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VIDEO: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard: FBI Used Counterterrorism Resources To Monitor Occupy Group It Deemed NonViolent

by on Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm EDT in Justice System, Occupy Wall Street, Politics, War On Terror

Occupy Movement -- Spied On By FBIThe Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recently released newly obtained Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents which reveal that the FBI has been spying on Occupy Wall Street activists well before their very first protest.

In spite of the agency having acknowledged repeatedly in their internal documents that the movement opposes violence, and thus poses no threat, it still used counterterrorism resources and counterterrorism authorities to monitor them.

This may indicate that the movement’s political views in themselves are somehow being construed by officials as a ‘threat’.

The FBI stonewalled The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund’s FOIA request for over a year, and chose to release the highly redacted documents on the Friday going into the weekend preceding Christmas — a common tactic used by Federal agencies when releasing potentially embarrassing information, to ensure minimal press coverage and minimal public attention.

Today, Amy Goodman invited Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, to appear on DemocracyNow to discuss the group’s FOIA request and findings.

Verheyden-Hilliard tells about the FBI’s “intense coordination both with private businesses, with Wall Street, with the banks, and with state police departments and local police departments around the country.” The documents show the FBI going as far as using private groups as “proxy forces” to conduct undercover infiltration against the peaceful protesters to then report their findings back to the agency.


 Full Transcript

Rebuttal To Sam Seder’s Insistence That Voting Third Party Would Setback the Progressive Cause

by on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 1:03 pm EDT in Election 2012, Politics

Sam Seder recently invited veteran activist and Naked Capitalism Contributing Editor Matt Stoller onto his radio show to discuss his recent piece on Salon, entitled “The progressive case against Obama.” The discussion turned a bit testy as they battled around the logic behind voting for a third party Presidential candidate. You can listen to their debate HERE (begins around the 12th minute).

As a follow up to that debate, Seder posed the following question to Stoller, Chris Hedges, and everyone else who believes that the best way forward for progressives is to support third party candidates:

How does voting for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson speed up the building of a movement that is a counterweight to corporate power?

Seder contends that progressives became more conscious of the struggle between the people and corporate powers under a Democratic President (Obama) than they had under a Republican one (Bush). That these 99% vs 1% lines were essentially drawn BECAUSE we had a Democratic President, and that another term for Obama would only help to grow this populist movement. He adds that if Romney were to become President the “economic injustice” movement would just transform into an “anti-Republican” one.

I disagree with Seder’s arguments. I would contend that the party of the sitting President was irrelevant to the occupy movement. Rather, the timing of the movement was driven entirely by the economic pain, as it spread across the entire industrialized world.

It makes perfect sense that the movement formulated during Obama’s term, because the financial meltdown occurred in the final months of the Bush Administration. During those last few months, Hank Paulson terrified Congress into signing TARP, and the monthly unemployment numbers skyrocketed in a way not seen since the Great Depression. And as State tax revenues began to dry up shortly thereafter, severe austerity measures were imposed at the local level — resulting in laid off school teachers and other government workers. I.e. It took a couple years for the economic pain to spread and manifest into that progressive populist movement.

Though this movement against economic injustice would have happened regardless of which party occupied the White House, if there had been a Republican President, the crowd numbers would likely have been even twice as large. Why? Because THERE ARE many Democratic partisans whose entire socioeconomic POV fits nicely and neatly within the Democratic-Republican paradigm. These types would protest for any liberal cause — just as long as a Republican President or Governor could be linked to the blame. Many of these Democrats belittled occupy’s efforts BECAUSE they couldn’t co-opt the movement for Obama. This would have been a mute point if a Republican were in power.

For proof, one must look no further than the hundred thousand protesters who stormed the Wisconsin State Capitol under Republican Governor Scott Walker in protest of that Republican-dominated state legislature’s assault on collective bargaining.

As far as Seder’s central question: “How does voting 3rd party speed up the building of a movement that is counterweight to corporate power?” — what he refuses to acknowledge is that the populist ‘movement’ he speaks of has NO political representation in Washington. NONE. ZERO.

In fact, many in support of the movement he cites actually helped to usher Obama into the White House in 2008, and are now fully cognizant of the fact that Obama has been 100% complicit in the destructive policies that have rewarded moneyed interests off the backs of the American people.

The important question — the one that Seder does not want to ask — is how does a movement go about making a non-representative government more representative? Especially, when the party traditionally allied to that movement’s ideology — the Democrats — now operate with the understanding that there are no voter repercussions for anything they do — an understanding spawned by Seder’s very own “lessor of two evils” mindset.

Take Obama’s entire first term. He broke promise after promise — selling out to corporate interests, degrading our civil liberties, declaring war on whistleblowers, etc — BECAUSE of the calculations he made with regards to progressives having nowhere else to go. So, if voters reward Obama for having made this insidious calculation against them, how would that actually work to change his or future Democratic Presidents’ behavior?

It wouldn’t.

It would achieve the very opposite by reinforcing the idea that Obama’s strategy in deceit is not only a winning one, but actually minimizes political risks. Why? Because unlike voters, the entrenched corporations — with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal — do have somewhere else to go. Republican, Democrat, … makes no difference to them.

The message an Obama victory would send to all future Democratic Presidential Candidates is: run and win on a popular progressive platform, and then, like Obama, pull a ‘bait and switch’ — with the goal of building up your campaign war chest in corporate money, and with impunity since progressives have nowhere else to go.

So my question to Seder would be: How successful can any peaceful populist movement be if it remains completely loyal to a political party that feels free to cavalierly ignore their wishes, while reaping tens of millions of dollars in political donations for having done so? 

Politicians must be conditioned to understand that there is a political price to be paid for selling out the voters’ best interests. This underlying principle is the essential cornerstone for all representative democracies. If the voters are too timid to punish the politicians for betraying their interests — as Sam Seder argues they should be — then politicians will naturally continue to betray their interests.

Seder’s strategy of voting Democratic, no matter what, trades away all long-term progressive opportunities for little more than a slight reduction in speed of this nation’s rightward acceleration. Like a CEO forever focused on meeting next quarter’s earnings estimates, while paying no attention to the overall degrading health of the organization he runs.

Voting third party is a strategy that works to re-align the interests of elected officials with the interests of the people, by making them understand that progressives do in fact have somewhere else to go. Governments which believe themselves to be unaccountable to the people they govern are not democracies. And that is the crisis we face.

VIDEO Interview With Noam Chomsky: Occupy’s Number One Target Should Be Concentrations Of Private Power

by on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 1:22 pm EDT in Economy, Environment, Labor, Occupy Wall Street, Politics

Off the release of his new publication, OCCUPY (Occupied Media Pamphlet Series), Laura Flanders (GRITtv) sat down with MIT professor Noam Chomsky to reflect on the grim state of America, and the role activists have to play in turning it around. When asked what should be the number one target of the ninety-nine percent, to foster change, Chomsky responded:

It’s the concentrations of private power, which have an enormous — not total control — but enormous influence over Congress and the White House. In fact, that’s increasing sharply with the sharp concentration of private power escalating across the elections, and so on. […]

Chomsky believes a good way to combat the destruction that private corporations unleash on the societies in which they operate, is to work to redefine the concept of ‘business responsibility’ away from responsiveness to shareholders, and towards responsiveness to stakeholders: 

There’s no economic principle that says that management should be responsive to shareholders. In fact you can read it in texts of business economics, that we could just as well have a system where management is responsible to stakeholders. You know, stakeholders meaning workers and community. Why shouldn’t they be responsible?

Of course this predisposes that there ought to be management. But that’s another question: why should there be management? Why not have the stakeholders run the industry? […]

Of course, what he is referring to is a transformation from private (shareholder-centric) corporatism to worker (stakeholder-centric) Co-ops.

Flanders asks him whether changing from private ownership to worker ownership in itself would facilitate change, or if it would also require a change from the profit paradigm? “Could you,” she asks, “maintain the same exploitative profit-system under worker ownership?” 

That’s a little bit like asking whether shareholder voting is a good idea. Yeah, it’s a step. Is the Buffet Rule a good idea? Yes, it’s a small step. 

Worker ownership within a state Capitalist-market, semi-market system is better than private ownership, but it has inherent problems. Markets have well-known inherent inefficiencies. It’s just a part of markets. They are very destructive. I mean the obvious one is in a market system, a really functioning one, when whoever is making the decisions, doesn’t pay attention to what are called externalities — the effects on others.

So if, say, I sell you a car; if our eyes are open, we’ll make a good deal for ourselves. But we’re not asking, how it’s going to effect her [others]. And it will. There will be more congestion, gas prices will go up, environmental effects, and so on. And that multiplies over the whole population. Well that’s pretty serious.

Let’s take the financial crisis. Ever since the New Deal legislation was essentially dismantled, there’d been regular financial crises. And one of the fundamental reasons that’s understood, is the fact, let’s say the CEO of Goldman Sachs or Citigroup does not pay attention to what’s called systemic risks. So maybe you make a risky investment (transaction) and you cover your own potential losses, but you don’t take into account the fact that if it crashes it may crash the system. Which is what a financial crash is.

And the much more serious case of this is the environment effect. Now, in the case of financial institutions, when they crash, the taxpayer comes to the rescue, but if it destroyed the environment, no one is going to come to the rescue.

WATCH the entire interview below, where they discuss subjects ranging from the state of the Democratic and Republican parties, to neoliberalism, the occupy movement, anarchism, the civil rights movement, racism, the labor movement, and the corporate media:

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WATCH: New 1 Minute Video Series: How The Worst Of The 1% Exploits America

by on Friday, February 17, 2012 at 12:48 am EDT in Occupy Wall Street, Politics

Robert Greenwald of Brave New Foundation has just released his first installment of a new video series entitled, ‘Who Are the 1%?‘. Each 1-minute video exposes a member of the “worst of the 1%” club, breaking down exactly how that tycoon has exploited the 99% to accumulate his obscene wealth. The first installment of the series […]

Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein Addresses The 5 Most Important Issues Facing The U.S.

by on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm EDT in Election 2012, Politics

On October 24, at the historic State House in Boston, The Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein announced her candidacy for President of the United States. She is running as the alternative to the two ‘Wall Street’ parties that have remained steadfast in selling out the interests of the American people for the enrichment of the […]

WATCH: The Origins Of #OccupyWallStreet: An Interview With Adbusters’ Micah White

by on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 1:35 am EDT in Occupy Wall Street, Politics

For those wondering how the revolutionary #OccupyWallStreet movement — which now spans the entire globe — came into being, look no further than Vancouver’s activist magazine & website, Adbusters, and its Senior Editor, Micah White. In this interview, White discusses the movement’s origins, its leaderless (general assembly) decision-making model — vital to ensuring it doesn’t get […]

WATCH: Police Brutality Against #OccupyWallStreet Protesters In Times Square – 15 Oct 2011

by on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm EDT in Occupy Wall Street, Politics

As tens of thousands of occupy wall street protesters made their way into Times Square last night, the NYPD barricaded them, and then began to push them back, provoking screams from the protesters that there was no place for them to move. The riot police were reported to have entered the fray with orange kettling […]

Bank Transfer Day: Simple Step-By-Step Guide To Finding A Credit Union And Ditching Your Greedy Bank

by on Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:55 am EDT in Occupy Wall Street, Politics

November Fifth is officially ‘Bank Transfer Day’ — a day when tens-of-thousands of Americans plan to collectively transfer all their money from the corrupt and greedy Wall Street banks to not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions. The steps involved in this process, however, can present some potential challenges to overcome. The key to a happy November Fifth […]

The American Left Awakens: As The Middle Class Goes, So Goes The Political Middle

by on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 10:56 am EDT in Occupy Wall Street, Politics

It could be said that a democracy’s chosen economic model lives and dies by the prosperity of the majority. A thriving middle class has been the key stabilizing factor in American politics for generations. As such, systematic change in the United States has traditionally come slowly and incrementally.  But after a decade of zero job […]