[All this news going on in NYC and Washington DC and NOT A PEEP out of Totalitarian Capitalism Corporate Big Media.
Yesterday the Home Defenders League organized a protest that began at Freedom Plaza and ended up occupying the Department of Justice, even staying the nights in tents. At the beginning of the day, representatives of the action were on Clearing the FOG radio and UStream explaining their action, why they were doing it and their goals. By the afternoon they were occupying the Department of Justice, even putting up tents and staying the night. Two dozen arrests Monday, a dozen more on Tuesday and a couple of people were tazed this morning. There are calls for more people to come join them today. We’ll see if it can be sustained.
There are people calling for waves of protest this summer focused on DOJ’s failure to prosecute the big banks. Attorney Genreral Eric Holder has not prosecuted one big bankster, he says they are too big to jail, while 4 million Americans have lost their homes since 2007 and millions more are behind in their morgage payments.
What is the solution? Write down mortgages to the real value of property, not the housing bubble value. Homeowners should not be suffering and losing their homes while banks profit from inflated, false prices.
I have been experiencing unusual “connectivity problems”, exceptionally delayed access to my Facebook page and now today, 8:40 am CDT I am experiencing a problem with Twitter.
I tried to post a link from this website to Twitter and the count showed that the tweet was 1 UNDER the limit yet the red box came up saying I had used more than 140 characters. So I took out a space here, and I was 2 UNDER, same red box. Same with 3 UNDER, and so forth. Twitter just would not accept my tweet.
This kind of thing has happened episodically before on Twitter, but rarely. Now the problem is all the time.
Moreover, this week the Internet has been way slow. I don’t know if Time Warner is overloaded or causing it or if the problem is wider. Some friends have said they, too were experiencing extreme Internet slowness, but others said “no.” All different Internet Service Providers.
I will simply note that there are many ways besides CISPA, SOPA, ACTA, whatever to censor the Internet — like the ones cited above. I am not saying that these are intentional interferences, but what shall we do if the Internet is taken from us by hook or by crook?
– Thom Prentice
Facebook: Thomas Prentice
The Free Cooper Union effort has led to over 50 students, faculty, and staff maintaining a sit-in occupation inside college President Jamshed Bharucha’s office on the 7th floor of the Foundation Building of the Cooper Union.
[Please click on text to go directly to site to see more pictures.]
This occupation comes in response to the decision to begin charging tuition for the first time, ending a 154 year tradition of free education, as well as in the context of the broader unfolding tuition and student debt crisis across the country.
Watch Free Cooper Union on livestream and follow their live-tweets @FreeCooperUnion.
Many Occupy groups have protested outside in solidarity, The Illuminator has projected on the walls, Occupy Museums delivered sushi for dinner.
Occupy stands in solidarity with the students, faculty, and next generation of art students who have lost this amazing gift from Peter Cooper, education which is “free as air and water.”
Thousands of students marched on city hall in Philadelphia in one of the largest student walk-outs in history. (This weekend there will be three days of protess in Chicago over education as well.) Below are the demands of Philadelphia students from The Silenced Students Movement.
We believe that students have agency: the power to change an unjust situation. We, the Students of the Philadelphia Public School District, are protesting the School District’s proposed budget cuts. The budget cuts will strip public schools of funding they need to provide even a basic education to the city’s youth, and perpetuates the inequalities between wealthier and more impoverished districts. We care about the education that we receive, and implore you to do the same. We are willing to break the stereotypes and expectations of urban youth, and are taking this opportunity to tell the world that urban school districts deserve funding, and it is your responsibility under the Commonwealth Charter to provide us with more than a “bare bones education”.
We demand the following:
City Council Commitment
A commitment from the members of the City Council to fully fund- our public schools.
Real Student Voice & Community Involvement
Real student and community voices in the decision making process.
Ensure High Quality Learning Conditions means:
- Providing counselors, nurses, and librarians at each school, in order to offer the supplementary structure necessary for the success of students;
- Ensuring that every school has after school programs, art and music, sports, etc;
- Reduced student to teacher ratio, to avoid overcrowding, maintaining desegregation support, as well as providing AP classes and gifted support.
Safe & Positive School Climate
Schools should generate an environment that makes students feel safe and respected, encouraging their wholesome personal growth, not just their test scores. The emphasis must be placed on educating, not criminalizing students.
Publicly available financial records in all matters concerning school budgets—we want to know how the money is being spent.
?Equitable Funding Formula
When determining individual school budgets, taking into consideration proper variables, including the number of students in each district, community poverty levels, local taxes, and the number of special needs and English Language Learners in each district.
If these demands are not met by June 14th further actions will be taken by those supporting this movement.
The Students of Philadelphia
?The Philadelphia Student Union
?Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
Philadelphia United for a Responsible Economy
Teacher Action Group
?Fight For Philly
UNITE HERE Locals 634 and 274
What You Should Know About The Philly Student Walkout — from The Nation Magazine
By James Cersonsky and StudentNation
The Nation, May 17, 2013
Running a massive deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars, Philadelphia’s school system is planning to eliminate all sports, extracurricular activities, counselors and libraries—beyond which, for schools eviscerated by austerity politics, there’s not much left to lose. At noon today, May 17, thousands of students are expected to walk out of class and flood downtown.
“It’s time that the City Council and Governor Corbett started listening to students,” says Sharron Snyder, a junior at Benjamin Franklin High School and an organizer with the Philadelphia Student Union. “If they spent even one day in my school, they would know that already we don’t have the right resources to succeed.”
Walkout organizers state, “We are willing to break the stereotypes and expectations of urban youth, and are taking this opportunity to tell the world that urban school districts deserve funding, and it is your responsibility under the Commonwealth Charter to provide us with more than a ‘bare bones education.’”
Here are five backstories to #walkout215:
1. The pregame. On May 7 and 9, students staged two walkouts, the first with a few hundred students, the second with upwards of 1,000. The May 7 action was launched by an unaffiliated group, the Silenced Students Movement, over Facebook and Twitter. By Thursday, members of the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) and Youth United for Change (YUC), the city’s largest student organizing groups, were in on the call. This time, students have the support of PSU, YUC and the broader Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS). The coalition includes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, both student groups and an array of community groups and other unions.
2. The school closing shell game. The citywide uprising goes hand-in-hand with the city’s unprecedented, Boston Consulting Group-inspired maneuver to shutter public schools. In December, the city announced that 41 schools would be closed or relocated—a total that has since dropped to 23. Over the spring, students, teachers and allies have disrupted SRC meetings, blocked traffic, marched endlessly and released their own survey-based plans to revamp the school system. The district hasn’t undertaken the school-by-school community needs assessment that PCAPS is demanding before any schools are closed. Putting aside the dubious logic of “facility underutilization,” any labor savings from closed schools portend disaster for students and workers alike. And the students who are affected are more likely to be black or Latino. A handful of PCAPS groups, including PSU and YUC, are part of the Journey for Justice, a growing national movement led by people of color. The coalition’s demands pivot on the racialized thrust of neoliberal education policy; in some cities, groups are pushing federal civil rights complaints against school closings and related overhauls.
3. Receivership. City students and state leaders don’t exactly agree on issues of school funding. In response to protests against Governor Tom Corbett’s planned commencement address at Millersville University, state Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said, “Unfortunately, those people believe the only support for education is shown by how many zeroes are on a check.” After a Corbett-proposed $1.2 billion in cuts to public education funding in 2011-2012, the state cut $860 million, or $410 per student. That year, Philadelphia lost 1,600 teachers and 2,100 other school staff. For their part, city spokespeople decry state underfunding—while, last year, bankrolling charter school expansion. Since 2001, the district has been run by the state-directed School Reform Commission (SRC). That year, hundreds of students walked out to protest the state takeover—enacted by the state legislature partly under the pretense of district budget woes.
4. School safety. When schools are closed, students risk crossing myriad social boundaries—including gang lines—to survive in their new environments. Through the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools, Philadelphia students are pushing for student voice in school safety policy. After a series of actions last summer, the campaign won a new, less punitive discipline matrix and protections in the school’s dress code for gender-nonconforming students. More recently, students successfully advocated for pilotrestorative justice programs in ten schools. This month’s mass actions aren’t some hormonal release, but flashpoints in years of organizing. The Campaign for Nonviolent Schools is a prime example.
5. History. On November 17, 1967, more than 3,500 students from at least twelve high schools walked out and marched to the Board of Education. In conjunction with the Black People’s Unity Movement, students demanded black representation on the city’s school board, black history taught by black teachers and the removal of police from schools. Despite clashes with 400 cops—and fifty-seven arrests—the walkouts drove the administration to open dialogue with students and allies over curricular reforms and community voice in school policy.
Today’s protests, which land on the 59th anniversary of the Brown decision, recast the legacy of civil rights struggle.
By Patrick Walker
It’s downright weird to watch America’s right wingnuts react to Obama. Sometimes you just have to admire how their racism goes so deep it overcomes their native love for fascism. In that case, it must simply gall them to watch a black man serve the cause of “job creators” and creeping fascism far better than Dubya, Cheney, and Rumsfeld themselves. Or maybe they just like their Mussolini-style, corporate-government fascism more open, red-blooded, bloodthirsty, and jingoistic. Real men don’t p*ssy-foot.
But they fail to give Obama deeply deserved credit. Bush and his boys had so thrown in-your-face, warmongering, 1%-serving fascism into disrepute that saving it required a subtler, more devious hand. A deeper-pigmented hand, for one thing, one that could credibly–at least way-back-when in 2008–invoke the long heritage of black struggles against oppression and the legacy of Martin Luther King. Yet in so many ways FAR better, more presidential than King–lighter skinned, Harvard-educated, with much more the air of a slick corporate lawyer than a soulful Southern Baptist preacher. But who could convincingly preach “Hope” and “Change” in his own content-desiccated fashion. America’s milk-chocolate savior. Float like a butterfly, strike like a drone. Corporate fascism’s stealth Messiah.
And so for a long time, Obama’s had to make a wholehearted, sincere pretense of serving his progressive base. Like his half-hearted stimulus package, to be starkly contrasted with his full-blooded consequence-free bailout of Wall Street. Or his radical-sounding one-off “storm the barricades” speech at Osawatomie, Kansas in December 2011–reading at the moment like an early Christmas present or even early Valentine to Occupy Wall Street–except that we now know the whole Homeland Security apparatus, in close collaboration with private corporations and local authorities and police, was concurrently spying on and infiltrating Occupy, all under Obama’s benevolent Il Duce gaze. Obama just couldn’t yet openly join the chorus of right-wing voices urging those terrorist-suspect losers to get a job.
But the “redneckier” side of American fascism may soon get its good red meat. They should really pay attention, as Obama’s masterfully starting to show his masterful fascist hand. Or perhaps better, jackbooted foot. See, every good fascist knows you can’t p*ssy-foot forever. Silently eroding civil rights only goes so far. A point comes when you really have to show your manly willingness to clamp down on their exercise. And believe me, Obama’s getting there. You just have to read the signals without prejudice.
Of course, Obama has had a pretty good record all along of “manning up” and showing his iron fist where whistleblowers, leakers, and suchlike folks were concerned. But here he’s had the cover of the war on terror, where the xenophobic nightmare fears of even liberals’ brains are brought into play (see my earlier OpEdNews piece “The Dangers of Liberals’ Repressed Reptilian Brains”). Bill Maher’s attribution of almost all our terrorism problem to the crusading bloodlust of a primitive, medieval Islam is a case in point; I here obviously agree with Glenn Greenwald in thinking our own crusading, imperialistic foreign policy might play a substantial role. But beyond the war on terror, a man like Obama–with so much to hide (like the extent of his Uncle-Tomming for the white 1%)–must have a deep hair-trigger personal aversion to secret-revealers and whistleblowers. I personally would consider it the highest honor–and an almost certainly unattainable measure of success–to be placed on his drone kill list. But one can always try.
But I digress. If I may mix seemingly incompatible things in a bizarre but appropriate way–for only such ideas fit our “bizarro” world–as a manning-up corporate fascist, Obama’s really coming out of the closet. Probably his reelection to a second and final term (final, that is, unless he goes supernova fascist–which is highly improbable) has a lot to do with it. For example, his willingness to appoint billionaire patroness Penny Pritzker–who as a predatory lender to blacks and union buster is a clear “smoking gun” for his Uncle-Tomming–is a real advance in Obama brazenness. And his willingness to target even the mainstream Associated Press in his attacks on a free press is another. But a deep instinct tells me that Obama’s increasing brazenness is a matter of clever timing, so “straight, no chaser” fascism will have nearly become the new normal by the time it’s needed most–after Obama, fascistically trampling science and sanity, approves the XL pipeline. This is when our gun-toting right-wing crazies will really get their red meat. They probably still won’t stomach good-old-boy fascism in blackface, but it won’t be because Obama didn’t try.
by Michael Fleshman
See, the pipeline itself is a watershed moment for fascism–an utterly unjustifiable, wildly environmentally irresponsible gift to big fossil fuel corporations–that many of our best, brightest, and most heroic citizens will inevitably put their bodies on the line to resist. It’s clearly been supported by lying propaganda–this is how things go down in fascist regimes–touting wildly exaggerated numbers of jobs and energy-independence benefits and pooh-poohing its truly frightful environmental effects. A clear mark of the propaganda–and fascistic intent to shove it down our throats–is that no one in government is breathing a word about nationally televised public debates pitting staunch climatologist opponents like James Hansen and informed activist opponents like Bill McKibben against the best pipeline proponents can bring. The reasons for this “oversight” should be obvious. But in this case, a well-organized, highly motivated opposition to the pipeline vowed to civil disobedience is in place–so the NEED for some fascist skull-cracking is also obvious. Obama’s been foot-dragging on the pipeline simply to prepare the ground for this. And possibly, the internment camps.
Just as FDR, for weal or woe, has a lasting legacy as savior of industrial capitalism, Barack Obama may one day receive his proper due from historians as savior of corporate fascism. And in the wake of the massive screw-ups by the white-boys-at-their worst of Bush, Inc., that’s really no small achievement. Only when the model fascist citizens of today’s political right remove Obama from their crosshairs and properly honor his achievements with a 21-million gun salute, will racism be truly dead in this country. We shall all stand together as one. We will all love Big Brother.
Check out the one grassroots progressive revolt movement dedicated–unlike Obama supporters–NEVER to loving Big Brother: www.facebook.com/TrueBlueDemocratsAProgressiveRevolt .
This morning, I found a little green caterpillar crawling on my arm, in bed, as I was waking up. I took it outside so it could become a butterfly or moth. If it had been a mosquito or tick, I would have killed it so it wouldn’t hurt me or my family later.
One shoe bomber terrorist inspired the US to invest billions in airport security, required hundreds of millions of shoes to be removed.
From http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TSA_explanation_poster_MMW.jpg: TSA explanation poster MMW
TSA explanation poster MMW by Wikipedia
That’s because there was a risk that was known.
But there are a million psychopaths and over eight million sociopaths who we know are out there, predators, doing damage, hurting people, killing people, bullying, stalking, stealing, corrupting.
A small percentage get caught. Most of the ones who get caught are the low functioning, stupid ones, the violent ones, the ones who have co-morbid problems like drug addiction or alcoholism. The smart ones, the higher functioning ones get jobs at big corporations, in city, state and federal government. They even become judges and certainly become lawyers too.
Some speculate that it takes a sociopath to become a CEO of a major fortune 1000 company.
One commenter on a previous article in the series suggested
… The best defense is not to engage with them. You can’t win. If you are forced to work with a psychopath then you either kill him or leave.”
Given the current situation, there’s no protection from sociopaths who navigate the system avoiding arrest. They break rules but then intimidate or bully or charm people to cut them slack. They turn on their interpersonal intelligence to gain sympathy from those who say we should show them compassion. The best current defense may indeed be to leave. That’s not acceptable to me, and of course, killing is not acceptable. That’s why I’m engaging in writing this series. Good people should not have to leave to be safe from sociopaths.
If one shoe bomber caught without having followed through on his intended crime can evoke billions in defensive policies and procedures, how can we be ignoring a million psychopaths and eight million sociopaths?
Instead of the GOP legislators worrying about 30,000 gay immigrants, out of 12 million, how about worrying about 120,000 psychopaths and half a million sociopaths– maybe more.
I am saying that I want to see more research funding invested in developing better ways to identify sociopaths. One thing I’m seeing in the comment threads on the articles in this series is a lot of misinformation or wrong assumptions about sociopaths.
Sociopaths and psychopaths are not severely mentally ill. Generally, they are unable to claim the insanity defense in court because they know what they are doing. They just don’t care and don’t think laws apply to them.
Some say to show them compassion.
I will show compassion to a wolf in a national forest, in a designated area. But if the wolf is in my home, on my town’s streets, or at my business, I will do everything in my power, once I know it is there, to protect myself and all around me. I WANT to know if it is walking the streets or halls. I don’t want to wait until it attacks and injures or kills someone. I say this in response to the people who say we should wait until a sociopath commits a crime.
I don’t know if there is something for a psychopath comparable to a forest for a wolf. Whose neighborhood would you want the sociopath to be operating in? Whose workplace or home?
Some say that sociopaths and psychopaths have skills that are useful. I find that hard to accept. In the book Snakes in Suits, the authors describe how devastatingly destructive psychopaths are to businesses and the workers they hurt. The psychopaths do show characteristics which appear attractive– great people skills, great talkers, great sales abilities. But the bottom line is that these predators don’t work for the company. They only work for themselves and their skills end up not being applied to the benefit of the company, or military.
Psychiatrist Donald Black, M.D., author of Bad Boys, Bad Men, says that the worst kind of sociopath is one with narcissistic traits. They hurt people to feel better about themselves. They work in jobs to look good, to get kudos and rewards to their ego and brutally hurt people if their egos or image is threatened in any way.
These parasites feed off of hurting others– so they make themselves feel better. They can be bullies, stalkers or internet trolls. I’m not saying that all bullies or stalkers or trolls are sociopaths or psychopaths. But, if you’ve had to deal with someone like that, you may have been dealing with a psychopath.
Just acting trollish again and again could be a sign– not enough to label a person a sociopath, but perhaps enough to raise flags and suggest further checking, like flags at airports lead to some people being further checked.
There are a good number of websites that identify IP addresses where spammers originate their emails. Those IP addresses are blacklisted by major email services– comcast, hotmail, gmail, aol, yahoo– all block emails coming from those IP addresses.
But I’m guessing people from those IP addresses can still post on most websites. And there are problems with IP address identification processes. There should be federal laws and international treaties that make certain that IP addresses reflect where you’re operating.
Some people use blind IP addresses. I’m actually OK with them too. Some people in some nations where the laws block free speech need access to blind IPs. But there’s no law that says free speech should be anonymous. (Go ahead, comment on that. It’s a worthy discussion.) I think one way, in the US, to make it easier to identify sociopaths is to tighten up IP address allocation.
What I’ve written above is a digital way to start flagging potential sociopaths. It is not nearly enough, so please don’t attack it as a stand-alone. I’m not saying that. We need to identify a collection of behaviors that raise the percentage of likelihood that we are on the right track in terms of identifying a sociopath or psychopath.
Clinton Callahan writes in his article Beware the Psychopath, My Son…,
” How can we distinguish between psychopaths and healthy people? What is the portrait of a true psychopath?
Such a dangerous question has almost never been successfully asked. The reason is because we mistakenly confuse healthy for normal . Human psychological diversity is the health of our race. There is no normal because healthy humans continuously evolve beyond all normalizing standards. The terrorism of searching through hierarchies for anyone deviating from normal is no different from witch hunts or Inquisitions. You must remember that hierarchies thrive on such low dramas, torturing victims until they confess to evil beliefs. Not so long ago the church and state ongoingly acquired significant income and property through witch hunts and Inquisitions. This continued for over two hundred and fifty years. Ten generations of Europeans understood pogrom as normal life. Let us not return to that nightmare. Testing for normal is guaranteed to backfire in our face. There is no normal.
But there is conscience.
We have very little empirical evidence to support the idea that true psychopathy is the result of an abused childhood, and much empirical evidence to support that it is genetic. The neurobiological model offers us the greatest hope of being able to identify even the most devious psychopath. Other recent studies lead to similar results and conclusions: that psychopaths have great difficulty processing verbal and nonverbal affective (emotional) material, that they tend to confuse the emotional significance of events, and most importantly, that these deficits show up in brain scans ! A missing internal connection between the feeling heart and the thinking brain is detectable.
Psychopaths are incapable of authentic deep emotions. In fact, when Robert Hare, a Canadian psychologist who spent his career studying psychopathy, did brain scans on psychopaths while showing them two sets of words, one set of neutral words with no emotional associations and a second set with emotionally charged words, while different areas of the brain lit up in the non-psychopathic control group, in the psychopaths, both sets were processed in the same area of the brain, the area that deals with language. They did not have an emotional reaction until they intellectually concluded that it would be better if they had one, and then they whipped up an emotional response just for show.”
I like where he’s going. It’s not about identifying non-normals. I embrace and support the idea of people being different, being creative, making a conscious decision to stand out from the crowd, as Emerson and Thoreau celebrated.
Callahan has more to say that is cause for thought:
“The answer is that civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths.
All civilizations, our own included, have been built on slavery and mass murder. Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, cheat, steal, torture, manipulate, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse, in order to establish their own sense of security through domination.
The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers — was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies.
Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as their power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate. We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld — the overlapping criminal syndicates that lurk above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it.
During the past fifty years, psychopaths have gained almost absolute control of all the branches of government. You can notice this if you observe carefully that no matter what illegal thing a modern politician does, no one will really take him to task.
The answer is that civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths.
All civilizations, our own included, have been built on slavery and mass murder. Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, cheat, steal, torture, manipulate, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse, in order to establish their own sense of security through domination.
The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers — was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies.
Behind the apparent insanity of contemporary history, is the actual insanity of psychopaths fighting to preserve their disproportionate power. And as their power grows ever-more-threatened, the psychopaths grow ever-more-desperate. We are witnessing the apotheosis of the overworld — the overlapping criminal syndicates that lurk above ordinary society and law just as the underworld lurks below it.
During the past fifty years, psychopaths have gained almost absolute control of all the branches of government. You can notice this if you observe carefully that no matter what illegal thing a modern politician does, no one will really take him to task.
I have started speculating that there are so many sociopaths and psychopaths in positions of power that they are blocking serious efforts to identify who the predatory psychopaths and sociopaths are, so they can be dealt with.
I believe it is a mistake to take the liberal/progressive approach of kindness and compassion when it comes to brutal, conscienceless predators. I refuse to believe that those who suggest compassion would truly act that way if they discovered there was a sociopath in their child’s classroom.
One last thought. Some commenters have suggested that the whole idea of sociopaths and psychopaths is pop psychology. I don’t accept that. These people exist. They are real. They are dangerous. They are ruining our planet our culture. It is time we do a lot more so we can protect ourselves from them. I am not calling for any immediate actions against psychopaths or sociopaths. I am calling for massive action to learn more about them and how to prevent them from hurting others.
This article is part of a series on Sociopathy Psychopathy:
Here are their names, spread their shame:
American Eagle Outfitters
The Children’s Place
By Omar Rivero
Ignoring the memory of the over 1,100 factory workers that passed away at the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh last month, at least 14 major North American retailers have declined to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an agreement that would have entailed a five year commitment from all participating retailers to conduct independent safety inspections of factories and pay up to $500,000 per year towards safety improvements.
The retailers worried that the agreement would give labor groups and others the ability to sue them in U.S. courts, but anybody that has paid attention to the last 30 years of global unfettered corporate greed knows the truth: these corporations care more about their bottom line than they do about the lives and safety of third-world workers, and their actions reflect it. They are so obsessed with reducing production costs that they couldn’t care less about a few cheap lawsuits from cash-starved labor groups.
While the agreement has garnered overwhelming support outside of the United States, the American public is barely aware of its existence and significance, standing idly by and silently condoning these major multinational corporations as they neglect any semblance of Corporate Social Responsibility for the dangerous workplace conditions they establish for workers in third-world countries.
Several major European retailers like Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Bennetton, and H&M deserve credit for having rightfully taken responsibility for their previous inaction and joined the agreement.
PVH, parent company to Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, also signed the agreement, along with Abercrombie & Fitch. However, that leaves 14 North American retailers that are shirking responsibility for any future workplace deaths by refusing to sign the accord.
If the American public doesn’t awaken from its slumber and start to apply public pressure on these irresponsible North American corporations, they will have no incentive to put an end to their reckless evasion of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Watch a report about these irresponsible retailers’ refusal to sign the accord by MSNBC’s Chris Haye’s:
By Alex Pareene
[Nothing more useless and worthless than a bunch of Vichy Collaborationist Democrats in Washington or anywhere else. Excluding, of course, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cong. Alan Grayson, and Congresspeople Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, cochairs of the House Progressive Caucus although they don't raise near as much Hell as they should.]
The immigration bill crafted by the Senate “Gang of Eight” passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday evening, with a 13-5 vote. Every senator involved in the markup session leading up to the vote was very proud of him- or herself for how great the markup session was going. Especially after the senators bravely shot down a proposal to recognize the marriages of LGBT immigrants.
It was a very self-congratulatory affair, as each senator congratulated every other senator for their great legislative skill, their deeply held principles and their impressive civility. The markup deliberations were “courageous,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said, in reference to a bunch of people, mostly old dudes, carefully deciding exactly how awful they had to make an immigration bill before it could pass a Congress full of bigots, cynical fake-bigots and wingnuts. Even Ted Cruz was sort of civil as he hectored the committee for not passing his amendments, most of which were designed to ruin the bill. Everyone who opposes the bill, and those proposed amendments designed to sink it, had to say that they deeply wanted immigration reform to happen, it’s just that they defined reform as “no citizenship plus a bigger fence.” (Also everyone referred to the bill’s authors as the “group of eight” and not a “gang.”)
The most dispiriting moment came late in the amendment process, when Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy was forced to withdraw his own amendment, which would have treated same-sex couples equally under the proposed law. And senator after senator announced why they couldn’t support it. Not necessarily because they didn’t think gay couples deserved the same protection of the law, but because, you know, their colleaguesdon’t support it. Not because their colleagues are unkind! Just because, you know, their constituents are still a bit squicked out by gay people.
Sen. Lindsey Graham went first, saying he opposed the inclusion of gay couples’ protections in the bill.
“If you redefine marriage for immigration purposes [by the amendment], the bill would fall apart because the coalition would fall apart,” he said. “It would be a bridge too far.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited Graham’s comments, then, saying, “I think this sounds like the fairest approach, but here’s the problem … we know this is going to blow the agreement apart. I don’t want to blow this bill apart.”
One Democrat after another caved, entirely because they knew that if they supported LGBT rights, pathological deal-destroyer Lindsey Graham would destroy the deal. (He basically promised as much.) This is the micro form of the problem Democrats have been having since Obama took office: They want their legislation to pass, because they support the goals of their legislation. Republicans are indifferent, usually, to the goals of legislation and more concerned with how supporting or opposing bills makes them appear.
Democrats want immigration reform to pass because they want immigrants to have a chance to become citizens. Senate Republicans want to be seen as in favor of reform but they also wouldn’t mind (and in many cases would prefer) being seen as having been forced to regretfully withdraw their support from the reform proposal, because Democrats “overreached.”
So yesterday was a game where Republicans try to see how bad they can get away with making the bill, in order to try to get Democrats to jump ship, while Democrats tried to see how bad they had to allow the bill to be in order to retain Republican support. It’s healthcare all over again! In that fight, Republicans knew they had a strategic advantage, because Democrats desperately wanted to extend healthcare coverage to all Americans, and Republicans did not give a shit about that goal. So Republicans (and Lieberman) could just screw with the bill as much as they wanted and then not support it at all, confident that Democrats were too attached to the broader goal to give up on the bill just because there was no public option or Medicare buy-in.
Everyone in the Senate yesterday pretended the markup session and vote were an example of legislating the way it’s supposed to be done, with both sides agreeing to tough compromises and bravely chucking aside special interests in favor of the broader good. But it was just another fight between a group of people committed to a cause and a bunch of policy nihilists. The policy nihilists have a built-in advantage, every time. They are happy to exploit that advantage. That’s why Democrats had to abandon same-sex couples, and that’s why doing so still doesn’t guarantee the bill’s success.
Former military official says poverty and anger in indigenous communities mean conditions for an “insurgency” are ripe.
Canada has recently seen a wave of indigenous protest through the Idle No More Movement [Reuters]
Living standards for indigenous people on par with “third world” countries, buttressed by a large population of unemployed young men in a “warrior cohort”, and easy-to-target economic infrastructure, all mean Canada has conditions for a potential indigenous “insurgency”.
That’s according to a new report penned by a former Canadian military officer for the MacDonald Laurier Institute, a think-tank supported by corporate executives.
“For many Aboriginal people in Canada, but especially for First Nations women and children, life on-reserve is dreary, dark and dangerous,” wrote Douglas Bland in the report, Canada and the first Nations: Cooperation or Conflict? “Social fractionalisation significantly increases the risk of social conflict. The phenomenon provides motives for an insurgency,” read the report, issued in May.
Bland refused interview requests from Al Jazeera, but conclusions from the Queen’s University professor emeritus and 30-year military veteran have worried the Canadian establishment, especially in light of indigenous-led protests associated with the Idle No More movement, and Canada’s increasing dependence on natural resource extraction.
“The Canadian right-wing establishment is seizing on this to justify its own agenda of stricter controls and the continued criminalisation of native people who defend their rights,” Taiaiake Alfred, chair of the centre for indigenous governance at the University of Victoria, and one of Canada’s most influential aboriginal intellectuals, told Al Jazeera. “The positive elements of Canadian society – progressive values and social justice – are founded on the ongoing injustice of land theft and murder of indigenous people.”
In November, Paul Martin, Canada’s former prime minister and a business tycoon, echoed Alfred’s comments, albeit in a softer tone. “We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power,” he said.
We have never admitted to ourselves that we were, and still are, a colonial power
Paul Martin, former prime minister
One of the world’s most developed countries, Canada is home to about 1.2 million indigenous people out of a population of 34.5 million. The indigenous population is rising faster than other demographic groups, despite drastically higher rates of poverty, incarceration and substance abuse.
If indigenous Canadians were ranked as a country according to the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures living standards and life expectancy, they would have social outcomes comparable to residents of Kazakhstan and Albania.
Across Canada’s prairies, the heartland of the country’s agricultural industry and a centre for mining, about 42 percent of the indigenous population will be under the age of 30 by 2016, more than twice the youth rate in the non-indigenous community.
“The fact that Canada’s natural wealth flows unfairly from Aboriginal lands and peoples to non-Aboriginal Canadians is a long-standing and justifiable grievance,” the report said.
A large number of poorly educated, unemployed young men – a “warrior cohort”, as Bland put it – provide fertile recruits for militant groups, the report says.
Using a formula first developed by researchers at Oxford University, Bland argued that the “feasibility” of unrest, rather than just root causes, could determine outcomes. Most of Canada’s resource industries, including mines, dams and oil facilities, are located on land claimed by indigenous people – and attacking such facilities is easily feasible, the report said.
Comprising about four percent of the population, indigenous people make up 23 percent of Canada’s prisoners, a 43 percent increase during the five years prior to 2013, according to a government report released in March.
There is near universal acceptance that the status quo is unacceptable, but across Canada’s coffee shops, factories – and even within the MacDonald Laurier Institute – there is no consensus on the causes.
In a separate report for the institute, former government senior economic adviser Brian Lee Crowley and professor Kevin Coates paint an optimistic picture, far removed from fears over blockades, sabotage or a full-blown uprising.
“Blockades may be news,” they wrote, “but the new joint ventures, long-term training programmes and successful indigenous businesses are what will reshape our common future.”
They argue that indigenous communities are ready to hit a “sweet spot” as a series of Supreme Court decisions on long-standing treaties will give them a larger stake – environmental and financial – in natural resource development.
Other intellectuals, however, say support for mines, dams and other megaprojects with large environmental costs won’t help get people out of poverty, and are contrary to indigenous support for sustainability.
“Crowley’s argument is what the government has been saying for the last 150 years; historical experience has shown that it doesn’t work,” Peter Kulchyski, professor of native studies at the University of Manitoba, told Al Jazeera. “The communities that are worst off tend to be close to these resource developments … These partnerships between natural resource exploitation companies and First Nations generate some cash for the reserve elite, but not much in terms of employment opportunities for average people.”
Especially in northern Canada, many indigenous people still depend on hunting and trapping for their food, and Kulchyski says this way of life should be preserved through land management deals, the sale of meat and eco-tourism projects rather than large-scale developments – which often imperil the land.
On reserves, the territory of indigenous Canadians, property rights function differently than in other parts of the country, making it difficult for residents to buy and sell their homes or land because the territories are often administered through a form of communal property law.
Outside large-scale resource extraction, a lack of property rights make business development difficult, conservatives argue, contending that free markets are needed to end poverty.
Many Canadians blame indigenous leaders for the poverty of their communities, arguing corruption is rampant on reserves. Conservative Canadians often say indigenous people should leave their traditional territories on remote lands where employment opportunities are scarce and move to cities where jobs, training and education are more easily accessible.
After going on a hunger strike and making international headlines in an attempt to draw attention to the dire poverty faced by residents of Attawapiskat, a northern indigenous community, Chief Teresa Spence faced insinuations of mismanagement in January, after the government leaked an audit showing accounting gaps in more than $100m of federal transfers to the community.
Many Canadians say indigenous people receive too much money from the federal government, but Kulchyski says that isn’t true. “The money comes to them from a separate envelope, so that’s where the confusion comes from,” he said. “They are actually getting less money than the rest of us [on a per capita basis] and that is reflected in the horrifying living conditions people are dealing with.”
Bland’s Laurier Institute Report comes on the heels of renewed interest in indigenous issues from Canadian society, following Chief Spence’s hunger strike and the Idle No More movement, a campaign driven by social media and popular protest to draw attention to poverty and marginalisation.
Professor Alfred, who fought as a US marine before joining academia, believes Idle No More is a positive step for education, but its ability to change fundamental social structures is limited. He said he thinks recent reports about a possible “insurgency” are vastly overblown and based on poor research; part of a political ploy by another ex-military man to gain more funding for a broader crackdown against dissenters.
“As an activist, I am hoping and praying for more militant action,” Alfred said. “But as a political analyst, there is no objective evidence that will happen. As it stands, all the evidence points to continued colonialism.”
Follow Chris Arsenault on Twitter: @AJEchris
Three people detained on sedition charges as police launch crackdown on dissent.
Student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim was released on bail after a five-day detention [EPA]
Malaysian police have arrested three opposition politicians and activists and charged another with sedition, launching a crackdown on dissent three weeks after a divisive election that sparked a series of protests.
[These are peaceful, unarmed STUDENTS! It seems as if everything everywhere on the planet is roiling out of control besides Climare Change/Global Warming.]
Opposition member of parliament Tian Chua, who is vice president of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance), and pro-opposition activists Haris Ibrahim and Tamrin Ghafar, were arrested on Thursday for offences under the Sedition Act, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohamed Salleh said.
Tian said on his Twitter page that he had been picked up by police as he was about to board a flight at Kuala Lumpur’s budget air terminal.
Police also raided the offices of three opposition newspapers, and seized hundreds of copies of their publications for suspected infringement of regulations, the interior ministry said in a statement.
“The recent arrests are a matter for the police, who are acting to uphold the law,” a government spokesman said. “The detentions came after the police received numerous reports against the defendants by members of the public.”
Earlier, Adam Adli Halim, 24, was charged under the Sedition Act over a statement made at a public post-election forum on May 13. He had been held in custody for five days until he was released on bail on Thursday, his lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said.
Adam Adli apparently called for people to “go down to the streets to seize back our power” while addressing the forum.
The student, who became publicly known in 2011 when he brought down a flag with Prime Minister Najib Razak’s portrait at the ruling party’s headquarters during a demonstration, faces three years in prison and a fine if convicted.
Opposition activists have staged numerous peaceful demonstrations since the May 5 general elections, which the National Front coalition won with a weakened parliamentary majority.
They insist the coalition, which has governed since 1957, retained power through bogus ballots and other irregularities, but Najib and electoral authorities deny manipulating the results.
The Sedition Act is widely criticised as a method of oppressing democratic dissent, to the extent that the prime minister pledged last year to repeal it.
Conservatives in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main party in the ruling coalition, have urged Najib, who faces a possible leadership battle within months, to take a firm line against “dissent”.
Malaysian activists and the opposition have dismissed Najib’s moves to amend a series of security laws to guarantee greater civil liberties as window-dressing to appease voters.
Adam Adli’s lawyer heavily criticised the use of the act against his client.
“It’s clearly still being used to stifle dissent,” Fadiah told the AFP news agency. “The law is open to abuse … it’s an infringement to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
Human rights group Amnesty International has also gone on record as being against the law.
“The Malaysian authorities must ensure that peaceful political dissent is protected both in law and practice,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
President says maintaining drone strikes overseas is part of US being “at a crossroads” in defeat of terrorism.
Protesters outside Fort McNair where President Obama spoke, called for the end of lethal drone strikes [Reuters]
President Barack Obama has defended his country’s controversial drone attacks as legal, effective and a necessary tool in an evolving US counterterrorism policy.
But addressing an audience at the National Defence University on Thursday, he acknowledged the targeted strikes are no “cure-all” and said he is haunted by the civilians unintentionally killed.
Obama framed his speech as an attempt to redefine the nature and scope of terror threats facing the US, noting the weakening of al-Qaeda and the impending end of the US war in Afghanistan.
“So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and the scope of the struggle, or else it will define us,” said Obama, saying that threats to diplomatic facilities must be dealt with as well as “homegrown extremists”.
His speech came a day after his administration revealed for the first time that a fourth American citizen had been killed in secretive drone strikes abroad.
Guantanamo Bay a ‘glaring exception
The speech also reaffirmed Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where terror suspects have been held.
Obama said the US is is committed to “capturing terrorist suspects” and prosecuting them, but that “The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay”.
“When I ran for president the first time, John McCain supported closing Gitmo. No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States,” said Obama.
“Our courts have convicted hundreds of people for terrorism-related offences, including some who are more dangerous than most Gitmo detainees….there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened,” said the president, who was heckled by a person in the audience on the issue of forcefeeding hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Indeed, he was interrupted repeatedly by a woman who shouted “I love my country, I love the rule of law. The drones are making us less safe”.
The White House said on Wednesday that Obama’s speech coincided with the signing of new “presidential policy guidance” on when the US can use drone strikes.
Drafts of the guidance reviewed by counterterrorism officials gave control of drone strikes outside Pakistan and Yemen to the US military, enshrining into policy what is already common practice, according to two US officials briefed on the proposed changes.
Obama has pledged to be more open with the public about the scope of the drone strikes. But a growing number of legislators in Congress are seeking to limit US authorities that support the deadly drone strikes, which have targeted a wider range of threats than initially anticipated.
“America cannot take strikes wherever we choose,” said Obama, saying that such strikes “save lives.”
He acknowledged civilian deaths as “a hard fact” that will “haunt us as long as we live.”
The speech comes amid growing impatience in Congress with the sweeping authority it gave the president after the September 11, 2001, attacks in light of the targeting of suspected terrorists with lethal drone strikes.
Republicans and Democrats fear that they have given the president a blank check for using military force worldwide.
Shifting the responsibility of some of the drone programme from the Central Intelligence Agency to the military has given Congress greater oversight of the secretive programme and members say they want even more.
Under the draft guidance, the CIA drone programme would remain up and running, to target al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas, with US troops drawing down in Afghanistan and concern rising that al-Qaeda might return in greater numbers to the region.
The military and the CIA currently work side by side in Yemen, with the CIA flying its drones over the northern region out of a covert base in Saudi Arabia, and the military flying its unmanned aerial vehicles from Djibouti.
[So what qualification, exactly, gives the deputies standing to say she was "faking"? And OF COURSE it is in ALABAMA.]
By Iulia Filip
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) – A woman died on a courthouse floor because Alabama sheriff’s deputies refused to give her her medicine – after arresting her for an old traffic ticket, the woman’s daughter claims in court.
Ayunna Johnae London sued St. Clair County Sheriff Terry Surles, jail administrators Austin Nash and Terry Marcrum, Southern Healthcare Partners, and its employee Jennifer Eisel, in Federal Court.
London claims her mother, Dwana Voncia London-Richardson, died gasping for breath in court after callous and unconstitutional treatment from the defendants.
Richardson suffered from asthma and other serious health problems, but the defendants refused to give her her medication, accused her of faking, and let her die in the courtroom, her daughter claims.
Southern Healthcare Partners, which provided medical care to inmates at the St. Clair County Jail, failed to treat her mother properly, London says.
Her 45-year-old mother died in May 2011 at the St. Clair County Courthouse while in the sheriff’s custody.
Richardson was arrested on May 19, 2011, in Tarrant City, Ala., for failing to pay a 2008 traffic ticket. She was sent to the St. Clair County Jail.
London claims that when she visited her mom in jail two days later, her mother could hardly walk, had trouble breathing and complained of pain in both legs.
London claims the jail staff refused to give her mom her asthma medication and stopped other inmates from helping her.
“Ms. Richardson told Ayunna that she was sick, that both her legs were hurting her so badly that she could not walk to the tray area to pick up her food, and that they would not give her her medicine,” the complaint states.
“Ms. Richardson told Ayunna that several of the inmates were trying to help her out by going to get her tray for her, since she could hardly walk, but the jailers told them that they were ‘babying’ her, and moved Ms. Richardson to a different area in the jail, away from the inmates that were trying to help her.”
Jail staff refused to take Richardson to the hospital, despite her worsening condition, her daughter says.
On May 23, deputies took her mother to court and ignored her need for medical care until it was too late, London says.
“Ayunna headed to the St. Clair County Courthouse early that morning,” the complaint states. “She could not locate where court was being held. She saw deputy (or jailer) John Doe standing at the fire station, talking to a firefighter so she pulled into the station to ask where court was being held.
“When she pulled into the fire station, she saw her mother lying on the ground next to the police car with her legs extended under the police car.
“She asked them what had happened and her mother told her that she did not know, that she had just passed out. Ms. Richardson was sweating and struggling breathing.
“Ayunna had one of her mother’s asthma pumps in her car so she asked if her mother could sit in her car and get some air.
“Ayunna gave her mother the asthma pump but it was not working. Her mother’s breathing continued to get worse.”
London says the deputies still refused to take her mom to the hospital, and said would be locked up if she didn’t keep her court date.
“Ms. Richardson was unable to walk,” the complaint states. “Deputy (or jailer) Doe obtained an office chair from the courthouse and they used it to wheel Ms. Richardson to the courtroom.
“Ayunna set beside deputy (or jailer) Doe and her mother, fanning her mother, whose breathing continued to get worse.
“After sitting in the courtroom waiting for about twenty minutes, Ms. Richardson stated that she ‘could not take anymore,’ and she told deputy/jailer Doe that she needed help.
“Ayunna also pleaded with deputy/jailer Doe to get someone to help her mother.
“Deputy/jailer Doe responded as though he believed Ms. Richardson was just putting on.
“Ms. Richardson then stated ‘I need to lay down.’
“Ms. Richardson laid down on the courtroom floor and her body started to shaking.
“Deputy/jailer Doe took no action to assist Ms. Richardson or to clear the courtroom.
“Everyone in the courtroom watched as Ms. Richardson died in court, on the courtroom floor.
“Ayunna stayed beside her mother trying to do CPR to bring her back for about twenty minutes, but she failed.”
Emergency personnel arrived 45 minutes later and took Richardson, who was unresponsive, to the hospital.
London says her mother was pronounced dead within 5 minutes of arriving at the hospital.
She seeks punitive damages for constitutional violations, wrongful death and negligence.
She is represented by Charles Tatum Jr. of Jasper, Ala
By Beau Hodai
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. And it has turned on dissenters like the Occupy movement.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/shalunts
[This is a long one but a good one. Take it in medium-sized bites. ; ) Why is it always the case that the damned BANKS are behind EVERYTHING?]
The following is the first in a series of articles extracted from a new report by CMD and DBA Press entitled “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With? Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.”
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. DHS), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), ODNI’s “National Counterterrorism Center” (NCTC), and state/regional “fusion centers.”
“Fusion centers,” by and large, are staffed with personnel working in “counter terrorism”/ “homeland security” units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”public safety”/”counter terrorism” agencies. To a large degree, the “counter terrorism” operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in “fusion centers” are financed through a number of U.S. DHS grant programs.
Initially, “fusion centers” were intended to be intelligence sharing partnerships between municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”counter terrorism” agencies, dedicated solely to the dissemination/sharing of “terrorism”-related intelligence. However, shortly following the creation of “fusion centers,” their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in “terrorism,” to one of “all hazards” — an umbrella term used to describe virtually anything (including “terrorism”) that may be deemed a “hazard” to the public, or to certain private sector interests. And, as has been mandated through a series of federal legislative actions and presidential executive orders, “fusion centers” (and the “counter terrorism” entities that they are comprised of) work — in ever closer proximity — with private corporations, with the stated aim of protecting items deemed to be “critical infrastructure/key resources” (CI/KR, typically thought of as items such as power plants, dams or weapons manufacturing plants).
As detailed in a report from DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (DBA/CMD), “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street,” through 2011 and 2012, “fusion centers” and other “counter terrorism” agencies engaged in widespread monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that, in some instances, these “counter terrorism” agencies worked in partnership with corporate interests to gather and disseminate intelligence relating to the activities of citizens engaged in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ironically, records indicate that corporate entities engaged in such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships were often the very same corporate entities criticized, and protested against, by the Occupy Wall Street movement as having undue influence in the functions of public government.
This article examines the effects of such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships in Arizona, and how such partnerships benefited corporate interests that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest actions through 2011 and 2012.
Arizona Fusion Center Work on Behalf of Banks
In October of 2011, Jamie Dimon, president and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, had plans to travel to Phoenix for a “town hall” event with 2,000 of his employees at Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, located in downtown Phoenix). As Dimon is one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and the head of the largest bank in the country — a bank that played a key role in the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008 — JP Morgan Chase Regional Security Manager Dan Grady contacted Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center personnel on October 17 (the day before Dimon’s scheduled visit), to ensure a smooth landing for Dimon in Phoenix.
The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC), commonly known as the “Arizona Fusion Center,” is comprised of personnel from such entities as the Arizona Department of Public Safety Intelligence Bureau, the Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau, the Tempe Police Department Homeland Defense Unit, the Mesa Police Department Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI Phoenix Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Transportation Security Administration, and the U.S. DHS offices of Infrastructure Protection and Intelligence and Analysis.
Records indicate that Grady’s chief point of law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel contact in Phoenix — with whom he discussed the particulars of Dimon’s visit and shared a detailed itinerary — was Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau (PPDHDB) Detective, and ACTIC Community Liaison Program Coordinator, Jennifer O’Neill. As records indicate, the chief area of discussion between Grady and O’Neill were concerns that citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, an Occupy Wall Street-inspired group that had launched only days prior, on October 14 and 15, might try to disrupt the event — or otherwise inconvenience Dimon.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in response to Grady’s concerns, O’Neill stated that she and a PPDHDB “CI/KR security specialist” colleague had engaged in the monitoring of known online “social networking” outlets used by Occupy Phoenix for discussion relating to the Dimon visit. As such O’Neill stated: “we have not seen anything on social networking that leads us to believe protestors are aware of this event.”
By no stretch of the imagination was this monitoring of social media (known in the world of “counter terrorism” agencies as the acquisition of “open source intelligence”) for the benefit of JP Morgan Chase President and CEO Dimon the full extent of such activity conducted by ACTIC personnel. Records indicate that ACTIC personnel consistently gathered “open source,” and other, intelligence relating to Occupy Phoenix protests of corporate entities throughout 2011 and 2012. According to these records, in many instances ACTIC personnel would share this intelligence with personnel employed by corporations who were subject to these protests.
Another example of Occupy Phoenix-related ACTIC CLP work for the benefit of banks would be intelligence gathering and other monitoring conducted in preparation for “Bank Transfer Day,” November 5, 2011 — a day on which Occupy Wall Street groups nationwide, along with other mainstream activist/consumer advocate groups, encouraged citizens to discontinue business with the nation’s leading banks (such as J.P. Morgan Chase banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo), in favor of credit unions and smaller community-based banks.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that, on November 3, Mesa Police Department (Mesa is a Phoenix suburb) Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit Detective/ACTIC Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) Christopher Adamczyk, issued an OWS-related bulletin to a number of ACTIC TLOs/analysts. While the actual Adamczyk bulletin is absent from records delivered to DBA/CMD by PPDHDB, records indicate that the subject of this Adamczyk bulletin was the impending November 5 “Bank Transfer Day.” It is important to note, however, that available records indicate that the Mesa TLO did not address “Bank Transfer Day” events set to take place in the Phoenix area.
Records show that, after receiving this bulletin, O’Neill contacted PPDHDB/ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan and asked if there was any specific information she could pass on to downtown Phoenix banks.
In response to O’Neill’s request, Dowhan indicated that she would try to find “FOUO” (“For Official Use Only”) information that could be released to downtown Phoenix banks. In addition, she offered:
“Occupy Phoenix just updated their [Facebook] page saying that they will be marching to Wells Fargo, B of A [Bank of America], and Chase Tower. They are supposed to do a ‘credit card shredding ceremony’ , but eh haven’t identified which bank they will be doing that at [sic]. We will have to monitor their FB [Facebook].”
As previously stated, O’Neill is the coordinator of the ACTIC Community Liaison Program (CLP). ACTIC CLP was created in 2006, in response to federal mandates calling for greater involvement of private sector corporations in the national “counter terrorism” “information sharing environment” (ISE, as created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This piece of federal legislation also created ODNI, NCTC and set the groundwork for the national spread of “fusion centers,” per the implementation of ISE).
ACTIC CLP is intended to facilitate the flow of “counter terrorism” information/intelligence between private sector corporate partners and the Arizona “fusion center.” While the stated purpose of ACTIC CLP is to prevent terrorist activity, to identify terrorist threats, protect CI/KR, and “create an awareness of localized security issues, challenges, and business interdependencies,” records indicate that, during the course of 2011 and 2012, ACTIC CLP was used as an advance warning system to alert member corporations and banks of impending Occupy Phoenix protests.
ACTIC CLP is one of two primary vehicles through which corporate interests partner with ACTIC, the other vehicle being Arizona Infragard. Arizona Infragard is the Arizona chapter of Infragard, a public-private intelligence sharing partnership administered by the FBI and supported (both financially and through the delivery of intelligence) by U.S. DHS.
The Creepy Guy Cometh: Undercover Cop Goes to the Vegan Coffee Shop
Records indicate that these advance warnings concerning the planned actions of Occupy Phoenix, and other instances of intelligence sharing with private sector partners (including meetings between law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel and area bankers), were derived from the constant monitoring of Occupy Phoenix — and other activist groups — by Phoenix area law enforcement personnel, most of whom were “terrorism liaison officers” active in the ACTIC TLO Program.
While much of this TLO-gathered information came in the form of “open source intelligence” derived from the monitoring of social media, one source of intelligence that records show greatly benefitted not only ACTIC “counter terrorism” personnel, but also ACTIC’s private sector partners, was an undercover Phoenix Police Department Major Offenders Bureau (PPDMOB) detective who had infiltrated the Phoenix activist community and who had attended some of the earliest Occupy Phoenix planning meetings, as well as subsequent meetings throughout October and November, 2011.
This infiltrating undercover officer presented himself as a homeless Mexican national named “Saul DeLara” (Saul). One example of this undercover officer’s work product is as follows: following a request by Phoenix Police Department Community Relations Bureau (PPDCRB, the departmental entity that served as the public face of PPD interaction with Occupy Phoenix — known, affectionately, by members of the Phoenix activist community as the “Red Squad”) Sgt. Mark Schweikert, PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Tom Van Dorn dispatched Saul to attend an early Occupy Phoenix planning meeting held on October 2, 2011 at a local coffee shop. Following the meeting, Saul delivered a detailed report, dutifully relaying all plans the activists had discussed, to his PPD superiors. And records indicate that Van Dorn recommended at this time that PPD units augment the intelligence stream provided by Saul with constant monitoring of the Occupy Phoenix Facebook page.
But, Saul’s attendance at and reporting on the October 2, 2011 Occupy Phoenix planning meeting was far from the extent of the undercover detective’s involvement in the world of Phoenix activism. For example, records indicate that Saul had embedded himself among Phoenix activists in Occupy Phoenix’s encampment at Cesar Chavez Plaza, in an attempt at providing further intelligence relating to activist “Bank Transfer Day” plans.
As stated in a November 3, 2011 email, PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn informed PPDHDB commanding officers that, “Saul will be spending today and tomorrow hanging out in the Plaza and [sic] with the Anarchists to try and gather additional intelligence as we head into the weekend.”
Interestingly, Saul’s first appearance among Phoenix activists is said to significantly predate the birth of Occupy Phoenix (which officially launched over the course of a two day event, held October 14 and 15, 2011) and even the emergence of the national Occupy Wall Street movement (which materialized on September 17, 2011).
According to then-Phoenix activist Ian Fecke-Stoudt (Fecke-Stoudt has since moved out of the Phoenix area), Saul first appeared at Conspire, a now-defunct coffee house and vegan cafe located in downtown Phoenix, in July of 2011.
Poetically enough, Conspire was awarded the title of “Best Hangout for Anarchists, Revolutionaries and Dreamers” by the Phoenix New Times in 2010. The coffee house also served, later in 2011 and early 2012, as a regular meeting place for members of Occupy Phoenix.
According to Fecke-Stoudt, Saul’s appearance roughly coincided with the beginning of activist meetings, held at Conspire, dedicated to the planning of protest events associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) States and Nation Policy Summit (SNPS), to be held at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in the upscale Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, from November 28 through December 2, 2011.
ALEC is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that bills itself as the nation’s largest state “legislative membership organization.” As such, ALEC claims roughly 2,000, or approximately one third, of the nation’s state lawmakers as members. The organization couples these legislative members on a variety of “task forces” with representatives from the nation’s leading corporations, lobby and law firms, as well as private ‘think tanks’ and ‘public policy foundations.’ These various “task forces” generate and adopt “model legislation,” which member lawmakers dutifully introduce and work to pass into law in their home assemblies.
Representatives of corporations and private foundations involved in ALEC are known as the organization’s “private sector members.” As is reflected by the organization’s tax filings, these private sector members fund most of ALEC’s activities. As such, ALEC is in reality the nation’s largest public-private legislative partnership, dedicated to advancing the legislative agenda of its corporate underwriters — though ALEC has steadfastly denied that any lobbying activity takes place at their events.
ALEC holds three primary events each year: the Spring Task Force Summit, the Annual Meeting and the States and Nation Policy Summit. Invariably, these events are held at upscale resorts in cites throughout the nation. Travel and boarding expenses for ALEC member lawmakers who attend these meetings are more often than not paid through the ALEC “scholarship fund,” a fund for which ALEC member lawmakers and ALEC member lobbyists raise (tax deductible) donations from other lobbyists/private sector donors.
The organization has come under fire in recent years for its involvement in disseminating various pieces of “model legislation” and policy initiatives — from “voter ID” laws, to laws aimed at crushing unions, as well as firearms-related laws (such as the “Stand Your Ground” law, which gained national attention following the February, 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin).
But, before the rise of public furor surrounding such pieces of “model legislation,” ALEC came under criticism for its involvement in disseminating the “No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act,” a piece of “model legislation” introduced to the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force (ALEC claims it disbanded this task force in April of 2012) by then-Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce during the ALEC December, 2009 SNPS (a month and a half prior to Pearce’s introduction of the same bill, SB 1070, in the Arizona legislature).
The crux of criticism relating to ALEC’s role in adopting and disseminating this piece of “model legislation” was the fact that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s premier operator of for-profit prisons and immigrant detention facilities, was a longstanding member — and corporate underwriter — of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force at the time of the “model legislation”‘s adoption. Various records obtained by DBA/CMD show that the nation’s second largest private prison/immigrant detention center operator, Geo Group, was also active in ALEC during this time (Arizona lobby records indicate that Geo Group lobbyists were wining and dining lawmakers at the 2009 ALEC SNPS), along with the nation’s third largest private prison/immigration detention center operator, Management and Training Company (MTC, records obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy indicate that MTC was paying into the ALEC Arizona Scholarship Fund as late as August of 2010).
And so, when Phoenix-area activists learned of ALEC’s plans (Fecke-Stoudt estimates that Phoenix activists first learned of these plans in June of 2011) a coalition of activist groups — including prison reform activists, anarchists, immigrants’ rights groups and indigenous rights groups — began planning protest actions at Conspire.
According to Fecke-Stoudt, at some point in early to mid-July, 2011, his roommate — also a Phoenix-area activist — mentioned that “a creepy guy who looked like he was probably a cop” had been hanging around Conspire. According to Fecke-Stoudt, his roommate told him that the “creepy guy” had wandered into Conspire and struck up a conversation with her. The roommate said that, following this initial conversation, the man would appear at Conspire and seek her out — as if they were friends. According to Feck-Stoudt’s recollection of the roommate’s impression, the “creepy guy” had come off as being “overly interested in anarchism.”
It was not long after that Fecke-Stoudt was also approached by the “creepy guy” at Conspire. According to Fecke-Stoudt, the man wore a blue t-shirt and blue jeans, had slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair, appeared to be in his 50s, was very clean-cut and in good physical shape. The “creepy guy” introduced himself to Fecke-Stoudt and other Phoenix activists as “Saul DeLara.” Despite the man’s fit and clean appearance, Fecke-Stoudt said Saul claimed to be homeless — and commented frequently on trouble he had with police through the course of his life on the street. Saul claimed to be a native of Juarez, Mexico, but seldom disclosed any other details of his background or personal life.
It is worth noting that Saul would later offer one other interesting detail of his life. As reported by activists present at a November 9, 2011, ALEC protest planning meeting, Saul claimed to have ties to recent “anarchist” actions in Mexico. This appears to have been an oblique reference to a group calling themselves “Mexican Fire Cells Conspiracy/Informal Anarchist Federation,” which, through a number of anarchists online forums, had claimed responsibility for a fire at Las Torres Shopping Mall in Juarez on November 2.
According to Fecke Stoudt and other activists interviewed by DBA/CMD, Saul consistently expressed a voracious interest in all things related to anarchism. Perhaps the only area of conversation that stimulated Saul’s interest as much as general discussion of anarchism, said Fecke-Stoudt and other activists interviewed by DBA/CMD, was discussion of the pending ALEC SNPS protest.
According to Fecke-Stoudt, Saul commenced to appear at Conspire on nights when the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition (PAC) would hold meetings. It was during one of these occasions that Fecke-Stoudt detected a particularly odd pattern of behavior on Saul’s part.
“There’s a certain thing that people do, when you can tell they’re interested in something, but they’re trying not to talk about it — where, whenever they hear, like, even the slightest mention of that thing, they come running over and they start listening intently, or, like, they’ll just kind of slowly put themselves into the conversation — that’s what he did,” said Fecke-Stoudt.
This behavior on Saul’s part, explained Fecke-Stoudt, would occur whenever mention was made of the planned ALEC protest.
“Once, after a PAC meeting [...] he was hanging about and somebody said something about ALEC and, you know, he just kind of suddenly appeared in the conversation,” said Fecke-Stoudt. “I didn’t see it happen at that time, because I was engaged in the conversation, but I’m like, all of a sudden, ‘there’s Saul. Why is Saul in this conversation all of a sudden?’”
It is important to note that, according to both activists’ accounts and records obtained by DBA/CMD, Saul did not only attend anarchist protest planning meetings. Throughout his time as an activist infiltrator, Saul rubbed elbows with members of Occupy Phoenix, immigrants’ rights groups, faith-based organizations, indigenous rights groups, and others.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Saul would report on these ALEC protest planning meetings to Van Dorn, who would then forward the intelligence on to PPDHDB personnel.
For example, on October 26, 2011, Van Dorn sent the following email to PPDHDB Lt. Lawrence “Larry” Hein, PPDHDB Sgt. Pat “Patrick” Kotecki and PPDMOB Lt. John Geroulis:
“Hey Bosses,” wrote Van Dorn. “Saul has stated that the Anarchists have officially posted the ‘resist ALEC’ on their website but they haven’t discussed specifics on how to disrupt the conference [sic]. There are also two websites that might be worth the TLO’s [ACTIC "Terrorism Liaison Officers"] monitoring.”
Van Dorn then went on to provide a link to “azresistsalec.wordpress.com,” and to detail the number of “likes” on the Facebook page associated with that site.
“According to Saul they are supposed to be having ‘resist ALEC’ training this weekend in downtown Phoenix as well,” added Van Dorn. “Kepp you updated [sic].”
Records indicate that PPDHDB Sgt. Kotecki forwarded this intelligence on to PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme with instructions to “monitor and advise.”
Records obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy show that PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn and a PPDMOB undercover detective named Saul Ayala attended two meetings (November 18 and 23, 2011), held in the ACTIC “training room.” The subject of both these meetings was planned protests of the ALEC conference.
Interestingly enough, records indicate that PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Michael Rohme had invited Westin Kierland Director of Security Phil Black to attend the November 23 ACTIC meeting. According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, Rohme had been the chief ACTIC point of contact between ALEC personnel in the months leading up to the 2011 SNPS. Such ALEC-related personnel Rohme had shared ACTIC resources/information with included Bayer Healthcare Head of Security Mark Davis. Bayer Healthcare is a longtime ALEC private sector member and had served as co-chair of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force for several years, ending in 2011. At the time of the ALEC 2011 SNPS, Bayer Healthcare’s parent corporation, Bayer Corporation, served as “first vice chairman” of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board Executive Committee.
And, speaking to the private sector clout carried by ALEC in the world of “counter terrorism” public-private intelligence sharing partnerships, consider this: Arizona Public Service/Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (APS) served as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC SNPS. The chairman of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP, an economic development corporation whose members are clearly active in ACTIC CLP) Board of Directors is APS/Pinnacle West President and CEO Donald Brandt. APS Enterprise Security Operations Director Bob Parrish served as longtime board member of Arizona Infragard at this time as well.
Furthermore, records obtained by DBA/CMD show that, in February of 2012, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Protective Security Advisor Christine Figueroa forwarded open source intelligence (derived from activist Facebook postings and the Occupy Phoenix events calendar) pertaining to planned February 29, 2012 protests of ALEC-member corporations (a nationwide effort launched by Occupy Portland, Oregon) to ACTIC personnel (including O’Neill) and other U.S. DHS personnel.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, the information distributed by Figueroa had been gathered by Salt River Project (SRP) Security Manager Jay Spradling. This Spradling advisory reiterated activist plans (as posted on the Occupy Phoenix events calendar) to “march from [Freeport-McMoran Center, worldwide headquarters of Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold, Inc.] to other ALEC corporations downtown. Send them a message that we won’t stand for the corporate takeover of our democracy any longer,” and to (as stated on the Occupy Phoenix Facebook page) hold a press conference for the purpose of “informing people about what ALEC is and why they are bad!” Records show that this information was then passed on, through PPDCRB Sgt. Schweikert, to Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Manager of Corporate Security Thomas Tyo.
At the time of the F-29 protests SRP lobbyist Russell Smoldon served as the ALEC Arizona “private sector chair” (largely responsible for ALEC Arizona “scholarship fund” fundraising) and Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold served as a “director” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC SNPS. Freeport-McMoran is also active in ACTIC CLP through its position on the Downtown Phoenix Partnership Board of Directors.
As indicated by records obtained by DBA/CMD, as well as accounts of activists interviewed, Saul’s participation in ALEC protest planning meetings ended on November 9, 2011. The PPDMOB undercover detective attended an ALEC protest planning meeting that evening, after which an immigrants’ rights activist approached Saul and confronted him about his life as a cop.
According to the activist (who spoke to DBA/CMD on condition of anonymity), she had worked as a barista at a Phoenix Starbucks some years prior. During her time as a barista, the woman and her co-workers had become accustomed to the habits of two police officers who would come into the cafe to order drinks every night, while the cafe was closing. Rather than leaving coffee machines on and uncleaned, the cafe workers would set drinks aside for these two officers. One of these officers, said the activist, was the man who currently represented himself as the homeless anarchist wannabe, “Saul DeLara.”
According to this activist, when confronted, Saul denied having ever seen her before and angrily denied being a cop. Nevertheless, word of Saul’s possible relationship with law enforcement spread quickly through the Phoenix activist community and, as indicated by records obtained by DBA/CMD, details of this November 9 meeting were the last to be gathered by Saul and relayed through Van Dorn to PPDHDB/ACTIC personnel.
PPD Public Information Officer Trent Crump declined to confirm whether PPDMOB undercover detective Saul Ayala was in fact the man who presented himself to Phoenix activists as “Saul DeLara,” or to discuss any specifics of PPD undercover officer activity related to Occupy Phoenix or other Phoenix activist groups. However, Crump did state that it is a “regular practice” of PPD to employ “plainclothes or undercover” officers in the gathering of intelligence related to activist activity that may include “civil disobedience.”
When asked what suspicion of criminal activity PPD used to predicate such intelligence gathering conducted by undercover officers, Crump stated:
“I don’t even think that one has to say that we have to anticipate that there’s going to be criminal activity for us to gather intelligence — public safety is one of our job responsibilities. So, when we know they’re going to have, very possibly, some civil unrest, or we know we may have large groups of people organizing to rally under a protest — or whatever you want to call it — we gather intelligence on this, absolutely.”
Brenda the “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Facebook Queen
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security (AZDOHS, the state agency that essentially acts as a bursar for U.S. DHS Arizona grant awards), PPD was awarded $1,016,897 in U.S. DHS State Homeland Security Grant Program funding in September of 2010 for the PPD “ACTIC Intelligence Analyst Project.” According to these AZDOHS records, these funds were intended to fill positions for both a PPD “ACTIC Intelligence Analyst” and “IT Planner.” Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that these project funds have been used, in part, to hire and pay the more than $71,000 compensation (this figure includes salary and benefits) of PPDHDB/ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, Dowhan’s primary role at ACTIC over the course of 2011 (according to records, Dowhan appears to have been hired in July of 2011) and 2012 appears to have been the monitoring of social media activity associated with individuals involved in Occupy Phoenix — as well as to create bulletins for distribution to both ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison Officers” and other “fusion center” personnel nationwide, detailing trends in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in order to facilitate Dowhan’s work PPD personnel regularly fed the “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” logs containing the names, addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license/state identification numbers, and physical descriptions of citizens arrested, issued citations — or even given “warnings” by police — in connection with Occupy Phoenix. The vast majority of these citizens who had been arrested, or had other interactions with PPD, were cited/warned for alleged violations of the city’s “urban camping” ordinance.
Records indicate that Dowhan took her job very seriously. Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that when, in December of 2011, two members of Occupy Phoenix posted plans to travel to Flagstaff for Christmas, Dowhan alerted ACTIC Terrorism Liaison Officers in the Flagstaff area to their impending arrival.
And, records show that, in November, 2011, when Dowhan first became concerned that those she surveilled within the Phoenix activist community may eventually detect her presence online, she asked her PPDHDB superiors if they could discuss the possibility of her using a “clean computer,” possibly one with an “anonymizer,” in the future. This appears to have been a reference to a computer utility product, made by Anonymizer, Inc., that allows users to visit websites anonymously.
In fact, Dowhan was so dedicated to her job of monitoring the Facebook posts (and other social media/blogs) of members of Occupy Phoenix that, when, on December 16, 2011, FBI agent Alan McHugh contacted ACTIC/Arizona Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) personnel (including FBI Phoenix JTTF Special Agent Marcus Williams and U.S. DHS Intelligence Analyst Anthony Frangipane) to advise them of a planned December 17 Occupy Phoenix protest to be held outside the Phoenix office of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA 2012), ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan giddily responded:
“Good Morning Alan [sic] [paragraph break] Tracking the activities of Occupy Phoenix is one of my daily responsibilities. My primary role is to look at the social media, websites, and blogs. I just wanted to put it out there so that if you would like me to share with you or you have something to share, we can collaborate [sic].”
Dowhan went on to state that ACTIC/PPDHDB was also concerned about the NDAA 2012 protest (dubbed by Occupy Phoenix the “No Indefinite Detention Rally”) as well as other Occupy Phoenix events planned for coming days. In closing, Dowhan stated that she would continue to “monitor online activities to get an idea of what kind of participation we can expect.”
This glimpse into the day-to-day working life of those in the “counter terrorism” world is, of course, hilariously ironic, since citizens protesting NDAA 2012 were protesting provisions of the law that would allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens who are even suspected of aiding, committing, or plotting acts of terrorism, “hostilities,” or any other “belligerent acts” against the nation.
However, perhaps a much less humorous side of this reality is illustrated in an October, 2011 advisory sent out to “fusion center”/”counter terrorism” personnel nationwide by Transportation Security Administration (TSA, a component of U.S. DHS) Office of Intelligence Field Intelligence Officer Larry Tortorich. In this advisory, focused on a planned October 6 Occupy New Orleans march, Tortorich opined: “the potential always exists for extremists to exploit or redirect events such as this or use the event to escalate or trigger their own agendas. [...] Jihadists recently discussed how they can benefit from the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been ongoing in New York City, and suggested ‘that their continuation will make the enemy lose focus on the wars abroad.’” [It is not known what "Jihadists" Tortorich referenced.]
It is also worth noting that, according to records obtained by DBA/CMD, when President Barack Obama visited the Phoenix area in January of 2012, ACTIC personnel monitored associated NDAA 2012 protests. Furthermore records indicate that the U.S. Capitol Police Office of Intelligence Analysis (working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) had monitored Arizona protest activity aimed at NDAA 2012 in February of 2012.
In any event, let’s get back to Dowhan. While records obtained by DBA/CMD do show that Dowhan spent tremendous amounts of time trolling the Facebook pages of citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, as well as other Occupy Wall Street and activist groups, during 2011 and 2012, the mere culling of “open source intelligence” was not the extent of Dowhan’s U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded activities.
Records obtained by DBA/CMD show multiple instances in which Dowhan attempted to identify citizens believed to be active in the Occupy Phoenix/Occupy Wall Street movement (though not believed to have committed any crime — other than an allegation of marijuana use, as discussed below) through the use of biometric data analysis applied to photos found on Facebook.
One example of the use of this facial recognition technology is as follows:
On November 18, 2011, ACTIC received information pertaining to an individual reported to be involved with Occupy Phoenix. This information came in the form of an anonymous tip submitted to ACTIC personnel through the Silent Witness “web tip” program (a service provided to ACTIC personnel by The Silent Witness, Inc., a private non profit corporation).
The anonymous tip stated:
“Met an Occupy nut online, she says she’s from your area [...] She appears to be involved with some sort of violent organization. Has expressed intent to ‘take down the local power structure,’ desire to be killed in violent resistance as a martyr: ‘GOOD KILL US. That will really make people mad!’”
The anonymous “tipster” (records identified the source of this information as being “Web Tipster,” and Dowhan subsequently referred to the informant as “the tipster”) then went on to state that the “Occupy nut” “[had] indicated knowledge of specific plans for violent revolt, knowledge of bomb-related activities. When pressed further was reticent, claimed she did not want to give more details on the plans due to ‘outstanding warrants and paranoia’. [sic]”
In closing, the “tipster” wrote:
“Additionally, since I’m aware no crime has technically been committed there (apart for whatever the warrants are for), I’ve got an actual crime for you as well: illegal possession/use of marijuana, I’ve seen her smoking it on camera. I will attempt to get a picture in the future. [Paragraph break] I’m well aware that the threat of violence sounds like someone yanking my chain, and it quite possibly is, but she sounds serious about this and I feel it’s better to falsely report than to not report an actual threat.”
The anonymous “tipster” then went on to identify the “Occupy nut” as being a 20-year-old female known as “Amber.” The tipster stated that the young woman was unemployed and living with her twin sister and father. The tipster also provided ACTIC personnel with a photograph of what appears to be a teen-aged girl wearing eye glasses seated in front of a computer (the photo appears to have been taken by a monitor-mounted camera).
ACTIC PPDHD “Terrorism Liason All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan immediately followed up on this tip on November 18, 2011, by distributing information contained in the anonymous tip to PPDHDB personnel.
In a December 23 email from Dowhan to PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Christopher “CJ” Wren, PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme and PPDHDB Det. Robert Bolvin, Dowhan stated that she had attempted to identify “Amber” through the use of facial recognition technology, but that the attempt had failed.
“We have a Facebook photo and tried to do facial recognition, but she was wearing glasses,” wrote Dowhan in the December 23 email.
The facial recognition resources that Dowhan utilized in her efforts to identify individuals believed to be associated with Occupy Wall Street groups are provided through the ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit, a unit housed within ACTIC and operated by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).
According to records obtained from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security by DBA/CMD, the ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit has the ability to match biometric data contained in photographs — such as those found on Facebook — with biometric data contained in roughly 18 million Arizona Driver’s License photos, 4.7 million Arizona county/municipal jail “booking” photos, 12,000 photos contained in the “Arizona Sex Offender Database,” and 2 million photos available through the Federal Joint Automated Booking System.
The ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit, according to these AZDOHS records, also has the ability to utilize “portable units” during “special events.” And, according to AZDOHS records, MCSO has requested additional U.S. DHS funding in order to purchase additional “facial recognition video capture” technologies.
The ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit currently utilizes technology and services purchased from Hummingbird Defense Systems, Inc. (HDSI, a Nevada corporation allegedly headquartered in Phoenix, but which has had its status as an active corporation revoked in both Nevada and Arizona since at least 2008). HDSI purports to have partnered with Detaq Solutions in 2002 in the development of a biometric surveillance system for the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Part of this system, according to HDSI, was a “centralized biometric database [...] that was deployed to help secure Tiananmen Square.” As such, HDSI boasts that this system “was awarded ‘National Technology Treasure’ status by the Ministry of Public Security of China.”
Tiananmen Square was, of course, the site of the massacre of hundreds of peaceful Chinese student protestors by People’s Republic of China armed forces on June 4, 1989. The students, demanding government reform, had occupied the square for weeks prior to the massacre. The site, and the “June 4 Massacre,” have remained significant rallying points to government reform activists in China.
All Actors in Play: the Facebook Queen, the Creepy Guy, Public-Private Partnerships, and Paid Cops
Occupy Phoenix was not a large operation. Despite a relatively large turnout during the group’s inaugural march on October 15, 2011 (which peaked at about 1,000 participants), the Occupy Phoenix encampment in Cesar Chavez Plaza typically saw fewer than 50 “occupiers.” So, given the galvanizing force offered in opposition to ALEC throughout the spectrum of the Phoenix activist community, protests of the 2011 ALEC SNPS were, by far, the most well-attended Occupy Phoenix protest events to take place during 2011 or 2012, aside from the initial October 15, 2011 march.
The largest of these protests was held on the morning of the first full day of the conference, November 30, outside the Westin Kierland’s east gate. Protestors, numbering in the hundreds, marched to the gate as ALEC member lawmakers, lobbyists, corporate executives, and right-wing ‘think tank’ luminaries were ushered into the resort through security check points. Arizona Governor Brewer was to be the keynote speaker at the day’s ALEC luncheon, held in one of the Kierland’s many grand dining rooms.
At about 9:40 a.m., an incident took place between protestors and riot gear-clad PPD “mobile field force” officers who had established a “tactical response unit” (TRU) outside the Kierland’s eastern gate. All told, five protestors were arrested on charges of trespassing and “crossing a police line” during this incident.
Following the arrests, PPD officials told local media that officers had been attacked by wild-eyed “anarchists” brandishing “nail filled sticks” and that these “anarchists” had attempted to overthrow police barricades with metal poles. These attacks, according to PPD officials parroted in media accounts, had “forced” officers to deploy amounts of oleoresin capsicum (“OC”) spray into the crowd and make the five arrests.
Interestingly, this PPD version of events, wherein officers were provoked by violent “anarchists” with “nail filled sticks,” seems to have little semblance to reality.
The following version of events that took place outside the east gate of the Westin Kierland, at approximately 9:40 a.m., November 30, 2011, is based on video evidence that resulted in the dismissal of charges against one of the activists arrested, as well as photographs and police records obtained from PPDHDB/PPD by DBA/CMD:
At approximately 9:40 a.m., several PPD officers (many of whom did not wear any identification, in violation of departmental policy), deployed as part of a TRU, were met by a group of protestors who had marched to the eastern entrance of the resort and stopped approximately 50 feet from a barrier line established by TRU officers. Protestors at the front of the group held a large banner. Behind these protestors were a number of other protestors. Some of these other protestors held signs, and some played marching band music on musical instruments. The crowd of protestors, contrary to PPD accounts, was not composed entirely, or mostly, of “anarchists.” Present at this protest were members of Occupy Phoenix, members of several immigrants’ rights groups, members of indigenous rights groups, members of faith-based groups, concerned citizens, as well as a small group of individuals who described themselves as being “anarchists.”
The protest group having stopped well outside the established police barricade line, four protestors moved to the front of the large banner at the head of the procession and sat passively on the ground — remaining several (approximately 30 to 40) feet from the police barricades.
Shortly after these four protestors had seated themselves, several TRU officers picked up a metal barricade, carried it over to where the protestors sat, and pushed the barricade down on top of them, as if to crush the protestors. At this point, another protestor, Ezra Kaplan, a member of the Occupy Phoenix media group, walked over to where the police were pushing the barricade down on protestors and started taking pictures with his camera. The TRU officers then lifted the metal barricade over the seated protestors and shoved it directly into the banner, pinning the cameraman between the police line and the banner. Protestors then began to shout: “we’re non-violent,” at which point the four seated protestors and Kaplan were grabbed by officers, rushed onto resort property and arrested on charges of “crossing a police line” and trespassing. At this point, TRU officer PPD Violent Crimes Bureau Gang Enforcement Unit Detective Gregory Liebertz, reached into the crowd, grabbed the banner and began spraying protestors with OC spray. This officer was joined by several other officers in pulling, tearing, and eventually stomping the banner. Simultaneously, several other officers also deployed OC spray on the protestors. With the onset of this police aggression, the protestors temporarily disbanded and retreated.
At no point does this video footage show any sign of crazed “anarchists” (or any other protestor) swinging “nail filled sticks” at officers, or of “anarchists” (or other protestors) attempting to overturn police barricades.
In reality, the TRU/”mobile field force” officers had been working under the command of PPD Sgt. Eric Harkins. According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, at the time of this incident Harkins was actually off-duty, earning $35 per hour as a private security guard employed by ALEC, under the direction of Westin Kierland Director of Security Phil Black. Records show that, by the time SNPS ended, Harkins had earned $630 for security services rendered to ALEC and Westin Kierland during November 30 and December 1.
Harkins wasn’t alone in this paid service to ALEC/Westin Kierland. Records indicate that ALEC/Westin Kierland had hired 49 active duty and 9 retired PPD officers to act as private security during the conference. All told, ALEC/Westin Kierland paid out a total of $36,015 in “off-duty” pay to these officers.
[Note: records obtained by DBA/CMD relating to this off-duty job detail clearly state that the "client company" for this event was ALEC. As previously discussed, other records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Westin Kierland Director of Security Black, clearly working for the benefit of ALEC, had coordinated closely with both ALEC personnel and PPDHDB/ACTIC personnel in preparation for this event.]
It is not known how many of these off-duty PPD officers working as private security for the ALEC conference were involved in the TRU/”mobile field force” incident at the Westin Kierland east gate, but it is known that Harkins and another off-duty officer working as private ALEC/Kierland security, Eric Carpenter (paid a total of $630 by ALEC/Kierland for services rendered), personally arrested the Occupy Phoenix photographer, Ezra Kaplan. Furthermore, Officer Carpenter’s report of the incident (actually filed as the joint report of both Harkins and Carpenter) explicitly states that Sgt. Harkins had “advised nearby officers to place [the four seated protestors] under arrest.”
As further stated in the Harkins/Carpenter report, off-duty officers had attended a briefing prior to the protests at which they were told, by PPD Off-Duty Job Coordinator Officer Tim Moore (who was paid $2,065 by ALEC/Kierland for services rendered under the direction of Black during the conference. Moore had also attended several meetings of both ACTIC and ALEC personnel regarding the planned protests, some of which were also apparently attended by PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn and PPDMOB undercover detective Saul Ayala) that “no protestors were wanted on resort property and that the resort would want prosecution.” And, indeed, the five protestors arrested at the Kierland’s east gate were prosecuted — based, in part, on demonstrably false claims made by these off-duty police officers.
As for the presence of “mobile field force”/TRU officers at the gates of the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa during the ALEC SNPS, records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Black, citing an “article” he had been given by personnel employed by ALEC, had discussed the possibility of deploying a “mobile field force” to the grounds of the resort during the conference with PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme.
The article cited by Black as grounds for this “mobile field force” presence (“Occupy Wall Street Gets More Violent”) was written by Heritage Foundation Assistant Director of Strategic Communications Mike Brownfield, and had been published in a Heritage Foundation newsletter. Conspicuously absent from records obtained by DBA/CMD relating to the acquisition of a “mobile field force” apropos the Heritage Foundation “article,” is any disclosure on the part of ALEC personnel (or personnel working on behalf of ALEC, including Black) of the fact that Heritage is an ALEC member ‘think tank,’ co-founded by ALEC founder Paul Weyrich, and financed by many of the very same corporate interests that comprise ALEC “private sector” membership.
What’s more, according to records obtained by DBA/CMD, off-duty officers employed as private security for ALEC/Kierland had been given “face sheets,” generated by PPDHDB, containing the photographs (mostly driver’s license photos) of 24 Phoenix and Tucson-area activists listed as “persons of interest to the ALEC conference.” Such activists listed on the ALEC “face sheet” included members of Occupy Phoenix, anarchists, prison reform activists, members of Phoenix Cop Watch (a watchdog group that seeks to police unscrupulous or illegal actions of local law enforcement) and others.
While the exact purpose of the ALEC “face sheet” is unknown, since none of the activists listed on the sheet (with the exception of one activist who had been arrested prior to the ALEC event) were wanted in relation to any alleged crime at the time of the ALEC conference. For his part, PPD Public Information Officer Crump declined to answer any questions relating to the ALEC “face sheet.” Nevertheless, a November 17 email sent from ACTIC/PPDHDB “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan to ACTIC/DPS Intelligence Bureau Analyst Annette Roberts may provide some insight to PPDHDB/ACTIC motives [Note: DPS Northern Intelligence District Commander, Captain Steve Harrison, did not respond to requests seeking information pertaining to Roberts' position within DPS. Records do, however, suggest that Roberts is most likely a DPS Intelligence Bureau analyst]:
“The ACTIC has identified groups that intend ‘Shut ALEC Down.’ While some may merely protest the event, such as Anti-SB1070 and the Occupy Phoenix movement, anarchist groups have shown a determination to disrupt and shut down the event with the use of violent tactics experienced by other states hosting these meetings. The Phoenix Police Department is taking the lead to identify and intercept persons they believe to pose a threat to the event or attendees.”
It should be noted that, regardless of Dowhan’s assertions, previous ALEC conferences were not — by any stretch of the imagination — subject to any “violent tactics” perpetrated by “anarchists” (or any other individuals). Indeed, the sole arrest to have occurred at any ALEC conference protest prior to the Scottsdale ALEC SNPS took place in New Orleans in August of 2011, during the ALEC Annual Meeting held at the Marriott New Orleans French Quarter Hotel. According to New Orleans Police Department records, on August 5 an officer (who was off-duty, working as private security for the ALEC conference) arrested a male subject for allegedly spray painting an “unknown symbol resembling the letter ‘A’ with a circle around it (in red color)” on Marriott property.
Nevertheless, this much, regarding the application of the ALEC “face sheet,” is known: during the ALEC protest on the morning of November 30, 2011, Jason Odhner, a Quaker street medic working with the Phoenix Urban Health Collective, was handcuffed by a police officer, who was likely off-duty and working as private security for ALEC/Kierland, while walking across a slim portion of the the Kierland golf course and detained in the back of a police vehicle for more than an hour (though he was not charged with any crime). At the time of Odhner’s false arrest, he had been seeking treatment for a protestor who was suffering from heat-related symptoms. Not surprisingly, Ohdner’s name and driver’s license photo were present on the ALEC “persons of interest” “face sheet.”
According to both a copy of the ALEC “face sheet” and other records obtained by DBA/CMD, officers equipped with this “face sheet” were instructed — by none other than the sheet’s creator, ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan — to destroy all copies of the “face sheet” after the ALEC event. And, as most — if not all — of the activists pictured on the ALEC “face sheet” had either known, been Facebook friends with, or been at ALEC protest planning meetings attended by, the “creepy guy” calling himself “Saul DeLara,” it is clear that intelligence provided to Dowhan in the creation of this “face sheet” likely had its origins, at least in part, with the PPDMOB undercover detective who had infiltrated the Phoenix activist community.
Beau Hodai is a freelance journalist and publisher of DBA Press, an online news publication and source materials archive. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
An innovative study reveals that more than 75% of Americans are unhappy with their friendships.
[This is a positive sign. My dissertation study (Written Conversations of Student Teachers in an Electronic Discourse Comnunity) twenty years ago found essentially the same thing. We tried using Intranet computers one week and then face-to-cface classes the next. Yes, they learned a Hell of a lot but my unexpected finding was that they did NOT want to do it exclusively by computer. They wanted the face-to-face too. Interesting that since that "original contribution to human knowledge" was published, the technocompanies have gone in exactly the opposite direction. Perhap this new study suggests that people themselves are turning.]
Have you ever felt like your friendship is suffering from a prolonged period of stagnation? You’re not alone. According to Lifeboat co-founder Tim Walker, most Americans say they would prefer to have deeper friendships than more friends.
“People are feeling more insecure and unconfident about the quality of their friendships than ever before. That’s the experience of most adults across the country,” Walker told AlterNet.
Walker and co-founder Alia McKee, launched the very first “State of Friendship in America Report 2013,” in response to their own independent, mid-life friendship slumps, with a view to discovering what friendship in adulthood really meant.
“We wanted to see if the friendship crisis in our own lives and in academic studies was taking a toll on the real lives of American people,” McKee told AlterNet.
Drawing upon academia, expert advice, philosophy and the assistance of two research teams on the quest to unlock the social science of friendship, McKee and Walker surveyed over 10,000 Americans across the country in search of finding answers.
Among the key findings in the study was that gen-Xers and baby boomers are hit hardest by the friendship crisis, exhibiting lower levels of satisfaction then millennials and seniors.
“Today’s generation is extremely busy and heavily invested in juggling a career and family and as a result these friendships have been sacrificed,” McKee explained.
The report also found that while women said they had access to more intimate friendships than men, they were not any happier than men with the state of their friendships. What’s more, the use of social media did not factor in the quality of one’s friendships or one’s overall friendship satisfaction.
“We have broader connections than ever before. However, social media isn’t helping us connect in terms of creating better friendships. The real gauge on whether people will be satisfied depends on the depth of the relationship you have created,” Walker said.
The good news for those of us who are suffering from “friendship inertia” is that there are a number of easy techniques we can use to spice up our old friendships or recreate deeper bonds. According to McKee, those seeking greater fulfillment from their friendships should invest more time and energy into the relationships they consider “close” — with one of the primary predictors of friendship being “proximity.”
“We’re not purposeful about who we choose as friends. Friendships happen to us through work, our daily lives and where we live. One of the joys of life is being introduced to new ideas, new professions and new ways of thinking. By purposefully seeking out people who are different from us, we can become more satisfied in relationships,” McKee told Alternet.
In addition to providing insight into the art of making and having friends, the study also revealed some quirky facts about friendships across various demographic groups in the United States:
Those who attend religious ceremonies once a week or more are twice as satisfied with their friendships then those who do not.
Conservatives are more satisfied in friendships than liberals.
Urban residents are happier with their friendships than those living in rural areas.
Most Americans don’t believe their close friends would bail them out of jail, lend them $500 or donate a kidney.
If you’re interested in how to become a better friend, Lifeboat has developed a list of Ten Simple And Powerful Practices of Amazing Friends to give people practical solutions on how to become an excellent friend. As Walker explained, “deep friendships give people greater meaning in life, higher levels of longevity, clear direction and a higher degree of empathy toward others.”
Jodie Gummow is a freelance journalist and human rights activist.
[Noteworthy: This is the first time I remember seeing Reich use the term "global Capital" But maybe I haven't been paying attention.]
As global capital becomes ever more powerful, giant corporations are holding governments and citizens up for ransom — eliciting subsidies and tax breaks from countries concerned about their nation’s “competitiveness” — while sheltering their profits in the lowest-tax jurisdictions they can find. Major advanced countries — and their citizens — need a comprehensive tax agreement that won’t allow global corporations to get away with this.
Google, Amazon, Starbucks, every other major corporation, and every big Wall Street bank, are sheltering as much of their U.S. profits abroad as they can, while telling Washington that lower corporate taxes are necessary in order to keep the U.S. “competitive.”
Baloney. The fact is, global corporations have no allegiance to any country; their only objective is to make as much money as possible — and play off one country against another to keep their taxes down and subsidies up, thereby shifting more of the tax burden to ordinary people whose wages are already shrinking because companies are playing workers off against each other.
I’m in London for a few days, and all the talk here is about how Goldman Sachs just negotiated a sweetheart deal to settle a tax dispute with the British government; Google is manipulating its British sales to pay almost no taxes here by using its low-tax Ireland subsidiary (the chair of the Parliamentary committee investigating this has just called the do-no-evil firm “devious, calculating, and unethical”); Amazon has been found to route its British sales through a subsidiary in low-tax Luxembourg, and now receives more in subsidies from the British government than it pays here in taxes; Starbucks’ tax-avoidance strategy was so blatant British consumers began boycotting the firm until it reversed course.
Meanwhile, At a time when you’d expect nations to band together to gain bargaining power against global capital, the opposite is occurring: Xenophobia is breaking out all over.
Here in Britain, the UK Independence Party — which wants to get out of the European Union — is rapidly gaining ground, becoming the third most popular party in the country, according to a new poll for The Independent on Sunday. Almost one in five people plan to vote for it in the next general election. Ukip’s overall ratings have risen four points to 19 per cent in the past month, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to wrest back control of the crucial debate over Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
Right-wing nationalist parties are gaining ground elsewhere in Europe as well. In the U.S., not only are Republicans sounding more nationalistic of late (anti-immigrant, anti-trade), but they continue to push “states rights” — as states increasingly battle against one another to give global companies ever larger tax breaks and subsidies.
Nothing could strengthen the hand of global capital more than such breakups.
President Barack Obama announced drastic changes to the United States’ counterterrorism operations today, reforming the rules that guide America’s drone program while also expediting the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The president spoke at the National Defense University in Washington, DC at 2 p.m. EST addressing those two issues in particular, weighing in on a pair of topics that have increasingly attracted criticism to the Obama administration since his first term in office began more than four years ago.
When Mr. Obama entered the White House in 2009, he inherited along with two wars a couple of items from the George W. Bush administration that are widely cited today as the driving force behind anti-American sentiment overseas: the US continues to operate the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba military prison to house more than 160 alleged enemy combatants; and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has increased exponentially under Mr. Obama’s leadership.
But although both the drone program and Guantanamo Bay have existed for more than a decade, calls for reform on both matters have increased severely in recent months as the number of civilian drone casualties soars. By many estimates, thousands of women, children and other innocent people have been killed during nearly a decade-long war dominated by drones. Meanwhile, Gitmo inmates — nearly all of them — remain committed to a hunger strike that has made the White House the object of international embarrassment and prompted them to start force-feeding prisoners.
US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)
The president announced in his speech Thursday major changes to both the drone program and Gitmo, modifying the rules and guidelines used by the administration to target suspected insurgents with unmanned aerial vehicles and also perhaps taking the steps to finally release dozens of detainees who have never been convicted.
“Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia,” wrote Charlie Savage and Peter Baker for the New York Times. “The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.”
According to the Times writers, “Mr. Obama will also renew his long-stalled effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay” during Thursday’s address in Washington.
Savage, the Times’ Washington correspondent, broke the news earlier that day that US Attorney General Eric Holder wrote Congress to inform them that the president approved a document that “institutionalizes the administrations’ exacting standards and processes for reviewing and approving operations to capture or use lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.” Holder did not discuss the prison during his letter to Congress, but did, however, go into great detail about what the administration plans to do with its drone program.
AFP Photo / John Moore
AFP Photo / John Moore
Simply put, Holder explained that the administration hopes to make it clear that their official policy mandates that “lethal force should not be used when it is feasible to capture a terrorist suspect.” Holder had similar words when he discussed the drone program at Chicago’s Northwestern University last year, but criticism of the counterterrorism tool has only increased in the months since as the body count caused by drones soars and the vehicles appear in the sky above more and more countries. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to avenge al-Qaeda following the September 11 terrorist attacks has since progressed to a point unimaginable a decade earlier. Today the US relies on remote-controlled missile-equipped robots to strike suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, and drones are common above camps in the Middle East and Africa.
Holder added that while the document approved recently by Obama remains classified, it largely stresses the importance of using drones as a last-ditch resort for taking out insurgents when capture is unreasonable and there is an immediate threat to the United States and its citizens.
“For circumstances in which capture is feasible, the policy outlines standards and procedures to ensure that operations to take into custody a terrorist suspect are conducted in accordance with all applicable law, including the laws of war. When capture is not feasible, the police provides that lethal force may be used only when a terrorist target poses a continuing, imminent threat to Americans, and when certain other preconditions, including a requirement that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effective address the threat, are satisfied.”
Elsewhere in the letter, Holder admitted officially for the first time that US drones have killed four American citizens abroad since 2009. The attorney general acknowledged, though, that only one of those victims was specifically targeted by the administration. The revelation has further advanced debate over the collateral murder caused by unmanned aerial vehicles and the need to ensure further civilians — American or otherwise — are spared a senseless death. In the letter, Holder explained what the administration is doing to reverse this trend, a rare example of the administration openly discussing a program that is largely kept classified.
AFP Photo / John Moore
AFP Photo / John Moore
“You and other members of your committee have on numerous occasions expressed a particular interest in the administration’s use of lethal force against US citizens,” Holder wrote to committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). “In light of this fact, I am writing to disclose to you certain information about the number of US citizens who have been killed by US counterterrorism operations outside of areas of active hostilities.”
Last month, a Yemeni activist with ties to the US testified before Congress as to drones being used in his own town even when other counterterrorism options are on the table. Speaking in Washington just days after a drone blew up a small part of Wessab, Yemen, Farea al-Muslimi pleaded with lawmakers to find another way to advance its war on terror.
“My understanding is that Hameed Meftah, who is also known as Hameed al-Radmi, was the target of the drone strike. Many people in Wessab know a-Radmi. Earlier on the night he was killed, he was reportedly in the village meeting with the general secretary of local councilors, the head of the local government. A person in the village told me that al-Radmi had also met with security and government officials at the security headquarters just three days prior to the drone strike. Yemeni officials easily could have found and arrested al-Radmi,” he said.
“The people in my village wanted al-Radmi to be captured, so that they could question him and find out what he was doing wrong so they could put an end to it. They still don’t have an answer to that question. Instead, all they have is the psychological fear and terror that now occupies their souls. They fear that their home or a neighbor’s home could be bombed at any time by a US drone,” al-Muslimi said.
Although Holder wrote in this week’s letter that four US citizens were killed with drones between 2009 and 2011, he admitted that three of those victims — ages 16, 21 and 30 — were never meant to be killed.
AFP Photo / US Navy
AFP Photo / US Navy
Elsewhere in the letter, the attorney general explained that the September 2011 drone strike use to target suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki was subjected to intense judicial scrutiny before being ordered because it involved using lethal force against a US citizen located abroad. Because al-Awlaki allegedly posed an immediate threat to the lives of Americans, Holder said his killing was justified.
“Al-Awlaki repeatedly made clear his intent to attack US persons and his hope that these attacks would take American lives,” wrote Holder. “Based on this information, high-level US government officials appropriately concluded that al-Awlaki posed a continuing and imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
The victim’s son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Anwar Al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone strike one month later in Yemen. American citizens and suspected terrorists Samir Khan and Jude Kenan Mohammad were also identified as US casualties of the drone war. Khan was killed in the same strike that ended the life of the elder al-Awlaki, and Mohammad is thought to have perished after a November 2011 drone strike hit Pakistan.
“These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States,” Holder wrote.
As for people once considered fair game for drones strikes due to possible plots to strike non-US citizens, Obama is expected to announce a change in drone policy that will drastically limit where the US can use unmanned aerial vehicles in its vaguely defined ‘War on Terror.’
Holder’s letter to Leahy and his committee failed to discuss counterterrorism news beyond modifications to the drone program, but reports surfaced hours after it was published indicating that the president will make a drastic change regarding Gitmo as well. At least 88 of the 166 detainees there are Yemeni nationals, and 59 of them were approved to be transferred from the prison four years ago. Up until now, however, Pres. Obama has refused to release Yemen natives from US custody, with his administration citing potential security concerns as a reason for continuously housing dozens of men, many of who have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted.
AFP Photo / Jim Watson
AFP Photo / Jim Watson
“Gitmo Is killing me,” Yemeni detainee Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel told the New York Times last month. “I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.”
“I could have been home years ago — no one seriously thinks I am a threat — but still I am here,” he wrote. “The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.”
“I do not want to die here, but until President Obama and Yemen’s president do something, that is what I risk every day.”
Roughly 130 of the 166 Gitmo detainees have been on a hunger strike since February. The president has repeatedly said this year that he wants to shut down the facility, but congressional roadblocks have prevented him from doing so. He campaigned on shutting down Guantanamo before being elected in November 2008.
The school-to-prison pipeline strikes again.
[This is starting to get a little too much Gestapo/KGB/STASI/SAVAK/Hitler/Eugenics etc. to suit me.]
By Kristen Gwynne
Photo Credit: shutterstock.com
Californians Doug and Catherine Snodgrass are suing their son’s high school for allowing undercover police officers to set up the 17-year-old special-needs student for a drug arrest.
In a video segment on ABC News, they say they were “thrilled” when their son — who has Asperger’s and other disabilities and struggled to make friends — appeared to have instantly made a friend named Daniel.
“He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. His son had just recently enrolled at Chaparral High School.
“Daniel,” however, was an undercover cop with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department who “hounded” the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him weed, and he complied — not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.
In December, the unnamed senior was arrested along with 21 other students from three schools, all charged with crimes related to the two officers’ undercover drug operation at two public schools in Temecula, California (Chaparral and Temecula Valley High School). This March, Judge Marian H. Tully ruled that Temecula Valley Unified School District could not expel the student, and had in fact failed to provide him with proper services.
“Within three days of the officer’s requests, [the] student burned himself due to his anxiety,” Tully said. “Ultimately, the student was persuaded to buy marijuana for someone he thought was a friend who desperately needed this drug and brought it to school for him.”
In January, a juvenile court judge decided that extenuating circumstances applied to the student’s case, and ruled that he serve informal probation and 20 hours of community service, which would translate into “no finding of guilt.”
Since being allowed back to school, Snodgrass says his son has been “bullied” via suspensions and threat of expulsion. “Our son was cleared of the criminal charge, but the school continued to try and expel him,” Snodgrass said.
The Snodgrasses are now suing the school for unspecified damages. District administrators, they told ABC, should have protected their son, but instead “participated with local authorities in an undercover drug sting that intentionally targeted and discriminated against [him].”
“Sending police and informa
The IDF will allow Gaza fishermen to go beyond three-mile zone previously imposed on them and up to six miles into the Mediterranean Sea, it announced on Tuesday. Under the Oslo Accords, Gaza’s maritime boundaries stretch 20 nautical miles from shore. However, as a part of its blockade policy, Israel does not allow fishermen to travel beyond a narrow strip of three to six miles – an area which changes at the discretion of the government and defense minister.
The Gaza strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world (see map below) and fishing constitutes an important source of food and employment for many.
The IDF Spokesperson’s announcement on Tuesday basically confirmed that the army collectively punishes Gazan fishermen for rockets launched from the Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon, approved the expansion of the Gaza Strip’s designated fishing zone from three to six nautical miles. The designated fishing zone was limited due to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel on March 21, 2013.
Recent attempts to launch rockets from the Strip have been carried out by tiny radical organizations that even Hamas has trouble to controlling. So why are Gaza’s fishermen being punished for it?
The State of Nature : Garden tiger moth rests on rose in Dorset
Warm winters and wet springs have caused garden tiger moths numbers in UK to fall by 95% over 40 years. Photograph: Colin Varndell/Alamy
An unprecedented stocktake of UK wildlife has revealed that most species are struggling and that one in three have halved in number in the past half century. The unique report, based on scientific analysis of tens of millions of observations from volunteers, shows that from woodland to farmland and from freshwater streams to the sea, many animals, birds, insects, fish and plants are in trouble.
The causes include the intensification of farming, with the consequent loss of meadows, hedgerows and ponds and increased pesticide use, as well as building development, overfishing and climate change. Three in every five of the 3,148 species analysed for the report have declined in the last 50 years and one in 10 are at risk of extinction.
But the report also reveals a few bright spots, such as the reduced water pollution that has allowed otters to return to every county in the UK, and the numerous new ponds created by restored gravel pits.
“This groundbreaking report is a stark warning – but it is also a sign of hope,” said Sir David Attenborough. “We should all be proud of the beauty we find on our own doorstep; from bluebells carpeting woodland floors and delicately patterned fritillary butterflies, to the graceful basking shark and the majestic golden eagle soaring over the Scottish mountains. Our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate, but we have a network of passionate conservation groups supported by millions of people who love wildlife.”
The State of Nature report was compiled by 25 conservation groups including the Wildlife Trusts, the Mammal Society, Buglife and the Marine Conservation Society. “This report shows we can do things – it gives the conservation examples – but we need to do a huge amount more,” said Dr Mark Eaton, a scientist at the RSPB and one of the lead authors of the report. “We need a root-and-branch rethink of how we integrate conservation with how we live and run our businesses.” He paid tribute to the army of tens of thousands of conservation volunteers: “They have played a massive role in making this report far more comprehensive than anything done before and knowledge is the most essential tool that conservationists have.”
While 31% of species have lost half their population, only 20% have doubled. Invertebrates such as moths, butterflies and beetles have been particularly affected. Eaton highlights the plight of the spectacular garden tiger moth, numbers of which have fallen by 95%. “This is a big, beautiful moth that was quite common once,” he said.
On farmland, which covers 75% of the UK, birds fell by half and butterflies by a third since 1970. Eaton said conservation successes, like the cirl bunting in Devon which was down to its last 100 pairs in the 1980s and are now at around 1,000 pairs, were often very limited in scale, where funding can be targeted. “Skylarks have plummeted in the same way, but as they live all over the country it is hard to tackle. We can’t wave a magic wand over the entire countryside,” he said.
Cities and towns are important areas because many people only experience wildlife there, according to the report. “Avoiding the loss of sports fields and gardens is very important if we want to have wildlife in our cities,” said Eaton. “It is about connectivity, so bats, hedgehogs and so on can move around. If you isolate areas you will greatly impoverish urban areas.”
Grassland and heaths, traditionally rich with species like reptiles and orchids, have seen two in three species decline and were already at a low point decades ago, with 97% of lowland meadow having vanished between the 1930s and 1980s. The nation’s uplands, home to eagles, mountain hares and rare lichens, have suffered from intensive grazing and burning regimes, and 14 mosses and liverworts have become extinct already. Woodlands have increased, but mainly due to conifer plantations, which do not support much native wildlife.
Coastal birds, such as overwintering geese, are increasing due to lower persecution, but many coastal species of insect and plant that rely on dunes, shingle and saltmarsh are declining as large areas have been developed, as are harbour seals, especially in Scotland. Out at sea, UK fish stocks have improved recently, the report found, though across the EU, 75% continue to be overfished.
In freshwater habitats, Atlantic salmon and water voles have declined but bitterns and otters have benefited from efforts to clean up rivers and recreate lost habitats. Restored gravel pits have been important new wetland habitats, although vast swaths of fen and marsh were drained in previous centuries.
Eaton said the value of wildlife was not just the pleasure it brings: “We know wildlife provides clean air, clean water, stops erosion, pollinates crops and more.” He said it was not known how much more could be lost before these “ecosystem services” are drastically affected. Eaton added that the report only covered those species for which data existed, just 5% of the estimated 59,000 species that inhabit the UK, leaving huge gaps in knowledge.
“Wildlife will inevitably change, especially with climate change, but what we want is a landscape that is rich in wildlife, even if they are different things to those in the past,” he said.
Tim Cook warns Congress that he would refuse to repatriate $100bn stashed offshore unless US severely reduced its 35% tax rate
[What unspeakable amoral and anti-American arrogance from a 21st Slave-Owner!]
[Oh good, the new Apple CEO is Gay. Thant should make for a kinder, gentler Apple. No, wait. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.]
Apple CEO Tim Cook testifies at Senate
Lower, lower: Apple CEO Tim Cook testifies before senators about his company’s tax affairs. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters
Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.
In a dramatic display of how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world, chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate.
Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.
He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.
Three subsidiaries based in Ireland are also used to shelter profits made in the rest of Europe and Asia but are not classed as resident in any country for tax purposes – a tactic dubbed the “iCompany” by critics.
Cook’s testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere.
Phillip Bullock, the California company’s head of tax, estimated that just one of these subsidiaries – Apple Operations International – had channelled $30bn in global profits over the last five years without filing a single income tax return.
The only taxes paid were on the interest earned by the cash pile and small sums in local markets. Senate investigators allege a total of $70bn has been sheltered this way in four years.
Despite heated exchanges with committee chairman Carl Levin, Apple largely shrugged off criticism of the practice, insisting it was acting “in the letter and the spirit of the law”.
An independent tax professor, Richard Harvey, testified that its tax avoidance was “probably legal” and could have been much more aggressive.
The Apple chief used his appearance to renew lobbying for Congress to cut a deal with multinationals to encourage them to bring back, or repatriate, the billions of dollars kept offshore to avoid tax.
Cook said he had no plan to bring back the $102bn built up by Apple at current tax rates, and recently opted to return money to shareholders by borrowing money instead. “I have no current plan to do so at the current tax rates.
“Unlike some technology companies, I am not proposing a zero rate,” he said. “My proposal is that we have a reasonable tax for bringing back money from overseas.
“A permanent change is materially better than a short term tax holiday.”
Cook said he “personally doesn’t understand the difference between a tax presence and a tax residence”.
He was even defended by some members of the committee who accused Levin and Republican John McCain of “bullying” Apple. “I am offended by the tone and tenor of this hearing,” said fellow Republican and presidential hopeful Rand Paul.
The hearing was seen as a watershed in the increasing tense clashes between governments and multinationals, particularly technology groups such as Apple, Amazon and Google.
Edward Kleinbard, professor of law at USC Gould School of Law, said: “Apple is not an outlier in its efforts to produce ‘stateless income’ – income that is taxed neither in the United States nor in the countries where its foreign customers are located – but it is an outlier in the baldness of its strategies. Apple shifted tens of billions of dollars of income without even breaking into a sweat.
“The hearing will forcefully remind policymakers that international tax reform will require the implementation of really thoughtful anti-abuse rules, ideally developed in conjunction with other OECD member states.
Every country is the worse off when they facilitate multinationals aggressively pursuing stateless income strategies, just as every country is worse off when they all engage in trade wars.”
Corporate tax expert Jennifer Blouin at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school said the Apple revelations were “extraordinary but not surprising”.
“We have seen versions of this with Microsoft and with Google,” she said. “I hope it gooses the notion that we need to fix the worldwide system.”
She said Apple was working within the law but that the law was written before huge profits could be made by companies that trade not in goods and manufacturing but in ideas.
“I have worked in this area for years and it’s been largely an obscurity. But it’s at the forefront now, and it needs to get fixed.”
Woolwich attack, suspect on street
A man appearing to be holding holding a knife following the Woolwich attack. Photograph: Pixel8000
Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as “terrorism”.
That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term “terrorism”, it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence? To begin with, in order for an act of violence to be “terrorism”, many argue that it must deliberately target civilians. That’s the most common means used by those who try to distinguish the violence engaged in by western nations from that used by the “terrorists”: sure, we kill civilians sometimes, but we don’t deliberately target them the way the “terrorists” do.
But here, just as was true for Nidal Hasan’s attack on a Fort Hood military base, the victim of the violence was a soldier of a nation at war, not a civilian. He was stationed at an army barracks quite close to the attack. The killer made clear that he knew he had attacked a soldier when he said afterward: “this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be “terrorism” because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that’s not “terrorism”, but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism? Amazingly, the US has even imprisoned people at Guantanamo and elsewhere on accusations of “terrorism” who are accused of nothing more than engaging in violence against US soldiers who invaded their country.
It’s true that the soldier who was killed yesterday was out of uniform and not engaged in combat at the time he was attacked. But the same is true for the vast bulk of killings carried out by the US and its allies over the last decade, where people are killed in their homes, in their cars, at work, while asleep (in fact, the US has re-defined “militant” to mean “any military-aged male in a strike zone”). Indeed, at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on drone killings, Gen. James Cartwright and Sen. Lindsey Graham both agreed that the US has the right to kill its enemies even while they are “asleep”, that you don’t “have to wake them up before you shoot them” and “make it a fair fight”. Once you declare that the “entire globe is a battlefield” (which includes London) and that any “combatant” (defined as broadly as possible) is fair game to be killed – as the US has done – then how can the killing of a solider of a nation engaged in that war, horrific though it is, possibly be “terrorism”?
When I asked on Twitter this morning what specific attributes of this attack make it “terrorism” given that it was a soldier who was killed, the most frequent answer I received was that “terrorism” means any act of violence designed to achieve political change, or more specifically, to induce a civilian population to change their government or its policies of out fear of violence. Because, this line of reasoning went, one of the attackers here said that “the only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and warned that “you people will never be safe. Remove your government”, the intent of the violence was to induce political change, thus making it “terrorism”.
That is at least a coherent definition. But doesn’t that then encompass the vast majority of violent acts undertaken by the US and its allies over the last decade? What was the US/UK “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad if not a campaign to intimidate the population with a massive show of violence into submitting to the invading armies and ceasing their support for Saddam’s regime? That was clearly its functional intent and even its stated intent. That definition would also immediately include the massive air bombings of German cities during World War II. It would include the Central American civilian-slaughtering militias supported, funded and armed by the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s, the Bangledeshi death squads trained and funded by the UK, and countless other groups supported by the west that used violence against civilians to achieve political ends.
The ongoing US drone attacks unquestionably have the effect, and one could reasonably argue the intent, of terrorizing the local populations so that they cease harboring or supporting those the west deems to be enemies. The brutal sanctions regime imposed by the west on Iraq and Iran, which kills large numbers of people, clearly has the intent of terrorizing the population into changing its governments’ policies and even the government itself. How can one create a definition of “terrorism” that includes Wednesday’s London attack on this British soldier without including many acts of violence undertaken by the US, the UK and its allies and partners? Can that be done?
I know this vital caveat will fall on deaf ears for some, but nothing about this discussion has anything to do with justifiability. An act can be vile, evil, and devoid of justification without being “terrorism”: indeed, most of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century, from the Holocaust to the wanton slaughter of Stalin and Pol Pot and the massive destruction of human life in Vietnam, are not typically described as “terrorism”. To question whether something qualifies as “terrorism” is not remotely to justify or even mitigate it. That should go without saying, though I know it doesn’t.
The reason it’s so crucial to ask this question is that there are few terms – if there are any – that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that “terrorism” provides. When it comes to the actions of western governments, it is a conversation-stopper, justifying virtually anything those governments want to do. It’s a term that is used to start wars, engage in sustained military action, send people to prison for decades or life, to target suspects for due-process-free execution, shield government actions behind a wall of secrecy, and instantly shape public perceptions around the world. It matters what the definition of the term is, or whether there is a consistent and coherent definition. It matters a great deal.
There is ample scholarship proving that the term has no such clear or consistently applied meaning (see the penultimate section here, and my interview with Remi Brulin here). It is very hard to escape the conclusion that, operationally, the term has no real definition at this point beyond “violence engaged in by Muslims in retaliation against western violence toward Muslims”. When media reports yesterday began saying that “there are indications that this may be act of terror”, it seems clear that what was really meant was: “there are indications that the perpetrators were Muslims driven by political grievances against the west” (earlier this month, an elderly British Muslim was stabbed to death in an apparent anti-Muslim hate crime and nobody called that “terrorism”). Put another way, the term at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states.
One last point: in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, I documented that the perpetrators of virtually every recent attempted and successful “terrorist” attack against the west cited as their motive the continuous violence by western states against Muslim civilians. It’s certainly true that Islam plays an important role in making these individuals willing to fight and die for this perceived just cause (just as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and nationalism lead some people to be willing to fight and die for their cause). But the proximate cause of these attacks are plainly political grievances: namely, the belief that engaging in violence against aggressive western nations is the only way to deter and/or avenge western violence that kills Muslim civilians.
Add the London knife attack on this soldier to that growing list. One of the perpetrators said on camera that “the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and “we apologize that women had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same.” As I’ve endlessly pointed out, highlighting this causation doesn’t remotely justify the acts. But it should make it anything other than surprising. On Twitter last night, Michael Moore sardonically summarized western reaction to the London killing this way:
I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!”
Basic human nature simply does not allow you to cheer on your government as it carries out massive violence in multiple countries around the world and then have you be completely immune from having that violence returned.
In not unrelated news, the US government yesterday admitted for the first time what everyone has long known: that it killed four Muslim American citizens with drones during the Obama presidency, including a US-born teenager whom everyone acknowledges was guilty of nothing. As Jeremy Scahill – whose soon-to-be-released film “Dirty Wars” examines US covert killings aimed at Muslims – noted yesterday about this admission, it “leaves totally unexplained why the United States has killed so many innocent non-American citizens in its strikes in Pakistan and Yemen”. Related to all of these issues, please watch this two-minute trailer for “Dirty Wars”, which I reviewed a few weeks ago here:
The headline briefly referred to the attack as a “machete killing”, which is how initial reports described it, but the word “machete” was deleted to reflect uncertainty over the exact type of knife use. As the first paragraph now indicates, the weapon appeared to be some sort of meat cleaver.
In the Guardian today, former British soldier Joe Glenton, who served in the war in Afghanistan, writes under the headline “Woolwich attack: of course British foreign policy had a role”. He explains:
“While nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened. . . .
[I have thought that The United States itself is extremely lucky that the only real blowback from the US Empire CIA constant meddling in nations and with peoples around the world on behalf of Margaret Thatcher Corporate State Capitalism was 9/11. We ought to be grateful and not angered, threatened or enraged.]
It should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home. We need to recognise that, given the continued role our government has chosen to play in the US imperial project in the Middle East, we are lucky that these attacks are so few and far between.”
This is one of those points so glaringly obvious that it is difficult to believe that it has to be repeated.
Labeling Assata Shakur a terrorist is the latest attempt by the [OBAMA] government to rewrite the history of radical activists.
By Tom Hintze
Mugshot taken of Assata Shakur.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Just 17 days after the Boston Marathon bombings, the largest spectacle of terrorism on US soil since 9/11,
the FBI added the first woman to its list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” for a crime she is accused of committing more than 40 years ago.
This is just the latest attempt by the federal government to rewrite the history of radical activists from the ’60s and ’70s and cover up the government’s illegal actions aimed at stopping them.
[So the Obama Regime's FBI is now targeting a Black Woman. Isn't Obama Black?]
Assata Shakur, known in court documents and wanted posters as Joanne Chesimard, was added to the list of Most Wanted Terrorists on May 2. Nearly eight years earlier, she was reclassified from fugitive to domestic terrorist under the Patriot Act in 2005. Shakur is only the second so-called domestic terrorist ever to be placed on the list; she joins Daniel Andreas San Diego, an animal rights activist, who was added in 2009. The state of New Jersey also announced that it would be contributing $1 million to her bounty, bringing the total for Assata Shakur’s capture to $2 million.
Since 1984, Shakur, a fugitive and political prisoner, has been living as a refugee, exiled in Cuba. She was a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Today she might be just as famous for being Tupac Shakur’s godmother if she wasn’t being called a “top priority” by the FBI. But Assata Shakur belonged to one of the most important movements for democracy and racial justice in the 20th century, and for many people who dream of a better world, she is the apogee of hope. For the US government, though, she is the one who got away. Now, at the age of 66, Shakur may still be agitating with her words, but she cannot seriously beconsidered a national security threat.
It is an outrage and a shock to some, but for anyone who has been paying attention, it is par for the course. Since 9/11, the US government has operated with impunity, trampling civil rights, due process, and the legal claims of other sovereign nations. These two new escalations by the FBI and the state of New Jersey, repainting Shakur and other members of the black liberation movement as terrorists, is also nothing new. In fact, it is a logical extension of the repression these groups faced under COINTELPRO when they were active. Only now, it is being translated from the anachronistic language of containment into the present-day language of fear and securitization, in order to merge the narratives of older movements and newer ones, and to justify the repression against both.
Two Narratives of a Traffic Stop
There are two 40-year-old narratives underpinning this case: an official US government narrative that is open-and-shut, and another narrative that recognizes the history of repression faced by black radicals and the oppression of black communities.
Officially, Shakur’s status as a domestic terrorist stems from a shootout with police that took place on May 2, 1973. The shootout resulted in the deaths of a New Jersey state trooper and one of Shakur’s companions, Zayd Malik Shakur.
But according to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Assata Shakur had been pursued by state and federal authorities for several years before the incident in New Jersey because of her political affiliations and because she was a woman. “Prior to the shootout, Ms. Shakur was the subject of a nationwide hunt as part of an FBI campaign to tie her to every suspected Black Liberation Army action involving a woman. After her capture, Ms. Shakur was not charged with any of the crimes that prompted the dragnet,” the NLG states.
Assata Shakur, Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were driving near East Brunswick when they were stopped by two New Jersey troopers for having a broken tail light. It is at this point that accounts of the incident diverge. According to theFBI, Assata Shakur murdered trooper Werner Foerster “execution-style,” in “cold-blood.” In the morass of conflicting accounts about the shootout, these facts are known for certain: Zayd Malik Shakur was killed, trooper Foerster was shot twice in the head with his own gun, and Assata Shakur sustained severe wounds in both her arms and one shoulder.
“The allegation that she was a cold-blooded killer is not supported by any of the forensic evidence,” said Shakur’s longtime attorney Lennox Hinds in an interview with Democracy Now!“If we look at the trial, we’ll find that she was victimized, she was shot. She was shot in the back. The bullet exited and broke the clavicle in her shoulder. She could not raise a gun. She could not raise her hand to shoot. And she was shot while her hands were in the air.”
Following the shootout, Assata Shakur was tried for murder and more than a dozen different crimes. The NLG recalls “two bank robberies, the kidnapping of a Brooklyn heroin dealer, attempted murder of two police officers in Queens, and eight other felonies related to the turnpike shootout.” These indictments resulted in the following verdicts: “three trials resulted in acquittals, one in a hung jury, one in a mistrial, and one in a conviction. Three indictments were dismissed without trial.”
Despite two mistrials–one in 1973 and one in 1974–and despite the fact that Sundiata Acoli had already been convicted of the murder of Werner Foerster, Assata Shakur was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1977. The trial was full of constitutional violations, including a visit by a New Jersey state assembly member to the sequestered, all-white jury, urging them to convict her. After already serving four years in jail, she was sentenced to life in prison. In 1979, after spending two years in various prisons in New Jersey, members of the Black Liberation Army freed Shakur from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women. She spent the next five years in hiding before fleeing to Cuba, where she wasgranted political asylum by 1984.
According to attorney Hinds, by renewing the invective against Shakur, the US government “is continuing the unrestrained abuse of power by which it attempted to destroy Assata Shakur and other black individuals and groups by surveillance, rumor, innuendo, eavesdropping, arrest and prosecution, incarceration, and murder throughout the ’60s and ’70s.”
The litany of tactics that Hinds lists belongs to the playbook ofCOINTELPRO, the counterintelligence program of the FBI. The program was masterminded by J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau’s pre eminent founder. Origins of the COINTELPRO doctrine can be found in this declassified memo which outlines the scope of the FBI’s war on black activists and radicals: “The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalists, hatetype organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, members, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder.”
Hinds points to the continued persecution of Assata Shakur as the continuation of COINTELPRO. But the FBI cannot continue to use that same playbook because it has been vilified in the public sphere and found to be largely illegal. Instead, it must pivot and switch to the contemporary language of repression. Label Shakur a terrorist. Make her one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
This logic effectively covers up the existence of COINTELPRO and denies the murders, surveillance and false convictions of an entire generation of political dissidents. Many of those who experienced the might of this repression firsthand and could attest to it are now dead, and others, like Sundiata Acoli, are still in prison. Assata is the loose end the state desperately needs to tie up. Her existence and freedom link the FBI’s troubling past to its suspicious, opaque present. “Labeling Assata a terrorist and putting a bounty on her head,” says NLG executive director Heidi Bogoshian, “is a clear attempt by U.S. authorities to hide this chapter in history.”
Even worse, by further criminalizing Assata Shakur, the Justice Department under Obama is lifting up those older chapters of struggle and condemning them in the fearful language of the present, equating radicalism and militancy with terrorism. This campaign of slippery diction has condemned numerous environmental and political activists to lengthy prison terms under new state and federal anti-terrorism laws, and it is the preferred terminology used to entrap and indict Muslims at home and abroad.
Are we to look back at militant and radical labor struggles that gave us the eight-hour work day and call this the work of terrorists? Undoubtedly, this is the road we are going down.
Timing is Everything
“I believe that we have to look at this in the context of what has just happened in Boston,” Lennox Hinds told Amy Goodman. “I think that with the massacre that occurred there, the FBI and the state police are attempting to inflame the public opinion to characterize [Shakur] as a terrorist, because the acts that she was convicted of have nothing to do with terrorism.”
Hinds may be right with his suspicion. But as Trevor Aaronson points out at Mother Jones, the situation in Boston could have been prevented if the FBI had been investigating Tamerlan Tsarnaev more closely and not spending gross amounts of money to entrap and convict innocent Muslim men like Rezwan Ferdaus, who became the FBI’s target after they stopped trailing Tsarnaev in 2011. Rather than devoting valuable resources to apprehending a revolutionary, now in the twilight of her years, the FBI ought to focus its attention and budget on preventing serious attacks that put us all at risk. If there is another attack in the near future, we will be forced to ask: could it have been prevented if the FBI was paying attention where it should have been instead of pursuing Assata Shakur?
For the Next Generation of Activists
Unfortunately, this decision by the FBI is more than a bid to rewrite history. Angela Davis told Democracy Now! that “it seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of terrorism,” Davis says. “I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today. Forty years ago seems like it was a long time ago. In the beginning of the 21st century, we’re still fighting around the very same issues — police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison.”
What message does this announcement send to activists who are in communities fighting police violence, stop-and-frisk, police murders like the killing of Kimani Gray in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn or the killing of Manuel Diaz in Anaheim? The persecution of any political activist impacts all political activists and creates a chilling effect.
Lennox Hinds points out that the decision to put Assata Shakur on the Most Wanted Terrorists list is irreversible, and as such, carries the weight of the US government’s support.“There is no way to appeal someone being put on the terrorist list,” he said. The only way to be taken off, according to the FBI’s website, is to be proven innocent in a court of law, or to be proven dead.
For Assata, it is too late to be proven innocent; she has already been wrongfully convicted. But if in the course of these new escalations we can clearly see the process by which language is being used to revise history and to manufacture terrorist threats, then maybe we can see our current moment for what it is: a time when actual threats to public safety are ignored, but a 66-year-old grandmother is considered a high-level threat.
Tom Hintze is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @lesswallmorest.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Sergey Kamshylin
The city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee and its neighbor Knoxville, are government towns. Oak Ridge has been called “the closed city,” reminiscent of government cities in the old Soviet Union that were closed to the public because of sensitive weapons production and other activities Soviets wanted to keep from prying eyes. In the case of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the U.S. government wants to keep the production of nuclear bombs and their components away from public scrutiny.
Oak Ridge is a tough place to challenge the biggest employer in the area, a southern town where dissent is abnormal and prejudices of all sorts run deep in the culture and heritage.
Nine months ago, on July 28, 2012, three persons, with the snip of four fences found themselves in the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons complex beside the most sensitive and dangerous of all buildings in the nuclear weapons program of the United States–the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF)
Sister Megan Rice, an 83 year old nun from in Washington, D.C, Michael Walli, a 63 year old veteran with two tours in Vietnam and now a “missionary” for the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker house in Washington, D.C and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, a Vietnam era Army medical officer and now a Minnesota house painter were arrested and charged with harming the national defense and causing more than $1000 damage to a government facility.
The defendants had no thoughts of asking for a venue in any other place; this company town is where exposure to different ideas about nuclear weapons should happen, they believed.
There were 70 prospective jurors called for jury duty. Most had government backgrounds, family members or friends who had worked for the government. Only 3 had ever been to any type of protest, march or demonstration on any issue.
Despite nodding affirmatively that she/he would be able to vote not-guilty if the government did not present evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of the charges had been met, one would hazard an opinion that each juror knew that crosses would be burned in their yards, children would be shunned at school and they would be stigmatized for the rest of their lives for voting not to convict the defendants, those challenging the nuclear weapons of their city and our country.
So, the three defendants went on trial for harming the United States national defense and causing physical damage to a defense facility in excess of $1000. There was no charge of trespass.
In the early morning of July 28, 2012, the three defendants prayed in a church parking lot, walked a few hundred yards to a perimeter fence of the Y12 complex, carefully snipped the boundary fence to the Y-12 National Nuclear Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. No alarm sounded, not patrol arrived to check on possible intruders.
Finding no security to stop them, three decided to walk ahead and slowly climbed up a hill in switchbacks as the 82 year old nun had a heart condition and could not walk for long distances. After frequent stops, the group finally emerged at the top of the hill, along the Oak Ridge line and looked down on America’s most dangerous nuclear facility. Since no patrol had come to stop them, they kept moving down the hill toward the complex in the valley, called by the “spirit,” they later said.
Soon they encountered three more fences and with the bolt cutters they carried, they cut through the first fence-no alarms, no sensors, sounded. No patrols arrived, so they cut through the next fence and then the final fence. They found themselves at the base of a fortress like building. Taking from their backpacks cans of spray paint, they sprayed some of the walls with biblical sayings “the fruit of justice is peace.” They hung a banner on the last fence that read “Transform now”. They took their hammers and knocked a small chunk of concrete out of the wall and took out baby bottles filled with the blood of a priest who, before he died asked that some of his blood be poured on a nuclear facility to symbolize the blood of those killed by U.S. nuclear weapons during World War II and the testing of nuclear weapons afterwards.
Many minutes into their activities, a guard inside the building finally glanced at a camera screen and noticed that there seemed to be a hole in the fence and something hanging from the fence. He called for a patrol car to come to investigate. The first officer arrived and spotted three persons walking toward him. He then saw the spray painted walls. Having worked 19 years as a security guard at Rocky Flats nuclear facility in Colorado, the guard decided the three were protesters of nuclear weapons and called in his assessment to the operations center. A second security guard arrived and the three were arrested. After spending several days in the county jail, they were released pending their trial nine months later on May 7 and 8, 2013.
At their trial last week in the government town of Knoxville, Tennessee, not unexpectedly, the three were convicted in less than three hours by a jury whose opinions on nuclear weapons were decidedly different than those of the defendants. The government’s main argument was that the defendants caused harm to the credibility of America’s nuclear weapons program by exposing weaknesses in the security of the facility.
The defense’s position that they had performed a public service by revealing the critical gaps in the security was considered irrelevant. As new security training was administered to everyone on the complex, the production of nuclear weapons came to a standstill at the facility. The three were castigated for their actions and held accountable for the delay of a secret convoy that was supposed to have arrived at Oak Ridge facility but for the security standstill.
Oak Ridge is not the first time senior citizens have embarrassed the nuclear weapons program of the United States. In November, 2009, five persons, Catholic Sister Anne Montgomery, 84, Father Bill “Bix” Bichsel, 82, Father Steve Kelly, 61, Susan Crane, 67, and Lynne Greenwald, 61, cut through two fences and found their way to bunkers in which nuclear weapons were stored at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base in Washington, the largest nuclear weapons storage facility in the country. They sprayed painted some walls and planted sunflowers. Hours later they flagged down a security car, as they had been out in the rain for hours and were cold. In December, 2010, they were found guilty of criminal trespass, destruction of government property and conspiracy. In 2011, the judge sentenced the five senior citizens to two to 15 months in prison, as follows:
Jesuit priest Bill Bichsel, 82: sentenced to three months in prison and six months home monitoring.
Sister Anne Montgomery, 84: sentenced to two months in prison and four months home monitoring.
Lynne Greenwald, 61: sentenced to six months in prison with 60 hours of community service.
Jesuit priest Stephen Kelly, 61: sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Susan Crane, 67: sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Problems with the security of U.S. nuclear weapons abound. The U.S. Energy Department revealed in November, 2011 it had reviewed 16 alcohol-related incidents by agents assigned to transport nuclear weapons in trucks during the period 2007 through 2009. In one instance, an agent was arrested for intoxication. In another instance, two agents were handcuffed following an incident outside a bar. None went to jail.
In May, 2013, an Air Force investigation revealed a missile launch force in disarray and resulted in the unprecedented removal of 17 launch officers from duty at Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Weapons safety rules were violated and codes for the Air Force’s most powerful nuclear missiles may have been compromised, among other failures cited in a report. Superiors were not shown the proper respect, and their orders were questioned. “We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,” Lt. Col. Jay Folds, deputy commander of the 91st Operations Group, told subordinates in an email obtained by the AP. The group is responsible for all Minuteman three-missile launch crews at Minot. Read more here.
In the case of the Y-12 Oak Ridge trial, a federal judge repremanded the three defendents and convicted them to the county jail, citing dangers they had caused to national security. It looks like they may end up staying in the county jail until a sentencing hearing in September, 2013.
No U.S. government official was charged with dereliction of duty for jeopardizing national security in the lack of protection for nuclear weapons at the Y-12 Oak Ridge Nuclear Complex.
Ann Wright served in the US Army/Army Reserves for 29 years and retired as a Colonel. She also was a US diplomat for 16 years and resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She has been arrested for challenging Bush and Obama administrations’ policies of illegal wars, torture, assassin drones and curtailment of civil liberties. She was a witness for the defendants in the Oak Ridge Transform Now Plowshares trial. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”
By Scott Timberg
Jaron Lanier is a computer science pioneer who has grown gradually disenchanted with the online world since his early days popularizing the idea of virtual reality. “Lanier is often described as ‘visionary,’ ” Jennifer Kahn wrote in a 2011 New Yorker profile, “a word that manages to convey both a capacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills.”
Raised mostly in Texas and New Mexico by bohemian parents who’d escaped anti-Semitic violence in Europe, he’s been a young disciple of Richard Feynman, an employee at Atari, a scholar at Columbia, a visiting artist at New York University, and a columnist for Discover magazine. He’s also a longtime composer and musician, and a collector of antique and archaic instruments, many of them Asian.
His book continues his war on digital utopianism and his assertion of humanist and individualistic values in a hive-mind world. But Lanier still sees potential in digital technology: He just wants it reoriented away from its main role so far, which involves “spying” on citizens, creating a winner-take-all society, eroding professions and, in exchange, throwing bonbons to the crowd.
This week sees the publication of “Who Owns the Future?,” which digs into technology, economics and culture in unconventional ways. (How is a pirated music file like a 21st century mortgage?) Lanier argues that there is little essential difference between Facebook and a digital trading company, or Amazon and an enormous bank. (“Stanford sometimes seems like one of the Silicon Valley companies.”)
Much of the book looks at the way Internet technology threatens to destroy the middle class by first eroding employment and job security, along with various “levees” that give the economic middle stability.
“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”
“Future” also looks at the way the creative class – especially musicians, journalists and photographers — has borne the brunt of disruptive technology.
The new book – which has drawn a rave in the New York Times — has already received a serious challenge from Evgeny Morozov in the Washington Post. The Internet-skeptic author of “To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism” challenges Lanier’s proposed solution that regular people be rewarded in micropayments when their data enriches a digital network.
But more important than Lanier’s hopes for a cure is his diagnosis of the digital disease. Eccentric as it is, “Future” is one of the best skeptical books about the online world, alongside Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows,” Robert Levine’s “Free Ride” and Lanier’s own“You Are Not a Gadget.”
We spoke to the dreadlocked, Berkeley-based author from the road, where he’s on a massive book tour.
You talk early in “Who Owns the Future?” about Kodak — about thousand of jobs being destroyed, and Instagram picking up the slack — but with almost no jobs produced. So give us a sense of how that happens and what the result is. It seems like the seed of your book in a way.
Right. Well, I think what’s been happening is a shift from the formal to the informal economy for most people. So that’s to say if you use Instagram to show pictures to your friends and relatives, or whatever service it is, there are a couple of things that are still the same as they were in the times of Kodak. One is that the number of people who are contributing to the system to make it viable is probably the same. Instagram wouldn’t work if there weren’t many millions of people using it. And furthermore, many people kind of have to use social networks for them to be functional besides being valuable. People have to, there’s a constant tending that’s done on a volunteer basis so that people can find each other and whatnot.
So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas before when people made contributions to the system that they used, they received formal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing country slum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.
So instead of somebody paying money to get their photo developed, and somebody getting a part of a job, a little fragment of a job, at least, and retirement and all the other things that we’re accustomed to, it works informally now, and intangibly.
Yeah, and I remember there was this fascination with the idea of the informal economy about 10 years ago. Stewart Brand was talking about how brilliant it is that people get by in slums on an informal economy. He’s a friend so I don’t want to rag on him too much. But he was talking about how wonderful it is to live in an informal economy and how beautiful trust is and all that.
And you know, that’s all kind of true when you’re young and if you’re not sick, but if you look at the infant mortality rate and the life expectancy and the education of the people who live in those slums, you really see what the benefit of the formal economy is if you’re a person in the West, in the developed world. And then meanwhile this loss, or this shift in the line from what’s formal to what’s informal, doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning what’s formal. I mean, if it was uniform, and we were all entering a socialist utopia or something, that would be one thing, but the formal benefits are accruing at this fantastic rate, at this global record rate to the people who own the biggest computer that’s connecting all the people.
So Kodak has 140,000 really good middle-class employees, and Instagram has 13 employees, period. You have this intense concentration of the formal benefits, and that winner-take-all feeling is not just for the people who are on the computers but also from the people who are using them. So there’s this tiny token number of people who will get by from using YouTube or Kickstarter, and everybody else lives on hope. There’s not a middle-class hump. It’s an all-or-nothing society.
Right, and also I think part of what you’re saying too is that it’s still in most ways a formal economy in that the person who lost his job at Kodak still has to pay rent with old-fashioned money he or she is no longer earning. He can’t pay his rent with cultural capital that’s replaced it.
Yeah, well, people will say you can find a place to crash. People who tour right now will find a couch to crash on. But, you know, this is the difference … I’m not saying that there aren’t ever benefits, like yeah, sometimes you can find a couch. But as I put it in the book, you have to sing for your supper for every meal. The informal way of getting by doesn’t tide you over when you’re sick and it doesn’t let you raise kids and it doesn’t let you grow old. It’s not biologically real.
Actually, can we stick with photography for a second? If we go back to the 19th century, photography was kind of born as a labor-saving device, although we don’t think of it that way. One of my favorite stories, which might be apocryphal — I can’t tell you for sure that this is so, although photographers traded this story for many years. But the way the piece of folklore goes is that during the Civil War era, and a little after, the very earliest photographers would go around with a collection of photographs of people who matched a certain archetype. So they would find the photograph that most closely matched your loved one and you’d buy that because at least there would be representation a little like the person, even if it was the wrong person. And that sounds just incredibly weird to us.
And then, you know, along a similar vein at that time early audio recordings, which today would sound horrible to us, were indistinguishable between real music to people who did double blind tests and whatnot. So the thing is, why not just paint the real person, because painting was really a lot of work. It takes a long time to paint a portrait. And you have to carry around all the paints and all that, and you could just create a stack of photos and sell them. So in the beginning photography was kind of a labor saving device. And whenever you have a technological advance that’s less hassle than the previous thing, there’s still a choice to make. And the choice is, do you still get paid for doing the thing that’s easier?
People often say, well, in Rochester, N.Y. — which is a town that kind of lived on the photography business — they had a buggy whip factory that closed down with the advent of the automobile. The thing is, it’s a lot easier to deal with a car than to deal with horses. I love horses, but you know, you have to feed them, and they poop a lot, and you have to deal with their hooves. It’s a whole thing. And so you could make the argument that a transition to cars should create a world where drivers don’t get paid, because, after all, it’s fun to drive. And it is. And they’re magical.
And so there could really easily be, somebody could easily have asserted that photography is so much easier than painting and driving cars is so much easier than horses that the people who do those things — or support it –shouldn’t be paid. Working in a nice environment — if you go to Sweden and you visit the Saab factory, it’s really nice. Why should you even be paid to do anything?
We kind of made a bargain, a social contract, in the 20th century that even if jobs were pleasant people could still get paid for them. Because otherwise we would have had a massive unemployment. And so to my mind, the right question to ask is, why are we abandoning that bargain that worked so well?
Right. Well, until about the year 2000 or so, some jobs had been destroyed by new technology. This goes back to the industrial revolution and earlier. But more jobs were created than those destroyed. So what changed?
Of course jobs become obsolete. But the only reason that new jobs were created was because there was a social contract in which a more pleasant, less boring job was still considered a job that you could be paid for. That’s the only reason it worked. If we decided that driving was such an easy thing [compared to] dealing with horses that no one should be paid for it, then there wouldn’t be all of those people being paid to be Teamsters or to drive cabs. It was a decision that it was OK to have jobs that weren’t terrible.
So it wasn’t inherent in the technology. In other words, there’s nothing inherently different about digital technology or the Internet than there is with factory technology or the assembly line or these other technological shifts that have developed?
Yeah. I mean, the whole idea of a job is entirely social construct. The United States was built on slave labor. Those people didn’t have jobs, they were just slaves. The idea of a job is that you can participate in a formal economy even if you’re not a baron. That there can be, that everybody can participate in the formal economy and the benefit of having everybody participate in the formal economy, there are annoyances with the formal economy because capitalism is really annoying sometimes.
But the benefits are really huge, which is you get a middle-class distribution of wealth and clout so the mass of people can outspend the top, and if you don’t have that you can’t really have democracy. Democracy is destabilized if there isn’t a broad distribution of wealth.
And then the other thing is that if you like market capitalism, if you’re an Ayn Rand person, you have to admit that markets can only function if there are customers and customers can only come if there’s a middle hump. So you have to have a broad distribution of wealth. So there’s no reason technically for any technology to ever create a job. In other words, we could have had motor vehicles, and we could have had film cameras, we could have had all these technologies without any formal jobs. We just had a social contract in which we decided that we’d allow formal jobs in factories and in drivers and in users of cameras and creators of cameras and film.
It was all a social construct to begin with, so what changed, to get to your question, is that at the turn of the [21st] century it was really Sergey Brin at Google who just had the thought of, well, if we give away all the information services, but we make money from advertising, we can make information free and still have capitalism. But the problem with that is it reneges on the social contract where people still participate in the formal economy. And it’s a kind of capitalism that’s totally self-defeating because it’s so narrow. It’s a winner-take-all capitalism that’s not sustaining.
Well, a lot of your book is about the survival of the middle class in the digital age, the importance of a broad middle class as we move forward. You argue that the middle class, unlike the rich and the poor, is not a natural class but was built and sustained through some kind of intervention. Has that changed in the last decade or two as the digital world has grown?
Well, there’s a lot of ways. I mean, one of the issues is that in a market society, a middle class has always required some little artificial help to keep going. There’s always academic tenure, or a taxi medallion, or a cosmetology license, or a pension. There’s often some kind of license or some kind of ratcheting scheme that allows people to keep their middle-class status.
In a raw kind of capitalism there tend to be unstable events that wipe away the middle and tend to separate people into rich and poor. So these mechanisms are undone by a particular kind of style that is called the digital open network.
Music is a great example where value is copied. And so once you have it, again it’s this winner-take-all thing where the people who really win are the people who run the biggest computers. And a few tokens, an incredibly tiny number of token people who will get very successful YouTube videos, and everybody else lives on hope or lives with their parents or something.
One of the things that really annoys me is the acceptance of lies that’s so common in the current orthodoxy. I guess all orthodoxies are built on lies. But there’s this idea that there must be tens of thousands of people who are making a great living as freelance musicians because you can market yourself on social media. And whenever I look for these people – I mean when I wrote “Gadget” I looked around and found a handful – and at this point three years later, I went around to everybody I could to get actual lists of people who are doing this and to verify them, and there are more now. But like in the hip-hop world I counted them all and I could find about 50. And I really talked to everybody I could. The reason I mention hip-hop is because that’s where it happens the most right now.
So when we’re talking about the whole of the business – and these are not 50 people who are doing great. Or here’s another example. Do you know who Jenna Marbles is? She’s a super-successful YouTube star. She’s the queen of self-help videos for young women. She’s kind of a cross between Snooki and Martha Stewart or something. And she’s cool. I mean, she kind of helps girls with how to do makeup, and she’s irreverent. She’s had a billion views.
The interesting thing about it is that people advertise, “Oh, what an incredible life. She’s this incredibly lucky person who’s worked really hard.” And that’s all true. She’s in her 20s, and it’s great that she’s found this success, but what this success is that she makes maybe $250,000 a year, and she rents a house that’s worth $1.1 million in L.A.. And this is all breathlessly reported as this great success. And that’s good for a 20-year-old, but she’s at the very top of, I mean, the people at the very top of the game now and doing as well as what used to be considered good for a middle-class life. And I don’t want to dismiss that. That’s great for a 20-year-old, although in truth, in my world of engineers that wouldn’t be much. But for someone who’s out there, a star with a billion views, that’s a crazy low expectation. She’s not even in the 1 percent. For the tiny token number of people who make it to the top of YouTube, they’re not even making it into the 1 percent.
The issue is if we’re going to have a middle class anymore, and if that’s our expectation, we won’t. And then we won’t have democracy.
You mentioned a minute ago that there’s about 50 in hip-hop. What kind of estimate did you come up with for music in general?
I think in the total of music in America, there are a low number of hundreds. It’s really small. I wish all of those people my deepest blessings, and I celebrate the success they find, but it’s just not a way you can build a society.
The other problem is they would have to self-fund. This is getting back to the informal economy where you’re living in the slum or something, so you’re desperate to get out so you impress the boss man with your music skills or your basketball skills. And the idea of doing that for the whole of society is not progress. It should be the reverse. What we should be doing is bringing all the people who are in that into the formal economy. That’s what’s called development. But this is the opposite of that. It’s taking all the people from the developed world and putting them into a cycle of the developing world of the informal economy.
You say early in the book, “As much as it pains me to say so, we can survive only if we destroy the middle classes of musicians, journalists, photographers.” I guess what you seem to be saying here is the creative classis sort of the canary in the digital coal mine.
Yes. That’s precisely my point. So when people say, “Why are musicians so special? Everybody has to struggle.” And the thing is, I do think we are looking at a [sustainable] model.
We don’t realize that our society and our democracy ultimately rest on the stability of middle-class jobs. When I talk to libertarians and socialists, they have this weird belief that everybody’s this abstract robot that won’t ever get sick or have kids or get old. It’s like everybody’s this eternal freelancer who can afford downtime and can self-fund until they find their magic moment or something.
The way society actually works is there’s some mechanism of basic stability so that the majority of people can outspend the elite so we can have a democracy. That’s the thing we’re destroying, and that’s really the thing I’m hoping to preserve. So we can look at musicians and artists and journalists as the canaries in the coal mine, and is this the precedent that we want to follow for our doctors and lawyers and nurses and everybody else? Because technology will get to everybody eventually.
It wasn’t too long ago that it was unskilled people on assembly lines who answered phones or bank tellers and it’s just crept up in the decades since. You’ve mentioned a few times this sort of digital utopianism that still emanates from Silicon Valley. Where does that kind of thinking come from and why does it exist despite all the evidence to the contrary?
Well, it’s an orthodoxy now. I have 14-year-old kids who come to my talks who say, “But isn’t open source software the best thing in life? Isn’t it the future?” It’s a perfect thought system. It reminds me of communists I knew when growing up or Ayn Rand libertarians. It’s one of these things where you have a simplistic model that suggests this perfect society so you just believe in it totally. These perfect societies don’t work. We’ve already seen hyper-communism come to tears. And hyper-capitalism come to tears. And I just don’t want to have to see that for cyber-hacker culture. We should have learned that these perfect simple systems are illusions.
Speaking of politics, your concerns are often those of the political left. You’re concerned with equality and a shrinking middle class. And yet you don’t seem to consider yourself a progressive or a man of the left — why not?
I am culturally a man on the left. I get a lot of people on the left. I live in Berkeley and everything. I want to live in a world where outcomes for people are not predetermined in advance with outcomes.
The problem I have with socialist utopias is there’s some kind of committees trying to soften outcomes for people. I think that imposes models of outcomes for other people’s lives. So in a spiritual sense there’s some bit of libertarian in me. But the critical thing for me is moderation. And if you let that go too far you do end up with a winner-take-all society that ultimately crushes everybody even worse. So it has to be moderated.
I think seeking perfection in human affairs is a perfect way to destroy them. It just doesn’t work. So my own take on it is, actually another way I’ve been thinking about it lately is a balance of magisteria. “Magisteria” was the term that Stephen Jay Gould described science and religion. And I’ve been thinking that way about money and politics, or computers and politics, or computers and ethics. All of these things are magisterial, where the people who become involved in them tend to wish they could be the only ones.
Libertarians tend to think the economy can totally close its own loops, that you can get rid of government. And I ridicule that in the book. There are other people who believe that if you could get everybody to talk over social networks, if we could just cooperate, we wouldn’t need money anymore. And I recommend they try living in a group house and then they’ll see it’s not true.
My cyber-friends think if you can just come up with a perfect scheme, that some perfect digital scheme will solve all the problems. My belief is that if we deal with all of these things, they can balance out each other to prevent the worst dysfunctions of each one from happening. And at minimum if we can just have enough distribution of clout in society so it isn’t run by a tiny minority, then at the very least it gives us some room to breathe. And that’s the minimum requirement. Maybe not the ideal.
So what we have to demand of digital technology is that it not try to be a perfect system that takes over everything. That it balances the excess of the other magisteria. And that is doesn’t concentrate power too much, and if we can just get to that point, then we’ll really be fine. I’m actually modest. People have been accusing me of being super-ambitious lately, but I feel like in a way I’m the most modest person in the conversation. I’m just trying to avoid total dysfunction.
Let’s stick with politics for one more. Is there something dissonant about the fact that the greatest fortunes in human history have been created with a system developed largely by taxpayers dollars? Military research and labs at public universities. And many of the people whom the Internet has enriched have become libertarians who earnestly tell you that they are “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” and resist progressive taxation because of it.
Yeah, no kidding. I was there. I gotta say, every little step of this thing was really funded by either the military or public research agencies. If you look at something like Facebook, Facebook is adding the tiniest little rind of value over the basic structure that’s there anyway. In fact, it’s even worse than that. The original designs for networking, going back to Ted Nelson, kept track of everything everybody was pointing at so that you would know who was pointing at your website. In a way Facebook is just recovering information that was deliberately lost because of the fetish for being anonymous. That’s also true of Google.
Near the end of the book you talk about the changes in the book business. It doesn’t sound pretty. What’s going on there and what have you learned as someone who has now written several books?
I don’t hate anything about e-books or e-book readers or tablets. There’s a lot of discussion about that, and I think it’s misplaced. The problem I have is whether we believe in the book itself.
To me a book is not just a particular file. It’s connected with personhood. Books are really, really hard to write. They represent a kind of a summit of grappling with what one really has to say. And what I’m concerned with is when Silicon Valley looks at books, they often think of them as really differently as just data points that you can mush together. They’re divorcing books from their role in personhood.
I’m quite concerned that in the future someone might not know what author they’re reading. You see that with music. You would think in the information age it would be the easiest thing to know what you’re listening to. That you could look up instantly the music upon hearing it so you know what you’re listening to, but in truth it’s hard to get to those services.
I was in a cafe this morning where I heard some stuff I was interested in, and nobody could figure out. It was Spotify or one of these … so they knew what stream they were getting, but they didn’t know what music it was. Then it changed to other music, and they didn’t know what that was. And I tried to use one of the services that determines what music you’re listening to, but it was a noisy place and that didn’t work. So what’s supposed to be an open information system serves to obscure the source of the musician. It serves as a closed information system. It actually loses the information.
So in practice you don’t know who the musician is. And I think that’s what could happen with writers. And this is what we celebrate in Wikipedia is pretending that there’s some absolute truth that can be spoken that people can approximate and that the speaker doesn’t matter. And if we start to see that with books in general – and I say if – if you look at the approach that Google has taken to the Google library project, they do have the tendency to want to move things together. You see the thing decontextualized.
I have sort of resisted putting my music out lately because I know it just turns into these mushes. Without context, what does my music mean? I make very novel sounds, but I don’t see any value in me sharing novel sounds that are decontextualized. Why would I write if people are just going to get weird snippets that are just mushed together and they don’t know the overall position or the history of the writer or anything? What would be the point in that. The day books become mush is the day I stop writing.
Let’s close with music then. You’re a longtime musician and composer. You’re a collector of obscure and archaic instruments. How does your interest in music and especially pre-modern acoustic music shape your thinking and your life as well?
Well, the original way I got into it is very personal. It’s just that my mother died when I was young, and she was a musician. My connection to her. I got involved in more and more unusual music because I didn’t want that connection to become something that was too static. It had to be constantly changing or it would become a cliché. So that’s how I got into it.
But as far as the connection to computers, the thing to me is that I’ve always been intrigued with music interface. Musical interfaces are such profoundly better user interfaces than anything we’ve done with a digital computer. They have better acuity. They create more opportunities for virtuosity. They work with the human body more profoundly, the nervous system. I mean good musical instruments. And I’ve just been intrigued by them. It made me realize that just because something is the latest, newest thing that seems like the cleverest thing we can do at the moment doesn’t make it better.
So to realize how much better musical instruments were to use as human interfaces, it helped me to be skeptical about the whole digital enterprise. Which I think helped me be a better computer scientist, actually.
Did your life as a musician show you some of the things that you ended up excavating in “Gadget” and the new book?
Sure. If you go way back I was one of the people who started the whole music-should-be-free thing. You can find the fire-breathing essays where I was trying to articulate the thing that’s now the orthodoxy. Oh, we should free ourselves from the labels and the middleman and this will be better.
I believed it at the time because it sounds better, it really does. I know a lot of these musicians, and I could see that it wasn’t actually working. I think fundamentally you have to be an empiricist. I just saw that in the real lives I know — both older and younger people coming up — I just saw that it was not as good as what it had once been. So that there must be something wrong with our theory, as good as it sounded. It was really that simple.
Scott Timberg, a longtime arts reporter in Los Angeles who has contributed to the New York Times, is writing a book about the plight of the creative class. He runs the West Coast culture blog TheMisreadCity.com.