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#BringBackOurGirls Brings Back the Blowback?

1:23 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Will a well-meaning social media campaign to rescue kidnapped girls result in military action and, as a result, more blowback against the United States? Could our intervention in Nigeria make Boko Haram stronger?

A man in a webcam photo holds a sign reading #BringBackOurGirls

Could a social media campaign inadvertently strengthen Boko Haram?

In recent days, Americans have become aware of the 276 kidnapped Muslim schoolgirls, taken at gunpoint from their classroom in Nigeria by the militant Boko Haram movement. Though there were several real world demonstrations, many more are taking part in online activism through the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Since the kidnapping, the United States and many other countries sent teams of experts or offered assistance to the Nigerian government — at their request.

But Boko Haram has also stepped up its violence, slaughtering over 300 in the town of Gamboru Ngala in northeastern Nigeria. From the New York Times:

The latest attack, on Monday, followed a classic Boko Haram pattern: Dozens of militants wearing fatigues and wielding AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers descended on the town of Gamboru Ngala, chanting ‘Allahu akbar,’ firing indiscriminately and torching houses. When it was over, at least 336 people had been killed and hundreds of houses and cars had been set on fire, said Waziri Hassan, who lives there, and Senator Ahmed Zanna.

The missing schoolgirls have grabbed the world’s attention, and more offers of help poured in to the Nigerian government on Wednesday from Britain, China and France. But Boko Haram’s deadly attack on Gamboru Ngala was similar to many others in the past several years that drew little or no notice beyond Nigeria. Bodies still lay in the street on Wednesday night, said Mr. Hassan, a cement salesman.

Likewise, Amnesty International officials told RT that Nigerian officials had warning of the kidnapping and did not or could not act:

According to a number of sources interviewed by Amnesty local civilian patrols in Gagilam, a village neighboring Chibok where the girls were abducted, were the first to alert the authorities.The patrols are known as vigilantes and were set up by military and local authorities to counter Boko Haram.

A vigilante patrol in Gaiglam raised the alarm when a group of armed men entered the village on motorbikes and said they were on their way to Chibok. Locals immediately phoned a number of officials to warn them including the Borno State Governor and senior military commanders based in the regional capital Maiduguri.

[...]At about 11:45 the convoy of Boko Harem fighters which by this time consisted of about 200 men on motorbikes and in trucks entered Chibok and a gunfight broke out with the small garrison of 17 police and soldiers who were based in the town. Outnumbered and outgunned the small security force eventually fled the town in the small hours leaving the Boko Haram fighters free to proceed to the girl’s secondary school where they abducted 270 school girls.

Two senior officers in the Nigerian military confirmed to Amnesty that they were aware of the attack even before the phone calls from local officials but were unable to mobilize reinforcements. One officer told the rights group that his soldiers were fearful of engaging the militants who were often better equipped.

It seems, once again, Team America: World Police are preparing to intervene in a complex local situation which we’re ill-equipped to understand or handle. Indeed, while all agree the fate of the kidnapped women is utter tragedy, many of the more sober writers online are beginning to question the wisdom of American involvement. Writing for Medium, Turkish writer Zeynep Tufekci notes, “this is but one step in a story that started long before the hashtag, and will not end when the global attention ends.”

After describing how her grandmother narrowly escaped a fate similar to the kidnapped students, she asks “why am I wary of the urge to ‘do something’ about Boko Haram’s kidnapping of these girls? Do they not deserve my grandmother’s small miracle? They do, a hundred thousand times over.” But she warns that there is a crucial difference between internal versus external attention and intervention:

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Christmas Antidote: Actual News

4:44 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

 

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! What’s not to be jolly about?

Scotch and Soda

Sober up this Christmas with a shot of harsh reality.

Here’s a swig of actual news to wash down all those twee “human interest” pieces sticking in your throat.

Peter Moskowitz, writing for Al Jazeera America, says 2013 was a year of talking about inequality:

OWS members may no longer be on street corners, but the movement’s vocabulary of economic injustice, previously common only on college campuses, has become more accessible to a wide variety of Americans.

This year, as the disparity between rich and poor continued to grow to levels not seen since 1928, the nation’s new consciousness about the economy allowed income inequality to take hold of the country’s conscience. Indeed, 2013 was the year of thinking and talking about income inequality. As judged by how frequently we search Google, Americans’ curiosity about income inequality has been high since Occupy started in 2011, but recently spiked beyond 2011’s levels — and the conversation extended well beyond the Internet.

This year, there were revelations that median wages have remained flat for 10 years, that corporations continued to receive record-breaking tax breaks, that CEO pay has risen astronomically in the past few decades, and that the bottom and top income brackets continue to grow further apart.

While there were some minor policy changes passed that could help lessen that gap — such as many local minimum-wage campaigns; there were many, such as repeated cuts to food stamps and unemployment benefits, that seem to promise to widen the chasm further. But the conversation has begun and if 2013 was a year of public awareness about income inequality, maybe 2014 will be the year something is done about it.

At least 37 people are dead after bombings in Baghdad’s Christian neighborhoods:

The biggest blast happened near a church after a Christmas service. …

The assaults included a car bomb that went off next to a Christian church in the Doura district of the Iraqi capital after a Christmas service, a police officer confirmed, according to AP. The attack killed at least 26 people and wounded 38 others. Most of the victims were Christians.

Earlier on Wednesday, two bombs exploded simultaneously at an outdoor market in the same area of Doura, killing 11 people and wounding 21 others. The figures were confirmed by a medical official.

The Wiyot people are renewing their Native American culture 150 years after a brutal massacre by white settlers:

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Free Speech, Capitalist Dynasties

7:27 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Did you hear? Some rich filth on TV said he believes God hates fags.

V for Vendetta-style caped Guy Fawkes & a police photographer

The beginning of a new movement or the last gasp of unmediated free speech?

Now, TV personalities can spend even more days analyzing other TV personalities. Do they hate gays, black people, you? What color is Santa? All the usual, powerful swine are out for the right of other swine to say whatever they want on a profitable television program.

Conservatives like to believe that “freedom of speech” means “freedom from consequences” for intolerance. Meanwhile, actual violations of freedom of speech — like climate change activists being charged with a “terrorism hoax” – go unanswered by either the right or the left.

While this spectacle involves the right-wing puppets, both parties — the whole political spectrum, as far as Mainstream America is concerned — are intimately invested in this redefinition of free speech.

Free speech isn’t what happens in the streets, it’s corporate money at elections and pretty pictures on commercial television.

When Occupy drew thousands nationwide, it was Democratic mayors — and Obama’s Feds — that came down hardest on the movement. When thousands gathered at the Texas Capitol this past summer but before Wendy Davis’ much-lauded filibuster, Democratic party officials put the loudest, most influential grassroots organizers on a list of dangerous agitators that they passed around to rally organizers from multiple groups. One of them told me I shouldn’t lead crowds in chanting or disruptive behavior because it would “look crazy.” Not to worry, she told me, we’d vote them out in 2014.

Street posters of Snowden (labelled Patriot) & Rick Perry (labelled Dog Shit)

Speech without permits is terrorism.

On the night of the final vote while a hundred Texas State Troopers beat and dragged us for sitting in front of the Senate doors, the Texas Democrats led a march away from the Capitol so they could have a fund raiser in a park before their permit ran out. Whatever happens next November, the legislature won’t even meet till 2015 and at least 20,000 women won’t have access to safe abortion next year.

Free speech isn’t what happens on the Internet. We jail our whistle blowers and hacktivist heroes while the NSA stalks and catalogs us.

Free speech is freedom to create commercially profitable spectacle. The media disappearing yet again up its own asshole.

Homeless people — perhaps as many as half of whom are queer — are freezing to death in the richest part of the country. LGBTQ folk are being jailed and tortured in Greece and Russia but we applaud a few gay athletes.

Free speech is voting for a turkey while prisoners languish in solitary, poor people starve and our atmosphere burns.

But don’t look away for a minute. You might miss a heartfelt apology, before we all comb our folksy beards and shoot a few more ducks through the magic of mirror neurons.

The Mexicans and the Million Mask March had the right of it by surrounding the mainstream media bullshit factories and demanding to be heard by so-called journalists. They just didn’t go far enough.

Give it time. The disenfranchisement is there, we’re just waiting on enough anger.

People of America, put on your masks. Lift up your voices. And pick up your paintbrush, your smart phone, your chalk and your wheat paste and use them to smash the state.

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#Chalkupy Continues In Austin

3:10 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

The Crackdown on Chalk

Austin Police Department Joins State Troopers in Targeting Chalk

More on MyFDL: The Crackdown On Chalk, More Unconstitutional Copwatching Arrests

During the week leading up to Occupy Austin’s October 6 birthday, the group participated in the Cop Block’s Chalk The Police Day of Action. We began by chalking at Austin City Hall, where the police monitor was in session and in honor of a recent court ruling that said bans from City Hall were unconstitutional. As we chalked, we were confronted by security guards who insisted that City Hall was private property, and therefore we were engaged in illegal graffiti. We continued to chalk, pausing only to quote court rulings backing up our right to chalk. The group left as bicycle cops began to converge on the site.

Chalk on the APD Headquarters: Murderers

Austin Police Department Headquarters, October 1 2012 (Photo: Jeff Zavala / Zgraphix.org / Austin Indymedia, used with permission.)

We stopped briefly at One America Center, the office building which houses both a Chase Bank and Strategic Forecasting. After a short chalk adventure there, we visited the Austin Police Department headquarters. An audacious chalking of the word ‘Murderers’ on the building would win Cop Block’s Best Location Award and the enmity of the police. As the group left the premises, police arrived in multiple vehicles, a transport wagon, and on bicycle. The whole group was detained on 6th Street, the nearby club district.

Though police had no grounds to make arrests for chalking itself, they confiscated two boxes of chalk as evidence and made two arrests. One was a man who had past traffic warrants. The other was Peaceful Streets Project member Lynn Foster. Though Lynn only filmed and did not chalk, police arrested him when he refused to identify himself. According to Pixiq, this is legal under Texas law:

He was charged with failure to identify, which according to Texas law, is an offense if the suspect refuses to provide his name after he was lawfully arrested on another charge or if he refuses to provide his name if he is a witness to a crime.

Police confiscated his camera, the fourth Peaceful Streets Project digital video camera stolen by Austin Police since the police accountability summit.

Texas Department of Public Safety’s Lips Are Sealed

Two activists in handcuffs with State Troopers on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

August 9, 2012: Audrey Steiner and Corey Williams are processed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol after being arrested for chalking a public sidewalk nearby (Photo: Kit O'Connell, all rights reserved).

The first set of Chalkupy-related arrests occurred when Texas Department of Public Safety State Troopers nabbed Audrey Steiner and Corey Williams from the sidewalk across the street from the Texas State Capitol. Both were arrested for “criminal mischief” — a class C misdemeanor though the DPS threatened in the press to increase charges to class B — but when they reported to court for their first hearing, no record of their charges could be found. The Troopers neglected to file their charges, or perhaps hope to withhold them for a later day as a threat.

John Jack Anderson, photojournalist for the Austin Chronicle, filed an open records request seeking DPS documents containing the word ‘Chalkupy.’ Despite the lack of charges, the DPS refused to provide the documents on two grounds:

Because this is an ongoing criminal case, the release of potential evidence would interfere with the investigation and prosecution of this case.

[and]

Revealing the requested records would provide wrong-doers, terrorists, and criminals with invaluable information concerning the methods used by the Department to detect, investigate, and prevent potential criminal activity and could jeopardize security in the Capitol Complex.

Are chalkers wrong-doers, terrorists, criminals or all three? The open records request now gets sent to Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, whose office will decide how to respond.

Thanks to Zgraphix.org / Austin Indymedia Center for their coverage of Occupy Austin’s Birthday Week