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Archive for October, 2011

As “End” of Iraq War Is Announced, U.S. Digs In, Warns Iran

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

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[ cross-posted @ Daily Kos ]

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“In August [2002] a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: ‘Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.’

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come,” March 18, 2003

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Where’s That “Mission Accomplished” Feeling?

On Friday, Oct. 21, President Obama announced that “as promised,” by the end of this year, 2011, the last remaining U.S. forces (about 39,000) will leave Iraq and be home in time for the holidays.

A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward. So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.

The U.S.–Iraq status of forces agreement (2008) worked out between Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and the George W. Bush administration had provided for continued U.S. military presence of some 50,000 “advise and assist brigades” for security and training until the end of 2011, with a possible extension if negotiated.

As WhiteHouse.gov puts it, “President Obama Has Ended the War in Iraq.” Some 90,000 American combat brigades were withdrawn between early 2009 and August 2010 (see “As Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Where’s Our National Security?”); many were redeployed to Afghanistan. On Sept. 1, 2010, Operation Iraqi Freedom ended and Operation New Dawn commenced.

This month Prime Minister Maliki decided to have all U.S. troops leave by Dec. 31, 2011. By doing so, he would remove a political liability for himself and a social and political irritant, but would also forgo a potential stabilizing force in case of an outbreak of civil war—or of invasion by a foreign power, such as Iran. But the Americans are already negotiating to send a new round of military trainers to Iraq in 2012, along with equipment specialists for the weapons systems the U.S. hopes to sell, and to base a large contingency force nearby in Kuwait (see below). Thus the New Dawn.

Republican reaction to the president’s Oct. 21 announcement was mixed: G.O.P. presidential candidates and senators McCain and Graham denounced the withdrawal; other Republicans expressed approval, relief, or said nothing. (McCain this month recommended U.S. military action against Syria, like that against Libya, “to protect civilian lives.”) For an Iraq war veterans’ perspective on the announced withdrawal, see the statement from Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. (IAVA is on our blogroll, bottom left.)

Now that the “cakewalk” we were promised is ending, we have to ask of the George W. Bush foreign policy team (many of whom Mitt Romney wants to hire) and in particular those in Congress who voted to authorize military force against Saddam Hussein in October 2002: Where’s that “Mission Accomplished” feeling?

And where is our national security? How’s that workin’ out?

And to what kind of economy and job prospects are these soldiers returning—those who don’t have to turn right around and go fight in Afghanistan? What “job creators” will hire them? While they were risking their lives amid hardships and dangers that most of us can hardly imagine, what has become of their One Nation Under God? Fortunately for some of them, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden are leading a Veterans Jobs initiative to press the private sector to commit to hiring 100,000 veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013. That’s not very many jobs, but if it succeeds at all, it will help.

The Freedom and the Damage Done

Regrettably, even though it has been announced that some 40,000 troops like Stratego game board pieces will be returned to home base for a while, and despite the claims of a White House in reelection mode, we and many others do not see The War as ending. Iraq is, or was, only one theater—a particularly misguided, costly, and tragic one—in the larger War on Terror that has in effect already expanded into Pakistan and (hey, why not?) threatens Iran (“Tensions Flare As G.I.s Take Fire Out of Pakistan” [photo below]; “Iran Reacts to Pressure from America”). The United States is not moving from its strategic positions in the Middle East and Central Asia. And the financial costs to the United States, which may reach $3 to 5 trillion, are still being paid, and will paid for decades to come.

Indeed, beyond the financial cost, the damage done to the American economy, the psychic harm to our citizens, both combatant and noncombatant, and to the nation’s culture and political system, are incalculable. If you close your eyes and listen with your heart in the way a psychic or a shaman is able to listen, you might hear a great howl of agony resounding from the nation’s soul, a scream or roar as of a wounded giant that shakes the forests and mountainsides and echoes down the skyscraper canyons of Wall Street, bouncing off the concentric rings of the Pentagon, from all the needless pain inflicted, from the death groans of shattered, burned, eviscerated soldiers who will never come back, and those who are damaged for life, inside and out, in the veterans’ hospitals. And though we turn our iPods or TVs up to full blast, the roars and screams of pain could not be drowned out. If, that is, we could hear them at all. That we cannot hear the howls and cries doesn’t mean they’re not there to be heard.

And then, even harder for us to imagine, is all the pain and destruction suffered by the people of Iraq, the bereft families of the more than 100,000 killed; the massive destabilization of political systems and relations in the Middle East; and the shattering of the ancient social systems, culture, and archaeological heritage, all symbolized by the looting of the National Museum and the torching of books and Korans in the National Library in Baghdad (“stuff happens,” shrugged Donald Rumsfeld), plus the damage to the archaeological heritage in Nineveh, Ur, Babylon, and other sites of irreplaceable relics of the cradle of human civilization around the Tigris and Euphrates with an archaeological record going back 7,000 years that includes the cultures of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, and Muslims. (See Chalmers Johnson, “The Smash of Civilizations,” and Frank Rich, “And Now: ‘Operation Iraqi Looting’.”)

 

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How Occupy Wall Street Is *Not* Like the Tea Party

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

In a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, replying to an Oct. 22 front-page article titled “Wall St. Protest Isn’t Like Ours, Tea Party Says,” Oberlin College professor of politics Stephen Crowley points out an essential distinction:

There is another crucial difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements, and one that is likely to be played down by Tea Party supporters.

As studies by political scientists and others have demonstrated, the Tea Party movement received sizable donations from wealthy backers seeking to use the movement to further their goals of tax cuts for the wealthy, the privatization of Social Security and the deregulation of the private sector. [our emphasis]

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been criticized for lacking clear demands, but with its unambiguous denunciation of large corporations, the financial elite and the 1 percent of wealthiest Americans, this is one movement unlikely to be co-opted by wealthy benefactors.

Stephen Crowley  |  Cleveland Heights, Ohio  |  Oct. 22, 2011

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See other Letters to the Editor under the heading “Occupiers, Tea Partiers and a Dash of Star Power” published on Thursday, Oct. 27, here.

Among the wealthy backers of the Tea Party referred to by Professor Crowley, to name only a few, are the billionaire, pro-corporate activist Koch brothers, FreedomWorks, and Fox News. Explore further at Media Matters for America, Think Progress, and Right Wing Watch.

 

 



Iraq War Veteran Injured by Police, in Critical Condition, after Crackdown of Occupy Oakland

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

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Police Use Tear Gas, Flash Bang Grenades on Occupy Oakland Protesters

Scott Olsen, a Marine Corps veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq who is now involved in Veterans for Peace, was critically wounded by Oakland police during a crackdown of the Occupy Oakland protests on Tuesday night, Oct. 25. Olsen was struck in the head by a “nonlethal” projectile—a tear gas canister or smoke canister—fired by an Oakland police officer. The round fractured Olsen’s skull, leaving him in critical condition. Olsen is currently hospitalized with serious injuries and is reported to be in critical condition. The veteran’s roommate was informed by doctors that Olsen had a “skull fracture and swelling of the brain,” according to The Guardian. When a group of fellow protesters ran up to help the injured Olsen, an Oakland police officer threw a flash grenade into their midst.

Veterans for Peace issued this statement:

Veteran for Peace member Scott Olsen, a Marine Corps veteran twice deployed to Iraq, is in hospital now in stable but serious condition with a fractured skull, struck by a police projectile fired into a crowd in downtown Oakland, California in the early morning hours of today. Other people were injured in the assault and many were arrested after Oakland police in riot gear were ordered to evict people encamped in the ongoing “Occupy Oakland” movement. Olsen is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Share via Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.

Sign petition to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan

Police Tear Gas Occupy Oakland Protesters,” San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 26, 2011

Slide show of 80+ images

Occupy Oakland

Images from “Police Tear Gas Occupy Oakland Protesters,” San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 26, 2011.



“Romney is improbable, but his rivals are impossible”

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due Dept.

It is rare to the point of Almost Never that NYT columnist Ross Douthat writes something not annoying, so when he says something we find intelligent and worth quoting, we want to be nice and share. Likewise, the so-called candidates* for the Republican nomination are so down-the-rabbit-hole deranged and delusional we normally prefer not to give them any more attention in the Upper Blogosphere, but we can make this one exception. We’re not sure he’ll turn out to be correct, but he says it well. Regarding “The Inevitable Nominee,” Douthat writes:

. . . when you have eliminated the impossible, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. This rule holds for presidential contests as well as for whodunits: Romney is improbable, but his rivals are impossible, and so he will be the nominee.

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* The exception is Jon Huntsmann, former governor of Utah and ambassador to China, who is polling around one or two percent. He alone among the G.O.P. candidates has refused to sign Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform “Taxpayer Protection” pledge (not to raise taxes).



Occupying the Street Is Not Enough

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

“Occupy” Dialogue Continues

“[S]imply being in a public place and voicing your opinion in and of itself doesn’t do anything politically. It is the prerequisite, I hope, for people getting together and voting and engaging things. . . . I welcome the [Occupy] Wall Street energy. . . . I agree with the general thrust of it. But it’s not self-executing. It has to be translated into political activity if it’s going to have the impact.”

—Rep. Barney Frank to Rachel Maddow

Last night Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the congressman who put the “Frank” in the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, told Rachel Maddow that he would have welcomed the Occupy Wall Street energy two years ago when he and Chris Dodd were working to push the Wall Street reform bill through Congress and against the resistance of financial industry lobbyists. (Mr. Frank is a former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee [2007–2011], and former senator Chris Dodd [D-Conn.] was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.)

Congressman Frank also made the point—and we want to emphasize what he said—that those who are protesting must also vote. In November 2010 many disaffected liberals stayed home from the polls—yes, contrary to our directions—and their absence helped a wave of conservatives to be swept into office.

I don’t know what the voting behavior is of all these people, but I’m a little bit unhappy when people didn’t vote last time blame me for the consequences of their not voting.

Mr. Frank’s remarks about protest not being enough echoed a point made repeatedly in a dialogue about Occupy Wall Street that has been taking place among readers of this blog.

Our Readers Weigh In

Three of the most reliably thoughtful contributors of comments here at LNW are David in Berkeley, Cousin Pat from Georgia (who lives in New Orleans), and Kevin in Milwaukee. (See David’s previous appearances here and here, and Pat’s here and here.) Readers of the Oct. 6 post “Occupying Wall Street with Nurses, Teachers [and] . . . America’s Middle Class” may have read in the comments a dialogue among Cousin Pat of Hurricane Radio, LNW, and Kevin in Milwaukee (also a cousin, to LNW staff). That dialogue, which can be read in full here, included these remarks:

Pat: “I’m not sold on the #OccupyStuff ‘movement’ as anything other than pure, cathartic spectacle. I’ll believe whatever this is is worthwhile when people are inspired to take back their local school boards, city councils, and political parties—moving onward to affect municipal and state policy.”

Kevin: “We were in Madison every weekend all winter/spring and we will be in the occupy efforts as they unfold. . . . We are now both on the executive board of our union; we attended leadership union training over the summer; we’ve knocked on doors for recall elections and have been to countless town hall and school board meetings throughout our area.”

“I’m hopeful about the Occupy actions . . .”

In reply, David in Berkeley wrote an extended piece that agrees in part with Pat and Kevin, with some further thoughts of his own. David’s remarks are printed below in full, and Pat and Kevin’s dialogue can be read here.

I think Pat raises a valid concern, especially since the energy from the Iraq and Afghanistan war demos were dispiriting in the long run because of the elites’ indifference and complete control over the mechanisms of power. Also, low-level civic involvement—sure, who could argue with that? Just look at how successful the right-wingers have been with that. I recall reading someplace that Ralph Reed once said something to the effect that he’d rather have a thousand local organizers than one senator, and look how effective the anti-abortion/anti-science movements have been with that paradigm. (And that doesn’t even take into account the extra-legal activities that the right-wingers have accomplished, such as voter theft.) In a hopeful scenario, maybe a fraction of the people participating in Occupy demos, teach-ins, etc. will be catalyzed into following the established routes to power. It’s important, I think, that not everyone has the same skills and talents, and that a movement has to have more than one prong: some people are cut out for street performance and others for the meeting room. Also, the last exchange between Pat and Kevin (go Kevin and family!) made me think that in different parts of the country, there are bound to be different needs and ways of accomplishing action, and that what might be needed on Louisiana might be really different than in Wisconsin.

I’m hopeful about the Occupy actions though for bunch of reasons. As [LNW] said, spectacle (and fun, my two cents) matters. There are teach-ins where atrophied words and ideas used to critique capitalism are being dusted off. There’s cooperation among many people who grew up during a forty-year period where collectivity/the commons has been demonized and ridiculed; and from what I’ve read it sounds like the use of “general assemblies” and “human megaphones” (which I really like) gives people a taste for non-hierarchical political participation, an alternative to the usual “barely comprehensible guy with a bullhorn or microphone telling people what to do” (and leading the same old stale chants). Maybe a non-traditional approach to politics will open up a space to “think different.” It sounds like smart decisions have been made about how to deal with the police, by making the point that the movement wants protect their jobs and pensions too (even though there will always be cops who just want to bust heads, unfortunately).

As for Pat’s point that the elites don’t care what the 99%’ers think and aren’t going to be shamed into changing their behavior: I agree, but I think something else might be at work besides shame. Specifically, I think the gathering movement might poke some holes in the sense of comfortable distance that the privileged have come to enjoy since Reagan’s ascendance. It might make some of them take notice that the consequences of their decisions re amassing increasing wealth and power are pissing large numbers of people off, and that means they too are going to have to change how they live in ways they might not want, as in increased security, further exclusion from people not of their class, etc. Maybe that might make a difference. In any case, just to be clear, I’m not encouraging any kind of intimidation or violence, and I’m glad that far the movements have been nonviolent and the police response not as brutal as it could be. I’m just speculating about how the human psyche may react to evidence of its own inhumanity.

Also, there’s a lot to say for the demos changing the vocabulary of public discourse. Last night, on our local Fox-affiliated channel 11 news broadcast, they reported on all three Occupy SF, Occupy SJ (San Jose) and Occupy Wall Street. If I recall correctly, the reporter used the terms “corporate corruption,” “corporate influence on the government,” and “growing economic inequality.” For a moment, I thought I might have accidentally switched the channel to Democracy Now!

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Composite photo by New York Times

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See also . . .

Rachel Maddow reports that Occupy protests took place in over 900 cities on 4 continents this past Saturday, Oct. 15. Meanwhile, Citigroup’s earnings rose 74% in 3rd quarter of 2011 to $3.8 billion.

We Are the 99 Percent Tumblr Archive

Occupy International: Occupy Wall Street Protests Go Global (slide show)

Right Here All Over” : a short film on Occupy Wall Street by Alex Mallis

Naomi Klein : “Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now” | Naomi Klein’s remarks to Occupants at Liberty Plaza on Thurs., Oct. 6

Nicholas Kristof (NYT) : “America’s ‘Primal Scream’ ”

Bryce Covert (New Deal 2.0) : “Why the 99 Percent is Crying Out

Just How Much Can the State Restrict a Peaceful Protest? | If the First Amendment guarantees the right to peaceful protest, why do peaceful protesters get arrested—and sometimes pepper-sprayed and beaten up? ProPublica takes a look at the legal precedents.

CEO empathy for Occupy Wall Street | A handful of financiers have broken ranks to support Occupy Wall Street, and some big business leaders are urging empathy as well.

2001 Bush Tax Cuts: Where the Deficit Began (July 2011, from the LNW archives)

Tyranny Disguised as Fiscal Discipline (March 2011: LNW archives)

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Mother Jones: “It’s the Inequality, Stupid” (March–April 2011)



Ten Years of U.S. War in Afghanistan

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

“While post-9/11 veterans are more supportive than the general public, just one-third (34%) say that, given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.”

—Pew Research Center, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” Oct. 2011

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Is it a rule of the age of the War on Terror(ism) that no armed conflict the U.S. enters ever really ends? Is that what the Defense Department was signaling when it came up with the name Operation Enduring Freedom?

With all the attention this week to Occupy Wall Street and, sadly, the death of Steve Jobs, it was almost possible to not notice the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war in Afghanistan that began on Oct. 7, 2001. But, as we said this past September 11, we’re not forgetting.

This war has been the longest in American history for over a year: the milestone was passed in June 2010 when the war entered its 104th month. U.S. involvement in Vietnam is reckoned at 103 months long. U.S. participation in World War II was only 44 months. The Afghan war is now in its 120th month, and the Obama White House and Pentagon see our forces there well into 2014 and beyond.

A majority of the American public has long said this war is not worth fighting. A Pew Research Center poll in June found 56% of Americans—an all-time high—want the U.S. to pull troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Veterans are usually the segment of the population most supportive of military engagements, but a new Pew Research poll, “War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era,” finds that only one-third of post-9/11 veterans say that, “given the costs and benefits to the U.S., the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have both been worth fighting.” Only one-third of veterans.

And what is Congress doing? What are we telling Congress to do? How do we get their attention? Do they ever read their mail?

The White House issued a quiet statement (no graphic pictures of burned or bloody shredded bodies of nineteen-year-olds) noting the sacrifice of some 1,700 American service members in this war, to “honor the memory of the nearly 1,800 American patriots, and many coalition and Afghan partners, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan for our shared security and freedom.” The statement hits all the right notes, if you believe in that kind of thing.

End It Now. Quietly. Steadily. Reinforce the Diplomatic Corps.

What we believe is that the war in Afghanistan is not one that can ever be won. The best that can be done is not through arms but through quiet steady accelerated withdrawal of armed forces and the intelligent application of diplomacy along the lines the late Richard Holbrooke was attempting. Try to forge agreements or alliances between the numerous tribes and ethnic groups and factions within them to provide for their living together with as little violence as possible. Accept the necessity of some diplomatic presence and some foreign aid, with as little interference as possible from neighboring interests (Pakistani, Iranian).

A precise prescription for a diplomatic resolution is beyond our pay grade, to put it lightly—and for all we know it may not be possible even for a diplomat / peace broker of Richard Holbrooke’s or George Mitchell’s capabilities—but we do know the costly military operation is unaffordable for a nation as cash-strapped by under-taxation of its wealthy individuals and effectively non-taxation of its corporations. (Far from the traditional approach of raising taxes during wartime, the Republican-driven U.S. government has been slashing revenues since the Afghan war began.) The United States has already spent some $462 billion in the Afghanistan war, more than 1,700 soldiers have died, and over 14,000 have been wounded in action. The war is approaching a half trillion dollars—a figure that would surely be higher had not the Bush administration siphoned off a great proportion of U.S. “resources” toward the invasion of Iraq from 2003 until they were redirected back to Afghanistan by President Obama in 2009. The war in Iraq has cost $800 billion by the time you read this. And already the Iraq war alone is estimated by Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to eventually cost the U.S. $3 trillion.

The present Obama plan announced in June is to wind down the Afghan war by 2014, when the U.S. role will change “from combat to support.” But what does “wind down” mean? How many soldiers will still be stationed there? How many are presently in Iraq? How many military contractors will still be in Afghanistan and Iraq by 2014, and at what cost? The projected reductions will only bring us back to the roughly 65,000 troops that were stationed in Afghanistan when Obama announced the surge. As we pointed out in June,

we still have 85,000 active duty military personnel stationed in Iraq at a monthly cost of about $4 billion. For that matter, U.S. military personnel number some 50,000 in Germany, 35,000 in Japan, and 25,000 in South Korea. How long does the government intend to keep this going?  (“Obama’s Troop Drawdown Is Little, Late, But a Start,” 6/23/11)

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Occupying Wall Street with Nurses, Teachers, Transit Workers, and the Rest of America’s Middle Class

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

We are the 99% . . . You are the 99%.”

“Banks got bailed out / We got sold out!”

“Whose street? Our street!”

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This Is Not the Fringe.
This Is the Middle Class.

Yesterday into last night we gathered near New York’s City Hall and marched with what looked and felt like at least 100,000 “marginal fringe elements” such as nurses’ and teachers’ unions, the New York City Transit Workers’ union, the AFL-CIO, and innumerable others through Lower Manhattan to Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, the home base of Occupy Wall Street. We’ve been on numerous protest rallies in Manhattan and Washington and London with hundreds of thousands, and this felt as jam-packed as the anti–Iraq War marches in 2003, 2004, 2005.

But this—this feels like a revolution.

Yesterday’s marchers in the tens of thousands were nurses, teachers, professors, bus drivers, subway track workers, secretaries, students, at least one World War II veteran on an aluminum walker (according to the sign around his neck), many children on foot and in strollers, and so on. This is the middle class. As the signs and chants say, “We are the 99%. You are the 99%.”

Among the unions that announced their support and sent members to the march were National Nurses United, AFL-CIO (AFSCME), United Federation of Teachers, New York State United Teachers, Service Employees International Union, SEIU 1199, the Transport Workers Union, Transit Workers Union Local 100, Working Families Party, Communications Workers of America, United Auto Workers, and Writers Guild East. (Click here for a longer list.)

A Few Things to Know about Occupy Wall Street 

•  Whatever you see on TV or read in the newspaper is probably a distortion, a minimizing dismissal, a marginalizing caricature. If you want the view of a seasoned journalist who has spent a lot of time with the OWS activists, read Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times reporter, at Truthdig and hear this interview with him. He describes the Occupy Wall Street activists as “the best among us.” See the video of Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Jeff Madrick, author of Age of Greed, talking with the Occupants last weekend through the “people’s microphone” (bullhorns are forbidden).

•  The OWS organizers, a loose-knit, non-hierarchical network, are not fringey radicals, but mostly well-educated, social media–savvy young people, creative and resourceful, and organized. They have worked hard in school but there are no jobs. The system—both the economy down to its foundations and the government—is not working for anyone but 1%. It’s over.

•  The Occupation was inspired by both Tahrir Square, Cairo, and the Arab Spring, and by Adbusters.org. See New York magazine’s revealing findings in “Meet the Occupants.” Learn more at OccupyWallSt.org.

•  This Occupation is not limited to Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. Occupy Together lists meetups in 588 cities. L.A. Chicago. Philadelphia. Boston. Seattle. Albuquerque . . . Tomorrow, more. London, you’re next. See map below.

•  The activists are not “unfocused” or lacking in specific aims. They have some very specific demands, including raising the tax rates on upper incomes; calling on the federal government to protect homeowners from arbitrary foreclosures by banks; establishing a financial transactions tax; and closing the “carried interest” and “founders stock” loopholes that, in the words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “allow our wealthiest citizens to pay very low tax rates by pretending that their labor compensation is a capital gain.”

•  Americans prefer Occupy Wall Streeters to Congress. New York magazine reports: “A new Rasmussen poll shows that 33 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Wall Street protesters, compared with the 14 percent or so who said the same about the legislative branch. A whopping 79 percent also agreed with what Rasmussen characterized as the movement’s main statement: ‘The big banks got bailed but the middle class got left behind.’ ”

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Conservatives, Please Help Conserve Louisiana’s Coast

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

What is a conservative after all but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live?” 

Ronald Reagan, 1984

“Louisiana’s voters must find, nominate and elect conservatives (aka, Republicans) who understand there’s no contradiction in being pro-life, pro-gun, pro-fiscal responsibility and pro-environment. Unless that happens soon, I’m afraid we’ll be moving coastal communities within the next decade.” 

Bob Marshall, Times-Picayune

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Put the ‘Conserve’ in Conservative

Our friends at LaCoastPost call our attention to a strong, well-reasoned piece by Bob Marshall (below), Pulitzer Prize–winning environmental and outdoors reporter for the Times-Picayune, imploring the Republicans who control Louisiana’s state capital and congressional delegation in Washington to do some conserving of the lower one-third of the Pelican State before it’s too damn late.

We have noted before that “self-proclaimed ‘conservatives’ are far from the root meaning of conserve, as in conservation, preservation” referred to by President Reagan above. Now Bob Marshall, also a winner of the prestigious John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, eloquently elaborates on a point he emphasized at Rising Tide 6 in New Orleans in August (see his remarks at the 11:45 environmental panel “Re-Capping the Well”). We take the liberty of reprinting Mr. Marshall’s column in full because we could not find a sentence that did not bear repeating and acting upon.

Listen up, Baton Rouge and Washington: Stop playing games. Time is running out.

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The Conservative Case for Saving the Coast

By Bob Marshall  |  The Times-Picayune  |  Sunday, October 2, 2011

The water keeps rising, the coast keeps sinking and the nation still ignores us. So, not surprisingly, I keep getting this question: What needs to happen for the country to finally realize Southeast Louisiana is running out of time? There’s no getting around one of the answers:

Louisiana’s voters must find, nominate and elect conservatives (aka, Republicans) who understand there’s no contradiction in being pro-life, pro-gun, pro-fiscal responsibility and pro-environment.

Unless that happens soon, I’m afraid we’ll be moving coastal communities within the next decade.

This is not a partisan attack on the Republican Party. It’s a matter of the record.

Louisiana is a Republican state. Six of our seven House members—including two of the three that represent Southeast Louisiana—are from the GOP, as is one of our two senators. It’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.

Yet that party has blocked initiatives that could help this coast while pushing others that will only speed its death. And Louisiana’s GOP delegation has been loyal foot soldiers in most of those efforts.

For example, earlier this year the House GOP took President Obama’s already meager request for $35.5 million to fund vital coastal restoration projects and whittled it down to $1 million. Only 20 Republicans voted for the whole package—and one of the “no” votes was from a Louisiana GOP member, Rep. John Fleming of Minden.

When that $1 million chump change was tossed our way you might have seen headlines calling the action “A win for the coast” because any future requests can no longer be put in the category of “new starts” by budget cutters.

Please. That’s like calling Waterloo a win for France because Napoleon escaped. That’s because the House was making a clear statement with its vote: In times of tight budgets, saving what’s left of the most productive estuary in the United States, the ecosystem that protects millions of people and billions in economic infrastructure, is not a priority. The fiscal ideologues running the party insist on making deep cuts in anything considered “discretionary” spending, which is obviously where they place the future of Southeast Louisiana.

And if they didn’t think we were a big enough priority for a measly $35 million—the tax bill of a few billionaires—imagine what they’ll say when we ask for the $100 billion a real fix is estimated to cost. It’s certainly not as important to them as the oil industry. While they were putting Louisiana’s coast in jeopardy to save $35 million, they didn’t touch the $45 billion in tax subsidies for oil and gas companies over the next 10 years.

It would be bad enough if the GOP just left us alone, but they’re actually taking steps to make our situation worse.

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