Category Archives: Culture

Trans-Pacific Partnership’s free speech danger

The TPP [previously], reached in secret with corporate collusion, has finally been agreed to by all the partners signing off, and with the backing of the Obama administration, seems headed for domestic approval.

And woes to the Fourth Estate and any concept of the public’s right to know about matters critical matters of health, policy, and governance impacting their daily lives.

And it took Wikileaks to bring out the threat.

The Guardian reports:

One chapter appears to give the signatory countries (referred to as “parties”) greater power to stop embarrassing information going public. The treaty would give signatories the ability to curtail legal proceedings if the theft of information is “detrimental to a party’s economic interests, international relations, or national defense or national security” – in other words, presumably, if a trial would cause the information to spread.

A drafter’s note says that every participating country’s individual laws about whistleblowing would still apply.

“The text of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter confirms advocates warnings that this deal poses a grave threat to global freedom of expression and basic access to things like medicine and information,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of internet activist group Fight for the Future. “But the sad part is that no one should be surprised by this. It should have been obvious to anyone observing the process, where appointed government bureaucrats and monopolistic companies were given more access to the text than elected officials and journalists, that this would be the result.”

Here’s the announcement from Wikileaks, with a link to the document:

Today, 9 October, 2015 WikiLeaks releases the final negotiated text for the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter. The TPP encompasses 12 nations representing more than 40 per cent of global GDP. Despite a final agreement, the text is still being withheld from the public, notably until after the Canadian election on October 19.

The document is dated four days ago, October 5th, or last Monday, the same day it was announced in Atlanta, Georgia that the 12 member states to the treaty had reached an accord after five and a half years of negotiations.

The IP Chapter of the TPP has perhaps been the most controversial chapter due to its wide-ranging effects on internet services, medicines, publishers, civil liberties and biological patents. “If TPP is ratified, people in the Pacific-Rim countries would have to live by the rules in this leaked text,” said Peter Maybarduk, Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program Director. “The new monopoly rights for big pharmaceutical firms would compromise access to medicines in TPP countries. The TPP would cost lives.”

Hundreds of representatives from large corporations had direct access to the negotiations whereas elected officials had limited or no access. Political opposition to the TPP in the United States, the dominant member of the 12 negotiating nations, has increased over time as details have emerged through previous WikiLeaks disclosures. Notably, the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, came out against the TPP on Wednesday saying: “Based on what I know so far, I can´t support this agreement.” This is a populist reversal by Hillary Clinton as earlier she has hailed the TPP as “the gold standard in trade agreements”.

In June the House of Representatives of the US Congress narrowly approved to “fast-track” the TPP, preventing the Congressmen from discussing or amending any parts of the treaty, only vote for or against it. 218 voted for the “fast-track” measure and 208 against. Only 28 House Democrats backed it. TPP is the first of a trinity of US backed economic treaties, the “Three Big T’s”, to be finalized. The other two being Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) which covers 52 countries and TTIP, the EU-US version of TPP.

Read the document.

And now for something completely different

Would you believe John Lithgow reading that subversive Dr. Seuss masterpiece, Yertle the Turtle:

Theodore Seuss Geisel [Seuss was his pen name], was a notable progressive, and an ardent foe of racism, as in this 1942 editorial cartoon for the Chicago Sun-Times aimed at segregation in war industries:

BLOG Seuss 2

But in his role as war propagandist, he slipped, supporting internment of California’s Japanese-American population and indulging in negative stereotypes. But after the war he recognized his own flaws and wrote one of his most famous children’s books as an apology.

Headline of the day: America’s illustrious ally

From RT [more here]:

Saudi employer reportedly chops off Indian maid’s hand after she asked for pay

Kathleen Cleaver and the Black Panther Party

For a generation of Americans, Kathleen Cleaver was one of the most recognizable African American women in the United States. As spouse of Eldridge Cleaver, one of the founders and early leaders of the Black Panther Party, she was the feminine face of a radical movement with its roots in Oakland, California.

The marriage didn’t last, and Eldridge Cleaver subsequently renounced his radical views and became a conservative Mormon Republican [really] with multiple crack cocaine possession arrests [including two here in Berkeley], Kathleen Cleaver remains true to her early ideals.

In these two video segments, Cleaver discusses both the evolution of her own political experience and the history of the party itself.

From The Real News Network:

Evolution of A Black Panther — 1

From the transcript:

Long story short, by 1966 I was a student in college in New York City. And I was attending Barnard. This was the summer of ’66, and when Stokely Carmichael proclaimed black power as the new slogan of the movement. Freedom now was set aside, and black power was the new call. In a march in Mississippi, I knew, I had met Stokely. I had close friends who were, had worked in SNCC. Long story short, I knocked on the door at the SNCC office for a job interview two weeks after black power. It was very exciting. The movement, I had no idea, was in a state of not only transition but collapse. Moving from an integrated financial base to a black power orientation.

I was gung-ho with black power. I loved the movement, I loved everybody I met. It was my–oh, I could talk to, you know, James Forman, who I’d admired since I could read about him. And I could see Stokely Carmichael come into the office. And I was–I was just with these people who were amazing, extraordinary. I was asked to come down to Atlanta and work directly with the campus program, which was what I had wanted to do. I wanted to be an organizer of college students. And I became involved with planning events and coordinating with the concepts of black power, the notions of black liberation, sort of the political education of students to further this movement.

It was the most exciting and challenging and dramatic thing, and I never, ever worked so hard in my life. I think the first–seemed like the first time I moved to Atlanta I was at a meeting that lasted, it seemed like three days, with no sleep. I was just constantly taking notes with people. I was in the most exciting position to me, and being with people who I admired and I looked up to and I’d read about. And now here I was in this movement, having no idea when I first got there, it was about to explode.

It directly led to my connection to the Black Panther party. Very quickly. I got to SNCC in New York in June. Moved to Atlanta in January of ’67. And we were planning a conference for black students that was going to be held in Nashville, and it was called Liberation Will Come From A Black Thing. So I would say this was one of the very earliest black student conferences around the theme of black liberation. And the student organizations that affiliated or worked with SNCC or were focused on these issues were all coming, and people from Atlanta.

Evolution of A Black Panther — 2

From the transcript:

I used to respond to that question about the legacy of the Black Panther Party as it was too soon, because legacy is something that’s left after you’re dead, and the Black Panther Party, all the members haven’t died out. So we’re still in the form. However, that’s no longer true. Most of the members if not deceased are no longer active in that form. So you can say as an organization there is no more Black Panther Party. So let’s look at the legacy.

I still say that it’s too soon to tell because what the true activities and behavior and beliefs, practices within the Black Panther Party were is not what people know. I’m very stunned to realize that they have no clue as to the type of things we talked about, the type of things that we did, the programs that we initiated, the ideas we proposed, because of the distortions. Because of the manipulation. So when they read our own newspapers or see our own files or talk to us–no. They’re treated to garbage and lies. So first let’s get the true history, story, the true thoughts about the Black Panthers out.

We had a premise, and that was we want the power for our community to determine our own destiny. That’s point one. We’re still working on that. Point seven is the one we became identified with. Point seven which said we want an immediate end to police brutality and violence against black people. We also had some issues with imprisonment and military service, bad education. Really the political disabilities and the social disabilities of being what they like to call second-class citizens. We didn’t call it that. We called it a colonized people.

We had been deprived of our ability to determine our own destiny. The whole concept of black power was, in our case, power to the people. The people of our community. And so our legacy is to fight for the power to determine the destiny of our own community. To stand up, be counted, defend yourself, call for an end to police brutality and all other forms of racist injustice and tyranny. Which I think is being perpetuated as I speak by the new crowds of young people horrified, horrified at the level of violence and hostility that the police forces in this country see authorized to dispense in black communities.

In an interesting twist, it was for fear of the Panthers that then Gov. Ronald Reagan and the Caslifornia legislature passed the state’s first major gun control act, preventing the carrying of leaded weapons in public. The Mulford Act was aimed at destroying the Black Panther Police Patrols, the armed contingents of Panthers patrolling black neighborhoods to protect them from police misconduct.

On 2 March 1967, a contingent of Panthers, clad in leather jackets and black berets, entered the California State Capitol to protest the imminent passage of the legislation, sending lawmakers fleeing or ducking under their desks. After reading out a communique, the Panthers left peacefully.

Needless to say, the legislation passed.

Via the Visibility Project, here’s the sight that prompted Gov. Reagan to opt for the most basic form of gun control:

BLOG Panthers

Video: Confronting the AIDS epidemic in Tijuana

And important and troubling documentary about battling the spread of AIDS just south of the California border, via University of California Television:

HIV/SIDA: Epidemic in Tijuana

Program notes from the UC San Diego News Center:

The new documentary “HIV/SIDA: The Epidemic in Tijuana” offers an unflinching look at the challenges facing researchers from the University of California, San Diego as they attempt to identify and treat people who inject drugs, sex workers, transgender women and others who are at high risk for HIV infection in Tijuana. The program. . .was shot over two years.

The documentary is split into four episodes, each telling a piece of the HIV/AIDS story in Tijuana. The series starts in El Bordo, a neighborhood of injecting drug users in the Tijuana River Canal, and then moves to Prevencasa where UC San Diego and Mexican medical students offer free care at the Health Frontiers in Tijuana clinic. From there, it turns its focus to a tattoo removal clinic and then a telemedicine program that connects patients with remotely located HIV doctors. The series continues with poignant stories and photos of people living with HIV and concludes with a wrap of what it would take to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tijuana.

“HIV/SIDA” is organized around the research of UC San Diego epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee, who is the chief of UC San Diego’s division of Global Public Health, UCSD psychologist Tom Patterson and their binational team of doctors, nurses and healthcare outreach workers. Their research has shown that Tijuana’s prevalence of HIV is three times higher than in Mexico at large. Strathdee said the documentary is a call to action to address the epidemic in a strategic and coordinated manner.

“It’s possible to end AIDS in Tijuana, but we need to take a broader look. Mexico as a whole should see Tijuana as a window for what could be the HIV epidemic for the rest of the country,” she said. “I also believe it shouldn’t just be Mexico’s responsibility to stop this epidemic because we have a shared population across the border. We need a binational response.”

The binational nature of Tijuana’s epidemic is reflected in the series title as SIDA is the Spanish term for AIDS, the acronym for síndrome de inmunodeficiencia adquirida.

“HIV/SIDA” was made possible through a grant from the Ford Foundation. UCTV Producer Shannon Bradley based the video series on Tomorrow Is a Long Time, a photo essay book with vignettes by photographer Malcolm Linton and Jon Cohen, two long-time collaborators who have travelled to more than 30 countries to document the HIV/AIDS epidemic for Science magazine.

Cohen said there is already a recipe for how to end the AIDS epidemic, which includes:

  • Identifying where high-risk groups congregate and then saturating those locales with rapid HIV testing and distributing educational materials as well as condoms, clean needles and syringes.
  • Testing all pregnant women.
  • Offering circumcision to men.
  • Connecting those who test positive with counselors who can emphasize the importance of treatment and not infecting others.
  • Providing antiretrovirals to all those infected with HIV and having case workers oversee their treatment so they achieve undetectable viral loads, which makes transmission to others less likely.
  • Offer antiretrovirals as preventatives to high-risk groups as a way to reduce transmission.

“We all know the recipe for ending AIDS,” Cohen said, “but it’s not happening aggressively enough in Tijuana. Could we do this? Could we break the back of the epidemic and get to the point where one person isn’t infecting another? Absolutely. The tools exist.”

Nextdoor: A panacea becomes a problem

Back in March, the New York Times offered a glowing report on the remarkable growth of, which had just pulled in $110 million in new venture capital for a company with an estimated worth of more than a billion dollars:

In short, it is all about community. Nextdoor has slowly built a network of more than 53,000 microcommunities across the United States, all based on local neighborhood boundaries. Nextdoor restricts communication to only those people who live close to one another; users are required to verify their identity and home address upon signing up.

Consider Nextdoor a modern, more attractive version of a community email list service or Yahoo Groups, the popular message board. Users can post neighborhood news, offer items for sale, ask for help finding lost pets or organize a block party.

Nextdoor also works with about 650 local government agencies that can send out citywide alerts on things like utility shutdowns in specific areas, crime alerts or emergency-preparedness tips.

But beneath the laudatory coverage, a darker side of the social medium was emerging, according to a report that same month from Fusion, headlined “Nextdoor, the social network for neighbors, is becoming a home for racial profiling.”

The report began with an incident in one neighborhood in Oakland, not so far from Casa esnl:

As Meredith Ahlberg ushered friends into her home in East Oakland’s Ivy Hill neighborhood for a party on a Saturday in early March, she noticed that her phone was lighting up with notifications. There were new messages from agitated neighbors on the localized social network Nextdoor, warning the neighborhood about “sketchy” men—one in a “white hoodie,” the other “a thin, youngish African American guy wearing a black beanie, white t-shirt with dark opened button down shirt over it, dark pants, tan shoes, gold chain.” These men, the poster wrote, were “lingering” and searching for a nonexistent address.

“Scary sketchy,” a poster commented. One neighbor suggested the situation warranted a call to the Oakland Police Department.

But Ahlberg, who is white, recognized the “suspicious” men: they were her friends, looking for her front door. By the time she saw the posts, her friends had found the correct address and Ahlberg was looking right at the ‘thin, young, black man’ with the gold chain. The co-owner of a clothing store in downtown Oakland, he looked “ridiculously handsome and stylish,” she said in an interview. She was horrified at her neighbors’ assumptions.

It was, in short, a case of asking questions while being black in a white neighborhood.

But the Oakland problem is even deeper, according to a report just published in the East Bay Express:, a website that bills itself as the “private social network for neighborhoods,” offers a free web platform on which members can blast a wide variety of messages to people who live in their immediate neighborhood. A San Francisco-based company founded in 2010, Nextdoor’s user-friendly site has exploded in popularity over the last two years in Oakland. As of this fall, a total of 176 Oakland neighborhoods have Nextdoor groups — and 20 percent of all households in the city use the site, according to the company.

On Nextdoor, people give away free furniture or fruit from their backyards. Users reunite lost dogs with their owners. Members organize community meetings and share tips about babysitters and plumbers. But under the “Crime and Safety” section of the site, the tone is much less neighborly. There, residents frequently post unsubstantiated “suspicious activity” warnings that result in calls to the police on Black citizens who have done nothing wrong. In recent months, people from across the city have shared with me Nextdoor posts labeling Black people as suspects simply for walking down the street, driving a car, or knocking on a door. Users have suggested that Black salesmen and mail carriers may be burglars. One Nextdoor member posted a photo of a young Black boy who failed to pick up dog poop and suggested that his neighbors call the police on him.

White residents have also used Nextdoor to complain and organize calls to police about Black residents being too noisy in public parks and bars — raising concerns that the site amplifies the harmful impacts of gentrification. On Nextdoor and other online neighborhood groups — including Facebook pages and Yahoo and Google listservs — residents have called Black and Latino men suspicious for being near bus stops, standing in “shadows,” making U-turns, and hanging around outside coffee shops. Residents frequently warn each other to be on the look out for suspects with little more description than “Black” and “wearing a hoodie.”

Accompanying the article on the alternative weekly’s website is a video we pass along:

Unwelcome at Home: Black Oaklanders on Racial Profiling

Once again, a medium heralded as a way to bring people together has become a conduit for the perpetuation of stereotypes [think “comments”]. But unlike many website comments, Nextdoor posters are identified and their messages seem much more temperate. Nonetheless, prejudices shape the context, assumptions about how a designated group is prone to act in specific situations.

And once again we are presented with proof that, contrary to claims of the Rabid Right, bigotry ain’t dead. And it helps tp recognize that each of us  own peculiarities of thought and action folks in other times and places might deem ignorant, even dangerously so.

But all that means little to those targeted by manifestly wrong-headed bias in a culture which can’t even fully acknowledge the collective and continuing trauma wrought by the institution of chattel slavery.

You’ll find that reality right Nextdoor.

Map of the day: Europe’s two/country divide

From Eurostat [PDF], and click on the image to enlarge:

Mall för pressemeddelande