When my dad and I talk politics, he takes the right side (as is his tendency), and I assume the left (as is mine). I called him to ask what he thinks of the current occupation protests happening around the country. And you know what? We agreed on a lot of things. Let me know if you do too, and maybe we can work something out.
1. The system is broken. We should end corporate personhood and create legislation that restores the power of political elections to the people.
2. The American people no longer have the ability to make decisions and enact change in our government because both parties in our de-facto two party system are funded mainly by America’s small but wealthy corporate sector. This leads to significant amounts of legislation aimed at protecting corporate interests before public interests. Since only the rich can run for office, it is impossible for the growing class of America’s poor to be represented. Because of this, our constitutional right to protest is all the representation we have left.
3. Protests exist to attract media attention to real issues. The nation’s current occupation protests are an excellent way to promote democracy, but certain criteria must be met for the protests to work. The people must remain peaceful, respectful, and present themselves as people who take themselves seriously. When the media delivers footage of the protests to folks at home, those folks are much more likely to join the fight if they can relate to the people they’re watching. In short: polo and khakis.
4. Many of these protestors understand that they’re publicly opposing economic injustice, but there are many different versions of demands and specific issues floating around. Some argue that there need not be any specifics, as the problem is obvious. But others release lists of 30-40 outrageous demands that aren’t just impractical, but impossible. A simple, universally agreed-upon goal must be identified, and a plan of action would show that we aren’t just complaining — we’re working on it, too.
5. This one is a cocktail of Democrat and Republican concerns regarding the economy. Welfare abuse should be better controlled on both the top and bottom. There is a group of Americans that knows how to abuse public assistance to receive more than they would working while receiving a several thousand dollar tax return annually. These people have no motivation to find a job. There is also a group of corporations that knows how to abuse corporate tax breaks to make record profits. These corporations have no motivation to create jobs. Both groups do this because it is a matter of personal interest to get what you’re allowed to have, but this should not be allowed. It is a burden to all taxpayers. The right wing has too much trust for the private sector, and the left wing has too much trust for the public sector. Greed exists everywhere, and it costs us.
6. If corporations were forced to pay the same percentage of taxes as everyone else, our economy would do much better. But it’s unreasonable to ask them to go from paying nothing to paying a higher percentage than we do. The same percent of a much larger number will always be much larger.
7. In the War on Terror, the U.S. had every reason to invade Saudi Arabia before anyplace else. The country is riddled with extreme examples of human rights catastrophes, and every acting member of the 9/11 attacks was Saudi. So was bin Laden. The fact that we ignored this and instead invaded surrounding countries proved that our government was making the war longer, less effective, and more deadly at the expense of preserving our relations with the king of a corrupt — but wealthy — nation. The American people paid the social and financial cost of this irresponsible decision.
8. I read him this list, and he agreed with all of it (if you ignore the part about the war.) Some of these things are listed above.
Reassuring, isn’t it? This means we’ve broken the partisan lines. They don’t matter anymore. We’re all getting screwed, and we’re all upset about it. This is something we can all agree to fight against.
Are you fighting? Do you want to? Ask me how and I’ll do my best to help you find a place to go. Democracy is too important a tool to surrender. Organizing is our biggest challenge, but we can, and we are.
Read this if you are serious about changing the United States of America.
Protesting is a great thing, but protests in America have a history of being pointedly ineffective. Conversely, European protests almost always bring change. There are some things we can learn from this.
If you’re an American, the ideas you have about how to protest are probably American ones. I’m going to ask you to forget almost all of them. I know it seems like many failed protests are the result of an ignorant government, but there are many things we can do to improve our odds.
First, a warning. There are a few key dangers in a protest — especially one of this magnitude — and unless we make ourselves aware of these, they could ruin everything. Protests are a great thing when done properly, but the entire movement can be spoiled by the smallest group of wayward extremists. The worst of these extremists experience the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which causes an inability to comprehend that you’re acting really crazy.
The majority of attendees at any protest are good people who came for good reason. This holds especially true with the occupation protests happening now. You guys are awesome, and I appreciate that more than I can say. I love you, and I love your dedication. But there are a few mistakes that most people don’t even realize can really hurt the protest and water down the message we’re trying to send.
I used to live in Helsinki, Finland. I saw protesters outside of the Parliament building every single day, and I asked my host mom why they bothered.
"What do you mean why do they bother? Because they have an issue. This is how they solve it.”
She explained that in Finland, and in most of Europe, protesting works. The politicians need only look out their window to see a clear, unified message on the peoples’ signs, and their message was understood, which fueled real action. Each day focused on a different issue. Never was more than one thing requested at a time.
This is a photo of a Finnish protest against proposed nuclear plants:
And this is a photo I took on the morning of the Occupy Los Angeles march to City Hall:
At first glance, these are just two pictures of protesters on the steps of government buildings with signs. But their differences are really important in understanding why one works and the other often does not.
The most obvious difference is the amount of people, of course. But after taking into account that there are six million people in the entire country of Finland, we can put that aside. After all, the more people, the better. We have them there, and that’s awesome.
But now look at what the people are wearing. The people in the first photo don’t work at the Finnish parliament, and they’re certainly not working in that photo. But they’re dressed in business attire simply because they mean business. Even behind the goofy masks and costumes, we can see the collared shirts and dress shoes. If we dress like we don’t take ourselves seriously, we can’t expect anyone else to take us seriously, either. I’m not saying that the people in the Occupy LA picture are terrible dressers. But consider this: If your attire says “We should play ultimate frisbee after this” more than it says “We’ve come here because we mean business,” then you might be doing it wrong. I purposely omitted the photos of those who were dressed as “hippies” from head to toe, because they were not in the majority. But in order for our demands to be taken seriously, we need to step up our game.
You may not believe that appearance makes a difference, but in a protest, media coverage is vital in spreading our message. Those who are unfamiliar with our movement (there are still many) are much more likely to side with the folks in the first photo than the ones wearing tie-dye shirts and bandanas over their mouths. Why? Because people have sympathy for people they feel they can relate to. And we need those middle-management types on our side just as much as we need everyone. We are all victims of a broken system.
Imagine learning about the Occupy Wall Street movement for the first time. What does a Guy Fawkes mask mean to an average American? If it requires an explanation, it’s a bad idea, because the explanation will likely never reach the viewers. All they know is what they see, and most will only join in if they understand and appreciate what they see. We’re asking people to take time off work to protest against something they aren’t even sure they understand. We need to fix that by being obvious in what we present to the public. And bandanas over our noses and mouths will likely only send the message that we expect to need to shield our faces once this movement escalates to gas weaponry. That’s not a very welcome invitation to come out and join us, is it?
Maybe you believe that you will eventually need to shield your face. It’s hard to ignore the pepper spray incidents our friends in New York have faced. But I hope that you hope that doesn’t happen here. So far, the LAPD has been nothing short of generous to us. Even in a permit-crazy city like LA, we’re being allowed to make the grass outside of City Hall our temporary homes — without any formal permission. That’s amazing.
And no matter your past experiences, please remember that not all cops are bad. In fact, most are good. It takes a brave person to join a police force in a city with a significant rate of gang-related crime, and most power-hungry evil people would steer clear of a job where they risk being shot to death every day. The LAPD is here to protect us, and even if they bother you for a minute, it’s only to protect someone else. Please don’t forget that. Never take it personally, because they don’t know you. That’s why they have to make sure you’re a good guy. Let them know, without a doubt, that we all are. Those officers are in the 99% with us, and they know it. They just can’t show it while they’re on duty.
Chanting is a great way to draw attention to our cause, but only specific chants should be used in a serious protest. I witnessed dozens of passers-by during the march asking what exactly we were protesting. Many people answered with things like, “the 1% ruined the economy and the 99% are paying for it.” This is the basic idea, but those people often still leave confused. Protests should be specific, and even though this one is leaderless, we know what it is we want. Drum circles only make us look like the protesters of our ineffective past. Drums are fun, but they have no place at this protest, because they have absolutely nothing to do with our message or our movement. I don’t expect them to disappear, but know that they don’t help the rest of the world take us seriously.
Also in the 99% are the people who live around City Hall. As part of a peaceful protest, it’s only right that we do our best to keep it down at night. A neighbor informed me yesterday that there were loud PA’s being used in the middle of the night, and equally loud choppers had to be called to investigate the noise. She didn’t deserve to lose sleep, and neither did any of her neighbors. We must remain peaceful, and that means respecting time-appropriate volume levels too. Consider using the ingenious human microphone concept employed by the Wall Street occupiers. One person speaks, and all the others repeat at speaking level so everyone around them can hear.
We’re not here because we hate laws, we hate the police, or because we hate anyone. This is a movement of love, and an overwhelming amount of protest signs confirm that. If we break a single law because of our peaceful protest, we have become criminals. We can do this right, and we can keep the LAPD as our most important allies for the duration of this protest. I’ve heard rumors of small groups acquiring plastic handcuffs and plotting retaliation measures in case the LAPD tries to arrest anyone. This is a TERRIBLE IDEA. Even wearing bandanas on our face sends a message to the police that we don’t trust them. But if we remain peaceful, law-abiding, and respectful to our neighbors and our officers, we have no reason to lose trust, and they have no reason not to trust us.
We’re here because the system is broken, and it’s hurting us. As true and powerful as this message is, it is a complaint without a solution. I’ve seen many proposed solutions on signs, but they’re all different. The European protests I witnessed always focused on one single request, and the request was a solution created by the people. It was never simply “this isn’t fair.” It certainly isn’t fair, but as it stands, the only way for We, the people to regain representation in the political arena is to repair the corporate-controlled campaign system. Once corporate campaign buy-outs are made illegal, we can elect representatives that represent us. If corporations can’t fund them anymore, they have no reason to pass legislation that puts corporations before people.
Many people — powerful people — are doubting us. I saw this article in The Atlantic just minutes after posting the blog you’re reading. The reason they are wrong about our impending failure is because this is an issue that transcends party lines. It affects all of us. This is not about the left or the right. From Tea Party to Socialist Party, we are too far united to turn on each other because of petty platform disagreements. We are all just people, and this is a struggle between the people and the corporations. We outnumber them by hundreds of millions. That’s huge.
We need to focus on one request at a time, and demanding the outlawing of corporate-funded political campaign bribes will make the long road ahead much easier for all of us.
We need as many signs as we can to say the same thing. Deliver the same message. We want a law to protect the people from political campaign funding by corporate interests. This is what we need first, and we will get it if we stick together.
We’re just getting started, so let’s take simple steps to get the ball rolling. We are all prepared to work to achieve every single goal on our signs, but we can’t expect it all at once. It’s time to focus, because it’s time for Wall Street to recognize that we are the majority, this is a democracy, and we mean business.
A primer on why we occupy:
The U.S. is a constitutional republic, wherein the elected representatives of each district are tasked with representing the interests of their constituency. The motivation behind the Occupy movement is based on the belief that our legislators are no longer representing the interests of their constituency, but rather the interests of whomever funds their campaign most heavily. That is something with which the average American can not compete. Since money is now considered speech by the US government, and there is a gross wealth disparity here (38th worst in the world, going by our GINI coefficient), the system is currently functioning so that our votes mean almost nothing. Regardless of who wins elections, most politicians will be bought by corporate or union interests: whoever has more. This is against the very foundation of a represenatitve democracy, and since voting no longer works, the only remaining form of democratic participation in our government provided to us by our founding fathers is the right to peaceful protest. It was afforded just for cases like these.
Remember the 2008 bailout bill? The one that provided gargantuan loans to all the major Wall Street banks that ruined themselves after money-cataracts clouded their otherwise brilliant capitalistic vision?
Way back when the U.S. government decided, “Hey, while we’re on the subject of nonstop talk about threats of Socialism, let’s socialize our banks!”
And then we were like, “Oh, um… okay! As long as you’re sure it’ll… trickle down to the rest of us!”
And then we felt something trickle down, but instead of the promised prosperity it was mostly just bankers metaphorically golden-showering us in fraudulent loans and subsequent surprise foreclosures? Remember?
Yeah, that was weird. But regardless of how you feel about the bailout bill, one question is worth asking. How did it get there in the first place? What did this emergency bailout look like before it became law?
It looked like the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equality Act of 2007.
This bill, originally, would require insurers offering mental health services to offer them to the same extent as their regular health services. A great victory for our doctors and our patients! How could anyone say no?
And as times grew tougher, what better bill than this shining star to append a $700 billion bailout to help struggling banks? Mental health, and $700 billion for banks. It all makes perfect sense, as long as you lack the former of those things.
But surely everyone knew about the bailouts when they were happening. This was all over the news! So let’s see the top comment for this bill on opencongress.org:
"Thank goodness this has passed the House! It’s a shame that our country has not recognized at least one basic truth: Mental and physical health are NOT mutually exclusive! I am a psychologist who works with children…"
Okay, so one internet psychologist didn’t realize what this bill had actually become about. So what? I’m sure we can find a shoutout to the bailout in the next comment.
I am disappointed with your decision on HR-1424, however, look forward to your support in establishing a working format that will help our citizens in need and reduce our tax burden…”
Okay, so this guy thought he was writing to his congressman (and wants a job.) But he’s disappointed! Oh, wait…
"… tax burden that supports the cronic [sic] emergency services they required here in California. I understand your need the follow our party’s line and to vote with the majority of our side of the aisle."
So his congressman voted AGAINST the bailout. And that disappointed him, because it looked to him like his congressman voted against mental health.
Okay, so maybe we have a problem. The House is supposed to keep everything open, but it seems they’ve found a way to pass legislation that we can’t see, right before our eyes. But how?
They’re called riders, and they’re the legislative equivalent to my high school practice of replacing the cover to The Alphabet of Manliness with a teen devotional book jacket so my parents would stop trying to throw it away. Dishonest? Yes. Awesome? Yes.
But it’s not so awesome when the people who claim to represent you purposely make proposed legislation that’s 1,000 pages long and contains 700 different items, 600 of which are totally fine and boring.
When I read all 926 pages of this year’s recently-amended National Defense Authorization Act, I didn’t do it for that radical high you get when you read excessively worded legislation. I did it to find the part everyone was talking about, which calls for indefinite detention of terror suspects, and whose vague wording might make that section applicable to American citizens who are just hanging out in their Americaland.
On the way to this fantastical promised section, I read roughly billions of absolutely uninteresting provisions — mostly about the military. Like the one half a page long clarifying that the anesthesia needs of pregnant women in military families overseas would be covered in the event of a C-section. Great! That’s important! Thanks for clearing that up.
By page 600 or so, I realized that legislators don’t even read these things. Legislators don’t make bills to create helpful laws anymore. Legislators hire boring people to write excessively boring bills so they can hide special treats for their campaign donors in them. And then before you know it, Jack Abramoff gets caught building an illegal casino in Texas and learns how to write awful memoirs during a short stint in prison.
Riders are those special treats, and they’re so legal that it makes me enjoy living a little bit less. So as always, I went to Wikipedia to help me make sense of this world:
"The use of riders is prevalent and customary in the Congress of the United States, as there are no legal or other limitations on their use.
Riders are most effective when attached to an important bill, such as an appropriation bill, because to veto or postpone such a bill could delay funding to governmental programs, causing serious problems.”
OH GOOD. Unlimited treats for the guys who hook us up at election time. Most effective when attached to a bill that would make you look like a DICK for voting against, like the Adorable Puppies Act of 2008, or Herman Cain’s inevitable Pizza Friday bill. You can’t vote down Pizza Fridays, man.
"Riders are often completely irrelevant to the bill they are attached and are commonly used to introduce unpopular provisions. These tend to have negative implications for freedom and civil liberties but are nevertheless passed due to the amount of support behind the original bill. For example a rider to stop net neutrality was attached to a bill relating to military and veteran construction projects."
Since none of Wikipedia’s astoundingly fast-acting Aspergists (they remove my dead minor-celebrity pranks in under two minutes EVERY TIME) have cited this section for references yet, I have to assume that the above is factual. And that sucks so much.
So if nobody in the House is reading these bills entirely, and since the guy writing them clearly possesses so little humanity that nobody else wants to — what the hell are we passing? And how are we supposed to catch all of these riders, and convince the media to report on them so either side can’t be constantly berated for voting down a bill for its few questionable stipulations?
Is it worth passing a bill to extend much-needed payroll tax cuts to Americans if it’s inseparably attached to an agreement to build a barely-studied oil pipeline as a hookup for your top oil guy? NO. No it’s not. Oil pipelines leak ALL THE TIME, and we KEEP PUTTING THEM RIGHT NEXT TO WATER SUPPLIES. Ask the thousands of people who can LIGHT THEIR TAP WATER ON FIRE if this sounds like a problem. “Yes, yes it does,” they’d probably say.
Unfortunately, our legislators don’t like to ask us much of anything, and really only seem to want us around when it’s voting season. Thanks, guys. You’re really cool and everybody really likes you, even if your approval rating is lower than that of terminal brain cancer.
For the longest time, I believed that these “riders” had to be illegal. But then I remembered that my naive, child-like mind doesn’t know any better than to append common sense to the law. Riders are a tool meant to be used AGAINST the people.
Riders are dumb. Riders are bad. Riders should go away. Just imagine a world where proposed legislation had to stay on topic, and every bill introduction didn’t have to end with, “… and for other purposes.” We’ll get there. Let’s get on that. We’ve already stabbed congressional insider trading in the face (legislation outlawing that suddenly appeared after the ZeroHedge expose went public. Keep ignoring independent media, and we’ll keep ruining your vacation plans. ;))
That’s all I got, but remember you can always count on me to make your day a little worse by bringing you the 411 on terrible things you’ve never heard of.
Anti-intellectualism put us here.
The more Americans read, the more we’d understand. But naturally, some systems depend on the public’s lack of understanding. So these systems created distractions, making use of America’s affinity for flashy entertainment. And they won.
Now, America’s presidential debates utilize the same sound effects and fanatic coverage as its televised sporting events. Books are “stupid,” according to every high schooler’s Facebook profile page ever. Facts and logic fall far behind belly-fire and edgy attitudes in the citizen’s pick for office. Americans demand to know which candidate is bold enough to stand up to the establishment.
What we often fail to recognize is what caused these candidates to succeed in becoming options at all — they created and comprise the very establishment we despise. The establishment that has become so expert in gaining power has also become expert in knowing exactly what we want to hear, and wrapping it in just the right package to appeal to today’s concerned American.
It’s been a long time since America’s had a genius president. It’s been a long time since brain-power topped the list of reasons to support a candidate. In America, the establishment decides who to sponsor, what they’ll stand for, and what they’ll do in office once they win. George W. Bush and Barack Obama sure seemed pretty different four years ago, didn’t they? Now, it’s clear that their policies that affect us the most are identical — and not surprisingly, so is most of their campaign donor lists.
Are you tired of working hard to promote a choice candidate that ultimately serves to disappoint you? Are you tired of making excuses for poor representatives you really used to believe in? Then let’s take a lesson from this mess.
We should know better by now than to trust any candidate backed by millions of special interest dollars. Those special interests aren’t yours or mine, and they don’t belong in the political arena. They’re the interests of a small group of people so extremely wealthy, it would be impossible for most any of us to save up a year of their salary in our entire lifetime.
Don’t hate rich people. They’re people, in the club for a variety of reasons. But please, take the time to look into how a candidate answers questions, and compare them to facts, logic, and what you know you know. Do this, or we will all pay the price for our ignorance.
The special interests profiting from the recession have little pressing desire to fix these problems they created. We have to. The vast amount of data on the Internet can help us form educated opinions on issues where both parties have failed.
Knowledge used to be power. We can use the Internet to earn that power back again.
So Stephanie’s like:
And I’m like:
This is bad politics.
Your team is expert — there’s no need to take the chain letter route. While this email contains true and relevant material, presenting such an email as pure, unbiased information and nothing else makes the public think that this is what reading the news looks like.
Divisiveness is severely weakening our America. I know this is close right now, but there are long-term effects to attack politics. I want to believe, more than anything, that Obama is a different kind of president. That this president’s belief in a better America is, for once, stronger than his need for the compensation. I feel less confident of that when I see the strategies he chooses as a candidate. I feel like a priest who’s questioning his faith.
Trust that the press will do their job talking about the other guy, and trust your voters. Be the team who, when its opposition gets caught in a scandal, doesn’t bring it up. Do your thing. Tout your positives. His accomplishments. There are so many strengths right in front of you, there’s no reason to engage in an email battle with Romney’s guys.
Nobody’s fervently forwarding this to their Conservative mothers. It’s such an indirectly affecting piece of news.
Why Prop 37 is worth registering for. I edited out the fillers and it’s kind of distracting, sorry.
"Who are you going to vote for? The flu or the mumps? Which disease do you want? How do you want to be sick?"
- Cool “urban” guy from this 1994 political documentary I’m watching (Related: Oliver North’s ear on my face.)
This is America. And in America, we should have a really awesome president. I think we can all agree on that. Even if we haven’t had an awesome president in 200 years or whatever.
Every four years, we passively observe the emergence of some guy versus some other guy, neither of which we really like that much. But we have to pick one, because they implore us to. And because we’re just supposed to. Right?
Listen, guys. The Democratic and the Republican parties are both pretty awful right now. I get a chill of guilt-addled adrenaline every time I consider voting for either Obama or Romney. Do we pick the guy who said he’d do a bunch of awesome shit and then backed out of most of it, almost apologetically? Or do we pick the Disney villain who’s so out of touch with real things, like median wages and science, that he wonders why he can’t open the windows on his airplane?
Every four years, we seem to forget that there are actually more than two people running for president. (I know, I just reminded you!) Yeah yeah, I know what you’ve heard. That voting for a third-party candidate is silly, right? You could be taking a vote from the “lesser of two evils” guy, so the more evil guy would end up winning!
Eventually, these circular thoughts make us equal parts exhausted and confused, and we either give in, or give up and stay home on election day.
But don’t give up yet. Or, in. Just bear with me.
These two nice-looking people could be our out.
Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are running for President of the United States under two third parties (fourth parties?). If you haven’t heard of them, I’m not mad. Getting brushed off is a bi-hourly thing for them, so they don’t get a lot of publicity. But they seem like nice people, so I’m going to show you what they’re all about.
Enter the world of Jill Stein for President: