The DNC and the RNC: the party at Versailles.

01 Sep

Security is the topic.  It is The Topic.  The main thing, the primary concern.  Terrorists of all stripes seek to wreck our way of life and we must be secure at all costs.  You may have questions about other things: jobs, the economy, the fate of Medicare and Social Security, the lack of criminal proceedings against banker fraud and theft or against those who torture, the lack of environmental safeguards, crumbling infrastructure, subsidies to big oil and big ag, rising food costs, skyrocketing poverty in America.  You might wonder how it is that one rich man can plan a massive experiment with the atmosphere and risk the health of an entire state or two and will apparently be allowed to just go ahead and do as he wishes.  []  The Republican answers to those pressing questions are fairly simple and straight-forward.  Give more money to rich people.  And post the Ten Commandments in all government buildings.  Oh, and increase the Pentagon budget.  Your opinion notwithstanding.  Security, doncha know.  You may wonder how the Democrats would address these concerns, but what you are going to hear about from the main speakers at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, SC next week will be Security.

Obama’s speech at the DNC will focus on national security.

Democrats plan to emphasize President Barack Obama’s record on national security and veterans on the night he delivers his address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

An Obama campaign official says the party will discuss Obama’s handling of national security issues and his work with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan on Sept. 6, the final night of the convention. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement was pending.[…]

John Kerry, another keynote speaker, will also talk about security.

TAMPA ­— President Obama is tapping Senator John F. Kerry to deliver a speech focused on national security issues during the closing night of next week’s Democratic National Convention.

The three-day gathering in Charlotte, N.C., will have a heavy national security focus, underscoring the administration’s intention to highlight its work to end combat operations in Iraq, draw down forces in Afghanistan, and approve a military raid that killed Osama bin Laden and contrast these accomplishments with the rhetoric of Republican nominee Mitt Romney. […]

The truth is, most of what you have heard about the conventions relates to security – but not necessarily yours.  The conventions are not given for your benefit or edification.  We have finally reached the point where the dissipation and self-indulgence of American politics is obvious.  The conventions are held for the kings and princes, the royalty; and at them, they speak to their retinues, donors, courtiers and functionaries.

[…]Super PACs continue to be tools used by a small number of wealthy individuals and institutions to dominate the political process.

•    Just over 57% of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million.  Just over 1,000 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94% of this fundraising.

•    Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have given a combined $36.3 million to Super PACs in the 2012 cycle.  It would take more than 321,000 average American families donating an equivalent share of their wealth to match the Adelsons’ giving. […]

Those are the people who have seats at the venues and dinners within the American Versailles.  They are protected with layers of security, prepared for months in advance, with new laws in place just for these events.  They are being protected from you.  They don’t want to hear you or see you – you are the threat against which they protect themselves.  Your vote barely matters at this point – what, after all, is the difference between the candidates?  After the President of the United States claims he has the right to kill you at his whim, to detain you indefinitely without trial, what is there left to say about democracy in America?

There have been very few articles about the conventions that don’t include a mention of the massive security apparatus in place in both host cities.  This is reminiscent of the APEC conference in Hawaii last year where the gathered elites were kept secure through the use of military displays rarely seen outside a war zone.  (I hate to reference my own work, but here is a summary: )  The only major incident at the APEC conference turned out to be the murder of a local man by one of the State Dept. security team, who took it upon himself at 3 a.m. after a night of bar-hopping, to “save” the patrons of a McDonald’s from a bit of verbal harassment by shooting the unarmed “offender” at point-blank range.

In both Tampa and Charlotte, the police spokesmen bragged about the massive security in place as though they had been preparing for the land and sea invasion of hundreds of thousands of armed terrorists and national enemies.  But notice that the “terrorists” they fear are….US citizen protesters.  Said protesters may include a few (the horror!) anarchists or other unsavory sorts who might dare to cover their faces – that being the defining look of homeland terrorism or something.  Never mind that the protesters are held at bay by closed roads, barricades, and sheer distance from the venues in “free speech” corrals.  (So much for the rights to peaceable assembly and free speech.)  The potential protesters drew forth a remarkable military jingoism from the police departments.  This is the public statement from the sheriff in Tampa prior to the RNC.  Notice how similar it sounds to military forces taking over a hostile territory:

The upcoming Republican National Convention will transform the Tampa Bay area on an international level. Like no other, this event will showcase the area’s communities as well as the Herculean task to provide security for citizens, delegates, visitors and everyone in between.[…]

The challenges of preparing for and executing a security/safety plan for an event of this magnitude are daunting. There are many pieces of the puzzle, most known but some unknown.[…]

The RNC demands thousands of law enforcement officers to converge on downtown Tampa for a 24-hour-a-day presence.[…]

Tactically, we are ready. Security plans for the venue and the perimeters are set. Boundaries, protests zones and parade routes are established for the thousands expected in downtown Tampa. […] To the agitators and anarchists who want only to bring a dark cloud to this event, let me be clear: criminal activity and civil disturbances will not be tolerated and enforcement actions will be swift.[…]

The most visible aspect our security plan will be the boots on the ground – the law enforcement officers on the street, manning perimeter posts and designated protective locations.[…] What the public won’t see is the staging of quick reactionary forces, tactically deployed at locations around the city to handle an emergency situation. These special contingents of law enforcement officers are trained, equipped and prepared.[…]

There will be arrests. The question is how many. We are prepared to handle any number of RNC-related arrests through our Orient Road Jail.[…]

The sheriff in Charlotte similarly worded his message to the public, warning specifically about the threat of “anarchists” and the “black bloc”.

In Tampa, the numbers of protesters was small, maybe due to the weather or perhaps because people are starting to get the idea that there is no point in spending their money traveling just to be caught permanently on facial recognition cameras and possibly arrested while the royalty, meantime, is completely unaware of their presence and reasons for being there.  […”After three days, however, only a few hundred to, at most, a couple thousand protesters have appeared, scattered around the downtown area…. just three protesters have been arrested heading into the Tampa event’s third day. That includes a protester toting a machete Sunday, one who wouldn’t remove a bandana over his face Monday and one accused of battery following a fight over a piece of cardboard at a protest camp on Tuesday, police said...”  ]  The special laws enacted in Charlotte are similar to the ones that were passed in Tampa for these events.

Starting Saturday, someone walking through Charlotte’s central business district could run afoul of the law by carrying water bottles, hair spray, socks or magic markers under sweeping security rules enacted ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

It would take a particularly strict reading of the rules for someone to be arrested simply for possessing one of those items, but the possibility exists — which worries protesters and free speech advocates. They fear authorities could trample on people’s constitutional rights in the name of protecting public safety.

The changes to city ordinances adopted earlier this year for “extraordinary events” ban a long list of actions and items that would otherwise be legal from a more than 100-square-block zone. The area includes spots as much as a mile from the sports venues where the Democratic Party events are to be held.

The new rules have already been used for events before the convention and will remain on the books after it’s over.  The special rules that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday could also bar anyone other than government employees from carrying handbags and backpacks or possessing soda cans, drink coolers, scarves, bike helmets, baby strollers or pets not specifically permitted as service animals.

A section banning “a container or object of sufficient weight to be used as a projectile” could be interpreted to include almost anything, from an apple to an iPhone.

Those caught violating any of these prohibitions could be subject to arrest and jail.[…]
At the rain-soaked Republican Convention in Tampa earlier this week, officials banned umbrellas, baseballs and puppet-making materials.[…]

Since the new ordinances were approved in January, officials have already applied the “extraordinary” designation to other events where protesters were expected, including recent shareholder meetings for Bank of America and Duke Energy. Hagemann said the rules may be revisited after the DNC.

Protest leaders fear some the more than 1,750 Charlotte police officers might abuse their enhanced powers during the convention. Another concern is whether the 3,400 officers on loan from other departments have received adequate training on the Charlotte ordinances.[…]

Michael Zytkow, an activist with Occupy Charlotte, was arrested after he spoke beyond his allotted 3 minutes during the meeting where the ordinances were approved. The misdemeanor charge against him was later dropped.[…]  “I think this is an attempt to vilify protesters,” he said of the ordinances. “I think it’s an attempt to prevent us from coming out and joining and expressing our rights to march on the street and express our grievances.”

The cities get to keep all the hardware and gear that they amassed against the threat of protesters.  That means all those security cameras, etc. will now be permanently in place.  A surprising number of people seem to like this idea.  If you read the comments attached to any of these articles, you will get an idea of how far gone we are in the notions that spying on your neighbors and giving up any pretense of privacy is a good thing.  The propaganda has worked.  In Charlotte, there will be special vehicles to handle hazmat and hostage negotiation.  [ ]

“[…]The city will be able to keep the equipment purchased with the millions from the federal government which Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe says is a good thing for the police department.

“The money will likely be spent on security cameras and other technology, but Monroe promises it will be ‘spent wisely.'[…]”

From the wikipedia article on the 2012 DNC:

[…]Protest activity and demonstrations are being anticipated at the convention. Over sixty organizations have gathered into a group known as The Coalition to March on Wall St. South, and have declared their intention to protest at the convention. The left-leaning coalition reflects the rhetoric and ideology of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and several Occupations from North Carolina are endorsers of the coalition. Demonstrators say they want to call attention to the influence of corporations on politics as well as the role of the military-industrial complex in US politics; they have scheduled a dance party to honor imprisoned soldier Bradley Manning. One group of illegal alien workers is traveling to the convention via bus. They risk deportation if they are arrested for civil disobedience.

Charlotte has received a $50 million grant from the federal government for convention security. The city plans to spend $25 million on its police force. Some of the money has been allocated to police bicycles ($303,596), software ($61,000), and a ‘command center upgrade’ ($704,795). The city also plans to spend $937,852 on officers from neighboring forces.
In anticipation of protest activity, the city of Charlotte has also passed a variety of new laws. These include:
•    Rules prohibiting camping on public property.
•    Restricting the use of a list of different items: “cables, bars, projectiles, spray guns, breakable containers,” aerosol containers, fireworks, smoke bombs, pepper spray, mace, masks, scarves, body-armor, helmets, and police scanners.

These laws are permanent and will remain effective after the end of the convention. They may also have ramifications before the convention: namely, the eviction of Occupy Charlotte from its encampment downtown.

The DNC has been designated National Special Security Event, which means that the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security will do some of the policing. However, the Charlotte Police Department will be responsible for the areas outside the convention venues. Police note that it will be relatively easy to surround protestors in the city’s downtown business district, which is enclosed by expressway.[…]

Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic, just wrote a great article which gives the feel of Tampa during the RNC.  He chonicles the strange odyssey he embarked on looking for the dreaded protesters.  At one point, he meets a photographer for a another publication and they join ranks.  The photographer relates to him the story of how he was walking on the wrong side of a barricade and was told by a police officer that he should get on the other side if he didn’t want to be shot by a police sniper.

Friedersdorf writes:

[…]All sorts of city blocks are closed off to pedestrians for no apparent reason. Getting from point A to point B might require going a quarter-mile out of your way five or six times. Law enforcement is generally polite, but the demeanor invariably changes immediately if someone inadvertently walks a few paces on the wrong street. Anyone who has traversed airport security is familiar with the sudden feeling that an agent of the state thinks you’re a suspicious potential terrorist for crossing an arbitrary line painted on the ground. And to enter the building itself is even more surreal.

Consider this.

Want to carry a concealed handgun to a crowded movie theater? The Republican Party will defend your right to do so. But credentialed journalists traversing a random block in downtown Tampa several blocks from the GOP convention, with scores of police officers and tons of concrete barriers still separating them from the delegates?

Apparently that’s too much of a security risk.

And if we want inside the convention hall itself?

Forget concealed weapons. Banned items include unopened envelopes, flashlights, and whole fruit. In fairness, the Constitution nowhere guarantees the right to bear bananas.

The men in fatigues and the atmosphere of military occupation is disturbing, but somehow I found the several helicopters hovering in place at all times to be the most unnerving single element.[…]

Really terrific article – I suggest you read it in full.

A summary of some little facts and on the equipment brought in for the two conventions:

•    Date on which the Democratic National Convention begins in Charlotte: Sept. 3
•    Amount in federal funds the city will spend on security for the gathering, expected to draw 6,000 delegates and 30,000 visitors: $50 million
•    Number of officers the money will be used to hire from outside departments: 3,400
•    Miles of 9-foot-tall “anti-scale” fencing the funds will be used to purchase: about 5
•    Miles of concrete barriers the Secret Service has requested for the event: 2
•    Date on which the Charlotte City Council, in anticipation of the convention, passed a law empowering the city manager to declare an “extraordinary event,” designating a section of the city where police have broad powers to search and arrest people carrying potential weapons, projectiles or other items, including permanent markers, coolers and backpacks: Jan. 23[…]
•    Number of national groups involved in “The Coalition to March on Wall Street South,” a reference to Charlotte’s position as the second-largest U.S. financial center behind New York, that are planning to peacefully protest at the convention: 80
•    Estimated number of churches that will gather Sept. 2 in Charlotte’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheater for a service organized by anti-gay rights and anti-abortion activists: 40
•    Percent of Charlotte’s Uptown commercial district that will be inside the DNC’s “extraordinary event” perimeters: 60
•    Amount of federal money the Republicans received for their convention in Tampa, Fla., which begins Aug. 27: $50 million
•    Number of officers who will be patrolling channels and waterways in the downtown area at any given time in boats mounted with automatic machine guns: 150
•    Number of organizations that have endorsed the March on the RNC, a protest set for Aug. 27: more than 60
•    Number of people expected to occupy pink tents inside a protest camp on leased land in downtown Tampa dubbed “Romneyville”: 300

I would like to emphasize something here; 100 million dollars of tax-payer money has been spent for these two conventions combined.  100 million dollars.  So when the city fathers and convention planners try to say that these events will not cost the people who live in these cities any money, that is not entirely true.  It will cost all of us something, to the tune of 100 million bucks.  Imagine what we could do with that money…instead, it is being used to keep you away from the royalty in Versailles.  These “leaders”, who we are supposed to trust with our national financial decisions, are throwing themselves a couple of parties, and they just spent 100 million of your dollars for security to keep you out.  The new laws and security measures will remain in effect after the conventions; several Occupy locations are wiped out permanently and thousands of security cameras will remain in place to record your every step down the sidewalks.  Fencing and barricades will be stored for future use, to be brought out during the next board meeting of Bank of America or Monsanto, perhaps.  Your opinion is irrelevant.  Your worries and concerns are unheard, by design.  Aside from the facial recognition software storing your photo (should it be needed at some point as evidence against you if you forget your place in the scheme of things), you are invisible.  Your only purpose is to provide the cash for the very security being used to keep you, the riff-raff, out.  Even the reporters will mostly ignore the protesters and peasantry in favor of jotting down the words, as exactly as possible, of the princes and kings.  It does not matter that the words are untrue or stupid.  100 million dollars.  Of your money.  To keep you out, to pat you down and take away your backpack and magic markers.  The whole dismal situation could not be more obvious if the wealthy American royalty hung up banners in the convention halls reading, “Let them eat cake.”

This is but one of the signs that we have reached the end point.  All the years of propaganda has worked and Security is The Only Issue.  Even, sadly, security provided at our expense to protect the elite decision-makers from the rest of us.  We have somehow accepted the idea that this is necessary and smart.  The last of our rights is wiped out with huge segments of the American public cheering for the police state – obsequiously grateful for and applauding the flying monkeys who, we think, “protect us” from each other – the idea that our real enemies are the other poor slobs just like ourselves is one we have bought completely.  We are no longer even capable of understanding who is being protected, and from whom.


Posted by on September 1, 2012 in civil rights, elections, Occupy, security state


2 responses to “The DNC and the RNC: the party at Versailles.

  1. paxhonu

    September 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    What else could we expect? The USA: a country whose primary achievements since 1945/46 have been in the “businesses” of debt enslavement, war, and arms merchandising.

    America leveraged the demonstrations of its proficiency at war and war technologies, and most of all its willingness to perform the grossest acts of terrorism ever known, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, into a now seven decades long domination in the businesses of war prosecution and arms merchandising.

    The formation of the CIA, also by Truman, in 1946 with a mandate of covert illicit extra-domestic activities of which it was required to NOT inform Congress, the Executive, nor Judicial was a brilliant maneuver. It provided the very cradle of these flying monkeys of which you write, and unleashed them around the globe.

    But nothing makes the world go round like money. And what better to support these industries than a monetary system where dollars are created out of the ether by the banks, ala fractional reserve lending. Watched over by its very own very private corporation, the Federal Reserve (it is neither), this is a bank paradise. Even the Government, by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, must borrow whatever it needs as debt at interest, payable to this puppet show. All money, every last dollar, that has existed in the United States since 1913 has been simply created into existence by the banks, with interest accruing to them, by virtue of this legal insanity.

    When the officials such as Rubin, Paulson, or Geithner of the U.S. Treasury become complicit in the goals of the Federal Reserve, and more to the point, complicit in the profit objectives of the banks that own the Federal Reserve, this absolute monetary power, and the authority to tighten or loosen credit, to extend or call debt, gives them market control over any and all things measured in monetary terms. That would be, um, pretty much everything, but love?

    So, to use a contemporary example, after they’re done foreclosing, short selling, deed in lieuing, and/or deficiency judgementing one homeowner out of financial existence (and seizing his property), the bank may then sell that house to a new owner, take their 20% (or whatever %) cash down payment (actual dollars handed over to the house-selling bank by the new homebuyer, of course) and then simply create into existence a long term debt obligation of 80% of the “purchase price”, a debt that the new homeowner now “owes” the bank. (The bank didn’t have to give any money to anybody to get that 30 year mortgage debt, their “regulator” (the major banks are “regulated” by the Federal Reserve, a private corporation that they actually own) simply had to concur that they had adequate “reserves” to create the money (debt). Rinse and repeat.

    Nationally, that represents an $8 trillion transfer of existing real estate equity from private citizen to private banker hands since 2007. And an ongoing (and quite downward-inelastic) debt obligation from private citizens to private bankers of another $10 trillion or so.

    When a Company, er Country, has been so focused and so successful for so long on two such odious main lines, global debt sharking and global war activity and arms merchandising, one must expect its inhabitants to reflect some of that culture. America is the archetypal terrorist. As a country it brutally prosecutes its market share domination of those industries it is involved in. And Americans remain even now the archetypal consumers. Questioning neither the true costs nor the terrible injustices of “American Exceptionalism”, so long as its a good party and all. No empathy nor even perception of the disenfranchised or the protesters. Tap another keg.

    Us seemingly so few honest, informed, and honestly concerned citizens seem wholly unmanned now. The changes needed are so profound. And I do not know what to do.


  2. teri

    September 2, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Dear paxhonu,

    I don’t know what to do either. I guess the only reason I write is to leave a record for my kids that I knew, I cared, and I tried to tell others.

    I think there are two things that really get to me. With the availability of internet (until they shut it down) there is no excuse for people in America not being better informed. There are so many ways to check information, so many millions of news sites and websites, that one would have to deliberately shun most of the web to remain stuck in ignorance. Of course, there is a side issue related to this: Americans seem to have lost the ability to ponder about things.

    The second thing that stuns me is that despite the wealth of this country – and this is still a wealthy country, although we have allowed the wealth to mostly accrue to the already-wealthy without much dissent – America as a whole unit chooses to spend money on weapons and destruction, and to give as much as possible to the very industries that wreck the earth and kill its inhabitants. I would include the big banks in this, as they are killing just as surely as the biotech companies like Monsanto and the weapons makers like Raytheon. 1 in 5 American children goes hungry, 50% of Americans live at or below the poverty level, etc. And that is just the effect on Americans. For the rest of the world, it is simply death. There is no excuse for this. None. We could have promoted peace, diplomacy, real solutions to hunger and climate changes. We have chosen a different path. It was not necessary and it is evil and stupid. (See, for instance, this article on poverty in Tampa: )

    Yet, look how many Americans have gone from righteous anger at the bank bailouts to a vengeful desire to make sure that homeless people and poor people are vilified and made to suffer even more. Obama cannot even bring himself to mention the poor, whose numbers increase daily.

    Well, I say “we”, but it is not all of us, of course. Sadly, it is enough of us that the few who would choose differently are a fast dwindling minority.

    How does one fight the group-think that has overwhelmed the one country that could have stopped the theft of the world’s wealth and truly changed the entire globe’s trajectory toward endless war?

    I do not know. I write when I can and talk to those who will listen (not many – and I will not badger people who cannot hear). But I guess I have come to the conclusion that I am responsible for myself. When I die, I would have it be said that I did not knowingly add to anyone’s misery, I shared what little I had freely with those who had less, and I did not covet.

    That others will mock this is not my concern.




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