By John Ballard
?Occupy Wall Street Protest Reaches a Crossroads
Rather long and thoughtful look at this leaderless movement where everyone is a leader. My impression is that OWS is having positive results. Every day produces more awareness on the part of "serious people."
When protesters first unrolled sleeping bags and blankets in Zuccotti Park on the night of Sept. 17, only a few dozen people spent the night. Now, upward of 200 people � students, veterans, train-hopping travelers � stay overnight in the sprawling encampment of tents and tarps that covers the granite expanse of the park. Sleeping in Zuccotti once was evidence of a deep commitment to Occupy�s politics, but now, some people seem to be there mainly for the donated clothes and free food.
A few have gotten into fights or have been accused of assaults, including Tonye Iketubosin, a 26-year-old man from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who frequented the park for about a week and whom the police charged on Wednesday with sexually abusing an 18-year-old woman in a tent there. On Thursday, a Florida man was arrested after being accused of punching a protester in the eye.
Many protesters say the lawless visitors constitute a tiny fringe and are not representative of the movement, which, they say, has espoused nonviolence and mutual aid. Some have suggested moving the kitchen area and the comfort station out of the park to discourage freeloaders from congregating there.
But there are concerns that even if the criminal and antisocial elements are a small minority, they are becoming visible enough to tarnish the image of the entire group.
Occupy Wall Street could be occupying your television this weekend.
Supporters chipped in more than $6,000 to a crowdfunding campaign that will put a video of protesters explaining their objectives in the commercial lineup of cable television channels.
�It�s sort of an occupied version of advertising,� crowdfunding site Loudsauce�s co-founder Colin Mutchler says. �It�s about occupying ad space with what citizens think is important for the country.�
Sauvage�s Occupy Wall Street commercial is an example of how this perception isn�t always true. With the $6,278 that 168 people have chipped in (minus the 10% cut that Loudsauce charges campaigns), the campaign purchased more than 100 commercial slots between Saturday and Monday.
Bloomberg Business TV (nationally) as well as ESPN, CBS Sports, History International, Outdoor Channel, Gayle King Show, Grey�s Anatomy and Friends (on DISH network, Direct TV and Verizon Fios) will all be running the commercial. It is expected to air on Fox News seven times.
?Rent-Seeking -- This term is finally turning up in the national conversation. It's a common reference in economics as a discipline but not widely understood by everyday folks. Hopefully this will change as the educational part of OWS takes root.
What Does Rent-Seeking Mean?
When a company, organization or individual uses their resources to obtain an economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits back to society through wealth creation.
Investopedia explains Rent-Seeking
An example of rent-seeking is when a company lobbies the government for loan subsidies, grants or tariff protection. These activities don't create any benefit for society, they just redistribute resources from the taxpayers to the special-interest group.
When times are good a little rent-seeking is to be expected. It's been going on from the beginning of the invention of money. But thanks to technology rent-seeking, like everything else, has been on steroids.
Look for the term in the next link.
?The Globalization of Protest
Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics, and the author of Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy.
NEW YORK � The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt, and then to Spain, has now become global, with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalization and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can. And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: a sense that the �system� has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right � at least not without strong pressure from the street.
In May, I went to the site of the Tunisian protests; in July, I talked to Spain�s indignados; from there, I went to meet the young Egyptian revolutionaries in Cairo�s Tahrir Square; and, a few weeks ago, I talked with Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York. There is a common theme, expressed by the OWS movement in a simple phrase: �We are the 99%.�
That slogan echoes the title of an article that I recently published, entitled �Of the 1%, for the 1%, and by the 1%,� describing the enormous increase in inequality in the United States: 1% of the population controls more than 40% of the wealth and receives more than 20% of the income. And those in this rarefied stratum often are rewarded so richly not because they have contributed more to society � bonuses and bailouts neatly gutted that justification for inequality � but because they are, to put it bluntly, successful (and sometimes corrupt) rent-seekers.
This is not to deny that some of the 1% have contributed a great deal. Indeed, the social benefits of many real innovations (as opposed to the novel financial �products� that ended up unleashing havoc on the world economy) typically far exceed what their innovators receive.
The rise in inequality is the product of a vicious spiral: the rich rent-seekers use their wealth to shape legislation in order to protect and increase their wealth � and their influence. The US Supreme Court, in its notorious Citizens United decision, has given corporations free rein to use their money to influence the direction of politics. But, while the wealthy can use their money to amplify their views, back on the street, police wouldn�t allow me to address the OWS protesters through a megaphone.
The contrast between overregulated democracy and unregulated bankers did not go unnoticed. But the protesters are ingenious: they echoed what I said through the crowd, so that all could hear. And, to avoid interrupting the �dialogue� by clapping, they used forceful hand signals to express their agreement.
?From occupywriters.com this is my favorite contribution so far.
Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance
- If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn�t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.
- �Fortune� is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.
- Money is like a child�rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.
- People who say money doesn�t matter are like people who say cake doesn�t matter�it�s probably because they�ve already had a few slices.
- There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.
- Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they�ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.
- Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don�t tell them they aren�t. Sit with them and have a drink.
- Don�t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else�a stranger in the street, for example.
- People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.
- It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view. 1
- Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.
- If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you�re the one tumbling down when it collapses.
- 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.