“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Occupy protests spread across U.S. Unions join 'Occupy Wall Street'

(CNN) -- Like the spokesmen for Arab dictators feigning bewilderment over protesters' demands, mainstream television news reporters finally training their attention on the growing Occupy Wall Street protest movement seem determined to cast it as the random, silly blather of an ungrateful and lazy generation of weirdos. They couldn't be more wrong and, as time will tell, may eventually be forced to accept the inevitability of their own obsolescence.

Consider how CNN anchor Erin Burnett, covered the goings on at Zuccotti Park downtown, where the protesters are encamped, in a segment called "Seriously?!" "What are they protesting?" she asked, "nobody seems to know." Like Jay Leno testing random mall patrons on American History, the main objective seemed to be to prove that the protesters didn't, for example, know that the U.S. government has been reimbursed for the bank bailouts. It was condescending and reductionist.

More predictably perhaps, a Fox News reporter appears flummoxed in this outtake from "On the Record," in which the respondent refuses to explain how he wants the protests to "end." Transcending the shallow partisan politics of the moment, the protester explains "As far as seeing it end, I wouldn't like to see it end. I would like to see the conversation continue."

To be fair, the reason why some mainstream news journalists and many of the audiences they serve see the Occupy Wall Street protests as incoherent is because the press and the public are themselves. It is difficult to comprehend a 21st century movement from the perspective of the 20th century politics, media, and economics in which we are still steeped.

In fact, we are witnessing America's first true Internet-era movement, which -- unlike civil rights protests, labor marches, or even the Obama campaign -- does not take its cue from a charismatic leader, express itself in bumper-sticker-length goals and understand itself as having a particular endpoint.

Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system -- and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem.

Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street's many teach-ins this morning. There were young people teaching one another about, among other things, how the economy works, about the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, the history of centralized interest-bearing currency, the creation and growth of the derivatives industry, and about the Obama administration deciding to settle with, rather than investigate and prosecute the investment banking industry for housing fraud.


  1. I was amused again to hear most of the right wing talking heads belittling and diminishing the potential import of the political events germinating across the country, The Occupy Wall Street.

    Of course it is predictable that the focus is on the real crazies, that is entertaining and fun, but it is also missing the point. This movement will grow and it will focus. It is just as relevant as The Tea Party, which was widely ridiculed by the left-wingers.

    I have been wrong before, but this is going somewhere.

  2. Counterpoint

    Dear protesters in New York City,

    You are not 99 percent of America. I don't mean that in the obvious numerical sense. If 99 percent of Americans had actually joined your march, Manhattan would have flipped over by now.

    What I mean is that if 99 percent of Americans actually sympathized with your cause, the entire nation's economy would have collapsed long ago -- apparently to the delight of the organizers of this current protest.

    What I mean to say is, you have a marketing problem.

    When you decided to sit in traffic and block the Brooklyn Bridge a few days ago, with that blazing pink "SMASH PATRIARCHY-SMASH CAPITALISM" sign in hand, you probably didn't see the regular people you stranded in traffic.

    You know, the ones with real-world concerns, business to attend to, families to go home to, et cetera. You may have read about such people during college in a book called "The Petit Bourgeoisie," or something like that. Many of us grew up calling them "the middle class."

    Whatever you call them, they are hurting badly in this economy, probably more than you are. (I'm just judging by that sweet digital video camera I see you holding out in front of the cops, in hopes of provoking them into a viral-video police brutality incident.)

    Those people you left stuck in traffic have a hard time paying their bills and rents and health insurance and mortgages. They worry about things like finding decent schools for their children to attend and making sure they don't get fired at work, and fixing leaking roofs and chimneys.

    You know what they don't worry about, ever? Smashing patriarchy and capitalism.

    So when your organizers go on television and say things like, "It's revolution, not reform!" and they're not joking, those words might give some of these narrow-minded people an unpleasant, October 1917 kind of feeling.

    I know you'll find this hard to believe, but these regular people probably weren't very happy to see you on that bridge, carrying your preprinted black and yellow protest sign that hundreds of you got straight from the communist Workers' World Party (or one of its less frighteningly named affiliates). So incensed was one Ground Zero construction worker that he called you "g-ddamned hippies" in the New York Post.

    And that underscores the problem with the 100 million-plus people who work for a living in this country. They lack an enlightened perspective that would show them how your camping trip in lower Manhattan has already helped their lives.

    See, regular people don't like banks any more than you do. But when they go to buy houses for their families to live in, they often find that they don't have half a million dollars stuffed in their mattresses. So they shortsightedly embrace financial imperialism, otherwise known as a mortgage.

    They also worry about corporations, because they're big and powerful. But then, they'd love to own one of those sweet video cameras like yours, and they perceive that they can only buy one if an evil corporation can turn an obscene profit making and selling it.

    So the point is, real-life things blind people to the great class struggle you're waging in lower Manhattan. You, and the rest of America's three-tenths of one percent.

    You can take some consolation from that next year when you sacrifice your principles, abandon the Global People's Liberation Party (or whatever), and vote to re-elect President Obama.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. It's described as a:
    Watershed moment
    At ABC News

    The cavalry has arrived in Lower Manhattan. Representatives from no fewer than 15 of the country's largest labor unions will join the Occupy Wall Street protesters for a mass rally and march today in New York City.

    The AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, and Transit Workers' Union are among the groups expected to stand in solidarity with the hundreds of mostly young men and women who have spent the better part of three weeks sleeping, eating, and organizing from Zuccotti Square.

  5. NYTimes

    Home values have fallen so much in Arizona that almost half the people with mortgages there owe more than their homes are worth. So when federal money became available to help stem the tide of foreclosures, the state flagged that group for help.

    If banks would forgive some of a homeowners’ mortgage debt, the state said it would pay half, up to $50,000 of a $100,000 loan reduction, tapping into $267 million in federal aid. Despite the generous terms, most banks balked.

    Only three homeowners have been approved for debt reduction since the program began in September 2010.
    A major obstacle has been that the two largest mortgage guarantors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will not participate.

  6. .

    Interesting to note that the idea of OWS came out of Canada. Also interesting to look at the differences between OWS and the Tea Party.

    The TP was mainly populated by an older generation looking to hold onto what they had.

    OWS is made up of younger people looking to get their share.


  7. .

    OWS has some tail winds that are helping to grow the movement.

    First and foremost, is the general mood of discontent in the US today. Second, the movement is made up of young, media savvy people who know how to get their message out.

    OWS also has been granted on a probono basis the services of a NY PR agency.

    You can add to that people like Robert Reich and Bernie Sanders whose philosophies mirror that of OWS. Then there will always be pols who jump on the bandwagon hoping to get a boost.

    Many unions, long in decline, see an ally in OWS and likewise hope to get a boost out of the publicity the group is now getting.

    Look for others to jump on the banwagon if they think it will work to their benefit.

    Some spokesmen (?) if there is such a thing for the group at this point says they will not let their message be co-opted. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to prevent it.


  8. You don't have to be "financially articulate" to know you're getting boned.

    I, also, think there's a chance this protest might pick up steam.

  9. .

    So the point is, real-life things blind people to the great class struggle you're waging in lower Manhattan. You, and the rest of America's three-tenths of one percent.

    The author at RCP is a bit cynical. He argues that the general population neither sympathizes with the aims of OWS nor their tactics. From the reporting I have seen, RCP exaggerates. The OWS movement is getting mixed support from the public. The vast majority of people seem to agree with OWS attack on big business; but the same majority doesn't like the idea of government intervening to solve the problems.

    RCP in a typical bit of hyperbole brings up the specter of 1917, the knee jerk response of the right wing conservative. Rush Limbaugh today said that OWS was just a bunch of kids looking to get free college education.

    Maybe we need a little peaceful anarchy to shake things up.


  10. "The 99%" is a Perfect name.

    We all know we're In the 99%, and we know we're getting hosed.

  11. On the other hand, 99% of the population would have no clue what RCP was referring to ala "Spectre of 1917."

  12. I agree, a bit of "peaceful anarchy" is good for the soul. Everyone's soul. Whether you're involved in it, or not.

  13. Today the Nation Debt has surpassed $15,000,000,000,000.00

    Pass this bill (later)... Reid blocks Obama jobs bill vote. Meanwhile Obama says he wants to bankrupt an industry (coal) providing 50% of our energy.

    Since the inception of the war in Afghanistan, the United States has lost more than 1,500 lives and spent over $400 billion. What did we get for that blood and treasuer? The China National Petroleum Corporation will soon be awarded a 20-year lease on several oil fields in Northern Afghanistan. In 2007 the government of Afghanistan awarded a 30-year lease on the country’s largest copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group.

    So sorry.

  14. Rasmussen: Approval for "Occupy Wall Streeters" -

    33 Approve

    27 Disapprove

  15. Reminds me of, "I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm Not Going to Take It, Anymore!"

  16. Fox cut away before they'd panned over the whole crowd, but I think that was a pretty big demonstration in NY, today.

    Sarah Palin Says She Will Not Seek the Presidency

    surprise surprise, right rufus?

  18. .

    More regulators doing zip.

    CFTC to Face Lawmaker Scrutiny on Oct. 6 Over Speculation Curbs

    The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which has yet to complete Dodd-Frank Act limits on excessive speculation, will face scrutiny about the trading curbs at an Oct. 6 hearing led by Senator Carl Levin...

    The CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission are leading U.S. efforts to write new derivatives rules for the $601 trillion global swaps market after largely unregulated trades helped fuel the 2008 credit crisis. The rules will govern trades conducted by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Cargill Inc., among other companies...

    Gridlock at the CFTC


  19. Probably another Neeegro in the woodpile.

  20. My Negro, on the other hand, 9 9 9 , is looking pretty, pretty, good,

  21. From the most fabulous and generous Financial Times., and we are very grateful for the link

    The largest US banks are deferring more than 60 per cent of senior bank executives’ bonuses, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve.
    The new trend in bank pay comes after a crisis many blame on excessive risk-taking by bankers and traders who were compensated for taking short-term risks without having to suffer the long-term consequences of their actions. Financial regulators around the world initiated a crackdown.

  22. .

    Exclusive: CFTC lacks votes on position-limit plan

    The U.S. futures regulator delayed a final vote on controversial measures to crack down on excessive speculation in commodity markets because it lacks the three votes needed for approval, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Wednesday.

    The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced on Tuesday it was delaying by another two weeks to October 18 its meeting to consider the long-awaited rule on position limits. It was the second time a vote had been postponed...

    The commission is made up of three Democrats, the chairman and two additional members, along with two Republicans. The party affiliation could continue to play a major role in determining the scope of the rules and the speed at which the agency completes its rulemaking...

    Pressure fron the Big Boys

    Obama's not getting it done.


  23. Vancouver media foundation behind “Occupy Wall Street” movement

    VANCOUVER – Corporate greed and global economics were the catalysts behind protests in New York City that saw more than 700 people arrested over the weekend. The "Occupy Wall Street" protests are now spreading across North America, but not many people know the call to action originated in a quiet Vancouver neighbourhood.

    Adbusters, the organization behind the protests, is a small multi media company with a big voice has done its business for 20 years. It represents the counter-culture movement and bills itself as "a global network of artists, writers and activists who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age."

    It speaks out against corporate creed, big tobacco, multi-nationals around the world, and the three per cent of the population that controls most of the wealth.

    Adbusters publishes one of the most successful anti-establishment magazines in the world that is reader-supported and has a circulation of 120,000.

    Over time, it has launched many consumer campaigns, but none bigger that the centrefold in its July edition: a call to action to the masses who are tired of corporate greed, a challenge to average Joe to gather on Wall Street September 17 and bring a tent.

    It’s a corporate greed protest that has spread to other North American cities and has been building for weeks. The protests have been mostly peaceful, even though New York police arrested 700 over the weekend.

    On Monday, New Yorkers paraded with fake dollars, eating them as they march symbolizing America’s corporate greed.

    The demonstrations have spread to Chicago, Boston and LA ...

  24. Two things:

    1. It sure looks like the White House pressuring CBS over the Holder scandal?

    B. Occupy Wall Street is a leftist driven protest...we'll see how long they can go without getting violent.

  25. The White Shirts of NYPD have already attacked the demonstrators, with chemical weapons of a sort.

    Video of that attack, perking my interest, as I had not heeard of the protest prior to the Police attacks on the women, with pepper spray.

  26. :)

    Yep, I thought she would run.

    I never was good at predictin' wimmin.

  27. The lead story, at the link, seems qite on the Fast & Furious target area.

    G.O.P. Accuses Holder Of Misleading Congress
    19 hours ago ... She said his answer in May meant that he had only become “aware of the questionable tactics employed in the Fast and Furious operation in ...

    Four of the ten stories referenced the scandal, the others referenced the movie, a restaurant review and such.

  28. .

    My Negro, on the other hand, 9 9 9 , is looking pretty, pretty, good,

    I don't see the appeal. And Cain is not talking. He has said his plan is revenue nuetral yet he won't provide any of the details.

    In the tradition of past presidential hopefuls, Cain tells us "Trust me."

    Naw, I don't think so.


  29. Looks like it will be Romney

  30. At least I won't have to agonize over the decision.

  31. Hard to get too worked up over a choice between Romneycare, and Obamacare.

  32. Palin out Jobs dead. The world is sliding...


  33. Way to early, ash, for that.

    Polls show that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, attracts about one-fourth of prospective GOP voters, with the rest looking to Perry, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and others.

    Romney's backers praise his consistency and stay-the-course discipline. Other party insiders, however, see a stubborn and troubling resistance to his appeal among voters likely to show up in the dead of winter for the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

    "The guy has been running for president for five years and hasn't sold 75 percent of the Republicans," said Mike McKenna, a Virginia-based GOP lobbyist and strategist.

    The opposition to Romney will coalesce around Perry, who will win the Primaries.

  34. Palin was due to make her first television appearance to discuss her decision on FOX News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" show Wednesday night.


    Despite enjoying a large base of support across the country, Palin's decision was not a surprise. The Tea Party favorite had yet to build a campaign infrastructure and despite attending a few rallies, had not mounted a serious outreach to voters in early primary states.

    She also fared poorly in matchups against President Barack Obama and trailed other candidates such as Mitt Romney and Rick Perry in polls of the Republican field.

  35. It'd be McCain v Obama, Round 2.

    No road to victory, with Romney.

    The faithful will stay home, rather than vote for Mr Romney.
    Another Northeast liberal.
    A liberal that is of questionable Christian heritage, considered a cultist by many.

    Good luck rounding up supporters, in South Carolina. Especially riding against Perry, in a door to door campaign there.

  36. I'm not offering an endorsement but rather a prediction

  37. Throw out the National polls and go to the church parking lots, in South Carolina.
    On 20SEP11, Perry and Romney were a polling tied, in SC. As the others fall out, they ride with Perry. It's cultural and religion combined, the common man from Texas vs the elitist from Taxachusits.

    For a frontrunner, however, not gaining ground can be just as bad as losing it, and wins by default won't help the Mass. Gov. indefinitely. In a recent CBS poll, 73% Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said it was more important to support a candidate whose issues they agree with than the candidate most likely to win the election. Head-to-head against Perry, Romney is weaker on hot-button issues, with 43% describing Perry as closer to them.

    And with less and less time until the Republican nomination, the race remains fluid. Only 19% of Republicans saying they have decided on a candidate.

  38. Me too, ash.

    Perry's military intervention in Mexico statement, is truthful and chilling tambien.

    He plays better to the Evangelical, which is the cornerstone of the GOP base, than Mr Romney will..

    American Enterprise Institute expert Norman Ornstein said Perry appeals to social conservatives because of his religious background and also to Tea Party activists who want to cut the size of the federal government.

    ... Perry is as much a reflection of Republicans being uneasy about Mitt Romney as their nominee, and uneasy about all the other alternatives in terms of their electability,”

  39. It may well be that the Christie supporters migrate to Romney, it is doubtful that the Palin Posse will.

    They'll ride with the Texican.

    Mas que menos

  40. Karzai's powerful brother Ahmad Wali Karzai was killed by a security guard at his home in the southern city of Kandahar in July. Senior presidential adviser Jan Mohammad was murdered less than a week later.

    Karzai is currently on a visit to India, where he signed a new strategic partnership deal with New Delhi while trying to reassure Pakistan about the alliance with its historic foe.

    "Pakistan is a twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement that we signed [Tuesday] with our friend will not affect our brother," Karzai said.

  41. While he lashed out at Republicans, Obama faced another setback from his own party when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is struggling to line up enough Democrats to pass the bill, yesterday objected to a Republican move to vote on it “right away.”

    Senate Republicans don’t support the plan, but know the vote would embarrass Obama.

    “ ‘Right away’ is a relative term,” said Reid, who wants to vote later this month, when he hopes to persuade more Democrats to support its tax breaks and huge price tag.

  42. Romney / Cain I reckon.