Newsflash: Rob Wohl “Sexiled” at Occupy D.C.

By Ezra Silk

From our nation’s second best newspaper, a hard-hitting look at Occupy D.C:

As the Occupy movement enters its fourth month locally, it has spawned two full-service camps, more than 100 arrests and an ongoing constitutional debate over the right to free speech on federal land. But a combustible combination of youthful energy, enthusiasm for shared ideals and tight living quarters has given rise to something else: Romance. Lots and lots of romance…

Last week, one of the resident anarchists at McPherson Square, Legba Carrefour, said he’d procured a used hot tub on Free­cycle.org, although it seemed unlikely that the National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over the two parks, would allow such a thing to be installed.

“It’s a bunch of people in their 20s, gathered in a public space with the express purpose of breaking the law. What do you expect to happen?” asked Rob Wohl, 23, a District resident.

Wohl groused that he had been “sexiled” from his tent one recent chilly night by an amorous pair seeking privacy, the Occupy equivalent of the old college dorm trick of hanging a sock on the door knob.

Um, Rob, why were they using your tent? Do you have a tent-mate?

More importantly, why is the Washington Post covering this?

For more thoughtful cultural coverage from the paper of Top Secret America and Watergate, check out Petula Dvorak’s column on those Squalid Occupiers and their Helicopter Parents!

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The “100 Percent”

By Ezra Silk

SAN FRANCISCO — In a sign of the enduring cultural relevance of Occupy Wall Street, business-friendly mayor Ed Lee has declared his allegiance to the so-called “100 percent,” according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Lee’s attempt to align himself with both the 99 and the 1 percent, to re-package “a rising tide lifts all boats” in this post-Occupy world, was met with skepticism by the liberal Guardian.

“At its best, San Francisco is a city for everyone,” Lee said at his inauguration. “We are a city for the 100 percent.”

But that analysis, with his clever riff off of the Occupy movement’s 99 percent paradigm, masks deep political divisions and challenges that will likely play out repeatedly this year, particularly as he partners with a handful of wealthy individuals and corporations — members of the 1 percent, on which he lavished praise during his speech, such as venture capitalist Ron Conway — to craft his economic agenda.

Meanwhile, the Guardian’s editor, Tim Redmond, writes that Lee can’t have it both ways.

Mayor Ed Lee announced in his inauguration speech that he’s going to be the mayor “of the 100 percent,” an effort to preach the message that we’re all good pals and we all love each other here in this great city of ours, but the truth is we aren’t, and we don’t. The very rich in San Francisco not only have little in common with the rest of us; for the most part, they like it that way. The biggest corporations and wealthiest individuals have an interest in preserving economic injustice, and they’ve shown repeatedly that they will go to great lengths to prevent progressive change.

Occupy Nashville’s Struggle for Strategy

Megan Riggs, third from right, at the Tennessee State General Assembly. "The legislature was scheduled to vote on an income tax ban in Tennessee, locking in our hefty dependance on the sales tax," Riggs said. "We held small signs that said the bill's name with a slash through it and wiggled fingers downwards or upwards as legislators walked through our gauntlet, depending on which way they would vote." (Photo: Shelley Mays)

By Megan Riggs

NASHVILLE — “So what’s next? Are you guys just going to continue to…hang out?”

I heard this question not one week after I’d heard of Occupy Wall Street; a reporter asked Jesse Lagreca, a now-famous liberal blogger whose anti-Fox News rant was heard around the world. I don’t remember his answer, but I do remember how the weight of the question hit me suddenly and strongly: what had we gotten ourselves into?

Changing the world is hard, but bitching about the way things are is, luckily for the many couch occupiers, incredibly easy. I don’t claim to have superior knowledge of Occupy Wall Street outside of our own little encampment in Nashville, Tennessee, but ours started out as a rally to do just that. And it felt good. How liberating, how cathartic to know that you weren’t the only one who wanted to reach out for the throats under those talking heads on television! Like a gaggle of sixth-grade mean girls, we relentlessly and viciously railed against the two-party system, the rise of corporate influence, and the very expensive and dangerous game that “civil servitude” has become.

None of us could sleep the first few nights. Then the food came, followed closely by all that would use our young movement as a 24-hour free drive through. After that, our general assemblies became large-scale logistics and resource management meetings. It became easy to forget that we’d really intended to change the world.

After a brief rise and fall in momentum prompted by the governor ordering his Highway Patrol off the highways and into our nonviolent peaceful protest, we found ourselves again struggling for strategy. State representatives were coming to GAs now, urging us to elect an representative to run on the Occupy ticket and really change things around – within the current and unreformed system, of course. Besides not having the power, knowledge, money, and support for that, it was also obviously fundamentally against the entire theme of the movement. They must have been thrilled at what they saw at the General Assemblies – we couldn’t even agree on what voltage of batteries to purchase for the live stream, and talked about nothing else. Endless, bitter email chains ensued.

Then, out of the clear blue sky, a little old lady named Mrs. Bailey called one of our occupiers to ask for help. After enlisting the help of a pro-bono lawyer to help her fight foreclosure, her home was up for auction again as Chase refused an array of reasonable deals, instead preferring to sell the home for half its value and lower the value of all homes in the neighborhood. Mrs. Bailey, 78, had been active in the civil rights movement and had taught autistic children and non-native English speakers until she was hit by a truck several nearly a decade ago. Three occupiers, myself included, went to her home and spoke with her. Five minutes at her dining room table reaffirmed my faith in Occupy Nashville – Mrs. Bailey and others like her are the reason Occupy exists.  Continue reading

Excelsior!

A Bank of America customer accesses the ATM, after pushing the woman to his right. She was not happy.

By Ezra Silk

SAN FRANCISCO Last Saturday, I attended a protest against Bank of America foreclosures in the Excelsior District. See below.

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Sloppy Class Analysis at the Times

By Ezra Silk

The New York Times is confused. Pew has released a poll showing that there has been a large increase — across the board — in perceptions that there is class conflict in America. Since 2009, the polling organization found, there has been a 19 percent increase — from 47 to 66 percent — in Americans who see “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor.

(Pew Research Center).

Pew’s Rich Morin reads the numbers, and partly attributes the large and sudden increase in perceptions of class conflict to the “Occupy Generation” (Morin may want to lay off the grandiose generational claims for now — I have seen my generation, and it has not yet been Occupied):

These changes in attitudes over a relatively short period of time may reflect the income and wealth inequality message conveyed by Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country in late 2011 that led to a spike in media attention to the topic. But the changes also may also reflect a growing public awareness of underlying shifts in the distribution of wealth in American society.2 According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the proportion of overall wealth—a measure that includes home equity, stocks and bonds and the value of jewelry, furniture and other possessions—held by the top 10% of the population increased from 49% in 2005 to 56% in 2009.

Times scribe Sabrina Tavernise takes a look at this poll today, and transcribes it rather faithfully. That is, until the bottom of the story, when she tries to examine which income brackets see the most class conflict.

What is more, people at the upper middle of the income ladder were most likely to see class conflict. Seventy one percent of those who earned between $40,000 and $75,000 said there were strong conflicts between rich and poor, up from 47 percent in 2009.

The second highest share, 67 percent, was among those at the top of the income bracket, defined as $75,000 or above, followed by 66 percent among those earning between $20,000 and $40,000. The lowest income bracket, less than $20,000, changed the least.

“It’s surprising to me that the numbers are so high,” said Richard J. Murnane, an economist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

It was a paradox, experts said, that the groups that traditionally benefit the most economically — women, whites and those in higher income groups — seem to be the most concerned about class conflict.

This last line is a travesty. First of all, please show me a quote where one of these “experts” explains this supposed paradox.

I didn’t see anything in the poll about Americans expressing “concern” over class conflict. It shows that there is a rising perception of class conflict. So the whole premise of Tavernise’s line here is bogus. The study didn’t measure concern. That’s why Tavernise wrote that these economically secure groups “seem to be the most concerned about class conflict.”

Even if it did, I don’t see how it would be paradoxical that wealthier Americans are the most concerned about class conflict. Continue reading

Big Sur

By Ezra Silk

Here are some photos from my trip to Big Sur. Enjoy.

The Neptune Pool at the Hearst Castle, in San Simeon.

The Silkmobile rests.

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The Bay Area Scene, Continued

By Ezra Silk

SAN FRANCISCO — Although the major Bay Area occupations have been disbanded, the Occupy scene here is alive and kicking. Throughout the week, the former Occupiers attend working groups and general assemblies in public plazas and the lobbies of various corporate edifices. On the weekends, there are anti-foreclosure protests at local bank branches. In the East Bay, Oakland activists continue to confront the cops, holding anti-police brutality marches and suffering multiple arrests, as they sketch out plans to take over a building in late January and convert it into a community space.

In San Francisco, there is considerable excitement over Occupy Wall Street West, the mass action scheduled for January 20th that is intended to reflect the decentralized, hybrid nature of the Occupy movement.

On Saturday, Ryan Brill and I ventured through the Tenderloin, past pin-striped pimps, un-permitted sidewalk knife vendors, and an open air drug market, to the Unite-Here Local 2 union hall, where the Occupy SF Action Council was meeting to plan the “#J20” action.  I made the rookie mistake of carrying my laptop (in a magenta-hued laptop bag) through the Tenderloin. On one particularly seedy street corner, I overheard one of the local — let’s call them occupiers — quite audibly whisper to his colleague, as he eyed my laptop: “Go grab that bag, motherfucker!”

Fortunately, this potentially remunerative advice was left unheeded, and we arrived at Local 2 with our possessions in hand. The meeting was half over, and the room was bustling with a variety of professional leftists and hardcore local activists, in a scene not unlike the opening moments of “Zabriskie Point.” Posted on the wall, next to an “Occupy the Present” yoga flyer, was a yellow index card that simply read, “60’s.”

On the 20th, it was said, the occupiers will mass in the San Francisco financial district, fan out across the city, and attempt to disrupt the operations of various bank headquarters and branches during business hours. Others will head to the Federal Courthouse to protest corporate personhood. Occupiers will also be frying squid in front of Goldman Sachs, in honor of Matt Taibbi’s now-legendary characterization of the bank as the “Giant Vampire Squid,” performing music all day at Justin Herman Plaza, “liberating” a foreclosed building in the financial district, and picketing the Grand Hyatt hotel with Hyatt workers (according to the Occupiers, Hyatt lobbied for their eviction last month).

The scope of the organizers’ ambition was unclear. I wasn’t able to confirm whether they were hoping to literally shut down the Big Bank headquarters. According to the website for the event, the occupiers will dress “bank smart” and attempt to “disrupt the flow of banks and ATMs throughout the day.” Either way, the idea is, for one day, to illustrate, and confront, the Big Banks’ sprawling influence over the city, in its entirety. On one poster for the event, a young woman, vaguely reminiscent of Batwoman, slams an emerging Octopus back into a corporate office tower. One Octopus tentacle reads “Austerity,” another “Foreclosures,” and a third, “Corporate Personhood.”

Anyway, I’ll be posting more on the Bay Area Occupy scene in the next few days. Now that I have returned from Big Sur and secured my computer, I will be posting much more frequently. Sorry for the long hiatus.

Public Service Announcement

By Ezra Silk

BERKELEY — Hi people. The power button on my computer broke a few days ago, and I am currently getting screwed by the good folks at The Used Computer Store. That’s why I haven’t been posting anything (I’m writing this on a friend’s computer). I am heading down to Big Sur for a few days, and I will return to blogging when I get back (assuming my laptop is ready). That will likely by Thursday or Friday. 

The Last Occupier in Berkeley

What remains of Occupy Berkeley.

By Ezra Silk

BERKELEY – The Occupy Berkeley encampment was evicted “with a whimper” last Thursday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Today I photographed what remains: this guy (above), who appears to be sitting in front of a Bank of America branch on the corner of Shattuck and University Avenues all day, every day. When we were driving back from Occupy Oakland tonight, he was there, sitting in the dark. He has a tent out there, clearly labeled “Occupy Berkeley Tent,” but it appears to be more symbolic than anything else. The man said he naps in it for a few hours every now and then.

The Occupy Berkeley Tent.

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A Crude Poem to Obama

By Ezra Silk

BERKELEY — While cleaning out my car earlier today, I came across an anonymously penned three-part poem, “Because You Promised, Mister President,” which I believe I obtained at Occupy Austin. Not only is the poem cruder than the others I’ve posted, but more topical, addressing the European debt crisis as well as a host of other current issues. The author appears to be a libertarian environmentalist, which is an oxymoron, as far as I’m concerned. The breadth of this poet’s concerns gives you a window into why it’s been so difficult for the uber-egalitarian Occupy protests to come to any agreement on “demands,” or even goals. It also shows how difficult it is to classify some of these people politically.

Because You Promised, Mister President

(Part I)

 

Because the time has come for real Hope and Change

The mobs are massing and they might get deranged

Because the people tire of promises that reek strongly of dung

They desperately need to once again hear the Liberty Bell rung.

Because they are ready to return as good as they get,

And they would hate to see you treated like Marie Antoinette.

Because hyperinflation is in the offing, it’s stench in the air,

The horrible consequences leaving destitution and despair.

Because corporations are not people they indeed have to go,

Despite the Supreme Court ruling that they do have a soul.

Because fracking is cracking our great Mother Earth,

Of other habitable planets there is such a dearth.

Because the food is polluted due to unchecked avarice,

On genetically modified organisms we should all take a piss.

Because pharmaceutical companies peddle poisons to treat resulting ills,

And then politely sodomize you as you swallow their little blue pills.

Because the deceitful FED is dead and not a moment too soon,

Toothless against the impending and crushing debt monsoon.

Because greed is the creed of the oligarch swine,

And meted out justice would be sublimely divine.

Because the bankster arrogance and excess has ignited a fire,

The pieces of paper they worship could become their pyre.

Because real Hope and Change never sounded sweeter,

Now get off your diplomatic ass and become a Leader!!!

(Part II)

Because the serpent’s head must be removed before it tightens its grip,

It is just a matter of time before the beast further constricts.

Because JFK lost his grey matter for Executive Order IIIO,

Although his brains were blown out he is still hailed a hero.

Because he defied the cartel and tried to expose their deceit,

But not every man who challenges shall suffer defeat. Continue reading