Category Archives: Current Events

Zuccotti Park raided

POSTED BY ORHAN

NYPD raided Zuccotti Park at 1 AM this morning and cleared it. They destroyed all property, including the library. There were 70+ arrests.

Bertrand Russell, 99 Percenter

POSTED BY ORHAN

Bertrand RussellJohn Reynolds opened a copy of the Selected Writings of Bertrand Russell to this passage from the introduction, written in the 1920s on the eve of the Great Depression:

“It is evident that, in a world where there was leisure and economic security for all, the happiness of all would be greater than that of ninety-nine per cent of the present inhabitants of the planet. Why, then, do the ninety-nine per cent not combine to overcome the resistance of the privileged one per cent?

Reynolds researched the quote, sure the 99 Percent movement was inspired by Russell, but found no connection–it appears the good philosopher, as usual, was just ahead of his time.

Never gonna happen

(UPDATE below) Since there is apparently another GOP Presidential candidate debate tonight (twice a week now), let’s look at this gem from David Frum (my favorite no-longer-crazy Bush guy) in its entirety:

Had I been on the panel for Wednesday’s economics debate, I’d have opened with the question: “Are taxes lower or higher today than on the day President Obama was sworn into office?” Just for fun.

CBS and National Journal asked me among others to suggest some questions to ask the candidates . .  My suggested list follows.

1. Mexico is being torn apart by a civil war to control the drug routes to the United States. Many Mexican leaders urge drug legalization in the US in order to move the drug trade away from violent criminals to legitimate business. If a Mexican president asked you to consider such a step, what would you answer and why?

2. Canada is our largest trading partner and most important energy supplier. What do you see as the major issues between the US and Canada and what would you do to strengthen this supremely important relationship?

3. If asked, would you support a US contribution to the fund to stabilize the Euro currency? Why or why not?

4. Taiwan is China’s largest foreign investor. Taiwan and China have an intensifying economic relationship. Taiwan has refused to make the military investments that our military considers necessary to Taiwan’s security. Is the US security guarantee to Taiwan obsolete?

5. If you had been president in 2010, would Hosni Mubarak still be in power today?

6. Do you believe there is a peaceful way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?

7. It’s often said that our present energy policy leaves us dependent on oil suppliers who do not like us. Our top 10 suppliers are:

Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, Algeria, Iraq, Angola and Colombia.

The anti-US feeling of the Chavez regime is notorious. Which of the other 9 would you describe as a supplier who “does not like us”?

8. Afghanistan: At the end of your first term do you think we’ll have more or less than 20,000 troops in that country?

9. Iraq: Knowing everything you know now, if you had been in Congress in 2002, would you have voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, yes or no?

Good questions, all of them. However, attention must be paid to 9-9-9 and Texas.

MEA CULPA UPDATE: The debate is now over. I watched it. And the moderators from CBS and National Journal asked intelligent and relevant policy questions. They really did.

One mask for all: Vendetta! Guy Fawkes! Move Your Money!

I just realized that today, Bank Transfer Day or Move Your Money Day or whatever they’re calling it in your town, is also Guy Fawkes Day. Serendipitous? More likely designed to coincide. Anyway, here’s a weird xtranormal creation to mark the day (getting this up with only seven minutes of November 5 left – whew!). Picked up at Balloon Juice.

I moved my money almost a year ago from JP Morgan/Chase to a much smaller, more local bank. And I’m very happy I did. And they know my name too.

 

Clocks back

Tonight!

What’s in the waffles?

First there was this:

In Carson City NV, a man shot seven and killed four people at the International House of Pancakes (IHOP).  It was tragic and he was crazy.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A man who stormed into a Carson City IHOP restaurant with an assault rifle . . . . he killed four people before ending his own life . . .

Then came this – Not tragic, but comic:

Four Georgia men were arrested this week in connection with a scheme to conduct an attack with explosives and the deadly toxin ricin . . . Federal investigators said they had them under surveillance . . . infiltrating their meetings in a Waffle House.

[I chuckled at this part] “The four gray-haired men [in their late 60’s and 70’s] appeared in federal court Wednesday . . .  apparently had trouble hearing the judge, some of them cupping their ears.”

I’m jaded, I know, but don’t these events beg the question – was it the waffles?

Bet they’ll have a b-i-g cake!

I recently discovered EarthCam, which trains a live eye on well known locations around the world (Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China etc). Tonight might be a great time to stop by for a birthday party, as the Statue of Liberty turns 125.  Festivities and fireworks over the harbor are planned. The cameras provide  multiple viewing perspectives. I won’t be home in real time – maybe they’ll provide a link back. Hope so. Happy Birthday, Lady.

Actual. Good. News.

One down – far too many to go. Story here.

 

Okay

Terrorists and dictators, lacking the filibuster, have no effective defense against Barack Obama.                                    Rebecca Kirzsner, Democratic strategist

Busy. Unbloggy. Later.

If only we’d sent the Marines in . . .

I honestly will never understand these people:

One of the problems I have with “leading from behind” is that when a day like this comes, we don’t have the infrastructure in place that we could have. I’m glad it ended the way it did. It took longer than it should have. If we could have kept American air power in the fight it would have been over quicker. Sixty-thousand Libyans have been wounded, 3,000 maimed, 25,000 killed. Let’s get in on the ground. There is a lot of money to be made in the future in Libya.  Lot of oil to be produced. Let’s get on the ground and help the Libyan people establish a democracy and a functioning economy based on free market principles.

Iraq was the model you know. And that worked so well.

Zuccotti Park

POSTED BY ORHAN

Whatever happens now to the grand experiment in authentic democracy that is #OccupyWallStreet, much has been achieved.

For those who experienced the hierarchy-free and consensus-based direct democracy of the General Assemblies, saw and lived the little anarchist society, based on mutual aid rather than personal profit, built with love and sweat on a tiny strip of land–we no longer believe another world is possible, we know it. For us normal existence under capitalism–existence for the accumulation of wealth and power–no longer holds any fascination; like the mummy exposed to fresh air, it disintegrates, leaving only emptiness.

#OccupyWallStreet is under attack, and its physical manifestation will not stand. It is under attack by the Right; by the Liberal establishment–ostensibly Left–to whom #OWS is as dangerous as it is to the Right; by the political class, obsolete when a people think and decide for themselves; and most of all, by the corporate elites who stand above Left and Right, pulling the puppet-strings in the shadow-play called American politics.

So tomorrow, we keep going. Howard Zinn wrote the following lines for moments like these, and they never seemed more meaningful:

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.

The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Update: Friday morning from the NY Times:

The cleanup of the Lower Manhattan park that has been occupied by protesters for nearly a month was canceled Friday shortly before it was supposed to begin, averting a feared showdown between the police and demonstrators who had vowed to resist any efforts to evict them from their encampment.

The announcement was made by the Bloomberg administration around 6:20 a.m., about 40 minutes before workers were scheduled to enter Zuccotti Park, which has been the home base for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators angered by what they see as an unfair and corrupt financial system.

Lech Walesa: one of my heroes

Leading his 'mob'

The union organizer who led the movement that overthrew Soviet communism in his native Poland 30 years ago, whose actions signaled the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union, is coming to New York to support Occupy Wall Street.

. . . to show his support for the  Occupy Wall Street protesters.

“How could I not respond,” Walesa told a  Polish newspaper Wednesday. “The thousands of people gathered near Wall Street  are worried about the fate of their future, the fate of their country. This is  something I understand.”

. . . Walesa said “capitalism is in  crisis” and not just in America.

“This is a worldwide problem,” he told  the Lublin-based Dziennik Wschodni newspaper. “The Wall Street protesters have  focused a magnifying glass on the problem.”

. . . A staunch anti-communist and former Polish president who helped steer his  country to a free market economy, Walesa . . .  has warned of a “worldwide  revolt against capitalism” if the Wall St. protests are ignored.

They are  protesting the “unfairness” of an economy that enriches a few and “throws the  people to the curb,” he said in a recent interview.

#OccupyWallStreet – Alan Grayson schools P.J. O’Rourke

POSTED BY ORHAN
Grayson superbly summarizes the #OWS grievances. And O’Rourke summarizes what has become the mainstream criticism, from both Left and Right:

#OccupyWallStreet – Demands

POSTED BY ORHAN

The MSM continues to ridicule #OWS for not having a specific list of demands. The absence of demands, and consequent absence of a divide-and-conquer target, that’s driving the media into such a tizzy is not specifically a “tactic”, but, as far as I can tell, is a byproduct of the radical democratic process being practiced by the General Assemblies (nicely described by Matt Stoller).

Here is the closest thing I’ve found to an “official” statement on demands from The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a paper published and distributed by #OWS:

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.

The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

So it appears #OWS is specifically addressing the anger of the majority of Americans at the power, arrogance, and lack of accountability enjoyed by the coterie of the richest 1%, and the marginalization, disempowerment, and impoverishment of the remaining 99%–and doing it in a way that is “horizontal, autonomous, leaderless, modified-consensus-based”, which most people–let alone members of the political class–find it almost impossible to wrap their heads around.

When I visited Zuccotti Park today, there were some very tense cops trying to keep everyone within the bounds of the metal pens they had set up, but the park is just too small for the number of people occupying it. A second Manhattan General Assembly was scheduled to meet in Washington Square Park this afternoon; I wonder how Mayor Bloomberg will deal with the growth.

He’s obviously expecting the onset of winter to disperse the crowds without police action, but if the “contagion” (as our pundits called the Arab occupations of public spaces) spreads, there will be more demand for him to take forceful action, even if he feels otherwise. What I find interesting about Bloomberg is that he’s a One Percenter with tremendous overt political power, who also owns and controls a massive media machine.

As I stood inside, the park was surrounded by gawkers and tourists slowly filing by. The cops were telling the passers-by, “Take your pictures and move on, there are other people behind you”. Now #OWS seems to be a tourist spot somewhat more popular than the new World Trade Center, two blocks due north.

God doesn’t hate just fags; seems he hates Steve Jobs too

That old Westboro Baptist Church gang are so amusing! But I do think it’s time we  start frisking them. And Margie? Whatcha wanna bet that middle name is Jesus?

 

Without comment

#OccupyWallStreet – Oct. 5

POSTED BY ORHAN

The most authentic and thoughtful article I’ve seen on what’s occurring at Liberty Park is by Matt Stoller at Naked Capitalism.

This dynamic is why it’s so hard for the traditional political operators to understand #OccupyWallStreet. It must be an angry group of hippies. Or slackers. Or it’s a revolution. It’s a left-wing tea party. The ignorance is embedded in the questions. One of the most constant complaints one hears in DC about #OccupyWallStreet is that the group has no demands. Its message isn’t tight. It has no leaders. It has no policy agenda. Just what does “it” want, anyway? On the other side of the aisle, one hears a sort of sneering “get a job” line, an angry reaction to a phenomenon no one in power really understands. The gnashing of teeth veers quickly from condescension to irritation and back. Many liberal groups want to “help” by offering a more mainstream version, by explaining it to the press, by cheering how great the occupation is while carefully ensuring that wiser and more experienced hands eventually take over. These impulses are guiding by the received assumptions about how power works in modern America. Power must flow through narrow media channels, it must be packaged and financed by corporations, unions, or foundations, it must be turned into revenue flows that can then be securitized. It must scale so leaders can channel it efficiently into the preset creek bed of modern capitalism. True public spaces like this one are complete mysteries to these people; left, right, center in America are used to shopping mall politics.

We Are the 1 Percent

POSTED BY ORHAN

Tens of thousands marched through the streets of lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of Occupy Wall Street and to protest the actions of the financial elite that has devastated the lives of so many. The current issue of Orion magazine includes an article by Christopher Ketcham that  draws the connection between the demonstrators and the city they marched in:

Of the twenty-five largest cities, New York is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads.

It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. The One Percenters took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

New York’s wealth concentration is almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.

The number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.

Average workers have been the consistent losers since 1990. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women aged twenty-five to thirty-four with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers—defined broadly by the FPI as those drawing incomes between approximately $29,000 and $167,000—experienced a 19 percent decrease in earnings.

Almost 11 percent of the population, about 900,000 people, live in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500 (the average One Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day).

About 50 percent of the households in the city have incomes below $30,000; their incomes have also been steadily declining since 1990. During the boom of 2002–07, the trend was unaltered: the average income in the bottom 95 percent of New York City households declined.

The wealth of the One Percenters derives almost entirely from the operations of the sector known as “financial services,” whose preoccupation is “financial innovation.” The One Percenters draw the top salaries at commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages.

The largest twenty financial institutions in the U.S., almost all of them headquartered in New York, now control upward of 70 percent of the country’s financial assets, roughly double what they controlled in the 1990s.

According to the article, financial innovation is a “socially useless activity”, with “little or no long-term value”, whose purpose is to “merely shift money around” without designing, building, or selling “a single tangible thing.” Financial services once allocated capital for socially useful projects that also created jobs. The goal now is to maximize short-term profit by generating and bursting asset bubbles, hedging carefully to come out ahead no matter the cost to society. Having created a wave of gentrification that devastated manufacturing and made the city unaffordable for most workers, including writers, artists, and musicians, the One Percenter sits atop a cuturally sterile world that “that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth,” that trumpets “contempt for the least powerful in society,” that offers only “outrageous competition of all against all.”

“Outside the constraints of history . . . “

There is some interesting commentary on protest movements from Rich Yeselson at Ezra Klein’s WonkBlog . Yeselson, noting that whatever the movement, it must first conform to our national character, had this which seems a particularly accurate portrait.

Americans–infatuated with the next new thing, and proud to believe they are outside the constraints and burdens of history–love neophytes, gifted amateurs. We’re action-oriented and suspicious of elitist expertise, and we thrill to the idea that anybody with moxie can jump in and deliver a baby or land a 737. Right now, it appears that anti-hierarchical, relatively inexperienced people are “running” the Wall Street protest. And they are doing big demonstrations really well. So far, so good. Anger can beget action. And action itself can be a battering ram that knocks down the doors of history.

Steve Jobs is dead

Apple just issued this staement.

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

We make our own signs

(I say ‘we’, of course, in a solidarity kind of way.)

An observation:

Occupy Together and We Are The 99 make their own signs.

Real Americans

POSTED BY ORHAN

There are now over 130 #Occupying groups nationally. There’s a site to find one nearby or start your own.

I went to Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon. The energy was different than a demonstration–the people were, well, occupying, not marching. The group was predominantly young, but people of all ages were participating. The area was mobbed with tourists, media (but not MSM), people who work in the area, some jeering, others curious or obviously sympathetic. My sense is that the energy changes from hour to hour.

There were lots of small groups, people working out tactics and strategy; if there’s anything like an organizational focus, the General Assembly is it; the emphasis is on leaderlessness, non-hierarchy, non-violence, consensus-building, giving everyone a voice.

There was a fairly heavy police presence, but the cops appeared laid back; they’re also learning–nothing energizes people like seeing college kids penned and pepper-sprayed.

Right now the people need sleeping bags, blankets, boots, food.

Gimme that old time religion, er, I mean protestin’!

This is what Occupy Wall Street is about. And now that major news outlets have deigned to take notice, it’s growing into a movement.  Invitations to local demonstrations are popping up all over Facebook (I’ve had two invitations just this morning) and this has generated an organizing site here. It gets personal at We Are the 99 Percent.  From there:

UPDATE: Here’s the official site for Occupy Wall Street. And I just found another picture I rather fancy.

Can we kill our own just because they’re bad guys?

I guess we killed an important terrorist yesterday. Another clean, targeted hit. And we did it without invasion, always a good thing. Gotta tone down that invasion thing.

But there are concerns. AnWar al-Awlaki was a bad guy for sure. He was also an American citizen.

I just stumbled upon Spatial Orientation, a blog new to me and one I’ll visit again, where they’ve posted some commentary on the subject including a statement from Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson and a post from professional liberal Glenn Greenwald, two fellows who are hardly ideological bedfellows but appear to be equally fond of the Constitution.

Johnson said that while he applauds vigilance in the WoT:

. . . we cannot allow the War on Terror to diminish our steadfast adherence to the notion of due process for American citizens.  The protections under the Constitution for those accused of crimes do not just apply to people we like — they apply to everyone, including a terrorist like al-Awlaki.  It is a question of due process for American citizens.

If we allow our fervor to eliminate terrorist threats to cause us to cut corners with the Constitution and the fundamental rights of American citizens, whether it be invasions of privacy or the killing of someone born on U.S. soil, I could argue that the terrorists will have ultimately won.

Greenwald added:

What’s most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar . . . [but] that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S.

Awlaki has been linked to suspects in the 2009 Fort Hood, Texas shooting spree and the attempted Christmas bombing of a passenger jet, but he has neither been charged nor tried. It appears he was targeted because he preached jihad and recruited for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Like I said, a bad guy, but we have rules that say we can’t kill citizens because they don’t like the government.

(The killing was carried out by an unmanned drone,  another conversation we should be having.)

UPDATE: Johnson just appeared on FOX News. That’s an audience who need  a challenge to cherished beliefs. He did a good job.  The video is here.

Shocker: Bachmann never accepted bioethicist’s HPV vaccine bet

POSTED BY ORHAN

Yesterday was the deadline for Michele Bachmann to accept University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan’s challenge to produce a single person who’s developed “mental retardation” from Gardasil. Caplan offered to donate $10,000 to a charity of her choice if she could just locate the mystery woman whose daughter became disabled after being vaccinated for HPV. Bachmann never responded, probably because she’s been plugging her ears and humming to herself to prevent scientific facts from seeping in. Caplan says he’s still glad he made the bet because, “Politicians shouldn’t get away with hearsay. We need to hold candidates responsible for their sources.”

(Source)

What are you doing tonight? Troy Davis will be dying. Right on schedule.

In front of the Georgia State House

The State of Georgia will finish off Troy Davis tonight. The Pope asked nicely and so did a former President and former FBI Director Louis Free,  a large number of former Federal prosecutors and Justice Department lawyers and, um, Europe. But.

In our country, you can’t be found guilty if there’s reasonable doubt, but you can be executed.

UPDATE: 7:21 Sara Totonchi of the Southern Center for Human Rights confirms the prison has temporarily delayed the execution while awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether they can proceed with the execution tonight.

FINAL UPDATE: 10:57 State Attorney Generals office notifies MacPhail’s mother Anneliese “[Davis] is on the gurney, the needle is in.”

h/t Atlanta Journal Constitution

Fry and Laurie say gay and the next thing you know . . .

The word gay used to be a lovely word . . . A LOVELY WORD.

Everything’s bigger in Texas (except the salaries)

POSTED BY ORHAN

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich analyzes data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Texas job growth:

While Texas leads the nation in job growth, a majority of Texas’s workforce is paid hourly wages rather than salaries. And the median hourly wage there was $11.20, compared to the national median of $12.50 an hour.

Texas has also been specializing in minimum-wage jobs. From 2007 to 2010, the number of minimum wage workers there rose from 221,000 to 550,000 – that’s an increase of nearly 150 percent. And 9.5 percent of Texas workers earn the minimum wage or below – compared to about 6 percent for the rest of the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state also has the highest percentage of workers without health insurance.

He concludes:

…how can lower incomes possibly be an answer to America’s economic problem? Lower incomes mean less overall demand for goods and services — which translates into even fewer jobs and even lower wages.

Good question.

Never forget this either

POSTED BY ORHAN

Since 9/11, America has dished out a lot more than was done to us that day.

Some of the “achievements” that resulted from the 9/11 attacks include: the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and displacement of up to four million more, as well as strengthening Iran’s influence in the region; the murders of hundreds of innocents by drone attacks in Pakistan, destabilizing the government and triggering the rise of the Pakistani Taliban; the breakdown of the rule of law, including preventive war and detention, kidnappings and renditions, extrajudicial murders, outsourcing of torture; the normalization and popular acceptance of torture techniques that we hanged war criminals for after WWII; the massive expansion of executive power to the point the President now asserts the authority to order the killing of anyone, Americans included, anytime, anywhere in the world, without explanation or justification; the expansion of domestic government surveillance of all Americans, including logging all internet activity and monitoring of phone conversations and financial transactions; normalization and acceptance of stop-and-search, humiliating pat-downs at airports, machine gun-wielding soldiers on streets and in subways, arrests of anti-war activists; expansion of the propaganda machine used to keep the population in perpetual fear, e.g., the three Pakistanis supposedly on their way to the US yesterday to attack by car bomb.

All this is old news, but it must be remembered, too. Today’s ceremonies are an integral part of the propaganda machine, even allowing for the fact that our tears are real; the cry “never forget” is now part of the national DNA. And we won’t forget: a hundred years from now, if America still exists, 9/11 will be used as an excuse for bombing third-world countries. 9/11 has become little more than a pretext for endless war and repression.

UPDATE FROM MOE: I just came accross this graphic at Sekan’s blog, along with a related story. I think it’s a perfect compliment to Orhan’s post and adds even more perspective, so I throwing it in.

First came the terror and tears and comes now the dignity

First there was this:

Then there was this:

And now, inside the very footprints of the Twin Towers, there is this: