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A Wave of Action – Or a Wave Goodbye? It’s Occupy’s Call

What will prove to be either the last gasp of the Occupy Movement, or its Renaissance as a social powerhouse, will lie in the success and its embrace of a highly-publicized #WaveOfAction which launches a major 90-day program of protest and resistance on April 4.

The Wave begins, symbolically, on the date of the assassination of Martin Luther King and ends, symbolically, on July the 4th.  It will run from the date of the death of a dream that will not die to the date of the birth of a vision which has yet to be fulfilled.

 So, what is the purpose of this ambitious campaign, who is behind it, and what can we expect of it – and of ourselves?  The purpose is stated on its website and is quite clear.

We are a Movement of Movements

“The Worldwide #WaveOfAction begins April 4th and runs through July 4th.

During this three-month cycle, people throughout the world will be protesting corruption, rallying around solutions and taking part in alternative systems. The new paradigm will be on full display.

Studies have proven that it only takes 3.5% of the population taking nonviolent action to create meaningful and positive change. The #WaveOfAction gives all of us who want change a powerful opportunity to #EvolveSociety.

Change-makers all over the world will be engaged at the same time in an unprecedented wave of transformation.”

OK, that sounds acceptable (to most of the 99%, and certainly not the 1%).  Now, who is behind this?

I confess that I can’t say that I have figured that out.  It appears to be nobody.  Or, perhaps everybody.  Or, a coterie of patriots/anarchists/misfits who – such as when Zuccotti Park came to be occupied – are taking it upon themselves to rekindle that Occupy fire.

Word has it that #OWS #Anon and its allies put out a call to action for a World Wide Wave of creative community coordination and collaboration this winter.  There were two organizing conference calls prior to April 4.  One on March 25, and the other on April 2.  (David Degraw is one of the facilitators)

For an organizing call, it attracted verifiable luminaries:  Barbara Max Hubbard, Marianne Williamson, Russell Brand, Kevin Zeese, Patricia Ellsberg, Dylan Rattigan, John Perry Barlow, and Lee Camp.  If “you are known by the company you keep,” #WaveOfAction is keeping good company.

Whoever started it, it can be said that occupiers around the world are standing with it, and many called in to declare that support and to announce events they were planning locally.

But, they are coming up against a very familiar foe – themselves.

The Naysayers…and worse

Anyone familiar with Occupy knows that it is rife with the usual suspects:  gripers, snipers and full-blown trolls whose only purpose seems to be that of making sure that “solidarity” will never be had.  “How dare (someone/something) do/be (provide the offense).”  Everything is suspect, and anyone taking a lead roll is to be suspected.   

Whether or not this will affect the success of #WaveOfAction will not be known for some time, but the offenders are being put on notice.  Activist and creater of Occu-Evolve, Sumumba Sobukwe, had this to say:  

“The Irony of those complaining about this ‘Wave of Action’ is that it will only be a failure if they continue to find fault with EVERYTHING that ‘reeks’ of coordination that might make people move beyond facebook, twitter and other social media ‘activism’ as well as their own silos of causes and interests to actually go out and organize with others in the streets.”

He continues, “When did an ‘occupy’ action ever draw more than a few hundred people that didn’t have unions, grassroots or other groups involved? Who are we fooling here? Occupy has ALWAYS been made up of different groups and individuals, and that’s where the concept of the ’99%’ came closest to being real or at least unifying in theory.”

So, in addition to proving Pogo’s theorem, “We have met the enemy, and they are us,” what other odds militate against the campaign having any major effect?  Let me count the ways:

1. A largely indifferent press.  Activists deride the “MainStream Media” for not paying attention to even the largest of its protests and greatest of its triumphs.  Occupy is hardly alone.  Last year’s March Against Monsanto which attracted a half-million marchers or more worldwide did not find its way into print or broadcast in any meaningful way.  (P.S.  Occupy folk helped make that march happen, as well). 

.         2. A police force dedicated to crushing public dissent.  Naaaah, that can’t be happening here in America, right?  That’s what you find in Russia, or Egypt, or China.  Thank God that “to serve and protect” applies to citizens in the street and peaceful protestors, yes?  Here’s a retired cop who has a word or two on that, Captain Ray Harris. Oh, and not to forget Cecily McMillan’s experience with the Boys in Blue which finds her at risk of jail time for resisting their abuse.

3.      3.  Elected officials.  One would think that people who are elected to represent us will actually represent us, and that they will be at the front of any parade or protest demanding justice and protecting civil liberties.  Think again.  If you ain’t got the money (and few occupiers/activists do), they ain’t got the time.  And, if their party can’t co-opt your movement for their betterment, they’ll be the first to applaud authorities who arrest you. Hell, they will demand that force be used.

4.    The 1%.  You can be certain that the #WaveOfAction will be countered by a #FloodOfMoney spent to discredit its work and mission.  Did I mention Fox?  CNN?  Stay tuned and see how money talks.

So, I leave it to you, the reader.  Will this be a “Wave,” or a “Wave Goodbye” on the part of Occupy and its brother and sister causes?  Will you listen to the detractors within and the enemies without and surrender to the impossible forces against you?

Or, will you take comfort in your own, amazing numbers and brilliance and continue to fight the good fight as so many have before you in America’s history.  You are the dream that Martin referred to, and the nightmare that the 1% are waking up to.

When you realize that, the others in the 3.5% of the population will as well.  Won’t that be exciting.

Occupy Began Here

 

 

 

Occupy Eats its Own – Over an Iconic Poster

In a recent article published at OccupyWallStreet.Net, (informally known as “Street.Net”), the authors pulled no punches in excoriating the members of a separate Occupy-related group called the Occupy Solidarity Network, Inc. (also known as “St.org“).

The sin?  Having the temerity (and commercial – dare I say, Capitalist – savvy) to offer for sale to the public copies of the iconic Occupy poster showing a dancing ballerina  atop the bronze Wall Street Bull in lower Manhattan.  Occupy Wall Street Iconic Poster

And, make no doubt, that image is Iconic, and the complaint somewhat justified. 

The “Dancing Ballerina” poster immediately caught the public’s attention.  It was described by one journalist and observer as “scenic, striking… and an emblem of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” and goes on to describe its origins as a creation of Vancouver based Adbusters magazine and its editor, Micah White.

Micah attempted to explain the galvanizing impact of the Dancing Ballerina: “We rely on passionate words, pertinent facts and beautiful art to try to provoke epiphanies! 

Fast-forward two-plus years and the “epiphany” of many in Occupy is that, if it is to survive, it needs the framework and lifeblood that sustains every revolutionary enterprise – organization and money.  But, not everyone in OWS is happy about that hard-won insight, and there’s the rub.

Call them the purists, or ideologues, or “hard grounders,” but a vocal number of Occupiers as evidenced by the complainers at the Street.net blog are attempting to hold the “St.org” people to some tough and controversial standards.  They list in detail the offenses: 

1.  It’s about money.  2.  “We Are All Founders” (and ergo deserve a voice in this).  3.  A “collective resource” was misappropriated.  4.  Funds acquired are unlikely to “spark a future revolution.”  5.  This promotes the idea that money is more important than actual participation (i.e., feet on the street).

The objects of this broadside, Priscilla Grim, Justine Tunney and Micah White, have a fairly convincing argument on their side for what they are doing, and why.  But first, some history.

Justine launched the first OWS-related website in July 2011, far in advance of Zuccotti Park.  When the actual occupation of the park happened in September, 2011 and Priscilla came aboard, theirs was the only fully functional go-to website, complete with an 800#, where people could get information and immediately plug-in to the community.

Realizing that OWS was getting bigger than could have been imagined and that they needed to hold themselves accountable, they morphed into a 501(c)4 corporation in October, 2011, so they could be “as political as we wanted to be” to support direct action and media work while availing themselves a recognized legal structure. (This model was followed a year later by the highly-successful “Rolling Jubilee” organization – itself actively critiqued by some Occupiers..

St.org, by early October, had already established itself as a gateway for donations.  Donors were redirected to the NYCGA (the NYC General Assembly) and a WePay account.  They took this step purposely to keep themselves free from some of the mismanagement taking place in that body – particularly regarding the managing of funds that were flowing in from donors around the country who backed the Occupy action at that moment. 

This rankled OWS purists to no end

Even so, Priscilla asserts that all the money raised through their 501(c)4 has gone for Occupy work, “one way or another.”  Sometimes, this meant keeping people from being evicted, having their cell phones turned off, or even sending organizers to family funerals.

Long before the poster sale came into their thinking via Micha’s blessings, they had already been reaching out to the Occupy ranks to let them know that resources were available, as exampled by the Paul Robeson Freedom School which they helped sponsor and partially fund.

As for supporting their own work, prior attempts to do so were unsustainable. All the time they worked at Occupy they devoted themselves to OWS, to great personal cost. Further along, the two women attempted to do website development and then later as a contract consultancy.  No go, in either case.  The helpers were not being helped.

As for the critics?  “All those people are the ones not doing the actual work…the same people we approached to help move their organization along and who advised us to ‘just keep us posted and practice transparency’ but didn’t pitch in,” Priscilla complains.

The person who came up with the idea of marketing the poster was Micah White.  The editor at Adbusters (http://bit.ly/1hnV93k) for six years, he was the one to come up with the Occupy Wall Street concept and the one who created the poster and the meme.  And, as a Board Member of the Occupy Solidarity Network, he is also the person who came up with the idea of marketing the poster for fundraising purposes. 

Who owns “Occupy?”

“The U.S. Trademark office has ruled that the phrase Occupy Wall Street cannot be trademarked because it is so much a part of our lexicon now,” Priscilla explains. 

“The poster folio that was part of the Occupy Wall Street Journal is now in MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and no one is complaining that they have to pay $20 to see that.”  She continues, “and, Adbusters sold the slick copy of that magazine for $7 a pop, and no one is going after them for profiting off this.”

After their employment drought, Priscilla is now working for a website, www.PowerMyLearning.org, and Justine got a job at Google.  Both of them have a very simple request of people within and supportive of the Occupy.

 “Buy a poster so that we don’t have to keep dipping into our salary and savings to support the movement. 2014 is when Occupy will  make a comeback.  But, in our experience, Occupy cannot do that without funding to go along with that all-important physical presence.  This can only happen when cellphones are paid for, transport and food provided, and people are sheltered.”  It’s all about survival.

Survival is important to souls like Priscilla and her cohort, Justine, as it is to a lot of dedicated activists.  These two have had to support themselves under severe circumstances since Zuccotti,  Justine had contracted cancer (Google’s insurance came in handy, here) during this time, and Priscilla and her daughter were evicted from their apartment on Christmas Day, 2012! 

Christmas Day!I wonder where her detractors were on that day?

 

 

What’s In a Name? Would You Trade Yours for Money? For Blood Money?

On a sunshine-bright day in late September in front of a cold stone building in NYC, that question was asked of Stephen Feinberg, CEO of Cerberus Capital Management – the firm that owns  a commanding 94% stake in the Freedom Group which is responsible for nearly $900 million in gun sales in the U.S.

It wasn’t a simple call-out.  It had a special importance in that it came from Rabbi Andy Bachman of Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim and it came during the Jewish festival of Sukkot: a festival in which freedom and the blessings of life are celebrated along with the need “to stay true to our word to build a safe and just world,” as the Rabbi describes it.

The Rabbi was not alone in questioning Feinberg and Cerberus Capital.

He stood to the side of a crowd of activists which included people from Mom’s Demand Action, the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, NAACP, MoveOn.org, the American Federation of Teachers and the Newtown Action Alliance;

Jesse Lewis - 6 Years Old

the latter comprised of neighbors and townfolk who rallied around the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School monstrous killing of 20 children and six adults last December.

His was not the only voice.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) was there to eloquently demand that Cerberus keep its word.  As were Geoffrey Eaton, President, NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and Monte Frank, a board member of the Newtown Action Alliance.

All were eloquent, all were passionate, but Rabbi Bachman’s

Rabbi Andy Bachman

Rabbi Andy Bachman

words – the last to be spoken to the gathered crowd – were the most personal in asking Feinberg and Cerberus to keep a promise.  It was, essentially, a reminder from a brother to a brother to remember his heritage and to act from it. 

What was this broken promise, exactly? 

And, exactly what has that got to do with Stephen Feinberg’s name?  The promise was a commitment made by Cerberus shortly after the Sand Hook Elementary School Shooting to divest itself of its holdings in the Freedom Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and marketers of firearms.

You might recognize the name of one of their products:  Bushmaster XM-15.  This was the 30-round magazine weapon of choice used to kill and dismember the children of Sandy Hook Elementary.  The results were so horrific that the Connecticut state Legislature passed a bill modifying the state’s Freedom of Information Act in order to “prevent the release of crime-scene photos.”

That fact that the shooter used a Bushmaster did not go unnoticed by Cerberus.

“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” a statement released by the company on December 18 stated.   It continued, “There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take.  Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group.”

It is two months shy of that deadly day and the carefully-worded statement from Cerberus.  And, not a penny’s worth has been divested.  In fact, it has realized hundreds millions of dollars in sales over the months since their “promise” was made.  The same period of time in which, every 30 minutes, a child is killed by a gun.  Day in.  Day out.

Freedom Group is the same arm of Cerberus which has paid out $1,000,000 to the NRA so that this group can lobby to keep deadly assault rifles on the street; the same NRA lobbyists that have enough legislators in their pocket to obstruct sensible federal gun safety legislation.

“We stand here, outside Cerberus Capital Management, in this season, to ask you, Stephen Feinberg, to reclaim your ‘good name,’ stay true to your word, and divest Cerberus Capital Management from its ownership in the Freedom Group,” Rabbi Bachman intoned.

“We ask you, Stephen Feinberg, we ask you today, what value do you really get from hundreds of millions in profits earned by the blood of innocents?  What value do you get from the profits of weapons made to kill quickly, efficiently, and without feeling?  What value do you get from assault weapons, dead children, grieving mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers?”

His ending remarks, in what had now become almost a prayer meeting

טוב שם משמן טוב–Redeem your good name, Stephen Feinberg.  Invest your profits in people’s lives, not guns that kill.  Invest in young hearts and minds, not bullets and bombs.  Not in the violent and darkened past of mankind’s evil ways but in the bright light and hopeful horizon of peaceful present day.

Redeem your good name, Stephen Feinberg.  Redeem your good name.”

“A Line in the Park” – An Occupy Invite and Plea to Prospective NYC Mayor, Bill de Blasio

Well, the tide is flowing in your favor, Bill.  Willy Thompson has conceded, and only one lonely Republican stands between you and Gracie Mansion.  And, such press coverage!

News articles describe your candidacy as “reflecting the new New York” http://linkd.in/16a8vZQ,or less flatteringly http://nyti.ms/166RsXz  as an attempt to leverage the credentials of an elected office whose basic function is to “call press conferences and denounce things.”

The Nation magazine effusively endorses your candidacy as “an opportunity for New Yorkers to reimagine their city in boldly progressive ways.”  http://bit.ly/19UU7b5

There are thrilling, progressive threads running through these accounts and voiced in your own words:  you are not going to add to the legacy of your predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.  You will tax the rich. You will not allow uncalled-for “stop and frisk.”  You will not close hospitals needlessly. You will enable affordable housing, and ensure universal pre-kindergarten. The unions will finally have a friend in City Hall.

But, what about Occupy Wall Street?

Remember Occupy and its takeover of Zuccotti Park almost two years ago?  Remember how Bloomberg and his police handled (and are still handling) these protestors? Do you remember showing up there, and what you said then?

The Wall Street Journal does.   http://on.wsj.com/193CzqV

Your losing opponent, Ms. Quinn, said that she would have been less “adversarial.”  Your likely Republican opponent, Mr. Lhota, said he would act more quickly “now that we know what can be done.” (More pepper spray?  More “kettling.” More arrests?)

In that same piece, you were derided for castigating Bloomberg (back to the art of denouncing things) for his heavy handed approach and proclaiming your desire to “work to build spaces where OWS and government officials could communicate and discuss ways to address their demands.”

That statement will be tested

On Tuesday morning, September 17, Occupy will once again attempt to peacefully assemble in Zuccotti Park as part of a packed, day-long celebration of its second birthday. 

On Tuesday morning, September 17, the police – soon to be your police – will be amassed, armed, and with pepper spray and kettling devices at the ready. 

What happens this day will be either Bloomberg’s final display of force, or your first demonstration of progressive rule.

Will we see you at the Park on Tuesday, Mr. De Blasio?  And, on which side of the barricades? 

Where will you draw that line in the Park?

 

revolution-protester

Wall Street’s Two Least Favorite Birthdays: OWS and Everett Stern (Everett Who?)


Turn the Tide HSBC

You can be sure that TBTF (Too Big To Fail) Bankers will not be donning party hats when these two birthdays roll around: that of Occupy Wall Street on Sept. 17, 2013 when it turns two, and Everett Stern on August 29, 2013 when he turns 29.

Everett Who?

It is safe to say that 99% of the U.S. population is aware of Occupy’s birth on 9/17/11.  And, that these activists have since served as a major thorn in the side of Wall Street.  It is also safe to say that – at least of this writing – that Occupy has not inflicted mortal harm.

Everett Stern is a different matter.  He is the ultimate fear of the banking industry – an insider-turned-whistleblower.  However unknown and unacknowledged by the 99%, he may just be the one to nick that jugular.  The fact that he decided to align himself with Occupiers?  Spine-shivering.

Self-described as a “right wing Republican,” he raised eyebrows when out of exasperation he took his case of HSBC drug and terrorist money laundering to Occupy (http://huff.to/18HgmR2).  Essentially rebuffed elsewhere (FTC, SEC, FBI, CIA among others), he was determined to find an audience sharing at least one quality in common: a loathing of out-of-control bankers who had not only put our country into an economic tailspin, but actively aid and abet drug lords and terrorist groups. 

Stern was greeted warily by the Occupy “working group” he had chosen, called Alternative Banking.  (It can be argued that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter, and Stein was grilled on that point.  Otherwise, he chose well.)  That meeting is chronicled here:  http://huff.to/18HgmR2.

Since its inception in Zuccotti Park, Alt.Banking’s primary mission has been to challenge the “TBTF” designation placed on Wall Street by governmental agencies.  HSBC had been a favorite target since admitting in 2012 to a decade of money laundering for drug cartels and terrorists and being slapped with a $1.9BB fine.

The latter, without admitting guilt and arranging to see that none of its executives went to jail, infuriated Occupiers.  It just seemed hard to convince others, more conservative, of the crimes being committed.  Until Stern.

This is not a political or a “99 percent issue,” Stern emphasizes. “Banks financing drug cartels and terrorists affects every single American. I went to Occupy not because I am a major supporter of the movement. I went to Occupy because they care enough to hit the streets, carry signs and send a message that I also believe in.”

Want to Blow Out the Candles, HSBC?

After some delicate dancing, Alt.Banking and Stern united to celebrate two occasions.  The first is Everett’s 29th birthday on the steps of the NYC Public Library at 11:45 p.m. on August 29, where Stern will give a press conference detailing his grievances.  Then, with the Occupiers in tow, he will march to HSBC’s midtown offices at 425 5th Avenue to publicly vent his anger on their doorstep.

“I want a criminal indictment against HSBC,” Stern declares, “and fines are not acceptable.  What the public needs to understand is that money is still being funneled through HSBC to buy guns and kill our soldiers.”

“His intentions are pure, and his anger understandable,” one occupier opines.  “His attempts to alert governmental agencies fell on deaf ears.  We at Occupy are neither deaf nor blind and we will serve as his megaphone and ally.”

Stern is returning that favor on September 17

Alt.Banking has in mind a special birthday present, its “Occupy Finance” book (http://bit.ly/143mrEp) to inflict more pain on HSBC and the banking community.  The combined effort of the group to explain the dysfunction of our financial system in plain English, it is divided into three basic parts: The Real Life Impact of Financialization on the 99%, How We Got Here, and Things to do.

Consider it “The 99% Guide to Bad Banking and What to Do About It.

The handbook will be formally presented to the public on 9/17/13 at Zuccotti Park at 3:00 p.m.  Stern, now a BFF with Alt.Banking, will be present to help hand out some 1,000 copies.

Which makes you wonder about history repeating itself

Just under two years ago, NY City’s “Finest” was successful in destroying several thousand volumes of Occupy’s own public library of activist literature.  They accomplished this wearing riot gear under the cover of darkness and with strict instructions to keep the press to away until the “clean up” was completed.

Now, in just under a month, 1,000 copies of a lone book will be handed out freely at the same park.  Given that this will take place in the daylight, and with Press invited, do you think they will be as successful?

You may want to be on hand to determine that for yourself.  Bring your party hats

Occupy’s Puppets – Tweaking the Noses of the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

Methinks there is something good afoot.  Or, “a-string,” as it were.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – and the government and business interests behind a trade deal to be fast tracked into law in October without debate or amendment – is about to receive some unwanted publicity.

This coming September 17 in NYC’s famous Times Square on the second birthday of Occupy Wall Street, Occupier/Activist performers will take on the infamous TPP in a Star Wars-themed protest called Money Warz.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership will be portrayed as the “TPP Death Star” – a 15-foot-tall replica of a toilet paper roll (get it – TPP?).

The supporting cast for this “Money Warz” spectacle will feature over 200 performers, videographers, livestreamers and citizen media folk.  They will appear at public-shaming rallies to be held at select corporate headquarters, banks congressional offices, and on Wall Street itself.  That is, if they can get past the barricades manned by NYC’s Finest who serve to separate the 1% from the 99%.

Why the fuss?  Who are the “Money Warz” people, why that theme, and what is the purpose?  This was asked of OWS veterans Ted Hall, Elliot Crown and Virginia Simson doing the media outreach.
OWS Puppets Times Square

“The ‘fuss’ part is very simple,” declares Elliot.  “The TPP is touted as a ‘high-standard’ agreement specifically aimed at emerging trade issues in a dozen countries, including the U.S., Canada, Japan and Mexico.”

And, he sets off the alarm:  “Actually, the secret deal will formalize corporate rule over 40% of the global economy.  The media, and even elected officials ordinarily tasked with creating trade rules, are uninvited.  We only know its contents from leaks.”

This is no more than ‘Nafta on steroids’ – 600 corporations and their bought-and-paid-for government supporters clandestinely forging an agreement to meet the goal of controlling a country’s resources and workers.  Local laws, courtrooms and the general welfare be damned.”

“We came up with the idea to parody Star Wars as our theme…naming it ‘Money Warz,’ adds Crown.  “Our caricatures of Star Wars characters – Darth Banker, Princess Laid Off, Jebba the GMO, Emperor Pipeline, the Money Troopers, translate well into contemporary history.”

“At the mid-point of our Times Square spectacular, the ‘good guys,’ i.e., the Open Alliance characters, will kidnap the TPP Death Star and jump in waiting pedicabs to make their escape.  As might be expected, the Money Troopers will be in hot pursuit.”

“At stops along the way, performers mummified in toilet paper and wearing identifying Photo Faces masks will represent actual conspirators in these secret negotiations.  The show concludes at Wall Street when the pedicab arrives carrying the hijacked TPP Death Star and our Open Alliance heroes.”

Any notable stars?  “Yes,” Crown beams, “Noam Chomsky graciously joined us in a photo op as Chomsky Wan Kenobi for his grand kids.”

Like any other “big show” on Broadway, Star Warz is facing the classic challenge –producers need funding.  Will the initial puppet-masters get a taste of their own medicine?  Will the “TPP Death Star” paraded about Times Square on the 2nd Birthday of Occupy Wall Street counter the incessant propaganda of Main Stream Media?

Those wanting to back this show are invited to visit their Kickstarter site, view their videos of past shows (http://kck.st/16unkYq) and help them blow past their current financial goals and effectively support Money Warz in exposing Wall Street and winning a few “Tony’s.”

Well, maybe not Tony’s, but at least the gratitude of American citizens who might never experience or hear the anti-corporate side of the TPP story.

Want to contact them?  Support them?  Use moneywarz2013@gmail.com, find them on twitter as @moneytroopers, and locate them via hashtags #moneywarz and #S17, #OWS, #TPP.

Better yet, show up in NYC on 9/17/13 to celebrate Occupy’s Second Birthday and to get their autographs. And, enjoy a big slice of Occupy’s Birthday Cake.

Warren Buffett’s Son, “Conscience Laundering,” and Occupy Wall Street

On Saturday, July 27, Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett and chairman of the NoVo Foundation, wrote a brilliant Op-Ed piece in the New York Times.  With this, he also became an instant icon and unknowing spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Here’s how.

The target of his writing “The Charitable-Industrial Complex” (http://nyti.ms/13okm4e)   is – make no mistake – the verysame 1% that Occupy has railed against from its Zuccotti Park days.  Peter’s op-editorial continues the process of revealing and damning the financial abuses and missteps of the uber rich. In this piece, he targets the “Colonialism” underlying the fashion in which the money-class seek to help the unfortunates of our world.

Peter describes sitting in meetings comprised of heads of state and investment and corporate leaders “searching for answers with the right hand to problems that others in the room have created  with their left.”

Aye, and that’s the rub.  It’s how the system is wired, Peter.  Big Business and Bad Government essentially collude to distract the onlooker from noticing their complicity in creating the problems of the 99%.  They do this with nicely publicized campaigns which tout the corporate imbued solutions – even though what they provide is all too often clearly out of touch with the needs being addressed.

But, like Wall Street, corporate charitable giving certainly qualifies as an enterprise that reflects their world:  big and profitable.  And, growing.

As described by Peter, the growth rate of the nonprofit sector over the past several years exceeds that of either the business or government sectors and employs more than 9.4 million people!  All this provides the machinery to perform the mighty task of giving away over $300 billion annually.  What is not mentioned, is the fact that only a small portion of the donations actually reaches the people or projects for which they are intended.

CharityNavigator.Org, America’s leading independent charity evaluator, has determined that nine out of ten charities spend at least 65% of their contributions (revenue) on overhead.  Only 35% of monies received reach their target.

This is where Occupy steps in, with expectedly different approaches and mechanisms.  Occupy has been declaring over the past almost three years of its existence that almost anything that Wall Street touches is self-serving.  Or, as Peter describes it, “conscience laundering.”

More insidiously, he questioned the consequence of this Janus-faced system in that the poor are assisted in improving their condition so as to make better, future consumers – echoing another Occupy complaint.

“People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more.  But, doesn’t all this just feed the beast?” Peter asks.  “Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market.”

Peter Meet Occupy – “People Bailing Out People”

In October, 2012, I was approached by a working group affiliated with Occupy’s Strike Debt (http://strikedebt.org/) team to consult to them to help locate and purchase medical debt for the purpose of “forgiving” it.  The motivation behind this effort was twofold.  First, to remove a person’s debt from the marketplace (yes, there is a marketplace for debt) so that this person would never hear from a bill collector, and secondly, to draw America’s attention to the very nature of debt itself.

Being semi-retired from the collections industry, knowledgeable, and available, I accepted an advisory role on the project named “Rolling Jubilee” (http://RollingJubilee.org) (RJ) and introduced this team to the little-known fraternity of the buying and selling of medical debt.

What I appreciated is that, at the outset, it was determined that this effort would be professional and compliant with any and all rules and regulations affecting their mission.  RJ incarnated itself as a 503(c )4 corporation, complete with a Board of Advisors and managers, lawyers and accountants.

Then, with the modest expectation of raising $50,000 – which would translate, at a penny on the dollar as sold in that industry, into the forgiveness of $5,000,000 in debt – Strike Debt staged an evening of fund-raising on November 15, 2012.  The show was pure Occupy – Facebook and Twitter were liberally employed to get out the word.  OWS techies livestreamed the event over the Internet to the Occupy faithful with this plea – help us help others.

The actual results were astounding.  Over the next several days, weeks and months, RJ went about raising almost $600,000 and will shortly announce a very significant buy in medical debt.  All of which will be forgiven in full.

Peter Buffett – Take Note

All of this fundraising and the task of buying and abolishing debt is being done for an aggregate cost of less that 6% of the dollars collected – a program cost that, to my awareness, few existing fund-raising institution can match.

There’s neither cost nor need for vanity press or champagne-and-shrimp dinner evenings in which handsomely-suited and gorgeously-dressed society members thump their collective chests for helping the needy.

Only a host of volunteers and a board, none of which are compensated for their work.  Brokers and web developers are paid.  These people are not volunteers, but individuals who have essential areas of expertise.  Even in these cases, services are billed often well below market value.

“They” may have been bailed out.  “We” may have been sold out.  But, this is one of many unheralded example as to how the Occupy Movement continues to quietly grow in influence, power and results created.

But, back to Peter’s Op-Ed and an answer to his plea for a “new operating system…built from the ground up.”  It’s Occupy.  And, now that it has an uncommon ally of such stature and eloquence, perhaps it can receive the respect it deserves.

Until then, I salute Mr. Buffett as being a very, very unusual member of the 1%.

Guilty of Giving! – And We Need Your Tweets and Posts on Wednesday, June 11 to Determine the Sentence!

How many times have we been approached to contribute to a “worthy cause” only to learn that – however desperate the need – not a lot of our donations reached the recipients.

What we aren’t told when we are reaching for our wallets and purses is that up to 50% and more of our contributions will never reach its target.  It will go for office supplies, lunches, expenses and the inflated salaries of people who have little at stake. In the charity and fund-raising industry, this siphoning is called “Admin Costs.”

How well do you think that might go over in an “Occupy” environment?  Always interested in turning economic models on their head, a group of Occupy folk and activists set out to benefit a charity close to home – supporting the ongoing efforts of Occupy Sandy (http://on.fb.me/10WVRyq).  

On December 18th, 2012 the organization Music For Occupy (http://musicforoccupy.org/) teamed up with Viper Records (http://www.viperrecords.com) and some of the biggest names in socially conscious Hip Hop to hold an awareness-raising concert at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn N.Y.

The intention: to be totally transparent in both raising and distributing the proceeds from that show, and to set that standard.

 The result: 100% of nearly $7,000 raised between the Hip Hop Relief Concert and another relief concert MFO produced on Long Island went to local mom and pop stores for the purchase of supplies that were then delivered directly to Occupy Sandy Headquarters.

The take-away:  “Guilty of Giving” A Guide to Legitimate Fundraising and Activism with Immortal Technique will be released June 11 at 6:00 p.m.  This empowering film, created through the efforts of Jonathan Reznick (http://www.jonreznick.com/), Music for Occupy Producer/Editor Jason Samel and Cinematographer Jeff Pliskin of Raised Fist Propaganda (http://raisedfistpropaganda.com/), documents each step as Hip Hop giant, Immortal Technique, stands and delivers.

The present need:  There are still many, many people – a large number of them“undocumented” – still struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Occupy Sandy and Respond & Rebuild (http://www.respondandrebuild.org/) are still on the ground providing that relief, but with dwindling financial resources.

This is where YOU come in.  By clicking here http://conta.cc/17vVbEi you will be invited to “donate” your tweets and your FB posts  at exactly 6:00 p.m. this coming Tuesday to announce to the world the release of this fund-raising documentary.  The purpose of that documentary is to raise money.  You can be sure that the monies raised will depend almost arithmetically on the number of people participating. 

Let’s not end up in a hung jury for #GuiltyOfGiving.  That “Innocent” verdict is one click away. 

Fix Our Broken Money System, Achieve Justice, Avoid Austerity, Reduce Debt, and Create Jobs — All In One Afternoon!

Well, it may take more than one afternoon, but the upcoming Sunday, May 12, Fixing Our Money System forum which will run from 1-5 p.m. at Coopers Union in New York City will be a good start.

Its speakers intend to clear the fog around headline-grabbing terminology like Sequestration, liberating “Trillion Dollar Coins,” ominous “Financial Cliffs,” and scary “Closing Down the Government” and to educate the audience as to alternative economic approaches which can end — as key presenter Stephen Zarlenga declares –  “all the nonsense being spread about.”

Yes, it’s all a heap of nonsense… mainly being to further enrich the one tenth of one percent of our population when the nation should be heavily taxing their wealth instead — the way Roosevelt did.  The antidote is monetary reform, and learning which media and Internet sources to listen to and which to avoid.”  What is necessary to understand is (1) the true nature of money as legal tender; (2) Big Banks’ unwarranted money creation power; and (3) Government’s constitutional power to create and regulate the money supply to promote the general welfare.

Stephen is the Director of the American Monetary Institute and one who helped draft the H.R. 2990 Bill introduced into the House of Representatives in 2011 by then-Representative Dennis Kucinich.  (NEED stands for National Emergency Employment Defense Act.)  Stephen Zarlenga

How important was this bill?  The very fact that it was caused to die in a House sub-committee last year should give you a clue. Stephen feels that, if we can resurrect and reintroduce this bill into the 113th Congress, “it could be an earthquake to our banking system.”

You don’t need to have occupied Wall Street to find these words and this endeavor to be of importance.  At the very center of Occupy’s message has always been the outrage over a broken — even criminal — financial system.  A single, coherent message around which such activists can rally has been lacking.  Could this be that missing lightning rod?

Completely change the monetary system

Stop, once and for all, the creation of money by private financial institutions as interest-bearing debt!  This will be one of the passionate cases to be made that Sunday.  To put that message across strongly, Stephen gathered together a lecture team of some of the most advanced monetary thinkers in the country.

Among them are people such as Professor Nic Tideman of Virgina Tech, William Batt, a leading Georgian economist, and Kaoru Yamaguchi of Japan, a world leader in applying system dynamics methodology to monetary reform.  Other speakers are Robert Poteat, Jamie Walton, Joe Bongiovanni, and Greg Coleridge.

To attend Fixing our Broken Money System — Achieving Justice, Avoiding Austerity, Reducing Debt, and Creating Jobs, visit www.Monetary.org for details. Tickets are a $10 by eventbrite in advance, or $20 at the door. Write Stephen directly at ami@taconic.net, and listen to his 15 Minutes of Fact Interview on this subject: “Do Letters and Numbers Involve Flesh and Blood?” here:  http://bit.ly/14OTlO6.

Put this conference on your calendar and plan to be there. A downloadable flyer can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/163ojC3.

One more thing — a question.  Does anyone know of a Representative who is man (or woman) enough to introduce H.R. 2990 this year?

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Bankers Panic Over May Day Celebrations

“Mayday,” which is used as a distress signal and derives from the French “m’aider (“come help me”), is being given new meaning by Wall Street and its Bankers in response to the upcoming “May Day” Occupy national protests.

This May Day demonstration will be the largest of its kind in a half-century and will take place in cities across the U.S. On May 1, 2012, tens of thousands of people throughout the U.S. and the world – workers, students, immigrants, professionals, houseworkers – employed and unemployed alike – will take to the streets to unite in a General Strike against “a system that does not work for us.”

May Day is a holiday for the 99%. It is a day for people to come together, across all those lines which too often divide us — race, class, gender, religion — and challenge the systems that create these divisions.

The expected response from the City? Don’t expect ticker-tape.

Being aware of the Financial Community’s alarm and Mayor Bloomberg’s mindset, I sought out one of NYC’s most active volunteers (I was told she was “awesome” – and she is), Jackie DiSalvo, to determine the legitimacy of this hand-wringing and get a better idea of the “Occupy” side of this story.

I described to Jackie a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article titled “Wall Street Tracks ‘Wolves’ as May 1 Protests Loom” in which Brian McNary, a Pinkerton Global Risk director describes both Occupiers and the threat that “May Day” has for his banking clients and the need for “surveillance” of wild-eyed radicals.

“Banks cooperating on surveillance are like elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park,” he was quoted as saying… “While other animals try in vain to sprint away alone, elk survive attacks by forming a ring together,” he declared. (full article: http://buswk.co/JbFbpc)

As a spokesperson for the OWS Labor Outreach committee and member of the planning committee for the Mayday Solidarity March Coalition, she could only shake her head and sigh. “May Day, and Occupy, are both examples and manifestations of non-violent civil protest.” (Her full “15 Minutes of Fact” Interview can be found at http://bit.ly/Irz2fq)

Pointedly, the extent to which Wall Street (and city government) will use their near-military police force to corral and subdue protestors will be the likely determiner as to how peaceful the protests will be.

(When I visited Union Square the other day for the Student rally against $1 Trillion in educational debt, there were close to 50 – FIFTY! – police cars surrounding the Park. If that is their response to several hundred people at a Student demonstration, what is in store for May 1?)

Are New York’s Finest the “Hessians” of today?

Britain, in the American Revolutionary War, found it easier to go to German States to hire their armed military than to recruit their own citizens to fight an unpopular war. Wall Street must have taken note and put a more modern spin to this practice.

In 2010, JPMorgan gave the NYC Police Foundation the largest donation is has ever received – $4.6MM. They outfitted over 1,000 officers with state-of-the-art laptops and communications tools. Donations are large and ongoing from Wall Street to the cops to this day…and one has to ask – Is this not turning NYC’s police department into the largest de-facto privately funded anti-protest army in the U.S.?

Will justification for police violence be concocted, as exampled by the police and the military actions taking place even today against protestors in Greece, Spain, and the Middle East? Will the suppression of the “American Spring” begin on May Day?

Planning for exactly that possibility, NYC’s Occupy has organized neighborhoods and sites into what it terms “Green, Yellow and Red” zones. The safest for protestors (from arrest and harassment) are designated green, the more problematical as yellow, and the more risky as red.

Is Green, Yellow, Red the New Red, White and Blue?

What will be your choice on that day? Green? Yellow? Red? Will you even be on the streets? Will you choose not to go to work or to school? Will you take a day off from shopping? Or, will you wisely (?) stay above the fray and come home to turn on the news to watch your more committed fellow citizen exercising for you the right to free speech and assembly?

I wonder what color that latter choice would be…

Want more details? http://maydaysolidarity2012.org, http://maydaynyc.org/homepage, and http://99picketlines.tumblr.com.