Have We Died and Gone to Heaven?

Just read a heads-up from OpEd News that Tammy Baldwin [WI] has proposed H.Con Res. 85 for consideration to prevent any Wall Street settlement[s] and/or immunity against criminal or civil charges, where fraud [aka criminal activity] is indicated, requiring investigation and subsequent prosecution by Federal and state authorities.


This is in addition to the investigations that Attorney Generals Eric Schneiderman [NY], Beau Biden [DE], Martha Coakley [MA], Catherine Cortez Masto [NV] and Karmala D. Harris [CA] are pursuing in the mortgage foreclosure crisis, namely robosigning, origination and securities fraud, as well as NY District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, who notably [and bravely] refused to sign off on a ‘deal’ between the SEC and Citigroup in another case involving securities fraud.

Forty-eight representatives have signed to co-sponsor the proposed bill. I think it’s safe to say that the Occupy Wall St. Movement has had an impact, voicing the concerns and anger of the 99%, the ordinary citizen, all of us, who would be thrown into the clink for breaking the law.  Particularly for brazen theft.  Yet bank CEOs and managers, mortgage servicers, realtors, accountants, lawyers and variety of regulators and auditors have been routinely given a pass [get out of jail card[.

Dare I say our lawmakers are finally listening?  Let’s hope so because unless the Rule of Law is re-established unequivocally there can be no faith in the system. The Law applies to all or it is invalidated, applying to none.

Thumbs up to Congresswoman Baldwin [who is running for the Wisconsin Senate seat in 2012] and her colleagues listed below.  If one of these gentlemen or gentlewomen represent your district, an appreciative email might be in order.  If your representative’s name does not appear you may want to send a questioning email or pick up the phone–just to say ‘hello’ and btw why aren’t you supporting The Rule of Law?

Those of us not in the streets, still have our voices.

Let them be heard.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer [OR]

Rep. Michael Capuano  [MA]

Rep. Andre Carson [IN]

Rep. David Cicilline [RI]

Rep. Steve Cohen [TN]

Rep. John Conyers [MI]

Rep. Elijah Cummings [MD]

Rep. Danny Davis [IL]

Rep. Peter DeFazio [OR]

Rep. Keith Ellison[MN]

Rep. Bob Filner[CA]

Rep. Marcia Fudge [OH]

Rep. Raul Grijalva [AZ]

Rep. Luis Gutierrez [AZ]

Rep. Janice Hahn [CA]

Rep. Alcee Hastings [FL]

Rep. Brian Higgins [NY]

Rep. Rep. Maurice Hinchey [NY]

Rep. Rush Holt [NJ]

Rep. Michael Honda [CA]

Rep. Jay Inslee [WA]

Rep. Jesse Jackson [IL]

Rep. Henry Johnson [GA]

Rep. Marcy Kaptur [OH]

Rep. Dennis Kucinich [OH]

Rep. James Langevin [RI]

Rep. John Larson [CT]

Rep. Barbara Lee [CA]

Rep. Edward Markey [MA]

Rep. Doris Matsui [CA]

Rep. James McDermott [WA]

Rep. James McGovern [MA]

Rep. Gwen Moore [WI]

Rep. Grace Napolitano [CA]

Del.   Eleanor Norton [DC]

Rep. John Olver [MA]

Rep. Mike Quigley [IL]

Rep. Bobby Rush [IL]

Rep. Loretta Sanchez [CA]

Rep. Janice Schakowsky [IL]

Rep. Louise Slaughter [NY]

Rep. Fortney Stark [CA]

Rep. Michael Thompson [CA]

Rep. John Tierney [MA]

Rep. Edolphus Towns [NY]

Rep. Niki Tsongas [MA]

Rep. Maxine Waters [CA]

Rep. Lynn Woolsy [CA]

UPDATE: Just received an email indicating that cosponsors now number 50 [don’t have the additional names].

In the Land of White Ribbons

First we had the Arab Spring then the European Summer.  The American Autumn manifested itself in the Occupy Wall St. Movement.

Welcome the Russian Winter.

Saturday nearly 35,000 young, mostly university-educated protesters, the new Russian middle class, gathered in Moscow in peaceful demonstration.  Reportedly, a police presence on the order of 50,000 greeted them.  But still they came and marched to voice opposition to Russia’s recent election results.  Vladimir Putin’s party won the parliamentary election after multiple reports of election fraud and ballot box stuffing.  For instance, in Chechnya [hardly a place of Putin-love] the party pulled 94% of the vote.  Putin has announced his plans to run in Russia’s March presidential elections to the dismay of many citizens, who charge that fraud and corruption run rampant throughout the country’s political system.

Demonstrators, donning white ribbons, marched in various cities around the country to say: Enough is enough.

Dismissed by the official Russian press, the white ribbon demonstrators were ignored by state television, which focused on small, flag-waving pro-Putin groups. How did the word get out?  Social media—Facebook and twitter.

In an attempt to disrupt the protests, Russian authorities circulated rumors that young men present at the rallies could be stopped by police and conscripted into the army.  Health officials reportedly warned citizens to stay home for fear of contracting a virulent flu or Sars.  Twitter feeds were jammed and robo-calls flooded phone lines with messages of state propaganda.

Sound vaguely familiar?

How much press is OWS getting today with its West coast port demonstrations?  How many words have been spent denigrating protesters as un-American losers, slackers, even dangerous criminals?  Let’s not forget the MSM’s reluctance to cover OWS, the strange lack of network film footage during police actions, particularly as the encampments were dismantled.  Twitter feeds jammed, cameras turned off.

Still, the world is watching.  The world is pushing back.  Everywhere.

The Art of Doublespeak

Language is important.  Words can inspire, inflame, enrage.  Words can hide a speaker’s intentions.  Sing me a lullaby.  Spin me a fairytale.  Sell me a load of bull-hockey.

One of today’s best-known language twisters is Frank Luntz.  Pollster and political consultant, Luntz is the Master of Political Doublespeak.  He would have made Orwell proud:  War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.  He crawls out during every election cycle with the creepy focus groups, wired up and ready to go.  We learn ‘what words work.’  Otherwise known as  ‘what words obfuscate, spin and get the best reaction from would-be voters.’

Well, here’s a Newsflash: Luntz is worried about Occupy Wall Street, all those sorry slackers the GOP and various critics have sidelined as hippies, losers and Obama-lovers.  Seems from Luntz’s point of view, OWS is having an impact on political discourse. 

No kidding Sherlock! 

And so, Luntz decided a tutorial was needed to school Republicans how to “speak” when asked questions about the very issues that the Occupy wave has been raising. 

Fascinating!  A defense against the so-called irrelevant.  But even more fascinating is the list of rules on how to ‘discuss and defend against’ the grievances that Occupy members  have introduced into the public sphere.

The very first instruction made me laugh:

Don’t say capitalism.

Because people might start questioning the broken economic construct that’s taken root in the US.  Btw, I haven’t heard OWS slamming capitalism, per se.  It’s Vulture Capitalism, the darling of the neoliberal/libertarian set, that’s being questioned and panned, where only the well-heeled financial class takes the booty while the rest of the country is left to collect unemployment checks and shop with food stamps.  Sorry, don’t think ‘free market’ or ‘economic freedom’ will wash in a country where poverty is rising at an alarming rate and over 20% of American kids are classified as food insecure.

Politicians whether Right or Left need to do far better than that.  Like maybe tell the truth: that the financial class in this country has been running a huge Ponzi scheme, that transnational corporations are willing to run roughshod over everything in a blind pursuit of profit, that endless war makes money for the few, while the many bleed.

That would be refreshing.

Don’t say the government taxes the rich.  Tell them the government takes from the rich.

Oh yes, that’s much better.  Then pull out Warren Buffet’s statement that his tax rate [as a multi-billionaire] is lower than what his secretary is required to pay.  And please, take a spin over the corporate history of negative taxes after all the loopholes and government largesse heaped on the ‘job creators’ is taken in to account. Then too, let’s not forget the ‘off-shore’ pooling of tax-free profits and tidy nest eggs.   The beat goes on for those with the courage to look. 

The government takes from the rich?   Hahaha.  More like the government sucks up to the rich and their ever-present lobbyists.

Republicans should forget winning the battle for the middle-class.  Call them hardworking tax-payers.

Yes, Republicans should forget winning the middle-class since they’ve gone out of their way to eliminate them, crush them out like last year’s cigarettes.

Frank Luntz is ‘really’ scared of the Occupy Movement ?  With rules like this he may be out of a job. If the Republican’s go-to wordsmith can’t get his head or words around the basic complaints of not simply Occupy but most Americans and/or the very real economic and political discontent, then they are deaf, dumb and blind.

Or maybe smart like the wily fox.  Because the evidence is everywhere.  What to do?  Keep the disinformation and propaganda machine in high gear.  I won’t belabor the hypocrisy and cynicism of Luntz’s list.  He and the entire stable of political pollsters, consultants and analysts on all sides are merely symptoms of a system flailing in the wind, a system that’s forgotten how to reach out or even talk to real people in anything approaching honest discourse.  A system that has no respect for its citizenry.

Will the Luntz approach work as it has in the past? 

We shall see.  But I invite you to read the Ten Commandments of Political Doublespeak for 2012 at the link above.  Some examples will make you laugh.  Several will make you mad as hell. 

Oh, and here’s a tip: Don’t say the word ‘Bonus.’

Occupy Philly and Independence Hall

Black Friday, Philadelphia, Pa.

 My first look at Occupy Philly was after a free ride on the 9:52 Media Local, The Santa Train.  This was not by plan but a matter of sheer coincidence.  I should have guessed; I was the only one standing on the Morton platform without a small child in tow.  But shortly after boarding, it was all too clear.  The elves came first, wailing Jingle Bells and Wish You a Merry Christmas.  They were followed by out-of-season Mummers dressed in holiday garb, belting out another round of X-mas cheer, complete with accordion, banjo and sax.  Mrs. Claus assured the children that Santa was busy, busy at the North Pole, making sure all their wishes [even though edited to economic realities] would come true. And then, there was the free candy and balloon animals.

The magic of childhood!  Where we can believe everything and anything.  When the world appears kind and right and true.

An out-of-stater now, I deliberately got off at Suburban Station, my old work stop.  Also, the stop at which I’ve frequently disembarked to attend exhibits at the Franklin Institute, the Museum of Natural History or the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a brisk walk west up the Parkway, past the Rodin Museum and the soon-to-open home for the controversy-laden Barne’s collection.

But not today. 

This morning I headed east, winding through the underground towards City Hall and the Occupy Philly encampment.  Later, I would team up with a friend and hoof down to the historic district.  But right now, I had a different historical event in mind.

I no sooner hit the outside doors than the vivid blue of plastic tarps and tent tops were visible.  A strange sight.  Normally, I would have walked through the West arch at City Hall, stood for a few moments googling at the city’s Christmas tree.  But this year was different.  So different.

The western entrance to the City Hall complex was barricaded.  ‘For Restoration’ the signs said.  No towering tree this year.  Instead, the Occupy tents decorated Dilworth Plaza, a strange but fascinating sprawl of makeshift living quarters and standard issue camping gear.  The area was quiet and still, the air crisp.  I circled around the entire plaza.  No sight of my friend, so I headed back towards the encampment, spotted the medical and information tents, as well as a petition table outlining the dangers of in-state fracking by over-zealous gas drilling companies.

At the Information Tent there was an array of literature on upcoming actions, the November issue of the Occupy Wall Street Journal and several people discussing Mayor Nutter’s deadline to dismantle the encampment within 48 hours.  Two of the occupiers said almost in unison: ‘It was never about the tents.’

So what is it about? It’s a question I read constantly on the blogs and in newspapers, even hear from family and friends.

Here’s what I learned in the morning hours I spent on the Plaza:

  1. In the 53 days of Occupy Philly, 26,000 local citizens signed on expressing support.
  2. At the height of the encampment, City Hall was encircled with tents, sleeping bags and a variety of makeshift living accommodations.
  3. Active supporters numbered around 200-300, some living on-site, others coming in to protest, march and rally during the day.
  4. Local Unions support the effort.  In fact, the Trades Union offered to assist the protestors in the original plan to move off Dilworth to an encampment across the street.  The Union needs those ‘renovation’ jobs.  That idea was scrapped because permits were denied.
  5. The area was clean.  No needles, drug paraphernalia or trash scattered about as the MSM would have readers/viewers believe taints all encampments. Talking to several encampment members, I was told a goodly portion of each day is spent ‘cleaning up.’
  6. The encampment/protest was peaceful.  There was a sense of community and the overriding sentiment was to voice anger and dissent over the widening income inequality in the US and the corporate capture of all facets of government.
  7. I heard no political posturing or Obama shilling. Simply stated, the system is broken for the 99%.
  8. Forty to fifty of the encampment members were homeless. They joined for the free food and the safety of numbers.
  9. The police presence, even on this Friday morning, was unusually large but basically stationed within the confines of the City Hall plaza.
  10. Though Mayor Nutter had leveled a 48-hour deadline, there was no sense of panic or great urgency the morning I arrived.  I later learned that the majority of the encampment was dismantled voluntarily Sunday evening and the homeless were moved elsewhere for their own safety.
  11. This morning [Wednesday 11/30 at 1:20 am, according to the Associated Press], the Philly police department began tearing down the remaining tents.

But as the protesters I spoke with said: It was never about the tents. It has always been about visibility—the eyesore of inequality, injustice and corruption.

I left Dilworth Plaza, and then headed down to Independence Mall.  A surreal juxtaposition. In a matter of a few blocks, my friend and I walked from the current protest to the historical marker of the Mother of All Protests.  Philadelphia is the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. We strolled through the portrait gallery installed in the Second Bank of the United States and the faces of those earlier protesters, that grand collection of merchants and farmers, philosophers and scientists, lawyers and bankers stared back.  What would they be thinking? I wondered.

We went on to Carpenter’s Hall, where Benjamin Franklin reportedly had secret meetings with like-minded citizens prior to the Revolution.  Years later, on leaving the Constitutional Convention, a woman reportedly asked Franklin what sort of government he and the others had designed. Franklin’s terse reply: ‘A Republic, Ma’am. If you can keep it.’

Our final stop was Independence Hall, which was originally the Pennsylvania State House. This was where the Second Continental Congress met, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and where the Constitutional Convention met to draft, debate, and then sign the US Constitution in 1787.

We’re a long way from who and what we were in 1787. But Franklin’s words have a haunting edge to them: ‘A Republic, Ma’am. If you can keep it.’ Another quote that’s perhaps equally pertinent is:

‘We must hang together, gentleman, or assuredly we will all hang separately.’

For me at least, this is what the Occupy Movement has been and is still about.  In an age where corporations have been awarded the distinction of personhood, when free speech is equated to money and The Rule of Law is applied in an unjust and inequitable fashion then we, ordinary citizens, have a duty to support and join one another in protest. To hang together, if you will.

Oh, and that Tea Party, the real one in Boston that got everything rolling? 

We all recall the ‘taxation without representation’ line from our school years, stemming from the passage of the Stamp Act in the 1760s and later the Tea Act in 1773.  King George had debts to pay off—a Seven Year’s War among other things.  And the East India Company’s tea pitched into the Boston Harbor?  East India was basically provided a monopoly on tea shipped into the colonies. The company [and its aristocratic shareholders] were none too happy about their profits pinched and drowned in the harbor and helped push [lobby] the King to pass the Coercive Acts, aka The Intolerable Acts. The colonists were generally peeved at the British Parliament for taxing them without their consent and then adding insult to injury, giving the East India Co. a cushy, duty-free export to undercut colonial merchants. But they were beyond peeved when punitive measures were leveled. They demanded that Parliament end its corrupt economic policies with and stop the bailout of that era’s own TBTF East India Company.

Sound vaguely familiar?  Whatever’s old is new again. Of course, no one age can be accurately compared to another. Context is everything. To quote Barbara Kingsolver from the November issue of The Occupy Wall Street Journal:

“Every system on earth has its limits. We have never been here before, not right here exactly, you and me together in the golden and gritty places all at once, on deadline, no fooling around this time, no longer walking politely around the dire colossus, the so-called American Way of consecrated corporate profits and crushed public compassion. There is another American Way. This is the right place, we found it. On State of Franklin, we yelled until our throats hurt that we were the 99% because that’s just it. We are.”

As I’ve said elsewhere, I support Occupy until I don’t. The ‘don’t’ for me is if the Movement becomes another co-opted arm of one corrupt political party or another. Our existing two-party system is thoroughly compromised; a shipload of bleach and scrub brushes couldn’t clean it up.  I support Occupy because I hate the idea of leaving my kids and future grandbabies with a broken, twisted Republic, one dedicated to piranha-school profits, the amassing of criminal wealth by a callous, irresponsible few at the expense of the many. I support the Occupiers because of those sweet-faced kids on the Santa train; they deserve the best we have.  But I also support what I saw on Dilworth Plaza because of what I saw and recalled inside Independence Hall, what we owe to all those who sacrificed and struggled, dreamed and achieved, lived, loved and died over the last 200+ years.  We stand on the shoulders of so many.

That’s something we should never forget because our past, our history is no small thing. But our future, that other American Way?  That’s all about what we do now.

The Marvel of Coincidence, Part Deux

My, oh my!  There is a deluge of coincidence, enough to turn tinfoil hats into swanky silk toppers. 

First we had the mind-boggling convergence of right-thinking PD departments from cities across the country, all deciding within the last 4 days to crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street protests.  At least that was the ‘official’ story until Oakland’s Mayor, the rather infamous Jean Quan blurted out during a BBC interview that she had been on a conference call with 18 American city mayors, discussing the ongoing Occupy Movement.

Not to be outdone by Mayor Quan, a Homeland Security official had his own ‘blurt/burp’ moment, disclosing that the FBI and the Homeland Security Department had been discussing how to ‘handle’ OWS.

And just so US citizens can truly marvel at the strange alignment of the stars, we have this extraordinary comment made by Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group.

“It was completely spontaneous.”

The ‘it’ in that statement would be riot police sweeping the encampments in Portland, Denver, Oakland and NYC, etc. for health and security reasons.  I suppose we can assume that the ‘middle of the night/early morning’ phalanx strategy of surround and secure was also a spontaneous, creative leap by law enforcement or perhaps a coast-to-coast mind-reading experiment.

However, Mayor Bloomberg in NYC must be credited with additional points for creativity.  After all his passionate I-Love-the–First-Amendment declarations and as a media mogul himself [12th richest person in the country], he coincidentally declared a media blackout.  Meaning? There would no [or very few] unattractive images of protestors being rousted, cell phones confiscated and/or reports of a CBS helicopter prevented from taking aerial  film footage.   According the Washington Post Partisan blog:

Most disturbingly, the NYPD sought to block any and all press from covering this eviction. On the ground, reporters were stopped at the barricades and refused entrance. Numerous journalists reported that cops refused to let then in, even pushing reporters away; reporters even Tweeted about getting arrested. In the air, NYPD helicopters refused to allow CBS News helicopters to film the eviction from above. As for the camera already in the park–OWS’s livestream–the police simply blocked it with a pile of torn-up tents.

But Keith Olbermann in his inimitable fashion had a few choice words for Mayor Bloomberg. If you haven’t seen this, sit back and enjoy. It’s entertaining.

But there’s more!  Even with the blackout, even with reporters rounded and roughed up, the New York Times managed to describe the events in startling detail and had photos of the NYPD grouping at the South Street Seaport.  Which has led some to ask:  What’s the deal between the Mayor, the NYPD and the Gray Lady?  Another coincidence?  May the stars fall from the sky.

Finally, not to be repetitious but . . . the Internet Protection Bill and the evolving, expanding piece of legislation [HR 3261] Stop Online Piracy [SOPA] is chugging along brilliantly.  Think of the ramifications.  A copyright bill that would place wide, blunt controls on the Internet, our remaining set of eyes on the world, quietly wends its way through Congress at the precise moment that media blackouts are sanctioned for reasons of security.  Turns out I’m not the only one who finds this legislative creation and its Senate counterpart [S.968] more than a little suspicious.

Trojan Horse, anyone?  Or Coincidence Heaven?

Barnum was born way before his time.