May Day, Black Blocs and the American Spring

Seattle General Strike poster featuring Tony the Tiger and a man in a Mariner's uniform and Guy Fawkes mask

(Photo credit:

Last Friday, Al Gore told graduates at Massachusetts’ Hampshire College:

Now is the time. We need an American Spring this spring. We need to occupy democracy in the United States of America.

Yesterday, thousands of people across the country tried to do just that. Sadly, though, Gore’s words were more prescient than, perhaps, he realized.

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An open letter to a friend in Occupy Portland, part 3/3

Occupy Portland graphic formed of interlocking hands of various colors

(CCL: Twelvism)

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, there are the links.

I rarely see liberals and conservatives actually listening to and talking with each other about current issues.

Ethically, that’s wrong. Whenever you and I stop listening to other people, and start seeing them as the enemy, we become less human.

Tactically, it’s stupid. Our country has to change or die. To change in a democracy, 51% of the voters have to be convinced to try a new direction. Right now, we’re in a stalemate, but liberal and conservative pundits alike are just preaching to their own fan bases as our bus goes hurtling toward the cliff’s edge.

Let’s quit preaching to the choir and start reaching across the aisle. “Emmie” and I aren’t doing it perfectly, but we are trying. . . .

It sounds to me as if you think the rich are somehow fundamentally different from you and me. You want to take more of their money, Emmie, but I suspect you wouldn’t like more taken from you and me. To most of the world, though, of course, you and I are rich.

Bill Gates speaking

(CCL Mohammad Jangda)

Bill Gates is an ordinary joe who figured out how to build a better mousetrap. Why should we penalize him for that? If you look at the people on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America, a few of them are “old money,” yes, but 70% are self-made people who designed better mousetraps.

And we’re all benefiting from those mousetraps. We’re also all benefiting from the money the über-rich keep pumping back into the economy–both as they buy Big, Expensive Things, and as many of them set up charitable foundations and so on. Penalizing their creativity isn’t fair. And it won’t benefit us in the long run. The more we penalize creativity and the willingness to take risks, the fewer creative risk-takers are going to be willing to step up and improve our lives.

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An open letter to a friend in Occupy Portland, part 2

Occupy Portland graphic formed of interlocking hands of various colors


I’ve been emailing back and forth with a friend active in the Occupy Portland movement. This is Part Two (of three parts) of my most recent email in our conversation.

In Part One, I pointed out some things Emmie and I agree on. (By the way, when I tried, in Part One, to link to my original post on Occupy Wall Street, I didn’t. Here is my original OWS post.) Then I tackled some of our disagreements. Today’s post picks up in the middle of the disagreements. . . .

It would benefit the country if everyone could go to trade school or college for free? To me, that’s like saying, “The green cow flew gracefully through the plaid sky.” It’s nonsensical, impossible, because . . . TANSTAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch (or a free education, either!). Education is enormously expensive. The only question is who’s going to foot the bill. (You tacitly admit that a few lines later, Emmie, when you say that the rewards of an educated society would be worth the cost.)


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An open letter to a friend in Occupy Portland

I’ve been corresponding by email with a friend who was active in Occupy Portland (OR). This is the first part of my response to her response to my response to her response (still with me?) to my original post on Occupy Wall Street.

man in black leather jacket with clenched fist logo and the words "Occupy Portland: The Coffee Man"

CCL Igal Koshevoy

Hi, “Emmie”–

Thanks for your good email. I’m sorry to be so long in replying. I’ve kept waiting for a nice, long chunk of time to sit down and reply. In retrospect, I should have just written a bit here and a bit there. Which is probably what’s going to end up happening now anyway! I’m actually writing this longhand by flashlight on I-82 on my way to visit friends in Moses Lake.

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Occupy Wall Street, Kalle Lasn and Culture Jamming

Want a grip on Occupy Wall Street’s ideology? Check out Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge—and Why We Must. Lasn is the co-founder of Adbusters, the Canadian corporation (double irony there) behind Occupy Wall Street.

A lot to like

Lasn is disturbed by the anxiety, depression, boredom and alienation that characterize our culture.  He grieves for failing families, for individuals with no sense of purpose or meaning. He’s down on TV violence. He wants to reclaim holidays from marketers and return the evening meal as a joyous ritual of family life. He yearns for more time, less stress and more balance. What’s better than being rich, he asks? Being “spontaneous, authentic, alive.”

Sometimes he sounds like an old-time evangelist:

  •  modern Western culture is based on wealth, power, fame, sex and recreation;
  • America is in need of being liberated from its own excesses and arrogances;
  • What we need is a new “great awakening.”

What’s not to like, eh?!

We-e-e-ll. . . .

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Coming soon to a city near you

Over a thousand demonstrators have been arrested so far in association with Occupy Wall Street, the so-called leaderless resistance movement camped out in a park in New York City. Started by Vancouver, British Columbia-based Adbusters, and frequently compared to the Arab Spring movement, Occupy Wall Street appears to be spreading to other cities, including Seattle and Portland.

Watch this–it’s only a minute–and then tell me what Occupy Portland stands for:

We can make a difference. Feel the need to stop the greed. One person can make a difference. Put together three bumper stickers, some slick graphics and pretty music, and you’ve got yourself a nice little movement.

But that was just an ad. Maybe you can tell more from the Occupy Portland website. Or the Occupy Wall Street website. Or the Occupy Together website. Here’s Occupy Together’s FAQ page. Scroll down and read their answer to the fourth question, “What is your agenda?” Maybe that’ll help.

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