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Occupy Seoul part 2… 한국어와 시간

On my way from Yongin, where I work and live during the week, to Daejeon, where my girlfriend works and I live during the weekend, I always go through Seoul. Last week, I went to the early stages of Occupy Seoul in front of City Hall. Given that today was my 31st birthday and that the specific goals of Occupy Seoul did not entirely seem in keeping with my own, I didn’t go. Going to Seoul Station and past Gwanghwamun, I past the Friday Night Occupy Seoul near the shadow of a statue of King Sejong. There was last than fifty people carrying signs about banking reform and voiding the free trade agreement with the US.

Given that I am a 미국 사람, I figured I should keep my profile low for a second time. Furthermore, socialism is still a bit hard to brooch in public here. While no Americans that I know of have ever been charged with this law–it is rarely used now–there are vague anti-communist laws from 1948 still standing in the Republic of Korea. One can easily find Marx, Engels, Lenin, Badiou, Zizek, Marcuse, and all sorts of Verso titles here in English, so the law seems very liberally adjudicated.

Still the police were more on guard last week than I thought, and tried to block the protest. This led to statements like this from Korean bloggers: “역시 월가시위도 불법이라며 저지시키려한다 전세계인이하는데 왜 우리는 못하지” (Translated: “As I expected…They tried to block the Occupy Wall Street protest, calling it illegal. Why can’t we do it when all the rest of the world does?”) and “월가시위는 순수한데 오늘 서울점령은 불순하다는 보수언론의 망발! 월가시위는 부자증세,공정사회화 등을 요구하는 “정치적” 시위다. 그리고 옳다. 서울시위도 옳을 것.” (Traslated: When will those conservative media ever stop ranting! They call the Wall Street protest a pure (grassroots) movement, while blaming Occupy Seoul of being ‘ridden with some (devious) intentions’. You see, the Wall Street protest is a ‘political’ protest demanding taxing riches and restoring fairness in society. And they are right. So is Occupy Seoul.)

Still the rain and cool weather made for a lackluster protest on Friday night as I took the train near the square the Japanese burned to the ground over a hundred years ago. Today I there was reports of between 200 to 500 people in Seoul protesting. A small increase. No major incidents yet. Much clearer goals. Still, protesters are using the symbols of solidarity:

Occupy Everything Worldwide: odds and ends. . . and finally a critique from someone other than Marxist that’s semi-legitimate

So this will not be a coherent post, but a list of links on OWS an Occupy Everything that are interesting paired like a gourmet meal with cheap wine by some comments by me.   First off, happy one month anniversary Occupy Wall Street. 

The call to move money from Bank Accounts to Credit Unions by Occupy Wall Street seems to have caused Citibank and a few others to fear a bank run.   There apparently was between 22 and 25 people arrested for trespassing by Citibank in NY :

Similarly there have been swamping of JP Morgan Chase without said arrests.  Meanwhile it is there is some honesty about the increasing influence of these protests and their global reach even at Bloomberg Business News.

So let’s look at the world for a minute: Occupy Rome apparently went “smashingly.”  I’ll point you to the Libcom article on the topic

The urgency of the impending Euro-crisis may not hit most Americans, but the fear that Ireland and Greece may eventually become Argentina and what that could mean for the Eurozone is in the back of there mind.  Plus Europeans are less pansy when they protest: perhaps let’s blame soccer riots?

On my home front: Occupy Seoul is expanding and going again next weekend, October 22. The crowd apparently was only 200 people according to the Korea Times. I’ll admit that I can’t confirm this from my visit, but that seems like it might be slightly low-balled. Hopefully, I will make it out to this weekends events as it would be a interesting way to celebrate my birthday.  In general though, Occupy Seoul was orderly and in step with the rhetoric of the American version.  This 99% meme is spreading, although I don’t think wealth disparity is actually that bad throughout Asia it is getting worse in Korea.

American and Korean graffiti in Itaewon, Seoul from my personal collection

Meanwhile, another city close to my heart, Taipei is still occupied.  But focused primarily on Taiwan’s moloch idol to consumerism, Taipei 101.   Apparently the numbers were counted as low in Taipei as well with only 500. However, I’d expect that to grow.  Taiwan’s economy has not fared as well as Korea’s in the last decade.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 from my personal picture collection

So let’s go back to North America for a second because there is a whole lot more going on at home. In bizarro land, The Financial Times endorses Occupy Wall Street. Paul Krugman continues to break ranks and endorse the protests as well, although I am sure he doesn’t quite get how radical it all may be.  Obama himself has tried to co-opt the protests, but as the James Joyner rightfully says,

This is shrewd positioning, identifying himself with the frustrations sparking a movement as well as its most effective slogan without embracing the movement itself and its potential baggage. The wee problem with it is that, not only is Obama part of the 1 percent, he’s been the single most important voice in American public policy for the past three years and has done nothing about these issues. Indeed, he was the chief cheerleader for the massive bailouts of the banks that gives the movement its name.

But Occupy Wall Street is not quite sure that it trusts Obama and Democrats may be missing the point:

So Gawker did an article on a man who had been giving information to the various intelligence gathering operations by NYPD:
The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for a month. And it seems the FBI and NYPD have had help tracking protesters’ moves thanks to a conservative computer security expert who gained access to one of the group’s internal mailing lists, and then handed over information on the group’s plans to authorities and corporations targeted by protesters.

Since the Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17, New York security consultant Thomas Ryan has been waging a campaign to infiltrate and discredit the movement. Ryan says he’s done contract work for the U.S. Army and he brags on his blog that he leads “a team called Black Cell, a team of the most-highly trained and capable physical, threat and cyber security professionals in the world.” But over the past few weeks, he and his computer security buddies have been spending time covertly attending Occupy Wall Street meetings, monitoring organizers’ social media accounts, and hanging out with protesters in Lower Manhattan.

As part of their intelligence-gathering operation, the group gained access to a listserv used by Occupy Wall Street organizers called September17discuss. On September17discuss, organizers hash out tactics and plan events, conduct post-mortems of media appearances, and trade the latest protest gossip. On Friday, Ryan leaked thousands of September17discuss emails to conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who is now using them to try to smear Occupy Wall Street as an anarchist conspiracy to disrupt global markets.

The later is echoed by Comrade Glen Beck:

If only Comrade Beck, but I don’t think the Protesters were lining up rank and file behind Zizek.  Speaking of which, Louis Proyect had some interesting things to say about Zizek and his OWS speech as well as the idea of Communism conference.  This brings me to the other Academic leftists behind the theories of the protest, I have already pointed an article out that attributed the protests to Hardt and Negri, this article talks about Hardt, Negri, Graeber, and a bunch of anarchist theorist.  This is sound, but looking at the agenda for Occupy Wall Street assemblies and what they are proposing, it hardly seems like anarchism. For example:

We demand CONGRESS PASS HR 1489

This is despite NY Times saying things like Protesters debate what if any demands are to be made. Furthermore the Big Idea saying things like

1. No more bailouts: Bring back real capitalism
2. End TBTF banks
3. Get Wall Street Money out of legislative process

I love the “bring back real capitalism” who throw out that leftists are pulling a “No True Scottsman” fallacy on when insisting that Marxist-Leninism and Maoism aren’t the only viable forms of socialism. If capitalism almost always ends with state-private collusion, current we make a similar critique of “actually existing capitalism.”

Oh, while I am on the topic of special pleading.  Those ever-so-consistent libertarians at Reason  are saying the OWS is Anti-Semetic and they have videos:

But note they were saying that liberals were cherry-picking and tarring the Tea Party as racist unfairly.Still there were videos there too:

But let’s not worry with holding libertarians to things like the intellectual consistency they supposedly pride themselves on.  Let’s just look at the truth of the matter as an editorial for AL Jazerra points out:

The Emergency Committee’s evidence is presented in the video, which shows three anti-Semites and two anti-Semitic signs among the protesters. That’s it, out of a crowd of thousands. (Far be it from me to guess at the number of anti-Semites who might be at a Tea Party event, but they don’t define that movement either. Mass movements attract all kinds of people, some invariably unsavoury.)

In any case, the Emergency Committee for Israel is not concerned about anti-Semitism or Israel. It is, rather, dedicated to defeating Democrats and promoting its billionaire donors’ economic interests. During the 2010 congressional campaigns, it produced videos almost as deceitful as the Wall Street video that lied about Democratic candidates. It used Israel and Jews as devices to direct money and votes toward the Republicans.

In attacking Occupy Wall Street, the Emergency Committee’s goal is simply to smear Democrats. If, in the process, it reinforces the stereotype that Jews and Wall Street are interchangeable, so what? How different is that from its usual practice of suggesting strongly that American Jews should vote only based on Israel’s supposed interests, not America’s? To put it not-so-mildly, the Emergency Committee for Israel does not care about fuelling anti-Semitism in America.

Because that last video of a couple of anti-Semites may have left a bad taste in your mouth, here’s another one. It was shot at the Wall Street demonstration on Yom Kippur Eve and it features not a few anti-Semites but thousands of Jews celebrating the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day dedicated to the same ideals as Occupy Wall Street: Repentance for putting our desires before the needs of the poor, the homeless, and the exploited.

I keep getting told that this is “protesting for protesting sake.” Now I have never known Protesting for Protesting sake to be so large in Europe as well:

Well maybe the French, but definitely not the Danes or Tunisians  or the Turks. But even the OWS seems hardly as aimless if you look at their consensus driven demands:

“Make no mistake about it, we are not aimless; we simply speak a different language – a language of mutual respect, participation, self-management, and action.” -October 13, 2011 

So I’ll start to wrap this up on a few other developments:  Cornell West, a man who I respect sometimes but can’t seem to figure out if he’s a Social Democrat or just a Democrat, got arrested protesting at the Supreme Court., Goldman Sachs got stormed in MilanSteve Rattner tells us that globalization has losers and we should be happy about that,Occupy Wall Street assault: lawyer demands action on policeman’s punch, and the NYPD has been adding much fuel to the fire. 

For all the critiques that I have read from someone without a fairly radical agenda, this one from the
 Last Psychiatrist merits discussion:

The protests will fail.  They will eventually be co-opted by the pre-election media orgasmia, branded as either this team or that and assigned a leader no one would have ever picked, ever, ever.    The Tea Party may have started with Rick Santelli but they soon got Sarah Palin, figure that out.  Half of you will vote, all of you will complain, and nothing will change until the day we are buying fake iPads with real yuans, hey, who’s the balding guy on the 20?  And the 50?  And the 100…?  And the reason it will fail is that you don’t want it to succeed.  You are still holding on to the mercantilist, zero-sum economic delusion that tariffs and gold standards and less money for Wall Street means more money for you, and then you can go back to living like it’s 1999 again.  You  can’t.  It’s over.

Of course Wall Street has excessive profits, but just as your life has been an inflated delusion of easy credit, so has theirs; yes, they have received an obscene share of that fake money, and ten-twenty years ago maybe you could have redistributed that fake money, but that ship has sailed.  Now, the moment you take it away from them it ceases to exist, poof, it’s gone.  It’s fine if you want to do it to punish them, I get it, it’s the right thing to do and Glass-Steagall and all that, but it won’t help your situation one bit.

$3.6T out, $2.4T in, those are the numbers, and in case you want something on letterhead here’s the CBO saying taxing the rich would get us $450B over ten years. Ten years!  Double the taxes, triple the taxes, it makes no difference, it’s over.  The only way out is a massive tax on wealth; cold fusion; a war; a new media; or inflation.  Inflation has the side benefit of pushing you into a higher tax bracket and we’ll all get to see what a $1000 bill looks like.

“We are the 99%.”  Stop it.  There is a 1%, fighting another 1%, and while both of those megalomaniancs dominate the media coverage the other 98% has no recourse, no representation, no allies, and no savings. If you’re over forty 2007 was the best you will ever have it, make sure you backup your photos, it may not get worse than this but your only hope for growth is the next generation so you better change your expectations and your priorities.  If you want to eat something other than canned goods and insects when you’re 80 you better prepare your kids now,  work them harder in math and get them to read better books, make some kind of/all kinds of a sacrifice for them, because the only thing keeping you from the hellacious Medicare funded nursing homes and the Social Security that will not exist is them, the 17 year olds you are screaming at for drinking too much of the whisky you are hiding in the bathroom.

But in the comments to the his post, there are some stern and well-thought answers:

 I am intrigued by the number of commenters who ape your style – that is, long on huffing-and-puffing (bordering on hysteria) and feel-good sneers at the “kids”, and short on analysis.

In the weak-analysis/hysteria department, let’s include this example:

“Double the taxes, triple the taxes, it makes no difference, it’s over. The only way out is a massive tax on wealth; cold fusion; a war; a new media; or inflation. Inflation has the side benefit of pushing you into a higher tax bracket and we’ll all get to see what a $1000 bill looks like.”

Actually, none of this is true. For example, given that tax receipts relative to the size of the economy are at multi-generational lows, there is plenty of room for modest tax increases that would stabilize the deficit, and ultimately reduce it, and reduce the national debt (if that is desired.) It will take time, but debt-to-GDP has on occasion been much higher in the past.

(The debt-train-wreck “narrative” is really only plausible if US healthcare costs continue to be double or more of what other developed nations pay (while getting poorer results, for the most part.))

There is plenty of good factual information out there on this kind of thing (economics texts are a good place to start), but you need to open your mind to the possibility that the perversely comforting apocalyptic debt narrative is false, and that the kind of accounting that a family does, for example, doesn’t really apply to governments (and no, governments are not like “businesses” either.)

For example, as a bit of homework, I’ll leave it to you to explain why it is that not every country in the world can have a positive savings rate and a “balanced” budget at the same time…

And this:

This is really something – that someone who seems to have some sort of education can write this stuff and brazenly post it for everyone to see. It takes a certain courage, and the hope he’ll remain anonymous, I imagine. The replacement of the simple declarative sentences of the high school-level essay of the old days with such constructions as this:

“Half of you will vote, all of you will complain, and nothing will change until the day we are buying fake iPads with real yuans, hey, who’s the balding guy on the 20? And the 50? And the 100…? And the reason it will fail is that you don’t want it to succeed. You are still holding on to the mercantilist, zero-sum economic delusion that tariffs and gold standards and less money for Wall Street means more money for you, and then you can go back to living like it’s 1999 again. You can’t. It’s over.”

…is surely another symptom of the endarkenment. This is awful, awful writing – silly, fake-insightful, incoherent, but possessed of the boundlessly self-assured tone of the ignorant.

I spend my days drawing red lines through this sort of thing, and patiently explaining, one student at a time, that though the “ignorant pundit style” is all around us, there is still no substitute for clarity and speaking from a position of knowledge.

So I saw this quote form Baudrillard there:

“All that capital asks of us is to receive it as rational or to combat it in the name of rationality, to receive it as moral or to combat it in the name of morality. Because these are the same, which can be thought of in another way: formerly one worked to dissimulate scandal — today one works to conceal that there is none.”
– Jean Baudrillard

Here’s my problem with the posturing like that of the anonymous psychiatrist.  It is predicated on the notion that the now is somehow consistent with past time when only prior to the 1950s, which in human social time is still pretty much nothing, we lived in totally different contingent conditions.    The anonymous psychiatrist accepts that debt is real even though a great majority of the bonds used to great government debt are to the Federal Reserve in order to produce currency.

In fact, perhaps our self-righteous psychiatrist should talk to an anthropologist about the history of debt instead of posturing about how you are more enlightened than everyone else. That the funny thing about cognitive dissonance, even people who know better can’t apply to themselves.


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