War on Terror Comes Home to Roost: The Security State’s Plans to Crush Activism

Riot Cop flickr user Tony WebsterHousing discrimination against African-Americans, also known as redlining, has long been a form of institutional racism in the post Jim Crow era.

Under the Federal Housing Act, federal loans were systematically denied to African-Americans, which helped create ghettos and further segregated blacks from whites. Ferguson is just one example among many which employed the practice.

The latent effects of racism are rooted throughout Ferguson. 93% of drivers arrested are black, yet only 67% of the city’s population is black. One-quarter of the town’s revenue is due to fines issued by a police force that disproportionately targets African-Americans.

There are unabashedly racist cops, like police lieutenant Hayes, who ordered officers to racially profile minorities. According to a whistleblower, Hayes said things like “let’s have a black day” and “make the jail cells more colorful.” Adding insult to injury, the police broke the law while investigating him.

With this reality in mind, fatal police shootings of black teens like Mike Brown are bound to happen.

The mass protests in Ferguson caused Amnesty International to make an unprecedented deployment of observers to the streets, including Jasmine M. Heiss, who told Media Roots that “Ferguson has sparked an intense and overdue conversation about race and justice in the United States.”

Heiss also witnessed the racial divide created in the West Bank, where Jewish settlements and surrounding Palestinian population had been segregated by walls and checkpoints. While illegal settlements in Hebron enjoyed basic necessities, Palestinians were denied access to human rights like water. After witnessing numerous arrests of journalists and peaceful protesters amid the tear gas, rubber bullets and sound cannons in Ferguson, Heiss said she felt like she was back in the West Bank, noting the striking similarity between the two cities in their militarized crushing of dissent.

Journalist Max Blumenthal has documented this parallel, underscoring how Israeli security state tactics have been outsourced to the US in a trend he calls the “Israelification” of American police forces. In fact, according to Electronic Intifada’s Rania Khalek, “at least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson—the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department—received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.”

Enforcing security based on racist ideology has long been field tested by Israel, which uses Palestinians as lab rats before outsourcing its defense and intelligence capabilities to other world powers. Whether it be Israeli forces training ICE officers in Tacoma, outsourcing a Behavior Pattern Recognition security system for US airports, or intelligence contractor Elbit Systems winning multimillion dollar contracts to patrol the US-Mexico border, Israel’s idea of security has now become America’s. As a result, Big Brother’s gaze is discriminatory, and racial minorities are unfairly targeted by the system.

When the state engenders unjust policies like those epitomized in places like Ferguson, the press has a duty to engage, raise awareness and advocate the reinstatement of justice. Standing in solidarity with the oppressed and amplifying the plight of the voiceless is the primary function of the Fourth Estate. Unfortunately, the police state has appropriated the corporate press and criminalized journalists who challenge systemic injustices.

In response to the police killings of Mike Brown, Ezell Ford and Eric Garner, activist groups like Black Youth Project 100, the Dream Defenders and the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, have gained traction. To be sure though, the Defense Department has been anticipating the growth of such activism, whether it be Muslims in Michigan, blacks in Ferguson, or any other minority group which could “threaten social unrest.”

In a four-part series for Occupy.com, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed unveils a government data-mining project dubbed The Minerva Initiative. Under the guise of enhancing the drone Kill List and targeting American-Muslims that have the “potential to become terrorists,” the flawed algorithms used to search out ‘terrorists’ abroad are now being retrofitted to seek out political dissidents on US soil.

Ahmed details how a nexus of metadata and social media are being used by the Pentagon to develop a “radicalism scale” for potential social uprisings in the US, and the unconstitutional spying operation is being aided and abetted by Universities like Arizona State and the University of Washington. Effectively, social sciences are militarized with professors acting as spy proxies reporting back to their DC overlords.

One specific DoD project “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate, and what their characteristics and consequences are.” As Ahmed states in an interview with Abby Martin, Ferguson is an example of what the Minerva Initiative sets out to suppress.

Even more disturbing, the use of predator drones on American soil is a real possibility considering the direct correlation between data-mining and extrajudicial executions. If current trends continue, American skies could soon be populated by drones targeting and potentially even executing non-violent activists.

Given the aggressive characteristics police displayed during Occupy Wall Street and Ferguson combined with the Pentagon’s intent to seek out and destroy potentially “threatening” movements, the War on Terror has officially come home to roost.

Written by Michael D. Micklow, image by flickr user Tony Webster

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Media Roots Radio – Occupy Silicon Valley & the Missing Outrage Over Private Sector Spying

Abby and Robbie Martin discuss the potentiality of an ‘Occupy Silicon Valley’ protest movement in a similar mold to ‘Occupy Oakland’ taking place in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. They address the ethical issues revolving around tech-companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Soundcloud and debunk the notion that private corporations will install privacy safeguards on their own without the pressure of public consumer outrage. Robbie goes into the history of Silicon Valley’s roots, which tie directly to the Pentagon’s post-WWII defense industry private sector push.

Watch Robbie Martin talk about Facebook’s new police force and why Occupy Wall Street should take on Silicon Valley on Breaking the Set:

 

Robbie Martin Breaks the Set on Occupy Silicon Valley 

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Listen to all previous episodes of Media Roots Radio here.

Follow Abby @abbymartin & Robbie @fluorescentgrey

 

And to The Oligarchy, for Which it Stands

adbusters_corporate_flagAsk a group of people what form of government the United States has and you’ll be met with varied replies. Some insist it’s a democracy, others maintain it’s a republic, democratic republic, or constitutional republic.

Technically, the US Government was founded as a constitutional republic where representatives are democratically elected. However, this definition only typifies the government at its inception. As history has shown in abundance, governments are dynamic—they rise, fall and transform with time. When this occurs gradually, it’s not always clear that a fundamental and often dangerous transition has taken place.

In recent years, the idea that the US government is now an oligarchy, or corporatocracy, has gained traction. An oligarchy is a government “in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique.” A corporatocracy, therefore, defines that dominant class as consisting of corporate interests.

It’s not hard to see why this term is increasingly being applied to the US, where corporate lobbying is used to buy political leverage, and Congress acts as the fulcrum to carry out this advantage with legislation. The incomes of the super wealthy have grown exponentially in relation to that of the average citizen, and their ability to displace the average voice has grown in tandem.

Even elite institutions are putting out research to back this claim. A recent study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University called “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” measured influence on policy by examining 1,779 policy issues occurring between 1981-2002. Four groups were considered in the analysis: average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups, and corporate interest groups, concluding (emphasis added):

“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

The study alone doesn’t definitively prove corporate rule, and its authors admit their analytical test should be interpreted in a “tentative and preliminary” fashion. However, absence of “smoking-gun” proof does not suggest absence of oligarchic rule. The empirical data clearly shows that the US government has ceased to represent the people in favor of economic elites.

Examples of corporate hegemony abound:

*The Affordable Care Act was written and implemented by Elizabeth Fowler, former Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint, the nation’s largest health insurance provider. No surprise, the legislation mandated that everyone purchase private health insurance, inking into law a huge advantage for the industry. One more trip through the revolving door returned her to the pharmaceutical industry to reap the rewards.

*State initiatives for mandatory labeling of GMO foods have been repeatedly stamped out by the propaganda boot of the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) lobbying group, headed by Monsanto and DuPont, despite 91% of public support for GMO labeling (see Initiative 522 in Washington, Prop 37 in California). In May, Vermont passed a GMO labeling bill, only to be immediately sued by the GMA in an attempt to block the law from being implemented. If this wasn’t enough, these giants, plus Koch Industries, are now attempting to preempt the chaos of people knowing what they’re eating with federal legislation to supersede state labeling laws.

*The government bailout of “too big to fail” banks after the housing collapse transferred massive wealth from the taxpayers to the banks, with no disclosure of where the money was going and no arrests for anyone involved in the lead-up to the crisis. In fact, the US Treasury approved executive bonuses for bailed-out bank CEOs, while millions of Americans foreclosed on their homes.

*Bills overtly written by corporate lobbyists constitute a staggering proportion of legislation passed, as exemplified by an analysis of California’s 2007-2008 legislative period. Furthermore, lobbyists are de-registering from the system, limiting the ability to keep track of the extent of corporate influence.

Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders confronted Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen with statistics suggesting the US had shifted from a capitalist democracy (another misnomer) to an oligarchic form of government. Yellen replied that the statistics shared by the Senator greatly concern her. However, in a deluge of irony, her solution was that these concerns should be brought to the policymakers; the same policymakers seated at the crux of this problem. Because if Congress won’t listen, try asking Congress.

Face it—we live in a corporatocracy.

Consistently low approvals of Congress and the popularity of the Occupy Wall Street movement suggest the average person grasps the nature of the problem, but the magnitude of the corruption hasn’t yet seeped into the public consciousness. Only six corporations control 90% of what Americans see, hear and read, which adds to the disconnect between what the government is doing and what people perceive it as doing on their behalf. Many prefer to see each act of corruption as an isolated incident, rather than a series of interrelated and escalating incidents reflecting a severe systemic deficiency. This cognitive dissonance must be addressed head-on if we ever want to pry ourselves from the government’s corporate clutches.

Written by Marc Frey for Media Roots, Photo by Adbusters

Abby Martin Deconstructs the Corporatocracy on Coast to Coast AM

Abby Martin talks to John B. Wells on the widely syndicated Coast to Coast AM radio show about the rise of alternative media, her citizen journalism with Media Roots, Occupy Oakland activism and how the TV show Breaking the Set has managed to piss off people in high places, including Rand Paul, Nestlé and the Israeli lobby.

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Check out Abby’s art at abbymartin.org

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Austerity Hits Home With a Vengeance

Austerity is a word we don’t hear much in the United States, as business elites, politicians and the corporate media avoid saying it at all costs. Instead, they talk at great length about “deficits,” “out-of-control spending,” and the need for all of us to “share the pain.” This is a convenient dodge and an intentional one, for it shifts attention away from the Super Rich and the unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth we’ve experienced in the last forty years.

People in the rest of the world, as well as people of color here, by contrast, are all too familiar with austerity. They’ve been force-fed in large doses over many years, largely to the benefit of U.S. investors and often literally at gunpoint. Though each case varies, the general scenario is similar: to qualify for much-needed, high interest loans, states around the globe cut social programs, submit to privatization of public services, bust unions and slash wages while loosening regulations that protect the environment and workplaces.

The results invariably are the further impoverishment of the vast majority, greater profits for investors and an increase in the purchase by states of the weaponry required to quell the social unrest that generally follows (weaponry the U.S. is all too eager to supply). Never mind the misery of large swaths of the populace, the violent repression of dissent, overflowing prisons or all those dead bodies; to business elites, all are acceptable offshoots of profit-taking. Name a country in the global South and it has almost certainly been through this ringer, often more than once and sometimes with no end.

Now the same phenomenon is being inflicted on the people of the industrialized North, beginning with Europe, which was hit earlier and more harshly than the United States. With few exceptions, the people of the nations of Europe have experienced a decline in recent years in their living standards, all except for corporate and banking elites, who are wealthier than ever. Since the fall of Communism, Eastern Europe – to cite just the most extreme case – has become a huge new source of highly profitable investment opportunities for global capital, and the resulting pauperization of that part of the world has, for now, shattered the dreams of 1989-90.

The U.S. is no longer immune to austerity and President Obama’s decision to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits is only the latest blow. As living standards for most of us fall ever lower, the richest of the rich grow ever richer, far richer than any ruling class has ever been. Austerity is and will continue to be a truly bipartisan affair and liberals who think the Democrats are a significant alternative and right-wingers who believe the Democrats have been taken over by Marxist-Leninists would do well to consider that 1.) more wealth was redistributed from the 99% to the Super Rich under Clinton than Reagan and 2.) President Obama, with his cohort of Goldman Sachs advisors and GE executives, is carrying out virtually the same policies as his predecessor.

For much of the 20th century, a large portion of the U.S. population was shielded from the ravages of global capitalism and believed they had a stake in empire. Though those illusions are rapidly being shed, many turn not to resistance but to narcotics such as alcohol, pornography and sports; more ominous is the state’s incessant and intimidating call to rally around the flag in opposition to this season’s bogeyman – Saddam Hussein, Qaddaffi, Chavez, bin Laden, Assad, Milosevic, Aristide, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Un, and on and on and on.

The most effective and dangerous ploy, however, is the Super Rich’s trick of fomenting divisions within the populace where they might otherwise be united. Thus we get the hilarious spectacle of welfare queen Michelle Bachmann, a long-time recipient of large agribusiness handouts, rallying a segment of the population by railing against benefit programs for the poor and working class, her words received by the intelligentsia with grim seriousness rather than the derision they warrant.
From the Arab Spring to the ongoing and frequently massive demonstrations in England, Portugal, Spain, Greece and other countries in Europe to – perhaps most significantly – the Bolivarian Revolution sweeping Latin America, the dictates of the business class have been met with extraordinary resistance. Domestically, vibrant organizing in communities of color along with Occupy Wall Street and its hundreds of offshoots are leading the way. The tasks now are to revitalize the Occupy spirit, expand resistance and strengthen solidarity with people around the world who are fighting the same battle we are. Those are not easy tasks but the alternative – the rise in human misery to previously unimaginable levels – is increasingly becoming reality.

Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-winning author who has written for Z Magazine, The Indypendent, Counterpunch and many other publications. He can be reached at [email protected]