“Oakland activists block Israeli ship for third day” by Massoud Hayoun and Renee Lewis (via america.aljajeera.com)

Oakland activists

Pro-Palestinian protesters on Monday (August 18, 2014) continued a campaign to block an Israeli commercial vessel from docking in Oakland, California, for a third day.  They are considering making the action a weekly event, to coincide with the arrival of new vessels.

About 20 protesters arrived at the port at 5 a.m. local time to block the container ship, owned by Zim Shipping Services Ltd., one of the world’s largest container shipping companies, from entering the Port of Oakland and unloading cargo. Two demonstrators were detained and cited, according to the Oakland Police Department.

Another protest was planned for 6 p.m. — an action quickly organized after rumors spread that the ship would again attempt to dock. In addition to picketing at the docks, protesters have been attempting to gain the support of the longshoremen who would handle the unloading.

“It’s not clear yet whether this will be a sustained action,” said Daniela Kantorova, who spoke with Al Jazeera on her way to the port. “It takes a lot of effort and energy to sustain this action. But these ships arrive every Saturday. People are thinking of making this a regular action, a weekly action.”

Inspired by a call from Palestinian civil society to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, the action was part of a series of events organized by Block the Boat, a loose Oakland-based coalition of grass-roots organizations.

Saturday’s protest, which launched the campaign, drew 3,000 to 5,000 protesters. Block the Boat organizers are planning similar actions in Seattle, Vancouver and other U.S. and Canadian ports in coming weeks.

Organizers said the Palestinian territories weren’t all that was on protesters’ minds. Also figuring prominently were recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters have clashed with police after the killing of an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, by a white police officer on Aug. 9.

“There were numerous signs that said things like ‘Global intifada from Oakland to Ferguson to Palestine,’” said Mollie Costello, 42, one of the protesters at the port event. Black fists, a symbol of the black power movement, adorned many signs held by demonstrators.

“It may be difficult for people to see the connection between black America and the struggle of Palestinians in the Middle East,” Costello said. “It comes down to oppression, occupation and basic rights that are denied people to hold them down, like Palestinians, like black America. It’s easy for people living in those communities, under those conditions to see the similarities.”

Another protester, Russell Bates, 67, who was detained Monday, said Palestinians and African-Americans share similar experiences of social immobility.

“It seems like the people in Gaza in particular are packed into a ghetto-like situation, where they aren’t allowed to leave except in exceptional situations,” Bates said, whereas in Ferguson, people are “captive in their own ghetto — not surrounded by walls necessarily. Invisible walls keep them down.”

The port blockade, organizers say, aims not just to put a dent in the Israeli economy but also to expose Americans to all elements of the U.S. relationship with Israel — a partnership they say is also resulting in the militarization of U.S. police forces nationwide. This, the organizers charge, has led to a recent surge in police brutality against communities of color and the killings of young black men like Brown.

“We will no longer stay silent as our governing bodies play a role in what’s happening with Israel as we will no longer stand for the violence against communities here in the U.S.,” said Reem Assil, one of Block the Boat’s organizers.

It remains unclear whether Israeli police techniques are being employed in Ferguson, but St. Louis County police have received instruction from their counterparts in Israel.

In April 2011, then–St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch was sent to Israel “to study counterterrorism” measures, where he was “briefed by senior members of the Israel National Police as well as the Israel Defense Forces and intelligence/security organizations,” according to a press release from the St. Louis County Police.

“I am confident that this will be a unique learning experience offered nowhere else in the world,” Fitch said in the release.

Fitch traveled to Israel as part of the National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel, an initiative by the Anti-Defamation League, which “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all,” according to its website.

Since 2004, more than 175 law enforcement executives have participated in the NCTS programs in Israel, according to the ADL website.

“The same police that orchestrated the brutal crackdowns on protesters [in Ferguson] were trained by Israeli police,” said Mohamed Shekh, 26, another organizer of the Oakland port protest Saturday.

The ADL was not immediately available for comment.

Shekh said his fellow activists are organizing a protest at a police weapons and training expo, Urban Shield, which will be held in Oakland Sept. 5 through 8. Israeli police and vendors have in recent years figured prominently at Urban Shield events, according to the Urban Shield website. Participants have also hailed from nations across the Middle East.

“American Democracy Is Diseased” by Robert Reich (via alternet.org)

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother?

A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.

Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and monied business interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

Before you’re tempted to say “duh,” wait a moment. Gilens’ and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002. This was before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in “Citizens United,” prior to SuperPACs, and before the Wall Street bailout.

So it’s likely to be even worse now.

But did the average citizen ever have much power? The eminent journalist and commentator Walter Lippman argued in his 1922 book “Public Opinion” that the broad public didn’t know or care about public policy. Its consent was “manufactured” by an elite that manipulated it. “It is no longer possible … to believe in the original dogma of democracy,” Lippman concluded.

Yet American democracy seemed robust compared to other nations that in the first half of the twentieth century succumbed to communism or totalitarianism.

Political scientists after World War II hypothesized that even though the voices of individual Americans counted for little, most people belonged to a variety of interest groups and membership organizations – clubs, associations, political parties, unions – to which politicians were responsive.

“Interest-group pluralism,” as it was called, thereby channeled the views of individual citizens, and made American democracy function.

What’s more, the political power of big corporations and Wall Street was offset by the power of labor unions, farm cooperatives, retailers, and smaller banks.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith approvingly dubbed it “countervailing power.” These alternative power centers ensured that America’s vast middle and working classes received a significant share of the gains from economic growth.

Starting in 1980, something profoundly changed. It wasn’t just that big corporations and wealthy individuals became more politically potent, as Gilens and Page document. It was also that other interest groups began to wither.

Grass-roots membership organizations shrank because Americans had less time for them. As wages stagnated, most people had to devote more time to work in order to makes ends meet. That included the time of wives and mothers who began streaming into the paid workforce to prop up family incomes.

At the same time, union membership plunged because corporations began sending jobs abroad and fighting attempts to unionize. (Ronald Reagan helped legitimized these moves when he fired striking air traffic controllers.)

Other centers of countervailing power – retailers, farm cooperatives, and local and regional banks – also lost ground to national discount chains, big agribusiness, and Wall Street. Deregulation sealed their fates.

Meanwhile, political parties stopped representing the views of most constituents. As the costs of campaigns escalated, parties morphing from state and local membership organizations into national fund-raising machines.

We entered a vicious cycle in which political power became more concentrated in monied interests that used the power to their advantage – getting tax cuts, expanding tax loopholes, benefiting from corporate welfare and free-trade agreements, slicing safety nets, enacting anti-union legislation, and reducing public investments.

These moves further concentrated economic gains at the top, while leaving out most of the rest of America.

No wonder Americans feel powerless. No surprise we’re sick of politics, and many of us aren’t even voting.

But if we give up on politics, we’re done for. Powerlessness is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

The only way back toward a democracy and economy that work for the majority is for most of us to get politically active once again, becoming organized and mobilized.

We have to establish a new countervailing power.

The monied interests are doing what they do best – making money. The rest of us need to do what we can do best – use our voices, our vigor, and our votes.

Robert B. Reich has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He also served on President Obama’s transition advisory board. His latest book is “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.” His homepage is www.robertreich.org.

#BlockTheBoat Update: Solidarity with #Ferguson March and #BlockTheBoat Afterparty Celebration

blockboat8-21-14 5:30PM: Zim Piraeus is underway for Russia. Temporary lull in blockade. Celebrate the historic victory! Another Zim ship expected on Saturday. Stay tuned.

8-20-14 3:30PM: Solidarity with #Ferguson March and #BlockTheBoat Afterparty/ continuation of Blockade!  http://pastebin.com/1R43yWf8 announced with more calls for people to hold up picket lines at Berth 22 at 6:30PM & 10:30PM. Stop State Sponsored Oppression.

8-20-14 1:00PM: Zim ship only unloaded 2% of it’s cargo and is anchored in the SF Bay with destination still being Oakland. More people needed to hold up picket lines at three entrances to Bert 22 at 6:30PM for shift change and 10:30PM for lunch breaks then, again, at 6:30AM tomorrow. Food and drinks gratefully appreciated.

8-19-14 9:11PM: Ports America, inc. reportedly brought in crew from other berth while scheduled crew honored the picket line. More people needed for three gates starting at 10:30PM-11:00PM for crew’s lunch break and 6:300AM for morning shift at Berth 22. Ship reportedly has DAYS worth of unloading to do. This isn’t over yet not by a longshore.

8-19-14 9:00PM: Zim ship confirmed to be moored at Berth 22-26. Longshoremen reportedly have not crossed the picket line at this time. Still need people, food and drinks.

8-19-14 7:00PM: CONFIRMED Zim boat is RETURNING to Oakland Port and expected to arrive at Berth 22-26! We can’t let them outmaneuver us.

8-19-14 5:00PM: Zim ship has passed the Golden Gate Bridge on it’s way to LA to attempt to unload. URGENT call to LA activists to set up picket line at LA Port.

8-19-14 3:45PM: Unconfirmed reports that ship is heading to Berth 22 in Oakland. Some are heading to Berth 22 to prepare…we will know for sure within an hour or so.

8-19-14 3:30PM: CONFIRMED Zim Piraeus is underway and heading to Los Angeles. Mobilizing to LA ASAP! Stay tuned, we’re making history!

8-19-14 2:45PM: Unconfirmed reports that Zim boat has untied and preparing to leave port WITHOUT unloading cargo. More calls to hold up picket line at 6:300PM Oakland Port Berth 57-59.

8-19-14 6:45AM: Morning Victory Declared as ILWU continue to honor the #BlockTheBoat picket line as Zim boat is blockaded for over 72 hours and counting. More autonomous calls to hold up the picket line at 6:30PM while organizers from Arab Resource and Organizing Center begin planning for the Sept. Oakland convention, Urban Shield, featuring numerous Israeli companies. Keep up the historic work – we are making change!

8-18-14 9:17PM: Victory declared for evening demonstration. Longshoremen workers ordered home and still getting paid! “Organizers are neither calling for, nor advising against, autonomous actions here tomorrow at 5:30 AM.” More autonomous calls to hold up picketline at 5:30AM and 5:30PM tomorrow (shifts start at 6:30AM/PM. Bring food, blankets & beverages (hot cocoa) if you can.

8-18-14 7:30PM: Overwhelming number of reports that ILWU workers are yet again honoring the #BlockTheBoat picketline and refusing to cross it. More calls to picket again at 5:30AM.

8-18-14 PM: People meeting at Oakland Port Berth 57 at 5:00PM and #ILWU parking lot by SSA 1717 Middle Harbor Rd. to setup picketline. Tomorrow’s shift said to begin at 5:30AM.

8-18-14 5AM: Small group of picketers were able to successfully block the morning shift from unloading the Zim boat. Calling for more people, food and water for the 5:30PM shift.

8-18-14 12AM: Reports of people meeting at 5AM at West Oakland BART.

8-17-14 9PM: Another Victory against oppression! With solidarity actions around the country, the outstanding quality of the ILWU workers was once again on display tonight as they honored the #BlockTheBoat picketline and refused to unload the Zim boat. The workers reportedly will enjoy a paid evening off and plans to be there in the AM are underway. Stay tuned. #BlockTheBoat

8-17-14 6:??PM: Block the boat update: The ship’s coming in at 6:30pm tonight (August 17) and the ILWU has requested our presence and said that they will not cross a picket. Spread the word: get there as soon as you can. If you can drive, park at middle harbor shoreline park, we’ll shuttle people from there and from Bart.  –Adrienne Fong

8-17-14 AM: After successfully delaying the Israeli Zim Piraeus cargo ship from docking at the Oakland Port on Saturday, the boat is now underway heading toward it’s destination.


People are meeting at West Oakland BART and Berth 57!

#BlockTheBoat @violentfanon @alyssa011968 @CourtneyPFB @hyphy_republic @HipHopSTW @YouSeemFine @thehoopoe @lettywho1

Administering schools through consensus (via pbs.org)

In the face of a top-down hierarchy ruling many public schools these days, some teachers are taking back their classrooms by moving to schools where they create the curriculum and vote democratically on decisions until they reach a consensus. John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports from Boston on one of about 70 teacher-led schools that have cropped up around the country in recent years.

Op-Ed: “Is Ferguson the test case for the Police State” by Bob of Occupy

Is Ferguson, Missouri, the test case for the enveloping police state that has been put in place by the Homeland Security and NSA apparatus of the Neo-Con 21st Century global world order?

If the Military-Police Apparatus can put down and control the civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson and the President-Constitutional Law Professor, Barak Obama, remains silent in the face of obvious violations of the Constitution beginning with the Freedom to Assemble to Address Grievances, than we are witnessing the first incident of just how the henchmen will be carrying out their orders from the 1%, down the line.

This is the test experiment that we all must become aware of and resist. A young 18 year old black youth shot down with his hands over his head and so far the community do not even know how many bullets were shot into his surrendering, unarmed body.

A crew of journalists with cameras and lights on tripods, who could see the police in the shadows a hundred feet away, clearly indicating that the police could identify them under their own bright lights, were fired upon with tear gas for the crime of Freedom of the Press.

Sniper rifles, stun grenades, tear gas, anti-mine vehicles specifically designed for the Iraq War, military helicopters hovering above with the whirling sound one relates to a war scene prior to a descent of combatants onto the ground below, are all visible for the nation to see in a small town in the middle of America. Hasn’t Hollywood already made at least a couple of B movies depicting this scene?

For years now under the dishonest pronouncement that all of this arming of American police forces is justified because of the war on terror, we have witnessed beginning with the Patriot Act and followed by the National Defense Authorization Act in which American Citizens can be arrested and detained without the most basic rights of due process, INDEFINITELY, by an arbitrary order of the president of the united states, the overthrowing of our democracy. Add to that the worldwide surveillance of all human beings by a hegemonic security state site in Virginia, and we have the makings of the perfect fascist state ever actualized.

1984 is blase. We’re into the sequel.

And by the way, when Obama exits the stage he’s acted on so well, and passes on the torch to the next servile politician who wants all the ego trips that go with that office, will he in the spirit of Dwight Eisenhower expose and excoriate the Homeland Security-NSA-Police Complex, warning us of its profound dangers to our democratic values? Don’t count on. He doesn’t possess that “Johnny come lately” character. And if you look at Eisenhower’s call out, well it hasn’t stopped this Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex by even a rat’s tail.

It has always been, outside of the labor movement of the early part of the last century, that our black brothers and sisters have been at the vanguard of confronting a state that seeks to control them, deny them their Constitutional Rights, and savage their communities with police forces that reflect that old tired divide and conquer tactic of racism.

They are out there again in Ferguson. And it is may be the Kent State moment in the seventies of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement where lives were lost to awaken a sleeping nation to the horrors of its foreign policy which eventually turned out to be the cause of death of perhaps as many as three million Vietnamese People and the brutal destruction of their environment through bombings and napalm.

But unless the Nation, that would be its People and not its representatives in Congress, step up and stand by the enraged residents of Ferguson, we are doomed as a democratic People.

So many of us thought when they relieved the white police chief of Ferguson of his duties and installed a black police chief that a solution had been found. But as the last several nights have shown he is not the one in charge because clearly decisions are being made at a higher level in the state and there has been a continuation of a military approach to “civil unrest”, caused by “state sanctioned injustice”.

As one young woman put it so succinctly, “apartheid is alive and well in America”. This from a woman the victim there in Missouri experiencing it. No abstract pronouncements from outside pundits.

Will our Nation, its People, stop for a moment from their diversions and entertainments and commit to confronting this injustice? If they don’t express their disgust with the tactics of military style, overwhelming force upon the citizens of a small town in the middle of America, and allow the controlling apparatus of the 1% to set the precedent for future demonstrations in our country, then we will get what we deserve.

A fascist state for a complacent, indifferent citizenry.

Are the controlling henchman sitting back somewhere in a darkened tower above a quiet city street, surrounded by media monitors gathering all the information moment by moment as the police state carries out its instructions gauging whether the response of the People can be boxed in and smothered, whether the Compliant Media can be manipulated to serve the interests of the state apparatus and not that of the People, whether the political machinery and its bought and paid for servile representatives will bend to the will of their benefactors and not support the Constitution they swore to defend against all enemies foreign and DOMESTIC?

Wake up, America. Ferguson is Middle America. It’s our city, our town. our nation, our Democracy.

–Bob of Occupy (also published on Daily Censored.com)