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Hullabaloo


Thursday, October 06, 2011

 
Occupying California
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

The Occupy Wall Street protests are spreading like wildfire around the country, not least in California, where they are garnering positive media attention.

As I noted earlier, local lawmakers in Los Angeles are cheering on the protesters.

In Santa Barbara, protesters are largely peacefully holding their ground despite curfew arrests, and receiving positive vibes from the local media.

In San Francisco, 600 people made their presence felt in front of the Federal Reserve building and many continue to camp out there. The press coverage in San Francisco has been supportive.

And in my own backyard in Ventura County, I was one of a little over 40 people attending the Occupy Camarillo event yesterday. The county newspaper the Ventura County Star, normally fairly conservative-leaning, wrote an article free of the condescension and irony apparent in so much of the East Coast establishment media:

The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to Ventura County with Facebook pages set up for Occupy Camarillo and Occupy Ventura and protesters gathering on Ventura Boulevard in Old Town Camarillo late Wednesday afternoon.

The grass-roots movement whose slogan is "We Are The 99%" aims to focus attention on what it says is a wealth distribution in which 1 percent of the U.S. population owns the majority of the wealth and on whether that 1 percent should pay higher taxes.

By 5 p.m. more than 40 people had gathered in front of the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalen at the Highway 101 on-ramps and offramps carrying signs saying, "We are the 99% and so are you."

Many drivers honked their horns in support.

"I've thought about it for months — that we need to stand up — and they motivated me, the young people in New York and around the country," said Patty Osborne, a 51-year-old mother and caregiver.

"Nothing's moving because the economy is just stuck, and people are fighting in Washington, and I'm sick of it," she said. "It's time for the people to say 'enough.'"

The protest was organized by Carolyn Crandall of Camarillo.

"Last week I was watching the TV, and I said: 'I've got to get up off the couch. I can't stand it.' I am over the Wall Street greed," she said.

This is a movement that is now resonating and gaining steam all over the country. But it's mostly only in the establishment media on the east coast that the protests are viewed with condescending skepticism.

One of the biggest problems with the American media is that the vast preponderance of its infrastructure is situated in the New York-Washington D.C. corridor, which happens to be one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and the area most overrun with the twin corruption of the financial sector and the military-industrial complex.

Most of this country's media elite hobnob with people who made it rich in the financial markets and the business of war and national security. One doesn't even need to appeal to venal corruption of the media: the mere social milieu in which our media bigwigs operate has a signficant warping effect on their discourse, without even a single quid pro quo dollar changing hands.

On the west coast, by contrast, there is very little in the way of political reporting. Californians are barely aware of what is happening in their own state due to a lack of political coverage, and West Coast sensibilities barely break through in the national dialogue.

Compounding this problem is the fact that the majority of nation's policy wonks are being selected from Ivy League schools for no good reason whatsoever, while those who aren't from the Ivies are almost all from east of the Mississippi:

In total, the Post reckoned that 22 of Obama's 35 appointments had, at that point, a degree from an Ivy League university, MIT, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge. Since then, Obama has appointed a Harvard alumnus as education secretary, a Nobel-prize winning Stanford physicist as energy secretary, and a handful of Harvard law school classmates.

The West Coast and California in particular have more than our share of problems. But California's problems are most the singular result of Proposition 13, which forced California to rely heavily on unstable sales taxes while allowing the bare 1/3 of the legislature controlled by Republicans to veto anything resembling a sensible budget. On the whole, however, the west coast states are moving quickly in the right direction both attitudinally in terms of public policy.

The challenge lies in bringing that West Coast ethic to the rest of the country, and forcing the country to pay closer attention.


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