Tag Archives: democracy

All Demonstrations are Now Spying Opportunities All the Time

does-pay-per-click-keyword-spying-really-helpDallas   We condemn China’s regular crackdowns of dissidents and many countries offer them safe harbor.  We cheer the courageous members of Pussy Riot in Russia or Femen in the Ukraine who have stood up to governments for the freedom of speech and the rights of women.  We are outraged at the military coups that subvert democratic elections in Egypt and Thailand to restore “order,” and are repulsed at the death sentences meted out to opponents.  There is little pretense that these governments are democratic in anything but name only, if that.

We are also rightly horrified when we read, or watch, police violently busting up demonstrations in Istanbul in disagreement with the government there or in Brazil on the eve of the World Cup.  These are our more progressive allies on the world stage on various matters.  Freedom of association, the right to participate in the public forum as everyone’s equal space, and the right to speak even if ignored, are all fundamental principles of most political formations purporting to be free and democratic.  Right?  No, wrong!  Those are just old school, July 4th kind of sentiments repeated routinely, but having little meaning it seems even in the most ostensibly “democratic” countries.  Security, not freedom, is the overarching trump card from governments of all stripes and sizes these days.

In the United States thanks to all of the information leaked by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency subcontractor, we now know that in the name of security the USA monitors everyone everywhere, and it takes almost a religious act of faith to not believe that Americans are not also monitored domestically, which few are capable of summoning.  Inarguably, we have lost even a smidgen of moral authority here.

Canada, our sometimes more transparent neighbor, has now stepped up and freely acknowledged through its Government Operations Centre that it monitors all demonstrations in Canada all the time.  In an email leaked to the Ottawa Citizen a bulletin was sent by the GOC to all federal agencies making their intentions and instructions crystal clear saying:

The Government Operations Centre is seeking your assistance in compiling a comprehensive listing of all known demonstrations which will occur either in your geographical area or that may touch on your mandate.  We will compile this information and make this information available to our partners unless of course, this information is not to be shared and not available on open sources. In the case of the latter, this information will only be used by the GOC for our Situational Awareness.

Of course ACORN Canada leaders and organizers were madly sharing this information because no doubt every one of their actions was caught in this net.  There was no happiness.

It seems the GOC had gotten a taste for this kind of activity by monitoring Aboriginal protests against fracking and other environmental developments.

…the Government Operations Centre was involved in coordinating a response to Aboriginal demonstrations against fracking. The GOC distributed a map of the area where the RCMP had conducted raids on protesters who had seized an oil company’s vehicles. It also produced a spreadsheet detailing 32 planned events in support of anti-fracking.  Those included a healing dance in Kenora, Ont., a prayer ceremony in Edmonton and an Idle No More “taco fundraiser, raffle and jam session” planned at the Native Friendship Centre in Barrie, Ont., according to documents obtained through the Access to Information Act by APTN National News.

Talk about leaving no stone unturned, eh?

And who is this Government Operations Centre anyway?  Well, once again according to the Ottawa Citizen:

The GOC was created in 2004 by Public Safety Canada. It is connected with the operations centres of 20 federal departments and agencies, as well as with those of the provinces and territories, and other countries, including the United States.

And, I’m not paranoid, but I can read and still connect the dots, when they mention the United States, that means the NSA again, and when they mention other countries certainly that means the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and likely Australia and others where we have all have buddy-buddy info-sharing arrangements.  If there’s anyone who believes that this is just good, ol’ friendly Canada sharing for the sake of sharing and that the other countries, where they are connected, aren’t giving as good as they’re getting, then I want to talk to you about buying a bridge from me that crosses over the Mississippi River or somewhere closer to your home.

So much for freedom of association.  Just sent your leaflets to the local police and save yourself the trouble of wondering who is watching and do what you have to do to make change happen.  And, as for all of those other countries, please do what we say, not what we do!


Is Demographics Destiny in a Democracy?

demographicsNew Orleans   On a radio interview I conducted on Friday discussing the impact of the DOMA and Prop 8 decisions, the young man poignantly spoke about the isolation of young homosexuals in rural areas, compared to the relative freedom in the cities, even conservative cities. I then noticed a map in the Wall Street Journal looking at the estimated demographics underlying the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision on the rights of homosexuals in America. States with very small populations were, as expected, in Western and some Southern states.  What was most interesting to me was being reminded how small the numbers were in all circumstances.   The range was essentially less than 3% of the population to more than 4%, which underscores the mammoth accomplishment of the political and civil rights task for gay and lesbians in America over the last 40 or 50 years in creating social change.

The viciousness of the oppression of African-Americans and even women lay partially in the interest of white men trying to hold onto self-certified, political and cultural entitlements that required terrible tactics because the impact of voting rights for either group, only won over the last 100 years for women and more than 50 for African-Americans, made their victories destiny throughout the country because women were a significant minority everywhere and in some areas African-Americans were a decided majority.   Once the right to vote was guaranteed to women, the clock has inevitably ticked towards freedom in a democracy no matter how many hours must pass. Few could doubt that there will be a woman president, the only questions are “who” and “when.”   The somersaults the Court played with the voting rights act proves that vigilance must be eternal, but practicality also will isolate the right in more and more extreme gymnastics from voter IDs to god knows what else to postpone the inevitable.   Similarly the huge and growing Hispanic population, regardless of the relatively small number of undocumented among them, dictates the inevitability of reform as this population acquires more and more political strength in areas where it is already in the majority and in other areas, even as Karl Rove points out, in conservative Republican bunkers in places like Georgia.

In a democracy, the haters always are their own undoing when it comes to the unstoppable movement to full political participation.   Looking at the significant, even if relatively small numbers of homosexuals in the country, as hate drove people underground and then to the cities as a Mecca for a fuller life, the smaller numerical strength would eventually amalgamate into some political influence on the urban map.   If you were going to be an elected official over the last 50 years and represent the Castro District, Montrose, the French Quarter, or Greenwich Village, you had to be ready to represent your ENTIRE constituency.   Or, of course you could not do that and wait until you were kicked to the curb, because politics, as we know, is very local.

So victory is inevitable, the organizing problem is the damnably long timelines to achieve it and the daily damage that discrimination does to people and the country itself that comes from the deep, deep impact of justice delayed.   The cultural problem that infects American politics in this time of polarity is the fact that we have too many trying to wage a last stand for something that is dying  and stand in the schoolhouse door.  As organizers and progressives though, we have to do a better job of getting out our message of the inevitability of victory in order to support and spark more mass-based work to shorten the timetables. Only movements are able to accelerate these types of changes, not the slow, grinding work of politics, regardless of how important politics is in determining the inevitability of final victory.