought up when he discussed how the U.S. Economy needs to be treated like a war. Dr. West actually gave a great analysis of the situation calling it the American Autumn that is a response to the Arab Spring, and it gives me hope and pride in our community. As he said to Amy Goodman from Democracy Now;
Well, I think we’ve got to keep the momentum going because it’s impossible to translate the issue of the greed of Wall Street into one demand, or two demands. We’re talking about a democratic awakening. We’re talking about raising political consciousness, so it spills over; all parts of the country so people can begin to see what’s going on through a different set of lens. And then you begin to highlight what the more detailed demands would be, because in the end we’re really talking about what Martin King would call a revolution; a transfer of power from oligarchs to every day people of all colors, and that is a step-by-step process. It’s a democratic process, it’s a non-violent process, but it is a revolution, because these oligarchs have been transferring wealth from poor and working people at a very intense rate in the last 30 years, and getting away with it, and then still smiling in our faces and telling us it’s our fault. That’s a lie, and this beautiful group is a testimony to that being a lie. When you get the makings of a U.S. autumn responding to the Arab Spring, and is growing and growing—-I hope it spills over to San Francisco and Chicago and Miami and Phoenix, Arizona, with our brown brothers and sisters, hits our poor white brothers and sisters in Appalachia...
Well, Dr. West, it has started spilling over to San Francisco. In fact there have already been at least 6 arrests in San Francisco durring protests that sprung up on this side.

It seems the current Zeitgeist. Billionaires and millionaires taking Warren Buffett's approach and asking for their taxes to be raised, the disappearing American middle class, the horrible state of things out there. The people are tired of being marginalized and are trying to fight back.

While some may try to minimize the importance of these droves of individuals taking to the street, and others hail it as the start of an American Communist revolution, I sit and enjoy the moment. No matter what happens here, we the American people are trying to change a broken system and I am getting tingles seeing it happen.

For more about the protests and other FAQs, The Nation has a really great article up here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 memories

10 years ago I was a Freshman at Boston University. As one of the only lucky college students to actually have a (relatively) working television. I was getting ready for my first class of the day when 3 of my friends from my dorm room floor rushed in and let us know we had to put on the television.

As soon as we turned it on, we were all confused. We had no idea what was going on. Once we realized that something had caused one of the twin towers to start burning the panic and confusion only got worse. My roommate, a Great Neck resident with friends working in the towers, was on the phone instantly. My first reaction was shock, what the hell was happening. My second was, "Holy Crap, we are going to go to war."

That second thought was something that, the more I have expanded upon and contemplated, the more I realize its intensity. We were at war with terrorists who were using violence for political action. One of the metrics for sucess in a terrorist effort is to create such a state of fear that the population you are terrorizing has to drastically change their way of life. The way our government changed, the way we lowered our humanitarian and POW handling standards, the way we changed security in many different fronts and the entirety of the homeland security act are all evidence of their successes.

Ignoring the issue that for the following 3 years that if you even questioned the government on any of their actions you were considered "UnAmerican" the real detrimental fact that one of Bin Laden's main goals was to bankrupt the U.S. economy as a result of his organization's terrorist efforts and we played right into that goal. A recent NPR interview with Washington Post national security reporter Dana Priest, the co-author of both the Post's investigative series and the book Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State detailed a frightening side of America's war on terror.
"The government said, 'We're facing an enemy we don't understand, we don't have the tools to deal with it, here's billions ... of dollars and a blank check after that for anybody with a good idea to go and pursue it,' " she says. "Not only does the government find it difficult to get its arms around itself, [but now] it doesn't know what's inside, it doesn't know what works, it doesn't know what doesn't work. And nobody still, 10 years later, is really in charge of those questions."
The current estimate of what has been spent on these efforts is in the multiple hundreds of billion dollars, but honestly there is no real way to be sure right now, and the more sunlight that is put on this, the deeper the hole will go. When we are currently talking about the overspending of government and cutting back things like health care, social security and other social programs, why aren't we taking a more serious look at these costs which are still on going?