Sunday, October 30, 2011

Inspiration on the Charles River

Boston University Men's Crew Shirts Proclaim  #Occupy HOCR The 1%

Here's what one likes to see in life. People who work hard for something, and are not afraid to take pride in the abilities they develop in themselves. This is one of the "eights" which raced recently in the head race known as the Head of the Charles Regatta, held each October in Boston. Eight men provide the power, and a ninth (the coxswain) directs the boat. It's a coxswain's race on a very difficult 3.2 mile course featuring six bridges through which boats with anywhere from one to eight rowers must navigate. The larger boats move at the direction of the coxswain, who you see here wearing green and fitted with a "cox box", which magnifies his voice. It takes a lot of practice and preparation to do well in crew. Those who practice and work hard in worthwhile pursuits, have a chance of getting to the top of any given field.

Boston University came in fifth in this, the second largest rowing race in the world. Which makes them part of the elite in the sport.

Bravo to those who make up their minds to pursue a goal and achieve it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Imperious at Occupy

I lingered outside the Logistics Tent at Occupy Boston to observe a demand for community funds. The gentleman to the extreme right of this picture is dressed in black; he insists he must have more black clothes. He has no cash, however, so he expects the lady manning the Logistics Tent to give him some money. Right now.

Shakedown at Occupy Boston

One way to get money in a group such as OWS, where everyone is supposed to be equal, and issues are decided collaboratively, would be to wait patiently until the next General Assembly meeting. These happen twice a day at the occupy thing at Boston. Various people would  persuasively present divers ideas, and presumably, the group would discuss the relative merits of the various demands for money. Then the group would put up their hands and wiggle their fingers and give UP TWINKLES if they like the idea of spending their limited resources in that particular way. Or DOWN TWINKLES if they did not like this way of spending the money.

The Logistics lady tells him she cannot help the man clad in black. She has no money; if she did have any money, it would be locked up. She has no key so it would be impossible for her to get the money and give it to him.  But he insists. He has to have the money right now, because he needs to buy black clothes because he is going to do an action. This action absolutely has to  happen right now.

The world is full of such people who horn in on the front of the line and who get what they want or need despite the fact that others are patiently waiting, or despite the fact that others are in need but are too embarrassed to ask. I think many OWS people might protest against such behavior, calling it "greed".
There is an imposing statue of Gandhi at Occupy Boston.
People will say "meet at Gandhi for the 3PM meeting". Gandhi was not a big fan of Greed.
Whatever you call it, there are plenty of people in the world who have enough arrogance and enough drive that they are going to lean on people until they get their share (or more than their share) of the world's limited resources.

It's human nature. Some systems recognize this trait and harness self-interest for the public good. Apparently OWS has not found a way to overcome this particular trait of human nature. The man wearing the black clothing never did take no for an answer. The logistics lady pointed to the donations box at the neighboring tent. She said they were collecting donations through the day, and perhaps when they had enough money in the box, they would be able to give him enough money to fund the "action" he felt was so important. But again, the man in black got more agitated, and refused to be pacified with vague promises of later consideration.

So another young lady came up and spoke very nicely to him and agreed to take him to some authority figure in the camp (I don't think they are supposed to have those) and make a special immediate request for the money.  I had to go off and watch an important race on the Charles River, so I don't know what happened next. He probably got his funds. The arrogant and self-important always find a way to the money, no matter what kind of society they are living in.
Also happening at Occupy Boston:
Find out what happened when it came time to pick up the trash.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Up Twinkles for Trash Pickup

When Noam Chomsky comes to address a crowd in Boston, as part of the Occupy thing in that city, people expect the media to show up. The MIT professor  is pretty famous. "According to the Chicago Tribune, Professor Chomsky is “the most cited living author” and ranks just below Plato and Sigmund Freud among the most cited authors of all time". And when the media comes, the organizers will like to put forth a good image. And so it is on Saturday, October 22 in Boston. I am in town anyway for the Head of the Charles Regatta, so I decide to spend the morning roaming around the occupy thing in Bean Town. It's time for a huge clean-up and I am just in time to observe how the idea of a large scale community clean-up effort goes down.

The place is pretty well packed with tents. There may be close to a hundred tents here at Dewey Square Plaza in the Shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.  Jammed together, as close as can be, some tents are dedicated to special purposes such as the Library Tent, the Logistics Tent, the Sign Making Tent, a tent for food service. There's a tent for generating electricity and there are tents for religion also (one a "spiritual tent" and one a special tent for Shabbat). But most of the tents serve as sleeping quarters. A main street runs down the middle of the occupation, starting at a makeshift stage/screening area where someone is strumming on the guitar, and continuing all the way to the other end, near where you can pick up the T at South Station. The place does not seem overly crowded wtih bodies, but there are plenty of people there, and if you look inside the tents, you see there are many groups of people inside, sitting and talking. Other tents are closed up, perhaps with people sleeping inside.

This shanty town is pretty scruffy. The organizers need for it to look presentable before the media arrives tonight. It's not clear what everyone's doing, but there are plenty of people moving about when the guitar strumming comes to a stop. Someone steps to the microphone to announce that it's time to clean up. They have seen media before, but not as many as they will see tonight, because Chomsky is coming to speak in the evening. It's important to have the place looking good, he says, so we need for everyone to grab a trash bag and pick up all the trash. A man in front of me stops what he's doing, and puts his latex gloves into the air and wiggles his fingers at the speaker. UP TWINKLES! A total of two people in the crowd give the up twinkles hand sign; they're agreeing it's important to clean up; they get right to work with those trash bags. Others do not. Most ignore the call to join in. Can you believe it? Most people are lounging in tents and there does not seem to be any mass exodus to pop out and jump to.  Some continue to amble down the path next to the community garden (a feature of the park since well before the protesters arrived), others are stopping for a bagel, plenty of people are standing around chatting. Some are smoking.

So it's really just a few who are helping with the important job of cleaning up the shanty town to put the best face possible on the movement so that the media will take away a good impression of the Occupy Movement.  After a little while the man comes back on the microphone and asks again for clean up help. It's a beautiful day. It's not snowing. There is no wind, no rain. It's not even all that cold. And no special skill is required. Helping with the cleanup would not be difficult for most of the people on site.  Yet,  I see no rush to pick up bags. I continue to roam and to take pictures. The entire time I'm  there, I see only about five people engaged in the clean up. Yet there are hundreds of OWS people on site. Yes, some are busy with serving food, or with making signs, or with manning the logistics tent, but a large number of able bodies are simply not choosing to join in to help further the effort of putting the site into a  litter-free state. 

And now comes the irony. The man gets back on the microphone and admonishes those who ARE working to clean up. Clearly, the job may never get done, since not everyone is helping. You could say that the 99 percent have decided they are not really "into" joining the clean up effort. So instead, he speaks quite loudly to the one percent who are already helping: YOU'RE NOT HELPING IF YOU DON'T BRING ME A FULL BAG!

"The one percent needs to do more to clean this place up!"
If there is anything overarching about the movement, it's this: many of the people attracted to OWS, imagine a world full of evolved beings who naturally act selflessly and do whatever it takes to further the community. They will thus follow a moral and loving course in life which will end up providing  for all  needs of all living beings. (That's what social justice is all about).  But if the OWS people themselves are not willing to answer the call for something as simple and easy as a clean-up effort on a sunny day, you have to wonder if maybe the idea of the idyllic, cooperative world is an unrealistic dream.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

TeaPartying at Occupy Boston

The "Main Street" corridor at Occupy Boston
I popped over to Occupy Boston recently and got a tour from the first person I met there, who happened to be someone who fits right at the intersection of the OWS/TeaParty. Both groups are against giving bailouts to banks. The TeaParty understands that the free market will not work when we allow the government to sustain businesses which mismanage themselves to the point where they deserve to go out of business, or undergo a painful reorganization. And the OWS people just don't like banks being handed billions of dollars of taxpayer money.... after all, any taxpayer money given to banks is money which could otherwise have been used for social justice. Theoretically. But Rod sees more commonalities than just that one.

Pictured below, Rod told me that he had come to Boston ten days ago, to visit some relatives. He had been planning on heading down to check out the Occupy scene in NYC. But when he realized there was an occupy thing in Boston as well, he brought a tent, moved in, and stayed. He holds a sign here saying "Restore Manufacturing" and "National Tariff Import Tax". The other side reads "True Progressives+Tea Party Roots+Young America Agenda". 

Tea Partiers tend to be pretty well informed and Rod is a good illustration of this. He recommends reading Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader among others to get a comprehension of the trouble the nation is in, and to understand the direction we need to go. He feels that different people have different definitions of the word Capitalism and this explains part of the reason that TeaParty people and occupiers have trouble coming to terms. Feeling perfectly welcome among the OWS crowd, Rod pointed out a few other TeaPartiers in the crowd, one carrying a gigantic Gadsden Flag.  His reading has shown him that a nation needs a strong agricultural base as well as a strong manufacturing base in order to survive. These are the jobs which support others in the society. A service economy or a consumer economy will not carry a nation, he says, at least not for long.

Gadsden Flag at Occupy Boston.
When I arrived at the event, Rod was standing talking to a few young people who were walking around trying to register new voters. After they had moved on, he took me on a grand tour of the entire site. More to come in the next few days.

I was really not sure what to make of seeing two TeaPartiers join the protest. You can see the difference in perspective quite starkly if you check out what the Boston people want in the new constitution they seem convinced we must have. 

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Boston starts a New Constitution

Occupy Boston wants a New Constitution

I got to spend the morning at the occupy thing in Boston this weekend. I got myself a tour and took plenty of pics. Maybe I will write up a few posts from my notes in the coming days. For today, their thoughts about a new charter.

The Occupy Boston people don't seem to have much enthusiasm for the  United States Constitution.  They have plastered some paper on the sidewalk and invite you to add your thoughts about what the "new" constitution ought to say. Their invitation reads "We can do better. Here goes.....".

And what are the occupiers adding? The things they want in a new constitution seem to fall into a few general categories. Each bullet point entry is a quote from the poster.

  • Equal rights


  • Free Food!!
  • Right to nourishing food
  • Right to a home to live in
  • Right to food,shelter, healthcare and more understanding/love!
  • Right to a basic survival wage regardless of ability to work or access to waged work.


  • Access to ESOL lessons for new immigrants.


    • Healthcare for EVERYONE.
    • Affodable healthcare
    • A RIGHT to Healthcare.


    • Police would face harsher penalties than the general public. No more crony cops.
    • IRS should be outlawed!
    • FED Abolished too!
    • Term Limits!
    • (S)he who does not contribute to the common good deserves no common good.


    • End America's cycle of poverty.
    • Get $ out of politics. 
    • We can end LGBTQ partner abuse....we can do this as a community.
    • Stop violence.

    • Everyone is important.
    • Free HUGS!
    • The earth, air and water cannot be owned. They are free resources that must be preserved for use by all.
    • A better tomorrow.
    • Live Love Learn
    • love
    • more fishing poles
    • Ministry of Partying
    • Re-think the American Dream!
    • Corporations are not people.
    • Corporations should not have the same (or more) rights than citizens.
    • People before corporate profits. 
    • A legal system not based on precedent.
    • Keep jobs here. Stop outsourcing.
    • No bailouts for corporations.

    ONE PERSON seems to get that we can just amend the document we have. This contributor, however, might have missed the part where our founders inserted checks and balances and a balance of powers, precisely to make it harder for the powerful to find ways to subvert the Constitution. Here is what (s)he wrote:

    New Ammendment (sic)
    • Our political leaders should abide by the constitution instead of continuing to find ways to subvert it.

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    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Rain on Occupy Wall Street

    It's raining on Occupy Chapel Hill. But the occupiers have a plan. You might be able to enlarge this photo and read it. 

    They also have a plan for the what to do about the  bathroom. The occupiers are welcome over at The Chapel of the Cross and at University United Methodist Church, which are keeping their doors open from 8:00AM to 9:30PM. These churches and their congregations apparently are very happy to support the group which thinks it's a good idea to offer a table full of extreme literature, including quite a large stack of  free copies of Ted Kaczynski's Unabomber Manifesto.

    Did I mention the group feels it imperative to have a Legal Help Phone Line? They keep a lawyer's phone number posted on the daily agenda.

    The post office doesn't seem to mind having the walls of their edifice defaced with all kinds of signs affixed with all manner of sticky substances. If you enlarge this pic, you might see that one of the signs decries that CEO salaries have gone up a great deal in the same time period that middle class salaries have gone up to a lesser degree. This protest is targeting "the one percent". Do the protesters think there are over three million CEOs in the country? Or do they understand that the top one percent subsumes a much broader group than that? Maybe not. 

    According to..research...A category called “executives, managers and supervisors (non-finance)" make up the greatest concentration (of the one percenters)_ at 6.35 percent. Financial professionals are next at 2.77 percent, while doctors make up 1.85 percent and lawyers 1.22 percent.The rest of the table shows a wide variety of skills, from real estate professionals to celebrities, from government workers to farmers and pilots, each comprising about 0.5 percent of the 1 Percenters. 

    You can read more about the composition of the one percent at The much maligned rich one percenters even include pilots. And farmers! Apparently, the occupiers ought to be occupying Hollywood, and hip hop studios,  and sports arenas, and all kinds of places--doctors' and lawyers' offices too--but  no, they have chosen to focus their wrath just on the financial sector. But not the government. Think of the irony there. The government played a massive role in bringing about the housing crisis. 

    ...the politicians clearly had as their political goal homeownership as “a good thing” and persisted—and for that matter persist to this moment in pushing it. The Federal Housing Administration last I checked was promoting supporting mortgages that have less than 4 percent down payment. We all make mistakes, but politicians have persisted in their mistakes, and in the pointing of fingers in other directions.----Thomas Sowell 

    People in Chapel Hill are pretty well educated and perhaps have a sophisticated and accurate grasp of the pernicious interplay between the government and Wall Street and banks and major corporations. Area citizens surely wonder why the occupiers are willing to storm the banks and vilify the people who work there, but have no interest in investigating the government connections behind all this crony capitalism which arose to solve a problem which some say did not even exist. 

    Maybe that is why there were very few tents and even fewer people on hand yesterday when I went over to check on the growth of the Occupy thing in Chapel Hill. It had not grown since the first day. In fact it was quite a bit smaller.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Don't Be Expecting the Poor

    The poor won't rise up and swell the ranks of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Why? Part of the reason is because they are not really all that poor. Yes, when you compare the poor in this country to the rich, they have a lot less. But most of the time they are sheltered and eating, which makes our "poor" very different from the desperate people in say, Tunisia, where the Arab riots began in December 2010 when Mohammed Bouazizi who had spent most of his life trying to make money by selling fruits and veggies refused to pay a bribe to  police.  He failed to produce any "permit". They confiscated his produce cart. He resisted. They beat him up. People have to eat, and when corruption and a general lack of plenty,  interferes with someone's ability to do that, they are going to summon up the energy to fight.

    The fact that our poor are not even near destitute is due to our vast social programs. Today I stopped by the Occupy Chapel Hill encampment, and as is my habit I spoke with one of the passersby. She was ambling toward a bench, trying to read the sidewalk drawings, muttering under her breath "as long as they don't get violent." So I sat down with her to find out what she thinks about Occupy Chapel Hill and we talked for a long time. She had been a protester in the sixties, and was very proud of that. She even showed me a bracelet she was wearing reminiscent of that time. She said she has since grown up and learned that kind of protesting won't work. She voted for Obama, and is not sure if she'll do that again. She's a huge believer in capitalism and thinks the reason the OWS people are willing to sleep in tents to protest the injustice they see in the world is "because they are 18". She  knows "for sure" you can't change anything by screaming and fussing in the streets, you have to change things from within. 

    Burdened with diabetes, this sweet and intelligent lady has been disabled for six years and  lives in an assisted living center; her net worth less than a dollar today. She opened her purse and showed me a bank receipt from this morning.  She had just been by the bank to take out 49 cents out of the 50 she had on deposit. (She left a penny to keep the account open.) To buy one stamp she had to make that withdrawal. After mailing an important letter, she now has the one penny in the bank, and another 30 cents in her purse. 

    But she is not going to join the protest. No way. No how. Not only does she feel strongly that it won't change anything, but she has a place to sleep tonight. She's well enough clothed to deal with the weather, and she is going to keep getting her meals at the facility where she lives. This is all funded, no doubt,  through the largesse of the taxpayers of NC and the US. She'll be getting another check soon. She said the jobs plan may not work and parts of the stimulus were a little silly.  She was glad to get the $200.00 check Obama sent her; spent the money right away. That was supposed to help get the economy going, but in her opinion, most of the people who got that check wasted the money on stuff they did not really need.

    She is not resentful that her next government check won't be a lot bigger.  She is glad she lives in the United States of America where people are tolerated when they set up tents in protest. I asked her if she is worried that the people of Occupy Chapel Hill are going to turn violent. She says if they do, it will only continue "if their daddies come and bail them out of jail".

    When I told the lady I am a photojournalist for the MIddle Class Power website she sported a huge smile and held out an open hand. She told me I ought to take a picture of the Northface logo on one of the tents. Poor people have nowhere near enough money to buy Northface products, she noted, and therefore, she is pretty sure the person who brought that tent and is camped out at Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC, is not living in poverty. 

    The woman senses most of the participants are doing pretty well in life. And maybe she is right. And where, then, are the poor? In some cases, they're not joining in to OWS, because they, like this lady, are not living in anything close to a state of desperation. I guess the lesson for the OWS crowd is this: its fine to demand the dismantling of the world as we know it in order to help the poor. But as you are moving on your goal, take a look behind you and see if life's most desperate characters are in such bad straits that they have decided to follow you.

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    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Occupy Chapel Hill-The Occupation Begins

    Couldn't resist. I hauled out the camera and went down to check out the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street protest in Chapel Hill on October 15th.

    Not being in the mood to talk to the attendees right away, I sat on the wall of McCorkle Place across the street and just watched for a little while.  Others sitting on the wall were trying to figure out what one of the signs said. It said "Top 1% Y U no pay taxes??"  That sign was just a little ironic, and I said so. The top one percent pays very close to forty percent of the federal taxes. 

    One of the young men sitting with me looking at the gathering crowd  was shocked by this idea and told me that I had it all wrong. He went on to explain that "the rich" get capital gains, and pay a very low rate on capital gains. And capital gains are not included in those figures, he said. But capital gains taxes are reported on the income tax return, and the IRS analyzes actual tax returns and tells us that the top one percent pay a full 38.02 percent of the federal income tax--including capital gains taxes. The same table shows that 69.94% of the federal income tax is attributable to the top ten percent of returns filed.  On the other hand, some 47 percent of people pay no federal income tax at all.

    There is no denying that there is a "fair share" issue underlying the payment of  federal income tax. But to say the rich are not paying their fair share is disingenuous. 

    The young man went on to speak of other "unfairness".  He works for National Geographic and is doing pretty well, but wants to go back to school and can't afford to do so. This, he explained is because our invasion of Iraq drove up the cost of college. Yes, I see your jaw dragging down. I could not figure that one out either.  People are making all kinds of very odd associations lately, as the left throws out ridiculous figures and tries to convince us that we need to be taken care of by their growing and lucrative government structure.

    It was Game Day in Chapel Hill so the place was bustling so I got up and followed various groups who were talking about the protest. They all struggled to remember the name of the thing. One lady was telling her daughter that these are the same people who poop on the cop cars on Wall Street. Another man was disgusted with the entire thing.....said the protesters will only drive voters to the Republicans in November.

    There were some pretty sophisticated posters plastered all over Franklin Street, on phone polls and on vacant store fronts. Some were in Spanish. When I finally got to the protest area and started to mingle, I saw a huge table of literature. All leftist stuff, would you believe? 

    There was a general feeling that the people in the top one percent each got there through cheating, stealing, exploitation  and general unfairness. I listened to a self-described anarchist being interviewed. He said he doesn't guess that these people are going to willingly give up that money; therefore, the protesters are going to need to forcibly remove the assets from the top one percent. For some reason, the reporter did not ask the salient question: HOW?

    It seemed like a nice bunch of people, but some of the signs were just incorrect and misleading, and the literature was pretty scary. Hearing the anarchist speak made me understand why they thought it necessary to post a phone number for legal help on their agenda.

    I did not see any tents when I was there during the preliminaries. But the next day when I happened to drive by, I did spot about a dozen tents set up, and a group of people sitting in a circle. So this could go on for awhile. If so, I will try to post some more information about the OWS at the post office on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC. 

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    OWS Publications

    Here's what's on the Publications Table at Chapel Hill's OWS event as of  October 15, 2011

    You can tell a lot about people by what they read. And by what they offer up for you to read. I took a picture of the literature table at the local occupy thing and then came home and looked some of this stuff up. If you dig into some of the links below, you might begin to see something of a pattern. 

    The Unabomber Manifesto 
    by Ted Kaczynski who who killed three people and injured a couple of dozen others through a mail bombing  campaign spanning some nearly 20 years. 

    20 Years on the MOVE
    MOVE "is a family of revolutionaries, of naturalist revolutionaries, founded in Philadelphia in the late sixties/early seventies, who oppose all that this system represents". -- Mumia Abu-Jamal"

    Earth Liberation Front 

    Rob Los Ricos Manufacturing Dissent

    "We recommend you read these texts in the woods, where the fanzine and we belong."

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