Political Action

Remember the war dead on Memorial Day

American Friends Service Committee - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 10:46
News Source: Statesman Journal
Categories: Political Action

Anti-racists show their strength in numbers

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 01:00

John Monroe and Brayden Teems report on a rally that brought out over a thousand people to let the far-right know that it isn't welcome in Portland--or anywhere else.

Standing against alt-right hate in front of City Hall in Portland (Paul Gordon | ZUMA Press/Newscom)

THOUSANDS OF people showed up to protest a far-right rally in Portland last Sunday, in a step forward for the movement that is urgently needed to counter the growth of violent, white-supremacist organizations, in Oregon and across the country.

The right-wing rally was called for June 4 by Patriot Prayer, a local group that claimed to be calling a demonstration in defense of "free speech." This has become the phony rallying cry for the so-called alt-right and its attempt to whip up more support for the neo-Nazi fringe, in particular, by appealing to right-wing Trump supporters.

The plan for a rally of hundreds of racists parading around Portland was a cruel provocation just a week after Jeremy Christian murdered two people and wounded a third, after the three tried to stop him from harassing two young women of color, one wearing a hijab, on a train.

Christian is a violent racist who showed up at a previous right-wing rally for "free speech"--armed with a baseball bat.

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AFTER WEEKS of growing fear following Christian's double homicide and the murder of Richard Collins III by a white supremacist on the campus of the University of Maryland, it was critical that anti-racists turned out in large numbers in Portland to confront the right and publicly demonstrate that its hateful ideas are still widely despised.

As many as 400 people turned up for the Patriot Prayer rally--but they were outnumbered by more than 2,000 counterprotesters in three different demonstrations that faced the alt-right on three sides of the park where they gathered.

The largest of these was the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally, with some 1,500 people rallying across the street from the far right. On another side was a separate mobilization of 400 to 500 activists associated with Antifa, which has pursued a strategy of seeking physical confrontations with the far right. There was also a separate "Labor Against Fascism" mobilization that drew around 150.

The overall turnout was impressive considering that many people were frightened by the violence of the far right, but also because it happened in the face of calls for people to not show up from leading Democrats--from Mayor Ted Wheeler to Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"Let them march alone," Jackson said at a press conference organized by local Democrats two days before rally. ""Our presence becomes the other side of the news. Let them and the cameras show up and be their own movement."

Thankfully, many people didn't follow this advice, which would have given the right-wingers even more confidence that their hatred won't be opposed. Instead, the right was outnumbered, and its message of hate was drowned out by chants and taunts.

That's exactly the kind of response that's needed to peel away potential new recruits to their poisonous politics--and to show everyone that the white supremacists and their hangers-on are a pathetic minority.

The counterprotest was a positive step for our side, after months of growing momentum for the far right, which has been courting Trump supporters by claiming that it is the victim of an oppressive liberal power structure. The "free speech rally" was part of a national campaign to cynically employ the idea of civil liberties as a cover for spreading bigoted ideas, intimidating oppressed groups and trying to stop the left from organizing.

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AT THE Portland Stands United Against Hate rally, the crowd was energetic, and the rally organizers led loud chants of "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here" to open the event.

Unite Oregon director Kayse Jama told the crowd that "we are living in a moment of history" that confronted us with the choice between "continue perpetuated bigotry and hate or building a just society." The message clearly resonated with the crowd, as hundreds of people faced the far-right rally and proudly chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "Nazis go home."

One of those facing the "alt-right" was Ana, who had been protesting at "pretty much every anti-Trump rally." "I have a voice as a young woman of color," she said, explaining why she was at the rally. "This call to action is why I am here."

More than 70 local and regional organizations endorsed the rally, and this broad base was reflected in the event. Calls for solidarity and the need to unify came from speakers from a wide range of organizations, including Voz Workers' Rights Education Project, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), Veterans for Peace (VFP) Chapter 72, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and many others.

Zakir Khan of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told the crowd that this was a "rally of solidarity" and a "chance for people to feel supported" in the wake of Jeremy Christian's horrifying attack.

Many speakers went beyond the themes of mourning a tragedy and challenging the far right to talk about other pressing issues, like the ongoing crisis of police brutality in Portland.

The crowd heard from Donna Hayes, grandmother of Quanice Hayes, a 17-year-old African American killed by Portland police in February. "As I look at [Jeremy Christian], domestic terrorist is what I see," Hayes said. "When I continue to look at domestic terrorism, I see Portland police." She went on to name Keaton Otis, Aaron Campbell and other black men murdered by Portland police.

Eva Maria of the ISO called attention to the need for a mass movement to challenge both the far right and the injustices of the U.S. government at their roots:

American workers of every color and gender are struggling to survive while the richest keep getting richer...It is this racism, it is these endless wars, and the nationalism that accompanies them, a society that lacks dignity and hope, that has opened the door to those far-righters to push their scapegoating, their nationalism, and its racism as the answer for some of those desperate few.

So today we are here to stand up to the right. But tomorrow we need to understand that the fight isn't over. Our class, our communities, those right here, need to start organizing to provide a political alternative that can fully represent us and provide the kind of world we want to live in. It's time for us to start acting on the offensive and demanding what we think we deserve.

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AFTER A few hours of competing rallies, police tried to clear out the Antifa protest in order to give the alt-right safe passage out of its outnumbered predicament. The Portland police lived up to their official reputation for using excessive force, using concussion grenades and moving in force to evict Antifa protesters.

Most mainstream media reports characterized the day as a clash between right-wing and left-wing "extremists". In truth, there were two groups that went to unnecessary extremes: the far right bigots and the Portland police, whose attacks on Antifa were completely unwarranted, and spread fear and confusion among the rest of the counterprotesters.

The only people who police seemed concerned about protecting were the far-right racists--and not for the first time.

At another "free speech" rally on April 29--the one attended by Christian, wielding a baseball bat--far-right demonstrators were shielded from left-wing protesters by police as they marched in southeast Portland. At the end of the march, the city spent taxpayer money to buy bus tickets for all the right-wingers to get back to the march's starting location.

With the state--from the police departments in cities like Portland all the way up to the White House under Donald Trump--explicitly supporting the far right, it's no surprise that these violent creeps feel confident organizing in public.

Some Antifa protesters have criticized the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally for not trying to physically confront the Patriot Prayer protest, but this is a misreading of what the situation demanded on June 4.

The white supremacist movement can only be driven to the margins through large-scale protests. The running battles at recent protests between small numbers of alt-right and Antifa haven't given confidence to immigrants, Muslims and other targets of the far right to come out and participate in such protests.

Instead, the confrontations have made people even less likely to protest--and allowed the hard right to deliberately use confrontations with Antifa to paint themselves as victims of dangerous and oppressive leftists who are trying to shut down the right's freedom of speech.

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ORIGINALLY, THE announcement of the June 4 alt-right rally was met by little mobilization beyond Antifa groups. Broader left organizations remained demoralized after Portland's May Day march, when Black Bloc protesters undermined a march of some 1,000 people by provoking police and then retreating into the crowd after the police with a completely unjustified use of violence.

The dynamic changed, however, after Jeremy Christian's horrific murders of Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and wounding of Micah David-Cole Fletcher.

About 1,000 people came to a vigil the day after the murders. While people were there to mourn and stand in support of one another, many were also angry and determined to push back against bigoted terror. Out of this surge came the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally.

Mayor Wheeler attempted to halt both the right-wing rally and the counter-mobilizations by calling on the federal government to revoke Patriot Prayer's permit. But this only helped the right-wingers promote their false image as oppressed defenders of free speech.

Instead, the counterprotests showed a better way to fight hate: with thousands of people determined to prove that the far-right bigots are a loathed minority.

Hopefully, the momentum from this action can be built upon nationally, at events like the Washington, D.C., town hall meting about Richard Collins' murder on June 6--and the June 10 counterprotests called against the anti-Muslim "Sharia Law protest" in Seattle and other cities.

After the event, the organizers of the counterprotest issued a statement that included their reflections on the success of the action:

The main lesson from today is that to successfully stand against the far right we must mobilize the largest and broadest number of people. That we must build strong united coalitions. That when a political call that resonates with people is made, ordinary people have an amazing capacity for self-organization, which we saw today. We believe the Portland Stands United Against Hate rally is an example for people around this country for how to begin to turn the tide against the far right.

Categories: Political Action

We must be ready to respond to deportations

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 01:00

On April 24, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Border Patrol raided an apartment complex in the Boyle Heights community of Los Angeles and arrested Teresa de Jesus Vidal Jaime, a mother of two who has lived in the U.S. since 2001.

The arrest sent shock waves through the immigrant rights activist community, which was gearing up for May Day. A campaign to free Teresa took shape, led by the Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) and spearheaded by Teresa's daughter Claudia Rueda, a Cal State Los Angeles student and activist in her own right. Through protests, letter-writing campaigns and a legal defense, activists were able to win probation for Teresa just in time for Mother's Day.

However, in a retaliatory move, the Border Patrol apprehended Claudia Rueda on May 18 as she was walking out of her aunt's house to move her mother's car. Now, the same activists who worked so hard to defend Teresa are leading the charge in the Free Claudia campaign.

The arrests of Teresa and Claudia are not only part of the intensified attack on immigrants, but targeted persecution of activists known for speaking out. Jazmin , an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Coalition, talked to Victor Fernandez, an immigrant rights organizer and member of the International Socialist Organization, about Claudia's detention.

Immigrant rights activist Claudia Rueda

CAN YOU tell us more details about Claudia's arrest?

THEY WERE targeting her. After they raided the apartment complex in Boyle Heights where they detained her mother, Claudia moved out to her aunt's house. CBP [the California Border Patrol] went back to the apartment complex and were asking around for Claudia and harassing the neighbors.

Some people knew not to open their doors to them, but some did, and the CBP detained about five people. They then went to look for her where she lived with her aunt. They surrounded the building, which was a duplex. After detaining Claudia outside, they tried to go into the aunt's unit, but she didn't open the door. But another unit did open the door, and another seven people were detained.

THAT'S especially cruel--not only were they targeting an activist, but they used it as an excuse to detain even more people. Can you tell us more about the organizing efforts since Claudia's detention?

ATTORNEYS AND folks with the IYC visit her inside the detention center. Since she's involved in community organizing, she knows not to sign anything. Some people sign their own deportation orders without knowing it.

She is also talking to other folks. They're moving them around, so she's telling them not to sign anything, letting them know their rights, and getting their information to see how the IYC can help them.

The Immigrant Youth Coalition works with other groups such as ICE Out of LA and Defend Boyle Heights. What makes IYC different than other groups is that it has a Rapid Response Team ready. If someone you know gets detained, IYC has a set strategy for helping undocumented immigrants who have been detained.

When Teresa was detained, Claudia knew to call the head of the Rapid Response Team in LA. Then the Deportation Defense Coordinator and the statewide organizers took the lead.

The IYC uses coalition building with other groups in order to increase resources. It has organized a campaign to call the ICE director and reach out to government officials. It collects letters of support and is starting to reach out to elected officials like U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and state Sen. Kevin de León.

They even get people to go to the court hearings to support family members who might be too scared to go to these hearings because of their status.

TRUMP, LIKE Obama before him, says that the detentions of immigrants are aimed at criminals. But the Border Patrol and law enforcement have always gone after all undocumented immigrants, some of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades. But now, they're going after activists. How is the movement responding to this?

THERE DEFINITELY has been fear. Before, we used to say that we are "undocumented and unafraid." But this is really scary. We try to check in on each other. Fortunately, if something happens to us, we know what to do.

When Teresa was detained, people were writing letters of support and had put their addresses on them. CBP showed up to the house of someone who had written a letter. Claudia's aunt wrote a letter of support, and this is how we think they got her address.

Now when we write letters, we have to be more cautious about who writes the letters. It's just scary because we've never see this before. But we now know to be more cautious, and we're not giving up.

WHAT CAN people do to help with the campaign to free Claudia?

THEY CAN call ICE San Diego Field Office Director Gregory Archambeault at 619-557-6117 and ask him to grant Claudia Sahari Rueda (A#213-081-680) prosecutorial discretion. They can also urge representatives to support Claudia.

People can also do Rapid Response Training so they can be knowledgeable in techniques to defer deportation--so they can do what we did here, but for others.

Categories: Political Action

When even LeBron is a target

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 01:00

Athletes have long been the targets of white supremacists--but they are also part of the resistance, writes Dave Zirin, in a column written for TheNation.com.

Lebron James speaks about racism during a press conference

LEBRON JAMES, arguably the most famous athlete in the country, just saw the word "n----r" scrawled across the gate of his Los Angeles home. Soon after this news broke, word came of a noose found at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Incidentally, James has contributed financial support to the museum.

These acts came less than two weeks after the racist killing of Lt. Richard Collins III on the University of Maryland campus by an "alt-reich" sewer-dweller; the murders of two white "good Samaritans" in Portland who were attempting to intervene as a neo-Nazi was harassing two young women of color, one wearing a hijab; and torch-wielding rallies against the removal of Confederate monuments.

It also happened after the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, had to cancel a major event at Town Hall Seattle because of a series of death threats.

It's all part of an ongoing state of terror, division and violence that has emerged under the Trump administration. Other than a single tweet about Portland, the administration has had nothing to say about this barbarism.

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AS THE United States goes about puking up the worst aspects of its past, it's tragically fitting that an athlete like LeBron James would be targeted. From the dawn of organized sports, Black athletes have driven racists into fits of fury. They represent excellence in a field that has long been promoted as the ultimate meritocracy. While many of us watch a player like LeBron James with awe and even gratitude, racists seethe with resentment.

Black athletes puncture the imaginations of white supremacists as the living embodiment of the racists' inferiorities. In 1908, the first Black heavyweight champion boxer, Jack Johnson, heard the call for a "great white hope" to restore the "natural order" of racial hierarchy. The New York World wrote that Johnson's world heavyweight title "must come as a shock to every devoted believer in the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race."

Then there was Bill Russell. The Celtic great won 11 championships in 13 years for the Boston faithful, but that didn't stop someone from breaking into his home and defecating on his floor. When boxer Floyd Patterson attempted to move into a white neighborhood, he was rebuffed. Hall of Fame basketball player Lenny Wilkens's dog was poisoned by his neighbors. They wanted his family out of their white community.

And today, Baltimore Orioles player Adam Jones has to hear racial invective from the Red Sox fans in Fenway Park. To add insult to injury, he was then harangued by Internet trolls and established sportswriters alike.

Yet while the Black athlete is a target for the maelstrom of hate being regurgitated by this White House and its shock troops, they are also critical to its resistance if they are willing to step up and speak about what is happening. LeBron James did precisely that at a recent press conference:

It just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America. Hate, in America, especially for an African American, is living every day. Even though it's concealed most of the time--people will hide their faces and will say things about you and then when they see you they smile in your face--it's alive every single day. And I think back to Emmett Till's mom, actually. It's kind of one of the first things I thought of. And the reason that she had an open casket is because she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as the hate crime, and being Black in America. No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being Black in America is tough. And we've got a long way to go for us as a society, and for us as African Americans, until we feel equal in America.

People should listen to the entirety of his remarks.

As Colin Kaepernick said, "there's a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country." Maybe that's why he can't get a contract from the NFL executives underwriting the Trump agenda. Kaepernick spoke a difficult truth to power. We will need more of that, if we are going to keep this hate at bay. Lives depend upon it.

First published at TheNation.com.

Categories: Political Action

Are we living for The City?

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 01:00

Seth Uzman reviews a book that looks at the role of finance in the capitalist system.

London's financial district (Michael Duxbury | flickr)

FINANCIAL ANALYST and "City" dweller Tony Norfield has come out with a good book that seeks to deepen the Marxist analysis of finance and modern imperialism.

While focusing primarily on the British financial center based in London--popularly known as "The City"--Norfield's application of Marxist categories and an unpretentious and clear prose style will be useful for those wishing to understand the dynamics and contours of modern imperialism and the role it plays in global capitalism.

The emphasis is on the global: One key insight of Norfield's book is that examining finance from a purely national perspective misses the crucial ways in which finance welds together and integrates global capitalist relations of exploitation and oppression.

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DRAWING INSPIRATION from Marx's analysis of the developing financial system attached to capitalism; from Lenin's popular pamphlet Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism; and--although critically--from Rudolf Hilferding's Finance Capital; Norfield's book does three things.

First, challenging liberals and reformists--who he terms "anti-finance populists"--Norfield crucially reminds readers that financial institutions are not a dispensable abscess of global capitalism that can be safely and simply removed, but rather its indispensable "central nervous system."

Review: Books

Tony Norfield, The City: London and the Global Power of Finance. Verso, 2016, 288 pages, $29.95.

What's more, the nerve endings of this system are not simply "the banks"--both commercial and industrial capitalists have transformed themselves into financial, money-dealing capitalists.

How did this come to be? Over time, production under capitalism centralizes and concentrates around fewer and fewer capitalists as others lose out over time. The survivors are bigger, hungrier and more ruthless than ever.

Since they're bigger, the costs of production are higher, and so they require assured access to a greater number of resources. They also need reliable access to markets and protection from competing capitalists.

Norfield argues that capital, now concentrated into giant enterprises, not only lays hold of state machinery to deal with these obstacles, but it also searches for large amounts of easily available idle capital to pay for increasing economics of scale. The financial markets do just that--they offer up the world's wealth of surplus value for further investment in production. They are, in Norfield's words, "a blood bank" for all modern vampires, industrial and financial.

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SECOND, NORFIELD documents some of the unique financial mechanisms of imperial power.

Referencing a slew of data, he shows that in the U.K., for example, revenues from financial operations in the City inexpensively finance any deficit in the balance of payments with other countries.

A similar dynamic works in the U.S., but the role of the dollar as the global reserve currency is uniquely important to the imperial power of the U.S. ruling class.

With the dollar serving as the trusted currency for the world, it's easier for both the U.S. state and its capitalists to attract value produced abroad, which can then be used to pay for imperialist wars or productive investment by and for capitalists. The dollar facilitates the expansion of U.S. capital through mergers, acquisitions and hostile takeovers and enables it to assume a commanding position in the transnational and multinational corporations that result.

The dominance of the dollar also results in a U.S. debt being denominated in dollars. This means that holders of U.S. debt--lenders who buy U.S. Treasury bonds to finance U.S. state spending, such as China, have a material interest in defending the value of the dollar and its dominant position--because a drop in the value of the dollar would also be a drop in the value of the debt that the lenders hold.

Conversely, the valuing of the debt of developing countries in currencies that are not their own has been a powerful instrument for imperialist powers to control the rhythms, structures and tempos of their economies.

The stability of this arrangement shouldn't, however, be overstated. While a strong dollar is good for maintaining its dominance as a currency, it's bad for the section of U.S. capital that exports goods--since the goods these capitalists hope to sell are more expensive to foreign buyers when the dollar is strong.

Some signs of the contradictions in the current situation include Donald Trump's moves toward protectionist trade policy and China's increasing, though still experimental, advancing of its Renminbi as a reserve currency. Nevertheless, Norfield demonstrates how currencies, bonds and other financial instruments are central to the day-to-day functioning of imperialist states.

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THIRD, NORFIELD integrates his analysis of finance with a Marxist analysis of capitalist crises. He points out how financial crises, like the meltdown on Wall Street and the world financial markets in 2007-08, are expressions of crises of industrial capital, since its operations are bound up with the financial system.

This integration has had one effect of increasing the instability of the system as a whole because a financial shock can easy become a wider problem.

Take, for example, the explosion of complex financial instruments invented by The City and Wall Street since the 1970s. Central to their development was the change in this era that allowed the value of different countries' currencies to "float" relative to each other, rather than being pegged to the gold standard, as the U.S. dollar was previously.

As Marxist economist David McNally observed, this led to currency values "gyrating" rapidly, which became a problem for capitalists with the production process outsourced to different countries. The multinationals could take advantage of lower wage costs and other advantages, but if the revenues of the capitalists are denominated in one currency, and their production costs in another, profits can disappear if currency values go in the wrong direction on either side of the equation.

One solution is for corporations to buy a financial insurance policy known as a derivative that sets value of currencies at a particular date. Capitalists are willing to pay the insurance premium to have some control over this threat to their profit rates.

But having to "insure" currency values in a half dozen or more countries adds to the potential for problems in the system. It's not hard to see how things can go wrong, especially as increasing fixed costs from competition drive down profit rates.

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NORFIELD ATTEMPTS to suggest some areas where Marx's views, particularly about banking today, need revision or updating.

For example, Marx wrote in Volume II of Capital that the role of commercial banks is to funnel idle money to capitalists who want to keep production going instead of waiting for the revenues from previously produced goods. This is still a task of banking, but it's not all the banking sector does, and, in fact, doesn't really make up most of their operations.

According to Norfield, most of the time, the money that banks lend is largely or completely generated by the bank itself--in other words, it can lend even if it doesn't have actual money to lend.

Of course, this doesn't mean that, contrary to popular absurdities about the indestructible power of financialized capitalism, the system has overcome the barrier of having to produce actual surplus value and realize actual profit. Banks do need, at some point, to find actual money to back up their fictitious lending.

But should it be unable to find this money--as intensifying competition pulls profit rates down and the availability of actual money shrinks--the implications are colossal for a globally integrated financial system. Rather than credit providing stabilization, a financial shock or panic can cause greater economic earthquakes that spread far beyond the financial sector.

On one point, Norfield is unconvincing--his dismissal of the revolutionary potential of workers in imperialist countries who come into contact with a financial system that wheels and deals in global surplus value.

According to the argument, because their livelihood is drawn from the pool of global surplus value, workers in imperialist countries are materially tied to the fruits of imperialism--this explains their support for racism and chauvinism and their failure to combat the imperialist projects of the exploiters and oppressors.

Norfield is clearly taking inspiration from and expanding on Lenin's concept of an "aristocracy of labor" in imperialist countries--an idea that many Marxists after him have found fault with.

As for Norfield's argument, it falls short on several levels. First, workers who interact with the financial system--say, by taking out a loan to buy a home--don't necessarily draw from a pool made up only of surplus value. Some of the pool may even be made up of the savings of other workers thrown into the pool.

The ambiguity about the sources of this pool is a weak explanation for the ideas in people's heads. For example, a worker can put their wages into a savings account in a bank, which is then funneled to their own employer to invest in labor-saving technology. The source of the credit doesn't make the capitalists more sympathetic to the interests of labor, nor does it convince workers that their management should invest in machines that put them out of a job.

Second, productivity in the U.S. has steadily risen while real wages have stagnated or declined. The indebtedness of the working class and the increasing rate of exploitation during neoliberalism's dominance are part of an employers' offensive to steal back gains won in previous eras. The dependence of the working class on capital's financial system through greater debt is an extension of the dependence of workers on capitalists in the labor market.

Third, if workers have failed to mount a greater challenge against racism and chauvinism, it has less to do with surplus value and financial markets and more to do with the intensification of competition among workers and the effectiveness of an ideological campaign to deepen the divisions within the working class--as well as the weakening of working-class organizations that could serve as bastions of solidarity.

Rebuilding this organization remains a crucial task for the left. But the process of "financialization" has heightened, not neutralized, the contradictions, both domestic and international, that can give rise to struggles that lead to this rebuilding.

Despite this weakness, Norfield's book is an important resource for the left. While Norfield points out that the latest vampire of global capitalism might "have the edge on Dracula," it is still the blood of workers' labor that ultimately animates the "central nervous system."

As Norfield concludes his book: "Only a stake in the heart of the capitalist system, not simply in some of its financial forms, will be enough to see an end to the power of the beast."

Categories: Political Action

¿Qué apoyan los demócratas?

Socialist Worker - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 01:00

Si el liderazgo demócrata pretende posar como una alternativa a los republicanos, seguro tiene una curiosa manera de mostrarlo, escribe Elizabeth Schulte.

"OTRA VEZ soy una ciudadana activa y parte de la resistencia". Ese fueron las palabras de Hillary Clinton el mes pasado, cuando resurgió de su larga hibernación post-electoral.

Y sépalo cada uno, si no hubiera sido por los piratas cibernéticos rusos y por el director del FBI, James Comey, con esos correos electrónicos, ahora "yo sería presidenta", dijo Clinton a CNN.

Con la colosal crisis en que la administración Trump se encuentra en este momento, las acusaciones demócratas sobre una intromisión rusa en las elecciones aparecen más creíbles que nunca. Pero cuesta un poco m[as de trabajo atribuir esta razón a la derrota electoral de Clinton y los demócratas.

Y en cuanto a que Hillary Clinton sea parte de "la resistencia"...Es una broma, ¿verdad?

Como sea, ningún monto de intromisión rusa cambiará el hecho de que un sector de la base electoral del Partido Democrático no salió a votar porque Clinton, devota servidora de las corporaciones y del estatus quo político, representa todo lo que ellos detestan acerca de Washington.

Fue así, ofreciendo poco o nada a su base, que Clinton, habiendo ganado el voto popular con casi 3 millones, permitió a Donald Trump, el multimillonario antiinmigrante, misógino e islamófobo, robar una victoria en el Colegio Electoral.

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CON TRUMP siendo tan impopular, "el partido del pueblo" debiera estar en un buen pie para desafiarlo y parar su agenda presidencial, pero los demócratas siguen vacilando. Incluso, algunos líderes demócratas han concluido que ni siquiera es tiempo de liderar la lucha, sino de ceder terreno en asuntos claves, para alcanzar compromisos.

Temas como el aborto.

En abril, el Comité Nacional Democrático (DNC, por sus siglas en inglés) otorgó su apoyo al candidato a la alcaldía de Omaha, Heath Mello, un autoproclamado demócrata "pro-vida".

Después de un vendaval de críticas por parte de las fuerzas pro-opción, incluyendo NARAL Pro-Choice America, el presidente del DNC, Tom Pérez, quien apareció en un escenario con Mello junto al senador de Vermont, Bernie Sanders, se vio obligado a reafirmar públicamente el apoyo del partido al derecho de la mujer para optar por un aborto.

Pero algunos demócratas no recibieron el memorándum.

La líder de la minoría de la Cámara de Representantes, Nancy Pelosi se apresuró a asegurar al público que, sí, el partido da la bienvenida a demócratas anti-aborto. "[El aborto] está desapareciendo como un asunto", dijo Pelosi al Washington Post. "Realmente lo es." Pelosi aconsejó a los demócratas que se concentraran más en aquellos cuestiones que afectan a las "familias obreras".

Por supuesto, el aborto no es un tema en desaparición; de esto los republicanos se han asegurado restringiendo el acceso de la mujer al aborto en docenas de estados.

Además, caracterizar los derechos reproductivos como una cuestión en la que la "familia obrera" no se interesa, en un país donde una de cada tres mujeres tiene un aborto, no pasa el test de la realidad.

El derecho al aborto fue una de las materias en que los demócratas se distinguían, al menos retóricamente, de los republicanos. Y ahora, en un momento crucial, los líderes demócratas debaten si tomar partido podría alienar a los votantes que quieren atraer.

"¿Sabes qué?" Pelosi dijo al Post. "Es por eso que Donald Trump es el presidente de Estados Unidos, los evangélicos y los católicos, la igualdad contra el matrimonio, el anti-aborto, así es como él llegó a ser presidente. Todo fue 'trumpeado', literalmente y figurativamente".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

SUBRAYANDO LA disputa acerca de que si el aborto es un asunto para el Partido Democrático yace otra acerca de cómo el partido debiera ganar una audiencia entre aquellos que fueron atraídos por la retórica de la campaña populista de Trump en 2016. Algunas de las principales figuras del partido están optando por minimizar los llamados "asuntos sociales ", como el aborto, el racismo o los derechos LGBTQ, a favor de los temas "económicos".

Esta visión errada de quiénes son los trabajadores y cuáles son sus intereses revela qué tan fuera de tacto los demócratas están con su base electoral. Pero incluso si la tomáramos en serio, la retórica económica populista de los demócratas no es siquiera mejor para los trabajadores que la de Trump.

La lucha por el cuidado de la salud es un excelente ejemplo. En mayo, los republicanos de la Cámara Baja emprendieron contra la Ley de Asistencia Asequible de la administración Obama (ACA), votando por un plan que eliminaría algunos de los pocos aspectos positivos de Obamacare, como la expansión de Medicaid y una garantía de cobertura para las personas con condiciones preexistentes.

¿Y cuál fue la reacción de los demócratas? El partido que clama representar al pueblo obrero de estados Unidos se detuvo a contemplar como los republicanos destrozaron ACA, con la esperanza de que esto los dañaría fatalmente con los votantes.

Mientras que la mayoría de los seres humanos reaccionó con conmoción e indignación, los líderes demócratas celebraron el hecho de que la acción republicana puede ayudarles a ganar una victoria en las elecciones legislativas de 2018. La estratega demócrata Caitlin Legacki lo resumió así al New York Times: "Nuestra mejor manera de detener a los republicanos siempre ha sido dejar que se auto-canibalicen, y esto lo ha demostrado".

Y mientras los demócratas celebran Trumpcare, la gente con una real necesidad de atención médica enfrenta la amenaza diaria de no poder permitirse el lujo de la salud.

Trumpcare es muy impopular. Sólo el 17 por ciento de la población dice que apoya la derogación y la sustitución de Obamacare con el plan republicano, de acuerdo con una encuesta Quinnipiac. Pero hay una creciente frustración con Obamacare, también.

El plan de salud de Obama puede haber incluido algunas reformas importantes, pero también mantuvo los peores aspectos de la asistencia médica con fines de lucro, y como resultado, los seguros de salud se volvieron aún más caro para los trabajadores.

Cuando Trump y los republicanos amenazaron con hacer la atención de la salud aún más inaccesible, dieron a Obamacare y a los demócratas un salvavidas, al menos en lo que respecta a la opinión pública. En este contexto, muchas personas sienten que no tienen otra opción más que defender el estatus quo; el menos malo Obamacare.

Los políticos demócratas están haciendo cálculos similares cuando se trata de proteger a los inmigrantes de los ataques de Trump.

En abril, cuando los legisladores de California votaron para convertir l estado en " santuario", para enfrentar la amenaza del Procurador General Jeff Sessions de cortar fondos federales a estados que no cooperaran con ICE, algunos demócratas advirtieron contra ir demasiado lejos.

"Puede sentirse bien tomar estas acciones, pero podrían resultar en un verdadero daño en el terreno", dijo el alcalde de Los Ángeles Eric Garcetti al New York Times. "Mi responsabilidad es asegurar recursos para mi ciudad, que vienen de los impuestos que enviamos a Washington".

"El movimiento por los derechos civiles no se ganó llamando racista a Bull Connor ", dijo Garcetti. "Si, él era un racista, pero ganamos diciendo que deberíamos estar en el mostrador para el almuerzo".

Garcetti está olvidando lo más importante que sucedió en esos mostradores: protesta.

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SI ESTA estrategia, conceder y retroceder, suena familiar, eso es porque lo es. Los demócratas la usaron durante la elección 2016, al nominar a Hillary Clinton, la representante del estatus quo con una historial de servicio a los ricos y poderosos, como la candidata que por seguro ganaría sobre Trump.

El partido detrás de su "campaña de complacencia militante", como el autor Thomas Frank lo caracteriza, ni siquiera consideró que el electorado podría estar insatisfecho con el estatus quo que Clinton abrazó.

En otras palabras, en un momento en que muchos en su base buscaban soluciones más radicales, el establecimiento demócrata ofreció algo incluso más a la derecha de lo existente. Y así, sin de hecho tomar posiciones, continuó apostando al hecho de que Trump y los republicanos son apenas peores.

Esta realidad conducirá incluso a los mejores activistas, mil veces más preocupados por un cambio real que Nancy Pelosi, a concluir que lo más importante en el próximo año es elegir a más demócratas en oficinas públicas, no importa los compromisos.

Bernie Sanders, quien es pro-opción, llegó a la misma conclusión que Pelosi: un demócrata no tiene que ser pro-opción para obtener su apoyo.

Los Socialistas Democráticos de América, desafortunadamente, sucumbieron a la misma presión cuando publicaron una declaración en respuesta al apoyo de Sanders a Heath Mello que rechazó tomar una postura y en cambio aconsejó a sus miembros "confiar en nuestras bases".

Pero confiar en las bases significa tomar una postura por intereses políticos.

No necesitamos decir que Hillary Clinton no forma parte de ninguna "resistencia". Pero una resistencia está bajo construcción. Tuvo sus inicios antes de las elecciones de 2016, pero con Donald Trump en la Casa Blanca más gente ha concluido que necesitamos organizarnos.

Algunos esperarán a que el Partido Demócrata tome la iniciativa en la oposición anti-Trump, y esperarán por mucho tiempo. Tenemos que tomar parte en la organización de una base que resista a los ataques de ambos, republicanos y demócratas; y que ofrezca una alternativa a un estatus quo que no podemos aceptar.

Categories: Political Action

No State Department Social Media Surveillance

Deep Links - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 23:06

EFF has joined a coalition effort, led by the Brennan Center for Justice, to oppose yet another federal program to scrutinize the social media accounts of foreign visitors to the United States.

Specifically, in an attempt to uncover would-be terrorists, the U.S. State Department has empowered consular officials to ask visa applicants who raise preliminary suspicions to disclose the existence of the social media accounts, and the identifiers or handles associated with those accounts, that the applicants have used over the past five years.

This is the fourth time in less than a year that EFF has opposed federal efforts to scrutinize the social media accounts of foreign visitors. We opposed similar CBP proposals concerning visitors from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, and certain visa applicants from China. Also, we opposed the potential plan, announced by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, to require certain foreign travelers to hand over their social media passwords in order to apply for a visa.

These proposals threaten the digital privacy and freedom of expression of innocent foreign travelers, and the many U.S. citizens who communicate with them. Moreover, the government has not shown that such information collection will be effective at combating terrorism.

Categories: Political Action

EFF Asks Supreme Court To Review Dangerous Interpretation of Computer Crime Statute

Deep Links - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 15:29

Washington, D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a ruling that threatens to transform a law against computer break-ins into a mechanism for criminalizing password sharing and policing Internet use.

In an amicus brief filed with today, EFF urged the court to weigh in on a case in which an individual was charged with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a law intended to criminalize breaking into computers to access or alter data. Under the CFAA, it’s illegal to intentionally access a “protected computer”—which includes any computer connected to the Internet—“without authorization” or in excess of authorization. But the law doesn’t tell us what “without authorization” means. 

Some courts have recognized that the CFAA must be interpreted narrowly to stay true to Congress’s intent of targeting crooks breaking into and stealing data from computers. These courts agreed that the CFFA mustn’t be used against, say, employees checking sports scores at work in violation of rules restricting Internet use at work to company business, or against people who shared their Facebook passwords, in violation of Facebook’s terms of service rules.

But other courts—including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in its 2016 U.S. v. Nosal decision—have broadly interpreted the statute to cover using a computer in a way that violates corporate policies, preferences, and expectations. In the case, David Nosal, an ex-employee of the Korn/Ferry executive recruiting firm, was charged with violating the CFAA after other ex-employees acting on his behalf accessed Korn/Ferry’s proprietary database using legitimate credentials of a current company employee. The current employee knew of and authorized the use of her credentials, which was against Korn/Ferry’s computer policies. The Ninth Circuit found that in using the shared password, Nosal accessed the database “without authorization.” The court said that implicit in the definition of “authorization” is the proposition that authorization can come only from a computer owner—here, Korn/Ferry—not an employee with legitimate access credentials.

 There is nothing in the CFAA, or even in the dictionary, that defines “authorization” to mean only permission from a computer owner. The Ninth Circuit imported a corporate ban on password sharing into its definition of “without authorization.” 

“This ruling threatens to turn millions of ordinary computer users into criminals,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jamie Williams. “Innocuous conduct such as logging into a friend’s social media account or logging into a spouse’s bank account, with their permission but in violation of a corporate prohibition on password sharing, could result in a CFAA prosecution. This takes the CFAA far beyond the law’s original purpose of putting individuals who break into computers behind bars.”

“EFF has long advocated for reforming the CFAA, which overzealous prosecutors have exploited in troubling ways,” said Williams. “The Supreme Court can do its part by reviewing the Ninth Circuit’s troubling decision and giving “authorization” an appropriately narrow definition, specifically clarifying that password sharing is not—and was never intended to be—a crime.”

For EFF’s brief:

For more on this case:




Contact:  Jamie LeeWilliamsStaff Attorneyjamie@eff.org
Categories: Political Action

The Maldives Government Issued Arrest Warrants for Bloggers on Twitter

Deep Links - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:26

Long before Cameroon or Ethiopia cut off their citizens from the internet, a small south Asian country was pioneering the practice. Back in 2004, then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom shut down internet access in the wake of protests against his government. The incident was a mere blip in the news, occurring just a few years after the country gained access to begin with.

Since then, the island country, which has fewer than 400,000 residents, has had a contentious relationship with the online world. In 2012, a popular blogger was stabbed in the throat and forced to leave the country; the response from government officials was tepid at best. Despite its sophisticated communications infrastructure and a high rate of internet penetration, the political environment in the Maldives has led many users to self-censor. Others have left the country, seeking greater freedom.

Four such activists living overseas found themselves under threat last week, after Maldivian police issued warrants for their arrest, through public statements and via their Twitter account. Warrants were issued for the arrests of the bloggers and online writers Muzaffar ‘Muju’ Naeem, Hani Amir, Dr. Azra Naseem, and Aishath Velezinee via separate press releases and in public tweets. According to Global Voices, the arrest warrants “appear intended to silence voices that are critical of the government or deemed ‘irreligious.’”

I spoke to Muju Naeem, one of the threatened activists, via email. Naeem writes about politics, science and technology on his blog, but says the warrant for his arrest came after he spoke on a podcast about his secularism. He explained to me why he chooses to raise his voice despite the threats:

By all accounts I am definitely not the first Maldivian ex-Muslim in the country. And I am certainly not the first ex-Muslim to declare their disbelief publicly. But I maybe the first ex-Muslim who has chosen to be openly engaged in the Maldivian public discourse about civil and minority rights. I have chosen to do so knowing fully well the implications of my doing so.  I hope to embolden others who are also in a similar situation to do the same. That's why I am speaking out. And when the police threaten to prosecute me, it is an attempt to silence the rights of minorities in the country in the name of religious harmony. There isn't going to be any harmony and social cohesion as long as minorities are oppressed.

Asked about the threats faced by Maldivian activists, Naeem wrote:

Writers in the Maldives always have self-censored themselves if they are based in the country. This is not to say that older generation of writers didn't express themselves freely. Former President Nasheed comes to mind as such a rebellious writer of the older generation. But since the initial democracy movement toppled the dictatorship of Gayoom,1 the topics of discussions had evolved over the years moving on to much more complicated issues such as universal human rights, minority rights including LGBT rights, anti-radicalization, even criticism of Islam and the mullah class. Very few brave people like Hilath, Rilwan, and Yameen, dared to break away from the culture self-censorship to write about these important social issues while remaining in the country. And they all ended up paying hefty prices for the risks they took. Myself, Dr. Azra Naseem, Hani Amir - all three of us were issued summons recently, and threats of prosecution by the police - and others had chosen a safer distance to do our writing unlike those that I previously mentioned for reasons of safety. Maybe we didn't have as much courage as the others. But the threats have always been there and real. Now the problem has been compounded further by belligerent government impunity and the rise of violent religious extremists. The Maldives is a very dangerous place indeed for those who want to express themselves freely.

For countries like the Maldives, the Internet offers the possibility of free and uncensored communication: but that freedom can only work if speakers are safe from harm and and the threat of arbitrary unjust legal prosecution. For more information on our support of jailed and threatened voices, see Offline.

  • 1. The corrupt government of autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ended in 2008 with free and fair elections, following a de-legitimization campaign by civic activists.
Categories: Political Action

Supreme Court Will Hear Significant Cell Phone Tracking Case

Deep Links - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:15

Today the Supreme Court announced it will review United States v. Carpenter, a case involving long-term, retrospective tracking of a person’s movements using information generated by his cell phone. This is very exciting news in the world of digital privacy.  With Carpenter, the Court has an opportunity to continue its recent pattern of applying Fourth Amendment protections to sensitive digital data. It may also limit or even reevaluate the so-called “Third Party Doctrine,” which the government relies on to justify warrantless tracking and surveillance in a variety of contexts. EFF filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take Carpenter and a related case, so we’re hopeful the Court will rule in favor of strong constitutional protections.

The petition for certiorari in Carpenter came after a very disappointing ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was joined by Graham v. United States from the Fourth Circuit. The question in these cases is whether the Fourth Amendment requires the government to get a warrant before it can access historical cell site location records held by a service provider like AT&T or T-Mobile. In both cases, as in several other cases we’ve covered in the past, deeply divided appellate courts held the government does not need a warrant. This is a big term for these issues at the Supreme Court: In addition to Graham and Carpenter, the Court is also considering petitions involving real-time tracking of a cell phone and other surveillance techniques that raise similar Fourth Amendment questions.

The Fourth Amendment in an Age of Ubiquitous Connected Devices

The cell site cases are important because where we travel can reveal very sensitive details about our lives. As Justice Sotomayor noted in her concurring opinion in United States v. Jones [.pdf], location information can provide the government with a “precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations.”

The sheer volume of data the government had access to in Carpenter and Graham—three to four months in Carpenter and more than seven months in Graham—far eclipsed the 28 days of surveillance at issue in Jones. And while CSLI—records of cell phone towers your phone connects to at a given time and date—is not currently as precise as information generated by the GPS tracking device in Jones, it is nevertheless revealing.

In Carpenter, the three to four months of CSLI data collected was precise enough for the government to convince a jury that the defendants were at each of the specific robbery locations. And, as we also noted in an amicus brief, the data was precise enough to place one of the defendants at church every Sunday. And in Graham, the 221 days worth of data officers obtained on the two defendants contained nearly 30,000 data points for each defendant—data that the ACLU discovered could reveal when the defendants were home and when they left home, when their travel patterns changed from the norm, and even that Mr. Graham’s wife was pregnant.

Despite the sensitive nature and sheer volume of this information, the appellate courts held that it wasn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment. The courts relied on a legal principle from two 1970s Supreme Court cases called the “Third Party Doctrine.” This principle holds that information you voluntarily share with someone else—whether that “someone else” is your bank (such as deposit and withdrawal information) or the phone company (the numbers you dial on your phone)—isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment because you can’t expect that third party to keep the information secret.

We are not alone in believing the Third Party Doctrine is outdated. Justice Sotomayor has said the Third Party Doctrine “is ill suited to the digital age.” This is because we live in an era “in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks.” We use cell phones to stay in touch with friends and family on the go, rely on GPS mapping technologies to find our way about town, and wear Fitbits to try to improve our health. It’s impossible to use any of these technologies without sharing data with third parties, but choosing to rely on 21st-century technology shouldn’t mean we have to relinquish our constitutional rights.

These cases have important ramifications for the future, especially as our phones generate more—and more precise—location information every year, which is shared with third parties. Although Graham and Carpenter involve only data generated when a phone makes or receives a call, future cases will also rely on location data generated every time our phones connect with cell towers to send and receive any kind of data. As more Americans have switched to smartphones, the amount of data transferred over wireless networks has increased significantly—2,400% between 2010 and 2015 alone. This has led to an increase in the number of cell towers—especially in cities—and will only ensure that CSLI becomes more and more precise.

Other increasingly popular technologies will force courts to consider these issues as well. For example, as we adopt and rely on “Internet of Things” technologies like smart lightbulbs and clothing that tracks our emotions and communicates directly with retail stores, these sensors and devices may constantly generate and share data about us with little to no volition on our part, other than, perhaps, the initial decision to purchase or use the device.

We think it’s more than time the Supreme Court stepped in to clarify that the Fourth Amendment applies to all of this data, and we hope Carpenter is the case it chooses to do so.

Related Cases: United States v. Graham
Categories: Political Action

Don't Be Fooled by the Comcast PR Machine: It Has Always Opposed Internet Freedom

Deep Links - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:02
Years of lobbying and litigation has made it clear Comcast wants to turn the Internet into a toll road and run the booth

If you have signed onto Twitter and have been following the network neutrality debate, you've probably seen Comcast's campaign to rewrite its history of opposition to the Open Internet. But the company's own statements to Congress, the FCC, and to the courts make Comcast's true goal abundantly clear: free rein to use its market power to become an Internet gatekeeper.

Converting the Internet into a Pay to Win System

In the early legal battles over network neutrality, Comcast challenged a Republican FCC's ability to enforce open Internet principles. In repeated legal filings, the company made clear that it did not believe the FCC could prevent providers from data discrimination unless it reclassified them as common carriers. After all, Comcast itself said in court that "nondiscrimination obligations are the hallmark of common carrier regulation (page 12)." In other words, Comcast was saying that the FCC couldn't impose nondiscrimination rules unless it reclassified Comcast as a common carrier - which is exactly what the FCC did in 2015 and exactly what Comcast is fighting now. "Common carrier regulation" is code for Title II of the Communications Act. "nondiscrimination obligations are the hallmark of common carrier regulation" -Comcast's 2009 court filing in Comcast vs FCC

The Comcast Plan If Network Neutrality Is Repealed

At the FCC, Comcast doubled down. In 2010, Comcast told the agency that one of the "benefits" that would be lost under an Open Internet Order would be the ability for cable and telephone to strike exclusive deals with Internet companies - in other words, paid prioritization, or "fast lanes" for those who can afford them.

"The proposed rule could prohibit Internet content, application, and service providers from improving their existing offerings with the assistance of a broadband ISP, regardless of whether doing so would be pro-competitive and beneficial to consumers." -Comcast FCC filing, Jan 14, 2010 (page 40).

While Comcast attempted to make paid prioritization sound like something that would be good for online service competition, it is pretty obvious how these types of exclusives and priority access deals will play out in reality. In practice, what we will see is the biggest Internet companies getting premium access to bandwidth while every mom-and-pop business and tech startup will get relegated to inferior infrastructure because they do not have the excess capital to pay for access. For example, even as the FCC was actively pushing a new Open Internet Order in 2014, Comcast started rerouting and degrading Netflix traffic despite the demand coming from Comcast's customers. Today, Netflix says it can pay for fast lanes - but the next Netflix won't be able to survive in that world.

Setting up the FCC to Fail

In its PR campaign, Comcast claims that its decision not to challenge the 2010 Open Internet Order is evidence of its support for network neutrality. In reality, it's likely the company stayed quiet because shortly after the Open Internet Order was approved Comcast was required to operate neutrally as a condition of its merger with NBC Universal. It had little to gain from publicly opposing the 2010 Order because they could not lift network neutrality obligations over their network even if they won in court due to merger conditions. Those Comcast NBCU merger conditions will expire in 2018. Here is what they said following the merger during consideration of the FCC's second defeat under Verizon vs. Comcast as they were asking for approval of yet another merger (this time with Time Warner Cable).

"Comcast agreed to be bound by the FCC's Open Internet rules until 2018. These protections will now extend to the acquired TWC systems, giving the FCC ample time to adopt (and, if necessary, to defend) legally enforcement Open Internet rules applicable to the entire industry." -Joint statement by David L. Cohen (Comcast) and Arthur T. Minson (Time Warner Cable) to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger

Translation: Don't worry about our merger because we are bound to respect the Open Internet Rules for now, and by the time the agreement expires, the FCC will have found a legally enforceable basis for net neutrality protections. As Comcast indicated way back in 2009, that path required the FCC to do exactly what it did in 2015: reclassify broadband as a common carrier service. So Comcast's record is pretty clear: the cable behemoth has known for years what the FCC had to go to get legally sound neutrality rules. Now the FCC has done it, Comcast is fighting tooth and nail to reverse it.

If we want to stop the Comcast plan to repeal network neutrality and convert the Internet into a pay-to-win system where only the largest players can compete for access to subscribers, squeezing out innovative and competing services (not to mention libraries, hospitals, schools, and political organizations), then we must act now.

Tell the FCC your story and contact your two Senators and House Representative today.

Categories: Political Action

Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy

Creative Commons - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 11:58

The new book Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, edited by Rajiv Jhangiani and Robert Biswas-Diener, features the work of open advocates around the world, including Cable Green, Director of Open Education at Creative Commons. This excerpt from his chapter, “Open Licensing and Open Education Licensing Policy,” provides a summary of open licensing for education, as well as delves into the philosophical and technical underpinnings of his work in “open.”

Read and download the entire book via Ubiquity Press and follow Cable on Twitter @cgreen.

Open Licensing

Long before the internet was conceived, copyright law regulated the very activities the internet, cheap disc space and cloud computing make essentially free (copying, storing, and distributing). Consequently, the internet was born at a severe disadvantage, as preexisting copyright laws discouraged the public from realizing the full potential of the network.

Since the invention of the internet, copyright law has been ‘strengthened’ to further restrict the public’s legal rights to copy and share on the internet. For example, in 2012 the US Supreme Court on upheld the US Congress’s right to extend copyright protection to millions of books, films, and musical compositions by foreign artists that once were free for public use. Lawrence Golan, a University of Denver music professor and conductor who challenged the law on behalf of fellow conductors, academics and film historians said ‘they could no long afford to play such works as Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” which once was in the public domain but received copyright protection that significantly increased its cost.’

While existing laws, old business models, and education content procurement practices make it difficult for teachers and learners to leverage the full power of the internet to access high-quality, affordable learning materials, OER can be freely retained (keep a copy), reused (use as is), revised (adapt, adjust, modify), remixed (mashup different content to create something new), and redistributed (share copies with others) without breaking copyright law. OER allow the full technical power of the internet to be brought to bear on education. OER allow exactly what the internet enables: free sharing of educational resources with the world.

What makes this legal sharing possible? Open licenses. The importance of open licensing in OER is simple. The key distinguishing characteristic of OER is its intellectual property license and the legal permissions the license grants the public to use, modify, and share it. If an educational resource is not clearly marked as being in the public domain or having an open license, it is not an OER. Some educators think sharing their digital resources online, for free, makes their content OER — it does not. Though it is OER if they go the extra step and add an open license to their work.

The most common way to openly license copyrighted education materials — making them OER − is to add a Creative Commons license to the educational resource. CC licenses are standardized, free-to-use, open copyright licenses that have already been applied to more than 1.2 billion copyrighted works across 9 million websites.

Collectively, CC licensed works constitute a class of educational works that are explicitly meant to be legally shared and reused with few restrictions. David Bollier writes:

‘Like free software, the CC licenses paradoxically rely upon copyright law to legally protect the commons. The licenses use the rights of ownership granted by copyright law not to exclude others, but to invite them to share. The licenses recognize authors’ interests in owning and controlling their work — but they also recognize that new creativity owes many social and intergenerational debts. Creativity is not something that emanates solely from the mind of the “romantic author,” as copyright mythology has it; it also derives from artistic communities and previous generations of authors and artists. The CC licenses provide a legal means to allow works to circulate so that people can create something new. Share, reuse, and remix, legally, as Creative Commons puts it.’

While custom copyright licenses can be developed to facilitate the development and use of OER, it may be easier to apply free-to-use, global standardized licenses developed specifically for that purpose, such as those developed by Creative Commons.


Fig. 1: Annual Growth of CC licensed works.

Open Education Licensing Policy

This section explores how public policymakers can leverage open licensing policies, and by extension OER, as a solution to high textbook costs, out-of-date educational resources and disappearing access to expensive, DRM protected e-books. Education policy is about solving education problems for the public. If one of the roles of government is to ensure all of its citizens have access to effective, high-quality educational resources, then governments ought to employ current, proven legal, technical, and policy tools to ensure the most efficient and impactful use of public education funding.

Open education policies are laws, rules, and courses of action that facilitate the creation, use or improvement of OER. While this chapter only deals with open education licensing policies, there has also been significant open education resource-based (allocate resources directly to support OER), inducement (call for or incentivize actions to support OER), and framework (create pathways or remove barriers for action to support OER) open education policy work.

Open education licensing policies insert open licensing requirements into existing funding systems (e.g., grants, contracts, or other agreements) that create educational resources, thereby making the content OER, and shifting the default on publicly funded educational resources from ‘closed’ to ‘open.’ This is a particularly strong education policy argument: if the public pays for education resources, the public should have the right to access and use those resources at no additional cost and with the full spectrum of legal rights necessary to engage in 5R activities.

My friend David Wiley likes to say ‘if you buy one, you should get one.’ David, like most of us, believes that when you buy something, you should actually get the thing you paid for. Provincial/state and national governments frequently fund the development of education and research resources through grants funded with taxpayer dollars. In other words, when a government gives a grant to a university to produce a water security degree program, you and I have already paid for it. Unfortunately, it is almost always the case that these publicly funded educational resources are commercialized in such a way that access is restricted to those who are willing to pay for them a second time. Why should we be required to pay a second time for the thing we’ve already paid for?

Governments and other funding entities that wish to maximize the impacts of their education investments are moving toward open education licensing policies. National, provincial/state governments, and education systems all play a critical role in setting policies that drive education investments and have an interest in ensuring that public funding of education makes a meaningful, cost-effective contribution to socioeconomic development. Given this role, these policy-making entities are ideally positioned to require recipients of public funding to produce educational resources under an open license.

Let us be specific. Governments, foundations, and education systems/institutions can and should implement open education licensing policies by requiring open licenses on the educational resources produced with their funding. Strong open licensing policies make open licensing mandatory and apply a clear definition for open license, ideally using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license that grants full reuse rights provided the original author is attributed. The good news is open education policies are happening! In June 2012, UNESCO convened a World OER Congress and released a 2012 Paris OER Declaration, which included a call for governments to ‘encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.’ UNESCO will be convening a second World OER Congress in Slovenia in 2017 to establish a ‘normative instrument on OER.’ OECD recently released its 2015 report: ‘Open Educational Resources: A Catalyst for Innovation’ provides policy options to governments such as: ‘Regulate that all publicly funded materials should be OER by default. Alternatively, the regulation could state that new educational resources should be based on existing OER, where possible (“reuse first” principle).’

As governments and foundations move to require the products of their grants and/or contracts be openly licensed, the implementation stage of these policies critical; open licensing policies should have systems in place to ensure that grantees comply with the policy, properly apply an open license to their work, and share an editable, accessible version of the OER in a public OER repository.

A good example of an open education licensing policy done well is the US Department of Labor’s 2010 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program (TAACCCT) which committed US$2 billion in federal grant funding over four years to ‘expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs’ (p.1). The intellectual property section of the grant program description requires that all educational materials created with grant funding be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, and the Department required its grantees to deposit editable copies of the CC BY OER into skillscommons.org — a public open education repository.

A number of other nations, provinces and states have also adopted or announced open education policies relating to the creation, review, remix and/or adoption of OER. The Open Policy Registry lists over 130 national, state, province, and institutional policies relating to OER, including policies like a national open licensing framework and a policy explicitly permitting public school teachers to share materials they create in the course of their employment under a CC license.

New open policy projects like the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership are well positioned to foster the creation, adoption, and implementation of open policies and practices that advance the public good by supporting open policy advocates, organizations, and policy makers, connecting open policy opportunities with assistance, and sharing open policy information. Because the bulk of education and research funding comes from taxpayer dollars, it is essential to create, adopt and implement open education licensing policies. The traditional model of academic research publishing borders on scandalous. Every year, hundreds of billions in research and data are funded by the public through government grants, and then acquired at no cost by publishers who do not compensate a single author or peer reviewer, acquire all copyright rights, and then sell access to the publicly funded research back to the University and Colleges. In the US, the combined value of government, non-profit, and university-funded research in 2013 was over US$158 billion — about a third of all the R&D in the United States that year.

As governments move to require open licensing policies, hundreds of billions of dollars of education and research resources will be freely and legally available to the public that paid for them. Every taxpayer − in every country − has a reasonable expectation of access to educational materials and research products whose creation tax dollars supported.

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