Monday, October 24, 2011

Put on the Glasses!!

It's incredible how hard some people fight when you try to open their eyes.

Happy Monday to you, dear friends. While I am sure many of you are sick of me talking about it at this point, today we will be clicking the gears back to Occupy Wall Street. After spending some quality time with some of my extended family this weekend, I started to realize how skewed the public's view of these protests is. Not to say that their confusion is incomprehensible - the media is doing a hell of a job on this to keep everyone's head spinning. From conservative monoliths like FOX News explaining how the protesters are not only confused, but the "fact" that all the injustices they are protesting are actually their own fault, to liberal political forces attempting to co-opt the movement in a power-bid for aspirations of office, as per usual, everyone has an agenda when talking about this loaded issue.

But like all great tragedies, it is the fool who has the least to lose in telling you the unadulterated truth.

It seems to me that the biggest problem the protestors are facing, beyond the police brutality and corporate efforts to silence their voice, is the public's view that the protestors demand of an end to corporate greed is too ethereal. They have no hard, itemized demands that can be checked off in the name of marking progress.

So in the interest of compassionate comprehension, today in lieu of discussing current events we are going to play a little game. And that game is called They Rule. If you would kindly point your browser to the page, the game will begin.

They Rule is a website that I remember being discussed on an edition of ABC's World News Tonight back in the early 2000s. Once the page is loaded, you are met with a blank screen with a tool bar in the upper left corner. What They Rule does is allow you to view the board members of any of the top Fortune 500 corporations. Simply select a company and mouse over the table icon that appears, and you will be able to generate a list of every board member for that company. Now, where it gets really interesting is when you mouse over the name of the individuals representing that board you will be able to extrapolate the map to include a list of every other company these people also serve as board members for. By the time you're finished, you have a disgustingly widespread and tight knit web of greed.

Let's start with one example together, class. Considering it is largely the banking interests that has people so up-in-arms these past weeks, we will begin with the Bank of America Corporation. Once you have expanded the list of their board, you will find a list of 18 names. Of these 18 names, 9 of them, half of their board, also have interests on other corporate boards. The list of these companies includes CBS, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, and even The Walt Disney Company. Now, make sure to drag the CBS table out of the way a little so we can expand that list without our graphic becoming too muddled. Expanding upon CBS's board will show that not only are two of their members protecting interests in Bank of America, but we also see Northrup Grumman - a defense tech corporation, VIACOM - another American media conglomerate, Urban Institute - a DC based think tank involved in data collection and processing on the social and economic trends facing Americans, AECOM - an engineering group which provides services in the areas of transportation, energy, and government, amongst others, and lastly, The Center for Strategic and International Studies - another bi-partisan think tank with its focus placed primarily on foreign policy, rather than domestic.

Phew! Talk about a head rush. Now of course, you can take any one of these companies connected to CBS and expand their list of board members, creating more degrees of connection between the clandestine members of the top 1%.

Let's try another quick example before I leave you to play with this tool on your own. This time, we'll start with the lovable, kid-friendly people over at The Walt Disney Corporation. Clear your maps, and start there. Once you expand their list of board members, and then the list of secondary boards these individuals belong to, you will find that Disney has a total of 13 board members, and actually more secondary boards than they have members! Of the 14 secondary boards listed, we find financial interests like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and VISA. We also find corporate commercial interests from Nike, McDonald's, Apple, Starbucks, and Clorox. And of course, the shining gem of any list of Fortune 500 companies, the military defense contractors over at Boeing Co. And don't even get me started on how convoluted Boeing's map gets.

So, maybe now with this little graphical demonstration, you might start to see where the rage of the 99% is coming from. The elites running these corporations have woven a fine web whose sole purpose is to ensure that nothing can tamper with their steady market trend of profit gains. How can we trust anything CBS reports regarding the financial markets, when one of their board directors also seats a chair for Bank of America? How comfortable are you in the fact that The Walt Disney Companies childish facade is hiding a board director who signs off on Nike's usage of third world child labor? And when one man, W James McNerney Jr., holds a chair on the board for IBM, Boeing, and Proctor and Gambel, well, I can't help but think that that much power simply has to lead to corruption.

Of course, I expect none of my words to change any minds that are already made up on the topic. As I said in my introduction to this post, no man will fight you as hard as one who is being led from ignorance. The wonderful people over at The 53% are proof of that, if nothing else. All I can do, is ask that you open your eyes. And put on the glasses.

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