Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street’s support keeps getting bigger. And bigger. From steelworkers to doctors, they’re mad as hell.

I paid another visit to Zuccotti Park over the weekend. This was five days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cops first thought to invade the park and oust the protestors and then thought better of it.

The police brass changed their minds – or Bloomberg changed their orders, I’m not sure which – because an army of union people began descending on the site, shortly before the planned 7 a.m. rout last Wednesday.

It wasn’t a matter of simply how embarrassed the mayor would be if his brass suddenly gave out the order to pepper spray the union folks and haul ‘em off to the slammer. Nor was it the sense I have that most of the cops are in some sympathy with the mob. You can exclude from that remark the white shirted brass. But the average Joe and Jill in blue seem a bit uncomfortable about what they're doing. But that's only part of it.

Had the unions taken umbrage at seeing their people busted, the Transit Workers might have gone out, bringing the city's subways to a full stop. The Teamsters, who were most certainly there, might have simply moved their trucks into the center lanes of every street in the city and created a traffic snarl of historic proportions. The city workers might have brought municipal government to a standstill. The one percent who have all the money are greedy. But they’re not suicidal. At least, not deliberately.

There were blue collar guys converging on Zuccotti Park who during Viet Nam sided with Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon against the war protestors. In 1968 it wasn’t safe for a war protestor go march past a skyscraper construction site. A hammer or a brick or a bolt might have fallen on your head. Today, these union guys are so fed up with the intransigence of the Republicans and an occasional conservative-in-Democrat’s-clothing that they’re also helping to occupy Wall Street.

This morning, the doctors showed up. NY1, the local TV news outlet in New York, let a medical doctor explain on camera why the demonstrating doctors are so sick of the anti-“Obamacare” stance in Congress. Repeal of Obamacare, if it succeeds, will leave hundreds of thousands of kids (and yes, fetuses whom the Republicans claim so dearly to love) uncovered by ordinary medical care designed to keep them healthy and alive. So much for pro-life Republicans.

Here’s a partial list of the unions that have supported Occupy Wall Street as of Sunday Morning. The full list was printed on the back of the poster you see above. If working guys and women, from hard-hat steel workers and truckers to highly educated nurses, can show up, isn’t it time you showed up, too?

•AAUP-UFT Rutgers


• AFSCME District Council 37

• Teachers’ Federation of Puerto Rico

• International Brotherhood of Teamsters

• Laborers’ International Union of America

• National Nurses United

• NY Metro Area American Postal Workers Union

• Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY)

• Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)

• Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1199, Local 32BJ

• Transport Workers Union of America

• Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100

• Teamsters Locals 111, 560,701, 814

• United Auto Workers

• United Auto Workers (UAW), Region 9A

• United Tederation of College Teachers – Pratt Institute

• United Federation of Teachers (UFT)

• United Steel Workers (USW)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who says the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have no demands?

You want demands? I'll give you demands. I've posted them on a blog called No More Mister Niceblog, where they're attract more eyeballs than the eyeballs scanning my own blog. But I encourage you to visit No More Mr. Niceblog and examine the post entitled, "A list of demands for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators."

Among the topics covered are reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act, laws preventing commercial banks from operating across state lines (as used to be the case until the 1980s or so) more income tax brackets, with steeper brackets at the top. And even more demandsmore.

More? The demands also deal with Social Security and Medicare, college tuition and college loans, and the need for a constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people, but artificial constructs.

Just go here and scroll down until you can read the damn thing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A once-bad ad agency becomes a lot worse

Years ago, in its heydey, an advertising agency named for its founder, Ted Bates, was both famous and infamous.

It was the agency famous for showing hammers banging inside peoples’ heads in TV commercials that promised, “Fast, fast, fast relief” with Anacin. It was famous for selling M&M candy by telling people it “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” These lines, promising a distinctive product benefit, were called “USPs” or unique selling propositions.

But infamously, some of the selling lines, like the one promising fast, fast, fast relief, brought to mind a movie called The Hucksters. In one scene, the film portrayed a client who deliberately spits a gob of saliva on an ad agency conference room table and then declares:

“Gentlemen, I’ve just done a disgusting thing. But you’ll never forget it.”

Ted Bates did that sort of work. Disgusting. But unforgettable. I never worked there, but I knew some copywriters who did. They went through the workweek in a state of overwhelming depression. Their most animated moments were those they spent plotting to jump ship for a better advertising agency where they could proud of their work.

But at least you knew what Ted Bates stood for. And at least you knew what the products it advertised were supposed to do for you. No longer.

These days, Ted Bates is just “bates.” Yes, with a lowercase b. Why this affectation?

Perhaps because bates, now merely another generic cog in the wheels of an advertising conglomerate, has little else to say or show for itself. WPP, the company that now owns bates, is one of a handful of advertising conglomerates that literally control the business. And what advertising agencies are supposed to produce first and foremost these days is not memorable advertising, but big profits for the parent conglomerate.

If bates can’t be famous for what they do any more, perhaps they can be famous for an all lower-case name, and a new logo that has some comic book voice balloons in it. That seems to be what substitutes for thinking these days. Pathetic!

Even more pathetic is that the new bates has evidently forgotten how to communicate in plain English. They’ve gone from ugly-but-straightforwward shouting at TV viewers about headache relief, to locutional blubbering worthy of Jacques Derrida.

Here is one of their “regional chairman” explaining what the advertising agency is all about, as reported in an English trade journal named Brand Republic. Notice that he never mentions advertising:

"Change has always been what we do best, and remains so. In a world where change is so rapid and fundamental, being change experts is even more relevant than ever. However, our insights on change need to lead to an active benefit to clients. It needs a sharper ear to the ground, an understanding of inflection points, and real time action," said Tim Isaac, regional chairman of bates.

And this means what in terms of the look, language, drama and brand images created by advertising?

My guess is, absolutely nothing.

The late Rosser Reeves, the genius behind the USP at Bates and the ugly-but-perfectly-clear ads that emerged from it, must be rolling around in his grave.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wall Street's reply to the national Occupy Wall Street protest movement: "Let 'em eat cake!"

Check out this video. It was taken as an Occupy Wall Street demonstration passed 55 Wall Street, a former bank building now converted to luxury apartments and a chi chi restaurant run by Harry Cipriani

As you'll learn from Cipriani's own website:

On one of the world's most famous streets, Cipriani reinvents the power breakfast and business lunch to provide an experience worthy of its location. On a spring afternoon you will enjoy a cocktail on the balcony overlooking Wall Street once the exchange has closed and there are a few moments of respite on Wall Street business person's busy schedule.

These champagne-swilling folks on Cipriani's balcony don't have a clue. Their behavior is so embarrassing to America's greedy right wing that even some members of the right are making excuses. You'll hear, based on the appearance of one or two people in tuxedos, that this was a wedding. It wasn't, unless tux, or business suit, or tie-less were all acceptable dress options. (Was that the case at any wedding you've attended?) You'll hear that these were ordinary working class people out having a relaxing drink after work. Working class $40,000 a year men and women swilling champagne? At Cipriani prices? Gimme a break!

No, these are the well-to-do heirs and heiresses-apparent to Queen Marie Antoinette. As the story goes, when told that the people of Paris were in the streets demanding bread, Marie Anbtoinette mocked, "They have no bread? Then let them eat cake."

I'm fighting hard to avoid imagining a guillotine set up in the square at Wall and Broad, across from the from of the New York Stock Exchange.

Incidentally, I wandered down to the protest encampment at Zucotti Park yesterday, to take it all in for myself. One of the first things I noticed was, despite all the chatter about the protest being an action by "a bunch of hippie kids," there was plenty of gray hair among the demonstrators.

This may (or may not) have begun as a youth movement. Now however, we are seeing more of those of us who are old enough to remember when incomes were distributed a bit more equitably, there were tax brackets into the 70- and 90-percent range, and yet nearly all of America felt prosperous, well fed, well housed, and confident of the future despite high taxes. And why shouldn't we have felt that way? The taxes supported not only a new interstate highway system and other infrastructure, but also a space exploration project that fed work to thousands of contractors and subcontractors, creating millions of jobs.

The lessons from the gray heads among us is simple: when you feed the greed, you do it by sucking the prosperity out of America. Most billionaires would easily survive a national economic meltdown. They'll simply move to Zurich or a ski chalet in Gstaad, and steal from someone else. It's the rest of us who are screwed.

Meanwhile, across Broadway from Zucotti Park, a couple of 20-something pranksters, wearing suits and ties despite yesterday's balmy Sunday weather, were pretending that they were Wall Street billionaires, waving signs that said, "We are the 1 Percent," while loudly announcing that "we like the status quo," and insisting they had a right to keep all of America's wealth.

It was a pretty funny bit that reminded me of what "Billionaires for Bush," once did to poke fun at the previous administration. While Billionaires for Bush still have a website that proclaims the motto, "Small Government, Big Wars," they seem to have simmered down lately. Which made room for the two jokesters who said the name of their movement is "Occupy Occupy Wall Street."

Waving signs that said, "Bankers of the world Unite!" they insist, with mock seriousness, that their aim is to launch a counter-protest movement so that the rich can keep "pretty much all the money in America."

Everybody seemed to get the gag when I was there. One exception was the Washington Post, which took them seriously, reported that the investment bankers were protesting, and then had to print a retraction. Which tells me that some reporter has the sense of humor and insight of a rock.

Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement is opening a wide fissure in the real status quo. The job of those protesting in the streets is an enormous one – literally to democratically wrest control from the people who have all the power, all the money, and (sadly) who control with bribes described as "campaign contributions" all the Republicans and too many of the Democrats.

And yet I have a gut feeling that in time the Occupy Wall Street movement may succeed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Michael Bloomberg’s grave mistake

The chaos created by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s police department has been covered up the whazoo. You can even read about it on Bloomberg News. To sum up:

• A handful of demonstrators began an “occupy Wall Street” movement.

• Bloomberg sent in the cops. If you’ve seen the videos, you’ve seen that most of the uniformed guys were doing their sheepish best to follow orders without being brutal. The worse most of them (with a few exceptions) could summon up by way of intimidating the protestors were commands to “Get the fuck back.” This was hardly consistent with the Police Department motto here, “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect,” but it wasn’t a grave offense against humanity, either.

• Then some white-shirted command-level people – the ones highest up the food chain, and in frequent contact with their commissioner, who takes orders from the mayor – started to run amok. One, for no reason, walked up to a young female demonstrated, pepper sprayed her in the eyes, then walked away. The internal affairs folks at NYPD are “investigating” the incident. Yeah, sure. Burying it, more likely.

Why hasn't the deputy inspector who did the pepper spraying been suspended pending conclusion of the investigation? Once upon a time, New York cops who were known to perform psycho acts like this were called "rubber guns" because even if they were protected until they could collect their pensions, they were kept on unarmed duty at the precinct house, doing chores like sweeping out the detective squad room.

I haven’t brought up the entire demonstrater-police mess before because I detest Bloomberg enough to follow the advice of Napoleon Bonaparte here: “Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a grave mistake.”

Bloomberg’s mistake has been to unwittingly fertilize and water a small group of justifiably discontented demonstrators enough to turn them into a national movement. Now the demonstrations have grown exponentially in New York and are popping up in big cities all around the United States.

As for Mayor Bloomberg’s character, you only have to pay attention to a remark he made, not only after the pepper spray incident but also after the police entrapped roughly 700 of the demonstrators by luring them into a traffic lane of the Brooklyn Bridge and then arresting them for being there. Incidentally, these arrests mean that instead of a traffic jam on the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s going to be one in the city courts.

“The police are doing exactly what they’re supposed to,” Bloomberg said.

I rest my case.