So What Is Going on in Iceland?

Why Iceland Should Be in the News, But Is Not

By Deena Stryker

An Italian radio program’s story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt.  The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here’s why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors.  But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt.  In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent.  The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro.  At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution.  But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures.  The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros.  This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer’s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country.  As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF.  The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: “We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North.  But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.” (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt.  The IMF immediately froze its loan.  But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.

But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.  (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word ‘president’ replaced the word ‘king’.)

To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent’s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

Some readers will remember that Iceland’s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond’s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution.  And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.

That’s why it is not in the news anymore.

 

Stryker is an American writer that has lived in six different countries, is fluent in four languages and a published writer in three. She looks at the big picture from a systems and spiritual point of view.

This article was originally published by the Daily Kos. SACSIS cannot authorise its republication.

from:    http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/728.1

Occupy Oakland Event

 

ABC 7 News shuts cameras off on Occupy Oakland as police attack with gas

Published on October 25, 2011 8:30 pm PT
– By TWS CEO
– Signed by SEO Officer


(TheWeatherSpace.com) – This is not usually something TWS reports on but no other ‘media’ outlet will. During the Occupy Oakland march tonight (Tuesday), ABC News in the Bay area shut cameras off on the ground and in the sky the moment police attacked.

They said the chopper needed to refuel and will be back, but we all know this was not correct. A coincidence that both CBS and ABC choppers needed to refuel at the time police started attacking

There was a camera on the ground for a full minute showing exploding canisters, people screaming, and gas being covered everywhere and that was shut off shortly after.

This is the constitution, protests are allowed by it. For CBS and ABC to shut the cameras off during the time police violated the rights of the American people is journalism at the worst, in fact not even close to the integrity a real media outlet should bring.

Choppers are back in the air now as the march goes on.
View it live! 

from:    http://www.theweatherspace.com/news/TWS-102511_occupy-oakland-police-cameras-news.html

New York City Protests

Thousands of protesters fill NYC’s Times Square

By CHRIS HAWLEY – Associated Press 

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators protesting corporate greed filled Times Square on Saturday night, mixing with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.

“Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” protesters chanted from within police barricades. Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.

Sandy Peterson of Salt Lake City, who was in Times Square after seeing “The Book of Mormon” musical on Broadway, got caught up in the disorder.

“We’re getting out of here before this gets ugly,” she said.

Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, La., stood, confused, on 46th Street with a ticket for “Anything Goes” in her hand as riot police pushed a knot of about 200 shouting protesters toward her.

“I think it’s horrible what they’re doing,” she said of the protesters. “These people need to go get jobs.”

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators had marched north through Manhattan from Washington Square Park earlier in the afternoon. Once in Times Square, they held a rally for several hours before dispersing. Over the course of the day, more than 70 people were arrested.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said 42 people were arrested in Times Square on Saturday night after being warned repeatedly to disperse, and three others were arrested while trying to take down police barriers.

Two police officers were injured during the protest and had to be hospitalized. One suffered a head injury, the other a foot injury, Browne said.

Five people wearing masks were arrested earlier in the day. It wasn’t immediately clear what charges, if any, they may face.

Two dozen people were arrested on charges of criminal trespass Saturday morning when demonstrators entered a Citibank bank branch near Washington Square Park and refused to leave, police said. One protester also was arrested on a charge of resisting arrest.

Citibank said in a statement that police asked the branch to close until the protesters could be taken away. “One person asked to close an account and was accommodated,” Citibank said.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators paraded to a Chase bank branch, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed. Marchers throughout the country emulated them in protests that ranged from about 50 people in Jackson, Miss., to about 2,000 in the larger city of Pittsburgh.

“Banks got bailed out. We got sold out,” the crowd of as many as 1,000 in Manhattan chanted. A few protesters went inside the bank to close their accounts, but the group didn’t stop other customers from getting inside or seek to blockade the business.

Police told the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, and the demonstration appeared to be fairly orderly as it wound through downtown streets.

Overseas, violence broke out in Rome, where police fired tear gas and water cannons at some protesters who broke away from the main demonstration, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles. Dozens were injured.

Tens of thousands nicknamed “the indignant” marched in cities across Europe, as the protests that began in New York linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe. Protesters also turned out in Australia and Asia.

Across the Atlantic, hundreds protested in the heart of Toronto’s financial district. Some of the protesters announced plans to camp out indefinitely in St. James Park. Protests were also held in other cities across Canada from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

In the U.S., among the demonstrators in New York withdrawing their money from Chase was Lily Paulina, 29, an organizer with the United Auto Workers union who lives in Brooklyn. She said she was taking her money out because she was upset that JPMorgan Chase was making billions, while its customers struggled with bank fees and home foreclosures.

“Chase bank is making tons of money off of everyone … while people in the working class are fighting just to keep a living wage in their neighborhood,” she said.

Other demonstrations in the city Saturday included an anti-war march to mark the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.

Among the people participating in that march was Sergio Jimenez, 25, who said he quit his job in Texas to come to New York to protest.

“These wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all based on lies,” Jimenez said. “And if we’re such an intelligent country, we should figure out other ways to respond to terror, instead of with terror.”

Elsewhere in the country, nearly 1,500 gathered Saturday for a march past banks in downtown Orlando. About 50 people met in a park in downtown Jackson, Miss., carrying signs calling for “Health Care Not Warfare.”

Some made more considerable commitments to try to get their voices heard. Nearly 200 spent a cold night in tents in Grand Circus Park in Detroit, donning gloves, scarves and heavy coats to keep warm, said Helen Stockton, a 34-year-old certified midwife from Ypsilanti, and plan to remain there “as long as it takes to effect change.”

“It’s easy to ignore us,” Stockton said. Then she referred to the financial institutions, saying, “But we are not going to ignore them. Every shiver in our bones reminds us of why we are here.”

just remember, oftentimes the truth exists between the lines……………………

Grassroots Groundswell

Award-winning filmmaker, speaker, and advocate

This Is What a Groundswell Looks Like

Posted: 10/9/11 09:30 AM ET

In my travels across the country, I’ve been speaking about a rising generation ready to emerge from the shadows of the last decade and enter a new era of social change. Now we are seeing something emerge — a grassroots campaign has caught fire, turning out thousands of people, young and old, to create a free democratic space called Liberty Square on Wall Street.

All kinds of people are protesting that Wall Street has been rescued but there has been no help for most Americans. And city after city is joining them. Their statement:

We are the 99 percent. We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we are working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.

This is what a groundswell looks like. This is a moment that could spark a broader movement that reaffirms the human dignity of all people. In a time when the top 1 percent have as much income as the bottom 60 percent — a level of inequality not seen since before the Great Depression — it’s a matter of moral imperative to help fix a broken system.

Oct. 4 was a major day of action in New York, where an estimated 15,000 people marched for reform. I’m inspired by Jesse Jackson’s editorial in the Chicago Sun-Timesabout the protesters:

“The discipline of their demonstrations, the clarity of their moral voice, has touched a chord. Occupy Wall Street is in that tradition of nonviolence with a moral voice organizing to challenge entrenched power and privilege, a movement that stands with the majority against a powerful elite.”

But let’s be clear: This isn’t about bad people, it’s about a broken system that isn’t working to encourage opportunity for all Americans and rewarding hard work with decent pay.

Last month, our country marked the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 as the end of one chapter of history and the beginning of a new one has yet to be written. At Groundswell’s teach-in at The Jerome L. Green Performance Space in September, I shared a vision of what a groundswell feels like. I said, “A groundswell is a broad swell in the sea, due to a distant storm or gale. It’s a response to something. A groundswell is not self-generated but comes out of the zeitgeist.”

We did not know what would come next or how it would happen — we only knew that we were hungry for a movement that wasn’t about a political party or a single issue, but a shared moral vision for a better world. We have taken the first steps together, now let’s keep walking.

 

from:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valarie-kaur/this-is-what-a-groundswel_b_1000501.html

Occupy Houston????

The Occupy Wall Street protests are gaining steam — and they’re spreading. Houston, Dallas and Austin are all hosting protests on Thursday, and nearly every major US city is as well.

This is exactly how change happens. Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have all started major government reforms because their citizens took to the streets and told the government to change or else.

However, the Occupy Wall Street protests aren’t getting the same attention by the media that was given to similar movements in the Middle East this spring.

Whether that’s because the US population is jaded or the media simply doesn’t care is another question.

What’s clear is, no thanks to anyone but the supporters, the message is spreading.

According to the Occupy Houston website, the protest is starting in the morning but anyone can show up, on time or not.

“If you want to join us in the afternoon then please head directly to Hermann Square Park. Come join us and stand in peaceful solidarity with our brothers and sisters occupying Wall Street and the rest of the nation,” Occupy Houston says on the website. “Together we can END CORPORATE CORRUPTION OF DEMOCRACY!”

UH students can assist in spreading the message by participating in Houston’s version of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Houston is an autonomous arm of the Occupy movement.

That means it’s created by Houstonians for Houston’s benefit; the protests are put together from a Houston perspective; and the protest leaders are Houston-bred.

UH students who are concerned about the direction of our nation should make an effort to come out for the protest Thursday.

It will be a chance to let the Houston business community hear their dissatisfaction with the status quo, and it will be an opportunity for them to show solidarity with the protesters in other US cities.

from:    http://thedailycougar.com/2011/10/05/occupy-houston-starts-national-protest-trend/

Citizen Protests

As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

INDIA Parliament capitulated to Anna Hazare’s demands on an anticorruption measure.

By 
Published: September 27, 2011

Their complaints range from corruption to lack of affordable housing and joblessness, common grievances the world over. But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.

They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

“Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,” said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. “We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.”

Economics have been one driving force, with growingincome inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.

But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change.

Young Israeli organizers repeatedly turned out gigantic crowds insisting that their political leaders, regardless of party, had been so thoroughly captured by security concerns, ultra-Orthodox groups and other special interests that they could no longer respond to the country’s middle class.

In the world’s largest democracy, Anna Hazare, an activist, starved himself publicly for 12 days until the Indian Parliament capitulated to some of his central demands on a proposed anticorruption measure to hold public officials accountable. “We elect the people’s representatives so they can solve our problems,” said Sarita Singh, 25, among the thousands who gathered each day at Ramlila Maidan, where monsoon rains turned the grounds to mud but protesters waved Indian flags and sang patriotic songs.

“But that is not actually happening. Corruption is ruling our country.”

Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.

In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year, toppling longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protesters have created their own political space online that is chilly, sometimes openly hostile, toward traditional institutions of the elite.

The critical mass of wiki and mapping tools, video and social networking sites, the communal news wire of Twitter and the ease of donations afforded by sites like PayPal makes coalitions of like-minded individuals instantly viable.

“You’re looking at a generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are used to self-organizing,” said Yochai Benkler, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “They believe life can be more participatory, more decentralized, less dependent on the traditional models of organization, either in the state or the big company. Those were the dominant ways of doing things in the industrial economy, and they aren’t anymore.”

Yonatan Levi, 26, called the tent cities that sprang up in Israel “a beautiful anarchy.” There were leaderless discussion circles like Internet chat rooms, governed, he said, by “emoticon” hand gestures like crossed forearms to signal disagreement with the latest speaker, hands held up and wiggling in the air for agreement — the same hand signs used in public assemblies in Spain. There were free lessons and food, based on the Internet conviction that everything should be available without charge.

Someone had to step in, Mr. Levi said, because “the political system has abandoned its citizens.”

The rising disillusionment comes 20 years after what was celebrated as democratic capitalism’s final victory over communism and dictatorship.

In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, a consensus emerged that liberal economics combined with democratic institutions represented the only path forward. That consensus, championed by scholars like Francis Fukuyama in his book “The End of History and the Last Man,” has been shaken if not broken by a seemingly endless succession of crises — the Asian financial collapse of 1997, the Internet bubble that burst in 2000, the subprime crisis of 2007-8 and the continuing European and American debt crisis — and the seeming inability of policy makers to deal with them or cushion their people from the shocks.

Frustrated voters are not agitating for a dictator to take over. But they say they do not know where to turn at a time when political choices of the cold war era seem hollow. “Even when capitalism fell into its worst crisis since the 1920s there was no viable alternative vision,” said the British left-wing author Owen Jones.

to read more, go to:    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/world/as-scorn-for-vote-grows-protests-surge-around-globe.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1