Turning occupation into lasting change

Photo: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

The history of populist uprisings like Occupy Wall Street isn’t a reassuring one. The last one to have any staying power was the populist farmers revolt of the 1800’s, and it was aggressively dismantled by everyone from the two major political parties to the banks and railroad corporations of its day.

Most revolts are snuffed out well before their efforts impact the political scene – not because their ideas and issues aren’t relevant, but because the major institutional players within the system-that-is rapidly attempt to snag the power and energy for their own. In the eyes of the Democratic Party or the national environmental groups, this revolt is merely seen as an opportunity to assimilate newly emerging troops back into those groups’ own flaccid and ineffective organizing. After all, if those institutional groups have actually been effective all of these years, why the need for a revolt at all?

It’s when these revolts become mainstreamed by their “friends” within existing institutions that they lose their steam, and become just one more footnote in an endless stream of footnotes of revolts that have burned out early. The pundits and “experts” are already trying to put this revolt in its place. A recent New York Times editorial declared that it “isn’t the job of these protesters to write legislation.” That, the editorial argued, was what the national politicians need to do. The Times couldn’t be more wrong.

If the Occupy movement is to succeed over time, it must follow the lead of community rights building efforts that have begun work to dismantle the body of law that perpetually subordinates people, community and nature to wealthy corporate minorities. For example:

• In November 2010, Pittsburgh’s city council stripped corporations seeking to drill for natural gas of their corporate personhood rights, protections of the commerce and contracts clauses of the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions and the right to pre-empt community ordinances with federal or state law (PDF).

• In March 2011, for the first time since Ecuador added rights for nature to its Constitution, a judge stopped destructive corporate development in a suit brought by ordinary residents on behalf of the Vilcabamba River.

• This November, Spokane residents will vote on Proposition One which 1) grants neighborhoods complete control over local development, 2) affords rights and protections to the Spokane River and Aquifer, 3) grants Constitutional protections to employees in the workplace and 4) makes People’s right’s superior to corporate rights.

These communities, and many like them, have begun adopting Community Bills of Rights, which elevate the rights of people and nature above the rights of corporations and their minority of decision makers. It’s not another exercise in putting out good-sounding statements; but a seizure of governmental lawmaking authority to make government work on behalf of a majority, rather than continuing to serve as a colonized entity to corporations.

Instead of diluting themselves to meet the needs of already-institutionalized groups who aren’t going anywhere; the Occupy folks must move in the opposite direction – deepening and strengthening their effort by demanding structural change in how the current system operates. That means moving away from the institutional advocacy promoted by mainstream progressive organizations (which has proven to be utterly ineffective against the type of consolidated wealth that makes decisions about every aspect of our lives today) and towards a new form of advocacy and activism. Rather than negotiating the terms of our de-occupation, we must rewrite the very rules under which our system operates.

Mainstream progressive groups have failed by constraining their activities within legal and regulatory systems purposefully structured to subordinate communities to corporate power. Real movements don’t operate that way. Abolitionists never sought to regulate the slave trade – they sought freedom and rights for slaves. Suffragists didn’t seek concessions but demanded the right for all women to vote. The Occupy movement must begin to use lawmaking activities in cities and towns to build a new legal structure of rights that empowers community majorities over corporate minorities, rather than the other way around.

It’s taken a centuries’ worth of manufactured and concocted legal doctrines, so that corporations and their decision makers wield not only our legislatures against us, but also the courts – to protect their property, wealth, and decision-making from popular control. Our country’s wealth inequality did not arise overnight but slowly as the corporate minority eviscerated almost every memory of any democratic system.

They’ve built a system not only which allows those with the most wealth to have the most decision-making power; but one in which even our constitutional rights have now been bestowed onto corporate “persons”; thus insulating them from governing authority.

What’s been happening in communities such as Pittsburgh and Spokane since the early 2000’s is a revolution that anchors itself in basic local, lawmaking powers derived from our innate right to self-government. Residents of over a hundred rural American communities have now seized their local governments (in some cases, literally) by using municipal lawmaking power to recognize rights for nature, to strip corporations of certain claimed rights, and to elevate community decision-making rights above the claimed “rights” of corporate decision makers. In the process, they’ve stopped everything from proposed corporate hog factory farms, to natural gas “fracking” and corporate water withdrawals.

These communities have begun to understand that the specific issues that affect them cannot be solved without dismantling a structure of law, government, and culture that guarantees that corporate minorities will continue to make decisions on energy, agriculture, and resource extraction.

Occupy Wall Street must become Occupy New York City – with groups of New Yorkers seizing the City and its Boroughs and using the municipal entities to align their governing structures with their demands. That may mean eliminating corporate rights within the City, recognizing the rights of neighborhoods, and restoring labor rights within the workplace.

Occupy Seattle and Portland must actually occupy their municipalities – via citizen initiatives and other processes and begin to change the law with which their cities operate by eliminating corporate rights and privileges.

It means understanding that the system that is, in which a corporate minority wields a stranglehold over 99% of us, won’t change just because one bill is introduced into Congress, or promises are made by financial institutions. Structural change – focused on reversing “who decides” on policies from energy to transportation to finance – must be forced; and we must use our cities and towns to drive upwards against state and federal frameworks of law that protect decision-making authority by the other 1%. It means that, in each of the cities where we live, we need to start working together to define the rights we need and then use those municipal structures to obtain them.

As winter nears, the Occupy movement should take note of community organizer’s Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag." There may only be a brief window to convert street level momentum into organized rights-legislating movements in each of its local communities.

Cross-posted from Turning Occupation into Lasting Change [Envision Seattle]



  1. Set simple goals and demands. Support ONLY candidates who will support to these demands.

    1. Overturn Citizens United.
    2. Introduce and Pass Legislation for Strong Campaign Finance Reform.
    3. Implementation and Strengthening of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform.

    It would be a good start.

  2. Well. We’ve got direct vote by the polity on Propositions out here in California. Ask me how well I think that’s going.

    (Although that stripping corporate personhood thing is pretty cool. That’s like rubbing the E off of a golum’s forehead.)

  3. I wrote a recent blog post about Occupy and will copy it here: I’ve been contemplating these fantastic demonstrations the last week or so. Someone mentioned the other day that it was sometimes hard to take these people seriously who are taking aim at corporate America and the most wealthy 1 percent because there is video of them using a laptop or standing in line to buy a cup of Starbucks.

    And of course, the fact of the matter is that most Americans DO contribute (and it’s hard not to) to the greater corporate machine, but we are also all part of the 99 percent that DON’T have a say in policy anymore. Starbucks isn’t the problem, Apple isn’t the problem, Chase and Citi are.

    I don’t think faulting the entire world of corporations is really an issue for the movement as a total. The real issue is WE would like to have a say for once in the last 30 years..

    I have to admit, most people that I know and my own little family of me, my wife and the dogs are very fortunate for what we have and could very easily dismiss this movement IF we had no empathy for the very real struggles of many of our fellow Americans.

    That’s the goal of the corporate media right now (particularly Fox). To dismiss this and to get other working Americans to dismiss this whole thing as a bunch of hippies who should be at work.

    Rather, the real issue is that we’ve all had our pockets picked and we are in danger of becoming a third world nation with nothing but two classes. The power to decide policy and the gap between the rich and the rest of the USA has radically changed for the worse in the last 30 years. I think that’s what this is about.

    These people, mostly pretty young and the bulk of the rest of gen x like us are in the middle of a recession/depression for the first time as working adults and it’s scary.

    But the scariest part is that it was avoidable, it was deliberate and we have no way to stop it, fix it or compel those WITH the power to do something to change their policy. I think that’s why people are marching in the USA. They want a real voice.

  4. I have heard a lot talk about the Occupy movement being the “lefts” answer to the Tea Party movement. Not sure if that is accurate… yet. The Tea Party had protests, sure, but they seemed to start by organizing a political machine first. This allows the various Tea Party groups to create change by working within the present system. It is a heck of lot easier than trying to change the “system” from the outside.

    1. they seemed to organize the machine first because the Koch brothers paid political operatives to build a “grassroots machine”.

    2. But OWS is creating its own systems, even right down to securing food and shelter. It’s a mircocosm of a more ideal, more just society, “be the change you want to see” sort of thing. Every human act is political, right down to where we go potty, and I’m wondering when folks takling about OWS will realize this about the movement: it is a political machine, just one radically like what we’re used to expecting, so let’s not stretch or cut them on the Procrustrean bed of our limited expectations.

    3. I have heard a lot talk about the Occupy movement being the “lefts” answer to the Tea Party movement. Not sure if that is accurate… yet. The Tea Party had protests, sure, but they seemed to start by organizing a political machine first. This allows the various Tea Party groups to create change by working within the present system. It is a heck of lot easier than trying to change the “system” from the outside.

      Tea baggers tried “easy” and “easier” didn’t work.  Systemic change is going to take time, some patience, persistence and above all… solidarity.

      Other groups begged tea baggers to show up to Wall Street with them a long time ago, but tea baggers didn’t get the buses and resources to do it – so they didn’t make the effort. Just as “magically” as tea baggers got buses, etc. via the Koch brothers, etc. for protests against regulations – the help “magically” disappeared for actually doing something that mattered.

      Without corporate funding, tea baggers just couldn’t seem to make the effort… yet, tea baggers call everyone else lazy? It’s a bunch of projection and ironic. And most of the indoctrinated tea baggers didn’t seem that interested in it anyway since the Koch brother think tanks and media didn’t put their stamp of approval on it.

      The tea baggers were an ineffective corporatist front with willing and (sadly unwilling) pawns marching Koch brother think tank junk food talking points.  Sorry, I don’t have respect for that.  One only has to look at the sorry (and crazy) tea bagger candidates to know what a failure for the American public it has been.  It’s a lot of people unknowingly working against their very own interests.

      We have no desire for that nonsense.  The one great thing the tea baggers showed us is what NOT to do.  And, for that… we thank you.

    4. I don’t think the Occupy movement can expect the kind of success that the Tea Party has had working within the existing power structure. The Tea Party has only succeeded where their demands coincided with the wishes of the powerful moneyed interests that dominate national politics. Their criticisms of corporate overreach have made little headway within the political machine they’ve aligned themselves with.

      1. I don’t think the Occupy movement can expect the kind of success that the Tea Party has had working within the existing power structure.

        Thank God.

  5. “The last one to have any staying power was the populist farmers revolt of the 1800’s”

    O’rly?   So… India didn’t gain independence via a Populist Uprising?  How about the Civil Rights Movement…ever heard of it? 

    1. I think they’re referring mainly to American populist movements. But I’d throw in there that there’s one big difference with Occupy Wall Street–the existence of the Internet.

  6. Sure, go for that as a long term goal.  Just along the way, could your first step be just one tiny concrete solid thing like repealing Gramm-Leach-Bliley to place derivative regulation under the FDIC?

    It would go a long way toward proving the credibility and seriousness of the movement if there’s at least one goal in between here and total overthrow of the system.

    1. The Onion nailed these “demands” criticisms pretty well:

      Nation Waiting For Protesters To Clearly Articulate Demands Before Ignoring Them

      NEW YORK—As the Occupy Wall Street protest expands and grows into a
      nationwide movement, Americans are eagerly awaiting a list of demands
      from the group so they can then systematically disregard them and
      continue going about their business, polls showed this week. “The
      protesters need to unify around a shared agenda with precise policy
      goals so I can begin paying no attention to them whatsoever,” said
      Tulsa, OK poll respondent Kaye Petrachonis, echoing the thoughts of
      millions across the country. “If they don’t have a clear power structure
      organized around specific demands first, then I’ll never be able to
      completely tune them out due to a political conflict of interest or an
      inability to comprehend complex, detailed economic concepts. These
      people really need to get their act together.” Once Occupy Wall Street
      has a concrete set of objectives in place, the majority of Americans
      said they would go back to waiting for the sluggish economy to recover
      while blindly accepting things the way they are.

      1. Nice Onion piece, but as you surely note, precisely the opposite of both my comment and the original post.  I’m not saying “wait”, I’m saying “act now – here’s a goal.”  

        It’s a goal most of those in the OWS movement already support, and it is often referenced in interviews and on protest signs.  It’s a goal endorsed by both Stiglitz and Krugman.  It is supported and stated as a primary and necessary first step by both Matt Taibbi and Elizabeth Warren.

        I’m not trying to derail the movement by the deceptive game of pretending to miss the point or to not hear them.

        I’m saying that there are many possible goals.  One that is universally agreed upon is repeal Gramm-Leach-Bliley.  So let’s do it along the way to goals more long-term and comprehensive.

        (edited to correct spelling of “Taibbi”… double-b for a double dose of his pimpin’)

        1. I’m not trying to derail the movement by the deceptive game of pretending to miss the point or to not hear them.

          I’m glad for that.   I think G.L.B. is just one of many problems in need of fixing though, and I’m not sure how well it works as a general rallying point to get people fired up over taking on an elite class that’s trying to extract wealth from the economy in a myriad of ways.  I may be wrong…

  7. “Okay people, it’s time to dismantle the Spectacle. Try not to get recuperated in the process.”

  8. I hope that a large popular movement can force changes to the structure of the system.   There really are only a few ways this can go.

    1. The will of the people forces changes to be made in the system to wrest control away from the rich and super rich.
    2. The people give up and everything stays the same.
    3. The movement is co-opted and peters out.
    4. There is some sort of crackdown which will lead to either: #2 or

    #5 Time to start construction of Guillotines.

    1. 1. The will of the people forces changes to be made in the system to wrest control away from the rich and super rich.
      2. The people give up and everything stays the same.
      3. The movement is co-opted and peters out.
      4. There is some sort of crackdown which will lead to either: #2 or

      #5 Time to start construction of Guillotines.

      I think the most likely possibility is, “existing parties and politicians, out of either self interest or a sincere desire to represent their constituents, adopt some of the protests’ goals. Through that mechanism, the protests force significant and permanent change, but not revolution. Some, but not all, demands are met.” It isn’t exciting or anything… but I think it is more likely than people giving up, or being put down.

  9. He’s referring to the Populist movement that lasted from ~1880s to 1896 when the party that they created, the People’s Party, ran a fusion ticket w/ the Democrats and then, in so many words, was co-opted or ran out of steam….  I would disagree that it was a failure.  Populists were rural and mostly focused in the Midwest, West, and parts of the South.   Their banner was picked up by rural, Eastern (and other large population center) Progressives, who passed much of their agenda in the next 2 decades.  

    In the 2nd paragraph, he is right, generally speaking, that the history of 3rd party movements (should they coalesce to that degree) become subsumed by one of the two major parties, thus maintaining the 2-party hegemony.  I’m gonna block quote Hofstatder:

    “Major parties have lived more for patronage than for principles; their goal has been to bind together a sufficiently large coalition of diverse interests to get into power; and once in power, to arrange sufficiently satisfactory compromises of interests to remain there. Minor parties have been attached to some special idea or interest, and they have generally expressed their positions through firm and identifiable programs and principles. Their function has not been to win or govern, but to agitate, educate, generate new ideas, and supply the dynamic element in our political life. When a third party’s demands become popular enough, they are appropriated by one or both of the major parties and the third party disappears. Third parties are like bees: once they have stung, they die.” (from the “Age of Reform”)

    I realize this isn’t exactly apples to apples to the whole of the article, I’m just fleshing out a couple of the early thoughts/statements.

  10. “Corporations in violation of the prohibition against natural gas extraction, or seeking to engage in natural gas extraction shall not have the rights of “persons” afforded by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, nor shall those corporations be afforded the protections of the commerce or contracts clauses within the United States Constitution or corresponding sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution.”

    I feel like we already settled the ability of the states (let alone municipalities) to nullify Federal laws. I feel like it was a big to-do at the time, although apparently we have all been so brainwashed to think the Civil War was about slavery that we don’t recognize that it was also about this issue. Pittsburgh’s ordinance looks like it does a lot of things right, but this one is definitely not kosher. At least they have a severability clause to save the good parts.

  11. I made a post at my own blog with my brief thoughts on this situation, here’s a better writeup of the ideas:

    I think what needs to happen is a  national assembly.  All the locals “Occupy [your city here]” need to elect delegates.  Those delegates go to a national convention with a list of voted upon demands from each local.  At the national conference, things can be hammered out in a final statement/list of demands and then brought back to the locals to vote upon.  If ratified, the next step would be working towards a plan – pushing candidates to accept or deny these demands, and face the movement.  It might be more than mere politics – pushing towards other forms of organizing against large corporations.

    The movement must, however, be focused.  It cannot dive into all sorts of side issues.  The progressives and libertarians (capitalist and socialist libertarians) can be brought together into an anti-corporate movement… But the focus has to really be there if we are to maintain cohesion and unity.  There will be fractures, as there always are.  But we can’t, as I have seen in one proposed manifesto, go into side issues such as animal rights or other things of that nature.  I am for all these things, but in order to attain the widest unity possible, we need to try to be as focused and cohesive as possible without straying too far into pet causes (we lefties just LOVE to do that).  Hell – there are people who work on Wall Street in the trenches who can be sympathetic to our cause if we frame it right.  We need to clarify what we mean by 1%.  We need to clarify what we mean by “Wall Street”.  Focus…  Make less enemies.  Make friends.

    In order to be focused, I think it’s imperative to come up with a key general goal.  As much as I’d love to overthrow capitalism, we have to recognize that’s not particularly feasible.  So, we work towards limiting the damage it can do.  Any attempt at making a platform towards that stated goal then will require any proposal or statement to have a rider attached indicating WHY and HOW it is expected to work to further the goal.

    This could get messy – talking about debt for example can easily lead to right wing talking points.  But focus on cutting the corporate welfare if debt is an issue.  Focus on the wars in foreign lands and war on drugs.  Two causes that can unite the libertarians and the socialists.  IF that is to be an issue…  It may not be.  It depends on what these assemblies end up passing.

    To sum up:

    1) Make the base movement as large as possible by focusing on a specific issue that both progressives and libertarians can agree on (hold Wall St. Accountable – stop the strengthening of corporations against individuals – encourage entrepreneurship, etc… )

    2) Create a national conference where local assemblies can send delegates along with their proposals.  The national conference hammers out details, then brings back a memorandum of agreement to be ratified by the local assemblies.

    3)  Any proposals MUST contain a rider explaining how the proposal is related to the overarching goal.  This can help minimize straying from the message.

    Just my own thoughts.  I hope to see this grow into a force to be reckoned up – keeping with a bottom-up principle of organization (I consider myself a libertarian socialist so desire local and autonomous methods of organization that can keep with the spirit of the movement).

    1. This all sounds very familiar. Apparently when the 1% of their age did it they had Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, et al. involved. Who wants to take the first cut at writing a new Federalist Paper #10?

      1. Heh – I think I should clarify that I’m not trying to be so bold as to call for a new constitutional convention (though I know it sounds similar).  While some folks would like such a thing (and have, in the past, called for it – both on the left and right) I think that such a big plan would hinder a more modest goal.  But we DO need propaganda.  I think a call for a new Federalist Paper in some ways is a good idea.  Something with more depth than the “Occupy Wall Street Journal” and something with a level of depth deeper than most things you read about on the internet.

        I fear the age of long discourse and intense debate about such matters has been long ago lost with the age of electronic communication and PR firms.

  12. It goes back to the old adage that all politics is local. Systemic change may ironically be a micro, not a macro, proposition. Simple, unified, grand gestures could be the domain of long-dead and dying dogmas.

  13. Well the Tea Party seems to have avoided this fate by starting a pseudo political party that people can associate with and donate money to. Maybe they are a good model to follow? Though I’m not sure the “Occupation Party” is the best choice for a name, I’m sure someone can come up with something.

  14. Most of the debt in question (for the protesters) are student loans, right? I recall a survey that said so.

    The stratospheric rise in tuition was caused by the government’s well-meaning student loan initiatives. (That and the change in bankruptcy law, of course.) 

    Think of it like inflation: Everyone knows that if a government starts printing money with wild abandon it causes inflation (see Zimbabwe). Well, what if instead of printing money they instead vouchers for $X off of a specific item, like televisions. You’d see price inflation in televisions.

    Replace vouchers with guaranteed loans and you’d get the same effect, albeit to a lesser extent because some people would realize that they’d have to pay it back.  College is a lot more desirable product than television, of course.  There’s huge social pressure for it, and it’s justified as an investment. Clearly it wasn’t a good investment for the people who are stuck jobless and with huge debt. At least not for the specific degrees they got anyway.

    So is Occupy Wall Street in favor of phasing out our government sponsored student loan programs? Clearly they’ve caused a lot of pain for the protesters themselves while making college less affordable.

    1. Thanks for bringing up something directly related to that laughable banner in the main pic. Because of course,  college loans = forced brutalization of a race of people.
      Calling this some kind reasoned awakening of higher ideals seems like a bad punchline. Most of the footage I’ve seen of chant-alongs and finger wiggling – all very high on emotion but low on reasoned answers. The signs in the pic seem like an unintentional sampling of the poor rationales that are doing more than enough to define the OWS movement:Debt? Debt -in the way of loans – allows people to buy things they need when they’re without the means of paying for it now. That’s a good thing for people who are betting on value and usefulness of the product, whether that’s a car or a college education. If you enter into a horrible loan contract, or purchase something that has a low chance of return on your investment (like my own liberal arts degree) then the blame for that debt (and the resp onsibility for settling it) rests squarely on you. Who was it that forced these people into the debt they are so vehemently opposed to?Common Good? Je-SUS. Who’s common good? How many people does it take to make a common good? There’s a reason so many of our laws and articles call for freedom of the individual. The idea that a group of people can make the best decisions for the common good of you or I is a horrible idea. It quickly gets turned on it’s ass if the largest ‘common’ group thinks bigotry or abortion are for the greater good. And of course none of us is ever selfish or irrational. People in huge groups are always selfless and rational! Bleah. Beating on drums and chanting along are not gonna magically coalesce into a ratified article of revolutionary economic principles. 

      1. Thanks for bringing up something directly related to that laughable banner in the main pic. Because of course,  college loans = forced brutalization of a race of people.

        You’d do yourself good to read more history.  Ever heard of indentured servants? That’s the direction we’re headed towards, not the other way around.

        Trite semantic arguments are a waste of everyone’s time.  Most of us understand the message without having to stumble over trite semantics in the process and don’t think she’s literally comparing student debt to literally being stuck in a horrific slave ship crossing the Atlantic ocean.  That’s just being obtuse and distracting from the point.

        So, why are you here anyway?  What do you hope to achieve with your rhetoric?  Your message is muddled.

        1. Curious to hear more of your thoughts on this statement “Ever heard of indentured servants? That’s the direction we’re headed towards”. I’m not seeing the connection, enlighten me.

          1. Curious to hear more of your thoughts on this statement “Ever heard of indentured servants? That’s the direction we’re headed towards”. I’m not seeing the connection, enlighten me.

            Enlighten me on where you fail to see any connection. Try harder. Apply yourself.

          2. While we are in high school and below we are constantly told that we have to get a college degree to make it anywhere in life, that if we do not go to college we will be unable to succeed at all and will fail. This is continuously beat into our heads by the media, our parents, teachers, newspapers, and almost everyone in between. When we do manage to go to college we are then expected to cover enormous costs that continue to rise every year at a rate which is un-sustainable. Working part-time, getting grants, scholarships, and busting your ass don’t cut it very often anymore, loans are almost a necessity of college life.

            Once we then graduate it’s extremely hard, if down right impossible, to find a job that pays enough to pay off the loans in a reasonable time, thereby extending how much longer you have to work making minimum wage or barely above it. Since you’re making minimum wage or very close to minimum wage you are then having to make the minimum payments as you have to make sure you can eat, have shelter, and have clothes. This makes your loan last even longer and the longer you work that dead end job the less able you are to earn experience to work in the field in which you earned a degree or were trying to get into therefore invalidating the entire damn thing. So now you’re paying off a loan for a degree that everyone and everything told you that you have to get in order to succeed while working a shitty job, unable to get a job that pays better because there is a severe lack of job, paying off a loan that eats away at you because if you miss one payment, there they go adding fees. And if you get hurt or sick? Well you don’t have insurance through your job so you’re paying out of pocket for that hospital bill and have just fell into a massive pit of depression since you will never be able to pay off those bills without living in a cardboard box, eating a can of tuna a day, and wearing the same clothes for the next 20 years.

            So yes, college loans are turning us into indentured servants because we have to almost dedicate our lives to paying off that debt.

          3. Exactly, hatters!

            As you mentioned, many can’t afford health insurance because of all the bills.   Add getting a major illness at a young age into the mix where they are stuck in massive debt, can’t get proper health care, suffer in agony (if they are lucky enough not to die) and everything is taken away from them – including their dignity.

            All because they listened to what this society told them to do.

            That’s the American “dream” many so-called “spoiled brats” face here in the United States.

            And we’re going to fucking STOP this nightmare for them.  It’s the adult thing to do, dave(id)

          4. You know what’s funny about that? People who go to expensive law and b-schools and get high paying  jobs often refer to their situation as “wearing golden handcuffs.” You make a lot of money,  but you need to make a lot of money to pay off your debt. You don’t have the option to go do public aid or non-profit work with $350,000 in student debt. Such is life. Also, as someone who has student debt and had difficulty finding employment when I graduated, I know that there are deferments and other options for people in that situation. This just isn’t the most compelling argument of the issues out there. 

  15. It seems hard to believe that any local community ordinance that seeks to overturn federal court rulings will survive even the mildest court challenge. If so, can they serve any purpose? If not, what will the legal basis of their authority be?

  16. No social change has ever come about without the people trying to make the change show everyone else that it’s detrimental for them to maintain the status quo. 

    Worker’s rights organizers a century ago didn’t just sit in the park with the other poor. They blocked businesses, got into politicians’ faces, and made life a pain in the ass for everyone who didn’t realize that child labor was a bad thing. 

    And yes, that includes the threat, or use, of violence. The Tea Party knew this. They carried their guns to political rallies. They got what they wanted last election… to the detriment of the rest of the globe. Yeah, those fuckers are nuts, but they’re nuts who know how things work.

    The Occupy movement needs to show the 1% that fighting them isn’t worth it and they should nut up and take that 2% tax increase like adults.

    1. “And yes, that includes the threat, or use, of violence.”

      How far we have come since January 9, 2011, when posting a map with cartoon target markers on it was considered an outrageous incitement to criminality.

      1. What was the purpose of the map?

        Also, care to meditate on the meaning of the phrase “second amendment solutions?”

        Face it, right wing rhetoric is violent.  Much more violent than left wing rhetoric.  I don’t see how anyone could plausibly maintain otherwise.

  17. I guess I don’t get it. This stuff is old hat, having being already accomplished in Cuba, North Korea, and the Soviet Union to name a few. Cuba has everything the protesters want: free health care, free college, free housing, no corporations, no rich people (well except for Fidel). So the perfect model is already available.  Just tell the public “check out Cuba, look what you could have!” and everyone will run to support the protesters…

    1. Oh Ken, what would we ever do without megalomaniacal billionaires who hoard their money for power trips?  Goodness me, it brings me the vapors just having such a horrible thought.  If I’m lucky I’m hoping one day I get to shine their shoes or screw over a bunch of my fellow Americans as their paid lackey.

      How would we survive without them?  Maybe with small business owners that provide the overwhelming majority of jobs or something?  Nah…

    2. Why is it that folks always resort to Cuba, North Korea or the Soviet Union?  There are a number of Western countries that manage to have a sustainable model.  Let me throw a mental dart and throw out….


      Belgium has possibly the highest “quality of life” in the world, as testified by its excellent food, housing, health care, education and infrastructure, its world records for high productivity and low poverty, and the appreciation of foreigners residing in Belgium.

      Now take a look at the RP 10% here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_income_equality

      It’s not the rich people, it’s the difference between the rich and the poor, and it’s growing.  Look at the disparity rates of the US as compared to Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France.  They take far better care of their people with regards to health care, education and infrastructure.  Yet, they have corporations.  They have rich people.  The difference is, it’s a bit less appalling, and yes, they’re taking care of the general welfare of their citizens.

      1. Then le the states decide if they want to adopt the mode you’re championing. It’s not the job of federal government. 

        These countries do a better job on paper. Take a look at the health sections of there own news outlets and you’ll see a different story. 

        1. Nice idea, polishpen!
          http://www.ctv.ca/health/ for today has  (see full list below). Oops. What was your point again?
           Ex-NHLer says fighting ban won’t end depression
           Bystanders obligated to help heart victims: ER docs
           B.C. school bans ‘I Love Boobies’ cancer bracelet
           $30K reward for successful bone marrow match
           CooperVision reissues contact lens recall
           Cancer Care Ontario ordered to stop sending paper results
           Sandwiches recalled over Listeria concerns
           A look at the men harmed by unnecessary PSA tests
           U.K. must cut 5 billion calories from collective daily diet
           UN urged to revise guidance on child malnutrition aid
           Black Death genome sequenced from 14th century DNA
           Good manners lead to better health, survey finds
           Condom use rising among U.S. teen boys, survey finds
          Healthy diet can overcome genetic risk for heart disease
          Vitamin E might raise risk of prostate cancer
          Quebec opens door to safe injection sites
          Docs often underestimate pain in disagreeable patients
          Australian court overturns ruling in Vioxx lawsuit
          Renowned oncologist Dr. Robert Buckman dies
          Long-time doctors make up majority of discipline cases
          Common antibiotic has rare, but serious, side effects
          Study links vitamins to higher death rates in women
          Could offer of a free funeral raise organ donor rates?
          Users of leukemia drug Sprycel warned of side effect

        2. These countries do a better job on paper. Take a look at the health sections of there own news outlets and you’ll see a different story.

          Why don’t you say a prayer for the 120 Americans that died in agony today for the crime of not being able to afford health insurance?

          And, while you are at it, take a nice gander at the United States health sections one of these days.

          Reality. It’s knocking.

        3. Can you adduce any evidence that the health care systems of the socialist European countries mentioned are actually worse than the U.S. health care system?  All the actual statistics I’ve seen suggest that socialized medicine systems in Europe beat the U.S. system in all kinds of ways:
          -lower costs
          -lower infant mortality rates
          -higher life expectancy
          -better health outcomes
          -better patient satisfaction

          The only variable in which the U.S. consistently comes out on top is waiting time to have a procedure performed.  The reason for this is simple: in Europe, a corporate executive with sleep apnea does not get to see the surgeon until after the cab driver with a tumor in his nasal cavity.  In America, the corporate executive with sleep apnea gets treated first because the cabby is uninsured and simply doesn’t get treated.  (He dies of an untreated brain tumor a few months or years later). 

          Personally, I’d rather deal with long waits then be a part of a system that prioritizes elective procedures for rich people over life-saving procedures for the poor folks.

        4. Take a look at the health sections of there own news outlets and you’ll see a different story.

          While you are at it, take a look at an American news outlet.

          If you actually watch this from beginning to end, this may change your life:

          (Please set aside 40 minutes of your life to watch this if you truly LOVE America and your fellow Americans, otherwise stay in the dark and continue to be a part of the ignorant problem)

          [cow notices that rightwingers grow strangely quiet when faced with the Wendell Potter interview and just try to ignore it (reality) altogether]

      2. These aren’t great countries to hold up – first off Belgium and the Netherlands are the size of postage stamps – also look at the politics of Belgium – most people who live there want it to break in two – there is an openly racist party Vlaams Belang that holds real power – in the Netherlands – again a country going backwards on things like immigration, mj legalization, overall tolerance, etc, with an openly racist party holding real power (Freedom Party).  In France the National Front, the French version of the KKK finished second in national elections less than 10 years ago and may well finish 3rd in the upcoming elections.  Canada has been run by the Conservative Party at the federal level for how many decades now?  And Sweden – have you heard the death metal coming out of Sweden, my God…also “They have rich people.  The difference is, it’s a bit less appalling”  Somehow I don’t think the goals of the 99%ers are to make things a bit less appalling, that don’t really get the blood going…

      3. Yet, they have corporations.  They have rich people.

        Amazin’, ain’t it?  How do they manage to do both?

        [cow feigns cognitive dissonance and rolls around on the floor in confusion]

    3. Or, you know, we could extend that list to be thorough and objective instead of childish and prejudicial. In which case, we would have to include Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland, not to mention (by means of a very different economic architecture) Germany. And let’s not forget Iceland, and to a lesser extent Argentina. Those examples don’t fit so well into your archaic Cold War-era Manichaean worldview, do they?

      FYI: Rather than responding to actually serious and informed discourse on modern political economy, power aggregates, and radicalism with the trivial “old hat” of a dismissive straw-man comparison with the USSR, you should probably just skip to the punchline instead, and proclaim your narrow, ideologically straitjacketed reading material, general ignorance, and inability to have a conversation that isn’t tautologically guaranteed to confirm and congratulate your presuppositions.

  18. The main worry for me is that the OWS thing claims to be representing the 99%, but the demo I went to, it was representing the perhaps 5% of the most left=wing wingnuts.

    I believe in their ideals, but they need to get people from the right interested. At the moment, the Right is suffering from campaign fatigue – they are disillusioned because the Tea Party thing didn’t change anything, and they are framing this as a left-wing response to it. They think it’s just another one of those anti-capitalist wingnut things, writ large.

    Anti-monopolist is PRO-capitalist.  Competition is needed. It’s a right-wing ethic! Too much power in any one place is a bad thing, whether government or corporate..

    I’ve seen a few right-wingers who claim they are not in the 99%. Now, they don’t really believe they are in the 1% top earners: it’s just another way to say “the OWS does not represent my opinions.”

    But if the 99% are not saying what you want to hear, and you are not in the 1%, then *talk to them*. It’s a uniquely democratic process. Make your voice heard with them, say what you want the movement to be about.  Hlp direct all that enthusiasm in a productive way.

    I’ve heard some good ideas being mooted in OWS talks:
    – All donations to political parties from publicly traded companies and trade unions to be made public.
    – All private donations to political parties over a cutoff annual dollar amount to be made public.
    – All donations to political parties from publicly traded companies and from trade unions to be capped at a maximum amount.
    – All donations to political parties to be capped at a maximum amount.
    – Place the Federal Reserve back in government control (the “End the Fed” chant).
    – End corporate personhood
    – Repeal Gramm-Leach-Bliley
    – Cap CEO earnings and bonuses as a proportion of the organisation’s minimum or average wage.
    – Remove special rules from student loans, so they have the same rules as all other loans (eg no bankruptcy protection, etc)
    …those are the ones I can think of offhand.

    Which are good? Which bad? What might make better goals and demands?

    1. Anti-monopolist is PRO-capitalist.  Competition is needed. It’s a right-wing ethic!

      It’s used to be, Dewi.  But, while you may have stayed steadfast to the better rightwing ethics of years passed, it’s changed into some kind of monster since then.  I honestly think if a republican ran on a platform of breaking up monopolies, the current day rightwing radio machine would brand the candidate a socialist and the game would be over quickly.

      Until rightwing radio changes its tune, nothing is going to change for the rightwing at large.  They dictate. The listeners take their side.

  19. It’s not gonna work.  Not that all the ideals are wrong: repealing corporate personhood, correcting the most egregious abuses of corporate welfare and the profits taken thereof…hell, why not throw in some universal health care while we’re ’bout it ’bout it.  But protest and rage and scream all you want.  I don’t care if you use a ballot or a molotov cocktail: the foundation has already been laid for the decline that we are only now beginning to feel.

    The ones responsible for this mess will never be held accountable because they control the people who make and enforce the rules.  Get it?  Do you understand?  I -know- y’all don’t like it…but the 1% you are demonizing have the majority of the money and the access to power.  How can you punish the ruling class without bloodshed?

    Will regional and civic elections turn the tide against an ingrained oligarchical cabal hundreds of years in the making?  


    Go ahead and try if it makes you feel better.  Rage against the machine or work within the realm of law and finance and politics in a vain attempt to ‘make a better tomorrow today’.  I can’t see into the future: maybe a dedicated group of passionate activists can effect change for the greater good.  I wish you luck.

    But I doubt it.  I’ve been to Japan and seen a health care system that really works.  There are places like Canada and those European nations that actually budget the care of their own people before the expenditures of such things as pointless foreign wars…for example.

    But that brings me to my point: where in the hell did anyone get the misguided notion that These United States are a Civilized Society?  

    At the end of all things, when the dark days have no dawn…the 1% will pay/bribe/threaten the 9% to shoot the rioting 20% while the huddled 70% hope the horrors will just please for god sakes stop.  When I see those white shirts pepper spray harmless youths I see red, and I smiled when I saw the photo of the cop giving the peace sign with a lady protester…but when the gloves come off, this nation of 300+ million is going to get one hell of a surprise.  

    99%?  These are merely the Congressional grumblings before the shot at Fort Sumpter: This Nation is Divided.  All the rhetoric and positive spin in the world wont change the facts that 50 some odd percent are diametrically at odds with ‘The Other Side’ on all manner of issues, both sacred and mundane.

    If I could wish for a plague of frogs or some blood rain to wake people up and make them stop being such selfish assholes: I would advise all of you to bring your umbrellas outside tomorrow.

    But: I’ll do what they pay me to.  Put out the fires.  Keep people from dying if I can.  And hope for a better day…but as you can see: I’m fresh out of hope.

    1. How can you punish the ruling class without bloodshed?

      By not being a moron who baits for bloodshed for one thing.  Gandhi… look him up sometime.  Educate yourself.

      1. Ok…Gandhi.  Good one.  He got kilt as I recall, by a fellow Hindu, for being too sweet on the Muslims…and while he helped to oust the British; Partition was shall we say, rather painful for many innocent people.
        Change has consequences.  So does stasis.  What is a person to do?   I’m hardly ‘baiting for bloodshed’, but the kind of reforms and changes OWS are clamoring for might indeed (in the long run) have a violent outcome.  History shows that those who stand against the ruling classes do so at their peril, and be it the Civil Rights protests of the ’60s or The French Revolution of the ’90s…ok, the 1790’s: people get hurt.
        You are smart, you know this to be true.  But you want to know the real reason most, if not all of the ‘reforms’ and ‘changes for the common good’ are doomed to fail?  Because we live in a place where, for a huge percentage of the population: Facts Don’t Matter.
        Do I think OWS has some very good points?  Yes.  Is the for-maximum-profit health care system in the US completely out of whack?  You betcha.
        Is this latest Byzantine financial fuckery a crime against all our people?  YESYESYES of course it is! 
        However…Do you know how many people here in the US believe in ~angels~?  Something like 60, 70%?  It’s embarrassing.  We have a Majority of people who when presented by the FACT of Evolution, after all the evidence and generations of teachings still say ‘unh-uh, nope it was God.’
        And there are millions of seemingly right minded, hard working, English speaking citizens that would unquestionably prefer that nobody, including themselves and their own families, receive ‘Socialist Welfare Heathcare’.  What do you do with people like that??
        Well, good luck getting them on the same page.  All you have to overcome is decades of sub-standard education, thousands of years of superstitious thinking…and an entire human history of dedicated self-interest and fear of the unknown.
        ~Ganbatte ne!~ (Go for it!)  Oh yeah: it’s obvious that you, Cow, have strong feelings about this issue.  That’s cool.  But call me a moron, will you?!  you, you…banker!  That was you right?  Starting Capital One back in the day…well.  All I can say to You is…
        Thanks buddy!!  I *Love* my Capital One No Hassle Miles Master Card!!!  I’ve got like, enough No Hassle(tm) miles to fly to Mumbai!  Sweeeet.
        And those viking commercials…so funny: ‘what’s in your wallet?’  Classic.

        1. I’m hardly ‘baiting for bloodshed’, but the kind of reforms and changes OWS are clamoring for might indeed (in the long run) have a violent outcome.

          I do believe this was you below?

          How can you punish the ruling class without bloodshed?

          To me, that’s baiting for violence.  But if you say you weren’t, I’ll try to take your word on that.

          I agree that this may very well end up with some dead protestors before we are through.  But, I certainly don’t think it’s necessary for us to kill the ruling class to prevail.  There’s many more tools at our disposal in this day and age.  And, it really helps that we are smarter, quicker, tougher and far less inbred than the ruling class can ever hope to be.  They may be more ruthless, but we’re smarter and we’ll never stop. NEVER.

          And those viking commercials…so funny: ‘what’s in your wallet?’  Classic.

          I tried to get them to do “what’s in your pants?”, but it was a no-go.

  20. Ok, as an American Swede, or Swedish-American, or dual citizen whatever you want to call it, I can tell you personally that you dont know what the hell you are talking about. So you’ve heard some offensive death metal (becuase death metal is such a posative genre to begin with), I can name a few country songs in the US that are frankly scary, but that doesnt make me think that the KKK are making a comeback. If you’re going to decry several respectable nations, you might atleast try a bit harder than, “have you heard some of their metal?” Because let me tell from personal experience, spending much time in every country youve mentioned except Belgium, that the US can learn a thing or two about tolerance and populism from other western nations. So instead of making asinine comments from your armchair, why dont you go out there and make a difference, becuause let me tell you the REAL difference between the US and most of Europe; we dont wait for the government to slowly drag us down to hell before we start participating in our democoracy.

  21. Contra many commenters here, I’m really not sure abolishing corporate personhood (broadly conceived) altogether is the answer. The problem is not, in and of itself, the existence of market organizations whose legal framework of liability and ownership treats them as a unified individual entity. There are lots of social advantages to utilizing this sort of institution in a market context; getting rid of it entirely, when the real problem is the incentive scheme of (intra)corporate actors, would IMHO be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, as I see it, the trick is to set up a coherent, adaptable architecture of rights, obligations, and conditions attached to the bestowal of corporate personhood that makes this phenomenon serve the public interest, rather than the other way around.

  22. I think Jeff and Thomas paint an overly bleak picture.  There are plenty of examples of successful movements in recent history that come to mind (labor, civil rights, woman’s rights, environmental, Arab spring, etc).  Did any of these “change everything and totally win for ever and ever”?  No, that’s silly.  They did was have significant impact and create a huge amount of change.  Some of that change has been rolled back significantly in the US in recent years, but that doesn’t negate their overall impact.  It just means there is no “happy ever after” like in the story books.

    I also think they’re overly harsh on institutions.  There are many advocacy institutions that I respect, and think have done a lot of good for the world (EFF, ACLU, Amnesty International, unions, etc).  Institutions can bring expertise, resources, help with staying power, and other benefits.    It’s all part of a bigger picture.   Good institutions are able to aggregate their supporter’s power and focus it to achieve results.  (Maybe I’m biased because I work for one, but I think it’s more the other way around – I work for one because it’s an effective way to improve my world.)

    Suggesting that the Occupy Wall Street movement isolate itself from existing roots is pretty poor advice.

    There’s a lot I agree with in this post though – especially the danger of co-option, especially by political parties.   If institutions want to participate, I say that’s a good thing.  If they want to take charge, then that’s not so smart.

  23. I find it hilarious that any of these protestors think that the lawmakers of that country (i.e. the super rich) consider them anything more than cattle.

    They might throw in a bit more corn to keep the cattle calm, but they’ll still be cattle to them.

  24. The protesters have put themselves on the agenda.  That’s a major accomplishment.  Everyone from the New York Times to Obama to you is talking about them and what they want.  Money has power, but so do people.  Politicians respect people power.  They have to.

  25. So couldn’t we get behind these reforms? Wouldn’t all 99% agree on these ideas suggested?


    1. No Tenure / No Pension.
    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

    2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social
    Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social
    Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It
    may not be used for any other purpose.

    3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

    4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

    5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

    6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

    7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12 .
    The American people did not make this contract with Congress.
    Congress made all these contracts for themselves.
    Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers
    envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then
    go home and back to work.

    1. Lots of good ideas there. I would say that 5 is hard to implement, since many Americans have employer-provided (or subsidized) healthcare. Congress would presumably get its healthcare from the political embodiment of the people, or the government . . . which is where they get it now. 

      1. ChicagoD. Then, perhaps, #5 should read, congressional members health care system should be provided by their state and reflect the coverage state workers receive.

  26. Big Business is bad for the same reason Big Government is – it is big. In fact, whenever one gets big it quickly merges with the other anyway, making them functionally indistinguishable in the end. The authors of the post have it right – decentralise and push powers and responsibilities to smaller groups and lower levels.

  27. I dunno. Paddy Chayefsky nailed it in 1976.
    “There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There
    are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is
    only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven,
    interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars.
    Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles,
    pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which
    determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural
    order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic
    structure of things today!”

  28. I know I’m late and this probably won’t get read but…

    Depending on which poll and which loaded questions, a majority of Americans either believe in it (guided or unguided) or don’t have an opinion/don’t know.

    I think the biggest issue, ahead of education, is that it has become a symbolic battleground against atheists. You have people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hutchinson making it and either/or issue, when the Catholics, Anglicans,  and a majority of the main stream Protestant churches have managed to merge faith with science. The Evangelical, Baptists, and the like are the ones refusing to consider if their literal interpretation of Genesis is correct or not. (Argh – the arrogance of these people.)

    So the church leaders take arms against the militant atheist and you now have an immovable position that you disseminate to your followers. They aren’t necessarily “dumb”, but they get presented with only one side of the issue and don’t practice due diligence. Why should they? Why would their trusted leaders and friends lie to them?  The reasons they present against evolution sound perfectly reasonable.

    It’s little different than people who watch Ghost Hunters,  the 101 UFO shows on TV,  shows about a “faked” moon landing, and other crap like “Loose Change”. If I had a dime every time some idiot suddenly became an expert on the temperature at which steel melts, I’d have enough for a NICE steak dinner. They buy into the convincing “evidence” and don’t take the time to find out if what they saw was true.

    re: ” you, you…banker!  That was you right?  Starting Capital One back in the day…well.  All I can say to You is…”

    WTF are you talking about?

    1. re: ” you, you…banker!  That was you right?  Starting Capital One back in the day…well.  All I can say to You is…” WTF are you talking about?

      He was referring to another thread where I said I worked at a bank in the early 90’s when it started Capital One.  Beyond that, I’m not sure what the point was either. ;D

  29. “…grants neighborhoods complete control over local development”

    Wait a moment… You are talking about the alleged right to keep strangers out. I not only believe in open borders, I believe in them even when it’s applied to neighborhoods.

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