Occupy Sandy pulls a drive-by

On November 28th, 2012 Occupy Sandy pulled a drive-by shooting at a Mobil gas station on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to premiere a movie which brought attention to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, Occupy Sandy, and the hurricane’s ties to Global Warming.

The weapon of choice for the drive-by was a projector, more commonly known as “The Illuminator.” (You can follow it @illuminator99)

The movie highlighted the aide Occupy Sandy was providing for effected communities; had interviews with members of Occupy Sandy and the leaders of the churches where they based their relief efforts; interviews with members of the communities Occupy Sandy had coordinated relief with were included; and there was also a short (in-depth) discussion on the connections between Hurricane Sandy and Global Warming, featuring Bill McKibben of 350.org.

Click here for the Vimeo page with the Occupy Sandy movie.

The movie was projected onto the wall above a mobile gas station. See below:

Movie on wall above gas station.

Movie on wall above gas station.

The mobile sign and a gas pump.

The mobile sign and a gas pump.

Here is footage of the movie being projected and the crowd watching.

Here is footage of The Illuminator projecting from the truck that carries it, and more of the crowd watching.

From the movie here are a few clips:
(Note these are not segments. The movie will play completely after each one. These marks are just the beginnings of interesting scenes.)

This starts with a tour of a devastated house. An eerie moment in this video is when the person giving the tour says it was *not* in an evacuation zone.

This is when the movie begins to talk about the organization behind Occupy Sandy.

This is when the movie begins to discuss the communities Occupy Sandy networked with to coordinate relief efforts.

This is a discussion with Rector Michael Sniffen of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, 520 Clinton Ave (yes, the one recently set on fire). He talks about how FEMA is a large operation and can sometimes take weeks to set up. Some don’t have weeks though as they are without food and water. In response to this need Occupy Sandy mobilized and found relief hubs in churches from which to operate out of. Rector Sniffen talks about the disaster capitalists who would work to make destroyed areas profitable for themselves as (to paraphrase) they only see poor people in devastated areas. He also mentions Mayor Bloomberg’s “Rapid Rebuilding Initiative” which the Rector said has the marks of a development project. The Rector also mentions the dangers of impending Global Warming.

Here is a scene from a boardwalk showing the devastation right by the beach.

Back at the “gas station screening” a few members of the community spoke to the attending crowd after the movie.

A member of Occupy Sandy welcomes everyone to the event. She explains the height of the water at the gas station when Hurricane Sandy struck. She then introduces the first speaker.

The director of the movie being screened spoke next.

Next a resident of Rockaway spoke to the crowd.

Finally a member of Communities Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) read a prepared statement.

After this the crowd disbanded from the gas station and the event was over.

A few more scenes from the movie are worth pointing out though:

Bill McKibben first appears in the movie discussing the connections between Global Warming and Hurricane Sandy.

An interesting thought he had is about how to properly name hurricanes. Instead of giving them the names of people why not name them after the corporations responsible for their magnitude. This would effect how the Hurricanes were reported on by the news. Examples McKibben gave of how the news could then treat their coverage are: “Exxon is coming ashore along the Jersey Coast destroying houses left and right;” and “Exxon [just] smashed into lower Manhattan, flooding the subway system.”

Another scary thing McKibben points out is, “This summer we melted the arctic. We took one of the biggest physical features on earth and broke it.”

Here is a video diagram of New York’s carbon footprint. The movie acknowledges the size of New York’s footprint while still explaining it is lower than much of the rest of the country.

The movie gives a very good overview of what caused the need for Occupy Sandy and how helpful it has been. The drive-in gas station screening was just a lot of fun. Popcorn was served as well!

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Idle No More in Washington Square Park

On Friday December 28th in Washington Square Park activists performed a solidarity flash mob for the growing, but already Canada-wide, “Idle No More” movement opposing the recent passage of the C-45 bill.

Bill C-45 greatly diminishes the sovereignty of the Indian people’s rights to their own land in favor of the economic interests of a few. From the Idle No More website “The Bill brings forward changes specifically to the Indian Act that will lower the threshold of community consent in the designation and surrender process of Indian Reserve Lands.” Furthermore, a direct quote from Sheelah Mclean on the same website reads “the changes they are making to the environmental legislation is stunning in terms of the protections it will take away from the bodies of water – rivers and lakes, across the country.”

An October 19th article from the CBCNews website explains how the C-45 Omnibus bill includes a change to the 130-year-old Navigable Waters Protection Act. The change would leave only “three oceans, 97 lakes and 62 rivers…under federal protection…” “Over 8,500 rivers and 2 million lakes cover almost 9% of Canada’s total area.”

The bill also frees corporations like TransCanada from many of the obstacles which were previously in place, and complicating, the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. A pipeline which will bring Tar Sands Oil (the dirtiest oil in the world) to America for refinement. Check out my blog about a march on Washington against the Keystone XL pipeline for more information on Tar Sands Oil.

The flash mob was attended by a very diverse crowd. Which included a few Occupy Wall Street activists but also many more members of indigenous tribes in Canada, Long Island, and even one from Arizona.

The crowd gathering.

A few participants arriving for the flash mob.

The flashmob in full swing in the fountain area of Washington Square Park.

The flashmob in full swing around the fountain area of Washington Square Park.

Here is a video of the crowd in the above photo.

Members of the flashmob walk sideways in a circle holding signs.

Members of the flash mob walk sideways in a circle holding signs.

A sign of support for Chief Spence.

A sign supporting Chief Spence.

Who is Chief Spence you might ask?

Chief Spence is from the Attawapiskat First Nation and is currently in her 3rd week of a hunger strike in protest of C-45. (See reference article)

A straight-forward sign of opposition.

A straight-forward sign of opposition.

An American flag with a Native American's likeness on it.

An American flag with a Native American’s likeness on it.

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This next element of the flash mob was somewhat out-of-place but it did add another element to the experience:

A tap dancer.

A tap dancer.

Here is video of a short tap dance amidst the flash mob.

For more information on the extent of the C-45 bill watch this gentleman’s brief discussion of it. Here is a link to the gentleman’s write-up of the day.

Two times a call and response was created from the words “Idle No More.” This was the first time.

In the middle of the flash mob was something of a prayer circle. Here are a few photos.

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Here is video of the prayer circle.

Next is a video of the some signs being held as people circled and it climaxes with a few seconds footage from within the prayer circle again.

As the flash mob continued a wonderful moment presented itself. A few children holding a sign expressing the need to protect future generations.

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Shortly thereafter the flash mob reached its climax as many gathered into smaller circles for more intimacy.

The flash mob ended with yet another call and response of “Idle! No More!”

A "group photo" with signs of solidarity.

A “group photo” with signs of solidarity.

Following the flash mob were a few interviews.

The first with an activist and supporter.

Next was an interview with two young ladies who had origins with indigenous tribes.

Next I spoke with a Native Gentleman.

Next I conducted a brief interview with an elder.

Next I spoke with a First Nation member.

Some supporters of the Idle No More movement.

Some supporters of the Idle No More movement.

The flash mob was a very interesting experience and it definitely drew attention to the importance of sovereignty and territorial issues. Unfortunately bill C-45 has been passed, but the Idle No More movement has spread across Canada and has even found supporters as far as Palestine. Only time will tell where it goes from here. No matter what, even though Idle No More did originate in Canada, it has grown larger and has found itself encompassing the struggles of many more around the globe who suffer at the hands of Neo-Liberal policies.

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Merry Fare Hike!

On Monday December 24, five Occupy Wall Street protesters gathered in Union Square to inform people of the coming MTA fare Hike in 2013, through parodies of Christmas carols.

Before continuing any further here is a link to the Powerpoint presentation released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) which discusses the coming fares, the MTA’s deficit problems, new toll increases, which groups use (or doesn’t use) unlimited rides, and much more. (Pages will be specified later in this post).

When will the fare hike be instated? The base fare for a Metrocard is now $2.25; on March 1st of 2013 the price will rise by $0.25, to $2.50. The Metrocard bonus, which one gets with their purchase of a new card (when the purchased metrocard is not an unlimited pass) will drop from 7% to 5%. The 7-day unlimited card will rise to $30, and the 30-day unlimited card will become $112.

The MTA has taken on numerous different construction projects over the past few years. New bannisters have been installed all over the transit system, a new subway line is being built to give greater Access to Manhattan’s East Side, surveillance systems as well are being installed on many trains and buses. The majority of the money received from the fare hike will go towards another need though. Paying off Wall Street banks.

The first side of the informational flyer handed out by the carolers.

The first side of the informational flyer handed out by the carolers.

To quote the above flyer which was handed out as the caroling protesters sang, “Several major banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, UBS, AIG, and Ambac) have arrangements with the MTA that are called interest rate swap deals. The MTA pays banks a steady, fixed interest rate on a bond, and the banks pay us back a variable rate based on market fluctuations. This was supposed to be a way to protect the MTA from rates going up in the future, and both sides are supposed to break even. But since the 2008 crash dramatically lowered interest rates, we continue to pay on average 4.5% interest on these deals, and get 1.62% back from the banks, who get to pocket the difference as profit. Now, the MTA is forcing transit riders to foot the bill. Even the MTA admits that this fare hike can’t cover the cost of debts accrued by its irresponsible leadership.”

With regards to how much of this fare hike will go towards paying for labor costs… Not much, if any at all. The MTA workers are still without a contract, and the MTA does not want to raise worker pay for another 5 years, despite the current recession.

For a spoken rundown of much of the above information, see this video where activist Ingrid Burrington, who made the informative flyers, explains the situation.

How about the obvious need for repairs of damages incurred by Hurricane Sandy. Have they been factored into the MTA’s deficit calculations? Not yet. The fare hike has been in the works since September.

Here is a photo of the other side of the informative flyer which was being handed out while caroling.

The second side of the informative flyer accompanying the carolers.

The second side of the informative flyer accompanying the carolers.

Now for some songs.

Caroling by the Farmer's Market.

Caroling by the Farmer’s Market.

The carolers sing their parodies by the Farmer’s Market of Union Square. The order of songs in this video is “God Rest Ye, MTA Chairman” followed by “MTA, Please Take a Fucking Stand.”

The group sings a parody of the popular tune Jingle Bells.

Before going any further feel free to read the lyrics of the three parodies from the following song sheet.

The lyrics for the Christmas carol parodies.

The lyrics for the Christmas carol parodies.

At this point the group decided to relocate to the fountain by 14th St. Here is a short clip of some of the walk through the holiday market. Once we arrived at the fountain, which was in the middle of the holiday market. The activist caroling resumed:

Caroling to the crowd.

Caroling to the crowd in Union Square.

The first carol sang was the parody of Jingle Bells.

Activist Shawn Carrie promotes the coming fare hike sarcastically.

More caroling at the fountain in Union Square.

More caroling at the fountain in Union Square.

The next carol was “God Rest Ye, MTA Chairman”

The next, and last, carol the group sang outdoors was “MTA, Please Take a Fucking Stand”

Due to the cold weather, and the limitations of outreach capabilities in the holiday market, the caroling continued in the subways.

Following are 6 videos of singing as the group jumped from train to train, and sometimes from train car to train car, serenading passengers between on the rides between stops. In no particular order here are the 6 videos (note: to skip the introductions in the videos below I have made time markings for when the singing starts in the video description):

God Rest Ye, MTA Chairman.

MTA, Please Take a Fucking Stand.

Jingle Bell parody.

The group poses for a picture in between train carols.

The group poses for a picture in between train carols.

When the train rode over the Manhattan Bridge the carolers had an opportunity to sing 2 songs. They chose their Jingle Bells parody and God Rest Ye, MTA Chairman.

Another video of MTA, Please Take a Fucking Stand.

Another performance of God Rest Ye, MTA Chairman.

On most trains the group was met with applause at the end. Only once did anyone comment how people on the train were “offended.” Shortly after he said this though another gentleman on the train applauded our caroling as we finished. Flyers like the one shown above were distributed to train riders and here and there a few passengers chuckled at the lyrics.

Once again, the Powerpoint presentation released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

Important pages to note are page 2, where a strategy for how to balance the MTA’s budget is briefly outlined; Page 4, where a chart illustrates how “the proposed fare and toll increases cover only 35% of the increase in non-discretionary expenses”; Page 5, where a chart explains how “even with planned fare/toll increases and cost containment, deficits totaling $503 million remain”; Page 8, where a statistic seems to indicate it is lower income customers who use the most non-discounted fares. This essentially means those of the lowest incomes (who will be hit the hardest by the fare hike anyway) will face the greatest hardship as they already use the most non-discounted fares statistically; Page 10, where it is explained what changes in fare were made in 2011; Page 13, where 2013 commuter rail fare changes are discussed; Page 15, where changes in tolls are discussed; and page 16, where a list of “Expanded Hearings for Robust Public Input” is provided. To quickly note, the expanded hearings “for robust public input” listed on Page 16 generally start around 5 pm. Is this normally when people just getting out from work? How long were the hearings? Did people have time to get to these meetings meant for “robust public input?”

On the informative flyer which was distributed to train passengers, and all others who were interested, the the following is written as well (some of it meant to be humorous):

“But what can we do?

Tell bank executives and CEOs to renegotiate or cancel the swaps at no cost to the MTA, or transit riders. Use any means necessary to hold banks accountable. Accountability can take a lot of forms – letter writing, protesting, online trolling, street art, fare striking… Challenge the MTA – and all of us – to come up with better cost-cutting options. Come up with some yourself! Get creative. Start a metrocard co-op with your neighbors, co-workers, or friends. Start a bail fund for turnstile jumping. Lock some exits open. Share your ideas!”

The informative flyer includes its own statement of summary as well:
“The cost of transit keeps going up, while wages aren’t. In 7 years, base fare will have gone up 75%. Last fare hike, this fare hike, the next fare hike-they still wont deal with the MTA’s massive (and growing) deficit, according to the MTA’s own projections. Even if you can afford it (which well over a third of the city’s population can’t), do you really want to pay that extra cost if it’s only going to perpetual debt to mega-banks? Are we ready for austerity in NYC?”

I also have a feeling this might make a trip to NYC, for tourists, even more costly than it already is.

You can find more information at www.mtaoutsider.info You can also email mtaoutsider@gmail.com

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Naked Boehner

On November 27th, Act Up NY took a bus to Washington D.C. to protest potential AIDS budget cuts at Speaker John Boehner’s office by stripping nude in his office.

Though talk of the Fiscal Cliff has drawn more attention now, those who would end up feeling the brunt of the cutbacks were fully aware of the problems and were willing to strip down to stand up a month ago.

Recently the debates have centered mostly around tax cuts for wealthier Americans and, for some reason, cuts to Social Security benefits. Even President Obama has considered cutting Social Security payments. Others have already reported Food Stamp shortages and one can only imagine what other cutbacks might be made under the veil of the “Tax Cuts/Social Security debate.” One scenario to consider might be tax cuts for the middle-class (the one that has the most votes), tax increases for wealthier individuals (an issue where President Obama now has a lot more political strength than before re-election), and cut-backs in social programs for lower-income groups (the one with the least voting power).

Included in this lower-income group are those suffering from HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately, when cut-backs are made to lower-income groups this usually has a severe toll on the lives of the members of that group (as they are often dependent upon the aide they receive). Unfortunately though, in the realm of politics (even before the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling), your income often directly correlates with your political influence. The less influence you have, the less of a concern you are. Once your position of influence is viewed with this consideration the farther right of center a politician stands, the less concern s/he has for your struggle.

Many with HIV and AIDS are easily lumped into this less influential category. For this reason Act Up NY joined with a group of Act Up members from Philadelphia to bring the realities of their lives to Speaker John Boehner’s office, and make a demand for “no more budget cuts on their backs.” They also promoted the proposed Robin Hood Tax (More on that below).

Following are 7 videos streamed by @jak_nlauren. You can find their channel at www.ustream.tv/channel/jnl-live

Here is the first video of the naked activists chanting “People with AIDS are under attack! What do we do? Act Up fight back!” and “Boehner, Boehner, don’t be a dick! Budget cuts will make us sick!”

Here is another video of the activists chanting a different mantra which is just as meaningful.

In the second video there is a reference to something called the “Robin Hood Tax.” For those who don’t know, the Robin Hood Tax would place a 0.05% tax on all Wall Street transactions. This one measure would generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year (See reference article).

Here is a video of an activist discussing where the money raised from a Robin Hood Tax could go.

Here is a video of an activist reporting statistics on the lives which will be lost if the proposed budget cuts were to pass.

Here is a video of another activist detailing more of the pains which cut-backs in AIDS assistance would cause.

Another video detailing the effects of budget cuts.

This is the final video from the part of the action at Speaker Boehner’s office. The video begins with a woman detailing her experiences living with AIDS. Following this Lauren of @jak_nlauren does a quick recap of the action. Following her recap a long-time Act Up member gives a statistic on the number of people who die from AIDS every minute.

Following the demonstration at Speaker Boehner’s office the group decided to make an unplanned stop at Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office to bring the same message. This time they kept their clothes on.

This video shows the conversation between Act Up members and a representative from Minority Leader Pelosi’s office who was sent to greet the group.

No arrests were made at the second stop on this day of action. However, at Speaker Boehner’s office 3 of the women who stripped naked were arrested.

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FOIA request reveals secret nationwide Occupy monitoring.

The following post will grow over time as more information is discovered about the document. I will post more information from other articles as more information comes out. I might try to look it over a little as well. However, to those who decide to look the document over on their own or find articles with their own findings. Feel free to post your findings in the comments section with references to particular websites, or references to particular pages and locations on the pages of the document (if you chose to read it on your own). If and when I verify your findings from the document itself I’d be happy to include it in this post.

Note: I will not accept any findings which cannot be proven through a simple reading of the document below. Do NOT use imaginations here. If you see it written, post it. If you are taking liberties and educated guesses from things you’ve read be sure to explain how you came to those conclusions with proof and links. Should you not include a reasonable path to your conclusion the post will not even be considered for inclusion. All that said… let’s have some fun…

Here is a link to the actual document released by the FBI via Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Copied from their website, The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has released this breakdown (at the bottom of this page is an iframe PDF of the above document):

“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

—-As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.

—-The FBI’s Indianapolis division released a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” on September 15, 2011, even though they acknowledged that no specific protest date had been scheduled in Indiana. The documents show that the Indianapolis division of the FBI was coordinating with “All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” as well as the “Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center,” the FBI “Directorate of Intelligence” and other national FBI coordinating mechanisms.

—-Documents show the spying abuses of the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to “sixteen (16) different campus police officials,” and then “six (6) additional campus police officials.” Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS. A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.

—-Documents released show coordination between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and corporate America. They include a report by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), described by the federal government as “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector,” discussing the OWS protests at the West Coast ports to “raise awareness concerning this type of criminal activity.” The DSAC report shows the nature of secret collaboration between American intelligence agencies and their corporate clients – the document contains a “handling notice” that the information is “meant for use primarily within the corporate security community. Such messages shall not be released in either written or oral form to the media, the general public or other personnel…” (The DSAC document was also obtained by the Northern California ACLU which has sought local FBI surveillance files.)

—-Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) reported to the DSAC on the relationship between OWS and organized labor for the port actions. The NCIS describes itself as “an elite worldwide federal law enforcement organization” whose “mission is to investigate and defeat criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats to the United States Navy and Marine Corps ashore, afloat and in cyberspace.” The NCIS also assists with the transport of Guantanamo prisoners.

—-DSAC issued several tips to its corporate clients on “civil unrest” which it defines as ranging from “small, organized rallies to large-scale demonstrations and rioting.” It advised to dress conservatively, avoid political discussions and “avoid all large gatherings related to civil issues. Even seemingly peaceful rallies can spur violent activity or be met with resistance by security forces. Bystanders may be arrested or harmed by security forces using water cannons, tear gas or other measures to control crowds.”

—-The FBI in Anchorage reported from a Joint Terrorism Task Force meeting of November 3, 2011, about Occupy activities in Anchorage.

—-A port Facility Security Officer in Anchorage coordinated with the FBI to attend the meeting of protestors and gain intelligence on the planning of the port actions. He was advised to request the presence of an Anchorage Police Department official to also attend the event. The FBI Special Agent told the undercover private operative that he would notify the Joint Terrorism Task Force and that he would provide a point of contact at the Anchorage Police Department.

—-The Jacksonville, Florida FBI prepared a Domestic Terrorism briefing on the “spread of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” in October 2011. The intelligence meeting discussed Occupy venues identifying “Daytona, Gainesville and Ocala Resident Agency territories as portions …where some of the highest unemployment rates in Florida continue to exist.”

—-The Tampa, Florida FBI “Domestic Terrorism” liaison participated with the Tampa Police Department’s monthly intelligence meeting in which Occupy Lakeland, Occupy Polk County and Occupy St. Petersburg were discussed. They reported on an individual “leading the Occupy Tampa” and plans for travel to Gainesville for a protest planning meeting, as well as on Veterans for Peace plans to protest at MacDill Air Force Base.

—-The Federal Reserve in Richmond appears to have had personnel surveilling OWS planning. They were in contact with the FBI in Richmond to “pass on information regarding the movement known as occupy Wall Street.” There were repeated communications “to pass on updates of the events and decisions made during the small rallies and the following information received from the Capital Police Intelligence Unit through JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force).”

—-The Virginia FBI was collecting intelligence on the OWS movement for dissemination to the Virginia Fusion Center and other Intelligence divisions.

—-The Milwaukee division of the FBI was coordinating with the Ashwaubenon Public Safety division in Green Bay Wisconsin regarding Occupy.

—-The Memphis FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force met to discuss “domestic terrorism” threats, including, “Aryan Nations, Occupy Wall Street, and Anonymous.”

—-The Birmingham, AL division of the FBI sent communications to HAZMAT teams regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement.

—-The Jackson, Mississippi division of the FBI attended a meeting of the Bank Security Group in Biloxi, MS with multiple private banks and the Biloxi Police Department, in which they discussed an announced protest for “National Bad Bank Sit-In-Day” on December 7, 2011.

—-The Denver, CO FBI and its Bank Fraud Working Group met and were briefed on Occupy Wall Street in November 2011. Members of the Working Group include private financial institutions and local area law enforcement.

—-Jackson, MS Joint Terrorism Task Force issued a “Counterterrorism Preparedness” alert. This heavily redacted document includes the description, “To document…the Occupy Wall Street Movement.”

You can read the FBI – OWS documents here where we have uploaded them in searchable format for public viewing.

The PCJF filed Freedom of Information Act demands with multiple federal law enforcement agencies in the fall of 2011 as the Occupy crackdown began. The FBI initially attempted to limit its search to only one limited record keeping index. Recognizing this as a common tactic used by the FBI to conduct an inadequate search, the PCJF pressed forward demanding searches be performed of the FBI headquarters as well as FBI field offices nationwide.

The PCJF will continue to push for public disclosure of the government’s spy files and will release documents as they are obtained.”

Donate to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

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The following is copied from Raging Chicken Press. Quirky name, I know. The information however checks out.

“Jason Leopold, an investigative journalist for Truth-Out, has obtained FBI documents – through the Freedom of Information Act – relating to Occupy Wall Street. Most of the pages in the documents are redacted, and show concerns of cyber threats against the financial sector. However, there are questions of assassination plots against Occupy activists in Houston, Texas. Because the documents have redactions, it is not clear who or what group were planning the assassinations.

On page 61, the sections reads:

—-An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.

The bottom of page 68 and the top of page 69 reads:

—-On October 13, 2011, writer sent via email an excerpt [redacted] regarding FBI Houston’s [redacted] to all IA’s, SSRA’s and SSA [redacted]. This [redacted] identified the exploitation of the Occupy Movement by [redacted] interested in developing a long-term plan to kill local Occupy leaders via sniper fire.”

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The following photograph is a screenshot of the document (page 60 at the bottom) which I found on Facebook. The document reads “NYPD officer pepper sprayed five persons in holding area was broadcast by Anonymous (conducting live web feed of protests) and they have posted personal descriptive/contact data that reportedly relates to NYPD officer that conducted the pepper spray.”

The media in Liberty Square is referred to as Anonymous.

The media in Liberty Square is referred to here as Anonymous.

I’m not sure which incidence of pepper spraying this is referring to however, I can tell you it was people from Global Revolution doing the broadcasts. You can find their livefeed at www.globalrevolution.tv They are a media collective. They do not claim any connection with Anonymous. To lump Global Revolution in with Anonymous is really just a way to generalize the media group into a larger more loosely defined group, and further defame Global Revolution.

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The group who posted personal data of the officer may very well have been Anonymous. They most recently did this to the Westboro Baptist Church when it announced plans to demonstrate against the funerals of the Sandy Hook massacre, at the funeral itself. This process of releasing particular information is called “Doxing.” I presume that term comes from the word “Documents.” Documents=Docs=Dox=Doxing. Though they have been known to do this to certain (targeted) individuals they have also admitted the ease with which anyone can be Doxed through basic use of the internet and researching skills. Understand: Many have the ability to do it. Recognize: Most, do not.
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Thoughts on the Sandy Hook shooting.

Who remembers the shooting of the Sandy Hook elementary school on December 14th 2012? Strange question I know. I asked it because I think it would be impossible to *not* remember the shooting at this point.

On the day of there was nearly 24-hour coverage of the tragedy. In the following days I don’t think there was one news broadcast that didn’t involve some mention of the tragedy. Be that a mention of a “new development,” or a politician saying something to the press about it, or a discussion of the lax gun control in this country, or a mention of some heroic act amidst the tragedy, or an interview with a teacher who was present in the school at the time, or a mention of the Westboro Baptist Church going to demonstrate the massacre happened because “God hates fags,” or the question of whether or not Asperger’s Syndrome can drive someone to go into a school with an assault rifle and unload a clip or two, or…

Have I’ve proven my point yet? Do you think we’ve been saturated with enough information on this to fill our daily gossip requirements?

I sure hope we have because at this point I haven’t heard one new thing that’s really changed my perspective on what caused it and or my reactions to it.

When the shooting first happened I don’t think anyone knew how to react to it aside from becoming overwhelmed with shock, disgust, and sadness. This is an appropriate response. I felt the same thing. Then people started to get excited, became obsessed with it, and now the there are so many irrational responses out there it’s the classic sideshow that this country turns every tragedy into.

The first big reaction was to blame the NRA. There is a Facebook group on this too. It’s called “Occupy the NRA.” This just pissed me off. No, I’m not terribly attached to my gun. In fact I don’t even own a gun. I don’t really want one either. Blaming the NRA is ineffective and stupid though. They are a group, just like any other group, and they have a right to exist. Does the group itself advocate killing? I have my doubts. They just seem to have a religious interest in the right to bear arms… No comment.

Personally, I think the right to bear arms is important. I just think there should be more restrictions on how easy it is to get a gun. You know, do background checks on people? Make sure a device, which essentially exists for no other reason than to kill things, does not end up in an unstable person’s hands. Just an idea.

The NRA is not the problem. The problem is the NRA’s LOBBYING influence. The pro-gun lobby pumps a great deal more money into congress than the anti-gun lobby. The question of why this is so isn’t even the appropriate concern. The appropriate concern is why we allow for any policy initiatives to be influenced by money at all. The problem therefore is MONEY IN POLITICS!!!

If all you do is blame the NRA you are scapegoating. The NRA is not defined by their lobbying influence. The NRA is defined by their ideals. Even if you don’t agree with their ideals they are entitled to have them. Furthermore, even if you don’t agree with their ideals you still can’t blame the group as a whole when it’s their financial influence in government that is the problem. For that matter it is EVERY group’s financial influence in government that is the problem. Both left and right. Take the money out, make the government accountable to the people and not indebted to lobbyists and then we’ll see progress.

Now about showing respects and mourning. If you don’t know anyone who died in the shooting you’re really not in a position to mourn. We feel bad because we heard about the massacre on the news but that doesn’t mean we knew the people there. If you want to support in certain ways, fine. Don’t exaggerate your role and pretend to mourn for lost lives. Do things to remember the 20 children and 6 teachers, yes. Make calls to your congressman to promote gun regulation, yes. Promote mental health research, yes. Try not to glorify the shooter through excessive conversation about his past or his personality though. The focus of this should be the lives lost and let that be incentive to fix what led to this. The focus should *not* be the killer.

There was a meme going around social networks that was supposedly a Morgan Freeman quote. It ended up not being from him but the quote is just as accurate nevertheless:

“It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Whoever wrote this made a great point and there’s no need for further comment on it.

Let’s not jump to the conclusion all we hear about is the killer though. Oh we hear plenty of that, but the victims are talked about too… In the most gut-wrenching way imaginable. Oh yes, we hear about the story of a teacher who “heard gunfire in the hallway and knew something *terrible* was about to happen.” Wow, I could never imagine why a teacher would become worried of something happening when she hears gunfire in a school. I mean she goes to her class every day ready to teach children and spends 5 or 6 hours in a calm environment. In this calm environment what sounds would she normally hear? Children screaming sometimes? I suppose she might hear a chair fall over if one toddler decides to explore surroundings. Laughter is another common sound. She might hear silence too.

What does she see normally see though?! Other teachers, children running around; artwork on the wall; books?

Does it seem like it would be common to hear loud gunshots? Does it seem like the kind of environment where the teacher would likely see… I don’t know, someone holding an assault rifle?

No I have my doubts about that. In fact that seems like the kind of thing that would normally scare… well, anyone. I don’t know about you but I know I’d probably get nervous if I randomly heard and then saw someone in a crowd firing a weapon at people, much less children. This being the case, why did the news bother doing an interview with a woman who’d gotten out of the tragedy only to ask her to most obvious questions imaginable? I think ratings is a good enough answer.

Then there’s the overly specific news piece surrounding the children’s funeral. I actually heard them specify the length and width measurements for the coffin of a child named Noah. The interviews that followed were heartfelt (but generic) sadness really just there to fill air time. All is better though as they finished the report talking about people who brought puppies to the funeral to cheer everyone up. I’m all warm and fuzzy inside now. There’s puppies!

Couldn’t there be any more respect shown for the lives lost that day than to do such sensationalist reporting?

Now for the public reaction. The conversation to come out of something like this is good. The ultimate question everyone is trying to answer is “How do we prevent a repeat of this?” Which is a very good question. However, in answering that one can’t rush to a conclusion; like to immediately blame the NRA. Blame a lack of gun control, or the lack of oversight on just how easy it is to get a gun. Blame that. Maybe we could also research mental health issues too like the fake Morgan Freeman quote suggested. What is the ease with which one could get a gun as opposed to the ease with which one could get a mental health evaluation?

Then the radicals come out and start panicking about needing guns to be able to survive the revolution against the coming “tyrannical fascist government crackdown!” Quick lets start comparing the loss of guns to pre-Nazi Germany; or the policies of Joseph Stalin. We need those guns to maintain our freedom! Um, yeah okay, over the past 30 years we’ve lost a lot of our strength and representation in government *with* lax gun control. How much do corporations finance elections these days to buy the politicians from us? Also, how much does the pro-gun lobby influence elections, and legislation, buying politicians from us? Where was the push-back during that transgression?

If that argument doesn’t impress you, how about we compare this country to other progressive democracies where they *have* stricter gun regulations. Where is the fascist government crackdown there? We seem to love their policies on education, treatment of teachers and their other populist agendas. Forget it though, the death of democracy is just around the corner in those countries because they don’t have the most convenient access to guns imaginable. It’s an absurd notion that fewer people might die when you don’t hand out guns at a convenience store…

You need to take a test in America to get a driver’s license, but the only real criticism I ever hear about the DMV is how slow it is. Have we lost our rights there because service sucks?

Now for another angle. Suppose you did have a severe government crackdown. I have to say if your push-back is *reliant* on guns as opposed to your own intelligence, instincts, organization, planning, and ability to work together; well I think the push-back would be doomed from the start. Public support makes any successful revolution possible. Not your weaponry. Oh and another thing: Do we really think our household weapons would be strong enough to fight off the US Army if we needed to? They have tanks, and drones, and sound cannons, and tear gas, and bombs, training, and much more. Our government spends 2 times as much on its military than the next 26 countries *combined* (gun control there?). What does our household arsenal look like? How much money do we spend on our gun racks? Get organized before you start thinking about firing shots.

Now lets get back to the Sandy Hook shooting after that digression. Allow me to also offer a reason for the need for gun control. Behold, a timeline of mass shootings in the U.S. since Columbine. “In the last 30 years since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders.” Mind you that quote reads “at least.” There have been at least 2 mass murders in this country every year over the past 30 years. They’re like bookends for our calendar year!

Now let’s think about a much less obvious reason for why these mass murders happen. The police say a motive has been determined for Adam Lanza’s actions but they aren’t releasing it. Okay, this isn’t such a big deal.

Instead we can examine Columbine and its reaction for an idea of why other shootings might happen.

After that tragedy there was a lot of blame placed on Marilyn Manson for the music he wrote. Well we don’t have a Marilyn Manson to blame right now but other circumstances surrounding Columbine were similar to the circumstances today. Here is an interview with Marilyn Manson from the movie Bowling for Columbine.

Back then the two byproducts of the tragedy were violence in entertainment and gun control. Now the main byproduct is gun control, or a conspiracy that this entire shooting was a government plot to strip us of our 2nd Amendment right. I’m glad for the first byproduct, I’m not commenting on the other, and I’m waiting for blame on video game violence. With video games all I can ask is if the ratings sometimes seem lenient.

In the video, Marilyn Manson talks about how the media spectacle was used as a distraction from other things such as the war in Kosovo. It also played very nicely for talking points in the upcoming election. Then he discusses how we are constantly bombarded with media messaging to scare and coax us into consuming more and more things. In the last 15 seconds of the interview Michael Moore asks the artist what he would say to the kids who did the shooting if he had one chance in a room with them. His response is “I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.” No one listens. We jump to conclusions, and no one stops for pause to look at ourselves.

The cause of Columbine turned out to be bullying and there has been an anti-bullying movement as of late (which struck me as lip service but that’s another issue). This doesn’t change the how similar the media messaging of today is to back then; and how it’s enough saturation to depress anyone under normal circumstances. The economy is hard, jobs are tough, but you still need to go out and buy as much as you can whenever you can. Do I need to comment on Black Friday?

In this country we’ve really reached a point of pure decadence. Whereas we used to work to accomplish things and contribute to society the motive is very different now. Jobs are overseas, there are systematic problems and in some ways the only reason many people have a job is because they need one to survive. We get jobs to buy more things. We get jobs to buy health insurance!

How many people are unhappy with the jobs they have or the overall state of the country? True, you’ll always find some people who have negativity about this, but the feeling shouldn’t be as widespread as it is. That’s a sign we’re doing things wrong. At this point we don’t even live in a country which is based on Capitalism anymore. What we have is a society based on Consumerism with a system of Corporate Welfare. This maintains the Status-Quo and is all a result of the influences of Money in Politics. Those at the top are very content with their situation and will lobby to keep it. Everyone else with smaller wallets is out of luck. When you feel like you have no say in anything and it’s hopeless you become very unhappy. You’ll start reaching for whatever stimulus you can find. If it’s not drugs, it’s TV and other entertainment media.

When people are this unhappy they can often become apathetic to escape it; especially if they are coaxed to do so by media programming. This lethargy is toxic and the overall society suffers as a result. One result of this deterioration is sometimes mass shootings and other violence.

To elaborate more on this state of our society have a look at this video from Physicist Michio Kaku from 2005. It’s titled “Top Secret Military Military War Plans.” This title however is extremely inaccurate when considering what Dr. Kaku actually talks about. Please watch. It’s very interesting.

I’m glad people are talking about gun control now. I’m glad this tragedy has influenced the national conversation. However, I’m afraid of something as well. Will this energy blow over? There has been a strong push for gun control. It has been called the strongest in American history. Will this be a lasting effort? If the support isn’t sustained after a while the pro-gun lobby will be able to buy back policy. Once again its about money in politics.

Now one greater cultural issue arises from this tragedy. We’ve given this massacre so much attention, and the resulting focus on gun control as well. However, if the conversation is not sustained we’ll just end up forgetting about it in a month or two. If this happens our discussion of this elementary school massacre will amount to nothing more than a popular trend. Yes, a massacre might amount to a trend. Personally, I think it’s already been glorified in its own way but to stop the conversation about factors which contributed to this tragedy would be a disgrace to the memory of its victims.

Get the money out of politics, address gun control responsibly, look into improving mental health research and don’t ever stop the conversation. I’m not even getting into the pharmaceutical industry’s powerful lobby…

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Staten Island left alone.

On December 15, 2012 to expose the lack of aide received from anyone (other than volunteers) a day of action was organized by OccupySandy to illustrate the damage left by Hurricane Sandy in various locations hardest hit; the location I chose to document was Staten Island.

At noon a community discussion and speak-out took place where residents of the boroughs voiced their feelings of abandonment. The photo below is the gathering in Staten Island.

The crowd gathered for the tour of destroyed Staten Island homes.

There were 16 people who spoke at this gathering not including the host (who also spoke briefly of his own experiences and relationship with the Staten Island community). There were so many experiences and grievances voiced during this 40-minute period that to try and summarize them into one short statement would be improper. Video clips of each speech can be found below. What can be mentioned briefly is how each speaker’s story was as meaningful and heartbroken as the next.

A lady, still seated, tells her story.

The host shares his thoughts on the Staten Island community and makes note of the fact that having only been there for 40 years makes him one of the community’s newest members.

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A woman named Lynn spoke next.

A third speaker approached the microphone and explained, among other things, the lack of a response from FEMA, and other aide administrations.

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The fourth speaker who approached the microphone read something she had written a few weeks ago.

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The fifth speaker was a woman named Simona.

The 6th speaker was Dr. Jack Caralano. He is a professor at Hunter College whose specialty is in mold.

A 7th speaker approached the microphone to explain how much community she felt when she first came to Staten Island and much more.

Next a man named Anthony Muzio spoke.

Anthony Romano spoke next.

Following was a woman named Angela.

Another speaker came to the microphone.

Another speaker.

Another.

Another.

And another.

And another.

Here are some of the signs which could be found at the community gathering. The group also toured devastated houses with them.

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Following the community experiences we took a tour of different notable areas in Staten Island. Some tour stops were more harshly effected than others. In each location though. The damage was obvious and crippling to anyone who had once lived there.

On the way to the first home Lauren DiGioia of @jak_nlauren speaks to her channel’s viewers. Following her commentary is a clip inside the first home.

Missing floorboards inside the first home.

Missing floorboards inside the first home.

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Insulation coming out from a wall under construction.

Insulation coming out from a wall under construction.

An uninstalled radiator.

An uninstalled radiator.

The owner of the house briefly spoke inside before being reminded to address the crowd outside.

The owner of the house briefly spoke inside before being reminded to address the crowd outside.

Here is what the owner of the first house had to say.

The owner addresses the crowd from her stoop.

The owner addresses the crowd from her stoop.

This was a sign on the woman’s lawn:

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Following this house the tour continued and we happened by a gentleman standing outside his parents home at 588 Greeley taking a break from repair work. He was happy to answer questions and talk about his experiences.

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Once again Lauren asked a lot of questions and the gentleman was happy to answer. Following the interview Lauren expressed her reactions to what we were all witnessing. You can find Lauren’s channel at“jnl_live”. The twitter for this channel is “@jak_nlauren”.

The tour continued on to another house. This resident’s name was Jimmy.

Jimmy stands outside his home with a helmet under his arm.

Jimmy stands outside his home with a helmet under his arm.

Before we entered his house Jimmy took a few questions on how it was for him to come back to his house after the hurricane and how it had been since.

A volunteer who had helped Jimmy since repairs began.

A volunteer who had helped Jimmy since repairs began.

Next we entered his house to make note of construction efforts. This was the first house where we were asked to don construction masks prior to entering.

Inside Jimmy's house.

Inside Jimmy’s house.

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Here is a panoramic photo I took while inside this home.

Here is a panoramic photo I took while inside this home.

The tour now continued to a residence owned by a woman named Lynn.

Lynn stands outside her house to address the crowd.

Lynn stands outside her house to address the crowd.

This was written on the wall outside Lynn's residence.

This was written on the wall outside Lynn’s residence.

Before entering Lynn gave us a quick background of things and then welcomed us inside.

Here is the video I took while inside her home.

The floor of Lynn's house upon entering.

The floor of Lynn’s house upon entering.

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A panoramic photo of the missing floorboards in Lynn's residence.

A panoramic photo of the missing floorboards in Lynn’s residence.

The tour now continued. It was at this point I couldn’t help recalling the news coverage I’d already seen about Sandy and its aftermath. Unless I had just not seen the correct sources (which is entirely possible) the majority of what I’d heard was just about power outages and New Jersey residents. I really could not recall any news discussing what I was bearing witness to at the present moment.

At the corner an OccupySandy activist, Amin, was using his hand to show people the height of the water level against a store window.

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The next stop on the tour was something which bore no resemblance to anything I could imagine. It could have been a store, or a house, or store with an apartment. Lauren had some background and discussed what she could of the some of the cleanup efforts around this location.

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A fallen street sign amidst the rubble.

A fallen street sign amidst the rubble.

what is it

If the reader can venture a guess as to what this may have originated as please say so in a comment.

Next to that was this home:

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The next stop was 84 Patterson Avenue. Here the owner stood on the steps leading to her front door and explained her experience when Sandy struck. She compared her experience with Sandy to her experience with Hurricane Irene; she told us about how her car ended up on the stoop; she said her husband’s car was seen “swimming away” and they found it on a tree later on; she also talked about the Con Edison bill and how there was a $38 restoration fee for damaged equipment.

The owner of 84 Patterson Avenue speaks from her stoop.

The owner of 84 Patterson Avenue speaks from her stoop.

Next we went inside 84 Patterson Avenue. This house was not nearly as bad as others we’d seen and much of the furniture was still in tact. The house was raised so really only the basement would have gotten flooded. The owner did however give us an idea of where the water had risen to in her house.

The owner shows with her hand, slightly above the floor, where the water rose to in her house.

The owner shows with her hand, slightly above the floor, where the water rose to in her house.

Amidst the heartbreak of each of these homes one of the nicest things about 84 Patterson Avenue were the dogs. Granted it’s not really an effect of the hurricane but when you open the door to someone’s house and you see excited dogs barking it’s very hard to not crack a smile.

On the way to the next house the owner discussed some of the warnings they’d received prior to Hurricane Sandy. Many residents had decided not to leave their homes because, as this gentleman said, they had only received warning of a storm surge (not necessarily flooding). As a result many were unprepared.

The speaker from the last video, Anthony Muzio, welcomes us to his house. He tells us how he was denied flood insurance because, among other things, the first floor of his home was considered a basement. This classification may have made sense if the front entrance to his house did not require you to walk down stairs to a lower-than-ground-level elevation. What was considered the basement was actually the place where the living room and bedroom were located.

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Next we went inside Mr. Muzio’s home to document the extent of the damage. We were asked to not film the construction crews out of respect.

Inside Mr. Muzio's home.

Inside Mr. Muzio’s home.

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Note how you can see through the ceiling, from the first floor, to the second floor.

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Now the tour continued to the last home. At the curb outside was this pile of debris:

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Outside the owner gave a brief introduction before allowing the crowd in.

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In the garden this sign could be found.

In the garden this sign could be found.

This is what it looked like inside her home.

This is what it looked like inside her home.

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The owner then answered some questions about her experiences before, during, and after the Hurricane. She described who had been helpful, who had given them the run-around and what they had to work with. She discussed how insurance companies gave her about $30,000 for repairs which would likely cost much more. She also described how the people who’d been the most helpful in Sandy’s aftermath were retired firefighters, mostly paying out of pocket, to help victims get through the hard times.

The owner tells her story.

The owner tells her story.

This concluded the tour and allowed for a break in the day. Many now went to get something to eat at the OccupySandy relief hub on Olympia Boulevard.

The next Sandy-related event happened later, at 5pm, outside Mayor Bloomberg’s house at 79th St. and 5th Ave. This would be a demonstration to demand the Mayor act and come to the aide of the devastated residents of the city he presided over. On my way there I ran into a few demonstrators who dressed up in Tyvek suits to demonstrate the health hazards of mold in the Sandy affected areas of New York.

Putting on Tyvek suits.

Putting on Tyvek suits.

A sign which would shortly be used to demonstrate lays on the ground.

A sign which would shortly be used to demonstrate lays on the ground.

The group puts on Tyvek suits.

The group puts on Tyvek suits.

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People in Tyvek suits hold signs reading "Let them eat Mold."

People in Tyvek suits hold signs reading “Let them eat Mold.”

Now the group in Tyvek suits headed to the demonstration area. On the way there we ran into a group of people who were likely residents of the upscale neighborhood. They addressed us humorously and asked “Are you against Tyvek?” We proceeded to explain that no we weren’t and that it was actually a really serious situation. As we left this exchange occurred:

Demonstrator: Ma’am have you ever been to the Rockaways?

Neighborhood resident: No, but I’ve *flown* over it.

The group walked for several blocks and then were told they had to make a short detour to the next block as Mayor Bloomberg’s block had been barricaded off due to the protest.

A little more walking was not too inconveniencing and soon we arrived at the demonstration.

Here is a video of the crowd at 79th Street and 5th Avenue. Some chants include “Bloomberg, don’t forget. Rockaway was the hardest hit.” Another chant was “Bloomberg, don’t forget, Staten Island was also hit.”

The crowd at 79th St. and 5th Ave.

The crowd at 79th St. and 5th Ave.

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Here is a video of the crowd from outside the protest zone.

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After a few minutes of chanting mic-checks began. The first mic-check was from an OccupySandy organizer who discussed the causes of Hurricane Sandy, its outcomes, and who could potentially benefit from it (namely, Disaster Capitalists).

Following this Judy Gonzalez from the New York State Nurses Association mic-checked. She spoke of the lack of supplies and overall carelessness of the Mayor.

Next the organizer introducing the speakers spoke introduced a Staten Island resident to talk about the tours of effected areas earlier that day.

Then the march to Mayor Bloomberg’s residence began.

The march around 5th Avenue to Mayor Bloomberg's house is led by activists in Tyvek suits.

The march around 5th Avenue to Mayor Bloomberg’s house is led by activists in Tyvek suits.

Following the march was a picket at 79th St. and 5th Ave.

Some signs carried at the picket.

Some signs carried at the picket.

As the demonstration remained at this intersection honks of support were heard from trucks and cars alike. As there were more than 100 people participating in this picket it did slow down at certain points. Also, when the Rude Mechanical Orchestra started performing a small crowd did gather around them to enjoy the music. Due to this small crowd the police gave a warning about blocking pedestrian traffic. The circular picket continued slowly but tensions did not drop between the two groups who had, since the start of the Occupy Movement, often been at odds with one another.

A line of police officers watching the picket.

A line of police officers watching the picket.

For the sake of comparison an observation is now in order. I was able to very easily move through the crowd at the time, I can vouch for the fact that pedestrian traffic was not obstructed. Was it crowded? Yes. Was it crowded to the point of anything worse than Times Square? No at all. In fact here is a random YouTube clip of people crossing a street in Times Square with Red Stairs in the background.

Though the police warning for pedestrian traffic did dull the mood briefly the atmosphere was regained when the Rude Mechanical Orchestra began playing again. At the 3:15 mark a protester read off a call to Bloomberg. It stated how, if proper aide was not given to Hurricane Victims by December 31, 2012 another demonstration would come to the Mayor’s doorstep demanding action and accountability.

Then the dispersal came. At the 1:45 mark you see the first arrest from behind a line of Police Officers. A minutes later you find the crowd walking away from the area. Then at the 3:50 mark you see the White Shirt on duty point out cameraman Jak of Jnl_live for arrest. The arrest proceeds in the middle of the street, blocking vehicular traffic, after the demonstrators were just instructed not to block pedestrian traffic. As can be expected this caused a good deal of resentment from the protesters. However, what needs to be acknowledged is the focus never changed from Sandy victims.

I had to archive the last video after the arrest. The push back however did not cease. Watch the rest of it here.

After pushing the group across the street to the Central Park side of 5th Avenue a line of police remained to prevent anyone from crossing back. At the 0:36 mark the camera settles on the line of officers.

As we stood there some reprimanded the officers. These reprimands however were still focused around victims of Hurricane Sandy. Just now instead of being angered with Bloomberg directly, though the Mayor’s inaction had not left anyone’s mind, the disapproval was directed towards Police Officers who had followed orders to disperse a peaceful protest. One where the only thing being requested was for help to be given to victims of Hurricane Sandy who could not be present themselves. Though accurate and important correlations may have been drawn between Hurricane Sandy and the wealthiest 1%, this demonstration was about one thing and one thing only: Sandy victims are desperate for help from a city which seems to have given them the cold shoulder.

Finally, one person spoke out to help give another perspective and some understanding to the overall injustice which had just occurred.

In my mind, after this protest the city reached a new low. The fact always remains any demonstration would disperse on its own with no police interaction. No one that night was looking to set up an Occupation at 79th St. and 5th Ave. All they wanted was to ask for help for others. Though I might just be jaded at this point I likely would have just rolled my eyes had the police done nothing more than to disperse the picketing crowd. 2 arrests were made though (one of a livestreamer) at a demonstration which, unlike others, did not address economic injustice or problems with government corruption. It really left a sour taste and was a distinctively bad reflection upon the City of New York. A city which is already looked at with growing skepticism as the events of the past year and 3 months have exposed a great many more problems than were previously recognized.

Please donate to Occupy Sandy to help victims.
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Leftist Acceptance

So the world is about to end. Not on December 21st 2012 but as a result of the Fiscal Cliff…

No. As usual it’s a lot of hype. There will likely be some kind of compromise reached and it will likely involve cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; maybe Food Stamps too.

With the recent momentum Democrats have gained Republicans will likely relent and raise taxes a little. They may also find a way to only tax those just under the highest incomes, but above a certain income level though. Funny thing I’ve learned about Social Security though (which it seems Obama has agreed to cut) it’s only taken from up to the first $110,000 earned from a paycheck. Meaning its effect is not really even existent for those of the highest incomes when compared to those of lower incomes (See reference article). Either way the highest income group likely finds a way out of it for opulence’s sake. Therefore, I’d have to ask, why are conservatives asking it be put on the table. It doesn’t really even effect their financiers. It seems to me like they just found a place to cut spending and are making a big deal of it. As though Social Security payments aren’t small enough already…

The first time Obama ran for office my thinking was “He has no experience but he may appoint a good cabinet.” That didn’t happen and may never have been his intention. So now, over time, he’ll likely just sell us out slowly. Seriously, once elected he could have forced the banks to change management like he did the auto industry. He didn’t though since he was either thanking them for paying for his 2008 campaign (he was the first candidate to deny public funding) or hoping they’d pay for his next one. Either way, the banks faced no repercussions and will continue doing what they did before; straight into another crisis as financial crime has been given incentives instead of punishment.

As far as President Obama’s compromises, in the first term he wanted re-election so he had to play ball. Now in his second term re-election isn’t an option so he has the flexibility to show a lot more teeth on many more things. True, politics are still involved but the President is now in a much better position to act on whatever his agenda may have been when he ran for office in 2008. Yes, politics often requires compromises but there are limits. Furthermore, though there might be small compromises offered now, comparatively speaking, how much has already been compromised away over the past few decades in small increments?

Nevertheless there’s a problem and it’s not with the Republicans. Yes, they have been unwilling to compromise about many things forcing the Democrats to compromise; further screwing over “Main Street.” However, the problem I see is actually with the leftist base. When Democrats compromise the usual constituent response is “There was nothing they could do…” or “They had to…” etc. When Republicans show unwillingness to compromise there is hate speech iterated. Why isn’t this dissatisfaction shown towards failed Democratic action like it is against successful Republican action, or just their proposed policies. True the dissatisfaction may be less severe but that doesn’t mean the left should turn the other cheek.

Personally, I think both parties are terrible at this point. If you want to play the “two-party game” however you should at least be willing to do more than just march in support of proposed policies from “your team;” or against those you dislike from the “other side.” The left should be just as willing, if not more so, to get out and march against policies where candidates compromised to their constituents’ discontent. Sure, compromises happen and sometimes they really suck; That’s life. This doesn’t mean you should just accept the defeat with a hanging, sorrowful, shake-of-the-head though; putting it behind you.

I’d say the best case scenario would be to stand up and make a statement no matter what. Does it really matter if it’s just for publicity as the bill may have already passed? The statement can get attention and it’s a way of organizing and building support (hint, hint).

The same goes for internet activism. I’ve seen so many memes against DOMA, Republican policies that curtail women’s rights, anti-union measures, efforts to cut benefits, etc. I usually agree with them. However, where are the memes from the left criticizing the Democrats when they cave and relent because “There was nothing that could be done.” The only memes I see in that vein are memes which are created by radicals who already hate both parties and may not even vote so politicians don’t really care about what they think anyway.

Now to address the potential feedback of “But what good will protest-after-passage accomplish?” Well, for one thing it holds the politician accountable to their constituents. They can’t just brush off a compromise if they are reminded of it through public display. In an ideal world the process for recalling a failed candidate may be far less complicated. Until that day comes however public disapproval, with media coverage, is quite useful.

As far as the Fiscal Cliff goes, Obama should just refuse deals and let it come. At this point it would show a lot more backbone than we’ve seen thus far. Over the edge of the Fiscal Cliff would be cuts all across the board and no one would really be able to complain about the other side getting preferential treatment. Taxes would go up, entitlements would drop, and defense spending would be dropped a bit too. It’s not like the President has to worry about re-election…

By the way if defensive spending were cut it would be a perfect real-world indicator that we don’t need to spend as much as we do on “national security”; and that maybe things aren’t as scary as they are made out to be.

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Note: I am adding this to this post after it has already been posted for a day. I wanted to acknowledge and correct a mistake I made. Above I said “Taxes would go up, entitlements would drop…” I have been corrected about how Social Security would neither increase nor decrease. Bush-era tax cuts would expire, as would middle class cuts. Any increases bookmarked would not be made. Please excuse the error. Thanks.

Picketing Golden Farm

On Wednesday, November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, I attended a small picket for workers’ rights on Church Avenue at a grocery store called Golden Farms.

The workers were demonstrating in protest of the low wages and lack of benefits they received from their employer Sonny Kim. The workers now have minimum wage but not much else. They won minimum wage after suing the owner of Golden Farms in June of 2011. They still have no benefits, sick days, or personal days and they are organizing to win those things, as well as to be compensated back-pay for the time when they worked for below minimum wage.

How long did they work for below minimum wage?

Ask a worker: “We are looking to get back all the years he stole from us,” said Nicandro Martinez-Rodriguez, 48, who said he has worked in the produce department for 12 years – most of it making $350 a week for 12 hour days, 6 days a week. (See reference article)

Momentum grew for the Golden Farm workers as members of community organizations started showing support for the struggle of the workers. Various politicians have made appearances; New York Communities for Change has been involved; In August members of Occupy Kensington joined in support; The 99 Pickets and the Labor Outreach group of Occupy Wall Street have also been present to show solidarity with the workers in their efforts to unionize and cultivate bargaining power. Many more as well.

On August 18th a continuous boycott was started to demand the workers’ back-pay and also to demand the owner negotiate a contract with the workers. Starting at the end of November negotiations were set to begin.

A banner outside Golden Farms

A sign with three demands

Some people doing outreach outside Golden Farms. On the ground, written in chalk, is the word “Boycott”

There was also a message board with a great deal of written information, as to the purpose of the pickets, for passersby to read:

Information board

On this board you could find 4 pages explaining the circumstances:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Also present on the message board were 5 versions of the same comic strip; each in a different language:

Watch a video here of the pickets outside the store. At about the 2:44 mark I conduct an interview to gain more insight on the story behind the protest. At the 4:10 mark I feature a few signs from the picketers.

In chalk on the ground is written “Rotten Boss”

The next stage of the demonstration happened as soon as the 99 Pickets arrived. A few people went into the store to perform what is called a “line clog.” A line clog consists of politely choosing groceries, standing on line, and then paying for the products you wish to purchase. The only catch is, in paying for said products, you are paying with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. There were 4 cash registers and a few more worker-supporters than cash registers who chose to do this “line clog.”

Watch a video of the line clog!

Watch more video of the line clog!

There is another demonstration planned for Sunday, December 16th. I do not know much about what they plan to do but no matter what the struggle for worker compensation, benefits, and rights is not ending soon. Here is the facebook page for the event this Sunday.

The picket outside Golden Farms

Keep updated about the Golden Farm workers struggle at goldenfarmjustice.wordpress.org

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A review of the movie Lincoln (with a political twist)

Two days ago I saw the movie Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Truth be told it was a well made movie overall. Day-Lewis, Field, and Jones were all brilliant. As usual, Day-Lewis made you believe he was really Lincoln. The movie did however get me thinking about a few things which can very easily be related to the present political and economic climates.

Before proceeding any further I should be upfront and provide my spoiler alert:
1) Slavery gets abolished
2) The Civil War ends
3) Abraham Lincoln dies

With that out of the way we can proceed to discussion without worrying about surprising anyone about plot points.

The first thing which must be acknowledged is how good a job the movie does in portraying the corruption and sleaze of politics. There was a large montage where aides of President Lincoln bribed politicians with money, or higher government positions, in exchange for their vote of “Yay” on the 13th Amendment. Apparently even then, money was equal to free political speech ;)

Delving deeper though, after the Amendment was ratified one has to remember, those same politicians (whose votes were just needed to pass a very worthy amendment) now had even more power than before. As they had this power it would then be future generations left to deal with the effects of the new offices given to politicians who received promotions for the ironically corrupt reason of passing an ethical bill. While this is not a situation anyone is uninformed of, at the same time, it is a very nice (and unfortunate) reality check.

While the Democrats and Republicans were having their disputes in the halls of congress I remember hearing one politician say something to the nature of “Wait, if we give these people this right what’s next? Women having the right to vote?!” As an audience member I fist-pumped at this comment. In the movie however, a great commotion was created amongst all of the white males in congress at the time.

Another historical fact needs to be brought to the surface now. True the two political parties debating this Amendment were the Democrats and the Republicans. However, at the time their conservative (or progressive) interests were the opposite. For instance, Abraham Lincoln was a president who succeeded in an extremely progressive cause: He spearheaded an Amendment to outlaw slavery. The irony, compared to the present day, President Lincoln was a Republican.

Now to discuss the syntax of the 13th Amendment itself:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

A very worthy Amendment and an extremely proud moment in the American history. However, there’s a cute little loophole which is viciously exploited in the present day. “…Except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted…” At face value, and at the time, this was probably quite sound. Slavery was abolished as a result of this bill much to the discontent of the seceding States whose economies had been dependent on the economic practice. Yes, it was abolished; outside of prison. Inside however is a different story. In the present day there has been an exploitation of this loophole known as the Prison Industrial Complex. The laws have also been adjusted as well so as to lead certain groups into the Amendment’s loophole thereby making up for this historical setback to economic prosperity through slavery. Both the Prison Industrial Complex and its supporting laws have earned America the shameful statistic of having the largest number of prisoners per capita in the world.

Another interesting point made in this movie was when President Lincoln explained how the existence of slavery destroyed small businesses and crushed competition. As I recall Lincoln was saying so with respect to his father’s observations of how slavery effected local economies. This perspective really brings an insight into the reasons why some white politicians at the time decided to support the bill. In an extremely racist era, where one may have been shunned by all of their colleagues for showing even moderate sympathy for the plight of black people, the reason many had for supporting the abolition of slavery was purely economic. For many it was still about their wallets and nothing more.

To relate to modern day the issue of slavery’s crushing competition, and its destruction of small business, you need look no further than international trade agreements and monopoly power. International trade agreements are notorious for killing small businesses. A recent case and point is NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) which was signed under President Bill Clinton on January 1, 1994 and it created a trade block between Canada, The United States, and Mexico. NAFTA was a trade agreement which destroyed Mexican business as local farmers could not dream of competing with the economic power of a multinational corporation (often an international monopoly). This effect was not something Clinton had not thought of and accordingly, after signing this agreement, the border between America and Mexico became militarized. NAFTA’s effect on Mexico was the destruction of small business. Its effect on America was the selling-out of the common laborers who elected him to office.

Fyi there is another trade agreement in the works TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) which is essentially NAFTA… on steroids. Here is a report on TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) from Democracy Now.

The movie also included a short over-the-table peace negotiation between President Lincoln and a delegation from the Confederate States. Though it was not mentioned in the movie I couldn’t help but remember a friend of mine from Florida who enlightened me on carpetbaggers. Carpetbaggers were people from the North who went down South to take advantage of a crippled economy during the Post-Civil War re-constructionist era. Though no one calls them this, the term “re-construction capitalist” is certainly applicable here. These carpetbaggers remain one large reason for some of the resentment the Southern States harbor towards Northern States.

Now who wants to think about the Disaster Capitalists which will soon begin to seek to turn a profit from the destruction left in Hurricane Sandy’s wake? I’m sure there are already plenty of Disaster Capitalists who’ve found opportunity in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as well.

A moment that I found particularly comical in the movie during the peace negotiations was something a disgruntled Confederate delegate said to President Lincoln. It was something to the effect of “So the government will be overrun with republican radicals?!” My thought on this was… “Yeah.”

Okay so this “review” has barely been a review and instead more of a jump-off point to discuss other related issues. The movie was fine but not really anything too special. I disagree with the choice to include any theater scenes at the end. Even though we all know President Lincoln was assassinated, when you have a movie about his spearheading an Amendment to abolish slavery and then you see an announcement of his assassination, it can leave the implication of his death being a retribution for the Amendment. This was not why the President was killed. It was far more complicated.

All things considered the movie was enjoyable and a decent period piece. Once again, Day-Lewis, Field, Jones, and Gordon Levitt were excellent. I do have one final question though…

When, amidst all of the politics of that one Amendment, and the entire Civil War, did President Abraham Lincoln have time to hunt Vampires?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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