TigerSwan Private Security Takes On Popular Movement

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By Alleen Brown, Will Parrish and Alice Speri for The Intercept – BY THE TIME law enforcement officers began evicting residents of the Oceti Sakowin Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on February 22, the brutal North Dakota winter had already driven away most of the pipeline opponents. With protesters’ numbers dwindling, along with nationwide attention to their cause, it would have been a natural time for the private security company in charge of monitoring the pipeline to head home as well. But internal communications between TigerSwan and its client, pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners, show that the security firm instead reached for ways to stay in business. “The threat level has dropped significantly. This however does not rule out the chance of future attack,” states a document dated February 24, two days after the eviction began. “As with any dispersion of any insurgency, expect bifurcation into splinter groups, looking for new causes.” Indeed, TigerSwan appeared to be looking for new causes, too. As The Intercept has reported, the security firm’s sweeping surveillance of anti-Dakota Access protesters had already spanned five months and expanded into Iowa, South Dakota, and Illinois.

US Climate Movement: Funnel Money Downward To Survive

Photo by Rainforest Action Network

By Patrick Robbins for Earth Island Journal – Since the election of Donald Trump, many people who have not previously considered themselves “activists” have begun to devote their time, energy, and their money to climate issues. In the weeks following the election, the Sierra Club, for example, gained 85,000 new donating members, constituting a bump of hundreds of thousands of dollars. While we do need more resources to fight climate change, there is a danger that the current funding bump could reinforce a preexisting, massively unequal distribution of money within the climate movement. A file photo of Rainforst Action Network activists protesting Citibank’s investments in the coal industry. Some foundations do not understand the importance of the messy, unglamorous, confrontational tactics that tend to be the purview of smaller organizations. A great study by Sarah Hansen found that in 2009, the top 2 percent of organizations working on climate change received half of all contributions and grants. In 2014, Inside Climate News compared the membership, budget, and reach of major US environmental organizations. It showed that in 2014 the $100 million Sierra Club budget was bigger than 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Credo Action and the League of Conservation Voters’ budgets combined.

Third Parties’ Only Hope: A New Anti-Duopoly Occupy

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By Patrick Walker for Nation of Change – Political hacks for the Democratic Party, as well as better-intentioned progressives hoping to reform it from within, frequently argue that under our U.S. political system, third parties simply cannot become viable. While that argument holds for long stretches of U.S. history, it fatally ignores significant exceptions. But what it ignores above all is historical imagination: the insight that no human institution is permanent, and that sufficiently abnormal historical circumstances (best described as revolutionary ones) render a long-entrenched, seemingly unshakable system vulnerable to dramatic, virtually overnight overhaul. Simply extrapolating from a long-enduring status quo has already proven lethal in economics. James Galbraith has convincingly argued this about the unquestioned dogma of endless economic growth in his book The End of Normal. From George W. Bush’s presidency on, economists’ success in predicting the U.S. (and global) economy’s performance has almost directly tracked their rejection of their profession’s orthodox consensus.

Envisioning What Kind Of Society We Want To Live In

People marching in Austin, Texas on Saturday were among the millions nationwide who mobilized to express their dismay at the reality of President Donald Trump. "There are millions of people in this country who currently feel lost and alone and would like to contribute to movements that envision a more just society," writes Lobel. But in addition to organizing this new wave of energy, he adds, there must also be "a coherent strategy and vision" if transformative change is to be achieved. (Photo: Steve Rainwater/flickr/cc)

By Josh Hoxie for Inequality.org – America’s original “Red Scare,” in the years right after World War I, ushered in a decade of intense political repression and deeply conservative public policy. Yet this dark time had a bright side. These dark years saw the beginnings of a political realignment that led to the New Deal and a memorable assault against that era’s outsized inequality. Gar Alperovitz and his colleagues at the Next Systems Project make a compelling case that we might be witnessing the beginnings of a similar realignment here early in the Trump era. Their new book, Principles of a Pluralist Commonwealth, lays out what our future could look like if we collectively decided to put people and the planet ahead of short term profit. Donald Trump has dominated the news cycle for months now, sucking up all the air in whatever room his name comes up in. Alperovitz challenges us to think past today’s daily scandals to consider exactly what kind of society we want to live in. We are living, he suggests, in the “prehistory” of the next major system change.

Tearing Down The Walls That Keep Us From Finding Common Ground

AFP DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS

By JoAnn McAllister for Waging Nonviolence – The current occupant of the White House wants to build a “real,” “big,” “serious” wall. To avoid a government shutdown, the administration wavered on the timing of funding. But that does not mean a wall, or walls, will not be built. Walls are material structures, and — maybe more importantly — they are metaphors. They promote ideas like possession, property and separation, as well as mine, yours, who belongs, and who doesn’t belong. They create emotional responses: safety, trust, envy, frustration, fear, anger, dread, hostility. The wall on the border between the United States and Mexico is both material and metaphorical. If you have not looked at pictures of the walls, fences, or barriers already installed on some 650 miles of the 2,000-mile border, you should do so right now. Considerable damage to the environment, the economies of border communities, and individual human lives has already been accomplished by the militarization of the border. In 1961, the Berlin Wall appeared almost overnight. It was physical and metaphorical, carrying a weighty ideological message to Western “fascists,” who, according to the U.S.S.R. were trying to destroy the socialist state.

Rev. Barber: America Needs A New Poor People’s Campaign

Rev. William Barber addresses supporters at Halifax Mall outside the state legislature in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, June 17, 2013. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gerry Broome

By William J. Barber, II for Think Progress – In a spectacle of religious hypocrisy last week, preachers who say so much about what God says so little — and so little about what God says so much — stood in the Rose Garden as a backdrop for President Donald Trump’s executive order on “religious liberty.” As they celebrated this administration’s willingness to let them use religious freedom as an excuse to force their “values” on someone else, Trump pointed to the legacy of the African-American church as an example of faith in public life. In every con, there’s a grain of truth, whether the person who is speaking knows it or now. I know the prophetic African American church tradition that grew up on the edges of plantations and spoke clearly for the first time into this nation’s public life when Hariet Tubman and Frederick Douglass first escaped from slavery to freedom. On my mother and father’s side of our family tree combined, I count more than eight hundred years of public ministry in that tradition. We do not know how to preach without engaging the powers in the public square. Whenever I open the Scriptures, I read about a God who hears the cry of the suffering and stands on the side of the oppressed for justice.

Where Is The Peace Movement When We Really Need It?

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By Ethan Young for The Indypendent – We now live under a regime that sees catastrophic war moves as a handy distraction from its endless failures. The boundaries between the executive branch, corporations, finance and the military are fast losing substance. We stand by in horror as they play chicken with the world from Syria to Russia to North Korea. A mass peace movement is urgently needed but still a long way away. Why? There are a number of “common sense” reasons that have been floating around the left for decades. There is a long-held belief that ending the draft removed the life-or-death motivation that revived anti-interventionism beyond all expectations during the Vietnam war. Continued sympathy for the Democratic Party is also blamed for the lack of protest over the war moves of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. However, what is extraordinary about the U.S. peace movement is not that it receded, but that it emerged at all during the 1960s, affecting the national culture and posing lasting problems for both dominant parties. This mini-enlightenment marked a shift in national consensus from ardently pro-military to anti-intervention, with elements of pacifism and persistent anti-fascism that were defining features of the emerging counterculture.

Purity Over Principle: The Left’s State Of Purgatory

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By Danny Haiphong for Black Agenda Report – The first 100 days of Donald Trump’s Presidency has revealed much about the state of political thought and action in the United States. Mainly, Trump’s ascendancy thus far has been a hard lesson on the still ambiguous and disorganized condition of the left. But what, or who, is the Left? This broad but critical question still warrants an answer. However, the question cannot be answered unless the left’s state of purgatory in the US is fully understood. Purgatory is often referenced in Christianity as the space between the divine light of heaven and the profound darkness of hell. Purgatory has another definition rooted in mental anguish. For the left, purgatory can be better described as ideological anguish. Little clarity exists among left organizations and groups on the most pertinent questions of the historical moment, leaving the left in an ineffectual “no man’s land.” One consequence of the left’s purgatory has been the complete entrapment of politics inside of a US-Eurocentric quest for purity at the expense of political principles. The Trump Administration verified the left’s entrapment with its recent war maneuvers against Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Preparing For The Next ‘Movement Moment’

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By George Lakey for Waging Nonviolence – As alumni of the 2011 Occupy Wall Street phenomenon might tell you, more preparation might have expanded Occupy’s impact. Such a “movement moment” is inevitably marked by improvisation, but bringing lessons learned from previous uprisings is bound to help. More such moments are on their way — particularly in countries like the United States, which are experiencing increasing polarization and longer-term decline of the legitimacy of both political and economic establishments. We can’t predict where and when the next movement moment will start. Fortunately, help has shown up to steer us away from predictable mistakes when the moment comes. Jonathan Matthew Smucker’s new book is right in time, revealing deep learning from the important role he played in the Occupy movement. He also draws on years of other organizing work and his research on social movements. The book starts with a deliberately provocative title: “Hegemony How-To: A Road Map for Radicals.” Hegemony, Smucker says, is acceptance by the mainstream of a particular worldview as common sense.

“Storm The Heavens”: Notes From The Weather Underground On Resistance

Weather Underground Organization founding members Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn speak in San Francisco, California, February 20, 2009. (Photo: Steve Rhodes)

By Dahr Jamail for Truthout – Those of us living within the borders of the United States currently find ourselves living inside the churning engine of a hyper-militarized corporate-fascist farce of a democracy that is spiraling into darkness. The blades of this death-machine are grinding what is left of our precious planet into dust. Now, think back nearly five decades ago to the late 1960s. The Vietnam War was escalating dramatically and imperialism was lurching forward rapidly enough to cause ongoing demonstrations and political activism to spread like wildfire across the seething country. Some were fueled by a hunger for justice great enough they engaged in armed struggle against the US government. It was they who comprised The Weather Underground Organization (WUO), a faction of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that took up arms in solidarity with the Black Panthers and other militant groups with the aim to “Bring the War Home.” Going underground to escape the relentless pursuit of the FBI and other law enforcement, the group managed to carry out several high-profile bombings…

What Does It Take For Activists To Get Your Attention?

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By Brian Martin for Waging Nonviolence – For major protests today, it is standard to have a media strategy. For example, there can be individuals assigned to media liaison. The location and timing of an action can be chosen with an eye toward media schedules. Some actions are designed specifically to attract media attention. However, there are many factors that complicate activist efforts to reach the mass media. Major outlets choose what to report based on news values such as conflict, prominence and proximity. A politician will be quoted rather than an activist, and a scuffle at a rally will be reported rather than what the protest is actually about. Activists can try to sidestep the mass media by using social media. Another option is simply to not worry so much about media coverage and focus on making actions meaningful for participants. After all, protesters are part of the audience. There is lots of practical advice on how to send the protest message, and it is definitely worth understanding media dynamics and taking them into account. However, protesters will nearly always be at a disadvantage when trying to compete with dominant groups…

Beyond Voting: Skills You Need To Get Shit Done In A Democracy

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By Staff of The Leap Blog – In my hometown of Billings, Montana, I was leading a training on effective public commenting last month at the local library. We had just finished watching a five-minute video I put together with a few examples of compelling speakers. I didn’t know if anyone would come, because I hadn’t done any active recruitment—just made an event on Facebook and waited to see who showed up. There was no specific issue I was pushing, no ask of the attendees. And to my surprise, forty people showed up. Before Trump, I doubt there would have been more than five or ten. As one political party ceded the driver’s seat to the other, tens of millions of people had been dozing on the passenger side

Begging For Our Lives

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By Margaret Flowers for Health Over Profit – “Indiegogo, which launched in 2008 to help filmmakers raise money online, has seen such a marked uptick in personal fundraising to pay for medical costs that it recently started Indiegogo Life — for personal causes, including healthcare. There are a host of other medical crowd-funding sites such as GoFundMe and YouCaring — both of which also report huge increases in medical fundraising in the last two years.” “Here’s a way to give to an individual — it might be someone you know or someone you’ve never met. You know what their need is and that your donation will go to meeting their exact need,” says Leonard Lee, head of communications for YouCaring based in San Francisco.” “A lot of people who thought they had adequate insurance coverage find themselves in situations where insurance is not enough,” he says.

Love, Western Nihilism And Revolutionary Optimism

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By Andre Vltchek for Investigation Action – How dreadfully depressing life has become in almost all of the Western cities! How awful and sad. It is not that these cities are not rich; they are. Of course things are deteriorating there, the infrastructure is crumbling and there are signs of social inequality, even misery, at every corner. But if compared to almost all other parts of the world, the wealth of the Western cities still appears to be shocking, almost grotesque. The affluence does not guarantee contentment, happiness or optimism. Spend an entire day strolling through London or Paris, and pay close attention to people. You will repeatedly stumble over passive aggressive behavior, over frustration and desperate downcast glances, over omnipresent sadness.

Manifesto For A Naïve Activism

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By Rev. Billy Talen for Common Dreams – It is the darkest of times; it is the brightest of times. A mentally ill President slouches toward the nuclear suitcase to mistake a Twitter feed for the big one. But he can see in the windows of the Oval Office, out in streets, the 99% and the Black Lives and the Kayaktivists and the Pussy Power and the Dreamers and the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. This succession of startling movements are the seeds of our revolution. The pattern over the five plus years since Occupy Wall Street is one of peaks and valleys. Up in the visionary light of a life-saving rebellion and then down into the aftermath of months and months of organizing, meetings and marches and rallies…