UFE Needs a Development Director

Please help us spread the word about this new job posting!

United for a Fair Economy seeks a full-time development director to join our staff team. This position encompasses responsibilities in four areas: Development Team coordination, planning and oversight, major donor relations and grant work.

UFE is a unique organization within the non-profit, social change sector in that nearly 70% of our funding comes from individual donors as opposed to grants. As such, we need a development director with a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of fundraising.

For more details, please see the Development Director job description.

Please help us spread the word by forwarding this message widely, posting the job listing wherever you can, and suggesting any leads you may have to Ruth Orme-Johnson at rormejohnson@faireconomy.org.

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OP-ED: We Must Act to Halt Downward Spiral in Black Communities

Photo h/t jonesor on Flickr

For as long as unemployment data by race have been collected (about 39 years), black unemployment has been roughly double that of whites. Today, the black unemployment rate is an alarming 16 percent. If discouraged workers are included, that number would be much higher.

The causes of disproportionate unemployment in the black community are many and varied, but economists believe that the main three are the lingering effects of discrimination, the educational attainment gap and economic segregation.

The erosion of manufacturing jobs in recent decades, coupled with the anti-government attack on public-sector jobs, have worked together to exacerbate these historical inequalities.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates that between 1979 and 2007, manufacturing jobs held by blacks fell from 23.9 percent to 9.8 percent. The auto industry, for example, has had above-average employment for blacks for a long time, but it has crumbled, meaning that the loss of jobs has been devastating for that community.

Similarly, the assault on public-sector workers — teachers, social workers, food inspectors and more — has a clear racial impact. United for a Fair Economy’s 2011 State of the Dream report notes that blacks are 30 percent more likely than the overall workforce to hold public-sector jobs, and 70 percent more likely to work for the federal government.

Unemployment levels experienced in the black community continue to concentrate high levels of poverty in already-struggling communities, which has profound social effects in perpetuating a downward spiral of crisis. Children growing up here are exposed to high rates of crime and violence, to low-quality foods, and to some of the worst-performing schools, with a lasting impact throughout their lives.

Policymakers in Washington must take bold action to break this cycle. Leaders need to target job creation and retraining strategies in communities hardest hit by the Great Recession. Targeting job creation strategies will help lift struggling black communities in ways that the “shovel-ready” focus of previous job creation efforts cannot.

That’s one reason the Congressional Black Caucus in 2009 called for more job creation funding for economically distressed communities. As unpalatable as it is to the austerity mindset in Congress, increased federal government spending is necessary to keep people working, including black Americans.

This op-ed was originally published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on October 25, 2011.

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A Tax System for the 99%

Ownership of household wealth in the U.S. in 2007
Source: Federal Reserve

The taxes we pay lay the foundation for a sound economy and for wealth creation. Tax revenue funds roads and railways, well-educated workers, courts, clean food and water, scientific research, and much more. We all benefit from these vital public systems and structures, which one person can not create alone.

A progressive tax system means that people and corporations who have a lot more income pay a lot higher tax rate than the 99% of people who have less income. Right now our federal tax system is only slightly progressive. The tax system became much less progressive after President Reagan changed it. The opposite—a regressive tax system—means that people who have less income pay a higher tax rate; this is how the tax system works in most states. Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax proposal is seriously regressive.

  • A truly progressive tax system would mean that we, the 99%, have enough money to fund the priorities we support: educating our youth, paying for health care, allowing seniors to retire with dignity.
  • A truly progressive tax system would mean that the typical person’s tax rate is a lot lower than a very wealthy person’s tax rate.
  • A truly progressive tax system would mean that investing in the stock market is not taxed less than working at a job.
  • A truly progressive tax system would slow the increase in the share of US income after taxes that goes to the 1 percent.
  • A truly progressive tax system would lessen the racial wealth divide.
  • A truly progressive tax system would mean that people with multi-millionaire parents could not inherit more tax-free than a typical worker earns and pays taxes on in a lifetime.
  • A truly progressive tax system would mean that corporations pay a bigger share of taxes. Giant corporations like Bank of America, Verizon, GE, and Exxon would no longer pay zero or shamefully low federal income taxes.
  • A truly progressive tax system would mean our country no longer goes into debt that is held by the same 1% of wealthy people who crashed the economy. It would mean the 99% are not paying increasing interest on the national debt.

How can you work for a truly progressive tax system? Find out here.

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Occupy Your State Tax System

The media's obsession with federal politics can sometimes cloud over state level solutions to our country's fiscal crisis. Occupy Wall Street has created hundreds of forums in nearly every state for concerned people to come together and consider various ways to rebuild the economy. One step to consider is overhauling our state tax systems, and here are five reasons why we should:

  1. They are regressive. That is, they take a greater share of income from low- and middle-income people than from wealthy people.
  2. They don't bring in enough money. Most states face deficits year after year because their tax systems don't generate enough revenue to pay for the public services and infrastructure state residents need and want.
  3. They are filled with special interest loopholes and freebies to the powerful and influential and force the rest of us to pick up the slack.
  4. They diminish, rather than enhance, economic activity by depending more for revenue on those who are most apt to spend their money in the economy, rather than shelter it to accumulate more.
  5. They are not transparent. Corporations that benefit from tax breaks often maintain secrecy so the public rarely knows if their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

State tax systems should be progressive, transparent, economically sound and should raise enough money to provide a decent quality of life to all residents. This system overhaul could generate hundreds of billions of dollars to not only wipe out state budget deficits, but also make long-overdue investments in our economy. 

Occupy for a fair and progressive state tax system.

For suggestions on how to get from here to there, see UFE's report "Flip It to Fix It." 


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UFE Provides Tools to Occupy Our Economy

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at home with the Occupy Wall Street livestream playing in the background when I heard a young woman on the “people’s microphone” give a shout out to UFE.

...If you want a great source of accessible information about economic inequality...check out United for a Fair Economy...w-w-w-dot-faireconomy-dot-org.

She finished with that, and the people's mic erupted into cheers and applause. I was overcome with a feeling of great pride, and wanted to do my part to see that UFE was a part of this powerful movement.

The Occupy Movement has brilliantly sharpened the focus of the national debate on the top 1% and on Wall Street leaders as the chief culprits of the global economic collapse. This, in and of itself, is a major victory. The national dialogue for the better part of the last year has centered on distraction issues like the deficit. The policies that ensued have worsened conditions for already struggling people. Now, people are able to imagine an alternative reality where all people, not just the wealthy, have opportunity.

The process of creating a more inclusive economy requires that we as individuals carefully consider the ways in which we interact with our society and make the necessary changes. One member of Occupy Boston's anti-oppression working group explained the necessity of an anti-oppression analysis:

An analysis of race, gender and class politics is foundational to our ability to achieve our goals of change. Without such an analysis, and subsequent articulation and action based upon it, we severely limit the potential of our movements. I would go so far to argue that our goals are not attainable at all without it.

Recently, this working group held its first session on racism and white privilege, and UFE was invited to contribute to the discussion with over 250 occupiers and supporters. We opened with an activity from our “Closing the Racial Wealth Divide” workshop to demonstrate historical and contemporary rules and policies that have offered boosts for some and presented barriers for others.  

We explained that while "the 99%" may have much in common, the folks on the bottom—disproportionally people of color and women—have borne the brunt of trickle-down economics. As our report, State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed, states, “the subprime mortgage crisis resulted in the single greatest transfer of wealth out of communities of color in modern times!”

Since September 17, the first day of OWS, requests for workshop materials and speaking engagements have nearly tripled. From Seattle, WA to Fort Collins, CO, Prescott, AZ to Northampton MA, UFE volunteer trainers, college teachers, labor educators, community organizers, students and others, are using UFE’s human graph activities to engage people in dialogue about the greatest concentration of wealth, income, and political power since 1928.

This is an extraordinary moment in history, and I'm glad we're able to provide tools to help folks Occupy our economy. 

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How I Perceive the Occupy Movement (For Now)

As word spreads about Occupy Wall Street, it's getting harder and harder for the typically apolitical to ignore it. Because my Facebook wall has become something of a clearinghouse for Occupy-related news, I frequently field inquiries on what it's all about. Here's the most recent:

"Maz, can you clearly explain to me what the goal of OWS is? I've asked about 40 people and no one comes even close to an intelligible answer. Seriously though, I am very curious."

It's true, the amorphous nature of the Occupy Movement can make it difficult to put into words. There are no "leaders"—in the most typical sense of the word—to approach for all the answers. Instead, supporters have chosen to operate in the spirit of collectivism; the will of the group having priority over that of the individual. We're all welcome to our own interpretations, and the process encourages us to find common ground. I find that refreshing and necessary, even, because building a better world will require more imagination and cooperation than seems to exist in our state and national capitals. So, without further ado, here's how I responded:

"Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and, now, the global Occupy Movement, is about money, power and opportunity. Specifically, it's a rejection of a political and economic system that before anyone else serves the already wealthy and corporate interests.  

In order to become a politically viable force, the first step was (and continues to be) to bring people together around that broad notion. Each occupation has nightly General Assemblies (GA), where participants (anyone who chooses to attend) practice direct democracy through consensus-building processes to determine their occupation's goals and strategies. This process stands in stark contrast to both our electoral and policy-making processes, which are mired in corruption and cronyism.

The reason no one is able to provide a crystal clear answer as to what the goal is, is because the ultimate goal has yet to be established. What we do have, for now, is the OWS first official declaration; a compilation of grievances that thousands and thousands of participants and supporters have agreed are issues of great concern to humanity.

The occupation itself is an awareness-raising tool that grows more effective as more people join (as occupiers or supporters in various capacities). A day in an occupation is more than just the GA, rallies, marches, sign-toting and yelling. The occupations are also meant to serve as a public display of the sort of humane, egalitarian, democratic and cooperative society that supporters believe in; one where everyone, rich or poor, has a voice.  

It's also about education—workshops on an array of subjects are being held on the regular. It's about collaboration—working together to literally keep a community going. Working groups are established on food, logistics, tactics, media, education, arts and culture and more. Under this model, everyone has a job; everyone can make a meaningful contribution to society; our destinies are not under the control of CEOs and corporate boards who can put thousands out of work with the wave of their hands. 

How this will affect our status quo, our existing political apparatus, is unclear—which is fine. The idea is that we don't have to wait for someone up high to tell us what we're supposed to do; that we have the power to be a part of that decision. And, who knows how long that might take? [Re]building a society with our collective well being in mind, rather than that of the richest among us, won't be a quick or easy process.  

Even if the Occupations disperse, if nothing else, we want them to have shaped the national and global discourse about how people should be governed. We want them to have altered our mass psyche in a way that will foster greater solidarity and respect for humanity and the natural environment in the future. 

There is no simple answer. In many ways, it requires a leap of faith for those of us who have been hard-wired to believe that we just have to live with what we have, for better or worse. But, with Occupations and meet-ups having gathered in over 1,500 cities worldwide, this movement seems to be capturing a lot of people's imaginations."

For more on the origins and emergence of Occupy Wall Street, read Nathan Schneider's "From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Everywhere" on TheNation.com.

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Tim's News Round-up: Occupy Fever & Citi Evils

Tim SullivanEach week, UFE's online news hawk, Tim Sullivan, will share a list of stories that he finds interesting. Tim's first round-up includes the latest on Occupy Wall Street, the action in our own backyard at Occupy Boston, the delusions of Wall Street insiders and [more] reasons to be very upset with Citigroup. Enjoy!

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Occupy Your Mind

Occupy Wall St. has been granted a reprieve after Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield Properties threatened to evict them today for a “park clean-up.” Protesters were reportedly elated as the announcement boomed over the “people’s mic” at 6:40 AM, spilling out into the streets. Of course, the eviction has only been delayed, not eradicated, and eventually the occupants will be forced to make their next move. Many are wondering: what will be their next move? And more importantly: does it matter?

In Boston, LA, DC, Austin, Philadelphia, Portland and many cities across the nation, Occupants are taking a stand against corporate greed and the growing wealth gap. Fellow Americans watch them on television screens, newspapers, and twitter feeds, or even out their windows and wonder: what is this? Does it pertain to me?

With young people at the helm of the occupy movement, universities also seem to be at the epicenter of this media frenzy. Almost as soon as Occupy Boston set up their tents, people on my campus had developed “Occupy fatigue.” Some students whined for the pre-Occupy days when everyone could be apathetic in peace. Now, it seems students have to justify not caring.

What lies at the root of this Occupy skepticism? Why are some young people so charged up that they are camping in the streets, while others are rolling their eyes? Here are some critiques of the Occupy movement floating around bars, tables and in dorm hallways:

  • This protest is just the latest fad cause, we say; it will soon pass.
  • The Occupy movement hardly even has a cause, we say, they have no spokesperson, no slogan, no clear strategy or ideas for the future.
  • A large, unorganized movement could be detrimental to the change we desire.
  • We can’t just protest capitalism. Sure, the wealthiest one percent of the population holds 34 percent of all wealth, and their wealth has increased exponentially in recent years. Sure, the wealthiest tenth owns 70 percent of wealth while 80 percent of the population owns 7 percent of wealth, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

Regardless of the merit of these critiques, I'm glad these conversations are happening. And if I’ve learned anything in 3.5 years of a Peace and Justice Studies major, it's that movements tend to get a facelift in hindsight. Generations after a major period of action, people turn time-tinted lenses back and see wise, courageous revolutionaries guiding altruistic and equally wise individuals to march against the obviously evil powers-that-be.

Consider the civil rights movement without the corrective lens of hindsight. You will see a Martin Luther King who struggled with himself. You will see an array of affiliated organizations whose opinions were seldom unified; their policy positions never clear. You see determined yet frightened activists who often needed years convincing to speak out against a bigoted government.

Already, it seems spectators are looking at the momentum of the Occupy movement through the corrective lens. They look for an inspirational face of a leader or individual that represents the movement. The Obama campaign had that, but Occupy Wall Street does not. Summarizing a movement with a face may be good for media coverage and may make writing history books a bit easier, but that does not mean it’s a weakness of the Occupy movement.

Indeed, the Occupy movement may not have a clean, infallible facade, but it does have an expanding membership of motivated individuals, frustrated with traditional politics’ inability to address the growing wealth divide and willing to work for an alternative solution. What it does have is a wide net that is cast over organizations with similar goals. What it does have is political opportunity in the widespread dissatisfaction among Americans. These are the ingredients for change.

But why should we care? Because we are the 99 percent. We all have a story. We are the unemployed, unemployable, and the tenuously employed, looking to our government to support us as we have supported it. We are the hardworking citizens who believe that economic injustice for some means economic injustice for all.

I am a college senior looking out into an abyss of unemployment and slim job prospects. It pains me to hear Republicans repeatedly shoot down jobs bills and progressive measures to bolster economically stimulating public funding. As a voter, I am sorry that the ‘liberal’ candidate for 2012 has sacrificed progressive policies for wishy-washy centrism too weak to pay off crippling debt. I am scared, but I’m ready to do something about it.

I say, even if you can’t define ‘em, join ‘em.  Even if you’ve never been formally educated on economic issues, let the movement occupy your mind for a moment. Get informed about our gargantuan wealth gap, corporate influence over the government, or racial and gender economic disparities. There may not be a leader handing out a one-shot solution, but there’s a group of people asking for new ideas—and why shouldn’t you have a say?

We can allow ourselves to believe in change. The media has hyped this up so much it seems like a fad, but even if Occupy Wall St. is evicted the protesters’ flame will not be extinguished. Because the Occupy movement is more than a bunch of tents in a park. It is a coalition of the willing, a call to action, and a harbinger of change. 

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Occupy Now. Here's How.

Occupy Wall Street is a budding movement that can be the tipping point for what we at UFE have been working toward. For a decade and a half, we have fought to push inequality to the center of the tax and economic policy debates in order to build an economy that works for all people. 

In recent years, even as our analysis gained traction, policy makers at all levels of government have chosen to ignore the facts, ignore the people and govern chiefly on behalf of the already wealthy and corporate interests. Public awareness of the devastating inequality in our economy has grown but policy is still geared toward entrenching the rules that lead to growing economic inequity throughout the country. 

The political climate has shifted in the weeks following September 17, day one of the occupation on lower Manhattan. With occupations and meet-ups taking place in over 600 cities, "Occupy Wall Street" has given rise to "Occupy Together." And, rather than wait for the polls to open next November, the U.S. occupations are engaging in direct action now and for as long as it takes to purge our political system of corporate dominance, restore democracy and give struggling people an actual opportunity for a better life.

It started in New York with Occupy Wall Street and in a matter of weeks has spread to hundreds of cities across the country. With the message of devastating inequality at their core, the occupations can be the movement for greater equality that this country needs. Please get involved. Here are some ways that you can take part:

  • Find an occupation near you at OccupyTogether.org. If there is an occupation near you, go there. Ask them how you can help at your nearest occupation. Even if you are unable to join as a round-the-clock occupier, there are many ways you can support and strengthen the movement.
  • Donate. Make financial and/or supply donations to Occupy Wall Street and your local occupations (find yours through Occupy Together). Different occupations are beginning to publish 'needs' lists that you can look to for ideas. Typical high-priority items include non-perishable food items, socks, blankets, warm clothing, tarps, camping gear, etc.
  • Follow. Subscribe to your occupation's email list. Follow your occupation on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up-to-speed with developments and announcements about ways to help.
  • Publicize. Share Facebook and Twitter updates from your occupation. Blog about and share your own links to information about your occupation. Write op-eds, letters to the editor, and demand that your local media (newspaper, TV, radio) cover your occupation. Engage in dialogue with your local media on Twitter about whether they're satisfactorily covering your local occupation.
  • Attend and participate in your occupation's General Assemblies, where big picture goals and strategies are being decided through consensus-based decision-making. Some occupations hold workshops throughout the day on anything from facilitation skills to non-violence to political economics and even occupation safety and emergency care.
  • Volunteer. Join an occupation working group. Committees are being formed to handle outreach, media, food, logistics, tactics, education, arts and culture, and much more. It's easy to just show up and lend a hand. And, if you have skills or expertise that could be helpful, organize a workshop.

Each of us—rich, poor or in-between—has a huge stake in the Occupy movement. Our futures and the futures of millions' of young people and millions more to come could very well depend on this movement. We hope you can help to raise its visibility, strength and endurance.

Some helpful readings:

Update (10/14/11, 2:45 p.m.): At the suggestion of Occupy Together, we have created a page to help you find your local occupation. Find yours now.

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Steve Schnapp responds to the question, "Why Occupy?"

UFE popular educator, Steve Schnapp, names extreme economic inequality as a key reason why others should join the Occupy Movement. He explains in this interview with filmmaker Richard Bergin from the site of Occupy Boston.


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What is #OccupyWallStreet & How Can You Join?

The following is a repost of a Facebook note by Responsible Endowments Coalition organizer, Martin Bourqui. 


After visiting the Occupy Wall Street protests on their seventh day yesterday I feel like I need to put in writing — and in longer than 140 character status updates! — what I see and hear about what's going on here and the way in which these protests are being perceived, both by me and by those on the right and the left.


So what are these protests all about? Wikipedia may not be the most reliable source, but it's probably the most neutral right now. It defines them this way, as would I:


Occupy Wall Street, or #occupywallstreet, is an ongoing nonviolent demonstration opposing what participants view as negative corporate influence over U.S. politics and a lack of legal repercussions over the global financial crisis.


Hmmmm. This isn't something that should be so hard to get behind, right? 75% of us think that corporations have too much influence on politics today [1]. 67% think that corporations are paying too little in taxes [2]. I can't find solid numbers on how Americans feel about how accountable the banks have been held post-bailout, but I imagine they aren't held in too high of regard. And that's just the American public in general - within my personal network I imagine these anti-bank, anti-corporate, pro-accountability sentiments would be much, much higher.


So why do I see a lack of support for these protests from my peers? How come when I talk about Occupy Wall Street on Facebook, or with my friends, the only overt signs of support I see and hear are from those whom I'll respectfully define as radicals? 


Where is the broader left in this discourse - those who I know believe in corporate accountability for the financial crisis, those who support of higher taxes for rich corporations and individuals, who believe that money is destroying our political system?  Those who don't necessarily define want to define themselves as 'radical', but who agree with the underlying motivations of these actions? That's right, peers. I'm talking to you! I'd like you to read the thoughts that I've put down here, and to think about what you agree with, and what you're going to do about it.


These protests have the potential to unite a broad cross-section of society towards urgently needed political and cultural change in our society, but they're not meeting it. I'd like to acknowledge and explore why that is.


These events have what politicos (and some organizers, like me) refer to as an "optics problem." In understanding how the majority of society views what's going on, we constantly must be re-evaluating how we all interpret the visuals - images, pictures, videos - that we receive from the front lines of our discourse, that represent the debate. 


Photo by David Shankbone, reproduced under a Creative Commons license


Take, for example, this photo, one of the precious few images on the Occupy Wall Street wikipedia page right now, one of the only visuals that a huge audience will take in to represent what is going on right now. What do you see? Protestors wearing the masks associated with the organization known as Anonymous, one of whom is wearing a keffiyeh (3) (4).  


What is your gut reaction upon seeing this picture? Are you willing to stand next to this person, in solidarity with their self-presentation? Or do you feel ambivalence, hesitation, perhaps even fear? Do you want to be associated with them? Would your parents want to be associated with them? Would your friends? Why or why not?


The Anonymous mask and the keffiyeh are loaded symbols, and they mean very different things to different people. They tap into a much broader set of issues beyond fair taxation, post-financial crisis accountability, and the role of money in our political system. More worryingly, I worry that these symbols are misinterpreted, both by the viewer and potentially even by the wearer. 


A lot of the protestors that I have seen both in-person and through the internet reflect a broadly radical self-presentation. In my heart of hearts, I don't want to condemn this. But these protestors speak of "revolution," and they seek to create not just an anti-corporate, pro-fair taxation, pro-bank accountability space. They are trying to envision something much bigger, but I think that many of us are squinting to see it. 


Let's contrast the depiction of these protests from a sympathetic, radical documentarian with the depictions of the mainstream media. Let's establish the narratives, and unpack them.


I encourage you all to watch this eight-minute documentary, titled "Nobody Can Predict the Moment of Revolution," capturing interviews with protestors on days five and six. It's a thing of beauty, and a strongly sympathetic depiction of the protests, but the narrative it weaves is much broader than just about corporations, banks, and taxes. Protestors interviewed describe their beliefs this way:


"I don't know how to achieve collective liberation, which we're all striving for, but I think it all needs to happen at the same time. And, you know, we're here, making a stand, we're holding space."


"It's a model for a new society. It's not a protest, in a sense of being against something. It's a way to formulate something new."


Contrast that with the coverage from the New York Times, published on the same day. 


Most of those entrenched in Zuccotti Park had indeed traveled from somewhere else; they had come from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas and so on with drums, horns, tambourines and, in the instance of one young man, a knee-length burlap vest, fur hat, ski goggles and tiny plastic baby dolls applied to the tips of his fingers.


One of the few New Yorkers I met, a senior at Bronx High School of Science, was stopping by in fits and spurts, against the wishes of his psychiatrist mother, who feared the possibility of tear gas and had chastised her son for giving his allowance to the cause.


That cause, though, in specific terms, was virtually impossible to decipher. The group was clamoring for nothing in particular to happen right away — not the implementation of the Buffett rule or the increased regulation of the financial industry. Some didn’t think government action was the answer because the rich, they believed, would just find new ways to subvert the system.




Some said they were fighting the legal doctrine of corporate personhood; others, not fully understanding what that meant, believed it meant corporations paid no taxes whatsoever. Others came to voice concerns about the death penalty, the drug war, the environment.


“I want to get rid of the combustion engine,” John McKibben, an activist from Vermont, declared as his primary ambition.



Where the documentary "Nobody Can Predict The Revolution" sees visionaries of a new society, the Times sees spoiled children, ignorant, foolhardy loudmouths, and People Who Are Not Like Us. 


To be honest, I find both of these depictions highly problematic. "Nobody Can Predict the Moment of Revolution" takes the energy of Occupy Wall Street out of what I interpret to be its current iteration, and into the realm of radical, revolutionary societal visioning. The Times piece, on the other hand, takes a hammer to any emerging narrative, and raises up only the conflicting, fragmented, ignorant sentiments of isolated individuals. And going back to the idea of visual narrative, the Times piece pulls out a topless woman, "blonde with a marked likeness to Joni Mitchell and a seemingly even stronger wish to burrow through the space-time continuum and hunker down in 1968," who they declared to be the "default ambassador" of this movement in their intro paragraph. Thanks, Gray Lady. Big favor you did everyone there, by literally picking the craziest person there to be the face of the movement.


What I saw with my own eyes yesterday, this protest, at its core, contains a narrative that is emerging but that is being hijacked on both the right and the left. So now that we can hopefully see this, I want to put these clashing narratives to one side and attempt to draw out what I see taking place. Check it out.


The main poster for this event asks the same question I'm trying to get at - how can we unite when we don't have a demand, or even a cohesive narrative, to unite us? The discourse coming from the left about the role of the banks in our political and economic system, and the way in which corporate interests have defended their own while gravely damaging the economic prospects of all who are not in the top 5%, has been exhausted through our existing political system's channels. When such channels are exhausted, we have a right to take direct action.


The American people must have the right to nonviolently protest, to occupy public space, and to encourage a dialog on what so many of us see as the root causes of the political and economic crises facing the U.S. today. We have a right to assemble in peace, to document what transpires through video, audio, photography, and both the mainstream and underground media.


We have a right to do so without police brutality, which has reared its ugly head. I was deeply disturbed by the footage of peaceful protestors being penned in the street and maced in Union Square. The police presence that I witnessed in lower Manhattan last night, with orange tarp pen fences, vans full of police officers in riot gear, and jail wagons ready to take away scores of protestors, reflects a fear-based approach to get any and all protestors, peaceful or otherwise, to disperse. Hell, it worked on us! The response to this protest is morally bankrupt. I saw it with my own eyes. I attest to it.


However, I am not only disturbed by the response from the powers that be, whether it by the New York Times' coverage of these events, which debilitates and fragments its message, or by the NYPD's fear-based tactics to silence entirely legal and legitimate public discourse. 


I am more worried, however, about the inability of the protestors and organizers of the Occupy Wall Street action to coalesce around a cohesive narrative, a moral legitimacy, and a unifying, invitational visual narrative. I am not an anarchist. I do not seek to get rid of the combustion engine. I choose not to wear a keffiyeh. And yet I live a stone's throw across the East River from Wall Street, and literally organize full-time, for my job, around the role of the banks in our economic system.


If anyone should be standing in solidarity with these protests, it would be me - and I am. But If even I feel alienated by the fragmented visual, cultural, political narratives coming out of this action, how on earth are we supposed to unite the entire Left around it?


Change requires unity. I don't have the answers on how to get there, or on how to address these questions. But I'm choosing to shine a light on these problems, in the hopes that we can begin to intentionally tackle them.


So what can you do — whether you agree or disagree with the arguments I'm putting forward?

  • If you share in my opposition to the reaction of the powers that be to this protest - whether it be the mainstream media's slanted coverage, or the actions of the NYPD to intimidate, fragment, and dismantle this discourse - please help me in raising awareness. That video of the cops macing the women tied my stomach in knots. Different perspectives are painting completely different pictures of what's going on. Help shine a light. 
  • If you agree that these protests lack a cohesive narrative, help to promote and define one by joining the discourse, as I am trying to do. Despite the counter-narrative being spun by its opponents, as well as the competing narratives being introduced by some on the Left, I believe that Occupy Wall Street is at its core about the American people standing up to the corporate greed that has permeated our political and economic systems. Please use your privilege as writers, artists, documentarians, activists, college degree holders, and/or owning-class people in our society, to speak up and ask the hard questions that need asking.
  • Maybe you literally disagree with everything I'm saying. that's fine. That's great! But don't stay silent. Join the discourse. Write a blog post about it. Email me. Email your network. Write a letter to the editor. Make your voice heard.
  • If you want to see the protests continue but choose not to participate, they could still use food, money, and awareness. Speak up. Pay up. Use your resources, even if it's just a Facebook note or a $10 donation.
  • However you feel about the protests, if you're in the NYC area, go down there and see it for yourself. Engage with people. If you disagree with people's tactics, language, or presentation, engage with them about it. If you support others, let them know you support them and want to elevate their visual or political narrative. Use all of the tools you have to do so.
  • If you would like to share what I wrote here, please feel free to do so. I don't really get how sharing notes on Facebook works (sigh), but feel free to reproduce this. I hope it helps get people's wheels turning. 
  • Stay informed. The three places I look for information are Occupy Wall Street's unofficial site which contains links, information, and even a live stream; the Occupy Wall Street Wikipedia page, which for better or worse will document the narrative that the majority of people see, and the #occupywallstreet Twitter hash tag, which many people are using to share information and stay updated, whether they're in Lower Manhattan or halfway across the world.

The mainstream media won't show it, but I see, online, thousands upon thousands worldwide watching this unfold and crossing their fingers that these protests will, sooner or later, create a shift in the American political discourse, in the give-and-take of our economic system, and  in the power dynamics of our society. People who are college-educated, highly informed, highly resourced individuals, especially those in the NYC area - people whom I'm writing for- hold a huge amount of privilege to make this succeed, fail, or at least make this look more like what we want it to look like. 


Whether you agree, disagree, or feel ambivalent about what's taking place this week, it's our right, and our obligation, to speak up, to join this discourse. I don't see it taking place in a meaningful way in our political system or in the media, so let's use the tools we have to help it take place in the spaces we create, whether it be on the internet or in our living rooms. Speak up. Get involved. Get those who aren't involved to be involved. We can't keep our heads buried in the sand forever. 



[1] Gallup Poll, [May, 2011]

[2] Gallup Poll, [Apr, 2011] 

[3] For more on Anonymous: Wikipedia, Anonymous Blog

[4] What is a keffiyeh? 

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VIDEO: Mike Lapham vs. CNBC Teleposse

Responsible Wealth director, Mike Lapham was invited onto CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" to discuss Obama's recent tax proposal, including "The Buffett Plan" to raise taxes on millionaires. In the show's typical bullying fashion, Lapham was posed with opposition not just from two guests, but also from the host and "moderator" himself, Larry Kudlow.

Fortunately, this wasn't Mike's first rodeo in the neocons' arena. This interview was like a martial arts movie, with Mike's talking point karate chops and roundhouse kicks fending off enemies from every direction. I'd say he handled himself like a champ. 

We hope you'll pardon the terrible audio.

Mike Lapham Discusses New Tax Plan on The Kudlow... by BeyondPixBroadcast

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