Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Co-Optation Station

One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind as the Occupy Wall Street protests gathered steam and media attention was: Will the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party attempt to co-opt the movement, and if so, will they succeed? The answer to the first question is a qualified "Yes" and to the second -- if there is a God, No.

As others have already pointed out, the movement is as much about protesting Obama's big sell-out and raging against the corrupt and inept two-party system as it is about anger at the unfettered capitalism that destroyed the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.  But that hasn't stopped various offshoots of the Democratic Party from attempting to glom onto it, and ever so subtly (or not), frame it to their own specifications.


The Center for American Progress (CAP), a D.C. think tank with direct ties to the White House, has set up its very own website on the mass demonstrations. But they refuse to call it "Occupy Wall Street" or occupy-anything.  That connotes a state of siege, and might cause the banksters to feel even more uncomfortable or petrified than they are already.  So CAP has renamed it, innocuously, The 99% Movement -- much safer, given that Goldman Sachs has been Obama's biggest contributor, and Lloyd Blankfein is the guest of honor at many a White House luncheon and state dinner.  (He is said to be fleeing the Big Apple for Washington today, in light of threatened demonstrations against his for-profit talk at Columbia U.  Do you think he'll be asking Barry for Secret Service Protection?  Do you think he'll get it?)


Wall Street-Upon-Potomac: The Blankfeins

 But back to CAP: its founder and leader is John Podesta, the former Clinton chief of staff who helped push through the repeal of Glass-Steagall and turned banks into gambling casinos. Podesta also was in charge of the Obama Transition Team and had a role in bringing in another banking deregulator (Timmy Geithner) to head up Treasury and bail out his buddies. 

The Boss and The PR Guy (Obama, Podesta)
The main thrust of the Podesta/Obama website is to cast aspersions on the GOP challengers who cast aspersions on the protesters.  Today's headline crowed about Mitt Romney's flip-flopping on the protesters, rather than discussing what the protests are all about.  It made hay out of Eric Cantor's "mob" characterization.  It gloated over Fox News' Geraldo Rivera getting heckled. Anything and everything to point out that Obama and the Democrats suck a lot less than the Republicans. 


Of course, CAP was founded during the reign of Bush II for the express purpose of establishing a Democratic War Room with a thrust on opposition research. From Wikipedia:


Podesta laid out his plan for what he likes to call a think tank on steroids. Emulating those conservative institutions, he said, a message-oriented war room will send out a daily briefing to refute the positions and arguments of the right. An aggressive media department will book liberal thinkers on cable TV. There will be an edgy Web site (ThinkProgress.org) and a policy shop to formulate strong positions on foreign and domestic issues. In addition, Podesta explained how he would recruit hundreds of fellows and scholars -- some in residence and others spread around the country -- to research and promote new progressive policy ideas. American Progress is slated to operate with a $10 million budget next year, raised from big donors like the financier George Soros.
CAP has come under criticism for refusing to divulge its list of donors, and also for cheerleading Obama's war escalations and drone attacks -- in stark contrast to its raison d'etre during the Bush years, which was to excoriate torture and bellicosity.  According to an article by Jeremy Scahill, CAP and other "veal pen" offshoots such as MoveOn and Media Matters, are nothing more than "pseudo PR flaks targeting liberals" to advance the White House agenda. 


Since the protests began three weeks ago, I have gotten a steady stream of emails from MoveOn, 21st Century Democrats and any number of veal pen shops, seeking my signature to show "solidarity" with Occupy Wall Street. A few have even blatantly tied their fund-raising campaigns to the mass movement. These organizations all belong to the Common Purpose Project, which meets at the White House every week to make sure the members stay in line with what Obama wants. And what he wants, apparently, is simply to use the Occupy uprising to make the Tea Party and GOP look bad, at the same time he "gets" our frustrations.

And according to The New York Times, The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s powerful House fund-raising arm, has even started circulating a petition among the crowds of protesters, seeking 100,000 party supporters to declare that “I stand with the Occupy Wall Street protests.”


The Obama for America re-election outfit itself has remained largely silent on OWS. I imagine they are feverishly reworking their marketing to jibe with the current climate.  Somehow, I believe that even they won't be clueless enough to continue pretending they are a "grassroots movement made up of people just like me."  I haven't, for example, heard another word about entering for a chance to win a meal with Barry.


They know that we know about the true agenda of the Democratic Party, which has nothing much to do with us. I don't believe there is a veal pen large enough to contain all the millions of people thoroughly disgusted with the corruption of our government. And the politicians are likely as scared as the plutocrats.

**Update: Glenn Greenwald has more.

40 comments:

Anne Lavoie said...

They may not co-opt us in terms of winning any followers, but they can still cause us to lose support by manipulating the media and speaking 'for' us, defining our message for us, and creating a media image of us that suits their purposes. Oh wait, the Republicans are doing that too! God help us.

It's two-edged sword. It works in our favor as Republicans attack and try to portray us as Nazis or whatever to the general public. And we get positive attention as long as the bigwig Democrats think they can win our hearts and minds, and most importantly, our votes. But we lose a crucial opportunity to maintain a broad appeal to the public as the PTB (powers that be) attempt to mold us into their chosen shapes.

The worst nightmare for both Republicans and Democrats is for us to remain broadly or nebulously defined, drawing in all Americans uniting against The Machine, of which they are major cogs.

Trying to win hearts and minds (and votes) while destroying a country sounds only too familiar. They are still clueless, full of hubris, and still losing!

p.s. Last I heard, the raffle tickets for dining with Obama went down to $3, probably due to lack of interest.

James F Traynor said...

Recently I talked to a woman I know and respect who voted for Obama. She's thinking of voting Republican this time around. Her sympathies are with Occupation Wall Street. I looked at her - she shrugged her shoulders. She is informed, is aware of the financial chicanery that has resulted in the current state of economic affairs.

The only comparable situation I can think of is when I heard about a poor Nicaraguan farmer who when asked why he voted for the conservatives said " The Gringoes will not let us have socialism."

Is that where we are?

Anonymous said...

That is not where "we" are. It is where she is. There's a big difference.

Valerie said...

@ James,

I think we need to be encouraging all those disenfranchised and disappointed Obama supporters to vote for Bernie instead of a Republican. I think it is OK to register as a Republican so we can vote in the Primary for the least terrible/evil the Republican party has to offer but that is as far as it goes. BTW, I am not registering as a Republican until the very last minute.

I still have a glimmer of hope that if enough disillusioned Democrats make it clear they will not be voting for Obama (Come On all you complaining yellow dogs! Join us mongrels in our fight for REAL change!) the DNC might dump Obama. These are strange and desperate times. OWS has shown us that there is a lot of support out there for a candidate who represents the people versus the elite. And also shows us that we have a lot more power than we realise. 99% - Heck! 30% is enough to turn the country around. We just have to work together and demand real change.

I forget where I read it, but some big-shot banker asked, “Should I be worried?” about the OWS crowd. Up until now, they KNOW they have had nothing to worry about with Obama. Finally, OWS has showed them that we are not as passive and apathetic as they thought and we no longer are willing to be dumb animals going to slaughter.

@ Anne,

I think the message of OWS is very clear: We the 99% want a Middle Class Republic. We want an overhaul of our corrupted government. While I would welcome a reinstatement of Glass Steagal, breaking up the banks and a Consumer Protection Agency for banks – It is no longer enough. While Obama has been brushing us aside, our standards for our Democracy have risen.

And if those trying to tear down the movement didn't have the complaint that there is no clear message or set of demands, they would be remarking about something else.

@ Karen
Thanks for the link to Scahill’s article. He is great writer.

James F Traynor said...

@Anon.

But how many more are there like her?

Anonymous said...

@Anne,

"The worst nightmare for both Republicans and Democrats is for us to remain broadly or nebulously defined, drawing in all Americans uniting against The Machine, of which they are major cogs."

I think you may be entirely right, even though your assertion blasts through all my dearly held precepts about form and function.

But I'm still trying to recover from having glimpsed sight of one of my relatives protesting at OWS today. I don't know what was the bigger shock, seeing her there, or realizing that she broke her own rule against wearing white after Labor Day. What WAS she thinking?

I guess it is a revolution after all.

-Camp Obama, H.E.

Suzan said...

They should be.

Cause we are on their case.

S

"Donate to Brad Miller's campaign in NC!"

And the politicians are likely as scared as the plutocrats.

Valerie said...

@COHE

Amazing! and wonderful! These are indeed strange and exciting times. If someone like your prim and proper relative is out there protesting, then we have a chance to make things right in our country and to draw in ALL reasonable people of every background.

As long as it was just a bunch a dumb kids with time on their hands for a new adventure, the protest could be brushed aside. As long as it was just dumb kids and union members who want $60 an hour jobs with benefits, the protest could be trivialised as self-serving. But when grandmas bring their grandchildren, and off duty police and fire fighters join in (as they did in Wisconsin), and soldiers turn up to protect the protesters - We can't be brushed aside as the lunatic fringe.

Keep it coming! And blessings to all those people with feet on the ground representing those of us who can only join in spirit.

http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/148118/best-occupy-wall-street-photo-yet-marine-protesters-now-know-their-enemy/

Anne Lavoie said...

Not sure if this is accurate or not, but I read somewhere last week that OccupyWallSt decided to register as a 501(c) organization.

It was in an interview with a protester who was upset that the General Assembly made that decision and he didn't know about it. I suppose that with money pouring in, General Assembly had to decide how to spend it, and that brings up tax issues.

If they are an official 501(c) organization, they must have an organizational structure of officials specified. Even if they haven't registered, someone handles the money and they must have a bank account. When money started poured in, the game changed.

That also means that they have someone can make decisions. As a matter of fact, I read today in the Chicago Sun-Times (I think) that the police insisted on meeting with one person and they decided to send two, one of which was Kevin Zeese. He either travels nationally to other protest sites, or he is based in Chicago. He sound like the de facto leader of this movement.

Money always changes things, that is just reality. But hey, maybe we can make it work for us. We should form a giant corporation. Instead of remaining as ordinary, powerless, voiceless taxpaying citizens, we go in the other direction and become a privately held CORPORATE PERSON, millions strong. Buy a share for $10 or so and become a shareholder and lower your tax rate at the same time and become one of millions of vice-presidents. We could get some serious money stacked up quickly. We could maybe even buy back our government! Fight fire with fire.

We need a lawyer to look into this. It has potential!

James F Traynor said...

OH, MY GOD! White after Labor Day? Things have gone entirely too far!

Valerie said...

I was wandering around Melbourne today with my daughter - we are accompanying my husband on a business trip - and what did we see? A table set up with leaflettes for Occupy Melbourne! What were they talking about? We are the 99% and that the top 1% in the world are ruining everything for the rest of us. It's catching! My family and I will be attending a protest march on Saturday before we catch our plane back to Adelaide.

Anonymous said...

@Val,
Thanks!

@Anne,
This one's for you: La resistance est arrivee!
See: Hessel, Stephane
"Indignez-Vous!"

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/social_issues/july-dec11/outrage_10-11.html#transcript

Hope it cheers you all!
-COHE

Anne Lavoie said...

Need a laugh? Here's Romney's new tune regarding the Occupy! movement:

“I worry about the 99 percent in America," he said, before adding later in the day: "I understand how those people feel."

Hahahahaha! Thanks, Mitt, I needed that.

Kat said...

It happened here. Moveon.org glommed on to our OWS protests.
Excellent post, Karen and glad you added the Greenwald link.

Kat said...

Oh, and somewhat off topic-- I was actually checking Glen G. today to see what he had to say about the latest "terror plot" foil. I mean, does this not sound fishy that the guy hooked up with a DEA informant?
Sounds like yet another case of entrapment. Will Obama not be happy until their is not one single person left that trusts our government?

DreamsAmelia said...

@CampObama Homeless Edition
I do not see your comments here, but was thinking of you yesterday when I learned that an extended family member of mine in Texas, 57 years old, who had uprooted his lifelong home (house was paid off) left all his church friends, community, and family, for a new job, after being unemployed for more than a year, after being laid off at a prominent IT firm that he had worked at for more than 40 years (and his Dad had worked there too!)-- and his wife left HER job--to move to Iowa, only to get settled 1 month into the job, with a new mortgage, no contacts, no friends, no church--then to be laid off along with 2/3 of the entire work force!!!

Now he is really in a pickle. Even though he won't technically go homeless, he obviously does not want to have to rely on the charity of the extended family to survive. But he may have no choice. I am sure he would have preferred to keep this a secret indefinitely.

The headlines have reached home into my personal life, and, yet, of the now 6 unemployed friends/family, and counting, in my small circle of 20 or so closest friends (which would put the anecdotal unemployment rate at close to 30% for me, which is the "felt" rate, and more powerful than the statistical or "actual" rate), not a one of them would think of joining Occupy Wall St. It's too "out there." It is, literally, "out there," on the streets, the toughest way imaginable to live.

But, mainly they won't join because they lack any semblance of a political or historical tapestry from which to act. They have tended to live in the present, and the present has always worked for them. They were privileged enough to never have to think too much about systems of government, or concepts of justice, which does not mean they do not have wonderful hearts. They do. They are implicitly generous, but they lack a deeper political consciousness that links the fate of an individual to larger socio-economic forces moving through a particular window of history on a train that never stops. That is why there were as many "homeless bums" looking so in need on the park benches next to McPherson Square as there were occupiers at Occupy DC yesterday. The apparently homeless or even well-tailored, employed, and yet, separate, mourn or rail their fate individually, without seeing the power of people united.
Of course it is tough work. There has never been a single guarantee of success, not even a guarantee you won't get killed in the process. But that is why the Occupiers are so laudable. They are literally fighting for the millions of unemployed we know who are afraid to fight, or who don't understand the power and purpose of uniting to fight.

Jay - Ottawa said...

"I can’t think of anything that will destroy Occupy Wall Street faster than association with establishment liberals or the Democratic Party, or any suspicion that their movement is nothing more than a bunch of shock troops for Mr. O’s reelection."

That's an astute quote from commenter "Anarcissie" in the Firedoglake article I linked on 10/10:

So how can we separate true progressives from wily yellow dogs and their masters who drop by OWS encampments for photo-ops, or for twisting the OWS message into "We Support Obama"?

Here's an idea, mainly for when DNC operatives or their limp-wristed office holders swing by in limousines to pose beside OWS stalwarts.

Always have a few tightly-worded printed petitions on clipboards at the ready for signing, with fanfare, before the cameras. If those yellow dogs and publicity hounds don't sign, cry "shame, shame, shame" as they scurry back to their limousines -- with the cameras still rolling, of course.

Such petitions might say something like:

"I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to pass a federal jobs bill aimed at restoring our national infrastructure. Allocations will be sufficient put 250,000 of the unemployed in new jobs each month until the unemployment rate is down to 6% or less for six straight months.

"I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to taxing all persons earning in excess of $1 million per year at increasingly progressive rates starting at 50%."

"I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to lower the Pentagon budget annually by $50 billion for the next five years."

"I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to sponsor legislation halting foreclosures by any bank that, directly or indirectly, received federal bailout funds."

"I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline."

"I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to work for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by July 2012."

Or, "I commit myself, with all the authority of my office, to amend the Affordable Care Act to include a strong public option."

This is some of the medicine our country needs to heal.

Such pledges, if adopted by OWS overnighters at their various encampments, might help our clueless MSM stenographers - Duh - to understand in more detail what all the fuss is about.

You shall know them by what they sign or don't sign on the spot. They should be able immediately to grasp the issues without staff support and without playing one more "nuance" card.

You shall judge their integrity and competence by what they do or don't do when they get back to their offices. They have exactly one year to get off the fence and effect these pledges. Those who are true get my vote in November 2012. Those who don't pass these measures and/or who don't fight like dogs to pass such legislation, will not get my one simple vote. Nuance that!

James F Traynor said...

@Dreams Amelia

It seems to me that, generally, only the movers and shakers and the very poor have any real appreciation for the impermanence of life.

Anonymous said...

@DreamsAmelia,

I really wonder if all that is about to change - if those friends and relatives you reference who lack the framework to protest might, whether slowly or suddenly, "get it" and start protesting?

Your relative from Texas is weirdly blessed to go through a truly life-altering event. Like I said, there are some upsides to this. And the more people who are squeezed out, the less shame in coming forward to protest.

I'm remembering the people I met at the tea parties in 2009, and how few of them had ever protested before. They were, of course, manipulated via talk radio, but there was, in them, a tangible glee/terror in finding themselves suddenly liberated to express themselves.

You and I know that they were disastrously wrong... and yet, it was an entry into the water. I wouldn't necessarily be surprised if some (not a lot) of the tea partiers end up sincerely joining the OWS protests.

What makes that a more likely possibility? It looks like the tea partiers are about to be backstabbed by the GOP, as was just reported in today's NYTimes.

As for me, I continue to experience more of the absurdity of tenting it in one of the country's wealthiest backyards... I spent part of yesterday morning on a training run with a new acquaintance who turns out to be one of twenty-odd heirs to a local petroleum fortune. When they say: "That was a great run, we should meet here again," you have to resist the temptation to point out that we undoubtedly WILL meet here again, since I... live right here in this forest. It hasn't occurred to any of these guys that the whole "outdoorsy" thing is anything other than an enthusiasm for the wilderness.

Having said that, this new "lifestyle" does have its rewards - forget the petroleum heir, I'm practically on a first-name basis with a three-point deer buck, and a trio of hares who frequent my tent. Don't laugh, I'm serious. Still trying to figure out what to say to the moutain lion, if I ever run into her.

That said, I do worry about what happens to the current survival strategy if the ankle turns. What's that they say about shooting horses? I bet your Texas "cousin" knows the answer to that every bit as much as I do.

Which is to say: it's time. Let your relative from Texas know he can protest without outing himself entirely. You may not change his mind, but plant the seed of the idea in his mind... that might be all it takes.

Signed,
-Camp Obama, H.E.
(resisting the urge to sign off as "Camp Obama, The Musical!")

Anne Lavoie said...

I am so livid I can hardly see straight. EEEEEEEEeeeeeeee!!! she screamed.

Did you know Congress passed regulations prohibiting us from using the word 'drop' in emails to Congress? Unbelieveable! Drop! I can only imagine what other words are also verboten, but you have to actually use them before they get around to telling you with a popup box.

I was just on my Congressman's website to tell him to drop his support of HR 1505, The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act' (see my guest post Big Brother's Holding Company of Oct 1st).

When I wrote asking him, a co-sponsor of the legislation, to drop his support, it wouldn't let me use the word drop, so I chose to space it out to get through the censor - d r o p

If there was ever a reason to drop this entire government, this is it!!! And now they even want to give Homeland Security the right to lock us out of a 100 mile security belt around our entire country so they can use it for detention or concentration camps.

Oh, ok, maybe that's not actually spelled out in the bill, but it does give Homeland Security unfettered, top secret, unlimited and unquestionable control of our public lands. Knowing these fascist pigs, I would be willing to bet it WILL happen. If you aren't familiar with this bill, please go back and read my post of 10/1 or google HR 1505.

So what part of the First Amendment do they not understand? Sounds like they need to be reminded not just of the Bill of Rights but the Constitution. They have made a raging
R E V O L U T I O N A R Y
out of me! Let them s t i c k that where the sun don't shine. Frigging Tyrants.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Great post, Karen, and great comments by fellow members of the REAL 99%. Thanks for the relevant Greenwald link.

@Jay: I particularly liked your suggestion to ask the "yellow dogs" and other political opportunists to put THEIR signatures on reasonable demands for genuine substantive change. There's nothing like asking for a signed statement that can be reprinted in the future to weed out the photo-opportunist politicians from the genuine supporters.

@Anne Lavoie: Saying that we all should become a "privately held CORPORATE PERSON" was great. On a more serious note, many thanks for addressing in your recent guest post the HR1505 power-grab travesty. I live well within the 100-mile zone to which it would apply, thought about writing something, but failed to get around to it. I'm glad that you did.

See also: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/article_a52490ec-6b67-56e1-a9c6-5a361866d679.html

@all: With regard to co-optation, a very interesting recent piece about a different type happening to some current bloggers and other new-media would-be reporters:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/10/09/2443941/the-news-business-is-being-played.html

Fred Drumlevitch said...

OLDER STUFF (still relevant):

@Valerie, @Anonymous - COHE

Thanks (Valerie) for the link re Australian troops wearing cameras, in your Oct. 8 comment on the "Die Laughing, Republican Style" post.

I don't in the least mind if cops, or soldiers, wear cameras to protect themselves from false accusations, or even to document actions by criminals.

My interest, though (as I know you are well aware), is the other side of the coin, where wielders of state authority abuse their power. That is a real danger, not only to the individuals abused but even more to a free society itself, which won't remain free if the enforcers of the law are a law unto themselves.

Given that even true accusations of abuse of power are seldom if ever believed, unless overwhelmingly documented, I'm not sure that false accusations pose much of a threat to honest authority, since, if the accusations are false, by definition they cannot be documented. Still, I don't begrudge them CYA documentation via a video and audio record, provided that it's a two way street --- meaning that it's a complete untamperable record of all encounters, not a selective or disposable one, and will, if warranted, be used in administrative/legal proceedings against law enforcement.

Unfortunately, I'd bet that the discussions going on in police departments overwhelmingly involve the self-protection side, with little or no concern about abuse of power. If police want to convince me that they really do care about the latter, they should move to implement the other part of my suggestion, large numbers on their uniforms making them uniquely identifiable at a distance.

As the police ramp up their actions against OWS and "occupy" demonstrators elsewhere --- already happening --- we'll wish they had identifying numbers, but the powers-that-be will make sure that they don't.

Justice Network said...

@Valerie

A "Proposed List of Demands " was posted on Occupy Wall Street back on September 28th. The first demand is to pass the "Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011" sponsored by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), to reinstate provisions of the Glass–Steagall Act.

http://occupywallst.org/forum/proposed-list-of-demands-please-help-editadd-so-th/

Neil

Anne Lavoie said...

Speaking of co-optation, I am going to a local Occupy march this weekend and am thinking of putting tea bags on my hat or somehow appearing Tea Partyish. If I get my picture in the paper or on local tv, I hope that will encourage Tea Partiers to join in.

By the way, I will be wearing a surgical mask with a dollar bill taped on (or a dollar sign drawn on) as part of my 'disguise'.

I am having a GREAT time making more cardboard signs (remember my planned Honkathon this summer?) to bring with me for spontaneous joiners to carry. I am going to throw in some slogans to appeal to my Tea Party friends.

Yippee! I am never more happy than when I am part of the action. I've been waiting so long!

p.s. I have another project - mailing back junk mail stuffed into their prepaid envelopes with 'Occupy!' written on their literature. It will help the Post Office too!

Anonymous said...

@Fred,

"My interest, though (as I know you are well aware), is the other side of the coin, where wielders of state authority abuse their power. That is a real danger, not only to the individuals abused but even more to a free society itself, which won't remain free if the enforcers of the law are a law unto themselves."

Welcome to my world, Fred. When this is all over, I hope to be able to tell you what I've discovered about our local police and the total level of secrecy around abuse issues that they've been granted by the courts of late. It hasn't been any fun bringing this matter forward at City Hall while being homeless. But I brought it forward, for reasons I don't even understand.

But let's not kid ourselves, either. As a former health care worker, I've seen nurses and physicians abuse their positions to chilling effect, although on a far smaller scale. 

Downmarket (white trash) patient pisses off the charge nurse? They can expect to "enjoy" a 36-hour psychiatric hold. If they protest THAT, we can bump it up to 72 hours. Wanna stay longer? We can accommodate you! As one of the more beaten-down patients I cared for muttered under her breath as another psych patient was "acting out":

"I can't recommend trying THAT."

I'll believe nurses and docs are heroes again when I believe cops are heroes again. Don't hold your breath. Those nurses who are real heroes advocate for a proactive, preventive care system. 

As for this:

"Unfortunately, I'd bet that the discussions going on in police departments overwhelmingly involve the self-protection side, with little or no concern about abuse of power...."

Yep, that's about the size of it. In the Police Departments, the hospitals, the corporate board rooms, amd everywhere else. As the Athenians said to the Melians, if you held our power, you'd act in the same way.

-Camp Obama, H.E.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Anonymous - COHE

Thanks for reminding me, and other readers here, of the wider scope of abuse of power. I tend to focus on the police and military simply because they have guns and clubs, and some of the abuse they do rates as the most visible and dramatic. But as you've reminded us, abuse of power can be done by people who hold power in any field --- "the Police Departments, the hospitals, the corporate board rooms, and everywhere else". It may be more subtle and less visible in some of those areas, but it's abuse of power all the same.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Jeff Madrick is an educator smart enough to know he was being tutored at the same time he conducted teach-ins at the request of occupiers in Zuccotti Park. His impressions about what is happening there -- and around the world -- can be found at The New York Review of Books’ blog site. Not sure whether non-subscribers can open his post, but, anyway, here’s the link:

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/oct/11/zuccotti-park-education/

In case you don’t have time to pursue the link, this from his concluding paragraph, which I find full of encouragement:

“The protesters are eager to hear from many people on the issues and policy options facing the nation. I will go back down to do another teach-in or two. I feel lucky to be witnessing this. It is one of the exciting social experiments of our time. And it shows how our conventional institutions — Congress, think tanks, the media — did not reach the deep concerns of the American people. It shows that our democracy has been stunted. It took this group of mostly young people with an empathic vision about American suffering to build an institution spontaneously that expresses the grievances and concerns of what must be the majority of Americans.”

@Fred
Is there some harmony between the OWS’s “horizontal organization” Jeff Madrick describes in his post and the direct democracy system reforms promoted on your website?

@Karen
I hope you can provide us more on this story. I’ve just gotten two “emergency” emails, one from Bold Progressives (PCCC) and another from Campaign for America’s Future, declaring, Paul Revere style, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is about to evict OWS from Zuccotti Park. CAF, in addition to advising us to jam Bloomberg’s telephone with appeals, is suggesting an alternative method of pushing back by (cough, gag) signing a petition by MoveOn.org. PCCC is also waving an emergency petition.

Is this last-minute rescue by the cavalry (the pure hearts of MoveOn.org) being directed by Co-Opters, Inc? Is OWS, willy nilly, about to become indebted to His Honor for his forbearance or to MoveOn.org for its unholy connections?

Karen Garcia said...

@Jay,
The occupants are lawyered up and and ready. I think Bloomberg is their best friend, whether that is his intention or not. A police crackdown will only bring the movement more attention and acclaim.
MoveOn, CAP, and every DNC offshoot known to man are sending out petitions, ostensibly for Bloomberg. I have signed none of them. They are harvesting names for future fundraisers, etc.
Eviction from Zuccotti Park will only send them to the thousand other venues in nyc. I vote for Thomas Paine Park in Foley Square, adjacent to the federal courthouse.

James F Traynor said...

Great idea, Karen. Move around the city. It might work for awhile, at least until they get reinforcements from the unions. Bloomberg is trying to provoke violence and Kelly is certainly the man who would love that. Plenty of union bodies and the possibility of the city being closed down might give them pause.

Val said...

I remember when the Berlin Wall came down and we were all in the streets of Berlin - we knew that we were in the midst of history. An Australian friend of my husband is travelling to NY on business and has spent all his free time at the protests. He believes he is in the midst of history too.

Anonymous said...

@Val:
"He believes he is in the midst of history too."

I agree that this has the potential to be "historic", but 1848 was historic, too - a historic failure. And yet out of the 1848 uprisings (in at least ten European cities) all sorts of other movements sprang - some good, some terrible.

We have no guarantees of success here. It doesn't mean we aren't obliged (and I really mean obligated) to take part and/or lend support to the OWS protesters.

@Fred:
I agree about some abuses being more visible than others. But what about issues that are clearly more fatal than abuse of power?

I don't see ANY docs or nurses asking how we reached a point in the hospital wherein the patient is little more than an excuse for the vast amount of petroleum based products (I'm talking plastics here) we requisition for one-time "patient use" before sending - in quantities that should apall anyone - those same plastics to the landfill.

That's not a minor issue, Fred, particularly when you consider that most of the crap we're "treating" is preventable.

In my experience, docs and nurses spend most of their time agitating not for saner practices like preventive care (which would require more Phys Ed teachers than nurses), but agitating for higher wages and more overtime through the nurses' unions.

Actually, I think cops and nurses and docs all have a lot in common. They're good people caught up in a system that is profoundly broken AND poisoning the planet.

And anyone who questions their systems has to "go."

-Camp Obama, H.E.

Anne Lavoie said...

@COHE

I was a Public Health Nurse. It is the area of nursing that college trained nurses go into who are focused on prevention.

Public health nurses work in schools, city, county, and state health departments, etc. We work for governments and our budgets and working conditions are usually deplorable. Our offices are usually in some basement, annex, trailer, or other temporary facility and we are shuffled around like a red-headed stepchild. Administrators hog what little budget there is with their own frequent conference attending, salaries and bonuses, and other benefits.

We advocate for the health and well-being of the entire community, oftentimes pitting us against business interests when they are contributing to or exacerbating health problems. We are told tax dollars will be lost if companies get bad press and might lose business. A real life example is a restaurant repeatedly causing mass foodborne illness outbreaks which are kept secret and out of the press by administrator who are pressured by city or county officials.

We nurses who dare to advocate for the public are frequently the losers due to the power of the Chamber of Commerce fielding and funding candidates who get elected to do protect and promote business interests at the expense of the public.

I am sure it is the same in the hospitals, only the business and profits they threaten is that of their employer. Anything you say can and will follow you in your career wherever you try to go.

I always thought that as more men entered the nursing field, things would change, but you know what keeps happening? They go into Administration!

Anonymous said...

@Anne,
I recognize the excellent work of public health nurses as heroic, and I'm grateful for your work.

But it's been my observation that in your fight against the CoC, the nurses' unions haven't exactly come to your rescue. Why do you think that is?

"We nurses who dare to advocate for the public are frequently the losers due to the power of the Chamber of Commerce fielding and funding candidates who get elected to do protect and promote business interests at the expense of the public."

But as you note, hospitals are also a business interest. And so are, despite their claims, the AMA and the nurses' unions. They're in the business of treating sick people. And hospital nurses and their unions make far too much money treating the sick to want to eradicate preventable disease. Or to reform their own bad practices. 

Or to address the profound ecological disaster they're creating.

"I am sure it is the same in the hospitals, only the business and profits they threaten is that of their employer. Anything you say can and will follow you in your career wherever you try to go."

I might buy your excuse for hospital workers, but I've yet to see a hospital nurse or a doc even TRY. And why should hospital nurses criticize a system that provides sufficient overtime for their $120,000 kitchen remodel, their SUV payments, their Carribean vacation, and their sub-zero refrigerators? Don't get me started on the physicians...

Face it, you and the rest of the PH nurses are not just the minority of nurses - you're the exception in that you're true to the actual ideals of nursing/medical care. Very few docs and nurses, just like very few cops, have the decency to question their systems' respective dysfunction.

If doctors and nurses won't ask necessary questions about their own dysfunctional systems, why does anyone in their right mind expect cops to do so?

-Camp Obama, H.E.

Karen Garcia said...

@COHE,
I beg to differ about your take on the "average" nurse. It's been my experience that nurses are more politically active than other professions. They see uninsured people every day, they see the ravages of delayed care -- the neglected ailment turning into a life threatening disease. See my previous post about the busloads of nurses confronting lawmakers throughout the country to protest Wall Street abuse, weeks before the OWS movement became popular.
My late husband was a physician and take it from me, he never made a ton of money. Of course, he was an internist practicing in a blue collar town. He didn't actually turn a profit for years and he never turned people away because they couldn't pay, either.
If there was such a lot of money in nursing, why aren't more people going to nursing school instead of running after an MBA?

Anonymous said...

@Karen,

But my question wasn't whether nurses were politically active. My assertion is that nurses and physicians don't question their own dysfunctional and ecologically ruinous system.

And I do believe you're looking at some outdated nursing salaries for your particular state. Higher nursing salaries, combined with a mania for overtime, dramatically changed the face of nursing. But it didn't make hospital workers any more likely to question the dysfunctional system they serve. In fact, it made them less questioning, for obvious reasons.

Separately:
Look into bullying problems in nursing - endemic to the system, for reasons I can't begin to fathom? I've observed that in hospital settings, male nurses are particularly targeted for bullying, much as Shannon Faulkner was bullied at Citadel.

Men, women, cops, nurses: all vulnerable to abuse of power, all reluctant to question the teat that feeds them so generously. 

-Camp Obama, H.E.

Anne Lavoie said...

@COHE

This nurse recommends meditation.

No charge for the advice either!

Anonymous said...

@Anne,
"This nurse recommends meditation."

That sound like what the hedge fund manager says to the squeegee guy. 

But seriously, is it that impolite/impolitic/un-PC to point out that the "heroes" - be they cops on the right, or nurses on the left - are part of the problem?

Do we only question others, or are we capable of looking at our own preconceptions and asking whether the system(s) we serve(d) are rational or even sustainable?

I admire the work of PH nurses, Anne, but they're hardly representative of the nursing profession overall.

And how can you ask us to be outraged over HR 1505 (which after all is merely a resolution) but you can't even acknowledge the worse problem of medical waste filling up landfills - most of that plastic would never even be necessary if we had a semi-rational approach to healthcare?

-COHE

Anne Lavoie said...

@COHE

First, HR 1505 is NOT a resolution. HR stands for House of Representatives where the BILL originated. It is a powerful BILL, regardless of what you may think. I clearly described it as a BILL in my piece. I don't know how you came to think of it as a resolution, except for guessing what the R stood for, despite ALL the evidence to the contrary.

You disappoint me, not just in insulting me by claiming I tried to get people 'outraged' over 'merely a resolution', but for insulting an entire profession that I know firsthand cares and does a lot for people, and not for the money. You generalize about an entire profession based on how many years experience in what field? Nevermind.

In regards to Unions, I served as a Union steward in addition to being a public health nurse. I had the experience of watching the incompetence of Union lawyers who botched cases, failed to meet deadlines, missed appeal opportunities, and made secret backroom deals with administration. I know all too well the faults and flaws of Unions. Employees suffered and their careers died when they stood up to the system and were left hanging in the wind by the Union.

Getting back to plastics, (which always reminds me of The Graduate), does domestic violence or child abuse sound less important to you than landfills with plastics? Those are just two examples of everyday issues that we face and have to take action on, and they frequently involve a tremendous amount of stress. You fight your battles and we'll fight ours. Anyway, the healthcare field isn't the only one contributing to the landfill plastics problem, so why single out healthcare and specifically doctors and nurses? It sounds personal.

Camper, there are people called administrators whose job it is to deal with these kind of issues, yet you have no harsh criticism of them. As a matter of fact, you give them a big fat pass! WTF?

I think you're simply barking up the wrong tree, but I'll grant you one thing - anyone who takes on the System does have 'to go', and the ways they make that happen could fall into the category of psychological torture sometimes.

Taking on the System, no matter what the issue, is not for the faint of heart. It's a career killer, and sometimes more than that.

Jay - Ottawa said...

@COHE
It pains me to hear you, of all people, condemning doctors and nurses. It sounds to me as though you’ve had some nasty experiences with physicians and nurses and, probably, hospital administrators too. I don’t want to argue with your view that health care at the clinical level is generally corrupt. That may, in fact, have been the state of affairs in your experience.

You raise too many issues – unions, plastics, landfills, profiteering, bullying, patient abuse – to respond adequately in this forum. Just as we respect your front-line experience from the sorry front of this economy, allow me to report from my front-line experience after years of experience in the hospital setting.

Because I am not a Trotskyite I will concede at the outset – enough to hold your ear, I hope -- that there are indeed selfish doctors in the field. And some are incompetent. As for the nurses, some may be very well educated generally as well as in their specialties; but too many become comfortable with ignorance, or lose interest in the science of their trade, or they are just plain lazy and neglectful of the patients in their care.

Furthermore, like you, perhaps, I have always had a healthy suspicion for non-clinical administrators in hospitals, as well as the front-line staff who can’t wait to escape the bedside in order to sit behind a desk. Jay’s rule #4,382: The greater the distance from the patient bedside, the lesser the doctor or the nurse as such.

In hospitals, as elsewhere, administrators are often seen, rightfully, by front line staff as the enemy and held in contempt for not having the back of the patients as well as of the staff immediately in attendance upon the patient population. They USE the front-line staff, drive them into the ground with overtime and lack of resources, and it begins to show on the faces and the nerves of the front-line staff. Most, however, don’t break; they damn the suits and give more of themselves to make up for the lack of administrative support.

Having conceded several points above, I must tell you that I came away from the hospital setting and into retirement knowing, at least from my experience, which wasn’t all that narrow, that the misfits and burnt out cases in health care are a minority in the fields you so chastise.

If I were looking for saints, I would not go to religious orders, or business suites, or government offices. I would go first to the bedside of the sick and the traumatized. I found saints as patients in regional burn units and neurosurgery units and general surgery ICUs. That’s were I spent my work life for years. There were also more than a few saints to be found among the caregivers of the afflicted, both nurses and physicians -- learned, skilled, non-judgmental and deeply unselfish at great cost to themselves.

The difference between us may really boil down to degree. You condemn the doctors and nurses as a class, the good ones being exceptions to the rule. From my experience, most clinicians in these two professions are as noble as one can be day after day through an entire life of work. Most know they are a privileged class in service to important needs of others. And MOST live up to their ideals within the limitations of their science and within the limitations of human stamina.

Valerie said...

I have to really stick up for the nurses here! I am sure there are some bad eggs - there are in every profession - but it seems to me that it is a really tough job with tough hours and only recently, half-way decent pay. Nurses work with many of the ugliest sides of life: aging, disease, addiction, mental illness and they do it on the front lines, day in and day out. My dad, a surgeon now deceased, always claimed the only reason a hospital ran decently at all was because of nurses. He, too, had nothing but contempt for hospital administrators and the incredible waste – so I get the problem with plastics. I would say the whole waste issue is more due to the corporate attitude of hospitals than anything else.