Saturday, October 29, 2011

Current Comedy, 10/29/11: Report from Occupy Kingman, Some of My Immodest Proposals

Current Comedy, 10/29/11:
Occupy Kingman, Some of My Immodest Proposals

I had the great fortune to be one of the activists who helped semi-organize the Saturday Oct. 29 Occupy Kingman event. It was an incredibly powerful experience for me since i have generally taken an interested spectator position in the organization of most of the events i attend. I don't organize because i am not very organized myself, so i do a lot of personal independent and thus singular protests in addition to the ones i attend. But this issue seemed too important to not act on it so i press my skills and connections to promote the event as best as i could. I put more effort in promoting this than i generally do to anything political in my hometown and for here in Kingman, it was a genuine success.

About 30-35 people showed up. There was much public support and quite a bit of exchange. I debated a right wing contrarian who showed up just to challenge us until i wore him into the ground to the point he walked away. The press that was there was favorable. I think it was a great start but needs months to coalesce. The problems we’re facing won’t go away until we act as a people to drive them away, so this was just the beginning. If the public of America does not come to back the Occupy Movement then it won’t really be “the 99% “and thus will fail.

 So, i put more effort in promoting this than i general do to anything and for Kingman, it was a real success. About 30-35 showed. There was much public support and quite a bit of exchange. I gave my first political speech based on my writing in 20 years of writing about politics. I debated a contrarian into the ground to where he walked away. The press that was there was favorable. I think it was a great start but needs months to coalesce. The problems we're facing won't go away until we act to drive them away, so this was just the beginning--organized myself, so i do a lot of personal independent and thus singular protests; but this issue seems too important to not act on it and support and work for it as best as i can. So, i put more effort in promoting this than i general do to anything and for Kingman, it was a real success. About 30-35 showed. There was much public support and quite a bit of exchange. I gave my first political speech based on my writing in 20 years of writing about politics. I debated a contrarian into the ground to where he walked away. The press that was there was favorable. I think it was a great start but needs months to coalesce. The problems we're facing won't go away until we act to drive them away, so this was just the beginning--I spoke a bit in the general assembly but eventually pull this list of proposals out of my sleeve and read from it.

I said this is NOT my list of demands. I am not making demands. I am not some madman trying to kidnap America, I am not some petulant child; I am a concerned citizen, doing what i am supposed to do when i see trouble for my country. This is just my list of changes i wish America would make. Once again, these are not demands & i am not a spokesperson for the 99%, even though i did say many of these things in Kingman’s first general assembly. I was but one voice among many there to protest the crises at hand. I/we hope you will join our efforts in Locomotive Park again next weekend. Until we raise enough voices, we will not be heard.

 These may not be the solutions to our problems; but these are my ideas.

1. Wipe out ALL derivative markets and close out the fictitious trillions the bankers have artificially created for themselves at the rest of our expenses. They get nothing. They can keep the loot they've already stashed away if they promise not to whine about losing the billions they never had as they imperiled the planet. If they insist on whining, then we get to sue and/or imprison them and confiscate those funds too.

2. Close the stock market to all mutual funds and small investors, eliminate brokerage firms, ratings agencies, speculation in government bonds, and establish rules will prevent speculation with actual people's actual capital, such as pension funds and mortgages.

3. Close the Federal Reserve. Close all hedge funds. Investigate and prosecute as widely as possible.

4. Halt all foreclosures. Return all unsold properties to their evictees. Re-finance all home loans at current market rates in contracts that continue to adjust the cost of the loan to fluctuations in market values (a reverse ARM). Jail time for any banking executive that can be proven to have fraudulently approved a loan, a refinance or an eviction. All evictees from 2005 till present get a reimbursement check for the value remaining on their homes at their time of eviction and a punitive damage for each month they have been evicted.

5. Arrest of the heads of all multinational banks. Their bail can be set based on 10% of the money they've defrauded the public for.

6. Universal health care, pre-cradle through grave. Health insurance industry dissolved. Executives indicted for the unnecessary deaths they caused through denial of services.

7. Wipe out all existing student loan debt and provide free college education and living allowances to qualified successful students through their doctorates if possible. The expenses of which will be offset through a required commensurate period of public service. In fact, mandatory public service for all citizens upon completed high school and prior to commencing college. Public service performance will affect college choice opportunities.

8. End all wars and close the majority of our nearly 1000 overseas military bases. (Lease the properties to the citizens of the foreign countries we have terrorized around the world through our military might.) Offer alternative government service employment to RTF-ed veterans in programs such as the old CCC or neighborhood renewal services. Hey, if these guys can destroy and rebuild neighborhoods across the Middle East in the name of US democracy, then they can rebuild our neighborhoods here at home too.

9. Eliminate ALL no-bid government contracts, charge, convict, and imprison all corporate officers of companies that have defrauded or grossly overcharged the government. Add an imprisonment component to the fines corporations pay for environmental or employee abuses.

10. Reform the tax code, with a reasonable progressive tax code and no capital gains and income cap for contributing to Social Security. The rich would end up topping out at 50%. They would stop whining about paying these taxes and acknowledge that the playing field in America is designed to tilt their way, like the luck on a blackjack table.

11. Indict Bush officials on treason regarding lying us into Iraq, Halliburton collusion, Enron involvement and signing statement abuse. As is appropriate, also charge officers, Pentagon officials, and DOD admin with war crimes and torture.

12. Reopen the 9/11 investigation.

13. Repeal No Child Left Behind and reinstate or create funding which will afford each school in America to have staff and materials to create class sizes of no greater than 15 to 1 with an aide. A full assortment of electives and shop class will be provided at all schools. School counseling services would also be expanded to include mental health services. Alternative ed programs should be fully funded and students who refuse to function in a normal school setting will be removed for the good of other students. Chronic bullying would be grounds for expulsion.

14. In addition to expanding public access to health care, establish mental health public access as well including the restoration of in-patient facilities for the profoundly mentally ill or debilitated.

15. Reinstate ownership limits in public media and investigate-indict-imprison media executives and personalities who knowingly colluded with the government defraud or deceive the public on policy issues, such as the run up to Iraq.

16. Overturn Citizens United. All elections should be publicly funded and candidate airtime and print space should be limited, equitable, and provided free of charge. Further all elected officials should be paid a living wage and prohibited from working other full-time jobs while in office. They, along high ranking non-elected government officials should be prohibited from working or investing in the industries they have worked to regulate.

17. Reform drug laws to tax cannabis products and services commensurate with tobacco and alcohol products and services. Release all possession-only offenders in prisons. Provide them with rehabilitation services.

18. All companies making money in our country must incorporate and headquarter in our country and pay full US taxes. Let's see what these guys really think of free markets when it comes to being free from the insider breaks they've been getting.

19. All government subsidies and/or tax breaks eliminated.

20. Immigration reform to require citizenship of the twelve million undocumented immigrants currently in the US and a greatly revised process for immigrating that will provide the vast numbers of refugees seeking to immigrate easy clear channels. Reduce illegal immigration by making it easier to do legally.

21. Increase minimum wage and create a maximum wage for any industry doing business with the US public or government. Salary caps not just for CEOs (now making 470 times the salary of their own entry level employees).

22. A violence tax for consumers who wish to purchase and thus support violence. Various sports, books, movies, art and music would be subject to this tax, which would serve as a deterrent to reduce the amount of violence in society, in the same way that we tax other destructive vices such as gambling or alcohol.

I know these aren’t the only solutions to the crises we find ourselves in. I encourage you to disagree and to form and then agitate for your own list. I encourage you to do it soon. I will be at my local Occupy next Saturday.

Will you?

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Report from the Occupy Flagstaff Protest Oct. 15, 2011 (video)

In the course of a week i managed to attend the Las Vegas, San Francisco and Flagstaff Occupy protests. By the time i made it to the Flagstaff event Saturday Oct. 15, 2011, i had a pretty good idea of what i would say if asked why i was protesting ... and, amazingly, what should happen, but NAU's William Brown came and did an interview. Between his audio and Beth Weisser's photos of the protest i've put together a video now available on You Tube.

Here is the link:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Current Comedy, 10/12/11: Pre-Occupied

By last April, after 20 years of writing about politics hoping to make a difference, i had become so weary with America i could not even make fun of it anymore. I was defeated. The plutocrats had won. Again. The GOP had the upper hand and were wringing our throats with it. Again. And the media were making them out as heroes for it. Yet again. Yet another case of the sheep pleading the case for their own slaughter.

And through the summer the news just got worse. Our obscene wars continued to be mismanaged and the American public continued to be force-fed the idea that blindly supporting the mass scale destruction of foreign cultures for little, other than corporate profit, was in some way equal to loving one's country. Occasionally the Arab Spring sprang a whiff of democracy across our nation's television sets, but anytime an American protest tried to capture the media attention we got to watch celebrity show trials instead.

And every couple of weeks some new expose came out showing vast web of criminality the financial and political sectors have created in their ongoing effort to dupe the American public out of trillions. For me it wasn't so much a matter of eating the rich, but i sure would like them to get their teeth out of my neck. And when faced with the challenges of serving their constituents who are now more poor and more uninsured as wages continue to drop and their very lives are imperiled, our rich politicians complained that instead of the public's call to increase the taxes on the rich, (i.e. themselves) the real solution was to increase taxes on the poor. Oh yes, and cut government services so the rich could have more tax cuts. I kept wondering when the public was going to get so sick of this crap!

Then ... they did. Some are calling this the first progressive populist movement since the 1930s. I call it wonderful. After 30 years of the fires being slowly turned up under us, the American people finally got preoccupied with the fact we, the people, actually occupy the vast majority of this country and the 99%  should not be forced to bow to the whims of the richest one percent.

It is now a month since the Occupy Movement started. Like movements around the world, people started gathering at their country's seat of power. In our case, that means Wall Street. On an island that was once "purchased" from the Indians for $24 bucks in costume jewelry, where that richest 1% now collect 45% of all wages paid on the island, the people have assembled to gripe about the plutocrats. At first, as Gandhi once wrote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Let's hope part four of that equation comes as true as parts 1-3 have. It took a couple of weeks before the press became too embarrassed to not acknowledge their presence. They then went from condescending derision to scornful condemnation at a pace that rivals most land speed records. Reviled by the same national corporate media who lie to us to secure the positions of their masters?  The media who created the box we are now expected to think within? It certainly seemed like a group for me.

Me? I am an American, more than that i am a teacher. It is precisely the precious duty of each one of us "we the people" to stand up and speak up in favor of our country, to work to advance the good and challenge the bad and to teach others to do so also. For that is the only way the "of the people, by the people" stuff actually works. Without the people, "our" government is a simply sham sold to the highest bidder. I cannot entrust my precious country's future to a future generation that i will expect to work to change stuff, if i don't work to change stuff too and show them that it can be done and is worth the effort to try, though the status quo-zers will always have a desperate stake in making sure folks don't knock over too many apple carts or rock too many boats. Our culture may claim to champion rugged individualism and outspokenness over issues; but the bureaucracy, the plutocracy, the religious and the social power structures, our marketing and entertainment industries all depend on people tacitly accepting and helplessly depending on our leaders' decisions even when we can plainly see they are yielding nothing but a long train of usurpations. It is not my leaders i pledge my allegiance too, or even, honestly, to a flag. It is to the United States of America--to perfecting our unions, establishing some justice, ensuring some domestic tranquility for a change, defending the commons, promoting our welfare and securing our liberty.

If a person has even an inkling of our history and not merely sucking on the glass teat of the corporate spin that serves the 1%  at our expense, you will understand why I have been protesting since Richard Nixon ran for office. And why, over these last 40 years, in no certain order, i have marched in the street, carried signs, written articles and/or just plain agitated opposing the Vietnam-, the Gulf-, the Serbian, the Somali, both the Afghan misadventures, the latest Iraq and the Libyan Wars. I was pissed about Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, and Reagan's little Libya thing too, but i was a bit slow to get up off my ass, so they were over before i got started. And as for the whole deplorable shenanagans in various South &  Central American countries where our politicians and munitions manufacturers sold our military as mercenaries for multinationals "developing" the 3rd world? Oh the shame. I've had to speak up. That' what Americans do--we change for the better, we build for the future.

I have protested for farm workers' rights, equal rights, religious rights, poor & homeless people's rights, teachers' rights, immigrant rights, northern Arizona water rights & LGBT rights and of course, for the Right to Choose. Against Richard Nixon, against Gerald Ford, against Jimmie Carter, against Reagan, twice, against Bush the First, against Bill Clinton and against the GOP against him, against Bush the Second and a second time, and inevitably, against Barack Obama and against the GOP against him.  I have protested against worshipping Christopher Columbus and for celebrating civil rights, race relations, universal health care, whole foods, for the great "Ohm" at the annual July 4th Rainbow circle and even plastics recycling.

A movement that insists it wants no leader and issues no official set of demands, yet wants the public to stand up over the issues that are rapidly starting to strangle the whole world, seemed just right to me. I have got a lot i could complain about. 99% of us do. Without any central leadership there is no one person to discredit. Without a codified official list of demands there is no agenda to marginalize--just folks like me and you and 99% of us agitating to draw attention to the things we believe in. A public assembly for "shouting out the troubles we're all mumbling about, like that a half a million greed, while a hundred million need, and another billion bleed full-speed from the deed" as i wrote 10 years ago, when the future was not yet a derivative marketed on Wall Street? Count me in!

So, over the course of last weekend, my wife and i made a new generation of protest signs and took our granddaughter to the Las Vegas organizing follow-up meeting following Occupy Vegas' successful Las Vegas  Boulevard action centered at the Statue of Liberty sign at New York, New York last Thursday. Over 1000 people showed up and there were no shows of violence, merely a crowd full of "we the people" pledging their allegiance. On our way to the meeting 7 seven old Atlantis and i stopped and stood on a corner of Las Vegas Boulevard beneath the shadow of the great pyramid of Luxor and held our protest signs high. Mine read "99% ." Hers said "Ensure Domestic Tranquility/ Promote the General Welfare/ THESE are the REAL American Values." We laughed and waved for over an hour. When people really liked our signs we hugged and danced.

And wow, just like that, i think i feel the wind change. And whether it chooses to lay or gale, i for one have been blown from my doldrums and am again chasing some course. It was great to feel alive again, to believe in America and a future. I just hope it is not too late to have one.

--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.