Finally Sending a Message

Sounding more like members of Occupy Wall Street than the establishment managers of pension and mutual funds that they are, the shareholders of Citigroup voted against CEO Vikram Pandit’s pay of $15 million.  While the vote is non-binding, it sends a message to the Board of Directors that they’re on thin ice.

These “say on pay” votes are provided under Dodd-Frank, which is a pathetic piece of financial reform that won’t prevent another economic meltdown, but at least gave Citigroup this well-deserved moment of high-profile embarrassment.  May we see more such moments.

SCOTUS Strips Us of Our Rights (and Dignity)

The Supreme Court has decided, 5-4 of course, that you can be strip searched when arrested for any reason, even the most minor of misdemeanors.*  The usual suspects (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy) voted in favor of strip searches.

In his dissent, Justice Breyer wrote that strip searches should be allowed only for serious charges and then only if there is a reasonable suspicion that justifies the search, such as a concern that the person is hiding weapons or drugs.  Under the majority’s ruling, neither of these standards would have to be met.

Americans have been strip searched when they were arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, not using their turn signal, and riding a bike without a bell.  A nun was strip searched after being arrested at an anti-war demonstration.

In the case at hand, Albert Florence was strip searched twice when he was wrongly arrested for a ticket that he had already paid.  So if you think it can’t or won’t happen to you because you’re so law-abiding, think again.

This is a terrible ruling that will have a chilling effect on people exercising their First Amendment rights.  I think people are less likely to come out for Trayvon Martin or Occupy Wall Street or any other cause, if they face the indignity and humiliation of a strip search when arrested on even the most minor charge.

This is the sort of stuff that happens to those arrested under tyrannical regimes that don’t tolerate dissent.  We saw such tactics during the Arab Spring.  Apparently this is our American Spring.

* Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington

Class Warfare in Michigan

It’s interesting that while the GOP narrative falsely accuses the President of inciting class warfare, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are actually engaging in class warfare in their battle for blue collar Michigan.

Santorum is trying to appeal to voters with a two-pronged approach that is somewhat contradictory.  The first, and obvious, prong is that Mitt has been so rich and privileged his whole life that he doesn’t understand the problems of average working people.  The second prong is that Mitt somehow has adopted the views of Occupy Wall Street because his tax plan calls for eliminating certain taxes on those making $200,000 or less, without extending those benefits to richer Americans.

So Santorum is both waging class warfare against Mitt and accusing Mitt of waging it in a way unbecoming to a Republican.

Pepper Spray Is a “Food Product”

I find the clip of peaceful, seated students at U. C. Davis being pepper-sprayed at very close range, the way we’d whip out the Raid at the sight of ants in our kitchen, truly appalling and un-American.

But according to Fox News, it’s more as if they were being fed than attacked.  Megyn Kelly tells Bill O’Reilly the pepper spray is a “food product.”

Why don’t Megyn and Bill demonstrate for “the folks” just how benign and harmless this stuff is by being pepper sprayed on air?

Congress Can’t Fix Our Problems Because They Are the Problem

As Congress’ Super Committee ends in failure, two new books, one from the left and one from the right, have come out, both excoriating Congress as self-serving and self-dealing.

From the left, comes Lawrence Lessig, of Harvard Law School, with Republic, LostHow Money Corrupts Congressand a Plan to Stop It.  From the right, comes Peter Schweizer, of the Hoover Institution, with Throw Them All Out.

The message from the Super Committee impasse seems to be that polarized Democrats and Republicans, and therefore the voters they represent, are so philosophically divided that we can’t find common ground.  But both Schweizer and Lessig blame our problems not on partisan divisions in Congress, but on bipartisan corruption.  Both call on Americans, wherever we fall on the political spectrum, to come together to take back and clean up our government.

When you read Schweizer and Lessig, you realize that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street should be allies.  Interestingly, the confidential memo from the CLGC lobbying firm (which has ties to John Boehner) to its client the American Bankers Association, which Chris Hayes of MSNBC disclosed this weekend, makes the same point.  CLGC proposes an $850,000 campaign to prepare “negative narratives” on Occupy Wall Street and any Democratic politicians that support it.  In trying to sell their plan, they warn the bankers:

“Well-known Wall Street Companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism.  Both the radical left and the radical right are channeling broader frustration about the state of the economy and share a mutual anger over TARP and other perceived bailouts.  This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”

This fear that the Tea Party people could wake up and realize that they’ve been co-opted by corporatist groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity is why people like Sean Hannity call OWS “left-wing lunatics.”

OWS and the Tea Party shouldn’t be insulting each other, they should be working to defeat their common enemies in Congress.

Imagine a Congress full of people like Elizabeth Warren.  I don’t mean people who necessarily share her political views and would all vote like her.  I mean people who can’t be bought and who vote based on their convictions, not their contributors.


Words Fail Me

I posted earlier today that Rudy Giuliani was speaking at the Koch Brothers’ “Pulling the Wool over Your Eyes” Summit.

And Rudy said this:

“Barack Obama owns the Occupy Wall Street movement, it would not have happened but for his class warfare.”

You just have to laugh and cry at the same time.  There’s been no economic meltdown at 45 East 66th Street, where he lives.

Some folks from Occupy Wall Street might want to drop by and say hi.  Just saying.

Safer in Iraq Than in Oakland

What does it say about this country and this moment that Scott Olsen served two tours of duty in Iraq and emerged unscathed, but got his skull bashed in by the Oakland police while demonstrating peacefully?

Occupy Wall Street says, “We are all Scott Olsen.”  This would be a much better country if that were true.  Most of us are only pale shadows of Scott Olsen.

Occupy Wall Street Picks Up the Tea Party’s Dropped Mantle

The Tea Party started with outrage about the bailouts.  That outrage had three ways to go:  blame the government for doing the bailouts, blame Wall Street for receiving the bailouts, or blame both.

The GOP skillfully channeled Tea Party anger into anti-government sentiment.  They dangled shiny objects before the Tea Partiers, things like the debt ceiling and the EPA, which had nothing to do with our economic collapse, but successfully distracted the dumb asses with tea bags stapled to their tri-corner hats.   The Koch Brothers and Dick Armey and Fox News successfully led the Tea Partiers into the anti-government sheep pen, closed the gate, and breathed a sigh of relief.  They almost figured it out!  Almost…

Now comes Occupy Wall Street to remind us that hey, we forgot to punish the bankers who stuck us with their gambling debts and blithely went back to the roulette wheel with a fresh pile of chips.

Occupy Wall Street is what the Tea Party could have been and should have been.  I hope they keep their eye on the ball and away from shiny objects and that they successfully evade the sheep pen.

I hope they tell Wall Street, “Rien ne va plus.”