Saturday, December 31, 2011

The free speech online arms race

"They concluded by talking about how Western governments' insistence on "lawful interception" back-doors in network equipment means that all the off-the-shelf network gear is readymade for spying, so, again, the Syrian secret police and the Iranian telcoms spies don't need to order custom technology that lets them spy on their people, because an American law, CALEA, made it mandatory that this technology be included in all the gear sold in the USA."

Oh body, this is scary stuff. If the Internet is not free for people to speak their minds, then it becomes useless for anything but business transactions, which, come to think of it, is probably what Big Business wants.  There is a battle between free-speech advocates and those who don't like free speech.  I'd like to thank Tor and all those who are working on the side of free speech.

Friday, December 30, 2011

graphic of 2011 protests around the world

This is not a complete map by any means, but it is impressive how much protesting was going on this year.  And the reason is that protesting WORKS!  Not all the time, but it has certainly shown itself to be a very powerful tool for otherwise powerless groups.  ICA has shown itself around the world to be efficient and useful.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recent articles on international protests

"Russia's prime minister has belittled the country's protest movement as lacking clear aims or leaders and rejected their demands for a review of the results of disputed parliamentary polls.
'They have no united programme, clear ways of reaching their aims - which are themselves not clear - or people who could achieve something concrete,' Vladimir Putin said in comments broadcast by state television.
Putin said the protest movement was more interested in creating instability than achieving specific aims, comparing their strategy to 'Brownian motion' - the theory on the random movement of particles."

This is a peculiar article, saying both that the protests are "leaderless" and then interviewing the "leaders."  But I find Putin's view fun; protests are illegitimate unless they have leaders.  Welcome to the 20th century.

"And everywhere, this year of mass defiance wrong-footed those who were supposed to be in the know. The experts had thought the Arabs were getting richer and were too scared of their autocrats, that the Russians were apathetic and quite liked their neo-czar, that the Indian middle class was politically disengaged, that West Europeans were too old for outrage, that Americans didn’t care about the class divide and that the Chinese comrades were too effective at suppressing dissent.
But everywhere, the conventional wisdom was turned upside down by people who turned out to be angrier than their elites had suspected, and better able to channel that dissatisfaction into mass protest and even revolution."

A nice summary about how everybody didn't see these protests coming. Except some of us.

"Eyewitness accounts and video recordings chart the role the Ultras played from the first day of the revolution. One video uploaded onto YouTube from an unknown source on 22 January, sought to reassure those intending to join the demonstrations on 25 January that they need not be scared of the police, because they would be protected by the Ultras who have experience of clashing with the police.
Since the afternoon of 25 January, Ultras groups joined the demonstrations, appearing most prominently on Qasr Al-Aini Street, then increasing their activities on 26 and 27 January throughout the neighbourhoods of Bulaq, Guiza and Shubra. The first Ultras martyr Hussein – the author does not include his full name – in Alexandra, and the next in Suez, Mohamed Makwa who died on 28 January.
The Ultras heroically defended front lines throughout different clashes, from the Battle of the Camel during the 18-day uprising, to clashes outside the Israeli Embassy in September and during the battles of Mohamed Mahmoud in November."

Have you even heard of the Ultras?  Yet they played an important part of Egypt's revolt.  It's going to take a thick book for each revolt to be accurately portrayed for history.  Many different groups came together to topple Mubarak.  The Internet helped bring them together.  But it was work on the ground that made the revolt a success.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Los Angeles considers suing Occupy LA protesters

"The Los Angeles Police Department, which raided the camp Nov. 30 and arrested nearly 300 people, spent an estimated $1.2 million on overtime pay as a result of the demonstration and subsequent sweep, Santana said in his preliminary report. The General Services Department's police force, which patrols city parks and buildings, racked up an additional $335,000 of overtime. Carlos Marroquin, a representative of Occupy L.A., called the figures 'outrageous' and argued that the city should have set aside money for special events and protests. He accused city leaders of trying to make the Occupy movement a scapegoat and described the intense police response, which involved 1,400 officers, as unnecessary."

I saw this in Denver. The police overreact to a peaceful protest by posting way too many resources, then whine that it's costing them so much to police the protest!

Apparently our Constitutional rights are too expensive, so we'll have to pay whenever we utilize them from now on.

The press still wants protests to have a leader

There were protests all across Russia over alleged fraud in recent elections that brought Putin's party back to power.  There seems to be much evidence that election fraud was rampant. Corruption has brought many protests throughout the country.

"However, one of the main problems for the opposition is that there is no single leader able to unite it, our correspondent adds."

Once again, there is no understanding of how today's protests work. There is no need for  "leader."  Is there a problem with understanding what the protest is about?  No. Is it organized, peaceful, and to the point?  Yes.  Is there a particular leader?  Not necessary.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I really liked this movie. I had never read the books, nor even what they were about, so the movie was fresh for me.

Just one thing struck me the next day about this movie. Lisbeth did most all the research by herself, as some amazing research prodigy.  In real life, this is not how research is done anymore. Some ad hoc group of people interested in a particular research topic find a place online to chat and pool their information. Leads are proven or rejected.  Arguments rise and disappear.  Finally, the vetted information that makes it through the many eyes and arguments are compiled, and you have a solid report on whatever subject there is.  Certainly there are people like Lisbeth with hyper research abilities.  There is usually at least one Lisbeth in each research project that springs up.  But they are a part of a group.

These ad hoc groups may not even know each other.  They may never know each other.  But they share their work online, discuss what is found, come up with results, and move on.  The only trace of the process is the results.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

China backs down after 30,000 protest


This is an important video. It shows that protests have happened frequently in China, without much result. But now, with the Internet, protesters in one community can learn about and communicate protesters in other communities. Thus, a localized uprising can become a national uprising. This changes the dynamic in favor of the protesters.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

General Assembly and bullies

"In the earlier stages of organization, one topic dominated our social media communication. Turns out, one of our organizers was an advocate for ‘diversity of tactics’ often referring to Blac Bloc tactics of both offense and defense. What was disturbing was that once those who wished to maintain the spirit of peaceful movement started questioning the role of violence and BB tactics in the context of Occupy Vancouver, a group of advocates (supporters of [X]) immediately stepped up accusing and labeling those peaceful organizers sexist and racist. Discussion with these BB tactics supporters was just impossible, for they seem to lack the sense of open mindedness any reasonable discussion requires."

I know nothing of the Occupy Vancouver group, but this article brings up a good point.  The General Assembly has a weakness in that it rewards the most outgoing and belligerent while the shy or self-conscious generally do not openly speak up.  If the contentious speakers verbally abuse the shy, then that closes the door on any input from any of them present.  If this was allowed to go on at the Vancouver GA, it is sad.  The point of the GA is that all voices are allowed to be heard, and are respected.  Otherwise you really do have "leaders" whether they claim to be or not.

At the Occupy Denver GA I attended, a drunk guy kept trying to speak. He was almost drunk enough to the point of not being able to stand.  The facilitator seemed to know the guy and went over to talk to him.  Whatever he was told, it seemed to satisfy the drunk guy and he remained quiet, while staying in the circle.  I don't think drunk people necessarily need to have a voice, but it did get me thinking of who SHOULD be able to speak. And it's everybody, including those you don't agree with. The point is that all ideas are thrown into the circle, then the group comes up with a consensus of what are good ideas and which to reject or postpone.

If some speakers are ridiculed then you may as well dump using the GA because you've already ruined it's structure.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Portland Lap; a method for handling removal from a park

"After marching for 3-4 hours, we eventually found ourselves a block away from the park that we’d been forced out of, so we took it again. The riot police lined up and prepared to take the park again, but the attempt was called off and the police just left. They realized that they would have to go through the standard military procedure of clearing the park inch by inch, only to have us go back out into the streets and march again while they, one more time, trailed along helplessly- their entourage functioning as a part of the march, creating an even larger disruption to traffic (the marchers covered a city block, the trailing police took up another city block, effectively doubling the size of the obstruction to traffic).
In summary: when the cops come to clear the park, don’t resist. As they are preparing for their military maneuver and use of force that the Occupiers cannot reasonably be expected to resist, the occupiers should be packing up their tents and baggage and loading them into wagons, bicycles, backpacks, etc.

The police will eventually trim down their entourage because they realize that they are helpless. Eventually, work your way back to the park. Or, if the police have fenced off the park, head to another park. If the police force you out, march again and they will be forced to follow. Eventually, they will inevitably come to the conclusion that they would rather have you in a park than disrupting traffic."

I'll have to think about this a while.  It sounds like a great tool to keep in mind when the situation is ripe.  I don't think it's a tool that can be relied on completely, but it's definitely worth considering. And it worked here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Internet in a Suitcase thwarts government shutdowns

"If he has his way, Meinrath’s project will lead to low-cost, easy-to-use wireless connections around the globe, all lashed together in mesh that can withstand the whims of dictators willing to pull the plug on the internet to quash dissent. He and a team of software engineers are developing open-source software to turn cheap wireless access points and Android smartphones into nodes on the network, which could then be used by dissidents to evade censorship and to spread low-cost connections everywhere around the world. Proponents of the plan include the U.S. State Department, which has given Meinrath a $2 million grant to develop the code."

I hope this works. And it's pretty cool to try it at OWS.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Time's Man of the Year; The Protester!,28804,2101745_2102132,00.html

"It's remarkable how much the protest vanguards share. Everywhere they are disproportionately young, middle class and educated. Almost all the protests this year began as independent affairs, without much encouragement from or endorsement by existing political parties or opposition bigwigs. All over the world, the protesters of 2011 share a belief that their countries' political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt — sham democracies rigged to favor the rich and powerful and prevent significant change. They are fervent small-d democrats. Two decades after the final failure and abandonment of communism, they believe they're experiencing the failure of hell-bent megascaled crony hypercapitalism and pine for some third way, a new social contract."

All right!  So what do we get?  This is a good choice for a year that brought down so many dictators and totalitarian systems through peaceful protest.  If ever there was evidence of the power of protesters, this year provided it in spades.  Syria seems to be the main holdout but I really think the regime there is seen not only in Syria but around the world as illegitimate and it too will fall.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What are leaders for anyway?

"Leaders, in other words, are necessary, but not because they are the source of social change. Rather their real function is to occupy the role that allows the rest of us to make sense of what is happening — just as Tolstoy suspected. For better and worse, telling stories is how we make sense of the world, and it's hard to tell a story without focal actors around which to center the action. But as we witness a succession of popular movements, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, we can at least pause to appreciate the real story, which is the remarkable phenomenon of a great many ordinary individuals coming together to change the world."

That last paragraph makes the article. History is a distillation of what actually happened.  So you find some representative characters to explain what went on.  I believe that people in power really do make a difference though. Think, for example, of how the US reaction to 9/11/ would have been under Al Gore instead of George Bush.  So it does matter who is in what position of power.  But I also agree that the collective is more important.  And I am relishing OWS and the media's reaction to its leaderless methods.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tea Party as ICA or mirage?

The problem with the 'movement' is that its members' anger gets manipulated by a small group of partisan and media elites who are essentially Republican Party operatives. This is the dirty little secret of the Tea Party; it's not really a social movement, but a cluster of elitist interest groups operating locally and nationally, which is quite lacking in participatory elements and largely driven by a top-down approach, determined and dictated by Republican partisan officials and business elites of the Koch variety.
My books on the Tea Party are devoted to exploring the failure of Tea Party chapters to systematically organize at the local and national level. In short, I find that there is very little organization under the Tea Party banner going on throughout communities across the country.  Very few people actually turn out for rallies and planning meetings, compared to the large number of people who claim to be participating in these events according to national polling data. "

I was wondering what happened to the Tea Party. It seemed that once Occupy Wall Street started, the Tea Party practically disappeared.  Both OWS and the Tea Party agree that our government is screwing us over, though they disagree on what business is doing. Still, there seemed to be enough agreement on basic issues that these movements could have joined forces to a degree.

However, the Tea Party seems to not only avoid OWS, but almost left the field altogether.  I have two friends who worked peripherally with the Tea Party. It never seemed very strong nor coordinated to me.  And they seemed to ignore the problems of corporate power in favor of blaming the government on every problem.  OWS, meanwhile, blames corporate power and the government that enables that corporate power.


One of the co-founders of the Tea Party has decided they should join forces with OWS.

How do you handle crazy people who join your action?

"Mr. Watts has been arrested six times since he came to New York for Occupy Wall Street, according to his lawyer, Martin Stolar, including his arrest on Nov. 17, when he was charged with felony assault and grand larceny after the police said he threw a AAA battery at the police and stole a deputy’s hat. In October, he was charged with resisting arrest after the police said he bragged to them that he had stolen some of the orange netting they use to contain crowds. He has four separate misdemeanor charges, Mr. Stolar said."

Brandon Watts lived in group homes and with different relatives before moving to Occupy Wall Street, according to the article. The people who knew him at OWS said he wanted confrontations with the police.

So what to do if a disturbed person joins your ranks?  It can be a difficult thing, which I have little experience dealing with.  On the one hand, you don't want a crazy person doing crazy things to spoil your action. On the other hand, how does a leaderless group decide who among them are not worthy to be in the group?  I offer no easy solution.  The decision has to be done by the group, and it's not easy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Where do Occupiers go to the bathroom?

The restaurant serves as something of a neutral ground, where protesters and policemen are able to switch off the suspicion and hostility born of the power relationship they find themselves in when the latter are specifically charged with supervising the former. 'Suddenly,' says Wilkins, 'they're really courteous to you. They can see you're a protester; you've walked in there with a cardboard sign. But if they bump into you, they apologize.' Policemen have seen footage of protesters tossing barricades, and protesters have seen footage of policemen tossing occupiers, but none of this footage has been set in McDonald's.
'Everybody needs a break,' says Wilkins, inadvertently recalling the fact that McDonald's used to ask whether you'd had yours today."

I made this a necessary rule when organizing protests; find out where the useable restrooms are nearby and check them out.  We've used Christian Science Reading Rooms, grocery stores, and even the police station when those worked out best.