Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Occupy Wall Street About?

A Work in Progress

Why is that so hard to understand?  Support Occupy Wall Street.

UPDATE 12-3-2011

After I posted the list above, We formed our own Occupy Aroostook.  As with other Occupy groups, our local  group is wrestling with the issue of stated goals for the Occupy movement.  Having arrived at a consensus opinion about the need for a trifold brochure to explain what we are about to community and media who keep asking, I drafted one and sent it around to our email list for comments and suggestions.  For purposes of discussion, the draft included the following list garnered from discussions at assembly .  Although there is no consensus about most of the items on the list, there are passionate loyalties among some for or against particular items.


Get money out of politics.  Reform campaign funding.

Stop congressional insider trading.

Reduce deficit via fair-share taxes for the rich and stop wars.

Reform banking:  restore Glass-Steagall Act. 

Stop corporate welfare, too-big-to-fail companies, government subsidies that support big profits.

Better education for a better world: publicly funded K through Ph.D., stop public funding of private for-profit schools, forgive student loans.

Single-payer, universal health care.

Protect workers’ rights, and support small-business prosperity.

I did get disagreement as expected, and I responded with the following message.

Thanks for input on the OA trifold draft.  This is an important part of the process.  I would like to have more.

I’m going to speak as myself here and not for Occupy Aroostook; I want to express some opinions that some of you will likely disagree with.  That’s OK; give me your argument for disagreeing. 

First, the brochure itself—do we need one?  As I read the consensus of those attending Assembly, yes we do.  I agree with that.  We need to explain ourselves to the larger community in some format(s) more than what we can communicate with signs at marches.  I think we are not in agreement about what such communication should contain.  So, I decided to draft a brochure to use as a basis for discussion.  I tried to put in it all the issues I have heard discussed about what we should stand for.  I hope and assume there will be revisions, deletions, replacements, expansions, etc. that will happen as we come to better understand the issues and grow our opinions about them.  I hope we never stop keeping an open mind to new evidence or knowledge that might require us to change our minds, even after we agree on a brochure, or whatever else we decide to do.

Second, the list of goals—do we need one?  I don’t think we have consensus about that in assembly, but the issue keeps coming up in the Occupy movement nationally and locally from marchers and non-marchers and from media.  Every time I have spoken to the media, they ask the question in one form or another.  My preferred list would be one umbrella term, like “social justice,” which, to me, captures a sense of all the issues we are concerned about.  Unfortunately, that term is too loaded, ie. socialism, to be practical and too abstract to be useful.  My next preference would be simply what we have been using “Economic  & Political Justice.”  But that, too, doesn’t satisfy the media, nor the public’s legitimate right (we are in their faces every week) to know more specifically what we are about.  I can think of no other mechanism to let them know in a brief format other than a list.  Do any of you out there have ideas for how to do this?  Perhaps we should call such a list “Some Issues of Concern,” since I don’t believe we are ready to declare specific goals that we can achieve consensus about.

Third, the content of the list.  For my ideal preferences, even the list suggested by one of you (economic justice, money out of politics, corporations are not people) is too long.  But for the purposes of communicating to the public what we are about, 3 items is too short, too limiting.  I would, at this point in my thinking, try to boycott any list that does not include concerns about education and health care.  These issues are too basic to the cause of economic justice to ignore in such a list.  I am open to a good argument against including them; I haven’t heard that argument yet.  

Fourth, the forgiveness of student loans that some object to.  I’ve been on the fence about that.  So I went looking for good arguments that would allow me to fall over to the side of forgiveness as part of a more-comprehensive solution to the whole problem of funding education, such as “universal education for life,” in multiple senses of for life.   I’m still doing research, but for now, here are a some arguments persuasive to me:  for an economic view:; for a moral view:;  for comment on the moral view:  

Please feel free to join or continue in this conversation about a list of Occupy concerns:;; or any Occupy facebook page or website.   Or draft your own list and submit it for discussion.   Be peaceful.  Be respectful.

Visit again for further updates.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It simply Isn't patriotic to disenfranchise citizens.

Published October 12, 2011, The Star Herald


Two major reasons are given for the new law in Maine that we must register to vote at least 3 business days prior to the election date:  to prevent voter fraud, and to alleviate a burden on town clerks.

In the Bangor Daily News, Eric Russell says that Charlie Smmers' investigation into voter fraud turned up only one case that would come close to fraud.  And America Goes to the Polls 2010 reports that Election Day Registration (EDR) actually reduces administrative costs and burdens.  Gathering signatures at the Maine Poato Blossom Festival Parade and elsewhere for the people's veto about the issue, we had a town manager and several town clerks sign, all of them voicing strong support for same-day registration.  [Since this was first published in The Star Herald, The Maine Municipal Association has endorsed the people's veto of the law.]

I have worked in a job too far outside my home town to get to town offices during regular business hours, as do many Maine people in rural areas who often work more than one job.  And I have been in voting situations considered suspicious by Summers.  I have several times been a student where I voted in districts outside my home state.  In all those cases, I was registered to vote in Maine and in another state in the same year.  I also may have been guilty of failing to register my car within 30 days of those moves; that does not make me guilty also of voter fraud.  What could Summers have meant by questioning the patriotism of such voting?

Our laws should encourage voting by making it as easy as possible.  According to Michael Cooper in the New York Times, EDR is responsible for "enrolling some 60,000 new voters in 2008."  The current law disenfranchises many and discourages participation for no good reason that has been supported with persuasive evidence.   Where is the patriotism in denying 60,000 citizens their vote?  

Please vote yes on Question 1 to protect EDR, and tell your legislators to stop wasting time and money on laws that fix no problem when we have pressing problems that need work.