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Insanity: Female inmates of California prisons coerced into tubal ligations
07.18.2013
04:29 pm

Topics:
Class War

Tags:

Female Prisoner
 
Between 2006 and 2010, at least 148 female inmates were sterilized by doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Though there was no official state approval for the tubal ligations—commonly known as having ones “tubes tied,” a procedure in which the fallopian tubes are blocked or cut, permanently sterilizing the individual—the state is recorded as having paid doctors $147,460 to perform ligations between 1997 and 2010.

According to inmates and prisoner advocates, women who underwent the surgery (while incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona or the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla) were coerced into agreeing to tubal ligation. The women were signed up for the procedure while they were pregnant—inmates who had served multiple prison sentences or had several children were suggested for the operations.

Though state funds for tubal ligations have been restricted since 1994—requiring approval from a health care committee and investigation into each individual case—doctors continued to perform the ligations under the assumption that they didn’t need permission. Officials claimed that the operations were performed to benefit the health of women who had undergone multiple C-sections; women were told that the ligations would be empowering, putting them on equal footing as women on the outside.

However, women who underwent the ligations stated that they had only had one C-section, were repeatedly pressured into agreeing to surgery and were not told why the surgeries were considered necessary. One inmate was pushed by a doctor to agree to ligation while sedated and strapped to a surgical table. Though in an altered state of consciousness, she successfully resisted—records show that doctors had tried talking her into ligation twice previously, without providing any reason or justification. Other ligations were pressured for while women were undergoing labor—which would be illegal in a federal prison, and has been ruled coercive, as the trauma of labor can impair a woman’s decision-making process.

Corey G. Johnson—the reporter who broke the ligations story for the Center for Investigative Reporting—told me that interviewing the women who had undergone the ligations was an at-times grueling process due to the suffering they had withstood.

“The women have expressed sadness, mostly, with dashes of anger and reluctance,” he explained. “Prison is not a happy place, and many of the women I spoke with experienced various traumas while on the inside. It hasn’t been easy reliving those moments.”

Questioned about the ligations by Johnson, officials claimed that the $147,460 the state spent on the procedures was minimal “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children—as they procreated more.”

Johnson relayed that the public and governmental reaction to the story has been massive:

“The public’s response has been overwhelming. Strong outrage for the most part—with some counter voices of support for the doctors involved. The interest has crossed gender, religious, political and geographic lines… Reaction from governmental actors has been what I expected. Lawmakers called for investigations. The federal office in charge of prison healthcare told me they thought the story was fair. They’re now responding to legislative questioning. And the state correction department—where these surgeries sprung from—has been quiet and virtually non-responsive.”

Forced sterilizations of prisoners, the poor and the mentally ill were only officially banned in California in 1979. From 1909 to 1964, California was the United States’ top sterilizer, forcing surgery on over 20,000 men and women under a statewide eugenics program so successful that even the Nazis asked for California’s advice in the 1930s.

Much like the justifications given by the Valley State officials above, the reasoning behind California’s early eugenics program was to save the state money by reducing welfare and relief. But California was by no means the only state running a eugenics program on its citizens—32 states in the US passed laws allowing forcible sterilization in the early part of the 20th century, beginning with Indiana in 1907; by 1979 over 60,000 Americans had been sterilized.

The dark history of America’s eugenics programs is only now being publicly re-assessed. 2003 saw California’s then-Governor Gray Davis issue a formal apology for the program. Some states, like North Carolina, are considering reparations.

With the old wounds of California’s history freshly re-opened, the state is calling for an open investigation of what happened at the California Institution for Women and Valley State. But for the women who underwent ligation, the damage is already permanent.

Get Jason Louv’s new free ebook, “The Apocalypse is Cancelled,” here.

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
The Band Who Fell to Earth: Early DEVO live at Max’s Kansas City
07.16.2013
05:42 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:


 
An excerpt from Kevin C. Smith’s new book, Recombo DNA: The Story Of Devo, Or How the 60s Became the 80s.

While CBGB was ground zero for what had become known as punk, Devo would play the majority of their New York gigs at Max’s Kansas City. Once a favorite spot of Andy Warhol’s and his entourage, it had also served as the epicenter of the glam-rock scene of the early 70s. It was also where David Bowie and Iggy Pop first met. Located off Union Square, two blocks from Warhol’s Factory, it was “the exact place where pop art and pop life came together in New York in the 60s,” as the artist put it. “Teeny boppers and sculptors, rock stars and poets from St Mark’s Place, Hollywood actors checking out what the underground actors were all about, boutique owners and models, modern dancers and go-go dancers—everybody went to Max’s and everything got homogenized there.”

Pere Ubu had played at Max’s at least a year earlier, and were in fact the only non-New Yorkers among the eight bands to feature on the compilation album Max’s Kansas City 1976 (reissued in 1978 as Max’s Kansas City—New York New Wave). Devo made their debut at the venue immediately after their second CBGB show on May 25 1977. Having worn their yellow HAZMAT suits at CBGB, at Max’s they unveiled some new finds: high-waisted, billowy, knee-length Gurkha shorts (as worn by the Nepalese military units from which they took their name) and white suspenders. These baggy, pleated shorts were entirely out of step with prevailing trends of the 70s but predated the look of the 80s.

Devo would return to Max’s for more shows during the summer, fall, and winter of 1977, one of which was attended by an aspiring music journalist, Byron Coley, who would later travel with the band on their first major-label tour just over a year later and write about the experience for New York Rocker. They had an intriguing way with introductions. “I personally fell in love with Devo during the summer of ’77 at Max’s Kansas City,” Coley later wrote. “What made the show so special for me was the moment when Bob Mothersbaugh got so carried away with his solo on ‘Smart Patrol’ that he jabbed his guitar into my ear and actually drew blood. Ya hear that, babies? Blood! You think I’d spill the very essence of life over some band I hadn’t taken a mighty big hankering to? Damn straight I wouldn’t. When he jabbed the same guitar into my pal Strato’s eye (blackening it for a long two weeks), I knew this was indeed the band for me. Their swell costumes and even sweller songs had me in their sway. Call me a fool, I call it rock’n’roll.”

Each of the band’s forays to New York drew bigger crowds than the last, and their reputation increased correspondingly. The main booker at Max’s, Peter Crowley, would later describe the band’s performances there as “a giant showcase. They were already becoming famous and all that . . . but they were not identified with Max’s as struggling beginners. They were already kings of the underground. By playing New York, they then got the international reputation.”

For their second appearance at Max’s, Devo shared the bill with the equally misanthropic New York bands The Cramps—featuring transplanted Akron native Lux Interior—and Suicide. The latter group regularly caused genuine riots—including one in Belgium that had to be dispersed with tear gas—with their performances, which featured Martin Rev’s primitive organ and rhythm boxes and Alan Vega’s confrontational stage demeanor. He would routinely taunt pugilistic audience members with a bicycle chain, and sometimes barricade the exits so audiences were forced to stay and listen. Suicide shows would culminate in the ten-minute ‘Frankie Teadrop,’ a harrowing tale of a desperate factory worker’s murder of his wife and six-month-old child. “People would run, screaming,” Television guitarist Richard Lloyd recalled. “The whole crowd at CBGB would go outside . . . it was dreadful. But that’s their charm.”

The band’s formation in 1970 preceded Devo’s by a few years, but the impetus was the same. “The Vietnam War was going nuts with Nixon dropping bombs everywhere,” Vega recalled. “Suicide was very much a reaction to all the shit that was going on around us.” For all the nihilism and cynicism, however, one of the band’s defining works was ‘Dream Baby Dream,’ which Vega described as being “about the need to keep our dreams alive.”

Before the show at Max’s, the legendarily confrontational Vega let down his stage persona long enough to go and introduce himself to Devo in their dressing room. He was shocked at what he found. “I opened their door and they were all doing calisthenics,” he recalled. “When they performed, they were almost like a calisthenic—all in unison with their movements onstage—like a machine. When I looked into their dressing room and saw them doing all their movements I just cracked up.” Nonetheless, Vega got on well with the band, and remembered them signing a record deal shortly after the show. It was not the first time that had happened. “This was test for the band: if the band could play to a Suicide crowd and get over it, then they got signed.”

Although Devo found acceptance within the burgeoning underground rock scene in New York, they realized that their unique worldview could not have been fostered there. In Akron, they had been allowed to develop in isolation, whereas audiences in New York had been able to watch bands like the Ramones and Talking Heads evolve over time. “When Devo finally popped and were able to drive in our Econoline van from Ohio to New York City and play shows, people were disbelieving that it could have even happened,” Mark recalled. “They were like: how did we not know about this? . . . People were mystified. They wanted to know what Akron was.”

Jerry had a similar backhanded compliment for his hometown. “Devo couldn’t have come out of LA or New York. Cleveland and Akron are like the boot camp to the world. If you can survive those places and still be a functioning human being, you can go anywhere. It’s pretty brutal. It was industrial then, and it was very blue-collar, and it was very hostile to creativity. So the bands that had the balls to do something in the face of the rejection and threats really got strong.”

An excerpt from Kevin C. Smith’s new book, Recombo DNA: The Story Of Devo, Or How the 60s Became the 80s.

Hardcore DEVO has just been re-released by Superior Viaduct/Boogie Boy Records.
 

“Mongoloid” and “Gut Feeling” live at Max’s Kansas City in 1977
 
More live early DEVO at Max’s Kansas City after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Alan McGee on his label’s new signings, The Rolling Stones’ tour and if Oasis are about to reform?
07.15.2013
10:12 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:

eegcmnalatah22.jpg
 
I heard this rumor that Oasis will reform. So, I contacted Alan McGee, former head of Creation Records, and present boss of 359 Music, to find out if it was true…

You know it’s summer when they appear. Crowds of youngsters with rucksacks, tents, and crates of beer gathering at train terminals and bus stations. Their faces relieved by the finish of another academic year, and excited by the promise of distant, euterpean delights. This is the season of music festivals across Britain, from the farm fields of Glastonbury, in Somerset, to the disused airfield in Kinross, where T in the Park is held. The television and print media is saturated with these events, sending chipper young presnters to gush and gawp, or disgruntled, older reporters to dig in with all the young things, and send back epistles full of bile.

Some of their ire is understandable, as the festivals have changed so dramatically from their make-do beginnings, into near corporate enterprises. You can also see it with the acts. Once it was bands or artists on their way-up. Nowadays, it’s mainly a showcase of for aged stars to perform their greatest hits.

At T in the Park, the headliners this year were The Killers, Rihanna and the terrifyingly bland Mumford and Sons, who also (unbelievably) headlined at Glastonbury, along with The Arctic Monkeys and, of course, the oldest rockers in town, The Rolling Stones.

McGee didn’t go to any of the Festivals this year. He watched them on TV.

Alan McGee: “I despise Glastonbury because it’s like a middle class festival,” he tells me over the phone. “If you were from Glasgow, and you were going to Glastonbury, you need five-hundred-quid to get there. Who’s got five-hundred-quid to go to a fucking gig?

“I think it’s really middle class, and has little to do with what music should be about.”

I asked McGee about The Stones, the one band Glastonbury organizer, Michael Eavis had tried to book since the festival began in 1970. The Stones took to the Pyramid Stage and, depending on your age, were either electrifying or disappointing relics.

Alan McGee: “I think, to be honest, The Stones are now probably far too old. I love them, don’t get me wrong. When I saw them at Twickenham in 2007, they were only about 63, and they were still tight, they still had it. But hitting 70, they are losing their power now. It’s probably an unfashionable thing to say, because you’re expected to say, ‘Yeah, they’ve still got it.’  I know Bobby [Gillespie], saw them at Hyde Park and he was was raving about them. But for me personally, watching them on the TV, I thought they were losing power.

“The thing is Keith is busking it a bit because he’s got arthritis, and Ronnie’s carrying the whole thing. Keith only really plays offbeat chords, and you can see he’s not on form.”

Rock journalist Charles Shaar Murray summed-up The Stones performance as a magnificent, great ruin, that had to be seen. He also highlighted Mick Taylor’s cameo, which only limned the lack of Keith’s playing. But what about Jagger? His energy is incredible and he often carries the band with him, but at times, I feel that Jagger performs at the audience rather than to them. McGee thought differently.

“I think Mick Jagger is beyond criticism,” he said. “Mick Jagger is the show. He carries it absolutely.

“I think Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood are still tough. Ronnie Wood is playing for both himself and Keith, and Mick, well they need Mick to keep the show going, he’s just bursting.” 

Keith does some stuff, “Satisfaction” was good, but I think he’s busking it, and I think we need Mick on stage, because I don’t think Ronnie can do the whole thing, it’s impossible to play all Keith’s parts and his parts.”

Alan McGee is on a wave of success at the moment. He has confirmed his first six signings to his new label 359 Music, and his autobiography Creation Stories, which comes out in November with Pan/MacMillan, is being raved about, and having seen an unedited version I can only agree with the praise. It is also been rumored that Creation Stories is about to be optioned for a feature length film. Indeed, there’s another rumor about Oasis reforming I want ask Alan about. But that can wait. we talked more about festivals and the difference in audiences.

Alan McGee: “I love Scottish audiences, I must admit. Probably biased, but there you go. The only thing that is better than Scottish audiences are Mexican audiences—they’re more mental, believe it or not. I’m not taking the piss, they’re great, but they get that mental that at some gigs they cage in the audience.

“I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails and Placebo both play to 20,000 people in Mexico City, and there is a wire in front of the bands, all the way round. That’s not to keep the band in, that’s to cage in the audience. It’s a bit like the Barrowlands [a famous venue in Glasgow] except it’s not 2,000 people, it’s 20,000 people.”
 
More from Alan McGee on his new signings, and whether Oasis will reform, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Anarchism, Activism and El Movimiento: Dangerous Minds Goes Inside the Second Spanish Revolution
07.15.2013
03:00 pm

Topics:
Activism
Class War
Current Events
Economy
Politics

Tags:


“Are you not ashamed to kick people out of their homes?”

Barcelona, it occurs to me, as our plane descends towards the unfortunately named El Prat, must have some strange and singular relationship to concrete. Due to the national tendency to live stacked up, from above the city undulates in a wild concrete wave—coming to a dead, teetering halt at the brink of the Mediterranean, which meets it with almost parodic calm. Yet, elegant Barcelona somehow manages to make the best out of concrete. Hell, even La Sagrada Familia is moulded from stuff that wouldn’t look out of place in a public housing high rise.

And, ironically enough, it is concrete Barcelona finds its feet encased in, as along with the rest of Spain it sinks to the bottom of the economic ocean…

Of all the houses built in Spain between 2001 and 2007 (and there were a lot: this was the property boom that engendered the economic collapse that has left the country with around 26% unemployment, and around 55% youth unemployment) over a quarter stand empty. But despite being dotted with veritable ghost towns, there were over 75,000 evictions in Spain last year, a figure that looks ready to rise in 2013.

Now, in Spain, if a bank kicks you out of your home, seizing your assets, their value is only deducted from your debt. And since the value of Spanish property, post-crash, is a slither of what it was when most evictees bought their properties, and since there were a lot of forty and fifty year mortgages going around, this means many are still expected to pay hundreds of thousands of Euros for an abruptly worthless cube of concrete that will henceforth stand empty, redundant as a sprung trap.

Odd that this should happen in Spain, with its historical antipathy (among a significant portion of its population, anyway) to the very notion of “private property”. “ALL PROPERTY IS THEFT!” declared the anarchist philosopher Proudhon. Well, Spain, you might say, was bound to balk at such daylight robbery. And balk it did, in the spontaneous 15M nationwide protests that marked the proper beginning of what everyone there refers to as the movimiento in the spring of 2011.

Exactly two years later, I am visiting Barcelona to see where the second Spanish revolution is at.

I have, however, a vicious summer cold, and am unsure if my skittish temperature and face full of snot is infecting my view of the city. I’ve heard a lot about how inconspicuous the economic crisis is to the naked eye, but for me, sweating a fever out beneath the first sustained sunshine to touch Catalonia all year, Barcelona seems everywhere composed of two distinct layers.

Along the surreally telegenic beach, for example, there is the expected abundance of tourists, bathers, bars. But there is also, there by the outdoor showers, two apparently underage girls in the early stages of a porn shoot, listlessly palming water at one another’s bikini tops while a photographer snaps and a crowd gawp on.

A random sight, perhaps, but it feels like a symbol.
 

 
Further up the promenade we see some anarchist graffiti: “Tourist! Save the planet. Kill Yourself.” Beneath this it reads “Guirifobia Power.” Guiri (sounds like “giddy”), explains Sara Marquez, our friend, hostess and guide to the movimiento, is the derogatory slang for tourist. “There is increasing hostility against visitors—that is, rich foreigners—among some,” she elaborates, for the benefit of this slightly affronted guiri. “As the crisis deepens the only economic sector that really works is tourism. Many feel that the city council is ruling the city thinking in terms only of tourists rather than citizens.”

We stop at a bar for some food—washing it down with cheap beer and tobacco that do my virus few favors. Sara tells us some typical examples of people she knows in the city: University Lecturers earning a couple of hundred Euros a month, and even some doctors and lawyers either unable to get work or earning relatively negligible amounts. Presently in vogue, she says, is the notion of a mileurista—somebody lucky enough earn over a thousand Euros a month. No wonder there is a steady seeping abroad of Barcelona’s young, an exodus massaged by the government, who don’t even bother pretending their homeland has a future for them.

We get up to pay. “Why are you with these foreigners,” the waiter hisses at Sara, “why are you speaking English?” (Earlier today, some respectable-looking old crone had spun on her heel to shout abuse up the street at Sara for the same reason.)

While she tells the geezer where to go, I stand there sniffing and squinting at the street. Rich-looking American girls saunter by in designer shades, swaying honeyed limbs, and platoons of British lads march between bars. But there is also, I note, a continuous quiet traffic of disheveled elderly Catalans and gypsies, all pushing warped trolleys piled with scrap metal. “There seems to be more of this all the time,” says Sara. There is something ominous about the trade, as if they are picking the bones of an economic corpse.

That evening I interview Marc Pradel, an activist and academic. Marc has that air of slightly weary integrity that proliferates whenever a political class manages to entirely monopolise corruption. We begin by discussing the development of the movimiento.

“Two years ago it was as if no one was protesting anything, and then there was this small thing,  ¡Democracia Real YA! [Real Democracy Now!], and then this demonstration, and suddenly, surprisingly, everybody came and it was huge. And the last two years, more or less, have highlighted the difficulty in organizing a coherent, conventional political response. There are many things happening at a local level and neighborhood level, a lot of new ideas and discussions, but the movement is in danger of losing momentum unless it can organize.”

I ask to what extent this generation of activists identify with the Spanish libertarian socialist tradition.

“Some parts of the movement are not that conscious of continuing this political tradition, while others are very aware of it, and are openly inspired by Cooperatism and decentralization. Sometimes the movement acknowledges this heritage in a very symbolic way—for instance they tend to organize in columns when they demonstrate, just as the anarchists did in the civil war. But there is also a general awareness they’re not going to solve anything in a classical fashion.”

Yet, on its second birthday, the crossroads the movimiento finds itself at would be readily recognizable to any Spanish anarchist of the 1930s…
 

Pau Faus, Barcelona PAH
 
“In Barcelona especially there is a real hostility towards political centralization, a fear of being co-opted, a fear of becoming part of the problem. This is very typical of the social movements here, and I think you can see the continuity from the old anarchism to now, a commitment to decentralization, which can become problematic. Many people say that this movement needs leadership. We do need some kind of organisation, because otherwise you cannot expect major changes. The only time anarchism has been effective is when there was a trade union or something behind it.”

For now, the onus remains entirely on the grass roots.

“There are, in Barcelona and everywhere in Spain, lots of things emerging. For instance we have the community banks: Coop57 is a credit cooperative that gives credit to social projects and gives people the chance to invest in social causes… Som Energia is a renewable energy cooperative… La Fageda is a more traditional cooperative but is very significant in Catalonia. Their workers are handicapped and the company adapts its production accordingly. There are lots of examples of businesses trying to overcome the logic of capitalism.”

He describes the network of community centers, cooperative allotments and squats across Barcelona, created to provide food, shelter, work and support for people. I ask about the state’s response to such initiatives.

“They expect this kind of thing. As long as they’re not attacking some basic things, like the financial system of whatever, they know it can help them, relieve their responsibilities. For instance, if there’s some empty land being cultivated which belongs to the banks, it has no value anyway and if somebody’s growing food it’s helping to solve some social problems. But when there’s a more political approach, or organised protesting, then you find opposition—and often very violent opposition. The level of violence is high. Just to scare citizens—normal citizens—from joining the movement. Because the movement was initially very apolitical, a citizen’s movement with nothing to do with the traditional party politics or allegiances, and they tried to scare people away. And they succeeded, in part.”

The most powerful part of the movimiento remains the PAH—the Platforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for those Affected by the Mortgage).     

“The numbers affected by evictions are huge, incredibly huge. The PAH movement actually started before the crisis, defending the rights of people who were unable to afford a mortgage—then in 2008 the speculative housing bubble burst, and it transformed itself into something that defended the rights of people facing eviction because of the crash, going to places where people were being evicted, blocking evictions. Many, many people started to participate in it, and it became quickly linked with the indignados movement and the local assemblies. But because the PAH were working for a very specific thing, they were very successful in terms of receiving support, because everybody saw that this was a very precise thing that could be aimed for, changing a specific law on housing—and keeping people from becoming homeless. Because of that we have the support of eighty percent of Spanish society.”
 

Banker Emilo Botin and his “juicy booty”

This specific change in the law, Marc explains, was to “approve the dation in payment”—in other words, your debt would be cancelled when you lost your dwelling. The PAH gathered 1.4 million signatures to petition for this change, which was rejected by the government in April.

“This was denied because it generates a problem for the banks, who receive a property without value and don’t have any other way to recover the money they have lent. This is not important for the Spanish banks themselves, but for the European banks—German ones mainly—who were behind their capacity to give credit.”

On Friday Sara and I visit the working class district Encants to see the PAH in action. This requires a strange early evening journey, through somnolent shopping centers and amnesiac underpasses, until Barcelona finally cuts the shit and we find ourselves in breezeblock central: vacant balconies jut out from the dull high apartment blocks, like the handles of empty filing cabinets.     

We approach what might be a club or a bar—a large crowd mills about on the pavement outside smoking and talking. It is the local PAH center, though, and we enter a large, swelteringly hot space, with raw concrete walls plastered in printouts, schedules and slogans. It is packed. Over three hundred people are sitting close together, fanning out around a small panel of middle-aged, robust, blonde women, who are passing a microphone to and fro and filling the space with echoing bursts of musical, exhortative Spanish.

Clearly this entire audience is facing eviction—eviction and a lifetime of debt. It’s no small burden. Just a few months ago a forty-seven-year-old woman walked into her local bank in Valencia and set herself on fire. (She survived, just about.)

Here, though, there is something in the atmosphere besides tension, something like relief. Eviction, penury—these are definitively lonely ordeals, and through the PAH people can find emotional, practical and political support and solidarity. 

My assumption, as I watch the panel move through the endless succession of questions—everyone here has at least one—is that it consists of pro bono professionals. Apparently not. “They are not qualified,” whispers Sara, “they are just normal, working class women, but they sound like property lawyers.”

These panelists, it transpires, know every twist in the labyrinth because they were lost in it themselves, and so by necessity became expert at frustrating and thwarting the banks. In the week the PAH holds separate surgeries for the victims of the separate banks, organize sit-ins to stop evictions, and protest at the banks. They have been awarded a European Citizen of the Year award from the European Parliament, and enjoy—it warrants repetition—over 80% support from the public.
 

Pau Faus, Barcelona PAH
 
The Spanish government, meanwhile, has compared the PAH to ETA, to terrorists, to Nazis, and wants to see them stripped of their award…

This hysterical reaction was in response to escrache, a PAH approach that brought protest to these politicians’ literal doorsteps. However, it ain’t hard to see why the PAH might make the Spanish establishment generally nervous. In reality, there is nothing “apolitical,” say, about their guiding asservation that “having a home is a basic right,” or about their effort to remove the unjust financial yoke so cynically fastened upon the necks of hundreds of thousands of Spaniards. On the contrary, such ideas and actions are potentially revolutionary.

A hesitant African woman stands up. Her bank, she explains, are offering her a so-called “social rent” (whereby you lose your home but can go on living there). This is a very rare concession, so rare that it inspires one of the panelists to stand on her toes and flamboyantly flap her “Si Se Puede!” t-shirt high enough to flash the audience a glimpse of her bra.

Laughter flows through the crowd and out onto the pavement. The noise level instantly rises, interfering with the discussion and sparking a collective shhhhhh. It carries a hint of the Spanish lisp, this shhhhhh, making it sound more like a hiss than a hush, and this crowd of debtors, activists and volunteers a very large, very angry snake.

I remember what Marc said yesterday about the movimiento needing leadership, and wonder what on earth could happen if it finds it.

Masses of thanks to Sara, Moritz, Marc & Rebecca
 

 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
Who is Edward Snowden: Whistle-blower hero, enemy of the state or covert ops shapeshifter?
07.08.2013
04:10 pm

Topics:
Current Events

Tags:


 
This is a guest post from Jon Rappoport
 
If you absolutely must have a hero, watch Superman movies.

If your need for a hero is so great, so cloying, so heavy, so juicy that it swamps your curiosity, don’t read this. 

If you can’t separate Edward Snowden’s minor revelations from the question of who he is, if you can’t entertain the notion that covert ops and intelligence-agency games are reeking with cover stories, false trails, and limited hangouts, you need more fun in your life.

NSA?  CIA?  These guys live for high-level bullshit.  They get down on their knees and worship it.  They fall into a suicidal funk if they aren’t lying on at least three or four levels at once.

Okay.  Let’s look at Snowden’s brief history as reported by The Guardian.  Are there any holes?

Is the Pope Catholic?

In 2003, at age 19, without a high school diploma, Snowden enlists in the Army.  He begins a training program to join the Special Forces.  At what point after enlistment can a new soldier start this elite training program? 

Snowden breaks both legs in an exercise.  He’s discharged from the Army.  Is that automatic?  How about healing and then resuming service? 

If he was accepted in the Special Forces training program because he had special computer skills, then why discharge him simply because he broke both legs?

“Sorry, Ed, but with two broken legs we just don’t think you can hack into terrorist data anymore.  You were good, but not now.  Try Walmart.  They always have openings.”

Circa 2003, Snowden gets a job as a security guard for an NSA facility at the University of Maryland. He specifically wanted to work for NSA?  It was just a generic job opening he found out about?

Snowden shifts jobs.  Boom.  He’s now in the CIA, in IT.  He has no high school diploma.  He’s a young computer genius.

In 2007, Snowden is sent to Geneva.  He’s only 23 years old.  The CIA gives him diplomatic cover there.  He’s put in charge of maintaining computer-network security.  Major job.  Obviously, he has access to a wide range of classified documents.  Sound a little odd?  He’s just a kid.  Maybe he has his GED.  Otherwise, he still doesn’t have a high school diploma.

Snowden says that during this period, in Geneva, one of the incidents that really sours him on the CIA is the “turning of a Swiss banker.”  One night, CIA guys get a banker drunk, encourage him to drive home, the banker gets busted, the CIA guys help him out, then with that bond formed, they eventually get the banker to reveal deep secrets to the Agency.

This sours Snowden?  He’s that naïve?  He doesn’t know by now that the CIA does this sort of thing all the time?  He’s shocked?  He “didn’t sign up for this?”  Come on.

In 2009, Snowden leaves the CIA.  Why?  Presumably because he’s disillusioned.  It should be noted here that Snowden claimed he could do very heavy damage to the entire US intelligence community in 2008, but decided to wait because he thought Obama, just coming into the presidency, might keep his “transparency” promise.

After two years with the CIA in Geneva, Snowden really had the capability to take down the whole US inter-agency intelligence network, or a major chunk of it? 

If you buy that without further inquiry, I have condos for sale on the dark side of the moon.

In 2009, Snowden leaves the CIA and goes to work in the private sector.  Dell, Booze Allen Hamilton.  In this latter job, Snowden is assigned to work at the NSA.

He’s an outsider, but, again, he claims to have so much access to so much sensitive NSA data that he can take down the whole US intelligence network in a single day.  The.  Whole.  US.  Intelligence.  Network. 

This is Ed Snowden’s sketchy legend.  It’s all red flags, alarm bells, sirens, flashing lights. 

Then we have the crowning piece: they solved the riddle: Ed Snowden was able to steal thousands of highly protected NSA documents because… he had a thumb drive.

It’s the weapon that breached the inner sanctum of the most sophisticated information agency in the world. 

It’s the weapon to which the NSA, with all its resources, remains utterly vulnerable.  Can’t defeat it. 

Not only did Snowden stroll into NSA with a thumb drive, he knew how to navigate all the security layers put in place to stop people from stealing classified documents.

“Let’s see.  We have a new guy coming to work for us here at NSA today?  Oh, whiz kid.  Ed Snowden.  Outside contractor.  Booz Allen.  He’s not really a full-time employee of the NSA.  Twenty-nine years old.  No high school diploma.  Has a GED.  He worked for the CIA and quit.  Hmm.  Why did he quit?  Oh, never mind, who cares?  No problem.

“Tell you what.  Let’s give this kid access to our most sensitive data.  Sure.  Why not?  Everything.  That stuff we keep behind 986 walls?  Where you have to pledge the life of your first-born against the possibility you’ll go rogue?  Let Snowden see it all.  Sure.  What the hell.  I’m feeling charitable.  He seems like a nice kid.”

NSA is the most awesome spying agency ever devised in this world.  If you cross the street in Podunk, Anywhere, USA, to buy an ice cream soda, on a Tuesday afternoon in July, they know.

They know whether you sit at the counter and drink that soda or take it and move to the only table in the store.  They know whether you lick the foam from the top of the glass with your tongue or pick the foam with your straw and then lick it.

They know if you keep the receipt for the soda or leave it on the counter.

They know whether you’re wearing shoes or sneakers.  They know the brand of your underwear.  They know your shaving cream, and precisely which container it came out of.

But this agency, with all its vast power and its dollars…

Can’t track one of its own, a man who came to work every day, a man who made up a story about needing treatment in Hong Kong for epilepsy and then skipped the country.

Just can’t find him.

More after the jump…

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
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