Saturday, February 25, 2012
Everybody who follows the elections already knows about Super PACs and how they came about in the aftermath of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court. They know that these special PACs are now allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from super-rich donors and corporations.
However, very little attention has been paid to just how those millions of dollars are actually being spent. Are the funds used wisely, and only for the campaigns for which they were intended? Do they go to pay extremely high salaries and consulting fees? Do they pay for unnecessary boondoggles and whims of the person running the Super PAC? Who can know for sure, because there are no controls, no oversight, and no restrictions on how those funds are used. The field is wide open for behind-the-scenes graft and corruption within these super PACs.
Dale Emmons, who is the president of the American Association of Political Consultants has pointed out, “People who are raising the money are paying themselves with these funds.” And he adds, “I don’t think that’s appropriate,"
In one Super PAC, Becky Burkett, the president of Winning Our Future (a group backing Newt Gingrich), was paid more than $200,000 in January for “executive management and fund raising services.” Gregg Phillips, the Super PAC's managing director, was also paid $90,000. When asked about these payments, the group's senior adviser Rick Tyler said the payments included compensation for work performed in November and December (even though the Super PAC wasn't even launched until mid-December). He also said that their salaries were determined by the super PAC's "senior leadership." And the senior leadership consists of: Rick Tyler, Becky Burkett, and Gregg Phillips. Go figure.
Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with the watchdog group called The Campaign Legal Center, says that there are no restrictions on how super PACs spend ;their money. “They can buy themselves yachts and sail off into the sunset without spending a penny on campaign ads,” He goes on to say, “There is no guarantee that the money is going to be used in a way that the donor intends that money to be used.”
I performed some analysis of the expenditures of the Red, White, and Blue Super PAC that supports Rick Santorum. I am beginning to think that “Super PAC” might stand for “Super Politicians And Crooks.” In examining the figures provided by The Center for Responsive Politics, of the $2.7 million that the Red, White and Blue Fund spent from 2/16/12 to 2/24/12, a total of 41.9% went to a company by the name of Global Intermediate for “direct voter mailings,” while 58.1% went to television production and advertising.
What's so interesting about this? Well, the Super PAC is owned by the a former Santorum aide, Nick Ryan, and guess what! He also owns Global Intermediate, LLC. This company didn't incorporate until mid-December, and then did so as a Delaware Corporation which shields the identity of the corporate owners or principals.. A look at the Global Intermediate web site, which was registered less than two weeks ago, shows the site to be very basic and lackluster. It provides almost no information about the company or absolute nothing about any of its management or employees. It doesn't even include a contact list or e-mail address. The phone number provided (202-505-4564), when checked with a reverse directory, appears to be a cell phone. The address given (2100 M St NW, Washington, DC 20037) is that of a UPS storefront that offers mailbox rentals, and some types of business services.
In examining the figures provided by The Center for Responsive Politics, of the $2.7 million that the Red White and Blue Fund spent from 2/16/12 to 2/24/12, a total of 41.9% went to Ryan's company, Global Intermediate for “direct voter mailings,” while 58.1% went to television production and advertising.
When asked, Stuart Roy, spokesperson for the Super PAC, said he had "no idea" how to contact Global Intermediate. However, the following day, he acknowledged in an e-mail that it is a company run by Ryan.
So, there you have it: Super PACs with super pay, super flexibility in how they spend their funds, and no accountability whatsoever for how they are spent. Who could ask for anything more? Some think that this kind of situation will be self-correcting, but I have serious doubts.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
On February 15, 2009, David DeGraw. editor of AmpedStatus, posted the first part of a seven-part series titled "The Economic Elite vs. The People of the United States of America." Soon after the reports were released, AmpedStatus launched the 99% Movement.
Even Good Movements Don't Always Get Support
While the concept of the 99% may have come from David DeGraw, attempts to grow it into a widespread movement were not very successful. He merged his 99% Movement with a subset of Anonymous to form a new group called A99 which, in turn, planned a course of action titled “Operation Empire State Rebellion” They called for people to occupy Liberty Park, but only 14 people showed up, and only four of them were willing to camp out over night.
Enter Adbusters, Along with Anarchism
No further occupations were attempted until Adbusters came into the picture calling for an occupation on September 17th. Adbusters was able to rally their network of 94,739 subscribers, providing a level of exposure that neither AmpedStatus nor A99 could come close to matching. And thus it was that Kalle Lasn and Micah White burst onto the scene.
Lasn, identified by Mitch Traynor in a The Digital Texan as a self-described anarchist, was one of the founders of a Canadian magazine called AdBusters as well as the owner of the Internet domain name for the Occupy Wall Street movement (www.occupywallstreet.com).
Micah White was another of the forces behind the founding of the Occupy Wall Street movement. A graphic on his home page indicates an identification with the Black Bloc provocateurs who have themselves “occupied” many of the Occupy movement demonstrations, creating chaos and destruction. As a "mystical anarchist" and the senior editor of Adbusters, he and Lasn established the name and date of the occupation of Wall Street.
More Plans; More Anarchists
On August 2, 2011, a group of roughly fifty Adbusters supporters, mostly anarchists, met in New York to plan the September 17 occupation of Wall Street. They agreed to a “horizontal” rather than “hierarchical” organization and general assemblies in which participants make decisions by consensus, which they refer to as direct democracy. Both of these are based upon anarchist principles
They were joined by former Yale professor of Anthropology David Graeber, another anarchist, who who helped facilitate the first meeting, The protesters planning the September occupation met again, on August 9th, to finalize plans for the September 17 occupation along with several other unidentified anarchists who were referenced in an account of that meeting. Graeber was among the facilitators, and one of the more prominent participants was Marisa Holmes, a twenty-five-year-old anarchist and filmmaker.
Some Success at Last, but at a Price!
We all know what happened next. OWS was a major success in getting the message out and has spawned hundreds of similar movements across the country and the world. As Marshall McLuhan once said, "The message is the medium and the medium is the message." So far, that seems to be true of all the Occupy movements. They are long on medium (demonstrations) and on their message (inequality and corruption), but they are short on results.
How does the Occupy movement embody anarchist principles?
There are four major tenets described below that clearly identify anarchism.
1) The refusal to recognize the legitimacy of existing authoritarian institutions.
The Occupy movement prefers not to produce a list of demands that must be met to meet their needs. There are two reasons for that. One is that, if they were to be true to their anarchist roots, they couldn't provide a complete list without revealing their long-term goals to do away with government as we know it and the political institutions that control it. The other reason is because issuing demands would mean recognizing the legitimacy of those of whom the demands are made.Anarchists generally do not recognize existing governmental authorities.
(It is worth noting that anarchists distinguish between protests and direct action: Protest is looked upon as an appeal to the authorities to change things. Anarchists do not protest, because they refuse to recognize the validity of authority. They believe instead in direct action, whether it's a matter of occupying or appropriating property (or “liberating” it as they call it), shutting down businesses, disrupting public meetings or government functions, all in defiance of law and order, and in direct opposition to the conventions of our society.)
2) The refusal to accept the legitimacy of the existing legal order.
The second principle, obviously, flows from the first. From the very beginning, organizers in New York knowingly and deliberately ignored local ordinances that stipulated that any gathering of more than twelve people in a public park is illegal without prior written police permission. These organizers apparently operated on a self-assumed belief that such laws should not exist and, therefore, could be ignored. It was important to them that they begin with what they considered to be a personal moral order, and not a legal one.
3) The refusal to create an internal hierarchy, but preferring instead to create a form
of consensus-based direct democracy.
of consensus-based direct democracy.
From the very beginning, organizers made the decision to operate not only by direct democracy, without leaders, but by consensus, in keeping with anarchist principles. The first decision ensured that there would be no formal leadership structure that could be co-opted or coerced; the second, that no majority could bend a minority to its will, but that all crucial decisions had to be made by general consent. American anarchists have long considered the consensus process to be crucial.
4) The imposition of a totally new and different society.
Virtually all encampments became spaces of experiment with creating the institutions of a new society - not only democratic General Assemblies but kitchens, libraries, clinics, media centers and a host of other institutions, all operating on anarchist principles of mutual aid and self-organization, without any institutions to enforce rules, regulations, and laws.
Anarchy is more than just a grass roots movement.
Most Americans share a deep dislike for their government and its political system. However, few are likely to want to resort to actual anarchism. Indeed, few even know what "anarchism" truly means. It's not clear how many, if they did learn, would choose anarchy over a democratic republic. Anarchism is much more than simple grassroots democracy: It ultimately aims to eliminate all forms of government and authority (including public services such as streets and highways, sewers, police and fire protection, and our system of justice), except for what is approved in general assemblies.
Why did this movement catch on?
The people of America bought the movement's basic message – that the American political order is absolutely and irredeemably corrupt, that both parties have been bought by the wealthiest one percent of the population, and that if we are to live in any sort of genuinely democratic society, we're going to have to make some radical changes to our political and governmental order .
Unity can be found in misery and outrage.
But overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, and that radical change of some kind is long since overdue. They're right. It's hard to imagine a political system so systemically corrupt – one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician. The outrage is appropriate.
Civil disobedience and disruption precipitate violence.
As the history of past movements all make clear, nothing terrifies those running our country more than the dangers of anarchy. The immediate response to organized civil disobedience is a panicked combination of concessions and brutality. How else can one explain the mobilization of thousands of riot police, the tear gas, the beanbags and rubber bullets, and the mass arrests of the disruptors?
Things Are Not Always What They Appear to Be
When the Occupy Movement first started, its organizers publicly stressed that their protests would be peaceful, and that they were open to people of all political persuasions and at all social and economic levels. They also said that their actions would target Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% of our country and the disparity between them and the bottom 99%. However, they didn't publicly state that their origins were rooted in anarchy.
Many members who were initially drawn to the movement's message of inequity and inequality in our social order became disaffected as they saw the movement drift increasing toward anarchy and lawlessness, especially when Black Bloc insurrectionists wreaked havoc on small businesses and provoked the police and other authorities into taking extreme action against them. This was not the type of movement they expected.
Meanwhile, Back at the Movement ...
Many others have succumbed to the spell of the movement and have fallen prey to the Groupthink phenomenon that binds the remaining members together. They seem to think that they – and only they – are right, and anybody who disagrees with them is wrong. They determine for themselves what is right or wrong without regard for the wishes and needs of the 99% they purport to represent. Few protesters know the real roots of this movement, one into which they have poured so much of their time and effort.
Yes, the Occupy movement still has its followers. And, yes, the concepts of anarchy feed it at its every turn. For better or for worse, anarchy is the very heart of the movement, but it is also a well-kept secret from the average citizen who supports the movement.
The Final Word
“Perhaps before setting out to tear down government, we should establish rules. The potency of the anarchist argument is the freedom to dismantle a government that fails to protect citizens’ rights. The challenge facing anarchists is to know what to do with the broken pieces of the system they smashed.” – Mimi Marstaller, Anarchy still needs rules
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Welcome to the Restoring Democracy Blog
As you can see from the summary at the top of this page and from my profile to the right, I am very concerned about our country and its future. We were founded as a democratic republic. Unfortunately, year by year, I see that democracy slipping away from us and, with it, our government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We cannot rely on our government to cure itself, because, in fact, our government is a major part of the problem. It is up to the people to take action to rescue and restore the democracy that is rightly ours under the Constitution.
The entries contained herein address various facets of the problems which beset and threaten our country. There are also some recommended steps that we as private citizens can take to effect this change and return the government to the people. I hope that these posts will provide some information, provoke some thought, produce some ideas, and promote some action toward reclaiming and restoring our democracy.
Listed below are titles of the posts contained in this blog. Please review them and click on any that might be of interest to you. Also, please feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, or viewpoints of your own.
Here for your convenience is a list by topic of the posts in this blog with links to each:
Here for your convenience is a list by topic of the posts in this blog with links to each:
|Democracy||Awaken the Sleeping Eagle!|
|Democracy, and What It Means to Us|
|Democracy: From Definition to the Constitution|
|Are We a Democratic Republic or a Plutocracy?
|The Great Economic Divide
Why There Is No True Democracy in America
|Economy||How the Pursuit of Profits Kills Innovation and the Economy|
|An Open Letter to the One Percenters|
|Duopoly and Wealth: The Ties that Bind|
|Government||Political Duopoly: Working Partner of the Plutocracy|
|Plutocracy to Plutonomy: From Bad to Worse!|
|Campaign Funding's Impact On Democracy|
|Congress||Money Talks, And Politicians Listen!|
|U.S. Congress: Bought And Paid For|
|Lobbying And Its Impact On Democracy|
|Lobbyists Teach One Day and Get Huge Pension|
|Why Is Our Congress So Dysfunctional?|
|How Congress Has Occupied Wall Street.|
|Politics||Big Problems with Our Two-Party System|
|Elections :Heart of Democracy or Height of Hypocrisy?|
|Gerrymandering for Fun and Profit! (in development)|
|In Presidential Debates, Duopoly Reigns Supreme|
|Presidential Debates: Fraud or Farce?|
|Problems For Third-Party Candidates
Super PACs -- New Arena for Corruption?
|Congress Ignores the Will of the People|
|We Must Drive Big Money Out of Politics!|
|Solutions?||The "Saving American Democracy" Amendment|
|How Not to Get Money Out of Politics|
|The Quickest Way to Solve Our Problems?|
|Restoring Democracy - One Vote at a Time|
|Restoring the American Dream - Part I|
|Restoring the American Dream - Part II|
|Restoring the American Dream – Part III|
|New Direction for the Occupy Movement|
|Time for an OWS Reality Check|
|Time for Occupy Movement to Move On|
|NY Tax Plan: Occupy Wall Street Victory?|
|Is the Occupy Movement Running Amok?|
|"Occupy Oakland" No Longer Exists!|
|An Oakland Demonstrator's Open Letter
Occupy Movement: Rooted in Anarchy?
Thank you for visiting the site. I hope you will return again, as new subjects are posted with a fair degree of regularity.
The Occupy Oakland movement, as we used to know it, no longer exists. Oh, the name still exists, but it no longer has the same intent, purpose, ideals, or spirit that it once had. The movement has been compromised, co-opted, and taken hostage by outside interests who prefer insurrection over results, and destructive violence over peaceful engagement. They now refer to themselves increasingly as the Oakland Commune, rather than Occupy Oakland.
The activities of the last weekend in January reinforce what I have believed for several months now – that the Occupy Oakland movement has itself been occupied – by a dark and menacing force of insurrectionists known as Black Bloc Anarchists.
It started with some of the earlier demonstrations last Fall, when small groups of protesters, dressed in black (commonly wearing ski masks or “hoodies” with scarves over their faces to hide their identities) smashed and vandalized both private and public property, broke windows, spray painted walls, windows, and cars; overturned trash and recycling bins; and set fires, including burning the American flag.
If past experience is an indicator, we will probably find that most of these anarchists are not Occupy Oakland members or supporters and not from Oakland at all, but came to town to create an insurrection from what had been planned to be a peaceful demonstration. These people had their own cause and agenda, and saw the Occupy Oakland demonstration as an opportunity to stir things up a bit.
Time Magazine addressed this in its report: “Occupy Oakland Embraces Nonviolence, but Debates 'Black Bloc' Tactics.”
Current TV headlined this last demonstration as:”OWS Anarchist Violence in Oakland; The 0.99% Strike Again!
A couple of months ago, a document was being passed out to explain the involvement of anarchists in the Occupy Oakland movement. This included a sketch of Frank Ogawa Plaza (which the movement refers to as Oscar Grant Plaza) that depicted the various activities that took place there. You will notice that everything was centered around “Anarchist Principles In Action.” If the diagram does not display on your computer, you can view it at this link.
The links below are to a few blog items that also deal with "Occupy Oakland" and its recent activities, in which more than 400 protesters were arrested.
My best advice to those who want to resolve their differences with our government in an effective manner is to disengage from the present violence-leaning, radical elements, re-engage with peaceful supporters who are more representative of the 99%, propose solutions, and act toward getting those solutions enacted.
Develop a structure and an agenda with specific actions to be taken, not just a list of charges and complaints. Establish a formal dialog between the group and the different levels of government. Select intelligent and articulate individuals to represent the interests of the movement to legislators, and get these people on radio and television talk shows to present the movement's agenda, goals, objectives, and proposed solutions.
Let the country know that there are real people behind this movement and that they are not just a mob of unemployable miscreants looking for a handout from the rich. Let them know that they have thought through the issues very carefully and that they want to be part of the solution and not just an addition to the problems we already have.
And, most of all, register to vote, if you aren't already registered, and take out your anger in the upcoming elections. Vote against the very people who caused this mess and who are not doing anything of substance to correct it. We need to repopulate our federal and state governments with representation that foster the same ideals as the original Occupy movement and who will do something to rectify the situation.
Then we might see some meaningful and constructive dialogue and get some positive and lasting results.
This comes from one of the insurrectionists who participated in last Saturday's failed attempt to expropriate the Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland (which they had planned to take over and use as the group's headquarters) The letter can be found at the Anarchist News site. It is interesting, if not disturbing, to see what goes on in the mind of one of the demonstrators as he recounts the events of that day with joy and elation. I am able to publish the entire account, because the site specifically says that the material is “anti-copyrighted.” Here is what this person had to say:
“Let us start by apologizing; that our words may be incoherent, our thoughts scattered and our tone overly emotional. Forgive us, because the ringing in our ear continues to interrupt our thinking, because our eyes are bleary and we're weighed upon by the anxiety and trauma of our injuries and the imprisonment of the ones we love. As most of you are well-aware: after a full day and night of street battles in Oakland, we were defeated in our efforts to occupy a large building for the purposes of establishing an social center. We're writing, in part, to correct the inaccuracies and mystifications spewed by the scum Media. But more so as to convey the intensity and the urgency of the situation in Oakland to comrades abroad. To an extent, this is an impossible task. Video footage and mere words must inevitably fail at conveying the ineffable collective experiences of the past twenty-four hours. But as always, here goes.
Yesterday was one of the most intense days of our lives. We say this without hyperbole or bravado. The terror in the streets of Miami or St. Paul, the power in the streets of Pittsburgh or Oakland's autumn; yesterday's affect met or superseded each of these. The events of yesterday confronted us as a series of intensely beautiful and yet terrible moments.
Beautiful words are delivered at Oscar Grant Plaza, urging us to cultivate our hatred for capitalism. Hundreds leave the plaza and quickly become thousands. The police attempt to seize the sound truck, but it is rescued by the swarming crowd. We turn towards our destination and are blocked. We turn another way and are blocked once more. We flood through the Laney campus and emerge to find that we've been headed off again. We make the next logical move and somehow the police don't anticipate it. We're closer to the building, now surrounded by fences and armed swine. We tear at the fences, downing them in some spots. The police begin their first barrage of gas and smoke. The initial fright passes. Calmly, we approach from another angle.
The pigs set their line on Oak. To our left, the museum; to our right, an apartment complex. Shields and reinforced barricades to the front; we push forwards. They launch flash bangs and bean bags and gas. We respond with rocks and flares and bottles. The shields move forward. Another volley from the swine. The shields deflect most of the projectiles. We crouch, wait, then push forward all together. They come at us again and again. We hurl their sh*t, our sh*t, and whatever we can find back at them. Some of us are hit by rubber bullets, others are burned by flashbang grenades. We see cops fall under the weight of perfectly-arced stones For what feels like an eternity, we exchange throws and shield one another. Nothing has felt like this before. Lovely souls in the apartment building hand pitchers of waters from their windows to cleanse our eyes. We'll take a moment here to express our gratitude for the unprecedented bravery and finesse with which the shield-carrying strangers carried out their task. We retreat to the plaza, carrying and being carried by one another.
We re-group, scheme, and a thousand deep, set out an hour later. Failing to get into our second option, we march onwards towards a third. The police spring their trap: attempting to kettle us in the park alongside the 19th and Broadway lot that we'd previously occupied. Terror sets in; they've reinforced each of their lines. They start gassing again. More projectiles, our push is repelled. The intelligence of the crowd advances quickly. Tendrils of the crowd go after the fences. In an inversion of the moment where we first occupied this lot, the fences are downed to provide an escape route. We won't try to explain the joy of a thousand wild-ones running full speed across the lot, downing the second line of fencing and spilling out into the freedom of the street. More of the cat and mouse. In front of the YMCA, they spring another kettle. This time they're deeper and we have no flimsy fencing to push through. Their lines are deep. A few dozen act quickly to climb a nearby gate, jumping dangerously to the hard pavement below. Past the gate, the cluster of escapees find a row of several unguarded OPD vans: you can imagine what happened next. A complicit YMCA employee throws opens the door. Countless escape into the building and out the exits. The police become aware of both escape routes and begin attacking and trampling those who try but fail to get out. Those remaining in the kettle are further brutalized and resign to their arrest.
A few hundred keep going. Vengeance time. People break into city hall. Everything that can be trashed is trashed. Files thrown everywhere, computers get it too, windows smashed out. The american flags are brought outside and ceremoniously set to fire. A march to the jail, lots of graffiti, a news van gets wrecked, jail gates damaged. The pigs respond with fury. Wantonly beating, pushing, shooting whomever crosses their path. Many who escaped earlier kettles are had by snatch squads. Downtown reveals itself to be a f***ing war zone. Those who are still flee to empty houses and loving arms."
"A war-machine must intrinsically be also a machine of care. As we write, hundreds of our comrades remain behind bars. Countless others are wounded and traumatized. We've spent the last night literally stitching one another together and assuring each other that things will be okay. We still can't find a lot of people in the system, rumors abound, some have been released, others held on serious charges and have bail set. This care-machine is as much of what we name the Oakland Commune as the encampment or the street fighting. We still can't count the comrades we can't find on all our hands combined.
We move through the sunny morning and the illusion of social peace has descended back upon Oakland. And yet everywhere is the evidence of what transpired. City workers struggle to fix their pathetic fences. Boards are affixed to the windows of city hall and to nearby banks (some to hide damage, others simply to hide behind). Power washer try to clear away the charred remains of the stupid flag. One literally cannot look anywhere along broadway without seeing graffiti defaming the police or hyping our teams (anarchy, nortes, the commune, even juggalos). A discerning eye can still find the remnants of teargas canisters and flashbang residue. At the coffee shops and delis, friends and acquaintances find one another and share updates about who has been hurt and who has been had. Our wounds already begin to heal into what will eventually be scars or ridiculous disfigurements. We hope our lovers will forgive such ugliness, or can come to look at them as little instances of unique beauty. As our adrenaline fades and we each find moments of solitude, we are each hit by the gravity of the situation.
Having failed to take a building, our search continues. We continue to find the perfect combination of trust, planning, intensity and action that can make our struggle into a permanent presence. The commune has and will continue to slip out of time, interrupting the deadliness and horror of the day to day function of society. Threads of the commune continue uninterrupted as the relationships and affinity build over the past months. An insurrectionary process is the one that emboldens these relationships and multiplies the frequency with which the commune emerges to interrupt the empty forward-thrust of capitalist history. To push this process forward, our task is to continue the ceaseless experimentation and imagination which could illuminate different strategies and pathways beyond the current limits of the struggle. Sometimes to forget, sometimes to remember."
"We'll conclude with a plea to our friends throughout the country and across borders. You must absolutely not view the events here as a sequence that is separate from your own life. Between the beautiful and spectacular moments in the Bay, you'll discover the same alienation and exploitation that characterizes your own situation. Please do not consume the images from the Bay as you would the images of overseas rioting or as a netflix subscription. Our hell is yours, and so too is our struggle.
And so please... if you love us as we believe you do, prove it. We wish so desperately that you were with us in body, but we know most of you cannot be. Spread the commune to your own locales. Ten cities have already announced their intentions to hold solidarity demonstrations tonight. Join them, call for your own. If you aren't plugged into enough of a social force to do so, then find your own ways of demonstrating. With your friends or even alone: smash, attack, expropriate, blockade occupy. Do anything in your power to spread the prevalence and the perversity of our interruption.
for a prolonged conflict; for a permanent presence; for the commune;
some friends in Oakland.”
I don't know how this all strikes you, but it doesn't sit at all well with me. When the Occupy movement first started, I had high hopes for it. Now, I think my hopes have been dashed.