Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Koch Brothers: The 1% Defined.

Posting this immediately in response to Nation of Change posting today entitled The 1% Have a Stranglehold on Politics. The Koch brothers are billionaire oligarchs who basically took over the Tea Party, and helped it take control of the US House of Representatives in 2010. Old news now, but George Monbiot states it eloquently:
The movement started with Rick Santelli’s call on CNBC for a tea party of city traders to dump securities in Lake Michigan, in protest at Obama’s plan to “subsidise the losers”(6). In other words, it was a demand for a financiers’ mobilisation against the bail-out of their victims: people losing their homes. This is the opposite of the Observer’s story. On the same day, a group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP) set up a Tea Party Facebook page and started organising Tea Party events(7). The movement, whose programme is still lavishly supported by AFP, took off from there. 
So who or what is Americans for Prosperity? It was founded and is funded by Charles and David Koch(8). They run what they call “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”(9), and between them they are worth $43 billion(10). 
Koch Industries is a massive oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals company. Over the past 15 years the brothers have poured at least $85m into lobby groups arguing for lower taxes for the rich and weaker regulations for industry(11). The groups and politicians the Kochs fund also lobby to destroy collective bargaining, to stop laws reducing carbon emissions, to stymie healthcare reform and to hobble attempts to control the banks. During the 2010 election cycle, Americans for Prosperity spent $45 million supporting its favoured candidates(12).
"They are radical libertarians..."

For more on these master puppeteers who stole a movement to force it's own plutocratic aims down the throats of an unsuspecting electorate (including many of the duped in the Tea Party), Al Jazeera compiled a documentary about the influence of the people who truly define the 1% in terms of money and influence on the democracy.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Winter Arrives Early: Occupy Wall Street Needs...

I'm reposting this in its entirety from the Occupy Wall Street web site:

Urgent: Winter Donation Needs

Posted Oct. 29, 2011, 10:54 p.m. EST by 
It's been dumping snow here in NYC all day, high winds and 3 inches of slush on the ground. With the NYPD and FDNY confiscating six generators on Friday and this unprecedented October snow, those occupying Liberty Plaza in downtown NYC are in need of emergency supplies crucial for cold weather survival (and occupation).
We've made a lot of headway on getting winter gear here in the last 48 hrs but definitely need more. Please help by purchasing or donating supplies directly. Winter gear and other necessities can be dropped off in person, delivered, or shipped.

insulated gloves, wool hats, scarveslong underwear / smart wool thermal socks
300 hand warmers, 300 foot warmerswaterproof boots in all sizes
disposable shoe coverswinter coats
hot beveragesthermal heaters
all weather sub-thermal sleeping bagstarps
all-weather tentsfoam padding / insulation for inside of tents
wooden pallets to get tents off the groundcots to get people off the ground (don't currently have any - could really use these)

Daily until 9pm at the OWS storage space at 52 Broadway Ave, ground floor.
After 9pm at the OWS Comfort Station on the east side of Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti Park)

Occupy Wall Street
118a Fulton St
PO Box 205
NY NY 10038

Please show your support for the stalwart occupiers who are braving the winter storm!

Filed under "Now why didn't I think of that?": A "conversation" that we should all have with banks...

One of the tools you'll need? A shovel, to dig
out of the mountain of bullshit debt...
The other day, it was announced that student loan debt in the United States will exceed more than $1 trillion before the end of the year. That's $1,000,000,000,000 dollars in student loans. Why has this happened? Well, there are many detailed, technical reasons, but most analysis (including the mainstream one here) fails to mention that, ultimately it's because it's not a national priority. Unlike, say, most European countries. Like everything else in the United States, we have our priorities upside down: $2 - 4 trillion for war, government loan offers for students who pay exorbitant rates for higher education. This is more than all the credit card debt combined. According to NPR, "two-thirds of college students now graduate with debt, owing an average of $24,000. But some borrow far more and find this debt influencing major life decisions long after graduation."

So, what's an impoverished student or recent grad to do? Well, there are strategies for going to community college for the first two years, for those who want to live in the US. That could help reduce some fo the cost. And there are strategies for going to school abroad. But how can students and recent grads with loans let the banks know how they feel about offers of crushing indebtedness, while supporting Occupy Wall Street?  Well, this guy has a good suggestion for keeping the banks occupied (props to Taryn at Plutocracy Files for turning me on to this):

Bonus Points: Help the struggling post office! Hey! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Amen, brother...

Truth to power? Oh, good lord, yes.

It's the ultimate irony that self-described "Christians" are so often the strongest advocates of a system that celebrates the money changers and wealthiest among us, yet reviles and basically hates those who have the least--for whatever reason. Charity is a very specific, and targeted thing for the extremists on the right.

In the midst of the latest data that the divide between the richest and the poorest has never been greater, Michael Moore's comments have never been more relevant--or more ignored.

Can you hear us Michele? Ron? Rick? No? Yeah. Didn't think so....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

UPDATE: WTF is Wrong with U.S.? Police Attack Occupy Oakland with Tear Gas. OWS Reacts.

UPDATE 2: General Assembly votes to donate $20,000 to Oakland Occupy and considering call for general strike (Source: recent tweets)


UPDATE 1: Iraq war veteran who survives the war comes home only to have his life threatened and hang by a thread due to our "civil" society. He was in less danger in Iraq, apparently. According to the Guardian:

An Iraq war veteran has a fractured skull and brain swelling after allegedly being hit by a police projectile.

Scott Olsen is in a "critical condition" in Highland hospital in Oakland, a hospital spokesman confirmed.

The Guardian spoke to people with Olsen at the hospital. Adele Carpenter, who knows Olsen through his involvement with anti-war groups, said she arrived at the hospital at 11pm on Tuesday night.

Carpenter said she was told by a doctor at the hospital that Olsen had a skull fracture and was in a "serious but stable" condition. She said he had been sedated and was unconscious.
"I'm just absolutely devastated that someone who did two tours of Iraq and came home safely is now lying in a US hospital because of the domestic police force," Carpenter said.

But not before they damage you, apparently...
Occupy Oakland were gassed by the Oakland Police Department. Some could run away. Others weren't so lucky...

A woman in a wheelchair in a cloud of tear gas. (Source:
So, while bankers enjoy bonuses made possible by taxpayer bailout
money, people who protest this inequality are dealt with HG Wells style.
That seems fair.

Monday, October 24, 2011

When Minutes Take Hours: Thanks to the MinuteWomen and MinuteMen of #OWS

Putting Together Minutes Takes Hours
I was just reading the Occupy Wall Street minutes from the General Assembly meeting from October 21, and the first order of business dealt with the logistics of laundry. The truth of the matter is that the people "on the ground" in Zuccotti Park face daily logistics that most people have never had to deal with--like, say, $3,000 for laundry. That's when it occurred me that, "You know, it's soooo easy for people to criticize from the comfort of their offices or easy chairs. It's convenient to cast aspersions when you haven't uprooted your life and helped build an innovative, inclusive democracy in under a month without basic necessities, such as plumbing." And meanwhile, #OWS is remaining faithful to the ideal of maintaining full transparency, to the extent possible.

A Window into #OWS
There are so many people involved in the success of #OWS, but for a lot of people trying to find out what's happening, it's the rumor mill or waiting for dribs and drabs here and there. Since the minutes represent one of the only truly "official" sources of information, I wanted to take a quick moment to say how great it is to have such comprehensive minutes from the General Assembly. As a technical writer who has transcribed verbal text and typed it up on the fly, this ain't easy folks. It takes lots of time and it's a pretty thankless job. But it's transparency like this that will continue to bring people into the movement. And for those of us who have made the #OWS movement a big part of our daily lives, this kind of information keeps us connected--even if we can't be down there.
Laundry Logistics: Even revolutionaries
need clean clothes (Source: Flickr)

I also want people to know that what #OWS has put together is not a joke, and that this process--while not perfect (does perfect exist?)--is a far sight more inclusive and transparent than our "professionals in the US Congress" (a place where I worked for over 10 years a lifetime ago). The language of these minutes is clear, to the point, and you can't "revise and extend" entries, like they do with the incorrectly entitled Congressional Record.

So, my hat's off to the folks who take the notes and transcribe the minutes.  You can't see all the people supporting you, but we're out here.

Of Note...Oh, and a quick shout-out to Dicey Troop (@DiceyTroop) who works his Twitter magic at very high speed, as he grinds out live tweets during the nightly General Assemblies. Serious opposable thumb action.

Yours in solidarity.

   .  .
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Donate. Do it...
Please consider a donation. #OWS can use all the help it can get. Have some shit you no longer need? Sell it and donate the proceeds. They're fighting for you, you should fight for them. More on this subject soon. The main donation page is, and includes the following:

You can also mail a check or money order to the Alliance for Global Justice.
Please indicate “Occupy Wall Street” in the memo line.
Alliance for Global Justice
1247 “E” Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Or CALL at 202-544-9355 to make a telephone donation.
The following donations are managed by some of our groups:
Donate yourself
Come to Liberty Plaza, formally Zuccotti Park. How to get there.
Liberty st and Broadway, Financial District, Manhattan, NY (map)

Donate Laundry and Shower

If you would like to donate the use of your laundry or shower facilities, please contact the Comfort Working Group.

Order Us Food

Our physical address

118A Fulton st #205
New York, NY, 10038
Non perishable, no checks (money orders okay) , any size package okay

Real Time Needs of the Occupiers

#needsoftheoccupiers on Twitter

Where does Occupy Wall Street Go from Here?

Well, the group itself posted it's view on that subject, and it's stated pretty clearly, I think. I doubt that it'll shut up the haters and mainstream media miscreants, but maybe it'll help people wrap their heads around something that isn't a reality show; that's a movement that has potential beyond the usual bunch of talking points and a laundry list of demands. That's the old paradigm, and this movement is sooo not that.
If nothing else, Occupy Wall Street is showing us that there are more important things in life than comfortable sleep and acceptance of the status quo. The slumbering giant is awakening and for once it's not interested in subjugating other cultures.

It's exciting. And not just exhilarating, but exciting people's imagination for what could be. And I have yet to experience a General Assembly meeting, but that incredibly civilized, egalitarian, and influence-free democratic process alone is something missing in our "more professional" democracy; which is really just a plutocracy these days anyway.

Observation from member of Occupy Wall Street
After years of Oh, for fuck's sake, not again ennui and eye-rolling indifference to people who promised changes in the system but failed to deliver, this really is what a lot of people have been waiting for. Will it fulfill its potential? Who knows? But that prospect really is what's exciting...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Tell me what Plutocracy Looks like! THIS is what plutocracy looks like!

One of my favorite "call-chorus" chants on Occupy Wall Street is this: One person shouts out "Tell me what democracy looks like!" and the crowd chorus replies: "This is what democracy looks like." Sounds simple--and it is--but it's incredibly energizing. I think that now is the time to put some numbers and faces to the the opposite of the #OWS movement--and what it's fighting against, to wit: a bald-faced collusion between government and hegemonic corporate interests known as plutocracy.


  1. The rule or power of wealth or of the wealthy.
  2. government or state in which the wealthy class rules.
  3. class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth.
The March Toward Plutocracy: In 2010, the Supreme Court Ruled that Corporations were Basically People... 

...and that the government cannot ban political spending by corporations in elections. The majority ruled that the government has no business regulating political speech (ignoring the obvious fact that corporations aren't actually individuals). The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy, which is, of course, exactly what the majority conservative old males wanted. By conflating "free speech" with campaign contributions, the Supreme Court opened up the floodgates of corporate spending on campaigns in an outrageous effort to erase any remaining line between corporate money and its influence on representative democracy.

Protesting Plutocracy: Activists against Supreme Court
 Ruling to Treat Corporations like People
The Supreme Court apparently didn't consider the following exhibits in its ruling:

Exhibit A. The Best "Democracy" Money Can Buy: Big Political Action Committees (PACs) Contribute Tens of Thousands to Super Committee Members

Step Right Up! Who's Got an Agenda? 

For those who remember, part of the debt deal between Obama and the extremist republicans was to "kick the can" of spending cuts and revenue increasing down the road by appointing a "Super Committee" of members of Congress--evenly split between democrats and republicans. According to the Sunlight Foundation, large Political Action Committee members contributed $83,000 to these super committee members. PACs from Lockheed Martin, the National Association of Realtors, Pfizer and Chevron all contributed to members of the super committee. 

Aside from the fact that this super committee isn't really what congress is supposed to be about (hint: a body that represents all the people), these contributions are a clear, but not terribly surprising attempt to sway their ultimate decisions on how "at least $1.2 trillion in cuts to the debt" will be made. 

Exhibit B. Keeping Wealthy Haitian Textile Workers in CheckUS Companies and Diplomats Work to Prevent Wages from Growing 40%! (From $3 to $5 per day.)

US Textile Industry in Haiti? Winning.
Haitian Textile Workers making $3 a day? Not so much.

Among the many thousands of memoranda and diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, the cables surrounding the quashing of the increase in minimum wages for Haitian textile workers stands out as a particularly horrendous form of plutocrats doing what they do best: undermine the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable while aggrandize the richest and least vulnerable. In June 2011 Think Progress reported the following

In 2009, the Haitian parliament unanimously passed a measure that would hike the Haitian minimum wage to $5 a day. Contractors for large American clothing firms like Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, and Levi’s began protesting the increase in the minimum wage, aggressively lobbying the parliament and the populist Haitian president, René Préval, to reverse course. They were soon joined by American diplomats who began to lobby the Haitian government as well, arguing that it would be too costly for textile manufacturers. 

In August 2009, Préval partially conceded to the demands of the garment industry and the United States. He negotiated a new arrangement with his parliament that would offer a special carveout for the textile sector — allowing it to pay $3 a day rather than $5 a day — which marked a huge win for major textiles corporations like Hanes and Dockers.

My Take: The textile industry in Haiti threatened to "make the sector economically unviable and consequently force factories to shut down" if the minimum wage was increased to about the cost of a Venti cappuccino at Starbucks. So, corporations make policy here in the United States with collusion of elected representatives. Corporations make policy abroad with the collusion of elected and unelected "international development" officials. Plutocratic? Much.

And so, what can be done? 

I called Bernie Sanders today on Thom Hartmann's show "Brunch with Bernie" about what could be done in the face of the Supreme Court's decision to allow unlimited campaign contributions, and here's what he had to say.

Wanna take action? Check Here's what they have to say about the challenges we face in overturning this...

The problem we now face is that the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to extend the First Amendment rights of real people to corporations. Congress does not have the power to overturn a court decision based on the Constitution.
But that’s not to say there aren’t things that Congress can and should do. We are pursuing several legislative reforms, including full disclosure of corporate electioneering activities, public financing of elections and a shareholder protection act. These legislative measures can mitigate the problem, but a constitutional amendment is the long-term solution to address the damaging impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
Click the link below to urge your members of Congress to combat the influence of corporate money in our elections.