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#OWS 2.0 and Pot Smokers Strike Back!

strike the debtGood morning, and a good #S17 day to you.  Events in Manhattan today will celebrate the first anniversary of the Occupy movement.  I assume there will be livestreaming of events both here and at The Dissenter at the Mothership.

While so many people have declared OWS dead, those who’ve been paying attention have known that there have been ongoing efforts at general assembly working groups to consider alternative economic and business models, a better and more inclusive democracy, scale up local sustainable food and energy projects, etc.

Today in NYC, Occupy 2.0 Strike the Debt will hold actions to spotlight the copies of their new Debt Resistors Operation Manual.  According to Astra Taylor at The Nation, realizing that since Occupy encampments were shut down, the movement needed a theme to rally around to excite interest and activism.  Toward that end, a group of organizers put their heads together and decided that one common theme that unites the 99% is…debt  (Pace to MMT adherents, please).  And not just the by now $1 trillion in student debt, but as Occupy organizer Yates McKee writes:

“Debt is the tie that binds the 99 percent,” Occupy organizer Yates McKee has written: from the underwater and foreclosed-upon homeowners who were first pummeled by the economic crisis, to the millions of debt-strapped students who are in default or on the brink, to all those driven into bankruptcy by medical bills, to workers everywhere who have been forced to compensate for more than thirty years of stagnating wages with credit card debt, to the firefighters and teachers who have had to accept pay cuts because their cities are broke, to the citizens of countries where schools and hospitals are being closed to pay back foreign bondholders. Given the way debt operates at the municipal and national levels, the issue affects us all—even those who are fortunate enough to be debt-free, as well as those so poor they don’t have access to credit. Debt is one of the ways we all feel Wall Street’s influence most intimately, whether it’s because of a ballooning mortgage payment or a subway fare hike or a shuttered clinic.”

Taylor’s piece connects the dots of their thinking, and extends the issue brought by the march of neoliberalism around the globe, and the needless and slow-death austerity measures that are further destroying not only the world’s economy, but turning increasing amounts of people into debt slaves servicing their feudal masters.

Taylor quotes activist Jerry Ashton, a thirty-year veteran of the credit and debt-collection industry, and writes about unjust debt, or odious debt:

“Ashton explains that debt collectors refuse to face the fact that most of the bills they’re chasing are unjust. These unjust debts, in Ashton’s view, range from loans taken out by poor students to attend for-profit diploma mills to a surprising amount of credit card debt, which recent exposés have shown is riddled with fraud on a scale akin to the foreclosure scandal, including the robo-signing of documents. One judge told the New York Times that he suspected a full 90 percent of credit card lawsuits were “flawed and can’t prove the person owes the debt.” For this reason, Ashton reserves a special kind of rage for debt buyers, who purchase written-off debt and proceed to hound people in order to collect on it. “These are the bottom feeders of the industry,” Ashton says, his voice rising. “They are buying people’s pain and proceed to inflict more pain on them! They don’t care if there’s legitimate debt or not.”

But back to Strike the Debt’s manual, this is their manifesto:

“We gave the banks the power to create money because they promised to use it to help us live healthier and more prosperous lives—not to turn us into frightened peons. They broke that promise. We are under no moral obligation to keep our promises to liars and thieves. In fact, we are morally obligated to find a way to stop this system rather than continuing to perpetuate it.

This collective act of resistance may be the only way of salvaging democracy because the campaign to plunge the world into debt is a calculated attack on the very possibility of democracy. It is an assault on our homes, our families, our communities and on the planet’s fragile ecosystems—all of which are being destroyed by endless production to pay back creditors who have done nothing to earn the wealth they demand we make for them.

To the financial establishment of the world, we have only one thing to say: We owe you nothing. To our friends, our families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything. Every dollar we take from a fraudulent subprime mortgage speculator, every dollar we withhold from the collection agency is a tiny piece of our own lives and freedom that we can give back to our communities, to those we love and we respect. These are acts of debt resistance, which come in many other forms as well: fighting for free education and healthcare, defending a foreclosed home, demanding higher wages and providing mutual aid.”

Cathy O’Neil at (Cathy O’Neil worked as a quant for JP Morgan before she looked down on Zucotti Park protests a year ago…and joined OWS) covers some of the useful items in the manual, and includes a few reservations at the end.  She sites a piece from the NYT that shows that an increasing number of DA’s are lending their letterheads to debt collection agencies who often threaten arrest, jail, etc. for those they believe, but can seldom prove, were bounced on purpose, not accidentally.

“Why should the 99 percent honor their debts when the 1 percent have walked away from theirs without remorse? Framed this way, Strike Debt is not advocating debt “forgiveness”—which implies a benevolent creditor taking pity on a blameworthy debtor—but rather the abolition of the current profit-centered debt system and the development of socially productive forms of credit. For now, refusing to honor immoral debts may be the only way to save our democracy, Strike Debt’s members argue. And as Occupy Wall Street enters its second year, the popular chant still applies: The banks got bailed out, we got sold out. So why should we give them another dime?

You can download the Scribd version here; the various chapters named on the right side of the page are clickable.  Including appendices, it’s a hefty 132 pages.  I had hoped that the ‘Prospects for Change’ section would call for public banking, but it wasn’t geared that way, apparently.

We all know a couple other things about debt that the piece doesn’t mention, and I don’t know that the manual mentions.  One is that there is such a thing as Good Debt, that sort a government can spend to create more jobs, especially ones that pay a living wage; create even stronger social safety nets, and so forth (often great investments in the future during times like these) .  We can also hopefully agree that many Americans racked up far too much debt purchasing the latest shiny baubles they believed would make them happier, sexier/desirable, more envied by others, or just because shopping has become a national pastime.  But those are arguably not the debts these folks are speaking to.

In a another Strike Back, a small group produced a video in answer to the Obama video  that was played at the Democratic National Convention (hat tip kgb999). Jon Walker of FDL’s Just Say Now action brought to us recently, and Jon Walker righteously nuked O’s whales for it:

“President Obama needs young people to turn out to vote for him if he is going to win this November. He also must know by now, since it dominated every online forum geared to younger voters, that one issue young people really care about is reforming our destructive marijuana laws. Yet instead of actually using his powers as President to improve the situation to appeal to these voters, he instead just made a web video with Harold and Kumar. The video heavily implied that the famous duo had recently been smoking pot.

The video might be funny if it was not so appallingly cynical. Despite the “being cool” image Obama is trying to sell with this video, when it comes to marijuana policy, he is the worst recent president; Obama is worse than Clinton or Bush on medical marijuana.”

Alert: Dog lovers hang tight; no pups were harmed in the production, we can be fairly certain.

On the youtube page, it includes the message at the end of the video:

“If you want the President to earn your vote, tweet this:
@barackobama @kalpenn @johnthecho It takes more than lame jokes to earn votes. It takes action. Change the marijuana laws. #EarnMyVote

You could ask him to reschedule marijuana with a stroke of his pen, or at a bare minimum, call out for the national legalization medical marijuana.  I was fortunate enough to get a prescription for it in aid of chronic pain and related weirdnesses.  The ‘starter kit’ Mr. wendydavis brought home from the dispensary is noteworthy: so many different types of reefer, both sativa and indica species, tinctures, joint salves, edibles…there’s a whole industry brewing around the discovery of pot’s efficacy for so many different diseases and syndromes.  Seventeen states have now made MMJ legal (not that it’s stopped O’s  DoJ from busting them…)  And before you ask, yes, I now write my posts…er… under the influence of my so-far favorite  Blue Dream (the jokes just write themselves…I know).  ;o)

(cross-posted at

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