Sunday bonus links: all about Occupy Wall Street

by Yule Heibel on November 6, 2011

I’m neglecting my blog again, lately just posting my weekly Sunday Diigo Links posts, but on this Sunday, here are a couple of extra links that deserve a spotlight.

These articles focus in some way on the Occupy Wall Street groundswell, which is in danger of being squashed by the stirrup-holders of the financial system (to repurpose a phrase). But the OWS message needs to be heard (and sharpened, versus diluted), as it’s the best bet we have to effect much-needed change.

…Oh, change – that word. Wasn’t that what Obama promised? Whatever happened to that?


First up, two articles by Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi. On October 25 he posted Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating, which (aside from arguing a range of critical points, such as that it isn’t “envy of the rich” that’s driving the OWS movement) offered the following nugget of information. This, folks, totally threw me for a loop:

One thing we can still be proud of is that America hasn’t yet managed to achieve the highest incarceration rate in history — that honor still goes to the Soviets in the Stalin/Gulag era. But we do still have about 2.3 million people in jail in America.

Virtually all 2.3 million of those prisoners come from “the 99%.” Here is the number of bankers who have gone to jail for crimes related to the financial crisis: 0.

Millions of people have been foreclosed upon in the last three years. In most all of those foreclosures, a regional law enforcement office — typically a sheriff’s office — was awarded fees by the court as part of the foreclosure settlement, settlements which of course were often rubber-stamped by a judge despite mountains of perjurious robosigned evidence. [emphasis added]

That means that every single time a bank kicked someone out of his home, a local police department got a cut. Local sheriff’s offices also get cuts of almost all credit card judgments, and other bank settlements. [emphasis added] If you’re wondering how it is that so many regional police departments have the money for fancy new vehicles and SWAT teams and other accoutrements, this is one of your answers.

What this amounts to is the banks having, as allies, a massive armed police force who are always on call, ready to help them evict homeowners and safeguard the repossession of property. But just see what happens when you try to call the police to prevent an improper foreclosure. Then, suddenly, the police will not get involved. It will be a “civil matter” and they won’t intervene.


The point being: we have a massive police force in America that outside of lower Manhattan prosecutes crime and imprisons citizens with record-setting, factory-level efficiency, eclipsing the incarceration rates of most of history’s more notorious police states and communist countries.

But the bankers on Wall Street don’t live in that heavily-policed country. There are maybe 1000 SEC agents policing that sector of the economy, plus a handful of FBI agents. There are nearly that many police officers stationed around the polite crowd at Zucotti park. (more)

Please read the whole article. Breathtaking.

Call me naive, but I had no idea that local (US) police forces were benefiting from this crisis – and that this means, as per the ever-useful “follow the money” mantra, they are corrupted by the financial crisis. I had heard that private corporations “contract” police services in NYC (with the tax-paying public holding the bag for police insurance, no less), but I had no idea that police departments were effectively skimming off the top of the foreclosure/ eviction crisis. This is so wrong.

…If the cops wore logos on their uniforms that identify all the corporations overtly or covertly paying for their services, they too would look like race car drivers…

Well, that’s a real nail in the coffin of democracy. You have to wonder whether the financial industries realize how dangerous their game is. As Taibbi points out in his article, Americans have never resented the rich – we’ve adulated them. We love Horatio Alger stories, we believe in bootstrapping. And we believe in winning. But we hate cheaters – and by making cheating into their actual modus operandus, these guys are shaking down the whole country. What a dangerous and rotten game, and how unworthy of America.

Taibbi’s other article of note is his take-down of NYC’s Mayor: Mike Bloomberg’s Marie Antoinette Moment. This is another breathtaking read – Taibbi isn’t just a great writer, he’s absolutely fearless. I guess my take-away from this piece was that it isn’t the “anonymous” protesters who are wearing the masks – it’s people like Bloomberg. And Taibbi’s article reveals Bloomberg’s true face (one that’s beholden to the banking industry and its friends, not to the people he’s supposed to be serving). As Taibbi puts it:

Well, you know what, Mike Bloomberg? FUCK YOU. People are not protesting for their own entertainment, you asshole. They’re protesting because millions of people were robbed, by your best friends incidentally, and they want their money back. (source)

Seems it’s time to stop mincing words. President Obama, where are you in all this?

Speaking of Obama, we need a Teddy Roosevelt. See Simon Johnson: ‘We Are Looking Straight Into The Face Of A Great Depression’ – not for the faint of heart. Everywhere, it seems, people with brains and expertise are saying: hold on, this can’t continue. The “this” in question is the privatization of profit and the socialization of risk and losses. Why does it continue?

Oh, wait… follow the money… Which brings me to my last link, Guy Dauncey‘s November editorial in his Earth Future newsletter, Nailing the Jello to the Door.

The “door” Dauncey refers to is the door on which Martin Luther nailed his Reformation theses on October 31, 1571. Luther had clear theses, not jello – much of what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street protests articulates the demand for Reformation (reform) as jello (and that’s where writers like Taibbi et al. are doing such important work, because they’re pointing out that there are clear rallying points – theses – for reform).

Dauncey notes that the #1 demand for OWS should be “get the money out of politics”:

In America, there is clear justification for articulating the Number #1 demand as “Get the money out of politics!”. The corruption of American politics by money is legend. So let’s say it is successful, and Americans achieve what Canada has already done.

Most Americans have no idea that Canadian political parties are publicly funded based on their share of the vote at the last election, and that no-one, whether billionaire or broom-pusher, can donate more than $1,000 to a party.

It is due to controls like this that Canada’s banking regulators are not controlled by the banks, and that Canada did not experience the sub-prime mortgage scandal that is causing such chaos and tragedy in America.

Canada’s tragedy is that Harper’s Conservative government is planning to abolish this very constraint, so one of our demands here in Canada must be “Keep the money out of politics!” (source)

But, as Dauncey notes, Canada has similar problems as America: poverty, inequality, corporate influence. It’s still a follow the money question. Referencing an earlier infographic in New Scientist, Dauncey notes that:

A new analysis by complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a core of 1318 interlocking companies which control 80% of the world’s global operating revenues.

Within these, 147 tightly knit companies (1% of the core) control 40% of the wealth. Most are financial institutions such as Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, but the top ten also includes companies that almost nobody has heard of such as FMR, AXA and Capital Group Companies.

Furthermore, most or all of these companies operate with off-shore tax havens where they hide their wealth and avoid paying taxes. They are like Jello – if you try to pin them down, they simply move their money somewhere else, managed by anonymous trusts that no-one has the power to investigate or control. Collectively, they are a three-foot wide lump of Jello, and our regulatory powers are a single thumb. [emphasis added]

So what could crack the core of the problem and nail the Jello to the door? We need to capture the flight capital and close down the world’s tax havens, aided by a Tax Evasion Complicity Law which would make it a criminal offense to knowingly serve as a fund manager, accountant, trustee, lawyer or corporate nominee for a known tax evader.

And that last suggestion – which would strike at the heart of a global ecosystem that now feeds off that lump of jello – is probably what makes reform so difficult. Clamped tightly to the jello teat, weaning will be a challenge.

Infographic from New Scientist, "Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world "

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