A frequent complaint of mine and others who have supported the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) from its earliest days, is that it's not demonstrated much interest or skill at organizing the coalitions that have traditonally been the hallmark of progressive political change in America.

Merely suggesting that professional organizers become involved was often met with a righteous scorn and bellicose lamentations over some imminient "co-opting" of the nascent movement that would place it in the hands of the Democrats, organized labor, the Obama campaign, Van Jones, George Soros, or whatever progressive establishment boogeyman was most feared on any given day.

But this may now be changing. MoveToAmend.org, the People for The American Way, and a respectable coalition of other progressive groups have gotten behind the Occupy The Courts campaign.  Already over a year old, and with several local ballot initiatives already passed in some communities, this action will be the first big protest to be associated with a very well conceived grass roots campaign that aims to amend the United States constitution and reverse the ludicrous Citizens United decision of the United States Supreme court. According to MoveToAmend's website, the action was largely inspired by an article by Alternet's Joshua Holland, whom I met on Twitter, have spoken with personally, and have a large measure of respect for,

While the Occupy the Courts coalition consists of some groups I have had no great affinity for most of the time, and has latched on to Cornel West and other Obama-bashing attention seekers that I have been publicly contemptuous of, it is still a fairly well conceived (if less than ideally promoted) effort of the kind that Progressives need if they are to really mount a serious challenge to the forces that have seized this country. More importantly, it can demonstrate that a symbiotic relationship between OWS and less "leadersless" organizations with focused objectives is more than possible, and even desirable. Leaderless does not have to mean no leadership, and this kind of action might give rise to an entirely new perception of the movement by the public.

And then again, it may not. While it is good that this organized action is clearly connected to the OWS movement, I am still rather distressed by the relatively poor promotion the effort has has. While I was modestly aware of its planning, I saw relatively few markers on Twitter or elsewhere to suggest it was getting the kind of push that these kinds of initiatives need. Over four months old now, and having benefited from global publicity, and the attention and support of a large number of notables, groups, and celebrities, an action like this, focused on such a universally accepted goal, should have been far larger, much better known, and prepositioned to get a lot of media coverage. I just am not seeing too much of that, and that's disappointing.

But this is just the first action, coinciding with the 2nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's descision.  Perhaps there is much more planned for the spring and summer, when the climate is more accomodating of street action.  I hope so. Now that they are officially out there, and seemingly relevant, I am going to invest some time to learn more about their future plans and will report back here.

But whatever my quibbles about it, I often publicly assert that political pragmatism demands less than ideal approaches at times, and it would be woefully hypocritical for me to not endorse a grass roots campaign as reasonable and well intentioned as this one is.


About this post

What follows was extracted from an 8700 word essay that I wrote yesterday, entitled:  On Jane Hamsher And Our Fact-Free Media: It’s Not Just For Fox News Anymore. That too-lengthy screed tried to explain a number of ethical fails that explain Jane Hamsher's Twitter attacks on me, after I had criticized some of what I considered to be FDL's reckless and self-serving coverage of Pfc. Bradley Manning. Unfortunately, more than a few important threads got overwhelmed and lost in all that sauce.

So this post will focus on a few of those threads, adding only a postscript and update at the very end,  which has some new information, as well as an important question for Bradley Manning's "friend," David M.House).

[About] All those [Firedoglake] funding drives…

…may very well be the reason that Jane [Hamsher] is so upset with me. Since I have been fearless about calling her out, perhaps she fears that I just won't shut up, and that I will keep talking about all that damn money, continuing to remind readers that despite her blithering about progressive values, she's mostly running two very successful businesses; FDL and her advertising network, Common Sense Media. Both enterprises are highly vulnerable to conflict of interest charges, especially considering how often Jane conducts various fundraising drives for something or other. Oh yes, how she hates it when people talk about that damn money.

And she should be more than a little nervous, because few of her readers really know just how the professional fundraising game is really played, or how many magical accounting tricks get used to conceal expenses or other fiduciary mechanics which might appear questionable, even when legitimate. Yes, yes, yes, of course all those funding drives are always tied to non-profits.  But in the fine print of many of them, one can almost always find a convenient disclaimer that some funds raised will be used for, among other things, "speaker fees, events, communications, advocacy, etc.." Just the "event" expenses can cover for anything from promotion, travel and entertainment expenses, to simple hair and make-up fees. As written on an FDL contribution page

The Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund is a new public advocacy effort for Bradley Manning that will organize events, issue press releases, recruit spokespeople to speak out on Bradley’s behalf, and assemble researchers and witnesses to help with Bradley’s case.

Anyone care to place any bets on who gets fees as a "spokesperson?" To be fair, this fiscal smokescreen is common in many left and right political efforts, but it almost always roughly translates to: "Oh, by the way, it's not unlikely that some amount of money—or even a lot of money— will probably go to FDL and/or Jane Hamsher or her designees, for whatever perfectly legal administrative costs, personal services fees, or other expenses will not fail too many smell tests." FDL claims the Manning funds are being passed to a bona fide, tax-exempt non-profit called the "Institute for Media Analysis." While this group is legitimate, and has worked with Democracy Now (in some capacity that I couldn't determine), the "contact" for this charitable effort, is one "Trever Fitzgibbon," who, curiously enough, became an FDL blogger only on January 25th, 2011, posting a few minor articles about Manning, almost as if this would validate an ongoing interest in the case.

Hmm. Now why would Trevor want to suddenly pop up as an FDL blogger? It ain't like his career needs the exposure. Fitzgibbon is a well known professional media consultant who founded "Fitzgibbon Media," a very successful firm which almost exclusively farms opportunities arising from progressive celebrities, causes, interests and liberal organizations including Health Care for America Now, Moveon,org, Bruce Springsteen, etc.. We can assume the firm—and it's founder—are handsomely compensated for their efforts. And perhaps because he has such experience and clout, and knows how to drive efforts that produce the really big bucks, Fitzgibbon has slipped into the FDL blogging stream to help ramp up the visibility of…

A second "advocacy fund" for Bradley Manning?

On their contributions page for this "fund," Hamsher's FDL doesn't seem to feel obligated to point out that nearly $160,000 dollars has already been raised by another, far more established public advocacy and defense fund run by "Courage to Resist." That effort is clearly stating that much of the tax-deductible contributions are for advocacy efforts, while a separate stream of non tax-deductible money goes directly into a trust established by David Coombs (Manning's attorney) for actual legal costs. This group, which has Michael Moore and Daniel Ellsberg on its advisory board, has a long and proven track record at raising money for similar causes to Manning's.

But back to FDL's contributions page.  Note the very misleading words in the page title, "Donate to the Bradley Manning Advocacy fund: make a tax-deductible contribution for the public defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning." Here, the word "defense" has a slightly ambiguous—if not an overtly misleading—implication. And then further down the page, we find the following copy:

We think this fund to advocate for Bradley is deserving of your support. 100% of contributions to this fund will be used to pay expenses related to the advocacy and defense of Bradley Manning. (Bold emphasis theirs. Underline, mine.)

Only their lawyers can say for sure, but it certainly appears to me that the wording suggests that most of the funds will be used for advocacy related purposes.  Yet the wording, first ambiguously, and then unambiguously, suggests that at least some monies will go toward Manning's legal defense costs. They are clearly designing their copy to aim it straight for those good Samaritans who would want to help out with Manning's legal fees, while minimizing any questions that might arise about what else the money could be used for. Regardless of the real or inadvertent intent in FDL's wording, a careful observer still can't help but wonder, "why the duplication of fund raising efforts at all?"

If such famous people like Moore and Ellsberg are already raising money for public advocacy and defense, wouldn't a consolidated effort make far more sense? But then, of course, Hamsher wouldn't have any control over the use or accounting of that other fund, and thus, not have a very easy time billing it for any expenses that she, David House, or FDL staff or associates might wish to recover from it. But these matters are above my pay grade. I will leave such questions to the real journalists to ask Ms. Hamsher. I'm just some anonymous man who lives with his mother.

These kinds of fiduciary details, and adequately disclosing them (or the appearance of adequately disclosing them), have often seemed problematic for Hamsher. Especially those oh so tricky political action committees. The legendary Rogers Cadenhead has famously told much of that story, and far better than I ever could.


Let me add here a comment not in the original post. My purpose in bringing this up is to show that Firedoglake, considered such and "important blog" on the left, has a Jane Hamsher wing with its own agenda, and it stands apart from the rest of the FDL community, which as I have said before, has many good and well intentioned bloggers. The Hamsher wing, on the other hand, is not all that different from Fox News, @msnbc, or Michele Malkin's HotAir.com. It's a commercial enterprise, and acts like one. It plays upon progressive sentiment and issues so that it might drive website traffic from its core demographic; American liberals who feel there are important voices at FDL.  And there are some. Many in fact.

But none are so prominent as Jane Hamsher, who uses FDL as a vehicle for her own self promotion. With all the problems facing America right now, such egocentric publishing venues, especially run by someone so clearly willing to take no prisoners, and use any and all tactics available to her to crush or smear even a casual critic, is neither very progressive, nor conducive to progressive causes, and certainly not helpful for building a progressive future for America.

Update: Feb 1st

This morning Jane attacked me again, eager to employ anyone she felt could help to throw anything available at me, even if it again meant she had to buddy-up with the execrable wingnut, Erick W. Erickson (CEO of Redstate.com). Even more remarkably, she jumped into Twitter-bed with one of Twitter's more deranged borderlines, the perpetually unemployed Daniel Spengies (Warning: graphic info enclosed). a.k.a @Ratboy1979.

This character, famous for tweeting into any stream that gets him negative attention, might be described as mobile sociopathic research laboratory in the body of an overweight sumo wrestler who'd been bottle fed on crack cocaine and drain cleaners as a baby. Yep, he was the perfect hit man for any progressive leader who presumably had a reputation to protect.

In a twisted conversation few could believe was happening outside of a video written by @theOnion, the two of them confirmed each other's hypothesis that @Shoq, an anonymous cat (who was on Twitter for a year longer than she was), just couldn't  possibly have more followers than she did. Thus, the only explanation was that he was some sort of master hacker with access to the "authority nodes". No one seems to know what they are, exactly, but we're sure it's a reference to some peer-to-peer networking jargon that she picked up somewhere or other, while trying to impress someone or other.

She also tries to (feebly) suggest that Trevor Fitzgibbon was solely responsible for the Bradley Manning Defense Fund, even though she knows that under IRS rules, his nonprofit doesn't have to reveal diddly about its donors. Thus, unless he wanted to reveal his contacts and bookkeeping to the world, any arrangement with FDL would be known only to he and Jane Hamsher.

For his part, Trevor (who is on Twitter) seemed to wisely stay far away from her mayhem, no doubt realizing that nothing good could come of drawing still more attention to the curious questions I was raising. Questions that might lead to inconvenient questions about why such a famous promoter had been brought in late, to raise money for a poorly articulated advocacy effort, and a vaguely described legal defense fund, both of which were redundant with a prestigious and well managed existing effort with exactly the same goals.

You can see Jane's latest responses, in all their embarrassing viciousness, here: : http://chirpstory.com/li/628

A message for  David M. House: David, you can keep refusing to respond to my question on Twitter, but I will keep asking it anyway:

When did you actually meet Bradley Manning (whom you characterized as a "friend of friends," even one time?" In researching your story, and your Boston programming associates, I cannot seem to get an answer to this riddle. Is it possible that, until you visited him at Quantico Brig for the first time, and began your storied TV career, that you had not actually met him even once before? All I can find are connections to at least one complicit associate of Adrian Lamo (who outed Manning). But surely you had other connections to Manning besides a link to those hackers, also deeply implicated in the Wikileaks affair… right? I'd appreciate your answer, by Tweet or direct message. Thank you.


Shoq's Related Posts

Team Manning Attacks

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