Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Seattle et al...

Photo by M Barrett Miller

Do you feel the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is having any impact on the movers and shakers? 
Do you have any ideas on how to get actual changes made to the 99% of us trying to hang on? 
What would you like to see?
The following is from the Huffington Post.
"...Occupy Seattle protesters, now in their fourth week of demonstrations, haven't given up the ghost yet -- far from it. They had fun with the Halloween-themed weekend to focus attention on their cause, staging a mock funeral service for the death of Corporate America, complete with a brass band; a Sufi priest; mourners in black with umbrellas, and funeral dancing. The protestors have moved their encampment to Seattle Central Community College, but go back to the original site at Westlake Park during the day, providing a route for frequent marches.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in the park on Saturday, October 29, bowing their heads to pay their final "respects" to the faceless concept of corporate greed and oppression. Mourners gathered around a draped coffin, dressed in black and huddled beneath a sea of black umbrellas.
It didn't take long after the final "amen" for a brass band to kick into high gear with tunes like "Down by the Riverside," while the crowd broke out into spontaneous modern versions of the fox trot and mambo.
Skeletons and zombies joined mothers, babies, grannies and men in business suits to celebrate the death of unequal economic practices that have held the world in what protesters consider a death grip for way too long.
The funeral service was led by Michael Douglas, a local Sufi priest. Sufism is loosely defined as the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam, and those who practice it have spanned several continents and cultures for over a thousand years. When he's not presiding over the death of corporate greed, Douglas teaches sacred art, music, and religious history to Seattle middle-schoolers.
After marching through the downtown core at 5 p.m. on Saturday, protesters settled in at the grounds of Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill. A Halloween party erupted at sunset, but costumes were far from frivolous. A man introduced himself as "Big Money" and proceeded to tell sinister stories of his power over America, then laughed hideously before asking "Why so serious?" and slithering into the night.
Another costume urging the break-up of the "big gambling banks," revived Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell's warning exactly two years ago that "Wall Street has a gambling problem." Senator Cantwell then stated that "Americans want to know when Congress will put an end to the Wall Street's secret off-book gambling schemes and restore our capitalist system by requiring real transparency and true competition." Judging by the Occupy movement still raging across the country, Americans are still wanting to know - and they're getting tired of waiting.
Another protestor in costume dressed as a young woman of privilege. Her sign described her character as a member of the 1%, stating that she had no student debt, plenty of family money, was well-connected, and had a corporate job. "I am not entitled, I am just lucky -- raise my taxes."
One participant wearing a t-shirt that read "One Nation Under God" pushed the envelope by holding up a sign to the protesters with an ultimatum: "Morans, Get Out." (sic)
"If God wants some people to have more money than everyone else, then that's just the way it is. It's God's will," the man told the crowd, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. "Jesus was a carpenter; he didn't have no union."
Unaware at first that the man's identity was a costume, the crowd's anger simmered and hostility filled the air. The young man kept a straight face as long as he could, but finally decided that he needed to say "trick or treat" before things turned ugly. Satire is just as prevalent as passion in the Occupy Seattle camp.
During a "speak-out" on stage lasting over two hours, the hand painted sign that marched with protesters from the site at Westlake Park to their new home on Capitol Hill waved in the increasing wind and absorbed scattered raindrops. Tents went up about 8:30 p.m., while the party and the protest settled into the damp Seattle night..."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pig Bankers!!!

Recently, on 1 October, a friend ordered new checks from his bank.
He wasn’t paying attention to the pending charge and wound up over drafting his account by $3.31.
On the 3rd of October he called the bank to tell them he had goofed and there would be a fairly good deposit that would be made on Thursday the 6th. He informed the bank that there would probably be around $36.00 worth of charges coming in before he could make the deposit. He was told he would be charged $25.00 plus $8.00 a day until Thursday.
Outrageous, but manageable!
On Thursday he went to the bank to make a cash deposit of a few hundred dollars. He didn’t have a deposit slip so the teller had to look him up. While standing there he told the teller he was a few bucks over if that helped her identify his account. After a moment she said she had found the account and he was actually $232.00 overdrawn.
He was stunned but not too stunned to pass her the cash, which he knew would be used to balance the account. He stepped back asking if she could do a print out, as he had no idea how his account could be in such dire straights.
She printed him a couple of pages so he could see what was going on.
Well, there were eight debits at $25.00 a pop and four at $8.00. When he asked one of the people sitting at a desk what was going on he was told those were standard overdraft charges.
He staggered out of the bank to find a phone and call his branch. When he finally got to an officer he told them there would be a large automatic deposit on the 11th and would they consider reducing the accumulated charges. He was told that was not possible and charges would accrue until the account was back in the black. After a bit of conversation he was told that out of courtesy to his 23 years with the bank they would consider reversing some charges when the deposit arrived.
On the 11th his automatic deposit came in to be reduced by $328.00 for the accumulated charges.
He called the bank asking if they could flip the charges to his old line of credit so he could access the full amount of the deposit. He was told no that wasn’t possible. When he asked about reducing the charges he was told that if he looked at his statement they had already reduced them by a considerable amount.
Okay, lets make this simple; you borrow $30.00 for nine days from your bank. You are okay paying a fee but are you okay paying a total of $328.00 for the pleasure? That converts to a 1,100% interest charge for borrowing $30.00 bucks for nine days!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, 1,100 % unless my math is faulty.
If your bank has a breaching Orca on its masthead you might consider running for your life.
My friend has ventured over to where the stagecoaches roam in hopes he won’t be crushed by runaway horses.
1,100 % !!!!!
The European banks drove the little guy out of the system decades ago. That is why so many in Europe use their local postal office to buy money orders, pay bills, make phone calls etc.
With the Republicans vowing to take down our Post Office you can see the day when you’ll be banking at a FedX, postal, bill paying, payday check cashing office with a giant symbol of the $ outside where the old flagpole stood welcoming you to the Post Office-
Ah, anything to protect those who praise money above all. The job creators who only charge you what the market demands of them to turn a profit.
Good luck-

Monday, October 10, 2011

What is the right thing to do????

    Seattle street art    Photo by M Barrett Miller

If It Feels Right ...
During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. The interviews were part of a larger study that Smith, Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog and others have been conducting on the state of America’s youth.
Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.
It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.
The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, which Smith and company recount in a new book, “Lost in Transition,” you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.
When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.
“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.
The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”
Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”
Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”
Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.
Smith and company are stunned, for example, that the interviewees were so completely untroubled by rabid consumerism. (This was the summer of 2008, just before the crash).
Many of these shortcomings will sort themselves out as these youngsters get married, have kids, enter a profession or fit into more clearly defined social roles. Institutions will inculcate certain habits. Broader moral horizons will be forced upon them. But their attitudes at the start of their adult lives do reveal something about American culture. For decades, writers from different perspectives have been warning about the erosion of shared moral frameworks and the rise of an easygoing moral individualism.
Allan Bloom and Gertrude Himmelfarb warned that sturdy virtues are being diluted into shallow values. Alasdair MacIntyre has written about emotivism, the idea that it’s impossible to secure moral agreement in our culture because all judgments are based on how we feel at the moment.
Charles Taylor has argued that morals have become separated from moral sources. People are less likely to feel embedded on a moral landscape that transcends self. James Davison Hunter wrote a book called “The Death of Character.” Smith’s interviewees are living, breathing examples of the trends these writers have described.
In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.