Opinion

2011-10-23 The Rise of the Occupy Insurgency, The World’s First Internet Revolution #OWS

The 1980's popularization of the computer and the birth of the Internet was a quantum shift in communication and an evolutionary step for human society. The Digital Revolution marked the latest stage of the information age. People in distant parts of the world now connect instantly and information flow has shrunk the world. One of the biggest changes recently is the interconnected immediacy of social networking. This is a communication revolution in itself.

The word revolution has roughly three different meanings. The first is political, signifying fundamental change in political institutions, such as the overthrow of a government and replacement with another form. The second describes a fundamental change in technology or society in general, such as the Industrial Revolution. The Digital Revolution brought a shift in how we communicate as well as a sea change in a vast array of technology. And lastly in astronomy, revolution is the orbiting of one heavenly body around another.

Until recently, the Digital Revolution has not been fundamentally linked to serious political change. Yet, it created the foundation for the ubiquitous social media that is now being linked with political revolution on a global scale.

2011-10-20 WikiLeaks: Syrian regime says it can make it worse in Lebanon

Not speaking often publicly on general issues is a main attribute of the top leadership in the Syrian Baathist regime. They rarely allow themselves to be faced and challenged by the media. The regime tends to convey its messages via different proxies and mouthpieces who are regime-linked. These unofficial spokespeople meet foreign officials or media to express the official line.

Take for example the Syrian uprising which is seven months old now. Rarely has a Syrian official has showed up in any TV show since the 'troubles' started in Syria; nothing like an interior minister, sub-minister or even a spokesman. The task is usually done by 'analysts', 'academics' or 'strategists' who are actually fiercer than the regime itself in expressing the official line. A lot of these names have become infamous now as they have been hosted almost full-time on satellite channels like AlArabiya and AlJazeera. Dr. Taleb Ibrahim is one of these. Of the few times the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem spoke to the media for example, they were in press conference type meetings rather than debate talk show types. Still, he managed to wipe out new countries when he spoke.

2011-10-16 Ten Thousand March with #OccupyLA

Saurday was the biggest day yet at Occupy Los Angeles as it began its third week. Around noon, between 10,000 – 15,000 people, according to official LAPD estimates, marched from Pershing Sq. through the financial district and then to the occupation site at city hall. With so many protesters, the police closed the streets for the march, which was very spirited with people from all over Southern California and what is more important a mix of people that was incredibly representative of South California. As this is not radio, I will let the 14 pictures in the slideshow below the fold speak for themselves.

The march ended at Occupy Los Angeles which now involves over 300 tents occupying almost of the grassy areas around city hall. Thousand of people stayed around for the celebration, dancing music, committee meetings, film screenings, yoga and more.

As city hall is closed on Saturday, we had the run of the place. The north, west and south stairs operated as three stages all afternoon and into the night. For the afternoon, Spring St. on the west side of city hall was blocked off to traffic so that people could rally there. A portable stage and sound system was set up in the middle of the street and that was the main forum for post march speakers and musicians.

2011-10-14 A brief history of the 15th of October: where it comes from, what it means and the future of the global uprising

The past 17th of September the world assisted almost unknowingly to the first taste of the new global protest of our time. Initially this was the date marked as the beginning of the Occupy Wall St. movement (now a nationwide phenomenon), however it also served to launch an international campaign of protests in front of local banks and stock exchanges dubbed as 'Antibanks Day'. For the first time, the rising global civil movement, based on democratic assemblies and structured around an ever-growing network of activists, tested its capacity to rally people worldwide and not only in a national framework. They created task-forces for media strategies, both online and offline, set up independent live-streams and coordinated globally for spreading information. Consequently, the start of Occupy Wall Street was used as an excuse by activists everywhere to prepare for the worldwide protest on October 15th, which will be the consolidation of this structure, and will set the standard for it's future success or failure.

2011-10-12 Los Angeles City Council votes support for #OccupyLA

Contradicting the trend in New York, Boston, Washington, DC and other cities where the growing occupation movement has been met by official hostility and police violence, today, on the twelfth day of the people's encampment at Los Angeles city hall in opposition to the domination of the big banks and in support of Occupy Wall St., the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution to promote responsible banking by the City of Los Angeles and in support of Occupy Los Angeles.

The resolution with the title "First Amendment Rights / Occupy Los Angeles / Responsible Banking Measure" was sponsored by Richard Alarcon and Bill Rosendahl and was seconded by five other councilpersons, virtually assuring it of passage.

The agenda item for this read as follows:

09-0234-S1

CONSIDERATION OF RESOLUTION (ALARCON - ROSENDAHL - ET AL.) relative to the City's position to support the First Amendment Rights carried out by “Occupy Los Angeles” and addressing concerns regarding the Responsible Banking measure.

Recommendation for Council action, SUBJECT TO THE CONCURRENCE OF THE MAYOR: ADOPT the accompanying RESOLUTION to SUPPORT the continuation of the peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment Rights carried out by "Occupy Los Angeles" and URGE the City Departments responsible for completing the implementation plan associated with the Responsible Banking measure (Council file No. 09-0234) that was approved by the Council on March 5, 2010, which would address some of the concerns of the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstrators by demanding accountability and results from the Banks we invest taxpayer dollars in, to bring the Responsible Banking measure for a final vote to the Council by October 28, 2011

After dozens of public comments by members of Occupy LA including me and other citizens, the endorsement of many City Counclpersons, and the haggling over the date for the final vote on the banking measure, the council passed the resolution by a vote of 11 to 0 with a couple members abstaining.

2011-10-12 A call to the Army of Love and to the Army of Software

By Franco Berardi and Geert Lovink

October 2011. The fight opposing financial dictatorship is erupting.

The so-called ‘financial markets’ and their cynical services are destroying the very foundations of social civilization. The legacy of the postwar compromise between the working class and progressive bourgeoisie has all but disappeared. Neoliberal policies are cutting back education and the public health system and is cancelling the right to a salary and a pension. The outcome will be impoverishment of large parts of the population, a growing precarity of labor conditions (freelance, short-term contracts, periods of unemployment) and daily humiliation of workers. The yet to be seen effect of the financial crisis will be violence, as people conjure up scapegoats in order to vent their rage. Ethnic cleansing, civil war, obliteration of democracy. This is a system we call financial Nazism: FINAZISM.

Right now people are fighting back in many places, and in many ways. Occupy Wall Street inspired a mass mobilization in New York that is extending across the USA every day. In Greece workers and students are squatting Syntagma square and protesting against the blackmail by the European Central Bank, which is devastating the country. Cairo, Madrid, Tel Aviv, the list of the ‘movements of the squares’ is proliferating. On October 15 cities across the globe will amass with people protesting against the systemic robbery.

2011-10-09 #OccupyLA - Day 8

It is sunny and mild, mid 70's with a slight breeze. In other words, a typical Southern California day. What is not typical is what is going on around city hall. Hundreds of tents have been set up on both sides of city hall. In the morning work shops were meeting at various locations in the city hall park, musicians were playing at different locations and someone was leading an exercise group. Over 300 protesters stayed in the Occupy Los Angeles encampment last night to support their brothers and sisters in Occupy Wall St. and today many hundreds more are wandering around, most making their first visit to Occupy LA. It always feels like Spring in Los Angeles but lately, it's been feeling like the Arab Spring.

2011-10-08 #OccupyLA - Day 7

Friday was the tenth anniversary of the U.S. war on Afghanistan and in the morning the Interfaith Communities United for Peace and Justice led a big march against the war endorsed by almost fifty progressive organizations in Southern California, including VFP, PDA, ANSWER, NLG, AFL-CIO, & Code Pink. ICUPJ was formed right after 9/11/01 and is just about as old as the war.

The demands of the march were to stop the wars and fund jobs. They asked that all troops and private contractors be removed from Iraq and Afghanistan this year, that torture be stopped both at home and abroad and they called for an end to drone attacks targeting civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere.

2011-10-06 #OccupyLA - Day 6

President Obama's Press Conference couldn't seem to stay way from the subject of Occupy Wall St. It came up time and again. Obama mentioned it and then Jay Taper of ABC News brought it up again. MSNBC is running interviews of people at the various occupations including Occupy Los Angeles. Fox News 11 was live at Occupy Los Angeles just before the noon march on an undisclosed bank with SEIU. It's beginning to feel like the story the major media wouldn't cover is becoming the story they can't stop talking about.

Occupy Los Angeles was once again bathed in sun light as the rain cleared up and the camp dried out. More and more occupies have been arriving everyday to the point that the north lawn is getting crowded with tents. Tomorrow the film shoot and the farmer's market will be over and the occupation moves back to the more spacious south lawn.

While the move from the north lawn had been forced by circumstances and the city, it turned out to be another thing that worked well for Occupy Los Angeles. Anyone who has ever held a small event in a large hall, knows how that can convey the feeling that not many people showed up even through turn out was greater that expected. The north yard was actually more suitable for their numbers in the beginning, now it is bursting at the seams with occupiers and tents. It's very crowded and that makes for good visuals. The move tomorrow will allow them to spread out a bit and make room for new occupiers. If the present rate of growth continues, both lawns will be packed by the end of October.

The renowned actress Rosanna Arquette toured Occupy Los Angeles in the morning, was interviewed on the live stream, did photo ops with some of the occupiers and told them why she was there, "Greed is not the American way."

2011-10-05 #OccupyLA - Day 5

It never rains in Southern California but it is raining today, another test for Occupy Los Angeles. It rained off and on all night and is expected to be rainy for the next few days with tomorrow being the worst. It should be clearing up about the same time the permit for amplified sound and full use of the city hall park comes into effect. Also by then, the film shoot on the larger south lawn will be over and they can move back there. That will be good. They need the space, protesters keep arriving and Occupy LA is already outgrowing the smaller north lawn. Soon they will need both.

The whole occupation movement is growing here in Southern California as it is elsewhere. Visitors from the new Occupy Orange County came here yesterday, as did some people planning Occupy Longbeach and at noon today, students walked out of classes to begin Occupy USC.

2011-10-04 #OccupyLA - Day 4

After the struggle following the first Occupy LA General Assembly in which a small group of protesters balked at the police demand, insisted upon by the Occupy LA Security Committee, that all tents be moved to the sidewalk after 10:30pm, this group congealed into what they begin calling themselves the “Police Brutality Committee.” They did this without seeking or receiving approval of the GA.

On Sunday, the 2nd day of the occupation, this group met together the better part of the day in preparation for the evening GA. When they met as the Police Brutality Committee, they resolved to call for the disbanding of the Security Committee, which they said acted like police and took orders from the police.

2011-10-02 #OccupyLA - Day 2

328 people spent their first night camped out at Los Angeles City Hall last night. At the General Assembly on Saturday evening there was a long discussion, that got quite heated at times, about whether to camp out on the grass or to move to the sidewalk as requested, under threat of arrest by the police. In the end almost everyone moved to the sidewalk last night but they are back in the City Hall park today.

In the end, the threatened police crackdown never materialized. As it turned out, the LAPD had bigger fish to fry. The entire department was put on a citywide tactical alert Saturday night but that had nothing to do with Occupy Los Angeles. Two undercover narcotics cops got shot in a drug deal gone bad in Korea Town. As of this afternoon, the suspects were still at large so the police presence at city hall has been relatively light.

Actually so far, the LAPD has been very accommodating to the march. Although they had no permit for the march Saturday and they marched on the sidewalk, the police stopped traffic at every intersection so that the eight minute procession could be out of everyone's way as much as possible. They could have made them bunch up at every red light and written tickets for anyone that missed the cue. A single police car was posted on the street across from the protest all day Sunday but apart from the fact that it happened to be parked in front of the LAPD headquarters, which is also across the street from the city hall, there wasn't much of a police presence. No cops were even seen to be patrolling the grounds surrounding city hall. Those familiar with the LAPD's response to mass protests in the past knows that this has not always been the case.

2011-10-01 UPDATED w Pixs & Video: The Arab Spring Comes to Los Angeles! #OccupyLA

Thousands of people marched from Pershing Sq to the Los Angeles City Hall this afternoon. The shear numbers have forced the LAPD to backoff of their hardline attitude and allow us to occupy both the lawn and the sidewalk on all sides of city hall. Even the march was made without a city permit, the police stopped traffic so that the march could move efficiently through the downtown city streets. At the General Assembly last night the decision had been made to march down Broadway, normally filled with shoppers on a Saturday, rather than the normally empty financial district. The reception of the shoppers on Broadway was fantastic and the honking of passing cars has never stopped since we arrive at city hall hours ago.

Since the marchers arrived at city hall, it has been one grand celebration. Many more have joined their ranks. Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic spoke and so did Marcy Winograd and many others. Dozens of pizzas where delivered and passed around as many ate their first meal of the occupation. Water was declared the official soft drink of the revolution. Anons in Guy Fawkes masks carried a sign with saying “No Wat but Class War.” Now folks are gathering on the South lawn listening to poetry readings as a trumpet plays softly in the background. Soon they will be having the first General Assembly.

The city council is now said to be “99%” in support of Occupy Los Angeles but it remains to be seen how the LAPD responses after scheduled activities end at 10:30pm and people begin to bed down because nothing has been set for sleeping arrangements.

So stay tuned for updates.

Saturday morning, people gather in Pershing Sq.

2011-09-30 Occupy Los Angeles on October 1st!

There was a spirited 3 hour meeting Thursday evening in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles that was attended by about 200 activist to plan Occupy Los Angeles which will begin 10:00am Saturday morning, October 1st with a peaceful occupation at the Los Angeles City Hall. This was the latest in a series of planning General Assemblies that have been meeting in the park regularly at 7:00PM to plan the Los Angeles movement in solidarity with the Occupy Wall St. action against corporate greed and the many other occupations that are taking place around the world that also include Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Denver and dozens of others right here in the United States. Minutes for the four previous GAs can be read here. The last pre-occupation General Assembly will take place at Pershing Sq. Friday, September 30th and all who are interested are invited to attend.
Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly 9-29-11

This is the official Occupy Los Angeles website. Look here for all kinds of info about the protest in LA. Staring Saturday morning you will be able to see streaming video of the protest at City Hall here also. You may follow Occupy Los Angeles on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and Delicious.

2011-09-02 WikiLeaks and the anti-Hezbollah militias

In my ‘Lebanon, the medieval Ottoman country’ post, I described 14March leaders as a bunch of sectarian warlords. I was not indicating only to their history during the Lebanese civil war, but rather to their current and recent history in peace time.

These leaders are currently advocating building a civil unarmed society in Lebanon (which is their main argument against Hezbollah), but in reality they do not mind getting armed to fight Hezbollah. I think they surely serve foreign interests in a way or another too, or at least they accept to be used. Let’s be practical here, we know how international politics is conducted, and politicians have to exploit international balances and political opportunities, and this is fine. But to ‘exploit’ opportunities to go back to civil war? I am not sure about that.

So the biggest scandal of all, which was revealed by the recently released American diplomacy cables by Wikileaks (and Al-Akhbar newspaper in Lebanon), was their readiness, intention and initiative to seek arms. I don’t deny that Hezbollah was acting like a militia then and still, but this problem surely can’t be solved by having other ‘too many militias’. After 25 years of civil war (1975-1990), 200,000 estimated fatalities, 1 million wounded, and 350,000 displaced person, I am completely baffled that some Lebanese leaders and their supporters still believe that military fights can sort out political and social problems on the ground.

I list below the released cables with links to the original source, which show the Lebanese leaders hypocritical and stupid mentality:

2011-08-23 The Digital Vandal: Daniel Domscheit-Berg’s War Against Transparency

The transparency movement has many vocal proponents. A recent event in the Wikileaks sagas proves that those who could be in the most effective position to strengthen it are only content to give it lip service.

Take Daniel Domscheit-Berg, for example. A former Wikileaks staffer, Domscheit-Berg had a very public and bitter falling-out with Wikileaks editor Julian Assange in September 2010 and has since cultivated the public role of pragmatist pitted against Assange’s flinty eccentric in a battle of archetypes.

Soon after his dismissal, Domscheit-Berg made it a personal signature to tirelessly use every publicity opportunity to disparage his former employer. He announced he would be starting a new rival whistleblower website – Openleaks – a supposedly sensible and measured alternative to his previous gig. A gossip-heavy and factually inconsistent book followed – Inside Wikileaks: My Time With Julian Assange At The World’s Most Dangerous Website, filled with the mundane details of Assange’s eating habits and dress sense. Additional details on Domscheit-Berg’s predilection for unappetizing quasi-meat dishes and general whining helped feed the internet meme machine for several months.

Nonetheless, some campaigners for transparency held their tongues amidst all this acrimony, consoling each other with Domscheit-Berg’s promise to launch Openleaks, which in theory could advance the cause for transparency as a complement to Wikileaks, which is perennially defending itself from legal and political attacks.

There was hope that the launch of Openleaks would relegate the emphasis on the interpersonal sniping to a mere footnote of history and provide a valuable addition to the effort to increase transparency amongst powerful organisations.

Well, there goes that hope.

2011-08-20 Anonymous Takes Cyber-Activism to the Streets #OpBART

Image Credit -  @exiledsurfer Image Credit - @exiledsurfer

On August 15, a group of online activists known as Anonymous showed that their words and deeds can indeed move beyond cyberspace. In response to BART's August 11th attempt to foil protest with a shutdown of their wireless communication system, Anonymous launched OpBART to protest these actions. Over that weekend, Anonymous lit up, defacing myBART.org and commandeering thousands of user names from the woefully insecure BART network. This is par for the course for Anonymous.

The events broke into the mainstream news. On Monday morning it was on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle and other papers. Monday August 15th was X day for OpBART. With Twitter and social media facilitating the communication, those who care about free speech around the world watched to see if Anon could actually take their action to the streets.

Anonymous successfully carried out their intention. This was a rare pubic appearance that echoed some of their first actions against the Church of Scientology. Shawn Gaynor, writing for the San Francisco Bay Guardian noted how this protest was “the most civil of civil disturbances the city has seen surrounding the police brutality issue”.

Anonymous, who defaced BART’s external website now showed their face publicly as activists. Across time and space, struggles for justice from the past converged in SF with present action. Online activism led by the meme of Guy Fawkes masks from the film V for Vendetta emerged and entered the frame of conventional activism. People of all ages came. Ordinary people in nonviolent protest against BART violence and censorship showed solidarity with the group.

2011-08-14 Orwell’s Big Brother Coming to Roost in the Land of Free Speech #OpBart

ImageToday, the force of censorship is increasing. In response to the recent riots in London, the British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that social media should be controlled by the police.

This order came from the man who in his February Kuwait speech acknowledged the crucial role of social media in the Middle East revolutions, saying how the freedom of speech and access to the Internet are “the entitlement of people everywhere; of people in Tahrir Square as much as Trafalgar Square”.

Welcome to Orwell’s 1984. Big Brother is watching. The threat against the free flow of communication is the start of a slippery slope toward a police state. We have seen the same thing happening in Egypt under Mubarak and this seems to be occurring now in the Western world.

Armchair observers in the US who saw the revolts against censorship overseas are apparently not immune. Electronic Frontier Foundation's Eva Galperin’s article titled “BART Pulls a Mubarak in San Francisco” reported that this virus is spreading to the self professed home base of freedom of speech, the United States.

It was a bright sunny day in August, and the clocks were striking five. An agency in San Francisco called the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) shut down cell phone services in the central part of the system to prevent a planned protest of a fatal shooting by the BART police.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson told a KTVU reporter that the public relations department had suggested the phone service be shut down. This was unprecedented in the US. The social media was immediately buzzing to notify the world of the incident. One noted activist shouted out the last words of Galperin’s article:

2011-08-09 How to protest, a letter from Egypt

Authored by Ahmed Sabry (@A_M_Sabry)

1. Don't go directly to the destination, organize marches from several areas. Marches are like a bus it collects people on the way. Poor areas and affected areas get more supporters

2. Get volunteers in needed professions: lawyers and doctors and set up an SMS system for support (needed medicine, legal representation, etc.)

3. Unify your slogans and demands before you start. Everyone should know before hand why he/she is joining.

4. To make sure it is peaceful, organizers should be around the demonstrations at all times, if anyone gets out of hand arrest him and deliver him to the police yourselves

5. People should meet at an exact time not before or after. Getting a crowd at an exact time doesn't leave room for the government to react as they don't know the exact number.

6. Organizers should not be visible or different (no marks) plain clothes police will always be in your middle taking pictures so do not make it easy for them.

7. Cheerleaders, men or woman can chant routines to fire up the march are very important, silent marches are no no.

8. Start recruiting NOW.

9. Most important, keep it peaceful whatever happens, you will get much more supporters that way.

10. Start adding pictures with signs of people coming. Start youtube videos explaining why you are doing this and what are your demands.

11. Believe in yourself and don't worry about how many will come, everyone who was hurt by the system is on your side.

12. Sit ins are not for everyone, make sure that whoever goes home joins later with food water medicine for others. Never accept money, twitter your needs so people can bring them to you everyday.

Good luck from Egypt

2011-08-10 London calling: a haunting glimpse into our future? #UKRiots

The riots spreading through London are a terrifying reminder of what lies ahead as the austerity-obsessed West nosedives into economic collapse.

The markets plummet and London burns. Whatever your political inclinations may be, there’s no denying the apocalyptic quality to the headlines coming out of Europe’s largest city right now. What we are witnessing is financial meltdown and social meltdown in tandem. And, while there is no direct causal relationship between the two historical moments, there’s a connecting theme that unites them in a complex dialectic of collapse.

So this is what things have come to: a societal tragedy of unfathomable proportions. What the UK is experiencing right now is the total breakdown of social cohesion into utter lawlessness and indiscriminate violence. On the third consecutive day of unrest, rioting and looting spread throughout the capital and — for the first time — to other UK cities as well. And while I hate to be gloomy, I have to remind you once again that this is only just the beginning.

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