Archive for October 27th, 2011
The Mayor of Oakland has a change of heart after Iraq Marine Veteran is critically wounded by her storm-troopers.
We support the goals of the Occupy Wall Street movement: we have high levels of unemployment and we have high levels of foreclosure that makes Oakland part of the 99% too. We are a progressive city and tolerant of many opinions. We may not always agree, but we all have a right to be heard.
I want to thank everyone for the peaceful demonstration at Frank Ogawa Park tonight, and thank the city employees who worked hard to clean up the plaza so that all activities can continue including Occupy Wall Street. We have decided to have a minimal police presence at the plaza for the short term and build a community effort to improve communications and dialogue with the demonstrators.
99% of our officers stayed professional during difficult and dangerous circumstances as did some of the demonstrators who dissuaded other protestors from vandalizing downtown and for helping to keep the demonstrations peaceful. For the most part, demonstrations over the past two weeks have been peaceful. We hope they continue to be so.
I want to express our deepest concern for all of those who were injured last night, and we are committed to ensuring this does not happen again. Investigations of certain incidents are underway and I will personally monitor them.
We understand and recognize the impact this event has had on the community and acknowledge what has happened. We cannot change the past, but we are committed to doing better.
Most of us are part of the 99%, and understand the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We are committed to honoring their free speech right.
Finally, we understand the demonstrators want to meet with me and Chief Jordan. We welcome open dialogue with representatives of Occupy Wall Street members, and we are willing to meet with them as soon as possible.
The City posts regular updates on the city website that you can view at www.oaklandnet.com.
© 2011, agentleman.
The Ten Commandments revisited!
“People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest persons with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest persons with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway..”
The Paradoxical Commandments! by Kent M. Keith
© 2011, agentleman.
We bailed out Wall Streets Firms who just robbed America of its very essence: Trust in doing business here!
I’ve been listening to right-wing talk radio quite a bit lately. No, I’m not changing sides, and I’m not serving penance for a brutal crime. But I occasionally get caught up in talk radio’s Death Star tractor beam and subsequently drawn into its psychotic docking bay of crazy.
Seriously, though, you should try listening for a couple of days. It’s almost like eavesdropping on super-secret meetings of the He-Man Obama Haters Club. It provides a real-time peek into the nonsense that’s being injected into millions of brains every week. (According to Talkers magazine, around a tenth of the entire American population listens to Rush Limbaugh’s show and Sean Hannity’s show, together commanding close to 30 million listeners per week. Talk radio is still very relevant and deserves our attention.)
I won’t spoil too many details, but if you tap into the hive you’ll discover an endlessly entertaining debate about how Mitt Romney is a “liberal,” with subsequent waffling between support for Herman Cain and Rick Perry. In fact, I overheard Hugh Hewitt criticize Herman Cain for being a gaffe-prone buffoon, then, oddly enough, effusively pitch Cain’s book.
I also heard the formerly funny Dennis Miller remark about how President Obama, arguably one of the smartest presidents in modern history, isn’t really very smart because he supports Keynesian economic policies. You’ll hear that one a lot, though not always in the form of an insufferable and self-satirical Miller metaphor. More than almost anything else, you’ll hear that the Recovery Act didn’t stimulate economic growth even though it clearly did. By the way, you definitely won’t hear a damn thing about how spending cuts and tax cuts have never in the history of America stimulated economic growth following a crushingly deep recession like the 2008 crash. Never.
Last week, I heard a host named Dennis Prager falsely label the Occupy Wall Street movement as being “anti-corporate” then, using this straw man argument, he pointed out the hypocrisy of various protesters communicating their anti-corporate views using their corporate-manufactured smartphones.
This misleading attack from Prager was followed by a radio edition of Bill O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” in which O’Reilly warned his listeners that the Occupy Wall Street protests are becoming violent — an obvious attempt to project the violent rhetoric of the tea party and other far-right apparatchiks onto the OWS movement. O’Reilly’s only example of protester violence was a story about how a participant’s dog’s tooth became hooked onto the cuff of a police officer’s shirt. Stop the presses and hide the children! A slightly ripped cuff! Meanwhile, police officers are attacking and beating protesters within an inch of their lives, and just today a man was critically injured when he was shot in the head with a ballistic projectile by Oakland police. The victim, Scott Olsen, is an Iraq war veteran. He fought to bring freedom to Iraq only to be wounded for exercising his right to assemble here at home.
But regarding this “anti-capitalist” and “anti-corporation” meme, it’s one that’s heard throughout talk radio and it’s easily the centerpiece of the far-right attack against the movement. Everyone from Prager to Glenn Beck to candidate Herman Cain is repeating it.
Of course, it’s almost entirely untrue.
The Wall Street Journal conducted a poll recently that asked OWS supporters, “What frustrates you the most about the political process in the United States?” Only three percent said “the democratic/capitalist system.” Three percent. The poll also asked supporters what they hope the movement will achieve and only four percent wanted the “dissolution” of the capitalist system.
The movement is opposed to deregulated, free market capitalism. Short of Ron Paul disciples and Ayn Rand cultists, no reasonable American wants a system in which Enron, Goldman Sachs, AIG or BP can commit heinous crimes and not pay the price. According to Gallup, 68 percent of Americans want corporations to have less influence in America. That doesn’t mean a supermajority of Americans are anti-corporation, it simply means that a supermajority of Americans agree that corporations have acquired too much power and therefore ought to be reined in. Not banished or banned, just watched more closely.
The OWS movement, like the American people, isn’t anti-corporate, it’s anti-corporate crime.
The real question here is why isn’t Herman Cain against corporate crime?
Why isn’t Dennis Prager against it, too?
Members of the Republican Party and the conservative movement are all about law and order, right? It’s remarkable, then, that Dennis Prager and Herman Cain aren’t supporting accountability against the corporations that poison our water or exacerbate unemployment or trigger a deep recession.
And that’s exactly what OWS is seeking: accountability.
Occupy Wall Street protesters aren’t necessarily against the corporations that churn out their iPads and coffee products, as the misinformed designer of this photoshopped image insinuates, but, rather, they’re against the corporations that corrupt the system, deplete the Treasury and ultimately aren’t held accountable for their crimes. The protesters are demanding that the corporate criminals who engaged in the shoddy, Machiavellian investment scams that plunged us into the deepest recession since the Great Depression be held accountable for their actions. To date, not a single instigator of the economic collapse has been prosecuted.
One of the rants I’ve heard repeatedly on talk radio is how OWS protesters are flagrantly disobeying the law — how they’re not seeking permits and how they’re disrespecting authority and law enforcement. Fine, then why shouldn’t corporations be held to a similar standard? Why does Hugh Hewitt want protesters locked up for breaking the law, while giving corporate criminals total immunity from investigation, prosecution and regulation? After all, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have all the constitutional rights of people, so let’s treat them like any person would be treated if suspected of malfeasance.
At the same time, the Republican presidential candidates are mostly in line with talk radio, and everyone from Michele Bachmann to Mitt Romney is in favor of rolling back regulations against corporations, as if the last decade never occurred.
You might have heard the various GOP hopefuls marching in lockstep criticizing something called “Dodd-Frank” during the televised debates. (Incidentally, Dennis Miller compared the candidates to “crickets in a Hellmann’s jar spitting cigar juice on each other.” Okay, admittedly that one made me giggle.)
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was the only piece of legislation passed in direct response to the financial sector’s disastrous shenanigans. Even though it was watered-down in Congress, Dodd-Frank is an attempt to crack down on the financial sector and its use of derivatives, Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) and the like, while also protecting investors and shielding consumers from predatory lenders. The act also reduced the TARP bailout payments by $225 billion. I’m not sure why the Republicans would want to repeal a reduction in TARP payments, but they do.
Mitt Romney also wants to roll back the Sarbanes-Oxley Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act, which was signed by President Bush in response to the Enron collapse and the subsequent financial crisis. Yes, Romney is apparently the “liberal” one even though he’s lining up to the right of President Bush. Put another way, Republicans and conservatives want to revert back to the pre-Bush system that allowed Enron to happen, risking more financial collapses in the future. The consequences are almost too horrendous to imagine.
Now, to be fair, I can understand why some of the talk radio people might not support the OWS movement’s demand to end corporate monopolies via enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act or other means. Obviously the universe of right-wing syndicated talk radio wouldn’t exist if Presidents Reagan and Clinton didn’t deregulate the broadcasting industry, allowing media corporations like Clear Channel to buy up multiple stations in individual markets and replace local programming with syndicated franchises. (Between a massive talk radio audience and the dominant ratings of Fox News Channel, along with the rest of the news media’s self-conscious fear of appearing too liberal, the idea of any kind of “liberal media bias” is laughable.)
There was a time when I thought it was impossible for anyone to take the side of Wall Street and the financial sector. I thought, who could possibly excuse the corporations that ushered the world to the brink of economic ruin by suggesting that we continue to gift to them unfettered latitude? The Republican candidates for president and most of AM talk radio have stepped up to that challenge and are defending the indefensible. And they’re only a few percentage points away from getting exactly what they want.
Listen to the Bubble Genius Bob & Chez Show on iTunes, with Bob Cesca and Chez Pazienza.
Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog! Go!
© 2011, agentleman.
“If #occupyoakland was in Damascus, U.S. State department would be telling Wolf Blitzer how unacceptable it was to teargas peaceful marchers.” @techsoc
As two activists who have called Oakland home, we are appalled at the events of our city in the last 36 hours. Last night the country joined us to watch in anguish as the Oakland Police Department, with back up from a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the region, used excessive levels of force against hundreds of mostly peaceful Occupy Oakland protesters. In a city with a long and painful record of police violence, it is especially disturbing to witness scenes of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled under assault by rubber bullets and tear gas.
This kind of crackdown is bad for our democracy, and it’s bad for public safety. Mayors and police chiefs at Occupy sites across the country should take note: this is the wrong way to respond to the Occupy movement.
Oakland, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, is a true reflection of the 99%. For this reason, the Occupy movement stands directly for the people of Oakland — so many of whom have lost their homes, lost their jobs, and lost the services they rely on. Our city’s unemployment rate is over 10%. People are angry. Let us not forget that this frustration and anger is real and justified.
Oakland also has a rich history of protest and political action. Occupy Oakland builds upon this legacy. Sitting at lunch counters and burning bras were symbolic political acts of previous generations, acts which we now celebrate as part of American history. The Occupy protests should be allowed to continue, as should all political expressions protected under our Constitution’s First Amendment.
Therefore it is even more embarrassing and unfathomable that the City would so badly miss the mark in its treatment of Occupy Oakland.
Let us be clear: there is no justification for the use of violence against a non-violent protest. The vast majority of people were peacefully marching and demonstrating. The police department and the mayor should apologize for an inexcusable use of excessive force. And they should publicly commit to ending these tactics immediately
Finally, let us remember what the Occupy movement is actually about. Regrettably, the City of Oakland’s mis-step last night shifted the focus to a “police vs people” narrative, distracting from the real problem: the big banks and corporations responsible for causing our economic crisis.
The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. These excessive responses from law enforcement, from Atlanta to Oakland, not only violate the law, but take our collective eye away from the economic violence occurring daily in this country.
Today, the mayor and police department should apologize. And they should apologize loudly and sincerely. And then tomorrow, they should join us all in fighting for the 99%.
P.S. Our hearts and prayers go to Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen who was injured after being hit in the head with a police projectile at the Occupy Oakland rally 10/25/11. Olsen is a member of Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW). We encourage people to send donations to IVAW who are currently accepting donations for Olsen and his family.
Van Jones and Jakada Imani
© 2011, agentleman.
NEW YORK — As President Barack Obama announces plans to ease repayment of student loan debt, some in the “Occupy” protest movement are agitating for a far more radical solution: debt forgiveness or a mass payment stoppage.
While economists say there is little chance that such tactics could succeed, the fact that they are even being talked about — including the recent introduction of a congressional resolution calling for student loan forgiveness — shows the depth of the frustration and anger brewing over what is cumulatively a crushing debt load for U.S. students and graduates.
At a gathering last week in a public atrium a few blocks from the square that is home to the Occupy Wall Street encampment, New York University professor Andrew Ross led a discussion about the burden of student loan debt — now estimated to be between $550 billion and $829 billion — and proposed a radical solution: “A Pledge of Refusal.” The idea is that protesters would sign a pledge to stop making payments on their student loans as soon as 1 million had joined in making the pledge.
Ross told the crowd of about 50 people — ranging from current students to long-ago graduates — that while individuals are subject to heavy financial penalties if they stop paying on their student loans, a mass action by 1 million would make the banks take notice.
“There is a lot of talk about student debt, but no one takes any action, and that’s what Occupy Wall Street is about,” the professor of social and cultural analysis said.
‘It’s just immoral’
Ross acknowledged the irony of protesting against one of the main sources of his salary but added, “I feel very bad that my salary has actually been financed (by these debts). … To me it is just heartbreaking to see my students carry so much debt. It’s just immoral.”
While Ross’s effort is in the early stages, the idea of student loan forgiveness has gained a substantial following, based in part on the argument that such a move would have a substantial economic stimulus effect.
Robert Applebaum, a 37-year-old lawyer who graduated from Fordham Law School in New York City in 1998 with about $65,000 in debt, is the creator of ForgiveStudentLoanDebt.com. He said the website grew out of a proposal he first posted on Facebook in 2009 speculating on the economic impact there would be if student loan debtors suddenly had hundreds of dollars a month to spend. Within weeks, the post went viral and he had 300,000 “likes” on Facebook, he said.
Applebaum’s idea was born out of painful experience. He said he began championing loan forgiveness after going to work as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn and realizing he could either pay his rent or make his payments on his student loans. He said he chose to put his loans in “forbearance” — an agreement between the lender and the borrower that prevents a declaration of default but doesn’t prevent the continued accrual of interest — until he left the DA’s office in 2004. After making his loan payments every month since then, his debt today stands at $88,000.
“I welcome the Occupy protests,” Applebaum said. “I think it’s long overdue, and I think it’s wonderful that people are finally learning to speak up against the raping and pillaging of our country for the last 30 years. No other issue really highlights how badly that’s been done to the middle class than the issue of student debt.”
He acknowledges that the proposal to forgive student loan debt is “intentionally provocative and dramatic to focus people on the problem.”
‘With you for life’
“Your student loans are with you for life — both federal and private loans,” he said. “There is no recourse for student loan borrowers if they run into trouble. The only recourse they have is to put the loans into forbearance, like I had to do, or economic deferment.”
He was referring to the fact that student loans are very difficult to discharge through bankruptcy. And since they are federally guaranteed, a collection agency can take payments directly from paychecks, tax refunds, even Social Security payments. There is no statute of limitations on student loans: The government will get its money back. And the student who defaults has his or her credit ruined and still has to repay the principal, plus interest and fees from the collection agency.
Applebaum’s campaign has struck a chord. More than 600,000 people have signed his online petition in support of student loan forgiveness. He also received support from an unlikely corner this summer when Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., introduced a resolution in the House urging student loan forgiveness as a means of economic stimulus.
Statistics show why the issue has such resonance.
The total student-loan debt in the United States is at a historic high, $550 billion, according to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The FinAid.org website, which tracks information on financial aid, estimates the figure is even higher — $829.8 billion — and recently passed the amount of credit card debt owed by Americans.
Approximately 65 percent of students graduating after four years with a bachelor’s degree in 2007-2008 had some debt, according to FinAid.org. The median cumulative debt for those graduating with a bachelor’s degree was about $20,000 in 2007-08 — but up to 10 percent graduated with $40,000 or more in debt, it said.
And given the tough job market, more people are defaulting on those loans. A total of 8.8 percent of all student loan borrowers defaulted on their loans during the 2009 fiscal year, up from 7.0 percent in 2008, according to data released by the Department of Education in September. The problem was particularly bad at for-profit colleges and universities, which tend to serve low-income students. The default rate for for-profits rose sharply from 11.6 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2009.
Still, most economists see little chance of the federal government embracing student loan forgiveness at a time when it is wrestling with a debt crisis.
“For the younger age group, this is the equivalent of being underwater on your mortgage,” said Isabel V. Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “… But the problems with just forgiving are the same is in the case of the mortgage story.
“If some people continue to pay their student loans back and other people don’t, the people who are still paying will be very angry and won’t feel like that was fair at all. … And where would you draw the line? Would you say, we are going to do it just for people that are this age or in this situation, but not for others?”
She also said that forgiveness would send a shock wave through the banking system, even though the loans are federally guaranteed.
“I realize no one is feeling particularly sympathetic toward financial institutions these days, but … we do have to worry about the systemic effects.”
At last week’s Occupy Wall Street gathering devoted to student loan debt, few of those engaged in discussing possible demands for reform appeared to be too worried about what the ripple effects might be.
Debate over best approach for reform
The group debated the idea and tossed out alternative solutions like insisting on “reasonable” tuition, abolishing for-profit schools, reforming the current system or even setting up an escrow account for students to pay into until the system is reformed. There was consensus on one issue: When one person asked if the group considered education to be a “right” or a “privilege,” there was a wave of “twinkle” hand gestures from the crowd (an upward wiggling of fingers) to show that they agreed education was a “right.”
© 2011, agentleman.