SG Radio feat Jason Leopold, Brian Knappenberger and David Seaman
Nov 2013 20

SG Radio feat Jason Leopold, Brian Knappenberger and David Seaman  

Posted In Activism,All Things SG,Blog,Politics,SG Radio

by Blogbot

This Thursday, November 21st on SuicideGirls Radio, hosts Nicole Powers and Juturna Suicide will be joined in studio by investigative reporter Jason Leopold, documentary filmmaker Brian Knappenberger, and SG political correspondent David Seaman.

In the first hour of the show we’ll be getting the inside scoop on Jason Leopold’s series of stories for Al Jazeera based upon the secret diaries of Guantanamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah (see part one, two, and three). Zubaydah, who is a Saudi Arabian citizen, was the first high value detainee captured after 9/11. He was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002, and, as a guinea pig for George Bush’s torture program, was waterboarded 83 times.

During the second hour we’ll be exploring the case of Jeremy Hammond, a hacktivist who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in a New York court last week. We’ll be chatting to those familiar with the case, including Rachel Allshiny, who has provided prison support to Jeremy since his arrest in March of 1012, and popular Blog Talk Radio host and twilebrity Vince Tocce aka VinceInTheBay, who provided compelling victim testimony during last Friday’s court hearing.

You can listen – and watch – the world’s leading naked radio show live on Thursday nights from 6 til 8 PM at our new state-of-the-art all digital home: TradioV.com.

You’ll also be able to listen to our podcasts via Stitcherdownload the app now!

If you have questions for the SG Radio crew or our guests, you can call in during the live broadcast at: 1-855-TRV-inLA (1-855-878-4652)

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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About Jason Leopold | @JasonLeopold

Jason Leopold is an investigative reporter covering Guantanamo, counterterrorism, national security, human rights, open government and civil liberties issues. He’s been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which included suing the FBI and forcing the agency to changes its policies. He is currently a contributing editor for Al Jazeera and is the recipient of a Freedom of Press Foundation grant. He’s the author of the national bestseller, News Junkie, and an investigative report, From Hopeful to Immigrant to FBI Informant: The Inside Story of the Other Abu Zubaidah, which was published in the form of an ebook. Leopold’s investigative reporting highlights includes “Revised Guantanamo Force-Feed Policy Exposed,” a story based on a military document he exclusively obtained, and “Sold Into ‘A Piece of Hell’: A Death of Innocence at Gitmo,” about the suspicious death in September 2012 of prisoner Adnan Latif. A radio documentary about Leopold’s life, based on his book News Junkie, was broadcast by the award-winning podcast, Love + Radio and featured on NPR.

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About Brian Knappenberger | @knappB

Brian Knappenberger is perhaps best known in the online community as the director of We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists. His latest project, The Internet’s Own Boy, follows internet activist and programming pioneer Aaron Swartz from his teenage emergence on the internet scene and involvement in RSS and Reddit, to his increased interest in political advocacy and the controversial actions he allegedly took in downloading nearly four million academic articles from the online service JSTOR. The film, which is currently in production, explores Aaron’s arrest, the prosecution’s tactics in bringing the case to trial through the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the impact a seemingly small hacking gesture had on Aaron’s life and the future of information access on the internet.

For more information visit: aaronswartzthedocumentary.com/

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About David Seaman | @d_seaman

David Seaman is an independent journalist. He has been a lively guest on CNN Headline News, FOX News, ABC News Digital, among others, and on his humble YouTube channel, DavidSeamanOnline. Some say he was recently censored by a certain large media corporation for posting a little too much truth… Catch Seaman’s podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher and his brand new crowd-funded show on YouTube.

David has just released a new digital minibook called All Your Favorite Conspiracy Theories Are Wrong, which you can download for $3 via Amazon. It’s a light, high-impact read full of unusual musings, inquisitive gems, and “haven’t you ever wondered” commonalities that will get you excited about being in the human race again. “It’s highly concentrated dishwasher liquid for your mind,” says David, who is known for his sparkling brain cells and remarkably soft hands!

For more on David, visit DavidSeaman.net and follow him on G+ and Twitter.

**UPDATE**

ICYMI: Last night’s show feat. Jason Leopold, Brian Knappenberger and David Seaman + Andy Stepanian, Rachel Allshiny and VinceInTheBay can be viewed HERE.

Peace, Love, and Pepper Spray
Nov 2013 14

Peace, Love, and Pepper Spray  

Posted In Activism,Blog,Books,Entertainment,Favorites,Politics

by Nicole Powers

Having spent quality time at Occupations in Los Angeles, New York, London and Chicago, about a year ago I received a phone call from my friend – Emmy Award winning former CNN journalist Amber Lyon – asking for help with a book on contemporary protest she was working on.

“Come over for a day and write a few captions,” she said. I didn’t see the light of day for nearly a week. The result of the time served at “Camp Lyon” – as me and my fellow detainee/ PL&PS contributor Dell Cameron jokingly called it – is the just-released coffee table book, Peace, Love, and Pepper Spray.

With a Forward by David Lifton on the history of protest, the book chronicles the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the new wave of protest it inspired. It also vividly shows the state’s all too often brutal response to it, and the increasing militarization of our nation’s police.

Over the course of 12 chapters and 200+ pages, through images and commentary, the book highlights key events, such as the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia and the alternative “No Nato” Summit in Chicago, and actions like those conducted to halt the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The work of groups such as the Overpass Light Brigade, Code Pink, and Anonymous is also explored.

In addition, the book features shocking first hand accounts from the frontlines from Lyon (in the Introduction) and journalist John Knefel (My State-Sponsored Assault Courtesy of the NYPD), and an essay on online protest by academic and author Gabriella Coleman (The Ethics of Digital Direct Action).

“One thing’s for sure, protest in America will never be the same,” writes Lyon. “I only hope that the threat of pepper spray will never prevail over the voice of the American people.”

For more information on the book and where to purchase it visit: peaceloveandpepperspray.com/.

**UPDATE**

Watch Amber Lyon talk Peace, Love and Pepper Spray on SG Radio with host Nicole Powers, popular blogger and radio personality Brad Friedman, SG political correspondent David Seaman, and Strike Debt’s Alexis Goldstein.

SG Radio feat. Amber Lyon, Brad Friedman, and David Seaman
Nov 2013 12

SG Radio feat. Amber Lyon, Brad Friedman, and David Seaman  

Posted In Activism,All Things SG,Blog,Politics,SG Radio

by Blogbot

This Thursday, November 14th on SuicideGirls Radio, hosts Nicole Powers and Juturna Suicide will be joined in studio by three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Amber Lyon, popular blogger and radio personality Brad Friedman, and SG political correspondent David Seaman.

You can listen – and watch – the world’s leading naked radio show live on Thursday nights from 6 til 8 PM at our new state-of-the-art all digital home: TradioV.com/LA.

If you have questions for the SG Radio crew or our guests, you can call in during the live broadcast at: 1-855-TRV-inLA (1-855-878-4652)

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

**UPDATE**

ICYMI: Last night’s awesome episode of SG Radio feat. three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist Amber Lyon, popular blogger and radio personality Brad Friedman, SG political correspondent David Seaman, and Strike Debt’s Alexis Goldstein can be viewed HERE.

[Keep Reading...]

Julia O’Dwyer – Hacking Politics
Nov 2013 11

Julia O’Dwyer – Hacking Politics  

Posted In Activism,Blog,Books,Entertainment,Favorites,Geek,Internuts,Interviews,Politics

by Nicole Powers

The following interview was conducted in November 2012 for the book Hacking Politics: How Geeks, Progressives, The Tea Party, Gamers, Anarchists and Suits Teamed up to Defeat SOPA and Save the Internet. Compiled by Demand Progress, Hacking Politics is a firsthand account of how a ragtag band of activists and technologists overcame a $90 million lobbying machine to defeat the most serious threat to Internet freedom in memory. It features contributions from Aaron Swartz, Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, Ron Paul, Kim Dotcom, and many more, and is available now via Tor Books.

Anyone who’s ever posted a link online without thoroughly investigating its providence should be concerned about the fate of a British student who is facing extradition and a ten year prison sentence in America – despite the fact that the crimes US prosecutors allege he is guilty of were not committed on US soil or servers and are not considered by experts to be against the law in the UK.

Richard O’Dwyer, a 24-year old from Chesterfield, England, founded TVShack.net in December 2007 while studying for a degree in computer science at Sheffield Hallam University. The site, which O’Dwyer started as a hobby, was essentially a boutique, entertainment-orientated search engine, which provided users with links to streaming movies, TV shows, documentaries, anime and music. TVShack.net hosted no content on its servers, it merely pointed users in the direction of third party sites that did.

Without warning, on June 30, 2010, the TVShack.net domain was seized by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] and a boilerplate copyright notice was posted on the site. Since Richard wasn’t operating from within the US, he wasn’t alarmed by this setback. Unperturbed, he switched over to TVShack.cc – a Top Level Domain based in the Cocos Islands (an Australian territory) – and soon had the website back up and running.

Richard continued to run TVShack.cc unimpeded, until one day when he got a rather unexpected knock at the door. The very long arm of the law, in the form of two American ICE officers, had come a calling at his university accommodation in the North of England, accompanied by an escort of Her Majesty’s boys in blue. Richard was arrested, but the investigation in the UK was subsequently dropped.

However, the Southern District Court in New York is attempting to prosecute Richard on one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and one count of criminal infringement of copyright. The application of existing intellectual property law in this way stretches it far beyond the boundaries – and borders – that lawmakers could possibly have originally envisioned. Furthermore, the US Government’s determination to prosecute this test case – at the MPAA’s behest – is chilling when you consider how it may affect the very fabric of the web.

Even though Richard has committed no crimes that the British legal system is remotely interested in prosecuting, on January 13, 2012, a UK magistrate ruled that Richard could be extradited to America to face charges there. The judge was acting under the auspices of the highly contentious Extradition Act of 2003, a lopsided piece of legislation that was drafted in the wake of 9/11 and was sold to the public as an anti-terrorism measure.

Richard, and his mother Julia, a National Health Service nurse, are currently in the process of appealing this autocratic extradition ruling. As the legal process sluggishly moves towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion – since very few extradition requests from the US are declined – Richard is attempting to keep his head focused on his studies and his e-books. I therefore spoke with Julia, who has been spearheading the fight to keep Richard in the UK, about her son’s situation and the implications it could have for all webmasters and denizens of the net.

Nicole Powers: Were you aware at the time that Richard was doing this website?

Julia O’Dwyer: Well I knew he had a website, but he was at university. He wasn’t actually living at home all the time, so I wouldn’t be seeing him working on it that often because he wasn’t here. He would come home every few weeks or at the end of the university term. I knew he’d got a website. I didn’t really know the details of it…He did the website as a hobby. That’s all it was. One of his mates made a suggestion to him and he said, “Alright, I’ll do that.” So he did it.

NP: Had your son ever been in trouble before?

JD: No, no, never.

NP: When did you first realize something was wrong?

JD: I think it was in the summer of 2010. He was actually at home because it was the college holidays. I remember him saying, “Somebody’s taken down my website.” He was here in the room with me and he was like muttering away [saying], “Well, I’ll fix that.” America had put on this big red banner that is still on the website onto his original domain name, so he just fixed it and got it up and running on a new domain name. I can remember him saying, “America has nothing to do with me.” That was the end of it. He had it fixed and up and running again within a day or two.

NP: I’ve seen the banner. It just looks like one of those standard notices that you see and ignore at the start of a DVD. Aside from that, at the time, did anyone from the US government contact him?

JD: Nobody had contacted him at all. He’d said he’d had a couple of take down requests, which were not correctly formatted, so that meant he couldn’t find the links that they were trying to refer to. He had a take down request to remove a link from a British film company, and he complied with that request. But apart from those, there was no correspondence or communication from anybody in America to Richard about his website. All his mail would come to this address. When he’s at university, because he changes accommodation every year on the course, he always gives his home address as his mailing address. I know that nothing came here because I always open the mail in case there’s anything urgent…So I can safely say that no correspondence came to this address, and they did have this address because his domain was registered in his name with his home address. After they took down his first domain name in July we never heard anything from anybody until the police arrived in November wanting to question him about his website…That very same day he closed down the domain name and any of his email addresses that were associated with that website

NP: So before the police knocked on his door, he had no way of really knowing what he’d done wrong.

JD: I think he just thought, well I’m not in America; I’m not subject to the laws of America. That’s how he would think. That’s why he said, “They’re nothing to do with me, so I’ll fix it.” Which he did. Then they didn’t like that so they came after him.

NP: Where was he when the police arrived?

JD: He was in Sheffield at his student accommodation. It was early in the morning. He was just getting ready to go to classes and some police knocked on his door…There was police from the City of London, and two American agents. We assume it was ICE agents. They weren’t present when Richard was being questioned. I don’t know why they were there, but they didn’t come in on any of the questioning.

NP: So they took him down to the police station.

JD: In Sheffield, yes.

NP: I was watching an interview that Richard did with The Guardian in which he talked about how he asked if he should have a solicitor present and they brushed him off by saying it’d take too long.

JD: Yeah…They said to him it’s going to take a few hours to get one here. Because they said that, and because he had no previous dealings with the police, he didn’t ask for a solicitor. And he wanted to get to his classes. He didn’t want to be late.

NP: What’s your understanding of what was said during the questioning?

JD: Well I have the transcript of the police interview…It wasn’t a long interview. It was about 40 minutes…[They said] they were arresting him under copyright, designs and patents offenses. They said the website is streaming films and TV, and that’s infringing copyright legislation, so therefore the money you’re making is effectively money laundering; it’s the proceeds of your criminal activity.That’s why you’re being arrested. They asked him about the website, when he made it. They asked him did anybody else help him with the website. They asked him about how he managed the website, and if he generated an income from it. They asked him how it technically worked. It was just links on the website, there was no copyrighted content…They asked him how people would go on it, select a link, would be directed to Youtube or some other video sites. They asked him about how it gained popularity…They asked him more technical stuff about the website, where the servers were. No servers were in America. He told them it was all his own work, nobody helped him. He did it as a hobby. That’s about it really…He was actually in tears for most of the interview. I didn’t find that out until I got this transcript. I was a bit annoyed about that.

NP: How old was he at this time?

JD: He was questioned in 2010, so he was 22…The police were also here at my house at the same time questioning me. They probably had this address down for Richard as well you see.

NP: So simultaneously to the police knocking on Richard’s door at his digs they’re knocking on your door?

JD: Yes…Same time, early in the morning. I wasn’t going to work that day because we had the joiners here. They were taking out the staircase and putting new stairs in. They came and I was really worried and thought Richard had been in an accident. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw these police. It was about half 6 or 7 in the morning. It was dark. Anyway, they said they wanted to speak to me about a website that Richard had.

NP: Under what circumstances did Richard finally get released?

JD: When they finished questioning me I just sent him a text telling him to come home or he texted me and said he was coming home, and so he did. Nobody mentioned extradition at this point. That wasn’t even something that entered our minds. So I just said, “Don’t worry about it, Richard. We’ll get a solicitor, we’ll sort it all out.” He was told that he was on bail and that he would have to go back to the City of London Police Station, which is where those police came from, six months later, which he did. We both went there.

NP: What happened when you went down to London six months later in May of 2011?

JD: It was just to go to the police station to answer to the bail. Richard by now had got a solicitor who also knew nothing about extradition. He got us somebody to meet Richard at the police station…He went in with Richard, and then quickly came out and said the criminal investigation in the UK had been dropped. I felt an immediate sigh of relief, but then in the next sentence he said, but we’ve got this extradition warrant instead, and we have to go straight to the courts. That happened quickly. Richard was put straight into a police car and taken to the court. I had to go and find my way to the court, and that’s the first we heard about the mention of extradition.

NP: So with no warning, all of a sudden you’re in a UK court fighting extradition.

JD: Yes. Richard was put straight into a cell at the police station. He was locked up. I had to make my way there and the lawyer said that a barrister would meet me there…I had to be there for 2 and I don’t think the barrister came ‘til about 4. Richard was locked up all this time so I couldn’t have any contact with him.

NP: I’m guessing your lawyer would have had to scrabble around to find a barrister because he didn’t even know he was going to need one.

JD: Exactly, yes. While Richard was locked up and I was waiting to go to into this court, loads of people were there waiting for the same purpose, not to go America but to Europe…I went into the court to wait Richard’s turn. They just keep coming in, one after the other…they were all just being processed through…And I was just thinking, oh my God, this is going to happen to Richard next. We didn’t get any information. Nobody gave us a leaflet about what happens if you’re given an extradition warrant. I only knew what I could see going on there. The fact was everybody was getting their extradition requests rubber-stamped.

When Richard came into the court there was a prosecutor there for America and this barrister that we had. Of course, she knew nothing either. Nobody knew about the case because we didn’t know there was a case. The prosecutors wanted Richard to be kept in prison, so they were arguing for that. It was really terrifying because they were so nasty. Because Richard had got exams the following week, and we’d told all this to the barrister woman. She managed to get bail for Richard, but he had to go in prison overnight because they wanted his passport. We didn’t go to London with a passport, it was here at home, and they wanted some cash as well. Then it was 5 o’clock, and the court was closing. We couldn’t physically get the money and get the passport by 5 o’ clock when we didn’t even go into the court until 4, so Richard had to go to Wandsworth Prison. Luckily my sister lives in London so I was able to give her a call. I went to her house and then the next day we got the money and I phoned home and got my partner to get the passport. None of it was straightforward.

NP: I can imagine; Chesterfield’s 150 miles away from London.

JD: You have to take the passport to a local police station, and they have to contact the prison. But the trouble is I was trying to do this at 5 o’ clock after Richard had gone off to Wandsworth Prison. They make them sit in a van for hours outside, they take hours to process them into the prison, and until they’re actually processed into the prison and moved onto their computer system, they wouldn’t accept the passport. My partner…he was in Worksop [a town 16 miles from Chesterfield] at the time, and the police were like, “We don’t know how to do this. We can’t take your passport.” It was just hopeless, the whole thing. But by the next day, we got that sorted, and he was able to come out in the afternoon.

The other thing was they didn’t know what bail conditions to impose on him. The judge was like, “We’ve got the money, we’ve got the passport, what else can we do to him?” The barrister said we could say that he mustn’t access the internet, but then the judge was saying he’s got exams the next week, he’s at university, so we can’t do that, can we? And how could we police that anyway, he could just go in an internet café. So Richard had to tap on the glass, because he was behind this glass wall in the court, to get somebody to come over so that he could make suggestions to them about his bail. He just said, “You could tell me not to access the TV Shack website” – which he’d already taken down anyway – and “You could tell me not to buy any new domain names.” So he chose his own bail restrictions because they didn’t know what to do. It was funny. Well it would have been funny if it hadn’t been so frightening.

NP: So now he’s back studying at university and you’re fighting extradition, which is just a ridiculous thing because he’s not committed any crime that anyone’s interested in prosecuting him for in the UK, and it’s arguable that he’s committed no crime at all.

JD: Yes, that’s right. He never went to America. America is claiming jurisdiction over somebody who has never set foot in their country. They don’t allow it to happen to their own citizens. We can’t do it to them. I have a freedom of information request which shows that not one American has ever been extradited to the UK for something that they’d done in America. And the UK has never asked for an extradition of an American for something that they’ve done in America. So it’s mad.

NP: What’s the process to fight the extradition? And where are you at with it right now?

JD: Well we’ve just received a date for the appeal in December…The main argument is that Richard’s website operated in the same way as the TV Links website…and the TV Links case was thrown out of court. It was dismissed…It was thrown out because they said that linking to any content is not a crime basically.

NP: As I understand it, they were claiming the difference with Richard’s case was that he was curating content?

JD: No, they didn’t say that actually. In fact it was quite a cock up at the court…We had a few hearings where we presented the arguments through October and November of 2011…In order to be extradited the alleged crime must be a crime in both countries. We were trying to prove that it is not a crime in the UK. If we had won that argument, then Richard couldn’t be extradited. At that court hearing the judge was saying yes, you’ve got a good, strong argument. And so was the prosecutor. We had another hearing booked, because there’s other arguments that you put forward like human rights…

The next court appearance, the night before we were going to London we got a late submission from the other side. When you get a document through, you have to read it and you’re meant to rebut it, provide a response. But it came to us at something like 7 o’ clock at night; we were going to get on a train at 5 in the morning. Normally we would look at these documents for a week or so and with the solicitor write a response. I was really cross about this…I just sent a bit of a ranty email saying, “Why are we getting this crap? It’s full of inaccuracies. The prosecution clearly don’t have the technical knowledge to understand what it’s all about.”

The next morning, we got to London, I was still mad about this, because we had to do a very quick response to it. The barrister came and he said, “Oh, I’ve sent your email to the prosecution barrister, and he’s decided not to submit that document.” It was rubbish anyway. We weren’t afraid for him to submit it, just annoyed that it was sent so late. But he’d decided not to [submit it]. Because of that, the barrister said let’s leave it now as we left it last time, which is when the judge said we’ve got a good strong argument. We still had some other material to send in, but he said let’s leave it. I didn’t want to leave it. I wanted to carry on because I wanted it done good and proper, so that they wouldn’t be able to come back. But because he felt that the judge and the prosecutor were agreeing that we had a good argument, he thought we would win it, so we didn’t then submit this extra stuff…But then it all changed. Six weeks later the judge changed his mind. So we have to appeal against that decision, and this is the date that we’re waiting for, the appeal.

NP: I presume this is all costing an incredible amount of time and money…

JD: Well Richard has legal aid, because he’s a student, so we don’t have to pay legal costs. We’ve had to pay for a couple of things, like we had a video made to explain to the judge how linking works. Because you get judges who are not technically literate…There’s been the costs associated with traveling up and down to London quite a lot. That’s expensive.

NP: And I understand that you had to temporarily give up work.

JD: Yes, I was off work for about six months as soon as this started happening.

NP: This is so chilling, because what Richard’s done, putting links on a website, if America is successful in this case, the way it could be extrapolated will mean that virtually anyone that’s ever put a website up could be extradited and/or subject to similar prosecution.

JD: I’ve checked the American Department of Justice website, I’ve checked ICE’s website, I’ve checked the British Home Office website, they all have links on, and what do they say? We are not responsible for any content on any third party links…which is what Richard said on his website. Because when you go to a link on somebody’s website, you leave that website and go to elsewhere – don’t you? You don’t stay on that website. The content that you link to isn’t on your website. It’s like if you have an email that somebody sends you with a link on, if you click on the link, you get sent somewhere else. It’s not lodging on your email is it? So yes, it’s worrying, isn’t it, certainly?

NP: Do you have a sense that what you’re fighting isn’t just for Richard? It’s for thousands of people just like Richard, and also for sanity to reign on the internet.

JD: I’ve had to educate myself more about the internet and about extradition law as well. In the course of that I found out all about SOPA and PIPA and all that. So, yes, it is a very important issue isn’t it? And I think you’re right by saying if this is allowed to happen, then there are implications for many others worldwide, and for the internet. So yeah, it’s very important, but obviously I do have to put Richard first. He’s only a little fish really. I’m sure they’ve got bigger fish to fry than a little lad from Derbyshire.

NP: The US Government has virtually unlimited resources, so to drag a 22-year student through the courts like this, it feels like they’re choosing a test case that they thought would be easy pickings.

JD: Well this happened when they were doing this big clamp down called “Operation in our Sites” in America. I only know this now, afterwards…They seized several domain names on that same day, the 29th of November, 2010. After this had all happened, after the police came here, we received through the post documents about the domain name seizure. It wasn’t just a document about Richard’s website, it was a big document where all these other websites were listed as well. It was like a group thing, and it showed the addresses of the owners of all the websites. Richard’s was the only one that had his name and address at the side of it. All of the others had post office box numbers. So in that group, he was easy because they had his name and address, whereas the others, they didn’t. Because Richard did it as a hobby, he wasn’t thinking he needed to conceal anything….If it was criminal, he wouldn’t put his name and address on it would he?

NP: It’s also chilling that the website was seized first and questions were asked later. It was seized and shut down without any due process. They wouldn’t do that to a terrestrial business.

JD: Well he wasn’t running it as a business. It was a hobby. He did make money out of it, but he didn’t set out to make money from it. The ad companies approached him. He didn’t go looking to make money. When the advertising companies, who by the way were American, approached him, he just thought, “Yeah, that will be all right. It will pay for my servers and stuff.” He didn’t think it was going to grow into this massively popular website – that just happened by the fact of how the Internet works and how things spread. He never set out to make money from it at all. So yes, they did, they seized the domain with no due process.

NP: Basically it would be the equivalent of seizing a shop and all its contents and closing it down without so much as a court hearing, or even a formal mailed warning.

JD: No warning, no take down notice. I mean when these documents came…eventually, we got one saying if you want to show any interest in this domain name you’ll have to come over here. He just signed to say he wasn’t interested in it because we obviously didn’t want to go over there. But yes, no warnings, no takedown, just that banner slapped on his domain…No correspondence, no communication about takedowns or anything.

NP: Again, this is worrying for anyone who run a website anywhere in the world. If you apply the precedent America is attempting to set, other countries could start doing the same with the various other national domains, and any online business that falls in the sights of a government agency can just be taken down without any due process and people’s livelihoods ruined.

JD: Yes, I mean they have been doing that, haven’t they? I know they have. I’ve been watching. There have been lots of domain seizures and I’ve seen people having to go to court to get their domains back.

NP: How let down do you feel by the UK government? Because they don’t seem to be standing by their own citizen – which is unconscionable when you consider Richard hasn’t done any crime that any English court is remotely interested in prosecuting.

JD: Very let down. But I’m not the only one in that position. They’re just following the law that the previous government created. That’s what I’m doing as well, campaigning for that law to be changed…I thought extradition was for fugitives, people who had gone to America, committed a crime, and then ran away. That’s what a fugitive is. Not to go and get somebody who’s never set foot in America, which is what they’re doing. America can do that because the British side of the extradition law allows them to. They protect their own citizens in America; the UK does not. If an American was to be requested to be extradited to this country, they would have the right to a proper hearing and bit of a trial beforehand…The government, they’ve done nothing…There’s a few good MP’s who are fighting for reform, and they have been very good. But, historically, nobody wins this fight because the British government and the judiciary have got an obligation to stand by their extradition arrangements with America.

NP: Which are one-sided.

JD: Which are lopsided, yes.

NP: How can people help Richard?

JD: Well we’ve really had loads of support. Richard keeps out of the way mostly. I just wanted him to make sure that he continued his university courses and that that wasn’t going to be disrupted. He is doing that; he’s on his final year now.

There’s a few other people in the same position, and people that have been extradited and come back. We’re all working together lobbying the MP’s and getting plenty of stories into the media. A friend has launched a fighting fund recently, we’re just trying to get some money together…I have had lots of offers through Twitter from American lawyers who have said don’t worry, there’s loads of people here who would take this case for free. I’m not worried about that, but I am worried about other costs that might appear if we have to go there.

If you get extradited, you are put straight into a Federal prison in America, because they consider that you’re a flight risk – even though they take your passport. You are taken straight to a Federal prison and you have to fight then to get bail. And if you haven’t got an address in America, somewhere to live, then you’re not going to get bail. And if you don’t get bail, they leave you there to stew in until they are ready for a trial. Part of the rationale for doing that…Well firstly, they’re not ready for a trial, and secondly, they leave you in prison until you get so fed up and want to go home that you agree to a plea bargain. That’s how they resolve 97 percent of their cases in America. Also, if they did grant him bail, they’d want a load of money. So it’s going to be costly enough going to America, because if Richard goes to America I’m going to be going there…I’m just trying to anticipate and plan ahead really…If you fail your appeal, they don’t give you long before they take you. You can be gone within two weeks.

NP: I cannot imagine what you’ve been through and how much of a shock this must be.

JD: It was terrifying at the beginning…I’ve got a bit used to it now because I’ve spent the last six months of my life on the internet finding out more, finding out about copyright law in America, about copyright law in the UK, finding out about the extradition law.

NP: It’s just staggering, the fact that lobbying by bodies such as the RIAA and MPAA have turned something that would otherwise be a civil matter into a criminal one.

JD: Yes. They buy what they want, don’t they, from the government, from the law enforcement agencies by lobbying and stuff. It’s legalized bribery, isn’t it? And they have got people working for them that used to work for the Department of Justice and vice-versa. It’s all a bit incestuous that relationship between America’s law enforcement agencies and the MPAA. I’m not saying that people should commit copyright infringement, but that organization, those industries need to move with the times…Richard in one of his Guardian interviews said there’s nothing better than watching a movie at the cinema. He has always been a big cinemagoer. He still is. He was there yesterday. He goes there as often as he can. He loves movies. Yes, he’ll watch movies on his computer, but if he wants to see a movie proper, he’ll go out to cinema like everybody else does.

NP: People may think that this is never going to affect them, that this is some arcane copyright infringement case. But if they can go after Richard. they can go after anyone with a WordPress blog. No one is safe.

JD: That’s right. I mean, what is Richard to them? He’s just a little nobody in England. He’s nothing really. Why pick on him? He’s small fry…It’s not even clear that Richard has broken a law in America. It’s questionable whether he’s broken one in the UK. But you see you just get shipped over there and you have to fight that in a court.

NP: In effect, it’s guilty until proven innocent.

JD: That’s the way he’s being treated. Because extradition is another punishment, which is given to you before you’ve even had a chance to go into a court to defend yourself. Putting you and your family through this whole process, and then taking you to America and putting you in jail when you haven’t even been found guilty of anything…And just for something like this. He’s not a murderer or a rapist or terrorist or anything.

A month after this interview was conducted, in December 2012, Richard O’Dwyer’s ordeal came to an end when a settlement deal was reached. O’Dwyer traveled to the U.S. voluntarily to appear in a New York court and signed a deferred prosecution agreement. Under its terms, he agreed not to break any U.S. laws and was ordered to pay a £20,000 fine. As long as he complies with this agreement, the extradition request will be dropped.

Red, White and Femme: Don’t You Know That It’s Different For Boys
Nov 2013 05

Red, White and Femme: Don’t You Know That It’s Different For Boys  

Posted In Activism,Blog,Books,Entertainment,Feminism,Interviews,Love,Politics,Relationships,Sex,Society

Masterminds & Wingmen Author Rosalind Wiseman Talks Hooking Up, Raising Better Boys and How To Deal With Cyber Bullies

by Darrah de jour

Masterminds & Wingmen from James M. Edwards on Vimeo.

Author Rosalind Wiseman’s bestselling book Queen Bees & Wannabes was the inspiration for the film Mean Girls,Tina Fey’s hilarious and dead-on satire of high school hierarchies. Back when Lindsay Lohan could sincerely portray a wide-eyed new girl on campus, we all related as she struggled to fit in, be herself, and decode the oft confusing and conniving girl world. In Wiseman’s latest work, she turns her attention to boys; breaking the guy code for parents, educators and young men themselves. With suicide and incarceration rates of boys averaging five to eight times those of girls, this boy bible is needed more than ever. Revealing their capacity for deep emotional life, Wiseman, a foremost anti-bullying activist, offers an important foundation to better understand and communicate with today’s boys.

Darrah de jour: How did you get started as an educator and social justice advocate?

Rosalind Wiseman: Strangely enough, I started by teaching self defense to girls, shortly after I graduated from college. I fell into it, and started a non-profit. I very quickly got to a place of wanting to address the root causes of violence. I went into where girls and boys were and I ran a non-profit for about ten years. I wrote a curricula for social competence, bullying prevention, media literacy and ethical leadership that’s used in many schools and organizations to this day.

DDJ: I remember taking self defense and it had such a powerful effect on me. It even changed my dreams.

RW: Yes, makes sense to me. It’s so fundamental [to] our sense of power and self agency over our bodies. So, if we change that, and feel better about it, it really changes the way we walk through the world.

DDJ: Something particularly unique about your method of relating to teens is that you provide a safe space for them to share their stories and feelings. I remember after the Columbine shooting, when asked what he’d say to the shooters, Marilyn Manson famously replied, “I wouldn’t say anything. I’d listen to them. Which nobody else did.” What drew you to working with tweens and teens –– especially with relation to hot topics like bullying, self-esteem and cliques?

RW: This has been the only job I’ve ever had. I graduated from college and started working on these issues. Very quickly, as a young person in her early 20s, I was struck by how many adults were giving advice but weren’t listening to the kids. So the advice was not helpful. It was not reflective of what the kids were going through. It could be very patronizing. It’s an amazing thing to have to listen to advice from somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. And if you try and argue or present a different point of view it’s perceived by some adults as being disrespectful. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand that we were teaching children but we were not doing our due diligence to present them with the best information possible. That included listening to them.

The other thing was that I was very concerned… I mean, we can tell people that they have the right to do something, but they have to be able to back up that right and navigate and advocate for themselves with really concrete skills. I was very focused on [the fact] that there were some kids that were above the law. Both boys and girls. They felt like they could do what they wanted with kids that didn’t have that kind of power. I wanted to be able to address those kinds of problems. If we had a chance of wanting school to be a safe place then we needed to address those problems.

DDJ: Absolutely. I grew up with a very dominant father who had an affinity for giving advice to me that was from left field. If I argued –– even if I was trying to connect — it was seen as disrespectful.

RW: When you have a parent who sees that kind of stuff as talking back, the kid develops two responses. One is that they learn to dominate like their parent did and that their opinion matters more than other people’s, or they learn to not advocate for themselves. Becoming an adult [for them] is learning to advocate for themselves, which is really tough stuff. If you talk about boys, you have so much cultural conditioning to take it, suck it up and deal. And then you feel incredibly lonely and you feel incredibly angry. And boys have such scripted rules on how they can express their anger. They sit on it, or they drink themselves into oblivion, or they punch a wall, or they go after somebody. It’s not fair. This is so fixable.

DDJ: You’ve written about the differences in “hooking up” and “hook up culture” between boys and girls. Can you outline some of the ways that hooking up affects girls and boys differently?

RW: First of all, hooking up means different things to different kids, and that’s totally fine. One of the things that really struck me when I was working with adult people, older people, was when we were talking about hooking up and I was talking about how a boy will feel really betrayed when he’s hooking up with a girlfriend or a girl he’s been hooking up with for a while, and then she hooks up with a couple of other boys and he finds out about it… the answer back was, ‘Did they have sex or did they not have sex? Did they have intercourse?’ I was like, ‘You don’t get it. That’s not the point.’ The point is that the boy felt betrayed. However he defines hooking up, it doesn’t matter. This whole thing that if you have sexual intercourse then it means more, or maybe a better way of saying it is, everything else doesn’t matter is totally ridiculous. It absolutely dismisses that person’s opinion or emotional reaction to the betrayal. So, here you have this 16-year-old boy who has a girl who messed around with him and three different guys and he has the right to be upset about this. Regardless of whether or not this girl had sex with these three other boys. That is a generational shift that is huge. So, you’ve got statistics that say teen pregnancy is down, rates of sexual intercourse are later, but I think –– and I think this is positive for the majority of kids –– that they talk about sex more easily with each other. As a boy, you know that a girl you’re hooking up with could hook up with someone else. And based on her social status, frankly –– and this is where the problem is –– she’s either gonna be able to hook up with whoever she wants and have no social consequences whatsoever or her social status will increase. Or, if she has low social status, then she will be really vulnerable to being attacked and dismissed, ridiculed and degraded as being a whore or a slut.

The majority of boys want to have sex, they want to hook up with people, but at the same time, just like girls –– you know girls want to hook up, have sex, mess around and not have responsibility, but those same people, the next day, might want something that’s really emotionally engaged.

DDJ: Is hooking up ever a good thing?

RW: I want teenagers to be able to come into their own sexuality in a sex positive way. The only way to do that is for young people to understand why that’s so hard and how that’s so hard in a gendered way. The legacy and the baggage that girls have about [that is] what stops them from being sex positive. I want girls to understand how to go up against somebody that attacks them for being a slut or a whore. I want a 13-year-old girl to clearly understand that a 17-year-old boy who’s asking her to go hang out with him for the night is somebody who wants the power dynamic to be in his court. That he’s going after her not because she’s cute but because she won’t be able to say no. I want the boys to understand that they also have the right to say no. That they don’t have to say yes to every single sexual advance that comes their way. I want boys to understand why girls are so unclear about what they do and do not want in their sexual interactions with them.

For girls and for boys, after girls have been sexually assaulted, these [are] things that we see when people pile on the victim and say, ‘you’re a whore, you’re a slut, how dare you come forward.’ I want them to understand that they are literally being co-opted into this system and participating in the degradation of someone. In the absence of that context, they fall prey to this really regressive kind of conversation –– or lack of conversation –– that adults rarely have with young people.

DDJ: I’m nodding emphatically over here. Let’s get back to that topic. You claim that boys have a deep emotional life. I’ve always felt that the traditional socialization of boys hampers their future evolution, which contributes to unhappy marriages, workaholism, and feelings of depression and alienation as men. How can we free boys’ ability to express emotions, without emasculating them?

RW: The women in their lives need to be strong authority figures with a good sense of humor, who have no problem saying, ‘Yeah, that — whatever that thing it is you just did — that is over the line. No, I don’t give a shit if you think I’m being uptight. Fuck off.’ And then laugh about it. To be able to handle when boys are pushing boundaries. As a mother I think it’s really important to deal with the legacy that we have around being in the presence of a man who is angry. There are women who are abusive to men, certainly. But being in the face of a man’s anger and capitulating or –– and we get this from any of our relationships –– the idea that it’s more important to maintain the relationship you have with somebody than how you’re treated in that relationship. Both boys and girls can have that in their friendship groups.

When mothers capitulate to their sons and don’t hold boundaries with their sons, their sons stop respecting them as an authority figure for everything and they lose the relationship and the intimacy that they wanted in the first place.

[Boys] don’t want to be emotionally stunted. At some point boys forget that they have the right to have a rich emotional life.

For dads, I think they’ve bought into the stereotype of boys being stupid and only caring about eating nachos and having sex. I do know that there are a lot of boys who want stronger, richer relationships with the men in their lives.

DDJ: As you know, I covered the Steubenville rape case for SuicideGirls. That case, and the gang rape and murder of a medical student in India, pushed the subject of sexual assault into the limelight and served as a trigger for a lot of people. These ghastly events proved to be pivotal ones. The accused Steubenville teens were convicted and new conversations around teen drinking and non-consensual sex were started. Furthermore, laws changed in India because of fervent activism there. How can young men form healthier attitudes about young women when so many societal signals – including those in the media –– cultivate violent and objectifying ones?

RW: The sound bites we give boys like “make healthy decisions…” If I could stop an adult from ever saying “make healthy decisions” again I would feel my job is done. I’m serious! (Laughs.) It’s like, do you hear how inane you are? Do you understand the complexities of life, and you think “make healthy decisions” is an appropriate and effective response? Yeah, sure.

My answer is, get away from sound bites –– which includes “You know, no means no, right?” It’s an important sound bite. Adults need to say that to boys, but they have to say it in a context, which is: if you are somebody who likes to party –– and I’m not going to judge you on this right now that’s a whole different conversation –– but if on chance, you like to socialize and that socializing includes alcohol or drugs and people taking pictures of each other doing things that are embarrassing or stupid, sober or drunk or high, if you do that and you’re a part of that situation and you see something that’s going off the rails, or you’re with somebody that is drunk, maybe not crazy, falling over drunk, but you’ve seen them at five other parties but they’ve managed themselves… We need to provide that kind of context. ‘No means no,’ I get it, but you need to understand there’s a reason people can communicate unclearly in those moments and they can say “maybe.” Maybe is not yes. Maybe, I don’t know, my friends are downstairs. When a woman says ‘my friends are downstairs’ that doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with you if her friends weren’t downstairs. That actually means she wants to leave. But how do you say that to a boy? Nobody talks about rape. But if we say “no means no” as a soundbite, a boy is going to think, ok, a boy is sober, a girl is sober and he’s forcing her down and she is saying stop, stop. That is not the way that most of these rapes are going down. So we need to give them a context for it.

Second thing is, we have to stop giving boys crappy advice about relationships, like girls put holes in condoms. Hook up Saturday, abort on Sunday. We have to recognize that boys are getting awful, awful advice from people in their own lives, not just the media.

We need men turning to the boy in their life during a commercial break and saying, ‘You’re in tenth grade now. You went to that party Saturday night and I’m not asking you what happened, but I just want you to know that stuff is complicated. I remember a friend of mine hooking up with a girl that I really liked and I didn’t know what to do about it. If you ever want to talk to me about it, I’m here.’ And a couple hours later, that boy’s probably going to say, ‘Hey, tell me that story again.’

DDJ: I was talking openly with a guy friend of mine… He said sometimes it’s confusing because a girl will say no, but she’s laughing and he doesn’t know if he should keep going or what. The messages guys are getting from their peers and maybe even their father is just to continue and the girl will eventually give in.

RW: Girls laugh because they are uncomfortable or they don’t want to be perceived as… you know that whole slut crap baggage is in your brain. Or you pretend that you’re clueless that this is happening, like ‘What? You want to have sex with me? Are you kidding?’ But that’s that slut language that’s in our head that makes it much harder for us to communicate clearly. Or you’re laughing because you’re nervous and you really don’t want to be doing this. And that’s what parents need to talk about or else they’re setting their children up for misinterpretation and assault.

DDJ: Do you do any work with gay, bi and transgender youth? How do their needs differ from those of their straight counterparts?

RW: Everybody wants to feel loved and acknowledged. It really varies by community. Some schools and communities are like, ‘Great.’ It’s not going to really do anything. Those boys would be able to talk to their straight friends about their relationships and be fine. There are schools in this country where that’s possible. Then, of course, there are places where you can’t do that and you’re ashamed and run out of town. It really depends on where you’re coming into your own and how stable your home life is. Because I’m straight and a female and married, it was always really important to me to be as adamantly outspoken as I could to support these kids and their rights.

DDJ: In Masterminds & Wingmen you cover topics like porn and video games. How much do you think male teens’ access to video games and free online porn, with little conversation about the reality of lovemaking, femininity, and the female experience, affects their interactions with girls?

RW: They’re gonna say it doesn’t. I get into very big debates with the boys about this. You could show me studies that say killing a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto 5 and then taking back the money that you gave her for her services does not impact your respect for women. I don’t really care. Boys that I really like and respect will say to me, ‘This has not affected my relationship with women and girls.’ They are modeling in my relationships with them their point. I respect what the boys are saying. But that and the torture part of it is where my line is. I don’t have a problem with first person shooter games. The thing I’m much more worried about is that online you’re calling girls fat, whore, slut, pig, whenever you hear a girl’s voice come online when you’re playing a multi-player game. You want to take the argument with me that this doesn’t disrespect girls, well then, the next time you’re in the middle of a game, and some guy starts flaming and trolling a girl you get up and you say, ‘No, this gamer girl has a right to be here, shut up!’ And, they’re not. They’re not coming to the girl’s defense, they’re not reporting the troll. You make those toxic environments in those games. It could be any game. If you stand up for a civil dialogue in those communities, then I will stop getting on your case about GTA 5. But, until then, come up with a different argument.

GTA 5 only has lower power women and degradation. There’s no sex-positive prostitute in GTA 5. That’s the only role they’re allowing women to play in this game. What does that say about the game designers? I’m just in the starting place of working with game designers about the culture in which their games are supporting.

DDJ: Do you think that reading Masterminds & Wingmen will help young men prepare for and navigate the beer-infused, highly competitive social landscape of college life?

RW: They can read Masterminds if they want, but I want them to read this free e-book I wrote for the boys called The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want. That’s for them. I put together The Guide with 200 guys about the most likely, annoying, frustrating, excruciatingly miserable experiences you might have in high school. The boys and I have worked in collaboration on what is the best way to get through these situations. It’s free and boys can download it. Men in their 20s have told me that it’s been really helpful.

Pick up Rosalind Wiseman’s new book Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World and stay in touch with her at: www.rosalindwiseman.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Darrah is a freelance journalist and consultant, with a focus on sensuality, environmentalism, and fearless women in the media. She appears as a “Woman on the Street” on The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet and has contributed to The Conversation website. Her lifestyle writing and celebrity interviews have appeared in Marie Claire, Esquire and W, among others. She contributes author and filmmaker interviews to The Rumpus and Hollywood Today. Her dating confessions have appeared in GirlieGirl Army and xoJane. Darrah’s “Red, White and Femme” columns for SuicideGirls take a fresh look at females in America – investigating issues like gender, bisexuality, sex work, motherhood and more. Subscribe to her blog at Darrahdejour.com/, and friend her on Facebook.

SG Radio feat Amir Derakh, Jason Leopold and David Seaman
Oct 2013 22

SG Radio feat Amir Derakh, Jason Leopold and David Seaman  

Posted In Activism,All Things SG,Blog,Entertainment,Music,Politics,SG Radio

by Blogbot

This Thursday, October 24th on SuicideGirls Radio, hosts Nicole Powers and Juturna Suicide will be joined in studio by artist/producer/musician Amir Derakh and former music industry insider turned investigative reporter Jason Leopold. The pair are both friends of SG – and are longtime besties IRL. Our panel will be completed by David Seaman, SG’s political correspondent.

You can listen – and watch – the world’s leading naked radio show live on Thursday nights from 6 til 8 PM at our new state-of-the-art all digital home: TradioV.com.

You’ll also be able to listen to our podcasts via Stitcherdownload the app now!

If you have questions for the SG Radio crew or our guests, you can call in during the live broadcast at: 1-855-TRV-inLA (1-855-878-4652)

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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About Amir Derakh | @amirderakh

For over 20 years guitarist, songwriter, engineer, and producer Amir Derakh has been known as one of the musical pioneers of the Los Angeles area. He was awarded the prestigious “Most Promising Guitarist” by Gibson Guitars as a member, writer, and producer of the multi-platinum selling band Orgy. In addition, Amir is a fully qualified producer and engineer having earned his degree in Recording Engineering from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He is responsible for the successes of many artists and has worked with several well-known bands such as The Eels (where he received an engineering Grammy nomination), Danzig, Coal Chamber, and most recently Mumiy Troll. He has also scored and created original music for movies, video games, and television including: Transformers, Underworld, Freaky Friday and the HBO series True Blood. Other projects include Julien-K (which he formed with fellow Orgy member Ryan Shuck), Dead By Sunrise (which features Chester Bennington of Linkin Park on vocals), and Circuit Freq an electro/techno duo with Anthony “Fu” Valcic. Amir also runs a very successful music label Circuit Freq Records.

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About Jason Leopold | @JasonLeopold

Jason Leopold is an investigative reporter covering Guantanamo, counterterrorism, national security, human rights, open government and civil liberties issues. He’s been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which included suing the FBI and forcing the agency to changes its policies. He is currently a contributing editor for Al Jazeera and is the recipient of a Freedom of Press Foundation grant. He’s the author of the national bestseller, News Junkie, and an investigative report, From Hopeful to Immigrant to FBI Informant: The Inside Story of the Other Abu Zubaidah, which was published in the form of an ebook. Leopold’s investigative reporting highlights includes “Revised Guantanamo Force-Feed Policy Exposed,” a story based on a military document he exclusively obtained, and “Sold Into ‘A Piece of Hell’: A Death of Innocence at Gitmo,” about the suspicious death in September 2012 of prisoner Adnan Latif. A radio documentary about Leopold’s life, based on his book News Junkie, was broadcast by the award-winning podcast, Love + Radio and featured on NPR.

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About David Seaman | @d_seaman

David Seaman is an independent journalist. He has been a lively guest on CNN Headline News, FOX News, ABC News Digital, among others, and on his humble YouTube channel, DavidSeamanOnline. Some say he was recently censored by a certain large media corporation for posting a little too much truth… Catch Seaman on his brand new crowd-funded Rise Morning Show (@RiseMorningShow). For more, find him on G+ and Twitter.

**UPDATE**

ICYMI: Last night’s show featuring in-studio guests Amir Derakh, Jason Leopold and David Seaman + Skype-in guests Justin Wedes and Rodney Deas of @OccupyWallStNYC and #DetroitSolidarity.



Video streaming by Ustream

Prisoner Support: Every Moment A Crisis, Every Moment A Gift
Aug 2013 23

Prisoner Support: Every Moment A Crisis, Every Moment A Gift  

Posted In Activism,Blog,Politics

by Rachel Allshiny

Working on prisoner support is one of the most exhausting, transformative, frustrating, vital, tedious, rewarding, messy, wonderful things I have ever done.

When someone is in prison, every moment is a crisis. Even when a specific problem or situation is resolved, there remains an overwhelming survival mentality, which affects those inside and their supporters alike. I move from crisis to crisis every day; meanwhile the prisoners I am not actively engaged in supporting at any given minute hover in my peripheral vision, imploring they not be forgotten. None are ever forgotten, of course, but the need to prioritize presents me with difficult decisions about how to use my time and resources daily.

In the past few weeks, most of my efforts have been dedicated to helping Mark Neiweem, also known as Migs, of the NATO 5. Quick refresher: five activists were arrested days before the NATO summit in Chicago last year and subsequently charged with terrorism. Three remain incarcerated at Cook County Jail, awaiting trial. One accepted a non-cooperating plea agreement and served a sentence of four months in a boot camp for non-violent offenders. He was recently repatriated to his native Poland. The fifth is Mark, who also accepted a non-cooperating plea and is serving two concurrent three-year sentences. With credit for time served and time off for good behavior, he expects parole in November. You can read his comments on his decision to change his plea and his grim experience at Cook County Jail here.

Mark entered his new plea in April. He was immediately transferred to Stateville, where he stayed for one month under barely tolerable living conditions. He was then moved to the medium security unit at Pontiac Correctional Center in Pontiac, IL. This was by far his best housing situation, although it feels strange to put it that way. Prison is always a miserable experience, but there are relative levels to misery.

I got my first letter from Mark when he was still at Cook County Jail exactly one year ago today – the same day I attempted to visit him for the first time. His tone was friendly, engaging, and funny, but he also came across as angry, frustrated, and obviously in pain. In one line that still haunts me, he suggested that they should execute him and let the other four guys walk. When we tried to see him that day, we discovered he had just been hospitalized after being severely beaten by guards. His hospitalization was followed by five weeks in solitary confinement, where he stayed without visits until after his visible wounds healed.

During those five weeks, I made it my personal mission to make sure he always had mail and someone he could call. I wrote and told him that five guys went in, and I would not rest until all five walked out. Ever since, it has been my utmost priority to make sure the shadowy powers-that-be know we are paying attention to what happens to him. As the good Doctor would say, he is protected.

As it happens, we’ve also become good friends. I very much look forward to the day when I can spend time with him that’s not regulated by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

After his conviction and move to Pontiac, I noticed a significant positive shift in Mark’s attitude. I attribute this change to the resolution of his case, having a release date in sight, and having escaped the hellhole that is Cook County Jail. His medium security designation meant he merited “contact visits” where he was able to hug his mom and some friends, myself included, for the first time in over a year. He began making concrete plans for the future and became determined to use his remaining time to educate himself in preparation for release. He requested books, signed up for the prison’s GED class, and began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He mentioned in his letters that some of the prisoners knew why he was there and tried to engage him in conversation about it, but that he had no interest in discussing the past. His sights were set on the front door and he was doing everything possible to get a strong new start on his life.

Imagine my concern and disappointment, then, when I drove down with a friend to visit him in July and discovered that he had been moved to solitary confinement in the maximum security unit. We were still able to see him, thankfully, but it was a no-contact visit. We spoke to him through a sheet of plexiglass and watched as he twisted around, trying to find a comfortable position to sit with his arms shackled behind his back to the base of his stool. He told us he had not been able to contact anyone about his transfer to solitary because he was no longer allowed to use the phone and his property had been seized, which meant he did not have his list of mailing addresses. At that time he had not been charged with any misconduct but was “under investigation,” which meant they could hold him in solitary for at least 30 days.

Despite the circumstances, it was a great visit. He looked healthier and stronger than ever, if a bit scruffy from lack of access to shaves and haircuts. He was funny and thoughtful as usual and clearly determined not to give in to these heavy-handed tactics. He expressed concern over not completing his GED class and the setback in his plans to prepare for release. It wasn’t the most relaxed or pleasant visit, but definitely one of the more important ones.

Cue an endless number of urgent phone calls. We stood in the prison parking lot, phones poised, reaching out to lawyers, his family, and other activists as a thunderstorm brewed in the distance. It was very dramatic, or maybe that was the adrenaline speaking. During the 100-mile drive home, we held an early strategizing session. After the lawyers made their official requests, we launched a call-in campaign, flooding IDOC Director Godinez and Governor Quinn’s offices with demands for accountability. They responded by moving him to a smaller, more restrictive cell within solitary, behind a solid steel door. At one point I found myself sitting on the dirty sidewalk outside CPD District 001 at midnight, waiting for anti-ALEC protesters to be released, typing up actions and campaigns to at least get Mark some mail and pictures, at his request. It’s a glamorous life.

Ultimately, Mark was charged on two counts – possessing “unauthorized” anarchist symbols and possessing “unauthorized” anarchist literature, both of which were deemed an imminent threat to the facility. We are still awaiting a decision on these charges. Assuming they are upheld, he could be moved farther downstate, away from his support system, or lose his time off for good behavior. Or both.

Meanwhile, every moment is a crisis. I walk around with the awareness that his fate is balanced precariously, and there is only so much I can do to help. I send him photos taken in shaded parks along Lake Michigan, where I like to sit and write. He sends me funny drawings to let me know how much he appreciates my support.

This week, I went to visit him again.

I drove down in a borrowed car, pumping donated funds into the gas tank. I brought three books for him:

• On Writing by Stephen King because I am gently encouraging him to write about his experience;

• Packing for Mars by Mary Roach because it’s funny and informative and deals with confinement in small spaces as a means of exploring the vast depths of inner and outer space;

• and City of Thieves by David Benioff because if I sent him on a life-or-death mission to find a dozen eggs in war-torn Russia, I know he would deliver.

I was braced for trouble getting in to see him but it all went smoothly at the gate. In the waiting room I met a woman from the southwest suburbs of Chicago, there to see her brother. We traded war stories about visiting different facilities, always carefully avoiding the question of why we had to in the first place. Prison etiquette.

Finally, I was called to see Mark. He was behind plexiglass again, arms shackled behind his back again. You wouldn’t know it from the grin on his face, though. He looked too skinny and he still hadn’t gotten to cut his hair or shave, so he was starting to resemble the caveman drawings of himself that often adorn his letters to me. It was great to see him, no matter what.

We got business out of the way. He had a productive legal visit the week before. He still didn’t know his fate, but told me he is committed to resisting whatever they have in store for him. He said he was not interested in passively accepting their aggressive tactics, especially since he doesn’t believe acquiescence will result in better treatment. He has clarity of purpose about both his own situation and how it fits into the larger context of the system that keeps him unwavering in his resolve. As his mom told me on the phone recently, “They’re trying to break him, but they won’t. He’s a tough nut to crack.” He still spoke of his plans for the future, but they were more abstract.

He asked about other defendants’ well-being and for general news updates. I felt bad; it seemed like most of what I had to share was bad news. I told him about a contested space in Chicago that had been used as a community center for the past three years – until it was destroyed overnight with no warning. His response? “That sounds like a prime spot to occupy.” I shook my head and told him there was nothing left to occupy anymore; it’s just a pile of rubble now. He smiled. “So, it’s a pile of rubble now. Turn it into an organic garden.”

That wasn’t the response I expected, but it was the response I needed. I am constantly fighting burnout and every pile of rubble looks like a loss, highlighting the futility of our efforts to create sustainable change. He found the hope and possibility for a new beginning that was buried in this one. I didn’t tell him at the time, but hopefully he will read this and recognize that he could not have suggested that a year ago. He’s come a very long way.

I told him about the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black, and how people keep telling me I should really watch it because of my involvement in prisoner support work. I have been watching it, and see both its merits and its flaws, but it is slow going. I spend so much of my day worrying about prisoners and their perpetual moments of crisis that it is hard to sit back in my downtime and watch a TV show about it. Even harder to laugh. He compared people telling me to watch the show to prisoners who never miss an episode of Cops, or love detective shows that glorify the police force, without a deeper understanding of how it compounds their own oppression.

He wants to teach people about how the state uses incarceration to drain our power and resources and ability to resist. He wants every activist to know about the prison industrial complex, not just in theory or from a TV show, but from experiencing it alongside somebody trapped in the system. At least until they are all free.

He also expressed an interest in environmental activism as his next endeavor. When I mentioned some of the ongoing struggles against the KXL pipeline and fracking, he looked sad. “I’m missing so much in here,” he explained. I promised him we wouldn’t fix the whole world without him, but would leave something for him to work on when he got out. He’s holding us to that promise.

(This part of the conversation reminded me of my visit to Brian Church, also of the NATO 5, two days earlier. Brian was trained as an EMT but will never be able to work in that field again due to these charges. He very much wants to volunteer as a street medic to help people rising up against dictatorships in other countries – if he can work out a way to travel – who often end up badly injured. His desire to use his own skills to help other people was palpable, even with his own fate still undecided.)

At one point, Mark went off into an earnest and passionate political discourse, talking about how ridiculous he finds the concept of asking elected officials to honor rights we already have. If they really represented us, he theorized, we wouldn’t have to ask them to be on our side and protect our innate freedoms. “You can’t ask for permission to be free,” he told me. “You just have to start being free.” He interrupted himself with a sheepish smile. “I’ve been reading a lot,” he apologized. I looked at him, wearing “more chains than the Ghost of Christmas Past” (as he once described it to me), and I knew that he was free. They have imprisoned his body but his soul is soaring above it all, and he will prevail.

Every moment of prisoner support work is a crisis. But here’s the secret I saved til the end: every moment is also a precious gift. I have friends I haven’t talked to in months because I’m secure in the knowledge that I can text them at any time. My time interacting directly with prisoners, however, is measured and cut into segments that are never quite large enough. We don’t waste our moments together. Each and every one is important.

Before I had to leave, I asked Mark if we could do anything more for him right now. He is getting his mail again, very slowly, presumably after being read and documented by the prison. It is his only link to the outside world, and he asked people to continue writing and sending him photos. You can learn more about how to do that here.

When I hit the halfway point on my way back to Chicago, I suddenly started crying. I didn’t want to leave him behind, but I had reached the point of no return and had to keep pushing forward. I remembered a final bit of wisdom he had left me with: “It may feel like you’re on the ropes a lot, but at least you’re still in the fight.”

When every moment is a crisis, every moment is also an opportunity to resist and push forward. This is my work and my calling, but you can be a part of it to whatever extent you are comfortable. Choose one person on the #OpPenPal mailing list and send them a letter or postcard that will make them smile. If you live in the area of one of these cases, reach out and ask what court support and jail visit needs are, and if you can tag along with a veteran your first time. Donations to defense funds are always appreciated, and if all else fails, sharing links and information with your family and friends helps get the word out.

“Solidarity is our best weapon, and it works.” – Mark Neiweem, Open Communiqué

Rachel Allshiny served as librarian and press liaison for Occupy Chicago and co-founded OpPenPal in February 2013.

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