Tag Archives: stephanie miller

Video of Marines Urinating on Taliban Dead…and here is why it is wrong.

I have a history with this, having witnessed the Mock execution of a Serbian POW in the mountains above Sarajevo in October 1994. The incident is detailed in my book, Everything for Love. I am certain the young man from the neighboring town of Trnovo was spared because of my presence. I also have no doubt he was taken elsewhere and executed. Without doubt the would-be executioner, an average sort in his mid to late thirties could recite chapter and verse about Serbian atrocities, and likely had one or more family, friends or neighbors killed, wounded or otherwise terrible affected at the hand of Serbs, whether intentionally and cruelly or as a consequence of the war. I could recite those acts as well, and had personally witnessed enough to justify reprisals against those “inhuman” Serbs.

Those would be judgements of the human heart, however, a tinderbox fully at the mercy of vengeance and our selfish soul. It is our intellect and reason, and a moral standard that upholds human dignity, selfless mercy and the standards of human rights-one that is bolstered by laws and ideals that sanction those who violate those laws and ideals.

It has been a point of study into the psychology of war atrocities. Organizing relief, I was fascinated by the utter inhumanity that Hutu neighbors, friends and even family turned on their Tutsi kin in Rwanda. I had looked into the eyes of an elderly man who was so friendly and hospitable to me and others, only to smile gleefully and draw a finger across his throat at the blindfolded young Serb. Study the faces of men and women captured on film at executions and other atrocious acts, and you will find mostly complacent stoicism, but enjoyment and satisfaction in others. Other times there is a tribal, animal sort of orgiastic frenzy akin to videos of great apes and chimpanzees brutalizing others of their species.

The filming and ritual of degrading enemy dead-civilian and soldier alike- is hardly new. There seems to be an impetus to document such deeds, like posing with an animal after a hunt. It is tribal and perverse, apart from the illegalities. Worse it is shameful and wrong for some very fundamental reasons.

Preeminent among those reasons is the very assertion of many in this nation that America is the greatest nation on the earth, the “shining city on the hill,” and “the last best hope for mankind.” How does an act such as this further than notion, or convince our enemies otherwise? And if we discount enemies and other nations, how does this act strengthen those notions for ourselves?

If we truly believe we are the righteous in this conflict, is this how the righteous act? Where does is say in the Bible that in war it is alright to desecrate the enemy’s dead? It is an immoral statement to justify such acts by pointing to the enemy, if not for the reason above, then on the premise that it lowers us to the level of an “immoral” enemy. We demand that police abide by laws, and must adhere to the constitution and civil liberties in those duties. No one reasonably argues that the police can act lawlessly when dealing with lawless criminals, i.e., summary street executions, bombings, lootings of suspect houses or the wholesale beating of say a shoplifter or car thief.

Many on the Right heralded and praised the act with the patently immoral and thoughtless lament that “it is war.” They would not have considered that excuse for Nazi death camp guards or Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. Those criminals were held to account, often at the cost of their lives. War is not a frat party with license for abandon. It is not a right of passage, and even if it was, a soul does not switch off the tribal act of desecrating enemy dead in such a way when they return to “peaceful” society.

I have seen firsthand how acts of violence in war-whether justified or not, resonate terribly well beyond war. These men crossed a terrible line, not just in the act, but in their soul, and by the witness of thousands, and perhaps millions, have pulled us across that terrible line with them.  War is not a time for boys to be boys. It should be an aberration from rational human interaction and conflist resolution. It is a terrible and evil necessity, one that a nation should align itself on the side of righteousness and the weak.

I fully comprehend the moral entanlgements and confusion in combat. I have been there. I also understand revenge. I understand the emotions in a battle that would compel one to desire the ultimate fate upon an enemy. That is the specter of vengeance and the unhinged human heart. i confess to those emtions(watching Serb s purposely fire antiaircraft rounds at a mother and two children). I also understand that the world is a harsher and far more dangerous place when we give ourselves fully to that unbridled hate.

In the end, for these three Taliban fighters, who espouse a world and belief system I am very much opposed to, and who I believe must be defeated, the fight was over when the life left their bodies. What those soldiers then did is the worst side of all Americans and was a filthy and unnecessary act that can only be defended by those who have never been to war, or those who are too filled with innate anger and hate to see past the storms of their own heart.


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?


Emmetsburg: Excerpt from upcoming novel on Amazon Kindle

John headed south out of town. Not far, but towards a dark line of trees that marked the wide Vermillion River. He could make out the tangerine glow of a dozen or more fires, widely scattered among the trees and along the far bank. Most likely, John guessed, it was folks coming up out of Oklahoma and Kansas ahead of the hard times. He figured he could just as easily content himself among souls as lost as he felt.

The day had faded entirely when John pulled the truck up to the nearest fire. It was farthest from the others and much smaller by comparison. It illuminated a tiny shack with bits of wood, pieces of fabric constructed in the crudest fashion. The roof was an old olive drab army tent strung between the shack and an even older Model T. A simple three-drawer bureau, small cot, wash basin and metal post bed were almost lost to the shadow of the makeshift shelter at the open end of the shack. Dining chairs and a table were arranged beneath the stunning canopy of stars on a round handmade bed. Banks of gray-white wood smoke held to the branches and leaves above the makeshift camp. Close by, the fire crackled in an odd rhythm to crickets and the flickering dance of countless fireflies.

Behind this ramshackle transient home a line of laundry was strung between two trees. Stockings, under garments, a woman’s blue blouse and some old gray rags hung haphazard from the line. The line hung precisely where the bank dipped in a small trail towards the river. The laundry was still wet in places, and was wrinkled where it had been twisted and wrung dry by hand. Shadows forged from the glowing fire deepened those wrinkles into severe canyons of light and dark

There was an elderly couple on a pair of wood stools in front of the shack. The woman’s stool was a good deal shorter than his, as if there was some sort of pauper’s hierarchy; a queen to a beggar’s kingdom. She was in a long brown dress with white and gold little flowers. A hand-knitted men’s sweater covered her disillusioned shoulders. The collar of the dress was turned up over the rounded neckline of the sweater. She was small and frail, facing away from him, at the edge of her stool, as though she might suddenly bolt into the black night and simply disappear forever.

He was seated almost unnaturally straight, as if he was posing for a photograph. His neat white button shirt was stretched across a slight belly, but loose across his angular but narrow shoulders. The light of the fire played upon the contours and intersecting lines and valleys of their faces. Those shadows hid the murdered pride of a man who’d done good honest work his whole life and now had nothing to show for it. He sat like a statue to a dejected king, with one arm laid across his lap,the other holding an empty pipe at one knee.  Behind them the river whispered steadily. Neither of them reacted as John leaned part way out the truck window.

“If it’s just the same,” he said, “I could use a spell beside your fire. Just to rest a bit and then I’ll move along.”

The old man nodded slowly without looking directly at John. When he spoke his voice was rich and deep but low. It carried a faded German accent heavily layered with an Oklahoma drawl. The words slurred a bit, enough that John thought it odd.

“Fire’s free.” The old man looked to the night sky.

John climbed from the truck. The grass was thin and dry beneath his boots. It crunched softly with each step. He went over to where the couple sat, looking back towards town and rocking on his heels.

“Obliged,” he said, respectfully.

“Afraid we don’t have much else to offer, stranger,” said the man.

“Times being what they are,” John agreed.

“My apologies.”

“The fire just looked inviting. Got a bed roll in the truck. I’ll be moving on soon enough.”

“Suit yourself.”

The man’s wife looked up at that moment. It was the first John had seen her move. It was like she’d just come to life, out of a trance or a deep thought. “Suppose there’s a bit of coffee left.”

Her husband didn’t react, though John was certain the fellow’s brow furled just a little. John smiled, recalling how when money got tight at home he was the one who pulled back, who held tightly to every crumb, while Anna would trade her soul over any insinuation of an inhospitable nature. 

“Don’t want to bother.”

“No bother,” she replied, without moving from the stool. Her eyes moved just a bit, noting the slightest frown from her husband with a bit of disappointment.

At that moment a young woman appeared through the laundry, coming up from the river. She came up like a breeze, a long green printed dress flowing after her. The dress had slipped off one shoulder, baring the top of one breast.  The color of her long hair was lost to the night, but the fire caught her eyes and burned deeply there. Her sudden appearance, the rhythm of her smooth movements was so harmonious John was left wondering if she wasn’t some sort of sign. He wondered if the sudden lingering meeting of their eyes did not foretell or promise something more.

 


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.”


On the front lines with Occupy Chicago

It is an occupation, and occupations are often not pretty. No one criticized frontline soldiers for being dirty. Even if that was true, and in 3 weeks covering the movement daily I can attest that it is not, these are soldiers in a peace-war to take back control of the nation from those who have leveraged and sold it out. 

 This is the people’s occupation against the actual redistribution of wealth that has already taken place in this country. If you believe the propaganda about those occupying spaces around the nation and world, ask yourself if you and the people you know are struggling more today in relation to the historic and unprecedented accumulation of wealth by a small number of corporatists and economic looters.

That 1% has been redistributing the wealth for three decades now. Only when the American people assert their right to reclaim what was stolen do they call that redistribution. By that perverse logic, a parking ticket, a license, a levied fine is redistribution. Right wing radio in Chicago claims daily the movement is fading. Today, holding their daily congress, I found the backbone of the effort, those stalwart and intransigent souls who hold the ground as their transient colleagues come and go, were in this for the long haul.

A Vietnam Veteran speaks before the Occupy Chicago citizen's congress, an open forum to organize, focus and strategizeAbout 200 attended Friday's OccupationAn organizer addresses fellow patriots. Occupy Chicago has been a non-violent protest despite acts of intimidation and efforts by authorities to disrupt and undermine the movement.

 

Protesters are in this for the long haul

 

 

 


Occupy Chicago: The people’s demands and grievances

Copied with permission from Occupychicago.org, here are the clear demands and grievances from the 99%:.

Our PROPOSED grievances

Posted on October 7, 2011 by occupychiadmin

1.PASS HR 1489 REINSTATING GLASS-STEAGALL. – A depression era safeguard that separated the commercial lending and investment banking portions of banks. Its repeal in 1999 is considered the major cause of the global financial meltdown of 2008-2009.

2. REPEAL BUSH TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY

3. FULLY INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE THE WALL STREET CRIMINALS who clearly broke the law and helped cause the 2008 financial crisis.

4.OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED v. US. – A 2010 Supreme Court Decision which ruled that money is speech. Corporations, as legal persons, are now allowed to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns in the exercise of free “speech.”

5. PASS THE BUFFET RULE ON FAIR TAXATION, CLOSE CORPORATE TAX LOOPHOLES, PROHIBIT HIDING FUNDS OFFSHORE.

6. GIVE THE SEC STRICTER REGULATORY POWER, STRENGTHEN THE CONSUMER PROTECTION BUREAU, AND PROVIDE ASSISTANCE FOR OWNERS OF FORECLOSED MORTGAGES WHO WERE VICTIMS OF PREDATORY LENDING.

7.TAKE STEPS TO LIMIT THE INFLUENCE OF LOBBYISTS AND ELIMINATE THE PRACTICE OF LOBBYISTS WRITING LEGISLATION.

8. ELIMINATE RIGHT OF FORMER GOVERNMENT REGULATORS TO WORK FOR CORPORATIONS OR INDUSTRIES THEY ONCE REGULATED.

9. ELIMINATE CORPORATE PERSONHOOD.

10. INSIST THE FEC STAND UP FOR THE PUBLIC INTEREST IN REGULATING PRIVATE USE OF PUBLIC AIRWAVES to help ensure that political candidates ARE GIVEN EQUAL TIME for free at reasonable intervals during campaign season.

11. REFORM CAMPAIGN FINANCE WITH THE PASSAGE OF THE FAIR ELECTIONS NOW ACT (S.750, H.R. 1404).

12. FORGIVE STUDENT DEBT – The same institutions that gave almost $2T in bailouts and then extended $16T of loans at little to no interest for banks can surely afford to forgive the $946B of student debt currently held. Not only does this favor the 99% over the 1%, it has the practical effect of more citizens spending money on actual goods, not paying down interest.


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