The OB Media Rundown for 5/16/12

Breaking the Taboo on Challenging Capitalism in America

Questioning and criticizing capitalism have been taboo, treated by federal authorities, immigration officials, police and most of the public alike as akin to treason. Fear-driven silence has substituted for the necessary, healthy criticism without which all institutions, systems, and traditions harden into dogmas, deteriorate into social rigidities, or worse. Protected from criticism and debate, capitalism in the United States could and has indulged all its darker impulses and tendencies. No public exposure, criticism and movement for change could arise or stand in its way as the system and its effects became ever more unequal, unjust, inefficient and oppressive. Long before the Occupy movement arose to reveal and oppose what U.S. capitalism had become, that capitalism had divided the 1 percent from the 99 percent.

Greece on brink of collapse as runs on its banks break out

[Greek president] Papoulias said he had been warned by the central bank and finance ministry that the country faced “the risk of a collapse of the banking system if withdrawals of deposits from banks continue due to the insecurity of the citizens generated by the political situation”.

Report: Global Biodiversity Down 30 Percent in 40 Years

The world’s biodiversity is down 30 percent since the 1970s, according to a new report, with tropical species taking the biggest hit. And if humanity continues as it has been, the picture could get bleaker.

Humanity is outstripping the Earth’s resources by 50 percent – essentially using the resources of one and a half Earths every year, according to the 2012 Living Planet Report, produced by conservation agency the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The Human Disaster of Unemployment

Millions of workers have been disconnected from the work force, and possibly even from society. If they are not reconnected, the costs to them and to society will be grim.

Unemployment is almost always a traumatic event, especially for older workers. A paper by the economists Daniel Sullivan and Till von Wachter estimates a 50 to 100 percent increase in death rates for older male workers in the years immediately following a job loss, if they previously had been consistently employed. This higher mortality rate implies that a male worker displaced in midcareer can expect to live about one and a half years less than a worker who keeps his job.

There are various reasons for this rise in mortality. One is suicide. A recent study found that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate (say from 8 to 8.8 percent) would increase the suicide rate for males by 1.47 percent. This is not a small effect. Assuming a link of that scale, the increase in unemployment would lead to an additional 128 suicides per month in the United States. The picture for the long-term unemployed is especially disturbing. The duration of unemployment is the dominant force in the relationship between joblessness and the risk of suicide.

Morgan Stanley CEO faces questions from Occupy Wall Street

Members of the Occupy Wall Street movement descended upon Morgan Stanley’s annual meeting yesterday, pressing chairman and chief executive James Gorman with a slew of questions about Wall Street lobbying, job creation and compensation.

At one point in the meeting, OWS members shouted a series of allegations at the stage, interrupting Martin Cohen, the firm’s corporate secretary, as he read results of stockholder votes on company proposals.

Gorman faced more than a dozen questions from OWS members and only a few from supportive shareholders. The meeting lasted more than an hour, longer than usual. About 60 shareholders attended; around half were Occupy Wall Street representatives.

Credit union’s unusual problem: A few too many deposits [WA]

Vashon’s thriving credit union has had to put a halt to new business accounts – but for a most unusual reason: The small credit union is a little too flush with cash.

Since Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU) opened a Vashon branch a little more than a year ago, hundreds of Islanders, many of them frustrated with corporate-owned banks and their escalating fees, have flocked to the financial institution. It now has about 2,000 members on Vashon and $20 million in deposits, a rate of growth that has astonished its founders and even garnered national media attention.

The Los Angeles Times recently wrote a lengthy and glowing piece on the credit union, noting that Vashon’s branch – and the story behind it – has made the Island “a darling” of the Occupy movement. The story was picked up by the Seattle Times, the Bellingham Herald and other papers.

LA City Council Passes Bank Disclosure Rules

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance requiring banks that do business in Los Angeles city to disclose their lending practices to communities within the city.

The unanimous vote represents a victory for unions and other progressive organizations that have been pushing for so-called responsible banking ordinances across the country. Momentum for these ordinances picked up with the emergence of the Occupy movements last fall. The New York City Council approved a similar ordinance on Tuesday.

Under the L.A. ordinance, which goes to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for his expected signature, banks receiving city contracts must disclose data on the loans they make and other services they provide to communities with few financial institutions. The city would then compile a “community reinvestment score” for each bank seeking city business.

How Justice Souter Almost Left the Supreme Court in a Blaze of Glory

Before retiring from the Supreme Court in 2009, liberal Justice David Souter penned a dissent so critical of the court’s conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts went to great lengths to prevent it from being published. That’s one of the clams from The New Yorker’s epic dissection of the 2010 Supreme Court Decision Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. Taking us inside the legal wranglings of the high-profile case, staff writer Jeffrey Toobin describes a dissent Souter wrote at the end of his tenure at the Supreme Court. The argument, which remains unpublished, accused Roberts of engineering the outcome of the Citizens United case:

Souter wrote a dissent that aired some of the Court’s dirty laundry. By definition, dissents challenge the legal conclusions of the majority, but Souter accused the Chief Justice of violating the Court’s own procedures to engineer the result he wanted.

Roberts didn’t mind spirited disagreement on the merits of any case, but Souter’s attack-an extraordinary, bridge-burning farewell to the Court-could damage the Court’s credibility. So the Chief came up with a strategically ingenious maneuver.

Bank Protesters Too Young To Comprehend Economy, Says Romney

Last week, hundreds of peaceful protesters demonstrated outside of Bank of America’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, a move presidential candidate Mitt Romney summarily dismissed as ignorant and youthful, reports the NationalJournal.
“Unfortunately, a lot of young folks haven’t had the opportunity to really understand how the economy works,” Romney said in response to the protesters. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Romney, age 65, is plenty old enough to understand the economy, evidently. “This is a time for new direction for America, and for someone who understands how to get the economy going again – and I do,” Romney added.

How FBI Entrapment Is Inventing ‘Terrorists’ – and Letting Bad Guys Off the Hook

In all these law enforcement schemes the alleged terrorists masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage. (“They teach you how to make all this stuff out of simple household items,” one of the kids says on a recording quoted in the FBI affidavit about a book he has just discovered, The Anarchist Cookbook. Someone asks him how much it says explosives cost. “I’m not sure,” he responds, “I just downloaded it last night.”) It’s a perfect example of how post-9/11 fear made law enforcement tactics seem acceptable that were previously beyond the pale. Previously, however, the targets have been Muslims; now they’re white kids from Ohio. And maybe you could argue that this is acceptable, if the feds were actually acting out of a good-faith assessment of what threats are imminent and which are not. But that’s not what they’re doing at all. Instead, they are arrogating to themselves a downright Orwellian power – the power to deploy the might of the State to shape a fundamental narrative about which ideas Americans must be most scared of, and which ones they should not fear much at all, independent of the relative objective dangerousness of the people who hold those ideas.

Homeland Security Communicated with Local Officials About Occupy

If Occupy Wall Street activists were worried about the Department of Homeland Security monitoring their activities, wait unilt they get a load of this. According to new DHS documents obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), DHS officials were also communicating with local authorities in cities where Occupy Wall Street protests occurred.

PCJF, a civil rights legal group working on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore, says the documents reveal a “vast, tentacled, national intelligence and domestic spying network that the U.S. government operates against its own people.”

North Carolina Protests ‘Tyranny of the Majority’

Activists from Occupy Raleigh and 14th Amendment Equality Projects marched through the streets of Raleigh on Monday and want a repeal of Amendment One, which defined marriage in North Carolina solely as a union between a man and a woman. One local newspaper columnist, Barry Saunders, wrote in the News & Observer that the rally showed some that gay people haven’t been voted into oblivion.

“How much do you want to bet that some of the true believers who rushed down to their polling station last Tuesday did so with the belief that their ‘Yes’ vote on the marriage ban would also ban gays?” Saunders wrote.

Judge says student photographer arrested at OWS protest not guilty

student journalist arrested during an Occupy Wall Street protest was found not guilty Tuesday of disorderly conduct.

NYU student Alex Arbuckle went to court to fight the charges, stemming from a New Year’s Eve protest he was photographing, after the Manhattan district attorney’s office decided to pursue charges against him. He was offered a plea deal, which Arbuckle said he considered “a tacit admission of guilt.”

“I knew I wasn’t guilty,” Arbuckle, 21, said Tuesday. He was represented by lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild, which has worked with hundreds of arrested OWS protesters.

Four Arrested at Anti-Deportation Protest in Chicago

Four people were arrested Tuesday for blocking the entrance to Chicago’s federal immigration court during a protest against deportations of undocumented immigrants.

One of those arrested was the Rev. Jose Landaverde, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission, who earlier led protesters in a march from the city’s mainly Mexican La Villita/Little Village neighborhood.

The organizers had announced plans for an act of civil disobedience, suggesting they would try to force their way into the downtown building that houses the immigration court and other federal offices. In the end, however, Landaverde and Emma Lozano, head of the Familia Latina Unida/Centro Sin Fronteras organization, decided on a sit-in at the building entrance.

Arrested along with the veteran immigration activists were two members of Occupy Chicago.

Poetry replaces placards as Russia’s Occupy protesters camp out

A SLENDER young man is performing an impassioned rap poem to an applauding crowd. A group engrossed in card games ignore the show, while someone is strumming a folksy tune on the guitar. Welcome to Occupy Abai, Moscow’s street sit-in.

Activists have been camped out on a leafy Moscow boulevard for more than a week, a small but unusual protest in a country where demonstrations must be agreed with the authorities in advance, and the spring evenings are cool and rainy.

Occupy Abai takes its name from the monument to a hitherto little-known Kazakh poet, Abai Kunanbaev, where protesters have gathered, as well as a dose of inspiration from the anti-capitalist movements that have “occupied” public places from Dame Street to Wall Street. But the cause is local.

Occupy London Gets British Bankers Association CEO Meeting

About 80 Occupy London protesters rallied outside the British Bankers Association’s headquarters, demanding a meeting with Chief Executive Officer Angela Knight.

Knight met with three demonstrators today inside the BBA’s building on Old Broad Street in the City’s financial district, said an Occupy organizer, Ryan Hickey. They would have preferred she met them outside where all could ask questions, he said.

Palestinians Mark “Nakba” with Day of Protest

As the prisoner hunger strike comes to an apparent end, Palestinians across the Occupied Territories are holding protests today to mark what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the period Israel declared statehood in 1948. A mass rally is expected in the Gaza Strip, along with a number of smaller protests across the West Bank. Clashes have already been reported, with Israeli troops firing tear gas and rubber bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian youth.

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