The OB Media Rundown for 12/17/2011

Video: Mel King tells Occupy Boston: “You have the right to revolution”

King Mel is a long-time Boston community activist and civil rights leader who served as State Representative and ran for Mayor of Boston in 1982.

King told the Boston occupiers, “You have the right to alter and change. You have that right. You are deserving, and no change comes to any individual or group until they assert themselves that they are deserving?Your message is getting into peoples minds and you’re saying ‘we are deserving.'” Waving in his hand the second issue of “The Boston Occupier” (the local counterpart to the “Occupy Wall Street Journal”) King added, “You have the right to revolution.”

“Home For The Holidays”: Housing Activists Announce Successful Relocation Of Evicted Family

According to a City Life press release issued Thursday, mortgage holder Deutsche Bank’s foreclosure of the Fowler Street home was discovered by housing advocates to be “faulty.” The owner, said the release, will rent the house rather than move back in.

[City Life/Urbana Vida is a 38-year-old activist organization focusing on issues of economic and social justice, especially around housing. In 2007 it launched a Post-Foreclosure Eviction Defense campaign, and has recently invited Occupy Boston to join in its direct action efforts, including occupying foreclosed homes to return them to their rightful owners. While other occupations around the country may act alone to occupy foreclosed homes, many within Occupy Boston aspire to work in alliance with experienced activists such as those at City Life/Urbana Vida. Occupy Boston will join with City Life / Vida Urbana for an”Occupy our Homes” rally and march on Monday, December 19, 2011 at noon at 10 Causeway St. in Boston, the Boston Regional Office of HUD.]

‘Occupy’: Helping to restore the Greenway

The Occupy Boston encampment took a toll on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Officials estimate the clean-up bill could total $60,000. On their own initiative, the protesters have raised about $3,500 toward defraying clean-up costs – a welcome gesture. Occupy Boston made accountability a key theme, demanding that financial firms should be responsible for messes they’ve made. The protesters made their point powerfully, and helped change the national dialogue. Now they can lead by example.

Boston Globe newsroom gets $4.5M lesson on the 1 percent

As the Occupy Boston protesters camped in and eventually stunk up Dewey Square, they received some sympathetic coverage from the Boston Globe . It’s not just that the political carnival and would-be utopia was fun to cover. The newsroom also understood they were squarely in the 99 percent, many scrambling to make ends meet after pay cuts and salary freezes. I even heard they were contemplating a do-it-yourself holiday party.

Imagine how they’re feeling today after learning that New York Times CEO Janet Robinson is stepping down, only to receive a $4.5 million consulting contract for a year. The Times, you may remember, put a big-time squeeze on the various unions at the Globe in 2009. The ultimatum: Deliver $20 million in contract concessions or we will shut down the paper. The Globe unions complied, including a 9 percent pay cut for editorial folks, along with unpaid furloughs and a reduction in benefits.

The Ancestors of Occupy

As someone who has been substantially involved in Occupy Pittsburgh, and who has recently returned from London, where I was able to rally with sisters and brothers from the London Occupation (in the face of an enormous police confrontation), it is a genuine pleasure and honor for me to have an opportunity to speak with activists who are part of Occupy Boston.

In London, I heard the working-class singer Billy Bragg being joined by many others in the crowd to sing a wonderful song about the Diggers, an extremely radical movement that was part of the English Revolution of the 1640s. I think it is a great source of strength to be able to draw from one’s own revolutionary traditions, from our own history, as we engage in present-day struggles for radical social change.

Occupy’s new tactic has a powerful past

Over the past few weeks, cities have continued to remove Occupy Wall Street protesters from their encampments. Occupy has responded to these ejections by changing its focus from public spaces toward private property: foreclosed homes.

This shift may end up leaving Occupy even stronger than it was before the ejections began. It answers critics who have accused Occupy of lacking a political program and will help the movement build stronger ties with working-class Americans. To understand why, it helps to view Occupy in the context of earlier social movements that employed similar tactics.

A straight line runs from the 1930s sit-down strikes in Flint, Michigan, to the 1960 lunch-counter sit-ins to the occupation of Alcatraz by Native American activists in 1969 to Occupy Wall Street. Occupations employ physical possession to communicate intense dissent, exhibited by a willingness to break the law and to suffer the — occasionally violent — consequences.

Debt and Democracy: We’ve been here before

International finance has evolved into a new mode of warfare. Its objective is the same as military conquest in times past: to appropriate land and mineral resources, communal infrastructure and extract tribute. In response, democracies are demanding referendums over whether to pay creditors by selling off the public domain and raising taxes to impose unemployment, falling wages and economic depression. The alternative is to write down debts or even annul them, and to re-assert regulatory control over the financial sector.

A historical precedent: Among Rome’s leading historians, Livy, Plutarch and Diodorus blamed the fall of the Republic on creditor intransigence in waging the century-long Social War marked by political murder from 133 to 29 BC. Populist leaders sought to gain a following by advocating debt cancellations (e.g., the Catiline conspiracy in 63-62 BC). They were killed. By the second century AD about a quarter of the population was reduced to bondage. By the fifth century Rome’s economy collapsed, stripped of money. Subsistence life reverted to the countryside as a Dark Age descended.

Occupy JP marches on Centre St.

Occupy JP held two protest marches on Centre Street in recent weeks, with stops at corporate chains and community institutions, in the new group’s debut actions.

“Occupy JP is mobilizing to protect the working classes,” went the rallying cry that began the Dec. 4 and 11 marches.

Occupy Newton Expands to Newtonville

Just over two months after starting weekly demonstrations in Newton Centre, Occupy Newton organizer Virginia Robinson says the group has expanded to Newtonville, where they gather at Bank of America on Saturdays.

Starting at 10 a.m., they’ll be back at the intersection of Walnut and Austin Streets tomorrow, she says.

Houston DA turns up heat on Occupy activists, seeks grand jury indictments

The cases involve seven people arrested while blocking the road to the Port of Houston on Monday on the felony charge of using or possessing a “criminal instrument” – referring to PVC pipe that the activists use to link themselves together to make arrest more difficult.

Even though a Houston district court judge dismissed the cases on Wednesday, saying the prosecutors had not shown probable cause for the felony arrest, the district attorney attorney’s office said Thursday that it would seek an indictment by a grand jury.

The truth exposed by Occupy shows that the real elites are the thieves of the 1%

The idea of the “liberal elite” could not survive the depredations of the 1% in the late 2000s. For one thing, it was summarily eclipsed by the discovery of the actual Wall Street-based elite and their crimes. Compared to them, professionals and managers, no matter how annoying, were pikers. The doctor or school principal might be overbearing, the professor and the social worker might be condescending, but only the 1% took your house away.

Rape and the Occupy movement

The fact that the occupations act as groups but then stress individual autonomy when the group fails in its responsibilities highlights this internal ideological tension.  The occupy movement needs to decide what it is – are the camps “collectives”, or simply aggregates of individuals?  If it is the former, they need to take some responsibility and provide security for group members and change their internal cultures.  If it is the latter, they will only be safe for already autonomous individuals and cannot hope to speak on behalf of the 99%.

Occupy Group Faults Church, a Onetime Ally

Now the Occupy movement, after weeks of targeting big banks and large corporations, has chosen Trinity, one of the nation’s most prominent Episcopal parishes, as its latest antagonist.

“We need more; you have more,” one protester, Amin Husain, 36, told a Trinity official on Thursday, during an impromptu sidewalk exchange between clergy members and demonstrators. “We are coming to you for sanctuary.”

Trinity’s rector, the Rev. James H. Cooper, defended the church’s record of support for the protesters, including not only expressions of sympathy, but also meeting spaces, resting areas, pastoral services, electricity, bathrooms, even blankets and hot chocolate. But he said the church’s lot – called Duarte Square – was not an appropriate site for the protesters, noting that “there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment.”

Desmond Tutu urges Trinity Church to allow Occupy protester camp, calls Occupy ‘a voice for the world’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has waded into an ecclesiastical row over a New York church’s refusal to allow protesters from Occupy Wall Street to camp on a vacant lot it owns.

The South African activist and retired church leader urged Trinity Church to heed the pleas of demonstrators to allow the camp and, failing that, at least to stop any violence or arrests at the site during a day of action this Saturday to mark its three month anniversary.

Tutu, the latest in a growing number of church leaders to align themselves with Occupy called the movement a “voice for the world.”

Report contrasts Trinity church’s ambivalent relations with OWS – NYC to Episcopal Diocese of Massachusett’s support for Occupy Boston

In Boston, for example, Episcopalians were among a group of Protest Chaplains who maintained a faith and spirituality tent for occupiers of a downtown encampment. Following the close of their Dewey Square encampment, the Diocese of Massachusetts’ Cathedral Church of St. Paul began offering Occupy Boston protesters meeting space for their general assemblies, “through which local Occupy participants come to consensus about future actions,” starting Dec. 13, according to a statement on the diocesan website.

The cathedral “has offered to host the meetings on a week-to-week basis, as needed, and is doing so not to endorse a particular point of view but instead ‘to endorse the conversation,’ according to the cathedral’s dean, the Very Rev. Jep Streit,” the statement said.

Streit said in the release that “the issues raised by the Occupy movement are important to be discussing in society, and so I’m happy to offer our cathedral to provide hospitality and a venue so those conversations can continue.” He noted that he felt that “attention had of late shifted to controversy over the protesters’ encampment and away from the economic and social justice issues at hand.”

Deal To Avert Government Shutdown Cuts Pell Grants For Up To 100,000 Students

Congressional leaders last night agreed to a $1 trillion bill to fund the government, averting a shutdown that would have started at midnight tonight. The bill reportedly dropped many of the unrelated policy riders that House Republicans had tried to insert into it.

However, the bill does include a cut to the Pell Grant program that could affect up to 100,000 low-income students. Republicans have been pushing for months to slash the Pell Grant program – which provides low-income students with money for higher education – and to limit it’s eligibility requirements. Though the maximum grant will be preserved under the spending deal, students on the edges of eligibility will be out of luck next year:

Congress Cuts Winter Heating Aid For The Poor While Boosting The Defense Budget

Congress reached a deal Thursday to avert a shutdown that would have begun at midnight tonight, and in doing so, Republicans found another low-income program to target, cutting funding for subsidies that help the poor stay warm during the winter by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, however, the Pentagon’s budget is getting a 1 percent boost. . .

Forensic Analysis Finds Pennsylvania County’s E-Voting System ‘Remotely Accessed’ on ‘Multiple Occasions’ by Unknown Computer.”

According to the Initial Report from a landmark independent forensic audit of the Venango County, PA, touch-screen voting system — the same system used in dozens of counties across the state and country — someone used a computer that was not a part of county’s election network to remotely access the central election tabulator computer, illegally, “on multiple occasions.” Despite the disturbing report, we may never get to learn who did it or why, if Venango’s County Commissioners, a local judge, and the nation’s largest e-voting company have their way. And that’s not all we won’t get to find out about.

The Money Party/Politics-as-Usual Clears Path for a Third-Party Presidential Ticket

To those who bemoan the lack of better choices in presidential elections, third-party fantasies come easily at this stage in a campaign. End hyper-partisanship and Washington dysfunction: Vote Bloomberg-Petraeus in 2012!

Those dreams are even more vivid than usual this time around, and not just because polls show striking levels of discontent within both parties about politics as usual.
. . .

. . . to some members of both parties, Americans Elect is a shadowy cabal financed by hedge fund money and undisclosed donors who could have a secret agenda to tilt the election one way or the other.

SEC charges ex-Fannie, Freddie CEOs with fraud

Two former CEOs at mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Friday became the highest-profile individuals to be charged in connection with the 2008 financial crisis.
. . .

Many legal experts say they don’t expect the six executives to face criminal charges. “If the U.S. attorney’s office was going to be bringing charges, they would have brought it simultaneously with the civil case,” said Christopher Morvillo, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Manhattan.

Robert Mintz, a white-collar defense lawyer, says he doubts any top Wall Street executives will face criminal charges for actions that hastened the financial crisis, given how much time has passed.

Obama’s SEC brings fraud charges that reinforce false narrative making Fannie, Freddie, fall guys of the financial crisis

The Occupy Wall Street protests have called new attention to the root causes of the crisis, and led Republicans to reiterate their claim that government-backed lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were the primary villains. The facts about the subprime mortgage market prove that claim false: Private firms dominated the subprime market boom of 2004-06, and were not even subject to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act some Republicans vilify. Thanks to decades of financial deregulation, capped by President Bush’s decision to appoint Wall Street regulators who believed their job was to help banks rather than curb banking abuses, financial giants were able to turn the mortgage market into a high-stakes casino. As investigative reporters and Congress’ Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission have all shown, it was deregulation mixed with irresponsible and potentially illegal practices by private firms on Wall Street that caused both the bubble and the collapse.

[Also see ‘ What caused the financial crisis? The Big Lie goes viral.’]

Treat foreclosure as a crime scene

Bubbling under the surface of politics is the foreclosure crisis – where the power of big finance is brushing up against the rule of law. The party leaders seem to have decided it is essentially a giant – but unavoidable – tragedy. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said foreclosures have to clear for the housing market to reset. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has spent only about $2 billion of the $75 billion authorized for the Home Affordable Modification Program.

But the foreclosure crisis is not only a few million personal tragedies. It is a few million crime scenes.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley recently filed the first broad civil suit against five major banks and the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems for foreclosure fraud. Her suit alleges that mortgage servicers routinely backdated and falsified documents to expedite foreclosures. In many cases, they foreclosed on loans they did not even own.

Political Ads Highlight Warren’s Ambivalent Relationship with Occupy

On Nov. 9, American Crossroads, a political action committee headed by strategist Karl Rove, launched its first attack ad against Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren, seeking to tie the senatorial candidate to the national Occupy movement.

“Instead of focusing on jobs, Elizabeth Warren sides with extreme left protests,” the ad said, simultaneously showing dramatic images of protesters carrying red banners.