• "Occupy Wall Street becomes Occupy America" (Bill Press, Tribune Media Service, Oct. 20, 2011):
The question I'm most often asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement, or OWS, is: "What's it all about?" And, every time, I'm reminded of the famous New Yorker cartoon of the man who walks into a showroom for luxury yachts. "If you have to ask the price," the salesman solemnly informs him, "you can't afford it."• "We Are Not Occupying America -- They Are" (Eric Garland, St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Common Dreams, Dec. 2, 2011)
Similarly, if you have to ask what OWS followers are protesting, you'll never understand. Is it corporate greed? Persistent unemployment? Record-high corporate profits? Home foreclosures? Income inequality? Stagnant wages? Foreign wars? Money in politics?
Yes, it's all of the above -- and more. Quite simply, the protests are directed against every manifestation of a system today that is dramatically tilted in favor of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans at the expense of the other 99 percent. If there's one statement that sums up the entire movement, it's the banner "We Are the 99 Percent
Americans generally are unused to images from the Occupy protests being domestic ones. Grandmothers and unarmed college students pepper-sprayed with alarming casualness. Reporters singled out and beaten. Veterans returning from war in Iraq only to be gravely injured trying to exercise the precious liberties for which they supposedly risked life and limb.
Perhaps, we hoped, that these things were only possible in clearly authoritarian regimes such as Syria, Burma and Iran, but they are now home-grown creations, sharing both technique and intention to keep people from peacefully assembling and asking for a redress of grievances, the most precious right enshrined by the Founding Fathers.
New revelations show complicit activity between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and local police forces to repress the Occupy protests, a collaboration that violates a host of regulations, laws and the very Constitution. Given the pattern of violence in the coordinated response to peaceful demonstrations, it is clear that those in elite positions of government are at the very least guilty of overreaction fueled by anxiety and confusion, or are at worst behind a conspiracy to repress the free speech of Americans asking for political reforms that are entirely reasonable within a functioning democracy. Once again, as it seems to happen so often these days, America's leadership fails.
The United States has been careening into catastrophe after crisis after scandal for more than a decade under the current crop of leaders in the public and private sector. From the frivolous Dot Com bubble to the financial scandals of the Enron era to a disastrous war of choice in Iraq to the creation of a global torture regime spanning from Virginia to Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib to a housing bubble based on pure fraud ending in a trillion-dollar bailout to propping up a debt 'supercommittee" that couldn't agree on how to manage a bake sale. America's leaders seem chronically incapable of doing the right thing.
In the decade since the world-uniting tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, America has faced a great number of difficult situations, and, repeatedly, our leaders cannot manage the institutions of the United States to honorable, successful outcomes.
But this aggression against American citizens with no other goal other than to repress free speech is a turning point. America's leaders can no longer hide behind simple incompetence, as they have with every other scandal from Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction to the badly blown bubble of fake mortgages. These events are not the result of poor foresight, and "Nobody could have seen it coming" will not function as an excuse. This time, the leaders know precisely what they are doing.
Those currently holding elite positions of influence have shown themselves ill-fit to the job of leading a great, peaceful, just and prosperous nation. The baby boom generation, whose members hold the highest posts of government, military, finance, industry and the media, has failed to produce a cadre of leaders capable of anything other than fulfilling their own selfish interests, either by loading up their pockets with outlandish compensation packages or by staying in positions of power for personal gain while wrecking the institutions they pretend to serve. Given their gross incapacity to function in the positions they currently hold, it is time for society to dismiss these pretenders in the hopes of moving forward to find better, more qualified candidates...