Monday, October 24, 2011

N + 1: Occupy! Gazette

Read Our New Gazette
N + 1

We’re pleased to announce that Occupy! An OWS-Inspired Gazette is now available for download.

With the help of Astra Taylor (Examined Life; Zizek!) and Sarah Leonard of Dissent, we’ve put together a history, both personal and documentary, and the beginning of an analysis of the first month of the occupation. Articles deal with the problem of the police; the history of the “horizontalist” management structure at OWS; how to keep a live-in going when what you’ve tried to shut down refuses to shut down (like Harvard, or Wall Street); on whether the Fed should be abolished; on where that Citibank arrest video came from; on occupations in Oakland, Philadelphia, Atlanta; on what happens next; and more.

It’s an attempt to begin to think through what is happening, written by people both on the ground and across the river. We hope you’ll read it and discuss it with us. There’s a lot more thinking and doing to do.

To Download the Occupy!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Thom Hartmann: Introduction to Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

Unequal Protection: Introduction
Thom Hartmann

From the introduction to Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights.



Introduction

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank, from her diary, July 15, 1944


This book is about the difference between humans and the corporations we humans have created. The story goes back to the birth of the United States, even the birth of the Revolution. It continues through the writing of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the 1780s, and reaches its first climactic moment 100 years later, after the Civil War. The changes that ensued from that moment continue into the 21st century, where the results continue to unfold. And very few citizens of the world are unaffected.

In another sense, this book is about values and beliefs: how our values are reflected in the society we create, and how a society itself can work, or not work, to reflect those values.

Intentions and culture

A culture is a collection of shared beliefs about how things are. These beliefs are associated with myths and histories that form a self-reinforcing loop, and the collection of these beliefs and histories form the stories that define a culture. Usually unnoticed, like the air we breathe, these stories are rarely questioned. Yet their impact can be enormous.

For example, for six to seven thousand years, since the earliest founding of what we call modern culture, there were the stories that “it’s okay to own slaves, particularly if they are of a different race or tribe,” and “women should be the property of, and subservient to, men.”

But as time goes on, circumstances and cultures change: beliefs are questioned and aren’t useful begin to fall away. This book will raise questions about some of our shared beliefs, asking, as many cultures have asked throughout history: “Do we want to keep this belief, or change to something that works better for us?”

The story of corporate personhood

Here we find the nub of this book, continuing a theme in my earlier writings. In The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, I identified those stories (among others), and suggested that true cultural change comes about when we first wake up to our own self-defeating beliefs…and then go about changing them. I also pointed out that the story that “we are separate and different from the natural world” is a toxic one, brought to us by Gilgamesh, then Aristotle, then Descartes, and it no longer serves us well.

In The Prophet’s Way, I detailed how the story that “we are separate from divinity or consciousness” can perpetuate a helplessness and a form of spiritual slavery that’s not useful for many individual humans or the planet as a whole. Mystics tell us a different story through the ages - the possibility of being personally connected to divinity. I suggested that, for many people, the mystic’s story could be far more empowering and personally useful.

And in my books on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), I suggested that neurologically different children are actually a useful asset to our culture (using Edison, Franklin, and Churchill as classic examples), and that we do ourselves a disservice - and we wound our children in the process - by telling them they have a “brain disorder” and tossing them into the educational equivalent of the trash basket. (And the most recent studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Mental Health are explicitly backing up my position.[i])

In Unequal Protections I’m visiting with you the stories of democracy and corporate personhood - ones whose histories I only learned in detail while researching this book. (It’s amazing what we don’t learn in school!) Corporate personhood is the story that a group of people can get together and organize a legal fiction (that’s the actual legal term for it) called a corporation - and that agreement could then have the rights and powers given living, breathing humans by modern democratic governments. Democracy is the story of government of, by, and for the people; something, it turns out, that is very difficult to have function well in the same realm as corporate personhood.

A new but highly contagious story

Unlike the cultural stories I’ve written about earlier, this last story is more recent. Corporate personhood tracks back in small form to Roman times when groups of people authorized by the Caesars’ organized to engage in trade. It took a leap around the year 1500 with the development of the first Dutch and then other European trading corporations, and then underwent a series of transformations in the United States of America in the 19th Century whose implications were every bit as world-changing as the institutionalization of slavery and the oppression of women in the holy books had been thousands of years earlier.

And, in a similar fashion to the Biblical endorsement of slavery and oppression of women, this story of corporate personhood - which only came fully alive in the 1800s - was highly contagious: it has spread across most of the world in just the past half-century. It has - literally - caused some sovereign nations to rewrite their constitutions, and led others to sign treaties overriding previous constitution protections of their human citizens.

To Read the Rest of the Introduction

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Standard Operating Procedure (USA: Errol Morris, 2008)

This is an archive for students -- suggestions of other sources are always appreciated.

Standard Operating Procedure (USA: Errol Morris, 2008: 116 mins)

Andrews, David. "Reframing Standard Operating Procedure: Errol Morris and the creative treatment of Abu Ghraib." Jump Cut #52 (Summer 2010)

Aradillas, Aaron and Matt Zoller Seitz. "5 on 24: A Five Part Video Essay on the Real Time Action Series. Moving Image Source (May 18, 2010)

Burris, Gregory A. "Shocked and Awed?: Hostel and the Spectacle of Self-Mutilation." Cine-Action #80 (2010)

Butler, Judith. "Torture and the Ethics of Photography." Environment and Planning D: Society and Space #25 (2007): 951 - 966.

Cockrell, Eddie. "Directors of the Year: Errol Morris." International Film Guide: 2005. ed. Daniel Rosenthal. Los Angeles: Silman James Press, 2005: 24-31.

Dunn, Timothy. "Torture, Terrorism, and 24: What Would Jack Bauer Do?." Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics Through Popular Culture." ed. Joseph Foy. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2008: 171-184. [Available in BCTC Library JK 31 H85 2008]

Fletcher, Phoebe. “Fucking Americans”: Postmodern Nationalisms in the Contemporary Splatter Film #18 (December 2009)

Hersch, Seymour M. "Torture at Abu Ghraib: American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?" The New Yorker (May 10, 2004)

Hilden, Julie. "Free Speech and the Concept of "Torture Porn": Why are Critics So Hostile to Hostel II?" Find Law (July 16, 2007)

Kleinhans, Chuck. "Imagining Torture." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Kleinhans, Chuck, John Hess and Julia Lesage. "The Last Word: Torture and the National Imagination." #50 (Summer 2008)

Lesage, Julie. "Torture Documentaries." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Murray, Gabrielle. "Images of Torture, Images of Terror: Post 9/11 and the Escalation of Screen Violence." Monash University Film and TV Studies (Podcast of a Lecture: March 20, 2008)

Nichols, Bill. "Feelings of revulsion and the limits of academic discourse." Jump Cut #52 (Summer 2010)

Rosler, Martha. "A Simple Case for Torture." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Torture (Archive on Dialogic: The culture and politics of "torture.")

Williams, Linda. "“Cluster Fuck”: The Forcible Frame in Errol Morris’s Standard Operating Procedure." Jump Cut #52 (Summer 2010)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Michael Dean Benton: A nation starts to mobilize -- Something’s happening here

A nation starts to mobilize: Something’s happening here
By Michael Dean Benton
North of Center

The question that must be asked is whether we are witnessing the birth of a new social movement in America. As I am writing this article Occupy Wall Street is starting Day 25 and it is spreading on a national and global scale. There are now Occupations and Meetups in 1359 cities operating in solidarity with the protesters in New York City. (You can find lists of current Occupations across the globe at Occupy Together). Occupy Lexington was the third city to organize an Occupation when a few protesters gathered on September 29 at noon in front of the Downtown JP Morgan Chase Bank plaza.

I first heard about the plans for the occupation of Wall Street from Adbusters’ editor and writer Micah White in July of 2011. Soon afterward, I saw the ads of a ballerina doing a pirouette on top of the iconic Wall Street bull statue appearing in the magazine’s September 2011 “Post-Anarchism” issue and in various announcements from activist groups.

Slowly people started discussing the possibilities of the occupation through emails, in person, and on forums.

Global roots: Looking east, south and west

Where, then, did the inspiration for the Occupy Wall St. and the solidarity protests arise from? Perhaps the most electrifying moment was the Arab Spring of 2011 which seemed to happen spontaneously across the Middle East and North Africa, with predominantly young people taking the forefront of these movements to challenge authoritarian dictatorships. Their embrace of social media, which had been viewed with suspicion by many cultural critics in the West, demonstrates that effective social movement organizing is possible through social media technologies. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the courageous challenges of young protesters in the face of draconian measures in all of the regional protests, inspired people around the world.

Another primary inspiration was the Spanish acampadas (camping, or temporary encampment) that began out of disgust for electoral politics as usual in Spain and continued to spread and grow as the politics of occupying urban spaces interweaved with networking through social media. Beginning with several hundred people on May 15, the Spanish occupations increased into the thousands by the time of the May 25 elections and continues still today. These acampadas provided a model for the Occupy Wall Street protests with their emphasis on occupying urban spaces through festive gatherings. Their emphasis on peaceful protesting, consensus decision-making, leaderless movements (or better yet an emphasis on autonomy, whereby all have the capabilities/responsibility to lead) and a push for Democracia Real Ya can be seen in the current Occupy protests.

Although not as often cited as direct influences, but no doubt significant, were the various Latin American campesino land movements and the dramatic, successful, 2000 Cochabamba resistance of citizens against foreign companies attempting to privatize and control all water resources in Bolivia.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Michael Dean Benton: If a Tree Falls -- Enforcing the Green Scare

If a Tree Falls: Enforcing the Green Scare
By Michael Dean Benton
North of Center



Curry Marshall, with a degree in Comparative Religion from Swarthmore College and experience as a senior producer at a New York multimedia design firm, got his start in filmmaking by shooting, directing and editing the 2005 documentary Street Fight. The documentary followed the grassroots, underdog candidate Cory Booker’s attempt to unseat Sharpe James, the longtime mayor of Newark, NJ. Marshall impressed audiences and critics with his dogged determination to cover the campaign despite James’ attempt to control all media coverage of his public appearances. The film, which ran as part of a series on PBS and was later recognized with both an Oscar and Emmy nomination, remains an essential document of an actual grassroots campaign running against entrenched party machine politics.

Marshall’s newest documentary, made with cinematographer and co-director Sam Cullman, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) tells the complex story of environmental Earth Liberation Front activist Daniel McGowan, who faced life in prison for his participation in the burning of two timber facilities. The film has received Best Documentary awards at multiple film festivals, and a Best Documentary Editing Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Just as Street Fight is essential viewing for grassroots campaigners seeking to intervene in entrenched local power structures, If a Tree Falls is a vital film for committed environmental activists. Not only does the documentary capture embattled environmental activists in the age of the Green Scare opening up to the filmmakers, but most impressive was the filmmakers’ ability to convince law enforcement officials and government lawyers to talk on-record about their perspectives. With that in mind, this is also a film that should spur all American citizens to consider the impact of our current heightened post-9/11 law enforcement policies.

The Green Scare

First introduced into the lexicon in 2003, the Green Scare is a term used by environmental activists to describe the orchestrated campaign to paint their movement as a form of domestic terrorism. With a self-conscious nod to the political repressions of the last century’s numerous “Red Scares” that swept the nation, the Green Scare describes the U.S. government’s use of legal and police tactics to suppress the radical environmental movement. The term seeks to explain why so many environmental activists appear on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, why the jail sentences of environmental activists seem disproportionately long, and how some activists end up in maximum security prisons.

Though If a Tree Falls does not mention the term Green Scare by name, the film dramatically documents the process in action. A key tactic involves using corporate media to influence public perception of environmental and animal rights activist groups as “domestic terrorists.” This designation may seem like a stretch of the imagination. After all, in the past two decades, the United States has experienced multiple assaults on the twin towers in NYC, the horrific bombing of government offices in Oklahoma by Timothy McVeigh, and an incredible increase in violent armed militias and hate groups as Barack Obama became president–none of which have been perpetrated by environmental activists. Nevertheless, starting in the 1990s both local and national news stations amazingly started to apply the loaded term “terrorists” to environmental activists who never harmed or killed a human being in their actions.

When it comes to groups advocating direct environmental actions, law enforcement tactics have likewise focused directly (and often violently) upon environmental activists, intimidating those activists peacefully protesting in the streets while discouraging any citizen attempts to confront the corporations that are destroying the environment. If a Tree Falls provides vivid, difficult-to-watch scenes of police assaulting peaceful, albeit resistant, environmental protesters with strong-arm tactics and chemical weapons. Most memorable is the scene where police officers hold the heads of young female activists who sit with their arms linked together, while other officers apply liquid pepper spray directly to their eyes with Q-Tips. Another scene captures a law enforcement officer who reports that when activists do something that he doesn’t like, it becomes personal for him. Later we hear another officer relate that, with the institution of Post-9/11 Homeland Security policies, the easiest way for law enforcement officers to rise up through the ranks and increase their pay scale is through terrorism enhancement cases. (Jules Boykoff, in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States (AK Press, 2007), details how this intimidation of activists extended to police infiltration of groups that never committed a crime, and the unleashing of paid informants who acted as agent provocateurs–facilitating and encouraging the acceleration of activist actions while reporting back to their home agencies.)

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Occupy Together Has a New Website: Explanation and Link Below

IMPORTANT: Update Regarding Actions & Events.
by Occupy Together on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 8:15am

If you’ve started seeing Occupy Together in your daily email box as we have, you probably know the word is spreading like a wildfire. The site has recently been linked on occupywallst.org, Adbusters, tweeted by Michael Moore and sent out in a MoveOn.org newsletter. WHEW! Talk about growing exponentially!

You have to remember, when we started this we were merely two designers who couldn’t get to NYC to support in person. We saw these solidarity actions forming in other areas and though “you know, it would be great to gather this information and make it readily available and easily accessible for everyone!” Little did we know we’d go from listing 4-5 locations in one night to receiving hundreds of emails in a day. We were slowing the flow of information because us volunteers weren’t able to keep up. This was a huge issue for us to solve because if we’re not making this information as accessible as possible then we’re not helping the movement.

This is where the internet gets awesome. Through this process we’ve been in touch with some very incredible and talented people with much more technical knowhow than we will ever have. The beauty of it all is that this just started as an idea by two and has grown into a collaboration by many. We are all in this together, it only takes one (or in our case two) to take the jump and you’ll find others to support and join you along the way.

We were contacted by the good people at meetup.com, who got in touch because they heard we were in need of some technical assistance and advice. They listened to our pressing issues at hand: adequate server space for site performance, SEO & RSS issues, and what seemed to be most daunting of all, our inability to keep up with all of the information we’ve been sent. They talked us through all of these issues, but most helpfully, showed us how we could use meetup.com as a tool to provide real-time event listings and updates. Who would have known there was a site out there that was made SPECIFICALLY for this kind of DIY, grassroots activity :)

All of the volunteers talked it over… we work in the spirit of the movement. No one is leading, everyone has a chance to voice concerns and we all make important decisions together. We all decided the best way to foster the growth of this movement and provide access to information around the world was to use meetup.com as the method of finding, listing, and updating events. The GREAT thing about all of this, is that it’s completely in line with the whole idea of this decentralized movement. Any single person can start an action in their area, and where one stands up there will likely be another to join you! Plus, you don’t have to belong to the site to view the information and meetup.com is very concerned with user privacy. So, if you’re not a Facebook or social media user, no fear! You can still get real time information and updates in your area too!

Long story short, we’re going to integrate meetup tools into www.occupytogether.org. For the most part there won’t be a huge difference. You will look on the map for your location and once you find it you’ll click on a link that will take you to a page with all of the information of solidarity actions being organized in your area!

We hope you all understand and share our sentiment on this decision. We’ve done our best to add all existing locations that were on our website, and we will continue to add the events that were emailed to us through tomorrow. However, now you are all individually empowered to add new and update old information at any time!

Lastly, we want to mention that we’re very aware of the server problems we’ve been encountering. We will have a new home on our very own dedicated server here within the next 24-48 hours. You have all been great in being patient with us and supporting us. We hope we won’t wear your patience out as we wait to move to our new home!

Occupy Together

The Website is here

Tuesday, October 04, 2011