Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Is the Occupy Movement Up To?

Here is what I got from this article, as well as my reaction and personal opinion on each.

1. Fight BAC! Occupy Takes on Bank of America
The cause here is great, but I am never sure what tactics are to be used or what meaningful results, if any, might be achieved.  The article said that the day of protest was to be March 15, but it apparently was pretty much a non-event.  I heard only about a demonstration against B of A in St. Louis, where more than a dozen people were arrested, but these took place after the B of A protest at an assembly in a public park.  Again, a good cause, but no tangible, positive results.  Not a "great action" in my opinion.
2. May Day General Strike: A Day Without the 99 Percent
The idea is catchy, but I am very pessimistic regarding its possible results and its overall impact.  Asking the 99%, who are the downtrodden (whom the Occupy movement claims to represent) to lose a day's pay in bad economic times is not going to be all that well received by the 99%.  If they were to get even 10% of the 99% to comply (which I am sure they won't), that would mean 89% were unwilling (or unable) to go along with the strike.  We'll just have to wait and see how that goes.
3. The Student Movement
The article acknowledges that this is a distinctly separate movement from the Occupy movement itself.  The students' actions have been taken on their own (although Occupy members have frequently participated in solidarity with the students)..  This items references a link to the Occupy Student Debt Campaign site to sign a petition, and makes a nebulous reference to "look out for actions on April 25, the day that student debt is going to surpass $1 trillion."  
4. Occupy Our Homes
This item references past actions: eviction defenses,occupying foreclosed homes, and shutting down foreclosure auctions."  It provides a link to a site that describes some of these recent actions, foremost of which was an action that referenced another group called ForeclosureFighters.  Another item described a home of a deceased woman in Atlanta that is occupied by "members of the Atlanta community," but there was no mention of the Occupy movement itself. The Occupy Our Homes site also provided the following: "Find out more about what Occupy Our Homes has planned here" but this link was right back to the page where it is posted.
5. Re-Occupations: Citywide Assembly and Pop-Up Occupations
The only specific plan mentioned here is for an April 14 Citywide Assembly at some yet-to-be-identified location in New York.  Other than that, there was a general reference to "lots of pop-up occupations around New York City."  These events are described as being fun and giving Occupy a chance to do outreach as well as meeting together in a park for an afternoon.  I don't see this as a "great action."

6. ____________________
Ummm...  There doesn't seem to be a number six.
All in all, this still sounds to me like a movement without much movement and one that is tremendously short on accomplishments, other than raising people's awareness on critical issues.  I they want to be a viable force for reform, they are going to have to do something beyond what they are doing and planning to do.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why America is No Longer a Democratic Republic

Based on an editorial by David Model, posted at OpEdNews
Cited here are quotations from David Model, a college professor, author, and public speaker.. They are excerpts from his recent editorial titled Media Circus Obsession: Obfuscating the Real Deficiencies of U.S. Democracy, In addition to the statements below, Mr. Model presents what he sees as thirteen defects in our government that keep America from being a democracy.Aside from his list of thirteen defects, these are the comments I see as being of greatest interest to Americans who dread the erosion of democracy in America.
When commenting on the impact of elections on democratic ideals, it is necessary to look beneath the symptoms and identify the real problems.”
Barnum and Bailey would turn green with envy at the circus masquerading as an electoral campaign currently in the United States.”
Electioneering spectacles are both artificial and superficial but are really just a symptom of the underlying infringements of democratic ideals.”
United States, Britain and Canada are the only three democracies that have not implemented some variation of proportional representation but have clung to the First-Past-The-Post system, a majoritarian system, in which only a plurality is needed in each voting district to determine the outcome.”
.”.. it (is) virtually impossible for smaller parties to gain any ground in the elected chambers of government. ”
.”..the Electoral College ... enhances the possibility of the winner having fewer popular votes than the loser.”
American election campaigns are incapable of informing the public about the real stances of candidates on all the issues and revealing the true character and integrity of the candidates.”
In many European countries paid advertising has been banned due to the overriding manipulative nature of a thirty second ad designed by public relations and advertising experts who are only interested in selling a product rather than informing the public.”
Many democracies have also banned donations by any groups such as corporations and unions …”
... the ideal method for funding elections would be based on a fair formula by which the government would either provide all the money or a balanced combination of government funding and individual donations with strict limits.”
In the U.S., there is a two party system in which both parties are beholden to corporate donors …”
In 2011, a total of $3.3 billion was spent on lobbying by 12,633 lobbyists translating into $6,168,000 spent on each member of the House and Senate on average and 23.6 lobbyists per each member of both Houses.”
In 2012, many pundits are predicting a total expenditure of $5 billion for all campaigns, the major source of which are wealthy benefactors or corporations.
Lobbying virtually destroys political equality in the United States thereby undermining the principle of "by the people, for the people" and "dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal.”
It is impossible to govern with only the public interest in mind when candidates are beholden to the people who funded their victory.”
As for ordinary citizens, they may be able to meet with their member of Congress or Senate but the extent of their influence is often minimal.”
The bailout during the financial crises ignored those who suffered the most, namely those who lost their jobs, the poor and those who lost their homes.”
Leadership in Congress has been accorded too much power which can be used to serve ideological ends rather than the public interest.”
In the United States, Supreme Court appointments are tainted by ideological considerations.   The Citizens United and the Florida Recount cases demonstrate the role of ideology in the Court's judgments.”
.”.. the criminalization of dissent and militarization of the police have resulted in a multiplicity of violations of civil and legal rights not to mention the First Amendment.”
Corporate ownership and advertising and the symbiotic relation between big corporations and the government have reduced the media to stenographers of power.”
I hope the items quoted here will prompt you to read Mr. Model's entire editorial on the subject. And, of course, you will have to read his full statement to review the thirteen defects he sees in our government today.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super PACs -- New Arena for Corruption?

Everybody who follows the elections already knows about Super PACs and how they came about in the aftermath of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court. They know that these special PACs are now allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from super-rich donors and corporations.
However, very little attention has been paid to just how those millions of dollars are actually being spent. Are the funds used wisely, and only for the campaigns for which they were intended? Do they go to pay extremely high salaries and consulting fees? Do they pay for unnecessary boondoggles and whims of the person running the Super PAC? Who can know for sure, because there are no controls, no oversight, and no restrictions on how those funds are used. The field is wide open for behind-the-scenes graft and corruption within these super PACs.
Dale Emmons, who is the president of the American Association of Political Consultants has pointed out, “People who are raising the money are paying themselves with these funds.” And he adds, “I don’t think that’s appropriate,"
In one Super PAC, Becky Burkett, the president of Winning Our Future (a group backing Newt Gingrich), was paid more than $200,000 in January for “executive management and fund raising services.” Gregg Phillips, the Super PAC's managing director, was also paid $90,000. When asked about these payments, the group's senior adviser Rick Tyler said the payments included compensation for work performed in November and December (even though the Super PAC wasn't even launched until mid-December). He also said that their salaries were determined by the super PAC's "senior leadership." And the senior leadership consists of: Rick Tyler, Becky Burkett, and Gregg Phillips. Go figure.
Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with the watchdog group called The Campaign Legal Center, says that there are no restrictions on how super PACs spend ;their money. “They can buy themselves yachts and sail off into the sunset without spending a penny on campaign ads,” He goes on to say, “There is no guarantee that the money is going to be used in a way that the donor intends that money to be used.”
I performed some analysis of the expenditures of the Red, White, and Blue Super PAC that supports Rick Santorum. I am beginning to think that “Super PAC” might stand for “Super Politicians And Crooks.” In examining the figures provided by The Center for Responsive Politics, of the $2.7 million that the Red, White and Blue Fund spent from 2/16/12 to 2/24/12, a total of 41.9% went to a company by the name of Global Intermediate for “direct voter mailings,” while 58.1% went to television production and advertising.
What's so interesting about this? Well, the Super PAC is owned by the a former Santorum aide, Nick Ryan, and guess what! He also owns Global Intermediate, LLC. This company didn't incorporate until mid-December, and then did so as a Delaware Corporation which shields the identity of the corporate owners or principals.. A look at the Global Intermediate web site, which was registered less than two weeks ago, shows the site to be very basic and lackluster. It provides almost no information about the company or absolute nothing about any of its management or employees. It doesn't even include a contact list or e-mail address. The phone number provided (202-505-4564), when checked with a reverse directory, appears to be a cell phone. The address given (2100 M St NW, Washington, DC 20037) is that of a UPS storefront that offers mailbox rentals, and some types of business services.
In examining the figures provided by The Center for Responsive Politics, of the $2.7 million that the Red White and Blue Fund spent from 2/16/12 to 2/24/12, a total of 41.9% went to Ryan's company, Global Intermediate for “direct voter mailings,” while 58.1% went to television production and advertising.
When asked, Stuart Roy, spokesperson for the Super PAC, said he had "no idea" how to contact Global Intermediate. However, the following day, he acknowledged in an e-mail that it is a company run by Ryan.
So, there you have it: Super PACs with super pay, super flexibility in how they spend their funds, and no accountability whatsoever for how they are spent. Who could ask for anything more? Some think that this kind of situation will be self-correcting, but I have serious doubts.

Related Subjects:

Big Problems with Our Two-Party System
Elections :Heart of Democracy or Height of Hypocrisy?

In Presidential Debates, Duopoly Reigns Supreme
Presidential Debates: Fraud or Farce?
Problems For Third-Party Candidates

Congress Ignores the Will of the People
We Must Drive Big Money Out of Politics!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Occupy Movement -- Rooted in Anarchy?

The Birth of the 99% Movement
On February 15, 2009, David DeGraw. editor of AmpedStatus, posted the first part of a seven-part series titled "The Economic Elite vs. The People of the United States of America." Soon after the reports were released, AmpedStatus launched the 99% Movement.
Even Good Movements Don't Always Get Support
While the concept of the 99% may have come from David DeGraw, attempts to grow it into a widespread movement were not very successful. He merged his 99% Movement with a subset of Anonymous to form a new group called A99 which, in turn, planned a course of action titled “Operation Empire State Rebellion” They called for people to occupy Liberty Park, but only 14 people showed up, and only four of them were willing to camp out over night.
Enter Adbusters, Along with Anarchism
No further occupations were attempted until Adbusters came into the picture calling for an occupation on September 17th. Adbusters was able to rally their network of 94,739 subscribers, providing a level of exposure that neither AmpedStatus nor A99 could come close to matching. And thus it was that Kalle Lasn and Micah White burst onto the scene.
Lasn, identified by Mitch Traynor in a The Digital Texan as a self-described anarchist, was one of the founders of a Canadian magazine called AdBusters as well as the owner of the Internet domain name for the Occupy Wall Street movement ( 
Micah White was another of the forces behind the founding of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A graphic on his home page indicates an identification with the Black Bloc provocateurs who have themselves “occupied” many of the Occupy movement demonstrations, creating chaos and destruction. As a "mystical anarchist" and the senior editor of Adbusters, he and Lasn established the name and date of the occupation of Wall Street.
More Plans; More Anarchists
On August 2, 2011, a group of roughly fifty Adbusters supporters, mostly anarchists, met in New York to plan the September 17 occupation of Wall Street. They agreed to a “horizontal” rather than “hierarchical” organization and general assemblies in which participants make decisions by consensus, which they refer to as direct democracy. Both of these are based upon anarchist principles
They were joined by former Yale professor of Anthropology David Graeber, another anarchist, who who helped facilitate the first meeting, The protesters planning the September occupation met again, on August 9th, to finalize plans for the September 17 occupation along with several other unidentified anarchists who were referenced in an account of that meeting. Graeber was among the facilitators, and one of the more prominent participants was Marisa Holmes, a twenty-five-year-old anarchist and filmmaker. 
Some Success at Last, but at a Price!
We all know what happened next.  OWS was a major success in getting the message out and has spawned hundreds of similar movements across the country and the world.   As Marshall McLuhan once said, "The message is the medium and the medium is the message."  So far, that seems to be true of all the Occupy movements.  They are long on medium (demonstrations) and on their message (inequality and corruption), but they are short on results.
How does the Occupy movement embody anarchist principles?
There are four major tenets described below that clearly identify anarchism.
1)   The refusal to recognize the legitimacy of existing authoritarian institutions.
The Occupy movement prefers not to produce a list of demands that must be met to meet their needs. There are two reasons for that. One is that, if they were to be true to their anarchist roots, they couldn't provide a complete list without revealing their long-term goals to do away with government as we know it and the political institutions that control it. The other reason is because issuing demands would mean recognizing the legitimacy of those of whom the demands are made.Anarchists generally do not recognize existing governmental authorities.
(It is worth noting that anarchists distinguish between protests and direct action: Protest is looked upon as an appeal to the authorities to change things. Anarchists do not protest, because they refuse to recognize the validity of authority. They believe instead in direct action, whether it's a matter of occupying or appropriating property (or “liberating” it as they call it), shutting down businesses, disrupting public meetings or government functions, all in defiance of law and order, and in direct opposition to the conventions of our society.)
2)    The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order.
The second principle, obviously, flows from the first. From the very beginning, organizers in New York knowingly and deliberately ignored local ordinances that stipulated that any gathering of more than twelve people in a public park is illegal without prior written police permission. These organizers apparently operated on a self-assumed belief that such laws should not exist and, therefore, could be ignored.  It was important to them that they begin with what they considered to be a personal moral order, and not a legal one.
3)    The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but preferring instead to create a form 
       of consensus-based direct democracy.
From the very beginning, organizers made the decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus, in keeping with anarchist principles. The first decision ensured that there would be no formal leadership structure that could be co-opted or coerced; the second, that no majority could bend a minority to its will, but that all crucial decisions had to be made by general consent. American anarchists have long considered the consensus process to be crucial.
4)    The imposition of a totally new and different society.
Virtually all encampments became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society - not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centers and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organization, without any institutions to enforce rules, regulations, and laws.
Anarchy is more than just a grass roots movement.
Most Americans share a deep dislike for their government and its political system. However, few are likely to want to resort to actual anarchism. Indeed, few even know what "anarchism" truly means. It's not clear how many, if they did learn, would choose anarchy over a democratic republic.  Anarchism is much more than simple grassroots democracy: It ultimately aims to eliminate all forms of government and authority (including public services such as streets and highways, sewers, police and fire protection, and our system of justice), except for what is approved in general assemblies.
Why did this movement catch on?
The people of America bought the movement's basic message – that the American political order is absolutely and irredeemably corrupt, that both parties have been bought by the wealthiest one percent of the population, and that if we are to live in any sort of genuinely democratic society, we're going to have to make some radical changes to our political and governmental order .
Unity can be found in misery and outrage.
But overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, and that radical change of some kind is long since overdue. They're right. It's hard to imagine a political system so systemically corrupt – one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician. The outrage is appropriate.
Civil disobedience and disruption precipitate violence.
As the history of past movements all make clear, nothing terrifies those running our country more than the dangers of anarchy. The immediate response to organized civil disobedience is a panicked combination of concessions and brutality. How else can one explain the mobilization of thousands of riot police, the tear gas, the beanbags and rubber bullets, and the mass arrests of the disruptors?
Things Are Not Always What They Appear to Be
When the Occupy Movement first started, its organizers publicly stressed that their protests would be peaceful, and that they were open to people of all political persuasions and at all social and economic levels. They also said that their actions would target Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% of our country and the disparity between them and the bottom 99%. However, they didn't publicly state that their origins were rooted in anarchy.
Many members who were initially drawn to the movement's message of inequity and inequality in our social order became disaffected as they saw the movement drift increasing toward anarchy and lawlessness, especially when Black Bloc insurrectionists wreaked havoc on small businesses and provoked the police and other authorities into taking extreme action against them. This was not the type of movement they expected.
Meanwhile, Back at the Movement ...
Many others have succumbed to the spell of the movement and have fallen prey to the Groupthink phenomenon that binds the remaining members together. They seem to think that they – and only they – are right, and anybody who disagrees with them is wrong. They determine for themselves what is right or wrong without regard for the wishes and needs of the 99% they purport to represent. Few protesters know the real roots of this movement, one into which they have poured so much of their time and effort.
Yes, the Occupy movement still has its followers. And, yes, the concepts of anarchy feed it at its every turn. For better or for worse, anarchy is the very heart of the movement, but it is also a well-kept secret from the average citizen who supports the movement.
 The Final Word
Perhaps before setting out to tear down government, we should establish rules. The potency of the anarchist argument is the freedom to dismantle a government that fails to protect citizens’ rights. The challenge facing anarchists is to know what to do with the broken pieces of the system they smashed.”Mimi Marstaller, Anarchy still needs rules

Related messages::

New Direction for the Occupy Movement

Time for an OWS Reality Check

Time for Occupy Movement to Move On

NY Tax Plan: Occupy Wall Street Victory?

Is the Occupy Movement Running Amok?

"Occupy Oakland" No Longer Exists!

An Oakland Demonstrator's Open Letter

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Restoring Democracy: Introduction/Index

Welcome to the Restoring Democracy Blog
As you can see from the summary at the top of this page and from my profile to the right, I am very concerned about our country and its future. We were founded as a democratic republic. Unfortunately, year by year, I see that democracy slipping away from us and, with it, our government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We cannot rely on our government to cure itself, because, in fact, our government is a major part of the problem. It is up to the people to take action to rescue and restore the democracy that is rightly ours under the Constitution.
The entries contained herein address various facets of the problems which beset and threaten our country.  There are also some recommended steps that we as private citizens can take to effect this change and return the government to the people. I hope that these posts will provide some information, provoke some thought, produce some ideas, and promote some action toward reclaiming and restoring our democracy.
Listed below are titles of the posts contained in this blog. Please review them and click on any that might be of interest to you. Also, please feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, or viewpoints of your own. 

Here for your convenience is a list by topic of the posts in this blog with links to each:

Democracy    Awaken the Sleeping Eagle!

Democracy, and What It Means to Us

Democracy: From Definition to the Constitution

Are We a Democratic Republic or a Plutocracy?

Major Threats to Our Democratic System

The Great Economic Divide
Why There Is No True Democracy in America
Economy How the Pursuit of Profits Kills Innovation and the Economy

An Open Letter to the One Percenters

Duopoly and Wealth: The Ties that Bind
Government   Political Duopoly: Working Partner of the Plutocracy

Plutocracy to Plutonomy: From Bad to Worse!

Campaign Funding's Impact On Democracy
Congress Money Talks, And Politicians Listen!

U.S. Congress: Bought And Paid For

Lobbying And Its Impact On Democracy

Lobbyists Teach One Day and Get Huge Pension

Why Is Our Congress So Dysfunctional?

How Congress Has Occupied Wall Street.
Politics Big Problems with Our Two-Party System

Elections :Heart of Democracy or Height of Hypocrisy?

Gerrymandering for Fun and Profit!  (in development)

In Presidential Debates, Duopoly Reigns Supreme

Presidential Debates: Fraud or Farce?

Problems For Third-Party Candidates
Super PACs -- New Arena for Corruption?

Congress Ignores the Will of the People

We Must Drive Big Money Out of Politics!
Solutions? The "Saving American Democracy" Amendment

How Not to Get Money Out of Politics

The Quickest Way to Solve Our Problems?

Restoring Democracy - One Vote at a Time

Restoring the American Dream - Part I

Restoring the American Dream - Part II

Restoring the American Dream – Part III
Occupy Movement
                                                                                                                                      New Direction for the Occupy Movement

Time for an OWS Reality Check

Time for Occupy Movement to Move On

NY Tax Plan: Occupy Wall Street Victory?

Is the Occupy Movement Running Amok?

"Occupy Oakland" No Longer Exists!

An Oakland Demonstrator's Open Letter
Occupy Movement: Rooted in Anarchy?

Thank you for visiting the site. I hope you will return again, as new subjects are posted with a fair degree of regularity.
Jim Burgardt

"Occupy Oakland" No Longer Exists!

The Occupy Oakland movement, as we used to know it, no longer exists. Oh, the name still exists, but it no longer has the same intent, purpose, ideals, or spirit that it once had. The movement has been compromised, co-opted, and taken hostage by outside interests who prefer insurrection over results, and destructive violence over peaceful engagement. They now refer to themselves increasingly as the Oakland Commune, rather than Occupy Oakland.

The activities of the last weekend in January reinforce what I have believed for several months now – that the Occupy Oakland movement has itself been occupied – by a dark and menacing force of insurrectionists known as Black Bloc Anarchists.

It started with some of the earlier demonstrations last Fall, when small groups of protesters, dressed in black (commonly wearing ski masks or “hoodies” with scarves over their faces to hide their identities) smashed and vandalized both private and public property, broke windows, spray painted walls, windows, and cars; overturned trash and recycling bins; and set fires, including burning the American flag.
If past experience is an indicator, we will probably find that most of these anarchists are not Occupy Oakland members or supporters and not from Oakland at all, but came to town to create an insurrection from what had been planned to be a peaceful demonstration. These people had their own cause and agenda, and saw the Occupy Oakland demonstration as an opportunity to stir things up a bit.
Time Magazine addressed this in its report: “Occupy Oakland Embraces Nonviolence, but Debates 'Black Bloc' Tactics.
Current TV headlined this last demonstration as:”OWS Anarchist Violence in Oakland; The 0.99% Strike Again!
A couple of months ago, a document was being passed out to explain the involvement of anarchists in the Occupy Oakland movement. This included a sketch of Frank Ogawa Plaza (which the movement refers to as Oscar Grant Plaza) that depicted the various activities that took place there. You will notice that everything was centered around “Anarchist Principles In Action.” If the diagram does not display on your computer, you can view it at this link.
The takeover now seems to be all but complete. The Occupy Oakland movement will probably never be the same again.

The  links below are to a few blog items that also deal with "Occupy Oakland" and its recent activities, in which more than 400 protesters were arrested.

This Is Not the Occupy Oakland Movement 

When the Inclusive Occupy Oakland Movement Became the White Anarchist Movement 

Occupy Oakland’s Violent Turn Proves the Movement Has Lost Its Way 

My best advice to those who want to resolve their differences with our government in an effective manner is to disengage from the present violence-leaning, radical elements, re-engage with peaceful supporters who are more representative of the 99%, propose solutions, and act toward getting those solutions enacted.

Develop a structure and an agenda with specific actions to be taken, not just a list of charges and complaints.  Establish a formal dialog between the group and the different levels of government.  Select intelligent and articulate individuals to represent the interests of the movement to legislators, and get these people on radio and television talk shows to present the movement's agenda, goals, objectives, and proposed solutions. 

Let the country know that there are real people behind this movement and that they are not just a mob of unemployable miscreants looking for a handout from the rich. Let them know that they have thought through the issues very carefully and that they want to be part of the solution and not just an addition to the problems we already have.  

And, most of all, register to vote, if you aren't already registered, and take out your anger  in the upcoming elections.  Vote against the very people who caused this mess and who are not doing anything of substance to correct it.  We need to repopulate our federal and state governments with representation that foster the same ideals as the original Occupy movement and who will do something to rectify the situation.
Then we might see some meaningful and constructive dialogue and get some positive and lasting results.

An Oakland Demonstrator's Open Letter

This comes from one of the insurrectionists who participated in last Saturday's failed attempt to expropriate the Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland (which they had planned to take over and use as the group's headquarters) The letter can be found at the Anarchist News site. It is interesting, if not disturbing, to see what goes on in the mind of one of the demonstrators as he recounts the events of that day with joy and elation. I am able to publish the entire account, because the site specifically says that the material is “anti-copyrighted.” Here is what this person had to say:
Let us start by apologizing; that our words may be incoherent, our thoughts scattered and our tone overly emotional. Forgive us, because the ringing in our ear continues to interrupt our thinking, because our eyes are bleary and we're weighed upon by the anxiety and trauma of our injuries and the imprisonment of the ones we love. As most of you are well-aware: after a full day and night of street battles in Oakland, we were defeated in our efforts to occupy a large building for the purposes of establishing an social center. We're writing, in part, to correct the inaccuracies and mystifications spewed by the scum Media. But more so as to convey the intensity and the urgency of the situation in Oakland to comrades abroad. To an extent, this is an impossible task. Video footage and mere words must inevitably fail at conveying the ineffable collective experiences of the past twenty-four hours. But as always, here goes.
Yesterday was one of the most intense days of our lives. We say this without hyperbole or bravado. The terror in the streets of Miami or St. Paul, the power in the streets of Pittsburgh or Oakland's autumn; yesterday's affect met or superseded each of these. The events of yesterday confronted us as a series of intensely beautiful and yet terrible moments.
Beautiful words are delivered at Oscar Grant Plaza, urging us to cultivate our hatred for capitalism. Hundreds leave the plaza and quickly become thousands. The police attempt to seize the sound truck, but it is rescued by the swarming crowd. We turn towards our destination and are blocked. We turn another way and are blocked once more. We flood through the Laney campus and emerge to find that we've been headed off again. We make the next logical move and somehow the police don't anticipate it. We're closer to the building, now surrounded by fences and armed swine. We tear at the fences, downing them in some spots. The police begin their first barrage of gas and smoke. The initial fright passes. Calmly, we approach from another angle.
The pigs set their line on Oak. To our left, the museum; to our right, an apartment complex. Shields and reinforced barricades to the front; we push forwards. They launch flash bangs and bean bags and gas. We respond with rocks and flares and bottles. The shields move forward. Another volley from the swine. The shields deflect most of the projectiles. We crouch, wait, then push forward all together. They come at us again and again. We hurl their sh*t, our sh*t, and whatever we can find back at them. Some of us are hit by rubber bullets, others are burned by flashbang grenades. We see cops fall under the weight of perfectly-arced stones For what feels like an eternity, we exchange throws and shield one another. Nothing has felt like this before. Lovely souls in the apartment building hand pitchers of waters from their windows to cleanse our eyes. We'll take a moment here to express our gratitude for the unprecedented bravery and finesse with which the shield-carrying strangers carried out their task. We retreat to the plaza, carrying and being carried by one another.
We re-group, scheme, and a thousand deep, set out an hour later. Failing to get into our second option, we march onwards towards a third. The police spring their trap: attempting to kettle us in the park alongside the 19th and Broadway lot that we'd previously occupied. Terror sets in; they've reinforced each of their lines. They start gassing again. More projectiles, our push is repelled. The intelligence of the crowd advances quickly. Tendrils of the crowd go after the fences. In an inversion of the moment where we first occupied this lot, the fences are downed to provide an escape route. We won't try to explain the joy of a thousand wild-ones running full speed across the lot, downing the second line of fencing and spilling out into the freedom of the street. More of the cat and mouse. In front of the YMCA, they spring another kettle. This time they're deeper and we have no flimsy fencing to push through. Their lines are deep. A few dozen act quickly to climb a nearby gate, jumping dangerously to the hard pavement below. Past the gate, the cluster of escapees find a row of several unguarded OPD vans: you can imagine what happened next. A complicit YMCA employee throws opens the door. Countless escape into the building and out the exits. The police become aware of both escape routes and begin attacking and trampling those who try but fail to get out. Those remaining in the kettle are further brutalized and resign to their arrest.
A few hundred keep going. Vengeance time. People break into city hall. Everything that can be trashed is trashed. Files thrown everywhere, computers get it too, windows smashed out. The american flags are brought outside and ceremoniously set to fire. A march to the jail, lots of graffiti, a news van gets wrecked, jail gates damaged. The pigs respond with fury. Wantonly beating, pushing, shooting whomever crosses their path. Many who escaped earlier kettles are had by snatch squads. Downtown reveals itself to be a f***ing war zone. Those who are still flee to empty houses and loving arms."
"A war-machine must intrinsically be also a machine of care. As we write, hundreds of our comrades remain behind bars. Countless others are wounded and traumatized. We've spent the last night literally stitching one another together and assuring each other that things will be okay. We still can't find a lot of people in the system, rumors abound, some have been released, others held on serious charges and have bail set. This care-machine is as much of what we name the Oakland Commune as the encampment or the street fighting. We still can't count the comrades we can't find on all our hands combined.
We move through the sunny morning and the illusion of social peace has descended back upon Oakland. And yet everywhere is the evidence of what transpired. City workers struggle to fix their pathetic fences. Boards are affixed to the windows of city hall and to nearby banks (some to hide damage, others simply to hide behind). Power washer try to clear away the charred remains of the stupid flag. One literally cannot look anywhere along broadway without seeing graffiti defaming the police or hyping our teams (anarchy, nortes, the commune, even juggalos). A discerning eye can still find the remnants of teargas canisters and flashbang residue. At the coffee shops and delis, friends and acquaintances find one another and share updates about who has been hurt and who has been had. Our wounds already begin to heal into what will eventually be scars or ridiculous disfigurements. We hope our lovers will forgive such ugliness, or can come to look at them as little instances of unique beauty. As our adrenaline fades and we each find moments of solitude, we are each hit by the gravity of the situation.
Having failed to take a building, our search continues. We continue to find the perfect combination of trust, planning, intensity and action that can make our struggle into a permanent presence. The commune has and will continue to slip out of time, interrupting the deadliness and horror of the day to day function of society. Threads of the commune continue uninterrupted as the relationships and affinity build over the past months. An insurrectionary process is the one that emboldens these relationships and multiplies the frequency with which the commune emerges to interrupt the empty forward-thrust of capitalist history. To push this process forward, our task is to continue the ceaseless experimentation and imagination which could illuminate different strategies and pathways beyond the current limits of the struggle. Sometimes to forget, sometimes to remember."
"We'll conclude with a plea to our friends throughout the country and across borders. You must absolutely not view the events here as a sequence that is separate from your own life. Between the beautiful and spectacular moments in the Bay, you'll discover the same alienation and exploitation that characterizes your own situation. Please do not consume the images from the Bay as you would the images of overseas rioting or as a netflix subscription. Our hell is yours, and so too is our struggle.
And so please... if you love us as we believe you do, prove it. We wish so desperately that you were with us in body, but we know most of you cannot be. Spread the commune to your own locales. Ten cities have already announced their intentions to hold solidarity demonstrations tonight. Join them, call for your own. If you aren't plugged into enough of a social force to do so, then find your own ways of demonstrating. With your friends or even alone: smash, attack, expropriate, blockade occupy. Do anything in your power to spread the prevalence and the perversity of our interruption.
for a prolonged conflict; for a permanent presence; for the commune;
some friends in Oakland.”
I don't know how this all strikes you, but it doesn't sit at all well with me. When the Occupy movement first started, I had high hopes for it. Now, I think my hopes have been dashed.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restoring the American Dream – Part III


What Happens When Corporations Run Our Government?

What you get is plunder. And I have to say this, the American people have to understand that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism, which is a good thing because it makes us more efficient, more prosperous, and more democratic, and the kind of corporate-crony capitalism which has been embraced by this White House.” – Robert Kennedy, Jr. (5/2/2004) [Note: The reference to the White House in this quotation was directed at the Bush administration at the time, but it even exists to a certain extent in the present administration as well.]

The Bottom Line. We must get private contributions* out of politics. Private contributions in politics are among the main reasons why Congress puts corporations and special interest groups first and the people last, even though it is the people that they are supposed to serve first and foremost. That is the root of all the bad legislation and lack of control that allowed our capitalist system to run amok and bring this country into financial ruin. That is the cause of the huge gap in income and wealth between the top 1% and the bottom 99%. That is the cause of outsourcing virtually all of our major manufacturing processes, most our job losses and most of our home foreclosures. So, getting private contributions out of politics is the major imperative. And it means, not just getting the private contributions out of the elections, but also out of all politics. As long as people and corporations are allowed to contribute to politicians, those politicians will forever be tainted with acting in the interests of those contributors and not our country or the private citizens they are elected to represent.

*In this context, examples of “private contributions” include the transfer or promise of transfer of any item of value to or from any member of Congress, OR his or her staff or family (within the third degree of kindred). Items of value include, by way of example and not limitation: monetary considerations, property, gifts, trips, airfare, accommodations, meals, speaking engagements, stipends, fund raising events, political advertising, surveys, petitions, get-out-the-vote campaigns, employment, personal favors, or services, including the drafting of proposed legislation for a Congress member or his or her staff, or the providing of information not in the public domain that might be financially beneficial or politically advantageous to either the Congress member or a lobbyist, consultant,or adviser. However, this provision would permit volunteer campaign workers who perform routine office tasks in direct support of a candidate for office for prescribed periods of time during an exploratory period, the primary campaign, and the general election. For management, consulting, and advisory campaign positions, the Congress member must pay the prevailing rate for such positions on the open market.

How Might This Be Done? There are several ways to accomplish this. Unfortunately, given the present state of our country and our democracy, some of them may not be feasible.
  1. It could be done on a voluntary pledge basis, but this would have no force of law behind it to motivate individuals to adhere to it. It is still worthy of consideration as an interim measure pending a more acceptable, permanent solution.
  2. It could be done through adding text to the oath of office that every office holder must take, stating that they have not accepted and will not accept anything of value while in elective or appointed office or while under consideration for any such office. This might be somewhat cumbersome, but it might still be worth pursuing.
  3. It might be possible to accomplish this through Congressional legislation. However, with the symbiotic relationship that exists between personal contributors and politicians, and the lack of cooperation between the two parties presently in power, it is highly unlikely that Congress would ever pass such legislation. Any such legislation would have to be based upon federally provided campaign funds that would be equal for every candidate for federal office, would be based upon the population and geography of each state district, and would require more extensive use of the Internet and public service television coverage to conduct campaigns.
  4. It could be done with a Constitutional amendment, but such amendments must originate either in Congress or in the state legislatures throughout the country. Because virtually all elected representatives accept contributions of some sort, this, too, may be virtually impossible.
  5. Or, it could be done with a combination of these items, starting first with the pledge for incumbents, the oath of office for newly-elected or newly-appointed individuals, then legislation and Constitutional amendments.
However, there is one particular, rather radical step that we can take right now, starting with the primary elections for Congress this year.  Here's how it would work:

Hit Them Where It Hurts! We all know that Senators and Representatives freely ignore those people and those issues that they choose to ignore. They are blind to major problems that are right before their eyes and turn a deaf ear to anything that they don't want to hear. But there is one way to really get their attention. The one thing they cherish most highly are their seats in Congress. They value these seats so highly that they are willing to compromise their principles to secure them and their moral values to keep them. Their greatest fear is the loss of their positions in Congress, and the power, status, and prestige that go with them. If they fail to deliver democracy back to the American people, the people they are supposed to represent, then we will act against them – in full electoral force

Here Is Our Challenge to Congress. Congress must show good faith to the American people and make whatever changes are necessary to get items of value totally out of politics forever. Except for a Constitutional amendment, they must make any legislation or other action effective October 1, 2012. Candidates for office will be allowed to expend any monies they have raised up to that date, but mus not accept any more contributions or other assistance of value. They must also include a plank in their respective party's platform to submit a Constitutional amendment to the American people not later than June 30, 2012. If they fail to accomplish this by the aforementioned dates, the people of American will be strongly encouraged to reclaim their democracy through other means, some of which are described described below.

Use Your Clout and Vote Them Out! If Congress fails to pass the legislation required to accomplish the items described above, and if you care anything about our democracy and its future, then we need to hit them where it will do us and the country the most good – at the ballot box. The power elite may have a huge advantage over us when it comes to money, but we have a huge advantage over them when it come to voting. Because of that, we can and will reclaim our democracy if we follow the rules below.

Suggestion #1. Spread the word to everybody, especially the 20% who are unregistered, the 23% who vote rarely, and the 22% who vote intermittently. Their votes will not only count in this and future elections more than ever before, but they will be especially critical now, because they will be voting on reclaiming our democracy from the power elite who have taken it from us.

Suggestion #2. Flood every member of Congress with e-mails, letter, tweets, phone calls, and petitions, calling for immediate legislative reform to get private contributions out of politics entirely (not just a reversal of the Citizens United ruling), including legislation to remove any congress member who violates these reforms, once implemented. Inform them that, if they do not actively support these reforms and put the will and interests of the people ahead of their personal interests, those of their party, and those of their financial backers, that they will be voted out of office one by one, even if it takes twelve years to do so.

Suggestion #3. When it come to voting in the PRIMARY* elections, let's put our vote where our convictions lie, and vote for anybody BUT a Democrat or a Republican. Vote for the best of the third-party or independent candidates – just NOT a Republican or a Democrat. (The ONLY exception to this should be a candidate who has pledged to actively support efforts to restore our democracy by getting private contributions out of politics entirely.). Do not consider this to be a “wasted vote.” It is a vote FOR DEMOCRACY, and that can never be a wasted vote. And it is a vote AGAINST CORRUPT POLITICS. A vote for a major party's candidate is a vote in favor of the status quo and against democracy.. In that sense, a vote for a major party candida can be seen as a wasted vote, because it just helps maintain the present corrupt system of politics and government.

*In the GENERAL election, it is still preferable to voter for anybody but a Democrat or a Republican. However, there maybe some situations where the voter might feel they must vote for “the lesser of two evils” to avoid the possibility of electing considered to be
extremely undesirable.

Suggestion #4. If there are only Democrats or Republicans on your ballots, do not vote for either of them, UNLESS they too have demonstrated good faith in returning democracy to the American people and have pledged to take an active role in getting private contributions out of politics entirely..

Suggestion #5. Help get the vote out, especially those who either don't vote or only occasionally vote.

  1. Form neighborhood groups, if you don't already have some. Meet on a regular basis to discuss this issue earnestly, honestly, and openly. Explain why it is important to you, to them, and to our country. Ask each member to bring at least one new member to each subsequent meeting, to broaden your base.
  2. Explore and possibly join efforts with other like-minded civic organizations in your area to further broaden your base, increase your power, and lend more public credibility to your efforts.
  3. Form a telephone bank and place calls to people in the neighborhood. (You can get listed phone number of your neighbors at WhitePages Neighbors by keying in your own address.)
  4. Offer to help people get registered and volunteer to drive them to the polls on election day if necessary.
  5. Keep a log of all people called and any commitments made, to ensure that they are met.
  6. Follow up with calls on election day to determine last-minute questions or problems.
Suggestion #6. Continue this for each election until Congress enacts the necessary legislation to restore to American citizens the democratic republic that our founding fathers established for usIn any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. – Theodore Roosevelt

Will This Work? Will this process alter the outcome of the coming Federal elections? That all depends on how well received this process is, how dedicated people are to regaining their democracy, and how much they want to root out corruption in our government. Our point here is to demonstrate how dissatisfied the American people are with the state of affairs in our country and with the complicit involvement of our government in depriving us of our democracy. If our elected officials refuse to act in good faith, then we will have to respond at the polls and, if we get the strength we know is out there, we will gain a few responsive seats in Congress and serve notice to any of the survivors that they may be next.

Onward and Upward. There are many, many more critical issues that need to be addressed and resolved. However, this proposal addresses the one serious problem that is at the root of almost all of other major problems that we presently face. Please continue to work on those as well. And keep this strategy in mind if the Congress fails to act on them as well as this particular issue.

"I believe democracy to be of all forms of government the most natural, and the most consonant with individual liberty. In it no one transfers his natural rights so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of a society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in the state of nature, equals". – Spinoza