Friday Night Fun and Culture: Carolyn Hester

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Occupy Santa Cruz Raises The Stakes

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U.N. Envoy: U.S. Isn’t Protecting Occupy Protesters’ Rights

From Huffington Post:

First Posted: 12/ 2/11

WASHINGTON — The United Nations envoy for freedom of expression is drafting an official communication to the U.S. government demanding to know why federal officials are not protecting the rights of Occupy demonstrators whose protests are being disbanded — sometimes violently — by local authorities.

Frank La Rue, who serves as the U.N. “special rapporteur” for the protection of free expression, told HuffPost in an interview that the crackdowns against Occupy protesters appear to be violating their human and constitutional rights.

“I believe in city ordinances and I believe in maintaining urban order,” he said Thursday. “But on the other hand I also believe that the state — in this case the federal state — has an obligation to protect and promote human rights.”

“If I were going to pit a city ordinance against human rights, I would always take human rights,” he continued.

La Rue, a longtime Guatemalan human rights activist who has held his U.N. post for three years, said it’s clear to him that the protesters have a right to occupy public spaces “as long as that doesn’t severely affect the rights of others.”

In moments of crisis, governments often default to a forceful response instead of a dialogue, he said — but that’s a mistake.

“Citizens have the right to dissent with the authorities, and there’s no need to use public force to silence that dissension,” he said.

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US war vet gets arrested at Occupy LA

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December 1: Hartmann: Massive strike shuts down UK – Winter of Discontent?

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Fox News Suggests Second Amendment Remedies Be Used Against OWS

From PoliticusUSA:

December 1, 2011

The violent response to the Occupy movement from law enforcement in cities across America is shameful and calls into question the adherence of the 1st Amendment’s guarantee that government cannot interfere with the people’s “right to peaceably assemble or prohibit the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.”  It is becoming obvious that mayors in larger cities have little regard for the constitutional rights of the protestors who have been clubbed, pepper sprayed, and sustained major injuries from tear-gas canisters fired by riot-clad police officers for peaceably assembling. Thus far, none of the protestors have been gunned down by the police but that does not mean there are not Americans panting to use firearms to stop the Occupy movement.On Tuesday’s edition of Fox News’ The Five, one of the members of the panel suggested the occupiers should beware of gun-slinging Americans who oppose the Occupy movement. It is nothing new for Fox to encourage their listeners to consider 2nd Amendment remedies for any number of perceived grievances, but suggesting that Americans shoot peaceful protestors has crossed the line.

The Fox panel was discussing families in Arizona who posed for Christmas card photos with Santa Claus while the parents and children held a variety of firearms. Now, it is unclear what the relationship Christmas, Santa Claus, families, and machine guns is about, but perhaps in Arizona it is a custom to associate the birth of Jesus Christ with bazookas and AK-47s. One of the panel members, Greg Gutfeld, was commenting on how awesome it is that Americans have a love-affair with guns and how he likes that it “scares the hell out of visiting Europeans who already think we’re crazy people and they think my god, we’re never invading this country.” Gutfeld is correct; Europeans do think Americans are violent nut-jobs for the wild-west mentality that guns solve all problems, but he could not help but throw out a not-so-veiled threat at the Occupy movement. He continued that, “plus, it’s a reminder to all you Occupy Wall Streeters that if there is a revolution, the other side is better armed.” One of the women panelists added that, “we have better weapons.” Wait, what? Who said the Occupy movement was armed or considering a violent revolution?

Gutfeld misses the point of the Occupy movement and their peaceful protests to call attention to the crippling income inequality in this country. There have been no calls or hints of violent revolution from the occupiers and the bigger point Gutfeld, and indeed all of Fox News, misses is that the Occupy movement represents 99% of America. Gutfeld is certainly not a member of the one percent so his comment that the “other side” is better armed must refer to uber-wealthy Americans controlling the policies that are responsible for the income disparity between the 1% and the rest of America. However, there are ignorant Americans (Fox News viewers) who somehow perceive the occupy movement as a threat to conservative ideology and would begin shooting peaceful protestors if given permission from a fanatical conservative. Enter Ann Coulter.

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You Can Arrest an Idea

From Truth Dig:

By Robert Scheer
Posted on Dec 1, 2011

The bankers slept well. Their homes in Beverly Hills were not spotlighted by a noisy swarm of police helicopters, searchlights burning through the sanctity of the night, harassing the forlorn City Hall encampment of those who dared protest the banks’ seizure of our government. I live within sight of the iconic Los Angeles City Hall, and at first I thought it was being used once again as a movie location, given the massive police presence, as if an alien invasion was being thwarted.

Not eager to test the resilience of my new heart valve, I hesitated until the first crack of dawn to visit the place where former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and I had spoken weeks before at a teach-in on the origins of the economic crisis. I described the scene back then as a Jeffersonian moment, exactly the kind of peaceful assembly to redress grievances that the Founders of our nation enshrined in the Bill of Rights. But at 5 a.m. Wednesday there was only a graveyard of democratic hope. The protesters were gone, 200 arrested for exercising their constitutional rights, and only the television crews stayed to pick over the carcass of tents, books and posters, including one I pulled from the debris that read “99% you can’t arrest an idea.” Actually, you can, and the bankers have, as a result, been able to reoccupy Los Angeles’ City Hall and every other contested outpost of power throughout the nation.

The liberal Democratic mayor, a past president of the Southern California ACLU, was pleased with the efficiency of the “community policing” approach of his police department. “I said that here in L.A. we’d chart a different path, and we did,” Antonio Villaraigosa boasted. However, the result was the same as elsewhere; the bankers were protected from the scorn they so richly deserve and there will no longer be a visible monument to the pain that they have caused. To ensure a pristine, amoral town square, huge concrete-anchored fences were quickly installed to prevent further access to the public space surrounding City Hall.

Of course the traditional cardboard encampments of the homeless three blocks away, a sprawling and constant feature of life in downtown Los Angeles, remained undisturbed. Sanitation and safety issues are of no concern as long as such manifestations of deep societal inequality are so far from the corridors of power as to be, in effect, invisible.

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7-7-7 Jobless? Face It: Obama’s Not That Into You

From Ted Rall:

By Ted Rall
December 1st, 2011

Forget Herman Cain’s 9-9-9. The battle cry for every American ought to be 7-7-7.

7-7-7: for the $7.7 trillion the Bush and Obama Administrations secretly funneled to the banksters.

Remember the $700 billion bailout that prompted rage from right to left? Which inspired millions to join the Tea Party and the Occupy movements? Turns out that that was a mere drop in the bucket, less than a tenth of what the Federal Reserve Bank doled out to the big banks.

Bloomberg Markets Magazine reports a shocking story that emerged from tens of thousands of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act: by March 2009, the Fed shelled out $7.77 trillion “to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.”

The U.S. national debt is currently a record $14 trillion.

We knew that the Fed and the White House were pawns of Wall Street. What’s new is the scale of the conspiracy.

Even the most jaded financial reporters were stunned at the extent of collusion: “The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates.”

Citigroup earned an extra $1.8 billion by reinvesting the Fed’s below-market loans. Bank of America made $1.5 billion.

Bear in mind, that’s only through March 2009.

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Two Lesbians Raised A Baby And This Is What They Got

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Occupy And The Importance Of Not Asking For Permission

From In These Times:

By Allison Kilkenny
Friday Dec 2, 2011

There’s an interesting debate happening right now among Occupy participants and Progressives observing the movement about what the best strategy is for the group moving forward. Rather than delving into the endless sea of advice heaved at the protesters on a daily basis about what their ten-point policy plan should look like, I want to examine the issue more broadly.

David Atkins wrote a blog post yesterday that stated OWS could draw lessons from the Egyptian election in which the liberal parties and youth activists failed to compete with Islamists who emerged from the Mubarak years. “There is a lesson here,” Atkins writes. “No matter how well-intentioned the revolutionaries and no matter how successful the revolution, at the end of the day organizational power will step in to win the day.”  While Atkins is clearly sympathetic to those who seek “anti-organizational” and “apolitical solutions to America’s problems,” he adds that “those who either refuse to or fall behind in the participating in the process, like the liberals and secularists in Egypt, will find themselves at the mercy of those who do.”

Atkins’ advice is to “Occupy the Democratic Party,” a well-intentioned suggestion that Occupy has been hearing since its inception.

Journalist Austin G. Mackell, who has been covering the Egyptian revolution since its beginning, remarked that this is akin to “a bunch of environmentalists joining the loggers guild, to you know, change things from inside the system.”

Atkins clarifies that he doesn’t mean Occupy should necessarily get involved within the Party, but perhaps protesters could instead create separate organizations that are designed to “instill fear” of the base and of primary challenges in Party politicians. Alas, Atkins seems to have much faith in America’s electoral system that consistently shuts out marginalized voices such as Ralph Nader and Ron Paul.

I want to unpack the concept of “instilling fear” a bit here because the obvious parallels between the civil rights movements and Occupy are too great to ignore. Like Occupy, civil rights leaders didn’t ask permission to protest, and while Martin Luther King Jr. did ultimately form a tentative alliance with Lyndon Johnson, (though it was no love affair — Johnson once said King was a “hypocrite preacher”) in order to see the landmark passages of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the real struggle happened on the ground in acts of civil disobedience. It took horrible footage of police dousing protesters with firehoses and unleashing ferocious attack dogs on innocent protesters to capture national, and the President’s, attention.

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Hartmann: Is your cell phone spying on you?

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Are evangelicals a national security threat?

A better question should be:  Do evangelicals believe in America and its guiding principles or do they want to institute a Christian version of Sharia?

From Salon:

A new poll suggests that American Christians (unlike Muslims) are likely to put their faith before their country

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011

If you have the stomach to listen to enough right-wing talk radio, or troll enough right-wing websites, you inevitably come upon fear-mongering about the Unassimilated Muslim. Essentially, this caricature suggests that Muslims in America are more loyal to their religion than to the United States, that such allegedly traitorous loyalties prove that Muslims refuse to assimilate into our nation and that Muslims are therefore a national security threat.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll illustrated just how apocryphal this story really is. It found that Muslim Americans are one of the most — if not the single most — loyal religious group to the United States. Now, comes the flip side from the Pew Research Center’s stunning findings about other religious groups in America (emphasis mine):

American Christians are more likely than their Western European counterparts to think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality; 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. see themselves primarily as Christians and the same number consider themselves Americans first. In contrast, majorities of Christians in France (90 percent), Germany (70 percent), Britain (63 percent) and Spain (53 percent) identify primarily with their nationality rather than their religion. Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

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Kucinich bill seeks to end the Federal Reserve

From Raw Story:

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, December 1, 2011

A bill put forward by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) would do what libertarians and conservatives have long wished for: effectively end the Federal Reserve.

The National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) Act of 2011 would place the Federal Reserve, a private, qusai-governmental institution that controls the nation’s monetary policy, under control of the U.S. Treasury. It would also implement new rules for the financial industry, in hopes of ending the worst abuses that created the 2008 financial collapse and the ensuing recession.

Listening to Kucinich speak about the Fed, one gets the sense that he’s moved even closer to the position typically championed by his polar opposite in the House, arch-conservative Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), currently a candidate for the Republican nomination to the presidency.

Paul and Kucinich have both long agreed that something must be done about the Fed, formed by an act of Congress in 1913 as a way of stabilizing the banking industry. Both men have vocally supported audits of the Fed’s accounts, but Kucinich has not gone as far as Paul in most of his advocacy. Until now.

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Arundhati Roy: ‘The people who created the crisis will not be the ones that come up with a solution’

From The Guardian UK:

The prize-winning author of The God of Small Things talks about why she is drawn to the Occupy movement and the need to reclaim language and meaning
, Wednesday 30 November 2011

Sitting in a car parked at a gas station on the outskirts of Houston, Texas, my colleague Michelle holds an audio recorder to my cellphone. At the other end of the line is Arundhati Roy, author of the Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things, who is some 2,000 miles away, driving to Boston.

“This is uniquely American,” I remark to Roy about interviewing her while both in cars but thousands of miles apart. Having driven some 7,000 miles and visited 23 cities (and counting) in reporting on the Occupy movement, it’s become apparent that the US is essentially an oil-based economy in which we shuttle goods we no longer make around a continental land mass, creating poverty-level dead-end jobs in the service sector.

This is the secret behind the Occupy Wall Street movement that Roy visited before the police crackdowns started. Sure, ending pervasive corporate control of the political system is on the lips of almost every occupier we meet. But this is nothing new. What’s different is most Americans now live in poverty, on the edge, or fear a descent into the abyss. It’s why a majority (at least of those who have an opinion) still support Occupy Wall Street even after weeks of disinformation and repression.

In this exclusive interview for the Guardian, Roy offers her thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, the role of the imagination, reclaiming language, and what is next for a movement that has reshaped America’s political discourse and seized the world’s attention.

AG: Why did you want to visit Occupy Wall Street and what are your impressions of it?

AR: How could I not want to visit? Given what I’ve been doing for so many years, it seems to me, intellectually and theoretically, quite predictable this was going to happen here at some point. But still I cannot deny myself the surprise and delight that it has happened. And I wanted to, obviously, see for myself the extent and size and texture and nature of it. So the first time I went there, because all those tents were up, it seemed more like a squat than a protest to me, but it began to reveal itself in a while. Some people were holding the ground and it was the hub for other people to organise, to think through things. As I said when I spoke at the People’s University, it seems to me to be introducing a new political language into the United States, a language that would be considered blasphemous only a while ago.

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Central banks seek to avert global meltdown

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Nick Beams
1 December 2011

Yesterday’s move by six major central banks to boost liquidity for European banks makes clear there is a growing fear in leading financial circles that the eurozone crisis threatens to set off a meltdown of the entire global financial system.

The emergency action, led by the US Federal Reserve, will cut the interest rate on dollars loaned to European banks. They have been hit by the withdrawal of funds and the drying up of credit because American and other banks fear that European authorities are losing control of the situation.

In another sign that the crisis is spreading, Chinese authorities yesterday cut the amount that the nation’s banks must set aside as reserves—the first such move since 2008.

The intervention by the Fed, together with the European Central Bank (ECB) and the central banks of Japan, Britain, Canada and Switzerland, boosted share markets around the world. Wall Street’s Dow Jones index rose by 500 points in its biggest one-day rise since March 2009.

While providing short-term relief, the measures have done nothing to overcome the underlying crisis, which is one of insolvency, not liquidity.

Jon Peace, head of European bank research at the Japanese finance house Nomura, told the Guardian: “It is an evolution of the crisis from three years ago, when countries took on the risks of the banks. Back in 2008, there was a lender of last resort—countries bailed out the banks. This time it is governments that need a lender of last resort—but there is no obvious lender of last resort.”
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Dominionist Dr. George Grant Endorses Michele Bachmann

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War on drugs revealed as total hoax – US military admits to guarding, assisting lucrative opium trade in Afghanistan

From Natural News:

by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(NaturalNews) Afghanistan is, by far, the largest grower and exporter of opium in the world today, cultivating a 92 percent market share of the global opium trade. But what may shock many is the fact that the US military has been specifically tasked with guarding Afghan poppy fields, from which opium is derived, in order to protect this multibillion dollar industry that enriches Wall Street, the CIA, MI6, and various other groups that profit big time from this illicit drug trade scheme.

Prior to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Afghanistan was hardly even a world player in growing poppy, which is used to produce both illegal heroin and pharmaceutical-grade morphine. In fact, the Taliban had been actively destroying poppy fields as part of an effort to rid the country of this harmful plant, as was reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 16, 2001, in a piece entitled Nation’s opium production virtually wiped out (…).

But after 9/11, the US military-industrial complex quickly invaded Afghanistan and began facilitating the reinstatement of the country’s poppy industry. According to the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP), opium cultivation increased by 657 percent in 2002 after the US military invaded the country under the direction of then-President George W. Bush (…).

More recently, The New York Times (NYT) reported that the brother of current Afghan President Hamid Karzai had actually been on the payroll of the CIA for at least eight years prior to this information going public in 2009. Ahmed Wali Karzai was a crucial player in reinstating the country’s opium drug trade, known as Golden Crescent, and the CIA had been financing the endeavor behind the scenes (…).

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Should Organized Religion Have More Rights Than Women?

From Ms Magazine Blogs:

November 30, 2011

Right now, Catholic bishops, charities, schools and universities are demanding exemptions from new rules requiring that insurance plans cover contraception for women, free of charge.

And President Obama is listening, even as Congressional Democrats object.

The demand for exemptions is based on moral and religious grounds. Religious rights, it’s claimed. But about women’s religious rights? When women’s moral and religious beliefs conflict with the Catholic Church, why should the church win out?

Free contraception leads to healthier babies, too. The Institutes of Medicine recommended free birth control due to compelling evidence that it leads to healthier women and babies.

Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care and to smoke, consume alcohol and be depressed during pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy also increases the risk of babies being born preterm or at a low birth weight, both of which raise their chances of health and developmental problems.

And when birth control is free, abortion rates drop too.

Then there’s the whole matter of financial survival. Poor women might want to avoid the poverty that can come from extra mouths to feed. And those who are better off might want to have only the number of children that they can afford.

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