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Occupy George
October 17, 2011 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Occupy George is an attempt to convey the current wealth distribution of the United States by using dollar bills as a medium. But is it legal?
posted by falameufilho (84 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
The second link only mentions coins.
posted by zeoslap at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2011


Can we all agree to call it "Occupy America" or something? Because the names of these subdivisions are sounding clumsier and clumsier every day.
posted by moviehawk at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The linked US Code section relates to the alteration of coins. 18 USC 333 deals with paper money, and it only applies to alterations done "with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued."
posted by jedicus at 7:04 AM on October 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Where's George has been doing this for years (a decade now?). Their quick answer is #8 in this list.
posted by gimonca at 7:05 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Illegal? I've seen everything from goatees to ethnic jokes written on money and it still spent.
posted by jonmc at 7:05 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


WheresGeorge covered a lot of this a long time ago, although this is not the same government as then. There are some links there to their justifications.

Mefi also covered it, but nobody cared to comment
posted by lampshade at 7:07 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


People have been drawing big, red hot lips on George since the U.S. started printing money, I'd assume.
posted by gimonca at 7:07 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer Georgism instead.
posted by Brian B. at 7:08 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is great. I'd love to get one of these.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:12 AM on October 17, 2011


Maybe people should stop fretting over the legality of these kinds of things.
posted by weinbot at 7:14 AM on October 17, 2011 [25 favorites]


Thanks for the link to the correct section, I thought "coins" was legalese for fiat currency since I couldn't find a specific mention to paper money.
posted by falameufilho at 7:15 AM on October 17, 2011


I like these. But where can I get a stamp like that?
posted by DU at 7:16 AM on October 17, 2011


Maybe people should stop fretting over the legality of these kinds of things.

This.

I've been waiting for some good artistic representations of wealth distribution to show up.
posted by odinsdream at 7:17 AM on October 17, 2011


I thought "coins" was legalese for fiat currency since I couldn't find a specific mention to paper money.

"Fiat" currency. *snort*
posted by octobersurprise at 7:24 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Maybe people should stop fretting over the legality of these kinds of things.

Seriously. Any effective method the non-rich have of fighting back is either already illegal (e.g. strikes) or can easily and quickly be made so (e.g. no public gatherings without a permit). Eschew the immoral, not the illegal.
posted by DU at 7:25 AM on October 17, 2011 [42 favorites]


DU - I like these. But where can I get a stamp like that?


WheresGeorge used to actually sell the stamp, but this group doesn't have it developed that far yet. Instead they provide eps files that you can use to have a stamp made and other files for other options.

There is a download link for all the necessary files on their site. The files check out ok.

occupy-george-download.zip - 4311 kb
posted by lampshade at 7:25 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Stamps are made by a photo-polymer process. You submit black and white copy and get back your stamp in a couple of days. You've probably got one or two near you. And when in doubt, there's always the internet. Google "rubber stamps'

Back in 2001, there were a lot of bills stamped with "George Bush Stole The Election" in these parts.
posted by warbaby at 7:25 AM on October 17, 2011


Eschew the immoral, not the illegal.

Or put better
posted by DU at 7:26 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]




In those laws, I'm stumped by the word "fraudulently." If I alter currency with purity of heart and honest intent, does that make it legal? Is that word thrown in there to make currency defacement for artistic or propaganda purposes okay? It seems like "fraudulently" introduces an additional burden of proof, as if no such charges could be levied without prior determination of the defacer's intent.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:27 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like "fraudulently" introduces an additional burden of proof, as if no such charges could be levied without prior determination of the defacer's intent.

Certainly it does, Ice Cream Socialist, as does "murder" versus "manslaughter", and "assault" versus "whoops, I'm so sorry I bumped into you."
posted by IAmBroom at 7:33 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, no -- you see, Where's George is purely entertainment, and is therefore legal. Expressing your political beliefs by defacing a dollar, you better bet that's going to get the Secret Service all over your ass. If they can't squash 1st Amendment rights by using obscure and poorly-enforced laws, what else will they do about it?
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:35 AM on October 17, 2011


Or, more to the specific point: alteration without intent to commit fraud - without intention to alter the value of the money - is not illegal.

Writing "Dis is a BRAZILLION dollar bill!!!" in magic marker on a one is probably not going to get you in trouble.

Stamping a green digit "5" over the ones in the corner... I wouldn't, if I were you.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:35 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


> fraudulently

When coins were made of intrinsically valuable metal, people would remove small amounts of that and replace it with cheap metal. Drilling out holes to take the drilled bits, sawing coins to take the sawed out dust, and replacing what was removed with cheap metal.
posted by hank at 7:35 AM on October 17, 2011


I'm all in favor of making the message as ubiquitous as possible, and saying it with pictures gets the message across in ways that patiently trying to explain to a 10.45-an-hour republican does not.
posted by Mooski at 7:36 AM on October 17, 2011


Occupy Brenda, anyone?
posted by aeshnid at 7:36 AM on October 17, 2011


Stamping a green digit "5" over the ones in the corner... I wouldn't, if I were you.

Exactly. Or changing the serial numbers of stolen bills--another clear no-no.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:40 AM on October 17, 2011


P.S. -- anyone know the names of the "400 richest" who own half of everything?
And their heirs?

That Bush temporary inheritance tax cut must have had a lot of them watching their backs.
posted by hank at 7:41 AM on October 17, 2011


alteration without intent to commit fraud - without intention to alter the value of the money - is not illegal.

That makes sense. It just seemed funny to say "fraudulently" up front like that, in a definition of fraud. Then again, it's really a definition of criminal defacement, with fraudulent intent as a litmus test.

I guess I was stumped more by my ignorance than by their choice of words. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:41 AM on October 17, 2011


"Fiat" currency. *snort*

octobersurprise, while the definition is not technically accurate ("fiat" explicitly refers to paper money) the concept is still applicable. Except for the penny, whose metal value is close to the face value, all US coins have "fiat" value - worth what the government says they are worth. No one believes that you can melt down quarters and sell the metal on the market for $25 per 100.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:41 AM on October 17, 2011




warbaby wrote: Stamps are made by a photo-polymer process. You submit black and white copy and get back your stamp in a couple of days. You've probably got one or two near you. And when in doubt, there's always the internet. Google "rubber stamps'

There are even sites that will give you a custom stamp; you just pay $4.95 shipping and handling. ;)
posted by wierdo at 7:42 AM on October 17, 2011


Coin clipping? Of course! Thanks hank! I learned a new crime today.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:45 AM on October 17, 2011


In the early 70s my friend and I spent a bit of time typing anti-Nixon slogans on various denominations. Never had trouble spending them.
posted by Splunge at 7:46 AM on October 17, 2011


Splunge, you may have to explain to this crowd what a typewriter is...
posted by HuronBob at 7:47 AM on October 17, 2011


I keep my typewriter next to the mimeograph machine and the chisels for carving stone tablets.
posted by warbaby at 7:51 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Illegal? I've seen everything from goatees to ethnic jokes written on money and it still spent.

Maybe I've been on the Internet too long, but I read that as "goatsees". Which would be some art work.
posted by yerfatma at 7:52 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


you thought this was worth an FPP?

A revolution needs its propaganda, and this is the first thing I've seen that caught my eye. Sure, there are the occasional gems among the cardboard-and-sharpie set, but these are succinct, concise, and have a distribution mechanism that would bring them to my attention.

I printed out a few on the singles I happened to have in my wallet, and I look forward to spending them (aka "launching them on their inexorable journey to the 1%"). Perhaps they'll open some eyes along the way.
posted by spacewrench at 7:54 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think you could argue, perhaps successfully, that this kind of marking of a bill isn't "deliberately making it unfit to be reissued" (the part that makes it a crime), because the whole point of putting political speech on one is for it to be circulated as widely as possible.

So, just using a layperson's interpretation the law (always, unfortunately, a dangerous thing), I don't think it's criminal.
posted by Malor at 7:54 AM on October 17, 2011


Back in 2001, there were a lot of bills stamped with "George Bush Stole The Election" in these parts.

So stamping messages on bills is an effective form of protest & awareness-raising, then?
posted by chavenet at 7:59 AM on October 17, 2011


Was expecting this.
posted by Fizz at 8:02 AM on October 17, 2011


I wonder if anyone is using photo-developing ink so that the message or alteration appears only over time with exposure to light.
posted by jamjam at 8:03 AM on October 17, 2011


I had an idea back in 2006, relating to the use of Chaos Magick and sigils that I posted on blogspot...

The idea is basically to take down the system you create a distributed network of "leech" sigils - I had this idea that the leeches would slowly eat value, fractions of a cent, and as it circulated through the economy, its power would be amplified in the subconscious of each individual who came in contact w/it.

Where's George + Chaos Magick + Office Space theft FTW.
posted by symbioid at 8:12 AM on October 17, 2011


chavenet: "Back in 2001, there were a lot of bills stamped with "George Bush Stole The Election" in these parts.

So stamping messages on bills is an effective form of protest & awareness-raising, then?
"

It may or may not be effective - but it's interesting to think that some "53%"er (that's what we're calling teabaggers now, right?) has to spend a bill spreading propaganda that they oppose because they are, like the rest of us 99%, slaves to an economic system that requires them to spend it to survive.
posted by symbioid at 8:17 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you decide to make some of these, keep in mind that they'll go out of circulation as soon as they get to a bank. Try to spend them locally so that they'll pass through as many hands as possible! I like to use mine as tips, since tipped workers are highly oppressed, often surprisingly politically savvy, and tend to spend their singles as tips themselves down the line, keeping them in circulation among the very people who are most likely to be predisposed to sympathize with the cause.

In fact, I made some tips last night. And I have a sharpie around here somewhere... time to make more!
posted by Scientist at 8:19 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


If stuff like this ever does get prosecuted, it'll probably only be because the vending machine and ATM industries demand it.
posted by jamjam at 8:21 AM on October 17, 2011


If nothing else, this would be a good way to get Republicans to support a serious conversion to dollar coins.
posted by gimonca at 8:27 AM on October 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do not, however, soak your dollar bills with either of the components of this product before spending them.

Why not?

Because eventually, by the odds, some day, somewhere, one of each would end up adjacent to each other in some bundle of bills in some bank vault somewhere.

And that could become a problem.

There are of course many other things that should never have been put on dollar bills, but it's too late to avoid those.
posted by hank at 8:34 AM on October 17, 2011


Now very tempted to buy an ink-jet printer. Sadly, it seems that unless they produce them in bulk, getting stamps made would probably be about as much as an actual printer would cost.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:41 AM on October 17, 2011


Perhaps they'll open some eyes along the way.

I doubt it. Ever use Where's George, discussed above? It's a really neat concept. You register your bill on the website and record its location, then stamp it similarly to this idea so that people know it's a "marked" bill. Then you send it on its way and theoretically, subsequent recipients are able to log into the website and "check-in" the bill wherever they received it.

Trouble is, the return rate is really, really low. If you stamp and register fifty different bills, you might get one hit, ever. The website has a list of its all-time most-tracked bills, and the two things you immediately notice about the list is that it's really pretty short and that even those bills' records aren't all that impressive. People don't use it. And I genuinely don't think it's because of the extra effort to use the website. People just don't pay attention to the bills they receive and spend. It's money, not reading material.

Anyway. This is what we have here in Boston, so I expect this idea is right up their alley: It has no clear goal, voices no particular objection, just sort of takes an abstract stand and then feels good about itself.
posted by cribcage at 8:44 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trouble is, the return rate is really, really low. If you stamp and register fifty different bills, you might get one hit, ever. The website has a list of its all-time most-tracked bills, and the two things you immediately notice about the list is that it's really pretty short and that even those bills' records aren't all that impressive. People don't use it. And I genuinely don't think it's because of the extra effort to use the website. People just don't pay attention to the bills they receive and spend. It's money, not reading material.

There's a difference between a site that asks you to do something relatively labor intensive (signing up for a service, recording a number, tracking that number) and a simple informational message. I've received a couple dozen where's-George bills, and I've never taken the trouble to actually register them.

I'm not saying this is hugely effective, but it will get people's attention, and comparing it to Where's George doesn't really make much sense to me.
posted by codacorolla at 8:52 AM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you decide to make some of these, keep in mind that they'll go out of circulation as soon as they get to a bank. Try to spend them locally so that they'll pass through as many hands as possible! I like to use mine as tips, since tipped workers are highly oppressed, often surprisingly politically savvy, and tend to spend their singles as tips themselves down the line, keeping them in circulation among the very people who are most likely to be predisposed to sympathize with the cause.

This is a great idea. I'm going to make up my own set of stamps (I'd rather the bills point to occupyrochester.org than their site) and bring em down to the next GA meeting.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:56 AM on October 17, 2011


Stamp QR codes so you can go directly to whatever side by scanning it with a smartphone.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:58 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't really agree that registering Where's George? is "labor intensive," but regardless, as I said, its primary hurdle isn't the website step but rather the fact that people mostly don't read their bills. Which is why I think this idea is unlikely to get many people's attention.
posted by cribcage at 9:03 AM on October 17, 2011


The only thing that bothers me about this OWS stamping of bills is that is conveys the tacit approval of the person using the bill. WheresGeorge was just a fluff website and it did not really matter to the person with the bill that there was some stamp on it. Occupy George, being a social/political movement, applies a different intention to distributing the currency.

FWIW, I am all for OWS, but I can see some people not being happy about unknowingly promoting a cause they do not agree with......like most of the rest of my uber-conservative-and-oh-so-misinformed-family-that-I-still-love-dearly members
posted by lampshade at 9:05 AM on October 17, 2011


Beautiful.
posted by run"monty at 9:14 AM on October 17, 2011


I don't really agree that registering Where's George? is "labor intensive," but regardless, as I said, its primary hurdle isn't the website step but rather the fact that people mostly don't read their bills. Which is why I think this idea is unlikely to get many people's attention.

To use Where's George I have to A) Know what in the hell it is, B) Know how to use a computer and have Internet access, C) Care enough to go to the site, D) Continue to care enough to click on a link, and fill out a form. Even if you hit A through D you have to hit them while the bill is still in your possession, actually know or care to find out about Where's George, and then feel that the game is interesting enough to actually participate in.

To "use" this I have to read something and remember it.

I'd call Where's George, at least in comparison, labor intensive.

Do you know that people don't read bills for a fact, or are you just assuming? I do glance at my bills when I'm putting them into my wallet (and read them whenever there's something to read on them) and have seen Where's-George and never bothered with it. That's my anecdotal evidence, and I'm assuming that it's at least as strong as yours.

I also occasionally work for tips, and you can bet that I'm glancing through my bills as I sort through them at the end of the night to get all of my presidents lined up, and see how much money I made.

A cryptic message about a game that most people don't care about is largely different from basic economic facts that effect every person who handles money on a regular basis (especially since these have eye catching designs).

Once again - it's not some masterstroke propaganda campaign, but it's also not entirely useless, and it's definitely almost nothing like Where's George.

Also: if you're going to participate in this then I think that using them as tip-money is a pretty effective way to spread the message.
posted by codacorolla at 9:15 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lampshade...then your family members can hoard their money instead of circulating it...which is exactly the point this entire exercise just made.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, I think they are already doing that. Except when I beg them to by me a case of Mac 'n Cheese.
posted by lampshade at 9:18 AM on October 17, 2011


then your family members can hoard their money instead of circulating it

But then don't you run back into that clause in the law cited above, "with intent to render such bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt unfit to be reissued"?
posted by solotoro at 9:28 AM on October 17, 2011


What is this 'paper money' you speak of? My money is a plastic card.
posted by hot_monster at 9:29 AM on October 17, 2011


My money is Mac n Cheese. I am a millionaire.
posted by lampshade at 9:31 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


FNORD
posted by borges at 9:35 AM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


warbaby: "Stamps are made by a photo-polymer process. You submit black and white copy and get back your stamp in a couple of days. You've probably got one or two near you. And when in doubt, there's always the internet. Google "rubber stamps'"

Yeah, I just googled and it seems it's harder than you'd think to find a place that makes stamps that are large enough (needs to be around 6"x2.5"). The only place I found was Simon Stamp which charges $36 for a stamp that size.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:40 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you don't want to circulate a bill, you don't have to horde it - just take it to your local bank and deposit it and/or exchange it for some other denomination of bills or coins. Or put it in a coin machine or a soda machine - I think in general those are the least likely to circulate (because they won't be returned as change and the machine owner will deposit that money directly.
posted by muddgirl at 9:41 AM on October 17, 2011


P.S. -- anyone know the names of the "400 richest" who own half of everything?
And their heirs?


Well, here's the Forbes 400 (or at least the first page of 400 clickthroughs). But there's no way they own half of everything. I'm curious to see a cite for that statistic.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:52 AM on October 17, 2011


to pardonyou?:
The 2010 net worth of the Forbes 400 was $1.37 trillion, Forbes reported in September 2010. That same month, the total U.S. net worth was $54.9 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Board report cited by Moore.

Wolff hasn’t updated his 2009 figures. So we used his 2.3 percent figure again, multiplied by the 2010 total net worth of $54.9 trillion, and found that the net worth of the poorest 60 percent of U.S. households was $1.26 trillion in 2010.

That’s less than the 2010 net worth for the Forbes 400.
From:

http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/mar/10/michael-moore/michael-moore-says-400-americans-have-more-wealth-/
posted by gmarceau at 10:11 AM on October 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The artwork ends with a photograph of an American one dollar bill with the message "YOU ARE NOT A SLAVE" written on the back.

THIS IS YOUR GOD. [/Rowdy Roddy]
posted by The Bellman at 10:13 AM on October 17, 2011


I just saw this headline: "One month in, protests yet to topple capitalism". You have got to be fucking kidding me.
posted by cashman at 10:34 AM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Get away, hippies. I have pepper spray.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2011


Thanks, gmarceau. So it isn't "the 400 Americans who own half of everything" -- it's the 400 Americans who have the same total wealth as the bottom half of Americans. Based on my back-of-napkin math, it looks like this is saying that the poorest 50% account for about 3% of the wealth, most of the remaining 50% account for about 94% of the wealth, and the top 400 (a small fraction of the top 1%) also account for about 3% of the wealth. Still crazy, but the graphic is a little misleading.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:37 AM on October 17, 2011


cashman - "One month in, protests yet to topple capitalism". You have got to be fucking kidding me.


Well, what do you expect from a publication (The Daily Caller) that Tucker Carlson has anything to do with? That whole site is basically just a re-typing of Fox news's programming schedule and content.
posted by lampshade at 10:48 AM on October 17, 2011


Well, here's the Forbes 400 (or at least the first page of 400 clickthroughs). But there's no way they own half of everything. I'm curious to see a cite for that statistic.
posted by pardonyou?


This was a quote of Michael Moore and was fact-checked to be accurate. His quote was something of the top Forbes 400 "have more wealth than half of all Americans combined".

Scary eh?
posted by amazingstill at 10:52 AM on October 17, 2011


Is the Occupy Movement Anti-Democratic?

I smell crafted text beginning with a p
posted by infini at 12:15 PM on October 17, 2011


The suffragettes in Britain used to deface pennies with votes for women slogans.
posted by interplanetjanet at 12:19 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm doing my part with ass pennies. What, you think you're better than me?
posted by orme at 1:03 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


For those who remain confused, the Top 400 vs. Bottom 150,000,000 marked bills OBVIOUSLY aren't supposed to represent ALL wealth, since there are another 150,000,000+ between them unrepresented there who would shove both groups out to the edges. Just another semi-informative but misleading inforgraphic. More accurate would be one showing the Top 1% with its 40% share of wealth, but hey, this gets your attention, and you can Google all of the Top 400 to curse at but not all of the Top 1%.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:05 PM on October 17, 2011


hank: Do not, however, soak your dollar bills with either of the components of this product before spending them.

I thought that "fixor" would be some kind of glue. I have Occupation stuff open in like three other tabs... facebook, twitter, some other activist websites.

And now I have a tab with a site for a binary explosives company.

Excuse me, I can hear the helicopters coming. No point in running, guess I'll just turn myself in.
posted by Scientist at 1:23 PM on October 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think it was Flip Wilson who said: "Keep that dollar under lock and key until good old George looks like Booker T."
posted by spitbull at 1:45 PM on October 17, 2011


Been doing this for years now. More absurdist than political but I'd be a liar if I said there wasn't an element of disobedience underlying my stamping.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:20 PM on October 17, 2011


infini: "Is the Occupy Movement Anti-Democratic?

I smell crafted text beginning with a p
"

If by "anti-democratic" they mean "Democratic Party" then... yeah, sure. Oh, i see... because they don't have a perfectly functioning system in the mold of what Slate.com thinks of as the "right" form of democracy then obviously they're not a democracy. What fucking shitheads.
posted by symbioid at 2:35 PM on October 17, 2011


That was, um, an interesting article. It sort of made "anti-democratic" sound like a useful and productive aspect of the protests:
The emergence of an international protest movement with no coherent program is therefore not an accident: It reflects a deeper crisis, one with no obvious solution. Democracy is based on the rule of law. Democracy only works within distinct borders and among people who feel themselves to be part of the same nation. A "global community" cannot be a national democracy. And a national democracy cannot command the allegiance of a billion-dollar global hedge fund, with its headquarters in a tax haven and its employees scattered around the world...

...Although I still believe in the economic and spiritual benefits of globalization—along with open borders, freedom of movement and free trade—globalization has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.
but then the conclusion didn't fit that at all.
"Global" activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout that "we need to have a process!" Well, they already have a process: It's called the British political system. And if they don't figure out how to use it, they'll simply weaken it further.
"National democracy doesn't work to fix the stickiest problems of our generation... so stop undermining it with your freedom of speech"? That's a non-sequitor.

Also, what are the "spiritual benefits of globalization"?
posted by muddgirl at 2:49 PM on October 17, 2011


Whichever metal you use, unless you're part of that small subgroup, your share of either of these dollars will require magnification.

Your task: figure out how to magnify your share.

Gold.
Silver.
posted by hank at 4:12 PM on October 17, 2011


After seeing the graphic display of wealth disparity on those bills, my response is: Welcome to Latin America, USA!

(P.S. Who always supported the wealth disparity in LA? Solution left for students.)
posted by Twang at 1:38 AM on October 18, 2011


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