Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Awake? Get Out Of Bed!

Are you "awake"? If so, you'll agree with this meme, too:

What's keeping you from standing up? Not sure anyone else feels the same way you do? You'd be surprised.
 "Once You're Awake--You Gotta Get Out Of Bed!"
words and photos by C.A. Matthews

I didn't feel very awake when we hit the road at 5:45 a.m. Why did I agree to attend this conference over two and a half hours away that started at nine a.m.? Oh, yeah, it sounded interesting, and I knew I needed a shot in the arm to keep myself going in this endless struggle to care about humanity and our environment in a world gone wild with a "I don't give a sh*t about you and yours, 'cause I've got mine!" mentality.

The Ohio Community Rights Network's Growing Roots and Rights For Just Communities conference was well worth the lack of sleep and long drive to Columbus. The discussions and keynote speakers were first-rate and the camaraderie of fellow activists and people-who-give-a-sh*t was invigorating. When one is feeling like nobody cares and nothing can be done to rid our country of corporate-owned-corrupt public officials, nothing is better for one's soul than learning how others are dealing with similar struggles in their communities and receiving a thumbs up for your efforts. 

The title quote above came later in the day at a wrap-up panel with all the guest speakers and was spoken by Kevin O'Donnell, an organizer with the Ohio Student Association, a youth-run nonprofit building a political home for people who are tired of seeing their friends and family thrown away by our system. Kevin is right--if we are awake (aware of what's going on and not swallowing the mainstream media's regurgitated corporate propaganda wholesale) then we need to get up and get moving and quit whining and complaining. Staying in bed isn't going to get things done.

Featured speaker Mari Margil, leader of the International Center for the Rights of Nature,  pointed out to us how all our current challenges share the same common denominators. Racism is intentional and legitimized, implemented to profit those in power. Gender discrimination is intentional and legitimized, implemented to profit those in power. Discrimination against nature is intentional and legitimized, implemented to profit those in power, as animals are seen as inferior to men and natural resources are to be used, no matter what the cost. Perhaps scariest of all is that discrimination against democracy is intentional and legitimized, implemented to profit those in power. 

See a pattern here? 

Who are those in power? Mari shared a telling quote from President James Madison on why he helped to create the U.S. Constitution:  "To protect the opulent against the majority." If you have to ask who the opulent are, then more than likely you're not in their club. But we in the majority have Pope Francis on our side when he declared, "The rights of nature do exist." And they have been passed into law in Ecuador, Bolivia, Australia, Nepal--and even within the US by members of the Ho-Chunk nation. They've added a Rights of Nature amendment to their tribal constitution to prevent fracking. Others are following suit.

"We have a democracy problem" was a refrain we heard over again during the day. We can't just sit around and do nothing to heal the corrupt system itself and expect any of our work on environmental issues, social justice issues, racial/gender justice issues, health care, labor issues, etc., to be successful. We can't take action in small, incremental, gradual steps, and expect any different outcomes than we've had in the past. Regulatory laws and institutions were set up to benefit those in power, and remember, we're not in their club. "It's not a broken system that needs to be fixed," said Toledoan for Safe Water organizer Markie Miller. "It's a fixed system we need to break!"

Just when I thought no one held out any hope of our re-establishing community rights, I learned about two ballot petitions circulating in Ohio to do just that. We could be voting to extend the right of democracy to all Ohioans--not just the corporations--before too long. More people are becoming awake than ever before, and even more are getting out of bed and going out into the streets and gathering signatures.
We feel alone, but in reality we're all just one part of one large movement that will bring the change we need to see in the world. "We are one cause with many fronts," said activist/lawyer Terry Lodge, and it makes sense. All our issues have a common cause that will be addressed eventually when we break open the fixed system and restore true democracy to the people--all people, not just some. One activist from Youngstown, whose group has experienced a multitude of legal set-backs getting their community rights initiative against fracking on the ballot, said it well: "You don't lose until you quit--so we don't quit!"

We don't quit. I might have that tattooed on my arm so I don't forget it. I could tattoo that phrase or perhaps a nice sunflower, a reminder that a tiny seed, apparently dead and dormant, can spring to life and blossom into a huge and beautiful living thing, given sun, rain and a little encouragement.
There were many great panel discussions and another featured speaker, Dr. Melina Abdullah, that I might touch upon in future blog posts. In the meantime, you can watch videos of both featured speakers and learn more on these topics at the Ohio Community Rights Network website: http://www.ohiocrn.org.

Here's a great quote we should take to heart, now more than ever:

“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?' There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.” -- Kurt Vonnegut


 Our guest blogger updates us on life in America post-Snowden...
The State Of Affairs Five Years After Snowden

by Jack Warner

Five years ago, Edward Snowden made revelations that shook the entire world. Before then, people had no idea the extent to which their governments were spying on them. Illegal mass surveillance became the hot topic for months after the Snowden Leaks. There were heated debates that put to question the necessity and efficiency of mass surveillance. However, the question to ask is what significance and effect the Snowden Leaks have had after five years.

Changes in policy

Shortly after the Snowden Leaks, there was plenty of public outrage directed at the government. People felt betrayed and violated, and there were calls for accountability and reform. The pressure on the government was not only internal but also external from foreign nations that had been spied on. 

Although there were those within the government that tried to justify and support its actions, there were also those that felt that intelligence agencies had gone too far and needed to be stopped. Thanks to that, significant headway was made regarding policy reforms starting with the passing of the Freedom Act, which limited the powers afforded by the Patriot Act, into law.

However, five years after the Snowden Leaks there has been no significant progress made on anti-surveillance policies. If anything, there is a regression in policy. Currently, the government is pushing for policies that empower intelligence agencies. An excellent example would be Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Act, which allows for the monitoring of foreigners outside the US. That and the complete shutdown of net neutrality are examples of policies that point to a government that is unwilling to stop its illegal mass surveillance.
Increased awareness

At the time of the Snowden Leaks, most people understood that the government carried out surveillance activities to some extent. However, what people did not know is how powerful the intelligence agencies were and the extent to which they were being spied on. The leaking of the classified NSA and CIA files was an eye opener for most of the world.

After five years, people have an increased understanding of just how vulnerable and powerless they are in the face of surveillance agencies like the NSA and CIA. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government has no intention of limiting the powers of these agencies. In fact, it would seem that the government is pushing for mass surveillance to be an acceptable norm, under the guise of ‘National Security’. Such increased awareness has also led people to take security as an individual responsibility, and more people are learning and adapting countermeasures against hacking and surveillance.
The growth of security countermeasures

Online privacy and security have grown into a hot topic in the five years after the Snowden Leaks. There is a growing wealth of information on cybersecurity as well as tools to use for the same purpose. Compared to agencies such as the NSA and CIA with their technological advancements and financial backing, individual countermeasures might seem insignificant. However, more people are learning how to make use of the available tools to make the best security possible.

Currently, the best approach to effective cybersecurity is to rely on multiple cybersecurity tools and devices. Of course, one’s choice of countermeasures affects the effectiveness of security. For instance, although a VPN is one of the most powerful cybersecurity tools available to the market, you should use tor over VPN for the added security. Additionally, instead of relying on Operating Systems that have been proven to be flawed, you should install Tails OS, which is currently the most secure and private OS.
The Bottomline

While people may be powerless against the government, especially regarding the policies, there are still ways to guarantee individual online security. The awareness created by Snowden Leaks provides enough ammunition in the fight for online privacy and security. Even as various advocacy groups fight for policy changes, people still remain vigilant by using all available information and security tools to protect their information from the unlawful eyes of overpowered government agencies.
Bio: Jack Warner:is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on topics such as whistleblowing and cybersecurity tools.
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Power to the people and not the corporations!
From Friends of the Earth:
Add your name: Stop the assault on the Endangered Species Act and protect our vulnerable wildlife.
In the 45 years since it was enacted, the Endangered Species Act has saved some of our most threatened species from the brink of extinction, including the gray wolf, green sea turtle, sea otter and bald eagle.
In fact, the ESA is one of the most successful environmental policies in U.S. history. It has saved 99% of its designated protected species.
But now, the GOP in Congress and Trump’s administration are trying to gut this landmark environmental law. As you read this, the House of Representatives is debating nine bills that would undercut the ESA. And the Department of the Interior is considering public input on its plan to strip key protections for our wildlife. We need your help to stop these attacks!
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is proposing three rule changes that would effectively gut this bedrock legislation for imperiled species. This undermining represents the most significant threat to the ESA in its 45-year history: weakening protections for threatened species, removing opportunities for public input and making it harder to hold wildlife agencies accountable for their actions.
Hundreds of unique, vulnerable species and their habitats are under attack -- all so the Trump administration can rubber stamp the projects of corporate polluters -- pipelines, drilling and fracking. This plan would even allow Big Oil to drill in a species' habitat without consulting scientists or wildlife agencies.
Our coalition needs 100,000 people to speak out and DEMAND that Secretary Zinke protect the United States’ wildlife and wildland over corporate interests.
From the rusty patched bumble bee to the red wolf, endangered species play a critical role in maintaining a healthy environment. And by protecting wildlife, we also protect the environments it inhabits, and the communities that depend on those environments -- from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the Midwestern plains.
But Congress and the Trump administration want to sacrifice all of that just so the fossil fuel industry can make even bigger profits.
After more than 50,000 Friends of the Earth Action members like you told the Department of the Interior not to raise fees on many of our most popular National Parks, it walked back its proposal. This shows that even with the Trump administration, public pressure works. Now, we need to build on that success -- before it’s too late for endangered species!
Standing with you,
Nicole Ghio,
Senior fossil fuels program manager,
Friends of the Earth Action


In 41 days, we will show our leaders that we refuse to accept gun violence as a normal part of life in America. In 41 days, we can make history by achieving the highest youth turnout in a midterm election ever.

Between now and November 6th, we’ll be pushing harder than ever. If you’re already registered and ready to vote, don’t stop there -- now is the time to get others ready.

We are launching #TurnoutTuesday, a March For Our Lives mission to unite young people around the same get-out-the-vote action every Tuesday from Oct. 2 until Nov. 6th. Sign up to join March For Our Lives for our first training call and we’ll give you all the info you need to lead these efforts in your community.
Keep your ears open for a MFOL announcement in the coming weeks about our final push to motivate young people to vote this November.

Remember: The last midterms had the lowest youth turnout ever. This time, we must make our voices heard where it counts. Let’s do this.

Thank you for standing with us.

-Emma González

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