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

Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

The Police State Makes Its Move: Retaining One’s Humanity In The Face of Tyranny

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Oldspeak:”The 1% and their paid operatives–local city officials–are striving to protect an unjust, inherently dishonest status quo. Lacking a moral mandate, they are prone to the use of police state forms of repression. The corporate/national security state, by its very nature is anti-liberty and anti-freedom. Of course, its defenders give lip service to the concept of freedom. If justice is to prevail, it seems, the air of U.S. cities will hold the acrid sting of tear gas, the jails will again be filled, the brave will endure brutality–yet the corrupt system will crumble. Because the system’s protectors themselves will bring it down by revealing its empty nature, and the corrupt structure will collapse from within“-Phil Rockstroh

 

By Phil Rockstroh @ Common Dreams

For days now, we have endured demonstrably false propaganda that the fallen soldiers of U.S. wars sacrificed their lives for “our freedoms.” Yet, as that noxious nonsense still lingers in the air, militarized police have invaded OWS sites in numerous cities, including Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, and, in the boilerplate description of the witless courtesans of the corporate media, with the mission to “evict the occupiers”.

Hundreds of NYC riot police forcibly evicted Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park early on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011.U.S soldiers died protecting what and who again? These actions should make this much clear: The U.S. military and the police exist to protect the 1%. At this point, the ideal of freedom will be carried by those willing to resist cops and soldiers. There have been many who have struggled and often died for freedom–but scant few were clad in uniforms issued by governments.

Freedom rises despite cops and soldiers not because of them. And that is exactly why those who despise freedom propagate military hagiography and fetishize those wearing uniforms–so they can give the idea of liberty lip service as all the while they order it crushed.

When anyone tells you that dead soldiers and veterans died for your freedom, it is your duty to occupy reality and inform them of just how mistaken they are. And if you truly cherish the concepts of freedom and liberty, you just might be called on to face mindless arrays of fascist cops and lose your freedom, for a time, going to jail, so others might, at some point, gain their freedom.

I was born in Birmingham Alabama, at slightly past the mid-point of the decade of the 1950s. Many of my earliest memories involve the struggle for civil rights that was transpiring on the streets of my hometown.

My father was employed at a scrap metal yard but also worked as a freelance photojournalist who hawked his work to media photo syndicates such as Black Star who then sold his wares to the major newsmagazines of the day. A number of the iconic photographs of the era were captured by his Nikon camera e.g., of vicious police dogs unleashed on peaceful demonstrators; of demonstrators cartwheeled down city streets by the force of fire hoses; of Dr. King and other civil rights marchers kneeled in prayer before arrays of Police Chief Bull Connor’s thuggish ranks of racist cops.

In Birmingham, racist laws and racial and economic inequality were the progenitors of acts of official viciousness. The social structure in place was indefensible. Reason and common decency held no dominion in the justifications for the established order that was posited by the system’s apologists and enforcers; therefore, brutality filled the void created by the absence of their humanity.

And the same situation is extant in the growing suppression of the OWS movement in various cities, nationwide, including Liberty Park in Lower Manhattan. The 1% and their paid operatives–local city officials–are striving to protect an unjust, inherently dishonest status quo. Lacking a moral mandate, they are prone to the use of police state forms of repression.

Dr. King et al faced their oppressors on the streets of my hometown. Civil Rights activists knew that they had to hold their ground to retain their dignity…that it was imperative to sit down in those Jim Crow-tyrannized streets when necessary in order to stand up against the forces of oppression.

At present, we have arrived at a similar moment. If justice is to prevail, it seems, the air of U.S. cities will hold the acrid sting of tear gas, the jails will again be filled, the brave will endure brutality–yet the corrupt system will crumble. Because the system’s protectors themselves will bring it down by revealing its empty nature, and the corrupt structure will collapse from within.

Yet, when riot police attack unarmed, peacefully resisting protesters, the mainstream media often describes the events with standard boilerplate such as “police clash with demonstrators.”

This is inaccurate (at best) reportage. It suggest that both parties are equal aggressors in the situation, and the motive of the police is to restore order and maintain the peace, as opposed to, inflicting pain and creating an aura of intimidation.

This is analogous to describing a mugging as simply: two parties engaging in a financial transaction.

Although mainstream media demurred from limning the upwelling of mob violence at Penn. State as involving any criteria deeper than the mindless rage of a few football-besotted students unloosed by the dismissal of beloved sport figure.

Yet there exists an element that the Penn. State belligerents and OWS activists have in common: a sense of alienation.

Penn. State students rioted because life in the corporate state is so devoid of meaning…that identification with a sports team gives an empty existence said meaning…These are young people, coming of age in a time of debt-slavery and diminished job prospects, who were born and raised in, and know of no existence other than, life as lived in U.S. nothingvilles i.e., a public realm devoid of just that–a public realm–an atomizing center-bereft culture of strip malls, office parks, fast food eateries and the electronic ghosts wafting the air of social media.

Contrived sport spectacles provisionally give an empty life meaning…Take that away, and a mindless rampage might ensue…Anything but face the emptiness and acknowledge one’s complicity therein, and then direct one’s fury at the creators of the stultified conditions of this culture.

It is a given, the cameras of corporate media swivel towards reckless actions not mindful commitment…are attuned to verbal contretemps not thoughtful conviction–and then move on. And we will click our TV remotes and scan the Internet…restless, hollowed out…eating empty memes…skimming the surface of the electronic sheen…

These are the areas we are induced to direct our attention–as the oceans of the earth are dying…these massive life-sustaining bodies of water have less then 50 years before they will be dead. This fact alone should knock us to our knees in lamentation…should sent us reeling into the streets in displays of public grief…

Accordingly, we should not only occupy–but inhabit our rage. No more tittering at celebrity/political class contretemps–it is time for focused fury. The machinery of the corporate/police state must be dismantled.

If the corporate boardrooms have to be emptied–for the oceans to be replenished with abundant life–then so be it. If one must go to jail for committing acts of civil disobedience to free one’s heart–then it must be done.

Yet why does the act of challenging the degraded status quo provoke such a high decree of misapprehension, anxiety, and outright hostility from many, both in positions of authority and among so many of the exploited and dispossessed of the corporate/consumer state.

For example, why did the fatal shooting incident in Oakland, California, Nov. 1, that occurred near the Occupy Oakland Encampment–but, apparently, was wholly unrelated to OWS activity cause a firestorm of reckless speculation and false associations.

Because any exercise in freedom makes people in our habitually authoritarian nation damn uneasy…a sense of uncertainty brings on dread–the feeling that something terrible is to come from challenging a prevailing order, even as degraded as it is.

Tyrants always promise safety; their apologist warn of chaos if and when the soul-numbing order is challenged.

Granted, it is a given that there exists a sense of certainty in a prison routine: high walls and guards and gun mounts ensure continuity; an uncertainty-banishing schedule is enforced. Moreover, solitary confinement offers an even more orderly situation…uncertainty is circumscribed as freedom is banished.

The corporate/national security state, by its very nature is anti-liberty and anti-freedom. Of course, its defenders give lip service to the concept of freedom…much in the manner a pick-pocket working a subway train is very much in favor of the virtues of public transportation.

A heavy police presence has ringed Zuccotti Park from the get-go, and whose ranks have now staged a military style raid upon it, a defacto search and destroy mission–because the ruling elite want to suppress the very impulse of freedom. These authoritarian bullies don’t want the concept to escape the collective prison of the mind erected and maintained by the corrupt jailers comprising the 1% who claim they offer us protection as, all the while, they hold our chains…all for our own good, they insist…for our safety and the safety of others.

Although, from studying on these prison walls, the thought occurs to me…that what we might need is protection from all this safety.

 

America’s Disappeared

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Oldspeak:’With liberty and justice for all”? Not. Never has been. We Americans have rewritten our laws…to make criminal behavior legal….the national drive against ‘terror’ in the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operate beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become…part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers…Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.”-Chirs Hedges

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweekthat the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.

We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admittedretired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”

The bodies of many of these victims have never been returned to their families. They disappeared. Anonymous death is the cruelest form of death. There is no closure for the living. There is no way for survivors to fix the end of a life with a time, a ritual and a place. The atrocity is compounded by the atrocity committed against memory. This sacrilege gnaws at survivors. Regimes use clandestine torture centers, murder and anonymous death to keep subject populations off balance, agitated and disturbed. It fuels the collective insanity. The ability of the state to “disappear” people into black sites, hold them for years without charges and carry out torture ensures that soon these techniques will become a routine part of domestic control.

Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them awayin the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.

Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror”of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”

But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.

The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”


State Department Travel Warning: If You Try To Sail To Gaza, Israel May Kill You

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Oldspeak:”What a sad irony it is that an Administration that WOULD NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN POSSIBLE without citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, and eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid right here in the USA is discouraging Americans’ practice of  citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, with the goal eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid in Israel? Where would African-Americans be in this country today if our elders accepted their governments centuries old refusals to recognize their human and civil rights? 3/4ths human? Second class citizens? Freedom and dignity are birthrights, not conditions to be negotiated in some “peace treaty”. Those brave souls should have named their ship “The Audacity of Nope.” Free Gaza.

By Ali Gharib @ Think Progress:

The State Department today released an updated travel warning for Israel and the Occupied Territories. The update signified that it was issued “to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.” The warning is likely in light of the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” of humanitarian activists setting out any day now to break the blockade of Gaza enforced by the Israeli military.

Last year, a similar attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine people, including an American.

The State Department warning said:

The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. […] On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.

The U.S. citizen killed was Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old permanent resident of Turkey who witnesses said was shot five times by Israeli commandos that made an early morning raid against the ship he was aboard. (Eight others, all Turkish nationals, were also killed.) The U.S. did not undertake or ask for any special investigations and seemed to accept the validity of Israel’s own investigations, which cleared the Jewish State’s armed forces of any wrong doing.

Both the blockade of Gaza and the raid on ships in international waters have had their legality questioned. Yesterday, the Israeli military attacked two Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast, but within the limits Israel set for them.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner recently said U.S. citizens who partook in the flotilla to break the Gaza blockade were putting themselves at risk:

We have made clear through the past year that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.

During his recent visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that “America has no better friend than Israel.” As Matthew Yglesias pointed out, the statement is “absurd.” This seems borne out by a travel warning that tells citizens not to try to get to Gaza by sea so that they don’t risk getting shot by their country’s “best friend.”

Free Speech Under Siege In The “West”

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it….The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.” – Robert Skidelsky. How can knowledge, discovery, and intellectual advancement be achieved without free, unfettered inquiry and constant and rigorous questioning of “accepted truths” based in religion, science or cultural memory?  Political correctness cannot ever usurp freedom of speech, to do so opens the door to authoritarianism, totalitarianism, rigidity of thought and society. There should be no such thing as accepted ways of thinking in a free society. The frightening thing is in the supposedly “free” U.S. much of the population self-censors and acts as thought police to those who think outside the politically correct and accepted spheres of thought. Phrases like “Conspiracy Theorist”, “Radical” “Fringe Elements” or ” ‘Your name here’ Extremists” are used to dismiss un-PC thought and speech as not worthy of serious, critical consideration, as they fly in the face of generally “accepted truths”  There are fewer and fewer public spheres one can introduce ideas which challenge people to actually think and consider facts that don’t jive with what they see in corporate media networks and learn from commodified, corporate controlled for-profit education systems. This has a chilling effect on those interested in engaging in political protest movements, dissent, and challenging and questioning the official narrative of history and objective reality. It’s what leads the Department of Justice to think it’s ok to surveil harass and violate the civil liberties of  law abiding citizens who dare dissent. It that that much different than what goes on in China, Iran, or Israel? If people are discouraged or afraid to engage politically in any way that they wish, state-sanctioned or not, democracy dies.”

By Robert Skidelsky @ Project Syndicate:

Recently, at a literary festival in Britain, I found myself on a panel discussing free speech. For liberals, free speech is a key index of freedom. Democracies stand for free speech; dictatorships suppress it.

When we in the West look outward, this remains our view. We condemn governments that silence, imprison, and even kill writers and journalists. Reporters Sans Frontièreskeeps a list: 24 journalists have been killed, and 148 imprisoned, just this year. Part of the promise we see in the “Arab Spring” is the liberation of the media from the dictator’s grasp.

Yet freedom of speech in the West is under strain. Traditionally, British law imposed two main limitations on the “right to free speech.” The first prohibited the use of words or expressions likely to disrupt public order; the second was the law against libel. There are good grounds for both – to preserve the peace, and to protect individuals’ reputations from lies. Most free societies accept such limits as reasonable.

But the law has recently become more restrictive. “Incitement to religious and racial hatred” and “incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation” are now illegal in most European countries, independent of any threat to public order. The law has shifted from proscribing language likely to cause violence to prohibiting language intended to give offense.

A blatant example of this is the law against Holocaust denial. To deny or minimize the Holocaust is a crime in 15 European countries and Israel. It may be argued that the Holocaust was a crime so uniquely abhorrent as to qualify as a special case. But special cases have a habit of multiplying.

France has made it illegal to deny any “internationally recognized crimes against humanity.” Whereas in Muslim countries it is illegal to call the Armenian massacres of 1915-1917 “genocide,” in some Western countries it is illegal to say that they were not. Some East European countries specifically prohibit the denial of communist “genocides.”

The censorship of memory, which we once fondly imagined to be the mark of dictatorship, is now a major growth industry in the “free” West. Indeed, official censorship is only the tip of an iceberg of cultural censorship. A public person must be on constant guard against causing offense, whether intentionally or not.

Breaking the cultural code damages a person’s reputation, and perhaps one’s career. Britain’s Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke recently had to apologize for saying that some rapes were less serious than others, implying the need for legal discrimination. The parade of gaffes and subsequent groveling apologies has become a regular feature of public life.

In his classic essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill defended free speech on the ground that free inquiry was necessary to advance knowledge. Restrictions on certain areas of historical inquiry are based on the opposite premise: the truth is known, and it is impious to question it. This is absurd; every historian knows that there is no such thing as final historical truth.

It is not the task of history to defend public order or morals, but to establish what happened. Legally protected history ensures that historians will play safe. To be sure, living by Mill’s principle often requires protecting the rights of unsavory characters. David Irving writes mendacious history, but his prosecution and imprisonment in Austria for “Holocaust denial” would have horrified Mill.

By contrast, the pressure for “political correctness” rests on the argument that the truth is unknowable. Statements about the human condition are essentially matters of opinion.  Because a statement of opinion by some individuals is almost certain to offend others, and since such statements make no contribution to the discovery of truth, their degree of offensiveness becomes the sole criterion for judging their admissibility. Hence the taboo on certain words, phrases, and arguments that imply that certain individuals, groups, or practices are superior or inferior, normal or abnormal; hence the search for ever more neutral ways to label social phenomena, thereby draining language of its vigor and interest.

A classic example is the way that “family” has replaced “marriage” in public discourse, with the implication that all “lifestyles” are equally valuable, despite the fact that most people persist in wanting to get married. It has become taboo to describe homosexuality as a “perversion,” though this was precisely the word used in the 1960’s by the radical philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who was praising homosexuality as an expression of dissent). In today’s atmosphere of what Marcuse would call “repressive tolerance,” such language would be considered “stigmatizing.”

The sociological imperative behind the spread of “political correctness” is the fact that we no longer live in patriarchal, hierarchical, mono-cultural societies, which exhibit general, if unreflective, agreement on basic values. The pathetic efforts to inculcate a common sense of “Britishness” or “Dutchness” in multi-cultural societies, however well-intentioned, attest to the breakdown of a common identity.

Public language has thus become the common currency of cultural exchange, and everyone is on notice to mind one’s manners. The result is a multiplication of weasel words that chill political and moral debate, and that create a widening gap between public language and what many ordinary people think.

The defense of free speech is made no easier by the abuses of the popular press. We need free media to expose abuses of power. But investigative journalism becomes discredited when it is suborned to “expose” the private lives of the famous when no issue of public interest is involved. Entertaining gossip has mutated into an assault on privacy, with newspapers claiming that any attempt to keep them out of people’s bedrooms is an assault on free speech.

You know that a doctrine is in trouble when not even those claiming to defend it understand what it means. By that standard, the classic doctrine of free speech is in crisis. We had better sort it out quickly – legally, morally, and culturally – if we are to retain a proper sense of what it means to live in a free society.

Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, is Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University.

 

Deserving Neither Liberty Nor Safety: The Patriot Act & The FBI’s Long-Term Assault on Civil Liberties In America

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2011 at 9:34 am

Oldspeak:” In the wake of the Congress and Obama’s reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT ACT (sans Candidate Obama’s promised reviews and reforms, complete with ‘secret’ interpretations of the laws’ provisions) rest assured that violations of your 4th amendment rights will continue unabated.  “This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications. The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know…Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two U.S. citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a chilling precedent for the future, no matter what their supposed crimes.” –Fred Nagel.  Yet another disheartening example of President Obama extending and unchanging an unconstitutional, anti-democratic, police state promoting Bush era policy. It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish these tactics, secret police, the spying, the intimidation, the warrantless searches, from those used by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.   The “War On Americans” is still going strong, and Americans are losing. They’re losing HUGE.”

Related Story: FBI’s Counterterrorism Operations Scrutinizing Political Activists

 

Related Story: Spying on U.S Citizens — Uncle Sam turns his multi-billion dollar espionage network on U.S Citizens

By Fred Nagel @ Z Magazine:

Visiting Budapest in the early nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, I had a chance to talk to some Hungarians about their lives during and after the Soviet occupation. I was particularly interested in the secret police. Did they feel safer now that they couldn’t be taken away in the middle of the night for something they had said or written? One woman’s response was typical. “They would never
come for me,” she said. “They came for our writers, our intellectuals, but never for me; I was never scared.”

Perhaps the average American thought the same way about the USA PATRIOT Act, passed within a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Certainly members of Congress felt that way. The act was over 300 pages long, and most simply did not have time to read it in the rush for passage.

They should have. It gives our government the right to secretly investigate individuals and groups if they violate criminal laws and their actions “appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population…” Cutting a fence, throwing a stone, or crossing a police barrier in pursuit of civil rights, protecting the environment, or protesting the World Trade Organization would certainly qualify.

And only one member of a group needs to engage in this type of action for the whole group to be investigated. The USA PATRIOT Act does away with the need for a search warrant, the process that requires the government to show a judge some good reason for snooping in your house (reasonable cause that there is evidence relevant to a crime). This assault on the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance, has some startling ramifications. The FBI can not only search your home or business, but also listen to your phone conversations, monitor your computer and Internet use, and search your
medical, financial, library, and academic records. All this without ever letting you know.

As an example, librarians were put on notice that it is a violation of law to let any library user know that his/her records have ever been checked. And hundreds of libraries report that records have been checked, although they are forbidden to reveal the specifics. There can be little doubt that homes have also been searched, patient records copied, etc. since passage of this act. Could my house or
computer be searched simply because I wrote this article? In the brave, new world of the USA PATRIOT Act, anything is possible.

Indefinite imprisonment without charges and without evidence used to be unthinkable as well. But the USA PATRIOT Act allows this for non-citizens who are members of a designated “terrorist organization.” Moreover, the FBI gets to label any group it wants as supporting terrorism. Did you give money to the African National Congress in its fight against apartheid in South Africa? Did you support CISPES, an organization trying to change U.S. policy in El Salvador and Central America? If you did and you are not a citizen, you could join the thousands who have been rounded up, questioned, and held in indefinite detention, without charges and without access to legal representation. Two U.S. citizens have also been imprisoned in this manner, establishing a chilling precedent for the future, no matter what their supposed crimes. The line has clearly been crossed, and as a citizen of this country,
you can be locked up and denied your most basic rights, based on evidence you may never even find out about.

Secret military tribunals have been set up to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism, with the death penalty a distinct possibility. Even U.S. citizens who are allowed access to a lawyer may have their conversations monitored if the attorney general “suspects” that terrorist activity is involved. Good-bye to another very basic right we have come to expect, that of attorney/client
privilege. The Total Information Awareness database, organized as part of the Bush Era’s Department of Homeland Security, was a omonous step toward a police state. Masterminded by Admiral John Poindexter (criminally convicted in 1990 for lying to Congress, destroying official documents, and obstruction of justice), this database would have collected every bit of information that existed on
every citizen in this country. A massive public outcry stopped that program before it was put into place. But since then, the goverment’s surveillance programs have multiplied dramatically, especially under Obama, who signed the extension of the USA PATRIOT Act without any reforms at all. Currently, the Justice Department is trying to get a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling against planting GPS devices without a warrant.

“Big deal,” you reply. “The FBI has been doing all this stuff for years. Where have you been?” Well, it has been doing this since 1908, when Congress first refused to authorize the FBI (at that time the Bureau of Investigation), explaining that “a system of spying upon and espionage of the people, such as has prevailed in Russia” was unacceptable in a free society. The president then created the FBI
while Congress was not in session.

The clearest and most reliable source of FBI history is the Church Committee Report, a congressional investigation of the Bureau conducted in 1975. According to this report, the FBI was in trouble by the 1920s when agents carried out the “Palmer Raids” that eventually rounded up 10,000 citizens in what was termed “indiscriminate arrests of innocent with the guilty” as well as “unlawful seizures by federal detectives.” The Church Committee also cited reports by legal scholars that “found federal agents guilty of using third-degree tortures, making illegal searches and arrests, using agents provocateurs.” A young man, J. Edgar Hoover, joined
the Bureau in time to take part in these raids .

By the 1950s Hoover, as head of the FBI, was one of the most powerful men in the country. He used his investigators to collect information on a broad range of public figures and had no scruples when it came to using that information to influence congressional votes or presidential decisions. It was under Hoover that COINTELPRO was born, a comprehensive system of surveillance that the Church Committee found “had no conceivable rational relationship to either national security or violent activity. The unexpressed major premise of much of COINTELPRO is that the Bureau has a role in maintaining the existing social order, and that its efforts should be aimed toward combating those who threaten that order.” Combating the civil rights movement, the American Indian Movement, and the anti-Vietnam War movement to be specific. The FBI served as thought police of the 1950s and 1960s.

The mindless destruction caused by COINTELPRO is still coming to light. Martin Luther King Jr. was a particular target. Over several years, the FBI wiretapped King’s home and office phones and put bugs in his hotel rooms. At the same time, it worked to deny him awards and honorary degrees, and even tried to prevent an audience with Pope Paul VI. Hoover was quick to exploit the results of the wiretaps, proof of King’s illicit affairs that he then had his agents mail to King’s supporters and to the media. Finally, the FBI mailed copies of bedroom tapes to King himself, along with an anonymous letter suggesting he commit suicide rather than having his wife, family, and the nation know about his marital infidelity.

The FBI vendetta against other African-American and Indian groups was just as brutal. Leonard Peltier sits in a federal prison today, framed for a murder that most historians doubt he committed. The role of the FBI in his extradition from Canada and the withholding of more than 12,000 FBI documents from his trial is another low point in the violation of civil liberties. Among the documents withheld was a ballistic test that proved that the fatal bullets could not have come from the gun tied to Mr. Peltier at the trial. According to Amnesty International, he is a “political prisoner” who should be “immediately and unconditionally released.”

The Church Committee Report was released in 1976. Senator Frank Church told the nation at that time that the FBI’s COINTELPRO had been “a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association.” He also reassured U.S. citizens “that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers a threat to the established order.”  But by 1980, things were back to normal for the FBI, at least according to Frank Varelli, who infiltrated a CISPES office in Dallas for the Bureau that year. In an in-depth statement to Congress in 1987, he revealed a complicated but all too familiar pattern of surveillance, theft, and dirty tricks directed at this legal and nonviolent organization.

CISPES was founded to promote peace in El Salvador. Specifically, it worked to expose U.S. military aid that funded right-wing death squads operating there. Varelli was hired by the FBI as part of an “international terrorism investigation,” but his tactics included the familiar cameras and sound equipment in bedrooms, this time as part of an attempt to smear and blackmail the Dallas head of CISPES, a nun by the name of Sister Linda Hajak. Varelli also provided the Salvadoran National Guard with lists of U.S. citizens traveling there “who were not friendly to Reagan policies.” Just one year before Varelli supplied these lists, three nuns and one church worker, all U.S. citizens, had been raped and murdered in El Salvador by members of this same National Guard. The FBI has admitted to launching this investigation from 1981 through 1985 but has refused to reveal on what legal authority it did so. More than 50 CISPES offices were broken into during this period. In 1990, it was the turn of the environmental movement. Two activists, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, were arrested and accused of making and transporting bombs, a charge the FBI knew was false. Historian and writer,Howard Zinn’s testimony in a successful lawsuit against the FBI says it all. “It seems clear that the history of the FBI is consistent with the charges that it sought to discredit and ‘neutralize’ Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, and the environmental cause they were working for, by smearing them publicly with sensational false charges of possession of a bomb,
and that it did not hesitate to violate their constitutional rights to achieve its ends.”

The fact that the average U.S. citizen is unaware of all of this is a testament to the FBI’s skill at public relations. Of course, the FBI has done some excellent crime fighting in its history. But even its campaign against the Mafia has been exaggerated in the media. Anti-crime efforts in places like Boston are now being exposed for what they were. The FBI  allied itself with certain crime families to arrest and take the credit for convicting members of other families. It was a little crime fighting and a lot of PR, a Hoover legacy that extends into the 21st century. How many movies and TV shows were influenced by the Bureau over the last 40 years? That is where you and I learned about the FBI. The FBI, as well as similar federal law enforcement agencies, has done a much better job of protecting us from dissent than of protecting us from crime for all these years. And as for terrorists, in the entire history of the FBI there were precious few of those caught among the tens of thousands detained, bugged, discredited, falsely charged, and publicly humiliated. Looking at the history of the FBI, is it any wonder that 19 men were able to board four domestic airliners and fly them with such deadly accuracy into their targets? They learned to fly at U.S. flight schools while the Bureau was busy tracking down and playing dirty tricks on students protesting free trade and the World Bank. Police forces all across this land have followed the
lead of the FBI in snooping.

The Denver Police Department revealed a 40-year program of gathering and storing information on the usual suspects: Sister Antonia Anthony, a 74-year-old nun who taught destitute Indians, and Shirley Whiteside, who with her husband ran a community soup kitchen. These were the types of people labeled “criminal extremists” in the database developed by Orion, a software company with ties to the Pentagon. When asked how more than 3,000 Denver citizens ended up with this label, the police said that it was up to each officer to “use his own judgment” in characterizing people. The label “criminal extremist” was often used when a person didn’t seem to fit any other category. There just doesn’t seem to be much hesitation when it comes to spying on and labeling this country’s citizens. It is done from the FBI all the way down to the local police.

On Friday, September 24, 2010, the FBI raided seven homes and an antiwar office. Fourteen activist in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan were also handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury. The usual groups were targeted: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. All had been involved in the antiwar marches at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
Tracy Molm was one of the activists targeted in the early morning raid.

“I heard a pounding on my door in my apartment complex; that was pretty bizarre. I opened the door and they shoved their way in saying ‘We are FBI agents and we have a warrant.’ I was in my bathrobe and they told me I had to sit on my couch, and they were going to search my apartment. They pulled my roommate and a friend out of her room and told them to sit on the couch too. They took my phone from me. And they took my computer. They proceeded to go through everything in our apartment. If we wanted to go to the bathroom, a FBI agent had to come with us. We were told we could leave, but couldn’t come back. “I was outraged and stunned. I never thought in my wildest dreams that this could happen. Everything I have ever done has been around peace and justice issues around the world, and particularly U.S. foreign policy. So it was really surprising. I was on a delegation to the West Bank, in the occupied territories in 2004, which is six years ago. And they said this is in regards to that.” I have never much liked Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote about civil liberties: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It seemed a little elitist, suggesting that some people haven’t earned the right to enjoy freedom of expression. Perhaps they have no need for it, like the woman in Budapest saying that the secret police would never come for her. But maybe Franklin was simply saying he had done his part and the rest was up to us.

In many ways, we have failed Ben Franklin and we have failed ourselves. I like to think that there is still time to win back our basic civil liberties in the land of the free, home of the brave. To get involved, make a donation or find out more go to http://www.stopfbi.net.
Fred Nagel is an activist writer, filmmaker,and radio show host ; his website is classwars.org.

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

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.”

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.

Your Tax Dollars Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Oldspeak:“This new fangled “Two Minutes Hate” is downright frightening. From Emmanuel Goldstein to Osama bin Laden, hatred and fear endure endlessly. “You would not expect a Democratic administration to fund right-wing groups. And yet we continue to have hard-right, Islamophobic speakers and companies being paid taxpayer dollars to promote racist doctrines that undermine U.S. national security policy concerning Islam and the Muslim world. Policy expert after policy expert point out that framing our counterterrorism efforts as a war against Islam is a recipe for building increased resentment among Muslims, as well as a potent recruiting tool for those who would like to carry out violent attacks against us. This kind of demonizing breaks down communication between law enforcement agents and Muslim communities, which have proven to be strong allies in the rare instances of domestic extremism. Not only does it threaten to erode basic civil liberties, it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of worship.” –Thom Cincotta

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

News personalities, politicians, self-appointed experts on the Muslim world, and law enforcement and intelligence officials, as well as the Christian right, have successfully demonized Muslims in the United States since the attacks of 2001. It is acceptable to say things openly about Muslims that could never be said about any other ethnic group. And as the economy continues to unravel, as we face the possibility of revenge attacks by Islamic extremists, perhaps on American soil, the plight of Muslims is beginning to mirror that of targeted ethnic minority groups on the eve of the war in the former Yugoslavia, or Jews in the dying days of the Weimar Republic.

The major candidates for the Republican nomination for the presidency, including Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, along with television personalities such as Bill Maher, routinely employ hate talk against Muslims as a way to attract votes or viewers. Right-wing radio and cable news, including Christian radio and television, along with websites such as Jihad Watchand FrontPage, spew toxic filth about Muslims over the airwaves and the Internet. But perhaps most ominously—as pointed out in “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace,”a report by Political Research Associates—a cadre of right-wing institutions that peddle themselves as counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world has been indoctrinating thousands of police, intelligence and military personnel in nationwide seminars. These seminars, run by organizations such as Security Solutions International, The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, and International Counter-Terrorism Officers Association, embrace gross and distorted stereotypes and propagate wild conspiracy theories. And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training—the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative—which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.

“You would not expect a Democratic administration to fund right-wing groups,” Thom Cincotta, a civil liberties attorney and the author of the Political Research Associates report, told me, “and yet we continue to have hard-right, Islamophobic speakers and companies being paid taxpayer dollars to promote racist doctrines that undermine U.S. national security policy concerning Islam and the Muslim world. Policy expert after policy expert point out that framing our counterterrorism efforts as a war against Islam is a recipe for building increased resentment among Muslims, as well as a potent recruiting tool for those who would like to carry out violent attacks against us. This kind of demonizing breaks down communication between law enforcement agents and Muslim communities, which have proven to be strong allies in the rare instances of domestic extremism. Not only does it threaten to erode basic civil liberties, it threatens freedom of expression and freedom of worship.”

The effects of this campaign of racial hatred are being felt throughout the Muslim community. Those with Muslim names are routinely harassed at airports, and many who wear traditional Muslim dress report mounting cases of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Muslim children endure taunts in schools. Muslims complain of intrusive surveillance, unconstitutional profiling and frequent mistreatment by law enforcement. The practice of Islam, especially in its traditional forms, is now viewed by many as a sign of criminal intent. And with the rise of the surveillance and security state—we now have 854,000 people working in our domestic security apparatus and 800,000 more employed as police and emergency personnel—national law is being turned into an instrument of overt repression against a religious minority.

Those making war on Islam are ignorant of the practices and beliefs of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. The Muslim community is not a monolith. It is composed of numerous ethnic, national, cultural and racial groups that often have little in common and in some cases are antagonistic. Of the some 6 million Muslims in the United States, only 5 to 10 percent define themselves as religious. And those groups that express political versions of Islam—the Jamaat al-Islamiyya out of South Asia and the Salafis—are a tiny and marginalized minority.

There is now an industry of well-funded hatemongers producing seminars, courses and books on Islam. Walid Shoebat, one of the stars of the circuit, gives a presentation titled “The Jihad Mindset and How to Defeat It: Why We Want to Kill You.” Shoebat, who bills himself as a reformed terrorist and who speaks to law enforcement officials around the country, tells his listeners that mainstream Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are terrorist fronts and that Islamists are by nature violent extremists and pedophiles. Shoebat, like most of the other “reformed” Muslims trotted out to speak at these events, has embraced fundamentalist Christianity. He denounces Islam as the religion of the Antichrist. Shoebat is scheduled to be one of the featured speakers Wednesday at the 2nd Annual South Dakota Homeland Security Conference in Rapid City, sponsored by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

The poison of this rhetoric was on display a few days ago when a trustee of City University of New York blocked the playwright Tony Kushner, who is Jewish, from receiving an honorary doctorate because of Kushner’s criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. The trustee, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, labeling Kushner “an extremist,” told The New York Times that the Palestinians “who worship death for their children are not human.”

I had dinner in Berkeley recently with my friend Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, an Islamic scholar and the co-founder of Zaytuna College, who has watched the steady deterioration of Muslims’ civil rights since the 2001 attacks. He argues that the stereotypes employed against Muslims mirror, with a different iconography and language, the Cold War Red-baiting that dismantled the militant labor movement and ended all serious challenges to unfettered corporate capitalism. The Red-baiting disempowered a dissident segment of American society and legalized its persecution. Red-baiting turned socialists, anarchists, populists, communists and radicals, who relentlessly challenged the orthodoxies of the permanent war economy and assault on civil liberties, into pariahs and scapegoats. It worked once. It could work again.

The portrayal of Muslims as mortal enemies serves the interests of the expanding security state and the war industry, which consume half of all federal discretionary spending. The “Muslim threat” propagates the culture of fear and ensures our political passivity. Yusuf calls the attacks on American Muslim leadership and Islamic charities “Swiftboating,” in reference to the right-wing smearing of John Kerry’s war record when the senator was running for president in 2004. Create doubt in people’s minds about the allegiances of Muslim leaders and you effectively undermine the entire community. He says these caricatures of Muslims as evil terrorists become effective tools in justifying the ongoing occupations and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proxy wars in Yemen and Pakistan, and the suspension of basic civil liberties at home. Israel, as well as its supporters in the United States, routinely employs the same racist cant to excuse Israeli war crimes and deny the legitimate rights of Palestinians.

Nazi portrayals of Jews, Yusuf points out, bear a disturbing resemblance to modern portrayals of Muslims. The goal that some of these demagogues have, he said, especially in a time of economic collapse, is to divert widespread rage toward Muslims, just as the leadership of Serbia diverted rage toward Muslims and Croats when that nation’s economy collapsed.

“I was completely humiliated by one of these Homeland Security officials at the San Francisco Airport recently,” Yusuf told me. “He knew who I was. He got more and more antagonistic. He searched all my things. It was one question after another. ‘Who were you visiting?’ he asked. ‘Where were you?’ It was done in front of my wife and children. He would not let up. We had somebody else’s bag who was traveling with us and who had just gone through security. He said, looking at the bag, ‘What kind of a name is that, Hussani?’ I said, ‘It is an American name.’ He looked at me and said: ‘Don’t get smart with me. You’re a big-shot guy. You’re not stupid. You know exactly what I mean. What is that? Is it an Arab name?’ I said, ‘Look, it could be many, many nationalities.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’m asking you about this one.’ He was talking to me like this. After about 30 minutes of this, and I don’t know why I was putting up with this, I guess I was hoping each time would be the last, I finally said, ‘You can arrest me. You can do whatever you want. But I’m not answering another one of these inane questions.’ He tossed my passport at me and said, ‘Have a nice day.’ And I am wondering, did he just go through one of these training seminars?”

Yusuf filed a complaint with his senator and the Homeland Security Department. Homeland Security officials told him they would investigate the matter, and that if he could notify them in advance they would escort him through the airport security line. “But,” he said, “the problem with that approach is it essentially turns us into a Third World country where influential people are treated well, but others suffer the brunt of a regime’s brutality if they are suspect. That’s what happens when I go to counties in the Arab world. They meet me at the airport. I get treated like a VIP. But then Gulam, the little greengrocer from Peshawar, who came here as a refugee 15 years ago from the Afghani war, he gets treated like crap, because he doesn’t have friends or influence. Our creed is supposed to be ‘Liberty and justice for all’ and that’s all I want.”

Yusuf tells Muslims in the United States that they should attempt to understand those who readily embrace these stereotypes. “We can’t demonize those who attend rallies where they demonize us, because in the end the people who attend these rallies are also victims,” he said. “They are victims of these demagogues with bully pulpits. People are scared. They are losing their jobs. Their mortgages have gone into foreclosure. They are angry. Demagogues always arise in these situations to use and direct anger. The Muslim community is just an easy target.”