Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Movie Series at The 99

Four documentaries about money exploring our monetary system from varying ideological perspectives will be presented through the month of January at The 99 Gallery and Center in Newport. "Money as Debt II" is the second in the widely popular animated series by Canadian artist Paul Grignon. Grignon's homey narrative explains the complex system of money creation through debt and shows how what is essentially a Ponzi scheme can not be sustainable for our planet. "The Money Masters", shown in two parts, is a review of the rise of powerful banking interests in Europe and America. Though some may find the narrative a bit overly didactic, this film definitely provides some eye-opening historical insights. "Fiat Empire" covers the origin and operation of the Federal Reserve, America's central bank, which is currently celebrating its hundredth anniversary. Coming from a politically conservative point of view, the film is critical of both big government and big corporations. Finally, "The Money Fix" offers an ecological and spiritual approach to the problem of money, and asks us to contemplate a system which operates as sustainably as nature itself.
The series will begin Thursday January 2 at 6 PM and continue each Thursday at 6 PM through January at The 99 Gallery and Center, located behind 316 Main Street across from the Family Dollar in downtown Newport. All films are free.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Of Bedbugs and Baked Ham

   First of all, I don't know if any of this is true. Maybe I'm just misreading everything. But this is what I suspect.
   The guest at the center didn't stay long, had a cup of coffee and a cookie and sat on the sofa  reading the daily papers. It was wet and cold outside, in the midst of an ice storm and the guest's apartment I knew to be cramped and dark. The center on the other hand is bright and light and tidy. He left as another visitor arrived and as I swabbed the floor to remove wet footprints. That's when I saw it, a small brown insect with a large oval abdomen. I grabbed a piece of toilet paper and scooped him up. Then I saw the next one, and the next, all of them on the end of the sofa where the previous guest had sat. I ran for the vacuum cleaner, turned over the cushion and found another. Bugs in winter? maybe something that had fallen out of the birch branch decor, hatching in the slightly warmer temperature. I gave the sofa a thorough once-over with the vacuum. No more bugs,
   That night I spent the evening googling bugs. Not what I had planned but the ice storm precluded Solstice festivities. Lice? Not quite. Bedbugs? I had never seen a bedbug but, really that's what it looked like.
   The next morning I closed the center and cleaned like crazy. I found one more of the little brown critters under the sofa cushion.
   The next day, my guest arrived again. I explained the situation. Had he not complained to me of itching and bites? All gone he said. Would he please sit on the loveseat, not the sofa? (easier to see bugs). Sure, no problem. Another cup of coffee, another perusal of the daily papers. He stood up. There it was, a little brown bug crawling on his jeans. He nabbed it, we bagged it. A discussion ensued of the need to take the clothes to the laundromat and wash them and dry them in a hot dryer. There was a confusing admission of a matress now destroyed (it was full of them) an apartment already bombed. Yet there one was, crawling up his pantsleg.
   Could I give him some money for the laundromat? How about some bags for the laundry? Of course I said. I had only a $20 bill. I gave it to him.

   Now, it was actually about an hour and a half later when I went to the grocery store and found my visitor arriving in a neighbor's car. He could have gone to the laundromat, though he was dressed exactly as he was earlier. Oddly, his neighbor came up to me and apologized profusely for being angry with me when picking up the previous resident of the same apartment (these low rent, undesirable quarters are cycled amongst the neediest of the city's residents), an event which had occurred months earlier.
  I then spied my friend with a large ham and some trimmings for a nice dinner. He was apparently in cahoots with the neighbor, who was aiding and abetting this dinner procurement.
  Now I know that this center guest, who lives on food stamps, never has enough money for food at the end of the month. Never especially enough for meat, the holy grail of those who are hungry.
  I began to wonder if the $20 dollar bill had figured in these dinner plans. No laundry, probably, but a cheery dinner with the neighbor and his wife, a whole ham, a full belly.
   Merry Christmas. And maybe another plan to deal with the bedbugs. If you're hungry, doesn't eating take precedence over cleanliness? I had to confess, in the world of survival, that it does.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Poverty Sucks

  I'm not poor, but a couple of unpleasant events while spending the weekend in Burlington have reminded me that life is unpredictable and if you don't have a little cushion of money, small events can really be a pain. I'm driving my daughter's car because my car has a little undiagnosable intermittent hesitating problem. It's in the shop. My daughter's not using her 1998 Hyundai Sonata while in her first year of college. So I drove the heavily worked-on Sonata to Burlington yesterday (Saturday) and quickly realized it sounded like the muffler was ready to fall off. So I located a muffler repair place and made an appointment for early Monday morning. It snowed heavily Saturday night and when I started the car Sunday morning, the windshield wipers wouldn't work. Not frozen, they just didn't work. It was still snowing. I made it barely downtown to the parking garage where they don't charge on Sunday and parked it, planning to stay put until it stopped snowing. I found Henry's Diner and decided to drown my stress in a pancake breakfast and then spend the day doing some Christmas shopping. I was hoping the snow would stop before I had to pick up my daughter at her job in the mall and drive her back to her dorm, where I planned to stay overnight.
   Now all of this might seem not too much of a problem, but just think about how it would have been  with no money to spare. The muffler will be expensive and even more with the windshield wiper repair. But no repair, no way to get home to work Monday night. How to pay for it? With no money to spare it would probably go on credit. With my job as a nurse, I'll be able to pay for it. The terrific pancake breakfast? Almost $20 with tip. A couple of cups of coffee, while I passed the day on Church Street, another $5. Shopping I never would have been able to afford without a decent job, so I probably would have just sat all day. But of course I could amuse myself with reading the New York Times on my Kindle. Which I probably wouldn't own if I was poor, and of course i wouldn't be able to afford the $20 a month subscription. Most low income people I know are just trying to keep food on the table and the house heated.
   In an earlier blog post, a friend of mine on a very low income posted about how much harder everything is if you're poor. Life's little trials and tribulations become grating unpleasantness. Anxiety mounts up. It's not enough to just give people enough income to keep them from starving to death. People need a decent income, one with enough wiggle room to survive emergencies, maybe even save for a better future.
  In times of emergency, my ex-husband used to say "I guess we'll just have to throw money at it" (Maybe that's an old Vermont expression.) That's great if you have money to throw. If you don't even little emergencies become insurmountable problems. Poverty sucks.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Welcome Walmart!

Dear Walmart:
I understand that a new store will be opening in the next 3 or 4 years in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont on Derby Road.  I don’t remember there being any hearing on this proposal.  I am not sure you even care what the community thinks or wants.  It seems this development was secured in a private deal with the Governor - a done deal.  So we will adjust.  And to make sure you are welcome here, I have a few suggestions for you when planning the new store in this location.

1.    Pay a living wage - not as high here as in other areas, but definitely higher than minimum wage.
2.    Offer employees some benefits that would not cost you much but would mean a lot here:
    •    free lunch/dinner for anyone working more than 4 hours per day (can be made from dated store foods that cannot be safely given to a food shelf).  Save on disposal costs. 
    •    free lunch hour educational courses in such things as customer service; GED; computer skills; management training; food preparation and preservation; tax preparation; simple home repair.....
    •    free on-site day-care for employees (absolutely essential)
    •    employee rewards and recognition system
    •    as one of the largest single employer in the area (after the corrections facility, hospital and regional high school), you can offer facilities and support to employee social and recreational activities such as league softball, after-work bus to ski evenings, children’s activities, an indoor exercise/fitness area. 
3.    Donate dated foods to local food shelves (not spoiled foods, nor too dated foods)
4.    Provide car-pool information and clearing house - consider supplementing local bus public bus service with a commuter/shopper bus.
5.    Provide free prescription drug delivery, at least to the elderly.

Mary Brenner

In order to become a good neighbor and truly be part of the community, support local farmers and small businesses by purchasing and offering local produce and local farm products.  There will be savings on transportation costs and a bonus in good will.  Consider cooperative advertising and offering management consulting services to local businesses.

Can Vermont be a Model for Small, Local and Self-sufficient Farming: Reactions to "The Vermont Movie: Part 5"

Above: Part of a single day's harvest from one garden in the Fresh Start Community Farm network in Newport, Vermont.

Yes, farming in Vermont is changing..... in two different directions at the same time: towards larger, more mechanized, energy intensive farms (100 plus milking cows), and an increasing number of small, sustainable, diversified, organic farms with added value food producers. Will we reach a ‘tipping point’ as some hope when the small farm movement reaches sufficient momentum to become the dominant model? Or will the two models continue to co-exist, mutually supportive or at least not antagonistically? 

If 95 percent of Vermont’s food is imported, does it mean that the model of the large scale industrial farm still has the lion’s share of the agricultural community, and that the industrial farm will still be needed to feed America? 

I want more information. For example of the 5% of locally produced food, what percentage of the population of Vermont are fed partly by local farms? I assume the percentage of each family’s diet includes anywhere from a taste of local farmer’s market fresh produce, to a major portion of locally produced foods. Which foods are locally produced and consumed in which percentage? For example, I assume (due to climate) that 100% of locally consumed bananas are imported. Is the inverse true: 100% of all maple syrup (including artificially flavored corn-sugar imitations) consumed in the state is from Vermont. Likewise is 100% of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in Vermont from local producers when in season, or are out-of-state, and out-of-season fruits and vegetables consumed in large percentages EVEN WHEN locally produced foods are available. Do consumers have to have broccoli in Spring and strawberries in September? How does marginal cost differential between organic or locally produced foods and those from out-of-state (of the same product) impact consumption? In other words, if broccoli is available at the farmer’s market, but is more expensive than that in the supermarket, what is the marginal change in demand, difference in consumer behavior? Would it take comparable pricing to achieve greater demand for locally produced foods, and thereby increase the percentage of locally produced foods that are locally consumed? Or is the differential more structural? In other words that the consumption pattern of local versus supermarket depend on distance to farmer’s market; 7 days a week availability vs. weekly availability; out-of-season availability; information on availability or lack of public transportation to local farmer’s markets? Does the convenience store format for selling locally grown produce expand availability and thus consumption? 

Is it merely a matter of public education to promote the nutritional value, healthfulness, low environmental impact, low energy consumption, support for local farmers as sufficient motivation for consumers to change habits? Or is it a structural problem of not having local goods available in low-income areas or in convenient urban centers, to a higher percentage of the population? Is it simply a marketing and distribution problem? 

I read of a study that indicated that it takes 15 calories of energy to produce one calorie of food in the United States. If this is near the truth, can we look at the food we consume in terms of its true cost. Is there any indicators or index that could take into account the cost of energy used on a small diversified, organic and sustainable farm versus the energy for machines used on a large farm, per unit of food. Could we likewise compare farm types in terms of fossil fuel use, natural resources depletion from off-farm inputs of pesticides and fertilizers; energy costs of extraction, transportation of all inputs as well as energy costs of transportation for distribution, including material and energy costs of packaging. Could such an index be developed of the contributions to the environment from two types of farms in terms of water conservation or use, erosion and flooding control, genetic variability, chemical concentration and soil health. And lastly the health safety and financial status of workers may be an important unit of comparison between the two types of farming. 

If total information were available to consumers would it change behavior? I am not so sanguine, given that nutritional labeling has not stemmed the consumption of high fructose, chemically laden, high fat and dubious food values that are still a major part of the American diet. The weight of the federal guidelines, labeling, food pyramid, nutritional education campaigns cannot stand up to the million dollar advertising onslaught of the agriculture industry. 

And there are still many well-educated intelligent people who shrug and say that they are not convinced of the superiority of organic produce. There are still many conscientious people who have such busy lifestyles that canned and packaged food-like products fill a need to remain ignorant of the source of their foods in order to rush on to the rest of their lives, not seeing the foundation of living that food is. Any millions of home-bound, transportation handicapped individuals and those living in urban food deserts who do not really have choices. To these people, the mirage of choice is in the brightly colored multitude of ‘brands’ and packages, not the true choices of healthy food from healthy local sources. 

So what would it take to make healthy farming and healthy foods the predominant model for consumption and production? It will take advertising, marketing, relationships, access, cooperative distribution, access to ‘supermarkets’ and other more conventional outlets, education (such as farm to school programs), institutional support, government support, labeling, symbols, ..... money. So what are the actual strategies, town by town? What community partners (such as farm to table restaurants) are available? What strategies to outreach to local consumers? This is where the leadership is needed and consumers can have a major impact. This is where non-farmers can work to improve the landscape and economy for all. 

Mary Brenner

Saturday, November 30, 2013

one wish

I often wonder......

I hear people say that if they could only win the lottery..... (then they would be happy supposedly).  But what if you were granted a one-time wish for one thing you always wanted or one thing that would make you happy, what would you wish for (no price limit)?

Would you wish for a job; for a house; for a new car; for a trip to Disney Land? 
If you could have what you wish for, would it make you happy?

I have thought about this and I have tried on many wishes in my mind.  If I had a new car, would it eventually age and I would be right back with an old car.

If I had a new house, would I be able to afford maintenance and decorating it, the taxes?

If I had a trip to Disney Land, it would be only once.

If I had a vacation home somewhere, would I be able to afford to maintain it and to travel to it?

I feel I would be likewise disappointed or burdened if I had a new boat, a swimming pool, a shopping spree, a luxury of any kind.  What could I wish for that would truly make me happy? 

What I would really want is good health, to see my children and grandchildren more often, for may husband’s health, to spend more time with friends and family. 

Please advise me.  Share the one-time wish you would have. 

Mary Brenner

thoughts on anniversary of JFK's assassination

from Mary Brenner

United States of America is no longer the land of opportunity.  As we approach the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, we mourn the loss of Camelot.  And more, we morn the loss of hope for the future and faith in the greatness and goodness of our country.  As we watch government’s decay and disfunction, we wonder where to look for reform.  And as we cope with decreasing well-being, we fear the worst is yet to come.  Already we can see that the promises of ‘democracy’, capitalism’, ‘unity’ and the ‘rule of law’ are washed away in the flood of modern trends, we can truly say that the civics lessons of our schooling are lies.  The promises of our constitution are obliterated.  The United States is no longer the home of the brave and the land of the free. 

Statistically most middle class families have had their real standard of living fall below that of their parents; and it is still falling.  Things are not as good as they used to be.  Now mom and dad both have to work just to get by.  

Start your own business on a shoe string.... it is not going to happen now.  There are too many taxes, rules and regulations that favor the big businesses and multinationals. 

Work hard and get ahead?  No longer.  As pay rates stagnate, well-paid factory work is outsourced or replaced by technology, the productivity of American workers improves to the point where we no longer need as many workers, or as many full-time workers.  Unions flounder in the face of growing competition from abroad, declining blue collar jobs, high technological inputs and increasing costs of health care and retirement benefits.

Higher education opens doors to upward mobility?  Costs of college have increased exponentially.  Student loans burden graduates with payments that often outpace the resultant good-paying jobs.... if they can find jobs in their fields.  Only the upper class continues to profit from education, only the graduates of prestigious universities get the opportunities promised to graduates.

Justice..... is still only for the rich.

Upward mobility?  No.  The class system is more rigid now than at any time in our past. 

Safety net?  With 47% of our citizens in need of transfer payments, ranging from Social Security (an earned insurance) to unemployment insurance (temporary), food stamps (inadequate), housing subsidies (under-funded), health care (if you are lucky), disability, and child-care subsidies (resented by anyone who happens to not need such help).  Despite the huge need and huge costs, there is not enough assistance to meet the need.  The downward spirals of poverty continue desperate social problems of low birth rate, hunger, drug addiction, alcoholism, ill health, crime and loss of hope.

The other end of the spiral is the concentration of wealth in 1% of the very rich.  Not only do these rich few not share, they are not fairly taxed.  Wall Street concentrates wealth in the stock-trading manipulations that remove most of the money from the productive economy and ties it up.  The gains of capitalism are not being re-invested in the public infrastructure of our country, and now we do not even have enough money to continue needed maintenance and repairs of our infrastructure.  We are witnessing decay all around us and should be ashamed of our public spaces and buildings, highways, airports, transportation systems, bridges, schools, and hospitals.   The glitz of a few downtown centers or suburban shopping islands and tourist areas are increasingly isolated from the mainstream. 

Made in America?  Not even possible to ascertain anymore.. Due to globalization, nothing is purely made in America anymore.  As consumerism rules, poorer and poorer quality of products lead to obsolescence.  And no public entity can regulate or oversee multinational corporations to protect us from excesses of slave labor, sweat shops, unhealthy products, environmentally ruinous production, unfair trade. 

State militias were usurped by the federal government when the Council of Governors gave up the control of state ‘national’ guard after Katrina.  Now the federal government with little of no legislative or state oversight can send our young men and women into harms way anywhere in the world, leaving no one to serve local communities in time of natural disasters.  Through ‘standardization’ regulations and federal grants the federal government sets the agenda for the dominance of the national security agenda over significant local issues.  Such militarization extends to control of the internet, of information and of all areas within 100 miles of a national border (half of Vermont). 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Surreal" Opening December 7 at The 99

   I'm really looking forward to the art at our next show "Surreal". Purists may find that  not all pieces are strictly surrealist, but all definitely interesting and unusual. Artists include Mary Brenner, the late Seattle artist Donald Peel, Sam Thurston, Christine Hudson, Theresa Peura, Bradleigh Stockwell, Mel Hastings,  Mandy Roberts and Phyllis Hammond. There will be a wine and cheese opening reception at 6 PM.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


  There it was in front of me on the bathroom wall as I was washing my hands at the end of a 12 hour shift-----the productivity chart. There was the blue upper limit line and the red lower limit line and the dashed black line snaking up and down and then---up! Congratulations, you have met your productivity goals this month!  My employer had hired a consulting firm to help them figure out how to save money. My suggestion would be to start with not hiring consulting firms, but that's just me.

   Productivity sounds like a good thing, like doing something worthwhile, not wasting your time. But what it really means is getting more product from your employees per unit of time. What it sometimes  means for me is heart-pounding stress, hunger pangs and being too busy to go to the bathroom. If my employer had  to pay me based on my stress level, I'd be making a fortune and I'm one of the less stressed out ones. But I digress. This isn't about me or my job, which actually, I really like.

   This about people I know who don't have jobs. They're on public assistance, and it's barely keeping them going. Some of these folks smoke, or drink, but not more than better off people I know. Most are really nice, as honest as the next fellow. Some are quite smart and some are very creative. They can't work because, in a competitive profit driven system where the only thing that most employers care about is productivity, they have lost the productivity race. Some are physically unable to walk, or are just a little slow. They are or disorganized in their thinking, or unable to focus or process information  fast enough, or don't think logically, or don't get other people's emotions, maybe some of them just don't want to get chest pain while their working, or don't work well in structured situations. Or find suffering unpleasant. The job will always go to the other guy.

   They say about kids with hyperactivity that the problem isn't the kids, it's the system. They'd be fine running around the woods in a pre-industrial society, but put them in chairs behind a desk all day and, oh my gosh!, they can't sit still.  In this world there is much work to be done. But when the only goal of employment is profit for the employer, only those who win the productivity race will be employed. The problem isn't the less competitive worker, the problem is the system. It needs to be changed.


Monday, November 11, 2013

One of the great pieces of music that inspired the name of the gallery and center.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Introduction to Watercolors at The 99: Instructor Mary says, "Watercolors are not for control freaks!"

 Students at the free beginning watercolor class at The 99 Saturday came away with this philosophical message: Just let go and have fun with it. Watercolors are a challenging medium, but instructor Mary Brenner told students to just relax, experiment with color and composition and  various effects.

  She also demonstrated the basics of color mixing, how to choose a subject and compose it on the page, and showed different materials and how the beginner can best use them. Some students came to the class with expertise  in photography, drawing or painting, which they hoped to apply to a new mode of expression. Others were trying out their artistic talents for the first time. Everybody took Mary's advice and had fun!

   The 99 Gallery and Center promotes community skills sharing as a way of increasing free access to knowledge and strengthening the community. We would love to hear your suggestions for classes you would like to come to or teach. Instructors supply materials though we are happy to contribute, and the gallery will publicize the class.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hey Elites, You Just Don't Get It: A Primer in Occupy Culture

On the eight hour train ride back to Vermont from S17, the 1st anniversary of Occupy Wall St, I had plenty of time to fume about the generally dismissive press coverage of the event, though between us and the police (but mostly the police), we had created a good deal of traffic slowdown in the financial district if not the actual stoppage we had hoped for.
Pundits keep writing that Occupy is dead and why didn't we work to get people elected to Congress who would further our agenda like the Tea Party did. As if it was the same old same old about getting power and then using it to get what your special interest group wants. Did anybody ever stop to think that Occupy isn't doing this because we don't want to? Yes folks, Occupy is not about your hierarchical power trip game of seeing who can get the most influence in Congress. In fact, Occupy is hardly about politics at all. We're just not interested in electing people to public office. Occupy is much broader and more radical than that, nothing short of rethinking our social structure, our value system and the we relate to one another and the planet.
To understand Occupy, you have to understand Occupy culture. It's pretty clear from the way Occupy culture coalesced fairly rapidly amongst a few hundred people camped out in a park that the ideas behind it have been brewing for awhile. Of course, you say, utopian ideas about a freer, more just and loving world are nothing new. Some of them have even managed to get a fair amount of traction before hardening into totalitarianism or contracting into inward looking communities that soon evaporate into the general population. What do we hope to accomplish? Except that something else is happening to human culture right now that might make all the difference in the world. That profound change is the Digital Revolution, the biggest thing to hit human social organization in the last 10,000 years.
To understand why this is so, here's a long complicated story very briefly....Human beings evolved in fairly small social groups and it is in fairly small face to face social groups that we function best and most morally. Recent research by social scientists, especially the relatively new science of behavioral economics, suggests that we are wired to be cooperative, most (but not all) of us are team players and we are blessed with an innate sense of social justice. For a very very long time there weren't very many of us. And then, for reasons outside the scope of this discussion, the applecart was upset by exponential population growth, pressure on resources and the problem of how to get things done in a orderly way in the midst of very large populations. All this set the stage for the development of new social structures, hierarchical, stratified and unequal.
Archeologists have discovered something very interesting about stratified societies, and that is that even very early on, the culture of elites was more alike across political and ethnic boundaries than it was like that of the people they ruled. This is still true and it's because, with more access to resources and control of the flow of resources, the relatively small group of elites was much better able to communicate with one another across space. Those lower on the social totem pole got their information from above, but were mostly unable to share information broadly in a horizontal direction. In hierarchical societies, information and goods flow up and down between elites and masses within political boundaries (wealth mostly flows up), but back and forth between elites across political boundaries.
The problem with this structure is that all the safety checks on the proliferation of pathological behavior by rogue humans developed in small face to face societies. They rely on people knowing what other people are doing and punishing non-team player behavior before it proliferates and destroys group cohesion. “Had a good day hunting, did you? Killed that big buck? You haven't forgotten about your village mates and how much we all depend on each other, have you? Because if you have, we'll be dropping by to remind you.” In large stratified societies, these mechanisms fall apart, largely because communication is fragmented and controlled at key points by individuals in the hierarchy. So maybe you can see how radical changes in communication could allow for radical changes in structure.
Much of Occupy culture is in fact very old culture. It is pre-stratified culture. It still hangs out in our brains because it is “normal” human culture. We have an idea that sharing is good. But we also have an idea that accumulating is good. These two competing cultural values (old and new) exist side by side and somehow find their separate expressions in the way we conduct our lives. Occupy would argue that the newer values are the non-team player values proliferated by an elite who are pathological accumulators. These individuals, having gotten control of the pathways of communication, teach their values to others. Humans, being very teachable (learning and sharing ideas is after all what we do best), have been good students. The doctrine of accumulation now permeates world culture.

If you have been to an Occupy General Assembly and have observed the strange rituals there, you will have an idea of Occupy culture. If you have been to an Occupy action and have observed the place flooded with cell phones, cameras and microphones, you will have an idea of how Occupy culture is evolving in the midst of the Digital Revolution.
Cultural Value 1: There are no leaders. No, really, there are no leaders. Like in a small scale society, there are task specific leaders, people that others defer to because they have the time, energy or good ideas to get things done, but these can change in a flash, as some other talented, committed person steps up to do the job. Occupy's unfailing commitment to equality makes for some tedious discussions and constant nervous questioning as to whether “everybody is OK with this”. And yes, in the midst of situations where rapid action is required, dedication to nobody hogging the decision-making process can lead to a bit of confusion. Or a lot of confusion. Occupy wants everybody to have a voice. Not everybody may like your idea, but at least you'll have a chance to express it. And we will politely listen, twinkling our fingers in the air to show our support. Or we may actually have differences of opinion, in which case it may take a long time or never to get anything done. Not unlike the U. S. Congress.
There are a couple of good things about no leaders. It makes it less likely that anyone will accumulate power, which deters pathological wealth accumulators. Also, in a movement which might expect to be harassed or even persecuted by the powers that be, it prevents co-option through corruption of leaders as well as attempts to destroy the movement by picking off the leadership. Someone compared trying to destroy Occupy by destroying its leaders to broom multiplication in “The Sorcerer's Apprentice”. Or, as someone more colorfully expressed it in a sign at Zuccotti Park, “Screw Us and We Multiply”.

Cultural Value 2: Horizontal Organization. Oddly, in a movement composed largely of technologically savvy younger people, the basis for Occupy organization is small, face to face community groups who meet in real space, not cyberspace. These groups approximate the band organization that feels comfortable to humans. There are hundreds of such Occupy groups across the U.S. and in many other countries. They are autonomous decision-making units and are working on local problems. These groups are linked horizontally through the internet, a huge receptacle of bubbling ideas where nobody calls the shots but where ideas that appeal to people catch on and spread practically instantaneously. It remains to be seen whether wisdom will be found in this decision-making by crowd popularity. It presumes a good deal of capable thinking by individual humans, and that they will, if having followed bad suggestions and suffered bad consequences, learn to make better choices. No such confidence has ever before been placed in the decision-making ability of the general public by our hierarchical systems, where it is usually assumed that “father knows best”.
How does horizontal organization work if you need to get lots of real people together in real space to get something done? Theoretically very easily now that large numbers of people can communicate rapidly with each other via cell phone, texting and Twitter. In practice, it took about an hour to get 150 people together for a not previously planned action during the September 17 anniversary, including a couple of false starts, a period of time which seemed way too long. I have a feeling that this will improve rapidly with rapidly changing technology.
How can resources move, if not up and down the hierarchy? Right now we get resources where we need them mostly by paying resources (money) up the hierarchy, and then having the hierarchy make decisions about allocating them out to where they're needed. There is some entropy involved with this, not to mention outright graft. If oil companies had to appeal directly to the American people for subsidies, how much do you suppose they would get? If you are making billions in profit, could you really make a case for donations? Yet amazingly millions of dollars sent up the hierarchy by Americans end up as subsidies to oil companies.
Direct funding of large projects on a big scale has been made much easier by the internet (for example Kickstarter) but it's still in it's infancy. Undoubtedly there will be a lot of problems still to work out.
I imagine that looking at Occupy's issues, conservatives may assume these are a bunch of liberals and therefore “big government” people. That would be a wrong assumption. Occupiers are not big government people. They are “very little government” people. But before those of you wishing to get away with making totally unregulated fortunes at everybody else's expense start jumping on the Occupy bandwagon, you should know that Occupy has a plan to prevent you from doing that. It's called:

Cultural Value 3: Transparency. At S17, marching along on the sidewalk, listening to the band playing “When the Saints Come Marching In” with confetti in my hair, everybody in a generally festive mood, I spied a couple of policemen wading into the crowd, I moved back a bit, then there was a gasp from the crowd, a thud as a body hit the sidewalk, the crowd surged backwards and then regrouped around the person being handcuffed. Everybody started chanting Shame! Shame! The whole world is watching! And with about a bizillion cameras, cell phones and video cameras aimed at the police, the whole world was watching. It only took a few days for photos and videos of many illegal arrests and unnecessarily harsh police activity to flood the internet.
Occupy is committed to openness in what it does (and whether or not people in the movement are being sufficiently open can be a point of contention) but more generally, it is committed to exposing anybody who tries to scam the system or dominate others. The new model for social control is not that Big Brother is watching you. It's that everybody is watching you. And there is a moral component to this—You should be ashamed of your behavior. This is the social control of the small scale society on a very large scale, possible only now because reality is so easy to capture and communicate rapidly to others. The generation growing up with social media seems comfortable with a degree of social exposure similar to that of a village where your neighbors know what you're up to most of the time. How can we balance this kind of social control with respect for people's privacy?

Cultural Value 4: I'm OK, You're OK. Occupy people are a highly individualistic lot who value creativity. Occupy's creativity is one of it's greatest strengths. Occupy people like drama, they like costumes, they like music and they like art. Chalk is a lot of fun. We're a movement that just keeps coming up with new, inventive and cheap ways to get our message out. Because we value creativity, Occupy tries very hard to respect individual differences. In Occupy, different behavior is creative behavior, and creative behavior is potentially a solution to a problem. Sometimes Occupy tries so hard to respect individual differences that it is almost comical, but we take it seriously because we know it's important. This too is a value of many small scale societies, where people depend on other people and if you are merely different, but not harmful to the group, an effort is made create an acceptable social role for you. People power is too valuable a resource to waste when you don't have very many people. Under these circumstances, where people are more accepting of a wide range of individual differences, there is less need for privacy.

Cultural Value 5: Greed is bad. At the heart of Occupy culture is a rejection of the worship of wealth. When Occupy talks about CEOs making billions of dollars, they aren't talking about the need for a new law that takes away rich people's money and gives it to poor people as some sort of convenient way to move money around and solve the problem of poverty. They are talking about morality, that people who make that much money should be ashamed, that this is a kind of pathological hoarding behavior and that people who have this problem don't need a new law, they need an intervention. Real humans care about other humans, feel empathy and realize we are all in this together. They are team players. Occupy groups, though they themselves have little resources, are involved in a lot of activities at the community level that involve giving things away---free food, free stuff, free services. This isn't because they think that people shouldn't have to work for things, it's an educational and spiritual exercise in letting go of materialism and valuing people over profit. Occupy groups are working hard to educate people that life is just not all about money. In this respect Occupy is stepping in to fill a moral void left by many modern churches who have seemingly contracted their notion of morality to include only regulating other peoples' sex lives. Occupy has received support from courageous faith leaders who are bucking this trend, some of whom were among the first arrested at the S17 action.

Cultural Value 6: Use=Ownership. A long time ago and in small scale societies, people's idea of ownership was tied to the relationship they had to the thing owned. Later people developed an abstract idea of ownership in which a person could own something they didn't use and could extract resources from others for the privilege of using it, a concept that would have seemed nonsensical to people for most of human history.
Occupy is fond of talking about the People's this and that. This doesn't mean that everything should belong to something nebulous called the People, which might devolve into belonging to a few people called the State. It means that this is something lots of (actual) people use, and therefore it is owned by lots of (actual) people. Worker owned businesses make a lot of sense in Occupy culture. Things everybody needs and uses, like water, roads or healthcare, should belong to everybody. This means that everybody should have responsibility for their cost and maintenance, and everybody should be able to use them. One person owning six houses doesn't make sense in Occupy culture, nor does thousands of vacant houses owned by banks who don't maintain them, while people who could maintain them are homeless.

Cultural Value 7: Another World is Possible. So where are all the issues, all the demands? Occupy has a lot of issues and many of them are similar to issues and demands of established “liberal” groups, but Occupy is neither politically liberal nor politically conservative. Occupy encompasses people of widely varying political ideologies, and working things out in the midst of this will tax Occupy's culture of respect for all and giving all a voice to the extreme. The saving grace of Occupy culture will be a reliance on small group dynamics at the community level, where people of different backgrounds and viewpoints have to work together in face to face situations. Just like in the ancient village, in Occupy culture, people are too precious a resource to write off.

As the generally festive Occupy marchers encircled the financial district on S17, this despite brutal police harassment, the guys in suits looking down on us were neither laughing at us, nor with us. They looked worried, as well they should be, because there is no room for elitism in Occupy culture. But should they be worried that something bad will happen to them? No. Occupy is revolutionary, but it's not the kind of revolution you think of when you think about one group wanting to take power away from another group. It's a revolution of the heart and mind.
The police repression Occupy continues to experience is a bad strategy for those in power to pursue. We chanted “We are the 99%, you are the 99%” to the police, because we want to include these hard working Americans in the movement, but it's hard to watch officers who are supposed to be protecting citizens bloody the faces of peaceful unarmed people and not dislike them. Intended to intimidate, brutality just makes people who value justice angrier and more determined.
And Occupy is full of people who value justice.
My advice is to just lay off. Maybe Occupy is only another idealistic movement that will evaporate. Or maybe it really is a harbinger of the shape of human societies post-Digital Revolution, where we will return to structures with which we feel comfortable and within which we can be our most human and most moral. Would that be so bad?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

ADVICE TO MILLENNIALS: WEANING OURSELVES OFF CORPORATE CONTROL (It's like caffeine withdrawal. It'll be painful at first, but healthier in the long run.)

Walk out your front door:
• Look to the right. Is there a neighbor who is elderly and on a fixed income or low income? Do they need help with home repair they can no longer do themselves or afford to hire someone to do? Do they need transportation to a doctor’s, a grocery, a friend’s? Are they included in community events? Are they lonely? 
• Look to the left. Is there a neighbor who has suffered a recent set-back: injury, sickness, loss of a job, family disruption, accident, unexpected expenses? Is there a child in a single parent household who needs a mentor, a ride, a winter coat?
• Look to your child’s school. How many children are on free/reduced lunch? Are they still hungry on weekends? Do they have proper clothing? Are they involved in community events? Are they discriminated against? Are there children with learning disabilities who could use some further assistance? Are their volunteer opportunities to read to children, tutor, mentor, support health and sports activities, community organizations (little league, scouts, after-school care)?
• Look at your community. Is there a Habitat for Humanity program? Senior Meals? Scouts? Food bank? Drug rehabilitation? Alcohol counseling? Public transportation? Bike paths and free recreational opportunities? Recycling programs? Environmental programs? A community garden? Get involved in local community service organizations. Help a veteran.
• Look at your home. Can you conserve energy, reduce consumerism, eat more healthily, enjoy the out-of-doors, get off your electronics, expand your family activities?
• Look inward. Can you face up to and change your attitudes towards consumerism, fast food, energy use, and dependence on corporate interference? Can you examine and eliminate your prejudices: religious, racial, class-based?

What you can do:
buy local
buy organic foods
use whole foods; avoid anything in a package or can or freezer shelves
avoid plastic containers and other petroleum based products
recycle, reuse, repair
downsize living 
reduce consumerism (if it is advertised on TV, it is probably not necessary)
share - free swap; sharing economy
participate in local community
conserve energy and carbon based products
make it yourself
question authority
teach and learn

Below: Serving donated food during the occupation of Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street, 2011

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Art Keeps on Coming---at The 99

   We'll be offering our next  class "Introduction to Watercolors" taught by NEK watercolorist Mary Alice Brenner, on Saturday, November 9 from 1 to 4 PM at the gallery and center. This is a free beginner class for the community. Come join us for this creative, fun learning opportunity.
   We're also looking for artists for our next show "Surreal" opening the first week in December. See the Call to Artists below.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't Stop with Donating to a Food Shelf

   A visitor who uses the food shelf just stopped by the center with his bags. All the food was heavily processed (not to mention over packaged) including "cheese blintzes" and hostess-type cakes and white bread. He isn't allowed to pick the food himself, the staff picks it out for him. This is a fellow who does cook for himself with fresh food if he can get it (A friend gave him a real treat, some chicken, which he baked.) Of course the food will keep him from being hungry. He's quite thin as he has to walk everywhere and has a severe (and obvious) physical disability. His color is very poor and he looks unhealthy. He does smoke, but due to the high cost of cigarettes he picks up butts from the ground, a practice he says he'd like to stop, but he can't afford to buy them and nicotine is a really hard addiction to kick. His family background was in farming, before the farms went under, so he remembers farm-fresh food from his childhood.

  Charity is laudable, but it would be great if people would also spend some time working to break the hold of agro-business on the economy, stop subsidizing mega-producers of corn and soybeans and start subsidizing small farmers and community farms, because as it is now they can't make it without selling at high prices ("value-added") to wealthy people. This fellow can't afford the local organic "Duck Comfit" advertised downtown. Plain old chicken, some potatoes and a fresh vegetable would be just fine for him, thank you. Oh, by the way, his food stamps have been cut to under $200/month, and if things keep going the way they are, will probably be cut again.

  Don't stop with a donation to your local food shelf. Ask yourself how we can change the system to create a local, healthy stable food supply for all Americans, not just the privileged few.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Four Scenarios, A Play in One Act for People who Know About Newport Development

[Sharon and Diane exit the Planning Commission Meeting, where Bill Stenger, great benefactor of the Newport masses, has just outlined how he will provide JOBS which graciously allow the poor residents of Newport to clean the rooms of wealthy tourists at wages they can't live on.]

Sharon: [Whose life experience involves many years without a fixed address on the streets of D.C. and things haven't been very rosy since either]: I'm with them. Those places on that block aren't fit for human habitation. There's bedbugs and all manner of vermin and the place they give you with one room and a toilet nobody should have to live in. They should tear 'em all down, and then maybe they could rent them to poor folks, who'd have a decent place to live.

Diane: Well that's not what they have in mind...[drowned out by Sharon going on about how lovely the new apartments would be.] SHARON, LISTEN---They just want to rent them to rich people, all the poor people will have to move somewhere else.

Sharon: Well that's the plan they have, but maybe they won't be able to rent them all, then they'll be glad to get a steady renter at any rent, who won't trash the place and they won't have to keep putting it on the market. Hell, maybe they won't be able to rent them at all.

Diane: I've thought of that. I've thought of that. That's Scenario Number 2. Scenario Number 1 is that everything goes as they have planned and all the poor people have to go somewhere else and just have to come in to wait on tables and clean the rooms. Scenario Number 2 is that it flops. It's bad if it flops when there's just a big hole in the ground, but if it flops later, we have a lot of nice places for people to live that they can't rent so have to rent at low rates. That's good for poor people. Personally, I think it will flop.

Sharon: There should be a mix of apartments, some subsidized and some for the movie stars and glamorous ones, they should push to equalize that, with all the nice furbishments for people with low incomes next door to the millionaires and such so the poor people have a decent place to live...

Diane: SHARON, have you ever seen, is there anybody...

Sharon: They'd be happy to get people in who just pay the rent along with big spenders...

Diane: Sharon, there's nobody in Newport with the guts to demand that. That's Scenario Number 3, where we demand that they provide subsidized housing along side the nice apartments. But our spineless City Council, the quivering Planning Commission, nobody has the guts to ask this. That would be great, best for everybody, but they're all such idiots....

Sharon: Then there's Scenario Number 4.

Diane: There is no Number 4 . There's three scenarios, that's it.

Sharon: Scenario Number 4, where we tear down the whole  system.

Diane: I suppose that involves pitchforks and torches.

Sharon: Yeah, pitchforks and torches. Goodnight Diane. Don't stay up too late.

Diane: Goodnight Sharon. See ya later.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NEK 99% Winter Projects

   Nek 99% folks met today to talk about winter projects, including the next Tasting Party, the winter film series and a focus on encouraging dialog among local residents about issues of importance to them, with the goal of generating solutions.
  • The downtown Newport neighborhood will be invited to a Tasting Party at The 99 on October 30 starting at 3 PM. We are getting some great organic, locally produced winter vegetables and will be cooking up one or two recipes to sample along with some cider and Halloween (healthy) treat bags for the kids that will include community building messages. Look for posters up in Newport and notices in neighbors' doors.
  • The 99 will be showing free documentary films weekly on Thursdays at 6 PM on a variety of topics, beginning January 2 with  a series entitled "MONEY". Why doesn't there seem to be enough of it to go around? How did our monetary system get in such a mess? Who's really running it?  What IS money, anyway? 
  • Look for us in downtown Newport at  the Fish (and possibly at other locations around the Kingdom) interviewing people on the street on camera about how Federal budget cutbacks have affected them. Do you have a story to tell? Let us get it on video.
  • Look for us using art and theater (at various locations not disclosed in advance!)  to engage people's attention about vital local issues like rights of workers, housing rights and disability rights. Then join us for a discussion of a featured issue where you can target problems and be part of the solution.
  • Free classes will continue at The 99, beginning with "Watercolors" taught by NEK artist Mary Brenner on Saturday, November 9 from 1-4 PM. Jack Rogers will be teaching an advance block printing class and we will again be offering  internet classes this time geared to specific levels of computer expertise, as we found this varies quite a bit.
  • We have begun a discussion about setting up community WiFi to improve access to the internet for low income people. Also, remember that The 99 has free WiFi, and the coffee,tea and snacks are free too!
  • Our next art exhibit, opening around December 1, will be called "Surreal". Artists: Are you a surrealist? Is your art just a little weird? We are looking to hear from you. As always, untrained artists and students are welcome.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

New Activist Center Opens in Barre

   We were pleased to see that the street we turned down to get to Barre's new activist center, located on Orange Street, is called "Freedom Way". We think the new activist center will indeed give people in the Barre-Montpelier area more freedom to speak about the issues that concern them.
   Under a nicely lettered sign that says WE ALL LIVE DOWNSTREAM, and marked by a friendly quilted "99 %" lawn sign, the cozy white house seems to say ""Everybody welcome here." The message is borne out when you enter the door and find a spacious  area with comfortable furniture, the coffee pot on and a wide selection of books and pamphlets. WiFi is also available. A board in the open kitchen space displays all the Occucards currently out.   If you don't know about these, they are colorfully printed postcard-size informational material on "Why we occupy: exposing and opposing the corporate state" and are helpful in explaining some rather complicated issues and how they negatively impact average Americans.
   Crystal Zevon, who is graciously maintaining this space, explained that the center will host a variety of events including free meals and movies and will be a place where neighbors and activists can meet and discuss issues. There is also space for overnight guests and the option for people who may want to stay in the area to rent a room  for a longer period.
   Guests at the open house enjoyed some great home-cooked food and pleasant conversation. We're glad we made the drive down there all the way from the Northeast Kingdom!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Block Printing Class Was Fun and Community-Building, and Thoughts on Creating Privately Owned Public Open Spaces

  Jack Roger's free lino-block printing class left us all feeling like artistic successes. Conversation at times drifted to current Northeast Kingdom events, while our hands were busy creating interesting designs. Community classes fulfill one of our goals here, which is to provide a space for people to meet and strengthen their ties to neighbors.

   Although progress is slow, another good sign is that neighbors are dropping in for coffee and conversation or to use the computers. Of course, visitors are also coming in too to see the art. This makes for an interesting mix of people who might not otherwise use the same space, which is also a great way to strengthen community ties.

   We hope to prove that indoor public space can be an asset to the community, especially here in Vermont where six months of the year inclement weather precludes sitting around in a park.  Some communities are creating public-private partnerships to make this kind of space a reality. Have a look at the link below:

 This is 60 Wall Street in New York City. It's a POPOS (privately owned public open space). Occupy Wall Street used it for meetings during the occupation of Zucotti Park. Yes, some of the people sitting here quietly reading the paper, getting a cup of coffee or using the public bathroom may not have a fixed address. But every time I've been in there, everyone has been respectful and considerate of others rights.

   Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park near Seattle, centered around a large bookstore, is another privately-owned public space I have visited. My daughter loved the giant chess set. From the pictures, it looks like it's getting a little ritzier than when we were there, but the idea behind these public places is that they are open to everyone and encourage events or
just hanging out. Wouldn't it be great to have a child's play place like they have in malls right in downtown Newport? One where you didn't have to buy your kid a Happy Meal to get in?  A place for mom's to take their kids on a rainy day, hang out, talk and have a cup of coffee?  Privately owned public places are a way businesses can contribute to strong communities, but are not just a charitable donation. These spaces encourage people to come and linger, possibly remembering something they need to get, which they wouldn't have if they had just made a quick trip in to buy something from the Pick and Shovel and then hopped in their car to leave again. Indoor public spaces also provide ideal locations for publicizing (and hosting) educational and cultural events such as art shows and plays. They are also great places for shopping-weary tourists to sit down and take a take a load off their feet. Kid friendly spaces would surely be welcome to these visitors!

   The new development downtown would be an ideal way to incorporate public open space into the community of Newport. It would also demonstrate to residents that the developers are seriously interested in the welfare of our area.

   For the time being, The 99 Gallery and Center will be open at least part of the day as a place for neighbors to meet and we will continue to offer free classes and events for the community. Our coffee pot is always on! We are looking for people with skills to share who are willing to teach a class and provide materials. All classes are free, though people sometimes may want to contribute something to the person teaching the class to offset costs. This is voluntary. The Gallery and Center does all the publicity.



Monday, September 23, 2013

We're Inviting You and the Neighborhood to The 99 Gallery and Center for our Next Art Show!

  Come to The 99 on  Saturday, October 5 for a showing of art about the Kingdom from Kingdom artists. Our talented local artists will be joined by community members and student artists to get us thinking about where we've been and where we're going. Enjoy cider and donuts and great live music, from 2 to 4 PM. We will also be circulating a map of other galleries in Newport. Make it an Art Walk day and then come back for hot chocolate! The 99 is located behind 316 Main Street, facing School Street across from the Family Dollar in downtown Newport.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Draw the Line on the XL Pipeline" Rally in Hardwick Draws More than 50 Activists and Some Thoughts on the Sharing Economy

A crowd gathered by the side of the road in Hardwick today to protest the XL Pipeline and its little brother the Portland Pipeline through the NEK. These pipelines will carry toxic tar sands bitumen with potentially serious environmental consequences should a spill occur. And several already have in other parts of the country. The Portland Pipeline is an existing pipeline that is already about 60 years old. It passes under many NEK waterways and due to the effects of Tropical Storm Irene, the pipeline is now exposed to the elements in a few locations.  Activists came from all over northern and central Vermont to say "No" to these projects.

   After the rally, a smaller group, including members from NEK99% and Occupy Central Vermont,  met to talk about how we can create a society where greedy wealth-accumulating individuals and corporations don't engage in  activities which put people and our planet at risk.
  Here are some thoughts I took away from this discussion:

  We want to replace the "Hoarding Economy" (where a few people who work hard at "gaming" the system are accumulating an ever larger share of the nation's wealth) with the a "Sharing Economy", where people in communities move goods and services locally without excessive accumulation by the few and without debt. We tossed around a few ideas about what the Sharing Economy would look like. Certainly one aspect would be fair sharing in the wealth generated by production by all those who labor to create it. Another would be more neighbor-to-neighbor support and community assistance.

  We talked about working in our communities to create the Sharing Economy while at the same time working to dismantle the Hoarding Economy. Some ways that this could be done are:
   1. Working through various governmental and legal channels to make it harder for accumulators to accumulate, such as the proposed "Robin Hood Tax" on financial transactions. Wealth accumulators are like other hoarders, they have a problem that makes them unable to stop trying to accumulate money, even when they have so much that there is no logical reason to have it. The tax is like putting a tax on cigarettes--it makes it harder to pursue their addiction.

   2. Reinforce the immorality of wealth accumulation in the face of the suffering of so many. In small scale societies, people are prevented from accumulating by peer pressure. We need to apply that pressure. At the recent Wall Street demonstrations in New York, we went from financial institution to financial institution to crying "Shame, shame". This is a moral statement. In some parts of the country people are gathering for "Moral Mondays" to promote the idea of a just society. It's also hopeful that the new Catholic pope Francis has made a statement that the church has become unduly obsessed with issues like abortion and has neglected issues of inequality of resources. This helps bring the notion of social justice into the moral realm.

3. Work in our communities to model the Sharing Economy on a local level, by promoting local production and distribution of goods and food and by holding events that where "value" is not monetary. We need to demonstrate that "giving" means more than donating a gift to a poor family at Christmas.

4. Make the Sharing Economy fun. No joke. Art, music and film can make a new idea more attractive to everybody, the 99% and the 1%.  And a great outreach to kids too.

  I picked up a copy of "Occupy Finance" at the 2nd anniversary. Here is a link to an NPR story:

And here is a link to the book:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Occupy Looks this AM in the New York Papers.

New York Times: If it's in there, it's not at all obvious.

Free Daily papers they give out to folks getting on the subway: As last year, these more populist papers devote some coverage to Occupy.
The headline in The Metro reads, "Occupy Still Important Two Years After Start".

An editorial in AM New York reads, "Occupy Wall Street Must Raise It's Voice Again."

The author, Liza Featherstone, writes: "Occupy did not change our reality, but it did change our political rhetoric, especially here in new York City". Featherstone connects the Occupy movment to the current mayoral election in NYC. The paper's banner headline reads, "Ain't Even Close", referring to a poll placing Democratic candidate DiBlasio well ahead of Republican Lhota. I will try to share the full text of this editorial later, but she concludes by exhorting Occupy to "become a nuisance to the 1% again". I'm ready for that.

It did occur to me that there might be some connection between the dramatic decrease in police harassment and the election. DiBlasio is looking like the front-runner, has adopted a softened "Occupy ideology"  and has the backing of labor. Our afternoon demonstration, organized by a labor/Occupy/Act Up coalition, seemed to get the royal treatment (there were amplifiers set up at one point along the route, from which labor speakers gave short talks as we marched to Bryant Park)  For the most part the police didn't even appear to have come prepared to arrest anyone. Only a few had zip ties hanging form their belts, unlike last year.

Maybe they're thinking about impressing a new boss.

However, I'm not getting excited about any political candidates. They all seem to be cut from the same cloth, But maybe we can hope for "not so bad" as opposed to "really bad".


According to news reports there were several arrests. This would have been at the UN demonstration in the afternoon when several activists entered an intersection as an act of civil disobedience. It was all very quiet.

Bizarrely, the police wouldn't allow cardboard sticks for signs into Zucotti park (everybody knew not to bring wood sticks) because they were painted. But they were OK on the sidewalk, where they might actually have encountered a passer-by.

Just had an interesting conversation with a lady from France in my somewhat halting French. She is a socialist and is sold on the idea of taking action against Assad in Syria, but I guess in France they don't worry so much about getting their government getting them into a ten year war. Very few people here at the hostel are speaking English, and there seems to be a different language at every table. If you aren't a stickler for comfort, I'd recommend you try it out if you stay in New York. Sharing sleeping space and bathrooms is inconvenient, but the place is very pleasant, easy to get to the rest of Manhattan on the subway and feels very secure for someone travelling alone. There is a little cafe with food a little cheaper than the high prices in many places inNew York.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Photos, Occupy Wall Street, S17 Afternoon Actions

Back at the hostel, where I can look through the photos and try to find some that aren't blurry. Below: Emperor Pipeline arrives at Wall Street; It's really hard to photograph a crowd when you're in it; These mounted police were necessary to keep us from going up the steps again, apparently; It wouldn't be Occupy without chalk; A nicely stitched sign forced these women to pose for interminable photos; Both comedian Lee Camp AND film maker Dennis Trainor Jr. ("American Autumn", Acronym TV) in the same picture. Amazingly they look just like they do on video. Guess they don't wear any makeup. I have to admit, I was starstruck; The Robin Hood Tax banner. This is what you get when you have union money, along with pre-printed signs and matching T-shirts. Frankly I like Occupy's love of cardboard, markers and chalk, but that's just me; A couple of pictures of the the second demonstration, at 5 PM as people getting out of work were able to join; Entering Bryant Park; Sweet Honey in the Rock, with amplifiers. Somebody had a permit.

Wow! Ranks Swelling to Several Hundred at Labor/Act Up/ Occupy S17 Solidarity Demonstration

We arrived after a long walk the barefoot guy in white to the UN, which is opening today. I was heartened to see several hundred people already gathered, a coalition of labor, including many nurses, Act Up AIDS activists and Occupy, demonstrating for a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions (this would be a tax on Wall St.) We marched, chanted and sang all the way back to Bryant Park. What a difference from last year---The police are all over, some with zip ties on their belts, but I didn't see any arrests. They just seemed to be directing traffic along the way. Even went out in the street at times. A guy grabbed me to help hold the Act Up Fight AIDS banner for awhile, so I marched with them most of the way. I think there are are about 500 to 700 people now and everybody is here listening to Sweet Honey in the Rock. In addition to no police interference there have been amplifiers. Yet Zucotti park is still barricaded off like a fort. Can't get pictures to upload, so will head back to the hostel and work on it. There is a GA tonight, but won't go. It's been a great day.

Taking a Break at Bryant Park, between S17 Actions at occupy Wall Street

Well, let's see. It's been along afternoon. I left Zucotti Park looking for the subway to catch up with folks at Times Square, but ended up running into the march and had a great time with hordes of people, signs and music walking up Broadway. (OK, there were about 200). We made a lot of noise.

We ended up at Washington Square at a planned rally with speakers about the TPP. I'll have a lot to say about this later. It's serious. But the fun part was getting to hold the banners for B and P while they did their show.

Things got a little vague at this point, but a guy with bare feet dressed all in white said we could follow him to Times Square for the next TPP event via the subway. So some of us did. A couple from New York, a lady from New Jersey, and a guy from Boston.  At Times Square we found the event was over. What a disappointment. But there not only did Iget to see Lee Camp, we ended up walking around New York with him, following the guy with the bare feet. Along the way we picked up Dennis Trainor Jr, who made the movie "American Autumn". So now I find myself sitting in a park with the guy with bare feet, Lee Camp, Dennis Trainor and a growing crowd of others. This has been a little surreal for a middle-aged lady from Vermont.More later.

S17 Wall Street

There's something ironic about using a Burger King send info about an anti-corporate  event.

One thing about Occupiers---apparently we're not early risers. I arrived promptly at 8 Am and found a group of about 20 very cold activists. Soon the bagels and cream cheese arrived. And then more activists. Within the hour the number increased to about 100, there are many more now that we have gotten back to Zucotti park from a visit to Wall  Street. It was NOT blocked off this year, allowing us to make a human gong to counter, and drown out the opening bell at the stock exchange, from the steps of...not sure what huge building it was but there was a massive statue.

NYPD get up early in the morning. In fact there are about ten of them for every protester. Many walked along side of us on the street. Some of the light blue shirted ones walked with us, a few engaged in conversation with marchers. I keep a sharp eye on the ones in the white shirts.

Some of our own Vermont Band P folks are here. Events are planned for all day.
Oh, Oh---The park appears to have emptied out. Better go see what's going on.

Monday, September 16, 2013

En Route to NYC for Occupy's 2nd Anniversary

Greetings from Amtrak: Looks like an event in support of fast food workers and an event to protest the Transpacific Partnership are going to happen pretty much at the same time. I want to do BOTH of these. Have to see how it works out. The TPP event will be theatrical. There will also be speeches and workshops all day at Zucotti Park. And a People's Exchange, only I don't have anything to exchange.  Curious to see how heavy the police presence will be.

More about the action here: