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Democratic Senator: GOP on Desperate Mission of Propaganda, Obstruction and Fear
By Sheldon Whitehouse | AlterNet
In his Senate floor speech on the health-care bill, the Rhode Island senator accused the GOP of fomenting the kind of paranoia that led to Kristallnacht and lynchings.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This floor speech was delivered by the junior senator from Rhode Island yesterday, as the Senate remained in session to debate the health-care bill before a procedural vote that will bring the bill to the Senate floor later this week. References to "Madam President" or "Mr. President" refer to the senator who is presiding over the body at the time of the senator's comments. When Whitehouse began speaking, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was presiding; when he finished up, it was one of the male senators wielding the gavel. Transcription and links added by AlterNet.
Madam President, as we are here in the Senate today, Washington rests under a blanket of snow, reminding us here of the Christmas spirit across the nation -- the spirit that is bringing families happily together for the holidays. Unfortunately, a different spirit has descended on this Senate. The spirit that has descended on the Senate is one described by Chief Justice John Marshall back in the Burr trial: "those malignant and vindictive passions which rage in the bosoms of contending parties struggling for power."
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Hofstadter captured some examples in his famous essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."
The "malignant and vindictive passions" often arise, he points out, when an aggrieved minority believes that "America has been largely taken away from them and their kind. Though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion." Does that sound familiar, Madam President, in this health-care debate? Forty years ago he wrote that.
Hofstader continued, those aggrieved fear what he described as "the now-familiar sustained conspiracy" -- familiar then, 40 years ago; persistent now -- "whose supposed purpose," Hofstadter described, "is to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism." Again, familiar words here today.
More than 50 years ago, he wrote of the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create what he called "a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible."
A political environment "in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible."
The malignant and vindictive passions that have descended on the Senate are busily creating just such a political climate. Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, falsehood, obstruction and fear.
History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrels have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists. Those malignant movements rightly earned what Lord Acton called "the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict upon wrong." Read more, watch the video.
BlackBoxVoting's Bev Harris Walks Us Through the DOJ Anti-Trust Probe of ES&S
By Joan Brunwasser | Op Ed News
Joan Brunwasser reports: I'm happy to have with me Bev Harris, intrepid investigative journalist and founder of the non-profit elections watchdog group, BlackBoxVoting.org. Welcome to OpEdNews, Bev. Interesting developments in the election world these days. Would you care to walk us through the latest regarding the ES&S acquisition of its competitor Diebold (now known as Premier)?
Oh yes. Big things are happening here. The US. Dept. of Justice (USDOJ) has just announced that it has opened an antitrust investigation into the ES&S/Diebold deal.
In September, megamonster voting machine company Election Systems & Software (ES&S) acquired Diebold's Premier Election Solutions. BlackBoxVoting.org prepared a formal complaint to elicit action by the US Department of Justice.
The USDOJ needed specific information in order to ascertain that the acquisition would "overconcentrate" the elections industry. They use a formula called the Herfindahl Index for this. Unfortunately, the only thing the USDOJ can use is precise figures based on official sources, and there are over 5,000 jurisdictions. Getting the data is no picnic, and you can't just use something published on someone's Web site. So Black Box Voting compiled data from our many Freedom of Information documents and produced a sourced, detailed chart proving overconcentration of the industry. Read more.
Voting-machine firm merger investigated
Florida's attorney general is investigating a voting-machine company merger that has voting-rights groups worried that the move will concentrate too much power over democracy in one private company.
By Marc Caputo | Miami Herald
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is conducting an anti-trust investigation of a voting-machine company merger that would create a near-monopoly over the levers of democracy in Florida and much of the United States.
McCollum's office has issued at least six subpoenas covering every major voting-machine company as part of a civil investigation of Election Systems & Software's $5 million acquisition of Diebold Inc.'s elections division -- a merger that would give a private company too much power over the machines used to castvotes, voting-rights groups say.
``Our office engaged in this issue because anti-competitive behavior can seriously harm consumers,'' McCollum said in a written statement. ``Competitive behavior encourages the best products be available to consumers, including technology, particularly in a market as sensitive as the voting systems market.''
Under the state's 1980 anti-trust law, McCollum could persuade a court to levy fines against ES&S or prevent the company from operating in Florida. By next year, the company is expected to be the exclusive provider of voting machines and services in 65 of the 67 counties in Florida, the nation's most important swing state.
That means, under the acquisition announced Sept. 2, ES&S will provide election services to 92 percent of Florida's 11.2 million voters. Read more.
Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part I)
By Stephen Lendman | Blog
Promising change after eight George Bush and Republican dominated years, Barack Obama won the most sweeping non-incumbent victory in over 50 years along with congressional Democrats gaining large House and Senate majorities. In addition, at 56.8%, voter turnout was the highest since Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war and his "Southern" and "law and order" strategies beat Hubert Humphrey and independent George Wallace in 1968.
On election night, the mood celebrated hope for progressive change, an end to imperial wars, and a new day for America. When word came around 10PM, expectant thousands in Chicago's Grant Park erupted with chants of "yes we can," hoping Obama would make a difference at a time of deepening economic duress.
In its November 4, 2008 editorial titled, "The Next President," The New York Times called it "one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts," then listed some:
- for the first time, Americans elected a black president;
- his triumph was "decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country, (and will change direction) to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world;"
- he "committed to ending a bloody and pointless (Afghan) war (and) restore Americans' civil liberties and (the nation's) reputation around the world;"
- he must now "prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of speculation (by) impos(ing) control, coherence, transparency and fairness," in contrast to George Bush; and
- he "now needs the support of all Americans (to help him deal with the) many other urgent problems that must be addressed."
Endorsing his candidacy early on for a socially liberal new beginning, Nation magazine editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, looked for a "transformational presidency, (a) new era of possibility, a historic opportunity for a progressive governing agenda and a mandate for bold action....Tonight we celebrate," she said.
Campaigning, he offered change, a new course, sweeping government reforms, addressing people needs, and "ensur(ing) that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists," the same ones he said wouldn't run his administration, but would "have a seat at the table," and why not given their large contributions to him and other Democrats.
Little wonder that a year later hope is now disillusion, frustration, and anger over promises made, then broken with an awakening knowledge that change won't come unless growing millions demand it.
A Man of the People or Machine Politics
The ACLU of Northern California wrote me to share this great news:
Dear Mr. Caruso,
The decade is ending with more hope than it began.
The Obama administration has begun to restore some of the fundamental rights this country was founded upon — rights that have been dismantled for too long. Rights that you care so much about.
Yay! I care so much about these rights, and the Obama administration is restoring them! Thank you the Obama administration, for giving us more hope than when it began! And Anthony D. Romero of the national ACLU wrote me another letter with even more good news:
Dear Mr. Caruso,
As 2009 comes to a close, two things have become clear to those of us who work to protect and advance freedom's cause.
The first is that our hopes for progress on civil liberties are brighter than they have been in nearly a decade. The second is that powerful forces are aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs.
Oh no! Powerful forces aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs? Who can they be? Spin me a scenario that illustrates their blackhearted no-goodness, Anthony D. Romero! Read more.
Always Controversial Cornel West Disses Obama, Survives Cancer and Almost Spent His Life in Prison
By Terrence McNally | AlterNet | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you're going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.
Symbolically, black man breaks through makes you want to break dance. So, yes, we have to be able to relate to both of these. So I resonate with your dear fiancee, because the hopes that were generated and the call for change, and then we end up with this recycled neo-liberalism. There's no fundamental change at all.
That's very real, but I think we do have to understand we had to bring the age of Reagan to a close. We had to bring the era of conservatism to a close. And then you try to unleash new possibilities. Of course, the question now is, how do we keep our fellow citizens awakened so it goes beyond the campaign for a candidate and really begin engaging in grassroots organizing and mobilizing.
I think even my dear brother Michael Moore tends to put too much confidence in Barack Obama. In his film you get the sense that here comes Barack Obama speaking the language of deep democracy. No, no, no, he's been a liberal all his life. He uses that language to mobilize, but in the end he's going to capitulate and defer to the neo-liberal establishment, which is what he has done so far. Now granted, there's still some possibilities there, even when you talk about just extending unemployment benefits. This is nothing revolutionary at all, but it does alleviate some of the suffering. But if we don't get some restructuring going on, if we don't get some Marshall Plan activity of massive investments in infrastructure here, in this country....You've got four billion dollars every month in Afghanistan. You can come up with that all the time.
[Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of a recent interview with Cornel West by radio host Terrence McNally on KPFK's Free Forum program.]
"The capacity to produce social chaos is the last resort of desperate people. You can't lead the people if you don't love the people. You can't save the people, if you don't serve the people."
There's music in those words as well as pain, wisdom and honesty. Those are the words of Cornel West, who has just written a memoir, "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud." In it, he writes, "Until now, I've never taken the time to focus on the inner dynamics of my soul."
Educator and philosopher Dr. Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. Read more.
Waging Peace: Mass Arrests at White House Antiwar Rally
by William Hughes
Washington, D.C. - On Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, just after noon and under a warm sun, 61 activists were arrested at the White House for failing to obey a police order to move off the sidewalk. The nonviolent “Civil Resistance” protest was the largest such antiwar demonstration at this particular site since President Barack Obama took office, in January, 2009.
Hundreds more activists participated in the spirited event, but chose not to get arrested. Some of those detained by the police wore orange jump suits and black hoods. A few had even chained themselves to the White House fence on the North Lawn. Included in that gutsy group was “Peace Mom,” Ms. Cindy Sheehan. She has been one of the most visible and passionate opponents of the Iraq War. Her son, Casey, age 24, a U.S. Army Spc., was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004. He had been assigned to the 1st Calvary Division. Ms. Sheehan has indicated that she will soon move from her home state of California to Washington, D.C., to spend more of her time creating a strong grass roots movement that will bring about real change in the U.S.
According to the press release of the sponsoring groups, the demonstration was carried out in order “to focus attention” on ending the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the U.S. occupation of Iraq; stopping the U.S. drone bombings in Pakistan; and to demand the closing, as a moral and legal issue, the Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons. The activists also want the culpable members of the Bush-Cheney Gang brought to the Bar of Justice for their role in sanctioning and carrying out the illegal policy of torture.
Prior to the mass arrests, this reporter talked with various pro-Peace activists at the scene who shared their views on the need to continue opposing the current wars even though there is a new, and Democratic, administration in town. Sarah Sloan, National Staff Coordinator, of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition, said, “The Pentagon and the Obama administration are talking not about bringing the troops home, but about escalating the wars...We’re here to say ‘no’ to that; ‘no’ more troops--and to bring all the troops home, immediately.”
Documents Suggest Bush White House Failed to Search for Libby's "Missing" Emails Subpoenaed in CIA Leak Probe
Between late 2005 and January 2006, the Bush administration tried to recover "lost" emails from staffers who worked in the Office of the Vice President (OVP), an effort centered on a critical week - October 1 through October 6, 2003. That same week the Justice Department announced it was investigating the leak that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative.
But one name was missing from the list of 70 individuals whose email accounts White House technicians searched in an attempt to recover and restore missing emails: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
According to documents obtained by government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), it appears that technicians in the Office of Administration did not attempt to recover from Libby's account emails he either sent or received during the week of October 1 to October 6, 2003. That was a week when emails from the Office of the Vice President were missing for entire days in some instances and were unusually low in others.
It was also during this time that Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, enjoined all White House staff members to turn over emails or other documents pertaining to Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had angered the White House by criticizing Bush's case for invading Iraq. The directive came 12 hours after senior Bush White House officials had been told of the pending Justice Department investigation. Read more.
An Open Letter to Pacifica Radio's KPFA Management
By Stephen Lendman | Blog
Subject: A "truth emergency" over censorship at Pacifica's flagship station
By implementing early December budget and staff cuts, KPFA's management targeted its award-winning Flashpoints Radio for extinction, sullied the name of its founder, Lew Hill, and defiled fundamental First Amendment freedoms without which no others are possible.
On April 15, 1949, Hill went on the air saying: "This is KPFA, listener-sponsored radio in Berkeley" and launched America's first independent, listener-supported, "people's radio" as a sanctuary for free speech, dissent, alternative voices, social justice, and human dignity unlike anything previously heard.
Unless reversed, management's decision will deprive listeners in 30 US cities, and online globally, of some of the most vital and respected programming anywhere - thanks to the heroic work of Dennis Bernstein, Nora Barrows-Friedman, and the entire Flashpoints team, dedicated to providing accurate, in-depth coverage of the most-cutting edge issues with an array of distinguished guests.
Bernstein calls cutting 30% of its annual budget "a political battle. Management has pumped up (their internal supporters') budgets, and at the same time tried to kill Flashpoints through intimidation and attrition, and outright disrespect. (Now management) is about to deal the show a final blow," one as well to Pacifica's founding purpose and stated mission to:
- "to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all....nations, races, creeds and colors;"
- "promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms;" and
- distribute public information fully, accurately, objectively, and comprehensibly "on all matters vitally affecting the community."
President Obama has lost his 2012 bid for re-election.
He has made key decisions in three areas that, unless he alters his
approach (not likely), could well guarantee a Republican victory: an embarrassingly
rolled-out, badly-compromised health-care reform bill; his continuing
slavish subservience to those on Wall Street that took the country into the
economic toilet; and his sad imitation of CheneyBush's imperial campaign in
(Obama's only hope for 2012 may depend on Sarah Palin getting the GOP
nomination. Even better if Glenn Beck or Dick Cheney is her running mate --
tickets, I'm appalled to say, that have been mentioned seriously. The Democrats
can only hope to face such Republican candidates.)
If Obama goes down to defeat in 2012, he could take with him any hope for a
major revitalization of American democracy after eight years of wrack and
ruin under CheneyBush. And Obama's own Democratic majority in Congress might
well suffer, perhaps quite badly, at the polls in November of 2010.
Yes, yes, I know that Obama's only been in office for a month shy of one
year, and dumping on the guy may seem way early, especially given the
humongous mess he inherited from his disastrous predecessor, and the vicious,
destructively partisan warfare being waged by the Congressional Republicans.
Still, as we approach the New Year, some summarizing truths need to be spoken
now, and loudly, if we are to gain anything from the current situation in the
way of possible alterations of course that can still be made.
By David Rovics
The signs up all over the airport and various places elsewhere in town are calling it Hopenhagen, but everybody I know is calling it Cop-enhagen, which seems far more appropriate. The international media has been giving this lots of coverage, and rightly so. Of course much of the media is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, so other things, such as the reason the protests are happening in the first place, can get lost.
On December 11, 2009, a federal judge ruled that Congress had unconstitutionally cut off all federal funds to ACORN. The judge issued an injunction stopping federal authorities from continuing to cut off past, present and future federal funds to the community organization.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and its allies in 75 cities will again have access to millions of federal dollars to counsel people facing foreclosure, seeking IRS tax refunds, and looking for affordable low cost housing. ACORN, which has received about $54 million in government grants since 1994, will be able to apply for new federal programs just like any other organization.
The court ruled that Congress violated the U.S. Constitution by singling out ACORN and its affiliates for severe sweeping restrictions and that such action constitutes illegal punishment or a bill of attainder.
What is a bill of attainder? Even most lawyers have no idea. Bills of attainder are acts of Congress which unilaterally punish an individual or organization. Essentially Congress acts as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. Read more.
Two months ago, we launched www.StopTheChamber.com to expose the U.S. Chamber’s deception, astroturfing, lobbying excesses and election manipulation. We called for the firing of Chamber CEO Tom Donohue, criminal and congressional investigations of Donohue and the Chamber, and companies to quit the Chamber in protest of its extremist policies. The Chamber has a budget over $100 million to defeat health care for all, environmental protection, and banking regulation.
We recently increased to $200,000 our reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue for engaging in criminal conduct. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh picked up on that story last week. And, guess what? We have been flooded with hundreds of profanity laced threats of violence! Characteristics of the treats we have received show clear signs of a coordinated attack. See VR co-founder Brad Friedman’s article at The BRAD BLOG about the wave of threats. The Chamber itself has attempted to intimidate us by saying that it is considering legal action against us and peddling defamatory information to the press.
And how did we respond? We filed a formal complaint with the FBI with copies of all the threats and asked that it conduct a swift investigation to hold those responsible accountable. Now, it is crucial that we continue to respond to this attempted intimidation by strengthening our efforts. Will you help us show the 'right' that its thuggish behavior will not be tolerated?
We want to place more ads and send more press releases exposing the corrupt practices of the Chamber and its CEO. In the past month, major companies such as Apple, PG&E, Mohawk Paper and Exelon have quit the Chamber because of their conduct, and even the White House condemned their extremist positions. Please help us with a donation.
Join our campaign by signing on here. Join thousands of others who have let the Chamber and its board members know that its conduct will no longer be tolerated. From the site you can also send a letter to your Congress members asking them to launch an investigation of the Chamber.
Please send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on. We need everyone to speak up in order to stop the Chamber’s pay-to-play lobbying. Let's get the Chamber out of our way as we work to clean up the environment, provide health care for all, and have honest and transparent elections.
Mark Crispin Miller wrote:
Here, for once, is some great news--and a reminder that justice can be done, eventually; although no stroke of justice can make up for this man's horrible ordeal. Just to remind you, Paul Minor was forbidden to spend his wife's last days with her, when she lay dying of brain
cancer in a hospital; and then the DoJ--that is, Obama's DoJ--would not allow him out of prison to attend her funeral.
And for what? Why? As the Fifth Court of Appeals has now made crystal clear, this man did not engage in any bribery. (Note, incidentally, that the decision does not overturn Minor's conviction under the "Honest Services" statute--which SCOTUS will soon nullify, thereby
wiping out the other "crime" for which they locked him up.)
For this good outcome, we need to thank all those who worked so hard to shine a light on this appalling case: Scott Horton at Harper's, Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, and Velvet Revolution. Because of them (and that includes, of course, Brad Friedman), a gross injustice has been righted at long last.
And now we need to focus on those many other cases that Karl Rove engineered for BushCo's sake. We cannot rest until they have him, and all his cohorts, in a federal cell, which will be a punishment long overdue, and, unlike all those others, well-deserved.
Fifth Circuit Overturns Paul Minor Bribery Conviction
By Adam Lynch | Jackson Free Press | December 11, 2009
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has partially overturned the convictions of Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former judges John Whitfield and Walter "Wes" Teel. A federal jury convicted Minor, Teel and Whitfield in 2007 for federal bribery and honest services fraud, but they appealed, arguing that prosecutors changed jury instructions to muddy the definition of an exchange of services for corruption, among other arguments.
Attorneys representing the three argue that Judge Henry Wingate agreed to loosen the jury instructions so that jurors could decide to convict, even if there was no clear exchange of services, or quid pro quo, between the judges or Minor. All three had successfully fought back allegations of corruption in an earlier trial in which the jury instructions were more clearly defined.
Today the appeals court tossed the federal bribery charges connected to the 2007 trial, leaving intact only the charges of honest services fraud. Read more.
"Great Man" Theory? History Is Driven by the Little Guy - Airs Today on History Channel - Check Local Listings!
"Great Man" Theory? History Is Driven by the Little Guy
By Viggo Mortensen | Huffington Post
Actors have the privilege of exploring fictional characters, to see the world from the perspective of another person's imagined life. Sometimes, usually less often, we have the opportunity to speak the words of historical figures, to say the words they themselves spoke. This presents a different kind of challenge, in many ways, something I have been thinking about personally since becoming involved with a performance project and now documentary film called The People Speak, which is airing on History Channel, Sunday, December 13, at 8 pm (7 pm Central). (A soundtrack of music from the film is available from the Verve label December 9.)
The project is inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History of the United States, two books that have had a deep influence on how I understand this country. Howard's books provide a history of the United States from below, from the standpoint of ordinary people often overlooked in our textbooks and in our culture.
In 2005, I had the chance to be part of reading in Los Angeles with a remarkable lineup of actors, including Sandra Oh and Josh Brolin, which we called Voices of a People's History of the United States. The enthusiastic reaction of the audience to hearing the words of people in our country's history who have spoken out, fought injustice, and made a change, demonstrated how empowering it can be for people to reclaim this history and to make it their own. And how enlightening it is to shine the light of history on the issues and concerns of the present.
By Linda Milazzo
Los Angeles gets a bad rap. It's assailed for being shallow and rarely acknowledged for its good heart. But Los Angeles has a huge heart - at the center of which is pulsating non-stop activism dedicated to ensuring all people are granted human rights. Just name any of the 30 human rights designated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I guarantee you there are groups and individuals in Los Angeles who are working to enforce them - locally, nationally and globally.
Here is my sentencing statement in the Kerry case involving Ellen, Eve and myself (charges against Steve were dropped):
Good morning, Judge Liebowitz.
On May 21st, Eve Tetaz, Ellen Barfield, Steve Mihalis and I spoke during a senate foreign relations committee hearing. we provided public testimony. public witness. nothing more. nothing less. we believe it is part of our obligations as citizens to be active participants in our democracy and voice our concerns when it is necessary. Myself, I quoted Senator John Kerry's own 1971 anti-war warning to him. I wanted to remind him of who he was as a young man disillusioned with a tragic and misdirected war he had been embroiled in. I wanted to plead with John Kerry to help end this tragic and misdirected war which has now gone on twice as long as World War II for our nation. We were nonviolent, and there were no victims. We were trying to prevent the continued victimization of innocent Afghans at the hands of our own military might.
Homeland Security Embarks on Big Brother Programs to Read Our Minds and Emotions
Half-baked Homeland Security is spending millions to develop sensors capable of detecting a person's level of 'malintent' as a counterterrorism tool.
By Liliana Segura | AlterNet
In the sci-fi thriller Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a D.C. police detective, circa 2054, in the department of "pre-crime," an experimental law enforcement unit whose mission -- to hunt down criminals before they strike -- relies on the psychic visions of mutant "pre-cogs" (short for precognition) who can see the future. It may be futuristic Hollywood fantasy, but the underlying premise -- that we can predict (if not see) a person's sinister plans before they follow through -- is already here.
This past February, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) awarded a one-year, $2.6 million grant to the Cambridge, MA.-based Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to develop computerized sensors capable of detecting a person's level of "malintent" -- or intention to do harm. It's only the most recent of numerous contracts awarded to Draper and assorted research outfits by the U.S. government over the past few years under the auspices of a project called "Future Attribute Screening Technologies," or FAST. It's the next wave of behavior surveillance from DHS and taxpayers have paid some $20 million on it so far.
Conceived as a cutting-edge counter-terrorism tool, the FAST program will ostensibly detect subjects' bad intentions by monitoring their physiological characteristics, particularly those associated with fear and anxiety. It's part of a broader "initiative to develop innovative, non-invasive technologies to screen people at security checkpoints," according to DHS.
The "non-invasive" claim might be a bit of a stretch. A DHS report issued last December outlined some of the possible technological features of FAST, which include "a remote cardiovascular and respiratory sensor" to measure "heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia," a "remote eye tracker" that "uses a camera and processing software to track the position and gaze of the eyes (and, in some instances, the entire head)," "thermal cameras that provide detailed information on the changes in the thermal properties of the skin in the face," and "a high resolution video that allows for highly detailed images of the face and body … and an audio system for analyzing human voice for pitch change." Read more.
Despite campaign promises of increased transparency and accountability, the Obama administration has continued its predecessor's assaults on civil liberties and the rule of law. Many counter-terror policies that our country increasingly takes for granted permit the government to routinely invade the privacy of millions of law-abiding Americans, even without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and with grave consequences for our constitutional culture. And torture remains not only unpunished, but at risk of repetition since our nation has undermined the legal precedents deterring it here and around the world.
We at BORDC are disappointed by the striking absence of support for the rule of law in Washington. But together, we can change our country's course and bring America back to its founding principles.
Chris Soghoian, whose post on 8 million times the government has used GPS tracking on Sprint’s customers in the last year, has apparently flushed out the spying policies of many of the nation’s telecoms. Cryptome has them posted – though (as Mary points out) Yahoo has freaked out and initiated take-down proceedings.
Yahoo isn’t happy that a detailed menu of the spying services it provides law enforcement agencies has leaked onto the web.
Shortly after Threat Level reported this week that Yahoo had blocked the FOIA release of its law enforcement and intelligence price list, someone provided a copy of the company’s spying guide to the whistleblower site Cryptome.
The 17-page guide describes Yahoo’s data retention policies and the surveillance capabilities it can provide law enforcement, with a pricing list for these services. Cryptome also published lawful data-interception guides for Cox Communications, SBC, Cingular, Nextel, GTE and other telecoms and service providers. Read more.
PEACE GRANNIES TELL TOYS "R" US: "WAR TOYS 'R' NOT US!!!"
By Joan Wile
Shoppers in the Times Square Toys "R" Us flagship store were startled on Friday, December 5, when they looked up at the giant ferris wheel in the middle of the store and saw fifteen people riding it while unfurling bright yellow banners inscripted with the words "NO MORE WAR TOYS" and "WAR IS NOT A GAME!" As the wheel slowly revolved around, the mischief makers sang over and over John Lennon's famous refrain, "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance."
This caper was how the legendary Granny Peace Brigade launched their latest anti-war campaign, entitled "NO MORE WAR TOYS, NO MORE WARS." Fed up with the proliferation of obscenely violent war toys, the grannies created this latest protest action in an effort to get the poisonous stuff off the shelves, thereby, hopefully, decreasing the militarization of our youth.
The grandmothers think their campaign is particularly timely coming on the heels, as it did, of the President's disappointing announcement of more troops being sent to Afghanistan. "Violence begets violence," said Barbara Walker, a founding member of the Brigade. "These awful toys indoctrinate our young with the concept that war is the preferred tactic to conduct our foreign policy. Such a mind set emboldens our leaders to supplant peaceful negotiation and diplomacy with bombs and bloodshed. We are trying to eradicate the cancer at its core." Click "Read more" for larger pictures.
Chris Soghoian caught a remarkable admission at a surveillance conference in October. Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance revealed that law enforcement has used Sprint’s geotracking function 8 million times in the thirteen months prior to his comment.
Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.
The evidence documenting this surveillance program comes in the form of an audio recording of Sprint’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance, who described it during a panel discussion at a wiretapping and interception industry conference, held in Washington DC in October of 2009.
[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that’s just scratching the surface. One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement. They also love that it is extremely inexpensive to operate and easy, so, just the sheer volume of requests they anticipate us automating other features, and I just don’t know how we’ll handle the millions and millions of requests that are going to come in.
Now, as he documents in extensive detail, using cell phone location to get the geolocation of someone is just one of a number of uses of legal surveillance techniques that is eluding public reporting. Read more.
On Saturday, Bay Area CODEPINK and I, started our caravan to Creech AFB in Nevada with a morning peace rally at Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA.
After we got there we were informed that we had to move off the base and were shown by MPs where we could protest. As good warriors for free speech and peace, we groused about it and we were moving forward to where we were supposed to go, when a very angry older man pulled up and started yelling at us to: "Don't go, I want to counter protest you." I told him, first of all, he shouldn't be drinking so early in the morning, and secondly not to worry, that we were going anywhere, we were just moving about 100 yards away.
We decided to just stop and take a picture by the Travis AFB sign and then we were going to get back in our cars to caravan down to Lemoore NAS because it was extremely windy and we were running a little late anyway.
I was giving a little speech denouncing the drone-bombing program and the upcoming 50 percent troop escalation to Afghanistan, when the angry old man, now dressed in a military uniform, charged around the corner and got right into my bullhorn-I told him to get out of my face and he very violently slaps the bullhorn away from me.
Everything happened so quickly: I was so shocked that I was actually physically assaulted that I just turned away from him and that's when my colleague, Suzanne immediately jumped to my aid and got between the man and me. He swore profusely and pushed her-and then a mini-melee ensued. The numerous MPs and POs that were there finally intervened after I asked them to stop the man from assaulting my friends. I touched no one even though I was within my rights to defend myself. The video clearly shows that the aggressor and the person who brought unreasoning anger and violence to the rally was Sgt. Phil Ward. Read more.
Anti-War Protests Tuesday & Wednesday as President Obama Announces More Troops to Afghanistan Occupation
Anti-War Protests Tuesday & Wednesday as President Obama Announces More Troops to Afghanistan Occupation
Anticipating President Obama’s announcement December 1, 2009, of a plan to “win” Bush’s war in Afghanistan and to “finish the job,” anti-war groups are organizing protests around the US against a plan to send more troops and naming this “Obama’s war.”
Protesters from the tri-state area will march to the main gate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where the President will speak at 8:00 pm Tuesday. A rally starts at 5:30 pm at the intersection of Main Street (Route 218) and West Point Highway, just south of the Academy’s Thayer Gate. Protesters will also gather at the White House beginning at 5:00 pm Tuesday staying into the evening.
On Wednesday, December 2, at federal buildings and major intersections in dozens of cities – organized by a coalition of organizations representing veterans, military families, religious groups and anti-war activists – organizers expect an outpouring based on recent polls showing more than 50% opposition to further escalation in Afghanistan.
World Can’t Wait Director Debra Sweet said today, ”The richest country with the most powerful highly militarized empire is destroying, not helping, one of the world’s poorest countries. The only resolution in the interests of the people of Afghanistan and the world, including the people living in the United States, is for the United States to remove its combat and support troops and its contractors from Afghanistan and to end the occupation of Iraq.”
Protests are scheduled at 40 cities including Allentown, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Columbus OH, Detroit, Eugene OR, Greensboro, Harrisburg, Hartford, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Madison WI; Miami, New Haven, New Paltz, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland ME, Portsmouth NH, Richmond, San Francisco, Seattle, Teaneck NJ. Complete list.
“Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan is with a Code Pink delegation protesting at Creech Air Force Base which controls the un-manned drones targeted on Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to human rights groups, hundreds of civilians have been killed by the drones in more than 40 strikes, since Barack Obama took office.
National organizers include Veterans for Peace; Iraq Veterans Against the War; Military Families Speak Out; Code Pink; International ANSWER, World Can’t Wait, and many local groups who have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for years.
Contact: Elaine Brower 917.520.0767 / 866.973.4463
Few places have deeper scars from violent invective and verbal incitement than this North Carolina city where people still speak in whispers, embarrassed by the events of Nov. 10, 1898. Wilmington is tragic testament to the fact that social progress is not inevitable and that, left unchallenged, hateful speech and words frequently morph into violence.
Today, talk of an antigovernment revolution has gone mainstream in America. One federal law-enforcement agency has discovered 50 new militia groups, including one made up of past and current police officers and soldiers. While in office, President Bush was the target of roughly 3,000 death threats a year. President Obama is on pace to quintuple that. In this environment, Americans might well reflect on Wilmington's experience 111 years ago.
In 1898, this city was years ahead of the rest of the American South, building an inclusive, interracial political culture. It had a burgeoning black middle class. A new era of hope dawned in North Carolina.
But the losers in the 1896 elections, the white Democrats, sulked on the margins, threatened by political irrelevance. Their sense of entitlement to governance had just been rejected by white progressives and black voters. "Take back the state," became their battle cry.
And they did just that. On Nov. 9, some Wilmington whites issued a White Declaration of Independence, proclaiming "that we will no longer be ruled ... by men of African origin." Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
I once wrote an article about former President George W. Bush saying that he was a perfect Manchurian candidate. That is, if his missing year when he was supposed to have been flying fighter jets with the Texas Air National Guard was actually spent in the former Soviet Union being reprogrammed as a covert KGB agent whose job it was to go back to America, win election to the White House, and proceed to destroy the US, he couldn’t have done a better job than he actually did.
Now I wonder whether President Obama might not be a perfect Manchurian Candidate of the Republican Party, or perhaps of some nefarious foreign entity—perhaps the China or the always-enigmatic Al Qaeda. How else to explain policies that have wreaked such destruction on the Democratic Party in Washington and on the nation at large.
Political Prisoner Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole
By Stephen Lendman
On November 18, Jalil Muntaqim (formerly Anthony Bottom) was refused parole a day after his November 17 hearing. The board called his record exemplary, but still denied him. Muntaqim thanked everyone who wrote letters of support and said he'll appeal the decision. Failing that, his next scheduled hearing is in June 2010. His earlier 2002, 2004 and 2006 hearings were also unsuccessful.
In a November 19 letter to supporters, he wrote as follows:
"The parole board ignored the overwhelming support from the community for my release, and denied me parole. I have come to the conclusion after this, my fourth parole appearance....that the parole system is not a fair and impartial decision making body. It is a political institution with a law enforcement agenda....incapable of being fair and impartial in cases where a police officer's death is involved....The judiciary generally supports the law enforcement agenda of the parole board."
To rectify this "double standard," he urged his supporters to:
- "organize a coalition of progressive folks willing and able to concentrate on this issue;"
- get the "religious/faith based community" on board;
- challenge elected officials "for their refusal and failure to intervene....;" and
- New York's "Governor Patterson must be told his choice of parole chairman and commissioners must reflect the desires of the community."
Short of these actions, nothing will reverse the "institutional repression and racism endemic (in) the NYS prison and parole system." Muntaqim is its longest-punished example, an innocent man kept imprisoned since 1971.
The freejalil.com web site calls him a "political prisoner & prisoner of war." Some history and background follows.