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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Channel 5 Exposes Minutemen

Tonight, two news channels did expose's on the Minutemen. Channel 15 investigated the Minutemen's finances, putting Chris Simcox in the hotseat. As of my bedtime tonight, the video has not been posted. Check the website to see if it has been posted. Simcox admits he has no idea how much money they have raised, nor does he know where from. Can you say "fraud?" One rich guy is interviewed, apparently pissed that no one can tell him for sure whether his money divided the working class successfully or not. I'll link the story when it gets posted.

However, the real story is Channel 5's undercover investigation. Reporter Morgan Loew spent several weeks on the border with the Minutemen and various spin-off groups that the Minutemen's vigilantism has inspired and/or encouraged.

Click on the American flag doo-rag to view the video:

The footage he got was something indeed. Check out the accompanying article, "Beyond the Minutemen:"
Pineapple 6 says, "These f___ing Mexicans. They will kill you. They don't give a f__k."

That Mexican immigrants are public enemy number one.

Fred Puckett says, "And once you shoot a couple of these son of a b@#$%es, they'll think twice."
The next day, we set out to find the so-called "Rogue Minutemen."

Fred Puckett says, "Hi guys. I'm Fred Puckett.. Minuteman of One."

Puckett calls his group "Minuteman of One."

Puckett says, "We don't have no by-laws.. we don't have nothin'. We go out in two-man teams and we hit them like we did 40-years ago in Vietnam."

Members of Minuteman of One have a controversial M-O. They carry assault rifles when they're out on patrol, they don't hesitate to follow migrants or smugglers and they've been known to "confiscate" food, water and the luggage they come across.

Puckett says, "We believe our country is being destroyed from the inside. Anything south of I-10 is a third world nation."

Puckett calls his organization a humanitarian group.

He says he sympathizes with the immigrants but despises their smugglers.

Puckett says, "You can arrest him if he's in commission. It's a felony to transport. You can detain him in the commission of a felony. If he tries to run you down.. that is felonious attempt at murder. You can do whatever it takes to stop him. And once you shoot a few of these son of a b@#ches.. they'll think twice."
Then there's Laine Lawless, head of another Minutemen spin-off, the Border Guardians.
Laine Lawless says, "I just don't like the idea of a group of people invading America."

That's Laine Lawless, the leader of the group.

When I first contacted her about the idea of joining her group, she replied:

"We always need spies.. if you've got the stomach for it.."

When we met in person, she told me she wanted me to join immigrant rights groups and report to her what they are planning.

Lawless says, "What I need right now are bodies. At this point.. I don't even care if they are racist ."

Lawless is a former Minutemen who started her own group, she says, to keep tabs on what she calls "the open border lobby."

Lawless says, "There's really no need for those people to be there. (Why are they doing it? is the question.) Because they're f---ing leftist pricks and they're trying to make a point."
If there's any doubt that the Minutemen themselves are racist, that should be beyond doubt by now. Regardless, however, it should be clear as well that no matter what the intent of the Minutemen is, their actions enable and attract violent, racist elements. Of course, even a cursory understanding of Southwest history would inform us as much.

I don't say this very often, but congrats to Channel 5 and to reporter Morgan Loew for a great piece of journalism. Too bad most Valley journalism isn't anywhere near as good.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Racist Jet-Set: Rusty Childress and the false class consciousness of the Minutemen

I was surfing the Save Our State and other right-wing web forums yesterday and I came across a link to some pictures from the protest last Monday. Mostly, they're not all that interesting. I forwarded the link on to a friend who, it turns out, had just discovered it himself. "That's Rusty Childress' photo folder," he told me.

For those who don't know, Rusty is the owner of Childress Automall in Phoenix - and one of the big financial backers of the anti-immigrant movement in Arizona. He pumped money into Arizona's racist so-called "Protect Arizona Now" Proposition 200, which passed in November 2004, denying vital services to immigrants. Since Prop 200's passage, he continues to be one of the sugar daddies of the anti-immigration movement. Here I quote Rusty from an Arizona Republic article that ran in September of that year:
"We're tired of (picking up) the tab of illegal immigration. We are no longer willing to subsidize this. My business has sustained around $45,000 in damages since I got involved. It has been vandalized. There have been gunshots to windows and gases sprayed on our vehicles. For me in particular it is about speaking up on the issue of illegal immigration and demanding that politicians do something."
Because of his reactionary politics, Childress' business was the subject of a series of boycotts, protests and, as Rusty himself noted, direct action in 2004 by Latino groups and their allies in Phoenix.

Typical of the anti-immigrant movement, while the foot soldiers come from the white working class, the big money comes from rich white folks. And so it comes as no surprise that Rusty was born into the lucky sperm club of wealth and privilege. His online resume proudly proclaims his many awards and elite affiliations at the same time he projects a working class, good ol' boy facade. He is a man of contradictions, like President Bush, eager to appear and appeal to the working class, while also living a life of wealth and privilege.

According to the Inc. Magazine article from 1995, Rusty took over the company, as most rich kids do, thanks not to hard work and sticktoitiveness, but due to the everyday nepotism of capitalism. His father's car dealership, now one of GM's top 50 Buick dealerships, was then in financial crisis.
The senior Childress and then general manager Jerry Hughes had no answers. Hughes called in Childress's son -- at the time, head of marketing -- and asked for his help. The energetic twenty-something who'd once wanted to become a geologist so he could play on top of volcanoes now had something just as hot to handle. The challenge came with a new title -- owner-relations manager. And it came with tacit permission to change the entire organization.

You have to understand something about Rusty Childress. For being such a regular-looking guy and for all the Tom Peters slogans he uses, he's quite the hotdogger. The back of his business card tells all: hometown, Tucson; education, Northern Arizona University (B.S. Geology/B.S. Earth Science) and NADA Dealer Academy; interests, Harley-Davidson, Mardi Gras, the beach, and so on -- kayaking, Swedish massage, speaking on total quality management. One wall of his office is all photos of himself running big white water in his kayak. Overhauling his father's company was "The Next Big Adventure" -- white-water rapids for the workweek.
Regardless of his "git r' done" affectation, Rusty's jet-setting playboy lifestyle betrays him as something other than just another working class guy.

Aside from the Minutemen and other anti-immigrant groups, he counts among his political associations Sheriff Joe's Maricopa County Sheriff’s Executive Posse (famous for it's connections to organized crime), the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Crime Council and the Phoenix Block Watch Advisory Board. He was also Chairman of the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association Ethics Judiciary Committee. Like all rich people, Rusty loves fighting crime. He's not a friend of the working class, and he links to the downtown anti-poor gentrification organization "N.A.I.L.E.M." from his website, which itself links to Mesa Racist and anti-immigrant legislator Russell Pierce. Both N.A.I.L.E.M. and Pierce supported PAN.

And, like every good fascist, and despite his silver spoon upbringing, Rusty loves to pretend to defend the little guy. In a letter to the editor to Sonoran News, he wrote,
The political elitists in their D.C. ivory towers again go against the will of the people and support an amnesty of even greater proportions than in the past. Why do the interests of Mexico and corporate America continue to override the poll results of American citizens on immigration? This is the United States, where the laws are supposed to be followed and the elected officials are supposed to legislate the will of the people by the people, for the people.

Why are the lawmakers siding with lawbreakers? Why are “willing workers” and “willing employers” so willing to break immigration law? Our law enforcement personnel are already out manned, outgunned, out funded . . . and yet the people in D.C. continue to make their jobs even more dangerous.
Rusty's identity confusion shows in the special "Rusty Trivia and Women's Guide" section of his website. Right next to each other are these contradictory tidbits:
...there’s a jacuzzi on his balcony

...fights for the underdog [my emphasis]

...drives a rag top Corvette

...travels the western U.S. on a Harley each year
Truly a man of the people. An avid world traveler, you'll know he's in town when you see his license plate, "LVITUP," in the parking lot of his multi-million dollar business. Thanks to his wealth, though, Rusty's international vacationing sets him apart from that of the poor migrants he spends so much time and money persecuting. They can't afford the plane trips and luxury resorts that he enjoys so much - and, neither can most Minutemen. Thanks to his unearned wealth, his regular jet-set border hopping to his vacation time share in Cancun violates no law and allow him access to privileges most working class folks will never share. There are no borders when it comes to money and privilege, and Rusty disregards them for his own benefit. But he loves them when it comes to poor people.

In another letter to the Sonoran News in 2004, Rusty again displayed his trademark Joe Sixpack schtick, railing against immigration and playing the race card by singling out "high fertility rates" and "ethnic lobbies" for particular attention.
Bush’s immigration initiatives pander to ethnic lobbies and business interests, foregoing the idea that we are a nation of laws and limited resources. Essentially what the President is doing, or proposing, is to turn immigration over to big business. If companies can’t find an American worker to do the job at the price they are willing to pay, they can go looking all over the world to find somebody, with no regard to population limits.

The problem is that mass immigration and high fertility rates are having a profound impact on our nation [my emphasis].

Europeans have obviously figured out that there are many benefits to couples having only one child – or none – as opposed to the financial, social, and environmental drawbacks of having multiple children. Fewer people on the planet means a better quality of life for everyone.
Without a doubt, Rusty's talk of fertility rates is racist code for white minority, a fear that goes to the heart of the immigration issue for whites, and represents their fear of an erosion of white privilege. This acknowledgement of privilege is sometimes camouflaged in their rhetoric as the rewards of "hard work" or "playing by the rules" and separates them from the poverty and imprisonment faced by so many working class people of color who work equally hard but face a racist system of vast inequality and repression. In reality, these privileges represent not the result of hard work, but the social contract between wealthy whites and working class whites, in which some privileges are extended to all whites in exchange for their complicity in the exploitation of people of color, a source of vast profits and at the same time problems for the rich in this country.

The code words may be hard to decipher at first, but, by just what twisted standard is Childress, owner of one of the nation's biggest Buick dealerships, not considered a "business interest?" He hopes that by playing on white fears, he can obscure his own wealth and privilege. Keen to play on play on white paranoia for this purpose, he has also resurrected an old immigrant stereotype, linking immigrants to disease. In an article from the Phoenix Business Journal last year, he said,
"This is one of the cheap thrills of cheap labor. As you may have noticed, many immigrants, legal or otherwise, are employed -- if they are at all -- as cooks, dishwashers, waiters and food handlers. And it's a fact that Hepatitis A, B, and C show up in fast food environments."
But, setting aside the racist leap of logic, for a guy who spends so much time in Mexico, in restaurants and drinking Mexican beer, it's a bizarre statement indeed. It sure is benevolent of him to worry about us regular folks down here at the bottom, especially since he himself has little to fear from the cooking on the cruises and five star resorts where he vacations in Mexico.

When it comes to economics, Childress unsurprisingly shifts the blame for economic conditions off rich white folks like himself and onto undocumented workers. As part of the ruling class, he certainly wouldn't want the working class people to which he addresses his racist, nationalist appeals to transcend their white supremacist politics and develop a class analysis of American society.
Illegal immigrants are an economic burden to society. They are filling up our jails, prisons, universities, welfare lines, hospitals and K-12 schools, all at taxpayers’ expense.

They drive down wages, create urban sprawl and drive away good businesses, and their sales tax revenues. As a result, state revenues have decreased and the budget has exploded, spelling economic disaster.
But, despite Rusty's assertions, it isn't immigrants who "drive down wages, create urban sprawl and drive away good businesses, and their sales tax revenues" - those are all things that rich people do. After all, it's rich people like Childress who set wages, hire and fire, control the city planning office, run the government, hold elected office and own the construction and development companies - some of the same people, ironically, who the Minutemen are working with to build their racist border wall.

For too long, Rusty Childress has manipulated to his own benefit a false class consciousness amongst white workers in Arizona. The Minuteman movement professes to defend the jobs and incomes of working class and middle class workers at the same time that it defends the participation of rich people like Rusty Childress whose economic interests are diametrically opposed to those of working class folks!

When defenders of immigrants - especially when white - appear, the movement is quick to denounce them as middle class outsiders, as one regular participant did recently on the Save Our State forum:
...those "anarchists" were little high school dorks. Hard core socialists? Hardly. They love to spew their comic book fantasy mantra's then go back to their upper middle class homes, all paid for by mommy & daddy. They're out there for something to do. They wouldn't survive 2 minutes on the mean streets of Chicago.
Another movement member, defended Rusty's wealth and privilege this way by using that familiar coded argument, saying, "Rusty is a great person, it sounds to me that maybe you have a problem with people that have made it in life." What bizarre apologetics from a movement that pretends to defend the little gal. To have had so much wealth handed to him and to have failed would have been shocking indeed.

The fact is, the Minuteman movement and its rich benefactors aren't fighting for the average working Joanne, as is betrayed by their political contradictions. A white movement that slanders it's white opponents as middle class, asserts itself as defending the little guy and yet defends the participation of the wealthy in it's organizations can only make sense when we realize that the object of the Minutemen is not to defend the working class, or "jobs", but rather to defend white supremacy, which by nature crosses class lines.

And so, rich politicos like Childress, because they defend and maintain the cross-class alliance of whiteness, get a pass on the class analysis, revealing the bogus class position of the Minutemen and their "Americans First" allies to be mere opportunistic window dressing on a racist defense of white privilege. This goes a long way towards explaining the anger of participants in the movement and the defensiveness they express when their opponents justifiably level accusations of racism at them. After all, how can a white movement bent on the deportation of 12 million Latinos not be racist, especially given the history of the region.

White workers need to wake up and realize that white skin privilege is the cause that the Minutemen truly defend. The entitlement that white workers feel to good jobs and political power, to be first hired and last fired, to health care, better schools and some economic mobility, however, is a racist struggle unless broadened to include all workers, regardless of color and regardless of legal status.

Many white workers are justified in their complaints against capitalism. This system is waging a viscious war against the working and middle classes right now. The rich are remaking the economy in conscious ways that undermine the gains that all workers have fought so hard for since this country was founded. However, turning on ourselves - attacking one part of the class to which we also belong - only empowers the rich to continue their exploitation of all of us.

Attacking immigrant labor only validates the class war strategy of the wealthy and strengthens their hand against us. As long as white workers fight to exclude undocumented laborers, we by default continue to maintain a key weapon the rich use against the working class as a whole. On the face of it, we must ask ourselves - if attacking part of the working class will increase workers bargaining power and thus raise wages and benefits, why would rich people like Childress support it? The rich have no interest in higher wages or increased worker power.

The analysis of the Minutemen is a false class consciousness, and not one that will challenge the overall structure of capitalist exploitation. By fragmenting rather than building workers power, it offers nothing towards solving the long or short term problems faced by workers of all colors in this country. Further, the diversion of class struggle into race struggle shifts the fight onto terrain that does not threaten the very wealthy in this country, given their overwhelming shared white status. The problems workers face derive not from the desires of millions of immigrant workers to build better lives but from the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a small, wealth elite. The strategy advocated by the Minutemen and rich people like Rusty Childress maintains and exacerbates divisions within the working class that benefit the wealthy.

However, a unified working class, in which white workers saw common cause with their immigrant brothers and sisters, could build the kind of power that might put all workers in a position to dictate to the bosses for a change. There can be no successful struggle against the rich elites, whether in Washington or Arizona, without working class unity. And that's something you'll never see Rusty Childress spend his millions on.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A potpourri and a call to action

Sorry for the delay in posting lately. My usual schedule has been hard to keep up with as my hours at work soared to 50 a week over the last three months! I did my best to keep up, but as I'm sure is obvious, I did kind of fall off there at the very end. Fortunately, though, the boss finally hired someone new, so I actually got some time off for a change. I've tried to keep the newswire updated this whole time, so hopefully that counts for something. I should be back on track now, and my hours should go back to a more manageable amount, allowing me to return to my regular writing schedule.

Anyhow, as many readers will know, I usually don't post personal information on this site, primarily because that's not what it's for, and secondly, why do the work of the police for them? But, this post will be an unconventional one, partly because I know I am long overdue, and partly because circumstances dictate it. Rather than my usual essay, this will be more of a potpourri.

First, I want to point out the coming anti-Minuteman protest this Saturday. Come out and give it to those fascists, who will include local racist celebrity JT Ready. For those who don't remember would-be Mesa city councilman Ready, check out this East Valley Tribune link. The mysterious case of the councilman who shot at an "illegal" and got away with it is moving through the courts, heading towards a possible deal - one which will likely keep the man Ready shot at, Efrain Martinez, in jail, while Ready remains free to attempt murder again. From the Tribune:
Martinez was interviewed by police and was read his Miranda rights in English, even though he warned them he couldn’t speak it well. Police failed to bring in a translator despite having Spanish speakers on staff.

In addition, Ready is a member of several civilian border patrol groups and a concealed weapons instructor. He has admitted to following a red truck full of what he described as “Mexican gangbangers” because he felt they were suspicious — something several local activists call “vigilantism.”

Marisol Perez, an attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said Arizona is a “hotbed” for civilian border patrol groups that try to take the law into their own hands. That creates a dangerous situation because vigilantes generally aren’t trained in law enforcement, she said.
For Martinez' side of the story, read this article, also from the East Valley Tribune. In it, Martinez, who sat in jail for almost three weeks before being assigned a lawyer (who was paid $165 for his service), explains his situation.
Ready has told police that he saw Martinez emerge from a red truck full of Hispanic passengers, point a gun at him and pull the trigger.

He said he shot back with his gun and called 911.

Although he admits having a BB gun, Martinez has repeatedly denied pointing or shooting it.

He said he was at a park shooting at plastic bottles with a BB gun he had recently purchased at Wal-Mart.

He was not with a large group as Ready suggested, but was walking by himself.

He also said he was not traveling with the people in the red truck. He said he doesn’t know them and that they approached him to ask for directions.

Then he saw Ready’s car approaching. It appeared to be following the truck. Martinez said Ready emerged from his car and fired a shot at the truck.

Martinez said he ran away and sought help from the red truck, but the driver wouldn’t stop. He called out for help in broken English to a police officer, he says.

Police pulled over the red truck, which had about 10 people inside, according to police reports. They searched for weapons and when they found none, they let everyone go. They were not questioned, although the driver told police she did not know Martinez — a claim that could have corroborated a portion of Martinez’s story.
Further, the investigating detective admits interviewing Martinez in English even though he knew that Martinez spoke little or no English. And, it seems, Martinez didn't even understand that he was being detained for anything other than an immigration violation and possession of a BB gun. That's justice in Arizona.

The protest starts at 2 PM at 23rd Avenue and Camelback in Phoenix. Aside from putting some heat on the racist Minutemen (who now want to build a private border fence), the event has the secondary benefit of being located right across the street from Rusty Childress' Buick dealership. According to a recent Washington Post article,
Rusty Childress, who owns a Buick-Kia car dealership across the street from the consulate, sees that long line every day, and it drives him to distraction. Childress has emerged as one of the leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, which includes the self-appointed Minutemen who patrol the border and even a group called Mothers Against Illegal Aliens. "Mexico is trying to reconquer this country without firing a shot," Childress says, and he is speaking without irony.

"We're just pressing the issue to enforce the laws that are already on the books," Childress says. People aren't supposed to cross the border without proper documents. Employers aren't supposed to hire them. The government is supposed to deport them, not provide them services. It's that simple.
There have been several protests in front of what I can only assume is Childress' public subsidy-free (consistency?) dealership over the last year or so, including one very large demonstration called by Immigrants Without Borders that was very inspiring to a lot of us who went. Childress was a major backer of Proposition 200, a racist law that, now passed, seeks to deny undocumented immigrants access to public services. La lucha sigue.

I'd also like to point out an interesting article in USA Today about the rise of municipal wireless and the technology's general failure to live up to the promises made to the public. The other day, I linked to an editorial from Marketwatch.com, in which John C. Dvorak points out what ought to be by now the painfully obvious limitations of free wireless, especially in the cash-strapped, revenue-crazy environment that dominates most city governments these days.

The interesting thing about the USA Today article is that it supports a claim I have made on here many times about municipal wireless. As a consumer technology, it hasn't delivered as promised. But, it turns out, that probably doesn't matter.
Firefighters, police and other officials in Nevada, Mo., are big fans of the town's Wi-Fi network, which helps them do their jobs while moving through the community of 8,600 people.

But that wasn't the reason the network was built in 2003. At the time, no traditional broadband, such as cable modem or digital subscriber line (DSL) service, was available in town. Officials built the Wi-Fi network, through a partnership with service provider NeighborLink Broadband, to provide access to citizens.
Municipal wireless is about increasing the power of the police in an era of globalization, where local middle classes in the core of the Empire have become less important to the maintenance of democratic capitalism. With this outright assault on what was the bulwark of American democracy (the white, reactionary middle class), something has to keep us all in place. The rise of the anti-immigrant movement suggests that the old white supremacist argument still holds sway in the working class, but the massive investment that elites have made in control technologies suggests that, in the new era, they may be hedging their bets. The rising precarity carries with it, of course, the implicit threat of revolt. And, as the prime enforcers of class domination, of course the police love it.

Obviously, I point this out not to make a defense of democratic capitalism or the middle class, but rather to offer more evidence of an economic transition in this country, and to advocate for a stronger anarchist analysis of it and the political responses of the elite to our resistance to it (without forgetting that they are the transition's prime manufacturers). Not many people, aside from the business press, seems to be looking at this transition too closely. This needs to change. The elites are clearly thinking about it, as evidenced just this week by the Department of Homeland Security's moves into RFID regulation of border crossers, as well as Wal-Mart Chief Information Officer, Rollin Ford, evangelistic endorsement of the technology this week. "There will be no slowing down. RFID will transform the way we do business," he said in a public statement.

Lastly, I would like to point out that I added a PDF of a new PI poster in the newswire. It's in a large format, good for display in a variety of settings. I'll be posting more in the weeks to come. As usual, your feedback, emails and article links are always appreciated.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Of "generational wars" old and new

Remember our last "generational war"? No, not the Cold War. The Drug War. Declaring neither victory nor admitting defeat, the elites have rhetorically moved on from the Drug War, preferring these days to capitalize on white middle class fears by focusing on terrorism rather than crack dealers.

The rise of meth, very much a white drug, doesn't offer the same opportunities for manipulation of the middle class. According to the government's own figures, only 1.6% of all those convicted of Federal meth crimes in 2001 were Black, while 60 percent were white, a figure that maintains today. For a political elite that has framed the War on Drugs in terms of Black and white, meth just doesn't hold the same promise that crack did. And the routine jailings of thousands every day for drug crimes has made it easy to forget that the War on Drugs chugs on, leaving millions upon millions in prison or otherwise under direct state supervision.

As a class war tool, prisons have served the elites well, although expensively. But even if these days their attentions seem elsewhere, that doesn't mean the elite hasn't learned a thing or two from the War on Drugs. One important tool they developed was property seizures. In many places, possession of even small amounts of drugs could permit the government to confiscate property and assets without conviction, including property unrelated to the crime. Increasingly, revenue from this seized property, often derived from public auction, has been funneled back into police budgets, providing an obvious institutional incentive for police to increase seizures.

So, it should come as no surprise that, as policing veers more and more into the territory of the high tech, city governments would begin applying drug seizures to technological improvements to their policing infrastructure. I have pointed out several times on this blog the key role that municipal wireless will play in increasing police power in the 21st Century. Hyped as an egalitarian project aimed at bridging the "digital divide", municipal wi-fi networks are spreading across the country as fast as drug seizure laws did in the 80's. Rarely mentioned in the same tone, however, are the myriad opportunities such technologies offer elites and police forces interested in checking the self-organization of the ever-growing ranks of the poor.

With such benevolent language coming from a political class otherwise very stingy when it comes to programs for the poor, we are right to treat these pronouncements with a fair amount of skepticism. SearchMobileComputing.com news editor, Amanda Mitchell, reported in February 2006 about the Florida city of Riviera Beach's plan to go wireless.
Riviera Beach's project, powered by Motorola's MOTOMESH multi-radio, mesh networking system, has an interesting twist because it was funded by drug-money seizures.
Motorola's MOTOMESH is one of the hottest things in wireless. Cities across the country are linking their police agencies up to the technology in the hopes of vastly increasing their ability to wage their generational war on the poor and working class.

Beth Bacheldor reported for Federal Computer Week in early March 2006 on the technology. The article starts off framing the issue in the fake benevolent language typical of the debate.
“We wanted to prove that better-quality Internet access does lead to better jobs and better economic development,” said Mike Miller, chairman of the Marshalltown Economic Development Impact Committee, a volunteer organization charged with improving economic development in the region.
But if we hang in there, the truth is revealed at the end of the article, and we get a glimpse at the true value elites hope to derive from the technology.
For some, wireless mesh networks are already proving their worth. In Ripon, Calif., which spent about $550,000 to install Motorola’s Motomesh technology, the network of 50 access points, 25 IP wireless cameras and mobile cameras installed in police cars has already caught its first criminal. Last month, cameras on the mesh network recorded an adult male beating a child and stealing his skateboard. The victim called 911 and gave details of the assault and the suspect’s description. The dispatcher accessed the wireless cameras near the skate park to locate the suspect and track his moves. The dispatcher summoned the police, who made an arrest within minutes.

“It was one of those things where you see how the technology works, and that it really does make a difference,” said Richard Bull, Ripon’s police chief. “I’ve heard some people say this network is kind of a ‘Big Brother’ thing. But it isn’t. We are trying to protect our community in the best way we can.”
Wireless Week reported around the same time that Plano, Texas, plans to wire up all 200 of its police vehicles to Motorola's MOTOMESH system.

Aside from the increased power that faster and easier access to more information will afford police, MOTOMESH also provides easy networking of surveillance cameras, which previously required expensive cables, wires and other infrastructure to install. No longer. Intelligent cameras can now, thanks to MOTOMESH, self-organize their own networks without actually connecting physically to one another or to other city infrastructure. This lowers the installation cost of stationary cameras and also allows the flexibility to utilize mobile cameras at public events or crime scenes, as police did at the Texas State Fair in Dallas in 2005.

In what sadly does not appear to be an April Fool's joke, the LA Downtown News reported on April 1st on the use the LAPD is getting out of wireless surveillance cameras. Over the last year, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Historic Downtown Business Improvement District (HDBID) spent more than $450,000 setting up surveillance cameras in LA which the police now use to crack down on illegal DVD sales and all manner of other crimes. Cops monitor the cameras from a central control room.
The officers are able to manipulate the cameras with a joystick and keypad, allowing them to zoom in to capture more detail and rotate 360 degrees. They can switch between cameras, and the feeds are recorded for evidence.

Most of the time officers are looking for suspicious behavior or something out of place, Gong said. In the Santee Alley area, that means illegal vendors. In the Historic Core, the vast majority of time is spent watching for narcotics sales.

When an officer sees something illegal, a call is radioed to a car patrolling the neighborhood. This produces about 40 narcotics arrests a month.
HDBID president Farhad Yousefzadeh comes right out with his organization's motivation behind it's supposedly benevolent gesture: "We paid for these cameras in order to improve our district. As time goes by, as people realize cameras are there, crime will go down."

Police agencies and city governments have been working hand in hand with capitalists to install the networks. Just like the MPAA and HDBID, Google, despite it's "don't be evil" slogan, has had no problem putting its energies and finances behind the wireless class war in it's Northern California home town.

Melanie Turner, writing for the Modesto Bee, reported in early March about the wireless mesh system in Ripon, California, population 13,000. Thanks to the mesh, Ripon cops can watch video feeds from the city's 25 cameras from laptops in their cruisers. Ripon's system, paid for in part with "a $75,000 grant from Homeland Security and a $10,000 grant from Pacific Gas & Electric", allows police to "access federal, county and local law enforcement databases, pulling up mug shots and fingerprints while on patrol."
"It's really cool," said Police Chief Richard Bull, who spearheaded a move to the wireless system that he says saves money, fights crime and enables workers to do their jobs more efficiently.
More efficiency under capitalism means more exploitation, so it's quite convenient to the capitalists that mesh technology serves to keep tabs on workers while it also forces on them speed ups, increased workload and reduced autonomy on the job.

The role of Homeland Security in driving police wireless systems can't be ignored, either. Fleet Owner magazine reported that a $856,000 grant from DHS funded a wireless surveillance system at the Narragansett Bay port in Rhode Island. And a $202,000 DHS grant was behind the Alaskan city of Dillingham's plan to install 80 cameras in that town of 2400 residents. In Chicago, DHS is funding a pilot program to install wireless cameras on city buses, which nearby police officers in specially-equipped squad cars can use to monitor riders. Maryland's Ocean City Today recently reported that a $100,000 dollar Homeland Security grant will pay for the installation of surveillance cameras that will plug into the city's wireless network.

In Pinehurst, North Carolina, James Tagliareni, chief technology officer of Moore County school system described the impact that wireless technology has had in his district.
"The joint project bolsters our efforts to provide our students a safe learning environment and serves as another example of how technology can make a positive impact in education. This cooperative effort strengthens an already close partnership we have with the Carthage Police Department and Moore County Sheriff's Office."
Cognitive dissonance is par for the course when it comes to discussing technology, but Tagliareni is describing a new program, which he hopes to expand with Federal grants, that allows police off campus to hook up to wireless cameras in schools.
“We’re now able to monitor what goes on in the school. It gives us the ability to respond appropriately to any given situation,” said Sheriff Lane Carter. “It’s a tool we will use to keep the school and the community’s children safe. We are committed to working with all local agencies, including the schools, to use the technology that is available to us. If we’re working together, we’re saving taxpayers’ dollars.”
Last week, police and sheriffs staged a mock raid on Union Pines High School. 100 students played the part of wounded and trapped kids. "It was scary. I even started crying," said Amber Bell, a participant. “That was the first time any of us had been in a situation like that,” she said. “It does prepare us for the real world. If some of us do go into the Army, we’ll have to be going into people’s houses and helping them.”

Not to beat a dead horse, but the Peoria Journal Star reported this week on that city's debate over wireless. As in LA, proponents in Peoria also hope to forge a public-private partnership in order to fund the multi-million dollar project. As the article begins, we are treated to more of that benevolent language:
Not only are many professionals coming to expect Wi-Fi, which allows for online connections via radio waves, but the service could also help bridge the digital divide by providing free or low-cost Internet service to everyone.
But, again, as we move towards the end of the piece, we get the heart of the matter.
Meanwhile, the city is exploring how Wi-Fi could improve some plans the city has, such as surveillance cameras the city plans to put in certain high-crime areas.

"(Police) officers could monitor different cameras (through Wi-Fi) from their cars," Mayor Jim Ardis said. "They could be blocks or maybe miles away."
The city already has money set aside for the purchase of surveillance cameras, although they are still investigating the best places to put them. One possible location: the city's low-income housing projects. According to Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, the system's flexibility is a major selling point. "My intention is to have something up and running this summer," he said. "The nice thing about this network is you can just keep adding to it."

Remember the LAPD's surveillance program I mentioned above? Well,
[w]ith attention increasing, some think Central Division officers could be monitoring as many as 100 cameras within the next few years. That type of "success" could yield its own problem.

"We've kind of outgrown this room. There's only so much space in a police station," Gong said.

Central Division Capt. Jodi Wakefield said the department is looking for a larger room to house the equipment. "The whole Downtown has gotten on the bandwagon with [donating] these cameras to us," she said. Despite the space concerns, Wakefield said the police appreciate the help. "With the few cops we have, it's ideal for us."
Be careful what you wish for, it seems. But, thanks to mesh wireless technology, adding new cameras - or even moving old cameras - is not a problem.

Finally, the Contra Costa Times ran a piece by Ryan Huff recently describing various California cities' wireless plans. Pleasant Hill cops already use wireless to "access mug shots and file reports," but Concord has bigger plans.

In a scenario that ought to be familiar by now, the paper reports that,
[a] citywide WiFi zone would come at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, Concord would save thousands of dollars every year because building inspectors and other city employees wouldn't need cell phones to transmit reports from laptops back to City Hall, Dragovich said.

Such a system also would provide new avenues for Concord police to battle crime.

For example, if a robbery were taking place at a convenience store, officers could tap into a security camera on a secured Web site and monitor it from their patrol car laptops. This would help them decide how to respond in real time, said Rob Evans, Concord police technology manager.
"It's definitely the wave of the future as far as law enforcement goes," he adds.

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