Thursday 21st of October 2021

demonstrating democracy to the world...

teaching the world

guns, guns, guns....

How Freedom Group Became the Big Shot



LINED up in a gun rack beneath mounted deer heads is a Bushmaster Carbon 15, a matte-black semiautomatic rifle that looks as if it belongs to a SWAT team. On another rack rests a Teflon-coated Prairie Panther from DPMS Firearms, a supplier to the United States Border Patrol and security agencies in Iraq. On a third is a Remington 750 Woodsmaster, a popular hunting rifle.

The variety of rifles and shotguns on sale here at Cabela’s, the national sporting goods chain, is a testament to America’s enduring gun culture. But, to a surprising degree, it is also a testament to something else: Wall Street deal-making.

In recent years, many top-selling brands — including the 195-year-old Remington Arms, as well as Bushmaster Firearms and DPMS, leading makers of military-style semiautomatics — have quietly passed into the hands of a single private company. It is called the Freedom Group — and it is the most powerful and mysterious force in the American commercial gun industry today.

Never heard of it?

You’re not alone. Even within gun circles, the Freedom Group is something of an enigma. Its rise has been so swift that it has become the subject of wild speculation and grassy-knoll conspiracy theories. In the realm of consumer rifles and shotguns — long guns, in the trade — it is unrivaled in its size and reach. By its own count, the Freedom Group sold 1.2 million long guns and 2.6 billion rounds of ammunition in the 12 months ended March 2010, the most recent year for which figures are publicly available.

Behind this giant is Cerberus Capital Management, the private investment company that first came to widespread attention when it acquired Chrysler in 2007. (Chrysler later had to be rescued by taxpayers). With far less fanfare, Cerberus, through the Freedom Group, has been buying big names in guns and ammo.

connecting the dots .....

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women - targeted seemingly for their gender - screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture - was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? - the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being - falsely - informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks - under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop - awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act - the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list - and especially the last agenda item - the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces - pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS - to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) - but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known - and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating - a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally - and immensely - from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement ... well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

ballerina dancing...

The Branding of the Occupy Movement


VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Kalle Lasn, the longtime editor of the anticonsumerist magazine Adbusters, did not invent the anger that has been feeding the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the United States.

But he did brand it.

Last summer, as uprisings shook the Middle East and much of the world economy struggled, Mr. Lasn and several colleagues at the small magazine felt the moment was ripe to tap simmering frustration on the American political left.

On July 13, he and his colleagues created a new hash tag on Twitter: #OCCUPYWALLSTREET. They made a poster showing a ballerina dancing on the back of the muscular sculptured bull near Wall Street in Manhattan.

For some people they were just words and images. For Mr. Lasn, they were tools to begin remodeling the “mental environment,” to create a new “meme,” the term coined by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins for a kind of transcendent cultural message.

“There’s a number of ways to wage a meme war,” Mr. Lasn, whose name is pronounced KAL-luh LAS-en, said in an interview. “I believe that one of the most powerful things of all is aesthetics.”

Mr. Lasn, who helped found Adbusters in 1989, had spent much of his career skewering corporate America, creating “subvertising” campaigns like “Joe Chemo,” which deftly mocked the Joe Camel cigarette ads of the 1990s.

But the spread of the Occupy protests signals a substantial step up for the magazine and Mr. Lasn, who is 69. The protests, he hopes, will “somehow change the power balance and make the world into a much more grass-roots, bottom-up kind of a place rather than the top-down Wall Street mega-corporate-driven system we now have.”

“This,” he added, “is the kind of dream many Occupiers have.”

vale david...

Anthropologist David Graeber, the man behind ‘We are the 99%’ slogan, dead at 59

The 59-year-old author has died at a Venice hospital, his wife, artist and writer Nika Dubrovsky, revealed. A strident critic of neoliberal capitalism, Graeber is said to have coined the famed Occupy Wall Street slogan.

His death was announced on Thursday in a tweet from Dubrovsky, who stated he had died Wednesday in the hospital. The cause of his death remains unknown, according to a statement from his publisher, Penguin Random House.

An anthropology professor at London School of Economics, Graeber was known for his books criticizing and deconstructing the capitalist system, including ‘Debt: the First 5000 Years,’ ‘Bulls*** Jobs: a Theory,’ and ‘The Utopia of Rules.’ Multiple collections of his essays on topics including economics and debt, empire and geopolitics, as well as creativity and alienation have also been published.

Bulls*** Jobs’ argued that a vast swath of modern economies consisted of meaningless paper-pushing and would not be missed by most people if they vanished off the face of the earth. Further developing that idea, ’The Utopia of Rules’ examined the peculiarities of modern-day bureaucracy, suggesting one of the reasons 21st century civilization hasn’t achieved the great heights predicted decades ago is that technological innovation has been intentionally stifled - or at least redirected - so as not to threaten existing power structures.

Graeber, an activist since the 1990s, was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement and has been credited with coining the iconic phrase “We are the 99 percent,” which became its rallying cry. Asked about the slogan years ago, however, he denied he came up with the exact phrase, insisting he merely suggested the movement call itself “the 99 percent” while others added the “we are” part.

The writer had recently completed a book with David Wengrove titled ‘The Dawn of Everything: a New History of Humanity,’ which is set to be published next year. Graeber revealed a few days before his death that he was feeling “a little under the weather” but claimed he was on the mend.

His editor at Penguin Random House praised Graeber as “a true radical, a pioneer in everything he did” in a statement released after the announcement of his death, calling his legacy “immense,” and an outpouring of support on social media from people claiming to be influenced by the late professor’s work followed.


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the future of work...





ORACLE BOASTED THAT ITS SOFTWARE WAS USED AGAINST U.S. PROTESTERS. THEN IT TOOK THE TECH TO CHINA. To sell the CIA-backed Endeca software for use by Chinese authorities, Oracle touted its use in Chicago for predictive policing.



AS HE HELPED plan massive demonstrations in Chicago to protest the 2012 NATO summit, Matt McLoughlin knew he was up against a formidable police force. An organizer with Chicago’s Occupy movement, he had watched as the city spent millions beefing up security. The Chicago Police Department invested in riot gear. It rolled out a controversial Long Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon that emits a piercing chirping sound. Police rounded up protesters who demonstrated against defunding mental health clinics. Then, shortly before the May summit began, authorities arrested three people in McLoughlin’s circle, and he discovered that the group had been infiltrated by undercover cops.

It turns out that there was more: Police also weaponized social media.

As tens of thousands of people flooded into Chicago’s streets, carrying signs that read “FOOD NOT BOMBS” and “NO TO WAR AND AUSTERITY,” McLoughlin was one of several organizers who posted updates on Occupy Chicago’s two Twitter accounts, sharing information on planned march routes and where protesters could find food and lodging. Newly discovered documents show that many of his tweets likely ended up flowing through CIA-funded data analytics software accessed by police.

According to the documents and to video presentations, CPD used a tool called Endeca Information Discovery, a product from tech giant Oracle, to merge crime records, 911 calls, and other routine police information with protesters’ tweets.

Oracle claims that Endeca helps police and other agencies make sense of mounds of big data. Like the more well-known government analytics software Palantir Gotham, the software owes its rise to “war on terror” surveillance and to backing from the CIA venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Oracle acquired Endeca in 2011.

At the peak of the NATO protests, police reportedly used Endeca to process 20,000 tweets an hour. According to a 2012 talk given by Richard Tomlinson, who directed Endeca product management for Oracle, the tweets showed up in the software half a second after they were posted and remained there indefinitely, even if deleted. Police could then use the software to zero in on tweets that contained terms like “protest.” They could also sort tweets by sentiment, meaning that the software would single out for scrutiny negative or angry-seeming tweets.

Nine years later, police mining of social media is widespread — as is opposition to the practice. In addition to CPD, Oracle documents and SlideShare decks posted by former employees say that Endeca has been used by police in Argentina, Finland, and the United Arab Emirates, along with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Oracle is far from the only company in the market. During last summer’s George Floyd protests, police turned to Dataminr, another In-Q-Tel investment, to analyze demonstrators’ tweets. CPD, which works with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a special task force charged with monitoring social media, has also used social media mining software made by GeofeediaLexisNexis, and Pathar. Police across the United States have plugged images culled from social media into Clearview AI’s facial recognition engine.

But Oracle’s case has a twist: After promoting Endeca’s use on NATO protesters, Oracle went on to market the CIA-funded software for police use around the world — including in China, where its deployment would presumably be at odds with CIA interests and where social media users have few civil liberties protections to shield them from police abuses.


The Intercept previously reported on dozens of company documents showing that Oracle employees marketed the company’s analytics software for police surveillance projects in China and other repressive regimes. In a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on China, Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., cited Oracle as an example of how U.S. companies enable surveillance overseas. In fact, several of the products that Oracle markets to police abroad were first tested in the United States.

Among the products that Oracle pushed in the China documents was Endeca, which allows police to both visualize data and mine social media. The documents describe the software’s use by Chicago police as a pioneering event that paved the way for police adoption elsewhere.

In Chinese-language slide decks, Oracle employees touted Endeca’s use in the NATO protests and by the U.S. government to argue for the software’s adoption by Chinese authorities. The documents mention specific Chinese government policing projects and data sources, but several slides appear to have been taken from decks for an American audience, with Chinese translations superimposed on blocks of English text. Two slide decks even include CPD’s logo. One touts the use of other Oracle products by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The documents that specifically market Endeca for police use in China date from 2012 to 2014. But later Chinese-language documents promote Big Data Discovery, an Oracle product that incorporates full Endeca Information Discovery functionality. A 2018 slide deck presented by an Oracle engineer at a developer conference in California describes the use of Big Data Discovery, among other software, by the Liaoning province public security bureau. One Oracle reseller with close Chinese government ties continues to sell Endeca, according to a recent listing on Oracle’s site.


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On this site we also mention Agents Provocateurs who operate like louts and vandals as instructed by the authorities to "de-peacify" peaceful rallies — giving the "valid" reason for the police to become aggressive. 


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