Occupy OC Irvine “raises the bar”- check it out.

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Raven Watson, waitress, singer, violinist, patriot, occupier. (photo - The Register)

I’d been putting most of my time and effort – since our great victory Tuesday at the Irvine City Council – into making sure we Irvine occupiers had good music and speakers at our weekend events, and hadn’t been following the larger decision-making, so I was pleased and inspired to receive this update from the Occupy-OC blog yesterday which I hereby pass on to you:


Having reached the initial goals of our FIRST General Assembly… we’re now setting our sights on elevation. – And it is time to raise the bar.

It was proposed early in our second assembly that we not merely set our bar at survival, but that we move to become both the aesthetic example within The Movement… and the first local Solar + Zero-Waste Occupation by a date just a week from today… while branding the phrase “Leaderless By Example” across the face of a new conversation.

And we unanimously agreed.

That’s right… WE’RE the ones going on a “City Beautification” campaign.

That said, we’ve already had two large blue compost bins, donated by a local vegan bakery… (THANK YOU!) We have two Network Engineers and an electrician on-site… and will be adding some unique things to our needs list… starting with hugs.

  1. If you have any connections to solar panels or the knowledge thereof, we need you.
  2. If you have LARGE plastic tubs or the equivalent of gigantic tupperware, those will help with aesthetics, protecting electronics, & cleaning.
  3. If you are a Green Living veteran, or an expert in No-Waste technology… consider this your call to arms. – Be here at 6pm any day.  And please teach us as much as you can.

You can most definitely expect the announcement of our new “22 GRIEVANCES / 22 FILMS” OUTDOOR EDUCATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, exploring & teaching about the 22 grievances listed in the OCCUPATION DECLARATION, (the declaration put forth by Occupy Wall Street in which we are all united.)

As to the other, less humane events of the week… in our usual voice of unity, we will say only this:

Dear Oakland Police… YOU CAN NOT… ARREST… AN IDEA.



Vern here again – I like the sound of these new ideas, and look forward to the film festival.  Into our third week of continuous occupation of the Irvine Civic Center’s front lawn, we’re evolving into a vibrant and growing community – at any given moment of the day we’ve got a few dozen villagers holding down the fort, and at our weekend marches and rallies we’ve had from 300 to over 1000 participants from across the County and beyond.

We’ve had speeches from such distinguished intellectuals as UCI’s celebrated Middle East studies professor Mark LeVine and nuclear physicist and KPFK co-founder Roger Dittmann;  UCI Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has accepted our invitation to speak, and when we’re sure of his schedule you’ll be the first to know.  These worthies alternate with anybody who wants to talk – students, workers, artists, the homeless, and a surprising number of military veterans from WWII to the current engagements.

In between the speeches we’ve been having jam sessions and open mikes run by myself and the “Rock Doctor” John Hoagland, where you might hear anything from Pink Floyd to Schubert to Miles Davis to the Violent Femmes.  This past Saturday I backed up Greg Diamond’s 12-year old daughter Justine in an infectious rendition of Jessie J’s “Price Tag.”  We are expecting Rage Against the Machine to join us when they return from their current world tour.

And most cars that drive past us still honk and wave in support, except for the very occasional ignoramus who speeds by yelling, as though it were still 1972, “Get a job!”

“Get A Job” – Really?

The fact is, despite the grinding unemployment in our land, most of us Occupy protestors DO have jobs – full-time or part-time jobs, two or more – which is what makes it so hard to schedule things.  Others of us have been laid off from good jobs, but would love to find a new one.  But still we make time to be out here because we know it’s important.

But the hostile folks drive by too fast to tell them all that, so we just yell back, “We love you!” Because we’re out there for them as well, though they don’t know it.  (It’s a pretty good statistical guess that THEY’RE not profiting any more than we are from the reigning economic and political injustices, as misguided as they may be.)

Willie De Ville’s worries

Our occasional commenter who calls himself “willie deville” wrote in last week:

…What is the exit strategy?  Whether you like it or not, the comparison to the Tea Party is inevitable.  Both were allegedly grass-roots movements that have or are being hijacked.  The difference, in my tiny mind, is that, from the beginning, the Tea Party had a plan, they were going to get people elected and they did that, for better or worse.

The Occupiers do not seem to have the same sort of long-term game plan, hoping, instead, that some sort of organic change is going to blossom.  But it will not blossom unless and until they engage not just the system but the process and that is what seems to be missing.  No candidates are emerging to run for office and no legislative agenda is being formulated.

I agree that there is a lot of sympathy for what the protesters are articulating but there needs to be something more than campouts and conversation with people passing by.

Knowing that this commenter is a self-described “conservative” who is also one of the few apologist/friends of disgraced Public Administrator John Williams (however those two things square) I took his comment as the goading of a “concern troll,” but he insists he’s sincere:

…Your response, sarcastic, dismissive, is part of the problem. There is an arrogance that really hurts the cause.  Mine is a serious question.  If you look at what the occupiers are doing across the country, they are having general assemblies where everybody is equal.  And, while conceptually this is is a great philosophy, it is impractical in the real world.  What is the agenda other than a vague definition of fairness?  How do they intend to implement their doctrine of fairness?  Are they going to support candidates who want to simply revise the tax code or are they going to support those candidates who call for the dismantling of the current social structure?

Again, if you look at the Tea Party and what they did, whether you agree with them or not, they came out of the box with a specific agenda and a game plan.  The Occupiers might be right but it is hard to get behind a movement that does not know where it is going. and to be dismissive, or worse, to say, trust us, is to ask for the same sort of lemming-like inertia that you are protesting.

Again, like I told Willie before, it’s still early in the process, the next election is a year away, maybe candidates will emerge from the movement and maybe not.  (Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, for one, is proudly one of us.)  I’d tell Willie that rather than a “vague definition of fairness,” our grievances are threefold and connected:  America’s growing wealth inequality which is now 5th in the world;  the fact that the very rich and largest corporations practically own and control our government;  and the resulting two-tiered system of justice tirelessly documented and denounced by Glenn Greenwald in his new book With Liberty And Justice For Some – with our prisons packed to overflowing with petty drug offenders and not a single indictment for the financial crooks who destroyed 20% of our nation’s wealth built up over two centuries.

There are numerous actions and reforms that could ameliorate these three problems, wearisome to recite, many of them already championed by the best Democrats and Senator Bernie Sanders.  Our job in the movement is to never shut up about the problems, to not let other people forget about them, to let them know they’re not alone, and let the politicians know they can’t ignore the vast majority of us any more.  Our message is simple enough that even a conservative like Willie pretty much understands it and finds it compelling.

I like to tell the story of the liberal intellectuals who visited FDR to tell him their ideas for a “New Deal.”  The President listened carefully, nodded his head, and said “Those are great ideas, gentlemen.  Now GET OUT THERE AND FORCE ME TO DO IT!”  I hope that we are performing that function for President Obama and the other Washington politicians who need a kick in the pants.  (And their backs had.)

Well, that’s my attempt to answer Willie’s comments, as I had promised him.  Anyone else want to give it a shot?

The Agran Factor

It shouldn’t have been too surprising that Irvine Councilman (and permanent unofficial mayor) Larry Agran was the one to pull out a legalistic bag of tricks last Tuesday to allow us to remain encamped in our village.  The canny old pol was spotted hovering in a corner at one of our first events, he was always part of the group negotiating with our civic outreach committee, and now it turns out that he had secretly suggested the actual site as preferable to one other park our organizers were looking at.

I know many of our readers have it in for old Larry for the snail’s pace at which the Great Park is progressing, for the hundreds of thousands in no-bid contracts his consultant friends have gotten over the years, and for the various Machiavellian maneuvers he pulls to keep a Democratic pro-Agran majority in the Irvine council (the sort of things Republicans do all the time, but how DARE a Democrat!)

But Larry Agran knows which way the wind blows, and I think it’s a great sign that – long before any other timid OC Democrats – he’s embracing the Occupy movement.  (Like he helped fight last year for the Clean Elections Prop 15.)  When a politician does the right thing, whatever their motive and whether or not you disapprove of some things they’ve done in the past, there is only one appropriate response:  KUDOS.

I also enjoy that fact that Mr. Agran is many steps ahead of his usual apologists on the allegedly blue blog, especially Dan Chmielewski, who exhibits nothing but disdain for the movement.  And conversely, the anonymous jackals on Art’s blog who keep trying to prove that our Greg Diamond, legal champion of Occupy Irvine, is somehow a puppet of the Liberal OC, obviously can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw.

May we have an update from our brothers and sisters in Occupy Santa Ana?

I will insert it here.

Remember remember the Fifth of November…

This Saturday’s action is a big one, nationwide:  Everybody who is able and so inclined will be removing their funds from the large banks who have been running this country for far too long – your Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo – and opening accounts at local Federal Credit Unions.  Between now and then I’ll be researching different credit unions to help in this project, and reporting back here.  Here’s from MoveOn.org, who is trying mightily to hitch their wagon to our meteor, and good for them:

Dear friend,

A new trend is spreading fast: individuals moving money out of the giant Wall Street banks and into community banks and credit unions.

It’s a great idea because so many of us are customers who are outraged at how the big Wall Street banks crashed our economy and then raked in huge profits while the rest of us got squeezed.

The idea is catching on quickly. Someone created a Facebook event and already more than 60,000 people have signed up to move their money on or before November 5. And we’re helping to make Saturday the 5th a huge Make Wall Street Pay day of action in cities across the the country.

With so many people taking action, we need to make sure all that energy gets the attention it deserves.

So we put up a new Move Your Money pledge that you can sign to make your personal banking choice count as part of the nationwide movement leading up to the Make Wall Street Pay day of action this Saturday.

If you’re ready to move your money, or if you’ve already closed your account, you can sign the pledge by clicking here.

By signing the pledge this week you’ll help show Wall Street, the media, and the public that our outrage isn’t going anywhere—and that the Occupy movement is only inspiring more and more of us to take action.

If you need help we have resources and guides for how to switch banks, and we can help you find a great local or community bank. We can also connect you with new campaigns that are popping up everywhere to get groups, churches, schools, and cities to move their money too.

These banks see the threat all this public anger could pose to their way of doing business. They know that if their customers start abandoning them it’s not only going to hurt their bottom line, it’s going to hurt their reputation even more and make it much harder for them to keep getting away with rigging the system and profiting at the expense of everyone else.

And that’s the goal. We, the American Dream Movement, need to show that our anger and frustration is getting worse and turning into action at every level—including right on down to the choice of cards in our wallets.

Join in this week by signing the Move Your Money pledge here:

Thank you for being a part of, and believing in, this movement.

Meanwhile, on a (slightly) lighter note, this just in:

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.