People Power: Occupy Wall Street Movement

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Canadian Charger

2011-10-26T074901Z_1864182193_GM1E7AQ17ZP01_RTRMADP_3_USA-WALLSTREET

An “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrator chants during a demonstration in response to an early morning police raid which displaced Occupy Oakland’s tent city in Oakland, California October 25, 2011.

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

In the United States – the world’s lone superpower and a beacon of hope for many the world over – 14 million people are officially unemployed and two million of those have given up looking for a job. And that’s the tip of the iceberg: half a million people are homeless; nearly 50 million people are without health insurance; and 46 million Americans live below the poverty rate, yet banks and large corporations received billion dollar bailouts from taxpayers’ hard-earned money and bank executives never stopped receiving million dollar bonuses, on top of their seven figure incomes.

In response, the Occupy Wall Street movement – in the midst of its fourth week – continues to escalate, protesting against corporate greed, government inefficiency and income inequality. Many people are debating what the real message of this movement is and, more importantly, what impact it will have on the country itself.

Writing in the New York Times recently, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said: “With unions and a growing number of Democrats now expressing at least qualified support for the protesters, Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even been seen eventually as a turning point.”

Of course, as with most controversial issues, the end of the political spectrum one is viewing the events from greatly influences one’s interpretation of said events. Speaking on the television show Cross Talk recently, radio talk show host and Tea Party organizer Tony Katz said that the Occupy Wall Street movement looked like a bunch of anarchists and he cautioned that the movement has the potential to turn violent.

Jason Del Gandio, assistant professor of rhetoric and public advocacy at Temple University, responded that the Occupy Wall Street movement is a nonviolent movement, expressing a deep desire for democracy that responds to the wants and needs of everyday people, not corporations.

Sensing the growing popularity of the movement, President Obama and his team are now saying that the demonstrators have a point; but with a team of Wall Street veterans as advisors, making all the important economic decisions that Obama lacks the expertise to make, the demonstrators consider Obama to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Meanwhile, on Cross Talk, Kevin Zeese, a political activist and one of the organizers of www.October2011.org said he and many others in the Occupy Wall Street movement see the Obama White House as part of the crony, capitalist, corrupt economy which has resulted in 400 people having as much wealth as 154 million – not because they’re smarter or work harder but because they’re politically connected and essentially bribing through campaign donations.

“Our goal is to shift the power to the people and end the corporate rule. Corporate rule does affect the cost of college; corporate rule does put our students in the greatest debt they’ve ever been in. They’re coming into a job market that’s absolutely terrible. These kids are in the streets because they’re being treated poorly by this economy…The empire economy with 1100 military bases around the world is not good for the United States; it’s not good for our national security; it’s not good for our democracy; it’s not good for our economy. We need to remove the power of corporations.”

Similar to the G20 protests, where citizens were expressing legitimate concerns about government policies, a minority of protesters always engage in destructive – and at times unlawful – conduct; and unfortunately it’s these acts that tend to make the evening news, and become the focus of right wing commentators. Not surprisingly, this is what Tea Party organizer Mr. Katz sees when watching the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“If you take a look from the outside looking in, it looks like a bunch of people who don’t care about the land, who are willing to abuse businesses around them and defecate on police cars. That’s the evidence base. You’re not going to get the Tea Party to favor a concept where everyone gets paid for doing nothing. We don’t accept that. We believe in capitalism; we believe in the free market; we believe you should keep what you earn. Governments shouldn’t get what you earn and Wall Street shouldn’t get what you earn. You should keep what you earn.”

The mantra of a free market is constantly trotted out by the right, as they continuously demand that government get out of the way of business and let the market decide. However, the reality is often quite different: Columbia University professor and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz pointed out in his book Free Fall, that over many years, governments have had to continuously bail out banks and large corporations when their bets went sour. And the current crisis is just a part of this continuum.

Mr. Del Gandio, and many others, can see this.

“Do we actually live in a free market society? Because the last time I looked it was the richest corporations and the richest banks on the face of the planet that were getting bailouts. So it’s communism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. We do not live in a free market society. That’s a myth. We’ve never lived in a free market society. It’s always privileged the rich,” Mr. Del Gandio said.

13-44

US ‘Biggest’ Threat, Say Pakistanis

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Owen Fay, Al Jazeera

2009-08-09T151039Z_01_AAL113_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN

Men pray during rally in the northwest Pakistan city Peshawar August 9, 2009. Over 500 supporters of the Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami gathered in a park in Peshawar to protest against military operations in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. 

REUTERS/Ali Imam

A survey commissioned by Al Jazeera in Pakistan has revealed a widespread disenchantment with the United States for interfering with what most people consider internal Pakistani affairs.

The polling was conducted by Gallup Pakistan – a separate organisation affiliated with the US-based Gallup Inc – and more than 2,600 people took part.

Interviews were conducted across the political spectrum, and represented men and women of every economic and ethnic background.

The resentment was made clear when residents were asked if they support or oppose Pakistan’s own military offensive against Taliban targets.

Keeping with recent trends a growing number of people, now 41 per cent, support the campaign.

About 24 per cent of people remain opposed, but an additional 22 per cent of Pakistanis remain neutral on the question.

That number changes quite significantly when people were asked if they would support government-sanctioned dialogue with Taliban fighters if it were a viable option.

The same 41 per cent said they would still support the military offensive. But the number of those supporting dialogue leaps up to 43 per cent.

So clearly, Pakistanis are, right now, fairly evenly split on how to deal with the Taliban threat.

However, when asked if they support or oppose the US military’s drone attacks against what Washington claims are Taliban and al-Qaeda targets, only nine per cent of respondents reacted favorably.

A massive 67 per cent say they oppose US military operations on Pakistani soil.

“This is a fact that the hatred against the US is growing very quickly, mainly because of these drone attacks,” Makhdoom Babar, the editor-in-chief of Pakistan’s The Daily Mail newspaper, said.

“Maybe the intelligence channels, the military channels consider it productive, but for the general public it is controversial … the drone attacks are causing collateral damage,” he told Al Jazeera.

The consensus of opinion on US military involvement is notable given the fact that on a raft of internal issues there is a clear level of disagreement, which can be expected in a country of this size.

When asked for their opinions on Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, 42 per cent of respondents believe he is doing a bad job. Around 11 per cent approve of his leadership, and another 34 per cent have no strong opinion either way.

That pattern was reflected in a question about the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Forty-one per cent of Pakistanis say they support the offensive against the Taliban

Respondents were asked if they thought the PPP is good or bad for the country.

About 38 per cent said the PPP is bad for the country, 20 per cent believe it is good for the country and another 30 per cent said they have no strong opinion.

Respondents were even more fractured when asked for their views on how the country should be led.

By far, the largest percentage would opt for Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, as leader. At least 38 per cent back him to run Pakistan.

Zardari received only nine per cent support, while Reza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, has the backing of 13 per cent.

But from there, opinions vary greatly. Eight per cent of the population would support a military government, 11 per cent back a political coalition of the PPP and Sharif’s PML-N party.

Another six per cent throw their support behind religious parties and the remaining 15 per cent would either back smaller groups or simply do not have an opinion.

Babar told Al Jazeera that Zardari’s unpopularity was understandable given the challenges that the country had faced since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

“Any president in Pakistan would be having the same popularity that President Zardari is having, because under this situation the president of Pakistan has to take a lot of unpopular decisions,” he said.

“He is in no position to not take unpopular decisions that are actually in the wider interests of the country, but for common people these are very unpopular decisions.”

The level of diversity disappears when broader questions of security and military intervention are posed.

In the same way that most Pakistanis right now reject what they see as US military interference, they strongly oppose US policies as a whole.

The respondents were asked what they consider to be the biggest threat to the nation of Pakistan: 11 per cent of the population sees the Taliban as the largest threat, while 18 per cent believe it comes from India.

But by an overwhelming margin, 59 per cent of respondents said the greatest threat to Pakistan right now is, in fact, the US.

That is a number worth bearing in mind the next time the US claims its military campaign is succeeding.

11-34