Author Archive: DCKennedy

The War on the Poor

We’re awash these days in various wars both real and figurative; wars against women, terrorism, gays, various brown people throughout the world and of course Christmas. Below, author Barbara Ehrenreich counts some of the many ways that the rich and the powerful wage their ongoing war on the poor.

“Lenders, including major credit companies as well as payday lenders, have taken over the traditional role of the street-corner loan shark, charging the poor insanely high rates of interest. When supplemented with late fees themselves subject to interest, the resulting effective interest rate can be as high as 600% a year, which is perfectly legal in many states.”

via The poor: Americas piggy bank – Poverty –

Who’s the Captain now?

Fortunately, and evidenced by this spicy retort from Sarah Jones, the dumbing down of America isn’t working across the board. When Republicans compared President Obama to the “Chicken of the Sea”, the cowardly Captain of the Costa Concordia, she threw the truth in their faces like a pepper jelly pie. Hopefully, it’ll stick and sting long enough to do some good.

GOP Fail: Republicans Not Obama Have Abandoned Ship Like An Italian Captain

Whither Anonymous?

Last Sunday my family and I made a visit to the newly opened ‘Spy Museum’ in Washington D.C. It was what you might imagine, over priced glamorization of some choice episodes from the OSS and the CIA’s long and checkered history. We saw the lipstick pistol, very small electronic bugs buried in dung, a hidden communication device disguised as a tree stump on the outskirts of a Russian air base and so forth. Fascinating stuff that decorated a carefully sculptured history (no mention of the MK Ultra program, for example, nor Contra Aid for that matter). At the very end was the tour de force, an elaborate room whose ceiling and walls flashed ominous images of devastation wrought by the next big threat upon which the CIA has set its laser like focus: cyber terrorism. Ill defined and thus even more frightening, the Spy Museum included everything from simple hacks into government websites along with devastating attacks on the electrical grid under the rubric of ‘cyber terrorism’. As if in confirmation of such dire threats, just last Thursday, January 19th, a group of hacktivists known collectively as Anonymous made headlines by taking down the FBI’s website, the Justice Department’s website and they attempted to take down the White House’s website. They also dropped Universal Music Group, RIAA, Motion Picture Association of America and the Warner Music Group.

Barrett Brown who has made something of a name for himself translating Anonymous’ various communications noted to RT online that “It was in retaliation for Megaupload,” a massive file sharing site with about 50 million daily users, a playground for cyber geeks and the hacker community. When the federal agents raided Megaupload’s site and arrested four people linked to Megaupload in New Zealand they did the equivalent of putting their hands into a beehive. Mere hours after the arrest were made, the Department of Justice site went down and next the Universal sites.

In addition, they also ‘doxed’ or released personal information about former senator Christopher Dodd and his family on public sites, presumably for chairing the MPAA, a major supporter of both PIPA (Protect IP Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) legislation. Finally, Brown promised that Anonymous-aligned hacktivists were pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.”

Startling information to be sure, and the kind of digital muscle flexing that makes every Network Administrator East (or West) of the Mississippi sit up and take notice. But is Anonymous a true danger to our culture in the egregious manner that the Spy Museum would have us believe? Or is Anonymous doing mostly positive work (after all, stopping SOPA is a net good thing in most progressive’s view) but using less than stellar methods?

Like the CIA, Anonymous has its own checkered history. Their first true widespread notoriety probably began with their outing of a Tom Cruise Scientology Video on YouTube in 2008.

According to Wikipedia, “On January 14, 2008, a video produced by the Church featuring an interview with Tom Cruise was leaked to the Internet and uploaded to YouTube. The Church of Scientology issued a copyright violation claim against YouTube requesting the removal of the video. In response to this, Anonymous formulated Project Chanology. Calling the action by the Church of Scientology a form of Internet censorship, members of Project Chanology organized a series of denial-of-service attacks against Scientology websites, prank calls, and black faxes to Scientology centers.”

Project Chanology offers in a nutshell the basic ‘working ethos’ of Anonymous. Freeing information and punishing those who would ‘restrict’ the flow of information through cyber attacks of one stripe or another.

From 2008 to the present this basic pattern is repeated over and over again. But to suggest that Anonymous is without a conscience or are simply kids playing grown up games would also be a mistake. In 2010 and 2011, Anonymous carried out Operation Paypack which successfully punished PayPal and major credit card vendors for refusing payment to the Wikileaks site after the famous Cablegate release. They also came out in support of Bradley Manning and threatened “to disrupt activities at Quantico by cyber-attacking communications, exposing private information about personnel, and other harassment methods .”

Most famously, Anonymous is reputed to have had a hand in the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. The websites of the government of Tunisia were targeted by Anonymous due to censorship of the WikiLeaks documents and the Tunisian Revolution. “Anonymous also released the names and passwords of the email addresses of Middle Eastern governmental officials, in support of the Arab Spring. Countries targeted included officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.”

Finally, Anonymous, along with Ad Busters of Canada have been associated with the original Occupy Wall Street Movement that has grown to include every major city in the United States.


In an effort to ferret out the good from the bad and to try to work through what we are to make of Anonymous (if anything), I’ve included an extended discussion below that I had this week with a series of APV members and friends online. The kickoff for the discussion is the article on Anonymous’s latest round of attacks against the government and Universal sites on Thursday.

Mike: [In the RT article] Brown, adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.” So we trade one kind of paternalism for another in a process of absolutes? Maybe Anonymous knows what’s best for you and me, but I’m not ready to condone the sabotaging of elections. This is repressive by any other name, just like the bill it seeks to defeat.

M. L.: Since it’s a collective group of individuals who do not always agree on things, crowd-sourced hacktivist actions only work if there is majority support among enough participants to have impact. I find it interesting that Barrett Brown has been tapped to be their spokesman, not by the group but by media forces who cannot cope with a leaderless assemblage. It would be far more accurate to call him a translator – his statements are reported as if he’s speaking for the group, but what he’s doing is just reporting, in English sentences, what he’s understanding out of what’s being discussed in extremely geeky language by clusters of randomly affiliated interested parties. They’ve doxed Dodd – wish they’d leave the kids out when they do that.

Jack: I think Mike is right, but with a few caveats. Hackers and hacktivists are really two separate terms and two separate entities. Hacktivists at least nominally engage in socially relevant activities. Hackers are just hackers, mostly lone geeks who get off on controlling their e-environment. Hacktivist ostensibly take it to the next level and direct their fun and games at socially relevant targets.

I remain largely ambivalent about their activities, but I would suggest without them, Wikileaks would have long ago been shut down (they forced Paypal et al, to give up their payments to Wikileaks in a very Robin Hoodesque swarm). This merits consideration. And I think there’s a kind of false equivalence involved in suggesting they are as ‘repressive’ as legislation that would shut down ISPs that link to ‘pirated’ material. Thus far, their actions are largely symbolic. No one has been ‘permanently’ taken down and words like ‘repressive’ are over blown, what might be more accurate is inconvenient.

And THAT, alone, is fine by me. A day or two of inconvenience in the lopsided war that is being waged between profit driven industries (music, movie) who have countless millions for lobbying efforts and who mean to permanently take down anyone who has links to pirated material against all the rest of us who depend on the internet for the only decent information flow available strikes me as a somewhat minor inconvenience. My main concern is their activity will engender an over reaction and escalation of ‘security’ type activity which slows down things for everyone. Thus I think Mike’s right, but it’s not that they’re equally ‘repressive’ , it’s that their hacktivist activities in this case could result in some serious blowback and escalation that everyone is going to regret. It could even strengthen the proponents of SOPA’s hand, which would be really tragic.

Mike: I consider shutting down web sites and limiting access to information more than inconvenient. It’s repressive. And paternalistic. At this point it may not match the threat of SOPA, but the potential for “hacktivism” to bring a kind of anarchy is, I believe, a real concern. I’m not willing to accept repression in the name of fighting repression, particularly in this instance when we have a small group of people, answerable to no one, making unilateral decisions that affect us all. The fight should be joined WITH information, not its suppression.

M. L.: Without Anonymous intervention, we wouldn’t still have Wikileaks, so we’d have less information.

Jack: It’s a good point, M. L.  I’m still a little curious about this sweeping use of the term ‘repression’. If I were to saw down a bulletin board advertising child porn, would that be repressive? (Anonymous has done the equivalent, digitally) If I were to throw a blanket over a billboard promising ‘no interest loans’–which we know inevitably result in ballooning rates after a set period, would that be repressive? Or better, if I were to simply mark up that billboard with a paint brush and write something like ‘this is a lie!’…would that be repressive? I think a bit more nuance is needed.

M. L.: I’m conflicted, Jack, as a free-speech advocate, I’m in favor of all of those things, in theory. Actions always have unintended consequences, though, so I’d be less than thrilled with property destruction; please don’t saw it down. The temporary, non-destructive methods that Anonymous uses are pretty effective. I don’t like doxing because of the potential for violent repercussions against homes and families.

Jack: ‎M.L. – I’m still muddling through the questions myself, but I agree that the whole doxing thing is a bridge too far. It’s mean-spirited and dangerous besides.

Donna: I don’t know enough about Anonymous – because of its secrecy – to be able to say much about it. But it’s represented globally, so their objectives are more broadly considered than what would necessarily be considered from a national prospective. Maybe that’s good, but I’m not comfortable with a powerful, secret, global organization making decisions, such as to shut down government sites for the American people, or as Mike said, sabotaging elections. That’s my only point. Everything they do falls under that premise whether it’s considered helpful, repressive, or whatever. Unbridled power never ends well. I’m not denying that they have chosen some seemingly helpful things to do. I’m just mindful of the danger they could at some point present.

Mike: A billboard advertising child porn would be illegal, as determined by the laws of our society, therefore taking it down wouldn’t, in my view, be repressive. However, I think covering a sign that advertised low-interest loans would be, even if those loans hold some hidden dangers. To continue with Jack’s example, better to erect a sign next to the original pointing out the dangers. Another analogy might consider a book in a library whose philosophy you disagree with. Would it be o.k. to simply remove the book? I don’t believe so. I’d prefer to be the one who decides what’s good and bad for me, what’s perilous or not. Not some faceless collection of hackers who answer to no one.

Jack: ‎Mike – Thanks for the response–good discussion.

This is unfair, I know, but I just couldn’t resist the observation: ” a small group of people, answerable to no one, making unilateral decisions that affect us all”…you mean like… corporate CEOs and higher finance moguls that control 90% of our media output (digitally and otherwise)? That small group of people? 🙂

Actually, in a more serious vein, your point is taken. Arbitrary actions by a small group of self designated vigilantes or CEOs can lead to bad results. And as Donna has pointed out, concentrated power like this tends toward corruption. So there’s certainly a cause for concern. But perhaps the difference lies in terms of the practical effects of the hacktivists. We know with almost 100% certainty that SOPA will have a negative, repressive effect on the free flow of information on the web. The discussion would be around how catastrophic. I don’t think we can say that with any certainty about hacktivists’ activities–they are free agents–there will be times when their activities have lousy consequences, but other times, they can actually have positive outcomes (Wikileaks, stopping child porn, etc). They are wild cards, to be sure, and inherently anarchic. I’m just not convinced that a certain level of anarchy is not necessary at this juncture in time of the Empire’s growth. And by Empire I mean the consolidated power inherent in that small group of corporate, political and financial elites that drive much of our media and financial world (the ultimate small group of people, answerable to no one). Empire, in other words, as [Antonio] Negri might have used it.

By one view, marginalized actors like Anonymous are yeast in a heavy bread, their tyranny or ability to ‘repress’ will necessarily be temporary, and fleeting. They are outlaws, after all. But so was Robin Hood, so was Che Guevara. No one is saying lineup behind Anonymous, no one really can say that, anyhow. So your response to their activities is absolutely reasonable, but it misses the larger point that Anonymous by and large are playful jokers. I think we’re talking about a very youthful (in spirit, if not in age) collective of free agents who are expressing their ‘power’ within a legally conquered geography. In this context, the book analogy is not really accurate. They are not stealing the book, they are temporarily hiding it and tweaking the noses of those who wrote the book in the first place. The reason people tend to like Anonymous at some level is because they are transgressive, they do break rules and they don’t want the calm desperation of what the people who wrote the book say should be the limits of our discourse. Is this out of legal bounds? Sure. That’s the point. You would not be reading the disturbing and sometimes sadly hilarious exchanges of diplomats around the world if Anonymous hadn’t ‘repressed’ PayPal for a short, but deeply instructive period. Could this get out of hand? Certainly. Again, that’s the point. In the old TV show Get Smart there were two agencies pitted against each other: Chaos and Control. In high falutin’ literary terms we would say it’s the tension between Apollo and Dionysus. Civilization has always had these two rails. You really can’t eliminate either rail, and, in some ways, digitally, Anonymous may be a ‘necessary’ aberration, that bit of a digital crack that let’s the light in.

What I fear, as I mentioned earlier, isn’t Anonymous’ activities. I fear the blowback that might be caused by what amounts to their larks. The security types around government agencies are incredibly paranoid and would think nothing of locking down much of the web in order to maintain their sense of ‘control’. They tend to overplay most threats, and their efforts to ‘remove’ the threats or ‘control’ them usually lead to truly bad outcomes. Our so-called global war on terror is an example of a hideously overblown response by ‘security’ minded individuals. Also, if you take a look at Anonymous’ actual activities they have ‘freed’ much more information than they have ever removed from the public domain, and have been mostly Robin Hoodesque in their activities.

If I were to identify an archetype to associate with Anonymous, it would be the Joker or Trickster (in Indian lore, it would be the Coyote). The Trickster breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously–true– but usually with positive effects. It’s not a matter of saying Anonymous shouldn’t do this or that, or they should follow such and such rules. Rules are their playgrounds, after all. Breaking the rules is their raison d’être. As good progressives, they present a quandary, to be sure, but one important example of a trickster I would mention in their defense is Prometheus, in Greek mythology, who stole fire from the gods to give it to man.

Mike: ‎”Legally conquered?” That’s quite a euphemism. Will we be willing to settle for calling the hackers “legal conquerors” if the bank accounts raided or the web sites vandalized are our own? Or “tricksters?” I am concerned about the consequences of Anonymous’ actions–in the example of the SOPA & PIPA controversy their attempts to suppress the speech and political activity of those who supported the bill, which after all has at its core a legitimate concern about copyright violation. And particularly their way of operating without consensus in administering a kind of vigilante justice. That cabal you speak of that “games” the economy in this country, and inordinately influences elections, is a real threat, one that has recently been spotlighted by the Occupy Movement. But one of the most important, and I would say successful, aspects of the Occupy Movement has been the understanding that a consensus is critical to decision-making. The idea, which accompanies the actions of Anonymous–that it’s o.k. for a small group of people, or even one disgruntled individual, not accountable in any way, to decide what’s appropriate regarding National security, or to sabotage the campaign (maybe rig an election?) of someone they don’t consider to be on the right side of an issue–is, the way I see it, a dangerous lean towards chaos. My advocacy is for more direct and open action in the fight for transparency and financial justice in this country. The Occupy movement has shown that can be effective. Anyway, Jack, as always, a good discussion. I appreciate your take on the subject(s.)

Mike: ‎…and you too, M. L. I enjoyed the exchange.

Jack: ‎Mike -good discussion back atcha! I just wanted to quickly clarify a point that I don’t think I communicated clearly. When I talk about a ‘collective of free agents who are expressing their power within a legally conquered geography’, I mean that the ‘legally conquered geography’ is the digital universe in which they operate–not that they are ‘legally operating’ but the exact opposite. The digital universe is legally defined by entities (copyright holders, governments, corporations) with far more power and ‘repressive capability’ than anything Anonymous could hope for. Hence the term ‘legally conquered’; I think this is close to the way Anonymous sees themselves as well –as digital ‘liberators’ of information that is ‘repressed’ by larger quasi legal entities–whether those entities are governments, corporations, law firms, etc….So they would never call themselves ‘legal conquerors’ –that wouldn’t even makes sense to them, but more like ‘legal liberators’…Again, this is by way of clarification, not that I necessarily agree or even advocate this kind of activity.

M. L.: I think the Trickster is an apt archetype. One truth is that Anonymous is not an organization. The way any “op” goes down is that someone or ones is persuasive enough in their argument, has enough information to take action and a plan. They ask for assistance and if their plan has “merit” with others then it is acted on. If the plan doesn’t convince others to participate, then there aren’t enough players to cause impact and it doesn’t proceed. At any point along the way, folks can and do get up and walk away from the keyboard. Others might hear of it and join in. Still others might disagree and act to thwart that plan. It would be extremely difficult to corrupt that process, since the participants can change at any moment…. These are certainly interesting times.

Donna:  That’s true. And I would guess more “hacktivism” is probably coming our way. You can call them tricksters, but their power is just as corruptible as all power, and their potential just as ominous. Like actions of solidarity in other forms, it depends on whether you agree with what they’re doing at the time. Because it’s a diverse group of individual, global thinkers, we can’t depend on or trust that they will always act in our interest, or the country’s. They don’t create solutions – their talent is to disrupt, and what “they” decide to disrupt is not of or by the people – it’s only for the people as Anonymous perceives our needs. Do we need Anonymous at this time in our country? World? Again, that depends on what you think. If the answer is yes, we have them. If the answer is no, we have them anyway.

Apple, Martin Luther King, the Wright Brothers and Bernie Sanders?

People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it. ~ Simon Sinek

Senator Bernie Sanders, December 8, 2011
The Saving American Democracy Amendment

The Petition to Support the Saving American Democracy Amendment

One of the 10 most watched TEDTalks of all time:


And now … the envelope, please.

Our Ridiculous Media

(h/t Lisa Vincenti )

What A Mess!


Occupy Richmond Leads City on a Merry Chase

By Jack Johnson, Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 4:15am

It’s always hard to overestimate the witlessness of city officials, but last night, The Richmond City Police, and Richmond City Mayor, Dwight Jones, exceeded all expectations.

Here’s a quick rundown of events. Occupy Richmond made it clear in a general assembly that there were three places that were favored for occupation—or re-occupation—after their encampment at Kanawha Plaza was destroyed in the dead of night by city officials on October 30th. Those three places were Monroe Park, Festival Park and Monument Avenue.

Shortly after a General Assembly last week it was announced that Occupy Richmond would make their encampment in Monroe Park after gathering for an excellent documentary film presentation on Occupy Richmond entitled “All Night, All Day”. The turnout tripled the numbers for the original Occupation at Kanawha Plaza. About 350 activists took to the streets after the showing. But these occupiers were split into three groups. One group went by Monroe Park and the other two groups converged on Festival Park. The folks that marched by Monroe Park (but not IN Monroe Park) were harassed for wearing bandanas across their faces, and 2 were arrested for this petty offense (they will be arraigned at 9 am tomorrow in Manchester Court at Hull and 10th, if you want to show your support).

The others, undeterred, marched onto Festival Park.

Now, the nice thing about Festival Park, if you happened to be set on occupying Richmond, is that it doesn’t follow the so-called sunset provision of Monroe Park. You can assembly legally there until 3:00 in the morning.

Hundreds of officers showed up at Monroe Park, but the activists did not stay there, but rather marched onto Festival Park. The police eventually caught on and within an hour or so, another sortie of state and city police lined the park, apparently waiting to carry out mass arrests. At around One o’clock in the morning, after a rousing round of the Star Spangled Banner and Woody Guthrie’s This Land, the Occupiers simply walked out of the park and headed toward the Canal Walk, moving by –but not into — Kanawha Plaza. Our fine city officials, with apparently limitless tax money at their disposal took it upon themselves to assume the marchers would descend onto Kanawha Plaza–and encamp there illegally once again. So, at about 2:00 in the morning there were another 100+ Richmond Police Officers and Virginia State Police and dozens of vehicles cooling their heels in front of Kanawha Plaza, waiting to make arrests…. But the Occupiers were nowhere in sight.

The Occupy Richmond crew were at The Canal Walk which just happens to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—and is perfectly legal.

So let’s tally this up. Richmond Police and State Police burn probably close to $20,000 in sparse City resources chasing the Occupy Marchers through the city, staking out where they THINK they might unlawfully assemble until well past 3 in the morning. Meanwhile, of course, Occupy Richmond is perfectly legal and is not going away.

Cost to the city for useless police activity to squelch free speech and the right of assembly? Nearly $20,000 (and probably more when you count the cost of circling helicopter and airplane)

Cost to Occupy Richmond activists for an evening stroll on Public Streets? 0

Expression on Mayor Dwight Jones’ face when he realizes his effort to destroy free speech and assembly with a ludicrous show of force has failed miserably?


Note: GA tomorrow at 1:30 PM in Monroe Park.

Iran – Stardate: 3192.1

Eminiar VII

In 1967, I saw the Star Trek episode, Taste of Armageddon. Kirk and Spock beamed onto Eminiar VII, were informed that the Enterprise had been annihilated in a computer simulation, and that the crew were obliged to be executed.

Trying to avoid the destruction of their planets, the inhabitants had decided to have a computer war instead of a real one. When a “hit” by the computer was scored, those living within the strike’s radius went willingly into “antimatter chambers” to be vaporized, making the casualties legitimate. That gives new meaning to save the planet, right? You gotta love Star Trek.

It was a good thought experiment, though. Even today, efforts to desensitize the reality of war leave me cold. I want to see the ugly. Anything else seems condescending or manipulative, neither of which serves the people on this planet. Reality has all its glory and shame in full view.

A seemingly innocent example is Steve Mumford’s work in Iraq as an embedded artist. But Robert Shetterly called him out saying, objectivity is “to present many sides of an issue, and let the viewer try to make sense of the complexity and live with the uncertainty.”

Uncertainty gives rise to choices.

There’s a lot of extra news lately about Iran’s nuclear energy program, so it’s time to ratchet up the fear level and make sure our military has enough money to protect us from the people who live in Iran.

If the supper committee doesn’t do its job of further slashing and dashing the hopes of Americans, the agreement laid out by a “previous congress” was for deep and automatic cuts that included the military. But of course, military spending cuts are frowned upon by some lawmakers just like tax sharing for the wealthy. Therefore, at [a recent meeting of the deficit reduction panel, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, sought assurances that nothing would prevent Congress from changing the mechanism for automatic cuts in military spending. Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, replied, “Any Congress can reverse the actions of a previous Congress.”] And there we have it. The built-in “out” has been revealed.

As for Iran, word has it today out of Tel Aviv, Washington and London that the IAEA will deliver breaking news soon – an already well leaked report that is reminiscent of the pre-Iraq war claims with an ISIS satellite photo of a bus sized metal bomb testing room (think mobile biological weapons labs). France and Russia have both warned Israel against a military strike, warning of irreparable damage to the region – the understatement of a decade.

Looking for an Intelligence Estimate, I found a report from three weeks ago by CSIS, a foreign policy think tank with heavy influence in Washington. It goes through September, but does not end two or three weeks ago. It takes its blazing strategy and analysis into the future. With diagrams, charts and possible scenarios, it describes what might happen if ….

It’s another thought experiment. I looked through the pages and saw what THEY think could happen. It’s ugly. And I think if we stay on this course, if we don’t force our governments to settle their differences without sizing up the people for annihilation, our planet stands to be assessed one country at a time, one city at a time, just like Tehran:

This is a PDF and it’s not for sissies:
Iran’s Strategic Competition with the US and Arab States – Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Capabilities

Update: Here’s the IAEA Iran Nuclear Report. I see too much hype and stale information, and not enough critical thinking or factual explanation for assumptions. I remain concerned about our political persuasion and our recent tendency to rush to judgement in matters of war against the people of other nations. What I consider reasonable breakdown of it can be found here and here.

Find a better way. Save the planet. Peace.

Patriots’ Dream

Bill Moyers: “Our Politicians Are Money Launderers in the Trafficking of Power and Policy”

If you haven’t seen this heartfelt speech until now, it might be because it was hacked shortly after it went up on Thursday. The culprit probably wasn’t an Arlo Guthrie critic, so my guess is someone feeling protective of a broad group of plutocrats. Anyway, take the time while it’s still up to read this well-respected, time-tested gentleman’s assessment of what has happened to our country, and the lyrics he looked to for inspiration.

He speaks passionately about America’s plutocracy, “where political power is derived from the wealthy and controlled by the wealthy to protect their wealth.”

Moyers and many others believe it was a plan that got its big kick-off from Lewis Powell, Jr.’s confidential memorandum, Attack of American Free Enterprise System. A copy of it is in an earlier post remembering the manifesto’s fortieth anniversary. It’s surprisingly short for all the damage it’s done, whether or not Powell realized its horrific potential.

Another interesting, infamous memo, sent only to its wealthiest customers, was from Citigroup in 2005. In The Plutonomy Symposium Rising Tides Lifting Yachts, global strategist Ajay Kapur came up with the term “Plutonomy” describing our massive income and wealth inequality. He discusses the advantages for the wealthy almost gayly, advising patrons that “… these wealth waves involve great complexity exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.” The arrogance in the two-part memo is deafening:

This imbalance in inequality expresses itself in the standard scary “global imbalances”. We worry less.

Also, in part 2, on March 5, 2006, some of the no-nos for their beloved “Plutonomy” are shared. Though it wasn’t intended for the 99% to see, it’s interesting how their risk list stacks up today.

Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as was — one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be felt through higher taxation on the rich (or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous [home-grow] laborers, in a push-back on globalization — either anti-immigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments.

Copies of the Citigroup memo disappear quickly from the internet, but I found them for now. (Part One, Part Two) If those are taken down, there are excerpts in The Wall Street Journal and Daily Kos.

And then, of course, the lovely lyrics and song by Arlo Guthrie ~ Patriots’ Dream


Dangerously Set Aside

Silencing Dissent

I’ve started several posts in the past week, then put them aside hoping a better idea would develop, something more inspiring. But punctuating the news nearly every day is a report that American citizens exercising the right to peacefully express dissent, have been met with an episode of government-sanctioned intimidation or violence. If that’s continuing because people disagree with the protesters, we’re being precariously short-sighted.

Yes, we’re politically polarized and that’s a big issue, but for this – what difference does it make? Violent revenge for expressing one view today will be the same for tomorrow’s variances, and will be fine tuned over time into our government’s unopposed economic and legislative overreach. Bipartisan support for the First Amendment, now, could prevent the fearful, imposed illusion of solidarity in the future.

Whatever our values, beliefs, and principles may be, whether as individuals, small groups or as a people, whether religious, political or societal … we need to be able to express our feelings peacefully without any expectation of violence from our government. We have a guarantee for that, and it has worked just fine for the 30,000 pickets, in all 50 states, in over 500 cities and towns for the Westboro Baptist Church, even though as a society we’re overwhelmingly aligned against their expression.

But we’re so stubbornly partisan over the yet to be defined objectives of recent protesters, that protecting our constitution is being dangerously set aside in favor of petty name calling. If you have surmised the demands of the Occupy protesters and are against them, so be it. But think for a minute about what else you wouldn’t support, or better still, consider something you find completely unacceptable that your great-grandchildren could face. That’s my point … we can’t know right now how the American people will be affected by the seemingly systematic violence used to deny our right to protest what is perceived as corruption or faulty governmental policy.

Enforcing local curfew ordinances? If that’s what you think this is about, step back and take a look at the big picture. Military style attacks on unarmed citizens are taking place across America. For what? It shouldn’t matter.

Willful suppression of the people’s voice is a side issue that has nothing to do with the Occupy movement’s purpose, your politics or mine. Today, we should all have at least two things in common – red blood and the desire for Americans now and in the future to be able to express dissent without being shot at or gassed. It’s that simple, and that should be inspiring enough.