The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

NSA recruitment drive goes horribly wrong | guardian.co.uk

Everything about this is fantastic:

On Tuesday, the National Security Agency called at the University of Wisconsin on a recruitment drive.

Attending the session was Madiha R Tahir, a journalist studying a language course at the university. She asked the squirming recruiters a few uncomfortable questions about the activities of NSA: which countries the agency considers to be “adversaries”, and if being a good liar is a qualification for getting a job at the NSA.

She has posted … a rough transcript on her blog, The Mob and the Multitude. Here are some highlights.

The session begins …

Tahir: “Do you consider Germany and the countries that the NSA has been spying upon to be adversaries, or are you, right now, not speaking the truth?”

Recruiter 1: “You can define adversary as ‘enemy’ and, clearly, Germany is not our enemy. But would we have foreign national interests from an intelligence perspective on what’s going on across the globe? Yeah, we do.”

Tahir: “So by ‘adversaries’, you actually mean anybody and everybody. There is nobody, then, by your definition that is not an adversary. Is that correct?”

Recruiter 1: “That is not correct.”

Recruiter 2: “… for us, our business is apolitical, OK? We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us … We might use the word ‘target’.”

Tahir: “I’m just surprised that for language analysts, you’re incredibly imprecise with your language. And it just doesn’t seem to be clear.”

Later …

Tahir: “… this is a recruiting session and you are telling us things that aren’t true. And we also know that the NSA took down brochures and factsheets after the Snowden revelations because those factsheets also had severe inaccuracies and untruths in them, right? So how are we supposed to believe what you’re saying?”

Even later …

Tahir: “I think the question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk?” [A reference to an earlier comment the recruiter made about employees working hard and going to the bar to do karaoke.]

Recruiter 2: “… reporting the info in the right context is so important because the consequences of bad political decisions by our policymakers is something we all suffer from.”

Unnamed female student: “And people suffer from the misinformation that you pass along so you should take responsibility as well.”

Later still …

Male student: “General Alexander [head of the NSA] also lied in front of Congress.”

Recruiter 1: “I don’t believe that he did.”

Male student: “Probably because access to the Guardian is restricted on the Department of Defence’s computers. I am sure they don’t encourage people like you to actually think about these things. Thank God for a man like Edward Snowden who your organisation is now part of a manhunt trying to track down, trying to put him in a little hole somewhere for the rest of his life. Thank God they exist.”

And finally …

Recruiter 2: “This job isn’t for everybody, you know …”

Tahir: “So is this job for liars? Is this what you’re saying? Because, clearly, you’re not able to give us forthright answers. I mean, given the way the NSA has behaved, given the fact that we’ve been lied to as Americans, given the fact that factsheets have been pulled down because they clearly had untruths in them, given the fact that Clapper and Alexander lied to Congress – is that a qualification for being in the NSA? Do you have to be a good liar?”

Recruiter 1: I don’t believe the NSA is telling complete lies. And I do believe that you know, I mean people can, you can read a lot of different things that are, um, portrayed as fact and that doesn’t make them fact just because they’re in newspapers.”

Unnamed female student: “Or intelligence reports.”

Recruiter 1: “That’s not really our purpose here today and I think if you’re not interested in that … there are people here who are probably interested in a language career.”

More: Interrogation of NSA Recruiters By Students Is Perfect Internet Age Protest | The Rancid Honeytrap

A Report from the Major Rally for Bradley Manning | The Dissenter

On a hot summer day, hundreds of supporters of Pfc. Bradley Manning gathered outside the gates of Fort Meade in Maryland, where Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 3. They came on Saturday from cities on the east coast and other parts of the United States to show their support for someone they consider to be not only a whistleblower but also a hero.

Dear Prime Minister, You have done a great favour to us today, of which you are not aware. I’ve seen a Galatasaray (football team) fan picking up a Fenerbahçe (another football team) fan off of the street who fell against the police, to whom you have ordered to kill. I’ve seen students sharing their water and bread with each other; Kurds and Turks walking hand in hand. I’ve seen women, whom you call whores, coming out of the brothel to give lemons and water to those who were injured. I’ve seen people, whom you call transvestites, opening their hotel rooms for refuge; I’ve seen lawyers and doctors sharing their phones, medical students responding in emergencies. I’ve seen elderly ladies giving out clothes soaked in vinegar. I’ve seen shopkeepers sharing their wireless network passwords, hotel owners taking injured in to their lobbies. I’ve seen a bus driver blocking the road to prevent the panzer from entering. I’ve seen pharmacists opening their shops at night. And rest assured, tonight our eyes were filled with tears not because of the teargas you ordered to be fired but because of pride.

Open letter from the Turkish citizens to the prime minister.

Thousands of people are protesting against the government right now because of the violence and injustice they’ve been subjected to when they were peacefully protesting against government’s decision to cut down the trees and demolish a park.

Please share and let the world know that these people will not stand this torment and injustice anymore. They are chanting “We’ll have revolution!” and “Government resign!” and courageously resisting the police against the tear gas and physical brutality.

(via careful-sweetheart)

(Source: lucrezialoveshercesare, via elizabitchez)

thepeoplesrecord:

International Day of Action for Pfc. B. Manning on June 1
• 1 p.m. Gather (Reece Road and US 175, Fort Meade, Maryland)• 2 p.m. March• 3 p.m. Rally and Speak Out
Sponsored by the Bradley Manning Support Network and the national Veterans for Peace organization, with the help of Courage to Resist, and many other groups. After more than three years of imprisonment, including nine months of torture, Nobel Peace Prize nominee B. Manning’s trial is finally scheduled to begin June 3, 2013, at Fort Meade, Maryland. The outcome of this trial will determine whether a conscience-driven 25-year-old WikiLeaks whistle-blower spends the rest of their life in prison.
Manning believed that the American people have a right to know the truth about what our government does around the world in our name. We the People must send a message to the military prosecuting authority, and President Obama, that Manning is a patriot and heroic truth-teller.
June 1st is the International Day of Action to Support Pfc. B. Manning. Join us at Fort Meade on the eve of the court martial, and the anniversary of their  arrest. Solidarity actions are welcome at bases, recruiting centers and US embassies worldwide. We ask that Veterans for Peace join us in cosponsoring these historic events.——————————-Monday, June 3, 2013ATTEND THE BEGINNING OF U.S. v. BRADLEY MANNING8:30 a.m. Enter Fort Meade at Reece Road and US 175, Fort Meade, Maryland9:00 a.m. Scheduled daily start of hearings at Magistrate Court4432 Llewellyn Avenue, Fort Meade, MD. It is 2 miles from the Main Gate.The court martial is expected to last 6-12 weeks. Supporters are encouraged to attend as many days of this trial as they are able.——————————-Parking for Saturday, June 1, 2013. We hope to come to an understanding with local authorities regarding the best place for supporters to park for the Saturday rally. Parking is available about one mile south near Blue Water Blvd (Weis Market) and US 175. We’ll try to help shuttle folks as needed. Portable toilets are expected to be available.
Join us in the courtroom for the trial beginning June 3, 2013. Drive (or taxi) to the Fort Meade Visitor Control Center at the Fort Meade Main Gate (all the other gates are for military ID holders only), Reece Road and US 175, Fort Meade, Maryland. We suggest arriving when the visitor center opens at 7:30 a.m., and certainly before 8:15 a.m. The proceedings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. daily. The multiple layers of security take time to navigate, and procedures often change from day to day. Each person will need a valid state or federal photo ID such as a driver’s license, state photo ID card, or passport. Foreign passports are accepted. Anyone driving on to Fort Meade will be required to submit their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and printed (not digital) proof of insurance. Your vehicle will be subject to search, and you may be required to cover over political bumper stickers on your vehicle. Consider walking on base if there are any questions at all regarding your vehicle and paperwork.
The proceedings will be held at the Magistrate Court, 4432 Llewellyn Ave, Fort Meade, MD 20755 (this is one mile from the Visitor Center). Electronic devices, including cell phones, computers, cameras, are not allowed in the courtroom, and should be left in your vehicle.
There are no pre-registration requirements for the public to attend the proceedings. However, those wishing to attend as credentialed media should contact the US Army Military District of Washington Public Affairs Office at 202-685-4645.
Getting thereThe Fort Meade Main Gate is less than 10 miles south of the Baltimore-Washington DC International (BWI) airport. It is located between Washington DC and Baltimore MD.
Driving:
From Washington, DC, take MD-295 N towards BALTIMORE to US 175 EAST, then follow 175 EAST until you come to Reece Road. From Baltimore, MD, take MD-295 S towards WASHINGTON to US 175 EAST, then take 175 EAST until you come to Reece Road.
Buses:
There is regional bus service from BWI Airport to the Arundel Mills Shopping Center (Bus 017). Then take the CTC K to the Main Gate. For a Google Maps public transit view of this option click here.
Activist-organized round-trip buses:
Bus from Baltimore, MDLeaving June 1st at 11:30 am from the 2640 Space at 2640 St. Paul Street, Baltimore. Contact baltimore@bradleymanning.org, or better yet, reserve your seat today ($10)
Bus from New York CityLeaving 7:30am June 1st from NYC at 1270 Broadway, between 32nd and 33rd st. Reserve your seat today ($20).
Bus from Washington, DC|Leaving June 1st at 11:30am from in front of Union Station, Washington, DC. Contact malachy@bradleymanning.org, or better yet, reserve your seat today ($10).
Located outside these cities, but interested in organizing others to go to Ft. Meade? The Bradley Manning Support Network is offering small grants to help with organizing buses and vans to carpool to Ft. Meade for June 1st!
Train:
Note that the nearby Odenton MARC train station serves commuter trains only and does not run on the weekend. Amtrak does not stop at this station.
Where to stayThere are many hotels serving this area just south of the BWI Airport. The closest of these are 5-6 miles from the Ft. Meade Main Gate. One option is Aloft Arundel Mills, 7520 Teague Rd, Hanover, MD, 21076 (866-539-0036), $80-$100 night. A hotels.com search of the area turns up rooms nearby starting at $60 a night. The only lodging really close to the Ft. Meade Main Gate is the White Gables Motel; however, for a number of reasons, we strongly suggest avoiding it.

Event Location:Fort MeadeReece Road and US 175Fort Meade, MD 20755

Source
If you are attending the June 1 event at Ft. Meade or anywhere else in the world, submit or email us your photos, videos, commentary, etc. along with media credits. 

thepeoplesrecord:

International Day of Action for Pfc. B. Manning on June 1

• 1 p.m. Gather (Reece Road and US 175, Fort Meade, Maryland)
• 2 p.m. March
• 3 p.m. Rally and Speak Out

Sponsored by the Bradley Manning Support Network and the national Veterans for Peace organization, with the help of Courage to Resist, and many other groups. After more than three years of imprisonment, including nine months of torture, Nobel Peace Prize nominee B. Manning’s trial is finally scheduled to begin June 3, 2013, at Fort Meade, Maryland. The outcome of this trial will determine whether a conscience-driven 25-year-old WikiLeaks whistle-blower spends the rest of their life in prison.

Manning believed that the American people have a right to know the truth about what our government does around the world in our name. We the People must send a message to the military prosecuting authority, and President Obama, that Manning is a patriot and heroic truth-teller.

June 1st is the International Day of Action to Support Pfc. B. Manning. Join us at Fort Meade on the eve of the court martial, and the anniversary of their  arrest. Solidarity actions are welcome at bases, recruiting centers and US embassies worldwide. We ask that Veterans for Peace join us in cosponsoring these historic events.
——————————-
Monday, June 3, 2013
ATTEND THE BEGINNING OF U.S. v. BRADLEY MANNING
8:30 a.m. Enter Fort Meade at Reece Road and US 175, Fort Meade, Maryland
9:00 a.m. Scheduled daily start of hearings at Magistrate Court
4432 Llewellyn Avenue, Fort Meade, MD. It is 2 miles from the Main Gate.
The court martial is expected to last 6-12 weeks. Supporters are encouraged to attend as many days of this trial as they are able.
——————————-
Parking for Saturday, June 1, 2013. We hope to come to an understanding with local authorities regarding the best place for supporters to park for the Saturday rally. Parking is available about one mile south near Blue Water Blvd (Weis Market) and US 175. We’ll try to help shuttle folks as needed. Portable toilets are expected to be available.

Join us in the courtroom for the trial beginning June 3, 2013. Drive (or taxi) to the Fort Meade Visitor Control Center at the Fort Meade Main Gate (all the other gates are for military ID holders only), Reece Road and US 175, Fort Meade, Maryland. We suggest arriving when the visitor center opens at 7:30 a.m., and certainly before 8:15 a.m. The proceedings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. daily. The multiple layers of security take time to navigate, and procedures often change from day to day. Each person will need a valid state or federal photo ID such as a driver’s license, state photo ID card, or passport. Foreign passports are accepted. Anyone driving on to Fort Meade will be required to submit their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and printed (not digital) proof of insurance. Your vehicle will be subject to search, and you may be required to cover over political bumper stickers on your vehicle. Consider walking on base if there are any questions at all regarding your vehicle and paperwork.

The proceedings will be held at the Magistrate Court, 4432 Llewellyn Ave, Fort Meade, MD 20755 (this is one mile from the Visitor Center). Electronic devices, including cell phones, computers, cameras, are not allowed in the courtroom, and should be left in your vehicle.

There are no pre-registration requirements for the public to attend the proceedings. However, those wishing to attend as credentialed media should contact the US Army Military District of Washington Public Affairs Office at 202-685-4645.

Getting there
The Fort Meade Main Gate is less than 10 miles south of the Baltimore-Washington DC International (BWI) airport. It is located between Washington DC and Baltimore MD.

Driving:

  • From Washington, DC, take MD-295 N towards BALTIMORE to US 175 EAST, then follow 175 EAST until you come to Reece Road. From Baltimore, MD, take MD-295 S towards WASHINGTON to US 175 EAST, then take 175 EAST until you come to Reece Road.

Buses:

  • There is regional bus service from BWI Airport to the Arundel Mills Shopping Center (Bus 017). Then take the CTC K to the Main Gate. For a Google Maps public transit view of this option click here.

Activist-organized round-trip buses:

  • Bus from Baltimore, MD
    Leaving June 1st at 11:30 am from the 2640 Space at 2640 St. Paul Street, Baltimore. Contact baltimore@bradleymanning.org, or better yet, reserve your seat today ($10)
  • Bus from New York City
    Leaving 7:30am June 1st from NYC at 1270 Broadway, between 32nd and 33rd st. Reserve your seat today ($20).
  • Bus from Washington, DC
    |
    Leaving June 1st at 11:30am from in front of Union Station, Washington, DC. Contact malachy@bradleymanning.org, or better yet, reserve your seat today ($10).

Located outside these cities, but interested in organizing others to go to Ft. Meade? The Bradley Manning Support Network is offering small grants to help with organizing buses and vans to carpool to Ft. Meade for June 1st!

Train:

  • Note that the nearby Odenton MARC train station serves commuter trains only and does not run on the weekend. Amtrak does not stop at this station.

Where to stay
There are many hotels serving this area just south of the BWI Airport. The closest of these are 5-6 miles from the Ft. Meade Main Gate. One option is Aloft Arundel Mills, 7520 Teague Rd, Hanover, MD, 21076 (866-539-0036), $80-$100 night. A hotels.com search of the area turns up rooms nearby starting at $60 a night. The only lodging really close to the Ft. Meade Main Gate is the White Gables Motel; however, for a number of reasons, we strongly suggest avoiding it.

Event Location:
Fort Meade
Reece Road and US 175
Fort Meade, MD 20755

Source

If you are attending the June 1 event at Ft. Meade or anywhere else in the world, submit or email us your photos, videos, commentary, etc. along with media credits. 

(Source: thepeoplesrecord)

Foreclosed Homeowners Arrested At DoJ While Demanding Banker Prosecution | Occupy America

On Tuesday morning, homeowners facing foreclosure and housing rights activists from across the country — including the Home Defender’s League and Occupy Our Homes (an off-shoot of Occupy Wall Street) — rallied outside the U.S. Department of Justice to demand Attorney General Holder hold the Wall Street Banks that ravaged America’s economy accountable. Dozens of struggling homeowners are prepared to risk arrest in non-violent civil disobedience or set up an ongoing occupation outside the Department of Justice until demands for Wall Street accountability and relief for their communities are addressed.

The action at the DOJ began on Monday, and although they were supported by over 500 allies, the DOJ decided they would rather jail these everyday Americans than step up to help resolve the ongoing foreclosure crisis. Some of those arrested were even tasered — 17 arrests in all, with two being tasered by police.

[…] The breaking point came for these foreclosure victims who are willing to face arrest if necessary when after agreeing to various settlements since 2008 requiring a total of $5.7 billion in payments to homeowners, “banks have paid less than half” that amount to date, according to the Washington Post:

Critics point to the 2011 agreement the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Fed struck with more than a dozen mortgage servicers as a prime example of the dysfunction. […]

After 12 months, no homeowners had received a dime. But the eight consultants managing the process on behalf of the banks were paid nearly $2 billion. …

[++]

How the U.S. Turned Three Pacifists into Violent Terrorists | Dissident Voice

On the lengths this goddamned State will go to to silence and punish dissent:

In just ten months, the United States managed to transform an 82 year-old Catholic nun and two pacifists from non-violent anti-nuclear peace protestors accused of misdemeanor trespassing into federal felons convicted of violent crimes of terrorism. Now in jail awaiting sentencing for their acts at an Oak Ridge, TN nuclear weapons production facility, their story should chill every person concerned about dissent in the US.

Here is how it happened. [continue]

The story of S.F. Pride versus Bradley Manning and S.F. Pride versus the activist community of San Francisco is an ugly one that illumines the maggoty underside of assimilationist politics and policies. In the quest for straight acceptance that has propelled the LGBT community headlong into the arms of two of the most historically repressive institutions, marriage and the military, dissent has become anathema. … The controversy over Manning highlights what has happened in the juggernaut move toward equality — there’s no room for outliers. Either you are a Lisa Williams-style straight-acting, straight-looking martinet with no temper for dissent or you are like the people who signed the complaint — activists all — who recognize that our queer story is not going to be told simply through marriage equality and being able to enlist openly in the military. How San Francisco Pride Has Failed Bradley Manning | Advocate.com

anarcho-queer:

3 Elderly Activists To Be Imprisoned After “Sabotaging” U.S. Nuclear Weapons Facility

Three activists, including an 83-year-old nun, who broke into a US nuclear weapons facility in Tennessee were convicted on Wednesday of interfering with national security.

In what The New York Times labeled the biggest security breach in the history of the atomic complex, the trio broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28, 2012 and defaced a uranium processing plant.

The Y-12 facility has been in operation since 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, and today is responsible for both the production and maintenance of all uranium parts for the entire US nuclear weapons arsenal. Over the years, the facility has also been the target of nonviolent anti-nuclear protests.

Now, a jury in Tennessee has charged the three protesters with sabotaging the plant, with a second charge of damaging federal property.

Defense attorneys for the three activists - Sister Megan Rice, 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, 64 - maintained that the prosecution had overreached.

“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” defense lawyer Francis Lloyd said.

“You’re looking at three scapegoats behind me,” he added

Defense attorneys also noted that, once the three refused to plead guilty to trespassing, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, the prosecution introduced the charge of sabotage, which carries a maximum prison term of twenty years. They believed the higher charge should have been dismissed.

The three defendants spent two hours inside Y-12, during which time they hung banners, cut through security fences, strung crime-scene tape and sprayed “baby bottles full of human blood” on the exterior portion of the facility.

Prosecutors argued that the breach of security was serious, and caused the plant to shut down for two weeks as security staff were re-trained and defense contractors replaced.

Meanwhile, federal officials maintain that there was never any danger of the three activists reaching materials that could be detonated or used to construct an improvised bomb.

(via other-stuff)

A prescription for Palestinian pacifism amounts to saying to a people under the gun: ‘Oppose the violence that I pay for, and throw your body on the machine. Some of you will die, but it will be better for you. Trust me. But I will not throw my body on the war machine. I will not throw my body on the war machine of which the war machine that is oppressing you is a cog. I have nothing to do with that war-machine.’ … To that end, the notion that ‘we’ are practicing non-violence when ‘we’ partake of non-violent resistance is unacceptable. Our tax dollars and our passive acquiescence, our quiescence, or quietude, our muted fury—all of this creates complicity in violence, and there is something hypocritical in advocating non-violence while we do not, at least episodically, throw ourselves on the machine that churns out Palestinian and Iraqi and Afghan and African bodies. Violence suffuses our societies, and the privilege we have to write and speak about non-violence is a privilege that is the heritage of historical violence. Let us look at the podium from which our voices and ‘values’ sound out. It is made of bodies, and they are mostly brown.

Max Ajl

The Privilege of Nonviolence | Rania Khalek

Why Was the Biggest Protest in World History Ignored? | Ishaan Tharoor

Ten years ago today, the world saw what was by some accounts the largest single coordinated protest in history. Roughly ten to fifteen million people (estimates vary widely) assembled and marched in more than six hundred cities: as many as three million flooded the streets of Rome; more than a million massed in London and Barcelona; an estimated 200,000 rallied in San Francisco and New York. From Auckland to Vancouver—and everywhere in between—tens of thousands came out, joining their voices in one simple, global message: No to the Iraq War.

I was among the anti-war contingent that swarmed Manhattan’s midtown on Feb. 15, 2003, a wintry Saturday. We spread across miles of city blocks, trundling past abandoned police barricades as we tried to inch toward the United Nations, where ten days earlier then Secretary of State Colin Powell had presented what we now know was illusory intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. The multitudes in New York were diverse and legion. There were anarchists and military veterans, vociferous students (I was then a freshman in college) and a motley cast of greying peaceniks—many, including one grandmother memorably puttering along in a wheelchair, had opposed American involvement in Vietnam. And there were myriad others: a band of preppy suburbanites with banners announcing themselves—”Soccer Moms Against the War”—musicians, street artists, and workaday New Yorkers. My uncle, a doctor with medical practices in both the U.K. and India, had flown in for the demonstration and was just another face in a vast crowd.

The overwhelming feeling on New York’s streets, despite the grimness of the NYPD and the bite of that February afternoon, was one of unity and hope. Word was seeping in about the scale of the demonstrations elsewhere and it was hard not to bask in our sense of collective purpose. An article in the New York Times would soon trumpet, “There are two superpowers: the United States and world public opinion.” Here’s Sofia Fenner, then a high school senior in Seattle (now a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, currently doing dissertation work in Cairo): “I was just proud to stand with all those people, proud that we as dissenting Americans were not staying home while what seemed like the whole world took up our cause.” In Los Angeles, a pregnant Laila Lalami walked a mile with fellow protesters down Hollywood Boulevard. “I thought—hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. are making their voices heard. Surely they can’t be ignored,” the Moroccan-American novelist told TIME this week. “But they were.”

[…] But there’s no satisfaction in looking back and saying, “I told you so”—not with the blood that has been spilled and continues to be spilled. That profound solidarity I felt ten years ago has faded into a form of resignation and sadness. In a region as complex and politically volatile as the Middle East, fixed moral positions are difficult. “Our demands were simple [on Feb. 15], and we were right,” says Fenner, the University of Chicago doctoral candidate. “What I didn’t realize at the time was that, when the war went ahead, nothing would ever be so simple again.”

Forty-Eight Arrested as Sierra Club Protests Keystone XL Pipeline and Ends Ban on Civil Disobedience | The Dissenter

Dozens of people demonstrated in front of the White House to protest construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is being built by the multinational corporation TransCanada. Forty-eight of them engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested.

Those arrested included: Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Allison Chin, president of the Sierra Club; Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org; Julian Bond, former president of the NAACP; Danny Kennedy, CEO of Sungevity (a solar power company); Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Connor Kennedy and actress Daryl Hannah.

According to the Tar Sands Blockade, Yudith Nieto, who “grew up in the fence-line refining community of Manchester in Houston, TX,” was arrested. Nieto had previously participated in actions against the pipeline organized by the Blockade. Jerry Hightower, “nephew to David Hightower, whose muscadine grape vineyard was destroyed by Keystone XL construction despite protests by Tar Sands Blockade and the objections of the local community,” was also one of the people arrested.

The arrest of the Sierra Club executive director and its president marked the end of a 120-year ban against participation in civil disobedience. It indicated that a well-established environmental organization, which has played the game of beltway politics, was ready to admit the oil industry wields tremendous power over the political process. It will take protest, including nonviolent direct action, to save the Earth and humanity from climate change. [++]

We Call This Progress | Arundhati Roy

I don’t know how far back in history to begin, so I’ll lay the milestone down in the recent past. I’ll start in the early 1990s, not long after capitalism won its war against Soviet Communism in the bleak mountains of Afghanistan. The Indian government, which was for many years one of the leaders of the nonaligned movement, suddenly became a completely aligned country and began to call itself the natural ally of the U.S. and Israel. It opened up its protected markets to global capital. Most people have been speaking about environmental battles, but in the real world it’s quite hard to separate environmental battles from everything else: the war on terror, for example; the depleted uranium; the missiles; the fact that it was the military-industrial complex that actually pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression, and since then the economies of places like America, many countries in Europe, and certainly Israel, have had stakes in the manufacture of weapons. What good are weapons if they aren’t going to be used in wars? Weapons are absolutely essential; it’s not just for oil or natural resources, but for the military-industrial complex itself to keep going that we need weapons.

Today, as we speak, the U.S., and perhaps China and India, are involved in a battle for control of the resources of Africa. Thousands of U.S. troops, as well as death squads, are being sent into Africa. The “Yes We Can” president has expanded the war from Afghanistan into Pakistan. There are drone attacks killing children on a regular basis there.

In the 1990s, when the markets of India opened, when all of the laws that protected labor were dismantled, when natural resources were privatized, when that whole process was set into motion, the Indian government opened two locks: one was the lock of the markets; the other was the lock of an old fourteenth-century mosque, which was a disputed site between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus believed that it was the birthplace of Ram, and the Muslims, of course, use it as a mosque. By opening that lock, India set into motion a kind of conflict between the majority community and the minority community, a way of constantly dividing people. Finding ways to divide people is the main practice of anybody that is in power.

The opening of these two locks unleashed two kinds of totalitarianism in India: one was economic totalitarianism, and the other was Hindu fundamentalism. These processes manufactured what the government calls “terrorism.” You had Islamist terrorists and you had what today the government calls “Maoists,” which means anybody who is resisting the project of civilization, of progress, of development; anybody who is resisting the takeover of their lands or the destruction of rivers and forests, is today a Maoist. Maoists are the most militant end of a bandwidth of resistance movements, with Gandhists at the other end of the spectrum. The kind of strategy people adopt to resist the onslaught of global capital is quite often not an ideological choice, but a tactical choice dependent on the landscape in which those battles are being fought.

Since 1947, ever since India became a sovereign republic, it has deployed its army against what it calls its own people. Now, gradually, those states where the troops were deployed are states of people who are fighting for self-determination. They are states that the decolonized Indian state immediately colonized. Now, those troops are actually defending the government’s rights to build big dams, to build power projects, to carry out the processes of privatization. In the last fifty years, more than thirty million people have been displaced by big dams alone in India. Of course, most of those are Indigenous people or people who live off the land.

The result of twenty years of this kind of free market, and this bogey of terrorism, is in the hollowing out of democracy. I notice a lot of people using the word democracy as a good word, but actually, if you think of it, democracy today is not what democracy used to be. There was a time when the American government was toppling democracies in Latin America and all over the place. Today, it’s waging wars to install democracy. It has taken democracy into the workshop and hollowed it out.

In India, every institution, whether it’s the courts, or the parliament, or the press—has been hollowed out and harnessed to the free market. There are empty rituals to mask what actually happens, which is that India continues to militarize, it continues to become a police state. In the last twenty years, after we embraced the free market, two hundred and fifty thousand farmers have committed suicide, because they have been driven into debt. This has never happened in human history before. Yet, obviously when the establishment has a choice between suicide farmers and suicide bombers, you know which ones they are going to encourage. They don’t mind that statistic, because it helps them; they feel sorry, they make a few noises, but they keep doing what they are doing.

Today, India has more people than all the poorest countries of Africa put together. It has 80 percent of its population living on less than twenty rupees a day, which is less than fifty cents a day. That is the atmosphere in which the resistance movements are operating. [continue]

An Imagined Community | Peter Frase

The absence of the revolutionary agent is arguably the central problem of the Left since the 1960s. Since that time, the diagnosis and critique of capitalism has been updated and rendered in ever-increasing sophistication, as the cycles and crises and ideologies of capital accumulation have been theorized by the likes of David Harvey and Fredric Jameson. Nor is there a shortage of models of how a better society might be constructed from elements that already exist in the present; these range from the detailed blueprints of Albert and Hahnel’s Parecon to the open-ended framework of Erik Olin Wright’s Real Utopias. What is lacking is the organized mass constituency capable of effecting the transition out of capitalism and into something better.

In earlier generations, the Marxist Left had a concept of such a collective revolutionary agent, which they called “the working class.” But it is important to understand what this label signified in political terms. It did not simply mean class in the structural sense: workers who survive by selling their wage labor, confronting capitalists whose wealth comes from hiring that labor and producing for profit. The working class in that sense encompasses the vast majority even in the rich countries, but it has no sense of shared collective identity and hence is politically inert—it is a class “in itself” rather than “for itself,” to use the old Marxist jargon. Hardt, Negri, Virno, and other contemporary theorists of the “multitude” gesture at something like this all-encompassing version of the working class, but in their hands the category expresses a hope for a future politics more than it identifies a concrete and existing collective agent.

The working class as it existed in Old Left political discourse was a sociological category, and it often referred to a specific type of wage labor: the industrial proletariat, employed in large-scale factory work. Such workers were thought to be the leading edge of socialist politics not merely because they were exploited by capital, but because they occupied a specific environment that tended to forge a collective identity and to facilitate disruptive mass action: factories in which workers were employed for a long period of time, and where they were massed together each day performing similar, routinized work.

The working class in this specific sociological sense has lost its political centrality both because of structural changes in the economy, and due to the transformation of political consciousness on the Left. Capitalism has increasingly replaced industrial workers with machines, and as a result the economy is more-and-more dominated by culture industry and service employment that is not conducive to fostering solidarity in the way the old factory model was. At the same time, the work of national liberation and feminist movements has forced an acknowledgment that the older conception of the working class implied the centrality of a particular white, male labor aristocracy, rendering invisible both unpaid labor in the household and the role of white supremacy in excluding non-whites from the most privileged sectors of the economy. However much the Old Left liked to portray the “working class” as a universal identity that subsumed particular interests — and as much as contemporary left nostalgics like Walter Benn Michaels might still like to portray it that way—the working class in its sociological sense was always a form of identity politics.

To call working class politics a form of identity politics is not, however, to dismiss it. [continue]

An Interview with Cornel West on Occupy, Obama and Marx (1)

SHOZAB RAZA: There have been some critiques of Occupy Wall Street from the Left: for example, that it failed to significantly engage with the labour movement and trade unions in the US or that its radically decentralized structure made it very difficult to arrive at decisions to accomplish particular objectives. And so moving forward, what are the lessons that we, as participants in Occupy and supporters of it, can learn from the movement?

CORNEL WEST: I think we have to draw a distinction between social motion and social movements. Social movements are very rare because they require a sophisticated level of organization, of leadership, of persons who are highly courageous and willing to actually pay a price. Social motion is very important because it helps shape the climate of opinion and that’s exactly what the Occupy motion has been all about – it helps shape the climate of opinion. But it was in many ways so heterogeneous, so diverse in all of its various voices and perspectives. What I loved about it was that there was a lot of respect. It wasn’t dogmatic, imposed from above, professional revolutionaries coming in with Truth (with a capital ‘T’) and imposing it on everybody. That’s what we were wrestling with in the 60’s and 70’s. You didn’t have that kind of thing this time around – and that was very important.

On the other hand, it was difficult to sustain it. But I think that the next wave of social activism will be among young people and it’s going to take a variety of different forms. I’m old school so I have to learn from young people – for example, about social networking to forms of democratic expression that I haven’t even thought of in that regard. I have a respect for the anarchists precisely because – though I’m not one – they have a powerful critique of concentration of power in the nation-state. And as a black man in America dealing with the repressive apparatus, you live under death threat every day from your own government. You know governments can be vicious – and that’s the history of black people in America. So then the anarchists say ‘we want democratic accountability, not just of the corporations (which, coming out of the socialist tradition, I accept) but we want to make sure that the government doesn’t have a concentration of power, especially instrumentalities of violence which can be brought to bear on dissidents, who are then criminalized and assassinated.’ And that’s very important. Yet at the same time, as a radical democrat or a deep democrat, in the end I’m not an anarchist but anarchism has some deep truths that one has to take into consideration.