Holland, Joshua


Why Is the Conservative Brain More Fearful? The Alternate Reality Right-Wingers Inhabit Is Terrifying

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

Consider for a moment just how terrifying it must be to live life as a true believer on the right. Reality is scary enough, but the alternative reality inhabited by people who watch Glenn Beck, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or think Michele Bachmann isn't a joke must be nothing less than horrifying.

Research suggests that conservatives are, on average, more susceptible to fear than those who identify themselves as liberals. Looking at MRIs of a large sample of young adults last year, researchers at University College London discovered that “greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala” ($$). The amygdala is an ancient brain structure that's activated during states of fear and anxiety. (The researchers also found that “greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex” – a region in the brain that is believed to help people manage complexity.)

Occupy Activists Try to Shut Down West Coast Ports

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

On Monday morning, about 500 activists with Occupy Oakland braved a predawn chill to blockade the Port of Oakland, the fifth busiest container port in the United States. The protesters broke up into 3 which which blocked the entrances to several shipyards in the sprawling complex, leaving dozens of trucks idling in line. Police eventually moved in to force open the gates; Oakland Police interim Chief Howard Jordan said that two occupiers were arrested.

The shut-down was part of a coordinated day of action on the West Coast. Protesters also reportedly caused disruptions at ports in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle for at least part of the day (details are sketchy as of press time). Occupiers clashed with police in Long Beach, Seattle Houston and San Diego.

The Right Wing’s Absurd Zombie Lie About The Economy - And Why It's Totally Wrong

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

Wall Street turned a few million home-loans into what Warren Buffet called "economic weapons of mass destruction," cratered the global economy and then, when the bubble burst, turned around and insisted on a massive bailout courtesy of the American tax-payer.

That rightly infuriated most Americans, but it has nonetheless become something of an article of faith among conservatives that Wall Street bears little blame for the Great Recession. The dominant narrative on the right today is that "big government" is ultimately responsible for the crash. In the words of one of Andrew Breitbart's bloggers, Democratic lawmakers like Barney Frank and Chris Dodd “brought down the banking industry by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them.”

That such a ludicrous claim could gain such wide traction is a testament to the intellectual debasement of modern conservative discourse. No bank was ever “forced” – or coerced or incentivized by the government in any way – to make a bad loan.

What If Social Services Were Sent to Help Occupations Instead of Riot Cops?

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

Occupations across the country have struggled to feed and shelter the least fortunate among us, and then faced often violent police crackdowns at great taxpayer expense. Pause for a moment and imagine what might result if mayors sent in social workers to help people rather than riot police to bust some heads?

In a society that tends to avert its gaze from the homeless, the hungry, the addicted and the mentally ill, the Occupy movement's compassion has become an albatross around its neck. “We don't exclude the people at the margins,” one protester at Occupy Oakland told me. “We invite them in and feed them.”

Police Being Sued for Violent Crackdown on Occupy Oakland

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

The National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed suit on Monday against the Oakland Police Department, and any local agencies assisting them, for its widespread use of excessive force against Occupy Oakland protesters on October 25 and during the night of November 2.

That OPD has shown contempt for the rule of law in its violent crackdowns on dissent, and departed dramatically from what the department itself views as best practices for balancing public safety and free speech, is evident from the nature of the lawsuit: the civil rights attorneys are trying to compel OPD to follow its own crowd-control policy.

Injury-Free Eviction of Occupy Oakland Proves Cops' Previous Efforts Were Displays of Excessive Force

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

Early Monday morning, hundreds of police officers clad in heavy riot gear descended on the Occupy Oakland encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza and proved definitively that the hyper-militarized crowd-control tactics that have brought so much national attention to the city in recent weeks represented unnecessary uses of excessive force.

On Monday, police chose a different method by which to achieve the exact same goal as on October 25 -- this time with notably less violence. There were no reports of injuries, and police commanders chose to follow the book. California's Crowd Management and Civil Disobedience guidelines (PDF) state, “Only that force which is objectively reasonable may be used to arrest violators and restore order.” Unlike on previous nights when mayhem prevailed in the streets of Oakland, they did just that in the early morning of November 14.

Why Is the Oakland Police Department Hiding the Truth About Its Violent Crackdown on the Occupy Protests?

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

After three notably violent crackdowns on protesters in as many weeks, Oakland Police Department officials have refused a request by the ACLU of Northern California to release police reports documenting their use of force as required by law.

“We saw events that we found extremely troubling, and which violated provisions of Oakland's own crowd control policy,” Linda Lye, a staff attorney with ACLU of Northern California told AlterNet.

After recent police actions in Oakland gained national attention, “there was a lot of lip service paid to transparency and accountability and the public's interest in monitoring the situation,” she said. “But then OPD proceeded to say that it was invoking one of the statutory exceptions to the Public Records Act for the vast majority of our requests.”

OWS Oakland Takes Over City, Shuts Down Port, But Nightfall Brings Chaos

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

As many as 15,000 people participated in actions across Oakland yesterday, with small marches peeling off to protest in front of banks or "occupy" foreclosed homes. There were probably eight to ten times the number of people in the streets of Oakland today as I'd seen during past OWS actions. Police maintained a minimal presence throughout the day. There were a few scattered acts of vandalism -- windows were broken at two banks but there was no violence, and the protests were remarkably up-beat throughout the day. But that changed when night fell as the streets of Oakland once again resonated with the sharp cracks of tear gas canisters and "less lethal" projectiles being fired, and flash-bang grenades scattering the crowd.

But first: did a small group of activists manage in just 5 short days of organizing to bring about the first general strike in the United States in generations?

Oakland Police Violence Raises the Stakes for the OWS Movement

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

Occupy Oakland has been the target of a notably vicious smear campaign mounted by the conservative media. They didn't just offer the usual pabulum about how the occupiers hated America or were closet socialists. They painted them as sub-human: mired in filth and gripped by violent anarchy. One right-wing blogger likened it to "The Lord of the Flies." The campaign's racist and classist undertones were none too subtle.

When I first visited the camp on October 22, I found a very different scene. About 150 tents made up a small, self-sufficient community in Frank Ogawa Plaza, located steps away from City Hall. The kernel of truth behind the smears was that it was located in downtown Oakland, a city with some serious problems and a long history of distrust between the community and a police department tasked with serving and protecting it.

How the Right's Lame Attack on Occupy Wall St. Shows the Poverty of Conservative Ideology

By Joshua Holland
AlterNet

A new NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll finds that among those with an opinion, twice as many Americans support the Occupy Wall Street Movement than oppose it. The movement -- with its defining message of standing with the 99 percent of Americans who don't have lobbyists working for them – appears to have tapped into a deep vein of discontent among working people whose economic security has been savaged by decades of upward redistribution of the nation's wealth.

The right, in keeping with its habitual knee-jerk defense of the privileged, has tried, with little success so far, to push back on that message. And its response offers us a microcosmic view of everything that's wrong with conservative discourse these days.