Monday, October 31, 2011

Top Ten Ways Americans are Getting Squeezed

1. Why have grocery costs grown so high? Just normal inflation right? Think again. How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis Goldman Sachs and other bankers are gaming the system, driving the costs of commodities higher and higher with a derivative they made up just for this purpose “the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index”…just to make themselves more money.

In 1991, Goldman bankers came up with a new kind of investment product, a derivative that tracked 24 raw materials, from precious metals and energy to coffee, cocoa, cattle, corn, hogs, soy, and wheat to be known henceforth as the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI). For just under a decade, the GSCI remained a relatively static investment vehicle. Then, in 1999, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission deregulated futures markets. Bankers recognized a good system when they saw it, and dozens of speculative non-physical hedgers followed Goldman’s lead and joined the commodities index game, including Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Pimco, JP Morgan Chase, AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me.
In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.
Hard red spring wheat, which usually trades in the $4 to $6 dollar range per 60-pound bushel, broke all previous records as the futures contract climbed into the teens and kept on going until it topped $25. And so, from 2005 to 2008, the worldwide price of food rose 80 percent — and has kept rising.
2. Why does it cost so much to fill the gas tank? Must be Peak Oil right?
  • How Koch Became An Oil Speculation Powerhouse From Inventing Oil Derivatives To Deregulating The Market – October 6, 1986: First oil derivative is introduced to Wall Street by traders at Koch. Koch Industries executive Lawrence Kitchen devised the “first ever oil-indexed price swap between Koch Industries and Chase Manhattan Bank. “Documents reveal that Koch is also participating in the unregulated derivatives markets as a financial player, buying and selling speculative products that are increasingly contributing to the skyrocketing price of oil.gas prices Excessive energy speculation today is at its highest levels ever, and even Goldman Sachs now admits that at least $27 of the price of crude oil is a result from reckless speculation rather than market fundamentals of supply and demand. Many experts interviewed by ThinkProgress argue that the figure is far higher, and out of control speculation has doubled the current price of crude oil. “
  • U.S. Oil Exports Reach Record Highs; That’s Right…Exports
3. Why are my heating bills so out of control? See above.
4. Why do my kid’s clothes and everythingelse  cost so much these days? – See 1 & 2 above. The price of commodities and oil have a huge ripple effect, forcing everyone’s costs and prices up, driving inflation across the board.

5. Why do I have to keep scraping by every month to pay for ever increasing health insurance costs?

Record Profits Don’t Stop Health Insurer’s Record Rate Hikes. The absurd cost of healthcare is not open for discussion on our public airwaves. Some typical costs: $30,000 – $56,000 for a weekend stay in the hospital for tests only- no surgery. Another bill for $97,000 for a three day stay. The corporate media has made sure that all discussion of health care be about insurance- these ridiculous costs are never addressed. The obvious truth is that Health Care for profit is not working. Remove the profit from the equation and we will return to a humane system.
And people are going bankrupt and losing their houses, or dying because they can’t afford the bill, families break apart from the financial stress, and for what, or actually who…
CEOs explore new depths of satanic greed
George Paz – CEO of Express Scripts, Healthcare
Compensation: $51.5million
Net Income: $1.29billion
Stephen Hemsley- CEO of UnitedHealth Group
Compensation: $48.8million
Net Income: $4.93billion
6. Why am I so sick in the first place?
Maybe it has something to do with who they are hiring at the government agencies that are supposed to protect our health?? Well Look who was hired to plan implementation of new food safety legislation at the Food and Drug Administration… Monsanto’s man Taylor returns to FDA in food-czar role
Monsanto Exec / Gov’t Official “pulls strings” to get neuro-toxin approved as a food additive- makes millions.
And clearly the Center for Disease Control has been looking out for our safety CDC Director Arrested for Child Molestation and Bestiality
7. Are your water rates going through the roof?

It’s not just your town- it’s global. Even with global warming/ God’s wrath and worldwide flooding- incredibly, there is also a worldwide drought. Don’t question the logic, just shut up and pay your bills.. is the subliminal message the corporate media pushes everyday.
8. Why is there a “housing crisis”?
  • Goldman Sachs on mortgage crisis: ‘Serious money’ to be made
  • Goldman Sachs Misled Congress After Duping Clients Over CDOs … Goldman sold AAA bonds they knew were “sacks of shit”, then shorted the bonds. The bonds were MBS- mortage back securities, mortgages, thousands of family homes. The more people that lose their homes, the more money Goldman makes. GoldMansacks appears to be trying desperately to snatch the most evil company award from Monsanto, as if they’ll get a prize.
  • The case against Goldman Sachs
  • Banks That Created Fake Demand Made Financial Crisis Much Worse – A ProPublica analysis published this week examines the extent of the “fake demand” created by major banks that sold lucrative mortgage-backed securities, and how the institutions fueled the economic crisis with their self-dealing
  • The Great Looting: Homeowners, Pensioners Robbed by Wall Street; Congress MIA - There is no doubt, the ‘foreclosure crisis’ was an engineered fraud enabling the banksters to scam money on both sides of the equation.
    Related: New Banking Chairman says Washington is there “to serve the banks“. Rep. wants foreclosure investigation to ignore robo-signer controversy.
    They used predatory lending practices to encourage people to get loans they couldn’t afford. They even cold-called people to get them to refinance a house that was already paid in full. Now a few years later they are trying to snatch that house out from under the family that has lived there for generations. And they did it on purpose! This happened over and over again. Why? The “securitization of loans” deal that allow the banks to bundle the bad loans, intentionally mislabel them AAA, then sell them to pension funds and other duped investors. Millions have lost big money in their pension funds because these fraudsters blatantly stole their money and the government did nothing about it.
9. Why are my electricity rates going through the roof?

10.  False Scarcity- Where did all the money go?

Across Europe countries are going “bankrupt” and governments are pushing bailouts and “austerity” measures on their citizens, stealing their retirement, enacting pay cuts, service cuts, all so they can pay the banksters interest. How are all of these major countries going bankrupt at the same time? Where did all the money go? In fact, there is no money shortage- these countries aren’t bankrupt- the governments and banksters have pilferred the treasuries and are now blaming it on the populace. For instance, here in America Senate Leader Bill Frist’s family business, Billion $$ behemoth Columbia Healthcare paid a $2 billion settlement for overcharging medicare… but nobody went to prison, and Columbia still has gov’t contracts. They stole our money, and got away with it.
Almost half the $14 trillion debt is owed to the Federal Reserve, which is a consortium of private banks- ie half of America’s debt is to the  banksters that created the crisis in the first place.
This a worldwide brawl for the future of the planet. The worldwide 99% needs the US 99% to step up and fight.
Your house, food, gas, heat, health care, electricity, water- all of your major bills are being jacked by just a few of the 1%. Americans are being squeezed from every direction, deliberately. It truly is about The Fall of the Republic. That’s their goal here in America, where do you stand?
Sheep with bucket on head
V the revolutionary
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Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free-- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Copyright 1995-1999,Jawaid Bazyar

Fraud-o-rama USA And the guy who got shot down trying to stop it

10 Strategies to Cope with Absurd Housing Costs

George Ure and Gaye Levy, Contributors
Activist Post

Despite lots of discussion, and claims by political figures that things have “leveled off” or are even about to turn upward, there are a number of housing-related news items lately that regrettably seem to indicate that the “worst is not yet over” in terms of the Housing Crisis in general, or the closely aligned Banking Crisis.

Touching on the banking sector first, we note that with the most recent (through 10/21/2011) data, the FDIC has now closed down or reorganized away 403 banks and bank holding companies since the Indy Mac issue began the Second Depression’s banking disaster in July of 2008, preceding the collapse of the stock and credit market synchronize “swan dive” by about 90-days.

Since that watershed event, our latest count shows 83 banks have been reorganized so far this year, down from 139 year-to-date in 2010. Still, a total of 6,068 individual branch locations have been involved.
Even with all the change in the banking industry, which is certainly consolidating in a never before seen way, the availability of funds to refinance upside down homeowners has remained elusive. Despite Obama administration hopes that more than one million homeowners would participate, the numbers are still very thin.

Strategy One: If you still own a home, and particularly if you’re “upside down” – owing more on your mortgage than the property is worth – it’s best to be proactive and start the search for refinancing well ahead of need. With today’s low rates and some federal programs in place, there’s no time like the present to be shopping for a better deal. The federal government’s USA.GOV site has a list of resources which may lead to some relief.

Strategy Two: Keep an eye on the monthly Case Shiller/S&P 20-City Housing Index. This data, updated monthly, has long been one of George’s most quoted housing reports on the site because it’s as even-handed a report as can be found on what the real price movements are in key markets.

What you can see, by looking at the most recent data (which covers through August by the way, these things take time to work up) what you’ll see is that housing seems to have leveled off a bit, but that said, prices are still down a bit more than 4% this year, compared with last:

6282982023 e88ce28080 10 Strategies to Cope with Absurd Housing Costs
The chart above depicts the annual returns of the 10-City and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices.

In August 2011, the 10- and 20-City Composites recorded annual returns of -3.5% and -3.8%, respectively. Both Composites and 16 MSAs – Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and Washington DC – saw their annual rates improve in August compared to July.

This is not a very hopeful report, since summertime is historically when the highest rates of real estate sales occur. School’s out, so getting the kids into a new school in time for fall classes seems to drive many parents, but with moderately even curricula across states, and even the country to some level, moving kids should not be thought of as an insurmountable problem.

If your move involves one of the 20 cities in the Case Shiller/S&P data, it’s a good idea to see how your market compares with others around the country; the objective being to sell high in the market you’re leaving (if it’s even, or up) and buy low in your “landing” city where prices may be even more depressed.

Strategy Three: Keep an eye on the longer term trends in prices since we may be approaching an ideal time to buy a low-cost rental home. In many cities, bank repos and government foreclosure auctions can lead to real bargains. Another angle to play is buying tax foreclosure properties. In some states, the original property owner can reclaim the property within two years of the tax sale, but the new owner has to be compensated their costs plus a percentage of the tax sales price (which may be 18% per year) in order to reclaim the property. After that, there’s no recourse for the former owner.

This is not to recommend every young family pick up a couple of rental homes, although they can, over time, become real dependable cash flow generators and even do better than traditional savings plans for children’s college funds and other long-term investments.

The downside is that tenants can be destructive and abusive, plus squatting is a constant problem. In addition, rents are seriously depressed in the current economy. Horror stories of renters smearing feces on windowsills and walking out with appliances in the middle of the night are oftentimes true. But, as with any other business deal, you can moderate risk by doing a lot of homework, and this means spending time to bone up on landlord tenant laws and doing thorough background checks on prospective tenants. Don’t forget, former landlords may lie just to get rid of a bad tenant. Many large cities have landlord associations and offer background checking services for a fee.

Strategy Four: If you’re looking to cut costs, and you’re either single, or a couple -- look into renting a room in someone’s home. This may seem like it would be a “hard sell” but it’s not. The reason is simple: Many of the Baby Boomer’s who thought they would be retiring later are under increasing economic pressure to pay off their home loans – many of which are refi’s – early. To approach a homeowner is not terribly difficult.

In the Seattle area (the former stomping ground for both of us), we know from current examples in our circles of friends, that a good-sized room with shared kitchen privileges can be had in a decent setting for as little as $300 per month. Think of it as “going back to college” for a little more dorm time. Leads can be picked up off Craigslist, local supermarket bulletin boards and so forth. It’s a good idea to have a “reference list” of past places you’ve stayed, with current working phone numbers so that a homeowner can “check you out.” Often, there’s some light housekeeping involved, but for a roof overhead in winter, who’s to complain?

Strategy Five:  Consider renting someone’s boat. This might seem a bit far-fetched at first blush, but there are many boat owners who are just barely able to hang on to their boats. The reason is the marina rents nationally have not come down as quickly as demand would warrant. The reason: cities and municipalities own marinas in many areas.

One way to come up with leads is to put up a “live aboard wanted” sign in the local marina offices and see if the folks at the local West Marine store can help you. Sometimes a boat may be found by talking with members of sailing clubs, and look at the boats for sale columns in publications like 48 North in the Pacific Northwest, Latitude 38 from northern California south.

The East Coast is a more fractured market. But, in all markets you may approach yacht brokers and offer them a cut of the rent if you can afford $350 a month – many will find customers with boats unlikely to sell until spring and that can buy you some breathing room.

Strategy Six: RV’s are becoming super bargains, but they will keep getting cheaper. Hit Ebay and click on the “Ebay Motors” tab, and then look for “Other Vehicle” and then down to the RV’s and campers listings. The best “bang for the buck” is in 10+ year-old gas powered rigs which admittedly don’t get good gasoline mileage. But check out the cost: RV’s are getting much less expensive.

We recently saw a small 22-foot Class C rig with 80,000 miles on it, but a serviceable interior for two go for just $1,300. Yes, it had some leaks and other issues, but a motivated buyer with $50 could have made it quite nice for another $50 worth of elastomeric roofing goo. A bit more upscale, a 98 diesel Fleetwood 37-foot pusher rig for about $22,000 and this was a diesel in good shape at 105,000 miles.

Strategy Seven: Off-season resorts may be “sleepers.” George & Elaine were in Branson, Missouri, a popular entertainment destination where three months out of the year things are really hopping. But come fall and into early spring, there are lots of bargains to be found while reading the local papers. Many hotels have both low-cost, long-term guest rates and many duplex and triplex owners would rather rent for something rather than have a unit sit vacant all winter.

Thanks to the Internet, you can find the winter-over places that make sense pretty easily. $350 a month seemed to be the going rate for off-season middle-lower accommodations in the Branson area, but we expect many resort areas will have off-season, 6-month leases as the economy continues to tighten.

Think of this as counter-season leasing: Leave when the tourists come and return when they’re gone!

George & Elaine are heading up to Branson, Missouri in a couple of weeks, and they’ve kicked around living in Branson part time because there are some really nice waterfront spots along the eastern side of the city. Six months ago, prices were in the $400-$500 range for two bedrooms, furnished with some utilities.

A check of weather in such places is worthwhile. Leases are cheap in Florida in the summertime and cheap in Maine in winter. Locals have told us Branson and some of those idyllic spots in the Ozarks get fierce ice storms, so you’ll need to pick and choose. Summers in Hawaii aren’t bad, especially on the windward side of the Big Island – Hilo isn’t nearly as expensive as Honolulu.

Strategy Eight: House sitting is not entirely out of vogue. A few calls to real estate operations, and some creative sales pitches may land you a very low-cost home for several months. The key parts of the pitch include reliability, the value of having “owner’s eyes” on the property and surroundings, and don’t forget your bio with current reference contact information. High-end homes are particularly vulnerable to theft of high-end appliances and your pitch might be something like this: I will pay you $300 per month and watch to make sure you don’t get a $5,000 property loss.

There are several channels to be pursued here: A constant scan of Craigslist for situation, phone calls to local real estate outfits, especially workable after an outbreak of appliance and copper thefts from upscale homes. And just calling people with “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) signs out front.

Strategy Nine: Visit which is one of the nation’s largest sellers of non-urban real estate specializing in farms and ranch lands. When you get to their search tool, put in a minimum of 1 bedroom and a maximum of $50,000 and you’ll be surprised what you can find. Most of these properties are rural, but if you can find an inexpensive home with good Internet connectivity, being a part-time farmer/prepper and “click ranching” as a customer service rep using a telephone and a computer is not a bad way to live. It’s often much cheaper than life in a dense and expensive urban setting.

In some parts of the country you can get amazing home values. A little time on the computer and even a job with $10 an hour begins to make sense. Why? That’s $20,800 per year and if you have that kind of income, odds are good you can swing some kind of ultra-low (or no) down payment. That would mean with typical taxes about $345 per month for the house and land, a tax break if you farm a bit, a place to live, and a much more laid-back lifestyle.

We recently saw a 4.78 acre property with a livable home on, adjacent to a national forest in Oklahoma (land and homes are ridiculously cheap there) for just $45,000. That included a stocked pond, mountain views, a remodeled mobile home with two living areas plus abundant wildlife.

Find the school bus driving job to beef up a retirement, remembering you’ll need to pass a drug test to pass a commercial driver’s license (C DL) and then put in DSL. It’s a whole lifestyle choice for all ages: Retirement, farming – without click ranch.

Strategy Ten: Leave America and head for somewhere completely different. For example, we’ve heard from some expatriates (“expats” is what they’re known as) that they have been able to buy first-class three- and four-bedroom villas in overbuilt Spanish subdivisions for as little as USD$ 23,000. Similarly, we have readers in places such as Bolivia and Ecuador in South America that tell us that retired life there is a breeze IF you have taken the time to invest in learning a foreign language.

Curiously, research shows that learning new languages is easiest when you’re either very young OR when you are in the 60+ category. No, we have no idea why that it. A way to get “opened up” to exiting the USA is to drop by the Escape from America website and look around there and then join some Yahoo Groups on specific countries. Because most countries have income requirements that must be met in order to get long-term visitation permission, that limits this option somewhat, although for retired military and people on dependable retirements – or even click ranchers – this is a very desirable alternative to consider.

There are plenty of other ways to get around being out in the cold. Author Mike Oehlers The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book will give you plenty of ideas which may be implemented for almost no cost. A shovel, some plastic grocery bags and maybe a pond liner and if you can find a place out of the way enough, you can dig in (literally!) and add value to some land.

Of course, with government regulations a lot of this might be best done under the radar of officialdom. Renting out a room in your home may subject you to building code and tax laws. Living on a boat may violate “living aboard rules” enacted back in the roaring '90s. RV parking isn’t free, although Wal-Mart has really carved out a loyal following in RV circles because the allow overnighting in their parking lots at many locations.

Remember, I.R.S. doesn’t take kindly to people who skin-flint their taxes even though they have moved overseas. They may hold to 10-year tax liability laws, though getting your hosting offshore and email, too, is not entirely out of the question is you’re an enterprising click-rancher.

Bonus Strategy: Take advantage of hard times and see if now might be the time to buy a distressed business. Often, when times get tough, spousal issues pop up, people move around, and occasionally you’ll see tremendous business ownership opportunities.

As an example: One of George’s clients sold his business about three years ago. George had counseled him on timing and what he wanted to do with his cash out sale. The client, wisely, bought a fine farm (larger than 10 acres) and put most of his money into gold and silver. He’s done very well for himself.

But now comes the interesting part: He’s just learned that the person who bought the business has lost it to the bank. A franchise agreement has been broken, and now George’s client is in the “cat bird seat” – and may be able to get back into his former business, without the profit-and-loss load of a hefty franchise fee, and still be able to keep his rural home. His cost may be only a few thousand dollars out of pocket.

That’s not going to happen often but it only takes one of two deals like that falling into your lap over the course of a lifetime to get you to the point where you will own your own patch of dirt free and clear.

The main thing to remember is that even in a period of serious economic downturn, there’s always opportunity for the prepared mind that has a set outcome in mind. If you focus on owning your own home, a life of sufficiency, and the health and a happy partner to share it with, then it’s as good as done.

Just takes a little work to usher it in, is all. That’s what strategic living is all about.

Hang on and enjoy the ride

Introducing Strategic-Living: a practical and useful online magazine providing inspiration and guidance as we make our way through the maze of changes that are coming our way. In collaboration with my friend and colleague, George Ure, Strategic-Living will offer a synthesis of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival with much more detailed tips, tools and strategies for creating a vibrant and sustainable lifestyle wherever your path may take you. Think of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival as your roadmap and Strategic-Living as your detailed guidebook. Here you will find articles and photos, diagrams and how-to’s, and a healthy dose get-out-there and do it with kick-in-the-ass inspiration.

Occupy Baltimore Wins Support of Police and Fire Fighters Unions

Occupy Baltimore Wins Support of Police and Fire Fighters Unions

Hopefully Police Will Conclude They CANNOT Just Go Around Using Tear Gas...

The European Bailout Explained

Food for thought

The folks at the USDA released their projections for 2011/2012-food price inflation. The bad news is that feeding ourselves will cost ~4% more in 2011. The good news is that USDA thinks prices will rise only ~2.5% next year.

I shop (I hate it). My food inflation is closer to 10%. It depends on what you eat. For example, from the report:

Meats, poultry and fish +6%
Seafood +6.5%
Beef +9%
Fresh vegetables +5%
Cooking oils +7.5%

These items are all well above the average set by the USDA. The following kept the index low:

Processed vegetables +1.5%
Beverages +2%

After looking at this I loaded up on canned peas and Coke.

There’s other information at the site I thought was interesting. For example, what’s your guess on the amount spent for food prepared at home and the amount spent on eating out?

Answer: 52% is prepared at home, 48% is purchased and eaten onsite or taken home. Half of what we eat is “out”. I find that to be a surprisingly high number. Behind that 50-50 ratio is, no doubt, the problem with diabetes and obesity.

If you were wondering how the restaurant-bar business did during the depression the USDA has the numbers. My conclusion is that depressions are very bad for eating establishments. It takes a long time for a real recovery in spending habits. It’s also clear that wars are very good for the restaurant biz.

The “eat out” numbers did fall in 2009. But they recovered in 10’ and are headed higher again in 11’. We had recession. A big one. But consumers barely batted an eye. I’m surprised at this result.

The At Home and Away total 2010 food bill came to $1.2T. That makes eating the largest industry in America.

In 1930 19% of all food consumed was Produced at Home. By 1960 that percentage had fallen to 6%. In 2010 it was only 1.6%. While this trend is not surprising, the magnitude of the drop is worth noting. At one time we were a nation of gardeners, today we just do ‘drive through’.

The food we eat makes us sick. The 2010 estimate for food related illnesses came in at a lumpy 76,000,000 people (About ¼ of us get sick every year). These illnesses caused 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. The economic costs of these illnesses came to $152 billion. In other words, the bad food we eat cost us significantly more in 2010 than the combined operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s not surprising that the US pays less for food as a percentage of income than any other country. But the comparisons are still interesting. The US spends 6.5% of disposable income for food. Poorer countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon are forced to pay ~45% of incomes to put food on the table. The high population countries are as follows:

Vietnam = 38%
Indonesia = 32%
India = 28%
China = 22%

I find these numbers troubling. There is only one direction for them to go. The developing countries with big populations will see greater gains in income, with that will lead to increased food consumption. Approximately 30% of income goes to food in these areas.  It’s hard not to see that this is going to push up the prices the globe pays for everything we eat.

For example, the USDA put the per person food cost in China at $129 in 2000. Today that number is $360 (280% increase). Over the same period the USA consumption increased only 42%.

It’s old news that China and the other big/fast growing populations are consuming an ever-increasing amount of the world's supply. But these numbers are scary big. If the underlying trends continue (why would they not?) then we are headed into supply problems that can only mean rapidly rising prices.

This conclusion gets back to the beginning. Food inflation in America is running today at 5+%. The USDA says the inflation will moderate next year. This is more government hopium. I’ll take the “over” on their numbers. In my view rapid increases over the next decade are baked in the cake.

The most regressive economic consequence is for food inflation to take place. We have 45mm Americans on food stamps and tens of millions of others on the edge. I find it ironic that the Federal Reserve excludes food inflation when setting monetary policy. While the Fed can’t be blamed for rising food cost, they are most certainly stoking the fires.

Bernanke has said he wants to contain inflation (excluding food and energy) at less than 2%. Food inflation is running at double his target. Possibly Ben needs a new Mandate.

"We Were Peaceful" Occupy Denver Protesters Explain What Happened On Oct...

Ore. police arrest 30 Wall Street protesters

Police in Oregon arrested about 30 anti-Wall Street protesters early Sunday, dragging and carrying them to waiting vans, after they refused to leave a park in an affluent district.
In Tennessee, protesters defied a curfew for a third consecutive night
The arrests in Oregon came during a week of clashes between police and demonstrators supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement that led to arrests in Oakland and San Diego, California; Atlanta; Denver, and Nashville, Tennessee.
In Oregon, protesters from the Occupy Portland movement marched to the Pearl District, with some saying they viewed its residents as part of the wealthy demographic they're protesting.

Dozens of them gathered in Jamison Square on Saturday evening to defy a midnight curfew to vacate.
Feeding the movement: How Occupy protesters are eating As police moved in, most of the protesters backed off but a core group of about 30 sat in a circle in the park and awaited arrest.
An Associated Press photographer said most of the protesters were carried or dragged away. There was no violence during the arrests, which took about 90 minutes.
The protesters — all appearing to be in their 20s and 30s with many were wearing Halloween-style face paint — were handcuffed before they were placed in police vans and driven off.
"We are the 99 percent," one arrestee continued to chant.
Data: Occupy Wall Street (on this page) Police said they arrested more than two dozen people on charges that included criminal trespassing, interfering with a police officer, and disorderly conduct. The showdown came in the shadow of high-rise condos in the middle of the Pearl District, with some residents watching the events from their balconies.
In Tennessee, about 50 demonstrators in Nashville chanted "Whose plaza? Our plaza!" early Sunday in defiance of an official curfew.
Police sporadically made their rounds, but authorities signaled no immediate attempt to make arrests as law enforcement agents had done on the two previous nights.
Elizabeth Sharpe, 20, took part Sunday and said she was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement after seeing a 2003 documentary called "The Corporation." She said she felt the need to be an activist in the movement that expresses opposition to perceived greed on Wall Street and across corporate America.
Image: Arrested protesters lie face down on the Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tenn.
Erik Schelzig  /  AP
Arrested protesters lie face down on the Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, while state troopers wait to process them and place them on a bus.
"How can I as an individual change this?" she asked, speaking with an Associated Press reporter. With the Occupy moment's far-flung reach across American cities, she said she felt there was strength in numbers, adding, ""I got for the first time a glimpse of hope."
Some danced to keep warm on a chilly morning and others shivered in the frosty air, huddling under blankets.
The protesters have been galvanized by the friction between state officials and the local magistrate.
Nashville magistrate Tom Nelson has said recently that there's no legal reason in his city to keep the demonstrators behind bars and he has released them after each arrest. He has refused each night to sign off on arrest warrants for more than two dozen people taken into custody.
In Denver on Saturday evening, authorities moved into an encampment of protesters and began arresting demonstrators just hours after a standoff near the steps of the Colorado Capitol turned into a skirmish that ended in police firing rounds of pellets filled with pepper spray.
© 2011

Top US foreclosure law firm threw Halloween party where staff dressed as homeless, foreclosed-upon Americans

From a NYT opinion piece by Joe Nocera, "What the Costumes Reveal"—

On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.
That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.
I'm not one to incite illegal activity, but christ, guys: if there were ever a house that deserved T-P-ing on Halloween? This firm's headquarters is it. May not be justice, but it's a start.
Read the rest, and see all the photos, here. (via Chris Hayes)

Occupy Wall Street: Outing the Ringers

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why the latest eurozone bail-out is destined to fail within weeks

I want last week's European bail-out to work. My sincere hope is that collective and decisive action by the eurozone's large member states will stabilize global markets, at least for a while, so allowing the global economy to catch its breath. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a press conference held at the end of a Eurozone summit at the Justus Lipsius building, EU headquarters in Brussels
Last week's eurozone "agreement", for all the related fanfare, was a case in point. Far from making the situation clearer, allowing investors to make considered assessments, this latest announcement made Western Europe's grotesque debt crisis even more acute, sowing further infectious spores of confusion. Photo: AFP

As someone who works in financial services, I follow the markets – in the West, across Asia and the entire world – closer than most. Since the Bear Stearns collapse in March 2008, through the demise of Lehman Brothers and its ghastly aftermath, much of my professional life has been dominated by the angry flashing of those little lights on a Bloomberg screen.
In recent years, the violent gyrations on financial markets have been deeply discomforting, causing angst among market professionals, like me – but that is the least significant aspect. For those little lights represent, of course, the ebbs and flows of cash which, in turn, determines the fate of real businesses. It is at the sharp end of employment and livelihoods, dispossessed homes and broken families that the human impact of financial turbulence is most keenly felt.
So, yes, I want such turbulence, which will never be fully-eradicated, nor should it be in a free-market system, to now lessen to more manageable levels. Yet the responses of our politicians to recent financial troubles – hiding behind complexity and kicking the can down the road – have not only failed to temper the volatility, but have actually made it much worse.
Last week's eurozone "agreement", for all the related fanfare, was a case in point. Far from making the situation clearer, allowing investors to make considered assessments, this latest announcement made Western Europe's grotesque debt crisis even more acute, sowing further infectious spores of confusion.
The deal itself, unveiled dramatically in the early hours of Thursday, was met with the now obligatory "relief rally". The FTSE All-World equity index soared 4.1pc, helped by signs of renewed US economic growth. European bank shares spiked no less than 12pc on Thursday, as traders recognised, for all the official obfuscation, the latest dollop of government largesse.

By late Thursday, though, and certainly on Friday, the warning signs were there. Global bond markets, by character more sober and smarter than the excitable equity guys, were voting against the deal. This is alarming. For it is only by selling more bonds that the eurozone's deeply indebted governments can roll-over their enormous liabilities and keep the show on the road.
Some say Western governments shouldn't "accept" what the market says. "Who do these trading people think they are," I hear from the lips of the educated but financially-illiterate political elite. Let's be clear – if global bond markets stop lending to a number of large Western economies, we are in the realms of unpaid state wages and pensions, transport chaos and closures of schools and hospitals – sparking the prospect of serious civil unrest. Forgive my intemperate tone, but these are the dangers we face. And I'm afraid the only rational response to Thursday's announcement is that the probability of such undesirable outcomes has just been increased.
European leaders have reached an "agreement", we were told, with the private holders of Greek debt, who now accept a 50pc write-down on their stakes. This is predicated on an additional €120bn (£105bn) cash-injection by EU member states and the IMF. By paying bond-holders less, and making other savings, the hope is that Greece can cut its sovereign debt from 150pc of GDP to 120pc in the next few years.
This deal was presented as a "victory" by the eurocrats. After all, back in July those nasty private creditors agreed only to a 21pc "haircut" on their Greek debt. The deal is "voluntary", though, nothing having been decided except the "50pc haircut" headline. In reality, by bargaining hard over coupons and maturities – how much the bonds will pay annually, and for how long – those who so unwisely lent money to Greece (eager to reap high yields, while always expecting a bail-out) will get a much sweeter deal. This is the discussion that will take place, behind closed doors, during the coming months. But that sweeter deal will need to be paid for with yet more sovereign borrowing, by some eurozone government or other, plus further sack-loads of taxpayers' cash.
It is telling that Greek bond-holders themselves were on Friday reassuring their investors that the reduction in the net present value of their stakes, compared with the "21pc haircut" deal, "will not be overly onerous". In addition, the July agreement, while also "voluntary", included a 90pc creditors' participation. Thursday's variant cited no such number.
So, the centre-piece of last week's "package" is far less decisive than meets the eye. It was, in fact, singularly indecisive. The hope that Greece will clean-up its balance sheet autonomously now relies even more on a privatization programme that is already laughably behind schedule. So the moral hazard will go on, making it tougher still for the governments of Portugal, Ireland and the other eurozone "peripheries" to sell to their electorates the virtues of fiscal responsibility. These are not clever-clever academic points. I'm pointing-out, quite simply, what the bond markets will have noticed.
Having said all that, the prospect of "haircuts", however half-hearted, now looms over eurozone sovereign bond-holders, not least fragile European banks. So Thursday's announcement also stressed that the €440bn (£386bn) euro European Financial Stability Facility would be "levered", allowing it to borrow to make it bigger. This is supposed to allow the eurocrats to raise cash without having to trouble national parliaments, given that they're likely to refuse.
The question of who will lend to the EFSF, on whose collateral, and who will ultimately repay the loans, was barely addressed last week. Such tricky questions will apparently be answered at the next European summit in December. Meanwhile, the fundamental disagreement between France and Germany regarding who should take the biggest losses – eurozone governments or private creditors – remains unresolved. Since Thursday's announcement, though, Germany's powerful constitutional court has issued an injunction requiring the country's full Parliament to approve any EFSF bond-buying.
What is needed, urgently, is a clean, transparent Greek default – allowing this flailing semi-developed economy to leave the eurozone, re-establish a weaker drachma and regain its self-respect. Portugal should leave too, its membership of the same currency bloc as Germany is as absurd, and self-defeating, as that of Greece. There would be further market turmoil, yes, but a few more months of volatility, leading to an ultimately more stable outcome, is surely better than the current situation where the entire world is living in fear of a massive "euroquake".
The eurocrats, of course, lack the guts to trim back monetary union to a more manageable size. Too much face would be lost. So "euroquake" fears, once viewed as outlandish, are gaining pace. Despite Thursday's deal, and all the reassurances of a "durable solution", the Italian government on Friday paid 6.06pc for 10-year money, up from just 5.86pc a month ago and a euro-era high. Such borrowing costs are disastrous, given that Rome must roll-over €300bn of its €1,900bn debt in 2012 alone. A default by Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy, and the eighth-largest on earth, would make Lehman look like a picnic.
The eurozone must be consolidated. World leaders should similarly force European banks to disclose their losses, we all take the hit and then we move on. Instead, we are served-up, in ever more complex variants, the same "extend and pretend" non-solutions. It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I give this deal two weeks.

Goldman's Vampire Squid Attacks Occupy Wall Street's Non-Profit Bank

Great story that should be read in full at its source.  Goldman proves that no bank is too small and no insult too fleeting for an arrogant response from the squid.
Source - Media With Conscience
Mega-bank Goldman Sachs (assets $933 billion), has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York (assets $30 million), the customer-owned community bank that happens to also be the banker for Friends of Liberty Plaza, Inc, also known as Occupy Wall Street. And you thought Goldman didn't care.
The trouble began three weeks ago when the occupiers suddenly found their donation buckets filling with thousands of dollars, way more than needed for their pizza dinners. Suddenly, the anti-bank protesters needed a bank. Citibank and Chase certainly wouldn't fit.  So OWS opened an account at the not-for-profit Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union.  Peoples has a unique federal charter - designated to open accounts for low-income folk from all over NewYork, available to those families earning less than $38,000 per year.
Goldman Sachs had also joined up with the Peoples bank. Goldman partners reportedly earn a bit more than $38k per annum, yet Goldman's association so far was limited to giving the credit union $5,000 toward the little bank's 25th anniversary celebration dinner.  Goldman's largesse was acknowledged on the dinner invites - along with the night's honoree: Occupy Wall Street.
When a Goldman exec saw its gilded name next to Occupy Wall Street, the financial giant expressed much displeasure. In fact, my sources say, Goldman threatened legal action unless the credit union gave up the $5,000 and reprinted the invite sans the Sachs moniker. Goldman Sachs did not respond to our requests for comment on the affair.
So far, it's a cute story: tiny bank uses Goldman's money to fete some tent-dwellers who are denouncing Sachs as the Giant Vampire Squid.
But there's a lot more at stake in this battle than a $5,000 donation gone wrong. Underneath, it's a battle royal for control of tens of billions of dollars in government mandated "community reinvestment" funds.
In 2008, the US Treasury handed Goldman Sachs a check for $10 billion from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program (Tarp), the bailout funds given to desperate commercial banks. A few eyebrows were raised: Goldman was not desperate, and it certainly was not a commercial bank. Yet - abracadabra! - Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson transformed investment bank Goldman into a commercial bank overnight. (Paulson's prior post was chairman of Goldman Sachs. Just saying.)
But there was a catch.
Continue reading...

MOVE YOUR MONEY - Bank Of America Branch Manager Begs Customer Not To Close Accounts

This is a great story.
By Tripnman
Over the past two weeks, I have been closing down and moving money out of my Bank of America accounts. I have done my personal and business (I own a consulting business) banking there for over ten years but have decided to vote with my wallet and express my displeasure with the system by removing my money from their clutches. One by one, I have zeroed out the balances on various accounts by transferring and consolidating via their website. After each transfer I then called to close the accounts over the phone without issue.
Yesterday was different. I visited a branch to make a business deposit and when I arrived, there were signs on the ATMs indicating that the system was down and that customers should come into the branch. Before I got to the business customers' line, I was stopped by a banking associate and asked the purpose of my visit. I told him I was there to make a deposit and he waved me to a desk. When I sat down the banker first asked for my account number. I don't know it, so I handed him my ATM card. That's when he explained that all of their computers were down, and although they would accept the deposit, without the account number they would have to give me a generic receipt. Say what huh? When I told him that my newly opened accounts at a local (small, community) credit union would like the deposit he insisted that their computers were down too. Fifteen minutes after leaving BoA I found that to not be true and the money was happily deposited into a new account at the CU without issue.
Yesterday was different. I visited a branch to make a business deposit and when I arrived, there were signs on the ATMs indicating that the system was down and that customers should come into the branch. Before I got to the business customers' line, I was stopped by a banking associate and asked the purpose of my visit. I told him I was there to make a deposit and he waved me to a desk. When I sat down the banker first asked for my account number. I don't know it, so I handed him my ATM card. That's when he explained that all of their computers were down, and although they would accept the deposit, without the account number they would have to give me a generic receipt. Say what huh? When I told him that my newly opened accounts at a local (small, community) credit union would like the deposit he insisted that their computers were down too. Fifteen minutes after leaving BoA I found that to not be true and the money was happily deposited into a new account at the CU without issue.
Later in the afternoon I hit up a different branch of BoA and found their computers working just fine. I went in, asked to speak with a banker and was seated in an office. When the young associate came in and asked the purpose of my visit, I handed her my ATM card and requested that she tell me the balance. When she did, I then asked for a cashiers check in that amount. That's when things got wonky. She froze, stumbled over her words and asked why I needed that amount (It was not a small sum). This gave me an opportunity to explain that although I personally would not be affected by their new fees I know plenty of friends and family that would feel the pain. In solidarity with them, I wished to close the account and move on. She unwittingly suggested that if I just use my debit card once a month then there would be no fee. That was good for a belly laugh from me, then I again requested the balance to be issued to me in the form of a cashier's check. She then told me that there would be a $10 fee for this service. Another laugh. I guess it didn't sink in when I told her that I was fee adverse. There was an easy work-around anyway - I requested the cash. That finished my time with this associate banker as the amount I was requesting was "well past" her daily limit for withdrawals. I asked if there would be an issue with securing the cash and she said "I honestly don't know if we have that here" and walked out to get the branch manager.
The manager was pleasant enough and very direct. After introducing herself she flat out asked "What can we do to change your mind?" "We don't want to see you go" she emphasized. This opened a door for me to further explain my decision to leave the bank and why I was doing it. Amazingly, it did not fall on deaf ears. She indicated that understood where I was coming from and actually showed genuine surprise at some of the facts I provided her about the less than consumer friendly policies and machinations of her employer. She did make some feeble counter-arguments and repeatedly asked me if I would change my mind (with a hint of desperation!). I stood firm and by the end of our conversation she asked if I would be willing to put it all in writing so she could send it up the chain.
She shared that management is nervous, they are seeing money leaking out of the bank and realize that they have made mistakes.  She even hinted that there has been high-level discussion on reversing the new fess since there has been so much consumer push-back.  They are also aware of the growing momentum behind the November 5th move your money movement.
Why do I share all of this with you?  For one, I wanted to let people know that it IS still possible to withdraw large sums of cash from BoA and close your accounts - just be ready for them to beg.  Two, that management is aware that people are angry (how could they not be!) and have put an ear to the ground.

Occupy protesters outside the San Francisco headquarters of BofA.

'Occupy' camps provide food, shelter for homeless

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – When "Occupy Wall Street" protesters took over two parks in Portland's soggy downtown, they pitched 300 tents and offered free food, medical care and shelter to anyone. They weren't just building, like so many of their brethren across the nation, a community to protest what they see as corporate greed.

They also created an ideal place for the homeless. Some were already living in the parks, while others were drawn from elsewhere to the encampment's open doors.
Now, protesters from Portland to Los Angeles to Atlanta are trying to distinguish between homeless people who are joining their movement and those who are there for the amenities. When night falls in Portland, for instance, protesters have been dealing with fights, drunken arguments and the display of the occasional knife.
However, many homeless say the protests have helped them speak out against the economic troubles that sent them to the streets in the first place.
"The city wasn't giving us what we needed," said Joseph Gordon, 31, who trekked his way from Cincinnati two months ago and noted that there is nearly always enough food but never enough shelter. "You can't feed your problem away. It took this camp to show people how it really is."
As protesters across the country try to coalescence around an agenda in the coming weeks and months, they are trying to make life work in camps that have become small-scale replicas of the cities in which they were erected. And just like those cities, they are dealing with many of the same problems the local governments have struggled for decades to solve.
Some organizers see the protest and the inclusion of the homeless as an opportunity to demonstrate their political ideals. They see the possibility to show that the homeless are not hopeless and that they, too, can become a functional part of society.
In Portland, the protest has swallowed up two square blocks. There are shaggy haired college kids, do-gooder hippies, and couples with their young children. They came by the dozen, in cars and vans, on bikes and on foot and in rides hitched on the highway. Rain falls daily and dry socks are at a premium.
At the center of the camp are the medical, information, library and wellness tents. Along one side are families, who established a play area for children. On the opposite side is the "A-Camp" — for anarchist. It's where the city's anarchist faction and long-term homeless sleep.
"We're here to spoil each other," said Kat Enyeart, a 25-year-old medic who says she spends half her time tending to the homeless, some of whom are physically and mentally ill. "It's a big, messy, beautiful thing."
As the occupation enters its fourth week, divisions have begun to emerge. Without the ability to enforce laws and with little capacity to deal with disruptive or even violent people, the camp is holding together as it struggles to maintain a sense of order and purpose.
One man recently created a stir when he registered with police as a sex offender living in the park. A man with mental health problems threatened to spread AIDS via a syringe. At night, the park echoes with screaming matches and scuffles over space, blankets, tents or nothing at all.
Last week, a homeless man menaced a crowd of spectators with a pair of scissors. Micaiah Dutt, a four-tour veteran of the Iraq War, and two other former soldiers had no problem tackling and subduing the man. Other members of the protest's volunteer security detail have been punched and threatened with knives.
Dutt said he felt helpless at times and noted that the man he helped subdue could, in theory, press assault charges against him.
"I served four tours in Iraq, and I felt more safe there at times than here," he told a gathering of protest organizers under a drizzly evening sky. "There, I had a weapon and knew the people around me were with me. Here, I don't know."
Dutt said the protests are not just about the radicals and the politicians. "It's about our community taking care of itself because the city, county and federal governments have neglected this population," he said.
In Los Angeles, protesters are dealing with similar issues: Homeless transplants from the city's Skid Row have set up their tents within the larger tent city. No violence has been reported, but protest organizers are attempting to discourage people who are only at the encampment for the amenities.
Some, like Steven Pierieto, said they've fallen on difficult times but are at the protest because they support the movement. They scorn those who come for the sandwiches but never lift a protest sign. Life in camp, Pierieto said, is far better than life on Skid Row.
"I'm very comfortable right here," Pierieto said. "I don't have to smell urine. I don't have to see people smoking crack. I have porta-potties right here. It's peaceful."
In Oakland, Calif., where the camp on the City Hall lawn has become a tourist attraction, organizer Susanne Sarley said getting along for a common cause will be an ongoing challenge. "This is the homeless people's turf," Sarley said. "This area we're occupying is their home. We can't move them. We have to cooperate and respect the community that we're in."
The friction between the homeless and the protesters has not been the case in other cities. In Atlanta, for instance, it has been a benefit. The homeless have helped newbie protesters learn how to put up tents that can withstand wind gusts, maintain peace in close quarters and survive the outdoors.
Billy Jones, 28, provides security at the protests. Jones said he's not just looking for free food.
"Don't have the misconception that most homeless people are always out for a meal," Jones said. "I'm here because there are things I can lend that are helpful to the movement. I can get food anywhere. I don't have to be at 'Occupy Atlanta' to get food."
In Salt Lake City, protesters see working with the homeless as an opportunity to demonstrate their political views. "We can help people get out of homelessness," said organizer Jesse Fruhwirth, 30. "We have already surpassed any effort the state or city has ever made to create a sober, happy space for the homeless."
Brent Jackson, 46, is one of the homeless who has been recruited as a volunteer and is an active member of a planning group. He said the protest's message rings especially true with homeless people. "The homeless are the bottom of the 99%," Jackson said, referring to the percent of Americans the protest says it represents.
"We have a lot of disillusioned Americans, but they don't think what happened to us can happen to them," he said. "Except it can."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Occupy Vatican!!!

Marching to the River on the Tree of Liberty

War profiteers top 0.01% of wealthy Americans - Press TV News

Occupy LA ripped apart by argument over pot-smoking

As the Occupy Los Angeles protesters begin to encounter pressure from a formerly welcoming city administration to think about ending their occupation, the group also appears in danger of being ripped apart from within over the issue of pot-smoking.
The Los Angeles Times commented in a Friday editorial, “Four weeks after protesters converged on the Civic Center, they are wearing out their welcome. Even some of the city’s most liberal politicians, who initially embraced them, are trying to figure out a graceful way of getting them to go home. … But it’s hard to negotiate with a headless group united only by its resentment toward bankers, corporations, Congress, the media and others in positions of power — including the police.”
“It would be best for everybody, including the demonstrators, if the impasse could be resolved without resorting to police in riot gear,” the paper urged. “Another location for the protest should be found, and if the participants are organized enough to put out a joint statement, they’re organized enough to negotiate a peaceful departure.”

An internal mutiny over the issue of pot-smoking, however, has raised doubts as to just how unified the protesters really are, and whether any person or group among them is in a position to negotiate on behalf of the entire occupation.
As described by journalist Natasha Vargas-Cooper, “Around 8 p.m. on Wednesday night, the 300 people who have been occupying the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall for the past three weeks split themselves into two hostile camps.”
She explains that “drug use has been a key conservative talking point used to undermine the various Occupy camps around the country,” but that in Los Angeles, “smoking weed has become a wedge issue dividing the camp into increasingly entrenched groups.”
“Rumblings of dissent and palpable animosity had been mounting in the camp throughout [Wednesday] afternoon,” Vargas-Cooper reports. “Informal meetings were held around the clock to hotly debate an issue that had factionalized the camp: weed. . . . Occupy LA’s decision-making body, the General Assembly, has been responsible for conducting the encampment’s business. … But on Wednesday, a large group of dissenters decided to occupy the General Assembly’s usual outdoor meeting space and assert themselves as the new regime.”
“A large group, made up almost entirely of men, stood in a circle denouncing the General Assembly and their efforts to ‘police’ the camp, particularly regarding drinking or smoking weed,” she continues. “Anyone who spoke in favor of a code of conduct was aggressively booed. … When a runner from the General Assembly made the announcement that they would begin the meeting, he was thunderously shouted down, then someone yelled out ‘The GA is dead!’ and the crowd erupted in both celebration and shock: ‘We don’t want you or your fucking procedure!’”
She goes on to quote one of the protest’s original organizers as explainng that “on one side there’s the hardcore Politicos-Get-Shit-Done process freaks and on the other are people who think they are starting a new society.”

“Who makes the rules?” Vargas-Cooper asks. “Who enforces the rules? Going even further: should there even be rules? Is this a narrowly focused social movement bent on economic reform through massive but nonviolent participation? Is it a petri dish of something new? There is a wing of the Occupy LA that sees their encampment as a radical new mode of living; one that not only rejects income inequality, but any sort of action that enables one group to represses any other. This means contempt for anything like a parliamentary up or down vote, or adopting the same drug laws as ‘the outside.”
Photo by World Can’t Wait, posted at Flickr.

Reward Offered for the Identity of the Police Officer Who Shot Marine Vet Scott Olsen

Reward for the Identity of the Police Officer Who Shot Marine Vet Scott Olsen

A generous friend is offering a $5,000 reward for the identify of the policeman who shot Scott Olsen.
The officer can likely be seen in publicly available videos (see this and this). But his badge and face are not visible.
Similarly, Anonymous is already leaking names and information of officers in the Oakland P.D., but it is still difficult for outsiders to identify the shooter.
As such, the tip will likely have to come from someone within the Oakland Police Department or the other law enforcement agencies present at the protest.
Do your force proud and stand up for liberty … identify the shooter.
Update 1: As this video shows, he might actually be with the San Francisco Sheriff instead of Oakland police:
See this for a detailed analysis. Update 2: Anonymous has tentatively identified the shooter as Officer Bergstresser of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Emergency Service Unit.  And see this.  The ESU unit has allegedly been highly-militarized by the Department of Homeland Security.

Again this is a tentative conclusion by Anonymous, and we at Washington’s Blog certainly have no idea whether or not it is accurate.