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Watercooler: America

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Happy Independance Day, y’all.

You’re hearing it from me a little early because instead of editing MyFDL tomorrow, I’ll be with Occupy Austin for our Occupy Your Capitol event. We start at 9am at the Texas State Capitol and spend all day learning, sharing food & music, and writing our own Declaration of Independence using the same process as the Philadelphia National Gathering.

Like David Byrne in the song, I love America. These days I often actually feel patriotic. That wasn’t always so; I am a cynic about our government and even our whole political system. I don’t believe elections will make a difference. I don’t think anyone in power has or ever will have my interests at heart until we make radical changes.

It is Occupy, and all the other rich, recently tapped veins of activism and direct action that make me feel this way. What I love about this country is its people: the ones who are awake, the ones who stand up and speak and are unafraid — or do not let their fear keep them quiet. We might not always agree on the solutions, but we know things have to change.

What makes you feel patriotic (or not)?

P.S. I will liveblog tomorrow’s events here as much as possible, but follow me on Twitter for the most complete coverage.

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

Watercooler: Global Protest

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Been thinking about the state of things, like I often do, and inspired as usual by conversations with my friends.

Look at the example set recently by other countries, like Canada or Mexico, with their vibrant street protests. It’s painful to compare it to the United States sometimes. When our northern neighbors enact new laws against free speech and protest, the people take to the streets nationwide. Here, there hardly seems to be a reaction, or the reaction is one of fear.

At my optimistic moments though, I imagine that a wave of globally connected, technologically-enhanced protest reached our shores in fall of last year, and while it’s at low ebb here in the United States now, its washing over other places. We’re ready here — the channels of connection, communication, and key networks of radical activists — waiting for the return of the wave when the time comes. Will it be a tidal wave next time?

That’s what’s on my mind today. I’m off to the Austin Stonewall protest tonight, though it’ll be over by the time you read these words. I’ll let you know how it goes!

And this is today’s open thread — what’s on your mind? Any more thoughts on today’s healthcare decision (or anything else)?

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.

#TPP Wrap-up: Secret Deals Under Fire

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

For a #TPP Photo Gallery, visit Kit O’Connell’s Approximately 8,000 Words

After a weekend of protest and controversy, it’s clear that the TransPacific Partnership, the secretive and far-reaching international trade deal negotiated in Addison, Texas is under fire. The more sunshine we let in, the less attractive this deal looks to world leaders.

From a direct action perspective, the highlight of the week was the major disruption caused by Yes Lab pranksters with support from Occupy Dallas. Their efforts, which included replacing the toilet paper in the hotel with special ‘TPP’ message paper, culminated in a major infiltration and the presentation of a fake “Corporate Power Tool” award to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk:

The first action began when a smartly-dressed man approached the podium immediately after the gala’s keynote speech by Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative and former mayor of Dallas. The man (local puppeteer David Goodwin) introduced himself as “Git Haversall,” president of the “Texas Corporate Power Partnership,” and announced he was giving Kirk and other U.S. trade negotiators the “2012 Corporate Power Tool Award,” which “Haversall’s” partner held aloft.

Citizens on Twitter from around the world bombarded political accounts in the US with demands to halt the deal:

@BarackObama We Japanese appreciate your kindness such as Tomodachi operation. But we are not happy with TPP! #TPP — tweet by ファーファ@座り込み (@saQra629)

On Saturday, I livetweeted and liveblogged from the TPP: Out of the Shadows rally. A collection of activists from around the country (and even a handful of international visitors) gathered in Addison Circle Park. The coalition, organized by the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, ranged from unions like the Teamsters to multiple Occupy groups like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. I was dropped at the park around noon on a bus with about 40 occupiers and activists; I’d greatly enjoyed the quiet company of the National Nurses United contingent who were proud of their victory in the upcoming Chicago rally and Tom Morello concert. A lunch had been provided for some, but with no vegetarian options a few of us went in search of other food.

By the time I got back, the rally had grown to over 300 people. Red TPP balloons dotted the crowd, along with signs and banners. Occupy Austin had brought our banner from May Day, “Workers of the World: Occupy!” Anonymous supporters were even present among the crowd, a sign of the major push that movement has been making against the trade deal on social media. The only mainstream media I spotted were from Japan, but I didn’t catch which network they represented.

At about 2pm central time, we marched on the Intercontinental Hotel. This march had a permit; we were to remain on the sidewalk until we reached the roads immediately around the hotel. Teamsters assigned as parade marshals tried to enforce this, but occupiers led a surge into the streets some blocks ahead of schedule. We’d been told not to enter hotel property, even the parking lot, or risk arrest. Simple wooden barricades were placed at the entrance. A couple dozen cops were present, but none of the riot gear reported earlier in the week was visible, although dark suited federal police lurked around.

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A Brief Introduction to Scheduling

6:23 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

If you’ve hung around potheads at all, you may have heard them argue that pot is safer than alcohol. It’s actually a valid argument, but perhaps one that could be aided by some more reputable sources. So how about one of the world’s oldest and most respected peer reviewed medical journals, The Lancet? According to the Guardian today:

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place, according to an authoritative study published today which will reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink.

The United Kingdom and the United States both have very similar issues with the classification of drugs. Beginning in 1976, the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act defined three classes of illegal drugs based on their perceived harm — as perceived by the very biased forces in the government, of course. While alcohol is legal and considered “safe,” LSD — which the Lancet study considers far safer and less likely to cause real harm — is a class A drug. This means that those in possession could face up to 7 years in prison, and those convicted of selling this drug could face life imprisonment. . . . Read the rest of this entry →