Sunday, October 9, 2011

American Autumn: A Season of Rebellion

NEW AUDIO: We Got Sold Out, street music from the People's Republic. Recorded 10/9, 2011 along Church St. in Burlington. 
MAVERICK CHRONICLES, 10/7/2011: Memories of Mobilizations Past, Will Vermont Be Occupied? Burlington Politics: Is this the end of an Era? From the Vault – vintage audio with dialogue, stories and thoughts about progressive politics, Mormon ambitions, Obama’s election, Pacifica, and more. The Question: Could the Arab Spring become a counter-revolutionary fall?

OCCUPY (ALMOST) EVERYWHERE

Uncle Sam outside Vermont Yankee
It’s quite an objective – to occupy parks, colleges, streets, whole cities even – until something real and radical is done about what this nascent movement has defined as economic tyranny. And tyranny is an uncomfortably apt description of the current “world order,” if you can call it orderly except in the capacity to concentrate wealth and power at the top.

But we all know that these occupations – unlike the ones in Iraq, Afghanistan and dozens of other countries over the last century – are basically symbolic, an expression of outrage and a way to bring together various threads of a popular movement for economic justice.

Where is it heading? What will be the longer-term goals? Will it be the Left’s Tea Party, an updated anti-globalization movement, the US Autumn follow up to the Arab Spring? Opinions vary, to say the least. Meanwhile, the pace accelerates in a primal race, not so much with the banksters as with the weather.

It's a great time of year for big events, as the leaves turn and you feel the cold coming on. The air almost crackles. In October 1989, while I was coordinator of Burlington’s Peace and Justice Center, the objective was to create connections between the peace and environmental movements. Rather than a demonstration, this took the form of a weekend conference, Building Ecological Security, and led to a city panel that developed Burlington’s first concrete agenda to address energy efficiency and climate change.

Ecological Security Logo
In 1996, I was living near the southern border in New Mexico while running a legal advocacy organization for immigrants. It was a time of backlash and border militarization. As the season changed and the presidential elections approached, we gathered in the antique Old Town plaza for a multi-cultural solidarity rally and launched a statewide campaign for immigrant rights.

Four years later, I was back home in Vermont. Along the way I had seen the emergence of the anti-globalization movement, massive direct actions that disrupted meetings of “world order” groups like the International Monetary Fund, and Independent Media Centers that supported and promoted citizen journalism and the growing movement.

In October 2000, as editor of Toward Freedom, I called for a gathering to discuss the rapidly changing media landscape – Building Independent Media. Headlined by people like Amy Goodman, Michael Parenti, Danny Schechter, and leaders from IMCs across the country, it fostered synergy and collaboration as we prepared – without knowing it at the time – for the cultural and economic counter-revolution known as the Bush years.

More than a decade later, we are at the edge of another winter, a year before another presidential election, as the nation and planet face economic disruption, cultural division and environmental peril. Given all that, a wave of peaceful occupations is the least we should expect. A wrap up: Vermontand Beyond: Voices of Occupation, Days of Rage

UPCOMING IN VERMONT 
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On Saturday, October 15, a parade and rally will be held in Montpelier, the state capitol, as a Vermont reflection of the national mood. People will gather at City Hall around 3 PM, then march to the State House at 3:30 for an old-fashioned speak out. Here’s a Facebook link. Contact: sarah@workerscenter.org   Two days later, on Monday October 17, a vigil will be held at the State House from 4 to 6 PM.

Vermont’s Workers Center is also organizing around the state in support of the “occupy” movement. On October 15, as people rally in the state capitol, volunteers will canvas their communities to find out what people think are the biggest challenges and how to create solutions that "put people and the planet first." Rallies in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street are also being planned for Burlington, Brattleboro and Rutland.

Burlington – Sunday, October 9, 12:30 PM and Saturday, October 15, 2 PM, Burlington City Hall Park. Contact: avery@workerscenter.org

Brattleboro – Saturday, October 15, 2 PM, Wells Fountain Park. Contact: kate@workerscenter.org

Rutland – Saturday, October 15, Time and Location TBA. Contact: kate@workerscenter.org

BURLINGTON POLITICS: End of an Era?

Speaking of Autumn recollections, one of the most memorable, both politically and personally, was 1980. Earlier in the year some of us had formed a new political party, inspired by Barry’s Commoner’s analysis and decision to run for president. We were sick and tired of Jimmy Carter, and perhaps underestimated the difference that election of a Republican would mean.

Bernie, right, picketing City Hall, 1978
But that’s another story. In late summer Robin Lloyd, a member of the new Citizens Party, agreed to run for US Congress against the Republican incumbent, Jim Jeffords. The Democrats weren’t even putting up a challenger. Robin had never run for office. But she had an issue about which she – and a growing number – were extremely passionate. The danger of nuclear weapons and need for a nuclear freeze.

It was the right moment, and an early breakthrough in what became an historic movement. Thirty years later, the Queen City’s progressive leadership is under attack, with four announced mayoral candidates so far and tough talk about finances, transparency and the city’s unique political scene. Here’s a report written for VTDigger: Mayor’s RaceHeats Up in Burlington

FROM THE VAULT

Over the last few years I’ve been able to collect audio from various radio talks. Here are some favorites: 

Inside Pacifica 2006  Recorded in New York in June 2006, this is a discussion with the Pacifica National Board about challenges facing the network. Board Chair Dave Adelson tried to maintain order and I outlined a vision for the future. Midway through, however, an outburst from the audience captured the intense feelings of the time. This also includes comments by the late Ambrose Lane, along with Alan Minsky, Bob Lederer, Lonnie Hicks, Rip Robbins, Lydia Brazon and Acie Byrd, plus my call to remain independent and inclusive.

Enter Obama: The 2008 Election  Broadcast originally on WOMM-FM in Burlington on November 14, 2008, this wide-ranging discussion during The Howie Rose Variety Show covered the fight over gay marriage, secret operations and final assaults at the end of the Bush era, Barack as Marketer-in-Chief, Cheney’s Midas touch, and South America's response to the drug war. The news hour concluded with a “comment” on what might lie ahead.

Pacifica and Progressive PoliticIn this September 2010 interview on the Progressive Radio Network (PRN), I talked with host Stephen Lendman about Pacifica, 9/11 theories, the need for dialogue, national vs. local control, challenges facing progressives, the tyranny of the minority, media changes, cultural counter-revolution, and the way beyond polarization.

Mormons, Presidents and the Bilderberg Way In this June 2011 edition of Rebel News on The Howie Rose Show, hosted by Phinneus Sonin, I tell a Mormon bedtime story – of Joseph Smith's tragic run for President – and discuss his Vermont connection and the implications for today. Joined by FP Cassini, we also tackle a hot rumor – that the Bilderbergs like Rick Perry.

Voices of Occupy Vermont  As protests against corporate misrule proliferated across the country, Burlington residents gathered at the Citizens Bank on Sunday, October 2, 2011 to present and discuss a Vermont agenda for the growing movement. They say they will be back. Meanwhile, these are some of the voices, discussing future plans and a new agenda, as members of the audience repeat key phrases and cheer support.

QUESTION: COULD ARAB SPRING BECOME A COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY FALL?

A fair question. And here’s one big red flag: In Egypt, sad to say, Mubarak-era media repression tactics are back in force. Despite the change promised by the revolution, Egypt's transitional government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), is using excessive force and repressive laws against those who share information and opinions or take part in peaceful demonstrations. Leading journalists already liken it to the old Mubarak regime. 

Despite initially vowing to do away with Egypt's hated emergency law, which has been used to clamp down on dissidents for 30 years, SCAF has done the opposite. On 15 September, it passed a decree that allows it to invoke emergency law almost at will, in response to situations including, but not limited to, dissemination of false news and statements, vandalism and the obstruction of roads. According to a report from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and others:

"[The decree] will allow for the intimidation and harassment of persons involved in peaceful protests, demonstrations, and strikes. It also constitutes a direct threat to freedom of expression and a free media." 
A statement signed by 20 Egyptian civil society groups calls for the abolition of the decree and an end to the campaigns against civil society organizations that have continued since last spring.

In late September, the Ministry of Information raided and shut down Al-Jazeera's Egypt affiliate after the government failed to issue the station a license. Equipment was seized and an engineer was arrested. Such shut downs are likely to continue since the government has issued a "freeze" on new licenses for satellite stations, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Another troubling development is the recent banning of journalists from political trials, including the trial of Mubarak, notes Reporters Without Borders. One of the most alarming cases involves jailed blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad, who was given three years for questioning the supposed neutrality of the armed forces during Egypt's mass uprising in January and February. He was rushed to the infirmary several weeks into a hunger strike, after he stopped drinking, causing people to fear for his life. For more information, check out IFEX.

Until next time…
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