Archive | February, 2013

350.org disses Obama’s golf holiday with encouraging candor

20 Feb
Comments like this one make it hard to be optimistic.

But comments like this one make it hard to be optimistic.

350.org is currently distributing a photo of Obama, with text, via Facebook.  Nothing new about that, right?  But this doesn’t show the president next to an inspiring quote, or caught in some photo op that makes him look like a hero.

This image from Huffington Post shows Obama in the Florida sunshine, playing golf with fossil fuel executives on the same day – February 17, 2013 – that thousands of protestors shivered outside the White House in what’s being called the biggest climate protest in US history.  It makes Obama look really bad, as it should.

Lately, I’ve been a critic of 350.org for the over-sympathetic and under-critical messages they have been broadcasting about Obama through social media and other channels.  I am glad, however, to see that someone administering their social media “gets it” enough to unflinchingly point out who and what Obama really considers priority.

How does 350.org suggest people express their outrage at Obama’s cavalier snub?  They provide information about contacting the White House via telephone and email. Not exactly the stuff of revolutionary politics, but that’s okay, for now.  Rome didn’t fall in a day.

The action in DC on February 17, 2013 looked, sounded, and felt like an Obama rally. That hurt the movement because it completely disgusts many of the radical people that are needed under this “big tent.”  I hope the backlash from non-Democrats of many stripes – Greens, Anarchists, Communists, Socialists, whatever –  has been loud enough that it doesn’t happen again.  Until it does, I will try to be optimistic.

Here's what 350.org posted on Facebook after the State of the Union Address on February 12 with the recommendation "Click LIKE if you're ready to see the President put these words into action..."

Here’s what 350.org posted on Facebook after the State of the Union Address on February 12 with the recommendation “Click LIKE if you’re ready to see the President put these words into action…”

The climate movement has a tough, uphill battle.  What hope we have seems reliant upon the movement being both uncompromising and uncompromisingly non-partisan.

Last night, on Occupy Boston Radio’s “The Realm News” with Frank Capone and Andrea Romig, I outlined three assumptions that I think are crippling the movement against climate change.  If this is something you care about, please listen here.

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Chris Dorner, the pope, capitalism, and the case against Occupy Boston

15 Feb

Listen to the “Banned of Boston” gang as they argue, rant and joke about topics including Benedict XVI, the execution of Chris Dorner, Obama’s State of the Union Address, Suffolk County dropping its case against Occupy Boston activists, the possibility of peaceful revolution, the problem of capitalism, the problem of fascism, the problem of racism, and the problem of -isms.  Thanks to co-hosts Rene Perez and Nelson Terry, guests Ruth Garcia, KC Hoye, Garret Kirkland, Mass Krawitz, Jeff Nunes, and technical producer Liam Sherry.   To hear the February 14, 2013 episode, click here.

You might also want to read “Charges against Occupy Boston have been dropped.  So why aren’t we celebrating?”

“Tonight the President said he would end the drone wars”

13 Feb
2010 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

2010 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

Last night, Barack Obama gave a State of the Union address that began with a quote from John F. Kennedy telling us that his task as president was “to report the State of the Union.  To improve it is the task of us all.”

What came next might surprise some people.  Keegan O’Brien, a student and activist in Boston, encapsulated it as follows:

Tonight the President said he would end the drone wars, repeal any law that indefinitely detains Americans, repeal any law that gives our government the right to kill someone on suspicion on anything, tax the rich their fair share, propose a single payer health care plan, decriminalize drugs and fund rehabilitation centers, enact a plan to phase out all oil and gas drilling, reunite families torn apart by immigration raids, dramatically reduce the military budget, guarantee housing as a human right, and work hard to pass inclusive non-discrimination policies across the board. #NOT

Obama did actually say some good things he plans to do, like improve education and fight to raise minimum wage to $9 per hour.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he was lying.  A transcript of Obama’s speech is posted at the Washington Post.

Charges against Occupy Boston have been dropped. So why aren’t we celebrating?

8 Feb
Boston Police arresting Occupy Boston protestors on October 11, 2013. Photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Boston Police arresting Occupy Boston protestors on October 11, 2013. Photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Five activists from Occupy Boston were scheduled to begin trial this Monday.  But today, without warning, the Suffolk County District Attorney dropped the charges against them and 22 others who refused to take the deals offered by prosecutors.

When I heard this, I thought it was time to celebrate.  I was there at the Boston Police raids in October 2011 and December 2011.  I’ve seen how looming legal action has taken its toll on good people from Occupy Boston.  Urszula Masny-Latos, Executive Director of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and a woman I’ve grown to trust, even said the following in a press release:

We believe that the DA’s decision amounts to an acknowledgment of the unconstitutionality of the arrests and criminal charges that had been brought against hundreds of Occupy Boston participants, and shows that the state has finally admitted that the demonstrations by Occupy activists were legal and constitutionally protected.

But this dropping of charges isn’t being done to exonerate the activists involved.  It’s being done to avoid giving the arrestees and their attorneys a platform.  Reading more of Nation Lawyer Guild press release, it’s easy to see why the District Attorney wants to unlock horns with Occupy Boston and the NLG:

Fully ready to contest the charges at trial, the defendants and their representatives from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) had subpoenaed Mayor Menino, Police Commissioner Ed Davis, and Nancy Brennan (former head of the Greenway Conservancy) to explain why the City of Boston and its police department unconstitutionally applied the Massachusetts trespass and unlawful assembly laws to impinge upon Occupy Boston participants’ rights to assemble, to express their protected speech, and to petition the government.  In addition, they had also subpoenaed Joshua Bekenstein and Mitt Romney (of Bain Capital), and Robert Gallery (CEO of Bank of America) to address their role in constructing and perpetuating excessive corporate power and an economic system that favors the wealthiest 1% of the population at the expense of the remaining 99%– an undemocratic system in which the voices of the people are ignored. The police action in arresting occupiers demonstrated that voices of conscience that speak out against social and economic inequality are not only ignored, they are unlawfully silenced by the state’s use of violence, fear, threat, and repression.

Mitt Romney and Robert Gallery?  That could have been a very interesting day in court.  I’ll be watching closely to see what happens next.  Some folks are talking about the possibility of a civil trial.  In the meanwhile, take a look at the rest of the NLG’s press release here and this intense post by Allison  “Una Spenser” Nevitt at the Daily Kos that points out some serious problems with a report given by the Boston Globe.

If you are sympathetic to the ideas that fueled the Occupy movement, please donate to the NLG.  Without their constant and continued assistance, we basically would have been at the mercy of the cops and the courts.  A direct link for that is here.

Is the blizzard travel ban in Massachusetts authoritarian?

8 Feb
travelban

Talk of the Nero travel ban in the Twitterverse.

Yesterday, media hit the panic button and people rushed, well-trained, to purchase merchandise.  Today, Deval L. Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, announced a ban on motor vehicle travel beginning at 4 pm and continuing until further notice.

The proclamation, called Executive Order No. 543, cites authority “pursuant to the power provided by Chapter 639 of the Acts of 1950.” Motorists are threatened with a $500 fine and up to one year in jail if they violate the governor’s order.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is comfortable with the travel ban.  Bet Power, an outspoken Northampton, MA resident and longtime activist, wrote on Facebook:

I live in Massachusetts where it is snowing today as it typically does in winter in New England. I have never been ordered by law not to drive my car before, not even in the Great Chicago Blizzard of 1967 where 2 feet of snow fell every hour for 8 hours! Is it just me or does anyone else (especially in the western part of MA) feel weird about the total travel ban?

The ban doesn’t apply to safety people, public works people, healthcare workers, the media and those “that provide critical services to the public, including gasoline stations, food stores and hardware stores.” 

According to Patrick, “the point is not to figure out how to come down hard on people…it is to emphasize how critical it is that non-essential travel on the roads cease during this storm and the immediate aftermath. We will be flexible.”

Bet Power opined, “I wouldn’t want a cop figuring out if he can be ‘flexible’ with me while I’m sitting in the police station…I would prefer our government advises us to stay off the road for safety reasons, plowing by the DPW, etc. but not impose jail time and a fine if we, as free citizens, choose to drive our cars.”

This comment appeared on Occupy Boston's Facebook page.

This comment appeared on Occupy Boston’s Facebook page.

The Massachusetts travel ban wouldn’t bother me so much if there weren’t so many signs that authoritarianism is encroaching on our daily lives.  Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is doing random searches on the MBTA. Obama signed NDAA 2013 with all its frightening implications.  B. Manning is still in jail.  The list goes on.

I have no special gripe against Deval Patrick.  He’s no worse than any other politician who builds their career propping up a dirty system.  When Occupy Boston was camped in Dewey Square, he came down and walked through it.  That’s more than Mayor Menino did.  I’m willing to believe Governor Patrick’s primary motivation here is to save lives and save money.

But this executive order still normalizes heavy-handed use of government power.  Over the next few years, expect more travel bans, checkpoints and other prohibitive authoritarian tactics from the people at the top.  Expect people will be fighting back, too.

Dissing the DHS on Blog Talk Radio

5 Feb

 

Annie Lindstrom disguised as a wise old owl.

Annie Lindstrom disguised as a wise old owl.

I met Annie Lindstrom, a cheerful Florida resident who hosts a show called “Talkupy” on Blog Talk Radio, early last year. Today was my second time on her program and we began with a brief discussion of some of the projects that have grown out of Occupy Boston since its eviction.  We then turned our attention to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) activities in Massachusetts ranging from a US Customs service raid at Westgate Mall in Brockton last weekend to the ongoing intensification of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints on the Boston’s public transit system, the MBTA.  We ended with conversation about the tar sands pipeline situation in Portland, Maine.  Here’s a link.

TSA out of MBTA on “Banned in Boston”

1 Feb
Nelson Terry, Rene Perez and Garret Kirkland on the January 31, 2013 episode of "Banned in Boston."

Nelson Terry, Rene Perez and Garret Kirkland on the January 31, 2013 episode of “Banned in Boston.”

 John Ford, Rene Perez, Nelson Terry and I had a good time making last night’s “Banned in Boston.” That’s despite tackling such weighty topics as armed Federal agents conducting random bag searches in the subway system and the possibility that Queen Elizabeth II and George W. Bush are reptilian aliens who intentionally want tar sands pipelines to destroy Earth’s current ecosystem.  Garret Kirkland was in the studio with us, and Ruth Garcia joined us for the end.  A direct link to the January 31, 2013 episode is here.