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Archive for the ‘Constitutional crisis’ Category

New York City goes Stasi. Will the US?

Posted by Charles II on August 26, 2013

This is not a new story, but new information has significantly changed its interpretation.

I wish it were an exaggeration to say that New York City has gone to a level of surveillance that compares with the Stasi. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, writing in New York Magazine make that case:

The activities [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly set in motion after 9/11 pushed deeply into the private lives of New Yorkers, surveilling Muslims in their mosques, their sporting fields, their businesses, their social clubs, even their homes in a way not seen in America since the FBI and CIA monitored antiwar activists during the Nixon administration. It was a proactive approach, but, in constitutional terms, a novel one.

To reinvent the Intelligence Division, Kelly called on David Cohen, a former senior CIA officer…

Cohen and [CIA operative Larry] Sanchez’s guiding idea was that if the NYPD had its own eyes and ears in the ethnic communities of the five boroughs, maybe things could be different. They needed to be in bookshops to spot the terrorist with his newly grown beard, or in restaurants to overhear friends ranting about America. If detectives infiltrated Muslim student groups, maybe they could identify young men seething with embryonic fanaticism.

Sanchez told colleagues that he had borrowed the idea from Israeli methods of controlling the military-occupied West Bank, the swath of land captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

[Judge Charles] Haight ruled: “For the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the NYPD is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally.”

To accomplish their goals, however, Cohen and Sanchez needed to go far beyond what the FBI could do. They needed to take a broad view of what was related to terrorist activity. As Sanchez would explain to Congress years later: “Part of our mission is to protect New York City citizens from becoming terrorists.

He [Cohen] recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, like shalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu?

On their way out, the rakers would look at bulletin boards. Was a rally planned in the neighborhood? The rakers might attend. Was there a cricket league? The rakers might join. If someone advertised a room for rent, the cops would tear off a tab with the address or phone number. It could be a cheap apartment used by a terrorist.

Surveillance turned out to be habit-forming. Cohen and Sanchez’s efforts also reached beyond the Muslim community. Undercover officers traveled the country, keeping tabs on liberal protest groups like [environmental awareness group] Time’s Up and the Friends of Brad Will [which protested police murders in Oaxaca, Mexico]. Police infiltrated demonstrations and collected information about antiwar groups and those that marched against police brutality. Detectives monitored activist websites and copied the contents into police files, including one memo in 2008 for Kelly that reported the contents of a website about a group of women organizing a boycott to protest the police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man killed the morning before his wedding….

The Demographics Unit had thousands of dollars to spend on meals and expenses …

That’s when [Lt. Hector] Berdecia realized that, in the hunt for terrorists, his detectives gravitated toward the best food.

And now, the lawyers in the Handschu case [which reined in police infiltration of legitimate political activism] have returned to court, arguing that Kelly and Cohen, in their effort to keep the city safe, have crossed constitutional lines. Regardless of the outcome, the NYPD’s programs are likely to join waterboarding, secret prisons, and NSA wiretapping as emblems of post-9/11 America, when security justified many practices that would not have been tolerated before.

No successes in stopping terrorism; indeed, no information garnered about a potential actual terrorist. Many thousands of people monitored and files created. Surveillance extended even to plainly domestic and plainly legitimate activist groups: the restrictions of Handschu circumvented by an appeal to anti-terrorism. CIA operatives designing surveillance of Americans.

And Ray Kelly could become the head of Homeland Security.

Posted in CIA, Constitutional crisis, fascism, impunity, terrorism | 2 Comments »

Fallows finds an acorn: the end of the American Republic

Posted by Charles II on June 29, 2012

James Fallows was not much help when it was happening, having been among the Gore bashers, but at least he has this right:

when you look at the sequence from Bush v. Gore, through Citizens United, to what seems to be coming on the health-care front; and you combine it with ongoing efforts in Florida and elsewhere to prevent voting from presumably Democratic blocs; and add that to the simply unprecedented abuse of the filibuster in the years since the Democrats won control of the Senate and then took the White House, you have what we’d identify as a kind of long-term coup if we saw it happening anywhere else.

Via Scott Horton.

A coup is when one faction in a society usurps the function of one or more branches of government to seize power illegitimately. Military coups are the most common. Paraguay is in the midst of a congressional coup. I called the Starr investigation a judicial coup, and Bush v. Gore was its culmination. That coup placed the Republican Party in control of all three branches of government. We now are experiencing a second coup, this time by billionaires, who aren’t satisfied with exerting indirect control.

Fallows has found his acorn, 18 years too late.

Posted in Constitutional crisis, corporatists, corruption, mediawhores | 2 Comments »

If you want a new nation, write a new Constitution

Posted by Charles II on November 5, 2011

It seems increasingly clear to me that the first American Republic has failed and that we need to look forward to the second or, at the very least, to a transformation of the American Republic as profound as that of the New Deal.

Now, people have despaired many times. The Civil War certainly seemed like an irretrievable failure, yet somehow we pulled together and went on. The Great Depression seemed as if the capitalist system as a whole was unsalvageable, yet we salvaged it and re-wrote the social contract. Those terrible days of the 1960s, when we lived under the nuclear shadow and national leaders were being cut down seemed as though they would end in chaos.

So, it is not events alone that determine when a system fails. It is something inherent in the system itself. Just as a person can be terribly wounded, yet survive because of the will to live, a nation must have a will to live. Nations can exist for a time on the imperial hunger, a will to dominate and feast on the wealth produced by others. Unless they care about truth and about including all their members in their decisions, however, they inevitably make bad decisions, inflict the consequences on the weaker members, and fragment as more and more people start to understand that they are disposable.

That’s our history over the last ten years. Most Americans–even those not occupying– realize that they are regarded by the elites as pieces of trash. Fewer and fewer Americans believe that they enjoy the very spare list of human rights enumerated in the Constitution. Half of us don’t vote, and many of us who do believe that our concerns are not heard above the din of the Koch brothers and the corporations.

There is a movement in Congress to write a constitutional amendment to reduce the power of money in politics. I believe this is too narrowly focused. The problem with elections is equalizing the power of the voices of the people. It’s fine by me if Exxon has a voice. I just want it to be about as loud as my own. So we have to address the whole crooked system: from poll taxes and the exclusion of prisoners from voting to a media controlled by a hundred people to the power of corporate money.

I propose the following language:

“The right of the people to be accurately informed on issues pertinent to selecting representatives to government being essential to maintaining freedom and prosperity, elections shall afford all candidates access to means of communication adequate to discuss issues with their prospective constituents, shall forbid the use of concentrated wealth to corrupt elections, and shall require that all persons shall be able to vote.”

I think that the existing system will have to collapse to create an opening for a new one. But I would be happy to be proven wrong. But whether the first Republic is ending, or simply being transformed, we need to have a vision–a positive vision– of what we want. It is this vision of the “America that will be,” as Langston Hughes called it, that amounts to our national will to live. If we fail to dream, darker forces will have the opening they have always wanted.

Posted in Constitution, Constitutional crisis, freedom | 4 Comments »

A corporate coup d’etat in Michigan

Posted by Charles II on March 9, 2011

From DemocracyNow:

NAOMI KLEIN: … in Michigan, there is a bill that’s already passed the House. It’s on the verge of passing the Senate. And I’ll just read you some excerpts from it. It says that in the case of an economic crisis, that the governor has the authority to authorize the emergency manager—this is somebody who would be appointed—to reject, modify or terminate the terms of an existing contract or collective bargaining agreement, authorize the emergency manager for a municipal government—OK, so we’re not—we’re talking about towns, municipalities across the state—to disincorporate. So, an appointed official with the ability to dissolve an elected body, when they want to.

AMY GOODMAN: A municipal government.

NAOMI KLEIN: A municipal government. And it says specifically, “or dissolve the municipal government.” So we’ve seen this happening with school boards, saying, “OK, this is a failing school board. We’re taking over. We’re dissolving it. We’re canceling the contracts.” …So it starts with the school boards, and then it’s whole towns, whole cities, that could be subject to just being dissolved because there’s an economic crisis breaking collective bargaining agreements. It also specifies that—this bill specifies that an emergency manager can be an individual or a firm. Or a firm. So, the person who would be put in charge of this so-called failing town or municipality could actually be a corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Whose government they dissolve, a company takes over.

NAOMI KLEIN: A company takes over. So, they have created, if this passes, the possibility for privatization of a whole town by fiat. And this is actually a trend in the contracting out of public services, where you do now have whole towns, like Sandy Springs in Georgia, run by private companies. It’s very lucrative. Why not? You start with just the water contract or the electricity contract, but eventually, why not privatize the whole town? So—

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens then? Where does democracy fit into that picture?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, this is an assault on democracy. It’s a frontal assault on democracy. It’s a kind of a corporate coup d’état at the municipal level.

I do not understand why most blogs are not covering this with great detail. The balance of powers in our Constitution is carefully ordered as a bulwark against the seizure of power by tyrants. States, for example, cannot suddenly declare that they will elect 10 Senators instead of 2. The federal government cannot, except under the conditions of most dire crisis, take control of state functions such as policing the streets. Just so, localities have powers that only a tyrant would wish to tamper with. States cannot order local school boards to close a particular school or to set property taxes at a certain level.

But tyrants are what have bloomed forth from the Republican Party. They are using an artificially created crisis to try to take away rights that were won with blood. They cannot persuade people of the rightness of their causes (such as school privatization) by demonstrating that their ways work better–because, simply, their methods do not work better–so they will now force their methods onto local governments.

Are Michiganders up to resisting this power grab?

Early results are not promising. It’s up at DK (thank you, Jocava), but only a few hundred people are even protesting in Lansing, and it’s not clear they even understand that what is being done is more than an assault on a single right, such as collective bargaining, but represents an attack against the foundations of what make a free people.

Posted in abuse of power, capitalism as cancer, Constitutional crisis, Tea Party | 9 Comments »

Boycotting Arizona

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 5, 2010

On this Cinco de Mayo, the fine folk of have a message for us:

Dear friends,

Major League Baseball players and coaches are speaking out strongly against Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. The MLB is more than 25% Latino, and they don’t want to play ball in a state where they and their Latino fans are subject to racial profiling.

These players need our support. Will you join me in demanding that Major League Baseball move the 2011 All-Star Game — now scheduled for Phoenix — as long as racial profiling is legal there?

The All-Star Game represents one of the highest-profile events every season in baseball — second only to the World Series. As much as $60 million will be spent in the host region during All-Star Game weekend.

MLB is already feeling the pressure, and if they pull the game from Phoenix, it would send a powerful message that extremism and discrimination will cost Arizona.

Please sign the letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, and ask your family and friends to do the same:

You know what to do.

Posted in civil rights, Constitution, Constitutional crisis, Hispanic issues, immigration, Mexico | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Supreme Court gives us “free speech”

Posted by Charles II on January 21, 2010

The right to free speech has just been upheld by the right-wing of the Supreme Court. That is, corporations will be free to run a limitless number of political campaign ads, drowning out all other voices. A group of a few thousand people, the boards of directors and officers of the Fortune 500, have hundreds of billions of dollars at their disposal to influence campaigns that presently cost at most a tiny fraction of that.

Labor unions, with literally millions of dollars at their disposal, will be able to do the same thing. In other words, Democrats, who put the votes on the court to do this, will be free to either cave in to corporate demands or be defeated at the polls.

Yet another 5-4 decision disrespecting the rights of the overwhelming majority of Americans in favor of the “rights” of a non-living entity. FFFFFF
Added (crossposted at AtLargely):

There might be a way to gum up the works: Require that corporations receive approval from a majority of shareholders for each and every expenditure of funds.

The expenditure of funds for political advertising, particularly of a specific candidate, is not obviously in the interests of the shareholders. Therefore, it should be voted on. And, if voting takes time, and if there is a threshhold requirement for participation, it might be hard enough and dangerous enough to the officers and Board that they might not use it in the manner that the Robert Court clearly intends.

(Not that anyone listens to Eeyore. ::sigh::)

Posted in capitalism as cancer, Constitutional crisis, Supreme Court | 2 Comments »

This Big Story Broke Yesterday, But I’ll Bet This Will Be The First You’ll Have Heard Of It

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 25, 2009

I guess the members of the GOP/Media Complex have been so busy haranguing President Obama for speaking honestly about the illegal arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, and/or threatening him with even nastier treatment unless he started bowing down to them (shades of the “White House Travel Office Scandal”, when the press took their perk-dispensing buddy Billy Dale’s side despite his having over $50,000 in office funds stuffed into his private personal bank account), that most of them can’t be bothered to talk about this story (h/t Teddy Partridge) about how in 2002, Dick Cheney wanted to see if he could illegally use US troops on US soil to go after alleged terrorists, instead of letting law enforcement officials handle the job:

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants.

Mr. Bush ultimately decided against the proposal to use military force.

A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests would be nearly unprecedented in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.

That it does.

Of course, that Dick Cheney thinks the Constitution is his own personal roll of toilet paper is not news. What is news, as Partridge notes, is that this story looks to have been released by Bush entouragers as a way of pushing back against this story and this one, both of which make Bush look bad (and at least one of which was Cheney trying to look good by making Bush look bad over the Scooter Libby mess).

Posted in anti-Americanism, Bush, BushCo malfeasance, Busheviks, Constitution, Constitutional crisis, Dick Cheney, evil, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, rightwing moral cripples, terrorism | 4 Comments »

Cheney’s Assassination Squads

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 12, 2009

Wow. Just — wow.

Sy Hersh let something big slip, and we have Eric Black to thank for catching it.

Posted in Constitution, Constitutional crisis, crimes, cronies, Dick Cheney, evil, terrorism, totalitarianism, WTF? | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Thursday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 5, 2009


— If the Gang of Fourteen Plus Lieberman really hates earmarks as much as they say they do, then how come the effort to strip some from the budget bill just failed?

— Contrast this silly posturing with President Obama’s putting the war profiteers on notice.

— I love Margaret and Helen.

— Oh, and somebody must have threatened to use force of arms to get Turdblossom to show up and testify before Congress.

— Meanwhile, Sasha and Malia can now play on a new swing set while their daddy watches them from his home office.

Posted in 111th Congress, Ben "Lieberman" Nelson, Blackwater, Blue Dogs, Congress, Constitution, Constitutional crisis, corruption, hypocrites, Karl Rove, President Obama, priorities | 1 Comment »

The Orlov Plan

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 14, 2009

I was poking around the internets yesterday and was reminded of this gem of a 1961 column by humorist Art Buchwald, quoted by Atrios almost six years ago. It seems that Art wrote about this Russian spy named Serge, who was boasting to him of his espionage prowess:

“I used to be in charge of all Communist subversive activity in the United States,” he said.

“You were?” I asked in amazement.

Yes. Perhaps you have heard of the Orlov Plan?”

I admitted I hadn’t, though I explained it was because I hadn’t kept up much on subversive activities in the United States recently.

The Orlov Plan,” he said, swigging down another vodka, “was the most masterful subversive plan ever devised in the cold war. I received the Fourth Order of the Lenin Cross for it.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“I was in charge of all internal subversion in the United States from 1950 to just a few months ago. For years we had been trying to infiltrate the unions and the liberal groups, but we made little headway. We were wasting our money. The U.S. was stronger than ever, its policy towards the Soviets had toughened, and little damage was being done to American morale.

“I realized something had to be done. Then I hit upon it- the Orlov Plan.

The only people willing to wreck the United States government, I discovered, were the extreme right-wing groups. They were being ignored, and yet they were the key to all internal subversion. I laid out a plan. I would have my agents organize a program working through the extreme right wing which would stand the United States on it’s head.

First I would get the right wing to accuse President Eisenhower of being a Communist. Then I would get them to call their own high government officials traitors. Then I would see that the right wing attacked American United Nations representatives. I also would convince the right wing that Russia didn’t have atomic weapons.

Then I would encourage rumors that everyone in the State Department was either a Communist or a homosexual. I gave order to wreak havoc in the armed services by turning military officers against civilians. I even proposed they impeach Chief Justice Warren of the Supreme Court. I laid out different attacks on anyone who advocated better education or health facilities in the United States. And the topper was that anyhone who disagreed with this would be accused of being a card-holding Communist.

“When I proposed the plan in Moscow, the Kremlin thought I was crazy. But they figured they had nothing to lose. Well, you can see the results for yourself. The seeds of doubt about America are being planted by their own people, and we’ve been making more progress in wrecking the U.S. Constitution in the last few years than my predecessors have been able to do since the revolution.”

Then you mean all these extreme right-wing groups are really Communist dupes?” I asked in surprise.

“Exactly, they’re doing the Lord’s work for the Soviet Union, and most of them don’t even know it.”

Some things never change.

Posted in Constitution, Constitutional crisis, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, speaking truth to power | 9 Comments »

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