Sunday, October 30, 2011

Professor Warren as Working-Class Hero

Energize the Left, Win the Center

Elizabeth Warren’s Winning Formula

By Dana Milbank
Progressive America Rising via WashPost

SPRINGFIELD, Mass, Oct 28 2011 - What was that about a Democratic “enthusiasm gap”?

Whichever pollster coined that phrase neglected to consult with the citizens converging last week on the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall here. They filled the parking lot, then the one next door, then the one across the street.

“I couldn’t contain myself when I heard she’d be here,” said Matt Szafranski, a blogger at the event.

“I’ve already donated twice, and I’m looking to go to a rally,” said Fran Miffitt, a retired nurse.

By the time the candidate arrived for the meeting – a prosaic organizing session for volunteers — there were nearly 300 people crammed into Local 7 to catch a glimpse of her. When she took the stage, a sea of cameras and smartphones rose, as if at a rock concert.

All this for a law professor who specializes in contracts? But Elizabeth Warren, the former adviser to President Obama who is now trying to unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown, is no mere professor, or candidate. She is a phenomenon.

The source of the ardor is no mystery: Warren’s unapologetic populism and her fervent belief that corporations should be held to account for the economic collapse. Part Pat Moynihan, part Erin Brockovich, she has revived the energy of the left in a way no other Democrat has, including President Obama.

“We live in an America that has hammered, chipped and squeezed the middle class,” she told a crowd in Newton, Mass., while the government “has said to large corporations that you don’t have to pay anything in taxes.”

“Elizabeth,” a woman in the crowd gushed during the question time, “I’m so excited.” But what, the woman asked, would Warren do about the dysfunctional Congress?

Warren recounted her work creating Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in defiance of “the largest lobbying force ever assembled on the face of the earth.” Instead of heeding advice to settle for “something at the margins,” Warren said, “my view on this was [to] get out there and fight for it.”

The questioner could not contain herself. “Yes!” she cried out.

Warren is the first candidate of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the liberal equivalent of a Sarah Palin or a Jim DeMint. She has tapped the enormous anti-corporate resentment on the left and become a lightning rod for the right.

In her first few weeks as a candidate, she raised well over $3 million from more than 11,000 people — more than double the amount raised all quarter by the incumbent Brown. All serious competitors have dropped out of the Democratic primary, and polls show her neck-and-neck with Brown.

Warren has no interest in going to Washington to be “slow and polite,” she told me. She wants to go to fight corporate excess, because “the people who brought us the financial collapse have now doubled down” by resisting attempts to re-regulate business.

“The idea of going to the Senate to be the hundredth least senior person in a nonfunctional organization is not what attracts me,” she said. “I see going to the Senate as an opportunity to expand the platform” and as a way of “leading the charge.”

That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Bad, because it means Democrats are beginning to embrace the Tea Party notion that Washington should be a place of polarization and warfare. Good, because it means Democrats will no longer play by Marquess of Queensbury rules while their opponents disembowel them.

For better or worse, Warren’s fighting ways are more successful than Obama’s in generating enthusiasm. Obama, she says, “is much cooler than I am.” And what dispirited liberals are looking for is heat — somebody who believes, as Warren often puts it, that “some fights are worth having.”

That’s what brings her supporters out by the hundreds. “You got to have somebody to fight,” said University of Massachusetts student Patrick Kenney. “We need to go up against the big boys: I hate corporations,” said Joanne Burke, at the Newton event.

Warren, who describes herself as “a maintenance man’s daughter [who] made it to be a fancy-pants professor at Harvard,” has been too impressed with her own success; she had to walk back a claim that she “created much of the intellectual foundation” for the Wall Street protest movement.

But clearly she has found a way to rally the left. Would other Democrats, including Obama (who tried to placate Republicans and business interests but still got branded a socialist), be in a better place if they followed her populist model? “I’m going to take a pass on that question,” Warren told me.

That’s okay. The answer is obvious.

© The Washington Post Company


Thursday, October 27, 2011

More U.S. ‘Humanitarian’ War in Africa? No!…

Sending Troops to Uganda?

Photo: Terrorist of the ‘Lord’s Army’

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist,
via Progressive America Rising

(NNPA Oct 27, 2011) Reports that the Obama administration is planning on sending U.S. troops to Uganda to hunt down the so-called Lord's Resistance Army sent chills up my spine. The Lord's Resistance Army, a group of maniacal terrorists running around Uganda for years, has been a major thorn in the side of the people of Uganda. Their atrocities are countless and it is in every one's interests that they are destroyed. That said, I ask myself, why is the U.S.A. sending troops there?

If the Obama administration wants to help Uganda defeat the LRA, they should limit themselves to advising and training Ugandans to fight their own war. Better yet, they should support the African Union in carrying out a coordinated, multi-country assault on the LRA (since the LRA crosses borders, including back and forth to what is now the South Sudan). They could also supply Uganda other forms of assistance to help the areas that are blighted by the LRA. But sending U.S. troops to Uganda starts to feel like an old film we have all seen, i.e., Vietnam.

Once U.S. troops are on the ground in Uganda, it almost automatically changes the dynamics of a struggle. The LRA, as terrorist as they are, can claim, much as the Al Shabab terrorists in Somalia, that they are fighting not just the Ugandan government (in this case) but the U.S. government and its intervention. As we witnessed in Somalia, when Ethiopia invaded with the active support of the U.S.A. in 2006 in order to crush the Union of Islamic Courts (a conservative Islamist force that had stabilized the situation in part of Somalia), this inflamed the situation even more. Instead of crushing Islamists, the Ethiopian/U.S. invasion provoked the growth of dangerous terrorists and warlords, a fact that author Jeremy Scahill has recently documented in The Nation. A similar danger could await the U.S.A. through the deployment of troops to Uganda. While it is only alleged to be 100 troops, as we know from previous U.S. interventions, there is no reason to believe that the intervention will stop there, particularly if there are U.S. casualties. Therefore, as the intervention grows, the battle cry against the U.S.A. will grow and with it the very real possibility of a prolonged engagement in Uganda.

The Obama administration needs to rescind it proposed deployment. It should support the African Union and other forces who wish to crush the LRA. But U.S. troops on the ground needs to be out of the question. Given the disasters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, enough is enough.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at .


Saturday, October 22, 2011

‘Occupy Boston’ Meets ‘Occupy the Hood’

Occupy Boston: Diversity,

Unity at rally in Roxbury

Photo: Denise Williams, who lost two nephews to gun violence in July, spoke at the rally. Denise Williams, who lost two nephews to gun violence in July, spoke at the rally. (ESSDRAS M SUAREZ/GLOBE STAFF)

By John M. Guilfoil
Boston Globe Staff

Oct 22, 2011 - In Roxbury, as Christians stood with Muslims and as white college students stood with a black woman who recently lost two nephews to gun violence, the voice of the Occupy Boston movement sounded more diverse than ever in the three weeks since protesters set up tents in the Financial District.

“We’re one family,’’ said True-See Allah of the Nation of Islam, addressing a crowd of more than 500 in Dudley Square during a rally for Occupy the Hood, a movement in Roxbury allied to Occupy Boston and other Occupy movements around the country.

“It’s not about black and white; it’s about who’s wrong and who’s right,’’ he continued. “The Nation of Islam stands with you 1,000 percent. This is a beautiful sight, and we want to take this moment, and we want to build from it and continue to grow and grow.’’

While the occupation in Dewey Square has been diverse, whites have been the majority. Yesterday’s Occupy the Hood Rally was nearly evenly divided between whites and non-whites, as students and Occupy Boston regulars joined local residents.

“The message of this movement, when you boil it down, is that we are the 99 percent,’’ said Brian Kwoba, 28, of Cambridge, one of the Occupy the Hood organizers. “There’s the top 1 percent, and the rest of us are denied a voice. But people of color are disproportionately denied a voice. Therefore, in order for us to unite all of the 99 percent, we need all of us to unite together, communities of color and other communities.’’

The crowd of many races and religions, whose politics ranged from libertarian to socialist, mingled and generally agreed with each other. With the diversity came an acknowledgment of differences.

“I am nowhere in the same bracket as the majority of people who live in this neighborhood,’’ said Lucas Koerner, 19, a sophomore at Tufts University who was part of a delegation of about 30 from the school. “I’m just here to be in solidarity with this amazing grass-roots community that is expanding into the marginalized communities. I think it’s demonstrating great potential to break out of its populist cage.’’

One of the speakers at the rally was Denise Williams, whose nephews, LaShon Washington, 39, and Joseph Winston, 26, were shot to death in Roxbury on July 5.

The college students were moved by Williams’s story. Her words also represented some of the core concerns of Occupy the Hood, which organizers said included crime, police relations, fair employment, and civil services.

“On July 4, my family went to a cookout that we have every year,’’ she said. “At 5 o’clock in the morning, there was a knock on my door.’’

Washington had served five years in jail. He turned his life around, but struggled to hold down a job because most employers would not hire a former convict. A security firm gave him an opportunity, and he worked nights as a bouncer. One of his daughters recently graduated from college.

Winston was a man with special needs who never seemed to get the services he needed, said Williams. He served time in jail for threatening to blow up a courthouse, despite pleas from his family that he did not know what he was saying.

Police said at the time that Winston was involved in gang activity and targeted and that Washington was not targeted.

“Most of the time in the hood, the first thing they say is ‘gang-related.’ ’’ Williams said. “LaShon Washington worked two jobs. Had four kids. And took care of them. How do two people leave a cookout and not even make it 5 miles, and they’re dead?’’

It was not a story the college students often hear.

“It was a very powerful and moving story,’’ said Spencer Demaris, 20, a junior at Harvard. “When you’re on campus all the time, it’s easy to forget what goes on in the bigger city. I think it was a powerful reminder that there’s a lot going on in Boston.’’

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globe_guilfoil.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Growing Roots ‘From Below and to the Left’

Staughton Lynd Links 'Occupy'

with 'Solidarity of Time' in Ohio

From 'The Business Journal’, 
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio, Oct 17, 2011

If there is one constant in the last 40 years of political activism in the Mahoning Valley, it's the presence of attorney and historian Staughton Lynd and his wife Alice.

The Lynds marched with civil rights leaders in the 1960s and were among the anti-war protesters gathered outside the Democratic Party's 1968 convention in Chicago. The couple moved to the Mahoning Valley in the 1970s and were front-and-center in the worker ownership movement that attempted to reopen the area's shuttered steel mills. In the years that followed steel's exodus, they became active in the Solidarity USA movement that focused on the loss of steel retirees' benefits, and then began studying the area's new prison industry and advocating for death-row inmates.

Both addressed the crowd assembled Saturday for the Occupy Youngstown protest downtown Staughton Lynd read from a seven-page speech he prepared.

Here is the full text of his remarks:

I want to say a few words about three things: 1. Solidarity; 2. Demands; 3. Life among the 99 PerCent.


We feel solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, and rejoice that they maintain their physical presence at their chosen park.

We feel solidarity with the many, many Occupy This Town and Occupy That Town that have sprung up, spontaneously, all over the United States: all over this land that suddenly seems more like We feel solidarity with the occupation protests taking place today all over the world.

There is also solidarity over time. As a representative of Survivors Of the Sixties -- acronym, SOS -- I feel this kind of solidarity strongly.

Many of you have heard of Abbie Hoffman. He was in Mississippi, in 1967 he promoted the levitation of the Pentagon, and together with Jerry Rubin he started the Yippies.

I met Abbie twice. The first time was during the Chicago Democratic Party Convention, when I saw him wearing a black T shirt, lying face down on a cot, in a Chicago city jail. The second time, more than twenty years later, was in a Franciscan church in Managua, Nicaragua. There is a part of the Catholic liturgy known as the "peace of God" when each congregant greets every other. At the church of St. Mary of the Angels one circled the floor, greeting elderly women, small of stature, many holding photographs of their sons who had been killed in the contra war.

Suddenly a bearded figure bounded across the floor from the other side of the church and embraced me. It was Abbie.

Not long afterwards he committed suicide. Tom Hayden commented: "We are all waiting for the new Movement. I guess Abbie couldn't wait any longer."

Try to imagine what the past three weeks, this moment of awakening, this vista of new hope, would have meant to the trailblazers of the Sixties, to Dave Dellinger and Howard Zinn, to Stokely Carmichael and Jim Forman, to Barbara Deming.

Think also of Youngstown, Ohio, in the 1970s and 1980s, and the men and women who fought to substitute worker-community ownership for capitalist greed. Think of Bishop James Malone, of Ed Mann who led us down the hill to occupy the US Steel administration building, and his comrade, John Barbero. Think of Delores Hrycyk, wife of an LTV Steel retiree. Long before facebook and twitter, when LTV declared bankruptcy Delores called all the local radio stations and said there would be a retiree rally, here in Federal plaza, just as today at noon on Saturday. A thousand people came. A retiree direct action movement, Solidarity USA, was born.

Think of Bob Vasquez, president of Steelworkers local union 1330 at US Steel. Bob said: We lost, but my members told me over and over again that we fought, and because we fought, we preserved our dignity.

Finally, in the 1990s there came, first, the Zapatista insurrection in Chiapas, and then, from 1999 to 2001, what Naomi Klein has described as "the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power." Back then I felt that our protest activity was "summit-hopping." Two young men stayed overnight in our basement who had been in Seattle, went back to Chicago but were unsure what to do next, and were on their way to Quebec.

Speaking to the general assembly at Occupy Wall Street, Naomi Klein described how the new movement is different:

"Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It's because they don't have roots. And they don't have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

"Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen."


As of course you know, the pundits, the commentators, the talking heads, have one fundamental criticism of Occupy Wall Street: What are its demands? How can you have a Movement without a specific program of things you are demanding?

They know not what they ask! Speaking for myself, I don't demand a list of specifics, I demand a qualitatively different kind of society. I seek the Kingdom of God on earth. I want to go back to the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 25, declare a Year of Jubilee and wipe out all debts. But since I am a practical, moderate sort of fellow, I say: Let's begin by declaring an end to student indebtedness, so that young people can pursue their dreams rather than go to work for corporate law firms in order to pay down their loans.

I think Jubilee is a practical program. Twenty years ago, my wife Alice and I were in some of the few Syrian villages that remain in the Golan Heights, occupied in 1967 by the State of Israel. People there make a living by growing apples. And the villagers told us: "We don't understand this idea of fixed property boundaries. Families vary in size from one generation to the next, and therefore, we adjust the amount of land allotted to a particular family, depending on the number of mouths to be fed."

At present, although few of us live in gated communities, this whole society lives with gated imaginations. Each of us is encouraged to build a little island of personal financial security surrounded by an electrified fence. The fence keeps others out and keeps each of us imprisoned.

But OK, we might agree to postpone the Kingdom of God for a little while longer. It's already been delayed 2000 years. And there are a couple of things that need to be done right now, in Ohio, that we should demand.

The first, of course, is to vote No on Issue 2 and repeal Senate Bill 5.

The second is to abolish the death penalty. Friends, the ice is breaking. Not long ago, Ohio executed more men every year than any other state except Texas. In 2010, Ohio was the only state in the nation that deliberately killed more human beings than it had murdered the year before. Presently, with to be sure a pause for Christmas, executions in Ohio are scheduled every month or two into the year 2013.

But the ice is breaking. Paul Pfeifer, the senior judge on the Ohio Supreme Court who helped to draft Ohio's capital punishment statute, has come out for abolishing the death penalty. Terry Collins, who as head of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction witnessed more than thirty executions, has come out for abolishing the death penalty. Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro and his wife have written a book about miscarriages of justice in Ohio courts. There has been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives a bill, H.B. 160, to abolish the death penalty and substitute life imprisonment without parole. I can only say: Come, Lord, quickly come.

These are objectives of highest priority: repeal Senate Bill 5, abolish the death penalty.

But I want to make a final observation about demands. When our critics use the word "demands," they mean: Tell some legislator or administrator what you want him or her to do for you. Gather your own initiative, your self-activity, and your righteous outrage into a bundle, and give it to someone else to act in your place. Tell somebody else what you want them to do for you.

But I say: Yes, we should vote. Yes, we should support this bill and oppose that one. Yes, we should give President Obama some pressure from what Subcomandante Marcos calls "below and to the Left," and thereby give the President some excuse to do what, But this is not our highest priority. Our most urgent objective is not to give someone else the authority to act on our behalf. Our greatest need is not to hand over to somebody other than ourselves the responsibility to remake the world.

No, we need to remake the world ourselves, right now, from below and to the Left. I am appalled at the poverty of imagination that has been shown in the last thirty years in the Mahoning Valley regarding what is to be done. A "shrinking city"? What kind of development strategy is that for a community that is already losing its young people? Tearing down buildings without knowing what to put in their place? Give me a break. A bulldozer can do that. It is not a plan of action, a vision, worthy of human beings.

The Chamber of Commerce, besides sponsoring Senate Bill 5 without a democratic vote of its membership, is anxious to obliterate the memory of Youngstown's militant labor history. There used to be a plaque, right here in Federal plaza, commemorating the Little Steel Strike of 1937. When the streets through downtown were reconfigured for the fifth or sixth time, the plaque disappeared. Don't worry Staughton, I am told, it's in a museum. Yeah, I answer, and that's precisely the problem.

The fact is that new ideas are up and about in the Mahoning Valley but not in corporate boardrooms or in the corridors of power. Quickly, one example of a program that needs to be supported and developed is the idea of providing much of the Valley's food with produce grown locally. Let me be blunt: This is a wonderful idea. But it must become an activity that offers full-time employment to young people trying to grow up and survive in the inner city, or it will remain a middle-class fad, and those young people will leave the area in desperation or wind up behind bars.


I am running out of time so I will just say this one more thing. In the late 1960s it was the thing to do to call police officers "pigs." I objected at the time, and I strongly object now. When I visit the state's first supermaximum security prison on Youngstown-Hubbard Road, often a correctional officer will call out: "Hello, Staughton! Remember me? I used to be your client." Steelworkers and truck drivers who have been unable to find work wind up in the Valley's many new prisons.

If we wish truly to be the 99 percent, we cannot call each other names. Nurses, teachers, and firemen want to repeal Senate Bill 5, but so do policemen and correctional officers.

Barbara Deming had a good way of putting it. She said: "Nature gives us two hands. With one of them, we must hold up a barrier to those we perceive as oppressors, and say: No further, or only over my body. With the other hand we must reach out to those same persons and say: Join us."


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

‘Occupations’ Energizing the Progressive Base

Five Reasons the Occupy Wall Street

Movement Really Frightens the Right

By Robert Creamer
Progressive America Rising via HuffPost

Oct 12, 2011 - The Occupy Wall Street movement really frightens the Right Wing. It is not frightening to the Right because of Congressman Eric Cantor's feigned fear of "the mob" that is "occupying our cities." It is not frightening because anyone is really worried that Glenn Beck is correct when he predicts that the protesters will "come for you, drag you into the street, and kill you."

That's not why they are really frightened - that's the Right trying to frighten everyday Americans.

There are five reasons why the Right is in fact frightened by the Occupy Wall Street movement. None of them have to do with physical violence - they have to do with politics. They're not really worried about ending up like Marie Antoinette. But they are very worried that their electoral heads may roll.

All elections are decided by two groups of people:

--Persuadable voters who always vote, but are undecided switch hitters. This group includes lots of political independents.

--Mobilizable voters who would vote for one Party or the other, but have to be motivated to vote.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is so frightening to the Right because it may directly affect the behavior of those two groups of voters in the upcoming election.

1). The narrative. People in America are very unhappy with their economic circumstances. As a result the outcome of the 2012 election will hinge heavily on who gets the blame for the horrible economy - and who the public believes, or hopes--can lead them into better economic times.

Political narratives are the stories people use to understand the political world. Like all stories, they define a protagonist and antagonist. And political narratives generally ascribe to those central characters moral qualities - right and wrong.

For several years, the Tea Party-driven narrative has been in the ascendance to explain America's economic woes. Its vision of the elites in government versus hard-working freedom-loving people has heavily defined the national political debate.

Of course at first glance it's an easy case for them to make. The President, who is the head of the over-powerful, "dysfunctional" government, is in charge. Things aren't going well - so he, and the government he runs, must be at fault.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has helped force the alternative narrative into the media and public consciousness. The recklessness and greed of the big Wall Street banks, CEO's and top one percent -- those are the culprits who sunk the economy and who have siphoned off all of the economic growth from the middle class. They and their enablers in Congress - largely Republicans - are the problem. To address the underlying economic crisis facing everyday Americans we must rein in their power.

This narrative is very compelling and, of course, it is true. It's not that many voices haven't framed the debate in these terms for years. But by creating a must- cover story, the Occupy Wall Street movement has forced it onto the daily media agenda. That is great news for Progressives. The longer it continues, the better.

Right Wing pundits have disparaged the Occupy Wall Street movement for not having specific "policy proposals" - but the Right knows better. The Occupy Wall Street movement is advocating something much more fundamental. It is demanding a change in the relations of power - reining in the power of Wall Street, millionaires and billionaires - the CEO class as a whole. It is demanding that everyday Americans - the 99% -- share in the increases in their productivity and have more real control of their futures - both individually and as a society. Now that's something for the Right to worry about.

2). Inside-Outside. Especially in periods when people are unhappy, the political high ground is defined by who voters perceive to be elite insiders and who they perceive to be populist outsiders. Who among the political leaders and political forces are actually agents of change?

In 2008, Barak Obama won that battle hands down. The Tea Party Movement muddied the water. It portrayed themselves as "don't tread on me" populist outsiders doing battle with President Obama the elite, liberal insider.

Of course this ignores that the Tea Party was in many ways bought and paid for by huge corporate interests - but in the public mind it was a very compelling image.

The Right Wing has always had its own version of "class conflict." Its "ruling class" is defined as the elite, intellectuals, bureaucrats, entertainers and academics that are out to destroy traditional values and undermine the well-being of ordinary Americans.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, coupled with the movements in Wisconsin and Ohio earlier this year, present an entirely different - and accurate -- picture of who is on the inside and who is not.

3). Momentum. Politics is very much about momentum. Human beings are herding creatures - they travel in packs. People like to go with the flow. Whether in election campaigns, or legislative proposals, or social movements, or football games - the team with the momentum is much more likely to win.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has put the progressive forces in society on the offense - it has begun to build progressive momentum.

4). Movement. The Occupy Wall Street movement has managed to turn itself into a real "movement." Movements don't involve your normal run-of-the-mill organizing. Normally organizers have to worry about turning out people - or voters - one person or one group at a time. Not so with movements.

Movements go viral. They involve spontaneous chain reactions. One person engages another person, who engages another and so on. Like nuclear chain reactions, movements reach critical mass and explode.

That's what makes them so potentially powerful - and so dangerous to their opposition.

Often movements are sparked by unexpected precipitating events - like the death of the fruit stand vendor in Tunisia that set off the Arab Spring. Sometimes they build around the determined effort of a few until that critical mass is reached.

In all cases movements explode because the tinder is dry and one unexpected spark can set off a wild fire.

Movements mobilize enormous resources - individual effort, money, person power - by motivating people to take spontaneous action.

The Occupy Wall Street movement in New York has spread to scores of cities - and the fire shows no sign of flaming out. It will fuel the engagement and remobilization of thousands of progressive activists and volunteers who had been demobilized and demoralized, but the sausage-making of the DC legislative process. That is a huge problem for the right that was counting on despondency and lethargy among progressives to allow them to consolidate their hold on political power in 2012.

5). Inspiration. More than anything else, in order to mount a counter-offensive against the Right wing next year, Progressives need to re-inspire our base. We need to re-inspire young people and all of the massive corps of volunteers who powered the victory in 2008.

Inspiration is critical to mobilization. It is also critical to persuasion. Swing voters want leaders who inspire them.

Inspiration is not about what people think - it's about what they feel about themselves. When you're inspired you feel empowered. You feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself, and that you - yourself - can play a significant role in achieving that larger goal.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has begun to inspire people all over America. That's because people are inspired by example. They themselves are inspired if they see others standing up for themselves - speaking truth to power - standing up in the face of strong, entrenched opposition. People are inspired by heroic acts - by commitment - by people who say they are so committed that they will stay in a park next to Wall Street until they make change. That's what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. That's what happened in Wisconsin this spring.

The legacy of the Occupy Wall Street movement could very well be the re-inspiration of tens of thousands of Progressives - and the engagement of young people that are so important to the future of the progressive movement in America.

Right-wingers will plant provocateurs in an attempt to stigmatize the Occupy Wall Street movement with violence - to make it look frightening. But if the Movement continues with the kind of single-minded purpose and commitment that we have seen so far, the Occupy Wall Street movement may very well make history. It has already become an enormous progressive asset as America approaches the critical crossroad election that could determine whether the next American generation experiences the American Dream or simply reads about it in their history books.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow Robert Creamer on Twitter:


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

‘Occupy!’ Wave Hits the Windy City

Thousands in Chicago

Protest Financial Industry

 By Mary Wisniewski and Ann Saphir

CHICAGO, Oct. 10, 2011 (Reuters) — Thousands of people including teachers, religious leaders and union workers marched in downtown Chicago on Monday to voice mounting anger over joblessness and income inequality in protests that snarled rush-hour traffic.

Chanting "We are the 99 percent" and "Tax, tax, tax the rich," some demonstrators marched on Michigan Avenue and gathered outside the Chicago Art Institute where a U.S. futures industry trade group was holding an evening cocktail reception.

Others marched outside a luxury hotel near to where the American Mortgage Bankers Association was holding a meeting downtown.

Five separate "feeder marches" -- which converged into one giant march up Michigan Ave -- were inspired by, but not formally affiliated with, the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York last month and sparked smaller protests nationwide.

Police estimated a crowd of around 3,000 protesters at the events, organized by the "Stand Up Chicago" coalition with the stated goal of reclaiming "our jobs, our homes and our schools," according to the group's website.

"We really want to highlight the role the financial industry has played," said Adam Kader of Arise Chicago, an interfaith workers' rights group and part of the coalition.

"They're here in our backyard, so this is the time to send a message about how we're really hurting," he added, saying the demonstration would focus on foreclosures, unemployment and lack of municipal funding for key services.

Police arrested 26 demonstrators, many wearing Chicago Teachers Union T-shirts, who linked arms and sat down in Monroe Street as they chanted "Save our schools, save our homes!" They were ticketed and released. Another demonstrator was arrested and faces a charge of battery on a police officer.

Nearby, a crowd chanted "Shame on you!" to members of the Futures Industry Association who peered out from a balcony of the Chicago Art Institute, where they attended a party.

Several protesters paid $2,245 per badge to gain admission to the Mortgage Bankers Association event, organizers said.

One protester, dressed in a suit, got to a microphone during a panel discussion and asked Michael Heid, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, a top national mortgage lender: "How do you sleep at night?"

The man asked Heid how could he even visit the Chicago area since so many been affected by foreclosures locally.

Heid answered that he felt like he was before a congressional panel with such a tough line of questioning.

Mortgage Bankers Association CEO David Stevens had advised conference attendees in the morning not to "engage or confront" the protesters, and to use pedestrian tunnels and other means to leave the building if needed.

"We all recognize that our industry faces a trust deficit with policymakers and the public, and that people in our industry contributed to the events that led to the financial crisis," the Association said in a statement.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, speaking at an evening event on social trends, said the anti-Wall Street protests were tied to a lack of attention on jobs by Washington politicians.

"It grows out of the anger people feel. People want focus and attention and passion on jobs," Reed said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, at the same event, said: "There is a major economic restructuring going on where the middle class in this country are feeling an angst they haven't felt."


On the streets, despite mostly orderly marching and chants, anger was the common element among the crowds of protesters.

"I've got loads of loans," said Wedad Yassin, a student at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, who was among the protesters. She said she wanted a fairer tax system that "stops putting our taxes towards war" and invests in education.

"Obama talks about there's going to be some answers to the education problem, but I don't see it," Yassin said.

Protesters arrived by the busload, including many Chicago Teachers Union members who climbed off yellow school buses that parked near police barricades.

Andromachi Koumbis, an elementary school teacher, said she showed up because she was unhappy with what she termed "tampering" with the Chicago teachers labor contract that will add hours to the school day. "I don't mind longer hours if it's done right," she said. "It's funny that they say kids first, and then they bail out big corporations."

Cary Bunnett, a 52-year-old Chicago electrician, was at the Mortgage Bankers protest and she claimed Bank of America had mishandled her mortgage modification on her $2,500-a-month home loan. She said she was laid off due to a lack of building activity, which cut her income in half.

"You don't see any cranes around downtown Chicago anymore," she said. "There's no work for me. What am I supposed to do?"

"I've stopped making my house payment because I just can't do it anymore, but they won't give me the modification they say I qualify for," Bunnett said.

The protests included lighter moments. At the corner of Monroe Street and Michigan Ave, horseback-mounted police smiled when demonstrators chanted "Police need a raise!"

More demonstrations were planned for the next three days.

Roderick Drew, spokesman for the city's law department, said protesters had worked with police, who aimed to allow free speech without impairing people's ability to get around.

Chicago has already several weeks of daily protests outside the Federal Reserve Bank by "Occupy Chicago," an echo of the larger Wall Street protests. Occupy Chicago demonstrators participated with the Stand Up Chicago marchers on Monday.

(Writing by Mary Wisniewski and Matthew Lewis; Reporting by Ann Saphir, Margaret Chadbourn, Joseph Rauch, Karin Matz, Jonathan Spicer and Eric Johnson; Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Bohan)


Class Justice: One Cartoon, 1000 Words


Sunday, October 9, 2011

OWS: Demanding Another World

Occupy Wall Street is A Seed,

an Expression of What We Need

By Carole Travis
Progressive America Rising

I have been to Liberty Plaza (Zucotti Park, NYC) every day for almost a week now.  Immediately I loved it.  An early favorite sign read: For the first time in my life, I feel at home. 

I have never seen anything like this.  I am almost 70; I have organized all kinds of things and been to all kinds of places.  I was on the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in VietNam (MOBE) staff in NY for about a year, the Demonstration staff for the 1968 Democratic Convention, the Conspiracy Trial staff, President of a United Auto Worker General Motors local (UAW Local 719, we built locomotives) and then was picked up by SEIU and worked for them 13 years in various capacities. I wasn't at Woodstock, but I was in Haight Ashbury for a few moments here and there.  Occupy Wall Street is unique. 

Many love it and others are perplexed.  What are the demands? It's like a be-in, no politics no direction. I got bored there, there was nothing to do.  How long can it last? …and so forth.  Again, as I said, me, I loved it, instantly.  But it took time to digest the meaning of this vibrant community Occupy Wall Street.

Wednesday, the day of the 'big march', I marched from Liberty Plaza to Foley Square and back.  At Foley Square was not possible to tell how many people were there.  It is a spread out segmented space.  I couldn't see where the speakers were and could not hear them in any of the places I was able to get to.  I walked around quite a bit. Packed crowds were in every corner stretching back and winding around. The front of the place I am sure had no idea how many thousands of us were in the various back places.  I don't like over estimates of crowds, because then you never know what you represent or when things are getting bigger.  But there was no less than 15,000 people.  Two guys from NY who I ran into over and over in the course of the day thought there were 50,000 people there, probably not, maybe 30,000?

That day was a 'labor day' and each day some labor people visit the plaza; hundreds of people every day visit, some days, thousands.  But, obviously, the people who live there have no jobs.  In coming there and living there, they have created a community.  There are rules, food (donated, much by unions), music, a library, a comfort station with donated clothes and blankets.  Somebody donates laundry services.  Some are college educated, some aren't.  It is racially diverse and people are mostly at least 20, some quite a bit older.  A few who I noticed regularly were physically disabled.  Mostly white people go to the morning organization meetings. 

Friday night there was a passionate speech by 2 visiting Greeks with many political insights. Greece is, after all, on the verge of General Strike, France too.  They spoke to a small crowd at the southeast corner of the park, through, of course, the peoples mike.  While I was listening, suddenly I understood my sense of this place, I too then spoke, my words sprang from my bones, I don't remember what I actually said.  People picked up my last words as a chant for a few rounds.  Later 2 people, at different times, found me, came up to me and said they loved what I said.  I don't remember what I said, but I do, finally, know what I think about as a result of Occupy Wall Street.  It is not what they are saying, but what they are doing that strikes chords of hope in me. 

They are doing what we all must do, live a different way, a way that is not part of the system and situations we find ourselves, those ways are killing us and the planet.  In having no demands, in some way they embody all demands, a different world. 

The people who are there did not stop participating because they chose to, they were excluded from participation, there are not enough jobs, even while there is plenty of work.  Yet, whatever their individual intentions might have been, they have made a place for themselves, taking care of each other, listening, learning, being human beings.  In some fundamental way, they are free; that is the attraction I feel.

It is a scary time, without dramatic drastic changes in how we live, we will not survive.  The scientists tell us that. Our planet is, at best, on the verge of dying.  The way we have organized society is unsustainable not only for those who are suffering now, but for everyone.  Currently, the military/industrial/prison/anti-privacy complex, the banks and financial speculators, the oil cartels, the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies are running our country, our world leaving death, misery, starvation, hopeless in their wake.  And their natural…and ruthless practices have endangered even their own system. 

To me, Occupy Wall Street represents is a seed, a lesson, an expression of what is needed.  Non- complicity, a community outside the normal.  However small, it is a grain of hope, a spark of a different fire.

With General Strike looming in Greece, in France, having occurred in Egypt, the notion of General Strike is spreading.  Those situations are much different than Occupy Wall Street, yet the appearance of the concept in the world along with the encampment in NY, the speakers from Greece raising the concept, is part of a dramatically changing conversation. 

What struck me as I listened to the Greek speakers was the dream of an International General Strike.  Not for a day or a week or until our demands our met, but rather until we figure out how we should run things.  How can a 'they' make the world we need? We need to create, not demand.

Will we get there? I don't know, but for the first time it seems to me, at least, conceivable. 

[Carole Travis, Liberty Plaza, 10/8/11 I live in California after a lifetime in Chicago, but am loving New York]


Monday, October 3, 2011

Youth Culture: From One Generation to the Next

The Wall Street Occupations and the

Making of a Global Counter Culture

Mark Naison
Fordham University

Yesterday, October 3, I spent about an hour in Liberty Plaza sitting, walking around and talking to people before the event I had come for- a Grade In organized by teacher activists- finally began, and was stunned by how different the occupation was from any demonstration I had attended recently.

First of all, in contrast to the last two protests I had participated in – a Wisconsin Solidarity rally at City Hall, and the Save Our Schools March on Washington-I saw few people my own age and no one I recognized- at least until the “Grade In” started. 

When I arrived, at 11 AM, most of the people in Liberty Plaza were the ones who had slept their overnight, and the vast majority were in their 20’s and 30’s- a half to a third my age.  They were drumming, sweeping the sidewalk, talking to curious visitors- whom were still few in number- eating or chilling with one another and their relaxed demeanor blew me away given the tumultuous events of the day before when more than 700 protesters had been arrested by the NYPD after marching onto the Brooklyn Bridge.

They were also, to my surprise, thoroughly international. Many of the people I met at the information desk, or who spontaneously started conversations with me, had accents which indicated they had been born in, or had recently come from, countries outside the United States. 

I felt like I was in Berlin or Barcelona, where you could always count on meeting young people from all over the world at any music performance or cultural event, only this was a political action in the heart of New York’s financial district.  I felt like I was in the midst of a
global youth community I had certainly seen emerging during my travels and teaching- after all, I had helped organize a “Bronx Berlin Youth Exchange”- but I had not expected to see at this particular protest.

But it was there, no doubt. And definitely made the discipline, determination and camaraderie of the protesters that more impressive But as much as the age cohort and global character of the occupation seemed strange, it also seemed oddly familiar, though it took a while for that familiarity to sink in.  The longer I stayed at Liberty Plaza, the more it felt like the countercultural communities I had spent time in during the late 60’s, from Maine to Madison to Portland Oregon, where discontent with war and a corrupt social system had bred a communal
spirit marked by incredible generosity and openness to strangers.

During the years when I traveled the country regularly as a political organizer and revolutionary- 1968 to 1971- I never had to stay in a hotel or pay for a meal in the more than 20 cities I visited.  Every one of these cities had a countercultural community and I was always
able to “crash” with people I knew or with people whose names I had been given by friends.  And I did the same for people in NYC. My apartment on West 99th Street was a crash pad for people around the country who had come to NY for demonstrations, or for revolutionaries
from other countries who had somehow gotten my name. I still remember making huge pots of chili for anyone who showed up with Goya chili beans, canned tomatoes, chop mean, bay leaves and chili powder. And it was not unusual for 20 or 30 to show up.

I had feared those days would never return- erased by decades of consumerism, materialism and cheap electronic devices— but when I visited Liberty Plaza, I realized that the global economic crisis had recreated something which I often thought of as an artifact of my own
nostalgia. Because right here in New York were hundreds of representatives of a whole generation of educated young people around the world, numbering tens if not hundreds millions of young people, who might never land in the secure professional jobs they had been promised or experience the cornucopia of material goods that came with them.

Described as a “lost generation” by economists, a critical mass of these young people, in cities throughout Europe and Latin America- and now right here in the United States-- had decided to build community in the midst of scarcity, challenge consumerism and the profit motive, and call out the powerful financial interests whose speculation and greed had helped put them in the economic predicament they were in.

Serious questions remain about the long term significance of this global movement. Would these middle class( or ex middle class)protesters connect with the even larger group of people in their own countries- workers, immigrants, minorities- who had been living in
poverty well before the current crash? Would their community survive even a modest revival of the world economy, sending them back into a lifestyle of acquisitive individualism which the global consumer market depends on to yield profits? Could they connect with people in poor or
working class neighborhoods who were already practicing communalism and mutual aid to create a truly multiracial, multiclass movement?

The jury is still out on all of those issues. But there are some promising signs. The chants of “We are all Troy Davis” during several of the movement’s marches. The increasing participation of labor unions in the protest. The involvement of more and more activists from the city’s Black and Latino neighborhoods in support for the Occupation.

And those who lived through the 60’s should remember this. Oppositional cultures of all kinds-ranging from hippie communities to the Black arts movement-represented the soil in which political protest
flourished during those heady years.

And the same is true in this era.  The emergence of a global youth counterculture should be be seen as a powerful complement to, if not an actual component of, a global movement for freedom, democracy, and economic justice

October 3, 2011


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Solidarity Time vs. Finance Capital

Wall Street Protests:

Which Side Are You On?

By Van Jones
Progressive America Rising via

Wall Street has long been the home of the biggest threat to American Democracy. Now it has become home to what may be our best hope for rescuing it.

For everyone who loves this country, for everyone whose heart is breaking for the growing ranks of the poor, for everyone who is seething at the unopposed demolition of America's working and middle class: the time has come to get off the fence.

A new generation has gone to the scene of the crimes committed against our future. The time has come for all people of good will to give our full-throated backing to the young people of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The young heroes on Wall Street today baffle the world because they have issued no demands. The villains of Wall Street had their demands -- insisting upon a massive bailout for themselves in 2008, while they pocketed million dollar bonuses. The Wall Street protesters are not seeking a bailout for themselves; they are working to bail out democracy.

The American experiment in self-governance is at a moment of crisis. The political system thus far has proven itself incapable of responding to a once in a lifetime economic calamity. With income inequality and unemployment at the highest rates since the Great Depression, it's no wonder that almost 80 percent of the country thinks we're on the wrong track.

But the crisis of American Democracy did not start with the financial collapse. For at least 30 years, the system has been rigged by the wealthy and privileged to acquire more wealth and privilege. At this point, 400 families control more wealth than 180 million Americans.

This great wealth divergence has resulted in an unjust and dangerous concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the few. It has pushed millions -- especially the rising generation and communities of color -- into the shadows of our society. The middle class continues to shrink, and the ranks of the poor have swelled. The political elite has failed to take the necessary steps to provide opportunity to the majority of Americans.

A movement was born after Madison, Wisconsin, to oppose these injustices. It has now spread to every Congressional District. We call ourselves the American Dream Movement. We engaged 130,000 people to crowd-source our own jobs agenda -- the Contract for the American Dream. In August, tens of thousands demonstrated for jobs in rallies across the nation. Next week in DC, we host our first national gathering: the Take Back The American Dream conference.

The Occupation of Wall Street -- and the occupations throughout the country -- are expressions of the same spirit and dynamic. And these particular demonstrations, perhaps uniquely, contain the spark to grow into a movement that can be transformative. They are the first, small step in the creation of a movement that can restore American Democracy, and renew the American Dream.

The hundreds of young people from all five boroughs that camp out every night, in the heart of the financial district, in the rain and the cold, at risk of arrest, are providing the inspiration to draw more and more out of the shadows and into the bright light of the public square. The occupation grows larger and more diverse every day. Young people, the majority of whom are under 25 and have never before engaged in activism, are managing the arduous task of a consensus rules meeting with no sound system. The nightly general assemblies are attracting crowds in the thousands to stand amongst a group of their peers and debate our path forward as a people.

The occupation is a revival of a proud tradition of authentic, people-powered movements that have been dormant -- and that we need now more than ever. It is building into the kind of massive public demonstrations -- like those in Egypt, Madison, and Santiago -- that can shake the foundation of a system of power that has lost sight of the public good.

Now is our time to choose. Will we keep rewarding those whose financial manipulations have brought us to ruin? Or will we stand with those whose democratic innovations are breathing life into our finest ideals? Both groups are within blocks of each other in downtown Manhattan.

For the past 30 years, the country has stood behind the titans on Wall Street and their values. We listened when they said that their banks were too big too fail. Today, there is only one thing that's too big to fail: the dreams of this new generation, finding its voice in Liberty Park. All of America should now stand with them.

Authored by Van Jones, President of Rebuild The Dream, and Max Berger, a youth organizer with the American Dream Movement.

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