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More news from our Martian Invaders

No, nothing to do with MSL's successful launch earlier today — the rover is now en route to Mars, and I wish it well.

Rather, harking back to my 2010 blog entry explaining that we have been invaded by martians driving fiscal war machines, I ran across an op-ed by Naomi Wolf in The Guardian that nails why the US political elite are terrified of Occupy Wall Street.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. ... The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act — the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. ... No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
Let me unpack that for you.
The doctrine of corporate personhood combined with the Citizens United ruling establish as a baseline that corporations have constitutional rights associated with people (including the right to political speech) and no limit on their ability to spend money on political speech during elections. (This is profoundly alien to a British sensibility, where political election speech is strictly controlled.) So the outcome is that lawmakers are beholden to the corporations that pay for their electioneering. But it gets worse when you learn that Congressional representatives are immune from some insider trading regulations. And point #3 is the smoking gun. If running for election in the US Federal government requires vast expenditure, then attaining such office grants one access to a mechanism for earning vast amounts of money by means which are illegal for the rest of us.

It's no wonder that the DHS coordinated the Occupy camp clearances earlier this month: OWS had become a direct threat to the personal prosperity of the members of the House homeland security subcommittee (to whom DHS is answerable). If allowed to gather momentum and turn into an independent third party, why, OWS might actually put an end to the corruption. Certainly they're pointing at the right targets ...

In other news, Occupy Edinburgh received a vote of recognition and endorsement from the city council (except for the minority Conservative bloc). Brings a tear of pride to my civic minded eye, it does.

135 Comments

1:

I think the "nails why the US political elite are terrified of Occupy Wall Street" may point to the wrong place, it's the same as the previous link.

2:

John Carpenter's "They Live", though a prime example of B-movie schlock, perfectly resonates the fascist corporatocracy as alien invasion vibe. Required viewing for OWS.

3:

I wonder how much of the crackdown is in effect a way to force OWS into a violent reaction, so the OHS/municipal cops can escalate, knowing that they outgun any protest movement? That certainly would work for the ruling class politically. They can stand there and tut about violent protesters that they had to put down to secure the Peace and gee it sure was a shame and all.

Or am I giving them too much credit? I mean, you give a cop a can of pepper spray, he's going to go find an excuse to use it. Violence becomes its own justification and if it happens to serve his boss's needs, then our baton wielding paramilitary cops will sleep tight, knowing they'll never go to jail for violating anyone's civil liberties. The symbiosis if brutality and power becomes further cemented, as everyone gets what they want, except for OWS, which is the point.

4:

Would you like to have a go at why Standard and Poor's decided today that Belgium might default. The announced reason "they've got no government" seems a bit odd given they've had no government for about 18 months and managed to serve their debts through that period.

I have no idea just how powerful they are, but part of me looks at them doing this to Greece and Italy recently and changes of government. Are they trying to rule Europe?

5:

We got religion out of politics (theocracy - officially bad)
We got the military out of politics (military juntas - officially bad)
Now it's time to get Big Money out of politics (rule by corporate power and the rich - officially good)

6:

If "The Market" can make money by breaking the economies of nations it will do so. Greece will exit the Euro. Now Italy is the next target. Spain and Portugal will follow, and then maybe even France.

7:

As a US citizen, and from what would be called a Libertarian/Conservative viewpoint, I do think there is a lot of merit to the position about members of Congress being exempt from many of the rules the rest of us must follow. That's not an exclusively OWS position, many many people from the "other" side have been denouncing that for a long time. It is corruption plain and simple. In fact I've heard very few of the OWS folks even express that particular concern (why are they not occupying Capitol Hill); but I do praise the few among them who may have done so.

As far as the corporate political contributions, yes, I think we all agree there is a problem as the system currently works. But the problem is really one of an unfair/unbalanced level of influence. The laws that do exist controlling contributions are unequally applied; and it is not always in favor of corporations, though sometimes it may be. Other forms of organizations, such as unions and the many special interest PACs and non-profits exist solely as a way to funnel contributions to specific candidates. The last time legislation was established to control political spending, it had rather unfortunate side-effects, as much of the contributions went underground or funneled through all kinds of intertwined and no-doubt corrupt newly formed "exempt" organizations. The spending will happen regardless, the rules just make it harder to follow. Rather than just ban or severely limit the contributions of one specific kind of organization (e.g., large corporations), it may be better to just even out the rules so that no particular type of organization has more "equality" in free speech than another.

Most of those in the OWS camp who voice opinions on this no more want true "equality of influence" than those supposed evil-corporate 1%-ers that they complain about -- they want it to be just an unequal, only with their side having the favored end of the scale.

8:

" In fact I've heard very few of the OWS folks even express that particular concern"

And you certainly will not hear it reported in the mass media no matter how many express that concern. Some news just does not get reported.

9:

"they want it to be just an unequal, only with their side having the favored end of the scale."

99% of the people having 99% of the influence instead of 1% having 99% of the influence! How despicable - they must be commies! Support democracy now - only vote for rich people.

10:

What I would really like to know* is how the politicians and technocrats keep going on about practising austerity, when we know that it doesn't work. I've asked about, and can't recall any situations where it has worked. Plain old monetarism doesn't work either (Thatcher tried a variety of it and it didn't work, back in the early 80's), and basically the only macro economic theorising that comes close to being both useful and accurate is neo-keynesianism. (Waits for massive foodfight to kick off)

So basically we have politicians and their masters in the finance world pushing programs and practises which simply don't do what we the people would like them to.
Are the politicans etc:
1) stupid
2) bribed to the gunwales by those who will benefit if the current setup and actions are continued.
3) Intellectually limited and so simply unable to see the flaws.
4) operating on insufficient information

*And we could find out if you'd lend me some helicopters and an SAS snatch squad plus a bunch of experienced army and police interrogators and a spare prison to house the snatchees.

11:

There's an interesting point made by Dan Carlin in his recent radio podcast, when he imagines someone like Martin Luther King being hit by pepper spray, and seeing it as an improvement over dogs and batons. There's also a sonic cannon that the US is selling to places like China that can be used to disperse crowds by making it too painful for them to stay in one place for long.

The point isn't that we're getting nicer as a species - it's that the authorities are steadily trialling softer and softer forms of dissent control. Soon, people won't be able to protest at all, but there won't be those disquieting pictures of nonviolent protesters being hurt, either. There will just be a lot of people heading home, being unhappy, but not able to express it in any way that anyone notices.

12:

At some point the West is going to have to have a bout of severe inflation, not only to wipe out ordinary people's savings (ie those without land or gold), but fuck China over as well given the amount of our debt they hold. Things are going to get much worse over the next 5 years.

13:

All points well taken, though I do have to disagree in part with this:

"If allowed to gather momentum and turn into an independent third party, why, OWS might actually put an end to the corruption."

Independent third parties just don't work, in a US context (and have significant limitations in any first-past-the-post context, as recent experience in Britain and Canada shows). What third party-style movements *can* do is effectively shift the conversation and have either their positions or constituencies co-opted by one of the existing major parties (see, e.g., the original Progressives). Certainly in the US, the conversation has shifted significantly from a useless focus on the deficit to actual conversations about inequality and jobs. From which no useful legislation will emerge, granted, but it's a start...

I'm not saying this is a good or optimal thing! But it's the playing field, and getting the incumbent political class to change the playing field is even less likely than getting them to voluntarily abandon the various financial advantages you mention.

14:

For an opposing viewpoint, here's E.D. Kain's takedown of Wolf's piece, which chalks the violence up to a combination of urban militarization with ongoing "culture wars." Basically, Kain's point is that it's fallacy to attribute agency to the movement of large, distributed systems -- to see a conspiracy between the President, the DHS, and mayors of major cities to suppress Occupants because they want to change soft money legislation is to see God in the machine.

The real conspiracy is our culture, which in recent years has continued to arm policemen like soldiers, and to treat urban policing as the eradication of guerrilla insurgencies. Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, who authorized the use of tear gas on WTO protesters in 1999, says as much here.

I have no doubt that Congress would love for the cultivation of corporate personhood to bear the fruit of unlimited electoral finance. But that's not why the crackdown has come. The crackdown has come for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that those in power often have little respect or goodwill for those over whom they hold it. Is it the lack of message, the refusal to play the game? Yes. Is it the alternative set of values? Yes. Is it that a group of jobless people in urban retail centres protesting income inequality, nonexistent benefits, and outsourced manufacture might just be bad for the Christmas shopping season? Yes. It is all those things, and soft money too, but both the movement and the crackdown on it are the outputs of a system, not an agenda.

15:

They're not practicing austerity for us. They're practicing austerity for them. Austerity increases the distance between us and them. This is not an accident.

16:

The Naomi Wolf article is pretty dubious.

Your conclusions remain plausible, though.

17:

Eloise@4: Would you like to have a go at why Standard and Poor's decided today that Belgium might default.

Because this is the same company that said Toxic bonds had an A+++ rating.

Sub-standard and Piss-poor make the banking decisions in the South Park episode "Bailout" look positively sensible. (Sorry, you'll have to conduct your own web search for that one.)

18:

"... to see a conspiracy between the President, the DHS, and mayors of major cities to suppress Occupants because they want to change soft money legislation is to see God in the machine."

But there *is* a conspiracy. It is a conspiracy of common values. A bit like Murdoch once claiming that he did not interfere with editorial matters in his newspapers. The reason is that he hires people who know what he wants and act accordingly - he does not have to give orders. No "conspiracy" there either.

19:

"...Out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man...."

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.” Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1936


20:

I read the piece last night and then several pages of the comments, the result was I posted on my Facebook page that there was no greater British Invention than the Party Political Broadcast. Political donations are destroying the US and unfortunately it's a game even the honest are forced to play; cf Charlie mentioning the ability of pharmaceutical companies to advertise.
In all honesty the end games to sorting out the intractable problems over here are not pretty at all and I don't look forward to living through them

21:

As to why politicians practice austerity, you're missing a crucial part of the power dynamic.

Countries such as the UK have borrowed a metric fuckton of money. When you borrow money, you give the people you owe it to a degree of power over you. The people our countries have borrowed from believe austerity is necessary, and will punish debtors who disagree - by means of higher interest rates, more difficult future borrowing, and so on. This means that the beliefs of the lenders have real financial effects on the countries they have lent to, regardless of whether those beliefs are true or false.

The practical upshot of this is, even if you think borrowing more money to promote growth is a good idea, you would be taking the gamble that the increased growth is not only enough to cover the additional borrowing, but also enough to cover the increased repayments on existing debt demanded by the creditors who are sceptical about your growth plan.

Debt reduction has the twofold advantage that, as the debt goes down, less of your revenue goes on interest payments, and you gain in fiscal autonomy because you are more able to spend money on what you want to spend it on, not what your creditors think you ought to spend it on.

22:

Au contraire- where is the evidence for higher rates for most countries bonds?
Your point about debt reduction also sounds exactly like the braindead conservative types who shant "debt is bad", even whilst their fellow travellers are the ones who set the system freewheeling in the first place. I did point out earlier that austerity doesn't work, didn't I?

23:

Except that UK interest rates are low, all the way out to 30 years. I don't believe I have ever seen them lower. So where is this inflation of which you speak?

24:

DeLong on why there isn't any need to panic about national debt for most European countries:
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/11/resolving-the-eurocrisis-department-of-huh.html

Krugman on why borrowing by gvts is possible despite the great deal of debt lying about:
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/25/sam-janet-and-fiscal-policy/

25:

On borrowing costs of UK versus other countries, see:

UK borrowing costs fall below Germany's.

"The bond market moves suggest that some investors consider the UK safer than Germany, the largest economy in Europe.

And the UK's low cost to borrow comes as some indebted eurozone countries - such as Italy and Spain - are paying more than 6% to borrow at auction.

The spread - or difference - between German debt and other eurozone nations, such as France and Spain, reached record highs this month. Spanish debt yields more than 5% more."

As I say, this has little to do with which economic strategies will actually promote a healthy economy, and everything to do with what creditors believe will get them their money back. It's a crucial distinction - indeed, it was the very point of my post to which you were replying.

26:

Yes, Alex, UK rates are low, and the UK is pursuing an austerity/deficit reduction strategy. Quite why you think this is a counterexample to the argument that countries which do not pursue such a strategy will suffer higher interest rates escapes me, I'm afraid.

27:

As a sarcastic bastard, I have a big problem...

This was the OWS statement from October 5th (from http://current.com/shows/countdown/videos/special-comment-keith-reads-first-collective-statement-of-occupy-wall-street# at around 2:30)

"As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies. As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members. That our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors. That a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people, and the Earth, and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.

We come to you at a time when corporations -- which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality -- run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here as is our right to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in workplaces based on age, the color of one's skin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is, itself, a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut worker's health care and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams, but look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products, endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people's lives, or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully kept people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners, even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City general assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble, occupy public space, create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard."

I have a large time reconciling that statement (which, itself, is a mishmash verging, in places, on conspiracy theory) with the Grauniad report. The problem, to my mind, is that there really isn't any coherent message, and so it's possible to slice and dice the noise coming out of OWS to support almost any political agenda you want. So The Grauniad reports something you like; you believe it is accurate because it panders to your biases. I firmly believe Wolf did hear that message from the people there. But it's not the only message, and nowhere near the whole of the message.

Part of it appears to be because a lot of people in OWS are politically naive; they believe something is wrong but they don't know what; they know that they're suffering and, hey, Wall Street is a nice "fat cat" target! So you end up with noise, but no message. Someone I wait for the train with for my morning commute sometimes spends her weekends at Zucotti Park; she didn't mention any of those three messages as her reason until I prompted her... "that's because companies are people?" "Oh, yes! that!"

I need a LARGE pinch of salt to go with Wolf's report.

28:

I don't see anything to disagree with in the DeLong article. I don't think he's making the point you think he's making.

I agree that if we owed all this money to Paul Krugman we would probably be in a happier position.

29:

The argument the austerity hawks is always, "if you reflate, interest rates will rise dramatically to punish you". But if interest rates are very low, then it is equally arguable that rates could rise to normal levels with some reflation. Indeed, some inflation and rising rates would be beneficial. There is just no evidence that austerity is doing anything useful except causing unnecessary economic pain.

30:

Ah, maybe its a communication problem - the point that myself and probably Alex are making is that the UK, and it would appear lots of other countries such as the USA, are being tied into an austerity straightjacket for no good reason. Including the "interest rates will rise if we don't pay down the debt" reason which you mentioned above. Do you happen to know which countries have such a problem?

My other main point is that discussion of the ideals of debt repayment aside, there's very little evidence that austerity has worked anywhere, ever that I have been made aware of. I asked this question elsewhere and someone mentioned a couple of countries 30 years ago in rather specific circumstances, but nothing much else.

31:

Basically, what we're seeing is the Vile Offspring from Accelerando showing up a few decades early.

32:

This is why Occupy Wall Street matters. People all over the U.S.A. (and outside it, as you show) are suddenly talking about and paying attention to outrages they were apathetic towards only months ago.

We don't stand a chance of fixing these issues unless we care enough to upset some apple carts. Now that voters are paying attention, maybe a few brave politicos will 'lead' by getting in front of the crowd and pushing those carts themselves. And if they don't, there is an election coming up in a year.

34:

"Except that UK interest rates are low, all the way out to 30 years. I don't believe I have ever seen them lower. So where is this inflation of which you speak?"

When the current austerity policy fails, there will be more "quantitative easing" ie printing money. Forecast is that Britain will go back into recession next year, so that will be the next step.

35:

Independent third parties just don't work, in a US context (and have significant limitations in any first-past-the-post context, as recent experience in Britain and Canada shows). What third party-style movements *can* do is effectively shift the conversation and have either their positions or constituencies co-opted by one of the existing major parties (see, e.g., the original Progressives).

I'd suggest that the OWS grouping was, is, and will be a waste of time. Sitting down in a street is never going to change anything and the clearing of them away with extreme violence is only a matter of returning to BAL and sending a message to future protesters - DON'T.

It's less about money than those in power wanting to make clear that THEY are in power, not some crusty protester - and don't you forget it.

Nope, the OWS lot needed to have organised themselves into a political party before they got infiltrated - targeted on next year's US elections.

How it works is simple. The republicans have little chance of electoral success next time - all they have are joke candidates that won't win the middle. However they will gain the usual far right loony vote. The democrats are just sitting back and letting them implode.

However, if the OWS setup as a political party with a set of populist policies (making the bankers pay would be very popular) they would present a problem to the democrats. They would take their natural voters, bringing the election into question. In such circumstances the OWS lot could hold the dems over a barrel and get policies hardwired into their manifesto - in exchange for standing down. These would have to be signed in blood, given how untrustworthy your usual politician is - but doable.

It's about the only route they would have to have an effect - and it's suspicious it hasn't been touted; almost as if the OWS movement is set to spike the will behind such a thrust, ahead of 2012 ...

36:

I think the piece in question is from Naomi
Klein rather than Naomi Wolf. I always
get them confused too
Jasper

37:

"Sitting down in a street is never going to change anything and the clearing of them away with extreme violence is only a matter of returning to BAL and sending a message to future protesters - DON'T."

Just like the Vietnam War demonstrations eh?
Shooting down students at Kent State sure put a stop to that nonsense.

38:

As I visited family this weekend, I found a book that a relative was reading.

The book is titled "This Time It Is Different", and was about various historical cases of governments not paying back lenders.

I wasn't able to wade into (what the first three chapters promised to be) the meat of the book, an attempt at numerical analysis of the forces at work when lenders are shafted by governments that they have loaned to. I don't know if I have the gist of the author's conclusions.

The first three chapters did attempt to restate, and offer preliminary evidence about how (and when) governments decide not to pay their debts.

If you're talking austerity, and lenders who like to twist governments into austerity, that book might be useful as background information.

On the other hand, I do not know if many of the lenders (who might attempt to force a government into austerity) have analyzed the data the same way. If they did, they might have a better chance of deciding whether a government really needs to go on an austerity budget.

And now I have another book on my must-find-and-read-queue...

39:

I have had no personal contact with any of the Occupy people.

On the other hand, my read of available data isn't far different from yours.

There are acquaintances of mine who refer to their local Occupy encampment (in Boston, if you need to know) as the local "Kill the $ETHNIC_GROUP" encampment.

(If you need a hint, the ethnic group that generated so much vile rhetoric is a group that has been associated strongly with finance since before Europeans came to North America.)

I can't tell if that is an accurate representation of the attitude he found there, or simply the common denominator that they all agreed on.

IF the Occupy movement can't clean racial hatred out of its members, then I conclude that either (A) most members don't mind such hatred, or (B) the movement isn't coherent enough to self-police.

But I don't even know if the charge of ethnic hatred is accurate. However, I fear it is accurate.

40:

Accusing people you have not contact with and have no direct information on of antisemitism is generally considered a "dick move."

41:

Freely available paper, covering the same area as the book "This Time is Different":

http://polisci2.ucsd.edu/pelg/This_Time_Is_Different_SHORT.pdf

42:

OWS, ultimately, is a problem for the democratic party. It's probably not a problem in the 2012 presidential campaign, simply because of the candidates the GOP is fielding. Unless Huntsman becomes the GOP presidential candidate, I suspect most people would rather give Obama four more years of misery. We'll see.

In the slightly longer term, we're getting hundreds of people trained in direct democracy through things like OWS and the Wisconsin Recall campaign. These people mostly aren't part of the existing structure of the US Democratic party, and they have been energized by dealing with the various idiots in police uniforms. I expect the current senior members of the democratic party are going to feel the ground shake under them in the next few years. They came to power under Clinton, and they aren't doing a good job of solving the problems Clinton created.

I'll be even happier if moderate Republicans get energized by OWS and start taking back their party from the far right. In the US, we really need the full spectrum, including people who can talk to each other, even if they have separate beliefs.

43:

If American conservatism could be disentangled from enormous money, there's no reason to think it'd be any more coherent than the occupy movement. Do wonder what sort of "congress critters" we'd have over here if they were freed from most of the degradation of raising campaign funds.

44:

I'd also add that one central problem (source): when the 2009 derivatives market ($439 trillion) is 6 to 7 times the size of either 2011 world GDP ($62 trillion), the world's liquid assets ($77 trillion), or even the global public debt (~$79 trillion) we've got a serious problem.

I don't know how one unwinds this kind of debt. In terms of forces that can take down cities, the derivatives market is currently on par with the nuclear weapons industry, except that we don't get incinerated when they go off. Some large part of the crises we're seeing right now, both with money in politics and various financial crises, are due to the titanic bets floating around in our noosphere.

45:

Umm, no. I've never heard any OWS person talk about "killing" anyone. It sounds more like your acquaintances who have the hate on, more than anything else.

46:

>the DHS coordinated the Occupy camp clearances earlier this month

Charlie, that specific claim is completely unsubstantiated. It originated from an examiner.com writer who quoted unnamed DOJ sources, promised to elaborate, and then never did.

http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2011/11/25/how-bullshit-magically-turns-into-fact/

47:

I've had some small involvement with the occupy movement. The crackdowns on them, especially crackdowns on the ones in the Northern climes where winter is going to drive them out anyway, is insane. Obviously, some people in power are pooping themselves in terror of the movement despite the fact that for the most part they really do fall into the stereotype of dirty hippies and hipsters.

The message has been consistent, despite how the mainstream media tries to portray it. They want corporate personhood revoked, they want money out of politics, and they want those with very high incomes to pay as much or more in taxes as the rest of us do.

The crackdowns are totally out of scale with the threat to safety that the protests represent. Obviously, something is going on in the minds of the people in power. If they were smart, they'd just wait the OWS protesters out.

48:

All of this started with American Neoconservatives. The enemy of America according to neoconservative godfather the late Irving Kristol, was a new class made up of "scientists, teachers, and educational administrators, journalists and others." They had somehow manipulated Americans to believe that they were an evil people who rained death and destruction on Vietnam to feed their own sick compulsions.
The neoconservatives were largely composed of former sectarian Marxists of mostly Jewish academic origin, who transferred their intellectual allegiance to capitalism and American military power. Kristol had become a passionate defender of capitalism. After all that's where the money was, not trying to take over unions. The job of the neoconservative intellectual, Kristol once remarked, was "to explain to the American people why they are right and to the intellectuals why they are wrong."
His most valuable ally was Robert Bartley, the editorial-page editor of The Wall Street Journal. Both men were already fierce Cold Warriors, but Bartley, tutored by Kristol, soon enlisted in the New Class war as well. The ideology of the New Class, according to Bartley, was fomenting "something that looks suspiciously like a concerted attack on business." In order to thrive and prosper in the upcoming battle for control of the American economy, businessmen and their allies needed to publish or perish. The Journal editorial pages soon became a hotbed of neocon counterrevolution, and Kristol a regular contributor.

As it was founded by mostly sectarian Jews anyone saying anything bad about the neoconservative way must be anti-Jewish and anti-Israel on top of it. They were planers and cheerleaders in Bush's wars. And are still defending what they did by attacking any one who disagrees. Mostly from "SOUND AND FURY" ERIC ALTERMAN

49:

One of the things that should be banned is selling debt

50:

Going back to Charlie's original post about Invaders from Mars (wherein he pointed out that the "invaders from another planet" meme could be a very useful analogue for the way that the corporatocracy has gotten its claws into the various governments and associated political structures), is it possible that the Arab Spring, Indignados and Occupy movements are the various microbes which are going to bring these invaders down?

I'd argue there's a good chance they could be a good analogue for the way that various microbes brought down the otherwise-unstoppable invaders in "War of the Worlds". However, it's worth noting that these invaders we're dealing with have a strong immune system. There's been at least one leaked memo from a US lobbying group who have been offering to dig up dirt on the "leaders" of OWS, for use as a discrediting measure, and I sincerely doubt they're the only bunch out to try and pull the movement apart from the inside out. (Plus, of course, there's the whole "big fleas have little fleas" problem - because the OWS movement is so decentralised and amorphous, some of the more toxic meme peddlers can find space in the larger movement to perpetuate their existence[1]).

My own hope is that the various participants in these movements have learned enough from history to be wary of the call to violent revolution, however tempting it may seem at the time. Violent revolution, unfortunately, only serves the long-term interests of the aristos and corporatos, because what you get isn't a systemic change, but rather "here comes the new boss, same as the old boss". Violent revolutionary preachers tend not to want the existing power structures changed all that much - rather, they want the existing people at the top removed, and themselves and their mates taking over instead[2].


[1] Thus the ongoing problems that the Occupy movement is having with things like rapists in their campsites (opportunists taking advantage of their chances), the anti-Semitic subgroups trying to sell the whole Barvarian Illuminatus conspiracy again, the violent thugs who got involved in the Oakland protests and similar. The movement as a whole will, I suspect, develop its own "immune reaction" to such things, given enough time and lack of external pressure[3].
[2] Which is why the post-revolutionary Commonwealth in 17th century England strongly resembled a Tudor monarchy; why the Terror in post-revolutionary France resembled the worst excesses of the French monarchy; why the post-Revolution Russian communist government immediately settled into a fairly clear analogue of Russian imperialism, complete with serfdom for the majority of the population; and why the Chinese Communist governments don't really have that much to distinguish themselves from the previous Imperial system.
[3] Hence the continuing presence of external pressure as provided by police and security groups, as an effort to make the movements collapse under the weight of the negative memeplexes within its own entity.

51:

I think you're missing something here.

Changes in interest rates do not affect existing government debt. The government has issued an instrument which pays so many per cent of the nominal value, and when it comes due, the owner gets that nominal value repaid.

So lets say the government of Lower Gondwanaland issues a L$ 1000 bond, paying 5% for 20 years. And the interest rate doubles. That means the bond trades at L$ 500, plus a little more calculated from the time remaining before the repayment. There are pretty standard ways of calculating this.

The interest the Government of Lower Gondwanaland is paying doesn't change.

The trouble is that old debt is being repaid, and the government has to issue bonds to get the money, and those are at the new rate.

So it takes time for the high interest to bite.

To get an idea of what the changes mean, you have to know the history. How expensive is the debt that is being replaced?

And the people trading these old instruments, taking advantages of the rate shifts, are going to make money off the change. They don't care about the details, they can't make money from stability.

52:

I don't want to particularly challenge your general argument, but the "rapist" meme is looking more like black propaganda than any reality.

If it did happen, and was reported to the Police, it's such an ideal opportunity to put pressure on OWS that I am astonished that it apparently hasn't been investigated.

If it did happen, Police behaviour has been such that that, without invoking any of the debate about the reporting of rape, it seems quite possible that it wouldn't be reported to the Police.

And the motives, general and specific, for not reporting a rape would rather suggest that the victim wouldn't be talking to anyone else, so how the heck has the story got out into the wider world?

I don't need a victim standing in front of a TV camera, but this story doesn't appear to have any sources. Is there anybody identifiable who has spoken to a victim?

I could set up a fake account with, well, anywhere. It's not hard to produce something plausible. Then I'd post a story or two, and a dozen newspapers could print, "There are reports that...".

Heck, what's to stop me writing something like, "I was at OWS on Thursday night and..."

There are people with a motive to get out these stories which discredit the "Occupy" movement. And it's not that hard to do.

53:

A stronger party system seems to help curb the worst excesses of politics-for-money. We often mock Italy for having 40-ish governments in the time since WWII, but in effect the US has had thousands of similar situations. Every vote in congress is a vote of no confidence fueled by money, self interest, religion and sometimes by a scattering of ideology on the side. From the outside Republicans and Democrats most of the time look like just two different ties, one red and one blue, on the same suit of self interest.
Sad, really.

54:

Alex Tolley: Except that UK interest rates are low, all the way out to 30 years. I don't believe I have ever seen them lower. So where is this inflation of which you speak?

Right here. The retail price index hit 5.2% in September -- the highest it's been since 1991.

Translation: we've got galloping inflation (albeit not as bad as the 1970s or 1980s) combined with interest rates at a long-term low.

55:

Deron Meranda @ 7
Are you quite mad?
ONE LAW, FOR ALL THE PEOPLE!

Generally, I don't know about OWS, but our own (London) "occupy" people are incredibly dim-witted and brainwashed.
They are selling copies of a Marxist paper - which indicates that they are religious nutters.
They only too obviously really haven't got a clue.
I'm not sure whether I believe press reports about used needles and drug-remains, or whether it's black propaganda.
At the same time, it is clear that something is badly broken with our economic syatem at present, and I'm not offering any solutions - sorry.

56:

They are selling copies of a Marxist paper - which indicates that they are religious nutters.

Sounds like the usual Socialist Workers Party rentacrowd at work. The SWP have a habit of looking for any promising new demonstration or movement then getting out in front and pretending to run it, in the hope that newbies will mistake them for the real thing (thus giving them a supply of new recruits). If they are really successful they try and take over whatever organization has emerged and use it to further their own goal. Basically they're parasites.

They did pretty well with the Iraq War demonstrations, but that was a situation they were pre-adapted to; Occupy pushes some of their buttons but I don't think they're in a position to grab the steering wheel.

57:

Mike Caprio, re "They Live", I made that comparison with respect to Charlie Stross's 2010 article: Not Being Human.

The obvious solution is to abolish the corporation, and recognise only human beings (singly or collectively). It's pretty bad when corporations can bankrupt or jail human beings, and yet no corporation ever sits in the gutter penniless, or rots in prison knowing these years are lost from their mortal lifespan.

Corporations don't even have the courage to manifest their hideous forms in the courtroom - preferring always to have lawyers represent them.

58:

Charlie @ 56
!00% correct - it was indeed they.
Plus a christian borderline-insane ranter, plus "normally" insane christian groups, plus supposedly "moderate" muslims stupid and lying enough to flat-out deny that the "recital" instructs that women have 2/3rd class status, plus ....
Completely incoherent and muddled, in other words, and worthy of nothing but contempt.
BUT - this was only the lot outside St Pauls.
Other groups, elsewhere, I know nothing of, and cannot comment upon.

With "opposition" like this the corporate-state people eill have a downhill run to their wished-for autarchy.
Oddly enough, the ones who are making the most coherent opposition noises (AFAIK & at the moment) are the semi-libertartian right-wingers, correctly claiming that what we are seeing is not "capitalism", and that something should be done, to rein in the excessive power of the self-selecting oligarchs.

59:

There's a pretty thorough debunking of the Wolf piece on Alternet. Not that I think her general concerns are wrong, but in this case, she's making huge deductive leaps from a few pieces of information, and her theory seems to posit OWS demands and a chain of command from Congress to local law enforcers that don't really exist

I'd guess that the Mayor of New York was under far more political pressure from rich 'Wall Street' companies than from Congresspeople concerned with preserving a loophole that the Occupy movement has barely mentioned.

Wasn't Wolf at one point pushing the idea that Bush was about to declare martial law and cancel the elections? Yeah.

I'm not saying that the US (and UK) aren't hugely corrupt and mainly run for the benefit of the finance industry, because they are; it's just that Wolf doesn't seem to have an accurate picture of the true lines of influence.

60:

Can I move there, please?

61:

Naomi Wolf's claim of DHS co-ordination of actions against Occupy is so far unsubstantiated, Crooks and Liars article by Karoli, link. Also, Joshua Holland, link. These are both reputable left journalism sites, as can be quickly seen by further reading.

Occupy, it seems to me, is unexpectedly popular: the right word at the right time.

I draw everyone's attention to M. Schwartz's New Yorker article: "Pre-Occupied: The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street," link.

The claims of anti-semitism appear to be false, as do the claims of violence.

62:
Basically, what we're seeing is the Vile Offspring from Accelerando showing up a few decades early.

No, those would be the derivatives market. Some substantial fraction of a quadrillion (billiard) and rising.

63:

OWS is incoherent because it is better understood as an emergent property of a population in distress than a coherent movement, it's another manifestation of the same popular unrest that created the tea party in the US (although that was quickly brought under control, or was possibly astroturfed into existence to Chanel popular incoherent distress)
It's this in fact which makes it dangerous to politicians of all stripes OWS is obviously leaning leftwards and the te party right but they represent the tip of a slow moving iceberg of popular opinion this is what terifys politicians about it , because it has the potential to serve as the launch pad of a real change, but the change will happen not from OWS but in the general population.
and they don't know which way it's going to go

64:

Accusing people you have not contact with and have no direct information on of antisemitism is generally considered a "dick move."

Which is why I question, and not accuse.

The explanation may be like Charlie@56 explaining the presence of SWP at the London protests.

Or it may be more sinister.

65:

Nobody mention it in the comments to your old "Invaders from mars post", but it seems to be pretty much the same argument as Buckminster Fullers "Grunch of giants."

http://www.futurehi.net/docs/Bucky_Grunch_of_Giants.html

Although using slightly less crazy language.

66:

The Edinburgh council vote is amazing. The greens are proposing a similar motion regarding our little Occupy Sheffield camp.

67:

Right, so if I hand around and sell copies of my neonazi rag "Death to Jews", that makes the OWS all nazis in the eyes of some here. Ditto if I sell "Islamic Jihad Today" or whatever - suddenly we see the sinister forces behind those allegedly innocent OWS terrorists. The naivety, gullibility or duplicity of some commentators is sickening.

68:

Doesn't this capability already exist: re-tracing the money route?

I was of the impression that EFT is like an undeletable/unmodifiable GPS tracking system data file. if so, then it should be relatively easy to see and recapitulate the specific maneuvers (by type, frequency, size, dates, chronology and parties) that produced this mess.

I propose giving this data to physicists/mathematicians to play with and sort out. Wouldn't think that financial data have all that many variables, therefore not infeasible. Further, since, as a group, physicists/mathematicians are probably more trustworthy than financial analysts/economists who might be considered having abetted/contributed to this global fiasco.

I'm not saying that physics/maths nerds should develop economic policy - just that they would probably be able to identify critical events/inflection points and possibly provide an algorithm of that series of events that could then be used to test proposed 'policy alternatives'.

It would be interesting to find out how the algorithm behind moving massive money (esp. this particular class of derivatives) versus physical goods differs. Results of such an analysis could lead to 'financial/electronic goods' trade policies, treaties, barriers, protectionism, etc. Interesting, if you're Asimov's Harry Seldon.

How is what's playing out globally different from what typically occurs within any given country's, state's, even municipality's borders, i.e., have versus have-not zones? Personally I think the healthiest solution is likely to be bottom-up than top-down.


69:

Wrt derivatives.
At one time it was illegal to gamble with money you did not possess

70:

Your "questioning" is remarkably similar to Glenn Beck's shtick, e.g. wondering aloud why Obama won't just release his long-form birth certificate to "put our questions to rest".

71:

So why not a compromise that'd wind up making everyone mostly happy- guarantee every citizen basic food, shelter, healthcare, education up to whatever level they can manage, figure out what level of taxation is necessary to fund that...and then totally deregulate everything else?

It'd be motivational- "Your marginal tax rate on income above (fill in number) is 45%...up until we feed all the plebes. After that, it's zero. So make enough money and you can gold plate that yacht without worrying about the commies trying to melt it down."

72:

Actually it seems that OWS deliberately chose to avoid making specific demands. I link to/quote a couple of good references about this on my blog post: http://www.jackwilliambell.com/?p=57

73:

...and then I go to the guy's source, and check his recounting facts.

The sources were awfully lean on actual pictures of anti-semitic signs, or videos of chants. (Not that such things are unknown in the US...they seemed to show up strong at certain anti-war protests of the last decade. According to Charlie @56, the SWP showed up at similar protests in London during that time frame. I'm assuming similar motivations: these are the kind of people who like to be at protests.)

But a group of Occupy members produced a video of themselves occupying an Israeli consulate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8_3iZzOe2o

My question is, what does a foreign consulate have to do with banking?

74:

Awesome!

It's much lighter on details than a full-length book.

However, it does provide evidence that financial shocks (governments going bankrupt, bankers going belly-up, inflation, debasing, deflation) are not a modern thing.

The authors attempt to pull together data from the 1300's to the present day.

I would draw a conclusion that corporate personhood is not the only culprit in causing financial trouble.

75:

You could stretch that right back to the Roman Empire and probably far beyond and still see the same effects.

Perhaps there simply isn't such a thing as a stable economy and more than any other mechanism can run forever- they can exist in a semi-stable state for a given period of time before either internal changes or external events cause them to collapse, with (hopefully) subsequent rebuilding.

76:

Interesting blog entry on how corporations became people in the US (sourced from here). Both links are interesting.

Originally, the idea that a corporation was a person was started simply so that you could sue the corporation. This simply because you can't sue an inanimate object, and naming millions of employees in a lawsuit is impractical.

The way the 19th Century Robber Barons turned this theory into our current travesty is rather interesting. According to the article, the extension of corporate personhood actually isn't in the case cited at all. It only turns up only in a non-binding summary that a clerk tacked onto the case after the justices had made a ruling, where they explicitly said that existing law covered the situation, and they didn't need to even consider the concept of corporate personhood in their ruling.

Would it surprise anyone to learn that the law clerk who wrote the summary giving corporations personhood was formerly a corrupt local official who had previously served on the board of a railroad?

Gotta love it.

The good news is that there appears to be a legal avenue for attacking corporate personhood. That is, for a plaintiff that can take a substantial fraction of the derivatives market and use it to pay the legal fees and political contributions needed to get the case heard...

77:
At one time it was illegal to gamble with money you did not possess

Indeed. And where it wasn't illegal, doing that and losing the gamble was extremely detrimental to your health. That's still true where the house traces its legacy back to organized crime. Which leads me to wonder if it would be interesting to put the Mafia in charge of regulating the finance industry. What's the standard rate of kneecappage for a loss of US $1 billion?

78:

I point out that the incumbent Mayor of New York is himself a "rich 'Wall Street' company". You don't have to look beyond his own financial statement to see his motives in opposing the Occupy Wall Street movement.

79:

The bare minimum solution would be to recognise corporation and human being as inequivalent 'persons', and deserving of separation in the law - as I suggested some time ago: A Corporation And Citizen Isolation Amendment.

80:

My supposition is that they attempted to occupy the Israeli consulate because of Israel's disproportionate influence in our foreign policy.

81:

UK inflation rates for 20 years

The data shows high rates in 1991, 2008 (oil?) and 2011. This article in the WSJ suggests it is primarily due to rising energy prices and a tax rate increase. The article suggests that rates will subside.

Indeed that is the point of using interest rates - they respond to expectations of inflation. If 30 year rates are low, that means investors expect low inflation and therefore will accept low nominal rates.

The deficit hawks/austerians scream about inflation as if we will get destructive hyperinflation with gentle stimulus. Short term, risk free interest rates are generally at expected inflation rates. It shouldn't matter what the rate is, the real return is essentially zero whether inflation is 0 or 100%. People who suffer are those who own long term, fixed rate debt. Unexpected inflation obviously results in -ve real rates of return. Probably more importantly in a marked-to-market situation, the asset value of a debt erodes, causing distress to leveraged investors.

A more sinister interpretation of the austerian demand is that since interest rates cannot be -ve, deflation creates high real interest rates and returns. Hard assets can then be acquired at distressed prices.

82:

That may be a fair cop.

I confess to not having much sympathy for the Occupy movement before I learned that anti-Semites might have become part of the movement (or tried to co-opt it).

One thing comes to my mind as I think about them. More than on financial crisis in history has been accompanied by crowds of protesters who eventually turn into Hate those evil bankers types. This, combined with the history of banking in Europe, has led to a very specific ethnic prejudice hanging on to such protests.

I feel like I'm seeing act N+1 of something that has happened N too many times in the past.

Regardless of the validity (or lack thereof) of the claims made by the protesters.

83:

As a theorist on American constitutional law and the First Amendment, I have to disagree with part of this.

No legislative action can do a damned thing about Citizens United... because it was a decision of constitutional dimension, the legislature cannot overrule it. Further, Citizens United is not the source of the problem: It is, instead, Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976). (Yes, that Buckley.) This mid-1970s Burger Court opinion made Citizens United an inevitable result... and is even more wrong. Buckley holds not that spending money on political advertising and support has an important free-speech component, but that spending money on political advertising and support is, as a mathematical identity, political speech absolutely protected by the First Amendment.

Ponder that for a moment. This is not about "expressive conduct," such as burning the US flag (Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)), that implicates the First Amendment due to its actual political message and implications. After all, some "expressive conduct" is not protected by the First Amendment, because it is (at least in the eyes of a bunch of white guys from privileged backgrounds wearing dresses) it does not inherently have a political component requiring full First Amendment protection (as indicated not just by the plurality/controlling opinion in Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc., 501 U.S. 560 (1991), but the lack of a majority opinion). No, this is an identity function between "spending money on political influence" and "political speech absolutely and positively/positivistly immune from scrutiny or regulation under the First Amendment, regardless of any other constitutional value implicated by such expenditures."

Combine this with excessive, ideologically founded stare decisis (roughly translated from bad "law French" into real English, "dead-hand control of precedent over current legal doctrine without regard to context"), and Citizens United was a predictable result. Indeed, the majority in Citizens United treats Buckley as if it has the same weight as the words of the First Amendment itself! Randy Newman was right: It's money that matters... because it takes money to buy access to fora for political speech.

What I'm really saying here is that objections by/in sympathy with Occupy Wall Street to Citizens United do not go nearly far enough, and object to a symptom and not the disease. I'm skeptical about giving an alcoholic a liver transplant without providing at least some treatment for the alcoholism... and I'm afraid that "liver transplant" is a much better analogy than it might otherwise seem, because there would be a lot of potential side effects to "just reversing Citizens United" that knee-jerk libertarian approaches to free speech advocacy fail to consider.

In short, OWS doesn't go far enough, even in the most nonviolent, respectful terms. And for that reason alone, it cannot succeed.

84:

Those "N" occasions when protests against financial institutions were anti-semetic in character occurred in places and times were the general population was already extremely anti-semetic. I don't think thats the case in modern day New York, although I'll admit I don't live there. It isn't true on the West Coast of the USA anyway.

85:

I very much like hetereomeles comment 44, and perhaps more of the OWS conversation should revolve around the point he brought up. Way more money is tied up, or just made up, by pure speculation or betting, than exists in goods and services in our world. I am no economist, but can anyone explain to me how this can be justified? I don't believe in exponential growth in a finite world, that being said OEH's argument that growth can be in things like information rather than goods seems reasonable, but still at some fundamental level, money must somehow be tied to base ecology.
It seems to me that just making money up and betting it, sounds an awful like Enron's accounting and the housing crisis, in short a lot of people counting their chickens before they are hatched. Only now it seems like we count 10 generations of expotenially growing chicken factories before they are hatched. Then we wonder why things don't come to fruition.
Simply blaming people in the financial industry won't do, they are just playing a bs game to the best of their abilities. I believe we must change the rules of the game, no easy task. This is where things, seeming unrelated, such as campaign finance reform and social justice come into play.
This may also be why a coherent argument from the OWS seems nonexistent, because the problems themselves are so tangled and interconnected it seems like gibberish. It reminds me of things Chomsky has said about why he isn't on TV. Complicated problems need complicated explanations that don't fit into sound bytes. As can already be seen by this too long of post.

86:

MY POST #48. SORRY! I made a big bad opps. I SAID NEOCONSERVATIVES WERE were largely composed of former sectarian Marxists of mostly JEWISH academic origin. I dropped a non there. It should have read NON-sectarian Jewish.
NOTHING IS NEW HERE. "I can perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men procuring their own commodities under the name and title of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely, without fear of losing, that they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labour of the poor for as little money as may be. These devices, when the rich men have decreed to be kept and observed for the commonwealth’s sake, that is to say for the wealth also of the poor people, then they be made laws.But these most wicked and vicious men, when they have by their insatiable covetousness divided among themselves all those things, which would have sufficed all men, yet how far be they from the wealth and felicity of the Utopian commonwealth? Out of the which, in that all the desire of money with the use of thereof is utterly secluded and banished, how great a heap of cares is cut away! How great an occasion of wickedness and mischief is plucked up by the roots!"
--Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), Utopia
,

87:

Unless something concrete gets leaked out, I'm inclined to chalk up the crackdowns on OWS across US cities to common interests.

In the 1980s and 1990s, in the US, I was in all sorts of demonstrations--save the National Endowment of the Arts, keep abortion legal, etc.--and the local International Socialists never failed to show up. In an inclusive demonstration, you have to put up with those types.

As for the Martian Invasion, I think the Martians won the rematch. The Red Weed covers the world and there's no friendly microbes in sight. ULLA!!!!! It's the Shock Doctrine in full swing. The "great" thing about the credit crises, bailouts and austerity is it might finally bring European social democrats to heel, what with all those vitally necessary "entitlement reforms." There Is No Alternative.

88:

I'm a bit skeptical.

#3 only recently became a leading issue after it was covered on 60 Minutes. Was much of OWS lobbying for this all along? I seriously doubt it.

89:

What causes the financial problem? Massive debt.
Where does that debt come from? Borrowing from the future, essentially, in order to fund the present.
Why are we in crisis? Maybe we've run out of future.
Or more accurately, since we have fiat currencies - which operate on the basis of trust - perhaps we've run out of faith in the future.
From a UK perspective, that might have to do with the alienation intrinsic to a post-industrial service economy allied to a consciousness about environmental degradation.
Just a thought.

90:

America is at the same stage of decay as the late Roman Republic. We have the most awesome military since the Roman legions, but our citizens cannot find jobs, and only the elite few benefit:

"The wild beasts that roam over Italy, have their dens and holes to lurk in, but the men who fight and die for our country enjoy the common air and light and nothing else. It is their lot to wander with their wives and children, houseless and homeless, over the face of the earth. And when our generals appeal to their soldiers before a battle to defend their ancestors' tombs and their temples against the enemy, their words are a lie and a mockery, for not a man in their audience possesses a family altar; not one out of all those Romans owns an ancestral tomb. The truth is that they fight and die to protect the wealth and luxury of others. They are called the masters of the world, but they do not possess a single clod of earth which is truly their own." - Tiberius Gracchus

91:

Hmmmm...

What happens if we take some of this to its logical conclusion? If money is in fact equal to speech, then is it legal for any US government or government employee to spend any money muzzling the free speech of US citizens? Is it legal for the US to control any of the spending of its citizens, since to do so would be restricting speech?

Similarly, if corporations are persons, do they have the right to life? If so, then they cannot be dissolved into bankruptcy at the very least, and their ability to undergo mergers, acquisitions, and spinoffs is questionable as well. After all, corporations are like plants: they are modular "life forms," (in that they have multiple copies of every necessary organ) that can split and fuse without necessarily dying. Humans (like most other animals) are unified, with only one or a few copies of every necessary organ, so loss of any copy is damaging or deadly. You can cut a plant in half and have two live plants. If you cut a human in half, you have one dead human. Corporations are more like plants in this regard.

So far as I can tell, human law applies to human-shaped organisms, not modular organisms like plants and fungi. And corporations. Obviously, most lawyers haven't taken biology, or they would understand this fundamental, kingdom- and phylum- level difference. If corporations are persons, shouldn't they be treated as humans? If so, then isn't every bankruptcy and merger a potentially criminal death? Maybe we should stop mergers and bankruptcies too...

92:

So, Mr. Petit,

are you suggesting that perhaps we need a constitutional amendment that says that money isn't equivalent to speech under the First Amendment? Or is there another bit of law that we should perhaps transplant into our constitution to take over this systemic failure?

93:

While we're at the Roman empire (is there a variant Godwin's law for Rome, for posher arguments?) the cash nexus there was much as it is now; for any major office, while in power you had to acquire three fortunes - one to pay off the bribes it took you to get it, one to buy off the judges in the cases after you stepped down, and one to keep for yourself. Explains a lot.

94:

"Part of it appears to be because a lot of people in OWS are politically naive; they believe something is wrong but they don't know what; they know that they're suffering and, hey, Wall Street is a nice "fat cat" target!"

This is an interesting train of thought for several reasons. The most pointed is that you think these people are naive for not trusting a political system that has pretty conclusively screwing them fairly obviously for most of their lives (average age in NYC was 32).

It seems like they're the exact opposite of naive to me. They seem to realize that they must be threatening in order to provoke any change from a system so locked into a feedback loop. The fact that they've succeeded is not exactly a point in the establishment's order.

95:

Another, more paranoid way of putting:

"it's fallacy to attribute agency to the movement of large, distributed systems -- to see a conspiracy between the President, the DHS, and mayors of major cities to suppress Occupants because they want to change soft money legislation is to see God in the machine. "

is that from numerous tiny conspiracies necessary for organization, a larger system with strange attractors can emerge. Perturbations from those meta-stable points (civilizations) incur correction forces, which to component of the system look, and to a certain extent behave, like overarching conspiracies favored by certain classes of religious enthusiasts.

Essentially, the motivations for the players are shaped by the system, system-preserving motivations are selected for and the resultant players behave in a coordinated fashion despite no actual coordination between the component agents.

Deciding if you want to call that phenomenon 'agency' is an exercise in definitions (for the record: I think agency is exactly the wrong kind of word to use here), but it's still a very good point.

How does this impact attempts to disrupt the system producing the blowback?

96:
"Part of it appears to be because a lot of people in OWS are politically naive; they believe something is wrong but they don't know what; they know that they're suffering and, hey, Wall Street is a nice "fat cat" target!"

This is an interesting train of thought for several reasons. The most pointed is that you think these people are naive for not trusting a political system that has pretty conclusively screwing them fairly obviously for most of their lives (average age in NYC was 32).

Another reason would be that knowing that something is wrong can be the first step to figuring out what it is that's wrong (and then to figuring out how to fix it). That first step can be important even on its own...

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view. —Lemony Snicket (or, at least, attributed to Lemony Snicket)

I don't want my economic policy coming from "guy in tent." —Scott Adams

In some ways, that's why we're here, discussing this topic — OWS has pointed out that there seems to be a problem, and we're trying to pin down where exactly, how it happens and maybe how to make things better.

97:

I don't need a victim standing in front of a TV camera, but this story doesn't appear to have any sources. Is there anybody identifiable who has spoken to a victim?

I've read one first-person account of a sexual assault, but it's not published because the author isn't willing to accept more abuse (see also: rape culture, and the "why women don't blog" meme). There are a number of discussions on public feminist blogs on the topic, for instance this one http://teal-deer.tumblr.com/post/11698556291/a-personal-essay-about-anxiety-and-rape-culture discussing sexual harassment.

Here in Melbourne Occupy was quickly a centre for randoms, from homeless people (free food, safety) to predators of various sorts (drug dealers, bought media and gangs of violent thugs). The bought media were upset that streetkids found Occupy safer and more wlcoming than designated "welfare" agencies, rather than seeing that as a condemnation of the agencies. It's largely been shut down because the Lord Mayor looked down from his office window onto the park and declared that "people like that have no place in my city" (I kid you not). His hench-thug was promptly made Commissioner of Police (again, I kid you not).

The usual problems with *any* open group are that by dint of being open they have no way to prevent randoms coming along and doing random stuff. To some extent that is entirely the point.

98:

Both 1920's legal opinion and the R/W of the 60's believed it is not that hard to impeach a American Supreme Court Judge. Easer than doing it to a Congressman in fact. This court fixed it so Al gore lost and has done much to change the America I grew up in. Why not try and get one and give them all something new to think about. The Florida vote stopping should do it.

99:

"We got religion out of politics (theocracy - officially bad)"

We did? When did that happen? Was it over the weekend?

100:

"The retail price index hit 5.2% in September -- the highest it's been since 1991.

Translation: we've got galloping inflation (albeit not as bad as the 1970s or 1980s) combined with interest rates at a long-term low."

No, that's mainly due to short-term spikes in commodity prices, lagging effects of sterling depreciation, and the rise in VAT. Britain does _not_ have galloping inflation. As you might expect in a lacklustre economy with not much prospect of growth, we have low underlying inflation with a brief exogenous spike stuck on top.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/money-and-inflation-british-edition/

"At one time it was illegal to gamble with money you did not possess"

Citation needed. Where gambling is legal, AFAIK it's always been legal to borrow some money and use it to gamble with. Not always wise... but legal. In fact, it's also known as "banking". The banks take money that isn't theirs (it's mine) and gamble by lending it to Bob so he can buy a house. (The gamble here is whether or not Bob will pay it back.)

101:

Wolf's piece can be pretty much summed up as "OWS wants to stop the political corruption in America and over influence of money in politics." I believe that if you step back from OWS and apply some reasoning that ultimately that's the point. Rich people elect the politicians, the politicians enable the rich people to make huge sums of money by removing regulation, and the politicians make a lot of money riding the coattails of their wealthy benefactors. We're not talking rocket science here. It's a self propelled system of corruption. And to assume that the police wouldn't be used by an oligarchy to suppress dissent is naive. Very naive considering the historical record.

102:

bjacques@85: There Is No Alternative.

But that is where OWS et al have succeeded, and where their real significance lies: they have called TINA into question, and it seems to have struck a chord. They aren't saying what the alternative is, and vide Lemony Snickert and Scott Adams, it's not their job to propose it, but they have changed the narrative to say actually, maybe there is an alternative, and it would be a Good Thing to find it.

Not bad going for a movement just a few months old, to overturn the central tenet of the last 30-40 years of plutocracic propaganda. No wonder the plutocrats are so rattled.

103:

" Where gambling is legal, AFAIK it's always been legal to borrow some money and use it to gamble with."

Not necessarily the case with derivatives since there is so much leverage that potential losses can easily exceed borrowing limits. Plus, you don't actually have to borrow any money at all with which to gamble on derivatives (unless it all goes horribly wrong).

104:

I think that election spending and Citizens United are red herrings. I believe ~$1.3 billion US was spent in total on the 2008 Presidential election. That dwarfs any previous election spending, but it is still *tiny* compared to money that corporations or even the richest individuals control and move around every day.

If it was possible and worthwhile to buy the results of elections, there should be a lot more money involved for Presidential races, and probably at least Senate races. Since there isn't, it seems clear that anyone with money to spend is perfectly happy with any of the serious candidates.

Talking about election spending is missing the point that any high level elected officials, important government appointees, or people with any sort of power in regulatory agencies, courts, anywhere in the government, are at the very best constantly moving through a revolving door between public and private sector, if not involved in more serious shenanigans.

105:

Citation needed. Where gambling is legal, AFAIK it's always been legal to borrow some money and use it to gamble with. Not always wise... but legal. In fact, it's also known as "banking". The banks take money that isn't theirs (it's mine) and gamble by lending it to Bob so he can buy a house. (The gamble here is whether or not Bob will pay it back.)

Not in the way that a derivatives market does; See OGH's reference to Glass-Steagal above. If you're UK based, note that we did have similar banking control regulations until Greedy Gordon aboloshed them in a similar timescale.

106:

(To two comments, actually, but the system doesn't allow direct references to both...)

Procedurally, there are two ways to deal with the problem; neither excludes the other, and either would be sufficient.

(1) As mentioned, a constitutional amendment declaring that money is not speech. (Editorial aside: This may merely shift the goalposts; but I'm talking about procedure here, not policy.) That would require either a Constitutional Convention — and we don't want that, with the likely tinkering elsewhere — or a joint resolution of Congress after a 2/3 vote in each chamber (and this goes completely around the President). In either event, it would then be followed by the need for ratification by 3/4 of the states, in methods left to each state to decide (some use a popular vote, some the legislature-plus-governor system used for "regular" legislation).

(2) A Supreme Court opinion reversing, or at least sharply limiting, Buckley would be sufficient, too. The problem here is that it would require both a case presenting appropriate facts and procedural posture (and some scholars do not believe that Citizens United did, although that's a matter for debate) and advocates willing and competent to argue head-on against a "seasoned" Supreme Court precedent in front of a Court that has four members at present who believe that no precedent outside of abortion rights issues should ever be overturned. (OK, that last is slightly hyperbolic, but only slightly.)

So those are the procedural options. The real problem is that at the policy level, there are legitimate fears — many of which actually came to pass during the civil rights litigation era from the 1940s through the 1960s — that the kinds of restrictions necessary for dealing with politically self-interested deception will be instead turned on unpopular causes and dissenters. Consider, for example, a hypothetical requirement that all contributors and supporters of a political action committee or corporation be explicitly and publicly identified, with the goal of not allowing the Kock brothers (or, if you prefer, George Soros) to hide ideology behind a bland public organization. Now imagine yourself in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957, and discovering that the local sherriff wants to use this identical requirement on the NAACP, with the unstated intent of turning over all of that information to the local Klan and using every bit of his law enforcement power to harass NAACP members. Yeah, like that's ever going to happen, right? Our public officials are public spirited, and would never do anything like that, right? Well, not so much. NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958). And it's only a very small step from "membership list" to "contributor list, including dollar amounts."

All of the above is why I strongly favor the "overturn/limit the precedent through a new opinion" approach. I would probably want to restrict it by ruling that expenditures can, under some circumstances, constitute expressive speech... but that by default they do not constitute expressive speech unless explicitly linked to political issues, as opposed to candidates, and not linked to deceptive conduct. (That is, I would treat expenditures as "speech" when they pass the same scrutiny as applied to nude dancing.) As bad as most legal writing is, I really don't want someone trying to amend the First Amendment to deal only and precisely with the particular problem we're seeing today, only to open more loopholes and lead to more money going to already-rich big-firm litigators (who are generally already in corporate pockets anyway).

Always, always, always remember that a democratic government is an entire system. It's not that "the people" get the government they "deserve" — it's that they get the government that they have the guts to demand.

107:

I'd like to note that the game isn't always about removing regulations. Quite often, perhaps even more often, regulations work in favor of the big companies because they are equipped to comply with them and/or to seek waivers, while their smaller competition finds themselves locked out of a market they could compete in if there were less regulation.

The point here isn't that big companies do not want regulation. Rather they do not want regulation that hinders their search for profit, but are perfectly happy with regulation that hinders their competitors. For an extreme example, look at the copyright imbroglio.

108:

Gambling with Wall St. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan did it all, really. He is a libertarian who said he wanted to stop government from telling smart guys what to do. In 1907 the States passed anti-gambling laws making it a felony to gamble on Wall St. NO derivatives. There had been a big, bad collapse and the States, not Washington wanted to keep it from happening again. It worked. The last part of the 2001 reform act did away with letting the States rule Wall St. In front of Congress, Greenspan said he believed the bankers would act like grow ups Instead they did what the pro-regulators always said they would. The GOP said their buddies banks were too big to be allowed to fail, so Obama gets their deficit.

109:

And of course when we're talking derivatives were talking specifically about the new, unregulated , opaque custom derivatives. The lack of regulation and standardization and hence lack of transparency is the crux of the problem. Derivatives that are standardized and regulated have been traded in Chicago for 150 years (i.e. commodity futures are derivatives ).

110:

"What I would really like to know* is how the politicians and technocrats keep going on about practising austerity, when we know that it doesn't work. I've asked about, and can't recall any situations where it has worked. Plain old monetarism doesn't work either (Thatcher tried a variety of it and it didn't work, back in the early 80's), and basically the only macro economic theorising that comes close to being both useful and accurate is neo-keynesianism. (Waits for massive foodfight to kick off)"

Note that the 'austerity' only applies to the 99%; the 1% have gotten and will get multi-trillion USD bailouts.

Right now they've succeeded in turning the (elite MSM) conversation to how harshly the 99% should be f*cked; OWS and similar movements are trying to change that conversation.

111:

"At some point the West is going to have to have a bout of severe inflation, not only to wipe out ordinary people's savings (ie those without land or gold), but fuck China over as well given the amount of our debt they hold. Things are going to get much worse over the next 5 years."

Inflation hawks are like Pre-Millenial Dispensationalists, always preaching the Rapture.

112:

"For an opposing viewpoint, here's E.D. Kain's takedown of Wolf's piece, ..."

I've argued with him, he's not an honest man.

113:

Eloise@4: "Would you like to have a go at why Standard and Poor's decided today that Belgium might default."

"Because this is the same company that said Toxic bonds had an A+++ rating."

This is the critical thing about the ratings agencies. Any comment about them either starts with 'they're lying, fraudulent scum', or is operating in fantasy land. I notice that the MSM in the USA is sorta forgetful about multi-trillion dollar, um, 'optimism' in ratings.

114:

"But there *is* a conspiracy. It is a conspiracy of common values. A bit like Murdoch once claiming that he did not interfere with editorial matters in his newspapers. The reason is that he hires people who know what he wants and act accordingly - he does not have to give orders. No "conspiracy" there either."

The big oddity is a simultaneous crackdown in 19(?) cities. That wasn't a coincidence, and if the mayors were consipiring, it's not unlikely that governors and the Feds were involved.

Remember, OWS is something that the 1% really doesn't like. They were able to produce the worst economic crash in the developed world since the Great Depression, get bailed out, and then turn the conversation to hard hard to f*ck the rest of us. And hear the f-word is justified.

People who stand up and point out that the Emperor Has No Clothes are dangerous the moment that people start to agree with them.

115:

"The people our countries have borrowed from believe austerity is necessary, and will punish debtors who disagree - by means of higher interest rates, more difficult future borrowing, and so on. "

This. Is. Not. True.

Please read Krugman, who's been covering the bond vigilantes for several years now.

116:

"Except that UK interest rates are low, all the way out to 30 years. I don't believe I have ever seen them lower. So where is this inflation of which you speak?"

What amazes me is that after four years of predicting massive inflation and higher bond rates, they just keep going and going and going..........

117:

Thank you, sir, especially for the reminder about future problems.

I was just thinking that, since money is effectively now data, as is speech, in some ways they are technically equivalent. Since we're in the middle of the data mining revolution, probably now is not the time to start tinkering with concepts of speech and money, at least at a constitutional level.

118:

"Thus the ongoing problems that the Occupy movement is having with things like rapists in their campsites (opportunists taking advantage of their chances), the anti-Semitic subgroups trying to sell the whole Barvarian Illuminatus conspiracy again, the violent thugs who got involved in the Oakland protests and similar. " (bolding mine).

The violent thugs in Oakland were the OPD.

119:

The R/W spent years trying impeach a member of the Supreme Court. Back then there were only a few of them. Why not give today's Court and the rest of the R/W something to worry abut by starting a movement to impeach the head of the court that's undoing the America I lived in.
"Special Assistant to the Attorney General Wrisley Brown wrote in the June 1913 Harvard Law Review:
To determine whether or not an act or a course of conduct is sufficient in law to support an impeachment, resort must be had to the eternal principles of right, applied to public propriety and civil morality. The offense must be prejudicial to the public interest and it must flow from a willful intent, or a reckless disregard of duty. ... It may constitute an intentional violation of positive law, or it may be an official dereliction of commission or omission, a serious breach of moral obligation, or other gross impropriety of personal conduct that, in its natural consequences, tends to bring an office into contempt and disrepute." Florida alone should be a big enough crime. Make them worry.

120:

Just remember that if Citizens United was reversed, the government could shut down the New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, Random House, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. for printing/broadcasting things they didn't like, since they are all corporations. If free speech only applies to individuals, the only way to express ideas would be standing on a soap box and passing out flyers.

Also, the biggest political contributors in the US could get shut down - Unions.

121:

Yes, exactly as the government could do before Citizens United.

That's sarcasm -- you are very wrong, you see.

123:

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capi… (Paperback) by Naomi Klein
(486) "In this groundbreaking alternative history of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman's free-market economic revolution, Naomi Klein challenges the popular myth of this movement's peaceful global victory. From Chile in 1973 to Iraq today, Klein shows how Friedman and his followers have repeatedly harnessed terrible shocks and violence to implement their radical policies. As John Gray wrote in The Guardian, "There are very few books that really help us understand the present. The Shock Doctrine is one of those books.""

124:

In George Square after pub chucking-out time?

Colour me surprised. (Not.) This is the centre of Glasgow we're talking about ...

125:

On the inflation front:

"Mortgage rates are set to soar as the Governor of the Bank of England warned the 'extraordinarily serious and threatening' crisis in the eurozone is damaging Britain."

126:

"(Yes, that Buckley.)"

No, it was his brother, New York Senator James Buckley. Gene McCarthy was also a party to the suit, so we can't just blame it on the right-wingers -- as much as I'd like to.

127:

Plus there is an Under/Over-Statement, Daily Male, type FEAR in this sort of report ... THEY WILL Rape your Women and Steal Your Hard Earned Money !!!! FEAR THEM !! And Whilst you are Fearing Them Don't FEAR US for WE are the Good Guys ... insert the Nationality and Polity of your - Forced /persuaded - choice .... BUY Sky TV for WE have the Sports of your Deepest Desire - as Hard as I find it to understand the British National Soccer /Football obsession I find it even harder to understand why our American Cousins are so Hooked on Basketball and the Republican Party.

And, Oh of course, SKY and its affiliates have NEWS for you Too ..you poor misinformed Peon, You.

Only Believe and you WILL be SAVED from ..THEM !!!

128:

But we Usaians still have 2nd Ammendment remedies...

And I am just quoting an aquaintance.

129:

Well of course that makes sense - if you ramp up interest rates those not already on fixed rate interest will end up strapped for cash, reduce their spending even more or even lose their house. This'll naturally free up people's entrepreneurial abilities that they'll take risks and start amazing new business's using money borrowed from the banks at the new high rate of interest.
Not.

The Condems plan seems to be to nuke the economy from orbit then let the rich buy things up cheap. After a few years of creative destruction stuff will be cheap enough and there'll be a large pool of surplus labour so another boom can be sparked. Of course over that time the living standards of the majority will have fallen or stagnated, but because all 3 parties chant "TINA, TINA" the electorate won't be able to do anything.

130:

"Well of course that makes sense." BINGO I think!
Milton Friedman is the Chicago school of economics. They seem to be funded to prove FDR was wrong and Social Darwinism is right.

131:

guthrie @ 129
Wonderful conspiract theory.
Two slight problems.
1] They aren't "intelligent" enough to think of it.
2] We ALREADY HAVE a suplus-labour pool of large dimensions.
Erm .....

132:

It's time to ask who a economy is for, the people who own it or the people who live in it.

The thing about conspiracies is that one big boss and grand plan is not needed. Just people who grew up the same way, went to the same kind of schools and think alike. A school of piranha has no plan. But when there is blood in the water they all know what to do with out one.
As for a surplus-labor pool, it was known back in the late 1800's that fewer and fewer workers would be needed. That's not part of a grand plan, just a fact. But now we have a surplus of well trained, high tech workers and workers who will work cheaper, and that's a fact too. Some years ago the head of a big corporation said that it was time for people to know that the only workers wanted were the ones needed to do what fewer and fewer of the people at the top needed. The rest were surplus. A 60's cold war study said only about 40% of the populaces of America was needed.
It's time to ask who a ecomony is is for, the people who own it or the people who live in it.

133:

I could have quoted exactly the same fro the Guardian.
That quote was from the Governor of the Bank of England, not some tabloid editorial.

134:

As hinted at in your 2010 Invaders from Mars article (and also implicit in parts of Accelerando) corporations ARE artificial intelligences, or Artificial Life at the least. It's just that the "hardware" and "operating system" they run on are the legal systems of the various nations of the world. They've also demonstrated great capacity for adapting their host operating systems - the legal rules - to their needs.

No need to worry about SkyNet. Worse is already here.

Corporations are an inimical form of artificial life that treats humans as both competitor for scarce resources and prey.

135:
The enemy of America according to neoconservative godfather the late Irving Kristol, was a new class made up of "scientists, teachers, and educational administrators, journalists and others."

By no coincidence at all these are the exact same groups that the Pol Pot regime slaughtered in Kampuchea / Cambodia, and are the standard targets of all totalitarian regimes. Eliminate the thinking classes, control language, control history - it's hard to think rebellious thoughts effectively if you don't have the language to think them in.

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