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Saturday, October 08, 2011

Pics of THREE WEEKS of USA-wide protests ...


Nice photos of the (now -USA-wide!)  #occupyWallStreet protest for equality, solidarity and social-ness:

Use j/k keys or ←/→ to navigate ...  If the photos don't show, go here!

Protestors march through downtown Boise, Idaho, Wednesday October 5, 2011. Activists have been showing solidarity with movement in many cities, including Occupy Boise. More than 100 people withstood an afternoon downpour in Idaho's capital to protest. (AP Photo, Idaho Statesman/Darin Oswald)
Daniel Todd from Brooklyn, a Wall Street protester, sits in a park in the financial district on his third day at the gathering on September 30, 2011 in New York City. "We are overpopulated as a nation and are killing our planet. We need to use our resources better and to build urban farms to feed city residents. I believe in the American Constitution and communal living" said Todd. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #

now 3 weeks since the "Occupy Wall Street" protests began in New York City's Financial District, and the movement has grown, spreading to other cities in the U.S. Protesters have organized marches, rallies, and "occupations" from Boston to Boise, Los Angeles to New Orleans, Seattle to Tampa. Using social media, handmade signs, and their voices, they are voicing anger at financial and social inequality and protesting the influence of corporate money in politics. Seattle police recently arrested 25 protesters camping out in Westlake Park, following on the heels of 700 arrests on New York's Brooklyn Bridge last week. Collected here are a some of the scenes from these protests across the U.S. over the past week, as the movement moves forward with no signs of slowing.

A large group of protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement attempt to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, effectively shutting parts of it down on Saturday, October 1, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Rose Bookbinder) #
Police arrest a protester on New York's Brooklyn Bridge during Saturday's march by Occupy Wall Street on October 1, 2011. Protesters speaking out against corporate greed and other grievances attempted to walk over the bridge from Manhattan, resulting in the arrest of more than 700 during a tense confrontation with police. The majority of those arrested were given citations for disorderly conduct and were released, police said. (AP Photo/Stephanie Keith) #
Members of labor unions and others join Occupy Wall Street during a march in Lower Manhattan as they arrive near Zuccotti Park, on October 5, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) #
Occupy Wall Street activists and union members stage a protest near Wall Street in New York, on October 5, 2011. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images) #
Union members and Occupy Wall Street protesters demonstrate near Wall Street in New York City, on October 5, 2011. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images) #
Occupy Wall Street protesters march towards Zuccotti Park in New York's Financial District, on October 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) #
A woman carries a sign as members of trade unions join Occupy Wall Street protesters as they march to Foley Square, on October 5, 2011 in New York. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images) #
Protesters participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement march against the centralization of power and money in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 6, 2011. About 300 people participated in the march stopping to chant outside banks throughout downtown. (AP Photo/The Deseret News, Laura Seitz,) #
Joshua Whisenhunt, a volunteer facilitator for the first day of Occupy Austin, instructs a crowd outside city hall about communicating with hand signals on Thursday afternoon October 6, 2011 in Austin Texas. (AP Photo/Thomas Allison - Daily Texan) #
Brighton Wallace takes part in an "Occupy Austin" protest at Austin City Hall, on October 6, 2011, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) #
Protesters hold banners while shouting slogans during a late afternoon march through downtown Los Angeles on October 3, 2011 in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York City. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images) #
85-year-old Julia Botello and two other protesters chant as they leave a Bank of America just before police begin arresting demonstrators for occupying its lobby on October 6, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The demonstrators are marching to major bank offices to protest the role of Wall Street banks in the federal budget crisis and in solidarity with protesters in New York and other US cities. (David McNew/Getty Images) #
A couple kisses during a march in support of the New York Occupy Wall Street protests outside City Hall in Los Angeles, California, on October 3, 2011. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) #
A man shouts slogans as protesters occupy a Bank of America branch during a "Make Wall Street Banks Pay" protest march in Los Angeles, California, on October 6, 2011. Los Angeles Police said they arrested eleven people for trespassing at the branch. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) #
Protesters chanting "we are the 99%," march in downtown Tampa, Florida, in support of the Wall Street protest against financial greed and corruption, on October 6, 2011. About 400 protesters gathered singing and waving signs at passing motorists. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) #
Anti-corporate protesters display banners and placards as they take part in "Occupy DC" protest against corporation at the Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on October 6, 2011. Protests against corporate power in the US took root in Washington on Thursday, with several hundred people occupying Freedom Plaza outside city hall to demand progressive reform. The Stop the Machine rally -- midway between the Capitol and the White House -- echoed the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York that Thursday drew more than 5,000 people as well as labor-union support. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images) #
A protester displays a sign during the "Occupy DC" protest in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on October 6, 2011. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images) #
Protesters hold candles during a vigil as a part of the "Occupy DC" protest against corporations at Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, on October 6, 2011. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images) #
About one thousand people gather and form a large "99%" in the middle of Freedom Plaza during an "occupation" of the plaza on October 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) #
Protesters sit in Freedom Plaza, forming a human "99%" shape during Occupy DC in Washington, on Thursday, October 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) #
Protesters shout slogans during a rally outside Houston's City Hall Thursday, October 6, 2011 in Houston, Texas. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Dallas, Houston and Austin on Thursday as cities around Texas joined the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations demanding an end to corruption in politics and business. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan) #
In Las Vegas, Nevada, Nicole Kalkofen (left) holds up a sign while participating in an Occupy Wall Street protest, on, October 6, 2011. Union officials, college students and homeowners facing foreclosure marched down the Las Vegas Strip in support of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #
Protesters shout slogans as they participate in an Occupy Wall Street demonstration on Thursday, October 6, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #
A woman who identified herself as Janelle K. holds up a sign during an "Occupy Las Vegas" demonstration on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 6, 2011. (Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus) #
A man holds a protest sign during a march to Foley Square on October 5, 2011 in New York City. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images) #
Commuters walk through Zuccotti Park in the financial district where Occupy Wall Street protesters are encamped in New York, on October 4, 2011. The protests have gathered momentum and gained participants in recent days as news of mass arrests and a coordinated media campaign by the protesters have given rise to similar demonstrations around the country. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) #
Demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street campaign march into the courtyard of New York Police Department headquarters in New York September 30, 2011. More than 500 people were gathered ahead of the start of the planned late afternoon march to One Police Plaza, the center of police operations, in downtown Manhattan. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
A New York City police lieutenant swings his baton as he and other police try to stop protesters who breached a barricade to enter Wall Street after an Occupy Wall Street march on October 5, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) #
Protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement rally before marching through Lower Manhattan on October 5, 2011 in New York City. Thousands of protesters including union members and college students from an organized walkout joined today's rally and march. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) #
People with the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park form a circle and meditate on October 5, 2011 in New York. The Occupy Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, hundreds have set up camp nearby in Zuccotti Park and have become increasingly organized, lining up medical aid and legal help and printing their own newspaper. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) #
Protesters affiliated with "Occupy NJ" chant during a protest outside the Goldman Sachs building at 30 Hudson Street October 6, 2011 in Jersey City, New Jersey. The protesters marched approximately a quarter of a mile along the waterfront chanting and beating drums. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images) #
People march near City Hall Thursday, October 6, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Organizers of what is being called Occupy Philadelphia say Thursday's demonstration is meant to be a stand against corporate greed. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #
Chris Garvey, left, talks to some of the members of the crowd near City Hall Thursday, October 6, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #
Dakota Lonewolf flies an upside-down U.S. flag as he takes part in a protest at an "Occupy Seattle" encampment in downtown Seattle's Westlake Park, on October 5, 2011. People protesting the current economic situation and other causes have been camped in the park for several days, mirroring demonstrations in other areas of the country. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) #
Police arrest a man who refused to leave a tent pitched at an "Occupy Seattle" protest encampment in downtown Seattle's Westlake Park,on October 5, 2011. On Wednesday afternoon, police moved in and took down all of the tents, and arrested those who refused to leave them. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) #
A protester screams as a Seattle Police officer pushes down on his head, on October 5, 2011, as police try to remove a tent pitched in downtown Seattle's Westlake Park during an "Occupy Seattle" protest. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) #
People parade down Tulane Ave. during the Occupy NOLA parade in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests on October 6, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The group started at Orleans Parish Court before heading past City Hall and onto Lafayette Square. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Matthew Hinton) #
Occupy Boston protesters gather outside a building in the Financial district in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 5, 2011. The group is part of a nationwide grassroots movement in support of the ongoing Wall Street protests in New York. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) #
Julien Jacque of Miami, left, Matt Laverge, of Worcester, Massachusetts, and his dog Mya, talk outside their tents in the Occupy Boston encampment on the Rose Kennedy Greenway across the street from the Federal Reserve building, in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds) #
Dasha Taraban, 23, takes down signs from the Free Stamp after Occupy Cleveland held a rally on October 6, 2011, in Cleveland, Ohio. The group is one of several across the country mirroring the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) #
In Portland, Oregon, demonstrators show support for the Occupy Wall Street movement against corporate power on October 6 2011. Demonstrators marched downtown Thursday afternoon, disrupting traffic and businesses. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl Stevens) #
Demonstrators supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement against corporate power protest fill Pioneer Square, in Portland, Oregon, on October 6 2011. Protesters marched downtown on Thursday afternoon, disrupting traffic and businesses.(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

"Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called "a precariat" — seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity — not only too big to fail, but also "too big to jail."

"The courageous and honorable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course."

Noam Chomsky

After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.

 The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.

Plutocracy vs. Democracy

Let us consider democracy first. In the United States  we hear that capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, "capitalist democracies." In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration. Some eighty  years ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Moneyed interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy.

The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.

In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as propertyless working men, immigrants, racial minorities, and women.

Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently "malfunction" to the benefit of the more conservative candidates.

At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings—applied most recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The conservative plutocracy also seeks to rollback democracy's social gains, such as public education, affordable housing, health care, collective bargaining, a living wage, safe work conditions, a non-toxic sustainable environment; the right to privacy, the separation of church and state, freedom from compulsory pregnancy, and the right to marry any consenting adult of one's own choosing.                                              
About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state--with its police, militia, courts, and laws—was unequivocally on the side of the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules of democracy to favor the moneybags.

Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as they subvert it, not only at home but throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Any nation that is not "investor friendly," that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and markets in a self-developing manner, outside  the dominion of transnational corporate hegemony, runs the risk of being demonized and targeted as "a threat to U.S. national security."

Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us.  So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates.

Capitalism vs. Prosperity

The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World--more accurately, the Free Market World.

A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy's notion of an ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work—for less. The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the abuses of wealth.

In the corporate world of "free-trade," the number of billionaires is increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world's population. Poverty spreads as wealth accumulates.

Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels. 

It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back.

It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity when most attempts at material betterment  have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle provides endless illustration of this.

To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing  some measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.

A Self-devouring Beast

The capitalist state has two roles long recognized by political thinkers. First, like any state it must provide services that cannot be reliably developed through private means, such as public safety and orderly traffic. Second, the capitalist state protects the haves from the have-nots, securing the process of capital accumulation to benefit the moneyed interests, while heavily circumscribing the demands of the working populace, as Debs observed from his jail cell.

There is a third function of the capitalist state seldom mentioned. It consists of preventing the capitalist system from devouring itself.  Consider the core contradiction Karl Marx pointed to: the tendency toward overproduction and market crisis. An economy dedicated to speedups and wage cuts, to making workers produce more and more for less and less, is always in danger of a crash. To maximize profits, wages must be kept down. But someone has to buy the goods and services being produced. For that, wages must be kept up. There is a chronic tendency—as we are seeing today—toward overproduction of private sector goods and services and underconsumption of necessities by the working populace. 

In addition, there is the frequently overlooked self-destruction created by the moneyed players themselves. If left completely unsupervised, the more active command component of the financial system begins to devour less organized sources of wealth.

 Instead of trying to make money by the arduous task of producing and marketing goods and services, the marauders tap directly into the money streams of the economy itself. During the 1990s we witnessed the collapse of an entire economy in Argentina when unchecked free marketeers stripped enterprises, pocketed vast sums, and left the country's productive capacity in shambles. The Argentine state, gorged on a heavy diet of free-market ideology, faltered in its function of saving capitalism from the capitalists.

Some years later, in the United States, came the multi-billion-dollar plunder perpetrated by corporate conspirators at Enron, WorldCom, Harkin, Adelphia, and a dozen other major companies. Inside players like Ken Lay turned successful corporate enterprises into sheer wreckage, wiping out the jobs and life savings of thousands of employees in order to pocket billions.

These thieves were caught and convicted. Does that not show capitalism's self-correcting capacity? Not really. The prosecution of such malfeasance— in any case coming too late—was a product of democracy's accountability and transparency, not capitalism's. Of itself the free market is an amoral system, with no strictures save caveat emptor.

In the meltdown of 2008-09 the mounting financial surplus created a problem for the moneyed class: there were not enough opportunities to invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging, credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.

Among the victims were other capitalists, small investors, and the many workers who lost billions of dollars in savings and pensions. Perhaps the premiere brigand was Bernard Madoff. Described as "a longstanding leader in the financial services industry," Madoff ran a fraudulent fund that raked in $50 billion from wealthy investors, paying them back "with money that wasn't there," as he himself put it. The plutocracy devours its own children.

In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests--groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere--to suddenly exercise self-restraint. 

The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it.  In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed by a miraculously benign "invisible hand" that optimizes collective outputs. ("Greed is good.")

Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual?  In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them.  The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.

Worse still, the ensuing multi-billion dollar government bailouts are themselves being turned into an opportunity for pillage. Not only does the state fail to regulate, it becomes itself a source of plunder, pulling vast sums from the federal money machine, leaving the taxpayers to bleed.

Those who scold us for "running to the government for a handout" are themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal subventions. But the 2008-09 "rescue operation" offered a record feed at the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial houses without oversight--not to mention the more than $4 trillion that has come from the Federal Reserve.  Most of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of letting anyone know where the money was going.

The big bankers used some of the bailout, we do know, to buy up smaller banks and prop up banks overseas. CEOs and other top banking executives are spending bailout funds on fabulous bonuses and lavish corporate spa retreats. Meanwhile, big bailout beneficiaries like Citigroup and Bank of America laid off tens of thousands of employees, inviting the question: why were they given all that money in the first place?

While hundreds of billions were being doled out to the very people who had caused the catastrophe, the housing market continued to wilt, credit remained paralyzed, unemployment worsened, and consumer spending sank to record lows.

In sum, free-market corporate capitalism is by its nature a disaster waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital.  When left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies and toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment--and eventually begins to devour itself.

The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.

If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens "our way of life," it is their way of life, their boundless way of pilfering their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they stand, the very community on which they so lavishly feed.

Michael Parenti

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