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Property Rights and Taxes (and Places You Can Avoid Them)

Guest Contributor Nick Giambruno |  BenSwann.com  |  May 8 2014

Do you really own something that you are forced to perpetually make payments on and which can be seized from you if you don’t pay?

I would say that you don’t.

You would possess such an item, but you wouldn’t own it—an important distinction

A ridiculous perversion of the concept of ownership and property rights has infected most of the world like a virus: something that most people unquestioningly accept as a normal part of life—like it’s a part of the eternal fabric of the cosmos.

I am talking about property taxes, of course.

You know, the annual tax you pay that is based not on whether any income was generated, but rather on the underlying value of real estate you supposedly “own.” There is no way to pay off this obligation in one fell swoop; it stays with you for as long as you “own” the property.

In actuality, you don’t own anything which you must pay property taxes on—you are merely renting it from the government.

Suppose you bought a sofa set and coffee table for your living room for $5,000 cash, and then had the obligation to pay $100—or a percentage of the furniture’s value—in tax each year for as long as you “owned” it. Then suppose that for whatever reason you’re unable or unwilling to pay your furniture’s property tax. It won’t take long for the government to swoop in and confiscate it to pay off your delinquent taxes. You get to “own” it as long as you pay the never-ending annual fee—stop paying and you’ll find out who really owns it.

While many people would correctly find a furniture property tax absurd, they also illogically find it acceptable for the government to levy an insatiable tax on different assets—namely their homes, offices, and raw land.

But to me at least, the type of asset being taxed is not what makes it absurd, it’s the concept of property taxes that is absurd.

Respect for property rights and property taxes are mutually exclusive concepts. What’s yours is yours, and you shouldn’t need to pay the government for permission to keep it.

It’s not uncommon for people in North America and Europe to pay tens of thousands of dollars per year in property taxes… just to live in their own homes. And this burden will almost certainly continue to rise. Property taxes are constantly being raised in most places, especially in places with poor fiscal health.

It’s very possible that over a lifetime, the total amount of property taxes extracted will exceed what was paid for the underlying property in the first place.

And, just like the furniture example above, if you don’t pay your property tax (AKA government rent) on the home you thought you owned, it will be confiscated. This is not as uncommon as some would believe. It was estimated that 10,000 people in Pennsylvania alone lose their homes annually because they aren’t able to keep up with the property taxes.

Using the word “own” and “ownership” in these contexts is the sloppy use of the word—which always leads to sloppy thinking.

Speaking of sloppy thinking, expect Boobus Americanus to say things like “how would we pay for local services like public schools if it weren’t for property taxes?” Of course, these services could be funded in many different ways—or better, they could be provided for in the free market. But don’t expect that to happen. In fact, given the social, political, and economic dynamics in the US and most of the rest of the West, expect the opposite—property taxes have nowhere to go but north.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can own real estate in certain countries and can skip the annual property-tax harvest.

I have previously written that I view real estate in foreign countries—along with physical gold held abroad—as superior vehicles for long-term savings.

However, foreign real estate has its drawbacks. It’s illiquid and has carrying costs like maintenance expenses and, of course, property taxes. To diminish these costs that eat away at your real estate investment, it is essential to minimize or eliminate them.

Here’s a list of countries that do not levy any property taxes:

PropertyTaxlessCountries

That’s it. If you want to escape the rapacious and ridiculous property tax, these are your options.

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Chris Hedges: We’re Losing the Last Shreds of Legal Rights to Protect Ourselves from Oligarchy

Chris Hedges | Alternet | May 5th 2014

Summer-Law-ProgramsThe U.S. Supreme Court decision to refuse to hear our case concerning Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers without due process, means that this provision will continue to be law. It means the nation has entered a post-constitutional era. It means that extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil by our government is legal. It means that the courts, like the legislative and executive branches of government, exclusively serve corporate power — one of the core definitions of fascism. It means that the internal mechanisms of state are so corrupted and subservient to corporate power that there is no hope of reform or protection for citizens under our most basic constitutional rights. It means that the consent of the governed — a poll by OpenCongress.com showed that this provision had a 98 percent disapproval rating — is a cruel joke. And it means that if we do not rapidly build militant mass movements to overthrow corporate tyranny, including breaking the back of the two-party duopoly that is the mask of corporate power, we will lose our liberty.

“In declining to hear the case Hedges v. Obama and declining to review the NDAA, the Supreme Court has turned its back on precedent dating back to the Civil War era that holds that the military cannot police the streets of America,” said attorney Carl Mayer, who along with Bruce Afran devoted countless unpaid hours to the suit. “This is a major blow to civil liberties. It gives the green light to the military to detain people without trial or counsel in military installations, including secret installations abroad. There is little left of judicial review of presidential action during wartime.”

Afran, Mayer and I brought the case to the U.S. Southern District Court of New York in January 2012. I was later joined by co-plaintiffs Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Alexa O’Brien, RevolutionTruth founder  Tangerine Bolen, Icelandic parliamentarian  Birgitta Jonsdottir and Occupy London activist  Kai Wargalla.

Later in 2012 U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest declared Section 1021(b)(2) unconstitutional. The Obama administration not only appealed — we expected it to appeal — but demanded that the law be immediately put back into effect until the appeal was heard. Forrest, displaying the same judicial courage she showed with her ruling, refused to do this.

The government swiftly went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. It asked, in the name of national security, that the court stay the district court’s injunction until the government’s appeal could be heard. The 2nd Circuit agreed. The law went back on the books. My lawyers and I surmised that this was because the administration was already using the law to detain U.S. citizens in black sites, most likely dual citizens with roots in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. The administration would have been in contempt of court if Forrest’s ruling was allowed to stand while the federal authorities detained U.S. citizens under the statute. Government attorneys, when asked by Judge Forrest, refused to say whether or not the government was already using the law, buttressing our suspicion that it was in use.

The 2nd Circuit overturned Forrest’s ruling last July in a decision that did not force it to rule on the actual constitutionality of Section 1021(b)(2). It cited the Supreme Court ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International, another case in which I was one of the plaintiffs, to say that I had no standing, or right, to bring the NDAA case to court. Clapper v. Amnesty International challenged the secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Supreme Court had ruled in Clapper that our concern about government surveillance was “speculation.” It said we were required to prove to the court that the FISA Act would be used to monitor those we interviewed. The court knew, of course, that the government does not disclose whom it is monitoring. It knew we could never offer proof. The leaks by Edward Snowden, which came out after the Supreme Court ruling, showed that the government was monitoring us all, along with those we interviewed. The 2nd Circuit used the spurious Supreme Court ruling to make its own spurious ruling. It said that because we could not show that the indefinite-detention law was about to be used against us, just as we could not prove government monitoring of our communications, we could not challenge the law. It was a dirty game of judicial avoidance on two egregious violations of the Constitution.

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Chris Hedges: The Crime of Peaceful Protest

Chris Hedges | Truthdig | April 29th 2014

Occupy Wall Street activists Eric Linkser, center left, and Cecily McMillan, far right, take turns shouting information to fellow protesters preparing to return to Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15, 2011. AP/Bebeto Matthews

Occupy Wall Street activists Eric Linkser, center left, and Cecily McMillan, far right, take turns shouting information to fellow protesters preparing to return to Zuccotti Park on Nov. 15, 2011. AP/Bebeto Matthews

NEW YORK—Cecily McMillan, wearing a red dress and high heels, her dark, shoulder-length hair stylishly curled, sat behind a table with her two lawyers Friday morning facing Judge Ronald A. Zweibel in Room 1116 at the Manhattan Criminal Court. The judge seems to have alternated between boredom and rage throughout the trial, now three weeks old. He has repeatedly thrown caustic barbs at her lawyers and arbitrarily shut down many of the avenues of defense. Friday was no exception.

The silver-haired Zweibel curtly dismissed a request by defense lawyers Martin Stolar and Rebecca Heinegg for a motion to dismiss the case. The lawyers had attempted to argue that testimony from the officer who arrested McMillan violated Fifth Amendment restrictions against the use of comments made by a defendant at the time of arrest. But the judge, who has issued an unusual gag order that bars McMillan’s lawyers from speaking to the press, was visibly impatient, snapping, “This debate is going to end.” He then went on to uphold his earlier decision to heavily censor videos taken during the arrest, a decision Stolar said “is cutting the heart out of my ability to refute” the prosecution’s charge that McMillan faked a medical seizure in an attempt to avoid being arrested. “I’m totally handicapped,” Stolar lamented to Zweibel.

The trial of McMillan, 25, is one of the last criminal cases originating from the Occupy protest movement. It is also one of the most emblematic. The state, after the coordinated nationwide eradication of Occupy encampments, has relentlessly used the courts to harass and neutralize Occupy activists, often handing out long probation terms that come with activists’ forced acceptance of felony charges. A felony charge makes it harder to find employment and bars those with such convictions from serving on juries or working for law enforcement. Most important, the long probation terms effectively prohibit further activism.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was not only about battling back against the rise of a corporate oligarchy that has sabotaged our democracy and made war on the poor and the working class. It was also about our right to peaceful protest. The police in cities across the country have been used to short-circuit this right. I watched New York City police during the Occupy protests yank people from sidewalks into the street, where they would be arrested. I saw police routinely shove protesters and beat them with batons. I saw activists slammed against police cars. I saw groups of protesters suddenly herded like sheep to be confined within police barricades. I saw, and was caught up in, mass arrests in which those around me were handcuffed and then thrown violently onto the sidewalk. The police often blasted pepper spray into faces from inches away, temporarily blinding the victims. This violence, carried out against nonviolent protesters, came amid draconian city ordinances that effectively outlawed protest and banned demonstrators from public spaces. It was buttressed by heavy police infiltration and surveillance of the movement. When the press or activists attempted to document the abuse by police they often were assaulted or otherwise blocked from taking photographs or videos. The message the state delivered is clear: Do not dissent. And the McMillan trial is part of the process.

McMillan, who spent part of her childhood living in a trailer park in rural Texas and who now is a graduate student at The New School for Social Research in New York, found herself with several hundred other activists at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan in March 2012 to mark the six-month anniversary of the start of Occupy Wall Street. The city, fearing the re-establishment of an encampment, deployed large numbers of police officers to clear the park just before midnight of that March 17. The police, heavily shielded, stormed into the gathering in fast-moving lines. Activists were shoved, hit, knocked to the ground. Some ran for safety. More than 100 people were arrested on the anniversary. After the violence, numerous activists would call the police aggression perhaps the worst experienced by the Occupy movement. In the mayhem McMillan—whose bruises were photographed and subsequently were displayed to Amy Goodman on the “Democracy Now!” radio, television and Internet program—was manhandled by a police officer later identified as Grantley Bovell. [Click here to see McMillan interviewed on “Democracy Now!” She appears in the last 10 minutes of the program.]

 

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People Standing for Justice – Foster Gamble

By Foster Gamble | Thrive Movement

Some good news about what’s happening in the Justice sector, I believe, is that we are not just waking up to the phenomenal abuse of power, but also to questioning the Government’s fundamental power to abuse.

justice

Audio Transcription

Foster: Hi Folks. Foster here. I want to take a few minutes today to talk about some things in the Governance Sector and give a little Justice update. In the shadow of Citizen’s United, the Supreme Court case that legalized corporations giving basically unlimited money to political campaigns, we now have the recent and horrifying McCutcheon v. FEC (Federal Elections Commission). This decision basically takes the limits off individual bribes (oops! I mean campaign contributions) to individual parties, to individuals themselves, and to political PACs (Political Action Committees).

I want to unpack this a little bit because when I see the constant battling where one side says, “This is going to open the field for bribery” and the other says, “No, no, it’s a free speech issue” and then other people say, “Well, corporations should be people and therefore they should have free speech”, it’s obviously very muddled and complex beyond what common sense would dictate, at least to me. I want to suggest it’s always gone this way throughout history that when anyone is designated as being special, whether it’s a pharaoh or a king or a priest or a dictator or politicians or central bankers or secret agents, they will end up working covertly to spread and protect their artificial power over others until, finally, war or revolution or economic collapse affects what’s usually known as regime change. Then, that change is just the next regime.

I want to suggest that the problem is the notion of regime itself. As Stefan Molyneux says, “It’s not just the abuse of power that’s the problem, it’s the power to abuse.” When people are fighting about campaign finance reform and whether or not corporations should be able to literally take their employees’ and stock holders’ money and pour it into both sides or more parties in a political campaign in order to make sure that they get their way no matter who’s elected, is that really the way to build a sustainable civilization? What I keep coming back to is that the notion of anyone either getting voted into or buying their way into having power over other people is so dangerous and unjust, especially in the age of suitcase sized nuclear weapons and bacterial and chemical warfare and so forth, that if we’re going to make it, we have to find another way. I think that other way is ultimately transcending the whole notion of anyone ruling over anyone else.

I’ll comeback to that in a minute, but I want to give a little bit of good news that’s actually in the legislative area. This is what I would refer to as Stage 1 events in the THRIVE 3-Stage Solutions Strategy, where we’re trying to bring as much integrity as we can to the existing system. Here are a few highlights… The Washington State Senate recently passed an anti-drone bill, 46-1. The South Carolina House voted to restrict drones, 100-0. In Oklahoma, the House voted to nullify Agenda 21, 66-26. (Any of you who are not aware of Agenda 21, in short, it’s the covert, U.N.-backed globalist plan for the government to take over resources, property, and political control at the grassroots level with thousands of communities being flipped simultaneously, all under the guise of sustainability. I’ve got a lot more information on this in a blog that I did specifically on Agenda 21 that I’ll link to underneath this blog.) Idaho has introduced a bill that effectively nullifies the new federal gun control measures and in Missouri, their Senate voted to nullify federal gun control, 23-10. (For those of you who might be surprised by me presenting these last decisions as good news, for those who think that people should not have access to weapons to protect themselves, I recommend that you look at my prior blog that goes into the details of the risks of leaving arms only in the hands of the State, the military and criminals. It will show you my thinking on how most major dictators from Mussolini and Stalin and Hitler and Mao have preceded their lethal regimes with massive disarming of the people in order, obviously, to prohibit resistance that would have come later on. I’ll put the link to that article, inspired by Sandy Hook, down below the blog as well.)

So what do all these stories have in common? From one perspective, people are trying to use the government and the court system to stand up for their rights. Ideally, from my perspective, none of this begging for rights from authoritarian rulers or frequently co-opted courts should be necessary because no person or organization should have rights that all people don’t have. I believe that any individual or corporation that is violating any person, their privacy, or their property should be prosecuted and need to provide restitution. These legislative wins that I refer to are examples of that Stage, of bringing as much integrity to our existing institutions as we can while we’re transforming our society to a free one. As we learn to move into self-ownership and self-governance, where there are defensive rules to protect against aggression and fraud, hopefully we’re going to look back at the obvious evidence showing government to be the most lethal concept in human history with over 200 million deaths just within our governments’ own so-called jurisdiction in the 20th century alone. People who want others to rule them can set up their own special colonies for self-selected coercion, but the rest of us, following the principle of the non-initiation of force, will be free to love, to prosper, and to thrive.

That’s it for now. Please follow us on Facebook and thanks for listening.

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Matt Taibbi: Who Does, and Who Doesn’t, Go to Prison in America

In this interview with former Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi, he compares the non-enforcement of socially destructive white-collar crime with the highly aggressive law enforcement tactics applied to virtually everyone else in America.

Amy Goodman | Alternet.org | April 16 2014

Well, for more, we turn to our guest, Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist, formerly with Rolling Stone magazine, now with First Look Media. His new book is called  The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

Matt, we welcome you back to Democracy Now! It’s a remarkable, important, certainly needed book in this day and age. Talk about the thesis. What is the divide?

AARON MATÉ: Now, you spent time with the—with the poor and vulnerable and people of color, who have been targeted by this system. There was one case of a man in New York, who lives in Bed-Stuy, standing outside of his home who was arrested. Can you take it from there?

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“A Travesty of Justice”: Judge Throws Out Challenge to Extrajudicial Killings of Americans via Drones

Andream Germanos | Commondreams | 5th April 2014

abdulrahman-al-aulaki_0 (1)

16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, who the Obama administration has admitted to killing in a drone strike.

A US federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s killing of three Americans in drone strokes, a decision slammed as “a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy.”

The case was brought by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of family members of the victims killed in 2011 in Yemen: Anwar Al-Aulaqi, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, and Samir Khan.

The Obama administration admitted last year that it had killed the three, though the older al-Aulaqi, described as a senior AQAP leader and “intimately involved in detailed planning and putting in place plots against U.S. persons,” was the only of the three that was “specifically targeted.”

The rights groups had charged that Anwar al-Aulaqi was put on the government’s “kill list,” and put there “without due process and without any effort to capture, arrest and try him.”  Khan was traveling in the same vehicle and was killed the attack that targeted Anwar al-Aulaqi. Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi was killed in a separate drone strike that targeted another individual weeks later.

In her ruling delivered Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer dismissed the challenge to the constitutionality of the killings.

The officials named as defendants in the suit, including then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.”

Though siding with the defendants, Collyer writes in her opinion: “The powers granted to the Executive and Congress to wage war and provide for national security does not give them carte blanche to deprive a U.S. citizen of his life without due process and without any judicial review.”

Collyer states that the victims’ Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because they were not “seized,” they were killed, because “[u]nmanned drones are functionally incapable of ‘seizing’ a person; they are designed to kill, not capture.”

The Fifth Amendment violation does not apply to the younger al-Aulaqi or Khan, as they were not deliberately targeted, she writes, explaining that it was “negligence” that they were harmed as bystanders. “Mere negligence does not give rise to a constitutional deprivation,” she states in her opinion.

For Anwar al-Aulaqi’s due process rights’ violations, Collyer writes that “the Court finds no available remedy under U.S. law for this claim.”

“In this delicate area of warmaking, national security, and foreign relations, the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role. This Court is not equipped to question, and does not make a finding concerning, Defendants’ actions in dealing with AQAP generally or Anwar al-Aulaqi in particular. Its role is much more modest: only to ensure that the circumstances of the exercise of war powers against a specifically-targeted U.S. citizen overseas do not call for the recognition of a new area of Bivens relief,” the opinion states.

The Bivens case, as Politico‘s Josh Gerstein explains, “refer[s] to a line of cases discussing when courts should allow damage lawsuits against government officials.”

“Permitting Plaintiffs to pursue a Bivens remedy under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the Court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,'” Collyer writes, “as the suit would require the Court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States.”

“Further, allowing Plaintiffs to bring a Bivens action against Defendants would hinder their ability in the future to act decisively and without hesitation in defense of U.S. interests,” her opinion continues.

The ACLU and CCR issued statements denouncing the ruling.

“Judge Collyer effectively convicted Anwar Al-Aulaqi posthumously based on the government’s own say-so, and found that the constitutional rights of 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi and Samir Khan weren’t violated because the government didn’t target them,” stated Maria LaHood, CCR Senior Attorney. “It seems there’s no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn’t. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy, and for all victims of the U.S. government’s unlawful killings.”

Added Hina Shamsi, ACLU National Security Project Director and one of the attorneys who argued the case, “The court’s view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution. It is precisely when individual liberties are under such grave threat that we need the courts to act to defend them.”

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McCutcheon, and the Vicious Cycle of Concentrated Wealth and Political Power

(Photo: Public Citizen / cc / flickr)

(Photo: Public Citizen / cc / flickr)

By Robert Reich | Common Dreams

If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be as dangerous. But by taking “Citizen’s United” one step further and effectively eviscerating campaign finance laws, the Court has issued an invitation to oligarchy.

Almost limitless political donations coupled with America’s dramatically widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.

That the richest four hundred Americans now have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans put together, the wealthiest 1 percent own over 35 percent of the nation’s private assets, and 95 percent of all the economic gains since the start of the recovery in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent — all of this is cause for worry, and not just because it means the middle class lacks the purchasing power necessary to get the economy out of first gear.

It is also worrisome because such great concentrations of wealth so readily compound themselves through politics, rigging the game in their favor and against everyone else. “McCutcheon” merely accelerates this vicious cycle.

As Thomas Piketty shows in his monumental “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” this was the pattern in advanced economies through much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And it is coming to be the pattern once again.

Picketty is pessimistic that much can be done to reverse it (his sweeping economic data suggest that slow growth will almost automatically concentrate great wealth in a relatively few hands). But he disregards the political upheavals and reforms that such wealth concentrations often inspire — such as America’s populist revolts of the 1890s followed by the progressive era, or the German socialist movement in the 1870s followed by Otto von Bismarck’s creation of the first welfare state.

In America of the late nineteenth century, the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, prompting the great jurist Louis Brandeis to note that the nation had a choice: “We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few,” he said. “But we cannot have both.”

Soon thereafter America made the choice. Public outrage gave birth to the nation’s first campaign finance laws, along with the first progressive income tax. The trusts were broken up and regulations imposed to bar impure food and drugs. Several states enacted America’s first labor protections, including the 40-hour workweek.

The question is when do we reach another tipping point, and what happens then?

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About the Author

Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller, Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at www.robertreich.org.




Undermining the Foundations of American Democracy: Supreme Court Abolishes Campaign Contribution Limits

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision Wednesday in McCutcheon v. FEC overturned a law that allowed the federal government to cap how much an individual could give to multiple federal candidates and committees in a single campaign cycle. The $123,200 overall limit for total contributions to campaigns, parties, and PACs will no longer be in effect, although contributions to individual candidates remain limited to $2,600. Potentially opening the door to a flood of cash from wealthy individuals, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion, stating that this ruling “perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.” Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses the Supreme Court’s ruling with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow.  In the 2nd video (see below), RT’s Lindsay France looks into this historic ruling.  Read more: How The Supreme Court Just Legalized Money Laundering By Rich Campaign Donors




Senate Report: CIA Has Been Lying About Torture

Source: RT America

The CIA has been misleading Congress and the public about its interrogation practices for years, according to The Washington Post. Post reporters spoke with officials who have seen a still classified report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, detailing the growth of secret “black sites,” misstatements on the effectiveness of harsh interrogation techniques, and how the CIA has misled Congress about how they gain intelligence from detainees. The controversial report is expected to come before the full Senate on Thursday for a vote on whether to declassify the document. RT’s Ameera David speaks with national security journalist Marcy Wheeler about these new revelations.




The “Big Secret” Behind the CIA Spying on the Congress: America’s Rogue Government

Washingtonblog | March 13 2014

What You DON’T KNOW About CIA Fight with Congress

ciaYou’ve heard that there’s a big battle between the CIA and Congress over the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of documents related to the Bush-era torture program.

Many are calling it a “constitutional crisis“. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa calls it potential “treason“.

The congress members complaining about spying by the CIA are right, of course.

But they are hypocrites. Specifically, these same congress members  didn’t raise a peep when the government was spying on the people … and instead defended the government’s mass surveillance at every opportunity.

There are hundreds of thousands of Google hits for the search term “Hypocrisy CIA Senate Feinstein“.

High-level NSA whistleblower Bill BinneyEdward Snowden, a very high-level former CIA officer, aformer FBI agent and many others are all slamming Congress for the hypocrisy

Even Jon Stewart has lambasted them:

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook

(And this isn’t the first time that Congress has been hypocritical when the spying was turned against them personally.)

A corrupt CIA is certainly part of the problem.   After all, the same guy who was the lawyer for the CIA torture unit – and who was mentioned 1,600 times in the Senate intelligence report on torture – is now the chief counsel for the CIA … the guy working so hard to make sure the torture report is never released. (He was also involved in the destruction of tapes documenting CIA torture … discussed more fully below).

And don’t let Obama fool you: The White House is a big part of the problem as well.

Obama has for years prevented the Senate Intelligence report on torture – what the CIA’s spying is all about – from being declassified.

Glenn Greenwald tweets:

Could someone remind me who appointed [CIA director] John Brennan and to whom he reports? Having trouble finding it in most discussions ….

Obama appointed current CIA-director John Brennan, who – before the appointment – had expressly endorsed torture, assassination of unidentified strangers (including Americans) without due process, and spying on all Americans, and got caught in numerous lies related to national security and defense.   (Indeed, Brennan insisted that he be sworn in with a copy of the Constitution which didn’t include the Bill of Rights.)

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Feinstein v. the CIA: A Moment of Truth

Robert Scheer | Truthdig | 12 03 2014

senateIt was a truly historic moment Tuesday when Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to warn that the CIA’s continuing cover-up of its torture program is threatening our constitutional division of power. By blatantly concealing what Feinstein condemned as “the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed,” the spy agency now acts as a power unto itself, and the agency’s outrages have finally aroused the senator’s umbrage.

As Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chair of the Judiciary Committee that will be investigating Feinstein’s charges noted, “in 40 years here, it was one of the best speeches I’d ever heard and one of the most important.” That was particularly so, given that Feinstein’s searing indictment of the CIA’s decade-long subversion of congressional oversight of its torture program comes from a senator who previously has worked overtime to justify the subversion of democratic governance by the CIA and other spy agencies.

But clearly the lady has by now had enough, given the CIA’s recent hacking of her Senate committee’s computers in an effort to suppress a key piece of evidence supporting the veracity of the committee’s completed but still not released 6,300-page study that the CIA is bent on suppressing.

The Senate’s investigation began in earnest with the Dec. 7, 2007, revelation in The New York Times that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of its “enhanced interrogation techniques,” despite objections from then-President Bush’s director of national security and the White House counsel. At that time, then-committee chair Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., sent staffers to begin the painstaking process of reviewing the limited material that the CIA was willing to make available; their preliminary report wasn’t issued until early 2009.

By then, Feinstein had assumed the chairmanship and, as she recalled in her Tuesday speech, “The resulting staff report was chilling. The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us.”

Feinstein, ostensibly backed by new President Barack Obama, who had campaigned as an opponent of the CIA’s methods, obtained the committee’s bipartisan backing for an expanded investigation. But the CIA, led at the time by Obama appointee Leon Panetta, the former Democratic congressman, put numerous logistical obstacles in the way of the Senate investigation.

As Feinstein pointed out, “the CIA hired a team of outside contractors—who otherwise would not have had access to these sensitive documents—to read, multiple times, each of the 6.2 million pages of documents produced, before providing them to fully-cleared committee staff conducting the committee’s oversight work. This proved to be a slow and very expensive process.”

It was so slow that the committee’s investigation has only now been completed. Along the way, documents that Senate staffers found interesting would then mysteriously disappear from the system. One such set of disappeared documents, referred to as the “Internal Panetta Review,” is now at the center of the CIA hacking scandal.

The Panetta Review became relevant in June, when the CIA offered its critique of the Senate study. But as Feinstein points out, “Some of those important parts that the CIA now disputes in our committee study are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own Internal Panetta Review. To say the least, this is puzzling. How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own Internal Review?”

Relations between the Senate committee responsible for oversight of the CIA and the agency were so poor that, as Feinstein states, “after noting the disparity between the official CIA response to the committee study and the Internal Panetta Review, the committee staff securely transported a printed portion of the draft Internal Panetta Review from the committee’s secure room at the CIA-leased facility to the secure committee spaces in the Hart Senate Office Building.”

Feinstein defended the committee staff’s spiriting information away from the CIA:

“As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program. … There was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.”

The response of the CIA was to hack the computers that Senate staffers had been using at the CIA off-site location, and the agency’s acting general counsel filed a crimes report with the Department of Justice against the Senate committee’s staff.

That was too much for Feinstein, who outed the CIA’s counsel:

“I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program.

[read full post here]




Margin of Safety Dwindles at Federal Reserve

Sovereign Man   
Caribbean coast, Honduras

, March 11 2014

USBill_RedeemableInGoldCoin

But this price of money is incredibly influential around the world. Interest rates affect the prices of shares in the stock market. Oil. Agricultural commodities. Real estate. Automobiles.

 Almost everything we touch is affected by interest rates.


We have somehow been conned into believing that the path to prosperity is for the grand wizards of the financial system to conjure paper currency out of thin air.


I bring this up because I want to share a chart with you that I presented yesterday to a savvy group of investors.


Bear in mind first that a central bank, like any bank or business, has both assets and liabilities.


FederalReserveCapital

The lower this line goes, the more the Fed gets pushed into insolvency.



‘Citizens Won Today’: Judge Strikes Down Nebraska’s Keystone XL OK

Andrea Germanos | Commondreams

Photo: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska/cc/flickr

Photo: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska/cc/flickr

In a victory for opponents of the Keystone XL, a local judge on Wednesday struck down a law that would allow the tar sands pipeline to pass through Nebraska, the Associated Press is reporting.

Republican Gov. Dave Heineman approved TransCanada’s pipeline over a year ago, but in aruling today Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy states that Nebraska’s Legislative Bill 1161, which allowed for pipeline companies to go around the state’s Public Service Commission to get approval, is unconstitutional, and therefore the governor’s action was “predicated on an unconstitutional statute” and as such is null and void.

The ruling siding with the three landowner plaintiffs means that “TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska. TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners,” stated Dave Domina, an attorney who represented plaintiffs in the case, in a media release.

“Citizens won today,” stated Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, cheering the ruling.

“We beat a corrupt bill that Gov. Heineman and the Nebraska Legislature passed in order to pave the way for a foreign corporation to run roughshod over American landowners. We look forward to the Public Service Commission giving due process to a route that TransCanada will have to now submit to this proper regulatory body in Nebraska. TransCanada learned a hard lesson today: never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water,” Kleeb stated.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Minority Report Is Here: Chicago Residents Get Police Visit Based on Pre-Crime Surveillance List

Nicholas West | Activistpost | Feb 20th 2014

police_department_star chicagoAs we look around at the Police State being built across the world, combined with enhanced mind control techniques, it is easy to draw direct parallels with books like 1984 andBrave New World. It’s almost as if these books formed a clear blueprint for anyone seeking control over large populations.

With the quickening pace of technological advancement it is no surprise to see “ideas” become reality quicker than ever before. Philip K. Dick explored the concept of pre-crime in his short story “The Minority Report” in 1956, but it wasn’t until Steven Spielberg offered it on the big screen as Minority Report in 2002 that the audience got a true look at a potential day-to-day existence under corporate and government data management and control.

We are now at the point where “Minority Report” is being used as a sound description of current technological applications, even in mainstream news, which means that the future is actually the present. Below you will find 10 signs that we have now entered the world depicted in fiction.

The latest news from Chicago only adds to this list, as police are moving beyond simply possessing the technology and are now putting it into effect.

Chicago’s “Heat List” is an index of approximately 400 people who have been identified by a computer algorithm as being future threats to commit violent crime. Without having actually committed a crime, some of those on the list are beginning to get visits from Chicago police warning them that they are already being watched:

When the Chicago Police Department sent one of its commanders to Robert McDaniel’s home last summer, the 22-year-old high school dropout was surprised. Though he lived in a neighborhood well-known for bloodshed on its streets, he hadn’t committed a crime or interacted with a police officer recently. And he didn’t have a violent criminal record, nor any gun violations. In August, he incredulously told theChicago Tribune, “I haven’t done nothing that the next kid growing up hadn’t done.” Yet, there stood the female police commander at his front door with a stern message: if you commit any crimes, there will be major consequences. We’re watching you.

Chicago is apparently considering this to be part of “policing in the 21st century.” A report from The Verge explains how Chicago has taken the lead in predictive behavior police tech:

In 2009, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) made millions of dollars in grants available for any police department with a burgeoning predictive program. Police all over the country applied to tap into those NIJ dollars. The big winner was Chicago; its combination of headline-making homicide rates and already established data- and tech-focused policing made it a perfect fit. The CPD received more than $2 million to test two phases of its experimental program.

Though it took awhile to get started in earnest (staff turnover and internal politics in 2011 and 2012 stalled the project), last year the CPD’s predictive program picked up steam. One man behind that progress was Miles Wernick.

Wernick is the Motorola professor and director of the Medical Imaging Research Center at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. He says he’s been doing predictive analysis work since the 1980s, when he worked with the US military to recognize potential targets in the battlefield. From there he proceeded to medical imaging. A lot of his current work focuses on analysing data and brain scans to make automated diagnoses of dementias in elderly patients — not exactly police work.

These paragraphs encapsulate two of the major warnings that the alternative media has been shouting for years: namely that military tech always trickles down into local law enforcement; and, secondly, that Big Data initiatives which are heralded by the establishment as solutions in the computing and medical fields have a range of privacy-killing additional applications that affect people far beyond the initially stated reach.

Also highlighted are the same concerns that are cropping up in the area of NSA spying – association is an assumption of tendency toward eventual guilt. Miles Wernick goes on to say:

“It’s not just shooting somebody, or being shot,” he says. “It has to do with the person’s relationships to other violent people.”

This is in line with what Andrew Papachristos, a Yale sociologist and Chicago native, calls a social networking theory. When it comes to violence, Papachristos recently told Chicago Magazine, “It’s not just about your friends and who you’re hanging out with, it’s actually the structure of these networks that matter.”

So while Wernick acknowledges that sometimes people such as Robert McDaniel — who haven’t been convicted of a violent crime — may find themselves in the wrong social networks, their presence on the list is not random.

A commander of the program stated it even more simply:

 If you end up on that list, there’s a reason you’re there.

This indicates a fundamental shift in the way policing will be done in the future of America. Until now, we have been reporting on this type of technology and have been forced to speculate about its coming implementation. Well, now there is no doubt. And lest anyone believe that this is just an outcropping of Chicago’s notoriously Police State-happy mentality, Police Commander Jonathan Lewin matter-of-factly states the following:

This [program] will become a national best practice. This will inform police departments around the country and around the world on how best to utilize predictive policing to solve problems. This is about saving lives. [emphasis added]

Whether it will actually save lives is debatable. Has the No-Fly List saved lives? Have any of the other of the many lists one can be added to these days actually saved any lives? These lists are secretive and have become nearly impossible to independently verify as to how someone got on the list, if they deserve to be there; and, if not, how to get off the list … or if the lists are effective.

The Verge article linked below highlights the potential racial profiling of such policies – and indeed this has happened in the case of New York’s own low-tech Stop-and-Frisk policy.

So the verdict is out on saving lives. But one thing is for certain: the arrival of the high-tech Police State is certainly not about saving freedom, nor is it about preserving a Constitution designed to protect us from a Minority Report society.

Source:
https://www.theverge.com/2014/2/19/5419854/the-minority-report-this-computer-predicts-crime-but-is-it-racist
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10 Signs We Live In a “Minority Report” World

Individual pieces of news often get lost or forgotten rather easily in today’s fast-paced news cycle, so let’s look at an aggregate of 10 mainstream news items that offer a comprehensive picture of where we are and where we are likely to be headed both from a government surveillance standpoint, as well as targeted advertising.

image source

1. They’re watching … Japanese electronics company NEC develops ‘Minority Report’ style billboardThe Telegraph, 3/10/2010: “Engineers have developed the billboard, similar to one used in the Tom Cruise blockbuster, that uses built in cameras to instantly identify a shopper’s age and gender as they walk past. The facial-recognition system, called the Next Generation Digital Signage Solution, then offers consumers a product it thinks is suited to their demographic.”

2. Microsoft Kinect Learns to Read Hand Gestures, Minority Report-Style Interface Now Possible,IEEE Spectrum, 3/10/2013:
https://youtu.be/MwZMNMmODJA

3. The Long Eye of the Law: So Who’s Ready for a ‘Minority Report’-Style Future? Motherboard, 3/20/2013: On Monday, Japanese tech developers Fujitsu announced they had created . . . a bit of technology that can measure a person’s pulse using a camera or a computer webcam, just by analyzing that person’s face . . .  It’s Minority Report-style technology, to be sure—another in a burgeoning list of tech-driven ways police could prevent crimes before they happen.”

*Also see New York’s Domain Awareness System helped along by Microsoft.

4. Minority Report moves step closer as Lord Sugar launches face recognition advertsThe Telegraph, 7/9/2013: “The media company has launched OptimEyes, which will be used in more than 6,000 of its screens to target over 50m people in the UK, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, UAE, Oman, Kenya, Angola and South Africa. However, the majority of the screens, some 3,561, are in the UK in doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, convenience stores, petrol forecourts, Halifax banks, airports and train stations . . . The product comes less than a week after Sky Deutschland revealed it has developed technology to transfer adverts from train windows directly and silently into commuters’ heads.

5. Brain scans of inmates could lead to ‘Minority Report’ style ability to predict if they will re-offend,The Daily Mail, 7/15/2013: “Groundbreaking new research could allow scientists to predict if prisoners will re-offend – potentially condemning those convicted of serious crimes to a lifetime behind bars . . . It could also be used to the benefit of society in using brain imaging in deciding parole.”

6. Gesture Through News Minority Report-Style With New York Times’ Leap Motion AppFast Company, 7/18/2013: Rather than having to flick through headlines on a touch-screen device or scroll through articles using a mouse — how antiquated! — the company’s new app allows readers to navigate through stories by motioning their hands in mid-air, with Leap Motion sensors interpreting the signals . . . The New York Times has also suggested it will give the company an opportunity to implement new advertising capabilities ‘that [will] allow brands to connect with readers using motion-controlled ad units.'”

7. Minority Report finally becomes a reality: new hi-tech video wall will let law enforcement agencies sift through data with a wave of their handThe Daily Mail, 7/23/2013: “The hi-tech computer system behind the film Minority Report – where Tom Cruise speeds through video on a large screen using only hand gestures – is making its way into the real world. American computer experts have revealed the software has become a reality – and they hope to sell it to law enforcement agencies around the world. The interface developed by scientist John Underkoffler has been commercialized by the Los Angeles firm Oblong Industries as a way to sift through massive amounts of video and other data.”

*Also see this report on Big Data and pre-crime software.

8. Control Google Earth with Minority Report-style gestures, via Leap Motion, TNooz, 8/5/2013:

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9. Minority Report-style Advertising Coming to NYC247Sports, 8/8/2013: “Recycling bins data mine your smartphone when you are in proximity to tailor ads when you walk by the screen and stuff. Already in London, looking to expand to NYC and other World cities soon.”

10. Google Submits Patent For Minority Report Style Eye Tracking DevicePrison Planet, 8/15/2013: “The patent filing describes a “head mounted device”, for example hi-tech glasses, that would have the ability to track eye movement, effectively monitoring reactions to external stimuli, including changes in emotion.” From The Verge: “Google could be betting that advertisers will pay to know whether consumers are actually looking at their billboards, magazine spreads, and online ads.”

From the patent application, which was filed in May 2011:

Pay per gaze advertising need not be limited to on-line advertisements, but rather can be extended to conventional advertisement media including billboards, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of conventional print media. Thus, the gaze tracking system described herein offers a mechanism to track and bill offline advertisements in the manner similar to popular online advertisement schemes.

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The ways that we are tracked, traced, and databased are increasing every day. Some of it is arriving without our agreement and is being utilized by private corporations and governments without our explicit approval, as the recent revelations of data spying have exposed. If we have learned one thing it is that information is knowledge and knowledge is power. The power of data collection in the hands of those who wish to exert more control is not likely to halt.  And all indications show that it is not enough to have logged and charted where we have been; the surveillance state wants to know where we are going.

Our Orwellian world is beginning to look nostalgic compared to what is in production. Neuroscientists in 2010 stated that they know you better than you know yourself.  Meanwhile, it is being estimated that computers know to a 93% accuracy where you will be, before you make your first move. The recent major global funding of neuroscience and narrative control indicates that the final target is the human brain and every thought that resides there.

However, we ought to be aware that much of our data is willingly being given via social media and the gadgets we choose to buy. As technology continues to march forward at an exponential rate, we might do well to consider how much of this we are comfortable buying into.  And if we must, should we be seeking ways to subvert the information stream?

Recently From Nicholas West:

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Federal Prosecutors to Seek Death Penalty for Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

RT: US Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old surviving suspect of the Boston Marathon bombing, will face the death penalty in his trial. In April, prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan – the 26-year-old who authorities believe was the mastermind – left two bombs near the finish line of the historic Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 260. Tsarnaev has pled not guilty to the 30 criminal charges he faces, 17 of which would carry the death penalty should he be convicted. Ameera David talks to RT’s Marina Portnaya about Holder’s decision-making process in opting for the death penalty in this case.