The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding.

Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first.

Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”.

Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.

Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting  from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Guardian (UK)

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The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

By Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding.

Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”
In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first.

Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”.

Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum.

Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting  from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.
Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Guardian (UK)

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Bangladesh Violations

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Bangladesh police clash with protestors, questions arise on International Crimes Tribunal

By Nargis Rahman

2011-09-22__hartal_police.TheDailyStar.
Picture by The Daily Star, a daily newspaper in Bangladesh, of a policeman manhandling a peaceful protester on Sept. 22, 2011.

Bangladesh, a country of 156 million people nudged between India and Burma, is known for its floods and poverty and to those who call this place home, a political tug-of-war.

Odhikar, a Bangladesh human rights organization, reported 14,000 people were injured and 220 were killed in political violence last year in the Annual Human Rights Report 2010.

Bangladesh is a parliamentary democracy. Zubarul Chowdhury Khokon, the 13th district congressional chairman for Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus (BADC) in Michigan said, although the government is elected, “Democracy is in a very vulnerable position.”

The country has faced outcry from human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch against Bangladesh’s police brutality on protesters and the arrest of leaders from parties opposing the ruling party, National Awami League, on war crime charges.

Peaceful protestors, mainly organized by the largest opposing party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have been met by police and the Rapid Action Battalion; a state security force comprised of the country’s enforcements agencies to tackle terrorism.

Hafiz Raihan Uddin, Assistant Imam of Masjid Al-Falah in Detroit, said people have the right to disagree, but they should not be beaten by police or jailed and tortured without a fair trial, under Bangladesh’s Constitutional freedom of speech right. There is, “Extreme human rights violation happening,” said Uddin. “I have the right to freedom of speech…If you don’t like it, that doesn’t mean not to give me the opportunity to say what I have to say and to hurt me.”

RAB, known as “death squad,” by human rights organizations has killed over 1,000 people since its creation in 2004. Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International researcher in Bangladesh said, “The RAB has a history of using excessive, sometimes even lethal, force.”

Human Rights Watch, an international non-profit non-government organization (NGO), asked the US and UK to withdraw support from RAB; known for its beatings, taking people from their homes in the middle of the night, filing reports which are not given fair trails in court, and “crossfire” deaths.

Khokon said, everyone has a right to justice, “Even the biggest criminal in Bangladesh.”

Earlier this year the RAB director general told The Guardian, a UK-based newspaper, the group killed 622 people in the March 2010 crossfires. Awami League said they would eliminate the agency during 2009 election bids.

Protests

Protests have emerged in the past two months due to a drop in stock market prices and  the arrests of political party leaders in Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP. Last week BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia led two protests (15,000 and 10,000 people) to call for earlier elections to throw out the current government, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Department of State’s website, state.gov, said protests ranging from one to 27-days, and Parliamentary walk-outs by opposing parties have been going back-and-forth in Bangladesh’s political history.

Police beat protestors. Some are arrested.

•    September 22, 2011 Bangladesh media NTV News, a privately-owned satellite channel, and The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi daily newspaper, reported a police officer held a protestor to the ground with his boot, during an 11-hour hortal, or strike.

•    September 19, 2011 Two Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and 25 people were detained for a riot which started in Dhaka and spread to other cities according to Reuters. Half of those arrests were in Dhaka, according to Jamaat-e-Islami. The protests were in response to the detainment of leaders in the party who have been in jail awaiting formal war crime charges. Rioters clashed with police who tried to obstruct the rallies, said The Daily Star. The party denies the leaders’ alleged crimes of siding with Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

•    November 30, 2010  Amnesty International reported, “Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and other police personnel attacked peaceful demonstrators with batons in over a dozen raids,” including at least one organized protest by BNP. Peaceful protestors were beat by police on their hands, head, and legs, documented by Amnesty International. The groups Bangladesh Researcher Abbas Faiz said, “The Bangladeshi government should immediately investigate these attacks by security forces on peaceful demonstrators and ensure that any people hurt receive justice and appropriate compensation.”

•    February 2010 In a public statement Amnesty International said 300 members of Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing Shibbir were arrested from dorms or near campus in cities Rajshahi, Dhaka and Chittagong for protesting. “It is not known if any of them have been charged with a recognizable criminal offence.” 

Round-up of political opponents

•    August 11, 2011 Bangladesh Supreme Court Lawyer MU Ahmed, a BNP supporter, was arrested at his home by 20 plain-clothed policemen who did not identify themselves, sometime between 2:30-3:30 a.m. Ahmed was taken for “assaulting police and obstructing them from discharging duties on the SC premises on August 2 and 4,” reported The Daily Star. In a briefing, police said they held him for 30-40 minutes at the branch, while an anonymous officer who was a part of the raid said Ahmed was held for three hours. Ahmed died on August 26, after having a massive heart attack during the interrogation (The Daily Star).

•    December 2010 BNP Minister of Parliament Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was picked up by police in connection with a private car set ablaze in June 2010 in Bangladesh, leading to one death. There are allegations of, “Bangladeshi security forces have tortured Salauddin Quader Chowdhury during interrogations…applying electrodes to his genitals, beating him, slitting his stomach with razors and twisting his toenails and fingernails with pliers,” reported Amnesty International. Charges were changed to crimes against humanity in the Liberation War of 1971, which he denies. He was 63 during his torture.

•    June 27, 2010 Former Mayor of Dhaka, Mirza Abbas, a BNP member, was arrested along with family members and supporters attacked by RAB following allegations of violence during a textile strike. RAB claimed people threw bricks, not visible in the video obtained by Amnesty International.

•    July 6, 2011 YouTube footage from NTV International News Division in Bangladesh showed BNP parliament member Zoynul Abedin Farok chased by police during a hortal. Police beat him with sticks until his clothes came off and he passed out in Dhaka. Police tried to pull him into a vehicle, but left him behind. An officer interviewed in the video said Farok resisted arrest and was not beaten. CNN reported he was wounded and hospitalized.

Journalists picked up by RAB, police

FreedomHouse.org, an institution which rates the freedom of press in countries around the world, rated Bangladesh as a partly free press with partial civil liberties in 2010. Khokon said journalists are the constructive criticism needed by (democratic) government.“It’s healthy for a party.”

Odhikar reported attacks on journalists: 2 killed, 52 injured, 35 threatened, 29 assaulted, 15 attacked, in the Human Rights Monitoring Report from January 1- June 30, 2010.

•    October 22, 2009 M.F. Masum of the daily newspaper New Age was arrested and blindfolded by RAB-10 members. He was hit from behind, beat on his feet, and other body parts with iron rods and a blade. RAB officers accused him of being an “assistant” of his homeowner, Mohammad Salauddin in South Jatrabari, Dhaka, who was arrested for narcotics trade (Odhikar). The lieutenant responsible for his torture was withdrawn from RAB-10 (The Daily Star).

•    June 1, 2010 Editor of Amar Desh, a Bangla daily newspaper, Mahmudur Rahman was arrested by armed police in a suit against him by the former Publisher Hasmat Ali, who was suing Rahman for publishing under his name. Prior to the arrest Rahman filed paperwork to change the publisher’s name in the newspaper, a request shot-down by officials.

•    Facebook access was blocked between May 29 – June 5, 2010, by the government after Mahbub Alam Rodin posted cartoons of politicians Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Begum and Begum Khaleda Zia. He was later arrested. The government faced negative feedback and regained the social network access.

Tribunals Act: charges, trails of war crimes do not meet international standards

The 1973 International Crimes Tribunal was adopted in March 2010 by the Bangladesh Parliament to try those who sided with Pakistan during the Liberation War. The original Tribunal was formed to try 195 Pakistani Prisoners of War, who were later freed.

The current adoption has been used to charge political leaders with war crimes including genocide, rape, and crimes against humanity – nearly 40 years ago. Five Jamaat-e-Islami and two Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders have been arrested.

Human rights groups, the Supreme Court Bar Association, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, and the International Bar Association have criticized the act for not meeting international standards for war crime trials.

In January, US Ambassador to Dhaka John Moriarty told The Daily Star standards are met, but more time should be allowed for defense, which allows a trial to start three weeks after formal charges are made against the accused. Jamaat-e-Islami leader Moulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi was the first charged in early October for alleged looting, rape, and arson during the Liberation, said The Guardian. Sayeedi has denied allegations.

The Tribunals act has started a ripple effect in the US with protests in New York and small rallies in Michigan.

BADC members were recommended not to take a party stand. In an email memo Chairman Nazmul Shahin of BADC, a political wing of the Michigan Democratic Party, said to members…the party, “Shall stay neutral as an organization on political issues in the country of origin rather focus on political process, elections, and the Democratic Party activities in the USA and in Michigan,” however individuals are allowed to stand for their beliefs on the War Crimes Tribunal.

Bringing it home: local reaction

Khokon said he believes Bangladeshi people will rise up beyond the alleged human rights violations. “[Problems] should be resolved by the people [who] should raise their voice,” he said.

Uddin said people can ask US officials and humanitarian groups to put pressure on the Bangladeshi government to stop human rights violations.

Dr. Zaikirul Haque, who is on the sub-committee of Bangladesh-US relations committee of the Michigan Democratic Caucus said interaction between the countries is a “win-win” situation.

The U.S. Department of State Report says there is a good relation between the countries. The US gave $163 Million in aid in 2009, totaling over $5 Billion dollars for food and other services to the country. Bangladesh had $4.3 Billion exports in 2010 according to the US Embassy of Bangladesh exports report.

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Occupy W Street Growing

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Boston Correspondent Karin Friedemann reports on growing “Occupy Boston” phenomenon

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

abramSince the end of September, hundreds of protesters under the banner “Occupy Boston” have set up camp in downtown Boston, Massachusetts to support the ongoing “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York. Their demands are varied, but seem to be focused on unemployment, rising food prices, and the unfairness of billions of dollars of tax money being spent on useless wars and bank bailouts while the American dream of home ownership and “a chicken in every pot” steadily dies, as ordinary citizens lose their financial security.

Tents have filled up a public park while crowds chant slogans such as “Tax the Rich,” hold up hand made signs and fill the air with music and drumming. Celebrities have come to perform, and the homeless have been receiving free food and clothing. Compared to the scene in New York, Occupy Boston is enjoying a festive atmosphere despite the chilly weather, free of tension without any hint of police brutality. Various people drop by with donations of money, food, blankets and kind words, while the number of campers continues to grow.

The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino and the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick have decided that there will be no arrests of protesters and have in fact stated publicly that they support the right of citizens to express their opinions. The protesters have been told they are free to camp out as long as they choose.

Media criticism has focused on the cost upon taxpayers to pick up the garbage and provide the tent city with electricity. It is highly probable that the City of Boston has decided to avoid the bad press that comes along with police violence against angry mobs. It is also much cheaper to provide these very basic services to the protesters than to arrest and detain them and then pay for all of them to go to trial and provide them all with court-appointed lawyers. Furthermore, there might be some quiet agreement with the slogan “Tax the Rich” among many in the leadership, for this is one of the principles upon which the State of Massachusetts operates, as the only state in the US that provides free health insurance to the lower middle class.

Massachusetts is already well-known as the US state which takes the best care of its poorer citizens out of its wealthy tax base, providing government-subsidized child care starting from the age of one month, after school and summer programs for teens, nearly free sports programs, food and cash aid and reduced housing prices for the poor. Yet it is still not enough for everyone to feel secure. The working middle class is hardest hit by the economy since they do not qualify for most of these programs and often go into debt trying to provide for their families due to medical bills, childcare or the high price of gasoline.

Occupy Boston is not your usual group of punks and hippies with nothing else to do but complain. The movement has been joined by college students, nurses, pilots, and other workers. As I drove on the highway today past the electrical workers’ union I saw a fancy electrical sign reading “We the People Occupy Boston.”

America’s largest labor union, the AFL-CIO with 11 million members has backed the growing movement, stating: “The Wall Street banks and the largest corporations refuse to pay their fair share of taxes while our infrastructure crumbles. They sit on record profits while the rest of the country suffers, and they still refuse to put people back to work.”

The Boston Herald reports that many of the elderly are showing their support. A retired 71-year-old gentleman, who ran his own corporate headhunting firm, visited the tent village yesterday afternoon to advise the young people to focus on making clearer demands. “I’d like to see the group more focused on applying pressure to specific areas,” he stated.

Some feel it makes no sense using so much personal energy to speak out against such a vague term as “Corporate Greed” without actually naming names of bankers or lobbyists who should go to jail, for example, or demanding some specific reforms of the process of electing public officials. Specifically, Occupy Boston could use its voice to demand universal health care for all of Massachusetts, a measure that would even save the rich thousands of dollars a year. MassHealth is the best health insurance in America, with zero co-payments and even free replacements for broken eyeglasses. Preventing disease is so much less costly than treating it.

Occupy Boston is a unique and bizarre political situation, where banks and financial corporations have opened their doors to the hundreds of anti-bank anti-corporation protesters to let them use the toilet. The unrest seems to be good for local capitalism, since all these people have to eat. One of America’s leading pro-Israel advocates Rabbi Michael Lerner has been actively recruiting Jews to participate in the protests – perhaps to steer the conversation away from cutting US aid to Israel, which would be an obvious way to quickly make more money available to the masses of disgruntled Americans.

Even more contradictory are the conflicting views of the people involved. Right-wing Libertarian protesters demand an end to the credit-based economy and want to return to the Gold Standard, while the Leftists and Liberals simply want to steer more borrowed government money into improving and expanding welfare programs. But most are in agreement that jobs are more important than foreign wars and that the government needs to focus more on its citizens not the demands of corporate lobbyists.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer

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