I’m a devout mathphobe, but (therefore?) some of my best friends are accountants. Which may be why I was fascinated by Alex Klein’s piece at NYMag‘s Daily Intel on “OWS’s mysterious Finance Committee“:
They go by code names like Mercury John, Bre the Knife, Bobby Bailout, Flash Cash, Pete the Heat, and Gaelin the Good. They use gang signs, like two crossed middle fingers or pursed fingertips, reminiscent of Simpsons billionaire C. Montgomery Burns. They come from backgrounds in law, accounting, business, academia, and tattooing. Their real names have gone mostly unreported. But with access to over $450,000 in donations, expenses of about $10,000 a week, and a sometimes fractious community to fund, this eight-person group might be the most powerful at Occupy Wall Street: They are the finance committee.
As soon as the Occupy Wall Street protests gained momentum and money began to pour in via the Internet and personal donations, it was inevitable that the occupiers would eventually need a central bank. An ad hoc financial system initially evolved in fits and starts, but now, an eclectic team has taken on unique responsibilities and powers. If a working group wants to exceed its $100 weekly budget, it has to go to finance for a special dispensation form. The committee vets the budgets of proposals submitted by OWS members before they reach the General Assembly. If a proposal is considered dumb or illegal — “guns or booze” — finance can refuse the purchase. As Jackie DiSalvo, a key occupation organizer and union leader, told me: “At OWS, we try not to have leaders, but, in fact, that has resulted in our having many, many leaders.”…
Finance has faced fierce criticism for killing proposals before they get to the General Assembly. For example, at a meeting two weeks ago, a plan to open an OWS printing account got delayed for days. As its exasperated author explained, “The first proposal was invalid … because it didn’t go through finance.” Raising a procedural objection, a man in a leather jacket stood up. “If the GA consensed on this already, what are we discussing? If finance has a problem, then that needs to be discussed!” Nobody from finance spoke up. Though they eventually did approve the idea, the finance team can’t stand frivolous proposals. “Throw money at idiot things? I don’t think so,” McGarvey told me. “That’s the little old lady’s money. We have to be responsible.” He paused, rolled his eyes, and sipped his wine. “People are silly.” As Stecklow put it, finance has to review and block proposals “to make sure the budgets are in line with our mission.”
Anarchist-friendly accountants, fighting for tha People! — sorry, but that’s just waaaaay cooler than the CIA’s “vengeful librarians“.
Finance committee. Yes, they need one.
And they also need at least one sour, non-emotional killjoy that can say no. He shouldn’t run the whole show but he needs to be heard. He [or she for that matter] needs to operate like the superego in a personality.
see Wall Street, you can run a business and NOT be all about grabbing all the profits and screwing everyone else while they aren’t looking.
OT: Yurp steps back from the cliff edge, at least for a moment.
Accountants don’t do math, what they do is arithmetic.
@Linda Featheringill: So, basically, we need a guy to act like we used to imagine the Republicans acted back in the 50s.
I like seeing this kind of coordination and division of labor in the movement. It’s easier to take the whole thing seriously when you can point to something like this and say “See, they’re not just a bunch of crazy anarchists. They respect a system that works.”
Certified Mutant Enemy
vengeful librarians – band name
The only “silly” thing about OWS is their idealistic insistence on “no leaders.” Guess what, no leaders means no leadership. If you want to get something done, you have to abandon this college-age fantasy that the magic of “democracy” will solve all problems. It just won’t, I’m sorry to say. None of this is a critique of the main message of the group, which is “Enough.” Enough of Wall Street’s rapacious consumption of every spare penny in this economy; enough of Big Business running the GOP and getting pretty good mileage out of the Democrats, too; enough of the 1% owning most of the wealth in the United States. Hopefully, this message will get through the drum circles and the “General Assembly.” (P.S. This GA is about as effective as the one housed in the big building on the East River at 42nd St.)
I don’t know that accounting is that much connected to math. I love studying math. I hate doing my taxes.
OWS learned from Wikilinks that having a visible leaders gives the elites a focus for personalizing and destroying the movement. If you have a group of leaders, they can investigate, smear and separate them into a collection of personal foibles and scandals.
You can’t do that to a faceless mass. It’s not perfect, but it is a fascinating defense mechanism against the politics of personal destruction. The media has no leverage to do its thing.
The whole “OWS as a microcosm of a true democratic society” will only be complete when money goes missing, or is re-routed to the a certain segment of the OWS(their own 1% ?)and they have a financial scandal.
Not saying it’s going to happen, just won’t be surprised if it does.
@Epicurus: True about the U.N. except for a few of subagencies which deal with health, children, and such. They have their missions and work on very specific problems.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Epicurus: “Enough” is not a directive. Your statements after:
are not things to get done, they are things to be against. And since that’s what this group represents, a physical manifestation of the grievences, then they don’t need a leader.
There’s a benefit to not having a leader. This prevents a group, like Democrats, Republicans, or Wall Street from saying to the “leader”: “We’ve met 70% of your demands, now you’re just being unreasonable.”
The group that should be getting something done is Congress.
@Epicurus: I think OWS has leaders…just not spokespeople or a spokesperson. I think that works in their favor. Besides, a well defined leadership would attract well defined arrows/attacks and probably subtract from the overall message of the movement.
If there were leaders to focus on then we would have to hear nonsense about if they have granite counter-tops or not.
sorry, I’m not seeing this at all. what they are doing is using a very well coordinated non profit model. There may be a CEO, a board, and a gazillion standing committees, but unlike for profit the overarching mandate is staying true to the mission. that means when something isn’t working (making a profit) you change the process or program. you don’t change the mission to make money or suit the leaderships’ need for attention.
they have leaders, lots of them. they don’t have art stars who suck all the energy out of the room when it comes time to feed their egos and lust for power.
non profit governance. they are doin it right.
Paul in KY
If I was a college student up in NYC, I’d like to think I’d be there with them. It all sounds very exciting.
Yes, AL, but at the risk of trolling, what does Charlie Pierce have to say about it?? Why no link to Charlie? It’s been two posts since your last link.
@ned: There is nothing wrong with linking and commenting about a blog that she likes. If it hadn’t been for John linking to it a couple of weeks ago, I would not have read Pierce’s stuff. Pierce has a lot of insightful and interesting opinions, and many times I wish we could discuss them here where there is more traffic and differing opinions.
So Anne Laurie, please keep posting like you do. Some of us appreciate it.
The Other Chuck
This reminds me of @John X.:
Reminds me of a Sun Tzu quote. Everything I know I learned from computer games:
Occupy Oakland members vote to deposit $20,000 with Wells Fargo
Soooo… the most powerful people in the organization dedicated to protesting the fact that the people who control money have too much power in our society are… the people who control the money?
[head ‘splods from the irony]
Seems there’s so much going on that the fact that police are still beating unarmed protesters isn’t getting much coverage. (via naked capitalism)
@different-church-lady: The committee is explicitly described as being unable to make any policy decisions on its own, beyond rejecting trivially dumb or illegal requests.
So characterizing it *having power* is demonstrative of nothing but a journalist who is so used to seeing policy set by those who control the purse strings, that they cannot recognize the opposite situation even after they’ve very carefully observed and described it.
different-church-lady: “Soooo… the most powerful people in the organization dedicated to protesting the fact that the people who control money have too much power in our society are… the people who control the money?”
I agree. This is a perfect opportunity to explore other means of organizational control.
@ all: perhaps my comment at 20 could appear to be a swipe at OWS. That’s really not my intent. It’s more a sort of half-baked inkling that somehow this is an example of how societies large and small tend to sort themselves out when left to nature — a sort of gravitational pull. One needs to put a hell of a lot of thought and effort to get a system that breaks that gravity.
The GOP platform for poor people:
You can’t go to college.
You can’t get health care.
You can’t collectively bargain.
You have to pay higher taxes.
Your right to political expression comes after corporations.
You have to show your papers to police or be arrested.
Voting is a privilege and you don’t have it.
FWIW, classical large scale popular anarchist movements (libertarian soshullist, council communist, etc) were scrupulous about proper responsibilities taken for finances and distribution of materials, etc., because it hardly keeps up with your philosophy of a just and democratic and consensus-decided society if your scarce resources are being wasted.
Paul in KY
@Nellcote: Should have used a credit union. Wells Fargo are a bunch of crooks.
Their reasoning puzzles me, but maybe credit unions in California are governed by different rules than they are where I live.
..and the finance committee gets to decide what’s dumb and trivial.
No leaders, no accountability. That is not a good thing.
And I just have to get this off my chest: those jazz hands are stupid. Those nicknames in the article are stupid and I swear sometimes these OWS stories reads like a bunch of kids playing government like real kids play house.
that is all.
@Scott P.: Then why do some poor people still vote for the GOP
@Epicurus: People get leery of “leaders” after observing their repeated self-serving behavior, and you call it fantasy…
@boss bitch: In fairness, it kind of is “playing government”, because it’s not a government.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
From what I have seen, it’s made more people accountable. Look at what happens to OWS whenever the city attempts to make up some new reason to remove them from the park: Then entire group works to get it done.
I think the answer is OWS needs to stop protesting and vote in the 2012 election for Democrats.
Marilyn, shut the fuck up
And we’re off!
Wonderful paintings! This is the type of info that are meant to be shared across the net. Disgrace on Google for not positioning this put up higher! Come on over and talk over with my site . Thank you =)