Category Archives: activism

The importance of Bernie Sanders saying the dreaded words “carbon tax”

Bernie Sanders is now campaigning for an agenda, rather than the presidency of the US. How do I know? He has started mentioning the words “carbon tax” in his stump speeches. Before he would say that “we need to transform our energy system” and use other euphemisms, but now he is willing to say the dreaded words that no other US politician would dare mention, because he now has no chance of getting the Democratic nomination (except if Hillary is indicted in the next 5 weeks). Now he is fighting for an agenda, so he can say what he thinks. His goal is to raise issues and get America talking about what others deem politically impossible.

The politically impossible only becomes possible when people are willing to talk about a verboten idea and mobilize around it. Kudos to Sanders for trying to insert the idea of a carbon tax in the American public sphere.

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Why Black Lives Matter frustrates me

The growing militarization of the American police and their unaccountability for their brutality is a major problem and the Black Live Matter movement deserves credit for bringing this issue to the fore. BLM is probably the biggest social justice group to emerge in recent years, yet I find myself increasingly frustrated with the group.

It is the job of activists to be very clear about what they want when they cause disruption in society and to protest with clear objectives in mind, but BLM’s goal seems to get people to repeat their slogans so that people will pause and reflect on racism in their society. BLM doesn’t have any proposed policies to promote as far as I can tell. Currently BLM is conducting a campaign to confront presidential candidates to force them to address the discrimination against black people in policing. Continue reading

Why activists should worry about NSA spying

The revelations about the extent of the NSA spying are extremely worrying for anyone who cares deeply about their digital rights. In an age where most affluent people in the world use email, social networking, chat, internet telephony, and cellular telephones, the collection of digital information about people’s communications becomes a very invasive way to monitor and potentially control people. The digitalization of communications means that governments can now keep track of our activities in ways that the STASI could have never dreamed. The US government now knows who we communicate with and for how often and how long. With access to our social networking and metadata from our emails, chats and phone calls, they can recreate our web of relations and figure out if we are engaging in any activities which governments would like to suppress.

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Why we should refuse the full body scanners at the airport

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Full body scanners create an image of a person’s naked body through their clothing to look for hidden objects.

1. Full body scanners increase the risk of cancer. The Transportation Security Administration claims that the radiation from backscatter X-ray scanners is very low, but the Center of Radiological Research at Colombia University found these scanners emitting up to 20 times the radiation claimed by the scanner manufacturers. Researchers at UC San Diego note that the radiation is concentrated in the skin and surface tissues, increasing the radiation risks beyond what the TSA claims. The International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency recommend against using ionizing radiation on certain populations like pregnant women and children. The unions of pilots for American Airlines and US Airways have urged its members to avoid the full body scanners due to health concerns. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_body_scanner#Health Continue reading

Three visions of how to save our planet

Like many Americans, my scientific education was woefully limited. I don’t recall much from high school biology class except slinging slimy frog parts at my friends during disection. Chemistry and physics were taught by a jolly man who seemed psycologically incapable of teaching anything except how to make ice-cream and mixing vinegar and baking soda to pop corks off a bottle. In college, I struggled through a year of beginning physics, and then patted myself on the back for doing better than most of my fellow social studies majors.

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Recommendations for a “change the world” group

Here are my recommendations if you are embarking on a quixotic quest to change the world in some way.

  • Talk to everyone, because you never know who will suddenly join your efforts and give you unexpected advice.
  • Learn to let other’s take ownership of the project. Try to partner with existing groups rather than competing and creating from scratch.
  • Try to follow the Ella Baker model of organizing. Strive to not be the focal point, but rather the behind the scenes enabler and facilitator. Strive for non-hierarchical relations.
  • Be aware of the political implications, but don’t spend all your time chasing politicians.
  • Strive for sustainability, especially when the money runs out and the foreign NGOs go away. Are there local groups which will take ownership and continue the project afterwards? Or does the project generate its own income? Try to ween yourself off foreign funds and outside control.

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