Let the People Speak. Do not Stifle Dissent.

To those out there who applaud police actions to clear Occupy camps across the country, to those who think these people should not have a venue to air their grievances, to those who are against the messiness of public protest, consider this:

If we followed your lead, this country would have stayed in Vietnam, the South would be segregated, and women would not have the right to vote. Oh, and the USA would also still be British.

One of the things that makes this country so great is that its citizens have the right to stand up and demand change. You don’t have to agree with what protesters are saying, but you should be thankful that people are invested enough in our country to try to improve it.

And by the way, this is true of everyone – Occupiers, Tea Partiers, everyone. I’m convinced if you took away the divisive talk radio hate-mongering (on both sides), you’d find most rank-and-file Occupiers and Tea Party supporters have a shocking amount of grievances in common. Unfortunately, our media earns its living by creating divisions and maintaining a status quo by keeping us apart.

So, I say: let the people speak. Ignore them at your own peril. One of the greatest strengths of a democracy is its ability to allow for change from below. It can be messy, but it’s vital.

Open Letter to President Obama re: National Defense Authorization Act

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you for the first time, because I am deeply disturbed by the news I am seeing regarding clause 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which will shortly be on your desk to be signed.

While I appreciate the efforts all levels of government have taken to ensure our nation’s security, this clause, allowing for indefinite imprisonment of US citizens suspected of terrorism, is a dangerous breach of due process that is one of the cornerstones of this country.

I urge you in the strongest possible terms to veto this bill. To sign into law a clause that effectively allows any future leader to imprison Americans without due process is to turn your back on the sacrifices millions of Americans have made before you to secure the peaceful, open society we have today.

PLEASE, do not allow this to become law.

Brian Haigh

More Info:

The “Saving American Democracy Amendment” Needs Our Support

Right on the heels of the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voting to support a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ted Deutch today introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to the Senate and House, respectively.

This is fantastic news. This amendment would explicitly state that corporations do not enjoy the same status as actual living people. This will effectively reverse the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, and will go a long way to helping root out the corrupting influence of big money from our electoral process. We need to pressure our lawmakers to see to it that this amendment passes.

Contact Senator Sanders (phone 202-224-5141 or fax  202-228-0776) and Representative Deutch (phone 202-225-3001 or fax 202-225-5974) and let them know you stand behind them. Contact your member of Congress and your Senators, and let them know you want this to pass. Sign the petition linked below, and add your voice to this movement.

Limiting corporate power and influence in our political process is one of the main goals of the Occupy movement, and today we are starting to see action being taken to make this happen. It needs our support!

Additional Information:

Letter to The Honorable Martha Coakley, Attorney General of Massachusetts

Dear Madam Attorney General,

I wanted to thank you for standing up for the rule of law in our country by filing a lawsuit against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Ally Financial and the Mortgage Electronic Registration System for their fraudulent and irresponsible business practices. There is no way we will be able to return our country to prosperity so long as we are continuing to let illegal acitivities slide for those powerful enough to buy a pass.

In a time when most of us are steadily losing all hope in our elected officials, it is so heartening to see someone in public office stand up for what is right, not just what is right for their largest donors.

Please, keep up the fight for the citizens of your state, and for all of us out here in America. So long as you are acting in the interests of the 99%, you will have our support.

Brian Haigh
Los Angeles, CA

A Quick “Thank You” to Councilmember Ed Reyes

Dear Councilmember Reyes,

I am writing to you in regards to your comments quoted today in the LA Times article Councilman wants to see the bill for allowing, ending Occupy LA, and I wanted to personally thank you for helping keep people’s attention on what is truly important about this movement.

I was so disappointed in the mayor’s decision to clear out the camp this week, and appalled today to see the debate centering on petty issues like cleanup of the park space. I am so sick and tired of seeing politicians and the media try to distract our attention from important issues by focusing on irrelevant sideshows, and today’s brouhaha over the state of the City Hall park is just one more example of this.

As you rightly pointed out, we should instead be discussing why so many people feel that their only option is to go out and occupy spaces all over this country. Instead of belittling them and telling them to get a job, we should be trying to create opportunities in this country so they can find a job. And instead of complaining about the homeless around the camp, we should be focusing on the root cause of why there are so many homeless on our streets in the first place.

It is so easy to overlook it when one of our politicians says something we agree with it, and so easy to jump on them when they do something that rubs us the wrong way. I wanted to take a moment to let you know that your words are very much appreciated, especially at a time when they are also so needed.

Brian Haigh

A letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

I’m hearing disturbing reports that the city is planning to clear the Occupy LA camp sometime next week. I have to urge you in the strongest possible terms to let them stay.

I understand that Occupy LA is an inconvenience to the city, and there are concerns over the well-being of the park space around City Hall.

However, this pales in comparison to the actual suffering of millions of Americans right now. The men and women in Occupy LA are sacrificing so much to try to change a system that so many of us have lost faith in. To try to stifle their voices would be to turn your back on the qualities that have made this country so great in the first place.

PLEASE, let Occupy LA remain. I assume you originally entered politics to try to make some kind of a difference, and to leave a legacy with this city. Here’s your opportunity. Moments like this come once in a generation, if we’re lucky. Make the right choice, for the sake of Los Angeles, and for sake of the United States of America.

Brian Haigh

A Blatant Disregard for Personal Responsibility

Penn State and Occupy Wall Street may seem like two completely different issues, but they both underscore something fundamentally corrupt in our society. There are rules for the 99%, and a separate set of rules for the 1%.

This is nothing new. You can look back throughout history and see that a small sliver of society has used its power and influence to get away with whatever suits it. The world has finally changed enough, and people are finally waking up to just how corrupt and sick this two-tiered system is. From Cairo to London, from New York to Los Angeles, and everywhere in-between, people are fed up.

Look at Penn State. This man used his position of authority to rape countless children, while using his position of authority to have other people look the other way or cover up for him. Using his power of authority, prestige, and money to buy off whatever he wanted. Just as the Catholic Church has been doing for who knows how long.

And look at Wall Street. People in positions of power using it to bend the rules to suit them, and to enrich themselves.

They are like parasites, feeding on the society around them and sucking it dry.

We are waking up to the bloodsuckers amongst us. And we’ve had enough.

But these allegations at Penn State are the last straw. It’s one thing to have bankers stealing your money, but to have someone target and rape young boys, and for people to LOOK THE OTHER WAY, is reprehensible. For people who bask in the glory of being a leader and a role-model (like Joe Paterno), who then try to poo-poo their involvement with half-hearted “I wish I’d done more” press releases after the fact, they are complete frauds.

We’ve been doing business with frauds, electing frauds, and admiring the achievements of frauds.

We live in a country where people are actually debating whether or not someone who WITNESSED a child being raped in the ass should have reported it to the police.

This has to all STOP NOW.

It’s time to demand accountability. It’s time to accept responsibility. For 100% of us. This means those who have done wrong MUST face justice. We have to demand no less than that.

And we need to wake up and stop supporting people and organizations that are actively sucking away the lifeforce of this country.

This movement is NOT about the have-nots being jealous of the haves. It’s not about the 99% demanding handouts from the 1%. The right-wing spin machine has it all backwards! The 99% is tired of the 1% taking handouts FROM them. We’ve had enough of footing the bill for their recklessness.

This movement is about stopping one tiny group of people from changing the rules as they see fit to further their own self-interest.

This movement is all about people, EVERYWHERE, being responsible citizens. As I’ve said before, this isn’t a left-wing or a right-wing issue. It’s pure, common sense.

Was the mortgage crisis Clinton’s fault?

There is a constant push in the media to simplify the Occupy movement into a single catchphrase, then to either jump on board or vilify it based on an equally simple notion. Enter Michael Bloomberg:

“It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp. Now, I’m not saying I’m sure that was terrible policy, because a lot of those people who got homes still have them and they wouldn’t have gotten them without that.”

This is one of the points the right likes to jump on from time-to-time, the “Blame Clinton” thread, which pins our entire mess at his feet in the 1990s. Investors Business Daily recently dived into this, with an article breathlessly titled Smoking-Gun Document Ties Policy To Housing Crisis (echoing some of Michael Bloomberg’s comments). It just came out yesterday, and I can bet it will be all the rage on right-wing radio and blogs.

I won’t even argue that what it describes wasn’t a contributing factor (I’ll leave that to this excellent piece), BUT it does conveniently ignore the fact that while the housing boom was on, NOBODY on the left or the right was complaining. I personally remember very vividly that one of George W. Bush’s re-election themes was how a record number of people were homeowners during his term.

And while lending standards were being relaxed, how did the industry react? I suppose the banks were all dragged kicking and screaming into this because the government forced it upon them? That they were forced to give out all these loans, then forced to package them and resell them at a profit to other institutions? To extend extra credit to people based on the inflated value of their home they knew they couldn’t afford? All the while raking in greater and greater profits while becoming increasingly leveraged out to the precipice?

I would argue that the mortage crisis is the culmination of 30 years of government policy. The deregulation started under Reagan removed the safety valves from our economy, leading to the middle class stalling out while the 1% did better and better. With the middle class stuck, the only way to increase purchasing power (even against inflation) was to use credit. This was ultimately unsustainable as we all found out.

So should the Occupy movement really be about protesting government policy?

In part — this movement is about fighting the collusion between large corporations and government against the best interests of the general population. Government policy has been geared to benefit a small sliver of the American public for too long, under the guise that the benefits they reap will somehow spread to the rest of us. It has resulted in a corrupted, skewed system where the voices of the vast majority of people are no longer being heard.

For our part, we were complicit in our silence. That has changed, and people are waking up now and realizing that the only way to change the system is to stand up to it.

Support H.R. 1489: Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011

As the Occupy movement has taken hold, we have been searching for concrete changes we can stand up for. Despite what many in the MSM (mainstream media) would have you believe, it is not the job of Occupy protesters to come forward with solutions to problems. THAT job belongs to politicians (who have been hired to write laws on our behalf). One of the goals of this movement is to get those in power to stop listening to lobbyists and talk radio hosts, and start listening to the 99%.

However, there is one, simple demand many of us have: a return to the regulations that kept commercial banking and investing banking separate – ie, return many of the Glass-Steagall provisions that were repealed in 1999 (and which lead to this unregulated mess we found ourselves in less than 10 years later). Fortunately, a little googling, and lo and behold, there is a bill floating around to do just that. As the title of this post suggests, it’s called The Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011, and one of its goals is to get Glass-Steagall protections back on the books.

You can read the text of the bill here: H.R. 1489 (thomas.loc.gov)
Here is a page listing its status:  H.R. 1489: Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011 (govtrack.us)

As of May 2nd it was going through the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises.

This bill is vitally needed to help put a stop to insanity that financial deregulation has caused, and everyone reading this should do something to help persuade our members of Congress that they need to listen to the 99% and support this.

I will begin compiling action items here we can all do to help push this bill through Congress. And of course, if you have any resources you have found (petitions, etc) please post them in the comments below. And please get the word out!