Friday, July 26, 2013

Govt Employees' Workers' Comp #PsychiatricDamages Claims Viral

As news that the notorious John Pike of pepper spray fame was making a workers' comp claim at California taxpayers' expense for "psychiatric damages" resulting from his persistent infamy, a rash of copycat suits have been filed by federal and state employees.

Pike became instantly famous when photos of him spraying UC Davis students who were peacefully occupying a part of their campus became a meme with seemingly endless variations. According to SF Gate reporter Ellen Huet, his representatives have said

...Pike subsequently received more than 17,000 angry or threatening e-mails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of letters, plus unwanted magazines, products and food delivered to his home. He has moved several times and changed his phone number and e-mail address to avoid the harassment...

It took the University of California months from the incident to fire Pike, which he says added to the stress he had already experienced from having his personal information and that of his family spread far and wide by Internet activists. He has been jumpy, irritable, and unable to work since losing his job as a campus police officer.

Today a similar claim was filed by NSA analyst Brent Nealy, 35, who claimed he is no longer able to go to the corner store for Red Bull without other customers either scuttling away in fear or, less frequently, trailing him about the store pointing and hissing, "You. Spy! You. Spy!" Nealy said he has not been sleeping well lately, and is considering claiming loss of consortium as well, because his girlfriend stopped speaking to him and sleeping with him as soon as Edmund Snowden's revelations came out.

Department of Defense employee Lara Botticelli, 26, also filed a workers' comp claim in Maryland today due to having to cross what she termed "hostile picket lines" on her way in to her low level administrative job at Ft. Meade where Bradley Manning's court martial trial has been held for the past several months.

The protesters she must pass through were not engaged in a labor action or strike, but Ms. Botticelli told a NYT reporter, "Scabs better not get in my path or their raggedy asses going to be knocked on the pavement." After she was served with a summons for making threatening statements, she screamed loudly and began hitting herself in the head, injuring her neck in the process. She has been in a brace and out of work since the incident.

Thousands of other federal workers as well as municipal employees in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia and thirty-seven other cities have filed "psychiatric damages" claims with their respective states' workers' compensation offices, claiming their status as government employees has endangered their mental health.

If all the claims filed today were approved, the total cost of compensation would approach $1 trillion, or about as much as the U.S. has spent on foreign wars since the events of 9/11. In fact, several of the claimants cited 9/11/01 as the start date for the pressure cooker that their jobs eventually became.

(Ok, most of this is not true. Except for the parts about John Pike, I made it up. Don't you ever have a day when you really wish you wrote for The Onion?)

"Under Threat From Public Scrutiny" U.S. Govt v. The People

CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin with associates in Portland, Oregon just before the release of her book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

I was momentarily elated to read that the CIA was scaling back the use of drone attacks in Pakistan because the program was "under threat from public scrutiny," as reported here by ABC News. 

But I soon found that meant public scrutiny in Pakistan, not the U.S.

Despite the unceasing efforts of anti-drone activiss to share information on how many civilians -- including numerous children -- die in drone strikes, and how less than 2% of the deaths are actually targeted militants,

 Screenshot of amazing data display which you deserve to see unfold: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
the U.S. public remains largely oblivious, concerning itself mostly with what to eat and celebrity gossip about the birth of famous babies.

Sunlight Foundation blogger John Wonderlich reported that, on the eve of Bradley Manning's sentencing, "Obama Promises Disappear from Web":, the website created by the Obama transition team in 2008, has effectively disappeared sometime over the last month.
Speculating as to why this might have occurred, Sunlight re-published one of the many promises that had been disappeared:
Protect Whistleblowers... Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
Tell that to John Kiriakou, whistleblower on the CIA's use of torture. Here's his letter on being denied medical treatment in the federal prison where he's doing 2+ years of time for sharing information the Obama administration did not want shared. About torture conducted by an official of the Bush administration.

 (Image from twitter user@jeremyscahill)
Meanwhile, back in drone land, Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye was finally freed after three years in prisons our own Justice Department describes as subjecting prisoners to torture and abuse -- and the White House expressed disappointment. That Abdulelah Haider had been freed.

Because Obama had specifically requested that he be kept in prison.

His crime? Jeremy Scahill speculated that it might be that the journalist had
conducted several interviews with the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Shaye did the last known interview with Awlaki just before it was revealed that Awlaki, a US citizen, was on a CIA/JSOC hit list.
Al-Awlaki, as those of you paying attention are aware, is the most high profile US citizen to have been killed by extrajudicial drone strikes, in part because his 16 year old son, also a US citizen, was killed two weeks later in yet another drone strike in Yemen.

It isn't just war news that is suppressed. So is news about what is likely to eventually be seen as the biggest event of any of our lifetimes. Almost no one in the U.S. knows that Fukushima's reactor No. 3 appears to be in meltdown. Or that TEPCO seems unable to muster a meaningful response even though there is action they could take. Or that thyroid abnormalities in infants have increased 28% in Hawaii and the west coast of North America. 

You can sign a petition urging West coast senators to investigate the unfolding disaster as a step toward mustering an international response.
Did you know that Obama instructed the EPA to stop monitoring radiation levels in April, 2011? Or that the American Medical Association recently issued a call for testing all U.S. seafood for radiation and sharing the results with the public? Because, for instance,
On July 10, 2013, the Japan Times reported that rising radioactivity levels in seawater off the coast of Fukushima measured 90,000 times more than officially “safe” drinking water...Bluefin tuna caught off San Diego in an August 2012 study demonstrated elevated amounts of Cesium 134 and 137, which are considered characteristic isotopic markers for Fukushima radiation.
Well, maybe you did know that. But most of your neighbors remain in blissful ignorance.

Our government acts with impunity because it does not believe that what passes for public scrutiny in the U.S. is meaningful enough to pose a threat.

Not yet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

#FreeBrad Hall Of Shame: Lamo, Obama, Choike, Lind, Showman, et al.

“We are a nation of laws.  We don’t let individuals make decisions about how the law operates.  He[Bradley Manning] broke the law!” – President Obama

The rogues' gallery of those eager to participate in the persecution of whistleblower Bradley Manning will go down in infamy.
Adrian Lamo, the Über lame snitch who seized his 15 minutes of fame by ratting out a young soldier in Iraq who was troubled by conscience, made an early appearance in Manning's court martial trial.  Alleged chats between the two men had been circulating for years by then, and Lamo had given interviews gloating over the power he wielded after the naive Manning misplaced trust in an online friend. His appearance in court did nothing to change the impression of Lamo as someone incapable of experiencing remorse.

Credit: Courtroom artist Deb VanPoolen,
Col. Denise Lind, the judge presiding over the court martial, has cooperated with the government so well that historians will search in vain for evidence of blind, impartial justice being applied in the case. Her ultimate boss, the commander-in-chief, stated publicly years ago of Manning, "He broke the law," so that whichever judge was chosen to preside would have gone into the case with the clear understanding that President Obama expected a guilty verdict.

Presumably someone further down the chain of command gave Lind orders to read out the charges against Manning so rapidly that reporters were unable transcribe them accurately during the pre-trial hearings. And, the same government that came into office bragging about how transparent they would be also declined to produce a written transcript of the legal proceedings. (Crowd funding hired a stenographer for the people after that shameful display of bias, and full transcripts are available to us here.)

Lind denied many of the witnesses Manning's defense team wished to call. As the trial progressed, it became evident that the prosecution had a rather weak case -- which probably accounted for the 3+ year delay in bringing the court martial to trial, in clear violation of the military's own code of law which stipulates 120 days. No one could find the acceptable use policy allegedly signed and violated by Manning, and at least in public no one could demonstrate that any of the low classified or unclassified information Manning admits providing to Wikileaks caused harm to anyone. The prosecution was allowed to make the argument that Manning aided the enemy because he knew the information he shared would be available on the Internet -- and "Al Qaeda" uses the internet. Wow. The U.S. government would deserve to lose a 6th grade debate contest using that kind of logic.
Jihrleah Showman testifies by Clark Stoeckley @Wikileaks truck
Then, last week, at the 11th hour in the court martial trial and after the defense had rested its case, Judge  Lind allowed the prosecution to bring a witness in rebuttal who had suddenly "remembered" Manning making anti-American statements. From via the website Popular Resistance:
In a cynical move, the government prosecution recalled former Specialist Jihrleah Showman, a supervisor against whom Manning had filed an Equal Opportunity complaint. Following Manning’s complaint, Showman was admonished for her use of homophobic language in conversation and workplace signage. In the years since, she has vied for media appearances, augmented by her own vitriolic Tweets, attacking Manning as well as his supporters. Now, at the eleventh hour, she claims to recall a conversation with the 25-year-old army private in which he allegedly shared anti-American opinions. 
According to the defense, Ms. Showman is lending an intentional and inaccurate spin to comments Manning made regarding his refusal to follow any authority blindly as an “automaton” (in Manning’s own words) so that they conform to the prosecution’s characterization of someone disloyal to the United States. 
No other witness from the prosecution or defense ever testified that Manning harbored any anti-American sentiments, including Ms. Showman herself during previous trips to the stand in this case. In fact, several witnesses offered just the opposite.
And while we're constructing this hall of shame, let's not forget the corporate "news" outlets that spurned Manning when he tried to share the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs files prior to contacting Wikileaks. For shame, New York Times. For shame, Washington Post. For shame, Politico. You all only jumped on the publishing bandwagon after Wikileaks had stuck its neck out (and Julian Assange has been hounded ever since, residing today under virtual house arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he continues to do good work).
Ret. Col. Daniel Choike, Quantico Brig commander when Manning was imprisoned there (Sketch by Clark Stoeckley)
Manning's pre-trial detention produced many a shameful episode as well: being caged outdoors in the desert in Kuwait for several days, a place Manning felt sure he would die. Then nine months of solitary confinement at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia where the ghosts of Jefferson and Madison might well have cringed to see a young soldier standing naked at attention outside his cell -- allegedly to prevent him from suicide. Many of those responsible remain nameless -- but they know who they are.

Ditto the man or woman who denied UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez an interview with Manning. (Mendez was also denied an opportunity to testify in Manning's trial as a witness for the defense.)

I leave you with Manning's immortal words:
We are all human and we are killing ourselves and no one seems to care.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Body, My Choice. I Stand With TX Women!

Photo credit: Andy Molloy, Kennebec JournalUMF student Vanessa Norman, holding the pink sign she made for the occasion,  is shown here at her first protest ever!
In heat that felt like Texas – 100 degrees in Augusta, Maine's capital – CODEPINK women and allies took part July 15 in a national day to stand with Texas women. Women and girls in Texas are facing criminally restrictive legislation over what they choose to do with their bodies, and many of us were moved to show our support when we saw that tampons and pads were being confiscated from women and girls trying to enter the Texas capitol building. Also, people everywhere were inspired by Wendy Davis' epic 13 hour filibuster in the Texas Senate to block passage of the law.
photo credit: Roger Leisner, Maine Paparazzi (see whole set here on Smugmug)
Three elders and three younger women joined forces within sight of the State House at a traffic circle where thousands passed by honking, waving and giving the thumbs up signal to the messages on our signs. The Kennebec Journal sent a reporter to find out why Maine cared about state legislation in Texas (I told Susan McMillan: “Because the ALEC legislative agenda is here threating our freedom in Maine, too” -- a point amply demonstrated in the KJ article here.) 

And my sister and I had some fun on the way to the demo posing in front of our ALEC-sponsored governor's official residence in orange t-shirts that benefit Planned Parenthood (get yours here).

A graduate teaching assistant from a Christian university in Virginia stopped and requested to interview us for an ethics class he helps teach that always debates about access to abortion. My sister Hope did a great job explaining to him why being for women's right to control their own reproductive destinies is not the same thing as being for abortion. She had told me on the way to the demo that she knew back in the 1970's that some day women would have to turn out in force to protect their rights over their own bodies

Most exciting for me was the opportunity to stand with Mindy Bergeron-Laurence, pictured here with the sign she held for a vigil in nearby Waterville, Maine in support of Davis' inspiring filibuster to block the Texas legislation. After a warmup vigil a few days prior, Mindy stood at a busy intersection on July 9 with a bottle of water, some peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars for 13 hours.

I had heard about the lone protester from someone who works in Waterville asking me if I knew who it was. I didn't then, but I do now! Inspired by her solo vigil from 7am to 8pm, numerous people stopped to hug her; one offered her a coffee roll, and another man who had seen her during his morning commute and then all day from his workplace offered her a turkey sandwich late in the day.

Mindy told me: 
I spoke with a lot of people, a few with people who disagreed. I had one guy defiantly flip me off as he drove by, but people were really polite for the most part. One of my very first encounters of the day was a man on a bicycle who rode up and very politely asked me, "Who is Wendy Davis? What's this all about?" And as he realized it was a pro-choice thing he sad “You know that's murder right?” I just kind of looked at him and he said, “You should really look into that.” Then he politely said goodbye and rode off.

The positive encounters people were much more enthusiastic. I had two men in a truck pull up to the light beside me and one of them says in a really thick Southern accent “Who is Wendy Davis?” As I started to explain, “She stood up against anti-choice laws in TX,” he said, “Ma'am, I know exactly what you mean. I'm from the South. Thank you so much for doing this.” 
Then there was a young man walking by with a group. He was around 20 years old and I wonder if he had just witnessed the group hug I got from two hippies. Anway, he walked up and said, ”You're right, Wendy Davis is great. I'm from Texas I need to give you a hug. Thank you so much for doing this.” 
Around 6pm I was contemplating just doing 12 hours. My arms were beyond sore at that point. When traffic was coming from across the intersection towards me I was holding my sign up over my head so that people could see it from a distance. Then when the traffic was coming from the different direction I would hold it down.

But that last couple of hours I had the most direct, positive interactions, probably because people had seen me out there all day. I had a group in their mid to late 50's and they weren't really hippies but maybe kind of beatniks stop and tell me: “You're so brave. Good for you. It's about time someone did something like this.” 
I work right down the road and I'm still having people stop me and say, “You were the one with the sign weren't you? What's that all about?” 
Hopefully it's spreading the idea that our voices matter. The voice of the individual matters. That's what I got from what went down in Texas. We have to fight, and we can fight. And we can win.
Stopped off at the Cross building cafeteria to show my sister the awesome Maine food frescos by my neighbor Barbara Sullivan. I am in the vagina costume created by CODEPINK associate Tighe response to women being shamed and silenced by lawmakers for using the word "vagina" to talk about legislation to regulate, um, vaginas.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Proud To Serve In "The Networked 4th Estate" #FreeBrad

T-shirt purchase supports coverage of Manning's trial. Purchase it here.
Expert testimony in the historic trial of whistleblower Bradley Manning laid out the case for the existence of a new model of a free press this week. Professor Yochai Benkler of Harvard explained:
"the networked Fourth Estate, the set of practices, organizing models technologies, that together come to fill the role that in the 20th Century we associated with the free press. Essentially, the cluster...of the Fourth Estate is the way in which the press provides a public check on the three classes of branches of government. The networked Fourth Estate is essentially the cluster of practices and technologies and organizations that fill that role in the 21st model of network information production.”
Kevin Gosztola's fine reporting on the trial via the blog Firedoglake went on to quote this exchange between Judge Lind and Prof. Benkler:
LIND: Am I understanding you correctly in saying that you're basically looking at, you know, in the last century traditional new media and the way people got news was through newspapers. Before that, I don't know, a telegram or something like that or a cable. As technology evolved, now you're getting more people on the internet that are sharing things? 
BENKLER: That's at the core of it.
This relates to what has become a perennial topic of conversation among activists and organizers everywhere, especially since Obama took office: What's with the widespread apathy in the face of climate crisis, endless war, and the burgeoning police state?
Photo credit: Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch / Edward Snowden and human rights activists meeting July 12, 2013  at the transit center of a Moscow airport where whistleblower Snowden awaits safe passage to asylum in a yet to be determined South American nation.
A Codepink associate just back from a liberal academic summer experience told me that she brought up the latest news on Edward Snowden's quest for asylum at breakfast, only to be met with blank stares and a change of topic to the weather prospects for the day. Her reaction: Isn't anyone paying attention? What's with the self-induced ignorance?

In an article this week in Common Dreams Richard Eskow asked "Where the hell is the outrage?" citing the disintegration of anything resembling the middle class "American dream" amid widespread apathy on the part of those affected.

The dearth of real information that results from believing that NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and "the Journal" (i.e. WSJ) are providing all the news that's fit to print is invisible -- but deadly. You might as well watch only ESPN and feel that you were well-informed (as many, in fact, do).
Photo credit:
Why do educated, online liberals and so-called progressives avoid the networked Fourth Estate and the information to be gathered there? Various reasons, with the most significant likely being the inertia and comfort of those still enjoying fruits during the sunset period of unregulated capitalism.

Social networking sites are shunned for various reasons. One is because they enable much of the NSA's surveillance of citizens. Venezuela's Prisons Minister Iris Varela was reported as tweeting this week:
Comrades: cancel your Facebook accounts, you've been working for free as CIA informants. Review the Edmund Snowden case!
Another may be generational. Baby boomers just aren't netizens; many don't feel comfortable using their social networks to gather, filter and analyze information. They don't learn to tweet, and they use facebook for connecting with childhood classmates, and sharing cute pix of the grandkids. Never mind tumblr, vine, reddit, and so on ad nauseum. Too strange, and too overwhelming.

My hunch, though, is that the biggest reason is: if you know about gigantic problems like the U.S./NATO military-industrial-educational-security complex, you'll have to do something about it.

I was part of a panel at the University of Southern Maine last night about the constitutional dangers of the surveillance state. Rachel Myers Healy of the ACLU shared the three-pronged attack on the monitoring of calls by the NSA in cooperation with the telecom giant Verizon, and one thing I learned from her remarks is that attorney-client communications are not privileged or private. Verizon users mounting an effective defense against prosecution by the U.S. government under these conditions is likely to be difficult.

A member of the audience suggested that corporate espionage for commercial gains was likely a major goal of the sweeping NSA surveillance revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, unfolding as we speak. Another presenter, Eric Hooglund, reminded us that only eight members of Congress were informed of the existence of the secret FISA court that supposedly oversees (but really just rubber stamps) government surveillance. Reminder to self: find out the names and twitter usernames of those eight people.

A final question from the audience at my event: if we could do only one thing to resist drone enabled and other forms of surveillance in Maine, what would that thing be?

My answer: be an information worker. My role on the panel was sharing examples (e.g. video here and photos here) of the beautiful resistance to life under drones.

In my small way, I am a willing receiver and contributor in the networked fourth estate. I will use the Internet, my monitored Gmail account, my surveilled Facebook pages, and my twitter and tumblr accounts, until the day they shut them down.

Now, I'm off to feed my carrier pigeons...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

July 4 Parades: No Drones / NSA Surveillance Over #Maine

Maine busted out with 4th of July parade entries highlighting the threat to privacy posed by drones and other means of NSA surveillance. Artist/activist Natasha Mayers shared these photos from Whitefield of creative responses -- including a genius shower scene with giant eyeballs looming.

CODEPINK Mainers joined local activists from Veterans for Peace, Peaceworks Maine and the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign in a large parade near Bath Iron Works seen by thousands. Eyeballs were everywhere (special thanks to CP Portland Local Coordinator Pat Taub for fun and silly headbands).

Many along the parade route applauded our Independence Day defense of the constitution, as can be seen in this video by Regis Tremblay. It was an extremely hot day, an invisible context to our answers to Regis' question: Why are you here?

Especially popular in Bath: the drone surveillance t-shirts created by Portland artist William Hessian for the occasion. They are available for $10 (along with a second, weaponized drone design) in sizes and colors of your choice at William's etsy site.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

@CODEPINK Associates Hot Summer Of Actions

Photo posted by Nancy Mancias July 2, 2013: #BARTstrike workers & #nurses join #socialsecurity march to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office 
Summer is underway and CODEPINK associates are busting out all over with actions challenging the status quo of drone strikes, wars/occupations, illegal detentions at Guantanamo, and austerity cuts to crucial programs for vulnerable populations so the Pentagon can continue to gobble up 57% of the federal budget.

Co-founders Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans along with Tighe Barry, Ann Wright and other allies visited Yemen in June to meet with families affected by drone strikes and Guantanamo indefinite detentions. Here's Medea explaining some of what she heard in Yemen, speaking in an interview with Dennis Trainor:

Support for whistleblower Bradley Manning was strong as CODEPINK Bay Area joined thousands of other supporters to march in San Francisco's Pride Parade 2013. Because Manning was removed as a Grand Marshall despite having been democratically selected for the honor, this was a perfect venue to support Manning during his court martial trial for providing evidence of war crimes to all of us via Wikileaks. Here are some of Manning's rocking Pink supporters in SF:

In Maine our most recent action on the streets in Portland called for a ceasefire to end the tragic levels of bloodshed in Syria and for the U.S. to abandon plans to send weapons there.

Local artist William Hessian designed and printed recycled t-shirts for CODEPINK Maine with a drone on the front and "One Nation Under Drones" on the back.  We'll be wearing them again on 4th of July when we march in Bath with a giant drone puppet and wearing our surveillance eyeballs. Maine recently passed a bill requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants before using drones to gather information -- but allowing military drones to be tested in Vacationland. Bad idea!

CODEPINK NYC is hot on the trail of Stolen Beauty with the call to boycott cosmetic products by Ahava, made from mud pillaged in settlements near the Dead Sea in occupied Palestine. Their petition to the department store chain Nordstrom to stop carrying products made illegally hopes to gather 5,000 signatures. Click here to sign the Causes petition or, if you are not on Facebook, you can sign the letter here instead.

A most inspiring ongoing action, pictured above, is the eloquent demand for justice at Guantanamo taking place regularly at the White House. Especially of note: Diane Wilson has been fasting since early May in solidarity with hunger strikers protesting inhumane conditions at the notorious prison where innocent men cleared for release are kept in limbo for years at a time. When Diane's weeks of fasting didn't get the attention of the President, who has the ability to release prisoners and even shut down Guantanamo, she hopped the fence. Diane and Medea and others were then arrested.

Here's Medea being slammed to the pavement by police on the sidewalk in front of the White House after protesters were told to clear the area and she paused to help another hunger striker who was having trouble walking:

It occurred to me that police might have been angered by the street theater enactment of forced feeding a la Gitmo, as shown here by Tighe Barry and a CODEPINK "prisoner":

As I watched this I reflected on news today that hunger strikers being held in Cuba would be force fed only after dark as they are Muslims observing Ramadan. Even George Orwell could not forsee this criminal absurdity.

Hot summer of actions ahead! Click here to find Codepink associates in your area.