Friday, December 23, 2011

CNN: CIA report: No issue with spy agency's partnership with N.Y. police

According to a CIA investigation, the CIA is doing no wrong by collaborating with the NY Police Department in "covert surveillance" of Muslims in NYC.  "The CIA inspector general has completed a review of the CIA's relationship with the NYPD and has found no violation of law or executive order on the part of CIA," said agency spokesman Preston Golson. "The IG also found no evidence that any part of the agency's support to the NYPD constituted 'domestic spying.'"

Um.. so, we can trust the CIA to police itself?  Really?

Maybe something got lost along the way between Sept 11, 2011 and the Homeland Security Department and other things. 

The CIA is supposed to only be for use outside the U.S. and its use inside the U.S. is supposed to be illegal.  The phrase above, 'domestic spying', is key as that's what would be illegal. 

There is a slippery slope situation that's akin to the old rules for financial institutions that kept various financial services in separate companies.  One part of the financial collapse was the repeal of those old rules, and the subsequent merger of financial institutions allowing services that should have been kept in separate companies to be done by single companies.  While that probably contributed to some kind of efficiency in the financial institutions, it gave financial institutions opportunities to screw with the system and commit questionable practices that eventually messed things up.  I'm sorry, I didn't say that very well.

In any case the thing here is to draw a sharp distinction between the agencies that fight off threats from foreign countries, and the agencies that maintain internal stability within the country.  There are distinct policy and strategical differences between being focused on external enemies, or focused on your own people.  It's inappropriate to use the forces who are trained to fight enemies on your own people, because your own people are not enemies.

Well, except, that is, there's been an effort to label Muslims who live in the U.S. as potential enemies.  That's a sad side result of the Sept 11 attacks.

CIA report: No issue with spy agency's partnership with N.Y. police

Doing a little searching turned up: NYPD And CIA Had Secret “Mosque Crawlers” Operation

The NYPD has developed a massive domestic spying operation and is operating well outside the boundaries of NYC.  NYPD police officers are getting training from the CIA on spying techniques.  The CIA is working with NYPD. 

The targets are minority communities, especially Muslims.

The article describes it as "trolling", namely just scanning everything in the minority neighborhoods.  The NYPD is quoted with a denial of this, and says they're "simply following leads".

A key person in this is David Cohen, a retired 35-year veteran of the CIA, who became the NYC police department’s first civilian intelligence chief.  He had been a high ranking CIA officer.  Cohen’s tenure as head of CIA operations, the nation’s top spy, was so contentious that in 1997, The New York Times editorial page took the unusual step of calling for his ouster.

After Cohen came on board, the CIA Director George Tenet assigned Larry Sanchez to serve as a CIA officer, on CIA payroll, but operating inside the NYPD.  He had full access to CIA resources, as an operative working inside the NYPD.

There had never been an arrangement like it, and some senior CIA officials soon began questioning whether Tenet was allowing Sanchez to operate on both sides of the wall that’s supposed to keep the CIA out of the domestic intelligence business.

Cohen created a secret squad that would soon infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods, according to several current and former officials directly involved in the program.  This involved assigning NYPD police officers from specific ethnic backgrounds to infiltrate neighborhoods with matching ethnic backgrounds.  These officers were called "rakers" and were charged with hanging out, observing, looking everywhere for "hot spots".

Cohen said he wanted the squad to “rake the coals, looking for hot spots,” former officials recalled. The undercover officers soon became known inside the department as rakers.

The case of Ron Paul and the bigoted libertarians

Seems that Ron Paul has some serious baggage in his background, that has been known for years.  That in the past he published a political newsletter which routinely printed, under his name, bigoted screeds that include saying all black (afro-american) people are criminals, and such things like advice from a supposed ex-cop to carry a gun with you at all times to protect yourself from black criminals, but not any old gun but an unregistered gun bought from an unregistered dealer so the gun can't be traced to you and you can easily wipe the gun clean and dispose of it if needed.  Seems like some of the most horrid sort of race bating bigoted idiocy you can think of, completely illegal advice, and going out in a newsletter with Ron Paul's name on it.

Now that Ron Paul is a front-runner the allegations have resurfaced - and Ron Paul is denying responsibility for the bigoted stuff that was published in his newsletter, the one with his name at the top.  Supposedly Conservatives/Libertarians are all about personal responsibility being the law of the land, but maybe personal responsibility doesn't extend to when you want to later run for high political office?

That is - Ron Paul portrays himself as a real deal dyed in the wool conservative.  Which should mean he practices personal responsibility.  Hence, it's his personal responsibility for what got published under his name, right?  So why does he deny responsibility?  Maybe he's a real deal dyed in the wool hypocrite instead?

Anyway ... there's a couple things I came across to help understand the issue better.

Ron Paul and Libertarianism's Dirty Secret -- Pandering to Racist "Rednecks" to Get Ahead:  The idea is that there are several brands of libertarians.  Some of them, such as Ron Paul, are truly bigots or else they're pandering to the bigots to get votes.  Some of them see the conservative rural bigots as their base, and say what that base wants to hear.  Just to get votes.

The Alternet piece includes this 1995 interview with Ron Paul that includes an explanation of the newsletter issue.  It was recorded between the two periods he was a congressman.  In this video he sounds very reasonable, especially considering it was a softball interview by C-SPAN.  It also sounds a bit hypocritical in that he says he believes in term limits, and had left congress in 1984 so he could return to real life, that he wasn't seeking after power, but he's now again been in congress for a long time, has gathered positions of power, and is seeking the Presidency. 

The other thing is this report on Rachel Maddow's show last night calling this the skeleton in Ron Paul's closet

Last thing is a video on youtube from 2008 with Ron Paul making several interesting statements about unequal treatment of minorities and especially focusing on the drug laws that end up imprisoning black people disproportionately to drug use or drug law violations.  The youtube posting it titled about Ron Paul being caught saying racist stuff on tape.  My listening to this - heck - it doesn't sound racist to me.  Instead it sounds like a stand on principles that people should be treated equally, etc, etc.  It's clear from the information in the latter part of that video, that in 2008 the issue of these newsletters had come up then and he had faced these criticisms before.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

I'm cleaning out the posts I'd star'd in Google Reader and came across this one from last August.  Yes.  August.  Anyway it's a thought piece outlining what "we" need to do to "defeat corporatocracy" given that we are pitiful weak individuated citizens.  It's an interesting read given what's happened since August, namely the campout in Zucotti Park that sparked the Occupy movement.  Especially as the Occupy movement is all about the pitiful weak individuated citizens coming together to join forces to in part defeat corporatocracy.

The article starts with this assertion, using these three points as the outline for the discussion
Transforming the United States into something closer to a democracy requires: 1) knowledge of how we are getting screwed; 2) pragmatic tactics, strategies, and solutions; and 3) the “energy to do battle.” 
Followed by
The majority of Americans oppose the corporatocracy (rule by giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials); however, many of us have given up hope that this tyranny can be defeated.

I suppose this is the first "HUH" piece of this, because isn't the U.S. supposed to be a Democracy anyway?  Well, our government is actually a Republic.  Remember in the Oath, "... and the Republic for which it stands ..."?  

In any case the first step ("knowledge of how we are getting screwed") just strikes me as the first step in a 12-step program, where you first have to admit that you're addicted to the thing.  In this case we have to collectively admit that we're collectively addicted to an unsustainable unhealthy undemocratic society and way of life.

Harriet Tubman (the pre-Civil-War activist who freed a thousand or more slaves) is quoted saying “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”  Amen, sister, if only more people in the U.S. would admit just how deeply controlled we are.  I do object however to applying the word 'slave' to us.  I don't know what the correct word is, but I disagree that the correct word is "slave".

It is true that we are "... ruled by so many 'industrial complexes'—military, financial, energy, food, pharmaceutical, prison, and so on" and that the control (rule) is so insidious and ubiquitous that it's difficult for us to truly see the depth of control.  There are many decisions being made by corporations that are out of the hands of anybody but the corporations.  Governments have been rendered ineffective in their role of oversight over corporate behavior.
"it is also necessary to have knowledge of strategies and tactics that oppressed people have historically used to overcome tyranny and to gain their fair share of power."   
I suppose what the article says here is that it's useful to have examples of successful revolutions so that we have a glimmer of hope that we, Americans, can throw off the chains of these corporate overlords?

The final point, "the energy to do battle", is especially apt considering the lengths to which the Occupy groups have gone, and the Police have gone to undermine the Occupy groups.  Several months of camping out full time is not cheap and requires extreme levels of commitment.  At the same time the role of the Police is to maintain order, and in many ways it can be said that an Occupy encampment is not exactly order.  Or it can be said that the Police are being used as a tool of the corporatocracy to keep the rest of us from gaining any measure of real freedom.

The issues are deeply entrenched and insidiously ubiquitous in our society.  To address the issues in any meaningful way will mean a long, very long, perhaps 10 years if we're lucky, process of continual work.

3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

Monday, December 19, 2011

Occupy Portland gets mired in (successful) military tactics, losing sight of the goal of fixing our society

A couple weeks ago Occupy Portland spontaneously developed a riot defense tactic that they're proud of.  They'd set up an encampment, got "cleared" out of the park where they set up camp, then by using the tactic they developed in the moment, they were able to retake and keep the encampment in the park from which they'd just been cleared.  The blog post linked below discusses military tactics in general, the specific tactic they developed.

The people in that group are rightfully proud of themselves.  Reportedly they developed the tactic, in the moment, using the direct horizontal democracy process (e.g. I suppose someone yelled MIC CHECK then proposed LET'S MARCH THIS WAY) to develop the tactic.  They were able to avoid getting into actual conflict with Portland's riot police.  They were able to make quite a showing in downtown Portland.  And they were able to retake the park.  In terms of military tactics, this is clearly a success.

However is it good strategically.  Note that I'm two paragraphs into this post and haven't mentioned anything about the message Occupy in general is bringing to our society.  Instead it has so far been about military tactics.  The blog post linked below spends nearly 10 paragraphs talking about small unit infantry military tactics (riot police are heavy infantry, the officers behind the front line firing bean bags and other non-lethal weapons are light infantry) before getting to describing the actual tactic.  Nowhere in the blog post did the writer discuss how these tactics do or don't further the goal of fixing our society.  Instead it's all about whether or not a group of people can continue camping out in a city park.

What are the Occupy groups about?  What is the purpose of this movement?  Why are people taking part in the Occupy protests?  Are they camping out because they like camping?  In the midst of developing tactics to maintain an encampment, have the participants lost sight of the goal?

Our society is in deep trouble, and there are deep serious problems at hand.  These problems need  attention. 

Occupy Portland Outsmarts Police, Creating Blueprint for Other Occupations

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do we let abandoned buildings rot while our people are homeless and unemployed?

I woke up this morning thinking about the stereotype of The Bronx, the abandoned tenement buildings with abject poverty, homeless people everywhere, squatters in the abandoned buildings, and so on. My girlfriend lives in a part of the Bronx that doesn't fit this stereotype, so it's nice to know the Bronx is not entirely a destroyed city full of abject poverty and abandoned buildings. At the same time many cities have many abandoned buildings tying up properties which could be put to productive use.

The current phase of US history we have lots of unemployed people, presumably a growing homeless population, housing foreclosures happening at a rapid pace, and hence lots of empty buildings.

The housing bubble a few years ago involved building too many homes and buildings, and selling them to people under shady mortgage situations, and in some cases to people who didn't have the proper financial wherewithall to be buying a house.  This meant vast swaths of mortgage fraud, people forced out of homes, home foreclosures, and so on.  I have not seen it with my own eyes, but understand their are plenty of U.S. cities with huge numbers of foreclosed-upon unoccupied properties.

We don't yet know what will happen in those areas with many newly empty buildings.  Will they go like the other areas with lots of empty buildings, and become slum lands?   Will the economy recover and people start returning to those areas?  Or will they crumble in the wind?  Whatever will eventually come of those places, we do know one thing. They are a missallocation of resources.

On the one hand we have abandoned buildings, and on the other hand we have homeless people.

One thing going on is groups who are aiding people in fighting against foreclosures on their homes.  Coincidentally Rachel Maddow had a piece on her show about this last night.  The Occupy groups are in some cases "Occupying" the homes of people threatened with foreclosure and eviction, and in some cases winning against the banks.  There are also groups who've been doing this work for a long time, and Maddow interviewed one of them (see below).

The other thing going on is a discussion of matching up homeless people with abandoned buildings.  But there is an issue of ownership.  The owner of an abandoned building probably isn't interested in having their building become a homeless shelter.  At the same time a building where the owner has abandoned the building, it has no occupants, it is not being maintained, etc. shouldn't there be a procedure where such properties can be taken away from the owner and turned to positive use?  Should a property owner who is exercising no control over a property retain the right of ownership of that property?

The following perhaps proves that I don't know how to write laws, and proves how difficult it is to write a law that specifically identifies a specific class of properties. In any case this attempts to precisely describe the class of unnocupied unmaintained buildings, and create a process where those properties will be put to use.

What should happen to abandoned land and buildings?  What is the extent of "property owners rights"?   Should a property owner be required to maintain some control or make use of their property?

In the macro-economics scheme any unused property is an under-utilized asset.  Should society step in and steer under-utilized assets to being utilized?


Land and property owners of unoccupied properties, within the boundaries of an incorporated city, are required to maintain their properties, and if not ownership of the property reverts to the local government.
  • this section applies to land or properties within the boundary of an incorporated town, village, or city
  • this section applies to such land or properties which has no occupants
  • by property and properties, we mean buildings such as homes, apartments, duplexes, office buildings, retail buildings, factories, warehouses, etc
  • an occupied property includes one or more of the following conditions
    • the actual owner of the property (or agent) lives in the property, or visits it regularly. For an example, the owner might retain a security company to have someone patrol the property
    • a renter or lease holder who has contractual rights to the property lives there or otherwise appropriately uses it regurlarly
  • maintaining the property includes one or more of these actions
    • for property that is simply land (no buildings) the requirements are minimal
    • if the property is occupied as set forth in the previous section, this law does not apply perhaps, but what about buildings with renters where the landlord does nothing to maintain the building?
    • ensuring the building stays in working order
    • painting, landscaping upkeep, and other routine duties
  • when these conditions are met (no occupants, no maintenance) then the building and it's land becomes owned by the incorporated city whithin whose boundries this property is The city is required to place these properties for sale or otherwise set forth a plan to put the properties to use with occupants and maintenance.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Republicans afraid of being seen as inheriting Bush legacy, and are willing to Kill America in order to damage Obama's presidency

On the occasion of bringing the Troops home from Iraq, Rachel Maddow opened her show with a strong piece about the conflicted emotions and moral stances we collectively hold about the Iraq war.  It's been a long war, nearly 9 years since Americans invaded Iraq and about 20 years since the Operation Desert Storm thing.  It's a long war that has cost a certain 1% of the population a great deal, namely the Military, who has been on full combat standing for the last 10 years fighting two wars while the rest of us were told in no uncertain terms by President GW Bush to go back to shopping.

That is - we as a country have been fighting these two wars, ten thousand or more American deaths in the war, a few hundred thousand locals killed between the two countries, a huge amount of ill-will formed against the U.S. because of our presence there as invaders/occupiers - but the emotional and physical cost has been paid by a small minority.  Maddow said the military is 1% of the population which might well be true.  Do the rest of us think about the war very much?

Collectively we have moral responsibility for the war - it is our votes for politicians, our political action (or inaction) which has given support to continuing the war.  In my mind there was a period in 2004-6-7 when all hell was breaking loose there, I was aghast at what I was hearing, had proved to myself that the war was illegal (had no legal standing), that GW Bush and the whole administration should have been impeached and treated as the traitors that they were, but also realizing that the situation that had been created was so horrendously bad that Americans had to stay the course and get the situation to some kind of better resolution.  We created an ugly mess there, and it was our mess to clean up, no matter how illegally and traitorously that mess was begun.

Even those of us who aren't part of that 1% of the population who is part of the Military - we ALL share moral responsibility for this mess.

Instead there is such a great divide between that 1% and the rest of us, that the ending of the war, the troops coming home, is barely a blip in the news stream.  No ticker tape parades etc celebrating a victory.  In fact the Republican spin job on this is that Obama is taking us home in shame as a loser, when in fact Obama was given what he would call an "Unjust War" (there are Just Wars and Unjust Wars) which he had to make the best of.

Back to Maddow's report.  One issue she talked about is the current Republican Presidential candidates and how all of them (except for Ron Paul) want to continue American presence in Iraq.  They've all taken stances against ending our presence there.  And at the same time nobody in the Republican party seems willing to be seen as an inheritor to the GW Bush Legacy.  The description I just gave of the horrendous and illegal state of Bush's Iraq war is, even if the Republicans are unwilling to admit it publicly, collectively hanging over the Republican party.

To top off the piece Maddow had on Col. Lawrence Wilkerson to give us a blistering denunciation of the Republicans who want to continue the Iraq war.  He described them as suicidal, in that the Republicans are following a strategy of rejecting every single thing Obama stands for, and taking ANY stance that will hurt Obama.  They want to hurt him in every single way they can, run him through every political torture they can think of, and they do not care a bit about the damage they do to the U.S.A. in the process.  They are proving themselves willing to devastate our country in order to hurt Obama, which is how Wilkerson has the justification to call them Suicidal.


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Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Agenda Project: Patriotic Millionaires' Message to Congress "Tax Me"

Ten years ago GW Bush was sworn into office after a contentious election, and launched a political effort to cut taxes for the wealthy.  His meme was to "return your money" saying that the budget surpluses (which were already evaporating by the time he was sworn into office) indicated that the government was taking in too much money and that the taxes should be cut.  That created an enormous tax cut system that benefited the rich and wealthy, a system the Republicans are working hard to preserve in the face of provisions in the tax cuts that make them expire now.

Some of the rich disagree ...

BTW - whether GW Bush was elected, or stole the election, is a debate for another day

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grace Lee Boggs: You Have a Chance To Change The System

Wise words for our current times from 96 year-old Detroit based radical activist Grace Lee Boggs, whose seven decades of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of the past hundred years. Grace was involved in extensive Civil Rights and Black Power Movement activism in Detroit in partnership with husband and black autoworker, James Boggs (1919-93) and together they founded the Boggs Center to nurture and devolop community leaders. Grace speaks her wisdom from the heart and highlights the potential for transformation during these revolutionary times and the #occupy movement.

More Info:

Grace Lee Boggs: You Have a Chance To Change The System from Bhawin Suchak on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why the Occupy movement should avoid getting pinned down with specific goals or specific demands

A critique of the Occupy movement is that besides being leaderless, they don't stand for anything. They don't have a list of 10 demands (or whatever) that helps us understand what the movement is about. Supposedly this makes them weak minded or something.

In a meeting last night between Occupy groups in Silicon Valley, Transition Silicon Valley, and Transition Palo Alto, a very cogent apt thoughtful idea came up.

That the issues being worked on through both the Occupy and Transition Town movements are very broad in a wholistic sense. We are wholistic movements, looking at the whole system and saying the whole thing needs to be fixed.

With that observation the next thought is: If we get pinned down to any number of specific demands, that we'd stop being "The 99%" but we'd be "The 10%" or "The 23%" or something.


It is very simple. People focused on peak oil (like I am) is maybe 5%; People focused on the fair treatment of left handed SouzaPhone players are .5%; People focused on climate change and greenhouse gasses are 11.2%; etc

I'm making up numbers here .. but I think you get the point. That each specific issue is attractive to the minority that's passionate about that issue.

If we were forced to focus on a specific demand, it would limit the movement to those passionate about that specific demand. Note that I'm talking a little loosely, containing both Occupy and Transition in this even though Transition isn't properly speaking a political movement. In any case focusing on a specific demand (or 10 specific demands or whatever) would be a trap to divide us up and limit our power.

Maybe this is a known ploy by political operatives that acts to limit the power of populist uprisings. Forcing the uprising to a specific list of demands would be a way to divide the population against itself, limiting the effectiveness of the uprising.

Neither America nor any other country are Businesses .. We are not electing a CEO

Perhaps this is a sign of the corporatization of American government.  That it's the next step after the Supreme Court's Citizen United ruling saying that Corporations had unlimited ability to spend money in politics, and there was surely a step before that which looked like an egregious example of the corporatization of our Politics and Government.  What I'm concerned about is a tagline attached to Herman Cain's 2012 Presidential campaign, where he is campaigning to become America's CEO.

Perhaps he'll be bowing out of the race later today due to sexual misconduct.  But for the moment let's just ponder this on its face.  The Cain campaign released a video today, an advertising pitching a not-quite-accurate line of reasoning about jobs creation, and featuring Cain saying "I've spent a life time creating jobs, and if you make me Americas CEO…" which just clicked in my mind as WRONG.  So here I am, writing about how WRONG this is.

Countries and Businesses are different animals, and most importantly play different roles and have different goals.  It is wrong to run a Country as if it were a Businesses.

I'm not entirely sure if there is a canonically correct list of attributes of companies versus countries but this list illustrates what I have in mind.  Perhaps a debate is in order about this sort of thing to make it clear what the differences are.

In fact there is a debate related to this - happening via the Occupy protests and some other organizations like Slow Money, Slow Food, Transition Towns, Resilience Circles, and other groups where we the people are gathering with the idea to recreate our society in a way that works for all of us.

Are we going to continue living under the government that was constructed by and serves the elite, or are we going to create a government that is truly our common body of all of us acting as a united whole?

Businesses are:

  • Purpose is to be profitable - highest revenue possible
  • Current business practice is the "growth at all costs" mantra that's completely unsustainable
  • Based on a web of contracts where people make bargains for money that remove their rights --- for example employees sign employment contracts that in part remove their right of free speech, because employees are required to not speak publicly about corporate proprietary knowledge
  • Businesses are essentially top-down dictatorships with, for example, Management holding rights to fire people as a threat to keep everyone in line with corporate dictates
  • Formed by getting a permit (business license) from a Government

Countries are:

  • Purpose is to maintain a piece of land for the betterment of the people living there
  • Purpose is to maintain common resources and well-being
  • Collects money through fees and taxes
  • Does not have shareholders - instead, in effect, governments are in the ideal mutually owned by the people
  • Is not expected to maintain a profit - indeed many politicians have claimed that when a government runs a surplus, that's a sign of the government taking too many taxes, and that's a reason for a tax cut (but such tax cuts later cause government deficits leading to government borrowing and government debt causing a wastage of government resources)
  • Is not expected to grow faster than the rate of population growth - indeed many politicians decry overly large government (some of whom hypocritically create massive expansions of government)