Occupy Supply webinar on Racism and the Occupy Movement – featuring journalist and editor of “Re-Defining Black Power” Joanne Griffith and Occupy Detroit media coordinator Lee Gaddies.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) responded with brute force in the first hours of the New Year to Occupy Wall Street’s attempt to re-take Zuccotti Park. The police went after live streamers, others with cameras and even bystanders and a National Lawyers Guild (NLG) observer.
At least 68 were arrested. Updates posted on the action by Occupy Wall Street that unfolded indicate NYPD threw around livestreamers and bystanders as they were removing people and making arrests. The police also blockaded the sidewalk stopping a march and told Occupy Wall Street demonstrators they were “blocking traffic.” They brought in horses. They searched for individuals with “official press passes,” ready to eject citizen journalists who wanted to remain and bear witness to the NYPD’s aggressive policing.
Again, a member of the Global Revolution livestream team was seemingly targeted and arrested. NYPD has seemingly targeted Occupy Wall Street media team members in the past months. In December, NYPD targeted 17 people, who all had some level of involvement with media. They had been covering a flash mob action in Brookfield Properties’ Winter Garden.
An NLG legal observer was “ejected” and left as ordered. When the observer made a phone call, the NYPD ordered the observer to put down the phone. The observer was then arrested.
Police arrested people for simply crossing the street. They had been ordered to cross and when they did cross they were subsequently arrested.
NYT’s “City Room” reported an incident where police interfered with a credentialed news photographer: [cont'd.]
I’m saving my “What to Look for in 2012″ listicle for tomorrow [today], but one of the issues that may not make the list, but which is terribly important, is the battle in the states over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. 2011 was the year when this issue finally bubbled up to the surface (pardon the pun) and into the consciousness of the public. The critically acclaimed Gasland came out in 2010, but anti-facking forces benefited this year from some scientific revelations. Independent studies for the first time identified fracking as a cause of methane contamination and water pollution, and late in the year, the EPA agreed in a case in Wyoming.
In 2012 this fight to set the terms of the debate could lead to real action. The EPA has already issues some emissions standards for natural gas operators, and they plan to announce wastewater standards (crucial, since fracking uses a tremendous amount of water). Congress could deal with the “Halliburton loophole,” a provision in the 2005 energy bill that allows natural gas companies to hide disclosure of the chemicals they use in fracking, via an exemption under the Safe Drinking Water Act. But the major rulemaking will take place in the states. Some western states have implemented disclosure laws on fracking fluids. But the biggest challenge will take place in New York state, home to the coveted Marcellus Shale region. Jillian Rayfield reports.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) had hoped that in the coming year the state would lift a moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus Shale in western New York. The shale, which also extends into parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, is considered a prime source for extracting natural gas through a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This involves horizontally drilling into the shale rock and flooding it with chemicals to crack it open, allowing the gas to escape.
Over the past few years, there’s been a dramatic increase in hydrofracking activity in the shale. Pennsylvania, for instance, has issued over 8000 permits and started over 4000 wells since 2008. Drilling companies and other supporters of lifting the ban point to Pennsylvania’s recent economic windfall and a NYSDEC study that estimates fracking would directly create 25,000 jobs in New York.
Currently, New York has a ban on fracking permits in the shale, pending the release of new regulations by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. But though the NYSDEC had planned to release those regulations sometime in the new year, fears about the potential environmental impact of hydrofracking could delay a decision until the summer — or even until 2013.
A major concern is that the process could potentially contaminate the state’s water supply since the shale is so close to the main water source for much of the state — including New York City. In some fracking site-adjacent towns, homeowners have reported that their tap water has turned brown or become highly flammable.
One of the reasons Pennsylvania has seen an explosion of fracking in the Marcellus Shale region, apart from Governor Tom Corbett being in the hip pocket of the oil and gas industry, is the economic potential. That extends to the individuals whose land sits on top of the shale, many of whom get large payouts from natural gas operators for the right to drill.
A decision on opening up the Delaware River Basin to fracking, an area which includes upstate New York and which provides drinking water to 15.8 million Americans, has been postponed. But New York lifting the moratorium would lead to another fracking boom in the Marcellus Shale region. The public comment period for the NYSDEC (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) ends January 11. Because of the number of public comments – over 15,000 – review and rulemaking could get delayed even into 2013. There’s also a proposal in the New York state legislature to extend the moratorium for an additional year. So there are chances for success for environmentalists.
Natural gas is often described as a “bridge fuel” while the energy infrastructure transitions away from fossil fuels and toward renewables. But if the cost of extracting natural gas means polluted drinking water across the country, that’s a bridge to nowhere.
In a news dump that came a day early (because who really wants to dump on Christmas-Eve Eve?), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made a pair of moves Thursday that could have significant consequences for America’s nuclear industry–and all the people who have to live with it.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved a radical new reactor design on Thursday, clearing away a major obstacle for two utilities to begin construction on projects in South Carolina and Georgia.
Whoa–let’s stop it there for a sec. . . . A “radical new reactor design?” Somebody’s being a good little scribe this Christmas. As previously discussed, there is nothing radical about the AP1000–it’s a tweak on the generations-old pressurized water reactor design that theoretically would allow the core to avoid a meltdown in the event of a total loss of AC power. . . .
Well, for 72 hours, anyway.
After that, the manufacturer–in reality the Japanese owner of Westinghouse, Toshiba–says something about it taking only “minimal operator effort” to avert disaster.
Keep in mind that the AP1000 was designed well before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that started the ongoing Fukushima disaster, but this approval, of course, comes well after.
Designers of the AP1000 assert that gravity and convection will serve to keep reactor cooling functioning even if systems are disabled as they were at Fukushima. That assertion is predicated on the storyline that the Daiichi plant’s safety systems survived the massive quake, and only ran into trouble when the tsunami flooded and disabled the diesel backup generators that powered cooling systems for the reactors and the spent fuel pools.
Politifact won the “Pompous Response to Criticism of the Year” award yesterday for their rebuttal to criticism about their awarding of the Lie of the Year to the correct claim by Democrats that Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget would end Medicare. Dave Weigel has a pretty thorough rundown, so I won’t bother. The short version is that Politifact chief Bill Adair once met a guy who read Newsmax and listened to Rush Limbaugh for news, so that inoculates them from criticism on every decision they make. Somehow the existence of an echo chamber allows Politifact to make things up.
The line that everyone singled out for mockery is this one:
The most over-the-top response (was it tongue-in-cheek?) was a rant from Jim Newell in Gawker under the headline “Why PolitiFact is bad for you.” He conveniently ignored the fact that our fact-checks are based on hours of journalistic research and portrayed them as the work of rogue bloggers with a gimmicky meter.
I guess by “journalistic” research, Adair means that they didn’t actually commit journalism, but something journalism-like, some facsimile of journalism. That is what it looked like to me, so maybe that was the most honest part of the rebuttal.
But Susan Gardner, herself a former traditional media journalist, dipped into the Politifact archives to show what they really mean by journalistic research: [cont'd.]
Back in January, PolitiFact decided to check a business group’s claim that Wisconsin’s lawsuit rules make it one of the most anti-business states in the country:
The Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business portrayed mom-and-pop companies as easy prey when people sue over harm from defective products, negligent care, accidents and other injuries.
“Wisconsin has one of the most promiscuous tort systems in the country in which small businesses are easy targets for baseless lawsuits and civil penalties that are entirely disproportionate,” said Bill Smith, state director of the group, in a Jan. 4 news release in support of Walker’s proposals [...]
Smith pointed to a 2010 Pacific Research Institute ranking of states that he said puts Wisconsin at 35th — or 16th-worst in the United States — for an anti-business lawsuit climate. The institute is a free-market think tank based in California.
He also pointed us to Andrew Cook, a lawyer working with the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council, a business coalition lobbying for tighter lawsuit controls.
It turns out that Bill Smith, the NFIB state director, also acts as President of the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council. So Politifact took information from Bill Smith, who as proof for his claims pointed to a group run by Bill Smith. Now if that isn’t journalistic research, I don’t know what is.
It’s not that fact-checking in and of itself is a flawed notion that should be carried out by journalists in the midst of their stories rather than in some separate part of the paper, though that’s part of it. It’s that the people who self-importantly go around fact-checking appear to be bad at their jobs, and yet at the same time smug about them.
The walls have closed in over the past couple weeks on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The SEC charged former CEOs and executives at the companies with fraud. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued them for imformation in a wide-ranging fraud investigation. And now we learn that the FBI is investigating them:
At issue is whether Fannie and Freddie — two of the largest mortgage companies in the country, and the recipients of a major government bailout in September 2008 — misled the public and investors about the relative risk of their loans in the lead up to the financial crisis, the Daily reports. The matter has serious implications, since many allege that mortgage lenders’ enthusiasm for making loans to homeowners with shoddy credit, and banks’ penchant for using those loans as financial instruments, are among the principal reasons for the housing crash and financial crisis.
The SEC’s lawsuit probes much the same question, hitting six former executives at the two companies with charges of security fraud, and accusing them of continuing to hold onto questionable loans even after the magnitude of the risk became clear. Neither company is directly named as a defendant in the SEC’s suit.
The SEC appears to be framing that suit as a response to critics who have accused the agency of going easy on the major banks and financial institutions who played a central role in the financial meltdown, according to The New York Times.
If Fannie and Freddie are guilty of misleading investors, they deserve to pay the penalty. And yet, I do sense more enthusiasm to go after these government sponsored enterprises than to go after the private banking firms which were far more responsible for subprime. This feeds a false narrative that government somehow caused the financial crisis by forcing lending to poor people. Fannie and Freddie followed the market in subprime and did not originate it.
That said, you do need to start somewhere, and if they exhibited criminal behavior, I’m happy to see them pay the price. And of course, getting the FBI involved raises the possibility of criminal charges, whereas the SEC violations were civil.
It’s also good to know that The Daily is still in existence. But it’s a measure of their success, or lack thereof, that nobody found out about this FBI investigation until several days after initial publication.
People in the know claim this is a huge ruling in New York, and it’s not hard to see why.
A decade after then Attorney General Eliot Spitzer dusted off the long dormant Martin Act and deployed it to become the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” the Court of Appeals has essentially deputized private citizens in holding for the first time that common-law tort claims are not pre-empted by the law.
In affirming the Appellate Division, First Department this morning, the Court of Appeals doused what had been conventional wisdom in other state and federal courts and handed a significant consumer victory to investors and current Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Mr. Schneiderman maintained that permitting private actions would not undercut his enforcement powers, as argued by the defendant, but on the contrary would assist him in preventing securities-related fraud. The Court of Appeals agreed.
Prior to this unanimous ruling, only the Attorney General could bring action under the Martin Act, a securities fraud law in New York State that is much more expansive than federal statutes. Typically the plaintiff must prove intent to commit fraud; under the Martin Act the plaintiff need only prove that fraud was committed. Now, as a result of this ruling, any aggrieved private actor can use the Martin Act as part of their lawsuit. This empowers a metric ton of investors of all sizes to go after the banks on securities fraud. It has the effect of lowering the burden of proof on those investors in those lawsuits.
Maybe this can explain why Bank of America stock dipped below $5 a share yesterday for the first time since 2009. (It’s since risen slightly.)
Consider one other thing. When environmental groups sued power companies in “public nuisance” lawsuits, saying that their rights were violated by polluting industries under the Clean Air Act, the Administration effectively sided with the polluters, in trying to block the lawsuit, saying that EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions displace common-law claims. Here, Attorney General Schneiderman – whose deputy solicitor general argued the case before the Court of Appeals – said the opposite, that private investors’ claims under the Martin Act only complemented his work. And the courts in New York agreed. I have more faith that Schneiderman will get his work done on financial fraud than the EPA on greenhouse gas regulations. And yet he still allowed private actions.
This will have a major impact over fraud cases in New York, and we’ll probably see a flowering of lawsuits in the aftermath.
Jack’s Liberty Underground Newsletter sent this out this morning. The images are fantastic; counter-culture heroes galore, and other great images. Note he doesn’t even feel the need to complete ‘The first casualty of war’…(is The Truth).
From Nash’s website:
A companion video for “Almost Gone” – a new song by legendary singer-songwriter Graham Nash and musician James Raymond (son of David Crosby) – is being released today in support of accused U.S. Army whistle-blower Bradley Manning.
The release is timed to Manning’s first judicial hearing scheduled for December 16th, following more than 17-months in custody, including a year in solitary confinement that Amnesty International has characterized as “harsh and punitive.”
Visually, the Almost Gone video is punctuated with bold graphics, disturbing images and harsh facts. Its release is scheduled to precede Manning’s pre-trial hearing on December 16, which is the day before his 24th birthday. The Bradley Manning Support Network has named the following day, December 17, its International Day of Solidarity (http://events.bradleymanning.org/). PFC Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who had been stationed near Baghdad, was arrested in May 2010 under suspicion of leaking classified information, including a video showing the killing of civilians, to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
More information about the video is here.
A unique pressure campaign has been playing out in Iowa, where the group Occupy Des Moines and other progressive groups briefly took over both the Obama for America and the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters, just as the media spotlight descends on the city two weeks before the caucuses. The link to the video above is here.
Occupy Des Moines, in conjunction with Veterans for Peace and the community organization Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), blockaded the entrance to OFA headquarters in Des Moines on Saturday, forcing a closure of its office. They set up tents in front of the front door, and vowed not to move, calling it “the annex” to the main Occupy Des Moines camp a few blocks away at Stewart Square. Megan Felt, an organizer with Occupy Des Moines, declared victory on Saturday. “Our goal is to disrupt business as usual until the campaigns address our concerns, and the fact that Obama’s Iowa staff chose not to open up today is a victory for our movement because we prevented them from going about their normal Saturday routine.” At the height, the action involved around 120 protesters.
They decided to occupy the front door in shifts, disrupting the campaign’s work. And they came with a list of demands here. They want the President to veto the National Defense Authorization Act and the payroll tax deal (now in serious doubt) over respective provisions that codify the indefinite military detention of non-citizen terrorist suspects and force a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days (as I’ve said before, the likely outcome of the latter measure is to deny permitting to Keystone XL). They also oppose the dropping of a millionaire’s surtax to pay for the payroll tax bill, and a provision in the omnibus spending bill that limits the number of semesters a recipient is eligible for Pell grant funding. Latino activists involved in the protests also denounced deportations “that break families apart,” and antiwar activists want military spending cut in half. So there’s a list of grievances for this Festivus season.
Today, activists left the campaign HQ, and moved into the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters. They maintain that they will refuse to leave “until Obama vetoes the National Defense Authorization Act and starts putting all the power of his office to bear on putting communities before corporations and people before profits.” So I don’t know if we can totally infer that the payroll tax veto demand has been dropped, but of course the circumstances changed on that one.
The Des Moines Register updates that eight protesters have been arrested:
Eight people affiliated with Occupy Des Moines were arrested this afternoon at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines.
The eight, whose hands were zip-tied behind their backs, were placed in a police wagon and transported to Polk County jail. Each was to be charged with criminal trespassing, which is a misdemeanor. They did not resist arrest and were escorted out of the headquarters at 5661 Fleur Drive without incident.
All protesters are out of the IDP building at the moment. The reason they shifted locations was that Obama’s campaign HQ remained closed through the weekend. “They don’t want to be here to listen to us, we decided to go to the state headquarters and make them listen to us,” the DMR quoted Occupy protester Daniel Bragg as saying.
This is part of a movement known as “Occupy the Iowa Caucuses,” and I would expect several more incidents like this as we get closer to caucus day.
It’s not often that human rights and business profits line up on the same side of a political debate, but Alabama is a special place. The Cotton State was not only ground zero for some of the worst abuses under Jim Crow; it was also the flashpoint for early struggles that fused economic empowerment with civil rights, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Today, Alabama is once again a focal point for racial and class struggles, ignited by an anti-immigrant law that tests our definitions of economic citizenship in a world of fluid borders.
The law, HB 56, mirrors many of the “copycat” anti-immigrant bills that have gone viral in state legislatures from Arizona to Indiana. It would impose onerous identification requirements that encourage police to arrest and detain anyone who couldn’t present the right papers. Although some of the harsher provisions were blocked by a federal court earlier this year, the legislation (signed into law in June) still threatens to further demonize immigrants and to crystallize the racist ideology driving a two-tier economy, where the privileges of the elite are subsidized by the vicious exploitation of the 99 percent.
Sadly, if the law were only a matter of shamelessly scapegoating a group of vulnerable newcomers, the law might face considerably less opposition. But the debate reveals a convoluted class-based political calculus: employers contend that draconian anti-immigrant policies could cripple the economy.
They do have a point: Getting rid of the state’s undocumented population—2.5 percent of the state, according to the Center for American Progress–wouldn’t translate into more jobs for native-born workers or immigrants with green cards. It would likely shred the already-impoverished state’s balance sheet: [cont'd.]
$40 million—A conservative estimate of how much Alabama’s economy would contract if only 10,000 undocumented immigrants stopped working in the state as a result of H.B. 56.
$130 million—The amount Alabama’s undocumented immigrants paid in taxes in 2010. These include state and local, income, property, and consumption taxes. This revenue would be lost if H.B. 56 were to do its job and drive all unauthorized immigrants from the state.
$300,000—The amount one farmer, Chad Smith of Smith Farms, estimates he has lost because of labor shortages in the wake of H.B. 56. Another farmer, Brian Cash of K&B Farm, estimates that he lost $100,000 in one single month because of the law.
This projected economic consequences (not to mention the cost of implementing and enforcing the law) would only exacerbate the state’s economic turmoil: nearly one in five in Alabama live in poverty and unemployment hovers well above the nationwide rate.
The impacts of HB 56 could span across immigrants’ communities, disrupting the education of their children and subjecting even workers with papers to mistreatement and discrimination by police as well as neighbors.
Even though economic anxieties are fueling the anti-immigrant crackdown, economic concerns also inform the widening opposition. Some pro-business advocates complain that the loss of migrant labor hurts their bottom line, often because others don’t step up to fill backbreaking jobs like tomato picking.
But here’s where the political landscape may slip dangerously in a direction that counters the very principles on which activists are fighting the law. Suddenly the case for a more lenient policy toward “illegal aliens” is not that they’re vital members of their families, communities, unions and workplaces, or that immigration agents shouldn’t be campaigning to tear apart families, or that everyone has a right to due process, or that democracy in a pluralistic society hinges on equality before the law. If you listen to the bosses with whom civil rights groups have formed an uneasy alliance, HB 56 is bad for Alabama not so much because it criminalizes people who want nothing more than to make a living for themselves, free of the oppression of an arbitrary and dysfunctional legal regime.
Instead, it’s harmful because it’s bad for business.
But while the strange-bedfellows strategy may be politically expedient, the opposition to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law can’t be centered on a narrow calculus that elevates capital above human rights. The Obama administration, too, has challenged immigration policies in Alabama and Arizona on anti-discrimination grounds, but overall, the White House has perpetuated the rampant abuses that plague the federal detention and deportation system.
And the deeper labor issues manifested by the immigration crisis wouldn’t go away if the law were defeated: there would still be no national discussion on combating wage theft, human trafficking, and restrictions on the right to organize–problems that affect native-born and immigrants alike.
Marisa Franco of the National Day Labor Organizing Network told In These Times:
Workers are increasingly facing situations where their bosses and even customers or clients feel the authority to threaten and harass with little recourse of justice. When local police take a mandate to enforce federal immigration laws, employers have a powerful tool to undermine hard won labor protections. Its a threat to all workers and the fundamental right to organize.
The only way to reorient the dialogue toward rights and away from profits is to help workers and organized labor understand that the zero-sum game of “competition” for the most degrading jobs keeps the economically disenfranchised divided along false lines of “legal” versus “illegal.”
For now, activists may form strategic alliances to fight anti-immigrant bills like Alabama’s. But if they let bosses and big business frame the debate going forward, they’ll lose the real battle—for economic justice for all.