Some US legislators abandon anti-piracy bills

19 01 2012

from Al Jazeera

At least six members of Congress switch sides as protests against the legislation blanketed the internet.

At least six members of the US Congress have switched sides to oppose anti-piracy legislation as protests blanketed the internet, turning Wikipedia dark and putting black slashes on Google and other sites as if they had been censored.

The legislators, including Senators Marco Rubio, Roy Blunt and John Boozman, said they were withdrawing their support, and blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not heeding criticisms of the Senate version of the bills.

Friends of the bills, meanwhile, stepped up their efforts on Wednesday.

Creative America, a studio- and union-supported group that fights piracy, launched a television advertising campaign that it said would air in the districts of key legislators. In Times Square, it turned on a digital pro-SOPA and PIPA billboard for the day, in space provided by News Corp, which owns Fox Studios.

The group also said it is sending a team of 20 organisers to big events around the country, including the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, to try to get voters to see the situation their way.

Some volunteer editors of Wikipedia said the protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work.

“My main concern is that it puts the organisation in the role of advocacy, and that’s a slippery slope,” said Robert Lawton, a computer consultant and site editor who would prefer that the encyclopaedia stick to being a neutral repository of knowledge.

“Before we know it, we’re blacked out because we want to save the whales.”

During the 24-hour blackout, Wikipedia visitors can only see a black-and-white page which says, “Imagine a world without free knowledge”, with a link to information about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

The site urges Wikipedia readers in the US to contact their local congressman to vote against the bills. “This is a quite clumsily drafted legislation which is dangerous for an open internet,” Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, said.

Google and others used the black censorship bars to draw attention to what had until recently been an obscure and technical legislative proposal to curb access to overseas websites that traffic in stolen content or counterfeit goods.

‘Don’t censor the web’

Ben Huh, the founder of the popular Cheezburger humour network, said on his Twitter feed that his 58 sites would also observe a blackout on Wednesday.

Search engine Google added a link to a petition against the bills on its site, reading, “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!”.

Social media-sharing Reddit launched a 12-hour blackout, starting at 13:00 GMT.

But Dick Costollo, the chief executive of Twitter, said that while he opposed the SOPA legislation, shutting down the service was out of the question.

“Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish,” Costollo tweeted.

The bills pit technology companies such as Google and Facebook against the bill’s supporters, including Hollywood studios and music labels, which say the legislation is needed to protect intellectual property and jobs.

The proposed SOPA legislation aims to crack down on online sales of pirated US movies, music or other goods by forcing internet companies to block access to foreign sites offering material that violates US copyright laws.

US advertising networks could also be required to stop online ads, and search engines would be barred from directly linking to websites found to be distributing pirated goods.

However, supporters argue the bill is unlikely to have an impact on US-based websites.

Google has repeatedly said the bill goes too far and could hurt investment.

Along with other internet companies, it has run advertisements in major newspapers urging Washington legislators to rethink its approach.

The founders of Google, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo! and other internet giants said in an open letter last month the legislation would give the US government “power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran”.

“We oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the internet,” a Google spokesman said on Tuesday.


Occupy Wall Street West: New Movement Rises In San Francisco

19 01 2012

from The Huffington Post

by Robin Wilkey

For those who assumed the Occupy movement had fizzled out in San Francisco, think again.

This Friday, Occupy Wall Street West — a continuation of Occupy San Francisco — plans to march through San Francisco’s Financial District. According to a the group, more than 55 organizations, including the San Francisco Labor Council, Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Rainforest Action Network, will support Friday’s march and attendance is expected to reach into the thousands.

Last Fall, Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland gained national attention when police clashed violently with protesters, raising questions about police brutality. Public support for the movement has wavered in recent months, but activists hope Friday’s event will invigorate its spirit.

“Friday’s march is expected to be the largest Occupy Wall Street march that San Francisco has seen yet,” said Occupy Wall Street West group member Stardust. According to Stardust, the movement has not gone away but has been gathering momentum.

“If you have a centrally organized structure that is pounded, it takes a while to recover,” he told The Huffington Post. “Police and politicians targeted the tent camps. But if they were trying to shut down Occupy Wall Street, they severely miscalculated. Now the movement has moved from out of the camps and into society.”

Since the dismantling of its various tent camps, Occupy Wall Street West has focused on community outreach with food drives, neighborhood meetings, bank shutdowns and a committee to help those in need find affordable housing. “We’ve been working with community groups, neighborhoods and universities,” he said. “The core group has remained but now we’re reaching more and more of the 99 percent.”

Friday’s events are timed to begin with the opening of the stock market and will include a demonstration at the Ninth District of Appeals in San Francisco, a march on the banks, speakers, a flash mob and a street party at Justin Herman Plaza.

‘Occupy Congress’ Protesters Swarm Capitol Hill To Represent The 99 Percent

19 01 2012

from The Huffington Post

by Michael McAuliff

A diverse crowd of hundreds from around the country descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday as the Occupy movement tried to get its point across to a Congress returning from a long recess.

“We came to add to the numbers, to be heard,” said Rosetta Star, a social entrepreneur from Asheville, N.C. “We came to inspire others; we came to inspire our children. We came because we can’t sit still and pretend like nothing is going wrong, when we feel like the collective bus of the country is getting driven off a cliff.”

Star, who with her husband, Jack, runs the restaurant Rosetta’s Kitchen and a compostable packaging firm, Jack’s Boxes, as well as a third business, said she wanted Congress to stop paying the majority of its attention to the most fortunate.

“Our systems are flawed by a for-profit mentality, and therefore the needs of the masses are being ignored for the profits of the few,” said Star, who is managing to make a go of her own entrepreneurial ventures while balancing activism.

“We make a living between hustling for those three different small businesses,” said Star, who traveled to Washington with her four children and one of their friends, as well as her father. “We even make a living enough that we got a hotel when we came to Occupy.”

“Grandpa and the boys camped” though, she added.

Ryan Blackwell, 18, of Columbia, Mo., said he joined up with Occupy D.C. a week before Thanksgiving, much to his parents’ displeasure. “Let’s just say I had to defriend them on Facebook,” he said.

For all his difficulty with his family, Blackwell saw in Tuesday’s gathering a chance for his voice to be heard. “It’s gorgeous,” he said, referring to a crowd that started small, but was well into the hundreds by early afternoon. “We want our rights back.”

Like Star, the teenager pointed to a growing economic disparity in America, but also named as infringements things such as the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which codifies indefinite military detention of American terrorism suspects. “It’s evil,” he said.

Roland Fellot, 52, a health inspector from Silver Spring, Md., volunteered to carry a sign calling for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, the measure repealed during the Clinton administration that allowed banks and investment houses to unite their businesses. Many blame the measure for allowing banks to get infected with the toxic mortgage assets that sparked the 2008 meltdown.

“The connection to Occupy is that when the backers of removing this actually got their way and they did away with it, that was just a typical example of the top 1 percent, the wealthy, influencing enough politicians here on Capitol Hill to get what they want,” Fellot said.

But he said the message demonstrators want to convey is larger than a bill or two.

“The Occupy movement and the issue about 1 percent is so much beyond just one or two acts. It’s about the whole system,” Fellot said. “The super wealthy have always been heard, and they’ve usually gotten what they wanted. What’s happened of late is they’re the only ones who get heard.”

“Congress has been screwing us for far too long, and I’m not okay with that, and neither are a lot of people,” said Deejay Paredi, 20, of Charlotte, N.C., also singling out the NDAA, which President Obama signed on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s really taking our rights away, and most Americans do not even realize what’s going on,” Paredi said. “So I feel like it’s up to those of us who are aware to make ourselves heard. Most of this I feel is being done on the down-low. Unless you actually care and are actually interested in what’s happening in the government — most people aren’t and don’t care — you don’t know that this is happening.”

The crowd was largely calm, although a handful of people were arrested for apparently testing the limits of the boundaries set by Capitol Police. One man, William Griffin, was charged with assault on a police officer, a police spokeswoman said. Members of the protest tweeted at the time that police instigated the altercation. Nathaniel Schrier, Clinton Boyd and Heron Boyce were charged with crossing a police line, said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

Prostesters also walked the halls of Congress without apparent incident, visiting members’ offices, although many lawmakers still had not yet returned to work. By Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of protesters spread out through the halls.

Overall, the protest had much the feel of 2009’s Tea Party rallies, minus the tri-corner hats. There were even a handful of the “Don’t Tread On Me” flags that have become iconic for the conservative movement.

Rosetta Star said the atmosphere did not surprise her. “I believe that the Occupy movement and the Tea Party movement have a huge amount in common,” she said, noting that she has reached out to more traditionally conservative groups in her community on the belief that they share similar problems.

“If we could figure out what we all have in common, then we could truly be the 99 percent,” she said. “The 99 percent right now is a slogan that’s been taken but hasn’t actually been represented. People are trying to, and it’s true that the negative situations are being experienced by the 99 percent.”

Star said she thought moments like Tuesday’s protest would help raise that awareness.

“I believe that we are going to hit a tipping point, and it’s kind of un-ignorable and unavoidable,” she said, with her 3-year-old clambering around on her back. “The tipping point for me would be when 99 percent of the people become politically active, they participate on some level with what’s happening around them in the world that they’re living in, other than just their own families immediate needs.”

One big difference between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement is that the Tea Party was organized in part as a deliberate electoral effort that helped the Republican Party take over the House of Representatives in 2010. It is not clear what impact Occupy will have in the fall’s campaign season, although Democrats have been trying to harness at least some of the energy and feelings expressed by the movement.

Still, Star said that she will keep at it whether others do or not.

“I will always fight the good fight regardless of the expected outcome so that I can always feel clear looking at myself in the mirror, and looking back and reflecting on my own life and my own choices,” she said. “Apathy is the worst poison in my mind.”

Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

Activists Gather Over 1 Million Signatures in Walker Recall Effort

17 01 2012

from The National Journal

by Sean Sullivan

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is virtually certain to face a recall election following an announcement from the state Democratic Party that over a million signatures will be filed on Tuesday afternoon to put the first term governor on the ballot this year.

“The collection of more than one million signatures represents a crystal clear indication of how strong the appetite is to stop the damage and turmoil that Scott Walker has caused Wisconsin,” said Ryan Lawler, board member for United Wisconsin, the group spearheading the signature gathering process.

ust over 540,000 valid signatures are required to trigger a recall election. Activists had 60 days to collect the signatures, during which time they brought in nearly double the requisite amount.

Democrats were quick to tout magnitude of their accomplishment, noting that they collected 3,000 pounds worth of signatures, which fill 300,000 pages at 14″ each.

The signatures are now subject to review by the state Government Accountability Board, which has 60 days to examine the validity of the signatures, though the head of the board has said the process will take longer. Some will no doubt be disqualified, but given the amount collected, Walker — who has already been preparing for a recall campaign by raising money, staffing up and running television ads in the state — will almost certainly face another election, less than two years into his first term.

Several Democratic names have been floated as potential Walker challengers, including Walker’s 2010 opponent, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee. Other names include former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach and retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, among others. A recall election would be ordered within six weeks of the date the petition signatures are validated, but a contested Democratic primary could further push that day back by four weeks.

For his own part, Walker was nowhere near Madison on Tuesday, opting instead to attend a fundraisier in New York.

United Wisconsin collected over 845,000 signatures for the recall Rebecca Kleefisch, the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin.

How Legal Pot Could Save Thousands of Lives? Hint: Stop Feeding the Mexican Death Cartels

17 01 2012

from AlterNet

by Jamie Haase

For over forty years, ganja has been the steadiest and most reliable source of income for Mexican traffickers, and it’s still the primary substance that lures most dealers.

As the marathon to legalize marijuana plows forward, a key to winning over many of the leftover prohibitionists might lie within two questions: exactly how significant is the illicit pot trade in the violence south of the border, and what are the long-term implications for Americans as a result of Mexico’s indefinite narco war? Being a former federal agent who has worked on the border and enforced the U.S.’s drug laws, I know that neither of these can be answered with exact precision, but one can hope that illustrating the obvious will at least get us closer to the finish line.

As for the first question, the vastness of the southern border makes it impossible to determine the absolute value of marijuana to the drug cartels, or Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO’s) for the trendy types. Most smuggled goods breeze by U.S. law enforcement undetected, with authorities most likely snagging just 15 percent of the incoming dope on their best days. This is through no fault of their own though, as the hellish terrain of the southwest makes it impossible for cops and feds to cover adequately. Especially for the fact that the dividing line is nearly 2,000 miles long—and it’s mostly filled with rivers, rocks, mountains, and tunnels. Taking the unknowns of the border into account, along with the biggest factor—being that the marijuana industry is completely uncontrolled and off the books when it comes to any sort of regulation—it is clear why it’s unpractical to determine the substance’s exact profit margins on the bankrolls of Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Though that didn’t deter a research group last year from conjuring up a magic number at the last minute—just in time to help sink a marijuana legalization ballot initiative (more on that in a minute).

Let’s forget the speculation and get to certainties: what is plain as day is the fact that the demand for cannabis sativa is responsible for more deaths in Mexico than anything else—and after half a decade of unrelenting bloodshed—the body count just recently surpassed the 50,000 mark. Personally, that’s a bitter pill to swallow considering 50 percent of Americans now believe marijuana should be outright legalized, according to Gallup’s most recent poll from October 2011.

For over forty years, ganja has been the steadiest and most reliable source of income for Mexican traffickers, and it’s still the primary substance that lures most wannabe sicarios into the drug running game. Most green-horn dope peddlers don’t get their start by transporting tons of coke at a time; rather, they have to earn their stripes by moving up the marijuana food chain—and many don’t make it past that point in their careers to begin with.

Most followers tuned in to the legalization debate are already well aware of weed’s contribution to the chaos, yet there are still millions of unaware Americans who automatically assume it’s the costlier drugs at the heart of the violence. Obviously heroin, meth, and cocaine are significant players in their own right, but by they’re nowhere near the bread and butter that pot is to the cartels. This is further illustrated by the fact that the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has consistently reported a drop in cocaine shipments from Mexico, and additional studies have shown that the use of the three aforementioned drugs is on the decline in the United States (meanwhile, marijuana consumption continues to rise).

Having worked extensively along the border as a special agent for the Department of Homeland Security (Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s office of Homeland Security Investigations, or ICE HSI, to be exact), I know firsthand the futility behind continuing to wage an all-out war against a plant, especially one that American consumers are demanding more than ever. Realistically, when it comes to the sheer volume of weed arriving daily from Mexico, the entire border from Brownsville to San Diego is like a full-time smuggling feeding frenzy, with DHS personnel practically cross-trained as factory workers in light of the constant pot seizures and undercover controlled deliveries. Lord knows my former brothers would be helping the U.S. more by making better use of their time, like dismantling human trafficking networks for example. These cells are active all across the country, and they’re responsible for numerous deaths—like the gruesome slaying recently of Carina Saunders outside of Oklahoma City.

I mentioned earlier that some researchers have already made “best” guesses towards marijuana’s margins south of the border, and specifically I was referring to the highly criticized Rand Corporation study from 2010. The think tank based out of Santa Monica, California concluded that marijuana revenues from American consumers make up a dismal 16 to 25 percent of the total profits earned by Mexican traffickers. These parameters were significantly lower than any previous estimates, in particular a 2006 report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that concluded that more than 60 percent of cartels’ profits are derived from marijuana. Similar data from the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) from 2005 has marijuana earnings ranging upwards of $14.3 billion annually, more than doubling that of cocaine at $6.2 billion. Either way, being an original DHS agent from the obsolete U.S. Customs Service, there is no way that I could ever take Rand’s estimates seriously, especially since the research group is partly funded by the U.S.’s pro-drug-war government and the results were geared towards the prohibition side of the argument.

To add even more sketchiness to the equation, the coincidental findings were released to the media in October 2010, just one month before California’s November 2nd vote on Proposition 19. This initiative would have legalized marijuana in California for anyone 21 and older, the prospect of which sent the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration into a frenzy, with nine former DEA bosses calling on President Obama and the executive branch to sue California should the measure pass. It’s no secret that pot prohibition enforcement is a hefty chunk of the DEA’s annual budget, so the last minute panic from the veteran big wigs was to be expected. All law enforcement agencies have egos, and legalizing the elephant in the room would have substantial financial implications on drug enforcement agencies. In any regard, the spin that Rand spoon fed the media helped deflate much of Prop 19’s momentum in the weeks leading up to the election, mostly because the monetary impact that legalization would have on the cartels was substantially called into question.

Thankfully, there have been subsequent record setting cannabis seizures that provide more tangibility for future voters to rely upon. Last July 15, the biggest marijuana plantation in Mexico’s history was located in the state of Baja California. According to General Alfonso Duarte of Mexico’s Army, the 300-acre operation was capable of producing over a hundred tons of pot annually, worth an estimated $160 million, and the Defense Department says the plantation is four times larger than the previous record-setting harvest. (There has been some debate over whether this discovery was larger than the infamous “El Bufalo” discovery from Mexico’s northern state of Chihuahua in November 1984. It’s actually a matter of semantics because the present day discovery consisted of a single field that was larger than any one of the Buffalo’s 13 fields.)

This record-breaking find just goes to show that marijuana from Mexico is in no way, shape, or form on the decline (even with the increase in homegrown production here in the U.S.). When Mexico’s military raided the plantation, they captured close to 60 individuals in the fields, and this is only a fraction of the estimated workers. The operation was ultimately traced back to the Sinaloa cartel, which is Mexico’s largest drug trafficking franchise headed by country-boy capos Joaquin Guzman and Ismael Zambada, (or El Chapo and El Mayo).

This was just one of many heavyweight marijuana busts from the past two years; here are just a handful of similar scenarios that typify the situation along the U.S./Mexican border:

-Another costly bust for the Sinaloans took place in the same region less than a year earlier in October 2010, when 105 tons of marijuana was seized from warehouse cargo containers.

-A month later on Thanksgiving Day, another 30 tons of pot was discovered after DHS personnel in the United States located a tunnel connecting San Diego with Tijuana.

-An almost identical scenario played out just recently on November 16, 2011, when DHS seized 17 tons of marijuana after discovering another California tunnel.

-Just two weeks later, on November 29, 2011, one of the most sophisticated tunnels ever was located by DHS in the same region, though just three tons of pot was found this time around.

On a side note, when I say DHS personnel, I am mainly referring to my two former employers: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Both border enforcement agencies were formed upon DHS’s inception in 2003, and both consist of components of the former U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The prior discoveries are just a few examples of the many colossal marijuana seizures that occur all too frequently, and even though the ones illustrated took place on the Pacific Coast, rest assured that the scene is one and the same across the entire border, all the way to the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. However, there aren’t always newsworthy tunnels involved since you can’t build one under the Rio Grande. My experience along the border stems mostly from working in south Texas—where weed constantly floods the Rio’s gates, and I can attest to the fact that cannabis is definitely the primary money maker for the cartels in Mexico’s Gulf region (primarily Los Zetas who are the most brutal of them all).

Sometimes I think this debate might be over by now if everyone had the chance to see inside the seized property vault shared by DHS in Laredo, Texas. It’s packed to the gills with marijuana and one glimpse would turn most skeptics into believers—and what’s still even more frustrating is the fact that all of this marijuana smuggled from Mexico doesn’t even account for the additional tons that the cartels are growing here on American soil.

As for future implications and fallout for us here in the United States as a result of Mexico’s drug war, there’s no denying the spike in cartel-related violence experienced by border states in 2011—mostly Texas and Arizona. This trend can only increase considering a full-scale war has again been brewing in our backyard for five years; and like my mother taught me, you can’t ever bet against Isaac Newton.

Being someone familiar with both uniformed interdiction and plain-clothes criminal investigations (in immigration and drug enforcement alike), I can attest that spillover from Mexico’s narco war is already here. And even though the term “spillover violence” has been coined in such a way that makes it sound limited to the border regions, people need to keep in mind that once runaway assassins from Mexico reach the United States, most don’t stick around too long in the borderlands before heading further north into America’s interior. Most of these sicarios have networks already established here to assist them with finding work and obtaining illegitimate documents. In fact identity fraud is another major concentration under the DHS umbrella, and it’s something that I see becoming more alarming in the future; especially since the Department of Justice’s 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment says that Mexican criminal organizations are now active in at least 1,000 U.S. cities. (If this statistic alone isn’t a screaming wakeup call for the millions of disengaged Americans who continuously ignore the dangers of marijuana prohibition, then who knows what it will take.)

More food for thought is the fact that a high percentage of crime in Hispanic neighborhoods goes unreported. A number of inhabitants in these neighborhoods are illegal residents who want nothing to do with law enforcement, so many problems most likely either “disappear” or they get resolved in house.

Ultimately, it’s a futile waste of time to try and play the percentage game when it comes to an illicit commodity like marijuana, or the potential far-reaching effects that Mexico’s eternal violence will have for everyday Americans. There are too many unknowns that need to be factored in. It’s best to stick with the facts, and the facts in this case are rather simple: millions of Americans like to toke marijuana—and the amount of users is on the rise (despite law enforcement’s best efforts at cracking down). Meanwhile, violence as a result of marijuana prohibition has no end in sight and it too is also on the rise. If this trend continues, Mexico could not only crumble to pieces, but it could do so while collapsing more and more into the United States. In other words, something has got to give, and it has to give sooner rather than later before we all feel the harsh and realistic effects of our nation’s failed drug policy.

Jamie Haase, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, served as a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

LINK: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (official)


14 01 2012

from Realizing The Future

by Steve Liptay
December 1, 2011

As 2012 approaches and movement strategies are being shaped within the 99% movement and the climate justice movement, we stand at a pivotal moment in history. The climate crisis is bearing down on us stronger than ever, the ecological crisis is deepening, and economic, social and environmental injustices are escalating. With our hijacked democracy in gridlock we’ve taken to the streets and sparked what many, including Dr. Cornel West, would describe as a ‘deep democratic awakening’. How do we yield the paradigm level changes that are needed to heal the earth and make our human world both just and sustainable? That’s the question of our time. None-the-less, solving the climate crisis will require us to rewire the globe with renewable energy and put an end to the tyranny of oil, gas and coal. To do this I propose that the 99% movement and the climate justice movement initiate a sustained civil disobedience campaign targeting climate deniers in the U.S. Congress to dramatize the need for their ouster.

To end the extraction and burning of fossil fuels it is necessary to put a rising price on carbon pollution. For Americans, this means that rewiring our country with renewable energy will require the U.S. Congress and our President pass a new law that taxes the most profitable industry in the history of the world. The revenue generated would then be distributed in its entirety on a per capita basis back to the American people to buffer rising energy costs. A monthly dividend check would give the 99% the ability to become more energy efficient and afford the transition to renewable energy. A highly centralized energy sector in which the 1% have become richer and richer would be transformed into a highly decentralized sector in which the 99% power their lives with rooftop solar panels and a host of other renewable energy technologies. This policy is called ‘fee-and-dividend’ – you can download a PDF of a legislative proposal at: If enacted, the thriving fossil fuel industry could potentially be put to an end in the matter of a decade.

Electing a Congress to pass ‘fee-and-dividend’ would require a massive and sustained civil disobedience campaign to shine a light on the urgency of climate change. One of the central lessons we can take away from the Tar Sands Action campaign to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline is that civil disobedience gets the goods. A 2-week long sit-in at the White House led to 1,253 arrests and an explosion in media hits. During the sit-in and in the weeks to follow the American people were educated by our mass media and social media – they learned the who, what, where, when and why of the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. The media and the American people began to evaluate the costs and the benefits of the proposed pipeline and the events that unfolded were nothing short of remarkable. The big environmental groups came together against Keystone, Republicans and Democrats found common ground in opposition, the New York Times wrote a timely editorial and an in-depth investigation of pipeline safety, Nobel laureates a wrote letter to the President, and a State Department scandal broke (among other developments). The Obama administration responded by sending the pipeline proposal back to the drawing board, promising a thorough and independent review that will include climate change. If we had instead decided to pass around a petition, hold permitted protests, submit op-eds to the newspapers, and make phone calls to our elected officials this fight would very likely not have gained the momentum it needed. Of course I think we all wish it weren’t the case, but as history has proven over and over there comes a time when we have no other choice but to take a stand. As the Tar Sands Action and the Occupy movement have demonstrated, it is time for direct action.

If our movements were to get behind this line of reasoning, I believe that it would leads us into a sustained civil disobedience campaign targeting the U.S. House and Senate calling for 1. an immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies and 2. a comprehensive renewable energy bill centered around ‘fee-and-dividend’. It would trigger a grassroots mobilization with all hands on deck and everyone playing to their strengths. On the ground it would likely mean occupying House and Senate offices and disrupting debate in Congress from the House gallery and the Senate gallery. In addition, mic checking and bird-dogging Congress’ climate deniers would help maintain pressure when Congress was not in session.

A few months ago I disrupted the House of Representatives with 8 others on the day that Power Shift 2011 began. (Here’s a video.) Our intent was to spark a conversation within Power Shift about the need for civil disobedience in the climate movement and to speak directly to our elected officials about the urgency that the climate crisis demands. We were handcuffed by the Capitol police and transported to a D.C. police station where they booked and held us for the afternoon and early evening. In the end, we all took a settlement offer, completed 32-hours of community service for a non-profit of our choosing, and waited out a 4-month stay away from the Capitol grounds. It was a minor sacrifice relative to the suffering endured today by our frontline communities and the suffering to come if we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels. As I look back, disrupting Congress with my fist raised and singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ was the possibly first time I felt fully engaged as an American citizen.

If we were to begin this campaign when Congress reconvened in January 2012 it could potentially put a proposal to end fossil fuel subsidies up for a vote during the 112th Congress and make ‘fee-and-dividend’ a key election issue in November. While ending fossil fuel subsidies would do little to curb carbon pollution and would only reduce the national debt by an estimated $122 billion over 10-years, it would be a small step in the right direction. Putting a significant price on carbon would get us on the path to a renewable energy future and put the fossil fuel industry in the grave where it belongs. Maybe we’d achieve one or both of these goals during the 112th and 113th Congresses, maybe we wouldn’t. What’s critical is that we start to wake up our elected officials and fellow Americans who are asleep at the wheel on climate change. Now is our hour. It’s up to us to end the tyranny of oil, gas, and coal.

Steve Liptay

1/21/12 Occupy Oregon General Assembly

14 01 2012

from Occupy Eugene Media

by vnelson

On Saturday, January 21, 2012, from 5:00 pm to 10 pm, Occupiers from all over Oregon will gather in Salem to rally with representatives from Astoria, Bend, Eugene, Salem, Portland, Seaside, and all other Oregon Cities to prepare for Occupy the Legislature on February 1st.

We will have an agenda discussion, which will include political involvement tactics, non-violent civil disobedience, and logistics.

We will be discussing housing options for people coming from outside of the Salem regions, so we can make sure thousands of Oregonians can be present on the first in a timely fashion.

Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, affinity groups from Unified Oregon Occupations are holding a General Assembly, following the nationwide Occupy the Courts Solidarity demonstration, on the steps of the Capitol Building in Salem.

If we show Solidarity, we can have an action similar to the protests in Madison, Wisconsin.

Corporations are NOT people. Money is NOT Speech. ALEC and profit driven lobbyists will no longer control our government. The time has come to make these truths evident to the Capital.

Exercise your freedom and challenge systemic oppression. Occupy Multiply!