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Michael Thomas writes for Newsweek: "But it won't just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm. Humiliation and ridicule, even financial penalties, will be the least of the Street's tribulations. There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced."

Chief executive officers from eight of the largest US banks receiving government aid testify at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, 02/11/09 (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg)
Chief executive officers from eight of the largest US banks receiving government aid testify at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, 02/11/09 (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg)

"There Will Be Violence, Mark My Words"

By Michael Thomas, Newsweek

28 December 11


magine a vast field on which a terrible battle has recently been fought, the bare ground cratered by fusillade after fusillade of heavy artillery, trees reduced to blackened stumps, wisps of toxic gas hanging in the gray, and corpses everywhere.

A terrible scene, made worse by the sound of distant laughter, because somehow, on the heights commanding the dead zone, the officers' club has made it through intact. From its balconies flutter bunting, and across the blasted landscape there comes a chorus of hearty male voices in counterpoint to the wheedling of cadres of wheel-greasers, the click of betting chips, the orotund declamations of a visiting congressional delegation: in sum, the celebratory hullabaloo of a class of people that has sent entire nations off to perish but whose only concern right now is whether the '11 is ready to drink and who'll see to tipping the servants. The notion that there might be someone or some force out there getting ready to slouch toward the buttonwood tree to exact retribution scarcely ruffles the celebrants' joy.

Ah, Wall Street. As it was in the beginning, is now, and hopes to God it ever will be, world without end. Amen.

Or so it seems to me. It was in May 1961 that a series of circumstances took me from the hushed precincts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was working as a curatorial assistant in the European Paintings Department, to Lehman Brothers, to begin what for the next 30 years would be an involvement - I hesitate to call it "a career" - in investment banking. I would promote and execute deals, sit on boards, kiss ass, and lie through my teeth: the whole megillah. In consequence of which, I would wear Savile Row and carry a Hermès briefcase. I had Mme. Claude's home number in Paris and I frequented the best clubs in a half-dozen cities. But I had a problem: I was unable to develop the anticommunitarian moral opacity that is the key to real success on Wall Street.

I had my doubts from the beginning. A few months after I started to work downtown, I ran into an old friend from college and before, a man later to become one of New York's most esteemed writers and editors.

"So," he asked, "how do you like what you're doing now?"

"I like it quite a lot," I said. And this was true: these were new frontiers for me, the pace was lively, the money was good enough ($6,500 a year), and there was so much to learn. But there was one aspect of Wall Street that I found morally confusing if not distasteful: "There's one thing that bothers me, though. It's this: on the one hand the New York Stock Exchange has sent its president, the estimable G. Keith Funston, out into the countryside, supported by an expensive, extensive advertising campaign, to exhort the proletariat to Own your share of America! As if buying 50 shares of IBM or GM in 1961 is as much of a civic duty as buying a $100 war bond in 1943."

I then added, "But here's the thing. At the same time as Funston's out there doing his thing, if you ask any veteran Wall Street pro how the Street works, the first thing he'll tell you is: The public is always wrong. Always." I paused to let that sink in, then confessed, "I have to tell you, I have trouble squaring that circle."

And that was back when Wall Street was basically honest, brought into line thanks in part to Ferdinand Pecora's 1933 humiliation of the great bankers of the Jazz Age and even more so because of the communitarian exigencies forced on the nation by war. From Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, greed was definitely not good, and that proscriptive spirit lingered on right up to 1970, when everything started to change, and the traders began their long march through our great houses of finance, with the inevitable consequence that the Street's moral bookkeeping grew more and more contorted, its corruptions more elaborate, its self-interest less and less governable. What someone has called the "Greed Wars" began.

But now, I think, the game is at long last over.

As 2011 slithers to its end, none of the major problems that led to the crisis point three years ago have really been solved. Bank balance sheets still reek. Europe day by day becomes a financial black hole, with matter from the periphery being sucked toward the center until the vortex itself collapses. The Street and its ministries of propaganda have fallen back on a Big Lie as old as capitalism itself: that all that has gone wrong has been government's fault. This time, however, I don't think the argument that "Washington ate my homework" is going to work. This time, a firestorm is going to explode about the Street's head - and about time, too.

It's funny; the Big Lie has a long pedigree. A year or so ago, I was leafing through Ron Chernow's indispensable history of the Morgan financial interests, and found this interesting exchange between FDR and Russell Leffingwell, a Morgan partner and Washington fixer, a sort of Robert Strauss of his day. It dates from the summer of 1932, with FDR not yet in office:

"You and I know," wrote Leffingwell, "that we cannot cure the present deflation and depression by punishing the villains, real or imaginary, of the first post war decade, and that when it comes down to the day of reckoning nobody gets very far with all this prohibition and regulation stuff." To which FDR replied: "I wish we could get from the bankers themselves an admission that in the 1927 to 1929 period there were grave abuses and that the bankers themselves now support wholeheartedly methods to prevent recurrence thereof. Can't bankers see their own advantage in such a course?" And then Leffingwell again: "The bankers were not in fact responsible for 1927–29 and the politicians were. Why then should the bankers make a false confession?"

This time, I fear, the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be exacted. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling; you may not think much of OWS - I have my own reservations, although none are philosophical or moral - but it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands. A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that.

Over the next year, I expect the "what" will give way to the "how" in the broad electorate's comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of "Tobin tax" on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.

But it won't just end with taxes. When the great day comes, Wall Street will pray for another Pecora, because compared with the rough beast now beginning to strain at the leash, Pecora will look like Phil Gramm. Humiliation and ridicule, even financial penalties, will be the least of the Street's tribulations. There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced. I just hope that this time the mob targets the right people in Wall Street and in Washington. (How does a right-thinking Christian go about asking Santa for Mitch McConnell's head under the Christmas tree?) There will be kleptocrats who threaten to take themselves elsewhere if their demands on jurisdictions and tax breaks aren't met, and I say let 'em go!

At the end of the day, the convulsion to come won't really be about Wall Street's derivatives malefactions, or its subprime fun and games, or rogue trading, or the folly of banks. It will be about this society's final opportunity to rip away the paralyzing shackles of corruption or else dwell forever in a neofeudal social order. You might say that 1384 has replaced 1984 as our worst-case scenario. I have lived what now, at 75, is starting to feel like a long life. If anyone asks me what has been the great American story of my lifetime, I have a ready answer. It is the corruption, money-based, that has settled like some all-enveloping excremental mist on the landscape of our hopes, that has permeated every nook of any institution or being that has real influence on the way we live now. Sixty years ago, if you had asked me, on the basis of all that I had been taught, whether I thought this condition of general rot was possible in this country, I would have told you that you were nuts. And I would have been very wrong. What has happened in this country has made a lie of my boyhood.

There should be more to America, Gore Vidal has written, than who pays tax to whom. It has been in Wall Street's interest to shrivel our sensibilities as a nation, to shove aside the verities of which General MacArthur spoke at West Point - duty, honor, country - in favor of grubby schemes and scams and "carried interest" calculations. Time, I think, to take the country back. your social media marketing partner


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+221 # animas 2011-12-28 11:19
Brilliant, what more can one say! Bravo!
+332 # WaldenPond 2011-12-28 11:19
Thank you, Mr. Thomas, for writing this, and thank you, Newsweek and RSN for publishing it. One aspect of the current revolt, is late-life courage and honesty. Mr. Thomas is 75, and now trying to speak and act courageously. I am 66, and I realize, too, that I have never done a courageous civic act in my life time. We elderly are the ones in the best positions to act bravely, and we are most duty-bound since it has been our generation that has done most destruction to our society and environment, either by sins of commission or sins of omission. Maybe everyone over 65 should do civil disobedience and go to jail. Fill the jails with geriatric patriots, willing to throw their aged bodies as monkey-wrenches into the immoral machinery of criminal militarism, gangster finance, and corrupt government.
+127 # Erdajean 2011-12-28 13:27
Hear Hear! The same has occurred to me, in my walker-bound, battery-operate d, half-blind antiquity. Have often longed for a Million-Granny Roll on Washington -- Shoot if they must these old gray heads, and show
their ultimate wicked cowardice! (Fox News would never show it.) Truly, no kidding, who will lead us? Just don't forget the porta-potties.. ..
+73 # mgreen 2011-12-28 15:34
... and we are most duty-bound..
Walden and Thomas, I suspect both Silver Spooners or Trust Babies have ruined us. Our leaders are such. Never worked front line jobs, just got put into positions of power and told to control.
I agree that we elders throw ourselves on the tracks. We would die quickly because no jail wants to pay for our medicine!!! Yet Silver Spooners gave the masses the medicine of poison. Those of us who worked hard without power feel the outrage. Filthy bastard banksters, medical crooks, pharmaceutical drug pushers, taxation without representation, lazy ass congress/senate (insider trading) and on and on. We all can bend over and kiss our lily white asses goodbye. Go to YouTube and pull up the free video, Shock Doctrine. Watch it. Maybe we really ought to start bending.. or start raising hell. Viral messages, videos, ideas...and nasty letters to the asshole congress/senate pieces of excrement. Who really is in control? Why hasnt Eric Holderman charged any banksters? Why havent we set up banks independent of the Fed Reserve? Holderman deserves to be charged as a white collar criminal for neglecting and being complicit in miscarriage of justice. Is he drugged up or just got his short hairs in the wringer? And then those we have called Pres from Reagan til now...all guilty of high crimes.. and no one does anything. Constitution is gone. How can we best respond?
+8 # Gringaryan 2011-12-31 19:59
You are raging.. and at an easy target and your anger is misdirected... it is important to be more thoughtful and specific.. there are "silver spooners" & "trust babies" who have done the right thing. There are working and middle class folks who have parasitically been among the most selfish people who sucked the life out of everything they touched and took us down the road to ruin.

There are many elders who should be ashamed and for them to finally see the light and hold themselves accountable now and throw themselves into the repair (if repair is even possible at this late date) is great. I am old and I have been fighting all my life. I will not let the young blame all of us as if we all lived the same life. IT is too easy to do this and it will happen again if we do not identify the greedy and selfish among us as the villains.
+30 # IndigoE 2011-12-30 15:24
Yes! Bring on the "Grey Brigade". We are many, we are strong and we've been screwed. Some of us are part of the problem but now we can choose to become part of the solution.
+1 # RLF 2012-01-04 08:22
I was jusst in FL. sitting around with old people who don't realize that THEY allowed this to happen and profitted on it...that is why they sit in Fl. with a nice pension talking shit about how the young don't work (we work twice as many hours) and how all the welfare programs like unemployment should be stopped...but you better not touch my medicare! (Even though it won't be there for us!)
+90 # shortonfaith 2011-12-28 11:40
I don't know Michael Thomas but I like his thinking. Hopefully everything he has laid out here will come about as planned. And true judgement will visit those in all areas of corruption especially Wall Street, the courts & political leaders who allow these types to govern. Happy New Year
+135 # Erdajean 2011-12-28 11:43
A marvel of foresight, and a gruesome nightmare in regard to a few good men and women who did the right things with their intemperate fortunes. There is little "sorting good from bad" when the mob breaks down the doors. Ask the peripheral casualties of the French Revolution. Heads roll, good and evil alike. It comes to this pass when the oppressed take so long to awake. It was only 2010 when SOMEONE elected the stupidest and most vile U.S.Congress of all time -- and already, by then, the seed of Revolution was stirring in the ground -- while those who smelled and spoke of the decay of Wall Street were still pariahs who "hated America," "Socialist liberals" out to destroy capitalism and "The American Way." Reasonable thought and awareness have never been popular in this winner-take-all society.
Mr. Thomas is right. It is going to be awful. Only the status quo is worse.
+60 # slow_learner 2011-12-28 11:44
Thank you for this piece of reason.
+95 # fbelcast 2011-12-28 11:47
I wish this would be true but as long as corporations control the mainstream media, the public will never know enough to get angry. And if they do, who will they elect? Why, the bought-out corporate politicians who will continue the same scenario. If we can break the monopoly of the media and have elections paid for by citizens only, we have a chance.
+107 # gtigerclaw 2011-12-28 11:58
The sad thing is that I know Michael Thomas is right. The politicians and Bankers are still fairly smug, but come this spring and summer, I'm sure that smugness will fastly dissipate into fear.

Presently, the bankers, politicians, and economicists are treating the populations like children telling them they have to take their austerity medicine while they live in the lap of luxury.

There's just too much pent up hostility towards the politicians and bankers, and when people have finally had enough, no amount of BS propaganda is going to placate them.

I foresee the London Olympics being crashed in spite of the £1 billion+ the UK government is paying for security.

2012 is going to be a insane year and a rough ride for the politicians and bankers - that is if they survive it.
+66 # John Locke 2011-12-28 13:18
Mr. Thomas is dead right, I also expect a violent revolution but world wide, this system of dictatorial power in the hands of a few is not only occuring in America but all across the world, and we can see revolutions and democratic ideas springing up and swelling, America will be the last, but it will happen here!
+61 # Carolyn 2011-12-28 12:05
Basic human needs are food, water, warmth and shelter -- and air to breathe.
Out of this amoral culture, self-serving culture, a new culture will arise. It is already seeded -- the transformation of consciousness to the level of compassion, the long lost consciousness of "we"

Speaking metaphorically: this culture is the manure on the field.
+123 # Virginia 2011-12-28 12:14
How can any competent leader expect to turn around over $600 trillion of theft and fraud in just a matter of years? And now they want to throw more taxpayer money at the problem and think that won't create discord? Americans are tired of bailing out the banks that committed fraud, forged documents, stole retirement funds and created the world's largest Ponzi scheme. Want the economy to start to turn around? Stop foreclosures and evictions - the mortgage documents are illegal, including forgery and fraud... And then nationalize the banks. Americans and investors want assurances that these entities are operating under the law. Capitalism is a privilege, not an innate right or a foundation on which to build corruption.
+48 # John Locke 2011-12-28 13:20
Virginia you have hit the nail right on the head, also lets bring jobs back to America and get our people working...
+96 # stonecutter 2011-12-28 12:15
What a great piece of inspiration, and from a guy who apparently lived decades in the rotting trenches, as did I for a lesser period. My gig was essentially of the shit-shoveling variety, a reasonably polished widget in the galactic machine of deal-making; it paid reasonably well,allowed me to raise my kids in middle class comfort while I commuted every day like the good widget I was and rationalized the bad stuff I saw or heard on the grapevine. We still lived behind the "Chinese Wall" of Glass-Steagall, although the original movie "Wall Street" had both exposed and anointed the Reagan-esque era of "greed is good": leveraged buyouts, hedge funds, "globalization" , outsourcing, gelding private unions, breakups, downsizing and asset sell-offs that made Willard The Android, Kravis, Schwartzman and their ilk billionaires.

Whereas Mr. Thomas toiled at the front, blowing smoke up the collective ass of suckers and greedy marks around the world, pulling the same basic scams and rip-offs that have persisted to the present day, dissected by Matt Taibbi and others. None of this is new; only now it's obscured by the byzantine complexities of technology and abstruse, impenetrable jargon, which serves as crypto code the suckers will never understand, including 99% of the drones bloviating up on Capitol Hill.

"Excremental mist on the landscape of our hopes"; a sublime metaphor for Wall Street and Congress both. Beautiful.
+36 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-28 13:33
"Excremental mist on the landscape of our hopes"

I loved that line as well.

Stonecutter, your prose is pretty good as well.

Check out what passes for comments on the Right Wing sites some day. Their connection to literate writing stops at the 2nd grade. No exaggeration!
+46 # dfvboulder 2011-12-28 12:16
A great many of us would love to see the author's vision come true, but why should we believe that it will?

It has been over three years since the worst of the debacle began, and nothing has been done to the perpetrators.

Even the Milquetoast Dodd-Frank bill has been watered down beyond recognition, and attacked viciously by so-called Conservatives.

Afraid that, as far as consequences go, I'll just believe it when I see it.
+42 # John Locke 2011-12-28 13:25
divboulder: if the bankers are not prosecuted that omission by itself could be the catalist for a violent revolution that would make the French revolution look like a slumber party...
+42 # PGreen 2011-12-28 15:19
"At the end of the day, the convulsion to come won't really be about Wall Street's derivatives malefactions, or its subprime fun and games, or rogue trading, or the folly of banks. It will be about this society's final opportunity to rip away the paralyzing shackles of corruption or else dwell forever in a neofeudal social order."

Thomas believes, as do many others, that circumstances are eliminating the middle ground. Which way it will go is questionable.
I hope to avoid the violence that he speaks of, but it may take widespread adoption of the policies of the most radical members of the Left-wing political establishment-- think Kucinich and Sanders-- to bypass this event. Dodd-Frank isn't really for public benefit.
Without a war-- an external enemy to blame-- the only hope of the oligarchy to avoid class warfare is to convince (enough) people that they are well off. This means lots of junk food, drugs, and mindless entertainment. Hmmm… it seems familiar.
The alternative is the extreme-- though possibly gradual-- clampdown on civil liberties so many have predicted-- our current path.
One optimistic note: OWS has eliminated the public taboo against considering-- even discussing-- the inequality of wealth as the cause of our problems. It took the oligarchy decades to create this rule of etiquette, and OWS tore it down in a few weeks by rubbing our noses in the issue. Kudos to the 99%!
+54 # 2011-12-28 12:17
OWS protesters are more powerful than many people in the US are aware of which is why the movement is eliciting editorials such as this one.
+13 # John Locke 2011-12-28 13:26
Doruan: and why their is such a violent response to the movement...
+59 # TomDegan 2011-12-28 12:28
The billion dollar shit hammer is about to hit the trillion dollar fan. What a neat time to be alive!

Tom Degan
+69 # vt143 2011-12-28 12:33
Oh, if only our government would REALLY punish these naughty ones! Dream on. They are in the same boat, they helped make the rules (or should I say "unmake the rules.). It's all tied together in this neat little money pie and they all, Jack Horner-style, have their fingers stuck into it. We live in the era of Onan Economics (dig out those Bibles Religious Right!) and until we untangle money from politics (again, good f**ing luck!) we will be swimming in it and drowning in it. Punishment. Oh right. I remember Michael Milken: steal billions, get fined hundred of millions, spend some time at a country club jail, conveniently find God, lose hair, and go on with your life. Sound like a good deal, assuming you have no conscience. Half our jail cells today are filled with petty drug offenders. I hope I live to see the day when our jails are full of the real criminals: the ones whose country club sycophants applaud their labeling people with functioning super-egos "imbeciles."
+38 # John Locke 2011-12-28 13:28
when the revolution begins it won't just be bankers who get slaughtered, it will also be many politicians, and there will be no stopping it...
+19 # noitall 2011-12-28 13:50
"Oh, if only our government would REALLY punish these naughty ones!" This will never happen until this govt. of, by, and for the People is actually that. "Our govt." isn't actually our's, if it were, we'd have things for the People: great communication systems, great transportation, great education systems, great health care, great representation, etc. All bought in co-op. We still consider our country to be the "greatest", but look around. While we've been wallowing in our fantasy Ken & Barby world, other than the military, the world has passed us by; at least anglo europe has, except to the extent that the New World Order virus has effected them. Our only hope is to get publicly funded elections and put some integrity and objectivity into the Supreme Court. AND if the lefties with the geedas want to invest, why not buy back the media so Americans can start un-dumbing themselves. Its a bit embarrassing. The status quo is ruthless, even to themselves. Its creed, "never give a sucker an even break." As long as we let them buy the bully pulpit to spew their b.s. and lies that we lap up like milk from a saucer, it will remain as is. When they have the publics $100 campaign budget, maybe we might just also look at their career stats for our voting decision. They ain't going to do much better in the future than they did in the past. A 'revolution'? Its just another opportunity for the carpet baggers and there's a squatload of them in EVERY crowd.
+15 # William Bjornson 2011-12-28 14:02

You're missing the point here, I believe. WE are the government. If the mechanism of our own homeostasis is out of our control, such as, for example, when one is carrying a heavy infestation of rapacious parasites, we first must remove the parasite. Then we can tend to restoring our national balance. But, the job is up to us as Americans to oust the infection. We are our own immune system and I, for one, am a macrophage, and I am hungry. But the immune system must be coordinated or we just have autoimmune disease as we saw with OWS where our worst physically attack our best who seek only healing. Gandhi had generations of murder and abuse and a 'foreign' target. Unification needed only a catalyst. Our parasite looks like us and uses our chief value, Freedom, against us. It is more difficult but not undoable to free ourselves of this disease. But we can not do it each of us alone. Michael Thomas for President!

And, Ash, WTF?
+30 # William Bjornson 2011-12-28 12:54
There WILL be blood. The parasite thinks it owns the force in this country. And, exactly as this learned gentleman says, how do we distinguish who we put into the shredder and who we don't. All of them will be crying that they are just misunderstood "good guys". Have they lied, blatantly or implicitly for their own financial benefit which caused damage to Americans? This alone would separate wheat from parasite from the top of our local hierarchy right down to the bottom. Given just this criterion, we could lock the doors of the goldman-sachs building, the fed, and the nyse at the height of 'business' and fumigate, and not overly worry about 'collateral damage'. And if we require a 'label' for our targets, "excremental mist", the EMs as in 'M' for money seems somehow more than adequate. "Kill the EMs!" And if these "kleptocrats" choose to go elsewhere, they will go as they were born, naked. And we will follow their money sewers to where our stolen gold is hidden and reclaim our rightful inheritance. By the way, Mr. Thomas, what are you doing for the next four or five years? You sound too young to slow down now...78 is the new 60, Sir. "OK, all you slugs, form up behind this guy! HOO-RAH!!"
+11 # Midwestgeezer 2011-12-28 12:57
This does not at all sound like the Armageddon that some on the right look forward to... Holy shit!
I will be watching the "news" for more on this and expect Mitt Romney to come out either in favor of or against such an outcome. As an "intellectual, I expect that Newt will support both sides.
+18 # wrodwell 2011-12-28 13:02
The author seems opposed to H. L. Mencken's solution of hanging a bank's board of directors when banks fail. Which begs the question: should Mencken's exhortation apply to all banks, or to just the super-colossal Octopi? Clearly, a distinction needs to be made between banks with a global reach and influence and whose potential for damage has been graphically demonstrated time and again, and small banks who serve the quotidian needs of towns and cities with a significant level of working class/middle class people. The apocalyptic scenario outlined by the author will only happen when the entire interconnected super-power structure is destroyed and the country is cleansed and renewed. When the socio-economic apocalypse does arrive- the sooner, the better - would the author support firing squads instead of hangings? After all, they're quicker and more efficient.
+31 # MainStreetMentor 2011-12-28 13:07
We must tell, we must compel, we must demand that our government make these necessary repairs/changes … it is what this article is addresses in part: The Occupy Wall Street Movement is the tip of the Sword of Change, and it’s penetration is only now beginning to be felt. It’s full effect will only be realized when the essence contained in the article above comes to fruition – and we, the citizens, demand our government make retributions on the Alter of Reckoning.
+32 # George Kennedy 2011-12-28 13:07
Stunningly brilliant piece by Michael Thomas. He exhorts us to support the OWS and the 99 percent; man the ramparts and erect the guillotine. If we continue to give opportunity to these money changers, how can we say we deserve a better future? It really is up to us!
+10 # Don Thomann 2011-12-28 13:10
Mr. Thomas,
From your lips to "God's" ear!
+34 # DPM 2011-12-28 13:17
This spring OWS will burst outdoors after months of strategic planning. The population will be better informed and energized. The battle field will be the 2012 elections, so the "big shots" will be involved, with lies and condemnations as their ammunition. It ought to be a year to remember.
Occupy! Occupy!! OCCUPY!!!
+16 # noitall 2011-12-28 14:36
"This spring OWS will burst outdoors after months of strategic planning. The population will be better informed and energized." true, probably. But I hope we've kept an open eye, and the 'planners' have altered their plan with an eye on the 'tools' that Obama and the court has given THEM. "Disappear" a few people and the streets will clear out. The tanks on the streets aren't there for Iranis. Investors haven't built prisons to sit idle (that would be bad business). There has been serious gap plugging going on by the 'bought' since we got in the streets. Our rights have eroded like the ink on the Bill of Rights.
+38 # sandyboy 2011-12-28 13:24
He may be right that a there-will-be-b lood scenario is imminent, but I fear that far from terrifying the fatcats it will play into their hands: "Call out the guns," they'll cry, "put down this commie/terroris t revolution". And the zombie mainstream public will agree. I pray I am wrong.
+1 # molesoul 2011-12-31 22:01
Quoting sandyboy:
He may be right that a there-will-be-blood scenario is imminent, but I fear that far from terrifying the fatcats it will play into their hands: "Call out the guns," they'll cry, "put down this commie/terrorist revolution". And the zombie mainstream public will agree.

You've made an extremely important point. Violent retribution would be gratifying, yes, but it would invite a severe backlash – one that would be supported by the "zombie mainstream public" and backed by the most powerful military the world has ever known.

Harnessing public anger and converting it into positive change will be very tricky and an enormous challenge, requiring great leadership and united political will – neither of which is anywhere in sight at the moment.

Meanwhile, OWS is drowning in its own naval gazing and anarchist dogma.

Where are the leaders?!
+12 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-28 13:26
There is irony in Mr. Thomas' closing line; 'take the country back' and it's connection to the Tea Party movement.

When the Tea Potters starting using that tag line, I never heard an answer for who they wanted to take it back from. Since the Tea Potters started boiling after the African American guy became President, most of us assumed that was who they wanted to get it back from (The African American guy).

Now we have the Occupy movement and its sympathizers, such as Mr. Thomas using the same wording. But, their very name of the US Occupy movement, Occupy Wall Street, implies who has taken our country from us.

I too fear the potential of violence, and it appears that the Tea Potters are being incubated into thinking in violent terms. But while the OWS searches for common ground, the Tea Potters see OWS as the enemy. This is a very scary tactic by the PWS (Protectors of Wall Street)who are manipulating the Tea Potters.

The PWS may very well end up with a Civil War, possibly on a world wide scale. They have no idea how disenfranchised the vast majority feels. They have no idea how connected all the people of this planet now are.
+1 # paulwwww 2011-12-30 22:57
We sure are connected, and I think it will take the Tea Party, OWS and the rest of us to turn this ship around. Meanwhile the media will do its best to spin the message coming from these groups.
+44 # leslie griffith 2011-12-28 14:10
In this country today, writing this is an act of bravery.

thank you.
+21 # noitall 2011-12-28 14:39
In this country, talking on the phone is an act of bravery. So what does that make stating an opinion on the internet?
+11 # tahoevalleylines 2011-12-28 14:12
When Wall Street meets Richard Heinberg and Mike Rippert and James H. Kunstler, the real deals get under way.

Wall Street families can choose to hide until they are caught, or brazen this out with a very robust participation in Nation-Building . Namely, THIS Nation, the USA. The country's infrastructure needs upgrading. Electric generation and water supply. See NAWAPA.

The oil emergency (annual oilfield depletion, Peak Oil and resource nationalism restraint on export) will hit sooner with Middle East meltdown and a bit later, with supply/demand crunch. Protecting agriculture and essential aviation, we must cover trucking fuel shortage, and gasoline rationing.

Hoarded wealth must rebuild US railroad network, passenger and freight rail lines must again connect the smaller dots as seen in America circa pre-WWII era. When the USA was a lending not a borrowing Nation, AND ENERGY INDEPENDENT.

Office managers, help your bosses: get US Rail Map Atlas Map volumes from, see heritage rail footprint needing rebuild in post-carbon era. Show your bosses and boards of directors the scripture lesson of the day: James 5 in the New Testament- It starts out with a warning to rich oppressors....
+11 # BradFromSalem 2011-12-28 15:59

Great points about rail lines. But instead of rebuilding the old lines, we need to build the future. Our new rail lines need to integrate heavy rail for long hauls, with light rail for short hauls. Movement of people and goods over multiple modes of transportation need to be synchronized and adaptable.

Many of the old rail lines have been converted to "rail trails" and used by commuters as well as for recreation. We cannot give that up. Biking and walking should be encouraged through design not by fiat.

Railroads are an important feature of a 21st Century transportation architecture, but just that, a feature.

In 1961 President Kennedy challenged America to go to the moon. This adventure inspired not just Americans, but the entire world, to stretch our technological limits. A new challenge to completely reinvent the American infrastructure could be the challenge and the push we need.
+5 # brianf 2011-12-28 14:13
Great article. I have my doubts that it will really happen, but maybe, and this would be a good change. However, if this is the only thing that changes, it will make little difference for our long term future. Only waging a war on global warming with all our might will save the future for our children and grandchildren, and then only if we start very soon. But that seems even less likely than taking back our country from the 1%.
+5 # sandyboy 2011-12-28 14:41
Call me a wimp, but all this talk of violent revolution bothers me. The complaints may be just, but "guillotine" scenarios rarely end well for either side. Comments?
+24 # Buddha 2011-12-28 15:12
Or the establishment, seeing the risks to their wealth and power, use the Police State they have been building up and the new laws allowing American citizens to be detained indefinitely simply on "suspicion" of "supporting" "terrorism" and fully turn our nation into an authoritarian regime to retain their hold on power.
-6 # Timothy 2011-12-28 15:19
Maharishi said, "Capitalism is the Dragon". And "Democracy is the worst form of government that has been tried on Earth".
And "Capitalism causes heart palpitations to the rich, and squeezes the life out of the poor". And "Divine Monarchy is the ideal form of government".
+6 # hasapiko 2011-12-28 15:20
Newsweek really published this rant? If that is true, then the mainstream media must be thinking that OWS is going mainstream and it's time to hop on the train. It's going to sell ads! Whoopie!
+12 # minkdumink 2011-12-28 15:53
where have all of you been? The country was taken in the Johnson/Pentago n Coup when they killed JFK,RFK,and MLK. Lotta dues have gone down since then baby. Welcome to the party,better late than never.
+20 # cypress72 2011-12-28 16:07
Everyone who has a corporate pension or a 401(k) is intimately connected with Wall Street whether you like it or not. If the Dow goes to zero, we're all dead. Small consolation that some of the uber rich maybe eating out of dumpsters like the rest of us. If you want to sleep at night, cash in your 401(k) while there's still time. And your IRAs too.
+12 # Scott479 2011-12-28 18:58
Barack Obama to the rescue! Our agent of hope and change will bring the criminals into line-I mean the whistle blowers who've been strung up by him at a rate 3-4 times greater than what we'd thought was our worst president GW Bush.
+17 # unclewags 2011-12-28 20:14
What I hear in your missives are the voices of the 99% ... Why not take it a step further and express your herein stated sentiments to your local newspaper's "Opinion Column Editor". Do not hesitate to ask that your views be published verbatim. To awaken the less informed masses to the virility of a movement to "throw out the bums" is a noble and worthy cause. Let WS & the corrupt Congress know that our "Sleeping Giant" has been awakened by their widely publicized misdeeds. Speak up! Awaken others! Save our republic from further tyranny!
+17 # ganymede 2011-12-28 20:39
Recently I've been getting tired of all these wonderful progressive, liberal screeds, but there is something different about what Michael Thomas has to say. I know that 2012 is going to be a year of action. OWS will come roaring back in northern cities this Spring and millions of ordinary American like myself - a hard working senior citizen - will be taking to the streets just like they're doing in Russia right now. We will throw out every Republican and blue-dog Democrat and start rebuilding this country. We have no choice! Thanks Michael Thomas for the utterly inspiring call to action.
+12 # wleming 2011-12-28 20:49
im all for "taking the country back" its just that i don't want the corrupt capitalist imperialism with it. we've a bloated military, a lobbying greed driven banking system, and the entrenched profiteers in the house and the senate. thats not a recipe for disaster. it is a disaster. let the tumbrils roll
you can hear them coming
down past gucci gulch
where the swine are drumming
+5 # foxglove16 2011-12-28 21:34
I'm Buddhist. It makes it even more difficult to ask for Mitch McConnell's head.
+14 # carioca 2011-12-28 21:54
This was in Newsweek?

Bravo, Newsweek.

Perhaps this clarion call to action will wake up the mass media once and for all.
+15 # SoCal Johnnie 2011-12-28 22:17
I believe much of what transpired on Wall Street was actually legal: The derivatives game-insuring mortgages for 5 times the true value; hedge fund managers shorting stocks (after the removal of the up-tick rule) causing the stock market to drop 1,000 points a day; etc.
Look at PBS "Frontline-The Warning" about Brooksly Borne and her testimony to Congress. She was an expert in derivatives and was FIRED from SEC in 2005 when she warned about what was going to happen..
+8 # CandH 2011-12-29 18:17
"Boil it down to the basics and you see that Wall Street is in the business of operating four sophisticated, large-scale confidence games:

Counterfeiting: Through financial bubbles and loan pyramids, it creates facsimiles of official money for private gain unrelated to anything of real value.

Securities fraud: Selling shares in asset bubbles that are maintained solely by the constant inflow of new money is, in effect, a Ponzi scheme.

Reverse insurance fraud: Insurance fraud, by common definition, occurs when the insured deceives the insurer. In reverse insurance fraud, the insurer deceives the insured. In Wall Street practice this involves collecting premiums to cover risks the insurer lacks adequate reserves to cover and then refusing to pay legitimate claims.

Predatory lending: Using a combination of extortion, fraud, deceptive promises, and usury, predatory lenders lure the desperate into perpetual debt at exorbitant interest rates."
+12 # PaineRad 2011-12-29 02:44
Wall Street is but the symbol, and perhaps the medium, of what went wrong. The cause was deeper and more generic. The underlying problem was BIG money, its ability to control even BIGGER money and its ability to exercise that control to further enrich itself.

While the roots go back for millenia, the American mechanism goes back only a hundred or so years. That mechanism is the modern corporation and its board of directors, tied to the officers.

Greed is as old as mankind. Trying to eliminate it as useless as screaming at the rain. Eliminating the conditions that promote and reward greed is something else, again. This we can do but only if we change the size, longevity, purpose and governance of this paper monster we call the public (and aften the private) corporation.

The endgame is to create economic rules of the road that are far more fair, equitable and enforceable. Rewards must be more equitably distributed, if only out of self preservation. An economy that creates no superrich and no really poor is more vibrant and better for everyone. In the words of Benjamin Franklin in response to Europeans' marveling at the lack of pretensions among the relatively wealthy in America, " It is our great mediocrity." He was referring to the lack of a deep chasm between rich and poor.
+5 # PaineRad 2011-12-29 03:05
The Occupy movement has done much to improve the awareness of many Americans and to move the public "conversation" deeper. Bravo!

The Occupy movement may or may not be the spark that starts the conflagration. Until Occupy moves beyond its anarchist roots and accepts responsibilitie s, it will just exist as a bunch of really pi$$ed off dudes, pointing to problems, but not doing anything to solve them. Unless it takes upon itself the task of becoming the solution, it will wither and wimper into irrelevance.

Fortunately, many working groups have sprung up within Occupy to tackle some of the central problems Mr. Thomas alludes to. But there is far too little coordination among them across the country and far too little real listening to non-occupiers.

It is one thing to be OF the 99%; it is quite something else to arrogantly assume that a handful of folks are or represent the 99%.

Hopefully, this will change as the movement matures.
+17 # stonecutter 2011-12-29 06:56
@ LiberalLibertarian

Thanks for the compliment. You're not my son, are you? Probably not, but here you never know.

Anyone who was a critically thinking adult in the '60's and '70's--it seems there were more of us then--remembers the chaos, the assassination horrors, the violence, the raging war and anti-war backdrop, the violation of public trust and deep-tissue disillusionment that was Watergate, the hard-wired cynicism of Nixon and his crew of miscreants, in which I include the teflon Henry Kissinger. Yet, compared to what came after in the GOP, Nixon's mix of genuine statecraft and political cesspool-cleani ng would almost be a welcome relief...almost . At the end of Oliver Stone's biopic about him, Nixon stares at a portrait of JFK in the White House and intones, "When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are." Gustave Le Bon said, "The masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim".

We get the leadership we deserve. We the People allowed this rot to gather momentum and legitimacy for decades, automatically re-electing the same band of brothers in greed and corruption, buying their act, their lies, their empty promises, their collective mythology, because we secretly admired them, wanted to emulate them, BE them.
Are we awake yet? Is it finally ENOUGH?
+9 # Lute 2011-12-29 07:06
Finally, a Wall Street insider recognizes the rot. And -- yes, there will be violence. There has already been physical violence from the government's shock troops in various police departments. Misguided dupes, all. (Not to mention the armed forces sent to wage war for oil.)
Expect, watch for blood in the streets.
-1 # 4yourinformation 2011-12-29 13:59
There will be justice. There will be the letting of rage and pain and suffering. There's some serious ass-kicking to come. We will be on the rooftops, the hillsides and in the streets. The gates that protect the ultra mansions will be razed and all of the Larry Kudlow and Bill O'Reilly rants will be extinguished. It will make the Boston Tea Party look like a child's temper tantrum.
+4 # genierae 2011-12-29 18:51
4yourinformatio n: You are not describing justice, you are talking about revenge. The moment the occupiers use violence, that is the moment we lose. Our only chance of taking our country back is by nonviolent civil disobedience. No matter what happens, no matter how viciously we are attacked, we must stick to nonviolence. If we persevere, we will win.

"The salvation of the people depends upon themselves, upon their capacity for suffering and sacrifice." Gandhi
+8 # Lee Loe 2011-12-29 15:06
Loe-Grandmother for Peace
I don't think you folks understand the change that has already taken place in the public dialog, because of all of the Occupiers: they are talking about a new system that is nonviolent. They are showing and honoring compassion, community, they are speaking of love. There are too few of the 99%ers to stand up to the guns and tanks -- the killing machines of the 1%. I think we must and will become students of Gene Sharp and his tools of nonviolent revolution. And in the process, hopefully we will work on reversing climate change so the planet and our progeny will survive. A long shot? Yes, but our only hope.
0 # george-elliott 2011-12-29 19:11
MacArthur? You mean Gen. Douglas MacArthur? The one who waited for an encrypted message to be unencrypted, and he thereby know that US$50,000 had indeed been deposited to his Swiss bank account, so that he could give the order for the Frogmen to go ashore and load the governor of the Phillipines and his family into the rubber life raft and bring them out to the submarine where he was? Is that the MacArthur whom you suggest we need more people like him?
+2 # Activista 2011-12-29 20:29
Power of Powerless - NONVIOLENT is ONLY option.
The parents will not shoot their children - and the children all over the World start to understand that we do need systemic change - not another party victory.
Look at the blue-red electoral map - we are still fighting civil war from the two centuries ago - this is legacy of violence.
We need to make MONEY CULTURE immoral. On the Christmas Eve to take our children to see bird migration, stars, trees - not buy more crap in Wall Mart.
See $30 billion of arms sale to Saudi Arabia as obscene/crimina l, NOT job creation.
The peaceful change is ESSENTIAL - otherwise we will become failed state like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan - fight class and regional warfare - another civil war.
+2 # BeaDeeBunker 2011-12-30 01:41
Dear Mr. Michael Thomas,
Where have you been hiding these past score of years? What was it that made you wait 20 years after leaving Wall Street to make your true feelings felt? Whatever the reason, I thank you; we thank you. You wrote a very good piece of passionate retrospection. Please do not stop with this one entry. Here come the cliches: 'the cat is out of the bag;' 'the dew is off the lily;' 'the truth well set you free;' 'there's no turning back now;' 'in for a penny, in for a pound;' 'you have your foot in the door;' 'no holds barred;' et al, et al.

Please, please, now is the time to name, names, and 'let the chips fall where they may!'
-5 # black 2011-12-30 09:12
Oh, we are all so eloquant, witty,educated. ....FUCK THAT!

-6 # reepotomac 2011-12-30 10:03
Everyone, especially people with a media presence, especially radio, ESPECIALLY country radio. This song is a weapon, make it part of pop culture and change the social mood (even more)
+3 # lordcromwell 2011-12-30 11:12
Excellent writing and command of the language (but used primarily to engender the respect of the high-browed...)

That said, the focus here is too much on Wall Street, and not enough from where this crap emanates from - nay, it's Genesis...


In fact, one could argue that this piece is a clever distraction (Away) from where the Real culprits lie - in seats of elected Power.

'Off with the heads of these 'Evil' and 'Greedy' bastards, the serfs cry!

But no mention of the poison roots from where this Greed gains its momentum.

Talk about a return to Real Representative governance and an End to Full-Time legislatorship - then we can sit down and have an intelligent discussion about cleaning up Wall Street. Until then, these are but the chest-poundings of a frustrated dock worker who's gonna exact righteous revenge - you betcha, someday...
+2 # reiverpacific 2011-12-30 12:46
[quote name="lordcromwell"]
That said, the focus here is too much on Wall Street, and not enough from where this crap emanates from - nay, it's Genesis...
In fact, one could argue that this piece is a clever distraction (Away) from where the Real culprits lie - in seats of elected Power.

-And who owns that institution?
And what keeps the status-quo?
Money in and out of that great revolving door which funds the, Military/police , planet-destroyi ng, status-quo maintaining, lobbyist-bag-ca rrying, influence-peddl ing, power-recycling bought and paid for non-representation.
Ah, THERE'S the rub and the basis for retribution: you go after one, the other is welded to and part of it -so let them all fall!
Good 'fess-up article from a former digested and spat out morsel formerly lodged in the belly of the beast.
+7 # Alohajim 2011-12-30 12:49
So many comments, so off the mark. If one cannot clearly see the problem, then all proposed solutions are useless. The world is controlled and largely owned by a few central banking families. Their power derives from their exclusive 'right' to create money from nothing and charge the world interest for it. Punishment or retribution and wresting some of this wealth away from these families and those who have profited from this giant worldwide Ponzi scheme is besides the point and counterproducti ve. We must simply END THE FED, end central banking and fractional reserve banking, and restore honest public money of silver and gold. Don't worry about greedy people with no conscience, simply end the system that allows bankers to control and own every part of our world. Wake up people, it's not the politicians or greedy men, it's the bankers who seek out suitable greedy psychopaths who are put in positions of power to expand and perpetuate banker control of the world. WAKE UP!!!
+2 # bergenkj 2011-12-30 20:26
Our economic and financial collapse is not only inevitable, it's imminent. To prepare we can either fight or flee. The front runner states to secede will provide options, but will be the first to have troops, curfews & cordons. W/in the system, Ron Paul offers the most viable alternative.
+3 # unitedwestand 2011-12-31 05:19
These days, because of OccupyWallStree t I feel we have a prayer in seeing things rectified, and maybe our last chance for a long time. The protesters have started to make a dent in getting through to the densified population and people that have never attended a protest are showing up. I hope this trend continues, and hope that the many events being planned by OWS will be well populated.

Some have mentioned very scary scenarios if OWS continues. The way I see it, if we don't support it and help, we are doomed anyway, especially if we consider the GOP controlling all three branches of the government after 2012, SO, we might as well go down fighting to put a stop to the corruption with one powerful and massive thrust from all of us.

The OWS protesters have already shown much courage, any help that the rest of us can be, we need to give it. I especially like the idea of the elderly showing up en-mass in their walkers and wheelchairs and canes and give Wall Street a piece of their minds.

Happy, and Peaceful New Year All!
+3 # vanderleun 2011-12-31 10:20
"A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that."

Almost there. You just need to take that thing of the president's out of your throat and you will be able to see 100% clearly.
+1 # arnica2007 2012-01-01 17:01
Wow, Now THIS is what American Exceptionalism is all about. Author and commentators alike, you are what makes me proud to be a citizen on this country. The ability for us to care enough to face any such dragon for the sake of our country, and world. Not wealth, not political power, but the ability for all of us to communicate and keep trying to make things right, somehow, someway no matter what's around the corner. That's great hope and bravery. That's exceptional. Thank you all! Happy New Year!
+5 # ccposter 2012-01-01 17:10
As much as I sympathize with anyone drawing attention to the current state of affairs, it needs to be pointed out that this is not 1789 or 1966 or even 2000. States now have vast bureaucratic and electronic resources they did not have previously, which can be used to monitor and destroy anyone speaking out. All public areas of England are monitored by cameras attached to vast photographic databases. I have not seen reported by the MSM what I have heard privately, that the cleaning out of the OWS camps was done on coordinated orders of Homeland Security in a conference call with 18 mayors. Imagine if one person in OWS had emerged as a leader and had generated a loyal following with oratorical skills. They could easily be targeted for silencing by electronically bankrupting them or whatever as an example. I am not optimistic about protests leading anywhere but to violent suppression, as in Syria, Egypt (after a supposed revolution), and yes the USA.
+1 # liberty2012 2012-01-06 15:06
The problem is not the banks or the politicians. The problem is us - you and I.

Until we think and act like sovereign beings, and stop externalizing our problems and the solutions, expecting someone else to fix them, we will continue to suffer in a system we deserve.

Some very specific actions which I keep wondering why the OWS crowd isn't more demanding of, would include:

Monetary reform:
- Abolishing income taxes by repealing the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution
- Repealing the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, ending debt-based money
- Making fractional reserve banking illegal
- Instituting credit-based money (issued via Treasury), backed by gold or silver

Property reform:
- Restoring true private property: allodial title, not a variant of feudal land ownership

Legal reform:
- Ending corporate personhood
- Repealing almost anything done by the Federal government after 1913, including the "Patriot Act", recent NDAA, and a long list of presidential signing statements

Education reform:
- Start teaching critical thinking in schools (instead of the current Nazi- and Soviet-based 'outcome-based education system').
- Better yet, start homeschooling, and stop sending your children to an external authority for 'education'

We need to get organized, and take corrective action. Soon.
0 # murray 2012-02-26 14:42
Isn't this like asking the jailer whom threw in the slammer to let you out???

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