With the Federal Communications Commission set to gut Net Neutrality and allow ISPs to slow down traffic from services that don't pay them bribes, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a timely, important guide to participating in FCC proceedings. The upcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is just one way to participate -- there's also a mass-protest planned at the FCC building in DC on May 15 (this Thursday!) at 9AM.
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Fast-food workers in 33 countries are planning a walkout on May 15, demanding better pay and better working conditions. The action, coordinated by Fast Food Forward, will target McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC. McDonald's -- which settled a $1B class-action suit over wage-theft from its American workforce in March -- has issued a shareholder warning about the possibility of having to pay a living wage to its workers. Women, especially single mothers, are disproportionately likely to work in sub-living-wage jobs in the fast food industry.
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Louis CK is the latest high-profile voice to join the chorus against the US educational Common Core and the educational system's emphasis on standardized testing. A great New Yorker piece explores the movement against standardized testing and one-size-fits-all pedagogy.
I think it falls short of the mark, though. The rise of standardized testing, standardized curriculum, and "accountability" are part of the wider phenomenon of framing every question in business terms. In the modern world, the state is a kind of souped up business. That's why we're all "taxpayers" instead of "citizens." "Taxpayer" reframes policy outcomes as a kind of customer-loyalty perk. If your taxes are the locus of your relationship with the state, then people who don't pay taxes -- people too young, old, disabled, or unlucky to be working -- are not entitled to policy outcomes that reflect their needs.
"Taxpayers" are the shareholders in government. The government is the board of directors. School administrators are the management. Teachers are the assembly-line workers. Kids are the product. "Accountability" means that the product has to be quantified and reported on every quarter. The only readily quantifiable elements of education are attendance and test-scores, so the entire educational system is reorganized around maximizing these elements, even though they are only tangentially related to real educational outcomes and are trivial to game.
The vilification of teachers and teachers' unions go hand-in-hand with this idea. At the heart of teachers' unions' demands is the insistence that teaching is a craft that requires nonstandard, difficult-to-quantify approaches that are incompatible with factory-style "accountability." The emphasis on the outliers of teachers' unions -- the rare instances in which bad teachers are protected by their trade unions -- instead of the activity that constitutes the vast majority of union advocacy -- demanding an educational approach that is grounded in trust, respect, and individual tutelage -- the "taxpayer" types can make out teachers as lazy slobs who don't want to jog on the same brutal treadmill as the rest of us.
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Ukrainian opposition protesters have taken control of the presidential palace and demanded that the president Viktor Yanukovuych resign. Yanukovuych has gone into hiding and his whereabouts are unknown. The opposition leaders who signed an earlier peace deal with Yanukovuych face repudiation from the crowd in Maidan, who accuse them of selling out. Yanukovuych took to television to deny a rumor that he is resigning. The release of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is said to be imminent. Opposition parliamentarians are attempting to establish legitimacy as the new parliament of Ukraine. Politicians from the ethnic-Russian-dominated south and east have denounced the new government and vowed to govern themselves independent of Kiev. Protesters in the region are demanding reunification with Russia.
The riot police are fleeing their barracks, wearing masks to hide their faces.
Lots more updates, in realtime, from the Guardian.
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A powerful video starring an anonymous protester called "I am a Ukrainian" has been viewed some five million times. The video was directed by Ben Moses, a documentary filmmaker who is working on a film about grassroots uprising. The video's narrator details the abuses and corruption of the ruling government, and calls on viewers to demand support for the protesters' cause. The comments for the video are filled with people claiming that it was produced by the US State Department as a political move to secure an oil pipeline and keep it out of Russian control.
It's clear that the US State Department has a long history of producing media -- propaganda, even -- aimed at swaying foreign politics, but the view that the protesters are aggressors here is laughable. For one thing, there is no question that the Kremlin has directly intervened in this affair, no question that the current government is happy to pass laws criminalizing all dissent, and no question that the police and government controlled militias are the aggressor, and have perpetrated a string of escalating, horrific acts of violence, including dozens of murders.
The Ukrainian opposition is, indeed, a weird and uneasy coalition of progressives, hooligans, everyday people and career activists. Its leadership is fragmented and ineffective. But it is also riddled with provoacteurs, its most effective leaders have been imprisoned, and it has been disrupted and undermined through a dirty tricks campaign worthy of Nixon or Putin.
The events depicted in the video did happen. The fight isn't "just about freedom" -- but it is about freedom, among other things: official corruption and incompetence, and escaping from the shadow of Russian political intervention and manipulation.
I Am a Ukrainian
Josip Saric from Croatian national television is in a Kiev hotel near Maidan, and has kindly provided us with some snapshots of the surreal and troubling scenes, which range from bodies under shrouds in the lobby to impenetrable smoke outside the windows and bullet-holes in the walls.
Thank you to Marko Rakar for introducing us to Josip's photos.
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Protesters in Kiev's #Euromaidan camp report that yesterday's horrific violence -- which saw at least 25 protesters killed by police -- has continued to escalate. The #IT_Namet tent -- a fixture in Euromaidan, offering nonviolent IT support to protesters and journalists -- was targeted by government security forces who burned it to the ground, beating Alexei Lymarenko, one of the tent's volunteers to a state of near death. A journalist, Veremei Vyacheslav, was killed by police.
Here is a statement released by IT_Namet, asking the international technology community to support their efforts:
“From the very beginning #IT_Namet was built with the aim of a peaceful protest. Members of the IT-community never had weapons, except for tablets and smartphones connected to the Internet. So, the real purpose of security forces actions was not anti-terrorism, as it was claimed, but the destruction of unarmed people. We regret that tonight IT professional Lymarenko Alexei suffered. He was together with Ukrainian journalist Vyacheslav Veremei. Vyacheslav was killed, and Alex, who was beaten nearly to death, has serious traumas of his face. Although # IT_Namet was destroyed tonight, our beliefs and our support for peaceful protest remained unchanged. The “IT spіlnota” (IT community), which united people representing the IT industry, is expanding its activity beyond # IT_Namet. “IT spіlnota” will set out to spot the violence of authorities, to save people’s lives. Now every member of the IT-community can itself make his/her choice on the tools to protect their rights and the rights of people who yesterday were violated by their summary execution. We highly appreciate any actual support of IT-community abroad.”
Tech Protester in Kiev Badly Beaten, Journalist Killed, As ‘IT Tent’ Is Burned By Police [Mike Butcher/Tech Crunch]
EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev
In two days, the Internet will erupt in a protest to rival the uprising against SOPA: in Aaron Swartz's memory, websites everywhere will add code from TheDayWeFightBack.org to their templates, helping to flood Congress -- and the world's legislative bodies -- with calls for an end to mass surveillance.
In America, we're demanding that Congress pass The USA Freedom Act, restoring the Fourth Amendment protection that Americans have enjoyed for hundreds of years. If you have a website (a Tumblr, a blog) then you -- like us -- can add the code to your template today, and on the 11th, it will go live.
The Day We Fight Back - February 11th 2014
In The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI, Betty Medsger reveals the long-secret details of the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, an activist group that raided the FBI's offices, retrieving evidence of J Edgar Hoover's criminal program of secret spying. The book is a rollicking history of the confluence of protest, locksport, activism and amateur spycraft. One of its most hilarious moments is the description of the group's social engineering hack on an unpickable lock that they needed to get past in order to get to their target:
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An amazing post on Livejournal from
Ilya "Zyalt" Varlamov gives a glimpse of life behind the barricades at the #Euromaidan uprising in Kiev, Ukraine. Zyalt's photos and text convey the diversity of the rebel lines -- "from students to pensioners" -- and the ingenuity they display in everything from homebrewed catapaults to morale-boosting drumming ("When casual stone- and grenade-throwing takes place, the knock is monotonous, in order to set rhythm and keep the morale. When Berkut attacks, drumming becomes louder and everyone hears that – for some it is a signal to run away, for some, on the opposite – defend the barricades.") At the end, we see the moment when the smoke clears and the truce begins. This is nailbiting, engrossing, terrifying stuff.
Here's hoping that all our readers in Ukraine are safe, especially Daniel, who wrote our first post on #Euromaidan.
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In this video, Ukrainian riot police have stripped a protester naked in subzero conditions and are parading him in public before putting him in a police van. The protester is stoic in the face of humiliation.
Daniel, who wrote our feature on #euromaidan, says that it's getting worse there: "Tires burning, police started shooting to kill, body count was at 7
this morning. Hard to say, lots of people disappear. I'm wearing
Of the protester in the video, he says, "look at his statue - what a spirit."
Stay safe, Daniel.
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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Ed from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "In the next month Open Rights Group will be recruiting a Legal Director to help us intervene in crucial digital rights court cases and bring real legal expertise to our work.
We can't let government and big web companies go unchallenged in the courts. We already have the funding to take on a part-time Legal Director. But to bring in a full-time experienced lawyer who can drive ambitious legal projects we're relying on lots of new supporters joining ORG."
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Ukrainian protesters from the #Euromaidan movement have faced brutal police violence. A moving demonstration on December 30th included a line of protesters who held up mirrors to the riot police who faced them across the barricades.
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A broad coalition of organizations -- including Boing Boing -- have joined forces to declare February 11 a day of action in memory of Aaron Swartz and against NSA Internet spying and mass surveillance. Just as we did with the SOPA fight, we're asking people who care about this to make their own personal expressions of resistance, and take the case for caring about this and fighting back to the people closest to them. Each of us knows the arguments that will convince our friends and loved ones.
The Day We Fight Back sets out a number of ways you can participate, small and large. This is a fight we can win.
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Two protesters who held up an anti-Keystone-XL-pipeline banner at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Devon Energy have been charged with perpetrating a "terrorism hoax" because some of the glitter on their banner fell on the floor and was characterized by OKC cops as a "hazardous substance."
The arrest is an extreme example, but it's not an isolated one. Indeed, leaked documents show that TransCanada has an army of spies assembling dossiers on protesters, and has been briefing the FBI and local law on techniques for prosecuting anti-pipeline protesters as terrorists.
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"Million Mask Marches" were planned for 400 cities, through which people in Guy Fawkes masks took to the streets, in protest of many causes, "from corruption to fracking." Russell Brand attended the London rally: "Whatever party they claim to represent in the day, at night they show their true colours and all go to the same party." See more at #MillionMaskMarch.
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Tiffiniy from Fight for the Future sez, "If the energy from last night is any indication, the NSA has an onslaught of discontent to contend with. Hundreds of people gathered around 9PM, stopped traffic, and crowded Washington Square Park and the streets of lower Manhattan to launch this video unmasking NSA programs onto the side of an NYU building."
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Ron MacLean's Headlong is a gripping, timely novel about a middle-aged, washed-up Boston newspaperman who returns to his childhood home from a wasted existence in LA to care for his father after a bad stroke. Nick, the protagonist, was once an idealistic muck-raker, but a failed business and a failed marriage have left him adrift and purposeless.
But his return to Boston coincides with a citywide uprising centered around a janitor's strike. Young anarchists, anti-poverty church activists, and a mass of disaffected and unhappy people take to the streets, and a long, hot summer of street-fighting, vandalism, dirty tricks and pitched battles kicks off. As Nick's father lingers in his unpaid-for hospital bed, Nick finds himself drawn back into the fray, as a journalist, a mentor to a young activist, and as an old friend to some of the key players.
Headlong is a claustrophobic, noirish novel about the news business, labor politics, protest, and murder, and it's beautifully told and smartly concluded. It has the grace to be empathetic with all sides of a hard fight where no one has perfectly clean hands, and ultimately presents a tale of redemption and hope arising from even the most impossible circumstances.
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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Hugh sez, "EFF'r Parker Higgins tells me this sign was at a rally he spoke at in Berlin recently."
Grumpy Cat builds a GNU Internet [Frerk Meyer/CC BY-SA]
Organizers of the United Students Against Sweatshops in DC had wondered about "Missy," an activist who always seemed to be on the scene, though no one seemed to know anything more about her. One thing they did know, however, was that Missy's appearances were correlated with DC cops showing up at the stores where they were planning (lawful, peaceful) protest actions, preventing them from taking place.
A couple of lucky coincidences and some online sleuthing revealed that Missy was an undercover DC police officer named Nicole Rizzi, who had inflitrated a law-abiding, peaceful group whose purpose was to pressure clothing retailers to buy from suppliers in Bangladesh that met minimum standards on pay and working conditions. The group has filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, and they've asked the judge for an injunction prohibiting the police from further infiltration and spying of their group.
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Yesterday was George Orwell's birthday, and to celebrate, people in Utrecht perched little party hats atop CCTV cameras in public places.
By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.
No one tried this in London, because there are not enough party hats in the universe.
George Orwell’s Birthday Party
(via Making Light)
(A protester in Sao Paulo kisses a Turkish flag. Brazilians say they were, to a large extent, influenced by #occupygezi)
Yup, they're still in the streets in Turkey. And Brazil. And it's not just because Turkish cops buy their tear-gas from Brazil. Yesterday's Brazilian protests widened the causes under discussion, expanding to cover new laws that will make it harder to punish corrupt public officials. Photos from the excellent OccupyGeziPics Tumblr.
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Two members of Pussy Riot have travelled to London under a cloak of secrecy to speak to the press about the plight of their bandmates in Russian labor camps. Laurie Penny was one of the reporters who got to interview them in a small, no-photos press conference:
These girls are young. Very young. For their safety, I can’t say how young, but imagine how young you think they might be. Are you imagining it? They’re about five years younger than that. When they arrived I wondered, for a second, who let a couple of moody work experience kids into a clandestine meeting...
And then there’s the cultural backlash - including sexist attacks on what Pussy Riot stand for. "The simplest example is the idea that there’s a [male] producer behind us, or that we must be being paid by foreign governments - nobody can imagine that women themselves are expressing their opinions!" says Schumacher.
"In the Russian mass media they're saying we're stupid girls, not able to think. Among the orthodox believers, in the media, they tell us to stay at home, do cooking, give birth to children," says Schumacher. "And Masha and Nadya are attacked for not fulfilling their roles as mothers." This last is particularly cruel, because not only is it the Russian state that placed Masha and Nadya in Labour camps far from their children, but both have been denied the usual clemency that allows mothers of young children to receive suspended sentences.
Pussy Riot: "People fear us because we're feminists"
Above, footage of a protester's quadcopter in Gezi Park getting shot down by the Turkish Police. Below, the footage of police violence the drone had been capturing (complete with music that sounds like it came out of an orc-fighting scene in the Hobbit). Ahead of us: a long, weird future history of protest.
Tuesday afternoon on June 11th 2013, Police was violently attacking peaceful protestors. Police fired guns at one of our RC drone during the protests in Taksim square, Istanbul. Police aimed directly at the camera. Due to the impact on the camera (it did have a housing) the last video was not saved properly on the SD card. The camera and drone were both broken. Managed to keep the SD card. Here is the footage from that camera! This footage you are about to see is from the prior flights minutes before the incident.
Turkish drone shooting heralds a new age of civillian counter-surveillance
The street protests in Brazil have gained momentum, with huge crowds in the streets. At issue is a kind of corporatist corruption symbolized by two upcoming football tournaments that are to be held at enormous public expense, even as poor Brazilians find themselves struggling with substandard infrastructure and price-hikes for public services. As in other BRIC nations, Brazil seems like a place where the economic future is here, it's just not evenly distributed -- not by a long shot.
The Brazilian president has praised the protesters for demanding justice but the state's spies have ramped up their social media surveillance, and the Brazilian police have met the protesters with extreme use of force, including gas, rubber bullets, and shotgun-toting cops on horseback and motorcycles:
Simultaneous demonstrations were reported in at least 80 cities, with a total turnout that may have been close to 2 million. An estimated 110,000 marched in São Paulo, 80,000 in Manaus, 50,000 in Recife, and 20,000 in Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
Clashes were reported in the Amazon jungle city of Belem, in Porto Alegre in the south, in Campinas north of São Paulo and in the north-eastern city of Salvador.
Thirty-five people were injured in the capital Brasilia, where 30,000 people took to the streets. In São Paulo, one man died when a frustrated car driver rammed into the crowd. Elsewhere countless people, including many journalists, were hit by rubber bullets.
The vast majority of those involved were peaceful. Many wore Guy Fawkes masks, emulating the global Occupy campaign. Others donned red noses – a symbol of a common complaint that people are fed up being treated as clowns.
Brazil protests: riot police scatter crowds in Rio [Jonathan Watts/The Guardian]
From the Occupy Gezi Pics tumblr: "A young girl in a Burger King restaurant on Sunday, after she managed to escape the tear gas outside.
The caption reads: 'Spring will come again. I promise you.'"
A young girl in a Burger King restaurant on Sunday
Molly sez, "I wrote this short essay over at iO9 on what the future of civil disobedience could look like. Though in the past civil disobedience was enacted in the streets, with people placing their bodies in harm's way for their cause, now online activists can engage in digitally-based acts of civil disobedience from their keyboards. I lay out three major lines along which digitally-based civil disobedience is developing: disruption, information distribution, and infrastructure. The future of civil disobedience online lies in affinity groups combining these three styles of activism, and using a diversity of tactics to support a common cause."
Infrastructure-based activism involves the creation of alternate systems to replace those that have been compromised by state or corporate information-gathering schemes. In other words, if the government is snooping on the internet, activists build a tool to make it harder for them to see everything. Tor, Diaspora, and indenti.ca are some examples of these projects, as are the guerrilla VPNs and network connections that often spring up to serve embattled areas, provided by activists in other countries.
Similar to living off the grid, these projects provide people with options beyond the default. Open source or FLOSS software and Creative Commons use a similar tactic: when the system stops working, create a new system. The challenge is to bring these new systems into widespread use without allowing them to be compromised, either politically or technically. However, these new systems often have to fight network effects as they struggle to attract users away from dominant systems. Diaspora faced this issue with Facebook. Without being able to disrupt dominant systems, user migration is often slow and piecemeal, lacking the impact activists hope for.
The Future of Civil Disobedience Online
(GENTE, olha esse reflexo na fachada de um prédio na manifestação do Rio, no centro da cidade! #ProtestoRJ/@brunoernica)
Brazil is up in arms. Hundreds of thousands are in the streets. The capital building in Brazilia was surrounded, then stormed. Here's some pictures of last night's goings-on, and above, a video explaining some of the reasons for the uprising.
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