Archive for November 26, 2011

Naomi Wolf

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

by Dr. Steven Best

Pacifism is the Dogma of Dogmas. Non-pacifists or pluralists (neither of whom advance positions which are tantamount to the “pro-violence” position pacifists reduce them to) with even minimal experience “debating” pacifists quickly learn to identify a common pattern and tapestry of fallacies:

  • Pacifists do not employ reasoned arguments, rather they mobilize clichés (e.g.: “Violence only leads to more violence,” “Violence has never accomplished anything,” or “An eye for a eye makes the whole world blind”). Just as vivisectors invidiously credit all medical advances to animal experimentation alone (rather than to better sanitation, improved nutrition, healthier lifestyles, or epidemiology), so pacifists insist non-violence has been the sole driving force of progressive social change
  • Pacifists do not think or listen, they merely repeat the words of Gandhi, King, and the Dali Lama
  • Pacifists do not know history or, if at all, only the caricatured, whitewashed, cartoon version in which all great gains in rights, justice, and freedom are won by non-violent tactics alone, when in fact social change always results from a plurality of forces and tactics that work together in complimentary ways
  • Pacifists think in rigid either/or, black-and-white, and Manichean good or evil binaries, and their minds cannot grasp the fluid and dialectical nature of social change, which results from many different tactics and groups, and which grasps how nonviolent and violent means of resistance
  • Pacifists rely on a naïve Socratic-Enlightenment theory of human nature and psychology, which says that people only do wrong because they do not know the right. This ancient error continues to prevail dominate contemporary ideology despite advances in evolutionary psychology and the Nietzschean-Freudian insights into the animalic urges, instincts, Id, and irrational/subconscious forces of human life.
  • Thus, operating with an obsolete and false model of human nature, pacifists (1) grossly overestimate the power of education and moral persuasion as motivating forces, and are especially ineffective when directed at individuals, groups, corporations, or entire states that have vested material interests in exploiting and killing for profit; and consequently, pacifists (2) greatly underestimate (or rather altogether negate) the need for more coercive tactics such as sabotage to change social relationships. No one voluntarily concedes their privileges and power to someone else because they ask nicely; power is always taken, never given..

For some stimulating remarks on democratizing violence as an effective tool of struggle, see this excerpt from Jensen’s book, Endgame.

by Denis G. Rancourt

Why should unelected and parasitic banks, insurance companies, and corporations run our lives? They shouldn’t but they do.

And why should politicians, lawyers and judges work for banks, insurance companies, and corporations? They shouldn’t but they do.

How can individuals obtain some measure of democratic influence? Tried voting? Surprise – doesn’t work huh? It’s like it’s a fixed game or something?

We are told that we “vote” with our “consumer choices”. Problem is the “choices” are pre-determined, like with political candidates and corporate media coverage, and the prices are fixed…

The next level beyond consumer choice is a boycott and we are told that boycott’s are legitimate. Problem is… the economy is quickly becoming a monopoly – so how do you boycott? Want to be a hippy living out of a dumpster and avoiding rent, mortgages and taxes, growing your food on the strip of land between the road and the sidewalk? (How come the working poor didn’t think of that?)

The purpose of a boycott is to inflict financial damage on a delinquent corporation to pressure it into compliance with moral behaviour.

Similarly, the purpose of targeted material damage to banks and corporations is to inflict financial punishment to force compliance with moral behaviour. History shows it to be vastly more effective than a consumer boycott. It is controlled directly by the individual in the purest form of democratic participation (you don’t need to be unionized), gives measurable immediate results, is psychologically empowering, and is a brave act for the common good with real associated risks. It also generates jobs and provides a visible public critique.

It is not a personal attack on personal property or livelihood. It is a political act; one that does not physically harm persons but instead aims to pressure undemocratic organizations towards change. It is an act motivated by love, vitality and self-preservation, not hate. It is not insane aggression. It is sanity. It is a noble form of taking one’s responsibility as a citizen. We have a duty to take back democratic control from the banksters and their corporate collaborators.

Any just legal process in prosecuting such cases would objectively consider the misbehaviour and criminality of the bank or corporate entity and would consider the mechanism whereby the property damage provides societal improvement. It would also consider the motivation and intent of the individual actor. It would then reward the individual actor for his/her risk, inconvenience, and service to society.

Similarly, when at G20-Toronto the police disregarded constitutional and natural rights actors had a duty not to let them and to resist arrest. Any criminal charge of resisting arrest in such circumstances, in a just legal system, would be disregarded and the resister would be compensated for his/her risk, damage, and service to society. WTF. The cops corral peaceful bystanders and protesters, intimidate, retain and selectively assault without cause or explanation, in the hope that some will resist in order to crush those with will. WTF. Those sane individuals are then to be prosecuted for resisting arrest – for questioning illegitimate authority? Violation upon violation in the true spirit of a fucked up system.

In these circumstances pacifism is pathology. Not the true pacifism of Gandhi but the pseudo pacifism of deference to illegitimate authority and deference to absurd context-blind and justice-blind laws that serve undemocratic power.

The only crimes at G20-Toronto were committed by the cops and their bosses.

It is not a crime, in a protest battle zone created by a militaristic police occupation, to spontaneously destroy police property offered as bait to encircled pro-democracy protesters for the benefit of corporate media propaganda that serves the police and its bosses in wrongly justifying tax-funded mass aggression and organized civil liberties dismantlement.

The division between “violent” and “peaceful” protesters is a divide-and-conquer tactic intended to neutralize and dismantle democratic expression and popular leverage. The crimes of the financiers, their corporate collaborators and their government servants, designed in secret behind closed doors at G8 and G20 and in all the boardrooms of power, are too great to let them divide us.

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