Richard Tocci

Richard Tocci
Just when you thought it was safe, I show up...

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Who Occupies Wall Street?

Over the past few weeks, a movement to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) has taken root to seemingly protest the link between corporate America and the American political system.  

I won't be arguing the right to free speech, or to assemble, as these are rights I truly believe in.  I believe this movement, which has spread to other American cities since Occupy Wall Street began, has the right to assemble peacefully and to say what they want.  I don't believe they have the right to destroy personal property or to physically hurt other people in these demonstrations.  And my position has always been to let these people protest no matter how silly or serious anyone thinks it is.

But as these protests grow larger, more groups of people have joined the fray, and the focus of these demonstrations seems to have lost its edge.  Usually a demonstration of this type has a single focus with specific points it wants addressed to resolve the focus.  But everyone from labor unions to antiwar protesters have joined this movement, and while they probably all have legitimate grievances, joining this particular movement doesn't seem logical.

So I decided to instead look into the movement the best way I know - a little Internet research.

I started with the web site OccupyWallSt.org.  Read through the site and you'll find articles, video, and other items related to their cause.  It's consistent with what they advertise. 

Their About page is interesting.  It's not interesting in what is said, necessarily, but in how it's worded.  It's short and to the point, and immediately mentions "We are not affiliated with Adbusters, anonymous or any other organization."

And then you see a post to their first Press Release, which references a memorandum from Adbusters on July 13, 2011.  So why mention the Adbusters post if you are not affiliated with Adbusters?

I'll come back to that in a moment.  I wanted to get more into the website itself. 

I did a Whois Lookup of the website name.  This type of lookup tells you, most times, where an Internet address was registered, by whom, when, for how long, and who to contact for information or abuse.  It's not always filled out - an organization may not want certain information readily available from anything but their own website pages, so this information can be blocked, or it can be falsified.  In the case of OccupyWallSt.org, it's not falsified - it states flat out that it's Whois Guard Protected.  This means they've paid extra money so their location, registrar name, points of contact, and any other information is deliberately hidden.  But this is perfectly reasonable and legal. 

I did a little more digging, found the IP address of the site, and did find some information on contacts:

http://whois.arin.net/rest/poc/MGE16-ARIN.html
http://whois.arin.net/rest/poc/ABUSE716-ARIN.html
http://whois.arin.net/rest/poc/GMVE-ARIN.html

Additionally, the IP address of their website is registered to Cellco Partnership DBA Verizon Wireless out of New Jersey. 

In comparison, the Tea Party web site, teaparty.org, contains fake information.  The address listed for the Tea Party is actually a RiteAid store in Laguna Woods, CA.  Their contact phone number is also fake. 

On the Occupy Wall Street web site, there are two phone numbers listed on the About page.  One is a local number for Nassau County, NY.  The number is otherwise unpublished and unlisted in a public phone record.  I called this number, talked to a man who answered the call "Thank you for calling Occupy Wall Street", and asked him where he was physically located.  He wouldn't answer me.  I told him the number showed up on my phone and I wanted to know who had called me, and he refused to give me any help.  When I told him I simply wanted to know why someone from the 516 area code was calling me in Texas, he said he was in Long Island.  I thanked him and hung up. 

A search on this phone number led me to a forum thread about this number from a couple of years ago.  The number was implicated in a series of calls to people warning that their ATM or credit cards had been deactivated, and that in order to reactivate them, certain personal information was required.  Most of the victims in the forum didn't ever have an account at the many bank names presented.  While not an indication that this number's past indiscretions were indicative of current events, it certainly helps strengthen an air of caution. 

The second phone number was a toll free number that, when I called, did not answer to a person but instead to voicemail, alerting me that voicemail had not yet been configured correctly; I was told "Goodbye" by the semi-friendly monotone recorded voice, and disconnected.

There are also a number of email addresses that I haven't tried yet, so it's unclear if these email addresses even work.

So the conclusion to this point is this website is a website to the movement, they've prefer not to be harassed by anyone so they've attempted to anonymize as much information as they can, and has content consistent with their vague mission statement.  Nothing really setting off alarms.

So let's move on to the Adbusters, who Occupy Wall Street says started a call to arms, so to speak.  OWS placed a link that appears to be the starting point to all of this.   So I read through this page, and it seems the ideas are a bit haphazard, not totally coherent, and generally just a call to unite, but not exactly sure what they should unite against.

There is one focus statement:

"a presidential commission to separate money from politics"

That seems reasonable.  But then you read on:

"Post a comment and help each other zero in on what our one demand will be. And then let's screw up our courage, pack our tents and head to Wall Street with a vengeance September 17." 

Which leads me to think there is no real focus at all.

And then, another statement:

"This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you're out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America."

So we've moved from a Presidential Commission on separating corporate money from politics to changing a social dynamic in America to dismantling US Military bases...and where is the common theme here?

Again, remember, if you want to assemble and protest, go ahead.  If your ideas are not terribly coherent, fine, protest anyway.  Don't hurt anyone, don't destroy personal property, and certainly don't go threatening people. 

But then I dug deeper...

My Whois search came up a little strange.  I had plenty of information on this site.  I'll list it all here, since it is publicly available:

Registrant:
Adbusters Media Foundation

1243 West 7th Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia V6H1B7
Canada

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: ADBUSTERS.ORG
Created on: 30-Aug-95
Expires on: 29-Aug-12
Last Updated on: 24-Aug-11

Administrative Contact:
Lasn, Kalle domains@adbusters.org
Adbusters Media Foundation
1243 West 7th Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia V6H1B7
Canada
+1.6047369401 Fax -- +1.6047376021

Technical Contact:
Contact, Domain domains@adbusters.org
Adbusters Media Foundation
1243 West 7th Avenue
NA
Vancouver, British Columbia V6H1B7
Canada
+1.6047369401 Fax -- +1.6047376021

Domain servers in listed order:
DINA.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM
TOM.NS.CLOUDFLARE.COM


Registry Status: CLIENT DELETE PROHIBITED
Registry Status: CLIENT RENEW PROHIBITED
Registry Status: CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED
Registry Status: CLIENT UPDATE PROHIBITED


Did you catch that?  Here it is again:

1243 West 7th Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia V6H1B7
Canada


Why exactly is a Canadian media company making a call like this to "flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street"? 

This is where this whole situation fails the smell test...

Remember what was written in the blog post:

"This could be the beginning of a whole new social dynamic in America, a step beyond the Tea Party movement, where, instead of being caught helpless by the current power structure, we the people start getting what we want whether it be the dismantling of half the 1,000 military bases America has around the world to the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act or a three strikes and you're out law for corporate criminals. Beginning from one simple demand – a presidential commission to separate money from politics – we start setting the agenda for a new America."

A new agenda for America - from a Canadian Media Outlet.  Yeah, I really don't like the smell of this.  I'm not a conspiracy theorist, thinking that there's a great Canadian Wave that's going to swoop down from the North and take over the US.  The words are clear here, though - a new agenda for America.  I don't think a Canadian media outlet needs to assist us on a new American agenda.

Additionally, Adbusters.org Whois lookup reports (http://whois.domaintools.com/67.192.229.59) that there are several other websites that use the same root IP address.  If you start looking at these, you see a few ventures dealing with selling shoes, making The Huffington Post go away because they felt she sold out to AOL, and a site called DesignAnarchy.org that offers, for $25, a book that is "Equal parts memoir, manifesto, scrapbook and revolutionary design manual, Design Anarchy is an urgent call for artists, designers, architects and communicators to re-engage with the world." :

blackspotshoes.org
blackspotsneaker.org
designanarchy.org
mediacarta.org


You can take from this what you want, but at this point, after doing this little bit of work, I don't trust much of it.  But let them protest - it's their right and they should exercise it.  And I respect our Canadian neighbors, but no Canadian protesters, please.  



This post is simulcast in full living Technicolor on www.richardtocci.com and on Facebook.

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