Opposition to draconian policies & politics can succeed

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This heartening Op-Ed by Tina Rosenberg on the power of protests via the New York Times demonstrates that standing up against bad policies and politics can produce success … especially when the cause is just and the movement is organized.

And keep in mind … we must protect the open internet now more than ever before, so we can communicate freely. One of Trump’s first targets is dismantling the FCC, which has offered internet users a meaningful level of First Amendment and corporate abuse protections.

An excerpt:

Pull out the pillars. Gene Sharp, an American academic who is the guru of strategic nonviolence, argues that every leader, no matter his power, relies on obedience. Without the consent of the governed, power disappears. The goal of a civic movement should be to withdraw consent. Pull out the pillars, and the whole structure falls.

Physicians for Social Responsibility & others to hold fart-in protest at DNC

Source: WikiHow
The Philly Branch of Physicians for Social Responsibility is promoting a fart-in protest at the Democratic National Convention. USA News tells us what a fart-in is:

Advocates for poor people and progressive causes say they still plan to make a stink – literally – during Hillary Clinton’s big night accepting the Democratic presidential nomination this month.

The plan: feed beans to Democratic National Convention delegates for Bernie Sanders, and send them into the Philadelphia convention hall to show what they think of the former secretary of state…

“The fart-in is to raise attention about things that really stink in our society,” said Dr. Walter Tsou, of the Philadelphia branch of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Ivan Wei, who will be at the DNC as a Bernie delegate.

Many stories in play behind U Missouri protests, football team boycott threat & president resignation

U Missouri Race Issues
Source: found at local8now.com
ABC provides good framing for Pres. Wolfe’s resignation from University of Missouri: The Concerned Student 1950 campus group named for the year “the first black student was admitted” began a month-long series of protests that culminated in a list of demands calling for Wolfe’s removal…

.. as a part of a protest over the way the university handles racial harassment … (including a request) for a comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum, and an increase of black faculty and staff.

The backstories to the Mizzou uprisings are many: The school chancellor has also resigned. Graduate student Jonathan Butler 7 day hunger strike to bring awareness to the systemic racism on campus, was the immediate catalyst to the football players threat of a games boycott. And of course, Mizzou is in Missouri – just as Ferguson, MO is.

The students had support from powerful allies. Gov. Jay Nixon weighed in today, saying the students’ “concerns must be addressed.” And football coach Gary Pinkel tweeted a message of solidarity with his players, whose boycott threat was the straw that ultimately broke the trustees’ back and caused Wolfe’s resignation. Sports coaches are the highest paid personnel on any college campus and they wield tremendous power.

Mizzou Students Association VP Brenda Smith-Lezama shared her thoughts about student protests and how they are linked with events in Ferguson following Mike Brown’s death:

Well, I think that, for most students, there has been a shift post-Ferguson and going back to that year, year-and-a-half period, the activism on campus has been at an all-time high. I think that, for the first time, movements were being led in a very systematic and very intentional manner … prior to Ferguson and all the events that followed, there was obviously racial issues and there was a lot of issues of systematic oppression with itself. However, after Ferguson was — one, we were met with a lot of silence from our administration. And I think what is most frustrating, is that when students were crying out for help, our administration left us stranded.

ABC shares a list of recent racist events at the university that preceded the protests:

Alleged Racial Slurs
The protests began this semester after the school’s student government president, who is black, said he was called a racial slur on campus, according to The Associated Press. Members of the Legions of Black Collegians also said racial slurs were directed at them, the AP said.

Swastika Drawing
This semester a swastika drawn in feces was found in a dorm bathroom, the AP reported.

Homecoming Confrontation
During the school’s Oct. 10 homecoming parade, a protest group gathered around Wolfe’s car (to confront him, but he refused to get out of his car and talk to them).

Another story playing in the background is mentioned by Howard Bryant of ESPN in an NPR interview:

If the players wanted to push the envelope, I think that one thing that this day in Columbia showed was that they can shut the NCAA down if they want to. The players have far more power than I think they realize. And if they choose to use it, we’ll have a brand-new day here.

Check out Jonathan L. Butler’s Facebook page for additional excellent coverage.

Police-tech partnerships could instantly blackout both phone and all social media access

protestors with social media signs
Source: dogonews.com
One danger of mass internet communication being channeled through private companies – like Facebook – is the possibility that our communications can be severely curtailed, especially when we try to organize. Consider public protests: How easily could they be labeled as acts of terrorism by those with the ability to cut us off from communicating with each other? Especially in an era where police have become increasingly militarized and people have become accustomed to using corporate-owned online environments with the expectation of having free speech or privacy protection rights when we do, this possibility becomes disturbingly real.

In actuality, we have no such rights on social media platforms. In fact, I’ve not only witnessed Facebook censor people’s communications, it happened to me. Free Press’ Timothy Karr explains why trying to organize via private online services subjects us to much more control than we think it does:

“Hosting your political movement on YouTube is a little like trying to hold a rally in a shopping mall, writes Ethan Zuckerman of MIT’s Center for Civic Media. “It looks like a public space, but it’s not – it’s a private space, and your use of it is governed by an agreement that works harder to protect YouTube’s fiscal viability than to protect your rights of free speech.”

The same can be said for Facebook, Twitter and most every other application protesters and journalists use. Zuckerman compares social media executives to “benevolent despots” who use corporate terms of service – not First Amendment principles – to govern their decision-making about content.

To be more accountable and transparent to users, these platforms must allow a full public view of every decision to block content. And these sites should invite feedback from users as a check against abuses.

Emerging partnerships between ISPs, social media companies and law enforcement has lead to communications being censored, to journalists being jailed and it can lead to internet and mobile phone access being blacked out at a moment’s notice. Recent incidents in other countries and conference workshops held here to discuss what police-social media partnerships might look like are concrete proof that this could soon be reality in the United States too. PrivacySOS reports,

Independent journalist Kenneth Lipp attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference this week in Philly. Among the disturbing things he learned there is that Facebook is apparently teaming up with the Chicago Police Department to block people from posting to the social media website. More disturbing still is that this was disclosed in the context of a panel on law enforcement’s response to “mass gatherings spurred by social media.”

In his article Karr writes,

The Arab Spring and other protest movements have evolved into a digital game of cat and mouse: Online activists and new media journalists devise ingenious new ways to get around firewalls to connect with others and report from the streets while repressive regimes deploy new technologies to turn the Web into a surveillance and censorship machine.

Today, when asked whether the Internet has been a force for good or evil, media scholar Zeynep Tufekci likes to answer “Yes.”

In other words, it’s both the best of times and the worst of times for the free speech rights the network is supposed to support.

Amen, Mr. Karr.

Newark Students’ May 22 walkout and protest over 2000 strong

Newark 1505 student walkoutOn May 22 2015, over 2000 students and supporters shut downtown Newark NJ down for several hours to create visibility and bring awareness to the horrors Newark students have experienced at the hands of Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Cami Anderson, who jointly created a plan to break the back of public education in this city.

Anderson’s “One Newark” plan has young children from a single family barred from attending the school local to their home and instead, being sent far outside their neighborhood to 4 different schools in different corners of the city. Each child must take 2-3 bus rides and spend an hour of commuting time each way to reach school. Throughout the city, public school students are denied books and sanitary food; the principals and administrative staff of the city’s most successful schools are fired; and police charges were filed against a PTA president for hanging flyers announcing the PTA’s next meeting.

As the walkout and protest clearly show, a growing number of students and their supporters are completely fed up. In the words of my esteemed friend and public education advocate Johnnie Lattner, “Enough is enough.”

Here’s some news coverage of yesterday’s walkout, many links courtesy of Bashir Akinyele, host of All Politics Are Local, America’s #1 political Hip Hop radio show

Must-read on the sacredness of voting

FlagOn December 14, the New York Times published Op-ed Columnist Charles M. Blow‘s opinion America, Who Are We? Mr. Blow writes on “Politics, public opinion and social justice” and his thoughts are deep and persuasive.

Last week I spoke at a seminary and graduate school in New York about the protests following the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

It was invigorating and inspiring to be among so many young people with so much passion about social justice, young people beginning to feel their power as change agents and brimming to exercise it by disrupting the status quo.

However, I couldn’t help noticing a disturbing sentiment echoed in a few of the questions about the value of voting. One gentleman even said something to this effect: “It doesn’t make a difference whom you put in office because the office is corrupt.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Voting is not some fruitless, patrician artifact from a bygone era. It is not for those devoid of consciousness and deprived of truth. It is an incredibly important part of civic engagement. No politicians are perfect, but neither are they all the same. The sameness argument is an instrument of deceit employed by the puppet masters to drive down the electoral participation of young idealists.

We don’t vote for people because they are the exact embodiment of our values, but because they are likely to be the most responsive to them.

Also, there has been too much blood spilled, too many bodies buried in the struggle to expand the franchise of voting in America for us to cavalierly shrug it off. And the effort to constrict the pool of eligible voters is too well organized and too well financed for anyone to see his or her vote as lacking value.

And yet, I do understand the bulging frustration that the political system can foster.

I understand the feelings of these young protesters who are chafing at our current representative democracy and yearning for — yelling for — more direct democracy in which “the people” make direct demands and direct decisions, possibly circumventing an admittedly polarized-to-the-point-of-paralysis federal legislative system.

Protests are a form of direct democracy.

But direct democracy works best at the local level, like town hall meetings. It is far more challenging and unwieldy when national policy changes are sought.

I understand the fundamental questions being raised in these protests and others. There is an emotional declaration: The system is broken. There is also a moral, philosophical question: Who are we?

Are we — or better yet, should we be — a nation that tortures detainees, or targets and kills American citizens with drones, or has broad discretion to spy on the American public? Should we be a country hamstrung over how to deal with millions of undocumented immigrants, or our gun violence epidemic, or our growing income inequality? Should we be a country that accepts bias in its criminal justice system, a country of mass incarceration and a country where so many young black men can be killed by the police?

Who are we?

That is a very real question. Who are we now and who do we aspire to be? Do we aspire to the ideas enshrined in our founding documents? Do we truly believe the Declaration of Independence?

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

If so, then we must do as the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. exhorted this nation to do in his Mountaintop speech: “Be true to what you said on paper.”

King continued: “somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

He read those things in the First Amendment of the Constitution.

America is still straining, against corporatist, elitist, exclusionary forces, to be true in practice to what is clearly written on paper. Representative democracy is not a perfect form of government. It can be fragile and subject to corruption, the only guard against which is unwavering vigilance. But it is a grand idea, exquisite because of its fragility, and deserving of every effort to make it more perfect.

Who are we? We are America — impossibly strong, illogically optimistic, eternally hopeful. This is a laboratory in which one of the greatest experiments in human history is still underway. We can be whoever we want to be, dare to be, dream of being.

We are the young people in the streets, who shout out and die-in for the right to be treated equally and to live freely. We are people who must know that the voice and the vote are mutual amplifiers, not mutually exclusive.

Racist Mountain Dew goat series commercial pulled

Racist Mountain Dew commercial

Racist Mountain Dew commercialFriend of a friend Sandi Baronvonsassypants Snipe summed this disgusting series of Mountain Dew commercial up much better than I can:

Uggg. I could go on and on about the many fuckeries this commercial promotes but then I would just cry.

Our mutual friend @bryanalexander posted this on Facebook with this note, “Here’s the full Mountain Dew goat commercial series. #3 is the killer. Wow.” And yeah, I found it not only racist, but quite unsettling.

What do you think?