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Forum Post: The New Fascism: Terms and Conditions

Posted 9 months ago on Feb. 18, 2014, 3:59 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The New Fascism: Terms and Conditions

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 14:13 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21949-the-new-fascism-terms-and-conditions

Let's talk about those pesky terms and conditions.

Last month, I had a chance to talk with John McAfee, the founder of the popular McAfee computer security programs.

We talked about how people usually don't read the terms and conditions of the smartphone applications that they download onto their phones.

But McAfee did read the terms and conditions of the Bank of America smartphone application, and what he saw was pretty shocking.

McAfee told me that, by agreeing to the terms and conditions for the Bank of America application, "You give the Bank of America application, which is the remote banking application, the permission to turn on your phone and make phone calls at your expense and without telling you, to turn on your camera and microphone without telling you at any time, and to transmit pictures and sound files."

While you may not exactly be signing away your life to Bank of America, you're giving the big bank a great deal of access to your private life whenever it wants. That's pretty scary.

And Bank of America isn't the only big bank or corporation using terms and conditions to barge in on your private life.

Fellow big bank Capital One sent out a new contract update with new terms and conditions to its credit card holders.

And as the Los Angeles Times puts it, the bank, "makes clear it can drop by any time it pleases."

The new terms and conditions specify that the bank, "may contact you in any manner we choose" including emails, calls, texts, and faxes.

Ok, that's not terrible.

But then comes the part when Capital One says it might make "personal visits" which can be "at your home and at your place of employment."

So, say you're a Capital One credit card holder, and you forget to make a monthly payment. According to the terms and conditions that you just agreed to, Capital One can come to your office and harass you to make that payment. And if you've left work for the day, bank representatives could come to your home.

And if you're lucky enough to avoid a "personal visit" from Capital One, the bank may still call you at all hours of the night, without revealing its identity.

That's because the new terms and conditions also state that the bank, "may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose."

Many people might interpret this to mean that Capital One can trick you into thinking you're getting a call from your doctor's office or your mother-in-law, and it's all perfectly legal.

The invasive nature of Bank of America's and Capital One's terms and conditions are another example of how corporations have run amok in America, with very little to stop them.

But they're also symptoms of a larger problem: fascism in the 21st century.

Historically when we talk about fascism we think about Mussolini and his replacement of the elected parliament with corporate representatives.

After all, he invented the word "fascism" to describe the merger of corporate and state interests.

And today when we talk about fascism, we talk about how corporations are buying off politicians in Washington, and taking control of our democracy.

But what about fascism that doesn't even involve governments, except to enforce contracts?

We're witnessing a new era of fascism, where corporations are creating intrusive and over-bearing terms and conditions that customers click to agree to without even reading.

As a result, corporations in America have acquired king-like power, while we're the poor serfs that must abide by their every rule or else.

But enough is enough.

It's time for us all to start saying "wait a minute."

We need to have a national conversation, and establish clear guidelines on what corporations can and can't do in those never-ending lists of terms and conditions.

And we need to put those guidelines into law, so Bank of America can't spy on you in the bedroom, and Capital One can't come running into your workplace.

Sometimes big government is needed to help Americans take back their lives, and this is definitely one of those times.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Julian Assange on Being Placed on NSA "Manhunting" List and Secret Targeting of WikiLeaks Supporters

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 10:28 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

Top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden have revealed new details about how the United States and Britain targeted the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks after it published leaked documents about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. According to a new article by The Intercept, Britain’s top spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, secretly monitored visitors to a WikiLeaks website by collecting their IP addresses in real time, as well as the search terms used to reach the site. One document from 2010 shows that the National Security Agency added WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to a "manhunting" target list, together with suspected members of al-Qaeda. We speak to Assange live from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has sought political asylum since 2012. Also joining us is his lawyer Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

TRANSCRIPT http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21963-julian-assange-on-being-placed-on-nsa-manhunting-list-secret-targeting-of-wikileaks-supporters

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

LAPD Goes to Israel, Falls in Love With Drones and Mass Surveillance

Sunday, 23 February 2014 10:46 By Rania Khalek, Electronic Antifada | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22045-lapd-goes-to-israel-falls-in-love-with-drones-and-mass-surveillance

The Jewish Journal has an incredible write-up of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) recent visit to Israel.

For nine days early this month, eight of the LAPD’s highest ranking officers toured Israel on a trip organized by LAPD Deputy Chief and commander of the Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau, Michael Downing, and headed by LAPD Information Technology Bureau commander Horace Frank.

While it’s unclear how much the trip cost taxpayers, Frank told the Journal that the junket was financed with “grant funding that was available for us to look at emergency technologies and best practices.”

Since 2001, the US government has doled out tens of billions of dollars in federal grants to local and state police departments in the name of fighting terrorism, so it’s likely that the grant that paid for the LAPD’s Israel trip came from DHS.

Though LAPD officers have visited Israel in the past, this appears to have been the most high-level trip to date. But this was not your typical propaganda tour.

Instead of stopping at the Western Wall or Yad Vesham as many foreign dignitaries do, officers visited Israel’s private security firms and drone manufacturers, most of them formed by veterans of the Israeli military’s top-secret 8200 Unit, which, like the US National Security Agency, engages in mass spying and cyber warfare.

On 6 Febuary, the LAPD group attended the Big Data Intelligence Conference in Herzliya, where officers salivated at the prospect of using invasive, abuse-prone Israeli surveillance products (used to control Palestinians) on the people of Los Angeles (the brown, black and politically active lefty ones, of course).

In an opening speech to kick off the conference, Frank referred to what he feels are shared values between the US and Israel: “As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements.” How very kind of him to say.

Of all the Fourth Amendment-destroying products they came across, Frank and his fellow officers were most attracted to the drones. As The Jewish Journal reports:

Surveillance drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Sky Sapience were also hot items on the LAPD tour. Both Frank and Perez lit up when talking about the HoverMast, a new tethered drone from Sky Sapience that was just released to the IDF late last year.

On the Sky Sapience website, the HoverMast 100 is advertised as follows (emphasis mine):

Whether your mission is locating illegals attempting to cross your border, crowd control at a political rally, or perhaps increasing security at your local electricity plant, Sky Sapience’s HoverMast-100, tethered hovering machine, combines engineering genius and innovative materials to provide exceptional observation and surveillance capabilities.

I suppose such a product is fitting for a police force regularly engaged in racial profiling and suppression of First Amendment protected activity.

Speaking to the Journal, Frank couldn’t stop gushing about Israeli tech giants like Nice Systems, which is currently providing mass video surveillance at the Olympics, morphing Sochi into a virtual police state.

Frank also hailed Verint, an Israeli surveillance firm that, according to investigative journalist James Bamford, was contracted by the NSA to wiretap Americans.

Reports the Journal:

Both companies already count the LAPD as a client. But, Frank said, “we’re looking at some of their additional solutions … They have a lot of new technologies that we are very much interested in.”

Nice System’s president of security, Yaron Tchwella, spoke at the conference about the company’s ability to help government agencies capture and store the billions of calls, emails, messages and social media posts that their populations generate each day, then analyze it in real time to detect potential threats.

Israel’s “targeted killing” policy, which was once condemned by the United States (under the George W. Bush administration, ironically enough) has since been embraced by President Obama as the leading method in fighting the never-ending war on terror. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that surveillance and cyber warfare seem to be following a similar pattern.

Still, without dedicated police state enthusiasts in the United States, the importaion of abusive Israeli practices would not be possible, as the Journal explains:

The LAPD-Israel bond was in large part fused by former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who made official trips to Israel to learn about the country’s advanced counter-terrorism tactics during his chiefdom from 2002 to 2009. At a town hall meeting in Los Angeles near the end of his term, Bratton said of Israeli intelligence experts: “They are our allies. They are some of the best at what they do in the world, and that close relationship has been one of growing strength and importance.”

Today Bill Bratton is the New York City police commissioner and was appointed by the left’s latest progressive savior, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who just last month attended a secret meeting with AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby, where he declared his unbending loyalty to defending Israel.

Good luck New York City, you’re going to need it.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

This energy source could solve all of our problems — so why is no one talking about it?

Hint: It's because it can't be weaponized

By Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry | March 4, 2014

http://theweek.com/article/index/257268/this-energy-source-could-solve-all-of-our-problems--so-why-is-no-one-talking-about-it

Energy is arguably the single most important strategic issue of our time. It literally powers everything we do. The world economy see-saws to the gyrations of oil prices. Most of our geopolitical squabbles are about energy in one way or another. And, of course, above all hovers the threatening Armageddon of global climate change.

But when it comes to energy, you probably don't know who, or what, to trust. Clean energy! No, wait, that doesn't work! (And what does that mean, exactly?) Shale gas! No, wait, you will pollute everything.

There's a band of hipsters within the community of people who think hard about energy who think this is a bunch of hoo-ha. We already have a perfectly useful and clean energy source, they say: nuclear power. In terms of its capacity, nuclear power could provide almost all of our energy needs. In terms of carbon emissions, nuclear power is totally clean. Outside of a handful of countries whose names you probably already know, proliferation isn't an issue. Of course, there's the issue of safety. But nuclear power is safe, advocates say. Chernobyl happened because of the insanity of communism, and Fukushima because you probably shouldn't build reactors on the path of tsunamis, not because of anything inherent to nuclear power. The solution to nuclear waste, they say, is more R&D, so that waste can be recycled. Look at France! It draws almost all of its energy from nuclear power, with no serious incident to note in the past 50 years, and the power is cheap, plentiful, and clean.

Within the energy analysis community, nuclear advocates are one hipster subset. But as always when we're talking about hipsters, there's a subset within the subset. And these energy hipsters are pushing a nuclear technology that has all the advantages of traditional nuclear and none of the drawbacks. Its name is thorium.

Thorium is an element, like uranium and plutonium, which you can use as fuel for a nuclear reactor. Unlike uranium and plutonium, thorium is abundant. Unlike uranium and plutonium, thorium reactors could have "passive" safety. Traditional nuclear reactors sometimes have the annoying tendency of sometimes exploding and showering the area around them with radioactive waste. This is because plutonium and uranium reactors, when shut down, cannot cool off on their own. They need "active" systems to cool them down. If these systems fail, the reactor starts going into meltdown. Thorium, being a lighter element, doesn't have that problem. If you have an emergency in a thorium reactor, you shut it off, and it cools down on its own. It can't melt down. Unlike uranium and plutonium, thorium produces minimal amounts of waste, and even the little waste it does produce is potentially recyclable. And finally, unlike uranium and plutonium, with thorium you can make a reactor, but you can't make a bomb.

And there you have the problem.

Thorium advocates point out that almost from the beginning, nuclear research has been sponsored by governments — or, more accurately, military-industrial complexes. The nuclear age started in World War II and the Cold War, when researching nuclear technology meant researching military technology. Peaceful nuclear technology was a happy dividend, but it was never the focus. The list of countries with nuclear power industries is also the list of nuclear warhead superpowers (even South Africa's peaceful nuclear industry is an offshoot of its Apartheid-era nuclear weapons program). And so those who hold the purse strings of nuclear research relegated thorium to the dustbin of history. Not because of any global conspiracy, mind you, but just because they acted rationally given their priorities at the time. And then inertia takes over. Anybody who's anybody in the nuke-industrial sector has spent their entire career working on uranium and plutonium, which is a bird in the hand, and so they dismiss thorium as a pipe dream.

Is it? I'm no scientist, but what I've read suggests thorium energy is very much conceivable. And if it works, it really would be the technology that solves all our energy problems.

Am I saying it will do that? No. Am I saying we should be talking a heck of a lot longer — and louder — about it? Absolutely yes.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22313) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Must also share this - So - TWEET - as well - thanks

DKAtoday ‏@DKAtoday

This energy source could solve all of our problems — so why is no one talking about it? http://theweek.com//article/index/257268/this-energy-source-could-solve-all-of-our-problems-mdash-so-why-is-no-one-talking-about-it


Protesting in and of itself - IS - NOT ENOUGH - Solutions Need To Be Forwarded As Part Of The Protest Process

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22313) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Tweeting again in another presentation:

DKAtoday ‏@DKAtoday

Protesting in and of itself - IS - NOT ENOUGH - Solutions Need To Be Forwarded As Part Of The Protest Process https://occupywallst.org/forum/the-new-fascism-terms-and-conditions/#comment-1025339

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22313) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

Traditional nuclear reactors sometimes have the annoying tendency of sometimes exploding and showering the area around them with radioactive waste. This is because plutonium and uranium reactors, when shut down, cannot cool off on their own. They need "active" systems to cool them down. If these systems fail, the reactor starts going into meltdown. Thorium, being a lighter element, doesn't have that problem. If you have an emergency in a thorium reactor, you shut it off, and it cools down on its own. It can't melt down. Unlike uranium and plutonium, thorium produces minimal amounts of waste, and even the little waste it does produce is potentially recyclable. And finally, unlike uranium and plutonium, with thorium you can make a reactor, but you can't make a bomb.

And there you have the problem.

Complimenting : Thorium problem (?)

Liquid Metal Battery

Welcome to The Hopewell Project hopewellproject.org

Energy independence, environmental preservation, and economic sustainability represent critical global challenges. The Hopewell Project, a New Jersey Nonprofit ...


SO - The major roadblocks to implementing truly clean energy programs?

Fossil Fuel Industry

The Military Industrial Complex

Private Interest manipulating Government.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (22313) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 months ago

And So - a complimentary TWEET

DKAtoday ‏@DKAtoday

https://occupywallst.org/forum/the-new-fascism-terms-and-conditions/#comment-1025336

Truly clean energy?

Why NOT ???

Please take a moment Real food 4 Thought/Healthy Change/Growth

RETWEET

Say NO to KXL

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Campus Rape and the Rise of the Academic Industrial Complex

Monday, 03 March 2014 13:31 By Lauren Chief Elk, Truthout | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22173-the-rise-of-the-academic-industrial-complex-and-campus-sexual-assault

Campus sexual assault is a major safety concern that university administrations have major financial incentives to underreport.

In 2012, it was revealed that the University of Montana and the city of Missoula were being investigated for a mass cover-up of sexual assaults on campus. Eighty reported assaults were either ignored or not prosecuted over a three-year span. Senior administration of the school was personally involved in attempting to silence victims and skew reports, and the football coach and athletic director at the center of the inquiry were fired. On February 14, the US Department of Justice reported that the Missoula County prosecutor's office "systematically discriminates against female sexual assault victims in conjunction with the cases stemming from the University of Montana.

Sexual assault on college campuses is not a new problem, but it has arguably become an increasingly severe one. Rana Sampson states in her report "Acquaintance Rape of College Students" for the United States Department of Justice, "Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses today." As more attention focuses on the issue and how to curb and prevent it, the conversation has relied heavily on addressing awareness, education and reporting. While that all is important, serious questions remain about the factors behind the heightening of the problem. How has the campus environment become increasingly unsafe? Why have senior administration and university presidents become more personally and deeply involved in covering up rape, rather than protecting their students? High rates of campus rape may be a symptom of the growing Academic Industrial Complex - specifically, how the increase of private money influences administrative handling of sexual assault, and particularly, how it is silenced.

Deregulation, Athletics and Accountability

A growing trend since the late '90s and early '00s has been the deregulation of college and the NCAA. The push to deregulate higher learning, particularly management, occurred under the guise of making college more affordable and more accessible. The result has been the opposite, with universities morphing into public corporations. College administrators are increasingly positioned under the direction of CEOs (as they continue to take places on corporate boards), instead of the public and the state. This means corporations have more control and influence over how policies are leveraged and the image of the institution. So whether rape is a prevalent problem on campuses or not (it is), the demand to maintain the facade that it isn't is very high. Safe learning environments are of the utmost importance to parents and students when deciding which college to attend. Sexual assault is a major safety concern, and parents and students are trusting administrations when they report low to zero instances of rape. Additionally, if a campus appears to have a problem with violence, it is less likely that private donors and businesses are going to have an interest in funding it. Therefore, in the realms of both admissions and outside funding, universities have major incentives to underreport the crime.

With the deregulation of the NCAA, college coaches now have close to unlimited access to potential future athletes without risk of recruiting violations. This opens up an array of perks that coaches can offer as a way to entice athletes (young men in particular) to come play for their team. A popular perk coaches offer is access to young women and sexual assault without consequence. This standard is set for athletes before they even begin college. Coaches also still actively recruit young men being criminally investigated for rape. Young men are given the message - by college officials - that before they join the team, objectifying and victimizing women is something they're entitled to do, and that they will be protected from repercussions.

Ed Cunningham, an ESPN college football analyst, framed recent sexual assault allegations against four Vanderbilt football players as an "isolated incident," saying, "But these are young men. They are given a place in society where they are not always going to follow the rules." In this "rules"-based frame, the issue of sexual assault is positioned as an issue of, "Be careful because you might get in trouble, or someone might get you in trouble."

In a system in which authority figures are covering up, making excuses for and even encouraging sexual assault by athletes, the people who are "supposed" to be holding these men accountable are the ones dismissing the gravity of their actions. Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill treats the issue of sexual assault by his players as an interference in the success of their season: "Talk to your team about it, and do your best as a coaching staff and as a team to not let it be a distraction." When the value of BCS bowl game, play off, and March Madness appearances are at a premium, the importance of preventing rape or holding athletic culture accountable for it is at an all-time low - and in many places - nonexistent. Colleges are raking in more and more money from sponsors, televised games and championship titles. Private donors interested in keeping up successful seasons and programs are also providing schools with millions of dollars. Rape becomes an inconvenient reality - one that must be hidden to ensure profits.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Rape as a Cost-Benefit Analysis

Private enterprise has clearly benefited from deregulation and expanded its takeover of higher learning. So what are the stipulations when corporate money is invested? College administrations already scramble to give corporate donors the impression their campuses are safe and free of rape to maintain their schools' reputation. Corporate money - and the reputation of the corporation - makes the requirement to appear flawless even more imperative. In the context of sexual assault, victims become the problem, and so to make the issue of sexual assault disappear, victims are the ones who are made to disappear. Much as employees in business settings are fired for reporting sexual harassment and rape, and students at universities are, and will be, treated in a similar manner (sometimes through expulsion, or even institutionalization. Additionally, schools create hostile environments for students who've spoken up about their victimization. Take University of North Carolina sophomore Landen Gambil, who filed a federal complaint against the university for its treatment of assault survivors. The university has now charged Gambil with an honor code violation, for creating a "hostile environment" for the person who assaulted her. When protecting capital interests is the priority, the policies that address sexual assault work to shield donors, administration and rapists.

In a capitalist setting, dehumanization for power and profit is nothing new. However, we have not traditionally considered campus rape as a problem associated with, or as a result of, capitalism because so many colleges are intended to be public institutions focused on supporting students' efforts to get an education. Colleges are not supposed to be corporations. Yet this is what institutions of higher learning are rapidly becoming. When the focus of academia evolves into profit-making rather than providing education, safety risks and concerns of individuals become insignificant, and exploitation of people occurs - much like what happens with unregulated businesses, this is a side-effect of capitalism.

Sexual assault is especially inconvenient for capitalist interests because of the expenses attached to addressing survivors' needs. According to the US Dept. of Justice, "Overall, rape is believed to carry the highest annual victim cost of any crime." Rape is expensive, and so, it's cheaper for colleges to settle lawsuits than it is to deal with the crime. Settlements are a standard tool of capitalism. For example, in 1977 it was discovered that it was more cost-effective for Ford to settle lawsuits of Pinto victims than it was to make the minor fix to make the car safer. Between the cost of rape as a crime and the loss of revenue it would mean for colleges and their corporate counterparts, settling Title IX lawsuits is worth the risk and cheaper than protecting students. Sound unbelievable?

The Obama Administration performed a cost-benefit analysis of rape in another institution that also has perpetual high rates of sexual violence: prisons. This was done via the Prison Rape Elimination Act. The analysis was aimed at assessing the costs of addressing and protecting incarcerated people from sexual assault, versus not doing so. PREA, much like the Clery Act for colleges, was intended to make information about prison rape public, in an attempt to hold prisons accountable for the sexual violence occurring within the institutions. The act also involved conducting a study on the frequency and severity of the problem. The point was to put a monetary value on stopping prison rape. (PREA also divides rape into categories and creates a hierarchy of sexual assault, much as the government did with the Clery Act and Campus SaVE Act.) If our federal government is deciding whether or not to protect citizens from rape in an institution based on how much it costs, it seems possible that some college administrations are capable of the same.

"Within the logic of market capitalism, it is rational for a University to pressure survivors of sexual violence to keep quiet as a way to protect their bottom line," founding director of Project Nia, Mariame Kaba, tells me. "But, 'rational' or not, the actions of these universities are turning victims of violence into accomplices in exploitation by dehumanizing them and by minimizing the harm that they've experienced from rape. Survivors are consistently told - by the antiviolence movement and by authorities - that reporting assaults to the legal system is the main way to validate their claims. Yet universities, caught up in free-market motivations, are often incentivized to discourage survivors from speaking up. The bottom line: The university climate has become hostile to survivors, and either way, they are the ones who lose."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

The March of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption

Monday, 24 February 2014 09:11 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | News Analysis

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22002-the-march-of-anthropogenic-climate-disruption

Last year marked the 37th consecutive year of above-average global temperature, according to data from NASA.

The signs of advanced Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) are all around us, becoming ever more visible by the day.

At least for those choosing to pay attention.

An Abundance of Signs

While the causes of most of these signs cannot be solely attributed to ACD, the correlation of the increasing intensity and frequency of events to ACD is unmistakable.

Let's take a closer look at a random sampling of some of the more recent signs.

Sao Paulo, South America's largest city (over 12 million people), will see its biggest water-supply system run dry soon if there is no rain. Concurry, a town in Australia's outback, is so dry after two rainless years that their mayor is now looking at permanent evacuation as a final possibility. Record temperatures in Australia have been so intense that in January, around 100,000 bats literally fell from the sky during an extreme heat wave.

A now-chronic drought in California, which is also one of the most important agricultural regions in the United States, has reached a new level of severity never before recorded on the US drought monitor in the state. In an effort to preserve what little water remained, state officials there recently announced they would cut off water that the state provides to local public water agencies that serve 25 million residents and about 750,000 acres of farmland. Another impact of the drought there has 17 communities about to run out of water. Leading scientists have discussed how California's historic drought has been worsened by ACD, and a recent NASA report on the drought, by some measures the deepest in over a century, adds:

"The entire west coast of the United States is changing color as the deepest drought in more than a century unfolds. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture and NOAA, dry conditions have become extreme across more than 62% of California's land area - and there is little relief in sight.

"Up and down California, from Oregon to Mexico, it's dry as a bone," comments JPL climatologst Bill Patzert. "To make matters worse, the snowpack in the water-storing Sierras is less than 20% of normal for this time of the year."

"The drought is so bad, NASA satellites can see it from space. On Jan. 18, 2014 - just one day after California governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency - NASA's Terra satellite snapped a sobering picture of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Where thousands of square miles of white snowpack should have been, there was just bare dirt and rock."

During a recent interview, a climate change scientist, while discussing ACD-induced drought plaguing the US Southwest, said that he had now become hesitant to use the word drought, because "the word drought implies that there is an ending."

Meanwhile, New Mexico's chronic drought is so severe the state's two largest rivers are now regularly drying up. Summer 2013 saw the Rio Grande drying up only 18 miles south of Albuquerque, with the drying now likely to spread north and into the city itself. By September 2013, nearly half of the entire US was in moderate to extreme drought.

During a recent interview, a climate change scientist, while discussing ACD-induced drought plaguing the US Southwest, said that he had now become hesitant to use the word drought, because "the word drought implies that there is an ending."

As if things aren't already severe enough, the new report Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers shows that much of the oil and gas fracking activity in both the United States and Canada is happening in "arid, water stressed regions, creating significant long-term water sourcing risks" that will strongly and negatively impact the local ecosystem, communities and people living nearby.

The president of the organization that produced this report said, "Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country's most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions. Barring stiffer water-use regulations and improved on-the-ground practices, the industry's water needs in many regions are on a collision course with other water users, especially agriculture and municipal water use."

Recent data from NASA shows that one billion people around the world now lack access to safe drinking water. Last year at an international water conference in Abu Dhabi, the UAE's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said: "For us, water is [now] more important than oil." Experts now warn that the world is "standing on a precipice" when it comes to growing water scarcity.

Looking northward, Alaska, given its Arctic geo-proximity, regularly sees the signs of advanced ACD. According to a recent NASA report on the northernmost US state:

"The last half of January was one of the warmest winter periods in Alaska's history, with temperatures as much as 40°F (22°C) above normal on some days in the central and western portions of the state, according to Weather Underground's Christopher Bart. The all-time warmest January temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. Numerous other locations - including Nome, Denali Park Headquarters, Palmer, Homer, Alyseka, Seward, Talkeetna, and Kotzebue - all set January records. The combination of heat and rain has caused Alaska's rivers to swell and brighten with sediment, creating satellite views reminiscent of spring and summer runoff."

Another recent study published in The Cryosphere shows that Alaska's Arctic icy lakes are losing their thickness and fewer are freezing all the way through to the bottom during winter. This should not come as a surprise, given that the reflective capacity of Arctic sea ice has is disappearing at twice the rate previously shown.

Polar bear on Bernard Harbor, along the Beaufort Sea coast, Arctic Alaska, June 2001. (Photo: Subhankar Banerjee)

As aforementioned, science now shows that global temperatures are rising every year. In addition to this overall trend, we are now in the midst of a 28-year streak of summer records above the 20th century average.

In another indicator from the north, a new study by the UC Boulder Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research showed that average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years, and indications are that Canadian Arctic temperatures today have not been matched or exceeded for roughly 120,000 years. Research leader Gifford Miller added, "The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is. This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

As ACD progresses, weather patterns come to resemble a heart-rate chart for a heart in defibrillation. Hence, rather than uniform increases in drought or temperatures, we are experiencing haphazard chaotic extreme weather events all over the planet, and the only pattern we might safely assume to continue is an intensification of these events, in both strength and frequency.

Iran's Lake Urmia, once the largest lake in the country, has shrunk to less than half its normal size, causing Iran to face a crisis of water supply. The situation is so dire, government officials are making contingency plans to ration water in Tehran, a city of 22 million. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has even named water as a "national security issue," and when he gives public speeches in areas impacted by water shortages he is now promising residents he will "bring the water back."

In other parts of the world, while water scarcity is heightening already strained caste tensions in India, the UK is experiencing the opposite problems with water. January rains brought parts of England their wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago. The UK's Met Office reported before the end of that month that much of southern England and parts of the Midlands had already seen twice the average rainfall for January, and there were still three days left in the month. January flooding across the UK went on to surpass all 247 years of data on the books, spurring the chief scientist at Britain's Met Office to say that "all the evidence" suggests that the extreme weather in the UK is linked to ACD.

Another part of the world facing a crisis from too much water is Fiji, where residents from a village facing rising sea levels that are flooding their farmlands and seeping into their homes are having to flee. The village is the first to have its people relocated under Fiji's "climate change refugee" program.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

More bad news comes from a recently published study showing that Earth's vegetation could be saturated with carbon by the end of this century, and would thus cease acting as a break on ACD. However, this study could be an under-estimate of the phenomenon, as it is based on a predicted 4C rise in global temperature by 2100, and other studies and modeling predict a 4C temperature increase far sooner. (The Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research suggests a 4C temperature increase by 2060. The Global Carbon Project, which monitors the global carbon cycle, and the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a climate science report, predict 6C and 7C temperature increases, respectively, by 2100. The UN Environment Program predicts up to a 5C increase by 2050.)

Whenever we reach the 4C increase, whether it is by 2050, or sooner, this shall mark the threshold at which terrestrial trees and plants are no longer able to soak up any more carbon from the atmosphere, and we will see an abrupt increase in atmospheric carbon, and an even further acceleration of ACD.

And it's not just global weather events providing the signs. Other first-time phenomena abound as well.

For the first time, scientists have discovered species of Atlantic Ocean zooplankton reproducing in Arctic waters. German researchers say the discovery indicates a possible shift in the Arctic zooplankton community as the region warms, one that could be detrimental to Arctic birds, fish, and marine mammals.

Another study shows an increase in both the range and risk for malaria due to ACD, and cat parasites have even been found in Beluga whales in the Arctic, in addition to recently published research showing other diseases in seals and other Arctic life.

Distressing signs of ACD's increasing decimation of life continue unabated. In addition to between 150-200 species going extinct daily, Monarch butterflies are now in danger of disappearing as well. Experts recently reported that the numbers of Monarch butterflies have dropped to their lowest levels since record-keeping began. At their peak, the butterflies covered an area of Mexican pine and fir forests of 44.5 acres. Now, after steep and persistent declines in the last three years, they only cover 1.65 acres. Extreme weather trends, illegal logging, and a dramatic reduction of the butterflies' habitat are all to blame.

A recently published study that spanned 27-years showed that ACD is "killing Argentina's Magellanic penguin chicks." Torrential rainstorms and extreme heat are killing the young birds in significant numbers.

Distressingly, the vast majority of these citations and studies are only from the last six weeks.

More Pollution, More Denial

Meanwhile, the polluting continues as global carbon emissions only continue to increase.

Another recent study shows that black carbon emissions in India and China could be two to three times more concentrated than previously estimated. Black carbon is a major element of soot, and comes from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. The study showed that parts of India and China could have as much as 130 percent higher black carbon concentrations than shown in standard country models.

India is now rated as having some of the worst air quality in the world, and is tied with China for exposing its population to hazardous air pollution.

Meanwhile, Australian government authorities recently approved a project that will dump dredged sediment near the Great Barrier Reef, a so-called World Heritage Site, to create one of the world's largest coal ports.

Also on the front lines of the coal industry, miners now want to ignite deep coal seams to capture the gases created from the fires to use them for power generation. It's called underground coal gasification, it is on deck for what comes next after the fracking blitz, and it is a good idea for those wishing to turn Earth into Venus.

Then we have BP's "Energy Outlook" for the future, an annual report where the oil giant plots trends in global energy production and consumption. With this, we can expect nothing less than full steam ahead when it comes to vomiting as much carbon into the atmosphere in as short a time as possible.

BP CEO Bob Dudley announced at a January press conference that his company's Outlook sees carbon emissions projected to rise "29% by 2035."

Speaking of BP, the corporate-driven government of the United States continues to serve its masters well.

The US State Department recently released its environmental impact statement that found "no major climate impact" from a continuation in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that will transport tar sands oil – the dirtiest fossil fuel on Earth, produced by the most environmentally destructive fossil fuel extraction process ever known.

US President Barack Obama claims he has yet to make a decision on the pipeline, but we can guess what his decision shall be.

In late January, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee voted down an amendment that would have stated conclusively that ACD is occurring, despite recent evidence that ACD has literally shifted the jet stream, the main system that helps determine all of the weather in North America and Northern Europe. The 24 members of the committee who voted down the amendment, all of them Republicans and more overtly honest about who they are working for than is Obama, have accepted approximately $9.3 million in career contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and thinking the radical change necessary to preserve what life remains on the planet is possible without the complete removal of the system that is killing us, is futile.

The fact that the planet is most likely long past having gone over the cliff when it comes to passing the point of no return regarding ACD is a fact most people prefer not to contemplate.

And who can blame them? The relentless onslaught of distress signals from the planet, coupled with the fact that the governments of the countries generating the most emissions are those marching lock-step with the fossil fuel industries are daunting, to say the least.

Oil, gas, and coal are the fuels the capitalist system uses to generate the all-important next quarterly profit on the road toward infinite growth, as required by the capitalist system.

Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and thinking the radical change necessary to preserve what life remains on the planet is possible without the complete removal of the system that is killing us, is futile.

Half measures, as we have seen all too often, avail us nothing.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Fukushima's radioactive ocean water arrives at West Coast

http://local.msn.com/fukushimas-radioactive-ocean-water-arrives-at-west-coast

Radiation from Japan's leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant has reached waters offshore Canada, researchers said at the annual American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu.

Radiation from Japan's leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant has reached waters offshore Canada, researchers said today at the annual American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu.

MSN Weather: What causes a tsunami?

Video: Hawaii hosts 2014 Ocean Sciences Seminars

Two radioactive cesium isotopes, cesium-134 and cesium-137, have been detected offshore of Vancouver, British Columbia, researchers said at a news conference. The detected concentrations are much lower than the Canadian safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water, said John Smith, a research scientist at Canada's Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Tests conducted at U.S. beaches indicate that Fukushima radioactivity has not yet reached Washington, California or Hawaii, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass.

"We have results from eight locations, and they all have cesium-137, but no cesium-134 yet," Buesseler said. (Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. In this case, cesium-137 has more neutrons than cesium-134.)

The scientists are tracking a radioactive plume from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three nuclear reactors at the power plant melted down after the March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake. The meltdown was triggered by the massive tsunami that followed the quake.

Cesium signals

The initial nuclear accident from the Fukushima reactors released several radioactive isotopes, such as iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years and remains in the environment for decades. Cesium-134, with a half-life of only two years, is an unequivocal marker of Fukushima ocean contamination, Smith said.

"The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima," he said. Cesium-137, on the other hand, is also present from nuclear weapons tests and discharge from nuclear power plants.

Smith and his colleagues tracked rising levels of cesium-134 at several ocean monitoring stations west of Vancouver in the North Pacific beginning in 2011. By June 2013, the concentration reached 0.9 Becquerels per cubic meter, Smith said. All of the cesium-134 was concentrated in the upper 325 feet (100 m) of the ocean, he said. They are awaiting results from a February 2014 sampling trip.

The U.S. safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water is about 28 Becquerels, the number of radioactive decay events per second, per gallon (or 7,400 Becquerels per cubic meter). For comparison, uncontaminated seawater contains only a few Becquerels per cubic meter of cesium.

Cesium-137 levels at U.S. beaches were 1.3 to 1.7 Becquerels per cubic meter, Buesseler said. That's similar to background levels in the ocean from nuclear weapons testing, suggesting the Fukushima plume has not reached the U.S. coastline yet, he said.

The new monitoring data does not show which of two competing models best predicts the future concentration of Fukushima radiation along the U.S. West Coast, Smith said. These models suggest that radionuclides from Fukushima will begin to arrive on the West Coast in early 2014 and peak in 2016. However, the models differ in their predictions of the peak concentration of cesium — from a low of 2 to a maximum of 27 Becquerels per cubic meter. Both peaks are well below the highest level recorded in the Baltic Sea after Chernobyl, which was 1,000 Becquerels per cubic meter.

"It's still a little too early to know which one is correct," Smith said.

Safety concerns

The impending arrival of radioactive contaminants from Fukushima has raised concerns among coastal residents in the United States and Canada. But oceanographers and radiation experts say the radiation levels will be too low to threaten human health.

"These levels are clearly not a human or biological threat in Canada," Smith said.

Fukushima’s radiation reached coastal Canada first because of the powerful Kuroshio Current, which flows from Japan across the Pacific. The plume will then flow down the coast of North America and circle back toward Hawaii, models predict.

MSN Weather: Check your local forecast

But Buesseler thinks even low levels of contamination merit monitoring, both for human health information and for the wealth of data about Pacific Ocean currents such monitoring could provide. On Jan. 14, he launched a website called "How Radioactive is Our Ocean?", where the public can make tax-deductible donations to support the analysis of existing water samples, or propose and fund new sampling locations along the West Coast.

And at Fukushima, radioactive water continues to escape from the damaged power plant into the ocean. A new leak was reported last week, although that one did not empty into the ocean.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Silencing the Scientist: Tyrone Hayes on Being Targeted by Herbicide Firm Syngenta

Monday, 24 February 2014 11:02 By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

We speak with scientist Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.

TRANSCRIPT:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22071-silencing-the-scientist-tyrone-hayes-on-being-targeted-by-herbicide-firm-syngenta

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Half of US Farmland Being Eyed by Private Equity

Monday, 24 February 2014 09:43 By Carey L. Biron, IPS News | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22059-half-of-us-farmland-being-eyed-by-private-equity

WASHINGTON - An estimated 400 million acres of farmland in the United States will likely change hands over the coming two decades as older farmers retire, even as new evidence indicates this land is being strongly pursued by private equity investors.

Mirroring a trend being experienced across the globe, this strengthening focus on agriculture-related investment by the private sector is already leading to a spike in U.S. farmland prices. Coupled with relatively weak federal policies, these rising prices are barring many young farmers from continuing or starting up small-scale agricultural operations of their own.

In the long term, critics say, this dynamic could speed up the already fast-consolidating U.S. food industry, with broad ramifications for both human and environmental health.

“When non-operators own farms, they tend to source out the oversight to management companies, leading in part to horrific conditions around labour and how we treat the land,” Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, a U.S. watchdog group focusing on global large-scale land acquisitions, told IPS.

“They also reprioritise what commodities are grown on that land, based on what can yield the highest return. This is no longer necessarily about food at all, but rather is a way to reap financial profits. Unfortunately, that’s far removed from the central role that land ultimately plays in terms of climate change, growing hunger and the stability of the global economy.”

In a new report released Tuesday, the Oakland Institute tracks rising interest from some of the financial industry’s largest players. Citing information from Freedom of Information Act requests, the group says this includes bank subsidiaries (the Swiss UBS Agrivest), pension funds (the U.S. TIAA-CREF) and other private equity interests (such as HAIG, a subsidiary of Canada’s largest insurance group).

“Today, enthusiasm for agriculture borders on speculative mania. Driven by everything from rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the financial sector is taking an interest in farmland as never before,” the report states.

“Driven by the same structural factors and perpetrated by many of the same investors, the corporate consolidation of agriculture is being felt just as strongly in Iowa and California as it is in the Philippines and Mozambique.”

As yet, the amount of U.S. land owned by private investors is thought to be relatively low. The report points to a 2011 industry estimate that large-scale investors at the time owned around one percent of U.S. farmland, worth between three five billion dollars.

Last year, however, another industry analyst put this figure at around 10 billion dollars, suggesting that the institutional share of farmland ownership is rising quickly.

“We’ve been seeing a decimation of the family farmer for a long time, but now these processes are accelerating,” Mittal says. “We need a tightening at the policy level before we’re swamped by these trends.”

Demographic Collision

In the year after food prices suddenly rose in 2008, global speculation in land rose by some 200 percent. With the international financial meltdown coinciding almost simultaneously with this crisis, investors have increasingly viewed agricultural land as a relatively safe place to put their money amidst rising volatility.

In the United States, investors are particularly eyeing potential future returns from mineral prospecting, water rights and strengthening trends in meat consumption. U.S. farmland is also seen as globally desirable due to a combination of high-tech farming opportunities and lax regulations regarding the use of genetically modified crops.

As a result of this new interest, land prices in the United States have risen by an estimated 213 percent over the past decade. This could now play into two trends at once.

Already, the United States is home to relatively low numbers of farmers, with the country famously home to more prisoners than full-time agriculturalists. But those who do continue to farm are also quickly aging.

While federal agriculture officials are expected to offer updated demographic information within the coming week, the most recent statistics suggest that just 6 percent of farmers are under 35 of age. Further, some 70 percent of U.S. farmland is owned by people 65 years or older.

“The older generation needs to cash out because they have no retirement funds, even as the new generation doesn’t have the capital to get into the kind of debt that [starting a farm] requires,” Severine von Tscharner Fleming, a farmer and co-founder of the Agrarian Trust, a group that helps new farmers access land, told IPS.

“Today there is a huge number of older folks trying to decide what to do with their land, and in many places we don’t have many years to help them make that decision. So in that sense there’s an urgent need, and we don’t have many tools at the federal level to help.”

For the most part, Fleming suggests, U.S. federal agriculture policy today is not aligned to the country’s best interests, instead pointing away from greater agricultural diversity, regional resilience and greater strengthened opportunity for rural economies. Nonetheless, she says that her organisation is encountering a surge of attention from young people that want to start their own farms.

“Over the past seven years, we’ve had an explosion of interest in being trained as a farmer and entering the trade of agriculture, and this is very much related to the crises around the banks and the environment,” she says.

“The problem we’re facing is not one in which nobody wants to farm, but rather the fact that the U.S. economy is structured in such a way that makes it really hard to start a farm in this country.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Documents Reveal NSA and GCHQ Efforts to Destroy Assange and Track Wikileaks Supporters

Friday, 21 February 2014 11:24 By Anton Woronczuk, The Real News Network | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22027-documents-reveal-nsa-and-gchq-efforts-to-destroy-assange-and-track-wikileaks-supporters

TRANSCRIPT:

ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to the latest edition of The Ratner Report.

Now joining us is Michael Ratner. He is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the attorney for Julian Assange, and the president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. He's also a board member for The Real News.

Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL RATNER, PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Good to be with The Real News again.

WORONCZUK: So what do you have for us this week?

RATNER: Well, it's always a busy week. This was again, really, a week about my client, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks, also a week about attacks on publishers and journalists.

This week there was an article in a new online magazine called The Intercept. That's the new magazine coming out from Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill. This article was about NSA documents regarding surveillance and more against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and their supporters, online and otherwise. And the documents stem from 2010, going forward.

And what they really demonstrate is there was a broad effort by the United States government, but through the NSA--these are NSA documents; there's probably a lot more from the CIA, FBI, and other places--but a broad effort to destroy WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and to really surveil and begin to know all of the people who are their supporters. That was a--it's a very significant set of documents this week.

And just after those came out, we saw that the U.K. court upheld the stopping and the questioning for many hours of David Miranda, who is the partner of Glenn Greenwald in Brazil. David was heading into the U.K., having come from seeing Laura Poitras in Germany, and he had some of the materials that Glenn Greenwald and Laura were working on as journalists. He was stopped and questioned. And this week, remarkably, the court upheld that stop under the U.K. terrorism law.

So we've had two major blows against publishers, journalists, and ultimately, of course, against whistleblowers.

Let's talk about the first one first, which is the ones that were against my client, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And what the documents revealed were three major efforts--and this, again, is probably the tip of the iceberg. But three major efforts. One was that Julian Assange was put on a list called "Manhunting". [incompr.] say it again: "Manhunting". And normally on that NSA list there's people who the NSA, and perhaps and presumably the U.S. government as well, suspects are al-Qaeda terrorists or something like that. This list also had, interestingly enough, Palestinians on it. But it also had Julian Assange on it.

Now, the list is made up of people the U.S. wants to locate, prosecute, and/or kill. In the case of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, what they wanted to do was get WikiLeaks and Julian Assange prosecuted everywhere they could in the world. Again, this is 2010. This is right after WikiLeaks introduces what are called the Afghan war logs that indicated that thousands and thousands of civilians were killed in Afghanistan. Those war logs come out. Then the NSA documents come out that put Julian Assange on the "Manhunting" list.

And what the substance of it is is it says that we have to make an effort to get Julian Assange prosecuted everywhere in the world. And at that point they pointed to four, maybe five countries--the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the U.S., Iceland. Those are the countries that are going to go after him in. And, obviously, there are other countries added as they go along. But this just demonstrates how the U.S. in one set of the documents say, we want to get this journalist if we can. We're not clear, actually, whether they said the U.S., but it appears that that's true as well, because a grand jury was set up in the United States to look at WikiLeaks. So that's one set of the documents.

The second set has this odd name called ANTICRISIS GIRL. Who knows what that means. This interestingly is not an NSA program. This is a program from GCHQ, which is the British intelligence company that's the corresponding intelligence agency in the U.K. And this is really a nasty piece of business. What the slides show [snip] GCHQ has a system of tapping into fiber optics [snip] from Snowden got before. But this one, they say, we have the ability any time anyone makes a search on their computer for WikiLeaks to find either the website of WikiLeaks or anything else about WikiLeaks, we can find out what computer is making that search, know the IP address from that--that's the, you know, unique address on every computer--and ultimately find out whose computer that is. That's everybody in the world who look for WikiLeaks.

Then what they say: we also have the capacity to go onto the WikiLeaks website, or to look at that website, and everybody who visits the WikiLeaks websites, search or not, according to WikiLeaks.org, you visit the website, we have an ability to track their IP addresses. So here you have not just the U.S. intelligence going after WikiLeaks, the NSA, but you have GCHQ as well, and, in this second case, going after anybody who has even an interest in WikiLeaks, even if it's an interest against WikiLeaks, everybody who looks at WikiLeaks.

And we don't know to what extent this program was implemented. We know that on a certain number of days it was implemented, what the slides--these were slides that were given by Snowden, apparently, to Greenwald and others who work on the first Intercept magazine. And what they show is that on a number of days it was implemented. We just don't know how much this carried on.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

So we have a "Manhunting" program. We have what's called ANTICRISIS GIRL.

And the third program, the third program is what we can call the "malicious foreign actor". I'll say that again: "malicious foreign actor". And there's a document in here in which the NSA goes to their counsel in the NSA--people in the NSA go to the general counsel and say to the general counsel, we'd like your opinion. We want to classify WikiLeaks as a, quote, malicious foreign actor. It's a term of art, but it's interestingly a term of art that none of us who work in this area legally, who look around, you know, try and sue, stop the NSA, have ever heard that term about.

What it apparently means is that the NSA can do the broadest surveillance on that target. In this case, it would be WikiLeaks. They admitted in this document they already had Anonymous targeted like that, and now they were going to go after WikiLeaks like that. We don't know whether it was approved or not. I suspect, considering what's been going on with WikiLeaks and considering the documents that came out from WikiLeaks after these programs have been put into place, which include the Afghan war logs, as well as Cablegate, which is what really got the United States, apparently, very angry, that that program has been implemented and that WikiLeaks is more likely than not classified as a "malicious foreign actor".

So you have those three programs used against, we believe, as an effort to destroy, utterly destroy a publisher and journalism, and destroy not just them but to track, really, and get at all of their supporters and everybody who--anybody who has any interest in WikiLeaks--a very, very nasty piece of business. And what's important about it is not just to show how the U.S. government, in cahoots with the U.K. government, or together--what I call them is two wings of the same surveillance bird, two wings of the same surveillance bird. That's these two countries.

What all of this NSA spying on WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and their supporters does in addition to showing what jeopardy Julian Assange is in in the United States and elsewhere: it also utterly justifies his decision to attempt to get asylum in the Ecuador Embassy in London, and it justifies and explains really well why Ecuador was justified in giving him asylum. I don't think there can be any more debate about it. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and their supporters were being persecuted as journalists and as publishers by the United States and the U.K., and they made efforts to get other countries to do so as well.

The second issue--and I'll just address it briefly--which is the upholding of the decision to stop David Miranda at the U.K. border and question him for up to nine hours by the U.K. intelligence apparatus. David was coming back from Germany. He had documents on him that was he delivering, apparently, to The Guardian. He is the partner of Glenn Greenwald and was doing that as part of the journalistic activities of Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian. They stopped him for nine hours. He was forced to answer questions. It's a very nasty scheme in London. If you don't answer questions, you can go to jail.

They brought a litigation on his behalf, his lawyers. Unfortunately, the middle-level court upheld David Miranda's stopping under the U.K. terrorism law--hear that: the U.K. terrorism law--that he was stopped. And it was upheld on the fact that even though he's a journalist or working with journalists, that the terrorism investigation, national security, trumps journalism and they had a right to question him, take the documents, take his laptop, take all of that.

So what you've seen now are, this last week, two major attacks--the NSA revelations about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, and the upholding of the stopping of David Miranda--two major attacks on journalism in this world, and particularly now in the U.K. and the United States.

We're at a difficult moment. But we're at a moment, of course, where we're seeing tremendous fightback by journalists, publishers, as well as whistleblowers. So I still remain optimistic, but it's a major fight back.

WORONCZUK: Michael Ratner, thank you so much for that report.

RATNER: Thank you for having me on The Real News.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Laws Seek To Punish Use of Time-Honored Tool for Pushing Social Change

Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:00 By Pam Bailey, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21977-laws-seek-to-punish-use-of-time-honored-tool-for-pushing-social-change

Professors in cultures everywhere should challenge, explore, investigate and critique. Boycotts have an honorable history as a vehicle to promote citizen participation. Academics are rightly concerned that bills seeking to punish academic organizations boycotting Israeli institutions will impose a political test on faculty members.

When average citizens attempt to change the policies of governments and corporations, it's a David versus Goliath battle. And the boycott is one of the few nonviolent vehicles that history has proven effective at coming anywhere close to leveling the playing field.

In fact, the United States itself is a product of a colonial boycott, called for by the First Continental Congress on Oct. 20, 1774, to persuade British lawmakers and influence public opinion - thus avoiding outright war. The Boston Tea Party, which we revere today as a highly patriotic act, was a more radical remedy in the same spirit. Other prominent examples of boycotts lauded by history include Mahatma Gandhi's fight against British colonialists in India, the Montgomery bus protest of the 1960s civil rights movement, and the global boycott against companies that did business with the apartheid South African regime.

"Use of the political boycott as a means of exerting grassroots power over issues of public concern is as American as apple pie," observe the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.

Yet legislators in the House of Representatives and a growing number of state assemblies are attempting to censor academics and others who use the tool to protest Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The wave of bills was introduced to punish the 5,000 members of the American Studies Association (ASA) - the nation's largest society devoted to the study of US culture and history - for their vote to reject collaborations with Israeli institutions until that state ceases its violations of human rights and international law - including the ongoing illegal expansion of Jewish-only settlements.

The first of the bills was introduced in New York, with the state Senate passing a measure January 28 that would prohibit public universities from using any taxpayer money to reimburse faculty members for expenses such as dues, registration fees and travel when participating in activities sponsored by groups that support boycotts of Israeli actions. The penalty for infraction would be loss of all state funding - a heavy toll sure to have a significant chilling effect. The state Assembly opened debate on the same bill but, after a flood of criticism, revised it to threaten only the loss of the money spent on the banned activities. The modified bill is now under consideration. Since then, a bill similar to the New York Senate version has been introduced in both legislative houses in Maryland, and another is headed for the Illinois Legislature; measures without the punitive provisions are pending in Florida and Pennsylvania. On February 6, 2014, the movement to squelch the right to academic dissent went national, when the deceptively named "Protect Academic Freedom Act" was introduced to the US House of Representatives by Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, a Republican from Illinois, and Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat. As with many such bills, the name implies the exact opposite of the actual impact if this measure were to pass, nationally or in the states.

The significance of these proposals may seem small upon first reading; after all, why can't professors pay for their own membership dues, for instance? Melani McAlister, an ASA member and associate professor of American studies and international affairs at George Washington University, responds in The Baltimore Sun: "So if, for example, a professor wanted to present her paper at an ASA conference, whether it be an analysis of 19th century American literature or a study of the African-American civil rights movement, she would have to find a way to pay for the fees and travel out of her own pocket. Yet a scholar in the office next door who presents a paper at any other conference would receive the usual research support to do so. The point will not be lost on scholars: If they are to be penalized just for being members of an organization whose policies legislators do not like, how much more will they feel under threat if they want to actually discuss the boycott, or even to advocate for it?"

The 45,000-member American Association for University Professors, which opposed the ASA boycott when it was adopted in December, was quick to recognize the broader danger in these bills. It is "the right of academic (groups) to not cooperate with other academic institutions with which they disagree. Academic freedom is meaningless if it does not protect those who support unpopular positions, including the advocacy of academic boycotts."

Echoing these concerns, The New York Times editorial board weighed in February 3, writing, "Academics are rightly concerned that it will impose a political test on faculty members seeking university support for research meetings and travel."

Even several major Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, have publicly distanced themselves from the bills for this reason.

Whether these measures are even constitutional remains an open question. Delegate Ben Kramer, one of 51 sponsors of the Maryland bill, claims the state has the legal right to prevent bodies it funds from violating a "declaration of cooperation" it signed with the government of Israel to cooperate in the areas of trade, agriculture and academic and economic development - and thus has the backing of the state's attorney general's office. However, opponents such as the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation respond that the legality of any bilateral agreements with Israel is questionable, in light of the country's lack of compliance with Maryland's non-discrimination laws. The US State Department has consistently found in its annual human rights reports that Israel discriminates on the basis of race, religion and ethnicity. Likewise, as the State Department travel warning demonstrates, Israel's discriminatory policies extend to US citizens, particularly those of Arab or Muslim heritage.

The role of professors in cultures everywhere should be to challenge, explore, investigate and critique. Boycotts have long been a vehicle used by academics and many others to promote citizen participation and make their feelings known. As the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote in its statement to the House, "The participation of numerous academic organizations in the South African boycott would have led to the denial of funds ... had there been bills such as these directed at silencing opposition to the apartheid regime. It would have been an unacceptable outcome then, and it is an unacceptable outcome now."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Documenting Darkness: How a Thug State Operates

Thursday, 20 February 2014 11:10 By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21990-documenting-darkness-how-a-thug-state-operates

Here, at least, is a place to start: intelligence officials have weighed in with an estimate of just how many secret files National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he headed for Hong Kong last June. Brace yourself: 1.7 million. At least they claim that as the number he or his web crawler accessed before he left town. Let’s assume for a moment that it’s accurate and add a caveat. Whatever he had with him on those thumb drives when he left the agency, Edward Snowden did not take all the NSA’s classified documents. Not by a long shot. He only downloaded a portion of them. We don’t have any idea what percentage, but assumedly millions of NSA secret documents did not get the Snowden treatment.

Such figures should stagger us and what he did take will undoubtedly occupy journalists for months or years more (and historians long after that). Keep this in mind, however: the NSA is only one of 17 intelligence outfits in what is called the U.S. Intelligence Community. Some of the others are as large and well funded, and all of them generate their own troves of secret documents, undoubtedly stretching into the many millions.

And keep something else in mind: that’s just intelligence agencies. If you’re thinking about the full sweep of our national security state (NSS), you also have to include places like the Department of Homeland Security, the Energy Department (responsible for the U.S. nuclear arsenal), and the Pentagon. In other words, we’re talking about the kind of secret documentation that an army of journalists, researchers, and historians wouldn’t have a hope of getting through, not in a century.

We do know that, in 2011, the whole government reportedly classified 92,064,862 documents. If accurate and reasonably typical, that means, in the twenty-first century, the NSS has already generated hundreds of millions of documents that could not be read by an American without a security clearance. Of those, thanks to one man (via various journalists), we have had access to a tiny percentage of perhaps 1.7 million of them. Or put another way, you, the voter, the taxpayer, the citizen -- in what we still like to think of as a democracy -- are automatically excluded from knowing or learning about most of what the national security state does in your name. That’s unless, of course, its officials decide to selectively cherry-pick information they feel you are capable of safely and securely absorbing, or an Edward Snowden releases documents to the world over the bitter protests, death threats, and teeth gnashing of Washington officialdom and retired versions of the same.

Summoned From the Id of the National Security State

So far, even among critics, the debate about what to make of Snowden’s act has generally focused on “balance”; that is, on what’s the right equilibrium between an obvious governmental need for secrecy, the security of the country, and an American urge for privacy, freedom, and transparency -- for knowing, among other things, what your government is actually doing. Such a framework (“a meaningful balance between privacy and security”) has proven a relatively comfortable one for Washington, which doesn't mind focusing on the supposedly knotty question of how to define the “limits” of secrecy and whistle-blowing and what “reforms” are needed to bring the two into line. In the present context, however, such a debate seems laughable, if not absurd.

After all, it’s clear from the numbers alone that the urge to envelop the national security state in a blanket of secrecy, to shield its workings from the eyes of its citizens (as well as allies and enemies) has proven essentially boundless, as have the secret ambitions of those running that state. There is no way, at present, to limit the governmental urge for secrecy even in minimal ways, certainly not via secret courts or congressional committees implicated and entangled in the processes of a secret system.

In the face of such boundlessness, perhaps the words “whistleblower” and “leaker” -- both traditionally referring to bounded and focused activities -- are no longer useful. Though we may not yet have a word to describe what Chelsea (once Bradley) Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden have done, we should probably stop calling them whistleblowers. Perhaps they should instead be considered the creations of an overweening national security state, summoned by us from its id (so to speak) to act as a counterforce to its ambitions. Imagine them as representing the societal unconscious. Only in this way can we explain the boundlessness of their acts. After all, such massive document appropriations are inconceivable without a secret state endlessly in the process of documenting its own darkness.

One thing is for certain, though no one thinks to say it: despite their staggering releases of insider information, when it comes to the true nature and extent of the NSS, we surely remain in the dark. In the feeling that, thanks to Manning and Snowden, we now grasp the depths of that secret state, its secret acts, and the secret documentation that goes with it, we are undoubtedly deluded.

In a sense, valuable as they have been, Snowden’s revelations have helped promote this delusion. In a way that hasn’t happened since the Watergate era of the 1970s, they have given us the feeling that a curtain has finally, definitively been pulled back on the true nature of the Washington system. Behind that curtain, we have indeed glimpsed a global-surveillance-state-in-the-making of astounding scope, reach, and technological proficiency, whose ambitions (and successes), even when not always fully achieved, should take our breath away. And yet while this is accurate enough, it leads us to believe that we now know a great deal about the secret world of Washington. This is an illusion.

Even if we knew what was in all of those 1.7 million NSA documents, they are a drop in the bucket. As of now, we have the revelations of one (marginal) insider who stepped out of the shadows to tell us about part of what a single intelligence agency documented about its own activities. The resulting global debate, controversy, anger, and discussion, Snowden has said, represents “mission accomplished” for him. But it shouldn’t be considered mission accomplished for the rest of us.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

In Praise of Darkness, the Dangers of Sunshine

To gain a reasonable picture of our national security state, five, 10, 20 Snowdens, each at a different agency or outfit, would have to step out of the shadows -- and that would just be for starters. Then we would need a media that was ready to roll and a Congress not wrapped in “security” and “secrecy” but demanding answers, as the Church committee did in the Watergate era, with subpoenas in hand (and the threat of prison for no-shows and perjurers).

Yes, we may have access to basic information about what the NSA has been up to, but remind me: What exactly do you know about the doings of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, with its 16,500 employees, which has in recent years embarked on “an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size”? How about the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, with its 16,000 employees, its post-9/11 headquarters (price tag: $1.8 billion) and its control over our system of spy satellites eternally prowling the planetary skies?

The answer is no more than you would have known about the NSA if Snowden hadn’t acted as he did. And by the way, what do you really know about the FBI, which now, among other things, issues thousands of national security letters a year (16,511 in 2011 alone), an unknown number of them for terror investigations? Since their recipients are muzzled from discussing them, we know next to nothing about them or what the Bureau is actually doing. And how’s your info on the CIA, which takes $4 billion more out of the intelligence “black budget” than the NSA, runs its own private wars, and has even organized its own privatized corps of spies as part of the general expansion of U.S. intelligence and espionage abroad? The answer on all of the above is -- has to be -- remarkably little.

Or take something basic like that old-fashioned, low-tech form of surveillance: government informers and agents provocateurs. They were commonplace in the 1960s and early 1970s within every oppositional movement. So many decades later, they are with us again. Thanks to the ACLU, which has mapped scattered reports on situations in which informers made it into at least the local news nationwide, we know that they became part of what anti-war movements existed, slipped into various aspects of the Occupy movement, and have run riot in local Muslim-American communities. We know as well that these informers come from a wide range of outfits, including the local police, the military, and the FBI. However, if we know a great deal about NSA snooping and surveillance, we have just about no inside information on the extent of old-style informing, surveilling, and provoking.

One thing couldn’t be clearer, though: the mania for secrecy has grown tremendously in the Obama years. On entering the Oval Office in 2009, Obama proclaimed a sunshine administration dedicated to “openness” and “transparency.” That announcement now drips with irony. If you want a measure of the kind of secrecy the NSS considers proper and the White House condones these days, check out a recent Los Angeles Times piece on the CIA’s drone assassination program (one of the more overt aspects of Washington’s covert world).

That paper recently reported that Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin held a “joint classified hearing” with the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA, the Pentagon, and their drone campaigns against terror suspects in the backlands of the planet. There was just one catch: CIA officials normally testify only before the House and Senate intelligence committees. In this case, the White House “refused to provide the necessary security clearances for members of the House and Senate armed services committees.” As a result, it would not let CIA witnesses appear before Levin. Officials, reported the Times, “had little appetite for briefing the 26 senators and 62 House members who sit on the armed services committees on the CIA's most sensitive operations.” Sunshine, in other words, is considered potentially dangerous, even in tiny doses, even in Congress.

A Cult of Government Secrecy

In evaluating what may lie behind the many curtains of Washington, history does offer us a small hand. Thanks to the revelations of the 1970s, including a Snowden-style break-in by antiwar activists at an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971, that opened a window into the Bureau’s acts of illegality, some now-famous reporting, and the thorough work of the Church committee in the Senate, we have a sense of the enormity of what the U.S. national security state was capable of once enveloped in a penumbra of secrecy (even if, in that era, the accompanying technology could do so much less). In the Johnson and Nixon years, as we now know, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and other acronymic outfits committed a staggering range of misdeeds, provocations, and crimes.

It’s easy to say that post-Watergate “reforms” made such acts a thing of the past. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe that. In fact, the nature of that era’s reforms should be reconsidered. After all, one particularly important Congressional response of that moment was to create the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, essentially a judiciary for the secret world which would generate a significant body of law that no American outside the NSS could see.

The irony is again overwhelming. After the shocking headlines, the congressional inquiries, the impeachment proceedings, the ending of two presidencies -- one by resignation -- and everything else, including black bag jobs, break-ins, buggings, attempted beatings, blackmail, massive spying and surveillance, and provocations of every sort, the answer was a secret court. Its judges, appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court alone, are charged with ruling after hearing only one sideof any case involving a governmental desire to snoop or pry or surveil. Unsurprisingly enough, over the three and a half decades of its existence, the court proved a willing rubber stamp for just about any urge of the national security state.

In retrospect, this remedy for widespread government illegality clearly was just another step in the institutionalization of a secret world that looks increasingly like an Orwellian nightmare. In creating the FISA court, Congress functionally took the seat-of-the-pants, extra-Constitutional, extra-legal acts of the Nixon era and put them under the rule of (secret) law.

Today, in the wake of, among other things, the rampant extra-legality of the Global War on Terror -- including the setting up of a secret, extrajudicial global prison system of “black sites” where rampant torture and abuse were carried to the point of death, illegal kidnappings of terror suspects off global streets and their rendition to the prisons of torture regimes, and the assassination-by-drone of American citizens backed by Justice Department legalisms -- it’s clear that NSS officials feel they have near total impunity when it comes to whatever they want to do. (Not that their secret acts often turn out as planned or particularly well in the real world.) They know that nothing they do, however egregious, will be brought before an open court of law and prosecuted. While the rest of us remain inside the legal system, they exist in “post-legal America.” Now, the president claims that he’s preparing a new set of “reforms” to bring this system under check and back in balance. Watch out!

If tomorrow a series of Edward Snowdens were to appear, each from a different intelligence agency or other outfit in the national security state, one thing would be guaranteed: the shock of the NSA revelations would be multiplied many times over. Protected from the law by a spreading cult of government secrecy, beyond the reach of the citizenry, Congress, or the aboveground judicial system, supported by the White House and a body of developing secret law, knowing that no act undertaken in the name of American “safety” and “security” will ever be prosecuted, the inhabitants of our secret state have been moving in dark and disturbing ways. What we know is already disturbing enough. What we don’t know would surely unnerve us far more.

Shadow government has conquered twenty-first-century Washington. We have the makings of a thug state of the first order.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here http://eepurl.com/lsFRj

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Banning Home Births: The Next Wave of Reproductive Control?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 13:47 By Robin Marty, Care2 | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21970-banning-home-births-the-next-wave-of-reproductive-control

There are a number of reasons that a pregnant person may choose to give birth with a midwife and at home rather than in a hospital or birth center. Some choose a home birth in order to remain more in control of the birth experience, believing that hospital births can be pushed too rapidly towards medical interventions like induction and c-sections. Others want to be able to feel more comfortable, conducting the entire labor in one convenient and familiar place, with the added benefit of moving straight to real life after the birth is complete. Even finances can play a role, as the average hospital birth grows more and more expensive even with insurance.

For many, an assisted home birth with a qualified midwife poses no more risk than a standard uncomplicated hospital labor and delivery. Yet there is a growing movement to regulate both midwives and home births, just like many other issues in reproductive health care, using the rationale that potential life always outranks the desires or beliefs of the person carrying that pregnancy, and that the pregnant person is not capable of making fully informed decisions about her own medical health.

That’s the situation in Arizona, where an “emergency” proposal is being introduced in the legislature to undo new advances when it comes to allowing assisted home births in the state. The bill, SB 1157, would forbid licensed midwives from taking on medically complicated pregnancies, such as a breech, the birth of multiples or when a pregnant person is having a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section).

Midwives, on the other hand, say that they have been trained for just such complicated deliveries, and that there is no reason to have a blanket ban on all of these scenarios, which should instead be taken up on a case by case basis with the decision made by the patient and her midwife. “Women and mothers are smart, informed and educated. We have a right to choose our patient care. We have a right to do our own research and make our own choices for our birth,” testified Tori Anderson, of the Right for Homebirth consumer group, in opposition to the bill.

Lawmakers proposing the ban disagree, and believe that the pregnant people in question either aren’t intelligent enough to weigh risks, or are selfish enough to put the health of their future child in jeopardy in order to stay out of a hospital. Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City), the bill’s sponsor, says that it’s up to the legislature to care for the life of the fetus since the mother is obviously incapable. “I’m a pro-life legislator. I see the mom and the baby as two separate entities,” Ward said, according to the Arizona Republic. “I would love to preserve the choice of the mother for their home birth, but that child also needs to have a choice … the choice not to die.”

The idea that lawmakers, and not a patient, should be inserted into care decisions in order to represent what they see as the state’s interest in that fetal life is nothing new to Arizona, which also passed a bill saying that doctors could not be punished for withholding medical information from a pregnant person if the information may make her choose to terminate a pregnancy. In this case, however, legislators are once more making a case while manipulating facts.

Although medical best practices used to believe that once a person had a c-section, the risk of a future uterine rupture was too great to do anything but a second surgery for the next birth, opinions on that have changed. Risk of rupture now is placed at less than 1 percent — yet many health practitioners still insist that a VBAC should only be attempted in a hospital where there is a team that can immediately provide care in the case of that 1 in 100 complication. For comparison’s sake, in-hospital births that end in emergency c-sections continue to rise, in some states to as much as one in three births.

If a pregnant person who had a c-section shouldn’t be allowed to give birth at home because she has a 1 in 100 chance of a rupture that would turn into a medical emergency, shouldn’t it logically follow that if 1 in 3 labors end in c-section all births should be required by law to be in a hospital?

Sen. Ward’s argument that the state must protect the baby from harm, in this case used against midwifery, is really in essence a declaration that pregnant people do not have the right to make a medical decision without approval of the legislature, who will weigh her opinions against their beliefs in what is the best action a “mother” should take at any given moment. From birth control to abortion to pregnancy and birth, from the moment of conception, the Arizona legislature now gets to judge and modify a pregnant person’s behavior.

All for the sake of the baby.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Drone Killing the Fifth Amendment: How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Death at a Time

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 09:18 By Peter Van Buren, TomDispatch | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21927-drone-killing-the-fifth-amendment-how-to-build-a-post-constitutional-america-one-death-at-a-time

Terrorism (ter-ror-ism; see also terror) n. 1. When a foreign organization kills an American for political reasons.

Justice (jus-tice) n. 1. When the United States Government uses a drone to kill an American for political reasons.

How's that morning coffee treating you? Nice and warming? Mmmm.

While you're savoring your cup o' joe, imagine the president of the United States hunched over his own coffee, considering the murder of another American citizen. Now, if you were plotting to kill an American over coffee, you could end up in jail on a whole range of charges including -- depending on the situation -- terrorism. However, if the president’s doing the killing, it's all nice and -- let’s put those quote marks around it -- "legal." How do we know? We’re assured that the Justice Department tells him so. And that’s justice enough in post-Constitutional America.

Through what seems to have been an Obama administration leak to the Associated Press, we recently learned that the president and his top officials believe a U.S. citizen -- name unknown to us out here -- probably somewhere in the tribal backlands of Pakistan, is reputedly planning attacks against Americans abroad. As a result, the White House has, for the last several months, been considering whether or not to assassinate him by drone without trial or due process.

Supposedly, the one thing that’s held up sending in the drones is the administration’s desire to make sure the kill is "legal." (Those quotes again.)

Last May, Obama gave a speech on the subject. It was, in part, a response to growing anger in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere over the CIA’s ongoing drone assassination campaigns with all their “collateral damage,” and to the White House’s reported “kill list.” In it, he insisted that any target of the drones must pose "a continuing and imminent threat to the American people." At the time, the White House also issued a fact sheet that stated: "Lethal force must only be used to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively." While that sounds like a pretty imposing set of hurdles to leap, all of the "legal" criteria are determined in secret by the White House with advice from the Justice Department, but with no oversight or accountability.

Even then, it turns out that the supposedly tortured deliberations of the administration are not really necessary. Despite the president’s criteria, according to an unnamed administration official quoted by the Associated Press, Obama could make an exception to his policy and authorize the CIA to strike on a one-timebasis, no matter what the circumstances. One way or another, it is Obama who decides who to kill and when.

Short-Term Questions

At this point, it’s unclear just why the Obama administration leaked its plans in reference to this errant American abroad. After all, official after official has insisted that Edward Snowden’s revelations of secret NSA documents have caused terrorists to change their communication tactics, yet the one American up to no good somewhere in the terrorist world apparently has not done so in response to the leak about his potential fate, and will remain locatable whenever needed as a target. And yet giving notice of a possible attack in advance in the media would, on the face of it, seem both counterproductive and an invitation to the very barrage of criticisms leveled by key officials at Snowden. After all, under the circumstances, an American connected with al-Qaeda wouldn’t exactly have to be a Bond villain to decide to change his behavior and his location, stay indoors or outdoors more, keep off his phone for a while or trade it in for another.

Could the administration leak have been a trick to flush the bad guy out, causing him to panic and run? Was it an elaborate ruse designed to induce widespread concern in al-Qaeda about the liabilities of having American compatriots? Was it a bone thrown to Republicans otherwise eager to paint the president as weak? Could it have been some kind of geopolitical muscle tussle with once compliant but now more assertively anti-drone Pakistan? Or could the leak have been a PSYOP on the American people, an attempt to manipulate us into feeling better about government decisions to kill American citizens by revealing the deliberative and heart-wrenching process Obama goes through? Or could it simply have been an attempt to normalize such acts for us, to make them part of the understandable everyday background noise of a dangerous world?

The answer is: we don’t know. Not yet anyway.

Not the First Time

The Obama administration admits to killing four Americans as part of its war on (or is it “war of”?) terror. We'll pause here a moment for you to contemplate whether there could have been other, undocumented killings of the same sort awaiting the revelations of some future Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning.

On May 7, 2011, a U.S. drone fired a missile in Yemen aimed at American citizen and key terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki. The missile blew up a car with two other people in it, quickly labeled “al-Qaeda operatives” after we killed them.

Such collateral killings should be no surprise. The inaugural article by Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill at their new media venture notes that the National Security Agency regularly identifies targets for CIA assassinations based on metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking. Rather than confirming that target’s identity, the CIA is evidently ready and willing to blow a suspect away based on the location of a mobile phone he assumedly is using. In other words, people can be killed because they borrowed the wrong cell phone. (So much for a deliberative process.)

The U.S. had tried to kill al-Awlaki before, including in the Bush years -- and missed. In justifying one of these assassination attempts, Obama’s counterterrorism chief, Michael Leiter, claimed that al-Awlaki actually posed a bigger threat to the U.S. "homeland" than Osama bin Laden, albeit without explanation. No matter, they finally got their man. A follow-up strike killed al-Awlaki, and another soon after obliterated his teenage son, also in Yemen. Though no one argues that the boy was in any way linked to terrorism and no administration official has bothered to explain just why he was targeted, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs did comment that the killing was justified as he "should have had a more responsible father."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Couldn’t Happen Here?

Though the president and his officials go to great pains to indicate that such assassinations are only going to happen abroad, there is nothing in the carefully worded distinctions made by the White House to preclude them at home. As a start, in his criteria for killing someone extrajudicially, the president claims there is no difference between an American citizen terrorist and a foreign terrorist. A careful look back at the statements of two government officials makes it clear that thought has already gone into the question of bringing the killings home.

Remember the testimony then-FBI Director Robert Mueller gave before a House subcommittee in 2012? When asked point-blank if the president could order the killing of an American in the United States, he replied “Uh, I’m not certain whether that was addressed or not... I’m going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice.” Mueller, of course, had the option of saying flat-out, “No, no, of course the president can’t order a hit on an American here in the U.S. where the full judicial system, Constitution, and due process protections exist! Are you mad?”

The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was "hypothetical," the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine "an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States."

It’s easy enough, in fact, to imagine the sort of scenarios that might lend themselves to such an act: a ticking time bomb, a killer believed to have anthrax and on the loose, a suspected dirty-bomb maker in a desolate location, terrorists with a bus full of children on a mountain top. Imagine a slippery slope and... presto! You’re there.

They've thought about it. They've set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that's left to do is pull the trigger.

Nostalgia for the Fifth Amendment

It’s still possible to remember, almost nostalgically, how the Fifth Amendment used to guarantee Americans due process. The key phrase was indeed that "due process." It meant the government could not take away your property or imprison or execute you without first allowing you a chance to defend yourself. You would have your day in court with a lawyer and a jury of your peers to make the final decision. This would all be quite public and the people involved would be held accountable for their actions. The Fifth was meant by those who wrote it as a check on the ultimate in government excess: the purposeful taking of citizens’ lives. Today, it increasingly seems an artifact of a quaint past, as seemingly lost to history as the corded phone or manual typewriter.

Attorney General Eric Holder publicly rewrote the Fifth Amendment in 2012, declaring, in a veiled reference to al-Awlaki, “that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process’ and that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a ‘judicial process.’” In other words, in a pinch, skip the courts. In this way, Holder gave us a peak behind the White House curtain, making clear that the president's personal and secret decision to kill an American, perhaps made over morning coffee, was, in his opinion, good enough to make everything legal.

The due process question Holder dismissed so casually still looms large over al-Awlaki's murder. Prior to the killing, attorneys for his father tried to persuade a U.S. District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government from killing him in Yemen. A judge dismissed the case, ruling that the father did not have “standing” to sue and that government officials themselves were immune from lawsuits for actions carried out as part of their official duties.

This was the first time a father had sought to sue the U.S. government to prevent it from killing a son without trial. The judge did call the suit “unique and extraordinary,” but ultimately passed on getting involved. He wrote instead that it was up to the elected branches of government, not the courts, to determine if the United States has the authority to extrajudicially murder its own citizens.

The judge’s position was revealing of our moment. The extrajudicial killing of an American citizen seemed to him to be nothing but a political question to be argued out in Congress and the White House, not something intimately woven into the founding documents of our nation. The judge was not alone in his characterization of the problem. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, complained that the killing of more terror suspects in a similar manner has been held back by “self-imposed red tape.”

There are, however, no footnotes in the Fifth Amendment, no caveats, no secret memos, no exceptions for terrorism, mass rape, child torture, or any other horror the U.S. has confronted in its 238 years of existence. Such addendums to the Fifth were unnecessary, because in the beautiful preciseness of Lincoln’s phrasing at Gettysburg, ours is “a government of the people, by the people, for the people,” one made up of us, beholden to us, and whose purpose is to serve us.

Such a government would be incapable of killing its own citizens without due care, debate, and open trial. Those actions would violate the sacred convent of trust between a people and their government in a democracy, the "consent of the governed," and delegitimize the government itself.

That last point is worth a closer look, because it makes clear what murder-by-decree really represents in post-Constitutional America. The phrase "consent of the governed" first appears in the Declaration of Independence, the document by which the United States declared itself no longer under the governance of the British king. The Declaration makes clear that a government's moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when derived from the people over which that power is exercised. Such consent is the opposite of the divine right of kings, the philosophy under which the British ruled colonial Americans. Its foundational principle was obedience to government and its edicts and decisions, even on issues of life and death, as a religious and moral obligation.

Following the more philosophical Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights was a practical exercise written to address directly the specific injustices of rule by royal decree. By turning its back on key elements of our founding, Washington, it seems, has brought us full circle.

Life in Post-Constitutional America

These days in the pseudo-debates about drone killings in the mainstream media, such changes are treated as matters of no great significance. On the day that the president’s latest plans for the murder of a fellow citizen in the distant tribal backlands of Pakistan first appeared, they caused little stir. The headlines were instead dominated by Olympic gossip and an impending ice storm in Atlanta. Killings extrajudicially mandated by the White House? The Fifth Amendment? Maybe if the target were Shaun White in Sochi, more people would have cared.

At the moment, we are threatened with a return to a pre-Constitutional situation that Americans would once have dismissed out of hand, a society in which the head of state can take a citizen’s life on his own say-so. If it’s the model for the building of post-Constitutional America, we’re in trouble. Indeed the stakes are high, whether we notice or not.

The question is: How far will post-Constitutional America stray from the nation so conceived in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights? Because in the twenty-first century, the midnight knock on the door may come not from the King’s men, but from the sky.

To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

The History of Surveillance and the Black Community

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 10:14 By Nadia Kayyali, Electronic Frontier Foundation | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21935-the-history-of-surveillance-and-the-black-community

February is Black History Month and that history is intimately linked with surveillance by the federal government in the name of "national security." Indeed, the history of surveillance in the African-American community plays an important role in the debate around spying today and in the calls for a congressional investigation into that surveillance. Days after the first NSA leaks emerged last June, EFF called for a new Church Committee. We mentioned that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the targets of the very surveillance that eventually led to the formation of the first Church Committee. This Black History Month, we should remember the many African-American activists who were targeted by intelligence agencies. Their stories serve as cautionary tales for the expanding surveillance state.

The latest revelations about surveillance are only the most recent in a string of periodic public debates around domestic spying perpetrated by the NSA, FBI, and CIA. This spying has often targeted politically unpopular groups or vulnerable communities, including anarchists, anti-war activists, communists, and civil rights leaders.

Government surveillance programs, most infamously the FBI’s “COINTELPRO”, targeted Black Americans fighting against segregation and structural racism in the 1950s and 60s. COINTELPRO, short for Counter Intelligence Program, was started in 1956 by the FBI and continued until 1971. The program was a systemic attempt to infiltrate, spy on, and disrupt activists in the name of “national security.” While it initially focused on the Communist Party, in the 1960s its focus expanded to include a wide swathe of activists, with a strong focus on the Black Panther Party and civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

FBI papers show that in 1962 “the FBI started and rapidly continued to gravitate toward Dr. King.” This was ostensibly because the FBI believed black organizing was being influenced by communism. In 1963 FBI Assistant Director William Sullivan recommended “increased coverage of communist influence on the Negro.” However, the FBI’s goal in targeting Dr. King was clear: to find “avenues of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader,” because the FBI was concerned that he might become a “messiah.”

The FBI subjected Dr. King to a variety of tactics, including bugging his hotel rooms, photographic surveillance, and physical observation of King’s movements by FBI agents. The FBI's actions went beyond spying on Dr. King, however. Using information gained from that surveillance, the FBI sent him anonymous letters attempting to “blackmail him into suicide.” The agency also attempted to break up his marriage by sending selectively edited “personal moments he shared with friends and women” to his wife.

The FBI also specifically targeted the Black Panther Party with the intention of destroying it. They infiltrated the Party with informants and subjected members to repeated interviews. Agents sent anonymous letters encouraging violence between street gangs and the Panthers in various cities, which resulted in “the killings of four BPP members and numerous beatings and shootings,” as well as letters sowing internal dissension in the Panther Party. The agency also worked with police departments to harass local branches of the Party through raids and vehicle stops. In one of the most disturbing examples of this, the FBI provided information to the Chicago Police Department that aided in a raid on BPP leader Fred Hampton’s apartment. The raid ended with the Chicago Police shooting Hampton dead.

The FBI was not alone in targeting civil rights leaders. The NSA also engaged in domestic spying that included Dr. King. In an eerily prescient statement, Senator Walter Mondale said he was concerned that the NSA “could be used by President 'A' in the future to spy upon the American people, to chill and interrupt political dissent.”

The Church Committee was created in response to these and other public scandals, and was charged with getting to the bottom of the government's surveillance overreach. In response to its findings, Congress passed new laws to provide privacy safeguards, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But ever since these safeguards were put in place, the intelligence community has tried to weaken or operate around them. The NSA revelations show the urgent need to reform the laws governing surveillance and to rein in the intelligence community.

Today we’re responding to those domestic surveillance abuses by an unrestrained intelligence branch. The overreach we’ve seen in the past underscores the need for reform. Especially during Black History Month, let’s not forget the speech-stifling history of US government spying that has targeted communities of color.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Jordan Davis, Another Victim of a Murderous Historical Continuum

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 13:20 By Dr Wilmer J Leon III, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21947-jordan-davis-another-victim-of-a-murderous-historical-continuum

"Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed into existence by the constitution of the United States? ... They are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for. ... " Chief Justice Roger Taney – Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)

The verdict is in. Michael Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted second-degree murder, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the most significant charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jordan Davis.

Instead of celebrating what would have been his 19th birthday, Davis' parents continue to mourn the legally unrecognized murder of their son. I can only imagine that this verdict is analogous to killing him again. Davis has become another victim of a murderous historical American continuum.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder, the killings of Oscar Grant on New Year's Day 2009, Sean Bell on November 26, 2006, police Sgt. Cornel Young Jr. on January 28, 2000, police Officer Willie Wilkins on January 11, 2001, Amadou Diallo on February 4, 1999, and so many others we find ourselves coming to the same conclusion: By focusing on their color, people failed to see their humanity.

The subtext to all of these untimely deaths remains race. The subtext to the inability of juries to convict the George Zimmermans and Michael Dunns of the world of murder is tied to race as well. Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are the most recent victims of a murderous historical American continuum. Tolnay and Beck in their book A Festival of Violence, "identified 2,805 victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in ten Southern states. Although mobs murdered almost 300 white men and women, the vast majority - almost 2,500 - of lynch victims were African-American. The scale of this carnage means that, on average, a black man, woman or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week, between 1882 and 1930 by a hate-driven white mob." Today, lynch mobs have been replaced by Zimmermans and Dunns and sanctioned by "Stand Your Ground" and "juries of their peers."

As Africans in America and later African-Americans, we have been engaged in a struggle for a very long time. Too many of us have forgotten what's at the crux of the issue. Many believe it's economic; others believe it's civil rights. Both of those are important and play a significant role in improving our circumstances, but what we've been fighting to have recognized since those first 20 and some odd "African indentured servants" disembarked from the Dutch Man O' War off the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 (395 years ago) is our humanity.

According to the Virginia Statutes on Slavery, Act 1, October 1669; what should be done about the casual killing of slaves? "If any slave resist his master and by the extremity of the correction should chance to die, that his death shall not considered a felony, and the master should be acquitted from the molestation, since it cannot be presumed that prepense malice should induce any man to destroy his own estate." We were property, not human - part of the estate.

For decades, the law recognized the value of life over property. In many jurisdictions, before a person could use deadly force, they had a duty to retreat. They had to prove that the use of deadly force was justified. This is often taken to mean that if the defendant had first avoided conflict and secondly, had taken reasonable steps to retreat and so demonstrated an intention not to fight before eventually using force, then the taking of a life could be considered justified.

Today, Stand Your Ground has turned this long-held principle on its head. Today, it provides individuals (seemingly, mostly European-Americans) the right to use deadly force (seemingly against African-Americans) to "defend" themselves without any requirement to evade or retreat from a circumstance of their own creation.

One cannot stress enough, in the Trayvon Martin murder and the murder of Jordan Davis, that the victims were in public space, were engaged in legal activity and were not a threat to anyone. Zimmerman and Dunn initiated the confrontations, created themselves what they would later reconstruct as harm's way then took matters into their own hands, choosing to use deadly force against unarmed, non-threatening, innocent victims. Neither Martin nor Davis was given the opportunity to stand his ground.

What ties the death of all of the individuals listed above together is the culturally accepted stereotype of the threatening black male. Defense counsels in the murder of Martin, Davis, Diallo and so many others rationalized these irrational shootings by tapping into the oftentimes unspoken - but clearly recognized and understood - fear of the black male.

Even nothing resembling a weapon was found in the vehicle Davis was riding in, at least one member of the Dunn jury understood his claim that he was in fear of his life. Even though Martin was unarmed, members of the Zimmerman jury understood on a gut level his claim that he was in fear of his life. Diallo was armed with only his wallet when the NYPD unleashed a barrage of 41 bullets, striking him 19 times.

Since those first 20 and some odd "African indentured servants" disembarked from the Dutch Man O' War off the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, Africans in America and now African-Americans have been victimized by a murderous American historical continuum.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

The Killing of Jordan Davis: Michael Dunn Faces 60 Years After Split Verdict in "Thug Music" Trial

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 11:34 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

A Florida jury has convicted Michael Dunn of three counts of attempted murder for opening fire on a car of unarmed black teenagers during an argument over loud rap music at a gas station. But the jury deadlocked on the most serious charge, the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial on that count. Dunn, who is white, shot at the vehicle carrying Davis and his friends 10 times. He then fled the scene, went to a hotel with his girlfriend and ordered pizza. He never called the police. Citing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Dunn’s attorneys had claimed the shooting was justified because he had felt threatened by the teenagers. But prosecutors said the teenagers were unarmed and never left their vehicle. Legal analysts say Dunn could face at least 60 years in jail for the attempted murder convictions against the three other teens. The jury in the trial was 2/3 white and did not include any black males. The verdict was reached on Saturday, one day before what would have been Davis’ 19th birthday. We speak to Michael Skolnik, editor-in-chief of GlobalGrind.com, who attended the trial.

TRANSCRIPT:

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21944-the-killing-of-jordan-davis-michael-dunn-faces-60-years-after-split-verdict-in-thug-music-trial

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (22313) from Coon Rapids, MN 9 months ago

Dunn, who is white, shot at the vehicle carrying Davis and his friends 10 times. He then fled the scene, went to a hotel with his girlfriend and ordered pizza.

And the jury was dead-locked? I wonder if it was a garbage pizza.

[Removed]

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Justice in a Postracial World

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 09:30 By David Palumbo-Liu, Truthout | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21950-justice-in-a-postracial-world

Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis and too many more unarmed young black men - killed. One feature seems prominent: the claims that it's not about race. And in so many cases, the bar to be reached for hate-crime prosecution to be successful is never reached; the assertion that "hate" factored into the commission of these crimes is hard to prove convincingly. In the case of the killing of Davis, Michael Dunn's defense attorney, Michael Stolla, said, "This is not a black-and-white issue. This is what [Dunn] would call a subculture-thug issue. It's not about race." Dunn's own letters from prison contain statements that seem to correlate with that, even as they also show the ways culture and race were fused together:

I'm really not prejudiced against race, but I have no use for certain cultures. This gangster-rap, ghetto talking thug 'culture' that certain segments of society flock to is intolerable. They espouse violence and disrespect towards women. The black community here in Jacksonville is in an uproar against me - the 3 other thugs that were in the car are telling stories to cover up their true 'colors.

Writing about the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, legal scholar Robert Weisberg confesses, "I lack the wisdom or any distinct power of insight to add to the roiling debate about how race affected the case. Suffice to say that in the United States today, perceptions of possible deadly threats are all-too-often race-inflected. Race-blindness in resolving a case like this is impossible. Subtracting race from the case was a daunting challenge for the jurors. Race would have been implicit in the legal arguments and was sure to be unmentioned in the jury instruction. But the facts were these: Zimmerman knew Martin was African-American. Martin may have made assumptions about Zimmerman because Zimmerman was a non-black confronting a black. And trying to surmise how Zimmerman and Martin perceived each other was crucial to this case." So race was clearly a factor, but how to prove it was a determining factor to the satisfaction of the law?

At this point Dunn is not being prosecuted for a hate crime. But I want to use the issue of hate crimes and Hannah Arendt's comments on the specificity of war crimes to get at an essential question in this era of continued race-denial - how can we address what is now more than ever a social pathology that so many people refuse to diagnose?

Hate crimes need to be seen as having a social life (as opposed to a merely political or legal existence). One legal scholar makes the crucial point that "hate crimes prosecutions are society's way of demonstrating abhorrence for the specific wrong done to the victim. How society reacts to one's victimization can be seen by one as an indication of how valuable society takes one to be, which in turn can be viewed as an indication of how valuable one really is."1 So how can we flesh out, give substance to that abhorrence in more than a symbolic manner? And how does the failure of hate crime prosecution in many of these cases demonstrate exactly the reverse of what Wolfe notes - that is, the lack of value these young men's lives seem to have in our society?

This notion that alongside or beyond legal punishment there can be an excess of blame and abhorrence that may or may not find any legal recourse is found in Arendt's comments on the prosecution of war criminals. Arendt first raises "the question of legal punishment, punishment that is usually justified on one of the following grounds: the need of society to be protected against crime, the improvement of the criminal, the deterring force of the warning example for potential criminals, and, finally, the attribution of justice."

She then says:

"A moment of reflection will convince you that none of these grounds is valid for the punishment of the so-called war criminals: these people were not ordinary criminals. … Here we are demanding and meting a punishment in accordance with our sense of justice, while, on the other hand, the same sense of justice informs us that all our previous notions about punishment and justification have failed us."2

As the pathology of racism, most specifically as aimed at the black and brown male body, relentlessly continues, we are at a point when our standing notions about punishment and justification have failed us.

Was there premeditation in the mind of Dunn as he repeatedly fired into the van carrying those young men? Or was it self-defense? If his letters are brought into evidence, we find him at once saying, "Under Florida law, I do not have to prove self-defense. The State has to prove it was not. … My attorney said I have a much stronger case of self-defense than Zimmerman," and then again declaring:

This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these fucking idiots when they're threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior. Eventually, we as a society will wake up and realize that we need to arm ourselves, as the government welfare programs have produced a culture of entitlement for a certain segment of our society.

We are fooling ourselves if we think Dunn is an isolated, crazed man. By now, we know racism of this brand is a strong undercurrent in American life. It indeed has a virulent, warlike character that cannot be simply denied or downplayed. These murders are criminal in the extra-legal fashion Arendt attributes to war crimes, and it is time for us both to give the legal system the means with which to prosecute such crimes effectively and to socially express our abhorrence of such acts in the most powerful way possible.

Notes

1 Zachary Wolfe, Hate Crimes Law.

2 Hannah Arendt, The Portable Hannah Arendt, 26.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Time for White Americans To Wake the Hell Up!

Thursday, 20 February 2014 13:58 By The Daily Take, The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21999-time-for-white-americans-to-wake-the-hell-up

The Michael Dunn trial has all but proven that it's legal in red "Stand Your Ground, Shoot First" states for a white man to kill a black man simply because he's afraid of black people.

And just a few months ago, the Supreme Court said that there's no longer any significant racial discrimination or animosity in America in its ruling on the Voting Rights Act.

So, with that in mind, let's take a look at how things really are in America today when it comes to racial equality.

In response to the Jordan Davis case and the Trayvon Martin case, the folks over at ColorOfChange.org have launched a new campaign titled "Black Lives Matter."

They're calling on Americans to, "Take action to help prevent the loss of another Trayvon or Jordan." They say, "Join us to bring an end to 'Stand Your Ground' and other 'Shoot First' laws that undermine public safety, senselessly put people at risk, and enable the kind of tragedy we've witnessed in the case of Jordan Davis."

One main goal of the campaign is to convince white Americans that black lives are just as valuable as white lives, and that most black people are not only NOT scary, but they're just like you and me.

Right now across the web, black Americans are tweeting and posting pictures of black kids doing things that all kids do regardless of their race, using the hashtag "DangerouseBlackKids."

Nancy LeTourneau has compiled some of the tweets over at her Horizons blog.

Twitter user RiceVal tweeted out a picture of a black child playing baseball, with the caption, "#DangerousBlackKids getting ready to steal."

Meanwhile, Twitter user nealcarter tweeted out a picture of group of high school students, many of whom are black, with the caption, "The Gaithersburg high chapter of B.R.O.T.H.E.R.S. Inc is dangerous because they feed the homeless #dangerousblackkids."

Finally, Twitter user bugsact tweeted out a picture of her two sons, with the caption, "My sons looking super scary! One serves his country other serves student athletes with disabilities #dangerousblackkids."

What these tweets and photos are trying to do is wake Americans up to the fact that we're all just humans here, regardless of skin color.

You'd think this would be obvious, but centuries, generations, and even recent decades and years of largely-white-owned-and-programmed media in America have repeatedly portrayed blacks in a variety of negative stereotypes.

From the early days of Al Jolson in blackface on the screen to Aunt Jemima in the marketplace on TV, blacks were often characterized as subservient or dumb.

In popular culture today, blacks are repeatedly characterized as criminals, pimps, drug dealers, and gang-bangers. This "scary" image has been promoted from movies to music to television.

Even the President of the United States isn't immune - when he used the word "damn" in a TV interview a few years ago, Drudge and others on the right screamed "Obama Goes Street!" "Street," of course, being code for "Angry Black Man."

The result of media and popular culture portraying blacks as more likely to be criminals is that they're far more likely to be treated as criminals, even when they aren't.

Jason Roberts, a white man and a host on the YouTube channel Simple Misfits, decided to make a video to show the double-standard that exists between white males and black males.

First, Roberts tried to break into his own car. While he set of the alarm numerous times, very few people stopped to see what was going on, or to ask Roberts if it was even his car.

And at one point, a police officer drove right by Roberts, despite the car alarm going off and Roberts visibly trying to break into the car.

Then, actor Quentin Brunson, a black man, tried to break into Roberts' car. Within moments of setting off the car's alarm, Los Angeles police officers were on the scene, directing profanities at Brunson and stopping just short of arresting him.

They also asked him repeatedly if he'd ever been arrested before, and acted surprised when he said "no."

Because our largely white society and culture is biased to think that black people are scary and white people aren't, Robert's video is a great example of what goes on all across America every day.

It's time to go beyond these racist stereotypes. It's time to strip the stigma that's been associated with dark skin since the early days of slavery in America.

It's time for white Americans to wake the hell up, and realize that we're all humans here. Black, white, Latino, Asian, it doesn't matter. We're all just humans, and we're all just trying to get through life as best we can.

We need to start doing some serious work to clean up the mess that 400 years of slavery and discrimination has left in our country, and end both poverty and racism in America.

It's time for white Americans to wake up and help heal this country of 400 years of self-inflicted wounds.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Our Sinister Dual State Tuesday, 18 February 2014 09:37 By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21925-our-sinister-dual-state

On Thursday the former National Security Agency official and whistle-blower William E. Binney and I will debate Stewart A. Baker, a former general counsel for the NSA, P.J. Crowley, a former State Department spokesman, and the media pundit Jeffrey Toobin. The debate, at Oxford University, will center on whether Edward Snowden’s leaks helped or harmed the public good. The proposition asks: “Is Edward Snowden a Hero?” But, on a deeper level, the debate will revolve around our nation’s loss of liberty.

The government officials who, along with their courtiers in the press, castigate Snowden insist that congressional and judicial oversight, the right to privacy, the rule of law, freedom of the press and the right to express dissent remain inviolate. They use the old words and the old phrases, old laws and old constitutional guarantees to give our corporate totalitarianism a democratic veneer. They insist that the system works. They tell us we are still protected by the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Yet the promise of that sentence in the Bill of Rights is pitted against the fact that every telephone call we make, every email or text we send or receive, every website we visit and many of our travels are tracked, recorded and stored in government computers. The Fourth Amendment was written in 1789 in direct response to the arbitrary and unchecked search powers that the British had exercised through general warrants called writs of assistance, which played a significant part in fomenting the American Revolution. A technical system of surveillance designed to monitor those considered to be a danger to the state has, in the words of Binney, been “turned against you.”

We live in what the German political scientist Ernst Fraenkel called “the dual state.” Totalitarian states are always dual states. In the dual state civil liberties are abolished in the name of national security. The political sphere becomes a vacuum “as far as the law is concerned,” Fraenkel wrote. There is no legal check on power. Official bodies operate with impunity outside the law. In the dual state the government can convict citizens on secret evidence in secret courts. It can strip citizens of due process and detain, torture or assassinate them, serving as judge, jury and executioner. It rules according to its own arbitrary whims and prerogatives. The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are hollow, political stagecraft. Fraenkel called those who wield this unchecked power over the citizenry “the prerogative state.”

The masses in a totalitarian structure live in what Fraenkel termed “the normative state.” The normative state, he said, is defenseless against the abuses of the prerogative state. Citizens are subjected to draconian laws and regulations, as well as arbitrary searches and arrests. The police and internal security are omnipotent. The internal workings of power are secret. Free expression and opposition political activity are pushed to the fringes of society or shut down. Those who challenge the abuses of power by the prerogative state, those who, like Snowden, expose the crimes carried out by government, are made into criminals. Totalitarian states always invert the moral order. It is the wicked who rule. It is the just who are damned.

Snowden, we are told, could have reformed from the inside. He could have gone to his superiors or Congress or the courts. But Snowden had numerous examples—including the persecution of the whistle-blower Thomas Drake, who originally tried to go through so-called proper channels—to remind him that working within the system is fatal. He had watched as senior officials including Barack Obama lied to the public about internal surveillance. He knew that the president was dishonest when he assured Americans that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret and hears only from the government, is “transparent.” He knew that the president’s statement that Congress was “overseeing the entire program” was false. He knew that everything Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the press, the Congress and the public about the surveillance of Americans was a lie. And he knew that if this information was to be made available to the public he would have to do so through a few journalists whose integrity he could trust.

I was a plaintiff before the Supreme Court in Clapper v. Amnesty International, which challenged the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. This act authorizes surveillance without a showing, or probable cause, that a targeted person is an agent of a foreign power. The court dismissed our lawsuit because, it said, the idea that we were targets of surveillance was “based too much on speculation.” That Supreme Court ruling was then used by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to deny the credibility, or standing, of the other plaintiffs and me when it heard the Obama administration’s appeal of our successful challenge to Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a provision that permits the U.S. military to detain citizens in military facilities, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely. The government, in both court cases, did not attempt to defend the surveillance and detention programs as constitutional. It said that I and the other plaintiffs had no right to bring the cases to court. And the courts agreed.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

This deadly impasse, the tightening of the corporate totalitarian noose, would have continued if Snowden had not jolted the nation awake by disclosing the crimes of the prerogative state. Snowden’s revelations triggered, for the first time, a genuine public debate about mass surveillance. Since the disclosures, three judges have ruled on the NSA’s surveillance program, one defending it as legal and two accusing the NSA of violating the Constitution. A presidential panel has criticized the agency’s blanket surveillance and called for reform. Some members of Congress—although that body authorized the Patriot Act and its Section 215, which ostensibly permitted this wholesale surveillance of the public—have expressed dismay at the extent of the NSA’s activities and the weakness of its promised reforms. Maybe they are lying. Maybe they are not. Maybe reforms will produce improvements or maybe they will be merely cosmetic. But before Snowden we had nothing. Snowden’s revelations made us conscious. And as George Orwell wrote in his dystopian novel “1984”: “Until they become conscious they will never rebel. ...”

“Now, we’re all familiar with Congress’ most dramatic oversight failure,” said Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and a legal adviser to Snowden, in a recent debate over Snowden with R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “And this was in the notorious exchange between Sen. Ron Wyden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Wyden had asked, did the NSA collect any type of data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans? Clapper’s answer was, ‘No, sir.’ Now, this brazen falsehood is most often described as Clapper’s lie to Congress, but that’s not what it was. Wyden knew that Clapper was lying. Only we didn’t know. And Congress lacked the courage to correct the record—allowed us to be deceived by the director of national intelligence.”

Societies that once had democratic traditions, or periods when openness was possible, are often seduced into totalitarian systems because those who rule continue to pay outward fealty to the ideals, practices and forms of the old systems. This was true when the Emperor Augustus dismantled the Roman Republic. It was true when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of the autonomous soviets and ruthlessly centralized power. It was true following the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi fascism. Thomas Paine described despotic government as a fungus growing out of a corrupt civil society. And this is what has happened to us.

No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, can be described as free. The relationship between the U.S. government and the U.S. citizen is now one of master and slave. Yet the prerogative state assures us that our rights are sacred, that it abides by the will of the people and the consent of the governed.

The defense of liberty, which Snowden exhibited when he cast his fortune, his safety and his life aside to inform the public of the forces arrayed against constitutional rights, entails grave risks in dual states. It demands personal sacrifice. Snowden has called us to this sacrifice. He has allowed us to see who we are and what we have become. He has given us a chance. He has also shown us the heavy cost of defiance. It is up to us to seize this chance and dismantle the prerogative state. This means removing from power those who stole our liberty and lied to us. It means refusing to naively trust in their promised reform—for reform will never come from those who are complicit in such crimes. It will come through Americans’ construction of mass movements and alternative centers of power that can mount sustained pressure. If we fail to sever these chains we will become, like many who did not rise up in time to save their civil societies, human chattel.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by nonbourgeois (30) 9 months ago

The fact that Obomber and Crapper lied to the American people is particularly troubling.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

Attorney for Edward Snowden Interrogated at UK Airport, Placed on "Inhibited Persons List"

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 10:46 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21964-attorney-for-edward-snowden-interrogated-at-uk-airport-placed-on-inhibited-persons-list

Four journalists who revealed the National Security Agency’s vast web of spying have been awarded the 2013 George Polk Awards in Journalism. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post were among the winners announced on Sunday. Even as the journalists who broke the stories based on Edward Snowden’s leaks were awarded one of journalism’s highest honors, a lawyer who represents Snowden was recently detained while going through customs at London’s Heathrow Airport. Jesselyn Radack joins us today to tell her story. Radack says she was subjected to "very hostile questioning" about Snowden and her trips to Russia. Radack also learned she might be on an "inhibited persons list," a designation reportedly used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to require further vetting of certain passengers. Radack is just one of a growing number of people who are being stopped, harassed and interrogated for their work around Snowden, WikiLeaks and National Security Agency documents. Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower support organization.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Four journalists who revealed the National Security Agency’s vast web of spying have been awarded the 2013 George Polk Awards in Journalism. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post were among the winners announced on Sunday. Even as the journalists who broke the stories based on Snowden’s leaks were awarded one of journalism’s highest honors, a lawyer who represents Snowden was detained while going through customs at London’s Heathrow Airport. Jesselyn Radack told Firedoglake she was subjected to, quote, "very hostile questioning" about Snowden and her trips to Russia. Radack also learned she might be on an inhibited persons list, a designation reportedly used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to require further vetting of certain passengers. After the Polk Awards were announced, Glenn Greenwald tweeted, quote, "In the UK government, this is known as the George Polk Award for Excellence in Terrorism."

Jesselyn Radack is just one of a growing number of people who are being stopped, harassed and interrogated for their work around Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and National Security Agency documents. In this clip, we hear from journalist Laura Poitras, computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, and then journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, who have all been stopped and interrogated in airports.

LAURA POITRAS: I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve been detained at the border, but it’s, I think, around 40 times. And on this particular trip, lately they’ve been actually sending someone from the Department of Homeland Security to question me in the departing city, so I was questioned in London about what I was doing. I told them I was a journalist and that, you know, my work is protected, and I wasn’t going to discuss it.

JACOB APPELBAUM: I was targeted by the U.S. government and essentially, until the last four times that I’ve flown, I was detained basically every time. Sometimes men would meet me at the jetway, similarly, with guns.

DAVID MIRANDA: [translated] I stayed in a room with three different agents that were entering and exiting. They spoke to me, asking me questions about my whole life. They took my computer, my video game, cellphone, everything.

AMY GOODMAN: That was journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda; before him, computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum and journalist Laura Poitras. You can go to our website to see our interview with Jacob Appelbaum and Laura Poitras at democracynow.org. But all of them have been interrogated at airports, as has most recently Jesselyn Radack, the attorney representing Edward Snowden, joining us from London. She is a former ethics adviser to the U.S. Department of Justice under George W. Bush, currently director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization.

Jesselyn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Describe what happened at Heathrow on Sunday.

JESSELYN RADACK: I was trying to enter through customs, which at Heathrow is called the Border Force, and I was directed to a very specific station rather than the regular line. And after the first question, which is, "Why are you here?" which is a normal question, things just got more bizarre as we went along. I said that I was here to see friends. They wanted me to be more specific. I said, "In the Sam Adams Association," the group that awarded Edward Snowden the award last year—I didn’t add that part. And then they asked for the names of the people in the group. And so I gave names of people who are publicly known to be members. And then they asked where we were meeting, and I said at the Ecuadorean embassy. And they asked, "With Julian Assange?" And I said, "Yes." But then, at that point, I was asked why I had been to Russia twice in the past three months. And I said, "Because I have a client there." And they asked, "Who?" And I said, "Edward Snowden." And then, this was the most bizarre thing: They said, "Who is Edward Snowden?" And I just said matter-of-factly, "He is a whistleblower and an asylee." They next asked, "Who is Bradley Manning?" And I said, "A whistleblower. And then they asked, "Where is Bradley Manning?" And I said, "In jail." And he said, "So, he’s a criminal." And I said that he’s a political prisoner. And then they said, "But you represent Snowden." And I said, "Yes, I’m a human rights attorney, and I’m one of his legal advisers."

But I found that entire line of questioning very jarring and very unnerving. I didn’t know what kind of answer I was supposed to give. I mean, obviously, it’s like asking, "Who is President Obama?" They’re asking about some of the most famous people on the planet. Obviously, I have an attorney-client relationship to protect. I’m not going to get into meetings that I’ve had with clients. And only some of my clients are public, Edward Snowden being one of them, so that’s why I could answer that question. But I walked away from the interview just shaking. During the interview, I was fine. I maintained my composure. But I walked away just shaking and just upset. I just cried. It was very intimidating and very, very, again, unnerving to be asked that line of questions as an attorney. And I don’t think journalists or attorneys should be harassed or intimidated at the border, and it’s very disturbing to me that this has occurred in the U.S. and the U.K., and I’ve heard that this happened to someone recently in Germany, though I don’t know the details of that. But certainly, as an attorney, having gone to 14 different countries in the past year, I have never endured a line of questioning like that. You get the usual, "Hi. Why are you here? Who are you seeing? Where are you staying?" But not, "Who do you—who is Edward Snowden? Where is Edward Snowden? Where is Bradley Manning? Do you represent Bradley Manning?" which I wouldn’t even be allowed to answer, obviously, because that would be attorney-client privileged information. I, in fact, do not represent him, but it would have put me in a really difficult situation of actually making a false statement if I did represent him and had to answer a question like that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Jesselyn, could you talk about the significance of the inhibited persons list? How did you first learn about it, and are you in fact on it?

JESSELYN RADACK: As hard—as a graduate or an alumnus of the no-fly list, you’re never officially told, "You are on this list." It’s implied, and you hear it. This apparently is some list maintained in Great Britain, but originating from the Department of Homeland Security. And I wish I could tell you more about it, but that’s just what I was able to learn from speaking with other people who have had difficulty getting out of the U.K. My difficulty was getting in. I’m hoping I don’t have any difficulty getting out. But an inhibited persons list, to me, is another kind of watch list, just like how ridiculous it was that I spent a number of years on the no-fly list, when I obviously posed no direct threat. To Snowden, I’m an attorney doing my job, and being a human rights lawyer does not pose any kind of immigration violation or safety threat to entering the United Kingdom, so I’m not sure why I was subjected to that interrogation other than to try to intimidate me from doing my job.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

David Simon on Our Rigged Political System

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 09:47 By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21928-david-simon-on-our-rigged-political-system

http://vimeo.com/86706722

David Simon. (Screen grab via Moyers & Company)David Simon, journalist and creator of the TV series The Wire and Treme, returns to talk with Bill Moyers about the triumph of capital over democracy.

“If I could concentrate and focus on one thing … and start to walk the nightmare back, it would be campaign finance reform” Simon says.

Simon warns that if we don’t fix our broken election system — by getting big money out of elections and ending gerrymandering — we will have reached “the end game for democracy.”

TRANSCRIPT:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. There’s no way to say it nicely. The stench of corruption hangs over American politics like smog over Shanghai. Every day brings new headlines. If it’s not in Chris Christie’s New Jersey, it’s in Ray Nagin’s New Orleans, where the former mayor has been convicted for taking bribes and kickbacks.

And in our nation’s capital, the revolving door whirls like a runaway carousel, delivering one member of Congress or top staffer after another into the waiting arms of corporate mercenaries offering top dollar for services rendered; never mind the conflicts of interest. And all the while gushers of money pour into political campaigns non-stop, producing a marionette government of legalized theft.

You would think all this sleaze would be enough to turn everyone off. And it has indeed provoked dangerously widespread cynicism and apathy. But not among the two men on this broadcast. You will meet Lawrence Lessig later in the show, but first we’re back with David Simon, the former crime reporter turned television producer. He created two acclaimed series for HBO: “Treme,” about the struggle to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans, and “The Wire,” the story of crime and punishment in the streets of Baltimore.

CLARENCE ROYCE in The Wire: Campaign runs on dollars, you know it.

BILL MOYERS: Each showed how corrupted capitalism and politics leave poor people at the mercy of a rigged system.

MAURICE LEVY in The Wire: You are amoral, are you not? You are feeding off the violence and the despair of the drug trade. You’re stealing from those who themselves are stealing the life blood of our city. You are a parasite who leeches off the culture of drugs.

OMAR LITTLE in The Wire: Just like you man.

MAURICE LEVY in The Wire: Excuse me?

OMAR LITTLE in The Wire: I got the shot gun. You got the briefcase. It’s all in the game though right?

BILL MOYERS: What I remember so vividly after watching that scene is that the law shrugged. That’s quite often the effect of money in politics: the system works only for those who pay to play, who have bought the rule-making machinery of government. As David Simon put it when he was here two weeks ago:

DAVID SIMON in Moyers & Company: Show 304: You can buy these guys on the cheap. And capital's been at it a long time and the rules have been relaxed. The Supreme Court has walked away from any sort of responsibility to maintain democracy at that level. That's the aspect of government that's broken.

BILL MOYERS: Simon talked about this last fall in a speech at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Australia. Here’s the conclusion of his message:

DAVID SIMON at The Festival of Dangerous Ideas: The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labor, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what's a good idea or what's not, or what's valued and what's not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained […] And ultimately, right now, capital has effectively purchased the government.

BILL MOYERS: Your summation is grim, but true. Capital owns our politics. What do we do about it?

DAVID SIMON: I think if I could fix one thing, if I could concentrate and focus on one thing and hope that by breaking the cycle you might start to walk this nightmare back, it would be campaign finance reform. The logic of Citizens United and other decisions that are framed around that. Certainly our judicial branch has failed to value the idea of one man, one vote.

You don't count more because you run a corporation and you can heave money in favor of your political philosophy onto the process. You don't count more, you're one guy.

BILL MOYERS: Free speech, this court has said--

DAVID SIMON: Of course, of course.

BILL MOYERS: --free speech, under the first amendment corporations have the right of--

DAVID SIMON: And you know what-- right, and you know what? Everyone reacted the wrong way when they heard that decision. They all-- the chant from the left became, "Corporations are people? Corporations are not people." Well, no, actually under the law, that's the reason for corporations if you know, they are indeed given the rights of individuals, and that's why you form corporations and that's how the law treats them.

They're sociopaths as people, you know, they have to report their profit to the-- I mean, that's who they are. But you know, by definition, you know, if all you care about is your profits, to the shareholders, you know, and nothing else in human terms, you're probably a sociopath.

But okay, they get to exist as-- no, it was that speech is money, that was-- when you start equating speech with money and you see them as being comparable, money is in a fundamental regard the opposite of speech in many ways. Speech, you know, or it's a kind of speech so foul that it shouldn't be-- it shouldn't have the weight it has in our democracy.

And that's the, that to me was the nails in the coffin. If you can't fix the elections so that they actually resemble the popular will, if the combination of the monetization of the elections and gerrymandering create a bicameral legislature that doesn't in any way reflect the will of the American people, you've reached the end game for democracy. And I think we have.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 months ago

BILL MOYERS: You were very clear in your Australian speech that capitalism is no blueprint for building a society, it's not the road to a just country, you say.

DAVID SIMON: Well, it's not. You know, it's a tool for building wealth. If wealth is the only measure of your society-- I'm not saying it isn't a measure, but if wealth is the only measure of society and there's no distinction on how that wealth is going to be distributed among the various classes or how that wealth is going to be put to the needs of the society or how the society's going to be protected from inevitable threat, if all of those things are not-- if how the society's infrastructure, shared infrastructure, is fashioned and whether or not it's sustainable, if all those things are not metrics and if it's just about generating mass wealth, then you know, what are we saying? What are we saying about the human condition? What are saying about our society's condition?

BILL MOYERS: And how do you tame the greed?

DAVID SIMON: You have to do it legislatively. And how do you do that when your legislative aspect has been completely purchased by the very capital that is being amassed? That's the problem, you know. There isn't a Teddy Roosevelt confronting these robber barons.

BILL MOYERS: Are you angry about this?

DAVID SIMON: Aren't you?

BILL MOYERS: Yes.

DAVID SIMON: I mean, listen, I have a good life. I go, you know, I--

BILL MOYERS: Same here.

DAVID SIMON: I go to the playground with my kid, I watch the game on Saturday. I'm not, like, an angry person. But I can't look at politics and be sanguine about where we're going.

BILL MOYERS: And you understand why so many people whose anger turns to resignation?

DAVID SIMON: Resignation or contempt for government as an idea. That's a luxury we don't have. It is basically either, on one side it's people who think, "I can do well on my own and screw my neighbor." And it's basically greed wrapping itself in the mantle of a legitimate ideology. Or it's just people who are not doing well, who are saying, you know, "The government's my enemy."

If democracy's going to work, the government in some sense is you and your neighbors. And if it's not, that's the fight to have. And that fight can't be had by walking away. You know, if 20 percent of the people in America end up voting in elections that they don't think matter and they're right, well, they'll be right, but you know, the democracy will die regardless.

It's like I say, it's a fight worth having even if we're going to lose. But right now I have to say, you know, they've purchased so much and so deeply, and the contempt for the idea of the popular will is so firm in the people who are rigging the game that the logical outcome, a generation from now, may be that just people pick up a brick. And I don't know what happens after people pick up-- nobody does. Nobody quite knows where it goes. Revolution's all good when it's in theory. But you know, the--

BILL MOYERS: The blood runs?

DAVID SIMON: Yeah, and first of all the right people don't always get hit by the right bricks. And second of all, you know, as they're finding in Tahrir Square now, you know, you fight for one thing and you get another.

And I'm not saying I'm looking forward to the brick, but you know, it is there at the bottom. It's, you know, if enough people opt out and enough people get angry and enough people start to find themselves deeply at the margins. And increasingly it starts to span across racial and social lines to include actual white folk-- it'll be an interesting dynamic.

BILL MOYERS: David, I don't know anyone who has made a more dire and dark conclusion.

DAVID SIMON: Oh come on, there are guys to the---

BILL MOYERS: No, no, you-- no, I don't. But at the same time you don't give up. You keep writing these stories, you keep trying to tell us through--

DAVID SIMON: Well, I like the stories are good, for me. They're stories I want to tell. You ever read Camus, the “The Myth of Sisyphus”?

BILL MOYERS: Sisyphus, yes.

DAVID SIMON: Right, well, you know, in sum, what I took from Camus was the idea that to commit to an unlikely cause or a cause that is, seems, almost certain of defeat, seems absurd. But to not commit is also absurd given the situation. And only one choice of those two offers even the remote chance at dignity. But more than that, the idea that democracy works without there being a constant fight, without us-- you know, listen, people who walk away and say I'm not going to play this game by which I might lose or which the odds are stacked against me, and want the lofty position of walking away and saying, "No more." They're going to achieve nothing except a more rapid decline in their society.

There's nowhere to go except to fight.

BILL MOYERS: David Simon, thank you very much for being with me.

DAVID SIMON: Thanks for having me.

Producer: Gina Kim. Segment Producer: Lena Shemel. Editor: Sikay Tang.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 9 months ago

if everyone knows how everyone votes

the popular choice would be clear

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