Issue 1 January 2012 OCCUPY BATON ROUGE OccupyBR.com
The biggest threat to paid speech is free speech.
Why Occupy? The reasoning behind a consensus-based community BY DAVID McLAUGHLIN Occupy Baton Rouge There has been a lot of criticism of Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movements as a whole. The criticisms are varied, ranging from outright dismissal of the movement as a bunch of unemployed hippies, to the more nuanced complaint that the movement is impractical because there are no leaders, specific policy proposals, or lists of demands. One of the most baffling things to critics, though, is the process by which Occupy makes decisions. That is, Occupy makes decisions through General Assemblies, which use a consensus decision-making process. Everyone is familiar with the idea of majority rules. When voting on a proposal, a majority of the votes are required for its acceptance (usually 60% or higher). Proponents of a certain proposal argue with proponents of counter-proposals in an attempt to persuade others to accept their point of view. If you get 60% of the votes or more, you win. From the perspective of those involved, it is generally a competitive procedure based off the idea that others need to be convinced of your proposal. Consensus decision-making, on the other hand, is a collaborative, rather than a competitive, process. It
is not based on the idea that other individuals need to be convinced of your exact proposal. Rather, it is based on the idea that it is impossible or even undesirable to convince others to accept your point of view completely. You may be able to convince others of a certain point here or there, but hardly anyone is able to completely convert another person to their point of view. Thus, an uncompromising, combative commitment to your exact version solution is anathema to consensus decision-making. In the consensus decision-making process, proposals should be ratified with the consent of all involved participants. Consent, of course, is quite different from perfect and enthusiastic agreement. A proposal may not be exactly what you wanted, but is acceptable enough for you to let pass. Consensus decision making involves a process in which participants contribute to a shared proposal. Rather than constructing individual proposals separately and competing with others to get yours passed, you try to take all input from individual members into account and construct one proposal, which creates an atmosphere of cooperation. In order for this process to be valuable, all members of the decision-making body should be afforded equal input in the process. All members must have an
Europe, the second recession?
equal opportunity to present and amend proposals. In fact, the decision-making process should actively solicit the input of all members. The idea behind consensus decision making is that by including the input of all stakeholders, potential problems and concerns will be better addressed. Furthermore, a process that includes and respects all parties will result in greater cooperation and faster implementation once a proposal is accepted. A common problem with majoritarian democracies is that proposals are passed without taking into account the input of minorities, which leads to feelings of exclusion and resentment. This results in less enthusiasm and more resistance to the proposal once it is passed. Majority rule, in comparison, frames decisions in a win/lose dichotomy that ignores the possibility of compromise. Also, proponents of consensus argue that majority rule, where 60% can crush the 40%, can lead to a tyranny of the majority. These criticisms of majoritarian democracies make sense if we look at anthropology. The originators of m ajoritarian dem ocrac y, the Greeks, were some of the most competitive people known to history...
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Flaws in the FDA’s risk assessment of gulf seafood
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Nabi Saleh’s tears
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The dilemma of Occupy: How to parlay popular support into political change
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☛ See WHY, page 5
Censored is The People’s [Censored] a publication produced by participants in Occupy Baton Rouge. The People’s Censored does not—and [Censored] could not—represent anyone except its participants. We are in no way affiliated with the [Censored] Censored or their corporate overlords Capitol City Press. The views of the authors are their own.
Censored 2 January 2012 The People’s [Censored]
Europe, the second recession? BY JOSHUA FINI Occupy Baton Rouge “If America gets a cough, the world gets a cold.” The issue today has changed that phrase, at least slightly. Due to the Shock Doctrine employed by the United States in the late 20th century, the world became so integrated that very few could foresee the crisis about to unfold. The situation that the Lehman Brothers’ collapse caused could only be described as a tsunami. The United States, Europe, and Asia had for the past twenty years, since the fall of the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, become open for multi-national companies to expand and exploit. During the Bush era, there was major economic competition between the financial sectors of New York and London. The Anglo-American business free market model became the reference for the rest of world to follow, including the rest of Europe. One such country to take the Neo-Liberal Doctrine to the ex-
treme would be Iceland. Their Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, wanted Iceland to leave its Social-Democrat past behind and push for the Neoliberal doctrine that many other countries were taking. PM Haarde began full scale privatization programs in order to push for his “free-market” agenda; one problem was that the three largest and oldest banks in Iceland came under the ownership of close friends to the Cabinet. The country’s banks borrowed 9 times the GDP of the country. When Iceland took over the banks, the average debt per citizen was $350,000! Iceland quickly declared bankruptcy, which led to the UK putting the three Icelandic banks on their list of terrorists. This would damage the economy of the UK severely. With Europe being hit by the crashing market, Iceland wasn’t alone. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Greece (PIGS) became major leading countries in the housing bubble. The jewel of the crown was clearly Spain. Spain had more houses being
built than France and Germany combined; this led to the country being given the title “The miracle of Europe”. In 2007, the US housing market began to show some cracks and within a year the global economy, including Europe, was on the verge of collapse. The economic powerhouses of Europe—UK, Germany, and France—financed the economic development of PIGS. With the US housing market fueling the global economic growth for the decade, it seemed that the skies were the only limits to the economic growth of the 21st century. The debt of the PIGS was high during the growth period, but due to the growth it was sustainable, at least as long as the US housing market continued to grow. That party ended quickly in 2008. Rapidly, the crisis which started in the United States with the Lehman Brothers’ collapse spread like a virus across the globe... ☛ See EUROPE, page 5
Flaws in the FDA’s risk assessment of Gulf seafood BY BRYAN PERKINS Occupy Baton Rouge An article written by researchers at the Natural Resources Defense Council and published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives calls into question the scientific basis of the risk assessment methods used by the FDA when determining the safety of seafood after the BP Gulf oil spill of 2010. The article states that the FDA Gulf seafood risk assessment contains numerous assumptions that are inconsistent with the FDA’s own prior practice and with risk assessment guidelines produced by other authoritative entities. Each of the inconsistent assumptions would result in an underestimate of risk for a significant fraction of the exposed population. The questionable assumptions
include six main issues: 1. High consumer body weight. When determining the threshold for allowable levels (Levels of Concern) of PAH contaminants in Gulf Coast seafood, the FDA assumed the consumer weighs 176 lbs. Close to 75% of the female population weighs less than 176 lbs, and the average body weight of a 4-6 year old child is almost ¼ of that. PAHs are the main constituent of crude oil that has a potential to present a health risk via ingestion of contaminated seafood. Because acceptable intake of PAHs is calculated as a fraction of bodyweight, using an inflated assumption in a risk assessment is systematically underprotective of the entire population that weighs below the level used in the calculation. 2. Low estimates of seafood consumption. The Levels of Concern used by
the FDA depended on relatively low estimates of seafood consumption. Populations living along the Gulf Coast have a significantly higher rate of seafood consumption when compared to the rest of the nation. For example, surveys of New Orleans residents and recreational anglers in Louisiana found consumers reporting shrimp intakes of 65.1 and 55.5 grams per day respectively, significantly higher than FDA’s estimate of 13 grams/day. 3. Failure to adjust for early life susceptibility to PAHs. The FDA conducted a single risk assessment for adults and did not evaluate potential increased risks to the developing fetus or child... ☛ See FLAWS, page 7
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Nabi Saleh’s tears BY CHRISTINE BANIEWICZ ImaginAction Associate Artist I lean against the walls of a small bathroom in Nabi Saleh. Someone knocks on the door. “Just a minute.” I sniff and spit into the toilet. Alright, enough. I emerge. I arrived in Nabi Saleh an hour ago with my colleague, Sarah, and a few students from Jenin. The journey took two hours. “I hope they don’t spray the water,” I said. Talib turns to face me. Morning sun bounces off his aviators as behind him, steam rises from a paper cup of coffee. “The shit water, khara.” “Ah, yes,” says Talib. “The shit.” Nabi Saleh is a small Palestinian village near Ramallah. Every Friday, local and international activists gather to peacefully demonstrate against Israel’s confiscation of the village’s land and resources. Every week they are met with a mess of soldiers, tear gas and the affably named “shit water.” “It doesn’t come off of your clothes for three weeks,” says Sarah. “It’s chemical.” “Yeah.” I think of the change of clothes I stashed for myself this morning. I hope so. After endless olive trees and terraced, sand-colored mountains, we arrive in Nabi Saleh. The driver pulls onto the main road. The smell is immediate. “Oh my God.” I pull my scarf up over my nose. It’s rancid—like skunk spray and rotting flesh. The land is saturated with it. Everyone in the car follows suit, covering their noses until we pull onto the shoulder and disembark. “There’s food, and a bathroom if you need it, in this house here.” Some folks in kuffias direct us to a stone house down the road. It is one of a dozen homes that line the street. “Beit Bilal,” Bilal’s house. The front door’s open; we walk inside. A large table in the main room is covered with hummus and fried eggs. Tea is everywhere. Welcome, welcome! I shake hands with Bilal. He
looks tired behind thick glasses. His hands are work-worn. “Please,” he gestures at the table. “Eat.” I oblige him. Talib and Noor entertain his five-year-old niece. “Come, come,” says Bilal. “I want to show you a film, to understand the situation here.” He leads us into the living room. We sit facing a large television. Talib lights a cigarette. The film begins. It’s a home video of sorts; a twenty-minute collage of footage shot over the years in Nabi Saleh. “They have a machine that fires 60 tear gas canisters at once,” says Bilal, pausing the video in a still image of the weapon. “Here’s the spring,” he says. The camera shakes, focused on a protected fresh water spring on a hill. Soldiers guard it. “No Palestinians allowed here.” The film is a nightmare: children dragged into custody, separated from their mothers on suspicion of rock-throwing; streams of highpressured chemical water sprayed directly on houses; a soldier swats an old woman to the ground with his arm; a tear-gas canister whizzes at fatal velocity past a young girl. In one clip, soldiers break down Bilal’s door and set up camp on his roof. From this vantage point, they shoot tear gas through the windows of the neighboring house, shattering them and causing the families gathered inside to panic. I watch as white smoke hisses into the room. Parents shepherd their children into a bedroom away from the fumes. Inside the room, children sniffle. Gas creeps under the door, stinging their eyes. In desperation, parents toss their own children, as carefully as possible, out of the second-story window into the waiting arms of adults below. “Fuck.” The children cry— because their eyes sting, because they’re scared to jump, because they’re confused. The bedroom slowly fills with gas. I paid for this. My face is hot. 20% of US federal tax dollars for defense. Every pay stub, every tax withdrawn
from my measly waitressing salary courses through me. My students curse. Sarah’s head is in her hands. The film ends and I excuse myself. I evacuate my grief in the bathroom, ribs flapping silently. I finish. I emerge. Ben has arrived with Ghali from Ramallah, so we make our way to the main road and greet them. A pack of protestors joins us. We walk up the hill. When we arrive at the top, progressive-looking westerners pour out of busses and our numbers swell to one hundred, maybe more. “It’s important that you feel safe,” a bearded man says. He wears all black. “If you are arrested, don’t resist or struggle. Anything you do or say will be used against you.” I’m standing in a ring of newcomers. We’re being debriefed. “If you breathe the gas, it will hurt. Try to cover your nose and mouth, but if you start to feel it sting, just relax. It’s temporary. Breathe slowly.” He gives us his telephone number, in case we are arrested. “I work with an organization that can represent you if something happens.” Everyone nods. “We will try to walk down to the spring,” he says. “If you don’t want to get arrested, or are scared of the gas, then I suggest you stay back towards the road. Don’t do anything that makes you feel unsafe. Alright?” Already chants are starting, funneled through megaphones in the center of the crowd. The debriefing ends, and the demonstration begins. “Harree-ay! Harree-ay!” A tiny girl, maybe four years old, toddles ahead of me in a red dress. In a cluster of flags towards the front, a woman leads Arabic chants. I repeat the words I recognize: Palestine, freedom, freedom. We walk together down the hill, slowly: men, women, old and young, European and Middle Eastern and American... ☛ See TEARS, page 6
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The Dilemma of Occupy: How to Parlay Popular Support into Political Change BY DAVID KIRSHNER Occupy Baton Rouge We in Occupy Baton Rouge, as throughout the movement, are motivated by anger, fear, and frustration stemming from government that lopsidedly favors the rich at the expense of the poor, and that increasingly seems unresponsive to catastrophic threats that would engulf even the rich; a government out of touch and out of control. What to do. This is the dilemma of Occupy. We are ordinary people who ‘get it’ that our elected leaders–the ones with the fancy credentials, public policy and political theory expertise, legislative experience–are AWOL. What can we do to wrest control of our government away from private interests and toward the public good? What we are doing is striking out at the obvious targets, the greedy Wall Streeters, the spineless and unfaithful politicians. But where can this really lead? How does drawing attention to the problems–we’ve done that admirably!–move us toward solution, when the very ones who control the levers of power ARE the problem? The Occupy movement really has no answers to these questions. The default strategy that we’re playing out at present goes like this: (1) grow the movement so that it can’t be ignored; (2) disrupt business-asusual to the extent that those in power feel threatened enough to make concessions. The problem with this strategy is that our opponents hold almost all of the cards. They can work diligently and effectively to discredit us (manipulating public opinion IS something they’re good at). They can stall until we fall apart from discouragement or internal conflict–our ability to remain unified by being leaderless is fabulous. And if those don’t work they can offer token and superficial concessions, the minimum needed to convince the majority of citizens that we’ve won and ought to now go back to our homes. Real, fundamental change will not come about from our present course. As a result, people within the Occupy movement are considering much more radical alternatives. Perhaps representative democracy
can’t work. Perhaps we need to find a way to rework democracy so that it operates like our GAs, a participatory form of direct democracy. Maybe capitalism can’t work in concert with truly representative democracy. Maybe we need to tear down the system to effect any real change. These are the ideas that flicker in the background of Occupy consciousness. The obstacles toward achieving any of these radical solutions are obvious and monumental. The public may support our clamor for a fairer system, but probably not for a whole new, unknown system that might produce chaos or worse ahead of any possible payoff of justice. Still, if rewriting our democracy or changing our entire economic system is what is needed to obtain a just and rational system of governance, we shouldn’t shirk from our responsibility to strive for a better America for future generations. But we would be remiss not to first consider how our democracy might be corrected before we opt to tear it down and start over. That’s the purpose of this essay, to analyze the roots of the malaise of our democracy and map out a strategy to correct it. Over time our democracy has become more perfect. Within just the past hundred years, women and then African Americans achieved the right to vote. In England, the first election to parliament in 1265 AD (40 years after King John signed the Magna Carta) enfranchised only landowners. American democracy was founded partly in rejection of the classism of English society; the Jeffersonian ideal of all people being created equal (i.e., with equal rights) is firmly entrenched. Still, the undue influence of wealth in our political processes needs to be understood as a legacy of a democratic tradition that originated to serve the interests of the privileged few. This is a democracy that can still be improved to better fulfill our ideals of justice and equality. The immediate problem with which we are faced is a political system that is unresponsive to the needs and interests of the electorate. The reason is easily discernible. In order to run for office a candidate must raise money from private interests. People in a financial position to contribute large sums to political campaigns do not do so for altruistic reasons, they do so with the expectation that once elected
the candidate whom they have backed will look out for their special interests. This is not a direct quidpro-quo. There are no deals worked out in advance. But if candidates fail to act in the interests of their financial backers they can expect their financial support to dry up. In this way, the business of governance becomes the art of legislating on behalf of special interests while paying lip service to the needs and interests of constituents. With the recent elimination of funding limits for corporate spending to influence electoral contests (the Citizens United decision) the art of governance has become easier. No longer does the politician have to figure out how to dupe the electorate. The same special interests that fund his or her campaign can now deliver the electorate directly. Thus even the semblance of responsive governance is slipping away. In looking at this travesty of democratic process, it is easy to misperceive the actors as villains, the politicians, the lobbyists, the corporations, the wealthy. Thus we hear cries of “end corporate greed” and “term limits to get rid of these career politicians.” Each of these refrains is music to the ears of the intransigent wealthy–those determined to hold on to the undeserved political influence they currently enjoy. The first is a direct attack on capitalism–a system rooted in the assumption that people act in their own selfinterest. The second is a direct attack on representative democracy– a system based on the premise that individuals empowered by their community can act in the interests of their community. By railing against the foundations of our system, we lose the broad support we could get for making the small changes to our electoral process that would put politicians back in service of the public interest. Our current strategy of resistance is based directly on the Arab Spring that served as the inspiration for Occupy. But we already ARE a democracy. We don’t need to tear down the system to get private money out of politics, we only need to clarify the principles upon which our democracy ought to be working...
☛ See CHANGE, page 8
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WHY Continued from page 1 As a society, Greece tended to make everything into a public contest, from athletics to philosophy to tragic drama. So it’s not really that surprising that the same society that gave us the Olympic Games also turned political decisionmaking into a public contest. Greece was also a democracy of citizens in arms, which allowed the majority to violently crush minorities that protested too strongly. As far as anthropologists can tell, consensus decision-making has been around as long as humankind has existed. There are countless examples, past and present, of indigenous people making decisions through consensus. Examples include the fokon’olona (communal assembly) of the Malagasy to the popular assemblies of the Tzeltal speaking peoples of the Chiapas. Most of these societies
EUROPE Continued from page 2 One direct problem came into light with the likely collapse of the world’s largest insurance company, AIG. If AIG would have collapsed, the economic structure of the West and the world would have collapsed. With the crash of the US housing market, it became apparent the economic growth of the PIGS was in decline, which meant that their debt would sky rocket. When a country borrows money from another country, it is done through the purchase of bonds of the country that needs the loans. In the case of Europe and interest rates on bonds, there is a number which sounds the alarms for a real crisis, 7%. In the spring of 2010 Greece reached 7%, which led to a Euro Zone bailout of 110 billion Euros. Later that year, Ireland received a bailout, and in 2011 Portugal received a bailout. The worst possible issue had come up in August of 2011 with Italy reaching the 7% mark. In 2008, the expression was “too big, too fail”, but in the case of Italy, it is “too big, too save”. Italy’s GDP reached past $2 trillion, but its debt was over 100%
were anarchist in nature. By that, anthropologists mean that there was no organization with a monopoly on violence (i.e. a state) to coerce a dissenting minority (or a dissenting majority) into compliance. It’s therefore natural for these societies to gravitate towards consensus decision-making, a process that reduces the need for coercion in the first place. In North America, the consensus decision-making process was popular among the Native Americans. After Native Americans and their societies were largely wiped out by the European invaders, consensus decision-making made a comeback through the modern feminist movement. The consensus decisionmaking process was in no small part a broad backlash against the macho, sexist, self-aggrandizing, mostly male leaders of the student and civil rights movements of 1960s and 70s. Much of the procedure they used originated with the Quakers. The Quakers in turn claim to have been
inspired by Native American practice, though it is difficult to determine the veracity of this claim. It is true though that most Native Americans practiced a form of consensus decision-making. In fact, almost all human communities throughout history that aren’t drawing upon the ancient traditions of Greece use some form of consensus. Ultimately, consensus decisionmaking is a reflection of the “you get what you put into it” view of society. It is more tedious and time-consuming than other decision making processes, but results in decisions, and a society, that serves the interests of all much better than the rule of a minority, or a majority, could.
of the economy’s GDP. This crisis began to escalate to the level of a liquidity crisis, which would have led to another crisis just like the fall of Lehman Brothers’ but would have been even worse. As a result, six central banks, including the US, decided to pump liquidity into Europe to prevent another possibility of collapse. The debt crisis is under control, at least for another 6 months. There is another side to the coin of economic chaos in Europe, protests. Since 2010, Greece has seen major protests and strikes against austerity measures which were made to prevent the growing debt. Greeks took to the streets, and Athens began to look even worse than Cairo. In 2011, the largest general strike in the nation’s history took place. In the UK, a major destructive riot took place in London and lasted for weeks. It was sparked by a murder by police and quickly escalated into a full scale riot. In France, the unions began “boss-napping” and staging major protests which literally intimidated the government. Later on in 2011, the M-15 movement of Spain began a full scale occupation of Madrid in order to push for change. This solidarity movement actually is one of the main sources of inspiration for
the American Occupy Wall Street Movement. The crisis in Europe is deep and problematic for the stability of the US. Not only is Europe the largest market for US goods, but European debt happens to be a major investment for the US financial institutions, which means if they default on their debts the US financial sector could face a collapse far worse than what happened in 2008. The stakes are high for the US and the now growing populist movement, Occupy Wall Street. The greatest opportunity for structural change and economic justice is when the people “lose it” and take to the streets. The Euro Crisis is no matter to ignore, and when it becomes an actual collapse, the vacuum of power is open for the people to take back what had been taken from them for decades.
This article was inspired by the Al Jazeera article "Occupy Wall Street's anarchist roots" by anthropologist and activist David Graeber.
To do your part and submit articles, pictures, political cartoons, and ideas to The People’s Censored send an email to: [Censored], OccupyBRNewsletter@gmail.com
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TEARS Continued from page 3 My eyes dart from student to student. Electric tethers issue from my heart, tacked onto them and buzzing with signals. I won’t let them out of my sight. We pass Bilal’s house, round a corner, and head out of the village. It’s open here. Loose stones flank the street in steep slopes on both sides. The Israeli settlement of Halamish is perched on a nearby hilltop. A high fence circles the white, freshly constructed homes. We round a bend, and there they are: a large, olive-colored convoy of military vehicles blocks the way out of the village. Soldiers fill out the line, toting automatics. The precession shudders to a halt. There’s a disturbance behind me. Some women from the village fall to their knees in the street, sobbing. I crane my neck, trying to discern the source of concern. Ben puts a hand on my shoulder and guides me away. “That’s where Mustafa died, come on.” “Oh.” I step away. Last weekend a 28-year-old man from the village, Mustafa Tamimi, was murdered while peacefully protesting the Occupation here. An Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at him, from less than 10 meters away. The projectile smashed into his face, instantly blinding him. He bled from his eyes in the street, and in less than 24 hours, he died. “You, killed, Mustafa!” blares from the megaphones. The crowd repeats. And suddenly it begins. Without visible provocation, the army blasts a round of tear gas canisters into the sky. They sound like fireworks. Don’t just turn and run. Ghali’s voice is in my mind, from our conversation yesterday. Follow the trail of smoke in the sky, to see where they will land, and get out of the way. Like a pack of ponies, the demonstrators spook and disperse. I resist the urge to turn tail and run blindly back up the street. I look up. About six canisters fly, trailing gas in a high arch towards the rocks on my left. I approximate their trajectory. I sprint away.
The students scramble along with me, down the street and then up the rocks of the embankment. My ankle almost turns on the stones. Once we’ve reached a safe distance, I turn back towards the army. Some folks are still on the road—a brave five or six sit facing the soldiers. Gas—thick, white and toxic— issues from half a dozen points on the road and in the shoulder. I tie my grandmother’s scarf around my neck and pull it over my nose. I breathe slowly. Sarah’s on my right. “Headcount?” she says. I scan the rocks. “There’s Noor. There’s Bahir.” I look behind me. About ten meters away, Talib stands, hands on hips, a black bandana covering the bottom half of his face. “I think we’re okay.” And before I can catch my breath, more rounds. It’s a dazzling display: twelve up, then another ten; six here, four there. They are fired in every direction. “What the fuck.” I look at Sarah. She snaps photos. Our breath is heavy from running. The barrage continues, mindlessly, unprovoked, leaving ribbons of gas in the sky and small clouds of it on the ground. “I can use your camera?” Noor asks. I give it to him without a word and he begins to film. As quickly as it started, the firing ends. I hazard moving a dozen meters forward, trying to get a better view of the soldiers. The crowd timidly picks its way back together towards the road. “Free, free Palestine!” A chant rises in English. I am barely back on the road before another barrage. More canisters fly. And then, something else: for no discernable reason, everyone around me flies into a sprint. Shit. Panic grips me and I run. Talib’s just ahead of me. “Shoo?” I call to him. “What is it?” He doesn’t respond but I don’t wait to find out. I cover 400 meters, scrambling over rocks and road. I run past a pack of Palestinians. “Mai, mai!” They say. Water. I stop at a remote spot off of the road, panting, hands on my knees. Talib’s beside me. I can’t see the soldiers or their tanks from here; however, the up-
ward curve of the shit water arches in spectacular relief against the sky. It has incredible range. What a ridiculous, wasteful stunt. Thousands of gallons of water, mixed with a mess of chemicals, pour onto the mountain. I’m not sure what kind of protest this was designed for; I imagine the six seated demonstrators and cringe. The protest dissipates over the next twenty minutes as more tear gas flies and stinking water flows. The Israeli convoy inches up the road, firing scores of canisters as they go. One drops down beside me, smoking like an alien pinecone. I streak away towards the village, pulling my scarf tight. The group reconvenes in a hasty blob. I avoided the gas, but Sarah staggers to join us. Her face is flushed and she coughs. Noor has also inhaled the gas. He chokes and splutters, pawing at his face. A medic comes to his aid, dabbing beneath his eyes with a cotton ball. There is a temporary lull in activity. I sit beside a small olive grove near Bilal’s house. Noor joins me. “This is a new thing for me,” he says. “This gas, wow, it feels…” he shakes his head and sniffs. “Noor,” I say. He looks to me through large green eyes, wet from the gas. “I am sorry, for my country.” He smiles. “It’s not your problem,” he says gently. “I will tell your stories, there, when I get back. I will organize something.” Guilt and anger water my eyes. When it’s clear that the army will roll straight into the village, we decide to leave. We’ve seen enough. Ben, Sarah, Ghalib and the students pile into a taxi for Jenin, and I grab a second one for Ramallah. On my way out of the town, I spy a collection of protestors, bound on their knees near a jeep. Arrested. “They’ve made a mistake,” I said to Talib when we stood on the rocks. “The violence is that way.” I gesture to the Israeli settlement. Talib nods. “Yes,” he says. “It is a pretty fucking stupid situation.” I couldn’t agree more.
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Ask Occupy Dear Occupy,
Photo by CHRISTINE BANIEWICZ Protestors in Nabi Saleh scatter as tear gas canisters rain from the sky. Villagers are consistently attacked with tear gas and the aptly named “shit water” as they protest the ongoing occupation of Palestine. Christine Baniewicz is an Associate Artist with ImaginAction, a travelling theatre arts company with a focus on social justice issues. She has been working in Jenin, Palestine, which is, and has been, under military occupation for decades.
FLAWS Continued from page 2 Human children exposed prenatally to PAHs have statistically significant increases in DNA aberrations in specific chromosomes, low birth weight, and intrauterine growth restriction. 4. Failure to include a cancer risk assessment for napthelene. Despite the fact that naphthalene poses a health risk due to both carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic health effects, the FDA established the Levels of Concern in Gulf seafood solely based on noncancerous effects. Naphthalene was one of the most frequently detected PAHs in Gulf seafood tested after the spill, and was the most prevalent PAH in the oil itself. By omitting naphthalene from its cancer risk assessment, the FDA ignored the potential cumulative effect of exposures to multiple carcinogens. 5. Short exposure duration. And: 6. High cancer risk benchmark. The FDA Levels of Concern incorporated a duration of expo-
sure of only five years and an acceptable rate of cancer of 1 cancer in 100,000 people. FDA risk assessments conducted for prior oil spills, such as the Exxon Valdez, utilized more conservative and health protective values for these parameters, a 10 year exposure duration and 1 in a million acceptable cancer risk level. Based on prior experience from oil spills, PAHs are detectable in shellfish for up to thirteen years after oil contamination. Taken together, these flaws illustrate a failure to incorporate the substantial body of evidence on the increased vulnerability of subpopulations to contaminants, such as PAHs, in seafood. As such, the FDA’s conclusions about risk from Gulf Coast seafood should be interpreted with caution in coastal populations with higher rates of seafood consumption and in vulnerable populations such as children, small adults, and pregnant women. To read the article, entitled “Seafood Contamination After the BP Gulf Oil Spill and Risks to Vulnerable Populations: A Critique of the FDA Risk Assessment”, go to <http://bit.ly/ gulfspillseafood>.
I'm a firm supporter of Occupy Wall Street. I agree with everything they stand for, and recognize the severe need for change in this country. My friends, co-workers, and neighbors, however, are predominantly very conservative. Most of them don't seem like the type of people who would approve of Occupy. As such, I often refrain from sharing my stance with them because I don't want them to lose respect for me (or think I'm some lunatic radical). How should I go about opening up to them without alienating myself? - Occupying the Closet Dear OtC, Hmmm. The cheesy cliché "Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind" is the obvious response. Though, in this case, that mindset could be too extreme. I hope, for your sake, you have friendships that are able to withstand a little disagreement. That being said, I'd like to address the fact that the Occupy movement is not intended to be a single-partisan endeavor. The goals of Occupy Baton Rouge— protecting the Constitution, fighting for better public transportation, and reducing the power that money has on politics— have everyone's best interests at heart. The 15 points of unity we work towards at OBR are based on common sense and the collective good. If you feel comfortable, show your friends the OBR website where the 15 points of unity can be found. Or, even better, bring them to a General Assembly! Just remember, your friends don't have to agree with everything you believe, and there is nothing crazy or shameful about trying to "be the change you wish to see in the world." Solidarity, Occupy Baton Rouge
Occupy Baton Rouge is a leaderless, non-violent resistance movement. We see that money, not voting, shapes public policy, that the extremely rich are bailed out while the lower and middle classes are forced to bear the brunt of a failing economy, and that the needs of society are placed behind the profiteering of corporations. In the simplest of terms, we want to end corporate bribery of our elected politicians and return our democracy back to the people. To learn more, you can find our officially approved points of unity on the About section of our website at OccupyBR.com.
CHANGE Continued from page 4 The idea that private wealth should have no place in public electoral processes is not quite an easy or obvious one. For a middle class person, giving a small donation to support a candidate of choice seems okay, even a positive expression of democratic involvement. Obviously no quid pro quo is expected. One does not expect one’s donation to alter the behavior of the politician. Rather it is an expression of genuine enthusiasm–nothing like the corporate donation, given in anticipation of special privilege. Can we keep the small private donor in the money loop to politicians, while banning the ultrawealthy or corporate donor? Should we? In my view, keeping the small donor in the game greatly complicates the legislative goal of keeping the big donor out of the game–it’s very hard to draw those lines. I’m also doubtful about the legitimacy of even small donations in the electoral arena. Why should a politician who speaks to your middle-class interests and aspirations be entitled to more campaign resources than a
State Capitol Park Saturdays @ 12 Wednesdays @ 6 Everyone is encouraged to attend and have their opinions heard.
Email: OccupyBatonRouge@gmail.com Twitter: Facebook: Google+: Phone:
@Occupy_BR @Occupy_BRLive on.fb.me/OccupyBR bit.ly/occupygoogle (225) 242-9901
politician who speaks to the interests of the very poorest citizens? Perhaps we need to move away from regarding financial campaign contributions as a legitimate expression of support, and instead give our time and energy to our candidate’s campaign. That way a system of campaign regulation could be instituted in which each politician (meeting certain criteria for popular support) receives an equal sum of public money to use to communicate with the electorate. Clearly we need a public debate about the best way to regulate campaign funding. The problem is that in the current constitutional era such a debate is impossible. Any time a serious debate is proposed, opponents shut down the conversation by pointing out that giving money to political campaigns is constitutionally protected “speech.” This idea is absurd. Free speech is the basic and vital right to speak even unpopular (non-libelous) opinions without fear of retribution. We need freedom of speech to make sure our society benefits from a full range of public policy options. But MY right to speak my mind does not guarantee me an audience to have my voice heard. How then can YOUR free speech rights include the right to amplify my voice with your money?
Occupy Baton Rouge needs your help to continue to grow. There are plenty of ways to do your part. We paint banners. We need people to help organize and plan events. We need passionate people to join us in direct actions. We need personable people to outreach to the community. Essentially, there is a way for anyone and everyone to become involved. Working Groups are where the real brunt of the work for Occupy Baton Rouge gets done. If you want to contribute to the movement, join a Working Group through the appropriate section on our website.
Yet, this is exactly how freedom of speech has been interpreted to lend legal and moral legitimacy to a practice that diverts the politician’s obligation from service in the public interest to service of private interests. In order to eventually end corporate control of government and return government to the people we need to be able to regulate private giving to politicians, and we need to protect the public space of our political discourse from the huge infusions of private capital that have overwhelmed our ability to hold civil public discussion of public policy. The first step has to be to clarify that OUR constitution does not equate the right of free speech with the right to pay politicians. Only when we’ve rescued our constitution from such misinterpretation can we begin the real dialogue that leads to the end of corporate domination of government. To that end, I have created a petition for a proposed constitutional amendment. The petition is available online at: <bit.ly/moneyaintspeech>. I urge you to give consideration to supporting this petition and recommending it to others in the Occupy movement and beyond.
Published on Apr 19, 2012
Issue 1 of the People's [Censored]. Inside read about consensus decision making, the recession in Europe, the occupation of Palestine, and t...