Loomio: democratic decision-making tool inspired by Occupy


Here's a good writeup of Loomio, a collective decision-making tool that is raising funds to add features, stability and polish to its free/open source codebase. Loomio grew out of the experience of Occupy's attempt to create inclusive, democratic processes, and attempt to simplify the Liquid Feedback tool widely used by Pirate Parties to resolve complex policy questions.

I'm very interested in this kind of collective action tool -- I wrote about a fictionalized version in Lawful Interception that allowed crowds of people to coordinate their movement without leaders or hierarchy -- and Loomio seems to have a good mix of political savvy, technical knowhow, and design sense.

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Why the hyper-rich turn into crybabies when "one percent" is invoked

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter by Tom Perkins (the "Perkins" in the venture capital firm "Kleiner Perkins") in which he compared rhetoric about the unjust riches of the "1 percent" to the events of Kristallnacht, the overture to the Holocaust. In a terrific editorial, Josh Marshall explains why the hyper-rich turn into such crybabies when it's pointed out that they've gamed the system so that they grow richer and richer while everyone else gets poorer:

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Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

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Oxfam: 85 richest humans own more than all assets held by half the human race


A new Oxfam report entitled Working for the Few (PDF), documents a "power grab" by the world's wealthy super-elite, who have amassed astonishing assets while the rest of the world grew poorer. Not only do the top 1% of the world's richest own 65 times more than the world's poorest 50%, but the 85 richest people own more than half the world. Oxfam is clear that this wealth expansion at the top is the result of a horribly corrupt political process by which elected representatives end up making policies to enrich the already-wealthy.

They're at Davos this week, asking the world's elites to pledge support for progressive taxation; an end to tax-avoidance; an end to financial corruption of legislation and policy; transparency in their own fortunes; universal healthcare, education and social protection; and a living wage for all.

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OccupyMLA: the true tale

Mark Marino writes, "At the 2013 MLA Convention in Boston, I revealed that I and my writing partner Rob Wittig created the fictional protest movement OccupyMLA. What started out as a single Twitter account evolved into an elaborate fiction about a hapless trio of adjuncts, trying to fight for their place in the academy. Often fighting just as much against one another, the members of Occupy MLA struggled to reach the very bottom rungs of the academic ladder in a professional ecology that has stratified the administration, the tenured, and the adjuncts, with a chasm between each domain."

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UC Davis's Officer Pepper Spray gets a $38K payout for mental trauma of being hated by the entire world


Mark wrote in July that Lt John Pike, the UC Davis cop who attained notoriety after he sadistically hosed down seated, peaceful protesters with pepper spray, jetting it directly down their throats and into their eyes, had applied for worker's comp for the psychiatric injuries resulting from everyone in the world thinking he was a horrible, horrible person.

Now he has been awarded $38K by California's Division of Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. He left his job (which paid nearly $120K), and has had to change addresses and phone numbers several times to dodge harassment from his detractors. Davis settled a lawsuit by the protesters he sprayed for $1M.

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Chinese artist's movie about Bay Area Occupy

James sez, "Chinese artist Li Chen embedded with the Bay Area Occupy movement and created this beautiful film that's also about the frailty of memory and language. 'I was there because I had never witnessed a protest before in my life,' she says in her artist's statement. "As a Chinese citizen, I spent many sleepless nights with hundreds of American protesters." The film is one of eight entries in Love of Sun, an online exhibit curated by Rachel Kennedy depicting California artists' visions of China -- and Chinese artists' visions of California."

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Ten arrests in 87 minutes: How NYPD dispersed peaceful Occupy Wall Street protests

A short film by Paul Sullivan that chillingly breaks down the creepy tactics New York City police used to intimidate and harass protesters, and arrest them for expressing their first amendment rights in public space. In these examples, it seems they used "the momentum of arrests" to deter the spirit of the crowd--not because the individuals shown here actually posed a threat to the public, or had harmed anyone or done anything bad.

[via Sparrow Media, HT: Glen E. Friedman]

Jello Biafra talks Occupy, music, and Obama

In a great interview with the Guardian, former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra talks about Occupy, Obama, his break with the rest of the Kennedys, and his current band, Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine (whose existence I'd somehow missed!).

It's depressing how conservative people can be despite supposedly belonging to a supposedly alternative subculture.

Any alternative culture that inspires a lot of passion and inspiration is also in danger of being set in its ways, almost from the moment it's born. That even included the Occupy movement in some ways. It was discussed whether or not to participate in the electoral side of the system at all, which I thought was a good idea. Why not run people for offices and knock off some of the tired old corporate puppets in the primaries, like those lovely people in the Tea Party have done with the Republicans? But other people chose not to do that.

You've been involved with the Occupy movement. (2) The initial media storm around it seems to have died down …

I think that anyone who declared that Occupy was a failure was very much mistaken. I knew it would have a ripple effect, like throwing a big piece of concrete into a lake and just watching the waves ripple. In a way, Obama owes Occupy big time for saving his ass in the 2012 election. Occupy brought the issue of inequality and Grand Theft Austerity, as I call it, right to the forefront.

Jello Biafra: 'Obama owes Occupy big time' (via MeFi)

How the global hyper-rich have turned central London into a lights-out ghost-town

In an excellent NYT story, Sarah Lyall reports on "lights-out London" -- the phenomenon whereby ultra-wealthy foreigners (often from corrupt plutocracies like Kazakhstan and Russia) are buying up whole neighbourhoods in London, driving up house-prices beyond the reach of locals, and then treating their houses as holiday homes. They stay for a couple weeks once or twice a year, leaving whole neighbourhoods vacant and shuttered through most of the year, which kills the local businesses and turns central London into something of a ghost town.

“Some of the richest people in the world are buying property here as an investment,” [Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour opposition in Westminster Council] said. “They may live here for a fortnight in the summer, but for the rest of the year they’re contributing nothing to the local economy. The specter of new buildings where there are no lights on is a real problem...”

Meanwhile, prices are rising beyond expectation. For single-family housing in the prime areas of London, British buyers spend an average of $2.25 million, Ms. Barnes said, while foreign buyers spend an average of $3.75 million, which increases to $7.5 million if they are from Russia or the Middle East...

The most visible, and also the most notorious, of the new developments is One Hyde Park, a $1.7 billion apartment building of stratospheric opulence on a prime corner in Knightsbridge, near Harvey Nichols, the park and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which functions as a 24-hour concierge service for residents. Apartments there have been purchased mostly by foreign buyers who hide their identities behind murky offshore companies registered to tax havens like the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands.

It is rare to see anyone coming to or going from the complex, and British newspapers have been trying since it opened two years ago to discover who lives there. Vanity Fair reported recently that as far as it could discern after a long trawl through records, the owners seem to include a cast of characters who might have come from a poker game in a James Bond movie: a Russian property magnate, a Nigerian telecommunications tycoon, the richest man in Ukraine, a Kazakh copper billionaire, someone who may or may not be a Kazkh singer and the head of finance for the emirate of Sharjah.

A Slice of London So Exclusive Even the Owners Are Visitors [NYT/Sarah Lyall]

(via Beyond the Beyond)

Wealth disparity in America: an inch of bar-graph for the 90%, 4.9 miles' worth for the top 0.01%


Here's a rather graphic representation of the growth in income inequality in the USA since the 1960s; plotted on a chart where the income growth of the bottom 90 percent is represented by an inch-high bar; the growth of the top 10 percent needs a 163 foot-tall bar; while the top 0.01% need a 4.9 mile-high bar to represent their real wealth growth in the same period.

The income growth and shrinkage figures come from analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, who have won acclaim for their studies of worldwide income patterns over the last century.

In 2011 entry into the top 10 percent, where all the gains took place, required an adjusted gross income of at least $110,651. The top 1 percent started at $366,623.

The top 1 percent enjoyed 81 percent of all the increased income since 2009. Just over half of the gains went to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and 39 percent of the gains went to the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent.

Ponder that last fact for a moment -- the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, those making at least $7.97 million in 2011, enjoyed 39 percent of all the income gains in America. In a nation of 158.4 million households, just 15,837 of them received 39 cents out of every dollar of increased income.

Income Inequality: 1 Inch to 5 Miles (Thanks, Spider!)

Interview with Molly Crabapple

The artist (one of the creators behind the wonderful I have your heart) talks about the growing political dimension of her work. An exhibition of her latest series, Shell Game, opens April 14 in New York.

Report: FOIA'd FBI documents point to secret, nationwide Occupy surveillance

Update: I missed this NYT front-section story on the PCJF's document trove, published on Christmas Eve. The tl;dr: The FBI used counterterrorism agents to investigate Occupy Wall Street, "including its communications and planning," according to newly disclosed (and highly redacted) agency records. It's the best analysis I've seen, and mea culpa for having not seen it before this post was published.


Violent crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street in cities around the US may have been coordinated between local law enforcement, the federal government, and banks, even before protests began, according to a trove of documents requested by The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the PCJF, the 112 pages of documents show the government communicated throughout the crackdown effort with financial institutions through the Domestic Security Alliance Council, an entity created by the FBI in 2005 that "enhances communications and promotes the timely and bidirectional effective exchange of information keeping the nation's critical infrastructure safe, secure and resilient."

The documents add to an increasing pile of evidence that the government treated OWS as a kind of domestic terrorist threat, and engaged in widespread surveillance and counter-intelligence gathering in an attempt to quell the popular movement.

According to the PCJF's analysis of the documents, they reveal "that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did 'not condone the use of violence' at occupy protests."

"FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country."

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Eulogy for #Occupy: beautiful, brutal postmortem


Quinn Norton's Eulogy for #Occupy is a wrenching, beautiful, long postmortem on the Occupy movement, including an eyes-open (and scathing) critique of what went wrong inside Occupy:

But living in parks, having to rub elbows with the people society was set up to shield from each other, began to stress people and make them twitchy from constant culture shock. Grad students trying to reason with smack addicts was torture for both sides. The GA [General Aseembly] became the main venue for this torture, and sitting through it was like watching someone sandpaper an open wound. Everyone said “Fuck the GA” as a joke, but as time wore on, the laughter was getting too long and too hoarse; a joke with blood in it. The metaphorical pain became less metaphorical with each eviction, with the gnawing feeling that something was coming.

Because the GA had no way to reject force, over time it fell to force. Proposals won by intimidation; bullies carried the day. What began as a way to let people reform and remake themselves had no mechanism for dealing with them when they didn’t. It had no way to deal with parasites and predators. It became a diseased process, pushing out the weak and quiet it had meant to enfranchise until it finally collapsed when nothing was left but predators trying to rip out each other’s throats.

By the time I returned to NY from visiting the camp in DC, exhausted with the pain of six evictions, the NYC GA was a place where women were threatened with beatings, and street kids with calls to the police. All the reasonable people had gotten the fuck out. It had become a gladiator pit no one enjoyed watching. Even Weev, the famous internet troll, didn’t last through the nastiness of the GA I took him to. He left while I wasn’t looking, without saying goodbye. We never spoke about it. I didn’t blame him, and I didn’t have to ask why. It was the tiny, brutal, and bitter politics of failed people.


And some cogent analysis of why the wider world couldn't (or wouldn't) accept Occupy's message:

Standing next to an older officer after one eviction, telling him what I’d seen and listening to him worry about how he was going to send his kids to college, I overheard the police talk to each other. Of the protestors they kept saying the same thing, the same three words to each other and walked away: “They’ll be back.” Some said it with scorn, lips curled. Some said it with fear, some excited for the action. Some said it with the watery voices of drowning hope: “They’ll be back.”

Please, let something matter again, let something change.

The policing of protest in America makes it clear that protest has become mere ritual, a farce, and that, by definition, it becomes illegal if it threatens to change anything or inconvenience anyone. In time, all the police announcements came to say the same thing to me. “You may go through your constitutional ritual,” they intoned, “but it must stop before anything of consequence happens.” We must, above all, preserve everything as it is.

A Eulogy for #Occupy [Wired]

Occupy Sandy doc screened at secret cinema

A documentary about Occupy Sandy was screened at a secret location in NYC last night; it made the connection between Sandy and climate change. People wanting to see the movie were directed to a building whose wall was used as a screen for the premiere.

Now, in what may be the quickest turnaround for a movie in recent memory, the group, Occupy Sandy, will show a documentary Wednesday about its efforts and the contention that the storm was tied to climate change and the fossil fuel industry. In classic Occupy fashion, the screening will not be in a traditional theater, but rather on the side of a yet-to-be-disclosed building in the East Village.

The screening of the film, “Occupy Sandy: A Human Response to the New Realities of Climate Change” (see trailer above or click here), will be at 6:30 p.m.

‘Occupy’ Movement’s Next Guerrilla Effort: A Film Screening [NYT]

OCCUPY SANDY TRAILER IS UP! WORLD PREMIERE NEW SHORT FILM! NYC. NOV. 28th. [Vimeo]

#climatecrime [Twitter]