The OB Media Rundown for 5/9/12

Universities hold students’ transcripts hostage over debt

American universities — whose grads often owe six-figure debts that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and that can even be charged against their Social Security checks — are increasingly engaging in the (legal) tactic of refusing to provide transcripts to grad schools or employers as a means of extorting payment out of students who get behind. A good summary of what this means comes from NYU’s Andrew Ross, a prof who helped start Occupy Student Debt: “It’s worse than indentured servitude. With indentured servitude, you had to pay in order to work, but then at least you got to work. When universities withhold these transcripts, students who have been indentured by loans are being denied even the ability to work or to finish their education so they can repay their indenture.”

The ‘Austerity Trap’

“When you have high unemployment and a lot of underutilized capacity, the idea is you cut public budgets? That’s insane. Because that leads to a shrinking of the entire economy, when the real problem is … the ratio of debt to the size of the economy overall,” the former secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration says about the backwardness of the budget cuts being imposed by leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. “If you shrink the economy, that ratio becomes worse and worse. That’s an austerity trap. That’s what happened to Spain. It’s what’s happening even to Britain. It’s what’s happening to Europe as a whole. Angela Merkel is absolutely wrong. You need jobs and growth first, before you embrace austerity.

“Now we’re gonna come to exactly the same decision point in January, because we’ve got these sequestration cuts coming up. If nothing is done between now and then, we are going to be forced to embrace our own version of austerity economics at a time when there is still going to be high unemployment and still a lot of underutilized capacity in the United States. We have got to understand … that jobs and growth have to come first before so-called fiscal austerity discipline.”

Europe in Revolt

In America, anti-austerity has found its voice through the Occupy movement, which stands resolutely outside electoral politics. But in Europe resistance has often been orchestrated through mass parties that do stand for elections. This Sunday’s vote saw the stunning success of many such groups across the continent. I spoke to Seth Ackerman, editor of a special section on the European left in Jacobin’s new issue, about the new developments.

Twitter fights request for Occupy protester’s data

Twitter Inc filed a motion in a New York criminal court on Tuesday seeking to quash a subpoena for Tweets and account records associated with Malcolm Harris, a Twitter user who was arrested last fall on the Brooklyn Bridge during an Occupy protest.

Prosecutors in Manhattan have sought to build a case around Harris’ Tweets by arguing that they show Harris was “well aware of the police instructions, and acted with the intent of obstructing traffic on the bridge,” according to court filings.

Harris lost a bid to squash the subpoena in April, after a judge ruled that Twitter holds a license to its users’ Tweets. But the company stepped in on Harris’ behalf on Tuesday to argue that the license did not apply to Harris because Twitter’s terms of service allow users to retain ownership of the content they publish.

Portrait of Family Evicted at Gun Point [GA]

The Corporate Media’s Attempt to Kill the Occupy Movement

This May Day brought the explosive global resurgence of Occupy, one of the most significant social movement in decades. In New York City, the heart of global capitalism and center of the movement, the New York Civil Liberties Union estimated that 30,000 demonstrators took part in a massive rally and march down Broadway, led by a score of city taxicabs. As has become alarmingly common for a country that constantly proclaims its zealous devotion to democracy, the day ended with brutal police violence and arrests.

The visible success of Occupy in creating a space for the voice of the people impelled uncontrolled thousands to pour onto the streets of New York City, Oakland, and elsewhere around the country and across the world on May Day, in the start of what US organizers have called an “American Spring.” Touting its message of class solidarity–”we are the 99 percent” – Occupy has revealed the profoundly undemocratic nature of a democratic consensus expressed by corporate-sponsored political representatives, demanding direct popular involvement in areas of social and political life normally dominated by ruling class power.

The powerful rejuvenation of the Occupy movement, however, was used by the US media – owned by the very same interests that Occupy directly threatens – as an opportunity to finally kill the Occupy movement and marginalize the voices of its participants. Since September, the mainstream press in the US has systematically ignored and demonized the Occupy movement. The nakedness of the class bias in this case, however, was especially jarring: the size and significance of the protests were downplayed, reports of police brutality were largely ignored, and the movement was portrayed as violent and dangerous. Many of the most prominent US news outlets, such as The New York Times, practically ignored the protests altogether. These shameful distortions by the corporate press display the function of the media as an organ of the rule of “the 1 percent,” and reveal how threatened elites are by organized, direct action and democratic participation.

Labor fightback in the Great Recession

“Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and bruised itself. We have been enjoined by the courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, traduced by the press, frowned upon in public opinion, and deceived by politicians. But notwithstanding all this and all these, labor is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known, and its historic mission is as certain of ultimate realization as is the setting of the sun.” – Eugene V. Debs

Reading this quotation today, over 100 years later, you are struck by two things. How appropriate, how up to date, and how well it fits labor’s situation today. At the same time, 108 years later, you are bound to wonder, how is it that labor can be so bruised and battered yet again?

Still as you digest the whole quote, you have to realize, as Debs did so many years ago, that the last sentence of this quote is the most important. “But not withstanding all of this and all of these…”

Any genuine assessment of the labor movement today has to begin with “… not withstanding all of this and all of these…” For over 30 years the labor movement has faced relentless corporate, political, and right wing attack. Since the beginning of “the great recession” this attack on labor and labor rights has risen in intensity and viciousness.

‘Monopoly’ mob protests at Bank of America in Detroit

“Good morning, we’re here to play a game of Bank of America Monopoly,” shouted Pennybags (true identity Dave Ives).

With that remark, about 50 Occupy Detroit members who had been sipping coffee and working on their laptops, jumped up and formed a square to protest BoA, accusing it of making money from taxpayers while foreclosing on their homes.

Protesters (many of whom were holding up Monopoly boards) rolled a pair of giant dice while chanting, “Bank of America, quit playing games.” A single, harried security guard unsuccessfully tried to grab the dice and then tried ordering everyone out of the building, which also didn’t work.

Charlotte City Manager Declares Bank of America Shareholder Meeting ‘Extraordinary Event’ [NC]

A coalition of activists is gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina this week to protest at Bank of America’s headquarters and its annual shareholder meeting to “demand an end to their practices that are bankrupting our economy and wrecking our climate,” according to the NC Against Corporate Power website. The group includes members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, homeowners, students, immigrants, environmentalists, workers, women’s groups and peace activists, among others.

On the morning of May 9, the groups plan to participate in “creative, mass non-violent direct action” against BoA, including a march to the doors of the shareholder meeting and surrounding areas. On the day of the meeting, NCACP states that people will have the opportunity to engage in a variety of creative educational, cultural, theatrical, visibility, and nonviolent direct action activities.

In response to the planned actions, the City Manager of Charlotte, Curt Walton, has unilaterally declared the shareholder meeting an “extraordinary event,” meaning the city plans to restrict free speech and expand the ability of police and security forces to target and profile the homeowners, worker, community members, students and immigrants who plan to demand justice from one of the largest banks in the country.

Protestors gather at Pasadena home of BoA executive

About 75 protestors chanted and waved signs outside the Pasadena home of a Bank of America executive Tuesday afternoon to denounce foreclosures.

The event, organized by Occupy Fights Foreclosures, a part of the Occupy Los Angeles movement, centered around the foreclosure of Dirma Rodriguez’s West Los Angeles home.

Rodriguez, 54, said she’s been living in her home for 26, with her four sons and daughter, Ingrid Ortiz, who has cerebral palsy.

“I’ve been paying for this home by myself for 21 years, I’m a widow,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just asking that the executives of Bank of America touch their hearts.”

Occupy groups are focusing on fracking [CO]

t least two Occupy Wall Street groups will protest the oil and gas industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on Friday.

Occupy Greeley and Occupy Fort Collins will protest Friday afternoon in front of the Greeley headquarters of Ranchers Exploration Partners, the company that state oil and gas regulators forced to cease operations at a Windsor drilling site for being unqualified to handle toxic waste while drilling an oil and gas well atop an old landfill.

The groups are targeting Ranchers Exploration because of a possible lack of environmental protections at its drilling site, an organizer said.

Protesters, Security Consultant Laugh Off Casual ‘Dress Code’ For Workers During NATO Summit

Dress down for the NATO protests if you work downtown? Both protesters and a security consultant for the NATO summit are laughing off suggestions that downtown office workers dress casually to avoid becoming targets of protesters.
. . .

Occupy Chicago’s Rachael Perotta [told] WBBM Newsradio such memos and rumors are nothing but “classic fear mongering.”

She said the thousands of people expected here to protest are not protesting NATO, not people.

Occupy the PGA wants 25% of profits from senior tournament in Benton Harbor

You may have heard of the many Occupy movement across the country, including the one in Detroit.

Say hello to the latest incarnation, Occupy the PGA. It a group of Benton Harbor residents and people concerned about the city’s future who want to take advantage of a major golf tournament visiting the area to make a statement.

Occupy the PGA wrote a letter to the PGA and the tournament director of the 2012 Senior PGA, demanding they give 25% of the proceeds from the tournament — to be played May 24-27 at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor — back to the city for “compensation for stolen land and watter and for the purpose of meeting budget deficits and building affordable housing for the people of Benton Harbor.”

Occupy-Style Repression Hits Brooklyn College

Two non-violent student activists were arrested yesterday and a dozen others brutalized by campus police at Brooklyn College when they peacefully congregated in a hallway outside the president’s office. The students were participating in a national day of action to defend education endorsed by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein and were attempting to deliver a petition to the president calling for increased aid and services for students when police moved in to choke, beat and arrest members of the crowd.

Churchgoers and activists unite to announce ‘pilgrimage for justice’

Ten weeks after the tents of Occupy movement were removed from outside St Paul’s cathedral, a group has been launched seeking to cement the ties between churchgoers and activists with a march from London to Canterbury demanding social justice and greater economic equality.

A newly formed group called Occupy Faith, inspired in part by a similar project in the US, announced plans on Tuesday for the so-called pilgrimage for justice, a 12-day trek next month between St Paul’s and Canterbury cathedral, the seat of global Anglicanism, supported by a range of activist and faith groups, including those from other religions.

The event, which begins on 7 June, forms part of a wider alliance that grew from the initially accidental collision of church and protest, which began when the Occupy camp based itself next to St Paul’s for more than four months.

An Afghan Okinawa – There is no U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014

The reality is that the U.S.bases will be “Afghan” bases, but housing as many as 20,000 U.S. “trainers” and Special Ops forces, actually numbering more than the U.S. troops currently stationed at the controversial Futenma airbase in Okinawa, Japan, and double the number that will remain there after the troop withdrawal recently (and heatedly) negotiated with Japan.

Karzai should note how keeping U.S. troops at the Japanese Okinawa base has become so socially and politically unacceptable.

President Karzai is naturally concerned about his legacy and should therefore consider the possibility that even thoseAfghans who are now happy with U.S. military dollars will later demand an end to the ‘Afghan Okinawa’ just like the dignified Japanese have. To prevent a fall from grace in the history books, Karzai should also read how ‘Japanese PM Yukio Hatayamo had to resign over the Okinawa row’, just 8 months after he had come into power.

Left leader Alexis Tsipras rejects Greek austerity

THE left-wing politician trying to form a new Greek government says his country is no longer bound by austerity promises made in return for rescue loans.

The comments by Alexis Tsipras flew in the face of EU leaders’ insistence on fiscal discipline and sent the Greek stock market tumbling just two days after Greek voters rejected mainstream pro-austerity politicians.

Mr Tsipras demanded an examination of Greece’s still-massive debt and a moratorium on repayment of the part of it. “The pro-bailout parties no longer have a majority in parliament to vote in destructive measures for the Greek people,” said the 38-year-old Mr Tsipras, whose anti-austerity radical Left coalition party came second in Sunday’s vote.

UK must stand by austerity says Cameron

Britain must stick to its tough austerity measures despite doubts elsewhere in Europe over the best remedy to fix the continent’s stalled economies, Prime Minister David Cameron insists.

After the election in France of Socialist Francois Hollande, who has vowed to buck Europe’s austerity trend, and a Greek race in which voters punished mainstream parties over their support for budget restraint, Cameron said he wouldn’t waver over Britain’s program of spending cuts.

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