Apparently the U.S., unlike India, has moved past its own backward history of victim-blaming. Apparently, I am to believe, according to the New York Times and Nicholas Kristof, that it is India which must deal with its sexual violence. And the Good Mr. Kristoff and the New York Times know this because the US has dealt with its own sexual violence. It’s now in the past, judging from the smug authority of the Times.
(h/t Stephanie Guthrie and Sarah Barker)
From @mtaibbi, a Christmas message from Wall Street | #classwarfare #uspoli
Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.
But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You’ve got it all riding on how well America works.
You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you’d better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.
And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.
The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.
Matt Taibbi plays his violin for the poor, victimized, super-rich of America. The sociopathic ways they behave, their parasitic and corrupting effect on civil society, and their open contempt for everyone else … of course, there aren’t any lessons for Canada in any of this.
Nor could we possibly see any of this in terms of class, because of course, this is America, where anyone can make it to the top if you just work hard enough. Bootstraps and all that.
(Say the C word, Matt. Come on. You can do it.)
- The Sun: Demonizing organized labour, no matter what | #cdnpoli #onpoli
- @mtaibbi on How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the #OWS Protests | #Occupy #OccupyTO
- @Cityslikr, @NickKouvalis, and the need for civility in public discourse | #TOpoli #TeamFord
- Beyond the Port Lands: Dragging Swamp Ford for the remnants of civic engagement
The #Occupy movement and the U.S. party system: a prescription?
It is telling that our founders recognized the need for a semblance of democratic governance, if only to establish the legitimacy of the regime they established. This is why capitalists and their political representatives have always been reluctant to quash democracy altogether.
The democratic character of the regime under which we live has waxed and waned over the past two and a third centuries. Today, it is at an especially low ebb; and unless current trends are reversed, the situation is sure to become even worse – now that corporate “persons,” as our Supreme Court defines them, are, thanks to that Court, less constrained than they used to be in their pursuit of political influence.
Of course, we still have elections that are bitterly contested. But however polarized the electoral scene has become, there is little genuine political contestation in it. Our Tweedle Dums and Tweedle Dees despise one another and display their contempt profusely, but their politics is of a piece; they are all, in their own ways, faithful servants of the capitalist order.
Definitely worth a look.
While this piece on Counterpunch is written in an American context, much of the underlying analysis is applicable to the Canadian experience as well. It addresses the class aspect, the suborning of democratic institutions by elites, and the fundamental challenge of maintaining popular democratic sovereignty when so much of the economic sphere is seemingly beyond the ambit of democratic governance. While our society may not yet be polarized to the extent that we see to the south, the warnings are there in the widening inequality gap and in the level of popular disengagement evident in the low levels of voter turnout in recent elections.
I won’t pretend that anything here is the definitive explanation of the Occupy movement’s significance, or try to provide an exhaustive set of reasons for its enduring resonance. But it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that a big part of the reason for its success is in its implicit recognition of the futility of electoral politics, as currently practiced. In that light, Andrew Levine’s call for participation in the U.S. primary process seems counterintuitive on first glance, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
Yes, there’s always a danger of co-optation. And yes, the figureheads can talk one game while playing another. But given what I’ve seen from the Occupy movement (its lack of hierarchy, its refusal to engage in the kind of stilted and reductionist dialogue demanded by traditional media outlets and communication channels), I believe it has the potential to redraw the entire terrain. The system may well be rigged, but effective and strategic participation in it will, at the very least, force it to react.
Are there lessons here for Canada? I don’t think the possibility can be ruled out.
- More on the #Occupy movement and the failure of current forms of politics, via @pogge411
- Slavoj Zizek on why the traditional media and mechanisms of ‘democracy’ can’t figure out the #Occupy movement
- Wall Street Firms Spy on Protesters in Tax-Funded Center | #OccupyWallStreet | AlterNet
- 10 reasons to Occupy Canada
- How mainstream media is failing Occupy Wall Street
Wall Street Firms Spy on Protesters in Tax-Funded Center | #OccupyWallStreet | AlterNet
“Wall Street’s audacity to corrupt knows no bounds and the cooptation of government by the 1 per cent knows no limits. How else to explain $150 million of taxpayer money going to equip a government facility in lower Manhattan where Wall Street firms, serially charged with corruption, get to sit alongside the New York Police Department and spy on law abiding citizens.”
Anyone still not sure about the extent and intensity of the current class war? Anyone still have any doubts about the nature of power in the United States, and why and on whose behalf it is exercised?
More from Chris Hedges on #OccupyWallStreet: Why the Elites Are in Trouble
Published on Monday, October 10, 2011 by TruthDig.comvia commondreams.org
Why the Elites Are in Troubleby Chris Hedges
Ketchup, a petite 22-year-old from Chicago with wavy red hair and glasses with bright red frames, arrived in Zuccotti Park in New York on Sept. 17. She had a tent, a rolling suitcase, 40 dollars’ worth of food, the graphic version of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and a sleeping bag. She had no return ticket, no idea what she was undertaking, and no acquaintances among the stragglers who joined her that afternoon to begin the Wall Street occupation. She decided to go to New York after reading the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which called for the occupation, although she noted that when she got to the park Adbusters had no discernable presence.
The lords of finance in the looming towers surrounding the park, who toy with money and lives, who make the political class, the press and the judiciary jump at their demands, who destroy the ecosystem for profit and drain the U.S. Treasury to gamble and speculate, took little notice of Ketchup or any of the other scruffy activists on the street below them. The elites consider everyone outside their sphere marginal or invisible. And what significance could an artist who paid her bills by working as a waitress have for the powerful? What could she and the others in Zuccotti Park do to them? What threat can the weak pose to the strong? Those who worship money believe their buckets of cash, like the $4.6 million JPMorgan Chase gave a few days ago to the New York City Police Foundation, can buy them perpetual power and security. Masters all, kneeling before the idols of the marketplace, blinded by their self-importance, impervious to human suffering, bloated from unchecked greed and privilege, they were about to be taught a lesson in the folly of hubris.
Even now, three weeks later, elites, and their mouthpieces in the press, continue to puzzle over what people like Ketchup want. Where is the list of demands? Why don’t they present us with specific goals? Why can’t they articulate an agenda?
The goal to people like Ketchup is very, very clear. It can be articulated in one word—REBELLION. These protesters have not come to work within the system. They are not pleading with Congress for electoral reform. They know electoral politics is a farce and have found another way to be heard and exercise power. They have no faith, nor should they, in the political system or the two major political parties. They know the press will not amplify their voices, and so they created a press of their own. They know the economy serves the oligarchs, so they formed their own communal system. This movement is an effort to take our country back.
This is a goal the power elite cannot comprehend. They cannot envision a day when they will not be in charge of our lives. The elites believe, and seek to make us believe, that globalization and unfettered capitalism are natural law, some kind of permanent and eternal dynamic that can never be altered. What the elites fail to realize is that rebellion will not stop until the corporate state is extinguished. It will not stop until there is an end to the corporate abuse of the poor, the working class, the elderly, the sick, children, those being slaughtered in our imperial wars and tortured in our black sites. It will not stop until foreclosures and bank repossessions stop. It will not stop until students no longer have to go into debt to be educated, and families no longer have to plunge into bankruptcy to pay medical bills. It will not stop until the corporate destruction of the ecosystem stops, and our relationships with each other and the planet are radically reconfigured. And that is why the elites, and the rotted and degenerate system of corporate power they sustain, are in trouble. That is why they keep asking what the demands are. They don’t understand what is happening. They are deaf, dumb and blind.
Some further thoughts from the guy who pulled Kevin O’Leary’s sweater up over his head.
What does this mean for the similar actions planned for Canadian cities this weekend? Stay tuned …
Beyond the Port Lands: Dragging Swamp Ford for the remnants of civic engagement
As the facts trickle out of the waterfront kerfuffle, it’s becoming pretty clear where Team Ford wants to take us – not only the waterfront, but Toronto as a community. The end run they’re doing around the rules and conventions is there for anyone who cares to look, and the potential consequences aren’t pretty.
As Jonathan Robson puts it:
Acting more-or-less unilaterally, the Fords appear to have authorized this corporation to retain CivicArts, a private-sector developer with a reputation for planning fantastical mega-projects in Kuwait (a one-kilometre high tower with a mosque, synagogue and a cathedral on top of three separate spires, anybody?) and Abu Dhabi, to run up an alternative development proposal which, in theory, will bring the Port Lands into play much more quickly then the 25 year build-out set out in the existing Waterfront Toronto plan. Did TPLC comply with the City’s rules and regulations regarding sole-sourced contracts when it awarded this gig to CivicArts? Is CivicArts taking the project on on spec? Where does Westfield, the Australia-based international mall developer fit in? What do local businesses think of these new plans? Has anyone asked the nearby BIAs? You see how quickly things get confusing when you don’t follow the rules?
Again, nothing new about any of this, really. By now we ought to know – this is how these guys operate. Anyone who’s purporting to be surprised by this is either being disingenuous (more on that in just a second) or just hasn’t been paying attention. The questions this raises have been pointed out by several folks already.
So, once again, let’s step back and take a big-picture view. Team Ford’s disdain for facts, for the truth, for the whole notion of transparency in government is a matter of public record by now. The implications for the shape Toronto’s urban form takes in the next decade or two are obvious.
But there’s a more immediate effect, one that’s already showing up in our daily lives and in the way we relate to one another. The most immediate example, of course, is that of Denzil Minnan-Wong going on the CBC this morning and accusing Kristyn Wong-Tam of being “disingenuous.”
I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. When someone uses that word, I think of this:
But when Denzil Minnan-Wong uses it, it’s in a different context. I’m reminded of the old cliché about the pot and the kettle.
I’ve written previously about the debasement and vulgarization of contemporary discourse and the attendant coarsening of our political culture. I’ve also written about the strategy of stripping words of their meanings so that they can be repurposed in the service of various agendas. In Denzil’s case this morning, we’ve got it all in one nice little package; it’s just one more example of language being used not for reasoned and civil communication, but for emotional manipulation and tribal division.
In sum, it’s not just about the disregard for the rules, for transparency, and for the notion of responsible government. It’s about the obvious contempt for voters and other councillors, and the continuing insults to our intelligence. How in God’s name are we supposed to have an intelligent reasoned discussion in an atmosphere like this?
It’s a nasty dilemma. One wants to elevate public discourse from the sewer of stupidity and misdirection into which Team Ford has dragged it. One wants to be civil and thoughtful, and engage with people in a spirit of respectful collaboration. That’s the whole basis of healthy civic engagement, and of the lofty notion of citizenship. But what is one to do when the other side clearly doesn’t give a fuck?
(In fairness, it’s not just Team Ford. We’ve seen this nauseating strategy at work for years now, in more contexts than I can count. I’m focusing on Toronto for now simply because of the obvious and immediate impact this is having on the quality of our civic life.)
Some months ago, a U.S. blogger writing at Down With Tyranny came up with this gem. Different context, but the principle is the same. And I haven’t found anything that puts it better:
But it goes deeper than that. I’m citing this guy at some length because I just can’t put it any better than he did, so I’ll paraphrase: the lies are barely even the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage these guys are doing. The effect, if not the intent, of this sustained campaign of misrepresentation and mendacity isn’t just about doing an end run around Waterfront Toronto, or union-busting, or whatever; it is to Destroy Civic Debate. It creates a climate where what matters is not truth or facts or reasoned discussion, but name-calling and brute force, enabled by accumulations of money and power. It is the very antithesis of civil society.
Again, I’ll paraphrase KeninNY (who is, in his marvellous post, referring to an earlier piece by Jeffrey Feldman): this continuing campaign of smear, fabrication and misdirection is not only antithetical to functioning democratic governance. It destroys the very possibility of civil discussion by debasing the language and shifting the discourse into emotionally volatile terrain where the meanings of words count for nothing. It is not just about the lies any more. It is, as Feldman argues, wildly immoral. (Can I borrow a rhetorical device from Ivor Tossell and call it UNmoral?) Whether or not the Fords and their handmaidens are lying isn’t even half the discussion we should be having.
To hell with trying to be better or nicer or more noble. These guys are lying bastards with no regard for the truth, the voters, councillors, the rules, or the future of the city. They are betraying the trust of the people who put them there. And they are slowly destroying the very fabric of community itself by undermining our ability to reason with one another and resolve our differences. There’s nothing to be gained by taking the high road here if it means they get away with it.