The OB Media Rundown for 5/10/12

Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social media, public space, and emerging logics of aggregation

This initial reflection on the #Occupy Everywhere movements is based on my observations and participation in #Occupy Boston since late September 2011, including the period after the dismantling of the camp on December 10. I especially focus on how social media have shaped the forms and practices of #Occupy, comparing and contrasting the #Occupy movements to a previous wave of global justice activism that was also significantly influenced by digital media (Juris 2008a). How are the #Occupy movements using new technologies? What difference does employing social as opposed to other forms of new media make? How do virtual and physical forms of protest intersect? What are the strategic and political implications of emerging dynamics of organization and protest within #Occupy, particularly in terms of issues such as sustainability, racial diversity, political demands, and movement impact.

[For more articles in Occupy in the new issue of American Ethnologist  magazine go here:]

Rejecting the lie that Harvard doesn’t do student activism

Before a journalist suggests, yet again, that Harvard students never put their feet on the ground about issues they care about, I think it’s important to point out the impressive nature of this school year’s student activism. In the fall, students from the Trans Task Force and Anti-Imperialist Movement  protested President Drew G. Faust signing an agreement that brought Naval Reserve Office Training Corps back on campus. The students of the Environmental Action Committee and Students for a Just and Stable Future travelled to Boston and Washington D.C. with the Tar Sands Action Campaign to protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline; meanwhile, the Global Health and AIDS Coalition held multiple actions all year calling out both Senator Scott P. Brown and Merck & Co. for their failure to support global health goals.

While students staged a walkout of professor N. Gregory Mankiw’s Economics 10 lecture and prompted Goldman Sachs to cancel recruiting events at multiple colleges, Occupy Harvard maintained a tent city in Harvard Yard for over two months. Other students concerned about economic justice organized with library workers to demand no layoffs in the restructuring process. The Palestine Solidarity Committee held a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian administrative detainees; black student groups organized a rally for Trayvon Martin. And just last Saturday, Harvard students joined with feminists from around Boston to protest the War on Women. Moreover, this year’s student campaigns have been successful: In response to student demands, Harvard not only halted future investments in HEI Hotels and Resorts but also funded cage-free eggs in the dining halls and sustainable jobs for Harvard’s food service.

The latest Occupy impostors – Two groups claiming to represent America’s youth are, in fact, fronts for phony D.C. centrism

Tens of thousands of young people took to parks, streets and banks last fall to demand an end to the laissez-faire political order that permitted financial titans to bankrupt the economy and deny us a chance at finding decent jobs.

Half a year later, a collection of young people backed by major foundations and companies like Dell are promoting two new organizations, Campaign for Young America and Fix Young America. In a recent profile, the New York Times touts the groups as “advocacy groups for jobless youth” on the order of the AARP or NRA. They are, the Times claims, “younger siblings of Occupy Wall Street, but with a nonpartisan agenda, more centralized leadership and one specific mission: to help young people find jobs.”
. . .

They are nothing at all like Occupy Wall Street: The groups have no real criticism of the American economic order, they are not democratically run, and they seem to focus on providing service of helping individual people find jobs.

The book even includes a contribution from Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the conservative legislator who last May infamously accused Elizabeth Warren of being a liar.

As Europe rises up, Washington elites increasingly favor austerity

The assumption is that any [budget] agreement will look something like the abortive “grand bargain” that President Barack Obama agreed to last summer in talks with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Or like the proposals made by the co-chairmen of the President’s Deficit Commission, former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles (but ultimately rejected by the full panel).

Both deals anoint deficit reduction – austerity – as the priority.

The Washington elites seem oblivious to the fact that the world has shifted dramatically since Simpson-Bowles or the grand-bargain negotiations. Europe ran a real world experiment on austerity – and it produced increasing unemployment, growing misery and rising opposition.

Meanwhile, Occupy Wall Street has put inequality – and the struggling middle class – at the center of the U.S. political debate, calling into question the whole notion of “shared sacrifice.” The public grows increasingly skeptical about the basic assumptions of the elite consensus.

After austerity

This we should know by now: Markets on their own are not stable. Not only do they repeatedly generate destabilising asset bubbles, but, when demand weakens, forces that exacerbate the downturn come into play. Unemployment, and fear that it will spread, drives down wages, incomes, and consumption – and thus total demand. Decreased rates of household formation – young Americans, for example, are increasingly moving back in with their parents – depress housing prices, leading to still more foreclosures. States with balanced-budget frameworks are forced to cut spending as tax revenues fall – an automatic destabiliser that Europe seems mindlessly bent on adopting.

Red-baiting rhetoric: When they say ‘communist’, you say ‘whatever’

Collectivism is in the air in the United States, as it has been since John McCain called candidate Obama a socialist. Since 2008, I’m pretty sure I have heard more about communism than I did during the Reagan administration when the Soviet Union, though it was slouching toward obsolescence, was still a potent symbol of… something. By the time Mikhail Gorbachev became leader in 1985, his chief concern was winding down the Evil Empire.

Which brings me to this: Who is Romney talking to? When he says Russia is our number one foe, he has someone in mind. This all-American, as I imagine him, isn’t worried about Iran, North Korea or al-Qaeda. This guy believes in what he can see and hear, and clearly Obama’s a communist – he knows it’s true. And Russia, well, that’s a communist country. Is. Was. Whatever. Point is, any idiot can add two and two. If Obama’s a commie and if Russia’s a commie country, then Russia’s our number one foe.

But what about voters who don’t already hate the president? You must be a certain age to remember when the Soviets posed a true threat. When Nikita Khrushchev said the USSR would bury the US while banging his shoe on the lectern, that meant something. The greatest threat now comes from Slavic mockery. When he heard about being our “number one foe”, former president Dmitri Medvedev joked: “It is 2012, not the mid-1970s.”

Right wing now and for the foreseeable future…

Like the tax cuts for the wealthy that are their all-purpose economic policy proposal, a shift to the right has become the all-purpose response to any political development over more than three decades. The Tea Party Movement is simply the latest incarnation of the conservative movement, which has been thundering against RINOs all the way back to the days when they actually existed.

There’s nothing new here, folks. There may be limits to how far the ideological bender of the GOP can be taken, but the idea that it will end next year or the year after is completely without empirical foundation.

Fanatical GOP Could Spark Constitutional Crisis

Under Obama’s presidency, Republicans have gone to unprecedented lengths to block completely uncontroversial appointments, paralyzing the government and using the power to paralyze government to nullify duly passed laws. It is bringing on an approaching crisis of American government.

The social norm against blocking qualified, mainstream Supreme Court nominees is one of the few remaining weapons the Republican Party has left lying on the ground. But if Republican senators attribute [Indiana GOP Sen.] Lugar’s defeat even in part to those votes for Kagan and Sotomayor, which seems to be the case, what incentive do they have to vote for another Obama nominee? And then what will happen if he gets another vacancy to fill – will Republican senators allow him to seat any recognizably Democratic jurist? Especially as the Supreme Court interjects itself more forcefully into partisan disputes like health care, will it become commonplace for the Court to have several vacancies owing to gridlock, for the whole legitimacy of the institution to collapse?

It’s possible that nothing important will come of the Lugar-Mourdock primary. But it is just as easy to see in it the frightening outlines of a future systemic crisis.

Maryland: Occupy The G8
Screen shot 2012 05 09 at 10.30.48 PM 213x300 The OB Media Rundown for 5/10/12
We propose a Peoples’ 99% Agenda against the imperialist (corporate-dictated) agenda. We propose that protesters including the Occupy movement go to Thurmont, Maryland, and demonstrate our concerns regarding nuclear policy, energy policy, resource wars, agribusiness, the 1% corporate dictatorship, and other international issues.

Instead of the G8 agenda, we suggest a Peoples’ 99% Agenda:
universal nuclear disarmament
label all GMO food (90% of corn and soy beans)
save the global climate
justice for developing countries
international banking reform for the 99%
geothermal, solar, wind, conservation, efficiency

Occupy Wall Street members making Brooklyn their economic hub

Occupy Wall Street protesters may be marching for change in Manhattan, but they’re making money in Brooklyn.

More than a dozen savvy OWS entrepreneurs have opened a printing shop, a T-shirt operation and a tech venture – all running coop style without a boss.

“OWS has different sides. There are the kids who drum all day and piss people off. But we are trying to show people that a democratic economy can work,” said Dale Luce, 25, cofounder of OccuCopy print shop at 388 Atlantic Avenue.

Shareholder Spring Spreads: CEOs Ousted in the UK, Bank of America Protested

This is the latest in what has been perhaps the most diverse, widespread and sizeable protests of corporate annual meetings around the world to date. Traditionally these company gatherings are held in the spring after the publication of annual reports in April of each year. They tend to be dull affairs hosted by company management and attended by analysts from Wall Street and the City of London and a handful of shareholders.

Occasionally, church groups and environmental groups attend to speak out in favor of progressive resolutions that gather no more than five percent of votes from the big institutional investors who own the bulk of company shares. And sometimes there are a rallies outside led by the same groups.

But the scale of the protests 2012 has been different, first because of the return of the Occupy protestors who were evicted by police or winter conditions. These activists have bolstered the numbers outside the annual general meetings: in Detroit, hundreds of Occupy protestors marched to protest General Electric on April 25, 2012 to protest the way the company avoids paying taxes. Occupy also turned out in force to protest Peabody Coal in St. Louis, Missouri and Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco last month._

Protesters Went Nuts On Bank Of America’s Shareholder Meeting And The Results Were Hilarious

Occupy movement protesters descended upon Bank of America’s Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters today to disrupt the annual shareholder’s meeting.

The protest, which began this morning, is wrapping up right now. But at its height, it looked pretty lively.

The demonstrators got pretty creative with the demonstration-showing up with huge balls of debt and fish hooks to dangle donuts in front of the police.

Minnesota drug recognition program suspended; Trooper, officer investigated for distributing drugs to people at Occupy camp

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has suspended its drug recognition training program and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has launched a criminal investigation into claims that officers were giving drugs to OccupyMN protestors and releasing them in downtown Minneapolis.

So far, Minnesota State Trooper Nick Otterson has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into his conduct during the DRE training, and a Hutchinson police officer is also being investigated after he was accused of providing marijuana to a potential subject. The Hutchinson officer is still on active duty, however.

DPS said in a statement Wednesday that an officer from another law enforcement agency allegedly witnessed the activity. The officer, who was also participating in drug recognition training, reported the incident to the Minnesota State Patrol.

Debunking Fox News’ claim that OWS-NYC is ‘paying people to hang out in Zuccotti Park’

We (with some help from our colleague Nick Pinto) stumbled upon a group that is offering $10 an hour for people to “protest” in Zuccotti Park today and tomorrow. The group is called “AllOURPower,” and while it uses some of the same rhetoric as OWS (the “99-percent” BS, for example) the group isn’t Occupy Wall Street. See a different ad the group posted on Craigslist, in which it offers cash to people willing to hang out in Zuccotti Park.

AllOURPower doesn’t appear to be as divisive as OWS — it’s mission statement is to “bridge the gap and connect the 99 percent to the 1 percent.” However, it appears to be little more than a for-profit consumer price club that’s using the buzz of OWS to help launch its website.

Air Pollution, Asthma Burden Unevenly Shared Among U.S. Children

Nearly one of every three kids in East Harlem suffers from asthma. In the more affluent Upper East Side, the rate is less than 10 percent. Yet both neighborhoods have been found to have poor air quality due in large part to diesel truck and bus traffic and old buildings that still burn dirty heating oil.

How could kids living within walking distance of one another face such disparate risks?

Disadvantaged populations may lack access to health care, grocery stores and good jobs. Add to that the underlying chronic stress that comes with living in poverty, which researchers are finding might further increase susceptibility to conditions that include asthma, heart disease and cancer.

Libertarian Media Outfit Pulls Billboard on Global Warming

Drivers moving along Chicago’s inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday may have been surprised to see Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, staring at them from a massive billboard. “I still believe in global warming. Do you?” the billboard read in large maroon letters. Just below was the Web address

Hours later, the digital billboard was gone. It seems that the ad campaign, sponsored by the conservative Heartland Institute, had bombed.

“We know that our billboard angered and disappointed many of Heartland’s friends and supporters, but we hope they understand what we were trying to do with this experiment,” the institute said late Friday afternoon said in a statement. “We do not apologize for running the ad, and we will continue to experiment with ways to communicate the ‘realist’ message on the climate.”

Climate deniers face mutiny amid furor over billboard campaign

The Heartland Institute’s failed billboard campaign attacking the existence of climate change is driving a surge of corporate donors to abandon the group and prompting a mutiny among its Washington-based staff, which is decamping for less volatile surroundings, according to sources.

The ‘Parent Trigger’ and [loss of] Community Control of Schools

The so-called “parent trigger” law is the newest weapon in the arsenal of the school privatizers and their billionaire backers. The law was passed in California in 2010, and versions of it have been enacted in several other states. The California law allows a majority of parents to pull the “trigger” on their local school and take it out of control of the school district. It’s only been used against two elementary schools: first in Compton, then in the town of Adelanto. In both cases, the process dissolved in acrimony and bitterness, with many parents claiming they had been bulldozed into signing petitions.

The trigger law is a scam, a bait-and-switch scheme designed to make it appear that a charter school “movement” is sweeping parents in poor communities. In fact, promoters of trigger laws have only one use for parents: to pull the trigger on a school so that it can be converted to, or make room for, a charter school operated by the private sector. The last thing these people advocate is community control of schools – a concept that is antithetical to corporate-run education.
. . .

“Anyone who believes that the Lords of Capital would finance anything that puts real power in the hands of poor parents, is in serious need of remedial education.


University files suit over farm encampment

The University of California has filed a lawsuit against protesters occupying a patch of University of California, Berkeley property where they planted crops nearly two weeks ago.

University officials said Wednesday evening that they filed a lawsuit against 14 people in Alameda County Superior Court.

Rally to Protest UC Lawsuit Against Farm Activists

Supporters of Occupy the Farm are expected to march Wednesday at 6 p.m. from North Berkeley BART station to a University of California property in Albany.

Resident fights city over right to post Occupy sign [CA]

Resident Rob Means has gained legal support from the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union regarding City of Milpitas’ abatement order to remove a political sign from his home’s front yard because it does not conform to city zoning laws.

In December, city staff claimed Means’ 2-foot square red, white and blue “We Are The 99%” sign, posted in front of his home on the 1400 block of Yellowstone Avenue, appeared to be permanent and as such could not stay as it was in violation of the city’s sign ordinance.

“Permanent signs erected for the purpose of announcements or nameplates shall not exceed 1-square-foot,” Gloria Anaya, the city’s senior housing and neighborhood preservation specialist, wrote in a Dec. 5 letter.

If he did not remove the sign, Anaya said the city would either levy a $100 fine or remove the sign and bill Means for the cost of its removal.

Economic Depression Continues to Spur on Suicides in Europe

Greece and Italy are normally associated with beautiful sea views, earthy food and vibrant culture. In the last few years, however, these countries have also experienced some of the worst economic hardships as the European and global economies have weakened.

Last month a retired Greek man, Dimitris Christoulas, shot himself in a public square in Athens. In a report issued by CBS News, the retired pharmacist committed suicide due to the debt crisis in Greece and the resultant austerity measures that have brought many Greek families to the brink of ruin. The number of suicides increased by about 40 percent in the second half of 2011 and has continued to pose a problem in Greece. NPR has stated that about 30 percent of Greek families live below the poverty line.

Italy has also been at the front of headlines recently for a rash of suicides intimately connected with economic problems. Just this week, three people committed suicide, leaving tragic notes that revealed their despair at their inability to find new employment. There have been 34 suicides related to economic hardships in Italy since January, according to NBC News.

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