Archive for category Occupy Wall Street

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

Send lawyers, guns and money
Bundy Gang terrorist holdout Sean Anderson screams death threats (YouTube video screen cap)

I’m hiding in Honduras – I’m a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns, and money
The shit has hit the fan

Warren Zevon

Today is Day 37 of the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Bundy Gang terrorists have created one martyr after the “suicide by cop” of Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. Four armed holdouts are still camped at the refuge, anticipating a shoot-out with law enforcement. It’s uncertain how this will end.

In an well-written article, Raw Story’s Arun Gupta dissects the problems with the FBI’s response to this terrorist incident, not the least of which is the failure to bring terrorism charges. Gupta has been covering this story from Burns, Oregon.

The lax approach for weeks at Malheur made Burns a magnet for armed militiamen who spread fear in the town. The refuge became a platform for the Bundy militia to promote its radical interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and organize their armed rebellion.

The Bundy episode also exposed how the legal framework of the “war on terror” is used primarily on racial, religious and political grounds. Anti-terrorism laws should be repealed, but it’s notable that the Bundy militia’s actions match the definition of domestic terrorism precisely: “acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State” and that “appear to be intended … to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”

The armed band has held the Malheur Refuge for more than a month now. The Bundys told reporters they would “kill or be killed if necessary.” They were setting up shadow governments in Eastern Oregon as a step toward overthrowing the U.S. government. Local and federal government employees were threatened. Most recently, Cliven Bundy sent the Harney County sheriff a notarized letter claiming “possession” of the refuge.

But there is no indication arrestees will be charged with domestic terrorism or that the scores of people who came by the refuge offering supplies or aid will be charged with providing material support for terrorism.

..The Bundys are also being spared the throw-the-book-at-them response prosecutors use in post-9/11 terror cases. The contrast is telling because whereas the Bundys plotted actively and openly to use violence to further political ends, the majority of terror cases are cooked up by the FBI. They trap “mentally ill or … economically desperate” Muslim-Americans who wind up with decades-long sentences. Sometimes the charges are astonishingly minor, such as a U.S.-born college student who accepted a 15-year sentence, rather than the 70 years sought by prosecutors, by saying he knew a houseguest was carrying sleeping bags and waterproof socks to an al Qaeda contact in Afghanistan. This severity also extended to Occupy Wall Street. In Cleveland and Chicago, white male anarchists received lengthy sentences after they were goaded, bribed and guided by undercover police and FBI informants to participate in fake terror plots.

The list of convicted terrorists in U.S. prisons consists mostly of Muslims, leftists, and environmentalists. There are very few right-wingers – notably Terry Nichols and Eric Rudolph.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that in addition to guns the Bundys are working the lawyers and money angles. The Eugene-based Arnold Law Firm now represents the terrorists, and has set up a website to collect donations for legal bills.

Over the course of the terrorist takeover, The Oregonian has done some really excellent journalism. They told the story of the Burns Paiute Tribe, who were forcibly evicted from their 1.5 million acre reservation by the U.S. Army in 1879. Unlike the Bundys, the tribe can make a good case for having suffered from government oppression.

The tribe later recovered a fraction of its former reservation, 760 acres on the outskirts of town, after agreeing to pay the federal government for the land.

The Oregonian also put the recent events in context by comparing the Bundy Gang takeover to 1970s Marxist terrorists in Oregon and a 1979 takeover of the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia by dispossessed black residents.

More info:
Government inaction gave Bundy militants a platform to spread their anti-government delusions
Ethical Questions Surround Ammon Bundy’s Legal Team, Strategy
Burns Paiutes to Ammon Bundy: You’re not the victim
Oregon standoff: Feds forcibly removed black occupiers from wildlife refuge in 1979

73 Comments

Don’t Shop on Thanksgiving Day or November 29th

The following retailers have killed Thanksgiving for their employees and families. Don’t let them kill your holiday, too.

  • Walmart
  • Kmart
  • Old Navy
  • Target
  • Staples
  • Office Max
  • Sears
  • Best Buy
  • Toys R Us
  • Michaels
  • Macy’s
  • J.C. Penney
  • Kohl’s

The good news is that Costco, Nordstrom, REI, Burlington Coat Factory, and other companies are refusing to ruin Thanksgiving.

And don’t forget: Friday, November 29 is “Black Friday,” aka Buy Nothing Day. A good day to take a day off from shopping, or visit a locally-owned business. Feel free to laugh at those idiots freezing on line in a parking lot to get an XBox.

UPDATE: Walmart Store Holding Thanksgiving Food Drive For Its Own Workers

18 Comments

No Skateboards!

skateboard sign

I can’t believe that skateboards are still popular after all these years. I used to have one when I was 13, (now 61). I painted it with a “Thunderball” logo, based on the James Bond movie of the same name that was around at the time.

Stay with me here skateboarders!

I found out that steel wheels weren’t a good idea on skateboards, because it you hit a pebble in the street, it would send you flying onto the pavement; pronto! The rubber wheels came later, but that didn’t – in any way – stop the surfing enthusiasts, without a surf, from riding and flipping their boards around the town in unimaginable ways.

The sidewalks are for pedestrians, bicyclists, and you. It gives me energy to see you.

If I get hit; that’s the way things go. :)

Try not to hurt yourselves!

10 Comments

Peace Against War: Peace Wins!

Politicians are always trying to tug at our heart strings by bringing children or handicapped people into the discussion. Today, we are supposed to believe that congresspeople have to spend their entire time in congress getting money to “win” their next term, so they can help the children and the handicapped people.

Actually, that is old stuff. Today, politicians seem to think the best way to woo us is to break unions, take away governmental programs that help children, handicapped people, seniors, and the poor.

I’m not that great a writer, but I can refer you to someone who is.

This piece reminded me of a video I saw on YouTube which proves things could possibly change VERY SLOWLY over generations:

Are we that generation?

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Wealth Inequality By The Numbers

Monopoly Man

Source: Us Against Greed

Ten Numbers the Rich would like Fudged

The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.

1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.

According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds.

2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.

In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.

3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.

The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that’s $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.

Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.

4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession.

After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.

U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They’ve passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers’ payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it’s 22 cents.

Read the rest of this entry »

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I Have a Great Idea For Once

People should start sending – hand written – letters, through the mail to their friends.

There’s no way they can open all of them without being noticed, and it will create many jobs for mail carriers!

I’m a job-creator!

PLUS: It’s a felony to open somebody’s mail.

It only has to say: I love you.

15 Comments

Les Misérables Isn’t Political – But It Ought to Be

The setting for “Les Misérables” is Occupy Paris – in the 1800s. The heroes of the musical are the 99 percent – idealistic but poor students, orphans, the unemployed and hungry, exploited workers railing against abuses by the obscenely wealthy. The villain of the musical is Javert, a policeman dedicated to crushing a revolt by working Parisians. As a mediocre musical, the show has broken box office records. Now director Tobe Hooper has made the long-awaited film. But the whole “Les Mis” phenomenon has had zero political resonance. I think it’s because the protagonist doesn’t know whose side he’s on.

Marshall Fine summarizes the plot, such as it is:

The story – distilled from Victor Hugo’s five-section, 1,200-plus-page historical novel (full disclosure: Never read it, don’t intend to) – focuses on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), about to be released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. On his way out of prison, his jailer, Javert (Russell Crowe), warns Valjean that he will be dogging him, just waiting for him to violate his parole so he can send Valjean back to the clink.

Instead, Valjean disappears, popping up a dozen years later as the rich owner of a factory and mayor of a small town; these kind of story twists were so much easier in the days before mass media. But he’s still looking in his rearview mirror for Javert. So he’s understandably distracted when his factory foreman sexually harasses and then fires a poor single mother named Fantine (Anne Hathaway). Her life goes so far off the tracks that she’s become a dying, tubercular prostitute when her path next crosses Valjean’s – whose guilt at Fantine’s fate leads to his vow at her deathbed to find and take care of her daughter, Cosette.

Valjean stays one step ahead of Javert, even as Cosette grows from a tot into Amanda Seyfried, who later falls in love with a student revolutionary named Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Marius is involved with an uprising against the return of the French monarchy in 1832 (not to be confused with the French revolution of 1789, which most people assume this work is about). On the barricades, as the students hold off the government forces, Valjean finally confronts Javert for the final time.

More detailed plot summary from SparkNotes.

The short-lived Paris Uprising of June 5-6 1832 (aka the June Rebellion) was motivated by a reactionary move to replace King Charles X, deposed in 1830, with another king supported by an unrepresentative government. France at the time was suffering a severe economic crisis, and in 1832 the poor neighborhoods of Paris were ravaged by a cholera epidemic. Troops were called in, the insurrectionists were surrounded in the center of the city, and the uprising was defeated.

The problem I have with Jean Valjean is not that he becomes rich, but that he seems resigned to the various injustices meted out to him by the misguided Javert. For Valjean, nothing is political; it’s all personal. Then at the end he saves Javert’s life, which leads Javert (this guy is seriously screwed up) to commit suicide. Valjean only goes to the barricades to save the life of Marius, not to uphold democracy. He is indifferent to the uprising itself and everything else that’s going on in France.

Perhaps worst of all is a commenter on a blog that said the fictional Valjean was a hero because he “was a Taker who decided to become a Maker.” As if we could all just wake up one day and decide to join the 1 Percent if we wanted to. Valjean got the money to start his factory by robbing a church.

No, the true message of Victor Hugo’s story is captured in this quote from another novelist, Anatole France (Inspector Javert would not see the irony):

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

It’s like House Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal: Every American can get a tax cut on their first $1 million in income. What could be more fair?

2 Comments

A Grand Farewell to ALEC

Was Alec Baldwin in Salt Lake? I didn’t hear anything on the news. :)

He/she/it wouldn’t give a single interview to the press and prefer to remain unknown. How many freedoms did we lose this week?

16 Comments

Congressional Research Service: 50 Percent of Americans Own 1% of Nation’s Wealth

Via Think Progress:

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concludes that the bottom 50 percent of American households hold just 1.1 percent of the nation’s wealth, down from 3.6 percent in 1995.

Wealth table

The top 10 percent’s share of wealth has risen over the last two decades, the report found, but it has fallen for households in every group below that.

Neither major political party has a plan to address rising inequality in America. Therefore, those of us in the 99 Percent ought to vote for Rocky Anderson for President. Rocky proposes:

  • A revival of the WPA to get people back to work, repairing and building infrastructure for the nation.
  • Replacing free trade agreements with fair trade agreements to bring back jobs lost to other countries.
  • Prosecuting Wall Street fraud.
  • No more tax cuts for the rich.
  • Restoration of Glass-Steagall regs for investment banking.
  • An end to anti-trust exemption for insurance companies.
  • Breaking up TBTF banks.
  • A single-payer Medicare-For-All health care system.

I would add to this list a financial transaction tax and a millionaire’s tax. But it’s already a long list of policies neither major political party is offering.

UPDATE: A new Senate GOP tax plan released by Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Orrin Hatch would raise taxes on 20 million middle-class households, while protecting the tax cuts for the rich.

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Occupy This Album

I’m not good at math, but if you pay ten bucks for 99 songs; just seems like a good deal.

Plus, the songs are really good

Includes a really good bonus video:

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General Strike Today – Did Anybody Notice?

Work stoppages
Source: Jake Rosenfeld, Little Labor: How Union Decline is Changing the American Landscape (PDF).

Jake Rosenfeld compiled the data: The number of strikes involving 1,000 or more workers peaked at over 400 in 1974. In 2009, there were five. Fully one-third of the private sector workforce belonged to a labor union during the 1950s. The late 1970s and 1980s proved especially brutal for organized labor, with unionization rates halving during the period. The nation’s intellectuals and journalists covered this phenomenon extensively, linking union decline to a new post-industrial economy increasingly open to global trade. Recent trends have garnered less attention, yet private-sector unionization rates nearly halved again between 1990 and 2009. Now it’s below 7 percent.

In the rest of the world May 1 (May Day) is recognized as International Workers’ Day. In the USA, partly as a legacy of the Cold War, our government decided to call it “Loyalty Day.” May Day has traditionally been known as a day of mass workers’ strikes – otherwise known as the General Strike. And that’s what the 99 Percent Movement (aka Occupy Wall Street) is calling for today – a nationwide general strike. The theme of the protests is “A Day Without the 99 Percent.”

FireDogLake has is keeping track with a Live Blog.

America’s last general strike was in Oakland in 1946. Under the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, passed in 1947, general strikes were banned.

UPDATE:
MAY DAY CHARTS: We Don’t Currently Reward Our Workers. While productivity has been on the rise among workers, average wage and compensation has remained nearly flat. Wages are at the lowest share of GDP on record. As union membership falls, the middle class shrinks.

UPDATE: Taking Back May Day: What to Expect on the Nationwide Day of Rallies, Strikes and Actions

75 Comments

John Fund Embraces ALEC In Public

The right-wing Guru promoting fake claims of “voter fraud” has taken his effort to a new level and, has actually mentioned ALEC online. Athough it’s, probably, only online at this point; the usual tactic of prominent American pundits is to ignore obvious truths. Fund’s article is actually called “Left-Wing Pressure Causes ALEC to Retreat“.

Left-Wing Pressure?

KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Mars, Snickers, M&M’s, Milky Way, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Intuit, Microsoft?

Have I missed any subsidiaries? Who knew that the middle class had so many allies?

According to Fund, all of that “Left-Wing Pressure” came from former Obama White House aide Van Jones and The Nation magazine. :) He names John Engler, Tommy Thompson and Rick Perry as distinguished governors that “have come from the ranks of ALEC”, and even adds: (Disclosure: I have spoken at several ALEC events over the last 20 years without receiving any compensation.)

I’m not going to dispute that Mr. Fund didn’t receive any direct compensation for his strenuous speaking efforts at such events, but he’s not exactly living in a tent without a place to poop for his political theater either. Perhaps an air-conditioned bus? :(

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