Tuesday, November 22, 2011


i think the occupy crowds are misdirected and hypocritical. they want to protest corporations but enjoy corporate success like supermarkets, ski resorts, and iphones... they also protest on increase of tuition but right now 80% of California education taxes go towards paying union teachers and their retirement.
if they want to live corporation free and grow their own food, unplug their cable tv, throw away their laptops and then demand the state unions reduce the high benefits for the teachers then i might listen.
i do think the cop was wrong to pepper spray the kids who were sitting down, pepper spray is a weapon and should only be used under extreme circumstances.
if the kids are against corporations they need to stop supporting them. no cars, gas, phones etc..
if they want cheaper tuition then they should protest teacher unions.
the first amendment right to assemble is the right to protest the government it is subject to specific rules and circumstances. if a park has rules that prohibit camping then camping against that law or rule is no longer lawful assembly.


  1. kasey

    Hi Kasey – wanted to say thanks again for being so willing to share your opinion. It takes a certain amount of integrity to articulate an opinion that seems to be cutting against the grain of what the rest of the class is thinking.

    Here are a couple links that, if you're interested in a further perspective from folks at UC Davis, might be worth reading – first, an interview with one of the students who was pepper-sprayed:


    And second, an opinion piece by a Professor at UCD:


    That second article, especially, underlines what was a tremendous lack of imagination on the part of the UC Davis administration. Sending riot police to take care of the encampment was an incredible over-reaction. In some ways, it was as unfair to the police officers as it was to the students.

    As to the protestors themselves, like I said in class, in any social movement there will be a mixture of people who know what they're talking about and people who are complete ignoramuses– but what I've heard coming out of Occupy Wall Street has sounded more right than wrong to me –and broadly speaking, I'm completely sympathetic to their complaints. What you seem to be implying about the students – that they're hypocrites, and that in order to criticize corporate America, you also have to give up every material good that's produced by corporate America – is a straw man argument built up on top of a false dichotomy.

    In my own case, I'm certainly not an anti-captialist – although I could be called a capitalism skeptic. As an economic system, it's very good at some things, and very poor at other things. There are two major points brought up by OWS that, I think, should be crucial to any discussion of how capitalism works (or doesn't).

    1. There has been a growing disparity between the very rich and everyone else over the past thirty years or so. The middle and working class have been more or less at a standstill, in terms of real wages, while the richest Americans have seen their income triple since 1997. Much of the growing income inequality has come from tax policies from the Reagan era onward – and much of that information has been pulled together in a recent Rolling Stone article written by Tim Dickinson, here:


    2. The financial sector, through de-regulation, transformed itself from an engine of wealth creation to an engine of wealth destruction, playing a crucial role in the collapse of the economy in 2008. I haven't come across one article that neatly summarizes the factors like the Rolling Stone article does for tax policy, but there were a number of regulatory changes (de-facto de-regulation) that contributed to the financial meltdown. Among them: the SEC letting investment banks take on substantially more debt starting in 2004, the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act in 1999, and the exemption of derivatives like credit default swaps from any regulation or oversight through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000. Those were all steps to making the market "more free" -- and more prone to self-immolation.

  2. Kasey -- have to apologize for being over verbose here – I have to break this comment up into multiples, I exceeded the character limit –

    There was a profound shift in the way home mortgages were sold – in the past, home mortgages were the primary means that the middle class used to build its own wealth. The mortgages were held by the banks that provided them, giving the banks a strong incentive to make sensible loans – loans that would be paid back – because if the loans weren't paid back, the banks themselves were on the hook for the lost money. More recently, banks were able to sell the mortgages almost as soon as they made them – and all those mortgages were pooled into mortgage-backed securities. The banks no longer had an incentive to make sure they were giving loans to people who could afford the loans, because the banks weren't on the hook any more if the loans failed to be paid – the people who bought the mortgage-balced securities were the ones who would be stiffed.

    Since the banks had no skin in the game, they made more and more ridiculous loans – and hid the fact that the loans were toxic by having completely inaccurate ratings slapped onto the mortgage-backed securities. All this was bad enough, but some banks, like Goldman Sachs, actually sold these worthless securities to their customers, while using financial instruments called synthetic collateralized debt obligations that were structured in such a way that, when the securities went belly-up, Goldman Sachs would actually turn a profit on that failure. They were making financial bets against their own customers.

    This is only one small part of the picture of de-regulation – the latest piece of evidence that the market can't regulate itself – which links up to the disaster of the de-regulation of the energy sector in California in the 90s, the Savings and Loan crisis in the 80s – all the way back to the robber barons and the great crash of 1929.

    You can certainly argue that current tax policy increases income inequality, and that de-regulation was a crucial element in the implosion of the US economy, without having to argue that capitalism should be done away with, and all corporations are evil. There's a tendency, in waging an argument, to winnow things down into ridiculous binary thinking that makes us choose: all corporations must be bad, or all corporations must be good. Or in a case where police clash with protestors: all police are either righteous upholders of authority, or all police are jackbooted thugs. All protestors are heroic free speech saints, or all protestors are self-involved hypocrites.

    The more crucial question – rather than painting things in broad either/or strokes – is, I think: what allows us to distinguish the good from the bad (whether we're discussing corporations, the police, or protestors), and what sorts of institutional structures are in place to ensure the good are rewarded and the bad are punished, rather than the other way around? If people address this as the crucial question to answer, policies can change, and situations can be transformed for the better – rather than having things remain deadlocked into conflicts where people are just shouting past each other, convinced that their side can do no wrong, and the other side can do no right.

  3. Last piece – I promise –

    At any rate, I hope none of this comes off as a harangue. I showed the UCD clip for a number of reasons – SNC can feel like it's in a bubble at times, and I like to connect students here to things that are going on in the wider world, particularly on issues that involve students elsewhere; I have a personal connection to UCD, where I studied as an art student, and I felt a vague connection between myself as an art student there, and the studio class as a collection of art students; the clip ties in to a recurring theme I've been trying to return to in the class, which is the theme that you all, as artists, are not working alone (despite all the mythology around the idea of the "lone genius artist"), and in fact artists often need communities in order to thrive, partly because collectives have more power than individuals (something I think the video clip displays quite forcefully); and also, the meme of the policeman pepperspraying his way through art history is both an interesting art angle, and a demonstration of the power of images to communicate.

    It also conects, to me, to the question I posed early on in the semester, about the economy. Figuring out how to improve the current economic situation really should be a part of "professional preparedness" – you guys will most likely be graduating into a terrible economic climate, and if the economy continues to stagnate or get worse, all the portfolios and resumes you assemble will do you little good. Leaving broad economic policy up to politicians, with no opinion or input of your own, is basically leaving your future in the hands of people who may not have your best interests at heart. It's easier to get away with that attitude in good times than in lean times.

    The discussion in the class went "off script" in a sense, touching on issues of how terrifying crowds can be, and what the appropriate parameters for dissent are. Some of my most exciting memories of classes I've taught are the off-script moments – where the class isn't about "learning stuff," but rather turns into a group of people having sincere and searching discussions about what it means to live ethically, or what it means to make sense out of your life, or out of your society. A group of people trying to figure out what the texture of reality is, by sharing different viewpoints, articulating disagreements without being disagreeable.

    Which is partly to say that these paragraphs aren't offered as a communication from teacher to student – but instead they're offered as communication from citizen to citizen – trying to figure things out, trying to negotiate what out country looks like now, and what it should look like in the future.