Occupy National Gathering

I was down there a little while ago to drop off some bottled water. (Oh, my aching back!) If anyone wants to donate some money for water, I’ll take more down tomorrow:

Occupy participants from around the country have converged on Philadelphia for the “National Gathering” June 30 through July 4. Organizers estimate the event will draw around 1,500 protesters and has been independently endorsed by more than 100 Occupy groups across the country.

From its very beginning, the convention was less about occupation and more about building communities.
“Tents more than likely won’t be necessary,” a statement on the group’s website reads.

Instead, the group plans to develop a list of grievances to take to legislators, presidential candidates, and Supreme Court justices in Washington, and the event will culminate with a planned march to Independence Halls on July 4.

“For me, this is a chance to finally meet face-to-face with people who are doing work in other cities and build real relationships,” said Jeff Rae, an Occupy activist who had his Twitter records subpoenaed by the New York District Attorney in March. “In a much broader scope, I hope that at the National Gathering, we can have some real dialogue about what’s next for Occupy. New tactics and strategies.”

Rae said he believes the Occupy movement is alive and well. “The conditions that created Occupy in the first place have not gone away, and if anything things have gotten worse,” he said, citing the 7,308 Occupy arrests since the movement’s inception, “and I think you have a lot of people dealing with that, along with working on other projects like eviction defense, stop-and-frisk, and banking issues.”

Tax haven

This is why Delaware is so popular with business: It’s easy to set up a shell company there.

NOTHING about 1209 North Orange Street hints at the secrets inside. It’s a humdrum office building, a low-slung affair with a faded awning and a view of a parking garage. Hardly worth a second glance. If a first one.

But behind its doors is one of the most remarkable corporate collections in the world: 1209 North Orange, you see, is the legal address of no fewer than 285,000 separate businesses.

Its occupants, on paper, include giants like American Airlines, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Ford, General Electric, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and Wal-Mart. These companies do business across the nation and around the world. Here at 1209 North Orange, they simply have a dropbox.

What attracts these marquee names to 1209 North Orange and to other Delaware addresses also attracts less-upstanding corporate citizens. For instance, 1209 North Orange was, until recently, a business address of Timothy S. Durham, known as “the Midwest Madoff.” On June 20, Mr. Durham was found guilty of bilking 5,000 mostly middle-class and elderly investors out of $207 million. It was also an address of Stanko Subotic, a Serbian businessman and convicted smuggler — just one of many Eastern Europeans drawn to the state.

Big corporations, small-time businesses, rogues, scoundrels and worse — all have turned up at Delaware addresses in hopes of minimizing taxes, skirting regulations, plying friendly courts or, when needed, covering their tracks. Federal authorities worry that, in addition to the legitimate businesses flocking here, drug traffickers, embezzlers and money launderers are increasingly heading to Delaware, too. It’s easy to set up shell companies here, no questions asked.

“Shells are the No. 1 vehicle for laundering illicit money and criminal proceeds,” said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the Justice Department. “It’s an enormous criminal justice problem. It’s ridiculously easy for a criminal to set up a shell corporation and use the banking system, and we have to stop it.”

In these troubled economic times, when many states are desperate for tax dollars, Delaware stands out in sharp relief. The First State, land of DuPont, broiler chickens and, as it happens, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., increasingly resembles a freewheeling offshore haven, right on America’s shores. Officials in other states complain that Delaware’s cozy corporate setup robs their states of billions of tax dollars. Officials in the Cayman Islands, a favorite Caribbean haunt of secretive hedge funds, say Delaware is today playing faster and looser than the offshore jurisdictions that raise hackles in Washington.

And international bodies, most recently the World Bank, are increasingly pointing fingers at the state.

Delaware has been a plantation state forever, too, thanks to the DuPont family.

Princess camp

No, really. I got a coupon thingie in my email this morning:

The princesses will start each day with a one-hour dance class followed by princess story time, a snack and tea party, princess arts and crafts, and princess dress-up games.

Because princesses sit quietly and try on clothes! Oy. I’d love to see what a young girl who didn’t constantly have this stuff programmed into her system from the time she could walk actually wanted to do for fun.

I have nothing against dress-up and fantasy play. But this is the very opposite. Instead of young girls learning to expand their imagination, it’s all within the structure of whatever Disney is peddling. (I’m assuming this is the same as the Disney World princess camp.)

I used to do the booking at a local coffeehouse, and this place had a large trunk filled with costumes purchased from MGM, when it went out of business. Every kid who came in the place, boy or girl, gravitated to it immediately (including most of the grownups). There were all kinds of crazy scarfs and hats, it was great fun.

These little girls may have “fun” at princess camp, but it ain’t creative. It’s learning to be a good little Disney princess-consumer clone.

End of rant!

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