Occupy Phoenix


Best picture I could take at Occupy Phoenix, using my phone; I know, it’s kind of blurry.

I just came from the demonstrations here in downtown Phoenix and was surprised, in a good way, at what I saw. Thousands of polite, civil, friendly protestors had gathered, and I would say that maybe half of them were white collar people in their 40s, 50s and even 60. Lots of youth, but lots of white hair, too. There was no name-calling, no littering, no shoving, not the slightest hint of violence. I bring this up because the new insidious meme from the right is that those participating in the demonstrations constitute a “mob.” Of course, they considered the Tea Party demonstrations a gathering of patriots. The Occupy crowds, in their eyes, are dirty hippies and anarchists. Which, of course, is total nonsense.

There was no leader, just a string of speakers. The message was simple: there is a huge injustice in America, and the criminal bankers are rewarded for their sins at the expense of the working and middle classes. The goals are simple, too: tax reform, with more taxes on the rich and relief for the less fortunate; greater stimulus to create jobs; and transferring power from Wall Street and corporations to the people the government is supposed to represent. (I know, that’s easier said than done.)

There were the expected idiots, but very few. I’m talking about Truthers with their signs about 911 being an inside job, and the Ron Paul kooks with their monolithic call to “end the Fed.” They were few and far between, but it’s always signs like theirs that the right-wing seizes on to show how deranged liberals are. I kind of wished they’d disappear. Free speech has its pluses and minuses.

The police were everywhere, quietly watching. I even chatted with one about a deranged demonstrator who was reading from the bible at the top of his lungs trying to drown the speakers out. The cop said he’d love to do something, but everyone’s allowed their say. From the way he said it, I’m betting he was sympathetic to the demonstrators.

According to the latest poll I saw, 52 percent of Americans now support the Occupy movement, and 27 percent support the Tea Party. Finally, a movement is bringing together groups that have often been at odds: white collars and working-class workers, young people and old, social rebels wearing masks and clearly challenging the status quo, and the status quo itself — ordinary Americans who brought their entire families with them.

The Phoenix event may have been a bit too polite. It needs to be a little more disruptive and in-your-face. That’s a fine line to balance, remaining civil while generating outrage. But it has to shake up the system, like they’re doing in New York. Meanwhile, I’m doing everything I can to support this movement and urge you all to do the same. We’ve never seen anything like it in America in our lifetimes, and it is so long overdue.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 76 Comments

When looking at the 2:1 ratio of “Occupy Wall Street” and “Tea Party” supporters, and assuming that these numbers are basically accurate, Merlin’s Mom comes to my mind. I seem to remember that they made the wicked old witch disappear by simply forgetting her.

One can’t (and shouldn’t) simply “forget” a substantial number of people and their peeves, unjustified as they may be. But by devoting less attention to them, and more to the actual majority, one can begin to see them within reasonable proportions.

I guess that’s why I’m beginning to like the “Occupy” movement, too. They have regained some of the public sphere that has for too long been occupied by noisy people so aptly described by FOARP.

October 19, 2011 @ 4:10 am | Comment

The above proportionality point is well made but I wouldn’t go all optimistic about the US’s future, as it has a long history of hardwired loony right/populist movements which go back to the beginning of the 20th century. I tried to list them in a post on ChinaDivide ages ago, but ended up with RSI.

Ironically, many of them focussed on ‘Wall Street Jewish conspiracies’.

I’m mot sure the US can be cast as an exemplar of modernity, different from old world Europe, due to a persistent evangelical virus within its body politic. Snake handlers and Elmer Gantry types in the ’20s and ’30s to the Fox tent show today.

October 19, 2011 @ 4:34 am | Comment

I would think that the OWS income stats would trend higher than the Tea Party.

Not vouching for the integrity of these syndicated columnists, but:

“The difference between the Tea Party marches of 2009 and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations of 2011 is the difference between “No more bailouts!” and “Where’s my bailout?” For the Tea Party, Big Government ― too many regulations, too much federal meddling in Americans’ lives ― is the problem. For Occupy Wall Street, bigger government-more taxes, more regulation, more subsidies ― is the solution. The choice is yours.”

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis blog daily at http://www.infinitemonkeysblog.com and joelmathis.blogspot.com.

October 19, 2011 @ 4:58 am | Comment

That is so absurd, Slim, making the Tea Party sounds sane and prudent and the OWS crowd infantile and inane. Pundits can say what they want. I suggest you read some of Paul Krugman’s and Nicholas Kristoff’s recent columns on the subject.

Of course OWS wants more regulation — a lot more. Elizabeth Warren is a hero of OWS. Someone with power needs to regulate Wall Street; strict regulation would have prevented the meltdown altogether. We don’t want “Big Government’ per se, but we don’t want to whittle the present government down to the bone. A sane tax policy would go a long way toward paying for essential services and even helping reduce the deficit. The deficit and tax reductions are the sacred cows of the Tea Party, even though it is a fact that tax reductions cause the deficit to mushroom. Look at Clinton’s significant tax increases, and the slashing of the deficit. Look at Reagan’s initial round of tax cuts followed by a balloonng deficit; the same under GW Bush.

The “Where’s My Bailout” sign is facetious. It means only that too-big-to-fail banks get aid while the poor unemployed are told tough luck. Something is very off about this — the huge transfer of wealth from the working taxpayers to the banks that created the crisis, while the unemployed watch in utter helplessness: Where’s my bailout means that if the government is showing such largesse to the very wealthiest, why not show some to the victims of the banks’ perfidy? It’s not an actual appeal for money; it’s pointing out the inherent maddening unfairness in the current system.

About whether the OWS crowd is wealthier than the Tea Party crowd, very hard to say. So many of the OWS people are students and unemployed, but also increasing numbers of white collars are joining. As I mentioned, I also saw a lot of white-haired demonstrators, probably retired or near there. It’s an incredibly mixed bag, racially and economically. Large swaths of the tea party, on the other hand, are retired crybabies who just want to make sure they get all their goodies and fuck the younger generations who have to pay for their undeserved benefits, which should obviously be means-tested (sacrilege, wail the baggers!). The tea party is old and decrepit in every way. The movement caters solely to the dull, to the ignorant, to the spoiled, to the selfish, to the herd animal, to idiotsto Republicans. Though as I acknowledged earlier, I am sure some of them are lovely people.

October 19, 2011 @ 5:44 am | Comment

Doug, first and foremost, FDR.

In economic terms only, I’d say Kennedy, Johnson, hell, even NIXON are more “liberal” than Obama (Nixon founded the EPA, you know).

October 19, 2011 @ 9:28 am | Comment

(I am on the fence about including Nixon on that list, but it’s important to point out the difference in tax policy then and now)

October 19, 2011 @ 9:30 am | Comment

Nixon was one of the most liberal presidents in History when it came to domestic policy.

I think that the most vocal in movements like Occupy or the TP generally tend to be idiots that don’t know what they’re talking about, while the more intellectual supporters tend to be in the back. So enough with the name calling of either Occupy or the Tea Party, both have a point if you’re able to talk to the more intelligent supporters of both.

My problem with Occupy is that they have very little in defined goals, and don’t seem to comprehend that more of the blame should be on government for instituting policy that created the housing crisis in the first place.

My problem with the Tea Party is the cognitive dissonance between demanding smaller government and telling the government to leave their social benefits (medicare, social security, etc.) alone.

October 19, 2011 @ 11:39 am | Comment

Richard: “The movement caters solely to the dull, to the ignorant, to the spoiled, to the selfish, to the herd animal, to idiots — to Republicans. ”

Tell us how you really feel, Richard! 🙂

October 19, 2011 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

The above proportionality point is well made but I wouldn’t go all optimistic about the US’s future, as it has a long history of hardwired loony right/populist movements which go back to the beginning of the 20th century. I tried to list them in a post on ChinaDivide ages ago, but ended up with RSI.
Ironically, many of them focussed on ‘Wall Street Jewish conspiracies’.

Nothing is as good or bad as first reported – but I’m more optimistic now, than a month ago.
From an Economist blog:

It is not surprising that, given the public’s inevitable ignorance of the niggling details of corporatist system-rigging, the two-party political cartel has very little interest in doing anything about any of this. And it’s not at all clear to me what can be done about any of this. It wouldn’t hurt, though, if more of us were to give up any illusions we may have about which side of the class war our favourite major political party is fighting on: probably not yours. So let’s start a Pirate Party.

I don’t necessarily agree about the recommended remedy, but besides occupying things, knowledge, too, is important. Otherwise, any populist measure may satisfy people – for, say, a month. And then the discontent will be back.

October 19, 2011 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

I just can’t escape from religious dingbats.

Don’t know about other commenters, but to my right on your site
Riachard:

The End-Time is Here. 2008 was Gods last warning, blah blah. Ad Choices.

@ Justrecently.

“….long history of hardwired loony right/populist movements which go back to the beginning of the 20th century.”

I was referring to the long history of populist loony movements of which the Tea Party is the latest incarnation.

Do a google search and you can find a major populist movement in the US in every decade of the last century.

I was not characterising the OWS as such, since I regard it as a welcome progressive development, even if it is emerging during the dying twilight period of the American empire.

October 19, 2011 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

Maybe I should have just said “working poor.” They’re the ones being royally fucked, as are the lower middle class. So let’s make that “lower middle class and below.”

And what would you say is the top end of the household income bracket for that group?

October 19, 2011 @ 3:11 pm | Comment

It means only that too-big-to-fail banks get aid while the poor unemployed are told tough luck. Something is very off about this

I don’t think there’s anything “off”, it’s hard-headedness. If you, I or anyone else on this forum loses their livelihood, government couldn’t care less. Indeed even if a super-rich individual lost his job, it wouldn’t provoke a reaction. But if a bank holding millions of people’s life-savings is about to go under, government will try to stop that.

The question is how to ensure that banks and other financial institutions pay for this implicit guarantee. Rather than increased regulation, I would favour the levy suggested by the Economist.

October 19, 2011 @ 3:22 pm | Comment

Okay, so you support the bailout of the too-big-too-fail banks like Goldman Sachs and are against extending unemployment benefits to those who lost their jobs because of the banks’ mischief. Even though the unemployment benefits are pumped into the economy almost instantly, one of the best form of stimulus, unlike handouts to banks which then sit on the money and hand out lavish bonuses to those who created the mess. Fine. We will never see eye-to-eye on this. I know you once supported Sarah Palin so I think you’re probably drawn to the Tea Party. To each his own. I favor dramatically increased regulation of a banking system that can fuck over the entire population of the US and send shock waves throughout the world, all thanks to incredibly unethical lending practices and hanky-panky, selling CDOs and ARMS and other “financial instruments” they knew had to fail, and which in some cases they were shorting themselves, sucking the money from the poor and working classes while enriching themselves, something that could never have happened if banks were still regulated under Glass-Steagal. I think we had to prop up the banks, but under much stricter terms and with appropriate punishment for those who knowingly fucked over millions of Americans.

October 19, 2011 @ 10:35 pm | Comment

Krugman would be a good source for a lot of things, but asking him for objective and honest analysis of OWS would be akin to tapping The People’s Daily editorial board for their views on the correctness of China’s internet policies.

Here are some attempts to flesh out the movement:
http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/topic/occupy-wall-street-2011-10/

http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/10/18/does_the_wall_street_journal_provide_an_accurate_portrayal_of_occupy_wall_street

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204479504576637082965745362.html

Here is a 999 vs 99 percenter comparison
http://rothkopf.foreignpolicy.com/

October 19, 2011 @ 11:05 pm | Comment

Okay, so you support the bailout of the too-big-too-fail banks like Goldman Sachs

I think it’s inevitable that too-big-to-fail institutions will be bailed out. Look what happened when Leeman Brothers went down the pan.

and are against extending unemployment benefits to those who lost their jobs because of the banks’ mischief.

Richard, I’m British, and am proud of the fact that if someone gets unemployed here they automatically can expect (modest) benefits. But the point remains, governments don’t care that much about individuals losing their jobs. They have to take what benefits are on offer. When the State does step in it’s normally to bailout “too-big-to-fail companies”, e.g. the US car industry.

I know you once supported Sarah Palin so I think you’re probably drawn to the Tea Party.

What the hell?! I’ve explained umpteen times my views on Palin, both during and after the election. You even said that you accepted what I said, so why bring this up again? Did you recently have an accident and conveniently lose the part of your memory when we last discussed this? :p

I’ve never said anything to indicate I support the Tea Party, bar the fact that I do think spending needs to be trimmed in certain areas. I’m against extending the Bush era tax cuts for the rich permanently and also think that the tax loopholes need to be closed.

So, pray tell how a guy who supports universal benefits and the NHS can possibly be drawn to the Tea Party. I’m all ears.

October 20, 2011 @ 5:51 am | Comment

They are all rich men, using their money to promote political causes in which they believe.

a pair of them promotes utter evil and insanity while one doesn’t.

October 20, 2011 @ 10:54 am | Comment

Raj, apologies for raising old ghosts, but you always touch a nerve when it comes to domestic US politics and it reminds me of your initial endorsement of Sarah Palin, which I found traumatic. It was this interaction that made me think you were of a like mind with the TP, or at least with the right:

Richard: It means only that too-big-to-fail banks get aid while the poor unemployed are told tough luck. Something is very off about this.

Raj: I don’t think there’s anything “off”, it’s hard-headedness.

Sorry, but something seems VERY off about this to me. You don’t see that? Maybe we should just acknowledge that you and I will never see eye to eye.

October 20, 2011 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

UK conservatives like Raj, from what I glean from his comments, have made peace with a far more extensive and pervasive welfare state edifice, even under austerity, than anything we have ever seen or will see in the USA. To me, that makes their views worth listening to in the quest for the right balance between growth and redistribution.

October 20, 2011 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

I won’t argue with that. But just remember, Raj is nearly always wrong about domestic US politics. (Joking.)

October 20, 2011 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Richard, apology accepted. Thanks. I guess I can’t undo what I said about Palin during the election, except that I never was actively endorsing her – I was trying to indicate why I could still support McCain (despite Palin’s shortcomings). That might not help much, of course.

Sorry, but something seems VERY off about this to me. You don’t see that?

Ok, we probably misinterpreted each other. It feels wrong and “off”. It doesn’t seem fair that large institutions get lots of money whilst individuals get what they’re normally entitled to. But the reactions of governments are not surprising to me, because I’ve seen that sort of behaviour before. That’s what I was trying to say, and I could have made that clearer.

October 20, 2011 @ 3:11 pm | Comment

It doesn’t seem fair that large institutions get lots of money whilst individuals get what they’re normally entitled to.

But I don’t see it this way. These people didn’t just “get what they’re normally entitled to.” They lost their jobs due to gross irresponsibility and borderline criminality. This was normal in no way. These weren’t your usual layoff. Ten percent of Americans (looking at real unemployment, which includes those who’ve stopped looking for jobs) lost their jobs and the entire society has been shaken into dangerous new alignments. It would seem a bit more palatable if the perpetrators didn’t enjoy lavish rewards doled out by the government. On top of that, the right wants to stop the renewed unemployment benefits and shower obscene tax breaks on those who need them least while fighting Obama’s jobs program, which is nothing radical. I’m looking at the entire picture, and what I see is ugly. It’s no wonder the people are mobilizing. Enough is enough.

October 20, 2011 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

These people didn’t just “get what they’re normally entitled to.” They lost their jobs due to gross irresponsibility and borderline criminality.

Ok, I should have said that people lost their jobs and all they got was the unemployment benefits anyone else would get under any circumstances.

shower obscene tax breaks on those who need them least

I agree that it’s wrong to offer tax breaks to the rich as a priority. It’s not like the US has a particularly high top rate of tax, and given all the tax allowances there is definitely scope to increase the tax take.

October 21, 2011 @ 2:36 am | Comment

Here is a nice piece on PRCs media response to the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

These bozos never cease to amaze.

http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2011/10/21/china-occupy-wall-st-gets-too-close-to-home/#axzz1bRnJMi00

October 22, 2011 @ 3:49 am | Comment

“These bozos never cease to amaze.”

It’s amazing how China can create patently false talking points that become established “facts” and take on a life of their own in the fenqingosphere and the state media who partly feed it.

In this case, the purported “blackout” on OWS coverage. On trade disputes, I’ve started reading from multiple voices that “yes, there is a US-China trade imbalance — the imbalance in profits.”

October 22, 2011 @ 5:05 am | Comment

I seem to recall some of our regular joke-sters here trying to suggest that there was some form of news blackout in the “west” when OWS first started, and was confined to Wall Street alone. That belied incredible ignorance on their part back then. Of course, there is no rock now that would be large enough for them to crawl under in order to tune out the world-wide OWS movement, so even they’ve given up on that theme (and that actually really says something).

The irony is that the CCP is trying to blackout coverage of the movement as it has spread and morphed in different places. That’s simply par for the course for them. And they’re getting mocked for it…which is also par for the course.

October 22, 2011 @ 6:08 am | Comment

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October 24, 2011 @ 11:07 pm | Comment

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