Doing The Math Better: A Talk With Christian Parenti

In his book Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, journalist and scholar Christian Parenti travels across time and space to show how climate change has exacerbated problems which already exist—problems created by Western militarism and neoliberal economic restructuring around the globe.

Published by Nation Books in 2011, Tropic of Chaos describes the “catastrophic convergence” of poverty, violence, and climate change, and how the Global North, particularly the United States, holds much of the responsibility.

Last week, Parenti published a controversial op-ed in the Huffington Post in which he called out 350.org and climate activist Bill McKibben’s Do the Math campaign. The popular campaign aims to pressure universities, pension funds, and churches into divesting from the fossil fuel industry, but Parenti argued that a divestment campaign, while great for mobilizing the masses, isn’t going to hit the industry where it hurts.

We spoke to Parenti about his arguments against the Do the Math campaign, Tropic of Chaos, his response to Hurricane Sandy, and why pressuring and working with the government should be the climate justice movement’s top priority. Tonight, Parenti will speak at NYU, and you should check it out. Read more…


NYU Law Trustee’s Company Hired Goons For The Protest Against Him

After first denying any connections to a group of protestors who threatened and harassed NYU students at a protest in September, CareOne/HealthBridge Management, a nursing home company owned by NYU Law School Trustee Daniel Straus, has now admitted to having hired “security” for the rally, The Villager reports.

On Sept. 11, workers from Straus’ nursing homes along with student activists from NYU’s Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) held a protest outside of NYU’s Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice, aiming to bring attention to the ongoing labor dispute between CareOne/Healthbridge and SEIU 1199 NE, the union that represents the company’s striking workers.

But when the students and workers arrived, they were met by an unexpected addition to their rally: an opposing group of anti-union protestors who claimed to be workers at Straus-owned nursing homes wanting to show their support for the company.  Read more…


Occupy Student Debt Campaign Protested NYU 2031 Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, two towers were erected on Gould Plaza outside of Stern. Precariously built out of cardboard boxes in about two minutes, these towers cost little more than the price of the paint that was used to decorate their exteriors. The buildings that they were supposed to represent, on the other hand, will take the next nineteen years—until 2031—to be completed. At an estimated cost of $6 billion, these real, non-cardboard buildings are a great deal more controversial than the ones that were made by piling boxes on top of one another.

The Occupy Student Debt Campaign, a subcommittee of the Education and Empowerment working group out of Occupy Wall Street, brought the issues of student debt and NYU’s 2031 plan together yesterday when they held a rally to draw attention to the financial aspects of the expansion. The Campaign, launched back in November, is based on the four principles of free public higher education: zero-interest student loans, fiscal transparency at private universities, and the writing-off and forgiveness of student debt. Read more…


Fear And Loathing In DC: GSOC Goes Lobbying

It’s 6:20 on Friday morning and a crowd is gathering in front of the Washington Square Diner on West 4th Street. Pleasantries are exchanged, but there is little need for introductions—almost everyone here knows each other, at least tangentially.
With the exception of Sociology Professor Jeff Goodwin, we are the only members of the group who are neither members of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC), NYU’s union of graduate employees, nor staff members at the United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents GSOC.
But everyone is there for the shared purpose of lobbying members of the National Labor Relations Board and Congress in the hopes of fast-tracking GSOC’s pending case, and in the dark, early hours of a February morning, all distinctions disappear—no student, graduate or undergraduate, wants to be awake before the sun rises. Read more…

Occupy Oakland And The Disappearance Of Press Freedom

For many people outside of its vast network of working groups and autonomous organizations, Occupy Wall Street has fallen off the radar since many encampments were raided at the end of 2011. Since then, occupiers moved indoors for the winter months. But Occupy Oakland—which gained national attention back in October when a former marine and Iraq War veteran’s skull was fractured during a violent police raid—reentered the public consciousness on Saturday when it put its plan to occupy an empty building into action.

The plan was to “move-in” to the abandoned building, the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, and convert it into a social center that would then act as the Occupy Oakland headquarters. This action would also have served to highlight the existence of both many empty buildings in the city and many homeless people in need of shelter. Read more…


Sheriff 99% And The 1% Corporate Outlaw: NYU Law School Trustee Locks Out Workers

The two women stared each other down, slowly walking in a circle as they matched each other step for step. One, dressed in black from her cowboy hat and fake mustache down to her shoes, wore a paper badge labeled “99% Sheriff.” The other, a white cowboy hat, black Zorro-esque eye mask, and the label “1% Outlaw.” Suddenly, a line of people walked between them, breaking their concentration for a split second. Classes were out, and law students needed the entrance to their building back.

The actors quickly fell back into character and resumed their telling of a story of greed and inequality—the story of the “99%” versus the “1%”. But the women were not actors, and the story was not fiction. Rather, the “99%” represented the many caregivers at a Milford, CT, nursing home who are currently locked out by HealthBridge, a company run by Daniel Straus, or “the 1%.” Straus, an NYU Law School Trustee, endows the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice with annual gifts of $1.25 million and owns six nursing homes in Connecticut, as well as many more in other states. Read more…


Religious Institutions React Heatedly To Enforcement Of Free Contraception Law

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that starting in August 2012, most employers will be required to include full coverage of contraception in their healthcare plans. This decision, which is part of the Affordable Care Act and echoes similar laws that already exist in twenty-eight states, was made on the basis of a recommendation from the Institute for Medicine, but it elicited an unsurprisingly unfavorable reaction from religious institutions.

Despite months of aggressive lobbying on the part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last Friday that exemptions to this provision will not be granted to most religious institutions. They will, however, have an extra year to come to terms with their new legal obligation to provide female employees with healthcare that includes preventative care, such as birth control, without a co-pay—their deadline to comply with this law is not until August 2013. But there is still one loophole left: Religious institutions who exclusively serve and employ people of their same religion will not have to include free preventative care for women in their healthcare plans. Read more…


Obama’s NLRB Recess Appointments Anger Republicans But Might Help NYU Unions

On January 4, President Obama announced his decision to appoint three new members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was in recess. The board had previously been at risk of losing its ability to rule on cases as only two of its five seats were occupied, but the appointments of Department of Labor Attorney Sharon Block, labor lawyer Richard Griffin, and NLRB counsel Terence Flynn gave the Board a quorum.

In June 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that at least three NLRB members are required for the Board to be able to decide on cases, and Republicans spent the last year blocking Obama’s nominations in order to reduce the Board’s functionality. At the end of 2011, NLRB member Craig Becker’s term expired, leaving three empty seats, but Obama’s recess appointments restored the NLRB to its full membership with a Democratic majority. Read more…


NYU4OWS Organizing Expands As Occupy Wall Street Movement Grows

At 12:30 yesterday afternoon, while most of us were rushing to class or enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, a group of people gathered on Gould Plaza in front of Stern’s Tisch Hall and began speaking over the People’s Mic, the method of speak-and-repeat amplification that has become a trademark of Occupy Wall Street.

“Welcome to the People’s University,” announced Stuart Schrader, a PhD student in American Studies and one of the organizers of the event. The crowd seated on the floor of the plaza echoed his words without hesitation, attracting the attention of both students reading on the nearby benches and passersby on the street. This was the sixth session of the People’s University, an ongoing series of short lectures by both professors and activists that usually take place in Washington Square Park in an effort to bring free education to the public. The crowd grew throughout the session, resulting in a gathering of almost seventy-five students, professors, and community members. Read more…


#OccupyNYU: Occupy Wall Street’s Growing Student Movement

Last Wednesday, thousands of students walked out of class to show their solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. The occupation has been steadily gaining support since it kicked off on September 17, and the student march made it clear that students and their concerns have a place in the larger movement.

Now, Occupy Wall Street is making its way even further into our lives. On Saturday, a general assembly was held in Washington Square Park, drawing over a thousand people and coming close to filling a place that most of us consider a part of our school. Unlike the general assemblies that take place regularly at OWS’ home base in Zuccotti Park, this one served as an introduction to the daily workings of the occupation and was clearly aimed at an audience of OWS rookies—many of whom students who were interested in learning more about the movement.

Read more…