Saturday, November 13, 2010

Is it getting bad enough yet?

As someone who personally gave up on street protests in April of 1970, I have mixed feeling about taking to the streets.  On the other hand, when nothing changes through elections and other institutional methods, what else is there?

So really, when do Americans begin to riot?
The Nouveau Poor
Recession Shadows America's Middle Class

By Marc Pitzke
American society is breaking apart. Millions of people have lost their jobs and fallen into poverty. Among them, for the first time, are many middle-class families. Meet Pam Brown from New York, whose life changed overnight.
The crisis caught her unprepared. "It was horrible," Pam Brown remembers. "Overnight I found myself on the wrong side of the fence. It never occurred to me that something like this could happen to me. I got very depressed."
Brown sits in a cheap diner on West 14th Street in Manhattan, stirring her $1.35 coffee. That's all she orders -- it's too late for breakfast and too early for lunch.
She also needs to save money. Until early 2009, Brown worked as an executive assistant on Wall Street, earning more than $80,000 a year, living in a six-bedroom house with her three sons. Today, she's long-term unemployed and has to make do with a tiny one-bedroom in the Bronx. It's only luck that she's not homeless outright.
"One thing came after another -- boom, boom, boom," Brown recalls. "I kept getting up and dusting myself off, but I could never get ahead again. I spiraled further and further into the abyss." Her voice is trembling now. "I've done everything America told me to do. I went to school. I've never been to jail. I've kept my nose clean. My kids are great kids."
She laughs a sarcastic laugh. "And now?"
Pam Brown is one of millions of Americans who, during the recession, tumbled from their idyllic middle-class existence to near-poverty -- or beyond. For many, like Brown, the downfall is a Kafkaesque odyssey, a humiliation hard to comprehend. Help is not in sight: their government and their society have abandoned them.
Wall Street is preoccupied with chasing new profits again. Yet for large sections of the nation, that old myth of working your way up, of bootstrap success and its ultimate prize, homeownership, has evaporated. The middle class, the America's backbone, iscrumbling. The American Dream has turned into a nightmare.
Last year the US poverty rate reached 14.3 percent, 1.1 percent higher than in 2008. Almost five million Americans skidded below the poverty line ($22,050 annual income for a family of four), many from hitherto sheltered circles, where poverty was a foreign word. The number of long-term unemployed keeps rising. Worst off are families with children. Every fifth child in the US lives in poverty today. more
It's not just the French who have taken to the streets.
The new politics: Student riot marks end of Coalition's era of consensus
Tory HQ wrecked in worst street violence since 1990 poll tax riots
By Andy McSmith, Richard Garner, Oliver Wright and Rebecca Gonsalves
Student demonstrators brought violence to London's streets yesterday on a scale not seen since the poll tax riots of 20 years ago. The ferocity of the protest ended the high hopes of a new era of consensus politics, promised by David Cameron when he took office exactly six months ago.
It is expected to be the first of many angry demonstrations as the impact of the Government's cuts is felt. More than 50,000 people brought Westminster to a standstill with a peaceful march past Parliament to protest against the proposal to increase tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year.
But the demonstration turned nasty when a crowd smashed its way into the Conservative Party's headquarters in Millbank, cheered on by hundreds more outside. Terrified Tory staff barricaded themselves in their offices as demonstrators roamed the building. Those trapped inside included Baroness Warsi, the party's chairman, who kept in telephone contact with the police outside as furniture was thrown through windows, the interior was trashed and a ceiling was pulled down. A fire extinguisher was thrown off the roof at police in the crowded courtyard below. more
In Germany, the battle was over nuclear power and recalled the history of Hermann the German and the battle of Teutoburg Forest to some commentators.
German people in unprecedented rebellion against government: 1000 injured in protests in nuclear protests: police at breaking point  
By Jane Burgermeister
Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010
Axis of Logic correspondent and guest writer, John Spritzler (Boston, MA) sent this report by Jane Burgermeister to us with his introductory comments:
The German people stopped a train--guarded by 17,000 police troops!-- from delivering nuclear reactor radioactive waste that would have endangered people. This report of events in Germany emphasizes the non-violent aspect of the rebellion, but some of the protestors, contrary to the philosophy of nonviolence, applied force: “A water cannon truck [that would have been used by the police to remove protestors] was blocked by tractors.” Despite it being contrary to the philosophy of nonviolence, it seems like an excellent thing for the protestors to have done. -John
German people in unprecedented rebellion against government: 1000 injured in protests in nuclear protests: police at breaking point
Like the Roman legions vanquished in the Teutoburger Wald in Lower Saxony in 9 AD, the 17,000 police officers that marched into the woods around the nuclear storage facility in Gorleben in northern Germany on Sunday morning looked invincible. Police personnel from France, Croatia and Poland had joined in the biggest security operation ever mounted against protestors against the a train carrying nuclear waste to an depot in an isolated part of Lower Saxony’s countryside. Helicopters, water canons and police vehicles, including an armoured surveillance truck, accompanied an endless column of anti-riot police mounted on horses and also marching down the railway tracks into the dense woods. Tens of thousands of anti riot police clattered along the tracks, their helmets and visors gleaming in the morning sun, and wearing body armour, leg guards and carrying batons. more

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