Activist Chris Phillips got his start with the Green Party in 2000 working for Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign. Outraged by Bush’s “stolen election” and the jingoistic march to war with Afghanistan and Iraq following the 9/11 attacks, he became engaged in the anti-war movement during the Bush years right up until the election of Obama, when Phillips decided to take a brief sabbatical from activist pursuits. But the corporate-security state of America has a way of needling those of us taking a breather from community service. Obama’s broken campaign promises and ultimate failure to abandon the nefarious foreign and economic policies of the previous administration became his catalyst to get back into the fray. He joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in October of 2011 and participated at the occupations in New York City and Buffalo, including a six-month stint near Trinity Church. He started a new occupation at Goldman Sach CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s residence at 15 Central Park West. Phillips also admins several Occupy pages on Facebook and has been featured in Adbusters Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Post, RT, and Fox News.
Interview With Chris Phillips
Talk a little bit about your involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement, when you got started and why it was important to you.
Well, I had been a fan of Adbusters since around just after Seattle 1999 WTO protests, that was one of my major awakening points. I read Kalle Lasn’s book “Culture Jammer” and loved it, and was instantly in support of the idea. I wasn’t able to make it over to Zuccotti until around mid-October of 2011, but was very active in occupying Buffalo, and holding Niagara Square, participating in our own way over here in Western New York.
I made it to NYC and Zuccotti again in 2012, around June and stayed with the different occupations and actions until after Hurricane Sandy at the beginning of November last year. I currently run multiple Occupy social media pages, Occupy Goldman Sachs, Occupy 9/11, and Occupy Fox News. What matters to me is not feeling weak, and in that, the ability to stand up, to speak out, to organize, and to take action building a better world.
I always found that defense of basic liberties was essential, and without defense, liberties lost. This was one of my main motivating factors. I felt the cause was just and urgent. It still is, though I think the means of accomplishing its goals is evolving.
We’ve been seeing a lot of single-issue protests exploding on the scene in recent months — the labor movement is heating up with many employees in the fast food industry and Wal-Mart striking. And there have been huge protests and actions taken against the Keystone Pipeline. Is Occupy Wall Street as an umbrella term useful for describing those of us who agree on many of the same positions and who participate in many different protests? Is Occupy dead?
Yes and no. It is easy to take a cynical approach and say that because there’s no occupation of Zuccotti there’s no Occupy Wall Street, but that’s akin to saying because the child doesn’t climb back in it’s mother’s womb that it’s not the mother’s child. That being said, there is serious division among supporters of the movement, there is very little unity, and it has plagued us for the better part of two years now. It is due to a number of factors as I see it, first and foremost human nature, as we are very difficult to unite under any one single banner.
Secondly, there is heavy levels of infiltration from the city law enforcement and from federal agencies, and their job is to divide and conquer as well, doubling the difficulty for any true activist and supporter. The spirit lives on in a number of projects, Strike Debt, the Tar Sands blockade and other actions. The number at activist events are up in a number of ways.
This past November 5th had a good showing of Anonymous masks back out in the street, and it was inspiring. May 25th saw the March Against Monsanto worldwide, and that I would say was largely inspired by the Occupy push for social justice. I feel like the Occupiers of New York City need to do the movement right and find a physical foundation for it to thrive in, possibly in Bushwick of Brooklyn, a warehouse, or something comparable, that is a large gathering space for people to come to, for a community to organize out of. They had something similar in the Occupy Sandy hubs but those have dwindled out and now it is clear how demanding the need is for a large physical space. It’s unfortunate that with all the donations the movement once had that we did not secure such a space. Truly unfortunate.
And you’re currently working on a project to secure such a space for not only activists but for some of the disenfranchised who took part in the occupation of Zuccotti. Tell us a little bit about this.
Well, once again, yes and no. I am focusing more on my own life now, as a student of architecture, and specifically environmentally conscious architecture, namely “EarthShips.” EarthShips are fully self-sustainable eco-dwellings made from recycled materials like tires, cans, and bottles, with solar cells and rainwater collection techniques. I would like to own my own land and build my own home here very soon, something I am sure many of the more anti-capitalist elements of the movement will give me heat for.
Regardless, I am moving in the direction of dominion over my own life, finding peace, raising a family, planning my future. What I am doing though is sharing this information with as many people as I can, as I learn it, because I believe respect of the Earth and action in the pursuit of a balanced low-waste existence, off the electrical grid, off the mortgage banking debt grid, surrounded by organic vegetables and clean water, is the solution, on a number of levels.
I envision a day where we collectively purchase a large tract of land for very cheap and help many beautiful people to establish their own lives as well, creating a new community in the process. But I am not there yet, won’t be for a few years, right now I am focusing on learning and experimenting. So if anyone wants their minds blown with real solutions watch “Garbage Warrior” on YouTube, it’s about Michael Reynolds, creator of the EarthShip revolution. It’s truly something special and inspiring. (Watch the entire documentary at the end of this article)
In the above featured video, you appeared on Fox News in an interview with Sean Hannity back in August. How did that come about?
Crazy story. I was in Washington DC putting on what we called the March Against Drones. We scheduled it for 9/11 and told everyone we would remember the fallen of that day by highlighting the many others who have fallen in our many war zones, focusing instead on the modern face of the War on Terror, which continues unrelenting 12 years later, sending our tax dollars into a black hole, skyrocketing our debt, pissing off the world. In launching this MAD action, I joined forces with some Muslims who shared many of the same grievances and wanted to participate.
Fox had picked up on the Muslim 9/11 angle and went to work spinning it every way but the way it really was, innocent Americans using their liberties to speak their minds and assemble freely. Before I’d gone on, Fox had the Muslims on and had eaten them alive, it was a bloodbath, and my Muslim brothers asked me to give them a defense, so I did. I feel I fared pretty well all things considered. Getting Hannity to call himself a clown I felt was a victory, I always laugh when I watch that part. He’s nothing more than a mouthpiece for the global elite, he obfuscates all issues relating to imperialism and corruption in government or business.
It’s also worth mentioning, that the event itself was a complete success, despite low numbers. The Fox News fear smear campaign had worked, only about 200 showed up, but the ones that did show, were amazing. Among them, Dr. Cornel West and Dr. Webster Griffin Tarpley, both of whom delivered potent academic punches in their speeches to the crowd of mixed protesters, bikers, angry Christians and police. Dr. West even marched with us, in his black suit, in 90 degree heat, all the way to the Capitol and the White House, from the National Mall, on September 11! It was a seriously powerful day, one I am not soon to forget.
We could probably discuss the circus journalism of Fox News and their “Fair and Balanced” Barnum and Bailey ringleaders all day. Would you appear on Fox or some other network again knowing full-well that the chances of getting a fair shake would be slim to none?
Yes, definitely, I would. I will take any opportunity I can get to share the message of questioning official narratives and empowering the oppressed through any media available. They made a mistake in having me on, they did no research on me, and I took advantage of it. It is a circus sideshow, the attacks were predictable and I feel I kept it cool, knowing what they would say and do.
Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Yes, but first, thank you for the opportunity to share my message, we are fortunate enough to have this exchange, not be targeted for assassination, and still have it published, so this is a wonderful thing, many around the world are not as lucky. To everyone out there reading this, I tell you this now. We are still here, breathing, living, thinking, speaking, dreaming, doing. We have not stopped, and we’re not going to stop. That we are still here is nothing short of miraculous, it is an opportunity that we cannot afford to squander. We must rise to the occasion of true spiritual unity, of unity consciousness, of going within to better ourselves as equal units of a whole.
So much of what we have done has been soaked in anger, in pain, in resentment, and even hate. It is time to end the us vs. them paradigm, it only validates their power and authority. It is time to stop feeding the chaos-order paradigm they have crafted for us to fall into. No longer can we allow them to make us the “chaos in the streets” so they can provide their beloved order. We must move into the truth of spiritual awakening, breaking free of the limits of physical rebellion. Science and spirituality are bringing us closer everyday to the same basic idea: All Is One.
The quantum unified field theory lines up with the wisdom and teachings of the Ancients. This One That We Are includes all that you may despise or find horrifying, even “unnatural.” There is nothing in existence that is unnatural, all things are nature, destruction and creation are infinitely balanced, just as are light and dark. Because we are One, your personal raising of consciousness dramatically affects all other consciousness. I send everyone out there all my love, and yes, even the fabled 1%, because that’s clearly what they need: Love. Here’s hoping one day soon we can all be the 100%.
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The court date is set. The Libertarian Party, Green Party, and Constitution Party are gearing up and uniting to fight for a chance to govern the 12.7 million people of the State of Pennsylvania. They are likely to lose.
Pennsylvania is a major state but according to an article in Ballot Access News, by election reform and ballot access expert Richard Winger, Third Circuit Will Hold Oral Argument in Pennsylvania Minor Party Ballot Access Case in February, Pennsylvania is likely to prevent major parties like the Green and Libertarian Party from competing:
During the course of the Libertarian 2012 petition-checking litigation, the state courts issued some good precedents. Specifically, signatures are not invalid just because the signer only wrote down the month and day, but not the year, in the “date” column; and signatures are not invalid if the signer moved within the same county and hadn’t yet re-registered. If those rules had been already established, the Constitution Party might have also taken the risk of having its petition validity determined by the state courts. The three parties had filed a somewhat similar lawsuit a few years ago, but that was during an odd year when none of them had actually petitioned for that year’s election. That case was also dismissed on standing, and in that case, the Third Circuit didn’t even ask for oral arguments, but in the current case, the Third Circuit will hold oral arguments.
Threatening major fines to legitimate organizations attempting to participate in the election process is outrageous. Any national grassroots movement has to now think twice before attempting a signature drive in the state fearing the outrageous $110,000 fine. There is more to come in other areas of Pennsylvania election changes too. In a good article in the the Millburn Tribune, a local Pennsylvania paper, there is more information on the plans of the bicameral cameral Harrisburg legislature:
The Legislature’s state government committee held a hearing last week on a package of bills that includes tougher penalties for voter intimidation and a ban on promotional materials inside polling places. The bills come up as the state’s controversial voter identification law remains in legal limbo, blocked from taking effect by a state appeals court judge’s order. The law passed in March 2012 has never been enforced, but it has resulted in confusion and anger among poll workers told they had to ask for ID and voters told they didn’t need to show it. Like the voter ID law, a proposed ban on promotions in polling places could create conflict between voters and those who are supposed to be assisting them, advocates worry.
Local government is where much of the power over elections remains in the United States and Pennsylvania is no different. More information on Pennsylvania’s system of local government can be found in the Pennsylvania Manual, a comprehensive guide to Pennsylvania’s government, release by the state for the last 200 years:
All of Pennsylvania is included in one of the state’s 67 counties and each county is then divided into one of the state’s 2,562 municipalities. There are no independent cities or unincorporated territory within Pennsylvania. Local municipalities are either governed by statutes enacted by the Pennsylvania Legislature and administered through the Pennsylvania Code, by a home rule charter or optional form of government adopted by the municipality with consent of the Legislature.
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A new post by Rick Hasen, a renowned election law expert, Why Large Scale Voter Impersonation Plans Can’t Work, on Election Law Blog takes on an aspect of elections that is not often discussed. Impersonation fraud is extremely rare but involves basically voting under someone else’s name and stealing their vote. As Hasen explains, its not very scalable:
No wonder almost all serious efforts at fraud involve either election officials committing fraud or absentee ballot fraud, which takes place outside the supervision of poll workers and election workers. It’s why we can’t find a single election at least since 1980 where impersonation fraud plausibly could have used to change the outcome of an election. Yet we have ample examples of absentee ballot fraud and election officials committing fraud.
According to an article in the Telegraph by Alli Knothe entitled, “2 charged with voter fraud in Worcester”, the two Massachusetts men were locals:
Mark Atlas, 50, was accused of voting at the Ward 6, Precinct 5 polling station at 337 Greenwood St. under someone else’s name. Richard Suchocki, 57, has been accused of assisting Mr. Atlas by providing him with the name and address of another registered voter. He was arraigned Monday.
The impersonation team (as it were) got caught after some observant poll workers noticed their attempt to vote twice:
When that registered voter went to the precinct to cast his ballot, he appeared to have already signed in, said Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst. An officer working there overheard the conversation and looked into what happened. A poll worker remembered the name of one of the men and police investigated.
Voter impersonation is incredibly rare, as described by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice who have worked extensively in this area:
It’s important to protect the integrity of our elections. But we must be careful not to undermine free and fair access to the ballot in the name of preventing voter fraud. The Brennan Center’s ongoing examination of voter fraud claims reveal that voter fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. Our report “The Truth About Voter Fraud” reveals most allegations of fraud turn out to be baseless — and that of the few allegations remaining, most reveal election irregularities and other forms of election misconduct.
Voter fraud is not acceptable in our elections, but we must find a balance and not impose solutions that make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.
An article from the Washington Post, describes a landmark study on the issue:
The analysis of 2,068 reported fraud cases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters. The News21 report is based on a national public-records search in which reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of alleged fraudulent activity — including registration fraud; absentee-ballot fraud; vote buying; false election counts; campaign fraud; the casting of ballots by ineligible voters, such as felons and non-citizens; double voting; and voter impersonation.
The analysis found that there is more alleged fraud in absentee ballots and voter registration than in any of the other categories. The analysis shows 491 cases of alleged absentee ballot fraud and 400 cases involving registration fraud. Requiring voters to show identification at the polls — the crux of most of the new legislation — would not have prevented those cases. The analysis also found that more than 46 percent of the reported election fraud allegations resulted in acquittals, dropped charges or decisions not to bring charges.
See the hyperlinked timeline of the Brennan Center’s work on voter fraud, including work on restrictive photo ID requirements.
Analysis & Reports: Policy briefs, reports, and other national resources assessing allegations of voter fraud.
Case Studies by Issue: Examinations of voter fraud claims, sorted by the type of fraud alleged.
Case Studies by State: Examinations of voter fraud claims, sorted by the location of the fraud alleged.
Commentary: Opinions and editorials on the hunt for individual voter fraud.
Litigation: Materials assessing claims of voter fraud, filed in court cases around the country.
News: Links to news stories, press releases, and announcements about voter fraud.
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According to a new article in the from the ‘Behind the Numbers’ column of the Bangkok Post, a major Thai newspaper, there is open debate in Thailand about the basic structure of the country’s democracy following years of endemic political instability. The new article, “Who says voting is fair? Economists, Maybe“, co-authored by Benjarong Suwankiri and Warapong Wongwachara, is about the idea of moving beyond the plurality voting system for national elections.
As protests in Thailand have raged in this past week and more political instability has become inevitable, the idea of radical election method reform has begun to gain some traction. According to the article’s criticism of plurality voting, “spoiler candidates have been known to upset many close-call elections in the past. Modern researchers go as far as concluding that this inconsistency of social choice relative to individual choices could lead to ‘anything goes’ results in an election, depending on how one sets the agenda for voting.”
Plurality voting is used almost exclusively by democracies across the world but has come under increasing scrutiny by election reformers. Yet, the system that should replace plurality is not widely agreed upon which has encouraged experimentation in local elections in many different countries. The Thailand Post article considers the work of modern election method pioneers Professor Kenneth Arrow and the late Professor John Nash especially concerning the difference between cooperative and non-cooperative elections:
Once we start moving away from non-cooperative to cooperative types of games, we also change the set of questions one could ask. In a non-cooperative form, players ask questions about the cards in their hands, given the action of the other, i.e. an action-oriented approach. In contrast, cooperative games are result-oriented, focusing on what’s on the table and how to best allocate resources to ensure cooperation. Once we move here, a universe of possibilities opens up. Democracy, in the end, is a work in progress that each country will have to struggle to reshape until it fits better with local norms. Surely, if doing so was so simple, we wouldn’t have had this problem in the first place, would we?
Since 1932, when the absolute monarchy controlling Thailand was overthrown in a revolution, the country has nominally had a constitutional monarchy (yes, royalty) under a parliamentary democracy system. In reality, a long succession of military rulers have taken power through coups d’etat, including most recently in 2006. For a country that has had 18 constitutions since that 1932 revolution, election reform should be top priority.
According to Freedom House, the greatest thing since sliced bread, Thailand’s democracy is not easily pinned down as a total disaster:
Thailand is an electoral democracy. The July 2011 elections were considered relatively free and fair, yielding a strong victory for the opposition party Peua Thai. The polls replaced a government that had come to power as a result of judicial action and lacked a popular mandate. Although the influential military weighed in against Puea Thai during the run-up to the vote, it was unable to decisively affect the outcome. However, the Asian Network for Free Elections, a leading monitoring organization, reported that several political parties had representatives inside polling stations trying to influence voters’ choices, and that vote buying had increased compared with previous parliamentary polls.
Also, the authors of the article, Benjarong Suwankiri and Warapong Wongwachara, have added their email so that readers can contact them about the idea: email@example.com
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