WALK ON WALL STREET: As the Senate took up debate on the financial reform package and "Fabulous Fab," the Goldman Sachs trader at the heart of the SEC's recent charges, testified under oath on Capitol Hill, thousands of folks fed up with Wall Street bailouts and bonuses took to the streets.
Hundreds of clergy, workers and community allies staged a procession through downtown San Francisco to the annual shareholders meeting at Wells Fargo to demand action on discriminatory lending. In Kansas City dozens demonstrated in the lobby of QC Holdings, a major payday lending company backed by Bank of America, chanting, "One, two, three, four; we don't want your loans no more!" Other actions were planned at a Bank of America shareholders meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and at Goldman Sachs in Chicago. The actions were being planned by a broad coalition led by the housing activists of National People's Action, along with the AFL-CIO, PICO National Network and Americans for Financial Reform.
The cap to the week was a rally in the belly of the beast planned for April 29, when thousands were expected to join AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and Michael Moore on a march through the "crime scene" of the nation's financial district to demand our money back (in the form of a financial trans- action tax). See showdowninamerica.org.
On May 15-17 the groups will take on the K Street lobbyists in Washington. The financial sector spent $1.4 million a day on lobbying expenses in 2009, and its 2010 tab could shatter all records. If you can't make it to these events to confront the looters in loafers, use the toll-free number (866) 544-7573, and tell your senator to end "too big to fail" by breaking up the banks, reining in derivatives and protecting consumers with an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency. MARY BOTTARI
HONORING WALTER MOSLEY: Los Angeles's Liberty Hill Foundation will honor Walter Mosley with its Upton Sinclair Award on May 20. Mosley, author of more than thirty books, is celebrated worldwide for his Easy Rawlins mysteries. Set in inner-city Los Angeles after World War II, they feature an out-of-work black war veteran who reluctantly becomes a private detective and confronts the city's racism and corrupt police force. The best-known volume is probably Devil in a Blue Dress, which was made into a film in 1995 starring Denzel Washington as Mosley's protagonist: "In a world divided by black and white, Easy Rawlins is about to cross the line."
"A lot of the stories and the sense of place in the Rawlins books come from a time and place that was my father's," Mosley told the Los Angeles Times last year. His father grew up in Texas and Louisiana, fought in World War II, then moved to Los Angeles. Mosley said the books in his new series-- the most recent is Known to Evil--"are very much about me."
"Mosley is one of the most humane, insightful, powerful prose stylists working today in any genre," the Austin Chronicle recently declared, adding, "He's also one of the most radical." As a member of the editorial board of The Nation, Mosley conceived Ten Things, which he calls "a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device." The series includes "Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets":
1. Be prepared to be blamed for your circumstances, no matter how much they may be beyond your control....
2. There is no private space to which you may retreat. You are on display 24/7. Learn to travel light....
More than a dozen installments have appeared in the magazine.
Next for Mosley: an HBO pilot, based on his new detective series, The Long Fall, written with director Jonathan Demme.
The Liberty Hill Foundation has been funding community organizing in Los Angeles County for more than thirty years. Under the slogan "Change. Not charity," it seeks to "forge a common agenda for equality and opportunity." JON WIENER
HIGHTOWER'S HISTORY: More than a quarter-century ago, in the early years of the Reagan administration, a Texas editor named Jim Hightower emerged as one of the nation's edgiest and most politically savvy critics of trickle-down economics and free trade. As agriculture commissioner in the Lone Star State, Hightower argued that Democrats could win every economic debate--and just about every election--if they renewed their connection with an old-school populism that championed the interests and demands of a struggling majority. Hightower proved his point by winning statewide elections and by promoting an economic vision that would eventually be embraced by the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition and rising Democratic stars like Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards.
Unfortunately, the leadership of the Democratic Party still struggles to get the point. But Hightower, now a popular author and activist, keeps making it. His recent critiques of the corporate-sponsored tea party movement and its media allies challenge the vapid notion that just because people hold a rally they are populists. "The very essence of populism is its unrelenting focus on breaking the iron grip that big corporations have on our country--including on our economy, government, media, and environment," Hightower writes. "It is unabashedly a class movement. Try to squeeze Lord Limbaugh into that philosophical suit of clothes! He's just another right-wing, corporate-hugging, silk-tie elitist--an apologist for plutocracy, not a populist."
At a time when so many seem unable to distinguish between faux radicalism and the real thing, Hightower retains a clarity that distinguishes him from the vast majority of politicians and pundits. So there is much to celebrate in the news that Texas State University, San Marcos, has not just accepted but embraced the opportunity to house Hightower's archives in its Wittliff Collections. The school will host a day of festivities on May 1 to celebrate the Hightower papers, with music by the likes of Jimmy Lafave and the Austin Lounge Lizards and speeches by former Oklahoma senator and populist presidential candidate Fred Harris and former AFL-CIO national vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson. Of course, Hightower will add his oratory to the mix. This is, after all, a celebration of "the Living Spirit of Texas Populism," and Jim Hightower, as fierce and fiery as ever, is that and more. JOHN NICHOLS