Now that the tents have been torn down at Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, and other Occupy encampments across the country, some conservative pundits are claiming that the Occupy movement is dying, if not dead already. But even if the Occupy movement fails to garner the headlines that it got last month, it already has had a profound effect on US politics, the mainstream media, and our collective national conversation. Who would have thought that by the end of 2011, the most talked about news stories would concern income inequality and proposals for taxing the rich?
It wasn't that long ago, just this summer, in fact, that Washington and the national press corps were obsessed not with the nation's economic woes, but with federal deficits. It was a red-herring issue that had nothing to do with the Great Recession, and yet conservatives had successfully convinced nearly everyone that deficits were all that mattered. Tax the rich? Serious people scoffed: Reigning in government deficits and collective belt tightening were what this country needed.
But then came Occupy Wall Street. At first, the mainstream media predictably ignored the 24-hour-a-day protest in New York's Zuccotti Park. But when the movement spread throughout the country, the demonstration became too big to dismiss. Still, the MSM tried to marginalize it by arguing that Occupy Wall Street had no clear message, was messy and disorganized, and was destined to fail.
But did it lack a clear message? People might think so, but only because the news media keeps saying so. In truth, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a clearer message than the 99 Percent versus the One Percent. Indeed, Madison Avenue itself couldn't have created a better slogan. The terms 99 Percent and the One Percent are now so ingrained in the national lexicon that they seem destined to be part of it for years, perhaps decades, to come.
More importantly, state, local, and national media are now finally focusing on what were always the real problems in this country: the rise of giant corporations that control government and the fact that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, while the middle class slowly ceases to exist. We owe the Occupy movement for homing in on those issues. Without Occupy, we probably would still be talking about federal deficits and the ridiculous Super Committee in Congress, with almost no one pointing out that federal deficits don't really matter and never have.
Occupy also is owed a debt of gratitude for the slew of tax-the-rich proposals vying for next year's California ballot. In fact, there are so many proposed measures, progressives and liberals are starting to worry that it could be too much of a good thing — that voters who want to tax the rich may not know which ballot measure to vote for and so will vote against all of them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It's quite a turnaround when you think about it.
So yes, the Occupy movement may have already reached its zenith. But its successes should not be overlooked.
UC Berkeley students and protesters sued the university and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in federal court, alleging police brutality when cops hit nonviolent demonstrators with their riot batons, the Chronicle reported. Video of the over-the-top police response went viral and made national headlines. The incident also prompted an apology from Cal Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. But Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern contended that the protesters had attacked his officers first — although none of the numerous videos taken of the incident corroborated his claim. ... A federal judge seemed reluctant last week to impose an injunction against the Oakland police department for alleged violations of its own crowd-control policies during two clashes with Occupy Oakland demonstrators, Bay City News reported. Judge Richard Seeborg said in court that injunctions typically require more than two instances of police misconduct. But an attorney for the ACLU and the National Lawyers' Guild, which are seeking the injunction, argued that heavy-handed police responses are dissuading others from attending demonstrations and exercising their free-speech rights. ... Police arrested a suspect in Kentucky for the fatal shooting of a man near the Occupy Oakland encampment last month, the Oakland Tribune reported. Police said Norris Terrell, 20, of Oakland fled to Kentucky after the killing. Terrell is charged with murdering Kayode Foster, 25, in what may have been a case of mistaken identity.
Jerry Brown has the second-lowest approval rating of any California governor at this stage of his of his tenure, but pollster Mark DiCamillo of the Field Poll said things could get worse for Brown before they get better, the Chron reported. California likely will have to slash $2 billion in spending in January, primarily to K-12 education, a move that could push Brown's approval ratings farther downward. Currently, Brown has a 47 percent rating — only Pete Wilson had a lower one at this stage: 45 percent. ... The proposed recall of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, whose approval rating has nosedived, particularly in the wake of Occupy Oakland, is set to get underway soon, the Tribune reported. The recall effort is being spearheaded by Oakland activist Gene Hazzard, who opposes the mayor's handling of the Army Base and her decision to not re-nominate Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon. Hazzard says he plans to run an all-volunteer drive to put the recall petition on the ballot. ... The father of one-year-old Hiram Lawrence, who was gravely injured when he was shot in the head last week in West Oakland, is refusing to help police find the perpetrators, The Bay Citizen reported, citing anonymous sources. Investigators suspect that the shooting, which left seven people injured, including little Hiram and his father, may have stemmed from an ongoing feud between rival West Oakland gangs. ... The massive fire that destroyed a Telegraph Avenue apartment building and ruined two popular restaurants was caused by an electrical short in the building's elevator machinery, the Chron reported. Residents of the apartment building have said that it has been plagued by electrical problems over the years. The blaze displaced about seventy residents and destroyed Café Intermezzo and Raleigh's Bar and Grill. ... Under pressure from the FCC, BART board members adopted a strict policy that will only allow the agency to shut down cellphone service in "extraordinary" situations. The Bay Citizen reported that the FCC demanded that BART adjust its proposed policy to make it clear that shutting down cellphone service would be a rare event, such as a threat of a cellphone-detonated bomb or a hostage situation. ... Oakland's iconic Tribune Tower has been sold to CallSocket, an Oakland call center, which plans to inhabit the downtown building with three hundred workers, the Trib reported. The tower had been in receivership before being sold for $8 million. The Tribune moved out of the tower in 2007. ... And recycling and composting in the East Bay may soon become mandatory under a proposal in front of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, the Trib reported. Violators of the proposed ordinance, which mandates that newspapers, bottles, and cans be recycled and that food waste be put in compost bins — not in the garbage — would be subject to fines of up to $1,000.