So, You’re Afraid of Tyranny?

As of November 2008, TYRANNY became America’s greatest fear.

Death panels, FEMA camps, chemtrails…TYRANNY(Yeah, I know, but some Americans truly fear this stuff.)

All manner of things like the Affordable Care Act, taxation, background checks, Mrs. Obama’s healthy eating initiative, and the fight for racial and gender equality have been labeled as tyrannical mandates sure to destroy America as we know it.  (Yeah, I know, but some Americans truly believe this stuff.)

But, let’s be honest, some Americans don’t know what tyranny means.  CAP LOCKED or not.

Merriam-Webster has defined the word thusly:

1 : oppressive power <every form of tyranny over the mind of man — Thomas Jefferson>; especially: oppressive power exerted by government <the tyranny of a police state>
2 a: a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler; especially: one characteristic of an ancient Greek city-state
   b: the office, authority, and administration of a tyrant
3 : a rigorous condition imposed by some outside agency or force <living under the tyranny of the clock — Dixon Wecter>
4 : an oppressive, harsh, or unjust act : a tyrannical act <workers who had suffered tyrannies>
Even though many patriots seem to be confused as to the word’s meaning, their fear of tyranny is not entirely without merit.  While they will argue that the stockpiling of (evermore dangerous and military-like) weapons is necessary to defend against tyrannical rule, they seem to be confused as to where it is coming from.
I know, I know, I know.  Obummer, Big Gubmint, the Framer’s, etc. Obama can do better, Congress is on what seems like another planet, Jefferson and company were fairly intelligent men.  But, look again at the definition above.
Oppressive, harsh, and unjust acts.  Oppressive power.  The tyranny of a police state.

(cough, cough)

The tyranny of a police state.

 
“If citizens cannot trust that laws will be enforced in an evenhanded and honest fashion, they cannot be said to live under the rule of law. Instead, they live under the rule of men corrupted by the law.” ― Dale Carpenter 
 
Whoa!  Before you scream at your screen… “All cops aren’t bad cops!  A cop’s job is dangerous!  They are just taking steps to ensure that they make it home alive.” …  I know this.  Most people know this.  This is not about making all cops look bad.  This is about making bad cops former bad cops.
 
No rational person believes that our nation’s police officers shouldn’t protect themselves.  But consider this.

“In 2013, 33 law enforcement officers were killed by gunfire. While it is a morbid statistic, it is the lowest number since 1887. Meanwhile, in 2012, police committed over 400 justifiable homicides for the first time in more than a decade. This trend would suggest that crime is increasing…but it isn’t. It only means that officers are more frequently resorting to violence.”

 

We also know that investigating suspicious activity is a part of the job description.  But seriously? Cruel and unusual.

““Nothing was found inside of Mr. Eckert,” the police report notes. So after he woke up, he was released — after 13 hours, two rectal exams, three enemas, two X-rays and a colonoscopy.”

Likewise, none of us want to live in crime-ridden neighborhoods.  But one in three Americans are in criminal databases.

“Researchers report that more than 40% of the male subjects have been arrested at least once by the age of 23. The rate was highest for blacks, at 49%, 44% for Hispanics and 38% for whites. Researchers found that nearly one in five women had been arrested at least once by the age of 23.  They further determined that 47% of those arrested weren’t convicted. In more than a quarter of cases, subjects weren’t even formally charged.”

 

Look.  America is a nation of laws. We trust our police departments with the task of keeping law and order.  Without them (both laws and officers), things would be a little chaotic.  I’m no more into anarchy than you are, but this is getting out of hand and lives are being lost and destroyed.

So, if you are honestly afraid of tyranny, ask yourself a few questions.  Why are our cops earning respect at the end of a gun barrel rather than with community involvement?  Why should our civil rights be suspended just because we are in the presence of a guy with a badge?  Why are our peacekeepers training with the military?  Why are they using military hardware?  Are we insurgents or are we citizens?  And, finally, what are we going to do about it?

Ignoring overzealous, ill-trained, or power-hungry officers does a disservice to We, the People.  It also does a disservice to the majority of good cops out there honestly trying to make our communities safer.
 
If you are honestly afraid of tyranny, this should concern you.  Not black you or white you.  Not liberal you or conservative you.  But American you.
 
Liberty and Justice for all, right?
 
Further Reading
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Ferguson, Pt. 1

Some links I found interesting about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri:

The Covert Action Virus

Twenty or so years ago, I had a conversation with a soil scientist of my acquaintance, who had recently returned from an extended trip through Central America. He had been teaching alternative farming techniques to peasant farmers being squeezed into less and less available land, as part of a private aid group. It sounded to me like an ideal gig for the Peace Corps, so I was surprised when he answered: “Uh-uh. No way. If you’re in Central America with the Peace Corps, everyone just assumes you’re CIA. Nobody will talk to you, and you can’t get anything done.”
I was taken aback, given that, as the Peace Corps itself says:

Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers. This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect volunteers’ safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the countries in which volunteers serve.

The inverse, however, is also true. Because of this exclusionary policy, the Peace Corps would in fact make an excellent cover for an agent. This goes to the very nature of the deception that is the core of what intelligence agents do: it does not matter what lie is believed, as long as a lie is believed. As long as the target believes something that is not true, he/she can be manipulated. Which means that everything is a potential cover story, a legend, and a potential target for infiltration and exploitation. Every bureau, every commercial outlet, every information source is a potential target. Every cell of the body politic is susceptible to this, either proactively or by being compromised; a virus of deceit, secrecy, and covert action.

The problems with this are obvious, and became apparent to me again this morning, when I opened Firedoglake and saw USAID Fake HIV Center in Cuba Undermines Global Health Efforts. I followed the links; the gist, as reported by the AP, is that “Over at least two years, the U.S. Agency for International Development — best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid — sent nearly a dozen neophytes from Venezuela, Costa Rica and Peru to gin up opposition in Cuba.” These untrained agents, supplied with encrypted flash drives, and codes for communications, “posed as tourists, visited college campuses, and used…[a]n HIV-prevention workshop one called “the perfect excuse” to recruit political activists.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the operation was set up by the same contractor that dreamed up the failed “Cuban Twitter” project.

This program is being defended by the Obama Administration: according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, the program “enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention.” Note the moment of honesty: the secondary benefit of the HIV awareness program was HIV awareness. The first was covert action.

This type of covert action is not rare, as Peter at FDL goes on to elaborate; nor is it just medical aid being used as cover. The fake NGO that was used to decapitate a FARC unit in Columbia is missing, but he includes the fake hepatitis vaccine program in Pakistan that helped identify Usama bin Laden-since then, the Pakistani Taliban has outlawed polio vaccination and killed 60 vaccination workers, allowing polio to make a robust comeback. Another one Peter could have pointed to was the role of the NED-the National Endowment for Democracy-in Ukraine, where it has spent tens of millions of dollars on a wide variety of programs. As  One of the founders of the NED-“whose purpose is to support foreign organizations sympathetic to US foreign policy goals” explained it in 1991“A lot of what we do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” And so it is: whether it be Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Albania, Iran, Cuba, Mongolia, or Venezuela, the NED is there. No wonder Putin was pissed about US operations in Ukraine. Every dollar spent there was intended to lessen Russian influence. Every single aspect of the “civil society” NED is supporting there can be considered a covert operation targeted on Russian interests.

And that’s the real issue-the meta-issue. The effect of using everything as a cover for covert operations is the certain destruction of the ability of people to have faith in institutions that, in a democracy, require faith to operate (rampant conspiracy theory-the guaranteed response to pervasive secrecy-has the same effect). You can have democracy-or you can have deceit and covert action. You can have citizen participation-or you can have counterintelligence programs designed to “expose disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize…” You can have journalism-or you can have Operation MOCKINGBIRD, in which the CIA compromised dozens of journalists and fed them CIA propaganda. You can have community policing-or you can have Phoenix Program-style counterinsurgency as law enforcement, in which pervasive surveillance, secret and unconstitutional police methods, and Special Operations teams combine to “neutralize threats.” Radley Balko reports an average of fifty thousand SWAT raids annually in the US…we have come a hell of a long way from “to serve and protect.”

And that’s the point-when everything is a covert action bureau, or cover, that is all it is. It cannot be an institution that operates by deceit and covert violence, AND be a democratically-controlled institution responsive to citizens’ needs. You can have democracy, and freedom, and all the messy processes that democratic institutions require to operate; or you can have the expediency, secrecy, deception, and violence of government-by-secret-police-agency. When your service providers collect and sell your information; when your cell phone is tracked by retailers in the mall; when your movements are tracked via car tracking, facial recognition programs, and ubiquitous cameras; and when your police subvert oversight by deceiving responsible authority, your institutions have become spy agencies, whose tools are secrecy and deception: anathema to self-government in a free society. A paradigm of covert action, or a representative democracy. You cannot have both.

You cannot have both, and there will be no progress until this question is answered, definitively. Subverting change in defense of the status quo, after all, is what intelligence agencies do. Our government is infected with a virus, that has seemingly moved into every cell; healing America will require, first, a robust immune response from a citizenry that will not be able to suspend the necessary weight of disbelief much longer, and second, an intense vaccination course to keep the patient from  relapsing.

 

I’m Not Saying I Agree…But I Understand

Chris Rock once did a stand-up routine where he talked about the OJ Simpson case, and his theme was, “I’m not saying it’s right-but I understand.” This is kind of how I feel about Ukraine: I’m not defending Putin, and I’m not saying taking the Crimea in violation of treaty was right-but I DO understand. Here’s why:

I had forgotten about Zbigniew Brzezsinski’s famous quote: “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” This kind of fanatical bipolar myopia isn’t really funny anymore, given that the Cold War ended a generation ago, but it seems to be the core of much US thinking toward the current crisis in Ukraine, much to the detriment of our understanding why Russia is doing what it is doing. With communism defeated, there was  little ideological reason to continue fighting, beyond the entrenched corporate interests of  surviving Cold War -era institutions and the knee-jerk opposition of the Grand Chessboard-type thinking that thought it was a good idea to, say, march NATO up to Russia’s border. The idea that Russia, and any Russian leader, has a legitimate interest in Ukraine complicates this simplistic Good Guy/Bad Guy  narrative, so attempts to undermine Russian influence in Ukraine are left out of the mainstream conversation, as are the activities of Western intelligence agencies in fanning the unrest, and the uncomfortable presence of a significant fraction of neo-Nazis in Ukrainian resistance.

This reactionary impulse may have something to do with US motivation in aiding the anti-Russian Ukrainians, and maybe some of the Ukrainians are simply US aid sponges,  but there is a long history of antipathy between Ukraine and Russia, even before Stalin starved somewhere around 3.5 million Ukrainians to death in the Thirties. This was repaid, of course, by many Ukrainians welcoming the Nazi invaders of 1941. After the war, a Ukrainian independence movement largely controlled by unreconstructed fascists fought on, until finally crushed by the Soviets.

Fast forward. During de-Stalinization, Crimea is transferred to Ukraine from Russia, though the Russian Black Sea Fleet is headquartered there.

Fast forward. When the USSR collapses, Ukraine has the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal on its territory. In return for giving them up, Russia signs a treaty guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity; this is the one broken-maybe-by Russia’s incursion into the Crimea. We’ll return to that momentarily. Also, US Secretary of State James Baker promises Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO will refrain from moving East if the USSR stands down. After the USSR dissolves, NATO, of course, immediately adds most the old Warsaw Pact nations of Eastern Europe to NATO, which is why it so infuriated the Russians when Ukrainian President Yushchenko started talking about Ukraine, on Russia’s border, joining NATO, and expelling the Black Sea fleet from Crimea.

So, when Putin outbid the EU for favorable trade terms with Ukraine, he was operating within the accepted rules of the game. Meanwhile, the US is funding the Ukrainian resistance, and is wiretappedamong other things, picking the next leader of the resistance. Then, after Yanukovich’s “turn” toward Russia backfired, and the demonstrations got out of hand-the Russians brokered a deal to end the protests, and Yanukovich agreed to step down and transfer power to the Parliament.

That should have been the end of it; instead, the Ukrainian resistance reneges on the deal, essentially staging a coup d’tat even though they had already won. Furthermore, to complete the circle, there is a significant, visible presence of Ukrainian neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian nationalist movement.

And that’s why Putin is pissed. In his mind, he was playing a clean game, while Russia was being undercut by a covert op; he brokered a deal in good faith, only to see the Ukrainians immediately renege; and finally, the symbols of the hated fascists who killed at least 30 million Russians in the defining event of Soviet history are being prominently displayed, on Russia’s border.

There is simply no way in hell that any Russian leader is going to allow a hostile government with operational ties to Western intelligence to thrive in Ukraine-period. Especially one that reneges on its agreements, and is working hand in glove with both the US and NATO, who have lied to Russia at every step. Especially one that insists on rubbing its identification with the Nazis in Russia’s face. And, since temporal distance seems to have fogged people’s memories, Russia is a major strategic nuclear power and need have no fear of a conventional military threat, since attacking Russia is a prescription for national suicide.

Also, Russia is allowed to keep 25,000 troops in Crimea, although they are supposed to stay in their restricted area. That’s the treaty violation. There are no dragnets, roundups, or mass executions underway. Putin is walking a fine line here, asserting Russian hegemony in Ukraine without taking the irrevocable plunge of massive bloodletting. So far, he can still back out, and there are some signals that he may be looking for a way out. If he is, we should let him, since the alternative is for Russia to go all the way forward, and just take Ukraine, install the government it wants, and then withdraw to avoid a bloody counterinsurgency campaign. The closest analog in recent US history is probably the invasion of Panama in 1988.

So, I’m not saying it’s right, or saying I approve-but I understand.

Who is Barrett Brown? Why you NEED to know.

Read the entire, important article from Rolling Stone here:

“Although he knew some of those involved in high-profile “hacktivism,” he is no hacker. His situation is closer to the runaway prosecution that destroyed Aaron Swartz, the programmer-activist who committed suicide in the face of criminal charges similar to those now being leveled at Brown. But unlike Swartz, who illegally downloaded a large cache of academic articles, Brown never broke into a server; he never even leaked a document. His primary laptop, sought in two armed FBI raids, was a miniature Sony netbook that he used for legal communication, research and an obscene amount of video-game playing. The most serious charges against him relate not to hacking or theft, but to copying and pasting a link to data that had been hacked and released by others.

“What is most concerning about Barrett’s case is the disconnect between his conduct and the charged crime,” says Ghappour. “He copy-pasted a publicly available link containing publicly available data that he was researching in his capacity as a journalist. The charges require twisting the relevant statutes beyond recognition and have serious implications for journalists as well as academics. Who’s allowed to look at document dumps?”

Brown’s case is a bellwether for press freedoms in the new century, where hacks and leaks provide some of our only glimpses into the technologies and policies of an increasingly privatized national security-and-surveillance state. What Brown did through his organization Project PM was attempt to expand these peepholes. He did this by leading group investigations into the world of private intelligence and cybersecurity contracting, a $56 billion industry that consumes 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget.”

All Over the Place

Summer is winding down for many families in the South, where school starts before Labor Day.

This is why, I imagine, so many of the writers here are busy.

So here are some links of just some of what we’ve been reading; please let us know what you’ve been reading and writing in the comments!

Running Errands: Looking for Plan B

There is, to my knowledge, only one video on youtube that I’m in:

Watch it. You’ll see me. And a lot of my friends.

If you didn’t catch it, HHS Sebellius and the Obama Administration were ordered, by a Judge to make the Morning After Pill (“MAP” or “Plan B”) truly over the counter for people of all ages. No ID need be shown. Not hide the pills behind the counter, but in the “family planing section” where condoms are.

I wrote about Obama’s failure to comply in early May.

About a week or so after, participated in one of several flash mobs you can see in the video above.

The Obama administration decided to obey the Order from the Judge, and make Plan B OTC, no restrictions.

We were told it would take a month or so for the companies that make Plan B to change their packaging and also allot the stores time to make room on the shelves for Plan B.

Fair enough.

That month is over. And I’ve had to run errands that either require I stop at a pharmacy or pass by a pharmacy.

I decided I was going to start checking out a pharmacy a day to see if Plan B/MAP was, in fact, OTC as it’s legally supposed to be.

The first pharmacy I stopped at, I couldn’t find the MAP in the family planning aisle. I approached the pharmacy, noticed during my brief wait, I noted that there was no Plan B behind the counter. When it was my turn, I inquired where I could find Plan B.  A courteous pharmacy tech walked me to the family planning aisle, and seeing that they had apparently sold out, quickly asked that it be restocked. He then showed me–rather proudly–that this particular store also had it in the snack food aisle (I laughed. Milk Duds and MAP anyone?) as well as displayed very prominently in the beauty section, neatly stacked next to nail polish and mascara.

I thanked him for his help and began to leave. “Did you want to buy, um…anything?” He gestured to the box he was holding of emergency contraceptive.

“Oh no, but thank you. I’m okay, I was just checking to make sure it was available over the counter.”

He smiled, we wished each other a good day, and I left surprised that this one chain pharmacy had done such a great job complying with the law.

I stopped at another pharmacy, with my elementary-age daughter. It was actually in a grocery store, and we were getting juice. I saw the pharmacy and thought, “Let’s see what they have.”

In the family planning aisle, I noted not only the lack of MAP, but that there wasn’t even a space on the shelves. We went to the pharmacy.

A tech, who already looked annoyed, asked “What do you want?”

I asked, “Why don’t you have Plan B over the counter and out in the family planning section?”

He perked up (I can’t figure out why?), and asked me to wait a moment. He dug around the shelves in the back, and pulled out a box of emergency contraception.

“We haven’t gotten the right packaging for over-the-counter sales yet. It was supposed to come this week, but….” He quickly searched the computer. “…looks like it was delayed until next week.”

I thanked him for his help.

Most pharmacies in my totally unscientific survey are stocking the MAP properly–it’s near the condoms and tampons. I thought the pharmacy stocking EC in three places was rather impressive. The beauty aisle made sense–there’s a separate check-out there, and it’s almost always run by a woman. The snack aisle? I don’t know, I’m still laughing to myself over that. But kudos, Walgreens. You surprised me.

Also worth mentioning: the pharmacist on duty heard me ask where MAP was on several occasions. One woman put her right fist in the air. Every single pharmacist was supportive, non-judgmental, and helpful.

This is only reflective of a few places in a blue-city in a red-state. (Okay, we’re purple, but since Rick Scott (Republican) is governor, we’re red as far as I’m concerned.)

I wish everyone could have such good, non-judgmental experiences obtaining medications they may need.