Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is Mayor Adams a Friend of the Occupation?

Adam Rothstein of the Portland Occupier wrote critically of Mayor Adams, amplifying many of the points I made in the recent post "West Coast Port Shutdown, part 1." Rothstein accuses Adams of showing "false claims of sympathy" as he moves against Occupy Portland:
And now, even while protesters are pushed from public spaces into the streets, Mayor Adams releases press releases condemning the methods and organization of the Occupation, phrased as if he alone was in possession of a victory strategy for us, which is perhaps intended as leadership, though one wonders how that might be at all believable.
Rothstein provides ample evidence of Adams' anti-Occupy position. (Read the entire article for a bullet-pointed list.) In response to Mayor Adams, Rothstein says:
The Occupation will not be patronized, and the Occupation will not be intimidated. Dismissal and derision by city officials, castigation and lies delivered via Mayoral press releases, and physical threats and violence brought by the city’s police force will not sway the Occupation and its allies from proceeding in their course, defined each day as the participants make it. Our brief history thus far speaks to this resolve. These antagonistic actions by self-described “friends” of the Occupation are obvious for what they are, and will not masquerade as logical arguments that might convince us that free speech is not a human right, that what we are attempting to speak freely is not fundamental and crucial to continued human life, or that we somehow might be satisfied on these human levels by going home, and folding our hopes and efforts back into the old system that has failed us and continues to fail us, each and every day of the Occupation.

West Coast Port Shutdown, part 1

Over the past several days, the Occupy and related movements have ramped up their attacks on the 1%. Occupiers from across this land converged on DC "to confront legislators," occupied foreclosed properties to protest banks getting bailed out while the people get sold out, and held "largely symbolic" votes to end "corporate personhood." After getting squeezed from city parks, these unsinkable Occupiers keep popping up.

In what promises to be the  political equivalent of spallation, the Occupy Movement threatens to shut down West Coast ports on December 12, 2011. This planned action builds on momentum from the Oakland General Strike, which closed the Port of Oakland on November, 2, 2011. This bold move marks a more militant and politically potent phase for the Occupy Movement.

Reactions of West Coast mayors should reveal their allegiance to the 1%. Take as a bellwether Portland's Mayor Sam Adams. Throughout the conflict between Occupy Portland and the city, Mayor Adams positioned himself as a spokesperson for the real political goals of Occupy Portland while simultaneously moving to shut down its public expression.

Mayor Adams demonstrated these acrobatics in a December 2nd statement regarding re-occupying Portland:
As someone who empathizes with the founding frustrations of the Occupy movement—economic inequity, our high unemployment rate, the influence of corporations and money in politics—I believe that the encampments have become a distraction from addressing these national issues.

Thus while publicly supporting Occupy's goals, Mayor Adams has used police force to prevent Occupy's message from taking grip. All the while, he blamed the movement's supposedly counterproductive methods for his harsh and asymmetrical crackdown. If we take Mayor Adams at his word, then he should support clear-cut political action even as he laments the "drug overdoses," "crime," and "health and sanitation issues" that justified his police offensive against the Occupation of Lownsdale and Chapman Squares. Will his actions belie his words?

Now that Occupy strikes at the 1% in the only way that counts—in their pocketbooks—it will be telling to see if Mayor Adams yet again "speaks" for the "real" movement by condemning the "actual" movement. Stay tuned for reporting from the West Coast Port Blockade, as well as commentary on Mayor Adams' reactions.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Automation and Outsourcing, part 1

Is there a way out of the thicket of finance capitalism toward an economic structure that benefits people, promotes equality, and propels the world toward a more sustainable and happy future?

In order to answer this question, we must consider the twin devils hollowing out broad prosperity: automation and outsourcing.

Since before Ned Ludd smashed the first loom, automation has been making workers obsolete while driving deeper into bondage those lucky enough to cling to their jobs. Thus the 1% has capitalized on mass misery. The cotton gin, for example, expanded exploitation by increasing the productivity of slave labor and expanding that shameful system. Automation, however, is not an unalloyed evil. After all, the easiest jobs to automate have tended to be the least fulfilling. Automation made lives easier and opened up vast kingdoms of newer, more satisfying jobs.

As globalism shrinks supply chains, outsourcing has over the last several decades joined automation as a key prosperity-slayer by draining American jobs to low-wage countries. Although it has made prices cheaper in Wal-Mart and Apple Stores alike, outsourcing has exported ecological blight to the developing world while obliterating wages and jobs for low- and middle-skilled workers in the US. Global corporations now rely on dangerous and unethical sweatshops to maximize their bottom lines. Yet, just like automation, outsourcing has provided a few advantages. It has brought new hope and possibilities to people all around the globe by giving them steady jobs and wages. Never mind that these newly employed workers will soon face the same brutal corporate undercutting when their jobs are shipped to an even more "flexible" labor market. And, the "always low prices" offered at Wal-Mart are one of the few threads that poverty-stricken families can hold onto as they sink into the quicksand of diminishing living standards. Never mind that automation and outsourcing share responsibility for shriveling their incomes in the first place.

Our current era of converging crises faces a radically new threat from automation and outsourcing. Prior to the computer revolution, only the dullest, lowest skilled jobs faced the specter of automation and outsourcing. Nowadays, these scourges spread their destruction up the income and status ladder.

As shown above, automation and outsourcing can offer improvements in the way people live. The problem, then, is the way they are deployed to enrich the 1% at the expense of the 99% rather than to improve people's lives.

We've reached an economic, cultural, societal, and ecological crossroads. The choices we make now will determine what type of future we live in. It may even be too late. But our current path puts us on a collision course with collapse. If we are lucky, and the end comes later rather than sooner, then we face a further hollowing out of our economy, psyches, libidos, and ecology. In this diminished future, those of us with any money remaining will be seduced by sensuous lust machines and will eat the processed remains of surplus senior citizens, flavored, until the monocrop collapses, by corn syrup.

Occupy the Text

Has any movement generated so much text and occupied so many pixels in so short a time as the Occupy Movement?