The OB Media Rundown for 4/4/12

Protesters stake out State House in advance of MBTA vote

Youths, senior citizens, and others who depend on the MBTA began a 24-hour vigil at the State House today, with more protesters scheduled to arrive before an anticipated Wednesday vote on fare hikes and service cuts.

Scheduled to last from 11 a.m. Tuesday to 11 a.m. Wednesday, with teach-ins and speak-outs throughout Tuesday afternoon, the vigil was planned to attract the attention of Governor Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray.

Activists hope leaders will intervene before the board of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation votes Wednesday on a plan that would raise MBTA fares an average of 23 percent and reduce some services. The plan was presented last week after tremendous public outcry against two earlier proposals that would have raised fares by either 35 or 43 percent and made more dramatic service cuts.

Occupy, Unions Plan 4/4 Day Of Action For Public Transportation, Blame Banks For Cuts

Last week’s “fare strike” on the New York City subway won’t be the last time Occupy turns its attention to mass transit. On Wednesday, activists in at least 18 cities are teaming up with the nation’s largest transit union for a national day of action. The day is part of a concerted effort to place the blame for rising fares and diminishing service on the same banks that got the country into the recession — and it comes just as Congress is haltingly trying to pass a major transportation bill.

In Massachusetts, where the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has proposed a range of draconian service cuts, Occupy Boston will hold a rally in front of the State House and then a candlelight vigil in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., who died on April 4, 1968. Rallies, vigils, leafleting and voter registration are also planned for other cities where public transportation has been hit hard by the recession: New York, Detroit, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, to name a few.

“Public transit is a right, and it needs to be funded,” said Ariel Oshinsky, an organizer with Occupy Boston. She noted that public transportation is disproportionately used by people of color and with low incomes. The MBTA there has proposed a number of deep service cuts which Oshinsky said would “pit communities against each other.” But “as riders and workers together, there’s real strength.”

Demonstrators to focus on mass transit as a civil right

The Occupy Wall Street movement and the Amalgamated Transit Union have jointly declared April 4 a National Day of Action for Jobs and Mass Transit and are staging demonstrations that day in 20 cities across the country.

They said their joint mobilization is in keeping with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaigns for good paying jobs and for accessibility of those jobs to the poor. The action comes as unions and civil rights organizations in general turn more of their attention to creation of jobs that can be accessed by people in communities hardest hit by the economic crash – communities of color and areas in the nation’s inner cities.

The ATU and Occupy Wall Street plan their joint demonstrations in 20 cities, including Chicago, New York and Pittsburgh.

Neoliberal reordering of US higher education accelerates at new campuses abroad, global elites are now celebrated as paragons of ‘diversity’

Americans who teach liberal education here in the U.S. need to find better ways to keep it independent of well-funded conservative efforts on many campuses to conscript the classic texts into the service of “national security” agendas, and they have to keep it independent also of the global capitalization of everything, which threatens to asphyxiate the liberal education that university leaders claim to want to promote abroad.
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The greatest danger in such ventures — and in Harvard’s recent embarrassing entanglements with some of its faculty members’ dubious dealings in Russia or Libya — is that no university can remain what the political philosopher Allan Bloom called “a publicly respectable place… for scholars and students to be unhindered in their use of reason” if those scholars are treated (and behave) as employees of a corporation — or, in public universities, as political appointees. More properly, they’re a “company” in the old-fashioned sense of a body whose principals determine and care its mission.

The university as a business corporation helps them do that by keeping the lights on, as it were, and by defending their freedom where possible against market and political constraints. It shouldn’t get involved in trying to export its university’s “brand name” and expand its market share abroad, or in transforming the home college into a career-networking center and cultural galleria for a “diverse” global elite that answers to no polity or moral code.

White House cringing at Republican attacks drives political interference with public health regulations

The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to make its regulatory decisions on the basis of science and for the health and well-being of the public. But the White House often intervenes, trying to influence FDA decisions to achieve political goals. Often the White House pressure comes in response to fear of demagogic attacks from the GOP. So it was with movie popcorn.

The Koch Brothers – why the billionaire siblings are spending a fortune in support of a conservative political agenda

Charles and David Koch are each worth about $25bn, which makes them the fourth richest Americans. When you combine their fortunes, they are the third wealthiest people in the world. Radical libertarians who use their money to oppose government and virtually all regulation as interference with the free market, the Kochs are in a class of their own as players on the American political stage. Their web of influence in the US stretches from state capitals to the halls of congress in Washington DC.
The Koch brothers fueled the conservative Tea Party movement that vigorously opposes Barack Obama, the US president. They fund efforts to derail action on global warming, and support politicians who object to raising taxes on corporations or the wealthy to help fix America’s fiscal problems. According to New Yorker writer Jane Mayer, who wrote a groundbreaking exposé of the Kochs in 2010, they have built a top to bottom operation to shape public policy that has been “incredibly effective. They are so rich that their pockets are almost bottomless, and they can keep pouring money into this whole process”.

Man whose WMD lies led to 100,000 deaths confesses all

A man whose lies helped to make the case for invading Iraq – starting a nine-year war costing more than 100,000 lives and hundreds of billions of pounds – will come clean in his first British television interview tomorrow.

“Curveball”, the Iraqi defector who fabricated claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, smiles as he confirms how he made the whole thing up. It was a confidence trick that changed the course of history, with Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi’s lies used to justify the Iraq war.

He tries to defend his actions: “My main purpose was to topple the tyrant in Iraq because the longer this dictator remains in power, the more the Iraqi people will suffer from this regime’s oppression.”

Time Running Out for Sustainable Future: Report

The planet will not be able to sustain levels of consumption typical of today’s ‘consumer class’ without irreparable consequences to the globe, according to the just released Worldwatch Institute in State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity. They have proposed a redefinition of ‘the good life’ as one that aligns with sustainable practices and have mapped out a hopeful plan leading up to this year’s Rio+20; however, the plan’s window of opportunity is quickly closing.

Suckers for divide and conquer: Milwaukee police and firefighters endorse hated WI governor who tried to destroy public sector unions

Two unions that were largely spared from Gov. Scott Walker’s curbs on collective bargaining endorsed him Monday.

Walker is facing a recall this summer because of his successful plan to all but eliminate collective bargaining for most public workers. Walker’s plan mostly left alone police officers and firefighters, and the unions representing Milwaukee cops and Milwaukee firefighters renewed their support for him Monday. The two were some of the only unions to endorse Walker when he initially ran in November 2010.

“Governor Walker has a strong record of supporting public safety with an unwavering commitment to first responders,” said a statement from Michael Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association. “Today, we are proud to announce our support for Governor Walker’s reelection.”

Siding with WI governor in union fight could cost Romney in Nov.

Unable to avoid the pandemonium surrounding Gov. Scott Walker (R) and his union crackdown in Wisconsin, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney has chosen to make the embattled governor’s fight his own.

Embracing Walker offers major short-term advantages for Romney in Wisconsin, which holds its primary contest Tuesday, as the GOP front-runner looks for the last few wins he needs to lock up the nomination. But it might also risk alienating voters in union-heavy swing states such as Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – at just the time when Romney and his campaign hope to turn their attention to the general election.

“He’s shown pretty clearly what side he’s on,” said Bruce Colburn of the SEIU in Wisconsin. “We have a number of members who often vote for Republicans, and they take offense at somebody coming in and challenging their basic rights.”

Take from the poor and give to the rich: House Republican’s budget priorities in two graphs

Obama responds to GOP budget by touting his ‘centrist’ neoliberal ideology of cutting the social safety net

[Bowles-Simpson was the commission that Obama formed to generate recommendations to cut the deficit. It targeted Medicare and Social Security for cuts and rollbacks, and never considered placing any new taxes on the financial industry, as was recommended by no less an establishment institution than the IMF.]

In another revealing moment in the speech – one the President actually said twice, once in the speech and another time in response to a question – he invoked the Bowles-Simpson recommendations for deficit reduction. And he said, very specifically, that his problems with Bowles-Simpson were that they raised too much money in taxes, and that they cut too much in national defense. This was the leader of the Democratic party staking out a position to the right Bowles-Simpson. He didn’t say he objected to raising of the retirement age in that plan, or the Medicare cuts and global budgeting. He objecting to it raising too much revenue and cutting too much of the military budget. He also touted that discretionary spending as a percentage of GDP under him was “lower than it was under Eisenhower,” and that he started “no big new programs to help the poor.”

Occupy DC Kicks Off #99Spring with Silly March, Serious Action

Confusing and amusing the tourists in town for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, members of Occupy DC donned suit jackets and carried champagne glasses to pose as upper-class power brokers for an April Fool’s Day march, which also marked the six-month anniversary of the McPherson Square occupation.

About 60 protesters turned popular slogans on their heads, like: “Ho ho, hey hey, corporate greed is here to stay! One, two, three, four, we won the class war! The rich, united, will never be indicted!”

The “1 percenters,” who passed out leaflets to curious onlookers as they went, also stopped to “toast” institutions such as Wells Fargo, Brookfield Properties, and the White House, cheekily thanking each for doing its part to help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

‘Occupy’ cites inequality as reason for Fla. teen’s Market Square vigil

A teenager who was fatally shot in Florida last month will be remembered Wednesday night during a Market Square vigil organized by Occupy New Hampshire Seacoast.

“I think it’s something a lot of people can agree on,” said Duncan McIver, a Portsmouth resident and member of the local Occupy group.

Supporters Of Trayvon Martin March In Eugene

About 100 people gathered in Eugene Monday to show support for Trayvon Martin of Florida, who was killed last month by a neighborhood watchman.

The group marched downtown ending at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza. There, representatives from the ACLU, NAACP, Occupy Eugene, and Mayor Kitty Piercy talked about racial profiling, gun control, and accountability.

“No Taxation Through Citation!”

If the city starts using cameras to catch red light-runners, argued Andrew Schneider, New Haveners will “give up civil liberties” without getting any safer.

Schneider (at megaphone in photo), the executive director of Connecticut’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, made that argument Monday evening on the sidewalk outside City Hall. Members of the ACLU joined protesters from local civil rights group as well as Occupy New Haven to denounce a bill at the state Capitol that would allow New Haven to install cameras to ticket drivers who run red lights.

You Can Call Them ‘Occupy Zionism’

The social protests that began in Tel Aviv last July and grew into a national movement embraced by hundreds of thousands of Israelis has focused on such issues as housing, education, health care and the shrinking middle class.

But Stav Shaffir, one of 12 young adults who launched the movement, told The Jewish Week last week that something else was on her mind, as well. “I thought of my grandparents and their courage on an almost daily basis” during the protests, said Shaffir, who spent nearly two weeks in the States last month to seek support from American Jews.

Her grandparents came to Israel from Poland, Lithuania and Iraq to pursue the Zionist dream, she continued, and it’s now that very dream – the job of “building a real home” for the Jewish people – that her movement is seeking to reclaim. “We think the Zionist dream is a much bigger one than how the people on the extreme right picture it,” Shaffir said, adding that her movement could be called “Occupy Zionism.”

Occupy Prague: We must ask ourselves if we want this kind of capitalism

Czech activist Jan Cemper wants democracy – “real democracy” – and he wants it now. That is why the former electrotechnician, who now works for a small Prague travel agency, established the Real Democracy Now(STD) group together with a few sympathizers. The main objective of the group, which draw its inspiration from foreign protest movements such as the Indignados and Occupy Wall Street, is to organize tent protests in Prague and other cities starting from April 28.

By the end of the month under the name Occupy Prague they intend to build a tent village on Klárov square that should serve as a venue for debates with other citizens on alternatives to the present political-economic system.


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