October 7, 2011
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.
Occupy Wall Street: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”
October 7, 2011
There isn’t a cohesive message coming from the protestors other than the system is rigged in favor of the top .01%. Those who think they are in control are losing their grip. They see their power and wealth slipping away. They’ve had their way for decades and will not willingly submit to a change in the existing social order. Last night Jim Cramer voiced the concerns of the .01% by saying the Occupy Wall Street protests were worrisome. They are worrisome to the moneyed interests. They are a reason for hope to the 99.9%. We are approaching our moment of truth. There is something terribly wrong with this country. A new American Revolution has begun. It is time to stop being afraid and take this country back. What happens next? The choice is ours.
- Jim Quinn
But the banking elites that led these frauds have been able to do so with impunity from prosecution. Take on federal agency, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). During the S&L debacle, the OTS made well over 10,000 criminal referrals and made the removal of control frauds from the industry and their prosecution its top two priorities. The agency’s support and the provision of 1000 FBI agents to investigate the cases led to the felony conviction of over 1,000 S&L frauds. The bulk of those convictions came from the “Top 100″ list that OTS and the FBI created to prioritize the investigation of the worst failed S&Ls. In the ongoing crisis — which caused losses 40 times larger than the S&L debacle, the OTS made zero criminal referrals, the FBI (as recently as FY 2007) assigned only 120 agents nationally to respond to the well over one million cases of mortgage fraud that occurred annually, and the OTS’ non-effort produced no convictions of any S&L control frauds. OTS’ sister agencies, the Fed and the OCC, have the same record of not even attempting to identify and prosecute the frauds. The FDIC was better, but still only a shadow of what it was in fighting fraud in the early 1990s. If control frauds can operate with impunity from criminal prosecutions, then the perverse Gresham’s dynamic is maximized and market forces will increasingly drive honest banks and firms from the marketplace.
- Bill Black
The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are Two Sides of the Same Coin
I am extremely disappointed by the way most people are belittling the Occupy Wall Street protests, which I firmly believe is an extraordinarily important moment in American history that will be seen as the moment when rebellion arrived on the streets of America. Despite my frustrations regarding how pretty much every commentator out there is trying to spin it negatively, this simple fact convinces me without a shadow of a doubt that this is the real deal and we are merely in the second stage of transformative change that Gandhi describes in the quote at the top. We are in the ridicule phase. That is good since like anything else, a transformative rebellion manifests as part of a cyclical process just like anything else.
One thing that I think people are really missing is how similar Occupy Wall Street is to the early stages of Tea Party protests. Do you remember how the fake liberals dismissed that as a bunch of uneducated, racists wearing George Washington costumes? Many claimed it was “astro turf” and would die out. I recall the very day that I saw Rick Santellii on CNBC call for a new “tea party” in America. The moment that event got posted on youtube I sent it out to the entire trading floor at Bernstein saying it was the beginning of something big. People looked at me as if I was insane (as usual) and said that it was an irrelevant comment and nothing meaningful could come out of it. Fast forward a few years, here we are and not only did the Tea Party not peter out but it has become one of the most vibrant and influential political movements in America today. Those that dismissed the Tea Party most forcefully in the early days were from what I would call the “fake liberal” camp and the mainstream media (MSM). This is unsurprising because they simply did not understand it (the MSM aren’t paid to understand anything their job to help maintain the status quo and minimize and trivialize revolt). What the Tea Party represented was a rebellion within the Republican Party which had long ago sold itself out to the 0.1% financial elite class, the military industrial complex and large multi-national corporations that pay no taxes.
So now the Occupy Wall Street protests have begun and the EXACT same thing is happening. Yet this time most of the ridicule and contempt is spewing from what I would call “fake conservatives.” The MSM of course is playing their traditional role as is to be expected. Fortunately for me, I hold no attachment to any fake political party in America and I never have. I stand for a free and fair market system for the economy, for a fierce defense of Constitutional rights in all circumstances NO MATTER WHAT threat we supposedly face, and a cessation of the brutal violence and war we perpetrate abroad. As a result of this non-partisan stance I have an excellent group of friends and contacts across the entire ideological spectrum. From this standpoint, I think I can see things for what they really are and what I am here to say is that Occupy Wall Street represents in part a rebellion within the Democratic Party (ie, the other side of the tea party coin). This is why most of the attacks are coming from the “right” side of the fake political divide. Just like the fake liberals couldn’t understand the tea party, the fake right can’t understand Occupy Wall Street. This is alright. It is all part of the process. Next they will fight us. Just like Gandhi said.
Michael Moore and Other Carpetbaggers
Let me be clear about one thing. There are plenty of disconcerting things that have emerged in the Occupy Wall Street Protests. The main threat is the clear attempt of disingenuous elites to co-opt the movement and steer the “useful idiots” right into the concentration camps. You think George Soros is an idiot? You don’t think he knows exactly what he is doing when he voices his support? He is trying to co-opt it and own it. He didn’t start anything. He is a carpetbagger of the highest order.
One of the more disturbing things I have seen is this video of Michael Moore at the protests. After watching it I was so disturbed I sent the following out to my smaller email list:
It’s great to watch all these guys that never understood the real issues and clearly still don’t attempt to co-opt the message of the Occupy Wall Street Protests for their own agendas. For those of us that have been fighting this in the trenches for years, this is the greatest risk to the movement. That some radical self-serving interests take the message over. I don’t think it will succeed but that is what has happened in history and we must be vigilant. Watch this quick video of this dangerous man, Michael Moore. When asked about ending the Federal Reserve there is a really awkward moment and then he blurts out “END CAPITALISM.” End Capitalism Michael? Where is there capitalism. How about end crony capitalism?…
October 7, 2011
Robert Bellah, one of America’s most distinguished sociologists, caps off his luminous academic career with “Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age” , a near 800-page magnum opus that delves deep into the roots of humankind’s encounter with mystery and the search for meaning. Underwritten in part by funding from the John Templeton Foundation, Bellah’s book, out this month from Harvard University Press, has been described as “the most important systematic and historical treatment of religion since Hegel, Durkheim, and Weber. It is a page-turner of a bildungsroman of the human spirit on a truly global scale, and should be on every educated person’s bookshelves.” Guided by the latest findings in the biological and social sciences, Bellah identifies the roots of the religious sense in human biology and culture — but by no means reduces religion to a mere expression of biological determinism or cultural preference. He recently spoke with the Templeton Report about his new work.
TR: In contemporary American discussion, “religion” and “evolution” only turn up in the familiar fights over Darwinian evolution. You mean something very different by the concept “religion in human evolution.” Explain.
RB: I have found that the very mention of the words “religion” and “evolution” sets off a kind of reflex reaction among some, but fortunately not all, contemporary Americans. Among both religious fundamentalists and what might be called atheistic fundamentalists these terms set off a war to the death, with abusive language directed toward the supposed opposition. In that kind of atmosphere any rational discussion becomes impossible. What unites these two groups is the idea that religion and science are essentially the same thing: sets of propositional truths that can be judged in terms of argument and evidence. What surprised me when I began to read the work of leading scientists in the fields of cosmology and evolution is how many of them rejected this idea and argued instead that science and religion are really two different spheres that may at points overlap but that operate in accordance with different logics. Science operates with scientific method in terms of which different theories can be tested and proved or disproved, though if Karl Popper is right, proof is always problematic and we are safer to stick to disproof. Religion on the other hand is a way of life more than a theory. It is based on beliefs that science can neither prove nor disprove. Its “proof” is the kind of person the religious way of life produces.
TR: What role does play have in the evolution of religion?
RB: Although I believe that religion appears only among humans, I am concerned with what happened, perhaps long before the human species emerged, that might have provided the resources for the evolution of religion. Play is found only among animals that require parental, usually maternal, care, and especially among mammals that emerged over 200 million years ago. That is, mammals are born helpless and unless they are taken care of — fed, kept warm and safe — they will die. Play occurs in what biologists call a “relaxed field,” which means that evolutionary selectionist pressures are minimal. It is only because young animals are protected from such pressures that they can play, an activity whose good is intrinsic to the activity and has no other purpose.
If one believes, as I do, that the earliest form of religion was ritual, one might see how play among humans with cultural capacities might develop into ritual. Ritual has many of the features of play: it has no obvious function, it is an end in itself, it enacts events, but symbolically, as in pretend play, and it takes place in a relaxed field, where hunger, predators and procreation are kept at bay. For example, in the perpetually warring Greek states during the great festivals, such as the Olympic festival to Zeus of which the games were only a part, a universal truce was proclaimed. It is among humans that play processes have exfoliated so extravagantly, and ritual is one of the things to which they led.
TR: From an evolutionary perspective, what made the Axial Age such a landmark event in the history of religion and human culture?
RB: The Axial Age, the first millennium BCE, takes place in societies that are far larger and more complex than the simple egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies in which ritual arose many thousands of years ago. When agriculture, about ten thousand years ago, created a significantly larger surplus than foraging ever could, societies grew larger and the accumulation of surplus was worth fighting over. The old hunter-gatherer egalitarianism was gradually replaced by chiefdoms, and then in the late fourth and third millennia BCE, by the early state, that is by a return of the old dominance hierarchies that we see in the other ape species such as chimpanzees, but with far greater power than any non-human species had ever been able to amass.
These new large-scale societies tried to legitimate themselves by moving the ritual focus from the assembled group to the one man who dominated the whole society and claimed to be the exclusive medium through whom supernatural beings that were now seen as gods could give benefits to humans. In the Axial Age in several parts of the Old World — Israel, Greece, India, and China — new figures, prophets, wise men, and philosophers, arose who criticized the unbridled pursuit of wealth, power, and fame that had come to characterize their societies, and the pretensions of kings to any special relation to transcendent beings.
As Benjamin Schwartz has put it: “It is precisely in the moral orientations of the creative minorities of the first millennium that we find a resounding no to certain characteristic modes of human self-affirmation, which had emerged with the progress of civilization. For them the divine no longer dwelt in the manifestations of power, wealth, and external glory.” From these figures all the world religions of today have developed.
TR: Your discussion of “enactive representation” — the idea that you have to do a thing to learn about it — suggests that religion can only really be understood from the inside, through its practice — this, as distinct from trying to grasp it as a set of propositions. Is this why secular-minded people have such trouble understanding the religious mindset today? And, if religious truth can only be essentially grasped through enactive representation, doesn’t that mean that there is a limit to what can be communicated across religious traditions?
RB: When I said above that religion is a way of life more than a way of knowing, I was suggesting the importance of embodied practice, in the beginning ritual, as the most basic form of religious action. The emergence of language led to narrative or, if some scientists are right, the need for myth as a comprehensive story of the general order of existence led to language, so myth joins ritual as a fundamental component of religion. When theoretical inquiry joins the mimetic and mythic culture of earlier ages in the religions that develop in the Axial Age, it does not reject ritual and myth but only criticizes inadequate forms of them and makes possible the rituals and narratives of all the great traditions. This has led some religious people and many secular people to think that religion is only another form of theory alongside philosophy and science. But while understanding the theoretical achievements of the great traditions is important we will not really know what they are about unless we make the imaginative effort to see how the world might seem if we lived in the embodied practices and narratives of these traditions, a difficult but not impossible task. Indeed it is the joy of the study or religion to undertake this imaginative task…
October 7, 2011
Or, better yet, “my ass.” The Arab Spring has been with us for nearly three quarters of a year. This is not a long time as history goes. But the annual flowers of the spare land have long ago vanished into the crude, mostly gritty sand that is the Middle East. It’s not, though, as if it is at all back to “normal” in the Arab world. And, frankly, we haven’t the slightest about what normal in the Arab world is or will be. The Muslims and the Jews and the increasingly scarce but differentiated Christians who constituted the region lived (and live) recreant lives. For centuries it was the People of the Book who were put on edge or to death, mostly for what they believed and also for what crimes the authorities fantasized they had committed. (In this way the Jews of the Near East—near where, exactly?—lived lives on the edge much as they did in Christendom. Of course, if there are maybe 2,000 Jews now in all the Arab lands, it would stun me. The near-million there were are now mostly in Israel, God bless them, and in Western countries which, God bless them, welcomed them, even France, like brothers and sisters, a new enunciation offraternité.) The Peoples of the Cross were likewise persecuted—but sometimes the powerful states of Europe, both Catholic and Protestant, were able to extend a cloak of protection around Christian communities of the Levant. Though not, of course, around the Armenians. Or, for that matter, not around the Kurds either, who, mostly Sunni, some Shia, were in the Islamic orbit but distanced from that orbit’s—let’s face it—zealotry.
No one is to blame, I suppose. In any case, I won’t blame anybody. But the facts are the facts. Still, the Arab Spring did persuade even the most insulated Arab rulers to do something. The last of these rulers to move was certainly the least vulnerable to crowds, if crowds there could be. And actually in the last months there were occasional street protests against the Saudi monarchy, although they were quiet and reserved. Many hundreds were arrested and lost in the empty infinity of process-less administration. Theal Mabahith al-’Amma, the political police, were busy, as the religious police always seem to be, going around swatting the backsides of men on the street who are not praying with sufficient fervor. But they guard public security according to very vague standards and with no enumeration of liberties. Ah, what is liberty? It’s not either an Arab or Muslim idea. Anyway, when I was in Saudi Arabia some 15 years ago there was no, no public auditorium or theater; the only places of public assembly were the mosques. Maybe there is now a site where a non-praying crowd can gather. But I don’t know of one. I do know that many videos are smuggled into the country, especially porn. But that is by people who are allowed to travel and have enough cash to spend lavishly. I’m acquainted with some, cynics who represent their country in Washington and at the United Nations. Cynics and free spirits: During the last meeting of the General Assembly I met a friend from my visit to the peninsula many moons past. He lifted the lapel of his smartly tailored sport jacket, Brioni maybe, which I think was next door to his hotel. And there it was: an insignia of two flags crossing, one American, the other the flag of the State of Israel. Long ago, in Riyadh, he confessed that he longed to go to Israel. But by late September of this year he had not yet made it. I assured that I could arrange to get him in without difficulty and in complete secrecy. He said, “It is not the Israelis of whom I am frightened.”
Anyway, the someone who did something was the ailing 88-year-old King Abdullah, whose putative successor is the 87-year-old Crown Prince Sultan, apparently even nearer death in a New York hospital, presumably Memorial-Sloan Kettering, than his half-brother. And he, too, has a known successor, Prince Nayef, age 77, with no known serious illnesses. His liability is that he is a social and political reactionary. Anyway, what Abdullah has done is to vest women with the right to vote … sometime in the next few years. This provoked many huzzahs from the royal bleachers and was widely seen as the monarch’s effort, such as it is, to join modernity. Ah, yes, but Nayef is opposed to women’s suffrage as he is opposed to other manifestations of the contemporary world. In any case, the suffrage won’t be extended until 2015—leaving much space for retreat. Still, the royal act was much welcomed as the first instance of Saudi participation in the Arab Spring.
But not by everyone and not by people who really knew. Even Neil MacFarquhar’s cool dispatch in The New York Times exactly a week ago as I write made clear that the monarch’s pronouncement is not a major step towards anything.
A slightly more sassy commentary, “All the King’s Women,” by Simon Henderson, the distinguished commentator on Arab affairs at the Washington Institute, was published in Foreign Policy. Here’s an excerpt from Henderson’s piece:
Saudi watchers, certainly including yours truly, didn’t see this announcement coming. King Abdullah’s reputation as a reformer has dimmed in recent years. He doesn’t seem to have the energy to push for the needed consensus in the royal family and, more particularly, from the kingdom’s orthodox Sunni Islam clerical hierarchy. But the monarch did attempt to bridge these divides by painting the change as completely compatible with Islamic tradition. “All people know that Muslim women have had in the Islamic history, positions that cannot be marginalized,” he said, going on to note women’s contributions since the time of the Prophet Mohammed.
This reform, however, was the exception rather than the rule. In fact, King Abdullah hasn’t seemed to be making any decisions recently. A diplomatic friend recently described the monarch as “lucid for only a couple of hours a day.” And last week, there was what seemed to be the height of Saudi indecision: Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was allowed to return home from a Saudi hospital after recovering from injuries sustained nearly four months ago—despite an apparent agreement between Riyadh and Washington that, for the future good of troubled Yemen, this shouldn’t happen.
Whoever made the decision to ship Saleh back to Yemen is as of yet unclear, but credit for women’s voting rights should probably be given to the king’s daughter, Adila, who has been a known advocate of her gender’s increased participation in public life, particularly driving, for several years. Adila was also seen as being the moving force in the 2009 appointment of Norah al-Faiz as a deputy minister of education—the first woman to achieve such prominence in government. But, apart from allowing Adila to speak out, King Abdullah himself has hardly been noted for behavior toward women that would pass for enlightened in most other parts of the world.
In my 1994 study of Saudi royals, “After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia,” I included a cheeky footnote pointing out that then Crown Prince Abdullah had the full Islamic complement of four wives, “two of whom were semi-permanent and the other two ‘rolled-over.’” Good taste inhibited me from including the same information in my updated 2009 study, “After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia.”
The king’s replenishment of wives, however, is having a notable effect on the House of Saud’s ever-growing family tree. The king’s youngest son, Badr, was fathered when the monarch must have been in his late 70s. And I have since discovered that Sahab, the daughter who married (or was married off to) a son of Bahrain’s King Hamad this summer, was only born in 1993, when King Abdullah would have been 70 years old.
How did King Abdullah manage to be so (pro)creative? No sniggering please but, via WikiLeaks, the State Department has provided us with a possible answer. A 2008 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh reports that King Abdullah “remains a heavy smoker, regularly receives hormone injections and ‘uses Viagra excessively.’”…
October 7, 2011
This image has been posted with express written permission. This cartoon was originally published at Town Hall.