Re: Guest Post - Activism

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I haven't finished reading the article, but wanted to update people on the case I asked for help on a few months ago. My friend is the foster parent for the children of a friend of hers who's undocumented and was facing deportation, which would have meant termination of her rights and the kids' adoption by my friend, who loves them but would like them to stay with family. The mom was able to get a stay of one year on her immigration case and is now living independently, working, and has had the children's case goal changed from adoption back to reunification with her.

I have no idea whether or how much the calls some of us made helped and I was hesitant to ask for them, but this article also seems to be suggesting that being able to tell a compelling story can help people facing deportation and I'm grateful we were able to get her story told and that it seems to have made a huge difference for her and her children.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:27 AM
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I have wondered at times how to engage in very direct action, like how to think of effective things and find other people who are doing them, and whether I'd have the guts to do it. During the Prop 8 stuff a few years back I found myself at some idiotic protest, cordoned into a tiny area approved for ignorable shouting, silently sitting out three-word chants, and at some point I said to someone who also looked angry "nobody cares that we are doing this. Shouldn't we be throwing things through other things?" She looked creeped out and didn't engage. I went home.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:54 AM
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Let me tell you about the the worst pickup line I ever got.


Posted by: Girl at the Protest | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 6:59 AM
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Were protests less ignorable fifty years ago, insofar as they violated more social etiquette and seemed more shocking? Were they more effective? Or have protests always been something where it takes tons of effort to make negligible-to-incremental progress?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 7:03 AM
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Were protests less ignorable fifty years ago, insofar as they violated more social etiquette and seemed more shocking?

Alternately, perhaps the efficacy of 60's era protests is overstated as a result of baby boomers looking back at that era with rose-tinted glasses, and the change that happened at that time was more due to demographic and economic forces than is generally recognized.

I don't know if that's true, but it seems possible.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 7:30 AM
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I've been wondering for a long time if any political scientists out there have studied the efficacy of protest, but am not quite so curious I'd ever try to look it up. It doesn't seem very effective to me.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 7:38 AM
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Probably most effective in terms of creating a forum for like-minded people to get together. The chanting slogans at The Man element of it probably has a lesser impact.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 7:53 AM
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7: Yeah, pretty clear the ppl doing it are getting a lot out of it. It's less clear to me anyone else is, though.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 7:57 AM
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Yeah. Every so often (that is, every five years or so) I show up at a protest/rally type thing, and it always feels as if I'm pointlessly shouting down a well. In theory I approve of people who do things, but in practice I have no idea of what it means to do anything effective.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:03 AM
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I have wondered at times how to engage in very direct action . . .

I'll, recommend How To Survive A Plague as both a good film and a good example of successful activism. But, in that case, ACT-UP combined street protests with outreach to government and industry which was crucial to their successes. . . .

More broadly, I have no idea how to figure out successful action. I think that article argues for having small groups of people trying different strategies and hoping that some of them are successful.

But I also remember a conversation that I overheard in a bus, around the time of the occupy Wall Street protests in which two people were talking about their support for the protests and then one of them said something to the effect that they worried about the people who were out there -- that the consequences of getting arrested at a protest, and having that on your record were getting heavier.

I don't know if that's true, I suspect it is, but just the fact that people are having that conversation and have that impression makes organizing protests more difficult.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:05 AM
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Occupy felt like it had some kind of effect because it was different enough that it stayed in the news and people talked about it, right? The politics of economic injustice were, however briefly, not wholly ignored because someone came up with a way of talking about it that was accessible, meme-ready, and experience-near for a lot of people. I think. Something like that.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:19 AM
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Worry that a protest arrest might be enough to keep me from getting a security clearance is enough to make me stay away. I've found a number of vaguely-suitable jobs that require clearances (doing things like nuclear materials detection for DHS, for example). I doubt that having one more warm body present would make much difference, especially since I am unenthusiastic about shouting slogans. Online petitions, on the other hand, I love. So easy to get that smug sense of satisfaction like I've actually done something.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:19 AM
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I've been hoping for some post-Occupy force to emerge out of all the networks that should have been formed in Zuccotti Park. Occupy Sandy was a bright spot, but, other than that, I'm not really seeing it.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:21 AM
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But, seriously, read the linked article. It's long and, at the beginning, I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make of it but, by the end it did seem remarkable (if foolhardy).

The mom was able to get a stay of one year on her immigration case and is now living independently, working, and has had the children's case goal changed from adoption back to reunification with her.

Yay!

... this article also seems to be suggesting that being able to tell a compelling story can help people facing deportation

Which is both reassuring and depressing.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:29 AM
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The anti-Prop 8 protests seem to me to have been far more effective than Occupy. They helped move consensus center-left opinion from "banning gay marriage is regrettable but understandable" to "banning gay marriage is an unspeakable civil rights violation."

As to Occupy, the short answer is that all the people who said that it needed positive, more traditional organization and a clear set of specific goals to accomplish anything of lasting significance turned out to be 100% right. Here, IIRC Chris Y made this point early and often and was totally correct.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:33 AM
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Protests in favor of things that no rich people and corporations have any logical reason to be opposed to seem to still work pretty well.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:34 AM
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15.1: Is there any reason to believe it was protests that accomplished that?


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:49 AM
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16: yep, that's the key. Gay marriage is completely inoffensive as far as global capitalism/the national security state goes, and increasing immigration is actually helpful on the cheap labor front.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:53 AM
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The point of a pep rally isn't to demoralize the other team, and if you measure it that way, all pep rallies are failures. They're also often failures if you only count them as a success f the team wins -- as to which the rally may have had some marginal effect, but is hardly the deciding factor (the strength and skill of the other team being a pretty big deal, along with luck).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:57 AM
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17 -- yes, I think. Public opinion moved very rapidly after the passage of Prop 8, and I think at least part of the reason was the level of outrage expressed by supporters after its passage, which convinced other (again, center-left people who were otherwise sympathetic but had less preference-intensity) that this was a big deal.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:58 AM
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16 also to 15.1, I'm assuming. One of several reasons the gay marriage movement is not a model for future success.
I'd argue that making economic injustice an acceptable part of the conversation is an accomplishment of lasting significance.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:58 AM
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1: Yay!
2: It's really hard to determine what is useful and what is just adventurism. I've been going to protests and perhaps or perhaps not engaging in direct actions for awhile, and I'm still confused most of the time.
4,5: Terry Bisson, Peter Coyote and some friends pulled off a staggeringly effective protest in 1961 -- McGeorge Bundy met with them! http://www.grinnell.edu/files/grinmagfall11.grinnell14.pdf
6: There's Gene Sharp: http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/FDTD.pdf
11, 13, 15.2: I think there were myriad problems with Occupy:
1. Why start it in the fall? Just an arbitrary decision on Adbusters' part, and it wound up meaning that a lot of strong examples in the northern part of the country barely got going before the cold weather shut them down.
2. There was a LOT of resistance to learning from other struggles on the part of many people in Occupy. This manifested as a lack of interest in confronting white supremacy, but also as a lot of just plain confusion and wasted energy on basic logistical and relational aspects of running a large protest.
3. The "99%" rhetoric was rarely a call for unity and frequently a cause for papering over very real class differences and desires. When Occupy here transitioned into mostly being Occupy Homes, it was pretty clear who had had the good class politics all along -- and a lot of those folx were people with previous radical activism experience.
4. A lot of the energy was bled away by center-left orgs, business unions and the Democratic party in hopes of locking in Obama's reelection.
5. Capital and the state are very adept at fitting any protest action, however original or heterogenous, into the same old "DFHs with giant puppets are blocking traffic, black bloc anarchists are breaking bank windows and assaulting the cops" discourse created in the wake of Seattle.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 8:59 AM
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The things that really seemed to work in the past tend to be on the 'scaring the living fuck out of rich people that they will lose all their shit, or die' end of the spectrum of protest.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:01 AM
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15 -- I don't know whether it really was the protests, or whether the bigger part of the turning is a combination of (a) great narratives of long time couples finally taking advantage of marriage equality whenever it occurs and (b) the hardest core of opponents aging out. One can't know in advance, obviously, so there's no reason not to have protests.

The protests I was in during the mid-1970s against apartheid took 10 years to "work" -- but those ten years were useful in normalizing the position, so that's one where I think protests made the difference without having the state overreact (which made a huge difference in Civil Rights, imo.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:03 AM
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23 -- well, yes. "Your factory will not be producing any more goods for the foreseeable future" is a different and more immediately palpable message than "we'll have some comments made in a bizarre consensus-driven speaking style about how in the abstract economic inequality is not great."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:03 AM
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Things About Occupy That Radicals Didn't Like:
1. Drum circles
2. Mic check
3. White supremacy
4. Drum circles


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:07 AM
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In my experience as a protestor, people who don't normally take part in protests just shut down at any idea that some sort of road or sidewalk will be blocked, or even worse, some sort of property damage might be on the table.

Neither of those tactics are actual "violence", no matter what the police say. Violence is against people.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:07 AM
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I'd argue that making economic injustice an acceptable part of the conversation is an accomplishment of lasting significance.

Only if "being part of the conversation" translates into actual change in policy. So far, I'm not seeing it.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:08 AM
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28: But, it's kind of like there's this window, you see, and they've shifted it. As one does with windows.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:09 AM
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23, 25 -- I'm not sure I agree. Can you point to some examples? In modern America, such protests would be put down violently with mass approval. Because the middle class overidentifies with the rich. It's when the rich aren't threatened -- I mean what stake did your run-of-the-mill rich dude really have in the Vietnam War or in apartheid? -- where it might work, and even then (as in Iraq, where your average rich person had nothing to gain) it might not simply on the basis of tribalism.

Although using Iraq as an example is probably unfair, because of the short time frame. You can hardly judge a mass movement on how it does in 100 days.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:11 AM
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Thanks to Moby's Pittsburgh history links in the other thread, I learned last week that Strom Thurmond was once pelted with marshmallows, which was probably an awesome but ineffective protest. (I'm more uncomfortable with things like pies in the face and glitterbombing than I am with It's Raining Marshmallows, which just strikes me as hilarious.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:12 AM
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Which, wrt OWS, reminds me -- where the hell are all those people in the summer of 2013? Isn't this every bit as good a time to have the conversation? And if parks don't work, surely there's some sort of alternative soap box that could get attention.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:14 AM
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27: My heuristic w/r/t blocking stuff, shutting things down is*, would I be ok with a Tea Party protest doing this? Always no.

*This excludes shutting stuff down by means of strikes.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:14 AM
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28: Well, of course not. It's mostly changed the way the parties justify their preferred policies. Occupy managed to get one word, inequality, into the previously impervious Washington concensus. It's not obvious that it could've been used as a megaphone for a detailed policy prescription.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:16 AM
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Occupy was, in many ways, experimental, and for that it had some value. Decentralization in organizing has some advantages, which could maybe improve and evolve in future models. The "no concrete agenda" thing didn't really work, but maybe it could have, and there was no way to really know for sure until somebody tried it.

I'm sure there were some valuable logistics lessons as well.... the existence of portapoties, for example, turns out to be crucial, not just for the purpose of hygene, but because the image of "dirty hippies needing to poop in the restrooms of local businesses" can be very detrimental to the public perception of the protest.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:19 AM
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33: That seems in need of problematization to me. Would I be okay with the Tea Party engaging in dedicated, legal, face-to-face activism in every part of their lives, using the existing structures of civil society where possible, to bring about a significant change in US electoral politics, such that people acceptable to them wound up in control of all sections of the government and were able to institute their policies with a free hand?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:19 AM
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Personal to Eggplant, if it you did go back and steal a red panda from the National Zoo I'm happy to help you claim it was part of a political protest of some sort or to claim that I never heard you make any plans to abscond with the cuddliest little guy around.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:23 AM
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37: 6 will get you 12 the cops shoot it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:25 AM
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27: Ultimately, I think strikes could be the most effective protest tool. But its amazing how that power was gutted by Taft-Hartley, and the subsequent decline of unionism. A general strike is not even possible in the United States... and compared to that, all the other protests that can be mustered are basically peanuts.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:26 AM
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27 s/b 33


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:27 AM
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"This animal is not dangerous to any human," Baker-Masson said. "He is vaccinated."
That's a relief.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:27 AM
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A general strike is not even possible legal in the United States

Breaking the law is still possible. It'd be very very unlikely and difficult to organize, but nothing makes it impossible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:29 AM
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Occupy managed to get one word, inequality, into the previously impervious Washington concensus.

Sure, if you don't count the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton or John Edwards.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:30 AM
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27: My heuristic w/r/t blocking stuff, shutting things down is*, would I be ok with a Tea Party protest doing this? Always no.

Sure, you wouldn't be OK with it. But if you were otherwise in favor of their goals, would you start thinking they were extremists just because of a tactic of shutting things down?

Also, strikes are generally illegal, at least strikes that prevent the management from immediately replacing everyone with scabs.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:30 AM
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6 will get you 12 the cops shoot it.

If it was big maybe, but the size of a racoon? Probably not unless it's actually frothing at the mouth and eating a kid.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:31 AM
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It'd be very very unlikely and difficult to organize, but nothing makes it impossible.

Single digit private-sector unionization rates make it impossible.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:32 AM
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43: I don't actually remember Clinton talking about it, but in any case I'm not claiming no one had ever mentioned it before.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:35 AM
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45: You must have missed last week's 'cop shoots kittens in front of crying children' story.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:37 AM
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31: I didn't know that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:46 AM
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48: Holy shit did I ever.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:47 AM
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42: I also didn't know that. What if everybody strikes but certain key sectors where striking is illegal?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:48 AM
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50: Last week was a bad week for animals in linked articles.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:48 AM
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50: Obviously, an individual nutcase rather than anything typical of anything. It just came to mind as recent.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 9:50 AM
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The anti-Prop 8 protests seem to me to have been far more effective than Occupy. They helped move consensus center-left opinion from "banning gay marriage is regrettable but understandable" to "banning gay marriage is an unspeakable civil rights violation."

This seems totally wrong. Gay rights are sweeping the country because individual gay people came out of the closet, in accelerating amounts. Actually knowing a gay person in your private life is what converts people's opinions on gay rights.

It gained momentum and started snowballing for reasons much more vast than the Prop 8 protests.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:05 AM
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Sure, if you don't count the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton or John Edwards.

The presidential campaign of Edwards didn't register whatsoever with mainstream America, and Clinton's rhetoric on inequality didn't either.

OWS was absolutely groundbreaking in creating a conversation about inequality. Republicans are now defensive instead of triumphant about their policies shoring up the wealthy class, for the first time ever. Prior to OWS, "inequality" was a mythical unicorn like "unions" that I never heard anyone outside my family or blogs mention whatsoever. Now it's a concept that gets tossed around in mainstream forums, like The View or whatever.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:10 AM
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Anyone French here, to opine about strikes and protests?

I'm sure there's a good book on how useless protest has been (since 1960, 1930, the Paris Commune, ever, etc) to add to The Revolution Will Not Be Funded and Engineering Culture (it was on the same shelf); then I will understand that every moment of success and feeling of agency and community I've ever had has been co-opted by the corp-rats.

(I can already explain to myself why everything in the kitchen and garden and woods is me greenwashing myself.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:15 AM
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An attempt at organizing a general strike would certainly get defined as terrorism and targeted using the various laws and surveillance techniques built up to deal with such things. (RICO would help too I think).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:17 AM
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54.2: I thought one strength of gay rights protests and parades was that they were good places for people to come out. Sometimes several times, before it seemed good to go back to the hometown and talk to the family.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:17 AM
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Heebie says it better. What was Clinton's rhetoric on inequality? I remember some promises of student loans as compensation for his neoliberal economic reforms but I don't remember him describing it as a social problem.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:19 AM
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54, 55 -- Yeah, I just think that's nonsense, and that the Occupy protests did basically nothing tangible. I don't see any substantial change whatsoever in any really-existing policy on inequailty (or, there's some, but that's basically a product of the recession). A movement that had no organization and no long-term or specific goals produced a disorganized bit of chatter on inequality and zero tangible results. I think the best you can say for it is (as Spike says, by the way I have some quadcopter questions) that it was an experiment worth trying, and it was worth rolling the dice on whether that approach could do anything. Turned out, it couldn't.

Whereas, gay marriage has benefited from a targeted and organized long-term campaign that included protests. But, I don't have the time now to look up any actual studies on the point, so we'll have to agree to disagree.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:19 AM
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57: Too true.

Or we'd all strike and discover that it's been makework for decades, that only a tiny fraction of the workforce is now required to keep those in power comfortable and they'll be replaced by robots too, soon enough.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:20 AM
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Well, that could easily be the case. But it's a stretch to say that the protests doing their protesting thing was exactly what changed the hometown family's mind. As opposed to community solidarity and support.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:20 AM
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62 to 58.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:21 AM
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Globally, what redistributive and anti-inequality movements have been successful that didn't use at least the implicit threat of violence? Maybe some in northern European countries? South America? Bonus points if they actually reduced it, rather than just slowing the rise.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:22 AM
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57: Sadly true.

What's worse is I don't think a general strike is the only action that would trigger the response you describe.

"Any action that corporations/the security state feel threatened by" is probably enough.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:23 AM
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55, see 54. OWS created a conversation about inequality about as much as Prop 8 protests set the national tone on gays. Inequality is an issue because decades of gutting the middle class is coming home to roost and affecting wide swathes of people who thought it wouldn't happen to them and theirs.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:23 AM
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57.1 seems so counter to my experience that I want to reach for a regional explanation - OWS affected the conversation in red states like this. (Absolutely, it hasn't affected policy. But shifting the issues that mainstream America cares about is a major accomplishment. Politicians are sufficiently fucked up that they can withstand the shift, of course.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:24 AM
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On gay marriage, to be clear, I don't think the post-Prop 8 protests were in the top 50 things that have moved the movement forward. But, as part of an organized, defined, and well-orchestrated campaign they had an important part to play, mostly in increasing preference-intensity for gay marriage among otherwise sympathetic liberals, and so were a real (but not overwhelmingly important) part of a movement that's brought real and tangible success after a lot of hard work. Occupy, in my view, was an experiment worth trying but basically a lot of wasted energy signifying nothing, that could have been put to far better use.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:26 AM
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Halford, that's a pretty high standard. Nothing else has even made the plutocracy pause.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:26 AM
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69 to 60.
68: What is that better use?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:28 AM
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OWS created a conversation about inequality about as much as Prop 8 protests set the national tone on gays. Inequality is an issue because decades of gutting the middle class is coming home to roost and affecting wide swathes of people who thought it wouldn't happen to them and theirs.

This doesn't make sense. The two issues are wildly different. People have no sense that the past few decades have been spent systematically destroying social programs - there's just a vague sense that the super wealthy are ripping off the country, courtesy of OWS.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:30 AM
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Comity on the gay rights part of 68. On OWS, I'm just going to chalk it up to you living in a godless elite coast.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:32 AM
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I don't think protests and parades change the family and hometown opinions -- not for the better *coughFolsomcough* -- I think they (often) make it easier for someone to come out to strangers who will remain so, or friends, or other queers. And after enough of that, they can sometimes go home and do the hard work of convincing coworkers and family.

Anyway, this is just through-my-hat talking from living in the historically gay-friendly neighborhood of the biggest city in a half-conservative state, and being therefore acquainted with the annual arguments about who the Pride parades are really for, and how bougie to be.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:33 AM
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69 - Bullshit. We had a somewhat restrained plutocracy for at least 50 years after 1935. Even today, there are plenty of things that make the plutocracy pause (I can think of a bunch of relatively smallish stuff here, like various union campaigns, living wage campaigns, etc.). Or bigger things, like the use of California's Unfair Competition Law in the courts. At the national level, we passed the ADA in the relevant future and made some dent in financial reform. There's movement on student loan reform. Sure, the trend has been in a terrible direction, for a while, and the fight-back has been long and has taken baby steps. But so it is with any political movement, and handwaving or pretending that there's no actual policy worth actually working for in the actual world that could help with economic justice issues (so why not just have nothing but meaningless protest) is completely wrong. A more focused and disciplined version of the Occupy Movement could have created real good, instead of feel-good for its participants.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:35 AM
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What was Clinton's rhetoric on inequality?

See things like his speech at Wharton in '92.

People have no sense that the past few decades have been spent systematically destroying social programs

You think people haven't noticed wage stagnation, pensions going up in smoke, huge tuition increases for college, etc. etc.?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:37 AM
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60: I love quadcopter questions. Why don't we take it to the quadcopter thread?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:37 AM
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"relevant future" s/b "recent past" and there are probably a zillion other mistakes, but whatever.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:38 AM
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You think people haven't noticed wage stagnation, pensions going up in smoke, huge tuition increases for college, etc. etc.?

People notice these things but do not connect them as being a direct result of terrible public policy choices.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:39 AM
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(so why not just have nothing but meaningless protest)

Whatever happened to revolution for the hell of it?
Whatever happening to protesting nothing in particular, just
protesting cause it's Saturday and there's nothing else to do?

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:40 AM
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People notice these things but do not connect them as being a direct result of terrible public policy choices.

Also, people blame elite liberals and welfare cheats.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:42 AM
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but do not connect them as being a direct result of terrible public policy choices

Right, but they don't do so after the Occupy Movement, either, since the Occupy movement contained (almost) no discussion whatsoever of actual policy choices or different, and better, policy choices that we might make to improve peoples' lives. That's my real problem with it -- there was no structure to channel the anger and frustration into any movement to actually accomplish anything in the world, or even meaningfully diagnose the problem.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:45 AM
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Also, I have to say that the drum circles really were pretty annoying.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:50 AM
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Yeah, I just think that's nonsense, and that the Occupy protests did basically nothing tangible.

I had the impression they helped a center right democrat defeat a non-negligibly further right republican in the presidential election. But I'm a less detailed political observer than you people so maybe this is also nonsense.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:50 AM
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As I recall, the media response to Occupy was "What are these people complaining about? Why won't they tell us what they were complaining about?," and that response was echoed pretty extensively among those without a particularly strong interest in what they were doing.

This isn't to say that Occupy wasn't pretty loud and clear about what they were complaining about, but, through either a poor media strategy, or a malign media, they had a tough time getting that message out.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:53 AM
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there was no structure to channel the anger and frustration into any movement to actually accomplish anything in the world, or even meaningfully diagnose the problem.

They did meaningfully diagnose the problem: "Every aspect of the economy and government is rigged to benefit the wealthy, at the expense of the poor." And they got that message across.

As to whether or not that's worthwhile, itself, I guess we can agree to disagree.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:54 AM
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As I recall, the media response to Occupy was "What are these people complaining about? Why won't they tell us what they were complaining about?," and that response was echoed pretty extensively among those without a particularly strong interest in what they were doing.

True, and this was annoying, but! The media actually covered OWS. The fact that there were ongoing people living in public camps was actually covered on mainstream media, in a sustained manner that actually dented the collective conversation. That's unusual.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:56 AM
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84 -- or, more than "what are these people complaining about," people were asking "OK, we get that you're mad. We agree that things are not great. Now, what do you want?"

The response seemed to be "we will have a totally nonhierarchical and nonauthoritarian method of somehow telling you what some members of us may want at some indefinite point in the future, but we can't say anything right now." Which was not very satisfying.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 10:56 AM
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What Halford says, and 83, I love that you're that high on a Monday.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:00 AM
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Shitting on OWS feels like shitting on NPR. They are aggravating and I complain about them as much as anyone, but only because they are good enough to take seriously.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:02 AM
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Red pandas are like the cutest animals evar.

Then there was the weird news story a day or two ago where a woman in Indiana shot a large animal prowling around her yard and it turned out to be a leopard?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:02 AM
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54 Actually knowing a gay person in your private life is what converts people's opinions on gay rights.

Maybe if people started coming out as poor, we'd fix our economic problems.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:03 AM
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Has it all been downhill since Taft-Hartley?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:08 AM
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There's actually considerable truth to 91 last.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:09 AM
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75: That guy can give a good speech. Not great policy recommendations, but a good speech. It obviously didn't stick, and in any case someone needed to come along and let the neoliberals know that, despite their best efforts, inequality was even worse.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:09 AM
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We could all post our incomes.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:10 AM
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The point of Occupy was to take over bits of land, call attention to the failures of capitalism and its corruption of the political system, and experiment with forms of organizing society that are an alternative to it. It wasn't an electoral/reformist movement, and we're not in a revolutionary situation, so of course it didn't have "any tangible result". What was surprising was that it garnered more sympathy/solidarity/attention than any other U.S. instance of the global, "another world is possible" movements that have arisen since the mid-90s.

But look at Turkey to see what essentially the same sort of movement can do in different conditions.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:12 AM
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Every aspect of the economy and government is rigged to benefit the wealthy, at the expense of the poor you!

You missed the critical part of the message.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:12 AM
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96 -- Yeah, the goals of calling attention and experimenting with an alternative end up being self-cancelling, which is, I suppose, why we're not seeing OWS in action today.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:15 AM
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Occupy was modeled on Tahir Square, which itself was actually quite effective.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:15 AM
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but only because they are good enough to take seriously.

Ugh. Here anyways, our local public radio and TV do worthwhile things while our local OWS chapter pretty much deserved to get shit on.

Not great policy recommendations

What's crazy to me is that it seems so long ago now that we had a guy give a substantial tax increase to the top bracket and then his VP won the popular vote while promising to take the surplus from that increase to shore up SS.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:15 AM
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99 -- They did have a specific goal, though, right? Even if it might not have worked out exactly as a lot of folks were hoping.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:16 AM
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97 is much better.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:28 AM
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We had a somewhat restrained plutocracy for at least 50 years after 1935.
I'd put it at about 40, but it's quibbling.
Even today, there are plenty of things that make the plutocracy pause
Sure, there have been some laws passed that the Chamber of Commerce and the financial industry didn't like, and these have made real improvements in some people's lives. Nothing of consequence to those at the top, though.
pretending that there's no actual policy worth actually working for in the actual world that could help with economic justice issues (so why not just have nothing but meaningless protest) is completely wrong.
This certainly isn't what I meant to do, and you're the one claiming the protests were meaningless.
A more focused and disciplined version of the Occupy Movement could have created real good, instead of feel-good for its participants.
People did try to hang their preferred solutions on the movement, and it would've been nice had everyone coalesced around the correct policies, but absent a large, already existing, focussed reform movement it's hard to see how this could occur.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:29 AM
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Sure, there have been some laws passed that the Chamber of Commerce and the financial industry didn't like, and these have made real improvements in some people's lives. Nothing of consequence to those at the top, though.

And then those are systematically de-fanged through obstructionism and chipping away at the implementation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:35 AM
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104 to nothing in particular.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:36 AM
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Every aspect of the economy and government is rigged to benefit the wealthy, at the expense of you!

C'mon, now, what makes you think that?"


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:47 AM
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They found the red panda in Adams Morgan. This one ends well.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:00 PM
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Mr. Morgan ate the panda?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:00 PM
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I should have gone with a bestiality joke.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:01 PM
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106 is pretty awful.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:02 PM
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Via the other place, I have just learned of the existence of a new movie called Sharknado, which is purportedly about a tornado made of sharks.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:25 PM
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This book is probably a reliable source for current scholarly thinking on protest movements, but I haven't read it and never studied the subject, so I can't say anything useful.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:30 PM
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111: Starring Ian Ziering, of Beverly Hills 90210 fame.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:36 PM
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I should have gone with a bestiality joke.

You and him both.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 12:36 PM
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111: Are you aware of Sharktopus, a movie about a shark/octopus hybrid?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 1:00 PM
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My kids are interested in who would win between a shark with the arms of a bear, and a bear with sharks for arms. We were watching Only Connect (uber geek quiz show) the other day, and one of the questions was about Constitutional rights. The ten year old muttered, "all sharks should have the right to bear arms". (She really is the best child.)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 3:27 PM
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The ten year old muttered, "all sharks should have the right to bear arms". (She really is the best child.)

That really is the best.

"Only Connect"? Was the quiz show started by EM Forster?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 3:52 PM
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re: 30

I specifically had in mind unionisation, and the union movement.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 3:55 PM
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The shark and bear scenario aren't quite parallel, right? It would be a shark with the arms of a bear, ending in paws and claws, right? Versus a bear with two sharks growing out of the sides of its body, ending in jaws and teeth? Can those sharks also see? Do they have to be in constant motion to breathe?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 3:57 PM
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119 gets it right. Obviously, the bear with sharks for arms wins. On land, the shark with bear arms sucks it. At sea, it's one powerful shark vs. two, admittedly with a little less mobility for the two, but, still, bears can swim and two sharks are better than one. This question is easily resolved.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 4:03 PM
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I guess if you stipulate that the sharks on the bear who is the bear with sharks for arms can't breathe or bite or do anything on land, then MAYBE if the shark who has bear arms uses the bear arms to attack the bear who has sharks for arms the shark with bear arms wins, but only if the shark with bear arms isn't also unable to breathe or bite or do things on land to the bear with sharks for arms.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 4:08 PM
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How big are the arm-sharks and arm-bears? That's a key question. Are we stipulating equal-total-mass here, or what?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 4:33 PM
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You have to arm the shark-armed bear with lesser sharks than the bear-armed shark. And god forbid the shark-armed bear bears bear-armed sharks.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 4:38 PM
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I doubt that the NYTimes would have been running an extended series on income inequality, with pieces like this, if not for Occupy. And since essentially the only public opinion that matters is the views of the social & economic class that reads the NYT, WSJ, Post, etc., there's some reason to think that this sort of thing makes a difference at the margins. Inequality is threatening to become a real partisan issue in a way that it hasn't been for generations, and that's a good thing.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-24-13 11:33 PM
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96 gets Occupy totally right. It was always more of a primal scream than a coordinated protest movement with a defined goal. I think it did increase attention to inequality issues, but not because it made that its goal and then accomplished it; rather, Occupy was a result of the long-term processes that Halford and gswift have been talking about, and it crystallized the reality of them in a way that the media actually paid (admittedly frustrating and incomplete) attention to. Whether there were actually any concrete policy results from all this is hard to say, of course.

One thing I thought at the time, and still think, is that there was a major difference in attitudes toward Occupy between people who had been out of work during the Great Recession and people who hadn't. Among the former, including me and most of my friends, the point and message of Occupy was so obvious that it was intensely frustrating to hear so many people cluelessly wondering what it was all about (or, worse, belittling it). It's hard to express how hopeless and discouraging an experience it has been to be unemployed in recent years. Occupy was in large part the result of middle-class white people with college degrees realizing that there was no longer any opportunity for them whatsoever in this society. (People who don't fit this demographic profile were hugely underrepresented in the movement, which was problematic for the reasons many people have pointed out.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 12:28 AM
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I've always imagined the arm-sharks as small, bear-arm-sized. But had never imagined them with bear arms. Mind boggled.

There is a lot of debate about whether this is on land or in the sea, the autonomy of the arm-sharks etc.

Only Connect - you can play one of the rounds online - www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lskhg/features/quiz


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 1:08 AM
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Teo gets it right in 125.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 9:36 AM
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If the sharks had whole bears for arms and the bears had whole sharks for arms you could have a fractal bear-shark.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 9:40 AM
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I was thinking about this a bunch, and I just don't see any plausible scenario where shark-with-bear-arms wins, ever. It's pretty much just the Invasion of Grenada with bear-with-shark-arms as the Marines and shark with bear arms as a small Marxist-leaning island state with no army.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 9:43 AM
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The bear has whale shark arms. Giant and useless. I'm not sure if I'd describe this scenario as plausible, but clearly the shark, with its superior maneuverability, wins.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 9:55 AM
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So the bear has whale shark arms but the shark is not a whale shark, but like a great white? Doesn't seem fair. Seems like there has to be bear to bear arms/shark to shark arms equivalence or the whole thing just makes no sense.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 10:27 AM
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Right. What if the bear is a panda with great white arms, up against a whale shark with grizzlies?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 10:44 AM
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Fair enough. There should also be some sort of matching of bear to shark, to avoid the t-rex, vestigial arm situation and its opposite.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 10:47 AM
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Timely news related to the OP:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/25/world/americas/responding-to-protests-brazils-leader-proposes-changes-to-system.html?src=recg

It helps if the protests represent a large/active constituency of the governing coalition's base of power.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 5:14 PM
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133: Oh man what about a T-rex with tiger arms?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 06-25-13 5:48 PM
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