As Judge Weighs Legality of NYPD’s Stop and Frisk, Justice Dept. Calls for Court-Appointed Monitor

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Remembering JoAnn Roberts

Joann Roberts was part of a different Trans-faction than me.

I didn’t always see eye to eye with her.

But she was in her own right, a pioneer who worked hard publishing a trans magazine in the days before the internet, without the work of people like her there wouldn’t be the Trans-Movement of today.

From Chrysalis

by Dallas Denny
Jun 8, 2013

I wrote this upon learning of the death of JoAnn Roberts on 7 June, 2013.

 Remembering JoAnn Roberts

 I’ve admired JoAnn Roberts since 1990, when she wrote the Gender Bill of Rights. It was a remarkable declaration of our wholeness and worthiness at a time when many of us were mired in shame. I published it in the second issue of my journal Chrysalis Quarterly on crinkly brown paper that mimicked an aged document, as if it were the U.S. Bill of Rights.

At that time I was just launching the nonprofit American Educational Gender Information Service. I was astonished and gratified when Jo sent a check to cover an outside back-page ad for her business Creative Design Services for four issues of AEGIS’ journal, Chrysalis. As I signed the check for deposit I realized I was committed to actually going through with my plans. It felt good when, a year-and-a-half and four issues later, she sent a second check, this time for renewal of the ad.

JoAnn identified as a crossdresser and was happy to be one. I’ve no doubt she would have transitioned if that had been her inclination, but it wasn’t. As a guy she was a short, bald Italian from Philly who drove Corvettes and collected model trains; as JoAnn, she was a glamorous citizen of the world. Thanks to her knowledge of cosmetics and experience performing in drag shows, she was skilled at her feminine presentation. She was fierce! When she talked, though, you knew it was Joe. Jo made no attempt to disguise her voice—although she did publish Alison Laing’s book on feminine voice for those who wished to.

What I most admired about Jo was her willingness to beard the lion in its den. She did this not with the sword, but with her pen, most often in the form of an editorial in one or another of her publications. Her most frequent target was the nonprofit International Foundation for Gender Education (She once famously titled one of her pieces “International Foundation for Gender Education: None of the Above”). Her criticism was always deserved. Jo was entirely supportive of ethical people and activities, but she didn’t take kindly to ineptitude, secrecy, and financial shenanigans.

Jo did more than write, however. When appropriate, she took direct action. As members of IFGE’s board, for instance, she and Laura Skaer brought a motion forward to have the organization’s finances audited. The reasons were several—to keep the IRS happy, to protect board members from liability, and to ensure the community its money was well spent. Jo and Laura were immediately attacked by other board members who wished to cover up for the ineptitude of staff who I will not name here. This led, somehow, to my involvement in the controversy.

One board member assembled a dossier of supposedly damning facts, which she mailed to other IFGE principals. I learned about this one board member sent me a packet through the mail with photocopies inside.

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En|Gender: RIP JoAnn Roberts – & Thank You

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Naomi Klein: ‘Anti-Shock Doctrines’ Show the Way to Resist

From Common Dreams:

While media portray alternatives to austerity as “apocalypse,” we must say no, but also “show the yes,” said Klein

Andrea Germanos

In the midst of the current “final colonial pillage” for natural resources and a bombardment of “there is no alternative” to austerity messages, Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein urged the left to seize this “crucial moment” to build real resistance movements that offer a “message of critical hope.”

  Speaking this week at the Vio.Me worker-run factory in Thessaloniki, Greece, Klein, who is in the country doing research for a book and film, said the building materials factory was the perfect place to be speaking as it is “known in resistance movements around the world” and provides an example of what she said is “the anti-Shock doctrine”—a situation where rather than bowing down to the forces at hand, the crisis has put a fast-forward on coming up with creative alternatives, where workers “refused to have their lives and livelihoods sacrificed on the altar of economic crisis, and instead found reserves of power and ingenuity.”

Describing Vio.Me, economist Marjolein van der Veen explained:

In May 2011 when the owners could no longer pay their bills and walked away, the workers decided to occupy the factory. By February 2013, after raising enough funds and community support, the workers started democratically running the company on their own. (They do not intend to buy out the owners, since the company owed the workers a significant amount of money when it abandoned the factory.) They established a worker board, controlled by workers’ general assemblies and subject to recall, to manage the factory. They also changed the business model, shifting to different suppliers, improving environmental practices, and finding new markets. Greek law currently does not allow factory occupations, so the workers are seeking the creation of a legal framework for the recuperated factory, which may enable more such efforts in the future. Vio.Me has received support from SYRIZA and the Greek Green party, from workers at recuperated factories in Argentina, as well as from academics and political activists worldwide.

In Greece, Klein said, “alternatives to austerity are presented by media as apocalypse.”

“Our environment is under vicious attack.”But the Vio.Me factory is an example of an alternative “that must be known, must be disseminated .. because many factories are now being closed as the crisis unfolds, and workers are not being given the opportunity to reshape the ownership, when in fact the workers should be the first ones asked if they want to be the creditors and run the factories themselves.”

Klein slammed the Greek media for “not doing its job” in letting the people know an such alternatives do exist, instead repeating the mantra: there is no alternative (TINA), showing that “Margaret Thatcher is alive and well and living in Greece and working for the mainstream media.”

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Society’s Decay Rewards Wrongdoers

From Common Dreams:

by Ralph Nader

Told you so.

Some might deem it celebratory to utter this phrase, as if one is boasting about their own clever foresight. But when it comes to serious matters — matters that affect millions of people, their jobs, their health, and their livelihoods, there is no satisfaction in being right about predicting bad conditions. It’s much better to predict good news. But as it now stands in our country, many problems that emerged years ago have developed into sheer catastrophes, despite the many warnings of forward-thinking experts, scholars and observers.

Disturbingly, those of us who saw the warning signs and called attention to the storm clouds on the horizon are routinely ignored or even chastised, while the blatant war mongers, the misleaders, the defrauders and the corporate apologists are given ample TV/radio time and space on op-ed pages to promote their wrongheaded views. What kind of nation prosecutes whistleblowers for telling the truth, while the perpetrators of blatant, criminal actions by governments and corporations continue to walk free and enjoy the fruits of their shameful actions?

My latest book, Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns is a collection of ten years of weekly writings on a large range of issues. Many of the problems discussed in the book are ones that long have plagued our nation and have been routinely ignored or overlooked.

Here are four “Told You So’s” noted in the book.

1.) Many are shocked by the recent reports of the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collecting records of millions of phone calls, emails, internet searches, and more, all without any clear oversight and accountability. Many mainstream media outlets are now questioning the scope of this monumental level of government snooping. But while this news of Big Brother-esque overreach might be surprising to some, consider those of us who predicted it back when the Patriot Act was signed into law in the post-9/11 fervor. Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

On January 9, 2009, I wrote then President-Elect Obama and asked him to: “[M]ake a clean break from the Bush regime’s law of rule to our declared commitment to the rule of law…This can be significantly accomplished by executive orders, agency or departmental directives, whistleblower protections, enforcement actions and explicit legislative proposals.”

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Protesters Worldwide Rally to Support Whistleblower Edward Snowden

From The Nation:

Allison Kilkenny
on June 12, 2013

Immediately following the announcement that the source behind The Guardian’s NSA spying revelations is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old NSA contractor, protesters around the world rallied to show support for the whistleblower.

In New York, a group of activists gathered in Union Square amid downpours. Organizer Andy Stepanian called Snowden’s cause “a marginalized story:”

It’s saturating the media right now, but history has shown that when these whistleblowers come forward—whether it be Daniel Ellsberg or it be Bradley Manning—within a short period of time, there are attempts to malign the individual or co-opt the narrative or try to demonize that individual for what they did. We should at least be asking questions right now that Edward Snowden put aside a $200,000/year career, a house in Hawaii and left his loved to go on the lam to show people the truth, which was that our government was spying on us without warrants under the auspices of the war on terror. And in doing so they violated our Fourth Amendment rights.

In Hong Kong, up to 1,000 Snowden supporters are expected to stage a protest to call on the government to protect him.

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Edward Snowden To South China Morning Post: Let Hong Kong ‘Decide My Fate’

From Huffington Post:

By   06/12/2013

Edward Snowden spoke out for the first time since revealing his identity as the source of information about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs, telling the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that he plans to stay in Hong Kong until he is “asked to leave.”

The newspaper published its exclusive interview with Snowden on Wednesday night local time. He told Post reporter Lana Lam, “I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”

The Post did not report how it contacted Snowden or provide information about his current whereabouts. The paper said that Snowden spoke to Lam from a “secret location in Hong Kong.” Lam has been a reporter for the Post for nearly three years.

Snowden addressed why he fled to Hong Kong during the interview. “People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions,” Snowden told the Post. “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.” He added that he had “faith” in Hong Kong’s justice system, and that his “intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide [his] fate.”

Snowden has been on the run since the NSA story broke, and fled to Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20. The revelation set off journalists in Hong Kong scrambling to find him. The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill reported that Snowden checked out of Hong Kong’s Mira Hotel on Monday, fearing that he would be found. “It is thought he is now in a safe house,” MacAskill said on Tuesday.

Snowden has not made any requests for asylum, though he told the Post that he would fight any attempts by the United States to have him extradited in the Hong Kong court system. Russia’s government has also said that it would consider granting Snowden asylum if he requested it.

Snowden has previously said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong for its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” The revelation sparked spirited debate about whether it was a wise choice, with some experts arguing that Hong Kong would likely extradite Snowden to the United States given the treaty between the two governments. Other legal experts, however, said that he could remain in Hong Kong for years if he fights extradition attempts in court.

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One American Who Isn’t for Sale

From Truth Dig:

By Robert Scheer
Jun 11, 2013

So it’s true, as filmmaker Michael Moore once warned us, the Carlyle Group is Big Brother. That’s the $176 billion private equity firm that once employed former President George H.W. Bush, his Secretary of State James A. Baker III and a host of political luminaries that would put any other list of America’s ruling elite to shame. Plenty of Democrats too, including former President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff Mack McLarty and Arthur Levitt, the man Clinton appointed to head the SEC during the creation of the housing bust.

It is also the firm that owns Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., which, thanks to the revelations of one of its employees, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, we now know collects and stores much of the government’s immense PRISM database spying on the lives of this nation’s citizenry. This is systematic snooping through the telephone and Internet records of hundreds of millions of Americans conducted by Snowden and others in Booz Allen’s employ who had the highest access to our most private personal data while working at a for-profit company.

Our data is their commerce, and ever since 9/11, observing us has become mega lucrative. “Booz Allen Hamilton,” The New York Times reported Sunday, “has become one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States almost exclusively by serving a single client: the government of the United States.” The word “serving” might be pushing it here, since 98 percent of the firm’s revenue of $5.8 billion last year came from the taxpayers, who are the same folks being spied upon.

Heck, Booz Allen knows all about those taxpayers, since back in 1998, during the Clinton presidency, the firm was hired to “modernize” the IRS. “We made some very dramatic changes in the way the IRS is organized,” Booz Allen’s CEO claimed at the time. How perfect: Make tax collection more efficient and less painful, so the suckers might not notice when you scoop up the loot at the other end.

Of course, to those swinging through the revolving door between the government and its defense contractors, it must be difficult to draw a distinction between their changing roles. James R. Clapper, the chief intelligence official in the Obama administration, who is now investigating this security lapse, was himself a top Booz Allen executive. And it should be of little surprise that John M. McConnell, currently vice chairman of Booz Allen, was previously the chief intelligence official in the George W. Bush administration. It’s crony capitalism at its patriotic best.

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US: Urgent Need for Surveillance Reforms

From Human Rights Watch:

Ensure Oversight and Effective Safeguards for Privacy, Free Speech

June 11, 2013

(New York) – Recent revelations about the scope of US national security surveillance highlight how dramatic increases in private digital communications and government computing power are fueling surveillance practices that impinge on privacy in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. There is an urgent need for the US Congress to reevaluate and rewrite surveillance laws in light of those technological developments and put in place better safeguards against security agency overreach.

A string of media reports describing secret US surveillance programs underscore the degree to which laws originally designed to track phone records relating to criminal investigations have been expanded to authorize the collection of vast quantities of new forms of data that intrude much more deeply into the private lives of both citizens and non-citizens.

“Existing laws do not seem to have kept up with the threat to privacy and other rights posed by the government’s relatively new capacity to collect and analyze quickly vast quantities of personal information,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch. “Because oversight is secret and inspires little confidence, there is every reason to fear that the scope of surveillance extends far beyond what can be justified by the government’s legitimate interest in addressing terrorist or other security threats.”

A report in The Guardian says intelligence agencies are collecting information from phone companies relating to the calls of millions of people, under orders granted in secret proceedings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The leaked order requires Verizon Business Services, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, to produce information related to all telephone calls in its systems, both within the United States and between the US and other countries. The order is valid for three months but appears to be regularly renewed.

The information sought is “metadata,” which includes the numbers of both parties to a call, their locations, the time and duration of the calls, and other identifying information. The contents of conversations are not covered, but the government has an ever increasing capacity to analyze metadata to show the caller’s likely identity, social networks, and other patterns or behavior the government may want to target. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) is also collecting records from AT&T and Sprint, Internet service providers, and information about credit card transactions. The government’s rapidly growing capacity to cross-reference and analyze this data enables it to paint a stunningly complete picture of the life of almost anyone whose data it picks up.

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Greece’s Only Public TV Station Shuttered Spawning Widespread Anger

From Common Dreams:

‘The Greek people are just about to lose their voice’

Jacob Chamberlain

The Greek government announced late Tuesday that it is shutting down its only public television broadcaster—the latest in the country’s drastic austerity measures—spawning both widespread anger and a guerrilla TV station organized by the European Broadcasting Union.

The move, which has left 2,700 people without jobs and a country without its public broadcasting station, ERT, is being criticized as the “most dramatic in a series of attacks on free speech and public space by the Greek government.”

Over 3,000 people including the now former ERT employees gathered outside the broadcaster’s headquarters north of Athens on Tuesday night following the announcement, vowing to stage a sit-in until the government rescinded the order.

And that is just what they did.

“A number of ERT staff have defied the government order, staying overnight in the broadcaster’s headquarters and managing to continue broadcasting a makeshift schedule of news and talk shows,” the Guardian is reporting.

As tensions rose, reporter Maria Margaronis described the scene as it happened:

One by one, the transmitters around the country are being turned off. Journalists and production staff are occupying the broadcaster’s Athens headquarters; the network’s musicians are playing protest songs in the courtyard. Many thousands of protesters are gathering outside; so are busloads of riot police. @amaenad tweets, “Everyone in #Greece has been watching #Occupygezi. And PM Samaras just gave them a spark. He was always as stupid as he was arrogant. #ERT”

ERT’s TV and radio services did go off air overnight, but employees were able to maintain broadcasting over the internet.

However, members of the The European Broadcasting Union also managed to set up a satellite news outpost in the parking lot outside of the ERT building, and continued to broadcast the news from there.

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The Next American Revolution Has Already Begun: An Interview With Gar Alperovitz

From Truth Out:

By Gar Smith
Saturday, 08 June 2013

Gar Alperovitz, currently a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, has been writing books about wealth, democracy and national security for 48 years. In addition to serving in several government posts (including Special Assistant in the US State Department), Alperovitz is a founding principle of The Democracy Collaborative and a boardmember at the New Economics Institute.

What Then Must We Do? (his latest book and his twelfth since 1965) is a breezy, conversational read filled with somber forecasts, hopeful alternative economic strategies and lots of surprising facts and stats (Some examples: If the nation’s personal wealth were divided evenly, a family of four would receive $200,000 a year. The hourly US minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is now $2 less than it was in 1968. The US is such a large country “You can tuck Germany into Montana!”)

What Then Must We Do? (the title is borrowed from Tolstoy) explores a challenging premise: “The coming painful decades may be the prehistory of the next American revolution – and an evolutionary process that transforms the American system, making it both morally meaningful and ecologically sustainable.”

Daniel Ellsberg calls this book possibly “the most important movement-building book of the new century” and Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth, hails it as “the most compelling account yet of how we can move beyond the piecemeal, project–by–project transformation of our political economy to truly systemic change.”

Alperovitz recently took time from his busy schedule to discuss the arguments in his new book and explore the ramifications of social and economic change in an era of pending systemic collapse.

Gar S: You point out that 400 plutocrats in the US now own more wealth than 180 million other Americans. A scale of inequality that ranks as “medieval.” Shortly before his assassination, Dr. King noted America’s problems could not be solved without “undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power.”

Gar A: The concentration of wealth in this country is astonishing. 400 individuals—you could seat them all on a single airplane—own as much wealth as 60 percent of the rest of the country taken together. I was describing this distribution as “medieval” until a medieval historian set me straight: wealth was far more evenly distributed in the Middle Ages. When you ask where power lies in our system, you are asking who owns the productive assets. And that’s the top 1 percent—in fact, the top 1 percent of the 1 percent. It is a feudalistic structure of extreme power. It is anathema to a democracy to have that kind of concentration of wealth. More and more people are beginning to realize the extent and reach of corporate power and the power of those who own the corporations. The Koch brothers get a lot of publicity, but it’s a much wider phenomenon.

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Environmental Rules Delayed as White House Slows Reviews

From The New York Times:

Published: June 12, 2013

WASHINGTON — The White House has blocked several Department of Energy regulations that would require appliances, lighting and buildings to use less energy and create less global-warming pollution, as part of a broader slowdown of new antipollution rules issued by the Obama administration.

The administration has spent as long as two years reviewing some of the energy efficiency rules proposed by the Energy Department, bypassing a 1993 executive order that in most instances requires the White House to act on proposed regulations within 90 days. Regulatory review times at the White House Office of Management and Budget are now the longest in 20 years, having spiked sharply since 2011.

With some Congressional Democrats and environmental advocates criticizing the delays, President Obama’s nominee to direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs said at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that his first priority would be to speed the agency’s review process.

The nominee, Howard A. Shelanski, who is now the top economist at the Federal Trade Commission, said at the confirmation hearing that he would try “to ensure that regulatory review at OIRA occurs in as timely a manner as possible.” His comments were an acknowledgment that the backlog is frustrating presidential policy and failing to meet the deadlines in the executive order under which regulations are reviewed.

The proposed rules would require that refrigerators, light bulbs and electrical equipment use less energy, much as the Obama administration in its first term required automakers to commit to make cars more energy efficient.

With a sweeping climate bill having died in the Senate in Mr. Obama’s first term, his only options for major action on the issue in the second term appear to involve executive action. In one of the signature moments of his 2013 State of the Union address, he vowed that if Congress failed to act on energy and climate change, he would use his executive powers to do so.

While Republicans continue to criticize the administration for what they call regulatory overkill, environmental advocates and some Democrats outside the administration argue that Mr. Obama has not made good on his recent promises and has failed to show enough urgency about climate change.

“The president has pledged if Congress won’t act on climate change, he will,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who along with five other Democrats wrote to the administration’s new budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, last week to complain about the regulatory delays. “If he is going to keep that promise, he’s going to have to have O.M.B. move with a lot more clarity and alacrity,” Mr. Whitehouse added, using an abbreviation for the budget office.

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Green Groups Mount Attack Against ‘Deeply Flawed’ KXL Impact Statement

From Common Dreams:

Lauren McCauley

Green groups have mounted an aggressive attack against TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by filing a lawsuit in federal court Monday accusing the State Department and their latest Keystone XL Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of being “plagued by conflicts of interest.”

Imagine if the surgeon general was replaced with a tobacco executive,” Robin Mann, former Sierra Club club president, said during a press call on Tuesday. “At the State Department, we’re seeing something just as outrageous.”

Led by the Sierra Club who filed the suit, the groups are asserting that the State Department is “withholding key documents” related to the Keystone XL impact statement including evidence related to a “potential conflict of interest” with Environmental Resources Management, the third-party contractor hired to conduct the analysis. They are demanding the documents under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Lynne Peeples of the Huffington Post reports:

During the press call on Tuesday, advocates pushed for a State Department investigator general analysis of the impact statement. Mann added that ERM is a “dues-paying member” of the American Petroleum Institute, the largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry.

“The State Department should be an honest broker on Keystone XL, not a cheerleader for TransCanada,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica. “Secretary Kerry needs to halt the review process and find out how a paid member of the American Petroleum Institute was allowed to write such a critical report and why State Department employees have tried to cover up this company’s ties with the oil industry.”

The groups are calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to suspend the review until State Department Investigator General investigation has looked into the process. Nearly 73,000 people have signed petitions through groups such as Friends of the Earth, Bold Nebraska, and Oil Change International, echoing this request.

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