U.S. cities struggle with blighted bank-owned homes
Across America, bank-owned, blighted houses sit untouched, sometimes for years, disfiguring what in many cases are already troubled neighborhoods. Activists say the problem is particularly acute in minority areas. And many cities do not have the resources, the will or the power to force banks to maintain their properties.
Overdraft fees cost Americans $29.5 billion in 2011
Mop-Up Operations Resume As Voters Reject Public Pensions, Worker Rights, Liberalism
The states and localities suffering from budget crises are having problems because Wall Street blew up the economy, and in many cases, ensnared these municipalities in extremely bad deals. The wealth of taxpayers was and is being transferred to banks. In 2008, the choice before Bush, and then Obama, was clear. They could hand taxpayer resources to Wall Street and oversee a series of budget crises in states and localities, with the opportunity for later privatization of public assets and the breaking of public sector unions. Or Bush, and then Obama, could crack down on Wall Street, and make sure that bailout monies went to states and localities, and, with record low interest rates, spur tremendous investment in new energy, infrastructure, and education initiatives. It was a choice. Bush picked Wall Street. Obama also picked Wall Street, with public sector unions supporting Obama like turkeys cheering on Thanksgiving.
Now voters are making their own choice. Once again, this is a direct consequence of how Barack Obama has led the Democratic Party and redefined liberalism, into a party and an ideology that is defined by wage cuts, foreclosures, debt, and acceptance of dramatic political and economic inequality. Voters don’t want to pay for a government and for government workers who they perceive as out of step with their interests.
U.S.: Second-highest child poverty level
A UNICEF study of 35 developed countries found the United States had the second-highest rate of child poverty after Romania.
The study – -titled Report Card 10 — found the child poverty rate in Romania was 26.5 percent. The U.S. rate was 23.1 percent, followed by Latvia and Bulgaria at 18.8 percent, Spain at 17.1 percent and Greece at 16 percent.
Iceland had the lowest child poverty rate, 4.7 percent, followed by Finland at 5.3 percent, Cyprus and the Netherlands at 6.1 percent and Norway at 6.3 percent.
Occupy, Greenpeace target Shell Oil, media
Environmental activists claimed responsibility Friday for a series of misrepresentations in the media regarding Shell’s planned drilling activity in the arctic.
An Internet video shows what appears to be a Shell event at the Space Needle in Seattle. The video, advocated by the Twitter code #shellfail, shows a mock-up of an oil rig spewing liquid onto a bystander during the event. The video depicts Shell’s sea shell logo.
A subsequent news release stated that Shell was considering legal action in response to the posted video.
Greenpeace, an organization describing itself as the Yes Lab and members of the Occupy movement have since claimed responsibility for the actions.
Private Prisons Profit From Immigration Crackdown, Federal And Local Law Enforcement Partnerships
On a flat and desolate stretch of Interstate 10 some 50 miles south of Phoenix, a sheriff’s deputy pulls over a green Chevy Tahoe speeding westbound and carrying three young Hispanic men.
The man behind the wheel produces no driver’s license or registration. The deputy notices $1,000 in cash stuffed in the doorframe — payment, he presumes, for completed passage from Mexico. He radios the sheriff’s immigration enforcement team, summoning agents from the U.S. Border Patrol. Soon, the three men are ushered into the back of a white van with a federal seal.
This routine traffic stop represents the front end of an increasingly lucrative commercial enterprise: the business of incarcerating immigrant detainees, the fastest-growing segment of the American prison population. The three men loaded into the van offer fresh profit opportunities for the nation’s swiftly expanding private prison industry, which has in recent years captured the bulk of this commerce through federal contracts. By filling its cells with undocumented immigrants caught in the web of increased border security, the industry has seen its revenues swell at taxpayer expense.
The Secret of Joy: Six Lessons From Quebec’s “Maple Spring
As I read more about the student movement in Quebec, known as the “Maple Spring” or the “Casserole Revolution,” it brings to mind the final scene from Possessing the Secret of Joy, by one of my favorite authors, Alice Walker. In that scene, the main character – Tashi, a minor character from The Color Purple- discovers a truth. From Wall Street to Wisconsin, and Cairo to Quebec, people the world over are realizing that same truth every day.
Today, that truth is echoed in the chants, protests and placards of protesters in the streets of Montreal. It’s the same truth Walker spelled out in huge block letters near the end of her novel: RESISTANCE IS THE SECRET OF JOY.
U.S. firms brace for U.K.-style shareholder revolt
Corporate boards in the U.S. should brace themselves for mounting dissatisfaction with executive pay in coming years, as the current “shareholder spring” in Europe likely will spill across the pond for next year’s proxy season.
Prominent U.S. companies like Citigroup Inc. C +1.85% and NYSE Euronext NYX -0.93% have already felt the echo from the European revolts, although the scope for shareholders’ anger remains to be seen in the U.S.
“The fact that there have been large pay outs when shareholders haven’t seen any returns makes people angry. People don’t want to pay for bad performance and now share prices are down, but it doesn’t seem to have enough effect on executive pay,” said Peter Butler, chief executive at Governance for Owners, a U.K.-based investing firm that promotes shareholder engagement with corporations.
U.S. debt load falling at fastest pace since 1950s
Everyone knows America has too much debt. What they don’t know is that things are getting better, not worse.
Little by little, our economy is reducing its debt burden, slowly repairing the damage caused by 10, 20 or 30 years of excess.
. . .
As much as we hear politicians, pundits, tea-party patriots and the Congressional Budget Office obsessing about government debt, it was excessive private debt – not public debt – that caused the 2008 financial meltdown. And it was private debt – some of it since transferred to the public – that lies behind the current European debt crisis.
The Spread of Sacrifice Zones
The fifth and last section of the book is focused on resistance, and in particular on Occupy Wall Street. It includes an excellent discussion of the occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., with Kevin Zeese, a persuasive case that a nonviolent revolution is coming — that conditions are all aligned — and a great summary of Hedges’ recent thinking on activism and rebellion. But if you were part of Freedom Plaza, and if you’ve kept up on your weekly Hedges reading, it is the first four sections of the book that you will find most valuable. In many ways, there is greater organizing and activism found in those sacrifice zones than what we have seen thus far from the Occupy movement.
Occupy is national, even international, and — at least at first — had much greater attention from the corporate media (which is what made it national). It is also more middle-class and less-rooted in a community. If it can build one massive movement out of all the pockets of resistance, and move on from resistance to creation and substitution, it may indeed turn this avalanche of horror and misery around and push it back up the mountainside. “I have no interest in participating in the traditional political process,” says John Friesen, occupier of Wall Street. “It’s bureaucratic. It’s vertical. It’s exclusive. It’s ruled by money. It’s cumbersome. This is cumbersome, too, what we’re doing here, but the principles that I’m pushing and that many people are pushing to uphold here are in direct opposition to the existing structure.”
Hedges notes, importantly, I think, that the governmental response we have seen to the Occupy movement, the militarized police brutality, and the passage of federal legislation allowing the military to engage in domestic policing, is not a sign of weakness in our movement, but rather one of strength — a sign of fear by Congress and its corporate bosses. Now we have to turn that fear into realization that the spreading of sacrifice zones will absorb us all unless radical change comes soon.
Judge Allows Class Action In Last Fall’s Brooklyn Bridge Mass Arrests To Go Forward
A federal judge ruled today that a class action suit against the NYPD over the mass arrest of more than 700 people on the Brooklyn Bridge October 1 can go forward.
The march over the vehicular roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge was one of the most visually dramatic events of the young Occupy Wall Street movement, and one of the earliest examples of the NYPD’s use of mass arrests to attempt to control protesters.
Police kettled the march with orange nets, preventing anyone from leaving the bridge, then arrested hundreds of marchers for blocking traffic. But many marchers argued that they were only proceeded onto the bridge because the police gave the impression they were allowing the march to proceed over the roadway.
Police arrest 11 in Pittsburgh transit protest
Police arrested 11 people protesting mass transit cuts in Downtown Pittsburgh this afternoon and charged them with disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic.
The protesters were blocking Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, where Gov. Tom Corbett’s Pittsburgh office is located in the former Lazarus department store, and were given three warnings before they were arrested, police said.
Occupy Asheville Trial: “Not Guilty!” Citizen Journalist Wins Appeal
“It was a half a cigarette verdict,” Lisa Landis joked, with a wide grin and obvious relief outside the Buncombe County Courthouse in Asheville, North Carolina.
Landis had earlier been called back to the courtroom less than fifteen minutes after the jury left to deliberate her case. She was on trial for impeding traffic, a misdemeanor with potential for 20 days jail time. Landis maintained her innocence and contends she was targeted for prosecution because she is a critic of Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore, and was well known as a public media producer on the free-speech forum UR-TV.
“I’ve never seen a not guilty that fast,” said defense attorney Ben Scales. Even the court bailiff was pleased, winking at Landis as she left the courtroom and telling Scales, “I’m glad people are standing up for what they believe in.” Jury members in the elevator and leaving the courthouse were also in high spirits and glad to get out into the cool, bright mountain day. “I’ve still got time to go fishing,” one said.
Case continues on for those still charged in River Street bank takeover in Santa Cruz
Preliminary hearings are still pending for seven of the people facing charges stemming from the takeover of a vacant bank last year.
All seven defendants face two felony charges of conspiracy and vandalism, and two counts of misdemeanor trespass. The charges stem from an incident late last year in which a group acting “anonymously and autonomously but in solidarity with Occupy Santa Cruz” occupied the vacant former Wells Fargo bank at 75 River St. for nearly 72 hours.
The 99 percent Fed Up rally occupies Florence [SC] Saturday
The 99 percent Fed Up plans to hold an occupy rally Saturday protesting issues from unemployment, medicare and education.
Greek police allegedly aiding far right leader who attacked two female leftwing politicians during television show
Protesters across Greece poured on to the streets of cities Friday night, denouncing the “dark force” of fascism as the spokesman of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party continued to elude arrest more than 24 hours after his extraordinary on-screen assault of two female leftwing politicians.
Nine days before fresh general elections, the fault lines in Greek society are deepening. And late on Friday, as a police manhunt for Ilias Kasidiaris showed little sign of yielding a positive result, the divisions were on full display.
While anti-fascist demonstrators descended on public squares, supporters of Golden Dawn crammed into a hotel in Athens to hear the party’s leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, rail against immigrant “scum” and the corrupt and crooked system that had brought the crisis-hit country to such a “dark place”.
Are you supporting Anonymous this Saturday? [India]
Move over, Occupy Wall Street. This Saturday, you may witness some new hashtags trending on Twitter – #OccupyMumbai, #OccupyDelhi or maybe even #OccupyBengaluru. These events are part of peaceful demonstrations planned by Anonymous in India as a sign of protests against the censorship of the Internet. Anonymous, the group of cyber-age revolutionaries, has managed to take down the websites of the Supreme Court of India, All India Congress Committee and Reliance Communications, amongst others, during the past few weeks as a part of protests against Internet censorship in India.
While the naysayers have criticised Anonymous for its ways of working, many will agree that hacktivism – a unique combination of anonymous civil society and collective action – has proven to be a powerful agent of change in Tunisia during the Arab Spring. Last year, Amnesty International in its annual report, focused on what it described as the “critical battle under way for control of access to information, …” putting the recent events in India in the spotlight.
While their methods may have been questionable in the past, there is merit in the cause that Anonymous is fighting for in India.
Spain poised to request EU bailout on Saturday
Spain is expected to ask the euro zone for help with recapitalizing its banks this weekend, sources in Brussels and Berlin said on Friday, becoming the fourth country to seek assistance since Europe’s debt crisis began.
Five senior EU and German officials said deputy finance ministers from the single currency area would hold a conference call on Saturday morning to discuss a Spanish request for aid, although no figure for the assistance has yet been fixed.
Iceland – A constitution for Europe
The public that met to work out the details of the country’s constitution didn’t behave like a fractious and abusive mob. It didn’t live down to the expectations of responsible commentators in Britain and the United States, who like to assure us that that people can’t be trusted to behave like adults and must therefore be kept away from consequential matters. The debates of the constitutional council show that people behave better when they are confident that their views will receive a fair hearing. A chance to engage in rational discussion about common concerns makes us better behaved and less tolerant of disruption. Trolls, who feature so prominently in Icelandic folklore, did not make it online in significant numbers.
And this is something that the occupations of last year also taught us. Patient and dignified participation does not depend on the proximity of hot springs, any more than it depends on the proximity of tents and riot police. When we have some meaningful power to influence debate we become equal to that power.
Iceland’s draft constitution includes some important democratic powers. Subject to approval in a referendum later this year citizens there will be able to initiate legislation, for example. The draft also shows a keen understanding of the way in which the constitutional foundations of a society have profound material implications. The draft asserts that the citizens of the country hold its national resources in common.
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