Dispatches from the 99%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aslan Media Columnist Joseph Hanania tracks the progress of America's surging grass roots democratic movement. Who are the 99%? What part are Middle Eastern Americans playing in this American Spring? Hanania asks the question, "How do we build our American future, together?"

Monday, 25 November 2013 11:53

Killing Uncle Sam

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a group that advocates for transparency in government and government finance, told the New York Times about the blocking of judicial appointees, “We’re not in a situation where the tradition and rules and history of the Senate are being recognized today. We’re in a situation where politics and partisan reasons have overridden the sense that there are rules of fair play that must be maintained.”
Recently, a top New York City professional sitting near me heatedly expounded on “illegals” coming into America. When he had called a business that day, the prompt told him to hit one if he wanted English, or two for Spanish. In this, his own country, he said passionately, everyone should speak English without ever having to hit a button. I would have moved away from him had this not been a business dinner with assigned seating at a high-end restaurant. Instead, for the next hour or so, I decided that I could either talk to this man or not.
Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00

What I Learned Running for Office

I became so nervous as “Meet the Candidates Night” closed in on Monday that, before trying out several jackets and ties, I did a short meditation and self-evaluation. So why, exactly, had I tossed my hat into the proverbial ring?
Thursday, 28 February 2013 00:00

Does the Republican Party Need an Intervention?

The scheduled sequester cuts — lopping $85 billion off of government spending over the remaining seven months of this fiscal year — is blowing up in the Republican Party’s face. Even before the cuts hit, President Obama's popularity was 16 points higher than that of Congressional Republicans — 49% to 33%, according to the latest Pew-USA Today poll. Furthermore, only 19% agreed with the Republican position of program cuts minus tax increases.
Friday, 22 February 2013 00:00

In Costa Rica, Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness

Fleeing yet another snowstorm for a vacation in Costa Rica, I inadvertently discovered an authentically happier way of life less materialistic than ours. Although Americans make up less than five-percent of the globe's population, we consume more than one-quarter of its energy — and more of its beers (13,000 per person per lifetime). Or, as one New York Times writer put it, we “out-big-foot everyone else” and have become “consumer addicts.” Americans also imbibe a tsunami of pills. One in every six of us taking prescription tranquilizers an average of 60 times a year. And even this staggering number excludes anti-depressants etc., let alone illegal drugs.
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 00:00

Marching Up Fifth Avenue, NYC’s Mayor Koch

I had an amazing personal relationship with New York's late mayor Ed Koch, mostly because of my unusual circumstances. I was a New York City reporter, living my dream. I arrived at my newspaper's office on Fifth Avenue each morning, found the most interesting scheduled city event, and then merrily covered it. This was what passed off as "work."
I can count on my fingers the number of times I have wanted to tune in to TV news and feel a real connection with America. One of those times was President Obama's second inauguration on Monday, which was, coincidentally, also Martin Luther King day.
Last week, looking for inspiration amid dismal weather and fraught Washington gridlock, I went to two different movies. David France’s “How to Survive a Plague” is a documentary about Act Up’s founding 25 years ago, during the height of the AIDS epidemic, when homophobes virtually cheered a lethal disease amid gruesome gay deaths. “Argo,” starring and directed by Ben Affleck, was about the rescue — or exfiltration — of six Americans who had escaped the U.S. embassy in Tehran when Iranian “students” took it over in 1979. The film just just won the Golden Globe for best picture. While “How to Survive a Plague” and “Argo” may appear outwardly dissimilar, there’s actually quite a bit that the two flicks have in common.
Yes, the House Majority leader joined House Democrats to avert narrowly the fiscal cliff with 85 Republican votes. But an unprecedented 151 — nearly two out of three Congressional Republicans — voted against him. And then, the Republican caucus successfully pressured him to postpone a vote on helping victims of Frankenstorm Sandy.
Thursday, 03 January 2013 05:35

A Gun In Every Classroom?

"A gun in every classroom!" the headline of a recent blog proclaimed. So, really, how would this work? In the mid-70's, I worked as a long term substitute teacher in Philadelphia. I am white, middle class, Ivy educated. My fifth grade students were ghetto blacks. And crossing that cultural chasm was one of the riches experiences of my life. My first day on the job, students threw spitballs at each other. A nuisance, yes. But what real harm could come from that?
Thursday, 27 December 2012 00:00

Ending Political Gridlock

Fifty-one and forty-five. Remember those numbers as Congress deadlocks, again, on negotiations over the fiscal cliff. And on gun control. And on immigration reform. And on climate change legislation. Fifty-one percent is the proportion of votes cast for Democratic Congressional candidates. But through redistricting — or gerrymandering — by state legislatures, Democrats won only forty-five Congressional seats.
Please take this true or false quiz on curtailing the roots of violent behavior. True or false: 1. Venting anger reduces aggression. 2. Violent people suffer from low self-esteem. 3. Violent TV portrayals sells more advertised product. 4. Violent portrayals on film, TV and on computer games lead to more violent acts in real life. 5. Advisories warning about violent TV content cut down audience size. The answers are: false, false, false, true, false. So, how’d you do? Brad Bushman, professor of psychology and communications at Ohio State University, thinks you may have gotten a couple of wrong answers.
Thursday, 13 December 2012 09:54

Peace or Perpetual War?

On a recent trip to Israel, I visited a tea and coffee shop on East Jerusalem’s Salah Eddin Street. Up a flight of stairs, a young Arab man was having tea with a young woman in a hijab. Their eyes never left each other, their smiles never diminished. I also befriended the shop’s owners, clean cut men in their 20s, one of whom confided that he had learned about America on the Internet; now he wanted to visit in person.  Although post 9/11 visa restrictions made such a visit extremely difficult, he still had hope.
Thursday, 06 December 2012 00:00

Beyond Arab-Israeli Madness, Part 2

Having just flown in from Santa Monica, I gazed out the window of my downtown Jerusalem hotel at half a dozen police cars racing one another. The scene seemed familiar; in Santa Monica, police swoop on the homeless as if they threaten civilization. Half a world away, I thought, it was the same overkill. The next morning, I asked the front desk clerk what had happened. A suicide bomber, he replied, had tried to detonate himself. Jerusalem is a very different place. All the news reports I had read safely from my California breakfast table had not prepared me for its on the ground realities. And my trip to this historic city also convinced me that the city – and Arab-Israeli dialogue here - would be enhanced by New World thinking.
Thursday, 29 November 2012 00:00

Beyond Arab-Israeli Madness

During the Israeli-Gaza war, a news report showed a mother wailing over her dead child. Having tuned in late, I did not know which side’s collateral damage was being reported on. Then I wondered how much that would even matter. The grief was identical. No one should live in continuous fear and pain amid unending warfare. The Arab-Israeli wars have been going on for 64 years, outlasting and spanning the Cold War, the Arab Spring, and China's steps away from Mao and into the world's second largest economy. Everywhere else, the world changes. But not there, arguably the holiest place on earth.
An unnoticed yet crucial event during the elections was how California ate Florida's cake, so to speak. The former home of the hanging chad, whose 2000 debacle threw our national elections to the Supreme Court (which disgraced itself), did no better this year. To ease voting lines, Florida had, post-2000, instituted 14 days of early voting. But before this election, Republican Gov. Rick Scott cut early voting to 8 days, all in the name of electoral “efficiency.” That "efficiency" resulted not only in voting lines of up to seven hours; it also resulted in Florida taking no less than four days to count its votes.
Friday, 09 November 2012 06:06

The Frankenstorm's Aftermath

On the ninth floor of my building's staircase, climbing down, I heard a frightened woman's voice. "Hello, hello, hello?" It was Friday morning, four days after Frankenstorm. Just a day earlier, I had climbed Everest - or in my case, huffed up to my 11th floor apartment - to find a 70-something neighbor in the pitch dark hall.
I am writing this sitting on the floor of a Barnes & Noble north of 38th Street in Manhattan. 38th Street is the unexpected Berlin Wall of this Frankenstorm. Because of how the electric grid is laid out, pretty much all of Manhattan to the north has electricity. Nearly everything south does not.
Thursday, 25 October 2012 05:29

Is This Election Really About Race?

Political insights do not always come from pollsters, or from watching debates. My insights came from my Supercuts hair dresser. Simone should be doing analysis for CNN or MSNBC. As she washed my hair, she told me what this election was really about - race.
Thursday, 18 October 2012 05:05

The Debate: Moderator Crowley Gets The Gold

The winner of Tuesday’s Presidential debate? Candy Crowley, of course.
Thursday, 11 October 2012 03:10

Obama: Leader With Mojo, or a Lost Academic?

There’s a saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” For many of the 60 million plus voters who watched last week’s Presidential debate, especially the independents and undecideds, Mitt Romney’s performance provided a strong first impression – one which the Obama campaign is looking to erase, putting extra pressure on Joe Biden Thursday night.
A story -- apocryphal perhaps -- about former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is that after he was in a crash while making a left turn, he ordered his drivers to make only right turns. That oddity makes him a bit like Mitt Romney.
Amy Robin, 20, was happy marking the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street along with 1,000 other protestors in Zuccotti Park Monday night.
As events in Libya and Egypt demonstrate, it is time to call out fundamentalists – Muslim, Christian, and Jews – who profess to be God’s people while stoking hatred and death. If we drop religious nomenclatures, here is what is left. Fundamentalists of one religion created a fourteen minute video – a “trailer” for an alleged movie – provocatively slandering the founder of a rival religion. Then, they posted it on YouTube.
Thursday, 06 September 2012 08:36

You (and your Politics) are What You Eat

Can how we eat help shape our politics and lives? Yes, suggests Randolph Badler, a San Francisco psychologist and instructor at San Francisco Community College. And right now we Americans are orgying on binge eating, with dessert consisting of political nastiness. The cause, says Badler, is that we have decoupled eating from socializing. Eating has increasingly gone from a communal act to one of solo consumption - in our cars, at McDonald’s, or while browsing the Internet or watching TV.
Friday, 24 August 2012 13:33

Why Mitt Romney's Tax Returns Matter

When announcing this week that Mitt Romney will release his 2011 tax returns in mid-October, senior campaign adviser Ed Gillespie reaffirmed that his boss intends to release two years of returns, asking Americans to trust him on the others. So, why are Mitt Romney’s tax returns so important?
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 15:15

Jihadist Michele Bachmann For Veep

“Go bold, Mitt!” advised the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol on the Republican choice for veep, which is expected to be announced within days.
Six thousand bullets. That is the number that James Holmes, the 24-year old suspect in the Aurora, Colorado massacre, legal ordered online with no federal background checks or oversight. The result: a dozen people murdered, with another 58 wounded, making Aurora among the deadliest massacres ever.
Remember the last time you were approached for “spare change?” Wasn’t the process demeaning to both beggar and you? And what if, as in many third world countries, the beggars lined up one after the other, making piteous faces? Wouldn’t it better to systemically circumvent this? That was what the 2002 McCain/Feingold campaign reform bill aimed to do.
Thursday, 28 June 2012 00:00

Gay Pride and Papal Shame

“Do you have to be gay to be here?” a nice, middle aged woman asked. We were on the corner of Fifth Ave. and Eighth Street Sunday, squeezed in by sidewalk throngs reaching eight deep as the Gay Pride parade streamed in front of us.
What I most remember from a long ago trip with Santa Monica Tennis Club was the check-in. Doughnuts were the only available food at the counter while the desk manager was hidden from sight - ashamed to come into public view because she was obese. (She weighed, I was told, nearly 300 pounds). In two and a half days, I never once lay eyes on her.
Thursday, 07 June 2012 03:00

Wisconsin and Gladiator-Style Politics

Wisconsin’s bitter recall conflagaration, fed by an astounding $65 million pouring in largely from out of state sources, coupled with unending Congressional gridlock, begs us to ask the question: why have politics become gladiator-style events? And is this gladiator mentality confined to our politics?
Imagine, for a moment, that these were three central issues in this year’s elections. First, per billionaire Donald Trump, whether President Obama was born in the United States. Second, per billionaire Joe Ricketts, whether, because President Obama’s absent father was Kenyan, Obama has a deep-seated “anti-colonial” mentality. Third, per billionaire Foster Friess, whether the country should revert to a curious form of birth control. To let this great American thinker speak for himself, as he did on MSNBC, “You know, back in my day, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
Thursday, 24 May 2012 09:56

God, Religion, and the Rev. Wright

Over 2,000 years of religious teachings had come down to this. A wealthy backer of America’s first Mormon presidential candidate proposed to spend $10 million attacking a black Christian minister and the American President who once attended his church. The attack was aborted before it even launched, however, by an article in the nation’s leading newspaper and a disavowal by its intended beneficiary.
Thursday, 17 May 2012 07:50

How The Internet Reshapes Elections

If you want a preview of what this election year will look like, look at the online protests over the shooting of Trevor Martin which generated over one million signatures, reopening a dismissed case. Or look how the Komen Foundation’s defunding of Planned Parenthood boomeranged on the internet, causing the Foundation to reverse position, its senior officials to resign, and fund raising to take a major blow. Or look at how Vice President Biden’s endorsement of gay marriage on a Sunday TV talk show fired up non-stop coverage, propelling President Obama to rush his stand in its favor.
Thursday, 10 May 2012 13:49

Why Marriage Equality Matters

Our national discussion on marriage equality heated up Sunday, when Vice President Joe Biden said on Meet the Press that he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage, and portrayed freedom to marry, either homosexually or heterosexually, as a “fundamental right.” Two members of President Obama’s cabinet, Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, also say they supported marriage equality, leaving open the question of where President Obama had “evolved” on the issue.
Thursday, 03 May 2012 11:00

Occupy Takes Wall Street

Editor’s Note: This week, Aslan Media columnist Joe Hanania reports on the recent Occupy Wall Street May Day protests In New York City. So, how did New York’s May Day march compare to Occupy marches last fall, I asked two on duty police officers? The first officer gave me a nasty look; the second shrugged his shoulders. “It’s much heavier.” Attendance was extremely heavy as group after group jammed into Union Square, packed in so tightly that not even an extra sardine could have squeezed in. And then, after being fed by additional marchers coming in from Washington Square and elsewhere, the dam burst into a flood rushing down Broadway to Wall Street. The drummers were back – those without proper instruments playing on tin cans. The trumpet players were back – belting out the Star Spangled Banner.
A friend asked for my reaction to the Los Angeles Times’ publishing two photos last week of American soldiers posing tauntingly with the bloodied bodies of dead Afghan insurgents. The photos were reportedly among 18 provided by a U.S. soldier who wanted "to draw attention to the safety risk of a breakdown in leadership and discipline.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had asked the Times and other media publications to suppress the photos for fear that publication would incite more anti-American violence, and even deaths. The other media complied with Panetta’s request; the Times did not.
As election season kicks into high gear, Americans are about to be inundated with negative ads and name calling which reflect - falsely - how powerless we are. That is why the recent tale of Charles Sonder, 24, is so heartening. As reported by the New York Times, Sonder, a former 189-pound Rhode Island wrestling champion, got aboard a subway snacking on Pringles and Gummi-Bears. Also on the subway was a 20-something woman who went ballistic when another man dashed on as the doors closed. “Don’t follow me! Don’t follow me!” she screamed, punching him, the man hitting back. Sonder made like he was about to get off. After the combatants momentarily parted to let him through, Sonder stood between them, snacking. Then, another woman in a poncho ordered the woman to sit, and her pursuer to disembark. Both complied.
Thursday, 12 April 2012 00:00

Reclaiming My Iraqi Identity

“Iraqi Immigrants in California Town Fear a Hate Crime in a Woman’s Killing,” read a recent New York Times headline. The article reported that the murdered woman’s family had previously found a note with the words “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist,” taped to the door of their Orange County house. Although an ongoing police investigation has unearthed family tensions which may have led to the murder of Shaima Alawadi, the shame and the fear of violence directed at Arab and Muslim Americans is nevertheless very real. I know because I, too, am an Iraqi-American, born in Baghdad and raised here.
Thursday, 05 April 2012 00:00

Occupying the Subways

Can America wean its oil addiction by making mass transit free? New York Occupiers are suggesting precisely this. Mass transit Farebox revenue in New York, the nation’s largest mass transit hub, totals $4.5 billion a year, according to the city’s Mass Transit Authority. That’s a hefty number – until contrasted with U.S. taxpayer subsidies to the oil and gas industries of $41 billion a year. Just redirecting that subsidy would allow nine transit systems as big as New York’s to provide free ridership. And here’s the sweetener: Other transit systems are way smaller than America’s most populous city, so cities which could have free mass transit could number in the dozens. Think of it. Free transit in Chicago. San Francisco. Los Angeles. Atlanta. Boston. Washington D.C. Include your other favorite city(ies) here.
How much has our participation in community taken a hit due to cell technology and cyber-communication, all this enhanced by increased economic segregation? Several years ago, I was having lunch on the Santa Monica Promenade. The next table over were half a dozen European tourists, talking and laughing. Then, one received a cell phone call which lasted for several minutes. The others kept talking, but their laughter was soon gone, the strain of talking above her obvious. When she got off the phone, their group interaction had also ended. If community is about engaging with others, that ad hoc community had been disrupted. And this was before texting became popular.
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 20:00

Ending the Muslim-Jewish Blame Game

The murder of four at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, the worst act of anti-Semitic violence since 1982, was a tragedy. And yet, there was also an aspect of this killing which, up to now, has been largely overlooked. As the New York Times reported, French President Nicolas Sarkozy “has sent gendarmes and riot police officers to guard all Jewish and Muslim schools and places of worship until the killer is stopped.” Other media, pointing to the same gun being used in other murders over the past week or so, have speculated that the killer may be a serial killer – one whose victims also include French Muslim soldiers headed to Afghanistan. So here is the puzzle.
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 20:00

Constructing Communities Through Creativity

Walter Isaacson’s stunning biography, Steve Jobs, tells how an American visionary designed Apple’s California headquarters to enhance staff creativity. It is a model strikingly similar to that which avant garde urban planners, including the late Jane Jacobs, advocated to enhance creativity within urban communities. Jobs was partly inspired by a “temporary” university building which placed “overflow” faculty and researchers from various departments into available spaces, willy-nilly. That building emerged as the campus’s creative hub, with academics from unrelated fields cross-pollinating via chance hallway chats. This resulted in entirely new fields of study, wrote Isaacson.
I moved to New York City about 18 months ago because I was lonely. Sure, I had friends in Santa Monica, where I had lived for 20 years. The problem was connecting. I would call and get an answering machine, walk out my door to sparsely populated sidewalks, drive amid tens of thousands of others minus any personal interaction. I made up for this social deficit by joining Santa Monica Tennis Club, which had a cadre of a few dozen regulars, and Sports Club LA, where I interacted with more. Despite this, I felt stagnant, encountering few outside of my chosen circles in random, non-sports related encounters. Other than when reporting for the Los Angeles Times, I did not identify with my city and had no real sense of place.
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 19:00

Fundamentalists Rising: The GOP and GOD

Is Rick Santorum’s fundamentalism rendering the Afghan war more costly in flesh and blood for America? Quite possibly. This became clear last week after American military personnel at a base north of Kabul threw Korans into the garbage, and burned them. Since then, about 40 people, including four American soldiers, have been killed in week long protests which included a suicide bomber ramming his vehicle into the gates of a NATO base, triggering a blast that killed nine Afghans.
In “Fiddler on the Roof,” an impoverished Tevye sings “If I Were a Rich Man,” a song whose lyrics include this line: “It won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong. When you're rich, they think you really know!” Republican presidential candidate Romney is banking on that supposed rich man’s “expertise” as Michigan Republicans prepare to vote on Tuesday. But what would really have happened to America had we allowed the auto industry to fold as Romney proposed in a 2008 New York Times op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” It would have been “catastrophic,” said David Cole, chairman emeritus for the independent, highly respected Center for Automotive Research in a phone interview from Ann Arbor.
Thursday, 16 February 2012 19:00

Coming Soon: A Republican Arab Spring

Is the Republican party about to undergo its own Arab spring, with Mitt Romney the first casualty? Let me explain. In much of the Middle East but particularly in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, leadership has consisted of a self-serving dictator masquerading as a democratically elected, people-serving, president. Cut to the Republican establishment, which is used to having its way after a similarly nominal show of dissent. With one foot planted firmly on Wall Street, the Republican establishment is much like the Arab dictators who win by a sweeping majority during “free elections,” touting themselves as paragons of democratic virtue, beloved by their people.
One hundred Iranians, most from Diaspora communities, crowded into an New York University auditorium Thursday. An overflow crowd watched a closed circuit feed from another room. Others, hoping to get inside, were told that there was simply no more room. The event creating this brouhaha? A preview of “Bridge to Iran,” a documentary series to be featured Tuesday by the global media company Link TV. The documentaries are also streamed online. So, why had so many left their apartments on a winter’s night for this small, crowded space? I had asked a similar question years ago of a 20-something Iranian-American, Mohammed Pasha, who managed Panera Bread in Santa Monica, California.
Monday, 06 February 2012 19:00

The Republican War on Christian Voters

The predominantly Christian-based Republican party, whose leaders annually inveigh against the allegedly secular “War on Christmas,” has declared war... on Christian Republicans. Impossible, you say? Before you refer this columnist to the nearest asylum, let us focus in on Nevada, and more specifically, Las Vegas. As in what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Only this time, it didn't. The party whose mission has seemingly been to uphold the teachings of Jesus - as interpreted by Republicans, of course – held its Nevada caucus last Saturday. There was, however, a minor problem. Because Nevada’s cost of living is substantially lower, the state has attracted many Americans fleeing from the more expensive coasts. These poorer Americans include many orthodox Jews.
Thursday, 02 February 2012 19:00

The Coming Republican Civil War

“Be careful what you wish for,” goes the saying. More than a few Republicans are undoubtedly discovering the truth in it. Evil Knievel discovered this in 1974, when he tried to jump across the Snake River Canyon, making him the most famous motorcyclist ever. But back to the Republicans who, like Knievel, made elaborate plans for their daring feat. First, they demanded “conservative” judges who would cut back on government regulations allowing “free” citizens to do what they want. So, President Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush, and then W. nominated five “conservative” Supreme Court judges – Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito and Roberts. Culminating in the ultimate Republican and Neo-Con cout d’etat that equated corporations with people, those judges came together in their Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for unlimited, often anonymous cash into the political process by way of super PAC contributions.
Thursday, 26 January 2012 19:00

Could 2012 Mark the Last Republican Hurrah?

Does 2012 mark the last hurrah for a Republican party doomed by demographics, the modernization of social attitudes, and heightened awareness of rising economic inequality? Thomas Edsall, journalism professor at Columbia University and author of the forthcoming The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, thinks so. American politics have been based on an expanding economy, he said. This expansion enables compromises possible on who gets more tax cuts, and on who benefits from spending programs. But as that expansion has stalled, politics has become a zero sum game, and someone has to suffer. “The discussion is about who loses a little, and who loses a lot more,” he told me.
With Saturday’s South Carolina Primary almost here, the favored Evangelical candidate, Rick Santorum, is running either third or fourth among state Republican voters. He is running behind a Mormon, whom many Evangelicals regard as practicing a false Christianity. He is also running behind a Libertarian, who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and take the world back to the gold standard. And he is running behind a thrice married politician who ran up a tab of over half a million dollars at Tiffany’s. So, where’s the respect? If the once feared Religious Right can not deliver for its favored candidate, then what can it deliver? And this is among Republicans! Lord have mercy! But it gets worse. For when Evangelical leaders recently convened to bless a single non-Romney candidate, they did agree to endorse Rick Santorum. Only the solid majority that endorsed him turned out to be not quite so, uh, solid.
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 19:00

Occupy's Victory - Among Republicans

Yes, Occupy’s attempt to have voters cast their ballots for “Uncommitted,” embarrassing Republican candidates in the Iowa caucuses, was a bust. And yes, Occupy’s New Hampshire pride march “honoring” Rick Santorum days before that state’s primary fared only slightly better. But as the Republican contest heads to South Carolina, Occupy has nevertheless scored a crucial, if little noted, victory. It has changed the core political dialogue – among Republicans.
Part 2 of 2: The Economics and Politics Behind Occupy Although conservative journalists who once dismissed Occupy as an unkempt, passing phenomenon now lump the Tea Party and Occupiers as equal grass roots movements, they still have it wrong. True, both have gained strength from our prolonged economic downturn. Their reactions, however, have been almost diametrically opposed, leading Occupy to thrive while the Tea Party declines.
Occupiers in New Hampshire’s second largest city are holding a Pride march this Saturday “honoring” Republican Presidential candidate and anti-gay activist Rick Santorum (who compared homosexuality to “man on dog” sex), three days before the nation’s first primary. Santorum, who scored eight votes behind a first place Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, is not expected to attend, and his campaign officials were unavailable for comment. This makes little difference to the expected marchers.
Ben Johnson recently huddled with fellow Occupiers. How, he asked them, could they maximize their impact on the Iowa caucuses? “I have a lot of friends hurt by the recession, who deserve to go to better colleges than me,” said the American University freshman. “They’re a lot smarter than I am, and have more to offer the world. But they are being held back by their parents’ poor finances.” “An educational system that privileges people by wealth, but does nothing for talented people whose families are not wealthy is screwing over a lot of good people. I’m not getting the shaft. But my country is.”
In each of the last three years, 1 in 5 Americans suffered a decline in household income of at least 20%, says Jacob Hacker, author of “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class”(2010). Sometimes, these declines overlap – the same household losing 20% one year and an additional 20% another year. More often, they do not. And, according to a recent Census Bureau report, nearly half of all Americans - 48% - have either fallen into poverty or are low income, scraping by on less than $45,000 for a family of four. It is bad out there. Hacker, who is also Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale, measures income instability via an Economic Security Index he devised in 2010. This index takes into account wages, pensions, and the like, minus out-of-pocket health costs and debt service for credits cards and other unsecured credit. The results are eye popping.
Robert McCaw, 29, Government Affairs Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is urging President Obama to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, whose provisions would allow prosecutors to circumvent the civilian legal system for those suspected of aiding terrorists. McCaw is not alone. “The bill contains a sweeping worldwide ‘indefinite detention’ provision...to indefinitely detain without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up in the United States,” says Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “We encourage the president to seriously consider what it will mean for America, for the first time since the McCarthy era, to enshrine indefinite detention without charge or trial right into the statute books.”
Perhaps you’ve seen the 1993 film “Dave,” where Kevin Kline, who looks identical to the American President, becomes President after his real counterpart suffers a stroke? Or, maybe the story about the Hawaiian who writes the Occupy movement song, then gets invited to play his guitar as the President hosts an international dinner – where the singer belts out his song? That actually happened. Amazingly, nobody stopped the singer, Makana, as he sang at the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) dinner in Honolulu.