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#Occupy Votes (Updated 2:25pm PST)

1:13 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Tuned Out Hippies?

Since the Occupy movement began, many have attempted to position the group in opposition to electoral politics. Occupy in its purest form is nonpartisan, and since the beginning of the movement this has been a source of criticism.

If we want to really make a difference, we were told time and again, we should organize similarly to the Tea Party and begin to field candidates for office. When occupiers protested Mitt Romney or other hyper-conservative politicians, they’d be accused of being in bed with Barack Obama. If the movement protested neo-liberals like Obama, we were accused of being traitors to all that was good in the world because we obviously wanted Romney to win (Carnacing is not limited to blogs). Most of all, occupiers got accused of being disconnected from what their critics perceive to be real politics — we were lazy hippies who didn’t understand how the world works and worst of all we don’t vote.

Spelled out in lights: DO MORE THAN VOTE

Austin Overpass Light Brigade on November 5, 2012

Occupy and many allied activist groups stand in opposition to the idea that electoral politics should be the focus of American political engagement. It is especially opposed to the idea that just voting out one plutocrat and replacing him with a new one will fix our problems — even if that new plutocrat is a woman, from a racial minority, or practices an alternative religion or sexuality. Its ranks are full of activists who supported Obama with hours of hard work in the run-up to the 2008 election, only to “wake the eff up” over the succeeding years and realize real change doesn’t come from far-away leaders.

It’s my experience that occupiers are far more engaged with mainstream politics than mainstream America, which for the most part unthinkingly abstains from participating at all. While the average American simply does not vote, the question of whether to vote and how was an important concern to OWS. Members of Occupy Chicago spent hours in a heated debate over whether it was ethical to burn voter registration cards as a form of protest. Occupiers created street theater around the election: Occupy Chicago members took coffins to the Obama headquarters and launched Revs4Romney. On election day, Occupy the Stage in New Orleans protested the fact that Louisiana is one of eight states which disallow write-in candidates for President by performing a puppet show about the 2-party system at a polling place then accepting symbolic write-in votes (I voted via Twitter for Vermin Supreme). Occupiers held public debate-watching parties, helped Anonymous trend the hashtag #StopNDAA and livetweeted the elections.

Occupy groups also became closely involved in local issues at multiple elections since last September. Here in Austin, one Occupier made an unsuccessful bid for city council, while others became involved in the successful bid to make the city council itself more accountable. Austin will change from one of the country’s only completely at-large city councils to one where each council member represents part of the city.  The Occupy AISD working group fought new in-district charter schools by, in part, helping to unseat charter-supporter Sam Guzman. His replacement, Dr. Rev. Jayme Mathias, will be the first openly gay member of Austin’s school board. One of the Gulf Port 7, Ronnie Garza, is featured in the video at the top of this post. Another, Remington Alessi, ran for sheriff as a Green Party candidate. San Antonio’s Meghan Owen took 1.5% of the vote for the Greens in a bid to unseat NDAA-supporting Democrat Representative Lloyd Doggett.

Of course, many see Elizabeth Warren as a massive win for the goals of Occupy Wall Street.

An Ethical Dilemma At the Voting Booth

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VIDEO: The Do Not Kill List (OATX Obama Unwelcome Notes)

11:45 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

On July 17, 2012, President Barack Obama visited Austin, Texas for a pair of fundraising events — one, a $250 event at the Austin Music Hall and later a $25,000 per plate fundraiser at a condominium over the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel owned by a Dell Computers executive. Occupy Austin was there to Unwelcome him — to demand he keep his promises and that he stop escalating warfare of all kinds; along the way, we hoped to educate a few of his supporters about the consequences of his policies.

The Do Not Kill List sketch was conceived during a meeting of the OccuQueers as a way to engage about the so-called ‘Kill List’ — Obama’s claim that he can kill anyone for any reason anywhere without due process – as well as the  rapidly growing domestic use of drones. Lisa Glick led the team with help from Brian Svaboda while I filmed; Comrade of the Peaceful Streets Project filmed at a distance to ensure we weren’t harassed by police. Brian created an official looking ‘Executive Voluntary Do Not Kill List’ form which contained talking points and a loyalty oath based on the one the government used on United States citizens of Japanese origins during World War II, as reported by Michelle Chen on myFDL in “Tule Lake: The Quiet Legacy of No.”

The Do Not Kill List action was just part of a full day in the hot Texas sun, protesting at multiple points along Obama’s route through downtown.

Banners, Mic Checks and Marching in Austin

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Watercooler: Disrespect

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

I’m pretty exhausted from the action yesterday with Occupy Austin. We had fun protesting Obama’s policies and broken promises, while trying to educate some of his supporters and make them think a little bit more. We’re all well and free, even if I nearly got arrested by APD snapping a great photo. I’ll write more about it tomorrow when I am more recovered.

In the meantime did you hear about the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority? They recently raised rates on fares for the disabled, an act protested in the streets. In the meantime, adding insult to injury (in more way  than one), they released their own viral video of an unfortunate disabled woman’s accident as caught by their surveillance cameras. PrivacySOS reports:

Why on earth would the MBTA release this video to the public? And why would it assume that doing so bolsters its credibility vis a vis the utility of their expansive surveillance system, even in the slightest bit? We don’t know the answers to these questions or to many others, and so we need to shine a light on government surveillance. We know very little about how the MBTA’s camera system works and about what checks and balances are in place — if any — to prevent this kind of abuse or worse.

And the Chicagoist reports that Wisconsin lawmaker Glenn Grothman thinks single parenting (or parenting by nonmarried or gay couples) is actually child abuse:

Senate Bill 507 specifically requires “the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

A third of Wisconsin parents are single parents, but this law affects even more than that. The way the law refers to “nonmarital parenthood” also makes this applicable to non-married couples, including same-sex couples.

What’s on your mind? This is the latest open thread.

Watercooler: Speech

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Yo, everyone.

President Obama is coming to visit Austin, Texas tomorrow on an expensive visit. After stopping in San Antonio he’ll come to Austin for a $250/ticket fundraiser or a $25,000/plate dinner.

Of course, Occupy Austin is planning a protest. You’d think we were actually threatening to single-handedly hand the keys to the White House over to Mitt Romney the way some people react. When I was younger, I remember the clichéd phrase, “America Love It Or Leave It!” was short-hand for a certain kind of jingoistic, mindless right-wing thought. Activists who dare to speak out against policies of the current administration receive the same kind of reactionary thoughtlessness, only from so-called liberals. I think it’s a sign of how bankrupt electoral politics have become that we are told we must swallow every violent, unethical, or inhumane policy of our rulers without a peep or else we must be endorsing the Republicans.

To me, free speech means we have an obligation to speak out when we disagree with the policies of our leaders, even if you happen to be someone who might vote for them on election day. People say you’re wasting your voice if you don’t vote, but let’s flip it around — what good are you really doing if all you do is vote?

Speaking of speech, as a writer I was charmed by a blog post that a friend shared, reporting that children solved a 250-year old problem in the English language. Grammar Girl reports that some kids are now using the slang ‘yo’ as a gender-neutral pronoun:

To test the theory, Stotko and Troyer showed kids a cartoon with a goofy-looking person, but the kids couldn’t tell whether the person was male or female. Then they asked the kids to write a slang caption for the cartoon. Some of the kids wrote, “Yo crazy,” instead of “He or she crazy,” or “They crazy.” Follow-up research showed that kids definitely intended yo to mean “he or she.” They used yo as a pronoun.

This is the latest open thread. What’s on your mind?

Watercooler: Authority

6:25 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Who’s in charge here?

Can you remember a time when you thought someone was in charge serving all our best interests? I remember when I was a kid being fascinated by the idea of the United Nations, and the belief that they could hold any country in the world to task for bad behavior.

I had a brief moment of childlike pleasure reading recently about the United Nations criticism of human rights violations in police attacks on the Occupy Wall Street movement:

Frank La Rue, the UN’s special rapporteur for the protection of free expression, and Maina Kiai, the organization’s special rapporteur for freedom of peaceful assembly, will present their reports at this week’s meeting, the twentieth edition of the annual conference. Particularly in focus, though, will be how the United States government has failed to act on requests made by the two experts during the last year to address growing concerns over how law enforcement has acted towards the Occupy movement.

In one letter sent from the envoys to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the rapporteurs urge the Obama administration to “explain the behavior of police departments that violently disbanded some Occupy protests last fall.”Elsewhere they say that they’ve been concerned that excessive force waged on protesters “could have been related to [the protesters'] dissenting views, criticisms of economic policies, and their legitimate work in the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

And against Canada for Quebec’s anti-protest Bill 78. Even though we all know these threats have no weight behind them, it’s a pleasure to see someone hold the West to the standards that we hold the rest of the world — even if the reality is that it’s more like the mafia are in charge.

That’s what’s on my mind tonight? What’s on yours?

This is tonight’s open thread.