Category Archives: Deep Politics

Berkeley protesters shut down talk by a spook


Peter Thiel is a cyberspook, a San Francisco billionaire who made a big pile on Facebook [he owns 10.6 percent of its shares] , helping PayPal go public, and from co-founding and chairing a CIA-bankrolled outfit called Palantir.

None of those key facts was included in a frothy little article in the UC Berkeley campus paper in a report resounding with outrage on a shutdown of a talk Thiel was giving to the Berkeley Forum last night when a group of anti-police violence protesters stormed into the meeting and confronted Thiel, who was promptly surrounded by his bodyguards and hustle out.

From the Daily Californian:

“We honestly didn’t think the protests would interfere,” said Pierre Bourbonnais, president of the Berkeley Forum and former marketing manager at The Daily Californian. “It’s pretty unimaginable and unfortunate. I’m in support of free speech, but this is not the right venue for that. I’m very disappointed.”

Bourbonnais said he had received calls and emails preceding the event that asked if the protests would disrupt the address.

Thiel left with his handlers as the protesters entered the auditorium, according to Bourbonnais. Protesters shouted, “No police state — no NSA!” as they stormed the stage. Bourbonnais described the protesters’ entrance as a “tug-of-war battle” between Berkeley Forum members and protesters.

One would think a reporter might wonder why protesters were calling out “No NSA,” but such a thought apparently never occurred to the Daily Cal‘s Adrienne Shih.

So why were the protesters invoking the spooky acronym?

That radical rag BloombergBusinessweek describes Thiel’s Palantir as “a Silicon Valley company that’s become the darling of the intelligence and law enforcement communities.”

More from that same article:

An organization like the CIA or FBI can have thousands of different databases, each with its own quirks: financial records, DNA samples, sound samples, video clips, maps, floor plans, human intelligence reports from all over the world. Gluing all that into a coherent whole can take years. Even if that system comes together, it will struggle to handle different types of data—sales records on a spreadsheet, say, plus video surveillance images. What Palantir (pronounced Pal-an-TEER) does, says Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner (IT), is “make it really easy to mine these big data sets.” The company’s software pulls off one of the great computer science feats of the era: It combs through all available databases, identifying related pieces of information, and puts everything together in one place.

Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantir’s technology is either creepy or heroic. Judging by the company’s growth, opinion in Washington and elsewhere has veered toward the latter. Palantir has built a customer list that includes the U.S. Defense Dept., CIA, FBI, Army, Marines, Air Force, the police departments of New York and Los Angeles, and a growing number of financial institutions trying to detect bank fraud. These deals have turned the company into one of the quietest success stories in Silicon Valley—it’s on track to hit $250 million in sales this year—and a candidate for an initial public offering. Palantir has been used to find suspects in a case involving the murder of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent, and to uncover bombing networks in Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. “It’s like plugging into the Matrix,” says a Special Forces member stationed in Afghanistan who requested anonymity out of security concerns. “The first time I saw it, I was like, ‘Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap.’ ”

Targeting Thiel also ruffled feathers at Breitbart.com, which opened its story on the incident thusly:

On Wednesday evening, in the very hall where the University of California at Berkeley had just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, demonstrators shut down a speech by billionaire tech guru–and noted libertarian–Peter Thiel.

Unlike the Daily Cal, the folks at Breitbart actually mentioned Thiel’s spooky ties way down in the eighth paragraph:

Among other distinctions, Thiel is the co-author of a book about liberal intolerance on campus. He is also one of the co-founders of PayPal, the online commerce and money transfer site, and founded Palantir Technologies, a data analysis firm that does some work in the field of national security for the government.

Note how they downplayed what Palantir actually does.

But to be honest about Palantir’s role as a critical enabler of the Orwellian panopticon state would have deleted the political purpose of the screed, namely discrediting campus protest against a hapless billionaire”libertarian.”

Never mind that libertarian means, by definition, opposing any institution targeting full expression of civil liberties. What they really meant was neolibertarian, as in using the power of the state to smash anything standing in the way of their looting of the commons with the muscle of the state to back them up, all the while paying nothing to fund the machinery of that state and shifting th financial burden onto the backs of those whose community assets they are gobbling up at rock bottom prices. While Palantir denies developing software for the NSA itself, there’s no doubt the company was launched with CIA backing, and that its software is used by the CIA, FBI, and other agencies including police departments targeted by the protests. So the only fault of the protesters may have been in their choice of one three-letter acronym instead of another.So good on you, protesters.

The bafflegab promulgated by the media makes us so mad that we can’t breathe.

InSecurityWatch: Torture, hacks, drones, & zones


And more. . .

We begin with a segment from Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set:

Why the Senate Torture Report Doesn’t Matter | Interview with David Remes

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with human rights lawyer, David Remes, about the contents of the newly released Senate torture report summary and how it will impact the future of the “war on terror”.

And from CBC News, a call for prosecution:

UN counterterrorism expert says U.S. officials must be prosecuted for CIA torture

Senior U.S. officials who authorized and carried out torture as part of former President George W. Bush’s national security policy must be prosecuted, a top United Nations special investigator said Wednesday.

Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, said in addition that all CIA and other U.S. officials who used waterboarding and other torture techniques must be prosecuted.

He said the Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques at secret overseas facilities after the 9/11 terror attacks shows “there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law.”

The New York Times covers leaks the spooks love:

Report Says C.I.A. Used Media Leaks to Advantage

The Central Intelligence Agency leaked classified material to reporters to shape the perception that its detention and interrogation program was an effective tool in thwarting terrorism, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday.

The report also said that in 2002, a publication, revealed later on Tuesday to be The New York Times, agreed to withhold information about a secret prison in Thailand at the urging of the agency and Vice President Dick Cheney.

In addition to providing vivid details of the C.I.A.’s use of secret prisons and more aggressive torture methods than was previously known, the Senate report provides examples — in highly redacted form — of the interactions between the agency and journalists in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The details in the report speak to tensions inside the government over the intelligence community’s dealings with the media. In some cases, the agency authorized the disclosure of classified information to journalists. Yet, in recent years, the government has investigated reporters and officials, including prosecuting a C.I.A. officer for leaking details of the torture program.

And from the Washington Post, debunking a myth:

Senate report disputes CIA account of Osama bin Laden search

The killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 was hailed by current and former CIA officials as the crowning justification for the use of harsh interrogation tactics. High-value detainees, when subjected to those methods, provided intelligence that the officials said helped lead the spy agency to a mysterious courier and, ultimately, to the terrorist leader himself.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday upends that version of history, providing an alternate case study that revives questions about the agency’s account. The report asserts that the role of harsh interrogation techniques was greatly exaggerated.

“A review of CIA records found that the initial intelligence obtained, as well as the information the CIA identified as the most critical — or the most valuable — on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, was not related to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques,” investigators concluded.

The role the CIA detention and interrogation program played in the hunt for bin Laden is one of the most pivotal questions in assessing the effectiveness of the agency’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The Senate report notes that even in the weeks before the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs had prepared “agreed-upon language” to be released that would stress “the critical nature of the detainee reporting in identifying bin Laden’s courier.”

The Los Angeles Times offers a frank assessment:

At CIA’s ‘Salt Pit’ prison, torture reigned with little oversight

The first detainee interrogated in the old abandoned brick factory north of Kabul became the model for what would later unfold in the cave-like halls of a CIA interrogation facility known as the “Salt Pit.”

Ridha Najjar, a suspected former bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, often was left alone in the shadows under a barrage of shrieking music, cold, shackled and hooded, his dark figure handcuffed to an overhead bar for 22 hours a day, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Later, another detainee, Gul Rahman, believed to have served in a security detail for an Afghan warlord, would die in the Salt Pit.

He was dragged though the dirt and grime of the corridors, his mouth taped, his clothes falling off. His captors slammed and punched him, and left him chained to a concrete floor in a sweatshirt but no pants. Officials labeled the death hypothermia, though his face, legs, shoulders and waist were cut and bruised.

A few months later in March 2003, with the outside world still unaware of the secret facility, a lead CIA officer who ordered Rahman to be shackled naked in his cell was presented a $2,500 “cash award” for his “consistently superior work,” the report states.

And a bottom line, summed up in a headline from the Los Angeles Times:

Senate report says CIA torture methods yielded no useful intelligence

The CIA’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects from 2002 to 2008 led to false confessions and fabricated information, produced no useful intelligence about imminent terrorist attacks and were so badly run that the CIA lost track of captives, according to a long-delayed Senate report released Tuesday.

TheLocal.de covers an error with great bodily harm:

CIA tortured German it mistook for a terrorist

A German citizen abducted and tortured by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents in 2004 should never have been detained, a US Senate report published on Tuesday showed.

Khalid al-Masri was “rendered” – a term for extrajudicial transfers of prisoners – to the CIA in January 2004 after being arrested by Macedonian border authorities, who mistook him for an al-Qaeda suspect.

While in CIA custody he was severely beaten, stripped, shackled and sodomized with a suppository as part of a process the agency called “capture shock”.

He was later flown to a CIA site in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was beaten, kicked and subjected to other abuse in a prison called the “Salt Pit”.

And the London Telegraph reports an admission:

Polish president admits Poland agreed to host secret CIA ‘black site’

  • Alexander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, admits for the first time that Poland agreed to host a secret CIA ‘black site’

A former Polish president has admitted for the first time Poland agreed to host a secret CIA “black site” where terrorism suspects were held and allegedly tortured.

Alexander Kwasniewski, Poland’s president from 1995-2005, said he had permitted America to operate a base on Polish soil in the wake of the September 11 attacks but stressed there was “no agreement on torture”.

It is the first time a senior Polish politician in office during 2002-2003, when the base was operational, has conceded the CIA had a site in Poland.

For many years they issued flat denials about its existence despite a mountain of evidence indicating the base had existed, and allegations by former terrorism suspects that not only were they prisoners in Poland but also tortured there.

More from RT:

Poland: We hosted secret CIA torture prison

Program notes:

The damning report into CIA torture has led Poland to finally admit that it DID host a secret American prison – after years of denying it. It’s the first acknowledgement by a foreign country to hosting such a site.

TheLocal.at covers a partner in crime:

Austria complicit in US torture program

Austria was one of many European and Arab countries which was complicit in US torture programs, by supporting the secret and illegal transfer of detainees to some of its ‘black site’ prisons, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

The report is based on an in-depth investigation by the US senate, and was led by US Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Although many parts of the report are redacted, or have code names instead of countries, reporters and analysts have combined other information to glean details of which countries were actively supporting the US in its program of secret prisons around the world, where torture was allegedly carried out by the CIA on a routine basis.

From Techdirt, torture profiteers:

Profiting Massively From Torture: Designers Of CIA Torture Program Raked In $81 Million (And Are Still Getting Money)

  • from the how-do-they-sleep-at-night? dept

There are so many incredible things in the CIA Torture Report that will be discussed and analyzed over the next few weeks and months. But one that stands out to me is that the architects of the torture program were not only wholly unqualified to design it, but they profited massively from the program, to the tune of at least $81 million. And that number may go up, as they also are getting paid by the government for any legal issues related to the program, including over $1 million for legal fees associated with responding to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that resulted in this report.

The report uses pseudonyms for the two psychologists: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. However, their names were actually revealed back in 2007: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. To say they were unqualified for the work of designing the torture program would be an understatement. While they were psychologists with the US Air Force’s “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE) program (which is supposed to help train US military personnel in case they’re captured), you’d think they’d actually have some relevant background with terrorism and/or interrogation. But, nope:

Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al- Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise. SWIGERT had reviewed research on “learned helplessness,” in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.

And from the Guardian, torture by others:

Rousseff in tears as Brazilian report details junta’s killings and torture

  • Brazil’s president, herself tortured by 1970s military regime, breaks down as she says ‘new generations deserve truth’

Brazil’s National Truth Commission delivered a damning report on the killings, disappearances and torture committed by government agents during the country’s 1964-85 military dictatorship. It called for those responsible to face prosecution.

The 2,000-page report was delivered on Wednesday to President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who endured harsh torture and long imprisonment in the early 1970s.

“Under the military dictatorship, repression and the elimination of political opposition became the policy of the state, conceived and implemented based on decisions by the president of the republic and military ministers,” the report states. The commission “therefore totally rejects the explanation offered up until today that the serious violations of human rights constituted a few isolated acts or excesses resulting from the zeal of a few soldiers”.

Investigators spent nearly three years combing through archives, hospital and morgue records and questioning victims, their families and alleged perpetrators. The document represents Brazil’s most sweeping attempt yet to come to terms with the human rights abuses committed under the country’s military regime.

Who were trained by Uncle Sam, via BuzzFeed News:

The U.S. Spent Decades Teaching Torture Techniques To Brazil

The Latin American country’s National Truth Commission just produced its own torture report, which among other things documents the way American teachers taught Brazilian officers the theory and methods of torture.

U.S. military officials spent years teaching torture techniques to Brazil’s military, including throughout the South American giant’s lengthy period of military dictatorship, according to a new report.

After more than two years of investigation, the panel charged with documenting the human rights abuses committed under Brazil’s military dictatorship released its final report on Wednesday. The Brazilian report comes just a day after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own lengthy chronicle of the United States’ use of torture in prosecuting last decade’s War on Terror.

According to O Globo, the National Truth Commission (CNV) report documents how more than 300 members of the Brazilian military spent time at the School of the Americas, run out of Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. While there, attendees “had theoretical and practical lessons on torture, which would later be replicated in Brazil.”

teleSUR covers survivors arriving:

Mujica to Meet Guantanamo Refugees

  • The President of Uruguay urged Obama to release political prisoners and end the Cuban embargo.

The ex-inmates of the Guantanamo prison that Uruguay has accepted will meet with President Jose Mujica, local media reported on Wednesday.

The meeting was expected to happen Wednesday afternoon at the military hospital which the refugees entered after arriving inthe South American country on Sunday, to undergo medical examinations.

Also on Wednesday, five of them were released from the hospital.

And the Los Angeles Times comes to a conclusion:

CIA torture report not likely to result in reforms or prosecutions

Amid a fresh call for a major shake-up at the highest levels of the CIA, the White House expressed support for agency Director John Brennan, who was the deputy executive director in 2002 when the interrogation program was designed and implemented.

The Justice Department defended its decision not to prosecute those involved, saying the report would not trigger reconsideration.

And in Congress, where lawmakers split along party lines over the accuracy of the findings and the wisdom of releasing the 500-page redacted summary, there were few signs of momentum behind legislation.

Techdirt goes down the rabbit hole:

GCHQ Follows NSA Into Paranoia — Just As Julian Assange Predicted

  • from the cognitive-decline dept

One of the knock-on effects of Snowden’s leaks is that the NSA is terrified there might be more whistleblowers, and has taken extreme action in an attempt to reduce the risk of that happening by stripping 100,000 people of their security clearances. In other words, it no longer trusts huge swathes of the people it works with — hardly a healthy situation. Now it seems that GCHQ has succumbed to a similar paranoia about its employees:

GCHQ is sponsoring ways of identifying disgruntled employees and those who might go on to be a security threat through their use of language in things like office emails.

The article in the Gloucestershire Echo — the English county where GCHQ is located — explains how potential whistleblowers will be identified:

“research will investigate the use of techniques from the field of natural language processing to detect the early indicators of an insider’s threat.”

That means changes in the way a person communicates can give a clue that they are unhappy and perhaps prepared to do something to harm the organisation.

On to the year’s other major domestic story, via United Press International:

Medical students across U.S. hold ‘die-ins’ to protest racism

Medical students at the University of Pennsylvania blocked traffic as they joined a national “die-in” to protest the police killings of unarmed black men and racism in health care.

White-coated medical students from Harvard to the University of California held “die-ins” Wednesday to protest the deaths of unarmed black men and racism in health care.

The National White Coat Die-In involved scores of medical schools across the United States.

Lucy Ogbu Nwobodo, one of the organizers of the protest at the UC Davis Medical School in Sacramento, said the national discussion of the shooting of Michael Williams in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York “have affected all of us.”

“We decided to come together as one voice to speak up about these issues,” Nwobodo told Capital Public Radio. “We believe that because it affects our patients outside of the hospital it’s just as important as what we see in the medical clinics.”

At Yale in New Haven, Conn., medical students spent 4 1/2 minutes lying on the ground, a minute for each hour Williams’ body remained on the street, and then, like Garner, shouted “I can’t breathe.” Jessica Minor, a medical student, said the protest was also aimed at the under-representation of minorities and women in medical school.

At the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, protesters stopped traffic. About 100 students blocked Walnut Street by lying down.

The same, this time in Old Blighty, via USA Today:

Londoners hold ‘die-in’ in support of U.S. protests

Hundreds of protesters rallied Wednesday at one of Europe’s largest shopping malls to show solidarity with U.S. demonstrations over the killing of unarmed black men by white officers.

Shouting “black lives matter” and “we can’t breathe,” the multiracial crowd marched through the Westfield center in west London and staged several “die-ins,” echoing recent protests in the U.S. at Macy’s Herald Square and Grand Central Station in New York City, as well as Union Station in Washington. Other protests in recent days have occurred in Berkeley, Calif.

The English protest was called by the London Black Revolutionaries, the National Union of Students Black Students’ Campaign and the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence.

From United Press International, another response:

Columbia Law School postpones exams after Garner, Ferguson grand jury decisions

Columbia Law School is granting final exam postponements to students who say they were traumatized by recent grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers responsible for killing unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

The school’s interim dean, Robert E. Scott, announced the decision Saturday in an email to the school. He allowed the extensions after a petition was posted by The Columbia Law School Coalition of Concerned Students of Color on the same day.

“Recent events have unsettled our lives as students,” the petition read. “We have struggled to compartmentalize our trauma as we sit and make fruitless attempts to focus on exam preparation. We sit to study with the knowledge that our brothers and sisters are regularly killed with impunity on borders and streets; we sit to study with the understanding that our brothers and sisters are marching to have our humanity recognized and valued by a system that has continually failed us.”

And from Reuters, a win:

Chicago proposes chokehold ban in wake of U.S. protests

Chicago city council members have proposed a ban on the use of chokeholds by police officers working within city limits in an expansive proposal coming in the wake of the chokehold death of an unarmed black man being arrested in New York.

The proposal, which includes all security personnel such as deputy sheriffs, U.S. Marshals and private security guards, is the first among U.S. municipalities attempting to regulate arrest techniques after a grand jury last week declined to indict a New York City police officer in a chokehold death.

Council members in favor of the ban, which was introduced this week to the city’s finance committee, say they want Chicago in front of the issue of excessive police force that has resulted in street protests across the nation.

After the jump, Uncle Sam demands handover of emails in Ireland, then on to the hack of the year, first with FBI doubts about Pyongyang’s responsibility, word that a ransom demand came first, while Homeland Security warned Sony of possible North Korean retaliation, the film in question approved at the top, and a celebrity scandal emerges from the leaks, on to other malware, starting with a new version of an old curse, another new breed of malware, and a high level hacker cabal resurfaces, the FAA gives limited private drone us OK to four companies, another Palestinian tragedy and another provocation from the Israeli government, an African security investigation, on to Asia and American arms sale to Taiwan, Hong Kong braces for Occupy eviction, Brits angry at China for blocking a parliamentary Hong Kong visit, Chinese Game of Zones anger at Washington, and hints of a Beijing secret Game of Zones play, Chinese jets cross a Japanese line, a Chinese ballistic challenger, fears of a South Korean press crackdown, more fears over Japan’s new state secrets act amidst a right wing campaign against the press, while racists continue their Kyoto hate speech campaign, and Abe’s government steps up its campaign to whitewash war crimes abroad, cinematic Hitler love in Thailand, and a facesit-in protest in Old Blighty. . . Continue reading

Noam Chomsky on police, climate, race & more


teleSUR’s Laura Flanders holds an illuminating and wide-ranging conversation with MIT linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky.

While the topics cover a broad gamut, especially notable are Chomsky’s remarks about the long and noxious history of American racism and its still largely unacknowledged role in the rise of the industrial northern States as well in the agrarian South.

Also notable is Chomsky’s discussion of the hidden subtext of the recent U.S./China climate accord.

From the Laura Flanders Show on teleSUR English:

Laura Flanders Show – Noam Chomsky

Program notes:

A wide-ranging discussion with one of the most important intellectuals of the last century or this one. Noam Chomsky discusses the recent climate agreement between the US and China, the rise of ISIL, and the the movement in Ferguson against racism and police violence. Chomsky is the author of more than a hundred books and the subject of several films about his ideas. He is a political theorist and philosopher who has dissected the contradictions of US empire and inspired several generations of activists. This episode also features a special report on successful worker organizing among low-wage workers in New York City.

MexicoWatch: Blunders, rage, protest, questions


We begin today’s coverage with yet another blunder by the Mexican president, via teleSUR English:

Mexico: Peña Nieto’s statement sparks outrage on social networks

Program notes:

In Mexico, outrage is growing on social networks such as Twitter and Instagram over the statement made by President Enrique Peña Nieto calling on society to “move beyond” the tragedy of Iguala, in reference to the 43 students of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher Training College who were kidnapped by police and are reported missing since September 26.

From the Guardian, a call for protection:

UN: parents of missing Mexican student teachers are at risk and need protection

  • High Commission for Human Rights says parents and protesters have been put at risk by a social media campaign to ‘vilify and insult’ their sons

The UN High Commission for Human Rights has warned that the parents of 43 Mexican students who disappeared after they were attacked by police have been put at risk by a campaign to demonise their missing sons.

Javier Hernández, the representative in Mexico for the UN High Commission, told the Guardian that the parents – and protesters calling for justice – needed protection amid a campaign to denigrate the trainee teachers who vanished 10 weeks ago.

“Some are starting to vilify and insult the disappeared students and demonise their parents and their demands,” said Hernández. “The vast wave of protest generated by the case of the 43 students needs to be protected.”

Reuters covers the ongoing search:

Spurred by mass abduction, Mexicans scour for remains of their dead

Terrorized by brutal drug gangs and corrupt police, residents around this town in southwestern Mexico have for years kept silent when relatives disappeared, fearing they would be targeted next if they made a fuss.

Some tried their own low-profile searches, even going to spots where they saw vultures circling above, but most kept quiet and others simply fled the area when they were threatened.

Then, 10 weeks ago, 43 trainee teachers were abducted by police in Iguala and handed over to hitmen from a local gang which the government says murdered and incinerated them.

And from teleSUR, another contingent marches:

Farm Workers March for Ayotzinapa

  • More than 1,500 members of the Barzon farm worker organization marched in Mexico City demanding justice for Ayotzinapa and support for the agircultural sector.

Shutting down parts of the city center of the Mexican capital, farm workers of the Barzon organization drove 43 tractors with the faces of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students in a protest demanding the student be returned alive, and expressing indignation over what they call the government’s abandonment of the country’s agricultural sector.

“The Mexican government under Enrique Peña Nieto has turned everything over to foreign companies. He has done it with our oil and now it is happening with support for us farmers,” explained one of the farm workers from the state of Chihuahua.

The protest ended and turned into a rally in front of the offices of the Interior Secretary, where leaders of the group were to hold a meeting with officials.

The Guardian talks to a parent of one of the 43:

Missing Mexico student’s dad: ‘The government is waging war against our children’

  • Emiliano Navarrete talks to the Guardian about his son’s disappearance and his government’s response

Emiliano Navarrete is the father of 17-year-old José Angel Navarrete, one of 43 Mexican students who disappeared in the southern city of Iguala after they were attacked by corrupt municipal police on 26 September.

The students, from a radical teacher training college in the town of Ayotzinapa, are believed to have been killed after they were handed over to a local drug gang known as Guerreros Unidos.

Seventy-nine people have since been arrested in connection with the case, including the mayor of Iguala, who was closely linked to Guerreros Unidos and allegedly ordered police to attack the students because he feared they would disrupt an event to promote his wife’s political ambitions.

And from VICE News, a significant casualty of repression blowback:

Mexico City Police Chief Resigns Amid Criticism Over Police Behavior

Mexico City police chief Jesus Rodriguez Almeida resigned abruptly on Friday, ending his stint just two years after taking the helm of a department that has faced mounting reports of abuse during recent demonstrations over the 43 missing students in Guerrero state.

Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera released a short statement saying he received Rodriguez’s notice of resignation on Friday morning.

Mancera made no other comment about the police chief’s tenure, adding only that he would submit a new candidate for police chief to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, who must confirm the head of public-safety in Mexico’s Federal District.

More from teleSUR English:

Mexico City’s Chief of Public Security Renounces

Program notes:

The chief of Public Security of Mexico City renounced as the protests continue. Our Correspondent Clayton Call with further details

The Latin American Herald Tribune covers a belated road trip:

Mexico’s Peña Nieto Visits Guerrero to Address Missing Students Crisis

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has undertaken his first visit to the southern state of Guerrero to tackle the crisis caused by the disappearance of 43 students more than two months ago, and announce measures for economic stimulation in the region.

Economic activity and tourism has witnessed a slump as a consequence of the protests, some of them violent, that have rocked the state owing to the disappearances.

Demonstrations and the blocking of roads, offices and businesses have led to a drop in economic activity, employment and tourist arrivals.

“This obligates the government of the Republic (of Mexico) to come here and address the people, like it has been doing to the entire nation. We will take actions to reactivate the economy of these tourist spots of Guerrero,” Peña Nieto said Thursday in Acapulco.

From the Guardian, governmental chutzpah:

Mexico government denies neglecting corruption amid missing students fury

  • As Iguala incident and growing inequality fuel national security crisis, human rights minister describes student disappearances as ‘wake-up call’ to country

A senior Mexican minister has described the disappearance and possible murder of 43 student teachers as a “wake-up call” for the country, but has rejected accusations that the government has been too focused on its economic agenda to tackle violent crime and corruption.

The disappearance of the students 10 weeks ago in the southern city of Iguala – allegedly after corrupt municipal police handed them over to a local drug gang – has provoked protests across Mexico and led to a slump in the popularity of President Enrique Peña Nieto amid accusations that he has done little to address the country’s security crisis.

Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, undersecretary for multilateral affairs and human rights at Mexico’s foreign ministry, said the students’ disappearance had strengthened the government’s determination to root out corruption and fight drug gangs. “[The disappearance] is a big challenge, but it does not mean we were not working on these issues before,” he said. “It sounds a warning and tells the people, the government and the private sector that economic reforms will never bear their fruit if rule of law does not prevail.”

Despite the discovery of at least 38 bodies in mass graves near Iguala – and the official report that dozens of young people were killed and burned in a rubbish tip outside a neighbouring town – Gómez Robledo said the government was still treating the students’ disappearance as a missing persons case.

teleSUR covers a telling refusal:

Mexico Attorney General Refuses Student Search at Army Base

  • An increasing number of voices appear to be pointing the finger at the complicity of Battalion 27 in the forced disappearence of the Ayotzinapa students.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo has flatly rejected family demands to search for the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students at military bases.

The attorney general said that as the National Defense Department is “more concerned than anyone” with finding the students, it would be “absurd” to think the students could be hidden there. “We know they are not there,” he added.

His response came as journalist Marcela Turati asked him if the search would include the grounds of the 27th Battalion of the National Defense Department.

And from the Latin American Herald Tribune, another armed confrontation:

Five Alleged Kidnappers Die in Clash with Police in Eastern Mexico

Five alleged kidnappers died Thursday in a shootout with police in the city of Poza Rica, in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz. Police rescued two kidnap victims, authorities said.

The shootout began when the kidnappers opened fire on police with the elite Public Safety Secretariat at a house in Poza Rica, the state government said in a communique.

During the shootout, five of the alleged kidnappers were killed and the two victims were rescued by police.

Finally, via teleSUR, censorship strikes:

Mexican Anti-Government Hashtag Disappears

Internet users have switched to #YaMeCanse2 after the #YaMeCanse hashtag, used since protests agaist government corruption and forced disappearences errupted, has disappeared. The Mexican government uses automated online softwards to detect criticism.

Over the past month top-trending hashtag #YaMeCanse has been used in all anti-government protests, but its sudden disappearence from the web, possibly due to government “bots” has seen the emergence of #YaMeCanse2.

The hashtag was trending for 26 days until, it suddenly disappeared, despite the fact it is still being widely used. The fall was so unexpected — it had stayed in first place for weeks, and suddenly it was gone — that it immediately raised some suspicions as to whether it had been purposefully removed.

Internet forums and technology sites drew attention to what are known as “peñabots,” an army of false Twitter and Facebook accounts, created specifically to confront criticism toward President Enrique Peña Nieto and his government.

The Ku Klux Klan’s noxious voting legacy endures


The Ku Klux Klan, created in the wake of the granting of civil rights to former African slaves in the American South, had died out by the time an American filmmaker resurrected their mythology in a motion picture in 1915 that would spark a resurrection of the society of hooded bigots.

BLOG Klan

The Birth of a Nation depicted the Klan as heroic saviors of the white woman’s virtue, galloping in their white robes to the rescue of a Southern belles beseiged by predatory black Union occupation troops intent of looting and rape man and bringing white audiences to their feet in cheers and tears:

Oh, and one of those galloping Klansman, a young aspiring actor named John Ford, would later become a famous filmmaker in his own right,

The film ends with Klansmen arrayed outside polling places, intimidating the freed slaves from exercising their newly won right to vote.

In the wake of D.W. Griffith’s film, praised by then President Woodrow Wilson as “like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” It wasn’t, true, of course, but that hardly mattered to a white Southerner like Wilson.

An ambitious young Missouri haberdasher would later join the Klan, though Harry S. Truman would also become the president who, with a stroke of a pen, abolished segregation in the nation’s armed forces. Another recruit, Hugo Black, would later write or concur with his fellow Supreme Court justices in decisions affirming the grant of full civil rights to all Americans.

The Klan also gained strong footholds in the North, capturing completed control of all branches of Colorado government from the governor’s mansion on down, by 1925 and leading to scenes such as this, via the archives of the Cañon City Public Library:

BLOG Colorado Klan r

The Klan faded briefly following the burst of post World War II prosperity, then surged again with the civil rights movement’s rise in the 1950s and 1960s, before fading again as integration became the accepted [but never actual] norm.

So whilst the boys in the white sheets have been largely relegated to the dustbin of history, does any of their presence remain?

From Brandeis University:

The Ku Klux Klan’s failure to defeat the black civil rights moment is well documented, but the group’s lesser-known legacy may be its lasting impact on the U.S. political system, according to a paper published in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.

David Cunningham, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at Brandeis University, Rory McVeigh of the University of Notre Dame and Justin Farrell of Yale University report that KKK activity played a significant role in shifting voters’ political party allegiance in the South in the 1960s — from Democratic to Republican — and it continued to influence voters’ activities 40 years later.

The researchers studied county voting records in 10 southern states in which the KKK actively recruited members in the 1960s. The analysis of five presidential voting outcomes, between 1960 and 2000, showed that southern counties with KKK activity in the 1960s had a statistically significant increase in Republican voting compared to counties with no established KKK chapter, even after controlling for a range of factors commonly understood as relating to voting preferences. They also found that conservative racial attitudes among voters in the 1992 election strongly predicted Republican voting, but only in counties where the KKK was organized in the 1960s.

“The Klan’s efforts to link voting behavior to its social agenda in the 1960s disrupted long-established voting patterns in the South,” Cunningham explains. “The fact that such efforts continue to predict partisan allegiances today demonstrates how the impact of a social movement can endure long after the movement itself has declined, as well as providing a new explanation of political polarization in the U.S.”

Cunningham says their findings may have implications beyond providing a better understanding of how political agendas can have lasting societal impact. “Our research also illustrates how racial conflict can have wide-ranging effects that resonate across generations in ways that today’s voters might not easily or directly recognize.”

Recall too that the Republican Party and its financial enablers have been driving the push to disenfranchise people of color by imposing increasingly onerous burdens on the voting franchise, a tactic that is proving nearly as effectively as those ranks of hooded bigot and bigoted hoods to cinematically eulogized by D.W. Griffiths in the film that gave birth to the 20th Century Klan.

Ferguson as the fruit of the neoconservative dream


From Keith Boag of CBC News comes a very important analysis of the consequences of the neoconservative revolution launched under Ronald Reagan and continued under Barack Obama.

At the heart of the necon regime is the notion that social costs should be offloaded from the corporation and the plutocrat and laid on the backs of those least able to bear the costs.

What’s chump change to a Bill Gates or Michael Bloomberg is an onerous or intolerable burden to the rest of us. And besides, they’re the ones who own the politicians for the simple reason that almost no one reaches national office without their backing and all the implied deals flowing therefrom.

From CBC News, here an excerpt about how a policing regime designed to fill that agenda lead to violence in Ferguson, Missouri:

Riot-torn Ferguson’s distrust of police flows from a city run on fines

  • The city at the centre of the Michael Brown shooting is one of 90 small enclaves in the same county

In St. Louis County, two-thirds of the population, about 650,000 people, live in what are called “incorporated municipalities. There are 90 of them.

A few have city-sized populations. Ferguson’s is about 21,000.

Fourteen have populations of fewer than 500. The smallest is Champ, population 12. The smallest area-wise is MacKenzie, which is about the size of 10 football fields.

Most stunning of all is that 58 of the 90 municipalities have their own police departments, which is where the perniciousness of the micro-burgs comes into view.

St. Louis County is littered with police whose main preoccupations seem to be writing traffic tickets and/or arresting people for not paying the tickets.

Ferguson, of course, is in it up to its eyeballs.

Fines and court fees are Ferguson’s second largest source of revenue, bringing in just over $2.5 million last year.

And do read the rest.

MexicoWatch: Protests, prisoners, & abductions


We begin with a video from #YaMeCansé:

What’s Happening in Mexico. Why we say #YaMeCanse

Program notes:

JOIN US at http://yamecanse.mx #YaMeCansé that means “I’d have enough”.
Sign the petition here: https://secure.avaaz.org/es/verdad_y_…

We didn’t react when 49 children were burnt to death and 76 were injured in Sonora.

22 people were murdered in Tlatlaya

45 in Acteal

17 in Aguas Blancas

In all of these cases, the State was implicated.

If we want to make a change we must make people aware of this, create greater consciousness.

To do so, we must spread the news.

We must spread the #Ayotzinapa name everywhere.

Next, from teleSUR, a sad confirmation:

Governor Confirms Abduction of 31 More Mexican Students

  • The interim Guerrero governor says the kidnap actually took place in 2013 and says the local government knew about it.

Thirty-one teenagers were abducted in the Cocula municipality of Guerrero state in July, acting governor of the state, Rogelio Ortega, confirmed Thursday. Cocula is the same place where the 43 Ayotzinapa students were also kidnapped, and possibly killed.

Earlier reports from France 24 said that the abduction happened on July 17 this year, but Ortega confirmed it actually took place July 2-3, 2013.

“The information on this abduction is available on the Guerrero state government website … it was reported there despite nobody coming forward with the crime,” said Ortega, after attending a security briefing by President Enrique Peña Nieto.

What we find amazing is the total lack of coverage this even was given, both at the time and later when Agence France-Presse announced it to the world earlier this week.

Imagine what would have happened had, say, 31 Canadian teens met the same fate? Or Britons? Or French?

But, hey, just Mexicans, right?

From the Latin American Herald Tribune, bringing it home:

Mexicans Occupy Police Academy to Protest Students’ Kidnapping

Hundreds of people on Friday occupied the police academy in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero to protest the abduction and apparent murder of 43 students two months ago.

Demonstrators parked vehicles in front of the University Institute of Police Science to denounce the failure of the state police to aid the 43 students from Ayotzinapa teachers college who were abducted Sept. 26 by municipal cops in the town of Iguala.

The institute overlooks the Autopista del Sol expressway, which links Mexico City with the Pacific resort of Acapulco.

Next, from CBC News, a notable story, especially because of the reason the the drivers are staying, which would indicate that the word “held” in the headline is an egregious editorial spin:

Mexico missing students: Bus drivers held at teachers college

  • Drivers say they’re being forced to ferry students to demonstrations

About three dozen men are holed up with their buses on the soccer field of a Mexican college where 43 students went missing, triggering massive protests. They say they are being held hostage.

They sleep in the compartments that once held passenger luggage.

While attention has focused on the kidnapping and disappearance of the students from the Raul Isidro Burgos teachers college in Tixtla, few have paid much attention to the three dozen or more bus drivers who say they are being forced by activists from the school to live as captives and act as chauffeurs for the very people who commandeered their vehicles.

The drivers, some of whom have been at the southern Mexico school more than a month, say they cannot abandon the buses because their companies hold them financially responsible for the vehicles, some of which are worth well over a hundred thousand dollars. And with authorities unwilling to inflame tensions over the disappearance and presumed massacre of students from the school, no one is coming to their rescue.

teleSUR covers a release:

Mexican Authorities Release Protesters From Ayotzinapa March

  • They were accused of terrorism, attempted murder, organized crime and riots.

Saturday was the deadline for Mexican authorities to define the legal status of the 11 people arrested during last Tuesday’s march for Ayotzinapa, #20NovMx. When the deadline was not met Saturday morning, a judge of the city of Xalapa, Veracruz, withdrew the charges against the 11 arbitrarily arrested.

The judge informed the detainee’s attorneys that there was not enough proof to indict them, and ordered their immediate release. They are expected to be released sometime Saturday.

Witnesses of the detentions, mostly people who also participated in the peaceful protest, confirm that their comrades were arbitrarily arrested by the riot police. The detentions took place when, after the peaceful demonstration arrived at Zocalo Square, a group of few people in balaclavas started throwing molotov cocktails at the riot police, who in response started beating indiscriminately the people who attended the march and arresting some of them.

From teleSUR again, a notable arrest:

Mexican Police Arrest Famous Activist

  • Famous activist Sandino Bucio was brutally assaulted and detained by Mexican authorities.

Mexican police officers arrested and physically assaulted Sandino Bucio a famous activist and author at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM).

Initial reports and eye witness reports were unable to confirm if Bucio had been arrested or kidnapped.

However, later it was discovered that he had been transferred to the Specialized Organized Crime facility where protesters gathered demanding his release.

According to reports from Bucio’s parents, authorities interrogated Bucio over his involvement in the clashes between protesters and police after a march for the 43 missing Mexican students on November 20th.

According to a subsequent blog report, Bucio was released after being forced to part with the passwords for his Faceboom and Twitter accounts.

From the vlogger Jorge Augusto Sanchez Garrido, a dramatic video of a secret police on-campus abduction, via the Nayesakura Tumblr:

Program notes:

To all the people in Tumbrl please spread this to everubody in the world. The goberment is kidnapping students inside of the UNAM. THIS CAN HAPPEN ANYMORE THE GOVERMENT ARE KILLING THE STUDENTS, THE WORLD NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING IN  MEXICO

And we close with another report from teleSUR English:

Disappeared persons cases in Mexico top 26,000

Program notes:

Human rights organizations in Mexico report 26,000 cases of disappeared persons, many of whom are migrants from Central America en route to the United States. Central American mothers travel throughout Mexico in a caravan, with the hope of finding their missing children.