Occupy Building Momentum in 2012

Let’s start the new year off on a positive note. Sure, our government is bought and paid for, our law enforcement seems more intent on stifling dissent than arresting those who hijacked our economy wholesale, and the country is slowly turning more and more into a police state. But there are some glimmers of hope out there, and I credit the Occupy movement with helping to turn things around….


The Bad: While everyone was getting ready to celebrate the new year, President Obama signed into law new provisions that allow for Americans to be detained indefinitely.
Glimmer of Hope: Senator Diane Feinstein has introduced a law to repeal these provisions. It’s called the Due Process Guarantee Act, and as the name cleverly implies, it restores due process for all Americans. It’s still completely shameful that we need a law to restore something that the Constitution and American tradition upholds.

There’s a petition circulating to persuade senators to support this. Sign it!

2. Citizens United

The Bad: This is the Supreme Court ruling that essentially said Corporations are People. It allows corporations to fully participate financially in elections, and means that if you thought the flow of corporate money into politics was bad before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Glimmer of Hope: The cities of Los Angeles and New York both voted to declare that corporations are not people, and the State of Montana’s Supreme Court has also said that corporations are not people. Furthermore, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ted Deutch both are working to introduce a Constitutional Amendment to declare that corporations are not people.

There’s a petition on Senator Sanders’ site that needs the support of as many of us as possible. Sign it.

3. Big Corporations vs Consumers 

The Bad: Well, apart from the fact that large corporations control a disproportionate amount of the GDP of this country, that companies are increasingly listening to their shareholders first, and customers second (or third, or fourth…), AND that thanks to the repeal of Glass-Seagall (I could go on about this one, but it can wait for another post), the large financial institutions went on a gambling binge with our money, lost, got a sweetheart deal from us taxpayers to save them, then headed straight back to the casino to start all over again….
Glimmer of Hope: Bank of America became the first large bank to announce a $5/month debit card fee. However, thanks to the incredible, coordinated outcry from customers, including a massive exodus of consumer accounts to credit unions, Bank of America backed down, and other large banks publicy announced they were abandoning plans to do the same. Last month, Verizon Wireless announced plans to charge a fee for manually processed electronic bill payments. The outcry was swift and furious, and they also backed down.

It’s clear that since Occupy Wall Street protests began in September, the spotlight is shining more and more on the criminal business practices of the financial industry, the increasing wealth gap in this country, and the way our government and large corporations are listening to each other but ignoring the electorate.

The road ahead is difficult, but I’m feeling more and more confident that this movement is going to gain more traction across the country, and have a greater and greater effect on national discourse. Here’s to 2012…

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – Censorship for the Internet

UPDATE 1:24 PM: It looks like SOPA is on hiatus until 2012, at least. Please read through and still contact your representatives about this law, just in case the committee vote still happens early next year. There’s also a campaign now to contact US senators to ensure they halt their version of the bill.

If I believed in conspiracy theories, I would be building a bomb shelter in my yard this weekend and moving into it. On the heels of the breakup of Occupy camps all over the country, we saw the National Defense Authorization Act get passed in the House and Senate, which includes provisions for jailing anyone without charge if they are suspected of being a terrorist. Now we have SOPA, which would enshrine into law some of the same types of censorship tools used by paragons of liberty such as the Chinese government.

Of course, this is America, and the reasoning behind this law isn’t about political speech, it’s about trying to enhance the profit of large American corporations. I can’t even tell which is worse: the idea of shredding the American Constitution over security fears (NDAA), or shredding it to improve the bottom line of some large corporations (SOPA).

Either way, it’s SHAMEFUL that our elected representatives are so out of touch with reality that they are spending their time on issues such as this. While the vast majority of Americans are struggling just to get by in these horrible times, Washington is cheerfully debating and voting for laws that are dismantling the very foundations of what this country was founded upon. They are spitting on the bodies of everyone who spilled their own blood to protect our way of life.

What’s wrong with SOPA? Here’s a good rundown, but basically one of things it does is force ISPs to add DNS filters to prevent people from accessing websites deemed to be distributing illegal content. Basically, everytime you go to an Internet address (such as haighworld.com), your request goes to a Domain Name Server, which translates that address into actual numeric address of the website. What this law would do is insert a filter into that step so that you would be prevented from every being able to get to any site that is deemed “illegal” under this law.

According to that story linked above, here are some countries currently using this technology to filter out unwanted sites: China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Burma (Myanmar), Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. That’s some fantastic company we’re keeping.

While it sounds like stopping this is an uphill battle, we cannot give up just yet. Contact your representatives and let them know you think this is a bad idea.

Now I think this is a load of legislative nonsense, a huge waste of dollars creating laws and the infrastructure to support them in order to mollify a small elite of mega corporations complaining about going bankrupt due to piracy while they continue to post record profits. There are way better things we should be spending our energy on apart from appeasing a small group of political donors.

However, if we have to have a new law, then we should be debating OPEN: Online Protection & ENforcement of Digital Trade Act. It’s sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and is designed to satisfy the anti-piracy requirements of SOPA without resorting to hamfisted censorship techniques. By the way, hat tip to Rep. Issa – most of the time when I see him speak on TV I want to throw something at it, but I applaud his strong, intelligent opposition to SOPA.

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act Must be Stopped

I could try to give a good background on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but there are articles out there that explain it better than I ever could. Here’s one: Obama’s Most Fateful Decision – go ahead and read it, then hit the back button and come back to this page. I’ll wait.

No, really, go read it. I’ll be here.

Ok, done? You worried for the future of this country yet? This piece of legislation represents the latest in the slippery slope we’ve been on since 9/11. This country has been slowly chipping away its own civil liberties in the pursuit of “security”, and this Act is the final nail in the coffin.

The United States of America, the country that stood strong against the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and fought against itself to end slavery, this shining example of freedom and liberty throughout the world, is now being slowly dismantled and destroyed. Not with bombs and bullets, but by the hands of our own elected representatives.

The provisions of this Act stomp all over the Constitution and give our government the ability to essentially make any American disappear if it perceives a threat. If you think this is an overstatement, ask yourself this: do you really believe any large institution – including our government – won’t do anything in its power to preserve itself and its authority? ALL institutions, public and private, look out for number 1. Just ask the victims of Jerry Sandusky about how Penn State protected them from a predator.

Now ask yourself, how all the countless Americans who fought and died on foreign soil protecting YOUR rights and freedoms would feel, seeing the people they sacrificed for tossing away their liberties like yesterday’s garbage?

This legislation is an insult, a spit in the eye, on all who have sacrificed for this country. It turns its back on this country’s history of standing up for freedom and liberty against all dangers. This legislation would turn America into a police state, so fearful of everything and everyone that its most cherished freedoms are tossed aside.

This is why EVERYONE needs to let their representatives know that they do not support this. There will always be dangers to this country, and there will always be bad people out there trying to take us down. But the fundamental strength of this country is its resilience and resolve in the face of attack. These provisions in the NDAA do not secure this country. They will irreparably harm it.

Contact President Obama and let him know he must veto it.

Contact your representatives and let them know they must fix this NOW. (This link is to the ACLU – not everyone agrees with them, but their page is set up to help you automatically send a note to your elected representative. Very handy.)

Open Letter to President Obama re: National Defense Authorization Act

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to you for the first time, because I am deeply disturbed by the news I am seeing regarding clause 1031 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which will shortly be on your desk to be signed.

While I appreciate the efforts all levels of government have taken to ensure our nation’s security, this clause, allowing for indefinite imprisonment of US citizens suspected of terrorism, is a dangerous breach of due process that is one of the cornerstones of this country.

I urge you in the strongest possible terms to veto this bill. To sign into law a clause that effectively allows any future leader to imprison Americans without due process is to turn your back on the sacrifices millions of Americans have made before you to secure the peaceful, open society we have today.

PLEASE, do not allow this to become law.

Brian Haigh

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