Scoring Political Points vs. Direct Civic Engagement

Presidential debates are for selling the candidate to viewers at close range,  and promising policy changes with which will make everything all right.

For candidates, it's a high-risk, low reward affair, with few prospects for altering election outcomes. The one exception being Nixon's disastrous, televised 1960 sweat-fest - a contrast to the cool and collected JFK.

While candidates and their handlers fret about blowing it with the red light on, media execs are grateful for the occasion to satiate advertisers and chase demographics Washington Post


Controversy from some quarters as certain candidates, and ideas, are excluded. Amy Goodman to the rescue. She's touring the country on a 2012 Election Silent Majority Tour, and will be in Denver Wednesday night. Goodman promises to pose real-time questions to enthusiastic Green party Candidate Jill Stein, and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party – Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party is apparently unable to attend – all locked out of the

Occupy the CPD (Commission on Presidential Debates) aims to declassify the secret agreement between the parties that limits candidates and debate content– while shining a light on the Anheuser Busch-sponsored private corporation that puts on the debates since 1987

Firmly off the table, issues-wise, is the topic of gun control. In the US, a literal interpretation of the Second Amendment – drafted at a time when Americans feared the British returning to reclaim the colonies and prior to vast technological advances in weaponry – is de rigeur for candidates and admits zero dissent.

However, those who have been victimized first hand want action taken to prevent psychopaths and assorted, anti-social malcontents from laying their hands on the weapons in the first place. It's harder to kill so many with a knife or a sword.

Virginia Tech Massacre Survivor Colin Goddard, says the lesson he lives by is that “if you learn from something, you've gotta change.” Goddard's life changed irrevocably when he (barely) survived the insane shooter's spree in 2007.

Transforming tragedy into meaning, he now works for the “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.” The group is insisting that moderator Jim Lehrer pose the question on gun control in a debate scheduled to be about domestic policy.

What Goddard wants to know : since 48,000 Americans will be killed by gun violence in the next President's term – based on reliable estimates of approx 12,000 homicides per year - how do the candidates plan to stop it?

With emotions running high - Aurora is just a few miles away , not to mention Columbine, Goddard says it's impossible for Lehrer to avoid the topic. If asked, it may be the most suspenseful moment of the whole evening.

When confronted, candidates typically pronounce platitudes about responsible gun ownership, risking few political consequences when votes are at stake. However responsible gun owners don't - ok, rarely - kill people, irresponsible or just plain crazy ones do.

Goodman – on site in Blacksburg, VA - interviews the former VA tech student as he literally relives the crime, walking the rebuilt hallway at the former Norris Hall, now transformed into the Center for Peace and Non-Violence.

The footage , as Goddard walks through those fateful moments five years later, is riveting as Goodman lets Goddard describe the tragedy while demonstrating the powers of forgiveness and transformation

Cities :

Banksters are taking it on the chin this election season. Each party desperate to tie the other to bailouts and Wall St., no matter how tenuous the connections. NY Times

Overall, it's not a good week for top cats. One JP Morgan Chase gets a message from New York AG Eric Schneiderman that a civil lawsuit is being filed over its fraudulent mortgage lending practices, relating to its packaging and frantic marketing of the worst sub-prime securities obtained via its hastily-arranged Bear Stearns acquisition. New York Observer

BofA also takes a bath, losing a judgment for defrauding shareholders to the tune of $2.4 B. This during the heady ancient days of such mergers, 2008. Nothing says “wrong-doing” louder than the word “billions.” A few hundred mil barely makes a dent americanlawyer

To compound matters - pun intended - banksters nets get whacked by cyber-attacks, shutting some systems down. “Islamists” take the credit but the intelligence community doubts it. No word yet from anonymous, leaving the finger pointing at random“hacktivists.” csmonitor

In late September, Establos threw dirt on Occupy, citing the group's “diminished presence” - read : diverse tactics – recently shown on the streets of New York and elsewhere – to deliver a few well-placed kicks. Notable exceptions include the full sideshow of Occupy one year later USA Today

However, Occupy exists in cities through-out the United States. So, like Occupy itself, the anniversary never quite ever goes away.

As if on cue, activity breaks out all over again across a wide-spectrum on the usual issues : striking debt, stopping foreclosures, and general mobilization against the big banks and the Lords of Finance.

Foreclosure falls on the home of the popular DC Reverend Robert Michael Vanzan – who heads one of the first churches to welcome the LGBT community, and falls behind on his monthly payments after a stroke. He tries to work matters out with BofA –but no dice. His plight galvanizes the community and sends occupiers into the streets, where they serve notice on various BofAs, whose relentlessly cheerful greeters post signs indicating their branch is closed “due to demonstration activity.”

Occupy DC storms back hard, shutting down11 BofA branches in demonstrations that culminate in an anniversary march down K Street, home of lobbyists and power brokers looking to place legislators in their back pockets. According to a pamphlet, the protest targets the usual suspects, such as Monsanto and Lord Blankfein's Goldman Sachs, as well as lesser known/villified Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the Podesta Group, Cassidy & Associates and Douglas Development – who occupiers take to task for gentrification of DC neighborhoods.

Activist Ethan Miller gives a ground level view, reporting that passerby accuse him of “not understanding the economy” since “banks have to make money.” His response :

I understand that the economy functions in a way that promotes personal profit over the needs of others.

I understand that we have a broken banking system that exploits those who have hit rock bottom in order to make more money for the super rich.

I understand that while banks are within their legal rights to foreclose upon homeowners in default, the very same banks caused the homeowners' economic troubles in the first place, [and] we find ourselves with a very serious crisis of morality.”huffpost

The DC protesters design several different marches that thread through the city. AP reports the tactical point is to “confuse and overwhelm” local police, though this is unlikely since occupiers announce their intention ahead of time. Transparency is a double-edged sword.

K street is thus identified as the source of all evil in the known universe : “the war hawks, debt profiteers, bailout pirates and other corporate-government door revolvers continue to use it as their base from which to occupy much of the planet” occupiers say. Thenation

Occupy warns commuters and keyboard jockeys of the impending demonstration via tweet: Excuse the disruption of your morning commute; just don't excuse corporate purchasing of your politicians huffpost

File Under : Zuccotti Crunch? This space freely critiques Establishment media for kissing off Occupy as legitimate news - and provides honorable mentions when they get it right.

(Getting it right is NBC news, who has award-winning news reporter Miguel Almaguer visit a transformed sports arena where many of those seeking the free health services offered are not only employed, but have insurance. They just can't afford their deductibles.

Almaguer digs deeper into the 48 million US citizens who are uninsured. Some of whom pay – between $5,000 - $10,000 annually toward their deductibles, ie the right not to visit a doctor. nbcnews)

Establos aren't the only ones jumping off the Occupy gravy train. Some entrepreneurs, fingers in the political wind, equivocate. While heavyweights like Rap/Fashion mogul Russell Simmons and ex-rock musician turned activist Tom Morello hold fast, others such as Jay-Z and ice cream magnate Ben Cohen back away.

Cohen's occupy largesse resulted in the creation of the famed illuminator Van, which projected the 99% Bat Signal around town, from the Meat-Packing district to the Verizon Building. Now Cohen wants the keys back, to control how his “vehicle” is being used.

Cohen, the socially responsible “scoop-of-vanilla-scoop-of-chocolate” character aptly parodied in 1991's City Slickers (we'd show the video but it runs a political advertisement so here's the link) - apparently is weary of Occupy's tedious democratic decision-making process - which proceeds a hair slower than Unilever's Advisory Board Meetings.

Activist Mark Read, the occupier who proposed The Illuminator and was paid to help operate it, sticks it to Cohen as only occupy can : “He’s a 1 percenter,” Read, 46, added, “telling the 99 percent 'I'm your boss.'”

Cohen funded Read and the Illuminator to the tune of $250/day, which would appear to be enough to keep him out of the 47 percent – and the one percent – and keep the vehicle rolling. Still, even though Cohen and the occupiers had a working agreement and met frequently, they can't get on the same page.

International :

Occupy sees itself as part of a global movement of the 99 percent, representing oppressed people everywhere.

Several stories break internationally which demonstrate the muscle of non-violent action. The actions provide powerful examples of courage that Occupiers may wish to take to heart.

Stateside, internal debates rage over tactics – what constitutes disruption vs. destruction, what constitutes strict adherence to non-violence. Internationally, occupiers play for higher stakes, often risking their lives to fight for their freedom - and countries - in the face of mind-numbing violence.

Libya's citizens are still seeking to throw off the repressive apparatus that dominated the country's affairs for so many decades. They want control of their country – while resisting US control.

They come together and stand down the militias thought to be implicated in the tragic death of US Ambassador Christopher Stephens. Many are the same democracy activists who overcame the Gaddafi regime. They collectively march on the militias' stronghold, without violence, simply by placing one foot in front of the other and refusing to back down.

The militias holed up in the compound threaten them by firing their automatic weapons into the air. Undeterred the crowd marches forward. It's an amazing one day victory, lost amidst experts debating US military action against the country. The marchers say they have suffered too much to allow their country to be destroyed by more violence. al-monitor

The week previously, a similar display of power as ordinary Libyans - outraged by the attack on the US embassy - take to the streets urging non-violence and offering condolences to America with expressions of sorrow.Many photos exist of the demonstration, along with a published tweet by Seattle Times' Jon T Alton to remind readers that10 Libyans were also killed during the attack, in an effort to defend, then rescue, Stephens - their actions lost in the current uproar


To the West, political engagement usually means scoring rhetorical points by wrapping oneself in mom, apple pie, and the flag.

Politicians, in time-honored tradition, menace and threaten sovereign nations at will, secure in the knowledge that it will be neither they – nor their children – doing the fighting. With the added ability to kill remotely, no messy trials or second thoughts are needed - merely the designation of the target as the bad guy. Sabers are free to rattle away.

Whatever the ultimate fate of Libya's tenuous democracy, those in search of a modern-day Sons of Liberty could do worse than the ordinary men and women there, who publicly reject the violence that claimed the life of Ambassador Stephens along with three other US embassy employees.

The politics are inexact, and practically impossible to decipher in such a chaotic situation. Loyalties could switch abruptly, particularly in light of impending US military action. But we wonder if the actions inspire US occupiers and their supporters – who seek change under far less repressive circumstances.

Fahed Bakoush is a Hacktivist who with other youths, attempted to come to the rescue of Ambassador Stephens after crowds broke through the embassy and discovered the Ambassador alive, then carried him to a local hospital. He filmed the event with his cell phone camera and later uploaded it.

A week later, he sends mass text messages urging people to join him in the streets to demonstrate against violence and the presence of militias un-integrated into the military.

Bakoush appears to represent another kind of future, an alternative to one in which every Muslim is, de facto, viewed as a threat. For Bakoush, "I want to see political parties, not militias with guns.” csmonitor

File Under : Feel ya, Here We Call those People Corporations 400 miles away, near Tripoli, artists and film-makers take their own steps forward to attempt another bold stroke – the country's first film festival. Films under the Gaddafi regime were laughable propoganda-affairs or badly produced. Legitimate dissent film-makers were chased underground.

Amidst the current chaos, the need for a vibrant arts community may get short-shrift.

But Mohamed Maklouf, a Libyan film-maker and former dissident, asserts it is “absolutely” vital

"Visual culture started the whole revolution," he says. "If we didn't see these images, which changed people's minds around the world, nothing would have happened. So film is very important. Some countries, like Egypt, give a little bit of freedom to film-makers, but then you still have the problem of the censor. Someone is telling you to cut this and that." Guardian UK

The European version of Occupy picks up steam. A return to action at the French steel giant ArcelorMittal as some 40 workers occupy the factory floor, blocking off management access. Parts of the plant that produce burners are slated for closure. Management and the union continue to meet in Paris to decide the fate of its workers. indiatimes

Live streamer Tim Pool has been getting around lately – all the way across the pond it turns out, to cover the outpouring of hundreds of thousands of Spaniards that protest the country’s inclusion as the latest EU economy to hit the skids. Reuters

Led by the organizers of the longstanding “indignado movement”—which, in many respects, inspired Occupy Wall Street in the U.S.—protesters march on the Spanish parliament, but are confronted with violence from riot police. Over 60 are injured, with dozens were arrested.

In Spain, where unemployment runs astronomically high at 25% (wsj), police wade into demonstrators with clubs swinging and rubber bullets firing –all live streamed by Pool. He describes the history of his approach to journalism and the aesthetic that informs it at timcast

More demonstrations are planned for the weekend against the economic policies and the new budget for 2013 approved by government of Mariano Rajoy.

Stateside, Occupy court cases roll on, seeming to reflect the tenor of the times. Occupiers recently sustained a string of losses, ponying up stiff fines and in certain cases, facing jail time as judges threw the book at them.

However, amidst the week of resurgence, Occupy Chicago demonstrators learn a Chicago district judge dismisses all charges related to last year's police crackdown on those whose refused to vacate Grant Park. Only 92 were still facing the charges nearly a year later.

Judge Thomas Donnelly rules the curfew imposed by authorities in 2011 is unconstitutional, saying it violates the right of free assembly and the right to equal protection. Daily Northwestern

The city immediately announces it will appeal the decision as Mayor Rahm Emanuel urges the higher court to reinstate the convictions Chicago Sun-Times

Protester arrests are meant to clear the streets, not enforce the law. They infrequently result in convictions since typically, no actual laws are being broken. Hence the involvement of pro-Bono legal organizations like the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild, who typically come to the aid of the protesters.

Down South, reporter Marissa Lang summarizes the trials and tribulations – and hard won victories- of Occupy Tampa who are celebrate their birthday with a march to the location where it all started .

The gathering at Lykes Gaslight Park evokes for some the day
Occupy Tampa held its first meeting, “allowing dozens to air grievances and hundreds to see that they weren't alone in their frustration.” Tampa Bay Online

Finally, Author Mickey Z covers the 141 day occupation of Trinity Church, New York's longest occupation, where protesters remain on the church's steps in Lower Manhattan. The protesters had asked Trinity to use a nearby church-owned vacant lot, known as Duarte Square, after their eviction from Zuccotti. The leadership refused.

Z goes deep on the issue, hooking in a report from Daily Kos that traces the origins of the church's land disputes all the way back to 1705 - the time of Queen Ann.

Not sold? According to the Kos, the Church owns “approximately 6 million square feet of Manhattan real estate, managed since 2008 by former Bloomberg appointed New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd. Most of Trinity's holdings are centered in the area surrounding Canal Street and Sixth Avenue, which Trinity Real Estate has branded Hudson Square. Prior to the Great Depression, the buildings were a mix of commercial and residential properties.”

The Church has drawn much attention, particularly due to the actions of Bishop George Packard, arrested for scaling the church's fence and trying to lead it back to ordinary people and away from its gilded connections with the Mayor and his Private Army.

Packard, and other Occupiers, allege that the church's leadership, personified by CEO/Rector James Cooper, constitute the one percent. Meaning they model themselves after the Gospels, just not their main protagonist.

OWS cries foul over Cooper housing himself in a $5.5 million dollar So Ho Loft – while closing Trinity shelters for the homeless and neglecting the neighborhood infoshop




The Lord Didn't Really "Do Soho..."

Submitted by M-Bed
Updates for this space should be sent to UWS Press

Follow UWS Digital here