A funny thing happened to the First Amendment on its way to the public forum. According to the Supreme Court, money is now speech and corporations are now people. But when real people without money assemble to express their dissatisfaction with the political consequences of this, they’re treated as public nuisances and evicted.
First things first. The Supreme Court’s rulings that money is speech and corporations are people have now opened the floodgates to unlimited (and often secret) political contributions from millionaires and billionaires. Consider the Koch brothers (worth $25 billion each), who are bankrolling the Tea Party and already running millions of dollars worth of ads against Democrats.
Such millionaires and billionaires aren’t contributing their money out of sheer love of country. They have a more self-interested motive. Their political spending is analogous to their other investments. Mostly they want low tax rates and friendly regulations.
Wall Street is punishing Democrats for enacting the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation (weak as it is) by shifting its money to Republicans. The Koch brothers’ petrochemical empire has financed, among many other things, candidates who will vote against environmental protection.
This tsunami of big money into politics is the real public nuisance. It’s making it almost impossible for the voices of average Americans to be heard because most of us don’t have the dough to break through. By granting First Amendment rights to money and corporations, the First Amendment rights of the rest of us are being trampled on.
This is where the Occupiers come in. If there’s a core message to the Occupier movement it’s that the increasing concentration of income and wealth poses a grave danger to our democracy.
Yet when Occupiers seek to make their voices heard — in one of the few ways average people can still be heard — they’re told their First Amendment rights are limited.
The New York State Court of Appeals along with many mayors and other officials say Occupiers can picket — but they can’t encamp. Yet it’s the encampments themselves that have drawn media attention (along with the police efforts to remove them).
A bunch of people carrying pickets isn’t news. When it comes to making views known, picketing is no competition for big money .
Yet if Occupiers now shift tactics from passive resistance to violence, it would spell the end of the movement. The vast American middle class that now empathizes with the Occupiers would promptly desert them.
But there’s another alternative. If Occupiers are expelled from specific geographic locations the Occupier movement can shift to broad-based organizing around the simple idea at the core of the movement: It’s time to occupy our democracy.
Thoughts on Bloomberg, Quan, and the Need for Recall Laws in All Fifty States
As depressingfacts pointed out to me earlier, I chose a hell of a day for a refresher when I checked out of reality for the majority of Monday. While I maintain that the Joker, Penguin, and the rest of the villains of Arkham City posed a valid threat to national security, I can at least admit that quite a bit has transpired in the last twenty four hours.
By now, everybody’s heard Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s admission that she coordinated the eviction of #OccupyOakland along with mayors from 18 other, undisclosed, major American cities. There is an understandable anger, from all corners of the country, over the implications behind this action. Going forward, do we have to be concerned that our country’s elected officials will collude in order to undermine the First Amendment rights of peacefully-assembled U.S. citizens?
Then, of course, there’s New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to order 432 members of the NYPD into Zuccotti Park to clear out the tent city erected by #OcccupyWallSt. Naturally, the decision was made in the early hours of the morning, and police did everything in their power to prevent the media from documenting the events transpiring. Adding insult to injury, the New York Supreme Court just overturned a temporary restraining order, issued by a New York judge, which said protesters had a right to re-Occupy Zuccotti Park with their personal property.
Initially, I was going to write a post on the necessity of beginning recall campaigns against Mayor Michael Bloomberg(NY) and Mayor Jean Quan(Oakland). While I still think that a recall campaign against Jean Quan would be successful, particularly after the resignation of her Co-Deputy Mayor and chief legal advisor, I found out this morning that thirty one of the United States of America do not allow their citizens to recall elected officials. And it turns out that New York is one of those states.
With this discovery, is it any wonder why people have become disillusioned with the election process? Sure, things might not seem as hopeless if you live in Colorado, Wisconsin, California, or any of the other 19 states that allow their citizens some measure of oversight for their elected officials. Citizens in Arizona and Michigan just took advantage of their states’ recall laws, sending State Sen. Russel Pearce(R-AZ) and State Rep. Paul Scott(R-MN) packing, for misrepresentation of their constituents.
But what do you tell a New Yorker, the day after
KingMayor Bloomberg decided that “no right is absolute”? I’d be willing to be that a fair portion of the city of New York holds a very different opinion from their Mayor, but now what?
We’ve entered a time when political sex scandals are the norm, and not an aberration. When drug use, shady book keeping, and anonymous donors have become commonplace for, both the campaign trail and offices of, our elected officials. A time when Islamophobia, homophobia, bigotry and xenophobia are welcomed, openly, by one of the two major political parties in this county.
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but that seems like a problem to me. Outside of professional sports, and the wonderful world of being CEO to a major corporation, what jobs guarantees four years of employment, wages, and benefits on the day you’re hired?
Every job I’ve ever worked had annual performance reviews. And I’ve seen more than my fair share of people let go by their company after said annual performance review. Yet, we allow elected officials in thirty one states to remain unchecked for the duration of their terms. Does something about this situation seem wrong to anybody else?
The status quo has to change. For us to claim that we take part in a truly representative democracy, we have to give everybody the chance to hold their elected officials accountable. Particularly when those elected officials make clear that the only interests they are worried about are their own.
They’ve raided your tents, stolen your belongings, and used violence to deescalate your right to protest. If we don’t fight violence against violence we aren’t going to be taken seriously. Seriously America, stop letting the government and police force treat you like animals. This is exactly how they want you to be treated in order to keep you back on track. Standing around and chanting words hasn’t shown the intensity of the situation. I’m a human being and I would want to be treated like one, as opposed to being shoved, maced, arrested for no cause, and thrown around… We need to fight violence against violence to sweat the government as a warning that they have no control over us anymore.
What made you think the government would just roll over and concede to the demands of protesters after only 2 months of moderately organized action? Change rarely comes about quickly and especially in cases such as this where we’re dealing with widespread issues firmly ingrained into our system. It’s naive to think this fight would be won easily.
Furthermore, nothing discredits individuals more than when they resort to the use of violence. Those in charge have a much easier time vilifying and discrediting protesters and this has been evident since the dawn of time. When the people (or protesters) use the force of violence against their government, they’re not viewed as rational credible beings but rather, as “animals” who are only able to know or recognize the use of force, further validating additional violence onto them. If you’re seen as an animal, you’re going to be treated as one.
What has happened thus far has been the inevitable. Those in power are not going to give up their power or fix the system that benefits them easily or quickly. To be shocked and outraged because law enforcement hasn’t been completely hospitable is again, extraordinarily naive and to conclude that after only 2 months of protesting, violence is the only option left reflects a vast lack of worldly understanding, not to mention, creative thought.
I think it’s a little callous to blanket-label those who are outraged, by open acts of police brutality, as “extraordinarily naive”. If these people said they never saw the violence coming, that would be naive. I might even agree that it would have been naive to think that it would ever be possible to bring about significant societal change without meeting the unfriendly end of a police baton.
But I don’t see naivete in anger. I see it as a sign of passion. A sign that someone genuinely gives a shit about the Occupy movement, police brutality and accountability, or both.
I also think that those who advocate non-violent resistance are far too quick to throw their brethren under a bus, simply because of a difference in opinion over employed tactics. Nobody is forcing a non-violent protester to become violent, and vice versa. However, it absolutely hurts the cause when violent and non-violent protesters begin fighting among themselves and lose sight of what they are both working for. A prime example of exactly how this can be harmful to the movement took place at #OccupyDenver, when members of the protest began giving names to the police of anybody who wouldn’t swear by non-violent tactics.
As for public perception, you are absolutely right. Historically, those in power have had a much easier time vilifying protesters who resort to violence/destruction than protesters do vilifying those they are protesting against. However, technology is quickly negating that fact. For proof, look no farther than the widely-circulated differences in public perception of the Tea Party vs. OWS. Ten years ago, there’s no way you’d see a group like OWS out-poll the Tea Party after the drastically different coverage that each movement received from the media. Social media has become a much more powerful tool for protesters and revolutionaries than for their counterparts in the government.
I understand the concerns that many people have, in regards to the use of violence as a means of protest. Many people point to Dr. King, and the success of the Civil Rights movement, when trying to prove that non-violence is the answer. But, while I would never dispute the role that Dr. King played, he had help from a great many people. One of the most famous being Malcolm X, and he played by a very different set of rules.
As for your statements about a lack of creative thought being shown, by suggesting violent retaliation two months into the protest, imply that you think it becomes acceptable/creative at some point. If that is the case, who gets to decide when it’s been long enough for violence to be acceptable?
Would you have spoken out against the use of violence in Egypt or Tunisia? Did you speak out against the use of violence in Libya? Will you speak out against violence if it’s employed in Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain?
If the answer to those questions is yes, then I doubt there is much left for us to debate. If the violence being perpetuated upon those people isn’t enough to warrant a violent response, then I’m not sure anything would. If the answer to some/all of those questions is no, then why do you expect anything more/less from your fellow citizens? Are we to wait until we’ve suffered for multiple decades under an authoritarian regime before it’s acceptable?
I’m not saying that every act of violent disobedience is justified or the sole answer to our problems. I’m also not saying that non-violent disobedience is/isn’t the proper route to go. I think both sides need to recognize that not everything in this world is black and white, and learn to work with/around the shades of gray just a bit better than we do now.
We have enough enemies already. Let’s not add ourselves to the list.
Good news for the wealthy classes who might have worried that the recession would throw the country into the arms of French-style socialism…
New wage statistics just in for 2010 show that what’s called the mean income, which accounts for the actual number of people making a certain wage, has half of Americans making less than $26,000 last year.
And the percentage of Americans earning less than $200,000 a year remains at…guess where? 99 percent.
So good news for the anti-Wall Street crowd — they can keep the chant…
But it’s even BETTER news for the people we now call the Job Creators. Job Creators have worried that if the 99 percent were to start joining unions it might boost their wages, making it harder for the Job Creators to create all the jobs they want to create. Well, rest easy, the new numbers show that in 2010, the bottom 99 percent saw their wages DROP by a total of $4.5 billion.
While at the same time, the Job Creators in the 1 percent, presumably through the creation of jobs, saw THEIR total earnings rise by $120 billion. In fact, those in the upper fraction of the 1 percent, the uber-Job Creators earning at least $1 million a year, saw their payroll income rise of 22 percent.
The economy also created MORE job creators — the number of people in the top 1 percent rose by about 300,000.
So like Herman Cain said, you folks in the lower 99 percent need to quit complaining and get a job. My advice would be to get a job as a Job Creator. It pays really well.