Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Ray of Hope

If anyone had told me I'd pay Facebook to promote a post, I'd have taken long odds to bet the other side. Today I'd be paying off big time. The text of said post follows...

Some rays of hope that something beneficial may come of the horror that was December 14th. Enough is enough.

That's what Senator Mark Warner, said Monday: "I had an NRA rating of an 'A.' But, you know, enough is enough. ... I'm the father of three daughters, and this weekend they all said, 'Dad ... how can this go on?' And I, like I think most of us, realize that there are ways to get to rational gun control."

In addition Joe Manchin, one of 31 senators with an "A" rating from the NRA, said Monday that the shooting "really has changed us. It's changed me.", adding "I don't know of anybody that goes hunting with an assault rifle. I don't know anybody that needs those types of multiple clips as far as ammunition in a gun,".

It appears that there is an awakening to the fact that the cost of allowing a minority to enjoy rapid fire, high capacity weapons (RFHC) is much, much too high. A bit of research reveals that the laws allowing them that privilege (no, it's not a right) are based on sabotage of the democratic process. Here's how it went down.

The NRA, formed after the civil war with noble intent, continued to focus on gun training and marksmanship until well into the 20th century. Then firearms manufacturers took interest, and by 1975 they had enough influence to back creation of the NRA sponsored Institute for Legislative Action, best known now as " the most powerful lobbying organization in the country." That power and the money that comes with it has been used to "influence" politicians and to inaccurately "educate" a gullible public that they have a right to own RFHC weapons. Those so educated have contributed huge amounts of money, which combined with support from manufacturers has made it possible to "influence" so many legislators that laws have been put on the books which support the minority's desire to own RFHC weapons to the detriment of society and against the will of the majority. Democracy is not supposed to work that way.

It appears that the complacent majority has been awakened in a tragically sad way. Those in the minority who continue to whine about losing the privilege to own RFHC weapons even though they haven't done anything wrong individually, come off looking arrogant, uniformed and selfish. Their numbers are rapidly shrinking as many realize that they are willing to live without their RFHC weapons if it means that the next time a deranged fountain of evil decides to go out in a blaze of insanity, a casualty count of 6 is much more likely than 26. You can't put a dollar value on that kind of savings.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's Changed Since 1960: Part 2

Quick Refresher: In previous posts we saw anecdotal evidence that in the late 1950s and early 1960s a skilled worker could support a family of five, providing a reasonable working class standard of living. It has been suggested that perhaps my father’s work as a machinist was not representative for the time. I can only respond with more anecdotal evidence.

My sister’s best friend was also my girlfriend during part of that time; many years later we married. She is one of three children and her father was a mechanic at a new car dealership. He had a penchant for Cadillacs and the family always had one. My future mother-in-law, like my mother, worked raising a family. The family’s standard of living was much like that of my family.

One of my best friends was my sister’s boyfriend for a time. He had three brothers and his mother kept busy caring for the clan. His father had a small family business doing repair work and maintenance on mobile homes. Again, his income was enough to provide a standard of living similar to ours. I have fond memories involving a mix of these families spending long weekends in rented cabins on one of many lakes in the area. I don’t think any of us felt “deprived”.

I’m open to evidence, hard or anecdotal, showing that these were exceptions and that a person with the willingness and an ability to learn a trade couldn’t provide a similar standard of living for their family during that period. Absent such evidence we’ll move forward to identify what has changed such that a family of five in the same situation (one skilled worker, working one job) is hard pressed to get by, let alone own a home, buy a new car or go on extended family vacations.

Moving Right Along: The last post zeroed in on the disparity between growth in worker productivity from 1960 to 2010 (as indicated by Gross Domestic Product) and the rate at which worker's wages have increased over the same period. To allow for the effect of inflation values are stated in constant (inflation adjusted) dollars representing purchasing power in 2010.

Let’s start with per employee productivity growth. As we saw in the previous post, this Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that since 1960 productivity per worker has more than doubled from $45,970 to $103,229. This raised suspicion that worker compensation for what used to be “the middle class” has failed to keep pace with productivity growth.

To confirm that suspicion take a look at the minimum wage. In 1960 it was $1 per hour, which had buying power equivalent to $7.35 today. With the current minimum wage at $7.25, unskilled entry level workers are being paid slightly less than they were fifty years ago despite a doubling of overall worker productivity.

What about people like my father, my future father-in-law and my friend’s father? As we’ve seen my father earned what would be the equivalent of nearly $78,000 per year today. According to Salary.com, a master machinist (Machinist III) might expect to earn about $52,000 in the Tulsa area today. The picture is even worse for an auto mechanic. I don’t know what my future wife’s father earned back then, but today he would be trying to raise a family of five on less than $45,000 per year as a master auto mechanic.

For one more example, take a look at starting hourly pay for college graduates over the past thirty years as seen in the chart on the left. The inflation adjusted values show only a marginal increase overall and a sharp decrease over the past ten years.

The facts so far show that productivity has more than doubled in constant dollars since 1960. Yet minimum wage workers, blue collar workers and college grads are making less, in some cases significantly less than their counterparts a few decades ago. Where are the dollars that represent that increased productivity going?

Following the Money: If workers (the producers) have not seen the benefit of productivity gains, who has? In a 2008 study Carola Frydman offers this assessment using General Electric as a proxy for successful large corporations.
“First, the total real level of pay for GE’s top three managers increased at a slow rate of about two percent per year from the 1940s to the 1960s. ... From the 1970s to the present, the compensation of the three highest-paid officers at GE has grown at the significantly higher annual rate of eight percent.”
In other words while worker pay has been stagnant or has declined over the past forty years, top executives have seen their pay outstrip inflation by a huge margin. The table below, from page 69 of an earlier study by Frydman and Saks, confirms this trend.

Key values in this table are 1960 - 1969 50th percentile and 2000 - 2005 50th percentile. Adjusted to reflect 2010 buying power the expanded values are $940,000 for the decade of the 1960s and $4,660,000 for the early 2000 period. Simply put, while American productivity doubled median executive compensation increased more than four and a half times. The increase is less pronounced at the bottom and jumps to over TEN TIMES for companies where executives earn the most.  This while worker pay in constant dollars declined, often significantly.

To put this phenomena in terms of real life examples, let’s look at Johnson and Johnson and Ford Motors. Both companies are in more or less the same business now as they were then. In constant 2010 dollars the CEO of those companies were paid $3.55 million and $2.32 million respectively in 1970. Their modern counterparts earned $28.72 million and 26.52 million respectively in 2010. This raises some questions.

  • Are modern corporate executives creating more U.S. jobs than executives did forty or fifty years ago?
  • Do modern Executives at "to big to fail" companies routinely bring ten times more value to their organization than their counterparts did in the past?
  • Are they worth hundreds of times as much as the average worker compared to multiples of 20 or 30 that prevailed in the past?
  • Is the process of setting executive compensation rigged in favor of the executives?
  • How do very profitable companies in Japan, Germany and other modern economies succeed while paying their executives a fraction of U.S. rates?

Given the obvious answers is it any wonder that workers, students and concerned citizens are taking to the streets in protest? Reasons to protest multiply as we look into how our government has been complicit in and supportive of this redistribution of wealth from working class Americans to a privileged few.

Had corporate America and our own government been content with the distribution of GDP as it was in 1960, the minimum wage today would be around $15 per hour ($31,350 per year). A skilled worker with a several years experience would earn, and pay taxes on, an annual income approaching $140,000. Half of all workers would be earning more than $70,000 per year Top executives at “too big to fail” corporations would be scraping by on a mere $5 or $6 million per year while the average S&P 500 CEO would have to make do with $1 or $2 million per year.

Such a redistribution of compensation would be an incredible boost to the economy. Instead of dollars piling up in offshore investment accounts or being spent to buy legislators and legislation, those dollars would be buying goods and services resulting in job creation based on increased demand.

Not the Whole Answer: It’s not fair to say that the current compensation gap is the only explanation as to why it takes multiple jobs to maintain a working class standard of living in today’s economy. Another factor is that the bar has been raised. There are few if any 1,100 square foot starter homes being built in America today. Today’s families eat out much more often, spend a lot more on interest payments and have been convinced that they must have a lot of things that would have been considered “luxuries” fifty years ago. In other words $70,000 dollars today doesn’t go as far as the 1960 equivalent $9,530 because the target standard of living is now higher. Of course IF the effect of doubling the GDP were reflected in worker’s paychecks, they would easily meet and exceed the present standard.

Finally, to confirm that people much brighter than I have arrived at pretty much the same conclusion this quote is from an article by investigative reporter and activist George Monbiot that appeared in The Guardian on November 7th, 2011.

“Between 1947 and 1979, productivity in the US rose by 119%, while the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by 122%. But from 1979 to 2009, productivity rose by 80%, while the income of the bottom fifth fell by 4%. In roughly the same period, the income of the top 1% rose by 270%.”

More on Those Protesters: Some fear that recent protests are a money grab by drifters looking to get something for nothing. They’ve heard on media outlets owned by corporations engaged in government corruption that the plan is to assess huge taxes on the rich and pass that money out in the form of welfare. Such a plan makes no sense because it wouldn’t do anything to fix the underlying problem. The problem being that our government no longer functions to carry out the will of its citizens. It has been corrupted by executives not satisfied to live like their counterparts did fifty years ago (high on the hog we used to call it). The protests are about changing that.

Make no mistake, there are drifters looking to get something for nothing; there are self proclaimed anarchists; there are some radical libertarians, tea party conservatives, people with something to sell and people from the major political parties thinking maybe they can coral supporters. All of these fringe elements combined make up just a small fraction of the millions who have taken time to inform themselves and who have decided to support the call for nonviolent change. It is a call to eliminate the corrupting influence of money and to require that government serve its citizens fairly, efficiently and transparently.

Organizers understand that the first step is to get the attention of those at the heart of the problem, the corrupted and those doing the corrupting. The classic way to get such attention is by disrupting the system.  This has been seen in the early stages of revolutionary change such as that brought about by the Suffrage, Civil Rights and Peace movements. That’s what is going on right now and will probably be going on for a while.

There are lots of ways to participate. The recent “Bank Transfer Day” is just one example. Refusing to contribute to any political campaign is another. Why would you, knowing that your contribution is nothing compared to the tens of thousands routinely given by corporate special interests. Be creative, be informed and be involved. Now you know why I’m doing this and I hope you’ll join me.

--- Que le vaya bien...Steve

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bank Transfer Day and What's Changed Since 1960

The main focus of today's post is identifying what has changed over the past fifty years that makes it nearly impossible for a skilled laborer in America to support a family of five at a comfortable working class level. Before getting into that, November 5th is tomorrow and it's important enough that any couch potato activist worth their salt should understand the what and why of it.

Bank Transfer Day
Image by thinkprogress.org
The Occupy movement has declared November 5th to be Bank Transfer Day. For some time now that has been an arbitrary target date for those who no longer wish to support an institution involved in the near collapse of our economy to transfer their money to a credit union or community bank where it won't be used to buy legislation. There is a fair amount of misinformation floating around the cyber universe. Here are a few important facts.

1) This action is not intended to create "a run" on the banking system or to "take it down". Banks and credit unions in the U.S., large and small, are all part of the same system, so unless millions withdraw funds and put them in a tin can under the porch, this shifting of funds poses no threat to the system. It does however send a message to those "too big to fail" banks that we know what they are up to and we don't like it.

2) This action was never a protest against the $5 fee BofA announced on debit card transactions, with the other big guys suggesting that they were working on a similar gouge. As things worked out all banks, BofA included, have backed off of the attempted rip off. This only illustrates the power of a united populace, it does not mean that you should give up your right to send a message by moving your money.

3) Except in a few isolated metro areas it is not difficult to find a suitable credit union or community bank that will open an account and help you make the switch. This article reports that over 650,000 new credit union accounts were opened in October, more than in all of 2010. A recent television report found that if you do your homework and take the required documents with you, making the switch can be done in under twenty minutes.

4) Finally, the November 5th date (N5 in Occupy speak) is not magical. If you read this months from now or two days from now and realize you no longer want to support the opposition, be an activist, make the switch.

What's Changed Since 1960
Graph by data360.org
As you learned in the previous post, my father worked his way up over the years to become a skilled machinist. While I don't know the details of his benefit package at the locally owned machine shop where he worked, I do recall his pride in a raise that put him over $5 per hour, $5.10 to be exact. That sticks in my mind because at the time (summer 1962) I was washing dishes at a Howard Johnson for 72 cents per hour (below the minimum of $1.00 because I got a free meal at the end of my four hour shift).

According to this inflation calculator, $5.10 in 1962 is the equivalent of $37.26 now or $77,873 per year based on 40 hours per week, 52.25 weeks per year. The average annual income for a skilled laborer today is $39,000. To be more specific, salary.com shows that a machine tool cutting operator with up to two years experience can expect to earn from $20,000 per year to $46,000 per year based on location and experience. The high number is for the the top 10% and is not likely to be representative of eastern Oklahoma. Was my father's extra experience worth an extra thirty or forty thousand (2010) dollars per year?

Based on a 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics report the value of goods and services produced in our country (GDP) rose from over 3 trillion to over 14 trillion inflation adjusted dollars from 1960 to 2010. Part of that increase is due to increased efficiency and part is due to population growth and multiple family members working. The per worker amount stated in 2010 dollars has increased from $45,970 to $103,229. Clearly the working class has not benefited from from their increased productivity. Who has benefited?

Table 3 below contains a big clue. The inflation rate from 1960 to now has averaged 4.14% per year. Notice that from 1960 to 1980 executive pay rose at a comparable rate. Even allowing for the runaway inflation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a 7.59% per year rate of increase during the 1980s is clearly out of line. Finally, there can be no free market economy explanation for the 14.6% per year increase in the 1990s. The booming economy didn't float all boats equally. Working class Americans were left treading water. The table only takes us to 2003. A report in USA today this past April 4th reveals that in 2010 compensation for CEOs jumped an incredible 27 percent!

Another clue comes from the fact that average CEO pay has jumped to 753 times minimum wage in 2010 which translates to (753 * $7.25) $5,459.25 per hour. Compare that to 2003 where the chart stops when that ratio was about 450:1 with the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour or (450 * $5.15) $2,317.50 per hour for CEOs on average. In other words in seven years CEO pay more than doubled. If we just call it a double that translates to over 10% per year, well over twice the average rate of inflation.

Save for another day the fact that in other successful, industrialized countries the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay is below 20:1 while the U.S. ratio is several hundred to one depending on how it's calculated. Any way you slice it, beginning in the 1980s we see a clear disparity in the distribution of wealth that can't be explained given a well regulated free market economy. Next time we'll have a look at the interaction between those on the receiving end of that disparity and our government. Until then, que le vaya bien...Steve

Historical Trends in Executive Compensation1936-2003 by Carola Frydman and Raven E. Saks

Updated November 13th, 2011 to use Bureau of Labor Statistics tables to eliminate problems accessing tables on data360.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

FAQ: Why Are You Doing This?

I created this blog and support activist movements dedicated to getting money out of politics because I've been around long enough to have seen what's changed in America. More specifically what has been stolen from the citizens of America, especially from the young.

Our family moved from a rural area to "the big city" in 1954 where I lived until graduation from high school in 1964. For most of those ten years my mom's job was to manage our home and do what she could to keep three offspring in line. In the later years she did work part time at a nearby animal shelter. Not for the money, but because she loves critters.

My dad made the most of his eighth grade education. He had learned how to learn and used that ability to become a skilled machinist after spending a number of years mastering auto mechanics. He also told tales of an early life riding freight trains to the Pacific Northwest to pick fruit and time spent building roads in parks while on a Works Progress Administration (WPA) crew.

Illustration by Boris Artzybasheff
Soon after we moved to town he went to work for a local machine shop. I don't know the details of his pay or benefits; I only know that it was not a great concern when one of us had to go to the doctor. Given that my brother and I had a penchant for motor bikes, tree houses and rambunctious escapades it's a miracle that there were no hospital stays.

Just over a year after arriving we moved from a rental house into a new house in what was then a working class neighborhood on the outskirts of town. The 1,100 sq. ft. house cost $10,000 which would be roughly $80,000 in 2010 dollars. Allowing for it's size, that's comparable to a 1,500 sq. ft. starter home today that might sell for $110,000. In 1957 the family car was upgraded from a well worn early 50's Plymouth to a brand new Pontiac. By 1960 the Pontiac was paid off.

Most summers we loaded into that Pontiac for a family vacation. One year we went east and visited New York City and the Jersey Shore. Another year it was west to visit family and friends in the Los Angeles area where my mom was born. There were stops at the Grand Canyon and various other attractions along the way. One year my grandma, who lived in a smaller town about fifty miles from our new home, joined us for a big loop that included Las Vegas, San Francisco and Yellowstone Park. My dad liked gadgets, so that trip was documented on 8mm movie film (now preserved on DVD).

Another summer tradition was a two or three week stay at grandma's house. My grandfather had passed away when I was a baby and grandma never remarried. She lived in a little house a few blocks from Safeway and not much farther from the building where she had worked many years for a big oil company. She had done night work, cleaning offices, until she neared retirement and moved to the position of elevator operator. Everyone in the building got to know her, and she retired with a decent pension to supplement a tiny social security check and some money she'd set aside at the bank.

Those summer visits bring back the best of memories as we played tag, collected locust shells and drew pictures on the back sides of an endless supply of paper salvaged from waste baskets over the years. Grandma never owned a car and walked everywhere, with the three of us in tow during our visits. The bank tellers knew her by name and any excursion downtown was sure to include a number of cheerful exchanges as we crossed paths with friends, neighbors and workmates.

In summary, our family of five lived a comfortable if common lifestyle on my father's pay as a skilled laborer. My grandmother was respected at a big company where employees, even janitors, were treated fairly and made to feel important.

That's all gone now. If I hadn't seen and lived it myself, I'd call it a pipe dream. Where did it go? What has changed to make it impossible today? Being a slow learner, it wasn't until late 2008 that the first clues started coming together. I was in the fortunate position of having time on my hands which allowed me to do some digging with regard to the ongoing financial crisis.

My digging soon uncovered greed that riled my sensibilities to the point that I made a video and submitted it as a CNN iReport. That explains the CNN references and my lame attempt to imitate their house curmudgeon Jack Cafferty. The title is what at the time I thought was a clever way to get attention. It has survived on YouTube and you can watch it here.

Three years later I stand behind the facts reported. When I made that video Obama had just been elected and I naively thought that the media would jump on the story and that our new president would see to it that the greedy bastards ended up broke and in prison. I was wrong on all counts.

A comment left by a viewer suggests why my plea for Cassano's incarceration fell on deaf ears.
"If Cassano wasn't in bed with half the politicos in Washington, that might be possible. If the politicians had to disclose how they helped create the problem we would need to build a big prison on Pennsylvania Ave.;-)"
After a bit more research it became painfully obvious that our government has been bought off and is controlled by the greedy looters behind the financial collapse. Non-partisan evidence goes back twenty years to include Clinton/Rubin, Bush/Paulson and Obama/Geithner. At that point I gave up, conceding that there was nothing one old man living in Mexico could do that would make a difference.

Fast forward to a month and ten days ago. A movement calling itself Occupy Wall Street set up camp in Zuccatti Park in lower Manhattan. A few days later a friend on facebook mentioned it and noted that there was every indication that a media blackout of the event had been ordered. Being Mr. Curious I started looking for information and found that even the Internet didn't offer up much. The Guardian, a British newspaper, posted the best coverage.

I quickly learned that the explosion of greed back in 2008 was at the core of the protest. They wanted heads to roll and were calling for an end to government control by the looters. My kind of people. As good fortune (karma?) would have it, one week after they set up camp an overzealous cop sprayed a group of young women with pepper spray creating a story that could not be suppressed. You know the rest... or you should if you care about a decent future for your offspring.

That's why I'm doing this. I'm not what you would call a patriot; after all I skipped out to live my golden years in Mexico. None the less, I do care for our country and now that I know who stole the life I enjoyed growing up, I want it returned. I want today's babies and tomorrow's babies to enjoy the level playing field that made it possible for someone to work forty hours a week and support a family. In the next episode we'll dig into just what needs to change to make that possible again. Hint: follow the money.

--- Que le vaya bien... Steve

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Activism 101 - The Basics

From Flickr by Demoshelsinki
Activism can be easy. That's lesson one.

Activism can also be hard, but if you start off with easy you'll probably like it and keep it up. Until recently it wasn't a big deal if you didn't care about activism, didn't like it and didn't get involved. Those days are behind us now that activism may be our last best hope for returning to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. More on that later.

To get the obligatory definition on record, activism is simply an active effort to bring about change.

The "active effort" part is what keeps a lot of us couch potatoes on the side lines, especially when it involves marching, sitting in, hunger striking or getting arrested. Those forms of activism fall into the "hard" category. While these activities are noble (assuming a noble cause), they can be out of the question for those otherwise occupied supporting and raising a family, those with limitations, physical or otherwise, which preclude getting involved to that extent, and those who are by nature among the complacent majority.

We can divide "easy" activism into two broad categories.
  1. Spreading the word.
  2. Modifying personal preferences.
These are things just about anyone can engage in regardless of their situation. While easy in terms of effort required, a psychological barrier remains for many. Humans are generally social by nature, which inevitably results in some degree of pressure to be accepted by ones peers; peer pressure if you will. Few want to be known as that wild eyed radical guy or gal. Our focus will be on things you can do that your peers probably won't consider too radical and that will generally be viewed favorably. 

Before you can get started you will need a cause. To be an effective activist you should choose a cause that either "strikes a chord" with you or one that you have come to realize is so important that you must do something to bring about the change inherent in the cause. Here are some examples of causes that stir the passion of (strike a chord with) those who share the feeling noted. Presented in alphabetical order:
  • Animal rights for people who love animals.
  • Economic issues for people directly affected by economic inequity.
  • Environmental issues for people who love nature and being outdoors.
  • Health issues for people who are affected by specific medical conditions.
  • Human rights for people moved by inhumane acts against others.
  • Peace for people who despise the futility of war.
  • Political issues for people who are politically engaged.
  • Social issues for people who are moved by the unfair treatment of others.
These are just a few of the possibilities. There are many, many more; the list being limited only by the range of issues about which people have strong feelings.

On rare occasion a cause comes along that is so important that it inspires people who would not otherwise care to realize that they must take action. We have witnessed or learned of life changing efforts in what is now the United States as exemplified by the following actions. Presented more or less chronologically:
  • The Colonial Revolutionary movement protesting taxation and oppression.
  • Various movements protesting the inhumanity and inequity of slavery.
  • Various movements protesting unfair and unsafe working conditions.
  • The Suffragette movement promoting the right of women to vote.
  • The Temperance movement protesting the consumption of alcohol.*
  • Post WWII Peace movements promoting peaceful resolution of conflicts.
  • Post WWII Labor movements promoting fair pay and a humane workplace.
  • Post WWII Anti-war movements promoting an end to specific wars.
  • Post WWII Women's rights movements promoting equal rights for women.
  • Voting rights movements promoting inclusiveness in the election process.**
  • The Civil Rights movement promoting equal rights for all citizens.
* Not every successful activist movement ends up on the right side of history.
** Resulted in the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and a constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 18 in 1971.

Again the list is not comprehensive. The purpose is to show that some causes gain widespread support among the general population and end up bringing about change which shapes the future and affects us all.

That brings us to the cause we'll adopt to illustrate how even a couch potato can wake up and take action. This cause addresses a clear and present danger to every one of us. We've already seen the effects of the issue to be addressed by this cause. Left unchanged, future effects threaten our very way of life.

The issue is the influence of money on our political system. The effect is to deny the vast majority of us a voice in actions taken by our government. More directly our government is no longer "of the people, by the people and for the people". Countless decisions have been made, and are being made, that favor those who buy influence as they work to the detriment of you and me. The cause is an active effort to remove the influence of money from our political system.

Money has always equated to influence and power to some degree.  Rarely has that influence been so insidiously dangerous and corrupting as what we've seen over the past twenty years. Like many of the issues that led to movements in the above list, this issue has grown and festered over time. Just recently a tipping point was reached; the wound has broken open such that a call to action is making headlines.

Movements supporting this cause are growing exponentially as we, the complacent majority, wake up and realize that we must take action. This cause has awakened this couch potato and it is the motivation for creating this blog as well as other activities, all of which represent forms of activism. In future posts sufficient evidence will be laid out for you to review the cause for yourself; make your own critical evaluation; take action as you see fit.

Even if you decide this is not the cause for you, stick around and learn how to take action in support of whatever cause "strikes a chord" with you.  Until next time, que le vaya bien...Steve

Monday, October 17, 2011

Why You Need to Understand Activism

Having done my research, the plan was to inaugurate this blog with information along the line of what you would see in an Activism 101 class, if there were such a thing. Then an article about the Occupy movement in an online e-zine targeting geeks caught my eye; not typical geek publication material.

Having followed Occupy Wall Street since early in the first week, it has been amazing to see the movement take off. At first there was little mention in the press apart from, oddly enough, the British newspaper The Guardian.

As the second week began on Saturday, September 24th, New York City police overreacted to a peaceful march with a pepper spray attack on several young women. That incident along with similar inappropriate acts were recorded from several angles and videos were posted online. That marked a sea change in terms of media interest.

Like David Gewrtz , author of the article I'm about to share, for many years I've considered myself too busy with life to get involved with an activist movement. That didn't stop the anger that bubbled up when I took an interest in the details of how AIG blew up in 2008, nearly taking the world economy down with it. But even that anger wasn't enough to trigger a realization of how important it is to understand activism. More about what finally triggered that realization, and this blog, in the Activism 101 series, coming soon to these pages.

A couple of notes before you leave to learn Lessons America's Founding Fathers can teach us about the Occupy movement as told by Mr. Gewirtz. He makes some valid comments on the topic of violence, emphasizing the fact that violent activism often ends badly. Based on those comments it appears he is not aware that nonviolence is embedded in the very core of this movement. Nonviolence is hammered home at every meeting as participants are warned to be on the lookout for infiltrators intent on stirring up violence. Just suggesting that there may be situations in which a violent response may be required is met by a strong thumbs down (actually wiggling fingers down) response.

He says in summary, "Individually, middle class Americans are generally powerless. But taken as a cohort, the American middle class is the single most powerful economic entity that has ever existed." That my friends is why you need to understand activism.

Photo by ZDNet blogger Michael Krigsman

Check back soon to start learning What You Need to Understand about Activism.

-- Que le vaya bien...Steve