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Arrested. Twittering from police van— mollycrabapple (@mollycrabapple) September 17, 2012
Earlier today, artist Molly Crabapple was one of a number of people arrested at events marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. By various estimates, more than a hundred people have been arrested there today. Crabapple tweeted from the police van. Over the past year, she has produced a wide array of work related to #OWS, including portraits, street-art templates, and illustrations for coverage in The Nation and other publications.
Just in case you had any doubts about how much of a security risk your mobile phone presents, have a read of Jacob Appelbaum's interview with N+. Jake's with both the Tor and Wikileaks projects, and has been detained and scrutinized to a fare-thee-well.
Appelbaum: Cell phones are tracking devices that make phone calls. It’s sad, but it’s true. Which means software solutions don’t always matter. You can have a secure set of tools on your phone, but it doesn’t change the fact that your phone tracks everywhere you go. And the police can potentially push updates onto your phone that backdoor it and allow it to be turned into a microphone remotely, and do other stuff like that. The police can identify everybody at a protest by bringing in a device called an IMSI catcher. It’s a fake cell phone tower that can be built for 1500 bucks. And once nearby, everybody’s cell phones will automatically jump onto the tower, and if the phone’s unique identifier is exposed, all the police have to do is go to the phone company and ask for their information.
Resnick: So phones are tracking devices. They can also be used for surreptitious recording. Would taking the battery out disable this capability?
Appelbaum: Maybe. But iPhones, for instance, don’t have a removable battery; they power off via the power button. So if I wrote a backdoor for the iPhone, it would play an animation that looked just like a black screen. And then when you pressed the button to turn it back on it would pretend to boot. Just play two videos.
Resnick: And how easy is it to create something like to that?
Appelbaum: There are weaponized toolkits sold by companies like FinFisher that enable breaking into BlackBerries, Android phones, iPhones, Symbian devices and other platforms. And with a single click, say, the police can own a person, and take over her phone.
You may be saying here, "Huh, I'm sure glad that I'm not doing anything that would get me targeted by US spooks!" Think again. First, there's the possibility that you'll be incorrectly identified as a bad guy, like Maher Arar< who got a multi-year dose of Syrian torture when the security apparatus experienced a really bad case of mistaken identity.
Argument in the show-trial of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot -- who gave an unlicensed anti-Putin performance in a cathedral and now face harsh, Stalinist justice for daring to point out the spy-emperor's nudity -- has concluded. Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich has given a tremendous closing statement, which is a masterful summary of Russian oligarchy:
The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].
Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.
How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.
It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.
Earlier this week, I posted a couple batches of letters from grown-up Eagle Scouts who chose to resign their hard-earned, elite awards in protest of the Boy Scouts of America's policy banning gay and atheist scouts and troop leaders.
I'm still getting letters in the mail. These things are coming in faster than I can update the posts. Which is why I'm very glad that several former Eagle Scouts have taken matters into their own hands, starting a Tumblr that can play host to all these letters, and all the ones going forward.
Burke Stansbury put the site together. In his own resignation letter, he wrote:
I am not proud to be affiliated with an organization that excludes people based on their sexuality. Many of my closest friends are gay, lesbian, or transgender and it pains me to think that I invested time in an organization that prohibits their membership. It's a shameful, bigoted policy. Plain and simple.
I'll be contacting people who have sent me letters recently about whether it's okay to forward their emails to Burke. And if you'd like your letter to be archived on the Tumblr, there's an easy-to-use submission form right on the site.
Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges on Tumblr
On Monday, I published a letter from my husband, Christopher Baker, to the Boy Scouts of America. In that letter, Baker returned his hard-earned Eagle Scout award and explained that he no longer wanted to be associated with an organization that discriminated against gay teenagers and GBLT parents. By the end of the day, I'd posted six updates to that story—adding letters from other Eagle Scouts who had joined my husband in resigning from a fraternity they had loved and had worked incredibly hard to join.
The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization. The Supreme Court has said they have the right to discriminate. What these Eagle Scouts are saying is that legal precedent doesn't make the discrimination right. Overwhelmingly, they've said that it makes them sad to see the organization that meant so much to them go against the very values of inclusion that it taught them as children. As Baker wrote, "banning openly gay scouts and leaders is not a neutral position any more than separate-but-equal was a neutral position on race."
Yesterday, I received more letters from other Eagle Scouts who want the Boy Scouts of America to know how disappointed they are, and that they choose to stand with the persecuted rather than with the people doing the persecuting. In this post, you can read inspiring words from 13 Eagle Scouts who asked that I share their letters. In most cases, I've included a photo of the letter, and quoted text for easy reading. They're worth reading. These are amazing men.
Well, amazing men, and one woman. I'm starting out this collection with the letter of Dr. Julie Praus.
Read the rest
If you aren't familiar with American Boy Scouting's Eagle Scout award, it might be a little hard to explain how important this story really is. Eagle Scout is a big deal. For one thing, it takes a lot of work to get the position. A scout has to earn 21 merit badges and then spearhead a community service project that they organize and manage themselves from start to finish. Add to that the fact that most kids don't stay in scouts through high school anyway, and you end up with the award representing a relatively small and elite group. Since 1911, about 2.1 million men have earned an Eagle Scout award. And it has serious implications once you graduate high school. There are scholarships. Eagle Scouts who enlist in the military after high school can start off with a higher rank than their peers. The adult Eagle Scouts I know have told me that they've gotten interview call-backs or even job opportunities because the award was on their resumes. Basically, it's more than just this medal you pick up at age 17. For many men, it's a lifelong position—and one that demonstrates a commitment to serving others and caring for the community.
So when Eagle Scouts start returning their medals to the Boy Scouts of America, that matters. Especially when these men are making this decision because they think it's the best way to demonstrate the values of being an Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts of America bans participation in scouting by openly gay, bisexual, or transgender kids and bans GBLT adults from serving as scout masters. Legally, that's their right as a private organization. But that doesn't make it the right thing to do. Since the BSA doubled down on that position on July 17, I've seen letters from numerous Eagle Scouts who have sent their hard-earned awards back to the organization.
The letter pictured above was written by my husband, Christopher Baker. He mailed off his medal on Saturday. You can read the full text below.
Read the rest
Holmes from Fight for the Future sez, "The Internet Defense League is a post-SOPA network of sites that use their reach to defend and improve the web. Because it can sound the alarm quickly to millions of people, people are calling it a 'bat-signal for the Internet'. The league is launching on July 19th, the same night that the new Batman movie. And the plan is to have actual spotlights beaming actual 'cat-signals' across buildings and clouds in cities around the world. We just launched a crowd-funding campaign. Help plan a party or pitch-in to make them happen."
So on Thursday night, as Hollywood’s latest superhero movie opens in theaters for a midnight showing, IDL members in select cities can celebrate the launch around powerful spotlights rented for the occasion. The spotlights will beam the IDL’s “cat-signal” into the stratosphere, across obliging clouds, or onto neighboring buildings.
Plus we've got a bunch of other cool items for league members who donate.
Almost a year ago, Just Do It!, a film that follows the adventures of direct action environmental activists in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, was unleashed on the world. A joyful romp around the ins and outs of our corrupted political system, the film grants its viewers the kind of access to the young (and not-so-young) ideologues battling the man in their bid to save the planet previously only granted to undercover agents working for the Metropolitan Police. It's a great movie, and last week its makers released it for free download and sharing under a Creative Commons license.
The film has been made for the most part outside of the traditional process, with crowd-sourced funding playing a big role during post-production. Since last July, the tireless team at Just Do It! HQ have been working with fans of the project to get the film screened in local cinemas and at universities, and taken up by Netflix. A CC release was initially delayed to allow a window to the cinema, TV, and DVD releases, and to agitate for inclusion on the American film festival circuit. Now that the CC release is finally with us, the team are soliciting donations from anyone who feels moved by their efforts to get a tale modern outlaws out into the world. And of course, they want as many people as possible to see the movie, and be inspired to join the fight to save the planet.
This Wednesday is the make-or-break moment for ACTA, the corrupt, secretly negotiated Internet copyright treaty. Wednesday is when the European Parliament will vote on ACTA, and it's a close thing. We need Europeans to write and call their MEPs and tell them that ACTA is not fit for purpose, nor will any Internet treaty negotiated in secrecy ever be. The Open Rights Group has information on contacting your MEP if you live in the UK; and Pirate Party founder Rick Falkingve has a way of contacting all MEPs at once.
We believe that ACTA is such an imbalanced treaty that it disproportionately and unnecessarily puts innovation and freedom of expression at risk. By attempting to deal with two hugely different issues – the counterfeiting of physical goods and digital copyright infringement – the treaty lacks the kind of surgical precision necessary to ensure that fundamental rights are not sacrificed in pursuit of its goals.
Furthermore, ACTA promotes and incentivises the private 'policing' of online content through, for example, its broad thresholds for its criminal measures. It exacerbates such problems by failing to provide adequate and robust safeguards for fundamental freedoms. We set out some key points in our briefing paper.
From the moment it was sprung upon Europe, following a drafting process held in secret, the passage of ACTA has been lubricated by a total disregard for democratic principles. The European Commission has effectively sought to move decisions about ACTA further away from the people and their elected representatives.
There has been a positive consequence of all this: we have seen a renewal of interest in the workings of European democratic institutions, as large numbers of people engage with difficult debates and complex institutional processes in an attempt to understand and influence the passage of ACTA through Europe. People like you have helped to make sure that the democratic process is respected and obeyed.
The Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide agency has won a gold prize in the Effie awards for their hoax "Book Burning Party" campaign, which is credited with saving the public library in Troy, MI. Michigan's extreme austerity measures and collapsing economy had put the library under threat, and the town proposed a 0.7% tax raise to keep it open. The local Tea Party spent a large sum of money opposing the measure on the grounds that all taxes are bad, so the Burnett campaign reframed the issue by creating a hoax campaign to celebrate the library's closure with a Book Burning Party a few days after the vote.
The outrage generated by this campaign was sufficient to win the day for the library, as Troy's residents made the connection between closing libraries and burning books, focusing their minds on literacy and shared community, rather than taxation.
Troy Public Library would close for good unless voters approved a tax increase. With little money, six weeks until the election, facing a well organized anti-tax group who'd managed to get two previous library-saving tax increases to fail, we had to be bold. We posed as a clandestine group who urged people to vote to close the library so they could have a book burning party. Public outcry over the idea drowned out the anti-tax opposition and created a ground-swell of support for the library, which won by a landslide.
In Russia, where there have been many outbreaks of protest since Vladimir Putin and his cronies
stole won another election, the fine for protesting without a permit has been increased 15,000 percent to 300,000 Rubles. The 2010 average wage was 21,192 Rubles/month. How very Quebec-eqsue.
Making the rounds on Hollywood local blogs today: Some so-called "Little People" who work in Hollywood are upset at the producers of the forthcoming Universal motion picture Snow White and the Huntsman, because tall people have been cast in the role of Snow White’s dwarfs. The bodies of the "tall people" actors will be morphed using special effects tech. Matt McCarthy, speaking for a prominent self-decribed “midget theater group” (this is the word Matt uses, not my selection), says they plan to stage a protest.