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Archive for October, 2011

Stunning News: Police Use Bulldozers to Wipe Out Occupy Richmond

Virginia State Police brought in bulldozers at about 1 a.m. Monday morning to clear out an encampment of Occupy Richmond protesters.

At least 15 protesters who choose not to leave Kanawha Plaza after a 45 minute warning were arrested, according to Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Demonstrators had been occupying the plaza since Oct. 15. Democratic Mayor Dwight C. Jones visited the site Thursday to warn protesters they were breaking a city ordinance that forbids camping on public property.

“We applied for permits from city council but, you know, they didn’t accept or decline us getting a permit,” one activist explained to WTVR. “At least them declining it would give us an idea what was to come, but we didn’t get anything. So we started occupying with high hopes and unfortunately this is what it came down to.”

Protesters have vowed to continue their occupation of Richmond even if they can’t do it at Kanawha Plaza.

Watch this video from WTVR, broadcast Oct.

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Just one week after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) saw his order to push an “Occupy” protest out of a public park at night rebuked by a local official, Tennessee’s governor is experiencing a similar problem.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has twice given the order to crackdown on protesters at “Occupy Nashville,” only to see it denied by judicial commissioner Tom Nelson. In Tennessee, a judicial commissioner has the authority to determine whether crimes have been committed.

“The magistrate’s position is sort of a safety valve to prevent overzealous officers from putting people in jail for no reason,” Nashville attorney Jim Todd said to the Associated Press.

Nelson ordered the release of 29 protesters arrested last Thursday because “the state had not given the protesters adequate notice that it was changing the rules.”

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Occupy Wall Street Turns to Pedal Power

http://widget.newsinc.com/single.html?WID=2&VID=23543067&freewheel=69016&sitesection=rawstory

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Occupy the Boardroom! Email any CEO!

Thousands of Americans who were badly hit by the recession have been able to directly message the most powerful figures in the country’s top financial institutions via a new website set up as part of the Occupy movement.

So far, almost 7000 people have sent messages via OccupytheBoardroom.org directly into the inboxes of figures like Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup and Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase.

To make sure the executives can’t just ignore the emails, activists from Occupy Wall Street plan to print them off and hand-deliver them in a march on Friday.

Those who have sent messages include foreclosure victims, students unable to pay off loans, and ordinary hard working people affected by the recession and then by debts called in by banks.

Some are heartbreaking, many are angry, and a few rely on sarcasm to get their point across. In one message, a Marine Corp veteran who has served in the Middle East described to Joe L Price, a Bank of America executive, how he got into debt because his son had a lengthy spell in hospital, and how he can’t afford the mounting fees.

He writes: “You may think that this is ok but it is not ok… as a patriot of the original founding fathers beliefs, you are unpatriotic and I was willing to lay my life down for people such as yourself. Tell me, what sacrifice are you willing to make for me?”

Another, written to John G Stumpf, chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, under the heading “Congratulations Mr Stumf”, reads: “I work two jobs (retail and freelance) to keep up with my student loan payments ($700/mo), mortgage ($1100/mo), utilities, insurance, credit, and two car payments ($1500/mo). I have so many payments, sometimes my account gets really low, and I like to pretend its a game to see if my paycheck will clear in time before the payment goes through! Its very exciting, and when I lose, YOU WIN! $30 each time!

The site is a collaboration between Occupy Wall Street, New York Communities for Change and a coalition of community and labour groups. It has posted 200 names of CEOs and board members of Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, with links allowing messages to be sent directly to their inboxes.

Olivier Leirer, of New York Communities for Change, said the idea was aimed at giving ordinary people a chance to tell their stories and have their voices heard.

“The letters touched on four key issues, foreclosure, unemployment, anger at rising fees and corruption and collusion between Wall Street executives and our elected officials” said Leirer, who helped set it up.

They had originally intended to publish the emails and other contact details of all the board members and executives, but learned that they could be prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if their actions unwittingly crashed the email servers of the banks.

“It could be punishable by time in jail and we decided it wasn’t a good way to go about things” she said.

Instead of sending out thousands of emails, with the potential risk, OTB devised a system where individuals write into a group blog, which is then tagged and sent in batches of 99 emails to the intended recipient.

Leirer said that they are able to discern if the emails are being opened and, so far, around 20% of them are.

“We know that they are not being sent directly to trash. But even if they are, we are printing off the letters and delivering them directly.”

The site also urges readers to choose a “Best Friend Forever ” among the “1 per cent”. By clicking on their name, they are encouraged to find out more about them and even meet them. It stresses, however, that they should not be harassed.

The site, which has been running for two weeks, has not gone unnoticed by the institutions it has targeted.

A memo from Fay Feeney, a consultant and member of the National Association of Corporate Directors, described how corporations should prepare to combat the Occupation movement.

In the memo, leaked to the Occupy Washington and first published by website October2011.org, Feeney warns “corporate counsels, CEOs and board rooms” about OccupytheBoardroom.

She said: “As the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters are hitting the streets worldwide, another movement is quietly unfolding online; OccupyThe Boardroom”

“Users can access a list of CEOs and share their stories regarding bankruptcy, job losses, and unfair treatment. According to OTB (which claims it has the contact information for al members listed) prizes will be awarded to the best funnniest and most revelatory interactions.”

She warns: “Board members and corporate counsels prepare themselves for a bumpy ride by future-proofing their companies.”

“Protests can spin out of control, with real time data processing from Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.”

Among the steps taken to protect themselves is to use social networks to gather intelligence so “board chairs and CEOs should always remain one step ahead in protecting their boardroom.”

When contacted by the Guardian, Feeney said in an email: “This guidance was for directors to listen to stakeholders and take action to make the board responsive to the voices – whether internal or external… My counsel is aimed at improved governance and enlightening the

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The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured much the nation’s attention with a clear message: A U.S. economy driven by the interests of business and the wealthy has generated increasingly unequal economic outcomes where the top 1 percent did exceptionally well but the vast majority did not do well at all.

According to the data, they’re fundamentally right. This paper presents 12 figures that demonstrate how skewed economic rewards (in income, wages, capital income, and wealth) have become in the United States. These figures, most of which cover 1979 through 2007 (prior to the recession) generally break out trends for the top 1 percent, the next richest 9 percent, and then the bottom 90 percent of households or earners. While income growth at the very top—the richest 1 percent and above—has been truly staggering, incomes at roughly the 90th percentile and above (the richest 10 percent) have generally at least matched the rate of economy-wide productivity. It is below the 90th percentile where one really sees the potential fruits of economic growth (as measured by economy-wide productivity) failing to reach American households. An economy that fails to cut in 90 percent of American households on a fair share of economic growth is one that needs serious reform. As the figures show:

The top 1 percent of households have secured a very large share of all of the gains in income—59.9 percent of the gains from 1979–2007, while the top 0.1 percent seized an even more disproportionate share—36 percent. In comparison, only 8.6 percent of income gains have gone to the bottom 90 percent. The patterns are similar for wages and capital income.
As they have accrued a large share of income gains, the incomes of the top 1 percent of households have pulled far away from the incomes of typical Americans. In 2007, average annual incomes of the top 1 percent of households were 42 times greater than incomes of the bottom 90 percent (up from 14 times greater in 1979) and incomes of the top 0.1 percent were 220 times greater (up from 47 times greater in 1979).
The financial sector’s share of the overall economy has roughly doubled in recent decades, and now stands at 7.6 percent of total national income. Relative to this sector’s share in 1979, this translates into an extra $547 billion in compensation and profits claimed by the sector—a trend with questionable social payoff.
Growth in wealth, not just incomes, has also become greatly skewed in recent decades. Most of the wealth gains of the last generation went to those who already had the most wealth, a group increasingly distant from the vast American middle-class. The wealth of the median household actually declined over this time period. As a result, in 2009, wealth held by the wealthiest 1 percent of households was 225 times greater than that held by the median household.

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Democracy went down in a blaze of glory last week. Both the German Bundestag and our own House of Commons put up one hell of a fight against the dying of the light. Maybe history will record that fact in an elegy on the demise of the great 18th-century experiment in government by the people: they were eloquent to the end. Because at the end, eloquence was all they had.

Trying to hold back the resurgence of oligarchy – the final dismantling of democratic responsibility in the governing of Europe – has been looking pretty hopeless for a long time. That eruption of excellent rhetoric and faultless argument which sprang to the defence of the rights of the governed (and in Germany’s case, of constitutional legality) made the loss seem all the more tragic, but no less inevitable.

So this is where we are. The agreed EU “stability union” triumphantly paraded before the media in Brussels will have the power to approve or disapprove budgets of countries in the eurozone – that is, to vet and police them – before they are submitted to the elected parliaments of those countries. In other words, parliaments which are directly mandated by, and answerable to, their own populations will not control the most essential functions of government: decisions on taxation and spending. Even without the ultimate institutions of economic and political union, which still elude the EU, actual power over fiscal policy will be taken from the hands of national leaders. And if, as a voter, you cannot influence your prospective government’s tax and spending policies, what exactly are you voting for?

Britain being outside the eurozone, we will not have to present our fiscal arrangements for authorisation before submitting them to the scrutiny of our legislators (and their constituents). But since our own economic recovery relies so heavily on the stability of the euro, we find ourselves (or at least, George Osborne has found himself) enthusiastically supporting this rape of democratic principle in countries which regard their freedom and self-determination as precious in much the same way, remarkably enough, that free-born Englishmen do.

And among those hapless, soon-to-be-disenfranchised peoples, hatreds have been awakened that the EU was, ironically, designed to bury. The Greeks hugely resent what they consider to be the implicitly racist contempt of the Germans: the political opposition in Athens on both Left and Right rejects the idea of being “bailed out” of a crisis (with all the compliance that entails) that they believe to have been caused by the artificial constraints of euro membership rather than by national character flaws. Even their moderate spokesmen are beginning to characterise Germany’s economic impositions as a revival of its wartime attempt at conquest.
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Through Greece’s historical perspective, it is not difficult to read German intentions as world domination by other means. Instead of burying the old enmities and blood feuds, the enforced conditions of the EU have reinvigorated them. When dissatisfied national populations become convinced that their democratic institutions are useless or irrelevant, they will take to the streets. How long before the resentments and the powerlessness ignite and Greece, in its desperation, turns once again to the colonels? Will we see tanks on the streets of Athens at the same time as growing neo-fascist movements in Germany and Italy? And does our own government really believe that we will be safe from the consequences of democratic decline in Europe, just because we are not in the eurozone?

When Angela Merkel warned last week about the possible end of the blessedly long post-war peace in Europe, she meant that the failure of the euro (and thus of the EU project) would precipitate economic chaos and possibly lead to war. But she and her colleagues seem oblivious to the resurgence of hostility that is being brought about by every move closer to “successful” European integration.

Indeed, it is often quite eerie how the statements and mannerisms of EU officials, seemingly so dedicated to being the precise opposite of earlier, infamous generations, end up echoing (or parodying) the more memorable moments of the war-torn 20th century. When the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, proclaimed, “I am pleased to stand before you this morning and confirm that Europe is closer to resolving its financial and economic crisis… We are showing that we can unite in the most difficult of times”, I half expected him to wave a piece of paper in the air and proclaim economic stability in our time.

In reality, everybody’s historical experience stands in the way of the EU economic and political union steamroller. Germany cannot comply with demands that it plunge enthusiastically into a quantitative easing programme – even though that would be one way of supplying the needed bail-out funds for Greece (and Italy, and Spain, and whoever goes belly up next) – because its terrifying collective memory of Weimar inflation puts such an option beyond the pale. And Mrs Merkel, however enthusiastic she may be about curtailing the democratic accountability of her euro-partners, is fully aware of her own electoral vulnerability: there will be no funny money run off the German printing presses even if her economy is probably robust enough now to cope with the consequences.

In an interview last week, George Soros said that this slow-motion train crash of the single currency reminds him of the fall of the Soviet Union. I assume that what he meant was that there was the same sense of inexorability – the inevitable collapse being forestalled by lots of last-ditch reforms and too little, too late measures that only nibbled at the edges of the real problem. The unthinkable remained unthought: this is a system that is inherently flawed, and therefore cannot be made to work in the terms in which it was envisaged.

Far from being an antidote to the ideological delusions of the past century, a trans-national superstate is the same sort of utopian, unnatural, ahistorical folly that earlier generations attempted to foist on the recalcitrant populations of Europe. Its doctrine of “co-operation” is simply coercion by another name. It relies on unswerving belief and enforced conformity, just like all the “year zero” political movements that ended in totalitarianism and terror in the past. The one hope is that the great mass of the people, unlike most of their political leaders, seem to understand all this quite clearly. It remains to be seen whether they will have to go out on the streets to make their case.

The United States cannot be far behind. Free trade agreements are giving corporations more and more power to influence government at all levels. NAFTA, for example, has secret tribunals when corporate parties have disputes among themselves. The decisions of these tribunals can constitutionally take precedent over government decisions at all levels. State governments have had to reverse their own decisions in deference to NAFTA’s tribunals.

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