Occupy Wall Street: “You Should Have Expected Us”

By not asking for anything in particular, they are inclusive of every person and every idea in general. In modern-day parlance, this movement is “open source.” Anyone can add to it, alter and improve it.

San Francisco has it. So does Boston. It’s heading to Phoenix, Chicago and even making its way across the border to Toronto. “It” is the movement the media only acknowledge when it shuts down a bridge or broadcasts police brutality. “It” is the movement that Glenn Beck claims will lead to “gas chambers, guillotines” and “millions dead.”

The Occupy Wall Street protest is now in its third week. It’s stubborn, plucky, organized and here to stay—weather and cops be damned. For the third week in a row I am dedicating this space to an undertaking so captivating it has garnered grassroots support throughout the country despite obvious and ignominious attempts to stamp it out. Forgive me as I provide some context to my preoccupation by regurgitating a segment of this column written only days before the occupation began:

Those in my generation lost the chance to capture the spirit of revolution by looking the other way for a decade. We bought homes, started families and tried to return to ordinary lives during otherwise extraordinary times. We slept. Younger generations have substituted Haight-Ashbury with Facebook and protests with Twitter. In their frenetically hyper-connected lives they are ironically disconnected digital beings living a purgatorial existence that knows neither revolution nor responsibility. In fairness, how exactly would one protest genetically modified foods, the derivatives market or the carried interest tax loophole?

As it turns out, America’s youth is keenly in touch with its rebellious nature and wholly capable of harnessing it through social media and on the ground. Moreover, it seems, they know exactly how to protest derivatives and tax loopholes. Occupy Wall Street is not an exercise; nor is it a group of out-of-work malcontents and spoiled brats as some pundits and commentators would have you all believe. But given the disgraceful job my colleagues in the “traditional” media have done covering the last three weeks, it’s little wonder there is such a misconception about the protest or the character of the protestors themselves.

Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and other hack, ratings-hungry news operations have done their level-best to seek out the most outrageous or ill-informed members of the movement in an effort to discredit the entire affair. This has served only to embolden the members of the occupation and play directly into the hands of the organizers who are able to maintain their underground “street-cred” while pointing a finger at corporate media with righteous indignation. It’s one of several ingenious ploys (or anti-ploys depending upon which side of the barricade you reside) being exploited by Anonymous, the group at the heart of the protest.

Most of the news reports and the people I speak with about Occupy Wall Street have the same question: “What do they want?” It’s little wonder why the reporting has been so poor because the question itself fails to grasp the meaning of the gathering. Asking “What do they want?” is placing the cart before the horse. It’s not that it’s a bad question; it’s simply impossible to answer. The purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to begin a dialogue among disconnected citizens and encourage a process of self-discovery. Although they have posted a declaration of principles that lists pernicious policies and highlights social and economic inequities, it only serves to provide the framework for the discussion.

But behind this grassroots and organic process is an organizational brilliance in the restraint shown by Anonymous and the surreptitious group in charge of the demonstration on the ground. By not asking for anything in particular, they are inclusive of every person and every idea in general. In modern-day parlance, this movement is “open source.” Anyone can add to it, alter and improve it. It’s why dimwitted reporters have a hard time grasping it and why renowned authors such as Chris Hedges and Jeff Sharlet have been here to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with young people in Ron Paul tee shirts, Vietnam Veterans, union construction workers, lawyers and even some Tea Party activists. They have managed to truly make this the “people’s movement.” Or, as they say: “We are the 99%… and so are you.”

Life In The Park

As for life in Zuccotti Park, the scene is rather surreal. Between the time I first visited the encampment on Day 4 and Day 18 on Tuesday of this week, a mini-city had emerged. Rules of conduct are posted along the walls of the park. There is a media center, a volunteer booth, food line, barrels of drinking water, a compost pile, rows of books and a tobacco-rolling station. They even have their own newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Every evening at 7 p.m. there is a General Assembly meeting where the faithful gather to air their grievances, plan for the days ahead, and coalesce some of the more substantive ideas that have percolated throughout the long days of demonstration, learning and discovery.

In the morning I caught up with Julian, who had casually greeted me on Day 4 with a warm and comfortable smile. Upon hearing of the protest, Julian had purchased a one-way ticket from Oregon to attend the occupation. He couldn’t say how long he would be there, only that he planned to stick it out as long as possible. This time around, Julian had the look of someone who had spent the better part of two and a half weeks battling sleeplessness and, at times, punishing weather. He was grittier and weary, though he claimed to have finally snagged a decent night’s rest.

“I would say this has far exceeded my expectations” he said, a hand-rolled cigarette tucked behind one ear and a scraggly beard adorning his tired face. “The growth of the movement speaks to the level of despair in this country and desire for change,” he said, as he greeted another volunteer who clapped him on the back and hung close for our conversation. When I asked whether he had booked that return ticket yet, his warm smile returned as he said, “I decided to keep the next six months to a year totally clear.” Politely, he then excused himself and settled in behind the volunteer table. Julian was all in.

I spent the next couple of hours weaving my way between citizen journalists, musicians, poets, activists, union workers and teachers. Another familiar face from the first week was Gio Andollo, an artist and musician from Harlem who has spent “some part of the day, every day and usually nights” at the protest since it began. He too is committed to occupying Wall Street for “as long as it takes,” and thinks the protestors have “done a really good job of diffusing potentially violent situations.” Gio, like so many of those involved in the Occupy Wall Street protest, is disappointed with the media coverage but shrugs it off. “What we’re trying to accomplish here doesn’t lend itself to media-friendly sound bites,” he says. But unlike others who cry foul at the blatantly misdirected coverage of the protest, Gio is somewhat sanguine. “It’s just a matter of time before even politicians start paying attention.”

Ironically, across the plaza a group began to gather around two men who clearly stood out from the crowd. Lo and behold, politicians had finally found their way to Zuccotti Park to engage the activists in person. City Council Members Daniel Halloran (R-Queens) and Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) took center stage for a while to participate in the ongoing dialogue with Wall Street occupiers. Halloran, a self-proclaimed Libertarian Republican, told those around him that he supported their “constitutional right” to gather in protest, but the only way out of America’s economic mess was to “elect better people” to office and “get out and fucking vote.” He touched on hot button issues like diminishing the influence of the Federal Reserve and putting “teeth back into anti-trust regulations,” while Rodriguez, no stranger to controversy and an early supporter of Occupy Wall Street, said, “Wall Street should contribute more,” instead of the city having to “cut agencies and education.”

Despite advocating for things over which neither councilman has control, they caused a stir by at least engaging in the conversation. But their presence only highlights the lack of support and involvement from the elected federal representatives who have stayed as far from the protest as humanly possible. But then again, as Gio pointed out, it’s just a matter of time.

The “Occupy” demonstrations sprouting up around the nation illustrate the strange and uneasy predicament we face. On one side, we see a group of disenfranchised Americans taking to the streets to raise awareness of an increasingly inequitable economic system by exercising their First Amendment right to gather peaceably and protest their grievances. On the other side of the spectrum are charlatans like Glenn Beck, who is warning his ever-dwindling flock of minions to stock up on food and guns because young people have decided to mobilize against the government—pretty fucking hilarious coming from a false-wannabe-prophet who organized his own march in D.C. against the very same government.

Here’s the funny thing. The smallest step back from the fray only serves to highlight our similarities rather than our differences. Like diminutive points on an impressionist painting, there is room in America for every color, from the muted tones of conservatism to the most colorful hue of progressivism. Independent of one another they inevitably clash, but when blended together on the artist’s canvas the true portrait of America is revealed—but only from a distance. In Zuccotti Park, Anonymous may have just emerged as one of the great impressionist masters of our time, portraying America at its finest and capturing the single greatest expression of democracy to occur in my lifetime.

Divide and Conquer: Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act

Dorian Dale, inaugural contributor to JedMorey.com, takes on everyone from the Koch Brothers to Michelle Bachmann and offers “smash mouth” war advice – from Machiavelli to Clausewitz – to the clean energy freedom fighters.

Fukushima, mon amour, is in meltdown. In the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’, meanwhile, Americans are waging Bulb Wars.  How do you say ‘America Syndrome’ in Japanese?* The Japanese are fighting for their lives just as Americans are fake-fighting over “Freedom of Choice.”  Notorious B.I.G (Big Invasive Government) has set about to replace those good ol’ testicular, heat-reeking bulbs with the pigtailed, puny-power variety. 

Freedom of Choice is just another catch phrase for “You’re Being Had”.  Stall&bump…pocket picked.  Divert, subvert, ka-ching.  Bulb Wars is but the latest canard designed to distract, undermine and diminish you, fellow Americans. 

Among numerous provisions in the Energy independence and Security Act of 2007 was one setting standards for more efficient lighting.  Signed into law by President George W. Bush, the act also called for a gas mileage boost to 35mpg by 2020.  While Detroit couldn’t muster the muscle to blunt that upgrade, fossil fuelers in the Senate stripped out provisions that would have provided for renewable portfolio standards via elimination of $20+ billion in oil and gas subsidies.

Now the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act,” has been reintroduced by Rep. Michele “Minute Mom” Bachmann (R-MN) to strip incandescent provisos from the 2007 law.  What can we expect from the foxy, pitchbabe in response to Glenn Beck’s Bachmann fantasy “just you and me in the incandescent glow”? ‘Glenn, they’re gonna have to peel the incandescent bulb from my cold, dying fingers!’  

Never mind that section 321 of Public Law 110-140 does not, in fact, ban incandescent.  Ignore that the electronics industry has responded with a 30% more efficient incandescent in the meantime.  Facts get obfuscated by the fog-machines of these campaigns.  Refer all queries to the Rovian Rule: ‘Empires create their own reality.’

If playing lord and master doesn’t spin your world, what are you going to do?  Socratic reasoning falls largely on plugged ears in unreasonable times.  Maybe it’s time to equip yourself with more than moral outrage.  Consensus doesn’t cut it in a knife fight.  Wake up and smell the gunpowder.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Long enough, that is, to get their playbook then beat them at their own game.  It’s a war game in which there is an enemy, an Achilles heel that succumbs to assault providing plunder for further assault.

Make no mistake about it.  War is being waged over the future of this country.  If you’re outgunned and outspent, you best outsmart.

As politics is warfare by other means, kick off with von Clausewitz.  Considering insurgency?  Recon with Kilcullen.  For mastering manipulation, Machiavelli’s your man.  To control the great unwashed, it’s    divide and conquer as practiced by the British Raj.  If you’re uneasy at the very thought of contemplating war, maybe the Zen of Sun-Tzu is for you.  

Then there is the Smash-Mouth Playbook which, in, a nutshell, is ‘three yards and a cloud of dust.’

Smash-Mouth is how the increasingly infamous and combative Koch Bros run it.  Charles and David Koch** are the twin-headed Monty Burns of the Dirty Economy.   Most recently, the Kochs bankrolled capture of the Wisconsin statehouse with and eye to killing collective bargaining and WalMarting more of middle-class America.  Plays were run to smash-mouth perfection.  

  • First, they targeted a vulnerable foil in publicly-employed teachers. 
  • Second, everyone was reminded of teacher privileges that draw double the benefits for half the work of hard-pressed taxpayers.  
  • Third, blame for all this largesse was hung on the socialistic credo of collective bargaining.  
  • In the dust-up, another union piggy bank got broken, exposing future targets to greater vulnerability. 

Hit, drive and desire. 

To review, here’s how Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust is run:

1)      Target vulnerability/ID threat. 

2)      Insert wedge/raise fear. 

3)      Hammer away/building momentum. 

Under dust-up, spread the field and grab collateral for more assault.

Even when smash-mouth does not chalk up a win, it does send an intimidating message.  Last fall, Koch strategy and money (drawn from their $45B fortune) were behind Proposition 23, designed to gut California’s iconic clean energy law.  This assault was the equivalent of the Sierra Club seeking closure of refineries in Texas.  And the Kochs don’t buy Peak Oil theory.  On the contrary, as Wikileaked Saudi cables revealed, oil&gas oligarchs are far more concerned about competitive threat to revenue streams posed by clean energy. 

Can the Kumbaya/consensus crowd countenance concepts of combat that are culturally counter-intuitive to them?  Hacktavists of Anonymous and Stuxnetting saboteurs pose stealthy, tactical promise, but who you gonna call?  Clearly, not all bad actors will succumb to Twitter revolutions.   God helps those who help themselves, fellow Americans.  For your first exercise in strategic smash-mouthing, Google “FHFA>Babylon”.  Break down FHFA, aka Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, into their constituent vulnerabilities, threat posed, means of assault and takeaway.  It you have what it takes to save our future, we’ll be in touch.

*Amerika shōkōgun

**In the spirit of full-disclosure, the reader should know that David Koch got Dale’s vote as the 1980 Libertarian candidate for vice president.

Guest Contributor Dorian Dale

Koch Industries Back Tea Party: The Palin and Beck Show

Every hazardous product manufactured by Koch Industries and every conservative and libertarian think tank established by the family members—Mercatus is eclipsed in absurdity by their other venture, the Cato Institute—pales in comparison to their most important creation to date: the Tea Party. This movement is the culmination of 40-plus years of radical free-market fanaticism beginning with the John Birch Society, of which father Fred was a founding member.

Glenn Beck holds up his silver medal from the Jerk Olympics (He placed second to Charles Koch)

Last week The New Yorker published a missive by Jane Mayer on one of the most dangerous families in America: billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, heirs to the Koch family fortune forged by their father, Fred, himself one of the most influential conservative figures of the 20th century. Their fortune came, predictably, from oil, though their business holdings have been widely diversified since its inception.

What made this article so important was the painstaking manner in which Mayer unraveled the Koch Industries juggernaut to reveal a multi-decade effort by the Koch family to present itself as cultural and political icons whose generosity is beyond reproach. Their donations to museums and think tanks give the impression they are part of the cultural elite, a seminal segment of the charitable establishment that funds areas of our society that government has left behind. This carefully managed image as benevolent billionaires belies the insidious nature of their true life’s work as polluters, climate-change deniers and political dissidents who will stop at nothing to dismantle the system of regulation and taxation in America. In the past decade alone Koch Industries, a $35 billion privately held petrochemical company, has been forced to commit more than a half a billion dollars to environmental remediation, lawsuits, fines and settlements for their scandalous business practices.

The article sparked my memory of having run across the Koch name on two previous occasions. The first was when reporting on economic issues related to Indian tribes. In 1999 Koch Industries was found guilty of poaching oil from Indian reservations. The second was in researching Wendy and Phil Gramm’s involvement in the oil speculation scandal during the summer of 2008—the former serving as a Distinguished Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center, the Koch-funded think tanks at George Mason University synonymous with government deregulation. Wendy Gramm’s staunch advocacy for deregulation and Phil Gramm’s rampant legislative penchant for it eventually led to delightful little treasures like the collapse of Enron, oil speculation, black-market exchanges and the 2008 banking catastrophe. (Postcard from the recession: Dear Wendy and Phil. Thanks for this! Wish you were here. Signed, America.)

Every hazardous product manufactured by Koch Industries and every conservative and libertarian think tank established by the family members—Mercatus is eclipsed in absurdity by their other venture, the Cato Institute—pales in comparison to their most important creation to date: the Tea Party. This movement is the culmination of 40-plus years of radical free-market fanaticism beginning with the John Birch Society, of which father Fred was a founding member.

There is, of course, no central nervous system within the Tea Party. Nor is there a comprehensive platform or call to action other than to call for a return to traditional faith-based Christian values and less government intervention in our lives. For many Americans these are extremely palatable and positive concepts. But the true architects of the movement, such as the Koch brothers, who stoke the flame of discontent in America, are shielded from the public eye; it is as though the machines have come alive through artificial intelligence and are hell-bent on destroying humanity. This week, the anointed spokespeople and demagogues fronting the movement, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, hosted a bizarre yet extremely well-attended rally on the anniversary of Dr. King’s famous civil rights march on Washington where he delivered perhaps his most famous “I Have a Dream” address.

Beck’s hokey, milquetoast evangelism and Palin’s gosh-golly, you-betcha wink-fest played perfectly to the assembled masses who celebrated, or rather, declared that….um…called for us to follow God—well, Christ really—and that we’re going in the wrong direction because the right direction is… uh…backwards! Yes, we need to go backwards! (I watched the speeches and quite honestly I have no idea what the point of the rally was except to further the strength of the Koch zeitgeist through Rupert Murdoch’s bully pulpit and impute the Obama administration for all that is wrong with America.)

This much I do know: The Koch brothers are powerful and evil. Mayer’s deconstruction of the Koch plan for America—or, if you prefer, plan to increase their personal wealth at the expense of the planet and all those who inhabit it—has also exposed the likes of Palin and Beck as the patsies they really are. They aren’t quite stupid, per se, but intellectually inadequate to understand how they are being lulled into the menacing plutocracy that the Koch brothers have woven.

And then, there’s the rest of us. Most Americans don’t have the time or inclination to peel the onion of American politics to reach the rotten core. We are busy raising families, helping neighbors, putting food on the table. In between, however, we are pummeled by talking heads who decry the evils of the left and of the right and tell us how government is either at the root of your woes or the answer to your prayers. Right now, the Koch brothers are riding high by deriding the government and playing the recession for all it is worth. But Jane Mayer peeled back this particular onion to reveal its true inner core and, as expected, not only does it stink, it might even make you cry.

Politicians and Pundits

The revolving door of transparent allegiances in American media and politics is growing stranger and more ridiculous by the minute.

George Stephanopoulos is hosting Good Morning America and Sarah Palin is on Fox. The mayor of New York City owns several media outlets that bear his name and Tom Suozzi is consulting Cablevision regarding, um, high school sports.

46,990,000 more views than the guy that can get rid of poverty

The revolving door of transparent allegiances in American media and politics is growing stranger and more ridiculous by the minute. That’s not to say the line between elected officials and the fourth estate hasn’t always been blurred. In fact, it has. Almost every generation since the nation was founded has seen political strangleholds over journalism, and many were poorly kept secrets. The role of politician and newsman was, in the beginning, inexorably linked. Bloomberg joins names such as Hamilton, Franklin and Hearst in recognizing the value of owning a bully pulpit such as a newspaper.

But the glut of information in the new-media age and the difficulty breaking through it to proffer your message to the mass public has changed the way we communicate. It’s about how fast you can get your message across when the host cuts to six heads on a split screen and whether yours is the sound bite that sticks. The seasoned politician-cum-pundit thus has a greater ability to navigate this terrain. 

These days, one’s ability to be glib outweighs the capacity to navigate complex situations and explain them to the public.

 The inherent problem is that louder wins, ridiculous rules and shocking carries the day in an age where “Chocolate Rain” by Tay Zonday has been viewed nearly 47 million times on YouTube and Good Magazine’s “End of Poverty” interview with Jeffrey Sachs has been viewed less than 10,000. (Full disclosure: I have watched “Chocolate Rain” 17 times and the Sachs interview only once.)

Tuning out these sources takes a muscle that needs to be exercised, because bad information abounds and is easy to absorb. E-mail chains, perhaps the most insidious form of propaganda, should be avoided at all costs. But if you’re on one of those mass e-mail lists frantically forwarded by “that” friend of yours with subject lines like “Important—This one is for real—Revelations proves Obama is the Anti-Christ!!!!!” and you insist on opening them, do yourself a favor and check out www.factcheck.org.

 By the time this column is published, the president will have given his State of the Union Address and the blogosphere will be jammed with nonsensical comments and responses to every single line of the speech. Some outlets will characterize him as grave and sincere, back on his game and (my favorite) “presidential.” Others will skewer him for double talk, insincerity and call him (another gem) “unfit” to hold office. The intelligent viewer will watch the address on C-SPAN and make up his or her own mind.

 As for the modern political talk show host, let Glenn Beck howl and Keith Olbermann scream. Let Rush Limbaugh make his racist statements and Jon Stewart outsmart them all. And when all is said and said and said, let silence prevail. Silence allows thoughts to come through, and thoughts can be a powerful thing when logically applied to problems, issues and obstacles. And if you insist on listening to the politician turned pundit, make sure you’re listening in stereo, because a mono feed won’t pick up the words coming from both sides of their mouths.