Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Class Warriors

Sitting and percolating about in my head for the past few days was a post about "Culture Warriors", the "DFH"s who've been giving Wall Street and Mayor Bloomberg some inconvenience over the past fortnight.

And there are CopyCat OWS in other cities, even down south of me an hour in Wichita Ks.

Our military gets all the honor and glory for their very visible struggles for the country and they deserve that and more, but there are other fighters, too. We all can do our small part in the great struggle for the USA.

Show these protesters some love, at least send a pizza their way.

Some Marines are coming to the aid of their countrymen & countrywomen.

“I’m heading up there tonight in my dress blues. So far, 15 of my fellow marine buddies are meeting me there, also in Uniform. I want to send the following message to Wall St and Congress:I didn’t fight for Wall St. I fought for America. Now it’s Congress’ turn.

My true hope, though, is that we Veterans can act as first line of defense between the police and the protester. If they want to get to some protesters so they can mace them, they will have to get through the ( *** ) Marine Corps first. Let’s see a cop mace a bunch of decorated war vets.I apologize now for typos and errors.

Typing this on iPhone whilst heading to NYC. We can organize once we’re there. That’s what we do best.If you see someone in uniform, gather together.

A formation will be held tonight at 10PM.

We all took an oath to uphold, protect and defend the constitution of this country. That’s what we will be doing."



  1. Someone had his Smedley Butler moment.

    The thing about police versus Marines is interesting, though it wouldn't work elsewhere. You need a lot of prestige for that uniform and its metal decorations to be an effective deterrent against police brutality.

    In Germany you'd need a line of mature officers ranking no lower than LtCol for that effect.

    By the way; that photo (and the whole "condescending people look down at protests from balcony" thing supposedly shows people from a wedding party who were amused because they weren't exactly Wall Street traders or investment bankers.

  2. bb-


    Would we be able to pull off sustained protests as have taken place in Greece and Spain? In this, the land of the lucky and "hard-working" individual . . . ? Feelings of community have to overcome both disinterest and fear of losing what one has . . .

    I understand your point, but . . .

    A lot of people think that once you get that label of "dirty hippie protestor" . . . maybe there's no going back. Conformity is what is called for, as if that were something new . . .

    Here in Portugal, according to my wife, what passes for the Left and the trade unions are "implying" that rebellion is what is necessary, kinda fishing the waters . . . But they are unable to gain public support for any sustained protest at all. Everyone hopes to come out as best one can, little sense that "we" beyond the extended family, are collectively involved in anything at all.

    There is no social cohesion, so it's every Portuguese for him/herself . . . but within the bastion of the extended family. Portugal just might come out of this coming grand crisis relatively intact.

  3. so:

    "By the way; that photo (and the whole "condescending people look down at protests from balcony" thing supposedly shows people from a wedding party who were amused because they weren't exactly Wall Street traders or investment bankers."

    If you have information and a link that shows who these people are, provide it. I've not been able to find anything about them.

    Whoever they are and whatever reason they had for appearing from above with champagne glasses in hand, looking down upon the crowd below, remain unkown, AFAIK. However, they do provide a contrast and some melodrama to the spectacle, don't they?

    "Idealism", seydlitz? Me or them? You? I do hope we all have some of that quality, otherwise, what do we got to look forward to? Without it, no legacy, no sense of achievement, nothing but a bleak and gray landscape for a future. Our brief glimpse of Eden, even though we got kicked out, still gives us a template on how to live.

    Another acronym, "PIGS", Portugal-Italy ( or Ireland ) -Greece-Spain. The border countries of Europe that their more northern comrades wish would just go away.

    Michael Lewis, author of "Boomerang", was hawking his book on Maddow's show Monday night, and on Stewart's the day after. I'm not enough of an economist to analyze his work properly, but to me he makes sense.


    "Mr. Lewis explains why the world is so worried that Greece could default: “If Greece walks away from $400 billion in debt, then the European banks that lent the money will go down, and other countries now flirting with bankruptcy” might easily follow, destabilizing regional and world economies further. He also explains why taxpayers in Germany — the euro zone’s largest economy, with resources critical to a rescue plan — are reluctant to keep bailing out other countries they regard as profligate, indolent and irresponsible.

    This is why, Mr. Lewis writes, “European leaders have done nothing but delay the inevitable reckoning, by scrambling every few months to find cash to plug the ever growing holes in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and praying that bigger and more alarming holes in Spain, Italy and even France do not reveal themselves.”

    How did this situation develop? In “Boomerang” Mr. Lewis captures the utter folly and madness that spread across both sides of the Atlantic during the last decade, as individuals, institutions and entire nations mindlessly embraced instant gratification over long-term planning, the too good to be true over common sense."


  4. As to whether the protest will persevere or not, a number of unions have pledged their support and presence, as has that platoon of Marines.

    One thing that this movement has going for it is the example of the sustained protest the people of Wisconsin put up throughout a winter into spring against the radical republican and corporate takeover of the state. Idealism coupled with a sense of self-preservation seems to be a force to be reckoned with . . . . I reckon. :)

    There are a lot of people hanging around the country, unemployed, hopelessly in debt to whatever system they went through to accomplish their dreams. What else have they got to do? Protesting with their fellow sufferers gives purpose and hope.

    Idealism with neither of those qualities tends toward violence.


  5. BTW, a little warning advice to all.

    C&P all your comments whenever you post.

    I did, and I needed it tonight.

    It does not take long to do, and it will prevent much destruction of idealism. ;)


  6. Seydlitz: "fear of losing what one has . . ."

    There is a very quiet but rapidly growing set of people in the US who literally have nothing. I've heard of tent cities sprouting near several cities, below are some examples:
    Fort Worth: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/01/10/eviction-near-for-fort-worth-tent-city-families/
    Seattle: http://blogs.sacbee.com/city-beat/2011/02/are-seattles-tent-cities-a-model-for-sacramento.html
    Nashville: www.imdb.com/title/tt169976
    New Jersey: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-09-15/us/tent.city.new.jersey_1_tent-city-brigham-plastic-garbage-bags?_s=PM:US

    Hunger is becoming an increasing issue as well. NPR had a story about American Indians where they suggested that more than 50% of the Indian population is living below the poverty line.

    Frankly I've been surprised that there have been so few protests. There will likely be more as living conditions in the US get worse.

  7. Basil,

    There is no "platoon" of Marines. I doubt there will be any current military personnel there at all. The quote you have comes from Ward Reilly and let's just say he doesn't have enough credibility to take anything he says at face value without independent confirmation.

    I listened to an interview with Michael Lewis on NPR yesterday and he said the same thing. I've heard him before as well on other topics over the last couple of years. After doing a bit of research, I agree with what he says. I think the Euro is zombie currency and isn't going to last. Greece is going to default on it's debts. The rest of the PIGS are going to see sky-high interest rates as a result of Greek default which could put them into sovereign default. A bunch of very big French and German banks will either go under or have to be bailed out because they are exposed to Greek and PIGS debt. The entire Greek banking system will probably collapse as it is heavily invested in Greek debt. All this probably means another global recession - a triple dip since we're probably in a double-dip right now.

    And then there's China. We are coming closer to a reckoning with them over their mercantilist policies, especially their currency manipulation. As the economy here continues to stagnate or grow worse our political leaders will no longer be able to tolerate current Chinese policy. The Chinese are already threatening economic retaliation.

    I'm to the point where I'm contemplating major changes to our family and retirement savings in order to whether the storm. I think the next few years will be very ugly, but I hope I'm wrong and/or ignorant.

  8. bb,
    The 400b debt by Greece is no big deal really. We are throwing billions if not trillions at our problems here in the HOMELAND and to no effect.
    The real problem is -what's next?!?!Do we keep doing the same things that caused the problem to begin with? Do we keep passing the buck ? This applies to the PIGS also.
    Economists deal in theories and we live in reality. The 2 don't mix very well.

  9. To all,
    Here in Fl we are cutting services and programs to the bone and yesterdays news was a 250 mil$ state investment that was a failure, and a 125 m$ deal that was crony inspired investment of state funds.
    We the citizens are being kept in the dark and the ruling class doing their jobs incompetently.
    The 250 mil$ faulty investment was in an apartment/housing complex in NYC. Why would we do something like that? Why ship our money out of state?
    We should at least give our carpet baggers a chance to run off with our tax dollars.
    Our problems are as critical as those of the PIGS but we pretend otherwise. Our gov't is not dealing in a realistic manner and the citizenry is paying the price.
    Here in FL our GUV promised 700,000 jobs if elected- who but an idiot would believe such hyperbole.? When we elect liars then democracy is a lie and elections a sham.
    I reckon this is a rant.
    I need a 72 hour pass.

  10. Jim,

    You don't need a pass and I thought your "rant" was pretty mild.

    I don't know the details of the $250 million investment, but states routinely invest out of state - they usually have to. That's how they fund pension and health care programs. CALPERS, the organization that manages California public employee pension and health care assets, is invested all over the world. They have to.

    And I agree it's amazing how many people are ignorant about the power of a governor or President. They can't change anything by themselves. They can't create jobs. The power of their office is limited.

  11. RAW:
    In a closed economy (approximated by not investing abroad) you can only consume what you produced - approximately in the same period.
    Let's say it's year 2030 and the state pays the pensions. He would need to draw it from its own economy.

    Investing now may boos that 2030 economy only marginally because of depreciation effects and so on.
    Investing now abroad would turn the model into an open economy, and the state could pay the pensions with what it took from its own 2030 economy AND from outside sources (savings a.k.a. investments).

    It's thus correct to invest abroad unless you've really got a lot of untapped long-term economic reserves in the region itself.

  12. Here's my take on this, basil, for what it's worth.

    First, I think that it says something very damaging about the U.S. that more people like us - the 99% of the nation not in the two-yacht family class - are inclined to just passively observe these people at least make SOME kind of uproar about the degree to which he have and are returning to the Gilded Age. It seems that a couple of generations of relative peace and prosperity (not to mention the effectiveness of the Galtian Masters "job creators"/"taxation is theft"/deregulation campaign to insulate themselves from the results of their class warfare) have made cowards of us all.

    But, second, as damaging as the bankster's chicanery was and is, I don't see how simply fleecing them of their lucre is going to help you, ma, and the rest of these poor schlubs.

    The bottom line is that in a global economy the lower social end of a high-end-cost polity is going to get hosed. The old formula for lower-middle-class/lower-class relative prosperity was a manufacturing economy that generated decent wages for relatively unskilled work.

    Those days are gone forever. No corporation is going to return to making widgets here unless the U.S. government forces them to through vicious tariffs. And, obviously, there are massive downsides to that other than just the fact that the congresscritters' contributors will shriek like wounded eagles.

    Bob Reich is pretty brutal about this. His observations are that we papered over the death throes of the old U.S. economy with bubbles and credit card debt. That economy was unsustainable and has now crashed.

    But right now there is nothing - literally nothing - to replace it. Perhaps next week some innovation(s) will provide an opportunity to re-expand non-white-collar employment (and let me tell you; white collar employment ain't looking all that healthy, either...) or next month or next year. But right now - there's just no there there. The "next economy" ain't happening.

    So with some rejiggering of tax policy we could help the people in the 99% who are getting hosed in the short term.

    But long term?

    So hammering the banksters feels good, is well-deserved, and might help reduce the sort of fiddling and chicanery that helped produce the Panic of 2008 (I've read some economic writings that suggest that the Great Deregulation of the financial sector 1980-2008 has produced an economy that looks a lot more like 1928 than 1998, and one of the features of the pre-Depression U.S. economy was periodic "panics" where the financiers then, just as now, just crapped all over everything playing bubbles, profit-taking, and leaving the non-financial schmucks with the mess...) but I don't see it doing all that much about the immense structural economic problems were facing with now for everyone whose Mumsy and Daddy aren't part of the New 400...

  13. Andy: Agreed on the out-of-state investment, but jim has a point in that the State of Oregon did something similar but made their problem by not keeping tabs on those investments. They relied on the sort of good advice that we heard from the Street in 2007 about how real estate just didn't have a downside and prices were just going to keep going up.

    When the bottom fell out the State got reamed.

    So it wasn't so much that the investments were out of state but that they were "out-of-mind" of the people in Salem who should have been less carefree with the public's money...

    And re: China, whilst I'm sure our "leaders" would love to do something about China's monetary policy, where's their leverage? If anything ISTM to eb the other way around...

  14. And here's something to think about in terms of historical parallels.

    Another of the U.S. most egregious "how th' fuck did we end up with THIS crap?" mistakes was the Volstead Act a.k.a. Prohibition.

    The thing is, the evils wrought by Prohibition and the Volstead Act were well known and popularly regretted for years and that the forces behind it were suspect either as hypocrites or political reactionaries with a mean anti-immigration streak---the Ku Klux Klan were sworn tea-totallers, so there you have both hypocrisy and reactionarysim---a movement to repeal the 18th Amendment made no progress until a determined rich Republican named Pauline Sabin got fed up with the hypocrisies and the meanness and set to work mainly getting people to show up to voice their support for repeal.

    There was a lot more to what she did than that, but that’s where it started, with people showing up to remind politicians, the Drys, and each other that there are more of us than there are of them.

    Right now we're in a similar situation re: the banksters and the malefactors of great wealth; there are a LOT more of us than there are of them. And that's supposed to matter in a democracy.

  15. Chief,

    Pension funds and the like are regulated in that they have restrictions on how they can invest. These regulations were intentioned to keep fund managers from making risky investments which would put worker's future pensions risk. The idea was to protect fund managers from themselves and keep the funds from losing money which would require the state to bail the funds out. So regulations were created to make sure those funds only invested in the safest investments. Managers could not determine which investments were safe all by themselves - that is why the ratings agencies were created and given monopoly status by the government.

    Unfortunately the ratings agencies gave AAA ratings to investments that were total crap and pension funds and institutional investors from all over the country invested in that crap. They didn't have much choice given the circumstances they were in. The "crap" was the only investment in town that was giving a return that the funds could legally invest in. The other traditional safe investments - government bonds and the like - were paying miniscule interest thanks to very low interest rates. Funds could not afford to invest too much in those because they had to make a certain return in order to meet their future obligations (Most pension funds assume a rate of return from 7-10% a year when calculating how much money they need to collect from workers now in order to pay future obligations). If they can't make that then they will be underfunded and would have to collect more money upfront from current workers. That's not possible in many cases because of union contracts and the simple fact that employees don't want to have to put more of their paychecks into these funds.

    Now, why did the ratings agencies give top ratings to crap? In part it was because of how they were compensated - they were paid by the firms they rated which seems like an obvious conflict-of-interest. That system of compensation was itself a mandate of government regulation.

    Point being is that the whole system is pretty complex and a lot more fragile than we think. The problems we've had and are having are not solely from deregulation. There is a lot of bad regulation out there as well and regulation that was well-intended but, in reality, is problematic. A lot of these regulations are still in place, or they've been patched with bandaids. Regulations in one area are dependent on regulations in another area functioning properly, etc. It's a complex mess.

    The big banks here in the US are probably still technically insolvent. No one really knows what their balance sheets look like. Whatever happened to the "toxic assets" on their balance sheets? We don't really know. Read more here.

  16. As for these guys protesting, I'm not sure what to think. Most of their current demands are incoherent or contradictory. Maybe their anger will coalesce into a viable political movement similar to what happened with the Tea Party. Who knows. It's kind of ironic, though, that the nascent Tea Party was anti-Wall Street too. One of their principle themes was opposition to the bailouts. It will be interesting to see what happens with this new movement. Hopefully it will mature and not simply fade away.

  17. @ Andy: "It's kind of ironic, though, that the nascent Tea Party was anti-Wall Street too. One of their principle themes was opposition to the bailouts."

    Yes, who knows. I was thinking the same thing. Why aren't they out there too? They probably would have been before being subjugated and annexed by the Republican Party. But it is not all youngsters and union folk out there, so maybe a few former tea-partiers have joined in, you think?

  18. mike,

    I kinda doubt it. The bailouts were unpopular with pretty much everyone, but beyond that the OWS crowd have little in common with the Tea Partiers.

  19. bb-

    I doubt if Lewis has much of a clue as to what is going on in Europe. Let alone Portugal. Countries, economies, the basic complexity of it all, as a social system collapses. The US is on the top of it all . . . personally I wouldn't want to be back home right now. Very fluid situation, could all blow over, but then again . . .

    I think it's going to get very interesting in 2012.

  20. I saw a protest organizer being interviewed the other day, and he seemed quite coherent to me, but that could have been a one off. Really not following it too closely.

    Andy is spot on. Ward Reilly is a bit over the top. However, the Occupy Wall Street movement does seem to be picking up steam, and I do have some personal animus towards Wall St myself. I don't see where they have any interest except their own, and will stop at little or nothing to serve those interests.

    As to the Euro debt crisis, as Greece goes, so goes Europe. If the EU can't prop up the least indebted of its members, well??? There has been a lot of nationalistic posturing, which has resulted in too many band aids versus cures, but the Eurozone is stuck with all member states, and whether or not they admitted states in wisely is a non issue. The states are in.

    Funny thing is that while the Teabaggers are screaming about the debt ceiling (14.7 trillion or so), no one is screaming about the $14+ trillion in mortgage debt, 1/3 of which is undersecured. Compare that to Greece, where fewer than 25% of homes are mortgaged. Just can't use US metrics and viewpoints to judge the predicament here. It's easy to lose a mortgaged home, but real hard to lose one you own outright. Very different dynamics.

    Once the US poor and suffering begin to realize that they are not isolated cases, Katy bar the door. especially since their numbers are increasing daily. FDR realized this.

  21. Interesting video.


    The treatment dealt to the OWS folk as compared to that dealt to tea baggers proves beyond arguement what hirelings and useful tools teabaggers are to the PTB.


  22. Went to storyful, mentioned in the comments to my post above.

    NYPD utterly disgraced themselves & Bloomberg is a pile of shit.


  23. Chief:

    "Here's my take on this, basil, for what it's worth."

    I think you're being overly pessimistic. There are still industries on the horizon that can bring employment and fulfillment to millions, worldwide. Green versions of present industries, like energy and manufacturing, medicine. I'm hopeful for space travel and exploration. Not for me, sadly, but look what going to the moon and back did for us.

    In my experience, there's always something that needs doing and worth paying for.


  24. Andy:

    "As for these guys protesting, I'm not sure what to think. Most of their current demands are incoherent or contradictory."

    That's what Fox is saying and note my Krugman quote below. You do, however, get points for Reilly, he does seem to be a fuzzball.


    "I doubt if Lewis has much of a clue . . ."

    I haven't read Lewis and God knows I don't know or follow much what goes on where you are. You'll keep us informed, yes? :)

    But Krugman seems to agree with Lewis from the bits of Lewis I've read and seen via interview.


    "There will, of course, be the usual attempts to dismiss the whole thing based on trivialities. Look at the oddly dressed people acting out! So? Is it better when exquisitely tailored bankers whose gambles brought the world economy to its knees — and who were bailed out by taxpayers — whine that President Obama is saying slightly mean things about them?

    Or, why don’t they try to work within the system? Well, how’s that been going for those who did indeed try? When palace intrigue undermined the likes of Elizabeth Warren even within the Obama administration, and Republicans have thrown their full backing behind the malefactors of great wealth, why shouldn’t protesters go outside the usual channels?

    Finally, why not defer to people who know what needs to be done? Regular readers know the answer: the VSPs have been consistently, awesomely wrong, both before the financial crisis and after. Nothing in the recent record of policy suggests that the wise men of finance deserve any credence at all."


  25. Must political protest be focused, programmatic, prioritized to be effective? Sometimes, as in a bad marriage, people just come to the end of the line -- particular reasons for the breakup merge and fade into a fog of disgust. At that point, talk becomes superfluous. The Wall Street protesters are serving the state with divorce papers.

  26. BB,

    Right now this nascent movement doesn't have a coherent platform. That's not just Fox News talking. I've read 3-4 separate lists of demands that run the gamut from the reasonable to outright crazy. It's all over the map. The thing is, that's not really surprising - it will take time for them to mature assuming they make it out of infancy. Right now it's mainly populist anger and there's nothing wrong with that at all. But sooner or later they are going to have to focus if they want to survive and grow to become a political force.

    Personally, I hope they succeed because the status quo politics is driving this country into the ditch.

  27. Andy: Right now this nascent movement doesn't have a coherent platform.

    I think that the disenfranchised are in that situation in a variety of ways, and are possibly coalescing at present to simply address those who "own the franchise".

    Obviously, Obama, is not a coherent leader to coalesce around. His obsession with "consensus" simply means the "franchisees" continue to own the game, and it's just a matter of if and when crumbs are dispensed, not more crumbs, or better crumbs. It's almost as if the poor, misguided guy actually thinks that the 1% can be talked into liking having a somewhat smaller piece of the pie.

    I have no earthy idea if the OWS crowd can focus themsleves on a limited platform. There is so much to choose from.

  28. Andy sez:

    "Right now this nascent movement doesn't have a coherent platform. That's not just Fox News talking."

    To my thinking, they don't have the expected sound-byte messaging b/c they're not backed by an entity or entities that have them.

    One of the early complaints that OWS had was the lack of coverage by the media.

    But a message they do have, and it's not hard to find out what that message is.

    And a Fox News guy stumbled into it.


    "When Fox News turned their cameras on the 31-year-old Daily Kos writer Jesse LaGreca last Wednesday, they didn’t know what they were in for. Not only did Fox producer Griff Jenkins get schooled all over the Internet — forcing Greta Van Susteren to respond on why they didn’t air the footage of Mr. LaGreca’s statements – but suddenly the somewhat haphazard movement was given a clear and distinct voice."

    Here's the video:


    Note that this video was not aired on Sustern's show.

    And Fox isn't alone in fixing or slanting the newstream. I watched Ed Schultz's show earlier today, and he does deserve credit for broadcasting from the New York protest site, but after his guest Laura Flanders mentioned one fellow she interviewed said that he didn't think he could vote for Obama next year, he immediately brought up the Herman Cain's disparaging remarks about the protesters.

    I suspect our prez would get more than a few boos if he showed up at the protest site.


  29. BTW Andy, I read a piece from the NY Times not long ago that noted the evening news/opinion MSNBC line-up once headed by your friend and mine, Keith Olbermann, has been slipping in the ratings since he left.

    Hello, Al! A question for you. I was just wondering if the Greek islands felt that they were somewhat isolated from the mainland's problems, that they could escape having to endure the austerity measures the government in Athens was imposing.

    Also, I can't recall where I saw it, but an article somewhere mentioned Greek tax evasion, especially among the well-to-do, was rampant.


  30. bb-

    The islands are not escaping the austerity program, as we have government employees who are taking serious salary cuts, and the taxes here are the same as those on the mainland.

    Bot major parties have held a similar stance on tax evasion and tax avoidance (loopholes) over the past decades. It's an "equal opportunity" sport. No group has been overlooked in pandering for votes. Of course, the well to do have been in a position to hide more absolute income, but, for example, quite some time ago, the center right party pandered for the votes of some 40,000 street kiosk operators by dropping any requirement for them to maintain records of any sort, and simply allow them to declare a "standard" annual income 1 Euro under the threshold for paying income tax. Want to guess who the 40,000+ kiosk families voted for in that election? So, from center left to center right, the avoidance schemes became cumulative, and when a new loophole could not be offered to get votes, promises of "getting the tax auditor off your back" were made and kept. One example was the dentist who had three residences (primary and two holiday homes) worth a couple of million, a yacht, and half a million in the back and claimed he was earning less than 10,000 Euro per year, which went unchallenged for quite a while.

    I can't even begin to estimate the amount of tax evasion (not avoidance) by European expats and foreign rental property owners. The expats would shift money they earn out of country, then have it wired to a Greek bank account to show that their income was from outside Greece, claim they were paying tax on it in their home country and pay tax to no one. In the past, all I had to do was show that enough money was deposited in my Greek account from the US to "support my standard of living" - thereby presupposing I earned nothing in Greece. Now, I have to also provide my US income tax return to show that I am meeting my US tax obligation in order not to be taxed by Greece.

    As to the rental properties, there are six vacation homes in our little village, for example, I know of 4 places owned by Brits who rent out when they are not here, totally invisible to Greek taxation. It's a sizeable "industry", and since we have not had a "property tax" similar to the US until just now, these income producing properties went untaxed, here or in the home country of the owner, as everything is "cash and carry", for all intents and purposes. I have no idea how the Greek IRS can even begin to address this multi million Euro sector. The hoteliers have been raising a fuss, as they do have to keep records and pay taxes, while a significant competitor flies under the radar, and much of the money leaves Greece.

    Just some examples.

  31. Podunk Paul "Must political protest be focused, programmatic, prioritized to be effective?"

    Yes, I'm afraid it must be well organized to be effective, especially in this day and age when the news media tends to rank a story by how well organized it is when they first see it. Stories that require less work on their part get higher ranking.

    Another comparison is the Civil Rights movement. From the late 50's to 1968 the Civil Rights movement was powerful and very well organized and forced an enormous amount of change in a very short period of time.

    MLK's death without a clear heir splintered the movement and the resulting in-fighting alienated the young people who had become the shock troops of the movement. The cities burned with Black Rage in the hot summers of 1968 - 73 and the Civil Rights movement stalled out.

    Your comment about "talking becoming superfluous" is accurate but is a recipe for the nastiest of divorces. I don't think anybody here favors civil war yet.

    bb - Your comment on work being available if you're willing to go out and find it is accurate as well but I fear that despair is the leading emotion of this time and that doesn't lead to easily changing your self-image enough to go out and get the work.

  32. Ran across a really interesting take on the OWS protests this morning. I highly recommend you all read it.

    Link: http://erratasec.blogspot.com/2011/10/independent-reporting-of.html#more

  33. Andy: No argument on the complexity and (probably) the dangerous level of insolvency of the current system. But I would argue that while the problems are complex, a "fix" would be fairly simple.

    The real issue is one of "what do banks loan money for" and "what can banks do".

    After 1929 we in the person of the U.S. government decided in the form of the Glass-Steagall Act that they were "supposed" to be for low-risk, high-collateral loans. So the "investment banks" were cut off from the "traditional banks" and the latter secured by things like the FDIC. The former could go play roulette with their investor's money all they wanted.

    The latter were supposed to be the way the movies portrayed a "banker"; a watch-fob, cautious, conservative sort of guy who required you to put up your first-born as collateral.

    Gramm-Leach reopened the casino to the big traditional banks without repealing the requirement to secure their deposits. That pretty much gave them the key to the federal vault.

    The ratings agencies? Yeah, the very setup of their compensation is an invitation to chicanery.

    So the "solution" would be as simple as returning the traditional banks to their pre-Gramm-Leach status (or, alternatively, forcing a bank that wished to join the "investment" markets to forego FDIC protection and loudly advertise the fact, although that doesn't really lessen the risk of big-bank failure and the resulting economic harm) and relegating the ratings agencies to the "harmless kook" status they should have, given their blatant corruption and simple-minded mistakes on display in the Little Crash of 2008.

    Obviously it's not as simple as that, but those two steps would help move the U.S. a long step back from the current "19th Century bubble-and-panic" economy we've set up today.

  34. On the issue of "what is the OWS message and is it focused enough to be effective" I would say that there is the "message"...and the media outlets' (who, let's not forget, are largely spokesmodels for large corporate owners and therefore unlikely to be particularly sympathetic to or honest about a movement that is blatently anti-corporate) relay of that message.

    The actual message seems to me very simple and coherent; The economic and political power of large corporate entities, and the financial entities on the Street in particular, is too large in general and too influential in all levels of U.S. government in particular.

    Full stop.

    And from there, the "message" logically follows to both the public and the governing classes: "DO SOMETHING!"

    Repeal much of Gramm-Leach. Cut off the lobbyist spigot. Get the corporate cash out of government. Use your antitrust powers on the biggest financial institutions; if they're "too big to fail" they're too dangerous to exist.

    I would speculate that what we're hearing about how "unfocused" these protests are often comes from the corporate media. Hmmm...I wonder. Do you think that the news corporation might have an axe to grind here? Naaahhh...

    The comparison to the Civil Rights movement is a little difficult, Pluto; civil rights was pretty narrowly focused on a subgroup within the U.S. public, and on a clearly defined set of on-their-facede jure unjust laws. When the Jim Crow system was broken by the enactment of the federal Civil Rights legislation in the Sixties the movement was almost certainly doomed to fragmentation. Some wanted to go after de facto segregation in the North, others the economic segregation nationally, some into the issue of the war in Vietnam...I'm not sure that it was the loss of King that fragmented the movement as much as the loss of the Dark Lord of Segregation...

    And another factor - and I think this is already coming into play with OWS - is the coalescense of opposition. The old-school racists were thugs and, like thugs, were easy to hate and defeat. But once the blacks started coming after "my job" and a house in "my neighborhood"...well, suddenly it wasn't such a warm fuzzy thing anymore. The coalition of blacks, white liberals and moderates who opposed de jure segregation fell apart as the blacks turned to the whites and asked "Okay, now - are you ready to have me live next to you?"

    They weren't, they didn't, and here we are...

  35. Chief,

    I guess I should have been more clear - I think the OWS anger is coherent and so is the direction of that in general terms. When it comes to specifics though - as in what changes should actually be made to rectify the situation - it's very much a mixed bag.

  36. Paul-

    Divorce is a good metaphor.


    Interesting link, but then the author has his own filter bubble, which comes out quite strongly.

    I found this interesting . . .


  37. Thanks, Seyditz. But Pluto may be right in that "divorce" assumes a more intractable mindset than may actually be there. Rosa Luxemburg's notion of revolutionary spontaneity -- that change bubbles up from below in an inchoate manner -- applies to all large projects. As things develop, priorities and immediate goals can be trusted to make themselves apparent. Certainly we have all experienced something of the confusion and dithering that marks the initial state of life-changing endeavors.
    Those young people laying siege to Wall Street must wonder how far to push things, who among their compatriots to trust, what actions are worth the risk of arrest and permanent unemployment. Once those questions are at least provisionally answered, there will be time to formulate near-term objectives.

  38. So I check in at FDL, and what do I see?




  39. 2 Mayors Mike and the Occupiers.

    Miike the First ( and reference George Carlin's famous routine about who runs this joint ) "We frikkin OWN YOU!!"

    Mayor Bloomberg fired a warning shot Friday at the city unions who have backed the Occupied Wall Street protests, saying “we’re not going to have money to pay our municipal employees” if the financial sector takes a hit and New York’s tax take goes down with it.

    “Everyone’s got a thing they want to protest, some of which is not realistic,” Bloomberg said. “And if you focus for example on driving the banks out of New York City, you know those are our jobs … You can’t have it both ways: If you want jobs you have to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people.”

    “The protests that are trying to destroy the jobs of working people in this city aren’t productive,” Bloomberg said in his weekly radio appearance with John Gambling. Taking a swipe at “some of the labor unions participating,” Bloomberg added that “their salaries come from – are paid by – some of the people they’re trying to vilify.”


    Mike the Second, Seattle:

    We understand that Occupy Seattle wishes to have a sustained presence in Westlake Park for the purpose of expressing their views. From the outset we have been trying to work out a solution that meets the city’s needs and Occupy Seattle’s need to protest against wealth inequality in our country.

    My staff has been reaching out to and communicating with members of Occupy Seattle. Here’s how we are proceeding:

    We are providing a permit for protest activities at Westlake Park which will allow them to have an organizing tent that can remain overnight. As a condition of the permit, protestors will have to allow for cleaning of the park, protect park property, accommodate the other existing permitted events, and protect access to businesses.

    We are making City Hall Plaza available for those that wish to stay overnight, with reasonable restrictions on the tents so as to allow free use of the plaza during the day. Unlike Westlake, City Hall also has restroom facilities available. Both the permit and the ability to set up tents at City Hall Plaza would last for two weeks, at which point we can assess whether the arrangement is meeting everyone’s needs and should be extended.

    These are extraordinary times. We have seen the Occupy Wall Street movement take off in cities across the country, and there’s a reason for it. There is real anger about the unprecedented concentration of wealth and power in this country and the inequality it has produced. I share the values and the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We want to provide the opportunity for the people of Seattle to express their views. And we are.



  40. I think Mayor Bloomberg's words in support of the banks show why the protestors have difficulty offering a coherent "cure". There is no doubt that "real" banks and investment banks were the driving force behind the current recession, as a result of a mad drive for profits, unscrupulous practices, such as misrepresenting the risk in a bond issuance to promote sales, while at the same time taking our bets against those same bonds and the like. Further, look at the mortgage documentation process nightmare.

    While the economy, as well as the private citizen needs "banks", do we need unprincipled banks such as what have evolved? Is Mayor Bloomberg telling his constituents that the jobs these firms support place them above the laws and the best interests of the general society? Is he suggesting that wealth trumps "The People"?

    I consider myself a fairly intelligent, well educated person, and to be frank, I have had great difficulty getting my head around the events of the past 10 years. The "mortgage crisis" was not only predictable, but was rooted in outright fraud - on a massive scale. It was not a "mortgage" crisis, it was pure and simple financial crime, replete with false documents as part of day to day business, for example. Funny that we will imprison someone who makes false ID so a kid can drink at age 18, and not the signatory on false mortgage documents. The Supremes, in Citizens United, gave corporations the rights of personhood, yet so far, people like Bloomberg would never call for them to carry any responsibilities of personhood.

    It's such a stinking mess that it does not puzzle me in the least that the general population has difficulty focusing on a cure. Especially when so many elected "leaders" are happy with the status quo, the reign of the oligarchs, and the primacy of concentrated money over the general well being. Since the cocaine and heroin business "creates jobs", perhaps it's time to give the dealers of drugs a pass too?

  41. Al,
    I share your confusion, but doesn't it all boil down to the difference in regulating banking versus investment banking. It's 2 different critters, to my understanding.
    Person`hood is a difficult concept to swallow.
    How do you send a corporation to jail?

  42. jim-

    During the surge in sub-prime mortgaging, the entire financial industry engaged in an orgy of fraud, document alteration, failure of due diligence and double dealing. Once the "regular" banks saw that the disreputable mortgage companies were taking over the lending market by throwing mortgages into the open windows of passing cars, the "regular" banks joined in the orgy. Look at Washington Mutual, transformed from a very conservative lender to loan slut poster child in a bat of an eyelash. CEO made it clear in writing that anyone with a heartbeat would be given a mortgage.

    The the investment banks bundled and sold securities that were mortgages awaiting default as first grade paper. Of course, they also sold credit default swaps betting against the very securities they were touting as sure fire investments.

    No, you don't send a "corporation to jail", you send the officers, managers and specialists who knowingly participated in fraud, fraudulent documentation, document alteration and the like to jail. But hell, we won't, because it would have a "chilling effect" on American capitalism. No one would be willing to take the risks of being in the corporate world. Read that as "Felons can successfully hide behind the corporate veil." The impersonal corporation may be fined (read that pass the cost on to stockholders and customers), but the persons who raked in millions to their own pockets can walk.

  43. Jim: "How do you send a corporation to jail?"

    It gets better. Does selling off a portion of a corporation count as dismemberment? Can the CEO of a company that sells off a division of the company be sued by workers for the company for violating the company's 8th amendment rights?

    Can bankruptcy now be considered a form of death? What is it now legally possible to murder a company? Would the police pursue such charges?

    I still can't believe the Supremes gave out that Corporation = Person ruling. A corporation is a legal fiction that makes doing business easier under certain circumstances it should never be equated with a living biological specimen.

  44. Short Stories that provide some "coherence":


    Or, for something longer, this:



  45. It is interesting that MS MacKinley offers no answer other than labeling the protesters as dangerous. There are strong parallels between the right wing and the OWS. The right wants to eviscerate the federal government, the quoted protester wants to "overthrow it". Both are saying the current form of government must go.

    Right wingers take issue with the cries for "debt forgiveness", yet just a short while ago, they were calling for debt default.

    The right doesn't want their way of life threatened, the OWS folks simply want a way of life.

  46. OWS are very optimistic, they believe that their actions actually can make a difference, that they can gain power by argument and rational persuasion . . . Good luck to them.

    The "right", or rather the jumbled mass of shards we label the right, imo is simply reactionary self-interest submerged in nihilism.

  47. seydlitz-

    Corporations and financial institutions are not the problem, their behavior is the problem.

    Government is not the problem, bad governance (again, behavior) is the problem.

    The solution? I have no idea how you change the behavior of self interested people. Once upon a time (FDR), we could look to government to reign in corporate and other private self interest. Now, there is no one minding the minders, and the minders are afraid of the minded, who are for all intends and purposes, consequently unminded. An Abbot and Costello description of economic anarchy.

    The right, who wish to preserve the freewheeling "economy" of the past 20 years, fail to admit that the growth in US GDP has been virtually private debt financed. People are spending more, not because they are earning more, but have been able to borrow more. For many, they have to borrow to tread water as their wages lose purchasing power. HOWEVER, corporate profits are fattened by consumer spending, whether or not that spending is via earned wages or debt. The current crisis is, in a large part due to totally unsound practices used to keep the debt faucet flowing at full tilt, and unethical and illegal practices used to hide the unsound practices at the origination of the debt contracts. Money chasing money. But hey, people were "buying" homes and P&P's were looking good, and Wall St was raking in the dough, both corporately and personally. Until........

  48. Al-

    Don't get me wrong, I don't really think there is a way out. The habits/characteristics/assumptions that are leading us over the cliff, if in fact we have not already gone over the cliff, are systemic, a worldview which we simply can't shake loose.

    That's why I describe OWS as "optimistic" since they really think they can turn things around. Wishing them luck does not mean I think they have much chance in succeeding.

    As for the shambles that is the "right", they offer nothing, since what unites them is narrow-minded self-interest, fear, prejudices masked as virtues and the endless ability to be manipulated by their plutocratic masters.

    That said, it is the grand institutions which are crumbling, not the communities in many cases . . . I'm sure you see this in Greece, as I do here in Portugal.

    People here are amazed that "Europe" and its leaders have not been more competent in putting up a fight against the modern Mongols of Goldman Sacs, which of course is only one of the problems.

  49. Aviator,
    Re;bad governance.
    It's really strange that the prime goal of COIN is to provide good gov to sand nations , and we are falling apart at the seams. How can we provide it in theater if we can't even recognize what it looks like.
    Elections are not proof of democracy.
    Just look around for proof of this.

  50. jim

    Democracy is not a guarantor of good governance. It's just a vehicle to elect those who govern.

    It's like the old saw, "The Constitution wasn't mean to be a suicide pact". Yes, perhaps, but it definitely allows a suicide pact to be executed. Otherwise, it would not allow the freedom to be stupid, and I don't know how a constitution can prevent stupid.

    Dumb asses are prone to electing dumb asses.

  51. Al,
    I always say that the beauty of America is that we all have the right to be wrong.

  52. I wish I could, but I can't sum it up any better than the poster over at "Balloon Juice" did:

    (Here's he's quoting from Ezra Klein): "In retrospect, a lot of what’s happened in the developed world since 1980 seems to have been based on the logic that since the mixed economy with regulated markets and a welfare state has outperformed command and control socialism, then clearly a pure to free market purism will produce even better results. But what if the success of the mixed economy with regulated markets and a welfare state proves that we should endorse . . . a mixed economy with regulated markets and a welfare state? Just because one slice of pizza is delicious doesn’t mean you should eat the whole pie."

    And here he is back in his own voice: "I think that one of the reasons western capitalism has been so stable is that it has tempered free-market purity with a social safety net. Another is that institutions like unions and a free press have given workers some reasonably peaceful means to push back against their Galtian overlords.

    A lot of that may be gone soon. Unions are weaker than ever and national media is not only completely dominated by corporate interests but largely delivered by millionaires who naturally identify with others in their economic class.

    I can see this all ending very badly."

    Me, too, buddy. Me, too.

  53. During 1941-43, while serving as a staff officer in Paris, Ernst Jünger wrote "Peace" . . .


    Our crisis has the same basis as then. Actually it is the same crisis, we have not escaped it. As in all human things, it simply took its own time in coming, in developing to its full extent, to encompass the entire world, or rather the West, since it is a crisis of the West. The basis of our fundamental crisis of values - following Jünger - imo is spiritual.

    Which explains who is on the inside and outside of the question. The Chinese and Indians have a hard time in understanding what all the uproar is all about . . . they have yet to deal with the questions we are now facing . . .

  54. Your quote is from Yglesias. But regardless of the source, still it is a good piece.


    Originally, this following bit was to be in reply to Aviator's "dumbass" comment, but it also buttresses the "national media" remark.

    From Driftglass, and my constant meme:


    Instead, any fair reading of the last three months or three years or 30 years proves exactly the opposite: that while Tom Friedman has been busy trotting the globe gleaning the opinions of miraculously-pro-Tom-Friedman cabbies in Hyderabad, hawking his awful books to gullible CEOs and giddily sucking China's dick, the American Conservative Movement -- backed by literally billions of dollars worth of ultra-Right Wing religious, teevee, radio, publishing, political and think-tank infrastructure -- has been patiently engaged in a Long March towards fascism.

    They built a Base that is completely impervious to facts and reason. They have built a massive echo chamber where contrary opinions simply die in the the doorway. They have muscled their opinions onto of the timid, centrist, "we don't want no controversy" heart of virtually every media conglomerate in America.

    And for the last 2.5 years, President Barack Obama has deployed every tool in his toolkit to forge common ground with these degenerates, up to and including selling out core Democratic principles in one misbegotten attempt after another to sue these traitors for peace.

    This is fact. Clear, unambiguous fact.

    And the complete denial of this single, gargantuan fact that sits squarely at the center of our comatose politics is that which Sherlock Holmes famously referred to as “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

    "But", the inspector points out, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

    "That," Holmes replies, "was the curious incident.”

    Because the dog ( referring to the national media ) -- the watchdog -- should have been doing something: the dog should have been barking its damn head off. And yet, as people were committing a crime right under its nose, the dog remained -- and remains -- conspicuously silent.

    In Massachusetts, where the "Lion of Liberalism" Ted Kennedy held sway for decades, the Republican incumbent US Senator Scot Brown still leads his presumed opponent, Elizabeth Warren. You'd tend to think that a Democrat would do better than that in Mass.

    So, are the voters in that storied state dumbasses, or are they woefully misinformed? Of course, the election is still more than a year away and folk are naturally concerned with their own lives.
    I don't know the state or its people, never been there, but it does seem to me that simply having "Democratic Party" next to your name would automaticly get you within spitting distance.
    Who knows, it may come down to which candidate does look better au naturel.


  55. seydlitz:

    "The basis of our fundamental crisis of values - following Jünger - imo is spiritual."


    At least this experiences delivers anew right to our doorstep the background to Jesus' complaining and never-ending Class War on the Rich. Eyes of needles and camels, full grain bins, and getting thirsty in Hell.

    For a number of years now, I've not watched the Sunday AM talk shows on TV, although I rarely missed them before. I did watch This Week this past Sunday to catch Jesse LaGreca:


    George Will, Peggy Noonan, an associate of GW Bush and Donna Brazille.

    My God.

    The only thing that beat that display of upper-crust snobbery was this, thankfully destroyed by one of Jim's Floridians.



  56. bb-

    Give me that ole time religion . . .

  57. Basil: My bad - I didn't check back the original source and get the right citation.

    Here's another quote, and one that pretty well sums up the way I feel about the actual political situation involved. This one is by David Atkins from over at "Hullabaloo":

    "Tea Partiers were not so cynical about the legislative process that they figured the Republican Party could not be bent to their will. Tea Partiers engaged in primary warfare and forced the GOP to take notice. The Occupy Movement could do likewise, but it would require a significant shift in tactics. The broader question is whether many progressives have lost all faith in the electoral system entirely.

    If that is the case, then systemic overthrow is all that is left. But in America, systemic overthrow won't be as in Tahrir Square. The broad swath of conservative America will never come along for the ride, but will fight tooth and nail against the protesters, not just rhetorically but physically as well. Many on the right have been itching to do so already. Real systemic overthrow will require a lot fewer drums, and a lot more boxes of ammunition. But use of that, too, would be contrary to the spirit of the American Left.

    So it's difficult to understand where precisely the change will come from. Politicians don't respond to protest movements any more than Dems were cowed from passing the ACA by the Tea Party protests. It takes more direct lobbying, electoral activity and leadership than simple protest to achieve legislative change. If electoral and legislative politics are eschewed, then revolution is all that is left. But that revolution will not be peaceful, and the American Left would need to be prepared for that eventuality.

    Basically I see this as a potential return of the anarchist/Left versus KnowNothing/Right of the turn of the LAST century, assuming that the Occupy folks have the stomach for the fight.

    But I don't think they do. I think that the Right's stranglehold on things like the corporate media and economic life in general will grind these protests down and we'll keep on slidin' down the bannister back towards the Gilded Age.

    The problem with that, of course, is if Kerensky doesn't succeed after him comes Lenin...and after him comes Stalin. If Weimar falls then the National Socialists bully their way in. If the Etats General can't help find a solution to the problems of the masses then along comes 1789 and things REALLY go to hell.

    I think the plutocracy is - as plutocracies typically are - unable to see beyond the tip of its well-groomed nose. I think if the present trends continue that we're in for Andy's shock...but not in a good way and not in a way likely to produce anything, ANYthing remotely hopeful or positive.

    I sure as hell hope I'm wrong.

  58. Chris Hedges . . .


  59. The dire example the U.S. oligarchs would do well to remember is Tunisia. The protest there started because there were a bunch of young people, twenty- and thirtysomethings, who had "done the right thing", gone to school, gotten their credentials, and then found that a combination of nepotism and crony capitalism left them without decent work. Combined with the corruption and incompetence of the regime this created a tinderbox that ignited a poor and under-employed nation.

    Obviously we're in better shape than a Third World bandbox of a country. Now. But I'm not so sure that we're not heading there...

  60. Pluto: "Another comparison is the Civil Rights movement. From the late 50's to 1968 the Civil Rights movement was powerful and very well organized and forced an enormous amount of change in a very short period of time."

    And every step was met by strong and sometimes savage resistance by the 'respectable people'. MLK was an uppity n*gger until the concrete had set hard over his grave.

  61. Barry: and let's not forget that the reason the change happened is that LBJ was willing to cut the Dixiecrats off at the knees and accept that they would become the Tea Party. "We have lost the South for generations." he's supposed to have told his staff after signing the Civil Rights Act.

    OWS has no such a savior in either of the two parties right now and I do not see one emerging.

  62. Fortunately, as I recently learned from Herman Cain, it's really a simple problem:

    Herman Cain recently criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying, "Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself."

    At Tuesday night's CNN debate, Cain stood by his comments -- to loud cheers from the audience.

    "I still stand by my statement," he said.

  63. The sage of the age: