* OCCUPY CHICAGO READY FOR A SPRING OF DISCONTENT
By Mark Cassello, Leftist Indignation
[…] The Chicago Spring
Occupy the Midwest Regional Conference
The Chicago Spring began at the first ever Occupy the Midwest Regional Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. This event ran from March 15-18, 2012 and brought together all of the occupations from throughout Midwest to share skills, network, and plan regional and national days of action. The conference commemorates the six-month anniversary of the Occupy Movement and began at 10:00 am on March 15, 2012 beneath the famed Gateway Arch. The organizers of the conference selected this site for its symbolic importance: the creation of the Gateway Arch displaced low-income residents after the city appropriated real estate for the project. Apart from meetings, a series of actions targeted Bank of America, Monsanto, and others during the conference.
Chicago Spring Kickoff
On Saturday, April 7, 2012 Occupy Chicago will host a series of events throughout the city with the support of various community and labor groups with which it is allied. In the morning, different occupations, unions, and community groups will hold actions in their neighborhoods or around their areas of interest. At 1:15 pm, the groups will converge at Jackson and LaSalle and then march to Grant Park where they will host a giant potluck dinner in the evening. This event will showcase the growing connections between Occupy Chicago and various other community and labor groups throughout the city; it is the debut of the post-winter alliances.
May Day, International Workers’ Day
On May 1, 2012, Occupy Chicago will join labor and immigrant rights groups for a massive action that they hope will reach or exceed the levels of participation witnessed in 2006. By all indications, May 2012 is ripe for large-scale civil unrest by labor and immigrant rights groups. Last year marked the largest assault on the rights of organized labor in the past thirty years. Republican governors such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Mitch Daniels in Indiana pushed through legislation that erodes workers’ rights to organize and to collectively bargain. The immigrant community was also under attack in 2011. States implemented harsh policies against undocumented individuals and made little effort to punish corporations who exploit these same individuals for profit. Controversial anti-immigration measures passed in Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. In addition, the Obama administration deported a record number of individuals while the remaining Republican presidential candidates’ stepped up inflammatory rhetoric against “illegal immigrants.” This antagonism unifies the Latino community and makes a backlash from the fastest growing segment of America’s population inevitable.
NATO / G8 Protests
Chicago will host the NATO summit on May 20-21. Occupy Chicago plans to elevate the struggles of its constituent communities to the national stage with help from its national and international supporters. On Saturday, May 19, 2012, Occupy Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8) will host a day of actions. An opening rally is scheduled for noon at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington St.). Later, a large permitted march will make the 2.5-mile journey from Daley Plaza along State Street across to Michigan Avenue and then wind down to McCormick Place.
According to a statement on the CANG8 blog, the demonstrators will march in May during the NATO meeting to deliver an anti-war message: “Jobs, Housing, Healthcare, Education, Pensions, and the Environment: Not War!” Occupy Chicago anticipates that tens of thousands will be in the streets that day for a family friendly rally and march that CANG8 states will bring “cries so loud they will be heard in Camp David and across the globe.” These demonstrators claim they will “fight for our future, and speak out against the wars and their cutbacks are designed to benefit the 1% at the expense of the 99% of the world.”
Occupy Chicago has roundly criticized the priorities of Mayor Emanuel who has dwelled on the largely symbolic importance of hosting the NATO event while ignoring the literal needs of the city: “He’s bringing this monstrosity to our city and none of us want the G8/NATO here. It’s going to hurt business, burden the already cash-strapped city, and disrupt the lives of everyday Chicagoans in a way that may keep them from earning their paycheck, getting transportation to their job, or picking their kids up from school.” […]
* CHICAGO NATO PROTEST HIT WITH RED TAPE
Will Rahm Emanuel’s bureaucratic maneuvers shut down NATO protests?
By Natasha Lennard, Salon
When the White House announced that the G-8 this coming May would be moved out of Chicago to the president’s sequestered retreat at Camp David, protesters planning to hit the Windy City streets celebrated the move as a victory: It seemed the mere prospect of their presence, with numbers expected in the tens of thousands, had run the G-8 out of town.
Plus the NATO summit, planned for mid-May in Chicago, would still be occasion for massive protests in the city. But, adding to obstacles posed by a host of strict new rules for protests introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Occupy groups and allies planning mass anti-NATO street actions are running up against reams of red tape. While the city granted a parade permit for a group planning to march during the proposed G-8 summit, a request by the very same group to move the parade back one day to coincide instead with the NATO summit has been denied. According to the Chicago Tribune, city officials cited “a lack of police officers as well as other security and logistics complications” because of the first day of the NATO summit as the reason for the permit rejection. The presence of 5,000 NATO delegates will put the city on lockdown; a mass march that day, they suggest, would overwhelm security and transport resources. The original request for a permit the day before was approved, a Law Department spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times, because the G-8 is significantly smaller than NATO. […]
* M22 NYPD TRIES TO INCITE RIOTS AT OWS UNION SQUARE
TOP COMMENT: Just like when they keep screaming “stop resisting” while they pile on top of you with10 guys.
* REPORTER MATT TAIBBI SAYS FRAUD AND BAILOUTS ARE THE SECRETS TO BANK OF AMERICA’S SUCCESS
Source: Democracy Now!
In his new article, “Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail,” Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi chronicles the remarkable history of the rise of Bank of America — an institution he says has defrauded “everyone from investors and insurers to homeowners and the unemployed.” Taibbi describes how the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly propped up the financial institution, which received a $45 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008. Bank of America has also received billions in what could be described as shadow bailouts. The bank now owns more than 12 percent of the nation’s bank deposits and 17 percent of all home mortgages.
* US TAXPAYERS COMMENCE BAILING OUT ECB WITH GREECE AS AIN INTERMEDIARY
The US Taxpayer is unknowingly funding the bailout of more banks in Europe and Greece through the International Monetary Fund.
By Alexander Higgens
Over the past few month we have made it expressly clear that as part of its bailout of European banks, all Greek “bailout” funding in the form of super senior first lien debt funded by the Troika (since the Greek balance sheet now has 7 distinct debt classes), which counts the IMF among its backers, which in turn means you, US taxpayers, will go to European banks and most importantly, that most undercapitalized hedge fund of all, the ECB, LLC. Said funding has now officially commenced. There are those Greeks who may read the following headline from Reuters with delight “Greece receives first tranche of new bailout aid”, at least until they get to the following part: “Greece has received the first 7.5 billion euros of aid from its new EU/IMF bailout, with the bulk of the payment going to repay bonds held by the euro zone’s central banks, government officials said on Tuesday.” So while the Greek may particularly care that not only will they not see much if any of the actual bailout cash, and in fact will soon have to start using their gold to fill the capital shortfall as reported here, we are curious what the response will be from US taxpayers, who are on the hook for about 17% of IMF funding, as the money starts trickling in, however not for some old-fashioned concepts such as stimulating jobs, but simply to indirectly, with Greece as a conduit, bailout Europe’s insolvent central banks. […]
* ARE THE EUROPEAN BANKS SAVING GREECE OR SAVING THEMSELVES?
By Kevin Featherstone, UK Guardian
Who is rescued by the bailouts of the European debt crisis? The question won’t go away. Last week, Greece was granted a second bailout in order to avoid a catastrophic disorderly default. Few observers believe it will be enough to avoid the need for a third bailout, at least in the medium term. This week, the story of the euro crisis has shifted to Portugal as expectations rise on the financial markets that she too will need a second bailout. It wasn’t supposed to be like this: Greece’s first bailout almost two years ago was to be a one-off; more recently, EU leaders have repeatedly insisted that there would be no repeat of its second package. Once again, they appear King Canute-like: whatever their claims, they cannot turn back the waves of scepticism from the markets.
The Greek banks – vital to the provision of new investment in an economy facing a sixth year of continuous recession – have certainly not been “rescued”. The haircuts on the Greek debt of 53%, imposed in the name of PSI (private sector involvement), have severely damaged them, but this is compounded by their losses of about a further 20% on the new bonds they were forced to accept. The banks now face large-scale nationalisation. So, a sector that has only in the last two decades been freed to operate as private institutions and has shown a vibrancy for growth and foreign takeovers unmatched in other parts of the Greek economy, is now to be returned to the hands of a political class lambasted for its lack of economic discipline. How this might be a stimulus to a more competitive economy is decidedly unclear.
The problem is in how Greece is being rescued. The bailouts have increasingly shifted to the imposition of severe cuts across the board. In the past two years, Greece has implemented a reduction of its budget deficit unprecedented not only in the EU, but in the entire OECD area. But the new terms insist on the sacking of 15,000 public servants each year for the next 10 years. The number has been arrived at purely from the budget constraint.
I know from my own involvement with Greek policymaking in the area of research policy that the bailout constraint is being imposed as a series of short-term fixes, eschewing efforts at long-term planning.
Crucially, there is no steer or stimulus here as to how the Greek system should be remodelled in order to shift to a better path of development. The obsession is with the budget balance, not with selectivity or design. The political effect at home is to create a simplistic divide between those for or against austerity, rather than leading a substantive debate on real structural reforms.
With such a charge, the EU and IMF representatives – composing the troika overseeing the Greek bailout – march into ministerial offices on a weekly basis to check that the targets are being met. These second- or third-level officials bask in their unprecedented authority. Stories abound of them walking into meetings with senior ministers, discarding the niceties of a polite greeting, and shouting straightaway, “So, what have you achieved, then?” Young bureaucrats from Brussels lead meetings with ministers ostentatiously giving scant attention to the oral reports offered to them, as they turn sideways and play with their BlackBerrys. In the name of “Europe”, a neocolonial arrogance underscores the fixation with the budget accounts. […]
* GREEKS ADOPT ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES AS ECONOMY IMPLODES
By Alex Newman, New American
[…] The TEM system works by allowing people in the community to set up an account on an online network, connecting them with others in the area with various needs and a wide array of services to offer. Users also receive a sort of booklet allowing them to essentially write “checks” to pay for goods and services.
A real market where people can meet to trade in TEMS is also a key component of the emerging network. And efforts are currently underway to establish a daily market in an unused building for locals to engage in commerce using their system.
Babysitters, farmers, teachers, electricians, barbers, bakers, computer technicians, opticians, veterinarians, and more are all represented. Most traders accept both euros and TEMs, or some combination of the two.
Member accounts start with zero TEMs, although users are allowed to borrow up to 300 units if they agree to repay it over a certain time period. And to prevent “hoarding,” the system’s managers explained, no user is allowed to have over 1,200 units of the currency.
“It’s an easier, more direct way of exchanging goods and services,” German-born homeopathist and acupuncturist Bernhardt Koppold, an active member of the Volos network, told the UK Guardian. “It’s also a way of showing practical solidarity — of building relationships.”
Dozens of other users expressed similar sentiments about their budding system. Co-founders of the TEMs network also explained that if the crisis were to spiral further into the realm of cataclysm, the alternative-currency system could help take up the slack — ensuring that a functioning economy would allow people to continue trading for survival. […]
* GREECE ON THE BREADLINE: CASHLESS CURRENCY TAKES OFF
A determination to ‘move beyond anger to creativity’ is driving a strong barter economy in some places
By John Henley, UK Guardian
In recent weeks, Theodoros Mavridis has bought fresh eggs, tsipourou (the local brandy: beware), fruit, olives, olive oil, jam, and soap. He has also had some legal advice, and enjoyed the services of an accountant to help fill in his tax return.
None of it has cost him a euro, because he had previously done a spot of electrical work – repairing a TV, sorting out a dodgy light – for some of the 800-odd members of a fast-growing exchange network in the port town of Volos, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki.
In return for his expert labour, Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people’s accounts.
“It’s an easier, more direct way of exchanging goods and services,” said Bernhardt Koppold, a German-born homeopathist and acupuncturist in Volos who is an active member of the network. “It’s also a way of showing practical solidarity – of building relationships.” […]
* GREECE ON THE BREADLINE: HOW LEFTOVERS BECAME A MEAL
Jon Henley visits Boroume which puts restaurants with unsold food at the end of each day in touch with soup kitchens
By John Henley, UK Guardian
It used to annoy Xenia Papastavrou, the way Greek tavernas always give you loads of bread, way more bread than you can eat. She started taking it home, just to avoid the waste. Then one night last year a waiter suggested she might as well take all that day’s leftover bread away with her, and she had an idea.
“I thought, there must be lots of other restaurants in this situation, too,” Papastavrou said. “And I was sure none of them knew where they could usefully give it. And at the same time, I knew there were many, many welfare organisations in this crisis that were spending good money on buying fresh bread. It just needed someone to put the two together.”
Boroume – it means “we can” in Greek – was born last May in Papastavrou’s living room. “I went first to the two bakeries nearest my home, and they were only too delighted to help,” she said. “An average bakery could have as much as 30kg of unsold bread at the end of the day. I told a soup kitchen three minutes away, and they couldn’t believe their luck.”
A volunteer at Athens’ Food Bank, Papastavrou promptly put her masters degree on hold and enlisted the help of friends to build a web platform on which companies with any kind of fresh surplus food could offer it, and welfare groups that needed it could accept. She started talking about the idea on Facebook and Twitter, and one of Greece‘s biggest newspapers, Kathimerini, wrote about it.
In under a year, the organisation has grown fast. Venetis, the country’s largest chain of bakeries with more than 50 outlets, is one of 70 Boroume donors that now include the Athens Attica Hotel Association, fast-food chains, grocers and multinationals like IKEA. Private families around the country also donate, as do Greeks from the diaspora in Canada, Australia and the US.
A network of some 400 welfare organisations, from old people’s homes and orphanages to drop-in centres for the homeless and church, voluntary and municipal soup kitchens, takes up the donations. Astonishingly, one in 11 residents of greater Athens – some 400,000 people – now visits a soup kitchen daily.
The group’s Facebook page has 5,000 friends. A team of 15 volunteers man the website and phones, putting donors in touch with nearby recipients – to save time and resources, Boroume limits its role to that of intermediary. “We just put them in touch,” said Papastavrou. “After that, they can deal directly with each other.” […]
* BRADLEY MANNING HEARING DAY 2
It is day two of the latest Bradley Manning hearing at Fort Meade. The whole thing wrapped in about 25 minutes. However we did learn the fate of the motion filed by Coombs yesterday. The judge ruled against the defense’s motion to gain access to classification authorities. She said she’s quite happy with the way authorities have determined who the defense can and cannot use as a witness. She said the government did a bang up job during the Article 32 hearing back in December, and if they did their job then, then she just blindly trusts that they’ve done their job this time around too.
* 2 U.S. JUDGES PLEAD GUILTY TO SELLING CHILDREN TO PRIVATE PRISONS
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Penn. Judges Plead Guilty To Taking Bribes For Placing Youths in Privately Owned Jails 1 of 2
An unprecedented case of judicial corruption is unfolding in Pennsylvania. Several hundred families have filed a class-action lawsuit against two former judges whove pleaded guilty to taking bribes in return for placing youths in privately owned jails. Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are said to have received $2.6 million for ensuring juvenile suspects were jailed in prisons operated by the companies PA Child Care and a sister company, Western PA Child Care. Some of the youths were jailed over the objections of their probation officers. An estimated 5,000 juveniles have been sentenced by Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2002. We speak to two youths sentenced by Ciavarella and to Bob Schwartz of the Juvenile Law Center.
* DON’T TALK TO POLICE
A law school professor and former criminal defense attorney tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.