Monday, October 31, 2011

Breaking: MF Global, Greed and Missing Client Funds

According to its website, MF Global is

“a broker-dealer dedicated to helping clients discover and capitalize on market opportunities. We deliver trading and hedging solutions across all assets in markets around the world. MF Global is a leading broker of commodities and listed derivatives and one of 22 primary dealers authorized to trade U.S. government securities.”

But according to federal regulators, MF Global may not have ‘helped” its clients at all…rather, it has possibly gambled their clients funds away in yet another example of reckless activity by Wall Street financiers. By law, customers’ funds must be kept separate from company funds; it is suspected that this ‘firewall’ was breached by MF Global traders. As of this writing, $700 million in customer funds can not be accounted for. The commodities & derivatives trading firm is run by Jon S. Corzine, the former Governor of New Jersey and a former Goldman Sachs Executive.

Corzine was characterized at Goldman Sachs by his toleration of losses in trades, according to the book “Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success,” by Lisa Endlich. Once at MF Global, Corzine bought huge debt holdings from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and Belgium, all countries with significant fiscal approach that caused Forbes Inc Magazine Bob Lenzner to remark,

"This is called going against the grain with a vengeance. Stupid– and a tad grandiose."

As a result of those risky purchases (to the tune of $6.3 billion), MF Global reported a $191.6 million quarterly loss on Tuesday. Moody’s and Fitch then dropped MF Global’s rating to “junk” status last week, and the firm lost 2/3 of its market value. As the company’s reputation unraveled, MF Global sought a larger firm to buy it, negotiating through Black Rock Financial. Barclays, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, all banks which have bought bad debt and then traded it for taxpayer-funded bailouts, wee all approached. On Saturday, it was thought that Jeffries & Company might buy MF Global; on Sunday, Interactive Brokers was rumored. But late on Sunday night, Interactive discovered that customer money was missing, ending the deal and setting of alarms among regulators. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York cut the firm off from borrowing.

Just a few hours ago, MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection.

Another example of American’s pensions gambled away in reckless greed. Another day of Occupy Wall Street citizens jailed for exercising Constitutional Rights…and another day of Wall Street banksters walking free.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Masks, GLBT rights, & GOP Presidential Politics

This month saw the 25th Year Anniversary performance in London of the Phantom of the Opera - the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time, the most financially successful theatrical show in history, and the longest running show on Broadway. Around the world, the show is easily identified - even by those who have never seen it - by the trademark Phantom’s Mask

Masks have always intrigued me. Fascinated, terrified, and intrigued me.

As a child, clowns scared me. They still do. There is something evil and scary about clown make-up to me; it is a very obvious statement that what you “see” before you is not what is “really” underneath. Something is being prettified, or changed, or hidden; something awful is being presented as if it’s funny and joyful. I don’t like them.

I was drawn into the 1998 film, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” which itself was based on the Alexandre Dumas novel of an actual man imprisoned in the Bastille. In the movie, it is proposed that the prisoner was the twin brother of King Louis XIV - but he was kept hidden from view behind locked prison doors, his face encased in a locked iron mask so no one would recognize him as an heir to the throne. Had his true self been revealed, it would upset the established social and political order, and so the King insisted that no one be permitted to see him.

As a gay man living a closeted existence for several decades, I could identify with that.

Just as I can identify with the Phantom.

Of course, in the Phantom’s case, no one forces him to wear his mask. Rather, it is his fear of rejection, and the public's revulsion at his "differentness," his disfigured face, that causes him to hide. He voluntarily wears the mask to obscure his true identity, and lives in the shadows of the Opera House’s basement. There he can continue his life's musical work without fear of rejection. I can identify with the Phantom even more than with the Man in the Iron Mask.

I recall a heated discussion I had six years ago about the Phantom. I was admittedly sympathetic to him, understanding his perspective. The woman with whom I was speaking was outraged. “He is a monster! He’s a liar! He manipulates and uses people! How can you defend him?!” I suspected that she was seeing this from her very personal perspective, just as I was seeing from mine.

Which brings me to the main point of this blog post: the scrambling by Republican presidential candidates to shove masks back on our faces.

Here in New Hampshire, we go through the every-four-year sideshow of Presidential-wannabes traipsing through the state seeking a First-in-The-Nation Primary win. And as Primary day gets closer, each candidate tries to outflank the next in securing votes. This week, they tried to outdo each other on the issue of Marriage [In]Equality.

In August, Rick Perry had signed a pledge to support a Constitutional Amendment banning Marriage Equality nation-wide. This past Friday, at a dinner hosted by the extreme right-wing “Cornerstone Action,” Perry shored up his credentials, adding,

"As conservatives…We believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage, and I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father."

Perry was referring to the current effort by the NH House to repeal the 2009 NH Marriage Equality bill.

Mitt Romney, despite pledging his personal support as an advocate of GLBT rights to the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994, turned around and signed the pledge calling for a federal amendment defining marriage as one-man and one-woman. Rick Santorum has stated that there is “no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution” (50 years of Court decisions say otherwise), and called gay rights to the equivalent of another 9-11 terrorist attack in the Morning Call. This actually sounds like a remix of Michelle Bachmann’s letter in which she declared that legislators who oppose a federal Marriage Amendment to be like “soldiers who missed the Pearl Harbor warning signs.”

Speaking (or should I say ”pandering?”) to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Last week possible front-runner Herman Cain said,

“I think marriage should be protected at the federal level also…I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and that could cause an unraveling, so we do need some protection at the federal level because of that and so yes I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”

Make no mistake: Theocratic political action groups such as the National Organization for Marriage and Cornerstone Action are scrambling to find ways to lock iron masks on gay men and women, lest the world see us for who we are: neighbors, teachers, firefighters, sons, daughters, architects, sports figures, secretaries, construction workers, accountants, warehousemen, drivers, and nurses.

If we can’t be seen, or acknoweldged, or recognized, they hope, we will be forgotten, as if locked in the Bastille.

As they attempt to re-introduce a climate of fear and loathing, they work on our psyche much as the crowds worked on the Phantom’s psyche: by convincing him that he was ugly, that he was different, that he would be attacked by ‘normal’ people...and just as he chose to live his life behind a mask so no one could see, so, still, do many gay and lesbian citizens.

After all, NH Rep. Ralph Boehm, the vice chairman of the House Education Committee, tried to gut the states new anti-bullying law, saying that

"Students need to be prepared for life...bullying is part of it.”

You see? We should hide...because otherwise we will be attacked. It's just "part of life."

But living behind a mask has repercussions worse than these theocrats understand.

In a 2008 poll of 260 openly gay men in New England, fully one half stated they used to me married to a woman…which, of course, ended in divorce.

They did not ‘change’ their orientation half-way through their lives. Rather, they tried to live behind a mask, where no one could see their ‘real face,’ or their ‘differences,’ and hope it would work.

It doesn’t.

And for those who claim to be on the side of “marriage,” they do themselves – and society – no favor by forcing men to live in ways they can’t.

Harvey Milk pleaded with us to drop the masks:

“…Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you… But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene…”

No More Closets…No More Bastille Prison Doors…No More Iron Masks…No More Phantoms.

And no more two-faced, pandering, ignorant hateful Republicans as President, thank you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Police Action in Oakland Critically Wounds Iraqi Vet

While ABC is worried about Max and Len fighting on Dancing With the Stars and NBC's top web headline is a lost cat that has been found at JFK Airport, a Police State is taking hold in California, and the first serious shots have been fired. Police, clothed in riot gear and armed with shot guns and tear gas, descended on Occupy Oakland, dispersed protesters, and destroyed tents and support services.

Alexander Abad-Santos of the Atlantic Wire reports:
Scott Olsen survived two tours in Iraq, but is in a hospital with critical injuries because of a confrontation between Occupy Oakland protesters and police. A member of the Veterans for Peace Organization, Olsen, 24, is in critical condition, according to The Guardian. "This poor guy was right behind me when he was hit in the head with a police projectile. He went down hard and did not get up," wrote Jay Finneburgh, a photographer of the protests. "I'm just absolutely devastated that someone who did two tours of Iraq and came home safely is now lying in a US hospital because of the domestic police force," said Adele Carpenter, a friend of Olsen's who spoke with The Guardian, which adds, "Olsen had only moved to Oakland in July, Carpenter said. He is a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, and met Carpenter through her work with the civilian soldier alliance."

As the video below shows, police did not attempt to help the wounded, but left Olsen lying in the street. Fellow citizens came to his rescue, carrying him out of the police melee. As they did so, another police officer lobbed a flash grenade at them

First-hand accounts of the riot:

The police were intimidating and I have been to many protests in my life, but nothing quite like this. I have never seen such a police presence with such force, especially for a calm crowd. The tear gas was pretty brutal, it is still on my clothes and skin this morning. Anywhere in downtown Oakland had the smell and sting of the gas all night. —Gina W.

We talked to the police across the barricades about how we were also fighting for them, for their children's shot to education without lifelong debt, for the preservation of their collective bargaining rights. We expressed this solidarity knowing that they might not be listening, but we also know that the reasons for not listening are deeply personal...
—Julie K.

As a retired military man, I wanted to reiterate what [I heard] the Marine Sgt espousing to the police: There is NO honor in brutalizing your own people. The tear gas stung but I have been exposed to worse, including Agent Orange. What I saw at Ogawa Plaza made me extremely proud of those brave souls that were passionate about their causes. As we say in the Marine Corp and Navy...BRAVO ZULU
.—Pete H.

Governor Brown, hero of the flower child generation...why are you permitting a Police State to emrge in Oakland? Will we wait for another Kent State Massacre before you reign them in? Will the rest of America rise in horror at the emerging Fascist State? Or will they non-chalantly decide that protesters get 'what they deserve?'

U.S. Constitutional Law is on the protesters side:

Wherever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens.


Sign this Petition to the Mayor of Oakland

Friday, October 21, 2011

Keene Bank of America protest yields immediate results

Today, from 11:00 to 2:00 pm, volunteers with Occupy Keene stood outside of the Keene Bank of America branch to encourage that bank’s customers to close their accounts and support local credit unions instead.

While about seven demonstrators stood in front of the bank singing, passing out flyers, catching much of visual attention of passers-by (and, one case, sporting a Guy Fawkes mask), two others (including your blogger) went around the back of the bank to catch drivers as they exited the drive-through. In all, over 250 flyers were given out to bank customers, each of whom was engaged in direct conversation about the “Move Your Money” movement. One side of our flyer chronicled the fraud, fees, foreclosures, and outrageous actions of the Bank of America since 2007; the other side explained the advantages of using local credit unions, with step-by-step recommendations as to how best to smoothly transfer banking operations from one institution to another.

One customer, a young man who appeared to be in his late twenties, excitedly responded to us, “I just did it! I just opened up an account at the credit union, and I closed my Bank of America account!”

Indeed, he wasn’t alone: a phone interview with the Cheshire County Federal Credit Union by your blogger confirmed that several people came in today to open new accounts, and self-identified as those leaving the Bank of America.

For others, it was just the encouragement they needed. “You know, I’m gonna do this! They just charged me seven bucks just to cash a check!” said one very upset man to me as he exited the Bank of America. In fact, the response overall was overwhelmingly positive and supportive, with most customers smiling, offering ‘thumbs up,’ or expressing outright solidarity. Some bemoaned the fact that BoA owned their mortgage, and they felt they couldn’t ‘escape.’ Others noted, with regret, that their children attended colleges where the BoA has a contractual monopoly on-campus.

Cheshire TV covered much of the event, and interviewed both customers and demonstrators. Overall, the effect of this effort came not from our numbers or loudness, but from our one-on-one conversations with a very specific target population that is already fed up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street discusses National Political Convention in Philly

By Linette Lopez

It's in the works. A massive Occupy Wall Street gathering with delegates from all over the country. And if these plans are carried out, Occupy Wall Street will be a major force to be reckoned with on Election Day 2012.

The date? July 4, 2012.

Put aside questions of whether or not the movement will survive that long. Imagine that they do, because they have no doubt.

If only our economy had that kind of confidence.

Discussions on how to proceed will begin tomorrow at a massive General Assembly at 7 PM. Here's how they describe what they're about to do:

....the election of delegates and holding of a national general assembly or convention on July 4, 2012 must be organized. No calls for violence. No calls for the violent overthrow of the government.

...Once organized and the delegates have been elected by direct ballot in all 435 districts. They must demand that our elected leaders take action. If they do not take action within one year of the demand, we will demand their mass resignations and that new elections be held so we can take back our democracy from the corporations and those who BUY power and influence with MONEY. Yes this includes unions and lobbyists.

The Citizens United case must be reversed...

More concrete, long-term measures can also be found on their website in a document called The Steps to Non-Violent Revolution and the Convening of a National General Assembly. There are ten of them, and the most amazing thing about them, is that they outline a democratic plan to decide on a platform of reforms supported by occupations across the entire country leading right up to the 2012 election.

Perhaps Occupy Wall Street only thought of doing this now, but I sincerely doubt it.

Basically, if this is carried out, Occupy Wall Street could shift the course of American politics at its highest levels.

Here are the steps:

1. The Occupy Wall Street movement, through the local general assembly, should elect an executive committee comprised of 11 people or some other odd number of people that is manageable for meetings. Ideally this committee should represent each city in the U.S. that is being occupied.

2. The executive committee will then attend to local issues such as obtaining permits, paying for public sanitation and dealing with the media. More important, the executive committee shall plan and organize the election of the 870 delegates to a National General Assembly between now and July 4, 2012.

3. As stated in the 99% declaration, each of the 435 congressional districts will form an election committee to prepare ballots and invite citizens in those districts to run as delegates to a National General Assembly in Philadelphia beginning on July 4, 2012 and convening until October 2012.

4. Each of the 435 congressional districts will elect one man and one woman to attend the National General Assembly. The vote will be by direct democratic ballot regardless of voter registration status as long as the voter has reached the age of 18 and is a US citizen. This is not a sexist provision. Women are dramatically under-represented in politics even though they comprise more than 50% of the U.S. population.

5. The executive committee will act as a central point to solve problems, raise money to pay for the expenses of the election of the National General Assembly and make sure all 870 delegates are elected prior to the meeting on July 4th.

6. The executive committee would also arrange a venue in Philadelphia to accommodate the delegates attending the National General Assembly where the declaration of values, petition of grievances and platform would be proposed, debated, voted on and approved. The delegates would also elect a chair from their own ranks to run the meetings of the congress and break any tie votes. We will also need the expertise of a gifted parliamentarian to keep the meetings moving smoothly and efficiently.

7. The final declaration, platform and petition of grievances, after being voted upon by the 870 delegates to the National General Assembly would be formally presented by the 870 delegates to all three branches of government and all candidates running for federal public office in November 2012. Thus, the delegates would meet from July 4, 2012 to sometime in early to late October 2012.

8. The delegates to the National General Assembly would then vote on a time period, presently suggested as one year, to give the newly elected government in November an opportunity to redress the petition of grievances. This is our right as a People under the First Amendment.

9. If the government fails to redress the petition of grievances and drastically change the path this country is on, the delegates will demand the resignation and recall of all members of congress, the president and even the Supreme Court and call for new elections by, of and for the PEOPLE with 99 days of the resignation demand.

10. There will NEVER be any call for violence by the delegates even if the government refuses to redress the grievances and new elections are called for by the delegates. Nor will any delegate agree to take any money, job promise, or gifts from corporations, unions or any other private source. Any money donated or raised by the executive committee may only be used for publicizing the vote, the National General Assembly, and for travel expenses and accommodation at the National General Assembly ONLY. All books and records will be published openly online so that everyone may see how much money is raised and how the money is spent each month. There will be no money allowed to "purchase" delegate votes as we have in the current government. No corporate "sponsorship".

Source: Business Insider

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bank Transfer Day: The 5th of November

In a post last week on this blog Bank of America, I highlighted some of the Greed, Bailout activity, Fraud, and Fees engaged in by that bank. But let’s be clear: The Bank of America is certainly not alone. Citibank, J P Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and other multi-state, multi-national banking powerhouses have all been involved in foreclosure scandals, bailouts, speculative gambling on hedge funds, the destruction of the global economy, and the imposition of fees on working class depositors.

And last but not least, let us never forget that the bailouts they received from Washington politicians of both parties – bailouts that were given, supposedly, because they were “too big to fail” - were given in reality because 25% of the funds the federal government borrows for deficit spending comes from these financial institutions. And since the American public pays federal income taxes to pay the interest on these debts, this results in yet another transfer of wealth from Americans to Corporate Banks who receive that interest.

But there is a solution.

WHAT? A massive transfer by average Americans of their money out of the banks and into credit unions.

Why? Because you will get better rates and fewer fees; your community banker will learn your name and provide you with more personal service; you will be keeping money in your local community which increases economic development and creates local jobs; you will make your voice heard, that you will stand strong and no longer be used as a pawn in a banking system that has run amok. You will be investing in Main Street - not Wall Street, where deposits are used for risky investments and gambling at the expense of the global economy. Beginning in 2008, Wall Street’s corporate banks demanded a bailout of $700 billion…and while the size of these Wall Street “Banksters” threatens our economic system, their size has actually increased since we bailed them out. According to FDIC data, the largest 5 banks held only 13% of US deposits in 1994; today they hold 38%. If the government won’t step in and apply Antitrust statutes to the Banking Industry and break them up, then we can do it ourselves and end ”Too Big To Fail” once and for all.

WHEN: “Remember, remember the 5th of November” goes a British child’s rhyme, in connection with Guy Fawkes Day (the character ‘channeled’ in the recent film, “V for Vendetta.”) Together we can ensure that these banking institutions will ALWAYS remember the 5th of November!! If the 99% remove their funds from the major banking institutions and support local non-profit credit unions instead on or by this date, we will send a clear message that Americans will not support rapacious and unethical corporate business practices any more.


1) Research your local credit union options. Find one here: USA Credit Unions
2) Then, open an account with the one that best suits your needs.
3) Cancel all automatic withdrawals & deposits from your old bank
4) Transfer your funds to the new account, keeping some cash available until your new checks and debit card come through
5) Follow your bank's procedures to close your account before November 5.

Start NOW, because between your debit card, credit cards, direct deposit of paychecks, and automatic bill pay, the banking world has you practically captive.

NERVOUS? A wonderful post recently appeared on Reddit's Occupy Wall Street Forum, and I reprint it here in its unedited entirety:

I know most of you plan to move your bank accounts on or before November 5 and I just wanted to share the experience my wife and I went thorough today. I expect you'll likely have the same experience.

My wife had a BofA account from when she was in college. We went in to our local branch to close out her account.

First off, they are already feeling the squeeze of people leaving. The rep asked us if we were leaving because of the fees. My wife said she was for that reason. The rep then decided to try and educate us on the fees. Don't listen to them. My wife stood to her guns that she wanted to just join a local credit union to support our local economy, etc.. That ended the rep's attempt to keep my wife a customer.

My wife had her account closed and she pulled out all her money. Total time, about 20 minutes at most.

My experience was a bit different as I was with Chase, and had a lot more money in my account.

I walked into my local branch and spoke with the branch manager about closing my account. So she helped me.

Once we say in her cubicle, she asked me why I was leaving. I told her I wanted to move to a local bank and help with our community by investing in it by being a customer. I could tell this conversation was going to be difficult.

It literally took me 30 minutes to close my account. But the branch manager was freaked out because of me closing my account, she was worried her district manager would ask why I was closing my account. I then told her this, "look this isn't anything against you or any of your tellers in this branch. I'm just not comfortable having my life savings wrapped up with Chase. I've read plenty of news articles about shady practices Chase has been in. I'm worried that Chase invests money in other states with bad loans. I'm not comfortable letting a for profit company take everything I saved and make bad choices. I dont want to contribute to the cause. I want to take my money, put it in my local credit union, and help them give borrowing capability to my community."

She looked like she was about to cry. I didn't say it in a dick tone mind you. I just felt that she would have to answer to her boss why someone pulled their entire savings out in one day, she had to know the truth.
At any rate, my wife and I opened our new credit union accounts and we're happy. I'm in my 30s and I remember as a kid, banks used to have a personal feel to them and our credit union has that. Everyone smiling, chocolate candy dish at the front desk, it just feels good.
So the point of this rant is I wanted to just give everyone a heads up about these things:

• remember, the teller, manager, branch manager are not the enemy. They're part of 99% too and they need to earn a living. Please don't take your frustration of fees and other problems out on them. I almost did until I stopped myself.
• when asked about why you're leaving, be honest. Not happy with the $5 fee? Let them know. Not happy they foreclosed on homes of friends? Let them know. As we draw out our funds, the district managers will know something is up and ask their branch managers. If the branch managers have our feedback to give, it could really affect changes in the future.
• stick to your guns. If they dangle a free toaster in front of you, ignore it. It'll make things easier if you pick out a bank ahead of time. It took us ten minutes to find the one we liked. We compared the two banks and decided the CU was way better and was worth an hour or two of our time. If you have an idea of how much better a new bank is, it'll be easier to get rid of the old one.
• don't feel guilty for leaving your bank. I did for a bit, but kept reminding myself that our CU was going to make life easier.

If you feel compelled to tell the CEO of your old bank after you leave, do it. You might feel better. Just don't write any nasty things. Be honest and tell them you left because of this list of reasons. Sorry I you couldn't stay with them, but you found a better bank because they don't have these list of reasons after bank.
Here is a list of the big four banks I could think of. These are the email addresses of the CEOs:

Chase -
BofA -
Wells Fargo -
Citibank -

Finally: When closing your bank account, be courteous on your way out the door and don't take it out on the bank staff.

For more information:
Move Your Money Project

Facebook Bank Transfer Day Page

Saturday, October 15, 2011

110 turn out in Keene NH in solidarity with #OccupyWallStreet

At least 110 residents of my hometown of Keene, NH gathered at Railroad Square in Keene at 12:15 this afternoon in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Holding signs decrying corporate greed and the shrinking of the Middle Class, the group decided on a spontaneous march up Main Street to Central Square, which serves as the Town Common in the middle of a busy traffic circle. Chanting “Wall Street- Our Street!,” “This is What Democracy Looks Like,” “We are the 99% - You are the 99% per cent!,” and “ We got Sold out – They got bailed out!,” the group divided into two streams, with one parading up the sidewalk and the other occupying the northbound lane of traffic. The two streams then joined forces again at Central Square, where they directed their protests to passing drivers, many of whom honked and waved back in solidarity.

The group was as diverse as Keene itself: mothers with children in carriages or alongside them with signs, senior citizens, war veterans, peace activists, active community members, blacks and whites, Unitarians and Jews, college students, professors from at least three colleges, at least one State Rep (Chuck Weed), some members of Free Keene and CopBlock, GLBT activists, local musicians, grandmothers, and middle class men. No one group predominated or ‘controlled’ the event, and many took turns leading in protest chants. One teenager introduced the group to “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Corporate Greed has got to go!,” a consistent and humorous counterpoint to us aging hippies singing Buffalo Springfields’ “For What it’s Worth” by memory.

The demonstration continued at full strength for at least an hour. The group decided on another General Assembly Meeting at 4 pm, where one of the major issues to be discussed was a protest at a major corporate entity in Keene. More details on Friday from that event…

Gallery of Pictures from Today's Event at Facebook Photo Gallery

Video of Keene Demonstration

For What It's Worth,
by Buffalo Springfield

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Thursday, October 13, 2011

NYPD Routinely Plant Drugs on the Innocent

An article in todays Gothamist recounts the court testimony of Stephen Anderson, a former NYPD Detective, who admitted widespread drug planting of drugs on innocent civilians.

Reporter John Del Signore wrote,

A former NYPD Detective testified...that he regularly saw police plant drugs on innocent people as a way to meet arrest quotas. Ex-Detective Stephen Anderson, who worked in the Queens and Brooklyn South narcotics divisions, was called to testify in the trial of Brooklyn South narcotics Detective Jason Arbeeny, who has been charged with falsifying public documents and business records. Anderson's testimony was intended to reveal that, as the Daily News puts it, "cop corruption wasn't limited to a single squad. In fact, it's pretty widespread!"

Anderson was busted for helping plant cocaine, a practice known as "flaking," on four men in a Queens bar in 2008. He testified yesterday that he did it to help out fellow officer Henry Tavarez, whose "buy-and-bust" arrests had been low.

"I had decided to give him [Tavarez] the drugs to help him out so that he could say he had a buy," Anderson testified in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Anderson avoided jail time by pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against other officers swept up in the corruption bust. (The two men that got flaked received a $300,000 settlement from the city.)

The corruption I observed... was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators," Anderson testified, according to the Post. Asked by Justice Gustin Reichbach how he felt about setting up innocent men, Anderson replied, "It's almost like you have no emotion with it, that they attach the bodies to it, they're going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway; nothing is going to happen to them anyway."

Reacting to Anderson's testimony, Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance says, "One of the consequences of the war on drugs is that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests, and it’s easy for some of the less honest cops to plant evidence on innocent people. The drug war inevitably leads to crooked policing - and quotas further incentivize such practices."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coming Out Day: Dialogue with a Fundamentalist

After a lifetime of struggle, I began Coming Out to myself in earnest around 2004. By the end of 2005 I had told some people close in my life, and during 2006 "the conversation" took place almost every day with everyone else. And so, today, National Coming Out Day, I helped staff a table at work to assist those struggling as I did a decade ago.

I was reminded of a conversation that I will attempt to reconstruct...a conversation with a lovely woman, a long-time friend (I'll call her Diana), whose religious convictions were making it very hard for her to accept my coming out. It is worth remembering simply because it contained all of the usual cliches and plattitudes that the religious right uses as verbal weaponry against those of us who have struggled. As she sat with her husband, she began with a very direct question:

Diana: So, when did you choose to go gay? I mean, it’s a choice….people choose to do this.

Me: Really? And so, when you have a physiological response in your genitals to seeing a naked person of the opposite sex, is that “a choice?” Do men choose to have their penis get hard upon seeing a hot woman, or do you choose to get horny when seeing a hot guy? If you didn’t choose those physical reactions, what makes you think that I chose mine?

Diana: Well, you might be born that way, or it might be environmental, I don't know, and that’s not your fault, but it *IS* a choice to actually act on it!

Me:I see. So, masturbation is one of those things that men “act on,” especially in the years during which their testosterone is running high. In fact, I've heard it said that ‘99% of men masturbate, and the other 1% lie about it.' So, is that a choice? I mean, if virtually *everyone* does it, does it make sense to call it a choice? To divide all actions in the world into “choices” and “non-choices?” How can something be a “choice” between two alternatives, if everyone across the globe and across the centuries has made the same “choice?” Don't you think our sexuality is a little more complicated than just being a “choice?”

Diana: Well, what about monks, who pledge themselves to chastity? If they do it, why can’t you?

Me: Well, first off, because I don't want to...I've done that for half a lifetime and it's killing me. But are you realistically suggesting that 100% of gay men should be ‘required’ to live in a way that 99.995% of straight men can not? Those monks will tell you that the overwhelming majority of men, of any orientation, should never even try it.

Diana: But…what will happen to society? Heterosexual marriage, within the context of a family, has always been the foundation of this country!

Me: Actually, it hasn’t. Up through the civil war, the majority of people in the United States lived in what we would call ‘non-traditional’ families: grandparents with grandchildren, aunts and uncles and sisters with nephews or nieces, with neighbor’s kids thrown in and common-law marriage arrangements. It wasn’t until after the 1880s that the majority of households in the US even had an actual ‘church’ wedding…and the ‘nuclear family’ did not predominate until a brief period starting in the 1950s.

Diana: But if we accept homosexuality, what’s next? Polygamy?!

Me: Actually, we don’t need to discuss hypotheticals when it comes to this issue. We can talk observable, objective history. There is only one period in American history when polygamy flourished – and that was in Utah under Mormonism. And it was HETEROsexual polygamy. If you believe that acknowledging some type of sexual unions will lead to polygamy, than it is actually heterosexuality, not homosexuality, that has lead to this in the past. You sure you want to continue down this road?

Diana: But the Bible says its wrong!!! Don't you believe anything any more?!

Me: Yes, it does say homosexuality is wrong, and yes, I actually do have a very strong faith. But the Bible is NOT the basis for law or civil rights in this country. The Bible also tells us to dash our enemies babies heads against rocks, stone our daughters who have sex before marriage, avoid eating shellfish and wearing clothes of two cloths, to monocrop our fields (which we know is a dangerous practice), and to require women to wear head coverings and keep their mouths shut in public. The problem here is that the Bible is not a timeless rulebook handed down from God, full of unchangeable Instructions and dictates from on high, even though many American Christians think so.

Diana: That's Blasphemy! The Bible is the Word of God!

Me: No, actually YOU just blasphemed. The “Word” of God, would be Jesus, the uncreated Second Person of the Trinity, not a created book.

Diana: Yes, but the Bible is the Written Word of God!

Me: Oh, so the Bible is Perfect? Since only God is perfect, that would change the Holy Trinity into a Holy Quadrilateral: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Book.

Diana: No! The Book is not God! It’s His word! And it's Inspired and perfect!

Me: If the book is not God, and only God is Perfect…then the Bible can not be perfect.

Diana's Head Explodes. Conversation Over.

Happy Coming Out Day! May the next generations' struggle be easier!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Stand up to Bank of America: Move Your Money Project.

The Bank of America, the second largest corporation in the United States, has been in overdrive when it comes to stealing America's wealth.

In 2008, it received 20 billion dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts and 118 billion in government guarentees after it voluntarily chose to acquire the failing Merrill Lynch brokerage. Within months after receiving this bailout, the bank agreed to pay a $33 million fine to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over its non-disclosure of an agreement to turn around and pay $5.8 billion in bonuses to Merrill Lynch Executives.

It purchased Countrywide Mortgage after it learned that the FBI had launched a fraud investigation on them. Then, in August of this year, Bank of America asked for and received $500 million in taxpayer funds from Fannie Mae for a sale of the bad mortgage debts it acquired from Countrywide.

This month, the Bank of America announced its intention of charging its debit card customers $5 per month for the 'privilege' of using their own money. At 57 million customers and a potential of $60 annually from each of them, I'll let you do the math.

And it gets worse.

My daughter goes to school U Mass-Amherst, where the sole on-campus bank is Bank of America. She was short funds, and asked me to run to our local Keene branch and make a deposit for her. As I made a mere $50 deposit, the following conversation ensued between the teller and me:

"You know, there's an $8.95 fee for this."

"What?! To deposit money in your bank?! Why?"

"Because it's a checking account that should be used online only"

"So how do you add money to it?!"

"Direct Deposit by your employer"

"But she's a full-time student, this is the only bank at her school, and this is the account they recommended she get!"

"I'm's only a one-time fee."

"Oh, so once I pay this $8.95, I can make as many deposits as needed without additonal fees?"

"No, it's a one-time fee each time a deposit is made."

"Then it's not a one-time fee, it's an every-time fee!"

I felt like Alice at the bottom of the rabbit hole.

Fed up? There is an alternative: The Move Your Money Project

From their website:

The Move Your Money project is a nonprofit campaign that encourages individuals and institutions to divest from the nation's largest Wall Street banks and move to local financial institutions. Little has changed to prevent another financial crisis or to end 'Too Big To Fail,' and with Congress unwilling to act, we are encouraging individuals to take power into their own hands by voting with their dollars and no longer contributing to a financial system that has lead our country astray. We are a campaign that gives people real, concrete actions they can take to create a more sane, stable and localized banking system.

The site contains a serachable database of credit unions and places to bank locally.

Fed up with Wall Street screwing you? Do something specific about it. MOVE YOUR MONEY.

Friday, October 07, 2011

CNN Ownership biases #OccupyWallStreet reporting

Throughout the Occupy Wall Street protests, those involved have complained that the mainstream media were turning a blind eye to the events taking place. While individuals on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were posting minute-by-minute updates, the largest media outlets in the country appeared bored, annoyed, and even antagonistic towards the swelling protest movement. One evening, a clearly annoyed news anchor quipped, “Alright, for all you people tweeting us, here’s a shot of Wall Street.” A few seconds of clip followed, with snarky comments and rolled eyes. But now, three weeks into protests which have attracted tens of thousands, in dozens of cities, from the retired to union workers to students from all walks of life, with hundreds of arrests and verified reports of police misconduct, it's hard for the media to avoid the movement.

But that doesn’t mean they have to report fairly or objectively. And they aren’t.

Three days after #OccupyWallStreet issued their Sept 29th official list of grievances (posted on this blog), reporters were still making snide comments about the protesters not knowing why they were there. And one of the most blatant exercises of biased journalism this week came from CNN’s Erin Burnett, who dripped with condescension for the protesters. She looked straight at me through my television screen and spat “Who are these people? What do they want?” and then proceeded to interview people in a way that treated them like they were just stupid. She proactively went to the defense of the Financial Industry, telling those she interviewed that the bailouts actually produced a profit for taxpayers. As she concluded her report, she gratuitously threw in the comment “seriously!?” (an unprofessional reference to the Saturday Night Live routine).

Another journalist, David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, responded to Burnett’s report by writing “…two of the most fundamental attributes of good journalism are curiosity and a respect for the people on whom you report. Burnett got an "F" on both those counts with her Occupy Wall Street piece."

Why all this antagonism towards this movement, especially from CNN? When the Tea Party protests began, the media practically ‘created’ events by suggesting that a few hundred people heralded a mass movement. Now, thousands are involved in calling for reform of the political and economic processes in this country, and much of the media appears antagonistic towards its growth and demands.

Whenever you want to understand “the story behind the story,” just follow the money.

CNN is a wholly-owned company of Time-Warner, the conglomerate that has been routinely allowed to escape antitrust laws as it acquires and merges with other media outlets by describing itself as being in the “Communications & Entertainment Industry,” a category so broad as to include magazines, news outlets, music production, and sports franchises.

And who owns Time-Warner?

The Financial Industry.

52.57% of the outstanding voting shares of Time-Warner were owned by Financial Houses as of the June 11 quarterly ownership reports.

The largest of these are:

The American Funds, owner of 94 million shares and 9% of the company, is the third largest holder of mutual fund assets in the US. You may not have heard of them, because they do not advertise, but prefer to make all sales through private broker-to-client recommendations. In 2007 the California Attorney General brought suit against them for fraud, stemming from allegations that company was paying kickbacks to brokerage firms to entice brokers to recommend the funds to their clients.

Dodge & Cox, Inc, subject of a 2009 Kiplinger’s article, “What Went Wrong at Dodge & Cox,” by Andrew Tanzer, detailing their over-exposed position with Lehman Brothers, Wachovia Bank, and Freddie Mac. At 88 million shares they represent more than 8.5% of the company.

J P Morgan – Chase, owner of over 49 million shares. The same company that just gave the NY Police Department a 4.6 million “gift,” and which received a 25 billion dollar bailout from taxpayers – not for loans or to stabilize the company, but to buy other companies, according to Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (“What we do think it will help us do is perhaps be a little bit more active on the acquisition side…”) as reported earlier by blogger Jonathan Turley.

FMR LLC, better known to most people as Fidelity Investments, the same company that was accused by the SEC of pressuring 62 employees in 21 different branch offices to destroy or alter improper documents. The majority of Fidelity itself is owned by Ned Johnson and his daughter Abigail. Abigail, with a personal net worth of $11 billion, was ranked by Forbes as the 17th wealthiest person in America. Her father is ranked number 40.

State Street Corporation, global financial investors with offices throughout the Pacific Rim, currently owns 40 million shares, or almost 4% of Time-Warner. They are currently fighting or settling 31 separate legal actions by clients, including “unconscionable fraud” for overcharging pension funds, fraudulent pricing, mingling funds with the now-defunct Lehman Brothers, and mismanagement.

BlackRock Trust, which bills itself as the largest handler of financial assets in the world. BlackRock is the investment house that, one year ago, was involved in the purchase of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, both Manhattan housing complexes. When the complexes went into default in January of 2010, BlackRock walked away from the deal in spite of having already invested significant amounts of workers pension funds into it. Workers in the California Pension and Retirement System, the nation’s largest pension fund, lost $500 million.

Marisco Capital Management, a subsidiary of Columbia Group, itself owned by Ameriprise, a financial services company with a list of legal actions longer than this blog article.

Rounding out these owners would be The Vanguard Group, Fundamental Investors Inc., and T. Rowe Price.

Make no mistake about it: CNN is owned by the very financial houses against which #OccupyWallStreet is protesting. The very financial houses that have gambled with workers pensions, taken tax money in the form of bailouts in order to make further 'investements,' and engaged in fraud on a widespread, pervasive, and global scale.

And Erin – having broken through the glass ceiling – has now decided to engage in “Good Little Girl Syndrome,” deciding that if she pleases her financial-house bosses, she’ll get a reward.

Pity for Erin…she’s on the wrong side of history.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Republicans seek destruction of Amtrak

Led by Republicans seeking to dismantle and sell off profitable Amtrak routes to private corporations, the U. S. House Appropriations subcommittee voted to literally decimate Amtrak’s budget by approving only 227 million in federal subsidies for the national rail system. As Amtrak had asked for 2.2 billion, the budget approved was a mere 10% of an already bare-bones request.

Conservative Republicans - especially those from southern states who jealously guard billions in federal expenditures when it comes to southern military bases – have historically opposed railways servicing the industrial, urban north. To put this in perspective: Amtrak was reluctantly approved for 227 million dollars to serve 30 million passengers each year; and yet, Congress approved improvements for a three-mile stretch to Interstate 93 in Boston (the “Big Dig”) to the tune of 22 billion dollars – all for a road that carries 73 million passengers per year.

A three-mile section of interstate: 22 Billion, for 73 million passengers ($301. per passenger)

A national rail system: 227 million for 30 million passengers ($7.56 per passenger)

The idea that the federal government should not subsidize Amtrak flies in the face of the reality that the federal government regularly, routinely, and to an obscene degree, subsidizes the construction, maintenance, and operation of roadways in this country.

Meanwhile, the House plan would eliminate 150 trains and strand 1/3 of Amtrak’s current customers.

As approved, the House proposal would eliminate runs between Portland, Maine and Boston; Philadelphia and Harrisburg (thus breaking the link between Pittsburg and Philadelphia); Detroit and Chicago; Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and Salem Oregon; San Francisco and the Sacramento Valley; Los Angeles and San Diego; Albany and Montreal; and all service in Vermont. In Virginia, work on the Norfolk service – scheduled to go online in two years – would cease. In fact, while trains would pass through Virginia, the Lynchburg-DC link would end, and not a single train would originate anywhere in the state. Rail linking St. Louis with Kansas City would stop. Commuter towns west of Chicago would lose all service.

In spite of the potential of an increased number of viable routes between major population centers, Rail service in the United States falls behind every industrialized nation in the world: Britain, the European continent, Japan, and even China put the U.S. to shame. We complain about our loss of manufacturing…and yet, when given the opportunity to expand our industrial base and improve transportation… House Republicans attempt to destroy the opportunity.

Rail provides clean, efficient transport for commuters. It reduces traffic congestion and pollution, providing a safer commute for motorists; shorter response times for fire, EMTs, and other first responders; and healthier air for all with concurrent lower costs for those with respiratory ailments and overall pollution abatement.

To cut funding for Amtrak for the flimsy reason that it’s an unprofitable venture is laughable in light of the amount of funding spent on roads, which are universally unprofitable.

A online petition to support Amtrak is available at

Sign Petition


Sunday, October 02, 2011

New York Times changes story, shifts blame at #OccupyWallStreet march

Confirming reports that the NYPD entrapped protesters after leading them 1/3 of the way across the Brooklyn Bridge is this original New York Times story...which was apparently quickly altered (and credit given to an author other than the original writer) twenty minutes after publication. The original reporter was on the scene; the second edited the article after receiving "information" via telephone from the NYPD. This is propaganda spin in its most blatant form:

1st Official Declaration of Grievances by Occupy Wall Street

Voted by voice acclamation at 8pm on Sept 29. (For all the naysayers in the media who insist that the protest is unfocused):

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

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 the workplace 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 of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman 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 workers’ healthcare 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 that 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 supposed to be 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 in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

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

They purposefully keep 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!

Saturday, October 01, 2011