Situating finance

I’ve long been bothered by activists’ habit of focusing on debt both as a political target and analytical center. This came to the fore during the Occupy moment, and continues today in, well, should we call it the post-Occupy era? Yes, debt is a problem, no doubt about it. Given the age of many Occupy activists, student debt is understandably very much on their minds (as are crappy job prospects, which don’t always get as much attention). Before that, mortgage debt and exotic variations on it were major contributors to the financial… Read More

Lots of fresh audio product

Way behind on posting this stuff to the web. The podcasts get posted soon after—and sometimes even before—broadcast, but not always the web page. Freshly posted (clicking on the date links will take you right there): January 7, 2012 Michael Taft on the Irish depression • Jodi Dean, co-author of this, on the vexing question of OWS & “demands” December 31, 2011 Christopher Jencks on inequality December 24, 2011 Christine Ahn & Tim Shorrock on North Korea • Aaron “Zunguzungu” Bady on Occupy Oakland December 17, 2011 Christopher Hitchens (from 2002) on Orwell • Andrew Ross on student debt repudiation (sign up… Read More

Creeps busting brooms, stealing trashbags at OWS

A startling bit of news from last night’s OWS Demands Working Group meeting. Someone from the Sanitation Committee at Zuccotti reported that they’re in desperate need of brooms, dustpans, and garbage bags. Someone—cops? freelance thugs (as opposed to the professional uniformed thugs)? pranksters?—has been sneaking in at night and breaking the broom handles and stealing the dustpans and trashbags. Since keeping the park clean is Mayor Bloomberg’s preferred excuse for a clampdown, this is ominous. If you’d like to donate some of these goodies, please drop them by the park. The THE YIPPIE… Read More

The OWS Demands group meets

Last night, I went to the meeting of the OWS Demands Working Group, held in historic Tompkins Square Park, scene of many a riot and other kind of uprising in its 161-year history. There were about 75 people there, to discuss what to do with the draft set of demands that the group had passed past week. On Friday, I wrongly reported that the OWS General Assembly had rejected the draft and disavowed the working group. In fact, the GA hasn’t even discussed the issue. According to people at last night’s meeting, whoever controls the… Read More

Taking the measure of OWS

Pollster Doug Schoen, who’s worked for Bill Clinton and Michael Bloomberg, sent a researcher into Zuccotti Park on October 10 and 11 to take the measure of the Occupiers. Schoen wrote up his conclusions from this effort in a now-discredited op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn’t represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. As several writers have pointed out, notably Azi Paybarah, Schoen… Read More

OWS: it never stops!

Edited version of my October 22 radio commentary. Sorry for repeating myself on Occupy Wall Street, but it seems pretty important. An acquaintance in Australia posted this to a discussion group the other day: This is I truly hope the very beginning of the reconstruction and the rediscovery of an American Left. I keep banging on about this, but American comrades must understand how this is galvanising the world. If the Left in America re-emerges as an historical agent, then a lot will become possible. All this, from what started as a small encampment in… Read More

Jacobin event tonight in NYC

A reminder—I’m part of a panel organized by the excellent posse at Jacobin on Occupy Wall Street, along with Jodi Dean, Malcolm Harris, Natasha Lennard, and Chris Maisano. Bluestockings 172 Allen St (Stanton–Rivington) Manhattan 7 PM Likely to be crowded, and Bluestockings is small—so get there early!

On OWS and the Fed

[I haven’t been posting my radio commentaries here in a while. Here’s some of October 8’s.] Rethinking OWS Turning to larger issues, not only does Occupy Wall Street continue, it’s grown in numbers and prominence—several major unions marched in solidarity earlier this week in Lower Manhattan—and it’s spreading around the country. It’s focusing attention on issues of inequality and exploitation in a way we haven’t seen in ages. And Democratic politicians are looking pressured to say sympathetic things—though I suspect they’re just looking to take advantage of the thing for their own… Read More

Jodi Dean on phases of struggle

[posted to Facebook] Jodi Dean One benefit of the model in use at occupy wall street is the possible formation of a group, collectivity, out of folks who have a hard time thinking and acting as a group. So, if we think of the occupiers as primarily people who don’t union membership as an option and don’t see any existing parties as persuasive, then they are trying to build a different kind of group. An interesting problem they face is how to describe it–it’s not an ‘identity category’ or an ‘interest group’ or… Read More

Ideological notes

I know this will prompt more rebukes for trying to impose an anachronistic old left on the spontaneously new, but someone’s got to do it. I read this quote in the New York Times the other day. I know that that may not be the go-to medium for reports on Occupy Wall Street, but it’s not unrepresentative of some of the things I’ve seen and heard first hand from that quarter: “This is not about left versus right,” said the photographer, Christopher Walsh, 25, from Bushwick, Brooklyn. “It’s about hierarchy versus autonomy.” Autonomy in… Read More

Maybe 99% is a bit much, but…

The last day or two I’ve been seeing some complaints that the chant of the Occupy Wall Street protesters that “We are the 99%” casts the net too widely, effacing all kinds of class, race, and gender distinctions. Well, yes, probably so. But I still find it cheering. It is a fact that over the last couple of decades, much of the growth in total income in the U.S. has gone to the upper reaches of society. For example, based on Census data, between 1982 and 2010, the richest fifth of society… Read More

Shaking a fist at the NYPD

There was a demonstration this afternoon organized by my friends Penny Lewis and Alex Vitale, among others, in front of NYPD headquarters to object to the nasty treatment of the Occupy Wall Street protesters and years of repression of dissent in what was once a rambunctious city. (Here’s the event’s Facebook page.) Since Giuliani and continuing through Bloomberg, the cops have used “quality of life” pretexts—keep the traffic moving!—to limit marches. And they’ve spied on organizers, arrested protesters en masse, and generally made peaceful dissent very difficult. The fact that a senior cop was… Read More

The Occupy Wall Street non-agenda

I’m not here to disparage Occupy Wall Street; I admire the tenacity and nerve of the occupiers, and hope it grows. But I’m both curious and frustrated by the inability of the organizers, whoever they are exactly, or the participants, an endlessly shifting population, to say clearly and succinctly why they’re there. Yes, I know that certain liberals are using that to malign the protesters. I’m not. I desperately hope that something comes of this. But there’s a serious problem with this speechlessness. Certainly the location of the protest is a statement,… Read More

Visiting the occupiers of Wall Street

Occupying Wall Street We—my wife Liza Featherstone and son Ivan Henwood and I—paid a visit to the Occupy Wall Street protest yesterday afternoon. Here’s an illustrated report. I also did a segment for my radio show. Audio for that is at the bottom of this entry. The big media have largely ignored the OWS protest (though if you’re part of a certain kind of network on Facebook, you can’t miss it). Called first by Adbusters with only the most minimal agenda, it’s taking on a life of its own, as people trickle in from… Read More