Kim Kardashian Meets Jean Quan and Karl Marx


We confess that the Calbuzz Cultural Trend Analysis and Kim Kardashian Watch Team never quite understood the whole Instant Runoff Voting thing, either theoretically or mechanically. And as we’ve looked agape at the 24/7 fail that is Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in recent days, we’ve fervently hoped it doesn’t come to a burg near us anytime soon.

Quan, of course, is the Democratic hack who became Oaktown’s chief executive last year by virtue of a) finishing 11,000 votes behind our old friend Don Perata and b) collecting enough 13th round ballots, five golden rings and a partridge in a pear tree to emerge victorious, long after all right-thinking people had padded off in their jammies, foolishly thinking the election was over.

In any case, Mayor Q-ball has now managed, in near-record time, to transform herself into a global laughingstock with her human boomerang-style mishandling of the Occupy Oakland protests: “Her message was this,” Old Chronicle Oakland columnist Chip Johnson understated after the city’s first OO riot, “She had nothing to do with anything that upset anyone. “

Quan’s fine leadership was again on full display in the early hours of Thursday, when yet another violent, full-blown free-for-all broke out on the streets of her fair city. The only saving grace for the mayor this time out was that even bigger morons than herself, if you can imagine that, joined the latest fray.

These would be the sociopathic tweakers and punks who engaged in what the Responsible Anarchist Community likes to call Black Bloc protest tactics. Their witless actions as unpaid provocateurs (they’re apparently too dumb to get paid by the cops for acting out) hijacked much of the news coverage of what was otherwise a pretty cool day of protest in the East Bay, in the process handing Fox News and the Michelle Malkins of the world some dandy images with which to attempt to discredit the entire 99% movement.

What would Bakunin say? Judging from a sampling of comments on several lefty sites favored by Occupy activists, the thoughtful window smashing, trash-burning and rock throwing of the boys and girls in the black hoodies wasn’t all that popular with folks who are involved for less, um, nihilistic reasons, as in this thread from The Unrepetant Marxist.

But the fucking black bloc only does their bullshit when the masses are mobilized, thus allowing the bourgeois press to write about all the “violence” and turn the criminal into the victim, and the victim into the criminal. These scumbags are parasites…

 I was at the general strike yesterday and while you may call them black-bloc, they were not agent provocateurs in my opinion. While I would not be surprised to find out that some are employed by the State apparatus, I talked to many and found them to be merely what might be called vulgar Marxists. I’m not sure the black bloc is much more than self-styled anarchists influenced more by Crass, than Marx or Bakunin. That said, the police were more than happy to let things accelerate in order to justify more heavy-handed tactics and got what they wanted by 1am when the contingent took the Traveler’s Aid building… In the end, they are more muddled-headed thrill seekers more than anything…

Have you read the two posts over at Jacobin on anarcho-liberalism? Part II is up today. It’s easy to see Naomi Klein as a fashionable “anarcho-liberal,” but I’m not sure about the black bloc? Didn’t they start in the 80s well before the Seattle’99/Adbusters incarnation of hipster localist “lifestylization” anarchism? Or were they just a decade early to that scene? Also, have you written anywhere of the street battles between the KKE and the anarchists in Greece? I’d be curious to know your take on a hyper-Stalinist Communist Party combating violent anarchists bent on killing communists. Do you take a side? Is there anything to learn from that mess?

OK, we’re not sure what that last one means either.

What is to be done: All this by way of limbering up to ask a key question about the Occupy movement: WTF happens next?

The venerable Jon Carroll, the Jamie Moyer of daily columnists, did some yeoman  wool-gathering on the subject in a pair of Little Pulitzer-worthy investigative punditry columns this week, here and here.

But the Occupy movement is, I think, a larger and more permanent part of the American political landscape than just the sit-ins and the marches. The seed has been planted, and we don’t know who planted it. But the idea that something is rotten in society and it has to do with income inequality – well, that idea has higher approval ratings than any candidate for president…

 There is a constituency here, people who have lost their homes or their jobs or life savings because of a system designed to make them suckers. They have experienced a profound loss of faith, and that is what will still be true come spring. I don’t think this thing is going away anytime soon.

Yes. And so.

Here are three things we know for sure:

1-Rather astonishingly, the OWS movement has succeeded in less than two months in raising the nation’s consciousness, and moving onto its agenda, the ugly issue of what to do with a dysfunctional political system, fueled and sustained by big corporate and Wall Street money, that aids and abets a Third World-rank inequality gap among its citizens. In truth, it’s hard to imagine, six or even three months ago, the New York Times playing on Page 1 a CBO study about wealth inequality, or a top rank Washpost pundit opining thusly:

In particular, growing inequalities of wealth and income – which should have been a central issue in American politics for at least a decade – are finally at the heart of our discourse. We are, at last, discussing the social and economic costs of concentrating more resources in the hands of the top sliver of our society.

2-The serial violence recently involving Occupy Oakland remains an outlier among protests nationally, and has more to do with a few knuckleheads who believe Xbox to be the real world, and a local culture of aggressive street protest that has simmered there since the 2009 slaying of Oscar Grant (now the namesake of the OO encampment), than with any such trend more broadly shaping OWS.

3-The OWS’s cutesy finger wiggling and human microphone schtick has become a so-10 minutes ago bore; All the yammering about creating a humanizing “process” mistakes the map for the territory, and carries way too many echoes of some strands of the mid-’60s SDS emphasis on “participatory democracy” as the key to building a swell, bright new future for everyone, shortly before that movement was  jointly devoured by Progressive Labor Party apparatchiks and Weathermen.

Bottom line: At the risk of knowing that something’s happening here, but we don’t know what it is,  Calbuzz sez:  With or without leaders, drum circles or dehumanizing hierarchal social structures, the OWS people need to get out of their tents and organize a cohesive united front with a set of general principles and, yes, heaven help us, a pragmatic political agenda.

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There are 11 comments for this post

  1. avatar patwater says:

    Re: “the idea that something is rotten in society…” — interesting to mull on the fact that these problems — growing debt, grinding gridlock, and the mounting sense that our most cherished institutions are unable to meet the challenge — are spreading throughout the Western world: http://www.economist.com/node/16397110 (seems to evidence that old McWilliams’ saw about what starts in California has a habit of spreading)

    Anyway probably just means we need a new social contract

  2. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    Aw shucks! You calbuzzards got me all excited, thinking that–despite your protests to the contrary–you actually did get the Occupy movement. Yes, they have raised an issue that is a lot more important to most people than the national debt: Gross income inequality and loss of opportunity. Yes, they have said loud and clear that our political system is dysfunctional, swamped–as president Eisenhower predicted–under vast sums of money from the military-industrial complex.

    But then, having gotten these two essential ideas, you proceed to advocate that they work within the broken political system. Really? Doesn’t that strike you as even a little bit out of line with the second understanding? If the political system was working to achieve meaningful change for the majority. If we had any hope it would ever represent us. If it wasn’t absolutely clear that it has been bought and paid for by the very corporate behemoths that are oppressing us, we wouldn’t be in the streets.

    I own a corporation. It is not a person. It is completely under my control and does not qualify for the same rights and legal protections as I do. It just doesn’t. I’m sorry. But anybody who’s too stupid to tell the difference between me and the legal fiction represented by a binder full of paper that sits on the bookshelf behind my desk–is simply too dumb to be on the Supreme Court.

    But, by maintaining that legal fiction, corporations have been able to pervert our society, our economy, and our government. If you think that’s going to be changed by the very institutions they’ve subverted, I submit you haven’t tried it lately.

    Plus, if you look, you’ll easily find more than a few ideas various Occupy groups have put forth. Many of them are reasonable, sensible solutions. Try the search function on your computer. They’re not hard to find.

  3. avatar pjhackenflack says:

    So Chris, how do you see OWS going forward? How will the movement effect change? On whom?

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Honestly, I don’t know. This isn’t like anything I’ve seen before. That’s one of the reasons I have hope for it.

      Because they’re searching for a new way, one that involves more people, I hope it will effect change more broadly. That it will change opinions and people. People are talking about a new social contract. One that serves the majority of people, rather than the majority of stockholders. One that invests in people and supports more broad-based opportunity. They’re still working out what that will look like and how to achieve it. But, as I said, they’ve made some very sensible suggestions so far.

      Changing elected officials and political parties hasn’t ended government gridlock. It hasn’t ended the biggest concentration of wealth since my parents were born. European readers who comment on the online newspapers I read there, often remark on how the U.S. just seems to do damage control on our problems. They figure that’s why our infrastructure and economy are crumbling. While I could say the same for more than a few countries in Europe, I can’t argue with them that we’re doing it too.

      Calling elected officials, making small donations, doing volunteer work for their campaigns, or signing petitions are all very nice. But they don’t seem to be having enough impact. If they were, we wouldn’t see 60 Democrats signing onto a letter to cut Social Security benefits.

      We need a big change. And, if we’re ever to counter the effect of big money, getting a LOT of people involved and active is the only way I see to do it. That’s what I see happening now.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      I just found the mission statement for Occupy Santa Cruz in my pocket and thought it might illuminate something. It says: We gather together as Occupy Santa Cruz in solidarity with the worldwide Occupy Movement. We are individuals committed to promoting justice. We have no leaders. We recognize the right of ALL voices to be heard; our diversity is a source of strength. We present a united front in our non-violent approach to addressing the problems we face and generating solutions beneficial to all. Please join us in creating a better world.

      It may seem vague to some. But creating a better world for ALL is something I can get behind.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      OK, so OSC is for promoting justice (undefined), allowing all voices to be heard (assume that means right-wingers, too) and generating solutions to common problems (traffic?). Isn’t that special?

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      Be snarky if you want Dr. Hack. But, just as people found the Egyptian people rising up for a brighter future exciting, I think this is too. You might say it started with the protests after the last election in Iran. Or last summer in Madrid. Or the Arab Spring North Africa and the Middle East. But now it’s gone global with people asking for a new social contract, a fairer economy, and a bigger voice in our own governments. And, as Van Jones says, we’re too big to fail, too big to jail.

  4. avatar stevechessin says:

    It’s funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha). Whenever an electoral reform
    is adopted, and there is a controversy over an official elected with that
    method, opponents of the reform use that controversy to attack that reform.

    For example, San Francisco adopted district elections in 1976, with the first
    election using districts in 1977. When, a year later, Supervisor Dan White
    murdered Supervisor Harvey Milk (both elected under the new system), as well as
    Mayor George Moscone, opponents of district elections used that event to drive
    a successful repeal effort. (It took almost 20 years for district elections to
    be reinstated.)

    The funny (peculiar) part is, whenever an official elected by plurality (or
    Louisiana’s two-round runoff system) is convicted of a crime and sent to prison
    (Representatives Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), Bob Ney (R-OH), William
    Jefferson (D-LA), and Jim Traficant (D-OH), just to name a few), or resigns due
    to a sex scandal (Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Governor Eliot Spitzer (D-NY),
    and Representatives Christopher “Chris” Lee (R-NY) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY),
    again to name just a few), one hardly ever hears anyone say “Gee, if we only
    got rid of plurality elections (or two-round runoffs), we’d never elect a
    politician like that anymore!”

    But a controversy (or worse) over Jean Quan? Oh, it’s the fault of instant runoff voting!

    Give me a break.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Board_of_Supervisors#Election http://www.spur.org/publications/library/article/districtelections02012000

  5. avatar Adelaides Lament says:

    Ms. Quan seems to have forgotten the first rule of politics: No funny hats!

  6. avatar tegrat says:

    The primary purpose of the OWS movement right now is to raise awaremenss and engagement. Awareness of what, you ask? Anyone from a knuckledragging Teapartier to a twenty term congresscritter is aware, at some level, that this country is headed in the wrong direction and can probably list a dozen reasons why that is so. When they get that they aren’t alone, and they aren’t being lead, that their reasons (stripped of racism, bigotry, conspiracy theory, and other dead-ends) are as valid as the next guys, that this is their movement, the solutions will come. A movement does not always need leaders to be successful, in fact, leadership can cause complacency rather than inspire participation.

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