Tag Archives: Constitution

21 days in May: An Occupy Novella, part 2

Chicago was adopting something of a siege mentality as the NATO summit and protests loomed ever closer. It certainly wasn’t the protesters dialing up fear and concern. There had been in recent weeks a purposeful effort to intimidate the population, painting the protests as dangerous and the authorities as protectors. The effort began slowly in February and by the end of April had grown to a near fever pitch. The authorities, state, local, Federal and private corporate interests would manage and stoke that fear with their propaganda wing at FOX, CBS, ABC and even the so-called liberal MSNBC.

It began with leaked reports that downtown businesses would be hiring increased security for the protests, the reports punctuated with images from unrelated riots in Seattle some years earlier. Then came near panicked interviews with police officials clamoring for emergency funding from a cost-overridden city hall to make sure the police all had expensive new protective riot gear. Commuters would be subject to search and trains could be diverted or stopped altogether for “security concerns.” Boats in the harbors would be prohibited as the city became an armed camp. Then, at the end of April the fear was raised to insidious levels, first with front page headlines that downtown Chicago was now considered a “RED ZONE,” and that heavily armed federal agents in riot gear would be guarding strategic  buildings. The next day the local CBS affiliate published a “leaked” memo revealing how Red Cross officials in Milwaukee were preparing for the possible evacuation of Chicago in the event of an insurrection during the NATO summits. No one, in the media at least, questioned the rationale or what possibly would cause a city of eight million to flee en masse, not to the suburbs, nearby Joliet or Gary Indiana in such a catastrophe, but 90 miles North to Scott Walker’s Milwaukee Wisconsin. 

Angelo studied his smartphone, tapping on an MSNBC story emailed to him overnight. His eyes moved across a stunning headline that left him even more conflicted about his part in all this.

  “…agents have arrested five people who were plotting to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, Ohio… Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on April 30 on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23. Charges are pending… of Hayne, Stafford and Baxter, there were claims that they were affiliated with Occupy Cleveland, which moved swiftly Tuesday to distance itself from the bridge plot… after “we awoke to the news of the arrests,” coordinator Johnny Peskar, 22, told msnbc.com… “We don’t need any implications in this nonsense,” Peskar said… Occupy organizers had seen a few in the plot hanging around earlier events, but their actions were “autonomous,”

He set down the phone and went to the long mirror by the door. Six years in special forces and 4 more as a military contractor with a for-hire firm had placed him is some odd and morally questionable circumstances, but none more than this.  This mission left him awake nights, praying for the respite of nightmares in sleep instead of the nightmare he was living.

He still looked like a college kid, and could pass for his early twenties. Angelo had let his dark brown hair grow long, nearly to shoulder length. His clothes were rough and urban and worn. His cover was a simple one, which was always the best-less to remember that way. Facts and dates were mixed or altered should anyone go prying. He looked the part well enough, but there was something else.

The mission was taking a toll. He appeared haggard and exhausted, which did not lend themselves to a successful mission. But what of the mission? In Afghanistan in a beard and local garb, Angelo passed sufficiently to infiltrate a Taliban group. He tracked a FARC leader in Columbia for  six months without being detected, and was able to worm his way into a Mexican drug lord’s inner circle. Never before had he been asked to spy on fellow Americans, which was bad enough. But this, this mission…

Angelo glanced at the paper he’d been slipped the day before at the protest. He had never seen the contact. The man came and went like a ghost. Now he found himself balanced on a fence, weighing ethics, morality and salvation. They were an operative’s worst obstacles. He thought of the mission once more as he went to the sink and poured a chemical mix over the paper, dissolving it almost instantly. He washed it down the drain with water and recalled the headline from Cleveland that morning.

Nineteen days and it would all be over. Nineteen days and the mission would be complete. Nineteen days and the nation would be forever changed. Angelo steeled himself and nodded resolutely. In the end he made it about the money. He’d made  a shade over a million tax free as a military contractor-the ultimate welfare scheme he sometimes mused to colleagues. Another half million would be deposited in an off shore account for him following a successful conclusion of the mission. Other missions were for country, unit or to bring down truly reprehensible people, but this would have to be about the cash, and that would have to suffice.

 

 

The train, bus and three block walk to he and Eva’s bungalow on Chicago’s Northwest side left Jack beaten. Eva wasn’t home yet with Jeffrey. The house was still and comfortable and peaceful. He practically collapsed onto the chair in the front room. He still had on his jacket and hat. The shoulder bag was in his lap, as if he’d striven for that chair with his final ounce of energy.  Morris, their lumbering Boxer/ Boston Terrier mix, normally a pest for attention, seemed to understand well enough. He sort of flopped to the floor at Jack’s feet and laid his head across one shoe with a heavy sigh.

The family still wasn’t completely settled into the place, and a daunting list of projects left Jack all the more spent. The phone rang, and he hardly had the energy to lift it, let alone answer. He hit the speaker key and let it go to voice mail

“This is Jack, lean Left,” came his recorded message. After a short pause Angelo from Occupy replied.

“Hey, Jack, wanted to know if you could get together later. I have something I need to discuss with you. You’ve got the number. Call me back.”

Jack sighed and  let the phone fall to his leg. He’d been meaning to get back into the movement, especially now as the NATO summit neared. He liked Angelo, at least what he knew of the kid.  Every movement attracted its share of oddities; Occupy, Socialist groups, anarchists, The Tea Party, and certainly the Ron Paul devotees. Angelo seemed like a normal fellow, well informed and adjusted and, for as much as Jack could tell, passionate about the cause. He thought about Sarah as he lifted the phone and found Angelo’s number. As it began to ring at the other end, he was already crafting his sincere apology to her.

“Hey, Angelo, its Jack,” he began. “Brutal day at work, sorry I couldn’t pick up before. Still want to get together?”


The Black on Black violence myth and Trayvon Martin

It isn’t that racists are for the status quo, but that the status quo is by nature racist by supporting systems resulting in oppression. Mythology created by assumptions, outright fabrications or lazy intellectualism is the cornerstone for those systems, creating the cultural foundations for oppression arising from the pressure and imperative of the so-called status quo.

If that sounds overly precise and academic, it was meant to be. Given the lawyerly and subversive tactics of true racism today, those opposed to it must be as precise as possible in their opposition. But once that mythology takes hold and becomes “common knowledge,” challenging those assumptions can become monumental. The mythology surrounding the Trayvon Martin case is telling.

The status quo culture is constructed to undermine and negate issues and events exactly like the death of Trayvon Martin. Think of a river with momentum more than will. Diverting the river becomes an incredible, often impossible task. The river resists change, in favor of its own blind momentum.. The river that is American culture reflects the dominant power, which is primarily money and commerce, but also historically and primarily white and male. It is not racist on purpose, but most definitely racist in structure as it eschews or erases the individual nature of minority groups. Can’t picture it? Walk into any IKEA and feel your individuality erased as you become quite purposely an identity-less consumer. Now imagine an entire system, 24 hours a day, in every direction you turn designed to erase your individuality.

On yesterday’s Thom Hartmann show, Hartmann, a progressive talk show host, did not challenge a statement by Alan Korwin from gunlaws.com, in which Korwin wanted to know why everyone was so concerned about Martin but “there wasn’t a single story about 70 other black men killed” in black on black violence over the same period.”  This has been the loud and forceful narrative from the Right, and has gone all but unchallenged from the Left.

The nightly news and newspapers routinely carry these stories. Indeed, especially in Chicago, the Right passionately describes inner city violence to assail Obama’s, Jesse Jackson’s and other civil rights leader’s credibility. It isn’t that no one is reporting on those stories, but rather, no one is paying attention anymore. Life for life, all of those whose death receives only peripheral attention are equally as important as Trayvon Martin. All of their circumstances should be equally shocking in a better world. The importance of Trayvon Martin lies not in the context of those other tragedies, but rather of the supreme injustice with which his death was handled in the media and by the authorities.

That the status quo culture and media were so quick to negate that injustice points to the dangerous and inhuman momentum of the river. That millions were able to rise up and lend their voices to a cry for justice, and divert that river, even a little should be cause for hope. It should give us hope that it can carry the culture towards the ocean and greater truths, rather than allow it to die polluted in its mad run to the desert.


Legacy

I was a child in the 1960s and early 70s, but even at an early age it was impossible not to be affected by those tumultuous years. Even in the suburbs, far from the so-called Grant Park riots, the anti-war movement, Civil Rights, the vitriolic assaults  against those questioning the status (white) quo and Vietnam, the historic scope of those years was inescapable. And that was perhaps the most dramatic period of American History since the civil war. Before that change was far more incremental, and still favored the status quo. White power and supremacy was not assailed or significantly challenged for more than two centuries. That changed in the 1960s.

But the effort begun during those years was surrendered as that generation grew older. Many, though not all, abandoned the ideal of love, peace and egalitarianism they fought, bled, and in the case of Kent State or Martin Luther King, or Malcolm X and many others, died for. To be fair, their dreams were not completely abandoned. Important steps forward in peace, human and civil rights were made, but too many of that generation believed they had won the fight, or had won it enough. In the last several decades a purposeful effort was made to discredit their work and to roll it back as much as possible. As much as civil order would tolerate. But many from that generation abandoned their ideals, or followed the mantra of ideological cowards, a phrase repeated endlessly by the Right:

When I was a young man I was a liberal, when I grew up I was a conservative.

Where is the evidence for the charge that the 60s generation quit, conceded or defected to the enemies of peace and tolerance? First of all, they are the ones mostly in charge now, because succeeding generations have not yet acquired enough money, power and influence. Here are but a few examples. 

Racists have honed their message, and made their craft slicker and less apparent, even seductive. So-called “men” like Limbaugh and Savage and Beck tease the humors of their closeted and bigoted followers in carefully couched language. Human Rights were thrown back pre-Second World War over lawyerly justifications and obfuscations about torture. Vietnam was  a war over money, markets(oil and rubber) and influence filtered through extreme national ego, with just the right amount of racism to sell it to middle America. The perverse invasion of Iraq, the “strategic” picking and choosing of which human rights issues we will interfere in makes American foreign policy in Indochina and the 1960s-world seem naive and innocent by comparison.

And please don’t think this is a generational thing. My generation gave itself to an “Alex B. Keaton” style of morality and conscience, compromising comfort with ethics. We were on watch when the Twin Towers were struck, and when war threatened in Iraq, carried on propaganda and demonstrable lies, we acquiesced. A million of us marched, but it wasn’t enough, because we didn’t understand the powers arrayed against us, nor how to  turn the message to our favor. We stood in the street and then conceded when the war began, disillusioned that a wholly owned media would impune our patriotism, and that a bought and paid for government wouldn’t simply ignore us, it laughed in our faces as pathetic for believing our voice actually held value in this nation.

And now comes the Occupy Movement. they stand for equality. They stand for freedom. And they stand for a government that must work for human beings, rather than corporate and banking interests. And for those simple assertions they are treated like peddlers of porn or worse. Safe from the comfort of their homes, too many in older generations ignore their efforts or dismiss them as kids, communists-and even worse-not serious. They will inherit the world the rest of us failed to improve enough. They are in the fight to reverse the damage the out of control influence corporations have had on the nation and the world. It is a just fight. It is the correct fight, because in each of our hearts we know the alternative should this movement fail.

And they have created their own media. The mainstream media is obsolete and never even a consideration any longer. The revolutions will not be televised, I have heard, it has been digitized. And it works through the amazing  ascension of social networking, instantly and around the world. They control their own message, and underground message, if you will, growing and strengthening as the old media kills itself off with its corrupted and co-opted corporate parentage. Occupy will succeed or build its own society based upon principles often quoted from the Constitution…and Bible…documents too many now wipe their ass with to use as a weapon against others. 

But what if it succeeds? What if a world in which the individual is paramount is forged. What if the government works to further human rights, fight wars only in defense or in defense of the helpless rather than as the enforcement wing of multi-nationals, or the marketing wing of those companies, siphoning taxpayer dollars to subsidize corporate profits? what if we lived in a world in which political candidates were chosen by the people, without the money influence, and that we could be sure they were beholden to us, and if not faced dismissal or prosecution? What if our choice for president was  3 or 5 or a dozen viable candidates, rather than two media chosen automatons shoe-horned into the ballot box? Now what if none of that came to pass?

And so one question remains, one that calls us back to our purer, less cynical, less damaged,more loving and accepting selves? When is it time for change? When do we decide to make that change. Where does a road begin, and when is it time to take the first step on that road. No one can make that decision for another. They must make it on their own. But that decision begins change in the world, every decision makes change in the world, and that is each person’s legacy.  

In my younger days I was a liberal…and I never stopped fighting or believing.

That is my legacy.


Poor bullied Gingrich tired of an elite press protecting President Obama by not reporting endlessly on such things like the birth certificate issue, Reverend Wright and Solyndra, by airing innuendo from the Right, or minimizing his efforts against International terrorism, success in toppling Khadafi, and featuring endless GOP debates to dominate the airwaves with Rightwing messaging without giving Obama equal time or rebuttal and ignoring blatantly sexist, racist and violent rhetoric from the Right against Obama and his wife.

Ya know, I see your point, Newt. Bringing up your character-which you made an issue of with Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Obama, among others, both on the campaign trail and through cheap shots as a FOX contributor – or bringing up your blantant hypocrisy on moral issues and values is indeed a low blow from the media. How dare we question you of all people. God has forgiven all your sins, because you told us that he did. dare any of us QUESTION GOD??? My deepest and humblest apologies…

Oh wait, so if I act like a jerk, all I have to do is ask God’s forgiveness?

In that case, Newt,  you are a low life %$#$%@, flat-footed &^%$#, who likes to %#$$ his own *%&$# with #$!%* while $#%ing a %$#&ing up the ^&%$, because he is a ^&%#!!! who can &^#$ a rhinoceros $%#!, into a ^%&$!! and mail it!

Wow, that felt good. By the say, God, I’m sorry for that, so we’re good, right? See you at the pearly gates.


Big government? Damn right. The biggest! Just fix it.

So the mantra from the right these days is that government is too big, and we must shrink it, not to make it more efficient, but so it can get out of the way of business.In the age of the highest corporate profits in human history that rhetoric is obscene. Fundamentally, that is an anti-American, anti-Constituional idea. Let’s set aside the argument that government exists because it has the power to do things individuals simply can’t do, like build a road, fight a war, enforce health and safety codes, maintain a justice system and get toilets to flush safely from coast to coast.

This nation is being duped into buying the perverse and dangerous idea that corporations are virtuous and wise, while government is corrupt, inept and out of control. Are they saying they’d happily trade corporate control for the United States government? Have they never seen a corporation go bankrupt? Go out of business? End pensions? Break the law?

Name me a single corporation that has existed as long as the US government? Name me a single one that acts as a democracy? Name one that voluntarily protects the interests of individual workers rights without those rules being imposed by government. Name one. That corporation doesn’t exist.

Without government, corporations would pollute the environment, abuse employees, and even murder labor activists http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/26/international/26COLO.html?searchpv=day04&pagewanted=print . They would be free to pay employees the lowest possible or barely survivable wages with no benefits in dangerous environments. Get hurt on the job due to their negligence and you’re history, and so is your family’s future.

The problem with government is that the Democrats and especially the Republicans have allowed and facilitated the corporate stranglehold on government,  a crime promoted and repackaged in the pseudo-Press suppositories of FOX, CNN, MSNBC and talk radio, all of which are owned by significant corporations with huge interest in the outcome of this quiet coup.

The people can take it back, but they have to get smart, get organized, and defend a government large enough to defend a Constitution that was written for people not corporations.

What you really what, whether you realize now or later, is a government big enough not to get bullied by terrorists, rogue nations, competing nations, and least of all self-interested corporations. But it has to be a government humble enough to protect the homeless guy on the corner from being run off because he fell on hard times, or the millions of families faced with foreclosure

The Bush tax cuts for the rich (still in effect) have failed to generate the jobs Republicans and the rich promised would happen if those tax cuts continued. The government should be big enough to conclude a war and recognize the rights of minorities and the wrongly accused.

Big government? Damn right. The biggest! just fix it.


Co-opting a movement: Corporate Media’s new tactic

I wasn’t expecting that many protesters after a night of terrible weather, but I could hear the chest-thunping drums, a tinny cymbal, someone on a megaphone and chants of “We are the 99%!” a full two blocks away. There was somewhere between 50 and 70 prote sters. People come and go regularly. The streets were still slick with rain beneath a gloomy sky, but the spirits of these activists hardly seemed dampened.

ABC reporter Mark Dicarlo interviews an activist Thursday. He asked several protesters if they'd welcome the Tea Party joining the movement

In front of the Bank of America building an ABC reporter from the local affiliate, named Mark Dicarlo was interviewing one of the least mainstream-looking protesters, throwing a range of questions far beyond the scope of the protest, a calculated ploy to keep the kid talking long enough for him to let his guard down and maybe say something odd, anything to discredit him and the movement as a whole. Behind him, circulating through the crowd, two young producers canvassed for the types that would be as far from mainstream suburban audiences as possible, despite a number of students, professionals and concerned everyday-types. It was a pattern I’d been noting with interest for the past several weeks.

Meanwhile this guy walked up to the make-shift base of occupation, what has become a sort of supply base, with 3 deep dish pizzas. I quickly pulled the guy aside and asked what had motivated him to show up with an arm full of pizza, easily costing $50 bucks.

His named was Jed and he was normally part of the Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland movements in California. In Chicago on business for the week, he was biding his time with what has become an international brother/sisterhood. I wanted to know if he found any difference between the two efforts, separated by a continent.

Jed delivering pizzas to the Occupy Chicago protest

“We have a really liberal mayor,” he said. “We can use the park as long as we like. The police won’t touch us there.”

Jed was informed, cogent and well-spoken, with a history of  activism. In 1991 he was part of the anti-globalisation movement. “But the movement got bogged down in too many different things, but this movement is different. It cuts straight to the heart.  The system doesn’t work fundamentally, and the longer they fail to answer, the more people will come to the conclusion that the current system doesn’t work.”

Meantime, Dicarlo asked his interview what he thought about the Tea Party coming to join the protests, and if they could find common ground, would that be all right?

It wasn’t the first time in the last week I’d heard a corporate journalist ask that very same question. Others had heard it too, with increasing frequncy. I heard the same story from a dozen different people, from all of the major networks. It was become less of a coincidence than an emerging tactic. In fact, Dicarlo went over and asked another protester the very same question.

I was trying to position Jed to speak with Dicarlo, but his producers did everything they could do to put us off.

“I usually get brushed off,” he told me. “I know what I’m talking about.”

The corporately-owned media is at a loss to properly deal with the movement, and to deal any sort of death-blow to the movement as a whole. They can no longer get away with framing the protesters as students or fringe groups without a rational or cohesive message. There are too many working folks, unemployed and employed professionals, housewives, retired grandparents and veterans taking part.

They still revert to a narrative of unfocused messaging, confused self-interest and fringe ideologies, because such lazy cartoonishness is the path of least resistance for a vapid corporate medium. But this new and alarming narrative is emerging in corporate America’s cynical efforts to extinguish the rights and passions of the real citizenry of the nation.

There is a growing attempt to co-opt the movement. More and more in interviews and before their viewers they are attempting to steal the message from the Occupy Movement by introducing the Tea Party. In time, they will introduce Tea Party activists, likely hand-picked apparatchiks who will proclaim themselves spokespersons for the movement, introducing right-wing agendas and talking points to dilute or divert the real message of the movement. 

As the camera crew moved off a homeless man came up to Jed and I, asking if we could spare some change for food.  Without missing a beat Jed motioned to the pizzas and said,”help yourself.”

That is the spirit of this movement.


The Face of War: Occupy Chicago

It is a stormy day in Chicago, one hundred and one days after the Occupy protests began. Its been deteriorating all day, enough that O’Hare airport will all but shut down, closing all but a single runway as icy cold gusts of 50+ miles per hour and periods of torrential rain bludgeon the city. Waves to 20 feet will hammer the lake front, threatening to close Lakeshore Drive. Even as the storm worsens there are citizen occupiers manning the post in what has become a war of attrition as well as sacrifice. they may not spend this night, as safety and prudence would dictate, but the citizens I spoke with today would not relinquish this ground lightly.

The protesters maintain an around the clock presence

I met Dave, a former Marine, a young kid, dressed in his old uniform sweater and desert khaki boots He looks like a marine, a little boyish, but with that deep soulful determination imbued in Marines. Just to be sure I threw him a test, asking what the Sith General Order for Marine Corps sentries.

This former Marine spent the night at the Occupy Chicago Protest

“To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me,” he replied correctly, “all orders from the Commanding Officer, Officer of the Day, Officers, and Non-Commissioned Officers of the guard only.”

No Marine ever forgets the 11 General Orders.

But this isn’t about Dave, just like it isn’t really about the weather. This is about something deeper, something that binds all those elements to the spirit and soul of the movement. It is about The souls who are out in front of the banks, making noise as a constant reminder to the bankers of the protester’s presence. It is about the men and women who stay long into the night and all night in many cases. It is about those who when faced with arrest, when warned that arrest is imminent, they stand and turn and offer their wrists peacefully but resolutely to the police.

I’ve seen these faces before. I saw them in the trenches and frontline buildings in Bosnia, huddled against the cold, on hard ground, suffering under rain and snow for desperately long hours with nothing but purpose and the camaraderie of fellow soldiers. Those faces are eternal among those who stand upon a line for justice and freedom. They are the simple soldiers who risk life and fortune for an ideal. One would expect to find these faces gathering to meet the better armed, better clothed and better trained British troops during the Revolution. These people believe in a better world because they have lost it or fear losing it or fear for a neighbor. It is an ideal far beyond money and more akin to heaven. It is that which exalts them above any banker, corporatist and politician.

The 1% has their surrogates well established in the media. Thos surrogates will point to a nearly empty corner this night as the wind screams along La Salle Street, drives thundering waves against the shore and whips sheets of rain to mock and undermine the movement. They will proclaim this as the movement’s lack of commitment and as a weakness. But I remember how during battle in Bosnia that weather was the final arbiter of all things, dousing or smashing aside all pretense of human hubris. In Chicago and elsewhere the protests may pause through the winter or become sporadic, or change tactics altogether. For all those I spoke with today, and from the very first day of this protest, prudence should hardly be construed as a lack of commitment.

A proester Monday

There is no individual gain here, as there was for the Tea Party. To a person in the Occupy movement, it is about the nation and about someone else. The Tea Party movement was immediately a cash generating enterprise, making Sarah Palin and others exceedingly wealthy. It spawned businesses and careers and grew into something dark and self-serving. So far the Occupy movement has resisted all that, and god-willing, that will carry the movement forward.


Breaking news: Candidates join Occupy the Airwaves movement. Another Republican Debate!

Calling themselves the 99% of the 1%, Republican Presidential Candidates vowed to Occupy the Airwaves until reason, morality and ethics have been extinguished from American media. The Occupy the Airwaves movement has been going on for more than a month, effectively suppressing Barack Obama in the media, but the roots go back much father.

The Occupy the Airwaves actually goes back to the Reagan administration, which opened the doors to corporate consolidation of news media. Since then Republican appointed Supreme Court justices have  eroded the rights of individual citizens in favor of large corporations, against whom individuals are rarely favored. Corporate lobbyists and corporately funded candidates continue to consolidate power, while steadily degrading the federal government’s ability to reign in nearly unchecked corporate control over the nation.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper will moderate tonight’s debate, which doubtless will prove to be as rousing and informative as previous debates. Cooper is known for his hard-hitting, no holds barred interviews. As for the candidates, the viewing public can be sure that the views are their own and not carefully constructed and scripted bits keeping close to pre-prescribed republican positions. We can only guess what Rick Perry will say about Gun rights. Already the anticipation of what each of the candidate’s position on abortion is palpable. Gay marriage? Don’t ask don’t tell? Israel and Palestine? Iran? Obama’s healthcare program? If only we knew what their positions would be ahead of time. Who can wait to hear more funny anecdotes from Herman Cain about electrocuting Mexican immigrants on the border?

These are the very best the Republicans, and apparently our nation has to offer. We certainly have come a long way from those founding fathers, the Lincoln’s, Washingtons, Roosevelts and Kennedys. This is the cream of the nation, and it shows. How could the nation do any better than to be lead by a Bachman or a Gingrich? Say it several times. President Gingrich. Sounds like a Dr. Suess story come to life! Inspiring how each of them lives by exactly what they preach. Mitt Romney is an everyday Joe like the rest of us, and yet he is so much more. He speaks for us all. Mitt is our human Mister Microphone.

No doubt the candidates will shock us all with reasoned and nuanced real-world answers to all of these topics. Certainly, if they all held exactly the same position it would prove a terribly dull debate. But we know that each of these people, all with very different backgrounds will offer those broader perspectives on issues sorely needed in the 21st Century. All the candidates have shown us in previous debate that they simply do not pander, and are not simply playing to a partisan base, but appealing to all the American people through wisdom, insight and vision.

As for the ongoing Occupy the Airwaves movement. Republicans have vowed to keep up the fight until all reasonable and dissenting voices are eliminated from the airwaves. That done they will move on to the Internet, libraries and bus stops.


What has Capitalism done for you lately?

Recall once upon a time, a long time ago, when the Right thought it was laudable to show up at Congressional town hall meetings and shout down and disrupt Democrats.You know, civil disobedience, protests, Joe the Plummer, and showing up with guns. The year was 2009 and the ‘masses” according to FOX News were in revolt over the national debt and deficit created of course by the Black guy who’d been in office barely 5 months, and probably wasn’t completely unpacked yet. Think back, you remember the outraged citizens who’d somehow missed the wars paid for on credit, tax cuts for the wealthy, the squandered surplus of the Clinton years or the economic collapse of October 2008, 4 months before the Black guy was sworn in as President? Recall how they all woke up the moment the Black guy said “so help me God.” You remember?

It took a bit, but after a spell, the Democrats began showing up in support of their bullied and threatened representatives and senators. August of ’09 I attended one of these town hall extravaganzas at Niles Township high school just outside Chicago. It was a warm night, the street busy with rush-hour traffic. As I pulled into the already full parking lot the sun was just setting in a clear clean sky.

There was something in the neighborhood of 2000 people,  with Dems easily two thirds of the crowd. Most were gathered in the school’s front lawn, in clusters around a scattering of Tea Partiers and Libertarians with Obama as Hitler signs. That scattering had waded into the Dems to debate, argue and provoke. 

Many of the Tea Partiers looked as if they were storing Snickers bars, Keystone beer in cans and S&M magazines for the feared apocalyptic race wars now that a colored was in the White House.  Most of the Tea Party folks were gathered beside the Gym, across a small drive loosely separating the two sides. More had forced their way into the school’s auditorium to berate and disrupt Representative Jan Shakowsky  with useful and productive suggestions like “Move back to Russia!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAkQaUVC84w

I, as usual, wandered among both sides, hoping to find reasonable souls on both sides, which I did, but also to get the full spectrum of opinions and characters. Next to the gym, securely behind the bulk of the Tea Partiers decrying Socialism, Second amendment rights(forgetting that Second amendment rights were tacit threats to extinguish First amendment for Dems) and the Obama Healthcare program was a tall guy in his late twenties. His wavy black hair was cut close on the sides and back. He wore old black jeans and a faded black tee shirt, with a pair of badly worn  tennis shoes, in which one of the soles was coming loose. He was pale and thin, almost to the point of being malnourished. Snickers and Keystone diets will do that. He was red-faced, shouting “Capitalism not Communism!”

I stood there for a moment listening to his rants and charges directed fully at the backs of fellow supporters. At first I was fascinated and then I just couldn’t hold back.

“I see capitalism has worked for you,” I commented. He let fly a string of epithets. I moved on.

Among the crowd I could find no industrialists or hedge-fund managers, no CEOs, trust-fund babies or bankers. There were no real-estate moguls, power brokers or uber-wealthy. There were middle class and working poor folks selling themselves fully into right-wing agendas that were fully at odds with the realities of these people’s lives. Some no doubt harbored individual bigotries, others afraid of inevitable change. Most were scared in some way, buying propaganda that left them feeling under siege or endangered. Many no doubt felt crushed, and just holding onto the lives they’d forged through back-breaking labor, and believing in the illusion of crafted ideologies that appeared monolithic and uniquely and patriotically American.

Sad that while they were heckling at town halls, their rich and powerful patrons were sending their jobs overseas, slashing their benefits, pitting working folks against one another, race and gender bating, provoking distractive issues, devaluing their homes through corrupt speculation, looting the government and revoking their pensions. Sad that when millions stepped forward to protest corporate greed and their stranglehold over American politics by occupying public spaces, Tea Partiers who became victims of their own blind faith turned against those millions with the same tired old insults. Through all that they still maintained unquestioning allegiance to the national trauma of unrestrained capitalism. But how’s it working for you?


A Night in Jail: An Occupy Chicago story

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Six kids charged across Jackson Street in the heart of Chicago’s loop just before 9 this morning. It was raining and cold, under steely gray skies brushing the tops of surrounding skyscrapers, in stark contrast to the near perfect weather for a protest through the streets to the Lakefront the night before, Fourteen hours earlier 3000 peaceably assembled and marched for a redress of significant grievances.

An estimated 3000 turned out on Chicago streets. Photo by 900poundgorilla

Splashing through gathering puddles reflecting that tattered sky their relieved laughs and ebullient “Yeahs!” resounded among the empty towers, echoing off among the streets. Waiting for them were a dozen or so friends manning a soggy ramshackle base of sorts on the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America building.

The kids, ranging in age from their late teens to their early twenties were wired from a long sleepless night in the lock up, courtesy of the Chicago Police, and were excitable at their newly regained freedom. But it hardly felt to any of them as punishment, but rather a victory. Theirs was pride rather than shame. They’d asserted their rights under the Constitution, and the authorities had shown their disrespect, or worse, systemic ambivalence to those guiding principles.

One of them was a tall skinny kid named Justin, with string black hair that chronically tumbled into his brown eyes. Justin was dressed in black and anxiously fumbling with a big cigar he’d just purchased to celebrate his first time in jail for a cause. He’d stood for something. He’d stood against something. he’d challenged an injustice, which is why going to jail for the night over a local statute that fundamentally is unconstitutional was a matter of pride.

Behind him, a girl with pink hair waved her plastic handcuffs triumphantly. Justin was starving, having had only a plain baloney sandwich in the lock up . One of the other girls, pulling a white plastic rain poncho over her head, who’d been arrested in an earlier protest groaned about the baloney.

“Know what they do with that in the morning for breakfast?” she laughed, “They chop it up and put it in this watery brown gravy for breakfast. Its disgusting!”

Justin slurped a few sips of a power drink someone handed him. “I have two jobs. I work for a corporation. Isn’t that funny? I was supposed to be at work at eight, but that’s when I got out of jail.”

He was rubbing his wrist where the police had placed the plastic cuffs the night before, arresting him for not vacating the park when it was declared closed in violation of a controversial and unconstitutional city ordinance abridging his First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and to redress of grievances. 175 in all were arrested and taken to the First District station for the night before being released.

Photo courtesy Google images

“No, the cops were great,” said Justin. “They told us politely they would arrest us if we didn’t leave. There was no violence. It was all very peaceful. They said the fine was $120, but was being waved.”

 All the protesters were  released without charge.  

By now the rain was letting up a bit. It patted upon the blue plastic sheeting and an umbrella sheltering several of the protesters in their would-be base, evoking images of the Civil Rights activists occupying the national mall a generation before. In Washington DC a dedication of Martin Luther King’s memorial was just getting under way. It is difficult to miss similarities in the two historic movements, unless that is the original intention. Justin was clear about his reasons for being here.

“For me, I’m out here for the people. I’m out here to help people. I’m trying not to be selfish and think of people suffering more than me. I get out here when I can. I work six days a week, so it isn’t the easiest thing.”


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