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Jill Stein on running to lose, being too political, and whether justice is possible under capitalism

14 Jun

Marisa Egerstrom, Jill Stein and Rene Perez in the space shared by UNregular Radio and DigBoston

Our guest on “Banned in Boston” last night was Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate in 2012. We discussed the protests in Turkey this month centered in Gezi Park and what Stein calls “a general outbreak of justice and democracy.” Then, addressing the question “how do we turn public will into political will?” Stein described being excluded from a recent rally against tar sands in which she was deemed “too political” too speak. After that, we turned to a statement by Slavoj Žižek, perhaps the most high-profile philosopher of our time, in which he alleges far-left candidates run to lose. Before wrapping up, we wrestled out an answer for the big question, “are peace and justice are possible under a capitalist system?”

Along the way we touched upon austerity, the Black Agenda Report, breaking up the banks, eviction blockades, the Economic Bill of Rights, fair trade, the Forward on Climate rally, Greece and Latin America, fracking, the Green Shadow Cabinet, the Green New Deal, Left Forum, lesser evils, Noam Chomsky, Occupy Wall Street, parliamentarianism, police brutality and intimidation, predator politics, presidential elections, suppression of free speech, tar sands blockades against TransCanada, tree hugging, wars for oil, unions and the labor movement, Barack Obama, local Socialist candidate Seamus Whelan (misidentified as “Sean Whelan”), Chuck Turner of the Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts, Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada, the perceived lack of ethnic diversity in the Green Party, and even FDR’s New Deal.

This episode was co-hosted by Marisa Egerstrom of the Protest Chaplains, Rene Perez who is known to some as the “man in the Yellow Hat,” and me, John Stephen Dwyer. Thanks to Noah Evans, Chris Faraone, Liam Leahey, and Jeff Nunes for submitting questions , Evan Greer (our guest on next week’s show) for the music, and to Occupy Boston for their support . To stream or download the mp3 file for this episode click here.

“Banned in Boston,” a weekly radio show that delivers radicalism with a local accent, is broadcast live every Thursday night, 8 pm on UNregular Radio and as repeats on Metacomet Radio. John Stephen Dwyer, author of this blog, is one of the hosts.


Political protest as an “adults only” activity

9 Mar

To all the parents out there? How can protests and movements better cater to you? What would you like to see at rallies, meetings, marches, etc.?”

That was a question asked today on the Facebook page of Occupy Boston. “Kids corner…lots of juice, diapers, non-MSG and non-sugar snacks” was among the typical responses. I disagree and don’t think the presence of children is appropriate at a real protest.

The purpose of a protest isn’t recreation, or socializing, or fresh air and exercise, or spending quality time with children, or making us feel a false sense of “having made a difference.” These needs can be better filled by other activities.

The purpose of a protest should be to create a shock that demands a response. Political will isn’t created until people without power do something that makes people with power break a sweat and say “oh damn, either we react or this will get worse for us.” Shock and response is the pattern of history.

Are you sad now because I said you shouldn’t take your kids to protest? Don’t be. You can still attend pseudo-protests like the “Forward on Climate” rally held on February. They called it a protest, but it was nothing but a polite, permitted march through the deserted streets of DC on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Vis-à-vis the false sense of accomplishment it created, it was literally worse than if people stayed home.

If you want take your kids to a parade disguised as a protest, be my guest. They’ll be plenty of them in 2013, organized by well-scrubbed, college-educated folk with plenty to lose. Tear away the social and recreational aspect of one of these farces and there’s almost nothing left. They are fun, however, for those who think you can make an omelet without breaking any eggs.

How do you know if you’re at a real protest or not? Ask yourself if civil disobedience is involved, and if it feels like someone might be pepper sprayed by the police. If the answer is “no” to both of these questions, then I hope you and the kids enjoy playing your theater roles. If the answer is “yes,” then congratulations. You’re probably at a real protest. Now get your kids the hell out of there as fast as possible. 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. 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 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 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 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 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.

“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.

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.

1,500 march against tar sands in Portland, Maine (are you in this video?)

27 Jan

About 1,500 people defied the bitter cold on January 26, 2013 to protest the transport of dangerous tar sands via pipeline from Montreal to Portland, Maine.  Here’s a video from the march.  Can you find yourself among these defiant souls in this video or in this photo album?  If you weren’t there, don’t feel guilty.  The fight against this project has just begun.  Join us next time; this is a winnable battle and the next round probably won’t be so cold.

Rita Sebastian and Ned Paschene on “Idle No More”

18 Jan
Nelson Terry, Rita Sebastian, Sage Radachowshy and John Murphy in the studio.

Nelson Terry, Rita Sebastian, Sage Radachowshy and John Murphy in the studio.

Rita Sebastian never fails to impress me with her rare combination of bravery, compassion and tenacity.  She was in the Banned in Boston studio last night as we talked to Ned Paschene, a Cree activist involved with the Idle No More protests erupting across Canada.  A direct link to the episode is here.

Rita has a tendency to get where the action is.  Last week, Rita headed up to Ottawa in answer to an invite from Ned Paschene.  On Friday, January 11, she joined a call for women to prevent Chief Matthew Coon Come of Quebec and others from attending a meeting with Stephen Harper since certain people were excluded. Here’s video of that.

Here’s a clip I shot of Rita last night outside UNregular Radio.  In this second clip, Rita talks about Idle No More, Chief Theresa Spence, and what happened outside Stephen Harper’s meeting.

Too hot for your iPhone? Blame climate change.

9 Jan
Too hot for your iPhone? Blame climate change.

Too hot for your iPhone? Blame climate change.

Winter here in North America coincides with summer in Australia, and it’s a hot one.  It’s so hot, in fact, that the Aussis were faced with a dilemma.  An eminent heat wave had them predicting it’s going to hit 122ºF (50ºC) and above.  As far as the color maps that meteorologists use to show local temperatures, this sort of heat is literally off the scale.

What’s Australia’s official response? Well, if you guessed that they’ve made emergency revisions to energy policies, you’re dead wrong.  Since they’re expecting heat levels that are off the scale, they’ve calmly implemented a change to deal with this crisis: They’ve changed the scale.

Now when places in Australia get beyond red hot and charcoal black there’s a blazing purple and a burning pink that will show up on weather maps instead.  But hey, maps shmaps, right?  Since these ultra-extreme temperatures are expected in Australia’s dry interior, some people might not be concerned.

Yet in Sydney, the most populous city in Australia, temperatures reached 108ºF (42ºC) this Monday.  As noted by Wired, the folks at Apple say that’s too hot to safely use an iPhone, and it’s almost enough to damage such an instrument when not in use. The iPad and iPod devices are affected by these temperatures too, and we can assume Apple products aren’t the only gadgets we have to worry about.  As founder Bill McKibben quipped via Twitter, “OMG, Aust. currently too hot to use an Ipad, Iphone. Finally a reason to act!”

Even more visible effects of this searing “dome of heat” down under are many.  Players at the 2013 Australian Open in Melbourne, for example, have been suffering heat stroke.  Between matches, the players are been seeking out air conditioned tents and ice baths so so their brains and bodies don’t shut down.  Tennis pros have that luxury, but most other people who perform strenuous outdoor activity for a living (construction workers and agricultural workers, for example) do not.

Extreme temperatures are a factor in huge big wildfires across Australia that show prominently in the Earth at Night maps made by NASA.  Wildfires are part of the natural order of things in Australia, but these rampant conflagrations are something else.  Tens of thousands of cattle and sheep have been killed in the fires, and almost a hundred people are missing after a blaze in Tasmania destroyed their homes last week. According to New York Times:

“Four months of record-breaking temperatures stretching back to September 2012 have produced what the government says are ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions along the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where the majority of Australians live…The intensity of the bushfires and the unrelenting heat prompted some climate scientists to decry what they see as public indifference to man-made climate change, which is widely seen as leading to more frequent extreme weather.”

David Jones, manager of climate monitoring prediction at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, remarked that “one might say this is the largest heat event in the country’s recorded history.”  He also noted, “this event is turning out to be hotter, more spatially expansive and the duration is quite remarkable…and that suggests climate change.”

Climate change is, of course, a global phenomenon and it’s foolish to think the effects of it won’t be increasingly visible in North America as well.  Sandy, the superstorm that destroyed lives not only islands in the Caribbean but also on New York’s Long Island, was likely an effect of it.  The same thing can be said of droughts that diminished food production in parts of the United States this year.

The National Climatic Data Center has officially deemed 2012 as the warmest year on record in the continuous United States.  55.3ºF (12.94ºC), the average temperature for the year just ended,  is 3.2ºF above the 20th century average and one full degree Fahrenheit above the average for 1998, previous holder of the record.  Wildfires burned 9.2 million acres of the United States in 2012.  What do you think the next decade years will be like?  How about the next century?

If these dramatic changes in Earth’s climate were being caused by a heat ray pointed at our planet by evil aliens from outer space, I think we’d agree that dealing with the issue of climate change must be the top priority of the human species.

But scientific consensus agrees that “climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities.”  It’s happening because of our reliance on fossil fuel combustion, our manufacturing processes, our agricultural methods and our deforestation efforts.  In short, cataclysmic climate change is caused by things that make rich people richer, and rich people control the world.

“Super Glue” action against TransCanada leads to 8 arrests in Massachusetts

8 Jan
January 7, 2012 action against TransCanada in Westborough, MA; photo via Students for a Just and Stable Future

January 7, 2012 action against TransCanada in Westborough, MA; photo via Students for a Just and Stable Future

Eight young adults were arrested yesterday after they glued their hands together with cyanoacrylate adhesive during a sit-in protest at TransCanada offices in Westborough, a Central Massachusetts town about 28 miles (45.47 km) west of Boston.

This direct action against TransCanada was one of six this same day across the US.  Protests also took place at TransCanada offices in Milwaukee, WI and in two locations in Houston, TX.  In Maine, activists targeted TD Bank, an important financier for Keystone XL, while people in Detroit, MI went after Chase bank, another major source of money for the project.  The protests are part of a nationwide week of action against the tar sands pipeline that is snaking its way across North America.

The people arrested at the Massachusetts sit-in range in age from 20 to 22 and are students or graduates of local universities including Brandeis, Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and University of New Hampshire.  Their names are Emily Edgerly, Devyn Powell, Lisa Purdy, Shea Riester, Ben Thompson, Benjamin Trolio, Dorian Williams and Alli Welton.  They’ve posted bios about themselves online.

While members of the group have said they acted independently, all are affiliated with 350 Massachusetts and some have connections with Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), an organization described on their website as “a student network fighting to ensure a just and stable future for our generation and the generations to come that are threatened by runaway global warming.”

They entered the building at 2 pm.  A post from Chris Faraone describes how they “marched up to the energy behemoth’s third floor office, sat in a circular formation with their backs touching, and began to click-in. By 2:10, crew members were fully chained and glued to one another, with fast-drying adhesive dripping from their hands and their bike locks.”  A contradictory report from someone involved with the action says they did not apply glue to their locks although that was their original plan.

They were inside until a few minutes after 5 pm, having successfully locked down the office until close of business.  By 6 pm, the protestors were at the police station, some of them still attached by chains.

Later, a comment on Facebook from 350 Massachusetts assured, “Students are now in jail being processed. Their chains and superglue have been removed.” Another post later in the night reported, “Students released!”  The Boston Globe reported that they each paid $40 bail and that nail polish remover intended to dissolve the glue wasn’t really needed.

Marla Marcum, an activist involved behind the scenes, told me that the protestors were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct and that the Boston Globe report of “disturbing the peace” is incorrect.  Marcum said that the police thanked them all for being so positive and cheerful when released and added, “They were the nicest group of police I ever experienced. We told them we would be coming back…one said with a big smile on his face, ‘You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.'”

The protestors will face arraignment in Westborough District Court at 8:30 am tomorrow and have  issued a statement that begins:

Today we stand together as representatives of a desperate generation who have been forced into this position by the reckless and immoral behavior of fossil fuel corporations such as TransCanada. Our political leaders have failed countless times to stand up to the tyranny of fossil fuel giants and take the necessary steps to solve the climate crisis. Their failures have disrupted and destroyed millions of lives.

The eight arrestees show their release papers in this image posted on the 350 Massachusetts page on Facebook

The eight arrestees show their release papers in this image posted on the 350 Massachusetts page on Facebook

This text regarding the January 7 action will be updated as more facts are available.  I’m expecting some phonecalls, and tonight starting 6 pm at First Church Cambridge (11 Garden Street, Harvard Square) there’s a gathering that includes a 350 Massachusetts meeting and preparations for the big protests taking place later this month in conjunction with Tar Sands Free Northeast.  It looks like some of the arrestees will be there, and I’ll try to have some of them on Banned in Boston this Thursday to say more about what happened and why.

In the meanwhile, please donate to the fund that helps make attention-getting actions like this possible.

The resources we depend on for survival are not collateral damage.

28 Dec
Last night on “Banned in Boston” we talked to Glen Collins, an activist who was arrested earlier this month in East Texas for barricading himself inside a mile-long section of the KXL pipeline.

Last night on “Banned in Boston” we talked to Glen Collins, an activist who was arrested earlier this month in East Texas for barricading himself inside a mile-long section of the KXL pipeline.

Last night on “Banned in Boston” we talked to Glen Collins, an activist who was arrested earlier this month in East Texas for barricading himself inside a mile-long section of the KXL pipeline. Glen, currently out on $55,000 bail, said this the day he was arrested:

I’m barricading this pipe with Tar Sands Blockade today to say loud and clear to the extraction industry that our communities and the resources we depend on for survival are not collateral damage. This fight in East Texas against tar sands exploitation is one and the same as our fight in the hollers of West Virginia. Dirty energy extraction doesn’t just threaten my home; it threatens the collective future of the planet.

According to the Tar Sands Blockade website, “Glen was forcibly removed from the pipe – he says that the pain was different than anything he’s felt before, like his chest was about to burst, until the carabiner on his wrist broke….The bad news is that Isabel and Matt are still in jail. Please help us get them out as soon as possible with a donation to their legal fund.”

Glen Collins is the second guest on “Banned in Boston” who was arrested in East Texas as part of the Tar Sands Blockade. The first, Pete Johnson, was on the show two weeks ago.  A direct link to last night’s episode with Glen Collins is here.