• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Flash-Banging the Right to Peaceably Assemble

Scott Olsen, 24, served two tours of duty in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. In July 2011, after returning Stateside, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he worked with a software company. He also became active with Iraq Veterans Against the War.

On Tuesday, October 26, Olsen joined approximately 1000 other “Occupiers” marching on Frank Ogawa Place, in Oakland.

Earlier in the day, the police had “cleared” the two-week long encampment at the Plaza. At 4:45 AM (Tuesday) hundreds of multi-task force officers marched on the Plaza and ordered to Occupiers to disperse. Five minutes later, the police lobbed “flash-bang” grenades into the crowd

Speaking in de rigueur mili-cop speak, Oakland city spokesperson, Karen Boyd, said "We have contained the plaza, we are in the process of mobilizing the clean-up phase."

Boyd went on to say that “it was apparent that neither the demonstrators nor the city could maintain safe or sanitary conditions, or control the ongoing vandalism" and that "those arrested now face charges for camping or assembling without a permit".

Throughout Tuesday, police and demonstrators contained one another on the streets leading to the park. At this time, protestors splattered the police with paint.

The confrontation continued on into the night at which time things had more or less lulled into a standoff. Videos taken at the scene show protestors standing about in an intersection with the police aligned behind metal barricades drawn across the street leading to the park.

(video by vimeo.com/31187119)

At this time, and without any provocation, the police fired tear gas cannisters and a flash-bang into the crowd hitting Olsen in the head. Olsen fell to the ground and the police continued firing as other protestors rush to his assistance. Olsen is carried away with a bloody gash in his forhead and taken to hospital where he was listed as being in critical but stable condition.

As Olsen was being carried off, President Obama was being broadcast on the Jay Leno Show. Obama says that the protests indicate people are “frustrated”.

The following day (Wednesday) Oakland officials start the usual cover up.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a late afternoon news conference that the events leading up to Olsen's injury would be investigated as vigorously as a fatal police shooting. (Yawn)

"It's unfortunate it happened. I wish that it didn't happen. Our goal, obviously, isn't to cause injury to anyone," the chief said. (Yeah, "obviously". )

"We are committed to allowing free speech," he said, "but the First Amendment doesn't allow violence or endangering the public or property." (What "violence"? The potential violence that might have occurred had police not fired into the crowd to prevent violence from occuring?)

As it emerged, on Thursday, that the police had in fact lobbed a flash-bang, officials began back pedalling further.

City officials claimed that the plaza was damaged by graffiti, litter and unspecified vandalism. Police officials implied that perhaps non Oakland police units were responsible for the projectile that hit Olsen, although they did not deny having used flash-bangs earlier in the day.

In a news conference, Oakland major, Jean Quan sought to distance herself from the police action, saying she was away in Washington at the time and had not expected it to unfold the way it did.

The New York Times opined that “stressed out cities” around the country were having difficulty containing the protests. Speaking on the Jay Leno Show, on the night Olsen was hit, President Obama said that while he understood the “frustration” felt by many people he could not condone lawlessness.

The “frustration” people feel is at a corpocracy that does not minimally meet the needs of ordinary people. Democrats and Republicans can log-jam one another all they want neither party meets the needs of ordinary people. President Obama can understand all he want, he chose to help out banks instead of ordinary people.

What stresses out cities is non-existent revenues which are the result of non-existent economies. Last, but not least, what is “lawless” is police firing at people as if they were targets in some cop joy-shoot. No action of the protestors damaged much less “endangered” property. Since when does marching down a street put property “at risk” other than in a fevered imagination? It is precisely to foreclose that kind of repressive excuses that the Constitution guarantees the right to peaceably assemble.

For exercising that right, Scott Olsen was almost killed by a “non-lethal” projectile fired at close range.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Half a Percent for Ninety Nine Percent!

In the news today, it was reported that President Obama once again used his executive authority to implement a legislative change -- this time, to ease the debt burden on student loans.

According to reports, the executive order moves up the effective date of a previoulsy enacted law which reduced maximum required repayments from 15 to 10 percent of annual discretionary income. Under Obama's order, the law will take effect in 2012 instead of 2014. Obama's executive action will also allow student-borrowers to consolidate their loans into a single government debt, carrying an interest rate that is half a percent lower than at present.

Obama's move is such patent financial demagoguery it is hard not to laugh. Obama is obviously feeling the heat of his own betrayal of the 99 percent. His answer? Shave off half a percent!

This is the third time within the week that Obama has announced an executive action which bypasses the congressional dead end. Earlier in the week he announced a housing re-fi plan and a job-training program for veterans. Needless to say, the Republicans are huffing indignantly about constitutionalism and the End of the Republic!

In all honesty, it would be unfair to accuse Obama of "currying favor" with the demos like kings scattering coin to the jubilant throng or would-be emperors promising donatives to the Praetorian Guard in quid pro quo of electoral support. It would be unfair because such transparent skullduggery is exactly what American democracy is all about. Getting some change to the Code of Federal Regulations is what a thousand-bucks-a-plate is for.

What is scandalous is how cheaply Obama seeks to buy student support. Big Bank, Big Pharma, Big Inc., big anything get small, teensy changes in the law through which billions in profits are siphoned. Rope through the eye of a needle? No problem. But when it comes to buying the support of ordinary people, the small change produces small change.

According to the WSJ, Julie Margetta Morgan, a policy analyst at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, called the Obama plan a step in the right direction, but said that without Congress on board, the White House can't advance "the kind of really big changes we want to see."

The really big change would be for Obama and Congress both to stop thinking in terms of leveraging the profit generator to gear-in some small social or economic change. What students need is European style merit-based university education that taxes only the brain.