Monday, December 31, 2012

‘Keep Death In Perspective’

The Passport photo of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, pushed to his death because a woman thought he was Muslim (Photo: Christie M. Farriella for New York Daily News)

By Annie Robbins and Alex Kane

A horrific crime if we've ever seen one--and a reminder that Islamophobia affects many communities outside Muslim ones.
From the AP:
A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.
"I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up," Menendez told police, according to the district attorney's office.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen's death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city's annual homicide and shooting totals.
"It's a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York," Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.
What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said "I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews," would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city's annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.
After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. Geller's organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, recently put up a new crop of ads that features the World Trade Center burning with a Qu'ran verse printed to the right of the towers. 
Geller's role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City's own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick. 
Friend of Mondoweiss Lizzy Ratner made this point in her excellent piece on Geller in The Nation:
Though Geller and her crew are fringe elements, they are not random or spontaneous, idiopathic lesions on the healthier whole. They are, quite sadly, part of this country, outcroppings of something big and ugly that has been seeping and creeping through the body politic for years. In the decade since September 11, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of our political and social landscape. It lurks in the hidden corners of everyday life—in classrooms and offices and housing complexes—as well as in the ugly scenes that occasionally explode into public consciousness. In the special registration of Middle Eastern men after 9/11. In the vicious campaign against Debbie Almontaser, the American Muslim school teacher who tried to open the Arabic-language Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) and was tarred as an extremist. In the attack on the Park51 Islamic center, more commonly (if less accurately) known as the Ground Zero mosque. In the New York Police Department’s selective surveillance of Muslim communities. And that’s just New York City. All of these instances should have called on our horror and outrage, and in all too many of them, society hasn’t lived up.
This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City's Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life.

Army Conducts Chemical Tests On Unsuspecting U.S. Population

The video covers Dr. Lisa Martino-Taylor's horrific findings after she submitted hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests seeking the truth about government experiments on human populations. Martino-Taylor uncovered a mountain of evidence proving that an aerosol spraying campaign was in fact conducted by the U.S. Army during the 1950s and '60s. She has revealed documents clearly showing that sprayers were set up in multiple cities on buildings, deployed from station wagons, and attached to planes.

Despite statements at the time which downplayed the spraying as non-toxic, the evidence shows that the Army knew that what was sprayed consisted of radioactive compounds breathed in by hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens. Furthermore, they went to great lengths to cover up the information.
Martino-Taylor says she’s obtained documents from multiple federal agencies showing the government concocted an elaborate story to keep the testing secret.

Martino-Taylor says some of the key players in the cover-up were also members of the Manhattan Atomic Bomb Project and involved in other radiological testing across the United States at the time. 'This was against all military guidelines of the day, against all ethical guidelines, against all international codes such as the Nuremberg Code.'  (Source)
Martino-Taylor is pressing for an investigation into whether or not the spraying could have led to illnesses, including cancer.

The abstract of her dissertation reads as follows:

This piece analyzes a covert Manhattan Project spin-off organization referred to here as the Manhattan-Rochester Coalition, and an obscure aerosol study in St. Louis, Missouri, conducted under contract by the U.S. military from 1953–1954, and 1963–1965. The military-sponsored studies targeted a segregated, high-density urban area, where low-income persons of color predominantly resided. Examination of the Manhattan-Rochester Coalition and the St. Louis aerosol studies, reveal their connections to each other, and to a much larger military project that secretly tested humans, both alive and deceased, in an effort to understand the effects of weaponized radiation. Through this case study, the author explores how a large number of participants inside an organization will willingly participate in organizational acts that are harmful to others, and how large numbers of outsiders, who may or may not be victims of organizational activities, are unable to determine illegal or harmful activity by an organization. The author explains how ethical and observational lapses are engineered by the organization through several specific mechanisms, in an effort to disable critical analysis, and prevent both internal and external dissent of harmful organizational actions. Through studying the process of complex organizational deviance, we can develop public policies that protect the public's right to know, and construct checks and methods to minimize the chance of covert projects that are contrary to societal norms.
You can click here to access the full text.

This story is important to keep in mind, as mad scientists are at work transforming the climate through an aerosol spraying campaign. They, too, insist that what is being sprayed is not harmful even as cases of respiratory illness, cancer, Alzheimer's and mystery diseases across naturecontinue to climb (here and here). New diseases such as Morgellons have emerged, which seem to indicate a nano-level component that very well could be targeting human DNA.

Dr. Lisa Martino-Taylor's research has received mainstream media attention due to the overwhelming amount of undeniable evidence. According to KDSK News, St. Louis, many people subsequently came forward to say they remembered the spraying:

 . . . men in protective suits, on roofs, with machines spewing a thick fog. One of them is Benjamin Phillips. He believes his numerous health issues may be connected to the secret tests.
Coverage of the lawsuit can be seen below, which implicates Parsons CorporationSRI Internationaland, yes, Monsanto:

These tests serve as the perfect example to discuss with anyone who hurls the word conspiracy in your direction to shut down discussion of uncomfortable topics.

This type of testing is not an aberration. Click here for some other gruesome government experiments from our supposed benevolent protectors that treated humans like lab rats. 

Via: "Activist Post"

The Corporate "Heist" Of The US Government


The following is an excerpt of Jeffrey Clement's Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It.) Click here to order a copy.

In 1971, Lewis Powell, a mild-mannered, courtly, and shrewd corporate lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, soon to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court, wrote a memorandum to his client, the United States Chamber of Commerce. He outlined a critique and a plan that changed America. 

Powell titled his 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” He explained, “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.” In response, corporations must organize and fund a drive to achieve political power through “united action.” Powell emphasized the need for a sustained, multiyear corporate campaign to use an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to shape “social, economic and political change” to the advantage of corporations.
Powell continued:
But independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.
The roots of Citizens United lie in Powell’s 1971 strategy to use “activist” Supreme Court judges to create corporate rights. “Under our constitutional system,” Powell told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.”
Powell’s call for a corporate rights campaign should not be misunderstood as a “conservative” or “moderate” reaction to the excesses of “liberals” or “big government.” Rather, to understand the perspective of Powell and his allies is to understand the difference between a conservative and a corporatist.
 Powell and The Tobacco Corporations Show The Way
By the time of his 1971 memorandum, Lewis Powell was a director of more than a dozen international corporations, including Philip Morris Inc., a global manufacturer and seller of cigarettes. Powell joined Philip Morris as a director in 1964, when the United States surgeon general released the most devastating and comprehensive report to date about the grave dangers of smoking. He remained a director of the cigarette company until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1971. Powell also advised the Tobacco Institute, the cigarette lobby that finally was exposed and stripped of its corporate charter in the 1990s after decades of using phony science and false statements to create a fraudulent “debate” about smoking and health.
The story of the cigarette corporations and their response to public efforts to address addiction, smoking, and health is a big piece of the larger story of how corporate rights took such significant pieces of the Constitution and American democracy. The ideas expressed by Powell in his 1971 memorandum to the Chamber of Commerce came out of his personal involvement in the aggressive resistance of the cigarette corporations to efforts to address the devastating social and public costs of its lethal products. As a director and an executive committee member of Philip Morris, Powell shared responsibility for the fraudulent attack on the conclusions of scientists and the surgeon general by the cigarette industry and for its false insistence for years that “no proof” showed cigarettes to be unhealthy.
Hints of this work can be seen in the Philip Morris annual reports issued during Powell’s tenure as a director, which reflected the broader campaign of the company and the cigarette industry to discredit the science about smoking and health and to misrepresent the facts to keep people smoking and get young people to start. We now know, thanks to the 2007 findings of a federal judge, that many of the assertions in these annual reports were knowingly false. According to the reports themselves, these statements and others were made “on behalf of the Board of Directors,” including Powell:
• 1964: “The industry continues to support major research efforts directed towards resolving the many unanswered questions on smoking and health.”
• 1967: “The year 1967 was marked by an intensification of exaggerated claims made relative to the possible adverse health effects of smoking on health. ... We deplore the lack of objectivity in so important a controversy. ... Unfortunately the positive benefits of smoking which are so widely acknowledged are largely ignored by many reports linking cigarettes and health, and little attention is paid to the scientific reports which are favorable to smoking.”
• 1967: “We would again like to state that there is no biological proof that smoking is causally related to the diseases and conditions claimed to be statistically associated with smoking ... no proof that the tar and nicotine levels in smoke are significant in relation to health.”
• 1969:  “No biological or clinical proof that smoking is causally related to human disease ... serious doubt that smoking is a causative factor in heart disease.”
• 1970:  “Often the scientific information which is relied on to indict cigarette smoking is of dubious validity.”
Absent convincing evidence, it might be reckless to say that Philip Morris and the other tobacco corporations engaged in a willful, aggressive, wide-ranging conspiracy and racketeering enterprise so that the corporations could sell more products that kill people. But now that the evidence is in, we know that that is exactly what happened. We know this thanks to scientists, victims of the conspiracy, state attorneys general (both Democrats and Republicans), the United States Department of Justice (under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), and Judge Gladys Kessler and a panel of U.S. Court of Appeals judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush.
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice took the cigarette corporations to trial, alleging that they had engaged in a racketeering conspiracy. Eighty-four witnesses testified in the nine-month trial, and hundreds of internal corporate secrets were finally exposed. When the verdict came in, Judge Kessler concluded that “overwhelming evidence” proved that the cigarette corporations “conspired together” to fraudulently deny that cigarettes caused cancer, emphysema, and a long list of other fatal diseases; to manipulate levels of highly addictive nicotine to keep people smoking; to market addictive cigarettes to children so that the corporations would have “replacement smokers” for those who quit or died; and that they “concealed evidence, destroyed documents, and abused the attorney-client privilege to prevent the public from knowing about the dangers of smoking and to protect the industry” from justice.
As counsel to the cigarette industry and as a Philip Morris director, Powell already had begun testing the use of activist-minded courts to create corporate rights. In one case in the late 1960s, Powell argued that any suggestion that cigarettes caused cancer and death was “not proved” and was “controversial.” Therefore, according to Powell, the Federal Communications Commission wrongly violated the First Amendment rights of cigarette corporations by refusing to require “equal time” for the corporations to respond to any announcement that discouraged cigarette smoking as a health hazard.
Even the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in the tobacco-friendly South, rejected this claim. Although Powell lost that time, he went on to win far more than he could have imagined after he got on the Supreme Court and helped change the Constitution.
Powell’s 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce laid out a corporate rights and a corporate power campaign. The Chamber and the largest corporations then implemented these recommendations with zeal, piles of money, patience, and an activist Supreme Court. In equating corporations with “We, the People” in our Constitution, no justice would be more of an activist than Lewis Powell after he joined the Supreme Court in 1972.
1972: Powell Gets His Chance

In January 1972, President Nixon filled two Supreme Court vacancies, appointing Powell to one seat and William Rehnquist, a conservative Republican lawyer from Phoenix, Arizona, to the other. Rehnquist never hid his conservative views, which were well known and, to some, controversial. At the same time, neither Congress nor most Americans knew of Powell’s radical corporatist views. In his Senate confirmation hearing, no one asked about his recent proposal to the Chamber of Commerce recommending the use of an “activist-minded Supreme Court” to impose those views on the nation. No one asked because neither Powell nor the Chamber of Commerce disclosed the memo during his confirmation proceedings.
Once on the Court, these two Nixon appointees followed very different paths. Justice Powell would go on to write the Court’s unprecedented decisions creating a new concept of “corporate speech” in the First Amendment. Using this new theory, the Court struck down law after law in which the states and Congress sought to balance corporate power with the public interest. With increasing assertiveness by the Supreme Court even after Powell retired in 1987, the new corporate rights theory has invalidated laws addressing the environment, tobacco and public health, food and drugs, financial regulation, and more.
Powell helped shape a new majority to serve the interest of corporations, but for years, several vigorous dissents resisted the concept of corporate rights. The most vigorous came from the conservative Justice William Rehnquist. He grounded his dissents in the fundamental proposition that our Bill of Rights sets out the rights of human beings, and corporations are not people. For years, Rehnquist maintained this principled conservative argument, warning over and over again that corporate rights have no place in our republican form of government.
Here Come The Foundations

Despite the Rehnquist dissents, Powell’s vision of an unregulated corporate political “marketplace,” where corporations are freed by activist courts from the policy judgment of the majority of people, won out. Powell, of course, could not have acted alone. He could not have moved a majority of the Court to create corporate rights if no one had listened to his advice to organize corporate political power to demand corporate rights. Listen they did — with the help of just the sort of massive corporate funding that Powell proposed.
Corporations and corporate executives funded a wave of new “legal foundations” in the 1970s. These legal foundations were intended to drive into every court and public body in the land the same radical message, repeated over and over again, until the bizarre began to sound normal: corporations are persons with constitutional rights against which the laws of the people must fall.
Huge corporations, including Powell’s Philip Morris, invested millions of dollars in the Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center and other legal foundations to bring litigation demanding new corporate rights. In rapid succession, corporations and supporters funded the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Mid-Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Mid-America Legal Foundation, the Great Plains Legal Foundation (Landmark Legal Foundation), the Washington Legal Foundation, the Northeastern Legal Foundation, the New England Legal Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Capital Legal Center, the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, and many others.
These foundations began filing brief after brief challenging state and federal laws across the country, pounding away at the themes of corporations as “persons,” “speakers” and holders of constitutional rights. Reading their briefs, one might think that the most powerful, richest corporations in the history of the world were some beleaguered minority fighting to overcome oppression. The foundations and the corporate lawyers argued that “corporations are persons” with the “liberty secured to all persons.” They used new phrases like “corporate speech,” the “rights of corporate speakers,” and “the corporate character of the speaker.” They demanded, as if to end an unjust silence, “the right of corporations to be heard” and “the rights of corporations to speak out.”
This corporate campaign sought to redefine the very role of corporations in American society. The message was insistent: We should no longer think of corporations as useful but potentially insidious industrial economic tools. We should no longer be concerned that corporations might leverage massive economic power into massive political power or trample the public interest for the profit of the few. Instead, we should think of corporations as pillars of liberty, institutions that Americans can trust. They would protect our freedom for us. They would stand up to “bad” government for us.
A 1977 brief of the Chamber of Commerce, for example, argued that the Court should strike down a state law that limited corporate political spending in citizens’ referendum elections because corporations help maintain our freedoms: “Business’s social role is to provide the people a valuable service which helps maintain their freedoms. ... The statute at issue prevents the modern corporation from fulfilling a major social obligation. ... ”
By 1978, the millions of dollars invested in the radical corporate rights campaign began to pay off. The first major victory for the corporate rights advocates came in 1978, with a corporate attack on a Massachusetts law in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. Several international corporations — including Gillette, the Bank of Boston, and Digital Equipment Corporation — filed a lawsuit after the people of Massachusetts banned corporate political spending intended to influence a citizen referendum. Justice Lewis Powell cast the deciding vote and wrote the 5–4 decision wiping off the books the people’s law intended to keep corporate money out of citizen ballot questions. For the first time in American history, corporations had successfully claimed “speech” rights to attack laws regulating corporate money in our elections.
With that success, an emboldened corporate rights campaign next attacked energy and environmental laws. In the 1982 case of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation v. Public Service Corporation of New York, utility corporations and the array of corporate legal foundations all argued that a New York law prohibiting utility corporations from promoting energy consumption violated the corporations’ rights of free speech. The corporations won again, and again Justice Powell wrote the decision for the activist Supreme Court that he had imagined in his 1971 Chamber of Commerce memo. The corporate interest in promoting energy consumption for corporate profit trumped the people’s interest in energy conservation. Over a period of six years, Justice Powell wrote four key corporate rights decisions for the Supreme Court. These unprecedented cases transformed the people’s First Amendment speech freedom into a corporate right to challenge public oversight and corporate regulation.
Powell led a majority of the Court to accept the repeated mantra that “corporations are persons” and corporate “voices” must be free, and the sustained attacks on the people’s laws continued for the next two decades. Oil, coal, and utility corporations, tobacco corporations, chemical and pharmaceutical corporations, alcohol corporations, banking and other Wall Street corporations, and many others all successfully claimed corporate speech rights to invalidate federal, state, and local laws. As you will see in Chapter Two, corporations even succeeded in attacking the right of parents to know whether the milk they fed their children came from cows treated with Monsanto’s genetically engineered recombinant DNA bovine drug.
In 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center celebrated thirty years of using judicial activism on behalf of corporations and admitted that it was “the brainchild of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell.” The brainchild, with its motto of “Business Is Our ONLY Client,” bragged about such “victories” as convincing the Supreme Court to throw out a decision by a jury of people to impose punitive damages for the unlawful conduct of Philip Morris, Inc.
The Consequences

The success of the Powell–Chamber of Commerce plan transformed American law, government, and society, with two devastating consequences for the country. First, corporations gained new political power at the expense of average citizens and voters. Corporations poured out money to lobbying and election campaigns and to help friendly politicians and hurt unfriendly politicians. With even modest reform crushed by corporate rights decisions such as Bellotti v. First National Bank of Boston — and now much more so, Citizens United — corporations could threaten “independent expenditure” campaigns against politicians who did not bend their way. Corporate money to influence legislative votes and politician behavior lost its scandalous, shameful nature. Bags of corporate cash were no longer bags of cash; they were “speech.” How could “speech” be corrupt or scandalous?
Washington and many state capitals became playgrounds for corporate lobbyists, and our elected representatives became increasingly disconnected from the will of the people. With the new, organized corporate radicalism, staggering amounts of corporate money flooded Washington and our political system. Between 1998 and 2010, for example, the Chamber of Commerce spent $739 million on lobbying. Pharmaceutical and health care corporations spent more than $2 billion on lobbying in the past twelve years. Three corporations seeking military contracts, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Lockheed, and Boeing, spent more than $400 million on lobbying. GE Corporation ($237 million), AT&T ($162 million), the pharmaceutical corporate lobby PHRMA ($195 million), ExxonMobil ($151 million), Verizon ($149 million), and many more corporations all joined the lobby- fest.25 Financial, labor, energy, environmental, health, trade, and other legislation and policy tilted in favor of corporate interests; the hurdles for advancing the public interest became much higher.
Second, the successful corporate rights campaign created a corporate trump card over public interest laws. If laws that were inconvenient to corporate business models somehow made it through the corporate lobbyist machine, corporations now had constitutional “rights” to attack the laws in the courts. It no longer mattered if the majority of people and our representatives chose laws to curb pollution, require disclosure, protect the public health, or nurture small businesses and local economies. The democratic process was no longer enough to decide the issue. After the creation of “corporate speech” rights, it was now up to federal judges to decide whether the law served an “important” state interest and was not too “burdensome.”
The Lost Promise Of Earth Day

On that far-off Earth Day in 1970, Americans reclaimed the water, air, land, and forests that belong to all of us and to our descendants. We reclaimed the promise of government of the people, where people and our representatives would weigh, debate, and decide the balance of private and public, corporate and human. Since that spring day in 1970, we have pushed resources and the ecological systems on which life depends to the breaking point. Even as the oil, gas, and coal corporations mimic the strategy of the cigarette corporations to create a fraudulent “controversy” and “open question” about the global warming “hoax,” we have ripped past the point of no return on climate pollution.
While the evidence of national and global environmental destruction at a level that will challenge our civilization and way of life is more compelling now than in 1970, our leaders in government are not even debating, let alone enacting, possible solutions. Incredibly, the current debate in Congress is not what we can do to save our world but whether Congress should strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate pollution that causes the global climate crisis.
Corporate media might tell you that the reason for inaction is that Americans oppose environmental regulation and oppose drastic changes to address the energy and environmental crisis. Yet there is little reason to believe that this is true. In fact, try an experiment. Find a moment to talk seriously in a nonpolitical, non-confrontational way with your friends, neighbors, or family members, regardless of what political party or philosophy they may favor. I bet that you will find that they too think that we cannot continue to rely on corporations to protect freedom for us and that corporate business as usual will condemn us to disastrous energy, economic, and environmental policies and ensure that we pass to our children a very bleak and weak nation and world.
This basic understanding of the connection between our state of decline and crisis on one hand and our corporate-driven energy, environmental, economic, foreign and military policy on the other, is one of the many points of consensus among the American people that the corporatist political elite ignores. According to an independent, nonpartisan 2010 Pew Research poll, for example, huge majorities of Americans favor better fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks (79 percent), more funding for alternative energy (74 percent), more spending on mass transit (63 percent), and tax incentives for hybrid or electric vehicles (60 percent).
Similarly, for years, most Americans have supported, and still support, stronger, not weaker, environmental and energy policies. This is true even in times of recession, terrorism, and deep concern about budgets.26 From 1995 to 2008, when the independent multiyear Gallup poll was last done, through every variety of political environment, from good economies to bad, from terrorist attacks to war, the American people have been consistent in the response. More than twice as many Americans say we need “additional, immediate, and drastic action” to prevent major environmental disruption, compared to those who say “we should just take the same actions we have been taking on the environment.” The percentage of those identifying a need for “drastic, immediate action” was 35 percent in 1995, 38 percent in 2007, and 34 percent in 2008. When you add in those who say “we should take some additional action,” the range of Americans who want better, stronger, tougher environmental protection has stayed between 80 and 90 percent over the past ten years. The percentage of those who chose the status quo answer (“we should just take the same actions we have been taking on the environment”) has ranged from 13 to 20 percent.
For years, most of us have known that the gathering and urgent environmental and energy crisis cannot be ignored, but what has our government done? Maintain the status quo, more or less, and usually much less as the global environmental crisis has worsened and the demand for fossil fuel exploitation soars.
Polls are not infallible, but I suspect that these results would be duplicated in most family discussions around the dinner table. And I believe that we would see a similar disconnect between what people know about the state of our nation and the world and what the corporate-dominated government does. Whether the issue is the environment, the economy, the decades-long wars in the Middle East and bloated military budgets, agri-corporate subsidies and industrial food systems, or corporate welfare, what most people think or want out of our government does not matter much anymore.
We have become accustomed to thinking that we cannot change, that our problems are too big, that our government can- not be effective. This was not always so, and it does not have to be so now. The choice we face in America now about whether to succeed or fail begins with our choice about whether we agree with Lewis Powell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the corporate rights movement that massive, global corporate entities are the same as people.

Bruce Lee Playing Ping Pong With Nunchaku

A creative and cool advertisement that employs a Bruce Lee look-alike actor for the Nokia N96 limited edition Bruce Lee cell phone in 2008, by J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in Beijing, China.

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

By Amy Cuddy,

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how "power posing" -- standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident -- can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Lotus Path

Artist: James Asher

Sunday, December 30, 2012

War Made Easy

Narrated By Sean Penn

War Made Easy cuts through the dense web of spin to probe and scrutinize the key "perception management" techniques that have played huge roles in the promotion of American wars in recent decades. This guide to disinformation analyzes American military adventures past and present to reveal striking similarities in the efforts of various administrations to justify, and retain, public support for war.

War Made Easy is essential reading. It documents a long series of deliberate misdeeds at the highest levels of power and lays out important guidelines to help readers distinguish a propaganda campaign from actual news reporting. With War Made Easy, every reader can become a savvy media critic and, perhaps, help the nation avoid costly and unnecessary wars.

The Senate's Scorn For The 4th Amendment

Conor Friedersdorf of "The Atlantic" reports:

Senator Rand Paul on the Senate floor: "We became lazy and haphazard in our vigilance," he told his colleagues during a debate about government surveillance. "We allowed Congress and the courts to diminish our Fourth Amendment protection, particularly when our papers were held by third parties. I think most Americans would be shocked to know that the Fourth Amendment does not protect your records if they're banking, Internet or Visa records. A warrant is required to read your snail mail and to tap your phone, but no warrant is required to look at your email, text or your Internet searches. They can be read without a warrant. Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than an email?"

The subject came up because the legislators were debating whether or not to extend a law that gives the federal government surveillance powers that some say are necessary to fight terrorism, especially by intercepting foreign communication that originates outside the United States. 

"This sparsely-attended holiday session is likely to be the only full floor debate on sweeping surveillance legislation that has been in force for four years already (during which we know it has already been used unconstitutionally), and is all but certain to be renewed for another five," Julian Sanchez, Cato's expert on the subject, wrote before the debate began. "That's especially disturbing given that, when the House debated the law back in September, its strongest supporters revealed themselves to be profoundly confused about what the law does, and just how much warrantless spying on the communications of American citizens it permits."

So why specifically is the law objectionable? Just ignore the acronyms and you'll understand just fine:

The FAA authorizes large scale surveillance of Americans' communications. Supporters of the act suggested again and again that this can't be true, because the law requires NSA surveillance programs to have a foreign 'target.' But this is based on a misunderstanding of what 'target' means in FISA. As former Deputy Attorney General David Kris explains at length in his book on the law, the 'target' of a surveillance program under FAA is typically just the foreign group--such as Al Qaeda or Wikileaks--that the government is seeking information about. The FISA court approves general procedures for surveillance, but it's NSA agents who decide which particular phone lines and e-mail accounts will be wiretapped, and there is no explicit requirement that these particular phones and e-mail addresses be foreign--only the program's overall target.

And of course, there is something historically very strange about imagining that surveillance can only violate the rights of named targets: The Founders abhorred 'general warrants,' which they passed the Fourth Amendment to abolish, precisely because these warrants authorized searches of people and homes who were not specifically named targets, exactly as the FAA does.   
Sen. Paul's proposal, as described on his Web site, "extends Fourth Amendment guarantees to electronic communications and requires specific warrants" if police want to search or seize them. What does it say about how far afield we are from the spirit of the 4th Amendment that the mere attempt to reaffirm it for the electronic age would require radical change? 

Senator Paul's amendment failed 79 to 12*.

Senator Leahy tried to amend the law so that it would be extended for three years rather than five, but he was voted down -- put another way, we don't know who'll be president when this law comes up again for renewal. But what really gets me is the failure of Senator Merkley's amendment.

In order to understand it, you'll need a bit of information I'm hesitant to share, because if you're like most people, it'll sound too egregious to be true, and you might think that I am making it up.

I assure you I'm not. 

The thing is that there's a legal interpretation that shapes how surveillance is conducted under current law. And it's a secret interpretation -- a memo written up by government lawyers explaining how the law works, but that Americans subject to the law aren't allowed to see. Senator Ron Wyden, who has seen it, says it's problematic -- that the 'lawyer take' isn't what a lot of people might expect, given the text of the law. But he isn't allowed to say anything more specific.

Openly debating the interpretation is verboten!

If you'll go into the weeds with me very briefly, here's the Electronic Frontier Foundation explaining further:

In 2010 and 2011, Obama administration officials promised to work to declassify secret FISA court opinions that contained "important rulings of law." These opinions would shed light on whether and how Americans' communications have been illegally spied on. Since then, the administration has refused to declassify a single opinion, even though the administration admitted in July that the FISA court ruled that collection done under the FAA had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of an unknown number of Americans on at least one occasion.
Starting with the precept that "secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance," Sen. Jeff Merkley's amendment would force the government to release any FISA court opinions that contain significant interpretations of the FISA Amendments Act so the American public can know how it may or may not be used against them.
And even Senator Merkley's amendment failed!

A majority of the Senate bears responsibility for this scandalous abandonment of the Fourth Amendment. 

And TechDirt rightly singles out Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California:
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley did their best to raise significant issues, but Senator Dianne Feinstein kept shutting them down with bogus or misleading arguments, almost always punctuated with scary claims about how we had "only four days!" to renew the FISA Amendment Acts or "important" tools for law enforcement would "expire." It turns out that's not actually true. While the law would expire, the provisions sweeping orders already issued would remain in place for a year -- allowing plenty of time for a real debate.

Furthermore, Feinstein continued to mislead (bordering on outright lies) about the FISA Amendments Act. While some of the proposed amendments focused on finally forcing thesecret interpretation of the FISA Amendments Act to be disclosed, Feinstein held up the text of the bill and insisted there "is no secret law" and that "the text is public." That assumes that "the law" and "the text of the legislation" are one and the same. They are not. As Julian Sanchez notes, imagine that Supreme Court rulings were all classified, how would you interpret the Constitution? You could make guesses, based on what the law said, but without the court's rulings, you would not know what that meant in practice. That's exactly the situation we have with the FISA Amendments Act... and it's made even worse by the fact that those who have seen the still-secret interpretation -- such as Senator Wyden -- have made it clear that its quite different than what most people think the law says. 
Just days ago I wrote about Congress' scandalous abandonment of the 5th amendment. And now the Senate has reminded attentive Americans that it has too little regard for the 4th Amendment too. Draw your own conclusions about what President Obama is signalling by going along. 

The Sloganization Of Scripture

“Islam experts” find passages in the Qur’an that apparently justify extremism. 
One common problem in all such misreading of the Scriptures amounts to the “sloganization” of certain texts. This is done by taking a part of the holy text out of its textual and historical context, and turning it into a slogan that “justifies” a mundane political agenda. 
The crucial mistake is to overlook Islam’s scholarly tradition called “tafseer,” which is the study of the meaning of the Qur’an. Tafseer has a basic rule: A single verse or passage can’t be understood in itself. Instead, it has to be evaluated according to the other parts of the Qur’an, the general goals and principles of the holy text, and the way it was implemented by the prophet. Yet most radicals — be they Islamist or anti-Islamist — don’t have the time or the patience to “waste” on tafseer. They prefer to copy and paste the divine words to create powerful slogans for their immediate purposes.
For an example of sloganization, consider this Qur’anic verse, which is frequently quoted:
“O (Muslim) believers! Don’t make friends with the Jews or Christians” (5:51).
But then look at this verse, which puts the one above in context:
(Muslims!) God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just. God merely forbids you from taking as friends those who have fought you in religion and driven you from your homes and who supported your expulsion. Any who take them as friends are wrongdoers” (60:8-9).

Europe's "Clean IT" Project

EU Officials Propose Internet Cops On Patrol, No Anonymity & No Obscure Languages

Back in February we wrote about the ominously-named "Clean IT" project in Europe, designed to combat the use of the Internet by terrorists. At that time, we suspected that this would produce some seriously bad ideas, but a leaked document obtained by EDRI shows that these are actually much worse than feared (pdf), amounting to a system of continuous surveillance, extrajudicial removal of content and some new proposals that can only be described as deranged.
The leaked document contradicts a letter sent from CleanIT Coordinator But Klaasen to Dutch NGO Bits of Freedom in April of this year, which explained that the project would first identify problems before making policy proposals. The promise to defend the rule of law has been abandoned. There appears never to have been a plan to identify a specific problem to be solved – instead the initiative has become little more than a protection racket (use filtering or be held liable for terrorist offences) for the online security industry.
Instead of tackling concrete problems, the vague threat of "terrorism" is constantly invoked -- without ever defining what that means -- to justify a range of extreme measures. At the heart of the plans lies the "voluntarism" we discussed a few weeks ago:
Governments should stimulate self-regulation by Internet companies
And where there are laws, it must be OK for law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to ignore them and have content taken down on demand:
It must be legal for LEAs to make Internet companies aware of terrorist content on their infrastructure ('flagging') that should be removed, without following the more labour intensive and formal procedures for 'notice and take action'
Due process, who needs it? The plans also require some interesting new laws, like this one criminalizing merely posting certain hyperlinks:
Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself
Here's another proposal -- no more anonymity online:
Internet companies must allow only real, common names. These must be entered when registering.
So what happens if you have an uncommon name? And then there's this:
Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users
Presumably you're not allowed to smile, either. Talking of social media, the Clean IT plans include the introduction of friendly "virtual police officers", constantly spying on, er, watching over Europeans online:
Virtual police officers must be used to show law enforcement is present, is watchful, in order to prevent terrorist use of the Internet and make regular users feel more secure.
The idea is that "virtual police officers" will be keeping an eye on you -- for your own safety, you understand. Other ways in which users will be protected from themselves is through the use of filters:
All kinds of Internet companies, LEAs and NGOs, but not governments, should promote the use of end-user controlled filters among their clients, the public and supporters
Note that "not governments" part -- people mustn't get the idea that this is censorship, oh no. Also required will be automated detection systems, because we know how well they work:
Automated detection systems must be used by LEAs, NGOs and Internet companies.
Among the even more interesting proposals in the leaked document seems to be the idea that the authorities can order encryption to be turned off, presumably to allow eavesdropping:
In some cases notice and take action procedures must lead to security certificates of sites to be downgraded.
But surely the most bizarre proposal for dealing with "abuse" -- an attempt to dress up as lamb the tired old mutton of "terrorism" -- is the following:
The use of platforms in languages abuse specialists or abuse systems do not master should be unacceptable and preferably technically impossible.
Incredible though it might sound, that seems to suggest that less common foreign languages would be banned from the European Internet entirely in case anybody discusses naughty stuff without the authorities being able to spy on them (haven't they heard of Google Translate?) You could hardly hope for a better symbol of the paranoid and xenophobic thinking that lies behind this crazy scheme.
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Via: "Tech Dirt"