Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Occupy Movement promotes both Liberation and Evolution

An article in The Economist entitled: "We are the 99% Straining for the populist mandate" represents a sophisticated attempt to "debunk" the international Occupy Movement that continues to grow. Here are some counterpoints to this attempted debunking.

You state in your article, “If "we" really are the 99%, why have we failed to use our overwhelming democratic heft to set in place reforms that would unrig the system and put the 1% in their place? The obvious answer there is a great deal of ideological disagreement within the lower 99%”

Yes and No. If there has been widespread “ideological disagreement” among the 99%, this is due not to apathy or lack of common concerns but to a well choreographed messaging by the Corporately controlled Major Media outlets and the two Major Political parties in the USA.

What is in the best interest of the Nation, a national energy policy that moves us off of fossil fuels (e.g. Brazil), a national healthcare plan, a national public education policy through University level that does not create a caste of indentured servants, a much reduced military budget that funds national defense and not an international Corporate empire, all of these it may be argued are in the national interest. Are these “leftist” goals? I would argue that they are human goals and that maintaining the current economic/social systems in place, although they profit 1% of the population, do so on the backs of an increasingly disenfranchised and vocal majority.

The choice is either voluntary reform, as Britain did when they freed their colonies in the post WWII period, or escalating social/political destabilization that will forcefully lead to the long overdue changes. Obama in 2012? Perhaps, but only an Obama and Democratic Party that aggressively pursues substantive reform, e.g. publicly funded political campaigns for Congress and the Presidency and anti-bribery laws with sharp teeth that make an end of political lobbying. Why should the 1% acquiesce to such reforms? Better to deal with a Gandhi than with a Lenin.

The 100% will all benefit with an end to the economic neo-colonialism of the Near East and Third World by Corporations and their purchased politicians (governments). We will all benefit from an end to Climate change that endangers all of our future. We will all benefit by an end to wars and uprisings inspired/driven by Corporate international Arms Sales and Oil interest’s greed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A speech I delivered at Occupy LA on Wednesday 12 October 2011

In 1989 I watched my television screen in awe as a single young Chinese student stood in front of a column of tanks and forced them to stop.

In 1992 again I watched in awe as I saw people rip apart the Berlin Wall.

This year I watched in awe as I saw people fill Tahrir Square in Cairo and demand a government answerable to them.

Today Americans are moved by the same thirst for greater Freedom, Equality and Justice that moved all those champions of Human Dignity to fight for governments free of corruption.

Americans want an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan that has cost countless human lives, suffering and TRILLIONS of our tax dollars. A war, that Alan Greenspan said, was fought for oil, period.

86.7 million Americans do not have health insurance today, Americans NEED single-payer health insurance. Millions of Americans have lost their homes, tens of millions of Americans can't find a decent job and 44 million Americans are on food stamps. While we are on the subject, Social Security is not “an entitlement” it has been paid into by American workers over a course of their lifetime. It is not charity it is their pension that some politicians want to rob them of to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

There is much work that needs to be done. More than a quarter of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day. And aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater cascading into the nation’s waterways each year.

These are among the findings of a report released by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which assigned an overall D grade to the nation’s infrastructure and estimated that it would take a $2.2 trillion investment from all levels of government over the next five years to bring it into a state of good repair.

In the face of all these staggering needs, Corporations are sitting on TWO TRILLION dollars that they refuse to spend to stimulate the economy, even after America has reduced tax rates to levels not seen since President Eisenhower and a 700 Billion dollar bail out to Wall Street by American taxpayers. It is time to TAX the Corporations, put American workers back to work and fix America’s infrastructure.

Our generation is fighting for Freedoms written into our Bill of Rights, which the so-called “Patriot Act” has diluted. 56% of Californians are in favor of Marriage Equality and yet, Marriage Equality is currently denied in California. Tomorrow, language for a new ballot initiative in 2012 that will restore Marriage Equality in California will be submitted in Sacramento.

America needs just and humane immigration laws that do not make criminals of innocent and honest people who contribute to our national economy. School children in Alabama cry in their classrooms today out of fear because the color of their skin is brown. This is immoral and needs to end now.

Americans are waking-up! In cities all across America, ordinary people are standing-up and demanding simple justice, equality and human dignity. Together we are reclaiming our country.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, in their own words:

What follows is the first official, collective statement of the protesters in Zuccotti Park:

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.

REAL Audacity, Hope & Change!

What is Occupy Wall Street all about? What are their demands? Where is this going?
Why are the major news media playing this down?

The following video, in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels, offers an insightful synopsis of the issues at the heart of this protest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dolan attempts Re-defining “Religious Liberty” for America.

I live in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles. Every Friday I see many of my neighbors walking (it is not permitted to drive on the Sabbath) with their families. Some of them wear clothing that would have been used in nineteenth century Eastern Europe. Some men simply wear conservative suits and yamaka their wives dressed in black or dark blue ankle length dresses.

My next-door neighbor is an Evangelical Protestant. Every Sunday, he and his wife, dutifully climb into their SUV and drive to their church for worship. The Buddhists down the block own a Thai restaurant and have a neatly manicured lawn. There is a gay couple a few doors down the street, one is an agnostic and the other is an atheist. There is a Church of Religious Science located at the end of our street. The Minister and his partner (a Roman Catholic) came to dinner a few weeks ago.

When I think of “Religious liberty” I think of my neighborhood in LA. Religious Liberty for me, and many Americans, means that you are free to follow your own conscience on matters of belief. That no one, no institution and most certainly not the government have the right or the power to dictate to you what you may or may not believe, or what dietary or adult consensual sexual practices you may or may not engage in predicated on those beliefs.

The Buddhist couple, although they are vegetarians, serve meat dishes to their customers who wish to purchase and eat meat. The local supermarket stocks and sells both kosher foods and bacon. When the city repaved our street, the Religious Science Church down the block offered its parking lot to local residents, so that they had a place to park their cars. They did not require us to convert to Religious Science for that convenience. Occasionally Jehovah Witnesses ring the doorbell, I am polite but have absolutely no desire or intention of joining their religion. The Hasidic Jews have not threatened to burn down the Religious Science Church because the Minster is gay and has a male partner.

I would be offended and vocal, if any of my neighbors were attacked or maligned because of their beliefs, or if some entity attempted to force them to change their beliefs. I hope my neighbors would also stand by me, if I were attacked or maligned due to my beliefs, or some entity attempted to forcibly change my beliefs. That is my understanding of “Religious Liberty.” However, Archbishop Dolan of New York City, the current president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops [NCCB] has a radically different understanding of “Religious Liberty.”

“Citing the famous preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Dolan wrote that the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are now "increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America" because of administration policies.”

He goes on to list six items he believes impinge on “Religious Liberty.” These include:

1. Proposed regulations that requires private health insurers to cover contraceptives for patients who wish to use contraceptives.

2. Proposed requirements those religious aid groups, who accept federal money, to include condoms in their HIV prevention campaigns.

3. Dolan claims that “the religious conscience exemptions” in the proposals from the Department of Human Services “are not broad enough.”

4. Dolan also cites the administration's challenge to the "ministerial exception" rule, which will be argued Wednesday (Oct. 5) at the U.S. Supreme Court, which could determine whether churches have to conform to employment discrimination laws for workers who are not clergy.

5. Dolan also blasted the White House's decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

6. Dolan voiced frustration that neither he nor the previous USCCB president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, received responses to private letters sent to Obama. Dolan said that's partly why he decided to take the feud public.

Essentially, Dolan wants,

1. For your health insurance NOT to cover the cost of contraceptives that you chose to use.

2. To use your tax dollars as he wishes, without requirements attached for the use of public funds.

3. To be able to invoke “religious conscience exemptions” at will and at his personal discretion.

4. To apply “ministerial exception” not only to clergy, but also to secretaries, gardeners, custodians, bookkeepers, choir directors, musicians, housekeepers, accountants, security guards, and any other person employed by the Church. That means these employees, as a condition of their continued employment, had better agree with the NCCB.

5. The NCCB not elected representatives, to decide policy decision and civil law.

6. The President of the United States (and all other elected officials and Judges) to “consult” privately with the NCCB in the formation/implementation of laws.

Where did the Roman Catholic Hierarchy get the idea that they have the right and the power to do all of this stuff? The Emperor Constantine and fifteen centuries of dictating moral laws in Europe and Catholic colonies. Oh, and that little exercise of over ruling the California State Supreme Court on Prop 8 (with a huge check written by the Mormon Church's leadership in Salt Lake City).

Thankfully, President Obama and the Federal government are choosing to follow the example of most Roman Catholics (and many Catholic theologians/priests) and simply ignore Archbishop Dolan, the NCCB and the Vatican. True Religious Liberty grants religious entities the freedom to make the laws of their religion, which may be voluntarily followed by their believers, but it does not grant them the power to dictate the law of the land, so far.