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Protect Your Cell Phone Communication and Stop Mass Bulk Surveillance
The government has used the USA Patriot Act to claim enormous new powers to spy on all of us. It’s gone too far, but on June 1, 2015, key provisions of the USA Patriot Act are set to expire – including a provision that the NSA claims lets it collect private data about all of our phone calls. It’s illegal and ineffective, and it must stop.
Tell Congress to Put an Expiration Date on Unconstitutional Bulk Surveillance

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Like a zombie from the crypt, this terrible rights-killing legislation comes crawling back to consume our internet. Sign on to stop it - again. And pass it on…

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MLK vs. Malcolm X

February 23rd, 2015 by Andy in Politics In America

King was right about people. Malcolm X was right about systems. And systems have their own way of sublimating people, regardless of their individual nature or intentions. Its why you can’t look to change systems by appealing simply to people’s individual conscience. They are part of the social ecosystem for sure, but its like trying to combat climate change through changing light bulbs and recycling.

Chris Hedges lays out a provocative analysis about the comparative importance of both figures, yet leaving little doubt as to which one he believes should be considered more relevant to our situation today…

Malcolm X , unlike Martin Luther King Jr., did not believe America had a conscience. For him there was no great tension between the lofty ideals of the nation—which he said were a sham—and the failure to deliver justice to blacks. He, perhaps better than King, understood the inner workings of empire. He had no hope that those who managed empire would ever get in touch with their better selves to build a country free of exploitation and injustice. He argued that from the arrival of the first slave ship to the appearance of our vast archipelago of prisons and our squalid, urban internal colonies where the poor are trapped and abused, the American empire was unrelentingly hostile to those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” This, Malcolm knew, would not change until the empire was destroyed.

——

King was able to achieve a legal victory through the civil rights movement, portrayed in the new film “Selma.” But he failed to bring about economic justice and thwart the rapacious appetite of the war machine that he was acutely aware was responsible for empire’s abuse of the oppressed at home and abroad. And 50 years after Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem by hit men from the Nation of Islam, it is clear that he, not King, was right. We are the nation Malcolm knew us to be. Human beings can be redeemed. Empires cannot. Our refusal to face the truth about empire, our refusal to defy the multitudinous crimes and atrocities of empire, has brought about the nightmare Malcolm predicted. And as the Digital Age and our post-literate society implant a terrifying historical amnesia, these crimes are erased as swiftly as they are committed.

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“Martin [Luther King Jr.] doesn’t have the revolutionary fire that Malcolm had until the very end of his life,” Cornel West says in his book with Christa Buschendorf, “Black Prophetic Fire.” “And by revolutionary fire I mean understanding the system under which we live, the capitalist system, the imperial tentacles, the American empire, the disregard for life, the willingness to violate law, be it international law or domestic law. Malcolm understood that from very early on, and it hit Martin so hard that he does become a revolutionary in his own moral way later in his short life, whereas Malcolm had the revolutionary fire so early in his life.”

Read The Full Essay

Are We Finally Turning a Corner In Our Toleration of Media Fabrications and Distortions?

February 22nd, 2015 by Andy in Media and Democracy

With all the hoopla swirling regarding the “controversy” over Brian Williams fabricating war stories, and now one of his biggest critics, uber-bloviator Bill O’Reilly caught in his own web of absurd storytelling, it’s as if our media has become like some kind of dark fun house of mirrors, each one increasingly distorting the distortion reflected by the other. This is by no means a recent phenomenon, of course.

But I’m wondering if its coming to a head, if the gradual degradation of its ability to report and inform, thanks in large part to the rise of various neoliberal policies which have resulted in in the dismantling of so many barriers between journalistic processes and the desire for ever-increasing corporate profits at any cost, is reaching a turning point. Have people’s desire for actual, rational, empirically-based discourse finally been stretched to the breaking point, where they just won’t accept the mental flotsam of infotainment and shock value headlines, that might get immediate ratings but have no intellectual caloric value? Is this wishful thinking on my part, or are enough people actually hungry enough to really stop buying into the bulls**t, and like one’s physical immune system, becoming more inherently resilient to the obvious pablum of lies and nonsense that has been peddled so shamelessly, and increasingly so, by the power elites in this country?

I know H.L. Mencken famously stated how no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and unfortunately he was onto something there. But there are number of counter examples as well, of people eventually coming around to figuring some things out, and acting in a way that led to some profound changes in the structure of our society and in the course of our collective history (abolitionism, worker’s protections, women’s rights, etc.). Things that were considered simply unchangeable have on occasion, within a generation, been completely transformed. Perhaps we could do the same with how our information and communication systems are structured - who and how control over how journalism works; how our communication systems are owned and managed; how we provide access to people to utilize them, particularly for purposes other than those aimed at monetizing all communication; how surveillance over these networks functions; how people can be better educated in media literacy skills, not only in how to effectively use these mediums, but how to be more resilient to the negative effects of the disinformation and propaganda that pollutes them, etc.

Maybe it’s idealistic to consider these things (but then every single example of personal and social human progress was at its inception). But the alternative seems not only unpalatable to me, but thoroughly untenable. At least that is if we are to have any notion of living in a society that has any real value and merit when it comes to being a place worth not just existing in, but fully living in.

How To Use a Cellphone Without Being Spied On

February 21st, 2015 by Andy in Patriot Act & The Surveillance State, Video

A highly insightful and useful report produced by Democracy Now! featuring Christopher Soghoian, a security researcher and technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as a visiting fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. Well worth the watch and read, and especially so in light of the recent Snowden-enabled revelations reported by The Intercept on The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Kingdom.

And when you’re done watching this, you can Sign The Petition promoted by Fight For The Future as part of an organizing effort to pressure U.S. legislators to drop key portions of the so-called PATRIOT ACT which are set to expire this Spring. If enough effort can be mobilized via the web to make sure they do, it will strike a blow to the government’s implementation of some of the most abusive of these programs. Success here will help promote online privacy and beat back the NSA’s attacks upon the fundamental freedoms and rights we should all be provided within the digital realm.

Ebola and Inequality: Disease, Health and Neoliberalism

February 9th, 2015 by Andy in Taxes, The Commons & The Social Contract

Yet more reason why inequality is bad, and can even be considered a human rights issue in its sweepingly negative effects on the well-being and dignity of people. This from Inequality.org

How do inequality and health relate? Increasing evidence from scientists the world over indicates that many health outcomes — everything from life expectancy to infant mortality and obesity — can be linked to the level of economic inequality within a given population. Greater economic inequality appears to lead to worse health outcomes.

By greater inequality, epidemiologists — the scientists who study the health of populations — don’t just mean poverty. Poor health and poverty do go hand-in-hand. But high levels of inequality, the epidemiological research shows, negatively affect the health of even the affluent, mainly because, researchers contend, inequality reduces social cohesion, which leads to more stress, fear, and insecurity for everyone.

Hey, no worries. The “market” will solve this.

Yet more of the incessant litany of evidence as to why the libertarian wet dream of market purity is insane.

Read more on these studies Here

Speaking of inequality and health, this from Yves Smith points out the very dramatic consequences to all when collective problems are addressed through “individual incentives” and traditional capital “market forces.” I’m leaping to a specific point here, when this raises a whole hose of issues, questions, etc… which if I have time I will try to dig into with much more detail.

But this aspect of the issue is definitely brought to the fore here, in the sense that we *all* pay when this kind of inequality becomes systemic in the very processes that our society functions upon, and most importantly, responds to problems to. It also brings to mind the important point that one of America’s greatest challenges, World War II, was met and won *not* by letting the “market” solve it - but the complete opposite. The nation has never been under a more command and controlled economic structure than during that period. It took that to win that war. I’m not arguing that we should operate a society like that, but to dismiss standard libertarian and capitalist pablum about the transcendent “efficiencies” of the “market,” and that relying on those processes will achieve optimum results for society.

Read her piece Ebola Is an Economic Black Swan on her excellent blog Naked Capitalism

Karl Polyani’s 1944 book The Great Transformation had this whole neoliberal delusion pegged generations ago.

As for Ebola itself, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet recently reported how U.S. government funding for the National Health Institute, which is leading the nation’s effort in attempting to stop this deadly virus, has been reduced by the GOP-controlled Congress to its lowest levels in years. This, immediately after a harrowing surge of the disease’s spread throughout western Africa, with cases beginning to show up in North America, in which members of that same Congress were accusing the Obama administration for not devoting enough attention towards stopping.

The GOP is Actively Working To Prevent Local Ownership of Broadband Service

February 3rd, 2015 by Andy in Media and Democracy

This is what the GOP in the House has voted to keep from happening in your hometown, and another reason why what is transpiring right now regarding FCC deliberations over regulatory policies regarding the internet are so important.

Both of the major U.S. business parties are beholden in various ways to corporate interest, but the GOP is off the charts in that regard, using politics to protect the likes of Comcast, and prevent a “public option” from being applied to the internet. Chattanooga and a few other cities that have led the way in making this happen, have proven all too well that public broadband not only works, but is superior to anything TW or Comcast is going to provide. Thus, it must be squelched.

House Votes to Save Bans on City Internet Service

Republicans want to stop the FCC from preempting state laws

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, spearheaded the amendment that would bar the FCC from using any funds to prevent states from imposing limits on city broadband. The amendment, which is attached to a fiscal 2015 spending bill, passed mostly along party lines in a 223-200 vote.

Blackburn’s home state of Tennessee would be a likely first target for FCC action.

Chattanooga, Tenn., has rolled out a high-speed fiber Internet network for its residents. The service, called “Gig City,” offers speeds about 50 times faster than the national average for about $70 per month.

A state law, however, is keeping the city from expanding the service to other communities that want it, according to the city’s mayor.

As my colleague Michael E. stated (though I would reiterate the fact that we do have very dismal communications policy)…

“Let’s see . . . Congressional representatives owned by telco interests vote to protect the rights of their State legislators who have also been bought by the same corporate interests. This isn’t so much about the dismal state of communications policy in the US as the need for major campaign finance reform.”

This is all pretty sick stuff.

Here’s one relatively recent report regarding what’s transpired in Chattanooga, giving some good insight into why having a publicly owned broadband system can be so tremendously vital to the well-being of our communities in the 21st century.

Fast Internet Is Chattanooga’s New Locomotive

American Corporations Profiting From Nazi Germany During World War II

January 28th, 2015 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video

With all of the stories and events taking place this week commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it got me thinking once again about about these reports I remember reading and watching many years ago, and which I had always intended to post something about.

It concerns this rather interesting segment from the film “The Corporation” on the history of American corporate collusion with enemy nations during the Second World War in order to keep the profits going. This includes how IBM’s proprietary punch card system was used to help manage the Holocaust in Europe. Unfortunately, this information rarely, if ever, gets discussed in history classes. Or, more importantly, in business schools.

International investigative author Edwin Black (who is featured in the video), has done extensive work on this subject, and published more updated information on IBM’s role in the Holocaust earlier this year on The Huffington Post.

And if one thinks this story is an anomaly, a deviation from the norm of how global corporate capital functions all-too-often in the world, this report from The Washington Post serves as a sorry and disturbing reminder of what constitutes “business as usual,” one of the important elements of American history airbrushed out of the mainstream narrative. Yesterday it was places like Nazi Germany, later to manifest itself in places like Chile and Guatemala, today China…the quest for profit at any cost (usually to be incurred by someone else, of course) never ceases.

Martin Luther King Jr. on the Three Evils of Society

January 27th, 2015 by Andy in Politics In America

I would vote for this perhaps being Martin Luther King’s greatest, most radical speech he ever gave. It certainly resonates all-too-well with the tenor of current times, unfortunately. Addressing the “three evils” of modern American society - war, racism, poverty - MLK directly takes on the moral vacuity of material consumerism, the politics of diversion and distraction, and the spiritual illegitimacy of war.

This speech is at times almost a cavalcade of greatest hits when it comes to some of his most well known, and radical, points that became more well known through their inclusion in various other addresses of his over the years. If you want to know about what King was really about, if you doubt the radicalism of his politics, and wonder why the government resorted to backing his murder, this speech may help begin to explain it.

Many thanks to Pacifica Radio for having covered this and preserving it in their archives.

Battle Hymns To American ‘Heroes’

January 24th, 2015 by Andy in What Is Patriotism?

What with all the discourse and debate raging of late regarding the film “American Sniper,” what heroism means, the political divides between how we perceive the bloodshed and sacrifice of the Iraq War, etc, it made me recall this true cultural artificat. One which poses some of these pretty deep seated questions as to what comprises “patriotism,” and what are the values being truly expressed through the proclamation of patriotic allegiance?

Hat tip to Chase Madar for the heads up on this, but wow. I had no idea that this piece of cultural/political history existed. As Madar commented, the American people don’t seem to care too much for Bradley Manning, but just listen to this little ditty about My Lai massacre commander Lt. Calley! It sold over 1 million copies in only four days back in 1971.

Released appropriately on Plantation Records. What’s the B-Side? “Linebacker II - Laying the Carpet of Freedom”?

It is, as John Halle commented, a Dolchstosslegende masterpiece. Horst Wessel lives.

No, North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony: Another American Propaganda Success Story

January 21st, 2015 by Andy in Propaganda & Faux News, Video

How many times will Americans keep falling for uncorroborated government claims? Propaganda and jingoistic fear mongering is like feeding candy to babies. As I was noting as soon as this meme started spreading, none of this was adding up.

And yet, as if on cue, so many people started using social media to pile on with vituperative rhetoric about “striking back” at Korea, or some such knee jerk reactionary responses. Really, what does it take for people to begin to stop buying face value the claims of the government, particularly after a long, sordid and bloody history of disasters that have resulted from such mindless incredulity? You’d think people would eventually learn. But then, Hitler, Hearst, Lenin, Bernays, Atwater, Rove, Goebbels, Ailes, and all the successful propagandists of their place and time continue to be proven right again and again. Sad. No, not just sad. Pathetic.

Marc Rogers at The Daily Beast was one of the early ones to write critically about the claims being made.

Here, Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author whose been following Korean issues for over 30 years, lays on some insightful critiques on a recent edition of Democracy Now!

Well, first of all, the person she just mentioned, Bruce Bennett, who was a consultant on this film, works for the RAND Corporation, which is a think tank for the U.S. military and has been for decades. And it so happens that the Sony CEO happens to sit on the board of directors of the RAND Corporation. It has—Sony has extensive ties with the U.S. national security system. Its CIO used to work for the secretary of defense, in terms of their—guarding their internal security. That’s one point.

But, you know, second, I think that—you know, that this attack began in late November, early December. At that time, this cyber-attack was run by this group that you mentioned, this GOP, Guardians of Peace. They made no mention whatsoever of the film. It was all about Sony and its internal racism and that kind of thing. I have seen no indication whatsoever that there was any similarity—some real similarity of this attack to anything that North Korea has been accused of before. And, you know, many cyber experts, from Kim Zetter of Wired to Marc Rogers and others, have raised real questions about the FBI evidence.

And so, I think it’s appalling that President Obama goes on a national stage, a global stage, on Friday and basically declares cyberwar, and then, a couple days later, ratchets it back to some kind of like cybernuisance, you know, cybervandalism. And of course North Korea is going to respond to basically a declaration of war by the president of the United States.

And, you know, we have a massive build-up going on in Asia, military build-up. And I think, you know, we need to keep North Korea as the enemy, as the armed enemy that’s going to attack us at any moment, so we can defend these bases in Japan, particularly in Okinawa, which are the focus of a massive public protest. You may have noticed—Americans didn’t notice, but Okinawans and Japanese voted to pull these bases out in recent elections. They want the U.S. forward bases removed.

So, I think there’s a lot of political, you know, situation going on here, a lot of politics going on that’s completely unnoticed. And I think it’s shameful of The New York Times, once again, to be in the leadership of spinning out these claims, dubious claims, and, you know, possibly instigating another war, another confrontation.

There have been a number of other informative pieces on this issue, as well. These include Dan Sanchez at Antiwar.com who chronicles how Emails Reveal US State Department Influenced Sony’s “The Interview” so as to Encourage Assassination and Regime Change in North Korea

William Boot Here at The Daily Beast reveals some of the State Department’s involvement with this cinematic project.

The Daily Beast has unearthed several emails that reveal at least two U.S. government officials screened a rough cut of the Kim Jong-Un assassination comedy The Interview in late June and gave the film—including a final scene that sees the dictator’s head explode—their blessing.

The claim that the State Department played an active role in the decision to include the film’s gruesome death scene is likely to cause fury in Pyongyang. Emails between the Sony Entertainment CEO and a security consultant even appear to suggest the U.S. government may support the notion that The Interview would be useful propaganda against the North Korean regime.

Gregory Elich provides some diagnosis Here as to who was behind the Sony hack at Counterpunch

The cyberattack on Sony Pictures unleashed a torrent of alarmist media reports, evoking the image of North Korean perfidy. Within a month, the FBI issued a statement declaring the North Korean government “responsible for these actions.”

Amid the media frenzy, several senators and congresspersons called for tough action. Arizona Senator John McCain blustered, “It’s a new form of warfare that we’re involved in, and we need to react and react vigorously.” President Barack Obama announced his administration planned to review the possibility of placing North Korea on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, a move that would further tighten the already harsh sanctions on North Korea. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama warned darkly. “We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

In the rush to judgment, few were asking for evidence, and none was provided. Computer security analysts, however, were vocal in their skepticism.

And the regurgitation of uncorroborated government claims by the nation’s elite press is something Glenn Greenwald has amply dismantled and deconstructed over the years, and again does his usual acidlcally thorough job in detailing this whole affair, as well. Worth the read Here

Notice how the issue over the past couple of weeks has been dropped by much of the media, as the government, when confronted with all of this countervailing evidence, has seemed to have become less vocal about its accusations. Whether we’ll really get to the bottom of this nor not remains to be seen. I wouldn’t hold my breath, however, considering the volume of historical events, including wars and assassinations that have gone unaccounted for over this nation’s history.

CISPA - Time To Again Stop This Terrible Legislation

January 20th, 2015 by Andy in Media and Democracy

Like a zombie from the crypt, this terrible rights-killing legislation comes crawling back to consume our internet. Please read about this important issue and sign on to stop it - again. And pass it on…

Congress has officially re-introduced CISPA

CISPA is a law that would give the NSA even more access to our data and let big corporations off the hook when they violate our privacy. And Congress is trying to pass it again.

CISPA is officially back for the third time. And Congress wants to pass it badly.

Just last week, Representative Dutch Ruppersberger re-introduced CISPA to Congress. You can read the 2015 CISPA bill text here.

This marks the third time Congress is trying to pass the bill to allow corporations to share our personal data with governments loosely. In addition, the 2015 version of CISPA would create a data sharing program between the Department of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and Secretary of Defense, with no accountability measures outside of their own agencies. Not only that, but any data shared would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

The NSA and members of Congress want to pass CISPA so badly, they’re scapegoating the SONY hacks over the Interview as the reason this law is back. The truth is that CISPA could not have prevented those hacks, and even Representative Ruppersberger couldn’t explain how it could have. Congress and the NSA are using the same hysteria over cyber security time and time again to try to ram CISPA into law.

CISPA won’t prevent hacking. It will be used and abused to conduct even deeper surveillance into the lives of Internet users worldwide. You can stop them by taking action again. We’ve stopped CISPA before, let’s do it again. Please sign the petition and share it with your friends.

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What’s Wrong with CISPA? (in as few words as possible)

As it’s written in the version that passed the House, CISPA won’t protect us from cyber threats, but it will violate our 4th Amendment right to privacy.

The NSA wants it badly, because it will give them more access to your data, and give companies immunity for legally shaky programs like PRISM:

It lets the government spy on you without a warrant.

It makes it so you can’t even find out about it after the fact.

It makes it so companies can’t be sued when they do illegal things with your data.

It allows corporations to cyber-attack each other and individuals outside of the law.

It makes every privacy policy on the web a moot point, and violates the 4th amendment.

Read The Full Report and Sign The Petition

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