Friday, November 18, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
NEW YORK - Two days after the encampment that sparked the global Occupy movement was cleared by authorities, demonstrators in New York City and around the country were promising mass gatherings Thursday in support of the cause.
In San Francisco Wednesday, anti-Wall Street activists swarmed into a Bank of America branch and tried to set up camp in the lobby. About 100 demonstrators rushed into the bank, chanting "money for schools and education, not for banks and corporations."
Thursday's day of action had been planned before New York City and park owners cracked down on the encampment in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, but took on added importance to the protesters after tents, tarps and sleeping bags were cleared out early Tuesday and the granite plaza was cleaned for the first time since the group arrived more than two months ago.
"We will get boots on the ground again," said Rory Simpson, 29, who described himself as an itinerant activist as he made signs Wednesday evening. "This is not over yet."
So long as it's not boots to asses, everything should be OK. The idea is to take the message where it matters: to the people, and to the bankers.
The bankers won't care, but they must be challenged. The people will care, and they will listen-- most of them. It wouldn't surprise me if a counterprotest shows up, but so what?
This is all happening against the backdrop of two events. First, the attempt two nights ago to shut down OWS by throwing them out of Zuccotti Park, and second...
“Unless the euro zone debt crisis is resolved in a timely and orderly manner, the broad credit outlook for the U.S. banking industry could worsen,” the New York-based rating company said yesterday in a statement. Even as U.S. banks have “manageable” exposure to stressed European markets, “further contagion poses a serious risk,” Fitch said, without explaining what it meant by contagion.
The “exposures” of U.S. lenders to major European banks and the stressed nations of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, known as the GIIPS, are smaller than those to some of the continent’s larger countries, Fitch said.
I respect Fitch Ratings, and have oftened referred to them on some matters. This time, however, I think they may be understating the case a bit.
The "GIIPS" problem is deeper than the European Union has admitted.
Think about it this way: who is holding the debt of those nations, about to default? Mostly, it's European banks. Some of those banks are on fairly stable ground, to be sure, but many are not. Indeed, some received bailout packages from the US in 2008 and 2009. And now, we're directly bailing out the EU.
Let me rephrase that: our debt is holding together their debt.
So if you went to the bank and mortgaged your house, then your neighbor came to you and said "Listen, I'm tapped, and I need to get my house fixed. Can you lend me a few?" Now you're not only in danger if you run into trouble, but if your neighbor loses his house, you've lost that money, as well. Yea, you can pay it back over time, but that's income you won't have later on.
Now, five nations are on the hook. Italy and Greece have had a minor crisis already. Of those five, while it's not likely all five will fold, it's also unlikely that none will.
If one does, it's conceivable the EU can survive. If two go, all bets are off. And two are already on the brink, barring a sudden influx of discipline and growth.
Meanwhile, Occupy will be keeping a public face for those who did not get a Fed-approved bailout two or three years ago. Occupy will humanize for the dishuman right wingers the face of the 99%. And Occupy will remind Bernanke and Obama that there is a more pressing need than bailing out Goldman Sachs or Citibank: bailing out people who have fallen through the cracks.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
New York City police in riot gear swept into a Lower Manhattan park early today to remove hundreds of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who had been camping there for more than eight weeks to protest income inequality.
The action followed similar moves that shut camps in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon. New York police and the park’s owners told protesters at 1 a.m. local time to remove items including tents and sleeping bags, after which city workers cleared remaining belongings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. The park will remain closed until the city can review a judge’s restraining order seeking to allow protesters to return with their belongings, the mayor said.
“The First Amendment protects speech,” the mayor said in a press conference at City Hall. “It doesn’t protect the use of tents and sleeping bags to take over public space.”
Actually, Mayor Mike, the First Amendment right to assembly does precisely that, and it is not limited in the constitution. And Zuccotti Park, while a private place, was created in exchange for a zoning variance and therefore is quasi-public space. You've screwed the pooch, mayor.
But I digress...
It was inevitable that the protestors would be tested. Between the cold weather (which if I had been mayor and wanted this to die away, is what I would have waited for) and the anger of surrounding residents (sorry, there's a price for living near a stock exchange), something was bound to give. What was not inevitable was the forcible eviction of people who have been nothing but compliant to the concerns of officials and neighbors.
All kinds of excuses have been proffered: health risks (yes, because sooooooooo many of the protestors were being rushed to hospitals, and are uninsured...wait, that's the POINT!), security risks (crime at OWS is lower than the surrounding, still-well-patrolled neighborhood), sanitation (admittedly, hundreds of people create a mess over a period of time, no matter how well they clean up after themselves), community issues (all of which OWS was willing to address, and has always been willing to address), even inconvenience to the surrounding commuters and workers.
None of which is sufficient to justify tearing the thing down, destroying books and videos, throwing away food, clothing and shelter. None of which justifies debasing a peaceful protest that has done nothing but try to live within the law.
And now you leave them with fewer options than they started the protest with: jobs are harder to come by, housing is weaker than before, and no one will listen to the truth.
OWS scares the people who cheer on the dismantling of Occupy. The fact that young, bright people with college degrees-- people who should be higher on the ladder of success-- are forced to live for months in a park because they can't get jobs that pay them a living wage (nevermind allow them to pay off student loans) is a scar on the American conscience, and the people who oppose the OWS protests are terrified that, there but for the grace of God, go them. They want to be in denial of the facts because facts are scary things. Also, facts have a known liberal bias.
Monday, November 14, 2011
AUSTIN, Texas—Rick Perry, who bashes federal spending everywhere he goes on the presidential campaign trail, has spent 11 years as Texas' governor asking Washington for money.
Perry sought and received $24.2 billion in stimulus funding for Texas while saying the program was bad federal policy. He helped secure more than $100 million to protect against drug violence and illegal immigration on the Mexican border. The governor also endorsed his state's request for money under President Barack Obama's new health care law, though he now promises to help repeal the measure should he win the White House.
Most of all, Perry asked for emergency federal aid for victims of wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, flooding and crop-killing heat waves and freezes in his state's 254 counties. Texans hit by natural disasters "deserve a more immediate, compassionate response from their federal government," Perry wrote in a November 2009 letter complaining that the Housing and Urban Development Department was slow in aiding hurricane victims.
I'm not going to get into Rick Perry's psyche here. It's pretty obvious that he would do a disservice to his state by not seeking Federal aid, and while he may be the blazingly closeted hypocrite this article makes him out to be, we should remember that Barack Obama made a similar pledge (about accepting campaign contributions and lobbyists serving in his administration) but finds himself cozying up to special interests, lobbyists and the corporatocracy, all to get re-elected.
Similarly, tax breaks for the rich aren't about to go away so long as those rich can pony up more money than Croesus to serve to candidates and for "issue ads" and superpacs. Stephen Colbert's Colbert Superpac is one of the cleverest political satires I've ever seen, bringing to the forefront a vital issue while at the same time making a spectacle of it.
Government spending, campaign finance reform, inequitable taxation; none of these are likely to go away anytime soon barring a massive revolt from you and me, I'm afraid.
There's more. Much more: transparency in governance, election reform (to prevent the...to put it politely...pre-counting of votes), accountability, and the chance to be heard by your elected representatives. None of these are likely to change anytime in the near future.
The Occupy folks have it right. We as a people cannot sit idly by in private, becoming disgusted and dismayed at the direction our nation is taking. We must take action, even if that action is to sit idly by in public, demonstrating our disgust and dismay on national television night after night.
It's easy to mock OWS as a bunch of confused kids with no clue what they want or how to go about getting it, but you know what?
They're one step ahead of the rest of us. We're all confused. They're just admitting it.