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Mayor Bloomberg Owes OWS an Apology

5:20 am in Occupy Wall Street, Uncategorized by Cynthia Kouril

We Got This (Occupy Sandy) from Alex Mallis on Vimeo.

Mayor Mike has a lot of egg on his face, so does Ray Kelly. Despite being derided, kettled, pepper sprayed, and generally treated like subhumans by the NYC government, Occupy Wall Street continues to rise above the pettiness that  characterizes the behavior and assumptions of “various serious people.”

Continuing to think outside the box, OWS has two new initiatives: Occupy Sandy and Rolling Debt Jubilee.

Occupy Sandy

I live on the North Shore of Long Island, walking distance from the beach, in an area full of very old tall trees and very old overhead wires. Oh, and spotty cellphone coverage. I have been virtually incommunicado for the past couple weeks. No electricity, no internet, no landline phones, no TV, no voice over cellphone and very limited texting over cellphone.

What little information I had access to, came from the car radio, and it told a tale of stranded victims on Staten Island and the Long Island South Shore and Brooklyn, left unaided by the City. No police doing door-to-door searches for the trapped and stranded elderly or infirm, no social service agencies coming to their homes to make sure they had a meal, nadda.

So, OWS called upon its stupendous logistical skills and filled the void left by Ray Kelly and Michael Bloomberg.  Bloomberg holds daily press conferences, but for people with no access to mass communication, he was  a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear. Did it really take him 2 weeks to figure out that squad cars have speaker systems on them and could be deployed like sound trucks?

BTW, Con Ed, LIPA and PSE&G:  Would it have killed you to hire some sound trucks to make announcements, since people without power or internet cannot use your hopeless websites?

I digress.  OWS did what they do best, rallied compassionate people, started cooking meals and gave them away, just like at Liberty Plaza (it’s hard to get me to call it Zuccotti Park). They organized blankets and flashlights and charging stations (including the Green Peace solar truck and those cool Gilligan’s Island bicycle generators), just as they did at Liberty Plaza. They knocked on doors to ask the stranded residents what they needed. They sent out tweets for “needs of the occupiers” and supporters from all over the world sent supplies, just like at Liberty Plaza. They even improved on that with an Occupy Sandy “wedding registry” on Amazon that helps doors to ship supplies quickly and easily. Genius!

So complete is their logistical competence that they are now holding training for the National Guard troops who have been sent in to help and…wait for it…for the Mayor’s Office representatives. Considering how poorly they have been treated by this administration, they could have refused to aid the government efforts and played tit-for-tat, but their goal is to help by any means.

The press has always had trouble covering OWS because it doesn’t play into their preconceived notions and because there is no self promoting “face” of OWS. So, the story of this movement has been consistently misreported and under reported. OWS transcended the typical media narrative and has left the press behind, left the government behind, and focused on just getting the job done on the ground.

They transformed the political dialogue in a presidential election year and without a single Super PAC ad, probably contributed more to the defeat of  Mitt Romney than any deep-pocketed donor. Now they have are demonstrating the power of horizontal organizing to fill the void left by the City government, FEMA and the utterly underwhelming Red Cross. Another aside, a celebrity-studded telethon to raise money for the Red Cross did not result in the Red Cross being effective. I don’t know what they are doing with that money, but it is not being spent on Long Island, I can tell you that. Next telethon should direct donors to make purchases on the Sandy wedding registry.

Rolling Debt Jubilee

In another episode of thinking outside the box, OWS has discovered that an industry exists to buy distressed debt at pennies on the dollar. The companies that buy this debt then try to collect it and when successful, make their money on the spread.  OWS has set up a fund to create capital to buy the debt, but intends to forgive it rather than collect it. There is going to be a telethon on Novemeber 15th at 8 PM.

Some have hollered that it creates a taxable event. However, if OWS is even more clever, they will contact the debtors, and stipulate to “settle” a pre-litigation case over the debt and the debtor will waive counterclaims and defenses in exchange for cancelling the debt. Since value is given, no taxable windfall. Since the most deeply discounted distressed debt has already passed through the hands of prior debt collection agencies, who no doubt have engaged in sketchy debt collection practices, it will not be a farce to say the debtors have counter-claims and defenses. This idea came from Masaccio.

OWS did a test run of this concept and was able to buy $14,000 of debt for only $500. This model should be used by the federal government to force the modification of mortgages, instead of bailing out the big banks, TARP money should have (and still could be) used to buy up the mortgages directly, reset the principle balance to reflect the current market value of the homes, and then reset the payments to fit the homeowners’ current incomes. Does that mean some homeowners, even with principle reduction, will end up with VERY long debt repayment terms? Yes, but it also means they can now sell those houses and get out from under if they choose, or they can pay for a long time and slowly rebuild equity.

The Triumph of Doing Over Talking

Over and over the MSM has whined that OWS doesn’t have a platform, it doesn’t have stated goals, it doesn’t have a message. Well, first of all, that tripe just demonstrates how lazy the MSM is. OWS has devoted many pixels to creating websites and online commercials explaining the programs and goals. The MSM is just too damn lazy to Google. OWS has devoted many pieces of cardboard and many yards of banners full of signs carried up major roadways full of slogans and demands. MSM couldn’t be bothered to show up and watch.

Nonetheless, OWS spends less time on messaging than any arm of government or any traditional interest group or charity.  OWS doesn’t spend their donations hiring the “right” consultants who spoon feed puff pieces to reporters over meals at fancy restaurants.  They don’t do ad buys for commercials with patriotic sounding music.

I’ve seen a ton of Red Cross commercials since my TV came back on, but not one Red Cross truck. OWS doesn’t play the game. Unlike the Red Cross, they don’t spend their time talking about what they would like to do or could do or did once before, they just go do it. It doesn’t matter if the “it” is changing the political dialogue to talk about the 1% vs. the 99%, or feeding a hungry person, or buying up student loan or medical debt.  They spend much less effort talking about doing it and more effort getting it done.

Celebrate #OWS!

4:00 am in Uncategorized by Cynthia Kouril

Where will you be November 17?

I love cops. The most rewarding parts of my career were the years I spent in law enforcement. It pains me to see rank and file patrolmen sent in, dressed like storm troopers in the Darth Vader brigade, to bust the heads of their fellow 99%ers. It probably pains them too. I heard that the patrol officers coming off a midnight shift change were held for unexpected overtime and then told to riot gear up and report to Liberty Plaza. Was Bloomie afraid of an attack of Blue Flu if the patrol officers knew in advance what they would be sent to do? How long is the PBA (Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association) going to allow their members to be used and abused in the service of a lawless mayor? When is the PBA going to stand up for its members in the 99%?

The suddenness of the attack on Occupy Wall Street was clearly meant to demoralize and antagonize the occupiers. I guess Bloomie thought that a night of sleep deprivation and the loss of their material possessions would be so depressing that they would just slink off and go home. Wrong. Read the rest of this entry →

OWS – The Legal Working Group

2:30 pm in Uncategorized by Cynthia Kouril

Legal Working Group (photo: Nathan Johnson)

By now you have learned that OWS gets most of its nuts and bolts work accomplished through a “working group” system. The working groups then take their final thoughts to the General Assembly which votes on various issues.

There are working groups that provide the meals, working groups that organize the library, working groups that work on various process issues.  You name it, there’s a working group.

Being the law geek around the Lake, I went to introduce myself to the Legal Working Group and was given an interview by one of its members, Janos Marton. Mr. Marton works at a law firm by day and spends his off hours helping OWS. The firm members who know about his activity have been supportive.

The Legal Working group evolved over time. Originally, the National Lawyers Guild set up and manned a table for 2 hours each day from 5 to 7 PM. However, protestors at the park had questions all day long, so a group of lawyers and interested lay people took shifts to expand the hours of operation at the legal table.

The primary advice initially was to make sure that the protestors know the arrest process and to make sure they were matched up with lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild.

Help Kevin Gosztola purchase & distribute supplies from the Occupy Supply fund.

Since then the Legal Working Group has expanded.  They now are doing legal research to be prepared for various contingencies that may arise. They also work with other working groups that have legal questions, such as about trademarks, permits, and possible corporate or PAC structure to manage the donations.  They also work on basic criminal issues.

The working group members are also a conduit to facilitate communication between the National Lawyers Guild and the General Assembly and occupiers.

The General Assembly recently passed a resolution that any litigation commenced on behalf of OWS must be pre-approved and vetted by the Legal Working Group. So, if you want to send a letter to the Police Commissioner, if you think OWS should be a 501 C4 corporation, if you want to commence a litigation on behalf of OWS, you need the Legal Working Group to bring the matter to the General Assembly.

I asked about the possibility of commencing either an Article 78 Proceeding in state court or a First Amendment case in federal court over some of the asinine restrictions (no tents, no porta potties) that have been imposed on OWS. With respect to Liberty Plaza, he said this:

“Because there is so much legal uncertainty over the status of privately owned public spaces, including their relationship to the 1st Amendment, it is unclear if the current situation [at Liberty Plaza] would be helped or hurt by litigation.”

It occurs to me that OWS could test things without jeopardizing their status at Liberty Plaza by applying for permits at two suitable (hard scaped) parks, one federal and one city. Washington Square Park is a city park nearby and Castle Clinton down at Battery Park is federal. If the permit to engage in free speech via 24/7 occupation is denied at those locations, there is a perfect opportunity to bring an action apiece in state and federal court.