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Lessons from Iceland: The People Can Have the Power
Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Guardian/UK
As early progress in Iceland shows since the banking collapse, the 21st century will be the century of the common people, of us
The Dutch minister of internal affairs said at a speech during free press day this year: “Law-making is like a sausage, no one really wants to know what is put in it.” He was referring to how expensive the Freedom of Information Act is, and was suggesting that journalists shouldn’t really be asking for so much governmental information. His words exposed one of the core problems in our democracies: too many people don’t care what goes into the sausage, not even the so-called law-makers, the parliamentarians.
If the 99% want to reclaim our power, our societies, we have to start somewhere. An important first step is to sever the ties between the corporations and the state by making the process of lawmaking more transparent and accessible for everyone who cares to know or contribute. We have to know what is in that law sausage; the monopoly of the corporate lobbyist has to end – especially when it comes to laws regulating banking and the internet.
The Icelandic nation only consists 311,000 souls, so we have a relatively small bureaucratic body and can move quicker then in most countries. Many have seen Iceland as the ideal country for experimentation for new solutions in an era of transformation. I agree.
We had the first revolution after the financial troubles in 2008. Due to a lack of transparency, corruption and nepotism, Iceland had the third largest financial meltdown in human history, and it shook us profoundly. The Icelandic people realised that everything we had put our trust in had failed us. One of the demands during the protests that followed – and that resulted in getting rid of the government, the central bank manager and the head of the financial authority – was that we would get to rewrite our constitution. “We” meaning the 99%, not the politicians who had failed us. Another demand was that we should have real democratic tools, such as being able to call directly for a national referendum and dissolve parliament.
Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a poet who has served since April 2009 as an MP in the Icelandic parliament for the Movement, a political movement for democratic reform beyond party politics, which she helped create.
(15 November 2011)
Ex-banker turned Hindu monk urges Wall Street to meditate
Tom Heneghan, Reuters
Rasanath Das, an ex-investment banker turned Hindu monk, was spending recent Sunday afternoons leading Occupy Wall Street protesters in meditation until police cleared their camp at New York’s Zuccotti Park this week.
The 32-year-old monk isn’t sure now where his next session will be. He’ll keep following the protesters to lead meditation, though, convinced they will only roll back the inequality around them if they find equanimity deep inside.
“Anger won’t solve anything,” he told Reuters. “We have to work from the heart … there is so much distrust now.”
Das has been a discreet presence at the protests, leading short sessions before making way for other religious leaders to preach at a weekly interfaith service. What he doesn’t tell is the unlikely story of how he ended up in Lower Manhattan.
A native of Mumbai, Das studied at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and moved to the United States in 2000 to work as a consultant with the accounting firm Deloitte.
After earning a masters of business administration (MBA) at Cornell, he started at Bank of America in 2006.
His specialty was the technology, media and telecoms sector and he dealt in so-called structured products, including mortgage-backed securities — “the things that blew up, the toxic products” as he put it in a telephone interview.
(17 November 2011)
Former Philadelphia Police Captain Joins Occupy Protesters, Gets Arrested
Former Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis joined Occupy Wall Street protesters on Tuesday.
He was seen holding a sign reading “NYPD Don’t Be Wall Street Mercenaries.”
In a video interview with Livestreamers, he railed against the excessive power of corporate America and the wrongful eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park. He said if the occupations “continue to grow, you’re going to see a lot more of the FBI.”
This morning, taking part in the national day of action, Lewis was arrested. @OccupyWallStNYC tweets that there were cheers as he was taken away.
(17 November 2011)
Occupy the Skies! Protesters Could Use Spy Drones
Spencer Ackerman, Wired.com / Danger Room via Common Dreams
The proliferation of drones throughout the military — and into civilian law enforcement — can make it feel like we’re living in an airborne panopticon. But flying robots are agnostic about who they train their gaze upon, and can spy on cops as easily as they can spy on civilians.
In the video above, protesters in Warsaw got a drone’s eye view of a phalanx of police in riot gear during a heated Saturday demonstration. The drone — spotted by Wired editor-in-chief and drone-builder Chris Anderson — was a tiny Polish RoboKopter equipped with a videocamera.
As Chris observes, no more do citizens need to wait for news choppers to get aerial footage of a major event. With drones, they can shoot their own overhead video. But the implications run deeper than that.
(17 November 2011)
A Career Occupation (video)
Brent McDonald, Matthew Orr, New York Times
A week before police evicted protesters from Zuccotti Park, Tim Weldon quit his job in Connecticut to be closer to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
(? November 2011)
Interesting profile of a highly educated, unemployed, fully committed activist. -BA
5,000 books reportedly thrown out in Occupy Wall Street raid
Los Angeles Times
More than 5,000 books in the Occupy Wall Street library were reportedly thrown away when police moved in to remove protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York early Tuesday.
During the police raid, Occupy Wall Street librarians tweeted, “NYPD destroying american cultural history, they’re destroying the documents, the books, the artwork of an event in our nation’s history,” Galleycat reports. “Right now, the NYPD are throwing over 5,000 books from our library into a dumpster. Will they burn them? … Call 311 or 212-639-9675 now and ask why Mayor Bloomberg is throwing the 5,554 books from our library into a dumpster.”
The Village Voice has asked city officials what happened to the library books, but has not yet recieved a response.
“I watched the stuff thrown into sanitation trucks and just crushed,” Lopi LaRoe, a 47-year-old Brooklyn artist, told a reporter.
The library, which started out as a box of books and grew to a collection of more than 5,000, was originally out in the open air. Rocker, poet and National Book Award winner Patti Smith donated a tent to house the library and protect the books from the weather.
(15 November 2011)
OWS librarians have compiled a list of what is missing. (Guardian blog)
This Is What Revolution Looks Like
Chris Hedges, TruthDig
… The historian Crane Brinton in his book “Anatomy of a Revolution” laid out the common route to revolution. The preconditions for successful revolution, Brinton argued, are discontent that affects nearly all social classes, widespread feelings of entrapment and despair, unfulfilled expectations, a unified solidarity in opposition to a tiny power elite, a refusal by scholars and thinkers to continue to defend the actions of the ruling class, an inability of government to respond to the basic needs of citizens, a steady loss of will within the power elite itself and defections from the inner circle, a crippling isolation that leaves the power elite without any allies or outside support and, finally, a financial crisis. Our corporate elite, as far as Brinton was concerned, has amply fulfilled these preconditions. But it is Brinton’s next observation that is most worth remembering. Revolutions always begin, he wrote, by making impossible demands that if the government met would mean the end of the old configurations of power. The second stage, the one we have entered now, is the unsuccessful attempt by the power elite to quell the unrest and discontent through physical acts of repression.
I have seen my share of revolts, insurgencies and revolutions, from the guerrilla conflicts in the 1980s in Central America to the civil wars in Algeria, the Sudan and Yemen, to the Palestinian uprising to the revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania as well as the wars in the former Yugoslavia. George Orwell wrote that all tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but that once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force. We have now entered the era of naked force. The vast million-person bureaucracy of the internal security and surveillance state will not be used to stop terrorism but to try and stop us.
Despotic regimes in the end collapse internally. Once the foot soldiers who are ordered to carry out acts of repression, such as the clearing of parks or arresting or even shooting demonstrators, no longer obey orders, the old regime swiftly crumbles. When the aging East German dictator Erich Honecker was unable to get paratroopers to fire on protesting crowds in Leipzig, the regime was finished. The same refusal to employ violence doomed the communist governments in Prague and Bucharest. I watched in December 1989 as the army general that the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had depended on to crush protests condemned him to death on Christmas Day. Tunisia’s Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak lost power once they could no longer count on the security forces to fire into crowds.
The process of defection among the ruling class and security forces is slow and often imperceptible. These defections are advanced through a rigid adherence to nonviolence, a refusal to respond to police provocation and a verbal respect for the blue-uniformed police, no matter how awful they can be while wading into a crowd and using batons as battering rams against human bodies. The resignations of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s deputy, Sharon Cornu, and the mayor’s legal adviser and longtime friend, Dan Siegel, in protest over the clearing of the Oakland encampment are some of the first cracks in the edifice. “Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators,” Siegel tweeted after his resignation.
(15 November 2011)