No justice for Bradley Manning

No justice for Bradley Manning

After waiting more than 18 months, half of which he spent in torturous solitary confinement that he was only removed from after an international outcry and the resignation of a top State Department official, Manning is finally getting a shot at justice – if we can think of a military court as justice – when his case moves to the pre-trial hearing phase this Friday. But whether Manning is ultimately found guilty or not is beside the point: All one needs to know about American justice is that if he had murdered civilians and desecrated their corpses – if he had the moral capacity to commit war crimes, not the audacity to expose them – he’d be better off today.


My 37 hours with the NYPD

My 37 hours with the NYPD
Why it is important for occupiers to see the inside of the prison-industrial complex.

One final thought after these illuminating 37 hours. The story of Occupy Wall Street is impossible to tell removed from the story of the prison industrial complex. What makes OWS necessary is a story of a failing educational system. It’s a story of privatized prisons. It’s a story of predatory lenders, lack of affordable housing, and a complete absence of jobs in the most marginalized communities, who are often black or brown. It’s a story of a so-called drug war meant to imprison black and brown youth as a means of generating profits for the 1 percent. The NYPD have shown they will arrest accredited and unaccredited journalists alike. Official credentials don’t work as a protection.

That said, journalists – like activists – shouldn’t be afraid of going to jail. If and when we do get arrested it is not an inconvenience, or something that we shouldn’t be subjected to. It’s a chance to refocus our outrage, a chance to tell the most important stories, a chance to bear witness to the horrors of our criminal justice system. I don’t think the NYPD will ever offer me official credentials, but I won’t be asking them for any. Our right to observe and document police misconduct is not contingent on the approval of the authorities. And if the police think that intimidation is going to stop this movement, they should know better by now.

The DOJ’s escalating criminalization of speech

The DOJ’s escalating criminalization of speech

Let’s be very clear about the key point: the Constitution — specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment — prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders. One can dislike this legal fact. One can wish it were different. But it is the clear and unambiguous law, and has been since the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech.

Throw another log on the fire… the whole article’s a good read.

Judging from the description of Ahmad’s video in the FBI Affidavit (Ahmad’s YouTube account has been removed), the video in question does not go nearly as far as the clearly protected views referenced in the prior paragraph, as it does not explicitly advocate violence at all; indeed, it appears not to advocate that anyone do anything. Rather, the FBI believes it is evocative of such advocacy (“designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT”), which makes this prosecution even more troubling. Apparently, if you string together video and photographs (or words) in a certain way as to make the DOJ think that you’re implicitly trying to “develop support” for a Terrorist group — based on the political ideas you’re expressing — you risk decades of imprisonment.

Sen. McConnell Claims Electing The President By Popular Vote Is A ‘Genuine Threat To Our Country’

Sen. McConnell Claims Electing The President By Popular Vote Is A ‘Genuine Threat To Our Country’

McConnell and six Republican secretaries of state discussed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV), a proposed plan for using a popular vote in presidential elections. The NPV would guarantee whichever candidate wins the popular vote would also win the electoral college – preventing a repeat of the 2000 election when Al Gore won the most votes but still lost the presidency. It would do so by getting states to agree to collectively award their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, but the compact would only kick in once states with a majority of the electoral college sign on. Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia have joined the NPV, comprising 132 of the needed 270 electoral votes for the compact to take effect.

Of course he doesn’t like the idea, what’s the point of owning custom districts if they can’t deliver the right votes any more? It would mean all that careful redistricting amounts to nothing but a lot of money wasted on local community matters…

You might be a terrorist if…

FBI Handout: Communities Against Terrorism: Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activities Related to Military Surplus Stores

Includes such warning signs as “demands privacy”, “pays cash”, “shaves beard or changes hair color”, and “makes bulk purchases of MREs”. The best part:

Some of the activities, taken individually, could be innocent and must be examined by law enforcement individuals in a larger context to determine whether there is a basis to investigate.

could be innocent. Oh no way, there is never a time when a close shave and a cash payment could be innocent. Let’s not get soft on terror here.

Following is the The Cell video on how to spot a terrorist, created in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security:

This one encourages every citizen to report any sign of suspicious terrorist activity, and details a list of activities that should be considered suspect. It’s been quoted widely in the media and always sounds a little bit hysterical, so here’s the source and here’s some of their choicest warning signs straight from the filmhorse’s mouth.

-use of binoculars, multi-use watches, or cameras
-taking notes
-watching police and rescue units arrive to a scene
-asking questions about schools, sports stadiums, or malls (finally a legitimate excuse to never stop to ask directions!)
-applying for a job at a school, sports stadium, or mall
-forgetting your bag in a bus, train, or other public place
-making large purchases with cash, seeking out street trade and “for sale by owner” transactions
-making charitable donations
-leaving your car in an out-of-the-way place
-buying one-time-use cellphones
-exchanging electrical equipment with someone else
-anything which causes any onlooker to have a “gut feeling that something is just not right”

So think carefully the next time you hand your cellphone to someone before writing down a shopping list, then checking to be sure you have enough cash to cover the bill, especially if you intend to buy more than seven days’ worth of food. Because there might be someone across the street who thinks you’ve changed your hair color lately and has a gut feeling that something’s just not right, especially if you’ve cut anyone off in traffic lately who might work for the government and hold a grudge. Because you could be about to vanish for a really long time.

WASHINGTON — In Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio has been attacked as a “traitor.” In Arizona, tea party members protested against Sen. John McCain. In Utah, Occupy demonstrators donned black hoods to stand against “radical and uncalled for constraints on our constitutional rights.”

The uprising is directed at provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the Senate last week, that would require the military to arrest terrorist suspects in the United States and detain them indefinitely without trial.

The real divide in America

The real divide in America

Individualists are those who see society’s successes and problems as coming mostly from individual behavior. Motivated by impulse and human nature’s affinity for simple good-versus-evil stories, Individualists tend to see history as a series of parables about Great Men and Bad Men, Rogues and Bureaucrats, Heroes and Villains. In other words, Individualists subscribe to Margaret Thatcher’s theory that “there is no such thing as society — there are individual men and women.”

So, for example, an economic boom period is viewed by the Individualist as a success story of individual and/or presidential intelligence, innovation and hard work, not a triumph of institutions such as good schools, solid infrastructure or properly calibrated tax and trade laws. Likewise, rich people are viewed as singular superheroes whose wealth is a consequence of personal perseverance, not beneficiaries of institutional support whose assets have been accrued through systemic privilege.

At the same time, problems are portrayed by the Individualist as the result of personal transgressions, but not systemic forces: Crime is the scourge of individuals like Willie Horton, not a result of institutional forces like poverty or desperation; the education crisis is the result of individual bad teachers or parents, not systemic economic inequality or misguided school funding formulas; prejudice is the plague of individual bigots, not institutional racism; housing market meltdowns happen because of irresponsible home buyers, not because of predatory financial institutions or the banking system; and recessions occur because of “welfare queens,” “parasites,” “takers” or other assorted layabouts — but not larger forces like globalization or crony capitalism.

Institutionalists, by contrast, see it the other way around. They tend to see institutions – whether governmental agencies, corporations, popular cultures or specific policies and incentives – as the most prominent forces in society. To them, it’s “The Man,” more than the particular men.

Rooted more in data and empiricism than in gut feeling and apocrypha, this camp sees the most famous historical achievements like, say, the New Deal and civil rights movement not as merely the personal victory of people like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr., but as the result of decades of mass organizing for systemic change.

Similarly, the big problems in society aren’t seen as a reflection of individual shortcomings, but as a product of systemic dysfunction. In this Institutionalist view, Congress’ recent refusal to reduce the national debt isn’t merely the crime of individual lawmakers serving on the so-called supercommittee, but also the fault of a democratic system that’s rigged to fail. Likewise, abuses of state power — whether torture at Abu Ghraib prison or brutality from municipal police forces — are less the sin of the individual grunts than the product of a culture of violence. And nationwide unemployment doesn’t stem from a lack of “personal responsibility” among workers, but from an economy that is producing only one job opening for every seven job applicants — that is, an economy in systemic crisis.

US Senate To Vote On Bill That Will Allow The Military To Arrest Americans On American Soil And Hold Them Indefinitely

US Senate To Vote On Bill That Will Allow The Military To Arrest Americans On American Soil And Hold Them Indefinitely

On Monday or Tuesday, the US Senate will vote on a bill that would give the President the ability to order the military to arrest and imprison American citizens anywhere in the world for an indefinite period of time.

A provision of S. 1867, or the National Defense Authorization Act bill, written by Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, declares American soil a battlefield and allows the President and all future Chief Executives to order the military to arrest and detain American citizens, innocent or not, without charge or trial.

Wait, this is a joke, right? You can’t be serious. It’s on the ACLU blog too?

Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window

The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.

Senate Moves To Allow Military To Intern Americans Without Trial.

Unbelievably, I think this might be real. And the fact that we’ve elected politicians trying to pass anything like this should scare the crap out of everyone, even the people those particular politicians are purporting to represent.

One section of these provisions, section 1031, would be interpreted as allowing the military to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens on U.S. soil. Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. That alone should alarm my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but there are other problems with these provisions that must be resolved. ”This means Americans could be declared domestic terrorists and thrown in a military brig with no recourse whatsoever. Given that the Department of Homeland Security has characterized behavior such as buying gold, owning guns, using a watch or binoculars, donating to charity, using the telephone or email to find information, using cash, and all manner of mundane behaviors as potential indicators of domestic terrorism, such a provision would be wide open to abuse.

“American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?”