Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Failure of Occupy Wall Street

For those who are objective and unemotional it was easy to see this coming. The Occupy "movement" (and I use that term generously) has spiraled into irrelevance and relative obscurity. And it's a shame, as much of its message had broad resonance which could’ve been harnessed into significant power and influence in Washington. Instead, it became a whole lotta nuthin' over nuthin.'

So what went wrong?:

1. The "Occupy" Factor: Successful protest movements aren't about occupation per se. This movement was too tied to its home base, a small symbolic tent-city near Wall Street, and in other similar parks in Boston, San Francisco and other cities. In order to rally scalable national support people needed to see marchers taking to the streets rather than largely hanging out in a park, which served, rightly or wrongly, to portray the Zuccotti Park inhabitants as drifters, vagrants and freeloaders rather than committed protesters. Much of the attention was not over its message but over the communal aspect of park life. Successful protest movements aren't about camping out, book sharing, eating, and "talking to each other," as one organizer told me. As a friend of mine joked, Zuccotti looked more like Bonnaroo. It confined and defined the message in a way that was limited and negative. 

2. No Leadership: Every successful protest movement needs a leader; a strong, passionate, articulate, visible face and voice of the movement. (See Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Lech Walesa, etc)

3. The Wrong Message: While I understood and agreed with much of what this movement was about, I think it took a deadly turn when it essentially turned into a "rich bad/poor good" theme. That wholesale indictment of everyone in the "1%" (including passionate, dedicated, extremely generous liberals like George Soros, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and the Kennedy's) was the wrong message. The mission shouldn't have been class warfare, but equality and fairness for all through reasonable government regulation and taxation. 

4. No Agenda: While the organizers prided themselves on the fact that they had no real agenda other than to vent the nation's collective anger over the economic divide and injustices on Wall Street, this lack of clear, stated demands was a huge mistake. It should've taken a lesson from the Tea Party movement which was and remains powerful, articulate, clear in its demands and which sent 63 Congressman to Washington in an election year to advocate and legislate its small government, less taxes agenda. 

And that last point is the real shame of it all. In an election year as significant as this one, the Occupy movement is as good as dead. It will have achieved nothing legislatively, it will have elected no one and, in the end, it has had no material impact on American life. Nothing, that is, if you measure it against all other successful protest movements.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How About a Trump Boycott?

Donald Trump is at it again. This time the megalomaniac real estate windbag has hijacked Mitt Romney's campaign by reviving his reprehensible attack on President Obama's citizenship. The man with the grossly fake hair continues to question the authenticity of Obama's birth certificate despite its clear existence and validation by Hawaii, his birth state. At this point his actions could be viewed as motivated by a despicable cocktail of ego, racism and unpatriotism. Perhaps it's time Democrats send this attention-starved jackass a loud message by  boycotting anything with Trump's ubiquitous name on it, such as his hotels, casinos, suits and "The Apprentice" television show.

It's not just Democrats who have criticized Trump over his relentless attacks. Conservative columnist George F. Will pulled no punches on the impact the business tycoon's surrogacy might have on Romney's campaign:

“What voter is going to vote for him because he’s seen with Donald Trump?” Mr. Will asked Sunday on the ABC News program “This Week.” “The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your I.Q. can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.” 

The real question is when, if ever, Romney will condemn Trump's trumped up citizenship charges and distance himself from The Donald. Or, as he has shown so far, will the core-less Republican candidate continue to chase the money no matter how filthy dirty it is?

But at the very least, Democrats could hit Trump where it hurts most: in his wallet. Traveling? Pick a non-Trump hotel. Gambling? Lose your money at a non-Trump casino. Shopping for a suit? Buy one that doesn't have the Trump label. And if you feel the need to watch a moronic reality show, there's a ton to choose from besides "The Apprentice."  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Birthers: Why Don't You Just Call Obama a Ni**er?

We thought we saw the last of the Birthers when President Obama released his long-form birth certificate a little more than a year ago. Under normal circumstances, even with a "movement" so outrageously offensive as this one, the issue would have been put to bed at that point. But birth certificates don't cure racism. Racists have a way of perpetuating their hate no matter how logical, rational or factual the reasoning against their vile behavior. But why don't these bigots just come out and say what they really want to say: Obama is a ni**er.

Enough with the "Kenyan" code language. These people don't really care if Obama is a socialist, a communist, an elitist, a U.S. citizen or from planet Earth. What does set them into a rage is his skin color. The goal of these racists is to achieve a major breakthrough to other "moderate" racists. The semi-subliminal message they want to convey is, "Don't vote for this ni**er." And, "Do you want a ni**er in the White House again?" Or, "Why vote for a ni**er when you have a white guy like Romney, who's just like us?" That's all this Birther crap is about: ni**er, ni**er, ni**er...

And the same holds true for those who attack the president over his past association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, another hot-button issue which appeared dead but simply lay dormant instead, rearing its bigoted head once again now that the election nears. Here a similar ugly message is, "It takes one angry ni**er to know another angry ni**er."

These cowards should just say the word we all know they wish to say but for some convoluted sense of decency they feel they can't. Go ahead, I say to them, use it. It won't make a difference as to how the rest of intelligent society views you. It'll just shine a spotlight on you for exactly who you are.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Romney: University Professors Don't Have Real Jobs

In a Fox News interview this week Mitt Romney made it quite clear that he's the anti-education candidate. In criticizing what he calls President Obama's attack on capitalism, the presumptive Republican nominee summarily dismissed and disrespected the entire teaching profession:

"He doesn't understand how the free economy works," he said of Obama. "He's never had a job in the free economy."

Really? Teaching Constitutional law was not a real job? Being a grade school or high school teacher or college professor doesn't make you part of the "free economy" workforce in Romney's convoluted elitist thinking?

It's morally reprehensible and irresponsible enough that, as Massachusetts governor, he cut the education budget so severely that state universities were forced to raise tuition by 63%. But his latest salvo against educators should be a dire warning to voters as to what a Romney presidency will look like for those who, unlike him, weren't born with a silver spoon and who need educational assistance.

And any teacher or professor who is contemplating voting for Romney has to question his principles, his lack of commitment to the education of America's youth, and to his palpable disdain for how they earn a living in his "free economy."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Egg On Their Facebook

Facebook Shmacebook. That's what a lot of small investors are saying four days after the social networking behemoth's highly anticipated IPO went bust for them while creating massive wealth for a minuscule bunch of insiders, venture capitalists and institutional investors. And what has Wall Street apparently learned since the go-go days of the banking crisis? Apparently nothing.

The stock, which went out at $38.00 per share, has fallen off a cliff since Friday, dropping 18% from the offering price. Shares were overpriced, oversold and brought to market under very dubious circumstances. As a result, the IPO, and its lead underwriter Morgan Stanley, is under investigation by the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Massachusetts Secretary of State, whose office subpoenaed the banker over its discussions with investors over the offering. All of this on the heels of news that Morgan, just prior to the IPO, advised its elite clients of its appreciably lowered revenue estimates for Facebook. The NY Times reports that one such investor dumped his entire position at $42 per share after learning of the revised forecast. Once again, Wall Street's privilidged fatcats get in and out with hefty profits while the proverbial little guy, operating in an information vacuum, gets screwed.

Facebook, valued by the Street at over $100 billion, about $100 times earnings, has serious challenges in monetizing its 900-million membership and ultimately growing into this stratospheric valuation. The company itself has warned investors that it's having trouble figuring out how to make money from mobile advertising. Its members are increasingly using the service on mobile devices, yet Facebook doesn't quite know how to build its mobile ad business without cluttering its pages and negatively impacting members' experience with the service.

Underscoring this potentially massive problem for Facebook was General Motors' decision last week to cancel its $10-$40-million ad spend with the company. When one of the country's largest advertisers tells you they can't make money with you that's not a good sign. Especially when you're trying to convince investors that your colossal valuation is justified by future ad sales.

The controversy surrounding Facebook's IPO, and how certain Wall Street investors received critical information about the company while those on Main Street didn't, further demonstrates the need for greater scrutiny and regulation of the type of cowboy trading practices that nearly destroyed our economic system four years ago.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Romney's Bain in the Ass

Mitt Romney's running for president on one central campaign theme: that he's the savvy business guy whose tenure at private equity firm Bain Capital in the 1980's and 90's has made him a job-creator while President Obama is a job-cutter. A pretty lofty claim considering the financier's #1 goal was to earn a hefty profit for him and his partners even if that meant actually putting people out of work. That's what a new devastatingly effective Obama ad, focusing on GST Steel in Kansas City, is hammering home to voters.

GST went bankrupt in 2001 after being taken over by Bain. "He was like a vampire...came in a sucked the life out of us," one worker says in the ad. Another refers to Romney as "a job destroyer."

In another ad, Democrats profile SCM, a small Indiana paper company, bought by Bain's American Pad and Paper (Ampad) in 1994, which went bankrupt six years later. The web video details how workers were subsequently laid off and lost their health insurance. "They put armed guards at the doors, did not look at anyone, did not speak to anybody, and told us we all were fired," one worker recalls in the video."

And you can bet between now and the November election there'll be myriad ads like these defining Romney as an elitist corporate raider concerned only about lining the pockets of the rich. And while Romney has been critical of the attacks, calling them a distraction from the real issues, Obama says the scrutiny on Romney's record is highly relevant "because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying, I’m a business guy and I know how to fix it,’ and this is his business.”

"When you’re president," he continued, "as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.

Romney's running from his record as governor of Massachusetts. He's running from RomneyCare. He's evading the impact of his Mr. Potter role at Bain. But Obama and Democrats appear intent on defining the debate and making his private equity experience the Bain of his existence this Summer and Fall.

Romney needs to figure out how to address Obama's positive economic record which includes 26 consecutive months of job growth with 4.25-million private sector jobs created, including 489,000 in manufacturing. Unemployment, which peaked in 2010 at 10%, has dropped to 8.1%. And let's not forget the stellar turnaround in the auto industry, America's largest industry, which Romney wanted to bankrupt.

Romney would be better served in telling his surrogates, SuperPacs and campaign staffers to spend less time on Rev. Wright and birth certificates and to instead create a compelling plan to maintain Obama's economic recovery.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Most Outrageous Aspect of the Trayvon Martin Case

So now we know, through evidence released by prosecutors this past week, that George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old superhero-wannabe who shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL on February 26th, had wounds on his head and a broken nose. And as expected, ignorant racists nationwide rushed forward with disingenuous cries of "See!?...that proves the kid had attacked him!" But Zimmerman's wounds suggest one thing: that Trayvon fought like an animal to save his life.

Ever since this story hit the press I've been mortified about how Trayvon has been vilified as the aggressor when all evidence points to him being the one who desperately needed to exercise his state's Draconian 'Stand Your Ground' law. For the life of me I don't understand why the media has not explored this angle more than it has. The simple fact remains here: that a grown man with a gun, safe in his locked car, against the implicit instruction of a 911 police operator, left that car to pursue, confront and kill a child (yes, racists, under the age of eighteen one is legally considered a child) who was holding nothing more than a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.

What exactly does 'stand your ground' mean if not to fight like an animal to save your life when you believe it's being threatened with deadly force? Why does the fact that Zimmerman suffered wounds serve as evidence that Trayvon initiated the scuffle? To the contrary, Zimmerman's wounds reinforce that the kid bravely came at his attacker with everything he had. That after screaming for help seventeen times in a desolate area he fought furiously to save himself from being shot dead...something he unfortunately failed to do. Why is no one talking about how it was Trayvon who 'stood his ground?' Why does it seem that this law is only being discussed as it applies to Zimmerman?

As for Zimmerman's claim of self-defense? Bullshit. That defense went out the window the second he stepped from his locked car with a loaded semi-automatic weapon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's Time to Take the "Gay" Out of Marriage

It's been a week since North Carolina voters chose to continue discriminating against homosexuals, President Obama chose to make history by publicly declaring his support for gay marriage, and Mitt Romney's been outed as a teenaged gay-basher. In 2012 America, are we really still debating whether any segment of our population deserves civil rights and equality? Pardon me if I think we're living in one very fucked up country right now.

I'm tired of all the anti-gay rhetoric. To the homophobes I say one thing: you're ignorant. I don't care how many of you in your backward states choose to vote against marriage equality. Many of you would also vote to bring back slavery if you could. A majority of hateful bigots doesn't make for an abundance of logic. It just means there's still a lot of truly horrible people living amongst us who are so ignorant, intolerant and frightened that they'd deny two people, any people, the right to live and love like everyone else. Shame on you.

A common argument of the haters is that gays "choose" who and what they are, unlike others who are born the way they are, and therefore don't deserve the same protections under the law. Well then, does that logic apply to religion? Everyone chooses what religion if any they observe. So I guess it's ok to discriminate against people of faith? I'm sure evangelicals would agree with that one, right?

How comically ironic that North Carolina last week, as its voters went to the polls to continue persecuting gays, was in the midst f its prosecution of John Edwards, perhaps the most despicable philandering heterosexual in the country. Can someone please explain to me why this so-called sacred institution should be reserved only for people like Edwards who defile and disgrace it so reprehensibly?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Game-Changing Move That Could Give Romney a Win in November?

If Mitt Romney wanted to dramatically improve his chances of beating President Obama in the November election he could do one thing: appoint a conservative Democrat as his running mate. Someone like retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (NE), Sen. Jon Tester (MT) or better yet even someone from the South like former West Virginia governor and the state's newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin, for example. The move could be a political coup, and just the sort of game-changer that could propel the presumptive Republican nominee across the finish line.

The political landscape today is more polarized and partisan than ever, and poll after poll indicates that Americans are fed up with the bickering and backstabbing across the aisles. They want candidates who put country first and party second. They want an end to the toxic rhetoric that dominates the debate more than the actual issues that are important to them. They want to know that their elected leaders can work together in true bi-partisan fashion to fix the struggling economy, create jobs, and restore the nation's standing overseas as we fight terrorism and focus on national security.

But the biggest payoff in appointing a Blue Dog Democrat would be how it's perceived among independents, the most critical voter segment of all. The presidential election will be decided by this group, and who they're fired up over is key. Imagine how the unprecedented move of appointing a Democrat to the ticket would appeal to those in the proverbial middle. Imagine the speeches Romney could make:

"It's time to put politics and party aside and put America first! Which is why I'm breaking all the rules and doing what no one else has had the courage to do: I'm putting a Democrat on the ticket with me. Someone who shares many of our ideals and positions and who will help me get Washington working again with true bi-partisanship cooperation. Now this is change you should believe in!"

A risky gamble? Perhaps. But the truth is, both Obama and Romney will have the support of their respective bases. It's the moderates they'll need. And what better way to to appeal to this non-partisan group than with a bold non-partisan move.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mitt Romney's Chuckle-Heard-Round-the-World

"My God, I have absolutely no recollection of that...but if in fact it's true, I'm horrified and don't care how young I was. Bullying anyone, anywhere, at any age, is 100% wrong and inexcusable and I'm deeply sorry for my behavior."

That is not what Mitt Romney said last week when asked about an incident when he was an 18-year-old student at the prestigious Cranbrook School in Bloomfield, MI. An attack on fellow student John Lauber, believed to have been motivated by his rumored homosexuality and bleach-blond hair that draped over one eye, was the result of Romney's bizarre obsession with the kid's appearance:

"He can't look like that. That's wrong. Just look at him!" an incensed Romney told his pal Matthew Friedemann, according to Friedemann. Led by Romney, Lauber was harrassed, chased, pinned to the ground and then had his hair cut off by the future Massachusetts governor. (pops to comedian Bill Maher, btw, who joked on his HBO program "Real Time" Friday night, "I don't know what it's like at your salons, but isn't the guy usually cutting the hair the gay one?")

Instead of taking responsibility for his reprehensible behavior, the Republican who wants to be president just chuckled and issued a tepid apology akin to 'boys will be boys.'

"Back in high school, I did some dumb things and if anybody was hurt by that or offended by (it) obviously I apologize," Romney said of his "pranks."

As if the chuckle wasn't offensive and dismissive enough, Romney's choice of words with "if someone was hurt by it" shows indifference and a clear lack of empathy. Does he really not know for sure that this vicious attack on a terrified gay kid by a pack of sneering homophobic rich preppies wasn't hurtful?

The real issue here is not solely what Romney did as kid, but more so how he's handled questions about it as an adult; as someone who's running for the most important job in the world. It speaks to Romney's character. Maybe his former opponent Rick Santorum is right: the man has no core.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Interview with an Obama Hater

I recently had the opportunity to talk with an elderly blue-collar New Yorker about why he won't be voting for President Obama in November. Dale (not his real name), a self-proclaimed "life-long Democrat" and definitely "not a Republican," is representative of many whites of a certain generation who clearly remain extremely uncomfortable with having a black president but can't openly admit it.

AO: Still a Republican?
Dale: Never was one. I'm not a liberal either.
AO: Not a Republican? So, you'll be voting for Obama?
Dale: No
AO: Why not? Does that mean you're going to vote for Romney?
Dale: Let's just say I ain't voting for Obama.
AO: Can you tell me why?
Dale: I just don't care for him, that's all.
AO: But can you tell me why? Is there a specific policy you don't like?
Dale: It's just the whole thing. Let me ask you something. He was a cut-up in school. Bad marks. Took drugs, cocaine. He was a bad kid. How'd he get into Harvard?
AO: You've been listening to Sean Hannity I see.
Dale: I LOVE Sean Hannity!
AO: I guess that's the non-Republican in you. How about giving me something that relates to his presidency?
Dale: I think he's been a very bad president and all he wants to do is turn America into a dictatorship.
AO: Really? That's a pretty hefty accusation. Can you give me an example of something he's done to warrant that?
Dale: Look, I'm not gonna get into all of this with you.
AO: So you'll drop a bomb like that but not give any substantive explanation for it?
Dale: He's been a disaster for the economy.
AO: Really. And why do you say that?
Dale: You're just trying to goad me into a debate with you and I'm not gonna do that.
AO: No, I'm simply trying to get you to back up your broad stroke accusations with substance, and you don't seem to be able to do that.
Dale: Let's just say you and I disagree and leave it at that.
AO: I have no problem disagreeing with you, or you having different opinions about Obama or anything else. What we're doing here is having a conversation, not a debate, so why can't you simply just explain your positions?
Dale: He's ruing the economy, that's all.
AO: And you're basing this on statistics, leading indicators like GDP?
Dale: No
AO: Job growth? Consumer confidence?
Dale: No
AO: Wall Street gains?
Dale: No
AO: Recoveries in the auto, banking, retail sectors?
Dale: No
AO: So what you're saying then is that actual facts about the economy since Obama took office don't really matter to you. You just make sweeping criticisms but don't care if the facts don't support them. Yeah, I'd say you're voting for Romney.
Dale: Let's just say I'm not voting for Obama.
AO: I know. You've already said that. Why would you vote for someone, for a party, that seeks to take away from you everything you need to survive...Social security, medicare?
Dale: Nobody's gonna take away my Medicare.
AO: Oh really? Have you seen the Ryan budget?
Dale: They won't take away my Medicare.
AO: We need to cut $4-trillion of debt. Where do you think that's going to come from if Republicans take the House, Senate and presidency? You think they won't take it from the poor and middle class? You think they'll choose instead to raise taxes on themselves?
Dale: They won't do it.

Pretty scary stuff. What I saw in Dale was a truly visceral yet inexplicable disdain for Obama which he either couldn't or wouldn't honestly articulate. Unfortunately, people like Dale know absolutely nothing about the issues they discuss. And nothing they say is based on fact. Instead, they regurgitate the "news" and sound bytes they get from Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing provocateurs and continue to vote against their own economic self-interests, operating in an absolute knowledge vacuum, to the delight of Republicans who use them and exploit this political ignorance. And what makes 2012 worse than ever in this regard is race. Don't think for even one nanosecond that Obama's skin color isn't what's behind the "I just simply don't like him" sentiments of folks like Dale. But...they'll never admit it.