MODULE 13: 2012-13

NATO Summit in Chicago (2012)

Originally they were going to have a NATO summit and G20 meeting at the same time, one huge party of the world’s richest countries, but at the last minute they decided to have the two meetings in different locations. But NATO went ahead with their Chicago summit plans, and protest organizers went ahead with protest plans as well.

It was the first such big summit sort of event in the US since Occupy Wall Street happened, and a lot of people seemed to be hoping that there would be a lot of people protesting, with numbers bigger than they otherwise might have been, inspired by this recent movement. In the end, the biggest single event – a rally during which the sound system completely failed to work until after all the music was supposed to have ended – had around 10,000 people in attendance.

The summit itself largely focused on Afghanistan, a NATO project which had resulted in Afghanistan being near the bottom of every basic indicator of life available for measurement. Outside the summit, in the city streets, the theme was terrorism.

Several Occupy activists from Florida had driven up to Chicago to join the protests. They stayed with a fellow traveler who also had beer-brewing equipment in his apartment. As a result of this and the fact that there were also undercover cops staying with him, the folks staying there were entrapped into a situation where they were accused and convicted of planning to throw molotov cocktails at the NATO summit. They are currently still in prison.

“Meanwhile In Afghanistan”

CeCe McDonald (2012)

CeCe McDonald began serving a prison sentence for killing a Nazi in self-defense a year earlier.

When the Nazi attacked her in the bar in Minneapolis, CeCe didn’t know he was a Nazi. She just knew he wanted to physically attack her because he was so offended by the fact that she was trans, or Black, or both. He was clearly some form of racist and/or transphobe. She only discovered he was a Nazi after he hit her on the head with a mug of beer, after she was bleeding profusely, after she stabbed him in the chest with her sewing scissors – coincidentally, right into his swastika tattoo.

“Ballad of CeCe McDonald”

Another Election (2012)

Obama was elected for a second term. The Republicans had to change their debating strategies when running against him (and losing twice) because whenever they accused Obama of being a socialist, Obama gained ground in the polls. Most people liked the idea of electing a socialist. For many people, this is who they in fact thought they were voting for.

Obama’s actual record wasn’t very socialistic at all. He eventually managed to deliver an anemic form of insurance industry-approved health care, and he did some other good things. But mostly his record was one of overseeing the continuing impoverishment of a large percentage of the US population, while saying nice things about creating jobs for the world of tomorrow. He said really great things about peace, while choosing targets for the next drone strike every Tuesday. Obama, in short, paved the way for Trump – just as neoliberals always do for fascists. Some people would say it’s their job to do that.

“If Only It Were True”

No Fracking Way (2012)

Before the price of oil plummeted, there was a booming industry for gas and shale, even if it was difficult, expensive and environmentally devastating to get to. In the course of all the hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania, all the clean water sources in the state have now been poisoned.

In the course of all the fracking, a movement against the practice grew, and in the city of Pittsburgh, the state of Vermont, the nation of France and many other places, fracking has been banned.

“No Fracking Way”

Loukanikos the Riot Dog (2012)

2012 was the height of the movement against neoliberalism in Greece. Just about every week saw thousands, often hundreds of thousands in the streets, often involving pitched battles with armies of riot police, and huge amounts of tear gas.

In the middle of the clouds of tear gas could often be found a dog named Loukanikos (“Sausage”), who became a much-loved dog among the protesters, and ultimately among the global media, because of the way he always joined the protests with such obvious enthusiasm.

After the movement died down and there weren’t protests happening all the time, Loukanikos was also not a frequent presence on the streets anymore. He stayed home and took a lot of naps, dying at an early age from breathing too much tear gas.

Trayvon (2012)

Travyon Martin was killed early in 2012, and his killer, George Zimmerman, was not not guilty the following year. Trayvon was a Black teenager in a hoodie who went out for a walk to a convenience store in a suburban neighborhood. For this crime, he was attacked by a racist thug and killed. But because of the state of racism in the US, it was possible to convince a jury that the killer was “standing his ground” – even though he had to get out of his car and attack an innocent teenager in order to do so.


Oil Train (2013)

With the oil boom came the need to transport the oil, and every option was used – each with their own perils. The dilapidated railway infrastructure in the US and Canada was never intended for the transportation of massive amounts of explosive cargo in the first place, nor were the laws around transportation adequate to insure the safe transportation of such cargo.

Over the course of recent years there have been many trains full of oil derailing, exploding, and leaking into the local environment. Most often this happens in relatively rural areas. In the middle of one night in July, 2013 in the Quebec town of Lac Megantic, a runaway, mile-long train full of fracking gas exploded, killing 47 people, mostly people attending a local concert.

After this incident, laws were changed in Canada requiring someone to be on board such trains at all times – which, incredibly, was not the case before 2013.

“Oil Train”

Pipeline (2013)

With the oil boom came a new push from the industry for more pipelines to transport their toxic product to market on the western, eastern and southern coasts of the US. In 2013, both houses of the Congress approved plans for a major new pipeline – which was controversial both before and after Congress approved of it.


Prism (2013)

Edward Snowden left the US and broke the news that the agency for which he had been working, the National Security Agency, had a program running that involved collecting and sifting through data on just about everything people in the US did, including phone calls they made and emails they wrote.

Although the program Snowden blew the whistle on was patently illegal in the US and the many other countries in which it was operating, the reaction of government officials from both parties in the US was that Snowden was some kind of a terrorist who should be sent to Guantanamo for the rest of his life.

With help from Wikileaks, Snowden managed to make his way to Russia, where he was given asylum.

A Coup In Egypt (2013)

The uprising in Tahrir Square that led to the ousting of the long-time US-backed dictator, Mubarak, also led to Egypt having its first fairly-conducted, multi-party election. The Muslim Brotherhood won by a landslide, and ruled the country for over a year. Then there was a coup, and the military took over again and jailed the prime minister, Mohammed Morsi, along with many other members of his movement.

If it were a coup, then under US law the US would have to stop sending Egypt the billions of dollars in military aid it sends Egypt annually. So the Obama Administration said it was a coup but it wasn’t a coup, so we’ll keep sending you money, don’t worry, we like military dictators much better than wealth-reidistributing Muslims like Morsi.

Has the Bombing Begun? (2013)

On the fiftieth anniversary of the much-celebrated March On Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr gave his iconic “I have a dream” speech, President Obama was speaking – about how even if you love nonviolent struggle and the Civil Rights movement and all that, sometimes you have to send the Air Force in to sort things out.

“Has the Bombing Begun?”

If I Had A Hammer (2013)

A light sentence was handed down to someone who conspired to do hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to a helicopter gunship with a sledgehammer on a military base in Australia during “war game” exercises with the Australian and US militaries.

The folks with the sledgehammers in such cases often go by the name of Plowshares, as in turning swords into plowshares and studying war no more. Over recent decades such activists have carried out many symbolic actions on military bases in the US, the UK, Ireland, and elsewhere, altogether doing many millions of dollars in damages and collectively spending many decades in prison. Many of the perpetrators of these crimes have been radical Catholic nuns and priests.

“If I Had A Hammer”

Banning Books (2013)

An AP reporter investigating another story related to the former governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, discovered that as governor Mitch had effectively banned the books of radical historian Howard Zinn from being carried in school libraries anywhere in the state of Indiana.

“Mitch Daniels”

Osama Bin Laden is Dead (2013)

Osama Bin Laden was captured in Pakistan, killed and dumped at sea – at least according to his US military captors and executioners. Thus ending the War on Terror, right?

“Osama Bin Laden Is Dead”

Spies Are Reading My Blog (2013)

I got a clear reminder that I’m on an international watch list when I was barred from entering New Zealand.

Because of the treaty known as the Five Eyes treaty signed in 1948, if you’re on a watch list in one of these countries, you’re on a watch list in all of them: the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. (I wish I had known that before 2013.)

“Spies Are Reading My Blog”

Hunger Strike (2013)

Prisoners at Pelican Bay and throughout the California prison system went on a hunger strike against their deplorable conditions of imprisonment and almost total lack of opportunities to further themselves in any meaningful way during their time behind bars. At its height, more than 20,000 prisoners participated in the hunger strike, which lasted for several weeks.

The US has more people in prison than any other country in the world. The Prison Industrial Complex is a very significant part of the economy, with the legalized bribery that constitutes our democratic system being strongly influenced by institutions such as private prisons lobbies and the prison guards union. The conditions in which so many people spend their time in US prisons fall under the most basic definitions of torture, given that solitary confinement is widely recognized as a form of torture.

“Song for Pelican Bay”

Quetions/thoughts for further exploration…

NATO Summit in Chicago (2012)

Were the OWS activists from Florida arrested in Chicago the victims of entrapment by the authorities?

CeCe McDonald (2012)

CeCe McDonald was clearly defending herself when she stabbed the Nazi in his swastika tattoo. Why was she sent to prison anyway?

If Only It Were True (2012)

If Barack Obama was a socialist, why did the wealth gap grow so much during his presidency?

No Fracking Way (2012)

Will fracking bring “energy independence” for the US or any other country? At what cost and for how long?

Riot Dog (2012)

Can dogs be political?

Trayvon (2012)

What if Trayvon were white and George Zimmerman were Black?

Oil Train (2013)

How did Canadian law change after the Lac Megantic train derailment and explosion?

Pipeline (2013)

The pipeline advocates claim pipelines are safer than other forms of transport. Does reality bear this claim out?

Prism (2013)

Was Edward Snowden a traitor, or was he exposing a secret government program that needed to be exposed?

A Coup That Wasn’t A Coup (2013)

When the democratically-elected government of Mohammed Morsi was overthrown by a military coup, the US supported the coup government. Why? Is this typical of US foreign policy? Why?

Has the Bombing Begun? (2013)

The US almost attacked Syria in 2013. The UK parliament voted against joining in this, and the US and UK backed down. Why was the US considering attacking Syria? Was it really about poison gas?

If I Had A Hammer (2013)

Swinging a hammer at an aircraft and damaging it is clearly a crime. So why do people who do this sometimes get found not guilty?

Mitch Daniels (2013)

What constitutes a “ban”? Is it fair to say that Indiana governor Mitch Daniels banned the books of Howard Zinn?

Osama Bin Laden Is Dead (2013)

Did the death of the great mastermind of terror have any measurable impact on the global “war on terror”? Why did they dump his body at sea?

Spies Are Reading My Blog (2013)

Why would Immigration New Zealand be reading the blog of a little-known traveling musician from the US? What is the “five eyes” treaty of 1948?

Pelican Bay (2013)

Which side had basic human rights on their side? The hunger strikers or the prison authorities?