Friday, September 30, 2011

All Righty Then -- A Contrasting View

Inside the Jacobin Club, Paris, c.1789

Most of the anti-Occupation screeds -- from the "left" or the right -- are simply vitriol and venom, spewed for no good purpose, and because they do not serve as any form of constructive criticism, they are either ignored or laughed at.

A few are fairly transparent as a form of job hunting: "Hire me, and I'll show you how to do it right!" [Toothy grin.]

But this one, from Jacobin posted at Occupy California, I think, makes some good points to ponder.

[As a side note, I was watching the choppy Livestream of the Chicago GA this evening, and oh my. There is truly no more difficult political form than participatory democracy. These people, as well meaning as they obviously were, had little experience with the process, though they seemed capable enough -- and certainly willing and adaptable enough -- to muddle through. But the process nearly came to a dead halt because they could not achieve sufficient consensus to carry on. They went round and round and kept trying, bless their hearts, and they tried several different ways of getting past the blocks, and I don't know whether they were successful or not. The feed deteriorated to the point where it was essentially frozen. In New York, if someone blocks a measure, that person, generally, has to be prepared to leave the group. In Chicago, they hadn't quite figured that out yet, nor had they come up with some alternative means of working through dissent. But they were trying, and that's what mattered. It also looked like it was freezing cold.]

Back to Jacobin's points about New York and the Occupation Movement which is sweeping the nation and the world.

Jacobin has some issues with what is going on. I'm going to assume for the purposes of this analysis that Jacobin is a "he," but with the proviso that you never know, and I would not make such an assumption in life. It's merely a convenience to get through the next few paragraphs. (Personal Gender Pronouns -- PGP -- were a big issue at one of the New York General Assemblies, don't you know.)

He's been to the demonstrations at Zuccotti Park (the official name) but hasn't stuck around, because, even though he's met some swell people, he's just not into what they're doing. Nevertheless, he believes in the intentions of the participants, so...

He's noticed the overwhelming police presence (since lightened quite a bit, but still...) and how they are the ones causing most of the mischief, harassing the demonstrators and making their lives in the park miserable. At any rate to the extent they can.

He does not consider sleeping on the pavement in the rain any kind of "victory" in a rational sense, and thinks it's absurd for demonstrators to declare a "victory" when that is what they have: penned in by club-and-gun wielding police, sleeping on the pavement, in a rainstorm (actually, I added the rainstorm business because the rain has come up since the last time Jacobin was there, and it was apparently a deluge tonight.)

He's trying to puzzle out the purposes of the action, and he's pretty well convinced that what the demonstrators are doing isn't achieving those purposes: 1) to sabotage or interfere with what the denizens of Wall Street -- both literally and figuratively -- are doing; 2) to take control of space and use it purposefully for further action/gain at "Wall Street's" expense. (Jacobin calls it the "enemy's" expense; I wouldn't use that kind of terminology, not at this point.) He says that neither purpose is being fulfilled. He says that the denizens of Wall Street don't give a fuck what the demonstrators do or don't do; and as for controlling the space, the demonstrators don't. He's convinced the park is heavily infiltrated with plainclothes police, their every thought and action is monitored, and the park could easily be cleared in seconds if the authorities so ordered.

All of which is probably true. In Chicago, the difficulty of getting past the blocks was such that many of the participants suspected infiltrators and provocateurs were the cause of the problem, and it could be. I don't doubt their presence, nor should anyone else. On the other hand, an open process should never fear either infiltration or provocation. Both should be relatively easily neutralized by the effectiveness of the process.

He's impressed by the amount of cash the Occupation has raised and how much food and other supplies have been donated. He's intrigued with the actions of Anonymous to out Officer Bologna and he wonders what else they know -- for example about the owners of the park ( Brookfield Properties). He's not, however, impressed with the Occupation itself (cause to him -- or to an alien who dropped in on the scene -- it looks like the Occupiers are being encaged by the police.)

His suggestions include drop kicking the General Assembly process because it is too unwieldy on the one hand, and too easily infiltrated on the other, such that just about any cop in a Che t-shirt could capture control of the Assembly. (That's not quite how it works, but it's not necessarily as far-fetched as it seems.) He suggests splitting into what amount to committees or working/affinity groups, which is what I believe is the model they've been using all along. (See the chart at the head of the "Participatory Democracy is Hard" post.) But what he may be thinking of is "cells," rather than working groups. That would be worth discussing, but I don't think the consensus would agree. The participants are trying for something else altogether.

He suggests that if a large enough group of people (such as those expected to come to the not-happening Radiohead concert) could be attracted to the park such that it would have to overflow into unclaimed territory, say on Wall Street itself, then productive collusion (?) would be possible away from police scrutiny (amid the chaos and all.) What I saw today was a huge crowd that did obviously overflow the park, but that crowd didn't go to Wall Street, they went to Police Plaza and there held a rather moving demonstration against police brutality. I have no doubt that it was certainly possible for splinter groups and meetings to take place at Police Plaza, or anywhere along the way, or...somewhere else. While surveillance is pervasive (and one has to learn how to work within a surveillance context) when the crowd is that large, it is quite impossible to keep track of everyone all the time.

He thinks we should be paying attention to how long the Revolution is going to have to go on. At the very least, he sees it continuing through next year, and he apparently isn't sure the nascent revolutionaries have thought it through that far. But I think most of them have. This will not be an easy or quick task by any means. Nor will anything we think of now actually transpire or endure in the by and bye. Revolutions have a tendency to go their own -- and highly unpredictable-- way. Which is why I laugh at those who are demanding to know what the "end point" will look like. Hint: Nobody knows.

He wonders what it would mean to strangle a corporation to death. Hm. That's not really the attitude most of the participants are bringing to this effort, so it's probably a good thing that Jacobin isn't sitting still for much of the to do at Liberty Square (or Plaza, as the case may be; interesting that he will not use that name...)

He doesn't want to raise his issues at Assembly, and I understand that. But he does want... well, to subvert what so many of the others are doing. Yes, subvert I think is the right word. He doesn't see it moving forward well enough, securely enough, or purposefully enough, and as far as I can tell, he wants to find out if there are others who will join with him to... push things in a different and an edgier direction. As it were.

Well. What I think is good here is Jacobin's recognition of the nature of a Revolutionary organization and the intrinsic vulnerability of the participatory direct democracy model chosen for the initial phase of this Movement. But I get the distinct impression that those who are most deeply involved in the process and development of the Movement understand these points as well as or better than Jacobin does.

What happened today -- with the thousands and thousands of additional people and the march to Police Plaza -- was a catalyzing event. Even if many of those who came down to the Plaza did so to see Radiohead, they ultimately got sucked into or involved in something much bigger than themselves and their need for entertainment. The Occupation is never going to be the same again, and tomorrow, October 1, kicks off a whole series of new Occupations; the whole effort has metastasized in a twinkling. It's enormous.

Now that it is suddenly huge, of course there will have to be adaptations. Whether they will turn in the direction Jacobin wants, I can't say, but just from the superficial outsider view I've had of the operations of the Occupation movement, I'd say that behind the scenes something very much like the structure he suggests is an established fact, and as the Movement develops, it will become more forceful.

How forceful? How much discommoding will take place? That remains to be seen, and as far as I can tell, it is way too early to become too ...assertive. I see it as a gradual -- though not necessarily slow -- strengthening, which in turn leads to more and stronger efforts at... building a better future.

I don't see anything too strenuous, in other words, until sometime next year.

But the growth of the Movement over the last two weeks has been startling. The next phase may come much sooner...


Louis Quatorze en famille

Louis Quinze le Roi

"Au reste, après nous, le Déluge"

Charles le Dix

Ils n'ont rien appris, ni rien oublié.

Marianne, la Liberté

Et maintenant, c'est tout.


Since everybody's been getting the lyrics wrong...

"For What It's Worth" -- Buffalo Springfield, Monterey Pop Festival, June 1967. (Yes, I was there. Yes, I remember [some of] it. So stop saying that!)

At Police Plaza

The march assembled at Police Plaza.

So many people. There are now at least four layers of "mic check" repetitions, there are so many people.

They just sat down. "Destroy Imperialism!"

The police look... surprised.

"Jobs and Justice, Food and Peace."

"Too Big has Failed."

So Many People

Liberty Plaza is overflowing with people at the moment. Jammed. A huge sign appears behind the speakers' rostrum: "Occupy Everything" but there are so many people, so many union representatives, so many media, so much energy, so much noise, it's hard to make out just what has happened there.

My heart soars.

There are so many people that the speakers' words have to be repeated first by the crowd nearby, then by the crowd further out so that everyone can hear. What had been a quirk and an iconic action has become a necessity. And still they say they can't hear!

It's become so... anarchic(?) that some are suggesting just go ahead and use megaphones. (Actually, there is a non-amplified one in use.) As the BART protesters liked to say: "You can't kill us all."

They are trying to organize a march to Wall Street (a couple of blocks away); it's not easy. There are so many people and communications are inadequate for this size gathering, yet they're figuring out a way.

The Livestream, of course, is acting up. But check it out.

We are witness to history.

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

Participatory Democracy is Hard

Apart from sartorial and piercing issues, the biggest problem the so-called "left" seems to have with the Occupation movement that's spreading from New York is its apparent lack of focus, lack of clearly stated demands, and lack of singular purpose.

"It's too much like the SDS."

In other words, it's a participatory, direct democracy, perhaps the most unwieldy and difficult form of political organization there is.

Not only is participatory democracy difficult in operation, it is frustrating, aggravating, and it is often filled with dissension and conflict while attempting to reach consensus.

Why would these people choose the participatory model of organization and development when an authoritarian model is so much easier and more efficient?

Ideally, the question answers itself.

But somehow, for many members of the so-called "left," the organizational model is the fundamental issue that must be resolved at the outset in favor of ease and efficiency -- and media convenience; in other words, the only model of protest and direct action that "works" is the authoritarian top-down model we see in the media, the current major political parties, many unions, and in corporate operations.

The Wisconsin effort earlier this year is sometimes held up as a nearly textbook example of the "correct" model of protest and direct action, as it was ultimately a matter of public employee union and Democratic Party political organization that kept it going.

The only problem is that it was an objective failure. I'd go farther: it was an objective rout. The Wisconsin protest, despite its size and duration, achieved... nothing... that it set out to. None of the union demands were met, all of the Democratic legislator's efforts came to naught, and control of the Wisconsin State Senate was not flipped. Russell Feingold refused to get involved with the protests, wouldn't even show up until after the end of the occupation of the Capitol, and he refused to challenge Scott Walker in next year's planned recall election of the governor. That pretty much took the air out of what was left of the Wisconsin protest movement. There may or may not even be a recall of Scott Walker next year.

In retrospect, it seems obvious what went wrong, though at the time it wasn't so clear, and nothing I have to say about it is intended to denigrate the efforts of those involved. They did what they could in the way they knew how, and it failed. All right, learn from it.

The initial factor in what went wrong with the Wisconsin protests was the fact that there were protests at all; there were protests because there was a Republican sweep of state offices and the legislature, and the Republicans took this as a mandate to completely overhaul the relationship between public employee unions and the state. There was a Republican sweep in the 2010 elections in large part because Democrats and Independents stayed home, they did not go to the polls, and thereby, let the Republicans win.

Democrats and Independents stayed home in large measure because they were either disappointed or disgusted with the continuing failure of the Democratic President and Democratic majorities elected all over the country in 2008 to appropriately deal with the human fall out from the ongoing recession, and to appropriately act on behalf of the public interest.

Once the protests in Wisconsin were under way, the single issue of maintaining collective bargaining rights for unionized public employees seemed... well, weak. Union leadership had already conceded pay and benefit cuts. So that, supposedly, wasn't an issue. Yet it is the key issue in a recession that is as characterized as this one is by such high and enduring unemployment, such high levels of household debt, and such price inflation of necessities like food and fuel.

Instead of focusing on the weak issue of collective bargaining rights, the public focus of the protests was on how corrupt and "evil" the Republicans in office were. Well. Yes? And? How they broke the rules. Yes? And? How they manipulated the system for their own benefit. Yes. True. So? This became a round of taunts and accusations, legal challenges, huge marches, a truly wonderful video (which I have posted several times)... and, ultimately, failure.

The focus on holding on to something (collective bargaining) and on electoral issues -- on the Republicans, for example, and their evility -- and eventually on recall elections was to my way of looking at it what led to the failure of the protests. The issues Wisconsinites and Americans in general face go far beyond the parochial and partisan issues of elections. The protests in effect were trying to relitigate the election just past, but even a "win" would not have substantively changed the situation for most Wisconsinites. That was the fundamental problem that the Wisconsin protests could not and would not address since they were completely captive of the public employee unions and the Democratic Party organization -- which had already conceded the key issues.

In other words, the top down authoritarian model of protest practiced in Wisconsin brought out a lot of people, made a lot of noise, caused a big ruckus, but it did not achieve its stated objectives. It did not achieve any of them.

Nevertheless, some on the so-called "left" -- mostly union and Democratic Party apparatchiks -- insist that Wisconsin was a "success" because it has led to a re-invigoration of the Democratic Party and of unions and it has left a much stronger political organization in its wake. Yes. Well. So?

One thing it didn't get was significant media coverage and respect. In fact, such coverage as there was of the Wisconsin protests were used as a vehicle for union-bashing on a level I really hadn't seen since the early Reagan years. It was an opening salvo in an ongoing effort to pit unionized public employees against everyone else, on the basis of "unfairness". Public employees enjoy pay and benefits much better than most people do, and gosh-darn it, it's just "unfair." The only answer we ever hear is to disable their unions, cut their numbers, cut their pay and cut their benefits so that their compensation and working conditions more closely match those of ordinary Americans. It's a nationwide campaign, and it is succeeding.

The unions, so far, have not been able to effectively counter it, and public employees are taking a severe economic and public relations beating everywhere, so much so that they are generally conceding to pay and benefit cuts, retirement cuts and layoffs -- basically anything that's asked of them -- so as to (hopefully) maintain any presence in the public sector at all. The exception right now is New York where the public employee unions refused to agree to the cuts demanded by the Democratic governor, and there will no doubt be conflict.

Comes now the Occupation action which is taking a very different tack, not even -- at this point -- declaring themselves to be "protesting." No, instead, they are building A Movement for a Better Future, using as their models the successful (or at least ongoing) Occupation actions in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. They are adopting the successful "leaderless opposition, participatory democracy" model that has been utilized over and over again and is still being used in Europe and North Africa and the Middle East to achieve much broader objectives than simply holding on to the status quo.

As Ian Welsh puts it, this is an existential threat to the hidebound "leftist" union and party elites because it doesn't even involve them. It has nothing to do with them. It goes around them completely. They can't fundraise off it, they can't fearmonger off it, and they can't control it. Unions and union members are now becoming involved in the Occupation movement (to their credit), but they are joining something that's already under way, and there is no sign at all, at least at this point, that they will be able to take it over, or even that they want to take it over. Right now, it looks like they want to be part of it, and that's a good thing.

Last night's General Assembly and its aftermath got somewhat tense in Liberty Plaza because of what the participants were dealing with: A Declaration of the Occupation of New York City. It's not easy. But this is what they came up with (I'm copying the whole thing, but please go to the link for the considerable discussion):

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
Posted on September 30, 2011 by NYCGA

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
  • They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

    To the people of the world,

    We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

    Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

    To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

    Join us and make your voices heard!

    *These grievances are not all-inclusive.

  • Furthermore, the group has produced and thoroughly discussed their Principles of Solidarity:

    PRINCIPLES OF SOLIDARITY – working draft
    Posted on September 24, 2011 by NYCGA

    What follows is a living document that will be revised
    through democratic process of General Assembly

    On September 17, 2011, people from all across the United States of America and the world came to protest the blatant injustices of our times perpetuated by the economic and political elites. On the 17th we as individuals rose up against political disenfranchisement and social and economic injustice. We spoke out, resisted, and successfully occupied Wall Street. Today, we proudly remain in Liberty Square constituting ourselves as autonomous political beings engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and building solidarity based on mutual respect, acceptance, and love. It is from these reclaimed grounds that we say to all Americans and to the world, Enough! How many crises does it take? We are the 99% and we have moved to reclaim our mortgaged future.

    Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted these principles of solidarity, which are points of unity that include but are not limited to:

  • Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
  • Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
  • Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
  • Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
  • Redefining how labor is valued;
  • The sanctity of individual privacy;
  • The belief that education is human right; and
  • Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.

  • We are daring to imagine a new socio-political and economic alternative that offers greater possibility of equality. We are consolidating the other proposed principles of solidarity, after which demands will follow.
    1 The Working Group on Principles of Consolidation continues to work through the other proposed principles to be incorporated as soon as possible into this living document.
    This is an official document crafted by the Working Group on Principles of Consolidation. The New York City General Assembly came to consensus on September 23rd to accept this working draft and post it online for public consumption

    And a growing list of demands is being formulated.

    In addition, the Plaza where the Occupation activists are camped out is (according to those who have been there) very well organized and maintained, the people who participate are well taken care of despite the difficulties of the situation (such as weather, for example), and the issue of police misconduct, which got the media interested in what was going on, is not the highest priority of most of the participants.

    After all:

    And everyone knows it.

    There are at present almost 100 Occupation actions being self-organized all over the country and abroad in solidarity with the OccupyWallStreet action. I'm planning to attend one tomorrow.

    Find one near you. Go. See. Participate.

    It may fail -- "too much like the SDS" -- and participatory democracy is hard. Yep.

    Is it worse than being laughed at by these people?

    You decide.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011


    Reverend Billy fired up the Liberty Plaza crowd this afternoon.

    I was watching the chatroom on Livestream at the time, and the room exploded with fury that this ChurchMan had been allowed to "invade" the park to proselytize, just screaming denunciations. People tried to say it was a satirical performance, it was "art," etc. The screamers would have none of it. "No! you can't turn this wonderful protest over to the Church!!!!" Yes, well. The people in the park loved it.

    Matt Stoller refers to the "protests" as the Church of Dissent.

    Matt Stoller: #OccupyWallStreet Is a Church of Dissent, Not a Protest

    After the Reverend Billy, an Iraqi American took the floor to quote an excerpt from an Arabic poem about freedom ("I love to live in Freedom!"). He did the "mic check" version of it -- in Arabic -- which everyone in the park repeated dutifully and seemed to really appreciate. Nevertheless the chatroom went ballistic. "He's a jihadi!"

    The mods had to shut down and clear the room repeatedly.

    All this suggests that there are some rising tensions over the fact that the action has gone on two weeks without coming up with a long-form statement of issues/demands to satisfy the media with. (There were other things going on that showed the testiness on the ground as well today -- including rain.)

    It's to be expected.

    Nothing they're doing is easy in any way, no matter how festive it may seem most of the time.

    Continuing Action

    Video from September 27:

    The point of it all:

    Nobody Can Predict The Moment Of Revolution from ivarad on Vimeo.

    We keep hearing the media call for "bullet points," and every time I see it brought up at the Occupy Wall Street General Assemblies, I have to laugh -- as do many of the participants.

    "Bullet points" aplenty there will be in due time, manifestos, lists of demands, schedules of restitution, you name it. I don't doubt they will emerge in due time. But it is not that time right now.

    Right now there is a dynamic tension between the communitarian underpinning of the movement and the liberationist impulses of the participants. How this tension is resolved -- if it is -- will provide the key to everything else.

    But for now, it's enough to be working on it, and to be heard
    Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

    How I Saw the Future at the End of Last Year

    I'm re-posting my Year-End Doom Blogging piece from December 31, 2010, as a kind of counterpoint to what's going on now.

    To say the least, my vision was clouded at the time. I was very ill with pneumonia -- much sicker than I thought -- and it was before the Arab Spring uprisings were recognized for what they were (the Tunisian revolt had recently begun, but there wouldn't be a resolution until mid January.) There had been protests against banksters and austerity in Europe through much of 2010, but protest action in the United States was still primarily confined to the Tea Partiers; the tools of the plutocracy in other words.

    They'd used their electoral clout -- financed by the billion-and-trillionaires -- to capture a huge majority in the House of Representatives and a paralyzing minority in the Senate. I saw the results of the 2010 election as essentially disabling and paralyzing the function of government, at least insofar as it was used to the benefit of the People or on behalf of the Public Interest.

    January would see the seating of the new Congress. This is how I saw it:

    As I've said before, we're likely to see the complete paralysis of regular government function and the substitution of something else again, which most people will welcome as better than what was going on before. In the Koch series, I suggest that we are already living in their future, with the semblance of institutions still functioning, but they don't actually work, and real rule occurring well behind the scenes involving a shrinking cadre of Owners and Stakeholders. But next year, I suspect, what's still somewhat hidden will come out of the shadows, and we will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, that Our Rulers simply have no interest in We the People, and do not intend to gain an interest.

    What Americans ever do about it is anyone's guess. The only crypto-Revolutionary movement this country has seen in decades are the TeaBaggers, and they are going to be in power. So... if things get worse on their watch? They'll double down, of course. It's what they do.

    As it has turned out, Americans did not sit on their hands... ;-)


    YEAR-END DOOM BLOGGING (December 31, 2010)

    Let the Hanky Wringing and "Oh, dear, noes!" continue. Things are going to get worse for the vast majority of Americans in 2011, there's no two ways about it. The question, as always, is what -- if anything -- Americans will do about it but take to their fainting couch and have another Take and Bake while watching the Game on their Big Screen.

    As a rule, I'm not into Doom Blogging, one of the most popular genres in the field. The Aga Saga Woman can make me laugh uproariously when she goes off on one of her panics:

    "Run for your lives, Children! We're all going to diiiiiiiiie!!!

    And we see Doom Blogging everywhere; it was especially prevalent during the BP Gulf Oil Blowout, when it was just accepted as common knowledge that the Gulf was "dead" and could not be restored; there was no point in even considering an alternative.

    Now that the Batshit Republicans are about to be restored to power in the House of Representatives, it is widely understood that we're doomed as a nation, as a people, as a self-governing society. That's as may be, but if it is true, the proximate cause of our doom is not the Restoration of the Batshit Party to to power in the House of Representatives. It's been in the cards for quite a while, in other words, and all the political factions have had a role to play.

    Yet there is a sense of palpable dread that has been a-building relentlessly since the Impeachment Circus of 1998 and following. That's when the notion of Self-Government in the United States went off the rails, and it has never been restored. Without that mooring of promise and responsibility, the notion that at least some of us are doomed has a growing resonance.

    The Impeachment Circus was followed by the casual, lawless intervention of the Supreme Court to install the Court majority's favorite on the White House Throne. This was recognized at the time as a serious breach of Constitutional authority by the Court, and yet, all the Powers That Be acceded to it. Those who were paying attention knew that the lawless installation of George Bush the Lesser and the submission of the entire Ruling Class to this usurpation would not work out well, and most were sure that it would lead to unprecedented levels of corruption, looting, and aggressive war. Sure enough. That's exactly what happened. But it happened on a scale and speed that surprised even the most gloomy doom-sayer at the time.

    Now it almost seems as if Doom has been delayed. Repeatedly. And when Doom is delayed so often, one's expectations of Immanent Doom grow greater and greater.

    The transition of Congressional power next year will have an influence on everyone's sense of well-being, and because the White House is not about to move off its Hooverite "Progressivism", most people's sense of well-being will go into a further tailspin. On the other hand, it wouldn't have been any better for most people if Democrats had stayed in charge of the House.

    The question will be just how bad it will get.

    As I've said before, we're likely to see the complete paralysis of regular government function and the substitution of something else again, which most people will welcome as better than what was going on before. In the Koch series, I suggest that we are already living in their future, with the semblance of institutions still functioning, but they don't actually work, and real rule occurring well behind the scenes involving a shrinking cadre of Owners and Stakeholders. But next year, I suspect, what's still somewhat hidden will come out of the shadows, and we will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, that Our Rulers simply have no interest in We the People, and do not intend to gain an interest.

    What Americans ever do about it is anyone's guess. The only crypto-Revolutionary movement this country has seen in decades are the TeaBaggers, and they are going to be in power. So... if things get worse on their watch? They'll double down, of course. It's what they do.

    For those who haven't seen it, I recommend (Astro)Turf Wars for an idea of who the TeaBaggers are and who runs them -- and what the intent is.

    I recommend The Century of the Self to understand how Americans are so easily hoodwinked.


    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Doing Some Redesign

    See how this works...

    Happens Every Day

    This may not be the last video that I post taken during the NYPD riot of September 24, 2011, but it is one of the most graphic and sickening.

    One of the reasons the activists in Liberty Plaza haven't made as big a deal about the police abuse they experienced -- especially on the 24th, but ongoing throughout the actions in Lower Manhattan -- is because this sort of thing goes on every fucking day in this country; this sort of thing and much, much worse, and the police almost always get away with it, even get rewarded for it.

    So what happened in Lower Manhattan on the 24th was bad, it was inexcusable, in was wrong, and according to the published rules it was illegal. But set that aside for the moment. It was an incident (that is to say, the entire police riot, not just the pepperspraying incident(s) -- another incident involving Anthony Bologna and pepper spray on the 24th has now been confirmed, there had been only a few rumors before). There are constant "incidents" of police misconduct and illegality in this country. They go on all the time.

    One reason not to make too big a deal of this particular incident is because there are so many of them. If you want to change things (for real), you've got to acknowledge that fact first, and recognize that what happened in this particular incident -- while horrifying and wrong -- wasn't unique at all. It was an example of the kind of police misconduct that is so commonplace in this country as to be considered routine.

    And if you want to fix it, you have to be willing to set aside your own immediate outrage at this or that incident and demand that the whole issue of police violations of law and citizen's rights be taken up in its entirety, and demand that reform of the whole system of policing in this country be undertaken from the ground up.

    That's what has to be done.

    You can't focus just on one incident, no matter how outrageous.

    The whole thing needs reform.

    That's part of the overriding mission of the activists involved in the Occupations. Not just reform of the police, but the whole social, economic, and political system from the ground up.

    This is why the Occupation actions are truly revolutionary, and why the Powers That Be are truly spooked about these actions whereas they took Wisconsin's protests in stride. The PTB knew they could outlast and eventually win the contest with the unions who were trying to hold on to something. And they did. The won the whole thing.

    But this time, the activists are not trying to hold on to something (they don't have, anyway); they're trying to create something new, and they're discovering and demonstrating how to do it as they go.

    This is how a revolution -- any revolution -- has to proceed.

    Police brutality and lawlessness is a global issue, and it is pervasive in the United States. The activists are right, don't focus so much on the one incident, focus on reform of the whole.

    Eyes on the prize.

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Terrorists Attack Wall Street!!

    The New York Times was excoriated for ignoring the Occupy Wall Street action. They hadn't actually ignored it; there are articles listed on the 17th, 19th, 22nd, 2 on the 24th, one on the 25th, 2 on the 26th, and one on the 27th. That's more coverage than a lot of protests get, but the narrative was already set that the Times (and the corporate media generally) would ignore -- and so did ignore -- the Occupy Wall Street actions until the day of the 24th of September when several score Occupiers/Marchers were violently arrested, while others were inexplicably brutalized by New York's Finest, in a show of force that seemed grossly out of proportion to the "threat" posed by the marchers.

    Today's story in the Times (September 27, 2011) attempts to give context to that over the top response on the 24th. That the Times would feel the need to explain police behavior -- or misbehavior -- and provide context for it is interesting in and of itself. The Times has been maligned rather fiercely for all kinds of institutional failings over the years (Judith Miller's "reporting", for example; ahem), and it looked fair to say that it's reporting and opining on Occupy Wall Street matters would, in a word, suck.

    And it was assumed that, like all corporate media, the Times would defend the police.

    And so it is. In today's story, headlined:

    Wall Street Demonstrations Test Police Trained for Bigger Threats

    we see that the excuses are already formulated. After all, this is New York, and nothing reverberates in New York like "bigger threats," ie: acts of terrorism. So, of course, the NYPD would respond to the Occupy Wall Street protests with the same verve and vigor they are trained to respond to terrorist threats. Just like they did at the Republican nominating convention in 2004. This was the same kind of thing. Yes?

    Except it is nothing of the kind, not even remotely, but even after all these years, and all their experience with marches and demonstrations and protests of all kinds, most of which are essentially left alone to do their thing, even if they don't have the required paperwork, this kind of protest by this kind of person still gets their hackles up and their cans of whoop-ass out.

    What's the deal? What are they so terrified of? And why such disparate treatment of most protests compared to ones like the Occupy Wall Street action that involve vaguely lefty participants and rhetoric?

    The Times attempts to explain it by noting:

    ...[to] the New York Police Department, the protesters represented something else: a visible example of lawlessness akin to that which had resulted in destruction and violence at other anticapitalist demonstrations, like the Group of 20 economic summit meeting in London in 2009 and the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999.

    In what way? Explain. There was no violence, no property destruction of any kind by the crowd, even after the police became violent toward the crowd. How, in fact, did this procession from Wall Street to Union Square and back to Liberty Plaza become seen in the eyes of the police as a "visible example of lawlessness akin to that which resulted in destruction and violence at other anticapitalist demonstrations"?

    Leave aside for the moment that participants in some of those demonstrations have long claimed that violence was initiated in every case by the police, and that any violence or property destruction by members of the crowd was done by -- or at least initiated by -- police provocateurs. Leave that aside. Whatever the Occupy Wall Street actions in New York on Saturday, September 24th, 2011, were, they had nothing directly to do with any kind of violence or property destruction at all.

    The police, who acknowledge monitoring organizing websites and twitter feeds of the event, must have known that from the beginning of this movement, there has been a strongly anti-violence ethic demonstrated by the participants as one of their core principles.

    This is a movement characterized by non-violence, passive resistance, and mild civil disobedience. It has nothing to do with the "anticapitalist demonstrations" the NYPD claims it "represents."



    In recent weeks, police commanders have been discussing the riots in London this summer, and strategizing how they would stop a similar situation in New York, said Roy Richter, the president of the union in New York that represents officers of captain and higher rank. And since August, investigators with the Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have monitored the online efforts of activists to bring demonstrations to Wall Street, people briefed on the matter said.

    But the British riots and the Occupy Wall Street action have nothing to do with each other. They are entirely different matters that cannot be rationally conflated, yet apparently they have been by the NYPD, and so they are being conflated by the always willing and eager to please Authority New York Times.

    ♫Young people speaking their minds... ♪ are apparently -- by definition -- threats to world order. ♫A thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs...♪

    Well, it depends, doesn't it?

    If you're a long-haired weirdo, or you hang out with them, they are terrified of you and they will do anything in their power to hurt you. If you're a TeaBagger, you're good to go.

    One of the most remarkable statements in the Times piece is this:

    Although the Police Department has closely monitored the encampment of protesters in the Financial District and stationed officers there, there appears to have been little discussion between the police and the protesters.

    Mr. Browne, the police spokesman said that the protesters never sought a permit for Saturday’s march.

    The lack of communication between the two sides may have set the stage for the confrontation on Saturday near Union Square.

    They are defining "communication" as having a permit for a march, which is not quite the same thing as communiction, something the Occupy Wall Street activists have been constantly engaging in with the police since their first appearance at Liberty Plaza on September 17. A major focus of their action is stating and restating the fact that the police and the activists are all part of the 99% who are being exploited and impoverished by "Wall Street." The police and the activists are on the same side.

    Other Incidents Involving Anthony Bologna at Occupy Wall Street

    Further -- on Similarities and Differences, Wisconsin vs Wall Street

    I've ceased calling the nationwide Occupation Actions a "protest" in part because the organizers and participants don't see their actions so much as protests as they see them as "discovery" -- ways to approach and eventually become the Future.

    Ways to create the Community of the Future they want to live in.

    Ways to take control of their own fate, discover and develop a better Future for all.

    We are watching the formation of a vision, in other words, which some of us -- by and bye -- will be participating in. Once started, it seems to me, this becomes a very powerful, ultimately an unstoppable, movement.

    Which is why, as I've noted, it's got the Powers That Be spooked. And yet, it is no direct threat to them at all.

    This must seem contradictory given the premise of the whole thing: "Occupy Wall Street." How can you "occupy" Wall Street without an implicit threat to the Financial Powers so prominent there -- and so responsible for the economic misery they're imposing on everyone else?

    As I see it, the vision being formulated by the activists in New York and elsewhere goes well beyond the momentary issues of threats and blame. Yes, of course, the entire economic system represented by Wall Street must be reformed, and it can't be done by those who have caused the economic calamities we face. Those who did it must experience some sense of shame, and their ability to cause further harm must be terminated. There are other issues of economic justice that must be addressed. But it can't happen in isolation. It is not solely a matter of the One Thing, Wall Street. You cannot change the One Thing, Wall Street, without some fundamental changes throughout the system.

    This is a highly communitarian vision, highly participatory, not so highly organized as to become an authoritarian nightmare like we saw being played out in the streets on Saturday, but still organized enough to get some things done. Which ultimately trigger the doing and reform of more things. On and on. Self generating and self replicating.

    In thinking about the failure of the Wisconsin protests to achieve their stated objectives, I can see that the focus on politicians and electoral mechanisms was misplaced. They are a problem, to be sure, but they aren't really what's in charge of the situation. We saw this in the easy camaraderie between Scott Walker and a caller purporting to be David Koch, as opposed to his extraordinary hostility to and dismissal of ordinary citizens expressing a grievance. Obviously, power was not in the hands of the citizens nor was it in the hands of Scott Walker and the State Legislature. We saw that power was actually in the hands of somewhat shadowy -- and unelected -- outsiders, or at least for the moment, those who could effectively imitate them.

    In other words, in that display, the People not only had no real power, they had no presence. It was as if they did not exist at all, except perhaps occasionally as props or pawns in a game being played by others. The demonstrations and the occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol didn't matter; it was just noise. The demands of the protesters were not just being dismissed, they were completely ignored. The Peoples' response, in a sense, was to get louder. It didn't matter.

    There was an effort at a general strike that was superficially a success, but ultimately it had no affect on the course of policy. And most shockingly to those who had put so much into "doing something" about the situation, the recall effort failed to flip control of the State Senate.

    No matter what the People did, it seemed, the end result would be the same.

    What a horrifying realization.

    The political and electoral systems in essence do not -- and apparently cannot -- represent the People; people who look for a kind of salvation through them will look in vain. This is true regardless of which team you think you're playing for. The political and electoral systems serve others interests, not those of the People.

    To get them back, if that's even possible, the reform movement has to start outside the political and electoral system, reforming what gives rise to it rather than focusing so much on directly attacking the thing itself.

    What gives rise to a political system that ignores and dismisses the interests of the People is the ultimate problem to solve.

    And that seems to be the issue the participants in the Occupation Movement are exploring -- and what the protesters in Wisconsin couldn't get to, though many seemed to know that's where they needed to be.

    That's part of why I call Wisconsin a prelude. Many of the protesters knew what really needed to be done. But so long as the focus was on the politicians, politics, and the electoral process, the scut work on the ground kept getting pushed to the side.

    Ultimately, the protests failed and the aftermath through the recall elections was a bust. That doesn't mean what happened in Wisconsin was worthless. It means it didn't work, and that many of those who witnessed (and participated) learned from the failure.

    So now we have something else again starting in New York but looks to be going national and is showing indications of going global. It is not focused on the electoral system, on politics, or even on the brutality with which its participants were greeted by New York authorities on Saturday. It is focused instead on forming community at the most basic level and organically growing a reform movement from the ground up.

    Libertarians and anarchists are included in the communitarian vision being discovered and formulated. They are a fundamental part of this communitarian experiment even though superficially they represent its opposite.

    So far, at any rate, they have not been allowed to take over.

    All of this, of course, harkens back to the Old Days, the liberationist demands and the communitarian experiments of the Hippie era. But what's going on now, clearly, is not the same thing at all. The motivations may be similar, but the discoveries and realizations are going to be -- must be, in fact -- quite different from those of the Old Folks.

    So, all hail the General Assembly!

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    A Question

    Why did the Wisconsin protests -- that went on for months and were driven by determined student union members and joined by every public service union in the state -- ultimately fail to budge the Governor and Legislature from their course while the leaderless and seemingly formless "occupation" actions in New York and now many other cities quite possibly might succeed?

    Read this first person account:
    The People's Microphone: In Zuccotti Park

    by Miss ExPat

    at Corrente, and the beginnings of an answer might start to form.

    The difference between the two, I think, is not so much one of intent, though that's part of it, it is more a matter of transformation.

    The protesters in Madison, for all their outstanding efforts, were trying to hold on to something and they failed.

    The participants in New York and so many other cities are trying to create something that has never been before, and they just might succeed. No, I'd go farther and say they must succeed.

    At any rate, Miss ExPat's testimony is a remarkable document. Well worth the time and effort.

    It's as if Wisconsin was a prelude, a necessary prelude.

    How rude

    I like it.

    Spreading the Occupation -- This Could Be Good

    The upshot from the weekend events in New York down at Union Square is that the New York Times finally deigned in its reserved majesty to report on the protests, including the macing or pepper spraying of those women in the "kettle" (isn't that an interesting term?) seen in videos that have gone viral.

    As of Day 4, Keith Olbermann was pointing out that the NYT hadn't published a word about a major demonstration that was going on in its own backyard.

    I remember the excuse my local newswipe's editor made for not covering the massive anti-Iraq war protests in October 2002 was that they "weren't familiar with the sponsors of the protest, and the New York Times wasn't covering it."

    The New York Times has to cover something or it doesn't get covered anywhere else, almost like it isn't happening? Why?

    Well, the Times did publish something about the protests over the weekend -- actually quite a bit. There was an op-ed denigrating the pathetic "left" -- including the protest. There was a blog post that mentioned the video and claimed that it "appeared to show" an officer spraying two women with something. Then there was a story online and in the dead tree edition that didn't beat around the bush but actually allowed as how the officer had sprayed the corralled women but offered the police spokesmouth's response as justification.

    “Pepper spray was used once,” he added, “after individuals confronted officers and tried to prevent them from deploying a mesh barrier — something that was edited out or otherwise not captured in the video.”

    Actually, there is a video that shows more of the incident, from a different angle, and it shows that the women in the "kettle" didn't try to prevent any such thing. They mouthed off. One was dragged violently to the ground and pulled out from under the mesh by police who were violently cuffing her. The others in the "kettle" were trying to convince the officers to let them out or were objecting to the arrest of the woman who had been violently pulled from the group by police.

    The spraying occurred after most of the women in the "kettle" had managed to escape. An officer in a white shirt is seen approaching the corral; in his hand, there is a can of spray which he sprays on the women -- and on nearby police officers. The women go to their knees screaming; at least one officer objects saying "he just fucking maced us!" (at 1:30):

    The Village Voice has a pretty good wrap up; the point being that the incident has been "covered" and it has been related to an ongoing protest of some sort. Several mainstream media outlets have now mentioned it.


    Of a sort.

    I have been following the events periodically on Livestream which gives an interesting if incomplete picture of what its going on from the ground level mostly more or less live, mostly without too much choppiness so common to Livestream. And always with a lot of fundraising appeals.

    Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

    "AIG, Goldman Sachs, Give Our Fucking Money Back!" "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" Among the many chants heard during the protests. One of the peculiarities of the events in the park (known as "Liberty Plaza") is that of the "Mic Check," wherein a participant arises to address the multitude. The person who is doing the "mic check" speaks in a kind of staccato shout. One sentence at a time. The multitude repeats each sentence. This goes on throughout the talk. People in the Livestream chatroom ask "WTF?" It is explained that the "Mic Check" is a form of addressing the crowd without a microphone as the authorities won't allow amplification in the park. By repeating each of the speaker's sentences, the crowd becomes the microphone and the amplifier so that everyone can hear. It's one of the many adaptations the crowd has made to the imposition of authority in New York. And it seems to work.

    There are plenty of the typical complaints that the participants in the OccupyWallStreet movement are "the usual suspects," the anarchists and lay abouts who infest every "leftist" demonstration since dirt was new, the unwashed hippies Americans have been trying to ignore for generations. Unless they are dressed in suits and ties or pretty wash dresses and hand out flyers on street corners (ie: like Jehovah's Witnesses?) they don't deserve to be paid attention to.

    Everybody's seen it and heard it before; nobody cares. Yawn.

    Over at Digby's, David Atkins helpfully offers advice and counsel regarding media savvy, organization and message clarity. Talk about "nobody cares!"

    The hope of the organizers is that this protest in New York will turn into a movement that will have a profound and lasting effect on the future of the country. It's very difficult for me to argue against that.

    Already there are parallel actions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Denver, and Chicago that I know of, and there are probably others as well. Of course the October occupation and rallies at Freedom Plaza are eagerly anticipated -- by some at any rate.

    The movement hasn't coalesced around a manifesto or set of demands yet, and I think it is really too early for that. Sometime next year perhaps, but not yet. What I've seen suggests that the (mostly) young people involved in the movement are diligently working toward a set of principles and demands -- through very active participatory democracy -- and probably will have something together by late this year or early next.

    The signs are promising. They're working out their own future, and that's really the only way that real progress can occur. That's why the Ruling Class is so spooked by them.

    The situation calls for guarded optimism.

    [Blogger was bloggered this morning, so about a third of this post was (poorly) re-created from the remnant notes of what was lost.]

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Does the United States Acutally Have An Economy Anymore?

    The latest crash was apparently averted by a hair today yesterday as markets stabilized after yesterday's sell off the day before. But these stock market gyrations and speculative run ups and declines have become the New Normal for the Investor Class.

    Down below, we get to watch the show -- not that we actually know what's going on, mind you -- and we are welcome to acquire a queasy feeling that something just ain't right.

    For all of us, the economy has lurched along from bubble to bubble for more than a decade. In fact, it seems from appearances that except for the bubbles and periodic speculative fevers, there's been no economic growth in the United States for a very long time.

    And we see that statistically, wages have been stagnant for nigh on 30 or even 40 years, and lately -- since the enormity of the Endless Recession settled in -- they've been declining, precipitously for the Lower Orders, not so fast for the working professionals, but trending downward, ever downward, for more and more Americans, until finally wages and benefits cease altogether when the jobs are not there and the unemployment insurance runs out.

    Then what do you do?

    In the Lehigh Valley, they go to work for the Amazon warehouses, and they say they're glad to have a job, any job, until the required pace of work becomes too much or the heat in the building lays them low. These are working conditions equivalent to a century ago or more, working conditions that scandalized a nation when they were reported and widely known, but now? Enh. Shrug. Oh well. Too bad for them.

    These are the kinds of working conditions that would lead to strikes and sabotage and worse back in the day, but now?

    I remember reading some material about the Indianapolis streetcar strike of 1913, material which unfortunately I can't easily retrieve now. It was testimony from the arbitration hearings that took place after the strike, and it depicted a situation that at once oppressive and Kafka-esque for transit workers in Indianapolis on both their urban and interurban lines. (As it happens, my mother's father was a streetcar conductor in Indianapolis during the period and was killed in either an accident or deliberately -- "crushed between the cars" -- following the strike. I have always believed it was deliberate because he was a strike leader.)

    Working conditions were grossly unsafe, pay was extraordinarily low, hours were very long, there were no benefits of any kind. Workers were subject to arbitrary firing, extended hours, no consideration for on the job injuries, and on and on. The transit company made it a point to forbid workers to unionize. Anyone who joined the transit union was fired.

    But this was typical of the era, and were it not for risk-taking labor leaders, workers and strikers, conditions would not have improved. That most working conditions are marginally better now is a tribute to those many workers who took risks a century and more ago, but what of the deterioration of pay, benefits and working conditions since the late-1970's? Is that because workers haven't been taking risks to force improvements or is it something else?

    My question can be put this way: "Is there actually an economy -- greater than subsistence -- in this country?"

    If not, why not, and how long has it been so?

    We're always talking about the Crisis of Capitalism, and it is very real; certainly the period we're in right now is one of constant capitalist crises, crises that are widely seen by capitalists themselves as opportunities for consolidating their positions. Of course the consolidation is happening at the expense of workers and everyone else, simply to ensure that the best off are not discommoded in any way. Their gambling debts are paid off (not forgiven, note; they are paid off) by governments around the world, and they are paid off again and again. With the money, they then inflate more and more bubbles, but after a while, it becomes clear there is no "real" economic activity going on. Yes, commodity prices are inflated over and over again, and the poorest are forced to once again pay or starve -- after a relatively long period when starvation was rare. We've reached that stage again. There is terrible suffering among the very poorest; for the rest, it is a precipitous -- or slow -- decline into poverty and penury. Survivable subsistence for most.

    But is that the natural state of an economy without bubbles?

    To get through the initial phases of the recession, I and others proposed very simple actions that could be taken to relieve the suffering of the masses: a comprehensive jobs program to put people back to work immediately, and substantial household debt relief. Bingo, the initial phase of the recession would have been tamed right out of the gate. I would have also canceled all derivative contracts -- those were fueling the collapse after all -- imposed a significant speculation tax and halted foreclosures.

    That would have halted -- or rather slowed -- the decline for most people, and it would have kept the consumer economy going for a time at a slightly lower level. Credit would no doubt have been restricted even so, and it would be the relative difficulty of obtaining credit that would ultimately slow the economy significantly.

    Ultimately we'd wind up at a quasi-subsistence level anyway.

    But the route to it would have been different, and forcing tens of millions of Americans into poverty likely would have been unnecessary.

    Those tens of millions have been forced into poverty in order to ensure that those on top not only remain there but continue to profit handsomely from their positions and continue to be able to speculate and gamble in the markets at will.

    Curbing the urge to speculate and gamble at will at the top is part of what is necessary to contain the effects of the Endless Recession, but what's been happening instead is that every effort is being made by those who set public policy to enable speculation and gambling at the top, with, I believe, an intention to encourage the inflation of more bubbles.

    Apparently the financial class believes that is the only way "economic growth" can occur any more.

    "Economic growth" in scare quotes because it isn't real growth at all. It is nothing more than gaming by extraction from the Lower Orders and accumulation and hoarding by those on top. There is no "growth."

    At best on the whole it's economic stasis. For the Lower Orders, it's perpetual decline. For those on top, it is a scramble for more and ever more personal wealth, but with less and less purpose except to have and hold and gamble with.

    Ultimately, it is decline for almost everyone since the upper tier keeps shrinking.

    We've long known what this kind of economy looks like. It can be relatively stable for hundreds and hundreds of years but only by keeping the proles subdued through constant murder and state terror. The economy, however, does not "grow." Whatever benefits the economy provides go to the top; for everyone else, nothing. Or rather, in many cases, less and always less again goes to all the rest. The entire Third World was run this way for generations; still is, except we're all becoming Third World as the crises of capitalism compound. Generally the Third World is quite stable -- except for the periodic revolutions, most of which are put down with surpassing brutality.

    A few succeed, but most of them are now little more than distant memories. Or they are more and more ridiculous seeming anachronisms.

    It's clear that we, the people, have little or no effect on the economic course our rulers choose to follow. Our interests aren't even considered. The simple steps that could be taken to reverse the decline of the masses are ignored. In fact, in many cases, just the opposite steps are adopted.

    Every sign suggest that not only has the American economy stalled, it has ceased altogether, much as Europe's has. China and India (among some few others) continue to grow but their markets are more and more domestic rather than export, and the crisis pattern is manifesting there as well.

    Marxist analysis tells us what's wrong and hints at what to do about it, but the realization of what it means to really do something about it -- well beyond the half-measures of the revolutionaries of the past -- has yet to dawn.

    And could we do it without going through the dystopian Mad Max phase so prominent in lore and legend (and movies)?

    At this point, we aren't even trying. That is WE aren't trying. Other are. They haven't quite found a way yet, but the search continues.

    I would only add that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a subsistence economy.

    It goes wrong when a handful of economic predators seek their own comfort from other people's more or less futile efforts at subsistence.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Momentary Change of Pace -- "The Big Combo" (1955)

    Here's a late-ish noir picture that is chock-a-block with style and brilliant cinematography. The story may not be one of the best, but it has all the right elements, from the pitiable to the horrific, and all of it is wrapped in shadows, smoke and flashing neon. Richard Conte is remarkable. The whole cast is stellar.

    Well worth an hour-twenty or so.

    The Big Combo
    Director: Joseph H. Lewis
    Audio/Visual: sound, black & white
    Keywords: Cornel Wilde; noir; Richard Conte; Brian Donlevy; Jean Wallace; Robert Middleton; Lee Van Cleef; Earl Holliman; Philip Yordan

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Scott Horton Says It Better

    Heather and Ivan Morison’s latest work at the first One Day Sculpture event in New Zealand was this gargantuan work filling a street in the centre of Wellington, Journée des barricades. The brief was: “to produce a new work that will occur during a discrete 24-hour period over the course of one year.” The scuplture, continuing the Morison’s vision of a world teetering on the edge of impending chaos, was erected on the night of 13th December, created out of urban debris including wrecked vehicles, and dismantled the following night.

    Over at Harper's, Scott Horton went through the structural changes that have occurred in our government and its institutions since the 9/11 attacks. It's not a pretty picture.

  • The military has become a professional mercenary operation, quite different from the citizen-soldier model of the Founders. Mercenaries/contractors now outnumber the regular military, they handle many of the core military functions and are essentially unaccountable for their behavior. Not only is the current military model corrupt beyond measure, it's murderous and arguably a very dangerous anti-democratic and insidious institution churning away constantly in the background.

    Over the years, I have suggested many times that we are on the cusp of a military coup, with St. David Petraeus groomed and ready to take over whenever it looks to The Powers That Be like our experiment in civil self-governance has run out of steam. I still don't doubt the potential for such a coup. But Horton seems to be taking it a step further. He doesn't say so explicitly, the implication of the hand-over of the nation's military to contractors and mercenaries is that the coup, if it comes, is no longer a matter of an institutional military taking over (which most people could understand at least if not agree with) but has become a matter of a shadowy parallel -- and parasitical -- mercenary military force taking over not just the military but the government itself. Even St. David Petraeus is a figurehead under that scenario.

  • The CIA has become a paramilitary and detention force, rather than an intelligence gathering operation. Of course, given the numberless spectacular intelligence failures of the Agency, dating from well before 9/11 and continuing up to the present, it's little wonder.

    I have often advocated the abolition of the CIA for cause. It's not simply that it is useless, it is counter useful. It was seeded with Nazis, among other anti-democratic interests, from the outset, and it has never wavered from its flawed origins. The appalling things that it does, and its ongoing failures, are built in to the structure of the Agency. It cannot be reformed. It must be abolished.

  • The NSA has become a massive domestic surveillance bureaucracy. The good thing about it is that it puts a lot of people to work who might otherwise be on the unemployment lines, so there is that. But what they are doing, surveilling and gathering information on everyone pretty much all the time, runs deeply counter to the notions of individual privacy and freedom from domestic surveillance that supposedly guides the nation from its founding principles.

    Institutionalized domestic surveillance is perhaps the key legacy from the 9/11 transformations. That and civic bankruptcy, but who's counting money when there is an existential enemy to fight?

  • The Justice Department has become a highly charged and highly politicized institution that doesn't protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law, it protects and defends its clients, whoever happens to be the top dogs at any given moment. The human wreckage it leaves in its wake? Collateral Damage. Oh well!

    I've often called for the abolition of the Department of Justice as well, for essentially the same faults as Horton is pointing out: it is a politicized -- indeed, practically gangsterized -- hollow imitation of "justice" set up and run for the convenience and protection of those in power. It cannot be reformed; it must be regenerated from the ground up.

    Horton rarely goes all the way in his assessments of this or that, and here he does his usual service by pointing out what has happened, but he doesn't indicate what it means.

    I would put it this way: there was a Judicial coup on December 12, 2000, in which the Supreme Court lawlessly intervened in a presidential election dispute to put its favored candidate in the Oval Office. The rest of the government in its entirety acquiesced to this coup, with neither a struggle nor even an objection (except from the Congressional Black Caucus, and we saw how far that got.)

    Within a few months of the installation of George W. Bush into the Oval Office, key institutions of the United States were (I hate to say it, conveniently) attacked through the agency of both external and internal forces, whether by premeditation or coincidence I do not know. I am speaking not only of the 9/11 attacks, but of the subsequent Anthrax Attacks as well.

    These attacks were the spur and the trigger for what has amounted to a revolution from the right that transformed the government and the economy of the United States, paralyzing the one and destroying the other -- in service to... what?

    I don't think anybody knows anymore. We are on a spiraling downward path that The (Deceased) Devil Osama seemed intent on making sure we got on. But to what object? Certainly it hasn't led to the termination of our imperial sway in Araby. Not yet it hasn't.

    The economic collapse and the forced impoverishment of tens of millions of Americans has yet to give rise to an internal revolt -- that's actually sustained.

    From what we can tell, those on top are doing better than ever, not just in the United States, but throughout the world, at the expense of the powerless masses everywhere.

    A relative handful of Gods Who Walk Among Us are benefiting beyond belief at the current state of affairs, but no one else is. And seemingly, nothing can be done about it.

    The list of institutional changes in the American government subsequent to the attacks mentioned may give us a clue to why no -- left -- populist movement anywhere in the world is currently successful.

    While I cheered for the Egyptians and Tunisians in their efforts to free themselves from their fossil-dictatorships, events since have shown that the "revolutions" were not quite what they were cracked up to be -- and their advocates hoped they would be.
    To say these revolutions are incomplete is an understatement, but what we've seen in Libya is of a different order altogether and has been clearly engineered by imperialist forces within Libya and abroad to capture the natural resources of Libya for the benefit of certain Euro-American interests. The "revolution," in other words, is from the right.

    What do we do about it?

    Most people, quite naturally, will yield so long as the impositions of the victors are not too onerous. But there is no limit to the exaction and extractions of the MOTUs. No limit at all.

    At least there is a continuing occupation of Wall Street (actually, a park near Wall Street), and the protests over BART's killer cops -- and other authoritarian issues -- continue in San Francisco, and people are getting angrier and angrier at what they see happening all around them. Slowly, but perhaps surely, Americans will learn to take control of their fate once again.

    October can't come soon enough.