Sep 23, 2011

#OccupyWallStreet Is More Than a Hashtag - It's Revolution in Formation | Truthout

Friday 23 September 2011
by: Nathan Schneide

#OccupyWallStreet protesters gathering in New York's financial district on September 17, 2011. (Photo: David Shankbone / Flickr)

A lot of what you've probably seen or read about the #occupywallstreet action is wrong, especially if you're getting it on the Internet. The action started as an idea posted online and word about it then spread and is still spreading, online. But what makes it really matter now is precisely that it is happening offline, in a physical, public space, live and in person. That's where the occupiers are assembling the rudiments of a movement.

At the center of occupied Liberty Plaza, a dozen or so huddle around computers in the media area, managing a makeshift Internet hotspot, a humming generator and the (theoretically) 24-hour livestream. They can edit and post videos of arrests in no time flat, then bombard Twitter until they're viral. But for those looking to understand even the basic facts about what is actually going on - before September 17 and since - the Internet has been as much a source of confusion as it is anything else.

For someone who has been following this movement in gestation as well as implementation, it's painfully easy to see which news articles take their bearing entirely from a few Google searches. Some reporters come to Liberty Plaza looking for Adbusters staff, or US Day of Rage members, or conspiratorial Obama supporters, or hackers from Anonymous. They're briefly disappointed to find none of the above. Instead, it's a bunch of people - from round-the-clock revolutionaries, to curious tourists, to retirees, to zealous students - spending most of their time in long meetings about supplying food, conducting marches, dividing up the plaza's limited space and what exactly they're there to do and why. And that's the point. More than demanding any particular policy proposal, the occupation is reminding Wall Street what real democracy looks like: a discussion among people, not a contest of money.

As is now well known, the anti-consumerist group Adbusters made a call on July 13 for an occupation of Wall Street. That and a bit of poster art were the extent of its involvement. Adbusters floated the meme and left the rest to others. The trouble was, though, that most of the others were meme floaters, too.

The web domain was registered anonymously on July 14, and it soon became the main clearinghouse for information about the movement’s progress. It remains so now and is getting, on average, about 50,000 unique visitors per day. It’s maintained mainly by a man and woman who met through the Anarchism section on the web site Reddit.

Soon came US Day of Rage, the project of Alexa O'Brien, an IT content management strategist. Since March, she has been trying to build a nationwide movement for radical campaign-finance reform - "One citizen. One dollar. One vote." - and decided to peg her efforts to the September 17 action. While she has around 20 organizers working with her in cities around the country, as far as one leading #occupywallstreet organizer in New York could tell, it seems like her only colleagues might be coffee and cigarettes.

Then, of course, there's Anonymous. The most-wanted hacker-activist collective indicated that it would join #occupywallstreet in late August. Within days, the Anons' presence in the movement was being felt through Anonymous-branded viral videos, the bombardment of the movement's Twitter hashtags (of which there is an ever-growing number) and rumors of scrutiny from Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, quietly, a group of several hundred mainly young activists, artists and students started gathering as a "General Assembly" (GA) - a leaderless, consensus-based decision-making process. They met weekly in public parks, starting on August 2 and continuing until the occupation began, with the intention of building an organizational and tactical framework for the action. It grew out of New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts, which had recently held a three-week occupation near City Hall called "Bloombergville" to protest against austerity measures. They had learned a lot from that and were ready to try something bigger.

The GA formed an Internet Committee, which quickly became fraught with infighting about process, security concerns and editorial control. These problems consumed hours and hours of the whole Assembly's time. Their site went up, then down and then finally up again just days before the occupation began. It is now online at, but it receives only a small fraction of the traffic of Only on Thursday afternoon did the two sites figure out how to formally coordinate their activities.

As a result of these hiccups, in the lead-up and early days of the occupation, media coverage almost always associated it with meme floaters like Adbusters, US Day of Rage and Anonymous. But none of them were especially responsible for what would be happening on the ground starting on September 17. That was the GA's doing.

Others, it seems, have taken it upon themselves to fill the GA's media vacuum of their own accord. One document beingcirculated and discussed online is "Occupy Wall Street - Official Demands," dated September 20 of 2013, which includes detailed proposals for reforming the financial system, none of which has been approved by the GA.

"This is definitely not ours," says Marisa Holmes, a facilitator of the GA since the first planning meetings. "All decisions made by the GA are made in this space."

Worse, thanks to some imaginative theorizing by Aaron Kein of the right-wing online publication WorldNetDaily, the idea began circulating that the movement was "closely tied" with ACORN, SEIU and that it took its inspiration from the Weather Underground; George Soros; and, ultimately, President Obama himself. Five minutes at a GA meeting would easily disabuse one of such associations. The GA had no official organizational ties and, besides a food fund that has been stuck in an inaccessible WePay account, almost no money. Many wish that they had the support of unions, but so far they still don't.

What's actually underway at Liberty Plaza is both simpler and more complicated: music making, sign drawing, talking, organizing, eating, marching, standoffs with police and (not enough) sleeping. It's a movement in formation. As protesters sometimes like to chant, "This Is Just Practice." There are a handful of guys with Anonymous Guy Fawkes masks backward on their heads, but they're just one affinity group among many. O'Brien didn't appear on the plaza for a couple of days - she was "running the back-end," she says - and there has been almost no talk of "One citizen. One dollar. One vote." Adbusters sends the occasional package of posters in the mail and offers confusing advice to organizers on the ground. Nobody's exactly sure yet who is doing what, but they're learning.

For the most part, the occupation is riding the momentum started in the GA meetings that were going on for a month and a half beforehand. They built a community of people who trust each other, who have a sense for each other's skills and who are in some basic agreement about ends and means.

In the revolutions and uprisings and occupations that have been taking place around the world since the beginning of this year, there has been a lot of talk about the mobilizing power of social media - of the Twitters and Facebooks and cell phones. But when the Egyptian government shut down the Internet and the cellular signals in January, the movement there carried on. One of the deciding factors that brought down Mubarak, in the end, was not some new Twitter hashtag, but a general strike organized by traditional labor unions. The Internet can help (as well as hurt) a movement, but it's no replacement for actual relationships among actual people, building actual trust through actually working together over a period of time.

"I could have a political discussion just on the Internet," says web developer Drew Hornbein, who is on the GA's Internet Committee, "But it's nice to get out like this." When he started attending GA meetings in August, he got excited, thinking, "This is something really real. This could really be something."

So it has become. But everyone at Liberty Plaza knows the movement has to be bigger for it to have the effect they want to see. Whole swaths of Americans - from racial minorities to disgruntled Wall Streeters - are underrepresented among the occupiers. Not everyone, it seems, is quite so glued to Twitter as the young radical set. They've had to start scrambling to relearn how to make fliers, reach out to membership organizations and find people where they are to make the movement's numbers grow.

On Thursday evening, a surprise march of hundreds mourning the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia set out for Liberty Plaza from Union Square, led by occupiers. Police made attempts to stop it with barricades and clubs and arrests, but they couldn't; and when the marchers arrived, the numbers in the plaza swelled. There were a lot of new faces and new kinds of faces. It paid off to quit the Internet, go to where people actually are and bring them back.

In the GA that night, Ted Actie, who lives in Brooklyn and works for On the Spot, a minority-owned talk-show production company, called on the protesters to speak more directly to the communities around them. "You do so much social networking," he said, "you forget how to socialize."

Sep 22, 2011

How Change Is Going to Come in the Food System | The Nation

Editor's Note: This piece is one in a series of replies to Frances Moore Lappé’s essay on the food movement today. In the forty years since the publication of Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet, a movement dedicated to the reform of the food system has taken root in America. Lappé’s groundbreaking book connected the dots between something as ordinary and all-American as a hamburger and the environmental crisis, as well as world hunger. Along with Wendell Berry and Barry Commoner, Lappé taught us how to think ecologically about the implications of our everyday food choices. You can now find that way of thinking, so radical at the time, just about everywhere—from the pages of Time magazine to the menu at any number of local restaurants.

About the Author
Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan is the author, most recently, of Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.

To date, however, the food movement can claim more success in changing popular consciousness than in shifting, in any fundamental way, the political and economic forces shaping the food system or, for that matter, in changing the “standard American diet”—which has only gotten worse since the 1970s. Recently there have been some political accomplishments: food movement activists played a role in shaping the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, both passed in the last Congress, and the last couple of farm bills have thrown some significant crumbs in the direction of sustainable agriculture and healthy food. But the food movement cannot yet point to legislative achievements on the order of the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act or the establishment of the Environmental Protection Administration. Its greatest victories have come in the media, which could scarcely be friendlier to it, and in the food marketplace, rather than in the halls of Congress, where the power of agribusiness has scarcely been disturbed.

The marked split between the movement’s gains in the soft power of cultural influence and its comparative weakness in conventional political terms is faithfully mirrored in the White House. While Michelle Obama has had notable success raising awareness of the child obesity problem and linking it to the food system (as well as in pushing the industry to change some of its most egregious practices), her husband, after raising expectations on the campaign trail, has done comparatively little to push a reform agenda. Promising anti-trust initiatives to counter food industry concentration, which puts farmers and ranchers at the mercy of a small handful of processors, appear to be languishing. Efforts to reform crop subsidies during the last farm bill debate were halfhearted and got nowhere. And a USDA plan to place new restrictions on genetically modified crops (in order to protect organic farms from contamination) was reportedly overruled by the White House.

There are two ways to interpret the very different approaches of the president and the first lady to the food issue. A cynical interpretation would be that the administration has decided to deploy the first lady to pay lip service to reform while continuing business as usual. But a more charitable interpretation would be that President Obama has determined there is not yet enough political support to take on the hard work of food system reform, and the best thing to do in the meantime is for the first lady to build a broad constituency for change by speaking out about the importance of food.

If this is the president’s reading of the situation, it may well be right. So far, at least, the food movement has only a small handful of allies in Congress: Tom Harkin, Jon Tester and Kirsten Gillibrand in the Senate; Earl Blumenauer and Jim McGovern in the House. The Congressional committees in charge of agricultural policies remain dominated by farm-state legislators openly hostile to reform, and until big-state and urban legislators decide it is worth their while to serve on those committees, little of value is likely to emerge from them. Whatever its cost to public health and the environment, cheap food has become a pillar of the modern economy that few in government dare to question. And many of the reforms we need—such as improving conditions in the meat industry and cleaning up feedlot agriculture—stand to make meat more expensive. That might be a good thing for public health, but it will never be popular.

So what is to be done? The food movement has discovered that persuading the media, and even the president, that you are right on the merits does not necessarily translate into change, not when the forces arrayed against change are so strong. If change comes, it will come from other places: from the grassroots and, paradoxically, from powerful interests that stand to gain from it.

The most promising food activism is taking place at the grassroots: local policy initiatives are popping up in municipalities across the country, alongside urban agriculture ventures in underserved areas and farm-to-school programs. Changing the way America feeds itself has become the galvanizing issue for a generation now coming of age. (A new FoodCorps, launched in August as part of AmeriCorps, received nearly 1,300 applications for fifty slots.) Out of these local efforts will come local leaders who will recognize the power of food politics. Some of these leaders will run for office on these issues, and some of them will win.

It’s worth remembering that it took decades before the campaign against the tobacco industry could point to any concrete accomplishments. By the 1930s, the scientific case against smoking had been made, yet it wasn’t until 1964 that the surgeon general was willing to declare smoking a threat to health, and another two decades after that before the industry’s seemingly unshakable hold on Congress finally crumbled. By this standard, the food movement is making swift progress.

But there is a second lesson the food movement can take away from the antismoking campaign. When change depends on overcoming the influence of an entrenched power, it helps to have another powerful interest in your corner—an interest that stands to gain from reform. In the case of the tobacco industry, that turned out to be the states, which found themselves on the hook (largely because of Medicaid) for the soaring costs of smoking-related illnesses. So, under economic duress, states and territories joined to file suit against the tobacco companies to recover some of those costs, and eventually they prevailed.

The food movement will find such allies, especially now that Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has put the government on the hook for the soaring costs of treating chronic illnesses—most of which are preventable and linked to diet. No longer allowed to cherry-pick the patients they’re willing to cover, or to toss overboard people with chronic diseases, the insurance industry will soon find itself on the hook for the cost of the American diet too. It’s no accident that support for measures such as taxing soda is strongest in places like Massachusetts, where the solvency of the state and its insurance industry depends on figuring out how to reduce the rates of Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The food movement is about to gain a powerful new partner, an industry that is beginning to recognize that it, too, has a compelling interest in issues like taxing soda, school lunch reform and even the farm bill. Indeed, as soon as the healthcare industry begins to focus on the fact that the government is subsidizing precisely the sort of meal for which the industry (and the government) will have to pick up the long-term tab, eloquent advocates of food system reform will suddenly appear in the unlikeliest places—like the agriculture committees of Congress.

None of this should surprise us. For the past forty years, food reform activists like Frances Moore Lappé have been saying that the American way of growing and eating food is “unsustainable.” That objection is not rooted in mere preference or aesthetics, but rather in the inescapable realities of biology. Continuing to eat in a way that undermines health, soil, energy resources and social justice cannot be sustained without eventually leading to a breakdown. Back in the 1970s it was impossible to say exactly where that breakdown would first be felt. Would it be the environment or the healthcare system that would buckle first? Now we know. We simply can’t afford the healthcare costs incurred by the current system of cheap food—which is why, sooner or later, we will find the political will to change it.

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions Questions of good and evil, right and wrong are commonly thought unanswerable by science. But Sam Harris argues that science can -- and should -- be an authority on moral issues, shaping human values and setting out what constitutes a good life.

Sep 20, 2011

Al Gore welcomes "The Young Turks" and Cenk Uygur to Current TV

Current TV and Cenk Uygur are launching an original TV version of "The Young Turks," which has become the world's largest online news show. Uygur's uniquely audacious, progressive and topical commentary about politics and pop culture will air each weeknight at 7pm. 

"The Young Turks" is the largest online news show in the world, covering politics, pop culture and lifestyle. The show is one of the Top 50 You Tube Partners, with over 30 million views a month and half a billion total video views on "The Young Turks" YouTube Channel. 

"The Young Turks" have received numerous awards, including: a 2011 People's Voice Webby Award for Best News & Politics: Series; a 2011 News/Politics Shorty Award; the Best Political Podcast Award, 2009; and The Best Political News Site at the 2009 Mashable Awards. 

The Young Turks is the flagship show of the TYT Network, which includes What the Flick?!, TYT University, TYT Sports, TYT Interviews, TYT Shows and The Top Vlog. Google+: Facebook: Twitter: Support TYT for FREE:

Cenk Uygur will be a great addition... my kind of reporter... no punches pulled... !!! Monte

Sep 19, 2011

Forest Free Wood by Joel Tovi

Original Class Date 05-07-11 In this class, Joel Tovi from Eutree Lumber discusses various aspects of his new lumber business. Topics included the merits of walnut that has not been steamed, the various types of wood drying kilns and the merits of using forest free wood. For more information you can visit their website:  Full Video (01:09) Filmed and uploaded in HD.