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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

News of Interest 3/26/07

(1) This piece doesn't quite go far enough - after all, less cops are a good thing, not a bad thing. However, it does make a very good point that is so often missed: these technologies exist to control people and to prevent not just crime, but insurrection. In that sense, they are just like the police. They are a tool that exists and will spread because the elite class wants to keep us all in place so their profits may safely flow.

Mind how you walk. It could be a crime
"In the media, whenever we wish to describe the burgeoning intrusiveness of the past decade, we are inevitably drawn to one of our greatest writers, George Orwell - although even he could not have envisaged that, in addition to the ubiquitous cameras, it would be possible to track everyone from cradle to grave through computer-chip technology or to build up a database of the population's DNA. But he would have understood why it is being done. In 1984, it is about control. The state tells its people that the cameras are there for their benefit and to prevent crime, but the crime they are preventing is insurrection. Everyone is watched to ensure they conform."

(2) French politics, marked as of late by a rush of all parties, left and right, to the imagery of the Tricolor (something that ought to be familiar to Americans), has now made the leap into the virtual world of Second Life. Time will tell if the parties can deliver better on their promises online than they do in rl.
Surreal campaigns as French politics go virtual
"Clashes between political opponents are quite common in Second Life, which also witnessed vandalism to the virtual office of U.S. democrat Presidential candidate John Edwards. As supporters of France's far-right National Front party gathered at Le Pen's site to discuss a farewell speech from outgoing President Jacques Chirac this month, they were interrupted by the sudden discovery of some broken National Front slogans on their site."
(3) Bees are disappearing (bringing a collapse in pollination), the ice caps are melting (causing a crisis of rising sees and shrinking drinking water), the temperature rises ever higher (bringing tropical diseases further north while making millions refugees), and now scientists say that many of the climates we recognize today will vanish or change radically, leading to extinction for many species. Ever wondered what environmental collapse would look like? Well, check the news because this is it and it's going on right now. So, the question becomes, how bad does it have to get before you take some kind of action? How much environmental collapse can you tolerate?
'New, unknown climate zones by 2100'
"Global warming could remake the world's climate zones by 2100, with some polar and mountain climates disappearing altogether and formerly unknown ones emerging in the tropics, scientists said on Monday. And when climate zones vanish, the animals and plants that live in them will be at greater risk of extinction, said Jack Williams, lead author of a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

(4) Website of interest to revolutionaries:
Global Guerrillas
John Robb's excellent website suffers a bit at times from bouts of arrogance, but it is a wonderful resource for understanding the ways that global resistance movements currently operate and have evolved over the last few years. Further, there are plenty of lessons for anarchists, as our philosophy and organizational model complements quite well the systems disruption methodology recorded and analyzed at this website. In a way, though, it's an old idea: hit 'em where they ain't and be creative about it (since the state cannot be everywhere at once - yet! - well placed strikes can find force multipliers and reverberations within the modern inter-related economy). Read it regularly.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Photos and some analysis of the anti-Romic fight against environmental racism

A comrade of mine has a new blog that focuses on the various conspiracies between the politicians, bureaucrats and capitalists in our beloved city, which is undergoing several major gentrification projects right now, largely centering around this yuppie-socialist light rail project. He has posted a fine article on the increasingly toxic environment here in Arizona, which includes an overview of the anti-Romic struggle, in which several native organizations, with the help of what seems like a pretty good direct action based group, Green Action, is fighting environmental racism on the Gila River reservation. I went to their most recent protest this weekend and I took some pictures, so I thought I would post some of them here and recommend his article for context.

Check it out here: "If the heat doesn't kill you..."

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

News of Interest 3/25/07

The planet continues to be the subject in a vast experiment to which it has not consented: genetic modification of plants and animals has already begun to have far-reaching and potentially catastrophic effects. Capital, ever seeking new markets, regardless of the consequences, and an eagerly compliant (an dependent) scientific class that largely views anything resembling public input or oversight as tantamount to censorship have combined to set about re-ordering the natural world to reflect their elitist and profit-driven priorities.

Here's some recent news on the topic:
Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
'The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.'
Now scientists create a sheep that's 15% human
'But the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race. Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: "Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV."'
South Africa: Modified Maize 'Found to Harm Rats'
'Lobby group Biowatch has launched a new attack on genetically modified maize after a study published in Europe last week showed that a variety developed by U.S. seed giant Monsanto was harmful to rats - raising concerns about the safety of the grain for human consumption.'
Judge Halts Planting of Genetically Modified Alfalfa
'Breyer ruled last month that federal authorities had failed to fully consider the public health, economic and environmental consequences before allowing the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa. The Center for Food Safety had sued on behalf of farmers who complained the genetically engineered seed could contaminate organic and conventional alfalfa.'
Genetically altered rice in Kansas sown soon
'Some farmers aren't as keen on the idea... “It has to do with the process involved. Organic is about getting back to doing things in the natural way. When you are taking a gene out of a fish and putting it in a tomato that is not natural,” says Edgerton farmer Lee Quintance.'
French Scientists Express Doubt About Genetically Modified Corn
'Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen said that according to studies by his group, CRIIGEN, Monsanto's maize type MON863 caused symptoms of poisoning and liver and kidney damage in rats that were fed the product during experiments.'

Friday, March 23, 2007

Oppose environmental racism tomorrow (3/24/07)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So Many Candles, So Little Fire: The Sad State of the Phoenix Anti-War Movement

The Phoenix anti-war movement delivered Monday the latest sequel in its seemingly never-ending series of boring and ineffective protests against the war in Iraq. The Arizona Republic reported that "Demonstrators marched a favored route for protests, making the short walk from Sen. Jon Kyl's central Phoenix office to McCain's office, where the names of Arizonans killed in Iraq were read during a candlelight vigil [my emphasis]." But preferred by who? That question goes unanswered, but overall this was a generous characterization indeed by the Republic, given that in fact every protest against the war in recent memory has followed this template almost exactly, except for the occasions where there was no march at all and protesters simply remained in front of McCain's office, pathetically pleading with passersby to support their cause.

As on previous occasions, demonstrators also delivered a petition demanding that the politicos change their positions on the war. Callers to the Charles Goyette show, a local Libertarian morning radio show, were largely self-congratulatory, and the organizers' dual strategy of boredom and begging politicians went largely unquestioned. The hope seemed to be that the decline in support for the war itself would somehow bring an end to the war, and that therefore our effectiveness with regards to that goal should be measured not in terms of the escalation of the war (i.e., the amount our protests have actually impacted the elites' war in Iraq), but rather in terms of the number of honks of support subjectively recorded by participants. The obvious and painful fact is, if we have protested the war for more than four years (we protested before it started as well, it should be remembered) and yet the elite has escalated it, our actions are not having the desired effect.

Indeed, as the war bleeds into its fifth year, the local anti-war movement has displayed an almost criminal lack of creativity and a total failure of analysis. Within the movement, tactics are non-existent or stale and, perhaps even more importantly, the strategies have failed utterly. Despite the limited heat of the protests, or the 50-odd percent of Arizonans against the war, there is almost no chance that Republicans Kyl and McCain will be persuaded to alter their stance on the war, especially given super-hawk McCain's desire to escalate the war. This despite years of protest at their offices by local anti-war organizations.

The East Valley Tribune put it this way:
The protesters would be heard by his staff and the message would be passed on, but the event would be unlikely to change the Republican senator’s stance on the war, said Paul Hickman, McCain’s state director.
“Sen. McCain is always happy to hear people on all sides of whatever issue is in question,” Hickman said. But McCain “obviously doesn’t agree” with the demonstrators, he said.

McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and 2008 presidential candidate, has long advocated sending more troops to Iraq and said he supports President Bush’s recent decision to do so.

Hickman said he would call the senator this morning “just to keep him apprised,” though most of the event took place after the office closed and its staff went home at 5 p.m.

Still, some demonstrators made their way into McCain’s office before closing time and read aloud the names of Arizona soldiers killed since the invasion.
Even Arizona's Democratic governor has taken a 'pragmatic' stance on the war, resisting the tide of public opinion and refusing to advocate for withdrawal of troops there. The governor clearly hopes for a national appointment under a future Democratic administration and has opted to get her ducks in a row with regard to the largely useless Democratic Party, whose leaders likewise refuse to call for immediate withdrawal. Both parties - any party - is by nature dependent on the good will of the elite class. This reality is reflected in both parties' pro-war policies, therefore, not as an aberration, but as a natural effect of it.

Expressing a perhaps previoulsy unknown appreciation for irony, the governor recently called for giving the war in Iraq "one more shot" and told reporters, "People that I met with were cautiously optimistic that they're at least seeing improvement. I think we're restoring stability." "Restoring stability", of course, is nothing more than code for the imperialist project in Iraq, so we should not be surprised to see a politician with national ambitions committed to the successful application of state violence towards these ends. Indeed, despite the obvious schism with its largely frustrated and confused base, according to Democratic Party Chairman David Waid the governor's position is "entirely consistent with Democrats." This despite the clear national vote against the war less than six months ago!

Naturally, Democratic leaders and their supporters in the anti-war movement will forever tell us that the solution to our problems lies with a properly cast vote, but what's interesting about the anti-war movement, both here and nationally, is the disconnect between the national trend against the war and the stagnating or shrinking turnout at anti-war protests. Protests here in Arizona have never again approached the numbers achieved right before the war, thus revealing that the problem lies in part with a profound disenchantment with the movement itself, not just the political parties. And this blame lies with the movement's leadership, who continue to call again and again for the same boring protests despite the glaring evidence of their complete failure to achieve their alleged goal of ending the war.

In fact, many Americans, frustrated with the bloodbath in Iraq and seeing little alternative in the boring and impotent anti-war movement, opted to hold their noses and vote against the war by choosing the lesser of two evils, checking the Democratic box in the voting booth rather than joining the obviously ineffective anti-war movement. This tactic has clearly, and predictably failed, despite the equally unsurprising, infantile and self-serving "vote Democratic or else" threats of the liberal left before the election.

However, there is hope, because even if the anti-war leadership in town fails to realize the obvious impossibility of convincing politicians to end this war by begging and vigiling, not everyone at the protest Monday was similarly confused.
"I have more faith in the people than I do in the politicians," said 19-year-old Rosela Martinez, an Estrella Mountain Community College student, explaining her reason for joining the Phoenix protest.

"I think it's still possible for the people to have the real power," she said.
Which brings us to the point. If appealing to politicians is not going to stop the war... and, if voting for politicians is not going to stop the war, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate our tactics and strategies. Rosela Martinez hints at a different direction, a direct action direction.

Several places around the country have broken out of the stale politics of pleading and have begun to take matters into their own hands, opting for a systems disruption strategy that relies on direct action. In Tacoma, Washington, protesters tried to prevent the deployment of a Stryker brigade to Iraq, and faced a brutal attack from police in response. And, in New Brunswick, NJ, several hundred protesters Monday took to the streets, shutting down a recruitment center and storming a freeway offramp, cutting off traffic. One organizer declared, "We're going to try to shake things up!" In Milwaukee, militants descended on a recruitment center, smashing windows and setting off smoke bombs. Displaying what must be a near critical level of irony, Army public affairs officer Pat Grobschmidt expressed consternation at the attack on the violent institution she works for, saying, "Soldiers defend the right of all Americans to peacefully express their point of their view. We're dismayed that their actions are anything but peaceful." Yet, are we surprised by the violent reaction of Iraqis to the US Army?

But isn't that the point? If we are to end the war, we must accomplish four tasks that the anti-war movement so far has failed to achieve. First, we must push the contradictions in the system, forcing the evaporation of the pragmatic middle ground now occupied by the Democratic Party. The existence of this middle ground allows the Democrats to stand between us and our goal of stopping the war. The illusion of the Democrats as an appropriate vehicle for opposing the war must be revealed for the bankrupt fantasy that it is. Politicians, clearly useless to us, must be ignored and refused access to our movement. Our attacks on the pro-war right must not obscure our opposition to the equally pro-war left. We must save ammunition for both our opponents in this fight, as we have no place with either.

Second, we must make irrelevant the local leadership of the anti-war movement, rejecting their stale tactics and failed strategies. Their lack of creativity has directly led to the state of the current movement and, along with it, the failure to achieve after four bloody years the end of this criminal and imperialist war. Unlike Janet Napolitano, we must not give the leadership yet another shot. Their time is done. We have tried their way and it has failed. Power and the right to make decisions must now be reconstituted in the hands of the base of the movement, and new, militant strategies will help to bring new blood and ideas into the movement. Direct action must be the watchword of the day. We have to develop broadly participatory and accountable forms of protest rooted in affinity, militancy and solidarity.

Third, these strategies must be applied with an eye towards systems disruption. That is, making the every day functioning of the war-making apparatus impossible, or at least difficult and politically costly. This, in fact, is a much more historically rooted strategy than that pursued by local anti-war leaders. Petitioning and begging have not historically proved successful strategies for ending wars. Vietnam was brought to an end by three forces: the sabotage of the war machine from inside by deserting, refusing and resisting soldiers; the attack on the military by the Vietnamese guerrillas and regular army; and, the resistance and sabotage of citizens in the United States, who engaged in far more resistance than mere sign-holding. This is the combination that will force an end to the war this time as well.

Fourth, we must connect to local struggles, such as the immigrant movement. The parallels are striking. Between 1846 and 1848 an illegal war, based on lies, took Northern Mexico and delivered it to the US. Since then, Mexicans and immigrants have been repeatedly stripped of their rights and alternately brought in and driven out of the US, depending on the needs of the elite class and the compliance of a large section of the working and middle class.

Like the imperialist alliance that binds many middle class folks to the foreign policy of the ruling class in this country, the white supremacist immigration and policing policies in this country bind the white working class domestically to the interests of the ruling capitalist class by offering them privileged access to jobs and other resources. When the authorities crack down on immigrants, this is a clear signal to the white working class that this "devil's bargain" is alive and well and that their elite benefactors will continue to honor that special relationship, just like when the state frames its foreign wars in terms of protecting Americans from terrorism abroad. Indeed, at the core of what drives white participation in the anti-immigrant reaction is a desire to reassert this alliance in the face of a broader attack on the entire working class. Because it is primarily the working class that fights this war, if we cannot break down this alliance we face little hope of breaking down the second in any meaningful or long-term fashion. This white supremacist history repeats now, as so-called 'illegal immigrants' now risk being labeled domestic terrorists for even minor crimes - a measure that 50 percent of Arizonans support! Our support for the immigrant movement must be strong and unopportunistic, and we must highlight the necessity of building a movement committed to free movement and rights for all people at home as a crucial element of our fight against the war abroad.

It's time for a radical departure for the anti-war movement in Phoenix. We need a broad coup from below against the current leadership and a sharp break from the strategies that currently dominate. Energy, vitality and fresh ideas are sorely needed if we want to end the war. The time for action is now.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

The constant threat of forgetting...

Rev. Terry Rebert recently placed 3100 crosses on church property to remind locals of the sacrifices that American soldiers have made in Iraq.
"This is not a protest against war. It's a protest against sin, which causes war," Rebert said Wednesday. "It's to communicate that we should never forget the sacrifice of our soldiers. We forget about the sacrifice of giving their life for our freedom."
It is commonly repeated in the press that we should not forget the poor soldiers lost in the war, or the fact that they died for our freedom. Protesters and war supporters alike seem to have generally bought into this notion that Americans are constantly on the verge of collective amnesia when it comes to America's war dead. At a recent exhibition at Arizona State University, titled "Eyes Wide Open", organizers displayed 90 pairs of boots to symbolize Arizona's fallen troops. Event coordinator Cheri Lippmann said,“Sometimes, people don’t see that peoples’ lives ending is part of war,” Lippmann said. “A lot of times, they don’t see the flag-draped coffins.” People forget the cost to American soldiers, Lippmann continued, and get distracted by politics. This in a state in which the governor renamed one of Phoenix's freeways and a mountain in honor of Lori Piestewa after she was killed in the Iraq invasion. Pat Tillman's beatification followed not much later, memorialized with a massive statue in the "Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor" in front of our new publicly-funded stadium.

Despite the near religious certainty that reporters and politicians alike ascribe to this constant threat of forgetting that afflicts us, this mantra seems to have been contradicted by a recent poll. According to an AP article:
One person can tell you precisely how many Americans have been killed in Iraq. Another pays close attention to the names and hometowns of those who die each week. A third mourns for the families of fallen U.S. troops, but also figures it was their choice to enlist.

Americans are keenly aware of how many U.S. forces have lost their lives in Iraq, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. But they woefully underestimate the number of Iraqi civilians who have been killed.
In fact, when polled, Americans demonstrated a fairly good awareness of the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq, offering up an average figure of 3000 when asked to estimate the number of US war dead in Iraq, very close to the 3100 at which it stood at the time of the poll. However, when it came to the number of Iraqi war dead, which even the US government concedes runs at least to the many tens of thousands (and perhaps as high as 900,000 in a study that ran in the Lancet last year), Americans showed almost total ignorance of the cost in blood borne by Iraqis. The average Iraqi death toll that Americans settled on in the poll was 9,890.

Clearly there is no lack of awareness of the cost to American troops. And how could there be, after all? Local news channels beatify local war dead with clockwork regularity, while support the troops magnetic ribbons abound on both foreign and domestic cars, and politicians continuously remind us of the supposedly noble cause for which they so selflessly die. But the US is a country that worships war, and the soldiers are this religion's little, gun-toting Jesuses. Their splayed out corpses must be kneeled before with, well, religious regularity and a heavy dose of piety lest we lose faith and stray from the course set before us by the popes and priests in the military industrial conplex.

Ironically, the mantra of the ever-present threat of forgetting sacrifice itself plays a significant role in making us aware of America's war dead, at the same time it encircles the debate on the war, cleverly setting the limits of discussion so that criticism remains safely within patriotic boundaries. As the good reverend cautions us: do not question the troops, for their sacrifices make our debate possible, despite the obvious evidence that the primary threat to those rights to free debate come from war supporters, not Iraqi insurgents.

Reminding us continuously of our supposedly dangerously feeble memories also provides a moral high ground for those who seek to attack war critics and anti-war militants and activists, and it obscures the actual work of those very soldiers serving and dying in Iraq, namely killing Iraqis. Their "noble sacrifice" thus transforms into defending our rights, not destroying Iraq. Recognizing the actual cost of the Iraq war, in terms that reflect the disproportionate cost to Iraq, would call into question the role of American soldiers, and that could raise doubt about the alleged sacrifices made by American soldiers. Remembering the sacrifice of US troops keeps our focus at home, safely domestic and depoliticized. A step towards breaking this grip on debates about the war must include questioning the role of the troops and their individual culpability in the mass murder of Iraqis. "Support the troops" must be turned into a question and aimed back at these moralizers: "Support the troops as they do what, exactly?"


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