By Andy Bichlbaum on Apr 19 2012 - 9:15am Tagged: Project: Your B of A

April 19, 2012

Dow Jones posts fake release for two hours; bank gets fake website blacklisted, briefly


Bank of America executives, investors, and opponents alike reacted with surprise to yesterday's news—posted for two hours on Dow Jones Newswire and elsewhere—that the mammoth financial institution, realizing it was heading for a taxpayer bailout, was asking Americans to start thinking about what they'll do with the bank once they own it, and to start advertising that vision too.

The news, of course, was a hoax.

The fake website was quickly, but temporarily, blacklisted by Google as a potential "phishing scam," despite the site containing no forms, spyware, or other characteristics of a site engaging in phishing. Firefox and Google Chrome users who tried to load were warned that the site may be "dangerous," while some individuals with Gmail accounts reported that emails containing the URL were bounced back or not delivered. An investigation by Raw Story concluded that "It's likely that Bank of America reported the site to Google as a phishing scam." Shortly after the article's publication—and with the help of thousands of volunteers complaining to Google—the website was taken off the blacklist.

Today's reports of slumping profits make the fake site all the more timely. "This site is a forum for people to imagine what they could do with this bank," said Jane O'Heely of the Yes Lab, one of the site's creators. "The ideas we've gotten already show we all know as much as bankers about how a bank ought to be run—and actually, a good deal more."

"A bank doesn't have to be something that charges you fees, invests your money in things you abhor, destroys poor communities with predatory lending, and then threatens to take down the global economy if you don't agree to bail it out," said Logan Price, who helped create "Thinking of alternatives to this nightmare is not rocket science."

The hoax was perpetrated by means of a fake press release, followed two hours later by a fake angry retort, so that no journalist would be fooled for very long. "We wanted to get people thinking about how they'd run banking differently, not to really fool anyone," noted O'Heely. "The whole fake release thing was just a way to publicize it and get people posting ideas and ads."

"Any response by Bank of America would just help spread the word, and they seem to know that," added O'Heely. When Bank of America got Google to blacklist the website as "phishing" (which it was not), the Yes Lab mobilized 4000 volunteers to complain, which quickly worked to de-list the site and give this press release a small extra hook.

The website's centerpiece is an open call to American taxpayers to begin considering what they will do after a bailout, when they'll have a chance to become the company’s majority owners. The "bank" also asks the public to advertise their visions with a tool for generating web banners—images that could give Bank of America a very real "google problem" not unlike Chevron's. The site also includes a letter from CEO Brian Moynihan that admits to the bank's many failings—short-sighted investment decisions and the massive accumulation of legal liabilities, causing plummeting share prices and inexorably pushing the company towards a public bailout.

The website was a collaboration between the Yes Lab, Rainforest Action Network, and New Bottom Line. A number of folks within Occupy Wall Street's Alternative Banking working group also helped with the site. Like other Yes Lab websites, this one is hosted by May First / People Link.

The website comes at a time of rampant distrust of big banks. Even top Federal Government regulators have recently called for the end of "too big to fail." As Harvey Rosenblum, the head of the Dallas Fed’s research department, recently wrote: "Many of the biggest banks have sputtered, their balance sheets still clogged with toxic assets accumulated in the boom years... creating a residue of distrust for the government, the banking system, the Fed and capitalism itself."

"Most Americans, and even some regulators, see what's wrong with the state of our banking system," said Price. "We have a real opportunity to safely and proactively push this company towards managed bankruptcy and create smaller, more responsive financial institutions that help American communities rather than harm them."

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Apr 9 2012 - 9:12am Tagged:

This Tuesday, April 10, Ivan Marovic returns to speak at 7pm at 34 Stuyvesant Street, room 105. Come see a surprising and entertaining event, followed by a historic visit to Union Square.
(September 22, five days after the occupation of Zuccotti, Ivan spoke about how his youth movement, Otpor, had overthrown the Serbian dictator in 2000; then he went and addressed the occupiers—thus, amusingly, helping spark some short-lived far-right conspiracy theories about Soros, the CIA, and who knows what else funding OWS.)

Then, Thursday, April 12, at 7pm, come to a panel on religion and revolutionary activism at the Hemispheric Institute, 20 Cooper Square, 5th floor.

This Saturday is a city-wide People's Assembly in Central Park, part of the lead-up to May 1.

Finally, April 19th is the last event in this speaking series this year, with the amazing Steve Lambert. It'll be a great event, where you'll be the first to find out how you can become involved in the Yes Lab next year.

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Mar 27 2012 - 10:29am Tagged:

This Thursday, March 29, come see David Graeber discuss culture as creative refusal—how what we think of as primordial "cultures," historically, can just as easily be conceived as social movements which were to some degree successful in achieving their aims. This event will take place at 20 Cooper Sq., 5th Floor. Please RSVP! (David is an eminent anthropologist and anarchist who has been politically active for a long time, and active in the Occupy movement since its proto-beginnings in June 2011; he has called Occupy "the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire." His most recent book is Debt: The First Five Thousand Years.)

Also, if you're free on Friday from 2-5pm, come to Creative Activism in the Age of Digital Technologies, same place. It'll be awesome!

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Mar 20 2012 - 9:26pm Tagged:

This just in: the Union Square occupation is completely fantastic!

In other news, this Thursday, March 22, Jonathan Matthew Smucker, director of Beyond the Choir, will discuss and workshop the "political identity paradox" (how social movements like OWS require a strong sense of group identity in order to foster commitment among participants, but this same cohesion can also inhibit a movement's ability to connect with a broader public) and other organizing issues. (This workshop, like most talks in this series, is at 7pm at the Hemispheric Institute, 20 Cooper Square, 5th floor.) After the talk, we'll head to Union Square.

Then, Saturday at 7pm, come clown around with the +Brigades—location TBD, but probably Union Square. (Check this page for updates.)

And March 29, hear David Graeber discuss culture as creative refusal—how what we think of as primordial "cultures," historically, can just as easily be conceived as social movements which were to some degree successful in achieving their aims. Please check the website before the event, as details for this talk may change.

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Mar 6 2012 - 3:47pm Tagged: Project: Three Strikes, You're In!

March 6, 2012

No Free Happy Meals for NYPD ‘Stop and Frisk’ Victims
‘Three Strikes You’re In!’ is elaborate hoax aimed at racism of NYPD, McDonald’s

CONTACT: People Enraged by Racist Policing (PERP):
     Jerry Goralnick,, 917-450-6301
     Divad Durant,, 646-327-3679

NEW YORK — “Whoa, really?”

That was a popular reaction this morning to the news that McDonald’s had partnered with the New York Police Department to hand out free Happy Meals™ to those stopped and frisked three times without charge or summons.

A press release described the arrangement as “a bold new program that rewards New Yorkers for their patience with the NYPD’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ policy.” Several YouTube videos showed McDonald’s customers, official “Three Strikes” vouchers in hand, requesting and receiving their free “Meals.”

To many New Yorkers, it seemed an entirely plausible, if laughable, effort to address community concerns. After all, “Stop and Frisk” ensnared over 684,000 New Yorkers in 2011, 90% of them African American and Latino. The city’s police force seemed overdue for just such an image-burnishing makeover.

So, was “Three Strikes You’re In!” an earnest effort to smooth things over with a disgruntled public? Not exactly.

The website (since taken down at the behest of McDonald's), Facebook page, and YouTube videos were all part of an elaborate hoax by People Enraged by Racist Policing (PERP), an activist group working with the Yes Lab at New York University. The group is seeking to highlight what they say are racist and discriminatory policies of the NYPD, while also calling attention to McDonald’s intense marketing of unhealthy food to residents of low-income urban areas.

“The cops ‘stop and frisk’ people simply because of how we look and where we live,” said Divad Durant, a PERP spokeperson. “This kind of policing creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust in our neighborhoods, and has convinced New Yorkers that the NYPD is anything but just.”

According to its own data, the New York Police Department made over 684,000 street stops in 2011, a 603% increase over 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg first took office, and a 14% increase over 2010. Nearly 90% of “Stop and Frisk” victims are African American and Latino, though they make up only 50% of the city’s population, according to the 2010 census. Fewer than 10% of the stops led to an arrest, and almost none of those to a conviction. In fact, many of those arrested found themselves handcuffed simply because they had questioned the right of the police to frisk them.

According to PERP, the disparate impact of stop-and-frisk on people of color, particularly in low-income communities, is just the tip of the iceberg. “Stop-and-frisk is just one notable example of an NYPD that is discriminatory and unjust in policy and practice,” said Jerry Goralnick, another PERP member. “The increasing frequency of extreme brutality, such as the recent beating of Jatiek Reed and the killing of Ramarley Graham in the Bronx, are even more outrageous and horrific.”

Abusive policing also has less visible impacts on marginalized groups. Sexual assaults of women, profiling and illegal surveillance of Muslims, and inappropriate treatment of trans-gender, homeless, and immigrant New Yorkers are widespread, according to PERP.

But why was McDonald’s part of the act?

“Like the NYPD, McDonald’s specifically targets low-income communities of color, but in a different way: as markets from which to draw profits, at the expense of our health and well-being,” said Durant.

McDonald’s website merges references to African culture with the company’s marketing goals. “Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald’s has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities,” says the website, which appears to be completely authentic.

Activists say that McDonald’s, with condescending and manipulative marketing that co-opts African-American culture, simply wants to profit from minority New Yorkers at the expense of their health. “Last time I checked, baobab fruit is not high in fat, cholesterol, and salt,” said Durant. “In fact, it’s rich in Vitamin C, and reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease. McDonald’s shouldn’t compare their unhealthy fare with something that’s actually good for you.”

“Other than those who work for the McDonald’s marketing machine, does anyone ever use ‘nourish’ to describe anything about McDonald’s?” added Goralnick.

“McDonald’s wants us to think its ‘food’ is not just life-shortening gruel pumped into unsuspecting stomachs via a tube made of salt, fat, and clever marketing,” said Durant. “And that’s particularly true in the African American community, where it uses TV ads and websites like to tell a wholly inaccurate and misleading story about the company and what it offers.”

Why All the Trouble?
A Statement from Project Organizers

"'Three Strikes, You’re In!' is a joke, but a biased, abusive police department that makes us less safe is no laughing matter. We did all this work simply to call attention to the issue. The media, advocates, legislators and the general public should look to the work of the excellent organizations, campaigns and coalitions who are doing serious work to address these issue and develop real solutions.”

Some New York City formations working to stop abusive policing and develop solutions include:

The Yes Lab and PERP are not affiliated with any of these groups.

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Feb 26 2012 - 11:52pm Tagged:

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By Mike Bonanno on Feb 22 2012 - 9:36am Tagged: dada, MacGhillie, ghillie suit, ghillie, cabaret voltaire, occupy zurich, banks, occupy the banks, yes lab, reverend billy, UBS, tax evasion, tax avoidance

Money is not the only thing that hides in Switzerland!

During the First World War, Zurich became a magnet for a bunch of anarchic folks who were rebelling against the 'rationality' that created the war and the economic fatalism that we are still dealing with today. They drank their absinthe at the Cabaret Voltaire, which after a hiatus for the better part of a century was re-established in the original Zurich site. The Yes Lab was invited to visit the Cabaret Voltaire for a Dada blessing, and we were delighted to find that the good folks at the Cabaret, with the help of an outfit called "Knobotiq" had brought together all the ingredients needed for a readymade protest.

We just combined Occupy Zurich, Reverend Billy and Voina, added a host of other n’er-do-wells, mixed it all up with some beautiful urban camo gear, and inserted the concoction into a local bank, where it simmered for the next 20 minutes.

The local bank in this case is among the world’s largest: UBS is a financial services giant renowned for aiding tax evaders, funding environmental destruction, and getting bailed out by the public.

Watch the video, and see if you can spot the activists despite the amazing camouflage of the legendary MacGhillie suits.  Expect more from these in the future


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By Andy Bichlbaum on Feb 21 2012 - 6:22pm Tagged:

New Yorkers! Two treats: an all-star revolutionary panel on Thursday, and hilarious clown fun on Saturday.

1. This Saturday evening, come prepare fun, funny, and media-savvy actions for F29 with Occupy's newest venture, the +Brigades. BYOB. Beware of clowns. Spread the word!

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 25, 7pm
  • Where: Judson Church (Thompson St. entrance), New York City

2. This Thursday evening, come seriously consider how change happens, the role of electoral politics, the nature of revolution, and other big questions. Moderated by Nation editor Richard Kim, the panel will include Richard Schechner, Yotam Marom, Chaia Heller, and Nelini Stamp. Bring ID!

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By Andy Bichlbaum on Jan 28 2012 - 1:23pm Tagged: Project: Patriots for Self-Deportation

January 26, 2012

Megan Hanley,

Stranger than Fiction: Romney Steals “Self-Deport” Idea from Satirical Website
Activists furious at GOP Candidate, Exploring Legal Options

New York, NY -- Five months ago, in an effort to draw attention to the bigoted nature of the current debate around immigration in the United States, a group of activists got together to come up with the most outlandish approach imaginable to immigration issues: Self-deportation. The result-- launched last fall, cheerily reminding Americans unsure about the status of their immigrant forebearers that "Stopping Illegal Citizenship Starts with You."

During this past Monday night’s GOP debate, Mitt Romney stole the idea and passed it off as his own.

The “Repatriotas,” a group of artists and activists affiliated with the Yes Lab at the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, were shocked when Romney suggested that “The answer [to the immigration issue] is self-deportation.” The group built as a satirical response to stepped-up deportations and an uptick of extreme anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 in Arizona, HB 56 in Alabama, and the Secure Communities program, which deny basic rights to undocumented people and their families. And increasingly harsh and punitive responses to immigration are not just a partisan or GOP problem. Under the Obama administration a record 369,000 people were deported in 2011 alone-- far exceeding deportation rates under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush.

“The ‘go-back-home’ rhetoric is so over-the-top that we thought parody was the only sane response," said Marlène Ramírez-Cancio, a Repatriota and a member of the Latina video and satire collective Fulana. "We don't know how Romney first happened upon our website, but given the murky nature of his own family's legal status in the U.S., maybe he was just exploring his options," she says, referring to recent allegations that in the early twentieth century Romney's own family may have crossed the Mexico / US border without first securing the appropriate papers.

“The difference between Mitt Romney’s version of self-deportation and ours is he imagines a country where immigration issues can be solved by making immigrants’ lives so miserable, they’ll give up and leave. We want everyone who lives in this country to enjoy equal opportunity and rights,” said Cristel M. Jusino Díaz, a member of the group.

The Repatriotas work to draw attention to the challenges faced by undocumented youth in the U.S. They support federal and state legislation that would enable undocumented students to achieve their dreams of pursuing higher education and civic service.

The Repatriotas  view “repatriation” as a logical extension of the “anchor baby” debates, or far-right proposals to modify the 14th Amendment with the intention of deny birthright citizenship for children of undocumented people.  The site questions why descendants of European immigrants --many of whom also arrived and lived in the United States without proper documentation-- feel their own immigrant past is "different." The creators of hope to spark a conversation about the idea of "The Real America" and who belongs in it.

The Repatriotas have contacted Romney’s campaign headquarters for comment. To date the campaign has not responded -- nor properly attributed the “Self-Deportation” idea to its authors.


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By Andy Bichlbaum on Dec 15 2011 - 10:07am Tagged: Project: Occupy Wall Street actions

For those wondering whether Manhattan's wealthiest church will help Occupy Wall Street obtain a space, here's the answer... sort of:

December 15, 2011

Church and lay activists install guerrilla gift in front of Wall St. church

Today at 2pm, prominent New York religious figures along with Occupy Wall Street activists will erect a nativity scene outside Trinity Wall Street Church. The scene—which activists are calling a "peace offering" in advance of this Saturday's planned occupation of a sliver of unused Trinity land—will feature Joseph, Mary, and Jesus within an Occupy Wall Street tent adorned with relevant scripture.

"The story of Christmas starts with Mary and Joseph's search for a home," said Reverend Michael Ellick of Judson Church. "It's thus especially ironic, and tragic, that Trinity Church—one of the largest landowners in New York City—refuses even a tiny, unused piece of its vast land to OWS, which points to the same spirit of transformation that Jesus represented."

"This is truly a theological line in the sand," added Ellick. "The gospel is about real-world transformation, not cosmetic charity. How is it that Trinity's real estate is worth over 10 billion dollars, and all they can do for Occupy is hand out hot chocolate?"

Rev. Ellick and other participants will also deliver a petition from over 12,000 Faithful America members urging the church to offer sanctuary to the protesters. Faithful America is an online community of people of faith taking action for social justice.

"Trinity is faced with a choice: are they a church or are they a real estate company with a religious storefront?" said Andrew Huckins, one of the organizers of this Saturday's planned occupation. "We truly hope that Trinity moves beyond charity and joins the Occupy movement in its quest for social and economic justice."

According to Max Page, author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, in the early 20th century Trinity "offended the sensibilities of elite New Yorkers by ignoring the squalor over which it was landlord... and unjustly redistributing the wealth of the church to its uptown parishioners." In short, the book notes, Trinity acted "like a big business and not a religious institution."

"Trinity can use this opportunity to act according to the beliefs we all espouse," said Ellick. "We deeply hope that they do so."


Rev. Michael Ellick (Judson Church): 646-734-0162
Andrew Huckins (OWS): 413-522-1129
Sean Devlin (Yes Lab):

For more information:

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