Janet Rhodes

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Satire: In Defense of KTVU News Anchor Mae B. O’Blivious

By: Janet Rhodes Sunday July 14, 2013 7:38 pm

No doubt, you are already familiar with the Bay Area Fox News affiliate, KTVU epic blunder in its coverage of Asiana flight 214. Its noon news anchor announced breaking news – the names of the cabin crew of the ill-fated flight: Sum Tin Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow.

As a Bay Area resident who has watched KTVU News at 10 pm for over 20 years, I feel that I must speak up in defense of its noon news anchor, Mae B. O’Blivious. The journalism skills of Ms. O’Blivious should not be singled out as an exception to the general quality of reporting that now prevails at KTVU.

During the Occupy movement, one of Ms. O’Blivious’s colleagues showed a clip of the protesters at UC Davis sitting peacefully on the ground as they were pepper sprayed by a campus police officer. The newscaster said the words, “violence from the Occupy protesters.” I sent an email to KTVU, and they never felt the need to make an apology.

Another reporter covering a management lockout of sanitation workers referred to it as a “walkout.”

Another colleague of Ms. O’Blivious covered the issue of restaurant workers who were so inconsiderate of the well-being of the general public that they were actually rude enough to show up for work when they were sick. He interviewed only restaurant owners and management, no workers. And he forgot to ask if they provided paid sick leave.

This same reporter distinguished himself with his coverage of the Iraq war during the Bush years. KTVU often sent him out to interview military families, because of his sympathetic demeanor. In a syrupy voice, he asked them about their stresses and never forgot to slip in the question – “Is there anything you would like to say to the anti-war protesters?” He never failed to illicit some variation of “ungrateful for our sacrifice.”

During its recent coverage of the BART strike a KTVU report interviewed a working couple who complained of how inconvenienced they were by the strike and said the BART workers should be grateful they had a job. I was also inconvenienced by the BART strike, spent double the time driving to work on back roads to avoid the traffic jams on Highway 24, and the MacArthur maze. But I still supported the strike. However, KTVU interviewed no one like me. I guess they couldn’t find any commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area who were pro-labor.

Now, you might say, okay, that’s bias. KTVU works too hard to maintain a narrative of ungrateful workers and anti-war protesters. But, OMG, the names of the flight crew – that takes sloppiness to a whole new level. How could anyone, you might ask, look straightfaced into a camera and announce that the names of the crew members were: Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk, and Bang Ding Ow, and be so – oblivious – to what she was saying?

In defense of Ms. O’Blivious, I must say several things. First, picky, picky, picky. Do you have any idea of how many people were saying, “ho lee fu*k,” as they watched her newscast? I know I was saying it, and I’ll bet you were too. It is entirely unfair to single out Ms. O’Blivious just because she happened to be the one to utter those three syllables on the air. Second, (with apologies to Tina Fey), you are probably paying way too much attention to the words she was saying and the order she put them in. That is something we loyal viewers of KTVU stopped doing years ago. Third, I must place the blame for this squarely where it belongs – on any viewer gullible enough to seek news coverage from Fox or anything affiliated with it. Fourth, do you have any idea of the stress involved when news breaks?

Mae B. O’Blivious had blonde highlights to check and mascara to touch up. Her lipstick had to be a precise shade somewhere on the spectrum of pink to red. Then she had to check her news copy, rush over to the anchor chair, look into the camera and convey an aura of glamour as she read from the teleprompter with an air of gravitas. Do you have any idea of how difficult it is to do all of that while you’re wondering if your hoop earrings are too big?

I say hooray for Ms. O’Blivious. KTVU hired her to break news, and God bless her, she did it. If any of you want to pick on her because of that news copy and, you know, fact-checking. Well, that’s what we have Jon Stewart for.

Oh, wait a minute, breaking news! This just in – premiering Monday, KTVU will follow its noon news with a cooking show, Egg on Face.

 

The Conscience of Wayne LaPierre

By: Janet Rhodes Sunday December 23, 2012 11:37 am

Wayne LaPierre

My husband flicked on the TV Friday morning as I was finishing my oatmeal and coffee. We were both curious as to what new ideas the NRA would propose. But a deeper question tugged at my curiosity. Does the CEO of the NRA have a conscience? How does a man live with himself when his relentless lobbying over decades has enabled Jared Loughner, James Holmes, the Virginia Tech shooter, and thousands of other killers to buy guns and ammunition?

Gun deaths are so routine, they seldom make headlines. Indeed, the gun battle along a rural Pennsylvania highway Friday morning saw press coverage, because it occurred during the NRA press conference. The newsworthy factor was irony, not novelty–in 2010, there were 31,076 gun deaths (including accidents).

Thanks to the efforts of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, the killers at Tucson, Virginia Tech, and the Aurora theater were able to purchase military style weapons–guns with high-capacity magazines, drums, and staggering amounts of ammunition. When Seung-Hui Cho stalked students and teachers at Virginia Tech, he was carrying nearly 400 rounds of ammunition. When a clerk at Walmart refused to sell ammunition to Jared Loughner because he was acting strangely, Loughner drove to another Walmart and purchased it there.

Background checks, bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, restrictions on the sale of ammunition, and efforts to regulate gun shows–all have met with defeat. Indeed, even an attempt to study gun control offended the delicate sensibilities of LaPierre and his friends at the NRA. In the 1990s, the NRA succeeded in blocking the Centers for Disease Control from studying guns. Surely, if LaPierre and the NRA truly believed what they keep claiming to believe, they would’ve welcomed a scientific study of the effects of gun ownership. By shutting it down, they revealed fear and dishonesty.

So, how did Wayne LaPierre look back at his lifetime achievements during the week following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Surely, he would’ve struggled through a few sleepless nights. But before he even reached the podium, I was getting answers–bad ones–to my questions. The man who introduced him said LaPierre would not answer questions–at what had been announced as a press conference! The arrogance of such a deception was already getting me to simmer, and LaPierre had not even opened his mouth yet.

The moment he did, things got worse. While hiding behind the safety of a podium where no one would be allowed to question him, LaPierre launched an assault on decency, common sense, and everyone who had spoken out this past week against gun violence. He insulted not just any citizens, but the victims of gun violence, for these are the most prominent voices among those seeking stricter gun laws. On the TV news this past week, I saw the widow of a man murdered on the Long Island railway, the son of a teacher murdered at Virginia Tech, and countless others announce the place, the date, and the name of the person they loved and lost to gun violence.

But unlike them, as they sought to politicize the tragedy at Sandy Hook for their own personal gain–unlike them, LaPierre had shown respect for the victims by remaining silent. So, with his opening sentence, LaPierre established that he was not merely the CEO of the NRA, but he was now also the Chief Officer of Protocol for the bereaved. Oh, and he also gave new meaning to the word, a$$hole.

And then it got worse from there. Lawrence O’Donnell took LaPierre to task for his insults to veterans of the armed forces. The Huffington Post, Salon, and the Nation noted not only LaPierre’s unhinged ramblings about violent pop culture, but also his failure to grasp basic facts about some of our country’s most infamous massacres. LaPierre’s panacea is an armed police officer at every school. There were two at Columbine. Virginia Tech had an entire police force.

It was clear the moment LaPierre took the podium, his highest priority was to keep the blood money flowing. He let us know he was driven by a desire to protect our nation’s most precious resource. While he spoke, I pictured his most precious resource–his one million dollar annual salary. He assured us that unlike all those rude people politicizing this tragedy, he is determined to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Indeed, especially in times like these, someone must protect the CEOs of gun manufacturers.

I watched only a few minutes of LaPierre’s ersatz press conference. I had to get to work. But I have been catching up since then on the breathtaking display of meanness, stupidity, dishonesty, and arrogance displayed from the podium. The personality, character, and values displayed by LaPierre were obscene.

You might ask why even bother spilling ink on the unhinged crackpot utterances of such a contemptible coward? Because LaPierre hopes we’ll forget this press conference. He did not wait one week out of respect for grieving families. He waited one week so that his press conference would land right before the holiday weekend and move through the news cycle as swiftly as possible. We have to ensure that doesn’t happen. We have to keep talking about LaPierre, the NRA, and gun tragedies. We have to raise our voices and talk louder when Congress convenes in January.

We have to be the conscience of any legislator who might still be intimidated by Wayne LaPierre. Remember, the only thing that stops a bad guy with money is good people who are willing to speak up and take action.

Merry Christmas Wayne LaPierre! I hope Santa Claus gives you a conscience this year.

The Romneys’ Irony Board

By: Janet Rhodes Saturday September 1, 2012 3:52 pm

I say, let’s give Clint Eastwood a break. Does it really surprise you that the man tasked with introducing Mitt Romney became so frustrated by this assignment that he resorted to an eleven-minute interview with an empty chair? There is something oddly appropriate about Eastwood’s introduction, because the Republican candidate is an empty suit.

Even Mitt’s own wife, struggling to make her husband seem human, delivered a speech that sounded empty. Until Eastwood’s speech on Thursday, the most indelible image left in my mind by the Republican convention was Mitt and Ann Romney eating dinner on an ironing board.

Perhaps I’ve become too cynical. There really should have been no room for criticism after Ann Romney finished playing her role as the loving wife. There she was onstage basking in the rosy glow of telling us how much she loves her husband, how he makes her laugh–without a single anecdote to share his sense of humor with us. But then she went on to describe how they struggled too in the early years of their marriage. They rented a basement apartment (okay, plausible enough). They put an old door on two sawhorses and used it for a desk (skepticism creeping in here). And they were so poor they used an ironing board as their dining table.

WTF?!!

Okay, I know it may seem like nitpicking for me to criticize. After all, Ann Romney loves “you women!” (By the way, kudos here to her speech writers–you women is such an improvement over you people.)

But seriously, with the desk, I thought, oh come on, sawhorses! Everyone knows you put your old door or piece of plywood on two file cabinets. It’s more stable and a more economical use of space. But okay, why nitpick. Maybe they were so poor, they couldn’t afford file cabinets.

But when the Romney speech writers trotted out the ironing board as dinner table line, they blew it. That is a pants-on-fire lie.

My husband and I have been salvaging furniture and re-creating our living room from dumpster stairwell give-aways and yard sales for decades. And yes, an ironing board can be repurposed and used for something besides ironing. But guess what, it works best for things you do–while standing! It makes a terrific countertop for selling baked goods at the farmers’ market. It could also be used for petition signing or voter registration drives.

But the one thing you don’t do with an ironing board is attempt to sit down at it and eat dinner on it. First, it would come up to your chin, so you’d be shoveling food from your plate right into your mouth. Second, you cannot sit across from each other. You’d be sitting side by side and both facing the wall. (Any illustrators or cartoonists are welcome to post their pictures of the Romneys dining at their ironing board.)

On a practical note, anyone who has lived paycheck to paycheck has certainly gone to yard sales and discovered that folding card tables and old formica kitchen tables are usually sold for less than the cost of a new ironing board.

So, a word of advice is in order to the platinum-spoon crowd who writes the Romneys’ speeches. You almost had me, but when a line like this ironing board nonsense slips through and not one person on your staff has the background, the experience of paycheck-to-paycheck living to see how ridiculous it looks and hear how phony it sounds, well, you just gave yourselves away as the platinum-spoon folks that you are.

So when I recall the highlights of the Republican convention, I remember Ann Romney’s empty speech, Eastwood’s eleven-minute interview with an empty chair, and their nomination of an empty suit as their candidate. Do you see a theme emerging here? I do, and it’s not We Built That.

Still, I should try not to be too cynical. After all, Ann Romney loves “you women!” Now, what could be wrong with that?

I will vote in November

By: Janet Rhodes Saturday August 18, 2012 5:29 pm
voting instructions

(Photo: Muffet/flickr)

Much controversy erupted earlier this week around a blog proposing that people don’t vote as a form of protest. Since it received prominent placement on FDL and generated over 200 comments, I assume that most firedogs are already aware of it.

The comment thread included some really excellent discussion on censorship and suggestions about comment moderation. I feel that those issues were thoroughly vetted in the comment thread, so I’ll skip them. I want to concentrate here on issues that received a lot less attention in the comment thread.
First, to not vote as a form of progressive protest is a terrible idea. It will advance someone else’s agenda.
Second, using a progressive web site to advocate not voting can be a voter suppression tool. Progressives staying away from the polls in large numbers is a Republican’s wet dream. If you really believe that low voter turnout threatens right-wingers (that they fear the electoral process will lose legitimacy if turnout drops below a certain threshold), then ask yourself these questions: Why did Republicans work so relentlessly to destroy ACORN? And why are Republicans enacting voter ID laws?

The author of the article claimed that by casting a vote for any candidate, you are lending an air of legitimacy to a corrupt and broken electoral process. I vehemently disagree. If I vote for Jill Stein, that means I am voting for Jill Stein– not for Wall Street or the corporation that owns the voting machines or the military-industrial complex.

Third, I think some fuzzy thinking entered into the comment thread. Things that are not the same were being equated. An excellent comment was made about the near success of a protest write-in campaign for a Senate seat in Colorado. As the comment thread progressed, I felt that this write-in protest was being treated as if it were synonymous with a don’t vote protest. It is not the same! A write-in campaign is an excellent way of lodging a protest against a corrupted political process and autocratic actions of the DNC. It sends a clear message. What message does not voting send?

Fourth, in politics or protest, make sure the message you send is crystal clear. Discerning the wishes of nonvoters is like reading tea leaves. If you fail to vote, you are leaving your wishes open to interpretation. The Democratic party has been thoroughly corrupted by corporate money. If large numbers of Democrats stay away from the polls, will the DNC read low turnout as disgruntled progressives or disgruntled blue dogs? The DNC will follow the money. They will lean even further to the right to increase their corporate contributions.

How Many Supreme Court Justices Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

By: Janet Rhodes Sunday April 22, 2012 1:01 pm

As we head toward summer, the Supreme Court considers the fate of tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. SCOTUS has placed great emphasis on this question–If the US government can mandate that individuals buy health insurance, then why can’t Uncle Sam force us to buy broccoli too? To put this erudite question more plainly, how is the purchase of health insurance different from the purchase of broccoli?

Hospital Hallway photographed by Adrian Boliston.

First, let us acknowledge that SCOTUS (or at least four or five of these guys) may have gotten themselves in over their heads. As judges, they’ve been pulling in six figures a year on the government payroll. I suspect their entire experience with the purchase of health insurance is checking off a box on a form each year. They get handed one of those nifty plastic cards (maybe it’s even platinum with an eagle on it, them being SCOTUS and all), and then we, the taxpayers, pick up the tab whenever they go to the doctor.

For the rest of us, it’s not quite that simple. As someone who is self-employed, low-income, and over fifty, I have a whole lot of experience in purchasing health insurance. And I have also bought a helluva lot of broccoli. Allow me to explain the difference between the two.

A head of broccoli may be purchased at Safeway, Lucky’s, Food Max, Trader Joe’s, or the framers’ market for anywhere from 99 cents to $1.69 a pound or a bunch, depending upon whether or not it’s on sale. You can be 15 years old or 95 years old, and you will pay the same price.

Health insurance, on the other hand, must’ve been dreamed up by a scam artist. It is one of the most deftly manipulated confidence schemes there ever was. When you’re in your twenties, you may find it affordable (depending on your circumstances). When you’re in your thirties, the premiums will start to pinch your monthly budget. In your forties, those premium hikes will squeeze you enough so that health insurance will be your biggest budget item after housing costs. But once you cross the big five-zero, that’s it. My husband and I paid for our own health care from our early twenties until just past the age of fifty. The premiums skyrocketed to over $500 per month for a policy that would’ve required us to pay $10,000 out of our own pockets before the “insurance” started to cover anything. And then, even after the so-called insurance kicked in, it covered zero in prescriptions.

BREAKING: Occupy SF Raided

By: Janet Rhodes Wednesday December 7, 2011 7:10 am

SFGate reports that Occupy SF was raided by police at one am this morning. The camp was broken up and seventy arrests were made. The link is below:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/07/BAC41M9GUP.DTL&tsp=1

Occupy GA: Lord of the Flies

By: Janet Rhodes Saturday November 19, 2011 7:16 am

Imagine that you have stood up at a meeting of People’s Temple and warned members of the congregation that they were not safe around Jim Jones and needed to eject him from their group. It’s the mid-1970s, and you are at the headquarters in San Francisco where an aura of worship surrounds Jones.

You probably don’t imagine that members of People’s Temple would have thrown you kisses and flowers. No, I don’t imagine that either. Instead, I imagine the Temple would’ve erupted in jeers, boos, one or two people jumping straight up off their seats and screaming incoherently while others shouted insults at you. You would’ve been looking into a crowd where some faces were contorted with hatred. At least half of the people who weren’t screaming and shouting would’ve been talking over you. And some of them would’ve resorted to physical intimidation.

I can imagine it vividly, because that is what I and three other people experienced at the General Assembly on Sunday, November 6th in Todos Santos Park in Concord, California.

The cult leader/bully will be referred to as John Doe. I have decided to not use his real name, because I want to be perfectly clear on one point; my motive in writing this is not revenge or character assassination. If a destructive individual intruding on an Occupy group was an aberration, I probably would write this as a private entry in my own diary and leave it there.

The reason I’m writing this a public post is that I see our experience as part of something larger rippling through Occupy groups across the country.
We are vulnerable–not just to police raids and complaints from the Chamber of Commerce. We are vulnerable, because this movement has experienced a meteoric rise in public awareness and mainstream media coverage. The Occupy movement has become what the media likes to refer to as “sexy.”

That has attracted sociopaths to Occupy. There is a tug of war going on now between people who care about the Occupy movement versus sociopaths who’ve shown up at GAs, marches, and encampments to take advantage of it.

Participants in Oakland’s general strike describe it as a huge success. A massive crowd took to the streets and the port to demonstrate in a spirited and peaceful way. That night a small group of vandals stole the message sent by tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators.

Recently I’ve read in the blogosphere of troubles at Occupy Portland caused by people who see the camp as a cool place to do drugs and refuse to abide by the no drugs rule. I have also read a blog by a very disheartened and discouraged participant in Occupy San Francisco who was leaving because their GA was devolving into rudeness and cutting off anyone who expressed an unpopular idea.

At Contra Costa 99%, we experienced another expression of sociopathy when a charismatic personality arrived at our group in late October. The rumblings in my gut started when John Doe attended his second meeting of our group. We had agreed at the previous meeting to do some outreach to the police. During the week, a Concord police officer contacted us, asked for and received permission to attend our GA on October 30th.

John Doe spent a good part of the meeting shouting and disrespecting other group members and the police officer, who remained polite, reserved, and stoic throughout. He made a point of IDing the officer to get his badge number, and obsessed about COINTELPRO until group members objected to his aggressiveness. As the meeting ended, I was troubled by the high level of hostility he’d introduced into our GA, including ad hominem attacks. Equally troubling, he was dismissive of Occupy’s consensus-based decisionmaking and complete disavowal of violence.

We were concerned about maintaining the peaceful nature of our group. As we were discussing the situation, my husband Googled him. We discovered that John Doe, 56 years old, is a convicted sex offender (child molestation). Within the last year; he was arrested for assault on a male student while leafletting at Diablo Valley College.

Meanwhile a new member of the group sent out an email informing the group that he was dropping out and refused to be part of any group John Doe belonged to. Six of us shared emails and phone calls discussing this situation. Four of us agreed that John Doe should be asked before the weekly GA to leave the group. One of our group met him earlier in the week and made it clear to him that we had become aware of his history and were deeply concerned about his presence in our group.

We decided we had no choice but to bring it up before the next GA. We put it close to the top of the agenda and used the heading, discussion of nonviolence. We knew before the meeting even started, it was going to be a fiasco. There were more than twenty people; we had never seen most of them before. He had spent the week calling his friends.

I think each of the four of us (Sputnik, Mike, Annie, and I) knew instantly that we would lose the vote. He had taken advantage of the openness of the Occupy movement to pack the meeting with his buddies. A person attending for the first time had voting rights equal to people who had been there from the first, even if the new arrival had no interest in Occupy and no intention of ever coming back.

As we gathered on the sidewalk/patio area outside Panama Red’s Coffee Shop, I realized, to my utter amazement, that John Doe was a figure these people looked up to. I began to comprehend with a sinking feeling that this was a personality cult. He was their leader and their hero. I could not fathom why.

Perceiving that you are in the presence of a personality cult is like looking at one of those double-imaged pictures. At first glance, you see a vase. But if you keep looking, you can also see two faces in profile. Some people just cannot perceive the second image no matter how intently they stare at it.

I knew that we would be trying to point out that second image (the bullying side of his personality) to people who would refuse to see it. Even worse, I could tell that his groupies would be furious with us for pointing it out to them.

The meeting had not even started yet; already the group was in turmoil. Sputnik was sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, a gray fedora with a big 99% sign stuck into the hatband. He was shaking his head, seemingly at the futility of what we were about to attempt. We went through three facilitators, whom I refer to as the three thugs. Two resorted to physical intimidation; the third used psychological intimidation.

The first, a loud and aggressive woman in a red sweatshirt, facilitated for only a few minutes. When Annie stood up to speak, she paused for a second to collect her thoughts. The woman came up behind Annie and grabbed both of her upper arms as she said, “I want you to stand over here,” while she tried to physically haul Annie sideways. Annie and the rest of our group protested so vociferously that the loud woman was forced to sit down and relinquish her role as facilitator.

Soon an employee came out of the coffee shop, and told us our group was too big to meet there. We crossed the street to resume our meeting in the park, only to discover that muzak was being piped into the park sound system, even though there was no event scheduled to meet there. This only intensified the turmoil.

The two succeeding facilitators were both males and both louts determined to silence us. The younger one, an 18/19 year old six-foot plus beanpole alternated between complete cluelessness as to the level of tension and total apathy about addressing the reason for it. This kid, who was actually the less loutish of the two, would later try to block me from speaking near the end of the meeting. As I was making my proposal that we as a group vote to expel John Doe, this six-foot-plus kid walked over and planted himself in front of me. At five feet tall, I was talking straight into his back.

Early in the meeting, we had to be tenacious about keeping discussion of nonviolence near the top of the agenda.When it finally came up, Sputnik and I rose and stood on the grass at the foot of the bleachers. He made a few short remarks about John Doe’s history of co-opting progressive organizations. My turn was next. I began by echoing the words of someone who’d spoken a moment before. “Someone just said, ‘Before you speak, ask yourself, is it true, necessary and kind? What I am about to say is true and necessary. I wish I could say this out of kindness toward John Doe. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible. Instead I’m saying this out of kindness toward the group and the need to warn people.” Fortunately, I had written a numbered list ahead of time on a long skinny piece of green paper. Without that list, words would’ve completely fled. I unfolded it and read down the list, summarizing what we’d learned from our Internet search, adding John Doe’s failure to inform us, that our meeting in a park near a children’s play area might not even be legal. This had exposed the group to potential embarrassment if we invited families with young children. I added that his bullying at our last meeting was the final reason on the list. I closed my remarks by saying, “As a woman, I do not feel safe with this person in our group.”

The moment I began speaking, the group erupted. The most chilling aspect of this was not merely facing a wall of hostility as I looked up into the bleachers. I had expected some hostility. It was the sheer force of their hatred I had not expected. I realized that many of the score of followers accumulated by John Doe seemed to walk around every day harboring a high level of rage. They were delighted to have an excuse to express hatred. The woman in the red sweatshirt who had facilitated earlier was particularly hateful. (Out of fairness, I will note that this is not true of every one of John Doe’s followers. A few did make comments or ask questions that seemed like an honest attempt to address the safety issue. But they were in the minority.) Sputnik would later describe this as the most hate-filled meeting he’d ever seen after thirty years of activism.

As the meeting wore on; Sputnik, Annie, and Mike were steadfast, maintained a level tone, and remained focused on the issues of respect for the group, its members, and our process despite hostile behavior displayed by the third facilitator, a middle-aged man who appeared to be one of John Doe’s best friends. He resorted to physical intimidation twice.

The first time, I was standing in the central area at the foot of the bleachers. I had just made a comment and was listening to someone’s response. He walked up to me from the right side and pushed against my upper arm before he spoke up and asked me to step off to the side. I was completely taken aback by this, but stepped a few feet off to the side anyway without making an issue of it.

Later in the meeting, this same “facilitator” was standing in the central grassy area addressing the crowd in the bleachers. He turned and walked several feet toward me across open space. He said, “and Janet here.” As he spoke, he reached out and swiped his hand across my shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. I jabbed my finger in the air. “Get away from me!” I yelled again as I pushed my right arm straight out in the air, with the flat of my palm facing out in the stop gesture. He did back away and stayed several feet away from me after that. My husband was standing next to me, so what else could he do?

After we, predictably, lost the vote to expel John Doe, the meeting lumbered on. The four of us gathered in a knot at the far edge of the group and conferred with heads bent together. We agreed that we had to leave and form our own group. There was simply no way we could coexist with people who not only thought a pledge of nonviolence was a joke but also expressed their disdain for us through shoutdowns and physical intimidation.

Before we made our exit, we were gifted with yet one more extraordinary moment. The “facilitator” who had touched me twice ( and whom I’d yelled at minutes earlier not to touch me) had assumed a spot on the grass at the foot of the bleachers. “I will admit,” he said, ” that I have used violence in my speech.” He paused and made a dramatic sweeping gesture over the grass toward our group. He continued speaking, his voice ringing out over the park and the people gathered above him on the bleachers. “Just as Janet has used violence in her speech.”

My mouth must have fallen open. I stared at the thug in utter disbelief. A wave of physical revulsion rolled over me. I thought this is probably the kind of line John Doe uses when he sets to work seducing a 14-year-old girl. (To be fair, I don’t know if the speaker had a rap sheet like his best friend, but his words were creepy.)

Annie had turned her back on the group and was walking across the grass toward the coffee shop. I was standing between Sputnik and my husband, Michael. Both were shaking their heads and muttering, “These people are completely insane. Let’s get out of here.” We turned and followed Annie across the grass.

We spent several minutes on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop before Sputnik suddenly realized that he’d left his belongings over there. Michael and I decided to go back there with him. Based on what we had just experienced, I feared that if Sputnik went over there alone, he could’ve been roughed up.

As we returned, they were still meeting. Sputnik gathered up two tote bags of his belongings and the whiteboard easel he had borrowed from his office and promised to return Monday morning. In one of life’s delicious little ironies, the agenda was written on the whiteboard. They protested. Too bad, we replied.

The lout was standing nearby. I told him we had paid for the domain name contraCosta99.com.org.net, created the logo and the web site, and we were taking them with us. “You’ll have to call yourself something else.”

As we helped Sputnik carry his belongings across the grass, I realized this outcome was inevitable from the moment John Doe heard of our group. In a flyer Sputnik had quoted from earlier in that raucous meeting, John Doe had brazenly stated his goal was “to penetrate and radicalize existing groups.”

And yes, I am aware that John Doe chose words with a sexual connotation. I am also now acutely aware that the structure of the Occupy movement is open to all comers and trusts people to participate in good faith–to not co-opt a group and turn it into a chapter of SDS or the Democratic party. Occupy also trusts newcomers to not commit acts of vandalism or do illegal drugs. And we trust that people who vote in the GA care about what is good for the Occupy movement.

Our little group was open to anyone and everyone voting on anything in the GA, even if they’d arrived minutes earlier. A newcomer could’ve walked down the block to the movie theatre and said, “Hey, do you wanna make $20? Come down the street with me and vote the way I tell you to. ” In short, our little group, like the rest of the Occupy movement, has been as naive and trusting as a 14-year-old girl. The predators and parasites have begun to arrive.

I love the Occupy movement. My husband and I have been squeezed by student loan debt, lost our health insurance, and worry about the types of job opportunities available as he completes his degree. We worry about what will happen to Social Security and Medicare–unless we stand up now. We need the Occupy movement to survive and thrive. We will not stand idly by and allow it to be destroyed by those indulging in vandalism, violence, and personality cults.

Oakland: This is what a police state looks like

By: Janet Rhodes Saturday October 29, 2011 6:58 am
Oakland Police in Riot Gear, 10.25.2011. (Added by Editor - Photo: Oakland Local, aka EKAPhotography on flickr)

Oakland Police in Riot Gear, 10.25.2011. (Added by Editor - Photo: Oakland Local, aka EKAPhotography under share agreement, on flickr)

I’ve gotta hand it to you, Mayor Quan, you wasted no time. As soon as you realized, to your horror, that Oakland’s city hall was located in downtown Oakland (public urination, incidents of violence, people without homes sleeping out of doors), you launched right into redecorating. By the way, love what you’ve done with the Darth Vader look.

My husband and I went to Oakland to attend the rally on Tuesday. We were walking back to our car at 5:30. As we rounded a corner, there they were, the Oakland police in riot gear, standing shoulder to shoulder behind a barricade, completely blocking the street between us and our car.

And when I say riot gear, I mean head-to-toe: black helmets, body armor, face shields down, and assuming a stance that those training manuals probably refer to as combat-ready. Each officer stood with feet braced wide apart and his baton in both hands.

I know that some of you who are reading this will ask, why didn’t you get a photo? I will tell you why. The camera was in my backpack. The first thought that ran through my mind was keep both hands visible. If they see you reaching into a backpack, they won’t know you’re reaching for a camera. All hell will break loose.

And the street on our side of the barricade was empty. We had walked in the opposite direction of the demonstration as they left the rally and headed toward city hall. And we stood for a moment just looking. We could feel the adrenaline pumping from across the street. I was carrying a picket sign. Someone at the rally had handed me a Nurses United picket sign. It said something very inflammatory and anti-American, like an economy that works for 99% of the people.