Strike While It's Hot

Today, Occupy Oakland ups the ante in Occupy Wall Street tactics: It has called a general strike for the city of Oakland.

Protest and Possibility

"We are the 99 percent" has the virtue of being true as well as mobilizing.

In barely a month, mainstream liberal reaction to the Wall Street protests shifted from patronizing to envious. Progressive groups want to impose their own reform agendas onto the widening energy gen-erated by these novice activists. The right-wing response, meanwhile, has evolved from scornful to evasive. Over a week, Mitt Romney, ever the chameleon, flipped from “We don’t want class warfare” to “I understand how those people feel.” Even Ben Bernanke professed sympathy for the concerns. Wait till the marchers reach the Fed.

On Borrowed Time

President Obama's new student loan plan isn't enough to help students saddled with debt.

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced its new plan for student loans: new graduates can cap their student loan repayments to 10 percent of their monthly income. After 20 years, their debt will be forgiven. Graduates already repaying their loans can consolidate and get half a percent interest rate cut. These changes will go into effect next year, two years before they were already scheduled to do so, and the administration said the move was in response to an online petition drive on its “We the People” site.

Can't Hardly Wait

AP Photo/Scott Sommerdorf

Critics of the young people sleeping on cardboard at Occupy Wall Street argue the next generation should engage in the political process, not merely protest it. But some very politically engaged young people in Lowell, Massachusetts, are revealing that the political system doesn’t exactly welcome their engagement.

Earlier this year, 1,500 members of the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) launched a campaign in Lowell to lower the voting age to 17 for city elections. The entire effort, from fundraising, to door knocking to lobbying legislators, was organized and led by the teens. They made an eloquent case for lowering the voting age.

Campus Cash

Teacher evaluations are becoming big business for private companies

AP Photo/Andy King

New education reforms often translate into big money for private groups. Following the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, states paid millions of dollars annually for companies to develop and administer the standardized tests required under the law. Companies also cashed in on a provision mandating tutoring for students at struggling schools.

Occupy Wall Street's Race Problem

Young protesters at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New Jersey Oct. 6 with a debt=slavery sign.

The economic crisis has disproportionately affected people of color, in particular African Americans. Given the stark economic realities in communities of color, many people have wondered why the Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t become a major site for mobilizing African Americans. For me, it's not about the diversity of the protests. It's about the rhetoric used by the white left that makes OWS unable to articulate, much less achieve, a transformative racial-justice agenda. 

Occupy the Web

AP Photo/John Minchillo

This is a guest post from sociologists Neal Caren and Sarah Gaby of UNC-Chapel Hill.  The paper they are discussing is available here.

While Occupy Wall Street has received most of its attention for its sustained public displays of numbers and commitment in New York City and many other locations, the movement also has an impressive online infrastructure. In addition to individual websites, multiple Twitter hashtags and dozens of Livestreams, more than 400 Facebook pages have been established in support of various US Occupy mobilizations. In order to begin to understand how activists and their supporters are using Facebook, we have been creating an archive of all the posts and comments shared on these pages since the movement began. In our working paper, we detail the data we have collected, including trends by location and major categories of posts; here we highlight some of the basic trends we have identified. The data here includes information collected up until October 17th.

A total of 911,822 posts or comments had been contributed to occupy related Facebook pages. Daily Occupy activity on Facebook peaked on October 11th with 64,410 posts. On the day when 129 people associated with Occupy Boston were arrested, 20,912 people contributed to 64,410 posts or comments on 352 Occupy related pages.

More than 400 US Occupation related Facebook pages have been established. The largest of these is the page associated with the original Wall Street Occupation. More than 40,000 individuals have contributed over 200,000 posts or comments to this page. Of the 50 largest Facebook pages in terms of users, 43 of them are associated with specific local occupations. The largest of the local Occupy Facebook is Occupy Boston, with almost 8,000 users.

Most Occupation pages were started between September 23th and October 5th. Only a handful of pages were created in the first few days of the Wall Street Occupation. This number jumped on September 23rd, a date that doubled the total number of Occupation pages. The increase in the number of pages during this time period was likely a combination of the efforts of Occupy Together and Occupy Colleges to facilitate local occupations, combined with the increased media attention that the movement received. Most of the pages starting during this time were designed to spur a local occupation,

A total of 153,056 people have been active on Occupation related Facebook sites. This number counts only those who have contributed to a page, either by posting or through a comment, and does not count those who have only “liked” or “shared” a page or post. This includes 55,150 individuals active on Occupy Wall Street related pages; 23,641 on national pages; 5,989 on state or regional pages, and 99,664 on local pages.

Before September 28th, a majority of new users posted on the Occupy Wall Street page. Since then, two-thirds have been first observed active on local pages. There isn’t much overlap between the Wall Street and the non-Wall street folk, as 90% of individuals who became interested enough in a local Occupation to comment on it first became involved in their local sites.

Facebook pages may play less of a role as the movement develops its own online and offline structures, but it has been a mechanism for a large number of people to encounter and interact with other potential supporters in a familiar setting.

Occupy the Rules Committee

For last two months, we’ve been engaged in something of a natural experiment to see if presidential speechifying—in this case, a consistent focus on jobs—is enough to move public opinion in a progressive direction and create avenues for legislative success. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Instead, Republicans have taken their usual position of staunch opposition, and moderate Democrats have given them cover by opposing the administration’s modest efforts to raise taxes and offset the costs of new stimulus.

The NYPD: A Movement's Best Friend

Occupy Wall Street's confrontations with police and politicians have only fueled the protest's growth.

NYPD clashes with Occupy Wall Street protesters have made the demonstration a national story. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Tensions at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan mounted last week after New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Occupy Wall Street activists would need to vacate the premises temporarily for cleaning. In response to the threat, occupiers cleaned the park themselves and said that, come morning, they would hold brooms, link arms, and peacefully refuse to leave. Bloomberg backed down, and once more, Occupy Wall Street confirmed that it could endure in the face of resistance from politicians and police.  A better question is whether the movement could have endured without the attention and momentum it's gained from confrontation.

Must-See OWS Clip

This you gotta see. Really. which Alec Baldwin very nicely talks with an Occupy Wall Street whacko and explains that what we really need is an active SEC, not one that's in the pocket of the banks.

More Reagan than Reagan

The two leading stories on the nightly news for the past week have been the Occupy Wall Street protests and the Republican primary race, a contrast so vivid that the reports could be coming from two different planets.

First, we see thousands of citizens so frustrated and angry with economic inequality in the U.S. that they have organized to protest in hundreds of cities around the country. Then we see a group of contenders for president agree that the only economic problem we have is that wealth and influence are not sufficiently concentrated at the top.