Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Super Committee

There are many charges against the movement of "Occupy Wall Street" and one of the major one is that the movement lacks a clear and executable agenda.

Due to the democratic nature the movement, it is inevitable that there have been many ideas floating about without a central core but it is indeed high time for ideas and organizations to congeal and make a clear, reasonable and executable demand.

As this nation is in a crucial juncture, it is disheartening to see that President Obama once again, sits on his hands, and let the so called congressional super committee to come up of a scheme to cut the deficit and put it for a vote in the congress; and if the plan failed to pass, an automatic drastic budgetary cut would be enforced.  How brilliant this idea is.  Since the result of failing to pass any plan the "Super Committee" might put forth is a large budget cut, the Republicans - who have been calling to starve the beast (government) for decades - have all the incentives not to pass any plan.

Since the ill conceived and all powerful "Super Committee" is to dictate the direction of the nation for a long time to come, it is vital for the "Occupy Wall Street" to demand to scrap such "Super Committee".  I call it "ill conceived" because it didn't demand an automatic tax increase on certain group (along side with some large budgetary cuts), therefore creating a balanced incentives for both leading political parties to reach an agreement.

Without that threat of automatic tax increases, it is a good bet that the consequence of any plan from such "Super Committee", or the failure to pass such plan, would only exacerbate the bottom 90% or 99% of the population, meanwhile protecting those on top, sitting on piles of gold and refusing to lift a finger to help the underprivileged and the nation they claim that they love, and the nation has done so much for them - deregulation and tax cuts after tax cuts and still more to come.

To replace such an ill-conceived super committee, the movement of Occupy Wall Street ought to demand a new committee, seating people from all economic spectrum, in proportion to the demographics, so as to come up with a plan to reduce deficit and correct the income inequality, and then put the plan to a national referendum, instead of a congressional horse trading.

President Obama, it's high time for you to lead and please lend your support to Occupy Wall Street.

Domesticity / 家居 / Häuslichkeit

Domesticity © Matthew Felix Sun

Note: Below is National Public Radio (NPR)'s summary of the Super Committee:
How Super Is The Deficit-Cutting Committee? Twelve lawmakers. More than $1 trillion to shave off the deficit. One Thanksgiving deadline. Can they do it?

The debt-ceiling deal struck this summer created a panel of six Republicans and six Democrats — dubbed the "supercommittee" — to find ways to reduce the deficit. If they can't, "sequestration" — a slew of automatic spending cuts — kicks in. While there are high hopes in Washington for the committee's success, skeptics have trouble seeing how the chosen lawmakers will navigate around the main sticking points: Democrats seem set on protecting Medicare and Medicaid and see increasing revenues as essential.  Republicans would prefer to lower taxes if anything and want to make cuts to the big entitlement programs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupying Wall Street and Tiananmen Square

The movement of "Occupying Wall Street" reminded me a lot of the Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

There were many similarities and differences.  Since I was in college then, and participated the sit-in for about 24 hours in late May that year, I have personal memory to abet my analysis below.

First, let's see the still developing and forming movement of the "Occupying Wall Street".  According to, the de facto online resource for the ongoing protests happening on Wall Street,
Occupy Wall Street is a horizontally organized resistance movement employing the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to restore democracy in America. We use a tool known as a "people's assembly" to facilitate collective decision making in an open, participatory and non-binding manner. We call ours the NYC General Assembly and we welcome people from all colors, genders and beliefs to attend our daily assemblies. 
It is fair to say, that the economic woes, amongst the young people in particular, were the immediate triggers behind the "Arab Spring" and "Occupying Wall Street" (OWS), either one blame this condition on ruthless despots in Mideast, or greedy bankers sucking blood on the nation and the middle class and the poor in the US, aided by political structures to maintain the status quo profitable for a handful few - perhaps not just the top 1%, as argued by economist Paul Krugman.

The current unemployment rate is really high and it is much higher amongst the young people.  The unemployed, in general, are not to be blamed for their conditions.  It was the greedy Wall Street bankers, recklessly drove the nation and the world to the brink of collapse, aided again and again by the political establishments from both parties and bailed out by the government who labeled them "too big to [allow] fail".

In 1989, when Chinese students hit the streets and occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing, they were motivated by both a demand for better economic future for themselves, and an open, democratic system which would reverse the economic foe they were facing upon graduation.  Since late 1980s, the income amongst intellectuals in China was seriously behind labors and the resentments amongst college students were extremely high, since they were confronted with the reality that their salaries would be much lower than their allowances their parents gave them while in colleges.  Just like here, it was the political structure created such unstable and unacceptable situation for people, therefore the youths rebelled.

Thus the similarity.

There is a major difference.  In 1989, the student movement had a clear leadership circle, who made many concrete demands which could be implemented, amongst the general calls for democracy, while OWS seems somewhat headless and made no concrete demands.

The reason behind this major different is that China had a highly centralized government and major decisions were made by a handful of people; while the U.S. is a decentralized government with several branches and levels, and no domineering political forces which can dictate an immediate change.  Therefore, the tactics the OWS people has adopted, namely building a movement, not dissimilar to the Tea Party movement, is more appropriate.  It would grow, once more and more people hear their voices and realized that they were indeed also belong to that disenfranchised 99% (or 90%, argued by Krugman), and eventually, some sympathetic but timid, or opportunistic politicians.

This is not a class war declared on the wealthy or the act of jealous.  Just as in 1989, the Chinese students had no intention to overthrow the government, but to redress the wrongs in the hands of the lopsided policies and the political structures allowed no voices from them to be heard.

Rather, OWS people are pointing out the failure of the laissez-faire capitalism and the illusion of all people got rich with the wealth trickles down from the top.  In the pass, masked by the rising housing prices and the easy credits, majority of middle classes or even lower classes felt they had indeed drunk on the trickled down spring water.  After the economic crisis, some of them finally realized that they had not been drinking any vintage but bitter pomace juice.  What OWS people are trying to do, is to waken the rest up and see clearly the inequality and unfairness guaranteed by this failed and failing laissez-faire capitalism and its lackey - the main political parties, the politicians and the officials, up to current supreme court.

Some super rich people still jeer at the OWS protesters.  They claimed that what they demand is the failed socialism.  Well?  No system or ism is fault free and since the laissez-faire capitalism is ailing severely, people should not be deterred by labels from explore good ideas from other forms of government.

In the U.S., it is one dollar one vote now.  The middle class and the poor have ever diminishing voices.  The political apparatuses are closed to them.  Even President Obama was not willing or able to change the situation.  I'd say unwilling.

The disenfranchised people's anger is pointing at as much Wall Streets as its enablers.  When Obama claimed that those banking institution who brought the nation to its knees by their reckless gaming as "too big to [allow] fail", he instantaneously became their partner in crime.  His omitting the word "allow", disingenuously covered up the fact that it was the governmental decision to bail these institutions up at the expenses of the middle class and the poor, to pump blood into them to keep them alive and continue to exploit and to speculate, and hide the fact that the government could have demand more oversight of these speculators and more regulations to prevent the repeat.

People have no place to go but the street.  One only wonders what takes it so long and if the politician would heed their voices and try to correct the wrongs.

Occupy Wall Street protesters take part in a demonstration at Times Square in New York. Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Learning From China

The so called "war on terror" is entering a new stark chapter.

According to San Francisco Chronicle's report,
President Barack Obama steered the nation's war machine into uncharted territory Friday when a U.S. drone attacked a convoy in Yemen and killed two American citizens who had become central figures in al-Qaida.

It was believed to be the first instance in which a U.S. citizen was tracked and executed based on secret intelligence and the president's say-so. And it raised major questions about the limitations of presidential power.

Anwar al-Awlaki, the target of the U.S. drone attack, was one of the best-known al-Qaida figures after Osama bin Laden. American intelligence officials had linked him to two nearly catastrophic attacks on U.S.-bound planes, an airliner on Christmas 2009 and cargo planes last year. The second American killed in the drone attack, Samir Kahn, was the editor of Inspire, a slick online magazine aimed at al-Qaida sympathizers in the West.


"Anwar al-Awlaki is acting as a regional commander for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters in August 2010.

What if the U.S. was wrong, Gibbs was asked, what recourse does a citizen have to save himself? The CIA had misidentified and imprisoned the wrong person before. Gibbs sidestepped the question.

The U.S. has been inconsistent in how it describes al-Awlaki. The Treasury Department called him a leader of al-Qaida in Yemen. FBI Director Robert Mueller called him the leader. On Friday, Obama called him "the leader of external operations," the first time he has been described that way.

When word leaked out that al-Awlaki's name was on the list, his family rushed to court to try to stop the government from killing him, saying he had to be afforded the constitutional right to due process.

The idea of killing an American citizen provided critics with fodder for all sorts of comparisons showing the peculiarities of national security law and policy. The government could not listen to al-Awlaki's phone calls without a judge's approval, for instance, but could kill him on the president's say-so. The Obama administration opposed imprisoning terrorist suspects without due process but supported killing them without due process.

"If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said Friday.

Indeed, one of the duty of the president is to protect and ensure due process for US citizens.  If according to his own judgement, he could have a US citizen killed, without explicit legal authorization, he is on shaky ground.

In order to be more responsible, the US would do better by learning from China.

After the international outcry against Chinese's secrete detention of high profile artist Ai Weiwei and the like, China now is proposing to overhaul the criminal penal codes, to legalize the secrete arrest and detention and disappearnces.

US and China have more similarities than most people think and we can be more like China, only if we keep pace with them.

Pink and Gray Landscape
Pink and Gray Landscape © Matthew Felix Sun