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In its first direct engagement with the federal government, the Occupy movement will take its collective national might to Washington, DC, on Tuesday, January 17. People are planning to mass at West Front Lawn at Capitol Hill at 9:00am, followed by a rally, teach-in, vigil, protest action and, of course, an evening Occu-Party. There are also concurrent meetings with individual members of Congress throughout the day. Organizers are encouraging people to contact their own legislators directly.
“If you would like to meet with your member(s) of Congress it is best if you request to schedule the meeting. Folks who are doing logistics for Occupy Congress are available to help, but the most powerful tool to help get a meeting is the fact that you are the constituent and the member of Congress theoretically represents you. It is best to schedule Congressional meetings sometime between 9:00AM and noon on January 17th since that is the time period specifically set aside in the Occupy Congress schedule for direct Congressional meetings.” (This nifty guide details exactly how to go about arranging appointments.)
Check out this page for details on ride-shares, charter buses, lodging and other necessary logistics as well as ways to make your voice heard whether you can get to DC or not.
On this past December 4, food activists from across the country joined the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March for "a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food."
The rally began at La Plaza Cultural Community Gardens where urban and rural farmers talked about the growing problems with the industrial food system and the solutions based in organic, sustainable and community based agricultural production. This was followed by a three-mile march from the East Village of Manhattan to Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This video by Anthony Lappe offers an inspiring glimpse into this new movement. Check it out and then go to Food Democracy Now, a grassroots community dedicated to building a sustainable food system, to find out how you can help.
Many thanks to everyone who read this blog in 2011. I greatly appreciate your support, insightful comments and commitment to bettering our world. I’ll get back to music about making change in 2012, but for now I hope you enjoy this alternative Christmas playlist, presented in random order. Happy holidays!
The Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Merry Christmas Baby
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, All I Want for Christmas
Amy Winehouse, I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus
Belle & Sebastian, Little Town of Bethlehem
Weezer, The Christmas Song
Bob Dylan, Little Drummer Boy
Bob Marley and the Wailers, White Christmas
Blink 182, I Won't Be Home for Christmas
Smashing Pumpkins, Christmastime
“There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.” —Vaclav Havel, Summer Meditations, 1993
Vaclav Havel rose from a persecuted life as a dissident playwright hounded by secret police to a symbol of freedom as the leader of Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution and then the Czech Republic’s first President. He died Sunday, after a long illness, at the age of 75.
During the Prague Spring reform movement, which ended with the 1968 Soviet invasion, Havel became chairman of the free-speech Circle of Independent Writers. The next year, his writing was banned and he moved from Prague to a rural town, where he got a job in a brewery but continued writing. His plays became famous in the West and, later, behind the Iron Curtain, and he became a symbol of the world’s political conscience as the co-founder and spokesman of the human rights movement Charter 77.
In this short clip, Lou Reed and Havel talk about music’s relationship to the politics of social change and the very prominent role artists played in Czechoslovakia’s own Velvet Revolution, including the inspiration provided by Reed’s Velvet Underground.
This 2008 interview with Sir David Frost, Havel’s last extended conversation with a Western journalist, offers insight into what he considers the enduring issues of his life.
When I was a Nation intern, Christopher Hitchens was, by far, our group’s favorite writer for the magazine. Beyond being a spellbindingly brilliant orator and the most prolific and incisive writer any of us had ever seen, on a very basic level he treated us well and with respect. He also treated us to numerous rounds of drinks, including one memorable group visit at 11:00 am to his apartment on Connecticut Avenue in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC. He must be respected, he should be forgiven and he will be dearly missed.
Check out these very incomplete video highlights demonstrating the majesty of Hitchens’s persuasive abilities.
On the invasion of Grenada (1983):
On Socialism and Iran (1988):
On unemployment (1990):
Debating William Buckley on the 1960s (1998):
On the cult of Ayn Rand (2004):
On Mother Teresa (2006):
Debating Sean Hannity on God (2008):
On his favorite scotch (2009):
If you're well organized, you've already finished your holiday shopping. But if you're like me and just starting to scramble for presents, ideally those of the non-corporate variety, read on for ideas. Everything below can be purchased and shipped before Hanukah and Christmas if you act (reasonably) quickly.
Heifer International holiday gifts of livestock for impoverished families is a venerable progressive holiday tradition. In fact, Heifer virtually pioneered the idea of alternative gift-giving beginning in the mid-1990s with its “The Most Important Catalog In The World.”
The Heifer gift catalog allows you to purchase a farm animal for needy families around the world, which can act as a life-line and help them achieve a degree of sustainability. A pig can be bought for $120 (or chip in $10 to help share the cost of one), three rabbits are a bargain at $60 total, a flock of chicks costs only $20, and, if you can afford to change a family's life, a $1,500 donation provides two sheep, four goats, a heifer and two llamas.
I think of outfits like Heifer as offering the opportunity for the world's comparatively well-off to voluntarily redistribute a bit of their incomes to those that need the money much more than we do.
The pioneering political blog, FireDogLake has established an "OccupySupply" store, in which every purchase you make is matched with an identical donation of union-made gear to an Occupier-In-Need. So if you want to make a gift of a fleece, blanket, liner gloves or other cold-weather items to someone in your life, buy it through FDL and help the Occupy movement in the process.
In a similar vein, the unsung graphic artist Molly Crabapple is donating a portion of her proceeds of all holiday sales of her Occupy Wall Street art to OWS itself. This print, paying tribute to the destroyed OWS library, is my favorite of her Occupy work, but check out her affordable and impressive portfolio for yourself. A great gift for that art-history radical in your circle.
Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking, they came across the idea of growing gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages and fresh food, they experimented in Velez's fraternity kitchen, ultimately growing one test bucket of tasty oyster mushrooms. With that single bucket, some initial interest from Whole Foods and Chez Panisse and a $5,000 grant from the UC Berkeley Chancellor for social innovation, they decided to forgo their corporate futures, and instead, become full-time urban mushroom farmers. They soon created the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, anywhere, grow their own exotic mushrooms. Great gift for the foodie in your life that has it all.
Kate's Caring Gifts has a welcome emphasis on food, featuring things like fresh organic fruit boxes from family owned Jerzy Boyz Farms; fair-trade Kosher treats for Hannukah; the ultimate Organic Chocolate Fantasy Gift Set and the "We're all Organic Fruits and Nuts Gift Set," a cornucopia of exotic and organic nuts, preserves, butters, and dried fruit.
The Green America Green Gift Guide offers scores of links to small companies and collectives offering discounts to a wide range of products, services and opportunities. You can find everything from calendars and cards to fair-trade food and wine to wonderful wooden toys, lovely baby blankets and organic children's products. There are cosmetic cases created by the Lisu Tribe of Northern China and Burma, hand-stitched quilts from India, teddy bears from Sri Lanka, rugs from the Philippines, gift bags flush with fair-trade chocolate, and awesome coffee from Grounds for Change. (I've tried it!)
TreeHugger's extensive Low-Impact Gift Guide redefines luxury by delineating ten categories featuring more than 100 low-impact gifts, each packing a high-impact punch in terms of thoughtfulness, quality, durability, and respect for the environment. Making the guide even more useful is the editors' insistence in identifying sustainable gifts that aren't very expensive.
The Fair Indigo label was created to make much more than a fashion statement. The mission is to create high-quality, yet affordable styles without the exploitation of workers and the environment that too often goes with the territory. Every item with the Fair Indigo label is made in a facility that pays fair and meaningful wages rather than the minimum wages that dominate the industry. Find stylish clothes for men, women and children plus a wide range of gifts for less than thirty dollars.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Peace Store has many meaningful gifts for friends and family, especially clothing and books conveying a message of non-violent resolution of conflict.
Finally, my boss might be mad if I don't plug The Nation's own online store, Nation Mart, run in partnership with a quirky group called the Unemployed Philosophers Guild. Nation Mart offers great gifts for activists and Nation fans. We have t-shirts with quotes from contributors Molly Ivins, Kurt Vonnegut, and James Baldwin, Nation logo merchandise and subversive buttons designed by the legendary Milton Glaser. Our popular “Thank a Teacher” pencil sets are an especially apt gift for educators or anyone else fighting to preserve public education and there's also, of course always a good old-fashioned gift sub -- the gift that keeps on giving week after week!
Please use the comments field below to recommend good gift ideas that I've neglected.
Anyone despairing over the immense power of the corporate sector to dominate world affairs should watch this video documenting the power that grassroots protest can still muster in the face of mass injustice. To me, the successful effort to forestall the XL Keystone Pipeline was the signal achievement in a year of significant activist efforts.
Thank you to the 1,253 nonviolent, direct action heros who took arrests to underscore the fervid opposition to the ecologically devastating project and to the unprecedented coalition of ranchers, indigenous groups, environmental organizations, labor unions and students who united to stop this dangerous pipeline.
In what is fast becoming the most prominent, and promising, new front in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the effort to forestall foreclosures is taking center stage as Occupations from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Atlanta to Boston are turning empty and unused buildings into commonly held resources for local communities.
The defense of homes from foreclosure and forcible eviction could cement OWS’s relevance in a new post-encampment period. That’s why December 6, the National Day of Action to Occupy Our Homes, is shaping up as one of the movement’s most important actions to date. Hopes are riding high that the day can galvanize a new frontier for the occupy movement: the liberation of vacant bank-owned homes for those in need.
The new Occupy Our Homes movement also aims to shed light on the housing and mortgage crisis which precipitated the great recession in 2008. Activists say that the Obama administration’s efforts to help homeowners with “underwater” properties is woefully inadequate and drastic action is needed to prevent more human suffering from this persistent recession.
Numerous actions planned take place in some of America’s most impoverished urban neighborhoods. In my hometown of Brooklyn, activists will gather in East New York (L train to Livonia) to tour foreclosed properties for the growing Occupy REAL Estate Listing Service, donate holiday gifts and food, and connect with allies at a house warming and block party.
I’ve never paid much mind to Miley Cyrus but her new video commands attention. “Liberty Walk,” the one-percenter teen sensation’s catchy, if repetitive, remixed single sets her music to laudatory images from OWS encampments throughout the nation.
With the new video, the teenage star joins fellow celebrities Russell Simmons, Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, John Cusack and Lupe Fiasco in coming out strongly and squarely in favor of the OWS movement. There are far fewer bold-faced names publicly supporting OWS than you’d think. (Paging Tim Robbins, Angelina Jolie, Bono, Matt Damon, Bruce Springsteen.) So support from a pop superstar is both unusual and useful.
It’s unlikely that Occupiers will adopt “Liberty Walk” as a movement anthem, but Cyrus’s rap break in the middle of the song should help her cause. In any case, I think it’s heartening to find support from, literally, one of mainstream America’s most popular stars.
Early Tuesday morning, the New York Police Department forcibly evacuated Zuccotti Park, epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In what appears to have been a premeditated and coordinated effort to block media coverage of the raid, many journalists said they were barred from reporting the police action. Ten reporters were arrested, another was put in a choke hold and numerous others described extensive police harassment, including, perhaps ironically, a New York Post scribe who told the New York Times’s Brian Stelter that he’d been “roughed up.”
Lindsey Christ, of local cable-news channel NY1, said on-air that “the police took over, they kept everybody out and they wouldn’t let media in. It was very planned.” One of the few reporters in the park when the police moved in, Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones, was roughly dragged out of Zuccotti and was told by police that reporters had to stay in a “press pen”.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said authorities kept the media away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.” But according to the New York Times, one journalist told a police officer “I’m press!” and the officer just responded “Not tonight.”
This type of police response is typical nationwide. Police harassment of the press has been reported during Occupy protests in Chicago, Denver, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and beyond. Josh Stearns of Free Press has been tracking media arrests and reports that the ten arrests on Tuesday (including reporters from the Daily News, NPR and AP), brings the total since OWS started to twenty-six around the country. Stearns adds: “Just as bad was the purposeful efforts by police to interfere with coverage and roughing up of numerous journalists.”
It’s time for the public to stand up. The group, SaveTheNews.org is launching a new effort asking Mayor Bloomberg and the US Conference of Mayors to publicly commit to protecting press freedoms in their cities. Add your name to the call. Public pressure is the only hope we have of forcing municipalities to protect the rights of their citizens.
You can also call Mayor Bloomberg at 212-639-9675 to speak out against the most recent arrests of journalists, demand that all charges be dropped against journalists covering OWS and implore his office to protect the rights of journalists covering protests in the future.