What’s in your Occupy Handbook?

The Occupy Handbook edited by Janet ByrnePeace Couple was queried about receiving a free review copy of a book of essays called the Occupy Handbook (535pp, 2012, Back Bay Books).

The book’s title got me thinking about the possibility of which essays would be in my personal Occupy Handbook.  First, would be a selection from the Fellowship of Reconciliation‘s 1958 MLK comic book that was translated into Arabic and used as a nonviolent training tool for the Arab Spring.  Paired with that would be an essay from Gene Sharp, whose 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action shaped the tactics of the Arab Spring.  Next, I would include an article by Adbusters and Naomi Klein about the fomenting of Occupy in the US.  Delving into the Occupy movement itself would require an exploration of the power of consensus and direct democracy: So, I would include writings that reflect the concepts shown in the video Consensus (Direct Democracy @ Occupy Wall Street):


The Occupy Handbook we were sent to review is heavily tilted toward economic issues (and covers them well), but the book barely acknowledges the democracy, social justice, antiwar, and environmental issues that have been raised by the Occupy movement.  That is why it would be important to include  the fruit of consensus process such as Occupy Wall Street’s One Demand and the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City which contain a much broader vision of a better world than simply economic reform.

In terms of people who have informed the Occupy movement, I would include:

Of all of the people in my personal Occupy Handbook, only Chris Hedges actually made it into the copy of the Occupy Handbook that I received.  Though I admit that the handbook’s editor, Janet Byrne,  had people who should have been on my list, such as anarchist anthropolgist David Graeber (who was an early organizer of OWS and coined the phrase “We are the 99 percent”).  I found too many corporate political party media stalwarts like Eliot Spitzer, Michael Lewis,  and Robert Reich,  as authors of essays in the book.

The preface of the handbook starts off most disappointingly with the editor bragging about her big catch of  . . . . former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.   Neither the editor nor Volcker seem to be aware that many in the Occupy movement consider the Federal Reserve to be at the heart of our current economic crisis. The Federal Reserve is a strange beast that is a creature of private banks, and also wields the power of the federal government.  Both the original Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement were birthed out of anger over the taxpayer bailout of the banks.

On top of Congress’ malfeasance with their bank bailout, the Federal Reserve added its own secret multi-trillion dollar bailout.  That money has never been paid back.  And very few of the bankers whose criminal action sparked a global economic meltdown have been sent to jail.  These banks, instead, sit on the boards of the Federal Reserve.

President Barack Obamaa, flanked by Paul Volck...
President Obama, flanked by Volcker, left, and General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt, right.

I should disclose that ages ago, I interviewed Volcker for my college newspaper about his being chosen the commencement speaker for my graduation.  Neither my article nor his speech were memorable.   The only thing I remember from the whole experience was how I had to gain permission to make a long distance call from the newspaper’s offices to conduct the interview.  Volcker’s essay is similarly “phoned in” for his 2-page micro-essay for this handbook.  His thesis is that Washington lobbyists are flourishing while the economy is suffering.   Focusing on lobbyists and Washington distracts from the Wall Street bankers whose money runs the show.

Pop economics author Michael Lewis kicks off the first section of the handbook, How We Got Here, with a satiric inter-office memo from the 1% Strategic Committee titled Advice from the 1%, Lever Up, Drop Out.  The essay starts off in the wrong place by labeling the 2011 occupation a failure for not instituting the author’s pet project of boycotting the big banks.  He assumed that the Occupy movement was about the narrow goal of affecting a few institutions, rather the the success it had in changing a national dialogue and culture.   I guess Lewis entirely missed the November 5th Bank Transfer Day, along with the Move Your Money to Main Street movement of the past few years.  Tens of thousands of people cajoled and informed by Occupy moved their accounts to credit unions on November 5th, and hundreds of thousands moved their acounts to credit unions in the several months surrounding that day.

English: Reverend Billy from The Church of Lif...
Rev Billy  attempting to exorcise bad loans and toxic assets form the Bank of America

During the  time that I was reading the handbook and working on this review, I watched a webinar on how Bank of America is providing principal reduction as part of their mortgage modifications. In the webinar, Bank of America failed to mention that the principal reduction program is a mandated part of the settlement of the Attorneys General lawsuit against five mortgage loan servicers for robosigning.   The Bank of America webinar opened with a screen shot of articles about principal reduction surrounding a quote from Reuters blogging editor Felix Salmon saying he called for principal reduction in the Occupy Handbook. Salmon’s essay in the Solutions section of the Occupy Handbook spells out his thesis in its title, Principal Reduction: How to Reduce the Mortgage Burden.

As alluded to above, the Occupy Handbook is worthwhile for the essays that provide economic analysis of, and solutions to, our current state of economic affairs.  If those articles were culled out as a progressive economic reader, it would be an easy book to recommend.  Where the book attempts to analyze the Occupy movement, or represent the breadth and depth of the Occupy movement, it falls flat.  Repeatedly the authors are poorly chosen and poorly informed about the goals and successes of the Occupy movement.

To get an understanding of the variety of other contributors included int this massive volume, I have listed them below with identifying information.

The essayists in the How We Got Here section of the handbook are:

  • Michael Lewis (see above)
  • Paul Krugman (Nobel Economics Prize winner and NY Times columnist)
  • Robin Wells (Economist and Krugman co-author)
  • Phillip Dray (Independent public historian)
  • Michael Hiltzik (Pulitizer prize winning LA Times reporter)
  • Gillian Tett (Financial Times US managing editor and author)
  • John Cassidy (The New Yorker writer and Fortune columnist)
  • Raghuram Rajan (Finance professor and former IMF chief economist)
  • Bethany McLean (Vanity Fair contributing editor)
  • Daron Acemoğlu (MIT Economics professor)
  • James A. Robinson (Government professor at Harvard University)
  • Arjun Appadurai (Professor of media, culture and communication at NYU)
  • Carmen M. Reinhart (Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics)
  • Kenneth S, Rogoff (Public Policy and Economics professor at Harvard University)
  • Robert Shiller (Economics professor at Yale University)
  • Brandon Adams  (Harvard University lecturer and poker player)

The essayists in the Where Are We Now section of the handbook are:

  • David Graeber (see above)
  • Nouriel Roubini (NYU economics professor & Clinton White House advisor)
  • Chris Hedges (see above)
  • James Miller (New School politics professor)
  • Robert M. Buckley (former World Bank economist and Rockefeller Foundation managing director)
  • Pankaj Mishra (Novelist and Bloomberg News essayist)
  • Salvador Marti Puig (Lecturer at University of Salamanca)
  • Ariel Dorfman (Playwright, human rights activist, and Duke University professor)
  • Nora Lustig (Tulane University professor and Center for Global Development fellow)
  • Alejandra Mizala (University of Chile economics professor)
  • G. Eduardo Silva (Tulane University political science professor)
  • Neri Zilber (Institute of Current World Affairs fellow)
  • Chris Stanton (Egypt correspondent for the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National)
  • Robert Zaretsky (Essayist and author)
  • Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! executive producer)
  • Denis Moynihan (CEO of Free Speech TV)
  • Michael Greenberg (Reported on Occupy for the NY Review of Books)
  • David Madland (Works for Center for American Progress)
  • Karla Walter (Works for Center for American Progress)
  • Nick Bunker (Works for Center for American Progress)
  • George Gresham (President of 1199 Service Employees International Union)
  • Ilyana Kuziemko (Economic and public affairs professor at Princeton University)
  • Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School professor)
  • Brandon Adams (see above)
  • Rebecca Solnit (Author and activist)
  • Barbara Ehrenreich (Author, activist, and Democratic Socialist)
  • John Ehrenreich (Author, Activist, and psychologist)

The essayists in the Solutions  section of the handbook are:

  • Paul Volcker
  • Kathleen Maclay (University of California-Berkley media Relations employee)
  • Emmanuel Saez ( University of California-Berkeley Economics Professor specializing in income inequality)
  • Peter Diamond (Nobel Prize winning Economist known for Social Security analysis)
  • J. Bradford Delong (Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US  Treasury and is a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.)
  • Michael Lewis (see above)
  • Martin Wolf , CBE ( Associate Editor at the Financial Times)
  • Scott Turow (Best-selling author, attorney, and president of the Authors Guild)
  • Joel Bakan (Jazz musician, University of British Columbia Faculty of Law Professor and creator of the documentary The Corporation)
  • Robert B. Reich (Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General Robert Bork; . President Carter’s Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the Federal Trade Commission; and President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor).
  • David Cay Johnston (Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters tax columnist  and author)
  • Matt Taibbi (Politics/finance author and Rolling Stone  magazine columnist)
  • Tom Verlaine (Lead singer of the band Television)
  • Eliot Spitzer (Former Democratic Party politician)
  • Lawrence Weschler (Nonfiction author and  George Polk Award-winning journalist)
  • Tyler Cowan (Libertarian economist, writer and Iraq/Afghanistan War supporter)
  • Veronique de Rugy (Writer for the Libertarian magazine Reason and conservative magazine National Review Online)
  • Brandon Adams (see above)
  • Jeff Madrick (Former policy consultant for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and former economics columnist for the New York Times)
  • Daniel Gross (author, former Senior Editor at Newsweek and Yahoo! Finance Economics Editor)
  • Felix Salmon (see above)
  • Michelle J. White (University of California-San Diego Economics Professor)
  • Wenli Li (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia  Senior Economic Adviser and Economist)
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs (Director of Earth Institute at Columbia University)
  • Michael Hudson (Former Wall Street analyst and Economics Professor at University of Missouri- Kansas City)
  • Gordon Mathews (Author and Anthropology Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong)
  • Brandon Adams (see above)

If the gentle reader wishes to purchase media that is infused with the spirit of the Occupy movement, and directly supports it financially, I would suggest purchasing “Occupy This Album”.  As they state at http://musicforoccupy.org/:  “All proceeds above board attained through the production and distribution of “Occupy This Album: a compilation of music by, for and inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and the 99%” will go directly towards the needs of sustaining this growing movement.”


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