"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

U.S. Park Police Choke & Body Slam Dancers At Jefferson Memorial; Fine & Chase Musicians From Central Park

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Oldspeak:” On this Memorial Day, supposedly a day to remember those who have died in war for freedom and “The American Way”, understand that your rights to free speech and freedom of assembly are no longer valid in public spaces. The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where musicians have shared their art free of charge for 100 years, is now designated as a “Quiet Zone”. If you decide you’d like to dance, picket, or make a speech at a national memorial, those actions are now “banned activities”, and will be met with a violent response from law enforcement. Think about that. Under these “laws” the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech would have been against the law. Public spaces, the commons are being more and more privatized and rigidly policed, you need permits to film/photograph at public national memorials. Your rights are being abridged every day in this burgeoning police state masquerading as a democracy. Civil Disobedience on a grand scale is what’s necessary to combat this absurd violation of our rights.”

Related Video: Adam Kokesh body slammed, choked, police brutality at Jefferson Memorial

By NBC Washington:

A handful of dancers got cuffed on Saturday for doing what they say the Founding Fathers would have wanted them to do – expressive dancing in National Parks.

A court recently ruled that expressive dancing was in a category with picketing, speechmaking, and marching – a banned activity at national memorials.

A small group came out on Saturday to protest the ruling, by dancing together inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial.

But after a few minutes, their moves got busted by Park Police.

Five were arrested, while listening to earphones and moving rythymically in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson.

“The founders understood that the only thing that was going to make the American experiment succeed was the people standing up for these rights,” Jared Denman, a demonstrator, told NBC Washington.

The memorial was shut down while demonstrators got arrested.

Some visiting from out of town were less than impressed with the protesters’ interprative moves.  “I think its ridiculous,” said Edward Kelly of Richmond.  “We just traveled up the steps and we’ve been waiting for 15 minutes.”

Musicians chased from Central Park

By Cynthia R. Fagan @ The New York Post:

City officials began blitzing street musicians with nuisance summonses and posted a “Quiet Zone” sign last week at the beloved Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where virtuoso performers have been making beautiful music together for over a century.

On weekends, baritone John Boyd, 48, would belt out spirituals backed by a choir including six of his nine children and fellow classical buskers. But two months ago, Parks police descended on the Bethesda Terrace arcade with a message: Muzzle the music.

Last week, they posted a Quiet Zone sign banning Boyd and other serious musicians from playing in the arcade where world-class performers offer their talents for free to ordinary New Yorkers.

The silky baritone’s clash with officials started two months earlier.

“The Parks Department cops came and said the rules will be revamped,” Boyd told The Post. “A month ago they started issuing me summonses because I would not stop singing.”

After being hit with five summonses totaling $2,300, the former choir director from Detroit was arrested by Parks cops Wednesday and hauled in handcuffs to the Central Park police station.

“I have a right to free speech,” said Boyd. “When I sing, it is expressing what I believe in. I told them, ‘You are not chasing me away.’ “

Classical harpist Meta Epstein, 59, of Mill Basin, Brooklyn, won first prize at the Paris Conservatory of Music in the 1970s. But she’s afraid to play in the park.

“It was very intimidating. It was a patch of dirt. They told me I was destroying the ground, but there were picnickers right there. Now I’m afraid to play, especially in the fountain terrace,” she said.

Double-bass player Vasyl Fomytskyi, formerly of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, has been playing his beloved Bach near the fountain for two years.

“If I play softly by myself, [cops] still have threatened to arrest me and confiscate my instrument,” he said.

Newcomer Shigemasa Nakano, 31, a classical guitarist and opera singer, says he’s disappointed because acoustics in the arcade are superb.

“But . . . I don’t want to get a ticket,” he said.

On Friday, passer-by Rhonda Liss, 63, of Yonkers, asked Boyd if she could join him in an impromptu duet.

“You have such a beautiful voice,” said Liss, a onetime Met opera singer and “Phantom of the Opera” cast member in Toronto. The pair tossed off a jazzy rendition of “My Favorite Things.”

“Is this what they want to arrest people for — singing joy to the people?” she asked incredulously.

When asked about the music crackdown, a spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy, the cash-flush nonprofit that runs the park for the city, said: “The fountain is a place for quiet reflection.”

Read more:http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/please_clear_the_aria_5Ih5ZOpqdHAUPUKWmwK8xJ#ixzz1NrA1XtS7

Censorship, Capitalism & “Personalization” The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oldspeak:”WOW. So much for Net Neutrality. At least in Communist China, people are fully aware the internet and online social media is being censored.  :- | Here in the land of the free U.S.A., internet censorship is practiced without your knowledge, in much more subtle, insidious, and invasive ways. Cyber gatekeepers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and the other top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. Marketed as sexy and convenient sounding “Personalization”, the dominant search engines and social media sites that control much of what you see and read, in their voracious desire for generating ad revenue, actively edit out information that is contrary to what you are perceived to prefer or believe via data collected on your viewing habits. So a Google search for “Egypt” on your computer will be different from an identical search I make on my machine. You only see what you’re most likely to click on and thus generate revenue for them. Net Neutrality is functionally a thing of the past. The 21st century “Ministry of Truth” is invisible, omnipotent and making obscene amounts of money from mining and manipulating your personal preferences and information. The internet, originally thought as a tool to exchange, free and unencumbered, information and ideas from all point of view has been privatized. The only ideas and information you’re likely to see are those much like your own. These conditions increase polarization, societal atomization, isolation, apathy, the gap between the public and private sphere and a general ignorance of the full world around us. While reducing actual interpersonal relations/face to face contact, social ties, and concern for a “greater good”. “Personalization” is nothing more than a cybernetic and irresistible tool meant to divide and conquer the people. Folks are far easier to control and manipulate when they’re disconnected physically and psychologically balkanized. And far worse, making people feel happy and excited to participate in their own enslavement to the modern-day gods of consumption and self-interest. ‘Ignorance is Strength’ and Profit is Paramount. Could the personal computer have morphed into the 21st century version ‘Telescreen‘? “

Related Video: Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

The internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. When some users search the word “Egypt,” they may get the latest news about the revolution, others might only see search results about Egyptian vacations. The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit—and then custom-design their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. What impact will this online filtering have on the future of democracy? We speak to Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. “Take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country,” says Pariser. “But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the ‘like’ button. And the ‘like’ button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click ‘like’ on ‘I just ran a marathon’ or ‘I baked a really awesome cake.’ It’s very hard to click ‘like’ on ‘war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.’”

Guest:

Eli Pariser, author of the new book, ‘The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You’. He is also the board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics.

JUAN GONZALEZ: When you follow your friends on Facebook or run a search on Google, what information comes up, and what gets left out? That’s the subject of a new book by Eli Pariser called The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. According to Pariser, the internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. Yahoo! News tracks which articles we read. Zappos registers the type of shoes we wear, we prefer. And Netflix stores data on each movie we select.

AMY GOODMAN: The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. While these websites profit from tailoring their advertisements to specific visitors, users pay a big price for living in an information bubble outside of their control. Instead of gaining wide exposure to diverse information, we’re subjected to narrow online filters.

Eli Pariser is the author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. He is also the board president and former executive director of the groupMoveOn.org. Eli joins us in the New York studio right now after a whirlwind tour through the United States.

Welcome, Eli.

ELI PARISER: Thanks for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this may surprise people. Two of us sitting here, me and Juan, if we went online, the two of us, and put into Google “Eli Pariser”—

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:—we actually might come up with a wholly different set of finds, a totally different set of links, of search results.

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I was surprised. I didn’t know that that was, you know, how it was working, until I stumbled across a little blog post on Google’s blog that said “personalized search for everyone.” And as it turns out, for the last several years, there is no standard Google. There’s no sort of “this is the link that is the best link.” It’s the best link for you. And the definition of what the best link for you is, is the thing that you’re the most likely to click. So, it’s not necessarily what you need to know; it’s what you want to know, what you’re most likely to click.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But isn’t that counter to the original thing that brought so many people to Google, that the algorithms that Google had developed really were reaching out to the best available information that was out there on the web?

ELI PARISER: Yeah. You know, if you look at how they talked about the original Google algorithm, they actually talked about it in these explicitly democratic terms, that the web was kind of voting—each page was voting on each other page in how credible it was. And this is really a departure from that. This is moving more toward, you know, something where each person can get very different results based on what they click on.

And when I did this recently with Egypt—I had two friends google “Egypt”—one person gets search results that are full of information about the protests there, about what’s going on politically; the other person, literally nothing about the protests, only sort of travel to see the Pyramids websites.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait, explain that again. I mean, that is astounding. So you go in. The uprising is happening in Egypt.

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today there’s a mass protest in Tahrir Square. They’re protesting the military council and other issues. So, if I look, and someone who likes to travel look, they may not even see a reference to the uprising?

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, there was nothing in the top 10 links. And, you know, actually, the way that people use Google, most people use just those top three links. So, if Google isn’t showing you sort of the information that you need to know pretty quickly, you can really miss it. And this isn’t just happening at Google; it’s happening all across the web, when I started looking into this. You know, it’s happening on most major websites, and increasingly on news websites. So, Yahoo! News does the exact same thing, tailoring what you see on Yahoo! News to which articles it thinks you might be interested in. And, you know, what’s concerning about this is that it’s really happening invisibly. You know, we don’t see this at work. You can’t tell how different the internet that you see is from the internet that anyone else sees is, but it’s getting increasingly different.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, what about the responses of those who run these search engines, that they’re merely responding to the interests and needs of the people who use the system?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, I think—they say, “We’re just giving people what we want.” And I say, “Well, what do you mean by ‘what we want’?” Because I think, actually, all of us want a lot of different things. And there’s a short-term sort of compulsive self that clicks on the celebrity gossip and the more trivial articles, and there’s a longer-term self that wants to be informed about the world and be a good citizen. And those things are intentional all the time. You know, we have those two forces inside us. And the best media helps us sort of—helps the long-term self get an edge a little bit. It gives us some sort of information vegetables and some information dessert, and you get a balanced information diet. This is like you’re just surrounded by empty calories, by information junk food.

AMY GOODMAN: Eli, talk about your experience going on your own Facebook page.

ELI PARISER: So, this was actually the starting point for looking into this phenomenon. And basically, after 2008 and after I had transitioned out of being the executive director of MoveOn, I went on this little campaign to meet and befriend people who thought differently from me. I really wanted to hear what conservatives were thinking about, what they were talking about, you know, and learn a few things. And so, I had added these people as Facebook friends. And I logged on one morning and noticed that they weren’t there. They had disappeared. And it was very mysterious. You know, where did they go? And as it turned out, Facebook was tracking my behavior on the site. It was looking at every click. It was looking at every, you know, Facebook “like.” And it was saying, “Well, Eli, you say that you’re interested in these people, but actually, we can tell your clicking more on the progressive links than on the conservative links, so we’re going to edit it out, edit these folks out.” And they disappeared. And this gets to some of the danger of this stuff, which is that, you know, we have—

JUAN GONZALEZ: But Facebook edited out your friends?

ELI PARISER: Yeah, no. I really—you know, I miss them. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Your conservative friends.

ELI PARISER: My conservative friends, the friends that—you know, that I might—and what the play here is, is there’s this thing called confirmation bias, which is basically our tendency to feel good about information that confirms what we already believe. And, you know, you can actually see this in the brain. People get a little dopamine hit when they’re told that they’re right, essentially. And so, you know, if you were able to construct an algorithm that could show people whatever you wanted, and if the only purpose was actually to get people to click more and to view more pages, why would you ever show them something that makes them feel uncomfortable, makes them feel like they may not be right, makes them feel like there’s more to the world than our own little narrow ideas?

JUAN GONZALEZ: And doesn’t that, in effect, reinforce polarization within the society, in terms of people not being exposed to and listening to the viewpoints of others that they may disagree with?

ELI PARISER: Right. I mean, you know, democracy really requires this idea of discourse, of people hearing different ideas and responding to them and thinking about them. And, you know, I come back to this famous Daniel Patrick Moynihan quote where he says, you know, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” It’s increasingly possible to live in an online world in which you do have your own facts. And you google “climate change,” and you get the climate change links for you, and you don’t actually get exposed necessarily—you don’t even know what the alternate arguments are.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, what about the implications for this, as all of these—especially Google, Yahoo!, developed their own news sites? What are the implications in terms of the news that they put out then and the news that people receive?

ELI PARISER: Well, this is where it gets even more worrisome, because when you’re just basically trying to get people to click things more and view more pages, there’s a lot of things that just isn’t going to meet that threshold. So, you know, take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country. We owe it to the people who there, at the very least, to understand what’s going on. But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the “like” button. And the “like” button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click “like” on, you know, “I just ran a marathon” or “I baked a really awesome cake.” It’s very hard to click “like” on, you know, “war in Afghanistan enters its sixth year”—or “10th year,” sorry. You know, so information that is likable gets transmitted; information that’s not likable falls out.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Eli Pariser, who has written the book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. Now, Google knows not only what you’re asking to search, right? They know where you are. They know the kind of computer you’re using. Tell us how much information they’re gathering from us.

ELI PARISER: Well, it’s really striking. I mean, even if you’re not—if you’re logged in to Google, then Google obviously has access to all of your email, all of your documents that you’ve uploaded, a lot of information. But even if you’re logged out, an engineer told me that there are 57 signals that Google tracks—”signals” is sort of their word for variables that they look at—everything from your computer’s IP address—that’s basically its address on the internet—what kind of laptop you’re using or computer you’re using, what kind of software you’re using, even things like the font size or how long you’re hovering over a particular link. And they use that to develop a profile of you, a sense of what kind of person is this. And then they use that to tailor the information that they show you.

And this is happening in a whole bunch of places, you know, not just sort of the main Google search, but also on Google News. And the plan for Google News is that once they sort of perfect this personalization algorithm, that they’re going to offer it to other news websites, so that all of that data can be brought to bear for any given news website, that it can tailor itself to you. You know, there are really important things that are going to fall out if those algorithms aren’t really good.

And what this raises is a sort of larger problem with how we tend to think about the internet, which is that we tend to think about the internet as this sort of medium where anybody can connect to anyone, it’s this very democratic medium, it’s a free-for-all, and it’s so much better than that old society with the gatekeepers that were controlling the flows of information. Really, that’s not how it’s panning out. And what we’re seeing is that a couple big companies are really—you know, most of the information is flowing through a couple big companies that are acting as the new gatekeepers. These algorithms do the same thing that the human editors do. They just do it much less visibly and with much less accountability.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what are the options, the opt-out options, if there are any, for those who use, whether it’s Google or Yahoo! or Facebook? Their ability to control and keep their personal information?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, there aren’t perfect opt-out options, because even if you take a new laptop out of the box, already it says something about you, that you bought a Mac and not a PC. I mean, it’s very hard to get entirely out of this. There’s no way to turn it off entirely at Google. But certainly, you can open a private browsing window. That helps.

I think, in the long run, you know, there’s sort of two things that need to happen here. One is, we need, ourselves, to understand better what’s happening, because it’s very dangerous when you have these kinds of filters operating and you don’t know what they’re ruling out that you’re not even seeing. That’s sort of a—that’s where people make bad decisions, is, you know, what Donald Rumsfeld called the “unknown unknowns,” right? And this creates a lot of unknown unknowns. You don’t know how your experience of the world is being edited.

But it’s also a matter of pushing these companies to sort of—you know, these companies say that they want to be good. “Don’t be evil” is Google’s motto. They want to change the world. I think we have to push them to sort of live up to their best values as companies and incorporate into these algorithms more than just this very narrow idea of what is important.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are they saying, the leaders of Google, Facebook, Yahoo!? I mean, are you talking to them?

ELI PARISER: Well, I tried to. You know, I had a brief conversation with Larry Page, in which he said, “Well, I don’t think this is a very interesting problem.” And that was about that. But, you know, further down in Google, there are a bunch of people who are wrestling with this. I think the challenge is—I talked to one Facebook engineer who sort of summed it up quite well, and he said, “Look, what we love doing is sitting around and coming up with new clever ways of getting people to spend more minutes on Facebook, and we’re very good at that. And this is a much more complicated thing that you’re asking us to do, where you’re asking us to think about sort of our social responsibility and our civic responsibility, what kind of information is important. This is a much more complicated problem. We just want to do the easy stuff.” And, you know, I think that’s what’s sort of led us to this current place. I think there are also people who see the flipside of that and say this is one of the big, juicy problems in front of us, is how do we actually take the best of sort of 20th century editorial values and import them into these new systems that are deciding what people see and what people don’t see.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how much money is being made off of this. And I mean, just this neutral term of “personalization”—

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:—it sounds so benign. In fact, it sounds attractive.

ELI PARISER: It sounds great, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s geared and tailored for you. What could be better?

ELI PARISER: Right. And it does rely on the sense of a sort of cozy, familiar world online, where your favorite website greets you and goes, “Oh, hey, Eli, we’ve teed up all of these articles for you. Welcome.” It feels very good.

But, you know, what’s driving this is—you know, in some ways, this is the driving struggle on the internet right now between all of these different companies, to accumulate the biggest amounts of data on each of us. And Facebook has its strategy, which is basically ask people to tell Facebook about themselves. Google has its strategy, which is to watch your clicks. Microsoft and Yahoo! have their strategies. And all of this feeds into a database, which can then be used to do three things. It can target ads better, so you get better targeted ads, which honestly, I think, you know, sometimes is fine, if you know that it’s happening. It can target content, which I think is much more problematic. You start to get content that just reflects what it thinks you want to see. And then the third thing is, and it can make decisions about you.

So, one of the sort of more surprising findings in the book was that banks are beginning to look at people’s Facebook friends and their credit ratings in order to decide to whom to give—to offer credit. And this is based on this fact that, you know, if you look at the credit ratings of people, you can make predictions about the credit ratings of their friends. It’s very creepy, though, because really what you’re saying then is that it would be better not to be Facebook friends with people who have lower credit ratings. It’s not really the kind of society that we want to be building, particularly.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, even more frightening, obviously, is once all of this information, personal information, is gathered, it saves the government, in its ability to surveil its population, a lot of work, because basically the private companies can gather the information, and all the government has to do is issue the subpoena or make the call that “for national security, we need this information.” So, in essence, it doesn’t have to do the actual surveillance. It just has to be able to use it when it needs to.

ELI PARISER: There’s a funny Onion article that has the headline “CIA Rules Out Very Successful New Facebook Program,” implying that the CIA started Facebook to gather data. And it’s funny, but there is sort of some truth there, which is that these companies do have these massive databases, and the protections that we have for our data that live on these servers are far—you know, far less protection than if it’s on your home computer. The FBI needs to do much less paperwork in order to ask Google for your data than it does to, you know, come into your home and look at your computer. And so, increasingly—so this is sort of the downside of cloud computing, is that it allows more and more of our data and everything that we do to be available to the government and, you know, for their purposes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And not only in a democracy, but in an authoritarian state, as well.

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, it’s a natural byproduct of consolidating so much of what we do online in a few big companies that really don’t have a whole lot of accountability, you know, that aren’t being pushed very hard by governments to do this right or do it responsibly. It will naturally lead to abuses.

AMY GOODMAN: Google Inc. announced yesterday that they have launched a bid to dominate a world in which the smartphone replaces the wallet as the container for credit cards, coupons and receipts. The mobile app is called Google Wallet. How does this fit into this picture?

ELI PARISER: Well, it’s just another—I mean, the way that Google thinks is, how can we design products that people will use that allow us to accumulate even more data about them? So, obviously, once you start to have a sense of everything that people are buying flowing through Google’s servers, then you have way more data on which to target ads and target content and do this kind of personalization. You know exactly how to slice and dice people. And again, you know, in some contexts, that’s fine, actually. I don’t mind when I go on Amazon, and it recommends books. They’re obviously not very good recommendations sometimes, but it’s fine. But when it’s happening invisibly and when it’s shaping not just what you buy but what you know about the world, I think, you know, is more of a problem. And if this is going to be sort of the way that the future of the internet looks, then we need to make sure that it’s much more transparent when this is happening, so that we know when things are being targeted to us. And we have to make sure that we have some control as consumers over this, that it’s not just in the hands of these big companies that have very different interests.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you have a powerful force, Eli Pariser. You were the head of MoveOn.org. Now you’re what? The chair of the board—

ELI PARISER: I’m on the board, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN:—of MoveOn.org. So, this, MoveOn, has millions of people it reaches all over the country. What will MoveOn do about this?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, there’s sort of this dance here, because basically MoveOn takes on the issues that its members want to take up. So I’ve been very—you know, I don’t want to sort of impose by fiat that I wrote a book, and here’s—now we’re going to campaign about this. But, you know, there are campaigns that we’re starting to look at. One of them, I think, that’s very simple but actually would go a significant way is just to, you know, have a basic—have a way of signaling on Facebook that something is important, even if it’s not likable. Obviously this is sort of just one small piece, but actually, if you did have an “important” button, you would start having a lot of different information propagating across Facebook. You’d have people exposed to things that maybe aren’t as smile-inducing, but we really need to know. And Facebook is actually considering adding some new verbs. So, this could be a winnable thing. It’s not—it won’t solve the whole problem, but it would start to indicate—it would start to remind these companies that there are ways that they can start to build in, you know, some more kind of civic values into what they’re doing.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And any sense that in Congress any of the politicians are paying attention to some of these issues?

AMY GOODMAN: Or understand this?

ELI PARISER: Yeah, there are a few that have been really attentive to this. Al Franken, in particular, has been very good on these data and privacy issues and really pushing forward. It’s obviously challenging because a lot of the Democratic congressmen and women are—get a lot of money from these companies, Silicon Valley. You know, certainly the Obama administration and Obama got a lot of support from Silicon Valley. So, they don’t totally want to get on the wrong side of these companies. And they feel like the companies are on the side of good and on the side of sort of pushing the world in the direction that they want it to. It means that we don’t have as good congressional watchdogs as you would hope, but there are a few good ones. And Franken, in particular, has been great on this.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eli Pariser, I want to thank you for your work and for writing The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

ELI PARISER: Thank you.

 

Landmark Study Finds 93 Percent Of Unborn Babies Contaminated With Monsanto’s Genetically Modified ‘Food’ BT Toxin

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Fragile: It is not known what effect the toxins have on the unborn fetuses

Oldspeak:“Surprise, surprise despite repeated assurances to the contrary GM ‘Food’ is not the same as naturally grown food. And it passes toxins to the blood of most people who eat it. It’s too bad these studies weren’t done before much of the world’s food supply was contaminated with this frankenfood. We are all subjects in a vast uncontrolled experiment, and this one is yielding some tragic findings. In addition to carrying a pathogen that causes infertility in plants, animals and humans, GM crops have been shown to be causally related to the significant rises in food allergies, diabetes, obesity, autism,  immune system dysfunction, asthma, cancer and heart disease, low birth-weight babies, and infant mortality. Why are we being fed poisons that have been shown to have numerous negative health effects? We have no idea what the long term effects will be of the fundamental changing of our food supply. But I’ll bet it ain’t none too good. No comment on this in corporate american media.

By Ethan A. Huff @ Natural News:

A landmark new study out of Canada exposes yet another lie propagated by the biotechnology industry, this time blowing a hole in the false claim that a certain genetic pesticide used in the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops does not end up in the human body upon consumption. Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Can., have proven that Bt toxin, which is used in GM corn and other crops, definitively makes its way into the blood supply, contrary to what Big Bio claims — and this toxin was found in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of pregnant women tested.

Published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, the study explains that Bt toxin enters the body not only through direct consumption of GMOs, but also from consumption of meat, milk and eggs from animals whose feed contains GMOs. Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies’ umbilical cords, and 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested positive for Bt toxin.

The only reason many countries even approved GM crops in the first place was because they were told that GM crops were no different than conventional crops. The biotechnology industry has purported for years that the alterations and chemicals used in GM crop cultivation pose no risk whatsoever to human health, and that any GM substances that remain in food are broken down in the digestive system. Now that it has been revealed that such claims are complete fabrications, many groups are urging governments to pull GMOs from their food supplies.

“This research is a major surprise as it shows that the Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply — something that regulators said could not happen,” said Pete Riley from GM Freeze, an alliance of organizations united against GMOs. “Regulators need to urgently reassess their opinions, and the EU should use the safeguard clauses in the regulations to prevent any further GM Bt crops being cultivated or imported for animal feed or food until the potential health implications have been fully evaluated.”

Most of the studies that have been used to validate the safety of GMOs have been conducted by the companies that created them in the first place, so they are hardly a credible source for reliable safety data. Governments in North and South America, as well as throughout Europe, have essentially welcomed GMOs into the food supply based on flimsy reassurances rather than sound science.

Related Stories:

Monsanto Shifts ALL Liability to Farmers For Losses, Injury, Damages from Monsanto Seeds

 GM food toxins found in the blood of 93% of unborn babies

The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm

President Obama shakes hands with Princeton University professor Cornel West after speaking at the National Urban League’s 100th Anniversary Convention in Washington in July 2010.

Oldspeak: ” “We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful, it is a truth that is against the thick lies of the mainstream. In telling that truth we become so maladjusted to the prevailing injustice that the Democratic Party, more and more, is not just milquetoast and spineless, as it was before, but thoroughly complicitous with some of the worst things in the American empire. I don’t think in good conscience I could tell anybody to vote for Obama. If it turns out in the end that we have a crypto-fascist movement and the only thing standing between us and fascism is Barack Obama, then we have to put our foot on the brake. But we’ve got to think seriously of third-party candidates, third formations, third parties.” – Dr.Cornell West. While many will dismiss Brother West’s words as the bitter baseless griping of a jilted disaffected supporter; one cannot deny the truth in them. People have to start recognizing the reality of political life in America. Democracy is dead. The Democratic and Republican parties have been bought and paid for by oligarchical interests who care nothing for the wants and needs of the people. The 2 party system has grown maddeningly ineffective. Obama and his administration have thus far been more of the same status quo, un-reality and market-based governance. Elected dissenters like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders are  aside from being few and far between; are ostracized, ignored and derided as cooks and ‘conspiracy theorists’ for daring to articulate reality that contradicts the “official story”. They find it very difficult to voice legitimate grievances of the people. In an America where thousands of dissenters and progressive activists are being aggressively oppressed and arrested, we have to as a people  evaluate the current administration based on what was promised and the far too many completely opposite policies that have been implemented. The rhetoric is brilliant and very convincing at times but the actions in many cases does not match it. Brother West is IMO emblematic of the many progressives, myself included, who feel profoundly disappointed in and betrayed by President Obama.

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment, that his legacy will be determined by his willingness to defy the cruel assault by the corporate state and the financial elite against the poor and working men and women, and that justice must never be sacrificed on the altar of power.

Perhaps there was never much of a struggle in Obama’s heart. Perhaps West only provided a moral veneer. Perhaps the dark heart of Emanuel was always the dark heart of Obama. Only Obama knows. But we know how the play ends. West is banished like honest Kent in “King Lear.” Emanuel and immoral mediocrities from Lawrence Summers to Timothy Geithner to Robert Gates—think of Goneril and Regan in the Shakespearean tragedy—take power. We lose. And Obama becomes an obedient servant of the corporate elite in exchange for the hollow trappings of authority.

No one grasps this tragic descent better than West, who did 65 campaign events for Obama, believed in the potential for change and was encouraged by the populist rhetoric of the Obama campaign. He now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated and betrayed. He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

“When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority,” says West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University. “And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that’s where I find myself now.

“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there.

“I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Rossand the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brotherJoseph Stiglitzand brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

West says the betrayal occurred on two levels.

“There is the personal level,” he says. “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.

“What it said to me on a personal level,” he goes on, “was that brother Barack Obama had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to? That was on a personal level.”

But there was also the betrayal on the political and ideological level.

“It became very clear to me as the announcements were being made,” he says, “that this was going to be a newcomer, in many ways like Bill Clinton, who wanted to reassure the Establishment by bringing in persons they felt comfortable with and that we were really going to get someone who was using intermittent progressive populist language in order to justify a centrist, neoliberalist policy that we see in the opportunism of Bill Clinton. It was very much going to be a kind of black face of the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council].”

Obama and West’s last personal contact took place a year ago at a gathering of the Urban League when, he says, Obama “cussed me out.” Obama, after his address, which promoted his administration’s championing of charter schools, approached West, who was seated in the front row.

“He makes a bee line to me right after the talk, in front of everybody,” West says. “He just lets me have it. He says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, saying I’m not a progressive. Is that the best you can do? Who do you think you are?’ I smiled. I shook his hand. And a sister hollered in the back, ‘You can’t talk to professor West. That’s Dr. Cornel West. Who do you think you are?’ You can go to jail talking to the president like that. You got to watch yourself. I wanted to slap him on the side of his head.

“It was so disrespectful,” he went on, “that’s what I didn’t like. I’d already been called, along with all [other] leftists, a “F’ing retard”by Rahm Emanuel because we had critiques of the president.”

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, has, West said, phoned him to complain about his critiques of Obama. Jarrett was especially perturbed, West says, when he said in an interview last year that he saw a lot of Malcolm X and Ella Bakerin Michelle Obama. Jarrett told him his comments were not complimentary to the first lady.

“I said in the world that I live in, in that which authorizes my reality, Ella Baker is a towering figure,” he says, munching Fritos and sipping apple juice at his desk. “If I say there is a lot of Ella Baker in Michelle Obama, that’s a compliment. She can take it any way she wants. I can tell her I’m sorry it offended you, but I’m going to speak the truth. She is a Harvard Law graduate, a Princeton graduate, and she deals with child obesity and military families. Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why not spend some time in the hood? That is where she is, but she can’t do it.

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.

“This was maybe America’s last chance to fight back against the greed of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats, to generate some serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment,” West laments. “We are squeezing out all of the democratic juices we have. The escalation of the class war against the poor and the working class is intense. More and more working people are beaten down. They are world-weary. They are into self-medication. They are turning on each other. They are scapegoating the most vulnerable rather than confronting the most powerful. It is a profoundly human response to panic and catastrophe. I thought Barack Obama could have provided some way out. But he lacks backbone.

“Can you imagine if Barack Obama had taken office and deliberately educated and taught the American people about the nature of the financial catastrophe and what greed was really taking place?” West asks. “If he had told us what kind of mechanisms of accountability needed to be in place, if he had focused on homeowners rather than investment banks for bailouts and engaged in massive job creation he could have nipped in the bud the right-wing populism of the tea party folk. The tea party folk are right when they say the government is corrupt. It is corrupt. Big business and banks have taken over government and corrupted it in deep ways.

“We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful,” he says. “It is a truth that is against the thick lies of the mainstream. In telling that truth we become so maladjusted to the prevailing injustice that the Democratic Party, more and more, is not just milquetoast and spineless, as it was before, but thoroughly complicitous with some of the worst things in the American empire. I don’t think in good conscience I could tell anybody to vote for Obama. If it turns out in the end that we have a crypto-fascist movement and the only thing standing between us and fascism is Barack Obama, then we have to put our foot on the brake. But we’ve got to think seriously of third-party candidates, third formations, third parties.

“Our last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens. This means raising our voices, very loud and strong, bearing witness, individually and collectively. Tavis [Smiley]and I have talked about ways of civil disobedience, beginning with ways for both of us to get arrested, to galvanize attention to the plight of those in prisons, in the hoods, in poor white communities. We must never give up. We must never allow hope to be eliminated or suffocated.”

Inside Obama’s “Orwellian World” Where Whistleblowing Has Become Espionage: The Case Of Thomas Drake

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, faces some of the gravest charges that can be brought against an American citizen. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

Oldspeak:”In this supposed era of “hope” and “change” and “transparency in government”, truth tellers are catching hell. Why has the Obama Administration prosecuted more whistleblowers (who’ve dutifully reported waste, mismanagement and criminal activity) THAN ALL OTHER PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS COMBINED?! Why have laws been passed to protect the lawbreakers?! Thomas Drake is facing 35 years in prison for telling the truth, but bankers who lied and stole and crashed the U.S. economy are walking around free and with your money. Change I can’t believe in.”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake faces 35 years in prison on espionage charges for alleged unauthorized “willful retention” of five classified documents. “Espionage is the last thing my whistleblowing and First Amendment activities and actions were all about,” Drake said recently in a public speech. “This has become the specter of a truly Orwellian world where whistleblowing has become espionage.” According to The New Yorker, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined. We play excerpts of Thomas Drake’s first public comments and talk to former Justice Department whistleblower, Jesselyn Radack.

Jesselyn Radack, former Department of Justice whistleblower. She is currently the homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization.
Thomas Drake, National Security Agency whistleblower. Democracy Now! airs excerpts of his speech last month at the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling award ceremony. Watch his “full remarks”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14f16JUFaHo

AMY GOODMAN: A new exposé by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker magazine has revealed more details about the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers. The article focuses on former National Security Agency analyst Thomas Drake, who’s being prosecuted for leaking information about waste and mismanagement at the agency. Drake was the source for a Baltimore Sun series on the NSA’s overspending and failure to properly maintain its large trove of domestic spy data.

Drake faces 35 years in prison for espionage but isn’t actually accused of spying. Instead, he’s accused of holding on to classified documents in his basement that he says he didn’t know were classified. His trial is set to begin next month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Overall, The New Yorker magazine reports, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act of 1917 to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined. Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Hudson Institute said, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Drake received the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling last month. In his acceptance speech, he criticized the prosecution of whistleblowers.

THOMAS DRAKE: Truth tellers, such as myself, are those who are simply doing their jobs and honoring their oaths to serve their nation under the law of the land. We are dedicated to the proposition that government service is of, for, by the people. We emphatically do not serve in order to manipulate on behalf of the powerful, nor to conceal unlawful, illegal or embarrassing secrets from the public, because truth does matter. Truth may be inconvenient. It may cause embarrassment. It may threaten the powers that be and their unlawful activities, but it is still the truth. I have but this one life to live.

AMY GOODMAN: That was whistleblower Thomas Drake.

For more, we’re joined by Jesselyn Radack in Washington, D.C., homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group. Radack is a former ethics adviser to the Department of Justice, who herself came under attack after bringing to light ethic violations in the FBI’s interrogation procedures, particularly in relation to John Walker Lindh, when she warned those involved with taking him back to the United States that he needed to be able to have access to his lawyer.

Jesselyn Radack, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about, first, Thomas Drake and the significance of Thomas Drake’s case.

JESSELYN RADACK: This case is hugely significant. I’m glad it’s finally being put under a microscope and looked at for the farce that it is. It has huge implications that the Obama administration is not only prosecuting whistleblowers, but doing so under the Espionage Act, which is meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers. And it’s even more ironic because this is coming from an administration whose mantra is to look forward, not backwards at torture and warrantless wiretapping. But apparently it’s willing to look backwards at the people who blew the whistle on precisely that kind of wrongdoing. So this—again, legally, it could set a terrible precedent for both sources and for journalists, but on a larger level, for secrecy and the secret surveillance state. And it would be a backdoor way of creating an Official Secrets Act in this country, which we don’t have.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play more of what Thomas Drake has to say. He spoke for the first time to Jane Mayer. But I think it’s important to hear him in his own words. He was awarded the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling by the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. The organizations said he risked his career and freedom when he “exposed the ethical, budgetary and acquisition shortcomings” at the Nation Security Agency, the NSA, including a multibillion-dollar program that was designed to analyze communications data. This is another excerpt of his speech.

THOMAS DRAKE: I have already paid a frightfully high price for being a whistleblower. But worse still lies ahead of me. Although I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and faithfully upheld the law of the land over a public service career spanning more than 20 years, I now stand before you as a criminal defendant, with my own life and liberty very much at stake, in a public trial set to begin on 13 June in Baltimore, Maryland.

My case is centered on a government prosecution bent not on serving justice, but on meting out retaliation, reprisal and retribution for the purpose of relentlessly punishing a whistleblower. Furthermore, my case is one that sends a most chilling message to other would-be whistleblowers: not only can you lose your job, but also your very freedom.

The government made my cooperation with official investigations a criminal act. It is now apparently a federal crime to report illegalities, malfeasance, fraud, waste and abuse perpetrated by our own government. The government is making whistleblowing a crime. They are making dissent a crime, especially when it embarrasses the government and calls the government to account. What is the difference between my situation and that of the Chinese artist who was detained when trying to leave his country because Chinese authorities deemed him a threat to national security?

The fact remains that the heart of my case rests directly on whistleblowing and First Amendment activities involving issues of significant and even grave concern in terms of government illegalities, contract and program malfeasance, as well as fraud, waste and abuse, protected by the Constitution, case law and statutes. And yet the government is censoring and criminally prosecuting protected communications I made in furtherance of government investigations, and doing so under the Espionage act. Espionage is the last thing my whistleblowing and First Amendment activities and actions were all about. This has become the specter of a truly Orwellian world where whistleblowing has become espionage.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Thomas Drake, who faces 35 years in prison for espionage. I want to talk about Thomas Tamm. He is the former U.S. Justice Department attorney who helped expose the Bush administration’s domestic warrantless eavesdropping program that intercepted private email messages and phone calls of U.S. residents without a court warrant. Thomas Tamm and Thomas Drake have a lot in common. They both blew the whistle on malfeasance and illegality at the National Security Agency. However, Drake still faces 35 years in prison, while Tamm is no larger the target of criminal inquiry. I asked Thomas Tamm recently on Democracy Now! why he believes the charges against him were dropped.

THOMAS TAMM: I mean, it’s very difficult to prosecute someone such as myself, recognizing that what I did was reveal something that was against the law. And I also believe that it would have been a problem proving the case against me, because President Bush, the day after that article was published, basically acknowledged that the program existed. In fact, he almost seemed like he was proud of the fact that there was warrantless wiretapping, you know, to supposedly protect the country. In my opinion, he revealed more classified information than I ever did. And the bottom line is, as we mentioned earlier, I didn’t turn over any documents, I didn’t reveal any sources. And really, the bottom line is, I don’t think I ever broke the law.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Thomas Tamm. Jesselyn, tell us why Thomas Drake is receiving such different treatment.

JESSELYN RADACK: I think—I mean, interestingly, Thomas Drake landed on the government’s radar screen as part of the massive million-dollar ongoing leak investigation, leak investigation, that it launched after the publication of the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning story on warrantless wiretapping. I think, basically, you know, it defies any meaningful reason that people like Tom Tamm, who admitted to being sources for the Times, are not prosecuted—not that I want Tom Tamm to be prosecuted. Neither he nor Drake should be prosecuted. But it goes to why they’re going after Drake. And I think that they feel they need to bring home a scalp as a result of this sprawling investigation that has eaten up the time of five full-time prosecutors and 25 FBI agents. And it certainly is deserving of a little oversight by Congress and some auditing by the GAO. I think that’s why they’re going after Drake. I think they also like the Drake case because they can go after him without having to go after or implicate or target a reporter. I think that’s another reason. For whatever reasons, I mean, it really is perplexing why they’re doing this, why the Obama administration, in particular, is doing this.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you have this differential treatment. Former Bush administration officials, if we all remember, John Deutch, the former CIA director, who had classified information at home, Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, both faced much less stringent punishment after taking classified documents home without authorization. Even Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, smuggled classified documents out of a federal building, reportedly by hiding them in his pants or his socks. What about this differential treatment?

JESSELYN RADACK: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s selective prosecution and, I would argue, an abusive prosecution. First of all, you don’t—I mean, you have people like Bob Woodward publishing books with much higher-level, tippy-top classified information, not [no audio]. And then you have other people who have taken home classified information, on purpose, who get a slap on the wrist. And then you have Tom Drake, who is alleged to have taken home classified information, but we’re talking about five very innocuous pieces of information that were only deemed to be classified after they were seized from his home and after the government did a forced classification review of them. I mean, it’s definitely selective and, I think, quite vindictive.

AMY GOODMAN: Also from Jane Mayer’s explosive piece in The New Yorker, she quotes Mark Klein, the former AT&T employee who exposed the telecom company wiretaps, also dismayed by the Thomas Drake case. Mark Klein says, “I think it’s outrageous. The Bush people have been let off. The telecom companies [got] immunity. The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers.” Jesselyn Radack?

JESSELYN RADACK: Right, that is absolutely correct. Again, you would think as part of the “we’re going to look forward, not backwards, at wrongdoing,” that that would preclude—I mean, if that precludes going after the people who engaged in torture and warrantless wiretapping, then it really adds insult to injury to be going after a whistle [no audio] break, who blew the whistle on secret domestic surveillance programs that were selected over cheap, effective programs that had built-in privacy protections to protect U.S. citizens. And it sends a very chilling message to whistleblowers, on whose back Obama was elected. Obama was elected in part based on revelations that were brought forth by whistleblowers revealing torture and electronic eavesdropping. So it’s really a slap in the face that this is being done to Drake. But more than that, it’s the clanging of jail doors, because they’re trying to put him away for the rest of his natural life, which is completely unacceptable.

I urge everybody to take a closer look at this case. And we have a petition onchange.org—just type in “Tom Drake”—calling for some desperately needed congressional oversight here, because there has been none.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesselyn Radack, we just have a minute to go, but I wanted to quickly ask you about John Walker Lindh, because he remains in jail. We interviewed his parents—I encourage people to go to our website—for an hour about his case. But quickly say what it was that you did that caused you to be pushed out of the Justice Department and where the case stands today.

JESSELYN RADACK: I was an ethics attorney at the Justice Department, so I’m really laughing over the last segment about John Ashcroft now being an ethics counsel for Blackwater. But I had advised not to interrogate a U.S. citizen without his counsel, and parenthetically, not to torture him. I didn’t think my advice was particularly radical, but the Justice Department sought to put me under a criminal investigation and refer me to the state bars and put me on the no-fly list. However, that pales in comparison to what is being done to Tom Drake, who they’re threatening to imprison for telling the truth.

AMY GOODMAN: And interesting, it was John Ashcroft, the attorney general, under whom you worked, who said he was given full access to an attorney, when in fact you understood that he was interrogated without an attorney, though his father said he had one for him.

JESSELYN RADACK: All public records support that he did, in fact, have an attorney and that he was tortured and interrogated, even though he signed a plea agreement saying that he would never sue for being tortured. It’s clear that he had an attorney, and they were not allowing him access to James Brosnahan. That’s name of the attorney who had been retained to represent him.

In a similar kind of way, Drake tried to cooperate with the government and tried to report high-level criminal wrongdoing at the NSA. And again, instead of investigating that criminal wrongdoing that led to one of the greatest scandals of my generation, instead they have chosen to go after Tom Drake, Tom Tamm, Russell Tice, people who were blowing the whistle on that misconduct, although people who engaged in it have gotten off scot-free, and laws have been passed to protect those lawbreakers.

AMY GOODMAN: Jesselyn Radack, I want to thank you for being with us, former ethics adviser to the U.S. Department of Justice, currently homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization.

Niggabots No More: Those Idiotic, Jive-Talkin’ Robots Won’t Be Back in ‘Transformers 3′ After All

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Today, America is a little more whole.

Oldspeak: Well. That’s nice. :-/  Now if we could just get Popeyes to stop using that 21st century Mammy  Annie “The Chicken Queen” to hawk their chicken….

By Will Leitch @ Yahoo Movies:

So much about “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen” was horrible that picking a least favorite moment is like choosing between your children, if you kinda hated your children. But you really can’t fall much farther than “Mudflap” and “Skids,” the “urban” robots that, as The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis’ rightly said, “have been given conspicuously cartoonish, so-called black voices that indicate that minstrelsy remains as much in fashion in Hollywood as when, well, Jar Jar Binks was set loose by George Lucas.” Director Michael Bay defended Mudflap and Skids (who, in the year 2009, had gold teeth and bug ears), claiming, “We’re just putting more personality in. I don’t know if it’s stereotypes — they are robots, by the way. These are the voice actors. This is kind of the direction they were taking the characters and we went with it.”

But even Bay is smart enough to avoid more controversy while he can, claiming Monday on the official Michael Bay fan board — oh, by the way America, there are Michael Bay fan boards –  that the twins will not appear in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”

A fan blog tried to get fired up that Bay was lying, with reports that new and “improved” versions of Mudflap and Skids were seen on the set yesterday, but they have the date wrong on the post; the post they’re referencing is more than a year old. So it looks like there will not in fact be awful stereotypes of African-Americans as portrayed by robots from an alien planet in the third “Transformers” movie. In Michael Bay’s brain, perhaps this is considered progress.

The Twins Are Not Back In T3 [MichaelBay.com]

Related Story: Transformers: Rise Of The Fallen, Featuring The Niggabots. Seriously.

Fukishima Reactors A Raging Nuclear Inferno Vast Amounts Of Radiation Still Being Released Into Atmosphere

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Oldspeak: “The deafening silence continues with next to no coverage of this ongoing environmental catastrophe. More than 2 months later we learn that 3 of the 4 reactors have melted down. Crickets from corporate media. The Russians having gone through Chernobyl are rightfully concerned and are reporting on it. With recently raised ‘acceptable’ radiation limits at 1000 times that which is safe for the human body, and radiation detectors turned off, apparently there is nothing to be concerned about here. “Ignorance is Strength”.

By Kurt Nimmo @ Infowars:

Professor Christopher Busby, who sits on the European Committee on Radiation Risks, told RT yesterday that the reactors at Fukushima are a raging nuclear inferno and he believes at least one of the reactors is now outside its containment structure and emitting vast amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.

The Japanese newspaper Asahi reports today that data reveals meltdowns occurred at the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors. Goshi Hosono, special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, acknowledged the likelihood of meltdowns. “We have to assume that meltdowns have taken place,” Hosono said at a news conference May 16.

Infowars.com and other alternative news sources reported the probability of a nuclear meltdown at the plant, but this was virtually ignored by the corporate media.

Soon after an earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, nuclear experts said meltdowns occurred at all three reactors. TEPCO and the corporate media downplayed the possibility of nuclear meltdown. On April 17, TEPCO released a schedule to reach a cold shutdown at the Fukushima plant within six to nine months, but eventually had to revise the schedule.

Nuclear experts indicate more than a decade will be required to remove the melted fuel, eliminate the contamination, and dismantle the reactors.

Public release of data on the situation at the plant, which had been kept at the central control room, was delayed because it took time to restore power and remove radioactive materials attached to the papers, according to TEPCO. According to the data, the pressure in the pressure vessel of the No. 2 reactor dropped at 6:43 p.m. on March 15. A similar drop in pressure also took place at the No. 3 reactor at 11:50 p.m. on March 16.

“We have yet to be able to grasp the entire situation at the plant,” a TEPCO official said on May 16.

Radioactive technetium was discovered in water in the No. 3 reactor building. The discovery raised speculation that the melted nuclear fuel has breached the pressure vessel and landed in the containment vessel. Technetium is produced when nuclear fuel rods are damaged.

Related articles

Fukushima Reactor 1 melted down, 2 and 3 may have too

By John Timmer @ Ars Technica:

Yesterday, TEPCO, the company responsible for running the Fukushima nuclear reactors, released a provisional analysis of the events that occurred in Unit 1, one of the reactors that was active when the tsunami struck. In five stark pages, the report lays out the impact of the tsunami on the facility: water levels that plunged below the bottom of the fuel, a complete meltdown of the nuclear fuel, and extensive damage to the reactor vessel.

The new analysis was enabled by the recent installation of air purifiers that let personnel reenter the reactor control room for the first time. Once inside, they were able to recalibrate some of the instruments that have been monitoring the reactor core; the revised numbers have enabled TEPCO to better understand what happened in the wake of the tsunami.

Things moved fairly quickly: by four hours after the tsunami hit, the levels of cooling water had dropped enough that the top of the fuel stack was exposed to the air. Shortly after that happened, the temperature in the core reached nearly 3,000°C, and the cooling water boiled off the bottom of the fuel stack. Melting of fuel rods started at 4.8 hours after the earthquake hit, and a partial meltdown had already occurred by 5.1 hours. According to TEPCO, any residual integrity in the fuel rods was gone by 15 hours after the quake, and the reactor core was emptied of fuel by 16 hours.

If there’s a bright side here, it’s that, by melting to the floor of the reactor, most of the fuel was resubmerged in cooling water. Temperatures there are now in the area of 100-120°C. The temperatures still fluctuate based on the rate of cooling water injection, suggesting the majority of the fuel is still inside the reactor vessel. The temperature and pressure readings indicate that the vessel is generally intact, as well. But the continued loss of cooling water indicates that it almost certainly has been leaking water that is heavily contaminated with radioactive isotopes (though not necessarily reactor fuel).

As Nature’s Geoff Brumfiel puts it, “Nobody really knows where all the water is going—but it can’t be anywhere good.” The best hope is that it largely leaked into the basement areas of the reactor building but we currently don’t know for certain where the water escaped to or how far it has spread. Complicating matters further arereports that TEPCO thinks that the two other reactors that were active at the time of the quake suffered similar damage. Confirmation will have to wait for access to their control rooms.

All of this will make the cleanup efforts extraordinarily complex, as the fuel can no longer be lifted out using the structure it was incorporated into, since all that supporting material has melted away. Workers will also have to contend with leaks of highly radioactive water during the process; that water will have to be removed or contained before it leaches into the surrounding soil. There are positives here—temperatures are relatively low now, and the fuel appears to have remained in the reactor vessel—but Fukushima is likely to be a long-term worry.

Further reading


U.S. Supreme Court Expands Police Power, OKs Warrantless Searches Of Private Homes

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

Oldspeak: “Welp, so much for the 4th Amendment. ‘”How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and …forcibly enter?’ -Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s not enough that the government can conduct warrantless wiretapping on your phone calls or email on mere suspicion of  ‘being a spy or terrorist’.  It’s not enough that police can use illegally obtained evidence to charge you with a crime. Now law enforcement can enter your home and conduct a warrantless search based on suspicious smells, sounds or manufactured “emergency”. As the Prison-Industrial Complex expands, your rights to privacy, individual freedom and due process are being obliterated. ‘There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” -Mario Savio. When will the time come to stop this odious machine?!

By David G. Savage @ McClatchy-Tribune:

The Supreme Court on Monday gave police more leeway to break into residences in search of illegal drugs.

The justices in an 8-1 decision said officers who loudly knock on a door and then hear sounds suggesting evidence is being destroyed may break down the door and enter without a search warrant.

Residents who “attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame” when police burst in, said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

In a lone dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she feared the ruling in a Kentucky case will give police an easy way to ignore the 4th Amendment. “Police officers may not knock, listen and then break the door down,” she said, without violating the 4th Amendment.

In the past, the court has said police usually may not enter a home unless they have a search warrant or the permission of the owner. As Alito said, “The 4th Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house.”

One exception to that rule involves an emergency, such as screams coming from a house. Police may also pursue a fleeing suspect who enters a residence. Police were attempting to do that in the Kentucky case, but they entered the wrong apartment, raising the issue of what is permissible in situations where police have reason to believe evidence is being destroyed.

It began when police in Lexington, Ky., were following a suspect who allegedly had sold crack cocaine to an informer and then walked into an apartment building. They did not see which apartment he entered, but when they smelled marijuana smoke come from one of the apartments, they wrongly assumed he had gone into that one. They pounded on the door and called “Police. Police. Police,” and heard the sounds of people moving.

At this, the officers announced they were coming in, and they broke down the door. They found Hollis King smoking marijuana, and put him under arrest. They also found powder cocaine. King was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

But the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned his conviction and ruled the apartment break-in violated his 4th Amendment right against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Police had created an emergency by pounding on the door, the state justices said.

The Supreme Court heard an appeal from state prosecutors and reversed the ruling in Kentucky v. King. Alito said the police conduct in this case “was entirely lawful,” and they were justified in breaking down the door to prevent the destruction of the evidence.

“When law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, they do no more than any private citizen may do,” he wrote. A resident need not respond, he added. But the sounds of people moving and perhaps toilets being flushed could justify police entering without a warrant, he added.

“Destruction of evidence issues probably occur most frequently in drug cases because drugs may be easily destroyed by flushing down a toilet,” he added.

The ruling was not a final loss for King. The justices said the Kentucky state court should consider again whether the police faced an emergency situation in this case.

Ginsburg, however, said the court’s approach “arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases.” She said the police did not face a “genuine emergency” and should not have been allowed to enter the apartment without a warrant.

U.S. Secret Service Interrogates 13 Year Old Without Parents Consent Over Facebook Status Update

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Oldspeak: “A Man Walked in in a suit and glasses. And he said he was part of the secret service. And told me it was because of a post I made and it indicated as a threat to the president…I was very scared.” – Vito Lapinta. Whether you realize it or not you live in a police state. Where police can arrest and detain and interrogate a child without cause for an “offense” like filming them.
The Matrix is all around you, complete with a real live “Mr. Smith” interrogating a child about  his facebook status update. Pretty damning evidence that social media is being used by the surveillance state as a massive illegal warrantless spying and monitoring program.

By Athima Chansanchai @ Digital Life:

When Timi Robertson found out her middle-schooler son was being questioned by the Secret Service and the police at his Tacoma, Wa. school, she says she “just about lost it,” — especially after they told her it was over a Facebook post the boy had written warning President Barack Obama of suicide attacks in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death.

“My 13-year-old son, who’s a minor, who’s supposed to be safe and secure in his classroom at school, is being interrogated without my knowledge or consent by the Secret Service,” Robertson told Q13 Fox News reporter Dana Rebik. She only got wind of the interrogation because a school security guard tipped her off and arrived a half-hour after the agent had already begun questioning her son. Tacoma police were also present.

The school said they began without her because she didn’t take their call seriously, which Robertson called a “blatant lie.”

By the end of the interview, which occurred May 13, the agent told the boy he was free to go and wasn’t in trouble.

Her son, seventh-grader Vito Lapinta Jr., told the reporter he was “very scared” and that he’s more careful about what he writes on the site. But his mother stands by her son and thinks the issue is how Truman Middle School and the Secret Service “handled it, because he’s still a child,” which you can hear her say in this video:

Vito had posted a status update on Facebook a week earlier that highlighted his concern for the president of retaliation for the orchestrated killing of bin Laden. Then a week later, he gets called into the principal’s office, where a man who identified himself as a Secret Service agent told him that the post was considered a threat to Obama.

Goes to show, if you think someone’s reading your tweets and Facebook posts, you’re probably right.

Why No Outcry Over These Torturing Tyrants?

In Uncategorized on May 18, 2011 at 11:32 am

The King of Bahrain has so far avoided the criticism of Western leaders. And why is that?

Oldspeak:” Why indeed. Innocents are being tortured and shot and disappeared in Bahrain, Syria, and countless other tyrannical governments around the globe, why this faux and urgent need to “protect innocents” in Libya and assassinate its leader? The popular answer is oil and while that is probably true, but the lesser known and more urgent motivation is ‘that Gaddafi was planning to introduce the gold dinar, a single African currency that would serve as an alternative to the U.S. dollar and allow African nations to share the wealth. It is surely no coincidence that Iraq’s prior leader, Saddam Hussein, was trying to do the same thing just prior to U.S. invasion for all of those “weapons of mass destruction.” ‘ We’ve seen the fate Mr. Hussain met for his trouble. Any threat to the global economic system based on fiat currencies like the U.S. Dollar and Euro are quickly squashed. No comment on this from corporate press.  Innocent lives continue to be lost in these U.S. client states. ‘Ignorance Is Strength’.

By Robert Fisk @ The U.K. Independent:

Christopher Hill, a former US secretary of state for east Asia who was ambassador to Iraq – and usually a very obedient and un-eloquent American diplomat – wrote the other day that “the notion that a dictator can claim the sovereign right to abuse his people has become unacceptable”.

Unless, of course – and Mr Hill did not mention this – you happen to live in Bahrain. On this tiny island, a Sunni monarchy, the al-Khalifas, rule a majority Shia population and have responded to democratic protests with death sentences, mass arrests, the imprisonment of doctors for letting patients die after protests and an “invitation” to Saudi forces to enter the country. They have also destroyed dozens of Shia mosques with all the thoroughness of a 9/11 pilot. But then, let’s remember that most of the 9/11 killers were indeed Saudis.

And what do we get for it? Silence. Silence in the US media, largely silence in the European press, silence from our own beloved CamerClegg and of course from the White House. And – shame of shame – silence from the Arabs who know where their bread is buttered. That means, of course, also silence from al-Jazeera. I often appear on their otherwise excellent Arabic and English editions, but their failure to mention Bahrain is shameful, a dollop of shit in the dignity that they have brought to reporting in the Middle East. The Emir of Qatar – I know him and like him very much – does not need to belittle his television empire in this way.

CamerClegg is silent, of course, because Bahrain is one of our “friends” in the Gulf, an eager arms buyer, home to thousands of Brit expatriates who – during the mini-revolution by Bahrain’s Shia – spent their time writing vicious letters to the local pro-Khalifa press denouncing Western journalists. And as for the demonstrators, I recall a young Shia woman telling me that if only the Crown Prince would come to the Pearl Roundabout and talk with the protesters, they would carry him on their shoulders around the square. I believed her. But he didn’t come. Instead, he destroyed their mosques and claimed the protests were an Iranian plot – which was never the case – and destroyed the statue of the pearl at the roundabout, thus deforming the very history of his own country.

Obama, needless to say, has his own reasons for silence. Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet and the Americans don’t want to be shoved out of their happy little port (albeit that they could up-sticks and move to the UAE or Qatar anytime they wish) and want to defend Bahrain from mythical Iranian aggression. So you won’t find La Clinton, so keen to abuse the Assad family, saying anything bad about the al-Khalifas. Why on earth not? Are we all in debt to the Gulf Arabs? They are honourable people and understand when criticism is said with good faith. But no, we are silent. Even when Bahraini students in Britain are deprived of their grants because they protested outside their London embassy, we are silent. CamerClegg, shame on you.

Bahrain has never had a reputation as a “friend” of the West, albeit that is how it likes to be portrayed. More than 20 years ago, anyone protesting the royal family’s dominance risked being tortured in the security police headquarters. The head of it was a former British police Special Branch officer whose senior torturer was a pernicious major in the Jordanian army. When I published their names, I was rewarded with a cartoon in the government newspaper Al-Khaleej which pictured me as a rabid dog. Rabid dogs, of course, have to be exterminated. It was not a joke. It was a threat.

The al-Khalifas have no problems with the opposition newspaper, Al-Wasat, however. They arrested one of its founders, Karim Fakhrawi, on 5 April. He died in police custody a week later. Ten days later, they arrested the paper’s columnist, Haidar Mohamed al-Naimi. He has not been seen since. Again, silence from CamerClegg, Obama, La Clinton and the rest. The arrest and charging of Shia Muslim doctors for letting their patients die – the patients having been shot by the “security forces”, of course – is even more vile. I was in the hospital when these patients were brought in. The doctors’ reaction was horror mixed with fear – they had simply never seen such close-range gunshot wounds before. Now they have been arrested, doctors and patients taken from their hospital beds. If this was happening in Damascus, Homs or Hama or Aleppo, the voices of CamerClegg, and Obama and La Clinton would be ringing in our ears. But no. Silence. Four men have been sentenced to death for killing two Bahraini policemen. It was a closed military court. Their “confessions” were aired on television, Soviet-style. No word from CamerClegg or Obama or La Clinton.

What is this nonsense? Well, I will tell you. It has nothing to do with the Bahrainis or the al-Khalifas. It is all about our fear of Saudi Arabia. Which also means it is about oil. It is about our absolute refusal to remember that 9/11 was committed largely by Saudis. It is about our refusal to remember that Saudi Arabia supported the Taliban, that Bin Laden was a Saudi, that the most cruel version of Islam comes from Saudi Arabia, the land of head-choppers and hand-cutters. It is about a conversation I had with a Bahraini official – a good and decent and honest man – in which I asked him why the Bahraini prime minister could not be elected by a majority Shia population. “The Saudis would never permit it,” he said. Yes, our other friends. The Saudis.

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