Saturday, August 25, 2012

Creeping Counterterrorism: From Muslims to Political Protesters

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Few Americans are surprised to hear that 9/11 shifted our domestic terrorism focus from neo-Nazis and white supremacists to Muslims in America. What may come as a surprise, however, is the pervasive use of anti-terrorism powers against non-Muslims as well, including white middle-class protesters - as we saw in the Occupy movement.

The 9/11 terrorists' warped misinterpretation of Islam triggered a maelstrom of expanded national security powers selectively enforced against American Muslims en masse. Mosques are infiltrated with dubious and highly paid informants, thereby chilling religious freedom. Mentally unstable young Muslim men are targets of overzealous counterterrorism sting operations, and Muslim student associations are under mass surveillance for no apparent reason other than the religious identity of their members. Despite the serious civil liberties implications of such selective enforcement, it has occurred with minimal opposition by the American public.

Our shortsighted forfeiture of civil liberties based on fears of the "Muslim other" now equips our government to quash political dissent.

According to a state-by-state assessment by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in at least 36 states, Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police based on their participation in marches, protests and expressions of unusual viewpoints. Likewise, the former inspector general of the US Department of Justice found that antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska have been subjected to unlawful surveillance based on their political views and activities.

Thus, the coordinated efforts among state and local agencies in Joint Terrorism Task Forces to quash the Occupy protests were a predictable consequence of counterterrorism's scope creep.

At its peak in the fall of 2011, the Occupy movement engaged hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country in nonviolent political protests about the egregious wealth disparities in the United States. When it came to responding to mass discontent, the American government proved it had a lot in common with Middle Eastern dictators.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) and other police departments conducted mass group arrests without having probable cause to arrest the group. Agent provocateurs infiltrated the Occupy movement to disturb and disrupt civil political assembly. Similar to mosque congregants who made like complaints, protesters accused the police of entrapping young people who were mentally disabled, drug addicts or who had just experienced a traumatic personal experience. Like their Muslim counterparts, Occupy leaders were subjected to hostile interrogations by law enforcement agents visiting their homes before a protest.

The billions of dollars spent on increasing our government's domestic surveillance capabilities, ostensibly to protect Americans from "Islamist terrorists," is now used to spy on political protesters. In New York City alone, over 3,000 cameras have been installed to feed into a control center housed in a secret location, and $150 million surveillance systems allowed the NYPD to closely monitor Occupy protests, identify targets for infiltration and ultimately chill political activity.

Hence the same playbook used to frighten Muslims from critiquing American policies or attending their mosques has now become the one used against the Occupy protesters. And the same national security powers expanded after 9/11 under the guise of keeping us safe from the Muslims are now enforced against political dissenters who challenge the economic inequities ailing our nation.

By believing in the fallacy of the "Muslim terrorist other," we weakened our resolve to protect fundamental American values. As a result, post-9/11 counterterrorism authorities are used to spy, infiltrate, entrap, arrest and aggressively prosecute any protesters.

When we allow governments to forfeit our civil rights to protect "us" from "them," we lose sight of how quickly we can become the "them."

So, how many more Americans must be subjected to civil liberties violations before we realize that no one is immune from creeping counterterrorism?

Forsaken And Forgotten

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America is becoming a very cold place. If you don't have money, you don't really matter much in our society. The ads on television aren't for you - they are directed at people that actually have good jobs and that can afford to buy the nice little "extras" in life. The politicians aren't really interested in you either - they figure that they can buy your vote with all of the money that they are getting from the wealthy people. When you don't have money, even friends and relatives start to distance themselves from you. Perhaps they are afraid that you will ask them for money or perhaps they are afraid that your "failure" will start to rub off on them. When people know that you are struggling for money, the barriers immediately go up. In the United States today, there are tens of millions of people that have been forsaken and forgotten. They mostly stay at home (if they still have a home), and for most of them quiet desperation has become a way of life. You won't ever read much about them or see them appear much on television because nobody really cares too much about them. As far as society is concerned, there are just way too many of them and they are a problem that "the government" should be able to handle anyway. Sadly, the truth is that many communities all across America want absolutely nothing to do with those that can't take care of themselves. All over the country cities are passing laws making it illegal to feed the homeless, and in other instances cities are actually making it illegal to be homeless. Unfortunately, this problem is not going away. In fact, the number of Americans living in poverty increases with each passing day. So where do we go from here?

These days, a lot of formerly middle class Americans are down on their luck and can't even afford to buy enough food. The following is from a recent Yahoo article....

Cheryl Preston knows that others are worse off. But she's still hungry.

As grocery prices creep higher and her income sags, rationing her family's food is a daily task. The 54-year-old mother of three and grandmother of three in Roanoke, Va., says there are days she skips meals so her husband and son can eat. If they notice, she says, she'll let them think she's fasting. She waters down the milk and juice to make it last longer. She visits food pantries, but it's not enough.

Have you ever had to skip meals because you simply could not afford to buy enough food?

Have you ever wondered how you were going to make it to the next paycheck?

When you look into the eyes of your hungry children and you realize that your best efforts have not been good enough to provide what they need it can be absolutely soul crushing.

And when you have lost everything it quickly becomes apparent that most people in society simply do not care about you.

About a third of the country is already on some form of welfare. Another family falling out of the middle class and into poverty is not going to cause anyone to sit up and take notice.

The middle class in America is being absolutely shredded. In a recent article I wrote entitled "84 Statistics That Prove That The Decline Of The Middle Class Is Real And That It Is Getting Worse" I detailed this very clearly. But most Americans don't think about this very much because they are just focused on what is going on in their own little worlds. If they still have their jobs and if their family and friends are still doing okay then they are likely to believe that everything is just fine.

But everything is not fine.

According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of all Americans were "middle income" back in 1971.

Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are "middle income".

There aren't enough good jobs in this country and there never will be enough good jobs ever again.

Those that are just entering the job market understand very clearly that there are not enough good jobs.

Of the recent college graduates that have been fortunate enough to actually get a job, about half of them have taken jobs that do not even require a college degree.

But at least if you have a job, even if it is really crappy, you still matter in this economy.

Many of those that are not working at all have been completely forsaken and forgotten.

Over the past year, approximately 1.3 million Americans have seen their extended unemployment benefits end. Most of them are considered to have "dropped out of the labor force" even though they aren't working, they don't have any income coming in and they are very desperate. They are told to go "get a job" in an economy that does not produce enough jobs for everyone. The music stopped playing and they were left without a seat and nobody really cares too much.

But if you live in the good areas of New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle this article might seem like complete nonsense to you. After all, corporate profits are at an all-time high and the stores and malls where you live are packed with people. Everyone around you is driving new cars, wearing designer clothes and using the latest tech gadgets.

But it is not like that everywhere in America.

There are two Americas today. One is swimming in money and is seemingly more prosperous than ever.

The other America is a complete and total economic nightmare.

Just check out the percentage of blighted properties in some of America's most run down cities....

Baltimore: 14 percent

Cleveland: 19 percent

Youngstown, Ohio: 21 percent

New Orleans: 21 percent

Detroit: 24 percent

Flint, Michigan: 27 percent

But those that are paying millions of dollars for dinky little apartments in New York City may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Well, in the forgotten areas of America "despair" is what people experience on a good day. Unemployment and government dependence are a way of life, and alcohol and drugs are used to dull the pain. The following is from a recent article by Chris Hedges. It describes what life is like in the little town of Gary, West Virginia....

Joe and I are sitting in the Tug River Health Clinic in Gary with a registered nurse who does not want her name used. The clinic handles federal and state black lung applications. It runs a program for those addicted to prescription pills. It also handles what in the local vernacular is known as “the crazy check” -- payments obtained for mental illness from Medicaid or SSI -- a vital source of income for those whose five years of welfare payments have run out. Doctors willing to diagnose a patient as mentally ill are important to economic survival.

“They come in and want to be diagnosed as soon as they can for the crazy check,” the nurse says. “They will insist to us they are crazy. They will tell us, ‘I know I’m not right.’ People here are very resigned. They will avoid working by being diagnosed as crazy.”

The reliance on government checks, and a vast array of painkillers and opiates, has turned towns like Gary into modern opium dens. The painkillers OxyContin, fentanyl -- 80 times stronger than morphine -- Lortab, as well as a wide variety of anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, are widely abused. Many top off their daily cocktail of painkillers at night with sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. And for fun, addicts, especially the young, hold “pharm parties,” in which they combine their pills in a bowl, scoop out handfuls of medication, swallow them, and wait to feel the result.

There are hundreds of small towns all over America today just like Gary that have been forsaken by society. Most people in those towns are just "existing" and gave up all hope of a better life long ago.

Some of these stories are being told in a new documentary film called "American Winter". You can view the trailer for the film right here. It is a very powerful 5 minutes and 41 seconds.

Sadly, the truth is that there really does not need to be so much suffering in America.

Did you know that Americans waste 165 billion dollars worth of food each year?

That could sure feed a lot of hungry people.

And the overwhelming greed that we see in society today is absolutely astounding.

For example, Yahoo recently profiled a hoarder who packed her home with $500,000 worth of "stuff" that she could not resist buying....

There are shoe closets, and then there are shoe rooms. Monte, a retired teacher in her fifties, had scattered $20,000 worth of footwear throughout six rooms in her home. Some were organized by color, but most lay in mountainous piles of clutter in her 4,000 square foot home outside Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Over a period of 10 years, she'd spent over $500,000 on clothing, accessories and home furnishings, all of which lay strewn across her kitchen, entryway and bedrooms, tags intact.

But far worse are the "Rich Kids of Instagram". It has apparently become trendy for wealthy kids to take pictures of themselves enjoying their outrageous wealth. It truly is disgusting.

Meanwhile, most American families are really struggling to get by. In fact, 77 percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.

And jobless claims are rising again. We are on the verge of another major economic crisis and that means that millions more Americans are going to lose their jobs and their homes.

If you think that things are bad now, just wait, because things are about to get a whole lot worse.

Don't be afraid to reach out and help those that are hurting. When things are the darkest, that is when heroes are needed the most.


Here's What's Actually Killing The Economy... The Decline Of The Middle Class

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One of the most important stories in the U.S. economy these days is the rise of extreme inequality.

Over the past 30 years, a larger and larger portion of America's income growth has gone to those in the top 10% of incomes, and especially those in the top 1%. This is a major change from the prior 60 years, in which the top 10% and the bottom 90% shared in the income gains.

A stark and startling example of this trend is the fact that, adjusted for inflation, "average hourly earnings" in this country have not increased in 50 years.

A recent Pew study confirms that America's middle class has recently experienced a "lost decade."

Since 2000, the Pew says, "the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future." Pew cites statistics showing that middle class earnings and net worth have plummeted since the mid-2000s and that about 85% of the middle class say it is harder to maintain their standard of living than it was 10 years ago.

The reason the decline of the middle class is important is not just about fairness. It's about the health of the economy as a whole.

Collectively, the middle class represents enormous buying and spending power, and in the past 60 years this spending power has helped the U.S. economy become the envy of the world.

But now, however, the middle class is increasingly strapped. And the resulting impact on spending is constraining the growth of companies that sell products and services to American consumers.

The causes of this middle-class decline are many, from globalization (jobs being shipped overseas), to the decline of private-sector unions, to the wholesale embrace of a "shareholder value" religion that values profit over everything else that companies produce. But the result of the trend can be seen vividly in two charts.

First, wages are now at an all-time low as a percent of the economy.

Second, corporate profits are now at an all-time high.

To truly "fix" the U.S. economy, corporations are going to have to be persuaded to invest more of their excess profits in their employees, both by hiring new employees and paying existing employees more. "Wages" to employees become spending money for those employees, and the spending produces revenue for other companies. If corporations can collectively be persuaded to reinvest more of their profits in their people, in other words, they will help restore their own revenue growth.

Henry Ford famously decided to pay his workers more than he had to to keep them. One result of this was that the workers made enough money to be able to buy Ford's cars, and this made Ford more successful. Another result, which is considered irrelevant in some business circles, is that Ford employees were able to live middle-class lives. This helped not only Ford, but the country.

Our current economic problem is not likely to be solved by the government, which possesses neither the power nor the competence to make it happen. The problem will have to be solved by the private sector. And one important part of that solution is for corporations to share more of their wealth with one very important (and often overlooked) corporate constituency: Their employees.

84 Statistics That Prove That The Decline Of The Middle Class Is Real Getting Worse

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The middle class in America is being systematically destroyed. Once upon a time the United States had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world. The rest of the globe looked at us in envy and wondered what we were doing right. But now everything seems to be going wrong for the middle class. Millions of our jobs have been shipped out of the country and competition for the remaining jobs is keeping wages at depressed levels. Meanwhile, the cost of living just keeps going up and up and middle class budgets are being stretched and strained like never before. Millions more Americans fall out of the middle class and into poverty every single year, and government dependence is at an all-time high. Finding a solution to the decline of the middle class is absolutely central to fixing the economic problems in this country. Without a large, thriving middle class this would not be America. The truth is that people from all over the world want to come here because they want to work hard, buy a house, raise a family and provide a better future for their children. This has traditionally been "the land of opportunity", but now the middle class is rapidly declining and none of our politicians seem to have any solutions. With each passing day, the American Dream is slipping through the fingers of millions of hard working American families. We owe it to them to get this thing fixed.

The following are 84 statistics that prove that the decline of the middle class is real and that it is getting worse....

1. According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of all Americans were "middle income" back in 1971. Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are.

2. The Pew Research Center has also found that 85 percent of middle class Americans say that it is harder to maintain a middle class standard of living today compared with 10 years ago.

3. 62 percent of middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.

4. The average net worth of a middle class family in America was $129,582 in 2001. By 2010 that figure had dropped to $93,150.

5. According to the Federal Reserve, the median net worth of all families in the United States declined "from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010".

6. Back in 1970, middle income Americans brought home 62 percent of all income in the United States. In 2010, middle income Americans only brought home 45 percent of all income.

7. After you adjust for inflation, median family income in the United States has fallen by about 6 percent since the year 2000.

8. Real median household income has decreased by more than 4000 dollars since Barack Obama entered the White House.

9. Amazingly, more than half of all Americans are now at least partially financially dependent on the government.

10. In 1970, 65 percent of all Americans lived in "middle class neighborhoods". By 2007, only 44 percent of all Americans lived in "middle class neighborhoods".

11. If you can believe it, one recent survey found that 28 percent of all Americans do not have a single penny saved for emergencies.

12. The United States was once ranked #1 in the world in GDP per capita. Today we have slipped to #12.

13. The total value of household real estate in the U.S. has declined from $22.7 trillion in 2006 to $16.2 trillion today. Most of that wealth has been lost by the middle class.

14. Back in 2007, 19.2 percent of all American families had a net worth of zero or less. By 2010, that figure had risen to 32.5 percent.

15. Since the year 2000, incomes for U.S. households led by someone between the ages of 25 and 34 have fallen by about 12 percent after you adjust for inflation.

16. In 1984, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older was 10 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger. Today, the median net worth of households led by someone 65 or older is 47 times larger than the median net worth of households led by someone 35 or younger.

17. Corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time high. Meanwhile, wages as a percentage of GDP are near an all-time low.

18. There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

19. The average American household spent approximately $4,155 on gasoline during 2011, and electricity bills in the U.S. have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

20. Over the past decade, health insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages have in the United States.

21. Health insurance costs have risen by 23 percent since Barack Obama became president. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980. Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

22. Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned. By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.

23. Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

24. Total consumer debt in the United States has risen by 1700 percent since 1971.

25. Recently it was announced that total student loan debt in the United States has passed the one trillion dollar mark.

26. One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

27. According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills are a major factor in more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States. Of those bankruptcies that were caused by medical bills, approximately 75 percent of them involved individuals that actually did have health insurance.

28. According to a report released in 2010, Americans spend approximately twice as much as residents of other developed countries do on health care.

29. According to one recent survey, approximately 10 percent of all employers in the United States plan to drop health coverage when key provisions of the new health care law kick in less than two years from now.

30. According to one recent survey, approximately one-third of all Americans are not paying their bills on time at this point.

31. The wealthiest 20 percent of all Americans now control 84 percent of all the wealth in America.

32. Right now, over 50 percent of all stocks and bonds are owned by just 1 percent of the U.S. population.

33. Back in the 1970s, the top 1 percent of all income earners brought in about 8 percent of all income. Today, they bring in about 21 percent of all income.

34. 40 years ago, the top 1/10,000th of all U.S. households brought in about 1 percent of all income. Today, they bring in about 5 percent of all income.

35. Today, the wealthiest 1 percent of all Americans own more wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.

36. The wealthiest 400 families in the United States have about as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of all Americans do combined.

37. The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

38. At this point, the poorest 50 percent of all Americans collectively own just 2.5% of all the wealth in the United States.

39. The following is how income gains in the United States were distributed during 2010....

-37 percent of all income gains went to the top 0.01 percent of all income earners

-56 percent of all income gains went to the rest of the top 1 percent

-7 percent of all income gains went to the bottom 99 percent

40. The U.S. economy lost more than 220,000 small businesses during the recent recession.

41. The percentage of Americans that are self-employed fell by more than 20 percent between 1991 and 2010.

42. Overall, the number of "new entrepreneurs and business owners" dropped by a staggering 53 percent between 1977 and 2010.

43. In 2010, the number of jobs created at new businesses in the United States was less than half of what it was back in the year 2000.

44. The average pay for self-employed Americans fell by $3,721 between 2006 and 2010.

45. In the United States today, there are 240 million working age people. Only about 140 million of them are working.

46. Since the year 2000, the United States has lost 10% of its middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.

47. Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs. Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

48. Right now, approximately 25 million American adults are living with their parents.

49. According to one study, between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.

50. According to U.S. Representative Betty Sutton, America has lost an average of 15 manufacturing facilities a day over the last 10 years. During 2010 it got even worse. That year, an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day shut down in the United States.

51. At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

52. Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level.

53. If you can believe it, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

54. Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs. Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

55. At this point, only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States are considered to be good jobs.

56. Right now, approximately 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.

57. Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be either "low income" or impoverished.

58. In the United States today, somewhere around 100 million Americans are considered to be either "poor" or "near poor".

59. In 2010, 2.6 million more Americans descended into poverty. That was the largest increase that we have seen since the U.S. government began keeping statistics on this back in 1959.

60. It is being projected that when the final numbers come out later this year that the U.S. poverty rate will be the highest that it has been in almost 50 years.

61. It is also being projected that about half of all American adults will spend at least some time living below the poverty line before they turn 65.

62. Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

63. It was recently reported that 1.5 million American families live on less than two dollars a day (before counting government benefits).

64. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of "very poor" rose in 300 out of the 360 largest metropolitan areas during 2010.

65. According to one recent poll, 18.2 percent of all Americans have not been able to buy enough food to eat at some point during this past year.

66. Households that are led by a single mother have a 31.6% poverty rate.

67. In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps.

68. At this point, approximately 22 percent of all American children are living in poverty.

69. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4 percent of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1 percent of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6 percent of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6 percent of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

70. Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

71. Child homelessness in the United States has risen by 33 percent since 2007.

72. There are 314 counties in the United States where at least 30% of the children are facing food insecurity.

73. Approximately one-fourth of all American children are enrolled in the food stamp program.

74. It is projected that half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years of age.

75. Since Barack Obama became president, the number of Americans living in poverty has risen by 6 million and the number of Americans on food stamps has risen by 14 million.

76. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives benefits from the federal government. Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.

77. Federal housing assistance outlays increased by a whopping 42 percent between 2006 and 2010.

78. Approximately 50 million Americans do not have any health insurance at all right now.

79. Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, approximately one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

80. It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

81. Overall, the amount of money that the federal government gives directly to the American people has risen by 32 percent since Barack Obama entered the White House.

82. According to a recent report produced by Pew Charitable Trusts, approximately one out of every three Americans that grew up in a middle class household has slipped down the income ladder.

83. If you can believe it, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government at this point.

84. In the United States today, 77 percent of all Americans are living to paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.

In compiling the information above, I relied heavily on research that I had previously done for The Economic Collapse Blog and The American Dream Blog.

So what do all of you think about the decline of the middle class?

Solitary Confinement Is Used as Torture Chambers for Black Dissidents

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Russell “Maroon” Shoats has been kept in solitary confinement in the state of Pennsylvania for 30 years after being elected president of the prison-approved Lifers’ Association. He was initially convicted for his alleged role in an attack authorities claim was carried out by militant Black activists on the Fairmont Park Police Station in Philadelphia that left a park sergeant dead.

Despite not having violated prison rules in more than two decades, state prison officials refuse to release him into the general prison population.

Russell’s family and supporters claim that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) has unlawfully altered the consequences of his criminal conviction, sentencing him to die in solitary confinement – a death imposed by decades of no-touch torture.

The severity of the conditions he is subjected to and the extraordinary length of time they have been imposed has sparked an international campaign [3] to release him from solitary confinement – a campaign that has quickly attracted the support of leading human rights legal organizations, such as the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.

Less than two months after the campaign was formally launched with events in New York City and London, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Juan Mendez agreed to make an official inquiry [4] into Shoats’ 21 years of solitary confinement, sending a communication to the U.S. State Department representative in Geneva, Switzerland.

What the Liberals Won’t Tell You

While the state of Pennsylvania has remained unmoved in this matter so far, some in the U.S. government are finally catching on. Decades after rights activists first began to refer to the practice of solitary confinement as “torture,” the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on June 19 to “reassess” the fiscal, security and human costs of locking prisoners into tiny, windowless cells for 23 hours a day.

Needless to say, the hearing echoed in a whisper what human rights defenders have been shouting for nearly an entire generation: that sensory deprivation, lack of social contact, a near total absence of zeitgebers (cues given by the environment, such as a change in light or temperature, to reset the internal body clock) and restricted access to all intellectual and emotional stimuli are an evil and unproductive combination.

The hearing opened a spate of debate, with newspapers in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Ohio and elsewhere seizing the occasion to denounce the practice as “torture” and call for a reversal of a 30-year trend that has shattered – at a minimum – tens of thousands of people’s lives inside the vast U.S. prison archipelago.

But as happens with virtually all prison-related stories in the U.S. mainstream media, the two most important words were left unprinted, unuttered: race and revolution.

Any discussion on solitary confinement begins and ends with a number: a prisoner is kept in his or her cell 23 or 24 hours per day, allowed three showers every week and served three meals a day. According to a report by U.N. torture rapporteur Mendez, prisoners should not be held in isolation for more than 15 days at a stretch. But in the U.S., it is typical for hundreds of thousands of prisoners to pass in and out of solitary confinement for 30 or 60 days at a time each year.

Human Rights Watch [5] estimated that there were approximately 20,000 prisoners being held in Supermax prisons, which are entire facilities dedicated to solitary confinement or near-solitary. It is estimated [6] that at least 80,000 men, women and even children are being held in solitary confinement on any given day in U.S. jails and prisons.

Unknown thousands have spent years and, in some cases, decades in such isolation, including more than 500 prisoners held in California’s Pelican Bay state prison for 10 years or more.

Perhaps the most notorious case of all is that of the Angola 3 [7], three Black Panthers who have been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana for more than 100 years between the three of them. While Robert King was released after 29 years in solitary, his comrades – Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – recently began their 40th years in solitary confinement, despite an ongoing lawsuit challenging their isolation and a growing international movement for their freedom that has been supported by Amnesty International.

But all these numbers fail to mention what Robert Saleem Holbrook, who was sentenced to life without parole [8] as a 16-year-old juvenile and has now spent the majority of his life behind bars, pointed out: “Given the control units’ track record in driving men crazy, it is not surprising that the majority of prisoners sent into them are either politically conscious prisoners, prison lawyers or rebellious young prisoners. It is this class of prisoners that occupies the control units in prison systems across the United States.”

Holbrook’s observation is anything but surprising to those familiar with the routine violations of prisoners’ human rights within U.S. jails and prisons. The prison discipline study [9], a mass national survey assessing formal and informal punitive practices in U.S. prisons conducted in 1989, concluded that “solitary confinement, loss of privileges, physical beatings” and other forms of deprivation and harassment were “common disciplinary practices” that were “rendered routinely, capriciously and brutally” in maximum-security U.S. prisons.

The study also noted receiving “hundreds of comments from prisoners” explaining that jailhouse lawyers who file grievances and lawsuits about abuse and poor conditions were the most frequently targeted. Black prisoners and the mentally ill were also targeted for especially harsh treatment. This “pattern of guard brutality” was “consistent with the vast and varied body of post-war literature, demonstrating that guard use of physical coercion is highly structured and deeply entrenched in the guard subculture.”

Race and Revolution

But while broad patterns can be discerned, these are the numbers that are missing: How many of those in solitary confinement are Black? How many are self-taught lawyers, educators or political activists? How many initiated hunger strikes, which have long been anathema to the prison administration? How many were caught up in the FBI-organized dragnet that hauled thousands of community leaders, activists and thinkers into the maws of the U.S. “justice” system during the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s?

Former warden of United States Penitentiary Marion, the prototype of modern supermax-style solitary confinement, Ralph Arons, has stated [9]: “The purpose of the Marion Control Unit is to control revolutionary attitudes in the prison system and in the society at large.”

One of these revolutionaries is Russell “Maroon” Shoats, the founder of the Black Unity Council, which later merged with the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party. He was first jailed in early 1970.

Hailing from the gang-war-torn streets of West Philadelphia, Shoats escaped twice from the prison system, first from Huntingdon state prison in September 1977 and then again in March 1980.

Shoats’ escapes – the first of which lasted a full 27 days, despite a massive national search complete with helicopters, dogs and vigilante groups from predominantly white communities surrounding the prison – earned him the nickname “Maroon,” in honor of slaves who broke away from plantations in Surinam, Guyana and later Jamaica, Brazil and other colonies and established sovereign communities on the outskirts of the white settler zones.

Still, it was not until Shoats was elected president of the prison-approved Lifers’ Organization in 1982 – the closest thing to a union for inmates, through which they demanded basic rights such as proper visiting hours, access to legal documents and healthier food – that the prison system decided he was a “threat” to administrative stability and placed him in solitary confinement.

For the past 30 years, Maroon has been transferred from one “torture chamber” to another, where his best efforts to interact with his fellow prisoners or resurrect his old study sessions for the younger generation are thwarted at every turn.

In 2006, the U.S. had an incarceration rate for Black males that was more than five-and-a-half times [10] greater than that of South Africa at the end of the apartheid era in 1993.

Yet most mainstream authorities on the prison system in the U.S. – such as the eminent scholar Michelle Alexander, whose book “The New Jim Crow” suggests that the prison system is racially “biased” – do not come close to touching on the phenomenon of political prisoners, let alone on the inmates who take up the cudgels on behalf of their fellow detainees and attempt to carve out niches of justice in a massive chamber of terror.

The discussion of solitary confinement as a violation of a basic human right comes five decades after Malcolm X first began to preach that Black people in America should take their grievances not to the U.S. Supreme Court but to the United Nations, to appeal not for civil rights, as white bourgeois parlance would have it, but for basic human rights, as a colonized people.

He argued not for “integration” into a system that had brutalized and enslaved “Africans in America” for years, but for an overhaul of that system and a transfer of power away from those who created and maintained it. Not master walking hand-in-hand with slave, but an end to mastery and slavery altogether.

As a Black revolutionary, Malcolm X’s words were largely painted over by mainstream historians. But if the struggle to end inhumane treatment inside prisons is to become anything more than a largely apolitical movement for so-called “civil rights,” it must put two long-ignored points back on the agenda: race and revolution.

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[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/kanya-dalmeida
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/bret-grote
[3] http://russellmaroonshoats.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/launch-event-for-campaign-to-free-russell-maroon-shoats/
[4] http://russellmaroonshoats.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/united-nations-special-rapporteur-inquires-into-prolonged-solitary-confinement-of-russell-maroon-shoats/
[5] http://www.hrw.org/reports/2000/supermax/Sprmx002.htm#P40_391
[6] http://solitarywatch.com/2012/02/01/how-many-prisoners-are-in-solitary-confinement-in-the-united-states/
[7] http://blog.amnestyusa.org/iar/louisianas-angola-3-100-years-of-solitude/
[8] http://freesalim.net/crushed_against_the_law
[9] http://people.umass.edu/~kastor/ceml_articles/cu_in_us.html
[10] http://www.prisonsucks.com/
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/solitary-confinement
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/black
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/african-american

Number of Americans Living in Poverty Reaches All Time High

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The Associated Press reports that “the number of Americans with incomes at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level – the income limit for qualifying for legal aid - is expected to reach an all-time high of 66 million this year. A family of four earning 125 percent of the federal poverty level makes about $28,800 a year, government figures show.”

And this chart, courtesy of the Wall Street blog Zero Hedge:

The takeaway: Americans are falling into poverty at a rapid rate, and have been for at least the past 8 years. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, inequality has risen to an all time high.

As Kulture Kritick previously reported, nowhere has the impact of the Great Recession been felt more than in the black community.

There have been two recessions in this country, a White Recession, which is in partial recovery, and a Black Recession, which is still in free fall.

For white men, unemployment reached its peak at 9.7 percent. It’s now at 6.9 percent.

And white female unemployment is at a stable 6.8 percent. It reached its zenith at 7.3 percent.

Compare that to black male unemployment which is still at a whopping 14.8 percent, and black female unemployment, which is currently at 11.5 percent. So it is a given that embedded in this poverty data is a disproportionate number of black men and women, who are still struggling in this Great Recession.

Of course no one talks about this, so it is doubtful that anyone in Congress or the White House will work to do anything about it. As usual, black folk are on their own in this country.

The Election Year Controversy Over Romney's Taxes: Hypocrisy To Spare On Both Sides

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Last Thursday, Republican candidate for US president Mitt Romney attempted to quell criticism by the Obama campaign about his personal fortune and proposed tax plan. He told a press conference in Greer, South Carolina that he had paid at least 13 percent in income taxes each of the past ten years.

“Over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the most recent year is 13.6 or something like that. So I paid taxes every single year,” Romney said in response to a reporter’s question during what was scheduled as a press conference on Medicare.

Romney’s comment and the underlying issues surrounding his enormous fortune and possible tax evasion have a political significance, highlighting the social (and moral) chasm that separates the working population from the super-rich.

In January, under pressure from his rivals for the Republican nomination, Romney released his 2010 tax return and an estimate for 2011. According to these documents, Romney claimed $20 million in income in 2010, paying an effective federal income tax rate of 13.9 percent, with a total tax payment of around $2.8 million.

Both this latter total and the tax rate are absurdly low for an individual with such an income. Romney’s effective tax rate is only slightly higher than the average US household’s effective tax rate of 11 percent, according to an analysis of 2009 tax returns by the non-profit Tax Foundation.

According to the same study, households with incomes between $500,000 and $1,000,000—that is, households earning between one fortieth and one twentieth of Romney’s 2010 income—paid an average effective rate of 24 percent, over ten percentage points more than the presidential candidate.

In 2010, for a married couple filing a joint tax return, the US income tax rate was 10 percent for income up to $17,400; 15 percent for income from $17,400 to $70,000; 25 percent for $70,000 to $142,000; 28 percent for $142,000 to $217,000; 33 percent for $217,000 to $388,350; and 35 percent for income above $388,350.

Romney’s Federal Election Commission filings and 2010 tax return reveal a multitude of off-shore tax havens and complicated instruments which have no other purpose than to hide income. These include a $3 million Swiss bank account, transactions with foreign companies, which occupy a full 55 pages in the 2010 tax return, and an individual retirement account (IRA) worth tens of millions of dollars.

On Friday, the Obama and Romney campaigns exchanged letters about the possibility of Romney releasing tax returns for the past five years, with Obama aides offering to drop any further demands for disclosure if Romney complied. The Romney camp flatly rejected any further release of information.

The Romney campaign has faced pressure to release his tax returns from Republicans who fear that the continued refusal gives ammunition to the Democrats. Statements to this effect have come from right-wing columnist George Will, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and media mogul Rupert Murdoch, as well as from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former campaign strategist Ed Rollins.

It is not that the production of such information is particularly burdensome, even given the gargantuan financial holdings of Romney, who is estimated to be worth as much as $250 million, largely from his operations as the principal owner of the private equity firm Bain Capital. Romney delivered more than 20 years worth of tax returns and other financial documents to the McCain campaign in 2008 when he was being vetted as a potential vice-presidential candidate.

The Romney campaign has taken a pounding for months from sections of the media and from the Obama campaign for refusing to follow the practice of nearly every presidential candidate in the last half century—including Romney’s own father when he ran for president in 1968. George Romney released 12 years of tax returns covering his years as Michigan governor and CEO of American Motors.

The only politically serious conclusion to be drawn is that there is something in the tax returns that is more damaging to Romney than the constant attacks for withholding information. Many possibilities exist, although one, suggested by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid—that Romney paid zero taxes over a period of several years—was flatly denied by Romney.

One possibility, voiced by liberal MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, was that Romney may have taken advantage of a tax amnesty in 2009 which allowed persons who had previously hidden income overseas to come clean and pay a penalty in exchange for being free from criminal liability for tax evasion.

Another possibility is that there is a conflict between Romney’s tax return for 2009, apparently filed while he was living in California, and his voting in the January 2010 Massachusetts special election for the US senate seat vacated by the death of Democrat Edward Kennedy. Romney registered using his son’s address in Belmont, Massachusetts, although it is doubtful he was living in the basement.

Romney’s refusal to make public his tax returns expresses the arrogance and contempt for the public and for democratic principles of the entire ruling elite. Many of the leading Democrats who have been denouncing him for non-disclosure, like Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—wife of a multimillionaire real estate investor—have never released their own tax returns and publicly refuse to do so.

Obama’s own treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, the former president of the New York Federal Reserve, was exposed as a tax evader during his confirmation hearings. More fundamentally, Obama and the Democrats have aided and abetted the same financial parasites as their Republican counterparts, from the open-ended bailout of Wall Street, to the bailout of Chrysler and General Motors at the expense of the auto workers, to this month’s Justice Department decision to drop its criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs.

US To Drop Criminal Probe Of MF Global

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The New York Times published a front-page article on August 16 reporting that the US Justice Department is preparing to end a ten-month criminal investigation into the collapse of the Wall Street brokerage firm MF Global without charging the company or any of its employees.

This is despite what the Times called the “disappearance” of some $1 billion in customer money that emerged when the firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October 31. MF Global raided clients’ accounts in an attempt to meet margin calls in the days leading up to its collapse. The newspaper reports that $175 million of this stolen money went to JPMorgan Chase.

The failure of the firm, on the other hand, left “farmers and other customers out millions,” according to the Times report.

Nevertheless, the company and its former chairman and CEO Jon Corzine are likely to be given a free pass by the government. The Times cited “people involved in the case who spoke on condition of anonymity,” making clear that news of the government whitewash had been deliberately leaked, presumably in an effort to prepare public opinion and dampen popular outrage.

The Times is no doubt also motivated by concerns over the impact on the Obama reelection campaign of yet another official cover-up of Wall Street criminality, given that Corzine is a former Democratic senator and governor of New Jersey and a top fundraiser for the Obama campaign. He hosted Obama’s first reelection fund-raising event at his Fifth Avenue apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.

Failure to prosecute the multi-millionaire Goldman Sachs CEO (1994-1999)-turned Democratic office-holder will create difficulties for a campaign based—absurdly and cynically—on casting Obama as a quasi-populist alternative to his pro-Wall Street opponent.

Exactly one week before the appearance of the Times article on MF Global, the Justice Department announced it was ending a criminal investigation into securities fraud by Goldman Sachs and would not bring charges against the bank or any of its employees. In doing so, it spurned the recommendations of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which released a voluminous report last year documenting in detail how Goldman fraudulently offloaded toxic mortgage holdings onto investors and failed to tell them it was betting that the investments it was marketing would fail.

That same day, August 9, Goldman reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had ended a separate probe of a sub-prime mortgage deal stemming from 2006 and had decided to take no action. (See: “A law unto themselves.”)

In the figure of Corzine, key aspects of the criminalization of the US ruling elite and the thoroughgoing corruption of its political system, including the incestuous ties between Wall Street and the Democratic Party, come together. Corzine embodies the financial parasites at the top 0.01 percent of the income scale whose swindling precipitated the global economic crisis and who have, with the assistance of the Obama administration, further enriched themselves from the social catastrophe they produced.

In his career, he personifies the revolving door between the boardroom and government office and the domination of the political system and both major parties by Wall Street. After being forced out of Goldman Sachs in 1999, Corzine used $62 million of the $400 million fortune he had accumulated to get himself elected US senator from New Jersey.

In 2005, he used another $38 million of his own money to win the state house in New Jersey. As governor, he imposed brutal cuts in health care, pensions, higher education and aid to the cities, as well as slashing 5,000 state jobs. As a result, he lost his reelection bid in 2009 to Republican Chris Christie.

In March of 2010 he became chairman and CEO of MF Global. He began making enormous bets with borrowed funds that the sovereign debt of countries such as Spain and Italy would not collapse, including a single bet of $6.3 billion—six times MF Global’s capital. When the firm reported a second quarter 2011 loss of nearly $190 million due to the worsening of the European debt crisis, investor confidence in the company collapsed.

Nevertheless, in the 18 months he headed the firm before running it into the ground, Corzine took in $14.25 million in total compensation. The August 16 New York Times article reports that Corzine is now considering launching a hedge fund.

The refusal of the government to prosecute MF Global or Goldman Sachs and their respective executives is anything but an aberration. Nearly four years since the Wall Street crash of September 2008, not a single high-ranking banker has been criminally prosecuted, let alone jailed.

Federal regulators have refused even to hold civil trials for bankers up to their necks in corrupt and illegal practices. Instead, the government has arranged one settlement after another in which financial firms and executives paid token fines and in return were let off without admitting guilt.

The Obama administration has brokered the following major settlements:

* In July 2010, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $550 million in a settlement with the SEC on charges of misleading buyers of mortgage-related investments.

* In October 2010, Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo agreed to pay $67.5 million to settle an SEC investigation into fraud and insider trading practices in the sub-prime mortgage market.

* In March 2011, the Justice Department dropped a criminal probe of Mozilo without laying any charges.

* In June 2011, JPMorgan Chase paid $153.6 million to settle a civil fraud case with the SEC.

* In July 2011, Citigroup settled a civil fraud case with the SEC for $75 million.

* In February 2012, the Obama administration brokered a settlement with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial over rampant fraud and forgery in the processing of foreclosure documents. The banks were penalized a combined $25 billion—only $5 billion of it in cash—in return for the quashing of 49 state investigations with the potential for tens of billions in fines. The settlement enabled the banks to accelerate their foreclosing of homeowners.

The record speaks for itself. The American financial aristocracy is above the law. It lies, steals, cheats and destroys livelihoods with impunity, protected by its bribed political representatives. It has turned the economy into its personal gambling casino, secure in the knowledge that its losses will be covered by public funds.

Why In The World Are They Spraying

Unemployment Rates Rise In 44 States In July

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Unemployment rates rose in 44 U.S. states in July, the most states to show a monthly increase in more than three years and a reflection of weak hiring nationwide.

The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates fell in only two states and were unchanged in four.

Unemployment rates rose in nine states that are considered battlegrounds in the presidential election. That trend, if it continued, could pose a threat to President Barack Obama's re-election bid in less than three months.

Nationwide, hiring improved in July after three months of tepid job gains. But the national unemployment rate ticked up to 8.3% from 8.2%. Monthly job gains have averaged 150,000 this year. That's barely enough to accommodate population growth. As a result, the unemployment rate is the same as when the year began.

Still, 31 states gained jobs in July, while 19 lost them. Unemployment rates can rise in a state even when more jobs are created if more people start looking for work. People who are out of work are counted as unemployed only if they're looking for a job.

In the most closely contested states in the presidential race, unemployment has fallen over the past year. That could help Obama in his contest with GOP candidate Mitt Romney.

But it has started to tick up in recent months. In Nevada, the rate rose to 12% in July from 11.6% the previous month. That's the highest rate in the nation, though it's still much lower than a year ago, when it was 13.8%.

And in Michigan, the rate has increased to 9%, from 8.5% two months earlier.

Unemployment also increased in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.

The rate was unchanged at 7.2% in Ohio, the only swing state that didn't suffer an increase. Still, that rate is down sharply from 8.9% a year ago.

Most competitive states have unemployment rates below the national level, so even recent increases may not have a large impact on voter sentiment.

Iowa's unemployment rate, for example, increased to 5.3%, still the sixth-lowest in the country. New Hampshire's rose to 5.4% and Virginia's increased to 5.9%, both far below the national rate.

Only four swing states have higher unemployment rates than the national figure: Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina at 9.6%, and Florida at 8.8%.

Some battleground states reported large job gains that could lead to lower unemployment rates in coming months. Michigan added 21,800 jobs, the second-largest increase in the nation, after California. Michigan's gains were mostly in manufacturing and government. Virginia reported the third-largest increase, 21,300, mainly in education and health care.

Most other battleground states added small numbers of jobs.

Unemployment rates and total jobs data are derived from two separate surveys and aren't always consistent each month. But they tend to even out over time.

Many political scientists say voter attitudes may be shaped more by national economic trends than local or statewide changes.

Most Americans probably read or hear more news about the national economy than they do about their local areas, some experts say. And they may not attribute regional economic changes to presidential policies.

Overall, the economy hasn't been growing fast enough to generate more hiring. It expanded at an annual rate of only 1.5% in the April-June quarter, down from 2% in the first quarter and 4.1% in the final three months of last year.


The New Totalitarianism of Surveillance Technology

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A software engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy – with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted that he had never entered his name or information into anything at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were – so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know: it sounds like a paranoid rant.

Except that it turned out to be true. News21, supported by the Carnegie and Knight foundations, reports that Disney sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government – for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

Fast forward: after the Occupy crackdowns, I noted that odd-looking CCTVs had started to appear, attached to lampposts, in public venues in Manhattan where the small but unbowed remnants of Occupy congregated: there was one in Union Square, right in front of their encampment. I reported here on my experience of witnessing a white van marked "Indiana Energy" that was lifting workers up to the lampposts all around Union Square, and installing a type of camera. When I asked the workers what was happening – and why an Indiana company was dealing with New York City civic infrastructure, which would certainly raise questions – I was told: "I'm a contractor. Talk to ConEd."

I then noticed, some months later, that these bizarre camera/lights had been installed not only all around Union Square but also around Washington Square Park. I posted a photo I took of them, and asked: "What is this?" Commentators who had lived in China said that they were the same camera/streetlight combinations that are mounted around public places in China. These are enabled for facial recognition technology, which allows police to watch video that is tagged to individuals, in real time. When too many people congregate, they can be dispersed and intimidated simply by the risk of being identified – before dissent can coalesce. (Another of my Facebook commentators said that such lamppost cameras had been installed in Michigan, and that they barked "Obey", at pedestrians. This, too, sounded highly implausible – until this week in Richmond, British Columbia, near the Vancouver airport, when I was startled as the lamppost in the intersection started talking to me – in this case, instructing me on how to cross (as though I were blind or partially sighted).

Finally, last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use – or already uses – facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases.

And we know from industry newsletters that the US military, law enforcement, and the department of homeland security are betting heavily on facial recognition technology. As PC World notes, Facebook itself is a market leader in the technology – but military and security agencies are close behind.

According to Homeland Security Newswire, billions of dollars are being invested in the development and manufacture of various biometric technologies capable of detecting and identifying anyone, anywhere in the world – via iris-scanning systems, already in use; foot-scanning technology (really); voice pattern ID software, and so on.

What is very obvious is that this technology will not be applied merely to people under arrest, or to people under surveillance in accordance with the fourth amendment (suspects in possible terrorist plots or other potential crimes, after law enforcement agents have already obtained a warrant from a magistrate). No, the "targets" here are me and you: everyone, all of the time. In the name of "national security", the capacity is being built to identify, track and document any citizen constantly and continuously.

The revealing boosterism of a trade magazine like Homeland Security Newswire envisions endless profits for the surveillance industry, in a society where your TV is spying on you, a billboard you drive by recognizes you, Minority Report style, and the FBI knows where to find your tattoo – before you have committed any crime: "FBI on Track to Book Faces, Scars, Tattoos", it notes; "Billboards, TVs Detect your Faces; Advertisers Salivate", it gloats; "Biometric Companies See Government as the Driver of Future Market Growth", it announces. Indeed, the article admits without a blush that all the growth is expected to be in government consumption, with "no real expectation" of private-sector growth at all. So much for smaller government!

To acclimate their populations to this brave new world of invasive surveillance technologies, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, both recently introduced "snoop" bills. Meanwhile, in the US – "the land of the free" – the onward march of the surveillers continues apace, without check or consultation.

Naomi Wolf is the author, among other books, of The Beauty Myth and Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. She is a graduate of Yale University and New College, Oxford