Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Mapping the criminal justice reform field in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become increasingly interested in issues relating to the U.S. criminal justice system and the urgent need for reform.

I recently started to compile a list of U.S. organizations working in this area, and I was quite surprised to discover how much activity there is already. The resulting spreadsheet is open for anyone to edit.

There are a number of useful things that could be done with such a directory. Hope to spend a little more time on this over the summer. Stay tuned.

Occupy San Francisco: Shining a Spotlight on the Problems with Society Today

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

This is a transcript of a speech I heard at Occupy San Francisco. I originally shared it on Google+ last November, and it deserves a place on the blog.

On November 17, 2011, about three weeks after having gotten arrested myself for “loitering” (no joke) at the much smaller Occupy San José, I had a chance to stop by the Occupy San Francisco camp. Things seemed orderly and peaceful, with people making music and art, talking, giving speeches etc. — nice vibe! Someone recorded the speech, which in turn allowed me to transcribe it (with a few minor edits for readability). The speaker gets introduced shortly after 0:14:00 into the video, her speech starts at 0:14:20.

Hi, guys!

I’m Jane, and I would like to talk about the reason that they want to evict us.

Back when this movement started there were a few tents popped up at 101 Market in front of the Federal Reserve, and they thought that the movement, it would go away. So they ignored us for a while. Then they tried to take it, and we came back stronger. The media ignored it. Then they tried to ridicule it. But what we did, is we struck a chord.

This fight is not about these tents. And by the way, it is not a camp, it is an occupation. We are not campers, we are occupiers. What these tents do is they create a space. They create a space that is around the clock. And if at any time somebody feels like this system that they live in is unjust, unfair, rigged, they can come here and talk to people who also think that.

When they come here they meet people who are organized, educated, well-spoken, get things done, and who know how to assemble, know their rights, and know their power. When they come here, they build a network. We are all building a network. And that is the real reason that they want to take down these tents.

They look for loopholes — health this, curfew that — but really, they are worried! They are worried that what we will do is shake up the status quo.

The power of these tents is that it is a space, it is making a giant spotlight on the precise problems with society today. And they are getting scared cause this spotlight is getting brighter and brighter by the day.

When people come here or to 101 Market, they learn all the ways that the Federal Reserve, the banks, the corporations have screwed us. They learn about these things. Think about the fact that you can talk to anyone in this camp right now and they can tell you about corporate personhood. This was not the case even just two months ago.

Right now people understand the things that are happening with money, taxes, how their taxes go to big banks so that then those big banks can get bailed out and use that bail-out money to make more money to then buy off the politicians, so that then the politicians are going to be serving them, and then the politicians will come and try to shut down these camps.

They try to shut down the occupation precisely because we’re shaking it up. Right now, the way things work is that the financial institutions and large corporations are in power. The politicians no longer serve the needs of the people. They are serving the needs of these corporations to keep raking in more money at the people’s expense. And the more we shine the spotlight on that, the more they’ll get worried. The more they’ll make up trumped-up charges. The more forces they will send down here.

But you know what we can hide behind? You know what we have on our side? We have the Constitution. The Constitution was not made so that people could argue it in court. It was not made so that ACLU can fight for us. It was made because the Founding Fathers realized that there might come a time in our history that we might need as people to be able to go against the government, to speak out against their tyranny. And guess what, that time is now. That time is today!

The government has become so corrupt, it has become so tyrannical, they are sending in forces, giant forces of police, who can’t speak, who are dressed in riot gear. They are sending in a hundred police officers for 50 campers last night at Dallas. They are sending in these giant forces to shut down not camps but ideas.

And I will do what the Founding Fathers intended me to do. And I will stand here and I will occupy and I will use my rights to free speech, to assembly, wether it includes a tent or whether it includes signs, and we will continue to organize. Right now, if they raided this, we have enough organization in place to come right back.

So in conclusion, it’s up to all of us to try to get this to be here as long as possible so that we can organize more and more, and we can take down the system and take it back for us, for the people. Because it’s our system, it is our America, it is our Constitution. It does not belong to the corporations, Goldman Sachs, the politicians. We will take it back. We will occupy for as long as we can.

Thank you!

Whether the Occupy movement (if you want to call it that) was able to make a dent or will find a way to continue to do so is a topic for discussion. What’s clear is that the issues remain. It’s more important than ever to shine a bright spotlight.

Blueprint for the next successful political party in Germany

Monday, August 31st, 2009

It’s not easy to get excited about German politics these days. In fact, most Germans I talk to have grown pretty frustrated over the years with the way politics is organized.

By and large, the political parties lack agility and drive, their platforms don’t seem to grasp the big picture challenges the country is facing and their personnel is either exhausted or lacks credibility (or both). There are no stars around anymore, and I dare you to try to remember the last time a political idea, concept or proposal made you go “wow!”

So, what if you were to re-engineer a political party in Germany today? Here’s a quick sketch, probably highly flawed, of five principles that I believe could make almost any party fairly popular within a few years.

Blueprint for the next successful political party in Germany

A market with so many unhappy customers will be a huge opportunity for whoever manages to figure out how to do things differently, politically speaking.

Just sayin’…

DLD Internet Politics Study

Monday, January 26th, 2009

For those interested in internet politics and online campaigning in Germany, the recently released “DLD Internet Politics Study” (article, PDF download) may be of interest.

I left the following comment to point out a slight error (re-posting it here while it’s awaiting approval):

DLD_Internet_Politics_20_01_09.pdf (page 18)

The study may contain a slight oversight.

On page 18 (PDF), the title suggests that the site “Can We Ask” somehow encouraged video dialogue with candidate Obama as part of the Obama campaign’s official toolkit (along with Flickr, Eventful and the other tools listed on the previous pages).

However, “Can We Ask” was a negative campaigning micro-site paid for by the Republican National Committee (RNC). According to Republican internet strategist David All, it was “an extremely clever deployment of YouTube to effectively hammer Barrack Obama by blending the RNC’s opposition research team with real questions submitted by real citizens.” (Source:

The site is still live:

The screenshot used in the study (see image above) does not show the disclaimer or footer information. But if you look closely the main link below the video include says “A Questionable Candidate” (in German: “ein zweifelhafter Kandidat”) which pretty much gives it away that this is not in support of Obama.

Nice to see that the presentation contains a few screenshots from the Flickr pool I created a few weeks ago.

My most favorite use of Twitter this past year

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at NYU and avid Twitterer (btw, must-follow for anyone interested in the future of media and journalism), was preparing an essay recently on “why I use Twitter”: Help Me Explain Twitter to Eggheads

He asked his readers for contributions on one particular item:

9. And then, the thing I need your help with: what do I actually use Twitter for?.

I have a number of answers to that, which I will lay out in the piece, but I would like to feature some others. The intent of my question is to put the accent on “useful.” What do you use Twitter for? I’m especially interested if you’re an academic—student, teacher, PhD—but my interest is not limited to those groups.

Here’s my answer (sent via Twitter, natch):

@jayrosen_nyu To follow people outside my liberal, Bay Area echo chamber. Hard to bear at times, but can be great sanity check. ;-)

Following last year’s trip to DC (Politics Online conference, eDemocracyCamp) and Austin (SXSW), I made a deliberate attempt to follow more people who are not like me (in terms of where we fall on the political spectrum — we all have in common that we are hooked on Twitter, apparently): Republicans, conservatives, evangelicals etc.

This has proven to be my most valuable use of Twitter by far. It has provided me with a glimpse into the other half of this nation’s soul, which has been so deeply divided over the last eight years (and still is, though I’m hopeful that now is a good time for new beginnings, and maybe we will see some of this division disappear).

It’s been fascinating to read up on some of the articles, stories and other resources that are being passed on by conservatives, to listen to their instant feedback to news of the day, and to follow the discussions around the need for change in their own party.

It is easier today than ever to blend out any news source we don’t agree with and only engage with people who will confirm our views. It is important, in my view, that we resist this temptation, and Twitter seems to be a good antenna into anywhere outside the bubbles of our own limited world views.

Wozu sind Kriege da?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Keiner will sterben, das ist doch klar
wozu sind denn dann Kriege da?
Herr Präsident, du bist doch einer von diesen Herren
du mußt das doch wissen
kannst du mir das mal erklären?
Keine Mutter will ihre Kinder verlieren
und keine Frau ihren Mann.
also warum müssen Soldaten losmarschieren?
Um Menschen zu ermorden - mach mir das mal klar
wozu sind Kriege da?

Herr Präsident, ich bin jetzt zehn Jahre alt
und ich fürchte mich in diesem Atomraketenwald.
sag mir die Wahrheit, sag mir das jetzt
wofür wird mein Leben aufs Spiel gesetzt?
Und das Leben all der andern - sag mir mal warum
sie laden die Gewehre und bringen sich gegenseitig um
sie stehn sich gegenüber und könnten Freunde sein
doch bevor sie sich kennenlernen, schießen sie sich tot
Ich find das so bekloppt, warum muß das so sein?

Habt ihr alle Milliarden Menschen überall auf der Welt
gefragt, ob sie das so wollen
oder geht’s da auch um Geld?
Viel Geld für die wenigen Bonzen,
die Panzer und Raketen bauen
und dann Gold und Brillanten kaufen
für ihre eleganten Frauen
oder geht’s da nebenbei auch um so religiösen Zwist
daß man sich nicht einig wird
welcher Gott nun der wahre ist?

Oder was gibt’s da noch für Gründe
die ich genauso bescheuert find’
na ja, vielleicht kann ich’s noch nicht verstehen
wozu Kriege nötig sind
ich bin wohl noch zu klein
ich bin ja noch ein Kind

Musik/Text: Udo Lindenberg

Ameritocracy: new social fact-checking platform

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I just signed up for Ameritocracy, a new social web app (currently in beta) for collaborative fact-checking.


From their blog:

About Ameritocracy

Ameritocracy is a user generated content site that allows people to rate the credibility of statements made by our leaders and information gatekeepers such as media outlets and businesses. Our reputation system helps to make the information you read more credible, and the succinct nature of the content will help anyone keep up with social and political news.

From the about page:

What is Ameritocracy?

The internet today is pretty neat. It’s given us access to more information than any previous publishing medium, and gives everyone with a connection the tools to broadcast their views to the masses. With so many opinions, we can learn about all sides of any issue, but it still takes a lot of time to do the research. Ameritocracy was born out of this frustration of not knowing who to trust and not having the time to try to figure it out.

Our goal is to help people cut through the noise and gain quick access to the whole picture. We want to encourage a healthy skepticism of all claims, and offer a meaningful way to participate in the dialogue between the people who consume information and the people who own it. We want to give the public a chance to say, “We’re listening”, and demand that we be listened to as well.

How does it work?

The core features of Ameritocracy are adding statements (made by a person or organization) and assessing statements. For example, if you hear Jane Doe say something on tv that you find questionable, you can submit that statement to the site to see what the community has to say about it, or you can add your own assessment. Members can then rate Jane Doe’s statement for credibility and relevancy, add their own assessments, or post a comment.

From this, Jane Doe will develop a reputation based on the community ratings, and you and your sources will develop a positive reputation so long as no one identifies your submission as a misquote or deliberately inaccurate information. The goal is to get a few different perspectives for each statement, so anyone looking to know more about a statement can get a broader picture and make their own assessment.

There will be some really exciting trends to watch during this process, such as what the public feels about certain topics, how public opinion changes over time, and how the government, media and business react to the views of the Ameritocracy community.

Over on the IPDI blog, Julie Germany has an interview with Porter Bayne, one of the co-founders (she’s also giving out invite codes so check it out): Building Ameritocracy one quote at a time

At first glance, this looks very similar to Munich, Germany-based Trupoli (which I looked at briefly back in December).

Tim Russert

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Journalism here in the US suffered a big loss today: NBC’s Tim Russert dead at 58

Of his background as a Democratic political operative, Russert said, “My views are not important.”

“Lawrence Spivak, who founded ‘Meet the Press,’ told me before he died that the job of the host is to learn as much as you can about your guest’s positions and take the other side,” he said in a 2007 interview with Time magazine. “And to do that in a persistent and civil way. And that’s what I try to do every Sunday.”

You did a good job, Tim!

Old politics

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains his upcoming endorsement for Senator Obama and hits the nail on the spothead:

“I saw the ads” — the negative man-on-street commercials that the Clinton campaign put up in Pennsylvania in the wake of Obama’s bitter/cling comments a week ago — “and I was appalled, frankly. I thought it represented the nadir of mean-spirited, negative politics. And also of the politics of distraction, of gotcha politics. It’s the worst of all worlds. We have three terrible traditions that we’ve developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn’t possibly believe and doesn’t possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I’ve seen growing in Hillary’s campaign. And I’ve come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can’t in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They’re lending legitimacy to a Republican message that’s wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past 20 years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It’s old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It’s just so deeply cynical.”

For more commentary on this election cycle, check out his blog. download dell laptop bluetooth software Cheap soft shop

Talking about guns…

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

When the topic of guns came up at the debate tonight, actually what I wanted to do is twitter the number of annual firearm-related deaths in the US. Instead, I came across these four rules for gun safety, originally proposed by some Colonel Jeff Cooper back in the day.

  1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
  4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

You know, just in case. Might come in handy next time you find yourself in a situation. prices drywall sheets test