Readers Have Thoughts on Occupy Movement; David Mamet’s “Race”; More on the Public Bank …

by on October 31, 2011

To the Editor:

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement protests the greed of the large corporations and banks. Bank of America’s recent policy of charging its customers $5 to use a debit card must have led some customers to cancel their accounts and take their business elsewhere. I recommend credit unions. But do your research first; some credit unions are better than others.

Anh Le
San Francisco

To the Editor:

There is excitement in the air as we see the emergence of a political movement throughout the country. Despair and apathy are beginning to evaporate. Protesters, mainly young people, have been occupying public spaces where they have been expressing their indignation with our unresponsive political system and its domination by the rich and the big corporations. They are disgusted with a society in which corporations are treated as people and people are treated as things

For many of these protesters the issues are not abstract ones. They personally confront a labor market that provides very few job opportunities, and most of the available jobs are temporary, part-time, and pay poverty wages. Also, some are poor because they are disabled. Moreover, many are burdened with huge debts. Unfortunately, not all of them have families that can rescue them. In short, they have nowhere else to turn. So these new occupied communities they are building not only provide avenues to express their political grievances. They also have acquired a place to live. For some this is their only home.

During the great depression of the 1930s, due to massive unemployment, housing foreclosures, and evictions, many impoverished people took over public spaces and built shanty towns, which were called Hoovervilles in dishonor of the do-nothing, unpopular President. We are now beginning to see the reemergence of the Hoovervilles. In the Berkeley occupation, the estimate is that more than half are homeless. This is not the case in Oakland where protesters have renamed Frank Ogawa Plaza as Oscar Grant Plaza (after the fatal shooting of an unarmed African- American by a BART police officer). But nevertheless, times are very hard for many of them. So their collective activities are also a personal survival as well as a political strategy. We should expect to see these communities grow in numbers unless we change the course of the economy.

From the perspective of the occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza, the police violence signified not only an attempt to undermine their opposition to the establishment. Also, they were being evicted from their makeshift homes. Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan justified her order for police action, in which 18 California Police Departments were enlisted, by claiming conditions were unhealthy and unsanitary. She was wrong on two counts. The occupiers have been diligent in keeping the plaza clean, and second, if there are some problems that require attention, only a fraction of the money spent for the police invasion could have been allocated to improve health and safety conditions. By contrast, a few days later in Orange County, California the Irvine city council voted unanimously that the tents on the town hall’s lawn are a form of free speech and they vowed to “add the needs of the 99 percent to their official agenda”. Rather than showering the occupiers with tear gas, Irvine’s mayor was concerned that the occupiers have enough blankets. Does Mayor Quan think Irvine was being too soft?

In Oscar Grant Plaza, there is much more to the occupation than meets the eye. The occupiers have in a very short space of time set up a child care center, kitchen, first aid station, library, cafe and other amenities while life support facilities are being dismantled by state and local governments. The police destroyed the facilities in the Plaza. But they are being resuscitated!

About both the short and long run: to assure that these Oakland occupiers can remain in Oscar Grant Plaza is not only a constitutional issue of free speech. For some, the occupation is supporting their struggle to overcome poverty. Police assaults and other forms of repression will make things worse. Providing millions of good jobs, affordable education, and affordable, quality health care are the only sound alternatives to overcoming the immorality and insanity of our society. The occupiers are encircled by a political and economic establishment that is eroding our quality of life. However, while the establishment has been attempting to move us backward, these eminently sane, idealistic occupiers are working to move us forward. We owe them our commitment, involvement, and a standing ovation.

Harry Brill
El Cerrito, CA

To the Editor:

I read with interest Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave’s review of “Race.” I saw “Race” in New York in 2009 starring James Spader, David Alan Grier, Richard Thomas, and Kerry Washington. The play was directed by the playwright, David Mamet. I am a longtime fan of Mamet’s plays, but “Race” just did not have Mamet’s usual bite; it didn’t provoke, stir, or disturb like some of his best plays like “Speed the Plow,” “American Buffalo,” “Glengary Glen Ross,” and “Oleanna.” Regardless, even a lesser Mamet play is worth seeing.

Ralph E. Stone
San Francisco

To the Editor:

Thank you for covering this story. We need to talk to other Mayoral candidates and see where they stand on this important issue. So far the information we have leads us to believe these mayoral candidates support the idea of a public bank: John Avalos, Leland Yee, Jeff Adachi. Others who do should step forward. The Public Banking Institute documents the growing national effort to establish local and state banks here:

Mari Eliza
San Francisco

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