Fascism is the union of government with private business against the People.
"To The States, or any one of them, or to any city of The States: Resist much, Obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, at once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, ever afterward resumes its liberty." from "Caution" by Walt Whitman

Friday, June 29, 2012

2012-06-29 "Tea Party Hypocrisy" by Ron Lowe from "Berkeley Daily Planet"
 The Tea Party Republicans swept into Congress in 2010 with "Jobs, jobs, jobs" as their mantra. But, what have they actually voted on?
They've introduced 44 bills on abortion, 99 on religion, 71 on family values, 36 on marriage, 67 on 2nd Amendment gun rights and 522 anti-tax measures. It doesn't take a genius to see that the new Tea Party is the old anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-immigration religious movements lumped under a new name.
The Tea Party has voted to keep billions of subsidy dollars for Big Oil companies, refused to keep student interest rates low and rejected a bill ensuring equal pay for women. Every single Tea Party Republican voted against keeping Medicare the same as we know it today, they voted against the jobs bill (remember, their mantra, jobs, jobs, jobs) hypocrites.
The glue that motivates and holds the Tea Party together is their hatred for President Obama. Why would a nice group like the Tea Party (99% white) hate our black president?

Corporate Lying is Federally Protected absolutely

The Supreme Court for the USA has found that Corporations, as an entity, have the same natural status as a living person, and that a person can engage in willful lying, even if a person is lying by something as "sacred & patriotic" as having medals of honor from the USA military...

2012-06-28 "Lying about military honors protected, court rules" from "Washington Post"
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court struck down a federal law Thursday that made it a crime to falsely claim being awarded a top military honor, saying the law infringed on the Constitution's First Amendment protection of free speech.
The court ruling concerned the Stolen Valor Act, under which a Pomona man, Xavier Alvarez, was convicted for claiming falsely in 2007 that he had been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor.
But Alvarez's attorneys convinced a lower court that his untruths were protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. And Thursday the Supreme Court agreed.
"Content based restrictions on speech have been permitted only for a few historic categories ... including incitement, obscenity, defamation," the court wrote.
Veterans groups expressed dismay.
"The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is greatly disappointed," the organization's commander in chief, Richard Denoyer, said in a statement. "Despite the ruling, the VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others."
The act allowed a fine and/or a six-month prison term for someone who "falsely represents himself or herself, verbally or in writing, to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States."
The penalty increases to a year in prison if the person lies about a Purple Heart, a Medal of Honor or another particularly high honor.
There was no question that Alvarez lied. After winning a seat on Southern California's Three Valleys Municipal Water District board of directors in 2007, he introduced himself by saying: "I'm a retired Marine of 25 years. I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. I got wounded many times by the same guy."
None of that was true. But a district judge overturned Alvarez's conviction by declaring the law a violation of the First Amendment.

2012-06-27 "When Does Corporate Personhood Begin and Other Questions" by Dylan Brody
This week the Supreme Court said that Montana cannot limit the power of corporations to act as if they were people. And by "act as if they were people," I mean throw their weight around for their own benefit.
A friend of mine is a Republican and when I mentioned that I thought the idea that corporations are people was absurd, he said that corporations are made up of people and should therefore be treated as people. I wouldn't have a problem with that if -- you know -- it made any sense at all. A lot of things are made up of people. Chess clubs are made up of people. The Ku Klux Klan is made up of people. Soylent Green is people. It's people! I don't think anyone is arguing that the Society for Creative Anachronism should have a say in the workings of our national government just because it is made up of people.
If corporations are people, all groups of people should be treated as people, and yet the same judiciary and legislative organizations that wish to give personhood to corporations are perfectly willing to disenfranchise groups that are less likely be valuable allies in elections. Forgive me for seeking consistency in our definitions. But wait. If corporations have personhood, does that personhood begin at the moment that a corporation is conceived? Can the abortion of a business plan that seems unprofitable be seen as murder or does it not become murder until the corporation is fully funded? Wouldn't personhood of corporations make Bain Capital a serial murderer and, as such, subject to incarceration? Or are corporate people subject to different laws from corporeal people?
Ultimately, the question of personhood is a clever misdirection when it comes to Citizens United. The real point of the ruling is that money equals speech. The unspoken but dangerous corollary to this idea is this: Poverty is silence. Corporations are very, very wealthy. They have great resources at their command and therefore they can buy a place at the table. Individuals who do not have deep coffers should shut up and mind their own business, which, obviously, they don't do very well or they would have bigger businesses to mind and therefore be prepared to buy a voice. Who would have thought the trick to free speech would be the ability to afford it?
Maybe I don't understand what free means.

2012-06-26 "Supreme Court Reaffirms Corporate Personhood, Rejects State Campaign Spending Limits" by Isaac Dalke
 Between the analysis of yesterday’s immigration ruling and the anticipation of Thursday’s healthcare ruling, all eyes have have been transfixed on the U.S. Supreme Court this week. Some have even gone as far as to deconstruct Justice Ginsberg's sense of humor to divine future rulings.
 Amidst this hullabaloo, you may have missed that the court also handed down a major decision on campaign finance. In special occasions, when the court feels as though the outcome of a case is clearly decided, it will forgo a full proceeding and issue a statement. Such was the case with American Tradition Partnership v  Bullock. In a one-page statement [http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-1179h9j3.pdf], the court overturned a Montana state campaign finance law that limited outside corporate contributions to local and state elections. The unsigned ruling reads, “Montana’s arguments …  either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”
 Many hoped that the fallout from 2010's Citizen's United ruling would provide sufficient reason for the court to revisit the ruling in that case. However, the brief dismissal of American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock appears to preclude the possibility of the Supreme Court revisiting campaign finance in the near future, and means that the Citizens United ruling definitively applies to all government elections in the U.S. Unlimited corporate spending in campaigns is now, without qualification, allowed in everything from presidential campaigns to school board elections.
 Montana's Corrupt Practices Act, which included the expenditure ban overturned yesterday, grew out of a specific set of real concerns in Montana a hundred years ago. The act was the result of a 1912 citizen initiative that followed a series of scandals involving the state's largest copper barons, who used their money to elect state senators and judges sympathetic to their industry. The extent and audacity of the corruption brought the state national shame and scandal. Within Teddy Roosevelt's administration, the widespread corruption came to be known simply as the 'Montana Situation.'
 In yesterday's ruling, four justices dissented. In the dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer wrote, “Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the State had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations. … Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United,  casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt.”
 Justice Kennedy, the lone swing vote on the court who cast the decisive vote in Citizens United, rehashed his stance in siding with the majority. Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman writes [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-25/justice-kennedy-leans-liberal-for-now.html], "Had the court given the Montana case full consideration, it might have found some way to distance itself from the consequences of Citizens United. That it did not do so suggests Kennedy is perfectly comfortable with his role as the decisive conservative vote in that momentous decision."
 One option is to give it time—as the bench slowly changes composition in the future, new justices may be persuaded to revisit campaign finance. Currently, there are four justices over the age of 70: Ginsburg, Scalia, Kennedy and Breyer. Kennedy and Scalia, 76 and 75 respectively, may not be willing to revisit the case, but their successors might.
Calls continue or a 28th Ammendment that would reverse Citizens United by abolishing corporate personhood. A resolution in support of such an amendment was introduced to the Senate in 2011, and currently has 22 cosponsers.  Montana voters themselves will see a ballot initiative this November that would call on the state's elected officials to support such an amendment.
 A third, but highly unlikely option, is for polititians to renounce outside corporate campaign financing and the influence of Super PACs. Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown struck such an agreement in their race for one of Massachussett's Senate seats. Wouldn't it be nice to think that politicians could live above the influence of money?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012-06-28 "Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America; America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?" by Sara Robinson from "AlterNet"
It's been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don't know is that they're also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.
 Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that's corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here's what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

North versus South: Two Definitions of Liberty -
 Michael Lind first called out the existence of this conflict in his 2006 book, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics [http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9780465041220]. He argued that much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite -- and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side was winning.
 For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they've done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.
 Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush -- nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don't like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one -- and one that's been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.
 Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility -- the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.
 As described by Colin Woodard in American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America [http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9780670022960], the elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados -- the younger sons of the British nobility who'd farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. Woodward described the culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC around to New Orleans this way:
[begin excerpt]
 It was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity....From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.
[end excerpt]
David Hackett Fischer, whose Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways In America [http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9780195069051] informs both Lind's and Woodard's work, described just how deeply undemocratic the Southern aristocracy was, and still is. He documents how these elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. (Lind adds that they have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead?) Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure -- including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.
 But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites' worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Communities had both the freedom and the duty to govern themselves as they wished (through town meetings and so on), to invest in their collective good, and to favor or punish individuals whose behavior enhanced or threatened the whole (historically, through community rewards such as elevation to positions of public authority and trust; or community punishments like shaming, shunning or banishing).
 Individuals were expected to balance their personal needs and desires against the greater good of the collective -- and, occasionally, to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. (This is why the Puritan wealthy tended to dutifully pay their taxes, tithe in their churches and donate generously to create hospitals, parks and universities.) In return, the community had a solemn and inescapable moral duty to care for its sick, educate its young and provide for its needy -- the kind of support that maximizes each person's liberty to live in dignity and achieve his or her potential. A Yankee community that failed to provide such support brought shame upon itself. To this day, our progressive politics are deeply informed by this Puritan view of ordered liberty.
 In the old South, on the other hand, the degree of liberty you enjoyed was a direct function of your God-given place in the social hierarchy. The higher your status, the more authority you had, and the more "liberty" you could exercise -- which meant, in practical terms, that you had the right to take more "liberties" with the lives, rights and property of other people. Like an English lord unfettered from the Magna Carta, nobody had the authority to tell a Southern gentleman what to do with resources under his control. In this model, that's what liberty is. If you don't have the freedom to rape, beat, torture, kill, enslave, or exploit your underlings (including your wife and children) with impunity -- or abuse the land, or enforce rules on others that you will never have to answer to yourself -- then you can't really call yourself a free man.
 When a Southern conservative talks about "losing his liberty," the loss of this absolute domination over the people and property under his control -- and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws that he was once exempt from -- is what he's really talking about. In this view, freedom is a zero-sum game. Anything that gives more freedom and rights to lower-status people can't help but put serious limits on the freedom of the upper classes to use those people as they please. It cannot be any other way. So they find Yankee-style rights expansions absolutely intolerable, to the point where they're willing to fight and die to preserve their divine right to rule.
 Once we understand the two different definitions of "liberty" at work here, a lot of other things suddenly make much more sense. We can understand the traditional Southern antipathy to education, progress, public investment, unionization, equal opportunity, and civil rights. The fervent belief among these elites that they should completely escape any legal or social accountability for any harm they cause. Their obsessive attention to where they fall in the status hierarchies. And, most of all -- the unremitting and unapologetic brutality with which they've defended these "liberties" across the length of their history.
 When Southerners quote Patrick Henry -- "Give me liberty or give me death" -- what they're really demanding is the unquestioned, unrestrained right to turn their fellow citizens into supplicants and subjects. The Yankee elites have always known this -- and feared what would happen if that kind of aristocracy took control of the country. And that tension between these two very different views of what it means to be "elite" has inflected our history for over 400 years.

The Battle Between the Elites -
 Since shortly after the Revolution, the Yankee elites have worked hard to keep the upper hand on America's culture, economy and politics -- and much of our success as a nation rests on their success at keeping plantation culture sequestered in the South, and its scions largely away from the levers of power. If we have to have an elite -- and there's never been a society as complex as ours that didn't have some kind of upper class maintaining social order -- we're far better off in the hands of one that's essentially meritocratic, civic-minded and generally believes that it will do better when everybody else does better, too.
 The Civil War was, at its core, a military battle between these two elites for the soul of the country. It pitted the more communalist, democratic and industrialized Northern vision of the American future against the hierarchical, aristocratic, agrarian Southern one. Though the Union won the war, the fundamental conflict at its root still hasn't been resolved to this day. (The current conservative culture war is the Civil War still being re-fought by other means.) After the war, the rise of Northern industrialists and the dominance of Northern universities and media ensured that subsequent generations of the American power elite continued to subscribe to the Northern worldview -- even when the individual leaders came from other parts of the country.
 Ironically, though: it was that old Yankee commitment to national betterment that ultimately gave the Southern aristocracy its big chance to break out and go national. According to Lind, it was easy for the Northeast to hold onto cultural, political and economic power as long as all the country's major banks, businesses, universities, and industries were headquartered there. But the New Deal -- and, especially, the post-war interstate highways, dams, power grids, and other infrastructure investments that gave rise to the Sun Belt -- fatally loosened the Yankees' stranglehold on national power. The gleaming new cities of the South and West shifted the American population centers westward, unleashing new political and economic forces with real power to challenge the Yankee consensus. And because a vast number of these westward migrants came out of the South, the elites that rose along with these cities tended to hew to the old Southern code, and either tacitly or openly resist the moral imperatives of the Yankee canon. The soaring postwar fortunes of cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta fed that ancient Barbadian slaveholder model of power with plenty of room and resources to launch a fresh and unexpected 20th-century revival.
 According to historian Darren Dochuk, the author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism [http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9780393339048], these post-war Southerners and Westerners drew their power from the new wealth provided by the defense, energy, real estate, and other economic booms in their regions. They also had a profound evangelical conviction, brought with them out of the South, that God wanted them to take America back from the Yankee liberals -- a conviction that expressed itself simultaneously in both the formation of the vast post-war evangelical churches (which were major disseminators of Southern culture around the country); and in their takeover of the GOP, starting with Barry Goldwater's campaign in 1964 and culminating with Ronald Reagan's election in 1980.
 They countered Yankee hegemony by building their own universities, grooming their own leaders and creating their own media. By the 1990s, they were staging the RINO hunts that drove the last Republican moderates (almost all of them Yankees, by either geography or cultural background) and the meritocratic order they represented to total extinction within the GOP. A decade later, the Tea Party became the voice of the unleashed id of the old Southern order, bringing it forward into the 21st century with its full measure of selfishness, racism, superstition, and brutality intact.

Plantation America -
 From its origins in the fever swamps of the lowland south, the worldview of the old Southern aristocracy can now be found nationwide. Buttressed by the arguments of Ayn Rand -- who updated the ancient slaveholder ethic for the modern age -- it has been exported to every corner of the culture, infected most of our other elite communities and killed off all but the very last vestiges of noblesse oblige.
 It's not an overstatement to say that we're now living in Plantation America. As Lind points out: to the horror of his Yankee father, George W. Bush proceeded to run the country exactly like Woodard's description of a Barbadian slavelord. And Barack Obama has done almost nothing to roll this victory back. We're now living in an America where rampant inequality is accepted, and even celebrated.
 Torture and extrajudicial killing have been reinstated, with no due process required.
 The wealthy and powerful are free to abuse employees, break laws, destroy the commons, and crash the economy -- without ever being held to account.
 The rich flaunt their ostentatious wealth without even the pretense of humility, modesty, generosity, or gratitude.
 The military -- always a Southern-dominated institution -- sucks down 60% of our federal discretionary spending, and is undergoing a rapid evangelical takeover as well.
 Our police are being given paramilitary training and powers that are completely out of line with their duty to serve and protect, but much more in keeping with a mission to subdue and suppress. Even liberal cities like Seattle are now home to the kind of local justice that used to be the hallmark of small-town Alabama sheriffs.
 Segregation is increasing everywhere. The rights of women and people of color are under assault. Violence against leaders who agitate for progressive change is up. Racist organizations are undergoing a renaissance nationwide.
 We are withdrawing government investments in public education, libraries, infrastructure, health care, and technological innovation -- in many areas, to the point where we are falling behind the standards that prevail in every other developed country.
 Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government's job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.
 The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren't just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.
 As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we're no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we've always understood them. Instead, we're being treated like serfs on Massa's plantation -- and increasingly, we're being granted our liberties only at Massa's pleasure. Welcome to Plantation America.
"Labor-Community Caravans Head to DC Thursday 6/28  to support Postal Community Hunger Strikers" from "Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs & Services (clupjs.com)"

Cars, buses and vans of labor and community activists will form a Caravan to Washington, DC, in the early hours of Thursday, June 28, to join a mushrooming national hunger strike to save postal services and jobs.
The nationally organized hunger strike was initiated by Community and Postal Workers United, spearheaded by postal workers in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Jersey and New York. (See CPWUnited.com.)
The caravan will start at 4 am in Newburgh, NY, where hunger striker and Mid-Hudson APWU President Debbie Szeredy will lead a delegation of postal workers and community leaders heading to DC. Debbie will explain the hunger strike and the fight to save the post office.
Next stop will be the James A. Farley General Post Office in New York City, at 8th Avenue & 33rd Street. A 6 am support rally and send-off is planned by Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs & Services (CLUPJS.com), with support from the National Conference of Black Trade Unionists, a coalition of public sector unionists from APWU, NALC, AFSCME District Council 37, the Transport Workers Union Local 100, United Federation of Teachers, and SEIU District 1199. Other participants include the South Bronx Community Congress, Parents to Improve School Transportation, and the Chelsea Tenants Council. Some of these groups will have delegations joining the caravan to DC.
A Newark, NJ rally will take place at 7:30 am, hosted by the People’s Organization for Progress (POP), with members of the APWU, Mail Handlers and Letter Carriers.
The caravan will roll into Philadelphia at 9:30, for a rally organized by postal workers, longshore workers, Occupy Philadelphia, and other groups.
The caravan’s last stop before entering Washington will be in Baltimore, at 10:30 am. The Baltimore All-People’s Congress will hold a press conference and send-off rally, together with community and labor leaders and organizers.
On arrival in Washington, the caravanistas will join a national press conference of Hunger Strikers and their supporters, and help launch two days of protest and civil disobedience aimed at US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, and his rightwing supporters in Congress.

Hunger Strike Endorsers (Partial List in Formation)
*Organizations listed for identification only

Community-Labor United for Postal Jobs & Services

Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST)

Communication Workers of America Local 1180

South Bronx Community Congress

National Action Network Youth

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

Donald Afflick, President, NYC Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

Chelsea Coalition on Housing


International Action Center


Sharon Eolis, International Action Center

Johnnie Stevens, Occupation Zip Code, PIST

Maximino Rivera, Founder, South Bronx Community Congress

Rosa Maria de la Torre, Organizer, Chelsea Coalition on Housing

Rev. Lydia Lebrón-Rivera, Grace United Methodist Church, Harlem

*Kendall Jackman, Picture the Homeless

Rev. Luís Barrios

*Charles Twist, New York Letter Carriers Branch 36, NALC

*Ed Figueroa, Shop Steward, Schools Division, SEIU-32BJ

*Frank Couget, Shop Steward, New York Letter Carriers Branch 36, NALC

*Angelo Vega, Freedom Party

Shahid Comrade, Pakistan Freedom Forum

Larry Lippman, Chelsea Coalition on Housing

Julio Muñoz, South Bronx Community Congress

Ray Figueroa, South Bronx Community Congress

Enrique Colon, South Bronx Community Congress

John Dennie, NPMHU 300, New York City, retired

Harry Beresford McNeary, Urban Rebuilding Initiative

*Jackie DiSalvo, Occupy Wall Street, Labor Working Group

Dave Welsh, NALC 214, San Francisco, past Executive VP

Joe Hirsch, National Postal Mail Handlers Local 300, New Jersey

Joe Piette, Retired Philadelphia Postal Worker, Local 157, NALC

Ethel Tobach, American Museum of Natural History, curator emeritus

John Curtis, Retired Letter Carrier, NALC Branch 391, Bangor, Maine,

Eddie Oquendo, National Mail Handlers Union Local 343, Charleston, SC

Walter Smith, Vice President, National Mail Handlers Union Local 343, Charleston, SC

*Mike Eilenfeldt, Delegate to NYC-Central Labor Council, Union@Cooper Union, NYSUT

Sam Stark, UAW, Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice

Mack I. Julion, NALC Branch 11, Chicago IL, President

Clint Burelson, APWU 2354, Olympia WA, President

Ken Lerch, NALC Branch 3825, Rockville MD, President

Jim Cook, NALC 82, Portland OR, President

Tom Dodge, APWU 181, Baltimore MD

David Yao, APWU 28, Seattle WA, Vice President

Bill Schorsch, NALC 825, Oakbrook IL, Vice President

Renato Quintero, SEIU 49, Portland OR, Vice President

Stephen Lysaght, APWU 47, Walnut Creek CA, President

Richard Koritz, NALC 630, Greensboro NC, past President

Jamie Partridge, NALC 82, Portland OR, Organizing Committee

Greg Margolis, Jobs with Justice, Portland OR, Global Justice Chair

Dee Knight, Labor-Community Forum, South Bronx Community Congress
2012-06-28 "Socialist Party Candidate Calls Obamacare Another Corporate Giveaway"
Obama’s policy was based on the original sin of allowing the pharmaceutical companies off the hook.  He then followed this up by pledging public funds to subsidize junk healthcare plans, coercing Americans into purchasing these plans and silencing the voices of single-payer healthcare advocates.  This is no reform; it is just another corporate giveaway by the Obama administration.

Socialist Party USA Presidential candidate Stewart Alexander condemned the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the provisions of the President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Calling it a “corporate restructuring of the healthcare system in America,” Alexander pointed to the many inequities that are built into to the new system.  He highlighted the need for a fully socialized healthcare system that guarantees access to high quality healthcare as a human right.
“The private health insurance companies always had two ideas in mind when it came to healthcare reform – either to avoid all reforms or stick the American people with a bad reform,” Alexander stated, “Today, the Supreme Court upheld the bad healthcare reform that will insure the profits of private healthcare companies at the expense of American’s access to healthcare.”
“Obama’s policy was based on the original sin of allowing the pharmaceutical companies off the hook.  He then followed this up by pledging public funds to subsidize junk healthcare plans, coercing Americans into purchasing these plans and silencing the voices of single-payer healthcare advocates.  This is no reform; it is just another corporate giveaway by the Obama administration.”
Alexander pointed to the fact that an estimated 26 million people will remain outside the healthcare system and that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act still leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to bankruptcy because of medical bills.
Alexander and his running mate Alex Mendoza advocate for a single-payer healthcare system that will abolish the private health insurance companies.  They see this measure as an important first step in the direction of a fully socialized healthcare system.  The pair will challenge the Patient Protection and Affordable Care on the campaign trail, including the Swing States of Ohio, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey  and Florida.
The Socialist Party USA is America’s voice for democratic socialism. The SP-USA supports the creation of a radical democracy where regular people have a direct voice on issues related to public budgets, how their work sites operate and in their community. We believe that things like housing, healthcare, a clean environment and a good job are human rights and should be guaranteed. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012-06-27 "Canadian Government Makes It Harder to Find Jobs or Access Internet by Amy Boughner[http://www.care2.com/causes/canadian-government-makes-it-harder-to-find-jobs-or-access-internet.html]
In February 2012, the government made funding cuts that cost students access to in-person job banks [http://www.thespec.com/news/article/678947--ottawa-axing-student-job-centres]. Their argument for these cuts was that young people are more likely to go to online job banks. The Harper government has also made cuts at Veterans Affairs, arguing, again, that the services will be accessed online.

Mention of Veterans "Budget cuts" contained in 41st Parliment, 1st Session 2011-06-02. [Veterans41:1 Hansard -120 (2012/5/9) (1450)] [Translation]  Hon. Steven Blaney (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC) [http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/House/411/Debates/120/HAN120-E.PDF]: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear. What we are taking away from veterans are the millions of unnecessary transactions for veterans who need our services. We are simply cutting the red tape, cutting the routine and repetitive tasks that waste paper and in no way serve our veterans. That is what we are doing. If the member really wants to help veterans, he should support budget 2012, because it maintains veterans' benefits."Budget cuts"

Then, the government decided to cancel the Community Access Program. The program’s funding ended on March 31, 2012. The program provided free computer and Internet access for Canadians who couldn’t afford to have it at home or couldn’t access higher speed Internet because of their location. Computers and Internet access was provided  in libraries and community centers across the country through the CAP.
The government argued that the program had fulfilled its mandate, and that a majority of Canadians now have Internet access at home. This is true, 79 percent do, but the other 21 percent may be the most in need. In smaller communities, the program provided access to government services, such as job banks, Employment Insurance and tax information.
Communities are struggling to compensate for the loss of the program, trying to make sure that people who need access can still find it somewhere. In London, Ontario, the local library is actual seeing an increase in patrons using their services, a result of unemployed Canadians having to cut their home budget [http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/2012/05/despite-funding-cuts-library-usage-increasing/].
This government has called people on Employment Insurance lazy, it has called the program lucrative, and now it is punishing those people who need help even more by taking away their access to the programs they need.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012-06-26 "All the World in a Grain of Sand; How the Growth Machine Ate Florida" by ALAN FARAGO
ALAN FARAGO, conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades, lives in south Florida. He can be reached at: afarago@bellsouth.net
John DeGrove was the father of land use planning in Florida and the principal architect of the state land use agency, the Florida Department of Community Affairs. The agency was established in 1985 to oversee compliance with the Growth Management Act. Most Floridians are unlikely to know either what the Department of Community Affairs did or what its disappearance means. Fewer still understand the challenges to design and implement a regulatory framework for rationale growth and development in one of the nation’s fastest growing states, or, how DCA and DeGrove’s mission was a target of anti-government, pro-property rights zealots from the first.

Why this matters is simple. Presupposing the failure of government regulatory authority virtually guarantees it will happen. The notion that government cannot do anything that private industry can do better, cheaper, and faster including protecting public safety, health and welfare has spread its toxic roots far and wide. Florida provides more than its share of examples of government-designed-to-fail.

These didn’t happen overnight. DCA was caught up in a thirty year war against governmental regulation of land use and the environment. Initially, the agency’s work enjoyed broad bipartisan support. By the time the agency was frog-marched to the platform and guillotined by the Florida legislature and an indifferent governor, it had already mostly surrendered to “regulatory capture” by special interests. When the final blow was delivered, no one was quite so surprised as the insiders to watch decades of history simply wash away.

DeGrove, who passed away recently at age 87, lived long enough to see his life’s work first praised as a national paradigm for growth management, then eroded by well-financed and determined special interests, pilloried by one session of the Republican-led legislature after another, and finally consigned to a closet in the state capitol with dust brooms. DCA is not alone. Despite irrefutable evidence of mounting pollution in Florida and its social costs, state government programs protecting the environment have been under the same withering attack.

The Palm Beach Post editorialized, “Legislators tried to rip the stuffing out the DCA in 2009 and 2010 but botched the bill, and a court overturned it. Gov. Scott’s cover story is that the agency kills jobs by asking developers to follow the law, meaning that public services be in place for the new residents. … this is a governor and Legislature that would rather break government than fix it.” (“Last straw for DCA? Gov. Scott goes after growth-management agency on false premise”, Palm Beach Post, Feb 8, 2011)

The St. Pete Times called Scott, “a new governor ignorant of the state’s history and indifferent about its future” and tersely concluded, “Now the state has given up virtually of its oversight of development and its authority to require developers to help pay for roads, schools and parks. Local governments can pretty much do as they please. Florida has turned back the clock three decades.” (“An obituary for Florida Growth Management”, St. Pete Times, June 5, 2011)

By 2011, the collapse of housing markets had knocked the state legislature off-kilter. The housing boom lay spent in the dirt. Keeping the boom alive had been the mother’s milk of Florida politics. For builders and the various components of the Growth Machine that fund political campaigns, markets had dried up and vanished. Overdevelopment plus foreclosures meant increasing supply was like pushing on a string: there was no demand. Lobbyists accustomed to tinkering with environmental regulations and regulations associated with the Growth Management Act, DCA’s enabling legislation, needed an organizing principle.

They had been accustomed to whipping legislators into a frenzy of bad decision making at the last minute– gloating over strategies to tie civic activists in knots or sending them down rabbit holes and one way legislative alleys—often shepherded bills in the dead of the night on the last day of the legislative session that no one read but those who crafted them – and now had to justify their existence.

The Florida Department of Community Affairs had an important mission but was one of Florida’s smallest executive agencies. The agency’s budget for 2011 was $780 million. For 2012, Governor Scott proposed cuts of about $100 million. For 2013, he proposed a budget of $70 million. By spring 2011 the agency was finished.

Florida is an enduring fascination. It is politically influential and culturally backward. It is a great backdrop for television for which no one can remember the plot. Florida exalts development and possesses unique natural resources. Its chief attractions that drove development in the 1950’s are in states of decay, aquifers, springs, estuaries, rivers, bays and the Everglades alternately treasured and spurned, vaunted and trashed, lit by God’s towering thunderheads and buried in a God forsaken culture of strip malls and anonymous platted subdivisions far from places of work.

The built landscape of Florida, like so much suburban sprawl around the nation, is seemingly designed to strip vitality from communities. It was John DeGrove’s life mission to deploy growth management policies in a way to encourage better outcomes. The economic disaster fomented by excessive risk taking in the private sector – banking, mortgage origination, construction and development based on speculation—should have lead decision-makers exactly toward DeGrove’s values: the rational allocation of resources to reinforce community planning, environmental and economic security. A bolder approach than ones conceived in the 1980’s would have attached regulation and enforcement of land use to the investment vehicles used by banking and insurance industries – those financial derivatives based on mortgages that profess to be agnostic to any value other than the free market.

During the boom, the Growth Machine offered critics it was only supplying “what the market wants”. The market hardly wanted the worst bust since the Great Depression, nor did the Growth Machine want attention turned to policies and candidates it supported whose blind fealty led to such disastrous results. The Growth Machine needed scapegoats to deflect attention from its diverse roles causing the crisis. It needed “bogeymen” and DCA conveniently fit the bill. It was a term actually applied to the agency by the ex-president of Associated Industries of Florida. DCA was his bogeyman.

In his second term inaugural speech, in January 2003 former Governor Jeb Bush rhapsodized about a future when state capitol buildings would be emptied of workers in recognition of government’s limitations. “There will be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers; as silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill.” It was a moment of exuberance and supreme confidence: 9/11 had threatened the economy and the housing industry, thanks to unprecedented policies by the Federal Reserve, responded. The boom was in full flight.

The workers Bush had in mind were state regulators like the ones at DCA who oversaw mandated development plans. The requirements of the Growth Management Act compelled cities and counties to formalize long-term development plans; a constant irritation to developers and bankers. Four years earlier, in 1998, Jeb Bush had been propelled to the governor’s mansion by a well-oiled political machine in Miami-Dade County. It was Florida’s largest county, the most influential politically, and Jeb’s home base.

The machine was grounded in local legislative and state legislature elections that revolved around hatred of Castro. The campaign funders were developers and members of the local Latin Builders Association who had grown extraordinarily wealthy building ring suburbs from the core of Miami to the edges of the Everglades.

But not even Jeb Bush in 2002 could have imagined that it would take an economic crash of historic proportions – one triggered largely by GOP supporters and excessive risk taking – to eliminate the Florida Department of Community Affairs. It was not as though DCA were a bastion or stronghold of bureaucrats and regulators insensitive to political pressure. Far from it. The very presence of Jeb Bush on the horizon – who had lost to a Democrat Lawton Chiles in 1994 – had already undermined land use planning.

It is all in the history. Understanding what happened in Florida is not a matter of reading tea leaves or looking for signs in the stars.  The Florida GOP majority could not believe its good luck to have a Republican governor so oblivious to the reasons growth management mattered in Florida. Not even Bush –publicly longing for less government but fearing the public fallout of draconian cuts– could have imagined that the Florida Department of Community Affairs would be shrunk to fit the size of a bathtub without even the power to reach the handles for hot and cold water.

The upward track of the post-World War II economy in the United States closely follows the fastest growing states. Florida is exemplary and distinguished from other states in the Sunbelt that attracted massive migration. Its main industries are agriculture, tourism, mining of phosphates, lime rock used in construction and roadways, real estate speculation and development.

These industries are connected because they depend entirely on flood control to accommodate dry winters alternating with copious, tropical rain fall. Land use management is the flip side of flood control. The segregation of laws governing water resources and development is well established by Florida law. The point: agriculture and development should be allowed to get whatever quantities of water they wanted whenever it was needed. Wherever, involved questions of ownership, of public lands, property rights, the boundaries of cites and counties and how growth should be prioritized and managed. Wherever, is what drove John DeGrove to the forefront in the 1970’s with ideas and then the legislative support to implement what started out as a rigorous, bipartisan consensus of the Florida legislature to balance land use to protect Florida’s natural resources, quality of life and economic potential.

From that perspective – the bipartisan consensus through which DCA evolved—it was a kinder, gentler time. Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers (Jeb Bush’ first consultant contract after leaving the office of governor in 2006 was for Lehman, the largest supplier of financial bonds to the state pension funds), consumers are caught in a vicious cycle of reduced expectations and unprecedented political polarization, sifting through the cinders of lost equity and dashed hopes.

In Florida, managing water supply, land use, and environmental protection is popularly described as a balancing act. Land use planning does not inspire page-turners the way Wall Street and financial fraud wrapping up leviathans and government, does. But the slow dissolve of DCA under the cheerleading of growth-at-any-cost appears in the light, side-by-side with the financial implosion.

The economic crisis was due to two factors: miscalculation of financial risk – through debt instruments whose nominal purpose was to diversity, not magnify risk – and speed of execution, using leverage, computer models and boiler room operations to process paper transactions like home or commercial mortgages into tranches of debt so complicated that they defied understanding much less common sense.

For DCA, evaluating risk – especially large scale development– and deliberate analysis of costs and consequences of determining where construction and development should occur, or be inhibited, were central features of state authority lined up in opposition to the tendency of the “free” market toward miscalculating risk and speed of execution. Growth management in Florida served, in principle, as a brake or friction on where those billions in housing backed mortgage securities would materialize.

How did this come to pass? It is a societal phenomenon, not economic or strictly political. The leaders of the American century, DeGrove’s generation, had been shaped by the hardships of the Great Depression and World War; people pulling together solved problems. After World War II, and through a resurgent economy, Florida began to quickly grow. It was the sense of risk from unregulated growth that gave rise, in Florida, to legislation constraining exuberant developers from killing the goose that laid the golden egg. That was the principle.

Awareness of history guided this earlier generation of Florida’s leaders who had come of age in 1940’s and 1950’s. Although draining and filling Florida wetlands had been a purpose of Florida government for a century, Florida was still a small state plagued by mosquitos and swamps. What could be had scarcely emerged as a glint in Walt Disney’s eye. Many Florida legislators of that era enjoyed Florida’s bountiful springs, rivers, bays and pristine wetlands from the Florida Panhandle to St. Augustine and Florida Bay. The same was true for civic activists, who were on the front lines in the 1980’s but have now passed. They were children of the Great Depression and understood the value of shared sacrifice: Dagny Johnson, George Kunst, and Grace Maniello in the Florida Keys, Johnny and Mariana Jones, Art Marshall, and Wayne Nelson – who also died recently – for Lake Okeechobee.

People in DeGrove’s generation of leadership didn’t think of the environment as separate from daily life. It was something you enjoyed like everyone else. It was there, before you were born. Something you recognized as fragile. Something that needed to be protected because, after all, the thinking went: you can’t just bulldoze wetlands, dig up Florida for rock mines or sugar fields, or drain and contaminate springs forever.

In Florida, early efforts to plan land use and water resources in the 1970’s gave rise to new regulatory authority in the 1980’s, such as laws requiring that taxpayer funded infrastructure for schools, roadways, water and sewer should be in place concurrent with growth and measures to protect fragile waterways, wetlands and estuaries.

Nationally, Florida’s Growth Management Act was hailed as the most forward-thinking effort by state government to responsibly manage and account for growth, quality of life, and the environment. In the 1980′s other states watched to learn how to incorporate the Florida model into their own policies.

Even as the environmental movement was gaining traction in the public imagination in the 1970’s, Wall Street had walled itself off from any intrusion on the free flow of capital. In Florida, the laws were written to incorporate shades of gray, leaving interpretation open with conditional “should’s”, and massive industries including lobbyists and engineering consultants filled to interpret with the studious intensity of medieval monks disputing the number of angels who could fit on the head of a pin. Nationally, in the wake of the nation’s most important federal environmental laws, private industry was assessing how to create new message frames to accompany the erosion of laws now established to protect the nation’s air and water. It didn’t take long for private industry to push back or for the calculations of risk to the natural environment to shift.

In the late 1980s, I learned as a Florida Keys activist how John DeGrove’s hope for Florida designated, as a matter of state law, Monroe County as an Area of Critical State Concern. The requirements of state land use planning had wealthy and influential developers in the Keys, fuming. The Keys were the test tube for land use policies and thresholds like pegging growth to objective criteria, and they didn’t like it at all. (In the Keys, DCA linked housing units to hurricane evacuation time standards. The entry and exit from the island archipelago is only served by one state road.) As a result, the Great Destroyers keyed in on DeGrove and DCA, under secretaries who followed like Tom Pelham.

During the Reagan presidency, the Sagebrush Rebellion – a manifestation of the Wise Use Movement and progenitor of the Tea Party—took root in the Keys, secretly funded by sugar billionaires determined to keep federal policies from inhibiting their use of the Everglades for storm water drainage and damaging their profits. The movement came to life in the Western states, where land owners and investors in mineral extraction, ranching, and timber on public lands rebelled against what they viewed as federal impingement on their rights.

In the Keys, whether it was state authority – through growth management – or federal – through efforts to protect the coral reef and Florida Bay — big agriculture and Big Sugar objected. If the Florida Keys were a test to work out models that could be applied elsewhere, they feared the worst. They chipped away at the agency in one court battle after another, creating an entire industry of engineers, lawyers, and land use “experts” who resorted to political pressure and state administrative court to undermine its mission. Despite assurances from agency bureaucrats that “one size does not fit all”, the Great Destroyers were determined to blow up the whole enterprise. They had many willing accomplices.

By the time I arrived in Key West in 1988, the DCA designation of the Florida Keys as a special Area of Critical State Concern was being tested by the Great Destroyers. It took me some time to understand what I was experiencing. Those long night-time meetings in Key West and Marathon – public hearings on the county growth management plan or initiatives to protect the Keys fragile marine resources — seemed like honest labor and exactly the sort of civic activism that would give back to the community that nourished us and an example for younger generations. The pushback was well coordinated. Even then it was clear: if one prevails with the public from a point of view that government cannot work, is it any wonder it doesn’t?

Young attorneys on the public interest side were galvanized by the challenge of proving otherwise. Richard Grosso, then of 1000 Friends of Florida, and Ross Burnaman, of the Wilderness Society did the heavy legal lifting in state administrative courts. Curtis Kruer, a former US Army Corps of Engineers permitting official in the Keys, knew the waypoints. (Although DCA is gone, Grosso has the distinction of winning the sole case in Florida jurisprudence – known as Pinecrest — that caused a structure being torn down for violating the state’s Growth Management Act. It happened just once, and it may never happen again.)

The Growth Management Act was incorporated in the Florida statutes, known as Chapter 163. In its broad outline, it required local jurisdictions throughout the state to prepare and adopt “a comprehensive plan” and to implement the plan through development regulations. The disciplines required to fulfill the Growth Management Act spawned a generation of land use lawyers, engineers and consultants to government, to developers and speculators. A small number worked for public interest organizations who opened avenues of judicial appeal for citizens and activists like those battling the speculators in the Florida Keys in the early 1980’s. (Tellingly, such is the power of the Growth Machine to intimidate that public interest organizations had tremendous difficulty securing professional engineers or scientists in Florida to testify as expert witnesses in court on their behalf.)

This was also roughly the same period when Wall Street financier Lewis Ranieri decoded mortgage backed securities and created an market for new forms of debt. Ranieri was a top bond salesman for Salomon Brothers, then vice chairman. It is conjecture to believe there was ever a link – during the 1980’s – between the finance methods working out billion dollar markets for derivatives based on mortgages and opposition to land use regulations that might inhibit what became, twenty years later, incessant demand for more platted subdivisions to peg debt pinned to demographics, but in 1988 Ranieri acquired his own bank in Florida – Bank United – to test vertical integration of the mortgage backed supply chain: from cement makers who poured foundations and built roads, to sheet rock, plywood and plumbing suppliers to electric utilities, to real estate brokers, mortgage and title companies, from land aggregators, scrapers that took the Everglades down to cap rock, all the way to mortgage backed derivatives.

These innovations in debt became the soft foundation for cheap, affordable Florida and countless rosy projections. Under Florida’s Democratic leadership in the 1990’s, things went downhill fast. The late Governor Lawton Chiles took his cue from President Clinton and Dick Morris’ theory of political triangulation. Also, he needed little encouragement. Jeb Bush and the Latin Builders were nipping at his heels in 1994; an election he surprisingly won. Still, he set out to placate the Growth Machine. Under Chiles, in the early 1990′s growth management had a small window of opportunity to regulate the loss of Everglades wetlands to sprawl in Broward County. Instead of taking a hard stand to reinforce core, state Democrats rolled growth management and the rolling never stopped gaining momentum until DCA’s head rolled off the platform.

Civic activists howled in complaint, to no avail. The effort to be ‘Republican Lite’ was a disaster and set the stage starting for the Jeb Bush victory in 1998, ‘market-based environmentalism’, the crowding of conservative think tanks into Florida, the pressure of states rights and eventually, the collapse of federal resolve to protect the environment. One super mall near Wellington in Palm Beach County opened before footprints for giant subdivisions had even been poured. The mall was open, waiting for customers. It included a Thomas Kinkade gallery, its walls hung with oil paintings, discretely lit; the entire gallery muffled with hushed nostalgia for a past that never existed and certainly would never exist with the scenes of snowy pine tops looming over blessed, cozy stone houses or framed by weeping willows by the burbling brook. This mall’s over-weening confidence in smoke rings of future profit presently valued as homey hearths without a person in sight might have been taken for a sign: blind faith.

What is not conjecture – because it is written in the landscape – is that the state regulatory response for growth management was cordoned from Wall Street. No one in the political class – not in Florida or anywhere else – was interested to probe the risks segregating mortgage backed securities from land use, or, how land use could be reinforced from extra weight through financial regulations. One can minimize risk by pointing investors in other directions, into safer investments, the same way government regulations turn consumers away from poison or should.

9/11 provided the extraordinary opportunity for GOP funders to tighten down the laser focus on the frictionless growth of the housing sector. Their purpose was to foster the dream of home ownership. They named the initiative, the Ownership Society, in 2002. The public didn’t ask where those mortgages went; the money was in the pools of mortgages, blessed by ratings agencies, and implicitly backed by taxpayers through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The whole program depended on individual mortgages gathered into pools and derivatives shaped from computer algorithms stacked neatly as a hundred pennies in a paper sleeve.

The “cookie-cutter” forms of construction and development – from strip malls, to big box centers and platted subdivisions—were sold as “what the market wants”. The economic crisis did not start with financial derivatives; it started where John DeGrove’s mission began. It started in Florida where developers of platted subdivisions off-loaded risks to banks who off-loaded risk to larger financial institutions who off-loaded risk to remote investors. It all depended on speed of execution, corralling and inhibiting government regulators and enforcement, and in this light, financial institutions held as paragons of virtue – like Countrywide Financial and BankUnited—were just dressed-up versions of a game of three-card monte in Times Square.

As markets for housing-based financial derivatives developed into a massive wealth transfer operation, the sophistication of the Growth Machine in Florida also increased; matching the small cogs at the local permitting levels to larger and larger gears, operated finally by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs et al. and the pressure to knock down barriers at the regulatory base also grew by leaps and bounds. (One of the most enduring images, during the housing boom years, was a trendy gossip telling me that in the early 2000’s former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan regularly spent Miami Beach weekends with his wife, in the words of my source “trying to find the coolest parties to invite themselves, to.”)

Gliding by those threats and ensuring government-designed-to-fail was powered by campaign contributions from a supply chain of politically influential individuals who gained the maximum advantage and profit from converting wetlands and cheap farmland close to population centers into low density, scattered suburban sprawl. It was a vast wealth generator wringing advantage from massive leverage and financial innovations that skirted, like invisible toxic pollution, under regulatory radars that never exchanged data with land use regulators. The whole enterprise depended on externalizing costs and hobbling the enforcement role of regulatory agencies by capturing its principals. Once the whole fell apart, there was nothing left to do but eat its own.

Despite the massive contraction of banking and finance related to real estate development and home mortgages, despite the overwhelming accumulation of science that the regulations in place are inadequate to protect either human health, drinking water, or natural resources, political advantage remains rooted in the business of converting wetlands and farmland to suburban sprawl and condominiums along the fragile coast, rock mining and sugar farming in Florida’s Everglades.

The dichotomy—even schizophrenia—of government policies encouraging growth while at the same time seeking to constrain its most impulsive and perverse forms – like platted subdivisions in wetlands – is like a line separating the the late period economy of Florida from earlier assumptions and faith that the underlying financial arrangements of suburban sprawl could be independently managed for risk without ever touching risk-based assessments of environmental carrying capacity.

What materialized is different from what I imagined would occur, after a real estate crash. In the 1990’s – never mind the early aught’s– whoever could peer intensely into the march of Insta-Gro suburbs and infrastructure at the edge of the Everglades, the Florida Turnpike or the Florida Keys knew something had to give.

Despite the trillions of taxpayer dollars spent to underwrite the risk takers who very nearly blew up the world economy, private industry is still determined to maintain exactly the gears and leverage of the Growth Machine calibrated to deliver the maximum volume of mortgage instruments to Wall Street. Those political interests in control of ultra-conservative legislatures and Congress are dead-set on eliminating rules and regulations protecting the environment as though breaking the back of state regulatory authority were enough rubbing to conjure fire from wood.

These thirty years have not been kind to the mission for which DeGrove dedicated his career.

Citizens and environmental groups hoping to challenge local decisions  – fostering suburban sprawl in environmentally sensitive wetlands, for example — were more frequently thwarted by DCA than not. To contest changes to local growth plans, they needed to raise funds for attorneys, experts, scientists and often endure years of court appearances and appeals. DCA turned into exactly the revolving door between the regulators and regulated that causes low morale among staff and public disgust with government.

On the other hand, for citizens trying to gain control over communities and development schemes, through which development plans appeared bought and sold long before the first gavel struck in local commission chambers, DCA was the single point for citizens to attach to the otherwise high, smooth walls of state government, protecting legislators beholden to land developers from the public.

While defenders of wildlife, lakes, streams, waters and bays—of small town retail against big box retailers—cobbled together funding for administrative court challenges allowed through the Growth Management Act, speculators and developers used marketing budgets to hire their own sets of environmental experts to compete, claiming with feigned dignity or shrill outrage that regulators were on the same side as the cabal of their opposition: no-growth’ers, naysayers, tree huggers and worse. No one is more leery of an environmentalist than a career regulator. But for the Growth Machine, it is ‘off with all their heads’.

This prevailing mindlessness also explains why the broad consensus that John DeGrove represented, vanished. From the opening bell in 1985, the agency that John DeGrove led was targeted by large land owners, farmers, speculators and the conservative foundations they funded as an example of over-reaching state authority.

After the market top of 2005, as the economic catastrophe gathered steam, the agency John DeGrove helped bring to its imperfect life was used as a “bogeyman” by Associated Industries, developers and powerful agricultural interests. The speculators and developers blamed the agency DeGrove founded for slowing growth, killing jobs, as though eliminating DCA would miraculously restore the demand for subdivisions and the massive oversupply of housing and commercial real estate that scarred wetlands, made mockery of environmental rules and regulations, and wrapped up hundreds of thousands of home owners in the weight of underwater mortgages. Over-arching principles and regulations that made common sense were divided into ever smaller fractions until the whole was lost in ways that no one understood.

Florida, under the influence of the Great Destroyers, is like a skier frozen in place ten feet in front of a snow making machine nozzle thinking he is lost in a blizzard.

When the Florida Department of Community Affairs was dissolved by Governor Rick Scott in 2011, Floridians were otherwise absorbed, too caught up in the economic crisis unleashed, in large part, by the rampant overdevelopment that the Florida Department of Community Affairs might have thwarted but was thwarted itself by influence exerted on behalf of the Growth Machine and its powerful campaign contributors.

Today, Florida’s voters are misled by arguments that growth management is a “jobs killer”. What would they know?

All the structures to keep the public good in view were rickety and jerry-rigged and held together by the slimmest of legal thresholds requiring citizen activists to test again and again in lengthy, exhausting and costly administrative court challenges. Now they have been torn down. So goes the Miami-Dade Urban Development Boundary and the careful testing by developers of the local county commission, searching for new limits now that DCA is gone, the same way tiger sharks use the murk to probe its prey’s vulnerability. The extension of a major expressway, SR 826, into farmland owned by politically influential local power brokers, the exchange of lands and speculation in the Bird Drive Basin and South Miami Dade: all waiting for the miracle to come.

The erosion of federal and state authority to protect quality of life and environment, reflected in the destruction of DCA, now pushes permitting and zoning decisions straight onto the backs of local officials who are themselves coping with massive budget deficits and use the crisis to cut land use planners, as among the first examples of excess government waste.

In a recent New York Times editorial (“Sam Spade at Starbucks”, April 12, 2012) David Brooks took young social entrepreneurs to task for not applying themselves to the “noir” business of political change. Thirty years experience on the noir front lines of environmental and growth management battles lead to a different conclusion.

They may not understand the particulars, but see that the current quagmire makes it very unlikely that there is a wagon to hitch one’s train to. It is no wonder that young, entrepreneurial Americans are seeking change through individual participation in small-scale change. With public confidence in government and institutions so low, and the chances of success so transparently poor, what else is there for a young person to do who wants to make change happen?

In Florida, the imperative to profit from cement, sheetrock, and platted subdivisions is ferocious. Even in the absence of demand, the engine fires like an automaton. It is made to work that way.

Understanding the economic crisis that shed 8.5 million jobs and caused the loss of $11 trillion in consumer net worth is like assembling a Rubik’s cube. It is not one view or one facet of financial fraud, because there was no industrial policy at any level of government attempting to integrate the contributors; from environmental protection to housing and transportation, except in Florida through the Department of Community Affairs. What DeGrove tried to codify, the principles of concurrency, did exactly that. Surely, when the economy based on housing and construction imploded, attention would turn DCA’s way. And it did, but not in the way I expected.

The point of the Growth Machine was to create transactions—millions of them—that were frictionless and risk free to the originators. The amalgamation needed to cast no shadows and leave as few traces as possible. The biggest gears connected to propulsion through smaller and smaller gears, marking each level of economic interest – from cement supplier to sheetrock to mortgage broker—and political layer – from lowly county commissioner in Miami-Dade, for example, to cabinet secretaries in transportation and housing, to Congress and the White House.  The Florida Department of Community Affairs, a state agency dedicated to overarching principles of sound growth, was rarely a brake. The political process exerted too much leverage, but when the economy turned sour, someone had to be blamed. DCA held out the potential of friction in zoning processes where the goal of developers and speculators was to create transactions as frictionless as possible.  DCA was “the bogeyman”.

It is no coincidence how the arc of DCA parallels political polarization, the disappearance of bipartisan consensus on managing growth to balance the economy and environment, and a modern depression whose depth is papered over with ‘good news’ stories to prop up the spending habits of consumers.

The landscape civic activists in Florida have been trying to protect is imperceptibly sloped. In the imagination of environmentalists, the landscape provides a clear and imperceptibly slow flow of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, nearly as wide as the peninsula of Florida itself. In the imagination of land use planners, the low density, scattered sprawl that is the bread and butter of local politics is kept away from the main course; threatened natural resources and drinking water supplies. In both the imagination of environmentalists and land use planners, zoning changes in farmland are side courses. The big downtown law firms, with prestigious names like Greenberg Traurig in Miami, are waiters. The menu to convert wetlands and raw farmland into sprawl fits the parameters of the Department of Community Affairs and a rational process to build a sustainable economic platform that would, at the same time, protect the environment. That is in the imagination.

In reality, 20 year old MBA’s or PhD’s in mathematics invent impossibly complex algorithms for deep, dark pools of financial derivatives tied to mortgages, luring investors lulled to sleep by the assurance of bond rating agencies tied to the hip to Wall Street executives paid billions but still not enough: what they need are more subdivisions, more mortgages, more mortgagees. What they need is more wetlands to be converted to lime rock pits, lakes for subdivisions and condos on the coast. It all has to be without friction or delay. Costs of protecting the environment – the Everglades – have to be externalities that are never priced into the model. The free market has to be all light and no shadow. If there are courts inclined to a broader interpretation of laws from a kinder, gentler time; the judges have to be replaced. And they were. And they are.

The financial system is designed to compartmentalize debt from the built landscape. While the masters of debt seclude themselves in gated estates and communities that imitate the amenities and prerequisites of small town America, their business models and political influence deprive Americans of the same advantages. (Interestingly, in one of these small town places in Putnam County, New York, Fox News president Roger Ailes and his wife are testing these issues of zoning control through a small newspaper they own.)

Everglades activists can explain how risk analyses that projected regulatory thresholds to protect ecosystems were all wrong in the past half century. But they have no where to go once they do the explaining, compared to financial engineers who wrote derivatives that turned to crap and now are in business making silk purses from sows’ ears. It doesn’t change the fact that they were wrong the first time, and very well could be wrong, the second and third.

The difficulty in understanding the scope and scale of the economic malaise is that the entire infrastructure of development is implicated. In a time of diminished capacity of the mainstream media to investigate and to report, what happened inside agencies fated to influence Florida’s quality of life and environment was relegated to hotel conference rooms, blue ribbon panels, planning events, the rubbing of shoulders and interests, the revolving door between regulated and regulators. With so many masters, it is no wonder so few noticed when DCA disappeared.

This analysis of what John DeGrove helped establish and has now passed sends a message that few in positions of responsibility and political authority want to hear much less acknowledge: that careful integration of regulation of land use and financial derivatives at the most important nexus of the housing equation, where and how land is allocated and zoned for development and how to bind financing to those places in particular, could have saved the economy. The tools are there. The will is not.

Instead, having plunged the economy into the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the Growth Machine that succeeded in “regulatory capture” has now defined risk as any regulations at all; the worst being those that inhibit growth and jobs. The more science-based arguments to the contrary, the more suspect. What the Growth Machine requires of consumers is blind faith in the miracle to come.

Congress has never considered how regulation of mortgage backed securities could be used to strengthen growth management and reinvigorate the US economy. In hindsight, it is shocking that decision makers embraced financial derivatives based on mortgages without making any connection to impoverished built landscape created through the so-called diversification of financial risk. It was the business of the Growth Machine at the state and local levels to tame growth management to its purposes. And tame, they did.

Floridians are as shell-shocked by the collapse of housing values as roseate spoonbills seeking refuge in Tampa far from their natural habitat in the dying Everglades. Today’s generation of Florida’s leaders did not grow up with experience of Florida’s Everglades. Once the baselines are lost, any outcome is like multiplying a number by zero. Still, the questions demand answers.

Had Governor Rick Scott ever heard of John DeGrove before he invested more than $75 million of his own money, paving the road to the Governor’s Mansion? Does he even know where growth management is, now? DeGrove could tell you if he were still alive: it’s gone.

Recently, Scott announced an initiative to solicit community input on what Florida’s future should look like. Prior iterations by Florida governors of blue ribbon panels were used chiefly to undermine DCA. This time it is different. The state is a tabula rasa. But to what purpose?

There is a strong argument to be made that Florida – and the nation – is in an epochal transition. On the one hand, large investments continue to be made – like the announcement of real estate giant Swire Properties to invest $1 billion into a new city center project in downtown Miami. On the other hand, the force of economic uncertainty compounded by climate change promises mean politics of scarcity will seep into depreciation schedules until insurance companies stop writing policies. Florida, with its low lying coastlines, has the most to lose in the nation. In a scenario where powerful financial interests are increasingly hedging their bets – with taxpayer dollars as the case may be – it is no wonder that maximum advantage is served by limiting the role of government. On a sinking ship, it is every man for himself, damn the women and children.

John DeGrove and a small cadre of land use policy experts sought a better and more civil way. They maintained professional excellence and high standards despite political malfeasance and fraud above their pay grades. It took wise men a seeming eternity to create the Florida Department of Community Affairs. It took a man-made calamity to destroy what they created.
2012-06-26 "The Feds are watching -- badly; The FBI's modern snoop program is racist, xenophobic, misdirected, dangerous -- and really, really stupid" by Natalie Orenstein and Yael Chanoff from "San Francisco Bay Guardian"
So, you're a law enforcement officer in training for participation on a local Joint Terrorism Task Force. Or a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, involved in the counterterrorism training program developed in partnership with the FBI. Or you're an FBI agent training up to deal with terrorist threats.
Get ready for FBI training in dealing with Arab and Muslim populations.
Take note that "Western cultural values" include "rational, straight line thinking" and a tendency to "identify problems and solve them through logical decision-making process" — while "Arab cultural values" are "emotional based" and "facts are colored by emotion and subjectivity."
Be advised that Arabs have "no concept of privacy" and "no concept of 'constructive criticism'" and that in Arab culture it is "acceptable to interrupt conversations to convey information or make requests."
"Westerners think, act, then feel," an FBI powerpoint briefing notes, while "Arabs feel, act, then think."
Those are some of the most dramatic examples of racial profiling and outright racist stereotyping revealed in thousands of pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Bay Guardian, the ACLU of Northern California and the Asian Law Caucus.
The documents show a pattern of cultural insensitivity, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, not only tolerated by promoted as official instructions by the FBI. The records also show a broad pattern of surveillance of people who have engaged in no criminal activity and aren't even suspected of crimes, but have been targeted because of their race or religion.
Pieces of this story have come out over the past year as the ACLU has charged the FBI with racial profiling and Attorney General Eric Holder has insisted it's not happening. And some of the documents — which are not always properly dated — may be a few years old.
But none of it is ancient history: All of the material has been used by the FBI in the past few years, under the Obama administration.
This is the first complete report with the full details on a pattern of behavior that is, at the very least, disturbing — and in some parts, reminiscent of the notorious (and widely discredited) COINTELPRO program that sought to undermine and disrupt political groups in the 1960s.
The information suggests that the federal government is using methods that are not only imprecise and xenophobic but utterly ineffective in protecting the American public.
"This is the worst way to pursue security," Hatem Bazian, professor of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley, told us.

Dozens of documents attempt to describe "Arabs and Muslims" but other groups aren't left out of the sweeping stereotyping and blatant racism and xenophobia that the FBI has used in its training guides. One training presentation is titled "The Chinese." The materials give such tips as "informality is perceived as disrespectful." The presentation warns "expect your gift (money) to be refused" but advises to give "a simple gift with significant meaning- tangerines or oranges (with stems/leaves.)" But "never give a clock as a gift! (death!)"
And if those in the training on "The Chinese" find themselves in "interactions with the opposite sex," then "touching, too many compliments, may imply a romantic liaison is desired — be careful!"
The vast majority of the "cultural awareness" training materials imply that the authors believe that the law enforcement personnel receiving the training will never be female or interact with female members of the groups they describe. Some warn repeatedly to never ask Arabs how "females in their family" are doing in polite conversation.
A presentation on "Arab and Muslim culture" compares the western thought process with that of all Arabs. According to the FBI, westerners are "rational" thinkers; Arabs, on the other hand, are "emotion based." A slideshow on cross-cultural interrogation techniques says, "It is characteristic of the Arabic mind to be swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts."
Bazian said the FBI's generalizations about the Arab intellect are "ideological constructs reflective of the orientalist discourse."
"Many of these individuals have not done any primary sociological, psychological, or historical work in the Arab/Muslim world," said Bazian, who works on UC Berkeley's Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project. "What they basically do is take a text from a particular historical period and pick these points and put it as reflective of contemporary Muslim society. Most of these statements have no basis in any critical analysis. They're not rooted in any type of research."
Included in the FBI's recommended reading list for counterterrorism agents-in-training is the "Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam," in which "Islam expert Robert Spencer reveals Islam's ongoing, unshakeable quest for global conquest and why the West today faces the same threat as the Crusaders did."
It's not exactly an academically sound piece of work, Bazian told us. Spencer and his cohorts are "political hacks," the professor said. "They come from neo-con backgrounds. Even saying 'extreme right wing' is giving them credit; they're way down below the cliff. They create this contrast between western society and the rest of the world based on a nostalgic idea of western society."
Arab culture is often the target these days, but the rhetoric recalls that used during the Chinese Exclusionary Act era, and toward Latinos in the United States today, Bazian said.
"They pick on the weakest, most vulnerable people in western society at a particular time and lay blame on them," he said.
The FBI's xenophobic approach to interrogation training—which involves warning new agents that "If an Arab is scared, he will often lie to try to avoid trouble"—is not even productive, Bazian said.
"If you go to people with professional training in interrogation and investigation, they'll say none of this gives them access to security. If anything, it creates a greater global misunderstanding."

And the creation of misunderstanding doesn't stop there. The FBI is also involved in an intelligence-gathering method known as racial mapping. Racial mapping involves local FBI offices tracking groups in their "domains" based on race and ethnicity.
In blog post, the ACLU writes, "Empirical data show that terrorists and criminals do not fit neat racial, ethnic, nation-origin or religious stereotypes, and using such flawed profiles is a recipe for failure." In the Counterterrorism Textbook read by all trainees the FBI seems to agree, warning multiple times that there is no such thing as a typical terrorist and that making assumptions based on stereotypes is dangerous and unproductive.
Yet the FBI files we've acquired reveal that the bureau consistently does just that. Though the Department of Justice prohibited race from being "used to any degree" in law enforcement investigations in 2003, a convenient and potentially unconstitutional exception allows racial profiling in national security matters.
When the FBI created its Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide in 2008, it used that loophole to permit the mapping of racial and ethnic demographic information and to keep tabs on "behavioral characteristics reasonably associated with a particular criminal or terrorist element of an ethnic community," the ACLU reported.
Communities in San Francisco have been the victims of this prejudicial loophole more than once. In 2009, the ACLU reported that the FBI justified mapping and investigating the Chinese American population in the city because "within this community there has been organized crime for generations." Likewise, the bureau collected demographic data on the Russian population because of the "Russian criminal enterprises" known to exist in San Francisco.
The loophole, however, may not even apply to these investigations in the first place.
According to Michael German, a 16-year veteran of the FBI and senior analyst with the ACLU, these investigations don't fit the national security description. "In intelligence notes on Chinese and Russian organized crime, those are not national security issues," German told us. "Those are all clearly criminal investigations."
German has brought attention to another troubling use of racial mapping — documents revealing that the FBI's Atlanta bureau tracks Georgia's African American population.
The stated reason is a threat of black separatist groups; the documents name the New Black Panther Party and the Black Hebrew Israelites as the black separatist groups that pose a threat.
German wrote about this problematic practice in a May 29 article on the website Firedoglake.
"The problem with these documents," German told us, "is that it's not black separatists or alleged black separatists who are being tracked — it's the entire black community in Georgia."
"Those individuals and those communities are being targeted only for their race," German said. "Were it not for their race they wouldn't be part of that assessment. There is no reason to do that, accept to treat that community differently than the way it treats other communities. It's problematic from a constitutional standpoint."
The New Black Panther Party was founded in Dallas and has mostly East Coast chapters. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate United States hate groups, "The group portrays itself as a militant, modern-day expression of the black power movement (it frequently engages in armed protests of alleged police brutality and the like), but principals of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s— a militant, but non-racist, left-wing organization — have rejected the new Panthers as a 'black racist hate group' and contested their hijacking of the Panther name and symbol." The Black Hebrew Israelites is another fringe group, an apocalyptic group whose ideology holds that black Americans are God's chosen people.
Both groups have written and spoken record of racist and violent rhetoric, but record of violent or criminal acts are hard to find.
"I'd say they're a fairly small part of the radical right, and generally quite small. As far as we know, there is virtually no connection between these groups and criminal activity," Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the SPLC, told the Guardian.
According to Potok, the center's list of hate groups in operation in 2011 includes four organizations classified as black separatist, which, between them, have 140 chapters. Those chapters are counted as 140 of the list's 1,018 groups.
"Most of the rest of the list are white supremacist groups," Potok notes. "There are some exceptions — anti-gay groups and anti-Muslim groups." After a quick count, Potok found 688 groups to be "straight-up white supremacist."
The majority of these hate groups may be white supremacist — but the FBI is not involved in tracking white populations.
Last October, the FBI's press office responded to the ACLU's concerns with racial mapping. "These efforts are intended to address specific threats, not particular communities," the agency's statement reads.
"These domain management efforts seek to use existing, available government data to locate and better understand the communities that are potential victims of the threats. There must be an understanding of the communities we protect in order to focus our limited human and financial resources in the areas where those resources are most needed."
With that defense, resources continue to pour into racial mapping efforts.
Black separatist organizations are not the only groups to be targeted for political beliefs. Groups such as "anarchist extremists" and "animal rights/environmental extremists" are also, according to the FBI, groups to watch out for.
A training presentation for the Bay Area's Joint Terrorism Task Force includes a list of those groups: "animal rights/eco terrorism, anarchists, white separatists, black separatists, militia/sovereign citizens, and 'lone offender'."
How do you spot a potential "animal rights extremist"? According to the documents, "ideology and concepts" found among this group includes a "complete vegan lifestyle," and activities include the promotion of "anti-capitalist literature." In other words, your roommate is probably a terrorist.

Racial mapping is not the only FBI practice that targets people just for being members of groups "associated with crimes." The FBI routinely gathers information on Muslims through deceptive "community outreach" programs.
Memoranda we've obtained reveal that FBI agents, operating under the guise of community outreach, attended various events hosted by local Muslim organizations in order to gather intelligence between 2007 and 2009.
When agents attended Ramadan Iftar dinners in San Francisco, they wrote down participants' contact information and documented their conversations and opinions. At an alleged outreach event at CSU Chico, they recorded a conversation with a student about the Saudi Student Association's activities and even took the student's picture. That information was sent to the FBI in Washington, DC, the ACLU reported.
Writing down information on individuals' First Amendment activities—in this case without any evidence that they were notified or asked—violates the federal Privacy Act, the ACLU says. Using access to community events to gather personal information undermines the FBI's stated effort to form relationships with Muslim leaders and community members.
And covert surveillance can also have an immediate and hazardous impact on the unwitting subjects.
"It's becoming more of a public discourse that these FBI background checks are affecting immigration status, the ability to send money back home, and generally creating an environment of fear," said Miriam Zouvounis, membership coordinator with San Francisco's Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
The organization has helped clients who have been detained for months because their names were mistakenly placed on a no-fly list, and others whose immigration processes have taken up to ten years because they were erroneously perceived as threatening, Zouvounis said.
"The process of information collecting on covert and overt levels is accelerating, and definitely a present reality in San Francisco. People don't want to be civically engaged if that material's being used against them," she said.

"Extremism online is the most serious international terrorist threat in the world." Or so says FBI training materials in a presentation entitled "Extremism online," meant for those training to be online covert employees. The documents teach OCEs to scan through comment threads and enter chat rooms, searching for people whose speech may be "operational."
This surveillance has led to investigations.
Some of the documents are individual files and summaries of individual files, and many note that the person (often someone who was convicted, so the name isn't redacted in the documents) was "detected via the Internet." Some examples: "Mohamad Osman Mohamud, detected via the Internet, discussing Jihad plans" and "Hosam Smadi, detected via the Internet: online chats." Both men were 19 when they were convicted of crimes.
These men — and the many more who have not been accused of any criminal activity but are likely under surveillance or investigation by OCEs — could have been "detected via the Internet" in a variety of ways, according to German.
"It could be that the chats were open source, or that an informant was in the chat room, or a person participating simply turned them over to the FBI, none of which would require any legal process," German explained.
"It could also be monitored under FISA [ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] or traditional criminal wiretaps, which would require court warrants (secret ones under FISA). Finally, the stored chat logs retained on third party servers could have been obtained with Patriot Act Section 215 orders, or what's called a "D" order under the Stored Communications Act (if held for over 180 days)," German detailed in an email.
So what kind of speech are OCEs looking out for to peg potential terrorist threats? The Extremism Online presentation has a list of "major themes and language used in online extremist writings," which includes Islam-related terms such as "Caliphate, Al-Ansar, Al-Rafidah, Mushrik, and Munafiq" as well as the Arabic words "Akhi, Uhkti, Ameen, Du'aa, Shari'ah, and Iman" (brother, sister, amen, prayer, Islamic law, and faith.) Other words the agents are told to look out for: "crusaders, hypocrites, dogs and pigs," and any discussion of "occupation of Muslim lands."
The FBI can really get into your business if agents confiscate your possessions. Personal computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, according to the documents, are routinely checked out at Regional Computer Forensics Labs.
The nearest one to San Francisco is in Menlo Park, where employees brag of having investigated thousands of pieces of data.
Law enforcement routinely confiscates property after arrests, and if local cops are involved with the FBI through the Joint Terrorism Task Forces or other partnerships, they may very well send the belongings of those arrested to be checked out at a local RCFL. But there are other ways the FBI can obtain your electronics.
"Certainly the FBI has the authority to obtain computers and other devices with search warrants, either traditional search warrants where the individual is given notice or expedited warrants where the person isn't aware," German told the Guardian, noting that the second type of warrant is the preferred method, for obvious reasons, when the Feds plan to search a confiscated computer.
"The FBI also works with immigrations and customs enforcement, so laptops and other devices seized at the border the FBI can gain access to. There are myriad ways they can get them."

A 2009 FBI memorandum on investigating suspected terrorists reveals that the Bureau encourages its agents to implement a "disruption strategy" that German wrote is "eerily reminiscent" of the COINTELPRO tactics used to stop political organizers in the1960s. "If the risk to public safety is too great, or if all significant intelligence has been collected, and/or the threat is otherwise resolved, investigators may, with substantive desk coordination and concurrence, implement a disruption strategy," one memo reads. Investigators can conduct interviews, make arrests, or use any number of other undefined "tools" to "effectively disrupt subject's [sic] activities." Such disruption strategies have been used in the past to investigate and shut down First Amendment-protected activity, German said. The reintroduction of such tactics could open the door for a major breach of the subjects' constitutional rights.

"After September 11th, 2001, the FBI realigned its mission and purpose to reflect the global and domestic threats that face the US," begins an orientation packet for members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces. "FBI director Robert M. Meuller III defined the following as the top ten priorities (in order of importance) that confront the Bureau today," Number one on the list: Protect the United States from terrorist attack.
Indeed, after 9/11, the FBI prioritized terrorism investigations, a shift from the previous focus on criminal investigations. Classified as national security threats, these investigations are not subject to the same type of privacy and anti-racial discrimination protections that other criminal investigations might be.
Terrorist threats, apparently, are to be found in mosques, in online conversations that involve criticism of US foreign policy, in entire populations of African Americans or Chinese Americans in given areas. In recent years, simply speaking Arabic online or being black makes a person a suspect and potential target of surveillance.
Look out America, especially members of that celebrated "melting pot." The feds are watching.