Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Autumn of Our Discontent

Daryl Hannah at the White House

Last Friday marked the end of summer and the beginning of Autumn, and the protest continued.
For a week now hundreds to thousands of demonstrators, mostly young people, have flooded lower Manhattan's financial district, or as close as the police would allow them to get to it, protesting against the economic policies of Wall Street, mainly the corruption and greed which allow bailed out firms and banks to continue rampant speculation that fueled the countries economic collapse of 2008, and the major banks foreclosures of hundreds of thousands of homes throughout the nation, allowing these institutions to gain huge profits for its stockholders and top management, while the rest of the country wallowed in economic destitution. (see "Revolution 5" http://joycestake.blogspot.com/2011/09/revolution-5.html)
As I've mentioned earlier, the mainstream media has taken little notice of this action, as it does with so many progressive causes. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) suggested, "The answer to the problem of non-coverage would seem to be simple: If the people occupying Wall Street want more media attention, they should just call themselves Tea Party activists," as the corporate controlled media seems to fall all over themselves when ever and where ever the Tea Baggers are involved, but tend to ignore legitimate demonstrations from the left such as recent sit-ins in front of the White House protesting the proposed building of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas when about 1,000 people were arrested (see "Tar and Sand" http://joycestake.blogspot.com/2011/09/tar-and-sand.html)
When the hometown paper, the New York Times did cover the story, the reporter seems to belittle and trash the movement due to it's wide range of focus, size, and the character of those involved:
Gunning for Wall Street, With Faulty Aim
"By late morning on Wednesday, Occupy Wall Street, a noble but fractured and airy movement of rightly frustrated young people, had a default ambassador in a half-naked woman who called herself Zuni Tikka. A blonde with a marked likeness to Joni Mitchell and a seemingly even stronger wish to burrow through the space-time continuum and hunker down in 1968, Ms. Tikka had taken off all but her cotton underwear and was dancing on the north side of Zuccotti Park, facing Liberty Street, just west of Broadway. Tourists stopped to take pictures; cops smiled, and the insidiously favorable tax treatment of private equity and hedge-fund managers was looking as though it would endure.
Members retained hope for an infusion of energy over the weekend, but as it approached, the issue was not that the Bastille hadn’t been stormed, but that its facade had suffered hardly a chip. It is a curious fact of life in New York that even as the disparities between rich and poor grow deeper, the kind of large-scale civil agitation that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg recently suggested might happen here hasn’t taken shape."
Some said they were fighting the legal doctrine of corporate personhood; others, not fully understanding what that meant, believed it meant corporations paid no taxes whatsoever. Others came to voice concerns about the death penalty, the drug war, the environment.
The group’s lack of cohesion and its apparent wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgeably is unsettling in the face of the challenges so many of its generation face — finding work, repaying student loans, figuring out ways to finish college when money has run out. But what were the chances that its members were going to receive the attention they so richly deserve carrying signs like “Even if the World Were to End Tomorrow I’d Still Plant a Tree Today”?
One day, a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Adam Sarzen, a decade or so older than many of the protesters, came to Zuccotti Park seemingly just to shake his head. “Look at these kids, sitting here with their Apple computers,” he said. “Apple, one of the biggest monopolies in the world. It trades at $400 a share. Do they even know that?” -Ginia Bellafante
I wonder how Ms Bellafante would have reported on the anti-war and Peace movements of 1968?
Fortunately many of the readers of this took the demonstrations, and demonstrators more seriously, and wished to set the author straight via their comments. Here's what Laura from New Jersey wrote yesterday:
"What we have is a growing group, all over the US, of unemployed young people with expensive degrees with few prospects of anything other than a job at Walmart or McDonalds. They grew up in a world of middle-class expectations. They are facing a third-world future as debt slaves in depressing soul-crushing jobs. They are angry, full of youthful energy, and are seeking a purpose. This country is shooting itself in the foot if we don't get together to make this economy work for them. I feel sorry for these kids and I feel sorry for all of us that we've allowed this situation to develop and continue. And, yes, these kids may not have a coherent message but they're in the right place. Previous generations (including my own just before them) have screwed up so badly that our only hope is that these kids can figure it out and dig us all out. I wish them well and I'm rooting for them."
And Pam from Brooklyn:
"I am extremely disappointed in the way the Times and other media outlets have been first ignoring and then belittling this movement. The ending comment about Apple in particular is dismissive and reductive: the problem is not in corporations per se. Corporations are neutral entities, which can be forces of good if run ethically and transparently by human beings. I'm impressed by the way the people at occupywallst.org have harnessed technology to communicate, organize, and mobilize - and yes, companies like Apple, Twitter, Facebook have created said technology. Companies can and do create marvelous things at times.
The problem, though, is the greed, lack of compassion, and shirking of societal responsibility that's currently being exhibited by many of the wealthiest people behind those companies. They are not paying their share in taxes and are being protected by several unethical members of Congress (who have in turn benefited from corporate money which helped get them elected in the first place.) And that is wrong.
Yes, we have a whole host of problems to tackle right now, so it's no wonder messages seem mixed. But the bottom line is this: the wealthiest people of our nation need to pay their fair share in taxes. That money, in turn, should go toward investing in our future: in education, healthcare, innovation in industry (thus a revitalization of our economy), and a sustainable ecosystem. To do anything other than that would be fatally short-sighted.
The wealthiest of our nation have benefited greatly from this system. But it's time for them to be held accountable, and to pay their fair share. And many of them, such as Warren Buffett, are happy to do so. They know it's not only the right thing to do - it is also the only way to keep our economy healthy, so that they can continue to be successful. If there is no middle class to buy your goods and services, that is death for business. This is not class warfare. It is just common sense."
Last Saturday, New York's finest, our first responders during 9/11, followed their corporate masters orders and took a much harder stance toward the demonstrators. I don't know why.
A large march was planned for noon on Saturday. Several hundred marchers paraded around the plaza to their favorite chant, “All Day, All Week! Occupy Wall Street!” They then headed off to try and get to Wall Street, where police arrested several of them. From there, the march continued up to Union Square, two and a half miles north. It arrived there, then turned south again toward Liberty Plaza. Around 3 p.m., near Fifth Avenue and 12th Street, the police became aggressive. Unrolling plastic orange barriers, they isolated a crowd of marchers, along with the reporters following them, and began mass arrests for blocking traffic. They were described as being brutal. Caught on cameras were scenes of one protester being dragged by her hair, others being slammed into the pavement, and a group of women, netted, or what is called, kettled, being downed by pepper spray or mace. In total, police say they arrested 80 people. The march thereafter dispersed, and those who weren’t arrested made their way back to Liberty Plaza.
The police claim their action, caught on video and placed online, were appropriate, that the young ladies attacked them somehow. The video shows otherwise, with the officer dressed in white, denoting a senior officer, spraying these helpless girls with pepper spray for apparently no reason whatsoever, then quickly disappearing back into the crowd. Kind of a sucker spray. It has been discovered that the officer in question has displayed this type of behavior prior to these demonstrations.
Come on Mayor Bloomberg! Rain in your hired thugs!
Here's the video:
I watched Keith Olbermann interview one of the protest's leaders, a young man who claimed to be the first to get pepper spayed by police. He admitted that the protests were rather unfocused, with various goals pursued by various people, and that was one of their strengths. That this was a young movement, one with room to grow as long as there remains so much corruption and inequality in our country. He said he held no animosity toward the police, as they too were being hurt by the actions of those on Wall Street as well, and he hoped that they would soon come to realize this.
Who are these people? Us.
Author Linh Dinh explores this:
"But who are us, exactly? Us are the poor and the middle class, unions, retirement funds and governments at all levels, federal, state and city. Us are 99%, according to the mostly young protesters at Liberty Park in NYC. Nearly everyone got ripped off, including the cops guarding these protesters. As a protest sign sweetly and innocently demands: “Say Sorry! To All of Us!”
After eight days of protest, over a hundred people have already been arrested. Several have been roughed up, with cops being caught on still and video cameras pepper spraying or yanking the hair of young women, or slamming people to the ground. Sadly, these cops are fighting against their own interest. Bankrupted by Wall Street, cities all over America are laying off policemen left and right. Why defend the crooks of Wall Street, cops, when they have directly caused many of your colleagues to be thrown onto the streets? When you yourself may end up on a park bench in the near future?"
Perhaps the police would be more sympathetic and the New York Times clear on what it is the protesters are protesting if they just listened to those who actually work on Wall Street. Remember in November of 2009 when Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told London’s Sunday Times that he is just a banker “doing God’s work.” which included 21.9 billion set aside for bonuses after he took $10 billion from Washington’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (Sachs did pay it back, with 23% interest).
God's work.
And trader (and professional speaker) Allesio Rastani explained quite clearly yesterday the ideals of Wall Street to the BBC. Hedge funds and other smart/big money firms "don't care" about the Eurozone and are moving away from that market. "Most traders don't really care that much how they're [governments] going to fix the economy," he said. "Our job is to make money from it... I have a confession. I go to bed every night and dream of another recession." And, the real admission: "The governments don't rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world."
In any case thanks to the efforts of the NYPD, this little advertised protest, this burgeoning movement, has now gained national, possibly international prominence in the media.
So now is the time, perhaps, that the real work begins.

Donate to OWS here: http://www.nycga.net/how-to-help/

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