Tag: Corruption

Areas of agreement with the Tea Party

| October 19, 2011 | 9 Replies
Areas of agreement with the Tea Party

I was excited to see the new Tea Party’s birth. Watching the corruption of our government become more and more brazen, it was only a matter of time before counter-movements began to spread. Both the Tea Party and the #Occupy movements were born of this impulse. The original patriots of the Tea Party movement formed in opposition to the bank bailouts. I think it became apparent rather quickly, however, that their admirable movement had been co-opted into another arm of the Republican machine. I don’t say this to cast aspersions though, as I do want to keep this post exploring our common ground rather than emphasizing our differences. The #Occupy/99% movement is actively resisting attempts to co-opt its message by the Democratic party and other left-leaning organizations, so let’s keep exploring our similarities.

Here then, is the 15-point “non-negotiable core beliefs” which I found on teaparty.org:

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#Occupy movement sweeping the nation, now including Omaha!

| October 19, 2011 | 2 Replies
#Occupy movement sweeping the nation, now including Omaha!

I was at our local #occupy protests on Saturday for what organizers were calling a “Global day of action”. This week marks one month since #occupywallstreet began their occupation in New York City, and have proven to be an inspiration to people around the globe.

Omaha is not exactly known as a hotbed of radical activism or sentiment. Protests here regularly turn out a half-dozen or so committed activists, but rarely much more than that. My wife and I decided that the time had come for us to express our discontent with the existing socio-political environment here, and so we headed out to #OccupyOmaha on Saturday morning. Expecting low numbers, we were surprised when we could see people streaming towards the meeting site from blocks away.

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Meet the protesters of Occupy St. Louis – October 14, 2011

| October 15, 2011 | 10 Replies

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because I consider it important to understand how it is that my views differ from those of people who oppose my views. Two days ago, I listened to Limbaugh bloviating about the people who are participating in the Occupy Protests springing up all over the United States.  By  some reports, there are more than 1,000 such protests ongoing, and they are actually occurring all over the world.   Limbaugh announced, without hesitation, that these protesters are mostly unemployed, lazy, dirty, amoral, socially irresponsible and ignorant young people. Those who rely on Rush Limbaugh for their facts might thus be highly likely to object to these protests (including Occupy Wall Street) based on Limbaugh’s description of the protesters.  But is the description he gave to his many (though dwindling number of) listeners accurate?  I had an opportunity to check this yesterday at the Occupy St. Louis protest in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

Over the past few days, I’ve been quite occupied at my day job, and it was only while walking back to my law office from the federal courthouse at 4 pm yesterday that I spotted an organized march coming down Market Street in downtown St. Louis.  I would estimate that there were almost 1,000 people marching.  I didn’t have my video camera with me, but I did have my Canon S95 pocket camera, so I got to work taking hand-held video and still shots of the protesters.  Here’s the finished product, which will allow you to actually meet the types of people who are participating in the Saint Louis Occupy protest.  You can now be your own judge of what these protesters are like:

As you can see from the parade route pans and the interviews, none of these people fit the description given by Rush Limbaugh.  Off camera, I asked most of the protesters about their “day jobs,” and all of them indicated that they were gainfully employed, and in a wide variety of challenging fields.   These “young” protesters of Occupy St. Louis ranged in age from 20′s to their 80′s.   The on-camera statements of the people I interviewed show that they are well-informed, thoughtful, highly articulate and good-hearted.  Many of the people I spoke with indicated that they are not going away.  They have been waiting for a good time and place to express their deep concerns about the way our government works, and they have finally found what they’ve been looking for.

In case anyone is concerned that I intentionally skewed my sampling regarding who I interviewed, this was my method:  I simply walked up to someone nearby and asked whether he or she would be willing to give a short statement about why they were attending the protest.   I approached 12 people.  One woman sympathetic to the protest apologized and said she couldn’t talk on camera because she was a member of the news media. One man said that he supported the protest, but he’d rather not go on camera.  Another man said he had never been part of a protest before, but he read about this protest recently and then said to himself, “Yeah, these people are right on these issues.”   The other nine people I approached agreed to give statements on camera.  I’d like to thank each of these folks for taking the time to talk (I’ve listed their names in the order in which they appear in my video):

  • Al Vitale
  • Fred Raines (a retired economics professor, who said that he compiled the statistics displayed on one of the signs appearing on the video)
  • Apollonia Childs
  • Chrissy Kirchhoefer
  • Curtis Roberts
  • Michel Kiepe
  • Jeff Schaefer
  • Matt Ankney, and
  • Frances Madeson

Based on the above video, there is no lack of intellectual moorings for this protest. The focus is that our government, including politicians of both major parties, has been substantially bought by big business, and many destructive things are flowing from the consequent misuse of government power.

About a dozen protesters have have formed a camp in Kiener Plaza, a public gathering spot across the street from the towering downtown headquarters of Bank of America. I was told by several protesters that some of the camping protesters had been evicted from the camp over the past week, but that the intent is nonetheless maintain a presence in Kiener Plaza indefinitely. The Bank of America building has been the geographical focus of other recent protests, including this one in August, 2011. (A payday loan protest by a group called GRO occurred at this same bank last year–here’s video).  I should note that most of the people who work in the huge Bank of America building work for companies other than the Bank of America, yet the building remains a symbol of what has gone so very wrong with the political process.

I’d also like to mention that the St. Louis Police, who were out in the hundreds, were courteous and professional.   The protesters were there merely to protest-to get their message out.  There were no untoward incidents that would distract from the central message of the protests.

For more on yesterday’s protest, see this description by St. Louis blogger Gloria Bilchik at Occasional Planet. See also, this post by another St. Louis blogger, Adam Shriver at St. Louis Activist Hub.

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Happy Ponzi Day!

| March 3, 2011 | 4 Replies
Happy Ponzi Day!

Charles Ponzi was born 129 years ago today, so I guess that makes it Ponzi Day today. The man for whom the pyramid scheme was named though, was a chump. Today’s schemers have been many times more successful. By the time Ponzi’s scheme peaked in 1920, Wikipedia notes that “he had made $420,000 ($4.59 million in 2008 terms).” See what I mean? $4 and half million isn’t even enough for today’s ponzi artists to get out of bed.

For example, let’s look at the currently best-known ponzi artist, Bernie Madoff. The amount missing from Madoff clients’ accounts was nearly $65 billion, although that includes fabricated money– actual losses total about $18 billion. Even at $18 billion though, that’s still almost 4,000 times the ponzi scheme than Ponzi himself. Madoff made headlines again this week, saying that “It’s unbelievable, Goldman … no one has any criminal convictions. The whole new regulatory reform is a joke. The whole government is a Ponzi scheme.” And who better to know Ponzi schemes than the man who bested Ponzi?

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Bankster agitprop

| February 21, 2011 | 1 Reply
Bankster agitprop

ZeroHedge has earned a spot in my RSS feed. A diverse group of mostly pseudonymous bloggers who consistently produce excellent financial reporting, many times breaking scandals and should-be scandals before the mainstream media. They focus on the themes of intrigue in the world of high finance, corruption, politics, and the nexus where those areas intersect.

Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of visual propaganda coming from ZeroHedge, and some of it is quite amusing. For the latest entry, they lampoon the news that Angelo Mozilo (the bankster behind the collapse of Countrywide financial) is going scott-free. Here’s some background on Mozilo, from the New York Times:

The conclusion by prosecutors that Mr. Mozilo, 72, did not engage in criminal conduct while directing Countrywide will likely fuel broad concerns that few high-level executives of financial companies are being held accountable for the actions that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

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Why we need public funding for our elections

| April 26, 2010 | 1 Reply
Why we need public funding for our elections

Members of Congress are supposed to assert independence regarding their deliberations and actions, but it has long been clear that campaign cash corrupts this entire process.

In the video below, Lawrence Lessig succinctly makes the case that corporate contributions have made a farce out of Congress. Truly, how can Senator Scott Brown (featured in the video) take a position opposing a bill when he doesn’t even know why? Rather than considering the merits of the financial reform legislation with an open mind, Scott Brown is giving the terms of the bill no consideration. Instead of understanding the bill, then weighing the pros and cons, he is merely granting the wishes of his biggest contributors, who happen to be big corporations. This is political malpractice, and We the People deserve far better than this. This is the equivalent of turning on your kitchen faucet and hoping for clear water, but seeing only raw sewage come out. The “Congress” we have is not a functioning Congress. Because it is devoid of the critical deliberative function that should serve as it’s heart and soul, it is a charade and it should be the highest priority of this country to Fix Congress.

The solution Lawrence Lessig proposes is to enact a law called the Fair Elections Now Act, which will allow publicly-funded elections. One such bill is currently pending in Congress: the Fair Elections Now Act. You can read the full text of the Senate version of the bill here.

If you click on the “Take Action” page, you can encourage additional sponsors for this desperately needed legislation. There are many co-sponsors to both the Senate and House versions of the bill, but there is a long way to go. It would only take you five or ten minutes to review the bill, and make a few calls to voice your support to your representatives.

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Barack Obama deals with Wall Street

| April 25, 2010 | Reply
Barack Obama deals with Wall Street

SNL presented Obama’s method of dealing with Wall Street.

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Dylan Ratigan’s three strikes against the pending financial services legislation

| March 25, 2010 | Reply
Dylan Ratigan’s three strikes against the pending financial services legislation

Dylan Ratigan put on a “Family Fued Show” to illustrate the three major failures of the pending financial services legislation. Seems like this bill is not for any meaningful reform. It’s only a dog and pony show.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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The rot at the center

| February 28, 2010 | Reply
The rot at the center

Robert Reich has noticed how the democratic base is demoralized. Who is to blame?

A growing portion of the public, fed by the right, blames our problems on “big government.” Much of the reason for the Democrats’ astonishing reluctance to place blame where it belongs rests with big business’s and Wall Street’s generous flows of campaign donations to Democrats, coupled with their implicit promise of high-paying jobs once Democratic officials retire from government. This is the rot at the center of the system. And unless or until it’s remedied, it will be difficult for the President to achieve any “change you can believe in.

And if you are looking for America by the numbers, you’ll find the sad up to date statistics right here, in this Alternet post by David DeGraw.

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