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What Does Grassroots Mean Anymore? | Irregular Times

8 May

The idea of grassroots organizing is that it’s supposed to be supported from the lowest levels first, like the way that grass grows, without reliance on centralized organizations or large sources of support. In grassroots organizing, people who have little power individually can form networks together that cannot be easily defeated because even when one part of the organization is attacked, new shoots can rise up to fill in, just as grass roots run in a complex weave of long thin contributions from many different plants to occupy a large space. In a piece of genuine turf, individual roots aren’t growing to create some kind of predetermined shape. The strong mat of green that results from their work is a result of unpredictable growth that doesn’t have a pattern that’s easy to pick apart. Its strength is that it is a jumbled mess.

What George Soros and his wealthy fellows are doing is giving a big load of fertilizer to a group of organizations that grow more like trees. These organizations have a centralized trunk and root system, and without those centralized systems, the organizations will die. Cut them back from the top, and they won’t regrow. They haven’t grown spontaneously from a network of small individuals. They’re the results of single seeds that have grown individually large and powerful.

…Big media organizations such as the New York Times have lost touch with what genuine grassroots organizations look like. What these corporate news operations describe with the the term “grassroots” nowadays is rather like their own organizations: Designed for consumption by individuals, but only though a system of distribution controlled from the top down, powered by large payments from a few sources with a lot of money.

via What Does Grassroots Mean Anymore? | Irregular Times.

Occupy Activists Resurrect May Day for Americans | The Nation

2 May

In April, a coalition of unions, environmental groups, community organizing networks — including National People’s Action, PICO, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Jobs with Justice, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Rainforest Action Network, SEIU, United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America, MoveOn, Unite Here, Common Cause, the Steelworkers union Public Campaign, Public Citizen, Health Care for America Now, the United States Students Association, and others—began a series of protest actions major banks and corporations, and trained close to 100,000 new recruits in civil disobedience tactics.

In April they showed up (and some got arrested) at Cigna, General Electric and Wells Fargo shareholder meetings. In the next month, they plan to make their voices heard at Verizon, Bank of America, Hyatt, Tesoro, Sallie Mae, Walmart and other corporate annual meetings. They will commemorate May Day with actions at several corporate headquarters and stockholder meetings as part of this ongoing “99% Spring/99% Power” campaign that will continue throughout the summer and into the election season with demands that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, big banks end the epidemic of foreclosures and reduce “underwater” mortgages to their fair market values, and that banks and Congress unleash college students from unprecedented debt from student loans. By keeping the heat on, and gaining visibility, they hope to inject these issues into the upcoming election season.

via Occupy Activists Resurrect May Day for Americans | The Nation.

Arrests on Lower East Side as May Day Protests Spread – NYTimes.com

1 May

And that’s not all. Action in California too:

The May Day demonstrations took place across the country and in countries across the globe.

In the Bay Area in California, marches and protests snarled traffic and caused road closures. Hundreds marched through Oakland, temporarily closing streets and bank branches and clashes with officers in riot gear, who deployed tear gas on crowds.

Service to the Golden Gate Ferry service, used by many commuters from Marin County, Calif. to San Francisco, was shut down after workers in bitter contract negotiations over health insurance coverage went on strike and picketed ferry terminals.

via Arrests on Lower East Side as May Day Protests Spread – NYTimes.com.

Truth and Traditions Top Five

1 May

1. Declaration of Independence

219 years ago our originators “brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Today we have less liberty. Inequality has reached obscene proportions as millions die of preventable diseases and starvation each year, and over a billion children suffer sociogenic brain damage worldwide, as the rich get ever richer.

2. Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

David Graeber recounts the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35). As an exercise you might want to read the story as one about the recent mortgage mess in the United States.

3. David Brooks, Fooled by Inequality

He’s at it again, being reasonable out of one side of his mouth while makin’ it up out of the other. I’m talking about David Brooks, Mr. Reasonable, the Mr. Blizzard of plausible risibility. His column, The Wrong Inequality, is a masterpiece of rhetorical legerdemain and misdirection.

4. Truth and Traditions Defined

The inconvenient truths of peak oil now, peak drinkable water now, peak everything on the horizon, as far as the eye can see. The many, many ugly truths of war and waste have been systematically unexamined by our corporate owned mass media who stand to profit by ignoring news unfit for them to print or speak. . . . Those thousands of animistic traditions that peoples all over the world lived by for 99.8% of human existence: feeling the “spirit” in all life forms, honoring reciprocities and gift circulation, maintaining hospitality and generosity, sharing tools and talents in daily life, replanting three trees for every tree cut down, minimizing division of labor, maximizing individuation and Self-expression.

5. Wall Street: The Dead Face of Domination

IMGP4452rd - The Face of Domination

Those buildings are in New York City’s financial district (aka Wall Street). That’s where the captains of finance manipulate our world while playing ‘King of the Hill’ against one another. Those buildings are machines. They are the Borg. We ARE living in The Matrix. We are nothing but feedstock for the adolescent games those machines play with one another.

A Different Intersection of Religion and Politics – NYTimes.com

29 Apr

Here’s a long-standing social movement that was created during the Depression and has survived and even grown over the last thirty years without a leader.

May 1 marks the 79th anniversary of Dorothy Day’s great achievement: a movement whose vision of activist faith couldn’t be farther from the moralizing of the religious right that has seemed to define Christianity’s incursion on politics since the 1980s. The Catholic Worker, which Day founded with Peter Maurin, a French immigrant, was — and remains — a philosophy, a social initiative, a way of life. Its understanding of personal responsibility maintains not that we all must rely on ourselves, but rather that we are all beholden to better the lives of the less fortunate. On May 1, 1933, during the height of the Great Depression, Day took to Union Square handing out the first copies of her newspaper, also called The Catholic Worker, which delivered the message of compassion and justice at the cost of one penny; the price has never gone up.

The movement has always sought “a new society in the shell of the old” — peace, less disparity of wealth, an end to economic exploitation, violence, racism and so on. Its goals can seem broad but its methods are intimate and practical. Around the country and in various parts of the world, Catholic Worker communities exist as households where lay members, typically committed to voluntary poverty, often live among the homeless and needy they are aiding. It is a model for Occupy Wall Street — like that more recent movement, it is decentralized and decisions are largely made by consensus — which has said it will hold protests around the country on Tuesday, historically a significant day for the labor movement. There are no headquarters or board of directors and, since Day’s death in 1980, no leader. Things have hardly faded: in the past 17 years, the number of communities has grown from 134 to more than 210.

The oldest of these is in New York —in two buildings in the East Village, one primarily for men, the other for women — and a visit there offers lessons in the kind of radical empathy we rarely get to witness. Mr. Hart lives among 25 or so mostly homeless men at the St. Joseph House on East First Street. Every Friday he cooks for the 80 to 200 nonresidents who show up each weekday for a midmorning meal.

via A Different Intersection of Religion and Politics – NYTimes.com.

Urban Revolution is Coming — Occupy Wall Street

29 Apr

Max Rivlin-Nadler interviews David Harvey in Salon.

Geographer and social theorist David Harvey, the distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and one of the 20 most cited humanities scholars of all time, has spent his career exploring how cities organize themselves, and when they do, what their achievements are. His new book, “Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution,” dissects the effects of free-market financial policy on urban life, the crippling debt of middle- and low-income Americans and how runaway development has destroyed a common space for all city dwellers.

Beginning with the question, How do we organize a whole city? Harvey looks at how the current credit crisis had its root in urban development, and how this development has made any political organizing in American cities virtually impossible in the past 20 years.

The right ot the city:

So when I talk about the right to make the city more after our heart’s desire, and what we’ve seen in New York City over the last 20-30 years, it’s been the heart’s desire of the rich folk. Back in the ’70s it was the Rockefeller brothers for example, who were the big players. Now we have people like Bloomberg, and essentially, they make the city in a way that is convenient to them and their businesses. But the mass of the population has almost no influence over this process. There are nearly a million people in this city who are trying to get by on $10,000 a year. What influence do they have over the kind of city that is being built? None at all. Continue reading

Occupy Movement Prepares for Democratic Convention – NYTimes.com

24 Apr

Occupy Charlotte is planning actions for the Bank of American shareholder’s meeting on May 9 and the Democratic Party convention in September:

Bill Dobbs, a member of Occupy Wall Street’s press team, said there is continuing communication with Occupy Charlotte members as they plan bank and convention protests. And as many as 60 groups have signed on to join the Coalition to Protest at the D.N.C. In Florida, Occupy Tampa is involved in planning similar efforts for the Republican National Convention, which will be held there in August, but the group has had smaller protests than those in Charlotte and the city has proposed a “clean zone” limiting where demonstrations can be held.

In planning protests this time around, for the conventions, social media is likely to play a bigger role.

“I think there’s been a lot more inter-occupation communication as people got away from the encampments and starting getting online and establishing lines of communication across the country,” said Domenic Battistella, 34, of nearby Mooresville, an original member of Occupy Charlotte. “We’re going to be much more coordinated on a regional basis.”

via Occupy Movement Prepares for Democratic Convention – NYTimes.com.

Protester’s New Front: Student Loan Debt

23 Apr

Alexander Zaitchik, writing in Salon:

A year ago, the student debt crisis was a quiet one. Default-triggered cascades of compounding interest and collection fees were matters of lonely shame and anxiety. Journalists writing on the issue networked through friends and family to find subjects willing to go on record. Then the debt-confession signs started popping up at OWS protests, and stories of debilitating student debt were everywhere. Numbers that had been a source of private depression became symbols of generational defiance. “I have $80,000 in student loan debt,” declared a typical sign. “How can I ever hope to repay that now?” Others demonstrated the vertiginous arithmetic of the classic default spiral: “Borrowed $26,000. Paid back to date $32,000. Still owe $45,000.”

There’s no shortage of statistics capable of illustrating America’s economic elephantiasis. Taxes, health care, wages — take your pick. But it’s the student debt numbers that most shock college graduates over 50. If you went to school in the 1960s or ’70s, it doesn’t seem possible that the class of 2012 is graduating with an average debt load of more than $25,000. The macro milestones tend to get more press — America’s $1 trillion in aggregate student debt now surpasses that owed on its credit cards — but it’s the 25 large that makes boomers whistle and start talking about the days when a semester at Berkeley cost the same as a trip to the laundromat.

Years ago: Continue reading

Five Ways to Support Re-Occupation | The Nation

17 Apr

Empowered by a federal court ruling that allows protesters to legally sleep on public sidewalks, as long as they don’t block building entrances or take up more than half of the available space, #SleepfulProtest is proving to be an effective new tactic helping speed Occupy Wall Street’s re-emergence into the streets and public spaces of the US. (My colleague Allison Kilkenny recently explained and explored this new strategy.)

It’s been so effective, in fact, that this morning at 6:00 am the NYPD, in direct defiance of the 2000 decision Metropolitan Council Inc. v. Safir, which held “public sleeping as a means of symbolic expression” to be constitutionally protected speech, raided the corner across from the New York Stock Exchange where Occupiers have been sleeping. A motion for an emergency injunction against NYPD disruption of the sidewalk protests was filed this morning.

In the meantime, here are five ways you can help support the Re-Occupation of America:

1. Go to Wall Street to join the Occupiers if you can….

2. Spread the word.  …

3. Donate to Occupy Wall Street through its website. …

4. Get ready for the May 1 actions. This is expected to be a major day of resistance on many fronts and of many forms. Do something!

5. Help save Chicago’s Woodlawn Mental Health Clinic.

via Five Ways to Support Re-Occupation | The Nation.

Occupy Returns to Its Roots With ‘Sleepful Protests’ | The Nation

12 Apr

Now let’s sleep on the sidewalks outside banks, but within legal limits. No big camps, just modest sleep-ins:

The concept of sleepful protests combines Occupy’s two most powerful elements: physical occupations and the targeting of Wall Street, thereby alleviating one of the major criticisms of OWS, which was that the occupations of parks and squares is too far removed from the movement’s actual targets.

When people see Occupiers sleeping outside a bank, the natural question for them to ask is “Why this bank?” And that allows the protesters to segue into an explanation of what Occupy is and what they stand for.

via Occupy Returns to Its Roots With ‘Sleepful Protests’ | The Nation.