Category Archives: Current Events

Things in the news – mainstream news – right now.

LaborFest 2012 on now in San Francisco

 

LaborFest 2012
July 1 – July 31

Occupy, Past Present and Future – Lessons of The Past for Labor Today

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International Worker’s Day!

Some rights reserved by hughillustration. From Flickr.

An Alternative to Amazon.com’s Occupy Hoodie

 As an alternative to the #Occupy hoodie from Amazon.com that I wrote about previously

(Image from Not All Occupy Protestors Are Anarchists; Just the Cool Ones | Neon Tommy.)

Just take your basic black hoodie – bought from some nice, non-corporate capitalist exploiter and not made in a sweatshop (and when you find that shop let me know) – and then tape any slogan you want to it.

You’ll still run the risk of being shot, beaten or pepper-sprayed, but you won’t have contributed to Amazon.com’s bottom line along the way.

On the other hand, there’s still this…

Frank Kozik limited edtion black Anarchy Cat Qee 8″ vinyl figure

Montreal Anarchist Bookfair – May 19-20, 2012

MONTREAL ANARCHIST BOOKFAIR 2012

Two days: Saturday, May 19 & Sunday, May 20
10am-5pm on both days

The Anarchist Bookfair will take place in two buildings across from each other in Parc Vinet, a short walk from Lionel-Groulx metro:
– Centre d’éducation populaire de la Petite-Bourgogne et de St-Henri (CEDA), 2515 rue Delisle
– Centre Culturel Georges-Vanier (CCGV), 2450 rue Workman

Anarchist Bookfair » The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair will be May 19-20 at two buildings in Parc Vinet (CEDA & CCGV).

Occupy Wall Street Hoodie

This will get you shot in Florida, beaten by the cops in NYC and pepper-sprayed on University of California campuses…

The Occupy Wall Street hoodie — guaranteed to get you fucked up by some asshole somewhere. But stylish and warm.

(And buying it from Amazon.com won’t be buying into the same system as Wall Street. Not at all.)

Spring has Sprung, May Day is Coming #M1GS

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Pictures from #Occupy Oakland

There is a there there…

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(thanks to reddit/R/Anarchism)

There’s so much on the events and the scene at Occupy Oakland that it’s hard to know where to start in terms of links to more info, but you might begin with…

And for a view from the other side…

And for photos of earlier Oakland action, you can begin with…

And for the view from across the briny…

If you’re new to protests where the police may get frisky, you might be intimidated by the shields, gas masks, etc. – don’t be.  For one thing, there’s a nice new Instructable for DIY Gas Masks that should give you breathing room (pun intended) in many situations were tear gas or pepper spray is used.   Backpacks stuffed with padding can help protect your back from police batons, but you can also buy riot gear just like cops wear. (Though I might recommend body armor meant for snowboarders or dirt-bikers that you could wear under a hoodie as less… confrontational.)

Hollywood’s Dirty Cash?

Demand Progress is a reasonably right on organization that this time, in its attack on “Hollywood’s Dirty Cash,” is way off.

Demand Progress is an online activist organization that “works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing, lobbying, and elections in the United States.”  They focus on issues of civil liberties, civil rights, and government reform—the first two of which, at least, are issues close to my heart.

Government reform… meh.  It’s usually not enough for me, and I feel that many of the aspects of our contemporary society that need “reform” lie outside what is normally thought of as the government.  And the “re…” that I really want is not “re-form.” In one sense, each election re-forms the government, and it always comes out looking suspiciously like the old form. No matter who you vote for, you always elect a politician. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

But all that aside, Demand Progress’ current call to arms on “Hollywood’s Dirty Cash” just seems to me… kinda dumb:

Tell Congress: Return Hollywood’s Dirty Cash | Demand Progress:
Motion Picture Association of America President Chris Dodd just threatened to cut off Hollywood campaign contributions to any member of Congress who doesn’t pass his Internet-censorship legislation.

After Congress shelved the controversial PIPA and SOPA bills, Dodd told Fox News:

“Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.”

This is what corruption looks like in Washington. It’s outrageous that Dodd — himself a former senator — is leveling these threats. Our elected officials must send a signal back to Dodd and the rest of K Street that our nation’s laws can’t be bought.

It’s time that Congress showed that its votes are no longer for sale. Congress must give back the MPAA’s dirty money or give it to charity. Congress must make it clear to the world that it won’t be bullied into supporting censorship.

Sure, Dodd’s statement was a bit outrageous, but compared to the bizarre pronouncements, threats and promises coming out of the Republican primary silly season, it seems a bit paltry.  I mean, Newt is promising to ignore the Supreme Court. Audiences are cheering the notion of letting people die. Dobb’s comments are small beer.

And sending back Hollywood’s donations seems to me a pretty stupid idea on the one hand, and also pathetic and misguided on the other. Stupid because the majority of Hollywood’s money seems to go to Democrats and more sensible Republicans—and they are going to need that money to counteract the Koch Brother’s war chest  (see here, here or here).

Pathetic and misguided because… Hollywood? Really? THAT’S the industry/lobbying group you want to go after? What about the oil industry, lobbying to overturn industry regulations aimed at preventing massive oil spills? The polluting industries that have been lobbying against improving air quality legislation?  The NRA and arms manufacturers? Despotic mideast regimes?  Fucking hell, Hollywood has to be one of the least offensive industries with a major lobbying presence in Washington.  Cute puppies don’t have lobbyists.

The truth is, Hollywood is just a soft target, low hanging fruit. In the wake of the startling mobilization of opinion against SOPA/PIPA, an email/online petition against the MPAA, one of the main instigators of that legislation, must have seemed to Demand Progress like a no brainer, an easy win.

But it’s not a win worth winning.  Demand that Congress return ALL lobbying money, or Demand Progress in genuine reform of lobbying and campaign financing.  But Demanding Congress return Hollywood’s money? Bleech.

And while we’re at it… if you want to Demand Progress around some ugly, awful legislation what about NDAA? Or if it’s political spending, what about the outrageous Super PACs?  Demand Progress is mostly right on. Mostly.  This time, though, they’re way off. There are bigger and better battles to be fought.

For more…

Don’t Mourn, Occupy

Nuff said.

A brilliant bit of BUGAUP-style culture jamming – you have to get up real close to see that the brown bands are separate pieces of paper, very cleverly inserted and positioned in this bus shelter wall ad, which is located outside San Francisco General Hospital – “as real as it gets,” and the main health care provider for many of the City’s 100,o00 adults who don’t have any health coverage.

Of course, while “Occupy the Banks” has a visceral appeal, squatting is really the way to go: direct action to address homelessness and inadequate housing, to preserve and maintain homes that have been rendered unoccupied by foreclosure, and to begin the process of reshaping our economic lives.

For more…

The War at Home

Terrorists? Drugs or gun dealers? No. These officers kitted out in military-style gear and armed with semi-automatic rifles were going after a small group of Occupy activists who had taken over an abandoned business in downtown Chapel Hill:

CHAPEL HILL — A police tactical team of more than 25 police officers arrested eight demonstrators Sunday afternoon and charged them with breaking and entering for occupying a vacant car dealership on Franklin Street.

Officers brandishing guns and semi-automatic rifles rushed the building at about 4:30 p.m. They pointed weapons at those standing outside, and ordered them to put their faces on the ground. They surrounded the building and cleared out those who were inside… [here]

Here are these dangerous criminals prior to the assault by police… doing what? Cleaning up the long empty eyesore. They wanted to turn it into a community space. Clearly desperate characters…

Joe Oliver, Dangerous Allies and Carbon Footprints [updated]

Oil sands pipeline battle turns ugly | Environment | guardian.co.uk.

Cananda’s natural resources minister Joe Oliver has issued a public letter, which an article in the Guardian calls “an extraordinary rant,” attacking opponents of the tar sands pipelines, including Keystone XL, saying they have a “radical ideological agenda” and “dangerous allies.”

“They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest. They attract jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world to lecture Canadians not to develop our natural resources,” he said.

Oliver would know all about ideological agendas and dangerous allies.  His background is in investment banking and securities–you know, the folks who brought you the global financial crisis:

Prior to his election to Parliament, Mr. Oliver had a career in the investment banking industry. He began his investment banking career at Merrill Lynch, and served in senior positions at other investment dealers and as Executive Director of the Ontario Securities Commission. He was then appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada. (via Meet Joe « Joe Oliver.)

Clearly, based on their sterling role shepherding the global economy, investment bankers are the best choice for overseeing natural resources.   Seriously, though, if you appoint someone with this background as natural resources minister, your take on things is pretty clear: nature is a pile of economic resources to be exploited for profit. So it’s hardly surprising that Oliver is apoplectic about resistance to his money-spinning plans for pipelines running across the continent and oil shipping in sensitive waters.

As for his comment about the carbon footprint of those “jet-setting celebrities” who have opposed the Keystone XL project and other tar sands exploitation projects, I’ve written to his office and requested that he provide details on his carbon footprint, both in his role as minister and also personally, for himself and his family, as well as for any businesses in which he might hold a controlling interest.  In the interests of full disclosure and a “fair and balanced” assessment of his attack. In this day and age, it really makes sense to request ecological as well as economic transparency and accountability from government officials.

[Update: Still haven’t heard from him.]

If you want to write to him yourself, the email address for his Ottawa office is: joe.oliver@parl.gc.ca

Finally, in the current climate of the war on terrorism, and after the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act with its provision for indefinite detention, language about “dangerous allies” and “radical ideology” should sound alarm bells.  In the UK, we’ve seen recently the extent of government infiltration of radical environmental and peace groups. It doesn’t seem a huge leap to imagine groups such as those, groups branded as dangerous and as having a “radical ideology,” in the UK, the United States and Canada, getting identified as “terrorist” and subject to the full power of the endless war, anti-terrorist surveillance state that the US is fast become.

For more…

Occupy Market Street

The Occupy meme, kicked off by Kalle Lasn and the crew at Adbusters, has spread perhaps faster and further than they could have dreamed in the short months since they launched it. Some of the “Occupy” spin-offs have a sensible and organic link to the original “Occupy Wall Street,” like the current #OCCUPYXMAS meme (and Twitter hashtag). Some have been parodic but pointed – Occupy Sesame Street being the obvious example:

Some of the mutations of the Occupy meme speak to its power and pervasiveness, such as people joking during the Thanksgiving holiday about “occupying the dinner table.” Some of these mutations though have been distorted and distorting, like the CBS radio spot, mentioned in a recent New York Times article, that ‘invited viewers to “occupy your couch.”‘ This seems very far from, even antithetical to, the motives, dreams and outrage that underlie Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy occupations/encampments/protests continue to get shut down, often violently across the country, despite the efforts of groups like the National Lawyers Guild (see here). And the Occupy meme’s spread also involves a certain amount of dissipation of its original force and focus. So I’ve been thinking of what we might “occupy” now that we’ve been kicked out of the original occupations – and have left the Thanksgiving tables and refuse to sit in our couches to be passively entertained by corporate media (except when The Big Bang Theory is on). Something that has some real connection with the aims, dreams and desires of the Occupy movement, of the Occupiers.

Of course, as so many of the mainstream responses have pointed out, it is not that easy to pin down or to speak to those aims and desires. One of the more articulate – though also highly academic, and deeply engaged with contemporary cultural theory – discussions of this problem is in a current opinion piece in The Guardian. As Bernard Harcourt notes in his analysis of “Occupy’s new grammar of political disobedience,” the Occupy movement is motivated by a response to the current situation in America (and elsewhere, I would argue):

this situation that so many perceive as intolerable – a condition of continuously increasing inequality where, today, “the 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.” That, I take it, is the guiding Jacobin spirit of this new form of political disobedience

Banks and financial institutions hare played a key role in creating the current situation of economic inequality in the United States, and more notoriously and obviously were central causes of the economic crisis that even when it hasn’t left them jobless and homeless has left many Americans feeling – correctly – profoundly vulnerable, and with an acute awareness that the “American dream” is a fantasy for most people, and the world of our parents, the world where it was natural to assume that your children would be better off than you, that world is gone.

Not precisely gone. Stolen. And in part what the Occupy movement has been “occupying” is the space, the void created by that lost world. The post-war prosperity in the United States was built, to a large degree, on a consensus between Big Business, Big Government and Big Labor. That consensus is gone. Labor is gone. Big Government is not so big anymore and if the Republicans have their way will get drastically smaller. But Big Business is bigger than ever, and it is not just limited to Wall Street.

During the early days of the current economic crisis, there was another meme making the rounds, “Wall Street vs Main Street” – the bailout of the financial institutions being contrasted with the struggles of “small businesses.” But that meme, that juxtaposition, relied on a hyper-idealized image of “Main Street.” The Main St. of Gene Kelly signing to Vera-Ellen in On the Town (one of the greatest of musicals, directed by Stanley Donen):

Let me tell you about my hometown, San Francisco… Well, that would take a long time – there’s a lot going on here, some of it good, lots of it bad – so let’s just talk about the “Main Street” here, Market Street, and more generally the downtown shopping district around Union Square.

Once a vibrant and diverse commercial district, Market St. has fallen on hard times in recent years. Many of the independent businesses have gone, to be replaced by corporate chain stores, or left as bordered up spaces. A few spaces get taken up by seedy operations selling convenience food and junk products that come and go, and are in any case interchangeable and equally awful. The sidewalks are dirty. Many of the city’s too homeless make their homes down there, where they are stepped over – figuratively and sometimes even literally – by shoppers on their way to Armani or The Gap, lawyers, financial analysts and tourists.

Partly what has hit Market St. is the same thing that his hit downtowns across the USA and Canada: malls, which suck too much of the money away from downtown to the periphery and leave nothing behind but liquor stores and shops selling cheap junk or bongs. But it’s not just that: one of the most successful malls in the country is right there, at the heart of Market St., at the intersection with Powell – the Westfield San Francisco Centre (owned by an Australian-based multinational). The malls don’t just suck money away from downtowns, though, they suck it away from locally-owned, independent businesses to the chains and franchises that seem to do best in the carefully controlled spaces of malls. The surveilled spaces. The private spaces.

So maybe what we need is an Occupy Westfield. An attempt to reclaim those parts of daily life which are increasingly being taken out of the public realm and put into the private, where they can be more fully controlled and policed. But even if some sort of magical inside-out operation could be effected and all the stores inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre were poured back onto the public street, onto Market Street, into those empty storefronts… I still wouldn’t want to shop at them. They are part of the problem.

It’s not just banks and financial institutions that created the inequality in the United States. Big Business and corporate capitalism have played their part as well. Wal-mart is the 18th largest public corporation in the world, the largest grocery store in the country and the largest private employer. But lots of those Wal-Mart employees still need welfare or second jobs to afford those groceries, as Wal-Mart is a notoriously bad employer. And notoriously anti-labor. Fortunately, there isn’t a Wal-Mart on Market Street, nor anywhere else in San Francisco. The nearest one is across the Bay in Oakland, near the Oracle Arena – named for the Oracle Corporation, whose co-founder Larry Ellison is one of the three wealthiest individuals in the USA, and the highest paid CEO in the world. The 1% indeed. And all of that started just a few miles away.

There is a Gap store, though, a huge one, right across the street from the San Francisco Centre. Just down the block from is a big Old Navy outlet. A couple of blocks away, off Market Street on Grant, near Union Square, is the flagship Banana Republic. All three of these clothing chains are owned by The Gap, Inc. – the country’s biggest specialty apparel retailer, and only recently slipped from #1 to #2 in the world, another mega-business that started right here. The store locations, appearances and contents give a very graphic lesson in market segmentation: from Old Navy at the bottom end to Banana Republic at the top. I feel particularly aggrieved by these stores since I can remember shopping at them when they were stores, nice little local stores, and not part of some huge corporate machine. Banana Republican was a quaint joint up a staircase in Marin that sold weird suplus from around the world, like British Army shorts from the WWII North Africa campaign that had been sitting in a warehouse over there for decades. The Gap was where I got my back-to-school clothes when I was little. I haven’t set foot in one for years. I’ve looked in from the outside, though. The one in the mall near my dad’s house in Canada looks like the one in San Francisco which looks like the one in Sydney, and the one in London, and the one in Singapore and the one in Hong Kong.

Across the street from that Gap, back in the San Francisco Centre, there’s a Godiva Chocolatier store. It too looks just like the one in Hong Kong, in London, in Toronto. Who needs it? These corporate chains are impoverishing us both culturally and economically. The malls and these mall stores, regardless of where they are located, don’t just suck the life out of our downtowns, they suck the money out of our communities, and in doing so contribute to the inequalities we see now, the vast inequalities that corporate capitalism is driving, growing fat on.

So what would it be to “Occupy Market St.”? Well, it would be the exact opposite, in a way, of “Occupy Wall Street.” It might be better called “Abandon Market St. and the Mall.” In short, shop local. Not just in your local neighbor, but at locally owned stores. And as much as possible for goods that do not come out of the same corporate capitalist machine.

Things will cost more. Good. We buy too much stuff already. It’s part of why our carbon footprint is stamping out the life of the planet.

There isn’t all that nice, free parking like at the mall. Again, good, and for roughly the same reasons.

Here is where the Occupy movement and the Green movement and the Slow Food / locavore movement and lots of other movements come together. The anger at Wall Street is more properly anger at a whole system which has risen up – call it corporate capitalism, or maybe, as Kim Stanley Robinson does, Götterdämmerung capitalism (see here for a start), creating vast fortunes for the few while immiserating the many, privatising more and more of the world, surveilling more and more of daily life to feed those profits, gutting civil liberties when they get in the way, gutting healthcare, and health, burning up the planet.

It’s time to Occupy Daily Life.

For more…

The Culture Wars and Class War

Obama Endorses Decision to Limit Morning-After Pill: President Obama, who took office pledging to put science ahead of politics, averted a skirmish with conservatives in the nation’s culture wars on Thursday by endorsing his health secretary’s decision to block over-the-counter sales of an after-sex contraceptive pill to girls under age 17. (via NYTimes.com.)

That’s the lead in a recent article in the New York Times on the decision by Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, to overrule the FDA and block wider OTC availability of the “morning-after pill,” the first time ever an FDA decision has been overruled by an HHS secretary.

There’s a lot that could be said about this. When Obama was voted in, it was on a tide of hope, as that ubiquitous and arresting poster so abundantly made clear. Hope for change— in politics, in the economy, in foreign policy (particularly those pesky wars). Those hopes have met with a lot of frustration and disappointment in the years since.

This most recent move was typical of the “pragmatic” and “bipartisan” Obama of whom we’ve seen far too much lately: willing to sacrifice (what we think are) his principles, and the expectations and needs of his believers, his base, for support from Republicans or evangelicals or one of the other groups that opposes — and even hates and reviles — him, people who by and large will not vote for him no matter what he does. If there is anything worse than sacrificing principle to expediency and pandering for votes, it is sacrificing and pandering for nothing.

But stepping back and looking at the wider picture, I was struck by this invocation of the “culture war” meme, which has been around a long time now, and deserves close critical scrutiny.

Culture war: The culture war (or culture wars) in American usage is a metaphor used to claim that political conflict is based on sets of conflicting cultural values. The term frequently implies a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal. The “culture war” is sometimes traced to the 1960s and has taken various forms since then. (via Wikipedia.)

While it may indeed be traced by some back to the 1960s, it really assumed the form it now has in the 1990s, and what is really going on in this “culture war” was made abundantly clear by Pat Buchanan in his speech to the 1992 Republican National Convention:

“There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself…. The agenda [Bill] Clinton and [Hillary] Clinton would impose on America — abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat — that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.

An ideological struggle, like the Cold War, but also crucially a “religious war.” A crusade, in fact, of the righteous Christians against the godless and strayed, a war for the soul of America between those who stand for “God’s country” and those whom their opponents now sometimes refer to as “secular socialists.”

But what is it really, this “war”?  It is a war against women and homosexuals. It is also a war against the poor and persons of color, particularly poor women of color, in that restrictions on things like birth control services, Planned Parenthood, etc., disproportionately affect them.  A war of mostly white men of power and privilege against mostly women, the poor, and people of color.  For the soul of America.

When people talk about “class war” it is, by and large, the same thing, or part of the same thing. But notice how the people who have called for a culture war are the same ones freaking out and attacking what they see as a politics of class war coming from the other side.  Their culture war is good; our class war is bad.

It’s the same struggle. Which side are you on?

Political Cartoon: Love for Norway by Kaveh Adel | Kaveh Adel, the Human

 

 

 

 

 

Political Cartoon: Love for Norway by Kaveh Adel | Kaveh Adel, the Human.

Really, you should just read everything Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times…

Have You Left No Sense Of Decency?: “30 years ago people with high but not super-high incomes generally felt ashamed of themselves for griping — or at least, felt that they would be ridiculed if they gave voice to their gripes. Today, all restraints are off… (via NYTimes.com.)