Sunday, October 30, 2011

We took the park. Now what?

(photo, salt lake tribune)

Read about the eviction law firm that dresses up as homeless people for Halloween! Go here for a good Guardian UK article about the movement, and the police repression and agent provocateurs in Oakland. here is the very large occupy map. Here is an article the Salt Lake tribune just wrote on the Occupy SLC movement.

A PDF of my following comments is available here if you would like to print them out.


Thoughts On The Movement By a Participant, # 2 Oct 20, 2011 6:20 pm

(Is this the last one of these I write? Maybe. If I get a job I'll keep it up and keep printing them if people say they like it).

It has been a busy month. We've got our movement up and running, and we are responding to our first instances of repression and political attack. What we have to do is figure out what the park is and what its plan is, as well as how to coordinate a broader movement. I am a seasonal worker currently living out my car trying to find housing and a job in the Salt Lake / Wasatch Front area. I am also very pissed off at the political system that keeps trying to destroy my life by laying me off and making me spend all my savings on gas money. I have a slum lord trying to screw up my credit years after he stole my security deposit in 2007 and I have a truck lease I am trying to pay off. I am very angry at the system and I have spent a lot of the past two weeks trying to fight it here at Occupy SLC.

I am glad Pioneer Park got occupied and held. It has provided me with a place to stay and cook and eat in safety without being chased around like a rat every time a light is shined on me. It's fed me sometimes. And it has allowed me to be part of making some political protest of my condition. So I like it. But where is it going? We have to figure out what the next step is. The following is my thoughts on the subject.

I believe the two things the movement needs to do are to try and figure out how to:

1) Remove power from the hands of the one percent and transfer it to "the people" as a whole.

2) Demand and fight for specific reforms that will ameliorate the effects of the humanitarian and economic disaster the decisions of the one percent have created among the unemployed, the working poor, and the declining middle classes.

How does that relate to Occupying a park? Where does that strategy fit in? This issue explores that.



(It is not to convince the entire working and middle classes of why they should be homeless too! The foreclosure banks, lawfirms, and the evicting sheriff's offices are doing enough of that already!)

What we at the park have done so far has been mostly to provide services of food and housing for the transient and unemployed and long term homeless. We've done this by taking direct action to turn a park into a "Grapes of Wrath" style tent colony of actually unemployed and homeless people. The park is that. In itself it is an act of defiance that radically asserts our humanity and the value of our lives and our rights to food and shelter.

We are that much more than we are just political activists who came to camp to make a statement. Most of the people who started doing this occupation for political reasons alone three weeks ago left because when they showed up they got scared of the drugs and attitudes of the long term homeless who live here. As they should have been. Because it is fucking scary. In America, as many people already knew and as many people more are finding out, when you are homeless, or semi homeless, suddenly the presence of drugs, drug users, and bad attitudes start to become part of your reality. They are there whether you like it or not. As long as there is a system like this one running things that does not value human life many people who are beaten down will choose to turn to drugs and the related petty crime out of despair and survival. That is just how it is. Those of us still here working at the park know this and we aren't afraid of it. We are here putting in a lot of time to keep the park working because we don't have a choice. This is the last refuge open to us and we are taking our stand.

Most of the people camping here are here because they need shelter. Not because they are choosing to come camping in the cold to make some kind of political statement.

We've come here and we are surviving. But is the goal to stay here forever? I think it isn't. No movement of the unemployed or homeless in the past has ever made the right to camp indefinitely in a public park through the cold winter a political demand. The political demands have always been for adequate housing, and “work or wages” as the unemployed often wrote on their signs in the 1930s.

The other day I made a great friend in the city who supports our “movement of the 99%” and who her self is living in a car, staying on friends' couches, and who has a job making $10 an hour but who with it cannot afford a place to live where she and her 6 kids could stay. What am I supposed to say to this person? Do I WANT her to stay in the park with her 6 kids? Hell no! I want her kids somewhere warm and safe! This is not a safe place for kids! Is this where you'd like your kids to be living? If your kids are here it is probably because you have no other choice but to take them here. That is fine and I will be part of doing what I can to work for you but surely, you'd prefer they be staying for the next 6 months of blizzards and sub-freezing temperatures somewhere with heating and running water!!

In the world I want to build, people freezing in a park all winter wouldn't happen. People would be housed. And today much housing stands vacant while people are thrown out into the cold! The speculators have built more homes than they can sell! They kicked us out of our houses to foreclose them and many of them sit idle. There is housing, and people need houses. This occupation is a temporary measure for me, because I am going to fight to find somewhere better to spend my winter because staying here and sleeping on my truck sucks! I will do that by trying to find a permanent place with water and electricity to park my small camper, or by finding someone with an extra room I can rent out cheap. If I have trouble with that I will be looking at every type of shelter and social service our overstretched social safety net can help me with. And short of that, I will perhaps be forced to occupy something else, like an abandoned building, as a squat. I won't stay in the park all winter because staying in a park when you are homeless sucks. I like the fact that I can stay here now, but it is a stop gap, emergency measure. I will fight along with all of you to be able to stay here as long as you can, but I believe, like intelligent animals that we are who recognize that indoor plumbing and central heating is preferable to winter camping, that our park should work together to make itself unnecessary. We should work to get ourselves into better places to live. We need to fight the system, take on the banks and politicians, form alternate political organizations, form unions at our jobs and schools and be willing to have sit ins and strikes and occupations of political and economic targets for the purposes of disrupting their operations. I can do that a lot more effectively when I can get a good nights' rest, when I can actually date or marry someone and have a place for us to live happily. When I am thus in a good mood. When I am warm and I can have both a refrigerator and a freezer to cook food that I want to cook, and not just a cooler that is a freezer and a fridge at different times in the same day. Having that stability would make me a lot more, sustainable and effective of an activist than I am in my present operation. Because right now I am more concerned about immediate survival than anything else.

So what operational conclusions do we draw from this? I believe our goal should be to quit being homeless as soon as possible. We could start trying to link individuals up with programs to move them into transitional and permanent housing. For those who remain and can not be helped by these programs, we could continue the occupation with THE SPECIFIC FOCUS of DEMANDING from the city adequate housing. We will never live adequately in tents with no security or heating in a park with heavy drug traffic. We could demand that the city locate an unused building that has central heating and running water and allows us to turn it into a permanent “transient” housing location. We could demand that they get a real kitchen that serves three square meals a day with city bought food and paid employees. That would be a really great thing for the city to have. There would be different locations to make it more manageable. That would put us into the property management business, and eventually the whole program could be turned over to professional paid management. We could also have that “office of transience” give loans or grants, which are paid directly to landlords, not to applicants, to get people into apartments

How to make something like that run, and how to deal with the questions of drug treatment, and how to made it fraud free, is hard. There could be “family” locations that have stricter tolerance for drugs. Maybe we could have specific places where people who are addicted to drugs could do them without freezing to death, but where they were monitored for their safety and kept away from families and non-users they might otherwise threaten. Bureaucrats and charities here and in other countries have been thinking about these issues for a long time. Their budgets are low and the “war on drugs” has perpetuated homelessness by treating addicts as worthless criminals, rather than as people's sons and daughters and fathers and mothers who have FOR WHATEVER REASON gotten involved with something nasty that they need HELP surviving through, and eventually leaving. There is a history of ideas and attempts to do this kind of stuff that we could look at. I see a movement for this as one potential direction for us to take. It would take a lot of work and research to focus on developing specific and workable proposals for. But it is something we should do. What do you think? Do you have better ideas? Tell me them!

Occupying is a tactic. But just occupying a park won't cure the ills of society. The revolution takes a lot more than good camping skills. Let's not “Fetishize a tactic”.

Coming together to help feed ourselves and secure for us housing via our direct action of taking the park was an important victory for us, and one that we are benefiting from. Figuring out our own next steps is difficult because we are half providing these direct food and shelter services, and half being part of making political statements, holding signs, etc. Though very few of us seeking shelter at the park are actually holding the signs! That itsself is because many of us at the park just there to survive, and we have a lot of personal issues and health problems we are dealing with that make “activism” difficult. I don't know what the next step or the right plan is either, but I look forward to working with all of you to figure it out.

"Occupying something" is a tactic, not a solution itself. And a lot of people are dreaming that the occupation itself will become the nucleus of a new society. Yet that conflicts with the most basic working class / unemployed needs and demands for housing, food, shelter, etc. The struggle isn't to get the single working mother of 6 to live in a sketchy park with her kids all winter. The struggle is to get her into a warm house with running water and a refrigerator. The park occupation is a stop gap temporary optional measure, albeit one with a political character. But the new society I want to live in is not one of people living in parks. It's people living in houses. And parks being nice places to hang out and enjoy during the day time, or maybe at night around Christmas with happy kids eating roasted chestnuts.

What we need To Solve The Bigger Problems is a broad, political movement that puts demands on the political system and wins the appropriation of resources for people who need them, rather than using our resources for bank bailouts, military contractors, etc. Where the self help direct action of taking over a park to have a place to live and cook ends, and the movement to fight for political demands begins, is a gray and fuzzy line. Different occupations have different character, different balances between unemployed and transient people needing a place to stay and activists camping as a political statement. So exact steps forward need to be figured out locally.

However, the danger is to limit ourselves to the occupying strategy, to *fetishizing* it as THE tactic to be done to "win". The power structure doesn't need to repress us like they did in Oakland. Eventually people will get tired and leave if they can, because it is getting colder out. And then the homeless and people living in their cars not as a political statement but because they have to will be left alone and on their own like they were before. So we can't pretend that just staying in a park is the one thing we are trying to get everyone in society to do. People camping in the winter in a snowy park with overworked toilets and little no personal space and burritos with no meat in them is not the society I want to live in. It's a product of the society I am trying to overthrow.

What we need is to take a hard look at reality. See exactly what we are, what we have, what we can do, and where we should be going. We can't just allow ourselves to be trapped into one tactic that many people have excitedly adopted, but which itself does not offer the ultimate solution of transforming our system into something more responsive and accountable.


2. Things are disorganized and our best activists are suffering. It impossible to be an effective long term activist if you are always devoting your energy trying to keep a camp like this up and running. Working Groups are not optional. They are necessary. All of our leading activists are right now on the very edge of burning themselves out and disappearing because of overcommitment.

Right now I am tired. I don't get enough sleep or food because I go to a lot of meetings. And you know what ? A lot of those meetings are a waste of my time. People stay for 30 minutes, say some things, and then leave. People constantly interrupt each other. People come late to a meeting and start talking about whatever they want to talk about. It is rare in a meeting just to win an agenda. Every meeting that every business leadership and every political body in the world has starts with an agenda. And you know what? They get stuff DONE. The Pentagon gets stuff done with great efficiency. So does the G20 and the IMF. They get evil stuff done, but they get it done. Because they know how to run a meeting.

Several people at the last GA said they would do some things and then they did not do it. People voted to have a working meeting yesterday at 5pm and NONE of them showed up but me. A person from the last town hall said they'd email me a list of people who signed up to be part of a “street team” that they said they need and that I volunteered to help to organize. He never did. Then I emailed him about it and he never got back to me. N___ from the last town hall got all the emails of people interested in working on “outreach” together and said he would get us all in touch and have us become a committee. I've heard nothing from N___, and after I wrote him he never wrote me back either, though on Thursday he seemed very enthusiastic about taking on lots of responsibility! Someone else from the outreach working group of the town hall said they'd make a “general flyer”. A two sided one with very limited text, and which is twice as expensive to print than a one sided flyer, was brought to the march yesterday. But there is no link to it on the website.

I have better things to do with my time than to hang out with people who want to complain about the system, but who are themselves not interested in organizing themselves efficiently. This is very frustrating, especially when right now is such a key time for our movement.

We urgently need to develop better organization and sustainable routines that can make use of our many volunteers. I listed about just a FEW examples of dysfunction. Instead of coming together to FIX it, at the present time just a few people have put themselves forward to do the great majority of the work to pull the movement together and to organize the logistics of the occupied camps. They are substituting their own super-human efforts for the movement's collective inability to develop working structures. If they keep doing this they will burn themselves out, and they will disappear from the movement, leaving it to wither and collapse.

We must balance our involvement over the next week or two to a sustainable level.
For work to happen we must make our working groups serious things that are real and actually meet and don't waste time.


3. A Light Hearted Story With Humorous Analogies About Leadership and the Limits of “Consensus”

Guess what? I don't believe in consensus! I believe in voting! I think it is FINE to have differences on what we believe because we all have differences on what we believe. I like when there are two ideas that each side argues its point, and then we all vote on what to do, and then we all do it, and then we assess it to see whether or not it was worth doing. 2/3s majority or simple majority. I don't care. But I think voting is a great way to made decisions. It's fine to argue your point and be outvoted. But it is childish to “block” a group's activity, or to say if they don't all agree with what you want, that you are going to pack up your toys and go home. That's manipulative and lame. I'd much rather be outvoted and obligated to try out something that the majority wants and I wasn't sure about, than I would prefer to “block” something.

I also think leadership is a real thing and it needs to be recognized! I am a leader because I have been showing up and writing flyers and printing them with my own money and I talked to passers by at the march on the 29th and I and gave out 100 flyers and I stood on the corner of 400 S and 300 W with signs at rush hour and I've been to the Fed and I wash my own and other people's dishes. Seth is a leader because he's been the “fire extinguisher” and chief organizer of camp doing things there is not enough space on this page to list. Alonso and Lionel are wonderful leaders who got a kitchen running and up to code from scratch. Jesse is leading our Internet and donations. That guy at the Fed is leading our presence at the Fed. The other Jesse is leading up having street theater actions. Leaders exist. You become a leader. You can just start being one. Leaders can be elected or recalled, which is great. If you rely on a “self selected leader” because you are afraid of organizational structure you may very quickly find yourself with a “self unselected leader” who feels he can step back as easily as he stepped up, leaving your movement hanging.

There is a very simple cure for the belief that consensus based decision making is “superior” to voting and electing people to do things, and that we can ignore the importance of people with experience, courage, initiative, and leadership skills acting in an official capacity where we all depend on them to lead. Here it is. I can get a raft and some paddles and a permit and I will drive any of you to the put it for Westwater Canyon of the Colorado River. I'll let you all try to take “consensus” on what direction to point your momentum when you're going over Funnel Falls, or when to start paddling when you're being pushed into a giant hole, a sheer wall of rock, or a whirlpool at Skull Rapid. One of you in the front can decide to stop paddling and “block” at the key moment in Sock-It-To-Me where you're being sucked and flipped on the Magnetic Wall. When all of you finally drown in the ensuing mayhem because you didn't want to elect an official captain to head up the “steering” working group of the raft, there will at long last be no one left to advocate the superiority of consensus.

(photo credit: Western River Expeditions)

Though I do not believe in consensus, I have been using it without complaint!. I facilitated the last GA at Pioneer Park and we made decisions via consensus. I am fine with that. I didn't try and ruffle feathers by putting in my own ideas of “voting” rather than “taking consensus”. Why is that? It is because I DON'T CARE how we make decisions. Getting work done is more important to me than fighting over how to do work. But do you know what bothers me? It is when people say they care about consensus, and they know all about this allegedly great new way to make decisions that is somehow better than the way decisions get made by every democratic country in the world, and then, after all that decision making gets made, THEY STILL DON'T DO WHAT THEY SAY THEY ARE GOING TO DO, AND THE NEXT DAY THEY DON'T SHOW UP WHERE THEY SAY THEY WERE GOING TO SHOW UP, AND THEY IGNORE MY EMAIL ASKING THEM WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!

Serious, cooperative people can take any awkward decision making structure and make it work to accomplish what they need! Make decisions however you want! But I'll say this: what we are up against is the richest and most well armed ruling class in the history of the world. They spent the last three years showing us that they'd rather have us thrown out into the street when their speculation crashes the economy than they would have their tax dollars (money they didn't earn, but money that was stolen from the labor of heavily exploited people who work for them) go to pay for relief. If you want the “99%” of the population to take you seriously and join you, and if you want your occupations and movements to be sustainable, you are going to have to stop talking about what great things you are going to accomplish “being the change you want to see” and you are going to have to start showing up on time and doing the things you say you are going to do. ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////Sincerely, - ME

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Political Perspectives for Broadening the Occupy SLC Movement

(sharing this here, perhaps some of the ideas might be helpful for people elsewhere?)

(Some political and organizational observations and suggestions for Occupy SLC by a participant.)

What has been accomplished at Pioneer Park has taken a lot of work and time and effort. It is a great testament to the skills and patience and dedication that have been pulled together in the face of strong political and logistical challenges. The character of Pioneer Park, and the balance between people who have come here to specifically be part of a political movement, and people who were already living here, has presented numerous challenges. Political activists in SLC have responded to this either by leading work at the park, or moving to the Federal Reserve building, or by withdrawing from active participation. A recent document written and shared online by a person who has been sleeping out at the Fed for along time revealed a great deal of frustration, and attacked the convictions of people who say they support this, or this kind of movement, but who have not joined that individual at the Fed in person, where he has been for many days, and where he got sick in the cold.

It was good for this person to write and express themselves but the tone of their article was not helpful. The people of the city did not come together and have a meeting and vote to elect that individual to take their stand. He is there entirely on his own behalf. It is not politically helpful to morally attack our closest allies because they have not chosen to make the major commitments to spend lots of time out in the cold that a few of us, without ever being asked to do it by our communities, have decided to do on our own.

The movement has recently been counter attacked by the forces of the 1%. Police broke up and evicted Occupations in Oakland and Atlanta. At the same time there have been articles written in the hostile press by journalists calling themselves “the 53%” who “work and pay taxes to support lazy bums”, to paraphrase. This is an attempt to draw away middle class support for the movement by appealing to their basest jealousies and prejudices. We need now at this time to come together, as I suggested in this article. We must look around, where we are, see what we have, and decide how we can turn it into a political fight back. The logistical challenges of establishing the park camp have diverted many activists' attention into running a soup kitchen operation, that while helpful and demonstrating good will and solidarity, is not in itself going to end corporate domination of our political system. A soup kitchen does not threaten the status quo. But ordinary people coming out of their confusion and apathy and talking to each other about what should be done, and how to do it, and where to start, just might.


1) J_ said we have middle class people with money who want to support us. I propose we use then and every cent we can get and put it into making this place look more political. If the Park is a political base, it needs to look more like one. The whole side of the road facing South 400, where most of the tents are, should be lined with signs. People driving by look at us. Let's give them something to look at. Let's not be off talking amounts ourselves unseen under a tree somewhere but let's always have people along the street here holding signs, smiling and waving. Let's put our own friendly, welcoming face on this movement. Also getting posters on the other sides of the park, and along cross walk entrances, would be helpful too. The street corners are most effective because then you can get seen by traffic going in both directions. Tents being erected do not by themselves politically challenge the people driving by. I propose we send a committee out to buy / obtain poster making materials, like poster board and markers, and we designate a time to make many posters. Let's keep those materials centralized in one place in the park, such as by the library area, so people can always come and make signs whenever they want.

2) I propose we strategically fortify the ongoing protest at the Fed Reserve. It may or may not make sense to sleep alone in the cold outside a government building at night when very few people are driving by. But whether individuals decide to sleep there at night or not, people who can make it there should prioritize being there at key times during the day. 7-10 AM ish, and 4:30 to 6 pm ish, are good because that gets commuter traffic. Targeting the volume of commuter traffic is the most efficient way to have the most people see our signs. Also there are more people on the street then, as well as around lunch hour (11:30 am to 2:30 pm). Lunch hour would be a great time to be there.

3) The Fed Reserve alone is not the problem. It is just one part of a very nasty set of financial and government entities run by nasty people. What other targets can we identify in the SLC area? Certain banks who played a major role in the crash? Anything else large and financial down town? Other federal buildings? If we had 3 people with signs during peak hours at 3 or 4 different locations, it would be way more visible to the city in general than just having one group of 9-12 people all standing at only one target.

4) We produce more educational materials to give to people who are passing by and want to learn more but who may not have the time to argue with us. We can reach many more people with leaflets in 15 minutes than we can just talking to one person for the same time! I wrote a generic “come join us” type leaflet that we can use. But if we are at a specific place we should have something prepared that is specific for that location. Why is the Fed Reserve so important? Let's put an articulate explanation on a quarter sheet flyer that is easy and quick and small and efficient to hand out. In addition to the specific info the occupy SLC website link could be on there as well as links to any news sites that might be helpful. When linking to news sites it would be best to list several sites, and not just only one or two that are heavily weighted towards a specific organization or ideology, which would incorrectly reflect the broad diversity of ideas and motivations our protest embraces. We can using our funding to print more leaflets at Kinkoes, or where ever else is cheap to photocopy.

5) Reach out to activists and draw them into the above practical work. Encourage them to make their own signs and stand on their own street corners if they cannot join us. We are not New York City. We do not have tens of thousands of people. But we do have many supporters who can't camp out, but who want to help stand up to the 1%. And there are many ways to stand up to the 1% besides just camping in a park! Having specific times to request their presence where their presence can be made the most of, even if someone can only show up once a week, turns the movement into something that can efficiently draw on the free time that our supporters do have.

This means call your friend who isn't here camping, and list the several times and places this week where there will be something they could really help out with for a hour, 2 hours, or so. If a few of us want to get together and get on the internet and go through everyone who likes / is part of the Occpy SLC facebook we could send them all an email / write on their walls telling them specific events they could come to. Another idea is to have a group of volunteers print out a lot of something like the come join us leaflet I wrote (or any other come join us leaflet anyone else wants to write!), and then make a list of all the places with bulliten boards in town. Then we divide that list and go hit up all those places. Colleges, Libraries, Gyms, Grocery Stores, and Coffee Shops are places to start. Where else can you think of? Would any of our small business friends like to display something like this in their store windows?

6) Let's plan and build specific political events that we can invite people to. How about we get two people who are each feeling strongly about either position debate whether the system must be overthrown, or can be reformed peacefully? Can someone write a very well researched factual talk on how exactly the crash happened (in of course easily understandable language), and what happened (or didn't happen) to the people who caused it? Or how about we turn all the chairs in a circle facing each other and we have one great big meeting, with a speakers' stack and moderator if enough people are there to need it, where we just debate politics and what we think should or could be done? These are just a few topic ideas, you of course have many more in your head! What can you think of?

We aren't at the point where we have the numbers and energy to have something like this every day, but we could maybe have it once or twice a week. This would be a great sort of event to invite more people to, and get them thinking politically. And also on this point, we must recognize that most people work in the day, and by the time most people are off work and free the park is dark and cold. So let's have a public meeting on something like this, say, 7pmish on a weeknight, and have it in a rented (free?) room. If we could get a room at a college we could build it big among the college students. Lights and heat would certainly improve the atmosphere!

There are many ways to resist the system.We must not take any one method or location and fetishize it into “the” tactic that is “the” solution. It will take more than people camped out in parks or on sidewalks to bring down the world's most powerful, well armed, and entrenched oligarchy. Every action we take right now, and probably always, should be guided by the question of, “What is the best way to put us into contact with the greatest numbers of people?”

How and where we can have the most effective political presence? How can we most effectively get people talking and thinking about these issues? And once people's minds are tuned into the idea of resistance, how can we plan our actions in a way that everyone, whatever their level of availability, can in some way participate in? Someone who can stand on the corner with us for two hours, and then go home and go all through their next week telling everyone they knew what it was like to take a stand and be having the conversations we are having, is worth a whole heck of a lot more than someone by themselves spending 8 hours at night sleeping on a deserted street anywhere!

Always ask, “what is the next step?”, “How can we turn more people into activists?”. Because the minute we stop trying to grow and reach out is the minute our movement starts to stagnate. As the 99%, our greatest weapon is our numbers.

The next Occupy SLC general assembly will be tomorrow, Friday at 6pm. Then again there will be one Sunday at 4pm. I warmly invite ALL FORCES to attend the meeting Friday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Counteroffensives of the 1%! Middle Class, will you join us?

Some habits are hard to break

(above photo, Oakland CA, October 2011)

"If we are going to talk about personal responsibility let's talk about the personal responsibilities of the speculators. Or the SEC. Or the war mongers who spent all the money invading Iraq and Afghanistan, so that now there's a deficit that didn't exist in 2000. That is the real reason the government is short of money, but no one wants to talk about that. No one's talking about the personal responsibility of George Bush or Alan Greenspan. No one's talking about the personal responsibility of the bankers."

The super rich are scared by a condition that they are unaccustomed to. It is the condition of the people whose lives they have destroyed standing up to them.

The police have been unleashed. The same police that never arrested the speculators, that led George Bush walk free despite the mass murder on his hands, are now cracking down on the people brave enough to denounce the crimes that have affected us all.

A campaign is underfoot, at the behest of Wal Street, to encourage the jealousies, fears, contempt, and narrow minded self centered selfishness of middle classes, and to turn them against the protests, easing their conscience while repression continues.

The Middle Class is split and will split. As it always has and always will. There are two ways to define the "middle class". The way that is most often used is by income. So we include the image of what autoworkers used to get paid and office workers and small store owners and professionals in the same category. Another way to look at is is by job. What is your relationship to the "means of production"? Are you part of management or labor (usually both)? Whose do you instinctively side with- the workers grumbling about conditions and the inadequacies of their management, or the managers grumbling about the flaws of their workers? It's important to look at class as defined by your relation to ownership and control, not just your income. Whether you generally find yourself controlling, or controlled by, other people does a lot to affect your psychology.

If you own a small restaurant, you may work in it yourself, but also exploit your workers. I used to work in that restaurant, as a worker. Whenever today I hear about how we need to "shop local" I think of the local restaurant who illegally stole my and my coworkers' tips. Just because someone also "works" for a living, and is "local", does not mean he is not also an exploiter. He is a small boss but he wants to become a big boss. Because he owns the place and manages it his outlook is often more instinctively closer to that of larger capitalists.

At other times, perhaps his outlook may change. The economy is bad and he doesn't think small business get enough support. Maybe things will eventually get so bad he will sympathize with the workers he used to take advantage of, and support legislation and movements aimed to improve the condition of working people. At other times, he'll side with the politics of big business to "reduce taxes", even though what he gets from that is minuscule compared to the millions the large companies actually get with such reductions. He's perpetually afraid of both sides, yet identifying with both sides, though never fully able to identify with either. He tends to be mentally stressed, if not unstable, in his political psychology. He can either be an ally or an enemy of working class movements. He may switch from one side to the other in the course of these movements.

Like many other people who have never been elected to office or on TV, I have been actively talking about the wealth polarization in this society for years. The data is there. It is real. It has always been real. But it took the recession to break down people's ideologies and illusions with their own life experience. That is how most people form their opinions, by what they live, not just what they read. So here's the data from this article about exactly that.

(The blue bars representing the 1% are the only ones that have gone up).

The great majority of the middle class has seen its living standards decline over the past decade. This might mean getting laid off from one's professional job. It might mean scaling back one's lifestyle because the cost of gasoline is so high. It might mean having to shell more out to put your kids through college that you had prepared to, or watching them take on tremendous debt just to get an education that 30 years ago was much, much cheaper.

In other ways, the decline of the middle class has been much more grim. Homes have been lost. Jobs have been increasingly outsourced for years, doing far more to lumpenize the American working class than any defect of "culture" that racists disparaging inner city communities are often so quick to attack. The middle and former middle class has endured again and again the destruction of their unions and the disapperance of high paying jobs only to then be lectured with economists' statements about "restructuring" and the need for the country to stay "competitive".

Throughout all this two things have rarely been said. Number one: "sacrifice" over the past 30 years of restructuring is uneven. Workers get laid off, not just so the boss can keep being a boss, but so the boss can make much, much more money moving the factory to Asia. The second is that it is always the bosses and never the workers making these decisions. That's as true at the workplace as it is in politics, where the system is controlled by people with money. For anyone to win an election they must first convince large sections of the wealthy that they will represent their interests. Not "special interests", but large corporations and rich individuals is where most of the money for politicians' campaigns comes from. Even if you live in Iowa and New Hampshire when the primaries start, the only reason you get to hear about anyone being in a primary is because they've already raised enough money from wealthy donors to enter the race at that early stage. Routinely, the Republicans and Democrats both get substantial funding from the same companies.

Like a festering sore, living standards have declined for decades while the super rich's government of the super rich allowed the super rich's standard of living to rise dramatically. There was grumbling. There was a brief moment in Seattle in 2000 when it looked like something might actually be done about it... but for naught. This movement was attacked and destroyed by a wave of jingoism after September 11th 2001. The military quagmire abroad was mirrored by the swamp of a similarly irresolute, disassociated, unsatisfied, alienated and demoralized decade known to history as The Bush Years.

What broke the stagnation was the collapse in 2008. There was no immediate fightback, as many hoped there would be. Most of those hardest effected pulled back to the shadows of personal survival. Political organizations and citizens were distracted by the theatrics of Obama's "Hope and Change". The people have endured, far more than they should have ever have been asked to endure. And they were never asked. Unemployment doubled in just a few months. No immigrants to blame for that. It was the whitest and most native born people in America who "took our jobs".

Many held their breath and looked to Obama as a savoir. They gave him time and the benefit of the doubt for three years, over which time Obama's devotion to Wal Street had time enough to come out. The most progressive of his campaign pledges were quickly scuttled, while the more modest reform that he did propose (his health care plan was designed to benefit the private insurance industry at least as much, if not more, than sick people) was instantly mired in the mud of congressional inaction. First, this was with a Democratic Congress that was unable to advance the Democratic Party's Agenda. By the next election enraged rich and white America had elected enough of the older cronies back into power that the presidents' chances of accomplishing anything at all were ever more dimmed.

Today the people are gathering. In angry, though extremely peaceful crowds. Nowhere have I seen guillotines, or pikes, or torches, though I might have reasonably expected them to be relevant. No. Instead what they have are cardboard signs and sleeping bags. And they are feeding each other. In the city's Parks! Clearly it is well past high time for reaction to send in its batons and its tear gas, to save the nation from this menace!

Along with the more thuggish aspects of repression is an ideological offensive to split the middle class from the movement. Resurrected from its grave and thrown back frantically into circulation are 60s era criticisms of protesters as "bums", bums who have only themselves to blame, for blaming the world they found themselves living in where they have not taken enough "personal responsibility". Benevolently if not desperately, the articles are now being curned out and flung far and wide towards middle class readers. Flung, perhaps not unlike a colonial Englishmans' coins tossed out to a crowd of poor brown beggars!The better perhaps, to keep them beggars, and to keep the from evolving into something else. Something far more difficult to placate. Yes. The spectre of personal responsibility has come back from its grave, quite fittingly just in time for Halloween.

So I left my comments.

"I had a very nice job in 2008 that I worked hard, studied, learned, and got on my own merit and pluck. I always handled and budgeted my money well, as well as money I handled for a living. Then some super rich people I've never met a thousand miles away did things with other people's money, and now I'm out of a job. Well I will not take responsibility for that!"

"If we are going to talk about personal responsibility let's talk about the personal responsibilities of the speculators. Or the SEC. Or the war mongers who spent all the money invading Iraq and Afghanistan, so that now there's a deficit that didn't exist in 2000. That is the real reason the government is short of money, but no one wants to talk about that. No one's talking about the personal responsibility of George Bush or Alan Greenspan. No one's talking about the personal responsibility of the bankers. If I robbed something small from a store I'd go to jail. The bankers have robbed our homes and jobs and wiped out millions of people's life savings. Why doesn't anyone talk about personal responsibility for them?"

There are other things out there at go bump in the night which are far more terrifying than the personal responsibility of the corporations and politicians under whom we toil. I am sure there must be. But for some reason I'm having a hard time right now thinking about just what it might be.

We get slurs for everyone these days. Mexicans are "illegals" who take our jobs. Muslims and Arabs are "terrorists" who need to be bombed into democracy- even while they struggle and die today to free themselves from the Ben Ali and Mubarak and Saudi and Jordanian dictatorships we've imposed on them. And the people in the park, the people with the signs, the revolution. Yes. It's "people who don't feel they need to work or people who feel they are entitled to something they haven't earned." Says the article. Parroting off in manipulated contempt the words written for them by the press of the richest one percent!

As a representative of myself and my generation of of protesters I am of course happy to extend my hand, and sit down with, and discuss with any member of the middle or any other class, that the unemployed people in the park holding signs demanding jobs are not people who "don't feel they need to work." They are people who are desperate for work. And millions of us have been desperate for it since 2008. Many more since before then.

The people who live in America, and have worked in America, and who clean the streets and wash the toilets and cook the food and teach the kids and deliver the mail and keep the lights on around here in America, we are not "people who feel entitled to something they haven't earned." We made this country the richest country in the world and the people who sit in offices pushing money in and out of accounts and creating complex derivative schemes and selling them to each other have created nothing of value for this world.

Responsibility is important. The one place it has been a problem for far too long is that we have abdicated our political responsibilities as citizens. We've let the rich get away with running our government, and our economy, for far too long. We haven't been looking out. We haven't been making decisions. We haven't been exerting our power. And no one has been more guilty of this than the American middle class! Convinced that if we just hold our nose to the grindstone and work, work, work, we'll be rewarded. Millions of us chose and choose to consciously ignore politics as some strange, confusing thing other people do that we don't want to have to worry about. And so we left it in the hands of the worst kind of people, and it has been used for the worst ends, and it has been be ignored just so long as we could pretend that didn't affect us. Well we can't pretend that anymore. And I think that if you're part of the 99% you'll agree with me.

Americans are hard working people. We work ourselves to death. We work ourselves into our 80s instead of retiring. We work ourselves for decades to pay off our debt for eduction or health care. Education, health care, jobs, a roof, warmth, and food, such seditious "entitlements" we are demanding today. For it is a characteristic but of the most barbarous stages of our species' development that any of these should be a considered privilege, to be held as the possession of the wealthy alone, to whom all the rest of the peasantry might gaze up with wonder.

Today we are the richest country in the world. We have incredible technological capacities, educational infrastructure, hospitals, and- most perversely- empty houses standing alone while families huddle under tents to seek shelter from the elements!!

This could be a really nice place to live. Not just for the rich- hiding in seclusion behind fences- but for everyone. The question the occupation is raising today is whether we are going to decide to live up to that potential. It is the richest 1% that is the target here. I don't need anyone in the 53% to pay taxes to keep me on welfare. I'd much rather have my own job, and I think all of us would. Maybe a job like the ones the activities of the 1% had formerly stolen from us.

Middle class, how responsible are you going to be? Will you join us?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Horror House

At the end of the road there is a Horror House

It's past the Mosquito Swamp

If you cross the old bridge over the river.

Past the hills where the bones are buried

The boards are gray

And the decour is out of season

You'll find it

The mummy of a ghost horse.

It's curtains

At the Horror House

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Occupation of Wall Street

This seems like a pretty good idea, and one that is long overdue.

Yes it is incipient, and learning, and imperfect, but so are you! It is good to see this starting and I look forward to seeing how it develops.

Some stuff...

This is the NY General Assembly's Website. Here is their initial declaration / list of grievances. I reprinted it below, but first, I will reprint Pham Binh's article from The Indypendent.


The 99 Percent Occupy Wall Street

By Pham Binh

The entrapment and arrest of 700 peaceful Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists on the Brooklyn Bridge has created a huge wave of support for their movement. The number of daytime occupants in Liberty Plaza doubled or tripled from 100 the week prior to 200-300 this past Monday and Tuesday. These people are the core who maintain the occupation of the plaza, making it possible for several hundreds and sometimes thousands to hold rallies in the late afternoon and participate in the open mic speakouts andGeneral Assembly meetings in the evening.

The mood of the crowd is defiant and determined. Quite a few people were still unsure of how exactly they had been trapped by the NYPD, but that did not matter.

What mattered was that OWS made front page news in papers around the world along with its official list of grievances, undercutting naysayers who pretended it was a bunch of ignorant jobless kids without a clue as to what they want.

What mattered was that Transit Workers Union Local 100 backed up Friday’s solidarity speeches with action by filing an injunction against the city for ordering their drivers to bus arrested protesters to jail. The drivers cooperated with the orders, but only because armed high-ranking NYPD officers told them to do so. Who can blame the drivers? You never know which one of them might be the next Anthony Bologna.

On Tuesday, a brave soul named Steve from the 1 percent came to talk to the people in the park. He claimed to work for a nearby investment firm, and he certainly dressed, spoke, and acted the part. Many of the activists questioned him and tried to debate him, but he gave them mostly suave evasions, which generated a lot of frustration among the crowd of 5-10 that gathered around him.

A white Viet Nam veteran and hospice nurse (I never saw an old woman with a purple heart until today) asked Steve why should Medicare or Social Security be privatized using a voucher system? Why should the elderly and sick be forced to do with less during these hard times? Steve replied that he does not support these moves and believed in a “strong social safety net” (a direct quote). Next, a middle-aged black guy named Keith Thomas (who later turned out to be a transit worker injured on the job) asked Steve whether or not Wall Street firms had any type of moral obligation to their employees. (Thomas was laid off from a Wall Street firm prior to his job in the transit system.) Steve agreed they have a moral obligation, but added that no entity, whether it was a corporation or government, had obligations that were set in stone.

When I heard this, I could not keep my mouth shut anymore and interjected, “so what about Medicare and Social Security? Those are obligations, right? And you said you supported them.” I pointed out that “too big to fail” banks enjoy a government guarantee that they would get bailed out again as in 2008. Not surprisingly, Steve did not take well to my line of questioning and left shortly there after. The crowd thanked him for having the dialogue, as did I, and we asked him to come again.

I doubt he will.

In the course of the exchange, a number of things became clear.

First, Wall Street and Corporate America will try to deflect responsibility for what OWS is upset about in the hopes that it falls for the Tea Party mantra that “government is the problem.” When Steve said we should be protesting in Washington, D.C., demonstrators said Wall Street owns the government; some even went so far to say that Wall Street is the government.

Second, OWS has become what can only be described as a people’s movement. When you go into the park, it really is the 99% that you find there. Thomas later told me he felt like this was “just like 1968.” He said it evoked feelings in him he had not felt for a long time.

There is a feeling of empowerment, like justice is on our side, of good will, and of seriousness of purpose in the air there that is very difficult to capture with mere words. Even pictures and video footage, worth many millions of words, cannot convey it.

You have to come to Liberty Park to experience it. And once you experience it, you cannot stop the inner urge you feel to fight and win, against all odds. It is this feeling that is propelling the movement into the most unlikely of places, like Mobile, Alabama.

I am not old enough to remember 1968, but I imagine this is what it was like.

The occupation in the last few days has become much more multiracial than in the first and second weeks. I saw aging Viet Nam veterans (some of them homeless), union workers, high schoolers, journalists from the corporate media, Laura Flanders, Michael Moore, Hispanic and African immigrants, low-wage workers who work nearby, retirees, disabled people, and college students.

The class and racial breakdown of the occupants looks much more like that of a rush hour subway car in midtown Manhattan than an alternative music concert as it did previously.

If you hear otherwise, you are hearing lies.

The only people missing are the the Steves of the city, the 1%. They are asking their friends in the corporate media, “is this Occupy Wall Street thing a big deal? … Is this going to turn into a personal safety problem?”

Wall Street is worried about what this means.

And they are right to be. We are onto them.

The occupy movement is growing roots into all communities among all age groups and races. Everyone is bringing their issue to the table and receiving nothing but 100% support. There is not a progressive cause OWS will not get behind, nor an injustice that it will not try to address in some way.

Union members from New York City’s largest municipal workers union, DC37, held a rally at OWS on Monday, as did the Teamsters who have been locked out by 1% auction dealer Sotheby’s for months. There were quite a few members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) there as well (their headquarters is two blocks away).

All of the middle-aged union members I saw were grinning from ear to ear, cheered by the defiant and militant spirit that was once the calling card of the American labor movement. Speaking of which, I ran into a young man at the Monday occupation who said he was a descendant of the Molly Maguires. I never expected to hear that name at a protest in this day and age (they were framed and executed in the 1870s using the same methods the state of Georgia used to kill Troy Davis because they sought to organize Irish immigrant workers in Pennsylvania’s coal fields).

This young man, Mark Purcell, traveled from central Pennsylvania to OWS and said he planned to get involved in whatever occupation happens in Philadelphia. Mark told me he realized the system was totally corrupt when he worked at an Allentown warehouse as a temporary worker. He said the companies took advantage of undocumented immigrants since they have no legal rights or protections. The minute he complained about working conditions, the company he worked for told him to talk to the temp agency that was technically his employer, and the temp agency fired him. He was pissed that companies outsource labor to these agencies and use that to dodge responsibility for working conditions. “It’s bullshit,” he said.


The spirit of the Molly Maguires lives on at OWS. On October 5, National Nurses United, 1199SEIU, SEIU Local 32BJ, the New York AFL-CIO, UFT, Communications Workers, Professional Staff Congress-CUNY, the NY Central Labor Council are all mobilizing to rally and march to join OWS. And they have permits.

In addition to the alphabet soup of unions mobilizing, student activists are organizing walkouts from Hunter College, the New School (where professors issued a statement supporting their students’ walkout), and even New York University. Even the children of the 1% support OWS.

The last time the unions mobilized was back in May, when the UFT brought out over 10,000 during its contract negotiations with Mayor Bloomberg. The proceedings were tightly controlled and the messages carefully managed from above by union leaders.

This time, things will be different. The turnout will surprise everyone, and the message will not be handed down to the city’s workers and students from on high. “Students and labor can shut the city down,” we shouted at Friday’s rallies against police brutality.

Perhaps we were prescient.


Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

This document was accepted by the NYC General Assembly on september 29, 2011

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 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, who are responsible for 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 or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial 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.


This is also good,

NYCGA Good Neighbor Policy

Posted on October 13, 2011 by Jake
Following respectful and good-faith dialogue with members of the local community which has been rebuilding since the trauma of 9/11, Occupy Wall Street hereby announces the following Good Neighbor Policy:

OWS has zero tolerance for drugs or alcohol anywhere in Liberty Plaza;

Zero tolerance for violence or verbal abuse towards anyone;

Zero tolerance for abuse of personal or public property.

OWS will limit drumming on the site to 2 hours per day, between the hours of 11am and 5pm only.

OWS encourages all participants to respect health and sanitary regulations, and will direct all participants to respectfully utilize appropriate off-site sanitary facilities.

OWS will display signage and have community relations and security monitors in Liberty Plaza, in order to ensure awareness of and respect for our guidelines and Good Neighbor Policy.

OWS will at all times have a community relations representative on-site, to monitor and respond to community concerns and complaints.

Occupy Wall Street
October 13, 2011

Note: In conjunction with local community members and their representatives, OWS is also working to establish off-site sanitary facilities such as port-a-potties.
Posted in News, Official General Assembly news |

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall in Sevier County

Went out to Clarion, just West of Centerfield. It may have been a ghost town once. I am not sure. But today it hardly fits... though you could take the right photos and pretend it was once. But I found it, camped out, built the tarp as a big lightning and rain storm provided a welcome upon my return, at long last, to The Great Basin.

Camped out off this road. Picture here about 6:50 am.

Got the picture of the old house:

Old house on a ranch

But Clarion is not a ghost town. Clarion may have once been this isolated ruin worth considering for Ghost Town status. But the agriculture and ranches of the Sevier River Valley have spread East and West. And from where the above picture was taken you could hear the cows mooing from the large ranch behind the structure. It's not really ghostly. The irrigated alfalfa field providing the scenic backdrop is a realization of the prosperity and potential that, in its own time, eluded the settlement.

But the pictures were worth taking, and will probably be use in the introduction for an example of the controversies surround what to include, and what not to include, as a ghost town. And I'll say, there are so many scattered, abandoned ranch buildings out here besides this one, one could easily spend a week between Centerfield and Salina just taking all their pictures... in those 2.5 hours of sunlight a day that are appropriate for picture taking.

On to Kimberly, Mt. Belknap, the high plateaus... Tonight it will be chilly at 10,000 feet! Trying to get the high places all in before the snows come.

And before that it was the La Sals... Miners' Basin. We wandered around all day looking for the cabins, found an old Gold Mine. Then found out they were a lot closer to the road than we thought. The next day got the pictures. Even then a storm was threatening. Intermittent rain. That whole area may be covered with snow in a week.

If all goes well the snow gods will allow me another Month, possibly two, in this wonderful, low elevation land of warm evenings.