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July 2012

Call In Day 8/1 & Action Steps to “Stop Grand Jury Repression in the Northwest”


Portland Committee Against Political Repression Seattle Grand Jury
June 30, 2012
Date:  Wed, 2012-08-01 (All day)
Organized by:  Portland Committee Against Political Repression
Stop Grand Jury Repression in the Northwest: Take action
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression is circulating a statement from the Portland-based Committee Against Political Repression on how you can help the political activists who have been subpoenaed to appear before a Seattle Grand Jury August 2. If your group has not yet signed the solidarity statement linked at the bottom, please do so. We know that repression us growing in this country. It is vital that all progressive people unite and defeat this attack on the people’s movement.
From the Committee to Stop Political Repression:
What You Can Do This Week to Support Grand Jury Resistance!
Thank you to all the individuals who have reached out to us and the organizations who have signed our solidarity statement. More than 160 organizations have signed on to the statement. This has been an important first step in supporting those facing political repression in the Pacific Northwest. We have a long and rough journey ahead of us, but we are inspired by the outpouring of support that we have already received. Many people have asked what else they can do to contribute to this struggle so we have come up with a short list of options. Those resisting the grand jury will be making a statement later this week.
Call In Day- Wednesday, August 1st
We are asking for people to call the US Attorney for Washington, Jenny A Durkan on Wednesday, August 1st to demand an end to political persecution and that the grand jury and investigation be stopped. When you call the U.S Attorney’s office, please let them know that you are speaking for yourself and not the individuals resisting the grand jury subpoenas. Be aware of how the things you say will impact the people you are trying to help. Feel free to use our example to help you figure out what to say. If you make a call, please email us ( and let us know how what kind of response you got from the Attorney’s office.
An example of what you might say:
“Hi. I am Doug Brown. I am calling about the grand jury being impaneled in Seattle, Washington this Thursday, August 2nd. I am disgusted that the FBI and government are persecuting political dissent in our country. This group of people is being harassed and intimated for their political beliefs. I demand that the grand jury and investigation be ended immediately and that the governments repression of social movements stop. Thank you for taking my comments.”
Call US Attorney Jenny A Durkan
Telephone:  (206) 553-7970 or toll free at: (800) 797-6722      
Fax Line: (206) 553-0882
ISDN: (206) 264-2765      
Thursday, August 2: Come to Seattle
to stand against the Grand Jury witch hunt! There will be a demonstration in solidarity with those affected by the raids and subpoenas starting at 7:30am and throughout the day.
The demonstration will be at the
federal court house
700 Stuart St., in Seattle.
Can’t make it to Seattle?
Plan another event or demonstration in solidarity!
Please email us at to tell us about your event.
For more information and to support these efforts please visit



July 25, 2012
Mitt Romney co-founded Bain Capital. The corporation took part in many “hostile takeovers,” a practice that involves buying a company in order to simply lay off the workers, close the company and sell it for spare parts.
Occupy Tampa and the Tampa Bay Regional General Assembly passed through consensus a resolution to send a national call to action, on the day Mitt Romney accepts the nomination, to shut down Bain Capital.
Bain Capital Companies:
Outback Steakhouse
Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Bonefish Grill
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine
Burlington Coat Factory
Clear Channel Communications
Dunkin’ Donuts
Baskin Robbins
Hospital Corporation of America
Michael’s Craft Store
The Princeton Review
Work ‘N Gear


By Occupy LA, Chalkwalk (Consented upon by the OLA General Assembly on Wednesday, July 25, 2012)

On July 12th, participants in OccupyLA met to raise awareness for unlawful arrests of activists that had been targeting a lobby group with a stranglehold on power over local and state politics. The activists handed out chalk and shared the story of unlawful arrests and police repression. The LAPD responded by amassing in riot gear and issuing a tactical alert effectively shutting down the Downtown LA art walk and trapping many patrons inside of local businesses as a response to chalk art being drawn on the sidewalk. The mainstream media misrepresented the sequence of events, blaming occupiers for the near riot in Downtown LA even though the police were responsible for escalation.

The public, frustrated by the absurdity of police violence over ‘sidewalk chalk’, filled the streets demanding that the police cease their intimidation over what many consider a fundamental right to free speech and assembly. The law enforcement arm of the state saw fit to intervene violently in a peaceful expression of free speech and ‘do it yourself’ art, on behalf of the private interests that control the downtown space. They shot the crowd with the near lethal force of rubber bullets and foam grenades inciting fear and panic so that their violent intervention appears justified. In light of recent police murders in Anaheim, it is important we show that crowd control tactics taken against any who dare protest are not acceptable uses of force by any police state. More than that, these acts of terror by the police state will not deter us from assembling and seeking justice for our communities.
The political and financial elite cannot bear to see us assemble, cannot bear for us to share ideas and strategies or grow our vision and movement into revolution. We know that this is not about chalk. It is about whose interests are affected by our message, whose interests are protected when so-called public servants protect lifeless sidewalks from the messages of a frustrated populace. It is about censorship, political freedom and the merger of corporation and state working to silence the voice of the people. It is about the extrajudicial authority of the national security apparatus for the mere purpose of intimidating the masses into silence.
Call to all people everywhere to show that dissent is as simple as writing your grievances on the sidewalk, as accessible as hopscotch in the streets- reclaiming public space and engaging in public dialogue and expression. Join us (if you’re close enough) for a day of solidarity and fun to celebrate the human spirit and chalk for our collective liberation. Together we will remake the art of public life in our alley ways, on the doorsteps of banks whose only allegiance is to profit, and in the streets built by our labor.
In solidarity, regardless of all nations and borders, we will engage in willful public expression against political repression.


NOTE: Be aware that your actions may evoke a police response and it is important all participants are familiar with local private and public property laws so that they can assess their own level of risk and make informed decisions.

The Awakening of the Squares: History of the Spanish 15M Movement

THE AWAKENING OF THE SQUARES (English subtitles) from TransformaFilms on Vimeo.

Quebec Protests Continue

More at The Real News

The Story of Change

AN INVITATION TO A BEGINNING: Occupy Wall Street, Year One.


Occupy Our Future, First Year of Mass Mobilization

Occupy Wall Street invites you, the 99%, to the Financial District for three days of education, celebration, and resistance. Money destroys our political process, our communities and our environment.The 1% have shackled us to unprecedented amounts of debt: credit cards, medical debt, student debt, mortgages. We are not a loan. We are the people. We’re going down to Wall Street to straighten this out.
Join a mass mobilization of the 99%. Stand and be counted. Let's occupy our future, together. They can steal your job, your home, your freedom, your vote. They can’t steal our ability to dream together. They can’t steal our ability to take it all back.
We Need You!
Occupy Wall Street is asking everyone. All people, ALL activist organizations and networks to actively reach out to their friends, their neighbors, their membership, to help us turn out the 99% in NYC’s Financial District on September 17th. All around the world, millions are taking the streets in mass mobilizations against austerity, corporate control and socio-economic injustice. We continue to stand with them against this attack on our communities, families and livelihoods.
Tentative Schedule of Events
Here we’ve outlined our tentative schedule of events and resources for coordinating. By asking your members to provide a rough headcount, we can adequately plan to assist in housing, transportation and other critical logistics that will make this a success.
During the weekend of September 15 and 16, OWS and partners will host a permitted, two day convergence in New York City public parks.  This gathering of 99% will run a broad spectrum - Organizing our campaigns together, cultural and educational programs, framing the story of our movement, as well as orientation, networking, celebration, and direct action training for the World Goes to Wallstreet actions. Please take advantage of the anniversary of our engagement with this global movement. Get involved, or more deeply involved, so we can move forward as a community in resistance.
SEPTEMBER 17TH  - The 4th Anniversary of Black Monday - 7 AM
Make no mistake: We are still building the global people power that was unleashed last year.
We will unite in our stand against the robber financiers or we will let them continue to destroy the world beneath our feet. These days of gathering are designed to help deliver the message of resistance to the rich through a massive occupation of the Manhattan Financial District streets and a mass civil disobedience on Monday Morning. This action is for everyone. There is a level of participation for anyone who is interested, from arrestable mass civil disobedience to family-friendly rallies of support and exercising our right to stand and be counted.
The 99% will gather in NYC’s financial district for a nonviolent mass action. Additionally, we are reaching out to groups and developing a plan to plug people in from all over the country. Whether you are coming to NYC or part of the solidarity actions being planned nationwide, plug in through the Interoccupy web platform or find us through the contact info listed below.  Please join us!  Stay in touch for updates as we continue to publicize and organize with our allies.
The Free University of NYC will host a week of free educational courses and events throughout NYC. Bringing together educators, academics and renowned intellectuals from around the world, The Free University will advocate for education as a human right and demonstrate our ability to implement free education and educational values for all. This week of education will coincide with further actions, and emphasize that our campaigns will continue and grow in strength, effectiveness, and reach.
PUBLIC PLANNING MEETINGS: Every Monday, 6pm at 220 East 23rd Street, NYC. 7th Floor. We are currently coordinating housing, transport, resources, propaganda, media, press, legal, medical, and trainings, as well as the actions on S17.
TWITTER: #S17/#BlackMonday/#OWS

As Occupy the Hood National Gathering Concludes, Questions About Race and Occupy Persist


By Rebecca Burns
Uprising, July 28, 2012
As Occupy protests were picking up last fall, "Occupy the Hood" groups sprung up in cities like New York, Boston and Atlanta with the goal of bringing more people of color into the movement. Critics of Occupy argued that the “99%” meme was obscuring crucial distinctions between participants, that organizing around the right to public space would fail to address the concerns of people most impacted by deepening austerity, and that the rhetoric surrouding the police brutality confronting the movement normalized the daily repression faced by blacks and Latinos.
It should come as no surprise that, less than a year into Occupy's life, these issues are far from resolved. But as the tents have come down and the the question of what the movement is without them has become unavoidable, some of the most interesting work going on under the name of “Occupy” has grown out of these critiques. In Atlanta this week, a first-ever national gathering of about 20 chapters of Occupy the Hood, dubbed “Hood Week,” sought to bring together groups working locally on issues like police brutality, eviction and foreclosure and school closures.
Though many Occupy the Hood groups started up in order to connect long-standing organizations in communities of color with the newer “Occupy” meme, they also shaped a shift within Occupy as a whole toward occupations rooted in specific communities.
“Bringing people to the park was week one,” says Malik Rhasaan, who helped convene the gathering in Atlanta. “But a lot of those events were media-driven … It's the neighborhood model that's not going anywhere, and that has the ability to trickle up.”
In many cities, it's these neighborhood-based efforts that are now the most visible signs of life within Occupy. Commentators proclaiming the demise of the movement may be half-right: The idea that a big-tent of causes, anchored only to symbolic spaces like Zuccotti Park, would build sustainable coalitions has mostly proved unworkable—in part because of the repression and evictions that Occupiers faced when they sought to set up permanent bases, but also because the original “Occupy” model didn't provide a way to engage with the questions of race and class within the 99% that groups like Occupy the Hood have sought to foreground.
But, as Natasha Lennard has noted, Occupy as a tactic has produced new networks and new energies, and it's these networks, though less frequently under the “Occupy” banner, that are continuing to drive some inspired organizing.
In Atlanta, a hub of efforts to defend families against foreclosure and eviction, Occupy the Hood rallied earlier this year with Occupy Atlanta to call for an end to so-called “midnight evictions” and staged a mock eviction of the county sheriff by dumping the belongings of a family, allegedly evicted at 3:00 AM at gunpoint, on the doorstep of his office.
In Milwaukee, the local chapter of Occupy the Hood organized protests earlier this month when Police Chief Edward Flynn left a forum on police conduct, intended to address the fatal shooting of a 13 year-old boy by Milwaukee police, without taking questions. Earlier this year, the group also occupied City Hall to demand transparency in the distribution of Community Development Block Grants.
Rhasaan, who moved to Atlanta from New York, where he was a founder of Occupy the Hood, says that his initial excitement about Occupy Wall Street began to fade when he observed the same people speaking over and over again at the general assembly. G.A.s were adopted by most Occupy groups as a decision-making body in the first months of the movement but have become less frequent and less central to decision-making in many Occupy groups.
“There was a problem with the model of the G.A. … it became almost dismissive … If you didn't know the protocol and the hand signals already, you didn't fit in,” says Rashaan. “The G.A. didn't work. For a lot of people, it was a tourist attraction.”
Writing in New York Amsterdam News, Amity Paye notes that participants in Hood Week held differing views as to whether they were still a part of the broader Occupy movement:
"Some in the group see themselves as a part of the larger Occupy movement while others insist they are now completely separate.
"'They kicked us out of [general assemblies],' said Radee Westfield, one of the founding members of Occupy the Hood, explaining why he helped start OTH. 'Everywhere we talked to Occupy the Hood members who had been Occupying since day one, they said the same thing…So we were like, you ain’t here to do nothing but secure your future, and if you’re not going to secure our future, then we’ll do our own thing.'"
In Chicago, the neighborhood group Occupy the Southside has been putting on a series of workshops called “Race and the Occupy Movement: the Elephant in the Room.” Marissa Brown, a volunteer organizer with the group, told In These Times that many of those who showed up at their first sessions were those who had felt alienated from Occupy Chicago general assemblies in the first months of the movement. Now, she says, Occupy the Southside hopes to focus the movement's work on building a racially united coalition.
Brown notes that she doesn’t necessarily like the name “Occupy the Hood” and that her group has not worked with its chapters nationally. But she says that "if we don't address [the issues of racial oppression] now, I feel that this movement is going to stagnate." Occupy the Southside has been organizing around police accountability, school closings and public transit. One of the developments that Brown finds most promising is a coalition between residents of Chicago's north side and south side to oppose public transit closures that would disproportionately affect poor and minority communters.
Brown says the idea that Occupy is dead is “laughable.” But, she asserts, “the future of Occupy lies in neighborhood occupations.”

Crypto Cat an Alternative to Microsoft’s Law Enforcement Friendly Skype

Skype had long been favored for political organizers because it's encryption and other features made law eforcement penetration more difficult.  But, a year ago it was bought by Microsoft and now it is reported that Skype will be working more closely with police and providing them access to Skype chat's and other information. Changes also give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers of people who use the service. This leaves activists looking for alternative methods of communication that provide privacy, no easy task in the national security environment we live in.  Below is one option reported by Wired, of course, activists are better off assuming law enforcement has access to their plans and acting accordingly.


This Cute Chat Site Could Save Your Life and Help Overthrow Your Government

By Quinn Norton
Wired, July  27,2012
Nadim Kobeissi, creator of Cryptocat, spoke in mid-July at the HOPE conference, held at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania every two years. Credit: Quinn Norton/Wired
Twenty-one-year-old college student Nadim Kobeissi is from Canada, Lebanon and the internet.
He is the creator of Cryptocat, a project “to combine my love of cryptography and cats,” he explained to an overflowing audience of hackers at the HOPE conference on Saturday, July 14.
The site,, has a chunky, 8-bit sensibility, with a big-eyed binary cat in the corner. The visitor has the option to name, then enter a chat. There’s some explanatory text, but little else. It’s deceptively simple for a web app that can save lives, subvert governments and frustrate marketers. But as little as two years ago such a site was considered to be likely impossible to code.
Cryptocat is an encrypted web-based chat. It’s the first chat client in the browser to allow anyone to use end-to-end encryption to communicate without the problems of SSL, the standard way browsers do crypto, or mucking about with downloading and installing other software. For Kobeissi, that means non-technical people anywhere in the world can talk without fear of online snooping from corporations, criminals or governments.
“The fact that you don’t have to install anything, the fact that it works instantly, this increases security,” he explained, sitting down with Wired at HOPE 9 to talk about Cryptocat, activism and getting through American airports.
To create Cryptocat Kobeissi had to deal with controversies in computer security, usability and geo-politics.
When he flies through the US, he’s generally had the notorious “SSSS” printed on his boarding pass, marking him for searches and interrogations — which Kobeissi says have focused on his development of the chat client.
Online privacy doesn’t have a lot of corporate or governmental fans these days, but Kobeissi has faced controversy before.
“During 2010 and 2011 I was a defender of WikiLeaks and the free press in general, and I thought ‘Collateral Murder’ (the WikiLeaks publication of a controversial helicopter assault video) was a highly significant piece of journalism,” he said.
He mirrored WikiLeaks content and organized a march in support of the organization during the period in late 2010 when WikiLeaks found itself thrown off of Amazon’s hosting service and blocked by credit card companies. “I know for certain that it’s contributed to other defenders of WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning being harassed, so it’s somewhat likely that I could also be targeted.” Still, Kobeissi points out that he’s never been questioned about WikiLeaks, only about Cryptocat.
His SSSS’s can mean hours of waiting, and Kobeissi says he has been searched, questioned, had his bags and even his passport taken away and returned later. But he’s kept his sense of humor about the experience, even joking from the airport on his Twitter account.
 Nadim Kobeissi@kaepora 
The young and cheerfully sarcastic Kobeissi is somewhat baffled by the border attention. Kobeissi said that in one of his last U.S. trips through Charlotte, NC, “In total I was searched either three or four times,” — in a single visit. “Why? Do bombs materialize? I don’t understand,” he continued. If the searches, delays, and interrogations about Cryptocat are an intimidation tactic, they haven’t worked.
“Dear US Government, I’m from Lebanon,” Kobeissi said, laughing. “You don’t scare me, you don’t understand. My friends were killed in 2008, my house was bombed and my neighborhood ruined. My father was killed in 2006. You don’t scare me at all. If you want to scare me, send me for torture in Syria. But you can’t anymore, because Syrians are revolting.”
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on Kobeissi’s detentions at the border, saying he was prohibited from doing so by privacy laws, though he maintains that it plays nicely with foreigners.
"The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming nation. U.S. Customs and Border Protection not only protects U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents in the country but also wants to ensure the safety of our international travelers who come to visit, study and conduct legitimate business in our country.
"Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband. CBP officers are charged with enforcing not only immigration and customs laws, but they enforce over 400 laws for 40 other agencies and have stopped thousands of violators of U.S. law.
"CBP strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States."
To get Cryptocat to the hands of Syrians resisting their government, or Canadians resisting being profiled by marketers, Kobeissi had to build a crypto tool in a place where no crypto tool has ever flourished — your browser. “You have to make it just as easily accessible as Facebook Chat or Google Talk, which is what I’m trying to do with Cryptocat,” he said.
Google, Facebook and a infinite variety of other sites are pushing more functionality into the browser to increase the power of web apps, and the browser has become, for many people,  the main interface of their computer. But from a security point of view, the browser has always failed to provide for users — in no way worse than in cryptography.
Encrypting data to keep it away from prying eyes, be they hackers or nations has proved nearly impossible in the browser, which has relied on one standard to do everything: SSL, which is known to be broken. The terrible state of browser security plagued Kobeissi in his work to build Cryptocat.
“Browsers are huge, complex, multilayered beasts with lots of moving parts, and every last one of them implements at best some dialect of each of the many standards that a modern browser has to support,” said Meredith Patterson, a senior research scientist at Red Lambda. Patterson deals with security and cryptography on an architectural level in her research, and has reviewed and commented on Cryptocat.
Problems like bad browser sandboxing meant that something in one tab could affect a session in a Cryptocat window. No libraries or standards existed to handle normal encryption functions in Javascript. The biggest problem is that delivery of Javascript code from server to browser could be intercepted and modified by breaking the SSL connection without a user ever knowing they were running malicious code.
Kobeissi faced criticism from the security community for even trying, but he persevered. Now more than a year later, “Cryptocat has significantly advanced the field of browser crypto,” he said with obvious pride. “We implemented elliptic curve cryptography, (and) a cryptographically secure random number generator in the browser,” along with creating a Cryptocat Chrome app to address the code delivery problem.
“I don’t think Nadim really knew what he was in for when he started this project, but although it got off to a bumpy start, he’s risen to the occasion admirably,” said Patterson.
But Kobeissi also knows that it’s equally important that Cryptocat be usable and pretty. Kobeissi wants Cryptocat to be something you want to use, not just need to. Encrypted chat tools have existed for years — but have largely stayed in the hands of geeks, who usually aren’t the ones most likely to need strong crypto. “Security is not just good crypto. It’s very important to have good crypto, and audit it. Security is not possible without (that), but security is equally impossible without making it accessible.”
Patterson agrees with Kobeissi’s approach. “As much as it drives all of us nerds batshit, J. Random internet user spends most if not all of her time in the browser, and generally doesn’t care to install even a separate email client — much less a separate chat client,” she said. “If you don’t go where the users live, you don’t get users. End of story.”
Nevertheless, Kobeissi has said repeatedly that Cryptocat is an experiment. Structural flaws in browser security and Javascript still dog the project as it moves toward version 2, scheduled for the end of the year. Cryptocat 2 will be a full Jabber client, allowing for both current style OTR and Multi Party, or mpOTR for group chats. OTR is Off-The-Record messaging, the current gold standard in encrypted chat. (Not to be confused with Google Talk’s OTR, which is not encrypted at all.)
Screenshot of the second version of Cryptocat, a Jabber/xmpp client with full OTR support.
He isn’t eager to bet his life on his work to date. But in environments like the Arab revolts, he acknowledges that for all of Cryptocat’s flaws, it’s better than software many people in Arab countries use right now, which can put them in tremendous danger. “If the alternative is Facebook Chat or Google Talk or Skype… please use Cryptocat by all means, but it’s still an experiment.”
Thus far Cryptocat hasn’t penetrated far into the consciousness of the common user, but for some groups in need of secure communications, it’s already part of the toolkit. “High security, simple to use,” said an active participant in the internet collective Anonymous, which has faced prosecution and worse the world over. “If it’s a hurry and someone needs something quickly, Cryptocat.”
Kobeissi himself grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. Besides authoring the secure chat tool and being a security researcher, he’s a political science and philosophy major at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. His post-college job is set — he’ll be developing Cryptocat full time, living on grant money for the project.
He emigrated to Canada after a conversation with his mother, when the-then teenager came to realize he might not live very long in Lebanon — an situation that informed his software design. He’s vocal about his love of his adopted home in Canada, as well about how the internet and games kept him going through the rough times in the wartorn country of his birth, “The happiest things in my childhood were Sega Game Gear and Sega Genesis.” It’s clear that Cryptocat’s distinctive 8-bit feel isn’t just a gimmick.
Nowadays he sees himself as coming from two cultures, North American and Middle Eastern, and it gives him a rare perspective on both the need and usefulness of getting crypto into the hands of everyone.
“This is something North Americans don’t realize. Here we’re exporting cryptography software. Generally, especially in today’s context, the Middle East imports cryptographic software, but it’s… a foreign product. A foreign civilization made it,” he said.
He believes that by building Cryptocat with more sensitivity to the pleasures of the user, he can help the people that need secure communications most. “I want it to be something that has a nice color scheme, that works in your browser, that you can open instantly, that’s easily accessible, that has a cat, that has audio notifications, that has desktop notifications,” Kobeissi said, “Because these are important security features.”
When faced with the torture of using crypto software or the torture of a repressive government, some dissidents have — intentionally or not — opted for the latter.
“I have seen someone who I know knows how to use OTR not use OTR, and get tortured as a result, in Syria… OTR is not accessible, it’s not a pleasure to use.”


Destroying the Commons: On Shredding the Magna Carta


By Noam Chomsky, July 23, 2012
Down the road only a few generations, the millennium of Magna Carta, one of the great events in the establishment of civil and human rights, will arrive.  Whether it will be celebrated, mourned, or ignored is not at all clear.
One of only four surviving exemplifications of the 1215 text, Cotton MS. Augustus II. 106 (Property of the British Library)
That should be a matter of serious immediate concern.  What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine what kind of world will greet that event.  It is not an attractive prospect if present tendencies persist -- not least, because the Great Charter is being shredded before our eyes.
The first scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone.  It was not an easy task.  There was no good text available.  As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats” -- a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.
File:Joao sem terra assina carta Magna.jpg
King John of England sings the Magna Carta
Blackstone’s edition actually includes two charters.  It was entitled The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest.  The first, the Charter of Liberties, is widely recognized to be the foundation of the fundamental rights of the English-speaking peoples -- or as Winston Churchill put it more expansively, “the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land.” Churchill was referring specifically to the reaffirmation of the Charter by Parliament in the Petition of Right, imploring King Charles to recognize that the law is sovereign, not the King.  Charles agreed briefly, but soon violated his pledge, setting the stage for the murderous Civil War.
After a bitter conflict between King and Parliament, the power of royalty in the person of Charles II was restored.  In defeat, Magna Carta was not forgotten.  One of the leaders of Parliament, Henry Vane, was beheaded.  On the scaffold, he tried to read a speech denouncing the sentence as a violation of Magna Carta, but was drowned out by trumpets to ensure that such scandalous words would not be heard by the cheering crowds.  His major crime had been to draft a petition calling the people “the original of all just power” in civil society -- not the King, not even God.  That was the position that had been strongly advocated by Roger Williams, the founder of the first free society in what is now the state of Rhode Island.  His heretical views influenced Milton and Locke, though Williams went much farther, founding the modern doctrine of separation of church and state, still much contested even in the liberal democracies.
As often is the case, apparent defeat nevertheless carried the struggle for freedom and rights forward.  Shortly after Vane’s execution, King Charles granted a Royal Charter to the Rhode Island plantations, declaring that “the form of government is Democratical,” and furthermore that the government could affirm freedom of conscience for Papists, atheists, Jews, Turks -- even Quakers, one of the most feared and brutalized of the many sects that were appearing in those turbulent days.  All of this was astonishing in the climate of the times. 
A few years later, the Charter of Liberties was enriched by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, formally entitled “an Act for the better securing the liberty of the subject, and for prevention of imprisonment beyond the seas.” The U.S. Constitution, borrowing from English common law, affirms that “the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended” except in case of rebellion or invasion.  In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the rights guaranteed by this Act were “[c]onsidered by the Founders [of the American Republic] as the highest safeguard of liberty.” All of these words should resonate today.
The Second Charter and the Commons
The significance of the companion charter, the Charter of the Forest, is no less profound and perhaps even more pertinent today -- as explored in depth by Peter Linebaugh in his richly documented and stimulating history of Magna Carta and its later trajectory.  The Charter of the Forest demanded protection of the commons from external power.  The commons were the source of sustenance for the general population: their fuel, their food, their construction materials, whatever was essential for life.  The forest was no primitive wilderness.  It had been carefully developed over generations, maintained in common, its riches available to all, and preserved for future generations -- practices found today primarily in traditional societies that are under threat throughout the world.
The Charter of the Forest imposed limits to privatization.  The Robin Hood myths capture the essence of its concerns (and it is not too surprising that the popular TV series of the 1950s, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” was written anonymously by Hollywood screenwriters blacklisted for leftist convictions).  By the seventeenth century, however, this Charter had fallen victim to the rise of the commodity economy and capitalist practice and morality.  
With the commons no longer protected for cooperative nurturing and use, the rights of the common people were restricted to what could not be privatized, a category that continues to shrink to virtual invisibility.  In Bolivia, the attempt to privatize water was, in the end, beaten back by an uprising that brought the indigenous majority to power for the first time in history.  The World Bank has just ruled that the mining multinational Pacific Rim can proceed with a case against El Salvador for trying to preserve lands and communities from highly destructive gold mining.  Environmental constraints threaten to deprive the company of future profits, a crime that can be punished under the rules of the investor-rights regime mislabeled as “free trade.” And this is only a tiny sample of struggles underway over much of the world, some involving extreme violence, as in the Eastern Congo, where millions have been killed in recent years to ensure an ample supply of minerals for cell phones and other uses, and of course ample profits.
The rise of capitalist practice and morality brought with it a radical revision of how the commons are treated, and also of how they are conceived.  The prevailing view today is captured by Garrett Hardin’s influential argument that “freedom in a commons brings ruin to us all,” the famous “tragedy of the commons”: what is not owned will be destroyed by individual avarice. 
An international counterpart was the concept of terra nullius, employed to justify the expulsion of indigenous populations in the settler-colonial societies of the Anglosphere, or their “extermination,” as the founding fathers of the American Republic described what they were doing, sometimes with remorse, after the fact.  According to this useful doctrine, the Indians had no property rights since they were just wanderers in an untamed wilderness.  And the hard-working colonists could create value where there was none by turning that same wilderness to commercial use. 
In reality, the colonists knew better and there were elaborate procedures of purchase and ratification by crown and parliament, later annulled by force when the evil creatures resisted extermination.  The doctrine is often attributed to John Locke, but that is dubious.  As a colonial administrator, he understood what was happening, and there is no basis for the attribution in his writings, as contemporary scholarship has shown convincingly, notably the work of the Australian scholar Paul Corcoran.  (It was in Australia, in fact, that the doctrine has been most brutally employed.)
The grim forecasts of the tragedy of the commons are not without challenge.  The late Elinor Olstrom won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 for her work showing the superiority of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins.  But the conventional doctrine has force if we accept its unstated premise: that humans are blindly driven by what American workers, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, bitterly called “the New Spirit of the Age, Gain Wealth forgetting all but Self.”
Like peasants and workers in England before them, American workers denounced this New Spirit, which was being imposed upon them, regarding it as demeaning and destructive, an assault on the very nature of free men and women.  And I stress women; among those most active and vocal in condemning the destruction of the rights and dignity of free people by the capitalist industrial system were the “factory girls,” young women from the farms.  They, too, were driven into the regime of supervised and controlled wage labor, which was regarded at the time as different from chattel slavery only in that it was temporary.  That stand was considered so natural that it became a slogan of the Republican Party, and a banner under which northern workers carried arms during the American Civil War.
Controlling the Desire for Democracy
That was 150 years ago -- in England earlier.  Huge efforts have been devoted since to inculcating the New Spirit of the Age.  Major industries are devoted to the task: public relations, advertising, marketing generally, all of which add up to a very large component of the Gross Domestic Product.  They are dedicated to what the great political economist Thorstein Veblen called “fabricating wants.” In the words of business leaders themselves, the task is to direct people to “the superficial things” of life, like “fashionable consumption.” That way people can be atomized, separated from one another, seeking personal gain alone, diverted from dangerous efforts to think for themselves and challenge authority.
The process of shaping opinion, attitudes, and perceptions was termed the “engineering of consent” by one of the founders of the modern public relations industry, Edward Bernays.  He was a respected Wilson-Roosevelt-Kennedy progressive, much like his contemporary, journalist Walter Lippmann, the most prominent public intellectual of twentieth century America, who praised “the manufacture of consent” as a “new art” in the practice of democracy. 
Both recognized that the public must be “put in its place,” marginalized and controlled -- for their own interests of course.  They were too “stupid and ignorant” to be allowed to run their own affairs.  That task was to be left to the “intelligent minority,” who must be protected from “the trampling and the roar of [the] bewildered herd,” the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” -- the “rascal multitude” as they were termed by their seventeenth century predecessors.  The role of the general population was to be “spectators,” not “participants in action,” in a properly functioning democratic society.
And the spectators must not be allowed to see too much.  President Obama has set new standards in safeguarding this principle.  He has, in fact, punished more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined, a real achievement for an administration that came to office promising transparency. WikiLeaks is only the most famous case, with British cooperation.
Among the many topics that are not the business of the bewildered herd is foreign affairs.  Anyone who has studied declassified secret documents will have discovered that, to a large extent, their classification was meant to protect public officials from public scrutiny.  Domestically, the rabble should not hear the advice given by the courts to major corporations: that they should devote some highly visible efforts to good works, so that an “aroused public” will not discover the enormous benefits provided to them by the nanny state.  More generally the U.S. public should not learn that “state policies are overwhelmingly regressive, thus reinforcing and expanding social inequality,” though designed in ways that lead “people to think that the government helps only the undeserving poor, allowing politicians to mobilize and exploit anti-government rhetoric and values even as they continue to funnel support to their better-off constituents” -- I’m quoting from the main establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, not from some radical rag.
Over time, as societies became freer and the resort to state violence more constrained, the urge to devise sophisticated methods of control of attitudes and opinion has only grown.  It is natural that the immense PR industry should have been created in the most free of societies, the United States and Great Britain.  The first modern propaganda agency was the British Ministry of Information a century ago, which secretly defined its task as “to direct the thought of most of the world” -- primarily progressive American intellectuals, who had to be mobilized to come to the aid of Britain during World War I. 
Its U.S. counterpart, the Committee on Public Information, was formed by Woodrow Wilson to drive a pacifist population to violent hatred of all things German -- with remarkable success.  American commercial advertising deeply impressed others.  Goebbels admired it and adapted it to Nazi propaganda, all too successfully.  The Bolshevik leaders tried as well, but their efforts were clumsy and ineffective.
A primary domestic task has always been “to keep [the public] from our throats,” as essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson described the concerns of political leaders when the threat of democracy was becoming harder to suppress in the mid-nineteenth century.  More recently, the activism of the 1960s elicited elite concerns about “excessive democracy,” and calls for measures to impose “more moderation” in democracy. 
One particular concern was to introduce better controls over the institutions “responsible for the indoctrination of the young”: the schools, the universities, the churches, which were seen as failing that essential task.  I’m quoting reactions from the left-liberal end of the mainstream spectrum, the liberal internationalists who later staffed the Carter administration, and their counterparts in other industrial societies.  The right wing was much harsher.  One of many manifestations of this urge has been the sharp rise in college tuition, not on economic grounds, as is easily shown.  The device does, however, trap and control young people by debt, often for the rest of their lives, thus contributing to more effective indoctrination.
The Three-Fifths People
Pursuing these important topics further, we see that the destruction of the Charter of the Forest, and its obliteration from memory, relates rather closely to the continuing efforts to constrain the promise of the Charter of Liberties.  The “New Spirit of the Age” cannot tolerate the pre-capitalist conception of the Forest as the shared endowment of the community at large, cared for communally for its own use and for future generations, protected from privatization, from transfer to the hands of private power for service to wealth, not needs.  Inculcating the New Spirit is an essential prerequisite for achieving this end, and for preventing the Charter of Liberties from being misused to enable free citizens to determine their own fate.
Popular struggles to bring about a freer and more just society have been resisted by violence and repression, and massive efforts to control opinion and attitudes.  Over time, however, they have met with considerable success, even though there is a long way to go and there is often regression.  Right now, in fact.
The most famous part of the Charter of Liberties is Article 39, which declares that “no free man” shall be punished in any way, “nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.”
Through many years of struggle, the principle has come to hold more broadly.  The U.S. Constitution provides that no “person [shall] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law [and] a speedy and public trial” by peers.  The basic principle is “presumption of innocence” -- what legal historians describe as “the seed of contemporary Anglo-American freedom,” referring to Article 39; and with the Nuremberg Tribunal in mind, a “particularly American brand of legalism: punishment only for those who could be proved to be guilty through a fair trial with a panoply of procedural protections” -- even if their guilt for some of the worst crimes in history is not in doubt.
The founders of course did not intend the term “person” to apply to all persons. Native Americans were not persons.  Their rights were virtually nil.  Women were scarcely persons.  Wives were understood to be “covered” under the civil identity of their husbands in much the same way as children were subject to their parents.  Blackstone’s principles held that “the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing.” Women are thus the property of their fathers or husbands.  These principles remain up to very recent years.  Until a Supreme Court decision of 1975, women did not even have a legal right to serve on juries.  They were not peers.  Just two weeks ago, Republican opposition blocked the Fairness Paycheck Act guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work.  And it goes far beyond.
Slaves, of course, were not persons.  They were in fact three-fifths human under the Constitution, so as to grant their owners greater voting power.  Protection of slavery was no slight concern to the founders: it was one factor leading to the American revolution.  In the 1772 Somerset case, Lord Mansfield determined that slavery is so “odious” that it cannot be tolerated in England, though it continued in British possessions for many years.  American slave-owners could see the handwriting on the wall if the colonies remained under British rule.  And it should be recalled that the slave states, including Virginia, had the greatest power and influence in the colonies.  One can easily appreciate Dr. Johnson’s famous quip that “we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes.”
Post-Civil War amendments extended the concept person to African-Americans, ending slavery.  In theory, at least.  After about a decade of relative freedom, a condition akin to slavery was reintroduced by a North-South compact permitting the effective criminalization of black life.  A black male standing on a street corner could be arrested for vagrancy, or for attempted rape if accused of looking at a white woman the wrong way.  And once imprisoned he had few chances of ever escaping the system of “slavery by another name,” the term used by then-Wall Street Journal bureau chief Douglas Blackmon in an arresting study.
This new version of the “peculiar institution” provided much of the basis for the American industrial revolution, with a perfect work force for the steel industry and mining, along with agricultural production in the famous chain gangs: docile, obedient, no strikes, and no need for employers even to sustain their workers, an improvement over slavery.  The system lasted in large measure until World War II, when free labor was needed for war production.
The postwar boom offered employment.  A black man could get a job in a unionized auto plant, earn a decent salary, buy a house, and maybe send his children to college.  That lasted for about 20 years, until the 1970s, when the economy was radically redesigned on newly dominant neoliberal principles, with rapid growth of financialization and the offshoring of production.  The black population, now largely superfluous, has been recriminalized.
Until Ronald Reagan’s presidency, incarceration in the U.S. was within the spectrum of industrial societies.  By now it is far beyond others.  It targets primarily black males, increasingly also black women and Hispanics, largely guilty of victimless crimes under the fraudulent “drug wars.” Meanwhile, the wealth of African-American families has been virtually obliterated by the latest financial crisis, in no small measure thanks to criminal behavior of financial institutions, with impunity for the perpetrators, now richer than ever.
Looking over the history of African-Americans from the first arrival of slaves almost 500 years ago to the present, they have enjoyed the status of authentic persons for only a few decades.  There is a long way to go to realize the promise of Magna Carta.
Sacred Persons and Undone Process
The post-Civil War fourteenth amendment granted the rights of persons to former slaves, though mostly in theory.  At the same time, it created a new category of persons with rights: corporations.  In fact, almost all the cases brought to the courts under the fourteenth amendment had to do with corporate rights, and by a century ago, they had determined that these collectivist legal fictions, established and sustained by state power, had the full rights of persons of flesh and blood; in fact, far greater rights, thanks to their scale, immortality, and protections of limited liability.  Their rights by now far transcend those of mere humans.  Under the “free trade agreements,” Pacific Rim can, for example, sue El Salvador for seeking to protect the environment; individuals cannot do the same.  General Motors can claim national rights in Mexico.  There is no need to dwell on what would happen if a Mexican demanded national rights in the United States.
Domestically, recent Supreme Court rulings greatly enhance the already enormous political power of corporations and the super-rich, striking further blows against the tottering relics of functioning political democracy.
Meanwhile Magna Carta is under more direct assault.  Recall the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, which barred “imprisonment beyond the seas,” and certainly the far more vicious procedure of imprisonment abroad for the purpose of torture -- what is now more politely called “rendition,” as when Tony Blair rendered Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj, now a leader of the rebellion, to the mercies of Qaddafi; or when U.S. authorities deported Canadian citizen Maher Arar to his native Syria, for imprisonment and torture, only later conceding that there was never any case against him.  And many others, often through Shannon Airport, leading to courageous protests in Ireland.
The concept of due process has been extended under the Obama administration’s international assassination campaign in a way that renders this core element of the Charter of Liberties (and the Constitution) null and void.  The Justice Department explained that the constitutional guarantee of due process, tracing to Magna Carta, is now satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch alone.  The constitutional lawyer in the White House agreed.  King John might have nodded with satisfaction.
The issue arose after the presidentially ordered assassination-by-drone of Anwar al-Awlaki, accused of inciting jihad in speech, writing, and unspecified actions.  A headline in the New York Times captured the general elite reaction when he was murdered in a drone attack, along with the usual collateral damage.  It read: “The West celebrates a cleric’s death.” Some eyebrows were lifted, however, because he was an American citizen, which raised questions about due process -- considered irrelevant when non-citizens are murdered at the whim of the chief executive.  And irrelevant for citizens, too, under Obama administration due-process legal innovations.
Presumption of innocence has also been given a new and useful interpretation.  As the New York Times reported, “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” So post-assassination determination of innocence maintains the sacred principle of presumption of innocence.
It would be ungracious to recall the Geneva Conventions, the foundation of modern humanitarian law: they bar “the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
The most famous recent case of executive assassination was Osama bin Laden, murdered after he was apprehended by 79 Navy seals, defenseless, accompanied only by his wife, his body reportedly dumped at sea without autopsy.  Whatever one thinks of him, he was a suspect and nothing more than that.  Even the FBI agreed.
Celebration in this case was overwhelming, but there were a few questions raised about the bland rejection of the principle of presumption of innocence, particularly when trial was hardly impossible.  These were met with harsh condemnations.  The most interesting was by a respected left-liberal political commentator, Matthew Yglesias, who explained that “one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers,” so it is “amazingly naïve” to suggest that the U.S. should obey international law or other conditions that we righteously demand of the weak.
Only tactical objections can be raised to aggression, assassination, cyberwar, or other actions that the Holy State undertakes in the service of mankind.  If the traditional victims see matters somewhat differently, that merely reveals their moral and intellectual backwardness. And the occasional Western critic who fails to comprehend these fundamental truths can be dismissed as “silly,” Yglesias explains -- incidentally, referring specifically to me, and I cheerfully confess my guilt.
Executive Terrorist Lists
Perhaps the most striking assault on the foundations of traditional liberties is a little-known case brought to the Supreme Court by the Obama administration, Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.  The Project was condemned for providing “material assistance” to the guerrilla organization PKK, which has fought for Kurdish rights in Turkey for many years and is listed as a terrorist group by the state executive.  The “material assistance” was legal advice.  The wording of the ruling would appear to apply quite broadly, for example, to discussions and research inquiry, even advice to the PKK to keep to nonviolent means.  Again, there was a marginal fringe of criticism, but even those accepted the legitimacy of the state terrorist list -- arbitrary decisions by the executive, with no recourse.
The record of the terrorist list is of some interest.  For example, in 1988 the Reagan administration declared Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress to be one of the world’s “more notorious terrorist groups,” so that Reagan could continue his support for the Apartheid regime and its murderous depredations in South Africa and in neighboring countries, as part of his “war on terror.” Twenty years later Mandela was finally removed from the terrorist list, and can now travel to the U.S. without a special waiver.
Another interesting case is Saddam Hussein, removed from the terrorist list in 1982 so that the Reagan administration could provide him with support for his invasion of Iran.  The support continued well after the war ended.  In 1989, President Bush I even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the U.S. for advanced training in weapons production -- more information that must be kept from the eyes of the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”
One of the ugliest examples of the use of the terrorist list has to do with the tortured people of Somalia.  Immediately after September 11th, the United States closed down the Somali charitable network Al-Barakaat on grounds that it was financing terror. This achievement was hailed one of the great successes of the "war on terror." In contrast, Washington's withdrawal of its charges as without merit a year later aroused little notice. 
Al-Barakaat was responsible for about half the $500 million in remittances to Somalia, “more than it earns from any other economic sector and 10 times the amount of foreign aid [Somalia] receives” a U.N. review determined.  The charity also ran major businesses in Somalia, all destroyed.  The leading academic scholar of Bush’s “financial war on terror,” Ibrahim Warde, concludes that apart from devastating the economy, this frivolous attack on a very fragile society “may have played a role in the rise... of Islamic fundamentalists,” another familiar consequence of the “war on terror.”
The very idea that the state should have the authority to make such judgments is a serious offense against the Charter of Liberties, as is the fact that it is considered uncontentious.  If the Charter’s fall from grace continues on the path of the past few years, the future of rights and liberties looks dim.
Who Will Have the Last Laugh?
A few final words on the fate of the Charter of the Forest.  Its goal was to protect the source of sustenance for the population, the commons, from external power -- in the early days, royalty; over the years, enclosures and other forms of privatization by predatory corporations and the state authorities who cooperate with them, have only accelerated and are properly rewarded.  The damage is very broad.
If we listen to voices from the South today we can learn that “the conversion of public goods into private property through the privatization of our otherwise commonly held natural environment is one way neoliberal institutions remove the fragile threads that hold African nations together.  Politics today has been reduced to a lucrative venture where one looks out mainly for returns on investment rather than on what one can contribute to rebuild highly degraded environments, communities, and a nation.  This is one of the benefits that structural adjustment programmes inflicted on the continent -- the enthronement of corruption.” I’m quoting Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, in his searing expose of the ravaging of Africa’s wealth, To Cook a Continent, the latest phase of the Western torture of Africa.
Torture that has always been planned at the highest level, it should be recognized.  At the end of World War II, the U.S. held a position of unprecedented global power.  Not surprisingly, careful and sophisticated plans were developed about how to organize the world.  Each region was assigned its “function” by State Department planners, headed by the distinguished diplomat George Kennan.  He determined that the U.S. had no special interest in Africa, so it should be handed over to Europe to “exploit” -- his word -- for its reconstruction.  In the light of history, one might have imagined a different relation between Europe and Africa, but there is no indication that that was ever considered.
More recently, the U.S. has recognized that it, too, must join the game of exploiting Africa, along with new entries like China, which is busily at work compiling one of the worst records in destruction of the environment and oppression of the hapless victims.
It should be unnecessary to dwell on the extreme dangers posed by one central element of the predatory obsessions that are producing calamities all over the world: the reliance on fossil fuels, which courts global disaster, perhaps in the not-too-distant future.  Details may be debated, but there is little serious doubt that the problems are serious, if not awesome, and that the longer we delay in addressing them, the more awful will be the legacy left to generations to come.  There are some efforts to face reality, but they are far too minimal. The recent Rio+20 Conference opened with meager aspirations and derisory outcomes.
Meanwhile, power concentrations are charging in the opposite direction, led by the richest and most powerful country in world history.  Congressional Republicans are dismantling the limited environmental protections initiated by Richard Nixon, who would be something of a dangerous radical in today’s political scene.  The major business lobbies openly announce their propaganda campaigns to convince the public that there is no need for undue concern -- with some effect, as polls show. 
The media cooperate by not even reporting the increasingly dire forecasts of international agencies and even the U.S. Department of Energy.  The standard presentation is a debate between alarmists and skeptics: on one side virtually all qualified scientists, on the other a few holdouts.  Not part of the debate are a very large number of experts, including the climate change program at MIT among others, who criticize the scientific consensus because it is too conservative and cautious, arguing that the truth when it comes to climate change is far more dire.  Not surprisingly, the public is confused.
In his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama hailed the bright prospects of a century of energy self-sufficiency, thanks to new technologies that permit extraction of hydrocarbons from Canadian tar sands, shale, and other previously inaccessible sources.  Others agree.  The Financial Times forecasts a century of energy independence for the U.S.  The report does mention the destructive local impact of the new methods.  Unasked in these optimistic forecasts is the question what kind of a world will survive the rapacious onslaught.
In the lead in confronting the crisis throughout the world are indigenous communities, those who have always upheld the Charter of the Forests.  The strongest stand has been taken by the one country they govern, Bolivia, the poorest country in South America and for centuries a victim of western destruction of the rich resources of one of the most advanced of the developed societies in the hemisphere, pre-Columbus. 
After the ignominious collapse of the Copenhagen global climate change summit in 2009, Bolivia organized a People’s Summit with 35,000 participants from 140 countries -- not just representatives of governments, but also civil society and activists.  It produced a People’s Agreement, which called for very sharp reduction in emissions, and a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.  That is a key demand of indigenous communities all over the world.  It is ridiculed by sophisticated westerners, but unless we can acquire some of their sensibility, they are likely to have the last laugh -- a laugh of grim despair.
This is the full text of a speech he gave recently at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. His web site is To catch Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Chomsky discusses the recent shredding of the principles of the Magna Carta, click here or download it to your iPod here.
© 2012 Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor (retired) at MIT. He is the author of many books and articles on international affairs and social-political issues, and a long-time participant in activist movements. His most recent books include: Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance (City Lights Open Media), Hopes and Prospects, and Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order. Previous books include: 9-11: 10th Anniversary Edition, Failed States, What We Say Goes (with David Barsamian), Hegemony or Survival, and the Essential Chomsky.
Page 1 of Magna Carta

Occupy the Dam: Brazil’s Indigenous Uprising

By John Perkins 
Yes! July 25, 2012

Indigenous leader at protest against Belo Monte Dam
Indigenous leader at protest against Belo Monte Dam
Last month, hundreds of indigenous demonstrators began dismantling a dam in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest to protest the destruction it will bring to lands they have loved and honored for centuries. The Brazilian government is determined to promote construction of the massive, $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will be the world’s third largest when it is completed in 2019. It is being developed by Norte Energia, a consortium of ten of the world’s largest construction, engineering, and mining firms set up specifically for the project.

The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region and threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Amazonian people, plants, and animals. Situated on the Xingu River, the dam is set to flood roughly 150 square miles of already-stressed rainforest and deprive an estimated 20,000 people of their homes, their incomes, and—for those who succumb to malaria, bilharzia, and other diseases carried by insects and snails that are predicted to breed in the new reservoir—their lives. Moreover, the influx of immigrants will bring massive disruption to the socioeconomic balance of the region. People whose livelihoods have primarily depended on hunting and gathering or farming may suddenly find themselves forced to take jobs as manual laborers, servants, and prostitutes.
Belo Monte Dam photo by Atosa Soltani
History has shown again and again that dams in general wreak havoc in areas where they are built, despite promises to the contrary by developers and governments. Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology. The costs—often hidden—include those associated with the privatization of water; the extinction of plants that might provide cures for cancer, HIV, and other diseases; the silting up of rivers and lakes; and the disruption of migratory patterns for many species of birds.
The indigenous cultures threatened by the Belo Monte Dam, including those of the Xikrin, Juruna, Arara, Parakanã, Kuruaya and Kayapó tribes, are tied to the land: generations have hunted and gathered and cultivated the same areas for centuries. They—as well as local flora and fauna—have suffered disproportionately from the effects of other hydroelectric dams, while rarely gaining any of the potential benefits. Now they are fighting back.

Indigenous leaders from these groups have asked the Brazilian government to immediately withdraw the installation license for Belo Monte. They demand a halt to work until the government puts into place "effective programs and measures to address the impacts of the dam on local people." They point out that a promised monetary program to compensate for the negative impacts of the mega-dam has not yet been presented in local villages; also, that a system to ensure small boat navigation in the vicinity of the cofferdams, temporary enclosures built to facilitate the construction process, has not been implemented. Without such a system, many will be isolated from markets, health care facilities, and other services. The cofferdams have already rendered much of the region’s water undrinkable and unsuitable for bathing. Wells promised by the government and Norte Energia have not yet been drilled. The list of grievances goes on and on and is only the latest in a very old story of exploitation of nature and people in the name of “progress.” Far too often, this has meant benefiting only the wealthiest in society and business.
Yet here in the backcountry of Brazil, there is a difference: the makings of a new story. The indigenous people’s occupation of the dam garnered international attention, connecting their situation to other events across the globe—the Arab Spring, democratic revolutions in Latin America, the Occupy Movement, and austerity strikes in Spain and other European nations. Brazil’s indigenous protesters have essentially joined protesters on every continent who are demanding that rights be restored to the people.
Stories take time to evolve. This one—the story of people awakening on a global level to the need to oppose and replace exploitative dreams—is still in its beginning phase. And the first chapter has been powerful, elegant, and bold.
A few years ago I was invited, with a group, to Ladakh, a protectorate of India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among a great deal of sage advice he offered was the following: “It is important to pray and meditate for peace, for a more compassionate and better world. But if that is all you do, it is a waste of time. You also must take actions to make that happen. Every single day.”
It is time for each and every one us to follow that advice.
Opposing the Belo Monte Dam project provides an opportunity for you and me to honor those words, and those leading resistance to it can help us understand the importance of looking around—in our neighborhoods as well as globally—to determine what else we can do to change the story.
John Perkins wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. John is the author of New York Times bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hitman and, most recently, Hoodwinked: An Economic Hitman Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to Remake Them.
Photo from International Rivers via Flickr


Postal Workers Joined by Occupy Caravan Protesting Shrinkage and Privatization of the Post Office

The U.S. Postal Service is under attack.  After a 2006 law that required them to pre-pay 75 years of pension benefits -- essentially paying the pensions of postal workers not yet born -- the vultures are circling and an effort to privatize the post office is coming.  Former OMB director, Peter Orzag, who is now a vice president for Citigroup urged the privatization of the Post Office noting that one of its assets is an overpaid pension fund!  And, he urged a subsidy for the privateers so they can provide service to rural, low-population areas.  As Orszag well knows, the Post Office receives no subsidy, it is required to pay for its service out of its own funds.

Postal workers went on a hunger strike, are planning on attending both the Democratic and Republican Conventions in order to make the shrinkage of the post office an issue in the campaign.  Here's a video of a recent protest outside of the postal headquarters by postal workers joined by Occupy Caravan . . .

For more on this issue see Corporatists Seek to Loot the Post Office, Congress Aides and Abets the Decline of the Postal Service

For more on the hunger strike by postal workers see

Your phone may not be safe at protests


July 5, 2012
Ever wondered why your cell phone reception suddenly becomes terrible at protests? Ever worried that police could use electronic spoofing devices to suck up your mobile data because you are in the streets exercising your rights?
You might have been onto something.
Mobile "IMSI catchers", currently on the market and being pushed to police and intelligence agencies worldwide, enable these creepy, stealth spying tactics. And if they build it and hawk it, history tells us police will buy it and deploy it. 
On Tuesday, July 3, 2012, electronic privacy advocate and technology researcher Chris Soghoian tweeted a link to a photograph of a talk he gave at TED in Scotland in late June. Behind him in the photograph is another image, this one taken by privacy researcher Eric King at a surveillance trade show. (King's Twitter bio contains a quote from a representative of the notorious ISS World -- a global surveillance trade firm that often hosts such trade shows: the rep called him an "Anti-lawful interception zealot blogger." High praise.)
Photo: Ryan Lash
Look at the slide behind Soghoian; that's the photo in question. It shows an IMSI catcher strapped onto a model, under the model's shirt. 
IMSI stands for "International Mobile Subscriber Identity". The technology is essentially a mobile phone tower with "a malicious operator". It mimics the behavior of a cell tower and tricks mobile phones into sending data to it, instead of to the tower. 
As such it is considered a Man In the Middle (MITM) attack. It is used as an eavesdropping device used for interception and tracking of cellular phones and usually is undetectable for the users of mobile phones. 
Once it has made a connection with the phone and tricked it into thinking it is a mobile tower, the IMSI catcher forces the phone to drop its encryption, enabling easy access to the contents of the device. The tool then lets the attacker listen in on mobile conversations and intercept all data sent from a mobile phone, remaining undetected. In some cases the tool also allows the operator to manipulate messages.
Here's a creepy video that a purveyor of IMSI catchers made to advertise its product:
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Police in the United States claim they do not need a warrant to use an IMSI catcher or other spoofing device to track your location. A case to determine whether or not the courts agree is working itself through the system.
Privacy International's Eric King took the photo on the slide behind Soghoian at a surveillance trade show, where he says the tool was "pitched to me as being perfect for covert operations in public order situations." In other words, at protests. 
From twitter: Eric King @e3i5 @ACLU_Mass @csoghoian It was pitched as being perfect for covert operations in public order situations.
The FBI uses IMSI catchers and claims it does so legally, even though it says it doesn't need a warrant to deploy them. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is currently pursuing FOIA litigation to find out exactly how the bureau uses the "Stingray" (a brand name IMSI catcher); unsurprisingly, the FBI wasn't forthcoming with documents to reveal its legal standard or other information about how it uses the tool. Stay tuned for more information as that case makes its way through the courts.
Meanwhile, how can you protect yourself against IMSI catchers? Unfortunately, you probably can't. And the threats are not just from government. As Soghoian and others warned in a friend of the court brief,
"Finally, the communications privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans is already threatened by the use of this and similar interception technologies by non-US government entities, such as stalkers, criminals, and foreign governments engaged in espionage. As such, the public interest is best served by greater public discussion regarding these tracking technologies and the security flaws in the mobile phone networks that they exploit, not less."
Yet again, we are faced with a situation in which our technology has outpaced our law reform. It's time for Congress to change that.
To get a more detailed sense of how the technology actually works, watch this excellent talk from DefCon 2011, with Chris Paget: "Practical Cellphone Spying". He spoofs the phones of the people in the audience during the talk; it's well worth watching if you have some time.
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The Power of Training for Direct Action


Training for acts of civil disobedience can delve deeper than the actions themselves.

By George Lakey
Waging Nonviolence, July 26, 2012
Direct action training at Occupy Tampa last October. By Jason, via Flickr.
Usually, direct action training is what it sounds like: training in preparation for a direct action. Sometimes, however, the training itself is the action.
Consider this story. The members of a hospital workers union were frustrated because their strike was being disregarded by the employer. The formerly locally owned Pennsylvania nursing home where they worked had been taken over in the 1980s by a Canadian corporation that wanted to break the union. The workers had never had to go on strike before and felt uneasy about picketing on the streets of their small city; they saw themselves as the “solid citizens” of the working class who didn’t make trouble.
Still, the corporation wasn’t willing to negotiate seriously, and they felt forced to do what they thought of as an undignified thing by going on strike. But even then, the strike wasn’t working; the employer stonewalled.
The union’s organizer called me and asked for a civil disobedience training. “The members don’t want this,” he said, “but they are willing to explore the C.D. option because they are running out of patience. They want a full evening of training.”
Barbara Smith of the Jobs With Peace Campaign agreed to co-facilitate. We found over 60 workers in the union hall when we arrived — virtually the whole staff who were free to come. The main part of the workshop was role-playing a sit-in in the offices of the nursing home management, with some members playing police who came in to arrest the workers. I marveled at the courage of these longtime residents of the town, blue-collar people who prided themselves on never having been in trouble with the law, pretending to be handcuffed and led off to police vans. Some were visibly shaking, but they did it.
At the end of the evening, we did a closing circle. Barbara initiated it and asked each person to say why they cared so much about this struggle that they were willing to take the risk. I was moved by the depth with which they spoke. The youngest said that she was taking the risk “because Mildred” — nodding to an elderly woman across the circle from her — “is close to retirement and deserves for her last year to be treated with respect.”
I saw the tears in Mildred’s eyes, and when it came to her turn in the circle, she said, “It’s amazing that Karen said what she did, because I was going to say that I’m taking this risk because she’s just started her life as a worker, and I want her to know the dignity of being in a union.”
The next day I got a phone call from the union organizer. “The boss called me,” he said. “He wants to restart negotiations on a serious basis.”
The organizer laughed. “Of course we assumed there was a company spy in our training last night, so the boss would find out what we were planning. But I didn’t expect a turnaround right away. Looks like they don’t even want to face the civil disobedience—they just want to settle!”
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“What do you think was involved in that?” I asked.
“A lot of things,” he said, “but I’ll bet one of the most important ones was that closing circle. The spy could see the members’ determination. I’m sure they don’t want to deal with that!”
This incident reminded me of something much larger, a decade before in New Zealand. Many New Zealanders opposed the South African rugby team coming to play New Zealand’s national rugby team, planned for 1973. Their slogan was, “Don’t import apartheid sport!” The New Zealand protest was part of a series of sports campaigns in the British Commonwealth putting pressure on South Africa to abandon apartheid.
The New Zealand campaign invited me to facilitate a series of training camps in preparation for their direct action. The training was to serve three purposes: to bring together organizers from a variety of movements (including environmental, Maori, and women’s) to learn popular education methods of training, to train trainers for the anti-apartheid campaign itself, and to create a context for the main leaders of the anti-apartheid campaign to gain more unity and strategic cohesion.
New Zealand’s right wing got wind of my being invited and launched a national petition drive to ban me from the country, on the grounds that I was a known foreign agitator whose work threatened the public order. But the government allowed me in, and the petition drive ensured that our three weeks of trainings were done in the glare of media attention—a positive thing in itself.
The last of the three trainings focused on the anti-apartheid activists and leaders. I knew ahead of time about the differences that divided them and their competitiveness with one another. I led an intense simulation that lasted over 12 hours and brought the entire camp to the point of exhaustion and fresh insights. At that point, the training turned into a planning session that brought the movement into strategic unity for the first time.
At the end of that training, the head of New Zealand’s national police force asked to see me, “off the record.” He said that after all the media attention and national controversy I’d gotten, he needed to meet me personally. We had a vigorous interchange, and when the conversation turned to the South African rugby team, he said he would recommend to the government that it prevent the team’s visit. “You’ve won,” he said.
“How?” I asked.
“The leadership at the camp created a strategy we can’t beat,” he said, “and the nonviolent training program reinforces the strategy. If the rugby tour happened, it would be a disaster for the government.”
I tested his conclusion, asking about various repressive options the government might have at its disposal, like calling out the troops to back up the police. He explained why each option would end poorly for the government and probably cost it the next election.
From back home in Philly, I followed subsequent events and, indeed, without the grassroots movement having to implement its direct action campaign—and to the fury of hard-core rugby fans—the government canceled the South African rugby team’s tour.
It may be time to experiment more with using training as a form of action. In April, the Earth Quaker Action Team climaxed its 200-mile Green Walk for Jobs and Justice with a training in Pittsburgh, on the sidewalk in front of the national headquarters of PNC Bank.
First, there were attempts to deliver an invitation to PNC’s CEO to meet with us. Then, people from Appalachian coal country talked about the suffering they experience from mountaintop removal coal mining and called on PNC Bank to stop funding extreme extraction, including fracking.
Finally, the walkers staged a practice action, complete with role-playing police “arresting” demonstrators in a sit-down on the sidewalk.
The excitement of the training slowed traffic on the busy downtown street. EQAT staff organizer Zach Hershman, who facilitated the training, said through the bullhorn, “We need to practice so we’re ready to return to Pittsburgh and stage a sit-in in the bank.”
After the role-play was over, Zach asked for a show of hands on how many had previously done direct action. Many had not. After the event was over I turned to a gray-haired woman next to me who had not raised her hand and asked her about that. Her face turned thoughtful.
“When I was young in the civil rights days, I knew racism was wrong but I didn’t join the sit-ins. I was scared. Then the anti-Vietnam war protests started and I agreed with them, but I was too scared to join.”
She paused, and looked right at me. “But now,” she said, “I’m not scared any more.”
George Lakey is Visiting Professor at Swarthmore College and a Quaker. He has led 1,500 workshops on five continents and led activist projects on local, national, and international levels. Among many other books and articles, he is author of “Strategizing for a Living Revolution” in David Solnit’s book Globalize Liberation (City Lights, 2004). His first arrest was for a civil rights sit-in and most recent was with Earth Quaker Action Team while protesting mountain top removal coal mining.

Romneyville Inside the RNC Green Zone Prepares for Republican Convention

Protesters leasing private land to escape city's restrictions

By Leonora LaPeter Anton,
Tampa Bay Times, July 27, 2012
During the past few weeks, 10 pink tents have risen behind an Army Navy surplus store in downtown Tampa.
The occupants include the homeless and those who want to protest the Republican National Convention in August. They signed a contract with the business owner to lease the property on Tampa Street for four months. They call themselves "Romneyville."

It's one of several examples of RNC protesters in Tampa and St. Petersburg using private property as the staging ground for activities during the upcoming convention.
All was fine at Romneyville until Wednesday, when the city's code officers showed up. They told Nick Potamitis, who owns the Army Navy business and leases the property, that the tents violated zoning rules for commercial districts. They had to go.
Potamitis, who wasn't in this for the politics, agreed. He asked the activists nicely at first. But by Thursday morning, he was mad. He pulled up in his white Toyota Sequoia plastered with U.S. Navy stickers and rolled down the window. "The city wants you out," he yelled in a thick Greek accent. "Go today!"
"We're not leaving," said Gregory Lockett, an activist with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.
One of the first standoffs of the RNC had begun.
• • •
Lockett, 53, searched for months for a piece of property to lease during the RNC.
The fenced yard behind the Army Navy store, at the bottom of a billboard, was inside the city's RNC event zone. It offered a haven from the city's restrictions.
The Poor People's Campaign signed a contract with Potamitis. Four months for $1,500. That was May 17.
At first there were just two tents. But slowly they multiplied. One activist bought a portable toilet and 14 pink tents from a Girl Scout troop that tried camping and didn't like it. They put down wood chips and ant killer. They set up a shade tent and a table with a coffeemaker.
More people arrived, most of them homeless. By Wednesday, nine tents were pitched and three more were about to go up. About 20 people were staying or visiting regularly.
Several headed out to a local church for a free meal when Potamitis, 66, emerged from the back of his store before lunch.
"You need to move the tents," he demanded. He said he would call the police if they didn't leave.
"I'm not going without a fight," Lockett replied. "You will have to go through property eviction procedures."
Lockett asked Potamitis to stand up to the city code department. He said the Poor People's Campaign, a national organization that advocates for the homeless, would try to help with the fines. He called the city's threats "scare tactics."
"Bye-Bye," Potamitis said waving his hands. "Out! Out!"
• • •
With up to 15,000 protesters coming for the RNC in August, the question has always been: Where will they all stay?
Over in St. Petersburg, one activist has decided to organize a series of concerts alongside a farmer's market on private land on Central Avenue. The community event would serve protesters and residents alike.
"We're going to provide what the city is not providing, which is a democratic space for people," said Amos Miers, who is the webmaster for, a website for protesters. He said the group was also hunting for private property in Tampa.
Many protesters will likely go to Occupy Tampa, which is also on private land in the business district of West Tampa and the subject of a petition by the neighborhood to shut it down. The property is owned by strip club owner Joe Redner, who gave the group permission to use the park after numerous clashes with police at a downtown park.
Redner said Thursday that city code officers have never showed up to complain about land-use violations at Voice of Freedom Park. But the neighborhood petition has placed the park on the City Council's agenda Aug. 16.
Dennis Rogero, director of neighborhood empowerment for the City of Tampa, said the Army Navy property is located in a commercial business district. Redner's property is a park. But the zoning department will consider whether camping is a violation at both locations.
• • •
The back doors of the Army Navy store opened again and two police officers stepped outside.
"What's going on here?" asked Officer R.J. Barrett. Lockett showed him the contract, a wrinkled page signed by him and Potamitis. "This is an activist camp," he said.
"We'll be out of here Sept. 2 or 3. But we're not leaving now." The officer studied the paper. "This is a civil matter," he said.
Later inside his store, Potamitis sat behind the counter, deflated. Gas masks hung above him, brass knuckle key chains in jars on the counter. He said he would wait to see what happened. But if the city fined him, he said, the protesters would pay.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.
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