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If you were airdropped, blindfolded, into a strange town and given nothing but a bus ticket, to where would you ride that bus? You might be surprised to learn that there’s only one good answer, and that’s the public library. The library is the public living room, and if ever you are stripped of everything private—money, friends and orientation—you can go there and become a human again. Of course, you don’t have to be homeless to use a library, but that’s the point. You don’t have to be anyone in particular to go inside and stay as long as you want, sit in its armchairs, read the news, write your dissertation, charge your phone, use the bathroom, check your email, find the address of a hotel or homeless shelter. Of all the institutions we have, both public and private, the public library is the truest democratic space.

Federal funding for libraries is down nearly 40 percent since 2000. Our democracy may never wholly recover

This is exciting! I knew they were considering it, but now its official. Glad to see one region giving another option beyond First Past the Post!:

Ontario has committed to providing municipalities with the option of using ranked ballots in future elections, starting in 2018, as an alternative to the current system.

Ranked ballots allow a voter to rank candidates in order of preference –first choice, second choice, third choice, etc. – instead of just voting for one candidate.  See an example of a ranked ballot election here.

There are different degrees to which ranked ballots could be used. For example, some municipalities in other countries use ranked ballots for all of council. Some other municipalities use ranked ballots for only the mayor or head of council while the rest of council is elected using a first past the post system.

Please note that ranked ballots are not being considered for school boards.  If a municipality decided to use ranked ballots to elect council positions, voters would still use the current voting method to vote for school board trustee.

Continue Reading.

This graphic shows how it works:

Consensus decision-making, a process in which groups come to agreement without voting, has been a central feature of direct action movements for nearly forty years, from the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s to the turn-of-the-millennium global justice movement to 2011’s Occupy Wall Street.

Instead of voting a controversial plan up or down, groups that make decisions by consensus work to refine the plan until everyone finds it acceptable. Aprimer on the NYC General Assembly website, the structural expression of the Occupy movement, explains, “Consensus is a creative thinking process: When we vote, we decide between two alternatives. With consensus, we take an issue, hear the range of enthusiasm, ideas and concerns about it, and synthesize a proposal that best serves everybody’s vision.”

Proponents make broad claims for consensus process. They argue that it is intrinsically more democratic than other methods, and that it fosters radical transformation, both within movements and in their relations with the wider world. As described in the action handbook of an Earth Day 1990 action to shut down Wall Street, which included a blockade of the entrances to the Stock Exchange and led to some two hundred arrests, “Consensus at its best offers a cooperative model of reaching group unity, an essential step in creating a culture that values cooperation over competition.”

Few, though, know the origins of the process, which shed an interesting and surprising light on its troubled real-world workings. Consensus decision-making first entered the world of grassroots activism in the summer of 1976, when a group of activists calling themselves the Clamshell Alliance began a direct-action campaign against the planned Seabrook Nuclear Plant.

Many activists of the time were well aware of what feminist writer Jo Freemanfamously called “the tyranny of structurelessness.” The tendency in some early 1970s movements to abandon all structure in the name of spontaneity and informality had proven to be not just unworkable but undemocratic. Decisions still happened, but without an agreed-upon process — there was no accountability.

The organizers of “the Clam,” as it was often called, were eager to find a process that could prevent the pitfalls of structurelessness, without resorting to hierarchy. Two staffpeople from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the longstanding and widely admired peace and justice organization affiliated with the Society of Friends, or Quakers, suggested consensus.

By this, they did not mean an informal process of building broad internal agreement of the sort used, for instance, by the pathbreaking civil rights group SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) in the early 1960s. The consensus process adopted by the Clam was much more formal, and grew directly out of Quaker religious practice.

As historian A. Paul Hare explains:

For over 300 years the members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) have been making group decisions without voting. Their method is to find a ‘sense of the meeting’ which represents a consensus of those involved. Ideally this consensus is not simply ‘unanimity,’ or an opinion on which all members happen to agree, but a ‘unity’: a higher truth which grows from the consideration of divergent opinions and unites them all.

That unity, they believe, has a spiritual source: within Quaker theology, the process is in effect a manifestation of the divine. A 1943 “Guide to Quaker Practice” explained, “The principle of corporate guidance, according to which the Spirit can inspire the group as a whole, is central. Since there is but one Truth, its Spirit, if followed will produce unity.” Consensus process will eventually yield a decision, in other words, because discussing, listening, and waiting will ultimately reveal God’s will. Patience will lead to Truth.

This religious core was left unmentioned when consensus decision-making came to the world of secular activism. Quakers do not, as a rule, proselytize their faith, and the two AFSC organizers working on the Seabrook anti-nuclear campaign — Sukie Rice and Elizabeth Boardman — were no exception. They were emphatically not looking to impose their religion on the group.

They introduced the decision-making method because it seemed to them a good fit with the larger movement yearning for inclusive and truly democratic forms of decision-making, as well as with the philosophy of nonviolence, in which one tries to understand the heart and motivation of one’s opponent. “Under consensus, the group takes no action that is not consented to by all group members,” explained a Clamshell action manual, using italics to underscore the point: everyone’s voice would matter.

The process quickly spread among those segments of the activist left that embraced direct action as central to their strategy. Some called it “feminist process,” for it seemed to embody feminist ideals of participation, inclusion, and egalitarianism. Rice recalled, “[People] had no idea that Clamshell would be the prototype for all the other groups that took off from there, they had no inkling of that.”

But by the end of the 1980s, the Clamshell model — fusing consensus decision-making, affinity groups, and a coordinating spokecouncil — was firmly established as the prevailing structure for grassroots direct action organizing in the United States.

But while Rice and Boardman were careful to exclude any explicit theology from their trainings on consensus, something of its religious origin adhered to the process nonetheless — including a deep faith in its rightness, a certain piety in its implementation, and a tendency to treat claims about consensus as foundational truths.

A 1987 handbook produced by two founding members of Food Not Bombs, C.T. Lawrence Butler and Amy Rothstein, On Conflict and Consensus, codified the many assertions made on its behalf, central among which was the declaration that “Formal Consensus is the most democratic decisionmaking process.”

This statement of faith, presented as a statement of fact, could be heard in nearly every movement that adopted the process over the ensuing years. The conviction that consensus would produce more democratic outcomes than any other method was repeated like a catechism. “The goal of consensus,” the handbook continued, “is not the selection of several options, but the development of one decision which is the best for the whole group. It is synthesis and evolution, not competition and attrition.”

In practice, the process often worked well in small-group settings, including within the affinity groups that often formed the building blocks for large actions. At the scale of a significant mobilization, though, the process was fraught with difficulty from the start.

At the 1977 Seabrook blockade, where consensus was first employed in a large-scale action setting, the spokescouncil spent nearly all the time before being ordered to leave the site, bogged down in lengthy discussions of minor issues. A similar dynamic played out in Occupy Wall Street almost a quarter century later, where the general assembly proved ill-equipped to address the day-to-day needs of the encampment.

Though On Conflict and Consensus assured organizers that “Formal Consensus is not inherently time-consuming,” experience suggested otherwise. The process favored those with the most time, as meetings tended to drag out for hours; in theory, consensus might include everyone in all deliberations, but in practice, the process greatly favored those who could devote limitless time to the movement — and made full participation difficult for those with ordinary life commitments outside of their activism.

Movement after movement found, moreover, that the process tended to give great attention and weight to the concerns of a few dissenters. In the purest form of consensus, a block by one or two individuals could bring the whole group to a screeching halt.

Sometimes, that forced groups to reckon with important issues that the majority might otherwise ignore, which could indeed be powerful and transformative. But it also consistently empowered cranks, malcontents, and even provocateurs to lay claim to a group’s attention and gum up the works, even when groups adopted modifications to strict consensus that allowed super-majorities to override blocks.

Consensus can easily be derailed by those acting in bad faith. But it’s also a process that is ill-equipped to deal with disagreements that arise from competing interests rather than simple differences of opinion. The rosy idea embedded in the process that unity and agreement can always be found if a group is willing to discuss and modify a proposal sufficiently is magical thinking, divorced from the real-world rough-and-tumble of political negotiation.

Groups hold on to ingrained practices in part because they help reinforce their sense of identity. The complex liturgy of consensus process — from the specialized language and roles (“facilitators,” “vibes watchers,” “progressive stack,” and more) to the elaborate hand signals (“up-twinkles,” “down-twinkles,” and the like) — has functioned as much to signal and consolidate a sense of belonging to a certain tradition as it has to move decisions forward.

And because consensus process was marked from the start not just by its religious origins but also by its cultural ones, that tradition has been imbued with whiteness. The Clamshell Alliance was, after all, an overwhelmingly white organization, bringing together white residents of the New Hampshire seacoast with white Quakers and an array of mostly white radicals from Boston and beyond for action in a white rural region.

Few of the groups that would adopt consensus in the decades to come would be quite as starkly monochromatic as the Clam, and the use of the process is hardly sufficient to explain the reasons for racial divisions within activist communities. But time and again, activists of color found the use of consensus in majority-white direct action circles to be alienating and off-putting, and white activists’ reverent insistence on the necessity and superiority of the process has exacerbated difficulties in multiracial collaboration and alliance-building.

During the campus anti-apartheid movement of the mid-1980s, for instance, the use of consensus drove a major wedge at UC-Berkeley between the mostly white Campaign Against Apartheid (CAA) and United People of Color (UPC), a multiracial student group. UPC organizer Patricia Vattuone explained at the time, “We felt it was undemocratic to have these long meetings — four hours, eight hours — when, I have things to do, other students are not only active in their own organizations, but can’t spend hours and hours and hours on Sproul, and that was the only way you could have input or provide leadership.”

UPC proposed shifting to a representative decision-making method — but CAA, believing consensus to be intrinsically better and more radical, refused. Two other UPC activists, Sumi Cho and Robert Westley, later wrote, “As a result, planning meetings and political actions … became virtually devoid of student-of-color participation in the name of radical hyperdemocratic (consensus-only) decision-making.”

Two decades later, similar though less acute tensions arose when white activists streamed to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to participate in the Common Ground relief effort “with a preconceived notion that collectives use consensus as the decision-making process,” according toparticipants Sue Hilderbrand, Scott Crow, and Lisa Fithian.

Local black activists preferred a different course of action, in which “the group defines itself and establishes the decision-making process collectively,” particularly since “the consensus process brought in by white activists confused many community members, who were often unfamiliar with the ‘rules’ of participation.”

The irony here, of course, is that activists have adopted consensus as part of a larger aspiration to prefigure the world they hope to create — presumably not one as racially bounded as the practice of consensus process has been. There’s long been a deep yearning at the heart of that prefigurative project for a kind of community and connection otherwise missing from many movement participants’ lives.

In the wake of Occupy Wall Street, where consensus process played out with such dysfunction, Jonathan M. Smucker considered what role this yearning might have played in skewing movement practice:

I began to wonder if the heightened sense of an integrated identity was “the utopia” that many of my fellow participants were seeking. What if the thing we were missing, the thing we were lacking — the thing we longed for most — was a sense of an integrated existence in a cohesive community, i.e., an intact lifeworld? What if this longing was so potent that it could eclipse the drive to affect larger political outcomes?

The prime appeal of consensus process for forty years has been its promise to be more profoundly democratic than other methods. This promise has been repeated again and again like dogma. But let’s face it: the real-world evidence is shaky at best. Perhaps the reason why it has endured so long in activist circles despite its evident practical shortcomings has something to do with the theological character it carried over from Quaker religious practice, the way it addresses a deep desire for transcendent group unity and “higher truth.”

If the forty-year persistence of consensus has been a matter of faith, surely the time has now come for apostasy. Piety and habit are bad reasons to keep using a process whose benefits are more notional than real. Outside of small-group settings, consensus process is unwieldy, off-putting, tiresome, and ineffective. Many inclusive, accountable alternative methods are available for making decisions democratically. If we want to change the world, let’s pick ones that work.

Racist Police of California

Body cameras won’t save anyone from police brutality. The video of Eric Garner’s death is spread on internet, but murderers are still on the loose. Now I’ll tell you another situation which proves that cops are truly bastards and don’t seem to change. In Barstow, California they performed a painful wristlock and forced belly first into the pavement the 8 month pregnant black woman Charlena Michelle Cooks. Cops acted violently because Cooks refused to show her ID during traffic dispute (she had a right to do that). More than that she was found not guilty after all! But the city officials said that officers had acted properly! They brutalized pregnant woman and no one to blame! What’s going on?  

New surveillance laws will give the police and security services unprecedented powers, the government has announced.

The new Investigatory Powers Bill, announced in the Queen’s speech, will include not only the previously blocked snooper’s charter but also measures for additional bulk interception of communications under warrant.

The Queen said the new bill would “modernise the law on communications data”, although such a wide-ranging expansion of surveillance powers had not been expected. The government said the new legislation would “provide police and intelligence agencies with the tools” to keep people safe.

Referring to the expanded scope of the bill, the government said it would “address gaps” in current intelligence gathering and surveillance laws. Such gaps prevent law enforcement and intelligence services from tackling terrorism and serious crime, the Home Office argued.

Previous attempts to pass the controversial snooper’s charter were blocked by the Liberal Democrats, with Nick Clegg saying such measures would not be passed while he was in government. Handed an unexpected majority, the government is now seeking to comprehensively expand the scope of surveillance laws.

1 may 2015 - A riot cop who was chasing a protester is tackled and beaten with his own club in Male in the Maldives.

Maldivians were protesting because of the sentencing to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges of the nation’s first democratically elected leader, whose government was toppled by police and military in 2012. Almost all of the country’s opposition leaders were arrested following the protests. [video]/[article]

HOLD THIS NEW GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE.

Yesterday I asked you to remember the past five years. I asked you to remember the devastation that the Tories have inflicted on Britain. I asked you to reject the Conservatives.

Alas, democracy has spoken: the Conservatives have a majority.

I’m bewildered, dismayed, disappointed but most of all I’M ANGRY.

I’M ANGRY THAT A GOVERNMENT THAT IS HELLBENT ON CUTTING THE DEFICIT AT ANY COST HAS BEEN RE-ELECTED.

I’M ANGRY THAT A GOVERNMENT WILLING TO CARVE UP AND SELL INSTITUTIONS THAT QUINTESSENTIALLY DEFINE BRITAIN HAS BEEN RE-ELECTED.

I’M ANGRY THAT A GOVERNMENT THAT HAS SOUGHT TO DEMONISE AND HAS CONSEQUENTLY ALIENATED A NATION’S POLITICS HAS BEEN RE-ELECTED.

I’M ANGRY THAT THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN PUNISHED FOR THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE COALITION AND YET THE PARTY WHICH WAS AT THE HELM HAS BEEN RE-ELECTED.

I’M ANGRY THAT RUPERT MURDOCH HAS BEEN ABLE TO USE HIS MEDIA EMPIRE TO TARNISH A MAN’S CREDIBILITY AND DETERMINE THE ELECTION.

I’M ANGRY THAT THE GREEN PARTY MANAGED TO CARRY IN EXCESS OF A MILLION POPULAR VOTES AND YET THIS HAS ONLY TRANSLATED INTO ONE PARLIAMENTARY SEAT. 

I’M ANGRY THAT THE LABOUR PARTY WILL INEVITABLY TAKE THIS ELECTION AS A SIGN TO MOVE BACK TO NEW LABOUR POLITICS, THUS MAKING THE CHOICE BETWEEN LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVE EVEN MORE MINUTE ONCE AGAIN.

So today, I ask you to remember how you are feeling right now. I ask you to channel your anger, fears and disappointment and I ask you to make bloody damn sure that this new Conservative government is accountable to the people. 

DEMOCRACY SPOKE LAST NIGHT BUT IT NEEDS TO CARRY ON SPEAKING FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS AND BEYOND.

TAKE YOUR ANGER AND REMEMBER.

In Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden — they are very democratic countries, obviously, the voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the United States. In those countries, health care is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education, graduate school is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, child care are stronger than in the United States of America, and in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people in the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Politicians Denying Science Is ‘Beginning Of The End Of An Informed Democracy’

What will you be doing on Monday, 4/20, at 11 p.m.?

Perhaps watching the premiere of acclaimed astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new show StarTalk. Tyson, who may be best known for hosting the reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series in 2014, will now be appearing weekly on the National Geographic Channel in what may be the first late-night science talk show. Along with a trusty cast of comedians and science-minded folks like Bill Nye, Tyson hopes the adaptation of his popular podcast to a broadcast format will make getting a regular dose of science as pain-free as possible. He thinks that by embedding it between pop culture discussions and entertaining asides, the science will go down easy, and even leave you wanting more. And he’s right.

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Noam Chomsky - “10 strategies of manipulation” by the media

Historically the media have proven highly efficient to mold public opinion. Thanks to the media paraphernalia and propaganda, have been created or destroyed social movements, justified wars, tempered financial crisis, spurred on some other ideological currents, and even given the phenomenon of media as producers of reality within the collective psyche. But how to detect the most common strategies for understanding these psychosocial tools which, surely, we participate? Encourage stupidity, promote a sense of guilt, promote distraction, or construct artificial problems and then magically, solve them, are just some of these tactics.

1. The strategy of distraction

The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information. distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public interest in the essential knowledge in the area of the science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. “Maintaining public attention diverted away from the real social problems, captivated by matters of no real importance. Keep the public busy, busy, busy, no time to think, back to farm and other animals (quote from text Silent Weapons for Quiet War ).”

2. Create problems, then offer solutions

This method is also called “problem -reaction- solution. “It creates a problem, a “situation” referred to cause some reaction in the audience, so this is the principal of the steps that you want to accept. For example: let it unfold and intensify urban violence, or arrange for bloody attacks in order that the public is the applicant‟s security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Or: create an economic crisis to accept as a necessary evil retreat of social rights and the dismantling of public services.

3. Self-blame Strengthen

To let individual blame for their misfortune, because of the failure of their intelligence, their abilities, or their efforts. So, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual autodesvalida and guilt, which creates a depression, one of whose effects is to inhibit its action. And, without action, there is no revolution!

4. The gradual strategy

acceptance to an unacceptable degree, just apply it gradually, dropper, for consecutive years. That is how they radically new socioeconomic conditions ( neoliberalism ) were imposed during the 1980s and 1990s: the minimal state, privatization, precariousness, flexibility, massive unemployment, wages, and do not guarantee a decent income, so many changes that have brought about a revolution if they had been applied once.

5. The strategy of deferring

Another way to accept an unpopular decision is to present it as “painful and necessary”, gaining public acceptance, at the time for future application. It is easier to accept that a future sacrifice of immediate slaughter. First, because the effort is not used immediately. Then, because the public, masses, is always the tendency to expect naively that “everything will be better tomorrow” and that the sacrifice required may be avoided. This gives the public more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it with resignation when the time comes.

6. Keep the public in ignorance and mediocrity

Making the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used to control and enslavement. “The quality of education given to the lower social classes must be the poor and mediocre as possible so that the gap of ignorance it plans among the lower classes and upper classes is and remains impossible to attain for the lower classes (See „ Silent Weapons for Quiet War).”

7. Go to the public as a little child

Most of the advertising to the general public uses speech, argument, people and particularly children‟s intonation, often close to the weakness, as if the viewer were a little child or a mentally deficient. The harder one tries to deceive the viewer look, the more it tends to adopt a tone infantilising. Why? “If one goes to a person as if she had the age of 12 years or less, then, because of suggestion, she tends with a certain probability that a response or reaction also devoid of a critical sense as a person 12 years or younger (see Silent Weapons for Quiet War ).”

8. Getting to know the individuals better than they know themselves

Over the past 50 years, advances of accelerated science has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those owned and operated by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology and applied psychology, the “system” has enjoyed a sophisticated understanding of human beings, both physically and psychologically. The system has gotten better acquainted with the common man more than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exerts greater control and great power over individuals, greater than that of individuals about themselves.

9. Use the emotional side more than the reflection

Making use of the emotional aspect is a classic technique for causing a short circuit on rational analysis , and finally to the critical sense of the individual. Furthermore, the use of emotional register to open the door to the unconscious for implantation or grafting ideas , desires, fears and anxieties , compulsions, or induce behaviors …

10. To encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity

Promote the public to believe that the fact is fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and uneducated…