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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

Earlier today, my wife and I visited the Occupy Berkeley encampment and strolled the grounds.  Like Occupy Oakland, the site was clean and organized, with receptacles for trash and recycling, as well as a kitchen providing food for the hungry. 

As others before me have noted, the OWS movement isn’t just complaining about social ills, it’s acting to REMEDY them: providing food, blankets, and other goods to those who sorely need them in our communities (until the authorities close those sites down, that is — in many cases with unnecessary violence, brutalizing campers, visitors, and journalists alike and needlessly destroying the occupants’ property, including hundreds of tents and thousands of books, thus far).

At the time of our visit, the Occupy Berkeley kitchen tent was being manned by a pleasant young man who, in a pronounced Irish brogue, introduced himself as Shamus (Shamus Collins, it turns out).  He was happily preparing food for the camp, constantly in motion, like a restaurant chef during the afternoon rush… except when he stopped to chat with us. 

Affable and engaging, Shamus told us that, in addition to Berkeley, he’s been to Occupy Wall Street sites in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, San Francisco, and even Oakland where, whaddaya’ know, he was shot by an American police officer…

Welcome to America, Shamus!

The Oakland Police shot Shamus with a non-lethal projectile on October 25th, apprehending him (and others) in the act of helping an American Iraq War veteran, Scott Olsen… who, you’re probably aware, had also been shot by the Oakland Police (at close range with a tear gas canister, critically injuring him — an incident that made news all over the world).

When Shamus casually related his story, my wife immediately recognized him from reports she had seen following that notorious incident.  She recalled her dismay at the fact that police had assaulted people who were doing nothing more than attending to a young man lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from his skull, in obvious need of aid.

“How are you?” we asked Shamus, inquiring about his injury.  Not so good, it turns out. 

As a result of his injury, Shamus’s doctors tell him he is going to lose a kidney.  “Non-lethal” these police weapons may be, but that designation should, perhaps, only be applied when their victims have access to medical professionals (another U.S. military veteran, Kayvan Sabehgi, who also served in Iraq, received “non-lethal” treatment at the hands of the Oakland Police, the very same day that Mr. Olsen did, and ended up with a lacerated spleen — I suspect that, had Shamus and Kayvan not received medical attention, one or both of them might not be with us today).

And such is the state of the rule of law in America in 2011.  The police, illegally coordinating with the federal government, brutally assault peaceful protesters exercising their once-applicable First Amendment rights… plus any journalists, judges, and passers by who happen to get in the way.

…and the perpetrators of systemic fraud that nearly collapsed the world’s financial system — and which has devastated the global economy to the tune of $40 TRILLION (thanks to SOCIALIZED LOSSES and “leaders” who impose AUSTERITY on the 99%) — well, not a single one of those scumbags (who, despite gross incompetence, criminality, and mismanagement, have enriched themselves beyond Mammon’s wildest dreams) has even been charged with a crime.

But that’s okay; these “job-creating” Wall Street “whizzes” are just doing what comes naturally in the crony-capitalist, oligarchic, emerging police state they’ve helped build: They lie, cheat, bribe, and steal their way to the top (foreclosing on the folks they deceived just a few years earlier)… ultimately CREATING THE POVERTY that virtually guarantees the kinds of social ills — violent criminality, substance abuse, homelessness, etc. — that make America one of the most unequal nations there is… and the leading police- and prison- state in the world!

*          *          *

Still, sometimes I miss the old days — back when there was some semblance of democracy and the law applied to everyone… or we could at least pretend that it did.  I miss the days when Nixon would say “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal” and everyone laughed and laughed.  (Versus 2011, when we’ve made everything Nixon did perfectly “LEGAL” — how ironic; “Tricky Dick” was just a few decades before his time!)

Oh, and before I forget…

Good luck with your one kidney, Shamus!  And chin up:  If you end up on Wall Street someday, or in Washington, you’ll be able to loot the public till, invade countries, hack phones, and torture (even bunga bunga with a minor, whatever you like) with total impunity — the police won’t even consider arresting you!

But until that day, I wouldn’t raise my voice much, peacefully assemble, or render aid to any injured, anti-establishment veterans — America’s new order doesn’t take kindly to that kind of bolshevism.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I have no doubt that the economic injustice that has fueled this popular expression of outrage isn’t going anywhere… and therefore, neither are WE. This movement will continue (and a good thing, too — it’s already been credited with derailing the Keystone XL pipeline project that threatened environmental and economic devastation).

I visited Occupy Oakland a couple of times, and I was largely heartened by what I saw: an open political space where citizens could interact (and occasionally take advantage of an open-microphone to address the crowd).  The site was populous, well-organized, non-threatening, and clean.  (Both times I visited Occupy Oakland, I took it upon myself to clean the area up a little, filling a small container with sidewalk litter before leaving — but doing so was barely necessary, as the Occupants were already doing a fine job picking up after themselves.)

The Occupy Oakland site was well-organized and supplied with everything from food and blankets to basic medical supplies for those who needed them.  It offered a designated safe space for children, at least two “library” tents, portable bathrooms, sanitation (water and soap), a station for trash/compost/recycling, and, most important, an actual space for peaceful dissent in America — something that barely exists anymore, in the age of “Free Speech Zones” (barricaded dissent, far from the protested event, or NONE).

(And yes, there was some public smoking of pot at Occupy Oakland, but no more than I’ve seen in certain other countries, like Canada or France, where they have this crazy thing called FREEDOM.)

Mayor Qwan, like NYC’s Michael Bloomberg, was simply doing the bidding of big business when she deployed a small army of police (at exorbitant cost to the city) to dismantle this harbor of peaceful assembly.  She cited the “threat” to public safety, indicating that a man shot and killed a block or two from the plaza last week had stayed at Occupy Oakland in the previous days… but consider the implications of that decision:

a) There has been no indication that the killing was in any way connected to the protest; and

b) If the official response to some unidentified miscreant murdering a peaceful protester is to SHUT DOWN the protest, doesn’t that just provide an incentive to any deranged, homicidal critic of the Occupy movement?  Should killing a protester serve the interests of banks and unctuous officials like Jean Qwan, giving them an excuse to shut down the whole enterprise???

Two months ago, for the first time, I heard Mayor Qwan speak at a public event, the ten-year 9/11 commemoration in Oakland.  She spoke about America’s victims, neglecting to mention the hundreds of thousands of victims of Washington’s savage response to those notorious attacks.  Mayor Qwan shared the stage with an alleged Christian who elected to celebrate the current Pope — the guardian of the Church’s pedophiles for over a decade, whose frequently incendiary comments have consistently denigrated liberals, secularists, Jews, and Muslims.  And Qwan more or less equated the value of Oakland’s diversity with “Taco Tuesday” (insulting and singularly uninspiring, with NO sense of the solemnity of the occasion; just another photo op).  

And now Oakland’s political, religious, and business elites have joined forces to shut down free expression in America.

In closing, I’ll just say this: Occupy Oakland introduced me to a lot of good people: long-hairs, future leaders, and concerned fuddy-duddies, my age and older; students (high school and college) trying to get a better handle on their society; professionals like teachers, construction workers, and farmers; hardworking, shrewd, and dedicated activists (representing Think Progress and the California Food and Justice Coalition); and others, just passing through, like Herman — a military veteran and also a veteran of America’s battle for civil rights in the 1960s and ‘70s — who had come to express solidarity with the downtrodden and offer solutions, facts, and insight.

But the nuttiest, most eccentric character I met during either of my excursions to Occupy Oakland was a tobacco-smoking (and marijuana-averse) Steinbeck enthusiast and self-identified “Republican” (no lie) who confided in me his disappointment that none of the gathered protesters — not one of the Occupy Oakland crowd — were offering violent “solutions,” such as ARSON (speaking for himself, he told me that he wished someone at OO would seize the microphone and begin calling for anarchists to set fires to bank-owned homes seized in foreclosure — “That’ll get their attention!”).  In response to his clearly misguided theory, I made the case that such actions would do NOTHING to help our cause… and could well end up harming the 99%, giving an excuse to government officials and law enforcement agents who have already demonstrated a predilection for fascism.

So let’s keep up the good work and leave the criminal and unjust actions to the kooks and our detractors, the enemies of free expression and the Bill of Rights: cynical and corrupt politicians like Mayor Michael (break my promise and buy my third term) Bloomberg and Mayor Jean “Hummus equals diversity” Qwan.


My experience with Occupy Oakland... so far!

WE ARE THE 99% -- Links to Learn By...

(Follow the link to watch Stephen Colbert’s 10/24/11 treatment of the proposition that “Corporations ARE People” with Republican message guru Frank Luntz.)

WE ARE THE 99% -- Links to Learn By...

A W E S O M E    M E D I A   L I N K S ! ! !

Link #1: “The Walking Debt” — Jon Stewart illuminates how much MF Global’s collapse tells us about how little Wall Street has changed: STILL ridiculously risky and overleveraged (FORTY to ONE, for MF Global, the company that couldn’t account for $600 MILLION of its clients’ money…) —

Link Set #1: “Colbert Super-PAC” — Stephen Colbert exposes the corruption of our campaign finance system—-apology-to-ham-rove

followed by:—issue-ads and—issue-ads—trevor-potter

Link Set #2: Plutocrats See Us As Tomorrow’s Zombie Hordes — Stephen Colbert’s “Platinum” segment on plutocrats’ plans to abandon America and start over on their manmade islands; and Rachel Maddow’s story on the Pentagon’s crowd-dispersing HEAT RAY (declined by our military in Afghanistan, it’s been re-designated for DOMESTIC USE); the super-rich are preparing for the complete breakdown of society and arming themselves against the peasantry.—wealth-under-siege

…complimented by: (Nine seconds in, you can see for a split second the types of Americans the military expects to target with their new heat ray: PEACE ACTIVISTS!)

WE ARE THE 99% -- Links to Learn By...

WE ARE THE 99% -- Links to Learn By...

Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who in 2002 accurately debunked the Bush administration’s case for war in IRAQ, sheds light on this year’s campaign to incriminate IRAN using the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Here are a few excerpts from Hersh’s interview on DemocracyNow earlier this year (6/3/11):

“What the IAEA said is something it’s been saying repeatedly, even under ElBaradei. And I must say, the new director general, Mr. Amano, is, I think, more willing to please us than ElBaradei was, just in terms of speculating more.

“…The word ‘evidence’ was nowhere in the report. It’s been going on a long time… the IAEA has put out… report after report that say one thing, that’s the most important thing: NO EVIDENCE of any diversion of enriched materials, NO EVIDENCE that they’re squirreling away enriched uranium to make a secret bomb. They have a lot of uranium enriched, the 3.7 percent, yes, but there’s NO EVIDENCE they’re doing anything more than storing it up to run a civilian nuclear reactor… And so, it’s the same thing that’s been going on. You can look at the questions raised and lead your story with that, or you can look at the fact they say consistently that there’s been no diversion.”

Regarding the mysterious, electronic (not original) documents fed to the IAEA late in the Bush years — the same SECRET-SOURCE, unauthenticated junk that’s been recycled for today’s warmongers (now that there’s a Western stooge at the agency’s head) — here’s an excerpt from an IAEA press release in September 2009:

“…the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon programme in Iran. At the Board of Governors´ meeting on 9 September 2009, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei warned that continuing allegations that the IAEA was withholding information on Iran are POLITICALLY MOTIVATED AND TOTALLY BASELESS.”

So now, in 2011, eleven days prior to the publication of the newly politicized IAEA’s much ballyhooed (if already discredited) report, we have the National Security Council holding secret meetings with the Neocons’ preferred IAEA director, Mr. Amano — meetings the Obama administration declines to confirm. Evidently, the politicians and MSM are again on the brink of plunging the world into chaos and putting millions of lives at risk — again based on a pack of lies.

And the evidence supporting that unfortunate conclusion is both abundant and transparently documented (providing a study in contrast).

My comment — unprinted — responding to the following New York Times article:

To the editors of The New York Times:

With this article it seems the Times has reverted to its 2002-03 mindset: blithely peddling Neoconservative claptrap that doesn’t remotely stand up to scrutiny. (Why don’t you just tell us again that “we can’t have the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud?” The Beltway crowd bought it, even if the experts didn’t.)

But you never quote the experts — the vindicated naysayers of eight short years ago — in fluff pieces like this one. The Times apparently can’t spare a line for Juan Cole, Sy Hersh, or Mohammed El-Baradei; you’re too busy regurgitating Neocon nonsense.

Anyone halfway familiar with U.S. foreign policy over the past decade knows that the so-called “Iranian plot” to kill the Saudi ambassador absolutely REEKS of a frame-up (was Rocco Martino involved in this one, too?).

We also know that Mr. El-Baradei (the Nobel Prize-winning former head of the IAEA who had the integrity to refute 2003’s warmongers) has repeatedly cast doubt on the SECRET-SOURCE “evidence” that today’s IAEA, under its new “leadership,” is about to present in its report. According to the Times, that alleged evidence “suggests” (your word, as opposed to “reveals”) an Iranian weapons program — but it is apparently the same junk that was met with derision a few years ago, merely recycled for the present confrontation we’re forcing with Iran.

Although you allude to the U.S./Israeli campaign of assassination in Iran, you say nothing of America’s open support for the MEK, the State Department-designated TERRORIST organization that’s been killing Iranian civilians for years with U.S. funds.

And you consistently fail to mention the vital historical context the rest of the world knows all too well: the 1953 CIA coup that replaced a globally-celebrated democratic leader, Mossadeqh, with the torturing, secret police-employing Shah (you also neglect to mention that after the Iranians overthrew the Shah the U.S. elevated Saddam and sicced him on his neighbor, launching a war that cost over a million lives).

I know there was real regret at the Times after it became clear that your 2003 editorial policy amounted to selling Bush’s lies. PLEASE, eight years later, don’t sell Obama’s.

————————– ADDENDUM 1 (submitted to the Times once it became apparent that they had censored the above comment — which, to be fair, they consistently do when comments are critical of their paper):

I’m not sure why the NYT is willing to print Comment #95 and refuses to publish mine. It is hardly controversial to state that the Times routinely peddles Neoconservative propaganda (the bogus case for war on Iraq being only the most notorious example).

I’m getting awfully tired of this publication censoring comments that are NOT abusive, use NO profanity, and are precisely on point. While you may print THIS comment (because it goes into no detail about egregious errors in the article by Mr. Sanger or the NYT’s past abuses), I would really appreciate if you printed my first submitted comment in its entirety. I have, after all, been a faithful reader for more than a decade.

Please try to remember that you’re supposed to be the “newspaper of record” in an alleged democracy — and stop screening comments as if you were the House Un-American Activities Committee, so terrified of articulate dissent that you refuse to permit such dissent to ever see the light of day.

————————– ADDENDUM 2 (excerpted from my corrective to claims in the 2008 bill, H.Con.Res.362, in the U.S. House of Representatives which, had it passed, would have authorized an act of war against Iran; this excerpt references the “SECRET SOURCE” evidence that today’s IAEA is using to allege the appearance of an Iranian weapons program):

2) “Whereas” (No. 3) states that “the IAEA has confirmed… importation of designs to convert highly enriched uranium gas into metal and shape it into the core of a nuclear weapon.”

This assertion is FALSE. H. Con. Res. 362 falsely attributes this claim to the IAEA.  It is actually from the 18 electronic documents (not original documents) supplied to the IAEA by various states favoring strong action against Iran.  The IAEA’s June 2008 report refers to such documents as “alleged” and “purported,” stating explicitly that they have not been authenticated.

Of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, the IAEA report states:  “The Agency currently has no information… on the actual design or manufacture by Iran of nuclear material components, or of other key components, of a nuclear weapon. Likewise, the Agency has not seen indications of the actual use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies.”

Regarding the alleged documents, the IAEA was not provided with original copies of the documents, but only electronic versions which they were not authorized to share with the Iranians in order to prevent Tehran from responding to the alleged evidence.