The OB Media Rundown for 4/22/12

May Day Directory: Occupy General Strike In Over 115 Cities

While American corporate media has focused on yet another stale election between Wall Street-financed candidates, Occupy has been organizing something extraordinary: the first truly nationwide General Strike in U.S. history. Building on the international celebration of May Day, past General Strikes in U.S. cities like Seattle and Oakland, the recent May 1st Day Without An Immigrant demonstrations, the national general strikes in Spain this year, and the on-going student strike in Quebec, the Occupy Movement has called for A Day Without the 99% on May 1st, 2012. This in and of itself is a tremendous victory. For the first time, workers, students, immigrants, and the unemployed from over 115 U.S. cities will stand together for economic justice.

Latest campaign report: Elite embezzler who sacked MF Global ‘bundles’ $500,000 for Obama campaign

Barack Obama’s reelection campaign has released the most recent list of names of fundraising bundlers. On that list is Jon Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey and embattled money man, the former head of MF Global.

Corzine, according to the Obama campaign, has once again helped raise more than $500,000.

“MF Global and its brokerage sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a $6.3 billion bet on the bonds of some of Europe’s most indebted nations prompted regulator concerns and a credit rating downgrade. Corzine quit MF Global Nov. 4,” Bloomberg reported.

MF Global: The Untold Story of the Biggest Wall Street Collapse Since Lehman

Only on Wall Street can you bankrupt a company; misplace $1.6 billion of customers’ money; lose 75 percent of shareholders’ money in two weeks; speed dial a high priced criminal attorney and get a court to authorize the payment of your multi-million dollar legal tab from the failed company’s insurance policies; have regulators waive your requirements to take licensing exams required to work in the securities and commodities industry; have your Board of Directors waive your loyalty to the firm; run a bucket shop out of the UK; and still have the word “Honorable” affixed to your name in a Congressional investigations hearing.

American class war – Murder, suicide and financial ruin


“There are murders and suicides – or murder-suicides – in foreclosed homes, people burning their homes down with themselves inside, or shooting policemen or locksmiths who come to evict them from their foreclosed-on homes. Behind all this is crime, is predatory banking fraud and crime to fleece people who don’t know they’re being fleeced, who trust in the system still too much, and who are not as sophisticated as these fraudsters.”

Reporters cast blame for US decline on faltering institutions, rather than policies of hostile, indifferent elites

Ron Fournier, the editor in chief of the National Journal, and reporter Sophie Quinton have a story on hard times in Muncie, Ind., as a microcosm of the failure of American institutions as a whole.

The piece is bookended by the story of Johnny Whitmire, a guy who was unceremoniously dropped from the rolls of the middle class by the Very Serious People In Charge of Things. His wife lost her state job. They fell behind on their mortgage. He applied for the Obama administration’s mortgage modification program. His modification was canceled, Citi billed him for back payments, and his home was foreclosed on. Then he got a bill for not cutting the grass at the home his bank seized, because banks keep foreclosed homes in the names of their former owners to avoid liability issues.

So, Whitmire is angry. And he has every right to be.

“Whitmire is an angry man. He is among a group of voters most skeptical of President Obama: noncollege-educated white males. He feels betrayed – not just by Obama, who won his vote in 2008, but by the institutions that were supposed to protect him: his state, which laid off his wife; his government in Washington, which couldn’t rescue homeowners who had played by the rules; his bank, which failed to walk him through the correct paperwork or warn him about a potential mortgage hike; his city, which penalized him for somebody else’s error; and even his employer, a construction company he likes even though he got laid off. “I was middle class for 10 years, but it’s done,” Whitmire says. “I’ve lost my home. I live in a trailer now because of a mortgage company and an incompetent government.”

With inequality causing so much damage to society, why do Americans continue to lie down and take it?

One reason is that many Americans skating on the edge of poverty are not willing to identify themselves as poor. It is likely that many people, struggling with unemployment, home foreclosures and lack of health care, think of themselves still as middle class people who have hit a temporary down time. Thus, politicians, even President Obama, key their economic message to the middle class, knowing that’s where the great majority of voters are, even if they have temporarily joined what would be defined as the poor.

People struggling to regain their footing in the middle class may be reluctant to demand what they see as a handout from government and may be even more reluctant for government to distribute handouts to others whom they see as undeserving.

Thus, skepticism of government cripples the government’s ability to address the problem of poverty because government is forced to curb, not just handouts, but useful programs such as job training, health care and education.

The US does not have justice or even the rule of law

Black letter law, on the books, makes most of what the banks did leading up to the subprime crisis illegal. It was fraud. Black letter law makes the war on Iraq a war crime, and no one went to jail for that. Black letter law does not allow freestanding resisting arrest charges, and those happen all the time. Basic law states that an accused has a right to face their accuser and see the evidence against them, that no longer occurs in many cases. Basic justice says that you can’t punish someone without a trial, and the “no-fly list” indicates that is no longer true (along with being unable to face your accusers and see the evidence against you.) The US Congress retroactively made wiretapping without a warrant “legal” and if I have to explain why retroactive immunity is wrong I give up. Basic justice says that secret laws and secret courts are unjust, yet the US has plenty of both.

This is not just an issue with the US. During the G20 up here in Toronto the Ontario government used a SECRET LAW to strip civil liberties from anyone in the downtown Toronto core. Of course, it must be said that the public couldn’t give a shit, it was not an issue in the next election. In Britain, after the riots, family members of those convicted of crimes were evicted from public housing. Collective punishment of family members is unjust.

And, in most countries today, the rich and powerful are not even charged with crimes that their “lessers” regularly do jail time for.

The Burgeoning Student Debt Problem

Even though other consumer debt-bombs have done more damage, student debt is producing significant social and economic distortions. One is so useful to the authority structure that it seems certain that they will keep this type of bondage in place. Heavy debt loads pressure young people into making conservative choices. If you carry a lot in the way of student loans, you have to worry about employability. That doesn’t simply push graduates into bigger ticket (hence more conventional) career choices; more important, it makes them far less likely to step out of line. In particular, an arrest record, which is often a by product of protesting, is an automatic out with a lot of employers.

But the level of student debt, now estimated at over $1 trillion outstanding, is having an impact on spending. First time home buying is running below the level expected given new household formation, and a big culprit is student debt loads, since many young people are too leveraged to take on a decent-sized mortgage on top of their existing obligations. In addition, the 25 to 39 year old cohort is the top target of advertisers, but the more debt service they have, the less they can buy in the way of goodies.

Obama and student loans: Fixing the symptoms, not the problem?

President Obama wants to delay the interest-rate hike on government-backed student loans scheduled for this July and will say so in his Saturday radio address – and then again when he hits college campuses next week to promote the plan. For their part, Department of Education officials stood up for the plan on Friday. And April 25, the Occupy movement is set to occupy colleges to highlight the issue.

But an online petition that has gathered nearly 700,000 signatures has a better idea – erase the debt completely, says creator Robert Applebaum.

“Forgiving the student loan debt of all Americans will have an immediate stimulative effect on our economy,” he says in the petition. “With the stroke of the president’s pen, millions of Americans would suddenly have hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of extra dollars in their pockets each and every month to spend on ailing sectors of the economy.”

Trayvon Killing Reveals Unreconstructed White Nationalism on the March

African American perceptions of the growing racial threat crystallized with the Trayvon Martin murder, as the groundswell of protest – most significantly, among Black youth – attests. Zimmerman’s invocation of the Stand Your Ground Law brought it all home: white electorates have put in place legal mechanisms allowing them to kill African Americans at will. It is the specter most horrifically depicted in the photo of two young Black men lynched by a jubilant mob of thousands in Marion, Indiana, in 1930. Those same folks are still out there, in numbers large enough to tear down barriers to freelance lynch law in at least half the states. Welcome (back) to America.. . .

Caught on tape: Chilling new video of US border patrol beating immigrant to death

A new video shows Anastacio Hernadez-Rojas lying on the ground in the fetal position, circled by at least a dozen federal agents as one repeatedly shocks him with an electric stun gun. The video was shot by a passer-by and was obtained by the lawyer for the Hernandez-Rojas family as they push on with their wrongful death suit against the US government.

Anastacio Hernadez-Rojas’ death was ruled a ‘homicide’ by the San Diego medical examiner and was investigated by police, yet no border control agents were charged for their part in the incident.

This will undoubtedly create even more tension, as public outcry about the case has been gaining momentum for two years. It raised serious questions about border agents and what they can potentially do without facing the repercussions of their actions.

Meet the US media companies lobbying against transparency

News organizations cultivate a reputation for demanding transparency, whether by suing for access to government documents, dispatching camera crews to the doorsteps of recalcitrant politicians, or editorializing in favor of open government.

But now many of the country’s biggest media companies – which own dozens of newspapers and TV news operations – are flexing their muscle in Washington in a fight against a government initiative to increase transparency of political spending.

The corporate owners or sister companies of some of the biggest names in journalism – NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and dozens of local TV news outlets – are lobbying are against a Federal Communications Commission measure to require broadcasters to post political ad data on the internet.

Escaping the grip of “hard money” ideology

Currently, on the world political stage, there is little discussion of an alternative progressive framework for economics that would significantly counteract the push towards fiscal austerity. One hears now and again protests about the damage already done and yet to be done by fiscal austerity, but the public in general has little knowledge of a comprehensive alternative framework. There are signs that the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) view is reaching a wider audience, but it is probably the case that even most well informed political insiders remain in the dark. The public at large is exposed in both media and policy circles to two flavors of the same neoliberal economics that sees no positive leadership role or well-thought-out supporting role for government in the economy. In the upcoming US Presidential election, the American public must choose between two candidates, superficially different, but who offer in practice weaker and stronger versions of the same approach to governing. The lack of a perceived alternative engenders apathy and cynicism in many.

Even if people with progressive sympathies become aware of MMT and other post-Keynesian alternatives to the status quo, they are faced with a weighty political and intellectual task: MMT’s view of the economy and public finance suggests a very different progressive political strategy than that offered by the current thought leaders on the progressive side of the political spectrum.

Catholic power dynamics exposed in Colorado funding flap: Clerics pushed along by groups with strident political agendas

As The Colorado Independent recently reported, no one from the Catholic Campaign ever asked CompaƱeros about its stand on gay rights or about its ties to One Colorado. Mosher said the Campaign’s concerns seemed based on sources far removed from the reality of the work being done on the ground by her organization, which mostly concerns education on U.S. laws and shepherding immigrants and their families through courts, hospitals, schools, and tax filings.

The events in Colorado seemed to spotlight the way power is being wielded within the church by non-clerical Catholic groups armed with Internet connections and formed to champion hard-line positions on social issues such as abortion and gay rights.

U.S. nun group rejects Vatican condemnation

The leader of a group of US Catholic nuns on Saturday rejected condemnation from a Vatican report that said it defied Church doctrine.

“We haven’t violated any teaching,” Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby, told AFP, insisting the group would not stop “caring for the least among us on the margins of society.”

“There seems to the major disconnect, where (the Vatican) seem to think that faith can only lead to one political approach,” Campbell said. The Network group, she said, “speaks for our members, not for a church. Helping others is at the heart of our faith.”

Contradiction Where Religion and American Politics Meet

Here’s a newspaper headline that might induce a disbelieving double take: “Christians ‘More Likely to Be Leftwing’ And Have Liberal Views on Immigration and Equality.” Sounds too hard to believe, right? Well, it’s true-only not here in America, but in the United Kingdom.

That headline, from London’s Daily Mail, summed up the two-tiered conclusion of a new report from the British think tank Demos, which found that in England 1) “religious people are more active citizens (who) volunteer more, donate more to charity and are more likely to campaign on political issues” and 2) “religious people are more likely to be politically progressive (people who) put a greater value on equality than the non-religious, are more likely to be welcoming of immigrants as neighbours (and) more likely to put themselves on the left of the political spectrum.”

These findings are important to America for two reasons. First, they tell us that, contrary to evidence in the United States, the intersection of religion and politics doesn’t have to be fraught with hypocrisy. Britain is a Christian-dominated country, and the Christian Bible is filled with liberal economic sentiment. It makes perfect sense, then, that the more devoutly loyal to that Bible one is, the more progressive one would be on economics.

International Monetary Fund: 3 arrested outside IMF meeting in D.C.

Three people [affiliated with an Occupy DC protest] have been arrested outside the International Monetary Fund meeting going on in Washington.

Occupy Staunton Still Going Strong [VA]

Occupy Staunton held their ground in front of the Augusta County Courthouse to raise awareness about Citizens United. It’s the Supreme Court case that allows corporations to donate towards political campaigns.

The Occupy Staunton group feels that this allows corporations to essentially buy a candidate.

They say that as long as there’s a cause the public should know about, they’ll keep holding public demonstrations.

Austerity cuts and corruption propel tens of thousands to rally against collapsing Czech government

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered for an anti-government rally in Prague’s central Wenceslas Square on Saturday as the centre-right ruling coalition was teetering on the verge of collapse. Unions, pensioners, student associations and others angered by austerity cuts and graft scandals teamed up for what they said would be the biggest protest yet against the cabinet of right-wing leader Petr Necas.

“The police estimate about 80-90,000 people are in Wenceslas Square right now,” Prague police spokeswoman Eva Kropacova told AFP.

Union leader Jaroslav Zavadil put the number of protesters at 120,000 before lambasting the cabinet for “humiliating the powerless with its anti-social reforms.”

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