Commentary Magazine


Topic: Occupy Wall Street

The Tea Party Five Years In

This past week marked the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Tea Party Movement. Here are some thoughts on it. 

1. The Tea Party arose from a justifiable concern with the expanding size, scope and reach of the federal government. It was an important factor in the epic 2010 mid-term election. At its best it has integrated itself into the GOP while continuing to apply pressure to Republican leaders to re-limit government and waring them against making careless and unprincipled deals.

2. Particularly early on, the elite media smeared the Tea Party as racist. The double standard was particularly evident in how the press covered the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, which was responsible for violence, sexual assaults, arson and general filth in the areas it choose to occupy. If the Tea Party had committed a fraction of the lawless things done by OWS, it would have dominated news coverage for months. But because OWS was advancing a progressive agenda, the transgressions were politely overlooked. (I wrote about the bias here.)

3. The Tea Party has been an important factor in the political rise of senators like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, who have been outstanding additions to Congress. But it has also gotten behind other candidates in primaries – Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle, Ken Buck and others — who flamed out. The result is that Democrats still retain control of the Senate when they could easily have lost control of it.

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This past week marked the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Tea Party Movement. Here are some thoughts on it. 

1. The Tea Party arose from a justifiable concern with the expanding size, scope and reach of the federal government. It was an important factor in the epic 2010 mid-term election. At its best it has integrated itself into the GOP while continuing to apply pressure to Republican leaders to re-limit government and waring them against making careless and unprincipled deals.

2. Particularly early on, the elite media smeared the Tea Party as racist. The double standard was particularly evident in how the press covered the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, which was responsible for violence, sexual assaults, arson and general filth in the areas it choose to occupy. If the Tea Party had committed a fraction of the lawless things done by OWS, it would have dominated news coverage for months. But because OWS was advancing a progressive agenda, the transgressions were politely overlooked. (I wrote about the bias here.)

3. The Tea Party has been an important factor in the political rise of senators like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, who have been outstanding additions to Congress. But it has also gotten behind other candidates in primaries – Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock, Sharron Angle, Ken Buck and others — who flamed out. The result is that Democrats still retain control of the Senate when they could easily have lost control of it.

4.  How positive a force the Tea Party ends up being depends in large part on whether its populist sentiments are channeled in a constructive or destructive way. If the movement becomes one which finds its greatest satisfaction in (a) trying to excommunicate those whom they deem to be the ideologically impure — like those well-known leftists Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Pete Sessions, both of whom have received 100 percent ratings by the American Conservative Union — and (b) championing tactics like shutting down the federal government, it will damage conservatism by discrediting it.

If on the other hand the Tea Party directs its energies toward supporting serious, principles candidates with cross-over appeal and who will advance far-reaching conservative reforms in areas like Medicare, health care, the tax code, elementary, secondary and higher education, and energy, it will be a hugely positive force in American politics.

5. It’s not clear right now which direction the Tea Party will go or what will ultimately become of it. At this particular moment the key to understanding what is animating members of the Tea Party is frustration and outright anger with what they derisively refer to as The Establishment, most especially the GOP establishment, which they see as supine, weak, craven, and timid. That is the thing I’ve heard most often from those who identify with the Tea Party – that Republicans, and in particular GOP leaders, are seized by an “abject fear” of the left, that they are constantly “caving it” to President Obama and Democrats, and simply unwilling to fight. 

Those feelings, while not wholly unjustified, have, I think, led the Tea Party down some blind alleys and into some silly mistakes. The danger is that those feelings are stoked by demagogues in and out of office and that they intensify; that the Tea Party becomes more agitated, more consumed by resentments, and more apocalyptic in its rhetoric and outlook. That would ultimately be self-destructive.

This fate isn’t a foregone conclusion by any means. The Tea Party movement itself (as opposed to some of the organizations that claim to speak for it) is more variegated than is commonly thought, political movements are subject to shifting currents, and Republicans would be unwise to give up on the Tea Party or render sweeping, definitive judgments about it. What Republicans have to hope for is that figures emerge whom members of the Tea Party trust and who can help guide and direct the Tea Party in constructive and conservative, rather than a destructive and radical, ways.

A great deal in American politics hinges on whether such individuals materialize. 

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The Tea Party and Town Halls

Readers of today’s New York Times feature on the decline of congressional recess town hall meetings would gain much by going back about a year to the divergence of the Tea Party model and the Occupy Wall Street model of political participation. After May Day 2012, Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson broke from his self-described objectivity in covering the pseudoanarchist Occupy movement. Though he said he considered himself a reporter and not a pundit, he believed Occupy–which he greatly admired–was in desperate need of his advice. Hineni, came the response: Harkinson would tell Occupy how to succeed.

It’s unclear whether and how much Occupy was taking notes on Harkinson’s pronouncements, but the article was a telling example of a question that had dogged Occupy from the beginning: Could it be anything more than the vocalization of misdirected anger? The answer seemed to be a resounding no. But the heart of the question was really about a comparison with the Tea Party, which had channeled its outrage into constructive participation in the democratic process–something Occupy never did. Here is how Harkinson described the conundrum:

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Readers of today’s New York Times feature on the decline of congressional recess town hall meetings would gain much by going back about a year to the divergence of the Tea Party model and the Occupy Wall Street model of political participation. After May Day 2012, Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson broke from his self-described objectivity in covering the pseudoanarchist Occupy movement. Though he said he considered himself a reporter and not a pundit, he believed Occupy–which he greatly admired–was in desperate need of his advice. Hineni, came the response: Harkinson would tell Occupy how to succeed.

It’s unclear whether and how much Occupy was taking notes on Harkinson’s pronouncements, but the article was a telling example of a question that had dogged Occupy from the beginning: Could it be anything more than the vocalization of misdirected anger? The answer seemed to be a resounding no. But the heart of the question was really about a comparison with the Tea Party, which had channeled its outrage into constructive participation in the democratic process–something Occupy never did. Here is how Harkinson described the conundrum:

Though Occupy could support many sympathetic candidates in Democratic primaries, some pundits haven’t pushed the idea because they worry about a tea party effect on the left, with liberal Democrats losing to Republicans in the general election. Yet other than a third-party bid, with its potential for another Nader debacle, this may be the only way to command Washington’s attention.

There were always concerns within Occupy of being co-opted by the national Democratic Party, or of being suppressed by it in elections. Those same concerns were present for the Tea Party–some Tea Party candidates lost otherwise-winnable seats, others rocketed to conservative stardom after dispatching “establishment” candidates in primary contests and winning Senate and House seats.

But what Harkinson seemed to understand was that grassroots political movements don’t hang around and tread water; they sink or swim. The Tea Party and Occupy would not be permanent fixtures on the American political landscape if they never evolved beyond protest crowds. Occupy may not have wanted to “go legitimate,” so to speak (though they might say “go corporate”), but the only other option was to fade. And fade they did. Meanwhile, the Tea Party went to Washington.

Neither movement has nearly the grassroots excitement or momentum it once had, but for very different reasons. Occupy never evolved into anything concrete. The Tea Party became a major force in American politics. So when the Times reports on the relative lack of bustling town halls, the fact that Tea Partiers are no longer only on the outside of Congress looking in, and thus in need of ways to get Congress’s attention, has much to do with it.

There are other reasons as well. Conservative activists wondering where their representatives are have a point when they say some elected Republicans don’t want to face the crowds. It is a testament to the Tea Party’s effectiveness and the grassroots influence within the party that some Republicans fear any confrontation with energized and organized factions no longer consigned to the sidelines. It is also the case that on some key issues, the conservative base has already won the battle over public opinion. They and their representatives are generally on the same side when it comes to ObamaCare, which was the subject of many a town hall in the lead-up to its enactment. It’s true that there is an intramural disagreement over shutting down the government without an agreement to defund ObamaCare, but that is not the same as debating the passage of the bill itself.

The other major issue subject to town halls in recent years has been immigration. The Times story makes note of this, but with one understated twist:

Immigration groups, like Alliance for Citizenship, which supports a plan like the Senate’s that would grant citizenship to the 11 million people here illegally, are almost exclusively targeting House Republicans, who now hold the key to passing any immigration overhaul legislation. The Democratic-controlled Senate has already approved one. One of the alliance’s targets this month has been Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, who has not announced any town halls but did participate in them in 2009.

Those pining for town halls on immigration are pro-immigration interest groups. They want to pressure Republicans to adopt, not oppose, immigration reform with a path to citizenship. It is only natural that the groups in support of legislation will usually be less impressive or vocal than those against. And in this instance, that’s better for Republicans than when it was the other way around in 2006.

Leading up to that year’s midterm elections Republicans held anti-immigration meetings, and the results–a dramatic drop in the GOP share of the Hispanic vote–may be nudging Republicans away from holding public meetings on immigration at all if they can help it. They could very well be reticent to open the floodgates by calling any town hall to discuss immigration, especially in deep-red districts.

Whether voters support or oppose a specific piece of immigration legislation, surely many of them understand how off-putting anti-immigration rallies can be. It’s one thing to angrily protest a bill like ObamaCare or tax cuts; but to fulminate in large public gatherings denouncing immigrants is much more personally offensive to those on the receiving end because of basic issues of identity. Republicans are wise to avoid such a spectacle. More generally, conservatives should understand that their success is a major factor in the decline of the town halls.

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“Empty”: Eliot Spitzer’s Creepy New Ad

The best thing Eliot Spitzer has going for his race to be New York City comptroller is that voters don’t pay enough attention to the job to be overly concerned about the potential damage someone as destructive as Spitzer can cause in the office. (Stop random New Yorkers on the street and ask them if they even know who their current comptroller is; many won’t, even though he’s currently also running for mayor.)

But they should be concerned, because the job of comptroller, which involves financial management and oversight for the city, is one that Spitzer is almost uniquely unqualified for. What’s more, Spitzer is so lost in his own world of narcissistic hyperactivity that his campaign is determined to remind voters just how unqualified he is for the job. Take his latest ad, titled “Empty,” which is predicated on the belief that New Yorkers would vote for someone who promises to bring the city to financial ruin:

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The best thing Eliot Spitzer has going for his race to be New York City comptroller is that voters don’t pay enough attention to the job to be overly concerned about the potential damage someone as destructive as Spitzer can cause in the office. (Stop random New Yorkers on the street and ask them if they even know who their current comptroller is; many won’t, even though he’s currently also running for mayor.)

But they should be concerned, because the job of comptroller, which involves financial management and oversight for the city, is one that Spitzer is almost uniquely unqualified for. What’s more, Spitzer is so lost in his own world of narcissistic hyperactivity that his campaign is determined to remind voters just how unqualified he is for the job. Take his latest ad, titled “Empty,” which is predicated on the belief that New Yorkers would vote for someone who promises to bring the city to financial ruin:

    

Turning the city’s financial district into a ghost town is the kind of dystopian fantasy that may–may–run through the minds of Occupy Wall Street-style Chomskyite pseudoanarchists. But Spitzer wants to be elected to a vital position of power over the city’s finances. He is not a college freshman, when this sort of thing would have a certain idealistic charm only because of the near-certainty that the kid would grow out of it. That Spitzer’s admiration for bringing financial ruin to the private sector has only increased as he has aged tells you all you need to know about him.

But this should be no laughing matter to New Yorkers. In October 2011, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report detailing how the ongoing Wall Street sluggishness was hurting the city. DiNapoli is the comptroller for the state, not the city, but he made clear the damage being done to both. As the New York Times explained at the time:

Wall Street’s struggles will most likely be reflected in New York City’s tax revenue, as well as in the revenues of nonfinancial businesses, like high-end real estate firms and expensive restaurants, which depend on a steady flow of well-off customers. The comptroller’s report estimates that for every job lost on Wall Street, two are lost in the city in other industries, and one additional job is lost elsewhere in the state.

“These developments will have a rippling effect through the economy and adversely impact state and city tax collections,” Mr. DiNapoli said in the statement. “As we know, when Wall Street slows, New York City and New York State’s budgets feel the impact and that is a concern.”

Again: for every job lost on Wall Street, the city loses two more and the state an additional job. At the time, DiNapoli was warning that the securities industry could shed 10,000 more jobs over the following year. Tax revenue plummets, which for those who lost a job because of the city’s struggles and now rely more on city services is a perfect storm of financial crisis.

DiNapoli had been interviewed by WNYC radio about the report, and said that to put the numbers in perspective, the prior year Wall Street had been the source of 14 percent of the state’s tax revenue and 7 percent of the city revenue. DiNapoli was asked about the Occupy protests and how the protesters were calling for policies that could impoverish those they were claiming to represent. He responded, diplomatically:

When employment contracts, that’s personal income tax revenue, and money that’s spent in neighborhoods on goods and services, so that’s where that ripple effect happens.

That’s how a responsible comptroller speaks about basic economics. It’s also the opposite of how Spitzer sees the world. An empty financial district and taxpayers fleeing the city is a scene that leaves Spitzer grinning like a madman. It is disturbing both that Spitzer finds this so amusing and also that he thinks voters would too, hence the ad. As CNN reports:

The new ad is part of a $450,000 buy premiering this week and will be featured primarily on major news websites. Its twin came out Monday, a less triumphant spot that instead featured Spitzer’s admission of the personal failing that lead to his resignation as New York governor in 2008.

Making creepy, “triumphant” videos about New York City as a ghost town is how Spitzer spends his own money. New Yorkers can be forgiven for wondering just what he’ll do when he has access to theirs.

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A May Day Reminder of OWS’s Failure

Last year, May Day was a cause for celebration for members of the group Occupy Wall Street. Even though they had been evicted from their home in Zuccotti Park several months prior, the movement that was created there had spread nationwide. Liberals hoped that OWS would become their version of the Tea Party. They were willing to look over the squalid conditions at OWS camps in New York and nationwide, the rampant vandalism, and most troubling, the rapes and sexual assaults that took place there while fellow liberals were simultaneously fear mongering over Republicans’ imagined “war on women.” On the second May Day since its formation, the movement, which portrayed itself as the voice of support for the bottom 99 percent of Americans, has fractured over some members’ desire to translate that vague declaration of support into disaster assistance for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

The aftermath of Sandy left unprecedented destruction in the New York area, and to its credit, the Occupy movement stepped in to provide much-needed coordination and relief with the formation of Occupy Sandy. In November I spoke to a local rabbi who had been coordinating relief for elderly residents trapped inside a high-rise apartment complex that wouldn’t end up meeting someone in a FEMA jacket for a full ten days after the storm. The response from government officials was shockingly meager and private organizations like Occupy Sandy were left trying to provide food, water and medical attention to those hardest hit by the storm. 

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Last year, May Day was a cause for celebration for members of the group Occupy Wall Street. Even though they had been evicted from their home in Zuccotti Park several months prior, the movement that was created there had spread nationwide. Liberals hoped that OWS would become their version of the Tea Party. They were willing to look over the squalid conditions at OWS camps in New York and nationwide, the rampant vandalism, and most troubling, the rapes and sexual assaults that took place there while fellow liberals were simultaneously fear mongering over Republicans’ imagined “war on women.” On the second May Day since its formation, the movement, which portrayed itself as the voice of support for the bottom 99 percent of Americans, has fractured over some members’ desire to translate that vague declaration of support into disaster assistance for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

The aftermath of Sandy left unprecedented destruction in the New York area, and to its credit, the Occupy movement stepped in to provide much-needed coordination and relief with the formation of Occupy Sandy. In November I spoke to a local rabbi who had been coordinating relief for elderly residents trapped inside a high-rise apartment complex that wouldn’t end up meeting someone in a FEMA jacket for a full ten days after the storm. The response from government officials was shockingly meager and private organizations like Occupy Sandy were left trying to provide food, water and medical attention to those hardest hit by the storm. 

Occupy Sandy was soon consumed with the same problems that plagued the movement that was full of catch-phrases but little in the form of tangible plans or organization. This hilarious segment on The Daily Show about class divisions at Zuccotti Park illustrates just how hypocritically ineffective the movement was at extinguishing inequality even within its own ranks. In the face of reality, many Occupiers learned just how impossible it would be to translate their ideals into reality. The New York Times reports:

The original Occupiers who remain have not just mellowed, they have abandoned some of the hallmarks of the organization, given up as unwieldy in a disaster situation. Occupy Sandy’s “free store” on Staten Island was closed in part because people took advantage of it, said Howie Ray, who runs a volunteer hot line for the group. The nightly roundup e-mails of their work, part of a commitment to transparency, have halted because they were impractical and time-consuming, Mr. Ray said.

Many of those initial divisions were exacerbated by the efforts of those behind Occupy Sandy. According to the Times, many in the original Occupy movement were troubled by their Occupy Sandy counterparts’ “deals with the devil” in the form of working with and accepting donations from corporations like Home Depot and governmental agencies to provide relief to those most desperately in need. Some in OWS were willing to sacrifice their idealism for the sake of the greater good while others in the group, called the “core” of OWS by a member quoted by the Times, would much rather spend their time participating in drum circles at protests.

While the tragic fate of the 94 million victims of Communism were remembered yesterday, conservatives should take heart that here in the United States, the closest thing to Communism in decades, Occupy Wall Street, has destroyed itself over divisions over just how much they’re willing to help those in need. If that’s not a better representation of the true face of Communism, what is?

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Salman Rushdie and Moral Courage

Salman Rushdie had quite the megaphone this weekend: the New York Times Sunday Review op-ed section and its 1,200-word space from which to preach. And Rushdie used that space to make quite the pronouncement: the world–the West included–was sliding back into dangerous territory, in which patience for the wisdom of dissidents was running low, and our willingness to let those men and women dissent running low along with it.

It must be said that Rushdie, as the famous target of the Islamic world’s fatwa for his book The Satanic Verses, knows firsthand about the danger to artists and intellectuals who cross those willing to do violence. And it can also be said that politicians who found Rushdie to be an insufferable troublemaker didn’t give him all the support he might have deserved. But Rushdie’s column in the Times shows that while he survived the fatwa on his head thus far, his judgment did not.

Rushdie seems incapable of distinguishing between true dissidents and useful idiots or puffed-up rabble-rousers. Everyone who crosses the government is speaking truth to power, to Rushdie. And his column is useful not for its intellectual value but because this mindset has so infected the world of the arts and academia that its roster is unable or unwilling to realize that the problem is not how we treat genuine dissidents but that the global left has diluted the meaning and the cause by calling clownish poseurs by that name.

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Salman Rushdie had quite the megaphone this weekend: the New York Times Sunday Review op-ed section and its 1,200-word space from which to preach. And Rushdie used that space to make quite the pronouncement: the world–the West included–was sliding back into dangerous territory, in which patience for the wisdom of dissidents was running low, and our willingness to let those men and women dissent running low along with it.

It must be said that Rushdie, as the famous target of the Islamic world’s fatwa for his book The Satanic Verses, knows firsthand about the danger to artists and intellectuals who cross those willing to do violence. And it can also be said that politicians who found Rushdie to be an insufferable troublemaker didn’t give him all the support he might have deserved. But Rushdie’s column in the Times shows that while he survived the fatwa on his head thus far, his judgment did not.

Rushdie seems incapable of distinguishing between true dissidents and useful idiots or puffed-up rabble-rousers. Everyone who crosses the government is speaking truth to power, to Rushdie. And his column is useful not for its intellectual value but because this mindset has so infected the world of the arts and academia that its roster is unable or unwilling to realize that the problem is not how we treat genuine dissidents but that the global left has diluted the meaning and the cause by calling clownish poseurs by that name.

Rushdie’s column is titled “Whither Moral Courage?” But that question should be asked of Rushdie, as it should of anyone who writes the following:

America isn’t immune from this trend. The young activists of the Occupy movement have been much maligned (though, after their highly effective relief work in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, those criticisms have become a little muted). Out-of-step intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and the deceased Edward Said have often been dismissed as crazy extremists, “anti-American,” and in Mr. Said’s case even, absurdly, as apologists for Palestinian “terrorism.” (One may disagree with Mr. Chomsky’s critiques of America but it ought still to be possible to recognize the courage it takes to stand up and bellow them into the face of American power. One may not be pro-Palestinian, but one should be able to see that Mr. Said stood up against Yasir Arafat as eloquently as he criticized the United States.)

There is much to unpack here. When he says America isn’t immune from this trend, he means the trend of suffocating dissent, and puts the United States in a category that, by his own description in the essay, includes the Soviet Union and modern Pakistan. Rushdie may think he is being provocative, but such nonsense deserves to be laughed out of the room.

Yet Rushdie continues the thread. If America is Soviet Russia or Islamist Pakistan, his brave dissidents here are akin to Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Aung San Suu Kyi, Salman Taseer. And who are these heroes? First, there is the Occupy Wall Street movement, who not only weren’t oppressed by the government but left alone to squat on land in downtown Manhattan. Women in these camps were shocked at the lengths to which Occupy leaders would go to protect rapists who prowled the camps, because they were worried not for the safety of innocent women but for their own reputations. The camps were responsible for harming local small businesses, and the Occupiers’ simmering resentment targeted Jews and other supposed symbols of Western society hated by these pseudo-anarchist mobs. If Rushdie is worried about intellectuals, he need not shed a tear for the fate of Occupy Wall Street; roving rape camps are not incubators of high intellectual pursuit.

As for Chomsky, Rushdie must be kidding when praises the “courage” it takes to shout Khmer Rouge propaganda in the face of American anti-Communists. And is Chomsky sitting in Guantanamo or a gulag? Of course not. Chomsky’s vile stupidity only discredits his supporters; his opponents have nothing to fear from him. It would have been nice of Rushdie to at least include a reference to the dissidents of the despicable Cambodian regime to balance out Chomsky, but that would have made plain the irrationality of his argument.

And what of Said? Rushdie says it’s absurd to accuse him of being an apologist for Palestinian terrorism. (Sorry–“terrorism.” Rushdie’s moral relativism requires him to dismiss reality as open to interpretation. Magical realism is not realism, after all. One wonders if that same Islamic violence that threatened Rushdie’s life and hounded him for decades deserves scare quotes, or only that violence which is launched against others.)

But of course that’s exactly what Said did. Here he is, for example, during the Second Intifada claiming that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza “is the source of violence.” He goes on to make clear his opposition to Arafat was where he felt Arafat was too willing to engage in the Oslo peace process, and he says that every time a Palestinian official is asked about the conflict he should say that “Occupation with tanks, soldiers, checkpoints and settlements is violence, and it is much greater than anything Palestinians have done by way of resistance.” That was Edward Said, in his own words, claiming that the mere existence of a Jewish village is “much greater” than horrific bombing campaigns directed at innocent men, women, and children. That’s not moral courage, and it’s to our credit as a society that we reject it.

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OWS Redistributes City’s Wealth to Their Lawyers

Occupy Wall Street has finally achieved success in their mission to redistribute wealth from the haves (the taxpayers of the City of New York) to the have-nots (lawyers in the City of New York). Perhaps this exact redistribution wasn’t quite what the group set out to achieve, but thanks to a lawsuit recently settled between the city and Occupy’s lawyers, that’s what the group has accomplished.

CBS News reports on the settlement that landed Occupy’s lawyers with almost four times as much cash as the group itself:

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Occupy Wall Street has finally achieved success in their mission to redistribute wealth from the haves (the taxpayers of the City of New York) to the have-nots (lawyers in the City of New York). Perhaps this exact redistribution wasn’t quite what the group set out to achieve, but thanks to a lawsuit recently settled between the city and Occupy’s lawyers, that’s what the group has accomplished.

CBS News reports on the settlement that landed Occupy’s lawyers with almost four times as much cash as the group itself:

A settlement was announced Tuesday in a lawsuit over the seizure of the Occupy Wall Street library at Zuccotti Park.

Siegel says the settlement, announced Tuesday, calls for the city to pay $47,000 for the loss of books and $186,000 in legal fees. About $16,000 will come from Brookfield.

A city Law Department spokeswoman released a statement saying that “sometimes cases are settled to avoid drawn-out litigation that bolsters plaintiff attorney fees.”

What has the group achieved with this lawsuit? Its lawyer told the Village Voice, “This was not just about money, it was about constitutional rights and the destruction of books.” While pressing ahead with this lawsuit, the group neglected to explain, if the lawsuit isn’t about money, where exactly the cash settlement will be going. The group stated on its website after the settlement was announced that “The money that GlobalRev recovers from this settlement will be used to outfit more citizen journalists, and to train and equip more people to bring us the real stories of what is going on in the streets.” How will this plan be executed and where will the accountability and oversight lie? If the group’s past with financial disclosures is any indication, its members and sympathizers should keep their expectations quite low.

The group’s accounting website hasn’t been updated since September, when it admitted that infighting over the group’s cash reserves had fractured the movement:

The Accounting Working group has had a long discussion about consensus and responsibility over several weeks.  We have decided we are currently unable to recognize the ability of the group meeting on Saturday evenings at Liberty Plaza to access the General Fund and make spending decisions for our community. Other GAs [General Assemblies] have popped up across NYC over the months, but we have not yet seen a community meeting which has the buy-in of a wide range of the OWS community. Thus, we are unable to acknowledge the spending decisions of this group.

The last known accounting of the group’s resources seems to have been reported by the Daily Caller in early 2012, indicating that as of December 2011 the group had about $100,000 in cash reserves in its bank account. Another report from around that same time by CNN Money put the total around $455,000. An accounting meeting early last year devolved into chaos, as the group’s own minutes humorously portray:

Guy insists that bank statements should be published, regardless of whether GA wants it.

Calvin tries to speak to the frustration with how slow things can be in horizontal movement. It can be hard to make a decision or to know “who is in charge” when we all are. Things can be really slow…

Danielle talks about how, since the park, people’s anger at the banks seems to be turning on each other, and on the accounting group. She describes the increased transparency that they have been trying to enact through the website.

Guy starts shouting about accounting having revealed their agenda. Makes crude sexual remarks.

Facilitation tries to extend time but Janet and shouting guy not listening. Meeting time expires and meeting closes.

The group pledged three months later to publish its donations and expenditures online, however the links to view both reports are inactive. If money really is the root of all evil, as many of the participants’ signs claimed during its occupation of Zuccotti Park, then Occupy Wall Street and its lawyers just became a little bit more evil. 

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OWS Were As Spoiled As You Thought

Contain your surprise at this latest study into Occupy Wall Street’s participants: They are overwhelmingly white, educated, and are more likely to be employed, make over $100,000 a year and be male than the average New Yorker. That composite image you had in your mind of spoiled, rich white guys camping out in Zuccotti Park for the fun of it was confirmed by the movement’s own participants’ self-reported statistics.

The study, commissioned by the City University of New York, interviewed 727 participants about the movement and its structure. The study explained that “despite their relative affluence and their overrepresentation in the professions, many of our respondents had substantial debt or had experienced recent job loss.” Hold the phone. Folks that spent weeks, if not months, sleeping outside while protesting something they were never actually able to identify can’t handle financial or job responsibilities well? Truly shocking. 

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Contain your surprise at this latest study into Occupy Wall Street’s participants: They are overwhelmingly white, educated, and are more likely to be employed, make over $100,000 a year and be male than the average New Yorker. That composite image you had in your mind of spoiled, rich white guys camping out in Zuccotti Park for the fun of it was confirmed by the movement’s own participants’ self-reported statistics.

The study, commissioned by the City University of New York, interviewed 727 participants about the movement and its structure. The study explained that “despite their relative affluence and their overrepresentation in the professions, many of our respondents had substantial debt or had experienced recent job loss.” Hold the phone. Folks that spent weeks, if not months, sleeping outside while protesting something they were never actually able to identify can’t handle financial or job responsibilities well? Truly shocking. 

How much did Occupy’s message speak for Americans feeling overwhelmed by our faltering economy? Initially many Americans may have felt that the discontentment expressed by Occupy matched their own. Soon, however, the movement showed its true colors: it became violent, with skyrocketing reports of rape, vandalism and assault. While the protest movement could have represented a growing majority of Americans financially underwater, it instead was overtaken by folks who thought that defecating on police cars and spilling the contents of Porta-Potties were valid forms of expression.

Unsurprisingly, those antics don’t speak for the majority of hardworking Americans who, no matter their precarious financial situation, would never dream of stooping to OWS’s methods. The problem with OWS was that while its members might have been struggling financially like many other Americans, they were not hardworking nor were they average. It’s no wonder the movement fizzled out: while these Occupiers were struggling in debt of their own creation and sleeping in Zuccotti Park, the rest of America was working to get back on its feet.

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Obama’s Tax Policy Aims for the Rich but Hits the Poor

Although the Occupy Wall Street protest movement often shunned both organization and the formation of a coherent set of principles and demands, its antipathy to Wall Street–hence the name of the movement–was central to its cause and its grievances, real or imagined. Punishing Wall Street was a given to the protesters, because in their minds the city’s kings of finance were greedy oligarchs hoarding their wealth. But occasionally the OWS protesters accidentally stumbled upon some cold hard facts that undercut their complaints, such as when New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran approached the crowd and told them:

I think there needs to be Wall Street reform, but we also have to remember that one-third of the city’s revenue comes from Wall Street right now, OK? One-third of the city’s revenue stream already comes from Wall Street.

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Although the Occupy Wall Street protest movement often shunned both organization and the formation of a coherent set of principles and demands, its antipathy to Wall Street–hence the name of the movement–was central to its cause and its grievances, real or imagined. Punishing Wall Street was a given to the protesters, because in their minds the city’s kings of finance were greedy oligarchs hoarding their wealth. But occasionally the OWS protesters accidentally stumbled upon some cold hard facts that undercut their complaints, such as when New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran approached the crowd and told them:

I think there needs to be Wall Street reform, but we also have to remember that one-third of the city’s revenue comes from Wall Street right now, OK? One-third of the city’s revenue stream already comes from Wall Street.

Halloran’s tone was patient, but he stressed the word already, as if to say: How much more of other people’s money do you want to take (a dangerous question when asked to liberals) and what do you think will happen to the poor if we punish the wealth creators on Wall Street who are already funding a third of the city’s revenue stream? That question was implied, not asked; but Joel Kotkin more or less asks and answers it over at Forbes:

With their enthusiastic backing of President Obama and the Democratic Party on Election Day, the bluest parts of America may have embraced a program utterly at odds with their economic self-interest. The almost uniform support of blue states’ congressional representatives for the administration’s campaign for tax “fairness” represents a kind of bizarre economic suicide pact.

Any move to raise taxes on the rich — defined as households making over $250,000 annually — strikes directly at the economies of these states, which depend heavily on the earnings of high-income professionals, entrepreneurs and technical workers. In fact, when you examine which states, and metropolitan areas, have the highest concentrations of such people, it turns out they are overwhelmingly located in the bluest states and regions.

As Thomas Frank might say, What’s the matter with Connecticut (or Maryland, or New York, or California, etc.)? But there’s actually a larger problem here than liberal voters voting against their self-interest. As Kotkin shows, he’s clearly anticipated the “fairness” argument, and demonstrates that the result of Obama’s policy could very well be more inequality, less socioeconomic mobility, and sustained levels of unemployment:

What would a big tax increase on the “rich” mean to the poor and working classes in these areas? To be sure, they may gain via taxpayer-funded transfer payments, but it’s doubtful that higher taxes will make their prospects for escaping poverty much brighter. For the most part, the economies of the key blue regions are very dependent on the earnings of the mass affluent class, and their spending is critical to overall growth. Singling out the affluent may also reduce the discretionary spending that drives employment in the personal services sector, retail and in such key fields as construction.

This prospect is troubling since many of these areas are already among the most unequal in America. In the expensive blue areas, the lower-income middle class population that would benefit from the Administration’s plan of keeping the Bush rates for them is proportionally smaller, although the numbers of the poor, who already pay little or nothing in income taxes, generally greater. Indeed, according to a recent Census analysis, the two places with the highest proportions of poor people are Washington, D.C., and California. By far the highest level of inequality among the country’s 25 most populous counties is in Manhattan.

Kotkin also mentions that, by the way, the tax policy probably wouldn’t help the fiscal condition of these blue states either. But looking at California, it’s hard to argue there’s much desire on the part of Democratic policymakers there to do anything other than revel in the wreckage of their failing state and hope for a federal bailout of some sort.

Should it bother liberals that their national tax policy reflects the logic of the youthful pseudoanarchist flash in the pan that left garbage, and only garbage, in its wake? I suppose it should. By the looks of this “fiscal cliff” debate, it doesn’t.

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OWS: The Vagrants that Stole Halloween

To those outside of Lower Manhattan, it appears Occupy Wall Street has faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for some residents of New York City, the movement is still maintaining a presence on public property. After finally being ejected from Zuccotti Park after months of vandalism, violence and disruption, OWS hobos — I mean protesters — have taken up residence on the sidewalks outside Trinity Church, a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Episcopalians, not exactly known for being Christianity’s stalwarts of conservatism, aren’t happy about it.

This week Trinity Church announced that it would be canceling its annual Halloween celebration because the encampment makes the area around the church increasingly unsafe. In a statement issued on Sunday, Trinity’s Rev. James Cooper stated “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.” Fox News went on to report,

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To those outside of Lower Manhattan, it appears Occupy Wall Street has faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for some residents of New York City, the movement is still maintaining a presence on public property. After finally being ejected from Zuccotti Park after months of vandalism, violence and disruption, OWS hobos — I mean protesters — have taken up residence on the sidewalks outside Trinity Church, a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The Episcopalians, not exactly known for being Christianity’s stalwarts of conservatism, aren’t happy about it.

This week Trinity Church announced that it would be canceling its annual Halloween celebration because the encampment makes the area around the church increasingly unsafe. In a statement issued on Sunday, Trinity’s Rev. James Cooper stated “Last year, more than 1,200 people took part. However, we are deeply concerned about the escalating illegal and abusive activity the camp presents.” Fox News went on to report,

Linda Hanick, a spokeswoman for Trinity Church, said nine people have been arrested in connection to the encampment in the past two weeks, including a man who was arrested after he put an air horn to the ear of a longtime maintenance superintendent at the church on Oct. 11. The maintenance worker was “traumatized” by the incident, she said.

“The sidewalk is owned by the city, so we don’t have the legal power to remove people from the sidewalk, but it’s our responsibility to clean it,” she said. “We hose down the sidewalk and throw away the trash.”

Those cleanings, which occur twice daily at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., typically lead to a “tense situation,” Hanick said.

This isn’t Occupy’s first run-in with Trinity, either. After their eviction from Zuccotti Park, Occupiers stormed a vacant lot owned by Trinity, breaking their locks in order to gain access to the property. The liberal church, surprisingly, decided to press charges against the demonstrators for criminal trespassing, setting the stage for the hostile tone many Occupiers are now exhibiting toward the church, its congregants and its staff.

Where are Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly? It took the mayor over three months to order Kelly to clear Zuccotti of the protestors that led to a booming crime rate and a permeating aroma of urine and body odor. For local residents and businesses Occupy was, in every sense, a public safety risk that deserved forcible removal the day after tents were erected on public soil. Now, there is an escalating situation at Trinity that has impaired their ability to serve the local community. Occupy is in no sense a political movement on the sidewalk outside of Trinity, they are a hostile group of homeless squatters with a few incoherent politically-inspired cardboard signs. If the city decided that Occupy was dangerous enough to warrant removal from Zuccotti, they should (quickly) come to the same conclusion about Trinity.

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Is Socialism a Swing State Issue?

One of the most incredible ads so far this election season was produced and paid for not by a candidate, Super PAC, or party, but instead by a private citizen. Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian-born businessman who made his fortune in online trading, has begun airing a 60-second ad that will be broadcast on major networks (CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg) in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and possibly Florida, he told the Washington Examiner. Petterffy, who has a net-worth of over $4.6 billion according to Forbes, intends to spend between $5-10 million on the ads.

Peterffy’s ad is powerful in its simplicity. He speaks directly to the camera and recounts the story of his childhood in socialist Hungary, using images of himself and the poverty-stricken European nation. Peterffy, a member of the Forbes 400 list and Forbes’s list of billionaires, describes the importance of hard work and the value of respecting success. Interspersed with messages about the dangers of socialism are recent photos of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s protests. While the ad never addresses Obama’s early supportive statements regarding OWS, Americans need to look no further than statements made during the last two debates to understand that the Obama White House values “fairness” over success. Peterffy concludes his ad by stating, “That is why I am voting Republican and putting this ad on television.”

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One of the most incredible ads so far this election season was produced and paid for not by a candidate, Super PAC, or party, but instead by a private citizen. Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian-born businessman who made his fortune in online trading, has begun airing a 60-second ad that will be broadcast on major networks (CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg) in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and possibly Florida, he told the Washington Examiner. Petterffy, who has a net-worth of over $4.6 billion according to Forbes, intends to spend between $5-10 million on the ads.

Peterffy’s ad is powerful in its simplicity. He speaks directly to the camera and recounts the story of his childhood in socialist Hungary, using images of himself and the poverty-stricken European nation. Peterffy, a member of the Forbes 400 list and Forbes’s list of billionaires, describes the importance of hard work and the value of respecting success. Interspersed with messages about the dangers of socialism are recent photos of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s protests. While the ad never addresses Obama’s early supportive statements regarding OWS, Americans need to look no further than statements made during the last two debates to understand that the Obama White House values “fairness” over success. Peterffy concludes his ad by stating, “That is why I am voting Republican and putting this ad on television.”

A quick glance at Peterffy’s FEC contributions doesn’t seem to indicate his status as a conservative version of George Soros. In May 2009 he donated $2,400 to Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Roger Pearson (D-CT) respectively. According to the Seattle PI, Peterffy doesn’t have a political affiliated listed according to a public records search. While the majority of his other donations are to Republican and right-wing causes, almost all until this past election cycle are for local candidates in Connecticut, Peterffy’s home state. This election, it seems, has sparked an interest in national politics that was previously unrealized.

Peterffy’s decision to spend the majority of his ad-buy in Ohio isn’t just about electoral politics. Three of the six largest Hungarian populations in the U.S. are found in the state, after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In an election where such a large population comprises the vote of one of the most crucial swing states in the country, Peterffy’s ad could actually impact the presidential race. If nothing else, it gives voice to many in his generation who have seen the American Dream scorned through the Occupy protests and the class warfare rhetoric of the current administration.

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The Media’s Occupy Wall Street Delusions

As the Economist’s political outlook has changed on issues throughout the years, the one constant has been the restraining of the written identities of its anonymous contributors in place of a unified “voice of God,” as it’s often referred to. And the real challenge to maintaining this weighty air of authority has never been the complicated issues that seem to cry out for the responsible reflection of the Economist’s on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other consideration. It is, rather, the attempts to wedge clear-cut and fairly ridiculous ideas into this deliberative style.

Can you make just about anything sound plausible if you employ the tone of the unimpeachable? The Economist tested that question in this week’s edition, and the answer is a resounding No. The magazine has a brief write-up of the reunion of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, which it admits has seemingly run out of steam. But then the Economist closes with this paragraph:

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As the Economist’s political outlook has changed on issues throughout the years, the one constant has been the restraining of the written identities of its anonymous contributors in place of a unified “voice of God,” as it’s often referred to. And the real challenge to maintaining this weighty air of authority has never been the complicated issues that seem to cry out for the responsible reflection of the Economist’s on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other consideration. It is, rather, the attempts to wedge clear-cut and fairly ridiculous ideas into this deliberative style.

Can you make just about anything sound plausible if you employ the tone of the unimpeachable? The Economist tested that question in this week’s edition, and the answer is a resounding No. The magazine has a brief write-up of the reunion of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, which it admits has seemingly run out of steam. But then the Economist closes with this paragraph:

Todd Gitlin, a professor at Columbia School of Journalism and the author of a new book, “Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street”, has explored why Occupy did not become the sort of mass movement that could deliver legislative and regulatory change. He cites over-democratic decision-making in its General Assembly and a later turn to violence by some members. On the other hand, he argues, it succeeded in transforming America’s national conversation, adding to the Lexicon not just the Twitter meme of #occupy but also the notion that the country has become divided into a wealthy 1% and a not-so-lucky 99%. Without this, argues Mr Gitlin, it would have been far harder for Mitt Romney to be attacked simply for being rich, first by Newt Gingrich and then by Barack Obama. If this attack strategy helps win Mr Obama another term, he may have the Occupy movement to thank.

First of all, I can help Gitlin figure out why the Occupy movement didn’t change the world. Violent anarchists who shield the perpetrators of sexual assault, defecate on police cars, and rage against hygiene do not get elected to Congress. Far more remarkable is Gitlin’s assertion that Barack Obama, of all people, would have struggled to attack Mitt Romney as rich without the help of the country’s furious collectivist youth.

But worst of all is the Economist’s last sentence in that paragraph. It’s not attributed to Gitlin, but merely declared by the magazine: if Obama wins reelection by bashing success and hectoring the public about inequality, he can thank Occupy.

In the modern era of American politics, this sentiment is refuted by pretty much every single election cycle. But it’s also refuted by the magazine’s hero-president, Obama. Did the Economist not watch then-candidate Barack Obama attack John McCain in 2008 for having a rich wife? Did it miss Obama telling voters we need to “spread the wealth around”? Did it not watch the truly stunning conversation Obama had with Charlie Gibson at a Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton, in which Gibson pointed out to Obama that raising taxes on capital gains does not lead to higher revenue, and Obama responded that revenue wasn’t the issue, but instead that he “would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness”?

The examples abound. Democrats, especially since the Bush tax cuts, have run on the class warfare argument that Republicans just want tax cuts “for the rich” (which, in the Democrats’ world, extends to the middle class with a smattering of regressive taxes on the poor as well) and that Republicans don’t understand the effects of inequality or the need to, in Obama’s terms, “spread the wealth around.”

Now, it’s true that the inequality issue’s profile may have been raised slightly by a credulous media seeing a crowd of Che wannabes in the sea of bored Chomskyites. But it’s safe to say the Obama campaign would have figured out a way to attack Romney’s wealth without the help of confused teenagers.

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Is Warren’s Class Warfare Working?

The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?

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The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?

Alex Burns thinks it’s the natural outgrowth of running as a Republican in a deep blue state: “It’s a state so strongly Democratic that the 2010 GOP wave had little impact there, and where Brown’s 14-point lead among independents in the WBUR still leaves him trailing by 5 points overall,” he writes. That’s true: the MassLive.com report on Brown’s approval notes that he gets 92 percent support from his own party, but that only represents about one in every ten Massachusetts voters.

There’s another possibility, however, and it’s one that should concern the Brown campaign. Warren is this campaign season’s original class warrior. It was her pro-government rant that laid the ground work for Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, and she is only running for the Senate because the GOP blocked Democrats’ original plan for her: as the head of a new consumer watchdog bureaucracy. And true to form, her current advertising campaign attacks Brown for sticking up for private industry and business owners while Brown ties Warren to Occupy Wall Street.

But that may play right into Warren’s hands. The Boston Globe reports that Warren’s populism may be working:

In the survey, 39 percent of likely voters believed Warren “will stand up for regular people when in the Senate,” an improvement from 30 percent from a poll in February.

On the same question, Brown’s support dropped to 29 percent from 33 percent.

In what the station described as a sign that Warren’s campaign themes seem to be resonating with voters, the poll found that 35 percent of voters view Warren as the candidate who best “understands the needs of middle-class families.” Only 27 percent said that phrase described Brown.

That “regular people” question showed a 13-point swing. The fallout from Romney’s fundraiser remarks may be overstated by the media, but if the GOP gets successfully tagged as the party for the rich, Brown will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to either distance himself from his party’s presidential ticket or struggle to fight Warren’s class warfare. Brown probably never expected to be in this situation; he’s the pickup-driving local guy and Warren is the tenured Harvard professor from out of state. In almost every way, Brown is running the superior campaign. But if Warren has the right message, that might be all the overwhelmingly liberal electorate there is looking for.

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NYT Ombud Knocks “Occupy” Cheerleading

Arthur Brisbane, outgoing ombudsman at the New York Times, caused a bit of a stir this weekend with his final column. As Jonathan noted, much of Brisbane’s criticism of the paper is standard fare. But one aspect of it stood out to me. Brisbane wrote:

Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

The paper’s bias on cultural issues always been more profound than its bias on other issues. This may be partly due to the fact that the paper’s editors hold consistent and clear positions on social issues, and so its dedication to those “causes” represents an animating principle of the paper’s coverage: they are part of the organization’s worldview. On other issues, the paper will usually advocate for an issue based on which party is in power. The Times will argue forcefully in favor of the filibuster when the Democrats need it, but against it once the Democrats have virtually unfettered power in the Congress and White House. The Times will argue in favor of fiscal responsibility when a Republican president presides over a federal deficit, but argue against restraining spending when a Democratic White House needs ammunition for class warfare.

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Arthur Brisbane, outgoing ombudsman at the New York Times, caused a bit of a stir this weekend with his final column. As Jonathan noted, much of Brisbane’s criticism of the paper is standard fare. But one aspect of it stood out to me. Brisbane wrote:

Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.

The paper’s bias on cultural issues always been more profound than its bias on other issues. This may be partly due to the fact that the paper’s editors hold consistent and clear positions on social issues, and so its dedication to those “causes” represents an animating principle of the paper’s coverage: they are part of the organization’s worldview. On other issues, the paper will usually advocate for an issue based on which party is in power. The Times will argue forcefully in favor of the filibuster when the Democrats need it, but against it once the Democrats have virtually unfettered power in the Congress and White House. The Times will argue in favor of fiscal responsibility when a Republican president presides over a federal deficit, but argue against restraining spending when a Democratic White House needs ammunition for class warfare.

The editorial direction of the Times is that of a partisan journal. On most issues, then, the Times’s editors do not communicate a guiding principle to their reporters, so the bias takes the form of tone, story choice, story placement, etc. But that has never been the case with regard to social issues. The paper’s reporters generally join the paper’s editorialists–raising questions about the thorough and troubling disregard to journalistic ethics and traditional practices–in cheerleading for such “causes.” Both Brisbane’s column and Times editor Jill Abramson’s response acknowledge the fact that on social issues, New Yorkers—or, to be more accurate, the New Yorkers the paper wishes to acknowledge, often at the exclusion of much of the city—see things differently than the rest of the country.

Because this bias on social issues isn’t hidden by the paper, Brisbane’s comments are not only not controversial, but in the media environment in which the Times operates, constitute a badge of honor.

More interesting by far is Brisbane’s inclusion of the “Occupy” movement with that of the issue of marriage equality. A perfect example came on July 13, when the Times published an absurd puff piece on the establishment of an Occupy Wall Street summer camp, run by a couple of bored radicals.

This was eight months after even the mainstream media became forced to report on the widespread revelations of sexual assault taking place at the Occupy camps. To make matters worse, the camp organizers, rather than help the victims of sexual violence, established the policy of aiding the escape of the rapists by ordering them quietly out of the camps to prevent unwanted attention from the police. Though Mayor Bloomberg was far too tolerant of the violent, anarchic protest camps, even he was forced to concede the Occupy policy of shielding rapists from the police was “despicable.”

So how did the Times reporter covering the Occupy summer camp, Alan Feuer, tackle the ridiculous notion that these people should be allowed near children? He didn’t. Any possible danger to the children goes unmentioned, but the reporter did find time for some levity, joking about how there was a “lack of sufficiently radical activities,” such as, Feuer suggests, “shoot-the-banker archery.”

Arthur Brisbane probably didn’t find jokes about murdering bankers nearly as funny as Feuer or his editors at the Times did, so this type of coverage likely inspired Brisbane to express his discomfort with treating violent radicals as earnest goofballs. On this issue, however, the Times cannot use geography as an excuse. As I wrote earlier this month, New Yorkers have been catching up to the rest of the country in their loathing of Occupy. Even longtime fans of the Times like Brisbane find the paper’s extremism on this issue troubling.

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Occupy Wall Street vs. New Yorkers

Jay Nordlinger occasionally writes at National Review Online about conservatives’ desire for cultural “safe zones”–places to experience the arts without liberal politics intruding on what is meant to be an escape from our ubiquitous political skirmishes. Nordlinger publishes his own experiences and those of readers who attend a concert, the theater, a museum, etc. only for it to be turned into a venue for liberal preaching to an assumed choir.

Rock music, of course, is almost by nature activist, and concerts are far from being “safe zones.” Last night, a concert in downtown Manhattan seemed to be heading in that direction, but then took a peculiar turn. After a rock band opened for the headliner, a “special guest” was announced. This guest would introduce the headliner–a Canadian alt-rock band–but first he wanted to deliver some of his spoken-word beat poetry. The crowd, a young New York audience around the corner from Union Square Park’s Occupy Wall Street adjunct, was amenable, and cheered the poet. The poet was energetic, and the crowd continued to applaud at the beginning of the set. But then something strange happened.

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Jay Nordlinger occasionally writes at National Review Online about conservatives’ desire for cultural “safe zones”–places to experience the arts without liberal politics intruding on what is meant to be an escape from our ubiquitous political skirmishes. Nordlinger publishes his own experiences and those of readers who attend a concert, the theater, a museum, etc. only for it to be turned into a venue for liberal preaching to an assumed choir.

Rock music, of course, is almost by nature activist, and concerts are far from being “safe zones.” Last night, a concert in downtown Manhattan seemed to be heading in that direction, but then took a peculiar turn. After a rock band opened for the headliner, a “special guest” was announced. This guest would introduce the headliner–a Canadian alt-rock band–but first he wanted to deliver some of his spoken-word beat poetry. The crowd, a young New York audience around the corner from Union Square Park’s Occupy Wall Street adjunct, was amenable, and cheered the poet. The poet was energetic, and the crowd continued to applaud at the beginning of the set. But then something strange happened.

The poet gave a shoutout to Occupy Wall Street, not far from the movement’s epicenter, certainly thinking he was playing to the home crowd. And he was booed. Loudly. Unrelentingly. The boos began to drown him out, and only got louder when the poet recited a line accusing the U.S. military of being worker bees in a genocide factory. Then he made a rookie mistake: he insulted the New York Police Department.

That was the last you could hear the poet, as the entire venue was booing and jeering him–not playfully, either; someone threw a bottle at him. This was exactly the target audience, one would have thought, for such a performance. But the incident demonstrates how outsiders view New York City from afar–this poet was from Rhode Island by way of Calgary, I believe–and how that clashes with the reality of the city.

Unlike the Tea Party, with Allen West, Marco Rubio, and others (perhaps after last night, Ted Cruz), the Occupy movement is as far from diverse as a political movement can get. The poet would have had a better grasp of this had he taken a walk around nearby Union Square Park, as I did, before the show. There he would have seen a sparsely populated, universally white Occupy camp ten feet away from where a young Hispanic grade-schooler who looked about 8 years old, with his father proudly looking on, was playing chess with an Indian gentleman, graying at the temples.

Such diversity is the norm, not the exception, in New York, and the Occupy movement’s ethnically homogeneous call to class war is both unrepresentative of, and offensive to, the larger New York community. It’s a city full of hard-working immigrants who have no interest in anarchist fantasy camp.

Additionally, the New York Police Department is a major reason the city of New York is now one of the ten safest cities in the country. Insulting the NYPD is a good way to rankle even liberal New Yorkers. And after 9/11, few New Yorkers would put up with this kind of nonsense.

Later in the show, the poet reemerged. The crowd seemed willing to tolerate him at first, having just listened to a great set from the band. But then the poet remarked that the world would be better if New York would rid itself of Wall Street in general, and “bankers” in particular. And the crowd let him have it again. Wall Street’s tax revenue pays for much of the city’s public services; New Yorkers are often liberal, but rarely that stupid. After the show, the band’s lead singer tweeted his disappointment:

interesting NYC show tonite. guess we lost some fans. I’ve always believed INTOLERANCE was the enemy, not each other. #disappointing

Another lesson: good luck telling New Yorkers to keep their opinions to themselves. I doubt the band lost any fans, but they may have stumbled upon a safe zone.

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Liberal Media Bias

I wanted to follow up on my previous post that alluded to the effort by ABC’s Brian Ross to slander the Tea Party movement in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, massacre.

In all of this, I’m reminded of the effort by liberals to place the blame for President Kennedy’s assassination on the atmosphere of “right-wing hate” that supposedly characterized the city of Dallas. We later learned, of course, that Lee Harvey Oswald was sympathetic not to conservatism but to communism and Castro. That didn’t fit very well into the liberal template, but the left did what it could.

Beyond that historical parallel, the attempted smear by Ross underscores the extraordinary double standard between the media’s coverage of the Tea Party versus that of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The main residual effect of Tea Party rallies is that the grounds on which the rallies were held were usually cleaner after the Tea Party held their event than before they assembled.

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I wanted to follow up on my previous post that alluded to the effort by ABC’s Brian Ross to slander the Tea Party movement in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, massacre.

In all of this, I’m reminded of the effort by liberals to place the blame for President Kennedy’s assassination on the atmosphere of “right-wing hate” that supposedly characterized the city of Dallas. We later learned, of course, that Lee Harvey Oswald was sympathetic not to conservatism but to communism and Castro. That didn’t fit very well into the liberal template, but the left did what it could.

Beyond that historical parallel, the attempted smear by Ross underscores the extraordinary double standard between the media’s coverage of the Tea Party versus that of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The main residual effect of Tea Party rallies is that the grounds on which the rallies were held were usually cleaner after the Tea Party held their event than before they assembled.

For Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, we saw acts of violence and sexual assault; looting, vandalism, and the burning of property; rampant anti-Semitism; defecating on police cars; and all sorts of just plain trashy behavior. Yet the media seemed completely uninterested in the damage inflicted by the Occupy Wall Street movement even as it made up false things about the Tea Party. In fact, much of the coverage of OWS was downright sympathetic.

One can only imagine if the incidents that happened at OWS protests had occurred at Tea Party gatherings. We would have seen wall-to-wall coverage condemning the Tea Party. Yet when it came to the ugly and violent face of OWS, the offenses just weren’t all that troubling.

There’s nothing terribly deep or profound going on here. It is what one imagines it to be. What is happening is captured in the three words that cause many mainstream journalists to recoil but which are nonetheless true. And just what are those three words? Liberal media bias.

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Illustrating Iranian Anti-Semitism

Fars News Agency is the go-to place for foreign media outlets to find out what’s going on in Iran or at least what the government in Tehran wants us to think is going on there. But lest anyone think the journalists at Fars are untainted by the demented anti-Semitism that is the hallmark of much of the discourse we hear from that government, a contest run by the news service should remind us how deep the virus of hate runs in Iranian society. Fars has just held an “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival” in which illustrators were invited to draw something that would demonstrate sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The winner was one Mohammad Tabrizi, who earned 5,000 euros for drawing a depiction of a monumental-style building labeled “New York Wall Street,” which was a replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem before which figures dressed as Orthodox Jews worshiped.

The cartoon is, as the Anti-Defamation League noted, “offensive on many levels.” But the main point here must be to point out that this drawing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Iranian anti-Semitism. Far from being an outlier, the cartoon is just the latest in a series of incidents and statements that show how Jew-hatred has become an integral factor in Iranian discourse. While this is damning by itself, it puts the struggle to stop the Islamist regime from obtaining nuclear weapons in a frightening context. It ought to give pause to those who claim Iran’s leaders are too responsible to even think of using such weapons against the Jewish state they have also pledged to eliminate.

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Fars News Agency is the go-to place for foreign media outlets to find out what’s going on in Iran or at least what the government in Tehran wants us to think is going on there. But lest anyone think the journalists at Fars are untainted by the demented anti-Semitism that is the hallmark of much of the discourse we hear from that government, a contest run by the news service should remind us how deep the virus of hate runs in Iranian society. Fars has just held an “International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival” in which illustrators were invited to draw something that would demonstrate sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The winner was one Mohammad Tabrizi, who earned 5,000 euros for drawing a depiction of a monumental-style building labeled “New York Wall Street,” which was a replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem before which figures dressed as Orthodox Jews worshiped.

The cartoon is, as the Anti-Defamation League noted, “offensive on many levels.” But the main point here must be to point out that this drawing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Iranian anti-Semitism. Far from being an outlier, the cartoon is just the latest in a series of incidents and statements that show how Jew-hatred has become an integral factor in Iranian discourse. While this is damning by itself, it puts the struggle to stop the Islamist regime from obtaining nuclear weapons in a frightening context. It ought to give pause to those who claim Iran’s leaders are too responsible to even think of using such weapons against the Jewish state they have also pledged to eliminate.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Iran’s vice president shocked some diplomats by opening a United Nations conference by blaming the international drug trade on the Jews and the Talmud. Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi was just the latest proof of the hold Jew-hatred has over Iran’s political class. But if people believe this virus is confined to the ayatollahs and doesn’t have much impact on the rest of the culture, then they haven’t been paying attention. In April, Iranian TV commemorated Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — by running anti-Semitic cartoons. And, of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, as the ADL pointed out, the Iranian government itself sponsored a Holocaust cartoon contest whose entries mocked the Jewish victims while also denying the crime.

Foreign policy realists who think a nuclear Iran can be contained or that it can be trusted not to use nukes simply ignore the incitement and hatred against Jews that is commonplace in Iranian culture. Similarly, those who believe diplomacy can sweet talk the ayatollahs into giving up their nuclear ambitions are not taking into account the way their enmity for Jews has come to define Iran’s view of the world. This Iranian take on the Occupy movement isn’t a joke. It’s a clear signal of the genocidal direction in which Iran is heading if it isn’t stopped first.

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Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise

Bruce Springsteen is a fantastic musician. But he should stick to music rather than interviews in which he offers social commentary. Take Springsteen’s Rolling Stone interview with Jon Stewart, in which Springsteen complains about the level of greed at the top of the financial industry, lavishes praise on the Occupy Wall Street movement, and laments income inequality in America. “You cannot have a social contract with the enormous income disparity — you’re going to slice the country down the middle. It’s not going to hold.”

Perhaps the first thing to point out is that Springsteen’s estimated to be worth $200 million, meaning The Boss is doing more than his fair share to contribute to income inequality in America. (He probably ranks in the top 100th of the top one percent.)

As for the substantive issues surrounding income inequality, I agree with Springsteen that wide disparities in income and living standards can pose a danger to our social well-being. But the issue is far more complicated than he acknowledges. A National Affairs essay I co-authored points out that (a) income taxes in America are the most progressive among the rich nations in the world; (b) inequality is driven in part by the growing work-force participation rate of women; (c) federal old-age entitlement programs have become less progressive (which argues for means-testing Social Security and Medicare, a policy that is fiercely rejected by liberals); and (d) one of the quickest ways to increased income equality is a severe recession (since severe recessions destroy capital, which hurts top income earners more than average workers).

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Bruce Springsteen is a fantastic musician. But he should stick to music rather than interviews in which he offers social commentary. Take Springsteen’s Rolling Stone interview with Jon Stewart, in which Springsteen complains about the level of greed at the top of the financial industry, lavishes praise on the Occupy Wall Street movement, and laments income inequality in America. “You cannot have a social contract with the enormous income disparity — you’re going to slice the country down the middle. It’s not going to hold.”

Perhaps the first thing to point out is that Springsteen’s estimated to be worth $200 million, meaning The Boss is doing more than his fair share to contribute to income inequality in America. (He probably ranks in the top 100th of the top one percent.)

As for the substantive issues surrounding income inequality, I agree with Springsteen that wide disparities in income and living standards can pose a danger to our social well-being. But the issue is far more complicated than he acknowledges. A National Affairs essay I co-authored points out that (a) income taxes in America are the most progressive among the rich nations in the world; (b) inequality is driven in part by the growing work-force participation rate of women; (c) federal old-age entitlement programs have become less progressive (which argues for means-testing Social Security and Medicare, a policy that is fiercely rejected by liberals); and (d) one of the quickest ways to increased income equality is a severe recession (since severe recessions destroy capital, which hurts top income earners more than average workers).

Another factor has contributed to income inequality. In their book The Winner-Take-All Society, economists Robert Frank and Philip Cook argue that certain markets are defined by the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few top performers. The winner-take-all model has come to dominate a number of professional sectors, including sports, art, acting, and … music.

Oh, and one other thing. In his interview with Stewart, Springsteen laments the fact that “nuanced political dialogue or creative expression seems like it’s been hamstrung by the decay of political speech and it’s infantilized our national discourse.” This lamentation comes from a fellow who in 2003 told a crowd at Fed Ex field, “It’s time to impeach the president [George W. Bush]” and in a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, when asked how the Bush years would be remembered, answered,

Many parts will be remembered with the same degree of shame as the Japanese internment camps are remembered — illegal wiretapping, rendition, the abuse of prisoners, cutting back our civil rights, no habeas corpus. I don’t think most people thought they’d ever see the country move far enough to the right to see those things happen here. And I don’t believe those are things that strengthen us. The moral authority to stand up and say, ‘We are the Americans,” is invaluable. It’s been deeply damaged, and it’s going to take quite a while to repair that damage, if we can. This will be remembered as a low point in American history — as simple as that.

People are going to go, “Was everybody sleeping?” But people get frightened, they get crazy. You wonder where political hysteria can take you–I think we’ve tasted some of that.

All I want to do is be one of the guys that says, “When that stuff was going down, I threw my hat in the ring and tried to stand on what I felt was the right side of history.” What can a poor boy do, except play in a rock & roll band?

Yes indeed. What can a $200 million poor boy from New Jersey do in the face of impeachable offenses, Japanese-style internment camp shame, no habeas corpus, a low point in American history, and of course the loss of nuanced political dialogue? And what’s he supposed to do when the politician he backed to the hilt (Barack Obama) becomes president and continues many of the policies he denounced, as well as increasing drone strikes that kill innocent people and justifying the targeted killing of American citizens overseas?

I understand that there is a mythology that has grown up around Springsteen; to many of his fans he’s a Voice of Conscience and a musician whom we should take very, very seriously. It’s just that sometimes the jarring contradictions in Springsteen — the fantastically rich rock star bemoaning income inequality while presenting himself as just a blue-collar rock-and-roller from Jersey; the man who longs for nuanced political discourse while reciting shallow left-wing talking points — makes you want to look hard and look twice and wonder if it’s all just a brilliant disguise.

 

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OWS: Your 15 Minutes Are Up

Initially residents of the deeply blue cities of New York and Washington, DC were sympathetic to the message of Occupy Wall Street. Having dozens of unwashed campers with a history of rape and assault occupying their public parks for months on end, however, quickly evaporated any goodwill the city’s residents may have had towards the group. This week the patience the residents of New York City and Washington, DC was worn to the breaking point by members of the movement in two unrelated incidents that show just how little regard the campers have towards their fellow man.

In Washington the normally sympathetic DCist reports,

Last night, in the span of about two hours, Occupy D.C. managed to get on the nerves of two groups that tend to be progressive: LGBT activists who organized a 700-person march in support of hate-crime victims, and City Paper readers in attendance at a debate of at-large D.C. Council candidates sponsored by the alt-weekly.

The march last night was meant to be a mostly quiet affair, with some participants taping over their mouths as a way of expressing the silence they feel when a member of their community is attacked. The marchers who didn’t seal their mouths spoke quietly, save a few quick speeches by the organizers and some District officials.

But the 50 or so members of Occupy D.C. who joined up couldn’t stick to the script. They mic-checked, chanted and lingered in busy intersections as police officers escorting the march reopened the streets after rolling closures. Some said they were part of a “radical queer bloc” that was enjoined by members of Occupy D.C., but with the “mic checks” and chants that wouldn’t be out of place at an Occupy rally, the distinction was unclear.

This is far from the first time that Occupy D.C. has been loud and disruptive in a public meeting, nor is it the first time they have blocked traffic. It is the first time they’ve taken aim at their fellow liberals, and given the tone of the DCist’s coverage, liberals don’t like the taste of their own medicine.

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Initially residents of the deeply blue cities of New York and Washington, DC were sympathetic to the message of Occupy Wall Street. Having dozens of unwashed campers with a history of rape and assault occupying their public parks for months on end, however, quickly evaporated any goodwill the city’s residents may have had towards the group. This week the patience the residents of New York City and Washington, DC was worn to the breaking point by members of the movement in two unrelated incidents that show just how little regard the campers have towards their fellow man.

In Washington the normally sympathetic DCist reports,

Last night, in the span of about two hours, Occupy D.C. managed to get on the nerves of two groups that tend to be progressive: LGBT activists who organized a 700-person march in support of hate-crime victims, and City Paper readers in attendance at a debate of at-large D.C. Council candidates sponsored by the alt-weekly.

The march last night was meant to be a mostly quiet affair, with some participants taping over their mouths as a way of expressing the silence they feel when a member of their community is attacked. The marchers who didn’t seal their mouths spoke quietly, save a few quick speeches by the organizers and some District officials.

But the 50 or so members of Occupy D.C. who joined up couldn’t stick to the script. They mic-checked, chanted and lingered in busy intersections as police officers escorting the march reopened the streets after rolling closures. Some said they were part of a “radical queer bloc” that was enjoined by members of Occupy D.C., but with the “mic checks” and chants that wouldn’t be out of place at an Occupy rally, the distinction was unclear.

This is far from the first time that Occupy D.C. has been loud and disruptive in a public meeting, nor is it the first time they have blocked traffic. It is the first time they’ve taken aim at their fellow liberals, and given the tone of the DCist’s coverage, liberals don’t like the taste of their own medicine.

In New York City, since the return of the warm weather, OWS is back to its old tricks organizing marches and butting heads with the Police Department. In a stomach-turning protest against what one would assume to be against the banking industry, one member of Occupy Wall Street dragged a large tub of human waste through the city in order to pour it inside a Chase ATM vestibule in downtown Manhattan. Who was the first person to make this stomach-turning discovery? My guess: Not a member of the 1%. Whose job was it to clean up these gallons of human feces and urine from inside the ATM vestibule? My guess: Not a member of the 1%.

I’m not sure what Occupy Wall Street is protesting anymore and it doesn’t appear they do either. Their fifteen minutes are up and they know it. The only thing left to do now is stir up attention in any way possible, even if the attention is purely negative.

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J Street Defends OWS’s Anti-Semitism

It’s always difficult to untangle when J Street officials actually believe in the anti-Israel policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric that they push and defend, and when they’re just following the commands of donors. The group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami raised eyebrows by voluntarily injecting himself on the side of anti-Jewish language during the “Israel-Firster” debate, and then later it turned out that J Street had a potential financial incentive to take that stance. On the other hand the group and its partisans seem genuinely enthused about rolling out the red carpet for Peter Beinart and his exhortation to economically suffocate Israelis who don’t live where he tells them. As for J Street’s call on Obama to pressure Israel in the aftermath of the Flotilla even though the Israelis were in the right on self-defense, that simply had an incoherence borne of conflicted priorities.

So it’s impossible to know which dynamic — donor pressure or personal passion — was at work when J Street officials defended Occupy Wall Street from criticism of its disgraceful and extensively documented anti-Semitism. In favor of the donor theory, there’s the fact that J Street funder George Soros backed Occupy. On the side of the labor of love theory, there turn out to be deep sociological, institutional, and personal ties between pro-Occupy radicals and J Street officials – so much so that those radicals are now officially “partnering” with J Street on this weekend’s conference. Read More

It’s always difficult to untangle when J Street officials actually believe in the anti-Israel policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric that they push and defend, and when they’re just following the commands of donors. The group’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami raised eyebrows by voluntarily injecting himself on the side of anti-Jewish language during the “Israel-Firster” debate, and then later it turned out that J Street had a potential financial incentive to take that stance. On the other hand the group and its partisans seem genuinely enthused about rolling out the red carpet for Peter Beinart and his exhortation to economically suffocate Israelis who don’t live where he tells them. As for J Street’s call on Obama to pressure Israel in the aftermath of the Flotilla even though the Israelis were in the right on self-defense, that simply had an incoherence borne of conflicted priorities.

So it’s impossible to know which dynamic — donor pressure or personal passion — was at work when J Street officials defended Occupy Wall Street from criticism of its disgraceful and extensively documented anti-Semitism. In favor of the donor theory, there’s the fact that J Street funder George Soros backed Occupy. On the side of the labor of love theory, there turn out to be deep sociological, institutional, and personal ties between pro-Occupy radicals and J Street officials – so much so that those radicals are now officially “partnering” with J Street on this weekend’s conference.

Most likely it was a little of Column A and a little of Column B, with J Street officials being genuinely sympathetic but wary about the optics of supporting yet another group of anti-Semites.

The debate revolves around a statement by self-declared “Jewish leaders” who, per the statement title, set out to “Denounce Right-Wing Smears of Occupy Wall Street.” The piece specifically attacked the Emergency Committee for Israel, a J Street  bête noire and a major force behind the electoral wipe out of J Street candidates in the 2010 election. Ben-Ami’s name was one of about a dozen on the bottom of the statement, and the press contact for the entire release was J Street VP Carinne Luck.

The upcoming conference will have a core, recognized, pro-Occupy new media presence. The leftwing Jewschool site recently announced that it was going to “partner with J Street” on the conference, including dispatching sponsored bloggers to cover the events. Jewschool actively pushed Occupy and continues to do so, with the most recent sympathetic post getting published just last week. “We are the 99%,” declared another post. An admittedly inaccurate Google site search for “occupy wall street” turns up over 700 hits.

It turns out that J Street officials and Jewschool officials have demonstrably been cooperating to insulate Occupy. For instance, an early version of J Street’s toe-in-the-water press release was published on a site called Occupy Judaism (later versions had additional press contacts). Daniel Sieradski, founding publisher and former editor-in-chief of Jewschool owns the site. I’d direct you to the original statement on Sieradski’s site but the whole blog was taken down some time this morning, after I searched for it and found it last night. Luckily it’s still cached here.

J Street officials and Jewschool activists have long worked together to paper over the anti-Semitism of Occupy Wall Street, albeit sometimes with each being once removed from their home organizations. It would be hard to think of two more appropriate “partners” for the J Street conference.

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Occupy AIPAC Next Step for Leftist Group

Many Jewish liberals have been in denial about the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic tone of much of the Occupy Wall Street movement since its inception. As our colleague Jonathan Neumann wrote in the January issue of COMMENTARY, the leftist hatred for Israel is thoroughly integrated into the Occupy worldview even though some mainstream sympathizers with the movement would prefer to ignore it. But their tolerance for the way this virus has attached itself to a movement that is supposedly about “social justice” will soon be put to the test again.

The so-called U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing an Occupy AIPAC event set to coincide with the annual national conference in Washington, D.C. of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. The group, an anti-Zionist organization dedicated to promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel is hoping to piggyback on the popularity of the Occupy movement to try to sabotage or at least overshadow the AIPAC event. Though the odds are, it will fail, as most such anti-Israel efforts generally do, the manner with which this BDS group has commandeered the Occupy brand name ought to alert liberals to the direction the movement is headed with respect to Israel and the Jews.

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Many Jewish liberals have been in denial about the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic tone of much of the Occupy Wall Street movement since its inception. As our colleague Jonathan Neumann wrote in the January issue of COMMENTARY, the leftist hatred for Israel is thoroughly integrated into the Occupy worldview even though some mainstream sympathizers with the movement would prefer to ignore it. But their tolerance for the way this virus has attached itself to a movement that is supposedly about “social justice” will soon be put to the test again.

The so-called U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing an Occupy AIPAC event set to coincide with the annual national conference in Washington, D.C. of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. The group, an anti-Zionist organization dedicated to promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel is hoping to piggyback on the popularity of the Occupy movement to try to sabotage or at least overshadow the AIPAC event. Though the odds are, it will fail, as most such anti-Israel efforts generally do, the manner with which this BDS group has commandeered the Occupy brand name ought to alert liberals to the direction the movement is headed with respect to Israel and the Jews.

Anti-Israel protests at AIPAC are nothing new but the way the BDS coalition has neatly appropriated the slogans and the spirit of the movement praised by Obama could give these outliers a bit more prominence and a more respectful hearing in a mainstream press that has bent over backwards to excuse the excesses of the occupiers.

Even more importantly, the identification of this viciously anti-Zionist group with the mainstream of the Occupy movement ought to shock get the attention of liberals who have refused to acknowledge the connection between the hard left and anti-Semitism. As Neumann points out in his article, far from being a marginal phenomenon, the link between the neo-Marxism of the occupiers and the BDS crowd is far from tenuous. The occupiers and the Israel-haters are natural allies. The only question is when, if ever, are mainstream Jewish liberals who want nothing to do with the Occupy AIPAC leftists going to face up to the fact that there is no distance between this group and the rest of the Occupy mob.

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