Friday, December 23, 2011

And To All A Good Night

Try to live a life of


Not just during the


But throughout the


Never forget

It's what distinguishes us as


☪ ✡ ✞ ☬ ☯ ✌

Friday, December 16, 2011

While you’re diddling, Rome is burning, Nero! 2011 GOP Talking Points: The Year in Review

By Guest-Blogger tazshedevl

The GOP is fighting extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans as we speak, because the measure to do it would raise taxes on 350,000 of America’s richest to pay for the cut.  Their latest attempt at “compromise” involves adding several contentious and unsettled issues to the bill—since when does adding things no one agrees on and insisting it’s your bill or no bill make it MORE likely a bill will pass?

Listening to the rhetoric is a walk down a memory lane bordered on both sides with many noteworthy whoppers.  Now that It’s the end of the year, there’s no better time to sum up some of the GOP’s talking points from 2011 before we put them permanently (please God!) in the rear view…

“It’s about the Job Creators, Stupid!”

Great concept – it’s a different take that sounds good, until you realize that the “job creators” aren’t actually creating any jobs.  And that conveniently included in the class of “job creators” are rich people who never did.  But what about the small fraction of the richest 1% in this country who do have companies and could create jobs—why have they failed to actually do so?  It isn’t because their taxes are too high, the regulations too cumbersome or they can’t afford it—it’s because there’s no consumer demand for what they sell because nobody else has any money to spend.

Decades of policies specifically tailored to benefit “job creators” haven’t done squat for job creation—all they did was create a small uber-class of ultra-rich who simply don’t spend enough to sustain the larger economy on their own.  How?  By enabling them to squirrel away a lot more cash while cutting their contribution toward the things that made this nation great in the first place.  You know, things like education, infrastructure, investments in technology and a social safety net that pulled and kept millions out of poverty.

“Job Creators” have been paid handsomely by the American people in the form of huge tax breaks so that they would create jobs for the last 10 years.  Yet the Bush tax cuts led to the worst job creation record on record.  Is there any employer anywhere that would keep paying for that kind of lack of performance?  Hope YOU’VE enjoyed YOUR free ride, “Job Creators,” because your government welfare-driven, taxpayer-funded gravy train ends in 2012.   

“It’s about the deficit, Stupid!”

After spending 8 years blowing a hole in the deficit, the GOP suddenly finds it imperative we fix it NOW, when corporations and the rich are enjoying record profits and spending nothing to create jobs, and cuts will hurt everyone else to the point of drawing blood.  This is all just a distraction—JOBS are the problem, not spending.  

Do they really think we think it's an accident that when they were in power, Cheney said “Deficits don't matter,” which gave them license to spend on the 1% with unfunded tax breaks, on big pharma with an unfunded fix to the Medicare donut hole, and on the military-industrial complex with not one but two unfunded wars, but now, suddenly, when they don’t have a blank check to keep spending, the deficit is the most important thing?   How can they even look themselves in the mirror with a straight face?

“It’s about the uncertainty, Stupid!”

Markets and business need certainty to create jobs, says the GOP.  But In reality, it’s consumers that drive job creation by spending on goods and services.  Want to talk about “uncertainty?” How about certainty for the middle class and working Americans?

There are 160 million people who don’t know if they’re going to have dinner tonight, or if they can get their kid a Christmas present, because they don’t know if they’ll have the money left over after paying their bills to be able to get by after more taxes get deducted from their check on January 1st.  $85 a month might not mean much to our millionaire politicians, but for some of us, it’s the difference between eating and having the gas to get to work, or deciding which you’ll do without.  Again.

These are people who would be shopping, if they knew they could afford it.  But they don’t know if they can because the status of the payroll tax is still up in the air.  So much for certainty.  What really matters is certainty for the middle class and small businesses.  And they wonder why people have taken to the streets to #Occupy wherever they happen to be.

“It’s about the size of government, Stupid!”

The GOP ran on a platform of jobs, but has done absolutely nothing to create any—in fact, they’ve been fighting every effort by others to do so and focusing on other things altogether while pushing the entire time for more layoffs of government workers.  In spite of their distractions, we know that 2-1 doesn’t ever equal 3—you can’t eliminate more jobs faster and then wonder where the jobs are with any integrity whatsoever.  “Government doesn’t create jobs?”  Really?  Government created THEIR jobs, and it employs millions who work for the people.  To say otherwise is a bold-faced lie. 

Nor did government cause the financial crisis in 2008, as they so often claim. Every once in a while, a banker actually admits it, and even Forbes gets that the government didn’t cause the crash!  This is all about creating a self-fulfilling prophecy—if they cut government services, then of course people will complain that the money they ARE spending isn’t getting them anything worthwhile.  This is again all about saving the 1% on their tax bill so that they can hoard even more cash.  It benefits them, but does nothing for the rest of us.

Not surprisingly, the GOP also isn’t complaining that banks received plenty of assistance from the Fed, unbeknownst to the rest of us and Congress.  For people who hate big government, they certainly aren’t outraged by their donors accepting trillions in government-backed aid.  Does that sound like anything even close to a free market?  Don’t think so.

It’s about too much regulation, Stupid!”

Of course corporations would push for fewer regulations, for the same reason that criminals want fewer police—it makes it more likely they can get away with the crimes they commit!  Since Wall Street did such an excellent job self-policing, why WOULDN’T we just trust corporations with the welfare of our citizens, our natural resources and our financial and political systems?

Never mind that the GOP’s claims that regulations kill jobs aren’t true--  even if they were, letting corporations and other bad actors get away with fraud, cheating and stealing from the American taxpayer isn’t worth it at ANY cost.
If the ratings agencies hadn’t been so riddled with corruption, maybe the mess wouldn’t have happened.  Or if the regulators weren’t stuck with rules that are rife with exceptions, so they could actually protect the American people from fraud... But even when there are solid regulations, they’re not always enforced – if anything, we need MORE oversight, not less, and every once in a while, someone, maybe even a federal judge, actually says it out loud.

“It’s about the taxes, Stupid!”

To buy that taxes inhibit job creation requires amazing powers of amnesia and denial--  you have to block out the fact that Clinton raised taxes and yet we experienced great economic growth and job creation, and just disregard that raising taxes generates the revenue needed to fix the shortfall and doesn’t actually cause mass exodus of the wealthy from a particular area or keep companies from hiring.  Even the Wall Street Journal gets that the Bush tax cuts led to the worst job creation record on record, and the Congressional Budget Office acknowledges that a tax holiday for repatriation of overseas profits would have a “negligible” effect on job creation.  Even Republican Senator Tom Coburn gets that tax breaks for millionaires are just “welfare for the wealthy.”

There’s no evidence to support this from any angle, but the GOP keeps on playing it like a tired old favorite song that sounded good when it first came out but is just lame in hindsight.

Guess what?  We’re NOT as stupid as you think!

Dear GOP,

The time for playing your silly reindeer politician games is over—you’ve had 11 months to jockey for position and dick with the American peoples’ confidence in their government’s ability to act in the best interest of the nation, and with the world’s confidence in your ability to handle our finances.  Did you really think you could threaten the nation and the world with a default on our already-incurred obligations, and that would somehow be acceptable?

Don’t you get it?  We can see you.  We can see through you.  Your telling us what people think and want you to do doesn’t count anymore, because we know what people really think—we communicate with each other directly.  Your lies don’t fly anymore.

Your attacks follow a tired and predictable pattern:

·         First they’re substantive, your attempt to frame the issues in broad principles that belie what your policies actually do, which is benefit the 1% no matter what.  

·         Then, if you fail to get your way with your propaganda, the argument becomes procedural—it’s about how things are written, how they are presented in Congress, or how they are handled in committee.  Another nice tactic, designed to distract from the real issue, which is that you are still working to change things to benefit the 1% who pay for your election campaigns and then extract beneficial consideration from you in policymaking.

·         Finally, if you still don’t get you way, it becomes personal—it’s about the individual proposing the legislation you don’t like, or the people who support it.  It’s all about demonizing somebody, somehow, through name-calling and inflammatory accusations.  Whatever it takes to stop what your donors don’t want to happen from happening.

Well, here’s a news flash for you: There is NO POSSIBLE WAY to block this and NOT have your actions look like the assault they are on 160 million citizen voters.  None whatsoever.  If for ANY reason you deny the middle and working classes the same tax cut extension you repeatedly fought tooth-and-nail for on behalf of the 1%, you WILL be held accountable by the people you are hurting, loud and clear, in the 2012 elections.

We don’t care about your negotiating stance.  We don’t care about your talking points.  We’re not interested in your latest clever strategy to come up with a way to make this thing benefit the 1% in some way, shape or form.  

We’re not going to follow your accusations wherever your finger currently happens to point in blame anymore, we’re just going to stand here, in your face, and keep insisting you to do something that benefits the rest of us, and if you don’t, we’ll find someone who will.  The 1% may have paid for your election campaign, but we’re the ones who voted for you.  Whether you like it or not, and in spite of your current efforts to the contrary, we still have the power of the vote.
So you can say whatever you want, but we’re now completely focused on the ONE THING that matters: 

What have you done for US lately?


The 99%

Follow tazshedevl on Twitter.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pay Down The National Debt Project

Photo: Creative Commons via Flickr / Wollombi)
Last November, two dozen millionaires (and probably a couple of billionaires) descended on Washington to "protest" that they and their fellow one percenters should pay higher taxes. It looked more like a convention than a protest, as it took place in what appeared to be a large hotel meeting room and people were wearing name tags. But their alleged purpose there was to tell Congress, "We should be paying more to the federal government. Please take money from us."

But when they were asked, would they give it up?

Michelle Fields of The Daily Caller was on hand with her iPad, on which she had displayed the Department of Treasury website where you can make a voluntary payment towards reducing the federal debt. She talked to many of the men in attendance to ask them why they were there and if they'd be willing to make a payment right then to help lower the debt.

She reported that none of them would.

They had all sorts of excuses as to why they were refusing. Things like, "You're being silly," and "It would be completely puny and ineffective," and "I think that's a joke and I'm not interested."

One gentleman snarled at Ms. Fields, "Why don't you donate money?" When she replied that she was not part of the one percent, and she was not there asking congress to raise her taxes, his retort was, "Well that's okay, you can donate money just as well as I can. Do you think that'll help?"

Good question. Would it help if those who can afford to — even those not in the one percent — made a voluntary payment towards the national debt? How many Americans would have to chip in to make any sort of reasonable dent in the current debt? How much would people need to give to make a difference?

How much could we realistically hope to raise from average Americans?

One solution that has been offered to start resolving the debt problem is to return the top marginal tax rate to what it was during Bill Clinton's presidency: 39.6 percent. That's 4.6 percentage points higher than the current top marginal tax rate, and depending on where the threshold is placed, as little as 1 percent overall (a multiplier of 0.01), or less.

The median income for a worker in America is $39,336. If Americans donated one tenth of what the richest Americans are being asked to pay, or a factor of 0.001 of their annual income, the average donation amount would be approximately $39.34.

There were 217,342,419 eligible voters in 2010. Of those, only 90,732,693 turned out to vote. If only those Americans who voted in 2010 donated $39.34, we could pay down $3,569,424,143 of the debt.

That's $3.5 billion.

We are going through a national crisis right now. The debt, regardless who ran it up and by how much, is unsustainable. While there is no question but that we will have to make changes in both law and policy to begin to resolve our debt problem, Republicans have made a central theme of their party, that we should not rely on government to solve our problems. Private industry and individuals, they claim, can do a better job than government. Does that extend to our nation's fiscal problem, as well?

One could justifiably argue that once we've done what we're obligated to do by law, our responsibility ends. But during times of crisis, should it? Is it not incumbent upon us to work for the greater good, even if it goes beyond the limits required by law?

Many of us do just that. We volunteer our time with campaigns. We run for local or state office ourselves. We make charitable donations that help our neighbors, which in turn lightens the load on government and our fellow taxpayers.

When the nation's children are starving, we go out and feed them. What about when the nation itself is starving? Should we not feed it, too?

Billionaire Warren Buffett has issued a challenge to Republicans in Congress: He will match any contribution they make to the national debt dollar-for-dollar, except for Mitch McConnell who he will match 3:1. But so far he appears to be the only one willing to put his money where his mouth is. The millionaire protestors — oddly — admit they'll have to be forced by the government to give up any of their income to help save the country.

Show the millionaires that we are willing to step up to the plate ourselves, even if they aren't.

Thank You!


‘Patriotic millionaires’ demand higher taxes, but unwilling to pay up ~ By Michelle Fields at The Daily Caller
Warren Buffett To Republicans: I'll Match Every Dollar You Contribute To Pay Down The Debt ~ By Ben Walsh at Business Insider
2010 General Election Turnout Rates ~ By Dr. Michael McDonald, Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University at The United States Elections Project

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Where Is The Choice And Competition In Filling Prescriptons?

Do you like being forced to use only a mail-order pharmacy? Do you miss being able to have an actual conversation with your pharmacist, who knows your history and is happy to take a few minutes to answer some questions about how to take your medication? For me, the answers are 'Definitely not' and 'Absolutely'!

We are insured through my husband's employer(their parent company, to be accurate) and pay what amounts to a rather substantial co-payment of premiums for top-of-the-line PPO insurance. On that portion of our health care, we have pretty good choice and competition.

However, when it comes to our prescription plan, we have one option: Express Scripts. The only way we would be allowed to continue to receive coverage for our prescriptions and choose our local pharmacy would be to choose a Kaiser plan for our Health Insurance. Outrageous! Why should we have to do that? Why should our medical care have to suffer if we want to improve our prescription care?

Where's the so-called choice and competition for prescriptions? There is none. Once again the "Big Boys" are driving all their competition out of business, forcing us to use only their company or pay hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars out of pocket for needed medications our doctors have put us on.

This has to change.

Last week I had yet another in an ongoing series of problems with Express Scripts. After making four attempts using their website to request a new prescription for one of my medications, and each time getting a nondescript "Unable to process your request at this time" error message, I used the site's contact form to notify customer service and ask them to resolve the problem. More than a full day later I received a reply by email. It advised me to use their website to request a new prescription.

Yes, really.

In a fit of fury I shot off a reply, cc'ing the company's CEO, George Paz*, berating them for not bothering to actually help me, let alone acknowledge the specific problem I had encountered, and letting them know that I would be filing a complaint with Viacom, through whom we get our insurance.

First thing Monday morning a representative from the corporate office called me, apologizing for how I had been treated by their customer service. The CEO had, in fact, received my email and was none-too-happy about its contents. That particular customer service department will be receiving new training, tech support will be updating its error messages to be more specific and helpful to the customer, and my doctor had already been called and had renewed my prescription. That, along with two other prescriptions were sent out that morning via UPS next day delivery at no additional charge to me.

But it should never have had to come to that.

I'm probably one of the lucky ones, in that I'm not afraid to stand my ground and fight for what I know I have a right to expect as a paying customer. Others, not so much (my husband among them; when I told him the outcome he said, "You're going to have to teach me how to do that."). According to Healthcare Finance News, in an article titled, Survey: Widespread problems with mail order pharmacies, "Many patients go without their prescribed medicine due to the slow or ineffective service of mail order pharmacies."

Can you imagine?

The article goes on to say, "The survey of more than 400 patients found 48 percent of respondents who were mail-order customers had to go without their medications because of late delivery. Those patients who are required by their health plan to use mail order reported higher rates of late delivery (63 percent) than those who had a choice of pharmacy (28 percent)."

Think about that. Nearly two-thirds of patients who are forced to use a mail order pharmacy receive their medications late.

And yet year after year, new enrollment cycle after new enrollment cycle, Americans are given zero choice as to how their prescription medication will be filled or delivered. None.

Do you think it's bad now? It's about to get a whole lot worse.
In July, Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBMs) giants Express Scripts and Medco announced they would merge. This transaction is currently ... pending approval by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If approved, this merger would lead to reduced consumer choices in pharmacy, higher premiums for plan sponsors and consumers and reduced access to community pharmacies for plan beneficiaries.
But all hope is not lost.

There is legislation pending in both the House and the Senate that would eliminate this problem once and for all.

On the House side it is H.R. 1971, introduced by Representative Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA), titled Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011. Its purpose is "to amend the Public Health Service Act to ensure transparency and proper operation of pharmacy benefit managers."
Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011 - Amends the Public Health Service Act, the Employee Retirements Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Internal Revenue Code, and part D (Voluntary Prescription Drug Benefit Program) of title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to prohibit a group or individual health plan from entering into a contract with any pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) to manage the prescription drug coverage provided under such plan or to control the costs of such coverage unless the PBM satisfies the requirements of this Act. ...
On September 8th it was referred to the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, where it still sits as the year is quickly running out.

On the Senate side is S. 1058, also called the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011, introduced by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS). It, too, is sitting in committee.

So I urge each and every one of you to

And ask them, "Where is my 'Choice & Competition' regarding my prescription needs?" Tell them your pharmacist can be just as important as the doctor you choose and ask for their support for the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act.

*For the record, here is how George Paz's compensation stacks up with his "competitors" in the field (does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?):

George Paz Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Express Scripts Inc. $10.3M
Gregory D. Wasson Chief Executive Officer, President and Director Walgreen Co. $1.2M
Angela F. Braly Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of Executive Committee WellPoint Inc. $1.1M
David M. Cordani Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Member of Executive Committee Cigna Corp. $1.0M
Mark T. Bertolini Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President, Chairman of Executive Committee and Member of Investment & Finance Committee Aetna Inc. $937.3K
Steven H. Collis Chief Executive Officer, President, Director and Chairman of Executive & Finance Committee AmerisourceBergen Corporation $652.0K


Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011 ~ at
Survey: Widespread problems with mail order pharmacies ~ By Richard Pizzi, Editorial Director at Healthcare Finance News
George Paz Executive Profile ~ at Bloomberg Businessweek
Hoey: FTC Should Block the Express Scripts-Medco Merger to Promote Pharmacy Choice, Competition ~ By By B. Douglas Hoey at Roll Call
At Capitol Hill Rally, Community Pharmacists Announce Support for Bipartisan Senate Bill to Bolster Consumer Choice and Pharmacy Competition ~ at National Community Pharmacists Association
Moran Sponsors Bill to Promote Patient Choice and Competition Among Pharmacies ~ at

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


In response to this letter (pdf), written by Leon G. Cooperman, former general partner of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and current Investment Fund Manager at Omega Advisors, who apparently thinks he can shame the president into letting the Republican Party steamroll right over him so he will lose the election in 2012. I'd like to know where the hell his letters to John Boehner, Eric Cantor or Mitch McConnell are. Below is Cooperman's letter hateful screed for you to read first, for context, as my (our) response borrows heavily from its construct.

Omega Advisors, Inc. 1 Wall Street Plaza • 88 Pine Street • 31 st Floor | New York, New York 10005
Tel: 212-495-5210 | Fax: 212-495-5236

Leon G. Cooperman, C.F.A. Chairman & Chief Executive Officer


November 28, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

"Dear Mr. President,

"It is with a great sense of disappointment that I write this. Like many others, I hoped that your election would bring a salutary change of direction to the country, despite what more than a few feared was an overly aggressive social agenda. And I cannot credibly blame you for the economic mess that you inherited, even if the policy response on your watch has been profligate and largely ineffectual. (You did not, after all, invent TARP.) I understand that when surrounded by cries of 'the end of the world as we know it is nigh', even the strongest of minds may have a tendency to shoot first and aim later in a well-intended effort to stave off the predicted apocalypse.

"But what I can justifiably hold you accountable for is your and your minions' role in setting the tenor of the rancorous debate now roiling us that smacks of what so many have characterized as 'class warfare'. Whether this reflects your principled belief that the eternal divide between the haves and have-nots is at the root of all the evils that afflict our society or just a cynical, populist appeal to his base by a president struggling in the polls is of little importance. What does matter is that the divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them. It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents. And it is an approach to governing that owes more to desperate demagoguery than your Administration should feel comfortable with.

"Just to be clear, while I have been richly rewarded by a life of hard work (and a great deal of luck), I was not to-the-manor-born. My father was a plumber who practiced his trade in the South Bronx after he and my mother emigrated from Poland. I was the first member of my family to earn a college degree. I benefited from both a good public education system (P.S. 75, Morris High School and Hunter College, all in the Bronx) and my parents' constant prodding. When I joined Goldman Sachs following graduation from Columbia University's business school, I had no money in the bank, a negative net worth, a National Defense Education Act student loan to repay, and a six-month-old child (not to mention his mother, my wife of now 47 years) to support. I had a successful, near-25-year run at Goldman, which I left 20 years ago to start a private investment firm. As a result of my good fortune, I have been able to give away to those less blessed far more than I have spent on myself and my family over a lifetime, and last year I subscribed to Warren Buffet's Giving Pledge to ensure that my money, properly stewarded, continues to do some good after I'm gone.

"My story is anything but unique. I know many people who are similarly situated, by both humble family history and hard-won accomplishment, whose greatest joy in life is to use their resources to sustain their communities. Some have achieved a level of wealth where philanthropy is no longer a by-product of their work but its primary impetus. This is as it should be. We feel privileged to be in a position to give back, and we do. My parents would have expected nothing less of me.

"I am not, by training or disposition, a policy wonk, polemicist or pamphleteer. I confess admiration for those who, with greater clarity of expression and command of the relevant statistical details, make these same points with more eloquence and authoritativeness than I can hope to muster. For recent examples, I would point you to 'Hunting the Rich' (Leaders, The Economist, September 24, 2011), 'The Divider vs. the Thinker' (Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2011), 'Wall Street Occupiers Misdirect Anger' (Christine Todd Whitman, Bloomberg, October 31, 2011), and 'Beyond Occupy' (Bill Keller, The New York Times, October 31, 2011) - all, if you haven't read them, making estimable work of the subject.

"But as a taxpaying businessman with a weekly payroll to meet and more than a passing familiarity with the ways of both Wall Street and Washington, I do feel justified in asking you: is the tone of the current debate really constructive? People of differing political persuasions can (and do) reasonably argue about whether, and how high, tax rates should be hiked for upper-income earners; whether the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended or permitted to expire, and for whom; whether various deductions and exclusions under the federal tax code that benefit principally the wealthy and multinational corporations should be curtailed or eliminated; whether unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut should be extended; whether the burdens of paying for the nation's bloated entitlement programs are being fairly spread around, and whether those programs themselves should be reconfigured in light of current and projected budgetary constraints; whether financial institutions deemed 'too big to fail' should be serially bailed out or broken up first, like an earlier era's trusts, because they pose a systemic risk and their size benefits no one but their owners; whether the solution to what ails us as a nation is an amalgam of more regulation, wealth redistribution, and a greater concentration of power in a central government that has proven no more (I'm being charitable here) adept than the private sector in reining in the excesses that brought us to this pass - the list goes on and on, and the dialectic is admirably American. Even though, as a high-income taxpayer, I might be considered one of its targets, I find this reassessment of so many entrenched economic premises healthy and long overdue. Anyone who could survey today's challenging fiscal landscape, with an un- and underemployment rate of nearly 20 percent and roughly 40 percent of the country on public assistance, and not acknowledge an imperative for change is either heartless, brainless, or running for office on a very parochial agenda. And if I end up paying more taxes as a result, so be it. The alternatives are all worse.

"But what I do find objectionable is the highly politicized idiom in which this debate is being conducted. Now, I am not naive. I understand that in today's America, this is how the business of governing typically gets done - a situation that, given the gravity of our problems, is as deplorable as it is seemingly ineluctable. But as President first and foremost and leader of your party second, you should endeavor to rise above the partisan fray and raise the level of discourse to one that is both more civil and more conciliatory, that seeks collaboration over confrontation. That is what 'leading by example' means to most people.

"Capitalism is not the source of our problems, as an economy or as a society, and capitalists are not the scourge that they are too often made out to be. As a group, we employ many millions of taxpaying people, pay their salaries, provide them with healthcare coverage, start new companies, found new industries, create new products, fill store shelves at Christmas, and keep the wheels of commerce and progress (and indeed of government, by generating the income whose taxation funds it) moving. To frame the debate as one of rich-and-entitled versus poor-and-dispossessed is to both miss the point and further inflame an already incendiary environment. It is also a naked, political pander to some of the basest human emotions - a strategy, as history teaches, that never ends well for anyone but totalitarians and anarchists.

"With due respect, Mr. President, it's time for you to throttle-down the partisan rhetoric and appeal to people's better instincts, not their worst. Rather than assume that the wealthy are a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot who must be subjugated by the force of the state, set a tone that encourages people of good will to meet in the middle. When you were a community organizer in Chicago, you learned the art of waging a guerilla campaign against a far superior force. But you've graduated from that milieu and now help to set the agenda for that superior force. You might do well at this point to eschew the polarizing vernacular of political militancy and become the transcendent leader you were elected to be. You are likely to be far more effective, and history is likely to treat you far more kindly for it.


"Leon G. Cooperman
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer"

My rebuttal on our behalf

The 99 Percent | Everywhere, USA

Small Business Chief Executive Officer, Accountant, Dishwasher, Truck Driver, Receptionist, Cashier, Customer Service Representative, Tech Support Guru, File Clerk, Soccer Mom, Executive Assistant, Photographer, Medical Billing Specialist, Super Dad, Writer, Machinist, Pharmacist, Teacher, Painter, Gardener, and so on.

November 29, 2011

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It is with a great sense of pride that we write this. Like many others, we believed that your election would bring a salutary change of direction to the country, despite those critics who called you naive, unfit and too inexperienced to lead. We are glad to know that we were right. We do not blame you for the economic mess that you inherited, even if your opposition has taken every opportunity to ensure that any effort to address it has been largely ineffectual. We understand that when surrounded by cries of "This is just a lot of wasteful Washington spending," even the strongest of minds will be hard pressed to effect the kind of sweeping change necessary to stave off the predicted apocalypse.

Unfortunately, in spite of your extraordinary efforts, you are now being held accountable for creating a tenor of rancorous debate that was actually started by your political opponents. You are being held personally responsible for "roiling" us in what Republicans were the first to characterize as "class warfare." We know that this does not reflect on any "principled belief that the eternal divide between the haves and have-nots is at the root of all the evils that afflict our society," nor is it "just a cynical, populist appeal to your base by a president struggling in the polls." Understanding this fact is actually of monumental importance. It matters that the divisive, polarizing tone of your opponents' rhetoric has already cleaved a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and the wealthy, who refer to themselves as “those best positioned to help us,” even though we don’t want their “help,” what we want is our fair share of the spoils of our labor, which they have not shared with us in decades.

It matters because if we continue to blame the wrong people — ourselves, or worse, you — we will never be able to successfully put a stop to it. Their tack is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents. And it is an approach to governing that owes itself to desperate demagoguery that the Republican Party has spent the last 35 years becoming more and more comfortable with and adept at.

Just to be clear, we were not "to-the-manor-born," and have struggled our entire lives to enjoy even a modicum of success and financial stability, only to be rewarded with diminishing savings accounts, homes with no equity, lost retirement accounts and wages that have remained stagnant since 1965. We went to public schools because that was our only option. We are plumbers and carpenters and assembly line workers. We come from all corners of the globe and bring with us a diverse and rich background that serves this country well. We have parents who have prodded us and children we have prodded, too. We have had successful businesses go under because the banks who were "too big to fail" played games with the market, lost big, got bailed out, then refused to lend us any more money so we could no longer meet our payroll.

We may not all have the kind of minds necessary to start private investment firms, but we know how to cut hair, make jewelry, copy edit manuscripts, program computers or groom pets. And in spite of our modest means, we still tithe to our churches, feed the homeless, volunteer at our children's schools, run or walk to help find cures for AIDS or breast cancer or heart disease. And we think it's in pretty bad taste to gloat about our giving. We do it privately, and gladly, even if it hurts, because we all know that as bad as things might be for us, there is always someone who has it worse.

None of us are policy wonks, polemicists or pamphleteers (whatever those things are). We won't try to impress you by using big words in long sentences when we couldn't begin to understand them without a dictionary at hand. But there are others we can direct you to who have written with eloquence and authority on the subject that most needs addressing if we are to survive as something more than a Third World Nation. For recent examples of what we are up against, we point you to: "Subsidies of the Rich & Famous" (A Report by Senator Tom A. Coburn, M.D.; U.S. Senator, Oklahoma, November, 2011), "Wall Street Isn't Winning — It's Cheating" (Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, October 25, 2011), "Occupiers Occupied: The Hijacking of the First Amendment" (Robert Reich, November 15, 2011), "The Fascinating History of How Corporations Became "People" — Thanks to Corrupt Courts Working for the 1%" (Joshua Holland, AlterNet, November 23, 2011).

As taxpaying citizens with families to feed and more than a passing interest in righting this capsizing ship, we do feel justified in reminding you that for you to forgo acknowledging the existence of this divide and the destructive policies that have been designed by our legislators over a period of decades to create it, would be entirely irresponsible. We have had far too many presidents who have ignored the ever-increasing disparity in this country to our long-term detriment, not only as individuals, but as a nation. It’s about time someone spoke the truth of what has happened and who, exactly, has caused it, be they Republican or Democrat, whether they like how it makes them look or not.

While it's true that people of differing political persuasions can (and do) reasonably argue about tax rates, the Bush-era tax cuts, various deductions and exclusions, unemployment benefits, payroll tax cuts, entitlement programs, "too big to fail" financial institutions — the list goes on and on — we all know that anyone suggesting that you discuss these issues during a political campaign without acknowledging the elephant in the room would be tantamount to asking you to roll over and play dead. Don’t fall for it.

And while we’re grateful that a small handful of high-income taxpayers find the reassessment of so many entrenched economic premises healthy and long overdue, the vast majority of them are not speaking out, many in hopes that they can skate by without enduring any “harm” as they have with every prior Administration, some who are blatantly rubbing our faces in their superiority, and some, like two former staffers for John Boehner, who are secretly drafting schemes to destroy the populous movement that has finally had its belly full of the wealthy and powerful controlling every corner of a government that is supposed to be “of the people, by the people and for the people,” but that has become “of the lobbyists, by the CEOs, and for the corporations.”

But what we find most objectionable is the highly politicized idiom your opponents have chosen to erroneously charge you with. We have never once heard you lay that charge or use that terminology, and we’re mystified as to how anyone could begin to accuse you of fostering it. Now, we may not be the wealthy elite, but we are not naive. We understand that in today's Congress, this is how Republicans have forced the business of governing to get done — a situation that, given the gravity of our problems, is as deplorable as it is seemingly ineluctable.

But as President first and foremost and leader of your party second, we are impressed that you have clearly endeavored, time and time again, to rise above the partisan fray and raise the level of discourse to one that is both more civil and more conciliatory, that seeks collaboration over confrontation. That is what "leading by example" means, even if many people have heretofore refused to acknowledge that you have attempted to do so.

We know that capitalism itself is not the source of our problems. Big businesses do employ many millions of taxpaying people, pay our salaries, include healthcare coverage as part of our compensation, start new companies, found new industries and create new products. But they are wrong that it is they who fill store shelves at Christmas, and keep the wheels of commerce and progress moving; it's those who labor for them who accomplish those tasks, something that the wealthy elite all too readily overlook. And unfortunately those same big businesses have bought enough of our legislators that their share of the taxation burden (or lack thereof) to keep our government running at all, let alone efficiently, has dwindled, generating a smaller and smaller share of the revenue it takes to run it. To not frame the debate as one of "those who have taken and kept the bulk of the nation’s wealth" versus "those whose wealth has been decimated over the past several generations by reverse Robin Hood-style legislation," is to both let down the populace and further inflame an already outraged citizenry.

Do not listen to those who would accuse you of naked, political pandering. That would be the long-used methods of the opposition, who play to some of the basest human emotions, not the least of which are fear and hatred — a strategy, as history teaches, that never ends well for anyone but totalitarians, which is what we’ve become convinced they want to be. Do not allow them to project their own shortcomings onto you.

With all the respect we can muster, Mr. President, it's about time we had a president willing to throttle-up the rhetoric of The People. We don’t assume that the wealthy are a monolithic, selfish and an unfeeling lot who must be subjugated by the force of the state, but we know that enough of them hold enough sway with our government that we must do something now, before it’s too late, to wrest the power away from them and return it to the people where it belongs. And saying so does not make you guilty of the ridiculous charges laid at your feet by people who are very clearly opposed to your presidency and who would like nothing more than to see you defeated. Make no mistake, Mr. President, these men are not your friends and they do not come to you with their advice out of good will. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who are crass enough to attempt to play on your good conscience.

You know you are the same man who led communities out of poverty and into self-sufficiency in Chicago. And we know you are still that same man, no matter which side of the “force” you’re representing, because we have seen that man create and implement a health care system that is broader and fairer than this country has ever had. We watched you calmly and effectively negotiate a budget deal that kept our country from defaulting on our obligations. We’ve seen how you have championed women’s rights with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and gay rights with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. You have been the most effective president this country has seen since the 1960s, signing over 500 pieces of legislation into law in the first two years of your first term alone. History will show you to have been a man of courage and fortitude. Of principles and grace.

Do not let the naysayers get you down. We are not your "minions" and we resent being called that by people pretending to ask for a higher level of discourse yet resorting to partisan slams of their own. Please continue to fight for us, Mr. President. We need you now more than ever.


The 99 Percent

UPDATE, November 30, 2011: It has come to my attention that CNBC gave Mr. Cooperman free air time to read his rebuke of President Obama aloud on the air. Without equal time for the counter argument, this is an unconscionable breach of journalistic ethics. So I'm challenging CNBC to read this letter on air, as well.

If you agree, please contact CNBC (select Show Feedback - CNBC TV as the subject) and ask that they give equal air time to this rebuttal.

Thank you.

UPDATE, December 7, 2011: Thanks to a great comment posted below by JSM1963, I found the video of Cooperman on CNBC.

Though it appears to no longer be available as of January 2017, this is a transcript, taken when it was still viewable, of how it ends:

Cooperman: "We all want to see the country move ahead and do well. And we all want to support the president, we're just hoping to get him around a little bit more to our agenda."   CNBC Host: "Understood. We'll talk to you again soon. ... Comment Dennis?   Dennis Gartman, Co-Host: "Well, first of all, what an honor to have Leon Cooperman in front of me — amazing guy. On balance I think what he said is absolutely something that needed to be said, I think he's done the right thing by sending that letter to the president."

▶ Please visit The 99% Action Center and start lobbying your representatives in Congress to get to work on the kind of legislation we need to get this country on the right track. ▶ You may also like Obama Draws Ire of Billionaire Leon Cooperman (Not Satire) ~ By Steve Weinstein at Crooks & Liars ▶ Mr. Cooperman's smack-down has been reprinted all over the internet. Please consider reposting this rebuttal to your own blog. Thank you very much. ▶ Please also follow this link to Reddit and vote this post up there. Thanks!
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Average Worker And CEO Pay, 1965 vs 2007

View the full graphic at "Money." There's a lot more there to see.

Then visit The 99% Action Center and start calling your Representatives in Congress to effect some of the changes that will be necessary to level the playing field so we can all have a chance not just to survive, but to thrive.

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

UC Davis Pepper Spraying – A Different Angle

By now we've all probably seen the most widely-distributed video of students at UC Davis being pepper sprayed at close range by police while they were seated on the ground in a circle. It's horrifying to say the least.

After one night of camping on the quad, the Chancellor asked the students to remove tents they had set up there. Many complied. The remaining tents were dismantled and removed by the UC Davis police who had been sent to the scene by the Chancellor.

When all of the tents had been taken down, some of the students decided to wage a peaceful sit-in and formed a circle on the ground, with a group of police officers standing in the center. Chief Spicuzza justified the use of a chemical weapon against the students because her officers allegedly "feared for their safety," because the kids had "cut them off from their support" allowing "no way out."


Watch this alternate video and see for yourself. Notice that at the very beginning of the video one of the officers was joking around with one of the seated students, leaning over him and patting him on the back before stepping away a little further. Then at 2:22, watch what Lt. Pike does:

Now visit The 99% Action Center and start calling your Representatives in Congress to effect some of the change these students were protesting about.

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Monday, November 21, 2011

Not Hiring Until Obama Is Gone

Eh. I'm not buyin' it. As my friend Tina Dupuy said, "If he needs workers, he'll hire them." And she's right. But he's a Republican. So what he'll do is secretly hire day laborers off the street corners, pay them substandard wages under the table, then plaster another sign on his other window bitching about how illegals are stealing our jobs.

For a deeper look into the hypocrisy of the Republican Party, as seen by party insider David Frum, read his awakening: When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality? (Pssst, a long time ago, David. We've been trying to tell you that for years. Thankfully you finally got it.)

Then go visit The 99% Action Center and start calling your Representatives in Congress to effect the change we want to see in this country.

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The People's Non-Compete With America Contract

Dear Senator/Congressman(woman) ________________,

I am writing today to implore you to work with your colleagues and champion legislation that forbids any elected representative in Congress, members of their staff, and any and all staff members in the Administration or in any cabinet position from working for any corporation or in any industry that they wrote or promoted legislation benefiting for a period of not less than 10 years following their time working for the People.

That's one of the reasons our government is broken. 

What’s Wrong With America and How to Fix It in Two Simple Diagrams.

And people like Robert Rubin, then-United States Secretary of the Treasury, who pushed through the reversal of the Glass-Steagall Act that (among other things) legalized the formation of Citigroup, then went on immediately afterwards to become Citigroup's chairman, illustrate the dangers of not disallowing this practice.

Too Big To Jail.

This needs to stop. Consider it The People's Non-Compete With America Contract. You don't get to go to work allegedly representing the People, push through laws that benefit a corporation or industry, then go on directly to work for that corporation or industry and reap personal gain from said law(s).

Protecting us is what we "hired"/elected you to do. Please introduce legislation that will give us confidence knowing you have put our protection ahead of any personal financial gain following your time working on our behalf.

This is one of the major issues the people of Occupy Wall Street are protesting about — We want influence peddling out of government — in both directions.

Please be the voice of the People in the Senate/House.

Thank you,

(Your Name Here)

Readers, please copy this to all of your representatives. Here's how to reach them: 

I'd love to know if you sent your representative a copy of this letter (or one similar in your own words). Please let me know if you did in the comments section below. Thanks!

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Obama Needs A New Campaign Logo

Show of hands: Who remembers how John Kerry countered George W. Bush's accusation that he'd be "soft on terror," with a reminder to the American people how he was the one who uncovered the Iran/Contra scandal and he was the one who opened the investigation that exposed the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) as a huge terrorist network organization (it was Osama bin Laden's bank) and got it shut down?

No one?

Me, neither.

And how I longed for the ability to reach out to John Kerry's campaign, grab them by the shoulders and shake them vigorously for completely ignoring two of the most significant accomplishments in his extraordinary Senate career that would have exposed George W. Bush as the poser that he was.
With probes, making his mark

On a summer day in 1986, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gathered behind closed doors off the chamber floor to hear the sales pitch of a brash freshman, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. ...

He had spent the spring conducting an unauthorized investigation into reports that the Reagan administration was illegally providing aid to the rebel Nicaraguan Contra armies, which were attempting to overthrow the left-wing government of that Central American nation. At this closed session, he planned to urge the committee to launch an official probe. ...

[B]ehind the scenes, Kerry had forged an unlikely alliance with Senator Jesse Helms, the hidebound conservative from North Carolina. As the senior Republican on the committee, Helms was the key to Kerry's hopes. And the key to Helms was the drug war.

In the course of their investigation, Kerry and his staff had found evidence that some contras had ties to drug smuggling. If there was one class of villain that Helms deplored as much as the communists, it was drug traffickers.

On matters of political philosophy, Kerry and Helms were polar opposites. Yet each was something of a maverick, contemptuous of the capital's courtiers and willing to rock the clubby Senate. "I spent time with Jesse," Kerry recalls. "I talked to him. Talked his language. Jesse didn't believe the same things I did in many cases, but he was a gentleman. He was a man of his word."

As Kerry finished his presentation, the senior members turned to Helms, taking his temperature on the issue. "Jesse? What do you think about this?" asked Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the panel, according to a transcript of the then-secret session. "I know you are a contra supporter."

"I will tell you what I do not support, and John Kerry and I have talked about this: anybody sending drugs into this country," Helms told his colleagues. "I do not care whose side they are on."

Helms was on board. The committee reached a consensus: It would investigate the contras and the contra-drug connection.
Even if you hadn't been born yet, or weren't old enough to remember when that scandal broke, you have heard of it. The Iran-Contra Affair was a major event in our political history. Hearings were televised for months and resulted in 11 felony convictions (all of which were granted pardons by George H.W. Bush as he was leaving office, of course). To have sold himself as the man behind the exposure of this level of corruption in government would have undoubtedly earned John Kerry enormous respect among the portion of the electorate who hadn't already decided he was a traitor in spite of his exemplary service in Vietnam.

And following on Kerry's investigation of Iran-Contra was this:
Follow the Money — How John Kerry busted the terrorists' favorite bank.

Two decades ago, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was a highly respected financial titan. In 1987, when its subsidiary helped finance a deal involving Texas oilman George W. Bush, the bank appeared to be a reputable institution, with attractive branch offices, a traveler's check business, and a solid reputation for financing international trade. It had high-powered allies in Washington and boasted relationships with respected figures around the world.

All that changed in early 1988, when John Kerry, then a young senator from Massachusetts, decided to probe the finances of Latin American drug cartels. Over the next three years, Kerry fought against intense opposition from vested interests at home and abroad, from senior members of his own party; and from the Reagan and Bush administrations, none of whom were eager to see him succeed.

By the end, Kerry had helped dismantle a massive criminal enterprise and exposed the infrastructure of BCCI and its affiliated institutions, a web that law enforcement officials today acknowledge would become a model for international terrorist financing. As Kerry's investigation revealed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, BCCI was interested in more than just enriching its clients--it had a fundamentally anti-Western mission. Among the stated goals of its Pakistani founder were to "fight the evil influence of the West," and finance Muslim terrorist organizations. In retrospect, Kerry's investigation had uncovered an institution at the fulcrum of America's first great post-Cold War security challenge.

Pretty impressive, right? Certainly everyone I spoke with during the campaign who didn't know this about John Kerry (that would be all of them), thought it was pretty incredible and were shocked that he wasn't using that in his campaign. In fact, everyone I directed to this information became firm Kerry voters where they had previously been undecided.

Yet with these stellar accomplishments in his record, and up against arguably the worst president in modern history — the guy who let the 9/11 terror attacks happen on his watch, the guy who took us into a war of aggression against a sovereign nation that posed no imminent threat to us, the guy whose administration orchestrated the outing of a CIA operative for craven political purposes, the guy who no one in the democratic party thought stood a chance in hell of getting a second term to continue his disastrous presidency — John Kerry lost.

So why is that important in 2011?

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~ George Santayana

There is no doubt that Barack Obama is a brilliant strategist and campaigner. More impressive than his win against McCain/Palin was his victory over what had become known as "the Clinton Machine." When you think about the fact that a little-known Senator beat a former United States President and his then-First Lady/now-Senator wife, it's actually pretty mind-blowing. We watched in awe as he won primary after primary, caucus after caucus. We were gobsmacked at reports of Democrats in states like Montana who had lined up for blocks to vote in the presidential primary. Montana. Think about that.

But that was then and this is now. While it is still early yet, and President Obama's overall approval rating is improving, there is still a great deal of sentiment that "his administration's efforts have done more to harm rather than [benefit] the nation's economy," and in swing states, "By more than 2 to 1, Republicans ... are more likely than Democrats to say they are "extremely enthusiastic" about voting for president next year."

While I can't speak to anyone's personal finances and whether their bank accounts are bigger or smaller than they were in 2008, I can say with certainty that this nation's economy is in far, far better shape than the trajectory we were headed down three years ago, and this perceived harm to our economy is patently untrue. Just one example of this is the jobs picture:

And that chart only takes us through July. In all, we've experienced 20 consecutive months of private-sector job growth in this country — and that's despite Republican efforts to thwart any advancement in order to make Obama look bad so that they can destroy him in the 2012 election.

And let's be honest, people don't get "enthusiastic" to vote unless one of two factors exist; a deep desire to unseat the incumbent — which is what's driving republican enthusiasm, or the thrill of voting for someone you believe can actually get things done to change the course of this country for the better. The latter made up an enormous segment of Barack Obama voters in the 2008 election, and many of them have abandoned him due to a misperception that he hasn't been effective at bringing about the change he said he would during that campaign.

A year seems rather far off, but in reality it's not. I know the Obama campaign is gearing up for a full-on frontal attack of republicans in congress (which is the tack he's embarked on now), republican ideas and policies, and whomever the eventual nominee of the republican party will be.

I would just like to take this opportunity to remind the campaign that with sentiments floating around that range from disappointed to angry, this campaign cannot win those voters back or lure undecided independent voters merely by pointing out how bad republicans suck. Those voters know that already; they don't have to be sold on it. In order to bring those people back into the fold and inspire new voters to go to the polls, the Obama campaign needs to disabuse people of the false notion that things are worse now than they were when he stepped into the swamp the Bush Administration left for him. And he can only do that by pounding home the astounding improvements he's made and the myriad accomplishments of his administration and the former democratic congress.

He should use the above graph as his new logo.

We need to bring back the thrill and excitement that will drive enthusiasm! I remember it; I was there:

Republicans are experts at messaging campaigns. They managed to portray their own health care program from 1993 — a fully-participatory system where everyone was mandated to pay in — as government intrusion into personal healthcare choices ("Death Panels" anyone?). They managed to convince Americans that debt reduction was crucial, riling their constituency up into a frenzy over it, resulting in the debt ceiling debacle of this past summer. And President Obama not only didn't educate the public about the fact that debt reduction during a balance sheet recession would be fatal to our economy, he went along with the Republicans.

And in so doing, he left the impression that he was not a "leader," when in fact he actually won that battle hands-down and played the republicans for fools. But one thing republicans know above all else, impressions matter more than the truth. And they will attempt to capitalize on this image of him as a weak leader — count on it. The reality is, he's a quiet, masterful leader — and it's time for him to get vocal about it.

As with John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth," we cannot afford to allow republicans to control the direction of the discourse this election. Do not make the same mistake John Kerry made. Do not leave major accomplishments collecting dust in the basement.

The Supreme Court is far too critical for us to lose this election.


With probes, making his mark ~ By John Aloysius Farrel at The Boston Globe
Iran-Contra Affair ~ at Wikipedia
Follow the Money — How John Kerry busted the terrorists' favorite bank. ~ By David Sirota and Jonathan Baskin at Washington Monthly
Obama's Making A Huge Comeback ~ By Zeke Miller at Business Insider
Summer of Discontent Slams Obama and Republicans – ABC News / Washington Post Poll ~ By Julie E. Phelan and Gary Langer at ABC News
Swing States poll: Obama's path to 2nd term an uphill climb ~ By Susan Page at USA TODAY
The Democrats' Powerful Negotiating Advantage ~ By msbellows at Vichy Democrats

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

UPDATED: An Open Letter To The Oakland Police Officers' Association

*Please see UPDATE as of 11/5 at the end of this article.

This is in response to your Open Letter to the Citizens of Oakland

Dear Oakland Police Officers,

I am not a resident of Oakland, so your letter wasn't addressed specifically to me, but as a citizen of this country, even things that don't happen in my immediate community affect me in myriad ways. I was and am very angry at what I witnessed (from my admittedly distant perspective), of the events that unfolded on Tuesday, October 25th, so I would like to take this opportunity to respond to your letter.

You told me a little about yourselves, so let me tell you a little about myself. I am a resident of Redondo Beach, California, having lived here since 1994. But I don't just dwell here, I am active in my community here. In addition to becoming trained to respond to emergencies in the absence of police and fire personnel through the Community Emergency Response Team program (in three communities, actually), one of the other ways I have participated is by taking the 13-week Citizen Police Academy training course, through which I gained "a working knowledge of the police department, along with the roles and responsibilities of its police officers," and received training in:
  • S.W.A.T.
  • Traffic Enforcement
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Police Patrol & Ride-Along
  • K-9 Demonstrations
  • Gangs
  • Vice & Narcotics
  • Community Relations (COPPS)
  • Crime Scene Investigations
  • Firearms and the Police Range
  • Police Dispatch & Communications
  • Pier & Harbor Patrol
  • The Jail & Justice System

This is me at the police firing range:

I'm not too bad a shot, either (this guy might not have been killed, but he'd definitely have been down!):

I tell you all of this so that you will know I am coming from a place not only of respect and admiration for the thankless job you put your lives on the line to do for your community every day, but that I am at least moderately familiar with many of the responsibilities that that job entails.

That said, I am outraged by the behavior of your officers and those of the other departments who assisted you that night. This excuse that you were "just following orders" is offensive in the extreme. I don't think I have to remind you where and why that phrase became popularized. The only people responsible for the way those horrific events unfolded are the people who committed those acts.

I think Mayor Quan's behavior in this debacle is an utter disgrace. She should not have left town that night, for whatever reason she left. She had a responsibility to be on hand to ensure her instructions were carried out properly and legally. She also had no business holding onto thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment and supplies that were taken from the camps by your officers, and not returning them until the owners of that property threatened to "occupy" her office. If I were a resident there, I'd be calling for her to step down immediately. It is clear to me that she is incapable of performing one of the most critical duties she was sworn in to do.

But that does not absolve your officers.

I don't believe for a moment that it was Mayor Quan who gave the order to throw tear gas canisters, or shoot rubber bullets, or lob flash-bang devices directly at people! And I know from having read your own Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy that:

  • "Direct Fired SIM may never be used indiscriminately against a crowd or group of persons even if some members of the crowd or group are violent or disruptive."

And that:

  • "Members shall only deploy Direct Fired SIM during a demonstration or crowd event under the direction of a supervisor."

So there must have been someone on the ground giving those orders, and that would not have been Mayor Quan who was thousands of miles away, hiding in Washington, DC. So please stop trying to pass the buck. And please don't try to tell me that those things didn't happen, either. There is ample video and photographic evidence to dispute any such assertion.

And then, to add insult to actual injury, there's this:
  • "Any person struck by a round shall be transported to a hospital for observation and any necessary treatment. Ambulance service, if required, shall be ordered per General Order I-4. First aid, when necessary, shall be administered per Training Bulletin III-K."

Would any of your officers care to explain why at least two dozen men (and possibly women) in uniform stood around and did nothing to come to the aid of felled Marine, Scott Olsen? Or why in the name of all that is holy, at least two individuals in your ranks lobbed flash-bang devices directly into the group that did rush to his aid? And why they ultimately allowed protesters to be the ones who had to transport Olsen to a hospital? Who knows how much of the current damage to his brain might have been avoided or mitigated had he been transported by paramedics trained and equipped to move someone with a head injury! That your people abdicated their responsibility here is simply unconscionable.

I'm terribly sorry if all this confuses you.

Having been "fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property," you should also have been aware of a $2 million judgment against the city of Oakland in a class action suit that arose from your officers using the same or similar tactics during another protest. How could you not be; it resulted in a change in policy wherein Oakland police agreed to "no longer indiscriminately use wooden or rubber bullets, Taser stun guns, pepper spray and motorcycles to break up crowds."

I fail to see where the confusion lies. Seems like pretty clear-cut and straight-forward policy to me.

Which was violated.

As to your "confusion" over first being told to break up the camps then the camps being allowed to return, I find this both odd and disturbing. As officers of the law, I expect that you know that often when citizens lodge complaints and those complaints are reviewed (and probably a few attorneys weigh in), decisions are sometimes reversed. This cannot be something new to you. Or would you prefer that when the city learns they were wrong to have taken a certain action, that they not take steps to reverse that action?

And if you're still confused as to how you're supposed to deal with apparently conflicting messages from City Hall, might I suggest that you do one of three things:

  • Take it up the chain of command and seek clarification from a superior.
  • Follow the policies in your policy manual to the letter (just to be on the safe side of your "confusion").
  • Be a "conscientious objector" and lay down your weapons.

Whatever the city's "intentions" are by both encouraging the general strike and at the same time reinforcing the police to stand against the protesters, that is not really your concern as it pertains to you doing your job both professionally and morally. Your complaints are actually political.

Therefore I suggest that you should, as individuals and citizens, join the petition to demand Mayor Quan step down. You can also make phone calls to your city council members and voice your objections. In short, you have exactly the same recourse as the rest of us. Actually, I think you know this already, seeing as how some of your officers appear to have participated as citizens in the protests themselves. Or was that really the reason they were there?

What you shouldn't do is plead "confusion" and think that'll earn you a pass. It's pathetic that you would come whining to the public, looking for sympathy as a way to absolve yourself of your bad acts and egregious abdication of your duties as peace officers.

I respectfully ask that you join us in opposing the thwarting of your fellow citizens' freedom of speech and lawful protest.

Thank you for listening.

P.S. Not that there's anything you can do about it, but you might consider looking at how some of your brothers and sisters in uniform are talking about the man you put in the hospital in a coma with a brain injury. If you'd really like the general public to sympathize with you, consider condemning that type of slander against a man who served this country in two tours in Iraq.

And just so you don't forget:

*11/5 UPDATE: A second veteran of the Iraq war is in intensive care, apparently at the hands of your officers. Kayvan Sabeghi was brutally beaten with nightsticks on his way home from dinner in the vicinity of where the protests were occurring late Wednesday night.

While details cannot be corroborated at this time, what we do know is that Sabeghi appears on the list at the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, as one of the people arrested that night. He spent somewhere between 18 – 24 hours in custody, after which he found himself in the emergency room needing a 2 hour surgery due to a ruptured spleen and internal bleeding. He, too, is now in intensive care.

So let me guess ... your officers beat him this severely because ... they were confused. Do I have that right?

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank