The OB Media Rundown for 5/28/12

Target on your cyber back: DHS has a list of words deemed ‘suspicious’

The Department of Homeland Security has flagged hundreds of words as “suspect” – and while many make sense, like “Al Qaeda,” some are just plain odd. For example, the DHS may dig through your cyber life if you write something about snow. Or pork.

So, you’ve just come back from a beach holiday in Mexico and posted about it on your blog. Or maybe you’ve tweeted about skiing lessons? Updated your status, saying you’re stuck home with food poisoning?

All those things will tweak the DHS antennae, according to a manual published by the agency. The Analyst’s Desktop Binder, used by agency employees at their National Operations Center to identify “media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities,” includes hundreds of words that set off Big Brother’s silent alarms.

“Fusion Centers” Circumvent Laws Against Domestic Surveillance (Spying on Occupy)

If recent documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) are any indication, the Occupy Movement continues to be monitored and curtailed in a nationwide, federally-orchestrated campaign, spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

What if Glass-Steagall hadn’t been repealed?

As soon as the Great Crash hit, we were inundated with paid experts explaining to anyone who would listen that the repeal of Glass-Steagall did not cause the Great Crash. That went pretty well for the people who repealed Glass-Steagall, so now they started pushing the idea that Glass-Steagall would not have prevented banks from engaging in the activities that led to the Great Crash. We get a crash course from Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times Dealbook, who begins by blaming the left for perpetuating the meme that repeal led to the Great Crash.

Sorkin argues that you can look at each failed entity and see that it was never covered by Glass-Steagall, like Lehman or Bear Stearns or AIG; and that for banks, which once were covered by Glass-Steagall, the problem came from the commercial side, in the form of bad mortgage loans. That superficiality is the hallmark of the defenders of Wall Street. So let’s try to look a bit deeper.

The most important impact of Glass-Steagall is that it reduced the number of openings for investment bankers. If commercial banks couldn’t have investment banking arms, they would not have needed to hire investment bankers. There would not have been the crushing need to make gigantic profits off those people. There would not have been the enormous pressure to find ways to make money, including cutting corners and outright fraud. And there would have been fewer people trying to make themselves insanely rich with other people’s money, and at no risk to their personal finances.

The Best and the Greediest? Ivy League Students Are Still Heading to Wall Street

The universities themselves have not done much to stem the tide of the Wall Street recruiters, and often appear to be part of the problem, steering students into finance at every opportunity. Writing in the Nation, Sandra Y. L. Yorn confessed that the combination of Ivy League culture and the Wall Street firms’ high-octane recruiting efforts made her feel, when she was at Harvard, that finance was nearly the only game in town. There was information available for those wanting to go into teaching or medicine, but, she reported, “These resources are often much less accessible and updated than those promoting investment banks and consulting groups.”

In February, over 100 Princeton alums signed a letter in the Princeton Alumni Weekly complaining of the university’s over-zealous support for “financial-service firms that have manipulated the political systems and economies of nations around the world to the detriment of those societies and the stability of the global financial system.” The authors of the letter applauded Occupy Princeton and warned students that if they choose finance as a career path, “They should know they are entering an industry with a reprehensible historical record of breaching public trust and engaging in practices that run directly counter to Princeton’s motto.” (That motto is, “In the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”)

Tourism industry may force Quebec to negotiate with student protesters

Faint hope for renewed talks between the government and students in Quebec flickered Sunday as the top tourism official in the Canadian province warned of possible fallout from months of protests.

While no specific date or time have been set, student representatives could meet with the provincial education minister as early as Monday to discuss their gripe over tuition hikes, according to local media.

“If the government is prepared to move, there could be an area where we can find common ground,” Leo Bureau-Blouin, one student leader, said Saturday, further suggesting another round of talks may not be far off.

How Students are Painting Montreal Red

On Wednesday night in Montreal, we shared a long dinner with student organizers, discussing everything from police tactics in Montreal and New York to the necessity of an anti-racist and anti-colonial framework for our movements. Our hosts noticed that, around the time that the nightly 8:30 p.m. march was supposed to begin, we were getting nervous about missing it. They laughed and said, “Don’t worry, it will go on until 2 a.m.” Or at least they normally do.

By midnight, after peacefully and joyfully marching through the city for hours, the police charged our march of about 4,000 people with batons and pepper spray. In a moment the scene became one of chaos and confusion. Many in the crowd turned around and ran, but there were police behind us, too, coming straight at us with their batons out as people were pepper sprayed and thrown to the ground. Eventually, we found our way out of the melée and asked our Canadian comrade what had happened to provoke the police. “Nothing,” she answered. “They just got tired of us.”

We had been lucky. Moments after the police charged us, they surrounded a group of 506 protesters and arrested everyone in what became the largest single mass arrest since the indefinite student strike began here in Quebec 103 days ago.

Lloyd’s of London preparing for euro collapse

The chief executive of the multi-billion pound Lloyd’s of London has publicly admitted that the world’s leading insurance market is prepared for a collapse in the single currency and has reduced its exposure “as much as possible” to the crisis-ridden continent.
Richard Ward said the London market had put in place a contingency plan to switch euro underwriting to multi-currency settlement if Greece abandoned the euro.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph he also revealed that Lloyd’s could have to take writedowns on its £58.9bn investment portfolio if the eurozone collapses.

Families occupy empty flats in crisis-hit Spain

Spanish grandmother Ana Lopez Corrales already feels at home in the Seville apartment where she’s been living for the past week — but it is not hers and she pays no rent.

The 67-year-old is one of 32 homeless families who are squatting in an empty four-storey building, one of thousands of unsold apartment blocks that dot Spain following the collapse of a property bubble in 2008.

Corrales said she found herself on the street when she could not keep up with her monthly rent of 500 euros ($630). She and her 70-year-old husband, who has been bedridden for the past two decades, now occupy the show flat of the building, the only one that was furnished, and her kitchen is used by all the squatters.

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