November 28, 2011

Leonard Cohen: Democracy

-thanks to

451 at Zuccotti Park

"Where man starts by burning books he ends up by burning people."


The cowardly, nocturnal destruction of more than 5,000 volumes of “the People’s Library” last week, a repository of knowledge gathered by the Occupy Wall Street assembly at Zuccotti Park requires the most vigorous push-back. Mayor Bloomberg of New York ordered the destruction which was certainly coordinated with Wall Street and the White House.

Let the number 451 become his license plate; let it become his Social Security Number; let it become the password to his billions; let it become his total ID, for now the world knows him as the one who realized the dystopia of book-burning described in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953) known to every American high school student.

Or, one might liken the destruction at Zuccotti Park to the burning of the books in Germany in 1933. The German burning inspired a comrade of 1968 to place at the site of the Nazi’s hideous deed a plaque with Heinrich Heine’s words, written in 1821,
… wo man Bücher verbrennt,
Verbrennt man
Auch am Ende Menschen.
which roughly means, ‘where man starts by burning books he ends up by burning people.’
There is, of course, a difference between 1933 and 2011. The distance between the gasses of the holocausts and the burning of pepper spray is substantial but it is a distance upon a similar chemical continuum and it shares the same fear of ideas. Though the plutocrats are still leagued with the war-mongers they are no longer organized as national and social capital; capitalism now is globalized they constantly tell us, not national and not social. However, we the 99% too are world-wide and becoming more and more social.

The books at Zuccotti Park were hauled away in dumpsters belonging to the sanitation department. The pretext of the destruction was “cleaning” the park which, the Mayor said, was filled with “filth”. This is the rhetoric of Mein Kampf. But no one is deceived. These acts are deliberate attempts to destroy the ideas and the many “yesses” of the movement against neo-liberalism, and our utter negation of the blasphemous notion that rule by the 1% with its wars, debts, and work is inevitable and eternal.
The trashing of the books is a sign of our times as surely as the deliberate destruction of the antiquities and national library of Baghdad. In the case of Mesopotamia the books held the knowledge of the first cities of human history; in the case of Zuccotti Park the knowledge was surely of the next cities of human history. Well, not only cities. Obviously the country and the seas and the stratosphere are planetary sites of filth and destruction in need of repair. Even the Biblical jubilee of debt forgiveness, manumission, and land restoration entails a time of fallow, to give the earth a rest.

Nowadays the 1% expect all the respect, as if money conferred it, while we, the 99%, are degraded and devalued. Our wealth is not filthy lucre. Our wealth consists of ideas, it consists of our books, it consists of our prefigurments in our relations with one another. Our wealth consists of our assemblies where the “people’s microphone” returns to the Greek etymology of the assembly, the ecclesia, which meant to “call out.”

Within a few hours the call went out again and people re-gathered to re-constitute the movement to occupy Wall Street. Among the signs was one which surely is a call-out, “Arrest one of us; two more appear. You can’t arrest an idea!” Ideas are not “absolutely dead things,” as Milton said (Areopagitica 1644), “they are as lively, as vigorously productive as those fabulous dragon’s teeth, and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.” He was writing in the midst of civil war; we may say that we are armed with books and with ideas. Our occupations, up and down and everywhere, embody them. You have only to witness the soft-spoken eloquence and the powerful composure of the librarians of the OWS Library at their press conference of the day before yesterday to understand this ecclesia.

This – the relation between words and deeds - is the essential point. The Occupation of Wall Street tended towards a unity of action and talk, because the action of occupation created the assembly where speaking out and speaking up could transpire. The resulting discourse creates knowledge of the revolutionary future. The struggle for ideas is a struggle for space: it was so with the hills and mountains of the liberating guerrillas, it was so with the peasants and soldiers in the soviets, it was the case with the congregations of the yeomen and artisans in the English civil war; it was the case with the tennis court where the French Revolution of 1789 began; it was so with the zocolo in Oaxaca; it was the case with the numberless encampments of history in forest and field from Kett’s Rebellion to the Zapatistas of Chiapas. In all of these it was the combination of ideas and assembled people in some actual, occupied space that was creative: ideas alone quickly become smothered in isolated study carrels, crowds alone quickly become mindless in the stadiums of authorized sport. When they are united our movement lives up to its name. History can begin. Hence, our enemies need to repress our deeds and our ideas. The protection of this relation of ideas and assembly is what the US Constitution forgot and had to be repaired right away in the very first amendment.

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is the Magna Carta Manifesto. He can be reached at:

-thanks to Counterpunch

Einstein: "It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

November 25, 2011

To the Winter Patriot

by Abby Zimet

An impassioned open letter from Army vet and PhD economics student Mitch Green to his "brothers and sisters in the armed forces," asking, What will you do when your bosses call you to put down the Occupy movement? Powerful.

"Sadly, society has placed a twin tax upon you by asking that you sacrifice both your body and your morality...Now, more than ever we need your sacrifice. But, I’m asking you to soldier in a different way. If called upon to deny the people their first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievance, disregard the order. Abstain from service. Or if you are so bold, join us."

-thanks to Commondreams

Daniel Ellsberg: pepper spray = "police torture"

Michael Moore: Don't Sit This One Out - What's Your Vision for Occupy Wall Street?

Filmmaker Michael Moore talks to protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement at Zuccotti Park in New York, Oct. 20, 2011.
(Photo: Michael Kirby Smith / The New York Times)
Tuesday 22 November 2011
by: Michael Moore, | Op-Ed

This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and goals of the movement. It was attended by 40+ people and the discussion was both inspiring and invigorating. Here is what we ended up proposing as the movement's "vision statement" to the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street:

"We Envision: [1] a truly free, democratic, and just society; [2] where we, the people, come together and solve our problems by consensus; [3] where people are encouraged to take personal and collective responsibility and participate in decision making; [4] where we learn to live in harmony and embrace principles of toleration and respect for diversity and the differing views of others; [5] where we secure the civil and human rights of all from violation by tyrannical forces and unjust governments; [6] where political and economic institutions work to benefit all, not just the privileged few; [7] where we provide full and free education to everyone, not merely to get jobs but to grow and flourish as human beings; [8] where we value human needs over monetary gain, to ensure decent standards of living without which effective democracy is impossible; [9] where we work together to protect the global environment to ensure that future generations will have safe and clean air, water and food supplies, and will be able to enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature that past generations have enjoyed."

The next step will be to develop a specific list of goals and demands. As one of the millions of people who are participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I would like to respectfully offer my suggestions of what we can all get behind now to wrestle the control of our country out of the hands of the 1% and place it squarely with the 99% majority.

Here is what I will propose to the General Assembly of Occupy Wall Street:

10 Things We Want
A Proposal for Occupy Wall Street
Submitted by Michael Moore

1. Eradicate the Bush tax cuts for the rich and institute new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and on corporations, including a tax on all trading on Wall Street (where they currently pay 0%).

2. Assess a penalty tax on any corporation that moves American jobs to other countries when that company is already making profits in America. Our jobs are the most important national treasure and they cannot be removed from the country simply because someone wants to make more money.

3. Require that all Americans pay the same Social Security tax on all of their earnings (normally, the middle class pays about 6% of their income to Social Security; someone making $1 million a year pays about 0.6% (or 90% less than the average person). This law would simply make the rich pay what everyone else pays.

4. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, placing serious regulations on how business is conducted by Wall Street and the banks.

5. Investigate the Crash of 2008, and bring to justice those who committed any crimes.

6. Reorder our nation's spending priorities (including the ending of all foreign wars and their cost of over $2 billion a week). This will re-open libraries, reinstate band and art and civics classes in our schools, fix our roads and bridges and infrastructure, wire the entire country for 21st century internet, and support scientific research that improves our lives.

7. Join the rest of the free world and create a single-payer, free and universal health care system that covers all Americans all of the time.

8. Immediately reduce carbon emissions that are destroying the planet and discover ways to live without the oil that will be depleted and gone by the end of this century.

9. Require corporations with more than 10,000 employees to restructure their board of directors so that 50% of its members are elected by the company’s workers. We can never have a real democracy as long as most people have no say in what happens at the place they spend most of their time: their job. (For any U.S. businesspeople freaking out at this idea because you think workers can't run a successful company: Germany has a law like this and it has helped to make Germany the world’s leading manufacturing exporter.)

10. We, the people, must pass three constitutional amendments that will go a long way toward fixing the core problems we now have. These include:

a) A constitutional amendment that fixes our broken electoral system by 1) completely removing campaign contributions from the political process; 2) requiring all elections to be publicly financed; 3) moving election day to the weekend to increase voter turnout; 4) making all Americans registered voters at the moment of their birth; 5) banning computerized voting and requiring that all elections take place on paper ballots.

b) A constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people and do not have the constitutional rights of citizens. This amendment should also state that the interests of the general public and society must always come before the interests of corporations.

c) A constitutional amendment that will act as a "second bill of rights" as proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: that every American has a human right to employment, to health care, to a free and full education, to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food, and to be cared for with dignity and respect in their old age.

Let me know what you think. Occupy Wall Street enjoys the support of millions. It is a movement that cannot be stopped. Become part of it by sharing your thoughts with me or online (at Get involved in (or start!) your own local Occupy movement. Make some noise. You don't have to pitch a tent in lower Manhattan to be an Occupier. You are one just by saying you are. This movement has no singular leader or spokesperson; every participant is a leader in their neighborhood, their school, their place of work. Each of you is a spokesperson to those whom you encounter. There are no dues to pay, no permission to seek in order to create an action.

We are but ten weeks old, yet we have already changed the national conversation. This is our moment, the one we've been hoping for, waiting for. If it's going to happen it has to happen now. Don't sit this one out. This is the real deal. This is it.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2011

End international lynching. Pete Bianco, Hancock 38 drone trial defendant, makes closing statement explaining US violations of our Constitution . . .

. . . international treaties, the UN Charter, etc.

-thanks to Veterans for Peace

Drones on Trial

Come support the Hancock 38 for the verdict

Thursday, Dec. 1 at 5 pm at Town of DeWitt Courthouse (5400 Butternut Dr., East Syracuse, NY)

Join a vigil before the verdict from 3-4 pm at Hancock Air Base in
Sponsored by Veterans for Peace and the Syracuse Peace Council.

November 23, 2011

 Background of Hancock 38 Trial

photo from Syracuse Peace council

Tuesday, November 1 marked the first day of the trial of the Hancock 38 Drone Resisters, activists from upstate New York and well beyond who participated in a “die-in” at the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base just outside Syracuse last April. The corpses symbolized the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan by hunter-killer reaper drones and protested the reaper here at Hancock and elsewhere. The defendants also attempted to deliver an indictment to the base commander focusing on the illegality of the drones; the indictment was taken by law enforcement and thrown to the ground, violating the Hancock 38's First Amendment right to petition the government in redress of grievances.

This was the first civil resistance action at Hancock since it became a major player in drone warfare over the last few years. Pilots stationed at the base fly the reaper over Afghanistan via satellite links and the base boasts of a national school for training drone maintenance technicians as well as drone pilots and sensor operators.

Prior to the trial, the defendants made multiple court appearances, as they argued motions to join their cases together for a single trial (accepted) and for their defense to include testimony about the illegality of drone warfare, as well as the necessity of breaking a law in order to prevent something worse from happening (both denied). Several days before the trial, a new charge was added. The final charges were “obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic” and “refusing to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse” (both low-level charges). Thirty-two people ended up going to trial – ten represented by lawyers and twenty-two representing themselves.

photo from Syracuse Peace council

The defendants’ goal has been to put the drones on trial. The group argued that they were innocent of the “lawful order to disperse” charge because the order was actually not lawful. It contradicted the Nuremberg Principles, which forbid wars of aggression, attacks on civilians and extrajudicial assassinations - all actions associated with drone warfare. Citizens have a duty to act where they can to prevent violations, even if the violations are committed by their government.

The defendants argued that the “obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic" didn’t hold up either because there was no vehicular or pedestrian traffic to obstruct. In preparation for the legal rally preceding the action, base security and police had shut down the main entrance and parked many police cars in the driveway – so the die-in there would not have been able to inconvenience the public.

A trial highlight was the testimony of former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. At a press conference before court, Ramsey stated, “Drones inherently violate the laws of the United States and international law,” and quoted from Dante’s Inferno: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis, do not act.”

After the court spent more than two hours qualifying Ramsey as an expert witness in the principles of international law and defining what the precise scope of his testimony would be, Ramsey testified that the defendants’ actions were justified under international law as embodied in the Nuremberg Principles. Judge Gideon later asked Ramsey to address international law in relation to local action. Ramsey testified that the Nuremberg Principles are the ”supreme law of the land,” and that all courts at every level – federal, state and local – must act in the context of these principles.

The defense started late Friday and went from 9 am Saturday til about 9:30 pm (after which the closing arguments began). The defendants testified that the drones are illegal and that it was their duty under the
Nuremberg Principles and international law to act to prevent drones from the killing of innocents.

After closing arguments, Judge Gideon announced that he would give the verdict on Thursday, December 1 at 5 pm at the DeWitt Courthouse.

-thanks to Veterans For Peace (several members of VFP were among the defendants)

Join us for the verdict on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 5 pm at Town of DeWitt Courthouse (5400 Butternut Dr., East Syracuse, NY)

Join a vigil before the verdict from 3-4 pm at Hancock Air Base in Mattydale
Sponsored by Veterans for Peace and the Syracuse Peace Council.

Come Support the Hancock 38 Drone Resisters - Hear the Verdict!

Thursday, Dec. 1 at 5 pm at Town of DeWitt Courthouse (5400 Butternut Dr., East Syracuse, NY)

Join a vigil before the verdict from 3-4 pm at Hancock Air Base in Mattydale
Sponsored by Veterans for Peace and the Syracuse Peace Council.

    One of the Hancock 38 pro se defendants, Brian Terrell, makes closing statement at the trial

    Gen. Smedley Butler speaking at the Bonus Soldiers camp in DC.

    -thanks to Ward

    New spy towers pitched for sovereign Tohono O'odham Nation, after billion dollar boondoggle

    Copyright by Brenda Norrell, Censored News

    TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION -- (Nov. 23, 2011) The US Homeland Security is now pitching new spy towers to the Tohono O'odham, after Homeland Security wasted billions on the last boondoggle of Arizona spy towers that did not function.

    Previously on the Arizona/Mexico border, Homeland Security's Secure Border Initiative spy towers were pointed at the people of the community in locations like Arivaca and not at the border.

    Those spy towers, including one on the Tohono O'odham Nation south of Sells, Arizona (shown below) were fashioned after Israeli's Apartheid Wall. Those spy towers were built by Boeing and the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems.

    US spy tower on Tohono O'odham land 2007.
    Photo copyright Brenda Norrell

    Then, Homeland Security announced in Jan. 2011, the replacement of the previous boondoggle SBInet with the Alternative Southwest Border Technology. It also referred to as Arizona Border Surveillance Technology.

    Homeland Security is now presenting new spy towers, shown below (at top of post on this blog), to Tohono O'odham districts for approval.

    -thanks to Brenda Norrell, Censored News

    November 20, 2011

    Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi takes a "walk of shame" hours after peacefully seated students were pepper sprayed by ruthless cops at UC Davis.

    -thanks to Wayne Moore

    In a demonstration of support for the Occupy movement, a small group of protesters was sitting, arms linked together. Campus police told them to move. The students didn't. And that's when an officer walked down the line of seated men and women, pepper-spraying them. Some took it straight in their faces. Many of the several hundred others who were there screamed in terror and frustration.

    Campus police said the officers had been surrounded by protesters and commanders have defended their actions. So did university Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi — which led to a call from the school's faculty association for her resignation. Katehi has since said she wants an outside, independent panel to review what happened and that she doesn't plan to step down.

    ", we've asked her to be silent respectfully"

    On Saturday, after a news conference she held, Katehi remained inside one of the university's buildings for a couple hours. Outside, protesters regrouped. And when she emerged, there was one of the most amazing scenes so far related to the Occupy movement. As Katehi and another woman walked three blocks to an SUV, they passed through a gauntlet of several hundred students — who remained silent in a powerful show of their disdain

    -thanks to npr