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Beauty and Love Exists in Every Voice

Thanks to Brian/bleevPROMO for interviewing some Occupy Redwood City regulars at last week’s GA! Hear what the group has to say! And why not come join us to add your voice?

Report from an Occupier Who Was on the Ground at Chase Bank Today!

Chip Krug is a part of Occupy Redwood City and he was kind enough to give a quick recount of the action we took part in today here in downtown Redwood City, all to save Gloria’s home from foreclosure by Chase Bank!

“I came from there about an hour ago. They still had the doors locked with some of the Occupiers inside, three or four reporters (from the Redwood City Patch, San Mateo Daily Journal, et al.). The Daily Journal reporter got a bit teed off, because a bank employee pushed his camera into his face while he was trying to take a picture.

"There was another lady there who came from Fremont to support the cause, because her house was almost foreclosed before she got help from some activists, and she wanted to reciprocate. Another guy in the midst of foreclosure was there from Woodside!

"Just goes to show: just because you live in Woodside doesn’t make you part of the one percent. Many people bought their homes there in the ‘60s and '70s, and now after a lifetime of paying their mortgages are being pushed out of their homes for the benefit of the banks.”

“Redwood City: Climate Best When YOU Protest!”

It’s important that when people do #activism, that it not simply be personal stuff: #environmentalism especially has gone down the dead end of lifestylism, where people think that changing their own life is sufficient.

Just today I read an article that said, about water, “First of all, turn off the water when you don’t need it. It’s that simple. I don’t want to sound too preachy, but, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, lack of access to clean drinking water kills about 4,500 children per day. The water won’t magically travel from our taps to someone in need, but creating a mind-set of conservation will certainly help. There is absolutely no purpose served by letting water you are not using run down the drain.”

This is just absurd. Yes, lack of access to clean water kills 4500 children per day, but it’s not because of my own water usage. 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. So all these environmental pleas for “simple living” are tremendous misdirection: these children aren’t dying because I brushed my teeth: they’re dying because agriculture and industry are stealing the water.

Just yesterday I read that Turkey is sacrificing all nature reserves to put in dams. This is not so people can have showers. It’s for agriculture and industry.

I live pretty simply, but that’s because I’m a cheapskate. I turn off the water while I brush my teeth, too. Big fucking deal. That is not a political act.

There are no personal solutions to social problems. None.

—  – Derrick Jensen of Deep Green Resistance
OCCUPY SALTWORKS DRAFT STATEMENT

WHY WE OPPOSE THE SALTWORKS DEVELOPMENT

It’s about growing smart. Cargill wants to give DMB Associates carte blanche to build 12,000 new housing units on what used to be salt ponds out in the Bay. While Occupy Saltworks agrees that Redwood City needs more housing, what we need is more affordable housing built near our existing transit corridors that include 101, Caltrain, and El Camino Real. Building 12,000 units out in the Bay increases sprawl and local traffic dramatically, undermining DMB’s argument that they are building housing for Redwood City in the name of smart, transit-oriented growth.

It’s about our environment. Sea level rise is documented and happening. The mobile home parks of Redwood City are proximate to where Saltworks wants to build and they already experience low-level flooding on a regular basis. Building what would amount to a separate small town on top of salt ponds out in the Bay–an area of high flood risk and high potential for liquefaction during a strong earthquake–would be one of the most anti-green, unsustainable developments even seen in the Bay Area and across our country.

It’s about our right to fair housing. Housing advocates know that there is no requirement for Cargill/DMB to make any of the 12,000 housing units they’re proposing actually affordable to the people who live or work in our city. We know that our City Council has done a poor job of fighting for affordable housing (as recently seen in the approval of the Mel’s Bowl development), making lip service to how they want to increase the stock of affordable housing units but proposing no ordinances or even the most basic of first steps to take in that direction.

It’s about protecting our working class communities and communities of color. We know that the people to be most adversely affected by the development will be the economically disadvantaged and people of color who reside in Redwood City’s mobile home parks. Being right next to the proposed construction sites means that they will face decades of industrial pollution, noise, and increased traffic. We also know that unless the City Council shows that they can back up their lip service on affordable housing with concrete actions to protect our underserved communities, the most economically disadvantaged people in our city will be priced out of Redwood City altogether once the Saltworks development is in place.

It’s about protecting local commerce and good union jobs. The port unions who represent the workers at the Port of Redwood City are opposed to the Saltworks development. They understand that the industrial activities at the port are incompatible with a large housing development, and they know that if housing of the sort proposed by DMB is built, the industrial activities at the port and the union jobs that go with them will eventually be pushed out of Redwood City altogether. The Port of Redwood City is the Bay’s only deepwater port and as such is a vital node of commerce that is essential to our economy.

It’s about a lack of honesty in our government. Vice Mayor Gee referred to himself and his fellow council members as “information junkies” who want to know as much as possible about the Saltworks project before making a decision. Yet no council member has asked for an independently conducted environmental impact report (EIR) and instead are allowing DMB’s own chosen consultants to write it for them. One would think “information junkies” would want to hear what independent geologists have to say about the site being an earthquake liquefaction zone; what marine scientists have to say about flooding and sea level rise; or what urban planners have to say about building a new small town that will have no sustainable water supply away from 101 and Caltrain and El Camino, all under the ironic moniker of “smart growth.”

EIRs written by parties with a vested interest invariably will not give the most objective or transparent accounting of the situation at hand. True information junkies would care about the quality and source of their information. They would want to see what independent analysts whose job it is to study the impact of such a development have to say, instead of acting like an EIR written by the developers themselves is in any way reliable. For our City Council to approve a process for an inherently biased EIR and try to pass it off as “information gathering” is dishonest and indicative of the way our local government officials view their relationship with the people they are supposed to represent.

It’s about our government working for the wrong people. As Occupiers we oppose the corporate takeover of government at the local as well as at the national level. We oppose the for-profit ties our City Council has to those who have a vested interest in pushing this unbelievably flawed, unsustainable project through. As reported by the Bay Citizen two years ago, Councilmember Rosanne Foust was exposed by the Fair Political Practices Commission as having a gross conflict of interest in advocating for the Saltworks development while also being CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, a pro-business lobby which endorsed the Saltworks project.

But it’s not just about Foust:

It’s about the 99% fighting back against the 1%. The giant agribusiness Cargill, which is partnering with developer DMB Associates on the development, is also a member of Foust’s SAMCEDA organization. Cargill is a massive, private out-of-state firm that has given another for-profit company in DMB the authority to plan for Redwood City. They have spent lavish amounts of money in our city convincing officials, business groups, and others of the need for the Saltworks development. Paula Uccelli, a big political donor in Redwood City, has had her charity work (through the Uccelli Foundation) funded by DMB. John Bruno, a Senior Vice President of DMB who is in charge of the Saltworks plan, is a director of the Redwood City Chamber of Commerce. And at every the turn, the City Council has given its stamp of approval to the project and was even considering rezoning the space for development, just so DMB and Cargill can build.

It’s about the future of our city. Occupy Saltworks believes it’s time to return the voice of the people back to the community. It is time to take back our voice from the business execs, government officials, and the corporate interests that keep them in power. It is time for those of us who care about the future of our city to fight back against those who would turn it into a sprawling, poorly-planned enclave for the rich and make sure that our city remains a place that, unlike many communities on the Peninsula, is open to everyone regardless of class and background. It is time to take a stand.

We are the 99%.

OCCUPY SALTWORKS

22 April 2013 - The Stop the San Mateo Jail Coalition, which includes Occupy Redwood City (ORWC), Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), Critical Resistance, All of Us or None, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and Peninsula Direct Action (PDA) protest outside the Board of Supervisors’ offices at the County Courthouse in Redwood City. Earth Day was chosen as the protest day due to the new jail site being planned for construction on toxic land unfit for residential housing.

Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day? And they are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation. These are facts which must be seen, and it is criminal to have people working on a full-time basis and a full-time job getting part-time income.
— 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech to Memphis Sanitation Workers
  (just days before his assassination)
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Attending a meeting for the #Homeless #BillofRights in Palo Alto. #ORWC #OO #PDA

nytimes.com
The Banality of "€˜Don'€™t Be Evil"€™ by Julian Assange

Two Google leaders have written a manifesto for technocratic imperialism.

Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture — a decent, humane and playful culture — has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency.

A must-read, excellent takedown of Google by Julian Assange. It skewers Silicon Valley’s cult of consumer tech. There’s a sad trend amongst Silicon Valley types, who as a group are extremely privileged and/or have a deep libertarian streak, to see tech as a Savior to global ills.

Too many SV folks see tech as the solution to all sorts of societal problems it was never meant to tackle. I’m sure that if you work in tech it’s likely tempting to see what you do as a Great Force for Good, but really, regardless of how it started Silicon Valley is just another industry with its own set of capitalist/corporatist interests now.

In Silicon Valley we have Apple brazenly holding gazillions of dollars offshore and refusing to pay their fair share of taxes. Twitter bullied the City-County of San Francisco into lower their tax rate, at a time where SF seriously needed all the revenue it could get. When it comes to money, Silicon Valley is just a group of corporations that are “running the show” nationally and locally for its own self-interest and self-enrichment at the expense of the people they profit off of, and that’s bullshit. If that’s what Silicon Valley is supposed to be about, count me out.

And not only is the industry not paying their fair share despite making billions, they’re partnering with governments and enabling some pretty backwards, fascist, corporatist, and imperialist policies, as Assange points out in the article.

Locally and importantly, Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Apple, etc. are accelerating gentrification pressures that are pricing the working class out of the Peninsula. But what are these companies doing for the communities they’re headquartered in and profiting off of? Nothing!

Sure, Facebook gave millions to Menlo Park to mitigate their campus’s impact on the community, but East Palo Alto got a fraction of that cash. And EPA, not Menlo Park, bears the brunt of the gentrification impact since EPA and not Menlo Park is where a great portion of the Peninsula’s low-income housing is. It’s also where a great portion of the Peninsula’s low-income/working class folks and people of color reside.

And while all these Silicon Valley companies moan that there aren’t enough qualified people to hire in the US, they do precious little to fund our local schools. Companies like Facebook and Google could donate to and fully fund all underperforming, needy schools on the Peninsula, particularly in more disavantaged areas, and still be making kajillions in profit. But no, instead they’d rather spend a token amount on impact mitigation that does nothing to address the affordable housing crisis on the Peninsula, or on miniscule amounts for PR-friendly charity events.

The rest of their money gets socked away offshore or funneled into the hands of a very few at the top: the antithesis of the egalitarian, open culture of tech and the internet and the beginning stages of Silicon Valley itself. So to think tech is intrinsically a force for good is BS when Silicon Valley has shown a real eagerness to embrace the worst aspects of current capitalist/imperialist tendencies in the US.

I’m not saying Silicon Valley is by nature bad bad bad. It’s just necessary to point out that the tendency among tech types to see the industry as inherently good is really, really dangerous. I recently went to an “activists’ gathering” in SF and it was dominated by white liberal Silicon Valley types who thought tech was The Savior. I wish I’d had more time to tell those folks how the companies they worship, like Apple, Facebook, Google, etc. are harming people in our own local communities as well as in distant communities abroad and yet are doing shitall to end it.

If local Occupiers came out in force again, these Silicon Valley companies and the entitled, corporatist “screw you, I got mine” jerks that run the industry could use some of our scrutiny and pressure.

youtube

Video about the liveaboard life.


The USGS (US Geological Survey) predicts MORE than one-meter of sea level rise in the SF Bay Area – 1.24 m to be exact – by 2100, less than 90 years from now. The executive summary by the USGS with links to all related studies/methodology can be found here:


http://www.werc.usgs.gov/ProjectSubWebPage.aspx?SubWebPageID=2&ProjectID=238


2008 study that projects 1.24 meter sea level rise by 2100:


http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-007-9376-7


2010 study that projects 1.5 meters by 2105:


http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/8ck5h3qn


Just one meter of sea level rise will disproportionately affect low-income or affordable housing communities and communities of color, and the cost to San Mateo County alone in replacing lost buildings and infrastructure will be $21 billion by 2100. At current populations, 99,000 people in San Mateo County will be at risk of a 100-year flood event with just one meter of sea level rise:


http://www.pacinst.org/reports/sea_level_rise/sea_level_rise_sf_bay_cec.pdf


While a 100-year flood event sounds unlikely because the implication of the very term is “only once a century,” landlubbers :) with a 30-year mortgage have a more than 1 in 4 chance of a 100-year-flood event hitting their home over the life of that mortgage. 


Misc. links re. projected loss of marshland:


http://weather.aol.com/2013/01/09/climate-change-to-claim-san-francisco-marshes/

http://www.prbo.org/cms/647


The property tax revenues Redwood City generates through irresponsible waterfront development will be cancelled out tenfold by the cost to the community in coming decades, either through flood insurance, costly levees, or outright disasters. Affordable floating communities that include liveaboards at commercial, public access marinas are what we need most on the bayshore.

redwoodcity.patch.com
Occupy Redwood City Asks Mayor to Go Easy on Usher

“Mayor Ira is right about one thing: if Usher pressures Congress for billions in bailout money, if Usher profits off of bad loans he makes to hard-working people, if Usher pays K Street lobbyists enough money that he can commit all the bank fraud he wants, or if Usher contributes so much money to Congressional campaigns that he is able to get his CDs classified as a vegetable and included in school lunches across the nation, the Occupy Wall Street movement should absolutely take to the streets and protest him loudly.”

A hilarious (and completely on point) article! Read Occupy Redwood City’s entire response to Mayor Ira HERE.

P.S. Denise

As a footnote to my sprawling (and frankly way too lengthy) rebuttal of a local resident’s opinion on the Occupy movement, I wanted to say that I actually went back to read that article to see what comments people had left.

I notice Denise, the piece’s author, complained in the comments that while she had given her full name while voicing her opinion, I had not and was hiding behind anonymity.

What I am curious to know is, how does my lack of a name diminish the substance of my arguments? And what is the importance of her name when my criticisms of her article had nothing to do with her as a person but with the validity (or rather, lack thereof) of her arguments? The arguments for or against Occupy Wall Street have absolutely nothing to do with the names or the characters of those who voice them, and if Denise somehow thinks it matters, I would once again suggest that she is not understanding at all what Occupy Wall Street has been about.

The Standard Arguments Against Occupy Wall Street

Denise, a local San Mateo resident, recently had her views on the Occupy Wall Street movement published in the San Mateo Patch.

In this opinion piece, she quickly rattles off some of the more overused and inaccurate criticisms of the movement and repeats them as if they were fact. I wanted to respond but I want to make it clear that what I am about to write below is not a attack on Denise: she is entitled to her opinion and is not the only person to make these criticisms, nor do I doubt she’ll be the last. It’s the fact that she puts all the criticisms together in one neat, short article that makes for an easy “call and response” analysis on my part and that is why I want to break down the criticisms laid out in her piece:

#1:

Denise: Like any well organized business they have a mission statement along with the necessary infrastructure to try to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, that is the missing piece, an actual measurable goal.

Denise then responds to a comment by saying that the way to create change is not to “make a complaint about a problem without offering up a suggestion"—and so here then, is the universal complaint about Occupy Wall Street. "What is the goal?”

To which I’d ask, has Denise or anyone else asking this question read any of the many signs photographed by the media during the countless Occupy protests and rallies and encampments? The goals, the demands, they are all laid out there for anyone who can read and anyone who does read the signs or listens to the Occupiers will immediately understand that the movement is not about specific goals so much as it is a wholesale rejection of the entire the system that has created this global mess. As Cornel West said in the early days of the movement, when a system is so fundamentally broken and corrupt as our economic and political systems are, the solutions cannot be articulated through a single Goal or Demand, or even a single Set of Demands. And even without any listed goals or demands, the movement has already “created change” by shifting the national discussion away from the debt ceiling and cuts to services and shifting it back to where it belongs: the growing income inequality, greed, and corporate takeover of government in our country. Pretty impressive for a vague, chaotic, goalless movement.

As one of the more popular posters in Occupy encampments reads: “When the 1% ask ‘Whaddaya want?’ we say 'Whaddaya got?’”

#2:

Denise: Given the skill set displayed, the persons responsible [for Occupy San Francisco] are qualified for many jobs on the market today. Of course none of those jobs will put them in the 1% right away. However, if the creativity and drive displayed in the structural organization of Occupy continues, perhaps they may become part of the 1% later and can use their income to affect change for the rest of us.

First of all, while I don’t speak for the movement (no one does!), I feel safe in pointing out that few Occupiers, if any, are upset that they aren’t part of the 1%, nor is it their goal through these protests to become part of the 1%. Occupy Wall Street is a rejection of the system that creates a 1% class and disproportionately benefits that group and those associated with it over everyone else.

But back to what Denise is saying, which is the other most repeated criticism of the Occupy movement and the protesters involved with it: “Get a job.” Unlike many, Denise approaches this sensibly and fairly, pointing out that given the skill sets displayed by most Occupiers, there is no reason why they can’t find work.

And she would be right: last I checked, the closest thing to a survey of Occupy participants put those who actually had a job at about 70%. Only about 30% were out of work or solely Occupying. So rest assured, most of these people do have jobs and have found uses for their skills in the traditional economy.

But so what if 30% don’t have jobs? How does not having a job discredit the movement when every indicator points to how hard it has been for the average person to find work in this climate? Doesn’t the fact that all these Occupiers have valuable skill sets yet 30% remain unemployed say something about the current state of our nation? Why do people with valuable skill sets have such a hard time finding work? Why do we hear about dismal job figures at the same time we hear about record-breaking corporate profits? Why does this money not go to creating more jobs? This disparity and the recognition that wealth is being transferred to those who are already wealthy and away from the people who are not, these are the reasons why people are out on the streets protesting and Occupying.

#3:

Denise: So many groups have latched on to the Occupy movement, I find it hard to empathize with any part of it.

For me this statement is completely counterintuitive. It is precisely the inclusiveness of the Occupy movement that has been key to its success, by allowing it to draw people from all walks of life and political ideologies to it, and the generally egalitarian nature of the general assemblies and consensus process allows—even requires—that everyone have a voice. Hardcore leftists have been rubbing shoulders with Republicans, moderates, gay rights advocates, anarchists, Tea Partiers, environmentalists, incremental reformists, and revolutionaries. This means that one will potentially rub shoulders with many people one disagrees with at Occupy encampments, but the diversity of opinion is precisely what makes the movement a true representation of citizen democracy in action: people with opposing views and ideas all contributing to the same project, all bringing their ideas and experiences to the table to get things done.

#4:

Denise: Last Saturday, for example, a “Knit at the Sit In” took place at Occupy Berkeley. Crafters were asked to knit hats, mittens, and scarves for those suffering in the cold at various encampments. Couldn’t those same knitters have helped keep people warm that do not have a choice about being homeless rather than helping keep mittens on those who are actively choosing to stay out of doors? Occupy, you are losing me fast.

Huh? There are homeless people and transients at Occupy encampments. Many Occupiers are Occupying precisely because they understand firsthand what it has been like to become homeless and to lose everything under our current economic system. Many Occupiers are not “actively choosing” to be outdoors. (In fact, many encampments have been trying their hardest to make sure to feed, shelter, and otherwise care for any homeless people that do come to their encampment.)

Many people have been making this argument, that Occupiers are privileged enough to “choose” to Occupy, and it’s a specious argument as it’s precisely those who have the privilege of sound body and mind (and don’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from) who should be out there protesting and exercising their 1st Amendment rights. And it’s a contradictory argument as well to be complaining that most Occupiers are privileged enough to choose to Occupy while at the same time complaining that Occupiers don’t have real jobs: if they haven’t been able to find real jobs, they probably aren’t “actively choosing” to Occupy.

#5:

Denise: Until then, I beg you, please develop a realistic goal that can affect actual change or stop squandering our local city’s resources. The 99% of us that pay for these resources cannot afford you.

There are three big problems with this statement, with the first being the inaccurate implication that Occupiers aren’t also part of the taxpaying 99%. The second is the fact that our government regularly wastes money at the local, state, and national level on misguided actions (whether it be killing civilians abroad or paying top-level staff exorbitant salaries) in numbers that far outstrip any spent policing these Occupy movements. And the final problem is placing blame for lost resources on those exercising their 1st Amendment rights instead of placing that blame where it belongs: on the local government officials who have chosen to crack down on those exercising those rights.

Ed Lee didn’t have to send police in riot gear to Occupy San Francisco on the pretense that the encampment was getting dirty and attracting a bad crowd; he could have spent those precious resources cleaning up the Tenderloin if he was that concerned about hygiene and public safety. Likewise, there are plenty of real problems in Oakland that Jean Quan could have spent the city’s resources on, and instead she chose to use those resources to go after peaceful demonstrators. Denise herself says later in her piece that “we still have real crimes happening in our cities that need police attention.” She’s right, which is precisely why it makes no sense that many people, including her, let those in power off the hook for making the choice to direct police attention away from these real problems and instead prefer to place blame on the targets of those in power merely for exercising their rights.

#6:

Denise: In addition, the Occupy movement is having a negative impact on small businesses near the encampments. Isn’t that counterproductive?

Where did Denise hear this? From the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, which mostly represents big business/corporate interests in Oakland? Does she know that there are actually hardly any small businesses in the downtown Oakland zip code represented by the Chamber, and that actual on the ground reports from small downtown businesses don’t show real evidence of a negative impact from Occupy Oakland? Has she walked through the Occupy San Francisco encampments and realized that there are few small businesses but plenty of big corporations and moneyed interested housed in the Financial District? Did she talk to 4th Street Pizza in San Jose, a small business where the owners brought about an Occupy boycott on their own heads after refusing service to Occupy San Jose AFTER receiving massive amounts of repeat business (and nothing but respectful interactions) from multiple members and supporters of Occupy San Jose? If Denise or anyone is is going to claim that Occupiers have hurt small business, they need to back that claim up: show us the receipts, 'cause just saying it does not make it true.

#7:

Denise: Protesting foreclosures for people that didn’t read the disclosure of terms on their loans is a waste of time to me. But go right ahead and protest.

I’m not sure if this was just a throwaway comment or what, but it’s profoundly wrong. The FBI was reporting rampant mortgage and foreclosure fraud as early as 2004. For Denise or anyone else to dismiss a segment of Occupiers as lazy people who didn’t read the fine print on their contract is dismissive and incorrect.

#8:

Denise: We still want to cash our paychecks issued by some of the banks you have protested in. We still need to get to our jobs that you are blocking the way to. And after work, we still need to use our parks and shopping areas you are blocking.

These statements have me curious: how much disruption to Denise’s life has been caused by her local Occupy movements? Has she really experienced a significant, inconvenient delay while cashing her paycheck? Have Occupiers prevented her from going to work? Which parks and shops has she been unable to walk around in due to these pesky Occupiers and how badly has this affected her quality of living? Is this just empty rhetoric, or has she truly been inconvenienced? And if she truly has been inconvenienced, would she now in retrospect prefer to live in a society where her fellow citizens were less passionate about exercising their 1st Amendment rights, all so that she could get to work on time and go shopping without the occasional distraction?

#9:

Denise: So please take the many talents displayed and use them to further an actual goal… that operates within the same structure you have set up for Occupy. Oh wait, that is called local government! Perhaps there is a job for you there.

This final criticism is another oft-repeated criticism of the Occupy movement: the Occupiers are setting up parallel institutions to ones that already exist, so why not just focus on those institutions?

Except Occupying is not about becoming part of the current system; it’s about recognizing that system as flawed and working to set up alternatives to it. Local government is not, as Denise claims, of the same structure as the Occupy movement: it is subject to the same types of cronyism, corruption, hierarchy, machine politics, profit motives, and undue corporate influence as higher levels of government.

Occupy Wall Street, with its aim to be as transparent, inclusive, and egalitarian as possible, is the antithesis of that approach. It is about setting up new models of democracy and citizenship instead of melding with the old, and those who remain fixated on the incorrect notion that the movement is too vague or too outside the system for its own good only expose their own lack of understanding of what this has all been about.