Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Long-Term Fiscal Strategy And Community Built Recovery or Enough Of This Bullshit Already!

The talking heads are alive. Stories about the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” are being recycled so often on the 24 hour news networks that you would think it was an emergency or something, but no one is talking about solutions. They are so distracted by the political capital being spent on the “Grand Compromise” that they are failing to address the questions that would solve the crisis in the first place.

The two big initiatives are tax increases on the rich (finally) and “entitlement reform.” The two political parties are so polarized that Congress is treating the security of veterans, the elderly, and the poor like a game of Monopoly. All that those fat cats on Capitol Hill care about is getting their way… and why not? Corporations and the rich have spent billions of dollars investing in their interests via lobbying and campaign contributions, but I think we can do better. I think we can envision a future that does not take the status quo and treat it as heritage, but critically evaluates the present reality of living in America and puts its resources to solving problems. That is how you grow an economy, build national security, and create a populocentric political climate.

As I mentioned earlier one of the key issues in the debate is the fate of the Bush tax cuts. This is a no brainer. The wealthy have had their unfettered fun for decades. It is time that the era of deregulation and “setting the bull loose” came to an end. The 2012 landslide win for President Obama does not indicative the rising of the northern star, but it does show pretty clearly that the culture of America has changed. Voters want a more egalitarian society where everyone has an equal shot and equal rights. Politicians must come to grips with the reality that the values of the voter block have outgrown the archaic ideas of conservative dogma. The People want everyone to have equal access to a world-class education, healthcare (which I will return to in a moment), and public support.

We must invest in America. Poor children in North Philadelphia should not shoulder the weight of declining schools so that the rich can put more money into their corporate investments. We need to invest in people. There is no reason we cannot build high-speed rail lines between major regional hubs. What would happen to the economy if people from Philadelphia could commute to New York and vice versa in 30 minutes?  There is no reason we cannot employ enough teachers to have smaller more flexible classrooms. How much better would our kids compete on an global level if the math and science teachers only had 10 kids to a class? How much would the private sector benefit if healthcare costs were absorbed by government investments (such as high-speed rail lines and subsequent taxes) so families had an extra couple of thousand dollars a year to spend? They could buy new American made electric cars to shuttle their kids back and forth to the basketball games that mom and dad can afford to take the time off work to take them to.  But how do we pay for it?

The successful have a moral duty to invest in the people the way the people have invested in them. The expiration of the Bush tax cuts are a step in this direction. In the end American history will read that the rich were brave enough to put their wealth back into their country. The question is whether it will happen willingly.

In return for these revenues the Republicans want “entitlement reform.” Their basic premise is still political. They want to privatize Medicare to put more money in the hands of people who have been stealing from the meek since modern medicine was invented. Additionally, they want changes in Obamacare—why? That bill in itself is already a huge giveaway to insurance companies. It’s the most conservative piece of legislation Obama has passed! True healthcare reform would grant equal access to the greatest care in the world to everyone regardless of money. The conversation about Obamacare is nothing more than old timey political maneuvering to gain leverage for party politics. The people didn’t vote for your agenda! They voted for equally allocated access to the promises of America. Obamacare should have included universal access to a public option. There is no reason to change this bill. I think throw it out too, but replace it with real transformational revolutionary change.

The third avenue that the talking heads are bobbling up and down about is the military budget. Unless this grand compromise is reached there is a $500B cut to the military budget. Both parties treat this question as if Osama Bin Laden is watching TV and waiting for the military budget to be cut, so that he can launch an all out offensive of the US. I need to say this pretty bluntly: Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other so-called terrorists organizations are farmers who are attacking western troops because they want them to leave their home. Pull out of the Middle East and they will settle back into their every day lives. How are they going to attack America if we aren’t there? Are they going to fly here in the airplanes they don’t have? If not how are they going to attack? We have the most invasive security measures since 1984. Try to get into a US airport with any sort of weapon. Good luck with that. The terrorists can’t get here. Enough said. Stop with the Middle East wars.

If those wars are cut out of the budget then you don’t need that extra $500B. The deficit goes down, Americans are safer, and we can turn the greatest military force the world has ever known toward conflicts that actually need it. The conservatives can have their huge military. I will compromise on that. We do not need to spend the fortunes that we do now, but even without that 500B we would still would have the most dominant and intimidating military force the world has ever known. I, myself, am a pacifist, but I also recognize that the military-industrial complex cannot be disintegrated in one fell swoop. Still there are conflicts in the world that could use our help: Syria, the DRC, and Uganda, for example. If you must maintain your military at least have it do some good, but it definitely does not need to grow. Our military is bigger than the next 25 biggest combined (and all of those are allies!). It is a fantasy to think that farmers in Afghanistan pose a threat to the US. Right now they pose a threat because we are on their soil. When that stops you will notice the threat level decrease significantly.

What about “entitlement reform”? The conservatives have been banging this drum since they have been a party. “Lazy people are mooching off the government,” one may say; “Socialism!” another may hand down from the mountain. The problem is that no one has stopped to evaluate the cause of the solvency issue when it comes to Medicare and Social Security. How many times have you heard about the insolvency of the safety net until recently? Relatively few I would presume. During the prosperity of the Clinton years (which had a myriad problems all of its own) no one was protesting the legitimacy of the social safety net. The poor were still struggling and the rich were still eating filets on gold plates. It wasn’t an issue. For decades folks had been paying into the very safety net that they themselves wanted to be able to benefit from in their time of need. It is only recently that party polarization—mostly fueled by the mass-media-industrial-complex—has divided the country on ideological lines.

Both parties want to paint themselves as the champions of their respective positions. For Democrats they are looking out for the middle class; The conservatives want a smaller government. What about the poor? What about the long-term community building it is going to take to rebuild sections of New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy? Congress is engaged in one big circle jerk of who can compromise the least, cum last, and still come out on top. 

The problem with “entitlements” is not their solvency or deontological value: it is the government’s ineptitude when it comes to responding to crisis, whether it be Hurricane relief or relief from the disaster of capitalism. There is no reason why the government cannot involve itself in internal affairs. If there is an 8% unemployment rate why are you leaving private sector fat cats to pick up the slack? From the unfettered capitalism of the Reagan years to the abolition of Glass-Steagall, the rich and powerful have set themselves up to win no matter what. If they gamble away the pensions of public employees it is simply a matter of collateral damage, but when they go broke whom do they come running to? The people. We do not have to fall back to the policies of the 50’s. If you are a free market capitalist when the banks fail you let those motherfuckers die, then you pick up the pieces and rebuild, but that’s not what happened.

The banks shrugged off their losses as the acceptable consequence of fate while people’s paychecks were emptied into the coffers of the greedy… and we still operate this way! The problem is not the social safety net; the problem is what the big banks and government are doing with the money from the social safety nets. There is nothing holy to these people. They will gamble away billions on a hedge bet while speculating on oil commodities while the EMT’s pension is being raided in the loss. What?! Why are pensions not guaranteed with government bonds? Why aren’t high-speed rail profits feeding directly into that pension? Because Washington and Wall St and too busy, sped on up on Coke and hookers to care about the people’s business.

If the power structure cared about the people this would not be a problem. However, we have propagated a culture of have and have-nots that people are ok with. “Sure, there will be some on the bottom, but that is the cost of capitalism,” they say. Why is that good enough? We live in the richest empire in the history of humankind. Should we not envision a world where everyone is equal and has equal access to education, healthcare, and employment? This is how you grow an economy and a nation: invest in people, not institutions.

Occupy Sandy has provided the framework for such a great task. While we have been focusing our attention on the folks who have been directly affected by the storm, we have been planning for the long term to help people start worker-owned cooperatives, connect resources to needs, and provide the people a real supportive network that is neither government, nor corporate owned and operated. This project is people conceived and people powered. The government could take a lesson from Occupy Sandy. You do not have to operate in a “daddy-knows-best” top down hierarchical mechanism. Let the communities themselves decide how to rebuild (or not) their communities. We have the tools and resources to match them people with resources and we give it to them. What about you government?

Let the people decide about taxes on the rich, “entitlements”, and the military. I have an inkling that they are not going to come down in such a red and blue manner like Capitol Hill wants. We are much more concerned about our communities and cities. Until the politicians realize this reality, they will continue spending our hard earned tax dollars on unjust wars and teenage-like political bantering. It is time we demanded our rights and a society that works for everyone, not just the rich.

The “Grand Compromise” is pretty simple: President Obama, stop catering to the childish whims of the political elite. Platforms and agenda should not be built upon legos up in D.C. land. Talk to the people in the Rockaways, North Philly, and Detroit. They will tell you the same thing I am—You need to invest in people, not military or financial; institutions. Our country works best when we work together. We have that capacity, but partisan bickering is hurling us deeper into the pit of discord. We need a Congress who will stand—in word and deed—for the people.

Senators and congressmen please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorways; don’t block up the halls. For he who gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There is a battle outside raging that will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times they are a-changin’. Please get out of the new world if you can’t lend your hand, because the people have come a-calling and we are not going to settle for childish bickering anymore. Either promote a people’s agenda or get out of the way for someone who can… for they times they are a-changin’.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy Davis

Ride symbols are ringing in the speakers like bells in the steeple
A bright, crisp, harmony
Falling simultaneously sans the storm

Somewhere some drop is glowing bright purple from clanging to the tune of Kind of Blue
Somewhere a thunderclap boom boom booms arpeggios with a cigarette in its mouth and gin in its belly
Somewhere police sirens keep time with the trumpet line: blazin’ red and blue
kind o’ like America on its way to the scene of the crime.

Alarm bells come back with the refrain. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why I Am Voting For Barack Obama In 2012

In 2008 I was one of the believers. I was in a conservative Christian setting, sitting quasi-literally in a bubble on top of a conservative mountain. In that time I was just discovering political activism. I was living on top of a mountain while literally gazing down on poverty from the privilege of my status. But I was a Christian! I believed in love. Here was a man who was using language of change, hope, and taking care of one another. While I resided in a conservative stronghold I held onto hope that I was supporting a paradigm shift from a pull-yourself-up-by-your-boots-with-God’s-blessing to a mutually supportive society that took care of one another. Hell, I was only one of about 1,600 votes cast in my country for Obama, yet I cheered alone in the streets from the heights of my mountain when he was elected and change had come. Not only had a person of color been elected to the White House, but the margin of victory was large enough to dare to dream that America might unite behind a new day.

His Presidency began in a tumultuous time.  The unjust war in Iraq and systematic deregulation of the financial industry had resulted in a country in debt and in rapid economic decline. President Obama did what I think any reasonable person would do: He stabilized the country by bailing out the banks. While I adamantly object to Wall Street’s bailout on moral principles, I understand his reason d’être. If my only economic council were Hank Paulson, Lloyd Blankfein, Ben Bernanke, and Larry Summers, I would get greedy council too. The pressure of the economic collapse of an empire is too much for any person to bear, let alone in the first month of your Presidency.  I disagree, but I understand.

I also hear a lot about the President’s promises. Mitt Romney laughs that Obama promised to slow the tide of the oceans. He was going to regulate Wall Street. He was to pass financial reform. He was going to end the war in Iraq. He was going to pursue alternative forms of energy. He was going to reform healthcare. He was going to hunt down Al-Qaeda. He was going to pursue peaceful negotiations in international affairs. He was going to be the voice of the people in Washington. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for that rhetoric. But what did he accomplish?

I am not so blind as to not see the good that some of the President’s decisions have resulted in. He bailed out the auto industry and saved a couple of million jobs. American cars are now competitive on a global stage again. He killed Bin Laden. What more do you need to say about that? He also passed healthcare reform that got coverage for millions of Americans who did not have access to healthcare. However, (and this is a big however) I also know that Wall Street still runs amuck and gambles away the futures of hardworking people to build a financial empire on the backs of the poor. I also know that the President’s drone policy has resulted in the assassination of an American citizen and a host of foreign civilians. And I also know that the bill that passed as “Healthcare Reform” was nothing more than a giveaway to insurance companies.  I am not so ignorant to think that one man can systematically restructure government in four years. Chauvinist capitalist philosophy has pervaded government for timeless generations. Why should this one time be any different? But insofar as a person can lead a government as hotheaded, divisive, and immature as ours, the President has done a pretty good job. However, this middle class talk must give way to a holistic approach to a sustainable world free of war and slavery that benefits all 100% of the global population. However, until that time I must stand with working families.

While President Obama is not the ideal candidate—far from it IMHO—he is not Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is a chameleon. He has been running for President so long that he has forgotten what his values are.  One minute Romney is a tax-cutting-voucherize-Medicare-deregulate-Wall-Street kind of guy and the next he is a moderate. Then there is Paul Ryan. I have watched this man in the Congress for many years now and he has always been a heavy-right leaning small government conservative. The accusations are true. They do want to turn Medicare into a voucher system. They do want to give a 20% tax cut to the rich while cutting general assistance funding for the poor. Take one read through Ryan’s budget proposal. These two men are idealogues. They represent an establishment that can be both pro-life and pro-war; cut taxes and pay for an empire; and at the same time be pious and reckless. These people would rather bankrupt a family with medical bills than provide them affordable access to healthcare. They would turn our schools systems into cash cows of the profit-driven machine. They would invade a country if it meant better business.

The Republican establishment has veered far off the road of small government and freedom of choice philosophies into neo-religious fundamentalists insistent on shaping America in its image. I cannot stand by and let people who think in such a closed-minded and arrogant manner to impose their will on the people of this country. The American idea is audacious. It begs the question: what is impossible? We invented electricity, gave humans the gift of flight, and built a virtual world. We can aspire to great things, and we cannot be held captive in the economic bonds that a Romney-Ryan Presidency would impose on us. We cannot feed the hungry, educate our children, take care of our sick and elderly, and invent the next step in human evolution if we are stuck being conformed into an image of a country from the Middle Ages where a few nobles and lords profit on the backs and work of the poor and lower classes. We must think bigger. What is our next Man On The Moon project? Can we put a woman on Mars? Can we create a food grid capable of providing every person on planet Earth with food to eat? Can everyone have the opportunity to live in peace?

Such audacity cannot come from an Administration bent on cutting the scale of human achievement for the profit and betterment of a few.  It must come from a truly inspired people. We do not have such a capable candidate like that in this election. It is no secret that 2012 Obama is not 2008 Obama. He is not inspired, but he is sensible. He may have a shady war, hypocritical finance policy, and watered down reforms, but I think if we are loud enough he will listen.  Romney would not. This election is not about who is in office; it is choosing the grounds on which we will fight the war. We can either expend our energy rallying and protesting the austerity policies of a conservative agenda or we could spend that time pushing a potentially inspired man—we have seen it before—into more radical reforms. And if he doesn’t answer, then we take it upon ourselves to make change happen. But we can start on the level ground of incompetent government instead of a profit-driven-bought-off-autocratic-war-profiteering-elite class of the wealthy who have no idea what it is like to live in real America.

2012 Barack Obama is not the perfect candidate for President. I would have preferred someone more socially minded who would a) guarantee housing, food, and gainful employment through (b) tax raises on the 1%, (c) ending the military-and-prison-industrial complex, (d) ending the drug wars, and (e) propagating programs that would aim at empowering the poor instead of burdening them with the debt of reckless government spending, but until that day I am going to stand with the working families who stand to lose something in this election.  I am going to vote for a likely President who will appoint wise and prudent Judges to the Supreme Court who could decide the fate of the futures of my children. The only people that stand to gain from a Romney Presidency are the richest among us. Everybody else will be burdened with the debt of war and gambling.

A viable third party would be fantastic. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala have made an excellent example of a campaign well-messaged, but Democrats and Republicans have drowned their voices in the avalanche of superPAC money. Until one of those justice-seeking people has a chance at the Oval Office we need to put a President into office that will be less of an obstacle to true economic and social justice. That is our work. Our current government has proved that it does not have the tenacity or fortitude to lead a nation of dreamers. Even the People’s candidate failed to implement systematic change. But the fight must go on, and I think we have a responsibility to set up the board before we launch our assault. Let us set off up the path of least resistance on our way to the promised land.

On November 6th I am going to vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States. I will cast this ballot not with a sense of approval or endorsement, but in solidarity with those working families who stand to lose their futures under a Romney-Ryan administration. Rest assured this vote does not signal surrender. On the contrary, it constitutes a declaration of accountability. Those who stand to gain from the casting of this ballot undertake a responsibility to lead this country forward in a way that is fair, equitable, and just. If any of those who stand to gain from this ballot do not act responsibly with the direction of our country, We, the People, will be holding them personally responsible.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Unforgettable Fire or The Coming Reinvigorated Insurgency of Occupy

The summer was hot, burning with the rising temperatures of global warming.  We had spent the past nine months occupying our times, our minds, and our hearts in tents, parks, city squares, and even front lawns. And it wore us out, but it was all for an idea. An idea that does not fit within the normal bounds of identity. We transcend political parties, oppressive police tactics, and the mind-numbing apathy of the corporate media. Our idea is very simple: togetherness. We occupy tents in public places to create a discourse. The woes and ails of the world have reached such a red line that if we do not address them immediately we will continue to spiral downwards into the abyss of capitalism. For twelve long months we have stared down into the abyss and it has started to stare back.

We reclaimed the public commons so that we could bring into public light the fact that the rich are cheating on Wall St, the planet is burning, and legislatures are making laws and wars on political gambits. True progress is established when people participate in a public process that directly influences the nature and projection of their own communities' values. In that world everyone has equal access to housing, food to eat, clothes on their backs, gainful crafts and trades, and freedom to choose the course and direction of one's life including who they marry and what god(s) they worship. We tried to lay the roots of such a world with our encampments. 

This was very effective for a time. Gathering at campsites in the middle of a city was a great way to network and maintain a war-room-like setting in an easily accessible area. We were always on alert and always in the zone. We supplemented the philosophers' amphitheater with daily actions. We were at war with capitalism and we were invading. That kind of energy will give you the courage to take on hell with a water gun but also burn you out into ashes of the revolutionary you once were. Some maintained. From the National Gathering to S17 working groups from around the country have worked tirelessly to plan and carry out mass gatherings and actions against the centers of power in America. But even these took their toll.

But after S17 there seems to be a renewed energy in the air. When we came out en masse in New York City this past week we came out organized, restless, and fired up. I think we remembered what it felt like to be on the front lines of the class war. The NYPD did exactly what we thought they would: they snatched people, beat people, and packed their paddy wagons like sardines indiscriminate of legal right or privilege. If you were holding a sign you were the enemy. But the blood of the martyr is the seed of the church. Every one of those 185 sisters and brothers helped us realized that we are getting to them. We were at least well organized enough to present a threat. They took us off the streets just so we wouldn't have access to the public ear. Because we are speaking sense. We are trying to tell you the truth: that big corporate and private money have highjacked our democracy and it is time we took it back.

I think S17 reinforced that simple feeling that we are doing the right thing. As I sat in jail for 32 hours I had a lot of conversations with people who live the lives that some of us only theorize about. And everyone of them told me the same thing: "I like what you're doing but I don't like the way you do it." The people are ready to believe in a revolution they just want to be reminded. But after a day and a half on a freezing cold steel bed in a stinky moldy stone cell I remembered why I keep going. Because my friends were there. When I got out of jail I was met with the people that I have come to love through this movement. Some of my best friends in the world waited long hours late into the night to see me safely home. Only a stone statue could hold back tears in such a moment. But as I stepped outside into the rain my tears were washed away. And they washed away year one of Occupy Wall Street. God was in the rain and had resurrected me for year two.

The sun metaphorically shone quite brightly the next morning. The coffee tasted like protest, the bagel tasted like civil disobedience, and the kiss tasted like inspiration. I was ready to come back to Philly and get to work. Since I got home this Wednesday morning at 2AM I have been to five protests, blockaded a Governor in an art museum, and marched to the tune of "Shit's fracked up! Shit's fracked up and bullshit!" I have a fire in my soul and the only thing to quench it is justice. Our movement, it appears, turns with the seasons. Last fall we set up camp to organize. In the winter we operated indoors from civil disobedience to active organizing. In the summer we came together on mass scales from conference calls to National Gatherings. Now we know each other. We have evolved into a network of activists capable of influencing public opinion on a national and international scale. 

Fall has come and I think we have noticed the need to relight our fire. As the leaves turn red and yellow we must dawn our field jackets and report for duty. Because the public is paying attention. The election season is upon us and people, whether conscious of it or not, are susceptible to thoughtful reflection on issues. We must allow ourselves to be on the right side of history and rise to the occasion. And if you can read between the lines you will notice an infrastructure being built that can withstand oppressive police forces and traditional limits. Because we have learned a year's worth of lessons and are ready to light the fires of protest in our cities and apply those lessons. Again, we are ready to occupy. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ashes and Anarchy or Activist Burnout and the Prudence of Patience

A dear journalist friend of mine recently asked me about my thoughts on and experiences with activist burnout. Since I had recently emerged from the ashes of my own burnout, I felt inclined to write the following post:

Activist burnout is a soul-retching, paradigm-shifting, and horribly necessary experience. What began for me as a passionate zeal had to extinguish in a wisp of  exhaustion. I had to learn the hard way because I'm stubborn. I would work 20 hours a day, I would eat and drink only the crumbs from the lunchline, and I would only sleep when tiredness literally overcame me. I would have done anything as long as our Vision was realized. Because I had woken up. And I needed to ring the bells in the town square so that others could know it was time. It worked. We were able to mobilize a national energy around an idea: a gathering. And that gathering would be conceived of, planned, and carried out democratically. It was hard work, but we did it with passion. 

You see I think passion is as essential as breathing. When the world is in peril and you feel like you have been chosen you are compelled forward, energized by your own drive. True change comes when those who have the privilege and ability to act do not fail to act but embrace their destinies and serve their neighbors by fighting for a better day. We are those people and it is a 24/7 job- twice. 

If I get down to brass tacts I guess I would have to recount the most stressful week of my life. That would take more time than either of us have. Suffice it to say that I did not sleep much, I rarely ate, and I took on way too much. I wanted it to succeed. I wanted to see people from every corner of the country sit down and the table of sister-and-brotherhood and have a conversation about their lives. To this end they produced a Vision. And because I believed in that dream I pushed myself to my physical, emotional, and spiritual limit. But I came out the other side a better man for it. But lessons hard learned are not lessons easily forgotten. 

As I carry forward in this struggle of life and revolution I have found that I must temper my passions and meditate on those things that make our cause worthy. In that silent place I can find peace. That peace is necessary for the calm resolute posturing of a revolutionary. For in the end we must hold fast to our creed to give peace a chance. We preach and we proclaim that we must be the change we want to see in the world yet we neglect to discipline ourselves in a sustainable and balanced manner.  I submit this suggestion to you humbly for I have been hardpressed and trampled by my own rash and reckless behavior. When I was a child I spoke like a child and when I was a child I acted like a child. I have learned better. I have grown up through the pressure cooker of on-the-job training. I was irresponsible with my health, my time, and my emotions. But hindsight is the only lens of clarity. 

So, as I think about activist burnout I find myself smirking a shy smile because I know it was necessary. I knew i had to work myself ragged because this had to happen. History was calling and we would answer. And we did. But it came at a price: my ego, my health, and my perspective. Now, I am a more patient, disciplined, and humbled man. I now know I have limits and- through a very traumatic experience- know exactly what those limits are. I would submit to my sisters and brothers around the world committed to fighting for a more just world to be patient, deliberate, and wise. Because wisdom is more valuable than a host of actions and gatherings. If we can collectively commit ourselves to wisdom and patience then we can produce a vision that will culminate in goals, a strategy, and tactics. But only a calm and measured person can create such campaigns. An oak may stand strong in the midst of a storm but a hurricane will uproot it and toss it to the wind. A palm tree is flexible, bending and swaying with the wind. We must be as the palm tree and cling to our fate even in the hurricane of injustice. But we must be planted strong and flexible. We must temper ourselves and become wise in the eyes of all because perception is reality in the corporate television era. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Stop the Vote!" or Voter ID Laws and the Aristocratic Effort to Systematically Deny Marginalized People of their Votes and Voices

     Remember that time back in 2008 when thousands of people voted in the Presidential election two, three, four times with fake addresses and criminal records? Remember how the country came to a stand still while the government figured out how to deal with the rampant voter fraud that ended up deciding the election? Me neither: because it didn't happen. As a matter of fact, it has never happened. Statistically one has a better chance of being struck by lightning than encountering an instance of voter fraud. Between 2002-2005 there were 26 federal convictions for voter fraud: 18 were cited for voting while ineligible, 5 for voting multiple times, and 3 for registration fraud. In 2004- a Presidential election year- the rate of voter fraud was an astronomical .0002%.[1] There clearly is no countrywide epidemic of voter fraud. So, what's all the hubbub? Why is the GOP spending so much of its time and resources trying to create a solution to a problem that doesn't exist (and winning!)? My thesis: so Barack Obama will be a "one-term President."

     This last comment, by house majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), crystallizes the theory that the GOP is not focused on issue politics this year but on partisan squabbling and empty political victories. The new voter ID laws sweeping the country are a case in point. In the above paragraph, I outlined the unrampant nature of voting fraud. So why have the conservatives gone to great lengths to make sure that this doesn't happen (even though it never does)? To make sure that Barack Obama is a "one-term President." You see President Obama won the last election with 96% of the African-American vote, 67% percent of the Latino vote, and 63% of the Asian vote. In addition, Mr. Obama also won 68% of the 18-to-24 vote. Why is this relevant? Because 25% of black adults, 20% of Asians adults, 19% of Latino adults, and 18% of the youth don't have photo IDs. Is it a coincidence that the four biggest blocks of Obama supporters are the four main groups that could potentially suffer the effects of such an unnecessary law? Most likely not. Mike Turzai, a Republican state rep from Pennsylvania's fightin' 28th, has been quoted extensively as saying that the voter ID law is going to "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." Is this evidence that voter ID is a concerted effort by the right to deny certain people of their right to vote because they generally vote Democrat?

     Philadelphia, for instance, has voted Democrat in the past nine Presidential elections. Since 2000, there have only been ten cases of in-person voter impersonation. In a city of three million people how is cutting down on these ten acts of malfeasance going to allow Mr. Romney to win? By denying lower income and minority voters their rights.

     What prompted this egregious and blatant abuse of influence? Incompetence. Far right wing Randian maniacs such as Dick Armey, the Koch Brothers, and Karl Rove have successfully confused the language of smaller more efficient government (traditional conservative politics) to mean unchained and unfettered capitalism. This kind of elitist upper-class warfare is a breeding ground for racism, marginalization, and oppression. When the interest of a few is weighed against the needs of the many and the few have all the resources, it is easy for them to tip the scales of law and justice.

     This voter ID law is a case in point of far right extremists (it is worth noting that many of these people are Randian disciples) high-jacking the democratic process. They have crafted a platform that is not only suspect but also downright ludicrous. More tax cuts for the rich?! Military escalation in the Middle East?! Slash and cut social programs that keep the most vulnerable among us afloat?! How could a politician hope to pass such absurd and socially damaging legislation? By marginalizing those who stand to lose. When the winners are the only ones voting it is easy to see why the conservative agenda has become so extreme.

     This country is lauded as a democracy. In a true democracy people have equal access and opportunity to participate in the political process. The recent waves of voter ID laws being introduced across the country are an attempt to stifle this process. These laws are structured to deny traditionally marginalized communities their right to have a voice in US policy and programs. Voter fraud is not a problem in this country therefore any strategy that seeks to solve this "problem" is going to be tarnished with ulterior motives. Read the statistics, research the laws, and discern the motivation for these laws yourself. In 2008- a very popular election- only 60% of eligible voters voted. Any inhibition to the everyday American getting to the polls on election today is a travesty and should be fought at every level. We have a right to participate in this country—demand it.

[1] During that same election the American Center for Voting Rights initially claimed there were a 100 cases of voter fraud involving 300,000 votes. A review of the study revealed that only 185 of these votes could be potentially fraudulent.

Addendum: Thank you to MotherJones.com, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, Politico.com, and the New York Times for the help on statistics. 

Comfortably Numb

It's quiet out
     No marches. No protests. No hope. 
          Bored and atrophied
     Herbal cigarettes breathing wisps of metaphysical smoke
          Easing off the gas of my nicotine binge
It's screaming in here

Advertisements addictive as heroine
     engineered to energize you into a Stepford life

Highjacked in the Universe
     plugged into the Matrix
          infinitely connected; forever removed
     Who is Deus and who is machina?
          "Follow the white rabbit... I guess"
Take the purple pill

then follow Alice down the abyss...
     ('Cause they got guns and tanks down there in Disneyland)
Jersey Shore is on and I don't have time for this shit!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Working Class Hero

(Yet slaves nevertheless )
Punching clocks after 16 rounds
     drenched in blood, sweat, and debt- 
          on red-eye mornings
          sipping comatose tea
          with drug-induced delusions
     choking on gusto, poison pride, and undead resolve
          the puss of the "American dream" seeping through paper-thin skin
          ...from burrowed-out joints 

Staggering from paycheck to paycheck
     Chained to the cave of routine
          chilled by the warm content of fulfillment
Satiated by provision and survival; Pacified by honor and duty
     While the Monopoly man feasts on the bones of their children
     living on Boardwalk and passing off the luxury tax
          (you're camped on Baltic Ave.- if not in jail)

("Keep your eyes on the prize…") 
     so anxious for rain they spit on themselves just to feel wet…
     baptized in their own disease
pounding on St. Peter's gate with a bluesy rap 
     binging on crackers and drunk on vinegar
          like some brain-dead zombie too tired to re-consider 
          ...crippled by bloody knees and schizophrenia 
     but the Olympics don't offer the wheel 

And always fat cats lurk around dark corners 
     with top hats, monocles, and Ferraris
     sweating with withdrawal; anxious to pounce 
But this is not ancient Egypt
     and there is more than one way to skin a god

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, and You (a commentary on the 2012 Presidential election and the superfluous nature of voting in our current political system)

The Presidential election of 2012 demonstrates the minute differences between the two American political parties and the big-money-backed business platform on which they both run. Think about the current state of the world: Economies are collapsing all over the globe thanks to the "work" of greedy mafia-minded banksters; the American war-machine strikes civilian populated areas through the red eye of a drone's camera lens; and all the while our civil liberties slowly erode at the hands of an aristocratic  oligarchy determined to maintain and expand their power. They preach peace and security in an Orwellian irony while the everyday American citizen settles for the mind-numbing droll of television. 

It makes me wonder why I take the time to vote at all. Democracy is based on the idea that my voice- added to my communities'- will help shape public policy. However, between corporate backed super PACs, voter ID laws, and a trustee philosophy of governance my vote- and yours- has devolved into little more than a Facebook "like." Yet corporations and the rich spend millions- and soon billions- of dollars on advertisements in order to sway and brainwash the everyday American with soaring rhetoric about change, lower taxes, and a "better America." Meanwhile, you and I are essentially forced to work until we ache in our bones just to pay the rent and keep food on the table. Not to mention the struggle to maintain health insurance, a retirement, and education for our kids. But politicians are out of touch with our reality. 

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are poster boys- or should I say playboys?- for the out-of-touch governor. Ryan's budget plan seeks to gut Medicare with a zealous gusto for smaller government as if it were the unchallenged will of the people. But has he or Mitt addressed the real problem with Medicare (i.e. the lack of solvency based on indiscriminate military spending and inept tax policy)? Have the American people become so mad about social safety nets that they are taking to the streets to bring it down? No. The people have not played a role in shaping the GOP platform. The aristocratic oligarchy has kept everyday conservatives so drunk on Superbowls and foxy news that they have forgotten that it is their responsibility to set their own agenda. So their agendas are spoon fed to them like they are sitting in a high chair gulping down bullshit and calling it caviar. (Are they?)

The Democrats are no better. In 2008, President-elect Obama promised us change with a capital "C". He promised the purposeful end to the war in Iraq, deescalation in Afghanistan, real healthcare reform, and that the financial industry would no longer gamble away our pensions and social security on hedge bets. Instead our military was unwillingly thrown out of Iraq at the insistence of the Iraqi government, tens of thousands more men and women were (and are) sent to die in the streets of Kandahar, Congress granted the insurance industry probably the biggest handout yet, and the banks have only gotten more mafia-like. And my favorite: Mr. Obama promised that he would not take unaccountable superPAC money. Yet when the election cycle came back around this year Mr. President wavered, bent, and broke. I haven't even mentioned the 2,100 civilian deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan alone or Guantanamo's curiously still open doors. And all of this military might is coming from a sophisticated Democratic Constitutional lawyer from Harvard. What the hell are we going to do if a trigger-happy Republican decides that Iran looked at us the wrong way? 

Money and mass media politics have co-opted government to the point of flaccidity. During "Water Gate," Richard Nixon's approval rating was an astoundingly high 26%. The Congressional approval rating for the last few years has been hovering around 9%. 9%! That means for every ten people you meet nine of them think that Congress is a bunch of over-entitled fat cats pulling the marionette strings of public opinion with cockamamy blueprints of a red or blue Eden. Yet they ignore the cries and shouts of anger of the people. 

But what about third party candidates? Surely, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and Al Gore have pushed the conversation to the left right? Candidates like Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala- the 2012 Green Party Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees- have fantastic platforms and campaigns. The Green Party is advocating for political reform, equal rights, and ecological sustainability. And what's their idea of a campaign stop? They performed an act of civil disobedience and were arrested at a Fannie Mae in Philadelphia to highlight the epidemic of big bank foreclosures that are plaguing Americans everyday. That's the kind of President I want! So where are they in this election? Lost in the milieu of obscurity. A staffer on the campaign told me it was because they don't have the money. Our two party system commands so much coin that it is nearly impossible to challenge it. So the Republicans and Democrats buy the billboards, the airwaves, and your attention with mind-numbing ads and empty speeches while we are left pacified by our tvs and our exhaustion. 

Why do we let these people rule us? Rule us. We allow people-mostly old rich white men- who 91% of the country find to be irresponsible, inept, and unqualified to conceive of, implement, and even break our laws. And yet we wave our flags, buy our McDonald's from the wheelchair of our obesity, and belt the Star-Spangled Banner like it was Amazing Grace- at least until we lose our breath from the emphysema. Yet we are the shining beacon of freedom and democracy in the world? Ha! And what's worse is we let them do it. We sit by year after year, choose the lesser of two evils, and shrug our woes off like it was the hand of fate- or God. We are just as much to blame as them for the derelict nature of our government as they are. We should be in the streets with torches and pitchforks! Democracy requires education and participation: we are entertained and pacified.

So you may ask: what do we do? First, we accept our failures. We accept that we have let these bankers rob us blind, these politicians deceive us, and these rich men dictate our paychecks, our privacy, and our dignity. Then we take that fire that arises in our bellies from the realization and direct it toward the real enemy- apathy. If we are to have a real democracy we are going to have to take an active role in tearing down the rich man's temple and build a new foundation based on equality, compassion, dignity for all humans, and fairness. Such are the underpinnings of a just society. Then rich men will not rule us, dictate to us, or manipulate us. We will have direct control over our government and our lives in a true democracy. But it will not come easy. Democracy is never given: it is earned. What am I voting? No confidence. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Banks Suck 101

This is an educational resource I put together to try to give some an introduction to the crimes of Wall Street Enjoy!

Paradigm Shift

How banks and the rich own politics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0R_Lv_5tqI


How credit default swaps work (how the Great Recession began): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx_LWm6_6tA

Matt Taibbi video about the banksters at Occupy National Gathering: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxn93Rzjem8


Recent Developments

Friday, August 10, 2012

Modern Kids

Sitting in cars pondering how much crosses cost to build
Shifting gears and shifting lanes through our generational pains
Victims and collateral damage of political pimps
Mind ablaze with green tea and jazz
Whoring and hoarding our souls
With gods and gadgets
Too lazy to rebel and too scared to sleep
Masturbating home alone
online and hands free
Acid tv trippin on channel 9
Blurring lines in my mind in primetime
Watching dragons burn houses
Preaching poison sermons of peace and security
In a wartime cabaret

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All Streets Lead To Wall Street

Now the talking heads are on stage.
Pandering their opinions and crisp haircuts.
Advertisements meld my mind like propaganda mixtapes
"Buy me! Own me!
Take off your pants and you’ll be one step closer to blowing me."
Acts of Valor bombard my senses with senseless anxieties
Images flash by too fast to consider for too long.
American Idol on a warship…
For now the boys are playing ball (or are they are at war?)
Good Ol’ America
Pacifying your bloodlust with contests of logos and contracts…
TV trying to tell me about connectivity
While Miller Lites are being sold as Picassos
And we pray to McMuffin the Omnipresent and Eli the Truth

You have to be a responsible tripper to be young in America
1776 on 3 hits while you’re doing your laundry
Never watered down
Always fresh
26 and trippin’
You can’t fall down when you’re playing at home

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Can we say America is still a democracy what with the rich ruling nearly everything?"

For democracy, as a system, to work it requires an educated and participatory populace that can take responsibility for making the decisions that affect their lives. The United States of America is lauded as the birthplace and cradle of such democracy. Unfortunately, this is at least a misunderstanding and at worse an outright lie. 

For nearly 250 years men such as Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton have been worshipped as heroes of democratic ideals. However, it is traditionally understated that the ideas that they propagated such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would only be available to landowners. 18th century translation: the Constitution would guarantee inalienable rights only to old slave-holding white men. The ideas of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were not guaranteed to every person. As a matter of fact they only granted these "god given" rights to white males. Privilege and oppression are not the ingredients of a democracy. Only equality serves as an acceptable base. 

But what about the rest of American history? Didn't past governments amend the Constitution to grant voting rights to women, people of color, and non-land holders? On the surface yes. But as the system became more complex so did the power dynamics. Without equality of opportunity granting voting rights is a moot point. Old white men still dominated the legislature and the government and thereby created the laws. 

And as if cultural oppression were not enough we have the money factor. After the Great Depression lawmakers passed an act called Glass-Steagall which kept investment banks separate from public depositors. The idea behind such legislation was to keep our democracy in tact and keep mafia-like banksters from controlling the direction of society. By limiting their gambling ability such laws kept a check and balance on corporate power. But corporate power rose from the grave of crippling legislation as any undead heartless monster would and lobbied a repeal of the law. 

Beginning with the advent of the puppet President Ronald Reagan- and possibly even back as far as Richard Nixon- big banks and corporate interests have been given the ear and will of the government. Reagan "unleashed the bull" and Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. Between these two events big banks and economic power houses were given carte blanche permission to regulate and rule themselves. In essence, they were granted independence. Now we all know how these ludicrous and bone-headed policies have ruined the world economy and plunged us into a global recession but how do they relate to our supposed democracy? 

The old saying goes whoever has the gold makes the rules. In an age of mass media and instant connectivity influence is sheltered under the umbrella of profit. And since banks, corporations, and the rich have systematically dismantled the mechanisms in place to prevent the concentration of wealth, the top 1% of income earners in US own most of the wealth. Which means they control the means of government, economics, and education. After the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling- which allows corporations, organizations, and individuals to give unlimited campaign contributions anonymously- the power grab was complete. They have the gold; they make the rules. 

So can we continue to live in a democracy? What democracy? This country was founded upon privilege and oppression. The ivory tower of our ideals was built on the backs of slaves, the working, and the poor. We never had a democracy. However, that is not to say that we couldn't have one. Ideas such as equality, freedom, and liberty are not unobtainable abstractions. They are achievable goals. However, we cannot look to the past for a roadmap to a democratic future. The rich and the powerful have owned this country since its inception. We live in an aristocratic oligarchy masqueraded as a two-party system. But if we commit ourselves to the core values of human dignity for everyone, compassion, integrity, and justice then we can begin to chart a map to a truly democratic future. But wide is the road to folly. To obtain such goals we must all- in our communities and in our society- commit ourselves to the narrow path of equality and cast off the old ways of division, fear, and hatred. 

The United States of America never was a democracy. But if we rise up, throw off our yokes, and unite, then we can create the future we want to live in. Democracy has never given: it must be earned. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

#NATGAT: A Debrief

The sun beat down. It was hot. Sweat beaded off of our heads and bodies as physical proof of the hard work we were all putting in. We gave ourselves over to it. We didnʼt sleep. We didnʼt eat. We traded in our well-being for the good of the group. It worked. The National Gathering (NATGAT) was a time of peace, love, and democracy for everyone gathered in Philadelphia on the week of the 4th of July.

From Seattle to Quebec, Arizona to Kalamazoo, and New York to Madrid, Occupiers came together from the four corners of the country and farther to spend 5 days in the supposed “cradle of liberty”. We came together to discuss the future of our lives, our movement, and our world. These days were organized and divided up into what could be referred to as an Un-Conference model. Blocks of time were structured and purposefully left open for anyone or any group to bring their passion, experience, and ideas to the wider movement. Meet-ups and workshops were on display from subjects ranging from police repression to urban farming to money out of politics. As I meandered through the camp throughout the week I heard such sentiments as: “I never thought of that” or “I canʼt wait to take this back home.” Put simply: we created a space – a public space – for dialogue to happen. And it did. 

Complimenting this open model, the Education/Speakers sub-committee of the National Gathering Working Group (NGWG) reached out and invited renowned speakers such as Matt Taibbi, Madea Benjamin, Chris Hedges, and local Occupy hero Captain Ray Lewis to compliment speakers from around the movement such as Brandi Williams of Colorado, Amalia Montoya of (un)Occupy Albuquerque, and Dani Alvarez-Gavela of the 15M movement in Madrid. These heroines and heroes braved long distances and heat to come share their thoughts, dreams, and criticisms of the movement in a peaceful and open context. I think we all left a little more enlightened by their words and their passion.

Secondly, in a world where we are told to eat the dog that stands in the way of your dinner, people who come from varying and divergent tribes, cultures, and tongues sat down at the table of sister-and-brotherhood together. All of us broke bread together. The power and significance of this cannot be understated. It is a sign of an evolution of human consciousness to share in spite of our traditional, or taught, divisions. For five days, three meals a day were cooked and served by a humbly self-sacrificing food team dedicated to providing nutritious – and oftʼ times vegan – food for all. Given that our number one vision was “Clean Water, Food, and Air” it should not go unnoticed that we were indeed exhibiting the change we want to see in the world.

Not everything was learning, teaching, and eating. One of the hallmarks of our movement is our annex of the streets. When reality is virtual and the vast majority of people in America get their worldview inserted into their bloodstream through the IV of TV, it becomes necessary to remind them of the decaying organic matter of the real world around them. NATGAT would not let this moment pass un-marched. So we hit the streets. Several demonstrations were organized from large group marches for corporate and bank accountability – against such criminals as Wells Fargo, Verizon, Comcast, Fox News, Fannie Mae, and the US Mint – to smaller more targeted actions against UBS bank, the student debt crisis, jail solidarity, and the prison-industrial complex. Some of which were coordinated in solidarity with local community unions and organizations such as the Poor Peopleʼs Economic & Human Rights Campaign, ACT UP!, and local CWA union 132. While we did not bring out a drove of 35,000 like our sisters and brethren in New York, we did execute the majority of these actions responsibly and effectively with safety, legal, and logistical support: sometimes with numbers upward of 800+. The lessons we have learned over the past 10 months were put on display for the people of Philadelphia and the country. And they heard us loud and clear.

Speaking of the lessons learned, I think it would be prudent to speak to the organization and logistical support of the NGWG. In the interest of transparency to those reading this little essay, I want to be perfectly clear that I was a part of the NGWG and involved in most of the planning and execution of the Gathering so my opinion will be biased towards the group. However, that does not preclude my assessment from being honest, intimate and useful for future endeavors. Logistics planning for the NATGAT began around mid-April. It was whispered by many that planning and pulling off a national convergence of the Occupy movement could not be done in two-and-a-half months. Had we not had the benefit of a 15K grant from the Movement Resource Group1, they may have been right. Nevertheless, folks from all over the country – 50ish assemblies at that point – decided that they wanted to gather in Philadelphia, so the NGWG jumped on that desire and rode it all the way to July.

A full description of my involvement in this particular group deserves an essay all its own (forthcoming) but suffice it to say that people all over the country – and in Philly specifically – put their souls into making sure that we could create a safe space for all of the aforementioned events and activities to take place. We divided into sub-committees, worked autonomously in a trustworthy and accountable manner, and – with a good deal of stress I must admit – executed our plans. When safety issues came up: they were dealt with. When the aggression of the Federal Parks Service was inordinate and excessive: we re-grouped and were given refuge by the Quakers at the Friendʼs Meeting House at 4th and Arch. When we pushed ourselves to the breaking point, we overcame. Through sheer force of will and the support of a loving community we lifted each other up and empowered each other to create and implement solutions. Problems are only problems when no one has the will to create solutions together. When the NGWG encountered stumbling blocks we stopped, centered ourselves, reached out the hand of friendship for support, and leaped over them together.

Another lesson learned that is worth considering – is the response and cooperation of the Philadelphia police department (PPD). It is worth noting that Occupiers attended the NATGAT from cities that have suffered from true police repression. Folks from Oakland could probably still smell the tear gas that is forever burned into their nostrils, some New Yorkers are so used to being harassed that they expect it, and tears still stream from the eyes of those burned with pepper spray. NATGAT did not have to deal with any of it. Though we had to take an arrest at the hands of the Punchy Parkʼs Service , which admittedly was backed up by the PPD Strike Force, most of the Gathering was calm and agreeable. When I asked Captain Steve Glenn, the head of Philadelphiaʼs “Civil Affairs Unit – a unit dedicated to “protecting the rights of protestors” – to move a rank of Strike Force bike police away from our camp to keep the tension down he acquiesced. When “Cowboy” Moen – the lead Park Service Ranger and aggressor from the 2nd Bank Repression – threatened the safety of the Veteranʼs for Peace tent at Independence Mall, I asked Capt. Glenn to get “Cowboy” under the express supervision of his superior due to his erratic behavior. What was his response? He did it and “Cowboy” stood down.

Lastly, there was the incident on our July 4th nighttime march to Love Park. There were two shootings – unrelated to Occupyʼs march and activities – that happened in the middle of our route at 15th and 16th streets. The streets and Love Park were blocked off with PPD Strike Force, motorcycles, and horses. So here we had 700+ people marching directly into a crime scene with a line of armed officers directly in their wake. (Now keep in mind the Occupiers from Oakland, New York, and Chicago get really apprehensive about marching into a police line.) But the PPD did a responsible thing. They came and informed me of the situation – since I was a marshal on the march and said “[X happened] so we canʼt go to Love Park. Weʼll block off the streets so you can go wherever you want to go but we canʼt go to the park.” While this caused a great deal of confusion and anxiety (the former for the marchers and the latter for me) we centered ourselves, gathered our heads, and marched to Thomas Paine plaza – a municipal services building across the street from Love Park – and had a community assembly to decide what to do next. The march ended with the people of Philadelphia rallying around our message and our passion at the fountain of Logan Sq. Those same people then marched back to camp with in solidarity. Community, healthy skepticism, respect, and cooperation led to order out of chaos. We proved we could handle ourselves. I think the NYPD, OPD, CPD, Federal Parkʼs Service and countless other irrationally aggressive police forces could learn a lesson from our NATGAT.

Lastly, it is paramount to discuss the July 4th visioning process. The idea behind putting energy into creating a collective vision at the NATGAT was twofold: 1) to create a process in which every voice could be equally heard in an efficient and effective way while at the same time providing the space for common visions to be coalesced into themes that can be replicated anywhere and 2) to create a vision from all those who participated, providing an example of our version of the future to an anxious world grasping for hope. To that end the Visioning sub-committee spent hours, days, and weeks trying to troubleshoot the process so that a) it would work and b) it would provide an example that could be taken up as a mantle in the wider world.

Around 200+ people chose to rally around this idea. So after an introduction from some wonderful people which included a moment of silence for the Lenape people (the native occupiers of the Pennsylvania area), an exploration of what “Independence” and “freedom” mean to marginalized communities in the context of the 4th, and a history of the NATGAT, we dove headfirst into the waters of democracy. It took alot longer than we anticipated but thatʼs because it worked. It takes a good deal of time for people to express their hopes and dreams and then see, out of the context of argument and debate, where they have common ground with others. In a country that praises and lauds itself (and I have even used the language in this essay) as the “cradle of liberty,” we are critically ill in this regard. Folks engaged in the visioning process because they believe that democracy – real true direct participatory democracy – is not only possible but also the better way. Some may call it naïve or “pie in the sky” but to those people I ask you: what is your vision? And why have you not shared it with us? It is no coincidence that No. 5 on our list of visions was “a culture of direct democracy.” People want to engage each other. It is in our D.N.A.

It seems to me that people came to NATGAT because they want to work together on a national scale but we realized that the only way to achieve such goals is to have a strategy. The only way to develop a strategy is to develop goals. The only way to develop goals is to have a vision. In this movement we value community so we in keeping with our principles we value community vision. Through the NATGAT visioning process we now have a way to organically develop our visions so we can organically develop our goals and strategies. I encourage everyone: try it. See what democracy looks like.

 Finally, I think we should zoom out and take a view of the NATGAT from 10,000 feet. What was it? What did we accomplish? Where could we have improved? A lot of these questions will be answered in time by the attendees, the media, and you. But from my perspective the NATGAT was a tremendous success. We, in the NGWG, sought out to create a space where Occupiers from all over the country and the world could come and feel safe to discuss a better future and explore goals, strategies, and campaigns to achieve it. And, again, it cannot be understated that we broke bread together. People from a myriad of cultures and backgrounds were able to come under one roof (the sky is the roof) and explore working together. Our vision and our gathering is proof that we can... and we did.

Larry Swetman
Occupy Philly
National Gathering Working Group