Volume 20, Number 11
NYC Subway Workers
Outside The Bomb
Malai Joya Interview
Peltier: Silence Screams
Responsibility & Guilt
Gabriel matthew Schivone
Shock, Awe, and Antioch
George j. Bryjak
Guatemala '07 Election
Black Caucus Demise
Crackpots & the Left
Men and Abortion
Eleanor J. Bader
Guthrie's Live Wire Reviewed
In the Valley of Elah Review
Genocide in Iraq?
Health Care Hokum
There are no articles.
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On September 17, 2007, U.S. Senator John Kerry addressed a Constitution Day forum at the University of Florida, which was organized by the university’s student government. Toward the end of the question and answer period, University police forcibly removed questioner Andrew Meyer, a 21-year-old fourth- year undergraduate telecommunications student, restraining him through direct force and drive stunning (“contact tasing” in police-speak) with a taser. Several videos of the event were then posted on the Internet (available at You Tube).
As scary as it is to watch someone electrocuted for speaking his mind, the most horrifying part of the Andrew Meyer incident at the University of Florida were the things happening on the periphery.
One video shows a woman on the right side of the aisle staring obediently ahead at Senator Kerry as Meyer is pinned to the ground just behind her. A man on the left is smiling as the action comes right past him.
The only person with the power to stop the assault was the man at the microphone and his affect never rose above bland. Shortly before the cops pressed the volts into Meyer’s chest, Kerry can be heard droning, “Folks, I think if we all just calm down.” The folks he was addressing, of course, weren’t the police, but the few audience members who had risen from their seats.
It’s as if one is watching the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Meyer coming out as the last human who has not been invaded by the pods that replace people with emotionless doubles.
Perhaps half the comments of You Tube viewers support the tasing as an apt treatment for someone so disruptive. Meyer may have been loud, attention-hungry, and an awkward presence in the room, but the awkwardness is nothing compared with that of people trying to work out the concept of free speech in their online comments.
“The First Amendment does not guarantee anyone the right to make a public ass of oneself at the expense of others...” writes Russ Thayer. Joseph (comment 87 on the New York Times site) agrees: “I hate to tell you, but the meaning of Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean you can scream and shout at people. To exercise your right to Freedom of Speech you need to remain calm.”
Says Dusty Bottoms, also on the Times site: “Freaking idiot deserved it.... [H]ow many times does one have to be warned? I’m all for free speech, but do it in an intelligent way.”
The voices were altogether different among readers of the Times of London, where 33 thought the tasing was wrong and only 3 supported it. Duncan Roy, a UK resident, commented on the New York Times site: “If shouting and agitation were the criteria for tasing then our entire British Parliament would be tazed. What is it with you Americans that you have become so frightened of free and passionate speech?”
Unfortunately, police tasing students and others without cause is nothing new. A video of an even scarier incident at UCLA last fall can also be watched on You Tube, linked from the Florida clips pages. Police tased this student because he didn’t have his student ID with him in the library. The video shows an eerily passive group of zombies, inching slowly forward as the victim cries for help. Only after the student is hauled out of the library, still being tased, do a couple students start asking for badge numbers, to which the reply is: “Back up or you’ll get tased too.”
The alien pods haven’t gotten us all, however. Based on the volume of comments people posted about Meyer incident, watching the video clearly hit many Americans a lot harder than it did mainstream journalists.
Mike Bellman of Columbia, Missouri, wrote, “I am ten times ashamed for the spectators who watched this debacle slack-jawed and motionless like they were watching the You Tube video online. Shame on citizens who idly watch this kind of abuse and not recognize it. Shame on all of them including John Kerry who didn’t relieve the police of their duties. And finally shame on anyone who doesn’t have the courage to question authority or believe that another American has the right to speak freely in an open forum. I am ashamed to live in this America and I weep for the U.S. Constitution.”
An “ECartman” wrote that a “lot worse happened in Berkeley in late 60s and early 70s.... Wish these students could get more incensed with what we are doing in Iraq everyday.... Don’t expect this to happen though as these kids really got no soul.”
There’s a whole racially charged aspect to the question of police authority that I can’t begin to unpack here, but “Jargon” says on the Times site: “I am so sick of this blind, unquestionable trust that whites hold for police.”
On the spectrum of eeriness, watching Jimmy Kimmel laugh about the incident on late-night TV was strange, but not as bad as reading dismissive accounts of it in the mainstream press. Shameful ad hominem reporting appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Salon. com. It’s as if these reporters can’t keep these two concepts separate: “he was annoying” and “he deserved to be arrested and assaulted.” This confusion reminds me of people I sometimes meet overseas who can’t treat me as an individual because I come from the loathsome United States. The fact that Meyer’s website features pranks and skits, notably that he carried a “Harry Dies” sign after the release of the last Harry Potter book, seems to have persuaded many people that he deserved what he got.
Someone who exudes such a reclining air that he will probably never be on the receiving end of a taser is the Washington Post’s Emil Steiner, who writes, “Kerry’s voice, however, was no match for Meyer’s, who despite not having a microphone continued to hog the audience’s attention with such glib catch phrases as: ‘Help me! Help!’...”
This smug tone is jolted awake by the first comment below the piece, from “Mark”: “One word: FASCISM. Be afraid to ask vital questions in our free republic.”
In observing the cultural milieu in which this incident took place, from the blank reaction of students and Kerry to online comments to press reports, this was a taste of what it was like to be living in the United States in 2002/2003. It was the most haunting time I have known, when story after story in the mainstream press sold the war and friends of mine with college and law and medical and doctoral degrees jumped on the bandwagon. I looked all around me and saw only pods.
The question is when do the pods take over our souls? Is it in adolescence, when we have individuality pounded out of us by the mob so eager to squelch any deviant thought or behavior? Is it in classrooms or in front of televisions? What is the pod?
Surely Kerry was alive in Vietnam when he saved his fellow soldiers, and when he came home to protest the war; but somewhere in 37 years of public life he got the lobotomy needed to win elections. (Politicians with a pulse don’t stand a chance.) Even after he had time to reflect, Kerry offered the Associated Press this safe pablum: “Whatever happened, the police had a reason, had made their decision that there was something they needed to do. Then it’s a law enforcement issue, not mine.”
Lost in the melee was one of Meyer’s questions: “Why not impeach Bush before he has a chance to invade Iran?” It’s a question that, if seriously considered, would tase the brains of zombies everywhere.
Brendan Cooney is an anthropologist and writer living in New York. He has written for Salon.com, Columbia Journalism Review, and National Journal. This article was originally published on Counterpunch. Photos from You Tube videos.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
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ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
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MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
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BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
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LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
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LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
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WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
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HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
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POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
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VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
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OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
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COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.