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Earl Bockenfeld

The Occupy Movement isn't the only situation in which potentially troublesome individuals camp out in public or semi-public spaces overnight. In fact, it happens every year with increasingly dangerous consequences. The toll of "Black Friday" already should make most Friday shoppers a little nervous, when they hear Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote that department's use of force guidelines, say pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters. The thought that this national consumer day might be disrupted literally or symbolically by a mass movement pointing out the huge income gap in this country and the loss of any semblance of a democratic process must have the economic elites of the Chamber of Commerce in a frenzy of damage control. Which is just what Chris Hayes reports on the DC lobbyists pitch to Wall Street firms on how to attack the OWS movement.

Peacefully speaking out against the financial sector will be met with police in riot gear and debilitating "compliance devices," but you see news footage of violent mobs of shoppers camped out in front of a Walmart, waiting to charge the doors when they open for the Black Friday sale, where DVD players are on sale for $5.99 for the first 25 shoppers to get one up to the cash register.

Let me set aside the distressing irony that protesters in, say, Tahrir Square in Cairo last spring were, in the main, better treated by repressive authorities than "Wall Street" protesters on the California Davis campus. Why does our government­ support protesters in other countries but NOT the ones here in our country? The silence is deafening. I remember when this country went to war with Iraq, because the ruler of that country, Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people, not unlike Mayor Bloomberg and other pepper-spray happy mayors around the country.


Earl raises a good point: I wonder how municipalities will deal with the droves of shoppers who literally camp out half the night (presumably after recovering from turkey comas) to camp out in front of big box stores.

Also, what will OWS do on Black Friday? If it was me, I'd go to the stores and ask people to shop local.

food doctor

The occupiers should move their energies to forming a political party other than corporate financed democrats and republicans. Currently there is no focus and not a lot of sympathy for them with exception of the pepper spray abuse and injustices of harming peaceful protesters . Life has never been fair and the bottom line is no one is going to take of you but your own self in the future.

Ken Muldrew

The rationale for the crackdowns, at least in these parts, seems to me to really focus the essential problem faced by the movement. The occupations seem to set the protestors against city hall, as if they are making demands that could possibly be granted by a mayor or a city council. While the only tools available for government agencies to end the protests (as long as they remain peaceful) are in the hands of the municipalities (restrictions on camping and that sort of thing).

If we think back to de Tocqueville's nation of voluntary associations, there was a time when much of the work of democratic governance was carried out by citizens acting through a sense of civic duty and fellowship. But politics were almost exclusively local at that time. There never was a time when a myriad voluntary associations bridged the gap between local and national, or international, politics. Save for two political parties, there still aren't any. Think tanks and lobby groups are not Rotary Clubs.

And yet, globalization, prerogative wars, too-big-to-fail bailouts, and more have brought the costs and impositions of national and international politics into the lives of everyone. People want to have some kind of influence over the political choices that affect their lives, but they have none. Nor do they see any opportunities for affecting policy on the horizon. There are only the two parties, both of whom have masters that are far removed from ordinary citizens. The greatest calamity of decades hits the U.S. and the president, in a rare moment of honesty, tells people that the only way they can help is to go shopping.

I see the Occupy Movement as groping toward some common cause that citizens feel they share but have a hard time identifying. The symptoms that trouble them are easy enough to spot, highlighted by the 1%, but the ways and means of effecting change within the system remain nebulous. The protestors, as well as many others who are sympathetic to the problems that spawned the movement, are willing to work for change, but the avenues through which change might be affected simply don't exist. At this point, they are really just trying to convince their fellow citizens that they will have to band together outside of the system if anything is to be done.

These are challenges of the greatest moment, and the organizational battles that will be necessary to actually renew a democratic form of government with a more equitable social contract are immense. Instead of trying to identify these problems and begin the Herculean task of finding solutions, the movement is turning into a fight with City Hall over illegal camping. Those who are conservative by inclination (Leslie Titmuss' conservatives, those who like to come home after work and find the world exactly as they left it in the morning) naturally turn against them. These conservative folks will have to pay an extra nickel in their property taxes to clean up the mess. This is exactly contrary to what the movement needs. By giving people a hook to turn this into a fight between the two political parties, they lose any chance of finding a way to work outside of the system.

The protestors need to find a way to remove this fight from both local politics and from political parties. They need to find some way to get people to work together, as they do in voluntary associations, but make the work product of these associations affect national politics. Not an easy trick, obviously, but a necessary one.

Earl Bockenfeld

Ken, I think you're making an important point, but I would say the problem that I see, the occupations seems to set the protestors against city police forces. I just saw the Rachel Maddow show and the segment with Ray Lewis, the retired Philadelphia police captain who was recently arrested during OWS protests in New York. He mentioned some ways for protestors to work on winning over the police to their 99% position. He said he plans to work with the protesters to help them better communicate with police. His opinion is that conflict with the police is an unnecessary and a losing strategy, which he will take on as his own protest mission. I think a major shift will occur when the 1% become afraid that they can't count on police muscle to do their dirty work.

What can protestors do to impact the international macro-economics? Look at what they're doing already. The "Move Your Money" project is big... and it will hurt Wall Street vastly more than most people realize. This is because for every $1 moved out of the Wall Street banks, $20 is moved out of the Wall Street casino. Hundreds of thousands (700,000+) of new credit union and local bank accounts were opened over the last couple months.

So... where's the $20 come in? Well, there are rules and guidelines about how much banks are allowed to leverage. For every $1 a bank makes in loans, they need a certain amount in cold, hard cash. Most credit unions aim for a 12-to-1 ratio... so they can back $12 million in home mortgages with only $1 million in their vaults. But, that measly 12-to-1 ratio won't yield enough profits for greedy Wall Street banks: in 2007 most of them were leveraged 30-to-1. Such a high ratio is considered terribly risky, which is why Jon Corzine from MF Global spoke out against high-leverage last year... only to see his firm go bankrupt recently with nearly a 40-to-1 leverage ratio!

If all this is true, what's the total damage? It's tough to know for certain. We're basing a lot of information on preliminary estimates, and speculation. Initial data says credit unions got $60 billion of new assets since July 2011, but that doesn't count November. Other studies predict that because of consumer anger and "brand damage," Wall Street will likely lose $185 billion in deposits next year, and possibly as much as $400 billion!

So, let's do the math... at the low end we could expect to suck $1.85 trillion out of the Wall Street casinos; at the high end it could top $8 trillion! To put that number in perspective, that's approximately half the assets of all the banks in America combined.

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