#OccupyTheCourts Gets Tense in Washington D.C.

  1. Corporations Are Not People – End Corporate Personhood – Occupy The Courts
  2. Today is the day of #OccupytheCourts! We the People must expel the influence of big money from our elections. We must evict corporate persons from Washington and occupy our democracy. Stand up and join fellow Americans (real people flesh and bones!) at a federal courthouse near you today.
  3. In Denver:
  4. In Portland:
  5. RT @pamhogeweide: #occupythecourts @OccupyPdx #opdx ppl are SO ready to MARCH and speak with our feet! CORPORATIONS are NOT People! #MovetoAmend
  6. And in Washington D.C.:
  7. RT @TheOther99: BREAKING: #J20 protesters erupt in cheers as they run up the Supreme Court steps past Police.. #J20 #OccupytheCourts #OWS
  8. Protesters Rush Steps of US Supreme Court
  9. TENT MONSTER? RT @aubreyjwhelan: There is a protester here legitimately wearing a tent. #occupydc
  10. The mood changes soon, however.
  11. RT @NinaNerdFace: Two undercovers punched protesters which started all this. We have pics. We can haz dox? #occupydc #occupythecourts
  12. Cops have protesters pinned to the ground at #SupremeCourt and are issuing arrests. Reports of 4 arrested so far #occupythecourts
  13. Supreme Court Police violence
  14. Police brutality, Arrests, Undercovers Unmasked outside SCOTUS
  15. RT @vtknitboy: RT @sickjew: High-res photos being taken of plainclothes cops for future reference #ows #j20 #occupythecourts (live at ustre.am/EqY3)
  16. So I get to say I danced with a riot cop today. He held my elbow as I walked backwards down the steps bc the guy behind me wouldn’t move
  17. RT @KyleGrainger: RT @NBCNews: Supreme Court says 13 people were arrested today during #OccupyTheCourts demonstration.

#Occupy Heads to Washington D.C.

  1. The 2 party system is failed. Vote against both sides. They try to keep us divided to continue their benefits. Fire them all. #J17
  2. #J17 The avg cost of a Senate seat is $8.5 million. $ is overwhelmingly from the financial sector. tinyurl.com/66xvxo #ConnectTheDots
  3. #j17 #occupycongress democracy begins (not ends) at the ballot box.
  4. A few hundred marching from McPherson now to join the convergence. #j17 #occupycongress
  5. Hundreds chanting outside Congress. Cops erecting barricades. #j17
  6. The fences on west front have been ripped down. #J17
  7. police is starting to push people back from #J17 #OWS
  8. #j17 #ows in DC chanting: the 1st amendment is my permit!
  9. Six cops to take a 60 yr old man to the ground! Police brutality badge # 3081. #j17
  10. At this point, the growing crowd has moved to the west front lawn of the Capital.
  11. This crowd continues to grow. Easily over 1000 now. A “Voltron” GA is organizing soon (inter-occupational GA). #j17
  12. Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis is spotted on the non-permitted side of the Capital lawn.
  13. Police are not letting Captain Ray come over to us. #j17
  14. I couldn’t see over the crowd but @DustinSlaughter says he believes the 2 arrestees were taken into the Civil Disturbance Unit van
  15. @punkboyinsf confirms a total of 3 arrests so far. #j17
  16. One takeaway from #J17 #OccupyCongress – We should prolly find a way 2 make #Occupy more appealing to more “meat eaters” 🙂 #OccupyEveryone
  17. About 30 protesters took balcony area, dropping a banner before police swarmed up the steps. Others cont. inside. No arrests. #Rayburn #j17
  18. A protester reportedly had a seizure at Rayburn. #j17
  19. #Rayburn is trending in DC. #j17 #OccupyCongress
  20. Reports that the west lawn of the capital is being surrounded. We’re heading over to confirm. #j17 #OccupyCongress
  21. Heading back towards congressional offices. Apparently protesters have moved on from #Rayburn. #j17
  22. Metro police apparently trying to scare people off of the street, create confusion. Motorcycles zipping down sidewalks. #j17
  23. “@Re_Occupy: One of the largest acts of “civil disobedience” on steps of the U.S. Supreme Court youtu.be/BS_BJhL82YI #OccupyCongress #J17”
  24. Occupy Congress: the evening march and the storming of the supreme court
  25. The march has taken the entire width of Constitution Ave. A man in a tent sprinted right by me. #j17
  26. Occupy Congress. Stop the march to read the First Amendment.
  27. Veterans at White House fence lead mic check: “Today is the first day of the revolution! American empire is no more!” ustream.tv/occupyfreedomla
  28. #J17 Occupy Congress March Pt 7 Amarillo 13 OakFoSho January 17, 2012 Washington DC
  29. @SabzBrach and I spotted a few riot cops on periphery of White House rally. Not sure what to make of it. They didn’t want photos taken. #j17
  30. The rally is thinning out. No tension in the air. I think this riot gear is simply protocol. #j17
  31. The presence of riot cops makes sense now. I had not heard of this incident until later that night.
  32. @FearDept Occupiers said the smoke was “incense” but we’re not falling for that one, probably illegal narcotics or bombs #FIGHTPEACEMONGERS
  33. Approx. 50 remaining at the capital. I’m about to call it a night and head back to McPherson. #j17
  34. #j17 kudos to DC cops. If this had been NY we’d have had cracked skulls & mace. Turns out the world doesn’t end if police r civil. #OWS

Al-Jazeera English’s Danny Schechter: “A Happy ‘News’ Year”

OWS protesters attempt to enter Zuccotti Park on New Year's Eve 2011 in Lower Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Newsone.com

Editor’s note: As editorial writer Danny Schecter (@Dissectorvents) points out in the following opinion piece, New Year’s Eve in New York City’s Time Square was a surreal spectacle. While Lady Gaga kissed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “the NYPD, a force he [Bloomberg] recently had the temerity to call his ‘private army’, pepper sprayed an attempt by Occupy Wall Street to regain the park [Zuccotti Park] they had been forcibly ousted from a few miles downtown.”

He goes on to note:

“”Happy New Year” has become a mantra of good cheer and smiles all around but it’s a sentiment that’s strangely disconnected from any deeper reality.

Would so many millions be cheering if they had any inkling of what lies ahead, as one really bad year foreshadows one that may be even worse?”

Indeed. In a society that has been warped by celebrity culture, and that has swallowed what Benjamin DeMott calls “junk politics”, the only thing the masses can do is watch an oligarch kiss a media-created fantasy like Lady Gaga during a thoroughly-commercialized event in Times Square, while the country plunges head-first into what many are predicting to be a very bleak year.

Meanwhile, the 68 Occupy Wall Street protesters who know perfectly well that this country is living in an illusion are brutally arrested and will continue to be villified by many in the media who either choose to ignore what the Occupy movement represents or truly cannot fathom what it means.

Schecter’s piece is republished here under Al-Jazeera’s Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License agreement.

New York, NY – Who doesn’t love fireworks, especially on New Year’s Eve, when it’s out with old and in with the new?

Who knows how much all these crowd-pleasing explosives cost as they ricochet from loud celebrations all over the globe?

And who cares? Many partygoers got too drunk to think about it.

Here, in New York, the great ball drop in Times Square has blown up into a major spectacle with celebrities galore that is followed by entertainment specials on every network.

We had Lady Gaga kissing Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the NYPD, a force he recently had the temerity to call his “private army”, pepper sprayed an attempt by Occupy Wall to regain the Park they had been forcibly ousted from a few miles downtown.

Sixty-eight activists became the first arrestees of 2012.

Mayor Bloomberg and Lady Gaga kiss in Times Square to bring in 2012. Photo courtesy of Mamapop.com

“Happy New Year” has become a mantra of good cheer and smiles all around but it’s a sentiment that’s strangely disconnected from any deeper reality.

Would so many millions be cheering if they had any inkling of what lies ahead, as one really bad year foreshadows one that may be even worse?

The hunger for happiness and the ability to deny reality is pervasive, and permeates borders everywhere.

Somehow there are those who know how truly absurd it is to celebrate when your life is about to turn for the worse. But, even if many did know, would they know what to do?

As Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes, “Could there be a single phrase that explains the woes of our time, this dismal age of political miscalculations and deceptions, of reckless and disastrous wars, of financial boom and bust and downright criminality?”

Maybe there is, and we owe it to Fintan O’Toole. That trenchant Irish commentator is a biographer and theatre critic, and a critic also of his country’s crimes and follies, as in his gripping book, Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger.

He reminds us of the famous saying by Donald H Rumsfeld, the former United States secretary of defence, that “There are known knowns… there are known unknowns… there are also unknown unknowns”.

But the Irish problem, says O’Toole, was none of the above. It was “unknown knowns”.

Given the degraded state of American media, we can’t assume that a TV-addicted audience of young people can know how bad it is or will become.

These partying crowds would have to wait a day to hear the BBC predict the downturn that awaits Europeans:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe was experiencing its “most severe test in decades…

France’s President Sarkozy said the crisis was not finished, while Italy’s president called for more sacrifices.

Growth in Europe has stalled as the debt crisis has forced governments to slash spending.

Protesters across Europe strike and demonstrate against severe austerity measures. Photo courtesy of SFGate.com

The leaders’ New Year messages came as leading economists polled by the BBC said they expected a return to recession in Europe in the first half of 2012.

Liberal economists like Paul Krugman at the New York Times have dismissed any talk of recession. He says the right word to use is depression. Politicians who believe that it takes confidence to promote a recovery want to stay positive, even though critics call this confidence-hype a “con game”.

“These realities will only be more obvious when gas goes to $5 a gallon… when more students drop out because they can’t afford the loans or tuition.”

Attorney Max Gardener, who runs popular “boot camps” for bankruptcy and foreclosure defence lawyers, knows the personal details of the avalanche of distress among the Middle class. He is skilled at fighting back, but is not optimistic in his New Year’s predictions, which include:

The unemployment rate will not drop below 7.00 per cent at any point during the year and will be above 8.00 per cent for at least half of the year. With our educational system in disarray, and technical skills at an all-time low among US workers, the fact of the matter is that all of the good jobs are in China, India, Vietnam, Brazil, Thailand and Argentina.
One of the top 10 United States banks will fail or be forced into a takeover by the end of the year. My best guess is Bank of America. BOA will be forced into liquidation under the too big to fail provisions of the Dodd Frank Act. The FHFA as conservator of BOA may impose the Chapter 13 principal reduction programme for all loans and serviced by the Bank.
The number of homes in foreclosure will double or triple from 2011 levels and home values will drop by another 15 per cent to 20 per cent by the end of year. I do not expect to see any real recovery in the housing market until at least 2022.

Ok, maybe this is all boring stuff that glazes over most minds. It’s certainly not as much fun as reading about Hollywood scandals.

These realities will only be more obvious when gas goes to $5 a gallon, when more cities plunge into darkness to save money on electricity, or when more students drop out because they can’t afford the loans or tuition.

As the Movie Biz is reporting one of its worst years, food prices are rising although some of this is invisible because of new packaging techniques that permit selling fewer of a product for more.

It is no wonder then that politicians don’t want to sound like bad news bears and talk about any of this because they know they can’t do anything. Politicians can’t tell markets what to do.

They prefer to demonise Iran perhaps in the hope that a new war will divert public attention and get keep the military-industrial complex generating new jobs. They are always on the prowl for new threats to exploit.

President Obama has now written off the possibility of doing anything new while planning to wage war on the Republican Congress as his campaign focus. The Republicans, meanwhile, are still battling each other, determined to prevent the rich from paying a fairer share of taxes.

As the New Year comes in with a bang, we are seeing our politics recede with a whimper, with signs of paralysis and stalemate all around. Even Lady Gaga can’t help us now.

News Dissector Danny Schechter is a blogger, author and filmmaker. His latest DVD is Plunder: the Crime of Our Time. He also hosts News Dissector Radio on ProgressiveRadioNetwork.com. Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org

The Commodification of America

Artwork by Banksy. Photo by Chris Muniz.

Editor’s note: Guest writer John T. Marohn (@johntmarohn) was kind enough to allow the Project to republish this excellent piece on the commodification of America, wherein he asks the crucial question: “Is America for sale?”

Mr. Marohn is a retired college teacher, a freelance writer, novelist, poet, socio-political commentator, international film critic, and recovering alcoholic. John currently lives in Buffalo, New York. Please visit his website: Against the Grain.

“Business — that’s easily defined: it’s other people’s money.”
– Peter Drucker

“The social responsibility of Business is to increase profits.”
– Milton Friedman

“First amendment never shows why freedom of speech…did not include the freedom to speak in association with other individuals, including association in the corporate form.”
– Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission

There it is folks. The American way: Profits. Corporate free speech. Other people’s money.

There is little doubt that America has become the global symbol for upward mobility, profits, and economic success. But we have also become the global capital of commodification in all of its forms, including prisons, education, health care, and, more cruelly, in our political arenas.

There are few institutional venues in the United States that aren’t, in some way, touched—some would say tainted—by the profit motive. Politicians curry favor with the wealthy who contribute to their campaigns. The health care system continues to be driven by ever increasing profits. The national defense budget has become so entrenched with defense contracts that it would be safe to say that United States Defense is an industry in and of itself.

And some of the top universities are run as corporations with heavy endowments, investments in the stock market, and huge government grants. Not to mention the sports industry that dominates the budgets of many very wealthy universities and colleges throughout the United States.

Who would have thought that we could have moved from an innocent laissez-faire economic model that still works well in the small local merchant world to a sprawling octopus of big-business and global corporatism running through every artery of our society.

Is America really for sale? It seems so.

I live in a small urban area in Western New York. Almost every day, I stop at one particular intersection that has a long wait at the traffic signal (there are at least six or seven traffic lanes the traffic light has to accommodate). If I’m in the south lane of traffic, I get a chance to see one billboard, conveniently placed on top of a two-story building.

It is always an ad about a particular hospital. The latest ad makes the claim that the hospital successfully treated more strokes than any other hospital. I wasn’t sure whether the hospital meant that stat to apply to the whole world, in Western New York, in the state, or throughout the United States.

I was not comforted by the fact that the hospital is scheduled to close within a year. I could only assume that, before the hospital goes down, it wanted to make one last foxhole effort to redeem itself from anonymity.

I also suppose that if I felt a stroke coming on, I would quickly flash back to my intersection stop, the billboard sign would pop up in my Pavlovian mind’s eye, I would call 911 and have the ambulance take me to the hospital’s emergency room. Ah, the power of advertising.

It is impossible to escape ads on television. The pharmaceutical and health-care industries are two of the many blatant users of the television ad industry. Marketing, of course, is the name of the game.

Image courtesy of semissourian.com

And marketing is not so much about “actual” competence as it is about the “image” of competence. Americans are supposed to believe, in theory anyway, that if an ad, especially a big billboard ad, says a health-care provider is good, then it must be true.

My point here is that the commodification of the health care industry is not just about health insurance premiums, deductibles, copays (all business terms, by the way); it is also engaged in the pro-active marketing industry.

And the commodification of health insurance is so widespread that Americans begin to believe that the privatization model is the only model that has any credibility. It becomes extremely anxious about even discussing Medicare-for-all paradigm because the health insurance industry controls the narratives in employer-sponsored health insurance policies, in the group plans strategy, in television and other media advertising, and in the lobbying halls of Congress.

More tragically, the health insurance industry completely dominates the “language” of health insurance with all the business panoply of words that have crept into the American vocabulary—premiums, deductibles, plans, copays. One can easily say, that the health insurance industry, through its control of the health insurance language, has made it almost impossible to think outside the box.

Americans have bought the insurance model for health care, not just because it is necessarily better model, but because, in theory, it is supposed to “insure” the patient that they won’t be saddled with a financial medical burden. That is the purpose of insurance: to protect a consumer from financial ruin by having an insurance plan. And the insurer hopes that not everyone in the plan needs to cash in at the same time.

However, “insurance” is a business. Businesses need to make a profit. Profits cannot take a back seat to expensive medical procedures that have the potential to put them out of business. So, you can be sure, a profit-driven company is going to do everything it can to scrutinize, stop, or delay a payment to a doctor or a hospital, especially if a procedure does not appear to be “cost-effective.”

Insurance, as Americans have come to know, is definitely a business. It is very much like having a debit card. A customer puts money into the premium. The premium is stored with other customer premiums. And the insurer holding those premiums pays a doctor or a hospital from those premiums after reviewing the doctor or hospital’s bill for a procedure, an office visit, an operation, or a test.

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle and the Salt Lake Tribune.

Now credit, on the other hand, is another model that a consumer can use to pay off a medical bill with a credit card, if they don’t have the cash or their insurance deductible is too high, or they don’t have any insurance. Of course, a credit card is also a very expensive way to pay off a medical bill because of the monthly interest charges

Credit, the more sophisticated capitalist term for money that’s available to borrow, has also crept into the higher ed business. Students generally take out loans from the federal government or a bank. The total amount of those loans has begun to rise in the US and graduating students are now confronted with a jobless work environment and a student loan to pay off.

What about politics? Well, the evidence, to most Americans is pretty well known. Lobbyists spend an awful lot of money in Washington to plead their cases. And the corporate world has now won a victory with the Citizens United case which allows corporations, unions,and non-profit political fronts to pour unrestricted amounts of money into media advertising. This, of course, is a variation of buying influence. After all, campaign money is not just about supporting a candidate; it is also a way of trying to convince a candidate to vote a particular way.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about a capitalist/corporate/business-model system that is out of control. When politicians can be bought, when health care has become a very expensive business, when our college education system has become burdened with rising student debt, when some of our prisons can be owned by shareholders, when the business model of running a country has seeped into the country’s pores, on all levels, this younger, very articulate group of protesters are beginning to see how deep and wide the cracks in capitalism really are.

Let us hope that we can find alternative ways to vote on public policy in America, to educate our youth, and to give reasonable health care.

Occupy the Justice System: Jury Nullification

Woman pepper-sprayed. Photo from BagNewsNotes.com

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
Thomas Jefferson

The Occupy movement has been instrumental in not only changing our national conversation on issues such as poverty and massive income inequality, but on shedding an unwavering light on the corporate criminal class too. The movement has these moneyed thugs shaking, and one need look no further for evidence of this than in the violent, disproportionate use of force on occupations across America. Perhaps just as importantly, Occupy has inspired a new generation of activists, as well as formerly apathetic ones (mine included) to shake off despair and fear, and join the struggle.

These past few months have been a crash course in what an oligarchic police state looks like, as well as what it truly means to exercise peaceable assembly for a redress of political grievances. At its most fundamental level, the movement has been a wild civics lesson in what it truly means to be a citizen, and how to fight for a better country.

The next civics lesson? Teaching our fellow citizens about another subversive tool that, if Occupy can manage, will change the way Americans participate in our dysfunctional criminal justice system: jury nullification.

Consider the fact that the United States jails more people per capita than any other country in the world: 2.3 million Americans are currently behind bars, and a staggering 25% of those cases are for nonviolent drug offenses. Not only that, but the majority of those incarcerated for these offenses are predominantly African American. This is taking an unimaginable toll on their community. Empowering jurors with the knowledge of jury nullification might be a tremendous first step in correcting an out-of-control criminal “justice” system, and would have the added effect of boldly challenging a monstrous prison-industrial-complex.

Secondly, the power of jury nullification could have far-reaching effects for sustaining and even emboldening the Occupy movement. This is not hard to imagine. Consider this hypothetical:

A group of protesters are on trial for a peaceful sit-in at an empty school or financial institution, in which they were arrested for, say, defiant trespassing. The protesters make the case that they engaged in civil disobedience in order to shed light on an injustice done to the community, such as a school closure due to unfair austerity measures, or predatory lending practices which result in community members getting kicked out of their homes. Now imagine a jury informed of their right to base their verdict on conscience, instead of a modern legal system which is often incapable of flexibility when it comes to cases involving civil disobedience. The jury would not be bound to issue a verdict within the confines a judge (who would not inform them of the right to nullify) has set for them, but instead weigh the merits of a statute in which no one was physically harmed and the “crime” itself was done out of an educated, moral concern for society. They refuse to convict the defendants, despite the fact that the protesters clearly broke a trespassing law. They would have based their verdict on the belief that the law, as applied to this particular circumstance, is unjust – and not on reasonable doubt.

Now take this a step further and imagine if juries across the country began voting this way. It would have the effect of nullifying laws considered unjust. This has already happened in Montana:

In Montana last year, a group of five prospective-jurors said they had a problem with someone receiving a felony for a small amount of marijuana. The prosecutors were freaked out about the “Mutiny in Montana” and were afraid they were not going to be able convince12 jurors in Montana to convict. The judge said, in a major New York Times article, “I’ve never seen this large a number of people express this large a number of reservations” and “it does raise a question about the next case.”

It may have also played a significant role in ending alcohol prohibition and the criminalization of gay sex.

There is a storied precedent for this right of juries, dating back to the year 1215 with the inception of the Magna Carta. Another “high profile” example of this can be found in the story of Pennsylvania’s own William Penn. A more notable instance of the use of jury nullification can be found in the history of the Fugitive Slave Act during the 1850s.

Indeed, the right of juries to nullify is embedded in our very own Bill of Rights.

How exactly to go about informing juries can be dicey, as the example of a retired chemistry professor named Julian P. Heicklen shows:

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor, with jury tampering because he stood outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan providing information about jury nullification to passers-by.

Despite the obvious resistance from authorities this effort will create, it’s certainly a new front that the Occupy movement should – and must – open, as it already has with other facets of the American criminal justice system.

Editor’s note: The Project is heading to Washington, D.C. to cover the #J17 events this month. We cannot do it without your generosity, so if you enjoy the coverage and celebration of protest culture that we provide, please consider a small donation of just $10. Thanks so much for your continued support!

The Rain and the Reckoning: William Rivers Pitt on the State of Occupy

Occupy Wall Street's December 17th march to re-occupy vacant space owned by Trinity Wall Street church. Photo by Dustin Slaughter.

Editor’s note: This beautiful piece by William Rivers Pitt sums up where, I feel, the Occupy movement stands currently, and captures it with pure poetry. Enjoy.

“…and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time.” – Robert Penn Warren

Dewey Square, the patch of earth in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Building and One Financial Center that Occupy Boston protesters called home from September to December, is empty now. The same can be said for the original Occupy space at UC Davis, where a dozen kneeling and defenseless protesters were hosed down with pepper spray, and for Oakland, where the police rioted and very nearly killed a two-tour Marine Corps veteran of Iraq. Occupy encampments sprang up in hundreds of cities in all fifty states of the union over these last four months. Many, if not most, are gone now, done in by police invasion or uncooperative weather, or both.

You may have noticed the sudden lack of attention paid to the Occupy movement, now that the gendarmes of the status quo have wielded their truncheons and rolled up the encampments like so many windowshades. Nightly reports by the “mainstream” news media about Occupy actions all across the country have dwindled to almost nil, and for those so disposed, this is a good thing. The roused rabble have been crushed and scattered, and all this talk of inequality and justice can finally be replaced with what has for so long now been the real American anthem: everything is fine, nothing to see here, your betters are in control, go back to work. The uprising has been quelled, it would seem, and it is time to consign the Occupy movement to the dustbin of history.

Nothing, but nothing, but nothing, could be further from the truth.

This is not over. Not by a long, long chalk.

It is not over because the American conversation has been irrevocably altered in ways both subtle and sublime. For those predisposed to rocking the boat, the Occupy movement has provided an opportunity to give voice to the overarching sense that matters in America have gone horribly wrong: uncounted thousands dead in a war of choice that provided a wonderful opportunity for the transfer of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the bloated coffers of “defense” contractors with friends in high places; billions more stolen in broad daylight by Wall Street gangsters; billions more given back by way of “bailouts” – read: socialism – to these same gangsters thanks to the aforementioned high-placed friends; no jobs, and no jobs, and no jobs, because it is more important to score political points than it is to ease the suffering of millions.

For those not immediately predisposed to boat-rocking – the fathers who lay awake at night worrying about mortgage payments, the mothers with sick children who live in terror of the mailman bringing more medical bills, the retail workers making a shamefully substandard minimum wage who are holding on by their fingernails – such highblown talk has always been drowned out by the necessities and requirements of the immediate present. Who has time to camp out in Zuccotti Park when there are bills to pay, mouths to feed and time-cards to punch?

And yet…and yet…

And yet those same hard-working over-burdened Americans who have been thus far unable to take up the Occupy banner – who, in many instances, dismiss the whole thing with a contemptuous “Get a job, hippie” – are the same Americans who have had a bug put in their ear, and the buzzing of that bug will not go away. Four months of national dialogue about fair taxation, burden-sharing and the overwhelming power of the corporate state have done their work, and done it well. The conversation in America about wealth and power has been redirected: instead of blindly worshipping the power and prestige of these Sheriffs of Nottingham, who drink the sweat and blood of the toilers for their sustenance and entertainment, a great many people have been made to remember Robin Hood, and what the genuine definition of fairness, equality and patriotism really is.

The story of America on the eve of this new year can be summed up by the old tale of the two donkeys who meet on the road. The first donkey is fresh as a daisy, unencumbered, brushed and bright-eyed. The second donkey is tired and broken, sad-eyed and swaybacked from the monstrous burden he carries. The first donkey looks at the second donkey and says, “Boy, that’s quite a load you’re carrying.” The second donkey looks at the first donkey in exhausted confusion and replies, “What load?”

Get it? The second donkey had been carrying his burden for so long that he no longer even realizes it is there, though his back breaks from the strain. For generations now, that has been the sorry lot of the 99%, but it will not be so in 2012; after carrying the load for so long that they didn’t even see it anymore – a fact that suits the 1% right down to the ground, mind you – a vast majority of Americans have finally looked up from their fruitless toiling, seen the unfair and over-burdensome load they carry, and recognized the fundamental injustice that has left them as beaten and swaybacked as that donkey on the road.

Occupy is not over. We come now to another winter of our discontent, and though the tents and signs and shouts of the movement have been momentarily subdued, they will return. Spring is coming, the rocks are already rolling down the mountainside, and while there is still time for the pebbles to catch up, gravity is an absolute. Sooner or later, those rocks will reach the reckoning that has been so long in coming, and when that happens, nothing in this country will be the same again.

With Spring comes the rain, and the rain is coming to this dry and thirsty land.

The rain is coming.

By God and sonny Jesus, the rain is coming.

This op-ed was originally written by the inimitable William Rivers Pitt for Truthout. The Project is republishing this under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

“Costs of War” Sheds Light on a Troubled Iraq

  1. “Iraq since 2003 represents everything that we want to avoid in the Arab world – foreign invasions, simplistic American political engineering, sharp internal polarization, ethnic cleansing and warfare…” – Rami G. Khouri, author and journalist
  2. MT @franyafranya: Candidate #Obama: Iraq a “dumb war.” As Pres, he lauds it uncritically as a “success.” — #Iraq Veterans Against the War
  3. Mary Trotochaud was the AFSC country representative from 2004-2007:
  4. Mary Trotochaud, #AFSC rep to #iraq ’04-’07: in ’03, ample evidence of cluster bombs #CostsOfWarConf
  5. Ending the Use of Cluster Munitions
  6. Rick McDowell up next. Organized 15 #AFSC trips to #iraq, lead delegation of nobel laureates. #CostsOfWarConf
  7. McDowell on official Washington’s attitude to the issue of past sanctions on Iraq:
  8. McDowell: Amb. Albright said that deaths of many 1000s of children from #iraq sanctions is a price that is “worth it.” #CostsOfWarConf
  9. Madeleine Albright Defends Mass-Murder of Children
  10. McDowell: US Military officer of #Fallujah: “Satan is there, and we aim to get him.” Speaking now of rampant birth defects. #CostsOfWarConf
  11. Riz Khan – Falluja’s birth defects
  12. Raed Jarrar up next. Perhaps the only organizer to conduct door-to-door survey of #iraq civilian casualties. #CostsOfWarConf
  13. CORRECTION: Typographical error. Jarrar served as in-country director for CIVIC Worldwide, “the only door-to-door casualty survey group in post-war Iraq.”
  14. Jarrar: Many iraqis feel that Gulf War and ’03 invasion two phases of same war. #CostsOfWarConf
  15. Jarrar: Over 1 million iraqis killed, 5 million displaced. Approx population 25 million. #CostsOfWarConf
  16. Jarrar: 4-5 million orphans in #iraq due to war. Over 600K living in the streets. #CostsOfWarConf
  17. Jarrar: Mother w PhD’s daughter illiterate b/c they are afraid to go to school. “Scary vision of future for #iraq.” #CostsOfWarConf
  18. Jarrar: US influence in #iraq NOT ending. 16K personnel staying. Half armed contractors. Largest embassy in “human history.” #CostsOfWarConf
  19. Jarrar: Cont’d US involvement will cost US taxpayers “billions.” #iraq #CostsOfWarConf
  20. Jarrar: War ending, moral legal obligations not. Failure to compensate mistakes crimes won’t create good relationship #CostsOfWarConf #iraq
  21. Celeste Zappala is a Gold Star Mother for Peace. Her son was killed in Iraq in April of 2004 while protecting a unit looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
  22. Celeste Zappala up next. Son, Sherwood Baker, was PA Guard member. He was involved in protecting “WMD” sites. #CostsOfWarConf
  23. Zappala: “Never before have suicides surpassed combat deaths” before #iraq war. “Utterly bankrupt morality” of this war. #CostsOfWarConf
  24. Zappala: 26% of children suffering from malnutrition now. 50% unemployment. “US has walked away from this country.” #CostsOfWarConf #iraq
  25. McDowell summarizes the aftermath of the Iraq War:
  26. McDowell: Effects of #iraq war will be felt for generations to come. #CostsOfWarConf