Tag: occupy wall street

Now Here’s an Idea: Occupy Wall Street Offshoot Wants to Buy Up Consumer Debt

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Occupy Wall Street activists have hit upon a novel way to provide people with debt relief: buy it up and cancel it. The initiative, a project of the non-profit Strike Debt called Rolling Jubilee, buys distressed debt from banks for pennies on the dollar, and then, instead of trying to collect on it, abolishes it.

Chris Hedges to Speak on the "Death of the Liberal Class"

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Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and activist Chris Hedges — who was arrested in November for denouncing Goldman Sachs in front of their New York office — will come to MICA on March 26 to give a free talk related to his new book, Death of the Liberal Class, which — if you couldn’t get it from the title — “examines the failure of the liberal class to confront the rise of the corporate state and the consequences of a liberalism that has become profoundly bankrupted.”

The only truly passionate arguments I tend to hear against the corporate state are usually delivered by a friend who has had one too many. So, if you’re like me, getting an assessment of corporatism and the liberal class by someone with decades of journalistic experience traveling the globe to cover stories for NPR, the Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times, among others, would be a real treat.

Chris Hedges will speak at the Brown Center: Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave on Monday, March 26 at 7 p.m.

Bank Transfer Day and Its Effect on Baltimore

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Remember Bank Transfer Day? That push by consumer activists for people to switch their accounts from commercial banks to credit unions in November? Well, it worked. Javelin Strategy & Research finally published a report estimating how many people actually participated. Looks like 5.6 million customers switched to credit unions in the last ninety days, with 610,000 of them naming Bank Transfer Day as their reason. Over 1.4 million cited bank fees (the main issue behind BTD).

But that’s the whole country. To find out what kind of impact Bank Transfer Day had locally, I spoke with Dorothea Stierhoff, Senior PR Manager at MECU, Baltimore City’s credit union. According to her, MECU has seen an increase in membership since Occupy Wall Street and Bank Transfer Day, but hasn’t parsed out how much of that increase is specifically due to either event. Her impression is that credit unions on the West Coast saw a bigger bump than their East Coast counterparts. The greatest benefit she’s seen from OWS and BTD is “more people knowing what credit unions are. When you said credit union, people thought it was a ‘union.’ They didn’t realize it was a financial cooperative, and it’s something they can join.” In fact, MECU membership is open to “anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Baltimore City.” You could even join if you are only related to someone who fits one of those categories.

Stierhoff explains the appeal of credit unions: “People like the idea of being the owner. In a credit union, you become a member, and the profits go to you.” And she’s not blowing smoke. “You know, we gave 4.25 million dollars to our members last year. I don’t know of a bank that did that.” Hmmm, let me think a second.

Occupy Baltimore Gets Evicted

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Early yesterday morning, Baltimore police in riot gear evicted Occupy Baltimore protesters who had been camping out at McKeldin Square for the last ten weeks.

Protester Mike Gibb said that with the eviction the movement enters into “Phase Two,” in which demonstrators begin squatting in empty buildings. It is not clear whether Gibb speaks for the larger Occupy Baltimore community.

Certainly Occupy’s tent cities and general assemblies are interesting (even inspiring), as are the issues it’s raised about the right of citizens to peaceably assemble in public spaces and on college campuses, but it wasn’t conceived as a movement about squatters’ rights or as a prototype for an alternative society, and I for one think it would be unfortunate if that’s what it becomes.

Over the past few months Occupy Wall Street has gained the support of many and caught the attention of almost everybody. Ending Wall Street’s inordinate influence on politics is becoming a goal with mainstream appeal. Let’s not be so fascinated with the trappings of agitation; let’s stay on message.

Whatever the movement decides to do from here, they’ve wasted no time regrouping. Last night’s general assembly was simply moved to War Memorial Plaza.

Business Insider’s Complicated Stance Re "Occupy" Movement

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In 2003, Henry Blodget was permanently barred from the securities industry by the SEC and required to pay four million dollars for securities fraud—publishing reports on companies that inflated their value or stability, and that contradicted his private, negative opinion of them. He’s now CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider, a blog reporting business trends and research. By all rights, he should be the last guy to publicly declare his sympathy for the gripes of the “Occupy” protesters.

But a quick search of Business Insider’s website yields article after article by Blodget, in which he outlines his general agreement with their complaints and qualified support for their aims. He calls “the juxtaposition of 1) extreme inequality, 2) super-high unemployment, and 3) record high corporate profits” a “serious problem” and even agrees with some of Occupy Wall Street’s recent demands.

But behind some of his seemingly even-handed statements lies poor reasoning. “The entire country bears responsibility for our massive debt build-up and financial crisis, from Wall Street to Main Street to K Street to the Federal Reserve to the White House to Capitol Hill,” he states in a recent article. But the implication that “Main Street” shares an equal (or nearly equal) amount of blame as Wall Street and Capitol Hill? Outrageous. An unequal distribution of power (which Blodget has the charts to demonstrate) excludes an equal distribution of responsibility.

In the same piece, he lists what he judges legitimate frustrations of Wall Streeters. Wall Street is frustrated “that its success, which the country needs much more of, is being vilified.” But is that claim, that the country needs “much more” success from Wall Street, justified? Doesn’t record high unemployment paired with record high corporate profits cast doubt on the assumption that success on Wall Street brings some automatic benefit to the country as a whole? In fact, isn’t this the whole point — that large corporations and the financial sector have increased their wealth at the expense of the vast majority of Americans?

Still, Blodget’s sympathy with the grievances of the Occupy movement (which includes an ongoing “Occupy Baltimore” protest) ought to be heartening. Perhaps more of the “one-percent” will realize how much they depend on the other ninety-nine and earnestly work to rectify the situation.

Baltimore Marathon This Saturday to Share Space with ‘Occupy’ Protest

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The Occupy Baltimore protest in the Inner Harbor is in its second week and showing no sign of slowing. But this Saturday, the Baltimore offshoot of the international anti-corporate movement will be sharing McKeldin Plaza with the Baltimore Marathon, which has a permit to use the protest site.

According to minutes from the group’s October 9 general assembly (published online), Occupy Baltimore is in communication with the organizers of the marathon to work out a way to accommodate both happenings.

Assuming the double-occupancy is resolved, marathon runners can expect to receive a quick education in the corrupting influence of Corporate America in addition to  a bottle of water at around mile nine.

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