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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Plastic oceans, plastic people

I was forwarded this article by a friend of mine. Despite being published in a sad yuppie men's magazine ('Stay Young, Retire Rich' blares this month's cover), the piece is actually very good and I recommend it highly.

Pretty much every piece of plastic ever made is still around, you know, and less than five percent of all plastic made is ever recycled, so the rest has to go somewhere. Ever wonder where?

Short answers: (1) into the ocean; (2) into YOU!

The plastics industry wants you to think of convenience or even beauty when you think plastic, but the truth is a lot more sinister, and all over the world huge sections of the ocean have become giant, swirling dumps for plastic, sometimes measuring the size of the state of Texas. Meanwhile, back on dry land, plastics break down into tiny particles and make their way into our bodies.

According to the article, written by Susan Casey:
At the same time, all over the globe, there are signs that plastic pollution is doing more than blighting the scenery; it is also making its way into the food chain. Some of the most obvious victims are the dead seabirds that have been washing ashore in startling numbers, their bodies packed with plastic: things like bottle caps, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, and colored scraps that, to a foraging bird, resemble baitfish. (One animal dissected by Dutch researchers contained 1,603 pieces of plastic.) And the birds aren’t alone. All sea creatures are threatened by floating plastic, from whales down to zooplankton. There’s a basic moral horror in seeing the pictures: a sea turtle with a plastic band strangling its shell into an hourglass shape; a humpback towing plastic nets that cut into its flesh and make it impossible for the animal to hunt. More than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die in the North Pacific each year, either from mistakenly eating this junk or from being ensnared in it and drowning.

Bad enough. But Moore soon learned that the big, tentacled balls of trash were only the most visible signs of the problem; others were far less obvious, and far more evil. Dragging a fine-meshed net known as a manta trawl, he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.

This statistic is grim—for marine animals, of course, but even more so for humans. The more invisible and ubiquitous the pollution, the more likely it will end up inside us. And there’s growing—and disturbing—proof that we’re ingesting plastic toxins constantly, and that even slight doses of these substances can severely disrupt gene activity. “Every one of us has this huge body burden,” Moore says. “You could take your serum to a lab now, and they’d find at least 100 industrial chemicals that weren’t around in 1950.” The fact that these toxins don’t cause violent and immediate reactions does not mean they’re benign: Scientists are just beginning to research the long-term ways in which the chemicals used to make plastic interact with our own biochemistry.
Read more here:
Our oceans are turning into plastic...are we?

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reverse racism or just reversing the facts?

The Phoenix New Times this week featured a cover article about right-wing activist, Emily Mitchell, famous around these parts for having prodded a gullible ASU student into starting up an ASU club for Caucasian students. In October of last year I wrote a piece examining the organization and the many supposed justifications that its supporters put forward in its defense.

At its base, though, the club's alleged purpose was undermined by basic facts: far from being under attack or an endangered species, whites at ASU continue to hold power on campus in numbers vastly disproportionate to their numbers. As the New Times piece points out, "[i]n 2006, 283 black ASU students graduated with about 7,000 of their white peers." Likewise with every other measure of power, from the regents to the student government and on down the line. White power is not under threat at ASU (we should be so lucky!). Even if it had been, however, that would in fact have been a progressive development, not one to be shored up by white over-privileged college kids.

Regardless, having been started as a front group and financial scam, of sorts, by an outside agitator (Mitchell was not an ASU student and in fact worked for a national conservative organization called the Leadership Institute that paid her for each such controversial club she started - of which CAMASU was only one), CAMASU didn't last long once she departed the scene. It is currently defunct, hopefully never to rise again.

Read the New Times article here:
Move Over, Ann Coulter: Meet the woman behind ASU's Caucasian American Men's Club

Read my analysis from October here (links to original news articles included):
No one whines like a white kid at ASU

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blast from the past: 'Officer Down: The media and cop-killings'

I wrote this article in late 2005 in response to the killing of a Phoenix police officer. It analyzes the history of policing in the US (and locally), putting the media love affair with the police department and dead cops in the context of American class struggle and the system of white supremacy.
But there is a real tension between the public image of policing, defended so single-mindedly by the media, and the reality. Introducing channel 12’s coverage of the Uribe funeral the following Tuesday, Lin Sue Cooney described the event as “a whole community” saying thank you. Effusive in their coverage of a car-wash fundraiser for the Uribe’s family, local media outlets actively campaigned for valley residents to participate. Can the same police force that regularly kills unarmed people of color be the protectors of the community? Can the same police force that uses Tasers to kill, just as the Phoenix Police did on May 4th, 2005, killing a 24 year-old man, be protectors? Are the same police forces that disproportionately target, arrest and incarcerate the poor, and especially people of color, really defenders of the “community?”

But, everyone knows that police don’t protect everyone equally and that they specifically target some segments of the community over others. For years the Scottsdale PD enforced what they called a “no-n****r zone,” pulling over and harassing black people driving through the city. Incarceration rates for poor people versus rich people are so obvious that they hardly require mentioning. But many whites still continue to deny the just as obvious disparities in white and non-white incarceration rates. To believe that these disparities exist apart or in exception to the overall system of policing makes no sense. They exist because this is the way the system was meant to function.
Re-reading the piece, I would add perhaps a third origin for modern American policing: the Red Squads, as the Village Voice reminds us this week. I would also add to the class analysis of reporting as a profession by citing the experiential differences between reporters and most other workers, specifically relating to college and the university system.

Read the Officer Down: The media and cop-killings by clicking here. It originally appeared in the Summer 2005 print edition of Phoenix Insurgent and was distributed as an independent flier. Enjoy!

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News of Interest 5/23/07

How To Control The $40 Million Slave
"See, the NBA’s rules of “cleaning up” the league (whether it be the dress code, no celebrations, taunting, fighting, arguing with refs, long shorts, headbands, etc) are in response to what the media thinks and in turn projects to the public . When I used the term "cleaning up the league" and likened it to "whitening up the league", I meant it. Regardless of what you may think; dress code, celebrations, taunting, long shorts, dress code and everything else were all introduced by African American ballplayers and were subsequently removed via the “rules”. The media has convinced you that style and swagger are all "unsportsmanlike conduct." But why is that? What's wrong with a little shit talking? What harm did long shorts really do? Celebrating after a great play may piss off the other team but is it really that big of a deal?"
The Simpsons v. the media (video)
"Friends, the press and the government are in bed together in an embrace so intimate and wrong, they could spoon on a twin mattress and still have room for Ted Koppel. Journalists used to questions the reasons for war and expose abuse of power. Now, like toothless babies, they suckle on the sugary teat of misinformation and poop it into the diaper we call the 6:00 News. Demand more of your government. Demand more of your press."
Menaced by the Minutemen
"A Reported member of the Herndon, Va., chapter of the anti-immigrant Minutemen, was arrested and charged with assault at the May 1 march for immigrant rights in Washington, D.C.--and was soon discovered to be armed to the teeth, with plans to possibly attack immigrants and activists that very day. Tyler Froatz was arrested for assaulting one of the march’s female organizers. Police then found weapons in his bag and car. Froatz had brought to the march a 100,000-volt Taser gun, knives, a claw hammer, a flare gun, a loaded .30 caliber rifle, and a map with details of the park, including sight lines for firing a weapon."
New software can identify you from your online habits
"IF YOU thought you could protect your privacy on the web by lying about your personal details, think again. In online communities at least, entering fake details such as a bogus name or age may no longer prevent others from working out exactly who you are. That is the spectre raised by new research conducted by Microsoft. The computing giant is developing software that could accurately guess your name, age, gender and potentially even your location, by analysing telltale patterns in your web browsing history. But experts say the idea is a clear threat to privacy - and may be illegal in some places."
Spy drones added to Britain's "surveillance society"
"It could be the 4 million closed-circuit television cameras, or maybe the spy drones hovering overhead, but one way or another Britons know they are being watched. All the time. Everywhere. The latest gizmo to be employed in what civil liberty campaigners are calling Britain's 'surveillance society' is a small, remote-controlled helicopter that can hover above inner city streets and monitor suspected criminals. Unveiled in the north of Britain this week, it could be introduced across the country if deemed a success, fuelling an already intense debate over whether the 'Big Brother' world George Orwell predicted is now truly upon us, or whether such scrutiny is merely essential for security in the modern era."
Hamburg Braces for a Season of Protest
"A perfect storm of political summits, police raids and a tense soccer game will make Hamburg a potentially violent town in the coming weeks. First there's an ASEM summit, then the G-8 -- and vandals may have started things off with a car burning on Tuesday."
Detroit, Feds Debate Anti-Brutality Plan
"The city in 2003 pledged to make significant reforms in how officers use force, detain prisoners and question witnesses. A federal monitor was appointed to oversee the reforms after the city signed the consent decrees with the Justice Department. But in a court filing Wednesday, the department argued that the federal settlement should require it only to develop new policies, not implement them, except where explicitly stated."

Photo of the day

A Metropolitan police officer monitors CCTV screens in London, April 20, 2007. It could be the four million closed-circuit television cameras, or maybe the spy drones hovering overhead, but one way or another Britons know they are being watched. All the time. Everywhere. (Kieran Doherty/Reuters)


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Anti-Yuppie Action declares war on yuppies in Tempe!

Anti-Yuppie Action has called a protest for this Sunday. Phoenix Insurgent has happily endorsed the event and recommends for everyone who wants to keep Yuppie scum out of Tempe to come out and get creative. There will be all kinds of opportunities for fun and mischief. Let's let these colonizing fucks know what kind of welcome they can expect every day in our neighborhood if they decide to move in. Bring a sign. Bring a banner. Bring some (veggie) dogs (for me) to grill. Bring some music. Bring whatever you think will send a message to these rich fucks. Remember, if we don't stand up to them, they'll run us all over. Let's hit back strong and right away, before they get their bearings.

Below is some background in the text of the call to action. Enjoy and see you there!
"Anti-Yuppie Action (AYA) invites all Tempe residents and working people who are fed up with seeing our neighborhoods destroyed by the Yuppie development invasion to join us this Sunday to confront those who would see us uprooted from our neighborhoods and our lives for their selfish, greedy lifestyles. Join us this weekend to let the developers and yuppies know that they're NOT WELCOME in Tempe!

Here's what's going down:

The new Mosaic lofts will soon be built on the NW corner of Ash Ave. & University, the site the co-op was located on, the building will stand 22 stories tall, and as a monument to the yuppie triumph over Tempe. If you're like us, your sick of all the construction that doesn't bring jobs down here for folks like us or improve our economic standing. Nope, it pushes folks like us out of the neighborhood, evicted house by house, apartment by apartment, and even our beloved locally owned business get the boot. Why? For the wealthy and super-wealthy to make Tempe their new playground, apparently Scottsdale and Phoenix weren't good enough.

So, the developer is throwing a booze party for potential buyers of the condos this Sunday (from 2-5 PM) at the Macayo's on 3rd and Ash Ave. Tempe's unwelcome potential new residents will be slurping down the margaritas with their rich pals, chauffeured around on a tour of Tempe by a trolley.

What, where, when, how, who?

We'll be meeting up at the Southwest corner of Ash Ave & University from 1-1:30, then walking down to the Macayo's to have a working folks' (un)welcoming party (and mobile BBQ) for future Mosaic residents. We'll be out there having a good time (but making there's a bit more unpleasant) from 2-4, COME ON OUT!!!"

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Two words: Pat Burke (some thoughts on anarchy and basketball)

I don't talk about sports on here too much, but I think damn near everyone knows that tomorrow's a big night for the Suns. Although it's decision to suspend Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw is unjust, the NBA has inadvertently provided us a great lesson in why anarchists are against law.

The law, like this NBA rule, is written by people other than those affected by it, and those who make the law, or those with a lot of power, money, influence or privilege can receive exemptions. Further, the law attempts to pre-imagine a set of circumstances and then pre-judge whether those circumstances justify being treated as offenses in the future. When real life happens (and it rarely matches up with the limited imaginations of politicians and commissioners), those pre-imagined rules are then applied after the fact. Hardly fair.

We see this in the case of the most recent suspensions of Suns players. Everyone is pretty much unanimous that neither Stoudemire nor Diaw deserve to be suspended for their actions. Even Charles Barkley came to their defense, although Shaq, always a lover of law and order, notably disagreed. No matter, though. According to the NBA, a rule's a rule, and the two players must be suspended, no matter how justified were their actions or whether the rule was even meant to apply in these kinds of circumstances in the first place. This effectively makes the Suns twice victims of Horry's rough and unsportsmanlike behavior.

Anarchists, unlike the NBA commissioner, cops and politicians, don't place mechanistic process or sticking to the letter of the law above the goal of achieving justice. In fact, many times sticking to the letter of the law - or even the intent - can lead to unjust outcomes simply because the law itself is unjust. Think about segregation, slavery and the subjugation of women - all were the letter of the law at various times. Homosexuality has been and in some states continues to be illegal. Arizona only very recently repealed its sodomy law. Getting justice in those times generally meant breaking the law. The law, it turns out, is very often not a very good way of judging what is right. Sometimes, in fact, it's the exact opposite: the law can be a great way to find out what's wrong.

So, in the spirit of the game, I will post here two sports-related articles that I think readers of this blog might find interesting. First is a New Republic interview with Charles Barkley, former Suns star. In it Barkley says a lot of provocative things that anarchists will find interesting and, perhaps, surprising. Like this:
CHARLES BARKLEY: Illegal immigration to me is the easiest thing in the world to fix.

TNR: How so?

All they have to do is penalize the people they work for. You should get penalized. It's all poor people who argue over illegal immigration. They want poor people to--I call it divide and conquer. That's all they do is divide and conquer.

The rich people are trying to divide the poor people?

Yes, they got all the money, they got all the power. Whether it's that, or they divide you racially on certain things. They divide you racially, economically, and on things like that. It just splits the vote, and the rich people still end up on top at the end of the day. They control everything.

So is that what interests you primarily--economic issues?

America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor. We've got to get poor white people and poor black people and Mexicans to realize they are all in the same boat. If you in one of those three groups and you are poor, you are going to be in a bad neighborhood, you are going to go to a bad school, and you are going to have strikes against you. You can't commit crimes in good neighborhoods. They will get your ass. Their kids go to private school, or they go to school in a good economic area. But the poor people, they are all in the same boat but they divide you based on race or stuff like that. A lot of these politicians say things like "We've got to stop all these illegal immigrants." I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants.

Has your perspective on these issues changed in the last few years?

Yes, when I realized that rich people will always be rich and the poor people are like crabs in a barrel. They are going to fight with each other, but they are really in the same boat. They want you to argue about gay marriage. They want you to argue about the war in Iraq.
Check it out. It's not all gold, but there's a lot in there of value.

Also, consider reading this New York Times piece from a couple weeks ago about racial bias in NBA officiating. According to the Times, white refs (cops) called more fouls (arrests) on Black players than on white players.
A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”

“I would be more surprised if it didn’t exist,” Mr. Ayres said of an implicit association bias in the N.B.A. “There’s a growing consensus that a large proportion of racialized decisions is not driven by any conscious race discrimination, but that it is often just driven by unconscious, or subconscious, attitudes. When you force people to make snap decisions, they often can’t keep themselves from subconsciously treating blacks different than whites, men different from women.”

Mr. Berri added: “It’s not about basketball — it’s about what happens in the world. This is just the nature of decision-making, and when you have an evaluation team that’s so different from those being evaluated. Given that your league is mostly African-American, maybe you should have more African-American referees — for the same reason that you don’t want mostly white police forces in primarily black neighborhoods.”
There's a surprise. The NBA commissioner, David Stern, who reportedly just canceled his appearance in Phoenix for game 5 due to the overwhelming shame of carrying through the suspension of Suns players, told the Times that he doesn't believe that racial bias exists in the NBA. True, the NBA has done a better job than almost any other sport when it comes to diversity. Nevertheless, when we add up the referees, 64 percent of them are white. And, of course, only one NBA team has majority Black ownership.

On a final note, I'd like to say just two words: Pat Burke.

All season we've been asking when this man was going to have a time to shine and this is finally it. That ruling was bullshit, but when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Pat Burke: Our Lemonade. Tomorrow is your night, buddy. Make it count. I believe in you.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

A response to a liberal criticism of the anti-Gore flier

Typically I do not do this, but I have been involved in a discussion on another blog about technology and it's applications, as well as the relevance of a critique of technology and, specifically anti-industrialism, and I thought it might be of interest to readers of my blog. This discussion got its start as a response by a blogger to a flier I wrote and handed out at an Al Gore speech at ASU. I engaged the blogger on her/his page and a pretty lively back and forth has developed. There are two threads to this discussion, which I will link below. The first is the current one and the last is the older one, which includes his/her original response to my flier. Aside from the interest that I think readers here will have in the arguments there, I post my response here because of size limitations on livejournal. I am the anonymous poster on the thread. I would post under Phoenix Insurgent, as I normally do on discussion threads, but I don't have a livejournal account.

Here are the two links for background:
(1) The newest discussion thread, to which the below text is a response
(2) The older thread, which contains his/her response to my flier.
Below is my response to the blogger's most recent post:
The point on direct action being criminal is really not an important one, I think. By definition, much direct action is criminal because it breaks the law. Sometimes that is precisely the point. Nevertheless, the law is not generally useful as a metric of what is right and wrong. I think this is a red herring and not relevant to our discussion. For Black folks to sit at a lunch counter in Mississippi in the 50’s was illegal, too, so the direct action that challenged it was obviously criminal. Surely you are not advocating against that direct action merely because it was against the law? I know you must not really think that. White people made the law and Blacks were entirely forbidden to participate in the electoral process, so what legitimacy did it have for Black people that they were bound to recognize beyond that which the violence of the government and the terrorist Klan compelled them to?

We just fundamentally disagree here. Despite your assertions, I have said, for instance, that I am much more interested in the dismantling of industrialism than I am in hunter gathering. I will take hunter gathering if we can get it, because it is the freest humanity has ever been, but being a realist I recognize that this jump is not feasible now. Not immediately. As a long term goal, it is entirely possible to consciously reduce population and begin to re-introduce wildness and other pre-agricultural lifestyles. In the short run, dismantling industrialism can be managed without a state through self-organization, federation and mutual aid. No one needs to be marched to a work camp in the countryside (although in a real sense, the current system marches billions more into work camps in the cities right now).

But specific technologies have been refused before through the work of mass-movements or the spread of critical ideas. The Amish do indeed offer an American vision of a broad and useful critique of tech. But, take nuclear power, for instance. Between the anti-nuclear direct action movement and a series of terrible accidents, the US and other countries were basically forced to impose a nuke plant freeze for quite a long time. Similar debates and direct actions are taking place around gmo food, stem cells and other technologies. Cell phones are banned from certain places, and cultural pressure serves to limit their use despite the ubiquity of the technology (theatres, for instance). Families in many cities have gathered together to stop the proliferation of cell phone towers in their neighborhoods and on their schools. To say that we cannot choose to refuse or end certain technologies is to say that these debates and political/cultural struggles did not take place. Further, it is to offer the technology boosters free reign to manipulate our lives based on other than human-centered values. That is clearly wrong. These movements result from the self-organization of people against systems and technologies they see as detrimental and against their interests. So, we know that given good solid arguments and evidence, a case can be made for the refusal of specific technologies and even broader sciences and that people will participate. There is precedent.

Maybe the carrying capacity of the planet, with non-industrial agriculture is only 600 million to a billion or so (after all, much of the population still doesn’t subsist on the produce of industrial agriculture). Neither of those is an impossible number to achieve. Nevertheless, one could, for instance, dismantle much of industrialism without even having to touch food production immediately. A huge chunk of industrial capitalism is completely unrelated to real needs. Further, much has already been produced. Unnecessary production can be stopped immediately without serious consequences to life. Ending that then provides space for the dismantling of still further production, like oil and other energy. Heck, the elimination of the US Navy alone would also eliminate the planet’s largest user of diesel fuel.

So a movement against tech is both totally realistic and possible, and we know that there is a base of resentment and distrust of technology – not to mention the alienation it creates - on which this movement can and is building. The media doesn’t represent it, but why would it? Does the media, lapdog of the capitalists (to use some jargon) and dominated by rich, white men generally represent adequately workers struggles, or the struggles of people of color or poor people or of women? Of course not. That doesn’t mean those struggles don’t have support or that there isn’t an opportunity for successful organizing.

But, will it succeed? That is what I suppose you really mean when you ask about whether it is realistic, etc. That’s a good question. There isn’t much time. Tech has wrought havoc on the planet for sure, but also on our social relations, making and remaking them in the interests of a ruling class that wants isolated and easily manipulated and replaced workers. Despite the assertions of pro-tech folks, organizing has not been made easier with the internet – not when it comes to regular working class folks. The internet is pretty useful for organizing middle class folks, no doubt.

But time is surely running out.

Still, we need to ask ourselves what the high tech solution has to offer us. More of the same? So far it has brought us mechanized warfare, industrial devastation, alienated work, hundreds of thousands dead on the roads and more from pollution related diseases every year. It has entrenched and enriched a ruling class that was very vulnerable a mere century or even less ago (witness the rise of super-national organizations). The rate at which diseases are jumping species is off the charts now thanks to industrialized medicine. Large swaths of Africa are now un-farmable thanks to global warming, and massive and unpredictable storms sweep the planet both of which we can also lay at the feet of industrialization. Earthquakes proliferate as the ice caps melt. Millions upon millions upon millions are displaced from their homes thanks to the so-called free markets that industrialism demands. The armies of the industrialized societies likewise displace millions more. The rate of extinction has now reached the point where it is now considered the sixth great wave in the last 400-odd million years. The last one was not the emergence of humanity – it was the one that got the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The promise of technology is always over the horizon, but no one ever feels the need to determine exactly how that will come about. What is the mechanism that holds tech developers or appliers accountable and guarantees us all nothing but wine and roses from the machinery of a system that has sought primarily to enrich and ensure the domination of an elite class? The state funds a massive percentage of the research (as a recent study revealed with biotech). The state is controlled by the elite, so it uses the machinery of government to subsidize (socialize) its quest for profit and control of society (and the working class in particular). What is left over is developed and applied by capitalists of massive wealth and privilege. Sure, there are some liberatory aspects of technology. For instance, we can have this conversation on the internet (although, in truth, we could have it either way because we live in the same city – probably the same neighborhood).

Still, those liberatory aspects come with a price, and that is the control that these technologies give to the ruling class and the technocrats. And the alienation we all feel every day. Think about it: Why is it that when it comes to technology we somehow assume that despite who funds it, who applies it, who develops it and who can afford to consume it, somehow this one thing in all of society will benefit everyone equally!? I mean, I don’t even have health insurance. This society can’t even make sure I and tens of million of others can go to a doctor! Why would I believe that it would use the rest of technology in some egalitarian way? It doesn’t do that with anything else, after all.

This is the burden that apologists for the current technological society must bear. It is their question to answer. If I had to answer it myself, I would suggest that the dominant view of technology is not, indeed, scientifically based, despite the emphatic assertions of its supporters to the contrary. Instead, it is ideological. Knowing that the dominant ideas of any time are in fact the ideas of its ruling class, why would we expect elite projects as they are expressed through their various mouthpieces in the media and government to be presented as anything other than universally held? Didn't they do also that with the invasion of Iraq? There is no difference.


News of Interest 5/14/07

Man in the mask returns to change world with new coalition and his own sexy novel
'Mexico's politicians on both left and right receive nothing but his scorn. Is it easier to claim the moral high ground when your face is hidden? Marcos acknowledges that the mask helps, although he stresses it is also a burden. It can be itchy and uncomfortable, and it is so intertwined with his revolutionary persona that to take it off in public even for a few seconds would be the end of the subcomandante. "The mask will come off when a subcomandante Marcos is no longer necessary," he says. "I hope it's soon so that I can finally become a fireman like I've always wanted. Firemen get the prettiest girls."'
Link between race, hazardous-waste sites still strong
"Twenty years after a landmark study showed that people of color were more likely to live near hazardous-waste sites than any other demographic, a follow-up report has found that the disparity is even greater across the U.S. today. The problem is more entrenched in metropolitan Phoenix, where 63.7 percent of the residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to hazardous-waste facilities are of color, according to the new report commissioned by the United Church of Christ. Nationally, the figure is 56 percent. "
HAL 9000-Style Machines, Kubrick's Fantasy, Outwit Traders
"In his cubicle overlooking the trading floor, Kearns, 44, consults with Lehman Brothers traders as Ph.D.s tap away at secret software. The programs they're writing are designed to sift through billions of trades and spot subtle patterns in world markets. Kearns, a computer scientist who has a doctorate from Harvard University, says the code is part of a dream he's been chasing for more than two decades: to imbue computers with artificial intelligence, or AI. His vision of Wall Street conjures up science fiction fantasies of HAL 9000, the sentient computer in ``2001: A Space Odyssey.'' Instead of mindlessly crunching numbers, AI-powered circuitry one day will mimic our brains and understand our emotions -- and outsmart human stock pickers, he says."
As terrorism plots evolve, FBI relies on Agent John Q. Public
"Bureau officials said they are disappointed that more people don't come forward with tips. "In some ways, it's human nature," Weis said. "A lot of times people think that someone else will report it. But now, with the changing times, you can't take that chance." The FBI has spent millions of dollars cultivating a wide range of paid informants, particularly in Muslim communities."
Canadians lining up to join spy agency
'Whatever the motivation, more and more Canadians are lining up to become spies, the agency says. Last year, more than 14,500 people submitted applications for jobs in CSIS. Of that number, CSIS hired 100 as "intelligence officers" – or spies. "Is 100 all you needed or all you were able to find?" Senator Tommy Banks recently asked CSIS director Jim Judd. "It was actually more than we needed," Judd told the standing committee on national defence and security. CSIS is on a hiring blitz. The agency's staffing levels dropped because of federal budget cuts in the mid-'90s, but it has received millions of dollars in funding for new recruits since 9/11. "We are building a bit of flexibility into our capacity," said Judd. "I expect we will hire another 100 this year, and I expect the level of applications will be that high as well."'
Contingencies for nuclear terrorist attack
"As concerns grow that terrorists might attack a major American city with a nuclear bomb, a high-level group of government and military officials has been quietly preparing an emergency survival program that would include the building of bomb shelters, steps to prevent panicked evacuations and the possible suspension of some civil liberties."
New York Plan for DNA Data in Most Crimes
"The governor’s proposal would order DNA taken from those found guilty of any misdemeanor, including minor drug offenses, harassment or unauthorized use of a credit card, according to a draft of his bill. It would not cover offenses considered violations, like disorderly conduct. In expanding its database to include all felonies and misdemeanors, New York would be nearly alone, although a handful of states collect DNA from some defendants upon arrest, even before conviction. Mr. Spitzer is also seeking mandatory sampling of all prisoners in the state, as well as all of those on parole, on probation or registered as sex offenders."
Portrait of communist leader damaged
"A man threw a burning object at a portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs over Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, slightly damaging it and prompting police to close the nearby imperial palace, a news report said Sunday. The man, identified as Gu Hai'ou, from the northwestern city of Urumqi, tried to burn the portrait of communist China's first leader on Saturday afternoon, the Xinhua News Agency said. Early Sunday, authorities replaced the portrait, which had a small scorch mark in the lower left corner."


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bansky featured in the New Yorker

The New Yorker does a very long - and pretty good - feature on the world's most famous and elusive outside/insider graf artist, Banksy. Check it out if you have a few minutes.

Says Banksy: “I originally set out to try and save the world, but now I’m not sure I like it enough.”

I feel that.

Read it:
Banksy Was Here

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Peter Gelderloos: Arms and the Movement (UPDATED with support information)

Peter Gelderloos, author of How Nonviolence Protects the State (and other works), has an interesting article in the June issue of Utne Reader. Entitled, "Arms and the Movement," it is an investigation into the relationship between non-violence, armed struggle and social change. It covers ground similar to that explored in his longer book on the topic, tackling some common pacifist mythology pretty effectively.

Before moving on, I should point out that Gelderloos was recently arrested after a squatter demonstration in Barcelona. Folks wanting to offer him financial support are advised by Peter to email him for instructions at shigmagism (at) yahoo.com. He needs money for defense and to repay the squatter movement, which quickly raised a stunning 30,000 euros to bail him out. While I was in Spain in January I had the pleasure of seeing the squatter movement in action in the streets and it is quite an impressive and well-organized movement - certainly by American standards.

Since I have written at length on the topic of violence and non-violence myself (Gelderloos quotes me a couple times in his book and for a while one of my pamphlets was bundled with his book through Signalfire Press), I won't get into the finer points of the debate between violence and non-violence except to say that, realistically, those of us in the Valley ought to be considering very carefully the recent public re-emergence of white supremacists in the anti-immigration movement and just what that means for us in terms of self-defense. As someone who does this kind of work myself, I would advocate for any radical doing immigrant solidarity work to consider very seriously getting armed and becoming familiar with basic firearm usage and safety, among other basic considerations.

The question of armed struggle is one thing. One can choose to participate in armed struggle or not. One can debate various tactics and whether violent or non-violent actions are justified at various times and against various opponents (capital, the state, reactionaries, etc). Right now, probably for justifiable reasons, there is no armed struggle movement on the left in this country. Still, whatever one's opinions of that fact, self-defense should be non-negotiable. So, what we do need, without a doubt, is a revolutionary movement capable of defending itself.

Read Gelderloos' article below. Here's an excerpt:
Perhaps confused by their own false history of the peace movement during the Vietnam War, pacifist organizers against the invasion of Iraq seemed to expect a repeat of a victory that never happened. On February 16, 2003, as the U.S. government moved toward war with Iraq, Agence France-Presse hailed weekend protests as "a stinging rebuke to Washington and its allies." The protests were the largest in history; excepting a few minor scuffles, they were entirely nonviolent. United for Peace and Justice and some other antiwar groups even suggested that the protests might avert war.

As we now know, they were totally wrong, and the protests were totally ineffective. The invasion occurred as planned, despite the millions of people nominally, peacefully, and powerlessly opposed to it. The antiwar movement did nothing to change the power relationships in the United States. President Bush received substantial political capital for invading Iraq, and was not faced with a backlash until the war and occupation effort began to show signs of failure due to the effective armed resistance of the Iraqi people.

A good case study regarding the efficacy of nonviolent protest can be seen in Spain's involvement with the U.S.-led occupation. Spain, with 1,300 troops, was one of the larger junior partners in the "Coalition of the Willing." More than a million Spaniards protested the invasion, and 80 percent of the Spanish population was opposed to it, but their commitment to peace ended there; they did nothing to actually prevent Spanish military support for the invasion and occupation. Because they remained passive and did nothing to disempower the leadership, they remained as powerless as the citizens of any democracy. Not only was Prime Minister Aznar allowed to go to war, he was expected by all forecasts to win reelection.

Until the bombings. On March 11, 2004, just days before the voting booths opened, multiple bombs planted by an al-Qaida-linked cell exploded on Madrid trains, killing 191 people and injuring 1,755. Directly because of this, Aznar and his party lost in the polls, and the Socialists, the major party with an antiwar platform, were elected to power. The U.S.-led coalition shrunk with the loss of the Spanish troops. Whereas millions of peaceful activists voting in the streets like good sheep have not weakened the brutal occupation in any measurable way, a few dozen terrorists willing to slaughter noncombatants were able to cause the withdrawal of more than a thousand occupation troops.

So much for the victories of pacifism.

The Madrid bombings do not present an example for action, but rather, an important paradox: Do people who stick to nonviolent tactics that have not proved effective in ending the war against Iraq really care more for human life than the Madrid terrorists? From India to Birmingham, nonviolence has failed to sufficiently empower its practitioners, whereas the use of a diversity of tactics got results. Put simply, if a movement is not a threat, it cannot change a system that is based on centralized coercion and violence.
Arms and the Movement

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Questions about transhumanist anarchism

I came upon some interesting analysis at an anarchist transhumanist blog called @H+ :: Anarcho-Transhumanism. That site links to some of my work and, in a piece titled "Will Robots Spark the Revolution?" discusses an essay I wrote recently about robotics and class war. While the site is certainly an interesting one - and well written - the question I have after reading the response to my work is essentially three fold.

Before I get into that, I'd like to say that the @H+ article does raise some very interesting questions about the class war implications of robots. The piece seems like a genuine attempt to find points of crisis in capitalism that might be caused by the increasing use of these machines. I am in agreement, generally with speculation along these lines, particularly since this has been the history up until now. Said another way, speculation that the application of technology by the ruling class in the future will lead to potential class conflict jibes quite well with the past, given that they have previously imposed it in order to remake, disempower and impose precarity on the working class.

Still, the expansion of robotics into policing and the military will in all likelihood act as a force multiplier on the sheer ability of the ruling class to maintain order, even if such strikes become more surgical as technology permits more well-aimed attacks. Of course, as some suggest, perhaps the broad, clumsy hand of the human police offers certain advantages to an elite class facing a stiff and militant opposition. Either way, increasing flexibility of response will almost certainly be the trend as robots come online in these spheres.

This means that, while technology may indeed offer future potential points of class conflict, our position versus the ruling class may in fact get quite worse. If this is the case, then the only revolutionary scenario I can see is one that attacks technology broadly and directly with the aim of preventing further development. Such attacks would be progressive as far as a revolutionary project goes because it would seek to deny powerful weapons from the hands of the ruling class. Attacking technology, if only specific technologies, would be an attempt to open up space for open class struggle that otherwise would be eliminated by it. While it may be that some elements of these technologies will be adaptable to our fight, there is no reason to believe that these liberatory applications would amount to anything other than fringe benefits compared to the disproportionate power they will offer the ruling class. Which is natural, given that it is the ruling class that funds, develops and deploys tech.

Having said that, I would like to return now to my questions about anarchist transhumanism. First, when do the benefits of automation and computerization start tricking down? This is an important question because so far this has not happened. Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, (for instance, boring work is dangerous work, and a huge section of our high tech workforce reports being bored off their asses at work these days) transhumanists' faith in tech includes the assertion that tech will free humans precisely from this dangerous or boring work. Nevertheless, despite decades of technological development, workers are still killed at astounding rates on the job that do not seem to reflect the rapid rate of automation or computerization. Further, work for many has only grown more routine and mind-numbing under these systems. Workplace deaths declined a mere 2 percent between 2004 and 2005, at the same time that deaths among foreign workers skyrocketed. Anarchist transhumanists tend to lay this at the feet of capitalism, but is this a sufficient explanation?

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, in a transhumanist society, we must ask just what mechanism will be in place to assure that any alleged benefits will be distributed in an egalitarian way? The development of technology appears to require massive state spending, as we saw with automation in the past and currently with all other major technologies (see yesterday's FT article, "Universities drive biotech advancement"). So, is the tendency of the ruling class to socialize its tech development and to manage it through a technocratic and engineering class merely a reflection of its desire to avoid spending its own money or get its hands too dirty, or is it in fact a prerequisite for a high tech society? Indeed, could high tech exist without massive state subsidy and a managerial class? What we do know is that currently it does not. And history suggests it cannot. If that is the case, what is to prevent this technocratic class, state or no state, from operating as a gateway or bureaucratic force, picking winners and losers and keeping the best applications and benefits for itself?

Thirdly, if this tech is developed under capitalism, why would the distribution of any benefits do anything other than mirror that system's skewed distribution mechanisms? That is, as a worker technology and automation de-skill me and undermine my power and income on the job in relation to the boss and the technocrats that through tech design my work environment. How would this cease to be the case in a transhumanist world? And what mechanism will be in place to make sure that when I am replaced by a computer at work, that I'm treated more like a lottery winner than a redundant deadbeat? That's how capitalism currently treats those replaced by tech, which I know first hand.

Likewise, what checks will be in place on the technocrats, technicians and scientists needed to maintain this high tech system? How will we say "no" to certain research or applications? Certainly the power that accrues in those privileged hands in a high tech society resembles quite eerily the "Red Bureaucracy" that Bakunin warned us would (and did) develop under communist states. Again, transhumanists on the left tend to lay the blame of such inequities at the feet of capitalism, but if high tech society requires a class of technocrats to maintain and research it and a socialist system to develop and deploy it, we should ask ourselves the tough question: does high tech require the state, hierarchy and domination? After all, it certainly seems to require them now.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Are we naturally born levelers?

Ok, this article appears in the libertarian (Randian, really), free market and arrogantly named magazine Reason. Nevertheless, it's a really interesting piece on our inborn tendency to level resources, particularly income. As game theory investigates, it's coming to some conclusions that might surprise many apologists for the supposed naturalness of the capitalist system.

Ronald Bailey's article asks us, are we all born natural communists (or anarchists)? More and more research seems to say, yes. When you've read this, if you have some time, follow it up with the Richard Dawkins video in which he clarifies his often misinterpreted theory of the Selfish Gene. Cooperation, he asserts, is much more powerful than we have been led to believe. Capitalism is not in our blood, despite the reigning ideology of the day. Of course, those of us who have read Kropotkin's 'Mutual Aid' know this already, don't we?

Read this:
Natural Born Communists? Some economic game theory suggests we may be.

And watch this:

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News of Interest 5/7/07

Universities drive biotech advancement
"Universities and public research institutes, rather than companies, are driving advances in biotechnology, according to a worldwide patent analysis released on Monday at the Bio conference in Boston. However, there is a global disparity in academic patenting activity, with the US and Japan well ahead of Europe."
Drug-resistant TB strain cropping up
"A virulent strain of tuberculosis resistant to most available drugs is surfacing around the globe, raising fears of a pandemic that could devastate efforts to contain TB and prove deadly to people with immune-deficiency diseases such as HIV/AIDS."
Not all tech users sold on benefits, study says
"Americans consider technology a mixed blessing — regardless of their access to it — according to a broad survey released Monday on the technology people have, how they use it and what they think about it. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found adult Americans were broadly divided into three groups: 31 per cent are frequent users of multiple technologies, 20 per cent are moderate users and the remainder have little or no access to the internet or cellphones. But the study found deep divides within each group when it came to their opinion of technology, from wholesale adoption to apathy and mistrust."
Anarchists' presence dwindles in L.A.
"Nearly seven years ago, dozens of the black-shirted radicals made a disruptive impression during protests outside the Democratic National Convention at Staples Center. A 2001 May Day rally in Long Beach brought another strong turnout and resulted in more than 90 arrests. But current and former followers of the anti-government philosophy scoff at Los Angeles police claims that a well-organized group of anarchists helped ignite a melee during Tuesday's immigration rights marches."
Police hurt in French election violence
"Hundreds of people were arrested in France overnight in clashes between police and protesters angry over conservative Nicolas Sarkozy's victory in Sunday's presidential election, police said. Official figures released on Monday said demonstrators set fire to 730 cars and injured 78 policemen across France, with 592 people arrested in the violent protests against the tough-talking former interior minister."
Most parents let babies watch TV, despite advice
"By the time children are two years old, 90 per cent of them regularly spend time watching TV, DVDs and videos, U.S. researchers have found. The American Pediatric Society recommends children under two should not watch any TV, and previous studies suggest less viewing time may be important in developing vocabulary. The Canadian Pediatric Society also warns that too much TV is linked to problems with attention, learning and aggressive behaviour."


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Obama: Friend of the ruling class, lover of the military

Thought Obama was your last hope for a fresh new face in Washington? Not many anarchists will fall for that one, but lots of other people will this election season. But, just in case, think again:
This includes, Barack Obama says, the current plan to expand the overall size of the U.S. military by nearly 100,000 (65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines), and "recruiting the best and brightest to service, ... keeping them in service by providing them with the first-rate equipment, armor, training, and incentives they deserve."

America's military, Obama says, should be "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world in order to defeat and deter conventional threats." He specifically supports "sustaining our technological edge."

"I say that if the need arises when I'm President, the Army we have will be the Army we need," Obama says, taking a poke at Donald Rumsfeld.

Obama's words are codewords intended for the ears of America's elite class: if he is elected, he assures them, he will continue to press America's imperialist goals abroad, through force of arms if necessary. His criticisms of the current organization and state of the military are only attempts to make the military more efficient at accomplishing the goals of this tiny but extremely wealthy and powerful class of people. These are the only people who really benefit from an improved military apparatus. The people of the world are served by exactly the opposite.

So, if we need anything, it is a steady (or sudden, how about?) move towards the total dismantlement of the US war machine. Ideally, this would be accomplished by the soldiers themselves, but the point is that there are only two ways the calamitous and disastrous war in Iraq can have a positive outcome, and both involve the destruction of the US military. Whether this happens through a military defeat and mutinous unraveling abroad or through the planned and rapid elimination of all branches of the military is not all that important. Each has advantages.

The point is, the military must go. The size of the US military is truly enormous, as many will be aware. When it's all counted, it's current budget totals more than all military spending by all other countries in the world. If we can thank the Bush administration for anything, it's for highlighting for the whole world that, if they ever could before (dubious), it's absolutely certain now that the planet and its people can no longer afford the US military machine.

Destruction or dismantlement. These must be the choices we offer the ruling class. We must say: Bring them home and muster them out; there will be no more military from now on.

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LAPD beat reporters and protesters at MacArthur Park in LA (video)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

News of Interest 5/1/07

Police subdue some marchers as day of protests ends
"Around 6 p.m., after police tried to disperse a group of demonstrators who had moved off the sidewalk into Alvarado Street, some of the few thousand participants still in the park started throwing plastic bottles and rocks at officers. Then, several dozen riot police, clad in helmets and carrying batons, started clearing the park, firing a few dozen volleys of rubber bullets into the crowd. No one appeared to be hit. A reporter saw at least three people struck by police batons."
Around globe, walls spring up to divide neighbors
What do Tijuana, Baghdad and Jerusalem have in common? They all have walls that divide neighbors, cause controversy and form part of an array of physical barriers around the world that dwarf the late, unlamented Iron Curtain. There are walls, fences, trenches and berms. Some are reinforced by motion detectors, heat-sensing cameras, X-ray systems, night-vision equipment, helicopters, drones and blimps. Some are still under construction, some in the planning stage.
Pentagon to Merge Next-Gen Binoculars With Soldiers' Brains
"U.S. Special Forces may soon have a strange and powerful new weapon in their arsenal: a pair of high-tech binoculars 10 times more powerful than anything available today, augmented by an alerting system that literally taps the wearer's prefrontal cortex to warn of furtive threats detected by the soldier's subconscious. In a new effort dubbed "Luke's Binoculars" -- after the high-tech binoculars Luke Skywalker uses in Star Wars -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is setting out to create its own version of this science-fiction hardware. And while the Pentagon's R&D arm often focuses on technologies 20 years out, this new effort is dramatically different -- Darpa says it expects to have prototypes in the hands of soldiers in three years."
In Somalia, Those Who Feed Off Anarchy Fuel It
'“Even if we turned Mogadishu into Houston, there would still be people resisting us,” said Abdirizak Adam Hassan, chief of staff for Somalia’s transitional president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed. “I’m talking about the guys bringing in expired medicine, selling arms, harboring terrorists. They don’t have a clan name. They’re a congregation of people whose best interests are served by no government.”'
Sleepwalking into a surveillance state
"Of course, there are surveillance states and there are surveillance states, and there are almost always ways to get around them. Both Geist and Oscapella say that as bad as the risks are now, they are nowhere near as invasive or far-reaching as government firewalls in places like China and Iran. Built with the assistance of big Western companies like Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco, totalitarian regime firewalls have become targets of interest to people like Oxblood Ruffin, a Munich-based human rights hacker."
Wal-Mart recruits intelligence officers
'Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been recruiting former military and government intelligence officers for a branch of its global security office aimed at identifying threats to the world's largest retailer, including from "suspect individuals and groups".'
Spain cracks open dictatorial past
"Vicente Muñiz was 4 years old when his parents were taken away. As Members of the Marxist Worker's Unification Party (POUM), they were arrested in the closing days of the Spanish Civil War for being political enemies of Francisco Franco's victorious Nationalists. In 1941, they were found guilty, executed for their "crimes," and buried in a mass grave. Once the dictatorship ended in 1975, Muñiz tried to clear his parents' names. He convinced the Supreme Court to review their case, but the court ruled it could do nothing, because Muñiz's parents were fairly convicted by the law then in effect."


4/29 Truth Now

Keep in mind, although I do think the evidence (and precedent) points to inside involvement in the 9/11 attacks, I have never said I thought that the towers were brought down by anything other than two planes loaded with fuel crashing into them.

Anyhow, of course I thought it was pretty interesting that the freeway collapsed in SF a couple days ago after a massive gasoline fire. I figured there would be comparisons made because I couldn't help but see the similarities myself. Further, I've always been of the opinion that the 'explosives in the towers' wing of the 9/11 Truth movement has been the most ridiculous element. Able Danger, that's the place to look for the private security and government involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Not the towers. It's a needless complication.

Having said that, check out this great spoof on the 'explosives in the towers' theory, and the 9/11 Truth movement in general. Even if you think the towers were brought down that way (there was opportunity and motive), you gotta admit this page is a good parody. We gotta be able to laugh.

Check it out:

4/29 Truth

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