The OB Media Rundown for 3/31/12

Occupiers propose local governments use eminent domain to seize mortgage contracts from banks to keep families in their homes

This year, activists working with the Occupy Wall Street movement have proposed eminent domain as a wide scale solution for keeping owners facing foreclosure in their homes. The proposed mechanism would have localities (or their appointed representatives) seize large batches of mortgage contracts at or below fair market value, allowing the homeowner to refinance at the fair market value. Proponents say that the solution would be politically and economically feasible.
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In his talk to, Michael Sauvante noted that eminent domain applies not just to real property, but to contract rights as well. Specifically, it would apply to the mortgage contracts and promissory notes held by big banks against the homes of millions of people. He noted that suggestions to use eminent domain on behalf of beleaguered homeowners would surprise those campaigning against the power following the Kelo decision, including some who have had victories at the state level, as in the case of this legislation in New Hampshire.

Colleges Withhold Transcripts From Grads in Loan Default

A spokesman from Temple confirms that it is school policy to withhold official transcripts from graduates who are in default on their student loans. As it turns out, the school is not alone; this is the position taken by most colleges and universities, though there is no law requiring such an extortionate position. They do this despite the fact the colleges themselves are not out the money. They have received the students’ tuition payments in full and are in effect simply acting as collection agencies for the federal government.

Rampant student loan debt, an economic recovery’s worst nightmare

I knew that if I ever got my health back that picking up the pieces of my life wouldn’t be easy. I would still be crippled by the damage done to my credit. My ability to get a car back on the road, ever own a home, have children, start a business, or live a fruitful life has been severely damaged. Nobody ever thinks they will lose their health overnight, but it happens all too often. My lender not only had no sympathy for my situation, but they did all they could to capitalize on it.

Make women’s history – Occupy the voting booth

Women won the right to vote nearly 100 years ago, yet only about half of millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) voted in the last presidential election. If all millennial women voted in 2012, they could make a difference.

Much is at stake. The birth-control pill came into widespread use in the 1960s and dramatically changed the lives of women for the better. Now, still, half a century later, male politicians and legislators want to restrict access to birth control, sending us back to darker ages: constant fear of pregnancy, shameful and deadly sexually transmitted disease, increased need for abortions, and, generally. second-class citizenship.

Viagra for men is freely available while women’s sexuality is to be controlled and discouraged.

Ninety-nine percent of American women have used birth control. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women have used birth control, despite of the disapproval of the Catholic Church. Will you let this right to sexuality and ability to plan families be taken away?

Occupy the Deep South

Accordingly, a depressing revelation waits at the margins of Vince’s (and other downtrodden true believers in the existence of free-market fairy dust) sense of awareness: that the energies of one’s life have been devoted to the maintenance of an elaborate lie; not only have your labors been for naught — but your sacrosanct convictions have laid the groundwork for the crime that was committed against you. You have spent your life as an accessory to your own robbery.

Your faith in capitalism has left you in a similar position to the followers of a fanatical cult who were instructed to stand upon an isolated hilltop, so that, at midnight, as prophesied by their charismatic leader, their ranks will be lifted to heaven upon chariots of glinting gold ” but who now stand stoop-shouldered before the breaking dawn, shivering into the cold light of day.

Rather than admit error, one’s pride can compel one to blame phantom enemies for humiliating circumstances. Thus, as Vince’s prospects shrank, his gun collection grew to mini-armory proportions.

Occupy D.C. demonstrators back to target EPA

“Too many times, the EPA puts corporate interests in front of people’s health and environment,” said Kevin Zeese, an activist who is involved in organizing Occupy events. “We are here to send the common message we have always (send), which is no to corporate rule. We want the people’s interests to come first.”

The demonstration kicked off the first protest of the year for Occupy D.C., and occupiers from all around the country participated in the demonstration. Becky McLaughlin from Wilmington, Delaware, and Jill Epperson from Tampa, Florida, said they are in town to support the occupy movement, and bring awareness to the American people about the movement.

Zeese said after a winter of relatively quietness, the occupy movement is alive and well. He said the movement has evolved “from encampments to working groups working on specific issues.”

How Occupy Wall Street plans to spring back to action

After a relatively low-profile winter, the movement that branded pup-tent activism into the national consciousness is embracing the advent of spring.

In Washington Friday the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is launching its second act, kicking off a month-long series of marches, training sessions, and general assemblies with Occupyers from all over the nation.

Dubbed National Occupy Washington (NOW), the event began with a march on the Environmental Protection Agency  - accompanied by a brace of alpacas, a large polar bear, and a even larger blow-up of planet Earth.

Support for arrested journalists

Arrests can be much more difficult for freelance and independent journalists who lack institutional backing.

Such is the case, for example, with Bradley Stuart Allen, a freelance photographer who was arrested while documenting a building occupation by what a police report called “a group acting in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz.” Allen is charged with felony conspiracy and two counts of misdemeanor trespass; his case will go to trial May 20.

Journalism, of course, is in a state of transition, and as traditional media outlets are losing ground, independent and citizen journalists have stepped up to provide in-depth and accurate coverage. Groups like the Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Free Press, in turn, have provided that crucial institutional support.

Occupy Maine demonstrates outside Obama fundraiser

Occupy Maine, which decamped from a city park last month, showed it’s still active with a noisy demonstration Friday evening outside a fundraiser for President Barack Obama at the Portland Museum of Art.

More than 30 demonstrators chanted and banged drums, cowbells and tambourines to call attention to corporate greed, economic inequality and the influence of money in politics. Holding a banner that said “Occupy Everywhere,” demonstrators handed out free soup while Obama’s supporters paid $5,000 or more to dine with the president.

At Zuccotti Park, the Occupiers of 1871

On weekend mornings, the neighborhood around Zuccotti Park has been waking to an odd time warp: Occupy Wall Street has returned, only this time in 19th-century attire and performing German songs instead of “mic checks.”

The crowd of about a dozen men and women – plus an accordionist – are performers in a slow-motion production of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Days of the Commune,” a play about an 1871 uprising that took over Paris.

After getting started earlier this month, it will unfold in one-scene increments each Saturday and Sunday morning through May, stretching out the drama over roughly the same span as the Paris revolt and Occupy Wall Street’s encampment, which both lasted about three months.

Stand up for justice by addressing divisive fear

IT’S spring, and the Occupy movement reawakens – and with it, the conversation about greed. Confronting greed is what the Occupy movement has been about. With their “We are the 99 percent” chants, they are pointing to the greed at the very top; and the way the money that has rewarded that greed is now being used to game the system, so that the greediest stay on top and the rest of us settle for crumbs.

It reminds me of an ongoing argument I used to have with one of my parishioners about which of two vices was more dangerous for the future of humanity. This brilliant engineer, who had served as science and technology adviser to the White House, insisted that greed was what we should be working against. But I was convinced something even more paralyzing and dehumanizing exists at the heart of evil in this world: fear.

Commentary: America’s new rising tide lifts only all yachts

Occupy Wall Street is not known for precise economic analysis, but new research on income distribution shows that the group’s sloganeering provides a stunningly accurate picture of the U.S. economy.

In 2010, according to a study published this month by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez, 93 percent of income growth went to the wealthiest 1 percent of households, while everyone else divvied up the 7 percent left over. The fundamental characteristic of the U.S. economy today is the divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent.

It was not ever thus. In the recovery that followed the downturn of the early 1990s, the wealthiest 1 percent captured 45 percent of income growth. In the recovery that followed the dotcom bust 10 years ago, Mr. Saez noted, 65 percent of income growth went to the top 1 percent. This time, it’s reached 93 percent, high enough to shake the foundations of the entire American project.

The 1% Strike Back

In 2010, as the economy began its slow recovery from the Great Recession, a new study shows _  the richest 1 percent of Americans captured a staggering 93 percent of all income growth, while the incomes of most Americans stagnated.

Ninety-three percent. Occupy that. The 1 percent are back.

The stock market – leading source of wealth for the few – rebounded. Housing – the leading source of wealth for middle income Americans – continued to decline. Median CEO pay soared _  a stunning 27 percent. When the 2011 figures come out, the disparities will be even greater. America is recovering the old economy’s extreme inequalities.

What will it take to stop ‘high-stakes testing’?

A massive protest is planned from March 30 to April 2, when protesters from every state with representation from many school districts in the country will occupy the Department of Education in Washington, D.C. In essence, the protesters are following the examples of the late Howard Zinn, author of “A People’s History of the United States” who often stated that “democracy doesn’t come from the top, it comes from the bottom and frustration can lead to people’s movements that are progressive.”

This national protest is an outgrowth of the high-stakes standardized testing (HST) movement that is sweeping across every state in the nation. The protest should send shivers up and down the spines of the test makers and the education reformers, whose motto is “there can never be enough testing in schools.” The underlying premise behind the “Occupy the DOE” movement is that parents and teachers are sick and tired of children being used as statistical data, with a strong belief that children are more than test scores. Hence, leaders of the protest movement believe that the protest may also serve as a catalyst for parents to opt out of standardized testing for their children, which, in turn, will also render testing data meaningless. Teachers and parents have considered the consequences of the destructive nature of HST and have come to realize that, without challenge, it is the children who will lose out.

Getting Schooled

It started as an act of political theater during the early days of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) encampment at Zuccotti Park. Public school teachers and adjunct lecturers hosted a “grade-in,” a public display of the endless work educators do after 3:30 p.m. and on weekends. These teachers, who came from various groups opposed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assault on public education and frustrated with the bureaucracy of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), saw a unifying theme in their frustration.
“Our problems stem from the fact that we have no power, no voice in the classrooms,” said Kelley Wolcott, an eighth-grade English teacher in Red Hook, Brooklyn. And so Occupy the DOE (Department of Education) was born.
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The choice to bring the Occupy name into this new approach is not just because of its Zuccotti Park roots, but because Bloomberg’s education policy is a blatant attempt to corporatize what should be a public good. Mayoral control of schools came to the city in 2002, replacing the system of local district boards, and the Bloomberg administration has used its power to bring the private-sector model of management to schools. A school?s success or failure, a multi-faceted and subjective judgment, is measured using a strictly quantitative method. (Think of Bloomberg’s rigid health-code grading system for restaurants applied to educating children.) Wolcott notes that this turns principals from pedagogical leaders into mere plant supervisors who pressure teachers to produce good numbers by sidelining students who need more help because they could jeopardize test scores, while the rest learn to simply correctly answer standardized exam questions rather than think critically.

Van Jones and the 99% scam: Clap harder, cheer louder to get Obama to do the right thing

Van Jones is back with a message for disappointed progressives, Occupy Wall Street and other “post-’Hope’” Democrats still looking to President Barack Obama for the change they voted for in 2008: Get over it.

“I think you need two sources of power to make change, and not just one. I think you need a head of state that?s willing to be moved, and a movement to do the moving,” said Jones, the former West Wing insider-turned-disillusioned outsider and a lightning rod for conservative critics.

Take Me Off Your “Bold Progressives” List!

If Elizabeth Warren is a “bold progressive” given that she’s announced several times her support for crippling sanctions and this new war on Iran that her colleagues are ginning up, then maybe we ought to start a new party of “timid regressives” to oppose the new rationales and lies.  Whether it’s Bush’s and Madeleine Albright’s old notion of “fighting to bring democracy to the world” (and killing 1/2 million children in the process is “worth it”) or Obama’s and NATO’s new rationale of bombing Libya as a “humanitarian gesture,” it is all simply misleading, truly Orwellian propaganda.  Both parties and their corrupt politicians are up to their eyeballs in these illegal wars of aggression and war crimes but like addicts, they can’t stop so they just keep finding new sales slogans.

Count me out!  Warren can wage her WWIII without my little bit of money as window-dressing for the big money she’s pulling in from the Democratic PACs, war-addicted Military Industrial Complex and AIPAC groups.

Obama protesters unite in cause but not in message

Protesters in Burlington on Friday demonstrated a rich mix of objections to President Barack Obama?s campaign swing through town.

Assembled at Spear Street and Williston Road, a crowd of up to 85 people waved signs and chanted slogans that took to task corporate capitalism, nuclear power, military policy and pay-to-play politics.

Occupy Columbia protestor announces run for SC House

One of the protestors from Occupy Columbia has decided to make a run at the State House in the 88th district.

Walid Hakim filed paperwork on Friday to declare his entry in the race to unseat incumbent Rep. McLain Toole, who has served in office since 2003.

Hakim, who was a Marine for five years, says he understands the challenges the state faces.

Occupy Wall Street protesters stage rally in front of NYSE

On Friday, the protesters marched through the streets of lower Manhattan and finally gathered in front of the NYSE where they formed a circle and started chanting slogans as the stock exchange rang its closing bell at 16:00 EDT (20:00 GMT), Reuters reported.

They accused Wall Street of influencing US politicians in favor of the richest one percent.

“The closing bell of the stock exchange symbolizes the prioritization of economics over politics in our society. The fact is that our politicians are more beholden to these institutions than the people they are supposed to represent,” said Mark Bray, a member of the Occupy Wall Street press working group.

Occupy Chicago: G8 and NATO summits to be held

It has been 193 days since the beginning of the Occupy movement. That’s 4,632 hours of defiance; 277,920 minutes of cold days and even colder nights in a park; 16,675,200 seconds of police brutality and antagonizing – all of which are small prices to pay for citizens to confront a lifetime of being treated like second-class citizens in their own country. Though marked by the stereotype of being a lower-class hippie fad, the Occupy movement is much more than that. It is a call to arms for all of the ordinary middle- and lower-class people who are fed up with corporate greed and the uneven distribution of wealth in America. For some strange reason, 1 percent of the total population in the U.S. holds roughly 42 percent (almost half) of the nation’s wealth.

Many would agree that it seems the Occupy movement, formerly having reached an impasse, is now about to be reborn with the impending occupation of Chicago, which will be a major catalyst to the movement’s revival. According to, an astounding 50,000 people plan to Occupy Chicago on May 1 and remain there for an entire month. Of all places, one might be wondering: why Chicago?

Occupy Atlanta, Tea Party Patriots Defeat SB 469

Around 11pm, word circulated that a deal was being made to table the bill and for Occupy to hold off on any CD [civil disobedience].

Occupy re-grouped again and voted to wait and watch as the SB 469 drama continued to change.  During the last hour of the General Assembly, Occupy showed a lot of discipline in their ability to change tactics, with the conflicting information and changing status of SB 469.

At midnight, the end of this year?s legislative session, SB 469 did not come up for a vote in the House and thus it was a dead bill.

Occupy Protestor Claims He Kept 135 Day Vigil

People passing by Colton Hall in Monterey may hardly notice anymore the worn flag, a small table, some posters and signs that sit clustered on a corner of the historic white steps, but to one man, it’s been his home for the last 135 days.

Jimmy O’Reilly has refused to let the local Occupy movement die since it started late last year, holding most likely one of the longest vigils ever at Colton Hall, and probably on the West Coast. On Sunday, Occupy Monterey will celebrate the conclusion of O’Reilly’s 135 day, 24 hour vigil on the steps of Colton Hall in Monterey.  He began his vigil on Friday, November 18, 2011, but the mystery remains as to how this man managed to keep a 24 hour “vigil” on his own. Most likely he slept when officials weren’t looking. He claims he only fell asleep a few times and he was cited by police. The citations were later dropped.

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