Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn, 2012, Tuvalu and Why Lao-Tzu Went Beyond the Wall

The problem is that it interferes with the most profitable industry the world has ever seen. Exxon made more money last year than in the history of money. And it doesn't take much in politics to stop things from happening. Their only goal is to delay action. It took 20 years to work round the delaying efforts of the tobacco industry. And the tobacco industry is a mere pimple on the butt of the oil industry. It is the most profitable enterprise that humans have every engaged in. Bill McKibben on tar sands, Obama, geoengineering and population growth, Guardian, 10-6-11

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And we are trashing the natural world ... The task of our time is to turn this round ... What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. Naomi A. Klein, The fight against climate change is down to us – the 99%, Guardian, 10-7-11

Occupy Wall Street, MoveOn, 2012, Tuvalu and Why Lao-Tzu Went Beyond the Wall

By Richard Power

Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching has exercised a profound influence over my life. Lately I have been contemplating a legend concerning the circumstances under which the ancient sage wrote it down.

Lao-Tzu was a keeper of the Imperial Library. He looked around him, and saw that government corruption was pervasive and the social order was disintegrating, and so he slipped away and headed for the mountains. But a a sentry at the guard post recognized the great sage, and realized that the old man was not going to leave a trail; so he compelled Lao-Tzu to write down his philosophy, which he did, in the equivalent of two thousand or so words.

Lao-Tzu did not leave the imperial city for his own survival. Nor did Lao-Tzu leave because he feared some adversary or another. Lao-Tzu lived from a perspective beyond both of these small frames.

So I have been wondering if perhaps Lao-Tzu left because he could not bare to hear how the good would defeat itself.

Do Not Allow POTUS' Failure to Lead to Enable Your Own

Consider these two unfortunate glimpses into the character of some players in the Shakespearian drama of the coming election:

During the speech [to the Congressional Black Caucus], Obama struck somewhat of an authoritative tone to the audience. “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said. “Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumblin’. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We have work to do.” Obama to CBC awards crowd: ‘Stop complaining’ Raw Story, 9-25-11

POTUS' comments to the CBC were arrogant, insulting, but worst of all, STUPID.

"Take off your bedroom slippers, and put on your marching boots," seriously, POTUS? Madison, Wisconsin went marching. Where were you? Moving the Planet went marching. Where were you been? Occupy Wall Street went marching. Where were you? Tars Sands Action marched to your house, but you weren't home. Where were you? Playing golf with Boehner? Oh, sorry, Martha's Vineyard. Well, they will be back in November.

A few weeks after the CBC speech, while POTUS was speechifying at the ceremonial opening of a stone monument on the mall, Dr. Cornel West was offering a flesh and blood celebration of MLK's legacy by being arrested in an act of non-violent protest.

Dr. Cornel West climbed on the steps of the Supreme Court and denounced court decisions that have produced money-based elections that empower corporations. Dr. West was holding a sign that said ‘Poverty is the Greatest Violence of All.’ He was arrested because holding political signs on the Supreme Court steps is illegal.” Cornel West arrested protesting at Supreme Court, Raw Story, 10-16-11

POTUS, it is a lovely stroll from the Mall to the steps of SCOTUS, but it is a very long way to the beating heart of this movement from the corner you and your advisers painted you into.

(Nor is Dr. West the only prominent person who has felt the pulse of this moment. Read this remarkable story from Naomi Wolf: How I was arrested at Occupy Wall Street. Arresting a middle-aged writer in an evening gown for peaceable conduct is a far cry from when America was a free republic, Guardian, 10-19-11)

Well, of course, POTUS' CBC speech was just before Labor Day. POTUS was feeling the heat and perhaps looking to set-up a scapegoat in case his re-election chances started to crater. (Of course, he wouldn't think to pin the blame on Emmanuel, Axelrod, Geithner or Holder. Yes, all men.) He is singing a different tune now.

But that's because at least until winter descends, the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon has seized the narrative. So it is this phenomenon's chance to show whether it will lead or limit, whether it will embrace or exclude. Which will it choose?

Ah, consider this ...

Top MoveOn leaders/executives are all over national television speaking for the movement. fully appreciate the help and support of MoveOn, but the MSM is clearly using them as the spokespeople for OWS. This is an blatant attempt to fracture the 99% into a Democratic Party organization. The leadership of MoveON are Democratic Party operatives. they are divide and conquer pawns. For years they ignored Wall Street protests to keep complete focus on the Republicans, in favor of Goldman’s Obama and Wall Street’s Democratic leadership. If anyone at Move On or Daily Kos would like to have a public debate about these comments, we invite it. Move On Tries to Take Over Occupy Wall Street Protests, Washington Blog, 10-14-11

So was David DeGraw just having a bad day, or is this arrogant, insulting and worse yet STUPID statement a warning sign of a fatal blind spot in the vision of those behind Occupy Wall Street?

Bluntly, simply, my friend, deserves more respect (even though they pull their punches occasionally), so does the Daily Kos, and it is both a strategic blunder and a tactical blunder not to welcome them. Paraphrasing what Thom Hartmann told a listener this a.m., don't worry about them changing you, you change them.

The message you must bring is that the time for incremental change has passed; it is a luxury we can no longer afford, it is now or never. And yet, at the same time, understand that whatever government is elected in 2012 will be corporatist. If it is a "D" dominated government, it will be susceptible to pressure, if it is an "R" dominated government, it will be as if blind, deaf and dumb to our petitioning, and it will bury what is left of our democratic institutions.

IF the people who had voted in 2008 had not stayed home in 2010, thousands of more jobs would have been saved (because a "D" Congress would have moved BEFORE the initial stimulus ran out, and millions of more jobs would be on the way (because a "D" Congress would have passed Obama's current jobs bill); furthermore, POTUS would not have been able to allow the Bush tax cut extension, nor would he have been in a position to start babbling about "austerity"and giving everybody "hair-cuts." There would be no "Super Committee" now. And whether or not those who didn't vote in 2010 are sleeping in a park tonight as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement, they are just as responsible for our current circumstances as the most disingenuous of corporatist "Democrats."

Anyone who did not vote against the Zombie Cult in 2010 has not taken personal responsibility. It is not POTUS' failure that led you not to vote, it is you who allowed POTUS' failure to enable your own.

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

I have no doubt that these remarks will lead to some "unsubscribes." Unfortunate, but so be it.

I support Occupy Wall Street, and I urge them to relentlessly, NON-VIOLENTLY confront the whole of Beltwayistan, Infotainmentstan, the Chamber of Horrors and the rest of the corrupted edifice, as some of us have been doing for over a decade, in our own ways, and at a high price. But to nurture a movement, you must expand your heart and mind enough to reach beyond your differences with those who stand along side of you and are facing in the same direction you are. To flow in a true, deep, history-bending movement, you must be able to operate in multiple dimensions at once.

I am not an Obama apologist. I have excoriated POTUS for his failure to lead on economic crisis, on healthcare reform, on the Climate Crisis, on Darfur, on accountability for Bush-Cheney, Goldman Sachs, BP and others. NEVERTHELESS, in 2012 I will also vote for the "D" candidates and against the candidates of the Zombie Cult formerly known as the Republican Party at every level, including the Presidency of the U.S.

From my perspective, anyone who does not embrace both of these positions is attempting to make progress with one hand while undoing it with the other.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Consider these three statements from the top three candidates for the Zombie Cult nomination:

Republican presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry said Tuesday that "it's time for us to have a serious discussion about defunding the United Nations." CBS, 10-18-11

Mitt Romney came to the state with the highest foreclosure rate in the nation and said he wants to allow home foreclosures to "hit the bottom" to help the housing industry recover. AP, 10-19-11

Herman Cain recently criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying, "Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself." At Tuesday night's CNN debate, Cain stood by his comments -- to loud cheers from the audience. "I still stand by my statement," he said. Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, 1-18-11

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

If you don't know the difference between a Sotomayor and a Roberts or a Kagan and an Alito than you don't know the difference between Bush v. Gore and an election or the difference between Citizens United and the First Amendment.

George W. Bush was not elected President of the U.S. in 2001 (or 2004).

Corporations are not people, and money is not speech.

2 + 2 = 4.

Meanwhile ...

Can You Die of Thirst While You Are Drowning?

Although I have written to you about the Climate Crisis, day after day, month after month, year after year, I have mentioned very little about the plight of the small island nations. Why? Because I know the mentality of the decision-makers, and of the public that hides behind them: just as China's crimes against Tibet are tolerated for the sake of trade, and Karthoum's crimes against Darfur are tolerated for the sake of the insane war IN OF and BY terror, the loss of the small islands nations will be tolerated for the sake of fossil fuel industry profits and the deep denial required to sustain them.

But this story is such a poignant example of the bitter, paradoxical nature of this planetary emergency that far too few of us (right OR left) have come to grips with, I must cite it here:

The drought in the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which declared a state of emergency this month because of a severe shortage of fresh water, is likely to last until January, the government says. Tuvalu normally receives 8-16 inches of rainfall each month but hasn't had significant rain in six months ... Amid its water shortages, the tiny archipelago of nine islands, with a combined land mass of just 10 square miles, also faces being inundated by rising sea levels linked to climate change. Tuvalu grapples with drought , UPI, 10-18-11

Yes, Tuvalu, an island nature facing near-future extinction from rising sea levels, due to human-induced runaway climate change, is currently facing crippling drought, due to human-induced runaway climate change ...

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

And then, of course, there is the story of what it going on in Thailand.

Thailand Suffers Most Expensive Flood in History, Destroying More Than 10% of Rice Farms in World’s Top Exporter, Climate Progress, 10-14-11


Ah, someone answered ... with courage and clarity of mind from the floor of the U.S. Senate ...

Another name to scrawl on the wall of heroes; that invisible memorial to those who work, with urgency, to bring MASSIVE NON-VIOLENT EVOLUTION to our world. Perhaps the names on that wall will be the beginning of something new; perhaps they will be all that is left of something that is lost.

Mr. President, I am here to speak about what is currently an unpopular topic in this town. It has become no longer politically correct in certain circles in Washington to speak about climate change or carbon pollution or how carbon pollution is causing our climate to change. This is a peculiar condition of Washington. If you go out into, say, our military and intelligence communities, they understand and are planning for the effects of carbon pollution on climate change. They see it as a national security risk. If you go out into our nonpolluting business and financial communities, they see this as a real and important problem. And, of course, it goes without saying our scientific community is all over this concern. But as I said, Washington is a peculiar place, and here it is getting very little traction. Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature — God’s Earth — is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature of God’s Earthand we ignore the laws of nature of God’s Earth at our very grave peril. Senator Whitehouse’s Must-See Climate Speech: “We Ignore the Laws of Nature of God’s Earth at Our Very Grave Peril” Climate Progress, 10-19-11

Occupy San Francisco, 2011, Photo Credit: Richard Power

Do you know why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love? Go to for the answer.

Bill McKibben at Occupy Wall Street Rally 10/8/2011

Richard Power is the author of seven books, including Between Shadow and Night: The Singularity in Anticipation of Itself and True North on the Pathless Path: Towards a 21st Century Yoga. He writes and speaks on security, risk, human rights and sustainability, and has delivered executive briefings and led training in over 40 countries. He blogs at and