* THE MEDIA MESSENGER OF ZUCCOTTI PARK
* OCCUPY WALL STREET: FROM ZUCCOTTI PARK TENTS TO POLITICAL PRIMARIES
With the drum circles mostly gone, the Occupy movement is trying new tactics — and aiming straight at election season.
By Nate Rawlings
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
A protester affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement shouts slogans while a small group marches from Grand Central Station to Times Square after a protest in New York on January 3, 2012.
While tens of thousands of people rang in the New Year with the famous ball drop in Times Square, a few miles to the south, members of Occupy Wall Street ended the year of the protester where the movement took off.
After marches through downtown Manhattan, which included a dizzying run through Chinatown, protesters returned to Zuccotti Park. They first occupied the space on Sept. 17, and it served as their main encampment and symbolic home until police evicted them on Nov. 15. On New Year’s, they tore down barricades erected around the park and piled them in the middle. After scuffles with police, more than 60 people were arrested.
Three days later, protesters assembled a “flash mob” at Grand Central Station during rush hour to protest President Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contained controversial provisions like the potential indefinite detention of terrorism suspects. Protesters demonstrated “black bagging”–simulating scenes from the Abu Gharaib detainee abuse–to draw attention to the detainments the defense act authorizes.
Welcome to Occupy 2.0. Without a single space to use as a platform, protesters have been taking their message throughout the city. As a protest tactic, occupation was highly successful last year, helping to change the national conversation from debt cutting and tax reduction to inequalities of income and opportunity. Every clash with law enforcement–from the arrest of 700 marchers on the Brooklyn Bridge to the stare down over eviction to the final raid on the park–brought more media attention and more allies to planned marches.
Swing by Zuccotti Park on a weekday evening these days and the concrete space, now surrounded by hundreds of metal barricades, lays empty. About a dozen private security guards in bright vests roam the perimeter. Occupiers still use the park for their general assembly meetings, but no one can sleep there anymore. Instead, out of town protesters who chose to stay in New York have shacked up with friends or established commune-style co-ops.
Most of the movement’s planning takes place in an atrium lobby at 60 Wall Street, the U.S. headquarters of Deutsche Bank that’s just a few short blocks from the New York Stock Exchange. Even in Zuccotti Park’s heyday, Occupy’s working groups met inside the building, away from the crowds and cameras and police, to discuss their myriad moving pieces. […]
VIDEO: SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE WALL STREET PROTESTS @ http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1187576300001_2095437,00.html
PHOTO ESSAY: ZUCCOTTI PARK: THE DAY BEFORE AND AFTER THE EVICTION @ http://99getsmart.com/?p=1222
* VACLAV HAVEL’S LIFE IN TRUTH
By Jiri Pehe, Truthout
Prague – Long before Czechoslovakia’s communist regime collapsed in 1989, Václav Havel was one of the most remarkable figures in Czech history – already a successful playwright when he became the unofficial leader of the opposition movement. Though he hoped to return to writing, the revolution catapulted him to the presidency of Czechoslovakia, and, after the country split in 1993, he was elected President of the new Czech Republic, serving until 2003.
A political career rooted in historical coincidence made Havel an unusual politician. Not only did he bring to post-1989 politics a certain distrust of political parties; as a former dissident, he considered it essential to emphasize the moral dimension of politics – a stance that steered him onto a collision course with the pragmatists and technologists of power, whose main representative, Václav Klaus, succeeded him as President.
Havel’s public life could be divided into three distinct periods: artist (1956-1969), dissident (1969-1989), and politician (1989-2003) – except that he always combined all three sensibilities in his public activities. As a promising playwright in the 1960s, he was certainly very “political,” focusing on the absurdity of the regime. He was also one of the most vocal critics of censorship and other human-rights violations, which made him a dissident even during the liberal “Prague Spring” of 1968.
Havel was blacklisted and openly persecuted after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of that year, but he continued to write anti-totalitarian plays. In 1977, he and more than 200 other dissidents founded the human-rights movement Charter 77, which quickly established itself as a leading opposition force. Havel was one of the movement’s first three spokesmen.
The following year, he wrote a seminal essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” in which he described Czechoslovakia’s post-1968 “normalization” regime as a morally bankrupt system based on all-pervasive lying. In 1979, he was sentenced to a five-year prison term for his activities in the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted, an offshoot of Charter 77 that monitored human-rights abuses and persecution in Czechoslovakia. He was released near the end of his term after contracting pneumonia (a source of serious health problems for the rest of his life). His Letters to Olga, philosophical essays written from prison and addressed to his wife, quickly became a classic of anti-totalitarian literature.
During his presidencies, Havel continued to combine his political, dissident, and artistic sensibilities. He insisted on writing his own speeches, conceiving many of them as philosophical and literary works, in which he not only criticized the dehumanized technology of modern politics, but also repeatedly appealed to Czechs not to fall prey to consumerism and mindless party politics.
His was a conception of democracy based on a strong civil society and morality. That distinguished him from Klaus, the other leading figure of the post-communist transformation, who advocated a quick transition, stripped, if possible, of inconvenient moral scruples and impediments posed by the rule of law. Their conflict came to a head in 1997, when the Klaus-led government fell after a series of scandals. Havel described the economic system created by Klaus’s post-communist reforms as “mafioso capitalism.”
Although Klaus never returned as Prime Minister, his “pragmatic” approach gained the upper hand in Czech politics, especially after Havel’s departure from presidency in 2003. Indeed, Havel’s greatest defeat may be that most Czechs now view their country as a place where political parties serve as agents of powerful economic groups (many of them created by the often-corrupt privatization process overseen by Klaus).
In the last years of his presidency, Havel’s political opponents ridiculed him as a naïve moralist. Many ordinary Czechs, on the other hand, had come to dislike him not only for what seemed like relentless moralizing, but also because he reflected back to them their own lack of courage during the communist regime. While he continued to enjoy respect and admiration abroad, if only for continuing his fight against human-right abuses around the world, his popularity at home was shaken.
But not anymore. Czechs, given their growing dissatisfaction with the current political system’s omnipresent corruption and other failings, have increasingly come to appreciate the importance of Havel’s moral appeals. In fact, now, after his death, he is well on the way to being lionized as someone who foresaw many current problems, and not only at home: while still President, he repeatedly called attention to the self-destructive forces of industrial civilization and global capitalism.
Many will ask what made Havel exceptional. The answer is simple: decency. He was a decent, principled man. He did not fight against communism because of some hidden personal agenda, but simply because it was, in his view, an indecent, immoral system. When, as president, he supported the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 or the coming invasion of Iraq in 2003, he did not talk about geo-political or strategic objectives but about the need to stop human-rights abuses by brutal dictators.
Acting on such beliefs in his political career made him a politician of the kind that the contemporary world no longer sees. Perhaps that is why, as the world – and Europe in particular – faces a period of profound crisis, the clarity and courageous language that would bring about meaningful change is missing.
The death of Havel, a great believer in European integration, is thus highly symbolic: he was one of the last of a now-extinct breed of politicians who could lead effectively in extraordinary times, because their first commitment was to common decency and the common good, not to holding power. If the world is to make it through its various crises successfully, his legacy must remain alive.
Jiri Pehe was Vaclav Havel’s political adviser from September 1997 to May 1999. He is currently Director of New York University in Prague.
* TERRY CARRICO, EX-GUANTANAMO PRISON COMMANDER, SAYS FACILITY SHOULD CLOSE
A decade after the prison camp opened, its first warden speaks out against U.S. detention policies in the war on terror and tells Aram Roston the facility should be closed.
By Aram Roston, The Daily Beast
John Moore / Getty Images
Ten years ago, Army Colonel Terry Carrico watched a C-141 land at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. He had planned for the moment carefully, and he knew very well what the cargo was: 20 detainees sent from Afghanistan. Carrico was the first camp commander of what would become the world’s most famous terrorism prison, and this was its opening day.
He had choreographed, with machinelike precision, how his soldiers would take custody of the shackled, blindfolded detainees as they were led onto the tarmac from the cavernous plane. With 23 years of service as a military police officer, he didn’t let any emotion register in his face that day as he watched, but he was surprised at the appearance of the prisoners.
They were scrawny and malnourished to an alarming degree, hardly appearing like the crazed fanatics that Gen. Richard Myers, then the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, described that day back at a Pentagon press conference. “These are people,” the general said, invoking an alarming image, “that would gnaw through hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down, I mean.”
Carrico recalls that the detainees were actually compliant and docile that first day.
Now a corporate executive in Georgia, he considers the debate that is still raging over U.S. detention policy from a unique perspective, and he has reached conclusions that run counter to the prevailing political trends in Washington. The retired colonel says Guantánamo “should be closed,” though he believes it never will be. He says “very few” of the men held there had valuable intelligence, at least while he ran the camp.
Carrico also says plainly that he believes it is wrong to keep people indefinitely without trial based on secret evidence. He argues that people captured in the war on terror should be arrested and tried in courts of law, not locked up at places like Guantánamo. “It goes against the way I was trained and what I believe,” he tells The Daily Beast, “to hold someone indefinitely with lack of evidence or proof.”
“Due process of law, all the things that we stand for as a country, and being a country of laws, it doesn’t sit well with me that we are going to continue to keep people in Guantánamo,” he said.
Carrico has the unusual credentials for someone making these points, for he was essentially the facility’s first warden.
It was in the final days of December 2001 that then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly announced that the U.S. military enclave in Cuba was the “least worst place” for a detention facility. The war in Afghanistan was underway, Kabul had fallen to U.S.-led forces, and captured prisoners were beginning to fill a makeshift site in Kandahar in the cold winter.
Carrico got his assignment late in December and landed at Guantánamo 72 hours later. He was shown some outdoor chain-link pens, overgrown by tropical weeds. “They were basically outdoor cages,” Carrico said, “It’s what you would normally find in a veterinarian’s facilities to hold animals.”
He took charge of the effort and worked fast: they were told to expect as many as 300 prisoners.
It was Jan. 11, 2002, less than two weeks after he got to Guantánamo that the first shipment arrived. Remember, this was before the Bush administration had announced that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to these detainees.
It was a different time: The U.S. had not yet adopted controversial secret interrogation rules, or techniques like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions to induce pain, forced nakedness, and other practices that created discomfort.
Still, Guantánamo was a harsh place even in those early days. Within weeks, as more and more detainees arrived on the flights from Afghanistan, Carrico wondered whether they were really capturing the worst of the worst. The detainees included an obviously mentally disturbed prisoner who was quickly dubbed “Crazy Bob.”
The heads and faces of the detainees, even the elderly ones, had been shaved in Afghanistan before their flight—a final insult to all of them on their departure. The guards back in Kandahar had done it.
Carrico said few seemed like they had valuable intelligence about terrorism. He said in the first few weeks, Rumsfeld arrived, and Carrico walked with him through the chain-link fences, passing the prisoners in orange.
“’I toured Camp X-ray with him and he said, ‘Colonel, what do you think we have here?’ and I said, ‘I think we have a bunch of soldiers there that were being paid.’ And I questioned their intelligence value.”
Rumsfeld’s response, Carrico said, was, “ ‘You know, Colonel, I think you are right.’ ”
Carrico was convinced that Rumsfeld agreed with him. “His impression was that they were not of any great intelligence value,” Carrico told The Daily Beast.
Earlier this year, researchers from the Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy and Research uncovered a 2003 memo from Rumsfeld, which indicated he knew that detainees at Guantánamo had little valuable information. “We need to stop populating Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants,” Rumsfeld wrote back then.
“Due process of law, all the things that we stand for as a country … It doesn’t sit well with me that we are going to continue to keep people in Guantánamo.”
Rumsfeld’s office said he could not be reached for comment on this story.
Back in 2002, even Carrico himself insisted to reporters that the detainees were a deadly threat. “They are dangerous people,” he said in one interview back then. “Some of these people are directly related or responsible for 9/11.”
Now he explains, “at the time, we didn’t really know who we were receiving in detail.” He said he assumed everyone who was sent there must have been linked to the war on terrorism. “I made the statement,” he acknowledges. “I guess at the time I didn’t give it a second thought that they were not tied to 9/11 directly.”
The alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, weren’t transferred to Guantánamo until 2006, five years after the prison opened. They were sent from CIA custody, and they are still housed separately from the other detainees.
Carrico’s job wasn’t to interrogate, it was solely to make sure the detainees were housed, fed, and secured properly. When it came to interrogations, he says, the general who ran the intelligence operations tried to ban military police officers from the rooms.
Carrico says he wouldn’t let that happen, insisting that his MPs always accompany the detainees when they were interrogated. “My MPs were going to ensure that detainees were not assaulted or mistreated in interrogation,” he says.
In February 2002, President Bush famously issued an order announcing that prisoners were not entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions, although he said they would be treated in a matter “consistent” with the conventions.
Carrico, who had been trained to run prisoner-of-war camps, says the president’s declaration didn’t affect him. “My training was founded in the Geneva Conventions and fair and humane treatment.”
But Carrico left Guantánamo in May 2002, and later that year the facility launched new procedures, where interrogation tactics and inmate treatment became increasingly coercive and unpredictable. By October 2002, Rumsfeld had signed a document authorizing aggressive interrogation techniques that included sleep deprivation, forced standing, the use of hot or cold temperatures, and other approaches. Guantánamo’s practices were later copied in Iraq and Afghanistan, investigations have found. […]
* MICHAEL HASTINGS ON WAR JOURNALISTS
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon
Rolling Stone‘s Michael Hastings — whose 2010 article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal ended the Afghanistan War commander’s career by accurately reporting numerous controversial statements made in a series of interviews — embodies the pure journalistic ethos. Some of the most celebrated establishment military reporters in America attacked Hastings for that article on the ground that it violated a sacred trust between Generals and war reporters (The New York Times‘ John Burns), and even baselessly insinuated that he fabricated the quotes and then went on to impugn his patriotism when compared to The Great General (CBS News’ Lara Logan).
Even worse, The Washington Post, ABC News and others irresponsibly published totally anonymous military sources claiming with no basis that Hastings violated ground-rule agreements for the interviews. In the face of that media-military onslaught, it would have been easy for this young reporter to protect his careerist ambitions and back down. Instead, he doubled down, accusing military officials of “lying” and then unapologetically explaining to these lions of American journalism that the role of a journalist is to scrutinize and expose — not protect and glorify– the nation’s most powerful political and military leaders:
Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That’s what reporters are supposed to do, report the story.
That mindset shapes Hastings’ superb new book on the Afghanistan War: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan. The bulk of the book is devoted to his experiences in Afghanistan and his examination of how the war has been managed and the propaganda that has been disseminated to sustain it. Because Hastings writes as someone who expressly believes that U.S. should not be in Afghanistan, and (even more rarely) as someone who has no concern whatsoever for whom he offends by reporting the truth, the book provides vital insights about the war and how it has been run that are not available anywhere else.
Hastings’ exposé on the war is what has received the bulk of the attention in book reviews — both positive and negative (The Wall Street Journal amusingly compared him — as though it were a grave insult — to Vietnam War reporters David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan for the crime of reporting the negative aspects of a war and the government deceit behind it). But his discussions of national security journalists and how the Pentagon uses them are at least equally valuable. First, consider how Gen. McChrystal viewed the role the American media played in helping to sell the Iraq War:
When even George Bush’s own Press Secretary and his Pentagon spokesman mock the American media for its mindless subservience to government war propaganda — and when even the war General who is a the subject of a glowing Atlantic profile derides the writer as “totally co-opted by the military” – perhaps that’s a sign that the profession (also known as: The Liberal Media) should take account of the actual function it serves. The other lesson from this passage is, as Hastings put it to me by email: ”Though these big time journalists like to view themselves as ‘peers’ of McChrystal and the generals, the generals often view the big time journalists with a healthy dose of contempt.” People who are easily and eagerly used are often appreciated for the value they provide, but are rarely viewed with respect. […]
* RECOGNIZING THE “UNPEOPLE”
By Noam Chomsky, Truthout
On June 15, three months after the NATO bombing of Libya began, the African Union presented to the U.N. Security Council the African position on the attack – in reality, bombing by their traditional imperial aggressors: France and Britain, joined by the U.S., which initially coordinated the assault, and marginally some other nations.
It should be recalled that there were two interventions. The first, under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, adopted on March 17, called for a no-fly zone, a cease-fire and measures to protect civilians. After a few moments, that intervention was cast aside as the imperial triumvirate joined the rebel army, serving as its air force.
At the outset of the bombing, the A.U. called for efforts at diplomacy and negotiations to try to head off a likely humanitarian catastrophe in Libya. Within the month, the A.U. was joined by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and others, including the major regional NATO power Turkey.
In fact, the triumvirate was quite isolated in its attacks – undertaken to eliminate the mercurial tyrant whom they had supported when it was advantageous. The hope was for a regime likelier to be amenable to Western demands for control over Libya’s rich resources and, perhaps, to offer an African base for the U.S. Africa command AFRICOM, so far confined to Stuttgart.
No one can know whether the relatively peaceful efforts called for in U.N. Resolution 1973, and backed by most of the world, might have succeeded in averting the terrible loss of life and the destruction that followed in Libya.
On June 15, the A.U. informed the Security Council that “ignoring the A.U. for three months and going on with the bombings of the sacred land of Africa has been high-handed, arrogant and provocative.” The A.U. went on to present a plan for negotiations and policing within Libya by A.U. forces, along with other measures of reconciliation – to no avail.
The A.U. call to the Security Council also laid out the background for their concerns: “Sovereignty has been a tool of emancipation of the peoples of Africa who are beginning to chart transformational paths for most of the African countries after centuries of predation by the slave trade, colonialism and neocolonialism. Careless assaults on the sovereignty of African countries are, therefore, tantamount to inflicting fresh wounds on the destiny of the African peoples.”
The African appeal can be found in the Indian journal Frontline, but was mostly unheard in the West. That comes as no surprise: Africans are “unpeople,” to adapt George Orwell’s term for those unfit to enter history.
On March 12, the Arab League gained the status of people by supporting U.N. Resolution 1973. But approval soon faded when the League withheld support for the subsequent Western bombardment of Libya.
And on April 10, the Arab League reverted to unpeople by calling on the U.N. also to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza and to lift the Israeli siege, virtually ignored.
That too makes good sense. Palestinians are prototypical unpeople, as we see regularly. Consider the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, which opened with two articles on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
One, written by Israeli officials Yosef Kuperwasser and Shalom Lipner, blamed the continuing conflict on the Palestinians for refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (keeping to the diplomatic norm: States are recognized, but not privileged sectors within them).
The second, by American scholar Ronald R. Krebs, attributes the problem to the Israeli occupation; the article is subtitled: “How the Occupation Is Destroying the Nation.” Which nation? Israel, of course, harmed by having its boot on the necks of unpeople.
Another illustration: In October, headlines trumpeted the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who had been captured by Hamas. The article in The New York Times Magazine was devoted to his family’s suffering. Shalit was freed in exchange for hundreds of unpeople, about whom we learned little, apart from sober debate as to whether their release might harm Israel.
We also learned nothing about the hundreds of other detainees held in Israeli prisons for long periods without charge. […]
* NEW BILL KNOWN AS ENEMY EXPATRIATION ACT WOULD ALLOW GOVERNMENT TO STRIP CITIZENS WITHOUT CONVICTION
By Stephen D. Foster Jr., Addicting Information
First, Congress considered the National Defense Authorization Act, sections of which gave the President the authority to use the military to arrest and indefinitely detain Americans without trial or charge. The language was revised because of strong condemnation from the American people. But now a new bill has emerged that poses yet another threat to the American citizenry.
Congress is considering HR 3166 and S. 1698 also known as the Enemy Expatriation Act, sponsored by Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Charles Dent (R-PA). This bill would give the US government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship without being convicted of being “hostile” against the United States. In other words, you can be stripped of your nationality for “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States.” Legally, the term “hostilities” means any conflict subject to the laws of war but considering the fact that the War on Terror is a little ambiguous and encompassing, any action could be labeled as supporting terrorism. Since the Occupy movement began, conservatives have been trying to paint the protesters as terrorists.
The new law would change a part of US Code 1481 which can be read in full here. Compare 3166 to 1481 and the change is small. The new section makes no reference to being convicted as it does in section (7). So even though the language of the NDAA has been revised to exclude American citizens, the US government merely has to strip Americans of their citizenship and the NDAA will apply. And they will be able to do so without convicting the accused in a court of law.
I hope I’m wrong, but it sounds to me like this is a loophole for indefinitely detaining Americans. Once again, you just have to be accused of supporting hostilities which could be defined any way the government sees fit. Then the government can strip your citizenship and apply the indefinite detention section of the NDAA without the benefit of a trial. This certainly must be questioned by American citizens. The way these defense obsessed Republicans think, our rights are always in danger of being taken away.
To read the full text of the bill, go here.
* DISPATCH FROM TORTURE NATION: EXECUTION BY PEPPER SPRAY
By digby, Hullabaloo
No this isn’t a story from North Korea or Pinochet’s Chile. I swear:
It has been two and half years since 62-year old Nick Christie was tortured and pepper-sprayed to death by police at the Lee County Jail. Although the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, the law enforcement officers who kept him strapped naked to a chair and then pepper sprayed him until he died have not been charged in his death.
On January 20, 2010, the Injury Board’s National News Desk reported that Nick Christie’s wife, Joyce Christie, and her son, were planning to file a federal lawsuit because the police violated her husband’s constitutional rights. The article describes what allegedly happened when Christie was arrested for trespassing:
Christie, 62, was arrested last March after traveling from Ohio to Fort Myers while suffering, what his widow describes as a mental breakdown. Arrested twice for disorderly conduct and trespassing, Nick Christie was pepper sprayed ten times over the course of his 43-hour custody.
Suffering from emphysema, COPD, back and heart problems, the jail staff said his medical files were not available or immediately sought at the time of his arrest. But DiCello says Christie gave his medical history and list of medications to the jail days earlier during his first encounter with law enforcement.
His medication list was found in the back pocket of his pants when Christie’s personal effects were returned to his widow.
Sometime between the time he was arrested on March 27, 2009 around 2:00 p.m., and March 31 at1:23 p.m. when he was pronounced dead, Christie had been sprayed with ten blasts of pepper spray, also known as OC (Oleo-resin Capsicum), which is a derivative of cayenne pepper.
The officers involved in the incident say that Christie was “combative, despite the fact he was restrained in a chair so he allegedly wouldn’t spit at his jailers.” However, other inmates on the cell block tell a different story. They say that there was excessive use of pepper spray, his whole head was turning purple, he was gasping for air and was telling the officers that he couldn’t breathe and that he had a heart condition. (source: Injury Board)
According to the medical examiner, the death was a homicide caused by the stress that the restraints and repeated use of pepper spray placed on his heart. However, the State Attorney’s office decided there was no wrongdoing, therefore the officers involved in the incident were never charged in the homicide.
Clearly they tortured the man to death. I just don’t see any other way of looking at this.
But we don’t have a problem with that in our country, particularly when the victims refuse to “stop resisting” the robotic mantra used by cops all over the country to excuse beating, spraying with chemicals and electrocuting citizens. The mentally ill, foreigners and inebriated have a particularly hard time since they can’t immediately absorb their “orders” to immediately comply from the police. Doing it when they are already in custody is unfortunately not all that unprecedented.
Every American had better hope they never get sick, particularly both mentally and physically, and find themselves in the hands of the authorities. There’s a chance they won’t come out of it alive. I’d prefer they just shoot me down immediately rather than pepper spray me to death. But that’s just me. […]
* FBI ALLOWED TO ADD GPS DEVICE TO CARS WITHOUT WARRANTS
Source: RT News
Reuters / Stringer
The Supreme Court will soon weigh in on whether law enforcement agencies can monitor your every move without you knowing — and without a warrant. In Missouri, however, one judge isn’t waiting to find out their word.
US Magistrate Judge David Noce ruled last week in favor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and determined that the FBI did not need a warrant in order to affix a GPS device to the car of a St. Louis man.
Fred Robinson, 69, was accused of collecting $175,000 in compensation while on the payroll of the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office. Authorities alleged that Robinson held a position in name only and actually avoided going into the office. To prove this, law enforcement agents didn’t just ask around City Hall or dispatch a few officers to go speak with staffers. Instead, the FBI installed a GPS device on Robinson’s car without ever notifying him or asking permission.
The US Supreme Court will decide later this year if such action is allowable without obtaining a warrant. In the interim, Judge Noce says it is just fine.
In his ruling, Judge Noce cited an earlier call from the Eighth Circuit Court that determined, “’when police have reasonable suspicion that a particular vehicle is transporting drugs, a warrant is not required when, while the vehicle is parked in a public place, they install a non-invasive GPS tracking device on it for a reasonable period of time.” In the case of Robinson, that is exactly what agents did.
Or so they claim.
Robinson’s attorneys insisted that their client’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the sting, but Judge Noce says that the installation of the tracker “was not a search.” Since the GPS device was installed in a way that the officers insist was non-invasive and planted in plain view of public, placing the monitor on Robinson’s Chevy Cavalier was entirely by-the-books.
“Because installation of the GPS tracker device was non-invasive and because the agents installed the device when the truck was parked in public, installation of the GPS tracker device was not a search,” rules Judge Noce. Specifically, says Noce, “defendant Robinson did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the exterior of his Cavalier. Agents installed the GPS tracker device onto defendant’s Cavalier based on a reasonable suspicion that he was being illegally paid as a ‘ghost’ employee on the payroll of the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office.”
Even though the device was installed unbeknownst to the subject, the judge says that using magnets to affix the device to the automobile in lieu of screws made it legitimate. The installation and removal of the GPS tracker were both done in public, but during secret operations that Robinson was unaware of. Ergo, until the Supreme Court rules (and perhaps even after then), the FBI is fine to monitor anyone suspected of a crime, says Noce, as long as they don’t dent your Dodge Durgano in the process. […]
* EXPOSED: THE MILITARY’S FREAKIEST ‘NON-LETHAL’ WEAPONS
By Katie Drummond, Wired
Tasers that elicit excruciating spasms in one person at a time? Foam pellets that send an entire crowd fleeing in agony? Pfft. So 2011. Where non-lethal weapons are concerned, the future’s all about sonic microwaves that can make swimmers puke mid-stroke, and aircraft with laser beams that can redirect an entire enemy plane mid-flight.
Or, at least, those are the deepest, darkest wishes of the Pentagon agency responsible for non-lethal weapons.
The military’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate’s “Non-Lethal Weapons Reference Book,” leaked online last week by PublicIntelligence.org, is a terrifying treasure trove that describes dozens of ways — some already in-use, others in development or still mere fantasy — for military and law enforcement officials to make you wish they were using the real bullets.
A total of 14 weapons, according to the reference book, are currently being fielded. Some of ‘em, you’ve heard of. Good old tasers, which the guide helpfully reminds us “can penetrate 2 inches of clothing” in order to “totally disable an individual,” and guns that shoot 600 rubber pellets filled with pepper spray to keep rowdy crowds — already used by law enforcement officials, sometimes with very lethal results — subdued.
Most of the guide, however, offers a sneak peak at the military’s dream non-lethal arms cache.
Dozens of the devices are currently in development. There’s an “Impulse Swimmer Gun” that uses “pulsed sound waves” to cause “auditory impairment and/or nausea” among scuba divers engaged in “unauthorized underwater activities”; A system that relies on “high-power microwaves” to block oncoming cars and any (oops) “unintended targets within the target area”; A vehicle-mounted tube launcher that’ll unleash “ocular and auditory impairment” combined with “thermal heating” to utterly devastate a horde of wrongdoers.
And then there are the fantasy projects. The agency want a new and improved taser that can “substantially increase the duration of disabling effects.” They’re also after a high-powered microwave system that can be hooked up to a drone or a ship, and then used to trigger “electrical system malfunction” on enemy boats. Danger Room’s personal favorite, though, is a system of “pulsed laser[s]” on the tip of an airplane, used to “externally control the steering forces” of a foe’s aircraft, in order to “divert [it] from restricted area.”
Of course, the directorate can’t spend all its time dreaming up torturous new toys. They’ve still gotta fix the busted up old ones. […]
* FORCED MILITARY TESTING IN AMERICA’S SCHOOLS
By Pat Elder, Common Dreams
The invasion of student privacy associated with military testing in U.S. high schools has been well documented by mainstream media sources, like USA Today and NPR Radio. The practice of mandatory testing, however, continues largely unnoticed.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country. The 3 hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent. The school-based ASVAB Career Exploration Program is among the military’s most effective recruiting tools.
In roughly 11,000 high schools where the ASVAB is administered, students are strongly encouraged to take the test for its alleged value as a career exploration tool, but in more than 1,000 schools, according to information received from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command through a Freedom of Information Act request, tens of thousands of students are required to take it. It is a particularly egregious violation of civil liberties that has been going on almost entirely unnoticed since the late 1960’s.
Federal laws strictly monitor the release of student information, but the military manages to circumvent these laws with the administration of the ASVAB. In fact, ASVAB test results are the only student information that leaves U.S. schools without the opportunity provided for parental consent.
Aside from managing to evade the constraints of federal law, the military may also be violating many state laws on student privacy when it administers the ASVAB in public high schools. Students taking the ASVAB are required to furnish their social security numbers for the tests to be processed, even though many state laws specifically forbid such information being released without parental consent. In addition, the ASVAB requires under-aged students to sign a privacy release statement, a practice that may also be prohibited by many state laws.
A typical school announcement reads, “All Juniors will report to the cafeteria on Monday at 8:10 a.m. to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Whether you’re planning on college, a technical school, or you’re just not sure yet, the ASVAB Career Exploration Program can provide you with important information about your skills, abilities and interests – and help put you on the right course for a satisfying career!” This announcement or one very similar to it greets students in more than a thousand high schools across the country. There’s no mention of the military or the primary purpose of the test, which is to find leads for recruiters.
Imagine you’re Captain Eric W. Johnson, United States Navy, Commander, United States Military Entrance Processing Command and you had the complete cooperation of the Arkansas Department of Education to recruit high school students into the U.S. military. The first step you might take is to require juniors in public high schools to take the ASVAB. ASVAB results are good for enlistment purposes for up to two years. The ASVAB offers a treasure trove of information on students and allows the state’s top recruiter to pre-screen the entire crop of incoming potential recruits. “Sit down, shut up, and take this test. That’s an order!”
142 Arkansas high schools forced 10,000 children to take this military test without parental consent in Arkansas alone last year. “We’ve always done it that way and no one has ever complained,” explained one school counselor.
The Army recruiter’s handbook calls for military recruiters to take ownership of schools and this is one way they’re doing it. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command ranks each high school based on how receptive it is to military recruiters. Schools are awarded extra points when they make the ASVAB mandatory. (See page 25 of: USAREC pub. 601-107)
Meanwhile, military recruiting regulations specifically prohibit that the test from being made mandatory.
“Voluntary aspect of the student ASVAB: School and student participation in the Student Testing Program is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory. Schools will be encouraged to recommend most students participate in the ASVAB Career Exploration Program. If the school requires all students of a particular group or grade to test, the MEPS will support it.” (See Page 3-1 of USMEPCOM Reg. 601-4) […]
* NEW HAMPSHIRE’S NEW SCOPES TRIAL
By Staff, Diatribe Media, Truthout
New Hampshire took an early lead this year in the effort to dumb down school students and erode the separation of church and state in the education system by introducing two anti-evolution bills to its state legislature (h/t Mother Jones). The two laws are the first of their kind in the state since the late 90’s. According to the National Center for Science Education, House Bill 1149 would:
“[r]equire evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists’ political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism.”
House Bill 1457 would:
“[r]equire science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes.”
State Representative Jerry Bergevin, who introduced HB 1149, believes such legislation is necessary because he thinks evolution is tied to Nazis, communists, and the shooters in the 1999 Columbine massacre. According to Bergevin, the political and ideological views of Darwin and other believers and evolutionary scientists, along with their positions on atheism, must be taught to students as well. The New Hampshire Republican told the Concord Monitor:
“I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a worldview and it’s godless. Atheism has been tried in various societies, and they’ve been pretty criminal domestically and internationally. The Soviet Union, Cuba, the Nazis, China today: they don’t respect human rights.”
He added “As a general court we should be concerned with criminal ideas like this and how we are teaching it. . . . Columbine, remember that? They were believers in evolution. That’s evidence right there.”
Rep Gary Hopper, who introduced HB1457 said that “science is a creative process, not an absolute thing” and he wants creationism taught in classes “so that kids understand that science doesn’t really have all the answers. They are just guessing.”
The most troubling and ridiculous part of the comments from the legislators introducing these bills is not only the anti science nature of them, but the idea that atheism is on par with murder, totalitarianism, and other “criminal ideas.” The idea that the lack of faith in God by an individual is somehow a violation of human rights shows just how little these Representatives understand of both atheism and human rights. (Full disclosure – I am not an atheist. I have my own faith and religious beliefs and hold them closely and don’t evangelize or prosthelytize)
In a country which touts itself as being the freeist in the world in respect to practicing religion, a representative has no ground to call another person’s spiritual beliefs “criminal.” Furthermore, if anything in the United States violates human rights, it’s the fact that our prison system is out of control, or that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed thousands of innocent civilians, or that our President signed legislation making indefinite detention for Americans a real possibility. It’s simply incredible that these elected representatives can turn a blind eye to real human rights violations while inventing others. […]
* SANTORUM NAMED ONE OF THE THREE ‘MOST CORRUPT’ SENATORS IN 2006
By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
In 2006, Rick Santorum, less than two months before suffering one of the worst losses in Senate history, was named one of three “most corrupt” Senators by CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“The officials named in this report have chosen to enrich themselves and their families and friends by abusing the power of their office, rather than work for the public good. Their collective corruption affects all Americans,” stated the executive director of CREW, Melanie Sloan.
“Sen. Santorum’s ethics issues stem from the manner in which he funded his children’s education and his misuse of legislative position in exchange for contributions to his political action committee and his re-election campaign,” CREW notes, on page 207 of their exhaustive report (PDF), which delves into deep detail across eleven extensively-footnoted pages.
In February of 2006, CREW had filed an ethics complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Senator Santorum, “alleging that Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) violated the Senate Gift Rule by accepting a mortgage from The Philadelphia Trust Company, a bank that serves affluent clients.”
Charging that “ethical trespasses have become the norm for Sen. Santorum,” CREW’s Melanie Sloan cited Santorum’s “contempt for the rules” as “particularly ironic given that Sen. Santorum has long attempted to position himself as the poster child for public morality.”
The following month, CREW filed a complaint with the IRS against a group of Pennsylvania pastors for violating IRS rules demanding separation of church and state.
And later that same year, CREW filed yet another complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), this time against Santorum’s former staffers for setting up a lobbying office in the same building as Santorum’s offices.
Ironically, Santorum has served as a Senior Fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which claims to be “Washington, D.C.’s premier institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”
“From the Cold War to the war on terrorism, from disputes over the role of religion in public life to battles over the nature of the family, EPPC and its scholars have consistently sought to defend the great Western ethical imperatives — respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government.” […]
* API’S NEXT SHAM CAMPAIGN
By Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund, MyDD
Today the American Petroleum Institute launched its latest attack on our great nation with their “Vote 4 Energy” or “I vote” campaign.
At the campaigns unveiling, API President Jack Gerard explained, “We are doing this because an electorate that is educated on energy issues will demand of all candidates, for every office, a commitment to honest common-sense discussions of how we can achieve energy security…”
I look forward to engaging in that discussion with Gerard and candidates for office because the electorate has been pretty clear what they want:
A Pew poll done last year found that 71 percent of Americans believe “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” And 59% believe that “strongly.” The same poll found that 63 percent favored prioritizing clean energy, such as wind and solar. Only 29 percent favored expanding exploration and production of fossil fuels.
A more recent poll from November by the Washington Post and Pew Research Center found that 68 percent favor developing solar, wind, and hydrogen, only 26 percent oppose it. This compares to 58 percent who favor drilling offshore or on federal lands, and 35 percent who oppose it. Support for nuclear energy is supported by only 39 percent of Americans while 53 percent are still opposed.
Voter support is even stronger when it comes to cleaning up pollution caused by fossil fuels. A poll conducted by Ceres on behalf of a coalition of investors, environmental, and public interest organizations found that 75 percent of voters think the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), not Congress, should determine air pollution standards. 88 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents, and 58 percent of Republicans oppose Congress stopping the EPA from enacting new limits on air pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Mr. Gerard implies that somehow Americans aren’t having an honest discussion about energy but I don’t think Mr. Gerard, with his $4.31 million salary and corporate perks, has any idea what normal people are talking about and how honest or dishonest the conversation is. In fact, API spent almost $6 million last year lobbying Members of Congress to continue their oily ways. […]
* WESTERN OIL FIRMS REMAIN AS U.S. EXITS IRAQ
By Dahr Jamail, Aljazeera
BAGHDAD, Iraq – On November 27, 38 months after Royal Dutch Shell announced its pursuit of a massive gas deal in southern Iraq, the oil giant had its contract signed for a $17bn flared gas deal.
Three days later, the US-based energy firm Emerson submitted a bid for a contract to operate at Iraq’s giant Zubair oil field, which reportedly holds some eight million barrels of oil.
Earlier this year, Emerson was awarded a contract to provide crude oil metering systems and other technology for a new oil terminal in Basra, currently under construction in the Persian Gulf, and the company is installing control systems in the power stations in Hilla and Kerbala.
Iraq’s supergiant Rumaila oil field is already being developed by BP, and the other supergiant reserve, Majnoon oil field, is being developed by Royal Dutch Shell. Both fields are in southern Iraq.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), Iraq’s oil reserves of 112 billion barrels ranks second in the world, only behind Saudi Arabia. The EIA also estimates that up to 90 per cent of the country remains unexplored, due to decades of US-led wars and economic sanctions.
“Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, US and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq’s oil market,” oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz told Al Jazeera. “But thanks to the invasion and occupation, the companies are now back inside Iraq and producing oil there for the first time since being forced out of the country in 1973.”
Juhasz, author of the books The Tyranny of Oil and The Bush Agenda, said that while US and other western oil companies have not yet received all they had hoped the US-led invasion of Iraq would bring them, “They’ve certainly done quite well for themselves, landing production contracts for some of the world’s largest remaining oil fields under some of the world’s most lucrative terms.”
Dr Abdulhay Yahya Zalloum, an international oil consultant and economist who has spent nearly 50 years in the oil business in the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, agrees that western oil companies have “obtained concessions in Iraq’s major [oil] fields”, despite “there being a lack of transparency and clarity of vision regarding the legal issues”.
Dr Zalloum added that he believes western oil companies have successfully acquired the lions’ share of Iraq’s oil, “but they gave a little piece of the cake for China and some of the other countries and companies to keep them silent”.
In a speech at Fort Bragg in the wake of the US military withdrawal, US President Barack Obama said the US was leaving behind “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people”.
Of this prospect, Dr Zalloum was blunt.
“The last thing the US cares about in the Middle East is democracy. It is about oil, full stop.” […]