Occupy Wall Street: A Master Class in Occupation


NEW YORK CITY—Jon Friesen, 27, tall and lanky with a long, dirty-blond ponytail, a purple scarf and an old green fleece, is sitting on concrete at the edge of Zuccotti Park leading a coordination meeting, a gathering that takes place every morning with representatives of each of Occupy Wall Street’s roughly 40 working groups.

“Our conversation is about what it means to be a movement and what it means to be an organization,” he says to the circle. A heated discussion follows, including a debate over whether the movement should make specific demands.

I find him afterward on a low stone wall surrounding a flowerbed in the park. He decided to come to New York City, he said, from the West Coast for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. He found a ride on Craig’s List while staying at his brother’s home in Champaign, Ill.

Todd Walton: Recent Studies Show

Mendocino, California

“As far as income tax payments go, sources vary in their accounts, but a range of studies find that immigrants pay between $90 billion and $140 billion in Federal, State, and local taxes. And let us not forget the Social Security system. Recent studies show that undocumented workers sustain the Social Security system with as much as $7 billion a year. Let me repeat that: $7 billion a year.” Luis Gutierrez

Which seems to contradict…

“The Center for Immigration Studies found that illegal immigrants cost the United States taxpayer about $10 billion a year. A large part of that expense stems from the babies born each year to illegal immigrants.” Nathan Deal

Marcia and I both have web sites and use the interweb for research, marketing, entertainment, and communication with the world outside of Mendocino. Her office and mine are separated by a wall through which we occasionally shout at each other, though we can never be certain what the other person is shouting about until one or the other of us rises from his or her chair and walks around the corner to find out; or we send each other emails. It occurs to me that we could call each other on the phone, since we have separate lines, but we never do. That would feel silly.

We both have taken to scanning news synopses and articles on the interweb and exclaiming about various horrors and wonders and nonsense we discover. These exclamations can be heard through the wall and often elicit shouts of “What?” or may cause the hearer to rise and walk around the corner to find out what the exclaimer is exclaiming about. We are particularly fond of reports of recent studies by so-called scientists that may prove or disprove something that absolutely, trust me, does not need proving or disproving, though this lack of necessity never stops the studiers from carrying out their needless studies because, hey, in these difficult economic times what else have they got to do with their time and your money?

You can Occupy Wall Street anywhere

Daily Kos 

Way back in the days of the dinosaurs, there was a time when many of us knew, at least in theory, that it was time to discuss the infractions of the Bush-Cheney administration in terms of (gasp!) impeachment.Now, we had all sorts of arguments at the time about whether that was politically wise or politically feasible. And some minds changed over time. But way, way back at the beginning of my own involvement with the issue, the very idea of impeachment—indeed, the very utterance of the word—was viewed with horror. No one Serious (let alone Very Serious) wanted to have anything to do with its mention. It was only later that opponents became comfortable discussing it, even if only in terms of its being “off the table.”

And so I hit upon an idea, unrefined at the time, and which I later found out had occurred to others who had already begun to take the same idea to the next level. I would start a sort of guerrilla marketing campaign to force the word “impeachment” back into the discussion.

As I said, I later discovered that there were others doing similar work, and doing it much better. I’m speaking here of the famous Freeway Blogger, with whom I later collaborated in trying to spread the simple “Impeach” message. His methods were so simple, cheap and sound, it seemed perfect for that particular movement, and seems only more so now. Let me let him show you what I mean.

Now, you might not be able to realistically spend your days (and nights) at an Occupation in your area. Or there might not even be one near you, even if you wanted to participate. Maybe you even feel like you’re the only one in your town who even would support such a thing. Well, the Freeway Blogger has a way for you to make a statement, regardless. Almost anybody can do this:

Homemade signs have been a big part of the Occupy movement from the beginning. Everyone gets to express themselves, even if it means scrawling a message in magic marker on the inside of a pizza box. But as you can see from the above video, there’s an easy way to get a little more polish for your sign, and scale things up some, too, without any fancy printing equipment, and with a minimum of expense.

Will Parrish: The Real Frost Protection Conspiracy [Local]

The Anderson Valley Advertiser

The primary mandate of the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), a division of the California Environmental Protection Agency, is to ensure adequate water for California’s fish populations. Its actual function, however, has proved to be altogether different.

In recent decades, the SWRCB has presided over the near-extinction of California’s salmonid population. An unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, threadfin shad, young striped bass, Sacramento splittail and other fish populations occurred from 2007-2009, with record water exports out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from 2003 to 2006 being the principal culprit.

One major sub-set of the larger problem of collapsing fisheries involves the North Coast wine industry, which has increasingly depleted, polluted, and sedimented the Russian River and other North Coast waterways across the past few decades, using an amount of water merely to frost-protect grapes in spring that Rodney Strong, patriarch of a famous eponymous wine label in Healdsburg, even referred to as “horrendous.”

Another is that the SWRCB is blithely ignoring one of the greatest, ongoing collective water heists in the history of California. There are currently more than 800 illegal water reservoirs in the Russian River basin alone, out of a total of roughly 1,700 in the North Coast region of Marin, Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. The Control Board is aware that a massive quantity of the state’s water is being stolen, yet does virtually nothing.

In a 2007 study, the consulting firm Stetson Engineering estimated the capacity of these water impoundments is 48,515 acre feet, amounting to 3,234 surface acres of illegal reservoirs. The reservoirs submerge stream reaches and headwaters, thereby drying up spawning habitat critical to fish. As Arcata-based fisheries biologist Patrick Higgins observes, these “reservoirs are ideal habitat for bull frogs, which decimate native amphibian populations.

Todd Walton: Whoopsie Doopsie [Local]


“The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough is love.” Henry Miller

A couple years ago I created a catchy blues tune entitled Whoopsie Doopsie, and after I performed the song to the apparent delight of my wife Marcia, I thought I might make a recording of the tune and see how the world liked it. I wrote a note to myself—Whoopsie Doopsie Project—and put the note in the center of my just-cleaned desk, thereby establishing a new bottom layer for the accumulation of papers and books and drawings and letters and bills that would inevitably grow into a high plateau of dysfunction until, in a fit of frustration, I abstained from eating and drinking for several hours until the mess was properly expelled.

Thus time and again over these many months, I worked my way down to a little yellow square of paper on which was writ Whoopsie Doopsie Project, a trio of words that sent me to the piano to bang out the latest rendition, after which I would say to myself, “Yes, I really should record that and see what the world thinks of it.” Then the tides of time and paper would rush in again and submerge the note, and the project would largely vanish from my consciousness, except on rainy mornings when I was practicing the piano, at which times I might essay a version or two of the pleasing apparition.

Feeling especially sad one such rainy morning, I played a very slow Whoopsie Doopsie, and the sweet little love song became dark and plaintive; and I appreciated the song in my bones rather than with my sense of humor. And that very night we went to a dinner party at which the hostess asked me to play, and Marcia suggested I premiere Whoopsie Doopsie for the public, as it were. So I performed a rather timid version of the tune, the piano unfamiliar to me, and everyone in the audience said

Occupy Wall Street: The Metamovement

Dave Pollard’s weighs in here

I believe that we’re witnessing the rise of a global Metamovement

The Metamovement is a movement of movements. Not all these movements are similar; no two are exactly like; each can be readily distinguished from the next. The Arab Spring is part of the Metamovement; the London Riots were part of the Metamovement; protests spreading across America, under the banner of Occupy Wall St, are all part of the Metamovement.

Yet, just like in an epidemic, each outbreak triggers the next–and in that cascade can perhaps be traced the jagged outline of the shared DNA within each cell of the larger metamovement.

Where did this virus erupt? The simplest answer is: in Sidi Bouzid, where Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight, in protest. What sent Bouazizi over the edge of sanity–or perhaps into the arms of a kind of hyperrational embrace of a singular act of revolt?

“…He was 23 and had left school early because his widowed mother couldn’t afford to keep him there. On 17 December Mr Bouazizi’s vegetable cart was confiscated by the town council which said he didn’t have permission to trade. When he tried to get the cart back a woman from the council slapped him in the face.”

Got that? Bouazizi was systematically, structurally denied the opportunity to prosper, time after time, by a monolithic set of institutions. For the privileged and powerful, these institutions turned fortune into excess–but for Bouazizi, they turned misfortune into willful calamity, literally slapping him across the face, wresting from him the chance to be author of his own destiny, stripping a sense of agency and dignity from him with Kafkaesque precision.

In a sense, that sentiment is the common thread behind each and every movement in the Metamovement. The Metamovement feels like Bouazizi felt–a sense of grievous injustice, not merely at rich getting richer, but at the loss of human agency and sovereignty over their own fates that is the deeper human price.

In other words, it’s not just about inequality–but the deeper failure of institutions. To let people–especially the young–redress inequality by whatever slender means they might muster, by creating new opportunities. At every turn, the people in the Metamovement feel not merely spurned and scorned–but suffocated and strangled by institutions every bit as unflinchingly lethal as a hangman’s noose.

Their truth, I suspect, might be this: there’s no one left to turn to–and so the Metamovement has turned to each other.

The lack of identifiable leaders of Occupy Wall Street is driving the Power Elites and their Mainstream Media lackeys crazy


Here are some semi-random notes on the Occupy Wall Street movement, based partly on some “insider” contacts.

I am honored to have long been in email correspondence with David DeGraw of Amped Status, one of the key initial organizers of the Occupy Wall Street movement. As a result of our mutual support society/correspondence, I am also honored to be included in an email group of people I consider the leading lights in the movement to restore democracy and fiscal sanity to this nation, people like Matt Taibbi, Barry Ritholtz, William Black, Max Keiser, Dylan Ratigan, Karl Denninger, Yves Smith, Michael Hudson, Nomi Prins, David Cay Johnston, Paul Craig Roberts, “George Washington” and Tyler Durden, to name some whose work you have probably read.

I want to start by saying that David DeGraw has acted under extreme pressure with integrity and grace at every step of this amazing journey. He is an American hero in my book, along with all the other initial organizers of the OWS movement: someone who cannot be bought, someone with the uncommon courage to act (virtually alone at times) against the united forces of oppression, exploitation and thuggery that is the Wall Street/Washington, D.C. Power Elite.

The OWS story appears to begin in late September, but it actually started in March, when David, Anonymous and other activists began organizing a June 14 “occupation” of Liberty Park: Acts of Resistance: What Are You Going To Do To Rebel Against Economic Tyranny? (June 1, 2011), Prepare For Revolution: The Empire State Rebellion Begins on June 14th (March 31, 2011), The A99 social network group, etc.

David has summarized his 19-month experience on the front lines of the movement: Report from the Frontlines: The Long Road to #OccupyWallStreet and the Origins of the 99% Movement.

What few people know or recall is that the June 14 occupation attracted a total of four citizens: David and three other brave souls: event organizer Gary Roland, Oren Clark and Kevin Dann. (Other sources say 16 people showed up but only these four were prepared to occupy the park.)

Here is David’s statement after the disappointing turnout: Back home from Liberty Park (June 15, 2011).

David does not try to take credit as a leader; rather, he repeatedly states the movement is decentralized and leaderless

Big Bank Revolt in Full Swing, Million$ Withdrawn


Remember, Remember the 5th of November: BANK TRANSFER DAY

Together we can ensure that corrupt crony-capitalist banking institutions will ALWAYS remember the 5th of November! If the 99% removes our funds from major banking institutions to non-profit credit unions on or by this date, we will send a clear message to the 1% that conscious consumers won’t support companies with unethical business practices.

Read the FAQ
RSVP to Bank Transfer Day
@BankTransferDay on Twitter
Download Flyers
Find an American Credit Union
Find a Canadian Credit Union
Contact Bank Transfer Day
Seven Simple Steps To Move Your Checking Account

1. Open Your New Account

In most cases, you should be able to open a checking account with an initial deposit of $35 to $100. At a credit union, you’ll also become a member and co-owner at the same time.

2. Order New Checks and an ATM/Debit Card

These typically arrive within 1 to 2 weeks. You should also consider applying for a credit card from your new local bank or credit union at the same time.

Unequal Protection — Chapter Twelve: Unequal Uses for the Bill of Rights


[Article with references here]

Of the cases in this court in which the Fourteenth Amendment was applied during its first fifty years after its adoption, less than one half of one percent invoked it in protection of the Negro race, and more than fifty percent asked that its benefits be extended to corporations. – Justice Hugo Black, 1938

The statistic in this chapter’s epigraph is sobering indeed. It says corporations sought protection under the Fourteenth Amendment a hundred times more often than did the people it was intended to protect. And this is not a victimless shift—there have been real and substantial consequences. In the years following the Santa Clara decision and the cases that referred to it, companies have used their personhood rights in an amazing variety of ways. What follows in this chapter is a small selection.

First Amendment

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. noted in the landmark 1919 Shenck v. United States case that shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater does not constitute free speech; the Bill of Rights guarantees that a person’s opinion can be expressed, not that there are no limits on what one can do. But consider how this fundamental freedom has been bent by corporations since Santa Clara.

By claiming the same right as humans to express themselves, companies won approval to spend whatever they want on lobbyists in Washington. At one point there was a full-time tobacco lobbyist for every two legislators on Capitol Hill. As of 2005 there were roughly 64 registered lobbyists for every member of Congress, and 138 of them are former members of Congress. Include state lobbyists, and there are more than 60,000 (because of variations in state laws on what is or isn’t a lobbyist, and who and how they should register, this may well be a significant underestimate: nobody really knows the true number).

As Jeffrey H. Birnbaum noted in the Washington Post in June 2005, “The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy.”

He added that “lobbying firms can’t hire people fast enough” and that salaries started at $300,000 a year. “Big bucks lobbying is luring nearly half of all lawmakers who return

Don’t Be Suckered Into Buying a House Now

Thanks to Steve Scalmanini 

When a 30-Year Mortgage is a 30-Year Prison Sentence

Don’t even think about buying a house for the next year or so. Not unless you can afford to flush tens of thousands of dollars down the toilet, because that’s what you’ll be doing.

Here’s what’s happening. As everyone knows, housing is driven by the same supply-demand dynamics as every other market. The problem is, the banksters have gamed the system so it looks like there’s less inventory then there really is, so prices are higher than they should be. By keeping millions of homes off the market the banks are protecting themselves from bigger losses. Unfortunately, it’s the buyer who ends up being the victim in this market-rigging scam.

Now take a look at this goofy article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal and I’ll try to explain what’s really going on:

“The housing market, which has struggled with an oversupply of homes for years, is facing a new problem: a lack of attractive inventory.

There were more than 2.19 million homes listed for sale at the end of September, down 20% from a year earlier, according to a new report from the real-estate website Realtor.com. That is the lowest level since the company began its count in 2007.

The report is the latest sign of how the U.S. housing market can’t seem to catch a break. While falling inventories are typically a sign of health, because reduced competition can boost prices, that isn’t the case right now.

Instead, real-estate agents say, people are pulling their homes off the market rather than try to sell them at today’s discounted prices. At the same time, banks have been more slowly moving to take back properties through foreclosure ever since processing irregularities surfaced last fall, temporarily reducing the supply of foreclosed properties. The shrinking supply isn’t driving up prices because demand is soft.

Yet there is still a substantial “shadow” supply of foreclosures and other distressed homes, estimated to be more than one million, that is likely to stream onto the market in the coming years. The pent-up supply is another constraint on any of the price gains that might normally occur when supply falls.” (“Slim Pickings Are Latest Headache for Home Sales”, Wall Street Journal)

Excuse me? Shadow inventory is around “one million” homes? You’ve got to be kidding?

Process is politics at Occupy Wall Street


To all but a few seasoned activists, one of the most novel and at times befuddling characteristics of Occupy Wall Street is its structure: radically decentralized, few if any recognizable leaders, many (but not all) decisions made by consensus at a daily open group meeting known as the general assembly.

The unconventional structure has seemed to contribute to Occupy’s appeal and growth, as well as its resistance to specifying traditional political demands. (Though as I’ve previously reported, there are plenty of voices within Occupy that want to make demands. The debate continues.)

To learn more about the theory behind Occupy’s structure, and its historical precedents, I spoke to organizer Marina Sitrin.

Besides being a member of Occupy’s legal and facilitation working groups, she is a lawyer, a writer and a postdoctoral fellow at the Committee on Globalization and Social Change at the CUNY Graduate Center. In 2006, Sitrin published “Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina,” a study of the decentralized organizing that occurred in Argentina following an economic crisis in 2001.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length.

Define the concept of horizontalism and explain where the term comes from.

The term comes from Argentina. I would mark the history going back to the mid-1990s when the Zapatista uprising sparked people’s imagination as to a different way of organizing and a different relationship to power and to the state. They were not organizing in relationship to the state, but rather in relationship to each other. Not making demands on the state, but saying, “We’re going to create something different, leave us alone to do that.” And also organizing in assembly-based forms.

In 1999 we had the Seattle [World Trade Organization] protests in the U.S. and globally all kinds of groups organized. I was in the direct action group in New York, for example, after 1999.  That was also organized in assemblies, similar to the general assembly that we’re now using in Liberty Plaza. There were working groups that were generally autonomous, but if a working group was making a decision that would affect the whole body, a proposal would have to come before the body. The working groups were run by a consensus or consensus-based process. That means rather than just taking up or down votes, you strive

The first review of ‘The Transition Companion’


Here is a review of ‘The Transition Companion’ by Maddy Harland from the new edition of Permaculture Magazine.  You can download a pdf of the page on which it appears here.

Transition is now a worldwide grassroots movement that looks climate change and peak oil squarely in the face and dismisses the utter impossibility of endless economic growth on a planet of finite resources. It offers community based solutions to help people in villages, towns and cities adapt to the inevitable challenges of the oncoming reality of profound economic and social change unflinchingly and with a good degree of humility and good cheer. It’s a collection of recipes for building community, environmental regeneration, relocalised economies and so much more.

Transition emerged from an energy descent plan process during an in-depth permaculture design course taught by Rob Hopkins at Kinsale Further Education College in the early 2000s and has since spread around the world. Rob’s first book, The Transition Handbook (2008), introduced the concept and explained how to set up Transition initiatives. It went down a storm. Other titles followed in the series – on local food, money, planning a Transition ‘timeline’, and how to influence local government with these ideas – by a variety of authors working with Rob and the other co-founders of the movement. Almost a decade of experimentation unfolded. This new volume offers stories of Transition initiatives from all over the world, plus practical Transition Tools for starting, and perhaps more critically, maintaining a Transition initiative. It’s an impressive collection of ideas and praxis.

I read so many books about peak oil, the state of the world, and environmental degradation that I often glaze over. This one is different. It has authority born from practical experience, a musculature that is immediately engaging, even reassuring. It feels mature. The book is not afraid to catalogue the limitations and failures, even celebrate them, as well as the successes. I like the way the book was crowd sourced. Rob blogged on each Transition Tool and invited feedback and ideas. The participatory aspect brings it alive: here is more than one visionary man’s voice but a whole chorus of voices. There’s a good degree of futurecasting within its pages: stories from a future that has embraced transition, some not without their humour. As computer scientist, Alan Kay said, “The best way to invent the future is to predict it.” That’s exactly what this book aims to do.

Whole Foods was around the corner

Salon [Fiction]

Elizabeth had tons of debt and no job, but blamed herself for majoring in English — until she attended a rally

My roommate Stelline, back from Zuccotti Park to pick up some of her things, convinced me to go.

“Get off your lazy ass, Elizabeth, and do something.”

But I had done something that day. I had gone to brunch. I spent $22 on eggs benedict and coffee and, yes, I was $52,000 in debt and overwhelmed by this fact. I had graduated from college three years ago, had a degree in English. I was deeply embarrassed by my existence. I was terrible at being poor, hated the apartment in Queens that I shared with two other women. I was in between temp jobs and I hated temp jobs. I only wanted to read books, and one day to write one, but I didn’t believe that I actually could. I felt spectacularly unsuited for this world.

Whereas Stelline was radiant. Her hair was blue. Her nose was pierced. The earring in her nose was sparkly and blue. She was a lesbian. She was a social activist. She was fearless. Most of the time, she ignored me.

“What? Where are we going?” I said. “What are we going to do? I drank too much coffee. I don’t want to get arrested.”

“Shut up,” she said. “Come on.”

“I don’t want to get arrested,” I repeated.

“Of course you don’t.”

Stelline was the lesbian, but I was the one in love. I let her pull me from my futon, and I let her lace my Converse sneakers, and we walked to the subway and waited for the N train and I was happy.  On the train ride into Manhattan, Stelline talked and talked about how Occupy Wall Street was going to revolutionize the country. Stelline had not gone to college and she did not have student loans and she was a killer waitress. Unlike me, she always had money, and she was always giving it away. She gave $20 bills to homeless people and she sent checks to Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and to a woman in Ecuador with three children who wanted to go to college. She supported another woman in Tanzania who had opened a bakery.

“You have been fucked by the political system,” she told me.

I didn’t see that, not entirely. I had voted for Barack Obama. He was an African-American, and he had been elected president. Plus, he was still cleaning up Bush’s bullshit. Yes, he was making too many compromises

Turning occupation into lasting change

YES! Magazine

[…] This November, Spokane residents will vote on Proposition One which 1) grants neighborhoods complete control over local development, 2) affords rights and protections to the Spokane River and Aquifer, 3) grants Constitutional protections to employees in the workplace and 4) makes People’s right’s superior to corporate rights…

Abolitionists never sought to regulate the slave trade; they sought freedom and rights for slaves. Suffragists didn’t seek concessions but demanded the right for all women to vote. The Occupy movement must begin to use lawmaking activities in cities and towns to build a new legal structure of rights that empowers community majorities over corporate minorities, rather than the other way around...

The history of populist uprisings like Occupy Wall Street isn’t a reassuring one. The last one to have any staying power was the populist farmers revolt of the 1800’s, and it was aggressively dismantled by everyone from the two major political parties to the banks and railroad corporations of its day.

Most revolts are snuffed out well before their efforts impact the political scene—not because their ideas and issues aren’t relevant, but because the major institutional players within the system-that-is rapidly attempt to snag the power and energy for their own. In the eyes of the Democratic Party or the national environmental groups, this revolt is merely seen as an opportunity to assimilate newly emerging troops back into those groups’ own ineffective organizing. After all, if those institutional groups have actually been effective all of these years, why the need for a revolt at all?

It’s when these revolts become mainstreamed by their “friends” within existing institutions that they lose their steam, and become just one more footnote in an endless stream of footnotes of revolts that have burned out early. The pundits and “experts” are already trying to put this revolt in its place. A recent New York Times editorial declared that it “isn’t the job of these protesters to write legislation.” That, the editorial argued, was what the national politicians need to do. The Times couldn’t be more wrong.

If the Occupy movement is to succeed over time, it must follow the lead of community rights building efforts that have begun work to dismantle the body of law that perpetually subordinates people, community, and nature to wealthy corporate minorities. For example:

Occupy Wall Street Spreads Worldwide — 50 Photos


The Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow and has now spread across the world, motivating thousands to voice their anger at financial and social inequality, and in some places merging with existing anti-government protests. On Saturday, a global “Day of Rage” was observed, and demonstrations took place in more than 80 countries around the world. Protesters took their messages and anger to the streets from Hong Kong to Fairbanks, from Miami to London, from Berlin to Sydney, and hundreds more cities large and small. The demonstrations were largely peaceful — with the exception of some violent clashes in Rome. Collected here are some images from the past several days as the Occupy Wall Street message continues to resonate and grow.

50 Captioned Photos here

Over 200 Pissed Off Ukiahans Occupy Downtown! Boycott Big Banks! Move Your Money!

Ukiah Occupied — Sunday 10/16/11

Move Your Money Movement Having a Revival


After passively accepting ever-increasing mistreatment from big banks, activists, community groups and even some politicians are jumping aboard a broad, multi-stage “move your money” campaign designed to transfer bank deposits into community banks and credit unions.

The twin inspirations for this have been the Occupy Wall Street movement and its focus on the lords of finance, and Bank of America’s announcement of a $5 monthly debit card fee, charging customers to use their own money. The latter in particular has sparked a great deal of activity. A petition to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan asking him to reverse the decision has over 223,000 signatures on the site Change.org. And House Democrats have asked Attorney General Holder to begin an investigation into whether big banks violated antitrust laws by colluding with one another over increased fees after the implementation of swipe fee reform from Dodd-Frank.

But many are bypassing the idea of getting BofA or other banks to reverse its fees and moving directly to encouraging customers to move their money. Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) introduced a bill that makes the process of moving money simpler, and bans all exit fees on the customer for transferring out of a bank. The idea is to fight gouging with competition, and to make the ability to move money frictionless.

This policy-level reform proposal can also help remind people that they have a choice in banking. And activists have picked up that mantle. A Facebook campaign has turned November 5 into bank transfer day.

Bank Transfer Day was started by a 27-year-old Los Angeles art-gallery owner, Kristen Christian. She says she’s not affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street protesters but that many organizers of those demonstrations had reached out to her to express support.

Christian chose Nov. 5 because of its association with 17th century British folk hero Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the House of Lords but was captured on that date in 1605. In an interview with the Village Voice, however, Christian and Occupy Wall Street leaders who discussed the effort to get Americans to move their money from large banks to small institutions emphasized that they weren’t trying to create a collapse of the financial system.

Occupy Wall Street’s Consensus Process


This mini-doc shows in some detail how the general assembly – the heart of the occupy movement – operates. They make decisions by consensus and anyone can join the assembly. Through this process, the occupy movement models its own radically inclusive political economy and thus demonstrates that it’s more than a protest movement. It’s many things, but what may be overlooked is that it’s a social process through which people can experience being a fully heard citizen, and maybe for the first time. It gives an opening through which people can experience first hand what’s possible when a diverse citizenry works together.

Whatever the outcome of the physical encampments within the movement, my hope is that Occupy Wall Street is a starting place from which citizens will go on to create the democratic institutions, enterprises, and laws we need to avert disaster and thrive as a global civilization in the 21st century. I hope that at least part of the movement will turn to the many democratic social and economic innovations we write about at Shareable and put down durable infrastructure for a stable and inclusive global society. The spirit and workings of the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly would likely be in the cultural DNA of such a transformation.

Ronnie Reagan’s Real Legacy

Mother Jones

In the course of clearing her throat for an attack on Rick Perry Tuesday night, Michele Bachmann tossed out this now-standard bit of conservative boilerplate:

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan produced an economic miracle…

It’s probably hopeless to take on the Reagan economic myth at this late date, but honestly, it’s long past time to put it to rest. The truth about the ’80s is far more prosaic: In 1979, Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker chairman of the Federal Reserve. Inflation was running at about 12 percent when he took office, and Volcker immediately slammed on the monetary brakes in order to bring it down. Whether he was targeting interest rates or monetary aggregates remains a bit murky, but it hardly matters. In the end, he engineered one minor recession in 1980, and when that didn’t do the trick, he tightened Fed policy even more and threw the economy into a second recession — this one extraordinarily deep and painful — which he maintained until 1982. When he let up, the economy recovered. Reagan had very little to do with it.

But that’s not all. If you’re looking for other reasons that the 1980s were boom years, No. 2 would be oil prices.

I Am Not Moving


Don Sanderson: Thoughts on Building Community [Local]


This set out to be a comment on How to Create an Occupy Tribe, but the important issues as I see them must be addressed with more than a couple paragraphs.

It appears clear to many that survival in the coming days will require the formation of self-reliant and self-sufficient communities. How to do this seemingly remains a mystery with successes, except in narrow senses, being almost nonexistent. John Robb proposes that we form tribes and that this is happening on Wall Street without apparently recognizing the nature of successful tribes, which in fact hardly exist today.

A handful of cultural anthropologists managed to capture at least rudiments of the nature of wild tribes prior to their over-exposure by civilization. Some of their characteristics, as I recall:

  1. tribal units seldom were larger than a few dozen members;
  2. individuals were in close physical contact with all other tribal members 24 hours a day, nearly every day, throughout their lives; as a result, they closely identified with others in the tribe and shared resources and skills without question; care and protection of others was unquestioned;
  3. tribal units were closely tied to place and had been for many generations; they were self-reliant and self-sufficient in all ways, food, clothing, housing, medicinal herbs, and etc.; typically, some trade with others did occur, such as for salt;
  4. individuals acquired their culture by largely unconscious emulation of others as well as from often hearing the tribe’s myths told around the fire in the evening; shared cognitive and behavioral formulas and their meanings just naturally happened, rules did not need to be otherwise taught or enforced.

Not long after cracks formed in these structures, typically with the invasion by more dominant cultures, tribes collapsed.

Something like those tribes did form or survive in Europe in the peasant villages even until recently, especially in remote areas of little interest to the dominant culture. I had a friend who grew up in a small German village

Resilience Networks

How To Save The World

In my bio I say:

I believe the key to resilience in the coming decades will be our ability, in the moment, to imagine ways around the crises we cannot prevent, predict or plan for.

My recent article The End of Strategy has attracted some interesting discussion about resilience among members of a private Facebook group established by Seb Paquet, focused on preparing for civilization’s collapse. Several people suggested that “resilience” (in the sense of “bouncing back to the way things were before”) is precisely what we don’t need — and that what is needed is capacity for adaptation. I tend to agree — when I speak about resilience I mean precisely this adaptive ability to move to a place where we ‘fit’ in with new and emerging realities (that is what Darwin was referring to when he spoke about survival of the “fittest”).

My statement above comes from having spent most of my work life adapting to changing realities in the work world, and also from a lifetime of observing people fitting into harsh and rapidly-changing circumstances — life in traumatizing nuclear families, in brutal and alienating schools, in demoralizing, fiercely competitive, numbing workplaces, in ‘voluntary’ social groups of all kinds, and facing situations such as chronic and/or debilitating physical or mental illness, the death or loss of a loved one, the loss of job, home, savings or other security, profound business, family or personal failures, or being the victim of personal violence or eviction from one’s home or homeland. The trauma need not even be personal — witnessing profound or repeated suffering of other people or animals, or massive destruction of any kind can be just as shattering.

These circumstances and changes are largely unpredictable, and most of us have faced our share of them. The result is often trauma, and a resultant persistent or chronic sense of anxiety, fear, insecurity, resistance to change, anger, grief and/or feeling of never having enough to be happy or content. It is possible that the propensity of most people to become more change resistant as they age may be due to this. I have said often on this blog that to some extent the whole world has become a hospital and has been for a long time — we are all damaged, suffering, traumatized, trying endlessly to heal ourselves and those we love. TS Eliot in the poem East Coker:

How FDR Co-opted the Left and Saved Capitalism

Hoover Institute

During the economic crisis of the 1930s, many expected a socialist revolution. The revolution never came. Why? The man in the White House co-opted the left.

With the coming of the Great Depression in the 1930s, a sharp increase in protest and anticapitalist sentiment threatened to undermine the existing political system and create new political parties. The findings of diverse opinion polls, as well as the electoral support given to local radical, progressive, and prolabor candidates, indicate that a large minority of Americans were ready to back social democratic proposals. It is significant, then, that even with the growth of class consciousness in America, no national third party was able to break the duopoly of the Democratic and Republican Parties. Radicals who operated within the two-party system were often able to achieve local victories, but these accomplishments never culminated in the creation of a sustainable third party or left-wing ideological movement. The thirties dramatically demonstrated not only the power of America’s coalitional two-party system to dissuade a national third party but also the deeply antistatist, individualistic character of its electorate.

The politics of the 1930s furnishes us with an excellent example of the way the American presidential system has worked to frustrate third-party efforts. Franklin D. Roosevelt played a unique role in keeping the country politically stable during its greatest economic crisis. But he did so in classic or traditional fashion. He spent considerable time wooing those on the left. And though many leftists recognized that Roosevelt was trying to save capitalism, they could not afford to risk his defeat by supporting a national third party.

The Nation Shifts to the Left

Powerful leftist third-party movements emerged in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York. In other states, radicals successfully advanced alternative political movements by pursuing a strategy of running in major-party primaries. In California, Upton Sinclair, who had run as a Socialist for governor in 1932 and received 50,000 votes, organized the End Poverty in California (EPIC) movement, which won a majority in the 1934 Democratic gubernatorial primaries. He was defeated after a bitter business-financed campaign

Todd Walton: Protesting 101


“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

You will recall the famous line from the movie The Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” and how, until the little dog opens the curtain and reveals the fraud, Dorothy and her friends do, indeed, ignore the man behind the curtain and remain riveted on a false idol projected on a large screen obscured by smoke and fire. I remind you of this cinematic moment because it brilliantly captures the current cognitive conundrum confronting contemporary crusading consortiums, most notably the much-heralded occupiers of Wall Street.

I have carefully skimmed numerous articles by people criticizing the protestors for not having a clear and unifying agenda, and skimmed other articles praising the protestors for not having a clear and potentially divisive agenda. These articles reminded me of my involvement in the protests against the invasion of Iraq in 1990, and my involvement in protests against the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-2003 following the event known as 9/11, and how almost everyone involved in those protests paid no attention to the men behind the curtains, and insisted on railing against idols obscured by smoke and fire—the George Bushes, Senior and Junior, and their more public allies.

Wall Street, and by that I assume the protestors mean the for-profit financial system of the United States symbolized by the financial district of Manhattan, is not the cause of our current economic crisis, nor will Wall Street provide the cure, just as the Bushes did not cause the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The cause of our current economic, social, environmental, and political crisis is, in my opinion, our collective infatuation with false notions of reality. One such false notion is that most of the money in America is concentrated on Wall Street and that if only those greedy billionaire bankers and amoral stock traders would give a chunk of their money to our government, then all our problems would be solved. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, since only a few short months ago our government gave those bankers trillions of dollars.

“Let’s form proactive synergy restructuring teams.” Scott Adams

The Occupy Wall Street Movement and The Coming Demise of Monopoly Capitalism

Professor of Economics at Southern Methodist University

I am an economist and historian and made many forecasts in the past about the economy and social change. While 5 percent of my economic forecasts have been wrong, to my knowledge I have never made an error about forecasting a revolution. My latest estimate is that monopoly capitalism will go the way of Soviet communism by 2016.

In 1978, to the laughter of many and the derision of a few, I wrote a book called, “The Downfall of Capitalism and Communism,” which predicted that Soviet communism would vanish around the end of the century, whereas crony or monopoly capitalism would create the worst-ever concentration of wealth in its history, so much so that a social revolution would start its demise around 2010. My forecasts derived from the law of social cycles, which was pioneered by my late teacher and mentor, P. R. Sarkar. Lo and behold, Soviet communism disappeared right before your eyes during the 1990s, and now, just a year after 2010, middle-class America, spearheaded by a movement increasingly known as “Occupy Wall Street (OWS),” is beginning to revolt against Wall Street greed and crony capitalism. Will the revolt succeed? It surely will, because the pre-conditions for its success are all there.

The first question is this: Why does rising wealth disparity create poverty? My answer is that it causes overproduction and hence unemployment and destitution. It is all a matter of supply and demand. Inequality goes up when official economic policy does not allow wages to catch up with the ever-growing labor productivity, so that profits soar and rising productivity increasingly raises the incomes and bonuses of business executives. I have detailed this process in an earlier article. Then money sits idly in the vaults of bankers and big-business CEOs and restrains consumer demand, leading to overproduction and hence layoffs. The toxic combination of mounting layoffs and absent job creation raises poverty, which, according to official figures, is now the highest in 50 years.

The next question is: how has the government either restrained wages relative to productivity or made the rich richer and the poor poorer? It is easy to see that almost all official economic measures adopted since 1981 and contained in the following list have devastated the middle class. The list includes:

How to Create an Occupy Tribe

Global Guerrillas

There’s no question that the Occupy groups have done a great job with constructing the outlines of resilient communitiesin the heart of many of our most dense urban areas.

People pitch in to do work. They are considerate despite the difficulty of the arrangement. Food gets served. The area gets cleaned. There is entertainment. There’s innovation (equipment, tech, workarounds). There is education (lots of seminars being taught). There is open, participatory governance. All of this is great and this experience will definitely pay off over the next decade as the global economy deteriorates, panics, fails. It will make building resilient communities easier (there are lots of ways to build a resilient community, we’re trying to document all of the ways how on MiiU).

However, is this experience building a tribal identity? An Occupy tribe? Something that can eventually (there’s lots to do in the short to medium term) go beyond protest and build something new? One even strong enough to create new resilient economic and social networks that step into the breach as the current one fails?

How to Manufacture a Tribe

How do you manufacture a strong community that protects, defends and advances the interests of its members? You build a tribe. Tribal organization is the most survivable of all organizational types and it was the dominant form for 99.99% of human history. The most important aspect of tribal organization is that it is the organizational cockroach of human history. It has proved it can withstand the onslaught of the harshest of environments. Global depression? No problem. (for more, see:  Tribes!)

To build a tribal identity, the Occupy movement will need to manufacture fictive kinship. That kinship is built through (see Ronfeldt’s paper for some background on this) the following:

  • Story telling. Shared histories and historical narratives.
  • Rites of passage. Rituals of membership. Membership is earned not given due to the geographic location of birth or residence.
  • Obligations.  Rules of conduct and honor. The ultimate penalty being expulsion.
  • Egalitarian and often leaderless organization. Sharing is prized.

Book Review: Hell No! Fighting for Americans’ Right to Dissent


There is a certain circular logic of the hawkish variety that goes a little something like this: In order for Americans to protect our freedoms from terrorist threats to our security, we have to give up certain liberties until we reach a time of absolute safety. Well, I hate to break it to these folks, but there has never been a time in American history when citizens haven’t grappled with one security threat or another, and when the populous cedes power to elected leaders, history shows it’s not likely to be given back without a fight.

In Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in Twenty-First-Century America, Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) take the reader through a brief chronicle of American protest and the U.S. government’s (legal and illegal) disruption of dissent. They examine the detrimental impact that criminalizing lawful political activity has had on social movements and provide concrete guidance for activists who engage in acts of resistance. The authors make clear the need for Americans to reclaim their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and speak without fear of impediment or reprisal, and they reveal the myriad ways individuals are being punished for enacting the ideals of our democratic nation…

Full review here

Destroying the Republican’s seven biggest economic lies


[I know I’ve already posted a similar presentation, but this is succinct and bears repeating. -DS]

1. Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else.
Baloney. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and has dropped since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke.

 2. Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth.
False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. (Don’t believe small businesses would be hurt by a higher marginal tax; fewer than 2 percent of small business owners are in the highest tax bracket.)

3. Shrinking government generates more jobs.
Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And fewer government contractors, who would employ fewer private-sector workers. According to Moody’s economist Mark Zandi (a campaign advisor to John McCain), the $61 billion in spending cuts proposed by the House GOP will cost the economy 700,000 jobs this year and next.

 4. Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy.
Untrue. With so many Americans out of work, budget cuts now will shrink the economy. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.

 5. Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits.
Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast.

Pope Mary and the New Wave of Food Hubs


When I wrote “Pope Mary and the Church of Almighty Good Food,” I thought I was proposing a rather preposterous idea. In my fictional story, the congregation of a church that was closed much against its will decided to turn their property into a sort of food center to grow and process fruits, vegetables, and grains for the neighborhood. But when Susie Sutphin visited us recently (Foodchronicles.net) she told about a closed church, St. George’s Lithuanian Church in Cleveland, Ohio, that was doing very much like what my fictional story described. The people turned their church building and land around it into what they describe as a “food hub” called Community Greenhouse Partners to grow food for the surrounding neighborhood. CGP is the brainchild of Timothy Smith who is its executive director. Can you imagine?

A few days later, Ed Searl, a Unitarian minister in Hinsdale, Illinois who was inspired to base a whole sermon on Pope Mary, gave me one of his annual Gannett Awards for my blog posted here a couple of weeks ago about how farming could increase jobs. (searlsermons.blogspot.com). When I thanked him and mentioned the Cleveland church, he told me of other churches turning themselves into “food hubs” including one in Youngstown, Ohio. He said maybe I was on the “forming edge of wave.”

I get nervous about being part of any new movement except maybe healthy bowel movements, but I confess to feeling very elated about this food hub idea and any part I may have played in it. For some reason, when I write novels that sort of make fun of organized religion, it is organized religion that seems most appreciative. Amazing. Mike Mather, who is pastor of a Methodist church in Indianapolis (www.broadwayumc.org) came to visit me too. He had a message we all need to hear. He and the people in his church are part of the new “food hub” wave, although he didn’t call it that. He just wants to encourage the people in his church to start asserting their food independence. But instead of going the usual route of venturing forth and trying to teach the people how to grow food, Mike decided to ask the parishioners themselves how to go about it. Much to his surprise

Pissed-Off People are the Only Source of Innovation

Business Guru
Thanks to Crooks & Liars
Also: The latest stories from the front lines of the labor fight across the country…

Unequal Protection — Chapter Eleven: Corporate Control of Politics


[Article with references here]

The government silences a corporate objector, and those corporations may have the most knowledge of this on the subject. Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are [proposing] silencing them during the election? -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking from the bench during September 9, 2009, oral arguments in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

During the bruising primary election season of 2008, a right-wing group put together a ninety-minute hit-job on Hillary Clinton and wanted to run it on TV stations in strategic states. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that advertisements for the “documentary” were actually “campaign ads” and thus fell under the restrictions on campaign spending of the McCain- Feingold Act and thus stopped them from airing. (Corporate contributions to campaigns have been banned repeatedly and in various ways since 1907 when Republican President Teddy Roosevelt pushed through the Tillman Act.)

Citizens United, the right-wing group, sued to the Supreme Court, with right-wing hit man and former Reagan solicitor general Ted Olson—the man who argued Bush’s side of Bush v. Gore—as their lead lawyer.

This new case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five-vote majority to totally rewrite the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 Era of the Robber Barons. And if there was a man to do it, it was John Roberts.

Although he was handsome, with a nice smile and photogenic young children, Roberts was no friend to average working Americans. If anything, he was the most radical judicial activist appointed to the Court in more than a century. He had worked most of his life in the interest of the rich and powerful and was chomping at the bit for a chance to turn more of America over to his friends.

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in the New Yorker

Mortgage underwater? How and why to walk away…

Thanks to JL

[Want to REALLY level the playing field with Wall Street Banks, then walk away from your underwater mortgage.  Remember, a mortgage is simply a business contract.  Banks and other Wall Street firms routinely default on real estate contracts, usually resulting in rising stock prices.  A mortgage is NOT a moral contract.  Walking away will preserve your future, your wealth, and your ability to support your aging parents and college bound kids.  Don’t give it away to the compassionless banks.  And finally, most honest financial advisers are now saying that the hit to your credit score has become nearly meaningless in our new financial real estate paradigm…]

Ryan Downey first wrote to HuffPost in December 2009 in response to a request for readers to share stories about the fight with their bank over an underwater mortgage. A year later, he was interviewed for our story “Learning To Walk,” which looked at the experiences of roughly fifty people who had considered walking away from their mortgage. Today, the chapter closes, and Downey writes it himself.

I made my last mortgage payment on November 1, 2009.

Bank Of America changed the locks on my house on September 29, 2011.

I realize that my results may not be typical and that every situation is unique. But I’d like to provide people in a similar spot with something that wasn’t readily available to me when I realized I had to walk away from my house: answers.

What happens when you walk away? Are you arrested? Are you shunned? Do your kids decide they hate you?

When I signed a mountain of loan documents to purchase my first home in 2006 I had the same attitude as most people. “Do whatever you can to pay your mortgage: run up credit cards, work out payment plans with the IRS, eat Ramen noodles. But pay your mortgage, every month, always. Because when you miss a few payments, a sheriff shows up with a cardboard box and throws you and your family onto the sidewalk. Or maybe if he’s friendly he’ll give you a lift to a shelter.”

Nobody told me that some folks miss as many as two years worth of payments before they have to move out

The Left Declares Its Independence


If some aspects of the Occupy Wall Street protest feel predictable — the drum circles, the signs, including “Tax Wall Street Transactions” and “End the FED” — so does the right-wing response. Is it any surprise that Fox News and its allied bloggers consider the protesters “deluded” and “dirty smelly hippies”?

Then again, maybe it is surprising. As more than a few observers have noted, the Occupy Wall Street chant, “We Are the 99 Percent” — a shot across the bow of the wealthiest 1 percent of the country, which includes the financial predators and confidence gamers who crashed the global economy with impunity — seems synonymous with the Tea Party’s “Take Back America” ethos.

Those similarities, though, mask profound differences. The two movements both loathe the elite, but their goals, and the passions that drive them forward, could not be more at odds.

Chris Hedges Sums Up Occupy Wall Street [Updated]


[Occupy Ukiah events being planned for next Saturday and Sunday, Oct 15th and 16th… stay tuned. ~DS]

[See “Update” below]

More from Chris Hedges:

Well, the only people who are confused are the journalists. They’re not confused; I can sum up what they want, or what they’re doing, or what their goal is in one word, and it’s called rebellion. They don’t have any faith in the corporate systems of power, nor should they. They recognize that electoral politics is a farce; that the judiciary and the press are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state; and that the only way they are going to be heard, both as citizens and as people who care about protecting the planet, is to build a movement, and that’s precisely what they’re doing. They are so savvy, so smart, so clear and so well organized. From the outside, they may not look organized, but when you’re inside the park, boy, they’ve really got it together. And it’s just—I ran into the managing editor of The New York Times, Dean Baquet, who’s a friend of mine, Thursday and I said you know, you have to send a reporter down.

10 Things to Know About Wall Street’s Rapacious Attack on America


But now Americans are fighting back and there’s no telling where Occupy Wall Street can lead.

When you climb out of the subway at Wall Street, you might wonder why there are no protestors in the cavernous alley by the stock exchange. That’s because since 9/11, Wall Street has been barricaded shut to prevent possible attacks. But up the block at Zuccotti Park between Liberty and Cedar streets, west of Broadway, the party’s on.

There you’ll find a festive group of about 1,000 people, mostly young folks having a good time accompanied by the occasional cluster of old lefties singing songs. People make signs while sitting on the ground then prop them up wherever they can find a space. They gather at tables filled with donated food and browse boxes of donated books. You also can’t miss the swarm of media folks milling around asking questions, taping interviews and taking notes:

Todd Walton: What Lasts?


“You are the music while the music lasts.” T.S. Eliot

Long ago, in a time when records were big round vinyl things activated by spinning them on turntables while running needles through their grooves, when marijuana was highly illegal, and long before the advent of personal computers and cell phones and digital downloads and peak oil and whole sections of grocery stores being dedicated to gluten-free products, when my hair was plentiful and not yet gray, I performed a song of mine at a party where other songs were performed by other people hoping to become famous, or at least solvent, through their music.

Following my performance, a woman in black leather approached me, and by her gait and the slurring of her words, I deduced she was drunk. “Your song,” she shouted, “was good as anything you hear in grocery stores.”

“That was like… a classic?” said a woman in green paisley,

Twisted government accounting behind Postal Service woes

Thanks to Janie Sheppard

You might have heard that the United States Postal Service is in trouble: that it’s losing billions, that it will have to end Saturday service and close branches — and most inflammatory, that it might need a government bailout. Perhaps you heard that the Postal Service couldn’t pay $5.5 billion bill that came due Sept. 30 and that only an emergency postponement saved it from the government’s equivalent of default.

In fact, it’s the Postal Service that’s currently bailing out the U.S. government. Politicians have been raiding Postal Service revenues for years, using them to make the federal deficit appear smaller than it really is. The fiscal gyrations are so twisted that the Postal Service is right now forced to pre-pay health care benefits for employees the agency hasn’t even hired yet — in fact, for many future employees who haven’t even been born yet — all to artificially shrink the federal deficit.

It’s these crushing accounting tricks