Occupy Wall Street Archive
I’m not gonna lie: I was vaguely floored to learn the identity of the writer on this one. So in an effort to treat you to the same sort of cognitive dissonance I recently enjoyed, I encourage you to do your honest best to guess who penned the following WSJ oped last November 18 based only on the excerpt below. And yes, I realize absolute identification may be a tall order if you don’t know the answer to begin with, so work your way up to it: what gender do you believe the writer is; what political party do you think he or she belongs to; which news network is this person most likely to watch (or even contribute to); etc. Once you’ve formulated your theory, click the link and collect your marbles.
How do politicians who arrive in Washington, D.C. as men and women of modest means leave as millionaires? How do they miraculously accumulate wealth at a rate faster than the rest of us? How do politicians’ stock portfolios outperform even the best hedge-fund managers’? I answered the question in that speech: Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.
The money-making opportunities for politicians are myriad, and Mr. Schweizer details the most lucrative methods: accepting sweetheart gifts of IPO stock from companies seeking to influence legislation, practicing insider trading with nonpublic government information, earmarking projects that benefit personal real estate holdings, and even subtly extorting campaign donations through the threat of legislation unfavorable to an industry. The list goes on and on, and it’s sickening.
Astonishingly, none of this is technically illegal, at least not for Congress. Members of Congress exempt themselves from the laws they apply to the rest of us. That includes laws that protect whistleblowers (nothing prevents members of Congress from retaliating against staffers who shine light on corruption) and Freedom of Information Act requests (it’s easier to get classified documents from the CIA than from a congressional office).
The corruption isn’t confined to one political party or just a few bad apples. It’s an endemic problem encompassing leadership on both sides of the aisle. It’s an entire system of public servants feathering their own nests.
(h/t Roger Ebert)
The Awl’s account. Sample:
Then many opera-goers simply jumped the barricade. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, seen earlier at the orchestra-level of the Met, took the long way around and joined the right flank of the group. Quickly recognized, they then began a very cute, older-couple’s conversation about whether to accept an invitation to be “wedged” toward the center and placed “on stack” to speak.
“I don’t feel comfortable being ‘the guy,’ but I’ll say something if it’ll help things,” Reed said.
“We could say we support the 99% one-hundred percent,” Anderson suggested.
But this, in case you haven’t seen it (but you have, you have), is… I dunno. I really don’t. How do you describe what happens here? It is probably one of the most interesting displays of power dynamics ever recorded (live, that is) in American history. The police, instigators of an assault on nonviolent protesters, are peacefully shamed and driven out of a public space by that very same group of nonviolent protesters. And it all plays out in less than nine minutes.
Which is what’s perhaps most interesting about the video to me (other than the somewhat cinematic way in which it plays out). In nine minutes you go from a police officer in riot gear flagrantly pepper spraying hippies in a human chain to a group of very pissed off citizens shaming away the offending riot police. You could not write a better script, and if you could no one would believe you. In nine minutes, a group of men and women with face-shields and semiautomatic weapons are reduced to a gang of cowards, slinking away under the threat of a group of unarmed college students — the ultimatum being that if they don’t leave the campus now, they will continue to be followed and publicly shamed.
And then the most amazing thing happens. They leave.
Update by Ben: Couple days later, this is the Chancellor of UC Davis (who arguably sicked campus police on the students) walking to her car….
Ben Update 2: Chancellor Katehi’s just explained that we all have to understand that her priority in sicking campus police on students was protecting their safety. The interview finished before she had an opportunity to argue that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.
From the Oregonian, a police officer pepper sprays an Occupy Portland protester.
Yay for democracy.
The Mercury has more on what led to this incident.
Marchers say the riot and mounted police who stormed the front of the Chase branch to clear it out and go in for arrests were particularly rough. An Oregonian photographer showed me frame-by-frame photos of a man with his back to the cops, flashing peace signs, pulled suddenly and violently backward onto the ground.
One woman, Elmira, said she was also flashing peace signs and telling cops “I’m a peaceful protester,” when officers started poking her with the butt of their very large batons. Twice she fell down, and twice she got up to flash the signs again, until a mounted cop (in an account I heard from two other witnesses who didn’t know her, but saw it happen) tugged her to the ground by her hair. She got up again, and “that’s when they pepper-sprayed me.” She was pulled in by the crowd before she could be arrested and handed off to medics who were on hand for the protest.
The police started it? Quelle surprise!
(via Adam on FB)
As the autumn leaves abandon their trees, never to return, so too are Occupy Wall Streeters being evicted from their parks and plazas by forces beyond their control — though in their case, “never to return” is less an inviolable law of nature than a squishy civil suggestion. (Which is to say, it ain’t working.) However, at the two-month anniversary mark, I think it’s worth reiterating — if you missed it the first time around — this comprehensive article from Business Insider detailing What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…
I think it’s also worth quoting in full five sterling, straightforward suggestions from Matt Taibbi last month about how to address many of the protesters’ painfully valid concerns:
1. Break up the monopolies. The so-called “Too Big to Fail” financial companies – now sometimes called by the more accurate term “Systemically Dangerous Institutions” – are a direct threat to national security. They are above the law and above market consequence, making them more dangerous and unaccountable than a thousand mafias combined. There are about 20 such firms in America, and they need to be dismantled; a good start would be to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and mandate the separation of insurance companies, investment banks and commercial banks.
2. Pay for your own bailouts. A tax of 0.1 percent on all trades of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent tax on all trades of derivatives would generate enough revenue to pay us back for the bailouts, and still have plenty left over to fight the deficits the banks claim to be so worried about. It would also deter the endless chase for instant profits through computerized insider-trading schemes like High Frequency Trading, and force Wall Street to go back to the job it’s supposed to be doing, i.e., making sober investments in job-creating businesses and watching them grow.
3. No public money for private lobbying. A company that receives a public bailout should not be allowed to use the taxpayer’s own money to lobby against him. You can either suck on the public teat or influence the next presidential race, but you can’t do both. Butt out for once and let the people choose the next president and Congress.
4. Tax hedge-fund gamblers. For starters, we need an immediate repeal of the preposterous and indefensible carried-interest tax break, which allows hedge-fund titans like Stevie Cohen and John Paulson to pay taxes of only 15 percent on their billions in gambling income, while ordinary Americans pay twice that for teaching kids and putting out fires. I defy any politician to stand up and defend that loophole during an election year.
5. Change the way bankers get paid. We need new laws preventing Wall Street executives from getting bonuses upfront for deals that might blow up in all of our faces later. It should be: You make a deal today, you get company stock you can redeem two or three years from now. That forces everyone to be invested in his own company’s long-term health – no more Joe Cassanos pocketing multimillion-dollar bonuses for destroying the AIGs of the world.
(off camera hat tip to Kirk for recommending the Taibbi article)
Charles Pierce on what’s transpired in the course of the past 24 hours:
Your right to peaceably assemble for the redress of grievances, and how you may do it, and what you may say, will be defined by the police power of the state, backed by its political establishment and the business elite. They will define “acceptable” forms of public protest, even (and especially) public protest against them. This is the way it is now. This is the way it has been for some time. It’s just that people didn’t notice. And that was the problem with the Occupy protests. They resisted the marginalization — both literal physical marginalization, and the kind of intellectual marginalization that keeps real solutions to real problems out of our kabuki political debates. They could not be ignored…
Late last night, the New York Police Department, apparently decked out for a confrontation with the Decepticons, cleared Zuccotti Park of the campers who had occupied it for nearly three months. It was, as all of these things have been, a fully militarized operation, launched with a maximum of surprise by armored tactical police who even brought a helicopter, in case they needed air support. They also uncrated all their exotic toys for the occasion. The operation netted the police about 100 arrests, and it is being said that it went off peacefully, although accounts on that do vary. (Keeping the press out while the action is being taken is a particular tell.) The action followed several days of similar operations in Oakland, and Denver, and St. Louis, and a particularly nasty bit of business in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where authorities appeared to require a tactical unit with automatic weapons to protect an abandoned building. All of them took the place by surprise, and in the middle of the night. These are basic military tactics…
… Never has civilian control over our thoroughly militarized urban police forces seemed so tenuous. Never have we seemed so close to being subject to a private police force that answers, primarily, to the economic power of the financial elite.
Some mayors don’t care. Michael Bloomberg in New York clearly steps to the tune called by his peers, and by the New York Post, the local franchise in a vast criminal enterprise run by an Aussie T&A merchant… But the precedent has been set, all over the country: Public protest shall be polite, quiet, and invisible, and that is the way they will let us be free.
(quote stolen verbatim, and without me having read the whole piece, from Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice; mostly I’m just posting this before I go to bed so I remember to read the whole thing in the morning; kthx4understanding.)
Steve M. on the clearing of Zuccotti Park:
I’d also add that the removal of OWS and other Occupy encampments is justified on the basis of their real or perceived effect on the community — cost to local businesses (a special obsession of the New York Post), noise, crime, and so on. But isn’t that precisely what we’re not supposed to consider when dealing with Wall Street itself? The dominant Randians and semi-Randians in our government don’t want us to intercede to minimize the social impact of the financialization of our economy and the casinoization of finance. We’re not supposed to care, for instance, whether communities are being destroyed by an epidemic of foreclosures caused by financial recklessness; the current president can’t or won’t do anything effective about foreclosures and the man most people think will run against him thinks the foreclosure crisis should just play itself out. There’s community impact, but it’s created by billionaires, not drum circles, so in this case we’re not supposed to intervene. And that’s the society we live in.
Try to make it go away by conducting a police raid under the cover of darkness! Oh, and enforce a media blackout of the event, too, because that’s what democracy looks like!
Bloomberg is a clown.