Tag Archive | Activism

Infinite Hope

Challenges have the uncanny ability to sharpen our focus. A knee injury will make you more mindful of walking than ever before. Bad food introduces you to taste buds you never knew existed. Adrenaline enables amazing physical feats.

The same is true for political movements. Progressives are smarting now. Many on the left are disenchanted with the President, disappointed in the pending health care legislation and disillusioned about the 2010 mid-term elections. What’s a movement to do?

Real progress

We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our renewed focus is an opportunity to build a foundation for future success, resilience and empowerment. This means taking stock of the real progress being made in this moment while simultaneously fighting to transition society from its peppered past to a progressive future.

President Obama was mindful of this when he said in his Martin Luther King, Jr. address that:

…our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debates that they couldn’t see progress when it came…Let’s take a victory, he said, and then keep on marching. Forward steps, large and small, were recognized for what they were — which was progress.

What victories have we won? A few include:

Where do we go from here

Martha Coakley and others’ recent electoral defeats echo the sentiment of the 2008 Presidential election: candidates who proactively or passively represent a broken status quo will fail. Insiders can no longer combine tepid emotions and bland appeals with party machines and expect victory. They instead must take the hope demonstrated by the 2008 election and marry it to action.

The infinite hope that Dr. King spoke of us present within the progressive movement. Young people are organizing like never before in favor of comprehensive immigration reform reflective of America’s ideals, not its demons. Their hope is moving them to action.

That infinite hope is present in the hearts of millions of ambitious yet unemployed Americans. People are coming together to petition their government to work on their behalf to create jobs rather than give handouts to industries that have turned their backs on their employees. The hope of these workers is moving them to action.

That hope still exists in health care. Amidst the angst of the centrists, the exasperation of many Progressives and the perverse cynicism of corporate and conservative interests, the American people remain thirsty for quality, affordable health care. The current proposals have their differences and flaws, but our communities are speaking up in unison when they demand a health care system that works for them. Listening to the practical, conscientious voice of constituents would have led to a substantive debate that disregarded idiocy while embracing the courageous optimism of the American spirit.

Read More…

Open Gates – My FCC Testimony

On Tuesday, December 15, 2009, I testified at an FCC workshop entitled “Speech, Democratic Engagement and the Open Internet.” Video of the hearing is embedded below and available on YouTube. The moderator introduces me at 58:27, and my roughly 6 minute remarks begin at 59:07. The Q&A that begins at 1:26:18 (My answers are at 1:28:00-1:29:29 and 1:41:20-1:43:31).

My message was that an open internet is necessary for the political participation of all people of all shapes, sizes, races and income in the future. My full opening statement with references is below.

One Love. One II.

Read More…

The pros and cons of worldwide net activism

I also posted this at the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate. I serve as Senior Policy Analyst for Technology for the Institute.

As new tools of civic and civil protest evolve – as in Iran, where protesters are using social networks to keep the rest of the world apprised of the response to that country’s recently held elections – they present both new opportunities and new challenges for freedom of speech.

Protesting using Twitter

Protesting using Twitter

Twitter has been singled out as the key communication platform for protesters and those watching them since last week’s election. It has enabled people around the globe to read real time accounts of the happenings.

It has also enabled people around the globe to participate in the protest in ways some have never seen before.

Such armchair activism has included setting up proxy servers to help Iranian tweeters get around government blockades of the site.

Another example was the attempted DDOS attacks on Iranian web servers from abroad (DDoS stands for Denial of Service, a method of hacking that involves sending lots of web requests every second with the hopes of overloading a web server and rendering a website unusable/unavailable).

Principally, the inclusion of non-Iranians in these protest efforts is a good thing. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. However, these particular actions raise serious ethical and legal questions that must be thought through.

As interested activists and citizens, we must be prudent in our actions to ensure they help more than hurt.

For instance, are we comfortable with the idea of private citizens using private networks to engage in network “warfare”?

By doing so, do we make our civilian network infrastructure a valid target to an adversary? What risks are associated with a group of private citizens sending an unintended message to a potential adversary in the form of a coordinated network disruption?

Perhaps we are, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Earlier this year, Russia basically did this to Georgia, and caught a lot of flack for it. This sets a precedent that is dangerous, especially if we don’t understand its consequences.

Another question: if the attacks were actually successful, wouldn’t we be destroying the only portals we have into the very place we’re so interested in?

After all, foreign journalists have been banned from covering the demonstration, and many have been jailed and/or beaten. To choke off an authentic supply of information would be strategically foolish.

Technology is an increasingly powerful and important part of our society and our culture. As it expands to touch more parts of our lives, we must be ever-mindful of its drawbacks as well as its benefits.

One Love. One II.

John Legend's Commencement Address at UPenn

I generally disdain the Cult of the Celebrity. It frustrates me when the unqualified, unverified, and unquestioned present weak arguments and empty claims that are accepted as facts given from experts. While I also reject the Cult of Expertise, I’d take that one over celebrity.

The Cult of Celebrity & the Cult of Expertise often cross paths during this time of year: graduation time. Colleges across the country are hosting commencement celebrations and inviting speakers of all types to inspire students to go off and change the world. President Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker. John Legend.

John Legend? Yeah, that John Legend.

He addressed the graduating class of UPenn on Monday, the school he graduated from 10 years ago. At first, I saw this as a classic case of the Cult of the Celebrity:

  1. Why exactly is this guy giving this address.
  2. Is he really that interesting/compelling/appropriate?
  3. I bet I’d give a better speech than him

While I will definitely not concede the third point, I was pleasantly surprised with the address he delivered. So much so in fact, that I’d like to share it with all of you.

My key takeaway from the speech was:

Now, I don’t assume that the truth is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of democracy and justice, I believe it is quite rare to find. It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening. It’s about accepting that complex problems require complicated solutions.

Enjoy this, and share it.

One Love. One II.

P.S. Now, back to my hating on the Cult of the Celebrity.

Domestic Tool of Torture: The Taser

This post is part of: A day of blogging for justice: Standing up against the police pre-trial electrocution of black children, women and men by taser.

Tasers are instruments of torture.

Tasers are instruments of torture.

Torture talk has been all over the news recently. The unfortunate [yet understandable] focus of the conversation is on torture in a military & international context.

This causes us to overlook the torture and murder of citizens here at home, victims of racial profiling, police brutality, and excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement.

This issue is not new, but the instruments of this type of torture are ever-evolving. While military torture involves tools like the waterboard, our domestic version uses the taser. 

Torture mentality has perverted our entire system

What happens at the top always impacts the bottom. Lawless leadership leads to lawless practices on the ground. When the Bush Administration OK’d torture, low-level interrogators became torturers. On the local level, when police chiefs embrace tasers as “non-lethal” alternatives to guns, people get killed unnecessarily.

Leadership complicit in torture and murder must be held accountable at all levels.Further, we need to preemptively demand that our leaders craft policies that prevent death, not enable it.

Our wars here at home on petty criminals and the disenfranchised should not be ones that result in capital murder.

What you can do

Contact your local police chief and ask whether officers are carrying tasers. Look up their contact information by searching for their zip code on USACOPS. If they’re using tasers not, thank him or her. If they are carrying, do the following:

  • Sign this petition calling on the Congressional Black Caucus to investigate this phenomenon.
  • Ask: Is the entire force armed with tasers?
    If not, which units have them?
  • Ask: Do officers carry both tasers and guns?
    Ask what the motivation is for this policy.
  • Ask: What’s the usage protocol for tasers?
    This will answer the question “when should tasers be used in place of guns?”
  • Suggest: Stop carrying tasers
    Direct them to our site documenting taser abuses in the US. Let them know that you’ll feel safer if police enagaged in non-lethal ways whenever possible. You know that the officers are well-trained and highly professional, and you just want them to do the best they can without taking lives.

Simply asking these questions will cause leadership to reflect on their policy. Reflection is the first step to change.

Let’s prevent this from spreading further.

One Love. One II.

Photo Credit: strangedays on Flickr

How the Left must handle President Obama

Activism is my rent.I was recently asked to comment on an article by Linda Burnham about how the Left, specifically the anti-Capitalist Left, should feel about and work with the Obama Administration. It’s called “Notes on an Orientation to the Obama Presidency”.

There is real debate about how ardent Leftists, Progressive activists, think-tanks, etc. should approach the government under President Obama. Groups that have felt alienated by American politics and the pervasiveness of Conservative ideology have been frustrated & cynical for the past 60 years. They are not content with incremental solutions to big problems. They are almost offended when with presented with nuanced distinctions in policy or rhetoric that at the end of the day is not demonstrably different from the status quo.

While I find myself in this group much more often than not, there are some real opportunities to make progress on a fundamentally Progressive agenda. We must take proper advantage of these times, lest this once-in-a-generation opportunity pass us by.

Here is my full response: Read More…

We Need Workers, Not Volunteers

20 Dollar Bill - Source: Darren Hester (http://flickr.com/photos/ppdigital/2054207669/)

I’m just as excited as the next activist to see so many people engaging in the electoral process this year. People are phone-banking, canvasing, knocking on doors, calling their congress members, etc. All of this volunteerism is beautiful, an expression what passionate political participation by an informed and interested citizenry should look like in a democracy.

What’s not to like?

Well, there is actually one big thing not to like: Very, very little of this is sustainable. That’s right. 95% of this enthusiasm and participation will likely die the day after election day, with the other 5% dying the day after inauguration day.

Why is this not sustainable?

One word: money. Read More…

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