Category Archives: Debt

Students protesters march across the country

The Million Student March erupted Thursday across the country, even here in Berkeley [which was never the Berzerkeley so beloved of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and their ilk.

We have two video reports. both with a Berkeley twist.

From up, via The Real News Network, an interview with a Berkeley student instrumental in the protests:

#MillionStudentMarch: Thousands Walkout Across The Country

From the transcript:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: The Million Student March. Thousands walked out of classes at over 100 campuses across the country on Thursday. Among their demands included addressing racial injustice, free tuition at college campuses and universities, cancellation of the country’s $1.2 trillion student debt, and a $15 wage for all university workers.

LAUREN BUTLER: Wall Street has infiltrated our education system. Education has been commodified, you know, and put on Wall Street to be gambled with.

NOOR: Tying racial justice and economic injustice is UC Berkeley student Lauren Butler. She helped organize the walkout on her campus.

BUTLER: People are disadvantaged in education because of their race. And the same system that oppresses us all as students, the same corporate system that benefits off of the creation of debt, you know, essentially the creation of poverty, right, these are the same people that like to exploit people of color, black people especially.

NOOR: Butler also cites the activism at the University of Missouri earlier this week that led to the toppling of two key university officials demonstrates the potential of students to achieve their demands when they are organized.

BUTLER: We’re really seeing a shift in the power dynamics, right. So what Missouri really taught us is that we have to speak their language to get a reaction out of them, right, and we did that. And the reactions of the students, you know, the reactions of the individual students, these disgusting hate crimes and acts of terror against the black students, it really is just reflective of this larger white supremacist power structure.

And from RT’s Ruptly TV, here’s some raw footage of the demonstrations here in Berkeley Thursday:

USA: Million Student March shuts down UC Berkley campus

Program notes:

Hundreds of students marched through the University of California’s Berkeley campus to demand free education, Thursday. The students who were joined by campaign group ‘Nurses for Bernie Sanders.’ Organisers are demanding tuition-free colleges, a cancellation of all student debt as well as a minimum $15 (€13.9) an hour wage for campus workers. The rally was one of many held on campuses across America under the name ‘Million Student March.’

A Greek tragedy: Selling off the commons

VPRO, Dutch public television, produces excellent documentaries on a wide range of important topics, and the network’s Backlight series is about as good as it gets.

We were delighted to find they’ve just posted a number of new offerings, one of the most important being this a look at the massive sellout of the Greek commons, one that’s certain to continue under the so-called “radical” Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras, who has proved a faithful servant of the Troika of IMF/European Central Bank/European Commission overseeing the austerity mandated in exchange for the post-crash bailouts of the Greek government.

From VPRO International:

Documentary: Greece for sale [VPRO Backlight]

Program notes:

Now that a Grexit seems to have been averted, and the strictest cutbacks ever have been announced, Greece is entering a new chapter. The welfare state is dismantled even further and all state property is weighed and sold. What dangers are lurking, and how will the Greek sellout change the country?

Over six months after taking office, the new Greek political leaders reluctantly have to admit that they have lost the battle with the European creditors. Other ideas become more important. But what are those other ideas? Can the Greek take matters into their own hands, or will they accept more help from abroad? On this crossroads of developments, Backlight elucidates three painful options for Greece.

Captain Fu Chengqiu is in charge of the Chinese-run port of Piraeus, the container transhipment at the gateway to Europe that has been run very successfully by COSCO, a Chinese state-owned company. It is booming with economic activity. Containers are unloaded, lorries are constantly driving to and fro. But there is hardly a Chinese in sight. The Greeks that work here don’t protest. Discipline is key. From his office with a view of the port, Fu explains his business philosophy. It is based on the manual of the new authoritarian capitalist Chinese style: work hard and don’t whine. It seems to be working. While the Chinese piers are buzzing with activity, the Greek piers a little further down look desolate.

The gold and copper mine of Skouries is a paragon of Greek dilemma. The mine isn’t Greek, it’s Canadian. To get to the ore, a large part of the land is excavated. And the gold is not extracted in Greece, but in China. There is a great deal of opposition. Takis Kaltsos and Nina Karina have been involved in a conflict for years. They don’t just have a problem with the widely hated privatizations of Greek interests, but also with the total sellout of their country – to say nothing of the environmental burden. But the mine provides jobs, and they are much needed. That is the only thing that keeps Greece afloat: jobs and investments, says Dimitris Tsiolakis The mine offers hope, he says. One would have to be a fool to object to that in today’s circumstances.

Greek MP Kostas Lapavitsas believes that the Greeks should take matters into their own hands and stop relying on, what he calls, foreign interference, whether it comes from Europe, from China or from Canada. Not only is he a pronounced advocate of a Grexit, he is also highly concerned about the lack of faith and self-esteem among the Greeks. To prove that things can be different, he sends us to Naoussa, his power base, where hundreds of textile workers try to breathe new life into their bankrupt factory themselves. Greece doesn’t need the corrupt elite, the workers say. It is perfectly capable of coping on its own.

The epilogue of this episode is the last euro coin factory in Greece, on the Albanian border. This is where Greece mints its one, two and five eurocent coins – as long as the Central Bank asks for them. And when it doesn’t, there is always the alternative: shell casings for the army. In fact, the options are simple, say the handful of factory workers: it’s either the euro or the bullet.

Berkeley politics: Corrupt business as usual

In Berkeley, a town where developers are kings and poor people are being gentrified out of existence, genteel sleaze is the order of the day, as we noted recently.

The latest example to raise a stink in the normally complacent mainsteam media comes from the Oakland Tribune, under the headline “Berkeley council member profited from police chief’s public home loan.”

Here’s the gist from the story by reporter Thomas Peele:

In a move that ethicists call fraught with conflicts and cronyism, a city council member who voted to give Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan a $500,000 housing loan from public funds later worked as his real estate agent and took a commission on the chief’s purchase of a home, records show.

Councilmember Lawrence Capitelli said he split the nearly $30,000 commission on the $1.185 million sale with another agent in his office at Red Oak Realty, where he was a partner. The firm also took a cut of the commission. Capitelli’s questionable role in the 2010 home sale came to light this week after the Bay Area News Group published a story Sunday that showed how at least 33 local governments use taxpayer funds to help top public officials pay for housing.

A Berkeley city council member since 2004, Capitelli insists he did nothing wrong by representing Meehan after the council voted in November 2009 to loan the chief $500,000 because the two hadn’t discussed representation at the time of the vote.

But the Oakland Tribune story is a bit late, given that former mayoral candidate and Berkeley gadfly Zelda Bronstein had reported the same story three years ago for the Berkeley Daily Planet, a fact Peele failed to acknowledge in his story.

From her 31 October 2012 report:

On November 10, 2009, Laurie Capitelli joined the rest of the Berkeley City Council in approving the appointment of Michael Meehan as the City’s new police chief, effective December 13, 2009. The resolution of approval authorized “a housing assistance loan of up to $500,000 for the purchase of a residence within the City of Berkeley”.

In 2010 Chief Meehan moved into a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in north Berkeley. I assume that he used his $500,000 loan from the City to purchase that property, which sold for $1,185,000. The seller used an agent from Northbrae Properties; the buyer used Red Oak real estate agent and Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

What makes the story more interesting is that Capitelli is the successor-apparent to Mayor Tom Bates, who is now in his final term of presiding over giveaways to his real estate developer pals.

Bates controls a city council majority elected in campaigns where the primary bankrollers are folks who are eager to gentrify every part of the city, and their gaze is now fixed on the city’s last remaining sanctuary for lower-income people of color.

As for the police chief, he’s the same fellow who gave his officers free rein to lay into peaceful as well as violent “Black Lives Matter” protests, and who has overseen an increasing militarization of the department, including military camouflage uniforms for his SWAT teams and landed one of those ugly Pentagon mine-resistance assault vehicles for his troops.

So forget any notion of Berkeley as a liberal bastion. The only part of Berkeley City Council politics with a liberal bent is the succession of meaningless resolutions — and even there the inevitable hot button issue is anything having to deal with Israel.

From the 15 September San Jose Mercury-News:

Cheryl Davila didn’t realize that she had waded into a minefield when she wrote a Human Welfare and Community Action Commission resolution calling for city divestment in Israel. Davila was removed from the commission by Councilman Darryl Moore just before the panel took up the issue on Sept. 16.

Davila said she wrote the resolution after reading about the 2014 military operation in Gaza, during which more than 2,000 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis lost their lives. She had also recalled that Berkeley had been among the first entities to divest from the apartheid state of South Africa decades earlier.

In part, the resolution asks the city manager to “examine the feasibility of divesting all city of Berkeley direct holdings in companies complicit in ongoing violations of human rights and international law under Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories.”

Which brings us back to Capitell. Back in 2010, after Israel’s bloody Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, the he was scheduled to co-sponsor a city council resolution condemning the attack. That was when the same crew of ZioNutsies who organized a campaign of intimidating Berkeley Daily Planet advertisers because the paper published letters to the editors and op-ed scribes critical of Israel sprung into action.

Three comments posted to an article at JWeekly, a San Francisco Bay Area publication, report what happened next:

BLOG CapitelliThe Capitelli “watchdog” website was pulled.

Spizter and Gertz, along with now bankrupt PR guru Jim Sinkinson, were the key players in the war on the newspaper.

The site smearing the Daily Planet remains, a celebration of what the Israeli think tank the Reut Institute [advisers to the Israeli government] hails [PDF] as a successful “price tag” attack.

Kidnapping an African American baby legally

First the kidnapping, via news department of WESH 2, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, Florida:

3 days after missed payment, dealership repossesses car with 9-month-old inside

  • Mother went inside day care to pick up child when car was taken

A vehicle with a child inside of it was repossessed on Tuesday.

The Orlando Police Department helped the mother track down the vehicle and find the 9-month-old baby girl.

“I thought somebody kidnapped her because my oldest daughter said, ‘It was two white males [who] got in the car and they just left,'” Antoinette Jordan said.

Jordan went inside an Orlando day care to pick up her other two children, and when she went back outside, the car was gone.

Here’s the video report from WESH 2 News:

3 days after missed payment seller repossesses car with baby inside

Program note:

A vehicle with a child inside of it was repossessed on Tuesday.

H/T to Nothing To Do With Arbroath.

A WESH 2 News update answers the question provoked by our post-al headline:

A spokesman for Xpress Finance Inc. declined to appear on camera but said, “The rules are the rules.”

But what about the fact that the car was repossessed with her child still inside?

Because the men were in the process of reclaiming the car legally, under Florida law, WESH 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby said they are not subject to arrest.

“I think there’s a gap in the law here. There’s no reason someone can take a car that has a child in it and be justified,” Hornsby said.

To which we would respond as we would’ve to high school friends fifty-some years ago, “No shit, Sherlock.”

So the argument, hewing to the letter of the law, is that it wasn’t a kidnapping because they didn’t intend to take the child, only the car, which they were legally entitled to do: After all, as the company says, “The rules are the rules.”

But to the mother, there was no different whether her daughter was taken by repo men or an intentional child-stealer. She only knew that her daughter had been taken, along with her car. The grief and horror she experienced — traumas by any definition of the term — were absolutely real, exerting profound impacts that can [as we can attest] last a lifetime.

One can also argue that the car-takers may have seen the child — how could they not have? — but took the car anyway [and how did they know she was there unless they had been following her, and therefore almost certainly knew of the infant?]. At the very least, how did they not know, given that car repossessers are legally obliged to preserve personal property in that car at the time of repossession?

But, hey, mom would no doubt call the cops, and every ethical repo man notifies the cops about repossessions, as, in fact, they did.

As ownership becomes increasingly a right retained by the seller and no longer transferred to the buyer, possession becomes ephemeral, save for those who have amassed virtually all the world’s capital stock, both material and virtual, employing the machinery of finance to accelerate the accumulation.

In this case one small African American and her family were simply collateral damage.

Maps of the day: What’s for dinner, mom?

Not, the maps aren’t about food, but they are about the dramatic rise in young adults forced to live at home, largely because of the burdens of student loan debt.

The maps, by Liberty Street, are drawn from data from a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

First up, the pattern before the crash:

BLOG At home 2

Next, the post-crash comparison a decade later:

BLOG At home 1

Finally, from the Federal Reserve report, Debt, Jobs, or Housing: What’s Keeping Millennials at Home? [PDF], comparing patterns of residence and dramatic decline in home ownership by the young, drawn from the survey by the bank’s Consumer Credit Panel [CCP]:

BLOG At home 3

How about some real Hope™ and Change™?

If that’s what you’re looking for that, better move to Croatia.

From the Independent:

Croatia wipes out the debts of thousands of its poorest citizens in ‘fresh start’ scheme

Starting Monday, thousands of Croatia’s poorest citizens will benefit from an unusual gift: They will have their debts wiped out. Named “fresh start,” the government scheme aims to help some of the 317,000 Croatians whose bank accounts have been blocked due to their debts.

Given that Croatia is a relatively small Mediterranean country of only 4.4 million inhabitants, the number of indebted citizens is significant and has become a major economic burden for the country. After six years of recession, growth predictions for Croatia’s economy remain low for this year.

“We assess that this measure will be applicable to some 60,000 citizens,” Deputy Prime Minister Milanka Opacic was quoted as saying by Reuters. “Thus they will be given a chance for a new start without a burden of debt,” Opacic said earlier this month.

The most important video you’ll watch today

In one impassioned, articulate, angry,. and deeply humane speech from the floor of the United States Senate, Vermont’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders shreds the economic semantic subterfuges of those who now control both houses of Congress and would sugarcoat their completion of the handover of the nation and all its resources to the Kochs, Waltons, and other oligarchs now salivating at the thought of realization of Feudalism 2.0, a social Darwinian dystopia in which the older, the diseased, and the helpless are consigned to the elements and in which the masters have no reciprocal obligations whatsoever to the newly enserfed:

Trickle Down