* A POLICE RAID SUFFUSED WITH SYMBOLISM
By Glenn Greenwald
Following similar raids in St. Louis and Oakland, hordes of NYPD officers this morning forcibly cleared Zuccotti Park in Manhattan of all protesters; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took “credit” for this decision. That led to this description of today’s events from an Occupy Wall Street media spokesman, as reported by Salon‘s Justin Elliott:
A military style raid on peaceful protesters camped out in the shadow of Wall Street, ordered by a cold ruthless billionaire who bought his way into the mayor’s office.
If you think about it, that short sentence is a perfect description of both the essence of America’s political culture and the fuel that gave rise to the #OWS movement in the first place. …
… UPDATE II: To justify his raid, Mayor Bloomberg said: ”We must never be afraid to insist on compliance with our laws.” Leaving aside the fact that torturers, illegal eavesdroppers, wagers of aggressive war, Wall Streets defrauders, and mortgage thieves are some of his best friends who thrive and profit rather than sit in a jail cell, this is the same Mayor Bloomberg who, now beyond all dispute, is knowingly and deliberately breaking the law by violating a Court Order of which he is well aware. He’d be arrested for that if he weren’t a billionaire Mayor (and indeed, having seen that bevvy of political and financial elites break the law in the most egregious ways with total impunity over the last decade, why would Bloomberg be afraid of simply ignoring the law?). Today really is the most vivid expression seen in quite some time of the two-tiered justice system I wrote my new book to highlight; the real criminals are not only shielded from the law’s mandates, but affirmatively use it as an instrument to entrench themselves in power and protect their ill-gotten gains.
* ZUCCOTTI CLEARED
By David Atkins, Hullabaloo
… Per various twitter reports:
- Protesters were told to take their belongings and leave. Any belongings not immediately carried out by protesters were then tossed unceremoniously into a massive pile on the street and loaded into dumpsters. This included the tents, the entire 5,000 book OWS library, and the bike generators.
- Most subways and trains into downtown were blocked, including with cops at entrances
- The Brooklyn Bridge was shut down until 6am
- All media and press were not allowed within a block of Zucotti Park
- Airspace over Zucotti was blocked by police helicopters and legally blocked to prevent any media coverage
- Journalists gathered together to attempt to gain access were denied. According to one report, one cop tore a press credential off a journalist, while another responded to a journalist’s claim to be press by saying, “not tonight.”
- One New York Times journalist reported arrested, and city councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez reportedly arrested and bleeding from the head
- Multiple individuals injured, bleeding, including one carried out on a stretcher
- Doormen locking buildings around Zucotti to prevent residents from exiting to witness events
- Counter-terrorism police units on scene
* OCCUPY OAKLAND LIVE BLOG: POLICE OUTNUMBER PROTESTERS AT OGAWA PLAZA
By Kristin J Bender, Josh Richman, Thomas Peele and Sean Maher, MercuryNews.com
7:30 p.m. Another member of mayoral team resigns
Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu has resigned, effective immediately, the second member of the mayor’s team to submit her resignation just today. Mayor Jean Quan’s legal adviser and longtime friend, Dan Siegel, also resigned today over the mayor’s handling of the Occupy encampment.
In a statement, Mayor Jean Quan wrote, “Sharon has been a tremendous asset to my administration. We wish her well and I’m grateful for her contributions. I will be restructuring my administration and making additional personnel announcements in the coming days.”
Asked for more details, Quan’s spokeswoman Sue Piper said in an email, “It’s a personnel issue.”
Here’s more about Cornu from her biography on the city website:
“Sharon Cornu is a longtime political strategist, community organizer and former elected labor leader. She returned to Oakland after serving as national field director for the AFL-CIO in 2010. A magna cum laude graduate of Brown University, she holds a master’s degree in human services from the University of Massachusetts. She serves on the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee and the East Bay Economic Development Alliance. She was recognized by East Bay Housing Organizations for her leadership on affordable housing in 2009 and was Assemblymember Sandre Swanson’s Woman of the Year in 2007. Cornu first met Mayor Quan as a PTA activist at Laurel School, where her sons participated in our schools’ award-winning music program.”
* HOW THE WAR ON TERROR HAS MILITARIZED THE POLICE
By Arthur Rizer and Joseph Hartman, The Atlantic
Over the past 10 years, law enforcement officials have begun to look and act more and more like soldiers. Here’s why we should be alarmed.
… In an effort to remedy their relative inadequacy in dealing with terrorism on U.S. soil, police forces throughout the country have purchased military equipment, adopted military training, and sought to inculcate a “soldier’s mentality” among their ranks. Though the reasons for this increasing militarization of American police forces seem obvious, the dangerous side effects are somewhat less apparent.
Undoubtedly, American police departments have substantially increased their use of military-grade equipment and weaponry to perform their counterterrorism duties, adopting everything from body armor to, in some cases, attack helicopters. The logic behind this is understandable. If superior, military-grade equipment helps the police catch more criminals and avert, or at least reduce, the threat of a domestic terror attack, then we ought deem it an instance of positive sharing of technology — right? Not necessarily. Indeed, experts in the legal community have raised serious concerns that allowing civilian law enforcement to use military technology runs the risk of blurring the distinction between soldiers and peace officers.
This is especially true in cases where, much to the chagrin of civil liberty advocates, police departments have employed their newly acquired military weaponry not only to combat terrorism but also for everyday patrolling. Before 9/11, the usual heavy weaponry available to a small-town police officer consisted of a standard pump-action shot gun, perhaps a high power rifle, and possibly a surplus M-16, which would usually have been kept in the trunk of the supervising officer’s vehicle. Now, police officers routinely walk the beat armed with assault rifles and garbed in black full-battle uniforms. When one of us, Arthur Rizer, returned from active duty in Iraq, he saw a police officer at the Minneapolis airport armed with a M4 carbine assault rifle — the very same rifle Arthur carried during his combat tour in Fallujah.
The extent of this weapon “inflation” does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles (mini-tanks) for use in domestic police work.
To assist them in deploying this new weaponry, police departments have also sought and received extensive military training and tactical instruction. Originally, only the largest of America’s big-city police departments maintained S.W.A.T. teams, and they were called upon only when no other peaceful option was available and a truly military-level response was necessary. Today, virtually every police department in the nation has one or more S.W.A.T. teams, the members of whom are often trained by and with United States special operations commandos. Furthermore, with the safety of their officers in mind, these departments now habitually deploy their S.W.A.T. teams for minor operations such as serving warrants. In short, “special” has quietly become “routine.”
The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the “men in blue” from “peace officer” to soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to “keep the peace.” Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that – suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the “bad guys.” For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is an absolute last resort.
Soldiers, by contrast, are trained to identify people they encounter as belonging to one of two groups — the enemy and the non-enemy — and they often reach this decision while surrounded by a population that considers the soldier an occupying force. Once this identification is made, a soldier’s mission is stark and simple: kill the enemy, “try” not to kill the non-enemy. Indeed, the Soldier’s Creed declares, “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.” This is a far cry from the peace officer’s creed that expects its adherents “to protect and serve.” …
* THE TWO DOCUMENTS EVERYONE SHOULD READ TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE CRISIS
By William K. Black, Huffington Post
… The first document everyone should read is by S&P, the largest of the rating agencies. The context of the document is that a professional credit rater has told his superiors that he needs to examine the mortgage loan files to evaluate the risk of a complex financial derivative whose risk and market value depend on the credit quality of the nonprime mortgages “underlying” the derivative. A senior manager sends a blistering reply with this forceful punctuation:
Any request for loan level tapes is TOTALLY UNREASONABLE!!! Most investors don’t have it and can’t provide it. [W]e MUST produce a credit estimate. It is your responsibility to provide those credit estimates and your responsibility to devise some method for doing so.
Fraud is the principal credit risk of nonprime mortgage lending. It is impossible to detect fraud without reviewing a sample of the loan files. Paper loan files are bulky, so they are photographed and the images are stored on computer tapes. Unfortunately, “most investors” (the large commercial and investment banks that purchased nonprime loans and pooled them to create financial derivatives) did not review the loan files before purchasing nonprime loans and did not even require the lender to provide loan tapes.
The rating agencies never reviewed samples of loan files before giving AAA ratings to nonprime mortgage financial derivatives. The “AAA” rating is supposed to indicate that there is virtually no credit risk — the risk is equivalent to U.S. government bonds, which finance refers to as “risk-free.” We know that the rating agencies attained their lucrative profits because they gave AAA ratings to nonprime financial derivatives exposed to staggering default risk. A graph of their profits in this era rises like a stairway to heaven [PDF]. We also know that turning a blind eye to the mortgage fraud epidemic was the only way the rating agencies could hope to attain those profits. If they had reviewed even small samples of nonprime loans they would have had only two choices: (1) rating them as toxic waste, which would have made it impossible to sell the nonprime financial derivatives or (2) documenting that they were committing, and aiding and abetting, accounting control fraud.
Worse, the S&P document demonstrates that the investment and commercial banks that purchased nonprime loans, pooled them to create financial derivatives, and sold them to others engaged in the same willful blindness. They did not review samples of loan files because doing so would have exposed the toxic nature of the assets they were buying and selling. The entire business was premised on a massive lie — that fraudulent, toxic nonprime mortgage loans were virtually risk-free. The lie was so blatant that the banks even pooled loans that were known in the trade as “liar’s loans” and obtained AAA ratings despite FBI warnings that mortgage fraud was “epidemic.” The supposedly most financially sophisticated entities in the world — in the core of their expertise, evaluating credit risk — did not undertake the most basic and essential step to evaluate the most dangerous credit risk. They did not review the loan files. In the short and intermediate-term this optimized their accounting fraud but it was also certain to destroy the corporation if it purchased or retained significant nonprime paper.
Stress this: stress tests are useless against the nonprime problems
What commentators have missed is that the big banks often do not have the vital nonprime loan files now. That means that neither they nor the Treasury know their asset quality. It also means that Geithner’s “stress tests” can’t “test” assets when they don’t have the essential information to “stress.” No files means the vital data are unavailable, which means no meaningful stress tests are possible of the nonprime assets that are causing the greatest losses.
The results were disconcerting
A rating agency (Fitch) first reviewed a small sample of nonprime loan files after the secondary market in nonprime loan paper collapsed and nonprime lending virtually ceased. The second document everyone should read is Fitch’s report on what they found.
Fitch’s analysts conducted an independent analysis of these files with the benefit of the full origination and servicing files. The result of the analysis was disconcerting at best, as there was the appearance of fraud or misrepresentation in almost every file.
[F]raud was not only present, but, in most cases, could have been identified with adequate underwriting, quality control and fraud prevention tools prior to the loan funding. Fitch believes that this targeted sampling of files was sufficient to determine that inadequate underwriting controls and, therefore, fraud is a factor in the defaults and losses on recent vintage pools.
Fitch also explained [PDF] why these forms of mortgage fraud cause severe losses.
For example, for an origination program that relies on owner occupancy to offset other risk factors, a borrower fraudulently stating its intent to occupy will dramatically alter the probability of the loan defaulting. When this scenario happens with a borrower who purchased the property as a short-term investment, based on the anticipation that the value would increase, the layering of risk is greatly multiplied. If the same borrower also misrepresented his income, and cannot afford to pay the loan unless he successfully sells the property, the loan will almost certainly default and result in a loss, as there is no type of loss mitigation, including modification, which can rectify these issues. …
* THE FIVE CURRENT WARS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
By Tom Wright
… To quote the words of Michel De Montaigne, we are “drunk with malice”. We are addicted to war. To violence. To bloodshed. To greed. To hatred. Our leaders believe that we can bludgeon the world into obedience. There is no question that can be posed, no query submitted, to which Washington cannot answer with bombs, missiles, tanks, guns and mechanized death.
Assisting the Libyan rebels is, in my opinion, a global good. However, it’s unfortunate that Congress has completely abdicated its constitutional duty to be the only government body that can declare a war, and is now routinely ignored in matters of military action, like the royal figureheads of some forgotten kingdom.
Regardless of the immediate question of Libya, and our actions there, the bigger issue is this: our violent, destructive, counter-productive, terrorist-recruiting, manic desire to control the Middle East and its oil, and to rule the world as the empire-heirs of Ancient Rome.
It’s killing us and it’s killing them–literally killing countless thousands of innocents in many different countries and economically killing America. Our roads and bridges are in disrepair. Our schools are a shambles. Our people can’t find good work. Our corporations rape and pillage and plunder with complete impunity. Our democracy is a distant dream.
Yet, we spend over $1,000,000,000,000.00 (1 trillion dollars) per year, on war, death and destruction, bombs and missiles and guns, and tanks and helicopters and nukes and assassins, mercenaries, torture chambers, prisons, spies, and dictator-support, and god only knows what else.
It is utter madness. A complete obscenity. It is the very essence of The Pornography Of Power. And it is destroying America.
* HOW DOES THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT WIN? EASILY … BECAUSE THERE ARE MORE OF US THAN THERE EVER COULD BE OF THEM
By Nurmi Husa
There are ever so many paths to “victory,” some easier than others.
Our just being here, confounds and enrages the 1% – and so they are frantic to make us go away. You know the mantra. They ignore us. When that doesn’t work they ridicule us. When that doesn’t work they find or invent laws to arrest us. When the jails are full and the police are exhausted what do they do then? Do they shoot us with “real” bullets? Long before it comes to that, we will have won. They know this. If they go there, the next hail of bullets will be aimed at them – and not by us. By the great enraged mass of nameless, faceless people. The 1% are rightly terrified of that end game.
But perhaps it doesn’t need to go there. Perhaps there is a victory to be achieved before too much more blood is spilled. (Yes, they will spill our blood, they have proved that time and again. Yet every time they do that, we grow stronger and they grow weaker.)
Consider our many amazing strengths, they far outweigh our opponents’ essential weakness.
We have no centralized power structure. There are no handful of leaders that can be “taken out” with a drone leaving the movement confused and in tatters. We are a many-headed hydra. Arrest folks over here, more pop up over there. We are not a handful of people in Zuccotti Park. We are in parks and squares and streets all across this country. We are water. They push us away for a moment and we flow back into the space they leave behind when they turn away. Never forget that there are more of us than there ever could be of them.
At some point, it will dawn on the movement as a whole that denying the “authorities” a solid target will defeat those “authorities” far more quickly than what’s happening now. Think about that for a moment. If there are no tents, they can’t tear them down. If the protest is not tied to a fixed space, it cannot be denied to us. If they do not know where we will be, they cannot be there before us with guns, tear gas and riot gear. If they do not know what we are going to do, they cannot stand against us. Our greatest strength is simply that we exist. …
* CHICAGO SCORES DIRECT ACTION VICTORY
By Patrick Glennon, In These Times
… Tonight’s planned lecture in Chicago was to feature two speakers who are anathema to the Occupy movement.
Condoleezza Rice—former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State (positions held under George W. Bush)—symbolizes the policies of the Bush administration. Rice was an outspoken proponent of both the invasion of Iraq and the president’s hawkish foreign policy. Rising to Secretary of State in 2005, Rice echoed Bush’s interventionist rhetoric, arguing that extremism in the Islamic world was a result of “oppression and despair” and that “transformation” supervised by Western powers was the most effective means of squashing terrorism.
Henry Paulson, the event’s co-speaker, is a long-time insider of the financial world, having once been the head of financial giant Goldman Sachs. He would later go on to serve as Treasury Secretary in the Bush Administration. During his time as Secretary, Paulson oversaw the first infusion of tax payer dollars into the faltering investment sector following the economic meltdown. He attracted criticism for being far to generous dispensing public funds to companies responsible for the crisis.
In the eyes of protestors, both individuals reflect a system of power out of touch with the American public. Peter Fugiel, a graduate student in sociology and an activist at Occupy Chicago, remarks that:
Hank and Condi are corporate tools who never ran for public election. As appointed representatives of big business, Paulson and Rice crafted policies that most people oppose. Now they have the nerve to tell us that they drove millions of Iraqis into refugee camps, and millions of Americans into foreclosure for our own good? We let them know their anti-democratic propaganda isn’t welcome here, and they heard us loud and clear.
The successful derailing of the lecture parallels last month’s situation in Philadelphia, in which Eric Cantor—who was to give a speech on the GOP’s approach to income inequality—cancelled at the last minute after learning that seats in the audience were open to the public. Speculation held that Occupy Philadelphia was planning to disrupt the event.
Occupy Chicago protestors plan to celebrate the cancellation by gathering at 6pm outside the International House at 1414 East 59th Street, where the event was scheduled to occur. Following the rally, protestors will hold their first General Assembly on the South Side.
* THIS BEAT DOWN IS FOR YOUR HEALTH – THE MONEY PARTY MUST STOP OCCUPY MOVEMENTS
By Michael Collins
“The problems we are facing were not created by us, but we deign to shed light on them and so we are blamed for them. The truth is, every person at our protest is there because the system is broken.” Samuel Rutledge, Open Newswire, Portland Indymedia
The fascist financiers of the Money Party are growing restless. Occupy Wall Street began with a call to action from the activist online group Anonymous in August. It was barely featured in the mainstream or alternate media. Instead of a small crowd that could easily be ignored then disbursed, fifty thousand citizens showed up at the headquarters for the world financial system, Wall Street. Despite the best efforts of Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD, the Occupy Wall Street continues. The message went out to the country and the world. Now, there are over 100 occupy events in Oakland, Kansas City, Washington, DC, and elsewhere.(Image: K. Kendall)
Occupy Portland began on October 6, 2011. It has maintained a steady presence in downtown Portland, a major West Coast center of commerce. The participants refuse to leave until the government addresses their grievances. Police scare tactics, planted provocateurs, and the elements are no barrier.
Portland evicted occupiers from their camps on Sunday morning. The occupy forces regrouped. Drawing local support, the crowd grew throughout the day. Sunday evening, the police tried a forced eviction from the downtown area that involved mounted police, shoving and pushing, and pepper spray. The police effort failed. The occupation continues, albeit with fewer places for citizens to assemble and the expectation of more police harassment.
Frequent Money Party propagandist, the New York Times explained away local government police actions against demonstrators as arising “amid growing concerns over health and public safety.” Establishment tool, Mayor Sam Adams, used this excuse to attack Occupy Portland last night. The occupy camps were not “sustainable.” They had to be shut “to restore public health and safety.” Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia is massing police around Occupy Philadelphia due to his concern about “growing public health and safety concerns” Note the similarity of statements by Adams and Nutter to the New York Times talking points.
What other public health problems cause mayors to amass police and attack citizens?
If the mayors were so concerned about public health, they’d provide facilities and personnel to deal with public health, not mounted police beating protesters with truncheons?
In case the public health excuse fails, the Portland Police Department is seeding the media with stories that Occupy Portland participants were “fashioning makeshift weapons with wood and nails, in advance of a planned move by authorities to clear their two encampments over the weekend.”
No use of “makeshift weapons” was reported during the police actions against protesters Sunday. …