Monthly Archives: December 2011

The problem with Empower United

On 12/22, @99_film tweeted:

Is this what being co-opted looks like? WSJ reports on launch of Empower United, a social enterprise for the #99percent

Which lead me to investigate, Empower United (  I started going through all of the promotional material on the site, then hit something that threw me, and stopped.  I sent an e-mail using their feedback link.  To my surprise, I got a response from Patrick Higgins, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Empower United.  As a result, I finished going through the website, and I stand by my original decision.

I am not sure that I agree with Audrey Ewell & Aaron Aites assessment that it is an attempt to co-opt the movement.  I am, however, convinced that it is one of two things.  Either it is a group of wanna be 1%s who see an opportunity and are trying to co-opt on the OWS movement, or they are sincere, but do not really get it.

I was going through the plan, and it was all sounding pretty okay.  Take advantage of the system.  Use it against itself.  I’m not necessarily opposed to that in the short term.  Still pretty light on the details.  Basically, combining all of the various MyPoints, rewards, Groupon, LivingSocial, type deals out there into one mass plan.  A sort of massive S&H Green stamps organized for the benefit of “the 99%” (only with a stated goal of a starting point of 1,000,000 people).  They’re going to make it free for members and charge companies $50 per employee to join.  In other words, get companies to pay $50 per employee for access to market.  Then, I got to point 5.  And, I stopped.  Cold.

The Plan, Short Term, Point 5

Wait!  What?  Capital One?  Bank of America?  The same Capital One that received $3.56 Billion in bail out funds?  The same Bank of America that received $20 Billion in bailout funds?  Insert screeching halt sound effects here!  uhm, no.  That’s when I hit the Feedback link and sent them some.  I said to them:

You had me intrigued, though admittedly skeptical. I was wondering and never did see the answer whether you would be taking a cut off the top, or if you would be taking an equal share or how that would work. But, I was following along to see how this was going to work.

You lost me at Services point 5. You want to get in bed with the likes of Bank of America? And you think this is the answer for the 99%? Have you been paying attention?

All of what I read sounded like a viable way to move forward. Take back the system from the “too big to fail’ group, which I am in favor of. But, you apparently think that the way to do that is to get in to bed with them?

It was at that point that I am walking away. If you decide you want to do these things without glomping onto the people who caused the crisis, but still saving the system, then count me in. Otherwise, I see you as part of problem, rather than any part of the solution.

Now, at this point, I honestly had no expectation that I would hear anything more from them.  I figured my Empower United experience was done.  I was surprised when I received the aforementioned response from Patrick Higgins.  His response, in full:

Dear Mr.  ████████,
We at Empower United appreciate your feedback regarding the vision of our company. I write to address some of the concerns you expressed in your email. First, all individuals that handle the day to day work at Empower United will be paid on salary. The salaries of all senior management will be strictly controlled by an outside auditor to make sure that no member of Empower United is in line for a “Golden Parachute”. I would ask you to review the section in our business plan titled Transparency for a full explanation.
Secondly, regarding your concern about the use of the co-branded credit and debit cards. In our business it will be imperative that we keep track of the transactions of our members so their accounts are properly credited. We anticipate difficulty in being able to follow cash transactions. In the early stages of this business it will be necessary to work with the credit card industry to accomplish this task. Please look at long term goal number 8 in the services section regarding Banking, but in the early stages we are going to have to rely on existing infrastructure.
Finally, I want to stress to you that this business model will give all U.S. consumers a seat at the table with all other corporations at no cost to the consumer.

Patrick B. Higgins

Co-Founder and Co-CEO
Empower United


We ARE the government!

One of many themes you are likely to encounter in my speech and writing is this:  There has been a successful war of words conducted by the ultra-right throughout the years.  It is a war to re-define the terms, and shape the focus of the argument in such a way as to distract from the actual issues.  It is a war of obfuscation.  It’s a war that all sides have been engaged in, but the right has been much more successful at it.  Guess they had a better marketing team.  Perhaps it gets back to the money issue.

 “We never thought we’d raise as much money as the right-wing money machine,” he said, “but we’re confident we’ll have enough to be a strong countervailing force.” – Harold Ickes, president of Priorities USA Action, which backs President Barack Obama ¹

But, again, I digress.  I admit to a tendency to do that.  Part of the reason is that all of these things are actually inter-related.  Getting back on track…

The topic du jour is not really the conservitard’s war, so much since they really just glommed onto an existing theme that had been ongoing for, perhaps, millennia.  Which is, that government is some separate, alien force.  That it is not US.  Despite Bill Clinton’s gaffe, and one I’m sure many other people have made, it was President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address who put it so succinctly and clearly:

It is rather for us, the living, to stand here, we here be dedica-ted to the great task remaining before us — that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth. [emphasis added]

Perhaps this concept of government as alien began many moons ago with the divine right of monarchies.  Perhaps it started even earlier.  Truly the origins are lost in the mists of time, as they say.  However, it has become a very useful tool for those who want to use the big bad boogeyman of the government.  And, there is much to actually fear in governmental power.

However, what we have to remember is that the government is not separate.  It is US.  The government only has the power that we give it.  It can only rule through either consent or fear.  Even then, the only fear it can wield is the fear that will be enforced by those who are consenting to carry out it’s edicts.

Look at the so-called Arab Spring.  What do we see?  Thousands upon thousands of people saying, essentially, “We have had enough.  We will no longer consent, and we will no longer live with the fear.  Though you may kill us, we are free of you and your rule.”  And, that is the point.  The government is still US.  The soldiers and police pulling the guns are the people.  As those active in the Occupy Wall Street movement say, they are the 99%.  When the men and women behind the triggers decide, “I will not fire”, the power of the government is completely and irrevocably gone.  Because, again, and I stress this because it is A MOST IMPORTANT POINT, the government only has power so long as we the people give it power.

Without people, there is no state.  Without people, there is no government.  Period.

So, my friends, guess what? You are the government. My sister, in her time in the Air Force.  She was the government.  Her husband, is in the army.  He is the government.  My ex-wife working for the VA.  She is the government.   My father working for the county IT department.  He is the government.  My multiple friends who are working for government contractors. Even they are the government.  And, yes, you and I, as voters, even we, to a lesser extent ² , we too are the government.

By continuing this false distinction of talking about the government as some alien OTHER, we contribute to allowing the divide and conquer strategy to work. We have to stop it. It is part of the war of words that has been so successful!


¹ – Granted, Mr. Ickes is actually referring to the current election cycle.  However, it has long been a reality that the right wing has been the party of “bigger business” and thus has had access to more money.  This particular quote was taken from Democratic Groups in Talks to Merge Fundraising article on

² – To a lesser extent because of a number of factors, but largely because of the influence of corruption and money on politics in America.  This is the primary thrust of what the Occupy movement is working against.

NPR’s Hypothetical Constitutional Convention

This is interesting, and unscientific.

NPR’s Hypothetical Constitutional Convention

One thing I found particularly interesting in reviewing the results is the inherent refutation of the charge made by many on the right that NPR listeners are anti-gun. At the time that I am seeing the results (and it is still live), it is 62% against the hypothetical amendment related to guns. Maybe this will make some small little dent in that article of faith which as with so many, bears no real connection to the facts.

See, here’s the truth.  NPR is part of the mainstream media and for all that you have been told that the media is liberal, it isn’t.  The mainstream media ranges from Ultra-right wing, FOX, to moderate, NPR, with NBC, ABC, MSN, CBS, CNN and all the other mainstream outlets falling lockstep in along on the spectrum.  There is no LIBERAL component to the mainstream media.

This myth actually comes from a single poll done from one news room in the early 80s.  This was then perpetuated throughout the echo chamber, and so many people bought into it, that they started seeing what they wanted to see, and it became part of the effective war that led to the political center being dragged to the right.  But, I digress.  (I will write more on this later.)

The point was, that at the time that I saw the results, and I will check back, the voters on this hypothetical, and again statistically insignificant, poll were not coming out in favor of changing the constitution to restrict gun rights.  Quite the contrary.  They were standing 2-1 in favor of protecting gun ownership.  Even those in the moderate camp are not in favor of taking your guns away, as though they want to pry you away from mommy’s precious nipple.  Many on the actual left will even more solidly support the 2nd amendment.

Not on the basis though of silly arguments like the NRA has made that one needs a fully automatic rifle to hunt deer.  You make that argument, and I’m going to suggest we arm the deer, because you, sir or ma’am, are an idiot.

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