Recycled Rock N Roll

Recycled Rock N Roll

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles Update #6 - OWS

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
-Benito Mussolini

According to Occupy L.A. blogger Ruth Fowler, the Occupy protest camp was finally broken up, and it wasn't pretty although it could have been worse. My question is, why did her tweets stop going out? Were they blocked? If so, why?

But if you were a gigantic corporation that was about to lose a lot of profits because of a political movement sweeping the nation, wouldn't you help the government protect your profits by blocking a few tweets?

Sarcasm aside, that's why I'm covering Occupy. The Mussolini quote spells it all out. If corporations control the government, and the government doesn't protect the citizenry, is that a democracy? If the government and corporations can and will team up to deprive the citizenry of their life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and wealth, is that a democracy?

I want to give LAPD the benefit of the doubt, but Ruth Fowler is a journalist who was there on the ground, reporting, while other members of the media could not or would not cover the story. 

Every time I was down at Occupy, the police were very polite to me. Of course, it was broad daylight and they weren't chasing me out of the place, but at one point a cop let me off with a warning for a minor traffic violation even though he knew I was involved in the protests. I can't complain about that. 

I know you've read this damn quote a million times, but here it is again: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That's the First Amendment to the Constitution. It's as obvious about it's intent as it can get. The Founding Fathers made freedom of speech and the press part of the First Amendment because it was so important to get the truth out to prevent fascism. Our country was created in the face of fascism, in defiance of fascism, and as a clear, 180 degree alternative to fascism. 

Are you tired of one governing body telling you what to do no matter how hard you work or what you say? Then journey to America, because we are a democracy. That's the message I get the most out of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.

If the media is not being allowed to record events, are being denied access to where they need to go to report the story, something is being covered up. And no matter what political party you belong to, if you look at the assault on our civil rights that has increased since the Bush Administration, the bank bailouts, the very existence of Guantanamo Bay and the fact that American citizens can be held without trial, you have to agree that we need to keep an eye on the government, so they don't take our money and use it to exploit us. It's not political, it's obvious.

Even the scenes of horrific violence against peaceful protesters that you see everywhere, from MSNBC to YouTube to the brutal torture at UC Davis and the severe treatment of protesters at Oakland, each image delivers the same, brutal message: "If you attempt to use your First Amendment rights we will beat the ever living snot out of you." They mean it, too. Priests, congressmen, old women and young girls have all been victims.

I don't blame the police because they are being ordered to do what they do. If not, they'd be fired. I don't blame the top brass because they are being told what to do, otherwise they'd be fired. Someone somewhere at the top, either a politician, a wealthy businessman, or both, eventually decided that it's time for the protesters and the press the get their asses kicked, and gives the order for the cops to kick ass. That's all it is.

I am not anti-government. I like our government. The Founding Fathers designed a perfect system of self-limiting levers of power that normal people like you and I can still occupy. The government was designed by the people, for the people. As long as voting is free, all you need is communication, and logic and the democratic election process will do the rest.

There's been a lot of talk by the media, members of Occupy and everyone from Russel Simmons to Michael Moore to more than a few politicians, that the Occupy movement needs to get political, to either join a party or become one. 

But the Democratic Party have proven they can't stand up to Wall Street because they need a lot of money to stay in power. The Republican Party are completely supportive of Wall Street because they are the 1%. They are there to represent everything the 99% Movement opposes, so of course they get a lot of money. And in American politics, money is power.

I believe that the Democrats have their back against a wall this time, though. They've lost the middle class. All Occupy has to do is persist with their message, and more politicians will listen to the people instead of a handful of millionaires.

That's why the press and the protesters are a huge political threat to the few bad politicians who are currently hogging the levers of power and won't let the government work for the people. In my humble opinion, making it cost so much to get into politics is just one step in maintaining political power when you know citizens no longer trust you enough to vote for you. Suppressing the press and protesters threw bogus voter ID laws, unconstitutional permit requirements and nebulous zoning laws is a natural step in maintaining the grip on power.

The Occupy camps had to exist because normal protest movements were not working. Thousands upon thousands of people would show up, the press would talk about it for five minutes on the nightly news, and then politicians would go on to business as usual. As the situation in America gets worse, despite the fact our GDP is as robust as ever, there had to be another strategy.

Occupy LA is gone as a camp, but the world is listening to the Occupy movement. As long as we can vote, tweet, blog, post on forums, talk to each other, Facebook, MySpace, text and YouTube, normal people can pick a politician to vote for, regardless of how high a price tag big media has placed on the process, and replace the bad people with the good people through the genius of our election process.

I truly believe that the system still works, and that Occupy can be a political movement that saves the country from the 1% that just wants to profit from America's pain.

I will put up more posts this week, featuring interviews with protesters camping out at Occupy Los Angeles along with more photos.

Here's how you can help to bring real participating democracy back to the American government. Money, letters of support, showing up to protest...everything counts.

You can donate to Occupy Wall Street, here.

Here's a link to the Occupy Los Angeles website and forums.

You can find more images for Occupy Los Angeles, here. Here's their Facebook page

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has handled this as best he could, and we can all agree that L.A. didn't end up being anything like Oakland. You can thank him right here.

If you support the Occupy movement, let Governor Jerry Brown know about it by writing him a letter to thank him for the support.

Since most of the government stopped caring about the civil rights of Americans back in the late 90's, we're lucky we have groups like the National Lawyers Guild to defend the few we have left. You can support them here.

A letter to the LAPD in support of the demonstrations and a big donation to the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation will help the movement. Remember, cops are also the 99%.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Iration - Music

High on Reggae Surf Culture with Iration

Iration is a reggae-surf-pop-synth band, somewhere between Agent Orange, Bob Marley and Dick Dale. They are a band that creates music that is straight out of Hawaii, where they all grew up, with an aggressive attitude inherit to Southern California, where the band went to college.  Iration plays music that feels like the sun, the waves, the wind and good times close to Mother Nature and the sea.

Bass player Adam Taylor spoke for the band and explained how Iration represents not just a unique type of music, but an expression of life based on a Hawaiian surf culture philosophy with roots in the heart of reggae.

How did Iration begin?

We came together while most of us were going to college at UCSB in Santa Barbara. It was just a hobby but music had always been a part of our lives. At first we played to have fun. We did Bob Marley covers. It was a way to express ourselves. By the time we graduated from college there was a point where we were making enough money playing so we kept going.

What message is Iration trying to express with its music? 

Being from Hawaii, we take the Aloha spirit very seriously. We like to bring a good vibe, a good message that leaves people with a positive feeling. We are a reggae rock band with the fundamentals of reggae music, but with a modern pop twist. We added heavy synth and guitars with more rock but lyrics that were more pop.
Reggae is big in Hawaii…if you listen to the radio it dominates the airwaves. Our first CD was very roots Reggae, but our next album had more of a pop sensibility, “Falling” and “Cookie Jar” did well out there, and they are both different songs.

Explain what surf culture means to you.

Surf culture to me means growing up on the beach. We all surf. We are part of the surf culture. I think it means to live it up in a positive way, like being able to appreciate mother nature and being outdoors. Living in Hawaii, everything you do is affected by the weather. You are more prone to the elements. Most people there love water sports. It’s embedded in each one of us.

The weather and the sunshine are a big part of our music. We are in Florida right now and I love being here. There’s a strong surf culture here. We really feel at home in the coastal cities. When we are in Chicago it feels out of our element since there’s no ocean.

Iration really feels like a live band, unlike a lot of other groups out there.

For us, we started in college when people didn’t know our music, so we all considered ourselves to be a live band. Some bands don’t play well live but we rehearse a lot, we try to connect with the audience on an emotional level. A good band has to connect.

It’s also the way you structure your music. We like to start really strong, bring it down in the middle, and then bring it back up and peak in the end. After that, for an encore we play an acoustic and two popular songs. This is all because we want to play music our fans came out to here. We structure our performances for them. You have to walk between playing what you want to play, and what they want to hear.

On this tour we are covering “Pimpers Paradise” by Bobby Marley and “Bomb Bud” by DJ Quick, which has been a popular song ever since we played it at Cypress Hill’s last SMOKEOUT.

I've noticed more than a few of your songs talk about cannabis.

Living in California I have a lot of access to cannabis. I have such easy access that I don’t have a strong opinion about it. But in Hawaii cannabis is such a big part of the surf culture. Everyone uses it. It’s normal. Cannabis has a lot influence for us.

I smoke out, sure, but not before I go onstage. I smoke out before I play or practice. I have spoken to other musicians who all agree about how it brings out your awareness of music.

We don’t promote it as much in our songs, but the EP “Summer Nights” is about the summertime, smoking weed, going to the beach. On this tour, before we play this song, we tell them about how the song is about smoking out in the summer, and that usually gets a huge reaction from the crowd. I love to smoke at concerts because it really heightens my senses.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unity Lewis - Music

If you enjoy authentic underground Bay Area hip-hop with a sociopolitical edge, the music of Unity Lewis is what you are looking for. Also known as Young Precise for the surgical lyrical delivery, the man is an MC with a message that informs and inspires.

As a community organizer, he connects with troubled urban youth because of his own harsh experiences growing up with gangs in Oakland and L.A. His reggae and funk-inspired compositions about real inner city life in America has earned him a fan base across California.

I spoke to the talented artist and producer about the foundation of hip-hop, the free EP he’s working on for November, and how cannabis can help and heal us all.

It’s good to talk to you. How is everything?

I’m in Bogotá, Columbia, right now, on my way to Venezuela. I stopped by to visit some friends. 
You combine reggae and hip-hop with tremendous effect.  The two music genres always work well together.

Why is that? Do they share a similar origin?

Well, reggae came first. Hip-hop was imported. Reggae was invented in Jamaica, where rockers who were into ska music and dub would play against each other in a sound clash. 

This was where they’d set up a van with huge speakers, and one sound system would be battle another. The original MC would put up a dub on the mic and do toasting, one of the first forms of rap. MC’ing comes from toasting. 

What can your fans look forward to from you in November?

In November I’m dropping another free EP. I’m giving people a taste of an album I did called Pray. It just was released on iTunes after for its ten-year anniversary. This is the first time the album is going to be available on its own. It’s the first album I produced by myself. 

The following week I will be dropping an EP with Tai Chi, a.k.a. Don Juan Immaculate. He’s an in-house producer for the Napalm Clique, my old group, and we’ve done a lot of songs together over the last couple of years since then. You can expect four songs. I have Audio Veve Part 1 coming out, too.

There’s a big connection between Rastafari culture and cannabis. But going beyond stereotypes, can you tell me what it’s really about?

When it comes to cannabis, that’s the holy sacrament. You burn it to get back to nature. The plant is a connection to Jah and meditation. The state that it puts you in is meditation. In this day, people just burn to deal with stress. Not all Rastas smoke, and not all Rastas smoke all the time. They know it’s sacred. If you do it all the time it stops being sacred. 

Do you see cannabis as being a medical and religious issue?

It’s a money issue with those fools. They want money. If they can get money, they are happy, but if there isn’t money they feel threatened. The forefathers of America grew weed. It’s only been not cool in America for 100 years, but previous civilizations have used it forever. 

The government is afraid they won’t be able to control it. They don’t care about the medical issues. 

We live in highly charged political times, certainly comparable to what America went through during the 60’s. When you rap about oppression, resistance, and unity, do you want people to feel the same spirit music gave protestors during the 60’s?

Yes, but I want it to match what we need to do in these times. The circumstances are just as bad but we have to come up with something new, because the opposition has already mastered the techniques that prevent us from doing what we need to do. I try to liberate the spirits and minds of people. A lot of this oppression is what the system gets us to buy into. 

While most people think of the hippies when it comes to the protest movements of the 60’s, it was African-Americans that took the full brunt of oppression and violence in the fight for civil rights. Do you think that fifty years later, it’s any more or less dangerous for political activists?

I feel like it’s just as dangerous as it was back then, if not more. I think it’s worse because people think we’ve made progress, but cops are gunning us down every day in Oakland. It’s still happening, and people are more likely to dismiss it. 

The problem is that in the 50’s and the 60’s they were killing all of our leaders. That put a lot of intimidation inside of us. After the Black Panthers were infiltrated and assassinated, our communities were also broken up. Since there was no positive community leadership, we ended up with gangs, crack and other things that destroyed the community. 

We’re at the point now where we aren’t even aware of the oppression. We are teaching it to our kids. We have to go back, way, way back, to when we were kings and queens, and when we understood ourselves. That knowledge includes values like personal integrity and the importance of family.

There are certain things that need to be reinstalled into our community.  When all we are doing is chasing a dollar, that’s what oppresses us. We need to boycott the dollar. There’s a major shift coming, and I’m not worried. I just need to keep telling the truth. 

I used to be super militant. The name of my first album was called Fight. I learned that anytime you fight someone, you are just fighting yourself. I realized that I had to change within for things to change for me in my life. You can’t get anywhere if you are fighting. You have to create, not destroy. There’s always going to be opposition. But what side do you choose to be on?

I’m not saying that you shouldn't defend yourself. But I’m also saying it’s not worth sitting around and get a bunch of guns and take out a police station. However, if a person dies before they have a chance to manifest their true purpose, what's the point? The age of the martyr is over. 

A lot of religions and philosophies that preach benevolence always say that before we change the world, we have to change ourselves. 

We have all unconsciously or consciously created this situation. I want people to realize what kind of society they are creating with their minds. As a teacher, I like work with the youth to get them into alignment with nature. 

All of these ancient civilizations described how we were going through many changes. Those cultures were so close to the source. God, in their eyes, was a mentor. Where we are at now is we need to cut through all of these layers…smog, concrete, pollution… I feel like the whole world is a reflection of what is going on inside each of us right now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Strong Arm Steady - Music

Strong Arm Steady reveals the dark side of the night with their new album, Arms and Hammers

Artists Mitchy Slick, Phil Da Agony and Krondon make up Strong Arm Steady, an underground hip-hop group forged tough in the streets of South Central. Established in 2003, success has come to the band because of a disciplined work ethic, brilliant talent and rock-hard commitment to the scene and their fans. With their third album, Arms and Hammers, Strong Arm Steady is going to rock us all out in 2011. 

Strong Arm Steady is often described as an underground hip-hop group that formed as an alternative to the gang-dominated scene. Is this a proper description?

Phil Da Agony: I love it. That’s the description we utilize. We’re new proprietors of L.A. West Coast Southern California culture. We don’t want to be labeled, though, because that can get you pigeonholed.

How would you describe Strong Arm Steady?

PDA: We want you to hear the voices of the survivors. We are progressive people who grew up in a particular street culture, and with our music it’s going to be complex because we want you to feel the different layers.

Mitchy Slick: We all stood out before the band. We all bring a unique perspective. We got more out this experience than your average person, so we show you that viewpoint.

Let’s talk about marijuana. What do you think?

PDA: It’s one of the greatest things God created. We are a cannabis smoking band. It’s a big part of who we are. My brothers and I rap when we get high. We smoke it, sell it, grow it, buy it. We are the pioneers in the industry. It’s the tools of the trade. We rap about cannabis because it’s a part of the street.

What do you think of the legalization effort?

PDA: I just hope it stays positive and doesn’t end up being taken over by the government and ruined. I think that it’s going to affect the street. I’m not saying I’m an advocate of selling cannabis, but that’s something the African American community is a part of. All of us are pushing for cannabis to be legalized.

Did you approach Arms & Hammers differently than your previous album, In Search of Stony Jackson?

PDA: The tale of the album is that we all have tools of the trade. It’s your computer, your microphone, your hammer...and you use your arm to wield those tools, whatever they might be. It takes a strong arm and a hammer to start a foundation. 

It was important to name our album based on a concept is that we can all agree with. But a hammer is also a slang term for a gun, so that’s the darkness, the violence. You go through the light, you go through the day and you go through different times. 

Mitchy Slick: We wanted to point out the night is about the good and the bad. Arms and Hammers is about dealing with that darkness, while In Search of Stony Jackson is about the light. The artwork on the covers of both albums represents that.

What else can we look forward to from Strong Arm Steady?

PDA: The album is coming out on Feb. 22. There is also going to be a mini-movie called Arms and Hammers: The Foundation. That will come out before the album to show a day in the life of L.A. We are going to headline a lot of tours this March and April. We will be going to 20 to 25 cities, and we’ll be touring with Planet Asia, Freddie Biggs, and Self Scientific.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Horror Feast! - Comedy

The family gathered around the sacrificial plate. The beast was dead. Its corpse lay strewn across the table, next to the implements of devouring. Victuals were presented. Libations were poured. The massacre was over. Let the gore-feast begin!

All relatives understand that during Thanksgiving Day, the less you talk to each other, the better it will be for everyone. After stuffing myself to the point of a diabetic coma it’s either speak to an in-law or see what Netflix gave my mailbox for me.   
Instead of being forced to listen to all the spicy details of my grand-aunt’s exciting new hysterectomy, I like to watch…

#5 Black Christmas (1974)

A murdering psychopath (are there any other kind?) sneaks into the attic of a big sorority house and slays the young women inside one by one. Thanks to Bob Clark, the same director of A Christmas Story (the one about the little kid with the glasses who wants a Red Ryder BB Gun) this flim utilizes darkness, suspense and the cold fear of a lunatic with a knife staring at you from the crack of an open window at 1:00 a.m. to make you afraid of the night.

The Drinking Game: Any time the anonymous killer starts screaming, ranting or babbling to himself, knock one back. Some people really need to just take their Lithium.

Zone Out When: The police are pretty damn stupid in this one, just like they are in every horror flick. Whenever the cops start talking to each other, feel free to go back for seconds.

#4 The Hitcher (1984)

C. Thomas Howell is driving alone down a long, deserted highway somewhere in the American midwest, and picks up a hitchiker played by Rutger Hauer. Unfortunately, Hauer likes to murder every single person who picks him up hitchhiking, so of course there is a mild difference of opinion. 

Howell spends the rest of this movie in a cat-and-lunatic game with a killer who is willing to whack anyone in a movie where nobody is safe…and starts to get a little killer with his own instincts.

The Drinking Game: Whenever Haur kills someone and you didn’t expect it, celebrate!

Zone Out When: Howell tends to spend a lot of this film so horrified that all he can do is bug his eyes out and stare. Ok, we get it, you’re scared…I’m going to go get another beer.

#3 Zombie (1979)

I know what you’re thinking. “Not another zombie flick.” Trust me, this gruesome little marvel, directed by Italian horror film director Lucio Fulci, is about a bunch of dumb tourists who go to the wrong island and end up meeting a lot of zombies, but the film goes far beyond what you'd expect from a 70's horror flick. 

Zombie asks two essential questions: One, if a shark and a flesh-eating, animated corpse got into a fight, who would win? Two, if a massive army of zombies attacked your cabin, and all you had were dozens of Molotov cocktails, wouldn’t that be fucking cool?

The Drinking Game: Every time a zombie kills someone, it’s Miller time!

Zone Out When: The first 15 minutes are nonsensical, and you can safely ignore anything those idiots do until the woman goes snorkling, where at last the film picks up as she gets to witness the shark vs. zombie matchup. Let’s get it on!

#2 Aliens (1986)

James Cameron scored fifty touchdowns with this magnum opus that answers two questions you always end up asking yourself as you watch a horror film: Why don’t these people just unleash a little 2nd Amendment justice and blow the monsters away with the biggest firearms they can wield? Or, if that is not sufficient, why not just leave and nuke the site from orbit, just to be sure?

Ripley, played by Sigorney Weaver, is the sole survivor of a crew of deep space engineers that got eaten by an alien. She travels out to a planet where there are more of these damn things, but this time she has a spaceship, space marines, space guns and even a cyborg, played by Lance Henriksen. Of course, things don’t work out so well and the body count starts to rise like the mercury on a humid summer’s day in Alabama.

The Drinking Game: You can either take a shot everytime someone turns around and notices just a little too late that an alien is about to eat them and gets killed, or you can just drink two Irish Carbombs back-to-back when Bill Paxton freaks out.

Zone Out When: Just like it’s bad form whenever you go to church, or to a wedding, to not pay a moderate amount of polite attention to what’s going on, it is customary to show the same courtesy when watching Sigorney Weaver kick alien ass. 
However, I think we are all adult enough to recognize that Paul Reiser’s haircut is absolutley ridiculous.

"I really hate combs...and I can't stand hairspray."

#1 Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The top of the list is Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a low-budget masterpiece by terror icon Tobe Hooper, who later directed Poltergeist. A group of zany college kids decide to stop by a deserted house in the middle of nowhere and get murdered by a family of good ‘ol boy, down-home country cannibals.

While the slasher genre has been done many times over, this film did it first, using a grainy, documentary-style cinematograpy, and life-like special effects, to give the unfolding nightmare (loosely based on the murders committed by serial killer Ed Gein) complete plausibility.   

The Drinking Game: Whenever Leatherface butchers somebody, take a shot of Old Grand-Dad.

Zone Out When: When the college kids all start talking to each other, there’s some really bad acting going on, so you may as well hit up the restroom.

The close-up of the woman’s eyeball as she screams for what feels like a half-an-hour is also worth going to the fridge to get a beer over, unless you happen to be an optometrist who’s really in to eye porn.

"You appear to have a mild infection. I suggest saline solution 
and avoiding murderous cannibals with power tools."

Jedi Mind Tricks - Music

Jedi Mind Tricks

Jus Allah from Camden, New Jersey and Vinnie Paz from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania are Jedi Mind Tricks, a band that delivers utterly original, ironclad hip-hop that goes far beyond boring radio rap

Their latest album, Violence Begets Violence, is both a commentary on American politics and an observation of life’s harsh realities. Vinnie says, “Jus came up with the album title prior to most of the songs being recorded.” Each track fits the album’s theme. “The title dictated the music, instead of the music following the title.”

Since 1997 Jedi Mind Tricks has composed seven albums, including a fistful of LP’s and solo records. Mostly underground, the band has thrived in the dark with an integral cool that can only be cultivated far from mainstream pop. “There’s always something different about underground music that appeals to people who are looking for more.” Vinnie says.  

Their goal is play the caliber of music they’d want to hear on the radio. Vinnie says, “It’s the reason me and Jus have been into music since from when we were young.” To them, it’s just a matter of making hip-hop for enthusiasts who are sick of mall music. “People want more than what’s being spoon fed to them,” Jus adds.

Vinnie and Jus put a lot of work into their music because they are disappointed with the modern state of mainstream hip-hop. Jus says, “It’s not really an art form anymore. Anyone could do it. Not so many people can do what me and Vin can do. All of those dudes are interchangeable.”

Vinnie agrees. “When I see bands on TV now I don’t even know what dude is which dude.” He doesn’t hate pop music, he despises the lack of talent. “Sam Cooke was pop music. So was Bill Withers, James Brown and The Beatles. Look at what’s popular now.”

One component that has given Jedi Mind Tricks such an enduring fanbase is their music. Both artists have been in the game so long they could be DJ’s themselves. Has that science changed?

“I think that’s changed over the years. A lot of people use Serato, a program for DJ’s. Then they just hook the laptop up to the turn tables. It’s still live DJ’ing, but there was a controversy when it came out because artists would just download music all at once instead of having to collect records."

To Vinnie and Jus, collecting albums should involve some soul. “They could just have a few thousand albums at once instead of buying Jazzy Jeff or Kid Caprio…albums you could spend your whole life collecting. I’m torn about that.” Vinnie says.

“I think it’s dope. Our DJ uses Serato.” Jus says.

“A lot of younger kids I meet now have no history about what they spin. They spin 90’s hip-hop for parties and it’s just like a radio DJ playing the same thing. A lot of heads don’t know about the music, right now.”

To Jus, it’s not just music, it’s a heritage. “We study the art form and the culture since we are a part of it as well. Those records affected us, as people.” 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Yes Men - Comedy

The Yes Men are informational saboteurs and cyberspace pranksters using guerilla-style, improv comedy tactics to give the abusively rich and powerful a solid reality check.

Their usual methodology is to pose as executives of a corporation and attend a business conference, delivering a satirical exposition about the companies true intent, using shocking imagery and brutally honest language (much to the astonishment of their audience) who may never figure out those business executives were actually the Yes Men.

Where did you get the idea for the Yes Men?

Andy and Mike were interested in politics and wanted to make a change. They couldn’t get involved in the WTO protests in Seattle, but they wanted to do something. They got the idea to set up the WTO website and when they were invited to several conferences, they just went with it to see how far they could go. It was almost accidental.

Were there any early Yes Men attempts that failed horribly?

I wouldn’t say it failed horribly, but there was one that didn’t achieve anything. During the Bush campaign the Yes Men put together a Bush campaign bus. They tried to pretend to be Bush organizers, to pose as the uber Bush, but it was more on the harmless side.

It seems to me that the worse case scenario is when nobody notices. The college students that got angry in the first film didn’t seem to like who the Yes Men were pretending to be. They were mad, but they were paying attention.

The reaction of the college students in the film, while disfavorable, was at least a reaction. The impact is more about getting media attention around an issue. We have these big, powerful corporations doing criminal things, and if nobody sees anything the system is not going to work.

Are there any organizations or corporations you don’t want to go after?

I don’t think these choices are ever made…if a group is doing something wrong, we’ll consider it. Targets are chosen based on other activists taking interest. When we went after the Chamber of Commerce, it was because it was connected to activists working on climate change. There are many targets, but only so many hours in a day.

So even if it was the CIA, NSA or Blackwater, you’ll go after them?

Of course. If a group is subverting democracy we’ll go after them. We just have a style of activism, but we encourage everyone to speak out against abuses. Everyone should challenge greedy, criminal behavior…but I doubt if the CIA or the NSA is concerned about The Yes Men.

Is it getting more difficult to pull off your pranks?

No…it’s actually getting easier. There are thousands of business conferences every year. It’s a big conference, and things are so bland they aren’t even paying attention. Once you put on a suit and tie it’s generally assumed you are supposed to be there.

What advice do you have for other groups who would like to emulate The Yes Men?

We would encourage them. the Yes Men have a certain style, a certain approach. Civil disobedience is one way, but there has to be activism and activity to make a change. Organizing is what led to civil rights changes. If you go to our website, you’ll get plenty of advice.

Have any organizations threatened you with civil or criminal action?

Yes, in fact. It’s almost never happened, but recently the Chamber of Commerce threatened the Yes Men with civil action, which is ironic considering they attempt to reform frivolous lawsuits. We are getting sued by them, but we are represented by lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation so we’ll beat them.

Have you guys received any threats of violence?

No. They have a lot of money to spend on suing people, and that’s what they do. But their lawsuits are more for scaring people.

It seems that most corporations and organizations don’t “get” the joke and treat you with some measure of politeness, while the college students from your first film got upset. Is this common?

I think that it’s the format. Hopefully universities are going to promote critical thought and critical thinking. But business conferences just presume that people with suits and ties are supposed to be there. But business conference people are much more bored, I guess. In that environment they are just going to be more opportunities.

Which organizations out there really need a Yes Men-style attack?

The big banks that are trying to thwart financial reform. The health insurance companies…even with the new bill that’s going to give them more customers. They all need a Yes Men intervention. We need a lot more rabble rousing. The banks were just left off the hook.

Has anyone tried to pull a similar Yes Men-style attack on you guys?

There was the Glenn Beck show. They emailed us during the Chamber of Commerce prank, and tried to invite us to the show. We think they were trying to get us there to serve us legal papers.

Tell me about your new film.

There’s a lot of rundowns of some of the biggest Yes Men pranks. One was the Dow catastrophe that killed so many people…Andy went on BBC and said that Dow would take responsibility for their actions and reimburse the victims. It got a lot of interest going and the media covered it for a while. Normally, people don’t talk about that disaster.

Another one is the Yes Men impersonated Exxon Mobile and went to an oil conference in Canada and then we had another one where we printed a dream edition of the New York Times announcing the Iraq War was over and Bush was being accused of treason.

So the Yes Men are worldwide?

Oh yes. The work we do is complimentary and it’s helpful to the organizations to get their story out. Especially with climate change, there are numerous organizations who want to help us. And we want to help them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles Update #5 - OWS

This is the second part of my interview with Ryan Rice, who is a writer, media representative and roaming informed moderator for Occupy Los Angeles and the 99% Movement.

He has also worked closely with Occupy Oakland, and was jailed along with Kayvan Saveghi, the second military veteran who was injured by Oakland police and left in his jail cell with severe internal injuries for sixteen hours without medical treatment.

It would be irresponsible of me to post the rest of this interview, which is a lurid account of Ryan's experience in jail along with Kayvan Saveghi, without adding my own brief comment.

I don't hate cops. My father was a police officer, and so were his friends and a few other members of my family. My father is retired and although I myself am not a police officer, I grew up with cops. I can't entirely understand what it's like to be a member of law enforcement, but I do understand a few things.

It's tough to have a dangerous, sometimes violent job where you don't get paid a lot, retirement is uncertain, everyone you try to help seems to hate you and the media (and anyone with a camera) can't wait to make you look like the modern-day Gestapo. 

Most cops are very good, honest people who want to help people. If they weren't they could never get hired as law enforcement. Yes, there are some bad cops. There are also bad waiters and bad brain surgeons and bad nuclear physicists. 

Otherwise, I believe there are always more good people than bad, regardless of occupation. 

The cops in Oakland were doing what they were told to do. Ultimately, law enforcement must obey an elected public official. If the official does their job, what happened in Oakland doesn't happen.

I don't hate cops. I blame the elected officials they work for when and vote them out of office when they do a bad job, and vote into office public officials who understand people (which includes police officers) and knows how to handle peaceful demonstrators without unnecessary force, torture or confinement. 

That is my honest opinion. 

I also would like to mention that my father was a military veteran, and so were many of my friends and family growing up. I still have a lot of friends who are veterans, or who are currently serving in the military right now, and I have a tremendous respect for them.

You normally work for Occupy Los Angeles, but from what I understand you flew up to assist with Occupy Oakland. What was that like?

We got approved for funds for a van so a few of us took a trip up there. We drove up there November 2nd, Tuesday night and got there by November 3rd for the general strike. 

You were also arrested with the second military veteran, Kayvan Saveghi, who was critically injured by police officers in Oakland?

Yes. He was leaving the Occupy site when he was beaten and arrested. I myself was sick and had been sleeping in my tent when I woke up to flash bang and tear gas grenades. I wanted to find my friends and make sure they were safe, so I put on my gas mask and I went out to the “no-zone” to find my friends.

That was where most of the protestors were, defending their First Amendment rights and standing up to police. Anyone there was targeted for intimidation, brutality and arrest.

So you got to the jail after Saveghi?

We were all zip-tied, I think there was about 103 arrests. I was on a Sheriff’s bus that had about 55 people on board. They kept moving us around arbitrarily with no explanation, and they left the zip-ties on. I was with him when we were moved around from cell block A, to B, to D…I spent about 15 hours in jail, and I’d say I spent about half that time in a cell with him.

Well, the guy is a veteran. He’s a tough cookie. We were all concerned about his hands, which were visibly swollen from baton beatings. His arm, leg and side were also bruised heavily. But an internal injury can take hours before you start feeling the pain. 

With the adrenaline rush of getting beaten and arrested, that can stave off the pain for a while, but after the eighth hour he started requesting medical attention and at hour twelve he was really starting to cry for help.
At one point he was crawling down the hallway, pleading for assistance, and the guards just snickered at him.

Did they make fun of him?

They didn’t really make fun of him, they just said, “Well, we can’t help you if you can’t get up off the ground.” 

Did they know he was a veteran?


Was he targeted for intimidation because he was a veteran?

We were all targeted for intimidation by the police because we were protestors. Every opportunity the police had to intimidate us, to be arbitrarily cruel, they took. It angers me because it was so unnecessary. 

I’m speechless because we were powerless to stop this. Our rights were being violated. The police were not there to protect and serve us. They were there to protect and serve their corporate overlords. It made me so angry that I, as a protestor, was powerless to stop it. 

They are talking about another raid. I know the city council is figuring out what to do with them, how to support them. In Los Angeles the house has approved a resolution, which I believe is just empty words, but here’s the big city on the West Coast putting pressure on New York and saying, “Hey, we’re accommodating them.

Mayor Blumberg in New York City needs to accommodate the protestors down at Wall Street. So I think any kind of action by any official will be good in terms of letting other cities know how to deal with them.

I don’t know what is going to happen. The general assembly’s there are awesome, they have hundreds of people that participate. Who knows? This movement is happening so quickly, and the dynamics are changing so much that I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Do you think that Occupy Wall Street wants the same thing as Occupy L.A.? Are all of the movements protesting the same thing? Because I feel that Occupy Wall Street has one set of demands, and different cities have their own demands based on what their particular problems might be.

For instance, Oakland has had a long history of police violence, but here at Occupy L.A. it’s a different sort of feeling here, and the police have been very polite. 

I think it is important to note the individuality of these protests. When Occupy Wall Street started and Occupy L.A. began, I felt that there was an element to Occupy L.A. that was different. We were there for the financial reasons. We were there to protest the banks, to protest profits over people…

Occupy L.A. had the need to address the social issues that come with a broken, “crony-capitalism” type of system including homelessness, immigration issues…some of these issues are much more apparent in L.A. than over at Occupy Wall Street. 

So I think that each city does have it’s own space to access issues. In Oakland it was police brutality. We are all here to address the same sets of issues on a state and local level. I think that in Oakland that was a powerful component.

What do you think is going to happen next with the Occupy movement? Are you going to back up a Democratic or Republican candidate that supports your views?

I’ve spoken out against Occupy aligning itself with a broken political system. But there is some value to looking at what the Tea Party has done to promote their own agenda. I don’t agree with them, but they have successfully integrated themselves into the political process and they have brought some of the things that they want to do to their fruition. 

If we can do that, I’m not necessarily against it, but what I would like to see is not necessarily one of us running our own politicians, but I would like to see politicians that are clearly supporting us and coming to us, like Dennis Kucinich or Obama, but not just as politicians but as people who are standing up for what’s right. 
Any politician would be welcome here, if they want to stand up for what’s right.

Here's how you can help to bring real participating democracy back to the American government. Money, letters of support, supplies...everything counts.

You can donate to Occupy Wall Street, here.

You can donate to Occupy Los Angeles, here. They recently posted this important banking update on their Facebook page

Here's a link to their Amazon wish list.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been incredibly supportive of the protesters. You can support him right back, here.

Governor Jerry Brown could take out Occupy Los Angeles with a single phone call. Write him a letter and thank him for the support.

Since most of the government stopped caring about the civil rights of Americans back in the late 90's, we're lucky we have groups like the National Lawyers Guild to defend the few we have left. You can support them here.

A letter to the LAPD in support of the demonstrations and a big donation to the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation will help the movement. Remember, cops are also the 99%.