Archive for the ‘rich vs. poor’ Category

President Annouces NIH Campaign To Fight The Crippling Epidemic of Affluenza

July 23rd, 2014 1 Comment

 

WASHINGTON DC –Declaring the rampant spread of Affluenza “a national state of emergency,” today President Obama signed into law a new $212 billion National Institutes of Health initiative to fight the nation’s crippling, and often fatal, epidemic of Affluenza.

President Obama announcing the Affluenza initiative in the East Room

President Obama announcing the Affluenza initiative in the East Room

Affluenza has long been a problem in the U.S. but recent advances in early detection have determined that it is much more widespread than previously believed. While studies show that 47 percent of Americans are inoculated from it by a pre-existing condition known as poverty, this leaves more than half of the country vulnerable.

Researchers define Affluenza as a serious cognitive disorder that alters the way our bodies respond to widespread prosperity. As the Affluenza hormone floods the bloodstream unchecked it distorts sufferers interaction with objective reality, as evidenced by a lack of empathy and generosity, and general anti-social behavior. Instead of driving down anxiety, general prosperity fills Affluenza sufferers with a desperate craving for more possessions and bigger tax breaks. This can lead to manic acquisitions of jewels and luxury properties, delusions of wisdom and, in the most acute cases, a run for national public office.

President Obama praised the bi-partisan support for the bill.

“Members on both sides of the aisle see Affluenza every day. More than half of your representatives — your congressmen, your senators — have symptoms. It’s rampant among my cabinet appointees, heads of think tanks, lobbyists, CEOs, limousine liberals and union bosses. This is a first bold step to eliminating Affluenza and the stigma that surrounds it.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called “groundbreaking” the new public/private partnership between the NIH and the Donald Trump Capital Preservation Institute, home to cutting edge research in this field.

Affluenza has long gone undiagnosed. Until as recently as 2007 it was common for Affluenza sufferers to be labeled as sociopaths, psychopaths, or narcissists. When virulent clusters first were detected in Darien, Connecticut and Palo Alto, California in 1998, researchers believed the disease targeted only white male Americans. As scientists from the Trump Institute isolated Affluenza’s symptoms, they identified undiagnosed cases throughout the NBA, in Kim Jung-Un’s family and among most of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, proving that Affluenza strikes all races and genders.

The Trump Institutes initial case-control study of the pathology paired individuals who suffer from Affluenza with a control group of asymptomatic individuals, nicknamed “suckers” by the researchers. The researchers plotted subjects’ activities of daily living on a six-pronged matrix consisting of general douchebaggery, insufficient tipping, number of Malcolm Gladwell books read, teeth whitening, frequency of attendance at destination weddings and times the charges were dropped without having to go to trial. At the conclusion of a six-year longitudinal study, Trump scientists identified two types of Affluenza: the rare Type One and the more widespread Type Two, comprising 95 percent of the cases. Type Two sufferers have the same acquisitive impulses as Type One but do not have the money to pay for their purchases.

“We used to think of these people as the backbone of our economy,” said President Obama. “Now we understand they are suffering too.”

Aversion therapy for Affluenza suffers has met with limited success.

Aversion therapy for Affluenza suffers has met with limited success.

The research grant will fund a clinical trial on a new drug, The Donald, that is a competitive receptor for the Affluenza hormone. This psychoactive topical medication can be transmitted trans dermally through a hairpiece, or applied directly to the scrotum by specially trained masseuses. The NIH will also be funding research on a different drug delivery system being tested at the Mitt Romney Research Institute and Equestrian Center at the Cayman Islands. The Romney team is experimenting with distributing the medicine through the climate control systems of all luxury vehicles with a list price above $46,000.

The mood during the signing ceremony in the East Room was one of triumph after the long hard fight for the bill. President Obama handed out memorial pens to Koch Brothers, 25 members of the Walton Family, the Clintons, Larry Ellison, Robert Redford, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Elon Musk, and Oprah. All in attendance sported plump gold moneybags on their lapels, the worldwide symbol of Affluenza awareness. At the close of his remarks, Obama reached into his suit jacket pocket and affixed one to his lapel.

“Ich ein bin Affluenza,” he said with moist eyes.

The room erupted in applause.

Occupy Consensus – – Ground Level At The Oakland General Strike

November 4th, 2011 1 Comment

I was one of the thousands of protestors who joined Oakland’s November 2 General Strike and marched to the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth largest, to shut it down. I believe in protesting government policies that have widened the gap between the rich and everyone else. Yet I participated despite deep reservations; I doubted that a leaderless movement could pull off something this logistically complex.

 

What I saw changed my mind. Even though there was no one named leader, participants emerged to keep the demonstrations focused, calm and non-violent. There were no police visible on the streets for the ten hours I was there, yet the crowds organized their own ways to maintain order. (Violence broke out very late at night after most people had gone home.)

 

The first significant action I saw that day occurred around noon in front of the Chase branch at 20th and Franklin streets. A family whose home Chase had foreclosed set up their living room in the intersection. There was a well-worn area rug, a spent sofa with a side table and a battered lamp.

 

“I have been a Chase customer for many years,” said Brenda Reed, a homeowner who has lived in Rockridge, one of Oakland’s better neighborhoods, for 38 years. “The bank is going to foreclose on my house on Thanksgiving week. I’m not leaving. They robo-signed our loans. They sold us predatory mortgages. They took a $16 trillion bailout with our money, then refused to modify our loans.”

 

Reed then urged the crowd to take out their cell phones and shouted out the direct line for CEO Jamie Dimon’s personal assistant. I wasn’t sure how leaving angry voice mails for Jamie Dimon’s assistant was going to help Ms. Reed, but the crowd was enthusiastic about this the gesture, riding off the triumph of having shut down the Chase branch at the corner for the day.

 

The crowd, which started at about 400 strong, increased quickly in size and emotional intensity during the episode in the intersection. We then marched to a Bank of America a few blocks to the east intending to shut it down. The B of A branch was on the ground level of a skyscraper and had floor-to-ceiling windows that offered a clear view of the tellers inside. As the crowd pressed forward, some in the front started pounding on the windows. The glass starting to undulate in big waves, and I became terrified that it would shatter, slicing the demonstrators and causing a riot. Monitors from the Service Employees International Union, who wore brightly colored fluorescent vests to distinguish them from the crowd, stepped in between the demonstrators and the windows to diffuse the situation.

 

Despite moments of high tension, there was good feeling, even exuberance, among the protestors and the atmosphere of a giant street party. We marched back from the B of A to the encampment in the plaza with the Brass Liberation Orchestra , a New Orleans-style marching band with a great brass section. At the plaza there was a man on a tricycle circling the crowd with a boom box playing James Brown’s “Funky President” (“People, people, we got to get over, before we go under.”) Up on the makeshift stage at the corner, Boots Riley, Oakland musician and activist, spoke into the mic. “There are people who call themselves experts who would have told you that something like this wouldn’t happen in the United States,” he said. “We’re proving them wrong. We’re proving that the people are fed up with the set up.”

 

The big moment of the day was about to begin: a march to the Port of Oakland.

 

After a three-mile walk, the waves of protestors, which now numbered in the thousands, reached the target. As we spilled out into the massive lanes into the Port and dispersed among the many gates, dancing broke out. The Longshoremen, some of whom who had walked out on the job that morning in solidarity with the strike were there, as were ironworkers, nurses, teachers, and members of the airport workers’ union.

 

Stranded in the general chaos were the independent trucking contractors behind the wheels of their rigs. One trucker started to rev his engine and the truck bucked as if he was threatening to run over the marchers who had gathered to block his passage. One slip of the clutch and there would have been carnage. As he continued to gun his motor, a young woman climbed on top of the hood of the truck and sat on the windshield front of the driver, while a young man climbed up to the window to speak with him. After a quick chat, the driver and the young man shook hands. The driver turned off his engine, and exited the truck to the cheers of the crowd.

 

Actions like these were spontaneous. The most direction we received was from text messages telling us where to assemble and for what purpose. Via text I learned about and joined one of the general assemblies called at port entry gate near where I stood. My group sat in a circle and if someone wanted to speak, he or she stood up and yelled, “Mic check!” The crowd then repeated that back to acknowledge that that individual had the floor.

 

Statements were brief. One young woman acknowledged the significance of what we had all accomplished: Oakland’s first general strike in 65 years, which (at least until that point) had been peaceful. But, she said, what the movement needed to do to affect real change was to occupy Sacramento and DC, to work to elect candidates that reflected the movement’s views and could change policy. Many wiggled their fingers in at their eye level to signal agreement.


As my friend and I left, sore in the legs from ten hours marching in the streets, I was impressed by how much this fledgling movement had accomplished in just two months. Here were thousands of people closing down the port, closing down the city, and planning to clarify their diffuse messages, as well as making the first murmurs of trying to influence politics. There was no charismatic figure guiding the evolution, but it was evolving rapidly nonetheless.

#OCCUPY OAKLAND — A Night of Mayhem And Social Media

October 26th, 2011 No Comments

Last night  the streets of Oakland became our own Tahrir Square when a crowd of around 500 people angry at the way they police had dismantled the Occupy Oakland camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall early that morning, marched through the streets in a show of solidarity and were fired upon by police with tear gas, flash bombs and bean bags.

http://youtu.be/bytMNoKNeRA

Before the mayhem irrupted, I watched the crowd massing at 14th and Broadway via a live feed from the local ABC station’s helicopter. The feed  was mute, strangely, yet by linking to the #OccupyOakland feed on Twitter, I was able to read tweets from people on the ground. As with the tweets when Egyptians occupied Tahrir Square, the tweets were a mixture of truth and emotion.  People tweeted that the crowd was 2,000 people, and some estimated the number to be 5,000. Looking at the protestors on the street from above, I could see the the march was only about a block long and probably comprised a total of about 400 people.  They were emotional, the tweets definitely expressed, but they were peaceful.

That was until they decided to march back to the plaza at city hall. When they arrived there, more than 100 police stood in a line behind metal barricades wearing full riot gear.

The stand off between the cops and the protestors escalated as the cops warned they would lob tear gas and flash bombs at them if they did not disperse. They issued time-sensitive warnings, saying that the protestors had five minutes, then three, then one to clear out.  The Twitter feed  reported that the cops were lowering their masks, getting ready for battle.  The view from above via the ABC helicopter showed the distance between the protestors massing at the barricade and the cops holding their line.  Then suddenly the ABC feed went dead.

A few minutes later the television station posted a notice saying that at this crucial moment when the battle was joined the helicopter went to get fuel.  This was a stunning experience for me, the journalist.  At first I didn’t want to believe that this was true.  No news organization would, unless it was strictly necessary, pull away from a story at the crucial moment. This would mean that ABC was taking its orders from the cops, not guiding its decisions by its own news judgment.

Fortunately there was Twitter and the smart people on the ground with their cell phone cameras who were able to record what was going on.

Photos accompanied many of the tweets, telling a story that the media refused to convey.

Protestors carry wounded Iraq veteran Scott Olsen away from the Oakland battlefront. Olsen suffered serious head wounds and was hospitalized.

Calling these projectiles bean bags makes them seem playful and fun, but launched from a cannon, they're not in any way mild.

 

The crowd retreated to a park near Lake Merritt, a few blocks to the east of the plaza, to re-group and decide what to do next.  As they gathered strength and purpose, they decided to go back to the plaza and confront the cops again.  At that point, the helicopter news feed miraculously came back on the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again the crowd marched back to the plaza. It seemed  from my distant vantage point that it had become larger.  Perhaps people nearby hearing the helicopters in the sky and getting the tweets on their cell phones, rushed to the lake to join in.  Then again, just before the confrontation was joined, the ABC feed from the helicopter went dark.

A better description than I can convey of what was happening on the street is available from The New York Times and Mother Jones whose reporters were on the ground last night and witnessed the carnage first hand.

My experience was at a remove, but had a different kind of immediacy.  I was as mentally engaged as if I had been reporting on this event, but without the personal risk.  It was if I was in my  own little newsroom here at my computer: watching the newsfeed, refreshing the Twitter feed every few seconds, which posted updates in blocks of 20 tweets.  I was updating what I collected from these various sources in Facebook status updates while simultaneously narrating it to my daughter, who was at work, and exchanging text messages with my son in New York.  The combination of all of these elements gave me a sense that I was involved in this struggle, even if the struggle was far from me.

 

I’m struck by two things sitting here the next day.  The first of which is the overwhelming power of social media. I just started participating in Twitter last week and was disdainful of it as a lot of inane chatter.  Most of the time it is, in an even more annoying way than Facebook, with people telling you what they had for lunch or that they’re bored.  Yet in the middle of this confrontation, when something of national importance was happening, it was vital.  It fulfilled a role that the media refused to take on. I have been taught to think that in a situation such as the one that transpired last night, the media was at its best. This was the moment when others want to look away, and the trained witnesses of the media point their cameras and their eyes toward the thing most of us are too scared to see.  That was what always made me proud to be a journalist: the fact that we turned an unblinking eye to the world and showed it, consequences be damned.

Yet last night, that whole illusion was shattered by the ABC, CBS and KTVU collusion with the police.  All of these networks went dark at precisely the moment when the public needed them most to record what was happening, both the alleged aggression of the protestors and the alleged too-strong response of the cops.  There is no way of any of us judging for ourselves who behaved badly in this conflict because the cameras turned away.  I am in a bit of mourning over this, but so grateful for the twitter feed.  The witnesses there have their biases — we weren’t getting competing tweets from the cops — but the photographs and videos they posted stand as a record for all of us to examine.

Secondly I respect the protestors for holding back, not becoming violent in the face of this assault.  The Oakland Police Department press release says that the cops were provoked by protestors hurling rocks and liquid: paint, vinegar, and one cop detected a smell of urine in those fluids.  In the tweets last night I also read that one protestor threw money at the police and taunted them by asking, “Now will you protect us?”  As terrible as it was, with more than 100 arrests and dozens sent to the emergency room, it could have been much worse if the protestors became violent and the police answered in kind.

My friend Edwin Dobb, another journalist, posted on Facebook a sentiment I also share about the unreported tragedy of last night.  Now we are writing and thinking about the clash between the cops and the demonstrators. The discussion is about police violence and whether or not the protestors have the right to occupy the public square. The cops claim that they had to clear the square because it had become a health hazard and that there were fights there; that it had become less about the ideals of the Occupy movement and more of a homeless encampment. This is what Edwin Dobb was noting last night albeit in a different way. We’re not talking about the way Wall Street has extracted so much money from the economy, the frauds and abuses of the investment class and the regulations necessary to bring it back in line, or the corrupting influence of money in DC.  We’re talking about cops vs. protestors.  We need to get back to that discussion and not lose focus, yet I fear that tonight there will be another confrontation in Oakland, bringing the conversation totally off this incredibly important topic.