I wore my long johns so that I could sit in the Tombs, a cold jail even if its 70 degrees on the surface.  So I had my baptist hanky out right away as we approached the front door of the Central Park Conservancy – that dabbing off of sweat only made me seem more like a wearied-by-the-spirit preacher.  Then as we walked up to the billionaire’s club – a surprise - the police and well-dressed security types, faded away.  This made me sweat just a bit less.

It showed us that in the billionaires part of town, the Upper East Side of Manhattan, between Park Avenue and 5th Avenue on 60th Street, the police work for their overlords.  In another part of town the cops will walk by the crowd and the Stop Shopping Choir and push me over and hand-cuff me.  Then I’m led away while the choir sings our gospelized version of the 1st Amendment.  This has been going on for 15 years. 

But yesterday I remained free under the CPC’s “martyrdom management,” – a more nuanced approach by the marketing department of the very rich.  We began to sing and shout about poisons in the parks, starting with “Monsanto is the Devil,” from our new record.

Yesterday was about secrecy… the secrets of modern personal fortunes.   Yesterday was also about the secrets of poisons dispersed in nature, that nature being the Central Park foliage and lawns and promenades.

High society New York style, of course, must have secrets.  The castle has a wraith of mist, with the princess swirling briefly by a high window.  That’s the classic cover of those bodice-ripper books that after-work nurses read on the subway.  Funny how the cheapest pop culture can accurately catch the essence of the modern governance…

This is essentially the Central Park Conservancy’s presentation to the hoi polloi, and to the ten singers and Elvis impersonator dogging their doorway with the Tiffany glass awning.  We look like a subway car of people who stumbled into the rich part of town, but we are a threat.  Our little theater company’s lawyer has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the NY Parks Dept that is well-made and legally binding.  We demand to know when and where of the spraying by the city of Monsanto’s carcinogenic herbicide “RoundUp” is incomplete. The city showed us where the poisons were sprayed on the African and Hispanic citizens, the working poor and new immigrants – but where the rich live in Manhattan and in Brooklyn around Prospect – we got big blanks.  The conservancies refused to cooperate.   They should have given us the information last October.  Our map on the website Revbilly.com has a Joker-like question mark on Central Park.  Secrecy.

The largest gift the park ever got came in 2012 from John Paulson.  The gift was a cool $100 million.  Paulson is a god of secrets.  He used the credit default instruments invented by Blythe Masters at JPMorgan Chase, to “short the housing market.”  Let’s say that again.  Paulson created hedge funds where he and his speculators could take bets that the housing bubble would burst.  He made  $4 billion that year as millions of families lost their homes.  He made a market that was secret because he invented it, a definition of the waves of absconded wealth in recent decades. 

So we sang and shouted for a couple hours.  My sermon was all about secrecy.  The bullhorn made nice echoes in this canyon of billionaires.  The snuck in an out of our harmonies.  We tried to give them information on the sidewalk but they scurried off.  Savitri got into fascinating conversations with clumps of lunchtime workers, who drifted near us, smoking and smiling – but maybe not quite clapping or shouting Earthalujah!

They will privatize this sidewalk as soon as they can, I suppose. Meanwhile the laws of the land reach this far: shouting citizens in the doorway.  We’ll be back.  And of course they know that – because the police being there as we arrived indicated that they had read our emails.  

Conservancy people – listen to me.  If we’ve been sprayed by RoundUp, a carcinogen that is banned in scores of countries.  And insiders in the Parks Dept. have whispered to us that we have been sprayed by the stuff…  we need to know about it.  The rich can’t keep secrets.

That’s what I’m facing, a return to the beginnings of the idea of Reverend Billy, a return to his first church – the pavement.  This time not so much in Times Square, where homeless citizens sleep in doorways.  The sidewalk preacher’s new church is the front door of billionaires on East 60th Street.

         The Central Park Conservancy is overseen by about 70 trustees.  Among them are the world’s biggest gamblers – real sinners who desperately need the advice and comfort of the Church of Stop Shopping.  Take for instance – the man who made billions betting on the pain and suffering of millions of Americans when he hedged the housing bubble, the eviction and mortgage fraud bubble, of the late naughts.

         Such a legend of depravity as John Paulson hangs in the air at East 60th Street.  He is an untouchable.  He lives somewhere around the park, and maybe he comes to the conservancy office once a year, who knows?  He has given millions to the conservancy.  He has said that the park is a dreaming place of his boyhood, but now he allows his park workers to spray the playgrounds and picnic areas with Monsanto’s carcinogenic herbicides. 

         You say he doesn’t even know about it?  Well they say he jogs in the park most days, and lives in a townhouse on the east side, somewhere around the conservancy offices.  It is more important to ask, why would another Conservancy trustee, Mitchell Silver, who is the Commissioner of the Parks Dept of New York City – be so complacent about the poisons.  His deputy commissioner told us (the Coalition Against Poison Parks) that there is a minimum safe dosage for RoundUp.  What?  What study said that?  No scientist that doesn’t work for Monsanto ever proved a safe ingestion of this toxin, not of any amount.  

         No, Silver and his people is as close to the death struggle of poisoned everyday people as Paulson was to evicted home-owners in 2008, when he made $4 billion in 12 months. 

         So a shout in the street is my media again.  I was in Times Square in the 90’s with the Naked Cowboy and the Black Hebrews, and now I’m here.   But comparing the two church sites, this place feels much stranger.  It is quiet here.  There are no shouts here.  Only the Romanesque facades of money, layered in law enforcement.  Where will my shout go?  Maybe my echo will wend its way through the airshafts of the super-rich. 

         Perhaps my echoes will somehow ascend the elevator into the building and trip something in the brain of the conservancy staff.  Perhaps the Monsanto chemicals, banned in so many countries, really is the asbestos and lead and Marlboro murder of the future?  Somebody was shouting about those killings too, when everyone was making too much money to hear.  

I’m becoming nocturnal. This morning I was up at 3:30.  I rummaged around the foot of the bed in the dark, picking up my clothes and pulling them on, made a thermos for my Sidamo coffee, and set out for the forest in Prospect Park.  The woods are closed after dark, and the police shine spotlights into the foliage from their cruisers, but part of the forest is near the fence-line at the street, so I can escape into the trees.

         I squint as I walk to avoid twigs in the eye. It is a night with some wind, the clouds sailing over the black swaying branches.  I climb a ridge that stretches into the interior of the park. There is a forested Quaker cemetery there. I can just make out the gravestones in the roots and leaves.

         In a low voice I talk to the peace-makers who are sleeping beneath this forest floor. I am thanking them for their courage.  Now we need their guidance.

         The choir and I will attempt some activism this week against the socialite New Yorkers who control these parks. They spray Monsanto’s toxic RoundUp, and they have increased the spraying as they replaced park workers who for many years weeded the parks by hand.  While the World Health Organization and scores of studies warn that glyphosate is linked to cancers, endocrine disruptions, autism, birth defects – the spraying doesn’t stop, it spreads.  And they won’t tell us where and when they do it.           

         I share all this with the dead heroes in the shadows. I look up at the starry sky up above canopy of old trees.  I am wondering how it must have felt to look out across the Pacific Ocean, back in 1958, when a small band of Quakers set out from San Pedro, California in a sailboat called the Golden Rule.  The USA and the USSR were testing large atom bombs during the cold war, and radioactive clouds were roaming the atmosphere.

         The peace sailors planned something unprecedented. They would sail into the giant sloping waves of the Pacific for weeks and weeks.  5000 miles later they hoped to be floating in the center of a nuclear test site in the Marshall Islands, daring them to kill the witnesses.  Pushing away from the dock and raising the canvass to the wind, how did you feel?  They got about halfway, but halfway the Golden Rule was boarded twice at their stop in Hawaii, and then the crew of five was quickly charged, convicted and sentenced to six months in prison.  An international outcry ensued, and the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd ships set sail from the inspiration of the Golden Rule.

         We ask for your blessing. The distance that we are facing with our toxins is of a different kind.  This is the endless ocean of the life around us that we cannot see.  We have the mystery of tens of thousands of invisible gaseous chemicals. The poisons are far away, but it is here in our breath as we take the stuff of the outside city into our bodies.  It’s right here.

         Mother and father activists!  Be with us as we sing in the doorways of the Conservancies of New York City.  If and when we are arrested, may some kind of articulate scandal make this hidden world obvious to everyone, so that we can sail into the molecular manipulations of power.

 

Rev Billy

“The Earth Wants YOU” is an 11-song record by the Stop Shopping Choir and also a book from City Lights Press by Reverend Billy, released in the next weeks.  In both – Monsanto is the Devil.

 

John Kasich must be asking himself why God hates him so much. If he were just losing to Cruz or Rubio, two men he is head and shoulders above in experience and intellect, he might think The Almighty was only mildly miffed at him. But NO! He’s losing by miles to the most poorly mannered politician in the history of U.S. politics. And that includes Andrew Jackson, a tawdry trashy man who allowed ruffians and floozies to desecrate the White House.

John Kasich, a self proclaimed nice Christian guy, has got to be asking himself what in heaven’s name he could have done to deserve the wrath of his Heavenly Father. And if he’s praying to the Prince of Peace to intercede with his holy papa, why aren’t his poll numbers changing? How could Jesus have turned his back?

Well, if Kasich doesn’t know what he did to irritate the Lord who loved the poor, I’ve got a pretty good idea. That’s right, the man who professes to love the guy who fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes, eliminated food stamps for half a million hungry Americans. Way to go, Kasich! Damned your mortal soul, you did! At least while you stroll the earth. Look at it this way, if you have humiliating poll numbers against a racist side show barker maybe you’ll get a “time served” reprieve when you get to the pearly gates and St. Peter will let you walk right in: no purgatory, no limbo, even though you made life hell for so many on earth.

It was 20 years ago. Then Representative John Kasich toiled away on the Contract for America – more aptly nick-named the Contract ON America. He and another joker from Ohio rewrote the book on food assistance. What people call food stamps became the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and it helped poor people eat. It also helped farmers sell food. That’s why it’s part of the agriculture department and not some public welfare agency like Health and Human Services.

Now, the big beneficiary of food assistance are major power retailers and large chain grocers: like Wal*Mart. Wal*Mart’s employees get paid so poorly their incomes are subsidized with nutrition assistance and Wal*Mart, in turn, cleans up at the registers when these same employees and their customers go shopping at one of the thousands of Supercenters.

So you’d think Wal*Mart would be angry at Kasich, too. But they’re not. And that’s because unlike Jesus, Governor Kasich is still making offerings to Wal*Mart. For instance, he’s made it virtually impossible to form a union in Ohio, and that’s mighty fine in Wal*Mart’s mind.

But Kasich just keeps doing more and more things that make God unhappy. Diverting money from women’s health is another doozie. Let’s not forget, Jesus really loved his mom and wouldn’t have wanted her dying of cervical cancer.

But timing is everything. And it shouldn’t be lost on Kasich that literally every day he’s plastered in the polls, every day he’s the smartest guy on the stage and no one notices, is a day that another impoverished unemployed American gets a letter stating that their SNAP benefit is ending. In 17 states right now (the ones that didn’t already do it willingly – like Ohio – because they have cruel governors) because of Kasich’s welfare reform and the 20-year-old federal mandate that kicked into effect on January 1st, our nation’s poorest individuals will lose their electronic loaves and fishes.

And like any evildoer, he’s proud of it. Yep, Kasich took full credit on the last Republican debate. He reminded his FOX News audience that while Bill Clinton likes to take credit for their draconian welfare reform, it was all him.

Well, Governor Kasich, your fellow Americans might have forgotten, but clearly, God remembers.

 

 

 

“Sarah’s back.” That’s the big headline this week. When I read that she endorsed Trump my response was swift and simple, “Welp, the clown car’s full.”

But really, c’mon, it’s not news. Palin endorsing Trump is like fleas endorsing a dog. Of course her last dog was a war hero, a U.S. Military Veteran. This guy’s just a typical mutt with the mange. I know what you’re thinking, that’s not just a low blow childish analogy; a canine skin disease could explain his hair.

Sadly, the real headline this week came fast and furious on the heels of the former governor, former V.P. Candidate, still lousy mother’s announcement for Trump. Palin’s son, Track, arrested for beating up his girlfriend.

What would a good mother have done? I’m going to buy Mrs. Palin a hat that reads WWGMD. I suppose I’ll have to send the answers tacked inside. Maybe I’ll just save the postage and write it here.

Dear Mrs. Palin,

I’d thought of writing to you while you were running for vice president and offering you tips, but decided against it. I knew you wouldn’t win and I didn’t want to waste your time or mine. But now you’ve proven once again what a horrible mom you are and I feel I must at least try.

I admit, I was horrified when you accepted the offer to run with John McCain. You, an abstinence-only candidate, joined the ticket, thereby agreeing to throw you’re pregnant unwed daughter to the democrats and the hungry media to devour. I thought – at the time – no one could be that stupid, you just had to be an awe-inspiringly selfish, self –serving, bad mom.

Honestly, over the past eight years, you made me rethink that opinion. After all, you are colossally stupid. Don’t take my word for it. Just think back on the time you admitted that your dad drove your brother to Canada for healthcare because it was so much better there – just as you were fighting against a Canadian style system here.

But now, your son is in big trouble and he clearly needs his mom. Track needs tough love, counseling, and someone to believe that deep down inside he’s a good man who can get over this and put it all behind him. Track needs someone to teach him humility, patience, and the ability to offer a sincere apology for his actions.

Yeah, I agree, Mrs. Palin, that’s not going to be you. No, you’re the person in his life who will take this horrible incident and attempt to use it for political gain. Let me type that again: You – Sarah Palin – are using your son’s alleged violent misconduct for political gain.

Sarah Palin, I don’t care what kind of a politician you are; you’re a horrible mother.

If you needed to be so self-absorbed as to make your son’s tragic behavior public fodder, perhaps you could have done it by giving a shout out to every soldier with PTSD. Perhaps you could have called on a wounded national soul to examine the plight of our returning military veterans. I work in a homeless shelter and we have several such folks who need a real advocate.

Lastly Mrs. Palin, you want to know the most ironic part of this whole week’s news stories? You endorsed Donald Trump, a man who denigrated the sacrifices your former running mate made as a prisoner of war. Within hours of standing up for Trump, you proved you’re just like him, by using your son’s military service as a political barb. I feel sorry for John McCain and Track Palin: a sailor and a soldier who needed a whole lot more loyalty from a woman they – no doubt – hoped they could trust. 

Sincerely,

Pat LaMarche

Mom and Former VP Candidate

In the first hours of the climate talk demonstrations in Paris, the police attacked with tear gas etc. – and our hearts sank as we saw protest criminalized. For New Yorkers this was a familiar sight. We remembered the inside-out logic after 9/11 that found peace marchers attacked by cops. They had vague ideas that we were associated with foreign money and distantly - Al Qaida.

By the last days of the two weeks in Paris the police walked the streets with us peacefully. Volunteers from civil society had talked them down. By December 12th, the French police were still wildly off the mark with their Darth Vader outfits were, but it is really magical how a smile neutralizes armor.

Who were they ready to fight and why? As we look out across the next twelve months, this would be a good question to ask. Let’s be clear about what security means. Where is the violence?

The answer is: the sellers of fossil fuel. There is no group of men near that level of violence. These criminals threaten us. The violence to our children is deadly. But so far we have called them respectable businessmen. That’s what they said.

In my neighborhood the parents who are protesters and the parents who are police take their kids to the same schools. And in December this year, the temperature was 25 degrees higher than normal. We talked about the weather. “Hot day today, yes?” “The mockingbird in our tree is going crazy like its summer…”

This year we will appeal directly to police. Come into the modern world and identify the modern criminal. Do the forensics. Put pictures of tornadoes up on the walls of the precinct house. Why is the city spraying us with carcinogenic herbicides from Monsanto? Who created Hurricane Sandy?

The environmental movement has been stuck in lobbying, litigation, nonprofit fundraising, publicity – years of this same cycle of activities. Somehow the police’s allegiance has remained beyond the pale. And yet in all revolutions in history there was an important moment when the police holstered their guns and changed their idea of crime.

It is up to us to find ways to communicate. Tell the story. Cop-and-courtroom dramas dominate our movies and TV. It would be huge if Earth crimes suddenly showed up on the docket. How long can we keep the hundreds of thousands of dead from the global south out of our idea of crime? Report the crime in progress at the power plant, not just here but in South Africa, in Indonesia, in Colombia. Bring the DA the stats, the pictures, the evidence. Invite the police to be good fathers and mothers. Why aren’t the ExxonMobil science doubters in the tank?

Now you may be wondering – is this all just fanciful? How far are we really from this notion of changing law enforcement to see climate change as a crime? The point is: We have no choice. We want to survive.

 

Norman Rockwell is dead at the easel, his paintbrush still hanging in the air.  All our traditions are in anaphylactic shock.  We chew together in the eye of the storm.  This turkey-day we gather around the steaming food to defend ourselves against what is outside.  We are seated facing inward, admiring the steaming aroma of the overkill.  We pretend for an hour that we don't notice what is behind us, the climate rattling the windows and the families knocking on our door. We express our gratitude for what?  That we have just a little more time; time for this meal.  The ritual meal gives us a feeling of false momentum; that we are logically coming from 10,000 meals going back through time.  This also suggests that there will be many more such celebrations to follow.  This is a lie and we know it. We all live in a gated community now.  We all live within a militarized zone, in the center of which is an extreme form of retail culture which storms our minds with smiling graphics, actors, anti-depressants, fossil-sourced packaging and carbon shipping.  This bizarre deathtrap is called our mainstream economy.  Here in 2015, after Beirut and Paris; after extinction sweeping through the natural world; after cops shooting unarmed black men sixteen times and cities hiding the evidence; after the language of candidates out-Hitlering the worst of the past - we take another bite.  We use the words of mild-mannered love.  We think of our family as a little culture with borders.  Well, should we be grateful that we can still harbor this fantasy? We hear the wind blowing against the side of our dining room.  We call it a super storm, hoping to make it as manageable as the super bowl or a super mall.  We are watching the geo-political super-storm of ISIS, Putin and Goldman Sachs, but we are belching the gas from the top of our packed stomachs and the problems of the world are on a screen on the wall.  We are not witnesses to the world, we are consumers of it.  It comes as information on a screen.  It is our most violent border.  We have ourselves to thank for corporate media.  Our mature response is to remain in a state of non-protest and keep shopping.  Cornel West is right when he says, “Everything is commodified.  All things are for sale.”  This is a state-sanctioned religion.  Extreme shopping is the psychic heart of modern racism.  The shopping drug makes us the kind of idiots that accept violence.  The Ferguson young people last year were right to march into Walmart and shout "Hands Up! Don't Shop!"  This year is a hard Thanksgiving.  Our thanks must leap from our immediate love all the way over Trump and ISIS and toxin-coated seeds of 200 mile-an-hour wind.  Our thanks flies out to Chelsea Manning, the truth-teller alone in her cell.  Our thanks go to the families who miss their murdered loved ones, the survivors of state violence from bullets, drone bombs or Monsanto.  Our thanks go to the piano player at the Paris theater; to the all-night campers in the Minnesota cold at Precinct #4, and to the police who are beginning to have, in the midst of their thanks, doubts about their leaders.             The sun is rising in our windows on Thanksgiving Day in the USA.  It's getting warmer for the homeless here in New York.  My thanks go out to them, and the 60 million homeless who walk hundreds of miles toward militarized horizons.  We must escape to all of you, cross the borders from the shopping side, and give thanks to you for our freedom. 
Norman Rockwell is dead at the easel, his paintbrush still hanging in the air.  All our traditions are in anaphylactic shock.  We chew together in the eye of the storm.  This turkey-day we gather around the steaming food to defend ourselves against what is outside.  We are seated facing inward, admiring the steaming aroma of the overkill.  We pretend for an hour that we don't notice what is behind us, the climate rattling the windows and the families knocking on our door. We express our gratitude for what?  That we have just a little more time; time for this meal.  The ritual meal gives us a feeling of false momentum; that we are logically coming from 10,000 meals going back through time.  This also suggests that there will be many more such celebrations to follow.  This is a lie and we know it. We all live in a gated community now.  We all live within a militarized zone, in the center of which is an extreme form of retail culture which storms our minds with smiling graphics, actors, anti-depressants, fossil-sourced packaging and carbon shipping.  This bizarre deathtrap is called our mainstream economy.  Here in 2015, after Beirut and Paris; after extinction sweeping through the natural world; after cops shooting unarmed black men sixteen times and cities hiding the evidence; after the language of candidates out-Hitlering the worst of the past - we take another bite.  We use the words of mild-mannered love.  We think of our family as a little culture with borders.  Well, should we be grateful that we can still harbor this fantasy? We hear the wind blowing against the side of our dining room.  We call it a super storm, hoping to make it as manageable as the super bowl or a super mall.  We are watching the geo-political super-storm of ISIS, Putin and Goldman Sachs, but we are belching the gas from the top of our packed stomachs and the problems of the world are on a screen on the wall.  We are not witnesses to the world, we are consumers of it.  It comes as information on a screen.  It is our most violent border.  We have ourselves to thank for corporate media.  Our mature response is to remain in a state of non-protest and keep shopping.  Cornel West is right when he says, “Everything is commodified.  All things are for sale.”  This is a state-sanctioned religion.  Extreme shopping is the psychic heart of modern racism.  The shopping drug makes us the kind of idiots that accept violence.  The Ferguson young people last year were right to march into Walmart and shout "Hands Up! Don't Shop!"  This year is a hard Thanksgiving.  Our thanks must leap from our immediate love all the way over Trump and ISIS and toxin-coated seeds of 200 mile-an-hour wind.  Our thanks flies out to Chelsea Manning, the truth-teller alone in her cell.  Our thanks go to the families who miss their murdered loved ones, the survivors of state violence from bullets, drone bombs or Monsanto.  Our thanks go to the piano player at the Paris theater; to the all-night campers in the Minnesota cold at Precinct #4, and to the police who are beginning to have, in the midst of their thanks, doubts about their leaders.             The sun is rising in our windows on Thanksgiving Day in the USA.  It's getting warmer for the homeless here in New York.  My thanks go out to them, and the 60 million homeless who walk hundreds of miles toward militarized horizons.  We must escape to all of you, cross the borders from the shopping side, and give thanks to you for our freedom. 

I’ve probably met 5000 homeless people. Actually, I’ve probably met way more than 5000, but it’s difficult to count. Don’t believe me? Just ask the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; they get their count off by millions every year.  But me knowing thousands of homeless people isn’t really surprising; I’ve worked with people experiencing homelessness for years.

In fact, when I ran for Vice President of the United States, after volunteering to help the homeless for a decade or more, I stayed in homeless shelters all across the country. Since then I’ve done a number of cross-country stints with my dear friend and national advocate Diane Nilan. And then there are all those people each of us meets every day just living our lives in the United States. These folks don’t admit to anyone that they are homeless. My guess – a very educated guess – is that 2% of the population of these United States has no home. That’s one out of fifty, in the world’s wealthiest country, that lacks one of life’s most integral necessities. 

Now I’m not just writing this to get you to wonder – the next time you’re at a fast food joint or power retailer – if the person waiting on you has a safe warm place to lay their head. No, I’m telling you this because will all my experience for all these years, I’d never met someone who took a bus to a homeless shelter from another part of the country, until now.

You know, it’s honestly one of those urban legends: Groups or organizations or municipalities load a bunch of homeless people onto a bus and send them somewhere they’ve never been before, just to get rid of them. Nope, most folks in power don’t want to spend even that much money on a homeless person, when they could much more easily ignore them or simply criminalize poverty and drive them further underground.

Of course, I’m not counting people who got a bus ticket to go home. Nah, I’ve seen a lot of that. Most recently, in the autumn of 2014, I was in Williston, North Dakota – where the oil boom draws would be workers searching for living wage jobs but property prices have driven record numbers of these migrants into homelessness. In Williston I spoke with Kristin Oxendahl of The Salvation Army who explained that her largest budget item is bus tickets to send folks home.

Yeah, no. I’m talking about a person or persons who got loaded onto a bus and sent somewhere they’ve never been, where no one they know lives, just so they are no longer a bother to the community where they used to live.

Like I said, I’d never met anyone like that until this week: Thanksgiving week, to be exact. This guy walked into my shelter after the church he belonged to in Sacramento, California bought him a bus ticket to Carlisle, Pennsylvania because "there's a lot of jobs. There's alot farm labor and warehouses."

Has he found work? No. Perhaps his severe mental illness is part of the problem. Or maybe the mental illness that plagues his country is really to blame. You’d have to be some sort of sick SOB to send a mentally ill man clear across the country – to a town where he knows nobody – looking for work. You’d have to be the same sort of crazy “I got mine” character that would deny sanctuary to people who face torture and death in their own country.

And you'd have to be a really derranged freak to build your presidential campaign on such seflishness and ignorance.

So you see, it ain’t just the Syrians we hate. Basically, we hate everybody.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a sprawling, nearly eight thousand-word story detailing for readers the fate of those who die alone in the Big Apple.

Using the life and death of George Bell, who passed away some days before he was discovered in his home this past July, the Times recounts the painstakingly arduous process that New York City public employees embark upon to make certain the estates of people like Bell end up in the hands of its rightful beneficiaries.

In the case of Bell – spoiler alert – distant relatives and friends he had not communicated with in many years inherited his nearly half a million dollar estate no doubt surprised both to have been named beneficiaries in the first place and also that Bell could have had such ample means considering his modest lifestyle.

George Bell lived an obscure life and like thousands of other New Yorkers each year, he had no close family or friends to help settle his estate when the time came. While Bell’s beneficiaries were eventually united with their share of his estate, an untold number of Americans never learn that a loved one who has passed has made arrangements for them leaving behind life insurance policies, bank accounts, and other property.

By law, insurers and banks are required to try and find those entitled to this “unclaimed property.” How hard these companies actually work to carry out the decedent’s wishes is debatable. If they are unable to find the beneficiaries, they are required to turn the money over to state unclaimed property departments.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but all too often life insurance companies are unable to find the beneficiaries of a policy. If they fail to turn the money over to state unclaimed property departments and instead choose to sit on it, they are unjustly rewarded with the ability to continue profiting from the investment of someone who is now deceased.

In order to make sure this does not happen, states are authorized to audit these companies and often contract with professional non-government auditors to help assure compliance with state laws.

In a perfect world, that would be the end of this story but powerful corporate interests are working hard to quietly influence a little-known commission with the power to reshape state unclaimed property laws. These interests are single minded in their focus to make it far more difficult for states to return unclaimed property to its owners.

According to its website, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) “provides states with non-partisan, well conceived, and well drafted legislation that brings clarity and stability to critical areas” of state law. In other words, this arcane non-profit organization gives states model legislation on a host of issues where having similar laws from state to state can be important.

The ULC’s involvement with state unclaimed property law dates back more than 60 years. Most recently, it made revisions to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act in 1995, stating at the time that the measure was aimed at preventing “ordinary people for the most part, from losing their rights to property that is justifiably theirs. It is theirs because they earned it, inherited it, or were given it. Those entities and institutions that hold property are its custodians, not its owners.”

Now, almost exactly 20 years later, the ULC has convened a drafting committee to revise the Act. If this committee’s first round of suggested changes is any indication, it is the interests of the aforementioned “ordinary people” that appear to be in jeopardy. Since about 40 states have enacted some version of the ULC’s unclaimed property legislation, efforts to water down safeguards that protect hardworking Americans could have a disastrous impact.

A letter sent to drafting committee members by several national consumer watchdog organizations earlier this month detailed several of the “detrimental revisions” being considered noting they “would be harmful to consumers throughout the country, making it more likely that they will lose property that today would be found and reclaimed.”

That such dramatic changes to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act are being considered is not by accident. Powerful special interests are actively pressuring committee members to alter the model legislation in their favor. Among those leading the charge are the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), whose member companies stand to make a windfall if laws are changed making it more difficult for states to recover unclaimed property and reunite it with its rightful owners. The ACLI’s efforts have the backing of America’s leading corporate special interest group – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, Michael Houghton, a longtime ULC commissioner responsible for co-chairing the this drafting committee has fought to undermine state unclaimed property laws and works as a partner in a law firm whose clients would benefit greatly if the Act is gutted. In fact, a few years ago, Houghton co-authored an article praising state legislation to weaken Delaware’s unclaimed property law, indicating that while it did not go far enough “to completely address complaints [of] the national business community,” it was a step in the that direction “and hopefully the start of a process.”

It is hardly a surprise then that the “national business community” has taken such a keen interest in Houghton’s drafting committee.

The sad truth is that the Uniform Law Commission’s Drafting Committee to Revise the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act is considering a number of changes that would keep beneficiaries separated from property that is rightfully theirs for as long as possible and thus enabling big corporations like life insurance companies and banks to make even bigger profits.

That means, for example, hardworking men and women who do not know they are entitled to a claim on an insurance policy taken out by a loved one who has passed away will not receive money when it might be needed most. Worse still, these loved ones will lose the peace of mind they thought they had purchased with their policy.

Americans win when big corporations hand over unclaimed property to the states. Because states are legally obligated to return property to the owner whenever it is claimed, they make it easier for consumers to search through websites to see if they are entitled to unclaimed property they may not have even known existed.

If the ULC’s drafting committee is guided in such a way that it betrays a conflict of interest in its leadership or succumbs to pressure from industry, it is the “ordinary people” who will lose what they rightly earned, inherited, or were given. And it is precisely this type of corporate excess that this Uniform Unclaimed Property Act was initially developed to guard against.