A Tale of Two Governments: Occupy Santa Cruz (Part II)

Occupy Santa Cruz’ encampment lies uniquely on both city and county government.  Until recently both governments responded with similar disdain that many cities have shown toward their citizens rallying against vast economic inequality.  Now though a split has emerged between these two governments.  The city filed an injunction against the campers on the city side.   Lawyers representing Occupy Santa Cruz managed to move the venue to Federal Court.  The city is now attempting to remand the case back to state court.  The hearing is expected to take place in January.   Meanwhile the county has managed to change course by 180 degrees.  In my previous post I discussed how the County was moving to evict OCS.  Now the county is settling into something akin to a live and let live policy, at least for now.   OCS has been allowed to remain on country property as long as some rules are observed including keeping signs off county buildings.  How long this will last no one knows but at least for now the county’s position is a welcome contrast to the city’s.

Jackie - Santa Cruz

On Sunday I dropped off my second package of supplies to OCS’s extremely friendly supply officer.   As we were walking across the encampment she told me of OCS effort to integrate more fully those who were homeless supporters of OCS and those who had a regular place to sleep.   She talked about trying to remove the stigma that comes with the label homeless.   Having been homeless myself I can speak to the complete idiocy of the stereotypes placed on the homeless.  Being homeless is a great of work.  Waking up every morning taking a minute or two to remember where you are and how long you can stay there is stressful.  As is trying to figure out where you will go next once your current spot is no longer viable.  OCS supply system has become extremely well developed.   All regular residents have registered and listed exactly what they need.  As supplies come in from Occupy Supply and elsewhere, they are distributed according to the list.   Seeing OCS members line up eagerly to receive supplies was extremely gratifying.

I attended my first General Assembly.   This is what democracy should work like.  Herding cats has never been done so masterfully or with such respect.   A wide variety of people where at the GA:  newcomers, curious passersby, OCS members who have been there since day one, students, professionals, the young, and the elderly.  Each department reported on its activities and concerns.  GA attendees were encouraged to speak on concerns or offer suggestions.   A few of the mentally ill, who may have possibly been unmedicated, brought things to a standstill by veering off on tangents.  The facilitators treated them with respect while bringing things back on track.   A member of Occupy Oakland was there giving some suggestions and tips that OCS could implement.  A local choir sang at the end of the assembly for all those gathered. (more…)

Dems don’t have to lift a finger: Ron Paul ad decimates dirtbag Newt Gingrich

As each GOP Clown Car occupant falters —  the latest was Herman Cain — they try to run for cover and say their troubles are the result of some left-wing conspiracy. But why should the left even lift a finger when fellow occupants in the off-the-rails Clown Car are doing such a great job of destroying what little credibility exists in this bunch.

The latest is Ron Paul, taking on Newt Gingrich. It’s not as if there isn’t a lot of fertile ground here; a creature of  the Beltway, Gingrich has a juicy history of hypocrisy on so many levels, and a rich back catalog of appearances on video to feast upon. So give this video a whirl and enjoy.

My personal favorite moment: Rush Limbaugh practically having an aneurysm when Newt goes off message.

And read Joan Walsh’s piece on Salon about this ad.

Watercooler: Alternative Christmas Tunes 1

I just LURVES me some Christmas music. I also lurves me getting some new Christmas music into the MP3s as well as my own repetoire – and I’m adding this to the MP3s.

This 16 year-old  Dutch phenom Maikel van den Boomen does a fabulous job on a Harry Potter Theme-Medley which he arranged himself. And plays all by himself – on a 5-octave Marimba, a Vibraphone and a Glockenspiel – in 5 parts.

My partner Mr. B has maintained for years that the Harry Potter themes written by John Williams, especially the first one in the video, are quite Christmas-y; and hearing it this way, I have to agree.

Into the Holiday shuffle this goes!

Late Night FDL: Ruth Marcus, Lickspittle Courtier to the Corrupt

Ruth Marcus takes her fellow WaPo columnists out for a spin.
They say you can judge a person by his or her enemies, and if that is the criterion to use, then Emma Sullivan belongs on the United States Supreme Court. Not only did she get the Great and Powerful Brownback and his internet-scouring minions ticked off enough to try and squish her via her own high school principal (and the latter personage is a true profile in spinelessness for letting Brownback’s machine lean on him in that way), and not only has she likely ticked them off even more by exposing their jackassery to the world with such thoroughness that they were forced to backpedal big-time, but she’s managed to cause Ruth Marcus to bestir from a befogged slumber long enough to lob a truly stupid column Emma’s way.

If you’re not familiar with Marcus, let cocktailhag fill you in:

Ruth Marcus isn’t the stupidest person at the Washington Post, nor is she the most craven. But as Jon Stewart memorably said, that’s like being the thinnest kid at fat camp. Although she’s regularly identified as a “liberal,” she nonetheless frequently types such insulting Fox News horseshit such as her column today about how Robert Gibbs is right about liberals all being on drugs. Better yet, she uses many specific cases in which the liberal positions were obviously more rational, frugal, legal, and honest than the positions chosen by the Obama Administration were, to build her “case,” such as it is.

Behold:

I’m with Gibbs.

At times I’ve found White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to be unnecessarily irascible, and maybe his lashing out at the constant grumbling of the “professional left” wasn’t the best tactic. You want the base worked up — but for you, not about you.

When Republicans fire up the base with little theatre like wars and stuff, that’s playing the Village Game well; when Democrats try to offer, well, superior policy initiatives that are also good politics, that’s not playing fair.

Marcus is a fair and balanced courtier, truly bipartisan in her desire to excuse, if not outright glorify, vicious actions on the parts of the Dear Leaders. As Glenn Greenwald reminded us earlier today, Marcus was cheerleading for the Bush Administration officials that came up with and implemented the diastrous and tragic war in Iraq to be let off scot-free. (more…)

It’s Not Speculation, It’s a Sure Thing: When the Treasury is in your wallet

The financiers of Wall Street believe fervently in Social Darwinism. They make so much money (watch out for those January 2012 bonuses) because they are better. [Circular reasoning: also, they are better because they make so much money.] Not that they’re lucky. Or that they have a sure thing in a rigged game.

Take Goldman Sachs. It can’t resist dividing up the world into winners and suckers. In the late aughts GS had John Paulson, the notorious hedge fund manager enriched by shorting the subprime mortgage market, choose a portfolio of lousy mortgage-backed securities to create a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO). Then he bet against it. He made $1 billion on this one transaction. GS got a $15 million fee. It promoted the CDO as a great investment, telling buyers that an independent third party chose the portfolio. If an investor got a whiff of Paulson’s hand in the mix, the CDO would’ve been toast. So GS made out on the front and the back end, telling one story to its clients/suckers while enriching itself with the other.

After years of FOIA filings, Bloomberg News got the inside dope on similar Goldman Sachs double-dealing, only this time it went all the way to the top. It’s a microcosm of perfidy. On the same day that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the New York Times that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were being vetted by the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the results would cheer the market, he told a group of hedge fund managers at a meeting at the office of the hedge fund Eton Park in NYC that Fannie and Freddie were hemorrhaging losses, they’d be put into a structure called a conservatorship where the government would pump them with money to replace the heavy losses they were suffering from mortgage defaults, and their equity would be wiped out. (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were private corporations with implicit government backing. They bought and guaranteed 50% of the mortgages in the U.S. but they didn’t control the lax underwriting standards of the securitization daisy chain.)

The short version:

July 21, 2008 am–Paulson told the New York Times that Fannie/Freddie would be just fine

July 21, 2008 pm–Paulson told hand-picked hedge fund managers, many former GS employees, that Fannie/Freddie would tank.

July 21, 2008–Fannie Mae share price = $14.13; Freddie Mac share price = $8.75

September 6, 2008–Fannie/Freddie go into conservatorship; stock worthless.

Before Paulson was Bush’s Treasury Secretary, he was CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs (1999-2006).

Paulson gave his buddies a gift of insider information, defined as “material, non-public information”. Straight from the horse’s mouth. In essence the Treasury Secretary told a select group of people to short the hell out of Fan/Fred and walk away with wheelbarrows of money. Their activity would have been buried within the plethora of investors shorting Fan/Fred anyway.

Records show that many investors were betting against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the time. According to Data Explorers Ltd., a London-based research firm, short interest in Fannie Mae shares rose sharply in July, from 86.3 million shares on July 9 to 163 million shares on July 14. Short interest continued to rise, to 240 million shares, on the day of the Eton Park meeting: it hit 262 million on July 24, its high for the year. Freddie Mac’s short interest showed a similar trajectory.

Isn’t what Hank Paulson did illegal? Well, no. As far as anyone can prove, he didn’t profit financially. And “the rules for what can or cannot be disclosed by government officials are often either unclear or nonexistent.” As Adam Zagorin, a senior fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington watchdog group, says:

”You can’t prosecute them for insider trading if they didn’t trade the shares. You may not even be able to reprimand them. What the hell are the rules?”

Paulson consulted with his Wall Street buddies many times during his tenure.

The question is: how brilliant do you have to be to make a bundle when the Treasury Secretary is spoon feeding insider information?

Occupy LA: Reports of LAPD Violence

Josh’s hand, hit by rifle-fired projectile. This photo was taken at 3:50 am Wednesday on Main Street about a block south of La Placita Queen of Angels Church. A man with him who declined to be named or photographed had been struck in the face with a police baton; there was slight swelling around his mouth, and the inside of his lip was broken. He told me

I forgive the cop, I forgive him.

Josh had been in City Hall Park when the dispersal order came. He and his friends told me an office called out

Hey you!

and Josh turned, pointing at himself as if to ask,

Who me?

and was struck in the wrist by an LAPD projectile fired from a green shotgun at a distance of about 30 feet away. He was triaged by roaming medics once he left the park, and had an ice pack on his wrist. He could move his fingers slightly.

About 45 minutes later he walked into the parking lot of La Placita Queen of Angels. I had already spoken with one of the legal observers from Peace in Harmony about him, and pointed him out to the medics when he arrived to get him a fresh ice pack before he spoke with the legal observer (LO). His hand had swollen considerably, but he was still able to move his fingers and asked for a cigarette before talking with the LO. He was sleeping in the medic tent when the National Lawyers Guild arrived from the park. I provided these photos to the NLG rep. [cont’d.] (more…)

I’ve Been Healed

Like many FDL members I’ve been extremely disappointed with the direction our great country has been headed. To say it has been an assault on my fundamental philosophical underpinnings is being kind. This attack by so called political friends and allies on principals I hold dear and have fought for over most of my 64 years drove me to anger. It also drove me to inaction as I evaluated non conventional means to achieve the same goals. I understand that politics is no longer a means to these ends. In addition, I’ve  come to realize that there are more of me in the same boat. Just in time a whole litter of Firepups was born to try and shine a light. The Occupy movement can be a great catalyst for change and I’m now involved. I finally succeeded in tracking down the tents in my town and offered to be their liaison. I’ve met the occupiers and now they are real. There is no turning back. I’m officially back in the game.

Washington and Rhode Island Governors Ask Feds to Reschedule Marijuana

Reclassifying marijuana would allow it to be prescribed as medicine (photo: O'Dea)

In a big move today for medical marijuana, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire (D) and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) requested that the federal government re-schedule (reclassify) marijuana. The policy change would allow marijuana to be legally prescribed as a medicine under federal law. From the Office of Gov. Gregoire:

Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced she filed a petition with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration asking the agency to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, which will allow its use for treatment – prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI) also signed the petition.

The petition will require the Federal Drug Administration to conduct a new scientific review and analysis of recent advances in Cannabis research since the last time the FDA reviewed the matter in 2006.

The only reason medical marijuana isn’t legal at the federal level is that it is listed by the DEA as a schedule I drug, meaning that according to federal law it has no medical use, so it can’t be legally prescribed. There is no reason, though, that the executive agencies under the direct of President Obama can’t listen to the science and the public on this issue by moving cannabis to a different schedule that allows it to be legally prescribed.

Moving a drug from one schedule to another doesn’t require an act of Congress; it’s done relatively often by the executive branch. Moving marijuana to schedule II (the same schedule as Oxycontin and Adderall) would allow doctors to legally prescribe marijuana under federal law while keeping marijuana illegal for recreational use.

If marijuana were declared a schedule II or III substance, that action would mostly eliminate the federal government justification for its ridiculous harassment of state’s medical marijuana systems, medical marijuana patients, and state public employees.

With this move Gov. Gregoire and Gov. Chafee are putting the onus squarely on President Obama where it belongs. The only reason medical marijuana isn’t legal in this country, and the main reason needy patients and care givers continue to be harassed by federal agencies, is because the Obama administration has failed to use its power to move marijuana to a lower scheduling.

It is great to see that very high ranking elected officials are now starting to call for the popular, correct and long overdue move of having the federal government re-schedule marijuana. It is now time, indeed about time, for Obama to act in the public interest.