Category Archives: Opinion

Occupy Boston: The roots of peaceful protest



Video of interviews taken on September 30, 2011

On October 9. 2011, this picture-perfect Boston day, I took a walk over to a part of Boston called Dewey Square. On September 30, 2011, this little section of Boston located between the Federal Reserve Building and the Financial District became the home of a protest movement called Occupy Boston. This movement is associated but separate from the one in NYC known as Occupy Wall Street.

My only exposure to this movement was only through some press coverage in the Boston area. The interpretation that I was left with from the press is that these were a bunch of people that didn’t know how to organize of have a real agenda. I decided to find out for myself.

As you approach this meridian patch of land nestled between two main roads, it looks like the local EMS is having an outdoor tent sale. As you get closer the people come in focus, then the signs. It really is a hodgepodge of both people and messages on the signs. As I approached this urban campsite, there were spectators, “residents” and skateboarders in the mix. I was struck by hand made signs that adorned different tents. “Library”, “Sacred Space”, “Students” and of course an “Info” were the first tents I saw.

Once entering this dense collection of tents, I was struck by how organized it actually felt. There was a main path with tents and a swarm of meanderers on either side of me. I passed the food tent that was offering free food to anyone that asked. I then made my way to the “Media” tent and spoke to a few people there. It was amazing to see how connected this media tent was. Computers with social media publishing tools, some video being watched and some sound equipment accented the hum of organized chaos. You could feel the energy that people had. They were part of something bigger than themselves and they were all in!

I continued my own walkabout to discover a fair amount of young adults that dressed and smelled like many of the people that followed the Grateful Dead. While I never toured with the Grateful Dead, I did have my share of Grateful Dead experiences. However, there was one distinct smell that made it unlike a Grateful Dead show, or should I say the lack of one… pot. There was no Mary Jane adding to the experience here. Bravo for to the organizers for taking that out of the mix. Clearly some things have changed since the time of the Dead shows.

As I walked to the other entrance/exit of this mini tent city, I saw a motorcycle with a Ron Paul sticker. A young man who looked to be about 20 was holding a sign that said “End the Federal Reserve”. To be fair, he was clearly part of the Ron Paul folks there. You gotta love the Ron Paul movement, they leverage any opportunity to get their message across. Having not done a podcast with Jeff in over two months, I was itching for a good political debate. Now was my chance. End the Fed, I thought, putty in my hands.

I approached this young adult with a smile and a question “Why do you want to end the Federal Reserve?”. His answer was filled with passion, if not anything else. “Because they caused all the problems with this economy,” he said. I responded, “Can you give me an example of how they have caused this economic downturn?” Clearly struggling with an answer, he grabs his friend next to him and says, “This guy wants to know why we should end the Fed.” His friend laughs and says, “It’s all you man. You are holding that sign, not me.” While I was disappointed that I was not going to get my debate, it did emphasize something that struck me about the Occupy movement in general, they are a protest, not a solution.

This is where the press does the movement a dis-service. They are treated harshly because they don’t have a 50 pont plan to solve the economy. They are taken lightly that they can’t articulate the specific causes for the economic turmoil that we face. However, they don’t need to. At least not now. The movement needs only to maintain the vigil. This allows the conversation to be changed. It allows the conversation to not be about the wars. It need not be about how taxes can’t be raised under any condition. It IS about how people are hurting, how they are frustrated and how they feel left out of the American Dream.

I am one who prefers to debate the issues with facts and come to a conclusion on what direction we should go. This, however, is a peaceful protest that has social media savvy. As these disparate Occupy groups come together using the very social media tools that have a business model of high revenues and low numbers of employees, they also empower themselves with one of the most powerful and efficient ways to organize people and disseminate a message. If successful, these groups can tap into a generation that now finds itself in a world far less embracing than the virtual one they grew up with on XBox. If this generation mobilizes, it can have an unprecedented impact on both our political and economic environments. This could be the movement that dumps a different kind of TEA back into Boston Harbor.

Check Please!


I’m at that time in my observations of what is happening in Washington DC where I just want to ask for the check and get out of this dysfunctional restaurant where the floor show and the food are both equally bad.

Last night, we saw more finger pointing. The President placed the blame on the Republicans for not wanting a balanced approach that includes cuts to spending and increase in revenues, yet earlier in the day he backed the Reid plan which contained no revenue increases.

But wait, The Speaker of the House spoke right after the President and had his own spin on things. Among other things, he claims that his plan is born out of the “bi-partisan” efforts in Congress. Well Mr. Speaker, if it were bi-partisan efforts, why can’t your plan pass the Senate? Five Democratic votes out of a total of 193 Democrats in the House does not make it a bi-partisan effort.

The sad thing is that both parties are not telling the American people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The truth is that regardless of what happens over the next week, the US credit rating is going to go down. Why? Well, it’s not about the debt ceiling. It is about the debt and our inability to get control of it. The Democrats and Republicans talk a good game, but neither one are serious. They are both part of how we got here. They are two sides of the same coin. How else can we answer the following questions:

  • Is removing a loophole that was created by lobbyist efforts really a tax increase?
  • Does a tax system that allows a $200 billion company to pay no income tax make any sense?
  • Does a government that spends money in other countries building their infrastructure while our own is falling apart make sense?

However, the markets see this country for what it is… an over-spending entity, that does not invest in itself or its people. It is an entity that believes you can strangle your own bad habits by cutting revenue sources ’till it hurts. The result will not be a default. That is not what the markets are worried about. The result will be the belief that we cannot get our fiscal house in order. In fact that result is already there. The steady decline of the dollar was the early sign. We pay more for things now than we did last year even though demand is soft. The next step will be the lowering of our credit rating which will trigger higher interest rates for the US to borrow. This will have a domino effect on other interest rates that are tied to government rates. The average consumer will see a steady increase in some of the rates they are paying. This begins a spiral effect that is tough in a good economy and could prove to be devastating in our current sluggish economy.

Remember this at the next election. It’s time to vote out the immature kids who can’t play nice. It’s time we vote in some adults who can bring in not the “Change we can believe”, but deliver on the “Change that we need”… fiscal discipline on all fronts.

The Constitutionality of the McConnell Debt Ceiling Plan


Isn’t it odd that the in the House of Representatives, the Republicans added a rule to read parts of the Constitution that justifies any new bill while the Senate Republicans want to defy the Constitution? Senator Mitch McConnell wants to allow the President to propose an increase to the debt limit in which Congress will vote on its “approval”. Unlike a bill that would come out of Congress and allow the President to sign it and therefore become law, the McConnell plan allows the President to veto a Congressional vote that is not in favor of an approval or “Disapproves” the proposal. According to the McConnell plan, this veto would then allow the president on his own power to raise the debt ceiling.

This is wrong on multiple levels. Politically, it is cowardly to see the desire to on one hand allow the debt ceiling to be raised, but on the other hand have a majority vote against it for political cover. Politics, however, has not always been the most noble profession and this is no exception. The big problem is with the Constitutionality of this this move. The framers of the Constitution were very clear about which branch has the ability to raise debt.  It is spelled out in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution that the branch with such power is the Legislature:

Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

The McConnell Plan would transfer this power, albeit with a time limit, to the Executive Branch by enabling the President to usurp Legislative power and rule of law with the use of a Veto. The Constitution is very clear about putting the purse strings of the United States in the hands of the Legislature.  They understood that the body to authorize spending must be separate from the body that actually spends. The concentration of both authorizing and spending power in one person’s hands is too great.

James Madison warned of this in The Federalist Papers #47. He wrote:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.

Madison warns us of placing powers in the hands of one branch that are not subject to the checks and balances of the others. Congress should not be able to circumvent the Constitution and cede power to the President (even if they wish to). It is odd that the very party that wants to see the President ousted from office in the next election is so willing to hand over their own power to the very same President.

Our only hope, if this plan becomes law, is that the Supreme Court in short order declares this plan to be un-Constitutional. However, that in and of itself creates a domino effect of issues surrounding any of the debt related activities that the President under the plan.

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

If the Supreme Court were to rule on the plan as un-Constitutional, what would happen to any debts taken under that plan? Is there a Constitutional crisis when two sections of the Constitution would conflict?

Given the limited time before the United States has to raise the debt ceiling and the Constitutional issues with the McConnell plan, I have to question the judgement of the very people considering it on both sides.

Defense Spending is Counterintuitive


It really struck me today when I read that President Obama’s defense budget for next year is $22B larger than this year.  Aren’t we drawing down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Doesn’t that mean lots of extra troops and dollars to be put into other stuff, and the war on terror?  Why would we need more?

How about a new foreign policy based on the concept of restraint, recognizing the idea of “blow-back”, which more and more people are starting to talk about.

  1. Stop messing with other peoples stuff
  2. Then people will hate us less
  3. Which will lead them to stop messing with our stuff
  4. Which will lead us to stop feeling the need to mess with their stuff
  5. Repeat

Ron Paul has it right. The more we spend on defense, the more enemies we have, and the less safe we are.  Now its really probably some inflexion point on a curve somewhere where you increase safety up to a certain level then see the inverse, but it feels like we passed that point on the curve somewhere around the end of the cold war.

What do you think?

Guest Blogger Jeff

Social Media Makes History…or Lincoln’s Wearing Pink Underwear


It’s an undeniable fact, sometimes a sad one, that the evolution of communication technology has led to what I call the cult of instant mass personalization.  I was on a social media site the other day and someone was posting, about every couple hours, what they were eating, and how at this point in the day a certain company’s French fries tasted better than another’s. It got me thinking: what a perverted sense of history we must have. We now live in a world where we know everything about everyone in real time. Or actually, we know what people want us to know, and we know what we think they are, but we really don’t know anything at all. We just have lots of mostly useless information. Maybe too much sometimes. But this info – it’s really personal, but now it’s out there for the world to see, and it’s locked away in someone’s servers for eternity. It kind of changes the definition of history in the making, when you think about it.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not preaching – I’m as guilty as the next person. I’m out there putting my best face, or facebook as the pun goes, forward. One look at my posts and you’ll see I’m caught in the wave, too. But every once in a while it’s nice to sit on shore and look at the churning sea of communications and kind of take it all in. I wonder if anyone knows how to talk to each other anymore, or if I put myself in a room with 15 other people, had a conversation and we all got text messages at the same time, if we’d all reach first and then talk later? (I know I would).  I wonder if we’d say half the things we say (or, I mean, write) if we actually had to say them to someone’s face, rather then post them anonymously like some kind of rhetorical voyeur for all the world to see? Would someone really go out of their way to tell me that they had a really bad ingrown toenail, or maybe by the time we got face-to-face, some of this stuff would become irrelevant? I wonder if history will be changed by this constant stream of noise?

What would it have been like if social media existed, say, during the Civil War?

  •  We’ve been marching 4 days and my feet r killing me! What I wouldn’t do for comfy shoes.
  • RT: Lee says we’re outta here. Does that mean I have to pack? I have a game on Sunday…
  • My tent mate is an a-hole. Snores like a bear. I’m going to stuff him like a turkey if he doesn’t stop.
  • @hunkymusket: My tent mate is a hunk. His snore is cute. I’m going to stuff him like a turkey if I get the chance. tee hee 🙂
  • @G’Burg, Lil RoundTop: This guy Chamberlin might be smart, but he’s annoying as hell. If I don’t get off this hill soon I’m going to shoot someone! Ha ha ha LOL.
  • Wow, that guy Lincoln is tall! I can’t hear him, but I sure can see him. It doesn’t matter. No one will remember what he says here anyway. Politicians – they’re all the same. blah, blah, blah ,G’burg, blah, blah, blah, dead people. Hey, I think he’s wearing pink briefs!
  • Hey look, there’s a black guy. Good reminder of what we r
    fighting 4. 🙂
  • I’m craving mutton. God, I’m hungry. I just ate grass. It’s gross, but it’s high in fiber. Yum.
  • “Four score,” who talks like that? This is nuts. GTG, commander just shot me a look.
  • I got a #boil on my foot yesterday. It’s leaking like crazy. Looks like I have to take a bath in the river today. Oh joy.
  • On battlefield. Jones just went down. Guts everywhere. So many screaming in pain. Place is burning like hell. All I can think about is seeing Sarah naked in the shower. Isn’t that sick?
  • Sitting here on this hill. Ready to take the enemy by surprise. Boy are they going to be shocked. Oh God…ah, darn, that hurts. Just got shot. Guess they have Twitter, too!

Something to think about…

— Jeff Kimball

The Bloomberg Factor


As I sat obsessed over the recent battle to avoid a government shutdown – embarrassed about the fact that the Republicans are doing the right thing by sticking to their guns on the numbers, but the wrong thing by trying to stick the policy riders in the mix – I noticed something funny on New York TV that I had not thought about until this moment.

Mike Bloomberg is running an ad campaign on “Independent Leadership”.

Why would someone not eligible to run for Mayor again start running TV ads branding his record and independence?

Is he just that flush with cash that he wants to make sure his image is intact in his last couple years as mayor?

Or is he laying the groundwork for an independent bid for President?

Have these ads been timed to coincide at the same moment that Americans become completely disgusted with the status quo in Washington.

Hmmmm?

Guest Blogger Jeff

Welcome to Greece!


I’ve been saying for months we are headed in the direction of Greece, and if we don’t cut back spending and curb the entitlement state, we are headed for a future of riots in the streets over the cuts that must be done to avoid sovereign bankruptcy.  Several of you have been calling me crazy – no doubt you will stick your head in the sand and continue to call me crazy.

We are there as of today.  In Wisconsin, the governor is trying to pass a budget that will among other things, closes the budget gap, requires public employees to contribute to their benefits package, and limits the public unions collective bargaining right to pay packages only.  This is all in an effort to avoid defaulting on the State’s obligations without raising taxes in a way that would destroy the state’s economy.  As a result…

  • Teachers are on strike refusing to work
  • People are protesting in the streets
  • Police are looking for democratic lawmakers who are refusing to vote on the measure
  • Governor threatens to use National Guard to keep state operations running

Welcome to Europe my friends!  Perhaps the tipping point has begun.  We are witnessing civil unrest and protest against the idea of living within our means.  Apparently those protesting in Wisconsin would rather have their state default on its debt, causing tens of thousands of layoffs, school closings, and public safety disasters, rather than pitch in like the rest of us who do pay for a small amount of the medical and pension benefits we receive.

So if the choices are;

  • Massive public sector layoffs and services cuts
  • Massive tax increases
  • Small increases in the amount of money public employees contribute to their medical and pension benefits

Which would you choose?

Guest Blogger Jeff