Covert Secret Police Operations, Psy-Ops and the Use of Bigotry to Disrupt Social Movements (Part 1)

In the 1960s I personally witnessed the use of covert secret police operations to disrupt and destroy budding social movements.

COINTELPRO was only the best known.


Blackstock, Nelson: Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom
Churchill, Ward: Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement
Churchill, Ward: The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States

Since the late 19th century every left wing organization that has fought for or advocated for the rights of any oppressed minority has automatically been labeled Communist or Anarchist.  With that label has come covert secret police operations aimed at disrupting and destroying that movement.

Some of that disruption includes the implanting of spies within the organizations.  Once implanted their job is to report incriminating evidence back to their superiors.

Here is where it gets tricky.  Since their job is to find a reason to arrest the members of this group these secret police will often create the crime, encourage, plan, provide the materials and abet an action that would not have otherwise taken place in order to have cause to arrest the members of a given organization.

Secret Police always want to take the violence to the next level.  Even when other members of a group object to that.  If a group does vandalism such as repurposing billboards, the secret police agent will urge them to commit violence against people.

There are other ways to disrupt organizations if such organizations are not involved in public demonstrations or doing actions such as postering.

One way involved the “center of attention”, the most oppressed person in the world sucking up all the energy that would otherwise be devoted to the cause.


Freeman, Jo:  The Tyranny of Structurelessness
Freeman, Jo:  Trashing

Over the last forty years, I’ve watched the rise of both Antisemitism and Transphobia as  levers of disruption used to fragment struggling movements

Jewish people who trace their ancestry back to Eastern Europe have this incredible history of involvement in the labor movement, the Civil Rights Movement and all the rest of the progressive movements we have in this country.  Yet we have seen the rise of Antisemitism under the guise of Anti-Zionism.

A small class of people among the most progressive, historical victims of pogroms, bigotry and genocide are accused of perpetuating every evil in the world with attacks that could have come straight from Hitler’s propaganda minions.  As a result the movement is deprived of the involvement of a class of people who have been at the forefront of American progressive/radical left movements.

This brings us to transsexual/transgender people.  We were used to disrupt both the Feminist Movement and the Lesbian Movements back in the 1970s.  Organizations were torn apart, struggling women’s enterprise collectives were damaged.

The charges leveled against TS/TG people were extremely bizarre and often contradictory.  Just as often they were one step away from suggesting we either kill ourselves or be subjected to genocidal measures as extreme as those proposed for gay and lesbian people in certain African countries.

One is forced to ask: Cui Bono?  Who benefits?

It’s like how the Tea Party has drawn a lot of working class whites, who are justifiably pissed off over the ratcheting up of their level of misery.  So the Koch brothers and ALEC poured a bunch of money into creating a movement to focus this anger on any progressive measures that might have helped these working class people.

Great trick… Divert the anger from those causing your pain and redirect it towards those who might do something to alleviate that pain.

In the past TS/TG people have been used as scapegoats to disrupt and sow dissension in both the Feminist Movement and in the Lesbian Movement.  In the Gay Movement not so much.

There is a vicious right wing war on women going on. The ultra right wing Christo-fascists aka Dominionists are attacking women’s access to contraception as well as abortion.

All of a sudden there is a major attack on TS/TG people’s rights lead by the Christo-Fascists, Neo-Nazis and the so called Radical Feminists.  What do these groups have in common?

Over the last couple of months these attacks on TS/TG people have moved beyond the  Lesbian Community and the Feminist Communities.  Now the attacks are cropping up in the Eco-Movements, especially the Eco-Feminist and Deep Green factions.  Cui Bono?

Over the last 40 years these Dominionists aka Christo-fascists have taken over the Republican Party, are a substantial portion of the police and military industrial complex.

The ultra right wing in this country has been actively waging war against the Left since the 1930s when the enemy was the New Deal and the attacks were led by Martin Dies, a Dixiecrat representative from Texas and co-creator of HUAC (House Committee Investigating Un-American Activities)

From Wikipedia:

In pre-war years and during World War II, HUAC was known as the Dies Committee. Its work was supposed to be aimed mostly at German American involvement in Nazi and Ku Klux Klan activity, such as the German American Bund. As to investigations into the activities of the “Klan,”, the Committee actually did little. When HUAC’s chief counsel Ernest Adamson announced that: “The committee has decided that it lacks sufficient data on which to base a probe,” committee member John E. Rankin added: “After all, the KKK is an old American institution.”

In the 1950s we had McCarthyism and the rise of the John Birch Society.  The Neo-Fascists of the American ultra right even managed to get their candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater the Presidential nomination in 1964.

In the fifteen years that followed America enjoyed a brief window of freedom and liberation that was strangled by the ultra right wing rise to power that brought us Reagan.

Reagan strengthened the Police State, encouraging the building of an American Stasi to root out traitors at the same time he spent lavishly on building the American Military Industrial Complex.

Fast forward to the second election of Barrack Obama, a tepid moderate milk-toast, who is perhaps the least effectual President in modern history, yet the ultra right wing portrays him as a Muslim anti-Christ bringing about Soviet style Socialism.

No matter how I dig I feel I am only touching the edges of the spying. The government isn’t the sole offender, some covert corporate and privately funded operations function with no governmental oversight what so ever.


International Socialist Review:  The lessons of COINTELPRO

Scholarly Commons: Police Infiltration of Dissident Groups

Covert Action Information Bulletin: Domestic Surveillance: The History of Operation CHAOS


Wikipedia: Operation Chaos

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“The most effective tactic… has been to turn the activists against each other”

From Green is the New Red:

by Will Potter
April 3, 2012

One of the most rewarding aspects of my work has been the opportunity to learn about activist projects around the world, and in some cases contribute in whatever small way I can. A while back I was contacted by a collective of anarchist translators in Spain (you read that correctly — how great is that?) and asked to interview. Here is the result. The translation is available at La Cizalla Ácrata, “Entrevista con Will Potter, autor del libro ‘Green is the New Red.’”

Please, introduce yourself and your book “Green is the New Red”

Hello, everyone. I am an independent journalist based in Washington, DC. My work has been featured in publications including the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, and National Public Radio. The focus of my writing and lecturing is how political activists are being labeled as “terrorists” by corporations and the U.S. government. Green Is the New Red exposes how animal rights and environmental activists have become the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) “number one domestic terrorism threat.” My book is written as narrative, telling the story of some members of the Earth Liberation Front, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and other groups while also investigating how corporations manufactured the idea of “eco-terrorism.”

When we talk about the AETA, the Green Scare… Can we say it has achieved their goal? I mean, have you noticed, there in the USA, that animal rights and eco activists work have deceased since these repressive strategies begun?

This is a very difficult question to answer, because social movements, by their nature, or always changing. However, it is undeniable that these tactics have had a chilling effect, which means that they have made many activists think twice about what they say and do because they are concerned about being labeled a terrorist. That being said, the animal rights and environmental movements in the United States are vibrant and growing. There has been a resurgence of non-violent civil disobedience in protest of climate change, and animal rights activists are using undercover investigations very effectively.

I guess the mass media have supported this kind of repression. How many importance did they have (or are having at the moment) in criminalizing activists? Did some paper, TV channel… show some form of criticism about it?

For the most part, journalists in the United States have failed to critically examine these tactics. I would argue that one of the reasons that “eco-terrorism” became such a threat is that mainstream journalists used this term without questioning the source. In recent months we have seen more and more criticism of laws like the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, but for the most part these have not received much attention at all.

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Inside Groundswell: Read the Memos of the New Right-Wing Strategy Group Planning a “30 Front War”

From Mother Jones:

Ginni Thomas, Allen West, and a crew of conservative activists and journalists have formed a hush-hush coalition to battle progressives—and Karl Rove.

Thu Jul. 25, 2013

Believing they are losing the messaging war with progressives, a group of prominent conservatives in Washington—including the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and journalists from Breitbart News and the Washington Examiner—has been meeting privately since early this year to concoct talking points, coordinate messaging, and hatch plans for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones.

Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders. They devise strategies for killing immigration reform, hyping the Benghazi controversy, and countering the impression that the GOP exploits racism. And the Groundswell gang is mounting a behind-the-scenes organized effort to eradicate the outsize influence of GOP über-strategist/pundit Karl Rove within Republican and conservative ranks. (For more on Groundswell’s “two front war” against Rove—a major clash on the right—click here.)

One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.

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Activists Identify DC Cop Who Infiltrated Bangladesh Sweatshop Protests

Be sure to Check out the Photo that is with the article this teaser is linked to.

From In These Times:

By Mike Elk
Tuesday Aug 6, 2013

Rumors have flown for many years that DC police routinely infiltrate and spy on the frequent protests in the nation’s Capitol. But until now, activists have never been able to identify a specific undercover cop at a protest. Now, after months of piecing together evidence, attorneys Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan working with United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) have confirmed that under an assumed name, Metro police officer Nicole Rizzi has participated in USAS protests against companies doing business in Bangladesh who refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the death of as many as 1,129 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

USAS and its lawyers have numerous pieces of evidence placing Rizzi at protests under a pseudonym. District of Columbia Public Employee Information List records obtained by In These Times confirm that Rizzi has been on the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) force since December of 2003.

USAS filed suit on Monday against the District of Columbia seeking an injunction to stop police from spying on the group’s activities.

The story of how Rizzi was uncovered reads like a mix of “Gossip Girl” and “The Wire.” Activists pieced her identity together from her obsessive posting to social media sites, including Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, WordPress and Yfrog.

Lacy MacAuley, an activist and media manager for the Institute for Policy Studies, has suspected for the past several years that a protester named “Missy” was an undercover cop. “Missy” seemed to be at every protest, but no one knew her. However, MacAuley had no way of proving her suspicions.

Then, in November of 2012, MacAuley was at a bar on U Street when a friend recommended that she follow a Twitter account of a funny person with the handle @snufftastic. MacAuley immediately identified the user in the photographs as the person she knew as “Missy.” The user Tweeted frequently about the daily grind of being a police officer in DC.

MacAuley says she then spotted Rizzi as “Missy” at an anti-Keystone pipeline protest at the Canadian Embassy on March 21, 2013. That was when MacAuley decided to approach Jeffrey Light, an attorney who works on police misconduct issues, with her suspicions. Light and his law partner Sean Canavan began searching for evidence to peg Rizzi as an undercover police officer.

The trickiest part was establishing Rizzi’s real name. But on @snufftastic, she let clues drop. On August 2, 2012, she Tweeted, “They used to call me No Sweat Nico because no matter how hot it was at academy, I never sweat.”

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See also:

BoingBoing: DC cops caught infiltrating peaceful, lawful protest groups

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Undercover Agents Infiltrated Tar Sands Resistance Camp to Break up Planned Protest

From Earth Island Journal:

by Adam Federman
August 12, 2013

After a week of careful planning, environmentalists attending a tar sands resistance action camp in Oklahoma thought they had the element of surprise — but they would soon learn that their moves were being closely watched by law enforcement officials and TransCanada, the very company they were targeting.

On the morning of March 22 activists had planned to block the gates at the company’s strategic oil reserves in Cushing, Oklahoma as part of the larger protest movement against TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline. But when they showed up in the early morning hours and began unloading equipment from their vehicles they were confronted by police officers. Stefan Warner, an organizer with Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, says some of the vehicles en route to the protest site were pulled over even before they had reached Cushing. He estimates that roughly 50 people would have participated— either risking arrest or providing support. The act of nonviolent civil disobedience, weeks in the planning, was called off.

“For a small sleepy Oklahoma town to be saturated with police officers on a pre-dawn weekday leaves only one reasonable conclusion,” says Ron Seifert, an organizer with an affiliated group called Tar Sands Blockade. “They were there on purpose, expecting something to happen.”

Seifert is exactly right. According to documents obtained by Earth Island Journal, investigators from the Bryan County Sherriff’s Department had been spying on a Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance training camp that took place from March 18 to March 22 and which brought together local landowners, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups opposed to the pipeline.

At least two law enforcement officers infiltrated the training camp and drafted a detailed report about the upcoming protest, internal strategy, and the character of the protesters themselves. The undercover investigator who wrote the report put the tar sands opponents into five different groups: eco-activists (who “truly wanted to live off the grid”); Occupy members; Native American activists (“who blamed all forms of government for the poor state of being that most American Indians are living in”); Anarchists (“many wore upside down American flags”); and locals from Oklahoma (who “had concerns about the pipeline harming the community”).

The undercover agent’s report was obtained by Douglas Parr, an Oklahoma attorney who represented three activists (all lifelong Oklahomans) who were arrested in mid April for blockading a tar sands pipeline construction site. “During the discovery in the Bryan county cases we received material indicating that there had been infiltration of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance camp by police agents,” Parr says. At least one of the undercover investigators attended an “action planning” meeting during which everyone was asked to put their cell phones or other electronic devices into a green bucket for security reasons. The investigator goes on to explain that he was able to obtain sensitive information regarding the location of the upcoming Cushing protest, which would mark the culmination of the week of training. “This investigator was able to obtain an approximate location based off a question that he asked to the person in charge of media,” he wrote. He then wryly notes that, “It did not appear…that our phones had been tampered with.”

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What Does a Woman’s Body Possess that Makes it a Woman’s Body?

From Decolonizing Yoga:

Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women: An Open Letter to Cis Feminists

by Gus Allis
July 31, 2013

/mɪˈsɒdʒəni, maɪ-/ [mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-]
hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.

I need to know something. I need to know what a real woman is. I’m a woman and I need to know if I’m real and the only person who can tell me is Bitch. Or maybe it’s Lisa Voegel. Or maybe it’s Rush Limbaugh. Ok, then I need to know two things: I need to know if I’m a real woman and I need to know who can tell me if I am. Because if I’ve learned anything during these past few years, existing on the periphery of the trans community as a cis lover, friend, sister, and “ally” of trans folk, it’s that I sure as shit don’t have the authority to determine my own gender identity. I’ve also learned, in no uncertain terms, that the war on trans women’s identities is a war on all women’s identity. Transmisogyny is misogyny against all women.

If you hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women, you’re misogynistic. Trans women are included in the big ol’ group known as women. Want proof? Well look at their name, silly. We call ‘em trans women, not trans chia pets, not trans beach towels, not trans men. Remember high school algebra? Oh hush, yes you do. Let me remind you of this lovely little mathematical rule:

If a=b and b=c, then a=c

If trans women= women and hating, disliking, or mistrusting women= misogyny then…then what? Solve for c.

Ok technically that would be trans women= misogyny but you know perfectly well what I mean and I hate that you even questioned my math.

But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Gus, I think trans women=/= women so therefore it’s totally not misogynistic to hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women.” And I understand that. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. Now listen carefully, my little chickadee, cuz I’m about to blow your mind:

You’re wrong.

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Jerry Brown signs transgender-student bill

From The San Jose Mercury:

By Tom Verdin

SACRAMENTO — California on Monday became the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender K-12 students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed AB1266, which also will allow transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys’ or girls’ sports. The new law gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.

Supporters said it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students. It comes as the families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts across the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use, disagreements that have sometimes landed in court.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU of California were among the bill’s supporters. Detractors, including some Republican lawmakers, said allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students’ privacy.

Such fears are overblown, said Carlos Alcala, spokesman for the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco. In general, he said, transgender students are trying to blend in and are not trying to call attention to themselves.

“They’re not interested in going into bathrooms and flaunting their physiology,” Alcala said.

He also noted that the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has had such a policy for nearly a decade and reported no problems. San Francisco schools also have such policies, and numerous other districts signed on in support of the legislation.

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Of course the right wing nut and gender confused denizen of Mission District Flophouses, Jennifer Usher, is upset that Transkids won’t get abused enough.  No link on that one folks.

See also:

Media Matters: Fox’s Gutfeld Mocks “Confused” Students Who Would Benefit From California Transgender Rights Bill

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Santorum: “Middle Class” Is “Marxism Talk”

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Michael Hayden, Bob Schieffer and the media’s reverence of national security officials

From The Guardian UK:

The former NSA director is held up by the Face the Nation host as an objective authority when he is everything but that, Monday 12 August 2013

In 2006, the New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for having revealed that the NSA was eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. The reason that was a scandal was because it was illegal under a 30-year-old law that made it a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for each offense, to eavesdrop on Americans without those warrants. Although both the Bush and Obama DOJs ultimately prevented final adjudication by raising claims of secrecy and standing, and the “Look Forward, Not Backward (for powerful elites)” Obama DOJ refused to prosecute the responsible officials, all three federal judges to rule on the substance found that domestic spying to be unconstitutional and in violation of the statute.

The person who secretly implemented that illegal domestic spying program was retired Gen. Michael Hayden, then Bush’s NSA director. That’s the very same Michael Hayden who is now frequently presented by US television outlets as the authority and expert on the current NSA controversy – all without ever mentioning the central role he played in overseeing that illegal warrantless eavesdropping program.

As Marcy Wheeler noted: “the 2009 Draft NSA IG Report that Snowden leaked [and the Guardian published] provided new details about how Hayden made the final decision to continue the illegal wiretapping program even after DOJ’s top lawyers judged it illegal in 2004. Edward Snowden leaked new details of Michael Hayden’s crime.” The Twitter commentator sysprog3 put it this way:

Inviting Hayden to comment on regulation of surveillance is like having Bernie Madoff comment on regulation of Wall Street.”

But inviting Hayden to do exactly that is what establishment media outlets do continually. Just yesterday, Face the Nation featured Hayden as the premiere guest to speak authoritatively about how trustworthy the NSA is, how safe it keeps us, and how wise President Obama is for insisting that all of its programs continue. As usual, no mention was made of the role he played in secretly implementing an illegal warrantless spying program aimed directly at the American people. As most establishment media figures do when quivering in the presence of national security state officials, the supremely sycophantic TV host Bob Schieffer treated Hayden like a visiting dignitary in his living room and avoided a single hard question.

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From The New Yorker:

Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?

August 12, 2013

n a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”

They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.

He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.

No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.

Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.

The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)

The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.

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Memo from Oslo: If Peace Is Prized, a Nobel for Bradley Manning

From Common Dreams:

by Norman Solomon
Published on Monday, August 12, 2013 by Common Dreams

The headquarters of the Nobel Committee is in downtown Oslo on a street named after Henrik Ibsen, whose play “An Enemy of the People” has remained as current as dawn light falling on the Nobel building and then, hours later, on a Fort Meade courtroom where Bradley Manning’s trial enters a new stage—defense testimony in the sentencing phase.

Ibsen’s play tells of mendacity and greed in high places: dangerous threats to public health. You might call the protagonist a whistleblower. He’s a physician who can’t pretend that he hasn’t seen evidence; he rejects all the pleas and threats to stay quiet, to keep secret what the public has a right to know. He could be content to take an easy way, to let others suffer and die. But he refuses to just follow orders. He will save lives. There will be some dire consequences for him.


The respectable authorities know when they’ve had enough. Thought crimes can be trivial but are apt to become intolerable if they lead to active transgressions. In the last act, our hero recounts: “They insulted me and called me an enemy of the people.” Ostracized and condemned, he offers final defiant words before the curtain comes down: “I have made a great discovery. … It is this, let me tell you—that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”


Alone Bradley Manning will stand as a military judge proclaims a prison sentence.


As I write these words early Monday, sky is starting to lighten over Oslo. This afternoon I’ll carry several thousand pages of a petition—filled with the names of more than 100,000 signers, along with individual comments from tens of thousands of them—to an appointment with the Research Director of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The petition urges that Bradley Manning be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Like so many other people, the signers share the belief of Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire who wrote this summer: “I can think of no one more deserving.”

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America cares for you – until you start asking questions

From The Guardian UK:

Manning, Snowden and Trayvon Martin: a series of legal cases is making US citizens re-evaluate what the state is really for

The Guardian, Sunday 11 August 2013

When Ray Kelly, the man Barack Obama is currently considering to lead homeland security, was the New York City police commissioner, he allegedly had a policy of terrorising black and Latino neighbourhoods.

A hearing into the city’s stop-and-frisk policies in spring heard how Kelly told state senator Eric Adams that “he targeted and focused on [black and Latino youth] because he wanted to instil fear in them every time they left their homes that they could be targeted by the police”. The hearing also heard a secret recording of South Bronx deputy inspector Christopher McCormack telling a subordinate to stop “the right people at the right time, the right location”, and focus stop-and-frisks on “male blacks” between 14 and 21.

A decision on the constitutionality of the city’s stop-and-frisk practices is expected any time now, marking the latest in a summer of legal showdowns that have exposed both the power and partiality of the American state. Many who previously understood the legal system and its enforcers to be dispassionate arbiters of justice working in the interests of society as a whole have been forced to re-evaluate their assumptions.

First came the trial of Bradley Manning, charged in a military court with “aiding the enemy” for passing diplomatic cables and other classified military information to WikiLeaks. Then came the manhunt for Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, who leaked evidence of mass snooping. More recently there was the trial of George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watchman in Florida who pursued Trayvon Martin, a young, black, unarmed teen, and shot him dead after Martin confronted him. Soon will come the verdict on stop-and-frisk.

Each, clearly, is its own case, with its own dynamics, outcomes and facts on the ground. There are many who will favour prosecution in one case but not in another. The point here is not that the cases raise identical issues.

And yet for all their glaring differences they share at some crucial traits: each, in its own way, raises fundamental questions about the function and purpose of the American state, the moral underpinnings of the legal system in which it is grounded, and the degree to which the law is designed to work for or against the people in whose name it operates. In each case, in different ways, the following questions become acute: to whom is the state responsible? Who is it supposed to protect? And who is it supposed to protect them from? Manning was sentenced to 90 years (down from 136) after the “aiding the enemy” count was dropped; Zimmerman was acquitted; Snowden was granted asylum in Russia after his US passport was revoked, leaving him holed up in the Moscow airport for weeks trying to avoid extradition.

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As America Legalizes Marijuana, AARP Generation Quintuples Experimentation

From Huffington Post:


Making marijuana legal will encourage use, especially by young people. That is the go-to line for any drug prohibitionist who has been bludgeoned by the onslaught of marijuana legalization and medical marijuana exceptions now passed in 20 American states.


Unfortunately for them, the latest polling data from Gallup seems to show that further liberalization of American marijuana policy is not leading more young people down the supposedly slippery slope from marijuana initiation to full-blown heroin addiction. In fact, fewer young people are trying marijuana than when I began college in the mid-1980s.


In 1985, a full one-third (33 percent) of Americans had tried marijuana. In 1996, California became the first medical marijuana state and since then, 19 more have created exceptions to criminal prosecution for medical uses of cannabis. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first political jurisdictions in the world to fully legalize the possession of marijuana. Today, just 38 percent of Americans have tried marijuana.


The crosstabs of the poll are even more devastating for the idea that legalization entices young people. When I graduated high school in 1985, 56 percent of my generation aged 18-29 had tried marijuana. The figure now for that age group is just 36 percent.


The groups that have increased their experimentation with marijuana are over age 30. While 41 percent of the middle-aged (30-49) in 1985 had tried pot, the figure is now nearly half (49 percent). The increase is more pronounced for ages 50 to 64, rising from a mere 9 percent in 1985 to 44 percent today — almost five times greater use! This means more people aged 30 to 64 are experimenting with marijuana than people in their college years. Among seniors age 65 and over, experimentation has nearly tripled, from 6 percent to 17 percent.

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WEED: A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special

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Opting for Free Time

From In These Times:

Something’s missing from the work/life balance debate.

BY Sarah Jaffe
August 12, 2013

his week marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, one of the better legacies of the Clinton administration. The bill guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for workers at covered employers, and the right to continuing health coverage while they’re on leave. It was a huge step when it passed, and yet this legislation is more notable for what it did not do. It failed to equalize the gender ratio in high-end jobs , to significantly change the division of household labor between men and women, or to bring U.S. family leave policies in line with those of most other wealthy countries.

“We leave working parents, or anybody who’s managing work and care or any other obligation, out in the cold in a way that most of these other countries just simply don’t,” says Janet Gornick, professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an expert on family policy.

But, as usual, instead of discussing the kinds of policies we might institute that would continue the unfinished work of the FMLA for all women, the big stories about work and family this week revolve around wealthy women “opting out”—either of the paid workforce, as in a New York Times Magazine piece by Judith Warner, or of having children, as in Lauren Sandler’s Time cover story. Both stories focus almost exclusively on women, with men interviewed either as researchers or as husbands commenting on their wife’s decision.

Work-family balance, as most popular reports seem to see it, is a female problem.

Bryce Covert has extensively critiqued this view, most recently at The Nation in response to yet another work-life balance trend piece in the New York Times:

Quite literally—men are mentioned as an aside, background noise in their children’s lives. When Uttech’s husband’s caregiving duties are mentioned, it is to say that the working mother “gets a lot of help: from her husband, Michael,” among other family members who pitch in. Fathers might as well be hired hands.

Rampell is not alone in assuming that mothers parent and dads baby-sit. The Census Bureau has made the same assumptions, calling mothers “designated parents” and counting the time fathers care for their kids as merely stepping in for said designated parent.

In all these conversations about work/life balance, the perceptions of what men and women want out of “life”—shorthand for the portion that isn’t engaged in wage labor—are vastly different.

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How to Design Our Neighborhoods for Happiness

From Yes Magazine:

When we share our yards, sidewalks, and other common spaces, we find a greater sense of belonging and connection to those around us.

Jul 26, 2013

Biology is destiny, declared Sigmund Freud.

But if Freud were around today, he might say “design is destiny”—especially after taking a stroll through most modern cities.

The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore enjoy fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. A neighborly sense of the commons is missing.

You don’t have to be a therapist to realize that this creates lasting psychological effects. It thwarts the connections between people that encourage us to congregate, cooperate, and work for the common good. We retreat into ever more privatized existences.

Of course, this is no startling revelation. Over the past 40 years, the shrinking sense of community across America has been widely discussed, and many proposals outlined about how to bring us back together.

One of the notable solutions being put into practice to combat this problem is New Urbanism, an architectural movement to build new communities (and revitalize existing ones) by maximizing opportunities for social exchange: public plazas, front porches, corner stores, coffee shops, neighborhood schools, narrow streets, and, yes, sidewalks.

But while New Urbanism is making strides at the level of the neighborhood, we still spend most of our time at home, which today means seeing no one other than our nuclear family. How could we widen that circle just a bit? Cooperative living and cohousing communities are gaining popularity, especially among young people. Yet, millions more people are looking for more informal arrangements with neighbors, where they share more than a property line.

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I want to live in a baugruppe

From Grist:

By David Roberts
8 Aug 2013

If you could create your perfect living situation, what would it look like?

Right now most people’s choices are limited to single-family homes, apartments, or condos. But what if the choices weren’t limited? What if you could stitch together your ideal scenario?

As a devotee of the medium chill, I think about this a lot. And here’s my own personal answer.

I want to live in a dense urban area where groceries, parks, schools, and restaurants are all within walking distance — where I can live comfortably without a car. I’d like for the district/neighborhood to be structured in such a way as to encourage casual encounters with neighbors. I’d like it to have a robust sense of community.

The building (or buildings) I lived in would be a type of cohousing, which is to say, it would be shared by a group of families who co-owned it. There would be a large common area with a big kitchen, eating space, and lounge, where families could take turns making meals for the whole group. There would be a shared outdoor area with a large garden and stuff for the kids to play on. And each family would have its own (modestly sized) unit, say, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office, a kitchen, and a small living room. To reach the individual units, you’d have to pass through the common area, which would encourage spontaneous socializing.

The families who lived in my building would be my friends, basically — a group of us at similar stages in our lives, with common interests and values. (This would include some childless friends, perhaps some grandparents too, just for a nice age mix.) We would share child care, tools, and time with one another. It would be an intentional community.

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