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Everyday Connection

Everyday Connection is a radio show you can find here, Yesterday they interviewed a member of mediawrench, Kristopher Harrison, about mediawrench, where it came from, and where its going. It was a lot of fun! Check out their stuff, and also check out the interview here. Thanks to Rick and Jean for having us on the show! It will be fun to see where mediawrench takes us next.

Here are the links to the interview:

http://everydayconnection.me/2013/05/10/kristopher-harrison-media-wrench/

blogtalk –http://www.blogtalkradio.com/everydayconnection/2013/05/10/kristopher-harrison-media-wrench

itunes –https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/everyday-connection-blog-talk/id590073067

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Editorial – Jared: Occupy the Good Fight…

In the past couple of weeks and especially going into the month of May, a summer of discontent amongst Canadians is beginning to emerge.  When the narrative of the 99% against the 1% went global at the beginning of Occupy, more momentum for activism has brought many issues of social injustice, the environment and financial disparity into the light bringing together many groups to help strengthen the multitude of messages to help our fellow citizens fight for their rights.  The opposition from the 1% to individuals who have taken the initiative to stand up and speak out about these issues is quite clear; Put up or Shut up.

The current government has done nearly everything to keep its political power strong both on the Hill and locally to infiltrate the well-being of everyday Canadians at every turn.  More people are beginning to wake up to the plight of public officials who continue to defy the rule of law and accountability in favor of profits and the furthering of a destructive global agenda .  As our freedoms and rights become further eroded, we, the people, stand to lose much more than we ever thought.  Perhaps one day it might be illegal to speak out, perhaps one day what we do online is not private and perhaps, worst of all, we will continue to see the persistent deterioration of our liberties to the point where we will not be able to recognize our own country.  Many believe that it’s happening right now and that it might be already too late.

I encourage all Canadians to wake up and figure out who is in this fight and help them bring justice to those who have made their illegal business and political practices to the fore and let them know that the people won’t stand for it.  In recent times, there have been forces at play to make sure that these messages not come out, to prevent the gathering of those who take part in peaceful direct-action and, also, to be constantly watching our private communications to make any opposition to the status quo more destructive than what those in power are doing to us in reality.  Occupy is a vessel for awareness and discussion but there are many other groups who have been around for a long time who have been working for much longer to fight the good fight.  We are even seeing organized labor as a major player in rallying against those in government who continue to make life difficult for working-class people time and time again.

With so much at stake, it is up to all of us who are in the position to help the people stand up to keep pushing in their struggle against the 1% and make their voices heard.  Everyone has a part to play in trying to fix the biggest attack on our civil liberties to date.  It’s unconscionable that those in power were even allowed to carry out their attacks on the working poor, the disabled and minority groups alike for a future that benefits fewer people.  The 1% want us in debt, take lower wages, criminalize political dissent, and attacked for even bringing up any notion of rallying support for just causes.  The environment, accountability in government, and the protection of our privacy are the most crucial issues that we as the people have to fight for despite the fact we’ve lost so much of each already; we need to take our freedoms and our country back.  It shouldn’t be up to corporations and their perceived personhood to dictate the agenda of our government and public officials  in the interest of profit and false notions of austerity to weather ‘crises’.

As those of us who are already active meander through our struggles, we must bring more bodies, more voices and more peaceful direct-action every day, each month until change comes.  We must be loud, creative and persistent to show those in power that we will not lay down as our freedom slip through our fingers.  We must challenge the very institutions that perpetuate the hypocrisy that is taking place in our government and we must stand up for all those whose voices cannot be heard.  Giving up is not an option, it’s what gives the 1% the most power.

– Jared D. Khan (Twitter – @OccupyNerds)

Editorial: Kris – What does it mean when Toronto Police arrest 3 people for erecting a tent in a public space.

Toronto Police look ashamed as they carry out their orders. Occupiers in Toronto yell “The whole world is watching” as Police enforce Toronto By-law #608, which includes the rule that none shall camp in city parks. The Charter of Rights does not apply under a government that firstly does not agree with it and secondly under a policing model that does not include correct and reasonable oversight. The Toronto SIU has frighteningly low numbers and as long as the police here have little oversight, the corporate lobbyists will continue to decide policy instead of the public. Hopefully one day this first piece of the puzzle will fit, and all social justice hinges thereupon. The most memorable quote from this piece is “You don’t have to follow a corrupt order.” The bottom line is this: we live in a country where a group of individuals cannot enter a public park away from residential areas for the purpose of building community and screening movies, without being subject to hundreds of police, and some are rather rude.

The tent itself was symbolic. Our city is owned by corporations. The city itself is a corporation. Our notions of “Public Property” are not naturally intuitive. The police are constantly trying to increase their budget by deploying far more force than they need. The Prime Minister views Canada as a “benign dictatorship”, as he prorogues parlaiment, lies about the cost of our military expendatures, and budgets at all levels of government are seeing cuts to the social programs our most vulnerable and voice-less people need the most. What does this spell for our children? Well, I hope they like plastic everything, because the direction we’re taking as a society might be irreparable.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO_zLT8kXEE]

Toronto’s Decentralized Dance Party

Decentralized Dance Party

Combining both old and new tech for revolutionary ideas with a simple premise, long-time friends and dynamic-duo Tom and Gary held Toronto’s first Decentralized Dance Party (DDP) in the downtown core.  Following was a party where many carried ghetto-blasters tuned to a single station transmitted by Tom via FM  leading the course through Bay St to Nathan Phillip Square up Yonge St. onto Dundas Square to the after-party at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.  Regular stops included dance-offs in the Financial District, a jumping-jack competition at GoodLife and a contest for the ‘Stephen Harper’ Dance.  DDP has already been featured in many major cities including Seattle, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin, Chicago, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Washington in the US and Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Fredericton and Vancouver in Canada and they wish to take the DDP worldwide.

From www.decentralizeddanceparty.com

The DDP is a portable, battery-powered Party System.

It consists of hundreds of Party People, carrying boomboxes, and a DJ who wears a backpack, containing an FM radio transmitter.

All the boomboxes are tuned into the DJ’s master FM broadcast, resulting in a mobile, synchronized sound system.  This Portable Dance Party roams the night, generating complete awesomeness, street by street and block by block, onto buses and subways, into public fountains and beyond. Inevitably interfacing with the public, together we create an infectious epidemic of fun. A Roaming Party Adventure that lasts all night long!

Contributions by Jared D. Khan and Kris Harrison

Editorial – Unions (and Social Justice Networks) vs Occupy

Since I began to occupy, and certainly in the days afterwards, one of the things I contemplate is whether or not unions are a good thing. Of course, they have been a driving force in women’s equality and workers rights, but on the other hand when the garbage workers’ union strikes, no one wants to smell that! As a young man coming into the world, I have been trying to educate myself in the processes that cause society to be as it is now. While occupying St James park for forty days and forty nights, some things came to mind such as “Why is it that more people are not here? Surely more people care about their city, their community, their fellow humans on this planet enough to want to be a part of something that seems (to me) the start of an intellectual golden age.”

And then it hit me, sometime after the City Hall budget meeting where some protesters were arrested, pepper sprayed, and beaten; After the main group of protesters who represented various activism groups had mainly left the stage of Nathan Phillips Square. The realization, in short, was that many groups have been established to research and deal with social issues, and one of those groups is the United Steelworkers Union. Another example of those present was Stop The Cuts, and I’m sure others were present. That realization blended perfectly with my notion that Occupy was so scattered in ideology that many would not be able to understand the messages without a focus.

To progress to the next level of efficacy, Occupy will need to learn from these existing groups to find the resources, monetary and personnel. We have much to learn in general from these groups who have spent their lifetimes fighting for social justice and equality. I think, then, that it is a great thing that Occupy has become the ‘People’s Mic’ for these kinds of organizations. Unions and other groups are strongly focused on some of the kinds of things that Occupy has mentioned, but there is always that fear I have heard expressed many many times over: ‘They’re co-opting us, using us as pawns’. And this fear is, in my mind, only partially justified.

There is a certain, ‘by any means necessary’ mentality that I can understand to be justified in situations where social control and inequality are concerned. I get that. But at the same time there have been some actions that were carried out in the name of Occupy, without the approval of Occupy, nor with great research behind it either. I am referring to the day at St. James park when just before an action, boxloads of ‘Robin Hood Tax’ T-shirts were handed out. I am personally against simply taxing the banks a bit more, as a prior bank teller, I remember that when times get tough, the bank charges more fees, and never charges fees to the ‘best’ clients, and so indirectly the Robin Hood Tax only taxes people with less than enough money to be in the ‘best’ pile, where all the fees come from investments and not transactions. Actions like this need to be presented as coming from the actual source.

It is one thing to support Occupy, and bolster their numbers at key times, it is quite another to literally put your message on Occupiers’ torsos. For me, that is the deciding line. When you have a message, carry it yourself, and let Occupy assist in popularizing it, but do not write it on T-shirts to be handed out by the Occupy Logistics Committee. At the time they were handed out, anyone living in the park would have taken one just because they needed clothing. Its a little like a starving child being given a can of cola then having photographers capture the moment for use as an advertisement.

Moving past that day, USW has been carrying their flags and messages themselves, and Occupy has been there to help. This is in no way offensive to me. A lot of people do not know about USW being one of the founders of the NDP, and USW is also one of the first international unions that arose as a response to international corporations and corporatism. I am glad that the USW has found a respectable way to integrate with the movement, and I anticipate other groups finding a voice through the ‘People’s Mic’. The bottom line, is that Occupy can be the glue that can forge a political force to be reckoned with out of manifold causes and unions that are losing strength due to mainstream pressure on two fronts: one is the fact that ‘activism’ is becoming a dirty word, and the second is the systematic union busting tactics supported by the Harper Government.

Unions in themselves can be great for facilitating communication between employers and workers. On the other hand, not all workers can get into the unions. I worked for the company that was eventually bought by Metro, shipping produce to stores all across Toronto. I kept my productivity at the top of the chart every week, never missed work, and had no problems with anyone. I did this for a couple years. I was a temp. I could have continued to work there for years and would have never been offered a position in the union. I paid union dues but received no benefits. I hope this paints a picture of the possibilities. The issue is not that unions are bad, but rather for unions to be justified; they need to include every worker in their organization, and not just the ‘lifers’. As long as unions create a 2-tier system of pay and benefits, the general population is going to continue to slip away from believing their existence is justified. Some claim that unions pay makes other problems for the companies, creating a landscape where many companies cannot compete in Canada. The issue here is likely tied to outrageous CEO payscales: It is my opinion that no one should ever be paid more than 60k per year, but this is not the issue: the issue is inclusivity.

As long as unions continue to work only for themselves and not for their fellow workers who are not in the union, unions are unjustified in the amounts they receive. Their surplus is shown by the philanthropic work they do despite the minimum wage being so low and the average union workers’ wage being so far beyond that of a worker doing the same job with the same qualifications that cannot get into the union. If there is extra money it should not be taken from the employer in the first place.

I see great potential in unions. In Germany as well as in Japan, since Jimmy Carter’s administration went overseas to re-establish these countries post-WWII, there are unions that actually own the company, that actually elect their own boards of directors. These employees actually earn stock in the company along with wages. Co-determination is the future of the global labour movement I feel. Companies following this model see better productivity than most others following the conventional Top-down/Boss-Employee model. The side-benefit is that everyone begins to vote in the political elections because they become accustomed to the process. The key is that if unions remember to fight for the rights of those not in their unions, then unions will suddenly see public support skyrocket.

Occupy’s most recent action, the BMO flash mob dance, was a success. I hope to see more great direct in-your-face actions like this, especially when you consider both groups are represented, and both have added their own flair to it. MediaWrench was there, and the video below is chronologically correct, leaving very little out. I hope you enjoy it. And more importantly, I hope Occupy continues to integrate with other social justice groups from all around the world, to amplify the message that “S*** is F***** up” – as the sign in the OWS Lego set proclaims.

by Kris Harrison & Jared Khan

Editorial – Enter, Media Wrench

 

Greetings, everyone.  Let me be the first to thank you all for visiting Media Wrench.  It humbles me that we have come to a point in the Occupy movement where we have never been more excited about the evolution of where independent media is going as we get off to a running start in 2012.  Many of us at Media Wrench never had the luxury of having a waning thought about the Occupy movement mainly because we are living it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There isn’t a day that goes by that we not only think of our fellow Wrenchers, but also of fellow Occupiers.  When I meet with my colleagues, I am being reminded on a daily basis about how much of an impact the movement has been on us because we have become such an integral part of Occupy Toronto.  I always thought that, for the most part, there is no real way for us to fully comprehend the extent of the impact that we, as a media group, have had on the Occupy Toronto movement and how it has affected our lives since the first day of the camp on October 15th, 2011.

From the time we started Media Wrench, we realized that a single meeting could not determine the final 12 members.  I must insist to you all that this was probably one of the most difficult decisions that we’ve ever had to task ourselves with.  I can say for myself that there was a great deal of anxiety with choosing the group but in the end, it eventually was made with consensus and I, personally don’t see how else it could have been done at the time.  There are many questions about who we are, what we do and essentially, what happened to the Media Team at Occupy Toronto?  Media Wrench has a simple mantra:  We are your new neighbors and we’re here to help.

The start of Media Wrench comes with a great number of challenges.  When we arrived at a consensus over our trusted network and the basics of putting together an organization, we found that there was a single important question for ourselves:  Are we still a part of Occupy Toronto?  This was another question that was difficult to answer for ourselves.  Some of us decided that we wanted little to no affiliation with Occupy Toronto; or what it has become today.  Whereas others had little choice but to maintain our relationships with those who are still working with Occupy Toronto but wanted to put our efforts into an independent project that would least hinder the group’s intent on covering the Occupy movement happening Globally.

I have also seen an evolution of the Occupy movement.  I don’t consider this Occupy Toronto 2.0, instead I consider the formation of Media Wrench the future of the Worldwide Occupy movement manifested through a natural progression.  People pluralize movements with their own town’s encampment and what is going on in Wallstreet.  To me, those who have put a great deal of blood, sweat and tears into our respective committees (namely, Media), are facilitators of Occupy Toronto and thus, we have elevated ourselves to the level of ambassadorship for the Occupy movement.  As ambassadors, it is our own prerogative to bring out the message of people who want change, who want to see a real political challenge to the system that’s in place in our country, not next month or next year, but NOW.  All of us in Media Wrench have brought ourselves to the frontlines of an information war and, for better or worse, we are in it for the long haul.

Having said that, being responsible for providing the news coming out of the Occupy movement, whether it is in Toronto or others all around the world, exercising transparency is one of our primary mandates.  This is due to the nature of Occupy not having a single message to a diverse audience.  I will further reiterate and say that regardless of what perceptions others have about Media Wrench in any respect, we work in solidarity with the Occupy movement at large.

By: Jared D. Khan

Wrench Blog: Marcos

‘Occupy the Cuts’

The Occupy The Budget was an interesting action. Everyone getting together and standing up for the common good was amazing to see.  One moment I was inside city hall and the second I step out side the number of people gathering outside tripled. The night went on as people started to set up tents; which was great to see as people were helping out others.  The idea of another encampment was nice to think about.  We at MediaWrench ran into some individuals who had tents ready and even took days off work to camp out for the protest.  After talking to them for a bit they told us that they were discouraged to set up a tent because they said that when they tried to help others with their tents, they got pushed away.  They also said that everyone and everything seemed to be ‘cliquey’ and that you had to know the right people.

This upsets me because it wasn’t really made clear to others just how to start setting up their tents and I, personally, didn’t like the fact that these people were ready to set up camp and took would-be working hours from their day for this event and in the end, they didn’t feel confortable doing it. Somewhere along the line, something needs to happen to prevent this in future re-occupies because people are bound to run into people they know from original encampment and groups are bound to naturally re-occupy together.  Perhaps it is best to just encourage everyone more often to stay inclusive and, possibly, try to talk and be more open to others. The first day Occupy started, no one new each other but the next time around the re-occupation wont be the same way.

Marcos Horta

Wrench Blog: Matt

‘Matty Patty’s Angry Ranty’s’

For weeks now I’ve been struggling with writers block. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out a topic on what to write my first Media Wrench column on. I couldn’t choose between the omnibus crime bill, the budget cuts in our city, Toronto, SOPA(the internet copy-right bill) and the NDAA(National Defense Authorization Act) in the United States of America.  When it dawned on me that perhaps it shouldn’t be just one specific thing I decide to write on.

The big problem is government intervention and control in the daily and otherwise private lives of citizens around North America. What all of these bills have in common is that it gives the government, and the powers that influence the government through Super PAC’s and Wall Street, more and more power to impose what THEY think is best for our society. These bills and laws that are trying to come into practice all hide and garner under the pretense of keeping you safe from yourself, because to them it’s been proven that free speech and knowledge are dangerous tools for the common man to possess. From their perspective we have become unmanageable and these bills are here to support the small percentage of North Americans that possess power and wealth’s business models. To them you are either an asset, or a liability, not a person, not a beautiful mind that has creative ideas, that has different interests, that has something unique about them. You are a number/statistic in a corrupt system.

All these bills infringe and over-step boundaries on rights that were earned from our ancestors in the previous world wars, and the civil rights movements. These bills will reverse the sacrifices that our great grandparents made to ensure that we would never have to live in a world where control was in the hands of megalomaniacs that had a thirst for ultimate power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and if these bills gain more support within our already broken and unjust governments, this will give them the power to become undoubtedly more corrupt than let’s say they already are.  If we give them an inch with any of these bills, let it be certain that they will take 2 miles to lock in their power, and to gain complete control over our society. Some may argue that I am being a bit of an over-reactionary, and that I may even be called a chicken little. My response is how can someone say that when a bill that gives government and military the ability to detain “terrorists” and “political dissidents” without trial on the basis of national security has passed in the US? How is building super prisons, and giving lower jail time sentences to child molesters than to someone who indulges in marijuana not alarming, especially in a country like Canada? How is it that homosexuals from outside of our country, like thousands have in the past, have come to Canada as a safe haven to experience the same rights as straight people, suddenly have that right taken away without warning? How is a bill that promotes government regulation of the internet bettering a free and open society?

                It is alarming and frankly it’s worth the rant. It’s worth striking a conversation, debate, argument, or whatever form of intellectual contact you choose to use. In fact it should be encouraged, and you should be enraged and you should definitely talk about it, or express it in some way, but make sure you copyright it first, make sure you leave out any form of political commentary, and make sure that you support and follow your government without question. And Remember ████ everything ███ █████ is █████ ████ ████ fine. ████ ███ █ ██████ love █████ ██████ ███ your █████ ████ government.

Open Letter to Ontario Works

13/01/2012

Open Letter to Ontario Works,

The past two weeks have been unreasonably difficult for me, and this I owe to you, the Ontario Works system. In your records you will find: my student ID, my OHIP card, my SIN card, my complete bank records for the past 3 months, and a letter from my school stating both that I am myself, and that I have not received funding from the school. I am a person with a disability. The amount of trouble you have caused me, both psychological and physical, due your having denied me medicine for over a week is unacceptable. From the moment I walked into the office, I was treated like a criminal, guilty until proven otherwise. If providing two pieces of photo ID, as well as the other information requested aside from a birth certificate doesn’t logically prove my identity you have essentially claimed that I have commited fraud against all of the aforementioned institutions.

If this weren’t enough of a trial, then consider this: Last time I was in the office, when I first politely asked for my basic human needs (medicine, rent, and food) I was told I could not have anything, aside from a referral to a clinic that was open for 1 hour once a week, so that I might apply to them to apply to the ministry responsible for issuing birth certificates. This is unreasonable. I might have died waiting, and the effects of having been off my medication for as long as I was were extremely dangerous and unnecessary. When I then got upset, and demanded these rights, I was then given a cheque addressed to the minister of finance, an application, and a drug benefit card to deal with my most immediate needs, and I was told that your office could easily handle my application for a birth certificate. What I want to know, is what happens to all the most downtrodden, perhaps those who have poor English or limited rhetorical abilities? I can postulate: Those people are simply denied their rights. You are running this office like a business, instead of worrying about the welfare of the people you serve, you instead have concerned yourself only with the bottom line, and assumed all of your clients as criminals, willing to fraud a government institution, with absolutely no evidence or logical sense of propriety. What I want to know, is how does getting angry suddenly get me more of my basic rights than simply stating my situation? This is unacceptable in a country that prides itself on taking steps to ensure the worst off in our society are given a chance to succeed.

Your treatment of people under your care is absolutely shameful, and I hope this letter helps you to accept logic and reason into your doctrine, rather than simply following hardline procedure and cutting costs by delaying our rehabilitation to society. We are people, not machines, and every moment you cause us to waste our time dealing with acquiring basic support is a moment we cannot spend actually improving our situation. I speak for a great many people who cannot speak for themselves.

Concerned Canadian,

Kristopher W Harrison

The London Riots as a Signifier of Change

By: Kevin

2011 was the year of the protestor. Most people remember the protests in Egypt and the Arab Spring, which saw millions of people stand up for their rights and demand social justice. And for most, the Occupy movment is still fresh in our memories, with a strong base of support still operating and growing every day. But one protest hasn’t really been talked about as much, and that is the London Riots which happened in August. Many people shrugged off these protests as mindless violence. British Prime Minister David Cameron called it “criminality pure and simple.”

But the events that happened in England, specifically since the coalition government took over, give an idea of what is going on in England. One of the big problems, as in many other countries, is the massive chasm that exists between England’s rich and poor. According to the Guardian “the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest. With personal debt being pushed as the only way to keep the economy afloat, the average household debt has been skyrocketing for years. Add to this the brutal cuts to government services and people can’t afford to live anymore.

There’s also a lot of mistrust for the Metropolitan Police. Everyone can trace the first riot to the shooting of Mark Duggan, but police mistreatment has been happening since long before that. The Metropolitan Police have an unfortunate habit of mistreating ordinary Londoners, especially those of black and minority backgrounds. The IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) also opts to protect police rather than convict those guilty of wrongdoing. Of the 333 deaths in police custody since 1998, no police officers have ever been charged. 

It’s this severe inequality and mistrust that played a part in the uprisings throughout England. It’s no surprise that when citizens, already struggling to survive as it is, were confronted with an injustice like the death of Mark Duggan, their patience failed. England needs change. They’re unhappy with living in poverty, unhappy with their coalition government, unhappy with high unemployment and unhappy with discrimination by police officers. These are people for whom regular political discourse and outreach has failed. Everything that happened in England with the riots, and currently with Occupy London, is a desperate attempt by the people to have their voices heard.

But there were lots of people who used these events for their own good. People were running through the streets who didn’t care about any of the issues. They were there to rob and loot and assault anyone they please. The BBC showed lots of footage of rioters saying they were doing it all because they can and they’d do it until someone stopped them. Who knows, for a lot of people involved, robbing a store or assaulting a police officer could have been the first time they felt empowered in their lives. The issues still come out, even if rioters didn’t know it.

I definitely don’t support violent protesting/rioting/looting/whatever else went on in England. I support peaceful non-cooperation, peaceful protest. It’s the right of every citizen to protest when their government isn’t representing them properly. But this kind of violence, even though its wrong, speaks to the severity of the issues the country has to deal with. And this is just one example. These sorts of problems exist all over the world, and I think that is why we’ve seen such an outpouring of support for the Occupy Movement. But the London Riots in August stand as an example of a time when people reached a tipping point. And its important to not forget that and constantly strive to be the change we wish to see in our world, lest we end up in the same situation again.