Seeking Input for Electoral Reform Wish List: What Say You?

Since the Occupy Wall Street protests began in downtown Manhattan on September 17th, I have noted on a number of occasions that there is an inspiring amount of independent and third party activity and organizing taking place at the demonstrations.  Members of the Green, Libertarian, Socialist and Reform parties, among others, have been involved in the movement from the very beginning, in addition to legions of Independents. 

Much of the organizing work being accomplished at Occupy Wall Street is being done within autonomous working groups and caucuses.  There are working groups devoted to everything from media and internet to outreach, direct action and reform.  There are a number of groups, of which I'm aware, that should be of special interest to independents, third party advocates and opponents of the two-party state.  Over the next couple days, I'm going to provide some info on these various groups and relay portions of the documents and proposals they have been working on, all of which can be found through the New York City General Assembly's website for Occupy Wall Street.

Today, the focus will be the Politics and Electoral Reform group – in which I have been active for a number of weeks.  The group is working on a proposal recommending electoral reforms that could be implemented by states and localities to level the playing field for those who have been marginalized, and whose interests are not represented, by the Republican-Democrat two-party state. Numerous reforms are being considered by the group, which is collaborating on a working draft document for the proposal.  Here is an excerpt from the section of the document specifically devoted to the recommendations for reform:
Alternative voting methods. Our voting systems should promote honest participatory democracy.  There are alternatives to plurality voting, such as instant runoff voting, ranked choice voting, approval voting and range voting, liquid democracy and so on.

Independent, nonpartisan redistricting. Voters should choose their representatives, lawmakers should not choose their voters.

Smaller and more localized districts.  Expansion of the number of representatives in local and state government and in the House of Representatives. This will ensure a closer relationship between the people and their elected officials, putting the latter on a shorter leash.

Proportional representation. Winner-take-all, single member district plurality voting has allowed narrow political factions to wield disproportionate influence within our system of government. There are alternatives.

Expansion of franchise. Those who are denied of the right to vote because they have, for example, served time in prison, should be re-enfranchised.

Term limits. Election to public office is not a lifetime appointment. Term limits should be imposed by law or by the people at the ballot box.

Ballot access reform. All should be equal before the law regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof.  Ballot access laws that favor the major parties and discriminate against independent and third party candidates should be repealed and replaced with fair and reasonable alternatives. The default state of the ballot should be open.

Primary election reform. A publicly funded election should be open to the public.  If parties desire to hold closed primary elections, they can provide for their own caucuses and conventions.

Initiatives and referenda. The people retain the right to originate ballot initiatives and referenda.

Vote counting. The reintroduction of hand counted, paper ballots, or the introduction of significant controls to protect against the rigging of electronic voting machines, which are produced, operated and serviced by corporations with significant ties to powerful political factions.

Weekend or holiday voting. Voting should be encouraged not discouraged.

Fusion voting. Parties should be able to nominate the candidates of their choice across party lines.

Campaign finance. Publicly funded election campaigns, or matching fund systems that allow candidates who refuse to accept corporate donations to compete on a level playing field with candidates who are heavily financed by corporate interests.

Combination and synthesis. A liquid democratic primary with an IRV runoff between the top four candidates from the primary. Countless other possibilities.
(Note: the proposal is a living document, and any of the above could and probably will be changed by the group at some point.)  I'm relaying this excerpt because many readers here at Politea have thought long and hard about a lot of these issues, and could provide some interesting suggestions that could be taken up by the group.  So what say you, folks?  What do you think of the recommendations as they stand?  Should any be amended? or dropped? or edited?  Are there any important potential reforms that are missing from the list?

Riot Policing or Police Rioting? It is Time to Downsize the Militarized Police State

Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began in downtown New York over a month ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD have received a fair amount of criticism for the use of heavy handed tactics in dealing with certain actions organized by the OWS demonstrators.  Police have pepper sprayed contained crowds, charged horses into crowds, wantonly swung batons, thrown punches, tackled protesters and so on, all of which can be seen in any of the hundreds of videos that have flooded Youtube over the last five weeks.  Arguably, however, none of that compares with the violence perpetrated by police in Oakland over the course of the day yesterday.  From today's column for CAVIN/AZIVN:
Hundreds of riot police raided Occupy Oakland's encampment yesterday, deploying tear gas, flash grenades, bean bag rounds and sound cannons as they attempted to clear protesters from the plaza in front of City Hall over the course of the day.

Riot police assembled from over a dozen law enforcement agencies began moving in on the tent city around 4am. Hundreds of demonstrators had evacuated the plaza as word of the police action spread, but around 170 protesters remained at the encampment in an act of civil disobedience.  City officials declared that the park had been "contained" by 5:30am. Dozens were arrested as police laid waste to the site over the course of the ninety minute raid.  "What was left at the plaza looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp," reported The Oakland Tribune.

The two-week old encampment had been one of the largest in the country, with hundreds of people demonstrating in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protest that began in New York City on September 17th.  Last week, the city began posting notices that those who continued to camp at the plaza would be subject to arrest, citing public health and safety concerns.

"The administration has determined that facilitating this expression of speech is no longer viable, nor in the interest of public health and safety," read one notice to vacate the plaza dated October 20th, which was posted at Mother Jones.

Following the early morning raid, demonstrators regrouped and hundreds gathered later in the day, marching through downtown Oakland with the aim of re-establishing their presence in front of City Hall.  They were met by riot police, leading to further clashes and scuffles, in which indiscriminate police violence led to numerous injuries.  Reports indicate that two police officers and many protesters were hurt in the process.  By late Tuesday evening, reports indicated that over 100 had been arrested throughout the course of the day.  On the other side of the country, the New York City General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street unanimously passed a statement of solidarity in support of Occupy Oakland and denounced the heavy handed police action. 
If it becomes common practice for peaceful assemblies protected by the First Amendment to be violently confronted by militarized riot police and dispersed by force, the people may well be left with no other option than to form armed militia units to confront the police in self-defense, as is our right under the Second Amendment.  As John F. Kennedy famously stated, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable."  Fortunately, many localities recognize the importance of accommodating people intent on exercising their First Amendment rights.  In Eugene, Oregon, the city council has voted to allow demonstrators to camp at a local park, providing a waiver that exempts the demonstration from ordinances against camping. From Occupy Eugene:
The Eugene City Council on Monday evening voted 5-3 in favor of granting Occupy Eugene formal permission to camp at Alton Baker Park through December 15. In all, 22 different speakers stood before the council to present their opinions on exempting Occupy Eugene from the city ordinance that prohibits camping within the city limits. Though there were some in opposition, the majority who spoke voiced their support for the waiver.
In Albany, New York, local and state police have defied authoritarian directives from Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and Albany Mayor Gerald Jennings demanding that protesters be forcibly removed from their encampment.  Police justified their action stating that such a move would escalate the situation and lead to unnecessary violence.  From the Albany Times Union:
In a tense battle of wills, state troopers and Albany police held off making arrests of dozens of protesters near the Capitol over the weekend even as Albany's mayor, under pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration, had urged his police chief to enforce a city curfew.
The situation intensified late Friday evening when Jennings, who has cultivated a strong relationship with Cuomo, directed his department to arrest protesters who refused to leave the city-owned portion of a large park that's across Washington Avenue from the Capitol and City Hall.
At the Capitol, in anticipation of possibly dozens of arrests, a State Police civil disturbance unit was quietly activated, according to officials briefed on the matter but not authorized to comment publicly. But as the curfew neared, the group of protesters estimated at several hundred moved across an invisible line in the park from state land onto city property.
"We were ready to make arrests if needed, but these people complied with our orders," a State Police official said. However, he added that State Police supported the defiant posture of Albany police leaders to hold off making arrests for the low-level offense of trespassing, in part because of concern it could incite a riot or draw thousands of protesters in a backlash that could endanger police and the public.
"We don't have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble," the official said. "The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor."
A city police source said his department also was reluctant to damage what he considers to be good community relations that have taken years to rebuild. In addition, the crowd included elderly people and many others who brought their children with them.
"There was a lot of discussion about how it would look if we started pulling people away from their kids and arresting them ... and then what do we do with the children?" one officer said.
The people do not need "permission" from the government to exercise their constitutional rights and liberties.  It is the responsibility of the government to accommodate the people in their exercise of Constitutional rights and liberties.  It remains self-evident, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, that "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Green Launches Presidential Campaign as Alternative to the "Wall Street Parties"

From Green party Watch:
Jill Stein, a physician and former Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate, announced today she is running for President of the United States to provide an alternative to the “Wall Street parties” on issues such as jobs, universal health care, peace and climate change. She is seeking the nomination of the Green Party of the United States.

Speaking to a gathering at the historic State House in Boston, Stein declared that voters have lost confidence in the Democratic and Republican leaders who have given the nation “massive bailouts for Wall Street, layoffs on Main Street, declining wages for workers, wars for oil abroad, and attacks on Medicare and Social Security.” She further noted that “They’re privatizing education, rolling back civil liberties and racial justice, plundering the environment, and driving us towards the calamity of climate change.”

According to Stein “we need people in Washington who refuse to be bought by lobbyist money and for whom change is not just a slogan.”

The centerpiece of Stein’s Green New Deal is a commitment to “end unemployment in America” by direct Federal action to create the jobs needed to end the “Bush/Obama recession”. Stein dismissed President Obama’s “Wall Street-first” approach to job creation as fundamentally misconceived – since it is too small and gives money to the financial elite in hopes that they will decide to create jobs. Stein said that ending the “Bush/Obama” recession needs direct action to create jobs since unemployment is a major obstacle to business recovery. Her plan would create 8 times more jobs than the current Obama jobs proposal.

Stein said that it’s time for the United States to “catch up with the rest of the developed nations” and provide health care for all through a Medicare-for-all system.

Noting the crushing debt burden facing students forced to take out loans for their college education, Stein called for forgiving existing student debt and providing free education for all students, calling this “an investment in our future that will pay off enormously.”

Stein also called for ending home foreclosures and requiring banks to adjust mortgages to reflect the current market value of homes.
Read the whole thing.  Visit Stein's website at JillStein.org.

An Open Invitation to Friends, Readers and Allies in the Third Party and Indepedent Blogosphere

The first and second print issues of Third Party Independent are online, the third is in the works, and the website is up and running.  The site is set up as an open community blogging platform like those that are common in the Republican and Democratic blogosphere.  My hope is that creating a space and forum where Independents and third party supporters from across the political spectrum can gather en masse to share ideas and discuss current events will help to facilitate the growth and development of the independent and third party movement, and provide us with more visibility on the web.  A fair number of people have already joined the site, but very few are posting there as of yet.  Today, I'd like to extend an invitation to friends, readers and allies in the third party and independent blogosphere to check out the site and consider signing up as bloggers.  You can crosspost articles from your own blog(s), share snippets of news items that you think would be of interest to independents and third party supporters, or publish original content.

Please also consider linking to this post and spreading the word. 

Aside from myself, a few others have begun publishing to the site.  Among them is Liberal Arts Dude.  Long time readers may recall that LAD retired from blogging after he became Liberal Arts Dad, but the new site and the energy of Occupy Wall Street have lured him back into the blogosphere.  Be sure to check out his recent posts there, beginning with his first, entitled, "How #Occupy Wall Street Gave Me My Groove Back."

Occupy Harlem: Protesters Demand an End to "Stop and Frisk"

Hundreds of protesters rallied at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building in Harlem New York yesterday before marching to the NYPD's 28th Precinct, where dozens were arrested after blocking the entrance to the building in an act of non-violent civil disobedience.  Among those arrested were Professor Cornel West, Carl Davis of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Rev. Stephen Phelps from Riverside Church.  The protesters demonstrated in opposition to the "stop and frisk" practices of New York City police.  In their remarks at the rally, Davis described the scope of the campaign, indicating that this protest was "only the beginning," while West placed the protest in the context of historical struggles for civil rights, and the Rev. Phelps elaborated on its spiritual and religious dimensions.  However, perhaps the the most powerful speech was delivered by John Hector, who described his own experiences being stopped and frisked by the NYPD.  Here's Mr. Hector's speech (video from the Daily News), amplified by the "human mic":



The New York Civil Liberties Union has reported that "3 million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2010, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports."

The use and abuse of "stop and frisk" – sometimes known as a Terry Stop after a landmark Supreme Court case – has skyrocketed in New York City over the last seven years.  According to the NYPD's reports, as relayed by the NYCLU, in 2004 just over 300,000 New Yorkers were stopped and/or frisked by police, 89% of whom were innocent, i.e. neither arrested nor issued a summons of any kind.  In 2006, just over 500,000 New Yorkers were stopped by police, 90% of whom were not arrested or given a ticket.  In 2010, over 600,000 New Yorkers were stopped by the police, 88% of whom were innocent. 

This year, the NYPD is on track to "stop and frisk" over 700,000 people in New York.  It should be added that many people are stopped and frisked multiple times over the course of a year, so these statistics may significantly underestimate the number of stops and frisks that are performed by police.  

The majority of those who are subject to routine abuse of stop and frisk authorities are black and latino (around 50% and 30%, respectively).  Only around 10% of those who are stopped and frisked in any given year are white.  The practice of stop and frisk by the NYPD is clearly biased and discriminatory. 

Moreover, it is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and its routine character makes it a grave threat to the rights and liberties of all Americans.

Under Terry Stop authorities, search and seizure are permissible on the basis of reasonable suspicion, which is a lower threshold than probable cause.  But what is the character of the "reasonable person" implied by the NYPD's practices?  The NYPD and Mayor Michael Bloomberg would have us believe that a reasonable person's suspicions would prove to be completely unfounded 90% of the time!  Moreover, they would also have us believe that a reasonable person's suspicions would be racially biased and discriminatory. 

This is not reasonable by any standard.  If anything, it is paranoid, hysterical and racist, and it is indicative of the systemic violation of fundamental rights and liberties in the United States today.  Apologists of these police state tactics say they are necessary to curb crime and maintain social order.  Critics within the city's political establishment, such as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer say they are inexpedient.  Such crass utilitarian arguments against the practice should be considered an obscenity, perhaps even more so than those put forward by its supporters.  The routine and systematic abuse of constitutional rights and liberties has no place in a free society, expediency be damned.

Here are some video clips I shot over the course of the demonstration:




Update: Protests continued today.  From CBS:
Dozens of “Occupy Wall Street” protesters marched in support of an annual protest against police violence Saturday.  The 16th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality was bigger than it has been in years past, according to its co-founder Carl Dix.

“Look, when we talk about the police brutality and repression, the people that comes down on primarily are part of the 99 percent, so we see it as a companion issue,” he told WCBS 880′s Monica Miller.

The Case for a Four Party System

There is no question that the people of the United States are indoctrinated into the intellectually and politically debilitating ideology of the two-party state from an early age.  But it remains an open question just when that ideology really takes hold in the minds of Americans since there are so many independent variables in play.  Whatever the case may be in that regard, younger Americans are among the most independently-minded segments of the electorate.  In an opinion piece for Fox News, Isaac Inkeles, a prep school student from New York City, makes the case for a four party system:
The more I watch Washington work, the more I am convinced that it doesn’t. This problem is not an invention of the 24-hour news cycle, talk radio, and the blogosphere; it’s systemic. Our two-party system thrives on partisan bickering and celebrates political intransigence . . . 
It seems that now more so than ever moderates have no political home. The obvious way to deal with this is to create a new third party, a purely centrist party.  The problem is that there is no base for a purely centrist party. If such a base did exist, one which backed spending cuts, tax hikes, and an environmental policy that is both green and economic, we’d have a President Bloomberg or President Huntsman. There is no centrist base in America . . .

Essentially, I would split each party in two. For the Republican Party, this would be as simple as establishing a separate Tea Party, most likely lead by Jim DeMint or Mike Lee –sorry, still no room for Ron Paul.
It also shouldn’t be too difficult to separate the Democratic Party. Just give Sherrod Brown a chance to unite with Berry Sanders and the Blue Dogs an opportunity to break free.
Not only do voting bases exist for these two new parties, but so do activists, donor lists, organizations, and elected officials. This means no lag time between the creation of the two new parties and the day they become competitive.

A four party system will also facilitate compromise in ways that a three party system cannot. . . . 
However, it’s very possible that in a four party system, the center right and center left parties could together control half of the seats in Congress. A compromise between these two parties –and the politicians in these parties wouldn’t be afraid to compromise because they’re, well, reasonable- would produce pragmatic policy, driven by practicality rather than ideology.

We must also have electoral reform. If all four parties are competitive than virtually every presidential election will go to the House. Even worse, for state and local elections, tactical voting will ensue. And why is tactical voting such a bad thing? Americans should feel free to vote their conscience and not feel constrained by strategic political concerns . . . .
Read the whole thing.

Occupy Harlem: Dozens Arrested in Protest Against NYPD "Stop and Frisk" Practices

Hundreds gathered today at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 125th Street in Harlem, NYC, to voice their opposition to the "stop and frisk" practices of the NYPD.  From the NYCLU:
An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that about 3 million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations from 2004 through 2010, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports . . .
"Stop and frisk" is a grave but routine violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and represents a direct threat to the rights and liberties of the people of the United States.  After a number of speeches, protesters then marched to the 28th Precinct of the NYPD, and blocked its doors in an act of non-violent civil disobedience.  Dozens were arrested.  Among them were Professor Cornel West, Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Rev. Stephen Phelps from Riverside Church, and many others.  A longer report with video will follow later today or tomorrow. 

Utah's Indepenent Majority Continues to Grow

From Randy Miller at The Hankster:
Not to be confused with the party of no, the first bloc of Utah voters to amass 1 million voters will be the unaffiliated or as we prefer independent voters--no party or party of no thanks. On May 31 the independent voter total was 987,244. Today, October 21, 2011 the total is 998,069. Harold Camping may be predicting that the end of the world is today, but Microsoft Excel is telling me that independents will officially reach the 1 million mark at 8:22 am on December 13, 2011.

Independent voter growth was roughly twice that of Republican voters during the period.

Snapshot of growth:

Tea Party Founder Speaks Out in Support of #OWS

Karl Denninger was an early founder and organizer of the Tea Party movement in January and February 2009.  Throughout 2010, he was outspoken in his opposition to the hijacking of the movement by the Republican party and has now begun speaking adamantly in favor of the Occupy Everything protests spreading across the country, identifying significant points of convergence between the goals of Occupy Wall Street and the original goals of the Tea Party movement.  A Huffington Post article on Denninger from October 2010:
Karl Denninger, an original organizer of the Tea Party, is out with a livid blog post blasting current leaders of the conservative movement and the apparent hypocrisy in their views of the economic issues that originally catalyzed its creation.
According to Denninger, "Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, and douchebag groups such as the Tea Party Patriots" are to blame for the bastardization of a movement that now seems focused on "Guns, gays, God," instead of the Tea Party's original mission: to castigate the federal government for supporting the "rampant theft" of taxpayer dollars that went toward "propping up FAILED private businesses."  Here's the down and dirty of what Denninger believes the Tea Party was all about:
In short, The Tea Party was and is about the the corruption of American Politics and the blatant and outrageous theft from all Americans that has resulted. It is about personal responsibility and enforcement of the law against those who have robbed, financially ****d and pillaged the nation . . . Tea Party my ass. This was nothing other than The Republican Party stealing the anger of a population that was fed up with The Republican Party's own theft of their tax money at gunpoint to bail out the robbers of Wall Street and fraudulently redirecting it back toward electing the very people who stole all the ****ing money!
Last weekend, Denninger posted a lengthy editorial on his website entitled "Occupy Pensacola: Alleged "Conservatives" Better Wake Up."  In the piece, Denninger documents his visit to a local Occupy protest in Pensacola Florida, which he attended with two officers of the Okaloosa County Libertarian Party, and debunks numerous talking points that have become common currency among Republican party hacks who seek to demonize Americans who are standing up in opposition to the cozy relationship between economic and political elites.  Excerpt:
Today I traveled to Occupy Pensacola.  Yes, folks, it's spreading.  I went for two reasons: I wanted to see this so-called progressive stack in action that I had heard was all the rage (and was basically reverse-discrimination) and I also was very interested in seeing what the composition of the crowd was like.  Full disclosure: I went with two officers of the Okaloosa County Libertarian Party, and we had signs too . . . .

now on that Progressive Stack thing.  While I was there they did the "people's mic" speaking deal, where people queued to speak and did the "three or four word" deal that was then echoed back through the crowd.  Unlike NYC it's legal to use a bullhorn, but about half of the speakers decided instead to use the "people's mic" - myself included.

I'm a white man, the last guy you'd think would get the chance to speak, right?  I'd be asked to "step back"?  Uh, no.  Anyone who stood in line got called in turn without fear or favor.  We were a nice motley crew made up of men and women of all ages, races, colors and sizes, and we all took our turn.  Nobody hogged the floor or said anything that could be reasonably attributed as communist or racist. 
But there was one overwhelming theme: The people have been robbed, the Wall Street and DC people did it, and the people have had enough of the lies, broken promises and outright theft. . . .

OWS looks like exactly what it appeared to be from 20,000 feet, despite the claims of many in the media and other so-called "punditry."  It's a group of very*****ed-off ordinary citizens who, as I noted on RT, know damn well they got serially screwed, but they're not sure exactly how. 
They know who did it though, and have identified the correct targets for their wrath.
Now it's time to see if the political establishment will Stop the Looting and Start Prosecuting, as they should have four years ago, because it certainly appears that this is not a "one-day" protest, it is a movement, and it's not going away.
The situation here is very simple: either you support the plutocratic collusion of big business and big government, or you do not.  If you support Republicans or Democrats, you do.  

Just Say "NO!" to the Two-Party State

A letter to the editor of The Aquarian Weekly:
“Two party system. Yeah!” After all these years, I finally get what you’ve been going on and on about, Mr. Campion (GOP VACUUM – Issue: 10/5/11). The choices are always the same. The ideas are always the same. The people are basically the same. We are stuck on a political merry-go-round and in a very real way it is fixed! The two party system must be eradicated, especially now that there are more independent voters, and an increasing number of non-party affiliated ideas/voters out there with cross-interests and now with these Tea Party and Wall Street movements, so many that are mainly fed up with the status quo, and not the Obama/Democrat status quo, or even the Bush/Republican status quo that bore it, but these refurbished, repackaged clones of the ones before who made us run in the opposite direction with this false hope that anything would change, just to finally and sadly realize it was the same failed junk over and over and over again.

What is Mitt Romney going to give us that the first two Bushes didn’t? Let’s face it, he’s basically Barack Obama without the personality. And why oh why did we believe Obama would be any different than anyone who came before in a Democrat suit. It makes the entire concept of voting seem silly. And that may be the saddest comment of all.

So, I can feel every dripping, disgusted bit of your sarcasm from here.  And now I reluctantly agree with its sobering premise.  Two party system, NO!

—Kathy Mason

From the Bottom Up: Removing the Foundations of the Two-Party State

One point that I've returned to again and again in these pages is the idea that to break the duopoly lock on our political process, we must work from the bottom up, beginning at the most intimate local levels, and resist the temptation to run before we can walk.  In The Daily Caller, James Poulos argues that it is by means of the national temptation that the ruling parties co-opt nascent political opposition movements.  Excerpt:
It seems ridiculous that the most famous utterance in living memory by a speaker of the House is that all politics is local. Those days are over.
But they don’t have to be. All that our legions of disgruntled Americans have to do is reject the animating principle of the parties: that if you’re searching for meaning, the only way you can find it through politics is to struggle for national power.
That fearsome proposition is the key to the parties’ power. It’s why, no matter how much money they raise, how much money they spend, or how much they fail in the process, voters keep coming back. And it’s why both parties work so relentlessly to co-opt the movements at their margins, laying claim to their causes to the precise extent that they don’t threaten their power . . .

All too swiftly, our protests fall in line with the hallmarks of party machines — the symbolism and the slogan-mongering, the clotting around established power centers, the divorce of political action from the places we call home. It’s not just that the targets of today’s national protects so quickly become abstractions, as Conor Friedersdorf observes at The Atlantic. That’s a symptom of the deeper problem. Even anti-establishment politics is being abstracted from real life because people are convinced at some gut level that this is the only way they can compete with the parties for attention and passion. 
[Our politics will fail] unless the mastery of our two parties over our political imaginations is broken — and along with it, the obsession with national policy that they cultivate to perpetuate control. If there’s really to be a revolution, the next act in today’s American protests will have to be going home — not just to a job (or a job search), but to the places where we really can govern ourselves again.
Some time ago, the people of the United States ceased to believe in the fiction that they are represented by the Republican and Democratic parties.  The edifice of the two-party state is built on sand.  All we need to do is dig it out and it will come tumbling down.  

What OWS Can Learn from the Tea Party Movement

It is not often that one can find Rush Limbaugh singing the praises of the New York Times.  Yet, a transcript of a segment from the radio entertainer's talk show from late last week finds El Rushbo doing just that.  Excerpt:
Ladies and gentlemen, there's a big piece in the New York Times Magazine coming this weekend.  It is entitled:  "Does Anyone Have a Grip on the GOP?"  The subhead:  "The Republican Elite Tries to Take Its Party Back."  This article prints like 24 pages.  It is a major, major New York Times Magazine piece.  It confirms everything that I have thought, everything I have speculated, everything I have said about the battle between the Republican elite and the Tea Party.
Has hell frozen over?  Have pigs grown wings and taken off for more comfortable sties?  The segment is entitled "GOP Elite Declares War on Tea Party."  Apparently, Limbaugh is concerned that the Republican party establishment is intent on destroying the Tea Party movement now that it is firmly entrenched within the party's ruling apparatus.  Excerpt:
I can't read the whole thing on the program; I don't intend to.  I've got some highlights or quotes that are illustrative here, but this is an open declaration of war from the GOP elites to the Tea Party, and it's right there in the New York Times.  And these Republican establishment types are more than willing to be quoted by name, and what I think it all means is they think that they've beaten the Tea Party hordes back.
Of course, those of us who are not blinded by an irrational allegiance to the parties of the ruling political class understand that the GOP's war against the Tea Party movement began over two years ago in the spring and summer of 2009 shortly after the Tea Party movement burst onto the national scene.  Republican party hacks infiltrated the movement and destroyed it from the inside by wedding it to the apparatus of the GOP.  Cooptation was their stated strategy from the very beginning.  By the time Tea Party groups began endorsing Republican party candidates, the Tea Party movement had already lost its war for political independence.  Ironically, the Republican party elite were aided in this effort by the likes of Rush Limbaugh himself who, time and again, argued against third party and independent political activism within the Tea Party movement.  This is a cautionary tale for the OWS protest movement spreading across the country and around the globe.

This discussion couldn't be any more timely, given the current danger posed to the Occupy Wall Street movement by the Democratic party and its deluded activists.  Via Tirade Faction comes a link to a recent article by Matt Taibbi warning that OWS is in danger of being coopted and castrated by the ruling political class and the corporate media in precisely the same way the Tea Party movement was.  Excerpt:
There is going to be a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.

This will be an effort to transform OWS from a populist and wholly non-partisan protest against bailouts, theft, insider trading, self-dealing, regulatory capture and the market-perverting effect of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks into something a little more familiar and less threatening, i.e. a captive "liberal" uprising that the right will use to whip up support and the Democrats will try to turn into electoral energy for 2012.

Tactically, what we'll see here will be a) people firmly on the traditional Democratic side claiming to speak for OWS, and b) people on the right-Republican side attempting to portray OWS as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests . . .

What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle . . .

Take, for instance, the matter of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks . . . This is an issue for the traditional "left" because it's a classic instance of overweening corporate power -- but it's an issue for the traditional "right" because these same institutions are also the biggest welfare bums of all time, de facto wards of the state who sucked trillions of dollars of public treasure from the pockets of patriotic taxpayers from coast to coast.

Both traditional constituencies want these companies off the public teat and back swimming on their own in the cruel seas of the free market, where they will inevitably be drowned in their corruption and greed, if they don't reform immediately. This is a major implicit complaint of the OWS protests and it should absolutely strike a nerve with Tea Partiers . . . .
Once again, as someone who was active in the Tea Party movement until it was hijacked and castrated by the GOP, I urge all Tea Party activists who have not yet sold their souls to the ruling political class to become active in this burgeoning opposition movement against the two-party state.  As an Independent and a supporter of third party and Independent alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats, I urge all Independents and third party supporters to do the same.  It is not a question of whether the forces of the ruling political class will attempt to destroy this movement.  It is a question of whether we will allow them to do so.  

From the Top Down: the Root of Failure for a Radical Moderate

In an opinion piece for the New York Times earlier this week, columnist David Brooks took issue with what he called "The Milquetoast Radicals" engaged in the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest in downtown Manhattan, arguing that "the moderates in suits are much more radical than the pierced anarchists camping out on Wall Street or the Tea Party-types."  The funny thing though is that the anarchists camping out on Wall Street have created a discursive space for the articulation of the policies espoused by the "radical suits" celebrated by Brooks.  I can only conclude that Brooks has not spent much if any time down at the demonstration's encampment, otherwise he might have learned that there is no lack of "radical suits" to be found there.  

Indeed, those who are most critical of the occupation protests often appear to be the most ignorant of them.  As I noted the other day, Herman Cain has asked why people are protesting on Wall Street but not at the White House.  Cain clearly has no idea what he is talking about, as Occupy DC has been camped out a block away from the White House for two weeks.  Alex Jones has argued that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are pawns of George Soros, since otherwise they would be protesting at the Federal Reserve.  Yet OWS protesters have staged numerous demonstrations outside the Federal Reserve building in New York, as have protesters in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC and elsewhere.  One of the most common criticisms that has been leveled against the protests is that the demonstrators are "disorganized and incoherent."  Yet they are organized and coherent enough to have created an infrastructure to maintain their presence for a full month while gaining the attention of the national and international press.

But back to Brooks.  There is a critical contradiction at the heart of Brooks' analysis.  He is among the handful of commentators in the corporate media who have come out in support of Americans Elect, along with other moderate and centrist advocates such as Matt Miller at the Washington Post, John Avlon at The Daily Beast and Tom Friedman at the New York Times.  As regular readers will surely understand, I am not unsympathetic to this position.  In his article, Brooks backs a recent piece by Miller.  He writes:
Look, for example, at a piece Matt Miller wrote for The Washington Post called “The Third Party Stump Speech We Need.” Miller is a former McKinsey consultant and Clinton staffer. But his ideas are much bigger than anything you hear from the protesters: slash corporate taxes and raise energy taxes, aggressively use market forces and public provisions to bring down health care costs; raise capital requirements for banks; require national service; balance the budget by 2018.
But what are the reforms that Brooks himself champions?  He writes in his intro:
Do tax reform, fiscal reform, education reform and political reform so that when the economy finally does recover the prosperity is deep, broad and strong.
Let's put aside the fact that there are already organized working groups at Occupy Wall Street that are specifically devoted to fiscal reform, education reform, political reform and so on.  Notice anything missing from the NYT columnist's list of necessary reforms?  That's right, electoral reform.  If we are going to break free from the Republican-Democrat political straitjacket that has paralyzed our politics and emaciated our political discourse, if we are going to implement the ideas that can be found in the ideal "third party stump speech," it will require serious electoral reform.  It will require experimentation with everything from alternative voting methods to ballot access reform to proportional representation to independent redistricting reform to open primaries and so on.  Yet such ideas are nowhere to be found among the proposals forwarded by Brooks, though they are common currency among the real radical moderates in the third party and independent blogosphere.  The operative flaw in Brooks's analysis becomes clear in the concluding lines of his article.  He writes:
Don’t be fooled by the clich├ęs of protest movements past. The most radical people today are the ones that look the most boring. It’s not about declaring war on some nefarious elite. It’s about changing behavior from top to bottom. [Emphasis added.]
False.  It's about changing behavior from the bottom up!  The notion that the types of reform advocated by Brooks himself can be accomplished "from top to bottom" reeks of authoritarianism and the delusional messianic faith in the imperial presidency common among Republicans and Democrats alike.  Real change will begin from the bottom up.  And it will begin with reforms that level the playing field for the 99% who are unrepresented by the two-party state and duopoly system of government.  Brooks may fancy himself a radical but he fails to get to the root of the problem.

Reform Party Launches "Our Solutions" Project

A letter to the editor of the Florida Times Union from the chairman of the Reform Party of Florida:
With unemployment over 9 percent, corporations outsourcing jobs and the federal government operating trillion dollar deficits, we should not wait until the elections in 2012 to determine our next steps as voters.

We need to field candidates for office who are not associated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. We need people who are willing to deliver real solutions. We need another political party.

The Democrats and Republicans are not built to solve problems any longer. Without meaningful competition from a third group, they instead compete among themselves to win elections. Both parties become subjects to their special interest groups and ideologies. Neither party can identify alternative ideas to solve problems or to compromise, which leaves us all caught between two failing sets of ideas.

The Reform Party is proud to announce a new initiative called "Our Solutions (www.oursolutions.org).

We are dedicated to identifying as many ideas as possible to solving our country's complex challenges.  The purpose of the Our Solutions website is to collect solutions to a series of important challenges. Our first challenge, "How can we create jobs in America?" All Americans can submit their solutions at: www.oursolutions.org. And while we collect your responses, we will hold online town hall meetings designed to hear from political leaders, business owners, members of academia and concerned Americans to go over these and other ideas.

We also will vote on many of the ideas people propose. A few weeks from now, we will share those results. If our elected leaders won't listen to the people, then we, the people, need to step forward and take action. It is time to take our country back from the professional politicians. Join our effort today.

Why the Tea Party Should Join the Occupation

It is both a strength and a weakness of the Occupy Wall Street protest that the movement has yet to develop a concrete list of proposals and demands.  On the one hand, it is arguably because there are no such demands that the movement has spread as quickly as it has.  Rather than dictating an agenda, the process has left open the space for the articulation of grievances and demands.  It is this openness, I think, which is attracting new participants.  On the other hand, because there are no such proposals and demands, the reactionaries who have stood in opposition to this movement from its inception have been able to simply pretend that they know what this movement stands for, what its demands are, what solutions it proposes.  Many of the movement's most vocal critics appear to be the most ignorant of it.  Herman Cain, for instance, has criticized Occupy Wall Street for being on Wall Street and not in front of the White House.  Is he simply not aware that Occupy DC has been camped out a block away from the White House for two weeks?  Reading such reports in the media, I am reminded more often that not of the liberal Democratic reaction to the Tea Party movement when it first began gaining steam in early 2009.  Yesterday, I suggested that there is significant overlap between the motivations of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement.  Though he reproduces a number of unfounded cliches that have become popular talking points among Republican party hacks, Wayne Allen Root, chairman of the Libertarian National Congressional Committee, and staunch supporter of the Tea Party movement, sees a significant amount of agreement between the Tea Party and the Occupation movement.  From Newsmax:
But what conservatives are missing is that the protesters have a few good points. The U.S. political system is corrupt. Big corporations, lobbyists, and lawyers are taking advantage of the taxpayers. The bailout of banks and Wall Street was a massive mistake. Billions handed out by government to Obama contributors under the guise of "green energy" is a looting of the taxpayers.

I’ve spent my life defending capitalism. But the system we have now isn’t capitalism. It’s “Crony Capitalism.” The banks, Wall Street, and big corporations have joined forces with politicians of both sides to fleece the American taxpayer. The billion-dollar public companies in America aren’t conservative or liberal. They are just out for themselves. And the rest of us be damned.

These big companies took capitalist risks, lost big, and then went to the government with hat in hand like welfare queens. The same banks that took billions in bailouts from the American taxpayers, then refused to lend to those same taxpayers. Many (but not all) bank and Wall Street CEOs joined with politicians in criminal conspiracies to loot our country and defraud taxpayers.

Conservatives need to face the truth. Just because we dislike the messengers, doesn't mean there isn’t some truth to the message . . .

as much as I hate to admit this, part of the protesters' message is striking deep in the gut of middle-class Americans. It's resonating with small business owners like me. We all feel it — our country is slipping away; special interests are looting the taxpayers; big corporations are gaming the system; the little guy is getting hit from all sides. Small business creates all the jobs, yet big business is making all the rules and stealing all the money.

The protesters are mostly jobless bongo-playing fools — for the moment. But, they are merely the canary in the coal mine for the serious unrest on the streets of America soon to come. Soon I fear the mobs will include rioting taxpayers, respected small business owners, grandmothers from Ohio, and veterans from Iowa. Add to the mix millions of formerly gainfully employed, middle-class Americans, now jobless for months, or years on end.

The D.C. politicians had better be afraid — very afraid. If the tea party, which also hates the Fed, and despises the bailouts, and wants to stop the looting of America by special interests, joins forces with the Occupy Wall Street crowd, all bets are off.


If that happens, both Nancy Pelosi and Herman Cain will be surprised at the depth of anger and despair. None of the fat cats or government bureaucrats in D.C. feel it, or understand it. They haven’t skipped a beat. Their checks are still big and getting bigger. Their pensions are gold-plated. Their healthcare is paid for life.

A Plea for Political Independence from the Parties of the 1%

There is an inspiring amount of third party and independent political activity happening at the occupation protests in New York and Washington DC.  Consider, for example, the case of the Greens.  In New York, Green party activists have been involved at Occupy Wall Street from the very first days of the protest.  A number of weeks ago a liaison from the party made an announcement at a general assembly pledging the full support of Green party activists all over the country and asking how Greens could help the movement.  A number of high profile Greens were present at the Freedom Plaza protests in Washington DC over the weekend, including Cheri Honkala, Howie Hawkins and Ralph Nader.  Now, it appears that Jill Stein, a former Green party candidate for governor of Massachusetts who is seeking the party's nomination for president in 2012, has been visiting Occupy Boston in recent days and campaigning in support of the 99%. 

It is not difficult to understand why third party and independent activists would be attracted to the Occupy Everything protests spreading across the country.  A simple explanation is embedded in the movement's most prominent slogan: We are the 99%.  The Democratic and Republican parties do not represent the interests of 99% of the American people.  They are the parties of the ruling financial oligarchy and political class.  They are the parties of the 1%. 

Democrats, obviously, are attempting to hijack this movement the same way the Republicans hijacked the Tea Party movement in 2009-2010 and the same way the Democrats hijacked the anti-war movement in 2005-2006.  At present, many participants in these protests appear to be vehemently intent upon maintaining their political independence.  Yet the same was true of Tea Party activists in the spring of 2009, and we know how that turned out.  The question is whether this movement will suffer the same fate.  The more important question is: what can be done to avert that outcome?

As someone who was active in the Tea Party movement until it was infiltrated and destroyed by the Republican party, I urge all Tea Party activists who have maintained at least a semblance of political independence to become involved in the occupation protests.  As an Independent, I urge all Independents to become active in this movement.  As an advocate of third party alternatives to the Democrat-Republican duopoly, I urge all third party activists to become involved in this movement.

Perhaps some may say they do not agree with the direction this movement is heading and refuse to become involved.  The funny thing is, if you become involved you can change its direction.  It is really that simple.   

DC Protests: Money Burns at the Federal Reserve, No Jobs at the Chamber of Commerce

So I'm back in NYC from DC.  Reports indicate that over the weekend hundreds of protests inspired by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstration were held in cities and towns across the country.  On Saturday, Occupy Wall Street entered its fourth week.

It was difficult to keep track of all the demonstrations and actions that were taking place in DC over the last five days.  On Thursday, thousands gathered in Freedom Plaza and marched to the Chamber of Commerce chanting "Where are the Jobs?!"  Not coincidentally, a series of banners spelling out the word 'JOBS' are currently hanging on the building's facade.  Here's a short video I shot in front of the Chamber:



Here's what the scene looked like from the steps of the Chamber:


On Friday, demonstrators marched to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to protest "global financial oligarchy," as one protester stated through a bullhorn in front of the entrance to the IMF.  On Saturday, hundreds if not thousands attempted to enter the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to stage a "die-in" at an exhibition devoted to military drones and to voice their opposition to the museum's decision to give a "place of honor to weapons of mass destruction," in the words of one organizer.  On Sunday, dozens of protesters called on the government to "End the Fed," marching under that banner to the White House and then to the Federal Reserve.  In front of the Federal Reserve, demonstrators burned Federal Reserve Notes in protest of the institution and its policies.  Here's a video I shot of the End the Fed march, which has a number of clips from in front of the White House and the Federal Reserve, where protesters burned money "in emulation of the government's policies," as one protester put it to me later:



A pic of protesters gathering in front of the Federal Reserve:


Perhaps the most interesting thing about seeing the protests in DC was witnessing people assembled in support of Occupy Wall Street.  Its one thing to know such events are being held, its another thing entirely to see them in person.  While chatting with a lot of folks, many were surprised to hear that I had come down from New York City for the protests in DC.  "You were up at Wall Street?!" they asked, "Why did you come down here?"  So I guess it's back to Occupy Wall Street for me.  There are some very interesting developments going on there within working groups devoted to formulating proposals and recommendations for electoral reform.

See also today's article at CAIVN for a bit more on the protests in DC.

Occupation Protest in Washington DC Continues, Demonstrators Pepper Sprayed inside Air and Space Museum

Demonstrations inspired by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest took place in cities across the country on Saturday.  In Washington DC, the Air and Space Museum was shut down after demonstrators were maced when trying to enter the building to protest an exhibition devoted to military drones.  The mainstream media are reporting that one person was pepper sprayed by museum security.  However, video of the incident shows that many people appear to have been hit with the spray.



More video can be found here.  I was not present for any of this march.  At an evening general assembly, which I observed, protesters reported that they were prevented from fully entering the museum and trapped within the outer and inner doors of the building, where a security guard maced the group.  The museum was shut down early because of the incident, presumably because all of the pepper spray in the doorway and entrance area. 

Thousands of protesters have converged in Washington DC over the last five days.  An umbrella group called Stop the Machine October 2011 organized the series of rallies and marches centered around Washington's Freedom Plaza in protest of the nation's ongoing wars and the corporate corruption of our nation's government by corporate interests.  However, it has now been subsumed by the Occupy Together movement that has sprung up in response to the protests in downtown Manhattan.  Protesters plan to remain in Washington after the organization's permits run out to maintain an ongoing demonstration similar to that in New York City. On Thursday protesters marched to the Chamber of Commerce.  Friday a protest was held outside the International Monetary Fund.  More events are planned for the coming days.

There are actually two encampments in Washington DC.  There is the group centered around Freedom Plaza and organized by Stop the Machine, but there is also Occupy DC, a spontaneous protest that sprung up in response to Occupy Wall Street and began about a week ago.  Dozens have been sleeping in the area around this group's main site at McPherson Square.  Their numbers swell into the hundreds over the course of the day when they gather for meetings and actions.  The two groups are separate, but have begun to coordinate their efforts. 

The apparently spontaneous movement that is now growing across the country invites comparison with the Tea Party movement, with many arguing that the Occupation protests will be subsumed by the Democratic party.  Democrats as well as labor and community organizations traditionally allied with the Democratic party have come out in vocal support of the protests.  Yet the protesters appear appear determined at this point to maintain their political independence.  A statement from From Stop the Machine:
We are receiving calls from people concerned that organizations are going to jump on the bandwagon of the "Occupy" Movement and offer resources or somehow co-opt the message and movement. We are aware of this possibility. We have been from the start.

We want our participants to know that we are dedicated to remaining an independent movement of the people. No organization will be in control of this movement. No funder will be in control of this movement.

When it comes to movements, common pitfalls come in the following three categories:

1. Co-option - an organization, political party or funder becomes very 'friendly' offering funds, resources and positions within their institution. In return for this, the message is taken over by that institution or the institution starts dictating what can and cannot be said. The October2011 Movement will not be co-opted.

2. Don't Back Down - as the movement gains strength, compromises or conciliations are made. Those in the movement start to feel that they have won and so start to back off or think that all is well now.  Victories will inspire us to push further until our full agenda is achieved. The October2011 Movement will not back down. Once we achieve the transformation we seek, we will have to protect it.

3. Elections - movements are lured into supporting or running candidates. When the candidate loses, the movement loses its momentum. If the candidate wins, he/she is brought into a dysfunctional system and finds out how little he/she is able to effect change. The October2011 Movement believes that the time to focus on elections will come when the political system has been transformed into a system that allows candidates to represent the views of the people rather than the needs of concentrated corporate power. That means we are independent of any candidate or political party.
In a message to media and people interested in the organization, Occupy DC underscores its political independence and emphasizes that it is separate from Stop the Machine:
We are not a party, and we will never be. Some news organizations have been trying to portray this movement as the “Democratic Tea Party equivalent;” this too is a misstatement. We are not a party, nor do we affiliate with any; this is a people’s movement. . . .  Our focus is on the economy, corporate corruption of our political system, and the negative effects of corporate personhood as it exists after decisions such as Citizens United and the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
There are numerous third party and independent activists at the sites in Washington DC and New York City.  The Green party's candidate for sheriff of Philadelphia, Cheri Honkala, addressed a rally at Freedom Plaza on Friday and called for the election of independent "people's sheriff's" across the country.  Her campaign site has full video of her address.  An excerpt:
What I’m doing is not symbolic. It’s concrete and Bill and Aida and Glenn who’s here with me today, like millions of people across this country are gonna lose their homes…unless you take this seriously and not just march about it, pray about it, and sing about it but help me fill every damn poll in Philadelphia where there’s a birthplace of revolution and change…we can do this again in this country and take our country back!
There are numerous individuals, working groups and committees within Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC brainstorming electoral reforms and developing policy recommendations to open up our political process to ensure adequate representation, at all levels of government, for the 99% of Americans who go unrepresented by the Democratic and Republican parties.  More to come in that regard in coming days.  

Politea at Occupy DC

As you might have noticed, it's been a couple days since the last post here at Politea. I'm down in DC to cover the Occupy DC convergence that began on Thursday. Thousands of people participated in various events yesterday and today. It is expected that more will likely arrive on Saturday and Sunday.  There are a lot of Greens from all over the east coast here and there is a significant Libertarian-leaning contingent as well, many of whom are sporting Guy Fawkes masks and Ron Paul t-shirts. From the Greens, Cheri Honkala addressed the crowd yesterday, Howie Hawkins was milling about and Ralph Nader is on schedule to speak tomorrow, among others. I haven't had regular internet access, but will hopefully have some in depth reports in the coming days as I synthesize all my notes and upload pics and video. And then its back to NYC.




OWS: Protesters Release First Issue of The Occupied Wall Street Journal

In recent days, protesters at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in lower Manhattan have begun distributing the first issue of The Occupied Wall Street Journal, a four page broadsheet with articles on the development and character of the protest since it began three weeks ago, and its implicit relation to similar movements around the world.  It also contains calls to action, information about upcoming marches, the first declaration of the general assembly, and how supporters can help.  Published by a group of activsts at Liberty Plaza, where protesters have been camped out for over two weeks, tens of thousands of copies are currently being handed out in New York City.

The paper is not yet circulating widely online and does not appear to have a website as of this writing.  Mainstream media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider have published photographs of the paper, and some blogs are circulating pdf files.

However, you can read a copy of The Occupied Wallstreet Journal online in its entirety at Third Party Independent.  Be sure to check out the second print issue of Third Party Independent, published in late August, while you're there as well. 

Since the Occupy Wall Street demonstration began on September 17th, protesters have consistently criticized the mainstream media for their coverage of the event or their lack thereof.  The publication of The Occupied Wall Street Journal would seem to represent an attempt to counter the narratives about the movement that have been, and are in the process of being constructed in the corporate press.  The Wall Street Journal provides details and background on its counterpart's origins. 

The Solution to the Two-Party System is a One-Party System?

In local, state and national level newspapers, it may be the case that you are most likely to see calls for alternatives and opposition to the Republican-Democrat two-party state and duopoly system of government in the letters to the editor section.  One can find letters from advocates for individual third parties or for a third party alternative in general, from Independents proposing reforms to our political and electoral system, and even from Republicans and Democrats who have become disillusioned with the two-party state.  Every once in a while, you'll see calls to abolish parties altogether and suggestions for the establishment of a no-party state.  But the following letter to the editor of the Post Crescent in Appleton, Wisconsin, has a suggestion which I don't think I've ever seen before, or if so, only rarely.  The author argues that a one-party system would be preferable to the current two-party system.  Excerpt:
I read with interest the commentary from Jean Thompson in the Sept. 20 Post-Crescent ("Nation needs change from two-party system"). I have been saying for many years that this country, from the national to the state to the local levels, needs to change from the two-party system.Like Jean wrote, we all know too well the two-party system isn't working. All the politicians — from Washington to Madison to the municipalities — think about is party unity. Stop and think about it.

If a member of Congress from either party submits a bill, all members of the other party tend to vote against it, even if the bill is for the good of the country.  Elected officials don't care about the good of the country anymore but only care about party unity. This country wouldn't be in the mess its in today if we had a one-party system.  With a one-party system, when a bill is brought up on the floor for a vote, all members would be voting for or against the bill's merits, not because of which party submitted it.
This sounds kind of like a proposal for a no-party system rather than a one-party system.  Perhaps the letter's author did not express himself as clearly as he could have.  But the criticism is clear.  When Democrats and Republicans vote on a bill, the bill's merits and the interests of the people of the United States often take a back seat to the interests of the representative's party and his or her corporate sponsors.  

There's Only Two Parties and We're Not Invited

Since the Occupy Wall Street protests began on September 17th, I have spent a fair amount of time down at the protest site.  I have spent much of that time observing the assemblies and interviewing participants, while handing out print copies of Third Party Independent, but I have also participated in a number of rallies, marches and discussions.  The protesters are a pretty diverse lot, with people coming and going from the site almost constantly.  One thing almost everyone I've talked to there seems to agree upon is that the Democratic and Republican parties do not represent the people of the United States.  To put it in the terms that have become common among the protesters, the Democrats and Republicans together form the party of Wall Street, representing the top 1% to the detriment of the remaining 99%.  I have taken a fair amount of pictures of the protests and marches, but so far this one, taken on Saturday, is my favorite.  It speaks for itself.

Over 700 Arrested in Occupy Wall Street Protest as Movement Continues to Grow Across the Country

Well over 700 people were arrested in downtown Manhattan on Saturday as demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street protest attempted to march over the Brooklyn Bridge (see update below).  Shortly after 3pm, thousands of demonstrators stepped off from the protest's encampment at Liberty Plaza to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge for a planned picnic.  Hundreds remained behind at the encampment.  The march proceeded north on Broadway, remaining on the sidewalk, and then headed east toward the entrance of the bridge's  pedestrian walkway.  Those at the front of the march filed onto the pedestrian walkway, but at some point demonstrators began entering the Brooklyn bound vehicular roadway, which was free from traffic as the march crossed the street toward the pedestrian path.  Many protesters clearly understood that taking to the street represented an act of civil disobedience, chanting "take the bridge."  Organizers positioned themselves at the entrance to the bridge, shouting that the march was intended to go over the pedestrian walkway and that taking the street would be a direct action.  However, there was a lot of confusion about whether or not the bridge had been shut down so demonstrators could march across, with many seemingly believing that police were leading the demonstration across the bridge.  See this extensive video from the front of the march.  The New York Times City Blog describes the scene fairly accurately:
Where the entrance to the bridge narrowed their path, some marchers, including organizers, stuck to the generally agreed-upon route and headed up onto the wooden walkway that runs between and about 15 feet above the bridge’s traffic lanes.

But about 20 others headed for the Brooklyn-bound roadway, said Christopher T. Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who accompanied the march. Some of them chanted “take the bridge.” They were met by a handful of high-level police supervisors, who blocked the way and announced repeatedly through bullhorns that the marchers were blocking the roadway and that if they continued to do so, they would be subject to arrest.

There were no physical barriers, though, and at one point, the marchers began walking up the roadway with the police commanders in front of them – seeming, from a distance, as if they were leading the way.
Well over a thousand people entered the roadway.  Here's a pic I shot from the pedestrian walkway, showing how the crowd split between the walkway and the roadway:


The demonstrators quickly took over the street:





Many people falsely believed they would be escorted across the bridge by police who were walking at the front of the march.  However, eventually a police line approached the march from the opposite end of the bridge, stopping the protesters about a third of the way across.  A police line also followed the marchers onto the bridge, kettling the group there.  After some very tense moments, with scuffles between police and protesters as arrests were begun, protesters at the front of the march locked arms and police proceeded to arrest them one by one.


At the back of the march, police allowed some demonstrators to leave the bridge back toward Manhattan.  The rest were penned in with nets and were arrested over the course of the next few hours.  A video from the walkway above the roadway:


Those on the walkway were told by police that the bridge was being shut down and they must proceed to Brooklyn.  However, eventually, pedestrian traffic was opened up in both directions.  Back at the entrance to the bridge, scores of police officers blocked all traffic toward Brooklyn, and hundreds of protesters gathered across the street facing the bridge. 

 

If police had simply allowed protesters to walk across the bridge, the whole march would likely have been in Brooklyn in under an hour.  On the other hand, it likely took at least four or five hours to arrest all the protesters one by one and load them onto buses to take them to local precincts in Brooklyn and Manhattan for processing.  Many protesters believe they were essentially tricked into taking to the street across the bridge.  From the NYT again:
many protesters said they believed the police had tricked them, allowing them onto the bridge, and even escorting them partway across, only to trap them in orange netting after hundreds had entered.
“The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway,” said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who marched but was not arrested.
The previous day, thousands had taken part in a rally and march against police brutality following the violent arrests of scores of protesters the week before.  By 6:30pm on Saturday, thousands of people had converged once again in Liberty Plaza and participated in the evening general assembly.  The protest's legal working group briefed the crowd on those who had been arrested.  A video:


Occupation protests are now underway in cities across the country.  Protest have been ongoing in Chicago for at least the last week.  Two dozen people were arrested in Boston on Saturday protesting home foreclosures.  Six were arrested during a similar action in San Francisco.  Hundreds have begun gathering in Los Angeles.  An occupation protest is set to begin in Washington DC this Thursday.  An umbrella site for the growing movement lists events planned in dozens of cities across the country.

Update:  People who are interested in learning more about what happened on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday have written in asking me if I was there (and if so, then where?), or if I was just building on the reports and words of others.  Good question, which I probably should have clarified.  Most of the video and pictures I have provided thus far on the Occupy Wall Street protests here at Politea are my own.  I took all the pics and video in this post myself.  I walked with the march from Liberty Plaza to the Brooklyn Bridge.  I did not plan to go all the way to Brooklyn, as I did not want to walk or take the subway back to Manhattan.  I was near the middle/back of the march.  When that portion of the march got to the entrance of the bridge, people in front of us were streaming onto the walkway and onto the roadway, and we were confronted by organizers explaining that taking the street was very different from taking the pedestrian walkway.  There were no police that I noticed providing any such guidance.  After a second's thought, I opted for the walkway.

I have been going down to the OWS site on a regular basis since it first started on September 17th because I think it may grow into a significant social-political movement.  And since I'm in NYC, I have the opportunity to provide first hand coverage for my dear readers from across the country here at Politea. Am I participating or am I observing?  The answer is both.  The line between observer and participant can become blurred very quickly in the often chaotic scenes at Liberty Plaza, especially on the protest marches.  Though I have spent the greater portion of my time there observing, doing interviews for Politea and CAIVN, or handing out copies of Third Party Independent, I have participated in a number of rallies and marches on issues which I support.
 
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