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

Posts Tagged ‘Violation of 1st Amendment Rights’

Newly-Released Documents Confirm Federal Agencies Coordinated Violent Crackdown Occupy Protesters

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Oldspeak:”China violently cracks down on protesters. Iran violently cracks down on protesters. North Korea violently cracks down on protesters. Syria violently cracks down on protesters. The United States violently cracks down on protesters. Ignore the populist rhetoric. The Obama Administration is no friend of the 99%. It has been working actively to quash dissent, restrict protest, and silence whisleblowers. “What these documents are beginning to reveal is also the coordination between federal law enforcement agencies and private corporate entities representing the 1% that wanted to see the Occupy movement removed from public view and shut out of America’s parks.”Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. This is what inverted totalitarian kleptocracy looks like. Government and corporate interests working in concert to deprive the people of constitutionally guaranteed rights.  At some point we’ll have to awaken to the reality that our beloved country is not that much different from the ones we’re told demonize. “Freedom Is Slavery”

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Wikileaks: Internal Report Indicates U.S. Department Of Homeland Security Monitoring Occupy Wall Street Protests

Obama Administration Coordinated Local Police Crackdowns On Occupy Encampments Nationwide

Occupy Wall Street “Counterinsurgency” Has Infiltrated Protests; Seeks To Diffuse Message

FBI To Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge Of Its Spy Campaign Targeting American Activists

By The Partnership For Civil Justice Fund:

Two days before the NYPD’s eviction of the Occupy Wall Street encampment from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, Brookfield Properties’ security was in direct communications and sharing information with the US Park Police in Washington DC, and communicating with other cities around the country, according to newly released internal documents from the National Park Service.

The documents were released late Friday to the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) in response to the civil rights legal group’s FOIA demands to the NPS, FBI, CIA, DHS and other federal law enforcement agencies seeking information about the role of Federal agencies in the coordinated nationwide crackdown that led to the eviction of Occupy encampments in cities throughout the United States. The request was made also on behalf of author and filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee The PCJF is making the documents immediately available for review, and highlighting key initial findings .

“When the PCJF issued this FOIA request we wanted to uncover and expose whether local government and local law enforcement agencies were working in a coordinated way with the federal government to suppress and shut down the Occupy Movement which had inspired the country starting in September, 2011,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “What these documents are beginning to reveal is also the coordination between law enforcement agencies and private corporate entities representing the 1% that wanted to see the Occupy movement removed from public view and shut out of America’s parks.”

These initially released documents show:

  • The private corporate entity Brookfield Properties, which manages Zuccotti Park, had its security agency in communication with cities across the country about police actions designed to evict the Occupy movement and sought information as to Park Police plans to evict in D.C. 48 hours before OWS was evicted.
  • U.S. Park Police were communicating step by step, as they took action in regard to Occupy DC, with the Secret Service, DHS, and other police agencies as well as personnel affiliated with LEO.gov, the FBI’s nationally integrated network and alert system involving all aspects of civilian law enforcement, intelligence agencies and the military. As its website states, “LEO supports the FBI’s ten priorities by providing cost-effective, time-critical national alerts and information sharing to public safety, law enforcement, antiterrorism and intelligence agencies in support of the Global War on Terrorism.”

It is also noteworthy that the DHS has not produced the communications they participated in, in response to FOIA demands, confirming the PCJF’s assertion that the search they have conducted is inadequate. The PCJF has refused to narrow its request to DHS’ initial search and is demanding further disclosure.

More documents are being released to the PCJF. Please click here to be sure that you receive notice as documents become available. To read more about OWS FOIA updates visit www.JusticeOnline.org/ows.

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The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) is a not-for-profit constitutional rights legal and educational organization which, among other things, seeks to ensure constitutional accountability within police practices and government transparency in operations. The PCJF filed the class action suit challenging the NYPD’s October 1 mass arrest of more than 700 protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge. It has brought class action cases in which more than 1,000 persons were falsely arrested during protests in Washington, D.C., resulting in settlements totaling $22 million and major changes in police practices. The PCJF previously brought the successful litigation in New York challenging the 2004 ban on protests in the Great Lawn of Central Park. It is counsel with the National Lawyers Guild in Oakland, CA challenging police mass arrest tactics. It won a unanimous ruling at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finding the MPD’s unprecedented military-style police checkpoint program unconstitutional. The PCJF previously uncovered and disclosed that the D.C. police employed an unlawful domestic spying and agent provocateur program in which officers were sent on long-term assignments posing as political activists and infiltrated lawful and peaceful groups. For more information go to: www.JusticeOnline.org.

 

 

1st Amendment Rights To Petition & Assemble To Be Suspended: U.S. Congress Passes ‘Trespass Bill’ Making Protest Illegal

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Oldspeak:” Last Monday, The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of ‘The Federal Restricted Buildings And Grounds Improvement Act of 2011’. The bill will allow the government to bring charges against Americans exercising their rights as protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America. So not only can you be subjected to the indignity of being labeled a low-level terrorist for daring to petition your government for grievances, but protest itself, and other ‘disruptive activity’ in the presence or vicinity of government officials, buildings, & ‘official functions’ is being deemed illegal. “Criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights” –United States Representative Justin Amash.Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.

By RT News:

Just when you thought the government couldn’t ruin the First Amendment any further: The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests in instances where some government officials are nearby, whether or not you even know it.

The US House of Representatives voted 388-to-3 in favor of H.R. 347 late Monday, a bill which is being dubbed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. In the bill, Congress officially makes it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, which, on the surface, seems not just harmless and necessary, but somewhat shocking that such a rule isn’t already on the books. The wording in the bill, however, extends to allow the government to go after much more than tourists that transverse the wrought iron White House fence.

Under the act, the government is also given the power to bring charges against Americans engaged in political protest anywhere in the country.

Under current law, White House trespassers are prosecuted under a local ordinance, a Washington, DC legislation that can bring misdemeanor charges for anyone trying to get close to the president without authorization. Under H.R. 347, a federal law will formally be applied to such instances, but will also allow the government to bring charges to protesters, demonstrators and activists at political events and other outings across America.

The new legislation allows prosecutors to charge anyone who enters a building without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function with a federal offense if Secret Service is on the scene, but the law stretches to include not just the president’s palatial Pennsylvania Avenue home. Under the law, any building or grounds where the president is visiting — even temporarily — is covered, as is any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”

It’s not just the president who would be spared from protesters, either.

Covered under the bill is any person protected by the Secret Service. Although such protection isn’t extended to just everybody, making it a federal offense to even accidentally disrupt an event attended by a person with such status essentially crushes whatever currently remains of the right to assemble and peacefully protest.

Hours after the act passed, presidential candidate Rick Santorum was granted Secret Service protection. For the American protester, this indeed means that glitter-bombing the former Pennsylvania senator is officially a very big no-no, but it doesn’t stop with just him. Santorum’s coverage under the Secret Service began on Tuesday, but fellow GOP hopeful Mitt Romney has already been receiving such security. A campaign aide who asked not to be identified confirmed last week to CBS News that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sought Secret Service protection as well. Even former contender Herman Cain received the armed protection treatment when he was still in the running for the Republican Party nod.

In the text of the act, the law is allowed to be used against anyone who knowingly enters or remains in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so, but those grounds are considered any area where someone — rather it’s President Obama, Senator Santorum or Governor Romney — will be temporarily visiting, whether or not the public is even made aware. Entering such a facility is thus outlawed, as is disrupting the orderly conduct of “official functions,” engaging in disorderly conduct “within such proximity to” the event or acting violent to anyone, anywhere near the premises. Under that verbiage, that means a peaceful protest outside a candidate’s concession speech would be a federal offense, but those occurrences covered as special event of national significance don’t just stop there, either. And neither does the list of covered persons that receive protection.

Outside of the current presidential race, the Secret Service is responsible for guarding an array of politicians, even those from outside America. George W Bush is granted protection until ten years after his administration ended, or 2019, and every living president before him is eligible for life-time, federally funded coverage. Visiting heads of state are extended an offer too, and the events sanctioned as those of national significance — a decision that is left up to the US Department of Homeland Security — extends to more than the obvious. While presidential inaugurations and meeting of foreign dignitaries are awarded the title, nearly three dozen events in all have been considered a National Special Security Event (NSSE) since the term was created under President Clinton. Among past events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list are Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, most State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

With Secret Service protection awarded to visiting dignitaries, this also means, for instance, that the federal government could consider a demonstration against any foreign president on American soil as a violation of federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive to whatever function is occurring.

When thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Chicago this spring for the 2012 G8 and NATO summits, they will also be approaching the grounds of a National Special Security Event. That means disruptive activity, to whichever court has to consider it, will be a federal offense under the act.

And don’t forget if you intend on fighting such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — right?

On the bright side, does this mean that the law could apply to law enforcement officers reprimanded for using excessive force on protesters at political events? Probably. Of course, some fear that the act is being created just to keep those demonstrations from ever occurring, and given the vague language on par with the loose definition of a “terrorist” under the NDAA, if passed this act is expected to do a lot more harm to the First Amendment than good.

United States Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) was one of only three lawmakers to vote against the act when it appeared in the House late Monday. Explaining his take on the act through his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash writes, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”

“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” adds the representative.

Now that the act has overwhelmingly made it through the House, the next set of hands to sift through its pages could very well be President Barack Obama; the US Senate had already passed the bill back on February 6. Less than two months ago, the president approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, essentially suspending habeas corpus from American citizens. Could the next order out of the Executive Branch be revoking some of the Bill of Rights? Only if you consider the part about being able to assemble a staple of the First Amendment, really. Don’t worry, though. Obama was, after all, a constitutional law professor. When he signed the NDAA on December 31, he accompanied his signature with a signing statement that let Americans know that, just because he authorized the indefinite detention of Americans didn’t mean he thought it was right.

Should President Obama suspend the right to assemble, Americans might expect another apology to accompany it in which the commander-in-chief condemns the very act he authorizes. If you disagree with such a decision, however, don’t take it to the White House. Sixteen-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue and the vicinity is, of course, covered under this act.

Arrested For Meditating? Why It’s Radical To Stay Nonviolent In The Face Of State-Sponsored Brutality

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Oldspeak:”Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps. It is time for the spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual so that we can have total revolution of the human spirit.  We need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit. Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence –Pancho Ramos-Stierle

By Sarah van Gelder @ YES! Magazine:

Occupy Oakland has been at the forefront of some of Occupy’s most visible actions—a massive general strike on November 2, a shutdown of the Port of Oakland, and attempts to occupy vacant buildings. And it’s become known for the brutality of police actions, especially the case of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was hit by a tear-gas canister fired by police and suffered a severe head injury.

It has also been the center of much controversy over tactics—especially the tactics of the Black Bloc. These tactics are turning the San Francisco Bay area public against the Occupy movement, according to a report in the East Bay Express. Anonymous recently accused Black Bloc members of being misguided, harmful, and perhaps agent provocateurs, and threatened those involved in vandalism in a video posted on YouTube: “Consider this an act of diplomacy before we start doxing your asses all over the Internet and paying special attention to personally ruining your lives.”

We turned to Pancho Ramos Stierle for some insights into the question of Occupy tactics. Pancho was arrested Nov. 14 2011, during the police raid on Occupy Oakland, while meditating. Pancho came to the United States from Mexico to study astrophysics in the Ph.D. program at the University of California, Berkeley, but left the program out of opposition to the university’s research related to nuclear weapons development.

We talked to him about police violence in Oakland, his own arrest, deportations, and, especially, his insights into the controversies over tactics in the Occupy movement.

Sarah van Gelder: Could you tell the story of what happened the night that the Oakland site was raided by the police and you were arrested?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Since the Occupy movement started, we’ve been seeing the Oakland police escalating their violence.

The first raid happened early in the morning, and the city of Oakland spent $2 million on rubber bullets, tear gas, and helicopters to repress people who were peacefully gathering. In the same two days not one or two but five elementary schools were closed. Today, you can see an elementary school that has been converted into a police station here in Oakland.

I’m telling you this to set the tone for what happened the day we were arrested.

We knew the city of Oakland was bringing police from all around and they were staying in the Coliseum, which is one mile from here.

So we said, okay, if they want to escalate their violence, how do we escalate our nonviolence? On the night before the raid, we heard the helicopters and the hundreds of police that were descending on the Oakland downtown. So at 3:30 a.m., we bicycled to the Ogawa-Grant Plaza. We wanted to set a tone of positive energy and also to claim the space.

We’d been meditating and doing yoga in public parks for the last eight months because we want to let people know that these spaces are our spaces. We want to bring calmness and a different energy.

So if you have the riot police coming with tear gas and pepper spray and all their weapons, we have a more powerful weapon, courage and stillness—it’s kindness, it’s compassion, it’s generosity, it’s the small things, but when you add them up that makes a pretty strong army.

So we sat in receptive silence from 3:30 a.m. to the time when we were arrested around 6 a.m.

Sarah van Gelder: So what happened during the actual arrest?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: On Mondays we practice silence, and the police officer who arrested us thought that we were deaf because we were not speaking. So he got a notebook and a pen. It was very considerate of him, and I could feel his energy shift a little, and so when he gave me the notebook I wrote, “On Mondays, I practice silence, but I would like you to hear that I love you.”

When he read that, he had this big smile and looked me in the eye and he said, “Thank you. But, well, if you don’t move, you’re going to be arrested. Are you moving or not?”

So I wrote back, “I am meditating.” He said, “OK, arrest them one by one.”

That was one of my favorite moments from the whole ordeal.

Sarah van Gelder: Who else was sitting with you?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: My housemate Adelaja. We are also now on a mission to bring together people with different skin colors. He’s a six foot five beautiful brother with black skin, and I have brown skin, and we have another brother here with white skin, so we’re trying to be together.

Sarah van Gelder: Tell me about your experience in prison. Were you able to keep your nonviolent witness going while you were behind bars?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Before being in jail, it was hard for me to understand what Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi meant when they said that prisons are the temples of freedom. It’s clear that they can do many things to your body and try to oppress you and use psychological violence. But there’s something so strong inside each of us, the human spirit, that they can not reach. They can put you in shackles and cold cement cells, and feed you horrible food, and put you in solitary confinement, but there’s no way that they can reach the human spirit.

That was powerful—to find once again that that part is sacred. I think that was the only thing that kept me sane and healthy in that very dehumanizing environment.

That’s what I would like to share with people—that it is time for the spiritual people to get active and the activist people to get spiritual so that we can have total revolution of the human spirit. Because we have the idea that the self-indulgent people are just meditating—they are going to caves and meditation centers while all this madness is happening, or you have people at these meditation center that are asking how can you bring peace and calm and harmony to the world if you do not have that in your heart?

I think that we need both now, and that we need to combine this inner revolution with the outer revolution to have the total revolution of the spirit.

Then you can build the alternatives to a collapsing system built on structural violence.

I believe that nine out of ten actions must be creating the community that we want to live in—we’re talking about permaculture, independent media, restorative justice, gift economies, free currencies, and preventive medicine. By doing all that, we make ourselves stronger.

If you are creating true alternatives to the collapsing, rotten system then you will naturally come into conflict with the power structure. Then the political action becomes necessary. So I think one out of ten actions should be obstructive—that is boycotts and protests and marches and nonviolent civil disobedience.

But when we cultivate inner awareness, it’s easy to see that what we need to do is spend most of our time creating the communities that we want to live in.

Sarah van Gelder: Can you give me an example of how that plays out in movements for change?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Gandhi showed us that the spinning wheel—part of the constructive program—was the center of the movement for the independence of the part of the planet we call India.

At the time, the part of the planet we call India was selling cotton to the part of the planet we call England and buying back clothes. Gandhi figured out that if they started making their own clothes, then they could become self reliant, autonomous, and every single person could get plugged into this—women, men, elderly people, young people—social status really doesn’t matter. So that created the foundation of a national movement.

And once they had the alternative, they had bonfires with British clothing, and he said every person needs to spend at least one hour a day in the chain of creating your own clothing.

Well now, a hundred years later, many of us believe that Gandhi’s spinning wheel of the 21st century is healthy and local food. Many of us believe healthy and local food is the foundation of social justice, and anyone can get plugged in, from compost to planting, watering the crops to going to the farmers market to cooking healthy food or just eating it or washing dishes anyone can spend an hour a day— men, women, doesn’t matter social strata can get plugged into this chain.

Once we have that constructive program, when we’re solid in that, we can confront the pollution- and violence-based system more effectively. But we also need an inner “spinning wheel,” so we must spend a couple of hours each day in receptive silence—any silent spiritual practice that brings awareness and equanimity to our hearts and minds—and put the inner revolution and the outer revolution together. Then we will be more than ready to make a bonfire out of passports, visas, and the devastating genetically modified Monsanto seeds.

Sarah van Gelder: What do you say to Occupiers trying to negotiate differences in views about nonviolence?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: Stop negotiating and start embodying the principles you believe in.

Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps—for example, facilitating the growth of the communities we want to live in or realizing that the most efficient tools against a system based on greed, fear, hurry, and violence, are generosity, courage, slowing-down, and loving-kindness.

When the puzzle gets complicated, I always remember: our means are our ends in the making.

To all occupiers and fellow satyagrahis I say: Liberate ourselves from the shackles of wage slavery. Liberate our minds and hearts from the oppression of colonialism. Let’s occupy our beings with courage and loving-kindness.

Sarah van Gelder: What should people know about Occupy Oakland, which has been confronted with some of the most police violence in the U.S., but has also had groups engage in property damage?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: “Occupy Oakland” has been happening for many decades.

Most of the people with black and brown skin have been surviving the historical pain of racism and oppression for generations. When you have “food deserts”—perhaps a better description is “food apartheids”—and “liquor store forests” in Oakland, what can we expect? When police kill young fathers with impunity—like Oscar Grant—and harass hard-working, honest people—like migrants; when gangsters terrorize the community with shootings; when the corporate media broadcasts fear as much as they can; when the city of Oakland converts an elementary school into a police station, is there a clearer picture that this system is flawed?

Violence is only a manifestation of a deep conflict. Violence is an expression of pain. It is a monologue offered by gangs, including the police—the most organized gang defending the interests of a few.

The Native American peoples have been saying for centuries, “Beware what’s happening to us because it could happen to you.” Well, now people of black, brown, and white skin are experiencing it. It is the 99 percent.

The tear gas canister that fractured the skull of brother Scott Olsen—an Iraq veteran with white skin—wasn’t a random shot by a police officer targeting the body of the 24-year-old defiant veteran. It was a choice made by the state to impose, with violence, submission on movements that resist their decisions. A choice to threaten all of those who want to resist arrangements that suppress issues like meaningful livelihood, public health, security, housing, and public learning.

In these so called “democracies” of today, state sovereignty takes the police form. There are police operations against all kind of “enemies.” In these operations, not only the social movements are criminalized, but also whole categories of citizens, entire communities, and even ethnic groups.

The ultimate healing will come when we all stop cooperating with the rotten system and when we start understanding that we are the 99 percent facilitating the healing of the 100 percent, one heart at a time.

If we disobey with compassion and love in our hearts and minds, if we spend 90 percent of our energy creating the alternatives of a just, free, and liberated world, we will discover the joy to rebel against an imposed fear. We will be free from modern poverty and its two kinds of slaves: the intoxicated—the prisoners to the addiction of consumption, and those who aspire to get intoxicated—the prisoners of envy. It will be clear that our misery isn’t caused by the siblings in corporations or most of the police officers or the army, but by our obedience to a flawed rule.

We ourselves must be strengthened and changed, for we have to experience an inner independence even before the corporations, police states, and governments grant the outward one.

Sarah van Gelder: What comes next for you? You’ve been arrested and the fact that you are in the United States without documents has become very public. What will you do now?

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing. We as citizens of the world don’t need silly papers and visas and passports—these are things that are totally new in the human consciousness. We paint imaginary lines in the dirt, and we need to erase those soon. So it really doesn’t matter if I am here or if I am in the part of the planet we call Mexico. We really need to step up as citizens of the world.

For example, right here in California the University of California is still involved in the development of nuclear weapons. So as citizens of the world we need to do everything within our reach to stop that madness.

You can not deport the Milky Way from the sky; you cannot deport the Sun. If they send me to another part of this planet, great! I’ll keep working. What’s going to happen if I’m in Oaxaca or Chiapas or somewhere else in the part of the planet we call Mexico, I have no idea, sister, but I know that I’m going to keep trying to bring this message that the Earth is but one country and all living beings its citizens.

When I was in the detention center, there were 42 people in a very tiny space — like two people per square meter. And I met this man, this dad who has been working for 15 years in construction in Oakland, and he has a nine year-old and a five year-old, and he was going to be deported because he didn’t have documents. So when you look into the eyes of that brother or talk to his children, there’s no way that you cannot do something.

Sarah van Gelder: I was at your arraignment hearing in Oakland and I saw so many people there who loved you so much.

Pancho Ramos-Stierle: I’m happy you were able to witness—and you know what this is, sister Sarah? We are the early adopters of a revolution of values, and we are the evidence that the totalitarianism of corporate capitalism—the machine that has devastated the planet and human beings—we are the demonstration that system doesn’t work and that we need a new system.

Our movement is trying to give birth and move from scarcity to abundance, from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution, from isolation to community, from perfection to wholeness, from terror to fearlessness, from violence to courage and respect and love, and this is the key.

The emergence of the new paradigm and our victory is not putting people in power but power in people.

Sarah van Gelder is Executive Editor of YES! Magazine where you can read her blog.

© 2012 YES! Magazine All rights reserved.

SOPA & PIPA Shelved But Is ACTA Unstoppable? Little Known International Censorship Treaty Crafted In Secret Without Public Debate

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 11:13 am

Oldspeak:ACTA IS A THREAT TO FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND OPEN ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE.  It contains global IP provisions as restrictive or worse than anything contained in SOPA and PIPA. It goes much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world. The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes, with unelected bureaucrats working closely with entertainment industry lobbyists to craft the provisions in the treaty. We’ve already signed on to the treaty. All it needs now is Senate ratification.” –E.D. Cain “…after the successes of the Internet in enabling revolutions to start and proceed, there is a raw political desire to curb the power of the web. This isn’t based on money, but on fear.” –Sue Gee The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. Secretary Of State (1977-1981) The scientific elite are relentlessly working to assert more and more control over access and dissemination of information. A free and open internet must be closed and restricted to achieve those ends. The people will need to stay informed and vigilant against these dire threats to our freedoms.

By E.D. Cain @ Forbes Magazine:

When sites like Wikipedia and Reddit banded together for a major blackout January 18th, the impact was felt all the way to Washington D.C. The blackout had lawmakers running from the controversial anti-piracy legislation, SOPA and PIPA, which critics said threatened freedom of speech online.

Unfortunately for free-speech advocates, censorship is still a serious threat.

Few people have heard of ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, but the provisions in the agreement are just as pernicious as anything we saw in SOPA. Worse, the agreement spans virtually all of the countries in the developed world, including all of the EU, the United States, Switzerland and Japan.

Many of these countries have already signed or ratified it, and the cogs are still turning. The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes, with unelected bureaucrats working closely with entertainment industry lobbyists to craft the provisions in the treaty. The Bush administration started the process, but the Obama administration has aggressively pursued it.

Indeed, we’ve already signed on to the treaty. All it needs now is Senate ratification. The time to stop the treaty is now, and we may need a second global internet blackout to call attention to it.

Here’s a quick video primer:

ACTA bypasses the sovereign laws of participating nations, forcing ISP’s across the globe to adopt these draconian measures.

Worse, it goes much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world.

Despite ACTA’s secrecy, criticism of the agreement has been widespread. Countries like India and Brazil have been vocal opponents of the agreement, claiming that it will do a great deal of harm to emerging economies.

I’ll have more on the agreement as it emerges. But to briefly sum up, ACTA contains global IP provisions as restrictive or worse than anything contained in SOPA and PIPA.

  • ACTA spans virtually all of the developed world, threatening the freedom of the internet as well as access to medication and food. The threat is every bit as real for those countries not involved in the process as the signatories themselves.
  • ACTA has already been signed by many countries including the US, but requires ratification in the EU parliament and the US Senate.
  • The entire monstrosity has been negotiated behind closed doors and kept secret from the public. Technocrats, beholden to the deep pockets of the entertainment lobby, have masked the agreement behind the misnomer of “anti-counterfeiting” when in fact it goes much, much further.

If you thought SOPA would break the internet, ACTA is much worse. And it could become law across the global economy without so much as a murmur of opposition.

Worse still, it’s not alone. Even more restrictive provisions exist in another trade agreement currently being hammered out by various nations.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, there are “other plurilateral agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which contains a chapter on IP enforcement that would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA. Similarly, negotiations over TPP are also held in secret and with little oversight by the public or civil society. These initiatives, negotiated without participation from civil society or the public, are an affront to a democratic world order. EFF will remain vigilant against these international initiatives that threaten to choke off creativity, innovation, and free speech, and will stand with EDRi, FFII, La Quadrature du Net and our other EU fellow traveller organizations in their campaign to defeat ACTA in the European Parliament in January.”

The global economy needs to be seen as separate from those nations which comprise the global community of states. Civil society and a free global economy are not the same thing as the bogeyman so often referred to simply as “globalism.”

The free flow of goods and information is as much threatened by the global state apparatus as it is assisted by it, and industries with a vested interested in maintaining the status quo through draconian protectionist measures are now threatening the last frontier of the truly free economy.

By threatening the internet and free speech, the entertainment industry threatens its own existence. But with only short-term profits in mind, this will not deter them.

Yes, our lawmakers fled from SOPA and PIPA when push came to shove, but they have ACTA to fall back on. Notably, few of them are speaking out against this even more dangerous treaty. Not surprisingly one of the lone voices of dissent is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who has spoken out against the treaty.

“It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law,” he wrote. “But regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law … the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent congressional approval.”

Even absent US participation, however, we should all be worried about the implications of this and other trade agreements on the global economy, the ripple effects of which would reach all of us regardless of geographical location.

Remember, when one of these bills or trade agreements falls, another rises up to take its place. ACTA has been in the works for several years. SOPA almost passed into law unopposed. The threat to civil society isn’t going away.

If you care about freedom of speech, or if you have participated in SOPA protests, please help spread the word about ACTA. You can sign a petition to stop it here.

By Sue Gee @ I-Programmer

Last Wednesday’s blackout by Wikipedia, Reddit and other sites raised awareness of PIPA and SOPA but there’s another threat to the open Internet, ACTA and has already been signed in US and elsewhere.

There has been jubilation about the fact that both the PIPA and SOPA bills that were being debated by the US Congress have stopped being an immediate menace.

Yes the action taken by Wikipedia had the desired effect, as did the signatures of the citizens who petitioned President Obama. However, in reality we should view the outcome as a temporary setback for the supporters of this legislation.

They will no doubt try again and we just have to hope that the next proposed legislation is less draconian.

The lasting achievement of the Internet Strike was that it alerted ordinary Internet users to the idea that there are freedoms we currently take for granted that could be blocked with widespread adverse affects.

But while many more people now know about SOPA and PIPA, how many have heard of ACTA – which by having the status of an international trade agreement rather than one country’s law has been introduced without the level of debate accorded to proposed legislation?

According to La Quadrature du Net, a French advocacy group that promotes the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet:

ACTA is one more offensive against the sharing of culture on the Internet. ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an agreement secretly negotiated by a small “club” of like-minded countries (39 countries, including the 27 of the European Union, the United States, Japan, etc). Negotiated instead of being democratically debated, ACTA bypasses parliaments and international organizations to dictate a repressive logic dictated by the entertainment industries.

La Quadrature says ACTA aims at imposing new criminal sanctions and online censorship in the name of copyright.

The US, Canada and many other countries have already signed the ACTA agreement and it was recently adopted by the European Union but it has yet to be debated by the European Parliament and so there is still a short window for protest against ACTA to prevent it being enacted.

Watch the video below to discover why we need to say No to ACTA and refer to La Quadrature’s Wiki to discover how to take action against it.

At this time the Internet is under more threat from sources that are alien to it, or worse fear it, than at any other. However, we are not good at spotting legislative controls that could harm what we do. Partly because it is a different technology and we don’t know the jargon, but mainly because stealth works in the favor of any party trying to pass restrictive legislature.

In the past most of the attempts to control the Internet have come from commercial interests, and piracy was its main target. Now, after the successes of the Internet in enabling revolutions to start and proceed, there is a raw political desire to curb the power of the web. This isn’t based on money, but on fear.

The big problem is that, even when we do notice, the ethos of the web works against us. The web should be open, information should be free and, even when Wikipediawent dark to protest against a bill that would clearly damage the Internet, manyWikipedians thought it was a bad thing for the most noble enterprise, an encyclopedia, to get embroiled in politics.

We desperately need a less idealistic view of the web, one that can defend its freedoms while minimizing the evil within.

 

For more information please visit:

EFF’s International Issue Page on ACTA: https://www.eff.org/issues/acta

European Digital Rights’ (EDRi) coverage here: www.edri.org/stopacta

La Quadrature du Net’s coverage here: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/acta

Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure’s (FFII) blog on ACTA http://acta.ffii.org/

Twitter hash tags: #ACTA

Twitter accounts:

@StopActaNow

@ffii

@EDRi_org

@laquadrature

Tarek Mehanna Convicted For Words, Not Deeds, After 3 Years Surveillance, Failed Inducement To Commit Terrorist Acts & Turn Informant For FBI

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Oldspeak:“Ripped from the pages of “1984” we see the use of the “material support for terrorism clause”  to suppress unpopular ideas, dissent, free speech and in effect ‘disappear’ people.  This man has been in solitary confinement for 793 days. This man could be you. You can by law be detained, tried, convicted, and sent to jail for the rest of your life for what you say, the media you consume, and who you associate with if it is deemed ‘terrorist’ in nature. Let that sink in. First think about the fact that Department of Defense now defines exercising First Amendment rights via protest and political activism as “low-level terrorism”, and let it sink in some more. Second, think about the fact that American citizens are subject to ‘rendition’, essentially being disappeared to any number of the vast network of black site prisons around the world indefinitely. And let it sink in that much more. It’s pretty profound isn’t it. You’re 1st amendment right are being criminalized. Your ability to resist tyranny is being neutralized. And the wild thing about this case is the FBI tried to recruit this man as an informant, he refused. The FBI tried to provide him with the means to carry out a terrorist plot, he refused. In essence, this man, Tarek Mehanna was convicted for refusing to cooperate with the government, spy on his people, and become a terrorist. This is all part of a disturbing pattern of behavior  by American law enforcement.  Manufacturing terrorism to coerce the  populace into relinquishing more and more of their civil and privacy rights. “Ignorance Is Strength”

Related Stories 

Fake Terror Plots Using Paid Informants: The Tactics Of FBI ‘Entrapment’ Questioned

Related Content

Free Tarek Mehanna

By Patrick Tracey @ Salon:

Call it “the week that was” when it comes to shredding the Constitution. First the Senate passes a rider to the defense bill that would make it legal for the military to arrest American citizens anywhere in the world, including U.S. soil, at the whim of the executive branch — this or any future executive branch.

Then comes the conviction yesterday of a Massachusetts man for viewing and translating jihadi videos online. The eight-week trial featured starkly contrasting portrayals of the bearded Muslim, Tarek Mehanna, a Sudbury, Mass., fundamentalist who traveled to Yemen and has made no secret of his contempt for U.S. foreign policy.

His Boston legal team haloed him as a kind and loving man, if an angry and opinionated intellectual type. They argued he was being persecuted for his disapproval of  U.S. foreign policy. The government countered with the belief that Mehanna was just the sort of hater who’d take glee in seeing Americans getting gunned down in bloody shopping malls.

American Muslims took it on the chin big-time this week, between the Mehanna case, the more troubling rider to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act now waiting for the president’s signature, to say nothing of home improvement chain Lowe’s yanking sponsorship of the “All American Muslim” show on TLC.  If the president signs the defense bill unamended, it will represent the single biggest civil liberties betrayal of his presidency.

The implications are profound and simple.

“They both came out the same week, but they are part of a pattern of putting to one side the fundamental freedoms we’ve taken for granted. We’re into a whole new legal terrain,” said Nancy Murray of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ”As the Senate gutted the Bill of Rights, just as it gutted the right to due process and the right to trial by jury, the whole notion of presumption of innocence goes out the window. And the scary thing is that it could be applied to all U.S. citizens.”

When not watching Lowe’s ads on the popular reality show, Muslim parents are sure to hit the pause button for a quiet word with their children about expressing strident opinions online. And they won’t mean maybe, either, because sentencing for Mehanna is set for as soon as April 12, and he may never see the light of day again — he could be sentenced to life in prison.  The message is unequivocal: You’d better watch your Muslim mouth. 

Mehanna made no bones about watching jihadi videos and translating them for friends; no bones about lending CDs to people in the Boston area in order, as the prosecution asserted, to create like­-minded youth; no bones about  discussing with friends his views of suicide bombings, the killing of civilians, and dying on the battlefield in the name of Allah. He translated texts that were freely available online and looked for information there about the 19 9/11 hijackers too. He even inquired into how to transfer files from one computer to another, and how to keep those files from being hacked.

However unpopular those acts may be, civil libertarians say they fall well within the margins of First Amendment protection. They are bracing themselves for repeal, but their immediate concern is the ending of posse comitatus, a far more serious matter. If the president, a constitutional scholar, signs the Senate-passed defense bill as is, then in the stroke of a pen he’ll have re-answered the age-old joke: “Is this a free country, or what?” The answer will be a resounding “or what,” but it’s no joke. Coming on the same week that the Bill of Rights had its 220th anniversary, you have to ask what’s more depleted these days: America’s outrage or its unkeen sense of irony?

The ACLU of Massachusetts submitted a brief in the Mehanna case, but it was refused by Judge O’Toole, who felt it was not suitable for this trial. The amicus curiae urged the court to proceed with the utmost care to prevent protected speech from constituting the sole basis for charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorist groups. The brief said Mehanna had “engaged in discussions and watched and translated readily available media on the topics of global politics, wars, and religion, all of which are topics of public concern. That his views may be offensive or disagreeable, or that they may ‘create like-minded youth,’ is of no consequence to the heightened protection to which his expression is entitled as a result of the First Amendment.”

Through such acts Mehanna was convicted yesterday of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida. If such speech is not protected as a free expression under the First Amendment, “then the government’s implicit view that such speech could alone support conviction threatens to render the material support statute a vehicle for the suppression of unpopular ideas, contrary to the dictates of the First Amendment and fundamental American values.”

Civil liberties advocates make the “slippery slope” argument. In the 2010 case Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which decided whether providing nonviolent aid like legal advice to terrorist groups constitutes material support for terrorism, the Supreme Court ruled that you can advocate as an individual, but if your advocacy is coordinated with an outfit on a terrorist list, then it’s criminal conspiracy and you can be convicted of giving terrorist support.

The ACLU believes that Mehanna’s activities were not shown to meet that test, “so the real reason for convicting him seems to be missing,” Murray said. “The trial featured all sorts of allegations of traveling but there was no hard proof that his advocacy was coordinated with a group.”

Grounds for appeal appear to be more than ample. “For one thing,” said Murray, “the courts should be very worried that it criminalizes unpopular speech. The First Amendment should’ve protected his translating material that he read on the internet. Unless they could’ve said he was doing that at the behest of a terrorist group, they’ve never actually made that direct connection.”

Obama Administration Coordinated Local Police Crackdowns On Occupy Encampments Nationwide

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Oldspeak:“Why is President Obama who ostensibly has expressed understanding and sympathy for Occupy protests, instead surreptitiously allowing federal law enforcement agencies to assist, advise, coordinate and plan tactics to raid and break up Occupy encampments? I wondered why all these ‘crackdowns’ happened in much the same militarized way, around the same day, around the same time in the dead of night in 18 cities.  ‘According to one Justice Department official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies. In several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.”  Given this information, we have to ask ourselves, in the ‘land of the free’; WHY? Why the Gestapo-like tactics? Why the hyper-militarized and violent responses to non-violent civil disobedience? Why the suppression of freedoms of assembly, press and speech? More change I can’t believe in.

Related Stories:

200 Arrested @ NYPD Crackdown On Occupy Wall Street: Zuccotti Park edia Blackout, Pepper Spray, Sound Cannons, Batons Raided Under MUsed, Tents Cleared

Occupy Wall Street “Counterinsurgency” Has Infiltrated Protests; Seeks To Diffuse Message

Related Video:

Michael Moore Connects The Federal Government To Occupy Raids

By Rick Ellis @ The Minniapolis Examiner:

Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict “Occupy” protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night’s move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.

The FBI has so far failed to respond to requests for an official response, and of the 14 local police agencies contacted in the past 24 hours, all have declined to respond to questions on this issue.

But in a recent interview with the BBC,” Oakland Mayor Jean Quan mentioned she was on a conference call just before the recent wave of crackdowns began.

“I was recently on a conference call of 18 cities who had the same situation, where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them.”

At the time this story was updated, Mayor Quan’s office had declined to discuss her comments.

UPDATE: Thursday, 11:30 a.m. CT Two civil rights legal groups have filed a comprehensive Freedom of Information request for any and all communications between federal law enforcement agencies and local police that are related to the “Occupy” protests.

UPDATE: Thursday, 10:15 a.m. CT. I was finally able to get an official response from the Dept. of Homeland Security, although it didn’ address many of my questions. I was also able to speak with several high-ranking DHS officials on background and deep background, which helped answer a few logistical questions (for instance, the role of the department’s Federal Protective Service).

UPDATE: Wednesday, 12:45 p.m. CT.
 Speaking of Homeland Security, the department’s Federal Protective Service (which is tasked with protecting federal buildings) has been spotted at a couple of ‘Occupy’ crackdowns, including one in Portland.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 11:15 a.m. CT. Here are a couple of relevant links that are related to this story.

Filmmaker Michael Moore was on “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” last night talking about this very issue. Click here to see the video.

The Associated Press has published a great piece on another set of conference calls about strategy,  these organized by the Police Executive Research Forum.

UPDATE: Wednesday, 10:10 am CT. I’m working on at least one new story for today, but I wanted to try and clear up a couple of questions I’ve gotten since this original story posted yesterday.

I have a hunch that Mayor Quan might have been referring to a conference call between a number of U.S. mayors in her interview, not one with law enforcement officials. But that’s just a hunch on my part, since her office has so far declined to offer any explanation of her comments to me.

My original source for the story (who still works at the Justice Dept.) stands behind the original story and we’re working to flesh it out in more detail today. I also have some other aspects of the story I’m working on as well.

I’ll post a link to my next story here or if you want to be automatically notified, subscribe to my feed here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at rellisfall@gmail.com


200 Arrested @ NYPD Crackdown On Occupy Wall Street: Zuccotti Park Raided Under Media Blackout, Pepper Spray, Sound Cannons, Batons Used, Tents Cleared

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 10:30 am
Occupy Wall St activists clash with New York Police after being removed from Zuccotti Park Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Oldspeak: “Denial of freedom of the press. Nighttime raids. Police brutality. Beating peaceful protestors. Restriction of movement. Destruction and confiscation of personal property. Denial of freedom of assembly. Pepper spray. Sound Cannons. Mass arrests. This is what a police state looks like. Meanwhile corporate media is talking about Rex Ryan, Jay-Z, Herman Cain, Jerry Sandusky, and Brad Pitt’s early retirement. Freedom rises despite police 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.” –Philip Rockstroh “You can’t evict an idea whose time had come.” #OccupyWallStreet

Related Story:

Occupy Wall Street: police evict protesters – live updates

By Sarah Seltzer @ Alter Net:

“We’re being evicted!” the message went out around 1 am.

“The park has been cleared,” the text message read a few hours later, as bedragged, pepper-sprayed protesters, having lost their home in the park, reconvened for a GA in Foley Square and vowed to keep the occupation going. Over 200 had been arrested, including city council member Ydanis Rodriguez. Blocks away, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference at which he declared that police would be now able to search people entering the park.

There is a planned post-raid gathering at 9 am at Canal and 6th Street for supporters to regroup and rally. Meanwhile, the National Lawyer’s Guild has obtained a temporary restraining order “directing that occupiers be allowed back on the premises with their belongings.” Reportedly, this will hold for several hours until a new hearing. However, after some members of the public re-entered the park, they were asked to leave again.

 

Twitter pictures later in the morning showed Zuccotti Park was bare and stripped–ugly and undamaged, as it was before, after cleaning crews move through. Before that, however, police had heaped protesters’ belongings together.

According to Twitter and the Occupy movement’s texts as well as press releases from both the movement and the Mayor’s office, the early morning raid cleared the protests’ two-month-long “model society” of its infrastructure, including spaces and structures like the women’s safe space tent, the medical tent, and thousands of books from the “People’s Library” — which were seen in the back of a dumpster.

Cops reportedly told people these confiscated items would be available at the Department of Sanitation.

 

Almost all of downtown Manhattan was blocked off in various ways, and protesters were beaten for being both on the sidewalk and the street.

Watch this amateur video of the beatings:

 

According to reports on Twitter, an OWS press release, and emails over internal OWS listservs, downtown subways and the Brooklyn Bridge were shut down, airspace was blocked off, and a barricade was erected to prevent supporters who were alerted by text from entering.

Several bystanders who arrived to help were pepper-sprayed or beaten. Read this dispatch from Anna Lekas Miller for one such story. “The police came towards us. I was live tweeting when I realized there was a funny smell and something in my eyes that was making them burn… I was shoved against a wall by a cop with a riot shield telling me to, ‘Keep it moving.’ …Their batons were out. It was violence.”

Below are a series of tweets from AlterNet’s Kristen Gwynne, who arrived on the scene after 1 am:

 

  • Riot police won’t anybody in #ows. Looking for alternate route in..ahh hang in there guys
  • Cops everywhere. At least 1 pepper sprayed cops pushing us
  • Holy shit this us crazy pepper spray, pushing us, beating and arresting peaceful protestors#ows
  • They’re literally pushing us down cortlandt. Violent cops #ows

 

These brutal tactics were used on supporters who were in the park and others who were trying to get in to protect the space, as well as some members of the press. LRADs (sound cannons) were seen and some say used, but as of yet but there have been no confirmed reports of them being used.

Perhaps worst of all, there was a media blackout that specifically disallowed press from entering while the space was cleared. Many newspeople on Twitter have expressed anger and frustration about being prevented from reporting on the scene; some were apparently told by the NYPD, “You’re not press tonight.”

 

At In These Times, Alison Kilkenny had this report from Twitter: “Some protesters chained themselves to trees in Liberty, and some early reports indicate the NYPD cut down the trees in order to remove the demonstrators.”

Around 7 am, the following things were trending on Twitter in New York City:

 

 

Here is a timeline of the raid from OWS. Note that some reports in this timeline are unconfirmed:

 

Timeline of Violent NYPD Raid on Occupy Wall Street 

3:36 a.m. Kitchen tent reported teargassed. Police moving in with zip cuffs.

3:33 a.m. Bulldozers moving in

3:16 a.m. Occupiers linking arms around riot police

3:15 a.m. NYPD destroying personal items. Occupiers prevented from leaving with their possessions.

3:13 a.m. NYPD deploying sound cannon

3:08 a.m. heard on livestream: “they’re bringing in the hoses.”

3:05 a.m. NYPD cutting down trees in Liberty Square

2:55 a.m. NYC council-member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head.

2:44 a.m. Defiant occupiers barricaded Liberty Square kitchen

2:44 a.m. NYPD destroys OWS Library. 5,000 donated books in dumpster.

2:42 a.m. Brooklyn Bridge confirmed closed

2:38 a.m. 400-500 marching north to Foley Square

2:32 a.m. All subways but R shut down

2:29 a.m. Press helicopters evicted from airspace. NYTimes reporter arrested.

2:22 a.m. Frontpage coverage from New York Times

2:15 a.m. Occupiers who have been dispersed are regrouping at Foley Square

2:10 a.m. Press barred from entering Liberty Square

2:07 a.m. Pepper spray deployed — reports of at least one reporter sprayed

2:03 a.m. Massive Police Presence at Canal and Broadway

1:43 a.m. Helicopters overhead.

1:38 a.m. Unconfirmed reports of snipers on rooftops.

1:34 a.m. CBS News Helicopter Livestream

1:27 a.m. Unconfirmed reports that police are planning to sweep everyone.

1:20 a.m. Subway stops are closed.

1:20 a.m. Brooklyn bridge is closed.

1:20 a.m. Occupiers chanting “This is what a police state looks like.”

1:20 a.m. Police are in riot gear.

1:20 a.m. Police are bringing in bulldozers.

 

At Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte had this to offer on the destruction of the library:

 

Media Bistro is reporting that the NYPD destroyed over 5,000 books that have been amassed in the OWS library over the past two months. The young protesters who were volunteering as librarians tweeted the ordeal of watching what has come to be, historically speaking, the symbol of authoritarian governments oppressing its citizens. 

 

OWSLibrary The People’s Library NYPD destroying american cultural history, they’re destroying the documents, the books, the artwork of an event in our nation’s history. 

 

Right now, the NYPD are throwing over 5,000 books from our library into a dumpster. Will they burn them?

Protesters locked arms and tried to keep the dumpsters full of books and tents from leaving, but obviously to no avail. Personally, I donated about a dozen books to OWS, mostly about feminism in response to requests for more feminist discourse and history. Some of them weren’t exactly books you can just saunter into a local library branch or Barnes & Noble to find, either, such as the radical feminism reader. So this image of the books being tossed into the trash is just adding to the emotional distress of this situation.

So don’t believe the lies. If this was just about a clean park, there would have been no need to go over the fucking top in the assaults on speech and press that included threatening journalists (and arresting one), squelching witnesses, and destroying over 5,000 books that were provided, free of charge, by supporters who want to assist protesters’ desire to educate themselves and, frankly, give them something to do during their downtime.

5 a.m. Police Raid Tears Down Occupy Oakland Encampment, Protestors Arrested

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

Oakland Police surround the occupy encampment in the early morning preparing to go in and disband the tent community at Frank Ogden Plazan on Tuesday Oct. 25th 2011. A couple of tear gas bombs were exploded right before the police entered.

Oldspeak:”On the heels of news of a chemical bomb attack on Occupy Maine, the backlash is growing. “Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs and some with shotguns, overturned tents, and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly, leaving what looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp in their wake. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza.”

By Kristen J. Bender @ San Hose Mercury News:

Before dawn Tuesday, at least 200 police, many in riot gear, tore down the Occupy Oakland encampment in front of City Hall and arrested dozens of people. A smaller camp near Lake Merritt was also dismantled.

Early reports from police say the raids went smoothly, with all protesters cleared out of the downtown Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in less than 30 minutes.

After police surrounded the plaza about 4:45 a.m., they began moving in and taking down tents and barricades erected by the group, which had been camped there since Oct. 10 in support of the Occupy Wall Street effort.

Many protesters were handcuffed and led away by police from the camp at 14th Street and Broadway. Many others left on their own.

Police in riot gear, armed with billy clubs and some with shotguns, overturned tents, and the campers’ wooden stalls quickly, leaving what looked like a hurricane-struck refugee camp in their wake. They ripped up dozens of cardboard signs, overturned a couch and when it was over there were scraps of carpet, personal belongings and trash all over the plaza.

One police officer said several objects were thrown at police, including bottles, skillets, other kitchen utensils and rocks. They also “threw plates at us like Frisbees,” the officer said.

Protesters also chanted “Police go home, cops go home” and banged sticks on anything they could find. Some chanted “Police were the biggest gang in America.”

At the Snow Park camp, Mindy Stone said as she was led away by police that she was just there to protest and exercise her rights. “We are not camping, we are just demonstrating.”

No injuries were immediately reported. Police did not have an exact count of how many people were arrested.

The Occupy Oakland encampment, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, sprung up on Oct. 10 and over the last two weeks had grown into a “tent city” with an estimated 300 campers, hay bales and stalls for medical aid, food, art, and community meetings. Along with the makeshift city came a host of problems. City officials reported rats in the camp, fights, drug use and violence against the media.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday, Occupy Oakland organizers sent out a text message alert, saying a police raid was imminent, but police didn’t surround camp until almost two hours later. Police used a bullhorn to repeat instructions to leave the plaza immediately or risk arrest. Police threatened to use “chemical agents” to oust the protesters.

Protesters attempted to keep police out by putting at least two metal Dumpsters at the side of the camp near 14th Street and Broadway, but police pushed them aside during the raid.

One man walked around carrying a giant shield he fashioned out of duct tape. After the plaza was cleared of protesters, about 20 to 30 people gathered on a small side street off Broadway between 14th and 15th streets beating drums and chanting “rise up, rise up, rise up, come on people rise up” as police mulled around the plaza and in small groups on the streets. Three helicopters circled above the scene as the night began to turn to day. The city has advised employers to keep employees away from downtown while cleanup crews move in to remove the massive amount of debris.

When the loose-knit group first occupied the plaza, it was to protest widespread unemployment and corporate greed, but the encampment grew to encompass many other causes: support for state prison inmates who are on hunger strikes, housing rights, fair wages and against social oppression.

City officials began stepping up pressure on the protesters last week and on Friday upped the stakes by issuing a letter stating that the encampment on the plaza was “a violation of the law” and threatening violators with immediate arrest.

The “notice of violations and demand to cease violations” came a day after a preliminary letter that urged the residents to vacate the camp because of what the city said were a host of problems, including fighting, vandalism, public urination and other sanitation and public health issues. Officials said an existing rat problem in the area was being made worse by the encampment, which had about 100 tents at one point.

A spokeswoman for the mayor, Karen Boyd, said Friday that the protesters had shown themselves incapable of self-governance. “As a collective, they cannot maintain the plaza in a safe condition,” she said.

Reporters Scott Johnson and Sean Mahercontributed to this story.

NeuroFocus Uses “Neuromarketing” To Hack Your Brain

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Oldspeak:”Neuromarketing Hackers, hacking INTO YOUR BRAIN to find new and more insidious ways to sell you shit you don’t need: GOOD. “Anonymous” Hackers, hacking into computer networks to bring to light lax security of your sensitive and personal data stored on the internet: BAD. In a glowing article written in a magazine owned by marketing company Neilsen Research about a company NeuroFocus also owned by Nielsen Research, we glimpse the future of “marketing”: subconscious thought manipulation. Indeed, psychotronic warfare, like many other initially military applications (Internet, LASER, Kevlar, Radar, GPS, etc etc) has been adapted for civilian use. Only in a society of based on profit-driven overconsumption and materialism can a technology that has the potential to aid corporations in manipulating your behavior on a subconscious level be seen as a good thing. Never mind the slippery slope. What’s to stop this technology from being used to suppress undesirable behaviors, like dissent and protest? What’s to stop ‘every Wall Street banker, politician, and corporate CEO with gobs of cash and a desire to manipulate your brain?” –Paul B. Farrell.  They’re not content to bombard you with ads to entice you to buy their brand. They want to literally get inside your mind and  MAKE you choose to do so, whether your want it or not. Literally neurologically engineering your consent, creating a society of “Happiness Machines“. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Adam L. Penenberg @ Fast Company:

K. Pradeep knows what you like and why you like it. Take the sleek, slick iPad. Ask Mac lovers why they adore their tablet and they’ll say it’s the convenience, the touch screen, the design, the versatility. But Apple aficionados don’t just like their iPads; they’re preprogammed to like them. It’s in their subconscious–the curves, the way it feels in their hands, and in the hormones their brains secrete when they touch the screen. “When you move an icon on the iPad and it does what you thought it would do, you’re surprised and delighted it actually happened,” he says. “That surprise and delight turns into a dopamine squirt, and you don’t even know why you liked it.”

Pradeep is the founder and CEO of science-based consumer-research firm NeuroFocus, a Berkeley, California-based company wholly owned by Nielsen Holdings N.V. that claims to have the tools to tap into your brain (or, as Woody Allen called it, “my second favorite organ”). You might say Pradeep was born to plumb the depths of our minds. The “A.K.” in his name stands for Anantha Krishnan, which translates as “unending consciousness”; Pradeep means “illumination.” Fortunately, he doesn’t refer to himself as Unending Illuminated Consciousness, preferring, as is custom in his native region of India, a single name: Pradeep. “Like Prince or Madonna,” he explains.

On this particular spring day, he’s in New York to offer a presentation at the 75th Advertising Research Foundation conference. As he holds court on a small stage in a ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in Midtown, Pradeep seems to relish the spotlight. Swizzle-stick thin and topped with unruly jet-black hair, the effusive 48-year-old is sharply dressed, from his spectacles to his black jacket and red-and-black silk shirt, and all the way down to his shiny boots. He stands out, needless to say, from the collective geekdom gathered at this egghead advertising fest.

Speaking with the speed and percussive enunciation of an auctioneer, Pradeep is at the conference today to introduce his company’s latest innovation: a product called Mynd, the world’s first portable, wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) scanner. The skullcap-size device sports dozens of sensors that rest on a subject’s head like a crown of thorns. It covers the entire area of the brain, he explains, so it can comprehensively capture synaptic waves; but unlike previous models, it doesn’t require messy gel. What’s more, users can capture, amplify, and instantaneously dispatch a subject’s brain waves in real time, via Bluetooth, to another device–a remote laptop, say, an iPhone, or that much-beloved iPad. Over the coming months, Neuro-Focus plans to give away Mynds to home panelists across the country. Consumers will be paid to wear them while they watch TV, head to movie theaters, or shop at the mall. The firm will collect the resulting streams of data and use them to analyze the participants’ deep subconscious responses to the commercials, products, brands, and messages of its clients. NeuroFocus data crunchers can then identify the products and brands that are the most appealing (and the ones whose packaging and labels are dreary turnoffs), the characters in a Hollywood film that engender the strongest emotional attachments, and the exact second viewers tune out an ad.

These corporations share the same goal: to mine your brain so they can blow your mind with products you deeply desire.

Pradeep and his team in Berkeley are hardly the first to make a direct connection between brain function and how it determines consumer behavior. Advertisers, marketers, and product developers have deployed social psychology for decades to influence whether you buy Coke or Pepsi, or a small or an extra-large popcorn. Like the feather weight of that mobile phone? Suddenly gravitating to a new kind of beer at the store? Inexplicably craving a bag of Cheetos? From eye-deceiving design to product placement gimmickry, advertisers and marketers have long exploited our basic human patterns, the ones that are as rudimentary and predictable as Pavlov’s slobbering dog.

NeuroFocus CEO A.K. Pradeep thinks that traditional focus groups are a Cro-Magnon form of market research.
NeuroFocus CEO A.K. Pradeep thinks that traditional focus groups are a Cro-Magnon form of market research. | Photo by Gene Lee

NeuroFocus, however, promises something deeper, with unprecedented access into the nooks and crannies of the subconscious. It’s a tantalizing claim, given that businesses spend trillions of dollars each year on advertising, marketing, and product R&D, and see, by some estimates, 80% of all their new products fail. The hope that neuroscience can provide more accurate results than traditional focus groups and other traditional market research is why Citi, Google, HP, and Microsoft, as well as soda companies, brewers, retailers, manufacturers, and media companies have all become NeuroFocus clients in the past six years. When salty-snack purveyor Frito-Lay looked to increase sales of its single-serve 100-calorie snacks to women, it tapped NeuroFocus, whose research informed new packaging and a new ad campaign. CBS partnered with the firm to measure responses to new shows and TV pilots; Arts & Entertainment (A&E) had NeuroFocus track viewers’ second-by-second neurological reactions to commercials to ensure that its programs work with the ads that fund them; and Pradeep’s team helped ESPN display the logos of its corporate advertisers more effectively on-air. California Olive Ranch had NeuroFocus test its olive-oil labels for maximum appeal. And, as we’ll see later, Intel hired the company to better understand its global branding proposition, while PayPal sought a more refined corporate identity.

These corporations vary widely, but they share a fundamental goal: to mine your brain so they can blow your mind with products you deeply desire. With NeuroFocus’s help, they think they can know you better than you know yourself.

Orange cheese dust. That wholly unnatural neon stuff that gloms onto your fingers when you’re mindlessly snacking on chips or doodles. The stuff you don’t think about until you realize you’ve smeared it on your shirt or couch cushions–and then keep on eating anyway, despite your better intentions. Orange cheese dust is probably not the first thing you think of when talking about how the brain functions, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that makes NeuroFocus, and neuromarketing in general, such a potentially huge and growing business. In 2008, Frito-Lay hired NeuroFocus to look into Cheetos, the junk-food staple. After scanning the brains of a carefully chosen group of consumers, the NeuroFocus team discovered that the icky coating triggers an unusually powerful response in the brain: a sense of giddy subversion that consumers enjoy over the messiness of the product. In other words, the sticky stuff is what makes those snacks such a sticky brand. Frito-Lay leveraged that information into its advertising campaign for Cheetos, which has made the most of the mess. For its efforts, NeuroFocus earned a Grand Ogilvy award for advertising research, given out by the Advertising Research Foundation, for “demonstrating the most successful use of research in the creation of superior advertising that achieves a critical business objective.”

This seemingly precise way of unveiling the brain’s inner secrets is the ultimate promise of neuromarketing, a science (or perhaps an art) that picks up electrical signals from the brain and spins them through software to analyze the responses and translate those signals into layman’s terms. While evolving in tandem with advances in neuroscience, the field owes much to a study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine in 2004 to investigate the power of brand perception on consumer taste preferences. Based on the famous Coke vs. Pepsi tests of yesteryear, volunteers had their brains scanned in an MRI as they sampled each beverage. When they didn’t know what they were drinking, half liked Coke and half liked Pepsi. When they did know, however, most preferred Coke, and their brain scans showed a great deal of activity in the cranial areas associated with memory and emotion. In other words, the power of Coke’s brand is so great that it preps your brain to enjoy its flavor–and presumably to influence your purchasing decisions when you’re in the supermarket.

Since the Baylor study, neurotesters have turned to the EEG as their standard measurement tool, rather than the MRI. For starters, the MRI is bulkier, harder to administer, and expensive. Far more important, however, is the fact that an EEG measures the brain’s electrical activity on the scalp, while an MRI records changes in blood flow inside the brain. This means that an EEG reading can be done almost in real time, while an MRI’s has a five-second delay. MRIs provide beautiful, high-resolution pictures, ideal for identifying tumors and other abnormalities, but they are useless for tracking quick-hit reactions.

For example, imagine that you are asked to generate an action verb in response to the word ball. Within 200 milliseconds, your brain has absorbed the request. Impulses move to the motor cortex and drive your articulators to respond, and you might say “throw.” This process happens far too fast for an MRI to record. But an EEG can capture virtually every neurological impulse that results from that single word: ball.

This is where modern neuromarketing exists–at the very creation of an unconscious idea, in the wisp of time between the instant your brain receives a stimulus and subconsciously reacts. There, data are unfiltered, uncorrupted by your conscious mind, which hasn’t yet had the chance to formulate and deliver a response in words or gestures. During this vital half-second, your subconscious mind is free from cultural bias, differences in language and education, and memories. Whatever happens there is neurologically pure, unlike when your conscious mind takes over and actually changes the data by putting them through myriad mental mechanisms. It’s all the action inside you before your conscious mind does the societally responsible thing and reminds you that artificially flavored and colored cheese dust laced with monosodium glutamate is, well, gross.

With the instantaneous readings of EEG sensors, neuromarketers can track electrical waves as they relate to emotion, memory, and attention from specific areas of the brain: namely, the amygdala, an almond-shaped region that plays a role in storing emotionally charged memories and helps trigger physical reactions (sweaty palms, a faster heartbeat); the hippocampus, where memory lurks; and the lateral prefrontal cortex, which governs high-level cognitive powers (one being attention). Once the brain waves are collected, complex algorithms can sift through the data to connect each reaction to a specific moment.

Neuromarketers like Pradeep argue that this testing is much more efficient, cost effective, and precise than traditional methods like focus groups. While Gallup must poll roughly a thousand people to achieve a 4% margin of error, NeuroFocus tests just two dozen subjects for its corporate clients–and even that is a sample size larger than those deployed by leading academic neuroscience labs. This is possible because people’s brains are remarkably alike, even though there are some differences between male and female brains, and between those of children and senior citizens. And NeuroFocus collects a massive amount of input, recording and analyzing billions of data points during a typical neurological testing project. This is the genius of neuromarketing, according to a booster like Pradeep. He promises an accurate read of the subconscious mind. Focus groups and surveys, on the other hand, give an imprecise measure of the conscious mind, of so-called articulated, or self-reported, responses. They are one step removed from actual emotion, inherently weak: like flashbacks in a film. They are fine for eliciting facts, less so for probing into what people really feel.

Ray Poynter of the Future Place saves his harshest criticism for neuromarketers: “They are overclaiming massively.”

Not everyone agrees that neuromarketing is the next great thing, of course. Because its research has been primarily corporate funded and its tangible results primarily anecdotal, neuromarketing is not without detractors, who tend to lump it in with the array of businesses, like biometrics or facial mapping, that promise all sorts of new-wave marketing breakthroughs. Ray Poynter, founder of the Future Place, a social-media consultancy in Nottingham, England, colors himself a skeptic on all of them but saves his harshest criticism for neuromarketers. He believes they offer far more hype than science. “Neuromarketers are overclaiming massively,” he says. “While it is likely to reduce the number of bad mistakes, and slightly increase the chance of good things happening, it’s all a matter of degree.”

Even so, it’s hard to imagine neuromarketing proving less reliable than traditional market research. For decades, marketers have relied on focus groups and surveys to divine what consumers want, using these methods to solicit feedback on their attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and perceptions about an advertisement, a product and its packaging, or a service. Each year, hundreds of thousands of focus groups are organized around the world, and about $4.5 billion is spent globally on qualitative market research.

This kind of “mother-in-law research,” as ad exec Kirk Cheyfitz calls it, has all manner of shortcomings. It’s not statistically significant, so it’s risky to graft your findings onto the population at large. One or two blowhards may hijack an entire panel, and researchers can, without knowing it, influence participants. The world has changed, and yet so much market research is still conducted the same old way.

Brain Eaters

Companies try to keep their neuromarketing efforts secret. Here are six that we flushed out.

Illustration by Superexpresso

[Illustration by Superexpresso]

“I bet you, long ago if you looked at cave paintings, there were a bunch of Cro-Magnon men and women sitting around a fire in focus groups wondering whether to go hunt mastodon that night,” Pradeep says. “Today, our focus groups are no different.” In the tale of our inner lives, we have always been unreliable narrators. Pradeep believes he can get at the truth.

When David Ginsberg joined Intel in 2009 as the company’s director of insights and market research, he was something of an expert on the slippery nature of “truth,” having spent 15 years working on political campaigns for John Edwards, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton. Ginsberg was downright skeptical of neuromarketing, or, as he calls it, “nonconscious-based research.” He thought it had more to do with science fiction than reality. But he also knew that Intel had been conducting market research as if it were still 1965, with surveys that were the equivalent of sending Gallup off to knock on thousands of doors. That may have worked decently in the days when a person bought a computer based on specs–processing speed, RAM, etc. But in an age where virtually every computer is sold with power to spare, Ginsberg knew that the rationale for buying a certain computer was as much emotional as it was rational. To compete in this new market, Intel the company had to understand how people felt about Intel the brand.

“If you ask people if they know Intel, something like 90% will say they know Intel,” Ginsberg says. “Ask if they like Intel, a huge percentage will say they like Intel. Ask them [to rank or name] tech leaders, however, and we come out much lower on the list.” Ginsberg felt that he needed to understand consumers’ feelings at a deeper level: What words did consumers associate with Intel? Were these associations altered by one’s culture? Ginsberg decided to run pilot tests with a number of market-research firms, and despite his sense of neuromarketing as mumbo jumbo, he included NeuroFocus. What he learned surprised him and turned him into a believer.

NeuroFocus structured its test for Intel as it does most of its market research, patterning it after something called the Evoked Response Potential test, a staple of neuroscience. Test subjects were paid to come to a NeuroFocus lab and put on a cap with 64 sensors that would measure electrical activity across the brain. Because the U.S. and China are two very important markets for Intel, NeuroFocus tested groups of 24 consumers (half men, half women) in Berkeley and in a midsize city in China’s Sichuan Province.

In a quiet room, each test subject was shown the words “achieve,” “possibilities,” “explore,” “opportunity,” “potentiality,” “identify,” “discover,” “resolves,” and “solves problems.” Each flitted by on a TV screen at half-second intervals. The subject was instructed to press a button whenever she saw a word with a letter underscored by a red dot. After several minutes of this subconscious-priming word test, she was shown a few Intel ads. Following this, the words were again presented on the screen, this time without the dots.

The exercise served two functions: First, the red dots focused the subject’s attention; second, they gave NeuroFocus a baseline measure of the brain’s response, since each time a test subject saw the red dot, her brain went “A-ha! There’s a word with a red dot.” Click.

Pradeep knows how to read your mind--so long as you put on that device first.
Pradeep knows how to read your mind–so long as you put on that device first. | Photo by Gene Lee

When NeuroFocus later analyzed the EEG readings, it looked for those same “a-ha” moments from the period during which the subject had viewed the Intel ads. The words that provoked the most such responses were “achieve” and “opportunity.” Interestingly, women in the U.S. and in China had virtually the same response post-advertisements, as did American men and Chinese men. The differences were in the genders; on both sides of the pond, men and women had strikingly different reactions. “Achieve” prompted the most intense reaction among women, while men gravitated toward “opportunity. ”

Says Ginsberg: “This was incredibly fascinating to us. There seem to be fundamental values across humanity.” He believes that Intel would have never learned this through traditional market research and focus groups, where cultural biases come into play. He also concluded that there are differences in how men and women think, and that these differences cross cultural boundaries. This is not news to Pradeep, who points out that male and female brains are different, and not in a Larry Summers women-aren’t-as-good-at-math-and-science-as-men-are kind of way. The female brain is our default brain when we are in the womb. But at week eight, about half of all fetuses are bathed in testosterone. These now-male brains close down certain communication centers in the brain while opening up others geared toward sex and aggression. In female brains, meanwhile, the communication pathways continue to evolve, intricate neural routes are constructed across both hemispheres, and areas dedicated to emotion blossom. Life seems to imitate a beer commercial, doesn’t it?

Now Intel is changing its marketing strategy. “A brand that helps people achieve and offers opportunity has a phenomenal brand attribute,” Ginsberg says. “It gives you a new perspective on things, to understand your consumer better.” The NeuroFocus findings have informed the next round of creative advertising you’ll see from Intel, due to emerge later this year. “I guarantee when you see these ads you’ll see a straight line,” Ginsberg adds. “The study gave us fresh insights to talk about things we didn’t have permission to talk about before.”

It is conceivable that Intel could have redirected its advertising toward achievement and opportunity with the help of focus groups. But Ginsberg feels, and Pradeep fervently believes, that neuromarketing has a much better shot at getting closer to the unconscious truth, and therefore proving more effective. Still, the difference between the two forms of research sometimes seems to be just a matter of degrees.

Barry Herstein left American Express to join PayPal in October 2007 as global chief marketing officer with the goal of giving eBay’s transaction-processing division a coherent marketing strategy. After the first few weeks, he knew just how difficult the task would be. Almost every time he asked a PayPal employee, “What’s the big idea behind PayPal?” the following response came back: “Safe, simple, wow!”

“Safe, simple, wow?” Herstein scoffs. “That’s not a big idea. It’s a tagline.” It didn’t even make sense. Wasn’t any payment product supposed to be safe and simple? He supposed that software engineers might know that paying for things was complicated, but having worked at American Express and Citi, he knew that the consumer didn’t think that was the case. And “wow”? He cringed. Then, after a series of brainstorming sessions and conversations with a broad range of customers, he hired NeuroFocus to help him figure out the basic concepts around which he could build a new global identity for PayPal.

As part of its standard methodology, NeuroFocus captures the subconscious resonance consumers have for seven brand attributes: form, function, and benefits, as well as feelings (the emotional connection a brand elicits from consumers), values (what it represents), metaphors (aspirations, challenges, lessons, or life events that seem connected to the product), and extensions (the unexpected and perhaps illogical feelings it inspires). Based on his earlier brainstorming sessions, Herstein asked NeuroFocus to home in on three attributes and create three phrases for testing within each. For function he offered “convenient,” “fast,” and “secure”; for feelings, “confident,” “hassle-free,” and “in the know”; and for benefits, “new opportunity,” “on my side,” and “empowering.” The 21-person panel had 11 men and 10 women and was also segmented into regular, light, and non-PayPal shoppers.

According to NeuroFocus, “fast” ranked the highest in the function category. (Notably, “fast” was not acknowledged in any way by “safe, simple, wow.”) In fact, according to the brain heat map that NeuroFocus created from the aggregated data, speed is a huge advantage that sets off extremely positive feelings, especially from regular users. The more people use PayPal, it seems, the more they appreciate how quickly they can close transactions. For the feelings category, “in the know” resonated best, and in benefits, “on my side” won out.

Examining brand attributes is a standard of traditional market testing, of course. Herstein ran a parallel, more conventional track at the same time as his NeuroFocus study, creating a conventional online survey. The results were significantly different. While the word “fast” resonated with this group, the phrase “on my side” wound up at the bottom of the benefits category, which was topped instead by “confident”–a word that had finished dead last among men in the NeuroFocus study.

Herstein trusted the NeuroFocus results, though, and set out to create a coherent global image for the company based on them. That image would humanize PayPal by emphasizing the outcomes it delivers, not the act of paying; nowhere in the new marketing would you find any dreaded, dreary images of two people hovering around a computer. “People don’t want to see that,” Herstein says. “They want to see people enjoying either what they just bought or the time that it gives them by paying fast.”

Not everyone at the company was sold on his new approach. The heads of some foreign markets–Herstein declined to name which– predicted that the new campaign would bomb. Herstein says that his boss, PayPal president Scott Thompson, told him he was crazy–but Herstein was willing to stake his reputation on the new approach.

What happened? According to Herstein, when he changed PayPal’s visual and verbal identity across the company’s email and web pages, click-through and response rates increased three to four times. “I’m telling you, in the world of direct marketing, the words ‘400% improvement’ don’t exist,” he says. “If you can go from 1.2% response rate to 1.3%, you’ll get a promotion, right? And if you can take something from a 4% response rate to 16%? Unheard of.”

“The mystique is that there’s a way to turn consumers into robots to buy products. That’s simply not the case,” says one neuromarketer.

Herstein has left PayPal to join Snapfish and now sits on NeuroFocus’s board as an unpaid adviser. While eBay confirms the basics of his account, it won’t confirm his description of the outcomes from the marketing campaign he created; a spokesman repeatedly asked Fast Company not to include this information in our story.

This bid for secrecy is entirely in keeping with the aura around neuromarketing, an industry that is both highly confident about what it can deliver and very nervous about its perception in the broader world. Several neuromarketing firms were approached for this story, but the only one that would do more than provide vague descriptions of its work was NeuroFocus, which is by all accounts the industry leader. Out of dozens of its corporate clients, very few would agree to discuss their work with the firm.

Neuromarketing outfits are afraid of being branded as trendy voodoo science, no more trustworthy than palm readers. Such a perception, they believe, will wither with good results. Perhaps more worrying is the other end of the speculative spectrum, which posits that corporations armed with our neurological data will be able to push a secret “buy button” in our brains. This is a fear promulgated by, among others, Paul B. Farrell, a columnist for Dow Jones and author of The Millionaire Code. He calls this buy button your brain’s “true decision-making processor,” a “weapon of mass delusion.” You end up like a computer “without virus protection” and “exposed to every Wall Street banker, politician, and corporate CEO with gobs of cash and a desire to manipulate your brain.”

“There’s still this mystique that there’s a way to control consumers and turn them into robots to purchase products,” says Ron Wright, president and CEO of Sands Research, a rival neuromarketing firm based in El Paso, Texas. “That is simply not the case.” Nevertheless, after spending time with Pradeep, you get the feeling we’ve only just begun to tap the potential of this new movement. Pradeep is not a neuroscientist. He’s a former GE engineer and consultant who became fascinated by neuromarketing after a conversation with a neuroscientist who sat next to him on a cross-continental flight. After seven years at the helm of NeuroFocus, he sees every product relationship in terms of the brain, like a virtuoso musician who hears music in everyday sounds, from the clackety noise of a woman’s heels on a wooden floor to the melange of notes from a car engine.

On a sun-drenched afternoon in Berkeley, we tour the shops at the local mall. We stop in front of a Victoria’s Secret plate-glass window and Pradeep points out the ambiguous expression of a lingerie model on one of its posters. He explains that the brain is constantly looking out for our survival and as part of that is always ready to measure another person’s intent. Is that stranger happy? Angry? Sad? When an expression is not easy to decipher, we do a database search through our collection of faces–curious, worried, nervous, threatening–to choose which is closest to the one we see, and match it. “If the expression is easy to decipher, I hardly glance,” he says. “But if the expression is relatively hard to decipher, she makes me open the cupboard of memory.” Contrast this with the nearby Bebe store, where Pradeep shakes his head at the headless mannequins in the window. “Now that’s what I call a crime against humanity. Money down the drain.”

At the Apple store, we pause at a desktop computer and he explains why it’s always better to put images on the left side of the screen and text on the right: “That’s how the brain likes to see it,” he says. “If you flip it around, the right frontal looks at the words and has to flip it over the corpus callosum to the left frontal lobe. You make the brain do one extra step, and the brain hates you for that.” Pradeep loves Apple, and he loves to talk about Apple, in part because Steve Jobs never has been and probably never will be a client. (Apple doesn’t even use focus groups. Jonathan Ive, Apple’s top designer, famously said they lead to bland products designed to offend no one.) But the real reason he loves talking about Apple is that he believes the company has elevated basic design to high art, a hugely successful strategy that Pradeep thinks is justified by our most basic neurological underpinnings.

Which brings us back to that iPad. Pradeep claims the brain loves curves but detests sharp edges, which set off an avoidance response in our subconscious. In the same way our ancestors stood clear of sticks or jagged stones fashioned into weapons, we avoid sharp angles, viewing them as potential threats. NeuroFocus has performed several studies for retailers and food manufacturers and found that test subjects prefer in-store displays with rounded edges over those with sharper edges. In one instance, when these new rounded displays were rolled out to replace traditional store shelving, sales rose 15%.

But curved edges are only one reason for the iPad’s success. We also like how the tablet feels, how sleek and well balanced it is. Signals generated by our palms and fingers, along with lips and genitals, take up the most surface area within our brain’s sensory zone. The way a product feels in our hands can be a major selling point. It’s why we prefer glass bottles to cans, which NeuroFocus product-consumption studies bear out, although it’s not just the material, it’s also the slender curve of the bottle and the ridges in it. The touch screen, too, is a mental magnet and can induce those hormonal secretions Pradeep likes describing.

Why we like these curves no one knows for sure. Perhaps our brains correlate curves with nourishment–that is to say, mommy. (Calling Dr. Freud.) In men, it could be sexual. One study asked men to view before-and-after pictures of naked women who underwent cosmetic surgery to shrink their waists and add to their derrieres. The men’s brains responded as if they had been rewarded with drugs and alcohol. But this response to curves may be even more primal than sex, or beer. Another study suggested that men seek women with curves because women’s hips and thighs contain higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids, which nurture babies’ brains and lead to healthier offspring.

This is the flip side to our fears of neuromarketing: the potential to look at our choices in a new way that blends science, psychology, and history. Lately, NeuroFocus has been moving into product development, providing research to companies that will influence how products look, feel, and function before they hit the market. That’s what the firm is doing with its Mynd crown of sensors. But Pradeep has visions that go far beyond testing products, packaging, and commercials. He imagines neurotesting as ideal for court-room trials: A defense attorney could pretest opening and closing arguments for emotional resonance with mock juries. And while NeuroFocus is not getting involved in politics, he says that competitors of his helped Republican politicians shape their messages for the 2010 midterm elections.

One stunning application of neurotesting is the work of Robert Knight, Pradeep’s chief science officer, and a host of other neuroscience researchers who are trying to develop a way for quadriplegics to control their wheel-chairs just by thinking alone. When you watch someone move a hand to grab a can of soda, mirror neurons in your brain react as if you were grasping it yourself. Knight is studying which brain signals can be translated into software commands to drive a wheelchair. To further this research, Knight, part of the team that invented the Mynd, plans to give it away to scientists and labs around the world. And the next iteration, he promises, will be a big step up, with eye-tracking capability, a built-in video camera, and three times as many sensors for greater brain coverage. “If our limbs will not respond to the beauty of your thinking or your feeling, that is a horror beyond horrors,” Pradeep says. “Restoring a little bit of gesture, a little bit of movement, a little bit of control to that beautiful mind is an extraordinary thing to do.”

He seems sincere, passionate even, though of course I cannot read his mind.

A version of this article appears in the September 2011 issue of Fast Company.

Correction: Neurofocus is owned by Nielsen Holdings N.V., not Nielsen Research as stated in the original article.

 

Bay Area Rapid Transit Accused Of Censorship For Blocking Wireless Services To Foil Protests

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 6:45 pm

BART workers remove a man atop a train during a protest at the Civic Center station in San Francisco last month. Authorities closed the station where demonstrators condemned the fatal shooting of a man by transit police the week before.

Oldspeak:” ‘BART may be the first government agency in the U.S. to shutter mobile-internet and phone service in a bid to quash a demonstration.’ ‘I think the problem that we’re dealing with is that we’re finding, all around the country, that folks are playing with the law and trying to figure out how they can have an advantage by shutting down the ways in which the citizens of this country communicate with one another. And this was a testing ground. If we can shut down the BART service here and get away with it, maybe we’ll do it in New York, and then we’ll do it in Chicago, and then we’ll do it at a ball game, and maybe in front of, you know, the college campuses, all under the guise of disrupting and threatening the public safety.’ A glimpse of America’s future. Suppression of your 1st amendment rights to assemble, protest, and petition. A dramatic example of the utter and complete power a nebulous few have over you ability to communicate. And with communication taking place nearly all digitally, via fewer and fewer tightly controlled and monitored modes, that power is profound.  We also get a strong indication of how much of a threat dissent, protest, and civil disobedience, is perceived to be by those few; ‘all under the guise of disrupting and threatening the public safety’. 

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

The operators of the San Francisco area subway system are facing intense criticism for temporarily cutting off underground cell phone and mobile-internet service at four stations in an attempt to foil a protest. On Thursday, authorities with the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) removed power to underground cell phone towers at four stations to disrupt a protest against the recent death of Charles Hill, a homeless man who was shot dead on a train platform by a BART police officer in July. Police say Hill threw a knife at an officer. According to media reports, BART may be the first government agency in the United States to shutter mobile-internet and phone service in a bid to quash a demonstration. Some have compared the move to former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak’s blockage of internet access across Egypt in January during the popular uprising against his rule. The Federal Communications Commission says it will investigate BART’s decision. We go to San Fransisco to speak with Davey D, a hip-hop journalist and activist who has been covering the protests. He runs the popular website “Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner” at DaveyD.com and is co-host of Hard Knock Radio on KPFA in Berkeley. We’re also joined by Catherine Crump, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project.

Guests:

Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project.
Davey D, hip-hop journalist and activist. He runs the popular website “Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner” at DaveyD.com. He is co-host of Hard Knock Radio on KPFA in Berkeley.

AMY GOODMAN: The operators of the San Francisco subway system are facing intense criticism following their decision last week to temporarily cut off underground cell phone and mobile-internet service at four stations in an attempt to foil a protest. On Thursday night, authorities with the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, removed power to underground cell phone towers at four stations. The decision was made in an effort to disrupt a protest against the recent death of Charles Hill, a homeless man who was shot dead on a train platform in July by a BART police officer. Police say Hill threw a knife at an officer. According to media reports, BART may be the first U.S. government agency to shutter mobile-internet and phone service in a bid to quash a demonstration.

Free speech advocates across the country have condemned the move. Some have compared it to the decision by former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak who shut down internet access across Egypt in January in an attempt to stifle the growing protest movement. On Twitter, critics of BART’s action took to using the hashtag “Mu-BART-ek.”

On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission announced it will investigate BART’s decision. FCC spokesperson Neil Grace said, quote, “We are continuing to collect information about BART’s actions and will be taking steps to hear from stakeholders about the important issues those actions raised, including protecting public safety and ensuring the availability of communications networks.”

On Monday, BART officials were forced to close four stations during the evening rush hour as free speech advocates attempted to disrupt the evening commute. The protest was called by the activist hacker group Anonymous that had hacked into the BART website over the weekend and released personal information about 2,000 transit riders. Later in the program, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the actions of Anonymous and political hackers, but first we’re going to look at this free speech controversy in the Bay Area.

For more, we go to San Francisco to speak with Davey D, hip-hop journalist, activist, who’s been covering the protests. He runs the popular website “Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner” at DaveyD.com and is co-host of Hard Knock Radio on KPFA in Berkeley. We’re also joined in New York by Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project. And in a moment we’ll be joined by an anonymous member of Anonymous; he’ll use the pseudonym X. He was at the BART protest last night.

Davey D, before we talk about the whole free speech issue, explain what happened at the beginning of July. How did this police killing take place, the killing of a homeless man? What do you know?

DAVEY D: Well, what we’re talking about is Charles Hill, who was homeless and was approached by a couple of officers on the Civic CenterBART station. And that’s where it gets murky. According to the police, he had a knife, and he had a beer bottle. And he supposedly put the officers’ lives in danger, so they shot him. But conflicting witnesses say that the officers weren’t in danger and that if he had anything, he could have been easily disarmed.

And just considering the record that BART has had in overreacting and being brutal towards many of its passengers, that sparked these protests. Obviously, BART has footage, but it wasn’t released. And that raised a lot of concern amongst people, because they’re feeling like the first time that—when Oscar Grant was shot, the footage showed that the BART police were in the wrong, in many people’s opinion. So why didn’t we see the footage for this to immediately quell any sort of concern with the public? And I think that’s what kind of brought about the type of protests that you saw.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, there have been a series of protests since police killed Hill on July 2nd?

DAVEY D: Yes, there’s been a couple of them. There’s been a couple of them. And the most notable one was the one in which the BART trains were shut down. I think what happened with BART is that they were caught off guard. What happens is, with the police and many of these agencies, they’ve gotten very used to protest being something that is brought about because people sought permission. This time people didn’t seek permission. They went out, and they protested. And the end result was the downtown BART lines being shut down. And that really upset them. So when the second protest came, the one that we’re talking about last week, or the scheduled one, they decided to shut down all the cell phones. And that, of course, brought about last night’s protest.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey, who spoke to the media shortly after the shooting on July 2nd.

CHIEF KENTON RAINEY: The suspect was—in fact had a bottle, which was used as a weapon. He was also armed with a knife. A confrontation occurred as a result of the suspect’s aggressive actions. And fearing for their safeties, one of the officers discharged his duty weapon, striking the suspect. Paramedics were summoned and responded to the scene.CPR was performed on the suspect before he was transported to the San Francisco General Hospital, where medical personnel pronounced him dead about an hour later.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the Linton Johnson, the BARTspokesperson [correction: BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey]?

DAVEY D: Well, if you rewind the tape and listen to the type of explanation that BART had for the shooting of Oscar Grant, we don’t take BART’s word at—we don’t take BART’s word when they immediately give it. They’re always going to be suspect, because we feel that, initially, they lied about a lot of these incidents. So, of course they’re going to give the best story forward, that he was armed, the police were in trouble, blah, blah, blah, all that stuff. Nobody buys it. It’s like, if that’s really the case, show us the footage. Let everybody see it. Let’s have the transparency that I think the citizens of the Bay Area and around the country would really like to have. And so, that didn’t really happen. And so, once you started to hear that there were witnesses that had conflicting reports, then it was really on and popping. Everybody feels that they’re covering things up and they’re not really being forthright.

AMY GOODMAN: I just want to correct that. That was the BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey who we just heard. So let’s talk about the protests.

DAVEY D: Right. Well, I mean, even—whatever the agency, I mean, BARTpolice chief, you know, BART spokespeople, it’s the same bag, as far as most people are concerned.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the protests that just took place and the shutting down of the internet service at four BART stations, Davey D.

DAVEY D: Well, there was a scheduled protest last Thursday, and in reaction to the protest that actually shut down the BART trains, they decided that they were going to shut off cell service. And then they used the excuse that public safety—and I think that’s what raised a lot of concern: public safety for who? We’ve had flash mobs go up on the BARTtrain and do dances on the platform and disrupt traffic for a little bit; we haven’t seen them shut down the cell phones for that. I’ve been on theBART trains where there’s been fights after Raider games and after other sporting events; they haven’t shut down the BART trains for that. So, in this case, you have people protesting the police, and now they want to shut it down and say it’s public safety. I think the key word there is “public safety,” because then that sets a precedent for anybody to shut down cell service under the guise of public safety. They could shut it down in front of a ballpark, they could shut it down if you’re on the streets, they could shut it down at any rally, under the guise of public safety.

The other point that I think we need to also consider is the fact that they were saying that the protesters were coordinating with the cell phones. Well, first of all, most protesters don’t really need cell phones to coordinate. A good protester, at least the ones out in San Francisco, have been protesting long before there’s been internet, Facebook, Twitter and all that, so they got their game on lock. But with that being said, the police can also coordinate with communications devices, as well. And just considering the type of laws we have on the books, from PATRIOT Acts and all types of things that allow the police to peer and follow you on Twitter and Facebook and all that, I think that any sort of protest that people are doing, the police probably have infiltrated you, either in your rank-and-file membership or even—or definitely online. So they know what’s going on at any given point.

I think the problem that we’re dealing with is that we’re finding, all around the country, that folks are playing with the law and trying to figure out how they can have an advantage by shutting down the ways in which the citizens of this country communicate with one another. And this was a testing ground. If we can shut down the BART service here and get away with it, maybe we’ll do it in New York, and then we’ll do it in Chicago, and then we’ll do it at a ball game, and maybe in front of, you know, the college campuses, all under the guise of disrupting and threatening the public safety. So I don’t buy it. And I think that, you know, just being at the protest yesterday and seeing that BART shut down the Civic Center, when there really wasn’t anything going on, said to me that this is a dog and pony show and that they’re trying to win the battle of public opinion by getting the mainstream media to follow their talking points, make it seem like it was a real big crisis when it really wasn’t. If I show you the footage from what took place at the Civic Center, you would question: why did you close the Civic Center when there was nothing going on? That, to me, said a whole lot about their motivation. And their motivation wasn’t public safety. It’s to win public opinion and maybe set a precedent for other agencies later down the road.

AMY GOODMAN: BART spokesperson Linton Johnson appeared on the San Francisco radio station KQED Monday and defended BART’s actions.

LINTON JOHNSON: Well, here’s how I respond to anybody who questions this gut-wrenching decision that we were forced to make by a group that had proven in the past that they were wanting to create chaos on the platform and were going to make it even more chaotic had we let it happen. As you will remember, there was somebody who jumped on top of the train car. My heart stopped. That moment when I saw that happen, I was scared to death that that guy would hurt himself or kick in a window and splatter glass all over one of our other passengers, violating another constitutional right that people aren’t talking about, and that is the constitutional right to safety. And on the platform, the constitutional right to safety is paramount. The right to be able to express your opinion ends, basically, at the fare gate, where you have to have a ticket. So the paid area is where it ends. And the reason for that is because we can’t have chaos on the platform, because people get hurt.

AMY GOODMAN: BART spokesperson Linton Johnson on KQED in San Francisco. Catherine Crump also with us, joining Davey D, staff attorney at the ACLU. Can you respond?

CATHERINE CRUMP: There’s no question that what happened in San Francisco sets a terrible precedent. It’s the first known incident that we’ve heard of where the government has shut down a cell phone network in order to prevent people from engaging in political protest. Cell phone networks are something we’ve all come to rely on. People use them for all sorts of communication that have nothing to do with protest. And this is really a sweeping and overbroad reaction by the police.

AMY GOODMAN: What other information do you have about what police are doing with cell phones around the country, at the ACLU?

CATHERINE CRUMP: Yeah, cell phones have been in the news frequently recently, not just—because they’ve become such a vital part of our lives. One big issue these days is the use of cell phones as tracking devices. Police around the country are using cell phones to track people’s movements. And frequently, they’re not even getting a warrant based on probable cause. Just last week, we filed 365 Public Records Act requests around the country with police departments, big and small, to try to get a better perspective on the degree to which cell phones are being used as surveillance tools. So these new devices are raising all sorts of constitutional issues that we’ve just never had to confront before.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean they don’t even get warrants when they’re tracking your phone? How do they do it, then?

CATHERINE CRUMP: They frequently go to court, and they show a lower standard than the full probable cause standard. They show that it’s irrelevant to an ongoing investigation, which is far less than showing that they have probable cause to believe that tracking someone’s location will turn up evidence of wrongdoing. The constitutional ground here is really unsettled, and the police have been taking advantage of that to engage in really massive amounts of cell phone tracking without meeting the full probable cause standard. And we believe that violates the Fourth Amendment, which gives you a right to be free from unreasonable searches. And we don’t think there’s anything reasonable about tracking people’s locations without showing probable cause.

AMY GOODMAN: The ACLU met with the police chief yesterday in San Francisco?

CATHERINE CRUMP: We did. And what we were really looking—

AMY GOODMAN: You met with him?

CATHERINE CRUMP: I did not, but my colleagues did. And what we were really looking for out of that meeting was a guarantee that this would never happen again. And unfortunately, the police chief was not able to provide that kind of assurance. And so, we are going to continue exploring what options we can do to try to guarantee that this never happens again.

AMY GOODMAN: What did he say?

CATHERINE CRUMP: You know, it was a very short and inconclusive meeting that didn’t give us any sort of reassurance. And we’re really in new territory here. We’d really like to see a policy change, that they put into writing that this doesn’t happen frequently. We’ve put on our websitea place where people can go to take action to ask—to ask for this sort of thing not to happen again. And we’re continuing to see what other sorts of pressure we can put on the government here.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. Catherine Crump, staff attorney at the ACLU. Davey D, hip-hop journalist and activist, runs the popular website “Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner” at DaveyD.com and is a co-host at Pacifica Radio KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio in Berkeley. This isDemocracy Now! When we come back, we’ll also be joined by others, including an anonymous member of Anonymous, which hacked the BARTwebsite, and we’ll talk about the information that they released.