Wednesday, June 05, 2013
Freedom of conscience is one of the most fundamental human freedoms. This freedom is not merely about one’s ability to choose to believe or not believe in religion or a particular philosophy. In a democracy, freedom of conscience is about the ability to be critical of government and corporations, and to be free from the chilling fear that being critical will subject you to government surveillance.
A Wisconsin legislator has managed to bundle nearly all of the excesses associated with dirty elections into a single bill that good government advocates are describing as a "sweeping assault on democracy:" the legislation would try reinstating restrictive voter ID requirements, make it easier for donors to secretly influence elections, expand lobbyist influence, restrict early voting, and make it harder to register, among other measures.
Student activists and their allies gathered outside Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting on May 30 to demand increased transparency and accountability from the nation’s largest student loan lender, and to draw attention to the worsening problem of student debt. Allie Gardner, a student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison drove to Delaware from Wisconsin to attend the shareholder meeting and demand a meeting with the CEO; "Sallie Mae doesn’t exist to protect students, and they are not willing to work with students. They exist to profit off of us."
Wisconsin's unemployed are being subject to a double attack by the state legislature. In the state that fell to 44th in the nation in job creation in March, a bill introduced to the Wisconsin State Assembly on May 24 would make it more difficult for jobless workers to collect unemployment benefits. Then, in what Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) called the "ultimate bait-and-switch," a hearing on that bill occurred at the same time as a meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance that passed yet more changes related to unemployment insurance, which critics called even more extreme than the first.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide "homeland security"/"counter terrorism" apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and state/regional "fusion centers." Fusion centers, by and large, are staffed with personnel working in "counter terrorism"/ "homeland security" units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/public safety/"counter terrorism" agencies. To a large degree, the "counter terrorism" operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in fusion centers are financed through a number of U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant programs.
Governor Scott Walker seeks to "radically" overhaul Wisconsin's education system using several pieces of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation, and to do it through the budget process, meaning this privatization agenda could be enacted with minimal public discussion or debate.
In what has been roundly declared a victory for food rights and private food transactions by supporters, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty on three of four charges against Wisconsin raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger in the early morning hours of March 25. "It's a beautiful day. . . . They tried their best to set me free," Hershberger told The Complete Patient after a few hours of sleep.
As detailed in "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street," through 2011 and 2012, "fusion centers" and other "counter terrorism" agencies engaged in widespread monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists. This article examines some instances of this counter terrorism monitoring of activists.
With immigration reform advancing through Congress, an anti-immigrant network funded by a small group of right-wing foundations is trying to kill reform by pressuring moderate Republicans and appealing to the party's xenophobic wing. The groups could stymie efforts by some Republicans to appeal to the country's growing Latino population by moving to the center on immigration.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got a boost last week from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in its annual Rich States, Poor States report. Despite Bureau of Labor Statistics data putting Wisconsin in 44th place for private-sector job creation, ALEC placed the state as 15th in the country in its ranking of economic outlook, giving Walker -- a former ALEC member -- a boost as he lays the groundwork for a re-election campaign and a possible Presidential bid.
In the midst of a week of debates and speeches about the federal farm bill (S. 954), supporters of the right to know whether or not food products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) suffered a setback on May 23. An amendment (S. Amdt. 965) sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) would have helped states to pass laws requiring labeling of GMO foods. (Vermont recently made history when its House of Representatives passed such a labeling bill, as CMD reported.) Sander's amendment lost, 27-71.
This article was first published by PRwatch.org on December 31, 2012.Records obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (DBA/CMD) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request indicate that the FBI employed tactics under a "counter terrorism" initiative called "Operation Tripwire" in the monitoring of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists.