Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Revolution 6, Part 3, "I Love LA"


Resting at Tent City

In The Streets of Los Angeles

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about Occupy Wall Street. She said to me “This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life”. I told her I feel exactly the same way.
The only difference is that she’s in her early twenties, and I’m in my early fifties. -David Michael Green, professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.

At the end of last Friday's "Countdown," show with Keith Olbermann, on Current TV, Keith stated that he had been asked by many to write and air one of his famous "Special Comments," regarding the Occupation Wall Street (OWS) movement. He said that upon reflection he already had.
He was referring to his August 1st, 2011 special comment regarding the battle over raising the national debt ceiling, and the compromises the democrats and President Obama had to make in order to end the debacle, raise the ceiling, and keep the government from shutting down. In it he called for a time when the American people got angry enough with the status quo to wake from their lethargy and go to the streets in protest.
Before that though, in his outrage over the deal, he makes some fine points concerning the state of the government and economy that have a direct bearing on why those who are occupying Wall Street now are doing so.
Here it is:

"I close, as promised, with a Special Comment on the debt deal.
Our government has now given up the concept of right and wrong.
We have, in this deal, declared that we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all political incumbents are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Re-nomination, re-election, and the pursuit of hypocrisy.
We have, in this deal, gone from the Four Freedoms to the Four Great Hypocrisies.
We have superceded Congress to facilitate 750 billion dollars in domestic cuts including Medicare in order to end an artificially-induced political hostage crisis over debt, originating from the bills run up by a Republican president who funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex by unfunded, unnecessary, and unproductive wars, enabled in doing so by the very same Republican leaders who now cry for balanced budgets - and we have called it compromise. And those who defend it have called it a credit to a pragmatic president who wins some sort of political "points" because, having stood for almost nothing here, he gave away almost nothing for which he stood.
It would be comical if it were not tragic.
Either way, it is a signal moment in our history, in which both parties have agreed and codified that the political structure of this nation shall now be based entirely on hypocrisy and political self-perpetuation.
Let us start with the first of the Great Hypocrisies: The Committee. The Republican dogs can run back to their corporate masters and say they have forced one-and-one-half trillion dollars in cuts and palmed off the responsibility for them on this nonsensical "Super Congress" committee.
For two-and-a-half brutal years we have listened to these Tea Party mountebanks screech about the Constitution of the United States as if it were the revealed word and not the product of other - albeit far better - politicians. They demand the repeal of Amendments they don't like, and the strict interpretation of the ones they do, and the specific citation of authorization within the Constitution for every proposed act or expenditure or legislation.
Except this one.
Where does it say in the Constitution that the two houses of Congress can, in effect, create a third house to do its dirty work for it; to sacrifice a few Congressmen and Senators so the vast majority of incumbents can tell the voters they had nothing to do with this?
This leads to the second of the Great Hypocrisies: how, in the same breath, the Republicans can create an extra-Constitutional "Super Congress" and yet also demand a Constitutional Amendment to force the economic stupidity that would be a mandated balanced budget.
Firstly, pick a side, ignore the constitution or adhere to it.
And of what value would this Mandated Balanced Budget be? Our own history proves that at a time of economic crisis, if the businesses aren't spending, and the consumers aren't spending, the government must. Our ancestors were the lab rats in the horrible experiments of the Hoover Administration that brought on the Great Depression, in which the government curled up into a ball while it simultaneously insisted the economy should heal itself, when, in times of crisis - then and now - the economy turns out to be comprised entirely of a bunch of rich people who will sit on their money no matter if the country starves.
Forgotten in the Republican Voodoo dance, dressed in the skins of the mythical Balanced Budget, triumphant over the severed head of short-term retrenchment that they can hold up to their moronic followers, are the long-term implications of the mandated Balanced Budget.
What happens if there's ever another… war?
Or another… terrorist attack?
Or another… natural disaster?
Or any other emergency that requires a government to spend a dollar more than it has? A Constitutional Amendment denying us the right to run a deficit, is madness, and it will be tested by catastrophe sooner than any of its authors with their under-developed imaginations that can count only contributions and votes, can contemplate.
And the third of the Great Hypocrisies is hidden inside the shell game that is the Super Congress. TheSuper Congress is supposed to cut evenly from domestic and defense spending, but if it cannot agree on those cuts, or Congress will not endorse them, there will be a "trigger" that automatically cuts a trillion-two or more - but those cuts will not necessarily come evenly from the Pentagon. We are presented with an agreement that seems to guarantee the gutting of every local sacred cow from the Defense Department. Except if the Congressmen and Senators to whom the cows are sacred, disagree, and overrule, or sabotage the Super Congress, or, except if for some reason a 12-member Committee split evenly along party lines can't manage to avoid finishing every damned vote 6-to-6.
We're cutting Defense. Unless we're not.
The fourth of the Great Hypocrisies is the evident agreement to not add any revenues to the process of cutting. Not only is the impetus to make human budget sacrifices out of the poor and dependent formalized… but the rich and the corporations are thus indemnified, again, and given more money not merely to spend on themselves and their own luxuries, but more vitally, they are given more money to spend on buying politicians, and legislatures, and courts, buying entire states, all of which can be directed like so many weapons, in the service of one cause and one cause alone: making by statute and ruling, the further protection of the wealthy at the expense of everybody else, untouchable, inviolable - permanent.
The White House today boasted of loopholes to be closed and tax breaks to be rescinded -- later.
By a committee.
A committee that has yet to be formed.
There are no new taxes. Except the stealth ones, enacted on 99 out of 100 Americans by this evil transaction. Every dollar cut from the Safety Net is another dollar added to the citizen's cost for education, for security, for health, for life itself. It is another dollar he can't spend on making a better life for himself, or at least his children. It is another dollar he must spend instead on simply keeping himself alive.
Where is the outrage over these Great Hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media, for whom access is of greater importance than criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don't buy newspapers or can't leap website paywalls or could not afford cable TV?
Do you expect it to come from a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance, but only perceive how to get elected, or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves, who will merely calculate whether or not it's right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions?
Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country, with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, social media, sports, and trivia?
Where is the outrage to come from?
From you!
It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.
It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the 'free press,' the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive details about exactly how the bank robbers emptied the public's pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.
It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can't hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.
The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing of hatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.
And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960's and early 1970's and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs - but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.
It is from an old and almost clich├ęd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you've got to get mad.
I cannot say to you, meet there or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.
Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not, do so.

Good night, and good luck."

"We are The ninety nine percent! We are The ninety nine percent!"

"We are the people! The mighty might people. We are the people! The mighty might people."

Last Saturday, after getting a nice tamale, rice and beans from the good Hispanic people who come down to the sidewalks near Gladys Park every week to give away tamales, rice and beans, to the homeless people who line up to get them, I returned home and ate. They gave me some nice hot coco too!
I didn't eat the tamale though. I'd save that for later. For lunch specifically.
After that I did some administrative work that needed to be done, then headed out again. I wanted to check out the tent city I'd seen on the south lawn of city hall the day before while riding the bus. The number 40 bus specifically.
It drove right by there.
I have to admit I don't watch much local news on television. I'm a national and international news junkie, rather than a local one. I don't know why.
My friend Ron is just the opposite.
Anyway, People had been camping out at city hall for a couple of weeks by then, but I hadn't known about it.
I caught the 18 bus to Broadway, downtown, and then that same 40 bus north to 1st Street, and thus city hall.
The tents were still there, and so were a lot of people. I mingled.
Young and old alike, folks from all walks of life were hanging around, several hundred of them in fact. This must have been L.A.s version of OWS, I thought to myself. Pretty cool.
Shirtless young men were walking around, young women in short shorts. Middle aged and elderly, all together to make the same point as their cousins on Wall Street. Some were meditating, some were walking dogs, some were painting signs. Small children played. I saw one young man get all upset about his shoes. He started yelling and using profanities toward another gentleman. Ten or so nearby occupiers surrounded them and calmed things down fast.
Many were promoting one cause or another that didn't have a great deal to do with anger over economic inequality, or corporate greed, but that was okay. I'm sure they were there to protest that as well when the time came.
This is pretty much what I saw when I got there:
It was all pretty tame. I didn't see any police presence whatsoever. Far different than in New York where the police where everywhere. Upon returning home I did some research and found this:
Tina Dupuy of The Atlantic writes, "A few days ago some LAPD officers came by to donate bags of clothes; they're made available to anyone who needs them. The Occupiers offer free food, also provided by donors. There's a lending library and a first aid tent. I'm told the health department came the day before. They told everyone to wash their hands and not to eat melon, but Occupy LA generally passed inspection."
Don't eat the melon. We've spoken about those melons. It was good advice.
I learned that the LA occupation was rather well regarded by the powers that be, those who worked in that big building they were all camped next to.
LA City Council members had made frequent visits to tent city. Our City Council President, and soon to be mayoral candidate, Eric Garcetti, who holds an annual Government 101 seminar at City Hall to help citizens make better use of the political system, had been down at Occupy LA recruiting participants for the next year's tutorial. Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Bill Rosendahl also are staunch supporters of the Occupation.
Ms Dupuy writes, "But it was Councilmember Richard Alarcon who was approached by one of his constituents, a member of the City Liaison Committee for Occupy LA, Mario Brito, to support this demonstration. Alarcon tells The Atlantic, '[Occupy LA] is exhibiting the frustration of people throughout America.'
Alarcon's resulting City Council resolution in support of the demonstrators reads like an Occupy Wall Street manifesto: 'WHEREAS, the causes and consequences of the economic crisis are eroding the very social contract upon which the Constitution that the United States of America was founded; namely, the ability of Americans to come together and form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense of, promote the general welfare of, and secure the blessings of liberty for all, allowing every American to strive for and share in the prosperity of our nation through cooperation and hard work;.' It's a three-page resolution mentioning Citizens United, foreclosures, wealth inequality, Egypt and corporate personhood."
He said it was the longest resolution he had ever written.
All the occupiers were getting ready to march down to Pershing Square. They didn't have to worry about the police rushing in after they were gone and taking over the place. The police, whose great new Parker Center Station was just across the street, didn't seem to care.
Only a few hundred here, no wonder the police were not too concerned. I was mildly disappointed that our fair city couldn't muster up a larger and livelier crowd.
After a while I decided to leave. I wanted to catch a bus to the dollar store in Whittier to buy some mustard, and headed back to Broadway. I caught a southbound bus and got off at the stop between 5th and 6th. But I saw something as we passed 5th Street that made me walk back that way to take a closer look.
What I saw was thousands of protestors on 5th and Hill getting ready to march.
Thousands. The L.A. Times must be owned by Rupert Murdoch or something, or is just suffering from the general corporate media malaise, as it reported in the next days edition, "Hundreds March Downtown." Well I guess it was true. Tens of hundreds, which means thousands.
I know because I counted each and every one of them. By the time I left I was up to 5,365, and there were more coming all of the time (I had to make this calculation twice as when I got up to 4,110 the first time, two young ladies wearing short shorts walked by distracting me, and I had to start all over).
Again, families came out, young people, old people, girls in short shorts (hey, I'm just reporting this stuff. I certainly can't control what these women wear. It wasn't even that hot outside), young men now with their shirts on. Kids holding signs. People in their sixties holding signs and every age in between. They were pounding drums, blowing on horns, snaking snakerdoodles and hodgepodges. And it looked like they were all having a good time.
But they were earnest in the common cause that had brought them there. ""We are The ninety nine percent! We are The ninety nine percent!" "We are the people! The mighty might people. We are the people! The mighty might people." They kept shouting.
The crowd moved in mass west on 5th up to Grand Avenue, the heart of the Los Angeles financial district, where all the big buildings are, like the Library Tower (now the US Bank Tower), the tallest building west of the Mississippi. They took a right on Grand, on up the hill, the same route of the Red Bull Soap Box Derby, only in reverse. I marched with them a few blocks. I shouted too.
This is what the Los Angeles Times wrote about it in the next day's paper:
Later in the day I walked through the windy, crowded canyons of downtown Los Angeles, after buying some incense at the incense store.
It was still crowded, yet not nearly as so when the marchers were about to take off. It's always crowded downtown except for in the depths of night, when the streets are nearly empty, inhabited only by those you don't want to meet.
And as I walked I thought to myself that today I saw, and participated in something truly wonderful, something without precedent, something so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.
And I knew I would never forget it.
A day when the disenfranchised, the rippoffed, the aggrieved of America began to wake up and take action.
Maybe we'll do it again this weekend.

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